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

Making Ready for Battle

When Susan and I saw the men taking down the hammocks from that portion of the vessel which was called the gun deck, loading the cannon, and bringing out the powder-chests, truly were we alarmed.


Standing clasped in each other's arms, unheeded by our elders, all of whom were in a painful state of anxiety or fear, we watched intently all that forenoon the ships which we believed belonged to the enemy.

Then I heard one of the sailors say that the Spaniards were surely gaining on us, and the captain of the vessel, as well as Master Winthrop and my father, must have believed it true, for all preparations were made for a battle.

The small cabins, leading from the great one, were torn down that cannon might be used without hindrance, and the bedding, and all things that were likely to take fire, were thrown overboard. The boats were launched into the sea and towed alongside the ship so that when the worst came we might fly in them, and then that which was most fearsome of all, the women and children were sent down into the very middle of the vessel, where they might not be in danger when the Spaniards began to send iron balls among us, as it seemed certain they soon would.

While we were huddled together in the darkness, many weeping, some moaning, and a few women, among whom was my mother, silent in the agony of grief, Master Winthrop came down to pray with us, greatly to our comforting, after which, so I have been told since, he went up among the men where he performed the same office.

It was not until an hour after noon that our people discovered that those ships which we believed to be Spanish, were English vessels, from which we had nothing to fear.

Then word was sent down to us in that dark place that we might come up above, and once in the sunlight again, we found all the passengers rejoicing and making merry over the fears which had so lately beset them.

How bright the sun looked to Susan and me as we stood near the rail of our ship, gazing at the vessels which only a few hours before were a fearsome sight, but now seemed so friendly! It was as if we had been very near to death, and were suddenly come into a place of safety.

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