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catawa servants, and displayed no kind of pomp. Thus, defenceless and unprotected, it was absurd to think the princess could injure any one ; and there was a peculiar severity in her case, as she had no friend to watch over the fairness of the administrator's conduct, or to rejoice in her recovery. She wept bitterly when passing to the place of trial, and the natives sympathised with her by what they term “mifady ahitra,” or an adjuration of the grass. This is performed by plucking up a piece of grass from the ground, and holding it up, as to express, May such misfortunes be far from us, as we would avoid treading on the very grass of the village where such sorrow dwells." On the day of the ascent to the town, after the acquittal, this princess acted with a dignity quite peculiar to herself. Whilst all the others remained some time in the country to dance, gesticulate and receive congratulations, she proceeded home, without pausing anywhere, her attendants making a mere humming sound expressive of joy. The queen shewed some good feeling by sending her especial congratulation, saying that, “ though Radama was gone, she would be a mother to her, and never injure her.”
In May, after the females had undergone their ordeal, the administrators themselves were pelled to drink along with the others, making in all about sixty persons. Two of the former and two of the common people were victims, and the survivors made the usual triumphal entry.
After this, the Skias, or diviners, took their turn, several of whom died. The particulars of the death of one are, that “his stomach became prodigiously swollen, his legs enlarged, his features distorted — and he expired in great agony." Those who lay accusation and administer the poison are great pecuniary gainers, as a dollar and fifty-three cents is given by every one who recovers, besides perquisites and private presents. When the accused dies, the officiating squad receives one twenty-fourth of the whole property not bequeathed before the accusation. The diviners also reap a large harvest from these iniquitous practices. They attend daily for eight or ten days before and after the drinking takes place, and receive one dollar, or many, according to the wealth of the accused.
When the accusation is made no circumstance prevents any delay, no excuse is available. One
of the officers accused in 1831, was actually watching the corpse of his father when the appointed person knocked at his door. He begged to be excused till after the funeral, declaring that he asked only a few days' delay, and not exemption; no delay could be granted, and he was dragged from performing the last offices of filial affecion, to the scene of ignominious and protracted trial. In another instance, a man was ill of fever, and unable to walk, yet no delay was permitted. He drank, and some credit was due to the Tanghien in consequence, for the violent sickness cured him completely of his fever. In such harsh cases, the nearest relatives and dearest friends dare not interfere, from the dread of being personally accused of holding league with the guilty, and thus being themselves compelled to drink. The deception practised in the whole transaction is evident to every sensible native.
It is well known that the selection of the fruit of the Tanghien requires great care, and that a mistake in this respect may destroy the innocent, or save the guilty. Thus the administrators have it in their power to permit any criminal to escape, and for a small reward they often exercise this partiality. They frequently recover slaves who have been pronounced dead, by giving them copious draughts of water, in which certain herbs have been boiled. The individuals so saved are sent to a great distance and sold, as they cannot be suffered to remain in the place where the ordeal has been administered to them, and they are disposed of as “ prize property,” their own fear preventing them from ever disclosing the transaction to the families of their new masters. Thus, among all the rich nobility who drank of the Taghien in 1830, not one died. It is equally certain that the administrators can sacrifice whom they please.
The fruit, which appears very red, is protested against by the friends of the accused, on the tacit understanding that such a fruit will destroy, whether innocent or guilty. On this account, during the ordeal of 1830, a few of the common people were always seized upon and compelled to partake with the nobility, and they usually consisted of those who had no friends or relatives to stand by them. It seems to be necessary that in every public administration of Tanghien some should perish, otherwise the judicial virtues of the plant would be considered of no avail.
One of the chief officers during the trials of 1830, had the misfortune to vomit while eating the three spoonsful of rice; in token of perfect recovery, he was appointed to drink again in a few days, along with the slave who had carried the water for him, and who it was pretended had perhaps bewitched him. The officer recovered, but the poor slave died, such being the common mode of saving the reputation of the priest. As to the cause of the different operation of the fruit sometimes acting as a poison, although generally as an emetic, no certain and satisfactory reason can be given. It is known that a difference, visible even to the naked eye, does exist between that fruit which only occasions sickness, and that which destroys life. The latter always presents a slight appearance of redness. The people declare that this hue is miraculously assumed, and regard the change as an infallible sign of death to the accused. Yet if this redness be exceedingly obvious, the relations who are present desire that such a fruit may be rejected, and another chosen. This proposal is probably agreed to, but the next fruit exhibits the same ominous colour, and the victim dies. Several opinions are held by the natives