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.

Then there was dead silence, in which you could almost have heard the proverbial pin drop, and an oldish man stepped forward and stood by the mats and baskets, his body wound round with "tapa" till it stuck out many feet from his body. The crowd broke silence with an ear-piercing yell. He then spoke, and was interrupted from time to time with cries of approval or the reverse, and sometimes loud laughter, while the "Buli," sitting by me, every now and then shouted out, or broke into a childish giggle. Then the speaker uttered a lot of short sentences very fast, and every one present said "Venaka" (good) at the end of each sentence. Then the old man unwound the "tapa" around him and threw it on the mats, as did others.

Silence again, and I began to think all was over, but suddenly there was another shrill sort of yell from the crowd, and from the back of our hut, amid a tremendous uproar from all present and the beating of "lalis" (drums), appeared a procession of about fifty warriors in their usual picturesque get-up, all brandishing large war-clubs. They paraded into the square in very stately fashion, singing in their curious and savage discords, and then went through some grand dances, keeping wonderful time with their clubs and bodies, and from time to time giving forth a loud yell which was really thrilling. They next rushed backward and forward brandishing their clubs and killing an imaginary foe, and then clapped their hands together in even time. Then off came the "tapa" from around them, and the heap was made still larger.

Another yell from the crowd. Then silence, followed by more speaking, and every now and then a deep "Ah-h" from all present, which sounded like distant thunder and was most impressive. Then all the people clapped their hands and chanted a few words in low suppressed voices, and the ceremony, lasting between four or five hours, was over. From time to time a man would approach the "Buli" and fall down on all fours and clap his hands before he could speak. I felt at times as if I was watching a comic opera or a ballet, and there were many amusing incidents. I think honours were fairly easy between the big show and myself, as the people kept whispering and looking around at me the whole time. I never passed a hut without causing excitement, and there would be cries of "papalangai" and a mass of faces would appear at the doors. Wherever I went I was followed at a respectful distance by a crowd of girls and children, but if I turned to retrace my steps there was a panic-stricken rush to get out of my way. On one occasion a little child of about two years old yelled with fright when I passed near it. I was much astonished that a white man should make such a stir in any part of Fiji, but it is only so in very out-of-the-way villages such as these. I was exceedingly lucky to witness these ceremonies, as they were the most important ones that had taken place in Fiji for many years, and few of the old white residents had seen their equal. I was all the more lucky, as I never expected to see them when I started from Suva.

The next morning I said "Samoce"[9] (good-bye) to the great "Buli," who, though he was a big chief, was not above accepting with evident glee the few shillings I pressed into his hand, and with Masirewa and two fresh bearers continued my journey in the pouring rain. Once we had to swim across a swift and swollen river, then we went over steep hills, down deep gullies, wading through streams and passing all the time through thick forests. We stopped once to feed on wild pineapples, the pink "kavika." and the golden "wi," but Masirewa was a bad bushman and slipped, and stumbled, swore and grumbled, and many times I had to wait till he came up with me. We followed a deep and beautiful gulch for some distance, wading all the way through a shallow stream which flowed over a natural slanting pavement with a smooth surface, and I found it hard to keep my footing. We got a magnificent view from the top of a high hill of the country to the eastward, with large rivers winding among beautiful undulating wooded country as far as the eye could reach. We passed through but one village, named Naqeldreteki, and from here I saw two very fine waterfalls falling side by side over a steep cliff several hundred feet straight drop into the forest below. It was about here that I came across a most beautiful sort of fungus of a bright scarlet and orange, and in the shape of a perfect star.

I heard what I took to be the gruff bark of a dog, when it suddenly dawned upon me that there could not be any dogs here, as we were far from any village. Upon investigation I discovered that it was a bird that was the author of the noise, and I soon brought it down with a load of dust-shot, and to my great delight it proved to be the golden dove, a bird which I had hunted for in vain in the other islands. It was of a very fine metallic golden-yellow colour, and the feathers being long and narrow, gave it a very odd appearance. 1 could only mutter "venaka, venaka" (good), and in spite of the heavy rain reverently and slowly rolled it up in cotton wool and paper, to the great amusement of my three Fijians. Among the most interesting features of bird life in the Samoan and Fijian Islands were the various members of the dove family, which looked wonderfully brilliant with their metallic greens, and their orange, crimson, purple, yellow, pink, cream and olive green. The latter part of the journey was through bushy country dotted about with many large orchid and fern-laden trees.

We arrived toward dusk at the large village of Serea, on the Wainimala River, which is a branch of the Rewa River, and I put up in the large hut of the "Buli." I began to feel like an ordinary mortal again, as the people here did not exhibit any great surprise on seeing me, no doubt because, being in the Rewa district, they see a few Europeans from time to time. After a change into dry clothes and a supper off one of the large pigeons I had shot EN ROUTE, I had a large and interested crowd to watch me skin my dove, and there were roars of laughter during the process, especially when Masirewa told them it would be made to look like a real bird with glass eyes. Masirewa at one time spoke sharply to the "Buli" who, I thought, looked a bit annoyed, so I asked Masirewa what he said. "Oh," he said airily, "I told him to keep his pig of a child away from the white chief." Masirewa, was a character, and evidently had no respect for chiefs and princes, etc., as he treated all the "Bulis" as his equals, which was very different from the generally cringing attitude of the Fijians to their chiefs. Even the high and mighty "Buli" of Nabukaluku[10] seemed to like his cheek. Masirewa liked to show off his English, though no one understood a word, and his favourite way of addressing them when he was annoyed was "You all black devil pigs." Whilst I was skinning my dove, the people brought in a horrible-looking carved figure with staring eyes. It was about five feet high, and they waxed very merry, whenever I looked up at it from my skinning.

I left early next morning in the pouring rain, and found as I passed through Serea that it was quite a town. Quite a large crowd escorted me down the steep banks of the river (Wainimala), and we were soon spinning down stream in a large canoe. We soon joined another river which, together with the Wainimala, formed the Rewa, the largest river in Fiji. The scenery was both varied and picturesque, and once I got the canoe paddled up a little shady creek where there was a very beautiful waterfall, and where I was glad to stretch my legs for a few minutes after being cramped up in the canoe. There were many pretty and quaint villages on the banks, and the people often rushed out of their huts to see us pass. Ducks were plentiful, and I got a fair bag and used up my remaining cartridges, and the rest of the way 1 had to be content with pointing my gun at them, which was very tantalizing. We arrived about three p.m. at the village of Viria, and I stayed with the "Buli" in his hut almost overhanging the river. In the evening I took a stroll with the "Buli" round the village, and then we sat on a log by the river chatting, with Masirewa acting as interpreter. We continued our journey the next morning, and late in the day we passed large fields of sugarcane. We had returned to civilization once more, and I could not help feeling a pang of regret. We arrived at the village of Navuso about four p.m., and I was the guest of Andi (princess) Cakobau (pronounced Thakombau) and her husband, Ratu (prince) Beni Tanoa. Princess Cakobau is the highest lady of rank in Fiji, and belongs to the royal family. She is very stately and ladylike, and in her younger days was very beautiful. She does not know any English, but she wrote her autograph for me in my note-book to paste on her photograph, as she writes a very good hand. Her husband is also one of the highest chiefs in Fiji, and speaks good English. They proved most hospitable, and presented me with some Fijian fans when I left the next morning, and the Princess gave me a buttonhole of flowers out of her garden. Dick Seddon, the Premier of New Zealand, had once visited them, and I noticed his portrait that he had given them fastened to a post in their hut. I left Navuso by steam launch which called at the large sugar-mills a little lower down, and reached Suva that afternoon, feeling very fit after one of the most enjoyable and interesting expeditions that I ever made.

My Life Among Filipinos and Negritos and a Journey in Search of Bearded Women.