By the morrow that was practically ended. For the rape of the awnings had two results: one, which was the fault of de Coetlogon, not at all of Hand, who could not have foreseen it; the other which it was his duty to have seen and prevented. The first was this: the de Coetlogons found themselves left with their wounded exposed to the inclemencies of the season; they must all be transported into the house and verandah; in the distress and pressure of this task, the dinner engagement was too long forgotten; and a note of excuse did not reach the German consulate before the table was set, and Knappe dressed to receive his visitors. The second consequence was inevitable. Captain Hand was scarce landed ere it became public (was "sofort bekannt," writes Knappe) that he and the consul were in opposition. All that had been gained by the demonstration at Laulii was thus immediately cast away; de Coetlogon's prestige was lessened; and it must be said plainly that Hand did less than nothing to restore it. Twice indeed he interfered, both times with success; and once, when his own person had been endangered, with vehemence; but during all the strange doings I have to narrate, he remained in close intimacy with the German consulate, and on one occasion may be said to have acted as its marshal. After the worst is over, after Bismarck has told Knappe that "the protests of his English colleague were grounded," that his own conduct "has not been good," and that in any dispute which may arise he "will find himself in the wrong," Knappe can still plead in his defence that Captain Hand "has always maintained friendly intercourse with the German authorities." Singular epitaph for an English sailor. In this complicity on the part of Hand we may find the reason--and I had almost said, the excuse--of much that was excessive in the bearing of the unfortunate Knappe.

On the 11th December, Mataafa received twenty-eight thousand cartridges, brought into the country in salt-beef kegs by the British ship Richmond. This not only sharpened the animosity between whites; following so closely on the German fizzle at Laulii, it raised a convulsion in the camp of Tamasese. On the 13th Brandeis addressed to Knappe his famous and fatal letter. I may not describe it as a letter of burning words, but it is plainly dictated by a burning heart. Tamasese and his chiefs, he announces, are now sick of the business, and ready to make peace with Mataafa. They began the war relying upon German help; they now see and say that "e faaalo Siamani i Peritania ma America, that Germany is subservient to England and the States." It is grimly given to be understood that the despatch is an ultimatum, and a last chance is being offered for the recreant ally to fulfil her pledge. To make it more plain, the document goes on with a kind of bilious irony: "The two German war-ships now in Samoa are here for the protection of German property alone; and when the Olga shall have arrived" [she arrived on the morrow] "the German war-ships will continue to do against the insurgents precisely as little as they have done heretofore." Plant flags, in fact.

Here was Knappe's opportunity, could he have stooped to seize it. I find it difficult to blame him that he could not. Far from being so inglorious as the treachery once contemplated by Becker, the acceptance of this ultimatum would have been still in the nature of a disgrace. Brandeis's letter, written by a German, was hard to swallow. It would have been hard to accept that solution which Knappe had so recently and so peremptorily refused to his brother consuls. And he was tempted, on the other hand, by recent changes. There was no Pelly to support de Coetlogon, who might now be disregarded. Mullan, Leary's successor, even if he were not precisely a Hand, was at least no Leary; and even if Mullan should show fight, Knappe had now three ships and could defy or sink him without danger. Many small circumstances moved him in the same direction. The looting of German plantations continued; the whole force of Mataafa was to a large extent subsisted from the crops of Vailele; and armed men were to be seen openly plundering bananas, breadfruit, and cocoa-nuts under the walls of the plantation building.

Eight Years of Trouble in Samoa Page 55

Robert Louis Stevenson

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