Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

four guns, and one hundred and sixty men, was dispatched for that purpose, under the command of Captain Edward Edwards. The voyage of this frigate was almost as unfortunate as that of the Bounty itself, the vessel having been wrecked, and the crew having been exposed to all the horrors of a navigation of eleven hundred miles in open boats. But the captain succeeded in taking fourteen of the mutineers, of whom ten were brought safe to England, the other four having been lost when the Pandora was wrecked. From the reports of the prisoners, as well as from other sources, it appeared that, after the mutiny, the pirates proceeded to the island of Toobuai, where they arrived on the 25th of May, 1789, having previously thrown over-board the greater part of the bread fruit plants, and divided amongst themselves the property of the officers and men whom they had turned adrift. They at first resolved to settle on this island, but finding that they were in want of live stock, they returned to Otaheite, where they procured abundance of supplies of every kind, having deluded the credulous islanders with an artful story, which they had fabricated, about the arrival of Captain Cook at Toobuai, and of his having detained Bligh to assist him in forming an establishment there. After returning to Toobuai, they agreed so little amongst themselves, that Christian gave up the hope of settling there, and it was resolved that they should all go back in the Bounty to Otaheite, where those who so wished might land and remain ; the others were to retain possession of the vessel and go wherever they might choose. Sixteen of the mutineers accordingly went on shore, at Otaheite, on the 20th of September, of whom fourteen were subsequently taken on board the Pandora, the other two having fallen by violent deaths; the remaining nine, including Christian, sailed in the Bounty from Otaheite on the night of the 21st, having persuaded seven Otaheitan men, and twelve women to accompany them. It was not even conjectured whither they meant to go ; but Christian had been frequently heard to say, that his object was to discover some unknown or uninhabited island, in which there was no harbour for shipping; that he would run the Bounty on shore, and make use of her materials to form a settlement. For twenty years after the Bounty sailed on this occasion from Otaheite, nothing had been heard of her, and if ever the name was mentioned, it was followed by the expression of an opinion that the vessel and her crew had gone to the bottom. In the May of 1809, however, intelligence was received at the Admiralty, that the captain of an American ship, on landing the previous year at Pitcairn's Island, had discovered there an Englishman named Smith, the only individual surviving of those who had sailed from Otaheite in the Bounty; and it appeared from the report of this man, that shortly after they arrived at Pitcairn's Island, they ran the vessel on shore and broke her up; that about four years after that event, the Otaheite men, whom they had taken with them, secretly revolted (in consequence of a great jealousy that existed) and killed every Englishman except himself, whom they severely wounded by a pistol ball in the neck; and that on the same night the widows of the Englishmen arose, and put to death the whole of the Otaheitans, leaving Smith the only man upon the island, with eight or nine women, and several small children. It was further stated, that Smith, upon his recovery, applied himself with great industry to the cultivation of the land, which was well stocked with hogs and poultry, and produced an abundance of fruits and vegetables, and that he brought up his colony, then (1808) amounting to thirty-five persons, including some grown up young men, sons of the mutineers, in a very religious and proper manner. Christian, it was said, became insane, shortly after the arrival of the Bounty, and threw himself off the rocks into the sea, and another had died of a fever before the massacre took place. Although no doubt was entertained of the general accuracy of this narrative, yet no steps were taken in consequence of it at the Admiralty (then much engaged in the war); nor was any thing more heard of the colony until the year 1814, when reports, not essentially differing from that just mentioned, were received from Sir Thomas Staines and Captain Pipon, then cruizing in the Pacific. They also chanced to fall in with Pitcairn's Island,” where, to their astonishment, they found the descendants of the mutineers under the patriarchal dominion of “a venerable old man, named John Adams, whose exemplary conduct, and fatherly care of the whole of the little colony could not but command admiration. The pious manner in which all those born on the island have been reared, the correct sense of religion which has been instilled into their young minds by this old man, has given him the pre-eminence over the whole of them, to whom they look up as the father of one and the whole family.” They further ascertained, that Christian had not become insane, or thrown himself into the sea, as at first represented, but that he had become odious to the whole of his followers on account of the oppressive manner in which he treated them,

and that in consequence of his having seized upon the wife of one of the Otaheitans, he was shot by the indignanthusband, an act that gave rise to a series of quarrels, which did not terminate until the whole of the Englishmen perished, Smith, alias John Adams, alone excepted. The account given by Captain Pipon in a private letter to the editor, of their reception at Pitcairn's Island, has about it all the freshness of novelty.

*So called from the son of Major Pitcairn, of the Marines. This young gentleman is said to have first seen it, when sailing with Captain Carteret, in 1767. It is situated in 25°4′ South latitude, and 130° 25' West longitude, at the south east extremity of a chain of islands, which, including the Society and Friendly Islands, exceed a hundred in number, many of them wholly uninhabited.

‘The first young man that sprung, with extraordinary alacrity, up the side, and stood before them on the deck, in reply to the question, “Who are you?”—said, that his name was Thursday October Christian, son of the late Fletcher Christian, by an Otahetian mother; that he was the first born on the island, and that he was so called because he was brought into the world on a Thursday in October. Singularly strange as all this was to Sir Thomas Staines and Captain Pipon, this youth soon satisfied them that he was no other than the person he represented himself to be, and that he was fully acquainted with the whole history of the Bounty; and, in short, that the island before them was the retreat of the mutineers of that ship. Young Christian was, at this time, about twenty-four years of age, a fine tall youth full six feet high, with dark, almost black, hair, and a countenance open and extremely interesting. As he wore no clothes except a piece of cloth round his loins, and a straw hat, ornamented with black cocks' feathers, his fine figure and well-shaped muscular limbs were displayed to great advantage, and attracted general admiration. His body was much tanned by exposure to the weather, and his countenance had a brownish cast, unmixed however with that tinge of red so common among the natives of the Pacific islands. * “Added to a great share of good humour, we were glad to trace,” says Captain Pipon, “in his benevolent countenance, all the features of an honest English face.” He told them that he was married to a woman much older than himself, one of those that accompanied his father from Otaheite. The ingenious manner in which he answered all questions put to him, and his whole deportment, created a lively interest among the officers of the ship, who, while they admired, could not but regard him with feelings of tenderness and compassion; his manner, too, of speaking English was exceedingly pleasing, and correct both in grammar and pronunciation. His companion was a fine handsome youth of seventeen or eighteen years of age, of the name of George Young, son of Young, the midshipman. “If the astonishment of the two captains was great on making, as they they thought, this first and extraordinary discovery of a people who had been so long forgotten, and on hearing the offspring of these offenders speaking their language correctly, their surprise and interest were still more highly excited when, on Sir Thomas Staines taking the two youths below, and setting before them something to eat, they both rose up, and one of them, placing his hands together in a posture of devotion, pronounced, distinctly and with emphasis, in a pleasing tone of voice, “For what we are going to receive the Lord make us truly thankful.” “The youths were themselves greatly surprised at the sight of so many novel objects—the size of the ship—of the guns, and every thing around them. Observing a cow, they were at first somewhat alarmed, and expressed a doubt whether it was a huge goat or a horned hog, these being the only two species of quadrupeds they had ever seen. A little dog amused them much. “Oh what a pretty little thing it is s” exclaimed Young. “I know it is a dog, for I have heard of such an animal.” ‘These young men informed the two captains of many singular events that had taken place among the first settlers, but referred them for further particulars to an old man on shore, whose name, they said, was John Adams, the only surviving Englishman that came away in the Bounty, at which time he was called Alexander Smith.

‘This information induced the two captains to go on shore, desirous of learning correctly from this old man the fate, not only of Christian, but of the rest of his deluded accomplices, who had adhered to his fortunes. The landing they found to be difficult, and not wholly free from danger; but, with the assistance of their two able conductors, they passed the surf among many rocks, and reached the shore without any other inconvenience than a complete wetting. Old Adams, having ascertained that the two officers alone had landed, and without arms, concluded they had no intention to take him prisoner, and ventured to come down to the beach, from whence he conducted them to his house. He was accompanied by his wife, a very old woman, and nearly blind. It seems they were both at first considerably alarmed; the sight of the king's uniform, after so many years, having no doubt brought fresh to the recollection of Adams the scene that occurred in the Bounty, in which he bore so conspicuous a part. Sir Thomas Staines, however, to set his mind at ease, assured him, that so far from having come to the island with any intention to take him away, they were not even aware that such a person as himself existed. Captain Pipon observes, “that although, in the eye of the law, they could only consider him in the light of a criminal of the deepest dye, yet that it would have been an act of the greatest cruelty and inhumanity to have taken him away from his little family, who, in such a case, would have been left to experience the greatest misery and distress, and ultimately, in all probability, would have perished of want.” “Adams, however, pretended, that he had no great share in the mutiny; said that he was sick in bed when it broke out, and was afterwards compelled to take a musket in his hand; and expressed his readiness to go in one of the ships to England, and seemed rather desirous to do so. On this being made known to the members of the little society, a scene of considerable distress was witnessed : his daughter, a fine young woman, threw her arms about his neck, entreating him not to think of leaving them and all his little children to perish. All the women burst into tears, and the young men stood motionless and absorbed in grief; but on their being assured that he should, on no account, be molested, “it is impossible,” says Captain Pipon, “to describe the universal joy that these poor people manifested, and the gratitude they expressed for the kindness and consideration shewn to them.”—pp. 289—293. Captain Beechey's still more recent account of this interesting colony is already familiar to the public. None of the reports agree exactly as to the time and manner of Christian's death; but we can hardly think that the variance between them is so material, as to give countenance to the singular story which is related by Mr. Barrow, of the supposed appearance of this daring mutineer in England, about the time of the American captain's visit to Pitcairn's Island. If this story were true, it would be the most surprising part of the whole of this dramatic narrative. Mr. Barrow shall relate it in his own words. . . " * About the years 1808 and 1809, a very general opinion was prevalent in the neighbourhood of the Lakes of Cumberland and Westmorland, that Christian was in that part of the country, and made frequent private visits to an aunt who was living there. Being the near relative of Mr. Christian Curwen, long member of parliament for Carlisle, and himself a native, he was well known in the neighbourhood. This, however, might be passed over as a mere gossip, had not another circumstance happened just about the same time, for the truth of which the editor does not hesitate to avouch. “In Fore-street, Plymouth Dock, Captain Heywood found himself one day walking behind a man, whose shape had so much the appearance of Christian's, that he involuntarily quickened his pace. Both were walking very fast, and the rapid steps behind him having roused the stranger's attention, he suddenly turned his face, looked at Heywood, and immediately ran off. But the face was as much like Christian's as the back, and Heywood, exceedingly excited, ran also. Both ran as fast as they were able, but the stranger had the advantage, and, after making several short turns, disappeared. ‘That Christian should be in England, Heywood considered as highly improbable, though not out of the scope of possibility; for at this time no account of him whatsoever had been received since they parted at Otaheite; at any rate the resemblance, the agitation, and the efforts of the stranger to elude him, were circumstances too strong not to make a deep impression on his mind. At the moment, his first thought was to set about making some further inquiries, but on recollection of the pain and trouble such a discovery must occasion him, he considered it more prudent to let the matter drop; but the circumstance was frequently called to his memory for the remainder of his life.’—pp. 309, 310. From a letter recently received by Captain Beechey, it appears that old Adams died in March, 1829. The latest of our naval visitors to the island is Captain Waldegrave, who arrived there in H. M. S. Seringapatam, in March, 1830, with a supply of various articles of clothes, and agricultural and other instruments, sent out, in consequence of Beechey's representations, by his Majesty's directions. Captain Waldegrave's reception was of the most cordial description. He mentions that three Englishmen had already found their way into the island, one of whom, named Nobbs, claimed to be the supreme spiritual pastor of the community, he being, as the editor suggests, ‘probably one of those half-witted persons who fancy they have received a call to preach nonsense—some cobler escaped from his stall, or tailor from his shopboard.’ It is with infinite regret that we further learn from a paragraph, which has lately gone the round of the newspapers, that a vessel sent to Pitcairn's island by the Missionaries of Otaheite (those moral scourges of the Pacific) has carried off the whole of the settlers to the latter island If this be so, it crowns the iniquities of those harpeys, who ought to be swept from the face of the earth. Of the ten mutineers who were eventually brought home, three only were condemned and executed, the remainder were either acquitted or pardoned. Among the latter was Mr. Peter Heywood, whose fortunes seem to have excited the particular interest of Mr. Barrow. He will, perhaps, be surprised to find that we have passed over the very vehement effusions both in verse and prose, to which the return of that young gentleman to England, as well as his trial and pardon, gave rise on the part of his sister, Miss Nessy Heywood.

[graphic]
« ElőzőTovább »