Page:Paine--Lost ships and lonely seas.djvu/219

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
181
FOUR THOUSAND MILES

open scuttle. The frantic prisoners heard the keys fall and knew what they meant. In semi-darkness, with the water gurgling over the floor of their pen, they strove to fit the keys to the heavy handcuffs and the chains that were locked about their legs. It is a scene that requires no more words to appeal to the emotions a hundred and thirty years after these unhappy British sailors fought their last fight for life.

Ten of them succeeded in releasing themselves and were washed off into the sea, where the boats were kind enough to pick them up, but four of the mutineers were drowned with the ship, still wearing the irons from which Captain Edwards had refused to free them. It is probable that with the bunch of keys which the master-at-arms had dropped among them these four men had died while doing unto others as they would have been done by. It was almost impossible for a prisoner so heavily manacled to fit a key in the padlock that bound his own wrists together. One comrade helped another, perhaps, and so those who awaited their turn were doomed to die. And thus they redeemed the folly and the crime of that fantastic adventure in the Bounty.

Thirty men of the Pandora's company were also drowned, but the survivors made a successful voy-