It was felt that the cup was full, and men began to prepare secretly for rebellion. The history of the month of August is unknown to whites; it passed altogether in the covert of the woods or in the stealthy councils of Samoans. One ominous sign was to be noted; arms and ammunition began to be purchased or inquired about; and the more wary traders ordered fresh consignments of material of war. But the rest was silence; the government slept in security; and Brandeis was summoned at last from a public dinner, to find rebellion organised, the woods behind Apia full of insurgents, and a plan prepared, and in the very article of execution, to surprise and seize Mulinuu. The timely discovery averted all; and the leaders hastily withdrew towards the south side of the island, leaving in the bush a rear-guard under a young man of the name of Saifaleupolu. According to some accounts, it scarce numbered forty; the leader was no great chief, but a handsome, industrious lad who seems to have been much beloved. And upon this obstacle Brandeis fell. It is the man's fault to be too impatient of results; his public intention to free Samoa of all debt within the year, depicts him; and instead of continuing to temporise and let his enemies weary and disperse, he judged it politic to strike a blow. He struck it, with what seemed to be success, and the sound of it roused Samoa to rebellion.

About two in the morning of August 31st, Apia was wakened by men marching. Day came, and Brandeis and his war-party were already long disappeared in the woods. All morning belated Tamaseseites were still to be seen running with their guns. All morning shots were listened for in vain; but over the top of the forest, far up the mountain, smoke was for some time observed to hang. About ten a dead man was carried in, lashed under a pole like a dead pig, his rosary (for he was a Catholic) hanging nearly to the ground. Next came a young fellow wounded, sitting in a rope swung from a pole; two fellows bearing him, two running behind for a relief. At last about eleven, three or four heavy volleys and a great shouting were heard from the bush town Tanungamanono; the affair was over, the victorious force, on the march back, was there celebrating its victory by the way. Presently after, it marched through Apia, five or six hundred strong, in tolerable order and strutting with the ludicrous assumption of the triumphant islander. Women who had been buying bread ran and gave them loaves. At the tail end came Brandeis himself, smoking a cigar, deadly pale, and with perhaps an increase of his usual nervous manner. One spoke to him by the way. He expressed his sorrow the action had been forced on him. "Poor people, it's all the worse for them!" he said. "It'll have to be done another way now." And it was supposed by his hearer that he referred to intervention from the German war-ships. He meant, he said, to put a stop to head-hunting; his men had taken two that day, he added, but he had not suffered them to bring them in, and they had been left in Tanungamanono. Thither my informant rode, was attracted by the sound of walling, and saw in a house the two heads washed and combed, and the sister of one of the dead lamenting in the island fashion and kissing the cold face. Soon after, a small grave was dug, the heads were buried in a beef box, and the pastor read the service. The body of Saifaleupolu himself was recovered unmutilated, brought down from the forest, and buried behind Apia.

The same afternoon, the men of Vaimaunga were ordered to report in Mulinuu, where Tamasese's flag was half-masted for the death of a chief in the skirmish. Vaimaunga is that district of Taumasanga which includes the bay and the foothills behind Apia; and both province and district are strong Malietoa. Not one man, it is said, obeyed the summons. Night came, and the town lay in unusual silence; no one abroad; the blinds down around the native houses, the men within sleeping on their arms; the old women keeping watch in pairs.

Eight Years of Trouble in Samoa Page 32

Robert Louis Stevenson

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book