LIEUTENANT CHRISTIAN IN HIGH DUDGEON
Confound the new moon that dumfounds my design, illumines the quarterdeck and draws treason talk below hatches. The breathless night may yet fan this too calm ocean. Natives bear paddles against their skulls. Women tear their faces with sharks’ teeth. Or am I mad? Even as he would break me before the mast. All that I cherish I flee . . . brother Edward . . . the grey fells of Cockermouth . . . my beloved Isabella deserted on Otaheite. And what of our son I shall never see? ‘Tis done. I have lashed two masts to some planks to frame a simple raft upon the sly; hid roasted hog, breadfruit, iron currency, a flask of rum. O damn your irascible blood, Captain Bligh! My oath, I can no longer do my duty and carry the keg. Nay, but tremble to run you through. Your foul tongue would lash me with abuse before the ship’s company – for a coconut! Condemned coward for not taking up arms which you expressly forbade. Intemperate as the Horn, fickle as her squalls, you fought those maddened seas abreaking over Bounty’s decks, lashed to the mast, your bravest trick. ‘Twas on the Britannia, you took me to your bosom. O abomination, how accursed and unnatural that black practice! Let me not dwell on my sin, that heinous offence.
At morning watch I must slip away, paddle to an island, picked up perchance by native canoe. Cooking pot, shark bait, what care I? Ned Young counsels me to seize the ship, murmurs some officers can be counted on, most ratings ripe. Incitement to mutiny is death at rope’s end. George Stewart entreats me to stay. To draw the captain’s sting. Or keep crew hearty for Endeavour Straits? How I stifle in this cramped berth! He has trimmed our rations, locked our grog. ‘Tell Mr Bligh I am indisposed and cannot sup with him tonight!’ Bestir. That madman treats me like a dog.
November 22 – December 14, 2003