BEFORE the panting girl reached the beach the Bounty was at anchor and he_eck crowded with natives, who greeted Christian and the ship's company wit_he most extravagant manifestations of joy. For him personally they had alway_hown the liveliest regard; not only was he one of Tuti's people, but hi_niform kindness to them had won their hearts, and, indeed, Bligh himself wa_he only one of the Bounty's company whom they feared more than they loved.
Tina himself was among the first to board the ship, and his frank, ingenuou_ountenance betrayed his astonishment at the return of his friends, while hi_ondering, inquiring glance as his eye roved over the group of officers on th_oop—deck showed that he was quick to discover the absence of Bligh.
"Ia oro na oe, Kirisiani," he said with a smile, advancing to Christian, "an_here is the chief Pirai? And why hath the ship come back so soon? Hast tho_lready been to Peretane and returned in three moons?"
Fletcher Christian was quick with his answer. "Nay, Tina, friend of my heart, we have been fortunate. See, when we neared the island that is called Tonga w_here met the great chief, he whom you call Tuti. He took on board his shi_ur chief Pirai and many others of our people and all the presents o_readfruit trees for our king. And then said he to me, 'Go thou back, Kirisiani, to the country of Tina, my friend, and say these words to him, 'I, Tuti, his friend, need yams and pigs and other food; my people are many and _annot feed them all, for the sea is wide between here and Britain.' And fo_hese things have I returned to Tahiti, while Tuti awaits me at Tonga. And fo_ gift he hath sent thee by me much iron, for he knoweth that iron is neede_y thy people."
Tina smiled pleasantly and expressed his earnest desire to serve both Cook an_ligh; and he and many minor chiefs who had flocked on board greeted every on_f the mutineers as old and dear friends.
For some minutes great excitement and confusion prevailed, and in the midst o_he pleasant clamour a small canoe, paddled by two young women, ran alongsid_he ship, and Mahina sprang up the ladder on deck, and with a soft, joyous cr_hrew herself into Christian's arms.
"Thou hast returned, my own," she murmured. "Oro hath heard my prayers, an_hy heart is still mine."
An angry flush for a moment suffused Christian's cheek at this demonstratio_efore the whole ship's company, and drawing her aside he rebuked her.
"Mahina," he said severely, "in my country it is only the base and lower sor_ho show their hearts in this way before all men."
The girl trembled, but quickly recovered herself, and her dark eyes flashed.
Drawing back from her lover she spoke in such tones of wounded pride tha_hristian felt his cheeks burn with shame.
"Truly, I had forgotten that the blood of the white man is cold," then placin_er hands on her eyes, she walked away, and the hot tears trickled through he_ingers.
Few as were her words, they touched him. He remembered that since he ha_arted from this girl two months before the whole of his life had bee_hanged. Her passionate devotion to him during the five months the Bount_irst remained at Tahiti was the one bright spot which then had made lif_ndurable, and now, her faithful heart bursting with love for him, he had me_er tender embraces with what to her was cold brutality. "She alone is th_nly soul on earth who will love me to the end," he thought bitterly; "sh_lone will not shrink from contact with me, in the time to come." He followe_nd took her hand.
"Mahina," he whispered, "forgive me, for thou knowest that for thy sake I hav_hrown away for ever my country and kindred. Thou art the one woman dear to m_n the world, and thy life is my life."
She flung her arms round his neck and, caring not for those who stood about o_he Bounty's deck, kissed him again and again in all the abandonment of he_ondness.
Whispering that she might wait for him in the cabin, he gently disengaged he_rms, and turned away to look for Tina.
That night every one of the mutineers, except their chief and Smith, wen_shore to their native friends; and as the sound of their singing and dancin_loated across the bay to the ship, Mahina, in the cabin of the Bounty, lifte_er eyes to Christian's and contentedly laid her head upon his breast.
The Bounty was once more ready for sea. Great numbers of hogs, goats, an_owls were cheerfully given by the islanders to Christian and his companions, and, for a small parcel of some red feathers—which were highly prized by th_atives—Tina presented them with a cow and bull which had been left on th_sland by Captain Cook. Water, wood, mahi (baked fermented breadfruit), yams, coconuts and breadfruit were also put on board in profusion. After making _areful survey of the ship and listening to various suggestions made by th_rew for her repair, the leader of the mutineers went ashore for the last tim_efore his marriage, which was to take place on the following day.
Accompanied by Smith, the young man, after landing and pushing through th_rowd of natives who had gathered on the beach and sought to detain him i_riendly converse, made his way to a native house of considerable size an_andsome construction.
Here Heywood and Stewart were living. The latter had renewed his former tende_elations with Nuia, who, the moment Christian entered, met him with a brigh_mile of welcome.
Then she went for Stewart and Heywood, who were lying on the village law_nder the shade of a breadfruit tree. Christian had permitted the two youn_fficers to leave the ship on the day after her arrival, principally becaus_f the passionate entreaties of Nuia, who imagined he was her lover's enem_nd would kill him for some neglect of duty, and secondly because he ha_nduced both not to reveal the true cause of his return to the islanders, s_ong as the Bounty remained at Tahiti. As for the natives themselves, althoug_hey had begun to suspect that all things were not quite as the mutineer_epresented them, yet they believed that Cook had good reasons for sending th_hip back to Tahiti; and that he had done so they never for a moment doubted.
So Tina and his people were pleased enough when Christian proposed that som_f them should sail away in the Bounty and visit Peretane and King George. T_urther the deception, Christian stated that he had no objection to some o_is own men, who had allied themselves to native women, remaining behind a_ahiti. This proposal was made to account for the fact that besides Heywoo_nd Stewart several of the crew had determined to sever themselves from th_hip's company; not for the same reasons which animated the two midshipmen, but because the women with whom they were living did not care to venture t_ea in the "great outriggerless canoe."
In a few minutes Heywood and Stewart entered the house.
Both of them looked cheerful and well, and Christian could not help feelin_leased at the friendly manner in which they returned his greeting.
"I have come to see you, perhaps for the last time," he said, "and to than_ou for the manner in which you have kept your promise to a broken an_isgraced man. Heaven knows, my lads, that I would gladly assist you to retur_o England if it were in my power. But have no fear; that a ship will be sen_ut here is an absolute certainty."
Heywood ventured to question him as to when he intended sailing.
"Do not ask me," he replied hurriedly, while the hot blood mounted to hi_orehead; "it may be soon, it may not be for a week, but I cannot come and se_ou again… and I want you to shake hands with me before I go."
After a momentary hesitation Stewart held out his hand, but young Heywood, whose eyes were filled with tears, with boyish impulsiveness sprang forwar_efore his companion.
"Goodbye, sir; I will never forget how good you have always been to me on th_ounty."
Christian took their hands in his and wrung them. "Goodbye, my lads. God bles_ou both, and forgive me all the harm I may have done you."
Then he turned away, and with Smith closely following him, was soon lost t_ight.
Soon after dawn the village was astir with the preparations for Christian'_arriage.
Troops of natives carrying presents of food and other articles kept constantl_rriving from all parts of the coast, and the first to welcome them an_nstruct them where to place their gifts was old Manuhuru, Mahina's mother.
She was quick to recognise, as soon as Christian returned the possessor of s_any riches, the advisability of withdrawing all further opposition to he_aughter's marriage with the young Englishman; for with all her hatred of th_hite men she was very avaricious.
Only that morning she had bidden Pipiri give up all hope of her child now tha_hristian had returned; and the young warrior-priest, with savage hatred i_is heart, had cursed her and sworn yet to possess her daughter if fifty whit_en stood in his way.
As Mahina was connected through her parents with the reigning family o_ahiti, the marriage ceremony was to be performed in the marae or temple o_ro instead of in the family marae, and thither went all the people to witnes_he event.
Mahina, sitting on a mat, was surrounded by a number of young girls who ha_rrayed her in her wedding garments; at a sign from the officiating priest o_ro she rose and advanced to meet her white lover, who, attended by Alexande_mith and a number of young natives of strikingly handsome appearance, was no_alking across the grassy sward towards her, his plain uniform contrastin_trangely with the wild, yet picturesque, garb of his island friends, most o_hom had their hair profusely decorated with wreaths of white and scarle_lossoms. Round each man's waist was a girdle composed of scarlet leaves o_he ti plant, and bright yellow strips of the plantain leaf. Upon each wris_nd ankle were circlets of pieces of pearl shell fitted into an embroidere_et work of red and black cinnet; the islanders' light brown skins shone wit_he scented oil with which they had anointed themselves, and the beautifu_urved lines or deep blue tattooing with which their bodies were so freel_overed stood out with such startling distinctness that even Smith, the mos_attooed man of all the Bounty's crew, could not help uttering a cry o_dmiration.
When about fifty reet distant from each other, the two parties stopped, and _retty little maiden, carrying in her hand a ripe plantain and a youn_rinking coconut, advanced out from among the women surrounding Mahina, an_ddressed the young native chief who led Christian's party—
"Who are ye that come here so gaily clad, and why do ye come?"
"I, Kirisiani, come to the altar of Oro so that I may take for my wife Mahina, daughter of Manuhuru," replied the mutineer, taking the plantain and coconu_rom her and giving her a piece of stained native cloth in return.
The child returned to her party, who began to chant some verses in praise o_he beauty of Mahina; then the ranks opened out, and Christian, prompted by _hief, stepped to her side.
Together they slowly walked to the marae, where they seated themselves upo_ats, Christian at one end of the temple, Mahina at the other, while th_eople disposed themselves round the sacred edifice in silence.
The leafy screen in front of one of the sacred dormitories opened; Harere, th_riest, clothed in the vestments of his sacred office, stepped forward, and, spreading a small square of white tappa cloth in the centre of the temple, bade Mahina and the white man seat themselves upon it. Then, standing directl_n front of Christian, he said, in a loud voice, "Kirisiani, taata Peretane, eita anei oe e faa 'rue i ta oe vahine?" ("Christian, the Englishman, wil_hou not cast away this woman?") to which the mutineer replied "Eita" ("No").
The same question was put to Mahina, and the girl, with a happy smile lightin_p her lovely face, and her little hand pressing her lover's, quickly gave th_ame answer.
"Fortunate then may your lives be if thus ye remain true one to another," sai_arere. Then stepping back from them and facing the sacred altar of Oro, th_riest prayed to the god that the Englishman and his wife might live togethe_n affection, that male children might be given to them in the earlier year_f their married life, that they might not "hunger nor thirst, nor see bloo_hed within their house."
Then old Manuhuru stepped into the sacred enclosure, bearing in her hands _eavy piece of ahu vavau, or tappa cloth, which she spread out upon the ston_loor of the temple; and Harere the priest bade the lovers sit upon it an_old each other by the hand while he again addressed them.
"Hearken, Englishman. It is the custom of this land for the man and the woma_ho marry before Oro and sit as thou and this woman sit now, to place befor_hem the skulls of their ancestors, whose spirits, entering into the dea_ones, will hear the vows that ye have made one to the other. But thou, Kirisiani, art from a far-off country, and it is not the custom of thy peopl_o carry about with them on the sea the skulls of their forefathers. And th_other of thy wife, though now as we are, Tahitian, is, like thee, of strang_lood—her mother's people came from a distant land which sprang from out th_ea, and neither hath she a skull to place before thee. And for this doe_anuhuru now make a sacrifice before Oro."
He handed to Mahina's mother a large shark's tooth with the base embedded in _iece of polished wood. Advancing to Christian, the old woman seized his righ_rm and made a small cut with the sharp point of the tooth upon the palm o_is hand, then did the same upon the hand of her daughter. As the blood flowe_nd dripped down she caught it upon a piece of cloth with her left hand, an_ith her right she thrust the keen-edged tooth into her own breast, brow, an_eft shoulder, over and over again.
"See, white man," she croaked. "Once I hated thee and all white men, but no_hy blood and mine and my daughter's have mixed. And if thy blood is as goo_s mine—for I am of Afita—then does this mingling of it with mine render the_qual to Mahina; and, moreover, the mixing of blood shall bind thee closer t_hy wife."
Scarcely able to conceal his disgust at the frightful spectacle the old woma_resented, with her face and shoulders streaming with blood, Christian wa_lad to submit to the concluding part of the ceremony, which was the brie_uspension over the heads of the married pair of a large piece of cloth calle_e tapoi.
Leaving the temple Christian and his bride were escorted to a new hous_pecially prepared for them in which to receive their presents, and the youn_an could not but be touched at the people's expression of their kindl_eeling towards him, and the overwhelming display of their generosity.
The rest of the day was spent in the wildest enjoyment and sumptuous feasting; then when darkness descended upon the scene the women and girls sang an_anced, and a band of Areois delighted the people by their wild pantomimi_xhibitions far into the night.
But in the midst of the merry clamour Mahina, without bidding her aged mothe_arewell, stole quietly away to the ship to await her husband, who had gone t_ake leave of Tina. As she paddled off alone in a tiny canoe, the tall, stalwart figure of Pipiri the Areoi appeared on the beach. For a few second_e watched her as she disappeared in the darkness. Then he plunged into th_ater and swam noiselessly in the same direction.
Long before daylight next morning Mahina awoke and found that her husband wa_one from her side. A wild look of fear for a moment blanched her olive cheek; then a smile parted her lips as she heard his voice on deck.
"Man the capstan, lads."
She ran on deck and found the ship crowded with natives, among whom were Tin_nd his noble wife, who wept when Christian bade them farewell. To King Georg_he chief sent many messages, for he firmly believed that the Bounty was o_er way to England.
Amid the sounds of weeping and the sighing of tender farewells the anchor cam_n sight, the ship's head swung round, and the Bounty was again under way.
Once outside the white line of foaming surge which thundered on the reef, Edward Young, who had been securing the anchor, came quietly aft and stoo_eside his wife Alrema, who, with Mahina and other women, was on the poop.
Presently, as Christian passed, Young caught him by the arm.
"I didn't like to disturb you last night, and so acted on my ow_esponsibility. Stewart and Heywood came on board and announced thei_etermination to sail with us if you would permit them."
Fletcher Christian's face darkened. "Stewart and Heywood! What does thi_ean?"
"Treachery," answered Young, "and I determined to meet treachery with deceit.
I told them that I was certain you would never consent to their coming o_oard again, but that if they liked to stow themselves away till we got out t_ea I would not say anything about it, but let them discuss the matter wit_ou afterwards."
"Are you mad, Young, to do this?"
The sallow-faced midshipman laughed. "Not a bit of it. They might do us mor_arm by remaining at Tahiti than they would by coming with us. Stewart ha_uia with him, and although she is as true as steel to the chicken-hearte_og, she has let it out to Alrema that he persuaded Heywood to come on boar_ith him last night."
"What do you think is his intention?" asked Christian moodily.
"To recapture the ship, and try to sail her to England and get _ommission—while we dangle from a yard-arm at Portsmouth."
"Then why let them come on board?"
"To prevent their giving us trouble in the future. There are lots of island_here no ships are ever likely to touch, and we can put them ashore before w_each Tubuai—and be damned to them."
"To let them perhaps die, with their fate unknown! But there, Young, forgiv_e. You have done wisely. Let them come on deck, and I will watch them closel_ill a fitting time arrives for us to rid ourselves of them."
On board the Bounty were several native women, the wives of Smith, Quintal, and McCoy, and two Tahitian men, brothers of Smith's and Quintal's wives, wh_ad determined to accompany the white men. These Christian was glad to see, a_e thought they would prove useful as interpreters.
But an hour later, after his talk with Young, and when the land was twent_iles astern, it was found that many more natives had hidden themselves o_oard, and that altogether the Bounty's complement had been increased b_welve women, eight boys, and nine men.