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The little colony of 27 men and women turned inward on the island, and for a year or two occupied themselves with the problems of sustaining life. Land was divided among the Englishmen, though harvests were shared. The Tahitians were given no land. Babies were born and shelters became more elaborate. Island rule was arbitrary and strict, with Fletcher Christian the recognized leader.
But arguments broke out over women and the division of land. Tahitian rose against Englishman. Murder and violence followed. Even the women participated in one final, terrible civil war that brought about the death of Christian and ended with the slaughter of all adult island men except two mutineers, Edward Young and Alexander Smith, who had for some reason changed his name to John Adams. Eighteen years later, in 1808, when Captain Mayhew Folger of the American ship Topaz sent his launch ashore, he found only Adams, eight or nine women and several children on the island.
Adams stayed on the island with his small clan, working the soil and educating the children from a single book, the Bounty's Bible. Fletcher Christian left only one child, Thursday October, so named because he was born on a Thursday in October. According to Sir John Barrow, writing in 1831:
Young Christian was, at this time, about 24 years of age, a fine tall youth, full six feet high with dark, almost black hair, and a countenance open and extremely interesting. As he wore no clothes except a piece of cloth around his loins and a straw hat ornamented with black cock's feathers, his fine figure and well-shaped muscular limbs were displayed to great advantage, and attracted general admiration. His body was much tanned by exposure to the weather, and his countenance had a brownish cast.... He was married to a woman much older than himself, one of those that accompanied his father from Otaheite [ Tahiti].... His manner, too, of speaking English was exceedingly pleasing, and correct both in grammar and punctuation. His companion was a fine handsome youth of 17 or 18 years of age, of the name of George Young, son of Young the midshipman.
Today Christian's surname leads all the rest; a fifth of the people claim lineage from him. He is described as ruggedly handsome, strong-willed, but given to melancholy. A thousand feet above sea level, a windy cavern in the cliffs is known as Christian's Cave, where supposedly the leader of the mutineers retired to brood. More practically, the cave made a good vantage point to scan the horizon for ships bringing the king's revenge, but none ever came in his lifetime.
"How did Christian die?" I asked Floyd.
"Well, some accounts say it was suicide; that he threw himself from a cliff. No trace of his body has ever been found. But most of us hang to the idea that he was killed by a Tahitian servant during the uprising—killed by a blow in the head while working in his yam plot."
Floyd found a flashlight and we stepped outside. Adamstown was dark, except for the glimmer of a few kerosene lamps and one or two bulbs burning electricity. There was no sound in the settlement but the night wind rustling in the palms and the muted roar of the ocean. Floyd's flashlight beam darted among the undergrowth behind his house, seeking out a small trail.
"Come on," he said, "I'd like to show you something."
We entered a small shack set down the hill from the house. In the center of the floor was a diesel generator.