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A Son Of Empire
by [?]

But this is all by the way to give you an idea of what Raka-hanga was like, and make the rest of the yarn the easier to understand. I shall always feel sorry all my life that Stanley and I were off fishing on the windward side of the island and thereby missed Clemm’s arrival in the lagoon, which was well over before we got there, with the stern of a ten-oared boat heading for a man-of-war, and Clemm himself standing kind of helpless on the beach in the midst of all his chests and boxes and bedding.

He made a splendid appearance in his white clothes and shirt and pipe-clayed shoes and pith-helmet, being a short, thick-set man with gray hair and a commanding look. When we came running up he spoke to us very grand, though genial, saying: “Gentlemen, I am the new Resident Deputy Commissioner, and I call on you to assist me raise the flag and annex this island in the name of her Royal and Imperial Majesty, Queen Victoria!”

At this he took his hat off, and we did the same, though I am an American, and then went on to tell us that he had just been landed by H.M.S. Ringarooma to take possession of the island, and would we kindly inform the natives and escort him to the king.

On learning we were a republic and that it would take time to assemble the old men, he condescended to accept my hospitality for a spell, and was most pleased and gracious at the little we could do in his honor. Meanwhile messengers were sent to gather in the chiefs and tell them the great news, and how the Commissioner was soon coming to meet them in the “Speak-house,” as the natives called the wickerwork. Mr. Clemm said the Ringarooma had been sent under hurry orders to annex right and left in order to forestall the French, who had broken their international agreement and were hoisting their flag all over the place. He also explained that was the reason why the man-of-war could not stop, it being a neck-and-neck race between her and the French which could reach the Tokelaus first. Between drinks he likewise showed us his commission, which was written very big and imposing on crinkly paper, with seals, where he was called “Our well-beloved and right trusty James Howard Fitzroy Clemm, Esquire,”–as well as the flag he had brought with him, which was an eight-by-twelve ensign, with the halyards all ready to run it up.

I can tell you Stanley and I were mighty proud to escort the Deputy Commissioner to the Parliament, which we did slow and stately in our best pajamas, with the natives reverencing him as he passed and eying us two most respectful. The old men were there in rows, and also David, the pastor, who took the interpreting out of my hands and as usual hogged the whole show. Perhaps it was as well he did, for he had a splendid voice and a booming way of speaking that suited the grandeur of the occasion.

Then Mr. Clemm’s commission was read aloud, first by him in English and then by David in Kanaka, and afterwards the Commissioner made a rousing speech, all about the loving English and the low, contemptible French, and at the end he asked everybody to hold up his right hand who wished to be a loyal, faithful, obedient subject of the Great Queen.

Up shot every hand most grateful at the narrow escape they had had of being French; and then outside it was again repeated, even the children holding up their little paws, and the flag hoisted temporary to a coconut palm amid shouts of rejoicing led off by Stanley and me and Peter Jones who had followed along after us.

The next question was where to lodge the Commissioner till a proper house could be built for him, and he showed he wasn’t a gentleman to be trifled with by cutting short their jabber, and choosing Fono’s, which was the finest in the settlement, and ordering him to clear out, bag and baggage–which Fono didn’t want to do and objected very crossly till Peter Jones snatched up a rock and ran at him like he meant to pound his head in. This pleased Mr. Clemm so much that he right off appointed Peter marshal of his court at a salary of forty dollars a month, and put him in charge of shifting his things into his new quarters.