CHAPTER 4. Mock War-Scene at the Chief's House.
War Ceremonies and Dances at Natondre Described - The Great Chief of Nambukaluku - The Dances continued - A Fijian Feast - A Native Orator - The Ceremonies concluded - The Journey continued - A Wonderful Fungus - The bark of the rare Golden Dove leads to its CaptureReturn to more Civilised Parts - The Author as Guest of a high Fijian Prince and Princess - A SOUVENIR of Seddon - Arrival at Suva.
Masirewa soon arrived and I learned that there were some very important ceremonies in which one tribe was giving presents to another tribe, in settlement of some disputes that had been carried on since the old cannibal fighting days, and as I passed into the "Buli's" hut I noticed that the dancers were unwinding all the "tapa" cloth from around their bodies and throwing it on the piles of mats. I immediately went behind a "tapa" screen where the "Buli" slept, and began to get into dry clothes. This evidently made some of the crowd in the hut angry, as they thought I was lacking in respect to the "Buli" by changing in his private quarters, as in Fiji the very high chiefs. are looked upon as sacred. One fellow kept shouting at me in a very impudent way, so when Masirewa came in, I told him about it, and he lectured the crowd and told them that I was a very big chief; this seemed to frighten them. Later on, I found that Masirewa had complained, and the impudent man was brought up before one of the chiefs, who gave him a lecture before myself and a large crowd in the hut I put up in. Masirewa translated for me, how the chief said: "The white man, who is a big chief, has done us honour in visiting our town," and to the man: "You will give us a bad name in all Fiji for our rudeness to the stranger that comes to us." I learned that the man was going to be punished, but as he looked very repentant I said that I did not wish him punished, so he was allowed to sneak out of the hut, the people kicking him and saying angry words as he passed.
I supped with the great "Buli" that evening, and we fared sumptuously on my duck, river oysters and all sorts of native dishes. We were waited upon by two warriors in full war paint, and the "Buli's" young and pretty wife, shining with coconut oil all over her body, sat by me and fanned me. The "Buli" was an aristocratic-looking old fellow with a large nose and a very haughty look. He is a very important chief, but knew no English, and we carried on our conversation through the medium of Masirewa. He spoke in a kind of mumble, with a very thick voice. Once when he had been mumbling worse than usual there was a kind of restrained titter from someone in the crowd at the back. The "Buli" heard it, and slowly turning his head he transfixed the crowd with his piercing gaze for many seconds amid a dead silence. I wondered afterwards if anything ever happened to the unfortunate one who was so easily amused. I learned that besides having an impediment in his speech, the "Buli" was also paralyzed in one leg. I Put up in a different hut, the "Buli" apologizing for his hut being crowded with the influx of visitors.
I watched a "meke-meke" or native dance that evening in which about a dozen girls covered with oil took part. There was a sound of revelry the rest of the night, for there was feasting and dancing in several huts, and discordant chanting and the hum of many voices followed me into my dreams. The next morning I went out shooting pigeons in some thick pathless woods about two miles away, and I also shot some flying foxes which I gave to my companions, as the Fijians consider them a great delicacy, as do many Europeans. These woods were full of pineapples, which in places barred our way. Many of them were ripe, and I found they possessed a fine flavour.
In the afternoon the ceremonies were continued, the "Buli" sending for me to sit by him in the doorway of his hut to watch them. First about forty women with "tapa" cloth wound around their bodies went through various evolutions, swaying their arms about and chanting in their usual discordant manner. They then unwound the "tapa" from their bodies and threw it in a heap on the ground, following this by more manoeuvres. About twenty men came into the square, some with their faces blacked and their bodies stained red with some pigment, and wearing only aprons of coconut strings, with bracelets of leaves on their arms and carved pigs' tusks hanging from their necks. They went through some splendid dancing, falling down on the ground and bouncing up again like india-rubber balls. They sang, or rather chanted, all the time, and so did a kind of chorus of men who beat on wood and bamboo, while the dancers danced round them in circles, and squares, and then bent backward, nearly touching the ground with their heads. As they danced they kept splendid time, with their arms, legs and heads.
Then amid shrill yells and cries from the crowd, another procession approached from the far end of the village in single file. First came several men with spears, which they shook on the ground every now and then, shaking their bodies at the same time in a fierce manner. Behind them in single file came a lot of women, each bearing a. rolled-up mat, which they threw down in a heap. These mats are made from the dried "pandanus" leaf. Then several men appeared bearing enormous Fiji baskets full of large rolls of food wrapped up in leaves, also smaller baskets made of the fresh leaves of the crimson DRACAENA, also full of food. From the enormous number of baskets, the food supply was enough to feed a large multitude. They were all put down together by the mats.