That gentleman informed me that the night of the arrival of our ship, a chief had set one of his kookies (or slaves) to watch a piece of ground planted with the kumara, or sweet potato, in order to prevent the hogs committing depredations upon it. The poor lad, delighted with the appearance of our vessel, was more intent upon observing her come to an anchor than upon guarding his master’s property, and suffered the hogs to ramble into the plantation, where they soon made dreadful havoc. In the midst of this trespass and neglect of orders his master arrived. The result was certain; he instantly killed the unfortunate boy with a blow on the head from his stone hatchet, then ordered a fire to be made, and the body to be dragged to it, where it was roasted and consumed.
It was now time to return on board, and we walked down to the beach for that purpose, but it was quite low water, and the boat was full two hundred feet off. She lay at the end of a long, slimy, muddy flat, and while we were debating how we should manage to get to her, the native chiefs took up the females in their arms, as though they were children, and, in spite of all their blushes and remonstrances, carried them to the boat and placed them safely in it, each seeming to enjoy the task. They then returned and gave us a passage, walking as easily with us upon their backs as if we had been no heavier than so many muskets. We took care not to shock the feelings of the females by letting them know the tragedy so lately acted in the village, or horrify them by telling them that one of their carriers was the murderer! It would have been difficult to have made them believe that such a noble-looking and good-natured fellow had so lately imbrued his hands in the blood of a fellow creature.
We had now been lying here two days, and the curiosity of the people did not diminish, nor were our visitors less numerous. Parties were hourly coming up and down the river to pay their respects to our captain, and the report of there being numerous passengers on board greatly increased their desire to hold intercourse with us. They all appeared anxious to make themselves useful, some chopping wood for our cook, others assisting the steward, in order to get what might be left on the plates, others brought small presents of fish; in fact, all availed themselves of any excuse to get on board; yet, notwithstanding the crowd, and the confusion attending their movements, there was scarcely any thieving amongst them. They have seen the detestation that theft is held in by Europeans, and the injury it does to trade, and have, in consequence, nearly left it off. None but the meanest slaves will now practise it, and they do so at the risk of their lives; for, if caught in the act, and the charge is proved against them, their heads are cut off!
A ramble ashore.