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3. CHAPTER THREE
SOME ACCOUNT OF THE LATE OPERATIONS OF THE FRENCH AT THE MARQUESAS--PRUDENT CONDUCT OF THE ADMIRAL--SENSATION PRODUCED BY THE ARRIVAL OF THE STRANGERS--THE FIRST HORSE SEEN BY THE ISLANDERS--REFLECTIONS--MISERABLE SUBTERFUGE OF THE FRENCH--DIGRESSION CONCERNING TAHITI--SEIZURE OF THE ISLAND BY THE ADMIRAL--SPIRITED CONDUCT OF AN ENGLISH LADY
IT was in the summer of 1842 that we arrived at the islands; the French had then held possession of them for several weeks. During this time they had visited some of the principal places in the group, and had disembarked at various points about five hundred troops. These were employed in constructing works of defence, and otherwise providing against the attacks of the natives, who at any moment might be expected to break out in open hostility. The islanders looked upon the people who made this cavalier appropriation of their shores with mingled feelings of fear and detestation. They cordially hated them; but the impulses of their resentment were neutralized by their dread of the floating batteries, which lay with their fatal tubes ostentatiously pointed, not at fortifications and redoubts, but at a handful of bamboo sheds, sheltered in a grove of cocoanuts! A valiant warrior doubtless, but a prudent one too, was this same Rear-Admiral Du Petit Thouars. Four heavy, doublebanked frigates and three corvettes to frighten a parcel of naked heathen into subjection! Sixty-eight pounders to demolish huts of cocoanut boughs, and Congreve rockets to set on fire a few canoe sheds!
At Nukuheva, there were about one hundred soldiers ashore. They were encamped in tents, constructed of the old sails and spare spars of the squadron, within the limits of a redoubt mounted with a few nine-pounders, and surrounded with a fosse. Every other day, these troops were marched out in martial array, to a level piece of ground in the vicinity, and there for hours went through all sorts of military evolutions, surrounded by flocks of the natives, who looked on with savage admiration at the show, and as savage a hatred of the actors. A regiment of the Old Guard, reviewed on a summer's day in the Champs Elysees, could not have made a more critically correct appearance. The officers' regimentals, resplendent with gold lace and embroidery as if purposely calculated to dazzle the islanders, looked as if just unpacked from their Parisian cases.
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