Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/75

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Chiefs in Florida.

fine was an active one; a chief forbids under penalty of a fine, which is a form of taboo; he orders one who has done wrong or has offended him to pay a certain sum of money to him. Thus Takua imposed a heavy fine on the man who had proposed to marry within the prohibited degrees, and the offender had to hire an advocate to state his case discreetly, apologize, and beg off a part of the fine. The chief sends women or boys to fetch the fine he has imposed; these sit at the man's door and dae, dun him by their presence and demands, till he pays. If he refuses, the chief sends his retainers to destroy and carry away his property. It is evident that a chief of sense, energy and good feeling, will use his power on the whole to the great advantage of the people; but a bad use of a chief's power is naturally common, in oppression, seizing land and property, increasing his stock of heads, and gaining a terrible reputation. For example, a man who had a private enemy would give money to a chief to have him killed, as one did not long ago to Dikea; Dikea would send one of his young men to kill him. But sometimes the man would know his danger and send more money to the chief to save his life. Dikea would take both sums and do as he pleased.

The power of a chief naturally diminished in old age, from inactivity, parsimony, and loss of reputation; and, to the credit of the people, also if, like Takua when he took the daughter of one who was already his wife, he did what was held by them to be wrong. In any case some one was ready, it might be by degrees, to take the place of one whose force was waning. A chief expecting his death prepared his son, nephew, or chosen

    prisoner till his return; so at least the captain's orders were interpreted to the chief. Takua complained; he could have him killed easily, he said, it would cost him but a trifle to get that done, but to catch a man and keep him for ten months would be very difficult and very expensive. Things are now changed at Florida. Dikea of Ravu accused two men of taking fragments of his food to charm him; they fled to Olevuga; Dikea sent money to Lipa, chief of that place, to have them killed; Lipa sent it back. Dikea then sent money to Tambukoru of Honggo, asking him to attack Olevuga; that chief refused, but kept the money.