CAPTAIN COOK'S PREDECESSORS, III
Bougainville had agreed with M. de la Giraudais, captain of the Etoile, that if a larger stretch of sea was discovered, the two vessels should separate, but not lose sight of each other, and that every evening the bugle should recall them within half a league of each other, so that, in the event of the Boudeuse encountering danger, the Etoilemight avoid it.
Bougainville for some time sought Easter Island in vain. At last he fell in during the month of March with the lands and islands erroneously marked upon M. Bellin's chart as Quiros Islands. On the 22nd of the same month he met with four islets, to which he gave the name of Quatre Facardins, which belonged to the Dangerous group, a set of madreporic islets, low and damp, which all navigators who have visited the Pacific Ocean by way of the Straits of Magellan appear to have noticed.
A little further discovery was made, of a fertile island inhabited by entirely naked savages, who were armed with long spears, which they brandished with menacing gestures, and thus it obtained the name of Lancers Island.
We need not refer to what we have already repeatedly said of the nature of these islands, the difficulty of access to them, their wild and inhospitable inhabitants. Cook calls this very Lancers Island, Thrum Cape, and the island of La Harpe, which Bougainville found on the 24th, is identical with Cook's Bow Island.
The captain, knowing that Roggewein had nearly perished in these latitudes, and thinking the interest of their exploration not worth the risk to be run, proceeded southward and soon lost sight of this immense archipelago, which extends in length 500 leagues, and contains at least sixty islands or groups.
Upon the 2nd of April Bougainville perceived a high and steep mountain, to which he gave the name of La Boudeuse. It was Maïtea Island, already called La Dezana by Quiros. On the 4th at sunrise the vessel reached Tahiti, a long island consisting of two peninsulas, united by a tongue of land no more than a mile in width.
More than 100 pirogues hastened to surround the two vessels. They were laden with cocoa-nuts and many delicious fruits which were readily exchanged for all sorts of trifles.
When night fell, the shore was illuminated by a thousand fires, to which the crew responded by throwing rockets.
"The appearance of this shore," says Bougainville, "raised like an amphitheatre, offered a most attractive picture. Although the mountains are high, the land nowhere shows its nakedness, being covered with wood. We could scarcely credit our sight, when we perceived a peak, covered with trees, which rose above the level of the mountains in the southern portion of the island. It appeared only thirty fathoms in diameter, and decreased in size at its summit. At a distance it might have been taken for an immense pyramid, adorned with foliage by a clever decorator. The least elevated portions of the country are intersected by fields and groves. And the entire length of the coast, upon the shore below the higher level, is a stretch of low land, unbroken and covered by plantations. There, amid the bananas, cocoa-nut and other fruit-trees we saw the huts of the natives."
The whole of the morrow was spent in barter. The natives, in addition to fruits, offered fowls, pigeons, fishing instruments, working implements, stuffs, and shells, for which they asked nails and earrings.
Upon the morning of the 6th, after three days devoted to tacking about and reconnoitring the coast in search of a roadstead, Bougainville decided to cast anchor in the bay he had seen the first day of his arrival.
"The number of pirogues round our vessels," he says, "was so great, that we had immense trouble in making way through the crowd and noise. All approached crying, 'Tayo,' friend, and offering a thousand marks of friendship. The pirogues were full of women, who might vie with most Europeans in pleasant features, and who certainly excelled them in beauty of form."
Bougainville's cook managed to escape, in spite of all prohibitions, and gained the shore. But he had no sooner landed, than he was surrounded by a vast crowd, who entirely undressed him to investigate his body. Not knowing what they were going to do with him, he thought himself lost, when the natives restored his clothes, and conducted him to the vessel more dead than alive. Bougainville wished to reprimand him, but the poor fellow assured him, that however he might threaten him, he could never equal the terrors of his visit on shore.
As soon as the ship could heave to, Bougainville landed with some of his officers to reconnoitre the watering-place. An enormous crowd immediately surrounded him, and examined him with great curiosity, all the time crying "Tayo! Tayo!" One of the natives received them in his house, and served them with fruits, grilled fish, and water. As they regained the shore, a native of fine appearance, lying under a tree, offered them a share of the shade.