Monsieur de la Perouse
At five o'clock the officers and crew of the Boussole were informed of this disastrous event; they were at that moment surrounded with about one hundred canoes, in which the natives were disposing of their provisions with security, and perfectly innocent of the catastrophe which had happened. But they were the countrymen, the brothers, the children of the infernal assassins, the thoughts of which so transported La Perouse with rage, that he could with difficulty confine himself to the limits of moderation, or hinder the crew from punishing them with death.
On the 14th of December, La Perouse stood for the island of Oyolava, which had been observed before they arrived at the anchorage which proved so fatal. This island is separated from that of Maouna, or of the Massacre, by a wide channel, and vies with Otaheite in beauty, extent, fertility, and population. At the distance of about three leagues from the north-east point, he was surrounded by canoes, laden with bread-fruit, bananas, cocoanuts, sugar-cane, pigeons, and a few hogs. The inhabitants of this island resemble those of the island of Maouna, whose treachery had been so fatally experienced. Some exchanges were conducted with these islanders with more tranquillity and honesty than at the island of Maouna, as the smallest act of injustice received immediate chastisement.
On the 17th they approached the island of Pola, but not a single canoe came off perhaps the natives had been intimidated by hearing of the event which had taken place at Maouna. Pola is a smaller island than that of Oyolava, but equally beautiful, and is only separated from it by a channel four leagues across. The natives of Maouna informed our visitros, that the Navigator's Islands are ten in number, viz. Opoun, the most easterly, Leone, Fanfoue, Maouna, Oyolava, Calinasse, Pola Skika, Ossamo, and Ouera. These islands form one of the finest archipelagoes of the South Sea, and are as interesting with respect to arts, productions, and population, as the Society and Friendly Islands, which the English navigators have so satisfactorily described. In favor of their moral characters, little remains to be noticed; gratitude cannot find a residence in their ferocious minds; nothing but fear can restrain them from outrageous and inhuman actions. The huts of these islanders are elegantly formed; though they disdain the fabrications of iron, they finish their work with wonderful neatness, with tools formed of a species of basaltes in the form of an adze. For a few glass-beads, they batered large three-legged dishes of wood, so well-polished as to have the appearance of being highly varnished. They kept up a wretched kind of police; a few, who had the appearance of chiefs, chastised the refractory with their sticks, but their assumed power seemed generally disregarded; any regulations which they attempted to enforce and to establish, were transgressed almost as soon as they were promulgated. Never were sovereigns so negligently obeyed, never were orders enforced with such feeble shadows of authority.
Imagination cannot figure to itself more agreeable situations than those of their villages. All the houses are built under fruit-trees, which render them delightfully cool; they are seated on the borders of streams, leading down from the mountains. Though the principal object in their architecture is to protect them from offensive heat, the islanders never abandoned the idea of elegance. Their houses are sufficiently spacious to accommodate several families; and they are furnished with blinds, which are drawn to the windward to prevent the intrusion of the potent rays of the sun. The natives repose upon fine comfortable mats, which are cautiously preserved from humidity. Nothing can be said, by our travelers, of the religious rites of these natives, as no moral was perceived belonging to them. The islands are fertile, and their population is supposed to be considerable. Opun, Leone, and Fanfoue, are small; but Maoune, Oyolava, and Iola, may be classed among the largest and most beautiful in the South Sea. Cocoa island is lofty, and formed like a sugar-loaf; it is nearly a mile in diameter, covered with trees, and is separated from Traitors' Island by a channel about a league wide.
At eight in the morning La Perouse brought to, to the west-south-west, at two miles from a sandy bay in the western part of the Great Island of Traitors, where he expected to find an anchorage sheltered from easterly winds. About twenty canoes instantly quitted the shore and approached the frigates in order to make exchanges; several of them were loaded with excellent cocoa-nuts, with a few yams and bananas; one of them brought a hog, and three or four fowls. It evidently appeared that these Indians had before some knowledge of Europeans, as they came near without fear, traded with honesty, and never refused to part with their fruit before they were paid for it. They spoke, however, the same language, and the same ferocity appeared in their countenances; their manner of tattooing, and the form of their canoes, were the same, but they had not, like them, two joints cut off from the little finger of the left hand; two individuals had, however, suffered that operation.