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Life in Feejee, or, Five Years among the Cannibals

Chapter X

page 171

Chapter X.

Visit to Bau—A Feejeean House—A Temple—Visit to a "Buri,"—Departure from Bau—Mock Piety of Namosimalua—Departure from the Islands—Arrival ul Manicola—Lobs of Two French Ships—A Dangerous Situation—The Island Flower-vase—Young Williams's Group— Straits of Bernardino.

Jan. 11.

Mr. and Mrs. Watsford, Mr. Hunt and myself, made a visit to the capitol. On our arrival at the house of Thakombau, Samonunu called to us to come in. Her Highness was seated on several fine mats, and she invited us to be seated beside her. Thakombau soon joined the party, seating himself familiarly on the same. I was surprised at this, knowing that the Turaga-lavu usually occupies a place at some distance from the females of the household. Mr. H. observed that he was very fond of Samonunu, and was often seen occupying a seat near her, and sometimes they have been known to eat together. Thakombau appears to possess sufficient independence to please himself, whether it is in accordance with their customs or not. His house is the largest in Bau, measuring seventy-eight feet in length, thirty-six in width, and forty in height. Its posts, of which there are twelve inside, measure six feet in circumference; the rafters are of bamboo; the sides are thatched with leaves, and the roof with a kind of long, tough grass. The house is all tied together; no hammer or nails are used in the building of a Feejeean dwelling. In the interior are two "vatas," extending along the two ends and one side of the house, which are used as store houses. Several tutuves of native cloth were thrown over bamboos which are placed crosswise page 172from the posts. These are let down at night, and form sleeping apartments. Each bed was composed of soft, dried grass, and formed with mathematical precision. They were elevated about one foot from the level of the floor, and covered with mats. I should never wish to occupy a better bed in a climate like this. Near the centre of the house, on one side, a trench about two feet in depth, contained their cooking utensils, which consisted of a whaler's try-pot, and several native "kurus" of different sizes. Every house has a similar trench, where the cooking is done; nor is the inconvenience from the smoke so great as one would think, for there are so many doors to their houses that the smoke escapes without inconvenience to the inmates. The house of the chief contained several Canton trunks, some dozens of muskets and kegs of powder, large rolls of cinnet and native cloth, a large looking-glass, with many other articles valuable to a Feejeean. The dwelling was perfectly neat, every thing appeared to be in its place, and the floor was entirely covered with new mats. When we departed, His Majesty presented me with a valuable and curious war club to show the Americans.

Bau is a small place, but well filled with people. The Bau tribe occupy one portion of the place,—the Lasakau another,—and the Soso tribe a third. There is a small elevation on the island where they bury their dead. In or near the central part of the isle is an open, level space, called the "rara." Here they meet to transact public business, to hold solavus, to prepare the slaughtered for the ovens, to carve the bodies after they have been cooked, to hold their festive pastimes, &c. Near the "rara" is the public hotel. This is a large building where strangers are entertained, of whom there are large numbers usually in Bau. At present it is occu-page 173pied by the Tonguese visitors from Lakemba. The Tonga chief, however, with his wives and their personal attendants, occupy a new house near the hotel. We called on him, and I received the promised mat, which is really a fine one, measuring four fathoms in length and one in breadth.

Having gained permission of Thakombau to enter the great "buri" of the city, we repaired thither. When we reached it, several of the aristocracy were about the place, and seeing that we were going to enter, looked quite displeased, and said that no woman had ever been inside of a "buri" and it was a very great "tambu." Mr. Hunt stopped to talk with them, and try to gain permission for us to go in, as was proper for him to do, knowing as he did the rank of the parties. While this was going on, I quietly slipped my arm from that of Mr. H., and thinking my offenee might be attributed to my ignorance, I hastened into the sacred building. On seeing this, the natives left talking, and looked astonished at so unheard of a thing in Feejee. Mr. and Mrs. Wats-ford and Mr. Hunt followed. We met, however, with but little to reward our perseverance. If we may judge of the devotion of the people by their offerings, their religion is certainly at a very low ebb. The temple contained nothing save one solitary roll of cinnet, and a small quantity of native cloth. One breadth of white "masi" was suspended from the ridge-pole of the temple to the floor. The spirit remains between that and the thatching of the house, and when the priest wishes to consult it, he seats himself in front of the "masi," where he commences a regular set of convulsions, which he declares is occasioned by the spirit entering into his worthy self. The spirit is consulted chiefly about their wars and in cases of sickness. A short time since, Samonunu page 174was sick. Thakombau attended at the "buri," and desired the priest to inquire of his god-ship whether she would recover. The answer was, that she would if her husband would give him a horse (there are two in Bau). Thakombau said, "We are quite near Vewa. It is very easy to send the Marama there to be cured by the missionaries. Why did not the god ask something less difficult? I shall not give him a horse." The abashed god, frightened at the bold speech of the chief, withdrew his demand, and cured the Marama with some inferior gift. I don't think that Thakombau is very pious. It is said that the gods were never denied their requests before.

10.As we came out of the temple, we met Rokotuim-bau, a great chief of this town of great chiefs. He had been informed of the important fact that two females had entered the sacred edifice, and was very angry about it. He is a heathen "of the first water," ardently devoted to his gods, and I presume would not have denied them two horses, had he possessed them, and they had been required. The angry chief looked as though he would like to bite us, and remarked that no women were allowed to go inside the "buri." We happened to know that, but we had violated the tambu in spite of him, and there was no help for him. I tried to look very sweetly at him, and Mrs. Watsford did look so, for she possesses a lovely countenance; but he still appeared displeased. Mr. Hunt toid him that we had received free permission from Thakombau, but his looks seemed to say, "Who is he to give leave that our temple should be desecrated in such a manner?" We left him to his own cogitations on the steps of the "buri," and repaired to the dwelling of Vakambua, one of the lords of the court, who has the charge of the princess—my little namesake. We found page 175her pined almost to a skeleton, and evidently near the grave. Before leaving, we called at tbe house of Tanoa; he had gone to attend a ceremony on the spot where Rewa stood, called quenching the fires of Rewa. There we saw the mother of the murdered king; she is very aged, quite deaf, and nearly blind. On being informed who I was, she showed the most extravagant fondness, saying that she had never thought to see the wife of Mr. Wallis, whom she had known so long. We saw, too, the mother of Revelete, the wife of Garenggeo, and two of his children. Several of his children had been murdered. We saw, also, several daughters and one son of the late king. The husband of one of the daughters had been killed during the war. These all occupied the largest of the king's houses. His queen, with her children and their attendants, dwelt in the same building, but the captives kept by themselves. Some were reclining on mats, some were cooking and others were making "lwkua" None looked very happy. The women of rank, however, are not degraded.. They are treated with all the ceremony of their station, and still served by numerous attendants. After seeing every thing to be seen, we left the cannibal city, and visited the bark. The commarider invited us to remain and dine; after this we returned to Vewa.
12.Mary Wallis presented me with a fine, large pig, saying, "that was her love to me;" also a handsome "kale" (pillow), which had been her husband's. I have been honored with visitors all day, who came to express their love to me, and last, not least, to indulge their begging propensities.

Messrs. Hunt and Watsford have left this place to visit some of the out-stations, expecting to be absent one month. The Tonga chief came to see me, expecting page 176a present in return for the one he made me. I gave him a full equivalent. He did not appear satisfied, and went on begging. I told him that I was greatly ashamed that I was not better acquainted with their customs,— that when he gave me a mat, I should have begged a pig too. Samonunu came, and presented me with some mats, saying she had ordered others to be made, but we should sail too soon to receive them. I told her they would be just as acceptable when we returned.

In the afternoon we visited at Elijah's, and also called on Mary Wallis. While at Elijah's, I said, taking hold of a Feejeean umbrella, "This is a very nice umbrella." "If you think so, will you take it?" said the Marama. "No," I replied. "You have already presented me with one quite as good, and that is enough." "I know that we are poor, and have nothing worthy to offer you; but why should the umbrella hang in my house, when you have said that it is good." I accepted it, feeling that I gratified the donor. As I expected to sail in the morning for Manilla, I took leave of them. We were followed home by servants, bearing large bunches of bananas, which were left on my door-steps.

In the evening my husband came for me, and we were accompanied to the boat by the mission families, Vatai, Mary Wallia, and many others. I had received some little token of remembrance from them all, and we parted with mutual assurances of friendship. I can scarcely express my feelings towards those dear families of the mission who took me into their dwellings, and allowed me so good a share of their affections. My intercourse with them has been truly delightful. The religion which they profess, and teach, and practise, renders them lovely in their whole deportment. During a residence of ten page 177years in this group, they have ever maintained love and harmony among themselves.

16.We anchored at Ovalau; Elijah took leave of us here, and on the seventeenth we sailed for Raverave.

Anchored at Raverave, in sight of the brig Elizabeth, of Salem. In the evening, we were surprised and pleased to receive a visit from Messrs. Hunt and Wats-ford, accompanied by Capt. King. The former had arrived here the day previous.

Namosimalua has been on board the Elizabeth for some time past.

21.Mr. W. dined on board the Elizabeth, and on his return to the bark was accompanied by Capt. King, and Messrs. Hunt and Watsford, who took tea, and passed the evening with us. It is a very rare thing in Feejee to have company to tea.

We are informed that a large canoe belonging to Elijah is here from Vewa, with several of the Vewa Christians on board, and a special message came in it to the chief of Bunda, from Thakombau, requesting him to kill Namosimalua and all the Vewa Christians he could come at; then take possession of the canoe, and load it with riches that had belonged to Revelete, and come to Bau, where they should be suitably rewarded. The Bunda chief replied, "that Thakombau might do his own work."The messenger then requested Namosi to visit Ba, and receive some pigs for Bau. Namosi declined going, feeling, probably, that the invitation was like that of the spider, when he said to the fly, "Will you walk into my parlor?" He has heard of the whole affair, and is exceedingly alarmed. He says that Bau will never be satisfied till he is killed.

As usual, when danger threatens, he is very pious, prays a great deal, and leads a most devotional life. He con-page 178ducts precisely as the Jews did in the wilderness. I was much amused once, on witnessing one of his devotional acts at Vewa. He has always been desirous of joining the church, as he has a particular fondness for one of the elements of the communion; namely, the wine. One sacramental day I was walking in front of Mr. Hunt's dwelling, and observed Namosi pacing to and fro, and often casting a glance towards the chapel. At length one appeared, bringing the bread and wine which had been left from the communion, Namosi darted forward, snatched the goblet, and swallowing its contents, returned the empty vessel, smacked his lips, and walked off'.


We took leave of our friends, and sailed for Ba, where we arrived about noon, and anchored, hoping to procure yams, but no canoes came off.

There is a little tale connected with this place, which shows why the natives would not visit us. It appears that the vessel to which Mr. W. belonged in the year 1835, visited this coast. On their arrival at Ba, a chief, accompanied by several natives, came to the vessel to dispose of shell. His price was more than the captain thought it worth, who told him that he must send to the shore, and have more of the article brought, when he would trade for the whole. The captain no doubt thought that there was a large quantity of shell on shore, and he was desirous to obtain it. The chief declared that he had no more, and the captain said that he should be detained till more was brought. Some of the natives were now frightened, and jumped into their canoes. The chief was about to follow, but was prevented by the captain, who placed one of his men with a loaded musket over him, with orders to shoot him if he attempted to escape. Mr. W, thinking there would be trouble, went below for page 179bis pistols; while there, he beard the report of a musket, which was followed by others. He hastened on deck, and saw the bleeding chief in the water; he had been shot. The captain now ordered his men to fire upon the natives. They had, however, left their canoes, and by diving escaped the fire, and only one beside the chief was killed. The captain next ordered the boat to be lowered, and his crew to go and kill as many of the natives as possible. Mr. W. remarked that there were natives enough to upset the boat and kill all hands. The next order issued by the captain, was, to get the brig under way, which was obeyed with alacrity. As they were going out among the reefs, a canoe passed, and the captain ordered his people to fire into it. Mr. W. was at mast head, looking out for the reefs. He heard the order, and sung out, "Hard down your helm!" The order was obeyed, and the canoe escaped.

The captain has not, hitherto, been blamed for this affair among the natives of this coast, who, it is said, all believe that Mr. W. was the captain of the aforesaid vessel, and that it was by his order the chief was shot, although the several commanders who have since visited the coast, have endeavored to inform them correctly how the affair occurred. This people have been called the most barbarous of Feejee. It is difficult to determine how they have acquired the name, as it is almost the only place where no white people have been murdered. Feejeeans usually avenge their wrongs upon the first who come in their way, who belong to the class that has wronged them, as has been shown in the account of the murder of Wilson. In this case, however, it is said that, contrary to their usual custom, they are waiting to get possession of Mr. W., or some of his people if they can-not get him, which they would much prefer, to wreak page 180their long pent-up vengeance upon. We have been told that soon after the murder of the chief, a "buri" was built, which has not been opened on account of their inability to procure the proper subject for its dedication, -which is no leas a personage than my husband. Don't think they'll get him—can't conveniently let him be used for such a purpose.

23.Sailed for, and anchored at Bunda. Collected yams along the coast.
27.An order was given to man the windlass, which was received by the crew with three cheers; and cheerily the order was obeved, our sails were spread, the wind favored our departure, and the lands of Feejee, with all their man-eating savages, were soon lost in the distance. Our number was whole; none had suffered from contact with cannibal ivory.
Feb. 1.The ocean is cross—I feel cross—the vessel rolls—I roll, and every thing rolls that is not tied. That tormenting, vexing, fretting sea-monster—sea-sickness, is prowling about, preventing me from working, reading, writing, sitting, sleeping, and every other known "ing," except hanging, which I have not yet tried. Besides all this, it makes horrible faces at me when there is food in sight. However, although I can have no comfort, I am not prostrated, as on the passage out.

Arrived off the island of Manicola. This island is the largest in the group in Charlotte's Archipelago, In or about the year 1804, two French surveying ships were lost on a reef which surrounds Manicols. The name of one ship was Astrolabe, and nothing was for many years heard from the missing vessels. At length a man named Dillon (the same who visited Feejee and had a battle with the natives when Charles Savage was killed) was sailing about these seas, and picked up a native from page 181some island near Manicola. From him he received some hints, which led him to think that the vessels were lost at that island. A large reward had been offered to any who would bring intelligence of the lost ships. Dillon went to Bombay in the year 1826 and succeeded in obtaining command of a suitable vessel from some merchants, then sailed for Manicola. He stopped at the island, and took the native before mentioned on board, and arrived at Manicola. The man on board appeared well known at the island, and through him Capt. D. held communication with the natives. The inhabitants of Manicola treated Capt. D. and his people in the most civil manner. They showed him some iron spikea, which they said had belonged to the lost vessels, and a part of a ship's bell, and several other articles, which evinced the fact that the ships had been lost somewhere in this region. The natives stated that the vessels struck on the reef and went to pieces; that a small craft was built from the wreck, and the people sailed away in it. The latter may be true, and it may not; no one has lived to tell the tale. Capt. Dillon sailed for France, where he made known the fate of the vessels, of which nothing had been heard for twenty-two years. He received the promised reward, and the title of Chevalier, besides many costly presents, and was made a rich man at once.

Within the barrier reef are to be seen numerous smaller ones, and shoals. As we were running for the isle with a fair wind, Mr. W. came below for a few moments, telling the mate to look out sharp till he returned. On his return to the deck, I heard him exclaim,"By heavens! Mr. Jones, we are inside this dangerous reef." There we were, sure enough; and how should we get out again? There was but one opening to be seen, and we had entered by that which was very narrow; the wind page 182was fair for our entrance, and of course it wag directly against our returning by the same passage, and there was no room to beat. Is the fate of the missing vessels to be ours? I thought, as I looked over the side into the clear waters beneath, and observed several sunken rocks, which threatened every moment to make some large holes in the bottom of the vessel. For a moment all appeared paralyzed; the stillness of death reigned; but it was for a moment only, and was soon broken by the voice of the captain, saying, "There is one little spot where the water appears somewhat deeper on the reef than anywhere else. Down with the boat and sound it!" The boat was lowered, the mate and four hands sprung into it, and rowed for the place. Two fathoms of water were found upon it, and we passed over in safety. The wind had died away nearly ealm, and the waters were so still and smooth that all their hidden dangers were plainly revealed to the eye, as we passed on our dangerous way. Each one appeared to hold his breath, that he might catch the first sound of the grating keel. But that kind Providence that has preserved us from harm during aur voyage, saved us from this danger also.

After the vessel had cleared the reef, we sailed in what is marked on the chart as "Dillon's track," and went into a small bay, where, it is said, Dillon anchored. We sailed within ten rods of the shore, but could find no anchorage. Mr. W. remarked that the bottom must have dropped out since Capt. D.'s visit. Our bark was too unwieldy, and our cargo was deemed too valuable to risk its safety among these unknown waters, and we left them without making any discovery in the "beech de mer" line. The island of Manicola is of volcanic formation, and its inhabitants are of a dark brown color, and have coarse woolly hair, like the Feejeeans. We approached page 183on the south side, which, evidently, was not inhabited. Hill, mountain and glen presented to the eye a dense forest of trees.


We came in sight of a small cluster of islands called Duff's group, in the same archipelago as the group that we passed yesterday. There are seven, which are also of volcanic origin. They present to the eye solid masses of verdure. On one of the isles, a column is seen, of perhaps fifty or sixty feet in height, but appears from the vessel of small circumference. This column is covered with verdure, probably creeping plants, and on its top are some half dozen trees, which seem to aoy, "Come and repose under my shade if you can."

I have seen nothing so pretty as that island flower-vase, since I became a sailor. It was too beautiful ever to be forgotten. On one island several houses were to be seen that appeared like Feejeean architecture. No inhabitants or canoes were visible. My curiosity was greater than my prudence, and I begged Mr. W. to send a boat ashore, and let me go and "sara sara." He made me no answer, but smiled, and raised his hand to the wind. "Oh, there is just wind enough," I said. "Get out the fore-topmast studding-sail!" shouted the captain. "Get out the fore-topmast studding-sail!" echoed the mate, "Aye, aye, sir," responded the crew, and away we went, leaving Duff's group, its unknown inhabitants, its elegant flower-vase—all to disappear in the distance.


We arrived at a group of islands called the Young Williams's group. We counted eighteen in number, all of coral formation, and appearing scarcely above the level of the sea. Those that were near us were covered with cocoa-nut trees. We sailed by one of the largest isles, and soon observed some of its tawnies, men, women and children, all racing along the sand beach, page 184shouting to us at the top of their voices, while some were showing a white flag to induce us, as we supposed, to anchor and honor them with a visit. We soon saw several canoes approaching, filled with natives. The bark was hove to, and two of the natives came on board. They were shown some "beech de mer" and they signified by signs that there was a plenty of the article on the reefs. Weapons were shown to them, both savage and civilized (if there are such things as civilized weapons; I believe there is but one—a broomstick), but they did not seem to understand their uses. They exhibited much astonishment at sight of the pigs, and appeared to have had but little, if any, intercourse with vessels. They brought cocoa-nuts, and received in return fish-hooks.

These islanders are a very handsome race, light colored, no beards, and fine black hair, which they wore long; a few wore it hanging loosely down behind, but the most of them had it twisted and brought to the top of the head, where it was confined, and a small wreath of flowers was worn over it. The young men resembled, at a little distance, very pretty girls, and such we at first thought them. Several wore flowers in their ears, and all had pieces of native cloth, but were not particular in its arrangement till I appeared on deck, when all who were in the canoes proceeded to cover their persons in a proper manner. Those who had come on board had previously done so. Their cloth resembled coarse canvass, and was about half a yard in width. Two breadths were fastened together, and an opening left in the centre; the head was passed through the opening, and the cloth falling loosely before and behind, gave the wearers a very decent appearance. Their features were regular,—their teeth beautiful,—their eyes very bright, but mild in their expression. The arms of page 185some were tattooed in delicate parallel lines, from the shoulders to the elbows. They were decidedly the handsomest race of men that I have seen in the South Seas. No women came off,—a sure evidence that they have not yet been cursed by intercourse with whaling vessels.

March 8.

We are in sight of the Philippine Islands. Farewell to sea-sickness for one month. This disagreeable sensation has accompanied me in some degree ever since I left Feejee. At no time have I been free from it for one day.

Hail! ye green isles of the ocean! How many verses would I write in your praise, if I could!


Last evening, at seven o'clock, we entered the straits of St. Bernardino. How delightful the prospect! How glorious appeared the rising sun! Ah! I thought, I must sing, but I suddenly recollected that the sound of my voice would destroy all the harmony of the scene.

Soon after sunrise we passed a volcanic mountain. Smoke was issuing from its top, and as there was no wind, it descended to its base, and the mount appeared to be resting on a heavy mass of clouds. It is about six years since its fires have been seen.