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Nicholas Senn.

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much broken in spirit and quite ready to listen
to her arguments for peace, and she soon had
his promise to speak for the acceptance of the
governor's proposition. Human nature is very
much the same the world over, whether encased
in a brown skin or white. Nuutere called
Teaatoro to him, and, after a hasty consultation,
came over and whispered to Ariitaimai that
Teaatoro would be all right. This practically
settled the matter, but as in all political assem-
blies the usual formalities must be gone through
with and Nuutere called upon each one of the
chiefs for his opinion. The speakers all teemed
with love and admiration for my heroine and
I can not refrain from making some quotations.
Nuutere, after stating the object of the meeting,
called upon Teaatoro to make the first speech.
He said: "We are all as one person in this



246 TAHITI — THE ISLAND PARADISE

meeting, and we have suffered together as
brothers. We have heard what the object of
this lone woman's visit amongst us is, solely
for our good and that of our children. What can
we say to this? We can only return her one
answer, which is to thank her for the trouble
and danger she has taken upon herself, for
the peace she has brought, and she must return
to the French commander with this our answer.
We have been five months on the point of
starvation. We lost a great many of our
men at Tamavao. The best of our blood was
spilled at Mahaena. At Piha-e-atata, our
young men were slain. Our Queen left us in
the midst of our troubles without the least sor-
row for us. We have heard no more of the help
which was promised us by Great Britain." An-
other chief rose and said : "Ariitaimai, you have
flown amongst us, as it were, like the two birds
of Ruataa and Teena. You have brought the
cooling medicine of vainu into the hearts of the
chiefs. Our hearts yearn for you and we can
not in words thank you; you have brought us
the best of all goods, which is peace. You have
done this when you thought we were in great
trouble, and ran the risk of losing our lives and
property. Your people will prove to you in the
future that your visit will always remain in their
memory." The old chief of her own district
turned toward Ariitaimai and saicj only: "As



THE STORY OF ARIITAIMAI OF TAHITI 247

you are my head, my eyes, my hands and my
feet, what more can I say? What you have
decided we accept and will carry out." One
dissenting voice only was heard, a young chief
who had but lately come into his possessions and
was anxious to distinguish himself as a warrior.
He called out in a loud voice: "Why have you
decided upon this peace so soon? Tahiti is not
broken asunder. We could play with the French
until we could get aid of Great Britain, who has
formally promised to help us through in this
war. I think you have all done wrong." But
the young man had his lesson to learn and it was
promptly taught him by Ariitaimai's spokesman.
The spirit of young America is not appreciated
in Tahiti, where reverence for age and worship
of the ancestors is a vital part of the native pagan
religion. Nuutere turned on the young man
and asked: ''Where were you, that consider
yourself such a fighting man, in the fights which
have already happened? I have never perceived
you ahead of the others. You do not excel the
youngest of our men in all of these battles.
What are you known as in the annals of the
country which allows you to get up and speak
when your chiefs have already given the word?"
Ariitaimai set out immediately on her return
trip, this time escorted by ten of the chiefs.
Although they made all possible haste the time
had already expired before they reached the



248 TAHITI — THE ISLAND PARADISE

governor's headquarters, and preparations were
being made to attack one of the native forts, the
officers having concluded that her errand had
been a failure. The governor, seeing her at a
distance, rode out to meet her and helped her
from her horse. He asked her anxiously in
Tahitian, "Is it peace?" and she replied that it
was peace and that everything was all right with
the chiefs. He held her hand as he said with
great feeling: "The Tahitians should never for-
get you; but your work is not finished. You
must now go to Raiatea and bring us back the
Queen." So Ariitaimai started on her second
and more difficult errand. At first Queen Pomare
refused to receive her, sending word that she
was told that she had gone over to the French;
but later she granted her an interview in which
she cried very much, upbraiding her friend for
the stand she had taken, and accusing her of
betraying her interests to the French.

The Queen then sent for the chiefs of her
own family with whom she had taken refuge,
and, after a prolonged conference, they advised
her not to return. She said to Ariitaimai: "I
trust to the word of Great Britain, who has
promised us to send ships and men to fight our
cause and to keep us an independent state, and
I will not return and be under the French." So
after repeated pleading poor Ariitaimai was
obliged to return to the governor with Pomare's



THE STORY OF ARIITAIMAI OF TAHITI 340

answer. He was much disappointed but said as
the chiefs of Tahiti had agreed to peace and as
he had nothing to do with the chiefs of Raiatea
they must decide on another monarch, and
offered to make Ariitaimai queen of Tahiti in
Pomare's place. But this the faithful friend
would not listen to, and begged the governor to
allow her again to see Pomare, as she believed
that when she had had time to think the matter
over she would change her mind. To this the
governor very reluctantly consented, as he was
entirely out of patience with Pomare, and would
much have preferred to make Ariitaimai queen,
which could have been done with great pro-
priety, as she was at that tim.e the head chiefess
of the island. After a stormy trip she arrived
again at Raiatea and this time was fortunate
enough to find her friend Aimata alone, the
chiefs having gone to an assembly to consult
over the affairs of their own island. This time
our faithful ambassadress did not hasten her
visit. She renewed and strengthened the ties
of friendship which had bound them together
since their early girlhood, and she records in
her memoirs that they had a beautiful visit
together before any mention was made of the
real object of her coming. The charming way
in which she speaks in her memoirs of Pomare's
flight shows the tenderness of her affection
for her friend. She says, calling her by her



250 TAHITI THE ISLAND PARADISE

girlhood name: 'The unfortunate Aimata had
troubles of every sort, domestic, political,
private and public, until at last the missionaries
English and French, fought so violently for con-
trol of her and the island that she was fairly
driven away." With all her acuteness and learn-
ing in other matters, she seems to have had no re-
alization of the true character of the woman she
so beautifully idealized. She still saw in the Queen
the qualities she loved in the young girl, and
her affection blinded her to the defects in her
friend's character which entirely unfitted her for
the position she occupied. Events do not move
as rapidly in Tahiti as in America, and our young
diplomat, having the governor's promise to await
her return, took her own time. She remained
with the Queen two months and had the satis-
faction of returning home with her promise to
sail for Tahiti as soon as her favorite schooner
Ana could be made ready. But, before sailing,
another idea took possession of the unreasonable
woman and she sent word to the Tahitian chiefs
that as the English had brought her to Raiatea
she would return only in an English ship, and
demanded that one be sent to fetch her.

This unexpected and preposterous demand
plunged poor Ariitaimai into the deepest grief.
For the first time a note of complaint of her
friend appears in her memoirs. The French
governor laughed at the demands of Pomare and



THE STORY OF ARIITAIMAI OF TAHITI 251

again offered the throne to Ariitaimai, and
argued long to prove to her that it was her duty
to accept it. Where in history is the woman who
would not now have felt that she had exhausted
all the demands of friendship, who would not
by this time have been tempted by the dazzling
prospect of a throne, upheld by a powerful gov-
ernor who had become her devoted friend and
admirer, to be surrounded by chiefs who had
already accepted her leadership, and who, for
years, had held her position among them as
chief ess as a sacred trust? But no ambitious
dreams disturbed the clear judgment of this
simple-minded woman. She had set herself a
task and her only ambition was to accomplish it.
Not for one moment did the loyal woman waver
in her devotion to her friend. She refused abso-
lutely to entertain a thought of the queenship,
and retired to her country home almost in
despair. She says very simply in her memoirs :
"We then remained at home in great trouble
and did not know what was to be done next.
The governor on several occasions offered to
make me the sovereign of the island in place of
Pomare, which, however, I could not entertain."
It is in this simple and childlike manner she
describes all the events in this perplexing situa-
tion. Not by one word does she anywhere inti-
mate that she is doing anything extraordinary
or praiseworthy or more than her simple duty.



252 TAHITI THE ISLAND PARADISE

She was not allowed to remain long inactive.
Word came to her that the governor and chiefs
were getting very restless and impatient at the
unsettled state of the island politics and had de-
cided not to negotiate further with the Pomares ;
and, moreover, that a document to this effect h^d
been already drawn up and practically agreed
upon. This roused her again to see the gov-
ernor ; and this time Fate put a powerful weapon
in her hands. Just as she was leaving her home
an old native preacher came along and secretly
gave her a letter from her beloved Aimata. She
wrote that she was sorry that she had not come
back when she promised, that she was much
distressed at the news from Tahiti, that she was
an unhappy woman and, if not too late, she would
surely come back if her faithful friend would
come for her. Happy Ariitaimai fairly flew to
the governor. What after all if it should be too
late! She had never gone to the governor with
so much fear and trepidation, and her fears wxre
in no way lessened by his reception of her request
that she be allowed to go once more to Raiatea
and make a last effort to bring back the Queen.
This request for the first time irritated the gov-
ernor toward her. He said : 'TIave you not done
enough for the Pomares that you should con-
tinue to go down to fetch them ?" and he showed
her the document which she had heard of but
which was much worse than she supposed, as it



THE STORY OF ARIITAIMAI OF TAHITI 253

proposed to break up the act of protectorate
that had been already made and distinctly stated
that as Ariitalmai had refused to be made queen
he would make the island a French colony at
once. But with that precious letter in her bosom
she would not be thwarted in her purpose, and
did not leave the governor until she had received
his very grudging permission to see Pomare and,
if she consented to return, to take her to Moorea
and let him know. With this she was obliged
to be contented. More she could not accomplish
without divulging the secret of her letter, and
this, she argued, would be disloyal to her friend ;
for was it not a secret letter sent to her at great
risk? No, she would accomplish her purpose
without humiliating her Queen. Pomare should
return at the request of the governor without
losing aught of her queenly dignity.

And now this little drama draws rapidly to a
close. Ariitaimai made her third trip to Raiatea
and accompanied Pomare to Moorea, and sent
word to the governor that he would find them
there. Obedient to this gently expressed com-
mand of his ambassadress, the governor very
courteously went to Moorea in person to receive
the Queen and bring her back to her home and
throne. In the same dispassionate style Ariitai-
mai tells of the homeward journey: "As we all
went on board a salute was fired. We sailed
around the island, flying the protectorate flag at
the fore, to inform the people of these islands



254 THE STORY OF ARIITAIMAI OF TAHITI

that their Queen had returned. We then con-
tinued our route for Papeete and on arriving
there the forts from the shore saluted the flag."
But O ! the irony of Fate ! As they entered the
harbor what a sight met the eyes of the poor
Queen ! Both British and American ships were
anchored there, having come at last in answer
to her appeals, but only in time to see her placed
on her throne by the grace of the hated French,
But peace had been bought too dearly to be
broken now even by this vacillating queen, and
the British and American officers, seeing the
situation, had the good sense to assist in the gen-
eral festivities celebrating the long-looked-for
peace. The memoirs conclude with this simple
statement: "The Queen remained several hours
on board the steamer as the governor wished the
natives to see that the Queen had really come
back. There were soldiers in line on shore to
receive us and we were conducted to the gov-
ernor's house. The peace of the island was then
decided upon. On arriving at the governor's
house we found all the commanders of the troops
and vessels there and before them I was thanked
by Governor Bruat for what I had done for my
country."

When a world of men

Could not prevail with all their oratory

Yet hath a woman's kindness overruled.

Shakespeare.



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Online LibraryNicholas SennTahiti; the island paradise → online text (page 14 of 14)