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    Chapter 7

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    Chapter 8
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    Truth is the most valuable thing we have. Let us economize it.
    --Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.

    From Diary:--For a day or two we have been plowing among an invisible
    vast wilderness of islands, catching now and then a shadowy glimpse of a
    member of it. There does seem to be a prodigious lot of islands this
    year; the map of this region is freckled and fly-specked all over with
    them. Their number would seem to be uncountable. We are moving among
    the Fijis now--224 islands and islets in the group. In front of us, to
    the west, the wilderness stretches toward Australia, then curves upward
    to New Guinea, and still up and up to Japan; behind us, to the east, the
    wilderness stretches sixty degrees across the wastes of the Pacific;
    south of us is New Zealand. Somewhere or other among these myriads Samoa
    is concealed, and not discoverable on the map. Still, if you wish to go
    there, you will have no trouble about finding it if you follow the
    directions given by Robert Louis Stevenson to Dr. Conan Doyle and to Mr.
    J. M. Barrie. "You go to America, cross the continent to San Francisco,
    and then it's the second turning to the left." To get the full flavor of
    the joke one must take a glance at the map.

    Wednesday, September 11.--Yesterday we passed close to an island or so,
    and recognized the published Fiji characteristics: a broad belt of clean
    white coral sand around the island; back of it a graceful fringe of
    leaning palms, with native huts nestling cosily among the shrubbery at
    their bases; back of these a stretch of level land clothed in tropic
    vegetation; back of that, rugged and picturesque mountains. A detail
    of the immediate foreground: a mouldering ship perched high up on a
    reef-bench. This completes the composition, and makes the picture
    artistically perfect.

    In the afternoon we sighted Suva, the capital of the group, and threaded
    our way into the secluded little harbor--a placid basin of brilliant blue
    and green water tucked snugly in among the sheltering hills. A few ships
    rode at anchor in it--one of them a sailing vessel flying the American
    flag; and they said she came from Duluth! There's a journey! Duluth is
    several thousand miles from the sea, and yet she is entitled to the proud
    name of Mistress of the Commercial Marine of the United States of
    America. There is only one free, independent, unsubsidized American ship
    sailing the foreign seas, and Duluth owns it. All by itself that ship is
    the American fleet. All by itself it causes the American name and power
    to be respected in the far regions of the globe. All by itself it
    certifies to the world that the most populous civilized nation, in the
    earth has a just pride in her stupendous stretch of sea-front, and is
    determined to assert and maintain her rightful place as one of the Great
    Maritime Powers of the Planet. All by itself it is making foreign eyes
    familiar with a Flag which they have not seen before for forty years,
    outside of the museum. For what Duluth has done, in building, equipping,
    and maintaining at her sole expense the American Foreign Commercial
    Fleet, and in thus rescuing the American name from shame and lifting it
    high for the homage of the nations, we owe her a debt of gratitude which
    our hearts shall confess with quickened beats whenever her name is named
    henceforth. Many national toasts will die in the lapse of time, but
    while the flag flies and the Republic survives, they who live under their
    shelter will still drink this one, standing and uncovered: Health and
    prosperity to Thee, O Duluth, American Queen of the Alien Seas!

    Row-boats began to flock from the shore; their crews were the first
    natives we had seen. These men carried no overplus of clothing, and this
    was wise, for the weather was hot. Handsome, great dusky men they were,
    muscular, clean-limbed, and with faces full of character and
    intelligence. It would be hard to find their superiors anywhere among
    the dark races, I should think.

    Everybody went ashore to look around, and spy out the land, and have that
    luxury of luxuries to sea-voyagers--a land-dinner. And there we saw more
    natives: Wrinkled old women, with their flat mammals flung over their
    shoulders, or hanging down in front like the cold-weather drip from the
    molasses-faucet; plump and smily young girls, blithe and content, easy
    and graceful, a pleasure to look at; young matrons, tall, straight,
    comely, nobly built, sweeping by with chin up, and a gait incomparable
    for unconscious stateliness and dignity; majestic young men athletes for
    build and muscle clothed in a loose arrangement of dazzling white, with
    bronze breast and bronze legs naked, and the head a cannon-swab of solid
    hair combed straight out from the skull and dyed a rich brick-red. Only
    sixty years ago they were sunk in darkness; now they have the bicycle.
    We strolled about the streets of the white folks' little town, and around
    over the hills by paths and roads among European dwellings and gardens
    and plantations, and past clumps of hibiscus that made a body blink, the
    great blossoms were so intensely red; and by and by we stopped to ask an
    elderly English colonist a question or two, and to sympathize with him
    concerning the torrid weather; but he was surprised, and said:

    "This? This is not hot. You ought to be here in the summer time once."

    "We supposed that this was summer; it has the ear-marks of it. You could
    take it to almost any country and deceive people with it. But if it
    isn't summer, what does it lack?"

    "It lacks half a year. This is mid-winter."

    I had been suffering from colds for several months, and a sudden change
    of season, like this, could hardly fail to do me hurt. It brought on
    another cold. It is odd, these sudden jumps from season to season. A
    fortnight ago we left America in mid-summer, now it is midwinter; about a
    week hence we shall arrive in Australia in the spring.

    After dinner I found in the billiard-room a resident whom I had known
    somewhere else in the world, and presently made, some new friends and
    drove with them out into the country to visit his Excellency the head of
    the State, who was occupying his country residence, to escape the rigors
    of the winter weather, I suppose, for it was on breezy high ground and
    much more comfortable than the lower regions, where the town is, and
    where the winter has full swing, and often sets a person's hair afire
    when he takes off his hat to bow. There is a noble and beautiful view of
    ocean and islands and castellated peaks from the governor's high-placed
    house, and its immediate surroundings lie drowsing in that dreamy repose
    and serenity which are the charm of life in the Pacific Islands.

    One of the new friends who went out there with me was a large man, and I
    had been admiring his size all the way. I was still admiring it as he
    stood by the governor on the veranda, talking; then the Fijian butler
    stepped out there to announce tea, and dwarfed him. Maybe he did not
    quite dwarf him, but at any rate the contrast was quite striking.
    Perhaps that dark giant was a king in a condition of political
    suspension. I think that in the talk there on the veranda it was said
    that in Fiji, as in the Sandwich Islands, native kings and chiefs are of
    much grander size and build than the commoners. This man was clothed in
    flowing white vestments, and they were just the thing for him; they
    comported well with his great stature and his kingly port and dignity.
    European clothes would have degraded him and made him commonplace. I
    know that, because they do that with everybody that wears them.

    It was said that the old-time devotion to chiefs and reverence for their
    persons still survive in the native commoner, and in great force. The
    educated young gentleman who is chief of the tribe that live in the
    region about the capital dresses in the fashion of high-class European
    gentlemen, but even his clothes cannot damn him in the reverence of his
    people. Their pride in his lofty rank and ancient lineage lives on, in
    spite of his lost authority and the evil magic of his tailor. He has no
    need to defile himself with work, or trouble his heart with the sordid
    cares of life; the tribe will see to it that he shall not want, and that
    he shall hold up his head and live like a gentleman. I had a glimpse of
    him down in the town. Perhaps he is a descendant of the last king--the
    king with the difficult name whose memory is preserved by a notable
    monument of cut-stone which one sees in the enclosure in the middle of
    the town. Thakombau--I remember, now; that is the name. It is easier to
    preserve it on a granite block than in your head.

    Fiji was ceded to England by this king in 1858. One of the gentlemen
    present at the governor's quoted a remark made by the king at the time of
    the session--a neat retort, and with a touch of pathos in it, too. The
    English Commissioner had offered a crumb of comfort to Thakombau by
    saying that the transfer of the kingdom to Great Britain was merely "a
    sort of hermit-crab formality, you know." "Yes," said poor Thakombau,
    "but with this difference--the crab moves into an unoccupied shell, but
    mine isn't."

    However, as far as I can make out from the books, the King was between
    the devil and the deep sea at the time, and hadn't much choice. He owed
    the United States a large debt--a debt which he could pay if allowed
    time, but time was denied him. 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!
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