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Life in Feejee, or, Five Years among the Cannibals

Chapter VII

Chapter VII.

Missionary Intelligence—Murder of Four White Men at Navu—An Amusing Occurrence—Retova's Barber—Manufacture of Cloth—Productions of the Islands.

Sept. 8.The Star has arrived from Raverave, and brings word that Retova went to Muta, but did no fighting. The braves were frightened, and ran home.
18.The natives have done fishing at Yanganga, and we remove to Nivaka to-morrow, where there is a house belonging to the bark. The schooner sailed to-day for Natawa.

After remaining at Nivaka a short time, and making things straight, we left for Kandavu, and arrived here to-day. Received a letter from Mrs. Hunt, who writes that religion appears to be progressing at Vewa. Verani has been baptized, and received the name of Elijah. The Lasakau widow had renounced heathenism, and received by baptism the name of Mary Wallis.

Oct. 1.The Nivaka people have burnt their "beech de mer" house, stolen several articles, and retired from business.
4.Capt. Hartwell has arrived here, and brought our letters from home that Capt. King detained for us four months. At the close of a note received by Mr. W. from Capt. K., he remarks, "When I bring a wife to Feejee, page 125she shall be blind and dumb." He should have added, "and deaf too."
6.Capt. Hartwell has sailed for Bau. Korovakaturanga honored us with a visit. As the chiefs usually eat at the table with us, he was invited to take a seat at the dinner table. A seat was placed for him, and he seated himself very properly on it at first, but not liking his position, he first drew up one foot on the seat, and then the other, which placed him in a most ludicrous position.

We have just received the news that Harry, who left our vessel at Tavea, has been murdered, and three men, also, who were with him. The accounts are as follows: —They proceeded to Vesonga, and put the young chief, Otima, in irons, telling him that they should not liberate him till the girl belonging to Runnells was restored to him. The natives at Vesonga, on hearing of the affair, manned three canoes and started for the boat, which was anchored off some distance from the town. Tomorau, the murderer of the Raverave woman, took the girl on board his canoe, and preceding the other two, arrived first to the boat, when several of the natives suddenly jumped on board, and disarmed Harry and his men. "Now," said Tomorau, "here are men enough to kill you all, and if you attempt any resistance we will do it. There is the girl, but you shall not have her. We will take Otima and the girl, too, back to the town. Leave this place, and if ever you come here again, we will eat you. If you fire at us when we leave the boat, we will kill and eat you now." He then set the captive at liberty, and they departed.

Harry then sailed for Navu, about two miles distant, where he anchored for the night, quite near the shore. It was Harry's first watch, and he slept. The natives came, waded off, and dragged the boat still nearer the page 126shore; this awaked the men, who fought for their lives, but were overpowered by numbers, and all but Harry were killed immediately. He was wounded in the leg, and taken ashore with the bodies of his companions. The next day he was obliged to witness the horrible feast, and listen to the praises hestowed upon the flesh of his friends. The next day they took off his leg, and obliged him to sit and see that devoured also. On the third day they finished him. My heart sickens while I record these horrible truths.

Many think that Retova seeing the boat pass, sent orders by land for the murder. He hated Harry, and the natives generally appeared to have a strong feeling of hatred towards him. Retova has received some of the property that was in the boat, and his late absence up the coast, from which he has just returned, bringing the accounts of Harry's murder with him, looks as though he was guilty.

The names of the killed are as follows: —Harry Gavet, England; Wm. Russell, England; Lorenzo Hamilton, New York; George Runnells, New York.


The Star has arrived from Fofo, a town on Vanua lavu, where it had been sent to procure provisions. Tommy and a native of Tavea composed her crew, the craft being commanded by Andrew, as usual. On their arrival at Fofo, which is situated some distance up a river, Tommy and the Feejeean went on shore, while Andrew remained to take care of the boat. Capt. Andrew is a great lover of yanggona, or native grog, but never wishing to have the trouble of preparing it with his own distillery, he always employs the natives whenever it is possible. On this occasion, Andrew sat smoking his pipe on the quarter deck, when a company of gay young Feejeeans, of the rougher sort, appeared on the beach page 127near the boat. Andrew invited them to come on board, and "chaw" some grog for him. The young men cheerfully complied with his request, and were soon quietly seated in the boat, when each distillery was set in motion. Andrew smoked on, anticipating the delights of soon quaffing the delicious beverage. Ah! these were happy moments in Andrew's chequered life, when he sat on the deck of that nice little craft, with his pipe in his mouth, watching the smoke that so "gracefully curled," —he had no troubles then!

When the grog was "chawed" and prepared, the pipe was laid aside, the lips were wiped and smacked, and the head of the man was thrust into the flowing bowl (for such is the custom of these happy lands). He drank, and drank—determined never to raise his head again, while there was one drop in the bowl. There he lay, scarcely knowing whether he was in the body or out of it, when the young men raised him and threw him overboard. What an awakening! He was surprised out of all his happiness, for but a moment before, he was prostrate before the "flowing bowl," and now where was be? why, prostrate in flowing mud, which need not have surprised him; it was a natural consequence. Not being satisfied, however, with his present position, he climbed on board, when he was immediately secured to the mast, while the young sparks rewarded themselves for "chawing" the grog by robbing the boat. This being done, they departed, leaving Andrew "alone in his glory." When all was still, he found means to liberate himself; the tide had risen, and he departed from the frolic-loving land. He arrived alone at the bark, looking pale and frightened, and we trust that he will not soon forget the "chawing of the grog."


The boat has gone to Fofo to see about Tommy, page 128and if he is a prisoner, to liberate him if possible. Retova has not visited us since his return from Vesonga. He says that he is ashamed to come, because his people have killed the white men. Navu belongs to Korovakaturanga.

P. M. Retova has been on board and dined. He brought a Somosomo chief and his priest with him. He tells the following story of the murdered Harry. He says that Harry went to Muta, and Mbata agreed to pay him three hundred pounds of tortoise shell if he would get Retova to Muta; this he promised to do by decoying the chief on board a whaler, when it would be easy to deliver him into the hands of his enemy. This story is only another evidence to our minds of the guilt of Retova.


The Star has arrived, bringing Tommy and the trade that had been stolen by the "grog chawers." The following is Tommy's account of his adventures, as related by himself:—" Come, Tommy," I said, "I wish to hear what happened to you at Fofo." "Yes ma'am, sir," he replied. Tommy was the servant at Vewa, who had been told to say "Yes ma'am," to ladies, and "Yes sir," to gentlemen. He never forgot his instructions, but applied them in his own way.

"Well, you see ma'am sir," said Tommy, "that when I go shore to buy yams, the chief, be no be at the town. I send boy tell a chief to come home; Capt. Wallis he send boat here to buy yams and pig. Tavea man and I go in house, where we wait long time for chief. By and by man come in house, he all scared, he say Andrew killed. Feejeean got a boat. I feel scared too. I think—well, Feejee man kill Andrew, they kill me too; but I no let Feejee man see me fraid. I say, I go see. No, no, said all Feejee woman; spose you go, they kill you; spose you stay here, they no kill. Then woman page 129go on hill, come back and say, Andrew no kill, he go away in boat. Then chief come—me hear great cry— we all go out—see chief cry ver much. He say, me go live to nother town. You all dead man (a Feejeean curse), me no live with you. Mr. Wallis be angry—all white man be angry—no send boat to bring us riches for our pigs and yams. He then cry more, then load musket and walk away, saying, I go, I no live with you. Then all the men and womens all make great cry, and say, no, no, no, don't leave us; we will 'soro,' take our 'soro.' Then chief he set down, man he get all whale's teeth in the town to 'soro.' The chief then he no cry, but tell 'em get all he take out the boat, put it in canoe. Tavea man and Tom go too, and tell captain he shamed. So they get all the things put in canoe, tell the Fofo man take us Tavea. When we get Tavea we see boat coming after us, so we put all the thing in the boat, and come here."


The schooner arrived, bringing ten peculs of fish. Mr. Smith states that they were doing well, when several canoes came from Somosomo, and commenced hostilities with the Natawans, and put a stop to all farther trade.

20.Last night, about eleven o'clock, we witnessed the burning of the "beech de mer" house at this place. A boat was sent to receive all that could be saved. About two hundred dollars worth of "beech de mer" was destroyed.

We have removed our station to the island of Mathuata. This island was the home of the king, but it is now uninhabited. Houses are to be built here, and it is pretended that Retova will do great things in the "beech de mer" way. Canoes are coming from Geer and Raverave to fish for the vessel. The chief of Kan-page 130davu is building another house so near his town that if one burns, the other must.

22.Received a visit from Retova's barber, the man who murdered the man from Raverave at the time of the late slaughter at that place. He is an ugly looking, petty chief, of the name of Tuvutuvu. He is a great thief, and we are obliged to watch when he honors the vessel with his presence. Although it is said that the natives are very thievish, we have suffered but little from their depredations. While I was at Vewa, Mrs. Jaggar informed me that when they lived at Lakemba, two large tubs of clothes were stolen from them. When they complained to the king, he said, "I wilt make that all right." The next day they were expecting the lost clothes to be restored, knowing that the king possessed the power. About noon, the king was seen to approach with several attendants. He came into the house, bearing—not the clothes, but as a "soro," six nice looking fingers which he had had taken from the hands of the thieves. As the missionaries needed their clothing, and could not wear the fingers, this was poor consolation; yet poor as it was, they received no other.
23.A petty chief, named Ndury (the same who was for a little while held in "durance vile" by the trio), is on board, and lately from Vewa, where he has a niece of Elijah's for a wife. He says that Elijah has lately had a "Solavu" for Mr. Hunt. I inquired why he had one for him. He said that Elijah had formerly stolen many pigs and chickens from the mission; he was now sorry and ashamed, and wished to make all the restoration in his power. This was not required by the missionaries, who told him that as they hoped God had forgiven the past, so would they. He would not be satisfied till he had done what he could.page 131
24.As I have often alluded to the "masi," or native cloth used by the natives, I will describe its manufacture. The natives cultivate a tree, called in native, "masikau" (a kind of papyrus), from which their cloth is made. The trees are set out about one foot apart. When they have reached maturity they are about five feet high, and six inches in circumference. The natives then peel off the outside bark, which is thrown away, and carefully stripping the inner bark from the tree, they put it in water and let it remain for twelve hours; it is then spread, and pounded with instruments made of iron wood till it is thin as muslin and looks very white. Some of the cloth is retained in this state, and worn for head-dresses. All that is required for other purposes, such as bed-screens, and men's wear, is made stouter by placing several thicknesses of muslin one upon another, while in its damp state. A part of the cloth is retained in its native color, and some of it displays the native ingenuity in painting. Cloth is mostly manufactured at Somosomo. It is only worn by men, and in very small quantities. The women wear "lekus," made also from the bark of some tree, but not resembling cloth at all.

The principal and most loved article of food in Feejee, is yams, which are to a Feejeean what bread is to us. The bread-fruit, tarro and carwais are next in value to the yams. Of the three latter, the natives prepare what they call "mandrai," which they live upon when other food fails. It often occurs that a "Solavn" takes all the vegetables and fruits from a town, or an enemy destroys their plantations; and they are then obliged to live upon the mandrai till their next harvest.

At the windward part of the group, only one crop of vams is gathered in a year; but on the Ba coast of Vetelavu, it is said that two crops are gathered in one year.

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The bread-fruit tree yields its ripe fruits in great abundance semi-annually. I know of no tree in Feejee more beautiful than this. It is ever green, presenting to the eye no decay. Its aged leaves change so gradually that they are scarcely ever observed, being mostly hidden by the verdant branches, from which is ever springing the beautifully scalloped leaf. There are a great many of these trees in Vewa. I was one day remarking upon their form and beauty to Mr. Hunt, who joined in my praises, but, after a pause, said, "Sometimes, however, I tire of this evergreen, and would like to see the changing hues of autumn. Are not your American forests more beautiful with all their autumnal tints?" "Our forests," I replied, "have their admirers, but I am not one of them. I do not love all that is loveable, nor do I admire all that is admirable. I do not love winter with its cold sterility—I do not love autumn with its chilly nights; the rustling of its dried and shrivelled leaves is not music to my ears—I cannot look upon our forests with pleasure, for they tell me of snow, and wind, hail and storm. Oh no; I could as soon admire the elegant dress of one who came to tell me that my dearest friend was buried in the ocean." But to return to edibles. During the seasons of tarro and bread-fruit, they are gathered, and the rind of the one, and the skin of the other are taken from the outside, holes are dug in the ground, and lined with fresh leaves. Into these holes the tarro, bread-fruit or carwais—whichever may be in its season—is placed, and covered with leaves; several layers of stones are then piled over the whole, where it remains for years if not wanted for use. When it is needed, portions of it are taken from the hole, and kneaded in a tray; small portions are then carefully page 133wrapped in the bread-fruit leaf and boiled, when they consider it fit for eating.

Among their luxuries, they consider vaka-lololes one of the greatest; hence, no feast or Solavu is held without them, if they can possibly be procured. They are made of tarro, or bread-fruit, and grated cocoa-nut. The vegetable, or fruit, is boiled or roasted, then thoroughly washed in a tray, and made into balls about the size of a small hen's egg, from twenty to thirty of which are laid in a large green leaf. The milk of the grated cocoa-nut is then sweetened with the compressed juice from the ti root, and poured over them; they are then tied up in the leaf till wanted, when they make a delicious dessert.

Among the fruits of Feejee, are to be found the orange, lemon, pine-apple, banana and shaddoc, all of which are well known at home. Besides these is a fruit called ndawa, which is about the size of a peach, and resembles a plum inside, but lacks its delicious flavor. There is another fruit called "kaveka," which is very beautiful to the eye; the form is like that of the pear, and the color is a beautiful red and white. A basket of this elegant fruit was brought here yesterday, and was the first I had seen. "How beautiful!" I exclaimed. "Are they to eat?" "Yes," was the answer. I took of the fruit and ate, but not finding it sweet to the taste, did not hand it to my husband. It is neither sour, bitter, palatable nor unpalatable, but appears to be composed of wind and water. What a fine essay might the moralist write from the "kaveka!"

I must give a description of it, for although its component parts resemble two of the elements, there is a good deal of character about the beautiful "kaveka." It possesses great beauty, but has no sweetness, and is very page 134cold; it is subject to an early decay, and is never fit to be eaten after it has been gathered twelve hours.

There is another fruit in this favored land, called the "wi." This tree resembles the pear tree in size and foliage; the fruit is formed like the egg of a turkey, and is about as large. It is of a deep golden color when ripe, and emits an odor precisely like that of a quince. It is filled with fibrous substances, which make it necessary to grate them before they are cooked; when stewed, they make a nice sauce, not unlike a green apple-sauce. One could scarcely tell them from apples, when made into tarts and puddings. Ginger, arrow-root, tumeric and tobacco are found here in great abundance. Cotton is found in small quantities along the coasts, but is supposed to abound in the interior. On the mountains of Ovalau are a few wild nutmeg trees, or shrubs. It is said that they abound in the interior of Vete-lavu. It has been shown that the natives are not backward in the use of manimal food; but that of other species is seldom used, except at their Solavus, when pigs are cooked by hundreds. They are sometimes "lambued" for a year previous to the time of a feast. Chickens are raised, but seldom eaten by the natives, being mostly sold to white residents, vessels and missionaries. The sugar-cane, too, should be numbered among the sweet things of Feejee. Fruitful and beautiful are these lands! But oh! what a moral waste! reminding one of the language of the excellent Heber,

"In vain, with lavish kindness, The gifts of God are strewn; The heathen in his blindness, Bows down to wood and stone."


The people have begun to fish to-day at the Mathuata house, and are coming for their pay.

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When a vessel lays near a "beech de mer" house, the natives often receive orders to come to the bark, when muskets, or any large articles are due. The following is a pretty good illustration of the manner in which this try-patience people trouble those who answer their orders. This morning a man came, bringing an order for a musket. One was given him, with which he appeared satisfied. He remained about deck awhile, when he found the spring too tight; this was set right. After a little while something else was wrong, and he wished to have several more muskets brought, that he might select for himself; this was done. An hour or more was spent in handling and selecting. After he had suited himself, and the muskets were returned to the chest, he discovered some flaw, or was not satisfied with the color of the barrel, and wished to select from the chest. After handling and examining them all as long as he wished, he departed with the one that was first offered. Thus he was from ten in the morning till four in the afternoon deciding about his musket, which was really a good one in the first place. This is not a solitary case. I always dread to see a canoe filled with natives coming to be paid from the bark. One will want cloth, and when it is measured off, be will alter his mind and take beads; the cloth is returned and beads are given, and after a while these are not wanted, but something else, and so on. If any one wishes to increase in patience, let them come to Feejee for "beech de mer."

30. Mr. W. has sent an ambassador to Raverave with a whale's tooth, inviting His Majesty to come, according to promise, to Mathuata, to keep his subjects from idling away their time. The schooner is fishing at Tavea.
Nov. 3.

The Star has arrived from Tavea and Rave-page 136rave. Retova has sent word that he will be here in two days.

While the Star lay at Tavea, a canoe came from Ndama with two men, who offered shell to Mr. Smith, wishing him to buy it. As they asked too much for it, Mr. S. did not trade with them, and they left the schooner to return to Ndama. On their way, the men, canoe, and tortoise shell were taken by a Tavea canoe (containing superior numbers of men) and carried to Tavea. The shell was again offered to Mr. Smith for sale, by Tavear men. The fate of the captives is not known. "Might makes right," here.

Ndury tells me that a man died of repletion at Raverave the day after the cannibal feast.