Gateway to the Classics: Ruth of Boston by James Otis
Ruth of Boston by  James Otis

Master Winthrop's Mishap

It seems that the wolves had been worrying some of the goats that Master Winthrop brought over to this country with him, and on a certain day, after supper, he went out with his gun in the hope of killing a few of the ravenous beasts.

He had not traveled more than half a mile from home when night came on, and, turning about to go back, as was prudent, for it is not safe that one man shall be alone in the forest after dark, because of the wild animals, he mistook his path, wandering directly away from the river, instead of toward it.

I myself have heard him say that he must have walked a full hour, and was growing exceeding uncomfortable in mind, when he came to an Indian hut that was built of branches of trees and of skins, so that it formed a fairly comfortable dwelling, and was of sufficient strength to resist the efforts of any one to enter, save through the door.

There was no person inside this hut or wigwam; the door was unfastened, and the Governor, understanding that he must have some shelter during the night, else was he in danger of being devoured by wild beasts, entered as if it were his own dwelling.

With his flint and steel he built a fire, and by its light, saw, piled up in one corner of the place, mats such as the savages use to sleep upon. Having taken a mouthful of snakeweed, which is said to be of great benefit in quieting one's nerves, and prayed to God for safe keeping during the night, he lay down.

Before much time had passed, and certainly while his eyes were yet wide open, it began to rain, and some of the water, finding its way through the carelessly thatched roof, disturbed his rest, so that it was impossible to sleep.

He spent the night singing psalms, gathering such wood as he could handily come at from the outside, to keep the fire going, and pacing to and fro in the narrow space, until near to daylight, when an Indian squaw came that way.

The Governor, hearing her voice as she cried out to whosoever owned the hut and was evidently a friend of hers, barred the door as best he might, while she stood on the outside beating it with her hands, and calling aloud in the Indian language, first in friendly terms, and then angrily; but yet he made no reply.


The door held firm against her efforts until day came, when the Governor walked out of the hut, not dreaming the woman would make an attack upon him, but straight way he was forced to take to his heels, or, as he laughingly declared, she would have clawed out his eyes.

Although we children knew nothing whatsoever concerning it, the chief men of the town had been greatly alarmed because of the Governor's disappearance, and during the whole of the night no less than twenty had walked to and fro in the forest hunting for him; but by an unkind chance never going in the direction of this hut. When Master Winthrop made his appearance, it had just been decided that a hue and cry should be raised, and all the men in Boston be called to aid in the search.

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