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O’s Head
by [?]

Silver Tongue loved Rosalie, and Rosalie loved Silver Tongue, and ever since they had first met at the Taufusi Club dance their friends had seen the inevitable finish of their acquaintance. They were invited everywhere together, and the affair had progressed from the first or furtive stage to the secondary or solemn Sunday drive about the Eleele Sa. The third, that of carpenters adding a story to the bakery and dressmakers hard at work in Miss Potter’s little establishment, was looming up close in view.

Never was a match in Apia that gave a rosier promise of success. Silver Tongue, so called by the Samoans on account of his beautiful voice (but who in ordinary life answered to the homelier appellation of Oppenstedt), had been making a very good thing out of the Southern Cross Bakery, and was regarded throughout Apia as a man of responsibility and substance. He was a tall, spare German of about forty, who, like the most of us, had followed the sea before fate had brought him to the islands, there in years gone by to marry a Samoan maid and settle down. The little Samoan had died, leaving behind her nothing but a memory in Silver Tongue’s heart, a tangled grave in the foreign cemetery, and a host of relations who lived in tumble-down quarters in the rear of the bakery. In one way and another these hungry mouths must have been a considerable drain on Silver Tongue’s resources; and though they feebly responded to his bounty–one by driving a natty cart and delivering hot morning rolls, and another by pilfering firewood for the furnace–the account (if one had been made) was far from even. But to any objection to this Quixotic generosity Silver Tongue had a reply ever ready on his lips. “I lofe dem like my fader,” he would say in his deep, fluty voice, and the conversation was seldom carried further. When it was–by some one ill advised enough to do so–Silver Tongue would flare up, and recall with flashing eyes and a face crimson with indignation the ten-year debt of gratitude he owed his dead wife’s ainga.

Indeed, if Silver Tongue had a fault it was a certain moroseness and fierceness of temper, a readiness and even an apparent pleasure in taking offense, that made him somewhat of a solitary in our midst and threw him more than ever on the companionship of his own Kanakas; so that at night, when one had occasion to seek him out, he was usually to be found on the mats of his native house, smoking his pipe or playing sweepy with his bulky father-in-law, Papalangi Mativa. I doubt if he had another intimate in Apia besides myself, and though I must confess we often disagreed, and once or twice approached the verge of estrangement, I was too much his friend and too mindful of the old days on the Ransom to let such trifles come between us.

I was, besides, Rosalie’s friend as well, for old Clyde, her father, had died in my arms at Nonootch, and with his last breath had consigned her to my care. This obligation, rendered sacred by an association that extended back to the days of Steinberg and Bully Hayes, when in the Moroa and the Eugenie we had slept under the same mats and had played our part together in the stirring times of Stewart and the great Atuona Plantation–this obligation, I say, I met easily enough so long as Rosalie was a child and safe in the convent at Savalalo. But when she grew to womanhood and went to live with her relations in their shanty near the Firm, I began to experience some anxiety in regard to her. Her relations, to begin with, were not at all the kind of natives I liked. They had been too long the hangers-on of the Firm, and had seen too much of a low class of whites to be the proper guardians of a very pretty half-caste of eighteen. They had an ugly name, besides–but I won’t be censorious–and it may have been all beach talk. But they were certainly a whining, begging lot, the girls bold and the men impudent and saucy, and I never saw Rosalie in their midst but it made me heartsick for her future.