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On Fiji Islands -- Suva -- Chapter 5.20

He knew so. much about all sorts of things. I learned a lot, the time I was with him." "Sounds like Maggie and Pierre," Derek said, adding "Trudeau" when she'looked blank.

"Neil wanted to marry me, too," she continued. "My friends told me I was just throwing my life away on him. And it was true really, I was throwing it away. One day I told him I'd only marry him if he'd give me a two-carat diamond-and you know, a two carat diamond is a big diamond.

Of course I was only joking. But he went away on a business trip to Hong Kong and came back with a one-and-a-half carat one. Close enough, he reckoned, I sup pose. That's when I decided I had better end it there and then. I've heard from friends that he's trying to sell the ring. I hope he gets a good price for it."

"Our friend Jack," Gladys said, "always teases Nina and me about the men we go out with. He calls us the TBs-that's short for Tycoon Bitches."

Next morning I saw Derek onto the bus for Nadi, and made my way back towards the Grand Pacific.

In front of the Parliament buildings, on the side facing Victoria Parade, there are two bronze men. One is King Cakobau, sitting cross legged atop a plinth commemorating the Cession of Fiji to Britain; the other, a bald, serious-faced man in formal sulu and morning coat, chest full of medals and honours, striding purpose fully toward the sea. This is Ratu Sukuna, epitomized by his biog rapher as soldier, statesman, and man of two worlds.

Ratu Josefa Lalabalavu Sukuna was born in 1888, five years after the death of Cakobau. His father, brought up in the chiefly house hold of Bau, became one of the cornerstones of the native admin istration created by Gordon and Thurston-but not without difficulties reconciling the traditional rights of a high chief with the role of an imperial bureaucrat. He realized that the next generation of Fijian leaders should be able to operate in the white man's culture on equal terms. He hired a private tutor for his son in Fiji, then sent him on to boarding school in New Zealand. (The boy's exceptional ability had already been noted by several whites, including Brewster.)

Historian, novelist, and essayist Ronald Wright is the award-winning author of nine books of nonfiction and fiction published in 16 languages and more than 50 countries. Much of his work explores the relationships between past and present, peoples and power, other cultures and our own.  On Fiji Islands, was published in 1983 to critical acclaim. He has graciously allowed Fijiguide.com to serialize his work for your enjoyment. We welcome your comments. (For more information visit http://www.randomhouse.ca/newface/wright.php)

 

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