The Old Man



One night in spring, a young black slave boy was walking along an old deer trail in colonial Virginia. His master had sent him to deliver some letters to an old friend. The hour was late; the setting sun a bare candle amid the deep forest. Having no lantern, the slave boy walked carefully lest he fall.

As he nears his destination a voice called out to him: “Beware the stones, lest they trouble your step.”

“Who’s there?” cried the slave boy.

“I am he, the one you seek.” The voice replied.

“Attend to the tree roots that may tangle your foot.”

“Thank you kind sir but the growing darkness hides them.”

“Slow your pace, let your toes become your eyes.” Spoke the voice.

“You are wise sir. I am indebted to your knowledge.”

Suddenly, barely two arm’s span ahead he see a campfire on the path. He approaches with caution.

“I bring you these letters from my master.”

A thin white hand with withered fingers reaches out over the fire as the voice says, “Place them on the stump beside you my young friend then sit on the log here by my fire.”

“Thank you sir, the warmth is a boon as the sun sleeps.”

“I see you are most polite and respectful, both good qualities for a young man to teach himself.”

“But how…?”

“Tall, intelligent, well groomed, you are a tribute to your parents.”

“Thank you sir.”

“You are well read and self-educated, aren’t you?”

“Yes sir, but how did you…?”

“As a child you slew your dragons. Now as a handsome youth, you are prepared to take on the world before you.”

“I am but a slave sir.”

“Can not a slave dream of freedom and long for the taste of a new world?

“Yes sir.”

“I see in you that which will be a blessing for the future of all peoples. You will share love with an open heart. Your eyes so big and bright will be beacons for those in need of caring. Your name will be legend in your time and beyond.”

“Yes sir, yes it is my dream but how can a mere slave realize such a dream?”

“Do you know what papers you brought me?”

“No sir.”

“Open them and read the words of my dear friend.”

With trembling fingers, the slave opens the large envelope and withdraws the papers bound in red ribbon.

“To my great and wise friend I send my love and this young lad who is my slave.”

The young slave’s heart begins to pulse faster as he reads.

“I ask you my friend to look deep into him for those hidden qualities I know exist. If you find merit in his countenance and spirit, please give him these papers of freedom that he might pursue his destiny to bring light to a darkened world.”

The slave looks across the fire towards the voice.

“Is this true what it says here?”

“Yes my son, it is true. I see knowledge, skills and determination in you – use them wisely. You have earned the right and responsibilities of freedom.”

There is a silence disturbed only by the crackle of a log on the fire.

Suddenly, as if by magic the old man stands before the slave.

“I have seen you and know you. It is time for you to go.”

“But sir, I don’t understand! How can you say you’ve seen me and know me when you are blind?”

“What better way to accurately see someone than through the eyes of the blind?”

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