Sir John Barrow.

The Eventful History of the Mutiny and Piratical Seizure of H.M.S. Bounty: Its Cause and Consequences online

. (page 2 of 24)
Online LibrarySir John BarrowThe Eventful History of the Mutiny and Piratical Seizure of H.M.S. Bounty: Its Cause and Consequences → online text (page 2 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

subsided, she told the captain that she would come on board again the
following day.

Accordingly, the next day she again visited the ship twice, bringing
each time large presents of hogs, fowls, and fruits. The captain, after
expressing his sense of her kindness and bounty, announced his intention
of sailing the following morning. This, as usual, threw her into tears,
and after recovering herself, she made anxious inquiry when he should
return; he said in fifty days, with which she seemed to be satisfied.
'She stayed on board,' says Captain Wallis, 'till night, and it was then
with the greatest difficulty that she could be prevailed upon to go on
shore. When she was told that the boat was ready, she threw herself down
upon the arm-chest, and wept a long time, with an excess of passion that
could not be pacified; at last, however, with the greatest reluctance,
she was prevailed upon to go into the boat, and was followed by her

The next day, while the ship was unmooring, the whole beach was covered
with the inhabitants. The queen came down, and having ordered a double
canoe to be launched, was rowed off by her own people, followed by
fifteen or sixteen other canoes. She soon made her appearance on board,
but, not being able to speak, she sat down and gave vent to her passion
by weeping. Shortly after a breeze springing up, the ship made sail; and
finding it now necessary to return into her canoe, 'she embraced us
all,' says Captain Wallis, 'in the most affectionate manner, and with
many tears; all her attendants also expressed great sorrow at our
departure. In a few minutes she came into the bow of her canoe, where
she sat weeping with inconsolable sorrow. I gave her many things which I
thought would be of great use to her, and some for ornament; she
silently accepted of all, but took little notice of any thing. About ten
o'clock we had got without the reef, and a fresh breeze springing up,
our Indian friends, and particularly the queen, once more bade us
farewell, with such tenderness of affection and grief, as filled both my
heart and my eyes.'

The tender passion had certainly caught hold of one or both of these
worthies; and if her Majesty's language had been as well understood by
Captain Wallis, as that of Dido was to √Жneas, when pressing him to stay
with her, there is no doubt it would have been found not less pathetic -

Nec te noster amor, nec te data dextera quondam,
Nec moritura tenet crudeli funere Dido?

This lady, however, did not sink, like the 'miserrima Dido,' under her
griefs; on the contrary, we find her in full activity and animation, and
equally generous, to Lieut. Cook and his party, under the name of
_Oberea_, who, it now appeared, was no queen, but whose husband they
discovered was uncle to the young king, then a minor, but from whom she
was separated. She soon evinced a partiality for Mr. Banks, though not
quite so strong as that for Wallis, but it appears to have been mutual,
until an unlucky discovery took place, that she had, at her command, a
stout strong-boned _cavaliere servente_; added to which, a theft, rather
of an amusing nature, contributed for a time to create a coolness, and
somewhat to disturb the good understanding that had subsisted between
them. It happened that a party, consisting of Cook, Banks, Solander, and
three or four others, were benighted at a distance from the anchorage.
Mr. Banks, says Lieut. Cook, thought himself fortunate in being offered
a place by Oberea, in her own canoe, and wishing his friends a good
night, took his leave. He went to rest early, according to the custom of
the country; and taking off his clothes, as was his constant practice,
the nights being hot, Oberea kindly insisted upon taking them into her
own custody, for otherwise, she said, they would certainly be stolen.
Mr. Banks having, as he thought, so good a safeguard, resigned himself
to sleep with all imaginable tranquillity; but awakening about eleven
o'clock, and wanting to get up, he searched for his clothes where he had
seen them carefully deposited by Oberea, when he lay down to sleep, and
perceived to his sorrow and surprise, that they were missing. He
immediately awakened Oberea, who, starting up and hearing his complaint,
ordered lights, and prepared in great haste to recover what had been
lost. Tootahah (the regent) slept in the next canoe, and being soon
alarmed, he came to them and set out with Oberea in search of the thief.
Mr. Banks was not in a condition to go with them, as of his apparel
scarcely any thing was left him but his breeches. In about half an hour
his two noble friends returned, but without having obtained any
intelligence of his clothes or of the thief. Where Cook and Solander had
disposed of themselves he did not know; but hearing music, which was
sure to bring a crowd together, in which there was a chance of his
associates being among them, he rose, and made the best of his way
towards it, and joined his party, as Cook says, 'more than half naked,
and told us his melancholy story.'

It was some consolation to find that his friends were fellow-sufferers,
Cook having lost his stockings, that had been stolen from under his
head, though he had never been asleep, and his associates their jackets.
At day-break Oberea brought to Mr. Banks some of her country clothes;
'so that when he came to us,' says Cook, 'he made a most motley
appearance, half Indian and half English.' Such an adventure must have
been highly amusing to him who was the object of it, when the
inconvenience had been removed, as every one will admit who knew the
late venerable President of the Royal Society. He never doubted,
however, that Oberea was privy to the theft, and there was strong
suspicion of her having some of the articles in her custody. Being aware
that this feeling existed, she absented herself for some time, and when
she again appeared, she said a favourite of hers had taken them away,
whom she had beaten and dismissed; 'but she seemed conscious,' says
Cook, 'that she had no right to be believed; she discovered the
strongest signs of fear, yet she surmounted it with astonishing
resolution, and was very pressing to be allowed to sleep with her
attendants in Mr. Banks's tent; in this, however, she was not
gratified.' Sir Joseph might have thought that, if he complied with her
request, his breeches might be in danger of following the other articles
of his dress.

The Otaheitans cannot resist pilfering. 'I must bear my testimony,'
says Cook, 'that the people of this country, of all ranks, men and
women, are the arrantest thieves upon the face of the earth; but,' he
adds, 'we must not hastily conclude that theft is a testimony of the
same depravity in them that it is in us, in the instances in which our
people were sufferers by their dishonesty; for their temptation was
such, as to surmount what would be considered as a proof of uncommon
integrity among those who have more knowledge, better principles, and
stronger motives to resist the temptations of illicit advantage; an
Indian among penny knives and beads, and even nails and broken glass, is
in the same state of mind with the meanest servant in Europe among
unlocked coffers of jewels and gold.' Captain Wallis has illustrated the
truth of this position by an experiment he made on some persons, whose
dress and behaviour indicated that they were of a superior cast. 'To
discover what present,' he says, 'would most gratify them, I laid down
before them a Johannes, a guinea, a crown piece, a Spanish dollar, a few
shillings, some new halfpence, and two large nails, making signs that
they should take what they liked best. The nails were first seized with
great eagerness, and then a few of the halfpence, but the silver and
gold lay neglected.' Here then it might with truth be said was

The goldless age, where gold disturbs no dreams.

But their thirst after iron was irresistible; Wallis's ship was stripped
of all the nails in her by the seamen to purchase the good graces of
the women, who assembled in crowds on the shore. The men even drew out
of different parts of the ship those nails that fastened the cleats to
her side. This commerce established with the women rendered the men, as
might readily be expected, less obedient to command, and made it
necessary to punish some of them by flogging. The Otaheitans regarded
this punishment with horror. One of Cook's men having insulted a chief's
wife, he was ordered to be flogged in their presence. The Indians saw
him stripped and tied up to the rigging with a fixed attention, waiting
in silent suspense for the event; but as soon as the first stroke was
given, they interfered with great agitation, earnestly entreating that
the rest of the punishment might be remitted; and when they found they
were unable to prevail, they gave vent to their pity by tears. 'But
their tears,' as Cook observes, 'like those of children, were always
ready to express any passion that was strongly excited, and like those
of children, they also appeared to be forgotten as soon as shed.' And he
instances this by the following incident: - Mr. Banks seeing a young
woman in great affliction, the tears streaming from her eyes, inquired
earnestly the cause; but instead of answering, she took from under her
garment a shark's tooth, and struck it six or seven times into her head
with great force; a profusion of blood followed, and disregarding his
inquiries, she continued to talk loud in a melancholy tone, while those
around were laughing and talking without taking the least notice of her
distress. The bleeding having ceased, she looked up with a smile, and
collecting the pieces of cloth which she had used to stanch the blood,
threw them into the sea; then plunging into the river, and washing her
whole body, she returned to the tents with the same gaiety and
cheerfulness as if nothing had happened. The same thing occurred in the
case of a chief, who had given great offence to Mr. Banks, when he and
all his followers were overwhelmed with grief and dejection; but one of
his women, having struck a shark's tooth into her head several times,
till it was covered with blood, the scene was immediately changed, and
laughing and good humour took place. Wallis witnessed the same kind of
conduct. This, therefore, and the tears, are probably considered a sort
of expiation or doing penance for a fault.

But the sorrows of these simple and artless people are transient. Cook
justly observes, that what they feel they have never been taught either
to disguise or suppress; and having no habits of thinking, which
perpetually recall the past and anticipate the future, they are affected
by all the changes of the passing hour, and reflect the colour of the
time, however frequently it may vary. They grieve for the death of a
relation, and place the body on a stage erected on piles and covered
with a roof of thatch, for they never bury the dead, and never approach
one of these _morais_ without great solemnity; but theirs is no lasting

An old woman having died, Mr. Banks, whose pursuit was knowledge of
every kind, and to gain it made himself one of the people, requested he
might attend the ceremony and witness all the mysteries of the solemnity
of depositing the body in the morai. The request was complied with, but
on no other condition than his taking a part in it. This was just what
he wished. In the evening he repaired to the house of mourning, where he
was received by the daughter of the deceased and several others, among
whom was a boy about fourteen years old. One of the chiefs of the
district was the principal mourner, wearing a fantastical dress. Mr.
Banks was stripped entirely of his European clothes, and a small piece
of cloth was tied round his middle. His face and body were then smeared
with charcoal and water, as low as the shoulders, till they were as
black as those of a negro: the same operation was performed on the rest,
among whom were some women, who were reduced to a state as near to
nakedness as himself; the boy was blacked all over, after which the
procession set forward, the chief mourner having mumbled something like
a prayer over the body. It is the custom of the Indians to fly from
these processions with the utmost precipitation. On the present occasion
several large bodies of the natives were put to flight, all the houses
were deserted, and not an Otaheitan was to be seen. The body being
deposited on the stage, the mourners were dismissed to wash themselves
in the river, and to resume their customary dresses and their usual

They are, however, so jealous of any one approaching these abodes of
the dead, that one of Cook's party, happening one day to pull a flower
from a tree which grew in one of these sepulchral inclosures, was struck
by a native who saw it, and came suddenly behind him. The morai of
Oberea was a pile of stone-work raised pyramidically, two hundred and
sixty-seven feet long, eighty-seven feet wide, and forty-four feet high,
terminating in a ridge like the roof of a house, and ascended by steps
of white coral stone neatly squared and polished, some of them not less
than three feet and a half by two feet and a half. Such a structure,
observes Cook, raised without the assistance of iron tools, or mortar to
join them, struck us with astonishment, as a work of considerable skill
and incredible labour.

On the same principle of making himself acquainted with every novelty
that presented itself, Captain Cook states that 'Mr. Banks saw the
operation of _tattooing_ performed upon the back of a girl about
thirteen years old. The instrument used upon this occasion had thirty
teeth, and every stroke, of which at least a hundred were made in a
minute, drew an ichor or serum a little tinged with blood. The girl bore
it with most stoical resolution for about a quarter of an hour; but the
pain of so many hundred punctures as she had received in that time then
became intolerable: she first complained in murmurs, then wept, and at
last burst into loud lamentations, earnestly imploring the operator to
desist. He was however inexorable; and when she began to struggle, she
was held down by two women, who sometimes soothed and sometimes chid
her, and now and then, when she was most unruly, gave her a smart blow.
Mr. Banks stayed in the neighbouring house an hour, and the operation
was not over when he went away.'

The sufferings of this young lady did not however deter the late
President of the Royal Society from undergoing the operation on his own

The skill and labour which the Otaheitans bestow on their large double
boats is not less wonderful than their stone morais, from the felling of
the tree and splitting it into plank, to the minutest carved ornaments
that decorate the head and the stern. The whole operation is performed
without the use of any metallic instrument. 'To fabricate one of their
principal vessels with their tools is,' says Cook, 'as great a work as
to build a British man of war with ours.' The fighting boats are
sometimes more than seventy feet long, but not above three broad; but
they are fastened in pairs, side by side, at the distance of about three
feet; the head and stern rise in a semi-circular form, the latter to the
height of seventeen or eighteen feet. To build these boats, and the
smaller kinds of canoes; - to build their houses, and finish the slight
furniture they contain; - to fell, cleave, carve, and polish timber for
various purposes; - and, in short, for every conversion of wood - the
tools they make use of are the following: an adze of stone; a chisel or
gouge of bone, generally that of a man's arm between the wrist and
elbow; a rasp of coral; and the skin of a sting-ray, with coral sand as
a file or polisher.

The persons of the Otaheitan men are in general tall, strong,
well-limbed and finely shaped; equal in size to the largest of
Europeans. The women of superior rank are also above the middle stature
of Europeans, but the inferior class are rather below it. The complexion
of the former class is that which we call a brunette, and the skin is
most delicately smooth and soft. The shape of the face is comely, the
cheek bones are not high, neither are the eyes hollow, nor the brow
prominent; the nose is a little, but not much, flattened; but their
eyes, and more particularly those of the women, are full of expression,
sometimes sparkling with fire, and sometimes melting with softness;
their teeth also are, almost without exception, most beautifully even
and white, and their breath perfectly without taint. In their motions
there is at once vigour as well as ease; their walk is graceful, their
deportment liberal, and their behaviour to strangers and to each other,
affable and courteous. In their dispositions they appear to be brave,
open, and candid, without suspicion or treachery, cruelty or revenge.
Mr. Banks had such confidence in them, as to sleep frequently in their
houses in the woods, without a companion, and consequently wholly in
their power. They are delicate and cleanly, almost wholly without

'The natives of Otaheite,' says Cook, 'both men and women, constantly
wash their whole bodies in running water three times every day; once as
soon as they rise in the morning, once at noon, and again before they
sleep at night, whether the sea or river be near them or at a distance.
They wash not only the mouth, but the hands at their meals, almost
between every morsel; and their clothes, as well as their persons, are
kept without spot or stain.'

If any one should think this picture somewhat overcharged, he will find
it fully confirmed in an account of them made by a description of men
who are not much disposed to represent worldly objects in the most
favourable light. In the first missionary voyage, in the year 1797, the
natives of Otaheite are thus described:

'Natural colour olive, inclining to copper; the women, who carefully
clothe themselves, and avoid the sun-beams, are but a shade or two
darker than an European brunette; their eyes are black and sparkling;
their teeth white and even; their skin soft and delicate; their limbs
finely turned; their hair jetty, perfumed and ornamented with flowers;
they are in general large and wide over the shoulders; we were therefore
disappointed in the judgement we had formed from the report of preceding
visitors; and though here and there was to be seen a young person who
might be esteemed comely, we saw few who, in fact, could be called
beauties; yet they possess eminent feminine graces: their faces are
never darkened with a scowl, or covered with a cloud of sullenness or
suspicion. Their manners are affable and engaging; their step easy,
firm, and graceful; their behaviour free and unguarded; always
boundless in generosity to each other, and to strangers; their tempers
mild, gentle, and unaffected; slow to take offence, easily pacified, and
seldom retaining resentment or revenge, whatever provocation they may
have received. Their arms and hands are very delicately formed; and
though they go barefoot, their feet are not coarse and spreading.

'As wives in private life, they are affectionate, tender and obedient to
their husbands, and uncommonly fond of their children: they nurse them
with the utmost care, and are particularly attentive to keep the
infant's limbs supple and straight. A cripple is hardly ever seen among
them in early life. A rickety child is never known; anything resembling
it would reflect the highest disgrace on the mother.

'The Otaheitans have no partitions in their houses; but, it may be
affirmed, they have in many instances more refined ideas of decency than
ourselves; and one, long a resident, scruples not to declare, that he
never saw any appetite, hunger and thirst excepted, gratified in public.
It is too true that, for the sake of gaining our extraordinary
curiosities, and to please our brutes, they have appeared immodest in
the extreme. Yet they lay this charge wholly at our door, and say that
Englishmen are ashamed of nothing, and that we have led them to public
acts of indecency never before practised among themselves. Iron here,
more precious than gold, bears down every barrier of restraint; honesty
and modesty yield to the force of temptation.'[2]

Such are the females and the mothers here described, whose interesting
offspring are now peopling Pitcairn's Island, and who, while they
inherit their mothers' virtues, have hitherto kept themselves free from
their vices.

The greater part of the food of Otaheitans is vegetable. Hogs, dogs, and
poultry are their only animals, and all of them serve for food. 'We all
agreed,' says Cook, 'that a South-Sea dog was little inferior to an
English lamb,' which he ascribes to its being kept up and fed wholly on
vegetables. Broiling and baking are the only two modes of applying fire
to their cookery. Captain Wallis observes, that having no vessel in
which water could be subjected to the action of fire, they had no more
idea that it could be made _hot_, than that it could be made _solid_;
and he mentions that one of the attendants of the supposed queen, having
observed the surgeon fill the tea-pot from an urn, turned the cock
himself, and received the water in his hand; and that as soon as he felt
himself scalded, he roared out and began to dance about the cabin with
the most extravagant and ridiculous expressions of pain and
astonishment; his companions, unable to conceive what was the matter,
staring at him in amaze, and not without some mixture of terror.

One of Oberea's peace-offerings to Mr. Banks, for the robbery of his
clothes committed in her boat, was a fine fat dog, and the way in which
it was prepared and baked was as follows. Tupei, the high priest,
undertook to perform the double office of butcher and cook. He first
killed him by holding his hands close over his mouth and nose for the
space of a quarter of an hour. A hole was then made in the ground about
a foot deep, in which a fire was kindled, and some small stones placed
in layers, alternately with the wood, to be heated. The dog was then
singed, scraped with a shell, and the hair taken off as clean as if he
had been scalded in hot water. He was then cut up with the same
instrument, and his entrails carefully washed. When the hole was
sufficiently heated, the fire was taken out, and some of the stones,
being placed at the bottom, were covered with green leaves. The dog,
with the entrails, was then placed upon the leaves, and other leaves
being laid upon them, the whole was covered with the rest of the hot
stones, and the mouth of the hole close stopped with mould. In somewhat
less than four hours, it was again opened, and the dog taken out
excellently baked, and the party all agreed that he made a very good
dish. These dogs it seems are bred to be eaten, and live wholly on
bread-fruit, cocoa-nuts, yams, and other vegetables of the like kind.

The food of the natives, being chiefly vegetable, consists of the
various preparations of the bread-fruit, of cocoa-nuts, bananas,
plantains, and a great variety of other fruit, the spontaneous products
of a rich soil and genial climate. The bread-fruit, when baked in the
same manner as the dog was, is rendered soft, and not unlike a boiled
potato; not quite so farinaceous as a good one, but more so than those
of the middling sort. Much of this fruit is gathered before it is ripe,
and by a certain process is made to undergo the two states of
fermentation, the saccharine and acetous, in the latter of which it is
moulded into balls, and called _Mahie_. The natives seldom make a meal
without this sour paste. Salt water is the universal sauce, without
which no meal is eaten. Their drink in general consists of water, or the
juice of the cocoa-nut; the art of producing liquors that intoxicate by
fermentation being at this time happily unknown among them; neither did
they make use of any narcotic, as the natives of some other countries do
opium, beetel-nut, and tobacco. One day the wife of one of the chiefs
came running to Mr. Banks, who was always applied to in every emergency
and distress, and with a mixture of grief and terror in her countenance,
made him understand that her husband was dying, in consequence of
something the strangers had given him to eat. Mr. Banks found his friend
leaning his head against a post, in an attitude of the utmost languor
and despondency. His attendants brought out a leaf folded up with great
care, containing part of the poison of the effects of which their master
was now dying. On opening the leaf Mr. Banks found in it a chew of

Online LibrarySir John BarrowThe Eventful History of the Mutiny and Piratical Seizure of H.M.S. Bounty: Its Cause and Consequences → online text (page 2 of 24)