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

Our First Shelter

The banks of the river, near where the goods were being set ashore from the John and Sarah, were high and of a sandy soil, which bespoke easy digging; therefore when I saw Edmund Lovett attacking it with a spade and mattock, it was easy to guess what he would do.

My father, seeing the same sight, looked up at me as he nodded his head, which was, to my mind, much as if he had said we would do the same, for verily it seemed like the quickest way to get shelter for mother and our goods.

Before sunset we had chosen a place on the river bank where but few rocks could be seen, and were working like bees at what promised to be a cave of some considerable size, if so be our courage held out long enough.

That night, however, we slept under a screen of bushes in the forest, within a dozen yards of where our underground house was to be, and the sun did not come up any too soon to please me, for the night air was so chill that my teeth were chattering with the cold a long while before it was possible to see any signs of the coming day.

Father built a small fire, so that mother might make shift to prepare something for a morning meal; but she, poor soul, had little idea how anything in the way of cooking could be done when there was nothing more than a fire on the ground and one small kettle; therefore I, watching my chance when some of the sailors were going out to the ship, took passage with them.


From the cook of the vessel I got as much in the way of boiled beef and bread as would serve us three for food during two days or more, and, returning to the shore with this, we soon broke our fast.

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