THE PITEOUS DEATH OF GASTON, SON OF THE COUNT OF FOIX
MORE than five hundred years ago, on St. Catherine's Day, 1388, Master Jean Froissart, a priest of Hainault, rode into the little town of Orthez. He was in search of information about battles and tournaments, for he was writing his famous 'History and Chronicle.' To get news of all kinds he rode gaily about, with a white greyhound in a leash, and carrying a novel which he had begun for the entertainment of ladies and princes. Arriving at Orthez (where, long afterwards, the Duke of Wellington fought the French on the borders of Spain), Master Froissart alighted at the hotel with the sign of the Moon. Meanwhile a knight who had travelled with Froissart went up to the castle, and paid his court to Gaston Phoebus, Count of Foix. He found the Count in the gallery of the palace just after dinner, for this prince always went to bed at midday and took supper at midnight. He was a great and powerful noble, of stately and beautiful presence, though now he was nearly sixty years old. A wise knight he was, bold in enterprise, and of good counsel. Never did he suffer any unbeliever in his company, and he was very pious, every day making many and long prayers, and giving alms to the poor folk at his gate. He took much delight in minstrelsy, and at his midnight supper songs and virelays were chanted to him. Till about three o'clock in the morning he listened while Master Froissart read aloud his poems, tales, or histories, while the courtiers yawned, no doubt, and wished for bedtime. But it was the good Count's manner to turn night into day. He was sometimes melancholy, and, as is told in the story of Orthon, men believed that he saw and knew events far distant, but in what manner none could tell. This great prince dwelt at peace while the wars of France, England, Portugal, and Spain raged outside his dominions. Rich, powerful, handsome, and deeply religious, he seemed to have everything that could make him happy, but he had no son and heir; his lands, on his death, would go to a distant cousin. Nor did the lady his wife live with the Count of Foix. Concerning this, and the early death of the Count's one son, Gaston, Master Froissart was very curious, but he found that people did not care to speak of the matter. At length an old squire told him the story of the death of Gaston.
The Countess of Foix was the sister of the King of Navarre, and between the Count her husband, and the King her brother, a quarrel arose on a question of money. The Count therefore sent his wife to her brother at Pampeluna, that she might arrange the matter; but the end of it was that she stayed in Navarre, and did not return to her lord. Meanwhile her son Gaston grew up at Orthez, and married a daughter of the Count of Armagnac, being now a lad of sixteen, a good squire, and in all things very like his father. He had a desire to see his mother, and so rode into Navarre, hoping to bring home his mother, the Countess of Foix. But she would not leave Navarre for all that he could say, and the day came when he and the young squires of his company must return. Then the King of Navarre led him apart into a secret chamber, and there gave him a little purse. Now the purse was full of a powder of such sort that no living creature could taste of it and live, but must die without remedy.
'Gaston, fair nephew,' said the King, 'you see how your father, the Count, holds your mother in bitter hate—a sore grief to me and to you also. Now to change all this, and bring your father and mother back to their ancient love, you must watch your chance and sprinkle a little of this powder on any food that your father is about to eat, taking good care that no man sees you. And the powder is a charm so strong that your father, as soon as he has tasted it, will desire nothing so much as to be friends with your mother again, and never will they leave each other. But you must take heed that no man knows of this purpose, or all is lost.'
The young Count, believing, in his innocence, what his uncle said, made answer that he would gladly do as he was bidden. Then he rode back to Orthez, and showed his father all the presents and jewels that had been given to him in Navarre, except the little purse.
Now it was the custom of the young Count to be much in the company of his brother by another mother, and, as they played together one day, this boy, named Yvain, caught hold of the little purse which Gaston wore about his neck under his coat, and asked him what it was. But Gaston made no answer. Three days later the lads quarrelled over a stroke at tennis, and Gaston struck Yvain a blow. Yvain ran weeping to his father, the Count, who asked what ailed him.
'Gaston struck me,' said he, 'but it is Gaston, not I, who deserves a blow.'
'What has he done?' asked the Count.
'Ever since he came from his mother's in Navarre he carries about his neck a little purse full of a powder. But I only know that he says you and his mother will soon be good friends once more.'
'Ha!' cried the Count, 'do you be silent.'
That day at dinner, as Gaston served the meats, for this was his duty, the Count called to him, seized his coat, opened it, and, with his knife, cut the purse from the boy's neck. Gaston said no word, but grew pale and trembled. The Count opened the purse, spread the powder on a piece of bread, and threw it to a dog. No sooner had the dog eaten the bread than his eyes turned round, and he fell dead.
The Count leaped up, a knife in his hand, and would have slain his son as a traitor, but the knights and esquires, kneeling, prayed him to hold his hand.
'Perchance,' said they, 'Gaston knew not the nature of that which was in the purse, and is guiltless in this matter.'
'So be it,' said the Count. 'Hold him prisoner in the tower at your own peril.'
Then he seized all the companions and friends of Gaston, for they must have known, he said, that his son carried a purse secretly. Fifteen of the fairest and noblest of the boys he put to death with horrible tortures, but they knew nothing and could tell nothing. Then he called together all his nobles and bishops, and told them that Gaston also must die. But they prayed for his life, because they loved him dearly, and he was the heir of all the Count's lands. So the Count decided to keep Gaston in prison for some months, and then send him to travel for two or three years. The Pope sent a cardinal to the Count, bidding him spare Gaston, but, before the Cardinal reached Orthez, Gaston was dead.
One day the servant who took meat and drink into the boy's dark dungeon saw that he had not tasted food for many days. All the dishes lay full of mouldering meat in a row along the wall. Then the servant ran and warned the Count that Gaston was starving himself to death. The Count was trimming his nails with a little knife, and he sped in great anger to the dungeon.
'Traitor, why dost thou not eat?' he cried, dealt the boy a cuff, and rushed out again, and so went to his chamber.
But the point of the little knife, which was in his hand, had cut a vein in Gaston's neck, and, being weak with hunger and grief, Gaston died, for the vein could not be staunched. Then the Count made great lament, and had his head shaven, and wore mourning for many days.
Thus it chanced that the Count of Foix lived without an heir, turning night into day, praying much, and listening to minstrels, giving alms, and hearkening to strange messages of death and war that were borne to him how no man knew. And his brother, Pierre, was a good knight and wise by day, yet at night madness fell on him, and he raved, beating the air with a naked sword. And this had been his manner ever since he fought with and slew a huge bear on the hills. Now when his wife saw that bear brought home dead she fainted, and in three days she fled with her children, and came back no more. For her father had once pursued that bear, which cried to him: 'Thou huntest me who wish thee no harm, but thou shalt die an ill death.' He then left off pursuing the bear; but the Count's brother slew the beast on another day, and thereafter he went mad in the night, though by day he was wise enough.
These tales were told to Master Froissart by the old squire at Orthez.
There was once a king in Denmark named Rolf Stake; right famous is he among the kings of yore, foremost for liberality, daring, and courtesy. Of his courtesy one proof celebrated in story is this.
A poor little boy named Vogg came into King Rolf's hall: the King was then young and slender of build. Vogg went near and looked up at him. Then said the King: 'What wouldst thou say, boy, that thou lookest at me so?'
Vogg answered: 'When I was at home, I heard tell that King Rolf at Hleidr was the tallest man in Northland; but now here sits in the high seat a thin stake, and they call him their king.'
Then answered the King: 'Thou, boy, hast given me a name to be known by—Rolf Stake to wit. 'Tis custom to follow a naming with a gift. But now I see that thou hast not with the naming any gift to give me such as would beseem me to accept, wherefore he of us who hath must give to the other.' With that the King drew a gold ring from his own hand and gave it to him.
Then said Vogg: 'Blessed above all kings be thou who givest! And by this vow I bind me to be that man's bane who shall be thine.'
Then said the King with a laugh: 'With small gain is Vogg fain.'
Further, this proof is told of Rolf Stake's daring.
There ruled over Upsala a king named Adils, who had to wife Yrsa, Rolf Stake's mother. He was at war with Ali, the king who then ruled Norway. They appointed to meet in battle upon the ice of the lake called Venir. King Adils sent a message to Rolf Stake, his stepson, that he should come to help him, and promised pay to all his force so long as they should be on the campaign, but the King himself was to receive for his own three costly things from Sweden, whatsoever he should choose. King Rolf could not go himself by reason of a war that he had against the Saxons; but he sent to Adils his twelve Berserks, of whom were Bodvar Bjarki, Hjalti Stoutheart, Whiteserk Bold, Vott, Vidseti, and the brothers Svipdag and Beigud.
In the battle then fought fell King Ali and a great part of his host. And King Adils took from the dead prince the helmet Battleboar and his horse Raven. Then the Berserks of Rolf Stake asked for their wage, three pounds of gold apiece; and further they asked to carry to Rolf Stake those costly things which they in his behalf should choose. These were the helmet Battleboar, and the corslet Finnsleif, which no weapon could pierce, and the gold ring called Sviagriss, an heirloom from Adils' forefathers. But the King denied them all the costly things, nor did he even pay their wage.
The Berserks went away ill-content with their lot, and told Rolf Stake what had been done.
At once he started for Upsala, and when he came with his ships into the river Fyri he then rode to Upsala, and with him his twelve Berserks, without any truce guaranteed. Yrsa, his mother, welcomed him, and led him, not to the King's hall, but to a lodging. There fires were lighted for them and ale given them to drink.
Then some men of King Adils came in and threw billets of wood on the fire, and made such a blaze that it scorched the clothes of Rolf's company. And they said: 'Is it true that Rolf Stake and his Berserks flee neither fire nor iron?' Then up leapt Rolf and all his twelve, and he crying,
'Heap we yet higher Adils' house-fire,'
took his shield and cast it on the fire, and leapt thereover, crying yet again,
'He fleeth not the flame Who leapeth o'er the same.'
Likewise one after the other did all his men. Then they seized those who had heaped up the fire, and cast them thereon.
And now came Yrsa and gave to Rolf Stake a deer's horn filled with gold, and therewith the ring Sviagriss, and bade them ride away to their fleet. They leapt on their horses and rode down to Fyris-field. Soon they saw that King Adils rode after them with his force fully armed, purposing to slay them. Whereupon Rolf Stake, plunging his right hand into the horn, took of the gold and sowed it all over the path. But when the Swedes saw that, they leapt from their saddles and gathered each what he could get; but King Adils bade them ride on, and himself rode at speed. Slungnir his horse was named, of all horses the fleetest.
Then Rolf Stake, when he saw that King Adils rode near him, took the ring Sviagriss and threw it to him, and bade him accept the gift. King Adils rode to the ring, and lifting it on his lowered spear-point slid it up along the shaft. Then did Rolf Stake turn him back, and, seeing how he louted low, cried: 'Now have I made Sweden's greatest grovel swine-wise.'
So they parted.
For this reason gold is by poets called 'the seed of Stake' or 'of Fyris-field.'
 From Snorri's Edda, cap. 44.
THE WRECK OF THE 'WAGER'
THE Honourable John Byron, grandfather of the poet, was a celebrated British Admiral who in almost all his voyages fell in with such rough weather that his sailors nicknamed him 'Foul-weather Jack.'
When he was seventeen years old he served as midshipman in the 'Wager,' a vessel attached to the squadron under the command of Commodore Anson which sailed out to the Spanish Settlements in the Pacific in 1740.
From the set-out the expedition was unfortunate. Almost all the ships were ill-fitted and ill-provisioned for so long a voyage. Moreover they were delayed until long after the proper season for their departure was past, which was regarded by the soldiers and sailors as an evil omen. This neglect affected the 'Wager' more than any other ship, as she was an old East Indiaman, and had been bought into the service for the voyage, and fitted out for it as a man-of-war.
Besides this, when under sail she listed to one side, as she was top-laden with heavy military gear and stores for the use of the other vessels, while the lower holds were filled with light merchandise for bartering with the Indians.
Her crew were men who had been pressed on their return from long voyages, and the marines a small troop of invalids from the Chelsea Hospital, who were all alike very miserably depressed at the prospect of the long voyage which lay before them.
Even Captain Kid, under whose command the 'Wager' sailed out of port, when on his death-bed shortly after, foretold her ill-success.
Upon his death Captain Cheap took command, and was able to keep with the squadron until they were about to enter the Straits la Marie, where the wind shifted to the south, and with the turn of the tide the 'Wager' was separated from the other ships, and very narrowly escaped being wrecked off Staten Island.
However, she regained her station with the rest of the fleet until a few days later, when they were caught by a deep roll of a hollow sea, and lost their mizzen mast, and all the windward chain plates were broken.
They tried to rig up a substitute for the mizzen mast, but failed, as hard westerly gales set in with a tremendous short chopping swell, which raised the waves to a mountainous height, while from time to time a heavy sea broke over the ship. The boats on the davits were cast from their lashings, and filled with water, and the ship in all parts was soon in a most shattered and crazy state.
They had now lost sight of the squadron, and from the numbers of birds, and the drifting seaweed in the waters, they found they were being borne on to a lee shore. The heavy clouds that lowered above them, or the blinding sleet and snow, hid the sun and prevented the officers from taking sights; and at night no moon or stars by which they could steer their course were visible in the wild gloom through which they tossed.
When the officers at last found they were out of their bearings, they tried to persuade the captain to alter the course, but this he refused to do, as he believed he was making directly for the Island of Socoro, which was the place arranged for the squadron to meet, and whence it was intended they should make their first attack upon the Spaniards.
At this time, when all but twelve men on the 'Wager' were disabled by fatigue or sickness, there loomed against the dull clouds a yet heavier cloud, which was that of mountainous masses of land. Then Captain Cheap at last realised their danger, and gave orders to wear ship to the southward, hoping that they might crowd her off the land.
But the fury of the gale increased as night fell upon them, while to add to their dismay, as each sail was set with infinite labour, it was set only to be blown or rent immediately from the yard.
At four o'clock in the morning the ship struck, then again for the second time more violently; and presently she lay helpless on her beam ends—while the sea every now and then broke over her.
Everyone who could move rushed to the quarter-deck, but those who were dying of scurvy and who could not leave their hammocks were drowned in them.
In the uncertain light of dawn they could see nothing around them but leaden breakers from whose foam-crested manes the wind swept the blinding spray. The ship lay in this terrible plight for some little time, while every soul on board counted each moment as his last.
In this scene of wild disorder the men lost all reason and restraint, some gave themselves up to death like logs, and were rolled hither and thither with each jerk and roll of the shivering ship.
One man in the exaltation of his despair stalked about the deck, and flourished a cutlass over his head, and struck at anyone who came near him with it—meanwhile shouting that he was the 'king of the country.'
Another, and a brave man, was so overcome by the fury of the seething waters, that he tried to throw himself from the rails at the quarter-deck, and to end in death a scene he felt too shocking to look upon.
The man at the helm still kept his post, though both rudder and tiller had been carried away; and applied himself to his duty with the same respect and coolness as though the ship were in the greatest safety.
Then Mr. Jones, the mate, spoke to the men, saying, 'My friends! have you never seen a ship amongst breakers before? Lend a hand, boys, and lay on to the sheets and braces. I have no fear but that we shall stick her near enough to the land to save our lives.'
Although he said these gallant words without hope of saving a single soul, he gave courage to many of the men, and they set to work in earnest.
They steered as best they could by the sheets and braces, and presently ran her in between an opening in the breakers, and soon found themselves wedged fast between two great rocks.
With the break of day the weather cleared sufficiently to give them a glimpse of the land. They then set to work to get out the boats. The first one that was launched was so overladen by those anxious to save themselves, that they were almost swamped before they reached the shore.
On the day before the ship was wrecked, the captain had had his shoulder dislocated by a fall, and was lying in his berth when John Byron, whose duty it was to keep him informed of all that passed on deck, went to ask if he would not like to land. But the captain refused to leave the ship until everyone else had gone.
Throughout the ship, the scene was now greatly changed. The men who but a few moments before had been on their knees praying for mercy, when they found themselves not in immediate danger, became very riotous, rushed to the cabins and stores, and broke open every chest and box they could find, as well as casks of wine and brandy. And by drinking it some of them were rendered so helpless that they were drowned on board by the seas that continually swept over them.
The boatswain and five other men refused to leave the ship while there was any liquor to be got; then at last the captain consented to be helped from his bed, and to be taken on shore.
* * * * *
Although they were thankful to escape from the wreck, when they reached the land they found themselves in a scene desolate enough to quell the bravest soul.
The bay in which they had been cast away was open to the full force of the ocean, and was formed by rocky headlands and cliffs with here and there a stretch of beach, while rising abruptly from the sea a rock-bound steep frowned above them, which they afterwards named Mount Misery. Stretching back from the beach lay stagnant lagoons and dreary flats of morass and swamp, the edges of which were drained by the roots of heavy forest trees whose impenetrable gloom clothed the intervening country and hillsides.
And out before them in the tempestuous waters the wreck lay, from whose stores must come their only present chance of life.
With nightfall presently at hand, though they were cold and wet and hungry, they had to try to find a shelter, and at last chanced upon an Indian hut at a little distance from the beach. Into this poor refuge the men packed themselves in a voluntary imprisonment, while, to add to their distress, they were afraid of being attacked by Indians.
One of the officers died in this miserable place during the night, and of those left outside who were unable from want of room to press in, two more perished from cold.
The next morning found them cramped with starvation and cold, with no food but some fragments of biscuit, a solitary seagull someone had killed, and the stalks of wild celery that grew upon the beach. This they made into soup, and served as far as it would go to the hundred and forty men who clamoured for food.
The men who had remained on the wreck were now anxious to be brought on shore, and repeatedly made signals to that effect; but the sea was running high and it was not possible at once to set out to their relief. In their rage at the delay they fired one of the quarter-deck guns upon the camp, while on board they destroyed everything they could lay hands on. In his brutality and greed for spoil, a man named James Mitchell murdered one of their number. When at last they were brought to land they came dressed in laced clothes and officers' suits which they had put on over their own dirty clothes.
These men Captain Cheap instantly had stripped of their finery and arms, and enforced the most strict discipline upon them and all the crew.
In a few days they had a shelter made with boats turned keel upwards, and placed on props, while the sides were lined with canvas and boughs.
Then followed five weary months, during which these hunger-driven men roamed the wretched island rocks both night and day, searching for shell-fish for food—men who were even thankful at the times when they were able to kill and eat the carrion crows that fed upon the flesh of their drowned comrades cast up by the tide. Some Indians surprised them by a visit, and stayed for several days, and with them they were able to barter cloth and beads for some dogs, and these they killed and ate.
The Indians were very short and black, and had long coarse hair that hung over their faces, and were almost without clothing of any kind.
The shipwrecked men grew more and more discontented as the months went by, and several of them threatened to take the life of the captain, whose strict discipline and guard over the stores made them very angry.
James Mitchell, who had murdered a man on the wreck, and had since committed another murder on Mount Misery, where his victim was found shockingly stabbed and mangled, was amongst this set. They had determined to leave the others, and on the night before their departure had placed a barrel of gunpowder close to the captain's hut, intending to blow it up, but were dissuaded from doing this by one of their number. After wandering about the island for some time they went up one of the lagoons on a punt they had made, and were never heard of again.
Captain Cheap was very jealous of his authority, and hasty in suspecting both officers and men of a desire to mutiny, and this suspicion on his part led to the unfortunate shooting by him of a midshipman named Mr. Cozens, whom he heard one day disputing with the purser as to the disposal of some stores he was at the time receiving from the wreck. The captain already had a personal dislike to Mr. Cozens, and hearing high words immediately rushed out of his hut and shot him. Mr. Cozens did not die until several days after, but the captain would not allow him to be attended to by the surgeon, or to have any care from the other men, though they begged to be allowed to carry him to their tent, but ordered that he should be left upon the ground, under a bit of canvas thrown over some bushes, until he died. This inhumanity on the part of Captain Cheap much embittered the men against him.
Their numbers were now lessened, chiefly by famine, to one hundred souls; the weather was still tempestuous and rainy, and the difficulty of finding food daily increased.
They had saved the long-boat from the wreck, and about this time John Bulkely, who had been a gunner on the 'Wager,' formed a plan of trying to make the voyage home through the Straits of Magellan. The plan was proposed to the captain, and though he thought it wiser to pretend to fall in with it, he had no intention of doing so. And when Bulkely and his followers suggested that there should be some restrictions on his command, or that at least he should do nothing without consulting his officers, the captain refused to consent to this; whereupon they imprisoned him, intending to take him to England on the charge of having murdered Mr. Cozens.
But when the boats were ready for sailing they found there would not be enough room for everybody. So the captain, Mr. Hamilton, and the doctor were left on the island.
John Byron did not know they were going to do this until the last moment. There were eighty-one men who left the island, who were distributed in the long-boat, the cutter, and the barge.
After they had been out about two days it was thought necessary to send back to the old station for some spare canvas. John Byron was sent back with the barge on this errand. When he was well away from the long-boat he told those with him he did not mean to return, but to rejoin Captain Cheap; and they agreed to do so too.
Although they were welcomed by those left on the island, there was little food for so many mouths, as almost everything had been carried off by the voyagers, and for a considerable time they were forced to live upon a kind of seaweed called slaugh, which with the stalks of wild celery they fried in the tallow of some candles they had saved.
This poor food reduced them to a terrible condition of weakness.
At last a really fair day broke upon them, when they went out to the remains of the wreck, and had the good fortune to hook up out of the bottom, three casks of beef which they brought safely to shore. The good food gave them renewed strength and energy, and again they became very anxious to leave the island.
Accordingly they launched both boats on December 15. The captain, Lieutenant Hamilton, and John Byron were in the barge with nine men, and Mr. Campbell in the yawl with six. And thus they set out on their journey northward.
Then followed weary days, during which they rowed over high seas, and weary nights of exposure and cold, when they landed on some barren shore for rest and to wait for daylight.
On Christmas Eve they found themselves tossing on a wide bay, and unable by the force of the currents to double the rocky headlands that lay in front of them. Unable, too, by the fury of the breakers to make the land or to find harbour, they were forced to lie outside all that night upon their oars.
They were so hungry then that they ate their shoes, which were made of raw sealskin.
On Christmas Day some of them landed, and had the good fortune to kill a seal. Though the two men who were left in each boat to take care of it could see their companions on shore eating seal, they were unable to have any themselves, as again when night came on the wind blew very hard, and the mighty breakers beat with pulse-like regularity on the shore.
John Byron, who had fallen into a comfortless sleep in the boat, was suddenly awakened by a shriek, and saw the yawl turned bottom upwards and go down.
One man was drowned, the other was thrown up by the breakers on the beach and saved by the people there.
At this place Mr. Hamilton, who was with the shore party, shot at a large sea-lion, which he hit with two balls; and when the brute presently charged at him with open mouth, he thrust his bayonet down its throat, as well as a great part of the barrel of his gun. But the sea-lion bit this in two with the greatest ease, and in spite of all its wounds, and all other efforts to kill it, got away.
As they had lost the yawl there was not enough of room to take all the men away from this place, therefore four of the marines agreed to remain and to try to make their way on foot to a more habitable country.
The captain gave them guns and food, and as the boat put off, they stood upon the beach and gave three cheers, and shouted 'God bless the King.'
The others made another attempt to double the cape, but the wind, the sea, and currents were too strong for them, and again they failed. So disheartened were they now, that caring little for life, they agreed to return to their original station on Wager's Island, and to end their days in miserable existence there.
They went back to the place where they had left the four marines in order to try to get some seal for their return passage and to take these men back with them, but when they searched all traces of them had gone.
It was here that the surgeon found in a curious cave the bodies of several Indians that were stretched out on a kind of platform. The flesh on the bodies had become perfectly dry and hard, and it was thought that it must be the kind of burial given to the great men or Caciques of the Indians.
After a terrible journey back to Wager's Island they reached it alive, though again worn out by hunger and fatigue.
The first thing they did on reaching their old station was to bury the corpse of the man who had been murdered on Mount Misery by James Mitchell, for the men thought that all their misfortunes had arisen from the neglect of this proper duty to the dead, and they were sure that the restless spirit of this person haunted the waters around them at night, as they heard strange and unearthly cries from the sea. And one night, in bright moonlight, they saw and heard something which looked like a human being swimming near the shore.
Inconsistent as this may seem, they were soon so terribly driven by hunger that the last dreadful suggestion for food was beginning to be whispered amongst them, when fortunately some Indians from the island of Chiloc appeared. It was supposed they had heard of the wreck from those first Indians who had visited them, and had come to collect old iron and nails, which they value very much.
They were able to persuade the Cacique, who was a Christian named Martini, to promise to show them the safest and best way to some of the Spanish Settlements. Once more the barge was launched, with the fifteen souls on board who now remained on the island of the shipwrecked crew.
They followed their Indian guide by day for some time, during which their sufferings were so terrible that it was no unusual thing for one of their number to fall back dying from the oars, meanwhile beseeching his comrades for two or three mouthfuls of food which they had not.
Captain Cheap, who was always well provided with seal by the Indians, again showed how regardless he could be of the sufferings of others, and often though he could have relieved his men by giving up a small portion of his own food when he heard their heartrending appeals for it, let them die at their posts unheedful of their want and misery.
They were rather taken in by their Christian Indian Martini. He made them row the heavy barge a very long way up a river and then deserted them for several days. They found he wished to secure the barge here, which was to be a part of his reward, and which was too heavy to be carried over the rocks of the headlands in the way they carried their own canoes—and by which they escaped the heavy seas that ran round those places.
However, the Cacique returned again, and after a time he consented to take the captain with John Byron to row his canoe on to another part of the coast where there were more Indians.
They reached this camp late one evening, and while the captain was at once taken by Martini to a wigwam, Byron was left outside to shift for himself as best he could. He was so exhausted that all he could do was to creep into the shelter of a wigwam, and chance what fate might bring him.
These wigwams were built of branches of trees placed in a circle, which are bound at the top by a kind of creeper called supple-jack. The frame of the wigwam is covered with boughs and bark. The fire is lit in the very centre, round which the Indians lie. As there is no outlet for the smoke, it is not a very comfortable place to sleep in.
There were only two Indian women in the wigwam into which John Byron crept, who were very astonished to see him. However, they were kind to him and made up a good fire, and presently, when he made them understand that he was hungry, they gave him some fish to eat. But when he had finished it he was still so hungry that he made signs for more. Then they went out into the night, taking their dogs with them, and came back in an hour or two shivering and with water dripping from their hair. They had caught two more fish, which after they had cooked slightly they gave him to eat.
These people live only on what they can take from the sea, and train their dogs to dive for fish and their women for sea-eggs. While collecting these the women stay under water a wonderfully long time; they have really the hardest work to do, as they have to provide food for their husbands and children. They are not allowed to touch any food themselves until the husband is satisfied, when he gives them a very small portion, generally that which he does not care to eat himself.
Martini then told them that they would have to return in the canoe by which they had come to their companions, and that the Indians they were leaving would join them in a few days, after which they would all set out together on the journey northwards. They found Mr. Elliot, the surgeon, very ill, and Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Campbell were almost starved, having had only a few sea-eggs to eat since they had left.
About the middle of March they re-embarked with the other Indians, and soon afterwards Mr. Elliot died. He had been one of the strongest of the party, and one of the most useful and self-denying, and had never spared himself in trying to provide food for the others. He was also one of the best shots of the party.
Most of them were now reduced to rags and without shoes, and when they had to cross the stony headlands and swamps, and to carry heavy burdens, their feet were often terribly torn.
The Cacique had now become a very hard master to all but the captain, and forced them to row like galley slaves when they were in the boats. Indeed, the captain seemed to encourage the Indian in this conduct. He had become more selfish and cunning in keeping all the food he could lay hands on for himself, and was accustomed to sleep with his head pillowed on a dirty piece of canvas in which he wrapped portions of seal or sea-eggs. Thorough cleanliness had become an impossibility to them: they were now terribly emaciated and covered by vermin. The captain particularly was a most shocking sight. His legs had become tremendously swelled, probably from the disease known as 'beri-beri,' while his body was almost a skeleton, his beard had grown very long, and his face was covered with train oil and dirt.
When at last they were within a few miles of the island of Chiloc, they found they had to cross a most dangerous bay. After waiting for two days for fair weather they started, although the Cacique even then seemed terrified, and there was every reason for it, as the sea ran so strong and their boat was most crazy, the bottom plank having opened, and ceaseless bailing had to be carried on all the time. It was early in June when they reached this place.
Directly the Cacique landed he buried all the things he had brought from the wreck, for he knew that the Spaniards would take everything from him.
That same evening, as they drew near to a settlement of Chiloc Indians the Cacique asked them to load their one remaining gun with the last charge of powder, and to show him how to fire it off. Holding the gun as far away from his head as he could he fired, and fell back into the bottom of the canoe.
When the Chiloc Indians found out who they were, they brought fish and potatoes for them to eat, and this was the nicest meal they had had for more than a year.
These Indians are very strong and nice-looking people; they are extremely neat in their dress. The men wear what is called a puncho, which is a square piece of cloth in stripes of different colours, with a slit in the centre wide enough to put their heads through, and it hangs from their shoulders.
After a little time the shipwrecked men were sent on by these people to the Spaniards at Castro. There they were met by a number of soldiers, with three or four officers, who surrounded them fiercely as though they were a most formidable enemy instead of the four poor helpless creatures left of the fifteen men that had set out from Wager's Island.
Though they had had much better food since they had been with the kindly Indians, they were so weak that they could hardly walk up the hill to the shed in which they were to be lodged.
Numbers of people came to look at them in this place, as though they were wild beasts or curiosities; and when they heard they had been starved for more than a year, they brought quantities of chicken and all kinds of good things for them to eat.
John Byron then began to feel more comfortable. He was always ready to make a meal, and used to carry food in his pockets so that he need not wait a second for it if he felt hungry. Even the captain owned that he ate so much that he felt quite ashamed of himself.
In a little time an old Jesuit priest came to see them. He did not come because he was sorry for them, but because he had heard from the Indian Cacique that they had things of great value about them. The priest began by producing a bottle of brandy, and gave them all some to open their hearts.
Captain Cheap told him he had nothing, not remembering that Martini had seen his gold repeater watch; but at the same time he said that Mr. Campbell had a silver watch, which he at once ordered him to make a present of to the priest.
Soon after the Spanish governor sent for them to be brought to Chaco, where they were very well treated by the people. Whilst here John Byron was asked to marry the niece of a very rich old priest.
The lady made the suggestion through her uncle, saying that first she wished him to be converted, and then he might marry her.
When the old priest made the offer, he took John Byron into a room where there were several large chests full of clothes. Taking from one of them a large piece of linen, he told him it should be made up into shirts for him at once if he would marry the lady.
The thought of new shirts was a great temptation to John Byron, as he had only the one in which he had lived ever since he had been wrecked.
However, he denied himself this luxury, and excused himself for not being able to accept the honour of the lady's hand.
On this occasion he managed to speak Spanish sufficiently well to make himself understood.
In January 1742 they were sent on to Valparaiso as English prisoners. Only Captain Cheap and Mr. Campbell were recognised as officers, as they had saved their commissions, and they were sent to St. Jago, while John Byron and Mr. Hamilton were kept in prison. However, when they were released they were permitted to rejoin the others at St. Jago, and found them living with a Scotch physician named Don Patricio Gedd.
When Dr. Gedd heard of the four English prisoners, he had begged the President to allow them to live at his house.
This was granted, and during the two years they lived there with him, he treated them most hospitably, and would hear of no return being made for his kindness.
Mr. Campbell changed his religion while they were at St. Jago, and left his companions.
At the end of two years the President sent for them, and told them that they were at liberty to leave the country in a French ship bound for Spain.
Accordingly, in the end of December 1744, they sailed in the frigate bound for Conception, where she was to join three more French ships that were homeward bound.
On October 27 they reached Cape Ortegal, and after lying at anchor there for several days they were taken to Landernan, where they lived on parole for three months, until an order came from the Court of Spain to allow them to return home by the first ship that sailed. After arranging with the captain of a Dutch lugger to land them at Dover they embarked in her and had a very uncomfortable passage.
When they got well up Channel they found the Dutchman had no intention of landing them at Dover, as he was making his way up off the coast of France. In the midst of their indignation at this breach of faith, an English man-of-war appeared to windward, and bore down upon them. This was the 'Squirrel,' commanded by Captain Masterton. He at once sent them off in one of his cutters, and they arrived at Dover that afternoon.
They agreed to start for London the next morning. Captain Cheap and Mr. Hamilton were to drive in a post-chaise, and John Byron was to ride. But when they came to divide the little money they had left, it was found there would be barely enough to pay for horses. There was not a farthing left for John Byron to buy any food he might want on the way, nothing even to pay for the turnpikes. However, he boldly cheated these by riding as hard as he could through them all, and paid no attention to the shouts of the men when they tried to stop him. The want of food he had to put up with.
When he got to the Borough he took a coach and drove to Marlborough Street, where his people had lived before he left England. But when he came to the house he found it shut up. He had been away for five years, and had not heard a word from home all that time, therefore he was at a loss to know what to do for a few minutes until he remembered a linen draper's shop near by which his family had used. He drove there, and told them who he was. They paid his coachman for him, and told him that his sister was married to Lord Carlisle, and was living in Soho Square.
He went at once to her house; but the porter would not admit him for a long time. He was strangely dressed; half in Spanish, and half in French clothing, and besides, he wore very large and very mud-bespattered boots. The porter was about to shut the door in his face when John Byron persuaded him to let him in.
Then at last his troubles were over. His sister was delighted to see him, and at once gave him money with which to buy new clothes. And until he looked like an Englishman again, he did not feel he had come to the end of all the strange scenes and adventures that he had experienced for more than five years.
I WAS born in Hirulay, in the county of Aberdeen. My parents, though not rich, were respectable, and so long as I was under their care all went well with me. Unhappily, I was sent to stay with an aunt at Aberdeen, where, at eight years old, when playing on the quay, I was noticed as a strong, active little fellow by two men belonging to a vessel in the harbour. Now this vessel was in the employ of certain merchants of Aberdeen, who used her for the villainous purpose of kidnapping—that is, stealing young children from their parents, and selling them as slaves in the plantations abroad.
These impious monsters, marking me out for their prey, tempted me on board the ship, which I had no sooner entered than they led me between the decks to some other boys whom they had kidnapped in like manner. Not understanding what a fate was in store for me, I passed the time in childish amusement with the other lads in the steerage, for we were never allowed to go on deck while the vessel stayed in the harbour, which it did till they had imprisoned as many luckless boys as they needed.
Then the ship set sail for America. I cannot remember much of the voyage, being a mere child at the time, but I shall never forget what happened when it was nearly ended. We had reached the American coast when a hard gale of wind sprang up from the south-east, and about midnight the ship struck on a sandbank off Cape May, near Delaware. To the terror of all on board, it was soon almost full of water. The boat was then hoisted out, and the captain and his fellow-villains, the crew, got into it, leaving me and my deluded companions, as they supposed, to perish. The cries, shrieks, and tears of a throng of children had no effect on these merciless wretches.
But happily for us the wind abated, and the ship being on a sandbank, which did not give way to let her deeper, we lay here till morning, when the captain, unwilling to lose all his cargo, sent some of the crew in a boat to the ship's side to bring us ashore. A sort of camp was made, and here we stayed till we were taken in by a vessel bound to Philadelphia.
At Philadelphia people soon came to buy us. We were sold for 16l. apiece. I never knew what became of my unhappy companions, but I was sold for seven years to one of my countrymen, Hugh Wilson, who in his youth had suffered the same fate as myself in being kidnapped from his home.
Happy was my lot in falling into his power, for he was a humane, worthy man. Having no children of his own, and pitying my sad condition, he took great care of me till I was fit for business, and at twelve years old set me about little things till I could manage harder work. Meanwhile, seeing my fellow-servants often reading and writing, I felt a strong desire to learn, and told my master that I should be glad to serve a year longer than the bond obliged me if he would let me go to school. To this he readily agreed, and I went every winter for five years, also learning as much as I could from my fellow-servants.
With this good master I stayed till I was seventeen years old, when he died, leaving me a sum of money, about 120l. sterling, his best horse, and all his wearing apparel.
I now maintained myself by working about the country, for anyone who would employ me, for nearly seven years, when I determined to settle down. I applied to the daughter of a prosperous planter, and found my suit was acceptable both to her and her father, so we married. My father-in-law wishing to establish us comfortably, gave me a tract of land which lay, unhappily for me, as it has since proved, on the frontiers of Pennsylvania. It contained about two hundred acres, with a good house and barn.
I was now happy in my home with a good wife; but my peace did not last long, for about 1754 the Indians in the French interest, who had formerly been very troublesome in our province, began to renew their old practices. Even many of the Indians whom we supposed to be in the English interest joined the plundering bands; it was no wonder, for the French did their utmost, to win them over, promising to pay 15l. for every scalp of an Englishman!
Hardly a day passed but some unhappy family fell a victim to French bribery and savage cruelty. As for me, though now in comfortable circumstances, with an affectionate and amiable wife, it was not long before I suddenly became the most pitiable of mankind. I can never bear to think of the last time I saw my dear wife, on the fatal 2nd of October, 1754. That day she had left home to visit some of her relations, and, no one being in the house but myself, I stayed up later than usual, expecting her return. How great was my terror when, at eleven o'clock at night, I heard the dismal war-whoop of the savages, and, flying to the window, saw a band of them outside, about twelve in number.
They made several attempts to get in, and I asked them what they wanted. They paid no attention, but went on beating at the door, trying to get it open. Then, having my gun loaded in my hand, I threatened them with death if they would not go away. But one of them, who could speak a little English, called out in return that if I did not come out they would burn me alive in the house. They told me further—what I had already found out—that they were no friends to the English, but that if I would surrender myself prisoner they would not kill me.
My horror was beyond all words. I could not depend on the promises of such creatures, but I must either accept their offer or be burnt alive. Accordingly I went out of my house with my gun in my hand, not knowing what I did or that I still held it. Immediately, like so many tigers, they rushed on me and disarmed me. Having me now completely in their power, the merciless villains bound me to a tree near the door, and then went into the house and plundered what they could. Numbers of things which they were unable to carry away were set fire to with the house and consumed before my eyes. Then they set fire to my barn, stable, and outhouses, where I had about two hundred bushels of wheat, and cows, sheep, and horses. My agony as I watched all this havoc it is impossible to describe.
When the terrible business was over, one of the monsters came to me, a tomahawk in his hand, threatening me with a cruel death if I would not consent to go with them. I was forced to agree, promising to do all that was in my power for them, and trusting to Providence to deliver me out of their hands. On this they untied me, and gave me a great load to carry on my back, under which I travelled all that night with them, full of the most terrible fear lest my unhappy wife should likewise have fallen into their clutches. At daybreak my master ordered me to lay down my load, when, tying my hands round a tree with a small cord, they forced the blood out of my finger ends. They then kindled a fire near the tree to which I was bound, which redoubled my agony, for I thought they were going to sacrifice me there.
When the fire was made, they danced round me after their manner, with all kinds of antics, whooping and crying out in the most horrible fashion. Then they took the burning coals and sticks, flaming with fire at the ends; and held them near my face, head, hands and feet, with fiendish delight, at the same time threatening to burn me entirely if I called out or made the least noise. So, tortured as I was, I could make no sign of distress but shedding silent tears, which, when they saw, they took fresh coals, and held them near my eyes, telling me my face was wet, and they would dry it for me. I have often wondered how I endured these tortures; but at last they were satisfied, and sat down round the fire and roasted the meat which they had brought from my dwelling!
When they had prepared it they offered some to me, and though it may be imagined that I had not much heart to eat, I was forced to seem pleased, lest if I refused it they should again begin to torture me. What I could not eat I contrived to get between the bark and the tree—my foes having unbound my hands till they supposed I had eaten all they gave me. But then they bound me as before, and so I continued all day. When the sun was set they put out the fire, and covered the ashes with leaves, as is their custom, that the white people may find no signs of their having been there.
Travelling thence, by the river, for about six miles, I being loaded heavily, we reached a spot near the Blue Hills, where the savages hid their plunder under logs of wood. Thence, shocking to relate, they went to a neighbouring house, that of Jacob Snider, his wife, five children, and a young man, a servant. They soon forced their way into the unhappy man's dwelling, slew the whole family, and set fire to the house.
The servant's life was spared for a time, since they thought he might be of use to them, and forthwith loaded him with plunder. But he could not bear the cruel treatment that we suffered; and though I tried to console him with a hope of deliverance, he continued to sob and moan. One of the savages, seeing this, instantly came up, struck him to the ground, and slew him.
The family of John Adams next suffered. All were here put to death except Adams himself, a good old man, whom they loaded with plunder, and day after day continued to treat with the most shocking cruelty, painting him all over with various colours, plucking the white hairs from his beard, and telling him he was a fool for living so long, and many other tortures which he bore with wonderful composure, praying to God.
One night after he had been tortured, when he and I were sitting together, pitying each other's misfortunes, another party of Indians arrived, bringing twenty scalps and three prisoners, who gave us terrible accounts of what tragedies had passed in their parts, on which I cannot bear to dwell.
These three prisoners contrived to escape, but unhappily, not knowing the country, they were recaptured and brought back. They were then all put to death, with terrible tortures.
A great snow now falling, the savages began to be afraid that the white people would follow their tracks upon it and find out their skulking retreats, and this caused them to make their way to their winter quarters, about two hundred miles further from any plantations or English inhabitants. There, after a long and tedious journey, in which I was almost starved, I arrived with this villainous crew. The place where we had to stay, in their tongue, was called Alamingo, and there I found a number of wigwams full of Indian women and children. Dancing, singing, and shooting were their general amusements, and they told what successes they had had in their expeditions, in which I found myself part of their theme. The severity of the cold increasing, they stripped me of my own clothes and gave me what they usually wear themselves—a blanket, a piece of coarse cloth, and a pair of shoes made of deer-skin.
The better sort of Indians have shirts of the finest linen they can get; and with these some wear ruffles, but they never put them on till they have painted them different colours, and do not take them off to wash, but wear them till they fall into pieces. They are very proud, and delight in trinkets, such as silver plates round their wrists and necks, with several strings of wampum, which is made of cotton, interwoven with pebbles, cockle-shells, &c. From their ears and noses they have rings and beads, which hang dangling an inch or two.
The hair of their heads is managed in different ways: some pluck out and destroy all except a lock hanging from the crown of the head, which they interweave with wampum and feathers. But the women wear it very long, twisted down their backs, with beads, feathers, and wampum, and on their heads they carry little coronets of brass or copper.
No people have a greater love of liberty or affection for their relations, yet they are the most revengeful race on earth, and inhumanly cruel. They generally avoid open fighting in war, yet they are brave when taken, enduring death or torture with wonderful courage. Nor would they at any time commit such outrages as they do, if they were not tempted by drink and money by those who call themselves civilised.
At Alamingo I was kept nearly two months, till the snow was off the ground—a long time to be among such creatures! I was too far from any plantations or white people to try to escape; besides, the bitter cold made my limbs quite benumbed. But I contrived to defend myself more or less against the weather by building a little wigwam with the bark of the trees, covering it with earth, which made it resemble a cave, and keeping a good fire always near the door.
Seeing me outwardly submissive, the savages sometimes gave me a little meat, but my chief food was Indian corn. Having liberty to go about was, indeed, more than I had expected; but they knew well it was impossible for me to escape.
At length they prepared for another expedition against the planters and white people, but before they set out they were joined by many other Indians from Fort Duquesne, well stored with powder and ball that they had received from the French.
As soon as the snow was quite gone, so that no trace of their footsteps could be found, they set out on their journey towards Pennsylvania, to the number of nearly a hundred and fifty. Their wives and children were left behind in the wigwams. My duty was to carry whatever they entrusted to me; but they never gave me a gun. For several days we were almost famished for want of proper provisions: I had nothing but a few stalks of Indian corn, which I was glad to eat dry, and the Indians themselves did not fare much better.
When we again reached the Blue Hills, a council of war was held, and we agreed to divide into companies of about twenty men each, after which every captain marched with his party where he thought proper. I still belonged to my old masters, but was left behind on the mountains with ten Indians, to stay till the rest returned, as they did not think it safe to carry me nearer to the plantations.
Here being left, I began to meditate on my escape, for I knew the country round very well, having often hunted there. The third day after the great body of the Indians quitted us my keepers visited the mountains in search of game, leaving me bound in such a way that I could not get free. When they returned at night they unbound me, and we all sat down to supper together, feasting on two polecats which they had killed. Then, being greatly tired with their day's excursion, they lay down to rest as usual.
Seeing them apparently fast asleep, I tried different ways of finding out whether it was a pretence to see what I should do. But after making a noise and walking about, sometimes touching them with my feet, I found that they really slept. My heart exulted at the hope of freedom, but it sank again when I thought how easily I might be recaptured. I resolved, if possible, to get one of their guns, and if discovered to die in self-defence rather than be taken; and I tried several times to take one from under their heads, where they always secure them. But in vain; I could not have done so without rousing them.
So, trusting myself to the divine protection, I set out defenceless. Such was my terror, however, that at first I halted every four or five yards, looking fearfully towards the spot where I had left the Indians, lest they should wake and miss me. But when I was about two hundred yards off I mended my pace, and made all the haste I could to the foot of the mountains.
Suddenly I was struck with the greatest terror and dismay, hearing behind me the fearful cries and howlings of the savages, far worse than the roaring of lions or the shrieking of hyaenas; and I knew that they had missed me. The more my dread increased the faster I hurried, scarce knowing where I trod, sometimes falling and bruising myself, cutting my feet against the stones, yet, faint and maimed as I was, rushing on through the woods. I fled till daybreak, then crept into a hollow tree, where I lay concealed, thanking God for so far having favoured my escape. I had nothing to eat but a little corn.
But my repose did not last long, for in a few hours I heard the voices of the savages near the tree in which I was hid threatening me with what they would do if they caught me, which I already guessed too well. However, at last they left the spot where I heard them, and I stayed in my shelter the rest of that day without any fresh alarms.
At night I ventured out again, trembling at every bush I passed, and thinking each twig that touched me a savage. The next day I concealed myself in the same manner, and at night travelled forward, keeping off the main road, used by the Indians, as much as possible, which made my journey far longer, and more painful than I can express.
But how shall I describe my terror when, on the fourth night, a party of Indians lying round a small fire which I had not seen, hearing the rustling I made among the leaves, started from the ground, seizing their arms, and ran out into the wood? I did not know in my agony of fear whether to stand still or rush on. I expected nothing but a terrible death; but at that very moment a troop of swine made towards the place where the savages were. They, seeing the hogs, guessed that their alarm had been caused by them, and returned merrily to their fire and lay down to sleep again. As soon as this happened I pursued my way more cautiously and silently, but in a cold perspiration with terror at the peril I had just escaped. Bruised, cut, and shaken, I still held on my path till break of day, when I lay down under a huge log, and slept undisturbed till noon. Then, getting up, I climbed a great hill, and, scanning the country round, I saw, to my unspeakable joy, some habitations of white people, about ten miles distant.
My pleasure was somewhat damped by not being able to get among them that night. But they were too far off; therefore, when evening fell, I again commended myself to Heaven, and lay down, utterly exhausted. In the morning, as soon as I woke, I made towards the nearest of the cleared lands which I had seen the day before; and that afternoon I reached the house of John Bull, an old acquaintance. I knocked at the door, and his wife, who opened it, seeing me in such a frightful condition, flew from me like lightning, screaming, into the house.
This alarmed the whole family, who immediately seized their arms, and I was soon greeted by the master with his gun in his hand. But when I made myself known—for at first he took me for an Indian—he and all his family welcomed me with great joy at finding me alive; since they had been told I was murdered by the savages some months ago.
No longer able to bear up, I fainted and fell to the ground. When they had recovered me, seeing my weak and famished state, they gave me some food, but let me at first partake of it very sparingly. Then for two days and nights they made me welcome, and did their utmost to bring back my strength, with the kindest hospitality. Finding myself once more able to ride, I borrowed a horse and some clothes of these good people, and set out for my father-in-law's house in Chester county, about a hundred and forty miles away. I reached it on January 4, 1755; but none of the family could believe their eyes when they saw me, having lost all hope on hearing that I had fallen a prey to the Indians.
They received me with great joy; but when I asked for my dear wife I found she had been dead two months, and this fatal news greatly lessened the delight I felt at my deliverance.
 Glasgow, 1758. Written by himself.
A WONDERFUL VOYAGE
THIS is a story of a man who, when in command of his ships and when everything went prosperously with him, was so overbearing and cruel that some of his men, in desperation at the treatment they received, mutinied against him. But the story shows another side of his character in adversity which it is impossible not to admire.
In 1787 Captain Bligh was sent from England to Otaheite in charge of the 'Bounty,' a ship which had been specially fitted out to carry young plants of the breadfruit tree, for transplantation to the West Indies.
'The breadfruit grows on a spreading tree, about the size of a large apple tree; the fruit is round, and has a thick tough rind. It is gathered when it is full-grown, and while it is still green and hard; it is then baked in an oven until the rind is black and scorched. This is scraped off, and the inside is soft and white like the crumb of a penny loaf.'
The Otaheitans use no other bread but the fruit kind. It is, therefore, little wonder that the West Indian planters were anxious to grow this valuable fruit in their own islands, as, if it flourished there, food would be provided with little trouble for their servants and slaves.
In the passage to Otaheite, Captain Bligh had several disturbances with his men. He had an extremely irritable temper, and would often fly into a passion and make most terrible accusations, and use most terrible language to his officers and sailors.
On one occasion he ordered the crew to eat some decayed pumpkins, instead of their allowance of cheese, which he said they had stolen from the ship's stores.
The pumpkin was to be given to the men at the rate of one pound of pumpkin to two pounds of biscuits.
The men did not like accepting the substitute on these terms. When the captain heard this, he was infuriated, and ordered the first man of each mess to be called by name, at the same time saying to them, 'I'll see who will dare refuse the pumpkin or anything else I may order to be served out.' Then, after swearing at them in a shocking way, he ended by saying, 'I'll make you eat grass, or anything else you can catch before I have done with you,' and threatened to flog the first man who dared to complain again.
While they were at Otaheite several of the sailors were flogged for small offences, or without reason, and on the other hand, during the seven months they stayed at the island, both officers and men were allowed to spend a great deal of time on shore, and were given the greatest possible liberty.
Therefore, when the breadfruit plants were collected, and they weighed anchor on April 4 in 1787, it is not unlikely they were loth to return to the strict discipline of the ship, and to leave an island so lovely, and where it was possible to live in the greatest luxury without any kind of labour.
From the time they sailed until April 27, Christian, the third officer, had been in constant hot water with Captain Bligh. On the afternoon of that day, when the captain came on deck, he missed some cocoanuts that had been heaped up between the guns. He said at once that they had been stolen, and that it could not have happened without the officers knowing of it. When they told him they had not seen any of the crew touch them, he cried, 'Then you must have taken them yourselves!' After this he questioned them separately; when he came to Christian, he answered, 'I do not know, sir, but I hope you do not think me so mean as to be guilty of stealing yours.'
The captain swore terribly, and said, 'You must have stolen them from me, or you would be able to give a better account of them!' He turned to the others with much more abuse, and saying, 'D—n you! you scoundrels, you are all thieves alike, and combine with the men to rob me. I suppose you'll steal my yams next, but I'll sweat you for it, you rascals! I'll make half of you jump overboard before you get through Endeavour Straits!'
Then he turned to the clerk, giving the order to 'stop the villains' grog, and to give them but half a pound of yams to-morrow: if they steal them, I'll reduce them to a quarter.'
That night Christian, who was hardly less passionate and resentful than the captain, told two of the midshipmen, Stewart and Hayward, that he intended to leave the ship on a raft, as he could no longer endure the captain's suspicion and insults. He was very angry and excited, and made some preparations for carrying out his plan, though these had to be done with the greatest secrecy and care.
It was his duty to take the morning watch, which is from four to eight o'clock, and this time he thought would he a good opportunity to make his escape. He had only just fallen into a restless slumber when he was called to take his turn.
He got up with his brain still alert with the sense of injury and wrong, and most curiously alive to seize any opportunity which might lead to an escape from so galling a service.
On reaching the deck, he found the mate of the watch had fallen asleep, and that the other midshipman was not to be seen.
Then he made a sudden determination to seize the ship, and rushing down the gangway ladder, whispered his intention to Matthew Quintal and Isaac Martin, seamen, both of whom had been flogged. They readily agreed to join him, and several others of the watch were found to be quite as willing.
Someone went to the armourer for the keys of the arm chest, telling him they wanted to fire at a shark alongside.
Christian then armed those men whom he thought he could trust, and putting a guard at the officers' cabins, went himself with three other men to the captain's cabin.
It was just before sunrise when they dragged him from his bed, and tying his hands behind his back, threatened him with instant death if he should call for help or offer any kind of resistance. He was taken up to the quarter deck in his nightclothes, and made to stand against the mizzen mast with four men to guard him.
Christian then gave orders to lower the boat in which he intended to cast them adrift, and one by one the men were allowed to come up the hatchways, and made to go over the side of the ship into it. Meanwhile no heed was given to the remonstrances, reasoning, and prayers of the captain, saving threats of death unless he was quiet.
Some twine, canvas, sails, a small cask of water, and a quadrant and compass were put into the boat, also some bread and a small quantity of rum and wines. When this was done the officers were brought up one by one and forced over the side. There was a great deal of rough joking at the captain's expense, who was still made to stand by the mizzen-mast, and much bad language was used by everybody.
When all the officers were out of the ship, Christian said, 'Come, Captain Bligh, your officers and men are now in the boat, and you must go with them; if you make the least resistance you will be instantly put to death.'
He was lowered over the side with his hands still fastened behind his back, and directly after the boat was veered astern with a rope.
Someone with a little pity for them threw in some pieces of pork and some clothes, as well as two or three cutlasses; these were the only arms given.
There were altogether nineteen men in this pitiful strait. Although much of the conduct of the mutineers is easily understood with regard to the captain, the wholesale crime of thrusting so many innocent persons out on to the mercy of the winds and waves, or out to the death from hunger and thirst which they must have believed would inevitably overtake them, is incomprehensible.
As the 'Bounty' sailed away, leaving them to their fate, those in the boat cast anxious looks to the captain as wondering what should then be done. At a time when his mind must have been full of the injury he had received, and the loss of his ship at a moment when his plans were so flourishing and he had every reason to congratulate himself as to the ultimate success of the undertaking, it is much in his favour that he seems to have realised their unfortunate position and to have been determined to make the best of it.
His first care was to see how much food they had. On examining it they found there was a hundred and fifty pounds of bread, thirty-two pounds of pork, six quarts of rum, six bottles of wine, and twenty-eight gallons of water.
As they were so near Tofoa they determined to put in there for a supply of breadfruit and water, so that they might keep their other provisions. But after rowing along the coast for some time, they only discovered some cocoanut trees on the top of a stony cliff, against which the sea beat furiously. After several attempts they succeeded in getting about twenty nuts. The second day they failed to get anything at all.
However, some natives came down to the boat and made inquiries about the ship; but the captain unfortunately told the men to say she had been lost, and that only they were saved.
This proved most disastrous; for the treacherous natives, finding they were defenceless, at first brought them presents of breadfruit, plantains and cocoanuts, rendering them all more hopeful and cheerful by their kindness. But towards night their numbers increased in a most alarming manner, and soon the whole beach was lined by them.
Presently they began knocking stones together, by which the men knew they intended to make an attack upon them. They made haste to get all the things into the boat, and all but one, named John Norton, succeeded in reaching it. The natives rushed upon this poor man and stoned him to death.
Those in the boat put to sea with all haste, but were again terribly alarmed to find themselves followed by natives in canoes from which they renewed the attack.
Many of the sailors were a good deal hurt by stones, and they had no means at all with which to protect themselves. At last they threw some clothes overboard; these tempted the enemy to stop to pick them up, and as soon as night came on they gave up the chase and returned to the shore.
All the men now begged Captain Bligh to take them towards England; but he told them there could be no hope of relief until they reached Timor, a distance of full twelve hundred leagues; and that, if they wished to reach it, they would have to content themselves with one ounce of bread and a quarter of a pint of water a day. They all readily agreed to this allowance of food, and made a most solemn oath not to depart from their promise to be satisfied with the small quantity. This was about May 2. After the compact was made, the boat was put in order, the men divided into watches, and they bore away under a reefed lug-foresail.
A fiery sun rose on the 3rd, which is commonly a sign of rough weather, and filled the almost hopeless derelicts with a new terror.
In an hour or two it blew very hard, and the sea ran so high that their sail was becalmed between the waves; they did not dare to set it when on the top of the sea, for the water rushed in over the stern of the boat, and they were obliged to bale with all their might.
The bread was in bags, and in the greatest danger of being spoiled by the wet. They were obliged to throw some rope and the spare sails overboard, as well as all the clothes but what they wore, to lighten the boat, then the carpenter's tool-chest was cleared and the bread put into it.
They were all very wet and cold, and a teaspoonful of rum was served to each man, with a quarter of a breadfruit which was so bad that it could hardly be eaten; but the captain was determined at all risks to keep to the compact they had entered into, and to make their provisions last eight weeks.
In the afternoon the sea ran even higher, and at night it became very cold; but still they did not dare to leave off baling for an instant, though their legs and arms were numb with fatigue and wet.
In the morning a teaspoonful of rum was served to all, and five small cocoanuts divided for their dinner, and everyone was satisfied.
When the gale had subsided they examined the bread, and found a great deal of it had become mouldy and rotten; but even this was carefully kept and used. The boat was now near some islands, but they were afraid to go on shore, as the natives might attack them; while being in sight of land, where they might replenish their poor stock of provisions and rest themselves, added to their misery. One morning they hooked a fish, and were overjoyed at their good fortune; but in trying to get it into the boat it was lost, and again they had to content themselves with the damaged bread and small allowance of water for their supper.
They were dreadfully cramped for room, and were obliged to manage so that half their number should lie down in the bottom of the boat or upon a chest, while the others sat up and kept watch: their limbs became so stiff from being constantly wet, and from want of space to stretch them in, that after a few hours' sleep they were hardly able to move.
About May 7 they passed what the captain supposed must be the Fiji Islands, and two large canoes put off and followed them for some time, but in the afternoon they gave up the chase. It rained heavily that day, and everyone in the boat did his best to catch some water, and they succeeded in increasing their stock to thirty-four gallons, besides having had enough to drink for the first time since they had been east adrift; but the rain made them very cold and miserable, and as they had no dry things their shiverings were terrible.
The next morning they had an ounce and a half of pork, a teaspoonful of rum, half a pint of cocoanut milk, and an ounce of bread for breakfast, which was quite a large meal for them. The rum, though (or because) in such small quantities, is said to have been of the greatest service to them.
Through fifteen weary days and nights of ceaseless rain they toiled, sometimes through fierce storms of thunder and lightning, and before terrific seas lashed into foam and fury by swift and sudden squalls, with only their miserable pittance of bread and water to keep body and soul together. Now and then a little rum was given after any extra fatigue of baling, but only at the times set apart for meals.
In this rain and storm the little sleep they got only added to their discomfort, save for the brief forgetfulness it brought; for they had to lie down in water in the bottom of the boat, and with no covering but the streaming clouds above them.
The captain then advised them to wring their clothes through sea-water, which they found made them feel much warmer for a time.
On May 17 everyone was ill and complaining of great pain, and begging for more food; but the captain refused to increase their allowance, though he gave them all a small quantity of rum.
Until the 24th they flew before the wild seas that swept over stem and stern of their boat, and kept them constantly baling.
Some of them now looked more than half dead from starvation, but no one suffered from thirst, as they had absorbed so much water through the skin.
A fine morning dawned on the 25th, when they saw the sun for the first time for fifteen days, and were able to eat their scanty allowance in more comfort and warmth. In the afternoon there were numbers of birds called boobies and noddies near, which are never seen far from land.
The captain took this opportunity to look at the state of their bread, and found if they did not exceed their allowance there was enough to last for twenty-nine days, when they hoped to reach Timor. That afternoon some noddies came so near the boat that one was caught. These birds are about the size of a small pigeon; it was divided into eighteen parts and given by lot. The men were much amused when they saw the beak and claws fall to the lot of the captain. The bird was eaten, bones and all, with bread and water, for dinner.
Now they were in calmer seas they were overtaken by a new trouble. The heat of the sun became so great that many of them were overcome by faintness, and lay in the bottom of the boat in an apathetic state all day, only rousing themselves towards evening, when the catching of birds was attempted.
On the morning of the 28th the sound of breakers could be heard plainly; they had reached the Great Barrier Beef, which runs up much of the east coast of Australia.
After some little time a passage nearly a quarter of a mile in width was discovered through the reef, and they were carried by a strong current into the peaceful waters which lie within the Barrier.
For a little time they were so overjoyed that their past troubles were forgotten. The dull blue-grey lines of the mainland, with its white patches of glaring sandhills, could be seen in the distance, and that afternoon they landed on an island.
They found the rocks around it were covered with oysters and huge clams, which could easily be got at low tide. Some of their party sent out to reconnoitre returned greatly pleased at having found plenty of fresh water.
A fire was made by help of a small magnifying-glass. Among the things thrown into the boat from the ship was a small copper pot; and thus with a mixture of oysters, bread, and pork a stew was made, and everyone had plenty to eat.
The day after they landed was the 29th of May, the anniversary of the restoration of King Charles II., and as the captain thought it applied to their own renewed health and strength, he named it Restoration Island.
After a few days' rest, which did much to revive the men, and when they had filled all their vessels with water and had gathered a large supply of oysters, they were ready to go on again.
As they were about to start everybody was ordered to attend prayers, and as they were embarking about twenty naked savages came running and shouting towards them, each carrying a long barbed spear, but the English made all haste to put to sea.
For several days they sailed over the lake-like stillness of the Barrier reef-bound waters, and past the bold desolations of the Queensland coast, every headland and bay there bearing the names Cook gave them only a few years before, and which still tell us by that nomenclature each its own story of disappointment and hope.
Still making way to the north, they passed many more islands and keys, the onward passage growing hot and hotter, until on June 3, when they doubled Cape York, the peninsula which is all but unique in its northward bend, they were again in the open sea.
By this time many of them were ill with malaria, then for the first time some of the wine which they had with them was used.
But the little boat still bravely made its way with its crew, whose faces were so hollow and ghastly that they looked like a crew of spectres, sailing beneath the scorching sun that beat down from the pale blue of the cloudless sky upon a sea hardly less blue in its greater depths. Only the hope that they would soon reach Timor seemed to rouse them from a state of babbling delirium or fitful slumber.
On the 11th the captain told them they had passed the meridian of the east of Timor; and at three o'clock on the next morning they sighted the land.
It was on Sunday, June 14, when they arrived at Company Bay, and were received with every kindness by the people.
Thus ended one of the most remarkable voyages that has ever been made. They had been sent out with provisions only sufficient for their number for five days, and Captain Bligh had, by his careful calculation, and determination to give each man only that equal portion they had agreed to accept, made it last for fifty days, during which time they had come three thousand six hundred and eighteen nautical miles.
There had been days when the men were so hunger-driven that they had besought him with pitiful prayers for more to eat, and when it was his painful duty to refuse it; and times, as they passed those islands where plentiful food could be got, when he had to turn a deaf ear to their longings to land. He had to endure the need of food, the cramped position, the uneasy slumber, as did his men; as well as the more perfect knowledge of their dangers. There had been days and nights while he worked out their bearings when he had to be propped up as he took the stars or sun.
It was, therefore, Captain Bligh's good seamanship, his strict discipline and fairness in the method of giving food and wine to those who were sick, that enabled them to land at Timor with the whole of their number alive, with the exception of the one man who was stoned to death by the savages at Tofoa.
THE PITCAIRN ISLANDERS
IT will be remembered that nothing had been heard of the 'Bounty' since she was seen off Point Venus on the morning of September 22, 1789.
In 1809, just twenty years after, when Captain Folger, of the American ship 'Topaz,' landed at Pitcairn Island, one of the most remote of the islands in the Pacific, he found there a solitary Englishman and five Otaheitan women and nineteen children. The man, who gave his name as Alexander Smith, said he was the only remaining person of the nine who had escaped in the 'Bounty.'
Although this information was given to the Admiralty shortly after, it was not until the year 1814, when the 'Briton,' under the command of Sir Thomas Staines, and the 'Tagus,' under that of Captain Pipon, were cruising in the Pacific, that one day on which the ships were sailing in the same direction about six leagues apart, both commanders were greatly surprised to see an island in lat. 24 deg. 40' and long. 130 deg. 24' W.
They were puzzled to know what it could be, as Pitcairn Island (named after a son of Major Pitcairn who was lost in the 'Aurora'), the only one known in the neighbourhood, was marked on their charts as in long. 133 deg. 24' W., more than three degrees out.
They thought they had made a new discovery, and as they ran in for the land they were astonished to see some neatly-built huts surrounded by gardens and plantations.
Some people were seen coming down the cliff with canoes on their shoulders. Presently one was launched and made off through the heavy surf towards the ships. They were more surprised than ever when one of the young men in it cried out in English as they came alongside, 'Won't you heave us a rope, now?'
He sprang up the side of the ship swiftly. When on deck he told Sir Thomas Staines and Captain Pipon, when they asked him who he was, that his name was Thursday October Christian, and that he was the son of the late Fletcher Christian by an Otaheitan mother; that he was the first born on the island, and his name was given him as he had been born on a Thursday in October. He was now twenty-four years of age, and had a fine muscular figure, dark hair, and a brownish complexion, and 'in his good-natured and benevolent countenance he had all the features of an honest English face.' He wore no clothing except a small piece of cloth about his loins and a straw hat trimmed with cock's feathers. He spoke English correctly and pleasantly both as to grammar and pronunciation. He also told them he was married to a woman much older than himself, one of those who had come with his father from Otaheite. His companion was a fine boy of about seventeen or eighteen years, named George Young, son of Young the midshipman.
The islanders were much surprised at the many things new to them in the ship, at the guns, and everything around them. They were greatly entertained at the sight of a little dog. 'Oh, what a pretty little thing it is!' exclaimed Young. 'I know it is a dog, for I have heard of such an animal.'
The young men told the captains of many of the events that had happened among the first settlers; but said that John Adams, now an old man, could tell them much more. He was the only surviving Englishman that came away in the 'Bounty,' and at that time he was called Alexander Smith.
The captains determined to go on shore to see Adams, and to hear from him the true story of Christian's fate, and of that of his companions.
Adams, who had been concealed since the arrival of the ships, when he found that the two captains had landed and were not armed, and that they did not intend to take him prisoner, came to the beach to meet them, and brought his wife with him, who was a very old woman and nearly blind.
After so many years the sight of the King's uniform no doubt brought back the scene of the 'Bounty' to Adams, for at first he was very nervous and ill at ease.
However, when Sir Thomas Staines assured him they were not there with any intention of taking him away, that they were not even aware that such a person as himself existed, he regained confidence, and then told them he had taken the name of John Adams since the sole care of the women and children on the island had fallen upon him. He pretended he had not taken any great share in the mutiny, that he was sick in bed when it took place, and that he had been roused up and compelled to take a musket in his hand. He said he was now ready and willing to go back to England in one of the ships.
When the islanders heard him say this, all the women and children wept bitterly, and the young men stood motionless and absorbed in grief. When the officers again assured them that he should on no account be molested, the people were overcome with joy and gratitude. Adams then told them of the fate of the 'Bounty' and of the rest of the mutineers.
* * * * *
It is easy to suppose that when Christian sailed for the last time from Otaheite his mind was full of misgiving; that he bitterly repented the rash act by which the ship had fallen into his hands and by which in all probability nineteen men had lost their lives, and also the wrecked and criminal lives of his followers. The picture of the derelict crew in their little boat was ever in his mind as he had last seen them watching with despairing eyes their ship sail away; and again as distance blurred all form, and it lay a blot on the sunny waters, immediately before it was hidden by the horizon line.
That blot became ever blacker and heavier to his mental vision as one by one his projects failed. A sullen and morose outcast for ever from civilisation, he sailed out into the unknown seas with his little band of desperate followers, to find if possible some solitary island, some unknown spot, where they might be lost for ever from the world.
Curiously, the place which he pictured, the object for which he sought, was soon after given to him to find.
Its steep cliffs rise from the sea precipitously, and beyond and above them a ridge of rocky hills runs from north to south, from which, again, two mountainous peaks of a thousand feet and more in height stand up like sentinels.
At a little distance from the coast-line a white wall of surf lashes itself into fury, and breaks everlastingly over the hidden reefs that raise so formidable a guard around the island as to render safe landing impossible save only at particular places and times.
Encouraged by this forbidding coast-line, after they had sailed all round the island they effected a landing, and finding it uninhabited, they decided to make it their home. The 'Bounty' was run into an inlet between the cliffs, and after she had been dismantled and her materials used for building houses, in 1790 they burnt her, as they feared she might attract the notice of any ship that should chance to pass.
The first thing they did after their arrival was to divide the land into nine equal parts, giving none to the Otaheitan men, who it is said had been carried off from their own island by force. At first they were kindly treated by the white men; but afterwards they made them their slaves.
When they had been on the island a few weeks Christian became more gloomy and taciturn, and his conduct to the others grew more overbearing and unreasonable day by day.
Fear entered into his soul, and he looked with dislike and suspicion upon all around him, shunned their companionship and sought a place where he could be alone with his dark thoughts. Up at the extreme end of the ridge of hills that runs across the island the almost inaccessible cave may still be seen to which he carried a store of provisions and ammunition, and thus shut himself off from the others, and with only the sound of the roaring breakers as they beat on the shore below to disturb his solitude, the madman dwelt alone with his terrible history of the past.
One story is that in a fit of maniacal insanity he flung himself over the rocks into the sea. Another that he was shot by one of the mutineers whilst digging in a plantation.
The accounts are contradictory. But whether from suicide or murder, his death happened within a year after he landed at Pitcairn Island.
For about two years, while they all worked at the building of the houses and at cultivating the ground, the Otaheitan men toiled without a murmur. But when Williams, who had lost his wife, insisted that he would take one of theirs or leave the island in one of the 'Bounty's' boats, the other Englishmen, who did not want to part with him, compelled one of the Otaheitans to give his wife to him.
From this time the Otaheitans became discontented, until the man whose wife had been taken away was murdered in the woods; then things went on more quietly for a year or two longer, when two of the most desperate and cruel of the mutineers, Quintal and M'Koy, at last drove them to form a plot to destroy their oppressors. A day was fixed by them to attack and put to death all the Englishmen when they were at work in the yam plots.
They killed Martin and Brown, one with a maul, the other with a musket, while Adams made his escape, though he was wounded in the shoulder by a bullet.
Young, who was a great favourite with the women, was hidden by them during the attack, while M'Koy and Quintal fled to the woods.
That night all the native men were murdered by the widows of the Europeans. This happened in 1793. From that time till 1798 the colonists went on quietly, until M'Koy, who had once been employed in a Scotch distillery, and had for some time been making experiments on the ti root, succeeded in extracting from it an intoxicating liquor.
After this Quintal also gave his whole time to making the spirit, and in consequence the two men were constantly drunk, and in one of his fits of delirium M'Koy threw himself from a cliff, and was instantly killed. Quintal became more and more unmanageable, and frequently threatened to destroy Adams and Young—who, knowing that he would carry out his threat, determined to kill him. This they did by felling him with an axe as they would an ox.