The whites expostulated in vain. The warriors, drunken with noise, made answer by a fresh general discharge and bade their visitors run while it was time. Upon their return to headquarters, men were covering the front with sheets of coral limestone, two balls having passed through the house in the interval. Mataafa sat within, over his kava bowl, unmoved. The picture is of a piece throughout: excellent courage, super-excellent folly, a war of school-children; expensive guns and cartridges used like squibs or catherine-wheels on Guy Fawkes's Day.

On the 20th Mataafa changed his attack. Tamasese's front was seemingly impregnable. Something must be tried upon his rear. There was his bread-basket; a small success in that direction would immediately curtail his resources; and it might be possible with energy to roll up his line along the beach and take the citadel in reverse. The scheme was carried out as might be expected from these childish soldiers. Mataafa, always uneasy about Apia, clung with a portion of his force to Laulii; and thus, had the foe been enterprising, exposed himself to disaster. The expedition fell successfully enough on Saluafata and drove out the Tamaseses with a loss of four heads; but so far from improving the advantage, yielded immediately to the weakness of the Samoan warrior, and ranged farther east through unarmed populations, bursting with shouts and blackened faces into villages terrified or admiring, making spoil of pigs, burning houses, and destroying gardens. The Tamasese had at first evacuated several beach towns in succession, and were still in retreat on Lotoanuu; finding themselves unpursued, they reoccupied them one after another, and re- established their lines to the very borders of Saluafata. Night fell; Mataafa had taken Saluafata, Tamasese had lost it; and that was all. But the day came near to have a different and very singular issue. The village was not long in the hands of the Mataafas, when a schooner, flying German colours, put into the bay and was immediately surrounded by their boats. It chanced that Brandeis was on board. Word of it had gone abroad, and the boats as they approached demanded him with threats. The late premier, alone, entirely unarmed, and a prey to natural and painful feelings, concealed himself below. The captain of the schooner remained on deck, pointed to the German colours, and defied approaching boats. Again the prestige of a great Power triumphed; the Samoans fell back before the bunting; the schooner worked out of the bay; Brandeis escaped. He himself apprehended the worst if he fell into Samoan hands; it is my diffident impression that his life would have been safe.

On the 22nd, a new German war-ship, the Eber, of tragic memory, came to Apia from the Gilberts, where she had been disarming turbulent islands. The rest of that day and all night she loaded stores from the firm, and on the morrow reached Saluafata bay. Thanks to the misconduct of the Mataafas, the most of the foreshore was still in the hands of the Tamaseses; and they were thus able to receive from the Eber both the stores and weapons. The weapons had been sold long since to Tarawa, Apaiang, and Pleasant Island; places unheard of by the general reader, where obscure inhabitants paid for these instruments of death in money or in labour, misused them as it was known they would be misused, and had been disarmed by force. The Eber had brought back the guns to a German counter, whence many must have been originally sold; and was here engaged, like a shopboy, in their distribution to fresh purchasers. Such is the vicious circle of the traffic in weapons of war. Another aid of a more metaphysical nature was ministered by the Eber to Tamasese, in the shape of uncountable German flags. The full history of this epidemic of bunting falls to be told in the next chapter. But the fact has to be chronicled here, for I believe it was to these flags that we owe the visit of the Adams, and my next and best authentic glance into a native camp.

Eight Years of Trouble in Samoa Page 50

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
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