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Utu: A Story of Love, Hate and Revenge

Chapter XIII. Two Naval Officer——L'isle D'or

page 67

Chapter XIII. Two Naval Officer——L'isle D'or

Bon jour, mon cher capitaine55.’

Bon jour, mon ami, Comment rous portes cous deputs que je n'ai cu le plaiser de cous coir?‘56

The speakers, as their language implies, were Frenchmen, Their dress bespoke them naval officers, their tones, indicated a liberal education, and they had met at a Parisian cafe. They were soon earnestly engaged in conversation, the substance of which, to save the reader needless trouble, we give in the following free translation, skipping the introductory portion.

‘I know nothing of his antecedents. Du Fresne. He carries himself well, and appears educated, but what is more to the purpose, he has money, and the uncontrolled use of it. And yet, parbleu! he eraves for more, ever for more. He is a lucky dog, too, if he begins by losing, he always ends by winning. His theory is that one can always win if one sticks at it; but, as I tell him, there's the rub. With some of us poor devils 'tis win early or lose all; and then what is left but a short shrift and a cold plunge. But his purse is never empty, though parbleu! it has been near it once or twice, so he tells me. But he is also a dare-devil, and fears naught: therefore in that also he will suit our purpose. I believe he would enter l'enfer57 itself in search of gold, and he only laughed when I told him the islanders were cannibals. “Pardieu!” he said, “it would be good sport to see men eating men. Make me but sure of this isle d'or58, and you may rely on me.”

‘You have brought him to Paris with you?’

‘He is now at l' Anberge Ruyale, for I half promised you would call and see him.’

‘H—m. I could have wished, D'Arblay, that you had known something of your new friend's people. You see caution is incumbent upon us, not only because our expedition will be full of danger, but because secrecy is indispensable.’

‘But I thought, Du Fresne, that more capital was needed.’

‘You are right, mon ami, and if your friend—how name you him?’

‘D'Estrelles, Conrad d'Estrelles.’

‘If, I say, your friend D'Estrelles prove a suitable person, and willing to hazard his money, we shall welcome him. Only, D'Arblay, page 68 you have not, I hope, led him to suppose the investment would give him any authority. The commands, you know, are already apportioned, and all details arranged. He would accompany us merely as a volunteer, with, of course, an interest proportioned to his stake.’

‘That is all he desires, I believe, Du Fresne. But I suppose there is no reason to doubt the existence of this golden isle. He is a man who might be troublesome if he thought himself misled.’

‘As to that, D'Arblay, we can furnish no proof. All we can do is to place before him our own information. All the world believes that England has discovered a golden island in the South Seas, and the failure of De Surville's59 expedition in no way disproves it, because we all think his affair was mismanaged. The account of the returned seamen I have been so fortunate as to secure shows this. He was ungenerous, impolitic enough to quarrel with the simple savages for a fancied offence, and instead of adopting a policy of conciliation, and making the most of his opportunities, he let his anger ruin his prospects, and there is no doubt his action will increase our difficulties, for the islanders will not readily forget his double dealing, and the remembrance of their ruined homes may render them our implacable foes. I foresee all this, and I assure you, D'Arblay, it increases my anxiety to take out only reliable men, who by kindness and urbanity may wipe out the recollection of our countrymen's deeds. Savages, like children, are only to be won by kind treatment and confidence. It is a great advantage that we have secured those two seamen, for should we unluckily touch at De Surville's landing place, they will be able to put us on our guard, for in that case it will be necessary to be doubly careful; and, moreover, the few native idioms they have picked up will be invaluable to us.’

‘You are right, mon eapitaine. Their turning up just now was a lucky circumstance. But now, what say you to paving D'Estrelles a visit? That would commit you to naught, and you could then form your own opinion as to his fitness.’

‘On that understanding, mon ami, I shall be pleased to make his acquaintance.’

Allous done.’

55 Good day to you, Captain.

[Note added by Vicki Hughes as annotator]

56 Good day, my friend. How have you been since I last had the pleasure of seeing you?

[Note added by Vicki Hughes as annotator]

57 Hell.

[Note added by Vicki Hughes as annotator]

58 Island of gold.

[Note added by Vicki Hughes as annotator]

59 (1717 – 1770) French explorer who had arrived in New Zealand on 17 December 1769, remaining for only fourteen days at Doubtless Bay (Duyker 138).

[Note added by Vicki Hughes as annotator]