I took the opportunity of this delay to be present at a public solemnity, to which the king had invited us, when we went last to visit him, and which, he had informed us, was to be performed on the 8th. With a view to this, he and all the people of note quitted our neighbourhood on the 7th, and repaired to Mooa, where the solemnity was to be exhibited. A party of us followed them the next morning. We understood, from what Poulaho had said to us, that his son and heir was now to be initiated into certain privileges, amongst which was, that of eating with his father, an honour he had not, as yet, been admitted to.
We arrived at Mooa about eight o’clock, and found the king, with a large circle of attendants sitting before him, within an inclosure so small and dirty, as to excite my wonder that any such could be found in that neighbourhood. They were intent upon their usual morning occupation, in preparing a bowl of kava. As this was no liquor for us, we walked out to visit some of our friends, and to observe what preparations might be making for the ceremony, which was soon to begin. About ten o’clock, the people began to assemble in a large area, which is before the malaee, or great house, to which we had been conducted the first time we visited Mooa. At the end of a road, that opens into this area, stood some men with spears and clubs, who kept constantly reciting or chanting short sentences in a mournful tone, which conveyed some idea of distress, and as if they called for something. This was continued about an hour; and, in the mean time, many people came down the road, each of them bringing a yam, tied to the middle of a pole, which they laid down before the persons who continued repeating the sentences. While this was going on, the king and prince arrived, and seated themselves upon the area; and we were desired to sit down by them, but to pull off our hats, and to untie our hair. The bearers of the yams being all come in, each pole was taken up between two men, who carried it over their shoulders. After forming themselves into companies of ten or twelve persons each, they marched across the place with a quick pace; each company headed by a man bearing a club or spear, and guarded on the right by several others armed with different weapons. A man carrying a living pigeon on a perch, closed the rear, of the procession, in which about two hundred and fifty persons walked.
Omai was desired by me to ask the chief, to what place the yams were to be thus carried with so much solemnity? but, as he seemed unwilling to give us the information we wanted, two or three of us followed the procession contrary to his inclination. We found that they stopped before a morai or fiatooka of one house standing upon a mount, which was hardly a quarter of a mile from the place where they first assembled. Here we observed them depositing the yams, and making them up into bundles; but for what purpose we could not learn. And, as our presence