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James Otis

Arrival at Chesapeake Bay

When the day had fully dawned, and the fleet stood in toward the noble bay, between two capes, which were afterward named Cape Henry and Cape Comfort, Captain Smith directed me to go on deck, in order to keep him informed of what might be happening.

He told me there was no question in his mind but that we were come to the mouth of Chesapeake Bay, where it had been agreed with the London merchants we were to go on shore.

Standing at the head of the companionway, but not venturing out on deck lest I should be sent to some other part of the ship, and thus be unable to give my master the information which he desired, I looked out upon what seemed to me the most goodly land that could be found in all the wide world.


Trees there were of size fit for masts to the king's ships; flowers bordered the shore until there were seemingly great waves of this color, or of that, as far as eye could reach, and set within this dazzling array of green and gold, and of red and yellow, was a great sea, which Captain Smith said was called the Chesapeake Bay.

We entered for some distance, mayhap three or four miles, before coming to anchor, and then Master Wingfield, Captain Gosnold, and Captain Newport went on shore with a party of thirty, made up of seamen and gentlemen, and my master, who had not so much as stretched his legs since we sailed from Martinique, was left in his narrow cabin with none but me to care for him!

I had thought they would open the box containing the instructions from London, before doing anything else; but Captain Smith was of the mind that such business could wait until they had explored sufficiently to find a place where the new town might be built.

It was a long, weary, anxious day for me. The party had left the ship in the morning, remaining absent until nightfall, and at least four or five times every hour did I run up from the cabin to gaze shoreward in the hope of seeing them return, for I was most eager to have the business pushed forward, and to know whether my master's enemies were given, by the London Company, permission to do whatsoever they pleased.