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

Toys for the Savages

During the long voyage I had tried time and again to picture to myself what would be expected of me when I began to serve Master Minuit, and fancied the duties would be to look after his belongings, perhaps his weapons, or his clothing, or to serve him while he sat at meals.

Therefore it was that my surprise was exceeding great when the first task which he set me, was that of taking from certain huge boxes, which had been brought into the great cabin, what appeared like toys for children, rather than things such as grown men would set a value upon.


A stout chest, fitted with handles, so that it might the more readily be carried, had been placed nearby these big boxes, and, under Master Minuit's direction, I took out these fanciful things, laying some upon the floor, and stowing others in the chest.

There were strings of beads such as young Dutch girls wear around their necks; short lengths of bright red, or blue, or yellow cloth of wool; ornaments for the ears, made of Dutch brass, and fashioned so rudely that none save the poorest in the land would covet them; belts of gaudily colored leather, and small axes and knives formed of iron so badly worked that but little rough usage would serve to turn the edges.


I cannot well name all the useless trinkets which I handled that day, working as deftly as I might, to the end that my new master should lay no blame upon me for clumsiness; but all the goods were of so little value that, poor though I was, there came into my heart no desire to possess them.

As I worked, and while the other two servants were busily engaged making into packages the belongings of my master, that they might the more readily be carried on shore, I could not fail of hearing, even though making no effort to play the part of eavesdropper, the conversation which was going on between Master Minuit and those Dutch gentlemen who had come out with him to build up this new land.

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