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Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 5.djvu/662

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622
[CANTO III.
THE ISLAND.

And as he knew not what to say, he swore:
Nor swore in vain; the long congenial sound
Revived Ben Bunting from his pipe profound;
He drew it from his mouth, and looked full wise,
But merely added to the oath his eyes;
Thus rendering the imperfect phrase complete,
A peroration I need not repeat.


VI.

But Christian,[1] of a higher order, stood

like an extinct volcano in his mood;140
  1. I. [Fletcher Christian, born 1763, was the fourth son of Charles Christian, an attorney, of Moreland Close, in the parish of Brigham, Cumberland. His family, which was of Manx extraction, was connected with the Christians of Ewanrigg, and the Curwens of Workington Hall. His brother Edward became Chief Justice of Ely, and was well known as the editor of Blackstone's Commentaries. For purposes of verification (see An Answer to certain Assertions, etc., 1794, p. 9), Bligh described him as "aged 24 years, five feet nine inches high, blackish or very dark brown complexioned, dark brown hair, strong made, star tatowed on the left breast," etc. According to " Morrison's Journal," high words had passed between Bligh and Christian on more than one occasion, and, on the day before the mutiny, a question having arisen with regard to the disappearance of some cocoa-nuts, Christian was cross-examined by the captain as to his share of the plunder. "I really do not know, sir," he replied; "but I hope you do not think me so mean as to be guilty of stealing yours." "Yes," said Bligh, "you——hound, I do think so, or you could have given a better account of them." It was after this offensive accusation that Christian determined, in the first instance, to quit the ship, and on the morning of April 28, 1788, finding the mate of the watch asleep, on the spur of the moment resolved to lay violent hands on the captain, and assume the command of the Bounty. The language attributed to Bligh reads like a translation into the vernacular, but if Christian kept his designs to himself, it is strange that they were immediately understood and acted upon by a body of impomptu conspirators. Testimony, whether written or spoken, with regard to the succession of events "in moments like to these," is worth very little; but it is pretty evident that Christian was a gentleman, and that Bligh's violent and unmannerly ratings were the immediate cause of the mutiny.

    Contradictory accounts are given of Christian's death. It is generally believed that in the fourth year of the settlement on Pitcairn Island the Tahitians formed a plot to massacre the Englishmen, and that Christian was shot when at work in his plantation (The Mutineers, etc., by Lady Belcher, 1870, p. 163; The Mutiny, etc., by Rosalind A. Young, 1894, p. 28). On the other hand, Amasa Delano, in his Narrative of Voyages, etc. (Boston, 1817, cap. v. p. 140), asserts that Captain Mayhew Folger, who was the first to visit the island in 1808, "was very explicit in his inquiry at the time, as well as in his account of it to me, that they lived under Christian's government several years