Life in Feejee, or, Five Years among the Cannibals
Lasakau Procession—Murder—Massacre at Vewa—Islands of Feejee— Storm—Rebellion at Bau.
|Jan. 5.||A long procession of the Lasakau tribe, headed by their young chief, Navinda, has just passed, on their way to the house of Nalela. Their bodies were painted and ornamented as if for war, or a feast. All were armed with clubs, spears and muskets. The Vewa people are somewhat troubled, for Nalela has not yet received the peace offering of Namosimalua. It is said that it would be quite like Feejeeans, to set to and massacre the inhabitants of Vewa. I think this might happen, if Nalela had been on good terms with his tribe previous to the late affair. I am of the opinion, however, that this visit denotes treachery towards Nalela. Navinde and his people have for three years expressed the most inveterate hatred towards Nalela; now, they say that they are sorry for him, and will avenge the late insult that has been offered him by Namosi.|
Yesterday, the Lasakau people all assembled in the house of Nalela. Navinde told him that they had come to make peace with him, and invite him back to Bau; that they would then avenge the ill-treatment received from Namosimalua, but if he continued to live here, they could do nothing for him. They drank yanggona together, and parted, apparently the best of friends. In the afternoon Navinde called to see me, accompanied by Vataie, who is his half sister. I asked her if she thought her brother was sincere in his professions to Nalela. She replied, "It is hard to say; he may be sincere, and he may only wish to get Nalela back to Bau page 36that he may kill him by and by; for he has long been seeking his life." Navinde duly admired my house, became smitten with a handsome pearl handled pen-knife, which he happened to see, begged it, and departed.
Navinde and a part of his men accompanied the chief of Bau in his late expedition to Ba. When they returned, they saw nine men coming from Bau in a canoe, which they immediately attacked, and killed them, just for a frolic.
It is, or has been, the custom of the Feejeeans, when canoes go to fight, to kill all the natives they may find; but when a war expedition is fitting out, messengers are sent to all the towns in the way, to give the inhabitants timely notice, that all may keep in their houses. The Lasakaus, in this instance, had not killed any one at Ba, and were unwilling to return without dead bodies to feast upon. They were disappointed, however, for the Bau and Vewa chiefs were angry about it, and made them burn the bodies. This appears like a dawning of civilization. A short time since, these chiefs would have joined in the massacre and the feasting.
It is now midsummer. There is a good deal of rain, and the weather is rather hot; the thermometer is at 95° in the shade. Centipedes, flies, musquitoes and rats in great abundance. I am obliged to get beneath the bed-curtains as soon as I leave the supper table, and there, with my lantern, I read till I feel sleepy.
At the dinner table to-day, Mr. Hunt related some anecdotes respecting Verani. The first was as follows: "About three months ago, some evil disposed person reported that criminal connection was being held between the wife of Verani and a young man who had professed Christianity. They both declared their innocence. A woman who was accused of aiding in the intercourse, page 37was murdered, cooked and eaten, and Verani sought the young man's life; he fled to the missionaries for protection. Mr. Hunt sought Verani, and asked him if he fully believed the man and woman to be guilty. Verani said, 'No; he believed the report to be false; but he was disgraced by it, and nothing but the death of the young man would satisfy him.' For three months the man remained safe within the mission premises, and the angry chief could get no opportunity to execute his fell purpose. At length he thought of the following expedient. He told his cousin, the son of Namosimalua, that he would leave the island for a short time, and when he returned, he should expect to find the heart of the young man ready to eat. When he had been gone a few days, Masapai, the cousin, said to the man, 'You have been a prisoner a long time; your enemy is now away; come, let us go and gather nuts, and roast them.' The man asked Mr. Hunt what he should do, saying that Masapai and himself had always been true friends. Mr. Hunt said, 'You had better stay; the Feejeeans are treacherous.' But the young man greatly desired to wander among his native wilds again—to pluck the ripe fruit from the trees, and again enjoy the sweet breath of heaven. They walked off, apparently in high glee, the victim wholly unconscious that his doom was so near. About two hours after they left the mission house, a native came running to Mr. Hunt, exclaiming, 'They've clubbed him! they've clubbed him!' Mr. Hunt asked where; for he quickly surmised who was clubbed, and hastened to the spot. The man yet breathed, although his skull was cleft nearly in twain. He was carried to the mission house, where he soon breathed his last. Masapai sent for the dead body, as they wished to feast upon it; this, of course, was refused. He then sent word that he must have the page 38heart. Mr. Hunt said, 'Tell Masapai that he made it easy to kill the man, but it would be difficult to get his heart.' The man was interred, and a watch kept over his grave. The murder was accomplished in the following manner: The young men rambled about in the woods, talked of past scenes (for they had been friends from early childhood), and related stories, as is their custom. After spending some time in this manner, and having gathered a quantity of nuts, Masapai said, 'Let us now make a fire and roast them; you strike the fire, while I gather the wood.' The man was stooping down, engaged in rubbing sticks to procure fire, when a signal was given by the treacherous Masapai; a man sprung from the thicket, struck his victim on the head, and the devoted one knew no more." To see Verani, one could scarcely believe him capable of such wickedness, for there is nothing savage in his appearance. He told Mr. Wallis, on our first arrival, that he was a Christian a little, and by and by he intended to be a great and a good one. When we sat at table, he said, "Why do you not ask a blessing? you are like the pigs to eat, and not ask God to bless your food."
The Feejeeans appear to delight in war, yet they are not inspired with manly force; they have but little true courage. They are not an impulsive race; but when they conquer, it is usually done by deliberate treachery. The following account of a massacre which was committed at this place about three years ago, as found in the journal of Mr. Cross, missionary to these islands, illustrates this trait of their character.
"In the year 1840, a war commenced between Somosomo and a town on the same island called Vuna. The Bau people took the part of Vuna, which eventually caused a war between Somosomo and Bau. The elder page 39brother, or rather cousin, of Thakombau, disgraced himself, fled to Somosomo, and assisted the king of that place against Bau. By means of this chief, and a son of the principal officer of Tanoa, who had also espoused the cause of the King of Somosomo, a considerable party of the allies of Bau joined Somosomo. Among these, the principal was a powerful town called Namena. Private messengers were sent to Vewa from this place to engage Verani and Namosimalua on their side. Verani received the messengers with kindness, and promised them his support, stating that all the people of Vewa were of the same mind. He immediately communicated what he had done to Thakombau, and assured him that by this means he should place the Namena people at his entire disposal. Thakombau had attempted in vain to subdue the inhabitants of Namena, and was, of course, exceedingly glad that Verani had undertaken to effect the object in another way. He sent Verani a large present, promised him one of his daughters for a wife, and «aid, 'My house and its riches are yours; only effect the destruction of the people of Namena.'
Verani, thus encouraged, began to think of the means by which his object should be accomplished. In order to secure the cooperation of Namosimalua, he circulated a report that the Bau chiefs were exceedingly angry with the Vewa people, and had determined utterly to destroy them. This report failed in producing the desired effect.
Shortly after, an event occurred which Verani had skill enough to press into his service. The principal wife of Namosimalua had displeased him, and in his rage he had beaten her most unmercifully. Being a niece of Tanoa's, she ran away to her friends (a common practice by which the ladies of Feejee revenge themselves on their husbands), and declared that she would never re-page 40turn. After much persuasion, however, she was induced to go back; but she had only been in Vewa a few days, when a report was brought to Namosimalua that was calculated more than any thing to make him the enemy of Bau. The. report was, that a young chief of Bau had committed adultery with the Queen of Vewa during her absence from her husband. Verani on hearing this, appeared much enraged, and urged the propriety of making immediate preparations for war, in order that they might be revenged on Bau for the insult; and proposed that they should at once decide in favor of Namena and Somosomo. Namosimalua said that he would not join Somosomo against Bau, wishing to make war upon that tribe only which had insulted him. His nephew, however, prevailed upon him to fall in with his proposition, and the preparations for war commenced.
Mr. Cross now interposed, and reasoned with the chiefs and people on the impropriety of involving many tribes in war on account of an injury they had suffered from one tribe only; and assured the Christian party, that it would be much more consistent with their character and profession 'to suffer wrong,' rather than avenge themselves in this manner. Afterward several feared to proceed, and the speech of the missionary bade fair to keep the country in peace.
Verani, however, was indefatigable. He caused reports to be taken to Namosimalua, of plots that had been discovered against his life; and declared that the Bau people had actually collected a number of yams to be offered to their gods, but had neglected, as was usual, to collect pigs to be presented with them, as they intended the bodies of the Vewa people to serve instead of that animal.
Namosimalua could hesitate no longer; and as the page 41war appeared to be strictly defensive, the Christians joined them heartily in fortifying the town.
Verani now sent to the Namena people to request their aid in defending Vewa, and twelve canoes, with about one hundred and forty men, were sent from a place called Mathoé. This exactly met the wishes of the Bau chiefs. One hundred and forty men could not be formidable to them, and yet they were sufficient to gratify their revenge and intimidate their enemies. The poor Mathoé people were in the net, and Verani and Thakombau formed the plan of securing them as quickly as possible. It was arranged that Thakombau should attack Vewa with a large force, which was to be divided into three companies. The strongest, with Thakombau at its head, was to land at a part of the island most distant from the town, and the others to be posted so as to cut off those who might attempt to escape. Verani met the party that was to attack the town, and pretended to oppose their landing. After a few muskets had been fired on both sides, Verani explained his whole design to his men, many of whom had known nothing of it till that moment. Thakombau did the same to his warriors, warning them not to kill any Vewa men, as they were their friends, nor to touch any thing belonging to the missionary, but to assist Verani to kill the Mathoé warriors.
During the firing, some of the Bau people pretended to be shot, and the news was immediately taken to the town that an enemy had fallen; the Mathoé people, who were to die in a few moments, clapped their hands and rattled their spears for joy. The drum was beating, to indicate success on the Vewa side, and all was joy in the town, when Verani and his party rushed in with the Bau people close after them, and fell on their surprised page 42victims like so many wolves. In the space of a few minutes about one hundred of them were massacred. A few were shot, others were cut to pieces with hatchets, others had their brains dashed out with the fearful clubs of 'these horrible dogs of war.' Many of them fell within a few paces of the mission house, and some close by the door.
Notwithstanding they were so hotly pursued, the Christian party succeeded in saving several of them, by hiding them in their houses, and sending them home in the night. The rest were taken to Bau, cooked and eaten.
Mr. Cross with his family and the native teachers had shut themselves up in the middle room of the mission house, and piled chests, cases, &c., one upon another, as a barricade."
The above is a fair specimen of Feejeean warfare.
As I shall probably have occasion to allude, during the progress of my journal, to the different islands of this group, I will give some account of them as furnished by the kindness of Mr. Hunt.
The Feejee Islands were discovered by Tasman, in the year 1643. The group lies between 16° and 21° south latitude, and between 177° east longitude and 178° west longitude, occupying an area of about 40,000 square miles. The group is divided into three parts; namely, the large, the windward, and the leeward islands. The large islands are two in number. One is called Vetelavu, the other Vanualavu. These two stretch, north-east and south-west, nearly through the whole breadth of the group. They are each about three hundred miles in circumference, and about thirty miles distant from each other. The south-western island, Vetelavu, is more populous, containing about one hundred thousand inhabitants. The windward islands lay east of the larger group, and to the leeward of the west. There are, prob-page 43ably, one hundred inhabited islands, besides the two large ones, and many which are uninhabited. They are of various dimensions, from two to sixty miles in circumference. The windward islands are not more in number than the leeward; but, when taken as a whole, are much larger, and possess a greater population. Kandavu is the principal island towards the south. It is a fine, well-populated island, and admirably situated for shipping. Near it are the following smaller islands:— Dravuni, Yankuvir, Bulia and Ono. These form an insignificant group to themselves, and are the most southerly of all the leeward islands. Bengga, Vatulele and Yanutha are near Vetelavu. Malolo is the principal of the most westerly group, which form a small cluster, called Natuyasawa, or Sau Islands. Mathuata, Jekombia, and others, are near Vanualavu. The names of the principal windward islands are as follows:—those connected with Lakemba are strictly the windward islands, as Vatoa, or Turtle Island, Ono, Ongaa, Vulange, Namuka, Oneata, Mothe, Kambara, Vanuavatu, Nayau, and some smaller ones, which constitute the kingdom of Tuinayau, king of Lakemba. Thethea, Tuvutha, Munea and Vanuabalavu, form a kind of separate kingdom. The chiefs of the Thakandrove and Lakemba have, however, considerable influence over them. Taveune, often called Somosomo, from the name of the principal town, is the residence of the chiefs of Thakandrove, Lauthala, Nggamea, Naitaube, and Rambe, are near Vanualavu, and, with a number of towns on that island, form the kingdom of Thakandrove. Koro, Nairai, Ngau, Bateke, Wakaya, Makouyai, Naingane, Ovalau, Yanutha, Motureke and Vewa, are subject to Bau. It is supposed that there are about three hundred thousand inhabitants in this group; fifteen thousand are subject to page 44Bau, and the other great chiefs possess perhaps from five to ten thousand each. Several of these, however, are tributary to Bau. There are many independent tribes in the interior of the large islands, of which but little is known.
I find my residence in Feejee very pleasant. My little house is cool and comfortable, and is very much admired.
The mission families are social, and lovely in their deportment. Our meals are peculiarly pleasant. The conversation is lively and intelligent; indeed, it is almost the only time that the gentlemen allow themselves any relaxation from their arduous labors. This is the time when I inquire all about Feejee and Feejeeans, and Mr. Hunt (who always delights to impart information,) never seems weary of answering my inquiries; nor does he merely answer quickly, and dismiss the subject, (as the manner of some is,) but appears interested to have me fully understand the subject of my inquiries. It is a time, too, when we do not feel as though every word that we stopped to speak cost a dollar, although I have listened to some that are worth that money.
A storm commenced yesterday and still continues. The thatch which covers the top of the mission house, having shown some disposition to leave its present location, has been securely lashed with cinnet and boards.
The tropical storms are sometimes very severe, prostrating every thing in their course. A fine orange tree which stood in the yard, loaded with unripe fruit, now lies prostrate. The occupants of all canoes which are driven ashore, or wrecked among these islands, are invariably killed and devoured.
There is a man now at Vewa who had a narrow es-page 45cape a short time since. He is an Englishman, and was out in his boat with a native woman and their child. A storm drove them near the island of Geer; the natives swam off to them and killed their child; but when the man told them that he could mend their muskets, they agreed to spare his life and that of the woman till their work should be done. Every day the natives would tell them that on the next day they were to be eaten. Capt. Osborne was fishing at Mathuata at the time, and hearing of their situation, obtained their release.
A few months ago another Englishman, of the name of Wilson, was murdered at one of the Sau Islands. His murder was occasioned by the following circumstances.
A young American went to live at a place called Rabatu, near Ragerage. Here he was treated with kindness by the natives, and the chiefs, it is said, made quite a pet of him. Being, however, of a passionate temper, he became angry one day with the chief, and threw a hot yam at him. This was a great insult, and the natives wished to kill and eat him at once; this the insulted chief would not permit, preferring, no doubt, some other way of satisfying his vengeance, for vengeance he would have had at some time, if it had been in his power. A young chief of the place took pity upon the offending and thoughtless man, removed him to another town, and would not leave him lest harm should come to him.
At length a boat came to the place, commanded by the white man of Rewa, who was alluded to in Capt. Hartwell's case. This fiend in human shape took the American on board his boat, and invited the kind chief to go on board that he might receive a reward for his protection of the American. The chief complied with his request, but was no sooner on board than he was made a page 46prisoner, and threatened with death unless every thing belonging to the American was restored.
This was soon done. He was then told to order his people to bring to the boat, mats, pigs and several other articles. The command was obeyed, but this was not enough; and he was told that they must have a certain girl, who was betrothed to him, which was more than all. He had consented to be despoiled of what little property he owned, but how could he part with this girl, whom he had loved from childhood! She was as "the face of the sun" to him. He hesitated at this demand; but the fiend with whom he had to deal, said, "If you hesitate, I will kill you, and then it will be easy to get the girl" He sent word to his loved one that he was to be killed, and he wished her to come and be strangled with him. Pleased with this token of his love, she hastened to him that they might die and go to "bulu" together, where she would be his only wife. She came; the white fiend took her on board, liberated her lover and set sail, exulting in his villany. But know, oh man, that there is a day of reckoning at hand!
The young chief returned to his town, vowing vengeance on the first white man that came in his way. He had saved the life of one, and his heart had known compassion, but it should know it no more; he had been despoiled of his little property, and the object of his affections had been torn from him; nothing was now left him but revenge.
A few months after this affair, the injured chief was at one of the Sau Islands with some of his people. Wilson, with his native woman, her sister, and their child, were in the boat. The natives swam off to the boat, clubbed Wilson and the woman, while the sister, a girl of ten years of age, took the child, a boy of two years of age, page 47on her back and swam to the shore. The body of Wilson and his woman were taken ashore, where they were cooked and eaten; the lives of the children were spared that they might be fattened before they should be killed. Some part of the cooked bodies were offered them to eat.
Mr. Hunt heard of the affair soon after it was perpetrated, and lost no time in procuring their release. They have been brought here, and now live in his family.
|14.||The storm still continues violent, but my little house stands it bravely. I am somewhat lonely, however, as I cannot go to the mission house, and am obliged to take my meals alone, or rather with company I do not fancy. The flies and musquitoes are very social, and in the evening the mice are not at all bashful. I wish that the musquitoes were homœopathists, for then they would not be drawing blood from me so freely.|
The storm has abated, and I am again at liberty A tribe of natives are here from the main land, building a small house within the mission fence; the natives are very noisy. My house and myself attract a great deal of notice; the last, quite a new thing to me. If you wish to be noticed, you must come to Feejee, where many pretty things will be said of you, such as, "She is like the face of the sun,"—" She is the root of all that is good," and even, "She is a god." It is truly surprising that one could reside in a civilized land for the space of forty years, among intelligent people, too, and yet such beauty and so many excellencies never be discovered.
The chief of this tribe is called Ko Mai Namara. He is an exceedingly smooth-spoken man, and one would think that he would not harm even a fly; yet only a few weeks since, he killed one of his women and sent her to page 48Bau to be eaten. She had offended him by running away to Bau several times.
This morning, at day light, Masapai was at my door to beg paint, as he was going to Bau to attend a feast. I gave him some to prevent any more teazing, but I never like to see the treacherous fellow.
Mrs. Jaggar, Mrs. Watsford, Vatai, with several of her attendants and myself, took a long and pleasant walk to-day over the hills of Vewa. A man (a stranger,) joined our company. He walked before us, warning us of all the difficult places in our way, would climb trees, or descend ravines to gather specimens of plants, and was as attentive as though it had always been his business to wait upon the ladies. I believe the Feejeeans, when not excited, are very kind.
On our return I found a bunch of nice bananas on the steps of my door,—a present from Verani. The other day he sent me a large bunch of bread-fruit. I feel a deep interest in this very wicked man. While we were on board the vessel, he would keep the Feejeeans out of the cabin as much as possible, saying they were not suitable company for me. I think he is about the only one in Vewa who has not been to see my house, or to beg something.
Mr. Hunt thinks that he would renounce heathenism were it not for his intimacy with Thakombau. With his talents, he would be very useful in the cause of Christianity.
Vatai with her attendants, and myself with the lad, Whippy, visited Verani's town this afternoon. It is not so large or so pleasant as that of Namosimalua. The Lasakau chief occupies the largest house in it. As we passed it, there appeared to be many people inside; we were invited to enter, but declined.page 49
David showed me the precipice where so many of the Namena people were dashed during the massacre; another spot where the woman was killed, who, it was said, favored the intimacy between the wife of Verani and the young man who was murdered by Masapai; another spot where her body was cooked, and also the place where they partook of the horrible feast. Indeed, there seemed scarcely a place which had not its tale.
|20.||Attended the native service in the morning as usual. Six natives have to-day lotued (renounced heathenism). The principal wife of Verani and two of his people were among the number.|
Namosimalua, who has been living in a very common house, has now commenced building a large one on one of the highest hills of Vewa, which faces the sea. He called to see me to-day, and observing that I was making a fancy bed-quilt, he wished me to make him a flag like it, that he might raise it on a staff near his new house, so that when vessels came in sight, it might be said, "Namosimalua lives there."
Namosimalua is a tall, powerful-looking chief. He is well known throughout Feejee, and feared in many parts of the group. It was surprising to many that his life was spared when Tanoa was restored; but all the circumstances of the case were not known at the time.
When Tanoa fied from Bau, he stopped at an island called Nairai, about sixty miles from Bau. The rebel party offered Namosimalua a young woman of high rank (a niece of Tanoa), and six whale's teeth, to follow and kill the king. Namosimalua accepted the present, and started to overtake the exile. He knew the town where Tanoa was residing; but he refused to land there and take him by surprise, saying that his people were weary, and must have rest and food before they 4 page 50proceeded farther. During the night a messenger was privately despatched to inform Tanoa of all that had taken place, and urging him to escape to some place of safety. The king, on hearing this, immediately put to sea with his followers; but the wind proving contrary, he did not get far from land before daylight.
Namosimalua fearing that the king might not have believed his messengers, still determined to be cautious. In the morning he ordered his people to follow, instead of preceding him, as is their usual custom, into the town. When they arrived, they saw Tanoa's canoe out at sea. Namosi said, "Never mind, he is not going far; he will soon return to some other town on the island, and we can then accomplish our purpose." He amused his people in this manner till he saw the king make sail for Somosomo, and then he said, "Let us return to Bau, it will be useless to follow him to Somosomo with our present force."
The rebel chiefs never suspected his duplicity, although they were not pleased with the result of his voyage. Namosimalua seldom failed in what he engaged to do, and no doubt that was the reason he was employed to kill the king. They confidently expected him to return with their object accomplished. He had ever appeared to be one with the rebels in purpose, and some said that he was the originator of the rebellion.
But Namosi had an "eye to the windward." He knew that all the inhabitants of Bau were not engaged in the rebellion; the Lasakau tribe still adhered to Tanoa. He would gain nothing by the death of the king, as his party might yet gain the ascendancy. He had also received his reward, and would get nothing more if he murdered the king; but by sparing his life he would gain the favor of both parties.page 51
To satisfy the rebel party, he proposed that a large fleet should be sent to Somosomo, and demand the king from the chiefs of that place. The fleet was sent; but the chiefs and people insulted them, refused to give up Tanoa, and they returned to Bau leaving the king in safety.
After the restoration of Tanoa, a great meeting was held in Bau for the consolidation of peace. Vatai was the young woman that was presented to Namosimalua, with the whale's teeth; her father was a brother of Tanoa, and was the one who was brought before him and had his tongue cut out and devoured, as before related. He was one of the first who fell before the vengeance of the angry king. Tanoa had another brother named Tuiveikoso; he had been compelled by the rebels to be crowned king. He was a man of small abilities, wholly incapable of ruling, or of exerting any influence, either good or bad. Tuiveikoso thus addressed his brother at the meeting. "I only am one with you. You and I are two. I knew not the design of your enemies. They brought your title to me; but I desired it not, nor did I take any part against you; therefore, be gracious to me, that I may live." Tanoa rose and said, "Fear not; what should I do to you? you are not as I am, strong, and able to go to other lands. I am as a god,—I cannot be killed; but you can do nothing; for you are like a large pig, which has grown too fat to walk about; you can only sit, and sleep, and wake, and take your food" (which was literally the case). They then both laughed; Tanoa kissed his brother and sat down. Namosimalua, who was one of this company, then went out, and the inquiry arose as to who originated the rebellion. Tanoa said, "The man who caused it has re-page 52tired; no doubt he has gone to contrive something else that is evil; to-morrow we will have him tried."
The next day the meeting again assembled, and Namosimalua was brought before them and charged with being the originator of the late rebellion: this he denied. He was then charged with having engaged to kill Tanoa, which he acknowledged, and stated that he received from the rebels a niece of Tanoa for a wife, and six whale's teeth, as an inducement to accomplish this object. Tanoa then said, "You engaged to kill me for six whale's teeth and a woman." He replied, "Yes, sir." Tanoa said, "That is good, and I like you for speaking the truth. You shall not die, but live, though you have done me much evil."
The king of Somosomo, who was present, then addressed Namosi, charging him with all the late troubles, and said, "If the king will allow us, we will kill you at once." A tumult ensued, which was stopped by the king of Rewa, who addressed the people in a conciliatory speech, and the meeting broke up.
Tanoa, no doubt, understood the motives which had actuated Namosi, in not complying with the wishes of the rebel party to kill him, and had no confidence in him; still, as he had spared him, it seemed to suit his present purpose to let him live.
Namosimalua is proud of Vatai, and she holds the highest rank of the ten wives that he possesses; but he is jealous and tyrannical, besides being some forty years her senior. She has never loved him, and has several times run away to Bau. Of late, however, she appears to endure with more patience. She is a handsome woman, of good natural abilities, has learned to read and write, and was one of the first on the island who renounced heathenism.page 53
It is of consequence to a Feejeean to possess a woman of high rank, as the children rank from the mother. Vatai's mother, after her husband was killed, was taken by the chief of Lasakau to wife; consequently, Vatai is nearly connected with that tribe, as has been related. Navinde, the present chief, is her brother by the same mother; therefore Vatai's children are "vasus" to Bau and to Lasakau. They can go to these places at any time, and take whatever they wish, and even if there should be war between Vewa and Bau, no person would dare to molest them.
Chief women are never to be obtained by poor men. If a poor man takes a wife from another town or tribe, her children are "vasus" to her family only; but the children of a chief woman are "vasus" to all of her tribe. The queen of Bau is the daughter of the king of Somosomo; consequently her child is a "vasu" not only to the town of Somosomo, but to all the towns and tribes who are subject to its king.