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

The Savages Come to Town

From the day I recovered from the sickness of the sea, I looked forward to seeing a live savage, of which I had been told there were many in America, and when we sighted land for the first time I remained on deck waiting for the first glimpse of an Indian.

When at last, the John and Sarah came to anchor off the bank in which we were to make our home, and where I fully expected to see the shore lined with savages, never one met my eager gaze for several days, and great was my disappointment.

I would have gone in search of some, regarding not the danger of being lost, or of coming upon evil-minded Indians who would do me harm; but, as I have already set down, I was in duty bound to do whatsoever of work I might, in order to aid my parents, therefore did it seem to me as if I would never be able to satisfy my curiosity.

We had scarce been in our cave home a week, however, when I, who was helping mother hang some quilts to keep out the dampness, which seemed really, to soak through the earth, heard a great cry above us, and, running into the open air to learn the cause, I saw a company of eight savages, who stood not many yards away from William Markham's hut, staring about them curiously.


Verily I was disappointed in them. It had been in my mind that I should see a wonderful race of people, when I stood face to face with the savages, and yet they were not unlike our own people, save as to the color of their skin, and the fanciful dress they wore.

One could see at a single glance that they were not Negroes, and yet they were very dark; much the color of a penny that has been passed from hand to hand until it has lost its brightness.

Some of our company, eager to show a friendly front to these odd-looking visitors, went forth to greet the savages; but there was little chance of their making themselves understood, since neither party could speak the other's language, and after a deal of jabbering and much making of gestures, the Indians went away, leaving us none the wiser for their having come.

It was understood by us who had voyaged in the John and Sarah, that when William Penn came over to take charge of this city we were to build, it would be his right to make friends with these savages in behalf of us all; but until he could attend to it, no one, except William Markham, whom we called the deputy governor, had any reason for doing other than as we had done during this first visit.

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