Page images
PDF
EPUB

tJNDEB THE UNION-JACK. 77

their own use; and Mrs Liardet has given them her tin-lined piano-case, which, they have converted into a very good comfortable bath. They have sunk it near the well, and fenced it round, so it answers capitally, and has the merit of being quite a novel use for a piano-case!

All their arrangements are very tidy; and they are a fine, dignified lot—especially the chiefs; and all are so very'nice and respectful, that their presence in and about the house is not half such an inconvenience as you might imagine. Indeed Mrs Liardet and Mrs Bell have grown quite fond of them; and they in their turn delight to play with Mrs L's baby, who is a bright little laughing pet . Indeed they act as a splendid guard, and are always quiet and well-behaved. But some of the poor fellows have terrible coughs, which keep themselves and us awake half the night; and being awake, they do talk a good deal, which diminishes the chance of our falling asleep again.

They are a handsome race, pleasant to the eye, and happily do not, like so many of the Tongan chiefs, affect foreign dress. They either wear fine mats, or else very thick handsome native cloth of bread-fruit or paper-mulberry fibre. Very few wear any covering on the shoulders, so the fine bronzed figures are seen to full advantage; and as I look down from this verandah I see on every 6ide of me such groups as an artist would love to paint. Picturesque men, women, and children, bright sunlight and gay blossoms, rich foliage, and palm-leaves flashing like quicksilver as they wave in the breeze, framing the blue waters of the harbour, where the foreign ships lie anchored.

But all these poor people do look so sad, and no wonder; for even if their lives are saved, all their property is lost, and many of these were the wealthy nobles of the land. Some people here say that they might now safely return to their usual life; but others, equally old inhabitants, and equally well informed, say they are in as great danger as ever. It seems just touch-and-go whether a few days will see the renewal of a very bloody war, or whether all will agree to an unconditional cession to England. There is a strong impression that if Sir Arthur Gordon were to arrive here now, the 'latter would be certain; and that it is the only possible panacea for poor Samoa's wounds.

Within a stone's-throw of this house lie the grounds of the French convent, where four nice ladylike French Sisters, and two Samoan Sisters, devote themselves to the care of about sixty native girls—bright, pleasant-looking lassies. The native Sisters appear to be thoughtful and devout women. There is an atmosphere of peace and calm within the convent grounds strangely in contrast with all the disquiet which prevails outside. Life here is quite Dr Watts's ideal—

"In books, and work, and healthful play,
Let my first years be passed."

I can answer for the joyousness of the merry games that wero played beneath the cool green shade of banana and bread-fruit trees, and also for the excellent work done in graver moments. Very pleasant, too, are the sweet young voices, trained in their singing by one of the Sisters, who is herself an admirable musician and a good vocalist. They were all greatly interested in hearing news of the Sisters at Tonga, which I was happily able to give them. Great is the delight of every one here at the return of the bishop, to whom all who desire peace seem to look with trust.

Do you remember my telling you, when the Samoan chiefs came to Fiji to consult Sir A. Gordon, that they brought with them two pretty, high-caste girls, Faioo and Umoo, with whom we made great friends? I found them both here, and they seemed overjoyed on recognising me. They are both girls of good (Samoan) character, and daughters of high chiefs. Their fathers, who are in the victorious government party, likewise recognised and cordially welcomed me.

A considerable number of the bright merry girls at the good Sisters' school are half-castes—the children of Samoan mothers by French, English, or German fathers. Amongst these, two gentle, modest-looking lassies were pointed out to me as the daughters of the notorious "Bully " Hayes, of whose piratical exploits I have heard many a highly seasoned yarn from the older residents in "BULLY" HAYES. 79

Fiji, where he occasionally appeared, as he did in all the other groups, as a very erratic comet, coming, and especially vanishing, when least expected, each time in a different ship, of which by some means he had contrived to get possession; always engaged in successful trade with stolen goods; ever bland and winning in manner, dressed like a gentleman, decidedly handsome, with long silky brown beard; with a temper rarely ruffled, but with an iron will, for a more thoroughgoing scoundrel never sailed the seas. The friend who trusted to his courteous promises was his certain victim. If he was in the way, he was as likely as not to have his throat cut, or to be turned adrift on a desert isle. If owner of the vessel, he was probably landed to make arrangements for the sale of his cargo, while Bully Hayes was already on his way to some distant port to sell the said cargo for his own benefit, and then trade with the ship, till it became inconvenient to hold her, when she was deliberately scuttled.

It is about twenty years since this notorious pirate first made his appearance in the Pacific, when for some reason he was landed on the Sandwich Isles, apparently against his will. He was then accompanied by Mrs Hayes, the mother of these two girls, who now lives at Apia in respected solitude. For many years her lord has cheered his voyages with companions from all manner of isles, whom he has contrived to dispose of so soon as metal more attractive presented itself.

At last this inhuman miscreant has met his doom. Only a few days ago a vessel came into port bringing the news of his death. As he was entering his cabin he was knocked on the head with a marline-spike by his mate, who had suffered brutal ill-treatment at his hands, and so, determined on revenge. I doubt if even one woman was found to mourn him. It was a meet ending to such a career.

A messenger has just run here in hot haste to tell me that a ship is in the act of sailing, and will take this, letter. This morning we asked in vain if there were any chance of a mail, and were assured that there was none. I can barely catch this—so good-bye.

Sam* Evening.

Truly those whites of Samoa are aggravating Ishmaelites—all striving to outwit one another, without one thought for the common weal . Ever since we anchored here we have been trying to learn whether any vessels were about to leave the harbour, and this very day we sent an express to the German consul, who replied that he believed it would be three weeks before a vessel sailed. But it seems that he represents Godeffroy's house, whereas this ship belongs to Hedeman & Rouget; and all these firms are so jealous of one another, and so afraid of being asked to carry letters that their ships all try to sneak out of harbour without giving notice to the postal authorities.

Dr Turner heard of this chance by the merest accident, through a grateful patient, and sent me word immediately, but being at th9 other end of a long beach, the information reached me just too late. Now weeks may elapse before there is another chance.

Just now I mentioned the house of Godeffroy of Hamburg.1 This place is the headquarters of that great firm, which absorbs the principal trade of the Pacific . There is "neither speech nor language " where the name of this omnivorous firm is not heard. At Cochin-China in the north-west, Valparaiso in the south-east, and Samoa midway, they have established centres, from which their emissaries radiate in every direction, and their vast fleet of trading vessels are for ever on the alert to enlarge the field of their operations. They are the Graballs of this side of the world. Hearing of the profitable trade carried on here by Messrs Brander & Hort of Tahiti, they decided to follow in their footsteps, and ere long succeeded in effectually supplanting them.

This was partly effected by artfully fostering the intertribal disputes, which were ever smouldering among the Samoans, and then liberally supplying the combatants with arms and ammunition from their own arsenal at Liege (Belgium). For these useful imports they accepted, payment in broad tracts of the most fertile

1 Shortly after the above was written, the Pacific was electrified by the sudden collapse of this huge mercantile house, which failed for the modest sum of one million sterling.

THE HOUSE OF GODEFFROY. 81

lands in Samoa, whore they now own ahout 25,000 acres of the finest alluvial soil and richest forest, all intersected by streams and rivers, acquired at a cost of about three shillings an acre! On this land they are establishing large plantations, upwards of 4000 acres being devoted to cotton. To work these they employ about 1000 "foreign labour," imported from the multitudinous groups with which their vessels trade.

Here, at Apia, they own a first-class harbour, and have established a regular shipbuilding-yard, wherein to refit old vessels and build new ones. And in many a remote isle, in various parts of the Pacific, they have acquired lands and harbours, to secure central points of operation. In the Ellis group they have bought the isle of Nukufetau, on account of its excellent harbour; and (passing onwards towards their original establishment at Cochin) they have secured 3000 acres on the isle of Yap, in the Pelew group, to the west of the Caroline Isles. I believe there is not one group in the Central Pacific where they have not established trading relations. They are said to have agents resident on every isle where there is any possibility of gain, and where the natives will tolerate the presence of a white man. Naturally the majority of these are by no means men calculated to improve the people; in many cases they are taken from the riff-raff, who in past years have sought in the isles an asylum from civilised laws, and by long residence have acquired a thorough knowledge of the habits and language of the natives. These men receive no salary. They are simply provided with the materials to build a solid house, and a supply of whatever trade is likely to prove acceptable to the people as barter, and are expected to accumulate an equivalent in produce within a reasonable period. No awkward questions as to character are asked. The sine qud non is a knowledge of the language, a power of discreet silence, and a capability of not quarrelling with the natives. To further the latter requirement, their employers stipulate that every agent of theirs shall have his own "establishment," no matter from what isle he may import his companion. But they resolutely refuse to sanction the legal marriage of any German subject with a native woman.

F

« PreviousContinue »