Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 87.djvu/48

This page has been validated.

ingly clapping with their hands. Hearing the plaintive sound two chiefs of the king's household, who had hitherto been sitting motionless as statues within the room, moved to one and the other side of the door. The head of a pig, a large bunch of cocoanuts, or a turtle would then be timidly thrust part way within the opening, and a tremulous voice outside would beg that his majesty, their great and gracious lord, would condescend to accept as tribute so mean and unworthy an offering as their poverty forced them to present, trusting that in his greatness he would continue to protect and show them favor. When the voice ceased, the two chiefs at the door would critically inspect the proffered specimen of tribute, calling attention to its faults as well as to its qualities, and if its acceptance was recommended, all the chiefs who had been crouching sphinx-like against the wall within the house would show signs of life and majestically clapping their hands murmur "A! woi! woi! woi!! A tabua levu!" (a wonderfully large whale's tooth!). Upon which the king himself usually spoke a few words and the tribute was formally accepted. So abundant was this tribute that great heaps of taro, yams, cocoanuts or turtles were nearly always to be seen upon the village green of Mbau.

In the old days, wars were waged over the slightest inattention to this matter of tribute. The island of Maliki was charged to provide turtles for Tanoa, but one day they presumed themselves to eat one of the turtles they had caught; hearing of which Tanoa sent a fleet of war canoes, and every man and woman on Maliki was killed, the children being captured in order that the boys of Mbau might club them to death and thus earn their titles of Koroi (killers of men).

The old king spoke not a word of English, but he was fond of reminiscence. He remembered the Peacock of the Wilkes expedition, being then a boy of about 8 years. He also spoke admiringly of Professor Moseley, of the Challenger, and seemed saddened when told that he was dead.

The freedom with which he volunteered to discourse upon events of cannibal times was surprising. He said that one day when he was a little boy he had entered the house of Tanoa during the dinner hour, and his grandfather, who always loved him, had given him the tongue of the Mbakola[1] (man-to-be-eaten) and its taste was vinaka (good). After this he "often dined with his grandfather," who "had a new man nearly every day." Wilkes states that the Fijians esteemed women more highly than men, but Ratu Epele declared that the best of meat were old, lean men "whose flesh was red and whose fat was yellow," and whose taste was "like pork with bananas." Women, he declared,

  1. Long pig, "Vuaka-mbalavu," applied to designate cooked man, is not grammatical Fijian, but is derived from a joke of the inveterate old cannibal Tanoa.