Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 87.djvu/44

This page has been validated.

Chrisianity such an instrument of torture might well be dispensed with, although by the native it is still regarded as the acme of luxury.

Housekeeping is simple in happy Fiji, where all is charmingly clean, and thick layers of soft mats invite repose upon the floor. Indeed the natives sleep much by day, for at night there is apt to be a "meke," wherein the maidens of the village, adorned in garlands of flowers and well polished with cocoanut oil, sing far into the small hours, keeping time to their chants by graceful gestures. This, together with the dull beating of the wooden drum, drives all hope of sleep away, but it is to be preferred to the "silent" nights when rats and mice scamper ceaselessly over the floor, contesting their supremacy with an occasional centipede or land crab. Yes, one must live a life of leisure and sleep by day in Fiji.

The largest edifice in the village is called the "stranger's house" for it is here that guests are entertained and fed by the community under orders from the chief. At Mbau the old stranger's house has stood for generations, dating far back into cannibal times, and within its walls the first Christian service was held in 1854. It is about 125 feet long and 40 feet wide, being exceeded in length only by the stranger's house at Rewa.

Carpenters are a highly respected caste in Fiji, and canoe and house building are occupations fit to engage the activities of chiefs. When one desires a house, a whale's tooth or other suitable gift should be presented to the chief, who then engages the carpenters, who in turn may command the services of more than two hundred assistants, all of whom labor so efficiently that in from one to three weeks the house is erected and ready for company. In the South Seas things are done in communal fashion and village labors, such as house building, canoe making, and the gathering of crops are occasions for songs and dances and all manner of merriment and feasting.

There is much of interest in Mbau, for although the ovens have long ago grown cold, yet the great foundation stones of the old temple of the war god (Na Vatani Tawake) still remain in the center of the village, and in 1898 one could still see the sacred tree upon whose boughs were hung the genital organs of victims who had been sacrificed to the Fijian Mars.

Close by the side of the foundation of the old temple a sharp-edged column of basalt is set upright within the ground. This is the stone to which victims were dragged by their arms and upon which their heads were dashed. Fragments of human teeth might still be found by digging at the base of this stone, and in many a house in Mbau there were sail needles made from leg-bones of the victims. There was another execution stone which was axe-shaped and thrust upright into the ground near the foot of the hill; but this now serves as the baptismal font, and is set within the church. The ovens in which victims were