“I have everything I want; I grow it or I make it. My horses and cattle roam the hills; if I want meat, beef or goat or pig, I go or I send a man to kill an animal and bring it to me. Fish are in the river and the bay; there is honey in the hives; fruit and vegetables in the garden, wood for my furniture, bark for the tanning of hides. I cure the leather for saddles or chair-seats with the bark of the rose-wood. Do you know why it is called rose-wood? I will show you. Its bark has the odor of roses when freshly cut. Yes, I have all that I want. What do I need from the great cities?”
He tamped down the tobacco in his pipe and puffed it meditatively.
“A man lives only a little while, hein? He should ask himself what he wants from life. He should look at the world as it is. These traders want money, buying and selling and cheating to get it. What is money compared to life? Their life goes in buying and selling and cheating. Life is made to be lived pleasantly. Me, I do what I want to do with mine, and I do it in a pleasant place.”
His pipe went out while he gazed at the garden murmurous in the twilight. He knocked out the dottle, refilled the bowl and lighted the tobacco.
“You should have seen this island when I came. These natives die too fast. Ah, if I could only get labor, I could make this valley produce enough for ten thousand people. I could load the ships with copra and cotton and coffee.”
He was twenty-two years and many thousands of miles from the great cities of Europe, but he voiced the wail of the successful man the world over. If he could get labor, he could turn it into building his dreams to reality, into filling his ships with his goods for his profit. But he had not the labor, for the fruits of a commercial civilization had killed the islanders who had had their own dreams, their own ships, and their own pleasures and profits in life.
Labor in the South Seas; some random thoughts on the “survival of the fittest.”
“I pictured myself cultivating many hundreds of acres when I first came here,” said Grelet. “I laid out several plantations, and once shipped much coffee, as good, too, as any in the world. I gather enough now for my own use, and sell none. I grew cotton and cocoanuts on a large scale. I raise only a little now.
“There were hundreds of able-bodied men here then. I used to buy opium from the Chinese labor-contractors and from smugglers, and give it to my working people. A pill once a day would make the Marquesans hustle. But the government stopped it. They say that the book written by the Englishman, Stevenson, did it. We must find labor elsewhere soon, Chinese, perhaps. Those two Paumotans brought by Begole are a godsend to me. I wish some one would bring me a hundred.”