Bibliographic Information

The Plough Boy Journals

The Journals and Associated Documents

The Plough Boy Anthology

19th Century American Whaling

Bonin Islands

Pitcairn's Island

Dictionaries & Glossaries

Ashley's Glossary of
Whaling Terms

Dana's Dictionary of
Sea Terms


W. H. Macy

Ballou's Monthly Magazine
Vol. XXXVII, No. 5 (Nov 1873)
pp. 442-445.

442 Ballou's Monthly Magazine.



      "What do you suppose ails Rodney lately?" asked old Tim Bolles, as he sat smoking his pipe on the windlass-end, while several others of the watch were grouped near him, so that the question was put, generally, to all of us; "He seems to have something wearing upon his mind. Just now he relieved me at the wheel, and he was so absent-minded, I don't really believe he understood what course he was to steer."

      "Why, didn't he repeat the course after you?" was asked.

      "Yes, he did; but it was in a kind of mechanical way, like a man might do that was dreaming. He has had a queer streak in him ever since we left Pitcairn's; and sometimes I think he's luny."

      "I know what ails him," spoke up young Green, Rodney's chum. "He's love-cracked, and that's the whole truth of the matter."

      "Love-cracked! After what woman?"

      "Martha Quintal."

      There was no need to ask further questions. Every one knew who Martha Quintal was; the belle of Pitcairn's Island, whose bright glance and ravishing form had fascinated more than one susceptible young seaman, among the many who had made flying visits to that romantic islet.

      "Well, I suppose he'll get over it by the time we get to Valparaiso," said old Tim, after a short cogitation upon what he had heard. "It's of little use, his making himself spooney about any girl at Pitcairn's, for everything there is taboo to outsiders."

      "You don't know Rodney Gove as well as I do, if you think so," returned Green. "It'll be a long day before he'll get over it, if he ever does; and "what's more, if there's a possible way for him to get back to the island, he'll manage it."

      "But he can't get there in this ship. It's not likely she'll go that way again."

      "That's true," was the reply. But Green would say no more, and, by breaking off the subject abruptly, seemed to indicate that he had already said more than be intended. If he knew of any plan of deserting, on the part of Rodney Gove, as was not unlikely, he had no idea of betraying it. With a keen sense of honor, as sailors understand the word, he would keep his friend's secret, and "die in it at the stake."

      Our visit to the surf-bound shores of Pitcairn's Island had been made about two weeks previous to this conversation, and it was during our stay of three days that young Rodney, in his visits to the shore, had lost his heart, past all recovery, as be then thought.

      Martha Quintal was, as may be conjectured, a lineal descendant, in direct line, from the mutineer Matthew Quintal, one of the associates of Fletcher Christian, in the Bounty affair. She was one of the finest specimens of the race which have sprung from the union of those English adventurers with the Fayaways of Tahiti; a race who owe much of their physical beauty to the regularity of their lives, their simple abstemious diet; still more to their ignorance of the torturing appliances whereby a higher type of civilization seeks to improve upon nature, in shaping and ornamenting the female form divine. There is to be seen in these young women a happy union or blending of the robust and the graceful. Their faces beam with smiles, indicating unruffled good-humor, while all their acts betray the perfection of unsophisticated innocence, united with a degree of modesty that would do honor to the most virtuous and enlightened people on earth. Imagine, reader, not a colony, but a race indigenous to the soil, numbering less than a single hundred, dwelling in a little world of their own, to whom all the rest of mankind are foreigners! And for a government, imagine the old patriarchal system, preserved nearly in its pristine purity, as handed down from old Jack Adams – with woman suffrage grafted upon it – and say if this green isle of the Pacific be not a nearer approach to Utopia than any spot with which you are acquainted?

      As the island is so small, it was foreseen that ere many years it must be fully stocked with population, by the operation of the law of natural increase, and care had been

For Love of Martha Quintal. 443

taken to prevent immigration. Thus the serpent had been kept out of this Eden, and the moral status of its inhabitants might truly be called, at the time of our visit, one of primeval innocence.

      The love of my shipmate for the Quintal girl was a hopeless one, even had she loved him in return, of which he had no satisfactory evidence. At least, he had none such as would have satisfied any uninterested party, though he may have deluded himself with the belief that her heart was to be had for the asking. But there was not one chance in a thousand that the successor of old Adams would have permitted him to dwell among his people; and, without the patriarchal sanction, such a thing was not to be thought of. And as for enticing Martha to elope and go to a foreign land – but thereby hangs a tale, a tale of true woman's trust, and of man's villany, such as devils might blush at. Its victim, enticed on board an English brig, never again saw the land of her birth. Flung away at Tahiti, like a worn-out toy, she refused all offers of a passage back to Pitcairn's. She could only be received as an outcast, she said; and so, broken-hearted – a mother, but no wife – she died at the island of Arutua, where her child was known to have been living many years later. The truth found its way back, and the lesson was not lost upon the maidens of Pitcairn's.

      But it was only wasting breath, as we all soon discovered, to rally our young comrade about his infatuation. Hopeless, as all knew it to be, it had become a part of his very existence, and even the allurements of Valparaiso had no effect in weaning him from it. The night before we were to sail from that port, Rodney Gove was missing – having deserted, as Green expressed it; "not that he loved his ship and shipmates less, but that he loved Martha Quintal more."

      It was several years afterwards that I fell in with him, in New Bedford, going out second mate of a barque to the Indian Ocean. My first question, after his hearty greeting, was:

      "Why did you run away from the ship, Rodney?"

      "For love of the Quintal girl," he answered at once, in a tone that satisfied me he was quite heart-whole then, whatever he might formerly have been.

      "Of course you never saw her again, though?"

      "Of course I did, then."

      "Come, tell me all about it."

      We adjourned to a convenient little room in a refreshment saloon, where Rodney spun his yarn, which I give as nearly as possible in his own words.

      When I found the ship had gone to sea without search being made for me, I kept on my guard for a few days, suspecting some trap, such as lying outside the harbor and sending a boat in by night. But after a week had passed, I felt pretty safe that the ship had kept on for her cruising-ground, and must be many hundred miles out in the Pacific. I was glad enough to be free, and for the very reason I have given, and no other. My destination was Pitcairn's Island, though I had no definite idea how I was to get there. I had serious thoughts of getting a boat – stealing or borrowing one – and undertaking the voyage alone.

      I even entertained the idea of associating two or three desperate adventurers with me, such waifs of fortune as may be picked up any day on the Spanish main, and cutting out one of the little coasting vessels that lay moored in the bay. I could then assume command of my own vessel, bear away for the enchanted island, abduct my ladylove after the manner of a knight of old – young Lochinvar, for instance – and range the seas in triumph, living upon love alone. Of course Martha loved me in return; maidens always do in such cases. The stern parent might enter his protest; stern parents always do, you know, but love laughs at them.

      It never occurred to me that I knew nothing of navigating the schooner, if I took her. I must have thought that a blind instinct would shape a course directly for Pitcairn's. Martha Quintal was my compass, magnet, pole, anything, in fact; there was no such thing as going astray.

      In short, I don't know what wild schemes I didn't let my thoughts run upon, all tending to this one great object. But before I had got any one of them into shape, so as to attempt its execution, I was saved the folly of making either a criminal or a suicide of myself, by learning that the English ship Cornwallis, bound to China, was going to touch at the island, to land

444 Ballou's Monthly Magazine.

some supplies of clothing and other necessaries for the people, which had been forwarded to Valparaiso by the British government. Here was my opportunity; but on application for a berth, I found the Cornwallis had a full complement of hands. I bribed one of her crew, a young fellow of my own age, to hide me in the forepeak, and thus started on my love-mission to claim my bride – as a stowaway!

      Of course I kept snug out of sight until the ship was broad out in the Pacific, and there was no danger of the captain putting back to land me. He stormed a little at finding one more man on his victualling list than was to be found on the ship's articles; but it was too late to remedy that discrepancy without throwing me overboard, so he accepted the situation. In due time we arrived off Pitcairn's, and I managed to make myself one of the boat's crew who went ashore with the captain to land the supplies. We were received, of course, with great rejoicing, and my goddess Martha was among the foremost at the water-side to welcome us. She recognized me with great pleasure, and asked me how it happened that I had returned so soon. "Because I couldn't stay away from you," I answered. She blushed, and seemed pleased at the compliment, as what woman would not be? The blush and smile completed my infatuation, and, spooney that I was, I never doubted that her heart was mine.

      I felt that my fate was cast on that island, and fully made up my mind for another desertion; if, indeed, I could be said to desert from a ship to which I did not rightfully belong. So much the better, however; the captain would be glad to get rid of me, and would make no effort at recapture. I took the first opportunity that presented itself to steal away from my comrades, and soon found a secure hiding-place, high up among the rocks.

      When the time arrived for pushing off, search was made for me; but it was near night, and the ship a long way off the land, so that little time could be spared. And, as I had supposed, nothing was to be seen of her next morning, she having proceeded on her voyage to China, as if to say to me, "good riddance."

      But when I presented myself among the islanders, my reception was not so warm as I could have wished. They did not want my company – that was evident; and thought it not at all to my credit that I had thus intruded it upon them. When summoned formally before the patriarch, be asked me why I came ashore, and what I intended to do there.

      I felt that it was of little use to falsify or prevaricate. He probably had received an inkling of the truth from my shipmates, when they were hunting for me, before they pushed their boat off. So I answered him, boldly, that it was for the love of one of the island maidens I had taken this step.

      "Who is she?" he demanded, sternly, but not angrily.

      "She is called Martha Quintal," I answered, glancing toward the girl herself, who stood near, among the interested group of listeners, though all unconscious that any such disclosure as this was forthcoming.

      She colored, with a blush of surprise, but not of interest in me – that was plain enough to my anxious gaze. It was equally plain to me, when too late, that I had mistaken my tactics. She might not be displeased with me for loving her (for what woman is in such a case?), but she was indignant at the manner of its announcement. Even had she been free to listen to my tale of love told in strict confidence, she might well object to receiving her first knowledge of it from an open proclamation.

      My barometer of hope went down swiftly at the glance which took in all this.

      "Martha," said the patriarch, "come forward."

      She obeyed, with a quiet dignity and composure, now that she had recovered from the first surprise, that made her more beautiful than ever.

      "Martha, did thee know of this?"

      "No. It is new to me, at this moment."

      "Thou hast seen this young man when he was here before?"

      "Yes. As all others have seen him, on his visits to the shore, in the ship's boat."

      "Has he ever received any encouragement from thee to think that he might win thy love?"


      "Art thou not betrothed to Robert Christian?"

      "Yes." And the answer was given without confusion or embarrassment, as if admitting a fact which was patent to the whole population present.

The Carlyon Tragedy. 445

      "Perhaps it were better, under these circumstances, to place thy position beyond the reach of all question or doubt. In short, to give Robert Christian at once the right to protect thee."

      The girl bowed her head in silent assent; and Robert Christian, a stalwart handsome youth, who, as I learned afterwards, was a grandson of the veritable Thursday October Christian, and great-grandson of Fletcher, the arch-mutineer, came forward and stood by her side. There was no embarrassment, no surprise manifested by any one at the suddenness of the transaction. Nobbs, the schoolmaster, who also acted the part in this little community of clergyman, physician, justice of the peace, and general factotum, performed the ceremony, according to the form of the English church, and there and then pronounced Robert Christian and Martha Quintal man and wife!

      Was ever love's young dream more rudely broken? And I, poor spooney that I was, stood by and saw it well done; shook hands, in an imbecile way, with the beautiful bride and the happy groom; and felt, for the time being, that earth had nothing worth living for.

      But this feeling did not last long. My companions made light of my infatuation, while they made me at home among them, and entertained me kindly, as if they felt that my power for harm was gone, and they could afford to dismiss all fears on my account. Martha and her proud husband made quite as free with me as did the others; and to the certainty that my love was utterly hopeless, was added a consciousness that I had made an arrant fool of myself. All these causes operated to effect a rapid cure, and within a week's time I was able to meet the object of my once absorbing passion with scarcely a throb of the heart or quickening of the pulse.

      And there was yet another lesson which I learned. Blameless and correct as were their lives in that Utopia, there was much in their ways and customs to which it would have been very hard for me to have educated myself. As old Bolles used to say, "it was all well enough for them that was brought up to it." A thousand little matters satisfied me that such a life would have been incompatible with my tastes; and though love might have worked wonders, if Martha Quintal had become my wife, I have strong doubts whether it is not better ordered just as it is. When I got a passage away from the island in the next passing ship, I must acknowlege that I felt rather glad to leave my kind hosts – not omitting her whom I had thought a necessary part of my existence only a few short days before. I have never visited the place since, and it is quite likely they have forgotten all about such a foolish adventurer; but I can honestly say that if Robert Christian is satisfied, I am.

      I thought, and doubtless the readers will agree with me, that Rodney was quite effectually cured. So much so that some of his conclusions were libellous.


Author: Macy, William Hussey
Title: For Love of Martha Quintal.
Publication: Ballou's Monthly Magazine.
Vol/No/Date: Vol. 37, No. 5 (Nov 1873)
Pages: 442-445