"I don't see why not," said Virgil. "He don't live here."
I soon realized I was among people living by a code of conduct stricter than any I had ever seen. The islanders have no use for alcohol either, or any kind of stimulating drinks including coffee and tea. When the Seventh-day Adventists brought their religion to Pitcairn in 1886, the people adopted it wholeheartedly. Those who had been Church of England changed over, and since that time there has never been any other religious influence on the island.
The word of their church is law; so are the rulings of the town council. There is an island jail. But, according to Parkin Christian, citizens are sent in there only to sweep it out. No one I talked to could recall a major crime.
All around me were the objects of civilized life: gramophones, musical instruments, cameras, machinery, tools. Some people had more than others, but the line between the haves and the have-nots was thin. An obvious question was: "How does Pitcairn pay for these things and who brings them?"
"You seen the longboats, Cap," said Theo. "When we know a ship's going to make a courtesy stop off Bounty Bay we ring the bell in the square. Then we get in the boats and go out to meet her."
Only steamships operating on the New Zealand- Panama-England routes find themselves anywhere near Pitcairn. When weather conditions permit, they stop for a while. Then, the longboats of Pitcairn are loaded with fresh fruit—pineapples, oranges, bananas, coconuts—and with tiny wheelbarrows, flying fish and turtles carved from hard, reddish miro wood. Sometimes, on the way out, the longboats capsize; but usually, a quarter of a mile out at sea, the longboats dance sturdy and dry, in the lee of the steamer. Over the side of the steamer goes a cargo net, and the men carry everything aboard for sale or barter.
Besides being Pitcairn's only business outlet, the steamer offers the only commercial means of getting on or off the island. Once in a while, when the longboats go out, a Pitcairn woman with a suitcase, wearing her best dress and flowered hat, will nimbly scale the net and drop her luggage on deck. She is on her way to New Zealand to have her teeth fixed. The island radio has arranged for her berth. She will not stay in New Zealand long but will catch the first boat back and hope the weather at Pitcairn will allow the captain to stop. If not, she will go on to Panama and try for the island on the return trip.
Each time a ship stops, too, mail is exchanged. John Christian may have a letter going to Auckland for a new harmonica; his wife, a letter going the other way to Sears Roebuck for eight yards of cloth. It may be six months before they receive answers. Deck hands from the steamer lower a bag of mail for the island into the longboat. The stenciled bag says simply: " Pitcairn, S.P.O. [South Pacific Ocean]."
After dinner I walked down the path to visit Floyd McCoy and his wife Violet. Floyd's house was one of the largest and best kept on the island, boasting even an indoor bathroom. His living room was filled with diverse objects collected over the years—parts of shipwrecks, presents from visitors, photographs that have resulted from his correspondence. Violet brought us ice cream made from powdered milk (no cows on Pitcairn) but, like most of the island wives, she seemed content to let her husband do the talking.
Floyd settled his lanky frame in an old armchair. "I'm four generations away from the Bounty's William McCoy," he said. "Will McCoy was a seaman under Christian. He left three children before his death, but I suppose he will be remembered mainly for his ability to distill a pretty potent liquor from the roots of the ti plant. He used one of the Bounty's kettles to catch the juice. I believe the kettle is now in a museum on Norfolk Island, north of New Zealand."