Tamasese was now a great man, to have five iron war-ships for his post-runners. But the moment was critical. The revolution had to be explained, the chiefs persuaded to assemble at a fono summoned for the 15th; and the ships carried not only a store of printed documents, but a squad of Tamasese orators upon their round.

Such was the German coup d'etat. They had declared war with a squadron of five ships upon a single man; that man, late king of the group, was in hiding on the mountains; and their own nominee, backed by German guns and bayonets, sat in his stead in Mulinuu.

One of the first acts of Malietoa, on fleeing to the bush, was to send for Mataafa twice: "I am alone in the bush; if you do not come quickly you will find me bound." It is to be understood the men were near kinsmen, and had (if they had nothing else) a common jealousy. At the urgent cry, Mataafa set forth from Falefa, and came to Mulinuu to Tamasese. "What is this that you and the German commodore have decided on doing?" he inquired. "I am going to obey the German consul," replied Tamasese, "whose wish it is that I should be the king and that all Samoa should assemble here." "Do not pursue in wrath against Malietoa," said Mataafa "but try to bring about a compromise, and form a united government." "Very well," said Tamasese, "leave it to me, and I will try." From Mulinuu, Mataafa went on board the Bismarck, and was graciously received. "Probably," said the commodore, "we shall bring about a reconciliation of all Samoa through you"; and then asked his visitor if he bore any affection to Malietoa. "Yes," said Mataafa. "And to Tamasese?" "To him also; and if you desire the weal of Samoa, you will allow either him or me to bring about a reconciliation." "If it were my will," said the commodore, "I would do as you say. But I have no will in the matter. I have instructions from the Kaiser, and I cannot go back again from what I have been sent to do." "I thought you would be commanded," said Mataafa, "if you brought about the weal of Samoa." "I will tell you," said the commodore. "All shall go quietly. But there is one thing that must be done: Malietoa must be deposed. I will do nothing to him beyond; he will only be kept on board for a couple of months and be well treated, just as we Germans did to the French chief [Napoleon III.] some time ago, whom we kept a while and cared for well." Becker was no less explicit: war, he told Sewall, should not cease till the Germans had custody of Malietoa and Tamasese should be recognised.

Meantime, in the Malietoa provinces, a profound impression was received. People trooped to their fugitive sovereign in the bush. Many natives in Apia brought their treasures, and stored them in the houses of white friends. The Tamasese orators were sometimes ill received. Over in Savaii, they found the village of Satupaitea deserted, save for a few lads at cricket. These they harangued, and were rewarded with ironical applause; and the proclamation, as soon as they had departed, was torn down. For this offence the village was ultimately burned by German sailors, in a very decent and orderly style, on the 3rd September. This was the dinner-bell of the fono on the 15th. The threat conveyed in the terms of the summons--"If any government district does not quickly obey this direction, I will make war on that government district"--was thus commented on and reinforced. And the meeting was in consequence well attended by chiefs of all parties. They found themselves unarmed among the armed warriors of Tamasese and the marines of the German squadron, and under the guns of five strong ships. Brandeis rose; it was his first open appearance, the German firm signing its revolutionary work. His words were few and uncompromising: "Great are my thanks that the chiefs and heads of families of the whole of Samoa are assembled here this day. It is strictly forbidden that any discussion should take place as to whether it is good or not that Tamasese is king of Samoa, whether at this fono or at any future fono.

Eight Years of Trouble in Samoa Page 21

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
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