The Lonely Island

Robert Michael Ballantyne
The Lonely Island, by R.M.

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Title: The Lonely Island The Refuge of the Mutineers
Author: R.M. Ballantyne
Release Date: June 7, 2007 [EBook #21747]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ASCII

Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England


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
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
"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
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