About noon, a chief, who had dined with me a few days before, accompanied by some of his women, came on board alone: I had observed that he was fed by his women, but I made no doubt, that upon occasion he would condescend to feed himself: In this, however, I found myself mistaken. When my noble guest was seated, and the dinner upon the table, I helped him to some victuals: As I observed that he did not immediately begin his meal, I pressed him to eat: But he still continued to sit motionless like a statue, without attempting to put a single morsel into his month, and would certainly have gone without his dinner, if one of the servants had not fed him.
[Footnote 90: The great people of Otaheite, whether men or women, seem to think that the labour of eating is sufficient employment, without the additional task of feeding, which in all probability they find can be done more expeditiously by proxy. Nor is such a consideration entirely unworthy of nobility, where the power of consuming food is so exorbitant as among those islanders it might be convenient, one should think, for any man of rank who was capable of swallowing enormous quantities of food every hour or two, to have an attendant properly instructed in the art of stowing the belly-timber, as honest Sancho, of eating notoriety, calls it. “Tinah,” says Captain Bligh, in the account of his voyage to this island, &c. “was fed by one of his attendants, who sat by him for that purpose, this being a particular custom among some of the superior chiefs; and I must do him the justice to say, he kept his attendant constantly employed: There was indeed little reason to complain of want of appetite in any of my guests. As the women are not allowed to eat in presence of the men, Iddeah dined with some of her companions about an hour afterwards, in private, except her husband, Tinah, favoured them with his company, and seemed to have entirely forgotten that he had dined already.” The capabilities of Tinah’s stomach, it seems, were of very common acquirement at Otaheite. “They have not always regular meals,” says the account of the Mis. Voy., “but usually eat as soon as they rise at day-break. Some are very voracious, especially the chiefs. Pomarae hath eaten a couple of fowls and two pounds at least of pork, besides other things, at a meal with us on board.” Some persons may imagine this impossible; but the fact is, the stomach, like every other member, acquires strength by exercise, and can, by due care, if there be no disease, be made to digest quantities of food as great as its distended limits are capable of receiving. There cannot be a more erroneous, or a more pernicious opinion, than what is commonly entertained, that the keenness of the appetite, and the energy of the digestion, are never above what the necessities of the system require. They are often enormously greater, and sometimes actually constitute most troublesome and highly formidable symptoms in certain diseases.—E.]