Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/104

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Same Evening.

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

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

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

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

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