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The Fijians: A Study of the Decay of Custom

Chapter III — the age of history

page 21

Chapter III
the age of history

Of the centuries that lie between the age of myth and the age of history there are but the feeblest echoes. From the ethnology of the people of to-day we may infer that the stream of immigration swept down the northern coast of Vitilevu, and, radiating from Rakiraki, crossed the mountain range, and wandered down the two rivers, Rewa and Singatoka, until it reached the southern coast and peopled Serua and Namosi. Another stream must have crossed the strait to Mbua on Vanualevu, and spread eastward. Melanesian blood can be traced even in the Lau sub-group, but before any permanent settlement was made there Polynesian castaways, driven westward by the prevailing wind, must have begun to arrive. At the dawn of history, about 1750, Vitilevu was almost purely Melanesian, but the Lau and Lomaiviti islands, Taveuni, Vanualevu, and Kandavu were peopled by half-breeds between Melanesian and Polynesian, the Polynesian strain waxing stronger with every mile from west to east.

The peopling of the waste lands was accelerated by war. There is scarcely a tribe that does not claim to have migrated from another place, sometimes form parts relatively remote from its present locality, and if it were worth the labour, the history of the migrations of each of them might even now be compiled, partly from its own traditions, partly from the tie of tauvu (common Ancestor-gods) with other tribes distantly related to it. But, as it would be merely the history of a few fugitives from the sack of a village, driven out to find asylum in a waste valley, and founding in it a joint family which page 22lived to grow into a tribe, such an inquiry would be barren and profitless.

The traditions of Tongan immigration are too numerous to be set down here. From 1790, if not earlier, an expedition to Fiji was an annual occurrence. The most important was the arrival of the Tui Tonga's canoe in Taveuni, from which sprang the chief family of the Tui Thakau, and the stranding of the two little old men who instituted the Nanga. Cult, which recalls the rites of the Polynesian Malae. The chiefs of the Nandronga and Viwa (Yasawa) also trace their descent from Tongan castaways, and are very proud of the connection.

The fact that traditionary history is so meagre is in itself an indication that there were no powerful confederations before the nineteenth century. The related tribes of Verata and Rewa in the south and Thakaundrove in the north-east seem to have been the only powers that wielded influence beyond their borders, but their intercourse with other tribes must have been very restricted. In islands where male castaways, having "salt water in their eyes," were killed and eaten, there was little spirit for discovery and adventure.

The imprint of the Tongan immigration is to be seen, not only in the blood of the tribes with whom the immigrants mingled, but in their mythology, for whereas the religion of the inland tribes is pure ancestor-worship, that of the coast tribes is overlaid with a mythology that is evidently derived from Polynesian sources.

Early in the eighteenth century there seems to have been an upheaval among the inland tribes of Vitilevu which sent forth a stream of emigrants to the coast, whether as fugitives, or as voluntary exiles in search of new lands, there is no tradition to show. This event was destined to have a tremendous influence upon the political destiny of the islands, for among the emigrants was the tribe of Mbau, sturdy mountain warriors, still bearing in their physiognomy and dark complexion the proof of their Melanesian blood and their late arrival in the sphere of Polynesian influence. This tribe, humble as it was in its origin, was destined, partly through page break
Descendants of Tongan Immigrants performing the Tongan dance Lakalaka.

Descendants of Tongan Immigrants performing the Tongan dance Lakalaka.

page 23chance, partly by its genius for intrigue, to win its way within a century to the foremost position in the group.

Rewa, descended from the earliest settlers on the delta of the great river, could alone boast an ancient aristocracy and a complex social organization which entitled it to be called a confederation. The rest of the group was split up into tribes, little larger than joint families, which treated all strangers as enemies, and held their lands at the point of the spear.

The Mbau people settled upon the coast about a mile from the islet now called by their name, but then known as Mbutoni, which is connected with the mainland by a coral reef fordable at high water. Upon the islet lived two tribes of fishermen named Levuka and Mbutoni, who were supplied with vegetable food by the inland chiefs in return for fish. Being subject to the Mbauans, they supplied them with a navy, for a tribe lately descended from the mountains was distrustful of the sea.

Wedged in between Verata on the north and Rewa on the south, Mbau was continually at war with one or the other. Her pressing need was men, "the men of Verata and Rewa" (to quote from the meke that records her history), and as she held her own, those who had grievances against her powerful neighbours, broken tribes fleeing from their conquerors in the hills, flocked to her for protection, and her needs were satisfied. But her territory did not exceed ten square miles.

About 1760, Nailatikau being Vunivalu, or secular king, the chiefs moved from the mainland to the islet, which was known thenceforward as Mbau. The fishermen had for some time been waxing insubordinate, and their offences culminated in the eating of an enormous fish which ought, by custom, to have been presented to their chiefs. They were expelled from the island. The Levuka tribe fled to Lakemba, still retaining their hereditary right to instal each successive Vunivalu in his office. The Mbau chiefs scarped away the face of the island so as to form the embankment upon which the present town is built. Nailatikau died about 1770, and was succeeded by his second son Mbanuve. During his reign page 24the fishermen of Lasakau from the island of Mbenka, and of Soso, from the island of Kandavu, were employed in reclaiming more land from the sea, and were allowed to settle on the island. The first intermarriage with the Rewa chiefs dates from this period. The story goes that a Rewa canoe, being hailed as she passed Mbau, replied that she was bound for Verata for a princess to mate with the king of Rewa; that the crew was induced to take a Mbau lady in her stead, and that a Rewa princess was sent to Mbau in exchange. Thus the Mbau chiefs passed from being parvenus to a place in the aristocracy of their adopted country.

As the date of the first arrival of Europeans, which was to have so profound an influence upon the natives, is in dispute, it may be well to mention the recorded voyages chronologically.

Tasman, who sighted Vanua-mbalavu in 1643, did not communicate with the natives. Cook, who had had information about the group from Fijians settled in the Friendly Islands, discovered the outlying island of Vatoa, the southeasterly limit of the group, and called it Turtle Island, but bore away to the north-east.

In April 1791, a few days after the famous Mutiny of the Bounty, Bligh passed through the centre of the group in an open boat. His urgent need of provisions would doubtless have impelled him to communicate with the shore had he possessed firearms, and had he not just lost his quartermaster in a treacherous attack made, upon him by the natives of Tofua. As it was he was chased along the northern coast of Vitilevu by two sailing canoes, which only left him when he cleared the group by Round Island, the most northerly of the Yasawa sub-group.

The first Europeans who had intercourse with the natives, so far as we know, were the prize crew of the little schooner built of native timber in Tahiti by the Bounty mutineers in 1791. Having shut up the mutineers in "Pandora's Box" (as the little roundhouse on the quarter-deck of H.M.S. Pandora was called) Captain Edwards victualled and manned the mutineer's schooner as his tender, but he parted company page 25with her in a storm off Samoa an hour before a fresh supply of stores and water was to be put on board of her. The island of Tofua had been the appointed rendezvous in such a contingency, and the schooner duly made the island, but, having waited in vain for the Pandora, her commander, now desperate for want of provisions, made sail to the north-west, and cast anchor at an island which was almost certainly Matuku in the Lau sub-group of Fiji. Here she lay for six weeks with boarding nettings up, but the natives appear to have treated their strange visitors with friendliness and hospitality. After terrible sufferings, from which the midshipman lost his reason, and numerous encounters with the natives of the Solomons or the New Hebrides, this handful of brave seamen made the Great Barrier Reef opposite Torres Straits, which, for want of time to search for a passage, they boldly rode at in a spring tide, and jumped, escaping without injury to their little vessel. Mistaken for pirates by the Dutch authorities, they were clapped into prison, where Captain Edwards found them after himself suffering shipwreck on the Barrier Reef.

Unfortunately neither Oliver, the gunner in command of the schooner, nor any of his shipmates published the story of these adventures, and the Record Office has been searched in vain for the log which they must have handed over to Edwards; otherwise we might have had a very valuable description of the Fijians a century ago. One or other of the native poems describing the first arrival of European ships may refer to this voyage.

This visit, or perhaps an unrecorded one about the same year, 1791, had a sinister influence upon Fijian history, for the evidence which will be set forth in a later chapter points to it as the cause of the terrible epidemic of Lila (wasting sickness) which decimated the group.

In the following year, 1792, Captain Bligh ran along the coast of Taveuni in H.M.S. Providence, and was followed by canoes.

On April 26, 1794, the "snow" Arthur touched at the Yasawa Islands, and was attacked by the natives.

In 1802, or 1803, a vessel was wrecked on the Mbukatatanoa page 26Reef, subsequently named Argo, from a vessel of that name which was cast away upon it. A number of Europeans wearing red caps over their ears and smoking pipes were rescued by the natives of Oneata, and gunpowder seems to have come into the hands of the natives, who used the powder for blackening their faces and hair, and the ramrods of the muskets as monke (hair ornaments).1 The tradition says that some of the white men were killed and some taken to Lakemba by the Levuka tribe, the same that had been expelled from Mbau, who happened to be at Oneata at the time. We do not know what became of these survivors. Perhaps they were slain as a propitiatory sacrifice to the god of pestilence, for from the traditions of Mbau we learn that Mbanuve, the son of Nduru-thoko (Nailatikau), the Vunivalu of the Mbau, died of a new disease introduced by a foreign vessel, and was surnamed Mbale-i-vavalangi (He who died of a foreign disease) in accordance with the custom of calling dead chiefs after the place where they were slain, as Mbale-i-kasavu (He who fell at Kasavu, etc.). On his death the Levuka people came from Lakemba to instal his successor, Na-uli-vou (New steer-oar), and they brought with them a canvas tent, which was the first article of European manufacture which the Mbau people had seen. We may fix this date with some confidence. On the day of the installation there was a total eclipse of the sun, the heavens were like blood, the stars came out, and the birds went to roost at mid-day. While the dysentery was sweeping through the islands the people were startled by the appearance of a great hairy star with three tails. Now, the only total eclipse of the sun visible in Fiji about this period was that which occurred at 9.20 a.m. on February 21, 1803. The total phase lasted 42 minutes, or within one minute of the longest possible total phase. The comet is not so easy to identify. It may have been Encke's comet of November 21, 1805, or the famous comet of 1807.2

1 One of them, having thus smeared his head, stooped to the fire to dry it; the powder flared up, and he leapt forth into the rara singed bare to the scalp.

2 The native poems of the time refer also to a hailstorm, which destroyed the plantations, a hurricane which caused a tidal wave and a great flood, and raised the alluvial flats of the Rewa delta several feet, a tradition which has support in the fact that a network of mangrove roots underlies the soil at a depth of four or five feet. The hurricane is said to have carried the pestilence away with it.

page 27

Shortly after Naulivou's accession, that is to say some time between 1803 and 1808, the first of the sandal-wood traders touched at Koro, where some Mbau chiefs happened to be.1 Joseph Waterhouse, the missionary, was told that a white man, called "The Carpenter," and a Tahitian deserted from this ship, and came to Mbau; that the white man became inspired by Mbanuve, the late Vunivalu, and shivered and foamed at the mouth like an inspired Fijian, and was, much to his own profit, accepted by the Na-uli-vou as a genuine priest. He dwelt in the house erected over Mbanuve's grave, where he took to drinking kava to his own undoing, but that before his death he told the natives that there was a God superior to Mbanuve or any Fijian deity. I have never been able to obtain any confirmation of this story: on the contrary I have been assured that Charles Savage was the first European to land at Mbau, but as the arrival of ships must have been not infrequent as soon as the presence of sandal-wood had become known, and whalers were ranging the Pacific, it is not improbable.2

In 1808 there happened an event which left an enduring mark upon Fijian history. The American brig Eliza, with

1 They boarded her and directed her to the sandal-wood district in Mbau, returning to the shore with a pig, a monkey, two geese and a cat, besides knives and axes and mirrors. The native historians name her captain "Red-face."

2 It is well here to correct an error for which Thomas Williams was originally responsible, and which has been copied by almost every writer on Fiji since his day, namely, that "about the year 1804 a number of convicts escaped from New South Wales, and settled among the islands." The only foundation for this story is that "Paddy" Connor, who was actuary a deserter from a passing ship, was popularly supposed to have "done time," and that the morals of the early settlers were such that if they were not convicts they ought to have been. Putting aside the extreme improbability that escaped convicts should beat 1200 miles in the teeth of the prevailing wind, while so many eligible hiding-places lay near at hand, it is certain that the first white settlers were all shipwrecked sailors, deserters, or men paid off at their own request.

According to M. Dumont d'Urville, two escaped convicts named "Sina" and "Gemy" (? Jimmy) were concerned in the seizure of the Aimable Josephine in 1833.

page 2840,000 dollars from the River Plate on board, was wrecked on the reef off Nairai. The majority of the crew escaped in the ship's boats, and boarded another American vessel which was lying off Mbua for sandal-wood; the rest took passage in native canoes that happened to be at the island, one to Mbau and the others to Verata, while the natives looted the wreck. The man who went to Mbau was the Swede, Charles Savage, a man of much character and resource. Having been refused leave to return to Nairai to search for a musket, he pointed to a nkata club, which bears a distant resemblance to a gun, and bade them bring him from the wreck a thing of that shape, and a cask of black powder like their own hair-pigment. The native messengers were successful; the musket was found built into a yam-hut as one of the rafters. Having demonstrated the uses of a musket before the assembled chiefs, Savage took part in a reconnaissance towards Verata, the state with which Mbau was then at war. He took with him a gourd containing a letter addressed to the white men at Verata, bidding them flee to him at Mbau, as it was the stronger state. The gourd was tied to a stick just out of arrowshot, and as the canoe retired the Verata people carried it into their fort, and in a few days later the other whites joined him at Mbau. Savage with his musket now began to carry all before him. He had a sort of arrow-proof sedan chair made of plaited sinnet, in which he was carried into musket-shot of the enemy's entrenchments, and from which he picked off the sentinels until the garrison fled. Thus Mbau subdued all the coast villages as far as the frontiers of Rewa. Savage cleverly kept his fellow-Europeans in the background without arousing their enmity. He alone carried the musket; he alone could speak the language fluently, and to him the other whites thought that they owed the good-will of the natives. Two great ladies were given him to wife, and the order of Koroi was bestowed upon him with the title of Koroi-na-vunivalu. Yet he stoutly refused to conform to native customs, and so he kept the respect of the chiefs. Shortly after the shipwreck the visits of ships became frequent, from India, America, and Australia. They lay for page 29many weeks off the Mbua coast, while the crew cut and shipped sandal-wood; and the sailors, allured by the story of the dollars lost in the Eliza, deserted, or were discharged in considerable numbers. The dollars, though one or two were found as lately as 1880, were scattered beyond recovery, and the sailors drifted away, some to Mbau, and others to the villages on the sandal-wood coast, where they took native wives, and adopted every native custom except cannibalism.1 The natives could give them everything they wanted except tobacco and spirits, and to acquire these, and to keep their position among their hosts, they would hire themselves out to the masters of sandal-wood ships at a monthly wage of £4, paid partly in knives, tools, beads, and firearms. William Mariner, who visited Mbau in 1810 on board the Favourite, the vessel in which he escaped from Tonga, found a number of whites there whose reputation both for crimes, vices, and for quarrelling among themselves was so bad that his informant, William Lee, was glad to make his escape from them. During Savage's absence with the army they nearly brought annihilation upon themselves. At a great presentation of food, the king's mata omitted to set aside a portion for the white men, and they, incensed at what they took for an intentional insult, ran to the stack of food, and slashed the yams with their knives. Now, this is an insult which no Fijian will brook, and they were promptly attacked. They killed a number of their assailants with their muskets, but when the hut in which they had taken refuge was fired, they had to make for the sea. Three were clubbed as they ran, but two, Graham and Buschart, swam out to sea, and returned only when they were assured of the chief's protection. Thus did they save their lives, the first to perish more miserably at Wailea, the second to be the means of discovering the fate of de la Pérouse.
Savage could not afford to jeopardize his influence with the chiefs by mixing in the quarrels of the other Europeans. With his two wives, who were women of the highest rank, he

1 Among the settlers in 1812 was one who was believed to be secretly addicted to cannibalism, and was ostracized by his own countrymen.

page 30lived apart from the others, in the enjoyment of all the privileges of a native chief who was Koroi. But when not engaged in fighting, he also spent the winter months on the sandal-wood coast, working for the trading ships. Among the regular arrivals was the East Indiaman Hunter (Captain Robson), which, on her third voyage to Fiji in 1813, carried Peter Dillon as mate. Dillon had spent four months in the group in 1809, and had acquired a slight knowledge of the language, besides winning the respect of the people for his magnificent physique, and his Irish good humour. He had, as he tells us, prepared a history of the islands from the date of their discovery to 1825, but the manuscript has disappeared, and is not likely now to come to light. Interesting as it may have been, its value as a history would have suffered from the lively imagination of the writer.

Captain Robson's methods of obtaining a cargo would not have commended itself to the Aborigines' Protection Society. On anchoring at Wailea, he was wont to enter into a contract with Vonasa, the chief, to aid him in his wars in return for a full cargo. The enemy's forts were carried with a two-pounder, and the bodies of the slain were then dismembered, cooked, and eaten in Robson's presence. On this occasion the same policy was pursued, but whether owing to the exhaustion of the forest or to the indolence of the natives, a full cargo was not forthcoming. At the end of four months, two hundred Mbauans, led by two of the king's brothers, arrived in their canoes to take their white men back to Mbau, and with their help Robson resolved to punish the faithlessness of the Wailea people. The landing party fell into the ambush known in Fijian tactics as A Lawa (The Net), that is to say, they were drawn on by the feigned flight of a party of the enemy until they were surrounded. Dillon, with Savage and three others, gained the summit of a low hill, where they kept their assailants at bay, while the bodies of their comrades were cooked and eaten in their sight. Despairing of help from the ship, Savage went down to try his powers of persuasion on the chiefs, but he too was treacherously killed and laid in the oven before Dillon's eyes. Their ammunition page 31exhausted, the prospect of torture before them, the three Europeans had resolved upon suicide, when by a fortunate accident they were able to seize a heathen priest who had ventured too near, and by holding him as hostage for their lives, they made their escape. In the following year Mbau took ample vengeance for the massacre of their chiefs.1

There is a story that Maraia, Savage's half-caste daughter, then a child of four,2 remembered her father's last night at Mbau. Lying awake she saw him open his sea-chest which he always kept locked, and take from it a string of glittering objects. Startled by her childish exclamation, for he thought himself alone, he kissed her and said that he was going away for a long time, and must hide his property in a place of safety. That night he poled himself over to the mainland, and when she awoke next morning the canoes had sailed for Mbua, from whence her father never returned. Probably the string was made of Chilian dollars from the wreck, which now lie buried somewhere on the mainland opposite Mbau.

After Savage's death Mbau continued to consolidate her power. News of her success tempted the broken tribes to flee to her for protection, and settle on the conquered lands. Thus did Namara become borderers (mbati) to Mbau. The story is a curious illustration of Fijian contempt for human life. Two brothers of Namara had stolen down to the sea shore for salt, and were seen by the king, Naulivou, then cruising along the shore in his great canoe. He presented them in sport with a shark and a sting-ray. Overwhelmed by his condescension, the brothers began to contend for the honour of giving his dead body in return for the fish. Their cousin standing by exclaimed, "Is a man's life more precious than a banana? Let the elder be clubbed." So the elder bowed his head to the club of the younger brother, who presented the body to the chief. Grieved at what they had done, Naulivou ordered the body to be buried, and said, "I

1 The story of this adventure, as narrated by Dillon, in his Voyage in the South Seas, is the most dramatic passage in Polynesian literature.

2 The same Maraia who was afterwards forcibly married to the captain of a Manila ship.

page 32wanted no return for the fish. Go, fetch your wives and children, and settle on this land, and be my mbati (borderers), for I have need of true men."

The navigable canal called Nakelimusu, which shortens the voyage between Mbau and Rewa by connecting two of the river mouths, and is almost the only example of native engineering, was constructed in this reign shortly after the sack of Nakelo in 1810. The Queen of Rewa at that time was a Mbau princess, and when Nakelo sent her submission to Mbau, craving leave to rebuild the fortress, one of the conditions imposed was that the isthmus between the two rivers should be cut at its narrowest point, where it is about 400 yards wide. The Nakelo men dug a ditch into which the water could wash at high tide, and the rapid current did the rest.

Though Mbau did not long enjoy a monopoly of muskets she was able to purchase more ammunition than her rivals. European sailors still continued to pour into the islands, for after the exhaustion of the sandal-wood forests, whalers began to frequent the group, and there sprang up a desultory, but profitable trade in beche-de-mer, the sea-slug so highly prized by Chinese epicures, and in cocoanut oil. None of these attained the same influence as Savage. They were rather the chief's sycophants and handy men, who mended muskets, and beguiled his leisure by telling stories of far-off lands. A chief likes to have in his retinue some alien, unfettered by the tabu, whom he can make his confidant, and a chief who could not boast of having a tame white man was not much esteemed. A tame negro was a curiosity even more highly prized. The natives as a body appear to have treated the white men with tolerant contempt, as beings destitute of good manners and the deportment proper to those who consort with chiefs.

In 1828 Mbau was at the zenith of her power. She had absorbed the Lomaiviti islands, and was disputing the Lau group with the Tongan immigrants. On the northern coast of Vitilevu her influence was felt as far west as Mba, and she exercised a nominal suzerainty over Somosomo, the state then paramount over the eastern half of Vanualevu. The inland page 33and western tribes of Vitilevu alone were entirely independent of her influence.

That her empire was the influence of a person rather than of a state was shown in 1829, when her leader, Naulivou, better known by his posthumous title of Ra Matenikutu (Lord Lice-Slayer) died. His younger brother, Tanoa, who succeeded him, had neither his ability nor his physique. Among the Europeans he was known contemptuously as "Old Snuff," from his habit of daubing himself with black pigment, and he was unpopular among his own people. From the day of his accession there were rumours of conspiracy, and during his absence at Ovalau in 1832 the rebellion broke out. Tanoa fled to Koro, and would there have been put to death, had not Namosimalua of Viwa, who had been sent to arrest him, secretly connived at his flight to Somosomo, where he was safe. The rebels installed as Vunivalu one of his brothers named Tuiveikoso, chosen because he could be trusted to act as their tool, and refrained from the usual custom of putting Tanoa's adherents to death, though Namosimalua of Viwa, whose motives are not easy to understand, urged that the king's son, Seru, should be killed. But the boy was allowed to live on at Mbau, where he grew to manhood, without exciting any suspicion of the mark which he was to make upon Fijian history.

At first the Europeans took no part in these political disturbances. The more respectable of them had removed to the adjacent island of Ovalau, where they formed a settlement under the protection of Tui Levuka, plying the trades of boatbuilding and sail-making, and selling native produce to passing vessels. Those who chose to remain at Mbau were Fijianized whites who lived upon the natives.

Tanoa was not idle. Being vasu to Rewa he had no difficulty in inducing the king of that state to ally himself with Somosomo and to declare war with Mbau. By the promise of a cargo he even hired an American vessel to bombard Mbau. Having taken up a position at the anchorage she fired a broadside, but the Europeans on the islet, having trained a gun upon her, carried away her jib-boom at page 34the second shot, and she slipped her cable and returned to Somosomo.

The leader of the rebellion was Ratu Mara, a man born before his time. Professing to be in favour of peace, of free intercourse, and of a new era of bloodless government, he was immensely popular with the whites. He is still remembered as the only Fijian warrior who took fortified villages by direct assault, and who was absolutely fearless in battle. It is even said that, on hearing of the missionaries in Tonga, he declared his intention of inviting them to Fiji to displace the religion in which he no longer believed. In person he was tall and very powerful, and his acts show him to have been of great intelligence and perseverance. Friendly as they were to Mara, the Europeans so much disliked the other chiefs of the usurping government, who had advocated a massacre of all foreigners, that they resolved to support Tanoa, and secretly sent him a contribution of arms and ammunition.

Tanoa had meanwhile been undermining the power of the usurpers by the old expedient of bribing the borderers. In obedience to an oracle at Somosomo he had removed to Rewa, and was intriguing with a party at Lasakau, the eastern end of Mbau, inhabited by fishermen. A number of villages on the mainland had also been won over. Seru meanwhile, though grown to manhood, was believed to be above suspicion. His only objects in life seemed to be its amusements. He was the leader and the idol of a band of youths of his own age, who passed the days and nights in sports and wantonness. Suddenly, by a preconcerted arrangement a number of villages declared for Tanoa, and when the news reached Mbau one morning, it was found that the Lasakauans had built a war fence during the night, dividing their quarter of the town from that of the chiefs. Aghast at this turn of events the chiefs summoned a council of war. Namosimalua urged the immediate arrest of Seru, and his own nephew, Verani, whom he suspected of treachery, but it was then too late. The two youths had taken refuge in Lasakau. Namosimalua's musket, fired at his nephew, was the signal for civil war. But the coup d'état was complete. The page 35Lasakauans had prepared a number of flaming darts which they threw into the thatch of the nearest houses. A strong wind swept the conflagration through the town. In half-an-hour every house was in ashes, and the inhabitants were fleeing to the mainland.

As soon as the news reached Rewa, the army was put in motion. Village after village was destroyed, though, contrary to the wish of Seru, its inhabitants were spared by the king of Rewa. Tanoa himself re-entered Mbau at the close of 1837, after an exile of five years. Seru received three names. His own party called him Thikinovu (the centipede), which bites without warning; the usurpers called him Na Mbi (the turtle pond), in allusion to the number of people who were killed and eaten by him, but the name by which he was generally known was Tha-ko-mbau ("destruction to Mbau," or "Mbau is undone"),1 signifying the success of his coup d'état.

The day of reckoning had come. A price was set upon the head of all the usurping chiefs, and no one dared to give them asylum. Thakombau slew many of them with his own hand, and they were cooked and eaten by the Lasakauans, whose hereditary duty it was to provide material for the cannibal ovens. Grisly stories are told of this orgy of revenge. It is said that a rebel whom Thakombau hated was brought before him, he ordered his men to cut out the man's tongue, and that he ate it raw, joking with the wretched man about the change in his fortunes. When tired of the sport he sent him out to be further tortured, and when death released him from his sufferings he was cooked and eaten.

The arch-rebels, Mara and Namosimalua, were the last to be taken. Thakombau pursued Mara from village to village until he came to Namata, where he suffered a repulse. He then set himself to buy over the Namata chief. Early one morning Mara's faithless hosts surrounded him. His magnificent courage did not desert him. For some time he fought single-handed for his life, but numbers prevailed. Gashed by hatchets and knives, he fell at last, and his body was

1 Cakobau, according to Fijian spelling.

page 36presented to Thakombau. Namosimalua was allowed to return to Mbau, and Tuiveikoso, the figure-head of the rebellion, and Tanoa's elder brother, were not molested.

In 1837 the first missionaries, Mr. Cross and Mr. Cargill, of the Wesleyan Missionary Society, arrived in the group. The Lau islands, already colonized by Tongans, were the natural starting-point for their labours; but Mr. Cross visited Mbau, and had an interview with Thakombau, from whom he sought permission to settle on the islet. The moment was unfortunate, and the young chiefs answer very natural under the circumstances. "Your words are good to me, but I will not hide from you that I am now at war, and cannot myself hear your instruction nor even assure you of safety." Mr. Cross misunderstood the answer. If he had seized upon the bare permission to reside at Mbau, itself a great concession, his labours would have been greatly lightened. As it was, his departure gave great offence to Thakombau, who opposed all further overtures from the missionaries, and the offer was not renewed for fifteen years.

In September, 1837, a great meeting was held at Mbau. Having made submission to his brother, Tuiveikoso, an aged, corpulent and lame man, was pardoned by Tanoa, who described him as "a great hog, grown too fat to walk about, and able to do nothing but sleep, and wake to pick his food." The sole guilt of the rebellion was fixed upon Namosimalua. On the following day he was brought to trial, when he frankly admitted having accepted six whales' teeth to kill Tanoa. To the astonishment of everybody Tanoa gave him his life. The secret of the confession and Tanoa's clemency was that, to use a Fijian metaphor, Namosimalua had been "eating with both sides." It says much for his diplomacy that he preserved his life against the hatred of Thakombau, who had not forgotten his endeavours to persuade the rebels to kill him.

The rebels had made one serious mistake. During Tanoa's exile in 1833 they had urged Namosimalua to seize the French brig, L'Aimable Josephine (Captain Bureau), lying at Viwa. The Viwa chief, scenting danger, declined at first to have anything to do with the project, but his scruples were page 37overborne, and the crew was massacred by Namosi's nephew, who was thereafter called Verani (Frenchman). The captured vessel did not prove to be of much value. Her native crew did not dare to sail her within sight of other vessels, and eventually she was cast away. In October, 1838, M. Dumont d'Urville, who touched at the group on his return voyage from the Antarctic sea, exacted reparation for this act of piracy by burning Viwa, the inhabitants being in hiding in the neighbourhood. He did not then know that Captain Bureau had to some extent provoked his fate by taking part in native wars.

In 1840 Captain Wilkes, of the United States Exploring Expedition, visited the group, and deported Veindovi, the king of Rewa's son, for having instigated the massacre of part of the crew of an American vessel. He also severely punished the people of Malolo, an islet at the western extremity of Vitilevu, for the murder of two of his officers. These proceedings undoubtedly had a great effect in protecting the lives and property of Europeans from chiefs whom they had offended.

In the same year war broke out between Somosomo and Vuna, two districts in the island of Taveuni. Mbau pursued her usual policy of weakening her rivals by supporting the weaker side, and, regardless of the debt owed to Somosomo by Tanoa during his exile, espoused the cause of Vuna. Thakombau's elder brother, Wainiu, who was vasu to Somosomo, and had designs upon the succession to Tanoa, took the opportunity of betraying his intentions. He fled to Somo-somo, whence he proceeded to buy over the borderers of Mbau on the mainland, within a few miles of the town. The most formidable of the tribes that joined him was Namena, which Thakombau was powerless to reduce by open attack. The stratagem which reduced Namena from a powerful tribe to its present condition of serfdom is worth narrating for the light it throws upon Fijian methods of diplomacy. Namena sent messengs to Viwa to win over Namosimalua to the cause of Wainiu. The chief received them apparently with open arms, but secretly informed Thakombau that he had a plan page 38for effecting the massacre of all Namena's fighting men without a campaign. The plan was simple. Mbau was to lay siege to Viwa, and the Viwans were to invite Namena to garrison the town. But only blank cartridge was to be used, and the rest was to be left to him. The Viwans, many of whom were nominally Christians, for the missionaries had settled in the island, were kept in the dark till the last moment. Mbau played their part in the comedy admirably. When the blank cartridge was fired many of the warriors feigned death, but when they reached the moat, the gates were thrown open, and the Viwans joined their mock assailants in massacring the unfortunate Namenans. One hundred and forty warriors were slain, and forty widows were strangled to their manes, a blow from which the tribe has never recovered.

Thakombau had now virtually become regent. He had not only to direct the foreign policy of the confederation, but to keep a watchful eye upon conspirators at home. One of his brothers, Raivalita, sailed from Vuna with the intention of assassinating him. But the plot was betrayed, and as Raivalita left the house after reporting his arrival to his father, he was waylaid and clubbed. In 1845 war broke out between Mbau and Rewa, owing chiefly to a personal feud between Thakombau and Nkara, son of the king of Rewa, who had had an intrigue with one of Thakombau's wives. It was an illustration of the old Fijian proverb that a quarrel between brothers is the most difficult to patch. There had been almost annual skirmishes between the border villages, in which the chiefs took desultory interest, but in this war the issue lay between the chiefs themselves. Hostilities were precipitated by an act of treachery. Rewa had burned the town of Suva 1 during the absence of the fighting men, and had sent a message to Mbau saying that, as honour was satisfied, the people would be spared. But on the following day the fugitives were ambushed on the Tamanoa heights.2

1 Now included in the grounds of Government House.

2 The massacre took place on the site of the present residence of the manager of the Bank of New Zealand, and four hundred persons were massacred without distinction of sex or age.

page 39The war dragged on for six months, being for the most part little more than the burning of outlying villages, and the cutting off of stragglers, all of whom were killed and eaten. The ties of vasu between members of the royal families had much confused the issue. One of the sons of the king of Rewa, Thoka-na-uto (or Mr. Phillips, as he preferred to call himself) had joined Mbau from the first, and a number of the border villages had followed his example, and were in the field against their feudal lord. White men were fighting on both sides, in one or two cases naked and blackened like the natives.

The end came in June, 1845. Defections from Rewa had been frequent; indeed, in this war desertion was scarcely regarded. Early in June the Rewans had sent a chief to Mbau to treat for peace, a fatal step, for Thakombau bought over the envoy to betray his countrymen. The Mbau army was to invest the town, and while it was attacking, traitors within the walls were to set it on fire, and begin slaying their fellow-citizens. The plot was entirely successful. As the enemy reached the bank of the river opposite Rewa, the town burst into flames. The traitors within its walls had already begun slaughtering. Meanwhile, a Mbau chief shouted to the queen to cross the river in a canoe to her own people, the Mbauans, and to bring her children and Mbau retainers with her. As they were embarking the king himself came down to the canoe. The Mbauans shouted to him to go back, but he would not. As he was crossing the river he was fired upon; he was wounded by a spear as he was disembarking, Then Thakombau ordered one of his brothers to club him, but he was afraid to strike so great a chief. The wretched king pleaded hard for life, and his wife joined her entreaties; but Thakombau reminded him of the calumnies he and his sons had spoken, and told him sternly that he must die. Snatching from an attendant a club with an axe head lashed to it, he clave his skull to the jaw, and his wife and children were splashed with his blood.

Indirectly the Rewa war had a sinister bearing upon the fortunes of the whites. In May, 1844, a European, who had page 40fought on the Rewa side against Mbau, sailed for Lakemba with one of Tanoa's wives, who had run away from Mbau, and was now deputed by the Rewans to induce Lakemba to revolt from Thakombau's government. He was wrecked on the island of Thithia, and the Europeans of Levuka, hoping to recover some of the vessel's gear, of which they stood in need, sailed to that island. Failing in this, they went on to Lakemba, whither the shipwrecked man had escaped. For a time they hesitated to give him a passage to Rewa, for he was as much disliked by them as he was by the natives, and they knew the danger of displeasing Thakombau. But he offered a sum of passage-money which overcame their scruples, and they carried him off just in time to escape the war canoe which Thakombau had sent in pursuit of him.

Thakombau not unnaturally regarded this as an act of hostility, and Tui Levuka, who was becoming alarmed at the power of the whites in his town, and at the extent of land which he had alienated to them, seized the opportunity for beseeching his suzerain to deport them from the island. The peremptory order for their removal was a severe blow to the prosperous little settlement, which had to abandon the fruits of so many years of labour, and begin life afresh. A fine schooner, half built, had to be abandoned on the slips, and the houses left to be gutted by the natives. It speaks well for their peaceable disposition that they did not remove to Rewa, where they might have restored its waning fortunes in the struggle with Mbau, and that they chose Solevu Bay in Mbua, which was at peace with Thakombau. The new settlement was unhealthy and inconvenient for communication with ships, and long before the five years of exile was completed Tui Levuka and the Mbau chiefs had repented of their precipitancy, which had cut them off from the services of the white artisans which were so necessary to them. The request for permission to return, made early in 1849, was readily granted.

In 1846 Thakombau led an army of 3000 men, nominally to help Somosomo against Natewa, but in reality to increase his own influence at the expense of his ally. This he did by page 41commanding the attack in person, and contriving to spare the lives of the defenders, while receiving their submission himself. The result of this campaign, for which Somosomo paid an enormous subsidy, was to make Natewa a tributary of Mbau, and diminish the influence of Somosomo.

On September 1, 1847, Rewa was again destroyed by Thakombau. The sister whom he had promised to Tui Nakelo as a bribe for his treachery to Rewa had been given instead to Ngavindi, chief of Lasakau, and Tui Nakelo in revenge offered to join Ratu Nkara, the son of the king of Rewa, whose feud with Thakombau had provoked the last war. Between them they rebuilt Rewa, and repulsed the Mbauans sent to prevent them. But Tui Nakelo was assassinated by means of a plot devised by Thakombau, who advanced to Tokatoka, and sent thence a message to Ratu Nkara that he wished him no ill, and that if he would remove with his people to the islet of Nukulau, and allow him to burn Rewa pro forma, he would molest him no further. Ratu Nkara accordingly withdrew all his men, not to the islet mentioned in the message, but to a hill top whence he could watch the Mbau canoes surrounding Nukulau to capture him, "Pig's dung!" he exclaimed; "does Thakombau take me for a fool!"

In 1849 Captain Erskine visited the group in H.M.S. Havannah, and gave Thakombau an exhibition of the precision of marine artillery, which had an important bearing on the history of the next few years. It inflamed the king with a desire to possess a gunboat of his own, and two were ordered, one from America and and one from Sydney. The almost annual visit of ships of war about this time had impressed Thakombau with the importance of doing nothing that would give any excuse for foreign intervention. But neither Captain Fanshaw, Captain Erskine, nor Sir Everard Home, who urged Thakombau in turn to abandon cannibalism and the strangling of widows, the last named so vehemently that they parted on bad terms, had much effect upon him. The fact was that, as after events proved, Thakombau did not feel himself strong enough to do so. In the fifteen years page 42between 1835 and 1850 he had fought his way into the foremost place in Fiji, and his influence in the latter year was such that the American Consul, Mr. Miller, in a letter of remonstrance actually addressed him officially as Tui Viti (King of Fiji). But the Europeans could not see beneath the surface, and none knew, as he himself did, upon what a quicksand his power was built. His maintenance of the ancient customs, his opposition to Christianity, denounced so bitterly by the missionaries, was part of a set policy. Had he embraced Christianity when it was first pressed upon him, he would have remained the petty chief of a few square miles, a mere vassal of the mission, all his days, for the missionaries discountenanced war, and it was only by war that he could hope to extend his influence. He alone of all his people foresaw that the mission would destroy, first the ancient polity, and ultimately the independence of the Fijians. His dialogues with the missionaries,1 who for fifteen years were importuning him to let them live at Mbau, bantering as they were in tone, show how consistent was his policy, and they do not justify all the abuse that was heaped upon him by the mission historians. He respected the men; he objected to their doctrine, which, he said, might be suitable enough for Europeans, but was not adapted to the Fijians. His forbearance to the missionaries who so often thwarted him was remarkable: he allowed them to live at Viwa, within sight of Mbau, and to proselytize his subjects: he was personally kind and courteous to them, though he received nothing at their hands in return, as by Fijian usage he had a right to expect. The missionaries, so far from allowing him any personal credit for his kindliness, crowed over his courtesies as surrenders to their diplomacy. As an absolute sovereign he had cause enough to quarrel with them. Without preaching actual treason, they were always denouncing the customs which he practised, and denying the pretensions to divinity which were accorded to every ruling chief; the mission stations were cities of refuge to which every disaffected native fled when his treason was discovered. They themselves

1 See The King and People of Fiji, by Joseph Waterhouse.

page 43admit that the converted natives openly boasted that they were exempt from service in the army, and that murderers, "who were punishable even by Fijian law, fled to mission stations, and hypocritically professed an anxiety for Christian instruction."1 The Christian natives refused to fight for their country. There was in fact a party in the state which denied their ruler's authority, and were not only apostates from the national religion, but disaffected towards the government. It was therefore remarkable, not that he made an attempt to persecute, but that he made only one.

In December, 1850, Thakombau declared war on all Christians. The heathen villages on the Tailevu coast for a distance of fifty miles rose, and laid siege to Dama and to the island of Viwa, where the missionaries lived, but Thakombau had issued orders that no injury should be done to the lives and property of the Europeans, lest there should be a pretext for foreign intervention. The missionaries appealed to a Tongan chief, who, with 300 men, was on a visit to Mbau. This chief dispatched a canoe to act as a guard for the missionaries, and some of its crew were killed by the besieging force. The Tongans were now involved in the war, and as the whites were also supporting the Mission with supplies, Thakombau very wisely called off his troops and there was peace.

In 1850 Thakombau had touched the pinnacle of his fortunes, and we are now to see upon what his authority rested. So long as he ran in the grooves of custom his power was absolute, but no sooner did he introduce innovations than it began to crumble beneath him. Late in 1851 the two gunboats of sixty tons, ordered by him abroad, were delivered, and the agents began to press for payment. He ordered a levy of bêche-de-mer throughout his dominions. The labour entailed by this new tax was far less than that of house-building or providing food, but the one was new, and the others sanctified by custom. Moreover, his subjects knew that the bêche-de-mer they were called upon to fish would find a ready sale with the Europeans. Many of the villages flatly

1 Waterhouse, p. 188.

page 44declined to obey; some took the sacks, and let them rot in their houses; others burned the sacks before the eyes of the king's messengers. In January, 1852, Thakombau, who seldom abandoned any project in the face of opposition, took 1000 fishers with him to Mathuata, and set them an example by fishing with his own hands, but his men worked grudgingly, and the proceeds of the expedition were small. He then sent a party in the ship to New Caledonia, where sufficient bêche-de-mer was collected to pay for one of the vessels, and she was handed over to him. This purchase was the most unpopular act of his reign.

The long-expected death of old Tanoa occurred in 1852, and, despite the protests of the missionaries and captains of ships-of-war, Thakumbau took part in the immemorial ceremony of strangling his father's widows, who, in accordance with custom, themselves contended for the honour of being strangled to prove their loyalty to the dead. The missionaries affect to trace his troubles to this act of barbarity, but they had probably the effect of delaying them, by proving to his chiefs that their king was before all things a Fijian still.

On the death of Thoka-na-uto (Mr. Phillips), who as Thakombau's ally was nominally king of Rewa, Ratu Nkaraniqio came from his hiding-place in the mountains and succeeded to the chieftainship. He is the most romantic figure in Fijian history. Years of guerrilla warfare, when he was a fugitive with a price upon his head, had not broken his indomitable spirit, nor weakened his lifelong defiance of his victorious enemy, Thakombau. He had never stooped to the acts of treachery that had stained the career of his rival, and had he lived longer his courage and skill in warfare would have raised the city of his fathers from its ashes to be the capital of the first state in Fiji. Rewa was rebuilt, and Nkara set about corrupting the border villages of Mbau. He was successful beyond his hopes. In a few weeks Mbau was enclosed in a ring of revolted towns, for not only was the mainland aflame from Kamba to Namena, but Ovalau, under Tui Levuka, had declared its independence. There can be no doubt that for this the Europeans at Levuka were partly responsible. They had page 45never forgiven their summary expulsion from Levuka in 1844, nor Thakombau's request to Captain Macgruder to deport them all from the group. They were at this time the most orderly and law-abiding community of Europeans in the Pacific, having by hard work and trading accumulated a good deal of property. They were not in a position to take up arms openly against Thakombau, and their only overt act was to punish the natives of Malaki, an island subject to Mbau, for the destruction of an English cutter called the Wave. In December, 1853, Levuka was destroyed by an incendiary who was believed to be acting under the orders of Verani, Thakombau's lieutenant. The whites lost all they possessed, and on the following day Thakombau visited the town in order to express his sympathy, and avert any suspicion of connivance. During his progress through the ruined town the Europeans, many of whom knew him well, let him pass without a sign of recognition, and he left the place anxious and dispirited.

At this juncture he had sore need of friends. The unexpected revolt of his personal serfs at Kamba was a veritable disaster, for they had charge of his largest canoe, the sails and stores of his gunboat, and his principal magazine. A few days after his formal installation as Vunivalu on July 26, 1853, his army was beaten off by the Kambans, his faithful lieutenant Verani was assassinated in Ovalau, and the rebellion spread. He knew that he had now to reckon with traitors among his own kin. Ratu Mara,1 who had for many months been a voluntary exile from Mbau, had returned to the delta to be the figure-head of the rebellion, and Tui Levuka, whose authority was not sufficient to control the rebels of Ovalau, persuaded the Europeans to send for him. At this moment a schooner arrived from Sydney with a consignment of arms for Thakombau, and the European consignee, Pickering, declined to deliver them.

On October 30, 1853, Thakombau yielded to the importunities of the missionaries so far as to allow the Rev. Joseph Waterhouse2 to take up his residence at Mbau, probably in

1 The second rebel chief of that name.

2 Author of The King and People of Fiji.

page 46the hope that he would be a useful advocate in the event of misunderstanding with European governments. In November he received an unexpected visit from King George Tubou of Tonga, then on his way to Sydney. He turned this visit to good account by promising the king a large canoe (the celebrated Ra Marama) if he would revisit him on his return home. There now seemed to be a prospect of a favourable turn to his fortunes. Tui Levuka, doubtful of the success of his rebellion, made a secret compact with him to play the traitor to his own side, and Thakombau now prepared to crush Kamba. His plans were impeded by the secession of his kinsman Koroi-ravulo, who secretly bribed five hundred of his army to absent themselves from the rendezvous, and in March, 1854, he set forth with barely 1500 men. He had foolishly neglected to seize the opportunity of a hurricane, which had levelled the defences of Kamba, and when the assault was made the Kamba garrison had been stiffened with a number of whites and half-castes from Levuka, who foresaw that the fall of Kamba would place Levuka in the power of the victorious army. Thakombau commanded the assault in person. Having cleared broad roads for retreat in case of a sortie 500 men advanced to the attack, but they were seized with a sudden panic, and the whole army fled in confusion to their canoes. A further defeat at Sawakasa, the stronghold of Koroi-ravulo, completed Thakombau's discomfiture.

Ratu Nkara and his friend Mr. Williams, the United States Consul, Ratu Mara, Tui Levuka, and the Europeans of Ovalau, who had combined to bring him to this pass, styled themselves the "League." Their agreement, as set forth in a letter from Pickering to Williams, afterwards made public, was "to stop all ships of going to Mbau," and to invoke the aid of the first ship-of-war that might arrive. Consul Williams's ill-directed activity in the cause proved the undoing of all the schemes, for he wrote a violent letter to the newspapers in Sydney, urging the destruction of Mbau as the first duty of civilized nations, which, when translated to Thakombau, convinced him that his only chance of salvation lay in conciliating the missionaries. A letter which he received at page 47the same time from King George of Tonga persuaded him that it was high time to embrace Christianity. His defeat at Kamba after so many favourable omens had rudely shaken whatever belief he may have had in the gods of his fathers, and if he now rejected the support of King George and the missionaries he would have had no friends left. He had been profoundly moved by the news of the assassination of Tui Kilakila, the chief of Somosomo, which, the missionaries assured him, was a judgment on him for his opposition to Christianity, and he was moreover suffering from a painful disease of the leg. Cut off as he was from communication with the Europeans who opposed the conversion of Mbau, there was no hostile counsel to neutralize the persuasions of the missionaries.

On April 28, 1854, the momentous decision was made. Assembling his chiefs he read the two letters to them, and announced his decision, reminding them of the prosperity of Tonga since the adoption of Christianity. On the following Sunday he attended service with about three hundred of his chiefs and retainers, all clad in waistcloths, for the missionaries had ordained that the outward sign of conversion should be clothes. As soon as the people had recovered from their astonishment there was a convulsion that nearly cost Thakombau his life. Rewa was still stoutly heathen, and all the malcontents in Mbau flocked to the enemy. The island of Koro also rose. Mbau was now hemmed in, and for the first time since 1835 it was put into a state of defence. But there were traitors within. Yangondamu, Thakombau's cousin, won over by two of the king's brothers who had joined the enemy, had engaged to assassinate him. His house was crowded with young chiefs anxious to pay court to the rising power, while Thakombau sat alone, deserted by all but the missionary and a faithful Tongan. This immediate peril was averted by the dispatch of Yangondamu in command of a force to reduce the Koro rebels, and while he was away a Captain Dunn arrived from America with a cargo of arms, which he insisted upon selling to the Mbauans despite the entreaties of the Europeans

page 48

The missionaries had already made a clean sweep of cannibalism, the slaughter of prisoners, and the strangling of widows, but when they tried to force a constitution on European lines upon the king they found him obstinate. "I was born a chief, and a chief I will die," he said, and his firmness, distasteful as it was to the missionaries, saved, not only himself, but also the cause of the mission; for, as Waterhouse himself records, "the populace, long favourably inclined towards the new religion, now hated Christianity because it was the religion of Thakombau," and if Thakombau had added to the other sins the abdication of his authority, nothing could have saved him or the cause of his foreign advisers.

On November 8, 1854, Thakombau was induced by Captain Dunn to hold a conference with his brother, Ratu Mara, on his ship, the Dragon. This meeting, effected with so much difficulty, resulted in nothing but a profession of reconciliation. Thakombau had so far humbled himself as to sue his enemy, the king of Rewa, for peace, but his overtures were haughtily rejected. In the same month he attended an inquiry held by Captain Denham on H.M.S. Herald, at which he formally withdrew all the charges he had made against the Europeans, much to the chagrin of the missionaries, who had forwarded them to the commander. The Europeans had sent three representatives, who roundly charged the king with the burning of Levuka, but of this charge he seems to have cleared himself. This was the first occasion on which he officially stated the limits of his dominions. He had explained the suzerainty which he claimed over Somosomo, Lakemba and other states, but when asked point-blank to declare the limits of the terri tory in which he would undertake to protect the Europeans, he indicated a territory no larger than an English country parish, and his reply was disconcerting to those who had been styling him Tui Viti, King of Fiji.

His conciliatory spirit, being set down to fear, had availed him nothing, and in the last months of 1854, the fate of Mbau still hung in the balance. Ratu Nkara had offered to end the contest by a duel between the two kings. "It is shameful," he said, "that so many warriors should perish; let you page 49or me die": but Thakombau replied, "Are we dogs that we should bite one another? Are we not chiefs? Let us fight with our warriors like chiefs."

But in January, 1855, the low tide of Thakombau's fortunes began to turn. Rewa was stricken with alarm at the news of a portent. Andi Thivo, one of the Rewa queens, noticed that tears were exuding from one of the roots of taro set before her. She addressed it, asking why it wept. Was Rewa to be destroyed? Was her father about to die? Was Thakombau? Were any of the chiefs whom she named? But the taro made no sign. Was her lord, the king of Rewa, near his death? A voice from the taro said "Yes," and the weeping ceased. The report spread through the length and breadth of the land, and the people waited in hushed expectancy. To them their king was already dead. Suddenly the war-drums themselves. were hushed. The omen was fulfilled; Ratu Nkara, "the Hungry Woman," "the Long Fellow," was no more. A mighty man, Thakombau's only dangerous enemy, had fallen. He died of dysentery on January 26, 1855, having in his last moments promised to turn Christian if he recovered, swearing nevertheless to have the blood of Thakombau. But he was speechless during his last moments, and could not bequeath a continuance of the war to his chiefs.

Though he had shown the missionaries many kindnesses and allowed them to live with him, though he had had more intercourse with white men than any other chief, he died in the faith of his fathers. In the last months of his life he was with difficulty restrained from wading into the river, where sharks were seen, in order to prove to the missionary, Moore, that his person was sacred to them. A fortnight before his death he completed the building of two heathen temples to ensure his victory over Mbau, and sent a polite message to the missionary asking him to hold his services in another part of the town, "lest the gods should be angry at the noise. "He said that he did not intend any disrespect to Jehovah, but was putting his own gods on their last trial, and desired to give them every chance of success. Though his chiefs were still heathen, out of respect for the missionary only one of his wives page 50was strangled, and she, as they explained, was old and already half dead.

On the death of Thakombau's personal enemy Rewa was glad enough to make peace with Mbau, but the Mbau rebels, who had to fear reprisals, continued the struggle. But in March King George of Tonga arrived at Mbau with forty large canoes to take away the war-canoe presented to him by Thakombau. After trying in vain to bring about a reconciliation, and suffering the loss of one of his own chiefs through the treachery of the rebels, King George agreed to lend his troops to Thakombau. The prospect of this foreign interference so incensed the people that tribes which had hitherto taken no part in the struggle threw in their lot with the rebels, and every one who opposed Christianity, or had anything to fear from Mbau, joined the enemy. The priests were inspired; the oracles spoke. The Tongan fleet would be derelict at Kamba for want of hands to work the sails after the battle. It was to be a death-struggle between the old gods and the new.

The promontory of Kamba was to be the battlefield, and the fortress at its extremity swarmed with warriors. For three days the allied fleets waited near the fort in the hope that it would capitulate without a siege, but on April 7 they bore down upon the promontory-a formidable spectacle. They were received with a volley of musketry. By all the rules of Fijian warfare this should have checked the landing for that day, but to the astonishment of the Kambans it did nothing of the sort. The sails were lowered, and, leaving their dead and wounded to the care of their women, the Tongans rushed to the attack. There were more surprises in store for the garrison; instead of hiding behind trees, and trying to scare the defenders into flight, the Tongans advanced to the assault in the open, and recked nothing of the men who fell. King George, who commanded in person, had decided to invest the town by throwing up fortifications fronting the defences, and to starve it into submission, but the Vavau warriors pressed on, and took the place by assault. They afterwards defended themselves for this act of insubordination by saying that they page 51were looking for the defences, and, taking the rampart for mere outworks, had found themselves in possession of the town before they were aware of their mistake-a familiar form of Tongan boasting. The Tongans lost fourteen killed and thirty wounded; the Mbauans, who had been mere spectators, escaped almost scatheless. More than two hundred of the enemy were killed, the greater part by the heathen Fijians on the Mbau side, and two hundred prisoners were taken. Thakombau was willing to spare all but Koroi-ravula, but King George interfered to save his life, which was justly forfeited by European as well as Fijian law. The submission of the rebels was complete. No less than twenty thousand natives proved their allegiance to Thakombau by accepting Christianity and adapting their customs to the wishes of the missionaries.

It is not to be understood that the conversion of Thakombau was the first success of the missionaries. A printing press had been at work for many years, and, even in the Mbau territory, many hundreds of the natives had been taught to read and write. There were mission stations in Lakemba, Somosomo, Rewa, Levuka and Mbua, and in many of the coast villages there were native teachers, the Christian and heathen natives living amicably side by side. The Christians claimed immunity from war service, and it was therefore not to be wonclered at that Thakombau showed indecent glee when appealed to by the missionaries for help against persecution at Mbau. "You have often refused to fight for me, and now you have a war of your own on your hands, and I am glad of it." But the Lau group professed Christianity to a man; in the Lomaiviti islands the heathen were in a minority, and now, by Thakombau's conversion, the north-east coast of Vitilevu adopted the new faith. Only the inland and western tribes of the two large islands continued in the faith of their fathers, and these were soon obliged to fight for their religion.

In 1858 Thakombau's peace of mind was again rudely disturbed. Williams, the United States Consul, whose enmity against Thakombau was personal, had never relaxed his efforts to bring about foreign intervention. During the Fourth of July festivities in 1849 Williams's house on the island of page 52Nukulau had been burned to the ground, and though report attributed the fire to pure accident during a display of fireworks by its convivial master, Williams laid his loss at the door of Thakombau. There were other claims by American citizens, and Williams's persistency at length induced the American Government to send a frigate to make inquiries. Commodore Boutwell had visited Mbau in 1855. His high-handed treatment of Thakombau, and his ready acceptance of the ex parte statement of the claimants, passed almost un-noticed in that eventful year, but in 1858 the king was made to realize that the American award of £9000 as compensation to American residents was no empty threat, but was a claim that must be met. He had had a sinister experience of the danger of levying from his subjects contributions not sanctioned by custom, and he knew that the task was hopeless.

But this was not all. A new star had risen on the eastern horizon, and Mbau was now threatened by the Tongans. Occasional intercourse between Tonga and Fiji had taken place for perhaps three or four centuries, through canoes plying between the different Tongan islands having been driven westward by the trade wind, but it was not until later in the eighteenth century that it became regular. At the time of Cook's visit in 1772 it had become as much a part of every young chief's education to take part in a warlike expedition to Fiji as it was in England a little later to make the grand tour. The Tongans steered for Lakemba, where they took part with one or other of the factions that happened to be at war, and, having taken the lion's share of the loot, and built themselves new war-canoes in Kambara of vesi, a timber very scarce in Tonga, they set sail for their own country. But not a few stayed behind, and gradually a little colony of Tongan-speaking half-castes established itself in all the principal windward islands.

In 1837 the influence of the Tongans in Fiji received an unexpected impetus from the arrival of the first Wesleyan missionaries, who sailed from Tonga to Lakemba with a retinue of Tongan teachers. They were at once joined by all the resident Tongans, who were now as zealous in converting page 53the Fijians to Christianity as they had formerly been in converting their property to their own use. The countenance and encouragement of the white missionaries fostered their natural arrogance, and, when persuasion failed to effect conversion, stronger methods were sometimes resorted to. By the year 1848 the Tongans had got thoroughly out of hand, and King George, who was not yet secure against conspiracy, foresaw that any rival who might choose to recruit partisans in Fiji could return to Tonga with a formidable army. In order to provide a legitimate outlet for the ambition of his cousin Maafu, he dispatched that redoubtable warrior to Fiji ostensibly as governor of the Tongan colony, in reality as conqueror of as much of the group as he could take. Maafu's strong personality, aided by the lash, soon reduced the turbulent Tongans to order, and island after island of the eastern group went down before him. The Tongan teachers, now established in most of the western islands, acted as his political agents, and the missionaries were powerless to discountenance aggressions that were avowedly made with the object of spreading the Christian faith. So horrible were the excesses of his warriors in these raids that the Wesleyan authorities were occasionally obliged to wash their hands of him, but their somewhat half-hearted protests did not prevent Taveuni and the greater part of Vanualevu from falling under his control.

The Tongans had carried all before them by their superior courage and dash in frontal attack, and by their intelligent use of European weapons.1 In 1858 Maafu's cruisers were ravaging territory claimed by Mbau, and the two powers stood face to face. Thakombau was wise enough to see that, in the event of an open rupture, even if he should gain an initial advantage over Maafu's warriors, he could not hope to stand against a power that had all Tonga to draw upon for recruits, and that with America pressing for its debt, and Maafu bent upon conquest, he had every prospect of finding himself in

1 Maafu was the first to employ cannon in native craft in Fiji. He had two small pieces mounted on the decks of canoes, which, if they did but little execution in a bombardment, often ended a siege by striking terror into the hearts of the garrison.

page 54vassalage to one or the other. In his extremity he turned to Mr. Pritehard, the English Consul, who, having a firm belief in the future of the islands as a cotton-growing country, was anxious to attract immigrants with capital. On Mr. Pritchard's advice, Thakombau executed a deed of cession, offering the sovereignty of the group to England on condition that he should retain the rank and title of Tui Viti (King of Fiji) accorded to him by the American Government,1 and that, in return for 200,000 acres of land, the British Government should satisfy the American claims.

Some pressure was put upon the Home Government from the Australian colonies to induce it to accept the offer upon the ground of the high price to which cotton had risen in consequence of the disturbances in the Southern States of the Union. Colonel Smythe, R.A., was sent out to report upon the proposal, but, in the face of his assurance that Thakombau's authority controlled less than half the group, the Government, already embarrassed by the expenses of a Maori war, could not entertain the offer.

The prospect of annexation had attracted from New Zealand a large number of Englishmen, some of whom settled in the island. In 1861 the European colony numbered 166 adults, of whom the majority were respectable people. They bought large tracts of land from the native chiefs, who sold recklessly whether the land belonged to them or not.

From 1861 to 1869 the Europeans increased to 1800, and the control of polical affairs passed from the native chiefs to Europeans, who served as a check upon Maafu's ambition. The mission spread rapidly, until by 1870 all but a few of the inland tribes were nominally Christian. Various unsuccessful attempts were made to establish a settled government, but in 1871 Thakombau was declared constitutional sovereign of the entire group, with a ministry and two houses of parliament, a form of government ridiculously unsuited to the needs of the

1 Mr. Miller, the British Consul in Hawaii, first addressed Thakombau as "Tui Viti" (King of Fiji) in a letter written in 1849 on the subject of the American claims, it being the policy of the claimants to make one chief responsible for damages sustained in every part of the groupe, however remote from the frontiers of Thakombau's territory.

page 55country, seeing that the natives, who numbered nearly one hundred to one, were to have no votes. Thakombau had an army officered by white men, and made abortive attempts to conquer the interior, but the new government did little beyond plunging into debt, and splitting the country into factions. In 1873 the political state of the group had become intolerable, and on British Commissioners being sent to inquire into the matter on the spot, the chiefs were induced, after some hesitation, to cede the sovereignty to England unconditionally. The Deed of Cession was signed in September, 1874. No doubt the chiefs acted to some extent under pressure from the Europeans, who had purchased land which they could not enjoy while it was in occupation by natives, and for which they desired to have titles. The Lands Commission had a task of extraordinary difficulty. Tracts had been sold by chiefs who had no title to them, and sometimes the same land had been sold to two or more purchasers. Many of the deeds produced could never have been understood by the natives who signed them, and often the boundaries were imperfectly described. Sir Arthur Gordon,1 the first Governor, wisely decided to govern the natives as far as possible through the machinery that he found in operation, and it encountered no open opposition with the exception of an insignificant rising in the western interior of Vitilevu, where the tribes, provoked by the encroachments of their neighbours on the coast, and alarmed at the ravages of the measles, reverted to their heathen gods for a few months. This outbreak was put down by native levies.

Thakombau, who received a pension of £ 1500 a year, was loyal to the British Government, and, both in the administration of his own province and in his intercourse with other chiefs, used his immense influence to promote the contentment of his people under their new rulers. At his death in 1882 the last of the great chiefs passed away, for Maafu had died in the preceding year.

1 Now Lord Stanmore.