― 104 ―

Bowled Out.

I WALKED the verandah of my bungalow on Moto Ko Buli plantation, Sarawaga river, island of Vanua Levu, Fiji, impatiently waiting dinner. It was longer than usual in coming, and more than once I had shouted to Lonea, the cook, to hurry up, receiving always the stereotyped answer, “Io, saka, malua vakalailaie!” (“Yes, sir, wait a little.”)

Suddenly, after a longer pause than usual, Lonea bounced on to the verandah in a state of wild excitement. His eyes flamed and his breath came fast as he asked:

“Did you eat any of your curry, sir?”

“Eat any of the curry! How could I when you haven't given me a chance? But, see here, my friend, if it isn't on the table smartly, by the Lord I'll eat you!

Utterly disregarding the terrible threat, Lonea only rapped out, with rising anger, “Then it's some of those——niggers!” (using the last epithet of contempt one “nig.” can hurl at another).

“What's that? What have they been up to?”

“Eaten your curry! Come and see.”

Now this was a serious matter, and with an energetic “The devil they have!” I followed Lonea to the vale ni kuro. There, sure enough, stood the dish of curry that would in its perfect state have adorned my table and progressed gently through my digestive apparatus—but what a wreck!

Half the contents of dismembered fowl had disappeared, and in the rampart of rice by which it had been surrounded there were unmistakeable marks of the thievish fingers which had made free with the greater portion. My dinner was spoiled.

“Who did this?” I asked, wrathfully.

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“I don't know, sir; but one of those—Ra men, I think.”

“Were they about here?”

“Yes, sir.”


“Masid, Taniela, Warri, Tioni, Radovo and Taviuni.”

“Any in the kitchen?”

“Not while I was here, sir.”

“Well, you go to their bure and tell them all to muster on the verandah at once, if they don't want me after them; and send me your chief, Rogo.”

Tanna men are true as steel in a fight. They will stand to you like white men. Rogo came and quickly took my instructions, and I then went to make my own preparations for dealing with the culprit among the Ra men; for this offence, combining theft, sacrilege and insult, had to be promptly avenged.

The Ra men were not long in answering the summons, and, having strapped on my revolver, I lined them up against the rail.

All were there; twenty bronze figures perfectly nude but for the sulu around the loins.

Then Rogo and his ten Tanna men, fully armed, quietly appeared and took up a position at a little distance; so that when I began my harangue on the enormity of the offence committed, and expressed my determination to discover and punish the culprit, the Ra men felt that I was in earnest.

I told them white men had means of detection about which ignorant Ra Viti knew nothing, and that I was bound to find out the thief. Of course, all loudly protested innocence and denounced the offender.

Then the séance commenced.

I first went down the line looking for curry sign, making each one open his mouth. The draw was not altogether a blank, but it afforded no positive proof.

“Now,” I said, “I am going to show you how a white man finds out a thief, and woe to him who tells me lies.”

Then, commencing with the first man, I clapped my hand on

  ― 106 ―
his bare chest, over his heart, and sharply asked, “Did you eat my curry?”

Segai, saka, au bubului ki na Kalou dina au sega ni kunia.” (“No, sir; I swear by the true God I did n't.”)

“Did you? Did you? Did you?”—and the answer was repeated all down the line, while the heart-beat under my hand was but normal.

Then I came to Taviuni (so called because he had long lived on the island of that name). “Did you?”

“No, I swear—!” But the thump, thump, thump of his heart under my hand told a different story, changing suspicion into certainty; and he turned the yellowy-white colour of dirty fat as I thundered out—“You lie! Here, Lonea, bring me that bilo.”

Lonea brought the cup in which I had prepared a gentle dose of ipecacuanha out of the medicine-chest.

“Now, drink this!”

At first, Taviuni refused, believing he was to be poisoned outright; but, by tasting it myself and showing him the revolver, I at last induced him to reconsider his decision.

He drank, and we all waited results. Presently he turned to go.

“Stop there!”

Au tauveimate, saka” (“I'm unwell, sir.”)

“All right—stop there.”

Au via lua, saka!

“All right. Lua where you are!” And—ye gods!—he did.

There were one or two premonitory throes; then a mighty convulsion of the whole man; and—well, everybody soon knew who stole the curry.

The man's discomfiture was his sufficient punishment; but the story flew far and wide, and I became speedily famous as a mighty medicine-man on the strength of the way in which I bowled out Master Taviuni.