He must pay up right away or the warships would be upon him. To protect his people from this disaster he ceded his country to Britain, with a clause in the contract providing for the ultimate payment of the American debt.

In old times the Fijians were fierce fighters; they were very religious, and worshiped idols; the big chiefs were proud and haughty, and they were men of great style in many ways; all chiefs had several wives, the biggest chiefs sometimes had as many as fifty; when a chief was dead and ready for burial, four or five of his wives were strangled and put into the grave with him. In 1804 twenty-seven British convicts escaped from Australia to Fiji, and brought guns and ammunition with them. Consider what a power they were, armed like that, and what an opportunity they had. If they had been energetic men and sober, and had had brains and known how to use them, they could have achieved the sovereignty of the archipelago twenty-seven kings and each with eight or nine islands under his scepter. But nothing came of this chance. They lived worthless lives of sin and luxury, and died without honor--in most cases by violence. Only one of them had any ambition; he was an Irishman named Connor. He tried to raise a family of fifty children, and scored forty- eight. He died lamenting his failure. It was a foolish sort of avarice. Many a father would have been rich enough with forty.

It is a fine race, the Fijians, with brains in their heads, and an inquiring turn of mind. It appears that their savage ancestors had a doctrine of immortality in their scheme of religion--with limitations. That is to say, their dead friend would go to a happy hereafter if he could be accumulated, but not otherwise. They drew the line; they thought that the missionary's doctrine was too sweeping, too comprehensive. They called his attention to certain facts. For instance, many of their friends had been devoured by sharks; the sharks, in their turn, were caught and eaten by other men; later, these men were captured in war, and eaten by the enemy. The original persons had entered into the composition of the sharks; next, they and the sharks had become part of the flesh and blood and bone of the cannibals. How, then, could the particles of the original men be searched out from the final conglomerate and put together again? The inquirers were full of doubts, and considered that the missionary had not examined the matter with--the gravity and attention which so serious a thing deserved.

The missionary taught these exacting savages many valuable things, and got from them one--a very dainty and poetical idea: Those wild and ignorant poor children of Nature believed that the flowers, after they perish, rise on the winds and float away to the fair fields of heaven, and flourish there forever in immortal beauty!

CHAPTER VIII.

It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress. --Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.

When one glances at the map the members of the stupendous island wilderness of the Pacific seem to crowd upon each other; but no, there is no crowding, even in the center of a group; and between groups there are lonely wide deserts of sea. Not everything is known about the islands, their peoples and their languages. A startling reminder of this is furnished by the fact that in Fiji, twenty years ago, were living two strange and solitary beings who came from an unknown country and spoke an unknown language. "They were picked up by a passing vessel many hundreds of miles from any known land, floating in the same tiny canoe in which they had been blown out to sea. When found they were but skin and bone. No one could understand what they said, and they have never named their country; or, if they have, the name does not correspond with that of any island on any chart. They are now fat and sleek, and as happy as the day is long. In the ship's log

Following the Equator Page 36

Mark Twain

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Mark Twain
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