Monsieur de la Perouse

The boats of the Boussole now arrived, loaded with water, and La Perouse made every preparation to get under way. M. de Langle at the same instant returned from his excursion, and mentioned his having landed in a noble harbor for boats, at the foot of a delightful village, and near a cascade of transparent water. He spoke of this watering-place as infinitely more commodious than any other, and begged La Perouse to permit him to take the lead of the first party, assuring him that in three hours he would return on board with all the boats full of water. Though La Perouse, from the appearance of things at this time, had no great apprehensions of danger, he was averse to sending boats on shore without the greatest necessity, especially among an immense number of people, unsupported and unperceived by the ships. The boats put off from the Astrolabe at half past twelve, and arrived at the watering-place soon after one; when, to their great astonishment, M. de Langle and his officers, instead of finding a large commodious bay, saw only a creek full of coral, through which there was no other passage than a winding channel of about twenty-five feet wide. When within, they had no more than five feet water; the longboats grounded, and the barges must have been in the same situation had they not been hauled to the entrance of the channel at a great distance from the beach. M. de Langle was now convinced that he had examined the bay at high-water only, not supposing that the tide at those islands rose five or six feet. Struck with amazement, he instantly resolved to quit the creek, and repair to that where they had before filled water; but the air of tranquillity and apparent good humor of the crowd of Indians, bringing with them an immense quantity of fruit and hogs, chased his first prudent idea from his recollection.

He landed the casks on shore from the four boats without interruption, while his soldiers preserved excellent order on the beach, forming themselves in two lines, the more effectually to answer their purpose. Instead of about two hundred natives, including women and children, which M. de Langle found there at about half after one, they were, at three o'clock, increased to the alarming number of one thousand and two hundred. M. de Langle's situation became every instant more embarrassing; he found means, however, to ship his water, but the bay was almost dry, and he had not any hopes of getting off the long-boats till four in the afternoon. He and his detachment, however, stepped into them, and took post in the bow with his musket and musketeers, forbidding any one to fire without his command; which he knew would speedily be found necessary. Stones were now violently thrown by the Indians, who were up to their knees in water, and surrounded the long-boats, at the distance of about six feet; the soldiers, who were embarked, making feeble efforts to keep them off.

M. de Langle, still hoping to check hostilities, without effusion of blood, gave no orders, all this time, for firing a volley of musketry and swivels; but shortly after, a shower of stones, thrown with incredible force, struck almost every one in the long-boat. M. de Langle had only fired two shots, when he was knocked overboard, and massacred with clubs and stones by about two hundred Indians. The long-boat of the Boussole, commanded by M. de Boutin, was aground near the Astrolabe, leaving between them a channel unoccupied by the Indians. Many saved themselves by swimming, who fortunately got on board the barges, which keeping afloat, forty-nine persons were saved out of the sixty-one, of which the party consisted. M. Boutin was knocked down by a stone, but fortunately fell between the two long-boats, on board of which not a man remained in the space of about five minutes. Those who preserved their lives by swimming to the two barges, received several wounds; but those who unhappily fell on the other side were instantly despatched by the clubs of the remorseless Indians.

The crews of the barges, who had killed many of the islanders with their muskets, now began to make more room by throwing their water-casks overboard. They had also nearly exhausted their ammunition, and their retreat was rendered difficult, a number of wounded persons lying stretched out upon the thwarts, and impeding the working of the oars. To the prudence of M. Vaujaus, and the discipline kept up by M. Mouton, who commanded the Boussole's barge, the public are indebted for the preservation of the forty-nine persons of both crews who escaped. M. Bouton had received five wounds in the head, and one in the breast, and was kept above water by the cockswain of the longboat who had himself received a severe wound. M. Colinet was discovered in a state of insensibility upon the grapnel-rope of the barge, with two wounds on the head, an arm fractured, and a finger broken. M. Lavaux, surgeon of the Astrolabe, was obliged to suffer the operation of the trepan. M. de Lamanon, and M. de Langle, were cruelly massacred with Talio, master at arms of the Boussole, and nine other persons belonging to the two crews. M. le Gobien, who commanded the Astrolabe's lon g -boat, did not desert his post till he was left alone when, having exhausted his ammunition, he leaped into the channel, and, notwithstanding his wounds, preserved himself on board one of the barges. A little ammunition was afterwards found, and completely exhausted on the infuriated crowd; and the boats at length extricated themselves from their lamentable situation.