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The Famished Hand

The Famished Hand image
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The writer of the folio-ving article is a lady of great respectability, who has removed her family from a slave lo a free State, and whose statements may be relied on as true:In the year Í834or 5, I left Norfolk, Va. in a large echooner, bound for New York.- ' One of the cabm passengera had a sick child, ' ind no attendant. The eecond day afler we left Norfolk, the cbild asked for food, and I oñered to prepare a toast for it. For this purpof e I went to the cook's room, which was below ihe deck, and in going to which it was nccessary to pass a quantity of freight which had been put on board at Norfolk. Tlie steward kindly assisted me in making the toast, and added a cracker and a cup of tea. With these on a small waiter, I was retiring to the cabin,when in passing the freight, which consisted of boxes, bags, fee. a little tawny, famished lookipg hand was held out from between the packages. The skeleton nngers. atritated by a convulsise movement, weredently reacbed fwih with a view to the food in my possession. Shocked, but notalnrmed by the apparition, I laid the cracker on the hand, which was immediately withdrawn.- No one observed the transaction, and I wenl swiftly to the cabin. The sick child was gratified with ha meal; and when, in the afternoon, it wanted more, I again offered my services. I apologized to the Bteward for the liberty I was taking in visiting his premisea so often, but pleaded the necessity of attending to the litüe invalid. I found he was a falher, and inquired the names of his children. I brought hkri presenta for them, and so ingratiated myself into his favor, that I soon had free access to the lnrder, and orten found nice things prcpared for myself, as well as for the little oiic in the cabin. But whatever I could procure was divided with the famished hand, which to me had becoraü a precious charge. There must have been an eye to wa'.ch my motions. In fancy I could eee that eye gleammg at my npproach, blit at other times closed in dimpair. As all was tranquil on board, it was evident that I alone was aware of the presence of the unseen fugitive; and I humbly returned thanks to God for allowing me the privilege of ministering to the wants of this his outcast, despised and persecuted image. That the unfortunate being was a slave, I doubted not; but how could I tierve him or her, or whoever it might be, effectually? I knew the laws and usages in such cases. I knew th e poor being had nothing to hope from the captain and crew of the vessel, and repeatedly asked myeelf the agonizing ques'.ion, wil 1 there be ony way of escape? I had hope that we might land in the night, and so, under favor of darkness,'he fugitive be enabled to go on shore unseen by those on board. I determined to watch for, and assist the creatute u!io had been thus providentially consigned to my care. On the sixth day, (we having a long passage,) 1 found that the goods below were being moved, ir. order to come at somelhing which was wanted, and so filled up was the passage that I could not go belo?. My heart seeniedto die within me, for thesafety of the suflerer had become dear to me. " We sat down to dmner, but the dishes swum before my eyes. 1 feit that a discovery must tuke place. The tun-Wing of the fteight b--low liad not ceased. Each moment I expected an alarm. At length 1 heaid a sudden 'haüoo!'- and all was quiet. ! Presently the steward caine mío the cabin, looked significanlly at the cornpany, and whispercd to the captain. The captain was carvngï bu: immediately laid down his kpife and Krkj and went on deck. Olie of ihe passengcrs foilowed him, but soon relumed, and in a fuughing manner, informed us that a strange passenger liad been found atnong the freight. It is,' added he, 'a small mulatto boy, who says he belongs to Mr. , of Norfolk.- That he had been concealcd amopg the lumber on the wharves, for two weeks, and secreted himself in the schooner the night before we sailed. He is goin? to New York to find hisfatbër, who escaped two years since. And,' contimied he, 'he is starved to a skeleton, hard]y worth taking back.' Many jokes were passed as to tiie manner of his being renovaled, when he should ngain full into ihe hand of his master. Some thought the vessel must put back. Olhcrs were of opinión, tliat, o& we were within eight or ten houis' saH of New York, the trip would be made, and the boy carried back on her return.The unfortnnate child had been brought on deck, and we all left the cabm to look at him. I followed behind,ahnost unwilling to sec him. and stood some linie by the companionway'in order to gain strernth for the interview. 1 then proceeded forward. Aa son as he discovered me, a bright gleatn passed over his countenance, and he instinctively held out to methatsame fnmished hand! My fcelings were no long er to be control led. Theie stood a child before me, not more than eloven or twelve years of age, of yellow cemplexion,aii(] countenunce, nearly naked, his back seared with scars.andhis flesh wasted to the bone. I burst into tears, into lamentations, and tlie jes'.s of othcrs were, for a moment lurned into sympathy. It hovever,began to bc suspected that I had brought the boy away; and, in that case, the vessel must be put back, in order to give me up also. But I related the circumstances as they occurred, and all appeared satisficd with the truth of my statement.I requested that I might beallowed to feed tlie boy, which request was granted, and I carned íiim some dmner on a píate. He ate voraciously; and as I stood beside him, lie looked into my face nt every mouthful.- There was something confidinfr in his look. VVIien lie liad finished his nieal, as í took the píate, he rubbed his fingers softiy on my hand, and lcaned bis head toward me like a weury child. Oh, that I could have offercd him a place of rest; that I could have comforted and protected liini; a helpless child, a feeble, macíated, E.ifferin? innoeentlad, reservcd for bondage and torture.Towards evcning he was taken below, and [ was nn more allowed to see him; but I learned that he was put in the steerage,strong [j bound, and that the 'proper authorities1 of New York would be cousulied as to the disposal of him . We carne to anchor during the mglt, at some distance below thé city, the copïain informing us in the mornming, thnt thp vessel had been forbidden to enter the port with a fugitive slave on board; that sh must discharge her cargo where f-he lay, and return wit'n all possible despatch lo Norfolk. A bont was provided to carry us up, and I remarked to the captain that there was 'great ado about the child.' He replied, 'Thé law must be obeyed.'As I approacljed the city, I cou'd not help exclaiming, 'Is tliis the región, this the soil of boasted freedom?' Here, when the child is treated like a felón, minacled, anchored from ihe shore, to be tsent back lo slavery and the lash, deprived of the fostering care which even the brute is allowed to exercisc towards its young? Here the slcnder boy seeka the protection of hij father, name dear to helpleasness! Does Humaniiy lead him in the searcli? No, Humanity is circumscribed in her operation? hy lavvs which consign one portion of Freedom's sons and daughters to the service, and'control, and brutality of the other. Humanity looks on them and weeps. - More she cannot do. 'The laivs must be obeyed.' And now, since jears have passed, wherc is that boy? Does he slill live in hopeless bondage? Are any scars added to those imprinted on his infant skin? When I savv him, he appeared innocent ns a child of frcedom. He feit and suffered as o. child of free parents would feel and suffer. Ilis torrowa were touching as the sorrows of a white child would have been. Alas! poor youth, from me thy face is hidden. If jiving, thou art still young; but were thy days turned into pages, - ivhat a volume to meet the human eye!Qj Be very calm and charitable when American slavery is thy theme! Don 't get excited!


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