FRENCH NAVIGATORS, I
"We attempted to win them over by small presents. They disdainfully rejected all that we offered, even iron, looking-glasses, handkerchiefs, and pieces of cloth. Fowls and ducks which had been brought from the ship were shown to them; as evidence that we wished to trade. They took them, looked at them as if they had never seen such things before, and threw them aside with an angry air."
|"A lighted brand was also presented to them."|
An hour had been spent in the attempt to gain the good-will of the savages, when Marion and Du Clesmeur landed. A lighted brand was also presented to them, and fully persuaded that it was a peaceful ceremony, they did not hesitate to light the pile which was prepared. They were mistaken, for the natives immediately retired and flung a volley of stones, which wounded the two captains. They retaliated by a few shots, and the whole party re-embarked.
After another attempt at landing, which the natives opposed with great bravery, it was necessary to repulse them by a volley which wounded several and killed one. The crew then landed and pursued the natives, who made no attempt to resist them.
Two detachments were sent in search of a watering place, and of trees suitable for repairing the masts of the Castries. Six days passed in fruitless search; fortunately not wholly wasted, as many curious observations were made on behalf of science.
"From the considerable number of shells which we found at short distances," says Crozet, "we concluded that the ordinary food of these savages was mussels, cockles, and various shell-fish."
Is it not strange to find, among the New Zealanders, the remains of food similar to that with which we are familiar on the Scandinavian coasts? Is not man everywhere the same, and incited by the same needs to the same actions?
Finding it waste of time to seek for water and wood with which to remast the Castries and repair the Mascarin, which leaked a good deal, Marion started on the 10th of March for New Zealand, and reached that island fourteen days later.
New Zealand, discovered by Tasman in 1642, and visited by Cook and Surville in 1772, was now becoming known.
The two vessels made for land at Mount Egmont, but the shore was so steep at this point, that Marion put back to sea and returned to reconnoitre the land upon the 31st of March in 36° 30' latitude.
He coasted along the shore, and, in spite of contrary winds, returned northward as far as the Three Kings Islands. He found it impossible to land there. It was therefore necessary to reach the mainland, and anchor was cast opposite Cape Maria-Van-Diemen, the most northerly extremity of New Zealand. The anchorage was soon perceived to be bad, and after many attempts Marion stopped at Cook's Island Bay on the 11th of May.
Tents were erected on one of the islands, where wood and water were found, and the sick were installed there under a strong guard. The natives came on board, some of them even slept there, and trade, facilitated by the use of a Tahitan vocabulary, was carried on in grand style.
"I remarked with surprise," says Crozet, "that among the savages who came on board were three distinct species of men. One of these appeared to be the original native, and was of a yellowish white colour, taller than the others, the usual height being from five foot nine to five foot ten inches; he had smooth black hair. The more swarthy and somewhat smaller men had slightly curling hair. And lastly, the genuine negro, with woolly hair and of smaller stature than the others, but usually broader chested. The first have very little beard, whilst the negroes have a great deal."
This curious observation was afterwards verified. It is unnecessary to linger over the customs of the New Zealanders, or over Marion's minute description of their fortified villages, their arms, clothing and food; these details are already known to our readers.
The French pitched three camps on land. The first for the sick, upon Matuaro Island, the second upon the mainland, which served as a depôt, and a means of communication with the third, which was the workshop of the carpenters, and was some two leagues away in the midst of a wood. The crew, persuaded by the friendliness of the natives, made long excursions into the interior, and received a hearty welcome everywhere. Confidence was at length so fully established that, in spite of Crozet's representations, Marion ordered the sloops' boats to be disarmed. This was unpardonable imprudence in a country where Tasman had given the name of Assassin Bay to the first point on which he landed, where Cook had met with cannibals, and had been nearly massacred.
On the 8th of June, Marion landed, and was received with even greater demonstrations of friendship than usual. He was proclaimed head chief of the country, and the natives placed four white feathers in his hair, as insignia of royalty.
Four days later he again landed with two young officers, MM. de Vaudricourt and Le Houx, a volunteer and captain of arms, and a few sailors, seventeen persons in all. Evening approached, but no one came back to the ship. At first no anxiety was felt, for the hospitable customs of the natives were well-known. It was supposed that Marion had slept on shore, to be ready to visit the workshops in the morning.