Page:Paine--Lost ships and lonely seas.djvu/243

This page needs to be proofread.
205
FRIGATES THAT VANISHED

the sea. Alas! no aged Frenchmen came down to the beach to greet them, nor could any living survivor be found. Almost forty years had gone since they were cast away, and the last of them had slipped his moorings, with a farewell sigh and a prayer for France. When Captain Dillon's party went ashore in a flotilla of armed boats, all the chief men of the island were assembled in the council-hall, and the most venerable and influential of them delivered himself of a long oration, the facts of which differed somewhat from the story as the natives of Tucopia had retold it to Martin Bushart and the Lascar. It is probable, however, that the patriarchal chief, speaking at first hand, told the truth when he said to Captain Dillon:

 
A long time ago the people of this island, upon coming out one morning, saw part of a ship on the reef opposite Paiow where it held together until the middle of the day when it was broken by the sea and fell to pieces so that large parts of it floated on shore along the coast. The ship got on the reef in the night when it blew a tremendous hurricane which broke down great numbers of our fruit trees. We had not seen the ship there the day before. Of those saved from her four men were on the beach at this place; whom we were about to kill, supposing them to be evil spirits, when they made a present to our chief of something and he saved their lives. These men lived with us for a short time and then joined the rest of their own people on the other island of Paiow.