STORIES OF THE SOUTH SEAS
AUTHOR OF "BABY BULLET"
D. APPLETON AND COMPANY NEW YORK :: MCMXXI
COPYRIGHT, 1906, 1921, BY D. APPLETON AND COMPANY
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Deep in every heart there seems to be a longing for a more primitive existence; and though in practice it is often an illusion, the South Seas lend themselves better to such dreams than any other part of the world. There are fewer races more attractive than the Polynesians. Frank, winning, gay and extraordinarily well-mannered, the higher types are often remarkably good-looking, and scarcely darker than Southern Europeans. Some aspects of their life are truly poetic. Half naked, with flowers in their hair, and just sufficient work to keep them in superb physical condition, they have an almost unlimited leisure to share with the wayfarer in their midst. And dirt, that greatest of all human barriers, is nonexistent. No people are cleaner; none have so intense a personal self-respect. One wonders sometimes whether it is not the white man who is the savage, and these in some ways his superiors.
I went to the Pacific when I was a boy of twenty, remaining there till I was twenty-eight. For two years I sailed in various ships, visiting not only all the principal groups, but stopping at many a lost little paradise like Manihiki, Nieue or Gente Hermosa, which lie so lonely and apart that the rare stranger is greeted with open arms. Then, settled in Samoa, I learned the language as only the very young can learn it, and incidentally had a small part in the civil wars of that period. I was brought into intimate contact with many powerful chiefs, and became so wholly a Samoan that I once barely escaped assassination. I certainly have some claim to know South Sea life from the inside—from the native's side—and this must be my excuse for the present volume.
That my stories should deal so often with the loves of white men and brown women is inevitable. The white man and the brown girl—that is the oldest story in the South Seas and the newest. The children of the sun are very easy-going; their standards are not our standards; they live for the moment, and love as lightly. It is often the white man who suffers, and not the maid with the sparkling eyes and radiant smile. He may take regrets away with him; perhaps one of those inner wounds that never heal, while she marries a native missionary and lives happily ever afterwards. Polynesians always live happily ever afterwards, no matter what happens.
Yet do not think I am disparaging them. They probably have as much to teach us as we them. Courtesy, kindliness, good humor, a charming acceptance of life, and if the need comes for it an intrepid courage, all these, and more, are theirs. As I see the faces of my old friends through the mist I feel an undying affection for them. I shared their lives, their secrets, their happy days and their tragic days "in the diamond morning of long ago." I was the confidant in many a runaway match; was the writer of war epistles that the bearer was directed to eat if pursuit grew too hot; I had a little domain of my own where my word was law—an "out-island" village, living in a perpetual feud with its neighbors. Was this really myself—this tall youth in the whale-tooth necklace and girded tappa marching with his brother chiefs in stately procession? Incredible—yet it was. Was it I whose hand was kissed by this stalwart warrior whom I see flinging himself from his horse and running towards me with the sun glinting on his cartridge-belt? Incredible—yet it was. Was it really I, at the helm of that boat, the leader of twenty young men who were to play cricket by day and dance by night, halfway round Upolu? Incredible—yet it was.
"Ina o mulumuluina o'u vae i le suasusu; na faapunaia mai foi e le papa tafe suauu mo a'u."
My publishers have been encouraged to reissue the present volume, enlarged by the addition of several new tales. Whatever their demerits may be, my stories are at least true to a picturesque and little known life that is fast passing away.
THE RENEGADE 1
THE SECURITY OF THE HIGH SEAS 55
FORTY YEARS BETWEEN 86
O'S HEAD 113
PROFESSOR NO NO 142
CAPTAIN ELIJAH COE 162
MR. BOB 192
OLD DIBS 216
THE LABOR CAPTAIN 274
A SON OF EMPIRE 297
CLOUD OF BUTTERFLIES 316
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
"'Jack,' she said suddenly, 'you come along with us'" Frontispiece
"In an instant she was tumbling backward" 52
"Jack leaped to his feet, white and speechless" 98
"'This is a black business, Silver Tongue,' I said" 118
It was two o'clock in the afternoon, and from her uneasy anchorage in the pass the German man-of-war struck the time, four bells. Overhead the sun shone fiercely through a mist of fire; below, the bay gave back a dancing glare; on the outer reef the long breakers foamed and tumbled, white as far as the eye could reach. From his perch beneath the bows of the Northern Light a sailor, paint brush in hand, was slowly wearing out the day—a brown-bearded, straight-nosed, handsome man of thirty, his red shirt open to the waist, his bare arms stained with the drippings of his brush. Astride of his plank, which hung suspended in midair by a block and tackle at either end, the seaman faced the task that seemed to have no end. For a week he had been at it, patch by patch, working his way round the bark, while the bells had struck on the man-of-war and the sun had risen and set.
As he swept his brush across the blistered wall in front of him, he wondered moodily whether fate had nothing more in store for him than this. Was he to finish as he had begun, a common sailor, doing forever what others bade him?—painting other people's ships, pulling other people's ropes, clinging at night on other people's yards to take in other people's sails, facing tempests and squalls, reefs, lee shores, and all the vicissitudes of the deep—for others! He laid down the brush beside him, and in a somber reverie looked toward Apia. His eyes scarcely took in the bigger buildings that were dotted here and there round the circumference of the beach: the stone cathedral, the great yellow warehouses of the Firm, the two hotels, the consulates, churches, and stores. What attracted him, what held him in a sort of spell, were the lesser roofs showing through the green of trees and gardens, the tiny cottages on the outskirts of the town, or others still farther back, scattered and solitary on the wooded hills. Was he, then, never to possess a house of his own nor a yard of earth? Was the sea, the accursed sea, to claim him till he died? What had he done, he asked himself, that others drew all the prizes and left him but the blanks—that they should stay ashore and prosper—that they should marry and have children round them, while he drudged at sea alone? Those traders, clerks, saloon-keepers, those mechanics, carpenters, shipwrights, smiths, and stevedores, how he envied them! envied their houses, their wives, their children, their gardens, their soft and comfortable lives, everything that made them so different from himself; he, the outcast, with no home but his musty bunk; they, the poorest, kings beside him.
It was the sea, he said to himself—the sea, that took all and gave nothing; the sea, mother of all injustice and misery; the sea, whose service was to tie oneself to the devil's tail and whisk forever about the world, sweating in doldrums, freezing in snow squalls, hanging on to lashing yards, blinded, soaked, benumbed, the gale above, death below. And yet even here there were some, no better indeed than he, who grasped the meager prizes that even the sea itself could not withhold; prizes that he could never hope to touch—the command of ships, the right to tread the quarter-deck, the handle to one's name. How did they do it, these favored ones of fortune? How did Hansen, that stinking Dutchman, ever rise to be the master of the Northern Light?—and that swine Bates, the mate, who already had the promise of a ship?—and Knight, the second mate, a boy but twenty-two, yet whose foot was even now on the upward ladder.
"Jack Wilson," said the sailor to himself, "Jack Wilson, you're a fool!"
Having several times delivered himself of this sentiment, always with an increasing heartiness of self-contempt, he slapped on some more paint and began to whistle. But the whistle died away again, for a little house was peeping through the trees at him, and he remembered how he had seen it from the road, embowered in flowers, with the river flowing at its foot, a cool, snug, inviting little house, with green blinds, a pigeon cote, and a flight of steps descending to the bathing pool. How happy, no doubt, that fellar that owned it—a fellar with a regular job; a wife, maybe, and kids to swing in that there contraption under the mango; a fellar, as like as not, no better than himself; and yet——!
"Jack," he said huskily to himself, "how the hell have you missed it all?"
"Women and drink," came the answer. "Women and drink, Jack, my boy."
In the course of his long and wandering life how often had he been paid off; how often had he felt his pockets heavy with the gold so arduously toiled for; how often had he vowed to himself that this time he would keep it! And had he kept it? Never!
There had been windfalls, too; money that had come easily; double handfuls of money that he had tossed in the air like a child, to see it glitter. Sixteen hundred dollars from a lucky whaling cruise; seven hundred dollars, his share for salvaging the derelict steamer Shore Ditch; sixty-six pounds eight and fourpence that the passengers had raised for him when he saved the girl at Durban—that, and a gold medal, and a fancy certificate with the British and American flags intertwined. That medal! It had gone for a round of drinks and five dollars for a wench. And the fancy certificate! Thunder! he had left it on the Huascar when he had taken leg-bail of the Chilanean navy.
"Women and drink, Jack Wilson!"
That's where it has gone, every dollar of it. To the sharks and bloodsuckers of seaport towns; to the tawdry sisterhood that spun their nets for Jack ashore; to those women that wheedled the seaman's last cent, and laughed to see him starving in the streets. It was for these he worked, then! It was for these he was even this minute painting the bloody bark; for rumsellers and harlots! He repeated the words to himself as he looked at his torn nails and blackened hands. For these—by God, for these! He felt within himself the welling of a great resolution, of a great revolt. He would reform. He would save his money. He would live straight. When they were paid off at Portland there should be two hundred dollars coming to him—two hundred dollars, more or less. He would put it in the bank, and get a shakedown in one of them model lodging houses. He would turn in at night with "Jesus, lover of my soul" in worsted work above his blessed head, and in the morning he would plank down his fifteen cents and begin the day with gospel tea. He would be a man! Yes, sirree, a man! Not a hog!
Then in his mind's eye he saw himself rolling down the street, a girl on either arm, the gaslights dancing in his tipsy head. He would meet a shipmate and drop in somewhere for a drink; another shipmate and another drink; and then, the party growing as it went, a general adjournment to one of them hurdy-gurdies. Here they would dance and drink and sing and whoop it up like hell, till—till—Yes, that's what would happen. That's what always happened. Them good resolutions always ended that way—in smoke. He had made them, man and boy, these fourteen years. He would make them, he supposed, until the day he died. And keep them? No; he was a hog; he would go on like a hog; he would die a hog—a durned, low, dirty, contemptible hog!
He spat in the water to emphasize his self-disgust, cursed the infernal sun, and then, dipping into the pot again, continued his job.
Turning round to rest his arms, he perceived, beneath the deep shade of the Matautu shore, the first sign of animation in that sleepy settlement. A crowd of natives were straggling out to a whaleboat that was apparently being made ready for sea. Men and girls were wading to it, with baskets of food, kegs of beef, a tin of biscuit, and a capacious chest. A couple of children bailed frantically in the stern sheets, while a shrill old woman slid over the gunwale with a live pig in her arms. Strange packages of tapa cloth were carried out; bundles of mats, paddles, guns, a tin of kerosene, a huge stone for an anchor, a water demijohn, more pigs, a baby, and a parrakeet in a bamboo cage. These were all thrown in, and stored with noisy good-humor and a dozen different readjustments. The baby, in turn, was given the bow, the stern, the center, as though nothing would satisfy it. A pig broke loose and was hilariously recaptured. A dejected, thin person, somewhat past middle years, in what seemed no costume but his native skin, retired shoreward with the parrakeet. An old chief, his head white with lime, after a prolonged nose-rubbing with those on shore, marched out to the boat, carrying an umbrella above his stately head. There were more farewells in shallow water, more running to and fro; a brief reappearance of the undecided parrakeet. The young men took their places at the thwarts, the old chief settled the tiller on the rudder head, the women, girls, and children crowded in wherever they could, and then, amid shouts and cheers, the paddles dipped and the boat moved slowly seaward.
Wilson watched it all with sullen envy. How was it that these brown savages were free, and he barnacled to a slab-sided bark? Was he not a white man, and their superior? Did he not look down at them from the heights of the world's ruling race, kindly, tolerantly, contemptuously, as one does on children? And yet who had the best of it, by God? Listen to the dip of the paddles; hear the mellow chorus that times the rowers' strokes; not a care on board, not a face that was not smiling! His white superiority! They might have it! His lonely and toiling life! What fool among them would exchange with him? His wages? Look at them! They had none and wanted none; and as like as not they were putting to sea without a dollar among the crowd. Civilization—hell! He would give all his share of it for a place in that there boat, to drive a paddle with the rest of them; to be, what he wished to God he had been born, a durned Kanaka!
The whaleboat drew swiftly toward him as though to go beneath the bark on her way to the pass. The paddles leaped to a rousing song and crashed in unison on the slopping gunwales. Dip, swish, bang! and then the accentuated thunder of forty voices, the men's hoarse and straining, the women's rich, falsetto, and musical. In the stern the old chief swayed with every rush of the boat, one sinewy hand clinched on the tiller, the other enfolding a little child. In the bow a handsome boy stood erect and graceful, throwing a rifle in the air and dancing to the song of his comrades. Dip, swish, bang! On they came with an increasing roar, the white water splashing under their bow.
Wilson dropped his brush and looked on with open mouth. Great Caesar! he knew that old fellar in the stern. He had smoked pipes with him in the Samoa house by the bridge. And that girl there, who was waving and shaking her hand to him, that was little Fetuao, the daughter, who used to look at him so shyly and laugh when she met his eyes; little Fetuao, that he had given the dominoes to, and that dress from the Dutch firm, and them beads! Fetuao! Wasn't she pretty as she stood there in the boat calling to him; so slim and straight, with her splendid hair flying in the wind, and her brown bosom open to the sun! Pretty! My God, she was a spanking beauty, that girl!
The boat came to a stop beneath him; the paddles backed, and Wilson, with some embarrassment, received the stare of the whole party below.
"Poor white mans work all time!" exclaimed Fetuao, standing on a thwart to raise her head to the level of his foot.
"Like hell!" said Jack.
"Kanaka more better," said the girl.
"A damn sight!" agreed Jack.
"Jack," said Fetuao, "I go home now, and never see you no more. Good-by, Jack!"
She raised her little hand, which the sailor clasped in his big one. Her tender, troubled eyes met his own; her mouth quivered; her fingers tightened on his palm.
"Jack," she said suddenly, "you come along us, Jack."
"Do you mean it, puss?" he said eagerly. "Do you mean it?"
"Oh, Jack, you come, too," she pleaded.
"You come—that's good!" cried the old chief.
Jack, in a dream, looked above him and met the sour glances of Hansen and Bates, whom the noise had brought to the ship's rail; then he looked below into the girlish face upraised to his. For better or worse, his resolution was taken. They might keep his chest; they might keep his wages; their stinking ship might sink or swim for all he cared. They were welcome to what Jack Wilson left behind him, for Jack Wilson at last was FREE! He dropped lightly into the boat beside Fetuao, and with one arm around her naked waist he shouted to the natives to shove off.
"Fo'e!" cried the chief, and the paddles moved again.
Above their heads the astounded captain clutched the arm of the astounded mate, and pointed wildly after the deserter.
"—— ——!" exclaimed Hansen.
"The —— —— —— ——!" roared Bates.
Jack landed in Oa Bay, the possessor, except for the clothes upon his back, of nothing but his rugged health, his stout heart, and a determination to make good his footing with his new friends. He remembered drawing apart from the others, as the welcoming throng came down to greet them in the dusk, forlornly struggling with his embarrassment and the penetrating sense of his own helplessness and isolation. Would he ever forget, standing there as he did, unremarked, solitary, shivering in his rags, the soft hand that felt through the darkness for his own, the voice so gentle, low, and sweet that whispered to him, "Come, Jack, you my white mans now!"
This was the beginning of Jack's new life. He became a member of the chief's family, sleeping with the others at night on the outspread mats, and taking his share, by day, of all the work and play of the little Samoan village. He weeded taro, he carried stones for the building of the new church, he helped to lay out nets, he speared fish, he played cricket and ta ti'a. By nature neither an idler nor a shirk, he was consumed, besides, with a desire to repay the kindness and hospitality of his hosts; and the old chief, his friend from the start, now became his captain, to whom he rendered the unquestioning obedience of a seaman. And old Faalelei, whose loose authority was often disregarded by his own subjects, delighted in the possession of this stalwart white, so willing, so eager, so ingenious in the mending of boats and nets—a man to whom the mechanism of a gun had no secrets, and in whose hands a single hatchet became a tool chest.
Living thus among the only mild, courteous, and refined people he had ever known, Jack insensibly altered and improved. His loud voice grew softer, his boisterous laugh less explosive, and his rough ways gave place to a clumsy imitation of Samoan good manners. Little by little the uncouth sailor patterned himself on the model of his new friends, and he, whose every second word had been an oath, whose only repartee a blow, now set himself to learn the most ceremonious language in the world, and the only one, perhaps, in which one cannot swear!
And Fetuao? When he had first taken up his abode in Faalelei's house he had never doubted, seeing the girl's extravagant affection for him, and knowing the laxity of the native people, that it would not be long before he might form with her one of those irregular connections so common in the islands; and, indeed, it grew daily more plain to him that he had but to ask to have. But Jack, not a little to his own astonishment, and stirred by undreamed-of instincts and undreamed-of scruples, put the idea from him with a hesitation he could hardly explain to himself. In his wicked and lawless past he had known every kind of woman but a good woman; he had seen, in a thousand water-side dives, every variety of feminine degradation and feminine shame, and had sounded in his time all the squalid depths of sailor vice. With the memory of these unspeakable contrasts, Fetuao's freshness, purity, and beauty shone with a sort of angelic brightness. No, by God, she should never come to harm through him; and, clenching his huge hands together, he would repeat these words to himself when he sometimes felt his resolution falter. For the sailor, who never until then had known a modest woman, who had starved his whole life long for what his money could never buy, whose heart at thirty was as virgin as a boy's, now found himself moved by a sublime passion for the only creature that had ever loved him.
For she did love him; of that, indeed, he had never the need to reassure himself; and in the knowledge of her love he became, almost in spite of himself, a better man. In her girlish self-abandonment Fetuao lacked the artifices which older women would have used; she never thought to guard herself, or to coquette with him. At night, as they walked hand in hand about the village, or sat close together on some log or boat, she would take his arm and draw it around her; she would lay her head against his breast; she would press herself so close to him that he could hear her beating heart. There was much of the mother in her love for him. He was her great baby, to be caressed, kissed, crooned over, to be petted and encouraged. Her tender laughter was always in his ears; she corrected him as she might a child, with a sweet seriousness, and an implication that his shame was hers whenever he blundered in Samoan etiquette; she prompted him and pushed him through scenes of trying formality, and drilled him assiduously in politeness.
In the moonlight, when they were alone together, she taught him how to receive the 'ava cup; how to spill the libation to the gods; how to invoke a proper blessing on the company. She taught him how to say "O susunga, lau susunga fo'i," on entering a strange house; how to pull the mat over his knee to express his fictitious dependence; how to join in the chorus of "Maliu mai, susu mai" when others entered after him; how, indeed, to comport himself everywhere with the finished courtesy of a Samoan chief.
Thus the bright days passed, and months melted into months, and still Jack remained an inmate of Faalelei's household. At first he had accepted this strange life as a sort of holiday, never doubting but that, in the end, he must turn his back on these pleasant people, and see, from a dizzy yardarm, their exquisite island sink forever behind him. The place thus possessed for him the charm of something he was destined soon to lose, and he clung to it as a man clings to his fading youth, with a sense that it is slipping from him. He sighed as he thought of the forecastle that he knew somewhere awaited him; how he would recall those still nights in Oa when he would be roused by the boatswain's handspike on the hatch, and the hoarse cry of "All hands on deck!"
One day, when he was out in Faalelei's boat, an accident occurred that came very near to being the end of Jack. They were pursuing a school of bonito, and Pulu, the chief's brother, was standing in the bow with a stick of dynamite and was in the nick of letting it fly when it exploded prematurely in his hand. Pulu was killed, the rickety old boat parted and sank, and Jack, with his shoulder laid open to the bone, was towed in by a neighboring canoe, and carried up to the house. They laid him on the floor, pale and groaning, while the children ran out screaming for Fetuao. She came in like a whirlwind, still wet from the river, and threw herself on her knees beside him. With passionate imperiousness she made the rest of the household wait upon her bidding as she busied herself in stanching the flow of blood and in picking the splinters from the wound. Jack knew how wont she was, in common with all Samoans, to shrink from disagreeable sights. It touched him to see how love had conquered her repugnance; nor could he resist a smile when she began to tear her little wardrobe into bandages, those chemises and lavalavas that she used to iron under the trees, and put away with such care into the camphor-wood chest with the bell lock.
For the better part of a fortnight Jack lay where they had placed him on the mats, undergoing, with intermissions of fever and delirium, the tedious stages of convalescence. Fetuao seemed never to leave him, attending to his wants, brushing away the flies, feeding and washing him with an anxious solemnity that at times almost awed the sailor. Her brilliant eyes, as black and limpid as some wild animal's, watched him with an unceasing stare. He often wondered what was passing in her graceful head as he lay looking up at her, too weak to speak, the drowsy hours succeeding one another in an unbroken silence. Once, when he ran his hand over his face and recollected with a pang how old and ugly he must seem to her, she had understood the sigh that expressed his own self-disgust, and had bent over and kissed him on the lips. From that moment his love for her deepened into an emotion transcending anything he had ever felt before. He saw now that to separate himself from her would be to break both their hearts; that, for good or evil, he was hers and she his; that fate had indeed joined them forever.
When at last he grew strong enough to walk, he went with her across to the native pastor's house, where together they stood up before the Rev. Tavita Singua and were married. This was the prelude to another and more binding ceremony before the American Consul in Apia, whither they both went in a canoe borrowed from Faalelei. The official books were withdrawn from the safe and the thirty-six Americans in Samoa were increased by two new names: "Jack Wilson, aged thirty-one, birthplace Bath, Me., occupation seaman, present residence Oa Bay; and Fetuao Wilson, supposed to be seventeen, daughter of Faalelei, chief of Oa Bay, his lawful wife." (See Consular Marriage Record, p. 18.)
As he stood there before the consul, painfully conscious of his bare feet, of his unkempt and ragged appearance, of the contrast between himself and that benignant official, he timidly brought up the subject of the fee. No doubt there is some kind of damage, he said, and might he leave this ring—his mother's wedding ring—in pawn until he might earn a little money and square the matter? The consul took the ring, looked at it a moment without a word, and then in a rough, friendly way seized Fetuao's hand and slipped it on her finger.
"I think it belongs here," he said.
"But the fee," said Jack.
"Oh, damn the fee!" said the consul.
With that he went into an inner office and returned with a sheepish air, as of a man about to do something he was ashamed of.
"Here's ten dollars," he said. "Take it; it's a wedding present, you know. I never married anybody before."
Jack refused the gift a little ungraciously, though his voice trembled in doing so.
"Have a drink, then?" said the consul.
"No, I thank you, sir," Jack blurted out.
Embarrassment in a cloud descended on all three. The consul, like the worthy fellow he was, wished to do something for these waifs, and his eyes roved about the big, hot room in search of he knew not what. Jack and Fetuao, no less ill at ease, stood close together and waited submissively. Finally, noticing the new boat flag lying on his desk, the consul took it up in both his hands. "Wilson," he said oratorically, "this is my flag, and your flag, and it is now Mrs. Wilson's flag, for I've made her as good an American as the pair of us. Take it along with you, and if you have children, bring them up to love and honor Old Glory as we do, and teach them at your knee what it stands for—freedom, justice; and equal rights for every man born under it. And if there should ever be any trouble here—war, riot, or any little unpleasantness—just hoist it above your house, and its bright folds will protect you as though the whole U-nited States army lay in a mighty camp around you!"
Jack took the flag respectfully, much impressed by the consul's speech, and tremendously pleased, besides, that Fetuao should see that an American, even a common, low-down American seaman like himself, counted for something in the official world. Would a Britisher, or one of those stinking Dutchmen, have acted like this consul did? His consul, by God!—and his breast heaved with gratitude and patriotic fervor. Afterwards, when Fetuao and he ate their lunch under a tree, he spread out the consul's gift on the ground beside him, and the words freedom, justice, and equal rights boomed sonorously in his ears. To Fetuao, in her simplicity, the bunting appeared a sort of sanction or certificate of their civil marriage; and when she returned home she explained that it was all settled, the faamasino having written their names in the book and given them the fua Ameleke!
Three years passed. Jack rubbed his eyes and wondered what had become of them; and he read the answer to his question in his coffee bushes, now breast high and crimson with fruit, in his trellised vanilla already so exacting and so profitable, in his sturdy breadfruit trees thickening with every rain, in the patches of bananas, taro, yams, 'ava, egg-plant, sweet potatoes, pineapples, and sour-sops that were set out so trimly in the plantation his ax had won from the primeval forest. His house, too, had drawn not a little on his capital—his capital of strength, skill, and perseverance—but he grudged neither time nor labor in making it the best in Oa. For a house is an important matter to a family man, even if it weren't a paying thing like vanillar, nor capable of helping a fellar along like a cow or a boat. It paid you back in its own way—a mighty good way, too—and it grew to be a part of you, like your wife, if you weren't a poor, lone, seafaring slob without one.
Of course, it wasn't much of a house, being a sort of beehive-shaped concern with a thatched roof a foot thick and open all round the sides when the cocoanut curtains was hysted. But when these were pulled down at night, and you were a-setting in one of your own home-made chairs with your wife on your knee, the night breeze rustling overhead and the breakers moaning a mile away on the outer reef, it made you sort of feel like things had come right at last, and that for two cents you'd plank right down on your knees, then and there, and thank God, by God!
All this had not been accomplished without work, but then it was work for himself, and not for others. Jack had never known before what it was to enjoy the fruit of his own labor; he had always been a cog in the blind machinery of other people, exchanging so much toil for so much money. Now that he could see his little plantation grow and prosper beneath his hands, every hour repaid with nature's usury, he began to feel the elation that a man finds in independence. At first Fetuao had entered but half-heartedly into his plans; she would sit on a log and watch him with mirthful wonder as he swung his ax on the land Faalelei had given them; and when, for a spell, he took a place beside her she would tenderly wipe the sweat from his forehead and look at him with perplexity. Work, yes, that, as the preacher said, was the curse of Adam; but this daily persistency was not understandable. Had not Faalelei plenty for them both? And if one taro sufficed, why be at the pains to plant two?
But little by little it began to dawn on her that there was another side to this feverish devotion to work. Jack took a load of yams to Apia, and came back with fifteen silver dollars and a bolt of print for a dress. He went again, and returned with a sewing machine, a pack of cards, and a bottle of trade scent; still another trip, and lo! he towed behind him a fine new boat with Fetuao painted on the stern. Then she at last succumbed to the fascination of the white way. Paga! There were dollars in the ground, and for the asking they could be made to grow. This lesson learned, Fetuao threw off her indifference and became as ardent a planter as her unwearied husband. Lying in his arms at night, her talk ran continually on the theme of which neither ever tired. Not a dollar was earned but was thus laid out in advance, with eager questioning and debate. The cow was bought, the horse, the chickens, the wire for fencing. It was a game in which each played a part with enduring zest; a game with a constant round of prizes and enjoyment; a game in which green nature was the board and every plant and tree a piece. At sundown they knew no pleasure like that of wandering hand in hand through the paths of their little estate, two poetic peasants, filled with love for each other and immeasurably content.
Thus the days passed in increasing satisfaction and prosperity, days so rare in the life of any man when he says to himself, "I am happy." To Jack, these three words, never spoken, but somewhere within him articulate and peremptory, these three words almost overwhelmed him with their significance. He trembled for this treasure, so elusive, so transitory, perhaps, so surely ill deserved; he grew humble with the thought of his own unworthiness, and, though no believer in the ordinary sense, he began to feel the first stirring of religion. When Fetuao, with sweet shame, laid her head against his shoulder and told him of her impending motherhood, he kissed her, comforted her, and then, rising to his feet, he sought the solitude that at such a moment he felt he could not share even with her. In one of the unfrequented corners of the bay, a narrow beach shadowed by the forest and faced by the open sea, he threw himself upon his knees with a passionate thankfulness that seemed to find its expression in this act. Knowing no prayer, addressing no God, he simply gazed above him in the sky, in a rapt, dumb gratitude.
As he walked home he thought of his own parents, long since dead; of their hopes, their cares, their humble unfulfilled ambitions, now dead with them. He perceived himself, now for the first time, a link between the past and the future, the heir of bygone generations, generations that had loved, and suffered, and struggled, to no other end than that he might live—he, and the sister he had neither seen nor heard from in fourteen years. Hell! he ought to write to Amandar. Families oughtn't to drift apart like that. It was a shame, a durned shame, and it came over him with a shock that she, too, might be dead. He took a sheet of paper and a pencil, and with heaving breast and overflowing heart thus broke the silence of those long years:
OA BAY, SAMOA, May 14, 1899.
DEAR SIS, You will be surprised to get a letter from me after all this time. I am well and hope you are enjoying a simillar blessing. I am married now and left the sea. I suppose Joe is a man along in middle life now and you a handsome mattron with a family. This is a good country but hot.
Ever your affectionate brother JACK WILSON.
P. S.—I often think of Pa and Ma and the old days.
Not long after, Jack sailed into Apia with a load of copra and his letter for the outgoing mail. The town was in an uproar, and cracking like the Fourth of July. Jack wondered what in thunder it was about, as he landed at Leicester's wharf and discovered the postmaster lying underneath the post office in a nest of sand bags. Crawling in after the functionary, Jack handed him the letter.
"That's for America," said Jack.
"Five cents," said Leicester.
"What's all this corrobborree?" asked Jack.
"It's war, that's what it is," said Leicester, weighing the letter in a tin scale.
Jack's jaw fell. For a month past he had heard rumors of a native war, but he had resolutely closed his ears to all that Fetuao was so insistent to tell him. It was none of his business, he had said to her uneasily. He wasn't no politician, and all he asked of anybody was to be let alone; and with that he had tried to put the matter by as something imaginary and disquieting, which, if boldly ignored, would disappear of itself.
"Say, Mr. Leicester, what in hell is it about?" he inquired.
"If you went to the bottom of it you would find Dutchmen," said Leicester grimly.
Jack cursed the meddling scoundrels.
"They want Mataafa for king, just because he has a majority of two thousand votes," said Leicester.
"There sounds to be something in that," said Jack faintly.
"Nothing at all!" exclaimed Leicester. "Just speciousness, that's what I call it. The other fellow, Tanumafili, is a nice-appearing boy from the missionary college, and being above wire-pulling and promising everything to everybody, he hasn't any following to speak of. But he's a good, decent Protestant boy, and will make a fine king."
"Oh, ho!" said Jack, beginning to see how the wind lay, "and so the other dodger's a Catholic?"
"A rank, bigoted Catholic," said Leicester hotly. "That's what makes the missionaries so wild against him, and likewise the British and American officials."
"They won't let him be king, then?" asked Jack.
"He's a rebel," said Leicester, "and they've posted proclamations against him on every cocoanut tree around the beach."
"And the natives, they won't let Tanumafili be king neither?" said Jack.
"That's him they're chasing into the sea this minute," explained Leicester.
Jack looked perplexed. "I don't see why the Kanakas shouldn't have the king they fancy," he remarked.
"To hear you talk, one would think you was a bloody Dutchman yourself," said Leicester.
"But the majority—" said Jack, "them two thousand——"
"The Chief Justice ruled them out on a technicality," said Leicester, "and if the Supreme Court ain't right, who is? Do you think he's going to give over this country to a papist? No, the only king here is Tanumafili, and the men-of-war will reinstate him at the muzzle of their guns. Then we'll see who's who in Samoar!"
Jack made his way across the street to the store where he usually sold his copra. Bullets were pattering on the roof, and the trader himself, a portly German in gold spectacles, was palpitating in a bomb-proof.
"I hope Mrs. Meyerfeld is well," said Jack, who in Samoa had grown punctilious.
"Oh, mein Gott!" exclaimed Meyerfeld.
"And the children?—" inquired Jack, "Miss Hilda and Miss Theresa?"
"Oh, mein Gott!" said Meyerfeld.
"I have brought you forty bags of copra," said Jack.
"Oh, mein Gott!" said Meyerfeld.
"Don't you want it, then?" inquired Jack.
"Hear the pullets," quavered Meyerfeld.
"But forty bags," said Jack.
"I've no man, no noding," groaned the trader.
"Gome again negst week. Gome again after de war."
"I'll put it in the shed myself," said Jack.
He went out into the empty street and looked about him. The firing was going on as hotly as ever, but except for a single limp figure, face down in the dust, he failed to see the least sign of the contending parties. From the direction of the Mulivai bridge he heard bursts of cheering, with intermittent lulls and explosions as the battle rolled to and fro. War on so small a scale is startlingly like murder, and Jack shuddered as he went up to the corpse and turned it over. He returned to his boat, and in a fever of activity unloaded his forty bags and trundled them in batches into Meyerfeld's copra shed across the road. It took half a dozen trips of the little flat-car to accomplish this task single-handed, and then there was the further delay in weighing each bag and checking off the contents on a bit of paper. Nor was this all, for he had to make a copy, besides, and tack it on the warehouse door with the inscription, "Taly and find correct John Wilson."
This done, he dropped into his boat and hoisted the sails, weary, heartsick, and anxious for what the future might have in store for him. Passing to leeward of the British man-of-war, he saw her decks swarming with refugees, her crew grouped about the guns, and an officer in the fore-crosstrees sweeping the town with his glass. A gust of wind carried down to him the sound of children crying, and with it an indistinguishable humming, at once menacing and dejected, like the sigh of an impending gale. It echoed in his ears long afterwards, the most poignant note in war, the voice of the herded, helpless multitude.
He reached Oa in the gray of the morning, and the grating of his boat's keel in the sand brought out Fetuao to meet him. She could not restrain her joy at the sight of him, kissing his hands and clinging to him as he took out the sails and oars and carried them up to the house. She never seemed so sweet to him, never so girlish and charming in her fresh young womanhood as in that dawn of his home-coming. To hear her laugh, to see her eyes sparkle, to feel her warm breath against his cheek, all transported him into a state of unreasoning security. Apia and its blood-stained streets faded into the immeasurable distance; the war, and all the attendant horrors that had haunted him, now seemed for a moment too remote to even think of. What had he to fear, here on his own hearthstone, with his dear wife beside him, in another world from that he had so lately quitted? If there was trouble, wouldn't the consuls settle it, them and the treaty officials whose job it was to run the blessed group? He had never been no politician himself, and he wasn't agoing to begin now. Let them worry as was paid to worry.
"Fetuao," he said, "where is the flag the faamasino gave us when we were married in Apia?"
"O i ai pea i le pusa," she returned.
"Get it out, my pigeon," he said, "for I mean to hoist it above the house for a protection. And tell me, Fetuao," he went on, "what before I have never asked thee: on what side are thy people in this misa of Mataafa and Tanumafili?"
"For Mataafa," she returned. "Dost thou think that Samoa wants this untattooed boy from the missionary college? Why else did Faalelei and the young men go last month to Apia to be numbered for Mataafa, the whites promising that he who had most voices should be king? And when all Samoa cried out 'Mataafa!' at the numbering place (all except the little handful of the Tuamasanga), lo! the word was given that Tanumafili was appointed after all, and that the white manner of choice was to be disregarded!"
Jack sighed as he took the flag and went out with it. He realized that his old life was at an end, and that a new one, full of uncertainty and danger, was to date from the time he hoisted this bit of bunting. He trimmed a straight piece of fuafua for a staff, and as he did so he cursed the missionaries for meddlers and the treaty officials for crazy fools. When the flag was at last in place, Fetuao and he drew away to get a better view of it from the beach. Standing there, in silence they watched the vivid colors flaunt and flutter against the wooded hills behind, while Jack, with a seaman's instinctive reverence for the flag, bared his head, and Fetuao clapped her hands with delight.
"Is it not beautiful!—" she cried, "as starry as the nights before we were married, Jack, when we used to walk together, here and there, like uncaring children."
Her husband did not answer; and as she turned and looked up into his face she saw that his eyes were wet with tears.
The two months that followed were the most terrible in the history of Samoa. A handful of exasperated whites—treaty officials, missionaries, and consuls—were determined to foist Tanumafili on the unwilling natives of the group, and backed by three men-of-war, they declared Mataafa a rebel and plunged the country into a disastrous and sanguinary war. England and America, in the person of their respective naval commanders, vied with one another in their self-appointed task; and while the Germans stood aloof, protesting and aghast, our ships ravaged the Samoan coast, burning, bombarding, and destroying with indiscriminate fury. In this savage conflict, so unjust in its inception, so frightful in its effects on an unoffending people, the Samoans showed an extraordinary spirit in defending what all men hold most dear. Driven from the shore by our guns, they massed their warriors behind Apia, and on ground of their own choosing gave obstinate battle to the invaders.
It is not the writer's purpose to follow the varying stages of this ignoble quarrel, in which blood flowed like water in our vain attempts to force the unwilling Samoans to accept a Protestant divinity student for their king. This little war, so remote, so ill understood at home, so brief, violent, and unjust, swept over the islands like a hurricane. Abruptly begun by headstrong naval officers and officials on the spot, it was as abruptly ended by peremptory orders from London and Washington; but the interval (necessarily a long one) before the news could go out and the orders return halfway round the world, was sufficient to reduce Samoa to the verge of ruin.
In such a country, without roads, telegraphs, or newspapers, where rumor passes from mouth to mouth, and facts, in the process, get twisted out of all recognition, war brings with it a period of agonizing ignorance, when anything is told and anything believed. To Jack this waiting became almost intolerable; his suspense, and the uncertainty of those dreadful days, told on him with an augmented force, so that he grew thin and started at a sound. Through an unseen channel the news of fighting persistently trickled into Oa; more battles; more villages bombarded; such an one wounded, such an one killed, with stories of the increasing ruthlessness of the British and Americans. On some days the sound of cannon could be plainly heard from leeward, the signal for the women and children to crowd with their pastor into the church, and for the men—the scanty remnants that still remained—to grasp their rifles and melt into the forest.
But as time passed, and one false alarm was succeeded by another, Jack plucked up a little heart. He began to make allowance for native exaggeration and laughed at his own former fears. If the men-of-war should come to Oa, were they likely to bombard an undefended village full of women and children, or burn, pillage, and destroy as mercilessly as he had been told? Bah! a pack of Kanaka lies, the gradual distortion of the truth as it passed along the line, until one burned house became a hundred and one village the whole coast of Atua! He went back to his neglected plantation, now overgrown with weeds, and set to work again with a determination not to borrow trouble. But, in spite of himself, he would find himself listening for the sound of cannon, laying down his ax or his bush knife in a panic and running back to the shore to make sure that nothing had happened in the hour he had been gone.
It was during one of these mornings in the bush, a morning singularly free of the apprehensions which usually beset him, that Fetuao came rushing through the bananas where he was at work, crying out, "Manuao, manuao!" Together, without exchanging a single word, they flew headlong to the beach, never stopping until they took shelter beneath the eaves of their own house. Yes, there was the man-of-war, a Britisher with yellow funnels, well outside the reef, towing behind her a flotilla of boats chock-a-block with natives. The red head-dresses of their crews showed them to be the followers of Tanumafili, and a couple of unmistakable pith helmets in the stern of the biggest betrayed the presence of directing white men. At the tail of the boats was a large steam launch flying the stars and stripes, the American contribution to the little fleet.
Jack breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of his own flag. Wherever that flew he knew that he and his were safe. By George! everybody in Oa Bay was safe so long as they didn't try to make a fight of it; and he could have laughed to see the terrified women scooting for the church, the children bawling at their heels. The fools, what had they to fear? American officers were not the kind to fire on women and children, nor were they likely to look on mum-chance, and let the lime-juicers do it neither. No, sirree!
The man-of-war slowed down her engines and came almost to a standstill. There was a sudden flash from one of her sponsons, a puff of smoke, and then the roar of a six-inch gun. The shell struck a palm not a hundred yards from where Jack was standing, and with a loud explosion took off the entire top as neatly as though a knife had sliced it.
"Good God!" cried the sailor; and the words were scarcely out of his mouth before he heard the venomous rush of another shell. Jack could not believe his senses. What! no warning, no notice beforehand; not even ten minutes to allow the women and children to get out of danger!
Bang! The church this time! He clutched Fetuao as he saw the shower of cement and rocks, and the frenzied flight of its occupants for safety. If that shell had gone through the window instead of striking the corner——
"Run! run!" cried Fetuao, and without even waiting for him to follow or turning round to see that he did so, she darted through the house and disappeared. But Jack, in a white heat of indignation, folded his arms and remained doggedly where he was. Let them shoot, the skunks! Let them shoot, the stinking cowards! This was his house, and he would remain beside it until the crack of doom, shells or no shells. He would stand off them fire-bugs and looters when they landed, and tell them officers what a plain American citizen thought of them. He wasn't afraid of the swine. By God! he would like to boot the raft of them. He shook his fist in their faces, he did; and as for that villainous launch rolling idly in the swell while the big bully fired on the defenseless town, he spat to express his disgust for it.
The bombardment, like a salute, continued with regular intermissions between each gun. The marksmanship was poor, many of the shells falling short or bursting prematurely in midair. Except for the church, which was twice struck, and the chief's house that was set on fire, the damage done was inappreciable; and Jack, whose heart at first had been in his mouth, now grinned with derision as he watched for the recurring flashes.
"The Chilaneans could do better nor you!" he cried.
"Jack," whispered a voice beside him, and there was Fetuao back again in a state of the sweetest contrition and remorse. He took her in his arms and kissed her; and then, like a pair of lovers, they held each other's hands and shrank close together as the shells burst over the village.
The firing lasted for an hour, and then the flotilla of boats, preceded by the American launch, passed in procession through the break in the reef, and headed for Jack's house.
"Oh, it's the flag they see!" cried Fetuao, and she besought Jack, with tears in her eyes, to haul it down.
"Never!" he said, grinding his teeth.
There were some three or four hundred men in the boats, and as they raced in, cheering and yelling at the top of their voices, Jack quailed in spite of himself. But outwardly, at least, he showed no sign of agitation, standing like a rock before his house and facing the storm that was about to burst.
It wasn't for himself that he was afraid, not so long as that puffing-billy of a steamboat held the lead, and the grand old flag streamed out behind her. The jackies would see him through this business, whatever deviltry they might inflict on the rest of the unfortunate village, for blood's thicker than water every time, and Americans stand together all the world over. He wasn't no politician nor side-taker, and it was all the same to him whether he had a missionary king or a benighted papist. All he asked of anybody, by God! was to be let alone, though this broadsiding of defenseless people made him sick at the stummick, it did.
The launch came bumping into shallow water, blowing off clouds of steam as her crew jumped out with their rifles and waded ashore, while the Tanumafili boats, dashing up in quick succession, amid a furious and ever-deepening uproar, discharged in their turn cargo upon cargo of shrieking warriors. In the indescribable commotion that followed there seemed to be no prearranged plan nor any settled order of operation. The Tanus scattered in a dozen noisy parties, looting and burning the houses, barking the breadfruit trees, shooting the pigs and horses, devastating with diabolical thoroughness the inland plantations that sustained the village. The Americans, fearful of ambuscades, stuck to the shore and systematically destroyed the boats, which for a mile or two were drawn up on the edge of the beach. These boats, in a country without roads, are as much a necessity to a man as the house which shelters him. They often represent the hoardings of years, and are not seldom the result of a stern frugality and self-denial; they constitute, indeed, the only wealth of Samoa, and in them is invested the united savings of the whole population. In Oa these boats numbered perhaps a hundred, or a hundred and twenty in all, which, under the direction of a red-faced boatswain with a package of dynamite sticks, were one by one blown to pieces, and the shattered boards drawn into heaps and fired. That day the whole of Oa went up in smoke and flame. Nothing was spared, not even the church, nor the school, nor the pastor's house; not a canoe nor a dugout; not a net, nor a fish trap, nor a float; not a pig, a horse, nor a chicken. The boundary walls, emerging black and desolate above the embers of the village, alone survived the universal waste.
Jack's boat, being the nearest, was the first to be singled out; and as the blue-jackets began to bore it with auger holes in which to place the dynamite, he walked down to the petty officer and roughly bade him leave it alone. "Hold on, there!" he said. "That's my boat!"
The boatswain looked him up and down. "You get out of this!" he said.
Jack twitched the auger from one of the seamen and flung it into the lagoon. Then, seizing a rifle from the heap lying on the ground, he whirled it round his head like a club and advanced furiously on the boatswain, who pulled out a six-shooter and leveled it at his head. Even as he did so, one of the officers came running up, waving his sword and shouting; while Jack, confident that he had nothing now to apprehend, dropped the rifle and turned to meet him. He had scarcely got so far as, "Please, sir, this boat is my property," when a scream from Fetuao warned him that the natives were rushing his house. Abandoning the boat, he ran back to face this new danger, which, of the two, was so infinitely the worse. His first instinct was to snatch a hatchet and kill one of the half-naked plunderers, but Fetuao, catching his hands, held him back, and the impulse passed as he realized his utter helplessness. With smarting eyes and a heart that seemed to burst within his breast, he saw his house gutted of everything—his chests torn open, his tools taken, his wife's poor finery divided, and her twenty-dollar sewing machine the subject of a wrangle that ended in its being smashed under the butt of a gun. It was horrible to look on, impotent and raging, and see the fruit of three years the prey of these yelling savages; to realize that he must begin again from the bottom; that all his labor, and care, and thrift, had gone for nothing. Not daring to leave Fetuao behind, he took her with him and started off to find the officer to whom he had at first complained. His protest had not apparently been very effective, to judge from the torn fragments of the boat now blazing in a bonfire, and he was hardly encouraged to make a second attempt. However, slim as the chance was, it was now the only thing left to do. Surely it was not possible that they would let his house be looted and fired with the others!
The officer, a thin young man with a cigar, was standing in the shade of a palm.
"Mister," said Jack timidly, for somehow all the fight had oozed out of him, "Mister, they're looting my house up there!"
"Well?" said the officer.
"I'm an American," said Jack.
"Well?" said the officer.
Jack regarded him helplessly. "Can't you do nothing for an American?" he asked.
"Not for a damned beach-comber," said the officer, turning on his heel.
Jack did not attempt to follow or to pester him. He knew when he was beat. He sat down on the nearest log, and making room for Fetuao beside him, drew out his pipe, filled it and began to smoke. The girl tried to speak to him, but he would not answer. She whispered to him that their house was burning, and he never even turned his head to look. She took his hand, but he snatched it impatiently away, refusing to be comforted. Thus he remained for hours, sullen and half-stupefied, until the returning Tanus embarked again, and the launch, with jubilant whistles, led the flotilla back to the man-of-war. It was only when the ship was out of sight that Jack rose, stretched himself, and breathed the profound sigh of a man who has endured and has survived the most terrible experience of a lifetime.
With slow steps, and many expressions of anger and resentment, Fetuao and he walked through the village, gazing with bitter curiosity at the ruins that everywhere surrounded them. They made their way to their own little plantation, to find it devastated like the others, the breadfruit trees ringed, the coffee bushes torn up by the roots, the taro, bananas, and vanilla cut to pieces. In the paddock the cow and calf lay dead in a pool of blood; of the dairy, half-set in the stream, nothing remained but some stumps and smoking ashes; under a felled mango tree they saw the protruding hoofs of Fetuao's mare, Afiola.
Returning with a few bananas they managed to find in the plantation, they built a fire and roasted them within a few feet of where, that morning, their house had stood. Though nothing now was left of it but some charred wood, the place was still home to them. As Fetuao moved forlornly about, picking up a few trifles that had been dropped or thrown away by the invaders—a comb, a spool of thread, a flatiron, a book or two with the covers scorched off—she lifted up a grimy rag and tossed it, with a little gesture of disdain, at her husband's feet. He spread it out and saw that it was the consul's flag, the flag he had flown above his house with such confidence in its protection; the flag which, until then, he had always reverenced.
Jack slowly tore it into pieces.
Nothing is stranger than the effect of the same misfortune on different natures. To Jack, arrested in the full tide of his petty activities, it was absolutely overwhelming. When everything he possessed was swept away, and with it the routine that for three years had kept him busy and content, he knew not what to do nor which way to turn. Sunk in apathy, he spent whole days in dully mourning for what he had lost. He would have starved had not Fetuao forced him to follow her into the mountains, where, under her direction, he dug tamu and climbed the trees for wild chestnuts; while she, with deft hands and a little tangled bunch of weeds, caught prawns in the pools and streams. At her bidding he made a tiny hut of cocoanut branches, a clumsy canoe good enough to fish with, and nets from the sinnet she taught him how to twist out of cocoanut husks. She even sent him back to work in the plantation, for the bananas at least could be saved, and there was a well of sprouting yams and some tingapula that had somehow escaped destruction. But Jack's spirit was broken; the old incentive was gone; he could not revive the energy, the zest, the interest that before had never failed him. He did what Fetuao bade him and no more, and the days, once so short, seemed now never to end.
One morning early he was awakened by the murmur of voices in the dark, and on going to the door of the hut he was surprised to see Fetuao's brothers, Tua and Anapu, Mele her uncle, Lapongi the orator, and a dozen others, some of them boys not yet tattooed. In answer to his questions Tua told him that a messenger had come for them with orders to at once join the Mataafa forces behind Apia.
"And thou also, Jack," said Lapongi the orator, "for every man now is needed to withstand the fury of the whites."
Jack, as usual, turned to Fetuao.
"We shall both of us go," said she, "I to carry water for the wounded, thou with the muaau, a rock of strength and terror."
Jack made no protest. Hell! what did it matter where they went? Munching the food that was handed him, he looked across the bay, now silvering in the dawn, and wondered whether he was not seeing it for the last time.
It was late at night when they passed the outposts and reached the Mataafa camp, which stood on a high plateau overlooking Apia. Below them the search-lights of the men-of-war moved restlessly about, shining at times with a bewildering brilliancy into their very faces; and from the little war-encompassed capital there rose a distant drumming and bugling as the missionary boy king, unsafe even under the guns of Britain and America, took his precautions against a night attack. After the stillness of Oa there was something confusing in the stir and bustle of Mataafa's big camp—in the constant passing of armed men, the change of guards, and the rousing choruses around the fires. There was, besides, an atmosphere of recklessness and gayety, engendered by excitement, by danger, by the very desperation of their cause, that could not long be resisted by even the most impassive recruit. Jack alone, of his whole party, remained indifferent and unmoved; but his wife, all of the savage in her rising to the surface, grew intoxicated almost to the point of delirium.
Ordinarily so demure and quiet, she became from henceforward a creature of another clay. Whirling her ax and dancing almost naked at the head of the Oa contingent, she led it wherever it was sent, daring bullets and shells with smiling intrepidity. In her wild beauty an artist might have taken her for the spirit of war itself, as she moved undaunted along the firing line, or with biting reproaches drove up skulkers from the rear. Like some untried actress bringing down her house, she was overborne with her own success; and the more she was praised the more extravagantly and unflinchingly she exposed herself. Under the stress of those fierce emotions her character in every way underwent a change for the worse. In war time, death, always in the air, seems to annihilate with its dark shadow all the bonds that bind society together. Life, hitherto so assured, of a sudden becomes the most transient of human gifts, to be enjoyed with a feverish heedlessness before it vanishes forever into the unknown. Thus Fetuao found and accepted a dozen lovers among her men, and while still according her husband the first place, she yet permitted them liberties and familiarities that they were not slow to take advantage of.
Deep in every woman's heart there is a love for the men of her race, a love motherly and pitiful, that will bring the tears to her eyes at the sight of a passing regiment and cause her to passionately mourn the unknown soldier dead. This sentiment, this instinct, is a thousandfold intensified on the bloody field itself. The pang when those brave fellows fall is inexpressible; her pride is strangely humbled, and in her mad exaltation she shrinks from nothing, and makes a virtue of her own abandonment.
Jack followed Fetuao everywhere, a despondent, woe-begone figure, who, amid the hail of bullets and the yells of contending warriors, lay or ran or advanced with the others in a black preoccupation. He had not a spark of interest in the struggle; his thoughts were forty miles away in that ruined home, with his plants, and trees, and shrubs, his cow, and his chickens. What victory could give them back? What terror had a defeat for one who had already lost his all! He lived in the past, in those frugal, thrifty, laborious years; for the present he had but an indifference, an apathy, that he had not even the desire to shake off.
He became the butt of the warriors, who brought him their rifles to mend and called him a coward for his pains. They envied him Fetuao, who, for all her flirtations, slept every night by his side and was not happy when he was out of her sight. They nicknamed him her "Paalangi dog," and would whistle to him derisively and shout, "Come 'ere!" secure in the chronic absent-mindedness that had become a joke to them all. When he answered, as he always answered, "Eh, what?" and raised his vacant, moody face, there would be an outburst of laughter, in which he himself joined with a mirthless geniality, like a man unbending to a lot of children. If a shell went off some one was sure to cry, "Eh, what?" and this phrase, together with a mimicry of Jack's slow, dejected utterance of it, became the stock pleasantry of the camp humorists, who brought it out on all occasions.
The conflicts about Apia were mostly affairs of outposts, a pressing in and a pressing back of the pickets on either side. The naval commanders, in spite of repeated bombardments and the enormous havoc they wrought along the coasts, found themselves hardly able to do more than hold their own against the Mataafa army. The safety of Apia was constantly in jeopardy, though barricades were thrown up in the streets and three hundred men landed from the ships. A desperate night attack on the main guard at the Tivoli Hotel betrayed the weakness of the whites to friends and foes alike, and redoubled the anxiety of the admiral and captains. It was plain that no decisive blow could be struck pending the arrival of the reenforcements that had been urgently cabled for from New Zealand, unless a better use were made of the missionary levies on the spot. These loose native organizations were accordingly broken up, consolidated into a single compact force of eight hundred men, well armed and well drilled, and placed under the absolute command of a naval lieutenant.
This fine force, supported by whites and Maxims, was counted on to retrieve the situation and drive Mataafa from his mountain stronghold. The plan for a joint attack was accordingly drawn up. A quota of seamen and marines, with a couple of machine guns, was to form the center of the little army, while the native brigade on either wing was to advance simultaneously, lap round and outflank the Mataafas. This operation, covered by a terrific bombardment from the three ships of war, was forthwith begun; on its success was staked the hopes of the little clique who had so lightly adopted the cause of a divinity student of seventeen, against the vote and wish of well-nigh all Samoa.
On that day the Oa party held the center of the Mataafa line, a stone wall stretching across a wide clearing to the forest on either side. It was the post of honor, for it crossed the road up which the enemy were toiling with their guns, and guarded the headquarters of the patriot king, not a hundred yards behind. In the trampled grass two hundred men sat or lay with their rifles in their hands and listened to the measured periods of the orators exhorting them to remember their wrongs and die fighting. These old men, white-haired, scarred with the wounds of bygone battles, their wrinkled hands clasping the staves on which they leaned, never winced as the shells whistled above their heads, nor abated by a hair's breadth their tone of strident warning and encouragement. At such a distance, and against a target six hundred feet above the sea level, the men-of-war made poor practice and did little more than waste their ammunition. But the shattering detonations of their guns, and the thundering echoes rolling and re-rolling round the bay, made pleasant music for their crews ashore. It seemed incredible that such earth-shaking explosions could be wholly without effect, and the tired seamen sweating up the hill were kindled by the thought that the rebels were already suffering heavily and likely to run at the first encounter.
Sitting listlessly on a boulder, Jack scarcely took in the fact that anything out of the way was about to happen. His only concern was not to be too far from Fetuao, and so long as he had her in his sight he was dumbly content. He was as solitary among the thronging warriors as any castaway in mid-ocean, and his patient, stolid, inexpressive face, grown older in a month by a dozen years, was the only one which failed to reflect the coming conflict. Fetuao, on the contrary, was on fire from top to toe; her saucy tongue was loosened, and her bright eyes dancing in wild excitement. Joking and laughing in the roaring circle of her admirers, she matched her quick wit against them all in a victorious scream of banter and repartee.
Suddenly a shot rang out in the lower woods; then two, with a faltering third; then a scattered volley like a bunch of firecrackers going off at once. A score of men showed at the turn of the road doubling back for dear life, the pickets who had been dislodged and driven in by the advancing whites. They had hardly leaped the wall, panting, and crouching with the main body behind it, when the machine guns wheeled into the open and began to fire. In the first murderous crash it seemed as though nothing human could withstand them, and the blue-jackets, dotted here and there in the grass, raised an exultant yell, and some even sprang up in anticipation of the call to charge. But the men that worked the guns had to stand exposed and helpless before a fire more galling than their own. They began to drop, and those who were unhurt disconcertedly turned and ran. A couple of officers sprang out of the grass to take charge of the abandoned guns, managing in their flurry to jam them both. For a minute they tinkered and hammered at the choked mechanism, exposing themselves, as they did so, to the concentrated volleys of a hundred Samoan rifles. Of a sudden, one clapped his hand to his breast and sank on his knees; his comrade caught him round the body and dragged him back, leaving the guns, now silent and useless, to shine innocuously in the sun.
All this while the woods on either hand reverberated with the volleys and the cheers of an extended battle, and a haze of powder smoke drifted above the tree tops. No one knew how the day was going, and the most conflicting rumors ran like wildfire through the Mataafa lines together with the names of such an one killed and such an one wounded. Dodging the bullets, Fetuao flitted about with water for the parched fighters, passing the news and rolling cigarettes for such of the wounded as were not too far gone to care for them. Occasionally she ferreted out a trembling wretch in the rear and drove him to the front with taunts; or, if he were too panic-stricken to get up, she had no compunction in thrashing him with a stick until he did so. The little savage was beside herself as she danced and sang like a wanton child in the rain—a rain of Martini and Lee-Remington balls stinging the air all about her.
After the machine guns were put out of action the fight became a rifle duel, which went on briskly for upward of an hour. Again and again the whites rose in the grass, blundered forward and took cover, each rush stemmed by the Oas, who, darting up from their wall, gave volley for volley at point-blank range. Standing in a slop of blood, their great naked feet trampling the dead and writhing bodies of their comrades, they rivaled the rocky wall itself in the unflinching obstinacy of their resistance. It was then the battle reached its deadliest stage, more falling in those terrible minutes than during the whole previous course of the action. There was no shouting, no cheering, but with clenched teeth each man held his place and panted for the supreme moment that should spell either victory or rout. That moment came with the bugle call to charge, when the whites, rising for the last time, flung themselves forward with bayonets fixed. On they came, crimson-faced, mouths open, British and Americans in a pellmell rush like a rally of boys at football. Even as they did so, Fetuao leaped bolt upright on the wall, and swinging her carbine round her head, opposed her slender body to the whole attack. In an instant she was tumbling backward with a bullet through her throat, and as she lay coughing and strangling in the mire, Jack ran forward with a cry and caught her in his arms. There she died, amid the crash and roar of a hand-to-hand fight, jostled and stumbled on, her little hot hands clinging to his in the convulsive grasp of dissolution.
Jack sprang up like a madman. He had no thought in his dizzy head but vengeance—vengeance, sudden, bloody, and swift. He plunged into the thickest of the fray, cursing and raving as he opened a path with his brawny shoulders. A seaman tried to drive him through with a bayonet, but he caught the fellow round the neck and throttled him; he wrenched away the weapon and stabbed out with it right and left, with a strength, skill, and ferocity that nothing could withstand. He was fired at again and again; his ashen face was twenty times a target, once at so close a range that the powder burned his very skin. As the line swayed to and fro in that desperate final struggle, there was a hoarse cry against him, constantly repeated, of, "Shoot that white man!" "Kill the renegade!" But Jack, seemingly proof against bullet and sword, stood his ground like a lion and clubbed the butt of his gun into the faces of his foes; and when the whites, at last losing heart, began to weaken and fall back, it was Jack that led the Samoan charge, waving a dripping bayonet, and bellowing like a maniac for the rest to follow him.
He stopped beside the guns, laughing wildly to see the blue-jackets scattering like rabbits down the hill, and throwing away their rifles, water bottles, and accouterments in their precipitate flight. There were wounded men lying all about him, groaning, some of them, and calling out faintly for help; but, hell! what did he care! Let them groan, the skunks; let them remember the women and children they had bombarded, and the houses they had burned, and the honest hearts they had broken! To hell with them! Besides, for the matter of that, he was feeling sort of sick himself—sort of numb and shivery—and he staggered like a drunken man as he went slowly back up to the wall. It was all he could do to straddle the blamed thing, and then it was only with the help of a wounded Samoan who took his hand. The Kanaka, dizzily seen through a kind of mist, was no other than Tua; together, like men in a dream, they searched for Fetuao's body; and dragging it out of the shambles where it lay, they tried to clean away the blood with wisps of grass. Jack was sitting with the girl's head in his lap when he began to sway unsteadily backward and forward, feeling strangely sleepy and cold. He moaned. He gasped. Hell! they must have plugged him somewhere, after all. And then he rolled over—dead.
THE SECURITY OF THE HIGH SEAS
Things had been dull in Apia before the arrival of Captain Satterlee in the Southern Belle. Not business alone—which was, of course, only to be expected, what with the civil war being just over and the Kanakas driven to eat their cocoanuts instead of selling them to traders in the form of copra—but, socially speaking, the little capital of the Samoan group had been next door to dead. Picnics had been few; a heavy dust had settled on the floor of the public hall—a galvanized iron barn which social leaders could rent for six Chile dollars a night, lights included; the butcher's wedding, contrary to all expectation, had been strictly private, and might almost have slipped by unnoticed had it not been for a friendly editorial in the Samoa Weekly Times; and with the exception of an auction, a funeral, and a billiard tournament at the International Hotel, a general lethargy had overtaken Apia and the handful of whites who made it their home.
As Mr. Skiddy, the boyish American consul, expressed himself, "You can't get anybody to do anything these days."
Possibly this long spell of monotony contributed to Captain Satterlee's pronounced and instant success. The topsails of the Southern Belle had hardly more than appeared over the horizon, when people began to wake up and realize that stagnation had too long held them in its thrall. Satterlee was not at all the ordinary kind of sea captain, to which the Beach (as Apia always alluded to itself) was more than well acquainted. Gin had no attractions for Captain Satterlee, nor did he surround himself with dusky impropriety. He played a straight social game, and lived up to the rules, even to party calls, and finger bowls on his cabin table. He was a tall, thin American of about forty-five, with floorwalker manners, grayish mutton-chop whiskers, and a roving eye. The general verdict of Apia was that he was "very superior." His superiority was apparent in his gentlemanly baldness, his openwork socks, his well-turned references to current events, his kindly and indulgent attitude toward all things Samoan. He deplored the rivalry of the three contending nationalities, German, English, and American, whose official representatives quarreled fiercely among themselves and mismanaged the affairs of this unfortunate little South Sea kingdom, and whose unofficial representatives sold guns and cartridges indiscriminately to the warring native factions. Satterlee let it be inferred that the role of peacemaker had informally settled upon himself.
"In a little place everybody ought to pull together," he would say, his bland tolerance falling like balm from heaven, and he would clinch the remark by passing round forty-cent cigars.
The Southern Belle was a showy little vessel of about ninety tons, with the usual trade room in the after part of the ship, where the captain himself would wait on you behind a counter, and sell you anything from a bottle of trade scent to a keg of dynamite. He never was so charming as when engaged in this exchange of commodities for coin, and it accorded so piquantly with his evident superiority that the purchaser had a pleasant sense of doing business with a gentleman.
"Of course, I might run her as a yacht, and play the heavy swell," he would remark. "But, candidly, I like this kind of thing; it puts me on a level with the others, you know; and then it's handy for buying supplies, and keeping one in touch with the people." With this he would give you such a warming smile, and perhaps throw in free a handful of fishhooks, or a packet of safety matches, or a toothbrush. Indeed, apart from this invariable prodigality, his scale of prices was ridiculously low, and if you were a lady you could buy out the ship at half price. As for young Skiddy, the American consul, the bars in his case were lowered even more, and he was just asked to help himself; which young Skiddy did, though sparingly. Captain Satterlee took an immense fancy to this youthful representative of their common country, and treated him with an engaging mixture of respect and paternalism; and Skiddy, not to be behindhand, and dazzled, besides, by his elder's marked regard and friendship, threw wide the consular door, and constantly pressed on Satterlee the hospitality of a cot on the back veranda.
The captain professed to find it remarkable—which, indeed, it was—that a boy of twenty-six should have been intrusted with the welfare of so considerable a section of Samoa's white population. The roll of the consulate bore the names of thirty-eight Americans, not to speak of a thirty-ninth who was soon expected, over whom the young consul possessed extraordinary powers withheld from far higher posts in far more important countries. Young Skiddy, on a modest salary of two hundred dollars a month and a house rent-free, was supposed, if need be, to marry you, divorce you, try you for crimes and misdemeanors, and in extreme cases might even dangle you from the flagstaff in his front yard.
He had been very seldom called on, however, to use these extensive powers. In three years he had married as many couples, helped to baptize a half-caste baby, held an inquest on a dead sailor, bullied a Samoan army off his front grass, and had settled a disputed inheritance involving five acres of cocoanuts. This, of course, left him with some spare time on his hands, which, on the whole, he managed to get through with very tolerable enjoyment. But until the date of Captain Satterlee's arrival he had never had a friend, or at least so it seemed to him now in the retrospect. His official colleagues were out of the question—the standoffish Englishman, the sullen German, the grotesque Swede who held the highest judicial office. No, there was not the little finger of a friend in the whole galaxy. And elsewhere? Not a soul to whom one could give intimacy without the danger, almost the certainty, of its being abused. No wonder, then, that he turned to Satterlee, and grasped the hand of fellowship so warmly extended to him.
The little consul had never known such a man; he had never heard such talk; he had never before realized the extent and splendor of the world. Sitting in the cabin of the Southern Belle, often far into the night, he would give a rapt attention to this extraordinary being who had done everything and seen everything. Paris, London, Constantinople, New York, all were as familiar to Satterlee as the palm of his hand, and he had the story-telling gift that can throw a glamour over the humblest incident. Not that his incidents were often humble. On the contrary, in his mysterious suggestive fashion he let it be inferred that his bygone part had been a great one. He would offer dazzling little peeps, and then shut the slide; a chance reference that would make his hearer gasp; the adroit use of a mighty name, checked by a sudden, "Oh, hold on—I'm saying more than I ought to!" You felt, somehow, that to have roused the interest of this powerful personage was to insure your own career. With a turn of his hand he was capable of gratifying your wildest ambition. He had remarked your unusual capacity, and had quietly determined it should be given proper scope. When and where and how were to be settled later. These questions you left confidently to Satterlee. It was enough that you were informed, in those fine shades of which he was a master, that your day would surely come. On leaving Satterlee you walked on air without knowing exactly why; or rather Skiddy did, for by "you" I mean the little consul.
It is a sad commentary on human nature that it is so easily deceived. A glib tongue, an attractive manner, a few hundred dollars thrown carelessly about, and presto! you have the counterfeit of a Cecil Rhodes. We are not only willing to take people at their own valuation, but are ever ready to multiply that valuation by ten. Obtrude romance—rich, stirring romance—into the lives of commonplace people, and they instantly lose their heads. Romance, more than cupidity, is what attracts the gold-brick investor.
Of course, Satterlee was a poser, a fraud, a liar; the highest type of liar; the day-dreaming, well-read, genuinely inventive, highly imaginative, loving-it-for-its-own-sake liar. But to Skiddy every word he said was Gospel-true. He never doubted the captain for an instant. Life grew richer to him, stranger and more wonderful. It was like a personal distinction—a medal, or the thanks of Congress—that Satterlee should thus have singled him out. His gratitude was unbounded. He felt both humble and elated. His cup was brimming over.
Let not his credulity be counted against him. After all, he was not the only admirer of the captain. Did he not see Satterlee lionized by the Chief Justice and the rest of his brother officials; publicly honored by the head of the great German company; called to the bosom of both the missionary denominations? Was not all Apia, in fact, regardless of sex, creed, or nationality, acclaiming Satterlee to the skies, and vying among themselves for the privilege of entertaining him? Never, indeed, were there so many picnics, so many parties, such a constant succession of dances at the public hall. Even the king was galvanized into action, and, to the surprise of everyone, gave a sort of At Home, where Satterlee was the guest of honor, and received the second kava cup. A half-caste couple, who before had barely held up their heads, sprang into social prominence by getting married under the direct patronage of the popular captain, and thus rallying to their visiting list all the rank, fashion, and beauty of Apia.
It was a delirious month. There was an event for almost every night of it. The strain on the half-caste band was awful. Miss Potter's millinery establishment worked night and day. Of a morning you couldn't find a lady on a front veranda who wasn't stitching and sewing and basting and cutting out. And the men! Why, in the social whirl few of them had time to sober up, and the sale of Leonard's soda water was unprecedented.
As the time began to draw near for the monthly mail from San Francisco, Satterlee got restless and talked regretfully of leaving. He gave a great P.P.C. bargain day on board the Southern Belle, where sandwiches and bottled beer were served to all comers, and goods changed hands at astonishing prices: coal oil at one seventy-five a case; hundred-pound kegs of beef at four dollars; turkey-red cotton at six cents a yard; square face at thirty cents a bottle; and similar cuts in all the standard commodities. There was no custom house in those days, and you were free to carry everything ashore unchallenged. A matter of eighty tons must have been landed all round the beach; and the pandemonium at the gangway, the crush and jostle in the trade room, and the steady hoisting out of fresh merchandise from the main hold, made a very passable South Sea imitation of a New York department store. At any rate, there was the same loss of temper, the same harassed expression on the faces of the purchasers, and the same difficulty in getting change. As like as not you had to take it—the change—in the form of Jews' harps, screw eyes, or anything small and handy that happened to be near by. It was the most lightning performance Apia had ever witnessed, and the captain carried it off in a brisk, smiling way, as though it was the best joke in the world, and he was only doing it all for fun.
Unfortunate captain! Unhappy destiny that brought in the mail cutter two days ahead of schedule! Thrice unlucky popularity that found thee basking in the sunshine of woman's favor instead of on thy four-inch deck! The pilot signaled the mail; Skiddy put forth in his consular boat, intercepting the cutter in the pass, and receiving (on his head) his own especial Government bag. The proximity of the Southern Belle, and the likelihood of Satterlee being at home, caused Skiddy to board the ship and open the bag on her quarter-deck. One stout, blue, and important-looking letter at once caught his eye. He opened the stout, blue, and important-looking letter, and——
There were no white men in the crew of the Southern Belle. They were all Rotumah boys, with the exception of Ah Foy, the Chinese cook. This amiable individual was singing over his pots and pans when he was suddenly startled by the apparition of Skiddy at the galley door. The little consul was deathly pale, and there was something fierce and authoritative in his look.
"Come out of here," he said abruptly, "I want to talk to you!"
The Chinaman followed him aft. He had a pretty good idea of what was coming. That was why he was sewn up with two hundred dollars in hard cash, together with a twenty-dollar bill under his left heel. He began to cry, and in five minutes had blurted out the whole thing. Self-preservation is the first law, and he had, besides, some dim conception of State's evidence. Skiddy made the conception clearer, and promised him immunity if he would make a clean breast of it. This the Chinaman forthwith did in his laborious pidgin. A good part of it was incomprehensible, but he established certain main facts, and confirmed the stout, blue, important-looking letter. As Satterlee came off on a shore boat, pulling like mad, and then darted up the ladder in a sweat of apprehension, he was met at the top by Skiddy—not Skiddy the friend, but Skiddy the arm of the law, Skiddy the retributive, Skiddy the world's avenger, with Seniko, his towering cox, standing square behind him.
"John Forster," he said, "alias Satterlee, I arrest you in the name of the United States, on the charge of having committed the crime of barratry, and warn you that anything you say now may be hereafter used against you."
It was a horrible thing to say—to be forced to say—and no sense of public duty could make it less than detestable. Skiddy almost whispered out the words. The brutality of them appalled him. Remember, this was his friend, his hero, the man whose intimacy an hour before had been everything to him. Satterlee gave him a quick, blank, panicky look, and then, with a pitiful bravado, took a step forward with an attempted return to his usual confident air. He professed to be dumfounded at the accusation; he was the victim of a dreadful mistake; he tried, with a ghastly smile, to reassert his old dominion, calling Skiddy "old man" and "old chap" in a shaky, fawning voice, and wanting to take him below "to talk it over." But the little consul was adamantine. The law must take its course. He was sorry, terribly sorry, but as an officer of the United States he had to do his duty.
Satterlee preceded him into the boat. The consul followed and took the yoke lines. They were both dejected, and neither dared to meet the other's eyes. It was a mournful pull ashore, and tragic in the retrospect. A silence lay between them as heavy as lead. The crew, conscious of the captain's humiliation, though they knew not the cause, felt also constrained to a deep solemnity. Yes, a funereal pull, and it was a relief to everyone when at last they grounded in the shingle off the consulate.
Skiddy had a busy day of it. Leaving the captain at the consulate under guard, and sending off Asi, the chief of Vaiala, together with ten warriors armed with rifles and axes to take charge of the Southern Belle and her crew, he walked into Apia to make arrangements to meet the painful situation. Single-handed he had to rear the structure of a whole judicial system, including United States marshals, a clerk of court, four assessor judges, and a jail. His first steps were directed toward a little cottage on the Motootua Road, the residence of Mr. Scoville Purdy, a goaty, elderly, unwashed individual, who formed the more respectable half of the Samoan bar. Mr. Purdy was forthwith retained by the United States Government, and the papers of the case left in his hands. Skiddy next sought out Mr. Thacher, the other half of the bar, and directed him to defend the prisoner. Then he bent his mind to the consideration of jails, of which Samoa boasted two.
The municipal jail was a two-roomed wooden shed, sparingly furnished with a couple of tin pails. Humanity forbidding the incarceration of Captain Satterlee in such a hovel, the little consul passed on to Mulinuu, where the general Samoan Government held sway. The jail here was on a more pretentious scale. It consisted of a rectangular inclosure, perhaps sixty feet by forty, formed by four eight-foot walls of galvanized iron, and containing within five or six small huts of the kind that shipwrecked seamen might build on a desert island. In fact that was just about what they were, and as foul and repulsive as the real article. Owing to financial stringency the Samoan Government was unable to house or feed its prisoners, who for both these reasons might well be described as castaways. These unfortunates were absent at the time of Skiddy's visit, employing a very languid leisure on the improvement of the roads; and the consul could not have penetrated the jail at all had it not been for the king, who, on being appealed to, was obliging enough to lend the diplomat his spare key.
Skiddy stood and regarded the place with an immense depression. It would not do at all. It was no better than a cattle pen. He was about to turn away, when the two Scanlons appeared on the scene, their keen noses having scented out a job. The Scanlons were burly half-castes, of a muddy, sweaty complexion, whose trustworthiness and intelligence were distinctly above the average. The Scanlon brothers, to any one in a difficult position, could be relied upon as pillars of strength. There was nothing a Scanlon brother wouldn't do, and do well, for two dollars and fifty cents a day. Mind and muscle were both yours—Scanlon mind and muscle—for this paltry and insignificant sum; and the consul, in his quandary, welcomed the stout, bristly haired pair as though they were angels from heaven.
In less time than it takes to write, Alfred Scanlon was appointed a United States marshal, Charles Scanlon an assistant United States marshal, and the arrangement was made with them to take full charge of Captain Satterlee during his trial. He was to live in their cottage, have his meals served from the International Hotel, and, while carefully guarded night and day, was to be treated "first class" throughout.
"The law of the United States," boomed out little Skiddy, "assumes that a prisoner is innocent until he is actually convicted. I want both of you to remember that."
The Scanlons didn't understand a word of what he said, but they saluted, and looked very much impressed. When you bought a Scanlon you got a lot for your money, including a profound gravity when you addressed him. It was the Scanlon way of recognizing that you were paying, and the Scanlon receiving, two dollars and fifty cents a day!
At the head of his two satellites, who kept pace respectfully behind him, Skiddy next directed himself to find Dillon. Dillon was a variety of white Scanlon, though of an infinitely lower human type, who kept a tiny store and cobbled shoes near the Mulivae bridge; and who, from some assumed knowledge of legal procedure, invariably acted as clerk of the court—any court—American, English, or the Samoan High. You associated his heavy, bloated, grog-blossomed face, and black-dyed whiskers, as an inevitable part of the course of justice. It was his custom to take longhand notes of all court proceedings, as, of course, stenographers were unknown in Apia; and at times it would seem as though all Samoan justice boiled down to dictating to Dillon. As a witness, you never looked at the judge; you looked at Dillon, and wondered whether he was taking you down right. A careful witness always went slowly, and used the words that Dillon was likely to understand.