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

In Charge of the Goods

Before the fort was finished, two of the gentlemen traders came back, their chests emptied of beads, cloth, and trinkets, but the boats piled high with furs of all kinds, and I heard Master Minuit say that one such cargo was worth more than all the grain that could be raised in two years, by all the white men on the island.


The log house was taken for a storeroom, and Hans set at work making a list of the furs, which was anything rather than a pleasant task, for these skins were none of the sweetest or most cleanly, and the Dutchman both looked and smelled very disagreeably.

While Hans was sweating over the furs in the log house, I stayed in the great cabin of the Sea Mew, refilling the chests with goods, and before the task was finished, Master Minuit told me that I was to have charge of all the things brought for trade with the savages.

In other words, I was no longer to be body servant, but a real store-keeper, which was more of a jump in the world than I had even hoped to make for many a long year to come.

The palisade of the fort was not yet wholly done, when a dozen or more of the men were set about building inside the fortification a log house, where the goods were to be kept and where I was to find lodgings.

Kryn Gildersleeve, like the honest lad he was, gave me joy because of my thus having become, as it were, a real member of the Company; but Hans was angry, believing if any of the servants were to be promoted, it should have been himself, and I am told that he declared I would not long be allowed to enjoy my high station.

By the time the palisade had been built my house was finished, and all the goods brought from the Sea Mew, which gave me much of work to do, because my orders were to unpack and store the difficult articles where I could bring them out at a moment's notice.

You must not understand that Master Minuit had entrusted to me the trading. That portion of the work was for himself and the gentlemen who had come with him; but I was in charge of the goods, as Hans was keeper of the furs, while Kryn alone waited upon the master as body servant.

When any of the savages came in from the village close by, or from far away, to bargain for our toys, one of the gentlemen looked after him, and I brought this thing or carried that according to orders, for the Indians were not allowed to come inside the log house lest they might make mischief. After the trading was at an end, Hans would be summoned to carry away the furs.


If none of the other gentlemen were near at hand, it was my duty to summon Master Minuit, when any of the brown men came to the fort with such a burden that I could understand he was eager to buy of our goods.

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