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GOLDEN DAYS IN MANY LANDS.

FIJI DURING THE CORONATION CELEBRATIONS OF KING EDWARD vn. CBy WINIFRED" H. LETS.) (Concluded.) r Here were we, too, landed in J?iji, and nrach of our expected entertainment impossible. It is.only due to the Union Steamship Company's agent (Mr. Duncan) to say that he did his very best to fill oar time pleasantly. Picnics were arranged and carried through splendidly. One day we manned the boats and proceeded up the Tamavour River, where, in the shade of a banana plantation, luncheon was spread. On another day little" launches conveyed us up the Rewa River, ■where, landing at the Colonial Sugar Company's mill, the various intricacies of sugar-cane crushing and the evaporation of the juice were explained. Higher up the Rewa we were entertained at luncheon in the house of one of the Chiefs. And when it was rumoured round the 3eck of the Waikare that on the Monday we were to be taken to 'Benga, and that arrangements had been made with the fire-walkers to perform, for the benefit of the Waikare's passengers, the firewalking ceremony that had been one of the most anticipated features of the hoped-for Suva festivities j we felt that,, in this last arrangement, we were faring, much better than we could possibly have done among the crowds that would have flocked to see the performance in Suva. 'Benga, the home of the fire-walkers, is one of the greenest and most delightful islands we visited in the Fiji Group. Quite close to the shore, a deep pit had been dug and partially filled with wood; on the top of this was placed a great layer of stones, and then more branches of trees, the wood around the stones being then lit and allowed to burn from twelve to sixteen hours, until, in fact, there .were but a few charred branches left; these, when the fire-walkers were ready, were carefully draggd from the stones by means of twisted creepers and the roots of trees. While these preparations were going on, two' doctors who were passengers on the Waikare, carefully examined the firewalkers, but could find no evidence on their feet or bodies that' anything had been used to' deaden the pain.. When all was ready, in answer to a speech from one of the native chiefs, we grouped ourselves round the pit in breathless silence. Suddenly the Chief gave a queer long cry, and up sprang the fire-walkers" from the hushes where they had been in hiding, and without the slightest hesitation ten gaily-decorated warriors walked straight on to the stones. Never wavering, they proceeded twice round the pit; then.; the onlooking natives raised a great shout* and flung leaves on the stones, the firewalkexs proceeding to the. centre of. the pit, thy -"sat "down, icompletely. enveloped in the cloud of steam and smoke that rose from the smouldering leaves; The preparation of the stones had taken quite sixteen hours, and the actual firewalking scarcely more than fifteen seconds j but if anyone is inclined to jeer at the short time the-fire-walkers were on the stones, I may tell him- that two hours after the ceremony. I was given a piece of the stone to hold, but the heat even then was eg intense that I was compelled to drop--it;- When the firewalkers left the stones, -one or two were again examined by the doctors, but no trace of burning was found-rreven the hairs of their legs remained mtsinged. Among native races, the world wide, this trial by .fire seems to be a wellknown ceremony, but no European, has solved the mystery as to how it is compHshed. One feasible explanation is that some kinds, of stone give off heat very slowly. This would account for the quick manner in. • which the natives walk when on the stones, never keeping their feet in one position for a fraction of a second. Also, one must take into account the fact that the feet of most natives are as tbiigli as" the hardest leather. Besides, every South Sea Islander does not attempt io walk the stones. The oeremohy appears" to be reserved to one tribe in. each group, probably the priests of the old order of religion. The confidence of the old stagers -was unbounded, but one or two youths who were snaking, their first "trial fey •fire 5 ' were" visibly. qujQdng' in theirleaf anklets. This, bewiiaering; display dosed- our visit in a most effective manner. Since then I have listened to many discussions on the subject of firewalking, and' I confess' I find myself, left with a deep admiration for file wily native, who, I suspect, can plaster his feet with concoctions, talk glibly of> magic, and defy' discovery.

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GOLDEN DAYS IN MANY LANDS. Auckland Star, Volume XL, Issue 88, 14 April 1909

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