« PreviousContinue »
THE ISHMAELITES OP THE PACIFIC—INJUDICIOUS INTERVENTION FA-SAMOA PICNIC—A TORCH-LIGHT WALK TRAINING-COLLEGE AT MALUA—APT ILLUSTRATIONS BY NATIVE PREACHERS —DR TURNER—MISSION TO THE NEW HEBRIDES—ESCAPE TO SAMOA—OF MANY CHANGES ON MANY ISLES.
British Consulate, Thunday Night, 21th September.
I Was roused at early dawn by a French sailor appearing at my open door. (All rooms in these countries open on to the verandah.) He brought despatches, which he begged I would immediately translate for the vice-consul. A most senseless row has taken place, and all the inhabitants are in as great a turmoil as wasps whose nest has been disturbed.
It appears that the American consul, though personally mixed up in many questionable transactions here, has contrived effectually to bewilder the mind of the too sympathetic and kind captain of the Seignelay, with the story of his woes, and of the THE BEGINNING OF SORKOW. 151
i]l-treatment and insults to which he has been subjected. So last night he went on board to solicit armed assistance to enable him to capture several refractory American subjects,who refused to acknowledge his authority.
Without a thought of possible consequences, and acting on the kind impulse of giving the required help to an unfortunate official, Captain Aube agreed to lend Mr Griffin the necessary force. A considerable body of armed men were accordingly landed at 10 P.m., and were led by the U.S. consul to Stewart's store, whence Captain Wright had just departed. Stewart's agents wrote a protest against such proceedings, then walked out of the house, locking it, and pocketing the key, leaving only a sick man inside. They affirmed that Wright was not in the house, but added that if a warrant were obtained from the British consulate, the U.S. consul might search to his heart's content. Ignoring all remonstrance, the search-party broke open the house, and sought in vain for the bird who had flown.
Meanwhile another boat-load had gone in the opposite direction to search for more delinquents, none of whom were captured. And a third party came to demand the surrender of the house next to this one, which the bishop claims as Church property, though Stewart's agent has thought fit there also to hoist the British flag. This demonstration also proved futile, as the said agent, Mr Hunt, presented a firm front, and refused to quit the premises. The whole thing has been a sort of Don Quixote and the windmills business, resulting in nothing but stirring up much bad blood. Of course immense excitement prevails in consequence of this insult offered to a house flying the Union-jack. (Poor Union-jack! it is made to sanction some very shady doings in these far corners of the earth.) The Franco-Griffin party allege that the house is American property, and that the unjustifiable proceeding was that of breaking open the U.S, consular seals and hauling down the Stars and Stripes!
At the best, it is a low, contemptible row; and I am dreadfully sorry (as are all the French officers) that their kind captain's Quixotic kindness should have drawn him into it. But it is more difficult to arrive at the truth here than in any other place I know of. It seems as if every one's chief occupation in life was to rake up stories, old and new, asainst his neighbour; and these are swallowed and made much of, without any allowance for the fact that they are retailed by vicious foes. Some of the poison-mongers in this poor settlement were well-known characters in Fiji, and only left it when, after annexation, it became too warm for their comfort. I have vainly tried to impress some of my friends with a due estimate of these men's antece
dents, but to no purpose; and I hear their words quoted as gospel.
So great was the hubbub and perturbation from one end of " the beach " to the other, that our proposed picnic was very near being given up. However, wiser counsels prevailed, and angry feelings were smoothed over the more readily, as none of the principals were present. The party consisted of about a dozen ladies, and half as many French officers. Three of the sisters (Soeur Marie, Scour St Hilaire, and Soeur Sept Martyrs) brought their little family of about sixty Samoan girls, who executed dances fox our amusement as we sat on the pleasant turf at the spot selected for luncheon—a grassy lawn embowered in golden alamanders and scarlet hybiscus, and other bright blossoms, which soon adorned the tawny heads of the scholars. The dances were monotonous and ungraceful, as usual here, degenerating into hideous grimaces. They have none of the attraction of the beautiful Fijian dances. Nor have these damsels such pretty manners as the maidens in the Fijian schools. The little Doctor was considerably astonished (though he bore the shock philosophically) when a forward young woman danced up to him, and snatching off his hat, transferred it to her own well cocoa-nut-oiled head, while another patted his face with both hands, amid applausive laughter from her companions. But these were, happily, exceptional; and many of the girls appeared gentle and modest, and several were very pretty, with lithe figures and splendid eyes. But they all have beautiful dark-brown eyes.
A great feed, Fa-Samoa, was next spread on the grass, on layers of fresh green banana-leaves. There were roast sucking-pigs, and pigeons stewed in taro leaves, or else baked on hot stones in earth ovens; cray-fish, and prawns, and divers kinds of fish; pineapples, bananas, and oranges; salad of cocoa-palm, like most delicious celery; bread-fruit prepared in various ways—boiled, baked, and roast in woodashes; wonderful native puddings, made of ripe plantains, taro, bread-fruit, and other materials, each beat up fine, and baked separately, then all worked together with the creamy juice extracted from ripe cocoa-nut, which, when heated, turns to oil, and is so exceedingly rich that few people can eat much of it. However, it is really very good—at least some preparations are. The puddings are so very oily that each portion is tied up separately in a strip of silky young banana-leaf, heated over the fire to make it oil-proof.
In addition to these Samoan dainties, every lady had sent a contribution of pastry, salad, or other good things; and the excellent chef of the Seignelay had done his part admirably, as usual. Nor