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The Lonely Island The Refuge of the Mutineers   By: (1825-1894)

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On a profoundly calm and most beautiful evening towards the end of the last century, a ship lay becalmed on the fair bosom of the Pacific Ocean.

Although there was nothing piratical in the aspect of the ship if we except her guns a few of the men who formed her crew might have been easily mistaken for roving buccaneers. There was a certain swagger in the gait of some, and a sulky defiance on the brow of others, which told powerfully of discontent from some cause or other, and suggested the idea that the peaceful aspect of the sleeping sea was by no means reflected in the breasts of the men. They were all British seamen, but displayed at that time none of the well known hearty off hand rollicking characteristics of the Jack tar.

It is natural for man to rejoice in sunshine. His sympathy with cats in this respect is profound and universal. Not less deep and wide is his discord with the moles and bats. Nevertheless, there was scarcely a man on board of that ship on the evening in question who vouchsafed even a passing glance at a sunset which was marked by unwonted splendour. The vessel slowly rose and sank on a scarce perceptible ocean swell in the centre of a great circular field of liquid glass, on whose undulations the sun gleamed in dazzling flashes, and in whose depths were reflected the fantastic forms, snowy lights, and pearly shadows of cloudland. In ordinary circumstances such an evening might have raised the thoughts of ordinary men to their Creator, but the circumstances of the men on board of that vessel were not ordinary very much the reverse.

"No, Bill McCoy," muttered one of the sailors, who sat on the breach of a gun near the forecastle, "I've bin flogged twice for merely growlin', which is an Englishman's birthright, an' I won't stand it no longer. A pretty pass things has come to when a man mayn't growl without tastin' the cat; but if Captain Bligh won't let me growl, I'll treat him to a roar that'll make him cock his ears an' wink six times without speakin'."

The sailor who said this, Matthew Quintal by name, was a short, thick set young man of twenty one or thereabouts, with a forbidding aspect and a savage expression of face, which was intensified at the moment by thoughts of recent wrongs. Bill McCoy, to whom he said it, was much the same in size and appearance, but a few years older, and with a cynical expression of countenance.

"Whether you growl or roar, Matt," said McCoy, with a low toned laugh, "I'd advise you to do it in the minor key, else the Captain will give you another taste of the cat. He's awful savage just now. You should have heard him abusin' the officers this afternoon about his cocoa nuts."

"So I should," returned Quintal. "As ill luck would have it, I was below at the time. They say he was pretty hard on Mr Christian."

"Hard on him! I should think he was," rejoined McCoy. "Why, if Mr Christian had been one of the worst men in the ship instead of the best officer, the Cap'n could not have abused him worse. I heard and saw 'im with my own ears and eyes. The cocoa nuts was lyin', as it might be here, between the guns, and the Cap'n he came on deck an' said he missed some of his nuts. He went into a towerin' rage right off in the old style and sent for all the officers. When they came aft he says to them, says he, `Who stole my cocoa nuts?' Of course they all said they didn't know, and hadn't seen any of the people take 'em. `Then,' says the Cap'n, fiercer than ever, `you must have stole 'em yourselves, for they couldn't have been taken away without your knowledge.' So he questioned each officer separately. Mr Christian, when he came to him, answered, `I don't know, sir, who took the nuts, but I hope you do not think me so mean as to be guilty of stealing yours.' Whereupon the Cap'n he flared up like gunpowder. `Yes, you hungry hound, I do,' says he; `you must have stolen them from me, or you would have been able to give a better account of them... Continue reading book >>

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