As a first chapter in the history of Polynesian Confederation, it was hardly cheering, and Laupepa remarked to one of the embassy, with equal dignity and sense: "If you have come here to teach my people to drink, I wish you had stayed away."

The Germans looked on from the first with natural irritation that a power of the powerlessness of Hawaii should thus profit by its undeniable footing in the family of nations, and send embassies, and make believe to have a navy, and bark and snap at the heels of the great German Empire. But Becker could not prevent the hunted Laupepa from taking refuge in any hole that offered, and he could afford to smile at the fantastic orgie in the embassy. It was another matter when the Hawaiians approached the intractable Mataafa, sitting still in his Atua government like Achilles in his tent, helping neither side, and (as the Germans suspected) keeping the eggs warm for himself. When the Kaimiloa steamed out of Apia on this visit, the German war-ship Adler followed at her heels; and Mataafa was no sooner set down with the embassy than he was summoned and ordered on board by two German officers. The step is one of those triumphs of temper which can only be admired. Mataafa is entertaining the plenipotentiary of a sovereign power in treaty with his own king, and the captain of a German corvette orders him to quit his guests.

But there was worse to come. I gather that Tamasese was at the time in the sulks. He had doubtless been promised prompt aid and a prompt success; he had seen himself surreptitiously helped, privately ordered about, and publicly disowned; and he was still the king of nothing more than his own province, and already the second in command of Captain Brandeis. With the adhesion of some part of his native cabinet, and behind the back of his white minister, he found means to communicate with the Hawaiians. A passage on the Kaimiloa, a pension, and a home in Honolulu were the bribes proposed; and he seems to have been tempted. A day was set for a secret interview. Poor, the Hawaiian secretary, and J. D. Strong, an American painter attached to the embassy in the surprising quality of "Government Artist," landed with a Samoan boat's-crew in Aana; and while the secretary hid himself, according to agreement, in the outlying home of an English settler, the artist (ostensibly bent on photography) entered the headquarters of the rebel king. It was a great day in Leulumoenga; three hundred recruits had come in, a feast was cooking; and the photographer, in view of the native love of being photographed, was made entirely welcome. But beneath the friendly surface all were on the alert. The secret had leaked out: Weber beheld his plans threatened in the root; Brandeis trembled for the possession of his slave and sovereign; and the German vice-consul, Mr. Sonnenschein, had been sent or summoned to the scene of danger.

It was after dark, prayers had been said and the hymns sung through all the village, and Strong and the German sat together on the mats in the house of Tamasese, when the events began. Strong speaks German freely, a fact which he had not disclosed, and he was scarce more amused than embarrassed to be able to follow all the evening the dissension and the changing counsels of his neighbours. First the king himself was missing, and there was a false alarm that he had escaped and was already closeted with Poor. Next came certain intelligence that some of the ministry had run the blockade, and were on their way to the house of the English settler. Thereupon, in spite of some protests from Tamasese, who tried to defend the independence of his cabinet, Brandeis gathered a posse of warriors, marched out of the village, brought back the fugitives, and clapped them in the corrugated iron shanty which served as gaol. Along with these he seems to have seized Billy Coe, interpreter to the Hawaiians; and Poor, seeing his conspiracy public, burst with his boat's-crew into the town, made his way to the house of the native prime minister, and demanded Coe's release.

Eight Years of Trouble in Samoa Page 18

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
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