Page:Paine--Lost ships and lonely seas.djvu/222

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mouth Harbor on October 29, 1792. Of Fletcher Christian and his companions who had vanished in the Bounty nothing whatever was heard or known, and England forgot all about them. Twenty-five years passed, and they had become almost legendary, one of those mysteries which inspire the conjectures and gossip of idle hours in ship's forecastles.

In 1813 a fleet of British merchantmen sailed for India convoyed by the frigate Briton, Captain Sir Thomas Staines. While passing the Marquesas group he discovered a fertile island on which were cultivated fields and a village and people who eagerly paddled out in their canoes to hail the frigate. The captain was trying to shout a few words of the Marquesan language to them when a stalwart youth called out in perfectly good English:

"What is the ship's name? And who is the commander, if you please?"

Dumfounded, the bluejackets swarmed to the bulwark to haul the visitors aboard, and while they wondered, the same young man asked of the quarter-deck:

"Do you know Captain William Bligh in England, and is he still alive?"

The riddle was solved. Captain Staines replied to the courteous, fair-skinned stranger: