Gateway to the Classics: Stephen of Philadelphia by James Otis
Stephen of Philadelphia by  James Otis

On Board Ship

Because of my going on board ship within four and twenty hours after my father had decided to make a home on the land which the king had given William Penn, I did not have the disagreeable opportunity of raising dismal forebodings regarding the long voyage before us.

I knew nothing whatsoever of a seaman's life; but had heard that he who goes on the ocean for the first time must expect to be ill. There was never a thought that the illness of the sea was a sickness that seemingly brought one nigh unto death, but the ship was hardly more than out of the port, before I believed of a verity that my last hour was near at hand.


When it seemed to me that I could not live any longer, the illness began to leave me, and from that time until we were come to Penn's land, the sea, however violent, could not cause me uneasiness so far as concerned my stomach.

Then it was, that I began to take delight in thus voyaging on the ocean, and again and again did I spend a full day at a time, watching the onrush of the ship through the curling, dizzying waves which at one time appeared so beautiful, and at another were so threatening that it aroused fear in one's heart simply to glance at them.

When I stood by the rail in the hinder part of the ship, it was as if a big lump came into my throat on seeing her dive into the green valleys of water, and again rise on the foaming mountains, as if eager to bring us speedily to our new home.

When I was not thus engaged in watching the movements of the vessel, I listened to the conversation of my elders, which was, as you may suppose, chiefly concerning the land to which we were voyaging.

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