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

A Tedious Task

Before having dug very far into the bank of the river, we came to understand that something in the way of timbers would be necessary to hold up the earth at the top, otherwise we should have it tumbling about our ears, and father took upon himself the work of hewing logs, while mother and I dug and dug, throwing the loose sand directly at the mouth of the opening to make there a roadway to the river below.

Before we had made what might be called a good beginning of the task, I came to believe that it could not have been much harder work to build a house of logs; but we had already expended so much strength, that it would have been foolish to drop the plan then in favor of something else.

Besides, nearly all those who had come over in the ship with us were making the same kind of dwellings, having been led to do so by the example set by Edmund Lovett and father; therefore we were seemingly bound to finish the task, or give our fellow passengers good reason for calling us simples.

It grieved me to see my mother doing such work; but how might it be otherwise, since there were none who could be hired to perform the labor, because of all who had come ashore digging caves in which to shelter themselves?


When we were so far inside the bank that it was no longer possible to throw the sand out with a spade, mother carried it in a huge piece of bark as I scraped it away, and we were nearly ready for the timbers that were to support the roof, when father appeared with such as he had cut.

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