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

Rejoicing Turned into Mourning

Governor Winthrop was among those who seemingly had most cause for rejoicing, because of his son Henry's having arrived on the Talbot, bringing news of his mother and of the remainder of the family.

Good Master Winthrop had so much of business to look after on this day, that he could not spend many moments in talking with his son, and mayhap he will never cease to regret that he did not give his first attention to the boy, for, during the afternoon, while his father was engaged with public affairs, Henry was moved by curiosity to visit some Indian wigwams which could be seen a long distance along the coast.

Not being of the mind to walk so far, he cast about for a boat of some kind, and, seeing a canoe across the creek, plunged into the water to swim over that he might get it.


Susan and I were watching the brave young man when he sprang so boldly and confidently into the water, never dreaming that harm might come to him, and yet before he was one quarter way across the creek, he suddenly flung up his arms with a stifled cry. Then he sank from our sight, to be seen no more alive.

He had been seized with a cramp, while swimming mostlike because of having gone into the cold water heated, so my father said, for the day was very warm; but however that may be, eight and forty hours later we walked, a mournful procession, up the hill, even as we had done behind the earthly clay of Lady Arabella, while the bells of the ships in the harbor tolled most dismally.

Verily Governor Winthrop's strength is in the Lord, as my mother said, for although his heart must have been near to bursting with grief, no one saw a sign of sorrow on his face, so set and stern, as he stood there listening to the clods of earth that were thrown upon the box in which lay the body of his son.

Susan, who is overly given to superstition, I am afraid, declared that it was an ill omen for us to have two die when we had but just come into the new country, and when I told her that it was wicked to place one's faith in signs, she reminded me that I found fault because of Mistress White's baby's being taken out of the room for the first time with neither gold nor silver in his hands.

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