ON further careful study of Carteret's book and chart, the mind of Fletche_hristian was greatly disturbed, for he knew that there was much to fear i_he position of Pitcairn had been wrongly laid down. The currents, too, i_his part of the world were but little understood by those few navigators wh_ad sailed among the islands; indeed, the natives themselves were far bette_nformed of both the winds and currents of Eastern Polynesia than were the fe_uropean voyagers among the various groups since the days of Carteret an_ook.
Carteret had laid down the centre of Pitcairn in lat. 20° 2' south, and long.
133° 21' west; but although Christian was fairly confident of sighting th_sland by keeping a careful look-out and heaving-to at night when he got nea_t, he felt that his limited knowledge of the winds and currents might lead t_rolonged and tedious search.
For twenty-one days after leaving Fakarava the Bounty sailed south- easterly.
Several low-lying atolls were sighted, but no sign of high land had been seen; yet, by Christian's calculations (only revealed to Young, Smith, and McCoy), he had twice sailed over the position assigned to the island by Carteret. Hi_isgivings that a strong current had set him too far to the eastward wer_aily growing stronger. His only chronometer, through an accident, had bee_endered useless, and besides this the weather latterly was gloomy and the su_eldom visible. The last land had been sighted eighteen days after leavin_akarava, and Talalu and Tairoa-Maina, who from the break of day wer_ontinuously aloft on the lookout, assured him on that day that no land la_urther to the south-east but Afita and a little sandy island called Oeno, about half a day's sail to the northward. Small as this island was, the_eclared that the clamour of the sea- birds, whose resting-place it was, woul_eveal its presence even on the darkest night; and this alone somewha_eassured him in the hope that he had not drifted past it or Pitcairn in th_arkness. A day's sail further to the eastward was another island which the_aid was called Fenua-manu; this, too, was the home of millions of sea-birds, whose voices stifled the beating of the surf upon the reefs, so great wer_heir numbers.
With his chin upon his hands, Fletcher Christian gazed moodily at the char_efore him. Mahina, who by the cabin door was watching him with tende_nterest, heard him sigh wearily. Stepping up to him, she pressed her coo_and to his forehead, and leant her cheek against his in loving sympathy.
In the great cabin no sound broke the stillness save the swish and swirl o_he ship's wake as she slipped through the water; and presently Christian, drawing the girl's slender figure to a seat beside him, pointed to the chart.
"Mahina," he said, "you and three of my white comrades alone know that th_hip hath twice sailed over the place where this island of Afita should hav_een; and no sign have we yet seen, not even a drifting coconut or a piece o_ood."
The girl's eyes filled with tears; for a few moments her bosom heaved, and sh_ried to speak without showing her emotion; and Christian, moody an_reoccupied as he was, knew by her voice that she felt for and sympathise_ith him.
"Kirisiani, I too have looked and looked and prayed to Oro and Tane to guid_he ship to Afita, but now I begin to fear that the gods have turned asid_rom me."
He pressed her hand in silence, and was about to bid her come with him on dec_hen the murmuring of voices at the door of the great cabin broke in upo_hem, and presently Talalu, Tairoa-Maina, and two other natives asked leave t_peak with him.
"Let them wait awhile," he said sullenly, although knowing that in th_ubuaian chief and his Tahitian comrade he had two firm friends, who wit_mith, Young, and McCoy would stand by him to the last. For nearly half a_our he remained communing with himself and endeavouring to think out som_ther course for the future, should his search be still unrewarded on th_ollowing day.
Already the long voyage had had a bad effect upon most of the mutineers, an_nly that morning he had noticed the gloomy faces and sullen manner of the me_hen changing the ship's course another point to the southward. Some of th_ahitians were suffering from the effects of the strange food which, fo_eeks, they had been forced to live upon, and the confinement told seriousl_n their health and spirits. Yet, despite this, their regard for Mahina, an_heir faith in, and respect for Christian were unbroken, and they would hav_ndured the most prolonged hardships rather than let either imagine that the_ere repining. With some of the white seamen, however, these feelings wer_anting. Although there was no open expression of discontent, more than on_urmured at the delay, declaring that Christian and Young, either throug_gnorance or design, were not doing their duty to their associates.
It was no wonder, therefore, that Christian himself grew day by day mor_nxious and less confident of finding this island of Carteret's. True, th_lace was small and solitary, and, unless his reckoning was very exact, migh_asily be missed. Twice had he sailed across Carteret's position, and nothin_ad rewarded his search; and now he felt that another day's fruitless ques_ould assure him either that his observations had been incorrect or that th_sland had disappeared by some convulsion of nature. Worn out with anxiety, with constant watching, and his own sad emotions, nothing but the devotion an_ender love of Mahina had kept him from ending it all with a loaded pisto_hich he always carried in his pocket.
He pushed the chart away wearily, and was about to go on deck when Mahina, wh_ad remained, touched his arm, and with a timid, beseeching look asked him t_et Tairoa-Maina and the other natives have speech with him.
"Come in, friends," he said, in kindly tones.
The Tubuaian chief, who, with Talalu and two other natives, had been patientl_aiting at the cabin door, came in, sat silently down, and waited permissio_o speak.
"Speak, my brother," said Mahina to Tairoa-Maina. "My husband is wearied, an_ould go out upon the deck to breathe the cool wind of the night."
Pleased at the relationship assigned to him by Christian's wife, the handsom_oung Tubuaian looked at them with affectionate regard, and said he and thos_ith him desired to speak of something in their minds, at which they praye_im not to be angered, "for," he added, with a grave smile, "we men of brow_kin are but fools on the great ocean when the sky is dull and there i_either sun nor moon nor stars to guide us. But with the clever white men i_s different; they are full of wisdom to guide a ship, even if there b_either sun by day nor stars by night. Yet in some little things we hav_isdom, and that is why we now ask that thou, Kirisiani, will listen to us—wh_re thy friends."
"That I well know," said the mutineer, placing his hand on Tairoa's shoulder.
"Speak, my brother."
"Thou knowest, Kirisiani, that for many days I have climbed the masts an_atched, so that I might be the first to see the land of Afita; and when i_rew dark I have waited upon the deck and listened to hear if the sound o_eating surf came over the sea. Last night, as Talalu and I lay on the deck, and the ship rose and fell and made no sound, we saw first one and the_nother of the birds called kanápu fly swiftly over the ship towards th_estward. As we watched there came another, and then another, and then a floc_f twenty or more, and these too all flew swiftly westwards, for we saw thei_hadows darken the bright strip of water that shot out from the dying moon.
Then, as we lay down again, there came to our minds that on Oeno, the littl_andy islet but a day's sail from Afita, there do the kanápu breed in th_hick puka scrub which groweth in the sand."
"True," said Mahina quickly; "I have heard my mother say that on Oeno th_ries of the kanápu when they come home to roost at night drown the noise o_he breaking surf."
"Aye," said the Tubuaian, "and so have I been told. Yet only at night; for i_he daytime they fly to the lagoon of Fenua-manu, where they find many fish.
We talked of this as we lay on the deck, and I desired to come and tell thee, Kirisiani, of the flight of the birds, but feared that thou wouldst chide m_or doubting thy skill to guide the ship. But I have heard some of those wit_s say some little things."
Christian smiled bitterly. "They speak truly, my friend; I cannot find thi_and of Afita."
Leaning over towards him and placing his hand on Christian's, the Tubuaia_ontinued: "But this morning, when the lower half of the sun was still burie_n the sea, we saw many, many kanápu and katafa flying swiftly towards it, an_fita lieth between Oeno and Fenua-manu."
Christian's eyes sparkled. "Thanks, my good friend. I see now thy meaning. Fo_wo days have I thought that the ship hath come too far towards the risin_un, and that the place we seek lieth westward."
"Even so think we," answered Talalu, "for the current runneth strong toward_he rising sun, and the kanápu and the katafa went westward to rest."
For a little while Christian considered. Oeno, the sandy island which bot_ahina and Tairoa asserted was but a day's sail north and west from Afita, wa_ot marked in any of the two or three charts he possessed, but Ducie Island, the "Fenua-manu," or Island of Birds, of the natives, was, and lay due east o_eno. And he knew the natives relied much upon simple indications to fin_heir position when making long voyages at sea. He soon made up his mind.
"We will turn the ship to follow the kanápu," he said.
The natives sprang to their feet, and with animated countenances waited fo_im to precede them on deck.
The Bounty, with the gentle trade-wind filling her sails, was steering a_.N.E. course, when Christian, with Mahina and the others, came on deck.
Sitting near the wheel was Young, who had charge of the watch.
"Young," said Christian, "I am convinced that if this island is in existenc_t is to the west of us."
"So Alrema says," nonchalantly replied the young man; "but I didn't think i_orth while mentioning it."
"What do you say? Shall we keep her away?"
"Certainly—why not? As we cannot find it ourselves by the chart let us go wes_y all means."
"Hands to the braces, men!" called out Christian after a moment's hesitation.
"We are going to run down to the westward."
In a few minutes the yards were hauled round, and the Bounty was heading wes_y north. Telling Talalu and Tairoa to go aloft, Christian turned to Young an_mith and related the incident of the previous night.
About four o'clock in the afternoon, just as Christian was about to lie dow_or an hour, there burst from Talalu on the fore top-gallant yard a cry tha_ent a thrill through the hearts of every one on board—
"Te fenua no Afita!" ("The land of Afita!").
There was a sudden rush aloft, Christian himself ascending the main riggin_lightly in advance of McCoy, Quintal, and Young.
"There it is, sir!" said Quintal excitedly, pointing almost right ahead.
Then as the others saw the faint blue outline of a pyramidal peak rising fro_he sea, a cheer broke from them, and the people on the deck took it up an_epeated it again and again.
"Thank God!" said Christian to Edward Young. Instinctively their hands met, and in silence they all gazed intently at the little spot, which at that fa_istance no eye but that of a seaman or a native could distinguish from _one-shaped cloud. Ducie Island, about ninety miles east of Pitcairn. It i_ninhabited now. The old name, Fenua— manu, meant "The Island of Birds."