Permanent link to this item
GOLDEN DAYS IN MANY LANDS, Auckland Star, Volume XL, Issue 71, 24 March 1909
GOLDEN DAYS IN MANY LANDS
(BY WI.MFBED H. LETS.) THE ISLANDS OF TH ESOUTHERN :>EAS: SAMOA IN 1899. The squabble between the two royal factions of Samoa had gone on for generations, but, in the months of May and June, 1899, things came to a climax. In May there was actual war—Malatoa's troops pitched against those of Mataafa, and the head knives were working some irreparable disaster. Then the Europeans Rtepped in and shelled the villages on the island of Upolu, rending great holes in the Vailima house of Robt, Louis Stevenson, and in the various hotels and stores of Apia, and doing a fair amount of damage in various ways, but to a certain extent quieting the natives. At one battle, several English naval officers and sailors met their death. For the time being, peace had departed from sunny Samoa, the interests of England, Germany, and America appeared some■what threatened. Towards the end of June, the fighting was suppressed; but the Samoans were etill in a very unsettled frame of mind. About this time, a commission was formed on the other side of the world by the three nations interested in Safn-oa-n affairs, and, after a conference at Washington, went down from America to Apia, to enquire into the real reasons for the native discontent, and to devise a scheme for the future good government of the islands. Of the commission, the Hon. G. X. E. Elliott represented England, Baron yon Sternberg, Germany, and Judge Tripp. America. At this juncture, too, a new British Consul wa-s appointed, and the New Zealand Government steamer Tutanekai, courteously tendered to the Imperial authorities by the Premier (Rt. Hon. R. J. Seddon. P.C.) wae pent off to convey him to Apia, and also to deliver despatches and orders to the warships then stationed in Samoan waters. It was my gfood fortune to accompany this expedition, and I was thus enabled to see Samoa in a ma.nner that does not fall to the lot of the ordinary tourist. Our first glimpse of Apia, and for mc at least, the first glimpse of tropical lands, quite upheld all we had heard of the charm of the islands of the Southern Pacific. Robert Louis Stevenson and louis Becke have written so much of the calm, reef-bound bay, the row of slantitlg palms along the seashore, of the astounding density of the jungle, •which'covers the hills behind the town, of the clamour, and chatter of the shining brown feUo-svs, who in cockle-shell katamarans paddle round the ship, that I was familiar with the physical features of the place; but until- 3r leant over the vessel's side, and breathed in that fragrant odour of tropical blossoms, and the less delicate smell .of. cocoanut oil, that is wafted across the sea to us, not till then did I understand how the senses can be overpowered by such things. For in Samoa nature is luxurious. Indeed, she seems almost extravagant in her gifts to these lonely islands. There is the hot season and the cool season, but never a cold one. There is the rainy season and the dry season, but never a drought. The ogre that the islanders fear is the hurricane, which fortunately rarely visits them. When it does it sweeps all before it. In one village, the natives pointed out to mc a house that had been lifted up by a tornado, and planted down several hundred i>et a-ivay. To have one's home thus unceremoniously removed is by no means the worst calamity that can befall, for ■when tlip hurricane has worked havoc ninong the cocoanut and banana plantations, thp islanders suffer from a scarcity of food, and valuable trees may be destroyed or so severely wrenched that they do not recover for many years. June and July are cool mouths for Samoa, but cool only in comparison with the moist heat that stews everyone at other times of the year. At all times the nights are unpleasantly muggy, and the voracious mosquito, with his irritating buzz, drives away what little sleep might otherwise be obtained. Sleeping on the ship, however, we suffered very little from these pests because the mosquito seldom ventures across the water. Some weeks before the Tutanekai anchored in Apia harbour, the Tripartite Commission had arrived in Samoa from America. The transport ship in which they had come from San Francisco was hardly suitable to these reef-bound isinntls. and on our arrival overtures were made to Captain Post to convey the Commissioners in the Tutanekai to the more distant villages. This, on behalf of the New Zealand Government the captain agreed to do, and the Commissioners most kindly invited us to remain on board and accompany them in their tour of peace meetings, so for tHe space of a week or more we steamed from one little village to another until every Important village on Upolo, Savaii, Apolima and Manono lad been visited. During the four months previous to our arrival two English and one German warships had been stationed in Apia, where European residents are few and far between, so the advent of the Tutanekai, •with some ladies on board, was a signal for rejoicing. Indeed, they one and all treated us royally, and before we left Apia on our cruise round the islands, several merry days were spent in picnics, afternoon teas, and tennis parties. Of the climate of these tropical lands one should be ran-. Though the sun may be shining brightly and the sky cloudless, there is no saying at what minute rain may commence. On the 3rd of July—none of us will ever forget the date—our party off the Tutanakei set out in the most rattling and shaky gigs that anyone ever shivered in, towards the Papaialoa waterfall, with the intention of picnicing there, and returning by way of iVailima— once the home of Robert Louis Stevenson. When we started from Apia the sun was positively quivering in his strength, hence white clothes and sunshades were the natural covering provided ' against the elements, such things as waterproofs being deemed superfluous. All went well until driving down one of those glass covered roads, so delightful tut so treacherous; one of the ponies stumbled in a hidden hole, and calmly sat down. Hearing a shout from behind I turned round and saw my friends eiMtril in their wrecked trap and gazing in rlisgust at the pony who, 1 am inclined to suspect, was well practiced in sue!: performances, for he was sitting on his haunches contentedly nibbling at the gr:i.=« thrt grew around him. At a glance t!if mishap appeared only ridiculous, but o:i examination of the vehicle one of the E::.i':.-; was found to be broken. With <|!iitc uiiusu.il foresight the traps were J rnvicled with bits of rope, and with li.esn tv broken shaft was tied up, and proM-i'iling more gently, wo arrived at tin , l'npnlaloa. Afcrr luncheon and a paddle in the ri'frwliSiigly eo\! waterfall, we made a tli'toi'.r, and stopped at Vailima, the prrjt deserted house in which Robert J.":! ; - Stcrrnton had lived so happily. T- house was a pitiable wreck. Huge -re:-: an.l absolutely empty, save
those rooms that were littered with chips and 'broken beams of wood from the roof, where it had been, ruthlessly torn by shells from the warshipe when the gunners,' some weeks perviouely, while endeavouring to terrify the natives of a near-iby village, had used the Vaiiima home as a mark for their firing. This appeared to mc a most scandalous affair. Altogether, the desertion of the place by the natives, the uncared for garden, and the lonely surrounding wilderness, was most depressing. Rising within a few hundred yards of tKe house is the Vaea Mountain, on the eummit of which the famous novelist is buried. On our suggesting to our guide that we would like to visit the grave, he protested that the ascent of the mountain would take far too long a tune. This, of course, was merely laziness on his part, so we insisted on his guiding us. After a hot and very tiring twenty minutes' scramble up the hill-side, on a fcra<k shaded by tall trees, completely overgrown with creepers, and strewn with fallen logs of wood, we at last sat down on the huge concrete elabs that cover Mr. Stevenson's grave. One hears much about the esteem in which Mr. Stevenson ivas held by the natives, and the knowledge that the stones with which ihis tomb is formed were <ira-gged up to the summit of that steep Vaea Mountain by his loving native friends will be an everlasting proof of thfc genuineness of their affection. Engraved on one side of the tomb in English, and on the other elde in Samoan, is Stevenson's own epitaph: — Under the wide and starry sky, Dig the grave, and let mc lie. Glad did I live, and gladly die, And I laid mc down with a will. This 'be the verse you grave for mc; Here he lies where he longed to ibe. Home is the sailor, 'home from -the sea, And the hunter home from the hill. I have never seen amy spot so suitable as "this for the grave of a romantic writer. There is a great loneliness about it, but it is a loneliness quite apart from dreariness. Seated osa the tomb, we looked through a framework of green trees down a green hill, and across a plain of tangled growth to the beautiful bay of Apia. Just below us was the house "that had 'been his home for what aeemed to have 'been the happiest years of his life. Stevensom loved Samoa, with its dreamy soothing greenness; he loved his Vailima home and his gentle Samoan friends, so he asked them to bury him on the Vaea Mountain, on the very summit of the mountain where he had so often sat looking cross the green wilderness to the sea, and surely no one had choice of a more beautiful spot whereon fco take his long rest. We were talking of him, and regretting liis deserted and. dilapidated home, when our guide burst into a most discordant laugh. "What are you laughing at?" we asked angrily, for his mirth jarred on our more serious mood. "It will rain, it will rain, and you will get wet," he gigglingly answered. The prospect of our approachkig ducking amused him much, and I suppose he viewed it as a rightful judgment on us for insisting on climbing on the mountain. Aβ so often 'happens in tropical lands, the sunshine had suddenly gone,' and the air was heavy with moisture, so we tunned down the hill, not in time, however, to avoid the deluge that wae soon, pouring down through, the great trees as though they offered no obstruction whatsoever. There was no sheltering from that rain. The heavens seemed to have lost all power of holding water, and to have suddenly let It go, not in drops, but in long, continuous sheets. To ascend the hill had taken about twenty minutes, and though I guarantee we descended in a much shorter time than that, yet when we reached the level 1 ground again everyone was soaked through and through. The water, too, was seat high in the gigs. As suddenly as it had come, so suddenly did it cease. Consequently, on the jog back to Apia, under a sky so blue and a sun so brilliant, our wet, bedraggled, travel-stained party (for all the dye out of the gig cushions had settled in great red patches on our white clothes) must have presented a Very incongruous spectacle. This was the second mishap of that day, but more were to follow. Half-an-hour after our arrival back at the Tutanekai, when, we wandered out of our cabins, a very dreary and ill-clad party, with but one idea between us, and that to get an early dinner and retire immediately afterwards to bed, we were met by a number of spruceh'-uniformed officers, whom the captain had invited Ito dinner, as a pleasant surprise for the I ladies. I doubt whether those men evef received a more ungracious welcome, for the knowledge of our unwaved hair, hardly dry from the recent ducking, and our altogether crumpled appearance did not tend towards brightening us. When the guests were gone—as wearied of us, I doubt not, as we were of everything—we turned most thankfully to our cabins, only to be met by another surprise. The captain had arranged to give a fireworks display at the esaet Commencement of the "Glorious j Fourth," in compliment to the American warships anchored near by. At the first j wizz of the rockets, down came the rain with a force that seemed to assert that rain had never fallen since the daye of the flood. Up went the rockets into the pelting water, completely lost to view a hundred feet from the ship, and seen only by a few stragglers on the Tutanekai, and appreciated by no one at all. It was the dreariest fireworks display you could well imagine. So ended for us the 3rd of July, 1899, a day which, despite its minor irritations, has left many cherished memories. (To be Concluded.)
GOLDEN DAYS IN MANY LANDS, Auckland Star, Volume XL, Issue 71, 24 March 1909
Fairfax Media is the copyright owner for the Auckland Star. You can reproduce in-copyright material from this newspaper for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons New Zealand BY-NC-SA licence . This newspaper is not available for commercial use without the consent of Fairfax Media. For advice on reproduction of out-of-copyright material from this newspaper, please refer to the Copyright guide.
This newspaper was digitised in partnership with Auckland Libraries.
Papers Past now contains more than just newspapers. Use these links to navigate to other kinds of materials.
These links will always show you how deep you are in the collection. Click them to get a broader view of the items you're currently viewing.
Enter names, places, or other keywords that you're curious about here. We'll look for them in the fulltext of millions of articles.
Browsed to an interesting page? Click here to search within the item you're currently viewing, or start a new search.
Use these buttons to limit your searches to particular dates, titles, and more.
Switch between images of the original document and text transcriptions and outlines you can cut and paste.
Print, save, zoom in and more.
If you'd rather just browse through documents, click here to find titles and issues from particular dates and geographic regions.
The "Help" link will show you different tips for each page on the site, so click here often as you explore the site.