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Life in Feejee, or, Five Years among the Cannibals

Chapter III

Chapter III.

Gods of Feejee—The faithfulness of a Feejeean—Temples of Feejee— Verani renounces Heathenism—Murder of a Lasakau Chief—Strangling of Women.

Jan. 23.The Bau people have a set day, which comes about once in two weeks, to go to Rewa to fight. Each town that is subject to Bau takes its turn in leading the battle. The last week it was the turn of the Namara people to lead; three of them were shot, and the rest fled. The Spartan dame would never have owned these for her sons!page 54
24.Namosimalua has had a feast prepared to-day for the people who are building his house. There were about two hundred to partake of it. Bread-fruit, fish, and native puddings, had been prepared in great abundance. About noon the old men commenced arranging the food. They would take a roast pig (of which they had several very large ones roasted whole), and put in one place, and then change it to another; the same of the rest of the food, and then they would appear at a loss to know where to place it to the best advantage. I really felt a strong desire to go and take the management of the affair. Many times the managers would clap their hands slowly, and thank the chief (who was seated on the ground under the mission fence), for his provisions. In this ceremony Namosi joined in thanking himself. About four o'clock all was prepared, thanks were again offered, and the multitude, consisting only of the Matais (carpenters,) partook of the feast, and took what was left, as is their custom on such occasions.
25.Navinde has again visited Vewa. Nalela came to Mr. Hunt's with him, and they drank yanggona together. Mr. Hunt thinks the reconciliation is sincere. They chatted a long time, apparently in the greatest harmony, and then visited me. They thought I was very extravagant to have my house lined with mats. Nalela is a wicked-looking man, about forty-five years of age.
28.Navinde has again visited Nalela. He seems to take much pains to convince him that he is sincere in his wish that the reconciliation between them should be perfect. Navinde calls me his friend, and brought me four orange cowrie shells, as a present. Nalela and Namosi do not speak, and when they go out, are armed with a club. This is the custom in Feejee, but in Vewa the Christian party have laid aside their arms. Nalela has page 55not yet ventured to visit Bau. The girl that Revelete took, was not his principal wife, but one of his solangas. The household of the chiefs is composed of three classes of women:—First, the Marama lavu, which is their highest title; second, a solanga, which answers to our word for concubine; and lastly the kaises, which means a poor person; these are the servants. Nalela's household is composed of ten females. The Marama lavu is a sister of Verani. Nalela's mother was a sister of Namosimalua, consequently, he is a vasu to Vewa, and can appropriate whatever he chooses to himself.
Feb. 1.

Mr. Hunt has been sent for to visit Bau, and prescribe some medicine for the stolen Miss of Revelete. She has been sick for several days. Vatai says that an offering has been made to the gods, to know why she is sick. The priest had a shaking fit, and then said that the god was angry because Revelete had taken her to the house intended for the king of Rewa's daughter, to whom he is betrothed. The offering was a large canoe. Mr. Hunt has furnished me with the following account of the gods of Feejee.

"Their gods, though numerous, may be arranged under two classes. First, those who were gods in their origin, which are called 'na kalou vu;' and, secondly, those which are acknowledged to be the spirits of departed chiefs, or other persons. Some of their gods had a disgusting origin, some as ridiculous as any of the gods of the ancient heathen.

Many of the natives believe in the existence of a deity called 'Ovē,' who is considered the maker of all men, and is supposed to reside in the heavens; some say in the moon. He is not worshipped, to my knowledge, by any of the Feejeeans. Though he is the supposed creator of all men, yet different parts of the group as-page 56cribe their origin to other gods. A certain female deity is said to have created the Vewa people; and yet if a child is born malformed, it is attributed to an oversight of Ovē. The god most generally known, next to Ovē, is Dengei. He resides in a cave near Ragerage, on the northern coast of Vetelavu. He is supposed to be enshrined in a serpent, on which account the Christian natives say he is the devil. All the gods have shrines, when they are supposed to visit this world,—some a fish, others vegetables, others birds, and some even men. It is unlawful to eat the shrine of their gods; so that some of the natives dare not partake of certain fish, birds, vegetables, &c.; and a few, on this account, abstain even from feeding on human flesh. They have no idols, properly so called, though these shrines may be considered as such; and, like all other idolators, the ignorant make scarcely any distinction between the shrine and the god; so that we frequently hear them say of the former, 'That is my god.'

The principal residence of the gods, and of all separate spirits, is called 'bulu.' Of this place there are various accounts. Some suppose it to be a place of rest and quiet; others think it is much the same as the present world.

As to the nature of their gods, they consider them very much like themselves, only more expert in evil. All kinds of human passions and vices are attributed to them. If a handsome woman dies, they say some god has fallen in love with her, and taken her for his wife. As they consider their gods are possessed of like passions with themselves, they employ the same means to frighten or appease them as succeed among themselves. In times of affliction, or any other calamity, they sometimes challenge them to fight, and demand an page 57explanation of their conduct in thus afflicting them. If the gods are supposed to be angry, they present an offering similar to those presented to an angry chief. The gift has the same name, and is presented in the same way.

The number of their deities is prodigious. Every tribe has its god, while some are acknowledged by all. They profess to multiply them at pleasure, as the departed spirits of their friends are all eligible to the same office; the only difficulty is in finding some person who has impudence and hypocrisy enough to declare that the spirit of a certain person has visited him in the character of a god, and selected him for his priest.

The priest is the connecting link between the people and their gods. He is the living interpreter of their will, and receives, in their names, the offerings of the people.

These offerings are of two kinds;—the sais, or atonement for sin, and the mandrale, or thank-offering; both are often called mandrale, which is a general name for religious offerings.

The power of their gods is confined to the present life, with the following exception:—When a person dies, he is furnished with a club, or other instrument of war, that he may contend successfully with a deity called ravuyalo, 'soul-killer,' who is posted some where in the passage between this world and 'bulu,' for the purpose of clubbing the souls of the dead. If they escape this evil, they become the companions of the divinities in 'bulu.' All their offerings refer to the present life. They propitiate their gods for favorable winds, fruitful seasons, success in war, deliverance from sickness, &c., &c.; but their religious ideas neither extend to the soul, nor to another world. They prepare for death just as for a feast, and page 58the wives of chiefs are strangled under the consideration that they will be as necessary and useful in the next world as in the present.


Mr. Hunt found the Miss of Revelete convalescent. He observed that the Turaga-lavus of Bau were mostly engaged in the harmless amusement of flying kites. A much better employment than eating men!

Another storm has commenced more violent than the last. I have been advised to have every thing as snug and secure as possible, as all may be unsheltered before morning.

5.The storm is now abating. It has exceeded in violence any that I have before witnessed. The last two nights have been almost sleepless ones, as I was constantly expecting my house would be blown away. Not many buildings, however, have blown down, as they are somewhat sheltered by the surrounding hills. The trees look as though they had been seared by fire.
6.This morning a Tonga man came to my door, and said, "Good morning, ma'am; you sewing, sir?" "Where did you learn your English?" said I. "Oh, me live with one mission in Tonga; I learn English, I wash, my wife, he iron; suppose you want wash, me wash." Mr. Jaggar has a Rotumah servant who amuses us much. To-day he asked for some peter-salt, to put into the pork-barrel. He cannot think that he speaks respectfully unless he says "sir," when addressing a lady. Mrs. Hunt told him one day that he should say "ma'am," to a lady, and "sir," to a gentleman. Now, he always says, "yes ma'am, sir—no ma'am, sir."

I believe that human nature is the same the world over. To-day some Bau ladies were praising my house, and thinking probably to say something pleasing to me, they pointed to Namosimalua's new house, and said.

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"Vatai's house is a bad one; this is a good one." I replied, "They are both good. My house is very small, and is only for one person to live in; Vatai's is large, and many people can live there." But they still said, "No, no, it is not a good house." The civilized lady continued, "Have you seen Mrs. Smith's new house?"


"How do you like her furniture?"

"Some of it is in good taste."

"I think there is no taste displayed there. What horrid colors her curtains and carpets are!"


To-day I was told that a canoe had arrived from Mathuata. As I had reason to suppose they had brought letters from my husband, I waited rather impatiently several hours, and as they were not forthcoming, I took the lad, David, with me, and went to Verani's town in quest of them. I found a box had been sent to me by my husband, but I could not get possession of it. It had been committed to the care of a chief named Ndury, who was to deliver it to Verani for me. Verani was in Bau, and Ndury had gone to see him there, committing the box in the meantime to the care of one of his men, who was strictly charged not to lose sight of it till his return. The man knew that it belonged to me, yet he would not allow me to open or take it, and appeared exceedingly alarmed lest I should remove it. David said that it might cost the man his head if I should take it away. I returned without my letters, provoked at their detention, yet admiring the faithfulness of the Feejeean.

It was not long after I returned, before Verani, Ndury, and the faithful man came, bearing the box, which really appeared of as much importance as the mysterious box which contained the crown of Scotland, in the days of our valiant namesake.

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We have learned that a chief with his tribe, who reside at Ovalau, have renounced heathenism, and wish to be instructed in the Christian religion.

The brig Columbine, Capt. Stratton, has arrived, and he has his lady with him.

The following item of news is in circulation: —Some little time since, the Rewa people destroyed a town that belonged to Bau. Thakombau has been collecting a force under the pretence of going to rebuild it. He commanded the warriors of Namata to go and assist. It is said that his object is to get the Namata people in his power, to destroy them. They heard of the plot, and refused to go.


The conversation at table to-day, turned upon America. One remarked that "if America had to fight now for her liberties, she would not gain her object." "Why?" I asked. "There are several reasons," he replied; "one is, if we may judge by their political papers, that there is not unity enough among them." I found that he had been reading some of the productions of the "glorious liberty of our press," newspaper slang, and papers that are filled with the lowest abuse of their opponents. I will never again endure this annoyance from the dissemination of them among foreigners. I replied, "We are now at peace, and no alarm is felt at present that the liberties of our nation are in danger. You know the old adage,

'Satan always finds some work
For idle hands to do '—

His Majesty (although we profess not to be subject to kings) is now exercising his talents in the way of abuse; but should our liberties be invaded, I think that they would unite to a man in repelling their invaders."

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"Should that ever be the case," remarked one, "they have not the courage that was possessed by former generations." "England has tried our courage twice," I replied, "if she doubts it now, let her try again."

12.The weather is very hot. Natives, musquitoes and flies are swarming my house. I take a stick and drive the children away, lock the door to keep out the grown people, shut my mouth to keep the flies from going down my throat, bear the stings of the musquitoes as well as possible, and try to look amiable, but do not feel so.

Received a visit from the Queen of Bau, or the Marama-lavu, as she is called. The title of Marama is given to all females of high rank, and Marama-lavu is the title of the highest rank, as Tui and Turaga-lavu are the titles of great chiefs. Tui is their word for king— Lavu is their word for great. I do not learn that the females have more than two titles—Marama and Yande— the latter of which answers to our word for madam. My visitor is the principal wife of Tanoa, although he has many others of equal rank. After her departure, the following interesting tale was related respecting her ladyship.

Not long since, she cast her eyes upon a young man, as did the Queen of Egypt upon Joseph; but the young man in this case, having no garment to leave in her hands, and not possessing the virtue of Joseph, after some time yielded to her entreaties, though he had no love for the woman, and great fear of the king. The Marama, fearing that the story of her love would get to the ears of the king, told him that she had been insulted by the man, and had him clubbed to death at once. These are the facts, though not given in the words of the narrator.

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14.Mr. Hunt visited Capt. Stratton and lady, on on board the Columbine. Thakombau was there, and seemed quite disposed to tease Mt. Hunt, saying to him, "If I am the first to 'lotu' among my people, I shall be first in heaven, shall I not?" "If you love God the most, and serve him the best, you may have a higher place in heaven," replied Mr. Hunt. "But," said he, "Namosimalua has 'lotued.' Have you given him glass windows for his new house, and English carpets for his floors, and have you sent to England for a vessel for him?" "He gets no riches because he has renounced heathenism. We do not come here to give riches to those who 'lotu,' but to tell you about God and Jesus Christ, that you may love Him, and your souls be saved," said Mr. H. "Then I will not 'lotu,'" he replied. He then inquired about the resurrection. Mr. H. told him that his body, and the bodies of all those he had eaten, would be raised at the day of judgment, and if he did not repent, they would all be sentenced to the "buka-waqa" together. "Well," replied he, "it is a fine thing to have a fire in cold weather." Mr. Hunt said, "I shall still pray for you with a good mind, although you treat the subject so lightly." To which he replied, "Go on with that."
15.Visited by a Bau lady, who brought me a present of a mat. She said that was her love to me, and that her husband, who was a great chief of Bau, but was now dead, had loved my husband very much; on this account she loved my husband and me very much. She informed us that two men were eaten in Bau yesterday, and a woman the day before.
18.Mr. Hunt received a visit from the great high priest of Bau. He looks as though he was well fed.
19.Received a visit from another of the wives of Ta-page 63noa. Not long since this woman came to Vewa to receive medical treatment. While here she renounced heathenism, but when she recovered and returned to Bau, Thakombau said that she had "lotued," that she might not be strangled when his father died; and he compelled her to return to heathenism again.

Mrs. Stratton passed the day with us. In the afternoon we walked to the heathen temple, of which there is but one in the place. Being situated on the brow of a hill, and surrounded by trees, its appearance from the sea is quite picturesque and beautiful.

The temples of Feejee are called "buris," of which there are three classes. Two of them are sacred to their gods, and no woman is allowed to enter them. At the time of the destruction of Vewa by the French, the temples were also destroyed. In 1843, the present one was built, but the priest dying about the same time, no one could be found to sustain the office, both of the sons of the old priest having become Christians.


Mrs. Jaggar and myself called this afternoon on the Marama at her new house. Namosimalua saw us go into his house, from his garden, and soon came to tell us how glad he was to see us. We noticed among his women one who was dumb. Vatai said that about two years since, she was married, and very soon after sickened, and as her friends thought, died. Her body was prepared for the grave, and as they were bearing it out of the house, her mother said, "No, she shall not be buried yet; lay her here, by the door." They left the body by the door, and departed. Some time after, signs of life were perceived, which soon increased to a certainty. She recovered her health, but has never spoken since. Namosi asked Mrs. Jaggar if her speech would not be restored if she turned Christian. Mrs. J. told her page 64that it would be well for her to become a Christian, that her soul might be saved, but she could not say that her power of speech would be restored.

There are many strangers here as the day is fine. My windows are surrounded with admirers. I receive nearly as many compliments as my house. Being nearly overpowered by the delightful odor of my room, as the copper-colored blinds prevented the pure breezes of heaven from passing through, I left, and passed the most of the day with my pleasant neighbors.


We learn that a town belonging to Rewa has been destroyed by Bau. Six men were killed, who were taken to Bau and eaten.

Mrs. Jaggar, Mrs. Watsford and myself, have commenced teaching a class of girls to sew; one teaching one week, and the other the next, and so on. Mrs. Hunt does not join us at present, on account of ill health.


Namosimalua has beaten two of his women most unmercifully, for some trifling fault. None seem to like him or respect his character. Many of his women are pious, but cannot enjoy the privileges of the church while living in a state of concubinage, and this they are compelled to do, as he will not release them. He is neither Christian nor heathen. He has renounced many of his heathen practices, given up cannibalism, has no confidence in heathen gods, believes in the only true God, but neither loves nor serves Him.

March 8.

The solemn notes of a bell are now sounding in my ears. Some one is about to be laid in his last resting-place on earth. How many times has the bell of my own church tolled since I left my native land! Many of my own loved friends, from whom I parted in the full glow of health, may be resting in the cold grave. I am 15,000 miles from home.

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16.Capt. Stratton has sailed for Sydney, and taken letters to forward to England and America. The white men living at this place, of whom there are several, procured rum from Capt. S., and had a grand time last night. They sent for Verani, and invited him to join them; this he refused, telling them that he did not wish to get drunk, that it was bad to do so. They told him that the drink they offered him was not rum, but wine, which the missionaries had given to a sick woman, wife of one of the tempters. Verani thought it no harm to drink wine, and soon they all became drunk together.

Verani came to Mr. Jaggar, and inquired why religious services were to be held on this day. He was told that it was "Good Friday," the day on which it was supposed that Jesus Christ died. "Then this shall be the day on which I will lotu," said Verani; and in accordance with this resolution, he attended the morning prayer meeting, and on his knees, publicly renounced heathenism. It appears that the mind of this chief has been much exercised upon the subject of religion for some two or three months past, but he has had much to struggle against. He has fully believed, that unless he repented of his sins, and loved God, he could not be happy in another world. If he became a Christian, however, he must not only brave the resentment of Thakombau, which is no slight thing, but he must give up all which is dear to a heathen; and in return he sees in prospect no earthly reward. He knows that those who become Christians, gain no riches from the missionaries; but are taught how to gain the "pearl of great price," and that is all. He could not expect to gain any thing from the masters of trading vessels, either, for these, with but very few exceptions, prefer to have nothing to do with Christianity, or Christians. It may be seen from page 66this, that he is now willing to give up all for the salvation of his soul. He has learned to read, and has many times of late sat up all night with a teacher, talking about religion.

The Lasakaus have at length accomplished their purpose. Nalela was killed last night in Bau. Navinde has been here very often since the pretended reconciliation, and used every means to convince Nalela of his sincerity. Nalela has, however, declined going to Bau to live, but occasionally visited there. Last night, as he was sitting in the "buri," he was shot. The Marama and others of his women have gone to Bau, where it is most likely that some of them will be strangled. Narnosimalua looks dark, and says that Bau is determined to kill off the old chiefs, and his turn will soon come. He has sent to Bau to ask if this is intended as an insult to Vewa. If so, they may come on; Vewa is ready to meet them.

Last evening Vewa received a present of several muskets and kegs of powder from Thakombau. This was, that he might receive the news of the morning with "a good mind." Bau has as much to do with the affair as Lasakau.

22.Nalela went to Bau the day before he was killed, to see Navinde, who, they pretended, was sick. He spent his first night there safely, and avowed his intention of remaining the second. During the day, some friend secretly warned him of his danger, and advised his return to Vewa immediately. He disregarded the friendly warning and decided to remain, thinking, perhaps, if they were determined to kill him, they might as well accomplish their purpose at once. He had been a prisoner for three years, and had now tasted again the sweets of liberty, rendered doubly dear, no doubt, by being so long page 67deprived of them. In the evening, Nalela, with his father, Navinde, and others, were seated in the great "buri" of Bau, drinking yanggona, and enjoying a social chat, when suddenly the report of a musket was heard, and Nalela fell. Navinde sprung to his feet, and struck the fallen chief several blows with his club. The poor old father of Nalela said to him, "Oh, do not do that, he will die with the shot." With the fury of a demon, Navinde turned, and struck the old man so violently that he fell to the ground a corpse. In the morning Tanoa was told of the death of Nalela. "Very good," said the king, "send to Vewa that his wife may come and kiss the body of her husband." She found his body exceedingly mutilated—the heart, liver and tongue had been devoured.

The chiefs of Bau would not consent to strangle any of the women that had belonged to Nalela, as they wished to have him feel the effects of their hatred in the next world. After having shot and clubbed him out of this world, they mean to starve him in the next, by not allowing any woman to go with him to do his cooking. The Marama, after returning: from Bau, went to Namosimalua, and said, "Come, strangle me quick, that my spirit may go with the spirit of Nalela, and comfort him; he is even now faint for food." Namosi is Christian enough to refuse her request. She then applied to Verani, who said, "No, you must not be strangled, for you can do no good to Nalela where he is; you must live and repent of your sins, that when you die, you may go to heaven." "Ah!" she exclaimed, in accents of the deepest woe, "it is true that no one loves me. There was one that loved me, but they have killed him, and there is not one left that loves me enough to send me to page 68him. You are my brother, but you do not love me. I will starve myself."

The manner of strangling the females when a chief dies, is as follows:—The woman first kisses the corpse, then hastens to the house of her nearest male relative, or in his absence, to the chief, and says, "I wish to die, that I may go where my husband is. Love me, and make haste to strangle me, that I may hasten and overtake him." The relatives applaud her resolution, and direct her to bathe herself. Her ablutions being accomplished, her female friends accompany her to the house of the deceased with all despatch, and dress and decorate her for the journey which she is about to undertake. Her mother, if alive, spreads a mat for her to sit upon. All, then, give her their parting salutation. While some rejoice at, and commend her heroism, occasionally there are some whose feelings recoil at the apparatus of death, and by such persons (but the number is comparatively few), the murderous cord is touched with a trembling hand, or seized with the grasp of a maniac. The widow summons all her energy, and surrenders herself to her murderers. The willing victim is placed in the lap of a female, and a piece of native cloth is folded so as to make a strong cord, which is placed round her neck. A knot is tied on each side of the windpipe, and the two ends are made to pass each other in opposite directions; and while one woman is pressing down her head, and another holding her hand over her mouth and nostrils, five or six men take hold of each end of the cord, and pull it till the two ends meet, or pass each other. The work of death is violent, brief and certain. The body is soon stretched on the mat a breathless corpse. The cord is left about her neck, the ends unfolded and tied in a knot. The body is then rubbed over with tumeric, and placed by page 69the side of the dead chief. The friends of the chief then present a whale's tooth to her nearest male relative, and say, "A kenai sere, ni wa ni kuna."—"This is the untying of the cord of strangling." The cord is then untied, and left loose about her neck. She is buried in the same grave with her husband. If the chief is of very high rank, several women are thus sacrificed.


Mr. Hunt has visited at the house of the murdered chief. He did not see the widow, but found the other women making a great noise. It is the custom to burn the houses of deceased chiefs, with every thing they contain; but Verani would not allow it in this case. The widow has, however, burned and broken many articles, and the last accounts stated that she was hard at work in accomplishing the ruin of a pair of strong scissors.

Nalela was a very wicked, blood-thirsty tyrant. Although while a prisoner at Vewa, in constant fear and real danger, yet he omitted no opportunity of showing his amiable character. He was a "vasu" to Vewa, and exercised his power with the younger portion of the population, in the most despotic manner.

Not long since, Masapai told one of his men to take a pig belonging to himself, to another island, which he named. Nalela heard of it, and determined to kill the man who had executed the orders of Masapai. Mr. Hunt heard of the affair, and "soroed" to the chief in time to save the life of the young man. "To soro," is to take a present to the offended party, and say "Au soro," "I ask pardon."

25.Last evening being fine, and lighted by the full, unclouded moon, Mr. and Mrs. Watsford and myself walked to the spacious mansion of the Turaga-lavu. The prospect from the elevation where this mansion is located, is extensive and beautiful, either by sunlight or moon-page 70light. I love beautiful prospects, rich and charming scenery, but fail in any attempt to describe it. As we reached the dwelling of the chief, we heard the sound of prayer. When it was ended, Namosi and Vatai came forth. We remarked that we had come to look at the bright moon, the sparkling waters, and the lands of Feejee. Namosi said, "The sun is true, the moon is true and the stars are true, for they were made by the true God." Vatai said, "Many have been the days of my foolishness, when I did not know the true God. I believed in the gods of Feejee. When the lands trembled, I believed that the god Dengai turned over in his cave, and that caused the earth to shake."
26.Received a nice basket and a pair of chickens, as a present from Verani. He appears quite like a young convert. He says that his past life has been one of wickedness, that he prays a great deal that God will pardon him, and he appears very anxious for instruction, that he may know what is right, and sin no more. He says, also, that he has served the gods of Feejee long enough, and he has learned that they are false; that there is one true God, and Him will he serve.

Thakombau has been told that Verani has "lotued." "Have you seen him 'lotu?' "asked the angry chief. "Yes," was the reply. "Tell him, then, to go to his God for his food; he shall have none from my lands. He has not hearkened to my speech. I told him to wait a little, and then we would 'lotu' together. Tell him to stay at Vewa. He is not to come to Bau any more, or receive riches from me." When the message was delivered to Verani, he replied, "I do not want riches. I want to go to heaven more than to receive riches, and go to the 'buku waqa.' The lands are the Lord's. If He sees fit, I shall not want food. If I am page 71hungry, it will be but a little time before I shall die, and go to heaven, and I shall never be hungry there."

A message came to Namosimalua at the same time, saying, "Verani has 'lotued,' therefore you must give it up, as I wish one of you to serve as a 'Namatanevanua.' " This is the name of one of the principal officers of state, or "eyes of the land." One or more of these are always near the person of the king, and are the connecting link between him and his people. They receive messengers, report their business to him, and communicate his orders to them. Many of them are special messengers to different towns, the name of which, with the word "mata" prefixed, constitutes their title, as "Mata ki Bau," "Mata ki Vewa," &c.