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PinkMonkey.com Digital Library-Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass


and asked me if I were a slave. I told him I was. He
asked, "Are ye a slave for life?" I told him that I
was. The good Irishman seemed to be deeply af-
fected by the statement. He said to the other that
it was a pity so fine a little fellow as myself should
be a slave for life. He said it was a shame to hold
me. They both advised me to run away to the north;
that I should find friends there, and that I should
be free. I pretended not to be interested in what
they said, and treated them as if I did not under-
stand them; for I feared they might be treacherous.
White men have been known to encourage slaves to
escape, and then, to get the reward, catch them and
return them to their masters. I was afraid that these
seemingly good men might use me so; but I never-
theless remembered their advice, and from that time
I resolved to run away. I looked forward to a time
at which it would be safe for me to escape. I was
too young to think of doing so immediately; besides,
I wished to learn how to write, as I might have oc-
casion to write my own pass. I consoled myself with
the hope that I should one day find a good chance.
Meanwhile, I would learn to write.

The idea as to how I might learn to write was
suggested to me by being in Durgin and Bailey's
ship-yard, and frequently seeing the ship carpenters,
after hewing, and getting a piece of timber ready
for use, write on the timber the name of that part
of the ship for which it was intended. When a piece
of timber was intended for the larboard side, it
would be marked thus--"L." When a piece was for
the starboard side, it would be marked thus--"S." A
piece for the larboard side forward, would be marked
thus--"L. F." When a piece was for starboard side
forward, it would be marked thus--"S. F." For lar-
board aft, it would be marked thus--"L. A." For star-
board aft, it would be marked thus--"S. A." I soon
learned the names of these letters, and for what
they were intended when placed upon a piece of
timber in the ship-yard. I immediately commenced
copying them, and in a short time was able to make
the four letters named. After that, when I met with
any boy who I knew could write, I would tell him
I could write as well as he. The next word would be,
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PinkMonkey.com Digital Library-Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass



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