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Life in Feejee, or, Five Years among the Cannibals

Chapter VIII

Chapter VIII.

The Plot—The Unwelcome Guests—The Flight—False Statements.

Nov. 5.

A Solavu vessel has arrived, bringing a load of yams for the bark, and very important information from Capt. Hartwell. The Gambia went from Bau to a place called Nivatu, for the purpose of fishing "beech de mer." Capt. H. received on board at Bau, a young native named Tatave, a nephew of the murdered Lasakau chief, to go with him as a hostage, and a kind of messenger from Bau. It is always desirable to have some one on board the vessels belonging to Bau when fishing in the dominions of its chiefs. In this instance, however, the man had better have been left behind. On their arrival at Nivatu, Tatave went to several towns near, and told them that it was the wish of the Bau chiefs for them page 137to join the Nivatu people, and fish for Capt. H. It was very well so far; but he did not stop there. He told them that after they had fished a little, it was the command of the chief for them to take the vessel. One day several natives assembled on board with their faces painted black. Other indications of mischief being visible, the suspicions of the captain were excited, when he resorted to such measures as insured his safety at that time. The captain did not learn then the plans of the natives, or what Tatave had been doing. He only knew that they had assembled for mischief of some kind, and as the Nivatu people did not appear to be concerned in the affair, he kept on fishing with redoubled vigilance.

Nivatu is a small island about twelve miles distant from Solavu, which is the residence of the white people who formerly lived at Levuka. It so happened that on a certain night a woman of Solavu went out to draw water, and as she was returning from the pond, she heard voices in conversation; and some words reaching her ears that excited her suspicion, she listened. The voices proceeded from two native men who had just returned from Nivatu. They were in a little "buri," nor knew they that one hearkened to their speech. They were heard to say that on the following day a canoe was to go off to the Gambia to offer several articles for sale. There were to be just double the number of natives that there were on board the Gambia. Half were to go on board first, unarmed, and engage the people in barter; while thus engaged, the other half were to follow, one at a time, armed, and gradually mingle with the rest. On a given signal, each of the two natives were to attack and kill their man, and take possession of the brig. Their first step, however, was to kill the trading officer on shore. The woman, having listened to the page 138whole plan, returned to her house and related the same to her husband. The next morning, as soon as there was light enough for them to see their way over the reefs, several of the white men took a vessel and started, greatly fearing that they would not reach Nivatu in time to save the vessel. The wind favored them, however, and on their arrival they found all safe. The captain was informed of his danger, and boats were immediately manned, armed, and sent to the relief of the trading master on shore. When the boats reached the shore, they observed many natives, with their clubs and painted faces, walking about as though they were in waiting for something. Tatave was found and secured; but Mr. Goodrich, the trading officer, was no where to be found. Tatave said that he was not killed, but he supposed that he had fled and hid himself in the bush. After half a day's search, he was found half dead with terror. He said that he perceived danger from the natives, and knowing that his single arm would not avail him any thing with such a host, and seeing no other way of escape, he had fled and concealed himself.

I think that this affair originated entirely with Navinde when they were at Ba, where, as it will be recollected, an expedition was sent on Capt. Hartwell's account. Navinde and several of his people, with Verani, were on board the Gambia. A fine opportunity occurred at the time for taking possession of the vessel. Navinde proposed that the opportunity should be improved, but Verani prevented him.

After Mr. Goodrich was found, the boats returned to the vessel, where Tatave confessed that they intended to do as had been stated at Solavu; but he would not tell who employed him. Soon after the captivity of Tatave, Elijah came to the vessel. Capt. Hartwell informed him of page 139the facts that have been made known, and asked him what he should do with the prisoner. "Kill, hang him, or any thing," said Elijah, who was very angry at what he had heard. Capt. H. then ordered him to be tied to the mainmast, and receive thirty-nine lashes; this was done, and his feet were confined in irons, that he may do no more harm for the present.

We have heard that one of Capt. King's trading men, on the Ba coast, has just had a narrow escape of his life, as there was a plan laid to kill him.

As at home, when thieves are about, every means are used to secure our property, so these things cause us to redouble our vigilance. Our big guns have been fired off and reloaded, and are now looking saucily out of the ports, seeming to say, "Come here if you dare." The arm chests, in the fore and main top, are all ready to fight. A loaded musket stands near our bed, several loaded pistols are quietly lying in our state-room, and orders have been issued that the bell should be struck every half hour, that the natives on shore may learn that there are some on board who are not napping.

6.Retova still delays coming; it is said through fear, on account of Harry's murder. We learn that he reached Navu in time to devour the heart of the man he hated. The Navu people must have been expecting him, or the heart would not have been saved for his cannibal Majesty.
9.Retova has come at last. He remained on board but a few moments, and then departed for the shore. He has lost much flesh, and looks quite dejected and ill.
10.The chief has passed the day on board. Seeing him look sad, I proceeded to comfort him in the following manner. "When Thakombau killed his brother," I said, "you thought it very bad, and said that page 140you could not do such a thing, that Bau was bad, and its chiefs were always engaged in 'veres.' Now what do you think of the Mathuata chiefs? Are they learning 'veres' of Bau? Did the Bau chiefs 'vere' to kill your uncle?" "No," he replied, "that was Korovakaturanga's 'vere,' in revenge for the murder of his own father, who was killed by the king." "But," I replied, "he could not have killed so great a chief without your consent, which shows that you are as bad as the Bau chiefs. The God of heaven is angry when we commit murder, and will punish you for it, perhaps in this life. Korovakaturanga is your friend now; but you see he is strong, and has taken the life of the king to please you. By and by he may take your life to please himself." He looked very sober, and I added, "You know now about the 'lotu,' and you are ashamed to have your bad deeds known, because you know that they are wrong." "Ndena, Marama," he replied. "Truly Marama."
11.This morning His Majesty asked me for a razor. I handed him one, and he requested me to shave him. I declined the honor with one of my best courtsies, while Mr. W. sat almost convulsed with laughter at the scene.

We are obliged, while lying here, to send a long distance for water. To-day the boat was sent with four men, which left us rather short, as some of our people are with the schooner, and some at the houses on shore. Three men only, besides the captain, were on board after the boat had left. No sooner had it disappeared behind the island, than we observed two canoes put off, and sail for the bark; they were well filled with men. When we saw this goodly company approaching, we felt in our very hearts that we would rather defer the reception of so many visitors in the absence of our crew.

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The captain told the few that were on board to leave their work, and each have some weapon at hand, without seeming to be armed, and to let no one come on board but the chiefs. He then put a small pistol in his pocket, while I, not caring to wield a broom-stick, took a pair of large scissors in my hand. When the chief came on board, he presented an order for an axe; another presented one for a hatchet, and another for a musket, and so on. This looked suspicious. It is sometimes the case that when it is intended to take a vessel, they go without arms, and provide themselves in this manner from the vessel, in order that no suspicion may be excited on board. Retova came into the cabin, and the captain brought him an axe from the trade room. After examining it some time he called for another, which was brought, and soon after he requested a third; this was all that the box contained. The captain had contrived to keep one axe in his hand the most of the time, but the chief put one under his seat, laid another in his lap, and held a third in his hand. I was standing near, playing awkwardly with my scissors, when observing that he had possession of all the axes, I took one from his lap, and after remarking upon its goodness and beauty, handed it to my husband. He was a long time selecting one of the three instruments, but at last succeeded, and prepared to depart. As he rose to go, he held the gleaming axe over my head and said, "Now, Marama, I will kill you with this hatchet." "It is very good for you to do it, and I will kill you with these scissors," I answered, pointing them to his heart. "Saga, sara; iko Marama venaka." "No, indeed; you are a good Marama," he said, laughing, and left the cabin. When he returned to the deck, he appeared surprised that the natives were all in their canoes. I followed the chief and my husband page 142to the deck, knowing that a Feejeean would seldom injure a man, if watched. Such is his cowardice.

13.Yesterday Retova ordered some of his people to put in their fish for him to pay for some articles of his own that were on board the bark. The obedient subjects brought in their fish and received their pay. His Majesty heard of it, and repaired to the "beech de mer" house in a great rage. Here he found the chief of the offending party, and hurled his spear at him, which missed its aim. The offender set off at full speed, followed by several of his people, who were followed by the tufundres; these were followed by a white man, who was followed by an African, and the whole were followed by the king himself. The party were racing at the top of their speed, tumbling over each other, logs of wood, stones and various other obstructions, (for the party had been formed so suddenly that the race-ground had not been prepared,) while the angry chief was close upon them, his head-dress and masi standing out straight about a yard, giving him the appearance of an animal with two tails. At length he gave up the chase, and calling to the black and white men who belonged to the house, he told them that he was not angry with them, and desired them to return. The offending chief sent a whale's tooth as "a soro," and his people approached His Majesty on their hands and knees, their bodies covered with ashes, and exclaiming, "Sa soro ko au." "I ask pardon." The king received the "soro," and pardoned his disobedient subjects.
14.Retova came on board to-day, and acted over the scene of yesterday with great glee. He said that Johnson, our black man, turned nearly white, and his face could scarcely be seen for lips. Some of the Feejeeans are grand mimics. I have seen them hand my page 143husband an order, and walk behind him imitating his manner exactly when he is vexed.

Two Geer canoes that are fishing here came alongside, while Thouthou, their chief, paid us a visit. Geer is about twelve miles from Mathuata, is owned by Retova, and its inhabitants are subject to his power. When vessels are here, he often sends for them to come and fish for them. As Mr. W. did not choose to give him all he wanted, he became quite impudent, saying, "Capt. —— aid you were a 'kaise,' and it is true indeed. You are a 'kaise,' Mr. W. said, "Yes, it is true. I am a 'kaise,' and if you knew it, why did you come to beg of me? It is not your custom to beg of such." "Well," he returned, "I want you to have the sail mended for my canoe, or I will not fish." "Very well," said Mr. W., "do as you please. I shall not have your sail mended, as you had time enough to repair it before you came." "Then give my people some yams to eat; they are hungry," said he. "I can scarcely get yams enough for my own people," replied Mr. W. "Then I will go home," was his reply. "Go home if you choose," said Mr. W., who had given presents, and tried every method but indifference. He now thought that he would try a little of that. Thouthou thought that he might play Retova, who, it is said, has received from some masters of vessels whatever he chose to ask for. If he was refused, he would return to his home, and there remain till a "soro" was sent in the shape of a musket, a whale's tooth, or some other article, when he would return and set his people to work again.

When Thouthou left, Mr. W. told him that he had doubled his prices for fish, and paid well. If he chose to fish, well, and if he chose to go home it was just as page 144well. It is very probable that the chief had taken a lesson from his superior before he visited the bark.

16.The boat was again sent for water, and, as before, two canoes came to the bark, with a large number of men in them. Retova has never brought so many people to the vessel since the boat went last for water. The captain gave the same orders that he did on a previous visit. Retova came into the cabin while Ratanga remained on deck; no others were allowed to leave the canoes. While the chief remained below, he happened to observe a part of the little pistol which had been stowed snugly away in a certain pocket. "What is that in your pocket for? are you afraid?" said he. "No, I am not afraid," was the reply; "but it is best to keep some weapon about one. You know that there are many strangers here at present. The Geer people are bad. Do you not remember that they killed the white man's child, and would have murdered its parents if Capt. Osborne had not sent and liberated them? "Ah, it is true," he replied. After remaining below a while, he repaired to the deck, followed by Mr. W. and myself. He appeared quite surprised to see all his people in the canoes, and turning to Mr. W., said, "Why are not the people allowed to come on board? what are you afraid of?" "Do yon not see," said the captain, "that several of my men are absent? Why should all these men come on board?—you could not see that they did not steal, and how could I recover articles thus stolen?" "Ah, you do not fear that," replied he; "you think, perhaps, that we are engaged in a 'vere' to take your vessel." "We are prepared for that; Feejeeans would gain nothing by a 'vere.' You know where our powder is, and you see that Mrs. W. is always watching; if she sees any thing wrong, she knows how to send page 145fire to the powder, and away we go all together." "We are good men, and would do you no harm." "Yes," said Mr. W., "I know what a good man you are; but some of your people may not be as good as your Majesty; therefore it is best to look out for them," When the boat appeared in sight our visitors departed.

The Star brings word from Kandavu that their canoes have been fired into by the Mathuata people, and they were afraid to go to the reefs again for fish. Retova, too, had sent for the Kandavuns to come here and fight. Mr. W. inquired the meaning of all this. Retova replied, by saying that a Mathuata canoe ran across the bows of a Kandavu canoe in play, but the Kandavuns took it in earnest, and were angry. He sent word to them, therefore, that they might come here in sight of the two Turaga-lavus and fight it out. He immediately sent a messenger to his frightened subjects to tell them to go on with their fishing, and no one should harm them.

In the afternoon Retova went on shore, and soon after an order was sent off for a hatchet,—as it was not marked black fish, the hatchet was refused, not knowing who had sent for it. Retova had sent the man, and when he returned and said the hatchet had been refused, the testy chief flew into a rage, and sent word that Mr. W. might aend for the fish ag soon as he pleased, as he should burn the house to-night. The hatchet was sent with a suitable apology, and the affair was settled.


The schooner arrived from Tavea. Mr. Smith left the natives delicately feeding upon the bodies of five men whom they had surprised and taken from an inland town.

I find that I have been mistaken about Muta. It is not an inland town, but is situated about half a mile from the seashore, on Vanualavu, and is approached from page 146seaward by a river that leads from the shore to the town.

Some of the friends of the late king are now saying that Capt. Osboene joined Retova in the "vere" to kill the king. This we believe to be false, though, as the affair terminated, we are not surprised that the natives should think so. Capt. O. probably believed that Retova sincerely desired to make peace, which was truly desirable on many accounts. It would be advantageous to himself, and to others who were engaged in the same business, as the whole coast could engage in fishing without fear of each other. He, therefore, did all in his power to bring about a reconciliation, and establish a permanent peace along this coast. The failure was not owing to any thing wrong on his part, but to the deception and treachery of Retova.

While we were breakfasting this morning, Mr. W. sneezed when pouring out a cup of coffee for the Turagalavu. He refused the coffee, saying if he should drink it, he would be clubbed. They never drink yanggona if a person sneezes when preparing it.

19.I overheard Cunningham tell the captain that he fully believed Retova was planning some mischief, and advised his being closely watched. Jack has been off from the house, and says that he is certain the natives intend to try to take the vessel, and that when the canoes came off with all those men, when the boat had gone for water, the natives armed themselves and assembled on the beach, watching intently the vessel and the canoes. We are not sorry that the people are somewhat frightened, as they have been feeling so secure that they have been found napping when they should have been watching. It is said that a Feejeean is too much of a coward ever to strike any one when facing him. I page 147make it a part of my business, therefore, to watch, that Mr. W. may not get a blow on his back. Retova and Ratanga have been on board all day. Mr. W. does not think that mischief is intended us, but thinks that there may be trouble among themselves; however, he is watching for the safety of all.
20.The Turaga-lavu came on board, and said that the Tavea people, with others, were coming to kill him, and he wished Mr. W. to look out for the appearance of the war canoes, that he might have time to come on board the bark for safety. Our men on shore hear the natives talking about the affair, and understanding the language but imperfectly, think that they are about to be eaten.
21.Ratanga came off to the bark in high glee, stating that a dead map had been brought to them, and they should feast upon his body. I tried to talk with him about it, but he was too much elated to hearken to my speech. The dead man, about ten years ago, had stolen a woman from a town called Nagumu, and fled to the interior with her, where they had lived since that time. The man, supposing that his offence had been forgotten, ventured to revisit his native place. He had no sooner arrived than he was killed, and as the Turagalavu was at Mathuata, the body was sent to him without delay. When natives are killed at any of the "kaise" towns, the bodies are sent to the Turaga-lavu, who devours the choice bits, such as the heart and tongue, and has the rest divided among his people. If he has several bodies, he sends them to different towns, as little tokens of his love for, and remembrance of them. How delightful such affectionate remembrances from their chief! What a pity that any one should interfere with such innocent and simple customs!page 148
22.We learn that the body of the murdered man was yesterday carried to the "beech de mer" house, where it was prepared for the oven. It was then taken away to some place out of sight of the vessel, where it was cooked and eaten. A piece of the disgusting food was offered to our men at the house, who set to and chased the man with a large stick. Another man camo with a piece of the flesh and sat down by the trade house and enjoyed his treat, after which he threw the bones behind some bushes.
23.We are exceedingly amused at the little tales often told us by Retova and Ndury. They will beg something of Mr. W. which he thinks proper to refuse, making them feel a little irritated; when His Majesty will relate some interesting tale which has been told him by Capt. ——. The following is a record of the conversation which took place to-day. The chief, addressing Mr. W., said, "Capt. —— says that you are a 'kaise' in America, that no Turagas talk with you, that you do not own any part of the vessel that you come in, nor any of the riches it contains; but he owns the vessel that was here with all that it contained, besides another vessel in America that is coming out the next time he comes; and he owns two houses filled with riches in America." "Indeed!" said Mr. W., "what a great man he is. He can well afford to give you all you ask of him, if he owns so much property. How is it that you ask me for riches, when you know that I have none? Suppose that you should send a canoe to Bau in charge of one of your 'kaises',—you load the canoe with riches, such as cloth, sail mats, &c, for which you are to receive an equivalent. What would you say if your 'kaise' gave your riches away, and brought you nothing back?" The chief was not prepared for this kind of rea-page 149soning. It is a great insult to call a chief a "kaise," and he supposed that Mr. W. would argue in favor of his own respectability. It has been the custom for many of the trading masters who come to Feejee, to tell the chiefs and natives what great men they are at home. The chief paused a moment, and then said, "Capt.—— says that you belong to a poor little town, where they have nothing but beans to eat." At this we laughed loud, long and merrily. At length I said, "Do you not think that the food is good? Look at Mr. W. and see how large he is (weighing about two hundred and thirty). If you should ever see Capt.——again, do advise him to feed awhile upon the same." The chief paused again, but soon rallied, and resumed, "Capt.——has a great many colors on board his vessel; and he says that none but sons of the king of America are allowed so many colors,—that if you were to bring so many you would be killed. He says, too, that you are a foolish man to bring your wife here, and that she is old and ugly." At this another merry peal rang through the cabin, which interrupted the chief for a moment, when he went on to eay, "Capt.——says that his wife is young and handsome, and rides on a beautiful horse." How should a report be circulated in Feejee so near the truth! I am not young,—I am not handsome,—I never rode a beautiful horse in my life; and I am not wedded to a donkey for a husband. The chief, however, felt better after awhile, and remained on board all night. When it was time to retire, I told the steward to bring the telegraphic signals, the national flag, the signal of the bark, and every other that could be found, into the cabin. This being done, he was farther ordered to unfold and place them, one by one, on the floor of the cabin for the chief's bed. Retova watched the doings with surprise; page 150for his bed was becoming soft and yielding. At length he exclaimed, "A lavu ni lasu." Capt.—, a great liar is Capt.—. When the colors were all placed, I inquired, quietly, if he would like any more. "Sagai sara; a lavu," he replied. No, indeed; enough.