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

The Supply of Food

The season had come when, if we had been in England, the people would have been gathering the harvest; but here we had none, having come so late in the year that there was no time to plant, and, consequently, we had no crops.

I had never before realized how necessary it is for people that the earth shall yield in abundance; but I came to know it now right well through hearing father, as he talked with mother regarding the fears which the chief men of the colony had concerning the supply of food.

Of course, girls such as Susan and I would not have been likely to learn anything of the kind, save that matters had come to such a pass as made the situation serious, in which case it was no more than natural we should hear our parents talking about it.

It seems, from what I learned, that a portion of the provisions brought from England were spoiled during the voyage, and also, that many of our people had taken with them no more than enough to sustain life for a month or two, believing that in this New World food of all kinds would be found in abundance.

Then again, many had bartered provisions, which they should have kept for the winter use, with the Indians in exchange for beaver skins, thinking thereby to make much money. So general had this traffic become, that early in September the Governor gave strict orders against it, and it was also ordered that no person in the town be allowed to carry out therefrom anything eatable.

But yet the store of food grew smaller and smaller, for there were many mouths to feed, and it seemed as if we children were more often hungry because of knowing that there was little to be had.

Susan reminded me of what she was pleased to call the "omen," when it was as if the first of our duties in the New World had been to bury two members of the company, and as the days wore on I began really to believe it a sin to harbor such thoughts.

As it had been in Charlestown, so did it come to be here in Boston, when the rains of autumn set in.

Many of the dwellings had not been built with due regard to sheltering those who were to live therein, and because of the dampness—although mother says it was owing quite as well to the homesickness and gloom which came upon us when the leaves in the forest turned brown, and yellow, and golden in token of the dying year—the people sickened.

However it was, much of sickness prevailed among us in Boston, until the time came when my father and mother, to both of whom God had allowed good health, were absent from home day after day, nursing those of our neighbors who were unable to aid themselves.


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