In trafficking with us, some of them would betray a knavish disposition, and carry off our goods without making any return. But, in general, it was otherwise; and we had abundant reason to commend the fairness of their conduct. However, their eagerness to possess iron and brass, and, indeed, any kind of metal, was so great, that few of them could resist the temptation to steal it, whenever an opportunity offered. The inhabitants of the South Sea Islands, as appears from a variety of instances in the course of this voyage, rather than be idle, would steal any thing that they could lay their hands upon, without ever considering, whether it could be of use to them or no. The novelty of the object, with them, was a sufficient motive for their endeavouring, by any indirect means, to get possession of it; which marked that, in such cases, they were rather actuated by a childish curiosity, than by a dishonest disposition, regardless of the modes of supplying real wants. The inhabitants of Nootka, who invaded our property, cannot have such apology made for them. They were thieves in the strictest sense of the word; for they pilfered nothing from us, but what they knew could be converted to the purposes of private utility, and had a real value according to their estimation of things. And it was lucky for us, that nothing was thought valuable by them, but the single articles of our metals. Linen, and such like things, were perfectly secure from their depredations, and we could safely leave them hanging out ashore all night, without watching. The same principle which prompted our Nootka friends to pilfer from us, it was natural to suppose, would produce a similar conduct in their intercourse with each other. And, accordingly, we had abundant reason to believe, that stealing is much practised amongst them, and that it chiefly gives rise to their quarrels, of which we saw more than one instance.
Manner of Building the Homes in Nootka Sound.—Inside of them described.—Furniture and Utensils.—Wooden Images.—Employments of the Men.—Of the Women.—Food, Animal and Vegetable.—Manner of preparing it.—Weapons.—Manufactures and Mechanic Arts.—Carving and Painting.—Canoes.—Implements for Fishing and Hunting.—Iron Tools.—Manner of procuring that Metal.—Remarks on their Language, and a Specimen of it.—Astronomical and Nautical Observations made in Nootka Sound.
The two towns or villages, mentioned in the course of my journal, seem to be the only inhabited part of the Sound. The number of inhabitants in both might be pretty exactly computed from the canoes that were about the ships the second day after our arrival. They amounted to about a hundred; which, at a very moderate allowance, must, upon an average, have held five persons each. But as there were scarcely any women, very old men, children, or youths amongst them at that time, I think it will rather be rating the number of the inhabitants of the two towns too low, if we suppose they could be less than four times the number of our visitors, that is, two thousand in the whole.