Life in Feejee, or, Five Years among the Cannibals
Intelligence from Bau—The Frolic of the White Men—Burning of the "beech de mer" House—Murder of the King of Mathuata—A Story— Ingratitude—The Rescue.
Tommy brings us accounts from the city, that Revelete has been killed by his brother Thakombau. When we left Vewa, or very soon after we left, Revelete went to Somosomo, where he remained about three months. During his absence, Thakombau received in-page 103telligence that his brother had for a long time been engaged in a "vere*" against himself. He informed bis father of the reports, who said, "When he returns from Somosomo, let him he killed." Thakombau was well convinced that the report was true. Verani was one of the informants, through a man that he had engaged to watch and protect the life of Thakombau. He became acquainted with the "vere," in the following manner:— When the expedition went to Ba on Capt. Hartwell's account, he overheard Revelete and Navinde talking over the affair; he did not listen long, but went on the deck of the Gambia (on hoard of which vessel they were at the time), and sent a man whom he could trust, te listen to their words. I cannot learn whether Navinde was one of the party of Revelete, or whether the latter was telling the former his plans, and inviting Navinde to join him. The subsequent conduct of the Lasakau chief, however, appears to evince his innocence. The man who had been employed by Verani to listen to the conversation of the conspirators, returned to the deck, and said that the "vere" was to murder Thakombau, Verani and one other, when Revelete was to be king of Bau.
On their return to Bau, Verani sent his trusty man to watch Thakombau, and see that no harm came to him. The inhabitants of the city greatly wondered why that Vewa man was always in attendance upon Thakombau. The chief, too, was surprised, and at length the man told him that there was a "vere" to kill him, and Verani had sent him to watch for his safety. The chief did not believe the story, and the informant was dismissed.
After Revelete's departure, Navinde told Thakombau all about it, and the chief promised the Lasakau his sister for a wife. After this, he received information from page 104another authentic source, and he was then fully convinced of his brother's guilt, told his father, and the sentence had gone forth that the offending son and brother must die.
Revelete received warning of his approaching fate, and was advised to remain in Somosomo or go to Rewa. He persisted in returning to Bau. On his arrival he went first to see his father, who received him pleasantly and said, "Stop, my son, and drink yanggona with me." "No," said the son, "I am hungry, and will go to my own house and get food." He was always accompanied by a young man named Salem. They had been companions from childhood, and loved each other much. When Revelete and Salem left the house of the king, they met Thakombau, who immediately caught his brother by both arms, and held him, saying to Salem, "Kill him." Salem refused to obey. "Ah," said Thakombau, "I know where you are." Revelete affectionately leaned his head on his brother's bosom, and said, "Do not kill me, my brother." "I must, I cannot save you; you intended to kill me," said the chief. "No," said Revelete, "I never did intend harm to you; my enemies have told you lies. Let me live, I am your friend."
Just as the above words were uttered, the voice of the old king was heard, crying, "Kill him, why do you not kill him at once?" Thakombau then gave the order, and one standing near quickly obeyed. Revelete was clubbed, but not killed with the blows, and was thrown into a hole still breathing, and some earth was thrown over the throbbing body. The feet were unburied, and were seen to move for some time after.
Salem went to his house and said, "My friend is killed, and soon they will come to choke me; therefore, page 105make haste and prepare my body, that I may be ready when they come and that no time may be lost, for I am in haste to rejoin the friend I love." His friends painted and decorated his body for the grave, prepared the "wa ni kuna," and then sent word to Thakombau that all was ready. On the arrival of the chief, Salem said, "Is it true that my friend sought to kill you?" "How many were in the vere, and who are they?" inquired Thakombau. "Namosimalua and his son, Masapai, the chief of Namara, the two Lasakau chiefs, and two chiefs of Soso," was the reply; "and you are not safe till they are killed." The conference ended, the fatal cord was tightened, and the spirits of the friends were reunited,— who shall say where?
Thakombau passed a house that had belonged to his brother on his return to his own, and the voice of the girl that had been stolen from Nalela was heard lamenting the death of Revelete. "Ah," he exclaimed, "you had better save your tears for your father, who will go soon." It will be remembered that she was the adopted child of Namosimalua.
Another item of news brought by Tommy was that a schooner had been sent to the island from Tahiti, loaded with rum, and the white men of Vewa (of course I do not include missionaries, even when I say white men. I mean a different class of persons, and always speak of missionaries with their distinctive title,) had a grand "drunken frolic." It commenced on Saturday evening, and they were in a bad trim for the Sabbath. When the bell rung, they went staggering off to meeting, filled with unholy spiritual influences. After they had entered the room, it was some time before they could get seated to their minds; one tipped his neighbor from the end of the seat to the floor; and another, not page 106readily perceiving a chair, yet having some indistinct notion that he could find a seat some where near, pitched over it. At length they were all seated after a fashion, and sat reeling to and fro, with their heads nodding, not like the plume of the warrior, nor like the graceful willow which is gently swayed by the breezes of heaven; Oh, no, not like these; but like one of those images that is placed sometimes in our open fields at home, to frighten mischievous birds from the new planted grain. During the prayer they behaved tolerably well, with the exception of uttering a loud groan now and then. But when the sermon commenced—then was the time! As the preacher went on, each seemed moved to say something. One said, "Ah, yes, sir, we all deserve to go to hell;"—another, "Oh, yes, we must go to hell;"— a third, "Sir, yon tell us the truth;"—a fourth, "No, we shall never get to heaven unless we repent," and so on through the whole. At length one rose from his seat, and staggering towards the table where the preacher stood, and moving his hauds one over the other, as we sometimes see a boy who is about to strike another, he stammered, "Now,—now,—sir,—I,—I,—think,—that, —that." When he had got thus far in his speech, one of his two nether limbs became lighter than its companion, tipped up, and causing the speaker to lose his balance, he was laid sprawling on the floor. This ceremony ended the meeting, and the congregation was dismissed.
Such are some of the scenes enacted by the white heathen of the South Seas. Every means is used by this class of persons to destroy the influence of missionaries. Some person comes along, perhaps, who is capable of preparing a book. He avoids all intercourse with the missionaries, collects all his information from "prison birds" and deserters, then goes home and publishes to page 107the world how little good is accomplished by the missionary among the heathen, giving long accounts of what he witnessed among those who had become degraded by their intercourse with Christians. There is such an artful mingling in these narratives, of the two classes,—the missionary and the white residents,—that the general and unreflecting reader sees no difference; and feels almost insulted when he is asked to contribute something for the support of a mission.
After the drunkards were dismissed, they resumed their potations, and became so uproarious and dangerous that the chiefs commanded some of the natives to lie them, which was done, and they were kept in that situation till they became sober.
|11.||About ten o'clock last night a bright light was seen in the direction of the "beech de mer" house at Kutu. A boat was immediately sent to the place, which returned with the intelligence that several native houses had been burned; but the "beech de mer" house was safe. It seems that two natives had a quarrel yesterday. The one who struck the other with an axe first, was soon after taken to the town and shot. The friends of the murdered man revenged themselves by burning houses. The cause of the affray was jealousy.|
|21.||As Mr. W. and myself were quietly seated in the cabin last evening, we were suddently startled by a noise resembling the discharge of a large volley of musketry. We rushed to the deck, Mr. W. exclaiming, "The 'beech de mer' house is on fire." On reaching the deck, a truly splendid sight met our eyes, hut grieved our hearts. Fires of this kind have become exceedingly common,—this being the sixth house that has been burned during this voyage.|
|22.||A boat was sent to Kutu with orders to take all page 108on board which belonged to the bark, and set fire to the house. Another boat was sent to Yanganga with similar orders. As soon as the blaze of the Kutu house was seen at Tavea, Natemba came off to inquire about it. Mr. W. said, "You have burned my house here. You have made a fool of me, and I am very angry. I sent to have the Kutu house burned, and soon you will see the fires of the Yanganga house. I shall leave the place when the boats return." Natemba replied that he was very angry about the burning of the house, and that he had told the people on shore that no vessels would come here to trade if they conducted in. this way. He did not know who burned the house, but supposed it was done by the orders of a jealous chief at Tavea. He begged that his canoe, with his brother, might be sent at once to Yanganga to countermand the orders for burning the house, and said that he would go there and fish. The anger of Mr. W. was somewhat appeased, and he consented.|
Namosimalua is yet among the living, and has called to see us on his return from Raverave to Bau, where he has been to take whales' teeth from the chiefs of Bau to induce Retova to join them in a contemplated hostile attack upon Natawa.
Namosimalua gave us the following history of the doings at Raverave:—It appears that for some months past Retova has frequently sent messages to his uncle, the exiled king, urging him to make peace, saying, "You are an old man, my father. Let our enmity be ended. I will be as a loving son to you. Return to your own lands. I will build you houses. Bring your wives and all your riches, and we will live in peace; and when your days are ended, you shall be buried on the island that you love." The king was in reality sin-page 109cerely desirous of peace. He was an exile from the land of his birth, and his heart was ever turning towards it; but his past experience of the treacherous character of Retova rendered him fearful, and for a long time very cautious. At length he yielded to the affectionate importunities of his relative, and taking twelve of his old and trusty friends, he left Muta for Raverave. On his way he stopped at Kandavu, and sent its chief to Rave-rave to see how the "wind blew," and whether its breezes appeared favorable or not. Tomorau-ni-waqa, the chief, returned, and said that-Retova appeared to be sincere, and he thought the king could go in safety. The party then proceeded to Raverave, where its chief received them with delight, and feasted them abundantly. They remained there two days, and all the ceremonies appertaining to the ratification of peace between the chiefs had been performed, Retova had shown his uncle the preparations which he had made for his house, to be built on the island of Mathuata, which pleased the old man much. "In two moons your house shall be ready," said Retova. "In two moons I will come with my women and live in it," said the happy king.
All was joy and hilarity in Raverave at the reconciliation of the Turaga-lavus. The old people looked pleased and happy, and the young chanted their songs in gleeful mirth.
On the morning of the third day of this delightful visit, the un shone brightly over the hills, and the king said that he must depart early, that he might rest at noon. The yanggona was already prepared in the "buri," and Tuimathuata, Retova and Koravakaturaga entered to par take of the parting "cup," while the followers of the king remained without, in company with Ratanga and many others. They had not been long in the "buri," page 110when Koravakaturaga was seen advancing towards the king, with a raised club in his hand. The king observed him and said, "What are you about to do?" "To murder the king," was the reply; and in a few moments the king was a breathless corpse.
Ratanga was on the watch, and as soon as the first blow was struck in the "buri," he gave the signal, and all the followers of the king were inhumanly butchered except one, who fled and hid himself till night, then walked to Kandavu, and entering the house of the chief, awoke him, and while the tears rolled over his face, related the sad occurrences of the morning. "Remain not here," said the chief; "I cannot save your life; fly while it is yet dark, and no one can see you." The old man did not heed the advice, probably knowing that if he attempted flight, he would be discovered and murdered before he could reach a friendly town. He went to a "buri," where he was discovered the next morning by Retova's barber, murdered, and sent to Raverave by noon, where his body was cooked with those of his companions, and portions of it sent round to different towns as choice bits.
Thus Retova has accomplished his desires without improving the political condition of this coast. The king has left a son, tailed Mbata, a favorite child, as he has always been faithful to his father. He is of no rank, as his mother is a poor woman; but the king having no other son, and Mbata being one possessing superior abilities, he has made himself something.
The treacherous murder of the king will arouse all he revengeful feelings of his party, and headed by the son, they will continually harass their enemy, till Retova or Mbata dies.
It is highly probable, too, that Retova will gain an enemy in the person of Koravakaturaga. They have been page 111great friends for some time, but their participation in the murder is likely to cause fear in both parties, and that will probably lead to enmity.
Harry, the man whom Mr. W. dismissed a short time since, has arrived in his boat, accompanied by three others, who are on their way round the land to buy tortoise shell.
A man, named William Russell, was discharged from the bark to join the boat, and a black man, named Johnson, was received in his room. After the boat had departed, Mr. W. was informed that Harry and George Runnells, who accompanied him, intended to go to Vesonga, and put the chief in irons, and keep him confined until the girl, whom I had wished to liberate while we were there, should be restored to her purchaser and master.
If such are their intentions, Harry had better not sleep on his watch, as he did at Jekombea. If he had been faithful at that time, when taking his turn to watch for the safety of the boat, no lives or property would have been lost. He is generally disliked by the natives, and it becomes him to "keep a bright eye to the windward."
"He that diggeth a pit for another, shall surely fall therein." These are the words of my text, and if I do not preach a sermon to illustrate it, I will tell a story that will show its truth.
I have learned to-day from Mr. W. the following history of the origin of the war between Tuimathuata and his nephew. The king had from his birth lived on a small island, called Mathuata, situated quite near the main land. His son, Mbata, who is exceedingly ambitious, gained a great influence over the mind of the king as the latter became old. Retova, and a brother of page 112equal rank with himself, resided on the main land quite near his uncle. As the king advanced in years, his son having no rank by birth, the young chiefs, Retova and Ngenge, acquired influence among their tribes, and almost entirely monopolized the trade with foreign vessels. This raised the jealousy of the king and his son. Mbata told his father that his cousins treated him like a "kaise," and urged him to have them killed, saying, "Then, my father, you will be the only Turaga-lavu of these lands, and I shall be the second chief." Mbata well knew that if he could accomplish this design, in the absence of any other chiefs, he would be head, as he already ruled his father.
It is sometimes the case in Feejee that, like the victorious chanticleer of the burn-yard, the strongest will bear rule in spite of all the disadvantages of low birth. Tuimathuata hearkened to his son, and orders were given to murder the young chiefs. Ngenge was killed, and Retova fled to Raverave, where he was protected.
For some time previous to these events, Bau had tried in vain to make Mathuata tributary to its chiefs; but the Mathuata chiefs, when united, were strong; divided, they fell. The king was old, his son not acknowledged as a chief, Ngenge was killed, and Retova imprisoned, or what amounted to the same.
Soon after the murder of Ngenge, Verani came to Lekutu, and Retova sent to request his assistance. Verani immediately departed for Bau, and collected a fleet of canoes, well manned. As they came down the coast they were joined by many of the subjects of the old king, as well as those who were favorable to Retova.
On their arrival at Raverave, Retova joined the fleet, and sailed for the island of Mathuata, intending to set fire to the town and massacre the inhabitants. They page 113were, however, hindered by a head wind, and did not reach the islands in time, as the birds, both old and young, had forsaken their nests, and flown to more genial climes. As Raverave is in sight of Mathuata, the canoes had been seen in time for the islanders to make their escape during the night, and they reached Muta, an inland town on Vanualavu, in safety, where they have resided ever since.
The disappointed warriors set fire to the town, and passed on, carrying desolation and death, for the space of sixty miles, to all who refused to join them. Thus, taking advantage of the times, the people of Bau accomplished their long desired purposes, and this coast has since paid tribute to its haughty chiefs.
I have been informed to-day that Namosimalua appeared to be retracing his steps to heathenism. The following story shows that he is not advancing in Christianity.
In the year 1843, a brother of Verani was murdered by some of the murder-loving men of Feejee. Soon after I left Vewa, intelligence was received there, that nine men belonging to the tribe who committed the murder, were at Ovalau. A younger brother of Verani said, "Who will go and revenge the death of our brother? Verani has 'lotued,'—he will not; there is none but me left, and I must perform the deed." Namosimalua gave him canoes and men, with which he sailed for Ovalau, where he executed his fell purpose, and returned, bringing with him the dead bodies.
The whole affair had been kept secret from the missionaries till the arrival of the canoes bearing the dead. Namosi had given strict orders for the canoes to go to Bau, that the missionaries might not know that he had any page 114hand in the murder. When he perceived the refractory canoes a sailing direct for Vewa, he appeared greatly troubled, and was seen on the hill, waving his hand to them in the direction of Bau, but all to no purpose. On,—ob they would and did come, till they arrived at Vewa's shores, where they were greeted with every demonstration of joy by the Lusakau widow. She waved on high an ornament that had belonged to the deceased relative, then burning it on one of the bodies, said, "Now is our brother revenged." As soon as the missionaries heard of the affair, they sent them away. They carried the dead men to Bau, where, as is their custom, they were devoured. What a record are the annals of Feejee!
The boat, Star, belonging to the bark, has just returned from Raverave, by which we learn that Retova is going to carry a blessing to his cousin, Mbata, in the shape of muskets and powder; or, in other words, he is going to fight the inhabitants of Muta. Andrew asked Retova why he killed the king. "Oh," he replied, "I had him killed Feejee fashion. It will be my turn next. Bau has sent for me to go to Natawa; perhaps that is a 'vere' to kill me." If this people feared death, they would never enjoy life.
Our schooner arrived from the windward isles with forty peculs of fish and a sick man,—an American sailor,—who was injured some four years since by a whale, and has been a cripple ever since. The schooner brought him from Lakemba, where he had been taken care of by Rev. Messrs. Lyth and Calvert, English Wesleyan missionaries, who had supplied him with food, clothing, medicines and gospel instruction. The Wesleyans, who are stationed at Feejee, never make any page 115distinctions of country,—an Englishman is never favored by them because he is an Englishman.
While I resided at Vewa there came to the place a deserter, who was prowling about for some time, to the terror of the native women, whom he continually insulted. At length he was taken sick with the dysentery, and there was no one to take him in. Mr. Hunt provided a house for him, with some one to be with him, sent or carried him suitable nourishment, and attended himself to preparing and administering his medicines. For many days the man was not expected to live. Unexpectedly, however, the disorder took a favorable turn, and he slowly recovered. During his convalescence he was constantly supplied with suitable food from the table of the missionary. While he was sick, he appeared very humble and grateful. On his recovery, he came to thank Mr. and Mrs. Hunt for their kindness. I was present, and witnessed the grateful outpourings of his heart,—no, not his heart, for sin had consumed that before his sickness; —but I listened to his grateful words. "You have saved my life, sir. You have served me like a brother. I can never pay you. I think I shall be a better man in future. May God forever bless you!" As he conversed, a flock of little hot crocodiles jumped from his eyes, and tumbled over his thin, pale face, to the floor. I began to think that I would cry a little, but I looked at Mr. Hunt, and found that he was not in a crying mood, (he had seen too many such scenes,) so I concluded to defer it, fearing that I might cry in the wrong place.
Three or four days after this scene took place, a fine brood of eight English ducks were missing from the premises of Mr. Hunt. There was a vessel at anchor off Vewa at the time, and Mr. Hunt was informed that the grateful man and the ducks were both on board.page 116
Mr. H. wrote a note to the captain, who, in reply, said that the man brought the ducks to him to sell, saying that they belonged to him, that he had paid for them; and he engaged the man, as a sailor, to serve on board his vessel.
"Such instances of ingratitude are enough to discourage any one," I said to Mr. Hunt, when I heard about the stolen ducks. "Ah!" he replied, "with that we have nothing to do. If he was again in the same situation in which I found him, I should act towards him as I did before. His ingratitude cannot destroy our peace of mind, flowing from a consciousness of having done our duty." He then related the following little incident, which occurred soon after he came to Vewa. A white man was brought to this place as sick as the one you saw, but he was a long time recovering. We paid him every needed attention, and on his recovery he appeared exceedingly grateful, but said he had nothing to pay me for the attention which he had received. His language was so affecting that I wept. As the man left me he said, "You have a teacher near the place where I live; and when the yams come in, I have a great many due me, and will give your teacher two thousand." "Very well," I said, "do so if you have enough." In due time the yams were presented, and in about a year a bill was sent, requesting me to pay for the two thousand yams. I sent word that he had adopted a good plan,—that of keeping accounts of debt and credit,—and as soon as I had time to make out his bill, for board and medical attendance, we would settle our little affair. Nothing more was heard of it.
We are now lying at anchor off the island of Yanganga, which has its tale of interest, to my mind at least. But to relate it, I must "begin at the beginning," page 117and go as far back as the year 1835, when Mr. W. visited this coast as chief mate and trading officer of a Salem brig. On their arrival at Mathuata, they were joined by another brig from the same place. On board the latter was a man of age and experience, one who possessed the confidence of his employers and associates, and acted as trading officer for the vessel. Mr. W. had had two years' experience in the Feejee trade, but he and his counsel were set at nought by the trio; viz., the two captains and the trading master. One, if not both of the captains, had never been here before, consequently, they were entirely ignorant of the business, and gave its management to the elder trading master, deeming the younger quite too ignorant to take any part in their affairs. When the vessels joined company, Mr. W. remarked that if they kept separate, and fished at different places, it would be better for both. The remark was treated with contempt.
While the vessels were at Mathuata, the chiefs talked about holding a great "Solavu." If this was done, it would greatly hinder the voyage, and the trio consulted how to prevent it at that time, and how to keep the natives from leaving the fishing. "I will tell you how it can he done," said the trading master. "Take Retova and Ngenge and put them in irons on board the vessels; they will not hold their feast without their chiefs, and our business will not be interrupted." When Mr. W. heard of the plan, he said, "If you proceed thus, it will be the ruin of your voyages." "When we want your advice, we will ask it," replied his captain. "Thank you, sir," was the answer. In pursuance of the foregoing plan, the chiefs were put in irons; one on board each vessel. This did not greatly offend the king and his son, who had even then become jealous of the page 118influence of his nephews. The plan of imprisoning the chiefs, however, proved a failure. The natives all left off fishing and held their "Solavu." When this terminated, they left off fishing. "Why do you not make your people fish?" the prisoners were asked. "Because they are now their own masters. They know that we are prisoners, and we have no authority over them until we gain our liberty," they replied. The trio were now in a dilemma. They dared not set their prisoners at liberty, as they feared their revenge, yet they gained nothing by their detention. Thus they were idle for about six weeks, hoping that the natives would be induced to go on. The king exerted no authority, as he had been displeased with the previous arrangements.
On the arrival of the second vessel at Mathuata, the king said, "Ngenge and Retova are fishing for the other brig; my son and myself will go up the coast with the last arrived vessel, and load her in a short time. This plan, it has been seen, was not executed, as the trading master would not consent to the separation of the vessels, —being actuated, no doubt, either by fear or jealousy. At last the natives declared that there was no fish on the reefs (although many cargoes have been collected from the same since,) and the vessels left Mathuata for Yanganga. The king followed with canoes and men. There were at that time no inhabitants on the island, and the king erected temporary dwellings, where he lived with his people, and engaged in fishing. Retova and Ngenge, although chiefs, were subjects of the king, and so were their tribes; and the king, having a purpose to execute, exerted his authority in commanding all whom he chose, to go and fish. "Beech de mer" was plenty, and affairs went on prosperously for a time.
We will now reveal the plans of the king. He de-page 119sired to accomplish the death of the two chiefs, whom he considered as his rivals. He knew that they had an enemy in the person of a chief, named Logi,—a relative of Tuimbua. By removing to Yanganga he could communicate without suspicion with Logi, and they might devise together some means for the destruction of his nephews.
After they had fished for awhile, Logi came to visit the king, and they had a long conference together; after which, the king went home to Mathuata. After his departure, several natives came to the "beech de mer" house, and sold to Mr. W. (who had charge of the house, and lived there with one other white man,) wood, mats, and several articles for a trifle,—much less than they had been in the habit of doing, and then left the island. This excited some suspicion at first, but they finally concluded that the natives were tired of work, and had gone to rest a little. In the afternoon natives came in from the reefs, sold their fish, and instead of dispersing, as usual, remained in little companies, whispering together. It was observed that they were armed. All these appearances foretold evil doings. It was nearly dark when a native came and told Mr. W. and his companion that during the evening the trade house was to be set on fire, and they were both to be killed. What was to be done! It was then near the time set for their destruction. It was true, there was another "beech de mer" house on the other side of the island, in view of the vessels, but how were they to reach it unobserved? Numbers of armed natives were collected even then. Mr. W. took a pistol in his hand, and went into the "beech de mer" house. About fifty were assembled there with clubs and spears. On his return to the trade house, a native followed him with a heavy club in his page 120hand; he turned, and showing the loaded pistol, threatened to blow the man's brains out, if he did not leave him. He looked around and observed natives stationed about in such a manner as rendered it impossible for them to escape. He returned in despair to the trade house, and told his companion that they must die; for there was no possible way of escaping the vigilance of their murderers. They sat a moment, when Mr. W. said "No; these cursed cannibals shall never feed upon this body. Here are two kegs of powder,—here is fire,—and here is a shovel. As soon as they set fire to the bouse, —which will be at the end opposite,—I will throw fire out of the door and powder after it; we must lie flat till the explosion; we may be saved, and we may be blown to atoms,—better the latter than to be eaten. They knocked the heads from the powder kegs, and placed them near the door, Mr. W. sat holding the shovel in his hand, feeling a desire, like Samson, that many should die with him, if such was to be his fate. They had not sat long after their few preparations were completed, befor they heard the sound of oars. "'Tis the boat! 'tis the boat!" they both exclaimed. "Sa lako mai ni vals, ni kai papalagi sagela ni vere," shouted the flying Feejeeans. "The boat is coming, and the white men understand our plot."
Mr. W. and his companion sprung from the house, leaped over several wood-piles some five feet high, and reached the boat in safety. Here we see a grand exhibition of Feejeean bravery! There were on the island some two hundred natives, who had assembled to kill two men. When the boat came in sight, they knew that it could scarcely contain more than four or five, and nothing could have been easier than for a part of their number to have placed themselves in ambush, and, on page 121the arrival of the boat, to have despatched its crew, while the others could have murdered those in the house. But thanks to an overruling Providence and the native cowardice for the preservation of my husband's life!
It seems that when Logi visited Tuimathuata, they formed the following plan:—On a given night the natives were to set the "beech de mer" house on fire that was situated in view of the vessels; and when the light of the fire was seen by the natives on the other side of the island, they were to set fire to the opposite end of the trade house from the door, and as Mr. W. and his companion rushed out, they were to be murdered, and the other "beech de mer" house set on fire. By this means they were, as they thought, to secure their ends; namely, have Retova and Ngenge killed. As soon as the blaze of the burning house was seen on board the vessels, a boat was sent to the island, which took the white man and some natives to the vessel where Retova was confined, and where the trio had assembled for a social smoke and chat.
The natives were questioned as to their purpose in burning the house. They said it was to serve as a signal for burning the other house and killing Mr. Wallis, which would probably have been done. As nothing was said by the trio about sending a boat to ascertain the fate of Mr. W., a man named Rogers, who was then a sailor, and is now a respectable resident at Feejee, inquired whether a boat was not to be sent round the island to ascertain the truth, saying that it was possible Mr. W. and his companion might be saved. "Send a boat!" exclaimed the worthy trading master, "No; what is the use of sending for dead men? who would go?" "I," said the undaunted Rogers; "and I," said another, —" and I,"—"and I,"—" and I," said others.page 122
"Well, go and be d——d," replied the trading master. The intrepid sailors sailed to the island in time to rescue two human beings from their perilous situation. The life of one is exceedingly precious to the writer of these pages, and she will ever be grateful to the sailors who were instrumental in saving it.
The natives, from some unknown cause, did not perceive the light from the burning house, which was to have been their signal; hence their delay till the arrival of the boat.
It appears to have been the design of the king at this time, only to compass the destruction of his nephews, but, failing in this, his canoes and wen were withdrawn, and the fishing again stopped. At length the trio liberated Retova, who procured a chief, named Ndury, to take his place. Retova went to Mathuata, and soon returned with a few canoes, but it wan mere play, and evident that they did not mean to do much for the vessels. While they were thus hesitating, some Bau canoes came to the coast. The chiefs of Bau had heard of the detention of the young chiefs, and determined to liberate them. On their arrival they told the trio that they had better set the chiefs at liberty, that they would look out for the safety of the vessels, and would send for the Lasakau people, that all would join in fishing, and soon load both vessels. The chiefs were liberated, and they commenced building houses with a prospect of procuring a cargo or cargoes. Mr. W. went to a house on Vanualavu, at a place called Tamburua. Here the natives worked well for a little time, when Mr. W. and Mr. Brotherton, who was with him, received information that that bouse was to be burned. He informed his captain, and asked if the fish had not better be taken to the vessel. The gentleman laughed at his fears, as he was pleased to term page 123them, assured Mr. W. that there was no danger, and added, "We still have a hostage on board; if they kill you, we should kill him." There was in this assurance enough to nerve any man with courage, but Mr. W. was probably too "ignorant" to benefit by it, for he answered, "A Feejeean head will not suit my shoulders." The captain did not think of this I presume, nor the consolation that it would impart to mourning relatives at home on being told that a couple of cannibals had lost their heads, as a retaliation for the loss of their friends. But to return to my story. Mr. W. returned to the shore feeling provoked that so little regard was paid to their safety, and scarcely caring whether he lived or not, feeling sick and tired of the doings and mismanagement which had been so evident during the whole voyage.
In the evening, Mr. W., Mr. Brotherton, and a native were seated in the trade house, when they perceived the "beech de mer" house on fire, and on turning their heads, they found the end of the trade house opposite the door also in flames. They were about to make their escape through the door, when a friendly native pulled them back, and rushed through the thatch at the other end. The two followed, and reached the boat, which was very near. The houses are usually built quite near the shore, and when on board the boat, they looked towards the burning house and saw several natives at the door with raised clubs, ready to strike when they should appear. This ended their business on the coast. The Bau and Vewa people having accomplished their purpose of liberating the chiefs, went home, having advanced by this means one step more towards subjecting Mathuata to Bau. The two vessels went about seeking fish, and finding none. Wherever they went, the story of the chiefs in irons preceded them, and the natives page 124feared to have any thing to do with them. After being among the group for fifteen months, they left; one with six hundred peculs of fish, and the other with four hundred.
* A plot.