FRENCH NAVIGATORS, I
On the 13th of June the Castries sent her boat for the daily supply of wood and water. At nine o'clock a man was seen swimming towards the ships. A boat was lowered to help him on board. It was one of the rowers, the only one who had escaped from the massacre of his comrades. He had received two lance thrusts in the side, and been much ill-treated.
|"The only one who had escaped."|
From his account, it appeared that the natives had at first shown their usual friendliness. They had even carried the sailors, who feared getting wet, ashore upon their shoulders. But, when the crew dispersed to pick up their cargo of wood, the natives reappeared, armed with spears, tomahawks, and clubs, and threw themselves in parties of six and seven upon each of the sailors. The survivor had been attacked by two men only, who had wounded him with two lance thrusts, and as, fortunately, he was not far from the sea, he had succeeded in reaching the shore, where he hid himself in some brushwood. From thence he had witnessed the massacre of all his companions. The savages had the bodies stripped, and commenced cutting them up, when he stole noiselessly from his concealment, and threw himself into the sea, hoping to reach the ship by swimming. Had all the sixteen men who accompanied Marion, and of whom no news was received, met a like fate? It seemed probable. In any case, it was needful to take immediate precautions for the safety of the three camps. Chevalier Du Clesmeur at once took the command, and, thanks to his energy, the disaster did not assume worse proportions.
The sloop of the Mascarin was armed and sent in search of Marion's boat and sloop, with orders to warn all the camps, and carry help to the most distant, where masts and spars were being made. On the road, upon the shore, the two boats were discovered near the village of Tacoury. They were surrounded by natives, who had pillaged them after massacring the sailors.
Without waiting to regain possession of the boats, the officer put on all speed in the hope of reaching the workshop in time. Fortunately, it had not yet been attacked by the natives. All work was immediately stopped, the utensils and weapons were collected, the guns were loaded, and such objects as could not be removed were buried beneath the ruins of the shed, which was set on fire.
The retreat was accomplished amongst crowds of natives, crying in sinister tones, "Tacouri maté Marion," "Tacouri has killed Marion." Two leagues were traversed in this manner, during which no aggression was attempted against the sixty men who composed the detachment. Upon their arrival at the sloop, the natives approached them; Crozet first sent all the sailors who carried loads on board, then, tracing a line on the ground, he made it understood that the first native who passed it would immediately be fired upon. An order was then given to the natives to seat themselves; and it must have been an imposing spectacle to see thousands obeying unresistingly, in spite of their desire to seize the prey which was escaping before their eyes.
Crozet embarked last, and no sooner had he set foot in the sloop than the war-cry was uttered; whilst javelins and stones were thrown from every direction. Hostilities had succeeded threats, and the savages rushed into the water the better to aim at their foes. Crozet found himself obliged to prove to these wretches the superiority of his weapons, and gave orders to fire. The New Zealanders, seeing their comrades fall wounded or dead, without their appearing to have been touched, were quite amazed. They would all have been killed had not Crozet stopped the firing. The sick were taken on board without accident, and the encampment, reinforced and put on guard, was not molested.
Next day, the natives, who had an important village upon Matuaro Island, endeavoured to prevent the sailors from fetching the water and wood they needed. The latter then marched against them, bayonet in hand, and followed them up to their village, where they shut themselves in. The voice of the chief inciting them to battle was heard. Firing was commenced as soon as the village was within range, and this was so well directed that the chiefs were the first victims. As soon as they fell, the natives fled. Some fifty were killed, the rest were driven into the sea, and the village was burned.
It was useless to dream of bringing to the shore the five masts, made with great difficulty from the cedars which had been cut down, and the carpenters were obliged to repair the mast with pieces of wood collected on the ships. The provisioning of the ships with the seven hundred barrels of water, and seventy loads of wood, necessary for the voyage, would infallibly occupy at least a month, for there remained only one sloop.
The fate of Marion, and the men who had accompanied him, was still unknown. A well-armed detachment therefore started for the village of Tacouri.