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In the Isles of the Sea: The Story of Fifty Years in Melanesia

By Frances Awdry

London: Bemrose & Sons, Limited, 1902.



HAVING rather fully spoken of the first Parliament, we will say a few words of the last we have yet had time to hear about.

Bishop John Selwyn and Mr. Plant are both dead, and so, no doubt, are a good many others of those who had assembled at Belaga thirteen years before. But institutions outlive individuals, and it is to be hoped that the Vaukolu of the Floridas will last, as Parliaments do in Europe, for hundreds of years.

The report of the island voyage says:--

"September 20th, 1902.--The Vaukolu met to-day and was more successful than ever. The day began by the Holy Communion with eighty Communicants. After Matins we gathered under the cocoanut trees by the shore-three hundred and fifty natives and two white men.

"Prayers opened the meeting, and then we, through interpreters, spoke of the Queen's death and the King's accession, and referred to Bishop Patteson's death, that day thirty years. This led to a recapitulation of the changes those thirty years have brought, and we rejoiced in the well-grounded hope that the labour traffic is soon to cease. [See Appendix II.]

"The subject of discussion this year was one very important to the Church and people of Florida-the marriage customs.

"Wives are still bought, and of late parents had been asking such exorbitant prices for their daughters that only very rich young men could afford to marry, which caused a great deal of unhappiness, temptation, and, sometimes, sin. One teacher, for instance, had obtained for his daughter 150 strings of shell money and 1,000 porpoise teeth when marrying her to another teacher, and he has had to be dismissed from his school for setting such an example of money grabbing. Still the system encouraged it and required changing.

"Old David Tambukoru from Hongo, was strong on the subject, and had sent a letter to the Vaukolu beforehand, suggesting that it should be the rule that no one in future paid more than thirty strings for a wife unless both bride and bridegroom belonged to chiefly families, in which case fifty might be asked.

[95] "If the women had been admitted to the Vaukolu I doubt whether the business would have been got through in the way it was. The men's faces showed they were keenly interested, and Alfred Lombu, the one native priest of Florida, challenged the chiefs present to say that this law would not be for the good of the district; and they could not. They gave their opinions as they sat, and all admitted that nothing could be worse than the present state of things. Young people got fond of each other, but found marriage impossible to afford, and trouble very often was the result.

"The chiefs having voted, the 'commons' followed. All hands were raised in favour of reducing the price of wives, and Mr. Woodford, the English Commissioner, who lives in the Florida district, was asked to support the chiefs in punishing those who broke the rule."

It is amusing to hear that the women were a good deal offended at being cheapened, and would not speak to the men at first; but that is a matter which will soon adjust itself, we may be sure.

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