Unaccredited : Love
unaccredited : love in
Love In Fiji - My Early Life Amoung the Cannibals.
of Literature, Science, Art, and National Interests
G. P. Putnam
& Sons, New York
Volume 6 Number
31, July 1870.
fictional account of surf-riding and a dramatic shark attack in
In Fiji - My Early Life Amoung the Cannibals.
On one of
occasions, I had gone out " surf-playing" with a company of
twelve or fifteen
Tongan youths of the higher rank. The young men and girls of
families are exclusive in their fellowships, and seldom
indulge in sports
or games except in the companionship of their own caste.
I enjoyed the
questionable privilege of that fellowship, however, on account
of my foreign
blood; for the Tongans hold the whites in much esteem as
skilled or dexterous foreigners; reverencing their mechanical
must be confessed, much more than their civilization, their
or their religion.
Our party was
gambolling, as if natives of the element, in the tumbling surf
upon the reefs of Vavau; all was going merrily, and the shouts
of our company
rang out loudly above the noise of the breakers, as we
indulged in contests
of speed in swimming, or of endurance in diving, or, poised
upon the glittering
crest of the billow, rushed shoreward at racehorse speed upon
Suddenly I saw
a sight that made my flushed limbs turn cold with a sudden
fin, cutting through the smooth, undulating surface of the
billow a few
yards seaward, and approaching our party swiftly and
sharp fin, rounded like the head of a razor-blade, the edge of
its way straight toward us without a ripple.
It was the
shark,—the most voracious and terrible variety of his species.
I screamed at
the top of my voice, Auwe! te mono! Auwe! te mano!
("Alas! the shark!
the shark ! ") and struck out vigorously for the shore,
kicking my heels
upon the surface of the water as I swam.
The rest of
company followed my example; for the shark is essentially a
will not attack a swimmer as long as he splashes the water
But one of our
company, a girl of about my own age, my favorite playmate, had
any warning of the enemy's approach. She dove, the instant
before I gave
the alarm, to escape the ardent pursuit of one of the native
the aquatic sports of the Islanders involved a degree of
will not bear too minute a description.
She went under
like a water-fowl, aud disappeared from him at the instant
that she was
about to become his captive; but she escaped for the moment,
only to be
singled out as the object of a more terrible chase.
his course toward Melelina—this was the name of the unhappy
her, as, all unconscious, she was still swimming rapidly under
I saw the
fin disappear from the surface, and knew that she was ignorant
of his approach.
hoping to see her under water, to touch her lithe body, and
warn her of
the danger before it was too late.
I knew that
must be within a few yards of me; but I could not see her, the
of the water at the moment being such as to disperse the
light, and render
it impossible for the sight to penetrate more than two fathoms
in any direction.
In spite of
terrible excitement of the moment, I did not lose presence of
a fathom deeper, and reached the jagged surface of the coral
reef; I broke
from it, lacerating my hands in the powerful effort,
... two dense
fragments of the mushroom coral, which abounds in these
waters, and struck
them sharply together, giving the signal by which the Tongan
with each other while under water.
I knew that
sound, though entirely inaudible above water, would be
conveyed with great
intensity to a considerable distance beneath the surface.
In far less
than it takes to read the account of it, I had made the
signal, with two
rapid clicks (like the telegraphic signal for the letter A),"
Come to the
surface of the water!"
As I repeated
this signal, employing all the strength of a muscular pair of
arms, a shadow
passed over me, darkening the broad, fan-like beams of
sunlight that now
poured down into the sea.
It was the
He dashed over
me like a flying spear, apparently intimidated by the sharp
the coral in my hands—a sound that he had never heard before.
But I knew
he was in swift pursuit of my beautiful playmate.
I dropped the
corals, and rose—for my breath was now almost spent—to the
surface of the
were by this time making rapid way toward the land, kicking
furiously. But Melelina had not yet appeared.
fallen a prey to this monster, this ravening devil of the sea?
I gasped for
But, in a few
seconds, the glossy black head of the young girl sprang above
of the water, hardly farther from me than her arm's length.
She shook the
brine from her curls. Her eyes sparkled.
She drew a
breath, and cried,
"Va lilo ia
!"—" I have escaped him!
I swam seaward
after diving, and put him off the track!"
of the savage, not of that more terrible enemy, of which, as
yet, she knew
shoreward, she saw the whole company in flight, and beating
the brine with
me: my face was as ghastly as death.
upon her at once, and something of its terror was reflected in
I gasped out:
shark is after you!
Swim for your
in an instant; and, in the same second, we saw the blue dorsal
fin of the
shark at Melelina's side.
before we could cry out, he turned and seized her.
I shall uever
forget that dreadful moment.
Her face, just
now so smiling, was instantly drawn with sharp pain.
A shriek of
rent the air.
She threw her
hands wildly toward me, and immediately the water around her
turned a frightful
The poor girl
moaned a few times in my arms, and died, murmuring a few words
of the prayer
that the missionaries had taught her ("Et tou matou Atua !
I bore the
part of the way to the shore; a broad track of crimson marked
as I swam.
Those of the
company who had first reached the shore, hastily pushed off a
came out to us, beating the water with their paddles to scare
sated with a single life, did not follow us farther.
They met us
the landing, for we were not more than half a mile from the
the shark attacked us; and, upon arriving with the still warm
body of Melelina,
the whole village came down to the seaside, with branches of
(dilo, a variety of Calophyllum), and uttered those
loud and doleful
wails with which all of the South Sea Islanders are accustomed
It is not my
to dwell further upon the adventures, varied and exciting as
which filled up my boyish years.
to say that, at the age of fifteen, I had become quite
identified in feeling
with these natives, and was accustomed to spend at least a
half of my time
in their company.
As the Tongans
were a kindly, indolent race, they displayed no traits that
or caused me to shrink from their society; but the habits of
savage life which I then acquired were to lead me, in another
the darker scenes which I am about to describe.
Would that the
memories of my early years included nothing but the record of
innocent days spent upon the Tonga Islands!
Geoff Cater (2011-2017) :
: Love in Fiji, 1870.