THE BAY SLOOP Amanda, the sweet, briny smell of the oysters she had hauled to the city lingering below her sails, came up to the worn wharves of St. Michaels. While the boat was taking him south, back to the country, Frederick had watched steamers, their stacks letting off the smoke of the furiously burning wood that heated the boilers, head north to the canal through to the Delaware River and Philadelphia. Out on the water, he had begun to think that someday the bay might be the way for him to go north, but now he had come the wrong way.
The new source of power for ships had doomed the building of sailing craft at St. Michaels, and the men of the town had put down their mallets to drag for oysters. The old shipbuilding docks were already out of repair when the tall, strong-featured boy, his body more powerful and his face more severe than could be accounted for by his fifteen years, walked past sheds blackened by the salt air, across a narrow footbridge, and up a short street of unpainted houses to find Thomas Auld.
Frederick had seen Thomas Auld only on the rare trips the shopkeeper made to Baltimore, but he had not forgotten who had sent him back to Baltimore after the distribution of the Anthony slaves. Now, returning to the Eastern Shore in the spring of 1833, the boy hoped to find in Thomas an uncle, an older brother, perhaps even a friend. At the door of the Aulds' St. Michaels house—it was a store and post office as well—Amanda, Thomas and Lucretia's appealing small child, welcomed him warmly, but as he responded, her stepmother immediately instructed him to be respectful. Rebuffed, he looked to Thomas, who saw before him not so much a winning young boy as a compelling adolescent.