Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 87.djvu/35

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UPON the death of old Tanoa, his son Thakombau (evil to Mbau) became Vunivalu. He was an ambitious, energetic, crafty and intelligent man, but the problems of government were becoming yearly more complex in Fiji.

Missionaries had entered the group in 1835, and although Tanoa did not permit them to live in Mbau or to attempt to make converts of his subjects, other chiefs welcomed them, for they brought valuable presents and increased the importance of those among whom they lived. Gradually other white men had come to Fiji. At first mere degenerates or deserters from vessels who lived as did the natives themselves, but afterwards men of more ambition and intelligence gathered to the shores of these distant islands, and assumed a leading part in affairs. The missionary influence was beginning to be felt, for converts were being made among the lower orders of the population, and the power of the native priests, and with it that of the chiefs was weakening.

Vainly did Thakombau rail against the advance of civilization, for the hated power of the Mbau chief, founded as it was upon terrorism, was doomed. One after another defeats came to the war parties of Thakombau, and so reduced was he at last that, the missionaries being the sole power left to whom he could appeal for aid, he was forced in 1854 to profess Christianity, and cannibal feasts were known no more at Mbau. It was a great triumph for the missionaries, the result of nineteen years of unremitting toil amid constant dangers and surroundings unspeakable in horror.

That Thakombau's conversion was forced upon him as a matter of expediency is evident, for in a speech he called upon the gods of Fiji, saying that he still respected them as of old, but that the time had come when he must add the white man's god to those of his ancestors.

In the days of his power he had owned a fleet of more than a hundred war canoes, manned by a thousand warriors. 15,000 subjects acknowledged him as king, and in addition half of Fiji paid him tribute or admitted his supremacy, and he had boasted that the cannibal ovens of Mbau never grew cold. He had more than fifty wives, and he himself knew not how many children, and when but a child he had wantonly murdered one of his playmates; yet he had but to declare himself a Christian and hundreds of his subjects followed the chief's example