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Life in Feejee, or, Five Years among the Cannibals

Chapter IV

Chapter IV.

An instance of Feejeean Justice—Visit to the Lasakau Widow—A Sabbath in Vewa—A Feejeean Princess—Arrival of the Zotoff—Meeting of the Chiefs on board—Polygamy—Departure from Vewa—Treachery of a Chief—Arrival at Bua—Its King—Introduction of Fire-arms.

March 28.To-day another message from Bau has been received, saying, "Verani, send us the riches that you have obtained by 'lotuing.' They belong to us. Why have you 'lotued?' What have we done, that you have become angry with us, and left us?" Verani sent back the following answer:—"You well know that I receive no riches by 'lotuing.' "You ask, "why I have 'lotued?'" My reply is, "To save my soul. It is not because I am angry with you, but I was afraid to wait longer, lest I should die and lose my soul. Some time ago you wished me to build a 'buri kalou.' I did as you page 72wished. After the 'buri' was built, my child died. I cut the posts for another 'buri;' and another child died; my intimate friend was killed also. I then began to think that the gods of Feejee were lying gods, and thought I would see what the 'lotu' books said about the 'popalagi's' God. The teachers sent to me, and told me about the true God. I believed that He would not lie. I did not dare to wait for you, and now I have promised to serve Him."

A Bau chief visited Mr. Hunt and related the following little incident. A man was suspected of having stolen some yams from a plantation belonging to Tanoa. No one could prove his guilt; therefore, they tried him by the following ordeal. A native took a stick, and muttered over it some words, then handed it to one of their "seers." If the suspected one is guilty, the "seer" feels a peculiar pain in his arm. In this case the pain came, and the man was pronounced guilty, and condemned to die. But the man had taken himself out of the way. When this was told Tanoa, the humane monarch said, "Ah, well, take his father and kill him; it makes no difference." The innocent father was killed for the fault, real or supposed, of the son.

Namosimalua has been in, and says that he has received private information from Bau that its chiefs, or a part of them, have repeatedly tried to get Nalela to kill him; and he thinks that Nalela would have done so, had he not have kept himself out of the way.


Verani has married one of his four wives, and disposed of the others as follows:—One is to be the wife of a cousin, another of a nephew, and the third is living at Bua with her father, the king of that place. It is not improbable that Tuimbua will be greatly offended that his daughter is rejected.

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In the afternoon Mrs. Jaggar and myself called on Verani. He said that when Mr. Wallis was here on his former voyage, he told him, "That unless they both became good men, they would go to the 'buku waqa' when they died." He told him in reply, that when he came back to Feejee, he would become a Christian, and they would go to church together.

From the house of Verani, we went to the house of the widow of Nalela. As we stooped to enter the door, we observed eight fingers on the ends of sticks, just over our heads. At the right hand of the entrance stood the block, stained with the blood of the mutilated hands. The mourning widow was seated near the door, and two women near her, engaged in burning her back. A few sticks of sandal wood were burning near, and one of the women was employed in rolling up pieces of native cloth, which she would light at the fire and hand it to the other women, who applied it to the back of the mourner, who sat perfectly quiet under the operation. The widow and all the rest of the women had their heads shaved, and all but her were minus a finger. The house was darkened, and every one was still; but they had been howling most dreadfully. The Marama has adhered, thus far, to her resolution of starvation, and no entreaties had prevailed upon her to take food till our visit. Mrs. Jaggar said to her in the tenderest manner,—"You cannot help Nalela now. It is true that he does not need your company. Do not starve yourself, but live, take some food, and become a good woman that you may go to heaven when you die." She replied, very sadly, "I do not wish to do that. I only wish to die, that I may see my murdered husband again." After a pause, she asked, "Shall I ever see Nalela again?" "Yes," was the reply, "you will." After some more conversation, she page 74consented to take some arrow-root. On our return, some was prepared. I took it to her, but she made many excuses, saying "That she could not eat, it was so long since she had taken any." I told herth at [sic: her that] she had promised, and I should remain by her till I had seen her promise performed. "It will do you no good that I eat," she said; "No," replied I, (through David, my interpreter,) "but it is my love for you." "Why do you love me?" asked she. "Because God made you, and I wish you to go to heaven," I replied. "I will eat," she said, "and live." As she had touched the dead body of her husband, her hands were "tambued" for forty days; but one of her servants was called, who fed her. The poor creature suffered a great deal in swallowing at first.


The old men and the wise men of Vewa were called together, to consult with its chief upon a matter of vast importance. When all were assembled, Namosi made known the fact that a pig had been stolen from him, and he had assembled them together to ask if it would not be well to strangle the thief. "What!" says an old man, "kill a man for a pig! In the days of our foolishness we did these things; but now we know better. Have we not been taught that a man is worth more than a pig?" Another said, "Are you a lotu chief, and talk of taking the life of a man for a pig?" Another remarked, that "They were ashamed of their chief; he was such a bad man that they did not go to see him, but kept away from his house." Verani said, "Let the man work for you, or restore two pigs for the one he has stolen."

Before Namosi renounced heathenism, if a man had offended him, even in the most trifling manner, he would have had the offender killed at once. He might have done the same in this case, for there is no law to page 75punish him for it, and his not doing it shows that he is somewhat under the restraints of Christianity. The independence and fearlessness which his subjects have manifested in the expression of their feelings, are much to be admired. They show that they cannot respect evil even in their chief. The wisdom of Verani's counsel, too, coming from one so late a heathen, shows that the Spirit of the Lord is the best teacher.

April 1. Received a visit from Namosi and the old chief who killed one of his women the other day, and sent her to Bau to be eaten. He is a great cannibal himself. He told Mr. Hunt the other day that he had killed and eaten a great many people, and that he expected to be killed himself, when his body would be eaten by Feejeeans, and his soul would go to the "buku waqa," and burn forever. "Ah, Marama," he exclaimed, as they came into the house, "you are a god!— Truly, you are a god!"


Sabbath. Several of the heathen have renounced their gods to-day, and several couples have been married. Mr. Watsford usually preaches on some of the adjacent islands. He has been here but a short time, but has advanced rapidly in his knowledge of the language, and appears desirous to do good among this degraded race.

All who renounce heathenism are required to attend the day schools to be instructed in reading. A school is held each day for adults, and one for children. Two hours arc devoted, on Monday afternoons, to the examination of the natives upon what they may have heard on the Sabbath. Mr. Hunt is preparing an interesting class of young men to become teachers to their own people. Preaching in native every Wednesday afternoon. A prayer meeting is held on Saturday afternoons, and at sunrise on Sabbath mornings.

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No idle time is spent by these devoted missionaries; — no indolence of a tropical clime is suffered to steal away the moments which they feel belong to the Master whom they have come here to serve. No one, who sees life as it is in Feejee, can doubt that intelligent men and women, who are willing to renounce the comforts of home and come here to bring the gospel, are actuated by any other motive than true love to God. Here is no romance, no poetry, but heathenism in its lowest state of degradation.


A message has been received from Bau, commanding the men of Vewa to go and assist in building the town of Suva, in place of the one that has been destroyed by Rewa. I received by the messenger a present of a Feejeean basket and a wig, from the daughter of Thakombau. My head may now be abundantly supplied if I should lose my hair; but I should hardly dare avail myself of the beautiful appendage in this climate, lest I should have to mourn the loss of brains as well as hair.

I visited my "protegé," as is my daily custom, and carried her bread and arrow-root, which Mrs. Hunt kindly allows me to have prepared for her. She smiles when she sees me, but her countenance is one of deep sadness, and she talks much about Nalela. David Whippy generally goes with me and acts as interpreter. I often remain a long time with her.


Attended a wedding at the chapel. A daughter of Mr. Whippy was married to a young man named Christy.

I have been troubled all day with company from Bau. Samonunu made me a present of ten mats.

6.My sewing class brought me a fine boquet of wild flowers. The children of the place having learned my fondness for flowers, seldom allow my table to remain page 77without them. I have received a visit from the chief of Kamba, who brought me a basket of fine "ndawas," a fruit not unlike a plum.
9.Received a visit from Samonunu and the little princess, daughter of Thakombau. It is the custom of the great ones of these lands to confide their children of high rank to the care of one of their officers. In this case the little "Kagua" was given in charge to a "Matavanua" of Bau, named Vakambua, who, with his wife, has the sole care of her; and their authority appears to supersede that of the parents. About a year ago the child was taken sick with an intermittent fever. Thakombau said it would be good for her to go to Vewa, "lotu," and receive medical aid from the missionaries. Vakambua, however, was of the opinion that the Feejeean gods could cure her as well. She has now been suffering under a similar attack; but the Feejeean gods proving deaf or obstinate, they have brought the child to Vewa, and she has renounced heathenism. Medicines are dispensed to all who apply, whether heathen or Christian; but the heathen appear to think that the white man's God would not heal a worshipper of a heathen god. I cannot learn where they got this idea, but perhaps it is not a bad one, since it brings more people under religious instruction.
10.As I was returning to my house, after breakfast, I found the steps covered with ripe bananas, which had been brought by the chief of Kamba, who came with four of his women to see me and my good house. I asked him if the women were his wives. He said they were, and asked how many Mr. Wallis had. When I told him that he had but one, he exclaimed, "What a bad man to have but one wife!" "No," I replied. "You are a very bad man to have so many wives." At this page 78the old man laughed most heartily. It is not customary for chiefs to be accompanied any where by their women. This is the first instance I have known. The old man, however, is only a petty chief.
14.The bark Zotoff has arrived from Mathuata, and I am now on board. Retova, with his priest and several of his attendants, came up in the vessel. Tuimathuata formerly governed the lands and waters which are now governed by Retova. The king is an uncle of the present chief, who has driven him from his dominions, and he now lives in exile at a place called Muta. The manners of Retova are even courteous. I am surprised at the mild and affable behavior of all these cannibals.

This morning Thakombau came on board early, and soon after, Namosimalua and Retova came. Thakombau was seated on the sofa (a privilege granted to him and his father only,) when the two chiefs entered the cabin. The chiefs, with their Matavanuas and other officers, seated themselves on the floor. No one spoke when they entered, nor for some time after. It was with some effort that I was able to look grave and sober on this eventful occasion; for if ever I feel an inclination to laugh, it is when a large company are assembled, and silence reigns. At length the Matavanua of Vewa said that "It was good that Retova had come to see them." To which they all responded, "Mana, ndina," and slowly clapped their hands. Retova then ordered a box containing whale's teeth to be brought forward. His Matavanua took the teeth and made a speech, declaring the friendship of Retova for Bau, and his wish to live in peace with the powers that be. The chief officer of Thakombau accepted the offering, and made a speech quite as friendly in return. It was some time after the speeches were ended before the chiefs spoke; but at page 79length they became quite social. Retova's visit is at Vewa, where he has come to obtain mats for his "buri." He is afraid to go to Bau, as Tanoa does not like his conduct to the king, his uncle, who is a friend of Tanoa's.

After dinner Thakombau and Namosimalua held a long conversation. Thakombau told the latter that he was trying to have him killed. Namosi said, "No; you are a great chief, and I could not kill you; but I am a "kaise" (a poor person,) and am continually afraid of my life." Thakombau went on charging him with deceit, treachery, &c., till the old man cried out, "It is enough, it is enough." "No," said the angry chief, "we are here. You are not on my land, nor am I on yours. This is the place to tell you my mind, and I will do it." Namosi had to listen and be still. After the conversation was ended, Namosi, feeling the need of consolation, applied to Mr. W. for some rum. This was refused, as there was but little on board, and that was kept for medicinal purposes. The refusal made him angry, and he took Retova aside and said, "Do not let your people fish for Mr. Wallis. I have looked, and he has no riches in his vessel; he will not pay you, for he is a 'kaise sara' (a poor man indeed)."


Mr. W. invited the old king to breakfast with us, but forgot the invitation; and when His Majesty came, no food was prepared for him. Such forgetfulness, however, is pardonable in an American. How should they know how to treat kings! The favorite companions of the king are old men and boys (children in both stages). He brought a large number with him. The boys performed several amusing dances on deck, the evolutions of which were not ungraceful. Tanoa asked if I was the only wife of my husband. On being told that I was, he said, "That is bad, Mr. Wallis, you should have more."

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He then became quite animated while enumerating the advantages of polygamy, said that he had one hundred wives, and ended by advising my husband to get an immediate supply. I asked him if his hundred women were not jealous, and if they did not quarrel. He said "That they did sometimes, but when that was the case he had them clubbed, and the matter was ended." After the departure of the king and his suite, Thakombau, with many other chiefs, came and spent the remainder of the day.

17.Revelete, Navinde and Verani made us a visit. Revelete, it will be recollected, is the son of Tanoa, who stole the girl from Nalela. I presume she did not much regret leaving that wicked-looking Nalela for the gay Lothario. The mother of Revelete is a sister of the king of Rewa; therefore he is a "vasu" to the kingdom of Rewa, and can go there at any time with perfect safety. She has no love for her husband, and is residing at Rewa among her kindred. Verani talked long and faithfully with Navinde about religion. The chief said that the "lotu" was very good, but he dared not embrace it, as he feared the anger of Thakombau. "I once feared his anger," said Verani, "but what is his anger in comparison with the value of our souls? His anger cannot reach us in another world, but can only hurt us in this, and it is but a little thing to suffer here, if we may go to heaven when we die. Oh, we have been very bad men! May the true God save all our souls."

It being arranged that I should accompany my husband to Mathuata, we visited Vewa for the purpose of taking leave of our very kind friends,—the missionaries. I went also to visit the Lasakau widow. She promised me that she would "lotu" as soon as the days of her mourn-page 81ing had expired, which were seventy from the day that her husband was murdered. "Ah!" said she, "the friend who has loved me is going away, and I shall not see her for a long time, but after she has departed I will learn to love the God that she loves. She kissed my hands several times, and said, "Will you not love me when you are far away?" I answered, "Yes," and left her, feeling that she would become a good woman.

When I returned to Mr. Hunt's, Amelia, a pretty Tongu girl, who had served me during my residence in V——, stood folding some clothes that she had been washing for me, and said, "Ah! I can wash no more clothes for Marama;—these are the last! Why can she not continue to live at Vewa?"

After taking leave of the dear families with whom I had spent so many happy hours, we repaired to the shore, where our boat waited. Here we found the servants belonging to the three mission families, our sewing class, Vatai with her household, and many of the inhabitants of Vewa assembled to bid me farewell. All came forward to shake hands, and said in tones of sadness, "Marama sa lako,"—Marama is going. They would, probably, have manifested the same affection and interest in any white female who had resided among them the same length of time.

It is my wish to show the Feejeeans as I found them, and to record truly their several traits of character as they came under my own observation. Little has been known of this people except that they are cannibals. It is said that there is not one of the natives of Vewa, over five years of age, that has not eaten human flesh. The hands of the slain are given to the children to eat; and a common amusement of the young is to lash a string about a log of wood, when they had no little bodies, and page 82drag them about, crying, "Here is my dead body, here is my dead body." They will then play cut it up and bake it.

18.On our return to the bark we found the little princess, with her guardians, on board. She brought me a present of a large hog and an orange cowrie shell. They call her Mary Wallis, and me, Kagua, which I am told is a great compliment.
19.The weather is not suitable for sailing to-day. Thakombau has been to visit us, and brought us the following item of news. It appears that the inhabitants of a town near here, on Vetelavu, possessed a knowledge of poisonous herbs. A short time since, they tried their skill upon ten men belonging to another town; six of them died and four recovered. The chief reported the case to Thakombau, and asked permission to kill the natives of the offending town. They were told to do as he liked. All were massacred save one. We asked if the bodies were brought to Bau and eaten. He said, "No, they were not my enemies."
20.The weather is still unpleasant. Another visit from Thakombau. His mind seems disturbed about the "lotu." He tells Mr. W. that if he "lotues," he will burn his "beech de mer" houses, and forbid the natives to fish. He says that the "lotu" is well enough for the white people, but Feejeeans are better as they are. He seems both provoked and grieved about Verani. One day he said to Retova, "Verani sa lotu." His tone and manner were the same as our own would be were we saying, "Our friend is dead!"

Verani came on board to take leave of us. He gave Retova many charges respecting my safety, should any thing happen to the vessel. At eleven, A. M., we sailed for Ovalau. Besides Retova and his personal at-page 83tendants, we have six or eight others that we take to Mathuata on his account. Not content with this, the humble chief had ordered several more to come, which the captain very unostentatiously sent back. On our arrival at Ovalau, we received a visit from Capt. Hartwell, whom we found here.

Retova was offended about something, and did not come to tea. On inquiry, it was found that the fatted hogs had not been killed in sufficient number for his people. The poor creatures scarcely ever get any thing more than vegetables to eat on shore, but when on board of vessels they cry out for meat. And whose fault is it? Did not the captains begin it, and shall they not carry it on?

Capt. Hartwell says that just before Nalela was killed, he sent a native dress belonging to the girl who was stolen at Bau, to a place near where he had been fishing, and had it poisoned, intending to send it to her at Bau. A Vewa man heard about it, procured it, and carried it to Bau the day before the chief was murdered. This, no doubt, hastened his fate.

In the afternoon the chief of Verata came on board. When he saw me, he actually screamed, and called his followers to see the "Marama ni Papalagi." We have bought pigs, yams, tarro, bread-fruit and oranges.


We are still at Ovalau waiting for a fair wind. A few miles distant from us there is a small island called Ngau, the inhabitants of which the Bau people tried some years ago to conquer, but in vain. At length they gained by treachery what they could not by valor. Several canoes filled with warriors approached the island, and sent their "Matavanua" to say that if they wished to "soro," the soro would be received, and they would be at peace. The natives of Ngau then took with page 84them some whale's teeth, a young girl of rank, and a basket of earth; their "Matavanua" then approached the chiefs of Bau on his knees, presented the "soro," which was accepted, and peace was declared. After all was settled, the natives proceeded to prepare food for their quondam enemies, but now their guests. While they were thus employed, the Bau people set to and massacred the men and women, tied the children by their heels to the masts of their canoes, and having set fire to the houses, departed for Bau. On their arrival they were greeted with the sound of the drum and yells of savage joy.

A town was depopulated on Motureke some time since in the following manner:—Namosimalua had fought, or rather harassed it for a long time without gaining any advantage. At length he assembled together a large number of men, with several of their largest canoes, and sailed for Motureke. On arriving at the place, he fearlessly went on shore, carrying a white flag. He appeared exceedingly friendly, complimented the natives, telling them that they were a strong and brave people, but added, "The chiefs of Bau are great chiefs. They do not like to have it said that they cannot subdue you; therefore, remove on the island of Ovalau. Let us burn your town, that we may say we have conquered, and then we will assist you to erect buildings on Ovalau, will be your friends, and we shall be at peace." The besieged hesitated; their present situation was anything but comfortable. Some of their enemies were continually on the watch, so that if any of their number went from the town they were sure to be killed; they could obtain no fish from the reefs, and had long suffered serious inconveniences. They said, "We have not canoes enough to remove." "We will remove you on our page 85canoes," said the treacherous chief. After deliberating for some time they concluded to accept the terms which had been offered, and they embarked with their little ones and their goods and chattels. The sails were set to the breeze, and the canoes with their victims were skimming lightly over the placid waters, when, at a given signal from Namosimalua, his warriors massacred all but the children, who, as in the case before related, were strung to the masts and carried to Bau; those who died from their bruises were fried (they usually fry the young,) and the others were given over to the tender mercies of their own children, to torment them to death.

Such is the innocence of heathenism. Many times have I heard sentiments expressed like the following:—"It is useless and unnecessary to send missionaries to the heathen; they are innocent and happy as they are, and why disturb them? It is cruel,—let them enjoy their own customs." Is it cruel, I would ask, to come and tell this people that it is not good to eat each other, and that it is good to love the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom they cannot hear without a preacher, and he cannot preach unless he is sent? But now we come to the cruelty of the thing. It requires money from our pockets to send a preacher; and this is cruel. Did it cost us nothing, we should never hear of the cruelty of saving men's souls.

21.We sailed and arrived at Bua. We anchored here for the purpose of taking "beech de mer" on board, and breaking up the house. Bua is situated on Vanualavu and is governed by Tuimbua, who is now quite aged. He came on board, but would not come below. He is mourning the death of a grandchild, who was a son of Verani. He is angry that his daughter has been rejected by Verani, and says that she shall be the wife page 86of no other man. His head was shaved and his hands were "tambued," so that he must be fed by some one else for a long time.
25.We got under way and anchored at Yanganga about 5 P. M. We are not far from the Vanualavu, and can plainly see the rock where a man, named Charles Savage, was killed by the natives. It is said that sail needles were afterwards made of his bones. He was cast away, and the vessel that he came in was wrecked some where near Bau. I think it was a Swedish vessel, which contained a profusion of arms and ammunition, that was saved, and Savage taught the Bau people their use. He accompanied the Bau warriors to their battles, where hundreds, who were ignorant of the use and effect of fire-arms, were shot at a time. It is said that at one place a fortification, breast high, was built around a part of their town, of the dead bodies of those who were shot by the inhuman Savage and the Bau warriors. He was rightly named, exceeding as he did these cannibals in every act of cruelty. One cannot feel much sympathy for his ultimate fate.