The impish ingenuity of the commander perceived in it huge possibilities of mischief. He took up the Scanlon outrage, the atrocity of the threatened pigs; and with that poor instrument- -I am sure, to his own wonder--drove Tamasese out of Mulinuu. It was "an intrigue," Becker complains. To be sure it was; but who was Becker to be complaining of intrigue?

On the 7th Leary laid before Fritze the following conundrum: "As the natives of Mulinuu appear to be under the protection of the Imperial German naval guard belonging to the vessel under your command, I have the honour to request you to inform me whether or not they are under such protection? Amicable relations," pursued the humorist, "amicable relations exist between the government of the United States and His Imperial German Majesty's government, but we do not recognise Tamasese's government, and I am desirous of locating the responsibility for violations of American rights." Becker and Fritze lost no time in explanation or denial, but went straight to the root of the matter and sought to buy off Scanlon. Becker declares that every reparation was offered. Scanlon takes a pride to recapitulate the leases and the situations he refused, and the long interviews in which he was tempted and plied with drink by Becker or Beckmann of the firm. No doubt, in short, that he was offered reparation in reason and out of reason, and, being thoroughly primed, refused it all. Meantime some answer must be made to Leary; and Fritze repeated on the 8th his oft-repeated assurances that he was not authorised to deal with politics. The same day Leary retorted: "The question is not one of diplomacy nor of politics. It is strictly one of military jurisdiction and responsibility. Under the shadow of the German fort at Mulinuu," continued the hyperbolical commander, "atrocities have been committed. . . . And I again have the honour respectfully to request to be informed whether or not the armed natives at Mulinuu are under the protection of the Imperial German naval guard belonging to the vessel under your command." To this no answer was vouchsafed till the 11th, and then in the old terms; and meanwhile, on the 10th, Leary got into his gaiters--the sure sign, as was both said and sung aboard his vessel, of some desperate or some amusing service--and was set ashore at the Scanlons' house. Of this he took possession at the head of an old woman and a mop, and was seen from the Tamasese breastwork directing operations and plainly preparing to install himself there in a military posture. So much he meant to be understood; so much he meant to carry out, and an armed party from the Adams was to have garrisoned on the morrow the scene of the atrocity. But there is no doubt he managed to convey more. No doubt he was a master in the art of loose speaking, and could always manage to be overheard when he wanted; and by this, or some other equally unofficial means, he spread the rumour that on the morrow he was to bombard.

The proposed post, from its position, and from Leary's well- established character as an artist in mischief, must have been regarded by the Germans with uneasiness. In the bombardment we can scarce suppose them to have believed. But Tamasese must have both believed and trembled. The prestige of the European Powers was still unbroken. No native would then have dreamed of defying these colossal ships, worked by mysterious powers, and laden with outlandish instruments of death. None would have dreamed of resisting those strange but quite unrealised Great Powers, understood (with difficulty) to be larger than Tonga and Samoa put together, and known to be prolific of prints, knives, hard biscuit, picture-books, and other luxuries, as well as of overbearing men and inconsistent orders. Laupepa had fallen in ill-blood with one of them; his only idea of defence had been to throw himself in the arms of another; his name, his rank, and his great following had not been able to preserve him; and he had vanished from the eyes of men--as the Samoan thinks of it, beyond the sky.

Eight Years of Trouble in Samoa Page 42

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
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