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

A Proud Departure

The carts and the saddle horses were sent ahead, as I have said, and you may be certain Jethro and I had a hand in stowing the goods, not only that the people might see we had become members of the governor's following, but to make certain our fine clothes were where they would not come to harm.


An hundred or more curious ones stood around with mouths agape when the carts set off, and I was almost inclined to feel sad for those who were not so fortunate as Jethro and myself.

But next morning, when we gathered at the Blue Anchor tavern to take ship, you should have seen the throngs of people! It was as if the king himself were starting on his travels, and Jethro and I were among those to be gazed at, rather than with the gazers.

The ship Good Will was lying at anchor in the stream, and hauled upon the shore, with the seamen standing near at hand awaiting our movements, were the small boats in which we were to be taken on board.

It may seem like boasting, but it is nevertheless true, that when William Penn came out of the tavern to take boat, he gave me good morning, calling me Stephen of Philadelphia, as if the words had a merry sound in his ears, and I know full well my cheeks were as red as any girl's, because of the pleasure such familiar greeting gave me.

Certain it is that I held my head high when I stepped into one of the boats just as the cannon on the Good Will belched forth fire and smoke with a mighty roar, and so puffed up with pride was I, it really seemed necessary to remind Jethro that nail-makers were surely to be envied, since they could go abroad in such state that a cannon must needs be shot off when they embarked.


He reminded me that we might have grown gray-headed stepping on and off a ship's boat, without ever hearing the smallest cannon speak, if only nail-makers were abroad, and asked if I remembered the fable of the jackdaw with the peacock's feathers.

While we were being rowed from the shore to the ship, the people shouted themselves hoarse, and our governor bowed again and again, after which, evidently thinking there had been enough of such nonsense, he held his neck stiff, never looking back again until on the deck of the ship.

We had hardly more than embarked, when the anchor was weighed and the sails hoisted, every seaman working as smartly as if on board one of the king's ships, and then came a great rattle of small arms from the shore in our honor, which was replied to by the cannon of the Good Will.

Then my mother waved her kerchief as if I were bound for the wars, and Jethro whispered sportively that it was a sad loss to our city of Philadelphia for its two nail-makers to leave it, even for so short a time as would likely be spent on the journey.

The ship began to move away from the city, which as yet was hardly more than an opening in the wilderness, slowly at first, and gathering speed as she caught the force of the wind and current, until we could no longer see the throng at the Blue Anchor.

It was a glorious morning, and we two lads were as happy as the birds appeared to be, watching curiously this river of ours which seemed quite as strange as when we sailed up it the first time, so intent on watching for some signs of our new city, and so eager to be on the solid earth once more after many weary days at sea, that we hardly realized how beautiful it all was.

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