The tissue of my story is one of rapacity, intrigue, and the triumphs of temper; the hospital at the consulate stands out almost alone as an episode of human beauty, and I dwell on it with satisfaction. But it was not regarded at the time with universal favour; and even to-day its institution is thought by many to have been impolitic. It was opened, it stood open, for the wounded of either party. As a matter of fact it was never used but by the Mataafas, and the Tamaseses were cared for exclusively by German doctors. In the progressive decivilisation of the town, these duties of humanity became thus a ground of quarrel. When the Mataafa hurt were first brought together after the battle of Matautu, and some more or less amateur surgeons were dressing wounds on a green by the wayside, one from the German consulate went by in the road. "Why don't you let the dogs die?" he asked. "Go to hell," was the rejoinder. Such were the amenities of Apia. But Becker reserved for himself the extreme expression of this spirit. On November 7th hostilities began again between the Samoan armies, and an inconclusive skirmish sent a fresh crop of wounded to the de Coetlogons. Next door to the consulate, some native houses and a chapel (now ruinous) stood on a green. Chapel and houses were certainly Samoan, but the ground was under a land-claim of the German firm; and de Coetlogon wrote to Becker requesting permission (in case it should prove necessary) to use these structures for his wounded. Before an answer came, the hospital was startled by the appearance of a case of gangrene, and the patient was hastily removed into the chapel. A rebel laid on German ground--here was an atrocity! The day before his own relief, November 11th, Becker ordered the man's instant removal. By his aggressive carriage and singular mixture of violence and cunning, he had already largely brought about the fall of Brandeis, and forced into an attitude of hostility the whole non-German population of the islands. Now, in his last hour of office, by this wanton buffet to his English colleague, he prepared a continuance of evil days for his successor. If the object of diplomacy be the organisation of failure in the midst of hate, he was a great diplomatist. And amongst a certain party on the beach he is still named as the ideal consul.


When Brandeis and Tamasese fled by night from Mulinuu, they carried their wandering government some six miles to windward, to a position above Lotoanuu. For some three miles to the eastward of Apia, the shores of Upolu are low and the ground rises with a gentle acclivity, much of which waves with German plantations. A barrier reef encloses a lagoon passable for boats: and the traveller skims there, on smooth, many-tinted shallows, between the wall of the breakers on the one hand, and on the other a succession of palm-tree capes and cheerful beach-side villages. Beyond the great plantation of Vailele, the character of the coast is changed. The barrier reef abruptly ceases, the surf beats direct upon the shore; and the mountains and untenanted forest of the interior descend sheer into the sea. The first mountain promontory is Letongo. The bay beyond is called Laulii, and became the headquarters of Mataafa. And on the next projection, on steep, intricate ground, veiled in forest and cut up by gorges and defiles, Tamasese fortified his lines. This greenwood citadel, which proved impregnable by Samoan arms, may be regarded as his front; the sea covered his right; and his rear extended along the coast as far as Saluafata, and thus commanded and drew upon a rich country, including the plain of Falefa.

He was left in peace from 11th October till November 6th. But his adversary is not wholly to be blamed for this delay, which depended upon island etiquette. His Savaii contingent had not yet come in, and to have moved again without waiting for them would have been surely to offend, perhaps to lose them.

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book