Page:Paine--Lost ships and lonely seas.djvu/232

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the planking, and the decks were cracked and blistered by tropical suns. They were like the phantom ships of some old sailor's yarn.

Yet La Pérouse was ready to go on with his quest, nor was there any sign of mutiny among his men. Most of them were hard and brown and healthy, and ready to follow him to other ends of the earth. It was his purpose to depart from Botany Bay and explore the Australian coast and the Friendly Islands, and finally to lay his course to reach Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean, at the end of the year of 1788. This was the last word that came from him to France. Two more years passed, and not a ship had sighted the roving frigates, nor had they been seen in any port. The people of France were proud of La Pérouse and his romantic achievements, and although the unhappy nation was in the throes of revolution, the National Assembly passed a decree which read in part:

That the King be entreated ta give orders to all ambassadors, residents, consuls, and national agents at the courts of foreign powers that they may engage those different sovereigns, in the name of humanity and of the arts and sciences, to charge all navigators and agents whatsoever, their subjects, in whatever place they may be, but especially in the southerly part of the South Sea, to make inquiry after the two French frigates, La Boussole