The Boy Travellers in Australasia/Chapter 6
THE SAMOAN ISLANDS.—APIA.—ITS POSITION AND PECULIARITIES.—BEACH-COMBERS.—HISTORY AND ADVENTURES OF SOME OF THEM.—CHARLEY SAVAGE.—SAMOAN POLITICS.—ATTEMPT TO POISON MISSIONARIES.—FRENCH CONVENT AND SCHOOLS.—COMMERCE WITH SAMOA.—VISITING A NATIVE VILLAGE.—GAMES OF THE YOUNG PEOPLE.—YOUTHS THROWING SPEARS.—MISSION COLLEGE AT MALUA.—HOW THE STUDENTS LIVE.—PANGO-PANGO.—ADMIRAL WILKES'S DESCRIPTION.—ATTENDING A SAMOAN PICNIC.—DIFFERENCES OF TASTE.—MASSACRE BAY.—LA PÉROUSE.—HOW HIS FATE WAS DISCOVERED.—THE SWORD-HILT AT TUCOPIA.—LOSS OF THE BOUSSOLE AND ASTROLABE.—VANIKORO ISLAND.
THE Pera reached the Samoan Islands without mishap, and anchored in the harbor of Apia. The Samoan group is also known on charts and maps as the Navigator's Islands; the former name is the native one, while the latter was bestowed by Bougainville in 1768, who called the group Archipel des Navigateurs, in consequence of the skill displayed by the natives in managing their canoes. There are
SAMOAN DOUBLE CANOE.nine inhabited islands in the group, with an area of about 1125 square miles and a population of something less than forty thousand.
In general effect our friends found the scenery of Samoa not unlike that of Tahiti, though the detail was materially different. The harbor of Apia is an excellent one, affording secure anchorage and safety from all winds; the captain of the yacht told Frank that there was a finer harbor at Pango-Pango, in another island, but Apia was the most important commercially. The trading company that succeeded the German house of Godefroy & Sons, after the latter's failure, has a large establishment at Apia, and controls a great part of the business of the islands. The ship-yard of the company was pointed out, and it needed only a glance to show that it was extensive and well equipped.
CORAL ARCHITECTS IN SAMOAN WATERS.
A BEACH-COMBER.that the visitor cannot make out their position until he is close upon them.
Back of the town, which contains two or three hundred stores and residences, the horizon is filled with richly green hills, which rise one upon the other to a height of nearly five thousand feet. Streams come trickling down from these hills, and there is one water-fall visible from the harbor large enough to make a well-defined stipple of white against the rich green of the mountains that surround it. Frank and Fred immediately suggested a walk to the water-fall, but their enthusiasm was checked by Doctor Bronson, who thought there would be enough in Apia to amuse them at least for that day.
Hardly was the anchor fixed in the mud before a boat was lowered and the Pera's party went on shore. Doctor Bronson and the youths proceeded to the American consulate, while Colonel Bush and Doctor Macalister went to call upon the representative of their country. After the official formalities were over they strolled about the town, and in a short time Frank and Fred had familiarized themselves with a considerable amount of the history of Samoa, as we have ascertained by a perusal of their journals.
"Apia isn't much of a place," said Frank, "but what it lacks in numbers it makes up in variety. Among the residents there are Americans, Englishmen, Germans, French, and several other nationalities, the Germans being most numerous and controlling the best of the trade. Then there is a fair sprinkling of men whose nationality is open to question, and whom any respectable country would not be anxious to claim. Samoa is at present the favorite resort of the beach-comber; perhaps you don't know what a beach-comber is.
"All through the islands of the Pacific there are men whose history is shrouded in obscurity, and who are unwilling to tell the truth about themselves, for the simple reason that the truth would be inconvenient. They are deserters from ships, runaways from home—perhaps in consequence of crimes for which the law would like to lay hands on them—outcasts from decent society or society of any kind, and not at all particular as to how they make a living. They were more numerous fifty years ago than at present, but there is still a sufficient number of them for all practical wants of the country. In the days when England sent its criminal classes to Australia, the South Sea Islands were filled with escaped convicts and ticket-of-leave men; but that source of supply no longer abounds, and thereby hangs a tale which may as well be told here as anywhere else.
GROWTH OF CORAL ON A MOUNTAIN SLOWLY SUBSIDING.
"The first white settlers of the Feejee Islands was a band of twenty-seven convicts, who escaped from imprisonment in New South Wales, in 1804, on a small schooner which they had captured. They landed in Feejee with a few muskets, and in their encounters with the natives their weapons made them all-powerful. The natives regarded the muskets as something supernatural, and if the white men had conducted themselves with intelligence they could have obtained mastery over the whole population with very little trouble. The natives were ready to acknowledge them as rulers, and did in fact exalt several of them to the position of chiefs. But the fellows quarrelled with the natives and among themselves, and when Commodore Wilkes touched at the Feejees, in 1840, only two of them were alive.
"These wandering or stationary vagabonds are the men who are called beach-combers in the parlance of the South Pacific. They are not fond of law and order, and whenever an island group goes under the control of any European power the beach-combers are very likely to leave and take up their abode on islands where the natives are still independent. When the French occupied Tahiti many beach-combers there fled to Feejee, and when Feejee became an English colony they departed for Samoa. Samoa is still under the rule of its own kings, or rather under their misrule, but the probabilities are that it will soon be in the hands of the Germans. When this happens you may expect an emigration of beach-combers to the islands, if any remain, where there will be no legal restraints.
ASS'S EARS, FLORIDA ISLAND.
"The stories of many of these fellows is full of the most startling incidents, even after making a very liberal deduction for what their imaginations have added to the facts as they occurred. One of them tells how, when he landed in Feejee, he was condemned to be baked and served up at a feast; the oven was being heated for his reception when the chief concluded to keep his prize a while longer until he could be fattened. The man was released, but he ate sparingly of the food that was given him, and at the same time ingratiated himself with the natives, particularly with the chief, by showing him how to make war successfully upon his enemies. The result was he was saved from baking, became a man of importance, had fifty wives, and a goodly number of slaves.
"Another beach-comber named Charley Savage became a man of great importance, and received the honors that were given to the most exalted chiefs. He assisted his tribe in making war, and was nearly always successful. One day, however, his fortune deserted him, as he was killed in a fight, and his body fell into the hands of his enemies. They cooked and devoured him, and made his bones into sail needles, which were distributed among the people in token of the event, and as a remembrance of the victory in which he was slain.
"It must not be supposed from this reference to cannibalism that the Samoans practised it. They seem never to have been addicted to devouring their enemies or anybody else, and in other respects were superior to their neighbors.
"Like nearly all these island groups, Samoa has been, from time immemorial, the scene of almost constant warfare between the tribes inhabiting the different islands. There are generally two or three claimants to the throne of Samoa, and the foreign consuls are kept pretty busy adjusting difficulties growing out of the local wars, and involving the destruction of foreign property. On two occasions the protectorate of the islands has been offered to the United States, but it has been declined with thanks. It has also been offered to England, but thus far has not been accepted, and the indications, at the time of this writing, are that Samoa will be a German colony before many months.
A HOUSE IN THE TONGA ISLANDS.
"The Samoans have been divided into two great factions, and it has never been possible for them to come to an agreement that could be kept for any length of time. Their quarrels have been aided by the scoundrelly white men just mentioned, and our consul says that if all these bad fellows could be driven out there might be a chance for peace.
"It was these beach-combers that in the early days of the labors of the missionaries greatly hindered their work, and in several instances directly caused their deaths. As an illustration I may mention the death of the first three English missionaries who went to the Tonga Islands. There was an escaped English convict living there who persuaded the King that these men were wizards, and that an epidemic which was then raging had been caused by them. The King accordingly murdered the good men at the bidding of the scoundrel.
"When the first missionaries settled in Pango-Pango, in Samoa, some twelve or fifteen of these beach-combers were living there. These rascals were so bitterly opposed to the missionaries that they tried to drive them away, and failing in this laid a plot to poison them. The story is thus told by Rev. Mr. Murray in his book, 'Forty Years of Mission Work in Polynesia:'
"'The plot was wellnigh carried into execution. The opportunity was to be embraced when the teakettle was on the fire. Cooking and boiling of water are carried on in open sheds on the islands. The time fixed upon for carrying the plan into effect was service afternoon. The lad who attended to the boiling of the water was accustomed to fill the kettle and put it upon the fire before going to the service. Hence there was afforded the opportunity which our enemies sought. We had all gone to the service, and there was no human eye to watch their movements. The appointed afternoon happened to be windy, and while the man who had undertaken to carry the plot into effect was in the act of doing the deed, another, who had been smitten with remorse, struck his arm and scattered the poison; they had no means of obtaining more, and so the attempt failed. The man who was instrumental in saving our lives remained on the island several years acting as pilot to vessels entering Pango-Pango harbor, and in 1841 he left in our missionary brig Camden. It was not from himself that we learned our obligations but from another white man who lived on the island at the time of the plot, and knew of it though he had no hand in it. The occurrence led to the breaking up and scattering of the party of would-be murderers, as they feared the arrival of a man-of-war, and they could no longer trust one another.'
"The Samoans are a handsome people," continued Frank in his journal, "of a deep bronze or copper color, and graceful figures. Some of them have adopted foreign garments; but a good proportion adhere to the native dress, which consists of fine mats or thick handsome tappa, made from the fibre of the mulberry or bread-fruit tree. Their tappa is thicker than that of the Marquesas, but unfortunately the manufacture of it is diminishing year by year, and in a little while no more will be made. Foreign calicoes are taking its place, just as in Tahiti and the Marquesas. Of course the foreigners wish a market for the goods they have to sell, and therefore they encourage the wearing of garments or
NATIVE TEACHER, UPOLU, SAMOAN ISLANDS.materials of European make.
"The most lightly clad Samoans were those that came out in boats when we lay at anchor and wanted to dive for money. They are excellent swimmers and divers, and when a piece of silver is thrown into the water they are after it instantly, and catch it before it reaches the bottom. The best of the divers was a girl who appeared to be about fifteen years old; when she caught a coin she held it between her teeth till she rose to the surface, and after taking breath for half a minute or so was ready for another dive. The performance was exactly like what we saw at Singapore, Malta, and other ports, where there are always plenty of natives ready to dive for the coins that passengers throw over for them. The water is perfectly clear, and though it is fully a hundred feet deep, every object on the bottom can be seen.
"In our stroll about Apia we passed the convent where four French Sisters and as many Samoan ones have charge of the education of some sixty or more native girls, many of them the daughters of chiefs or belonging to the high caste families. As we passed the convent the girls were singing very sweetly, and we paused to listen; it was easy to imagine that we were passing a school in Rouen or Dijon, so much was the singing like what one hears in France. The French Sisters are said to be very much devoted to their work, and as the Samoans are fond of music they readily receive instruction in singing. The girls are taught in all the branches customary in schools of this sort in other parts of the world; sewing and other home duties are not neglected, and when the pupils leave the school they are in a position to do a great deal of good among their less accomplished sisters.
"There is a similar school for boys, under the charge of French priests, and there are Protestant schools in every village. The Catholics have made greater progress here than in any other of the island groups; they have between three and four thousand adherents, and among their converts are some of the most influential men of the islands. The representatives of the London Missionary Society claim about twenty-five thousand followers, and the Methodists something more than five thousand, the latter having come into the field much later than did the London society. Nearly all the adult population can read and write, and there is scarcely a child ten years old that cannot read its own language.
"There are groves of cocoanut-trees everywhere, and we were not surprised to learn that the principal product of the islands is from the cocoa-tree. Ten thousand tons of copra are shipped every year to the markets of Europe, where the oil is extracted, and there is besides a large production of cocoanut-oil in Samoa, which some have estimated as high as two thousand tons. The Germans have extensive cotton plantations, and there are smaller plantations belonging to English and American companies and individuals; coffee and sugar are cultivated, but the culture of these articles has not thus far been very extensive.
"As at Tahiti and in the other islands, it has been necessary to import laborers from elsewhere to work the plantations, as the Samoans are not fond of exerting themselves any more than are those of the Society group. Thus far most of the laborers have been imported by the Germans, and they come from all the islands where the German vessels trade. The Polynesian Land Company and the American Land Company have also made some importations of the same sort, but up to the present time they have not equalled the Germans.
"While walking in the outskirts of the town we were thirsty, and asked the native boy who accompanied us where we could find some water to drink. He immediately suggested cocoanut-milk, and on our acquiescing he hailed a boy who was lounging under a cocoanut-tree close by, and said something to him in Samoan."Immediately the second boy took a small piece of rope which had been twisted out of cocoa fibre, and prepared to ascend one of the trees. By means of this rope and his hands and feet he went up about as quickly as we could have ascended a staircase of the same height, and threw down several nuts, with which we quenched our thirst. Any one who has been in the tropics knows how refreshing is the milk of the green cocoanut when he is weary and thirsty.
CRABS EATING COCOANUTS.
We saw some crabs feeding on cocoanuts, which are about the last thing in the world you would suppose a crab could eat. Perhaps you'll laugh and be incredulous, but they really do eat cocoanuts, and get the meat out without any assistance. Cocoanuts are their principal food, but they do not refuse other fruits, such as figs, candle-nuts, and nutmegs. This is the way they do it:
"The crab climbs a tree and pushes down a ripe cocoanut, which is easily detached, and he shows a great deal of sagacity in selecting only the ripe nuts. Then he comes down to the ground and tears the husk from the nut, and he always begins at the end where the eye-holes are. If the tree is a sloping one, and there are rocks underneath, he climbs up again, carrying the nut with him, and drops it on a rock, where it will be broken. If the situation is not favorable for this performance, he digs into the eye-holes until he makes an entrance sufficiently large to admit his pincers, with which he withdraws the meat.
"These land-crabs are excellent eating, though they are rather too oily for a delicate stomach. They live in large holes, which they dig themselves and line with the fibre torn from the cocoanut-shell. They grow to a great size, and sometimes a single crab will yield a quart of oil. They are distinctively land-crabs, and the natives say they only use the sea to bathe in. We asked our guide if all crabs in Samoa are good to eat, and he answered that all land-crabs were, but the sea ones were doubtful, some of them being poisonous at certain seasons of the year.
A PLANTATION IN THE SOUTH SEA ISLANDS.
"We went into some of the native houses, and found them neat and clean. The roofs of the houses are very high, and supported on low posts; Fred said there was a great deal of roof and very little wall, and this exactly describes a Samoan house. The roof is thatched with palm-leaves, and when well and properly laid will exclude the heaviest rains.
A FAIR WIND.The houses have no doors, mats being suspended at the entrance; the result is, the dogs and chickens may walk in when they choose, though in many houses the chickens are not allowed to enter.
"It is the custom to place screens of plaited palm-leaves around the houses at night, but they are always removed at daylight. In the interior of the houses screens of cloth are suspended from the roof to divide the space into rooms where the inmates sleep. The couches are piles of fine mats of cocoa fibre, and the pillows are simply sticks of bamboo or other wood, on which the neck, not the head, is rested. It is about as uncomfortable as the Japanese pillow, which it closely resembles, and is no doubt the cause of the early-rising habits of the natives.
"All the cooking is done out-of-doors, and there is very little inside the houses that can be called furniture. In one house we found a group of young people playing a game which was something like our game of forfeits. They sat in a circle and spun a cocoanut around on its sharp end; when it fell the person towards whom the three black eyes pointed was adjudged the loser. When they are to decide which of them is to do anything, leaving the others free, the lottery of the cocoanut is used to determine the matter.
"Warfare being more prevalent here in later years than in the Society group, we found the games of the young men much more vigorous than at Tahiti, We saw a party of boys playing at totoga, or reed-throwing; they had reeds five or six feet long, with points of hard wood, and the skill of the game consisted in making the reeds skim as far as possible along the grass.
"In another spot some young men were throwing spears at the stumps of trees, and in this game the skill consisted in a youth's ability to force out the spear of some one else while fixing his own in the stump. They have several games in which spears and clubs are used, and sometimes they are accompanied by a good deal of risk. Spears are thrown so as to hit the ground and then glide upward to the mark, and sometimes a man stands up armed with only a club and allows half
BREAD-FRUIT a dozen others to throw their spears at him in rapid succession. By a dexterous handling of his club he turns the spears aside, but it is evident that the slightest mistake may have serious consequences.
"When we came back to the landing-place we thought we would take a ride in a native boat instead of calling away the boat of the yacht. So we hired an outrigger canoe, and were quickly paddled to the side of the Pera. These boats are not by any means new to us, as we have seen them in Ceylon, the Malay Archipelago, and other parts of the world. The Samoans handle them with a great deal of skill, and I do not wonder that Bougainville recognized their ability by calling this group the 'Navigator's Islands.'
"I forgot to say," added Frank, "that we saw several cases of elephantiasis, which the natives call fé-fé, and is said to be quite common in all the islands of the group. The arms and legs of the victims are swollen to a great size, but, happily for them, the disease is not attended with pain. The cause of fé-fé is as unknown as is that of goitre in Switzerland."
Apia is on the north side of Upolu Island, which is the most important and the most populous of the group. It has an area of about three hundred and thirty-five square miles, and a population of not far from fifteen thousand, or more than one-third the entire number of inhabitants of Samoa. In the middle of the island is a chain of broken hills sloping towards the sea, and these hills up to their very tops are green with verdure. The harbor of Apia is sheltered by a natural breakwater; but, though the principal seat of commerce, it is not considered as fine as that of Pango-Pango, on Tutuila Island, whither our friends proceeded when their inspection of Upolu was completed.
The day after their arrival at Apia they made an excursion to Malua, about twelve miles distant, to see the college of the London Mission, which is located at that point. Of this journey Fred wrote as follows:
"We hired a boat with six strong natives to row it, but they didn't have much to do, as the wind favored us both ways, and the greater part of the distance we were under sail. The journey seemed a very short one, as we were busy studying the scenery, which is very pretty and changed every few minutes as the valleys opened to our gaze and revealed their wonderful richness of tropical productions. "We kept a sharp watch for the college buildings, but didn't see them until we were quite close to the village.
"The fact is the college is not a huge edifice such as you find in Europe or America, but a collection of fifty or sixty one-story cottages, which are built around a large square, with a hall or class-room at one side. In another respect it is unlike a college in civilized countries, as each student is generally accompanied by his wife and family; we were told that married men were preferred to single ones, as the wife and children could be educated at the same time that the student pursued his studies, and they are useful afterwards in instructing the women and children in the places to which they are assigned.
"Every cottage has a garden attached to it, which the student is required to cultivate sufficiently to support his family. Any surplus stock he raises is sold and placed to his credit, and nearly all the students feed and clothe their families out of the proceeds of the garden. The college was founded in 1844 by Doctor G. A. Turner; it has educated more than two thousand teachers and preachers, and in consequence of the system I have just mentioned is almost self supporting. There are several thousand cocoanut, bread-fruit, and other life-supporting trees on the grounds, while the gardens are devoted to taro, yams, bananas, and similar plants. Here, as elsewhere in the South Pacific, the banana-plant is very productive, and requires comparatively little labor to take care of it.
"The rules of the institution are very strict, and any student who repeatedly disobeys them is requested to make way for some one who will not. The bell rings at daylight for morning prayers, after which the students go to work in their gardens or at their trades, or fish in the lagoon in front of the settlement. At eight o'clock the bell rings again for bath and breakfast, and at nine it summons the classes for recitation and instruction, which continue until four in the afternoon. Then more work till sunset, when the bell calls to family prayer. After this the students study by themselves till nine o'clock, when the bell tells them to extinguish their lights and go to bed.
WAR CANOE OF THE OLDEN TIME.
"The majority of the students are Samoans; the rest are from all the islands of the South Pacific, whence they have been sent by the local missionaries. They study arithmetic, geography, and of course learn to read and write, and besides these ordinary branches of education they devote considerable time to the Scriptures and to theology.
"Every Saturday evening there is a prayer-meeting, at which the students make short exhortations. On Sunday there are three services—morning, afternoon, and evening; and there are Sunday-schools for the children and Bible classes for the older folks. On the first Sunday of each month there is a communion-service, after the manner of churches in England and other civilized lands. We have not seen anywhere in the Pacific a finer assemblage of native men and women than the class at this college; they had bright, intelligent faces, and we were told that they were all so anxious to progress in their studies that they rarely infringed any of the rules of the institution, the one most frequently violated being that which required them to stop studying at nine o'clock and go to bed.
CANOES DRAWN ON SHORE.
"It was getting quite dark when we returned to Apia and found our old quarters on the yacht. They wanted us to stay all night at the mission school; but there were so many of us that we thought it best to come back to Apia lest we might incommode our hosts by thrusting such a large number of visitors on them at once. You may be sure we slept soundly in our cabins, as we were all thoroughly tired out with the long but very interesting excursion."
After a few days at Apia the yacht proceeded to Pango-Pango, in Tutuila Island, a distance of about eighty miles. Under her steam-power she made the journey in a single day; had she relied on her sails it would have been far different, as Tutuila lies dead to windward of Upolu, and there are several currents which add their force to make a passage difficult. Sailing-vessels are often five or six days making this trip, which can be covered in a few hours by steam.
Our young friends thought they had never seen anywhere a more beautiful harbor than this; Frank sat down to describe it, and after writing a few lines said he would abandon the attempt, and fall back upon the account of Admiral Wilkes, who visited it in 1839. Accordingly he copied the following from the history of the famous expedition:
"The harbor of Pango-Pango is one of the most singular in all the Polynesian isles. It is the last point at which one would look for a shelter; the coast near it is peculiarly rugged, and has no appearance of indentations, and the entrance being narrow, is not easily
CAPTAIN JAMES COOK.observed. Its shape has been compared to a variety of articles; that which it most nearly resembles is a retort. It is surrounded on all sides by inaccessible mural precipices, from eight hundred to one thousand feet in height. The lower part of these rocks is bare, but they are clothed above with luxuriant vegetation. So impassable did the rocky barrier appear in all but two places, that the harbor was likened to the valley of 'Rasselas' changed to a lake. The harbor is of easy access, and its entrance, which is about a third of a mile in width, is marked by the Tower Rock and the Devil's Point."
"He might have added," said Frank, "that there is a coral reef on each side of the entrance, with the surf breaking heavily over it, or at any rate it was doing so at the time we entered. Pango-Pango is a splendid harbor, and could hold a great many ships. Its principal disadvantage is that the prevailing trade-wind blows directly into it, so that while a sailing-ship can get in without much trouble she has a hard time to get out unless she has a steam tow-boat to help her."
Doctor Bronson told the youths that at one time the King of Samoa proposed to present the harbor of Pango-Pango, and an area of land surrounding it, to the United States Government for a coaling and naval station; but as the acceptance of the proposal would involve political relations
AN AMERICAN RESIDENT.that might be troublesome in future, the offer was practically declined. The commerce of Pango-Pango is not as important as that of Apia, for the very simple reason that the island of Tutuila contains only four thousand inhabitants, and their productive energies are not great. Copra and cocoanut-oil are the principal articles of export; there are some small plantations devoted to cotton, sugar, or coffee, but the lack of native laborers and the high cost of imported ones has kept these industries in a backward state.
The first European vessel to enter this harbor was the Elizabeth, an English whaler, commanded by Captain Cuthbert. He gave it the name of Cuthbert Harbor, but the appellation never adhered to it. Pango-Pango is its native name, and will probably be maintained long after Cuthbert is quite forgotten.
The settlement at Pango-Pango was so much like the one at Apia that we will not risk wearying the reader with a description. Suffice it to say the yacht remained two or three days there, and then proceeded on her voyage in the direction of the Feejee Islands.
Before their departure they were invited to attend a Fa-Samoa party, and the invitation was promptly accepted. Frank asked what a Fa-Samoa party was.
"You might put it in French," said the American consul, by whom the invitation was given, "and say a la Samoa, or, to come to plain English, you may render it 'Samoan fashion.' 'Fa-Samoa,' 'Fa-Feejee,' or 'Fa-Tonga,' mean after the manner of Samoa, Feejee, or Tonga. It is a convenient feature of the language, and I can assure you the party will be an enjoyable one."
"The consul was right," said Frank, in telling their experience, "as the party was a jolly one. It reminded us of the dinner at Tahiti after the native style, but was more like a picnic than anything else we have at home. In fact it was a good deal of a picnic, as each person who was invited contributed something to the supply of eatables for the table, so that those who did not fancy the native dishes need not go hungry.
"The picnic ground was just outside the town, on a pretty bit of lawn shaded by grand old bread-fruit and cocoanut trees, and in the midst of a grove of bananas, which extended on three sides of the lawn and served as a sort of hedge. Banana-leaves were spread thickly on the grass, and on this lowly table the edible things were spread, and what do you suppose we had to eat?
CAVE NEAR THE PICNIC GROUND.
"We had sucking-pigs roasted very much as they are roasted at home, or folded in taro-leaves and baked in hot ashes; the steam from the green leaves cooks them thoroughly, so that the joints fall apart at the merest touch of the knife, or a slight strain of the fingers. They gave us pigeons cooked the same way, and I remark, by-the-way, that there are pigeons in the Samoan Islands, and it is one of the native pastimes to catch them. We had several kinds of scale-fish, some cooked and others raw, and we had crawfish and prawns and Samoan oysters; but I'm bound to say I didn't think much of the oysters when I remembered those of my native land. They gave us a salad made of the young and tender shoots of the cocoa-tree, and very nice it was, and everywhere we turned there were bananas, oranges, pineapples, and other tropical fruits.
"The dishes that most attracted our attention were the puddings made of bananas, bread-fruit, taro, and similar things. The consul told us that each of the ingredients was beaten fine and baked separately, and then they were all worked in together and covered with the thick cream from a ripe cocoanut. Cocoanut-cream is wonderfully rich; when taken by itself it is apt to cloy the stomach and disturb digestion, but used as a sauce for the puddings it is delicious; but you must touch it sparingly, as it is full of oil.
"We sat on the ground to partake of the feast, and had a back-ache afterwards, just as we did in Tahiti. For drink we each had a freshly opened cocoanut-shell, and we took the cocoa-milk as we would take tea or any other beverage in civilized lands. There were some cakes made of putrid bread-fruit, but we did not touch them any more than we did the equally vile-smelling Limburger cheese which one of our entertainers had brought along. The bread-fruit is in season for about half the year; the natives store the fruit in pits lined with banana-leaves, and thus stored the stuff ferments, and soon smells so badly that any person with a sensitive nose cannot bear to come within odoriferous distance. When walking where there are any of these bread-fruit pits we always try to keep to windward.
"Taste and habit are everything. The Germans are nauseated by putrid bread-fruit, while the Samoans are equally intolerant of Limburger. They are horrified when told how long game is kept in England and America before being cooked and eaten, and the merest taste of Worcestershire sauce would spoil their appetites for a whole day at least."
The course of the yacht carried her near Massacre Bay, and Fred naturally inquired why the spot was so called.
"It was so named," replied Doctor Bronson, "because of the massacre of several of the crew, together with the captain, of the Astrolabe, one of the ships of La Pérouse, the ill-fated navigator whose death was so long a mystery."
"What were the circumstances of the affair?" was the inquiry which followed this explanation.
"The ships of La Pérouse, the Boussole (compass) and Astrolabe (quadrant), were off the island, and Captain De Lange, who commanded the Astrolabe, sent four boats on shore to procure water. They carried sixty soldiers and sailors, and were commanded by De Lange in person. The boats made their way through the reef, and reached the beach without opposition. While the work of watering was going on the natives appeared friendly enough, until suddenly they gave a loud shout, and attacked the Frenchmen with stones and clubs. Captain De Lange was killed, and with him eleven of his men. The rest escaped to the ships, leaving one of their boats aground. La Pérouse endeavored to get inside the reef to punish the natives, but after several days he gave up the attempt and proceeded to Botany Bay whence he sent an account of the affair to his government."
"And that was the last heard of him for a long-time?"
"Yes; he sailed from Botany Bay with the Boussole and Astrolabe in March, 1788, and for thirty-eight years nothing was known of him or his ships, or what became of them."
"Did the French Government try to find out anything about their fate?"
"Oh, certainly. They sent an expedition to the South Seas, but it returned without the least information. Then they sent a circular to ambassadors, consuls, and other officials, at the courts of all the powers of the world, and to scientific societies and commercial associations, asking them in the name of humanity to search for any trace of the missing expedition, and offering to reward any one who rendered assistance to survivors, or gave any information about the fate of La Pérouse and his companions."
"And it took thirty-eight years to get the desired information?"
"Yes. All inquiries of navigators and others came to nothing, and gradually the fate of La Pérouse was considered a problem impossible of solution. On the 13th of May, 1826, an English trading-ship from Calcutta, the St. Patrick, Captain Peter Dillon, touched at the island of Tucopia, in latitude 12° 21' south, longitude 168° 33' east. Find its position on the map, and then I'll tell what Captain Dillon discovered there."
A VILLAGE IN VANIKORO.
Frank and Fred eagerly scanned the map, and by following the lines of latitude and longitude they speedily located Tucopia. It is between the Solomon and New Hebrides groups, and lies nearly due north-west from the Feejees, and a little north of west from Samoa.
"Captain Dillon," continued the Doctor, "found there a Frenchman named Martin Buchert, whom he had known at the Feejees thirteen years before, and also a Lascar sailor who had landed at Tucopia with Buchert. The meeting of Dillon and Buchert was an interesting one; and so much was Dillon absorbed with it, that he did not at first notice a silver sword-hilt which the Lascar wore suspended by a string around his neck. While he was talking with Buchert, the Lascar sold the sword-hilt to the ship's armorer for a few fish-hooks. The natives that swarmed around the ship had many articles of European manufacture, and questions concerning them led to a remark about the sword-hilt, which was speedily obtained again from the armorer.
"Captain Dillon learned that the things were brought from an island called Yanikoro, about two days' sail to leeward of Tucopia, and that the natives there had many articles of European manufacture, which were obtained from two ships that had been wrecked there long before.
HAT ISLAND, WEST OF VANIKORO.
"Captain Dillon thought of La Pérouse, and of the reward which the French Government offered. Then he bought all the European articles which the natives of Tucopia possessed, and as soon as this was done he made sail for Vanikoro.
"When his ship was under way he carefully examined the sword-hilt with a magnifying-glass. There was a monogram so badly worn that the letters were indistinct, but he finally made it out 'J. F. G. P.'—the initials of the name Jean Francois Galaup de la Pérouse.
"He had found the hilt of the great navigator's sword!"
"And what did he find at Vanikoro?" said one of the youths, eagerly.
"Owing to contrary winds," the Doctor replied, "he was unable to visit the island at that time, and returned to Calcutta without doing so. He reported his discovery, and exhibited the sword-hilt and other relics; the East India Company fitted out a ship and placed it under his command, and he proceeded to Vanikoro, where he obtained a great many relics, including anchors, cannon, chains, and other heavy things, and learned from the natives the story of the wreck of the Boussole and Astrolabe."
"What was it?"
LOUIS XVI. AND LA PÉROUSE.
"The ships went ashore in a severe gale. On one of them everyone of the crew was drowned in the surf or killed by the natives. On the other, supposed to be the one commanded by La Pérouse in person, friendly terms were established with the people, and the crew were unharmed. They built a small vessel from the wreck of the larger one, and a part of them sailed away. They were never heard of afterwards; those who remained on the island died one after another, and it is supposed that the last survivor perished only a few months before the sword-hilt was found at Tucopia."
"And what became of Captain Dillon?"
"The French Government kept its promise. It created him a chevalier of the Legion of Honor, gave him a life pension of four thousand francs, and appointed him consul to Tahiti, where he remained until the establishment of the protectorate over the Society Islands. Then he returned to England, and lived on his pension until his death in 1846."
- Since the above was written Samoa has virtually passed into the hands of the Germans. The former King was deposed, taken on board a German war-ship, and carried into exile in New Guinea. A new king was placed on the throne, and is maintained there by a German garrison stationed at Apia.