The next day, Saturday, July the 1st, we got back to our fort at Matavai, having found the circuit of the island, including both peninsulas, to be about thirty leagues. Upon our complaining of the want of bread-fruit, we were told, that the produce of the last season was nearly exhausted; and that what was seen sprouting upon the trees, would not be fit to use in less than three months: This accounted for our having been able to procure so little of it in our route.
While the bread-fruit is ripening upon the flats, the inhabitants are supplied in some measure from the trees which they have planted upon the hills to preserve a succession; but the quantity is not sufficient to prevent scarcity: They live therefore upon the sour paste, which they call Mahie, upon wild plantains, and ahee-nuts, which at this time are in perfection. How it happened that the Dolphin, which was here at this season, found such plenty of bread-fruit upon the trees, I cannot tell, except the season in which they ripen varies.
At our return, our Indian friends crowded about us and none of them came empty-handed. Though I had determined to restore the canoes which had been detained to their owners, it had not yet been done; but I now released them as they were applied for. Upon this occasion I could not but remark with concern, that these people were capable of practising petty frauds against each other, with a deliberate dishonesty, which gave me a much worse opinion of them than I had ever entertained from the robberies they committed, under the strong temptation to which a sudden opportunity of enriching themselves with the inestimable metal and manufactures of Europe exposed them.
Among others who applied to me for the release of a canoe, was one Potattow, a man of some consequence, well known to us all. I consented, supposing the vessel to be his own, or that he applied on the behalf of a friend: He went immediately to the beach, and took possession of one of the boats, which, with the assistance of his people, he began to carry off. Upon this, however, it was eagerly claimed by the right owners, who, supported by the other Indians, clamorously reproached him for invading their property, and prepared to take the canoe from him by force. Upon this, he desired to be heard, and told them, that the canoe did, indeed, once belong to those who claimed it; but that I, having seized it as a forfeit, had sold it to him for a pig. This silenced the clamour, the owners, knowing that from my power there was no appeal, acquiesced; and Potattow would have carried off his prize, if the dispute had not fortunately been overheard by some of our people, who reported it to me. I gave orders immediately that the Indians should be undeceived; upon which the right owners took possession of their canoe, and Potattow was so conscious of his guilt, that neither he nor his wife, who was privy to his knavery, could look us in the face for some time afterwards.