The canoes when approaching the shore would indicate that human prey was on board by striking the water at intervals with a pole. Seeing the splashes, the natives gathered in a howling mob along the shore, the women breaking into a wild, lascivious dance. The victims were seized by the arms and dragged to the temple, their captors chanting the cannibal song:
Yari au malua. Yari au malua.
Drag me gently. Drag me gently.
Oi au na saro ni nomu vanua.
For I am the champion of thy land.
Yi mudokia! Yi mudokia! Yi mudokia!
Give thanks! Give thanks! Give thanks!
Ki Dama le!
Sharp-edged strips of bamboo served as knives for the butcher, and after being roasted or steamed, the flesh was eaten by means of a wooden fork, each high chief having one of these which it was tabu for any one but himself to touch.
Cannibalism was dreaded by the lower classes for they were forbidden to participate in the feasts, and were themselves most frequently the victims of these orgies. Thus when the missionaries succeeded in developing even in a rudimentary form the force of "public opinion" the practice was suppressed far more easily than had been anticipated, for it was a rite maintained by the aristocracy and the priests and had become a terrible engine of despotism.
Another institution which appears to have been practised from time immemorial in Fiji was polygamy. The great majority of Fijians were not polygamous, however, for only the highest chiefs could afford to maintain more than one wife, and even those of most exalted rank rarely had more than ten wives. There is reason to suppose that the number of women has always been less than that of men in Fiji, owing to the greater care devoted to the rearing of warriors.
A man of the middle classes rarely married before the age of twenty-five, at which time his mother chose a wife from among the daughters of his maternal uncle (his orthogamous cousins, veidavolani). One quarter of all Fijian marriages are still of this character, and they produce healthy offspring.
Men of the lowest class frequently remained bachelors throughout life, and all unmarried females of the peasantry were disposed of by the chief of the tribe. In Mbau this match-making chief was next in rank to the vunivalu, Thakombau. It is evident that Basil Thomson is right when he says that the abandonment of polygamy could have had no serious influence upon the vitality of the race, for it affected too few.