FRENCH CIRCUMNAVIGATORS, I
The business of canoe-building was monopolized by the nobles; who, however, allowed the inferior nobles to assist in their construction. The making of canoes was to them a work of the utmost importance, and the nobles maintained it as one of their most valuable privileges. The language spoken in the Philippine group, though it has some affinity with the Malay and Tagala dialects, has all the same a distinctive character of its own. Freycinet's narrative also contains much information on the extremely singular customs of the former population of the Mariannes, which are beyond our province, though well worthy of the attention of the philosopher and historian.
The Uranie had been now more than two months at anchor. It was full time to resume the work of exploration. Freycinet and his staff, therefore, devoted the few remaining days of their stay to the task of paying farewell visits and expressing their gratitude for the hearty kindness which had been so profusely shown to them. The governor, however, not only declined to admit his claim to thanks from the French travellers for the hospitable attentions heaped upon them for upwards of two months; but also refused to accept any payment for the supplies which had been furnished for the refitting of the corvette. He even went so far as to write a letter of apology for the scantiness of the provisions, the result of the drought which had desolated Guam for the previous six months, and which had prevented him from doing things as he could have wished. The final farewell took place off Agagna. "It was impossible," says Freycinet, "to take leave of the amiable man, who had loaded us with so many proofs of his friendly disposition, without being deeply affected. I was too much moved to be able to find expression for the feelings with which my heart was filled; but the tears which filled my eyes must have been to him a surer evidence than any words could have been of my gratitude and my regret."
From the 5th to the 16th June the Uranie occupied in an exploring cruise round the north of the Marianne Islands, in the course of which were made the observations of which the substance has been given above. The commander, wishing to make a quick passage to the Sandwich Islands, then took advantage of a breeze to gain a higher latitude, where he hoped to meet with favourable winds. But as the explorers penetrated further and further into this part of the Pacific Ocean, cold and dense fogs wrapped them round, permeating the whole vessel with damp, equally unpleasant and injurious to health. However, the crew suffered no worse inconvenience than slight colds; in fact, the change had rather a bracing effect than otherwise on men now for some time accustomed to the enervating heat of the tropics.
On the 6th August the south point of Hawaï was doubled, and Freycinet made for the western side of the island, where he hoped to find a safe and convenient anchorage. A dead calm prevailing, the first and second days were spent in opening relations with the natives. The women came off in crowds immediately on the arrival of the ship, with the view of carrying on their usual trade, but the commander laid an interdict on their coming on board.
The first piece of news given to the captain by one of the Areois was that King Kamahamaha was dead, and that his young son Rio Rio had succeeded him. Taking advantage of a change of wind the Uranie sailed on to the Bay of Karakakoa, and Freycinet was about to send an officer in advance to take soundings, when a canoe put off from the shore, having on board the governor of the island, Prince Kouakini, otherwise John Adams, who promised the captain that he would find boats suitable for the taking of the necessary supplies to the corvette. This young man, about nine and twenty years of age, almost a giant in stature, but well proportioned, surprised Freycinet by the extent of his information. On being informed that the corvette was on a voyage of discovery, he inquired, "Have you doubled Cape Horn or did you come round the Cape of Good Hope?" He then asked for the latest information about Napoleon, and wished to know whether it was true that the island of St. Helena had been swallowed up with all its inhabitants! A story he had evidently heard from some facetious whalemen, but had not entirely believed.