Gateway to the Classics: Peter of Amsterdam by James Otis
Peter of Amsterdam by  James Otis

Alone in Holland

Later, those who had in charity taken charge of me also set off to join Master Brewster's company in America, and I, an English boy, was left much the same as alone in Holland. I could speak the Dutch language, however, and was willing to work at whatever came to hand, so that I earned enough with which to provide me with food; as for clothing, I wore the cast-off garments of the Dutch boys, whose mothers, taking pity upon an orphan, freely gave them to me.


Among the few English then left in Leyden was Master Jan Marais, a professor in the University, whom my father had known; and he, so far as lay in his power, kept a watchful eye over me; but this was only to the extent of inquiring for my welfare when we met by chance, or in recalling my name to those among his Dutch friends who were in need of such services as so young a lad could render.

Now it seems, although I knew nothing concerning it at the time, that there had been formed in Holland, among the merchants, what was known as the West India Company, whose purpose was to make a settlement in that part of the New World which they had named New Netherland, claiming to own it, and there trade with the savages, or engage in whatsoever of business would bring in money.

Master Peter Minuit—whom I should call Heer Minuit, because such is the Dutch term for master, but the odd-sounding title never did ring true in my ear— had been appointed by this company, which had already sent out some people to the world of America, Director of the settlement that was to be made. He came on a visit of leave-taking to Master Jan Marais, and it so chanced, whether for good or for evil, that while the two were walking in the streets of Leyden, they came upon me, standing idly in front of a cook-shop, and saying to myself that if the choice were given to me I would take this or that dainty to eat.


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