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18 September 1847 — Fr Jérôme Grange to Fr Villerd, Parish Priest at Saint Jodard near Roanne and to Fr Nicoud, Parish Priest at Saint Clair near Condrieux

Translated by Peter McConnell, October 2010

Sydney, 18 September 1847

My very dear friends,
I have kept a diary since leaving France in 1841. It contains notes, which I consider important, on the mores, customs, clothing and languages in particular on the archipelago of Tonga. I was thinking of sending the diary to you but it was lost in the disaster which took place in New Caledonia on 18 & 19 July. It was a disaster which I propose telling you about in detail in this letter which I am still writing in haste.
I had the honour of writing to you at the beginning of last September, some time after my arrival in New Caledonia. I will say a word about the cannibalism of this race and about its extreme cruelty. Since that time a lot of things have occurred in that mission station. I am going to summarize for you all the facts which occurred there and quorum pars magna fieri = a large amount of it has to be done.
After being abandoned for more than three years and being without any help, Bishop Douarre left on the ship that took the shipwrecked survivors of the Seine to go and get reinforcements in France; he is still there. As we were expecting several missionaries, he arranged before his departure where they were to be sent; I was selected for the large tribe at Hienghène, eighteen leagues south-east of Balade. So there were three priests and three brothers at Balade. But very far from obtaining new missionaries, Bishop Collomb, apostolic vicar of Melanesia and Micronesia, took away from us Father Montrouzier at the beginning of the following January. So there were no more than two priests for New Caledonia. It was impossible for us to become established at Hienghène. The chief of that tribe is the greatest cannibal of the whole island. Yet every time I went there, he always welcomed me very well and up until then I never knew any imminent danger.
One day when I went by myself to visit that tribe, which has a lovely harbour, I found there a ship from Sydney, which had brought us two crates of supplies. After staying there for a week and visiting all the tribe, I took a canoe to take our gear to Balade; I had six natives with me. We had scarcely left the harbour when we were hit by a mighty storm. We ran the greatest danger of drowning. Yet we arrived after a lot of trouble at the tribe of Pouébo where we found shelter. I escaped the danger of the sea by falling into a not less danger at the hands of the natives. If I had had nothing with me, perhaps I would have been safe, but as I have already told you, I had two crates of gear with me; those things tempted the greed of the natives who made me spend some hours greatly agitated. After I had landed my gear, I saw coming to me a crowd of tall black devils armed with spears and clubs. They wanted some of the contents of my crates and they demanded them with the eloquent persuasion of highway men. I refused them; they repeated their demands and threatened to club me to death. I held my ground, sat on the creates threatening them verbally and physically. They let me proceeded further. Yet they took away my coat and six small axes. Finally after the weather had calmed down, I took my two crates on board and left for Balade where I arrived without any trouble.
Although here were only two priests: Father Rougeyron and I, my colleague who was in charge of the mission station, considering that the tribe at Balade was too difficult and almost untameable, thought that it was expedient to establish a new settlement at Pouébo, which was only three leagues from Balade. It was decided that he should go alone to Pouébo and that I would stay at Balade with two brothers.
In the meantime and while preparations were being made for the founding of a mission station at Pouébo, I journeyed to the New Hebrides on the Anonyme, the French Society of Oceania’s ship. We touched Efate, Koromango, Tanna and Anatome. The natives everywhere seemed to me to be very wild. At Efate even they had just ransacked a whaler and eaten 27 on board. Since then I have found out, through the French corvette the Brillante, that they had done the same thing to another ship which had a crew of twenty-three. Yet the reports which we had together claimed the natives were very peaceful. I found there some catechists from Samoa (The Navigator Islands), who had been sent thereby the London Missionary Society we had scarcely approached the harbour when the missionaries came to meet us and offer us letters of recommendation left by their bosses. I read them and returned them. I ask them various questions which they always answered. Several of their colleagues had been eaten by the natives in the various islands. Yet some had succeeded in having a certain number of the natives say prayers.
I also found at Efate two men from Tonga with whom I could chat completely at ease. When they saw that I was speaking Tongan as well as they were and like them, they were very pleased indeed. An old man in particular who had been there for 22 years was very much touched in hearing his native language being spoken. When he gave me his name, I named the people of his village, his relatives, his chief. He listened to me in rapt attention. I was no less happy than he in coming across half-civilized men with personalities I had become accustomed to in the midst of uncivilized people. When I spoke to him about Tonga, he frequently interrupted me asking me whether so and so was still alive and he still wept with joy and pleasure according to whether I said they were alive or dead. Tell me, I asked him, how were you brought to this land? So he started to tell me his story but because he started ab ovo = right from the beginning, I realized that it was going to be a long story. We are going to drink some kava, I said to him, and you will be stronger to talk. I went away immediately to get two big roots of kava, one to drink and the other to give him. Kava, he said, will I still be able to drink some kava? Yes, kava, kava from Tonga. There you are. To have the drink I wanted to prepare it myself and however old I am, you will see how well I am going to prepare it. And immediately he became sad. But don’t forget, I said, that you must tell me how you came to be in this country. So, with his eyes wet with tears, he told me the following:
We left the fortified village of Mua. We numbered about 172 people as many strong men as women and children and climbed on board the tengetange ( a special Tongan canoe), with Paponi, the son of Nukou, as leader. After waiting three days at Pangaimotu, we set sail for Samoa ( The Navigator Islands). We reached Hapai, Vavau and Niuhatoputapu where we got some supplies and with a favourable wind reached Samoa without any danger. After staying there for three moons, we set off loaded with yams, taro, fine mats and nets. We had a favourable wind until Niuhofo’ou where we stayed some time. One morning when the wind was good and the sunrise promised us a good day, we set sail to return to Tonga. The wind was favourable all morning, but after midday when we were between Niuha and Vavau, we were struck by a frightful nor’east wind which broke our mast and carried away our sails. We had to let ourselves be carried along at the will of the waves.
The following day calm returned but we couldn’t find our way. We tried to stay still waiting for nightfall, but the sky was overcast; we could not see the star of Tonga. So we set the sails as best we could and sailed aimlessly. We had been at sea for eleven days and we had had nothing to eat when at daybreak we spotted land but alas, that land was not Tonga. We landed and the same day many of us were killed, cooked and eaten. That was a long time ago. I was young and strong and you see that I now have really white hair. More than twenty harvests of yams and breadfruit have been eaten. Out of the large number of us, there are only two left whom you see here. All the others are dead or have been chewed up by the teeth of the savages, just as I chew up his kava which you see. I married a woman of this land and although she is black, I have four children who are as white as you and I.
Here there is food in abundance. I have never been hungry, but yet if you wanted to put me on board your ship and take me to Tonga, you would make me happy. I could still embrace my parents before passing away.
I told him that I couldn’t do that now, but I would satisfy his request later on. My intention was to leave him because he would be useful for the mission station when it was set up on that island. We had two sessions of kava. I gave presents to both of them; I did the same for the Protestant catechists who found me very different, they said, from what their missionaries had told them about us.
We soon left Efate to go to Anatome, where we were heading for, skirting the archipelago, passed Koromango, the cruellest of the New Hebrides, then past Tanna during the night. There we were able to contemplate at our ease a wonderful volcano still active. We also saw on our left as we were passing by Futuna and Aniwa; these islands are not high but very fertile and have a fair population. Finally we arrived at Anatome. It was Wednesday of Holy Week. On Holy Thursday , I celebrated Holy Mass and gave a short sermon to the crew. It was certainly the first time that Mass was offered in this savage land. The ship was decked out in bunting and the captain asked permission to greet the Consecration with a salvo of five guns; I gave him permission willingly. I had the good fortune of celebrating Mass again on Easter Sunday. Several natives who were in the harbour but at a respectful distance, were witnesses to the ceremony and were amazed.
I don’t know the approximate number of the population of the archipelago of the New Hebrides, but certainly from what I have been able to see, I am drawn to believe that all the islands together would contain more than 10,000 souls. The customs are not the same in all the archipelago. In the nor’west islands the inhabitants all wear plaited belts with very well worked rushes. Those worn by the women are a little longer than those worn by the men. In the islands in the south-east, from Kolomango in particular, the men are like those of New Caledonia; they are completely naked or wear some fabric. It is a cloth more indecent than nakedness itself. (A penile case) Everywhere the women wear a little belts around their waist seven or eight inches long. The only exception to this is at Anatome where the belts reach as far as the bottom of the calves. These people, like all those of Melanesia are not black, only they are very bronzed and the men wear long beards and short hair. For the most part they appear very strong and uncivilized at the same time.
Not finding at Anatome what we were looking for, we left the very evening of Easter Sunday to go to Balade, New Caledonia, where we arrived on 6 April towards sunset.
Father Rougeyron was waiting for us anxiously to go and start the settlement at Pouébo; right the next day we started to load onto the Anonyme all the gear necessary for the settlement at Pouébo. Everything was taken on 14 April. The priest left with four workers and a brother, leaving me by myself at Balade with two brothers and Doctor Baudry, who stayed with us waiting for the return of the Arche d’Alliance.
All the natives of New Caledonia are very skilled thieves. Yet those of Pouébo have stopped for a time exercising their talent. With much enthusiasm they indulged in carrying wood and other goods from the ship to where the settlement was to be, without stealing the least thing, to the point that the priest regarded that as prodigious or rather like a great providence. Brother Blaise who knows the personality of this people very well, told me that the inhabitants of Pouébo behaved like that only to be better able to steal later on. Experience proved that he was not mistaken. Those who had always stolen from the missionaries for near on four years, noticing that here were fewer of us than before, stole right from that moment with an audacity that they had not previously shown. They do not keep any moderation; they destroy all our plantations. They come in full daylight to snatch our bananas, take away our coconuts, pillage our garden under our very eyes. They understood that we were not strong enough to defend ourselves, and getting away with it made them bolder. They came as far as entering the storehouse where they stole several items.
Finally on 20 June after stirring themselves up, the various villages of he tribe at Balade came in large numbers to slaughter us and steal what we had. Sticking up to them wrecked their plan. For quite a long time I had forbidden the brothers and those who were with us from firing on the natives. It was well worth letting them steal everything which was outside the mission station, but they forced their way into our house; we had to resist them forcibly. That day I was terrified, not of being slain, but of having to kill some of those natives who don’t know the extent of the harm they are doing.
Such were the situation when Bishop Collomb, bishop of Antiphellie, apostolic vicar of Melanesia and Micronesia, arrived at Balade on board the Spec. He was accompanied by the Reverend Father Verguet. His Lordship brought provisions for his mission station; There was some for the mission station in New Caledonia and for the brig Anonyme. On board the Spec were also items for bartering on behalf of the French Society and items destined for different people. All those items were placed in the chapel which was nothing else but a large hangar. The natives set to willingly to do the unloading and they stayed calm until 10 July. On the arrival of Bishop Collomb on 20 June I remarked to the bishop hat it was quite unfortunate that he arrived with so many provisions in such critical circumstances as those at present and that his arrival could well be the unintentional cause of a catastrophe which would be no less harmful to him than to us. So the bishop, who had thought of finding the Anonyme at Balade to take his provisions and transport them to the Solomons. Not finding the ship there, he begged hew captain of the Spec to continue his trip as far as the Solomons without any more cost. The captain said it was impossible, and he bishop saw that he had to stay at Balade waiting for another chance, and trusting Providence.
ON 10 July at six at night the natives broke into he chapel where we had put most of the gear and they took away about three hundred francs worth of items belonging to the French Society. We learned after that that their intention was mainly to attract us into the church and take advantage of the confusion to slaughter all of us. Fortunately we got out early enough to thwart their plan. Similar attempts took place at Pouébo and we kept Father Rougeyron informed of everything as he did with us. For some days we were determined to keep together and to keep together at Pouébo.
On 15 July seeing that the situation was deteriorating, I sent most of the livestock to Pouébo in the charge of two men whom the priest had sent for that purpose. Father Verguet went that very day to that settlement to spend some time here with Father Rougeyron. The following day Father Rougeyron wrote to us that the rumour was going around at Pouébo that straight after the departure of the Spec the settlement at Balade would be attacked by the combined forces of the tribe of Balade. We kept guard but our defiance was less than the hypocritical ruse of the natives.
On 17 July the Spec set sail for Batavia. We gave it some letters for France and Sydney, informing them of our distress. So there were seven of us in the settlement of Balade: Bishop Callinon, the Brothers Blaise and Bertrand, Doctor Baudry who was left by Marceau, the representative of the French Society of Oceania to carry out scientific explorations, Marie Julien, carpenter of the Arche d’Alliance, the Scotsman George Taylor and I.
The very day the Spec left, two young Christians, Antoine and Marie, warned us that the following day we would be attacked. We did not pay enough attention to what those children were saying. About eight in the morning the main chief Boéone, sent a minor chief, Gomène, asked to be friends with us again by returning the printed calico which they had stolen on 10 July. We willingly accepted their offer. At one o’clock in the afternoon Boéone and Gomène came with the two children carrying two parcels of the stolen property. Boéone had a spear and Gomène had his club. While we were parleying on the terrace in front of the house a group of natives armed with spears, clubs and axes hurled themselves on us when a signal was given and they went into the ground floor of the house which was not yet closed. The barking of the dogs made us notice what was happening. Although we were not armed, we pounced on them screaming loudly. Brother Bertrand managed to reach the kitchen where there were rifles; a shot was fired at random and struck nobody but it was enough to put them to flight. As they had a grudge mainly against Brother Blaise and me, it was against us that they chose to attack. I dodged a blow of the club by standing aside under the stairs. At the same time Brother Blaize was wounded by a spear in the lower part of his chest. His wound was deemed fatal. After bandaging up the worthy brother, I wrote in haste to Father Rougeyron to inform him of our distressed circumstances. The young girl Marie who carried the letter was stopped on the way and ordered on behalf of the main chief to retrace her steps under pain of death. On her return she told us that they were going to set fire to the church; we couldn’t leave to prevent that from happening without running the imminent danger of being slaughtered. Almost immediately afterwards we noticed fire on the peak of the thatched roofing. It was impossible to save all the provisions which were there. That very evening Antoine and Marie told us that the main chief Boéone had given orders to all the villages belonging to the tribe to gather together the following day to made a general attack and a final effort. We mounted guard all night. The bishop and I consulted out theology seriously to find how we should defend ourselves.
On 19 July at daybreak the dinghies of the Seine were set on fire. The natives spared only one and that of Bishop Collomb which they dragged away some distance from the house. Thinking that that day would very likely be our last, we all made our confessions. Bishop Collomb consumed the consecrated hosts and wine. The Scotsman George Taylor, whom I had been instructing for some time to prepare him for baptism asked me to baptize him. I did that conditionally. He also went to confession. At two o’clock we were surrounded on all sides by the savages. They were smeared with black dye and uttered fierce screams. Hidden behind large rocks not far from the house and sheltered by the wall of the terrace which sustains the house, they hurled large stones which demolished the walls of the house. It was impossible for us to reach them. Yet they did not dare invade the courtyard. Brother Bertrand was injured in the hand and put out of action. Brother Blaise was dying. There were no more than four of us to defend ourselves against three hundred strong savages as determined against us as a lion against its prey. Yet we were courageous. In particular we were frightened of the fire. After two hours of determined fighting they began to get tired. It was then that I heard a chief from the other side of the river say: Burn the house, burn the house! Almost immediately afterwards we noticed that the piles of the house were alight. We couldn’t extinguish them. Already we could feel the heat under us. We were extremely anxious; if we stayed we would perish in the flames, if we went down the stairs we would surely be clubbed by the savages.
We all assembled in the little indoor chapel. Brother Blaise himself leave his bed and dragged himself as best he could to come and join us there. His composure was calm; there was serenity on his face and a smile on his lips. I am coming, he said as he entered the rooms, I am coming to wait for the final blow right here. Some moments before he had said to the bishop who seemed moved when giving him his blessing. Oh, why, milord bishop, do we worry so much. All we are doing is changing his life for a better one. I should praise this excellent brother whom I loved and esteemed saying that his death has inspired me even more than it has distressed me. While I was hearing his confession for the last time and while I was exhorting him to follow the example of our Divine Master in willingly pardoning his butchers, he said: How I would like my death to be the good fortune of his poor race! I forgive them whole-heartedly. The sweet serenity of that worthy brother affected the new catholic George so much that he couldn’t help saying: This is the true religion. Yet time was passing. Bishop Collomb knelt down before me to receive a final blessing and a plenary indulgence in articulo mortis = in danger of death. After I gave him this blessing we all knelt down begging him to accord us the same favour, then we embraced one another and said our goodbyes until we would meet in heaven where we hoped to be together in a short time.
The bishop and I vowed to celebrate 109 Masses each if the Almighty saw fit to save us from the extreme danger we were in. Yet the thought came to us that by abandoning the housed to pillaging we would perhaps have some chance of saving ourselves. I opened the window and spoke to the mob; I proposed giving them the key to the storehouse on condition that they put out the fire and that they would spare our lives. Two chiefs, Ondo and Gomène, agreed to that suggestion. Ondo signalled to me to come down. During the parleying I was struck with a spear which injured me only slightly. Doctor Baudry threw them the key of the storehouse. The savages who had already put the fire out rushed into the storehouse passing through the kitchen. It was at that moment that we had the best of opportunities. We opened the trapdoor and took advantage of the situation to go down. I went first and spoke to chief Ondo. I gave him my rifle which he imperiously demanded and recommended Brother Blaise to him. While I was speaking to Ondo, the bishop and Brother Bertrand escaped and left the courtyard. The doctor went next with Marie and George. Two savages closed in on the bishop to spear him. The doctor who noticed what was happening brandished his rifle in a threatening manner. They recoiled. Marie and George, also witnessed the danger which his Lordship was in. They fired two shots and this set the two savages to flight. Yet I remained, as I told you, to speak with Ondo. I approached him cautiously without appearing to be frightened when walked past the ruins of the church which had been burnt down the previous evening. I met there a host of 60 to 80 savages who were collecting debris from the fire. A tall savage, taller and blacker than the devil raced at me to strike me down with stones. So I ran as fast as I could. Twice he hurled a big stone enough to kill me but twice by a special providence I fell and my fall coincided exactly with the stone which was destined to strike me down. The second time the savage must have believed that he had succeeded. He left me to return to the pillaging. I got to my feet again as I could; I rejoined our besieged party which was waiting for me. So we had a head counts. Brother Blaise was missing. The bishop asked what we should do for the best. Everybody agreed that it was impossible for that brother to follow us and that trying to carry him away would certainly cause us to lose our lives. Moreover we had some hope that having nothing to fear from him and quite happy with the booty, which we left them, the savages would stop. Also I recommended him twice to the two chiefs who had promised to spare him.
We headed for Pouébo which is about three leagues from Balade. When we reached a little village where we had a catechist called Michel, we learnt from him that the chiefs of Balade had given orders everywhere to slaughter us. We had been afraid since our last attack that the settlement at Pouébo would experience the same fate as that of Balade. We were happy, in our distress, to learn that nothing similar had occurred. Before arriving at the first village of the tribe of Pouébo, we met two children, Louis and Moéau whom Father Rougeyron, after being told what had happened the night before, had sent to find out exactly the state of affairs. Those two children were a great help to us. They knew how to make us avoid all dangers by making us take roundabout routes. The young Christian boy, Lois, seeing how weak we were and the state of our clothes, could not help himself crying; quite young as he was, he continually offered us his shoulders to lean on one after the other. - the bishop and I. You are very hungry, he said to us; stay hidden there in the undergrowth and I will fetch some bread. Although we had practically not eaten for two days, we did not want to consent to his leaving us. The immediate and generous care from that child, compared with the barbaric severity of his compatriots, gave me much solace. Finally we reached the settlement at Pouébo in a deplorable state and so worn out that we could hardly stand up. The bishop and the doctor were without shoes. Fathers Rougeyron and Verguet came to meet us. We wept together and concelebrated Mass.
On 20 July we talked over the situation together and unanimously agreed that our situation was no longer tenable in New Caledonia. What happened at Balade roused to fever pitch the people of Pouébo and their new plans; those people had twice before tried to slaughter the missionaries. We sent to Hienghène, a harbour 15 leagues south-east of Pouébo to see if there was any ship there. We sent to Balade three children who were staying at the mission station to look for Brother Blaise and bring him in a canoe, dead or alive. Louis returned the same day. He told us that a few moments after we fled, Brother Blaise was mercilessly slaughtered. He was struck several times with a club; they cut his throat; they stripped him of his clothing, and practiced unspeakable atrocities on his body. The young Christian girl, Marie, buried him; they dug him up to eat him. She buried him again; they dug him up again. Yet they did not eat him. His head was carried away as a trophy into the neighbouring tribe and his body stayed at the rubbish dump. The interior of the chapel was ransacked; the priestly items were profaned and the sacred vessels trampled under foot and dragged threw the filth.
For more than six years I have been in the mission field; I have always been in dire need of clothing and of other items; the Arche d’Alliance has brought me a good supply of such things. Among those items I received lovely presents which you have sent me. Everything was annihilated on 18 ¬ 19 July at Balade. God in his goodness does not want me to be abandoned. I was born poor; I should die poor.
On 21 July we learnt that the savages of Pouébo planned to take the same action as had happened at Balade. They said that the foreigners were more numerous than they were at Balade, but when there is one man at Balade there are six at Pouébo; we will put an end to it. We directed our prayers again to God. Each of the missionaries made another private vow. At the same time we took prudent steps; we organized ourselves to mount guard day and night and to avoid any surprise attack. There were thirteen of us now at the settlement of Pouébo. We divided into three groups and took the guard duties in turn.
On 22 July messengers arrived from Hienghène. There was no ship. We had to stay in our little citadel, without being able to leave it, counting on our cautious behaviour and even more on the help of the Almighty. We knew that the savages of Balade wanted to use our house which had remained standing to lay a trap for the ships which would come and anchor in the harbour. Knowing what they were capable of, and fearing for the Anonyme and the Arche d’Alliance, we felt it was necessary to burn down that house. The children of the mission station carried out that plan during the night of 5-6 August.
Yet the attitude of the savages became increasingly hostile. Every day we learnt that they were hatching up new plans. We often saw them in large numbers around our house with sinister intentions. We were expecting a catastrophe. We doubled out vigilance in our little fort. We started to become quite tired, when on 10 August about ten o’clock in the morning we noticed a ship on the horizon. It was heading for land. We recognized it as being a very large ship. It was the corvette La Brillante, captained by Viscount Dubouzet We sent two men on board with a letter outlining our distress. The sea was rough; it was not until 11 August in the evening that it was able to send us help. Three dinghies arrived with 60 men who were well armed and commanded by two officers: de la Motte and Fournier. The commander told us that he was at our disposal but that some of us would do well to go on board to advised the best way of evacuating the country without danger. Bishop Collomb and I went on board. Having taken the lieutenant’s ship’s boat at ten o’clock at night, we were unable to reach Balade where the corvette was anchored until five in the morning.
Having made plans with the commander, we weighed anchor to go and take moorings at Pouébo which we did not reach until 12 August. The commander immediately took charge of rescuing us. He sent 60 men ashore From that day they took on board all the livestock and the most valuable possessions. Seven men were left at the house to help us guard it. Throughout the night of 12-13 August we had heavy rain which was for us quite providential because without that rain we would have been attacked by all the villages belonging to the great tribe at Pouébo. The tried to attack us in the morning by stealth. The main chief came with a piece of material and gave it to Father Rougeyron as a sign of peace; his intention was to club him while making this sign of peace. The discovered the ruse and sent a sailor receive the present. The sailor pointed a bayonet at him with one hand while he received the present in the other. Finally at nine o’clock in the morning three officers arrived and two trainees. They were: de la Motte, Trogoff and Dubros as well as Rémond and Thiery. They commanded 90 men, all well armed. De la Motte told us the commander intended to leave with us as soon as possible. Eighty men each took a rather light parcel so as not to hinder their use of firearms. We began walking to the beach which was two miles away.
The savages gathered I large numbers waiting for us to be in the bush so that thy could attack us with impunity. As soon as we went climbed down the small hill where the house was, the main chief signalled to us to pass the other side of the stream. But we were informed that several thousand savages were lying in wait to kill us as we retreated. We refused to follow the path he indicated to us. The main chief ordered his savages to attack us. Trogoff was in command of the advance guard; Dubros commanded the centre; de la Motte brought up the rear guard. As we missionaries were in the advance guard, lieutenant de la Motte put us in the centre where we were in less danger, and we continued our journey. As soon as we entered the undergrowth, we were attacked by the savages with a hail of spears and arrows. As we spotted one of them, we fired at him, but as they were hiding, creeping and dragging themselves in the grass we could hardly reach any of them. Finally we reached the beach. We were out of danger. The lieutenant signalled; nobody was missing; but five men were wounded and two of them seriously. In that number was a trainee Raimond who was struck in the neck. The commander, hearing the musket firing, rushed up, and had the wounded men put into his open boat. We all got into the boats and climbed on board the ship at midday on 13 August.
The commander told us that his intention was to return to Balade to reek vengeance on the cruelty of the savages. We gave him in writing our view that as missionaries our duty was to pardon our enemies. He also replied in writing that he understood and praised ours attitude but that it was not only the missionaries but the French and even the French government which had been insulted by the savages because they burnt the ship’s boats belonging to the government, etc, etc. and so consequently he couldn’t let that action go unpunished. On 16 August the Anonyme arrived. Providence again served us very well in that circumstance. A strong wind and a heavy sea had kept us laid up until then. Otherwise we would have left and in that case it would have been all over for the Anonyme and its crew. On 19 August we returned to Balade. The two ships went there at the same time. On 23 August the commander went ashore with all the company. They set fire to all the huts and destroyed all the plantations.
On 22 August the commander had chopped down a cross, which was on a small island, which guided vessels and had put in its place a notice: Leave! The mission station has been destroyed. The same day we weighed anchor to go to Sydney and we passed Anatone. The captain of the Arche d’Alliance had to stop at that island to go to New Caledonia in November. We wanted to leave a letter there to warn it of our disaster and to prevent any further one. We left Anatome on 27 August. The sea was very bad and we sustained some damage during the night. On 28 August about 8 o’clock in the morning we ran the risk on running onto an uncharted shoal. We would very likely have lost our lives had we run aground during the night. Finally after some changes of good and bad weather, we arrived at Sydney at nine in the morning.
In the main attack they made on us, I noticed that those whom we had done the most good were also those who were so determined to do us harm. But I should say that some Christians who we had always stayed very faithful to us and did their utmost to protect us. That is something that makes me hope that with time and patience, we will be able to do something with these people.
The people of New Caledonia are by nature cruel and cunning. To be able to stay with a savage race and to be of use to them, one needs to have a physical and moral influence over them. So they respect you or rather they will fear you. The poor missionaries, who had settled there for nearly four years, lacked everything and consequently were able to make only a very small number of converts. The natives regarded the Europeans at first as men of a different nature to theirs. That gave them a moral influence over the natives. Yet before grasping religious notions, the natives started to get accustomed to the Europeans who since the arrival of the missionaries had thronged in the island. The latter, seen close up, seemed to be only human beings and men weaker than the natives. The natives therefore understood our weakness before ever losing their cruel nature. They behaved like that as a consequence.
Of the Europeans who have flocked to this island are the English, who have come from Sydney seeking sandalwood. The natives have killed some of them and they are, they say, easier to kill than the New Caledonians. Besides they killed a man called Sutton whom they claimed was very good to eat. About the middle of April they captured on the coast a small ship whose crew they killed and ate. About the same time those of our tribe travelled to the tribe of murderers. On their return they threatened us for treating them as those of Wagap had treated the English. You are very stupid, those of Wagap told them, you are very stupid to be hungry when you have with you foreigners who have food and who are themselves good to eat. On returning from that tribe, they also passed through Hienghène where they found two ships collecting sandalwood. The English would have told them that the French missionaries were sacred men, it is true, but wicked sorcerers, who had the power of making other men die. That calumny must have made as much impression on the minds of the natives because a few months before an epidemic had killed a good third of the population of all the neighbouring tribes, without any of us succumbing. Now, according to the custom of the country, being accused of witchcraft was being condemned to certain death. From then on we totally lost moral influence which we had over the natives and as we couldn’t exercise physical force we had to succumb for sure.
Another cause of the fall of the mission station and one which always derives from the lack of help, is that we had promised Boarate, chief of the tribe at Hienghène that we would set up a mission station with him and that we had not been able to do so because we lacked personnel. That chief Boarate is the most powerful chief of New Caledonia. Greatly annoyed that we weren’t going to set up a station in his territory because he couldn’t rob us himself, stirred up the two tribes where we were to revolt against us. They obeyed him to the letter. He repeated again the calumnies against us, those that had originally come from the Europeans who were with him, namely that we were sorcerers, hat we made other men die, that we were greedy because we gave them only material and iron whereas those who stayed with him, with the ships, gave him rifles and ammunition. They were the only things to make the chiefs dangerous. From that moment every day we were assailed by demands of that nature and they demanded them no longer in a prayerful way but in a menacing way and when we refused, as we were obliged to do, their response was always that we were miserly and wicked. That same response was made several times to Father Rougeyron by a chief to whom he had given a ship’s boat valued at 400 or 500 francs.
My dear friends, help me, please, by praying for those poor New Caledonians who don’t know what they are doing. Let’s pray together to God in his goodness that he will enlighten, pacify and prepare their hearts, that he will send them good missionaries, men of patience and full of charity to bring hem to better feelings. The more they put obstacles in the way of the truth, the more they will be good Christians when once they have abandoned their erroneous ways. And let’s pray that the worthy brother whom they slaughtered will take possession of this land in the name of our faith which will one day make them happy. He was really slaughtered like an innocent lamb and he died praying for his murderers. There are my hopes. That worthy brother was the luckiest of us all. As far as I am concerned, I escaped all the dangers which I was exposed to and I admit that I have some regret in not having had the same fate as he did. I had prepared myself as best I could and based on the great mercy of God, I was full of hope that he would have pity on me. But he did not want to receive me. May his holy will be done! He wanted to teach me more and make me learn that he who trusts in him will never be at a loss. In our letters you told me that several of my friends are dead, whereas I have passed through so many dangers and have not been able to die. That is a reason for the missionary to trust in God alone and to fear nothing.
You will have to add many words and corrections because I haven’t time to reread my letter. It is midnight. The ship sails tomorrow morning and I would not like to miss the opportunity ( of sending you this letter).
I have the honour of being, my very dear friends,
your very humble and very obedient
Grange, apostolic missionary.
Father Villerd is asked to pass on this letter to Father Nicoud, parish priest of Saint Clair near Condrieux.

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