Mary of Plymouth - James Otis

Why More Fish are not Taken

I can well fancy you are asking how it is we complain thus about the scarcity of food, when you know that the sea is filled with fish.

Captain Standish declares that there are no less than two hundred different kinds to be found off this coast, and lobsters are at some seasons so plentiful that the smallest boy may go out and get as many as he can carry. I myself have seen one so large that I could hardly lift it, and father says its weight was upwards of twenty pounds.

You will say that if we could send out a certain number of our people in boats to get food thus from the sea, what should prevent us from taking as many as would be necessary for our wants during one year? I myself put that same question to father one night last winter while we were hungry, and mother and I sat chewing the dried leaves of the checkerberry plant which ground to powder between our teeth, and he answered me bitterly:

"It is owing to our own shortsightedness, my daughter; to our neglect to understand what might be met with in this new world. Those who made ready for the voyage believed we should find here food in abundance; but yet had no reason for such belief. It was known that we were to go into the wilderness, and yet, perhaps, for we will not say aught of harm against another, it was thought that we should find in the forest so much of fowls and of animals as would serve for all our needs."

[Illustration] from Mary of Plymouth by James Otis

"But why do we not take more fish, father?" I asked, speaking because such conversation served to keep my mind from the hunger which was heavy upon me.

"Because of not having the lines, the hooks, or the nets with which to catch a larger store. When the Fortune  sailed for home, Governor Bradford sent to the people in London who had made ready the Mayflower, urging that they send in the next ship which may come to this land such fishing gear as is needed. When that reaches us, then shall we be able not only to guard against another time of famine; but have of cured fish enough to bring us in money sufficient to buy other things we now need."

And thus speaking of money reminds me to set down what the savages use in the stead of gold and silver coins.


Front Matter

Why This Story was Written
The Leaking Speedwell
Searching for a Home
After the Storm
Wash Day
Finding the Corn
Attacked by the Savages
Building Houses
Miles Standish
The Sick People
The New Home
Master White and the Wolf
Inside of the House
A Chimney Without Bricks
Building the Fire
Master Bradford's Chimney
Scarcity of Food
A Timely Gift
The First Savage Visitor
Squanto's Story
Living in the Wilderness
The Friendly Indians
Grinding the Corn
A Visit From Massasoit
Massasoit's Promise
Massasoit's Visit Returned
The Big House Burned
The Mayflower Leaves Port
Setting the Table
What and How we Eat
Table Rules
A Pilgrim Goes Abroad
Making a Dugout
Governor Carver's Death
Bradford Chosen Governor
Farming in Plymouth
Cooking Indian Corn
The Wedding
Making Maple Syrup
Decorating the House
Trapping Wolves and Pigeons
Elder Brewster
The Visit to Massasoit
Keeping the Sabbath Holy
Making Clapboards
Cooking Pumpkins
A New Oven
Making Spoons and Dishes
The Fort and Meeting-House
The Harvest Festival
How to Play Stoolball
On Christmas Day
When the Fortune Arrived
Possibility of Another Famine
On Short Allowance
A Threatening Message
Pine Knots and Candles
Tallow From Bushes
Wicks for the Candle
Dipping the Candles
When James Runs Away
Evil-Minded Indians
Long Hours of Preaching
John Alden's Tubs
English Visitors
Visiting the Neighbors
Why More Fish are not Taken
How Wampum is Made
Ministering to Massasoit
The Plot Thwarted
The Captain's Indian
Ballots of Corn
Arrival of the Ann
Little James Comes to Port
The New Meeting-House
The Church Service
The Tithingmen
Master Winslow Brings Cows
A Real Oven
Butter and Cheese
Settlement at Wessagussett
The Village at Merrymount
The First School
Too Much Smoke
Schools Comforts
How Children Were Punished
New Villages
Making Ready for a Journey
Clothing for Salem
Food for the Journey
Before Sailing for Salem
Beginning the Journey
The Arrival at Salem
Sight-Seeking in Salem
Back to Plymouth