On the 21st, we were visited at the fort by a chief, called Oamo, whom we had never seen before, and who was treated by the natives with uncommon respect; he brought with him a boy about seven years old, and a young woman about sixteen: The boy was carried upon a man’s back, which we considered as a piece of state, for he was as well able to walk as any present. As soon as they were in sight, Oberea, and several other natives who were in the fort, went out to meet them, having first uncovered their heads and bodies as low as the waist: As they came on, the same ceremony was performed by all the natives who were without the fort. Uncovering the body, therefore, is in this country probably a mark of respect; and as all parts are here exposed with equal indifference, the ceremony of uncovering it from the waist downwards, which was performed by Oorattooa, might be nothing more than a different mode of compliment, adapted to persons of a different rank. The chief came into the tent, but no entreaty could prevail upon the young woman to follow him, though she seemed to refuse contrary to her inclination: The natives without were indeed all very solicitous to prevent her; sometimes, when her resolution seemed to fail, almost using force: The boy also they restrained in the same manner; but Dr Solander happening to meet him at the gate, took him by the hand, and led him in before the people were aware of it: As soon, however, as those that were within saw him, they took care to have him sent out.
These circumstances having strongly excited our curiosity, we enquired who they were, and were informed, that Oamo was the husband of Oberea, though they had been a long time separated by mutual consent; and that the young woman and the boy were their children. We learnt also, that the boy, whose name was Terridiri, was heir-apparent to the sovereignty of the island, and that his sister was intended for his wife, the marriage being deferred only till he should arrive at a proper age. The sovereign at this time was a son of Whappai, whose name was Outou, and who, as before has been observed, was a minor. Whappai, Oamo, and Tootahah, were brothers: Whappai was the eldest, and Oamo the second; so that, Whappai having no child but Outon, Terridiri, the son of his next brother Oamo, was heir to the sovereignty. It will, perhaps, seem strange that a boy should be sovereign during the life of his father; but, according to the custom of the country, a child succeeds to a fathers title and authority as soon as it is born: A regent is then elected, and the father of the new sovereign is generally continued in his authority, under that title, till his child is of age; but, at this time, the choice had fallen upon Tootahah, the uncle, in consequence of his having distinguished himself in a war. Oamo asked many questions concerning England and its inhabitants, by which he appeared to have great shrewdness and understanding.