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Richard of Jamestown by  James Otis

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THE EFFECT OF CAPTAIN SMITH'S RETURN

[112] IT was well for us of Jamestown that my master returned just when he did, for already had our gentlemen, believing him dead, refused longer to work, and even neglected the hunting, when game of all kinds was so plentiful. They had spent the time roaming around searching for gold, until we were once more in need of food.

The sickness had come among us again, and of all our company, which numbered an hundred when Captain Newport sailed for England, only thirty-eight remained alive.

Within four and twenty hours after Captain Smith came back, matters had so far mended that every man who could move about at will, was working for the common good, although from that time, until Captain Newport came again, we had much of suffering.

With the coming of winter Nathaniel and I were put to it to do our work in anything like a seemly manner. What with the making of candles, or of rushlights; tanning deer hides in such fashion as Captain Smith had taught us; mending his doublets of leather, as well as our own; keeping the house and ground around it fairly clean, in addition to cooking meals which might [113] tempt the appetite of our master, we were busy from sunrise to sunset.


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Nor were we without our reward. On rare occasions Captain Smith would commend us for attending to our duties in better fashion than he had fancied lads would ever be able to do, and very often did Master Hunt whisper words of praise in our ears, saying again and again that he would there were in his house two boys like us.

This you may be sure was more of payment than we had a reasonable right to expect, for certain it is that even at our best the work was but fairly done, as it ever must be when there are house-boys instead of housewives at home.

Master Hunt had a serving man, William Rods, and he was not one well fitted to do a woman's work, for in addition to being clumsy, even at the expense of breaking now and then a wooden trencher bowl, he had no thought that cleanliness was, as the preacher often told us, next to godliness.

[114] It was he, and such as he, that caused Captain Smith and those others of the Council who were minded to work for the common good, very much of trouble.

The rule, as laid down by my master, was that those living in a dwelling should keep cleanly the land roundabout the outside for a space of five yards, and yet again and again have I seen William Rods throw the refuse from the table just outside the door, meaning to take it away at a future time, and always forgetting so to do until reminded by some one in authority.

However, it is not for me to speak of such trifling things as these, although had you heard Captain Smith and Master Hunt in conversation, you would not have set them down as being of little importance. Those two claimed that only by strict regard to cleanliness, both of person and house, would it be possible for us, when another summer came, to ward off that sickness which had already carried away so many of our company.

After Captain Smith had brought matters to rights in the village, setting this company of men to building more houses, and that company to hewing down trees for firewood, which would be needed when the winter had come, Master Hunt made mention of a matter which I knew must have been very near his heart many a day.


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