CHAPTER 2. My Further Adventures with Ratu Lala.

Fijian Huts - Abundance of Game and Fish - Methods of Capture - A Fijian Practical Joke - Fijian Feasts - Fun after Dinner - A Court Jester in Fiji - Drinking, Dress, and Methods of Mourning - A Bride's Ringlets - Expedition to Vuna - Tersi and Moe Journey to School - Their Love of Sweets - Rough Reception of Visitors to Vuna - Wonderful Fish Caught - Exhibition of Surf-board Swimming by Women - Impressive Midnight Row back to Taviuni - A Fijian Farewell.

In comparison with Samoan huts, the Fijian huts were very comfortable, though they are not half as airy, Samoan huts being very open; but in most of the Fijian huts I visited the only openings were the doors, and, as can be imagined, the interior was rather dark and gloomy. In shape they greatly resembled a haystack, the sides being composed of grass or bunches of leaves, more often the latter. They are generally built on a platform of rocks, with doors upon two or more sides, according to the size of the hut; and a sloping sort of rough plank with notches on it leads from the ground to each door. In the interior, the sides of the walls are often beautifully lined with the stems of reeds, fashioned very neatly, and in some cases in really artistic patterns, and tied together with thin ropes of coconut fibre, dyed various colours, and often ornamented with rows of large white cowry shells. The floor of these huts is much like a springy mattress, being packed to a depth of several feet with palm and other leaves, and on the top are strips of native mats permanently fastened, whereas in Samoa the floor is made up of small pieces of brittle white coral, over which are loose mats, which can be moved at will. In Fijian huts there is always a sort of raised platform at one end of the hut, on which are piles of the best native mats, and, being the guest, I generally got this to myself. The roof inside is very finely thatched, the beams being of "Niu sau," a native palm,[5] the cross-pieces and main supports being enormous bits of hard wood. The smaller supports of the sides are generally the trunks of tree-ferns. The doors in most of the huts are a strip of native matting or fantastically-painted "tapa" cloth, fastened to two posts a few feet inside the hut. In some huts there are small openings in the walls which answer for windows. The hearth was generally near one of the doors in the centre of the hut, and fire was produced by rubbing a piece of hard wood on a larger piece of soft wood, and working it up and down in a groove till a spark was produced. I have myself successfully employed this method when out shooting green pigeon ("rupe") in the mountains.

With regard to food, I at first fared very well, although we had our meals at all hours, as Ratu Lala was very irregular in his habits. Our chief food was turtle. We had it so often that I soon loathed the taste of it. The turtles, when brought up from the sea were laid on their backs under a tree close by the house, and there the poor brutes were left for days together. Ratu Lala's men often brought in a live wild pig, which they captured with the aid of their dogs. At other times they would run them down and spear them; this was hard and exciting work, as I myself found on several occasions that I went pig hunting. One of the most remarkable things that I saw in Taviuni, from a sporting point of view, was the heart of a wild pig, which, when killed, was found to have lived with the broken point of a wooden spear fully four inches in length buried in the very centre of its heart. It had evidently lived for many years afterwards, and a curious kind of growth had formed round the point.

As for other game, every time I went out in the mountain woods I had splendid sport with the wild chickens or jungle fowl and pigeons, and I would often return with my guide bearing a long pole loaded at both ends with the birds I had shot. The pigeons, which were large birds, settled on the tops of the tallest trees and made a very peculiar kind of growling noise. Many years ago (as Ratu Lala told me) the natives of Taviuni had been in the habit of catching great quantities of pigeons by means of large nets suspended from the trees. The chickens would generally get up like a pheasant, and it was good sport taking a snap shot at an old cock bird on the wing. It was curious to hear them crowing away in the depths of the forest, and at first I kept imagining that I was close to some village. I also obtained some good duck shooting on a lake high up in the mountains, and Ratu Lala described to me what must. be a species of apteryx, or wingless bird (like the Kiwi of New Zealand), which he said was found in the mountains and lived in holes in the ground, but I never came across it, though I had many a weary search. Ratu Lala also assured me that the wild chickens were indigenous in Fiji, and were not descended. from the domestic fowl. We had plenty of fish, both salt and fresh water, and the mountain streams were full of large fish, which Ratu Lala, who is a keen fisherman, caught with the fly or grasshoppers. He sometimes caught over one hundred in a day, some of them over three pounds in weight. The streams were also full of huge eels and large prawns, and a kind of oyster was abundant in the sea, so what with wild pig, wild chickens, pigeons, turtles, oysters, prawns, crabs, eels, and fish of infinite variety, we fared exceedingly well. Oranges, lemons, limes, large shaddocks, "kavika," and other wild fruits were plentiful everywhere.

During my stay here in August and September the climate was delightful, and it was remarkably cool for the tropics. I often accompanied Ratu Lala on his fishing excursions, and he would often recount to me many of his escapades. On one occasion he told me that he had put a fish-hook through the lip of his jester, a little old man of the name of Stivani, and played him about with rod and reel like a fish, and had made him swim about in the water until he had tired him out, and then he added, "I landed the finest fish I ever got."

I added a good many interesting birds to my collection during my stay here, among them a dove of intense orange colour, one of the most striking birds I have ever seen. Plant life here was exceedingly beautiful and interesting, especially high up in the mountains, palms, PANDANUS, cycads, crotons, ACALYPHAS, LORANTHS, aroids, FREYCINETIAS, ferns and orchids being strongly represented, and among the latter may be mentioned a fine orange DENDROBIUM and a pink CALANTHE. I found in flower a celebrated creeper, which Ratu Lala had told me to look out for. It had very showy red, white and blue flowers, and in the old days Ratu Lala told me that the Tongan people would come over in their canoes all the way from the Tonga Islands, nearly four hundred miles away, simply to get this flower for their dances, and when gathered, it would last a very long time without fading. I tried to learn the traditions about this flower, but Ratu Lala either did not know of any or else he was not anxious to tell me about them.

The coastal natives, like most South Sea Islanders, were splendid swimmers, but, so far as I was concerned, it was dangerous work bathing in the sea here, as man-eating sharks were very numerous, and during my stay I saw a Fijian carried ashore with both his legs bitten clean off.

Usually, when out on expeditions, we occupied the "Buli's" hut and lived on the fat of the land. At meal times quite a procession of men and women, glistening all over with coconut oil, would enter our hut bearing all sorts of native food, including fish in great variety, yams, octopus, turtle, sucking-pig, chicken, prawns, etc. They were brought in on banana and other large leaves, and we, of course, ate them with our fingers. Good as the food undoubtedly was, I was always glad when the meal was over, as it is very far from comfortable to sit with your legs doubled up under you. Afterwards I could hardly stand up straight, owing to cramp. I found it especially trying in Samoa, where one had to sit in this manner for hours during feasts, "kava"-drinking and "siva-sivas" (dances). Sometimes a glistening damsel would fan us with a large fan made out of the leaf of a fan palm,[6] which at times got rather in the way. I never got waited on better in my life. Directly I had finished one course a dozen girls were ready to hand me other dishes, and when I wanted a drink a girl immediately handed me a cup made out of the half-shell of a coconut filled with a kind of soup. We generally had an audience of fully fifty people, and when we had finished eating, a wooden bowl of water was handed to us in which to wash our hands. Ratu Lala would generally hand the bowl to me first, and I would wash my hands in silence, but directly he started to wash his hands, everyone present, including chiefs and attendants, would start clapping their hands in even time, then one man would utter a deep and prolonged "Ah-h," when the crowd would all shout together what sounded like "Ai on dwah," followed by more even clapping. I never learned what the words meant. In this respect Ratu Lala was most curiously secretive, and always evaded questions. Whenever he took a drink, a clapping of hands made me aware of the fact.

One day, when they had chanted after a meal as usual, Ratu Lala turned around to me and mimicked the way his jester or clown repeated it, and there was a general laugh. This jester, whose name was Stivani, was a little old man who was also jester to Ratu Lala's father. Ratu Lala had given him the nickname of "Punch," and made him do all sorts of ridiculous things - sing and dance and go through various contortions dressed up in bunches of "croton" leaves. He kept us all much amused, and was the life and soul of our party, but at times I caught the old fellow looking very weary and sad, as if he was tired of his office as jester.

The "angona" root (PIPER METHYSTICUM) is first generally pounded, but is sometimes grated, and more rarely chewed by young maidens. It is then mixed with water in a large wooden bowl, and the remains of the root drawn out with a bunch of fibrous material. It is then ready for drinking.

On gala and festal occasions the Fijians were wonderfully and fantastically dressed up, their huge heads of hair thickly covered with a red or yellow powder, and they themselves wearing large skirts or "sulus" of coloured "tapa" and PANDANUS ribbons and necklaces of coloured seeds, shells, and pigs'-tusks. In out-of-the-way parts the "sulus" are still made of "tapa" cloth, and the women sometimes wear small fibrous aprons. They also often wear wild pigs'-tusks round their necks.

I noticed that many Fijian women were tattooed on the hands and arms, and at each corner of the mouth (a deep blue colour). Both men and women gave themselves severe wounds about the body, generally as a sign of grief on the death of some near relative. I once noticed a young girl of sixteen or seventeen with a very bad unhealed wound below one of her breasts, which was self-inflicted. Her father, a chief, had died only a short time previously. They often also cut off the little finger for similar reasons. Like the Samoans, the Fijians often cover their hair with white lime, and the effect of the sun bleaches the hair and changes it from black to a light gold or brown colour.

A marriageable young lady in Fiji would generally have a great quantity of long braided ringlets hanging down on ONE side of her head. This looked odd, considering that the rest of her hair was erect or frizzly. It was a great insult to have these ringlets cut. I heard of it once being done by a white planter, and great trouble and fighting were the result.

I accompanied Ratu Lala on several expeditions to various parts of the island, and we also visited several smaller islands within his dominions. On these occasions we always took possession of the "Buli's," or village chief's, hut, turning him out, and feeding on all the delicacies the village could produce. After we had practically eaten them out of house and home we would move on and take possession of another village. The inhabitants did not seem to mind this; in fact, they seemed to enjoy our visit, as it was an excuse for big feasts, "meke-mekes" (dances) and "angona" drinking.

One of the most enjoyable expeditions that I made with Ratu Lala was to Vuna, about twenty miles away to the south. A small steamer, the KIA ORA, which made periodical visits to the island to collect the government taxes in copra, arrived one day in the bay. Ratu Lala thought this would be a good opportunity for us to make a fishing expedition to Vuna. We went on board the steamer while our large boat was towed behind.

At the same time Ratu Lala's two little children, Moe and Tersi, started off, in charge of Ratu Lala's Tongan wife and other women, to be educated in Suva. It was the first time they had ever left home, but I agreed with Ratu Lala, that it was time they went, as they did not know a word of English, and, for the matter of that, neither did his Tongan wife. When we all arrived at the beach to get into the boat, we found a large crowd, chiefly women, sitting on the ground, and as Ratu Lala walked past them, they greeted him with a kind of salutation which they chanted as with one voice. I several times asked him what it meant, but he always evaded the question somehow, and seemed too modest to tell me. I came to the conclusion that it ran something like "Hail, most noble prince, live for ever." The next minute all the women started to howl as if at a given signal, and they looked pictures of misery. Several of them waded out into the sea and embraced little Tersi and Moe. This soon set the children crying as well, so that I almost began to fear that the combined tears would sink our boat. Their old grandmother waded out into the sea up to her neck and stayed there, and we could hear her howling long after we had got on board the steamer. When we got into Ratu Lala's boat at Vuna there was another very affecting farewell. Some months later when I returned to Suva, I asked a young chief, Ratu Pope, to show me where they were at school, and I found them at a small kindergarten for the children of the Europeans in Suva.

They seemed quite glad to see their old friend again, and still more so when I promised to bring them some lollies (the term used for sweets in Australasia) that afternoon.

When I returned I witnessed a pretty and interesting sight The two little children were standing out in the school yard while several Fijian men and women of noble families who had been paying the little prince and princess a visit, were just taking their leave. It was a curious sight to see these old people go in turn up to these two little mites and go down on their knees and kiss their little hands reverently in silence. All this homage seemed to bore the small high-born ones, and hardly was the ceremony over when they caught sight of me, and, rushing toward me with cries of "Misi Walk siandra, lollies," they nearly knocked over some of their visitors, who no doubt were greatly scandalized at such undignified behaviour.

To return to our visit to Vuna. Sometime previously, Ratu Lala had warned me that whenever he landed at this place with a visitor it was an old custom for the women to catch the visitor and throw him into the sea from the top of a small rocky cliff. To this I raised serious objections, but arrayed myself in very old thin clothes ready for the fray. However, upon landing, very much on the alert, I was agreeably surprised to find that the women left me alone. Yet in part Ratu Lala's story was true, as he assured me that quite recently he had been forced to put a stop to the custom, as one of his last visitors was a European of much importance who was greatly incensed at such treatment, and complained to the government, who told Ratu Lala that the custom must end.

We came to fish, and fish we did, just off the coral reef, but it would take space to describe even one-half of the curious and beautiful fish we caught. When I took the lead in the number of fish caught, Ratu Lala seemed greatly annoyed, and I was not sorry to let him get ahead, when he was soon in a good temper again. The Fijians generally fished with nets and a many-pronged fish-spear, with which they are very expert, and I saw them do wonderful work with them. They also used long wicker-work traps. Ratu Lala, on the contrary, being half-civilized, used an English rod and reel or line like a white man. Ratu Lala told the women here to give an exhibition of surf-board swimming for my benefit. As they rode into shore on the crest of a wave I many times expected to see them dashed against the rocks which fringed the coast. I had seen the natives in Hawaii perform seventeen years before, but it was tame in comparison to the wonderful performances of these Fijian women on this dangerous rock-girt coast.

A great many "meke-mekes" or dances were got up in our honour, but Ratu Lala detested them, and rarely attended, but preferred staying in the "Buli's" hut, lying on the floor smoking or sleeping. He, however, always begged me to attend them in his place. After a time I found the performances rather wearisome, and not nearly so varied and interesting as the "siva-sivas" in Samoa. There the girls sang in soft, pleasing voices, the words being full of liquid vowels. Here in Fiji the singing was harsh and discordant, as k's and r's abound in the language.

When it came to the ceremony of drinking "angona" I worthily did my part of the performance. Drinking "angona" is a taste not easily acquired, but when one has once got used to it, there is not a more refreshing drink, and I speak from long experience. In Fiji I was often presented with a large "angona" root, but it would be considered exceedingly bad form did you not return it to the giver and tell him to have it at once prepared for himself and his people, you yourself, of course, taking part in the drinking ceremony.

After a stay of several days at Vuna we rowed back by night. It was a perfect, calm night, and with the full moon, was almost as bright as day. We rowed all the way close to shore, passing under the gloomy shade of dense forests or by countless coconuts, the only sound besides the plash of our oars being the cry of water fowl or some night bird, while the light beetles[7] flashed their green lights against the dark background of the forest, looking much like falling stars. There are certain moments in life that have made a lasting impression on me, and that moonlight row was one of them.

We made several expeditions together that were every bit as interesting and enjoyable as the one to Vuna. On one occasion we visited the north part of the island, as well as Ngamia and other islands. We rowed nearly all the way close into shore and saw plenty of turtles. Ratu Lala started to troll with live bait, as we had come across several women fishing with nets, and on our approach they chanted out a greeting to Ratu Lala, and in return he helped himself to a lot of their fish. Ratu Lala had fully a dozen large fish after his bait, and some he hooked for a few seconds. This only made him the keener, and after leaving the calm Somo-somo Channel, although we encountered a very rough sea, he had the sail hoisted and we travelled at a great rate in and out amongst a lot of rocky islets, shipping any amount of water which soaked us and our baggage, and half-filled the boat. I expected we should be swamped every moment, and from the frightened looks of our crew I knew they expected the same thing. Hence, I was not reassured when Ratu Lala remarked that it was in just such a sea, and in the same place, that he lost his schooner (which the government had given him) and that on that occasion he and all his crew remained in the water for five hours. When I explained that I had no wish to be upset, he said, "I suppose you can swim?" I said "Yes! but I do not wish to lose my gun and other property," to which he replied, "Well, I lost more than that when my schooner went down." I was therefore not a little relieved when he had the sail lowered. He explained that he never liked being beaten, even if he drowned us all, and *all this was because I had bet him one shilling (by his own desire) that he would not get a fish. I mention this to show what foolhardy things he was capable of doing, never thinking of the consequences. I could mention many such cases. We at length came to some shallows between a lot of small and most picturesque islands, and as it was low tide, and we could not pass, we, viz., Ratu Lala, myself, and the other chiefs, got out to walk, leaving the boat and crew to come on when they could (they arrived at 4 a.m. the next morning). I was glad to get an opportunity to dry myself, and we started off at a good rate for our destination, but unfortunately we came to a spot where grew a small weed that the Fijians consider a great luxury when cooked, and Ratu Lala and his people stayed here fully two hours, till they had picked all the weed in sight, in spite of the heavy rain. It was amusing to see all these high-caste Fijians and old Stivani, the jester, running to and fro with yells of delight like so many children, all on account of a weed which I myself afterwards failed to enjoy.

On the way I shot three duck, and later, when it was too dark to shoot, we could see the beach between the mangroves and the sea was almost black with them. On the other side of us there was a regular chorus of wild chickens crowing and pigeons "howling" in the woods. After four hours' hard walking we arrived at our destination, Qelani, long after dark, dead tired, and soaked to the skin. We put up at the "Buli's" hut; he was a cousin of Ratu Lala, and was a hideous and sulky-looking fellow, but his hut was one of the finest and neatest I had seen in Fiji. As I literally had not had a mouthful of food since the previous evening, I was glad when about a dozen women entered bearing banana leaves covered with yams, fish, octopus, chickens, etc. We stayed here some days, but we had miserable, wet weather. There was excellent fishing in the stream here, and Ratu Lala especially had very good sport. Many of the fish averaged one-and-a-half pounds and more, but he told me that they often run to five pounds. There were three kinds, and all excellent eating. The commonest was a beautiful silvery fish, and another was of a golden colour with bright red stripes. During the latter part of my stay in Qelani I suffered from a slight attack of dysentery, and it was dull lying ill on the floor of a native hut with no one to talk to, as Ratu Lala always tried to avoid speaking English whenever possible, and would often only reply in monosyllables. It would often seem as if he were annoyed at something, but I found that he did this to all white men, and meant nothing by it. I soon cured myself by eating a lot of raw leaves of some bush plant, also a great quantity of native arrow-root.

In spite of my sickness I managed to shoot a fair number of duck, wild chickens and pigeon, and also a few birds for my collection. One day, in spite of the rain, I was rowed over to Ngamia, which is a wonderfully beautiful island, about three hours from Qelani. It was thickly covered with a fine cycad which grows amongst the rocks overhanging the sea. The natives call it "loga-loga,"[8] and eat the fruit. I landed and botanized a bit, finding some new and interesting plants, and then rowed on a few miles to call on the only white man on the island, an Australian named Mitchell, who has a large coconut property. He was astonished and pleased to see me, and introduced me to his Fijian wife, and his two pretty half-caste daughters soon got together a good breakfast for me. He seemed glad to see a white man again, and nearly talked my head off , and was full of anecdotes about the fighting they had with the Fijian cannibals in 1876. He told me that in the last great hurricane his house was blown over on to a small island which he owned nearly half-a-mile away.

To describe all the incidents of my long visit would fill a book, but I think I have written enough to show what a very interesting time I spent with this Fijian Prince. It was without doubt one of the most curious experiences of all my travels in different parts of the globe. With all his faults, Ratu Lala was a good fellow, and he certainly was a sportsman. All Fiji knows his failings, otherwise I should not have alluded to them. The old blood of the Fijians ran in his veins, his ancestors were kings who had been used to command and to tyrannise; therefore he could never see any harm in the many stories of his escapades that he told me, and he seemed much offended and surprised when I advised him not to talk about them to other Europeans. When I started off to Levuka I was greatly surprised to see all the women of Somo-somo sitting on the beach waiting to see me depart, and as I walked down alone they greeted me in much the same way as they often greeted Ratu Lala, in a kind of chanting shout that sounded most effective. It was a Fijian farewell!

Among Ex-Cannibals in Fiji.