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22 September 1847 – Fr Pierre Rougeyron to Bishop Guillaume Douarre, Sydney

Based on the document sent, APM ONC 208 Rougeyron.

Translated by Mary Williamson, October 2011.

Six sheets of paper forming twenty-four written pages, Poupinel’s annotation at the top of the first page. The following text seems incomplete, as at the end of the twenty-fourth page it finishes in the middle of a sentence and the usual concluding formalities are not present. The damaged manuscript is often unreadable because of holes in the paper and the obscuring of the text, caused by the thin paper, which has allowed the ink from one side of the page to show through to the other. In these places, the words which have not been able to be deciphered have been replaced by dashes and placed between brackets: [---]. The words which have been difficult to read have been accompanied by a question mark between brackets, for example § 8 below, brig [?]. Note also that the manuscript ends in the middle of a sentence; perhaps he did not have another page. For another account of the attack on the mission in New Caledonia, see document 657, § 13-24.

[in Poupinel’s handwriting]
Sydney • Fr Rougeyron to Bishop Douarre.

Sydney 22 September 1847
To let you know promptly and precisely about the terrible trials that Divine Providence exposed us to in New Caledonia, I sent you earlier only a summary, saving myself to pass on to you later the full report of all that took place. The time is now suitable. Mr Verguet, discontented for a long time with the mission, is leaving for France. He will safely deliver to you the enclosed communication and will give you the explanations that you desire.
Nevertheless, beforehand, to console you, I think I should let you know that we are not at all discouraged. As far as I am concerned, these events have simply affirmed my vocation. Rev. Frs Roudaire and Grange are willing to go with me to found a new community elsewhere. New Caledonia will probably once again be the place we go to, to water the soil with our sweat or even our blood; nevertheless do not fret, we will be cautious and if, after having taken all the necessary precautions to establish ourselves there, we become aware of danger, we will remove ourselves elsewhere. I would very much like to have at least a pied-a-terre for you when you arrive. Our intention now is to settle ourselves at Port St Vincent, but when you arrive, My Lord, we will perhaps be able to return to Pouébo and Hienguène, if you think it suitable. I think that, after a time, we will find people there who are very willing to accept us, perhaps the mission might even succeed there. Our three years work amongst these tribes is not at all wasted in my opinion. As well, I am confident that these words: sanguis martyrum, sanguis christianorum, [1] will be fulfilled in New Caledonia, as they have been in Futuna and elsewhere. In any case, we will write to you as often as possible to let you know what is happening and where we are. If you have already set out without having heard this news, you will find some letters at Valparaiso, but the best thing would be to go directly to Sydney, where we will send all our letters.
Only bring from France what is necessary, Bishop, some wine, some clothing and some articles of exchange for the natives. These are more or less the only things necessary for the moment. As for flour, if you pass through Sydney, you will find it fresh and at a lesser price than in France. A few firearms could be useful. If you bring a large number of people to found a small colony, you could bring whatever you wish; there would be no danger of being pillaged, but if you have only missionaries, leave everything that is not a strict necessity at the procurator’s office in Sydney.
We have received news of you from overseas sources. For more than two years now I have not received a single letter from France. Mr Marceau is in a very awkward position and there has been no letter either from Mr Marziou [2]. since he left for France; it is rather discouraging. What will happen if such an inexplicable silence continues; it will mean that the missionaries, when they return, will no longer send any news and the mission will suffer for it in every respect. Please then Bishop, bring this matter to the attention of the Father Superior, as it is more important than you would think. It is essential for us to be somewhat up to date with what is happening in Europe. Please write via London and in four months we will receive your letters. Please write often, in fact very often.
It is time Bishop, after this long digression, to carry out what I promised at the beginning of my letter. As Bishop Collomb has already written to the Propagation of the Faith with most of the details, I will not dwell on those, but on others that the Lord Bishop was not able to relate because he was not aware of them, or at least not fully, as he did not understand the language.
As a shortage of personnel, both expected and promised, prevented us from going to Hienguène, I decided to establish a settlement at Pouébo, and here are my reasons: at Baïao there were very few people and consequently very little work for the mission; on the contrary, at Pouébo there was a large population. It seemed to me that I could do some good there; already more than six hundred people knew their prayers and were reasonably educated. The feeling of Fr Grange, then provincial assistant, was that it would be useful to establish a dwelling there. I suggested that he go and work amongst this tribe whilst I stayed in Baïao, as you requested me to; nothing more suitable. I knew both the language of the tribe and all the inhabitants; I even think and do not hesitate to say so, that I had the trust of these natives; but Fr Grange had no wish at all to accept my offer. He only wanted to stay in Baïao. So I found myself forced to give it up because he wished [-- --] in Pouébo. Everything was perfectly calm when I left Baïao. Nothing obvious was happening. I left six people there.
When I arrived in Pouébo I was warmly welcomed by the natives. Both men and women put all their efforts into constructing our house; not only did they exhibit much goodwill but also they were remarkably loyal. Not a single thing was stolen. As soon as the smallest thing was missing, I noticed that the natives hastened to bring it back without any reward. These first works having been carried out, I had the people of the tribe cut down [-- --] a large number of the most beautiful trees in the country. Our sailors had enough to saw up to occupy them for more than six months of the year. I devoted myself so diligently to the study of the language that, at the end of two months I was able to translate some prayers, hymns and a catechism into the language of the country, a language very different from that of Baïao.
I was about to open the mission, with everything going very much as I wished, when Fr Grange started to be attacked in Baïao. A preliminary theft, made on 21st June from the warehouse, without repercussions, made the natives more daring and confident; they returned to the task and had the same success; then to top off the unfortunate circumstances, Bishop Collomb arrived with a shipload of provisions of all sorts. These provisions, belonging to the Bishop, needed to be brought ashore, as the ship was not able to carry them [?] any further. The Bishop, being obliged to wait in Caledonia for the arrival of the brig [?] of the French Society, all [-- --] great variety of provisions visible to the natives; [--] to the fullest extent of their greed [?] they resolved to help themselves [?]. Another theft was carried out, despite the surveillance that was carried out by [-- --]. This latest theft was [?] [--] caused a great stir amongst my tribe in Pouébo and from that time I realised that our two establishments were in danger. To assure themselves of protection, the folk in Baïao had the accursed idea of bringing, even to our neighbours in Pouébo and to all the chiefs, the fabrics and food provisions that they had stolen. Was anything else necessary, Bishop, to convince the savages of this great tribe to attack us in the same manner. The plan of the people of Baïao, Bouélate, Mamate and Ouonbane was to corrupt the tribe of Pouébo. They were successful from the day when the p[--] were accepted, the [-- --]. At [?] our new establishment, each day led to new plots. The small children who I was raising in the house informed me of everything and by these means we succeeded in foiling their plots. One day we heard a cry from up in the mountains, a cry which echoed all around the surrounding areas [?]; the howls [--] so horrible. I looked and what did I see? A long stream of savages of all ages and all [--] sexes who were coming down from the mountain. Four men preceded the crowd, carrying a stretcher. Ferocious cries continued to ring out; I took the telescope [-- --] and saw a human body on the stretcher. A head with long hair floating from side to side with the wafts of wind reposed on the lower abdomen of the unfortunate victim whose two long legs hung down. Little by little this ghastly procession moved along and soon arrived close to our house, so that we were able to take a leisurely look at the spectacle. After resting for a moment they performed a dance around the stretcher with some [--] [--] of infernal joy. At the sight of this my hair stood on end on my head, just the memory of it still makes my heart pound. It was exactly around this time that they were laying all sorts of traps to kill us. Their intention was, I believe, to let us see the fate that was in store for us, so as to frighten us. In a few days, I said to myself, perhaps I will be carried away by these cannibals. However a certain shame seemed to be felt by these monsters; they made a sort [?] of turn so as not to pass directly in front of us. The offering was made to one of our neighbours. There the feast would take place; [--] the evening would gather there, where from all sides this flesh, still quivering, would be laid out on a sort of grill. On [?] the night, I again saw a huge fire [?] around which the cannibals were gathered.
It was not as an act of war that they had killed this man; it was by treachery. For several days they had watched out for a victim and this one had fallen into their hands. These savages crawl along the ground like snakes to more successfully deceive [?]; they set up ambushes in the grasses and scrub. All the time we fear to be surprised in this manner.

A few days later, I was warned that a new plot was being hatched against us. I was told to be very vigilant for the next three days, because people would gather around our house in large numbers under different pretexts. This happened exactly as predicted. It was during the first few days of July, at daybreak, [--] a crowd of savages came, some bringing wood for a fence [--] came to sell various objects so as to better deceive us; they were not carrying arms, but these were hidden in the greenery not far away. Warned of the danger, I received what they had brought outside the fence. We were all very much on the lookout and put on a brave face; as well I revealed their despicable plot, and they [--] blushed; they dispersed, each one in his own direction. The next day people were still coming from other villages. We used the same methods and [--] the same success. The following day, the same thing. Finally, finding themselves frustrated in their tactics, they decided on a night visit. Two villages armed with spears and clubs set out to burn down the house and kill us; arriving [?] at the foot of the mountain where our house was situated, they stopped at our nearest neighbour’s place, to invite him to join them. This fine old man came out of his hut and heaped reproaches on them; far from helping you he said, if you attack these people, who only do good for us, I will go and gather all my people and declare war on you. These unexpected words caused them to flee.
However Fr Grange was in great danger. For more then a month he had not been able to leave the yard of the house; he wrote to me to come and see what he could do. I shuddered at this news, for, I could not ignore the fact, I would be exposing myself to the greatest of danger. The folk of Pouébo wanted to kill me, mainly, they said, because it was me who was preventing them from carrying out their plan. There was thus a real danger in passing through their village; nevertheless, as I felt duty-bound to go to Baïao, I went, abandoning my fate to the hands of God. I was able to pass through the first village without incident. When I arrived at Tiavoite [?], an hour further on, I saw a crowd of savages had gathered; the sky was falling on me from all sides. Poor Alexis, head chief of this village and an excellent Christian, had just died a few days before. I heard his confession. The rumour was circulating that I had caused his death. All his subjects, relatives and [--] were angry with me. It was perilous to pass through there, yet there was no other way to proceed, my route passed in front of the house of the deceased. It was two o’clock; I hastened to say vespers and complines so as to be in order in case of attack. I once again placed my soul in God’s hands, [-- -- -- --] and continued on my way. The father of the worthy Alexis ran ahead of me. He was unable to utter a word, but he managed a smile, a smile of despair, for at that moment something terrible was visible in the eyes of this white haired old man, so that I believed either that he was mad, or that his suffering was causing him to fall to pieces. Thanks to [--] it was nothing. Having addressed a few words of kindliness and consolation to him, he withdrew slowly and silently. This old man loved his son very much. Alexis was handsome, friendly and above all gifted with great kindliness; this poor old man was convinced that he had died because he [--] Christian. I continued on my way after this short contact. Suddenly crying was heard in the neighbouring woods, it was the people of the village who were weeping over the tomb of Alexis, their chief. After several hours of walking, I learned that Fr Grange was at war with the inhabitants of Baïao, a short distance further on. I met the catechist Michel who confirmed this. What to do? What would happen? I thought about returning to my own home, but I had already covered two leagues [-- --]. I had faced so much danger that to [--] continue my journey [?] to Baïao [-- -- -- ] place. Since I was going to throw myself into the arms of the savages themselves, I had urgent need, Bishop, to lift my heart to God, banishing fear; I braved the final danger in the hope that I would be able to calm the natives and so bring help to Fr Grange and the other members of his establishment. My heart heavy with pain and my mind full of the greatest anxiety, I listened carefully with each step that I made; I heard nothing threatening. I drew closer and closer and already I could see the steeple of St Dennis. I felt a resurgence of hope, even though the night shadows completely hid the establishment from me. All the same I could see that all was peaceful at the moment.
I hastened my steps towards the house and towards Fr Grange who came into sight in front of me, telling me that it was indeed true that they had been attacked. All agreed that without Michel they would have been lost; the catechist revealed to Fr Grange the betrayal by his own parents and [--] even the devotion towards us [-- -- -- --] them. They eventually withdrew but were still very hostile.
The following day, after having said Holy Mass, I [-- --] went to see the chief to talk with him. Fr Grange said to me that I should not expose myself because he felt it would be dangerous; I could feel it myself too; but all the same it was necessary for me to visit him to win him over; off I went. As I was leaving our courtyard, a young Christian called Marie came and warned me to not go any further or I would be killed; I just laughed at this warning and proceeded on my way, but not without feeling some fear before arriving at [--] of the chief Bouéone. A child rushed towards me and gravely, with a mysterious air, asked me where I was going. To the chief’s place, I replied; there are a lot of people there, so much the better; but, added the child, what are you going to do there, he is not sick. I am going to see him just as he comes to see me from time to time in Pouébo. Don’t go there, my little well wisher seemed to be saying. He pitied me, he wished to save my life by deterring me from my visit, but at the same time he did not wish to compromise himself in the eyes of the chief and this was why he was not speaking to me frankly. I was seized with fear. I would have turned back if I had dared, but I was being observed by the natives. So I advanced, giving the appearance of a man who was totally calm and well received and entered the first courtyard. I saw no one and there was total silence. I entered the second. To my great astonishment I found more than twenty warriors armed and ready to fight. I asked if I could enter and speak to them; they all said yes. I went and seated myself beside the chief, but no one uttered a word. Why this silence, I asked them, this is not the way you have treated me before, when I have come amongst you. Are you then [?] not [--] with we who have been living here on your land for three years [-- --] for you? Ah! Well! I said, without hesitating further, what did you do to Fr Grange yesterday, what harm has he done to you, that you came to attack him? He has only ever done good for you and you have the ingratitude to gravely offend him [?]. Ah! What is Epikopo going to say when he hears about your behaviour? He will no longer wish to come amongst you, as you are bad; but we will forget everything; make peace and I will not say anything to Epikopo. He will still love you. After these few words and a few more [-- --], they replied to me in various ways to exonerate themselves.
I [--] to say as the result was [-- --] they would make peace and return the stolen goods. After that, they made me fairly welcome and I took leave of them. I took this good news to Fr Grange and it raised his spirits a little, as they were submerged in sadness. Shortly after, I see emerging from the house of the chief, one of the most evil inhabitants of Pouébo, named Pöau. Knowing that I would have to return to Pouébo, he came to offer to accompany me. I would have dearly loved not to have him as a companion, but to send him away would have been impossible and even harmful; so I had to accept. I could not delay my departure any longer. I was very worried about the establishment at Pouébo. After having said goodbye to the Father and made the sacrifice of [--] at the feet [?] of the Holy Altar, I set out again for Pouébo with my unpleasant guide and two other savages who were no better than him. However one thing reassured me, it was my faithful Louis [3] who was watching over me. As [?] my guides were armed with spears and clubs, I made them walk in front of me with Louis behind, but Pöau, under various pretexts, left the place that I had assigned him and almost continually appeared alongside me, brandishing him spears. I was not too reassured by this behaviour; but I was even less so when I learned, on the way, that this guide had received orders from Bouéone to kill me during our journey. From this moment on I had my eye on my executioner and I asked my little catechist to keep watch too. Above all I commended myself to Mary; all my confidence was in this kindly Mother, for I was alone and without arms; I only had my Bible.
To crown my misfortunes, on arriving at the village of the deceased Alexis, I found the entire Pouma [?] tribe to be armed. In following my [-- -- --], I had to pass through this crowd of savage enemies. To go another way would have been to show that I was afraid so the decision was made for me. So I followed my original route, but slowly, like someone who believed he was going to his death. As usual, I put myself in the hands of providence, which had served me so well up until now. Nevertheless, I made a good act of contrition just to be especially sure. Without counting the women and children there were more than three hundred armed savages, ready to fight a pointless battle. On approaching them I was again b[--] [--]ny and addressed a few pleasant words to them to which some of them replied. I was just going to converse with these particular men when suddenly a chief, (Oando) with an air both menacing and [--] shouted these words at me: Get out of here fast; these words made me freeze with fear. I fully understood that they were going to attack me with spears and clubs. I made sure that I did not need to have this advice repeated to me twice; without saying a thing I fled and this time my legs carried me faster than I wished, which also caused me great fear. For, [?] some distance from there, on turning around, I could no longer see my guide. We were now only two, me and my little Louis. We were striding ahead when we saw our guide rushing up [--] at full speed; he called out to me to wait for him; on the contrary I redoubled my pace, but it was useless. He caught up with me, complaining of my lack of trust. Why did you not follow me immediately, I said to him, why did you talk for such a long time with these folk from Baïao who want to harm us? You are friendly with them, so therefore you too are our enemy; no Father, he replied swiftly, they were exhorting me to kill you, but I did not want to, because I love you. This avowal f[--], even though followed by protestations of friendship, did not reassure me very much. It was [--]. We now had only the faintest twilight to light our way in the middle of these vast plains and still there remained at least two miles of our route to cover [?]. I had to admit to a certain anxiety over the critical position in which I found myself. Here is the expedient that I took; pretending to believe in the good faith of my guide, I spoke to him in the most flattering manner that I could; when he seemed to be convinced by my trickery I asked him, as a friend, to find me a few coconuts to give me something to drink; he hesitated a moment, but finally decided to go and do it. During this time I did not remain idle; I ran as far as I was able. Poau arrived with the coconuts, but by then I was out of danger. I could see the house. Everything had been peaceful at the Pouébo settlement during my absence. I made everyone shudder [?] when I related my adventures, and I myself was so astounded afterwards that it seemed to me like a dream.
This individual, Bishop, had behaved in an inexplicable fashion. In my opinion he was, I am sure, the main leader of the attack; on the one hand, it was he who organised all the preparations for the attack; on the other hand it was he too who came each day, in secret, to warn me of the tricks they were going to employ to take us by surprise and at the same time suggested the means for foiling these plots, which I have always employed with good results. Everything that this extraordinary man told me took place exactly to the letter. You should know, Bishop, that this savage is the one who snatched an axe from the hands of Brother Blaise and the same one who made me disarm Brother Jean at Pouébo.
At this time Bishop Collomb and Father Verguet arrived. Their ship was loaded with supplies, both food and personal effects. Not finding there [--] the brig Anonyme, as Mr Marceau had given him to hope and not being able to convince the captain of the ship that was present to [?] [-- --]San Cristobal, he was obliged to [--] unload his cargo and to await [-- -- -- ---- -- -- -- --]. The wonderful provisions for the Bishop, the French Society and for us were unloaded at Baïao, under the eyes, so to speak, of the inhabitants; they plotted together and another theft was committed without fear of being punished. That is not all, as c[--]e [--] they transported by boat to Pouébo all that they had stolen in Baïao; so I saw with my own eyes [--] the people from Baïao spread out our goods in Pouébo and distribute them to the members of this powerful tribe so as to gain favour. We had to endure this [--] without being able to do anything, which was the greatest of all insults. I learned at Pouébo that our establishment at Baïao was going to be attacked and pillaged immediately after the departure of the ship. I informed Fr Grange, who replied that he was not afraid and was keeping guard. The ship departed for Batavia.
On Sunday 17th July everything was very peaceful at Pouébo. It was not the same situation at Baïao, but we were not aware of it. That day, around three o’clock, they set fir to our [--] little church. It was in vain that Fr Grange had written [-- --] help; The young Christian that he had sent to carry me [?] the letter was stopped on the way, so that we were quite [--] while everyone at Baïao was suffering terribly.
The next day, the 18th, we went with Mr Verguet, who had come to visit me several days before, to walk in the mountains around Pouébo. On the surface we were well received everywhere; we were even offered coconuts to drink; but at the summit of the mountain a child who was a catechist, Mouéaou (from Pouébo) heard the savages who were accompanying us saying to each other: Why not kill them here? Immediately the child fled [?] without [?] saying anything to us, so we speedily set off on the shortest route [-- --] also a difficult pass. On arriving at the house, I was told that the brother of Michel wanted to speak to me urgently. He was brought in and there, with tears in his eyes, he told me that Br Blaise and Fr Grange had been wounded with a spear and that the church had been burned down. If he [-- -- -- --] speedily to the aid of the others. The news was [--] the [-- -- --] this devoted young man. We gathered together to decide what could be done in such a situation. The news was so terrible and so unexpected that we could not quite believe it; to go to the aid of the establishment at Baïao, we would have to then [?] abandon entirely the [--]. Would this not expose us to losing them both and to being massacred ourselves [-- --]. Assuming that the savages had been victorious in this [--], I sent two children from the house, Louis and Mouéaou to Baïao to find out from Fr Grange what had happened and what he thought we might be able to do. The two children [-- -- --] the night to bring us news. It was evening, we were all gathered round the table, not really to eat, as we were all suffering from extreme distress, but to ponder on what we should do in the case of misfortune [-- -- --] striking. His head propped up in his hands, Louis [?] [-- --] his advice; the general opinion was that we should abandon the house at Pouébo, hide our most precious things and steal away in the night to go and assist those under siege. This scheme seemed to me reasonably sensible, we were pondering the means of putting it into practice when a cry [--] made us listen carefully. During this moment of silence, [--] outside a fading voice was heard. Please open the door for me quickly. Frozen with fear by the premonition that we had of an accident, we hurried, but what did we see, Good Lord! A lone man with a bloodied arm. It was Br Bertrand, who [--] he [--], was our first question; we were fleeing; where are the others; Br Blaise,badly injured stayed behind; the others [--], I think, but I do not know where they are [-- --], his voice broken, and then he added: Dress my wounds quickly, as I am badly injured and I am going to be very unwell. My heart missed a beat at this gloomy story; a cold sweat bathed my forehead. I do not know what would have happened to me if the Lord had not come to my aid. There are [-- --] some very difficult days in life.
After having remained stunned with distress for a moment, Mr Verguet [-- --] to see if we could not hear someone else arriving. Not seeing or hearing anything, we were desperately anxious; had they [-- --] on the way or were they being pursued, or perhaps they had lost their way or been wounded, were exhausted and could not carry on. There was certainly reason to be thinking thus; as they were taking too long to arrive [-- --] we took the decision to go and look for them. [--] was [--] and [--], the moon was shining at its brightest [--], and we climbed [?] slowly, from time to time we stopped; we seemed to hear a noise, some plaintive cries. But no, it was only our imagination. We continued to walk. [-- --] a gentle lapping of water caught our attention. We looked towards the river and we saw some shadows [--]. It was our poor fugitives. The Bishop was without shoes, Father Grange wore only a nightcap, Dr Baudry was dropping with fatigue. We fell into each other’s arms and we embraced each other at the foot of the cross, renewing our commitment, then we climbed the mountain where our house was situated. After a few moments concentrated on our sufferings, to salve our burdened hearts, I distributed the small amount of [--] that I had to everyone and got them to go up [-- --] into the attic, the only free room that [-- --] for the Bishop, but it was not any better for that. A few [--] attached as a cradle served him as a bed. The others stretched out on some boxes or on the floor. Having had neither sleep nor food for two days, spirits were exhausted. [-- --] bedded down on [--] they slept very soundly.
The next day we were [-- -- --] by the Bishop and everyone was of the opinion that after the events that had taken place at Pouébo, the position there was untenable. [-- --] by the example of the people at Baïao, those at Pouébo would do the same sooner or later. Consequently, they [--] warn [--] and send someone to look for a ship at Hienguéne where we thought that there might be one. Br Auguste and Aumérand [4] offered [?] for this trip. As well, at daybreak I had sent Louis and another child to be [-- --] at Hangaro [?] to ask Grégoire to take his canoe and go to look for Br Blaise and [?] they went there but alas, the poor Brother was no longer in this world. He had been killed the day before; they would have liked to at least recover his remains, but the savages where opposed to this; they wished to keep them as a sign of their [-- --]. The two little Christians, Antoine and Marie [-- --] faithful in these circumstances. They did not wish to take part in the pillaging; they stayed at the side of the Brother while he was still living and after his death they wept for him, then [?] The little one and Etienne [?] dug a pit for him with their [?] own hands and buried him there. Unfortunately the savages, Bouéone the [--] and [--] dug him up to [--] the body.
The three who were sent recounted that, on their arrival, they saw the savages dressed up, some as Bishops, others as priests, with the [-- -- -- --]. Some of those who were more knowledgeable in religion [-- -- -- --] and [-- --] the most sacred things.
Some of the most sacred vessels were returned to us by our Christians. We have very few Christians, but these few have shown themselves worthy of the highest praise. If the mission had not been abandoned in this way, we would have had a large number of Christians and the mission would have perhaps now been flourishing in New Caledonia.
Auguste, returning from Hienguéne, informed us that there was no ship [-- --]. Bouarat, the chief at Hienguéne , knew about the events several days before they happened; he had told and Englishman who lived there, saying to him: In two days time we will see the missionaries from Baïao, who have been driven out, arriving here. He had made the same prophesy, but instead [-- --] to the captain [--] several months ago; the captain had warned us of this danger, but for a very long time we had been aware of this sort of thing, though without any reassurance [?]. We were only at [-- -- --] that Bouarat, rather [?] than being a prophet, had been the instigator of the attack against us. Our [--] had promised him a [?] [-- --] to go and join him; not being able to go because of a lack of people, he wished to [--] by having us pillaged and attacked [--] who ,without any reason, [--] seek refuge in Hienguéne, which [--] agree [?] with this idea. That was exactly the time when I was going to found the establishment at Pouébo. Bouarat paid a visit to the two tribes of Hienguéne and Baïao and it is to be noted that each time that this terrible chief came visiting , he caused trouble with his harmful advice.
I will not talk to you about the Bishop or the other causes of the troubles that have befallen us; they are explained to you in the report that I have had sent to you. [5] I will simply add that the of many [-- -- -- -- --] that we were taboo [-- --] other men in such a way that they [--] us [-- --] for sorcerers. Well, as you know, sorcerers are massacred without pity. The death of Mr Sutton, [6] killed at Hienguéne and of several other Englishmen killed by other tribes, gave the people of Baïao and Pouébo the idea of attacking us. They realised that we were no stronger than them and they tried [?] with [--] success.
We stayed a month at Pouébo after the disaster at Baïao. Every day we saw the natives with our books and clothes in their hands; several were dressed in our [?] clothes. The chief himself, Bariou, had put on a soutane, which I later made myself [--]; others had church ornaments and even some [-- --] under pretext of coming to sell us our own goods. They gathered around our house to seek out the favourable moment to attack us. To save ourselves from the jaws of these wild animals [--] for blood, we had to exercise great vigilance and take unbelievable precautions. Day and night we had to stand guard. Finally we were in a state of siege, when at last, the French corvette, the Brillante, arrived and saved our lives. Without her we were [?] blockaded, not daring to go out and sooner or later these savages would have [?] taken us, either by betrayal or by other means. Bishop Collomb and Dr Baudry especially, did not dare to hope for salvation. They thought that we would perish either at the hands of [--] or from hunger; we had indeed much to fear, not knowing when we would be visited; but God who, high in Heaven, saw our distress did not abandon us. O Providence, a thousand times [--] her that this blessing always remains, thanks [-- --] are not exact [?] where one was made from [--]. Heaven sent us a ship. We have brought some of our belongings with us, but we have left our food supplies and our tools; the sailors were not able to save them, as it was dangerous to bring them aboard. A huge crowd of savages were [?] lying in ambush to attack these men. Eighty men came ashore to rescue [--] and our goods. In spite of this considerable force, a hail of stones and spears rained down on the men. Fortunately again our small children [-- --] made us take a [-- --], for in the [-- --] where we had continued to pass, there were thousands of savages ready to attack us. That is something that would astonish my Lord Bishop. Nevertheless, it is a fact and the rifle shots of the sailors had [--] on them, when [--] saw attack [-- --] not make them withdraw, on the contrary they [--] even more terrible and they did not stop to [--] this [--] up to the river bank. They had a fine battlefield, [--] mangroves which we had to pass through. Hidden in the grass, they [-- -- --] spears. Five men were wounded [--] two fairly seriously but without further consequences [?] nevertheless regrettable.
I forgot to tell you one important thing. After the evacuation from Baïao, our buildings were still standing. Bouéone made them his home. The plan of this miserable soul was to subjugate [?] others [--]. They hoped, because the house could easily be seen, to attract ships [--] them, massacre those who came ashore, then commandeer the ships. So on seeing the Brillante, Bouéone put on a violet soutane to look like a Bishop and the others making up our [-- --] black soutanes; they all carried books in their hands, pretending to recite their breviary whilst strolling to and fro on the terrace. They [--] so as to deceive. Anticipating [--] evil, I [--] send four small boats and [--] a letter to warn the captain of the danger. To avert any mishaps, we resolved to burn down our precious houses so as to thus warn ships that might come because of the trouble at Baïao. But how could we carry out this project? Everyone felt the necessity for the fire, but who should we send; we were not able to go there without the greatest of danger; so we spoke to Louis and to our very devoted children. Louis [-- --] take on [--] this terrible task. On the [-- -- --] of Pouébo [-- --] should go to Michel’s place. They went there in fact and stayed till nightfall. Then they wanted to get on their way, to go and carry out their mission. Michel, seeing only two children available for such a dangerous enterprise, joined them [?] [--] as far as Baïao, but not right up to the house, just up on the mountainside from where they could observe what was happening; seeing and hearing nothing, they [--] little by little and went into the house. Then they all set about their task, one kept watch on the outside, the other [--] of wood; the latter set the fire alight whilst the former kept an eye on everything else to see if [--] up until [?] plenty of [--]. It was a great success. In a very short time the house caught fire in a way that would not be able to be extinguished. Having nothing more to do and being very fearful, the children hurried back to Pouébo by out of the way paths. At about nine o’clock in the evening, as I was strolling in the courtyard at Pouébo, which as you know is more than three leagues away, I saw a red glow in the sky. Soon the luminous cloud [--] so far that the whole countryside was lit up. One could have even said [--] borealis, the four columns of the house [--] lively flames that their [--] splendour and their position were very visible in the clear air. Alas, it was our beloved house that offered us this spectacle. [--] on the one hand my heart ached with pain, to see an establishment which had cost us so much sweat and labour vanish in an instant, in other words our work of three years. That house that you, My Lord, constructed with your own hands kept coming back into my mind to torture me, but I confess to you Bishop, that on the other hand I rejoiced to see the house disappear because it would have been the cause of the deaths of a large number of white men and above all of Mr Marceau who we were expecting very soon. [--] by midnight the flames were no longer visible. The children [--] to Poébo, telling us that no one had seen them. Bouéone, suspecting Michel, went to make war on him, but [--] I was [--] by [--] [--] relative of Michel. Bouéone [-- --] this time the [--]; he made [-- --] with many people [--] affecting many and our poor Michel was obliged to flee [-- --]. All his plantations were destroyed. [-- --] to come and see us aboard the Brillante, before our departure for Sydney, he showed the greatest devotion and the warmest affection for us. He insulted the high chief and [-- -- --] make it clear that Bouéone should no longer be considered a chief after such a crime.
I would have also perhaps been able to set fire to the [--] in Pouébo, so that the white men would not be tricked; but on the one hand I was afraid that the sight of another fire would excite the natives more and more [-- --] us, and that we would be obliged to kill them or be killed ourselves, as we could not set fire there except when no one [--] all ashore; on the other hand, [--] I counted on leaving them the house, which we could take over again later. I hoped this gesture of confidence would win them over and that we could withdraw; they did not leave [?] despite that to attack us. I learned later that the savages were not all united, the [--] large [?] numbers, but [--] nevertheless the majority had pleaded in our favour and had formally rejected the attack.
As, because of this house, there was still some danger for the Europeans, we left several letters with the Christians, with Michel in the tribe at Pouma and with Grégoire in the tribe at Mouélébé, [7], so that they could take them promptly to the captain of the ship. We also begged Mr Dubouzé to spare the life of [--]. [8]. As well, knowing that Mr Marceau should pass by Anatome before arriving in New Caledonia, [--] captain of the Brillante had been kind enough to [--] so as to leave there for us [-- --] a letter with all these warnings [?]. We did not think [?] that he might [--] an accident, or at least if [--] [--] still [?] [--] not [?] our fault. These savages do not hate us, they only want what we have in the way of food supplies and goods; but [--] they know that they cannot have these things except by killing us; they have not retreated in the face of [--]. Now they may fear that the ships that they see in Caledonia come to take revenge for [--] alone and keep the secret of what might happen. My opinion of [--] is that we could return when it seems suitable and that these people would receive us kindly. We [--] find our friends and as well, our enemies, having made some salutary reflections, would be more manageable. I long to return and I hope that the mission will not have lost any ground because of our flight, except in the material sense. Bad as they may be, these savages of New Caledonia, I cannot help loving them, I believe there is good to be done [-- --]; I know that patience, courage and even serious trials will be necessary, but is not the glory of the missionaries in these things? I have certainly suffered somewhat, but these sufferings are not yet [?] as great as I had anticipated. Then there so many blessings, so many consolations in the sufferings that it [?] [--] more in the distance than up close [--]. Be assured, none of us is discouraged. The only thing we long for now is the moment when we can return to the mission. We are determined to return to New Caledonia, not to Ballade, but perhaps to [-- --] part [?] [-- --]; if you send us assistance, we will be able [--] to Pouébo if there is no danger. We do not want to be fearful, but we do want to be prudent. Fr Roudaire has not gone to Valparaiso, as I said in my last letter. His dislike of the English has not diminished much. Fr Grange is not willing to come. Bernard [9] and Auguste [-- --] [--]. Jean is doing well in Sydney, we are quite happy with him; his character has changed a little.
I repeat what I [-- --], only bring things that are indispensable. Other things would only be more detrimental than useful at the beginning [?]. Above all one excellent thing to do would be, if you think it suitable, to arrange with Mr Marziou to transport to Caledonia a blessed gift, that is to say some children who are orphans [-- -- -- --]. I hear that there is a priest in charge of a number of [--] such children who would like to establish [?] them in the islands of Oceania. Which island would be the most suitable [-- --], I [--] and let us know all about it, but [?] [-- --] we have the good fortune to have you in France; no one that [-- --] would be able to do that if the French Society had any life in it, it should [--] them in these circumstances. It is a fine undertaking to carry out for the benefit of these [?] children, who would establish themselves [-- --] on that beautiful island and above all it would favour the mission which has needed [-- --] young people [?] physical strength for a long time. The food shortage that exists in Europe would perhaps make it possible to find several families who [-- --] emigrate, but we fear that you would be restricted, on the other hand, by monetary considerations. Anyhow let us pray frequently, doing all that we can to succeed, then after that, do not pity [?] us any more [--]. There [--] only what the Good Lord wishes.
Finally [?] [--] has made a [--] on you for ten thousand francs for the purchase of the lost cattle, as the ship that was bringing them arrived in Caledonia at the exact time that we were setting sail for Sydney. That was fortunate, for if it had arrived a little later, the crew would have been massacred before setting foot on land.
I did not want to make a draft, but if we return to Caledonia, we will need a bit more money than I had at first thought. We have only twelve thousand francs and we would need at least fifteen to go and establish ourselves, taking only what is strictly necessary, and sufficient to provide us with a dwelling. This would be a house made of sheet metal which we want to take with us to avoid the risk of any fires and [-- -- --] of iron. So we will take


  1. Cf. Tertullien, Apologétique, 50, 13: “Semen est sanguis Christianorum”.
  2. Michel-Victor Marziou, head of the French Society of Oceania in Havre. (cf. Wiltgen, p. 3000, 455).
  3. Louis Tadinan, young Caledonian catechist (cf. doc. 486, § 23-30; 674, § 19; 870, § 11).
  4. Probably: Aumérand, French sailor (cf. doc. 674, § 20).
  5. Doc. 651.
  6. Robert Sutton (cf. doc. 651,§ 1 and n.6).
  7. Téa Mouélébé (Moulede), tribe of the Pouébo region (cf. doc. 674, § 14).
  8. The Marquis Eugène du Bouzet, ship’s captain, captain of the Brillante (cf. doc. 674, § 23-26; also doc.133, § 2,n.2).
  9. Read Bertrand. That is Br Bertrand ( Claude Besselles).
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