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

A Long and Tiresome Journey

During a full day, which is to say from the time it was sufficiently light to see one's way through the forest, until the shadows of night had fully come, we walked on snowshoes, oftentimes amid the underbrush where even the most experienced got ugly falls, owing to the awkward length of the shoes, with but two halts of perhaps half an hour each.

Long before word was given by the savage guides that we might make camp for the night, did I believe it would be impossible for me to take another step because of weariness.

Then a handful of Indian corn, roasted in the ashes, was given to each member of the party, and it seemed like a pitiful amount after the plenty to which we had been accustomed; but I found it right hearty. On such small rations one felt much as if having partaken of a full meal; but on this night I gave little heed to the value of the food, because of my eyes being closed in slumber almost before my hunger had been satisfied.


When another day dawned, we were astir, but only to find that two of the savages had disappeared, and while we were breaking our fast on cold roasted turkey, which we had brought with us from the settlement, there was much tongue-wagging regarding the absence of the Indians.

He who had been left behind did not know enough words in English to explain why his comrades had thus left us, and when, two hours later, the seeming mystery was solved, Jethro and I could have kicked each other, in our vexation, because of the useless labor we had performed.

It appeared that the savages who guided us had no very clear idea of where the "white man's canoe" might be found; but believed that by following what they called "a trail," it would be possible to come upon the ship.

As a matter of fact, however, we had gone down the river many miles more than was necessary; for our camping place had been chosen near the stream, which at this point was free from ice, and therefore did it seem certain we had come too far.

It surely was vexing; but, as Jethro said with a grin, we had come to know by experience what it was to sleep in the snow when the frost in the air was most nipping, and I am free to confess that I have lain on many a worse bed than we had while burrowed in a drift of snow like partridges.

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