UNCLE TOM’S CABIN
Life among the Lowly
By Harriet Beecher Stowe
In Which the Reader Is Introduced to a Man of Humanity
Late in the afternoon of a chilly day in February, two gentlemen were
sitting alone over their wine, in a well-furnished dining parlor, in
the town of P----, in Kentucky. There were no servants present, and the
gentlemen, with chairs closely approaching, seemed to be discussing some
subject with great earnestness.
For convenience sake, we have said, hitherto, two _gentlemen_. One of
the parties, however, when critically examined, did not seem, strictly
speaking, to come under the species. He was a short, thick-set man,
with coarse, commonplace features, and that swaggering air of pretension
which marks a low man who is trying to elbow his way upward in the
world. He was much over-dressed, in a gaudy vest of many colors, a blue
neckerchief, bedropped gayly with yellow spots, and arranged with a
flaunting tie, quite in keeping with the general air of the man. His
hands, large and coarse, were plentifully bedecked with rings; and he
wore a heavy gold watch-chain, with a bundle of seals of portentous
size, and a great variety of colors, attached to it,--which, in the
ardor of conversation, he was in the habit of flourishing and jingling
with evident satisfaction. His conversation was in free and easy
defiance of Murray’s Grammar,* and was garnished at convenient intervals
with various profane expressions, which not even the desire to be
graphic in our account shall induce us to transcribe.
* English Grammar (1795), by Lindley Murray (1745-1826), the
most authoritative American grammarian of his day.
His companion, Mr. Shelby, had the appearance of a gentleman; and the
arrangements of the house, and the general air of the housekeeping,
indicated easy, and even opulent circumstances. As we before stated, the
two were in the midst of an earnest conversation.
“That is the way I should arrange the matter,” said Mr. Shelby.
“I can’t make trade that way--I positively can’t, Mr. Shelby,” said the
other, holding up a glass of wine between his eye and the light.
“Why, the fact is, Haley, Tom is an uncommon fellow; he is certainly
worth that sum anywhere,--steady, honest, capable, manages my whole farm
like a clock.”
“You mean honest, as niggers go,” said Haley, helping himself to a glass
“No; I mean, really, Tom is a good, steady, sensible, pious fellow. He
got religion at a camp-meeting, four years ago; and I believe he
really _did_ get it. I’ve trusted him, since then, with everything I
have,--money, house, horses,--and let him come and go round the country;
and I always found him true and square in everything.”
“Some folks don’t believe there is pious niggers Shelby,” said Haley,
with a candid flourish of his hand, “but _I do_. I had a fellow, now,
in this yer last lot I took to Orleans--‘t was as good as a meetin, now,
really, to hear that critter pray; and he was quite gentle and quiet
like. He fetched me a good sum, too, for I bought him cheap of a man
that was ‘bliged to sell out; so I realized six hundred on him. Yes, I
consider religion a valeyable thing in a nigger, when it’s the genuine
article, and no mistake.”
“Well, Tom’s got the real article, if ever a fellow had,” rejoined the
other. “Why, last fall, I let him go to Cincinnati alone, to do business
for me, and bring home five hundred dollars. ‘Tom,’ says I to him,
‘I trust you, because I think you’re a Christian--I know you wouldn’t
cheat.’ Tom comes back, sure enough; I knew he would. Some low fellows,
they say, said to him--Tom, why don’t you make tracks for Canada?’ ‘Ah,
master trusted me, and I couldn’t,’--they told me about it. I am sorry
to part with Tom, I must say. You ought to let him cover the whole
balance of the debt; and you would, Haley, if you had any conscience.”
“Well, I’ve got just as much conscience as any man in business can
afford to keep,--just a little, you know, to swear by, as ‘t were,” said
the trader, jocularly; “and, then, I’m ready to do anything in reason
to ‘blige friends; but this yer, you see, is a leetle too hard on a
fellow--a leetle too hard.” The trader sighed contemplatively, and
poured out some more brandy.
“Well, then, Haley, how will you trade?” said Mr. Shelby, after an
uneasy interval of silence.
“Well, haven’t you a boy or gal that you could throw in with Tom?”
“Hum!--none that I could well spare; to tell the truth, it’s only hard
necessity makes me willing to sell at all. I don’t like parting with any
of my hands, that’s a fact.”
Here the door opened, and a small quadroon boy, between four and five
years of age, entered the room. There was something in his appearance
remarkably beautiful and engaging. His black hair, fine as floss silk,
hung in glossy curls about his round, dimpled face, while a pair of
large dark eyes, full of fire and softness, looked out from beneath the
rich, long lashes, as he peered curiously into the apartment. A gay robe
of scarlet and yellow plaid, carefully made and neatly fitted, set off
to advantage the dark and rich style of his beauty; and a certain comic
air of assurance, blended with bashfulness, showed that he had been not
unused to being petted and noticed by his master.
“Hulloa, Jim Crow!” said Mr. Shelby, whistling, and snapping a bunch of
raisins towards him, “pick that up, now!”
The child scampered, with all his little strength, after the prize,
while his master laughed.
“Come here, Jim Crow,” said he. The child came up, and the master patted
the curly head, and chucked him under the chin.
“Now, Jim, show this gentleman how you can dance and sing.” The boy
commenced one of those wild, grotesque songs common among the negroes,
in a rich, clear voice, accompanying his singing with many comic
evolutions of the hands, feet, and whole body, all in perfect time to
“Bravo!” said Haley, throwing him a quarter of an orange.
“Now, Jim, walk like old Uncle Cudjoe, when he has the rheumatism,” said
Instantly the flexible limbs of the child assumed the appearance of
deformity and distortion, as, with his back humped up, and his master’s
stick in his hand, he hobbled about the room, his childish face drawn
into a doleful pucker, and spitting from right to left, in imitation of
an old man.
Both gentlemen laughed uproariously.
“Now, Jim,” said his master, “show us how old Elder Robbins leads the
psalm.” The boy drew his chubby face down to a formidable length, and
commenced toning a psalm tune through his nose, with imperturbable
“Hurrah! bravo! what a young ‘un!” said Haley; “that chap’s a case,
I’ll promise. Tell you what,” said he, suddenly clapping his hand on Mr.
Shelby’s shoulder, “fling in that chap, and I’ll settle the business--I
will. Come, now, if that ain’t doing the thing up about the rightest!”
At this moment, the door was pushed gently open, and a young quadroon
woman, apparently about twenty-five, entered the room.
There needed only a glance from the child to her, to identify her as its
mother. There was the same rich, full, dark eye, with its long lashes;
the same ripples of silky black hair. The brown of her complexion gave
way on the cheek to a perceptible flush, which deepened as she saw
the gaze of the strange man fixed upon her in bold and undisguised
admiration. Her dress was of the neatest possible fit, and set off to
advantage her finely moulded shape;--a delicately formed hand and a trim
foot and ankle were items of appearance that did not escape the quick
eye of the trader, well used to run up at a glance the points of a fine
“Well, Eliza?” said her master, as she stopped and looked hesitatingly
“I was looking for Harry, please, sir;” and the boy bounded toward her,
showing his spoils, which he had gathered in the skirt of his robe.
“Well, take him away then,” said Mr. Shelby; and hastily she withdrew,
carrying the child on her arm.
“By Jupiter,” said the trader, turning to him in admiration, “there’s an
article, now! You might make your fortune on that ar gal in Orleans, any
day. I’ve seen over a thousand, in my day, paid down for gals not a bit
“I don’t want to make my fortune on her,” said Mr. Shelby, dryly; and,
seeking to turn the conversation, he uncorked a bottle of fresh wine,
and asked his companion’s opinion of it.
“Capital, sir,--first chop!” said the trader; then turning, and slapping
his hand familiarly on Shelby’s shoulder, he added--
“Come, how will you trade about the gal?--what shall I say for
her--what’ll you take?”
“Mr. Haley, she is not to be sold,” said Shelby. “My wife would not part
with her for her weight in gold.”
“Ay, ay! women always say such things, cause they ha’nt no sort of
calculation. Just show ‘em how many watches, feathers, and trinkets,
one’s weight in gold would buy, and that alters the case, _I_ reckon.”
“I tell you, Haley, this must not be spoken of; I say no, and I mean
no,” said Shelby, decidedly.
“Well, you’ll let me have the boy, though,” said the trader; “you must
own I’ve come down pretty handsomely for him.”
“What on earth can you want with the child?” said Shelby.
“Why, I’ve got a friend that’s going into this yer branch of the
business--wants to buy up handsome boys to raise for the market. Fancy
articles entirely--sell for waiters, and so on, to rich ‘uns, that
can pay for handsome ‘uns. It sets off one of yer great places--a real
handsome boy to open door, wait, and tend. They fetch a good sum; and
this little devil is such a comical, musical concern, he’s just the
“I would rather not sell him,” said Mr. Shelby, thoughtfully; “the fact
is, sir, I’m a humane man, and I hate to take the boy from his mother,
“O, you do?--La! yes--something of that ar natur. I understand,
perfectly. It is mighty onpleasant getting on with women, sometimes, I
al’ays hates these yer screechin,’ screamin’ times. They are _mighty_
onpleasant; but, as I manages business, I generally avoids ‘em, sir.
Now, what if you get the girl off for a day, or a week, or so; then the
thing’s done quietly,--all over before she comes home. Your wife might
get her some ear-rings, or a new gown, or some such truck, to make up
“I’m afraid not.”
“Lor bless ye, yes! These critters ain’t like white folks, you know;
they gets over things, only manage right. Now, they say,” said Haley,
assuming a candid and confidential air, “that this kind o’ trade is
hardening to the feelings; but I never found it so. Fact is, I never
could do things up the way some fellers manage the business. I’ve seen
‘em as would pull a woman’s child out of her arms, and set him up
to sell, and she screechin’ like mad all the time;--very bad
policy--damages the article--makes ‘em quite unfit for service
sometimes. I knew a real handsome gal once, in Orleans, as was entirely
ruined by this sort o’ handling. The fellow that was trading for her
didn’t want her baby; and she was one of your real high sort, when her
blood was up. I tell you, she squeezed up her child in her arms, and
talked, and went on real awful. It kinder makes my blood run cold to
think of ‘t; and when they carried off the child, and locked her up,
she jest went ravin’ mad, and died in a week. Clear waste, sir, of a
thousand dollars, just for want of management,--there’s where ‘t
is. It’s always best to do the humane thing, sir; that’s been _my_
experience.” And the trader leaned back in his chair, and folded his
arm, with an air of virtuous decision, apparently considering himself a
The subject appeared to interest the gentleman deeply; for while Mr.
Shelby was thoughtfully peeling an orange, Haley broke out afresh, with
becoming diffidence, but as if actually driven by the force of truth to
say a few words more.
“It don’t look well, now, for a feller to be praisin’ himself; but I say
it jest because it’s the truth. I believe I’m reckoned to bring in about
the finest droves of niggers that is brought in,--at least, I’ve been
told so; if I have once, I reckon I have a hundred times,--all in good
case,--fat and likely, and I lose as few as any man in the business. And
I lays it all to my management, sir; and humanity, sir, I may say, is
the great pillar of _my_ management.”
Mr. Shelby did not know what to say, and so he said, “Indeed!”
“Now, I’ve been laughed at for my notions, sir, and I’ve been talked to.
They an’t pop’lar, and they an’t common; but I stuck to ‘em, sir; I’ve
stuck to ‘em, and realized well on ‘em; yes, sir, they have paid their
passage, I may say,” and the trader laughed at his joke.
There was something so piquant and original in these elucidations of
humanity, that Mr. Shelby could not help laughing in company. Perhaps
you laugh too, dear reader; but you know humanity comes out in a variety
of strange forms now-a-days, and there is no end to the odd things that
humane people will say and do.
Mr. Shelby’s laugh encouraged the trader to proceed.
“It’s strange, now, but I never could beat this into people’s heads.
Now, there was Tom Loker, my old partner, down in Natchez; he was a
clever fellow, Tom was, only the very devil with niggers,--on principle
‘t was, you see, for a better hearted feller never broke bread; ‘t was
his _system_, sir. I used to talk to Tom. ‘Why, Tom,’ I used to say,
‘when your gals takes on and cry, what’s the use o’ crackin on’ em over
the head, and knockin’ on ‘em round? It’s ridiculous,’ says I, ‘and
don’t do no sort o’ good. Why, I don’t see no harm in their cryin’,’
says I; ‘it’s natur,’ says I, ‘and if natur can’t blow off one way, it
will another. Besides, Tom,’ says I, ‘it jest spiles your gals; they get
sickly, and down in the mouth; and sometimes they gets ugly,--particular
yallow gals do,--and it’s the devil and all gettin’ on ‘em broke in.
Now,’ says I, ‘why can’t you kinder coax ‘em up, and speak ‘em fair?
Depend on it, Tom, a little humanity, thrown in along, goes a heap
further than all your jawin’ and crackin’; and it pays better,’ says I,
‘depend on ‘t.’ But Tom couldn’t get the hang on ‘t; and he spiled
so many for me, that I had to break off with him, though he was a
good-hearted fellow, and as fair a business hand as is goin’.”
“And do you find your ways of managing do the business better than
Tom’s?” said Mr. Shelby.
“Why, yes, sir, I may say so. You see, when I any ways can, I takes
a leetle care about the onpleasant parts, like selling young uns and
that,--get the gals out of the way--out of sight, out of mind, you
know,--and when it’s clean done, and can’t be helped, they naturally
gets used to it. ‘Tan’t, you know, as if it was white folks, that’s
brought up in the way of ‘spectin’ to keep their children and wives, and
all that. Niggers, you know, that’s fetched up properly, ha’n’t no kind
of ‘spectations of no kind; so all these things comes easier.”
“I’m afraid mine are not properly brought up, then,” said Mr. Shelby.
“S’pose not; you Kentucky folks spile your niggers. You mean well by
‘em, but ‘tan’t no real kindness, arter all. Now, a nigger, you see,
what’s got to be hacked and tumbled round the world, and sold to Tom,
and Dick, and the Lord knows who, ‘tan’t no kindness to be givin’ on him
notions and expectations, and bringin’ on him up too well, for the rough
and tumble comes all the harder on him arter. Now, I venture to say,
your niggers would be quite chop-fallen in a place where some of your
plantation niggers would be singing and whooping like all possessed.
Every man, you know, Mr. Shelby, naturally thinks well of his own ways;
and I think I treat niggers just about as well as it’s ever worth while
to treat ‘em.”
“It’s a happy thing to be satisfied,” said Mr. Shelby, with a slight
shrug, and some perceptible feelings of a disagreeable nature.
“Well,” said Haley, after they had both silently picked their nuts for a
season, “what do you say?”
“I’ll think the matter over, and talk with my wife,” said Mr. Shelby.
“Meantime, Haley, if you want the matter carried on in the quiet way
you speak of, you’d best not let your business in this neighborhood be
known. It will get out among my boys, and it will not be a particularly
quiet business getting away any of my fellows, if they know it, I’ll
“O! certainly, by all means, mum! of course. But I’ll tell you. I’m in
a devil of a hurry, and shall want to know, as soon as possible, what I
may depend on,” said he, rising and putting on his overcoat.
“Well, call up this evening, between six and seven, and you shall have
my answer,” said Mr. Shelby, and the trader bowed himself out of the
“I’d like to have been able to kick the fellow down the steps,” said
he to himself, as he saw the door fairly closed, “with his impudent
assurance; but he knows how much he has me at advantage. If anybody
had ever said to me that I should sell Tom down south to one of those
rascally traders, I should have said, ‘Is thy servant a dog, that
he should do this thing?’ And now it must come, for aught I see. And
Eliza’s child, too! I know that I shall have some fuss with wife
about that; and, for that matter, about Tom, too. So much for being in
debt,--heigho! The fellow sees his advantage, and means to push it.”
Perhaps the mildest form of the system of slavery is to be seen in the
State of Kentucky. The general prevalence of agricultural pursuits of a
quiet and gradual nature, not requiring those periodic seasons of
hurry and pressure that are called for in the business of more southern
districts, makes the task of the negro a more healthful and reasonable
one; while the master, content with a more gradual style of acquisition,
has not those temptations to hardheartedness which always overcome frail
human nature when the prospect of sudden and rapid gain is weighed in
the balance, with no heavier counterpoise than the interests of the
helpless and unprotected.
Whoever visits some estates there, and witnesses the good-humored
indulgence of some masters and mistresses, and the affectionate loyalty
of some slaves, might be tempted to dream the oft-fabled poetic legend
of a patriarchal institution, and all that; but over and above the scene
there broods a portentous shadow--the shadow of _law_. So long as the
law considers all these human beings, with beating hearts and living
affections, only as so many _things_ belonging to a master,--so long
as the failure, or misfortune, or imprudence, or death of the kindest
owner, may cause them any day to exchange a life of kind protection
and indulgence for one of hopeless misery and toil,--so long it is
impossible to make anything beautiful or desirable in the best regulated
administration of slavery.
Mr. Shelby was a fair average kind of man, good-natured and kindly, and
disposed to easy indulgence of those around him, and there had never
been a lack of anything which might contribute to the physical comfort
of the negroes on his estate. He had, however, speculated largely and
quite loosely; had involved himself deeply, and his notes to a large
amount had come into the hands of Haley; and this small piece of
information is the key to the preceding conversation.
Now, it had so happened that, in approaching the door, Eliza had caught
enough of the conversation to know that a trader was making offers to
her master for somebody.
She would gladly have stopped at the door to listen, as she came out;
but her mistress just then calling, she was obliged to hasten away.
Still she thought she heard the trader make an offer for her boy;--could
she be mistaken? Her heart swelled and throbbed, and she involuntarily
strained him so tight that the little fellow looked up into her face in
“Eliza, girl, what ails you today?” said her mistress, when Eliza had
upset the wash-pitcher, knocked down the workstand, and finally was
abstractedly offering her mistress a long nightgown in place of the silk
dress she had ordered her to bring from the wardrobe.
Eliza started. “O, missis!” she said, raising her eyes; then, bursting
into tears, she sat down in a chair, and began sobbing.
“Why, Eliza child, what ails you?” said her mistress.
“O! missis, missis,” said Eliza, “there’s been a trader talking with
master in the parlor! I heard him.”
“Well, silly child, suppose there has.”
“O, missis, _do_ you suppose mas’r would sell my Harry?” And the poor
creature threw herself into a chair, and sobbed convulsively.
“Sell him! No, you foolish girl! You know your master never deals with
those southern traders, and never means to sell any of his servants, as
long as they behave well. Why, you silly child, who do you think would
want to buy your Harry? Do you think all the world are set on him as you
are, you goosie? Come, cheer up, and hook my dress. There now, put my
back hair up in that pretty braid you learnt the other day, and don’t go
listening at doors any more.”
“Well, but, missis, _you_ never would give your consent--to--to--”
“Nonsense, child! to be sure, I shouldn’t. What do you talk so for? I
would as soon have one of my own children sold. But really, Eliza, you
are getting altogether too proud of that little fellow. A man can’t put
his nose into the door, but you think he must be coming to buy him.”
Reassured by her mistress’ confident tone, Eliza proceeded nimbly and
adroitly with her toilet, laughing at her own fears, as she proceeded.
Mrs. Shelby was a woman of high class, both intellectually and morally.
To that natural magnanimity and generosity of mind which one often marks
as characteristic of the women of Kentucky, she added high moral and
religious sensibility and principle, carried out with great energy and
ability into practical results. Her husband, who made no professions
to any particular religious character, nevertheless reverenced and
respected the consistency of hers, and stood, perhaps, a little in awe
of her opinion. Certain it was that he gave her unlimited scope in all
her benevolent efforts for the comfort, instruction, and improvement of
her servants, though he never took any decided part in them himself. In
fact, if not exactly a believer in the doctrine of the efficiency of the
extra good works of saints, he really seemed somehow or other to fancy
that his wife had piety and benevolence enough for two--to indulge a
shadowy expectation of getting into heaven through her superabundance of
qualities to which he made no particular pretension.
The heaviest load on his mind, after his conversation with the trader,
lay in the foreseen necessity of breaking to his wife the arrangement
contemplated,--meeting the importunities and opposition which he knew he
should have reason to encounter.
Mrs. Shelby, being entirely ignorant of her husband’s embarrassments,
and knowing only the general kindliness of his temper, had been quite
sincere in the entire incredulity with which she had met Eliza’s
suspicions. In fact, she dismissed the matter from her mind, without a
second thought; and being occupied in preparations for an evening visit,
it passed out of her thoughts entirely.
Eliza had been brought up by her mistress, from girlhood, as a petted
and indulged favorite.
The traveller in the south must often have remarked that peculiar air of
refinement, that softness of voice and manner, which seems in many cases
to be a particular gift to the quadroon and mulatto women. These natural
graces in the quadroon are often united with beauty of the most dazzling
kind, and in almost every case with a personal appearance prepossessing
and agreeable. Eliza, such as we have described her, is not a fancy
sketch, but taken from remembrance, as we saw her, years ago, in
Kentucky. Safe under the protecting care of her mistress, Eliza had
reached maturity without those temptations which make beauty so fatal
an inheritance to a slave. She had been married to a bright and talented
young mulatto man, who was a slave on a neighboring estate, and bore the
name of George Harris.
This young man had been hired out by his master to work in a bagging
factory, where his adroitness and ingenuity caused him to be considered
the first hand in the place. He had invented a machine for the cleaning
of the hemp, which, considering the education and circumstances of
the inventor, displayed quite as much mechanical genius as Whitney’s
* A machine of this description was really the invention of
a young colored man in Kentucky. [Mrs. Stowe’s note.]
He was possessed of a handsome person and pleasing manners, and was a
general favorite in the factory. Nevertheless, as this young man was
in the eye of the law not a man, but a thing, all these superior
qualifications were subject to the control of a vulgar, narrow-minded,
tyrannical master. This same gentleman, having heard of the fame of
George’s invention, took a ride over to the factory, to see what
this intelligent chattel had been about. He was received with great
enthusiasm by the employer, who congratulated him on possessing so
valuable a slave.
He was waited upon over the factory, shown the machinery by George, who,
in high spirits, talked so fluently, held himself so erect, looked
so handsome and manly, that his master began to feel an uneasy
consciousness of inferiority. What business had his slave to be marching
round the country, inventing machines, and holding up his head among
gentlemen? He’d soon put a stop to it. He’d take him back, and put
him to hoeing and digging, and “see if he’d step about so smart.”
Accordingly, the manufacturer and all hands concerned were astounded
when he suddenly demanded George’s wages, and announced his intention of
taking him home.
“But, Mr. Harris,” remonstrated the manufacturer, “isn’t this rather
“What if it is?--isn’t the man _mine_?”
“We would be willing, sir, to increase the rate of compensation.”
“No object at all, sir. I don’t need to hire any of my hands out, unless
I’ve a mind to.”
“But, sir, he seems peculiarly adapted to this business.”
“Dare say he may be; never was much adapted to anything that I set him
about, I’ll be bound.”
“But only think of his inventing this machine,” interposed one of the
workmen, rather unluckily.
“O yes! a machine for saving work, is it? He’d invent that, I’ll be
bound; let a nigger alone for that, any time. They are all labor-saving
machines themselves, every one of ‘em. No, he shall tramp!”
George had stood like one transfixed, at hearing his doom thus suddenly
pronounced by a power that he knew was irresistible. He folded his arms,
tightly pressed in his lips, but a whole volcano of bitter feelings
burned in his bosom, and sent streams of fire through his veins. He
breathed short, and his large dark eyes flashed like live coals; and he
might have broken out into some dangerous ebullition, had not the kindly
manufacturer touched him on the arm, and said, in a low tone,
“Give way, George; go with him for the present. We’ll try to help you,
The tyrant observed the whisper, and conjectured its import, though he
could not hear what was said; and he inwardly strengthened himself in
his determination to keep the power he possessed over his victim.
George was taken home, and put to the meanest drudgery of the farm. He
had been able to repress every disrespectful word; but the flashing eye,
the gloomy and troubled brow, were part of a natural language that could
not be repressed,--indubitable signs, which showed too plainly that the
man could not become a thing.
It was during the happy period of his employment in the factory that
George had seen and married his wife. During that period,--being much
trusted and favored by his employer,--he had free liberty to come and go
at discretion. The marriage was highly approved of by Mrs. Shelby, who,
with a little womanly complacency in match-making, felt pleased to unite
her handsome favorite with one of her own class who seemed in every way
suited to her; and so they were married in her mistress’ great parlor,
and her mistress herself adorned the bride’s beautiful hair with
orange-blossoms, and threw over it the bridal veil, which certainly
could scarce have rested on a fairer head; and there was no lack of
white gloves, and cake and wine,--of admiring guests to praise the
bride’s beauty, and her mistress’ indulgence and liberality. For a
year or two Eliza saw her husband frequently, and there was nothing to
interrupt their happiness, except the loss of two infant children, to
whom she was passionately attached, and whom she mourned with a grief
so intense as to call for gentle remonstrance from her mistress, who
sought, with maternal anxiety, to direct her naturally passionate
feelings within the bounds of reason and religion.
After the birth of little Harry, however, she had gradually become
tranquillized and settled; and every bleeding tie and throbbing nerve,
once more entwined with that little life, seemed to become sound and
healthful, and Eliza was a happy woman up to the time that her husband
was rudely torn from his kind employer, and brought under the iron sway
of his legal owner.
The manufacturer, true to his word, visited Mr. Harris a week or two
after George had been taken away, when, as he hoped, the heat of the
occasion had passed away, and tried every possible inducement to lead
him to restore him to his former employment.
“You needn’t trouble yourself to talk any longer,” said he, doggedly; “I
know my own business, sir.”
“I did not presume to interfere with it, sir. I only thought that you
might think it for your interest to let your man to us on the terms
“O, I understand the matter well enough. I saw your winking and
whispering, the day I took him out of the factory; but you don’t come it
over me that way. It’s a free country, sir; the man’s _mine_, and I do
what I please with him,--that’s it!”
And so fell George’s last hope;--nothing before him but a life of toil
and drudgery, rendered more bitter by every little smarting vexation and
indignity which tyrannical ingenuity could devise.
A very humane jurist once said, The worst use you can put a man to is
to hang him. No; there is another use that a man can be put to that is
The Husband and Father
Mrs. Shelby had gone on her visit, and Eliza stood in the verandah,
rather dejectedly looking after the retreating carriage, when a hand was
laid on her shoulder. She turned, and a bright smile lighted up her fine
“George, is it you? How you frightened me! Well; I am so glad you ‘s
come! Missis is gone to spend the afternoon; so come into my little
room, and we’ll have the time all to ourselves.”
Saying this, she drew him into a neat little apartment opening on the
verandah, where she generally sat at her sewing, within call of her
“How glad I am!--why don’t you smile?--and look at Harry--how he grows.”
The boy stood shyly regarding his father through his curls, holding
close to the skirts of his mother’s dress. “Isn’t he beautiful?” said
Eliza, lifting his long curls and kissing him.
“I wish he’d never been born!” said George, bitterly. “I wish I’d never
been born myself!”
Surprised and frightened, Eliza sat down, leaned her head on her
husband’s shoulder, and burst into tears.
“There now, Eliza, it’s too bad for me to make you feel so, poor girl!”
said he, fondly; “it’s too bad: O, how I wish you never had seen me--you
might have been happy!”
“George! George! how can you talk so? What dreadful thing has happened,
or is going to happen? I’m sure we’ve been very happy, till lately.”
“So we have, dear,” said George. Then drawing his child on his knee, he
gazed intently on his glorious dark eyes, and passed his hands through
his long curls.
“Just like you, Eliza; and you are the handsomest woman I ever saw, and
the best one I ever wish to see; but, oh, I wish I’d never seen you, nor
“O, George, how can you!”
“Yes, Eliza, it’s all misery, misery, misery! My life is bitter as
wormwood; the very life is burning out of me. I’m a poor, miserable,
forlorn drudge; I shall only drag you down with me, that’s all. What’s
the use of our trying to do anything, trying to know anything, trying to
be anything? What’s the use of living? I wish I was dead!”
“O, now, dear George, that is really wicked! I know how you feel about
losing your place in the factory, and you have a hard master; but pray
be patient, and perhaps something--”
“Patient!” said he, interrupting her; “haven’t I been patient? Did I say
a word when he came and took me away, for no earthly reason, from the
place where everybody was kind to me? I’d paid him truly every cent of
my earnings,--and they all say I worked well.”
“Well, it _is_ dreadful,” said Eliza; “but, after all, he is your
master, you know.”
“My master! and who made him my master? That’s what I think of--what
right has he to me? I’m a man as much as he is. I’m a better man than he
is. I know more about business than he does; I am a better manager than
he is; I can read better than he can; I can write a better hand,--and
I’ve learned it all myself, and no thanks to him,--I’ve learned it in
spite of him; and now what right has he to make a dray-horse of me?--to
take me from things I can do, and do better than he can, and put me to
work that any horse can do? He tries to do it; he says he’ll bring me
down and humble me, and he puts me to just the hardest, meanest and
dirtiest work, on purpose!”
“O, George! George! you frighten me! Why, I never heard you talk so; I’m
afraid you’ll do something dreadful. I don’t wonder at your feelings, at
all; but oh, do be careful--do, do--for my sake--for Harry’s!”
“I have been careful, and I have been patient, but it’s growing worse
and worse; flesh and blood can’t bear it any longer;--every chance he
can get to insult and torment me, he takes. I thought I could do my work
well, and keep on quiet, and have some time to read and learn out of
work hours; but the more he sees I can do, the more he loads on. He says
that though I don’t say anything, he sees I’ve got the devil in me, and
he means to bring it out; and one of these days it will come out in a
way that he won’t like, or I’m mistaken!”
“O dear! what shall we do?” said Eliza, mournfully.
“It was only yesterday,” said George, “as I was busy loading stones into
a cart, that young Mas’r Tom stood there, slashing his whip so near the
horse that the creature was frightened. I asked him to stop, as pleasant
as I could,--he just kept right on. I begged him again, and then he
turned on me, and began striking me. I held his hand, and then he
screamed and kicked and ran to his father, and told him that I was
fighting him. He came in a rage, and said he’d teach me who was my
master; and he tied me to a tree, and cut switches for young master, and
told him that he might whip me till he was tired;--and he did do it! If
I don’t make him remember it, some time!” and the brow of the young man
grew dark, and his eyes burned with an expression that made his young
wife tremble. “Who made this man my master? That’s what I want to know!”
“Well,” said Eliza, mournfully, “I always thought that I must obey my
master and mistress, or I couldn’t be a Christian.”
“There is some sense in it, in your case; they have brought you up like
a child, fed you, clothed you, indulged you, and taught you, so that you
have a good education; that is some reason why they should claim you.
But I have been kicked and cuffed and sworn at, and at the best only let
alone; and what do I owe? I’ve paid for all my keeping a hundred times
over. I _won’t_ bear it. No, I _won’t_!” he said, clenching his hand
with a fierce frown.
Eliza trembled, and was silent. She had never seen her husband in this
mood before; and her gentle system of ethics seemed to bend like a reed
in the surges of such passions.
“You know poor little Carlo, that you gave me,” added George; “the
creature has been about all the comfort that I’ve had. He has slept with
me nights, and followed me around days, and kind o’ looked at me as if
he understood how I felt. Well, the other day I was just feeding him
with a few old scraps I picked up by the kitchen door, and Mas’r
came along, and said I was feeding him up at his expense, and that he
couldn’t afford to have every nigger keeping his dog, and ordered me to
tie a stone to his neck and throw him in the pond.”
“O, George, you didn’t do it!”
“Do it? not I!--but he did. Mas’r and Tom pelted the poor drowning
creature with stones. Poor thing! he looked at me so mournful, as if
he wondered why I didn’t save him. I had to take a flogging because I
wouldn’t do it myself. I don’t care. Mas’r will find out that I’m one
that whipping won’t tame. My day will come yet, if he don’t look out.”
“What are you going to do? O, George, don’t do anything wicked; if you
only trust in God, and try to do right, he’ll deliver you.”
“I an’t a Christian like you, Eliza; my heart’s full of bitterness; I
can’t trust in God. Why does he let things be so?”
“O, George, we must have faith. Mistress says that when all things go
wrong to us, we must believe that God is doing the very best.”
“That’s easy to say for people that are sitting on their sofas and
riding in their carriages; but let ‘em be where I am, I guess it would
come some harder. I wish I could be good; but my heart burns, and can’t
be reconciled, anyhow. You couldn’t in my place,--you can’t now, if I
tell you all I’ve got to say. You don’t know the whole yet.”
“What can be coming now?”
“Well, lately Mas’r has been saying that he was a fool to let me marry
off the place; that he hates Mr. Shelby and all his tribe, because they
are proud, and hold their heads up above him, and that I’ve got proud
notions from you; and he says he won’t let me come here any more, and
that I shall take a wife and settle down on his place. At first he
only scolded and grumbled these things; but yesterday he told me that I
should take Mina for a wife, and settle down in a cabin with her, or he
would sell me down river.”
“Why--but you were married to _me_, by the minister, as much as if you’d
been a white man!” said Eliza, simply.
“Don’t you know a slave can’t be married? There is no law in this
country for that; I can’t hold you for my wife, if he chooses to part
us. That’s why I wish I’d never seen you,--why I wish I’d never been
born; it would have been better for us both,--it would have been better
for this poor child if he had never been born. All this may happen to
“O, but master is so kind!”
“Yes, but who knows?--he may die--and then he may be sold to nobody
knows who. What pleasure is it that he is handsome, and smart, and
bright? I tell you, Eliza, that a sword will pierce through your soul
for every good and pleasant thing your child is or has; it will make him
worth too much for you to keep.”
The words smote heavily on Eliza’s heart; the vision of the trader came
before her eyes, and, as if some one had struck her a deadly blow,
she turned pale and gasped for breath. She looked nervously out on the
verandah, where the boy, tired of the grave conversation, had retired,
and where he was riding triumphantly up and down on Mr. Shelby’s
walking-stick. She would have spoken to tell her husband her fears, but
“No, no,--he has enough to bear, poor fellow!” she thought. “No, I won’t
tell him; besides, it an’t true; Missis never deceives us.”
“So, Eliza, my girl,” said the husband, mournfully, “bear up, now; and
good-by, for I’m going.”
“Going, George! Going where?”
“To Canada,” said he, straightening himself up; “and when I’m there, I’ll
buy you; that’s all the hope that’s left us. You have a kind master,
that won’t refuse to sell you. I’ll buy you and the boy;--God helping
me, I will!”
“O, dreadful! if you should be taken?”
“I won’t be taken, Eliza; I’ll _die_ first! I’ll be free, or I’ll die!”
“You won’t kill yourself!”
“No need of that. They will kill me, fast enough; they never will get me
down the river alive!”
“O, George, for my sake, do be careful! Don’t do anything wicked; don’t
lay hands on yourself, or anybody else! You are tempted too much--too
much; but don’t--go you must--but go carefully, prudently; pray God to
“Well, then, Eliza, hear my plan. Mas’r took it into his head to send
me right by here, with a note to Mr. Symmes, that lives a mile past. I
believe he expected I should come here to tell you what I have. It would
please him, if he thought it would aggravate ‘Shelby’s folks,’ as he
calls ‘em. I’m going home quite resigned, you understand, as if all was
over. I’ve got some preparations made,--and there are those that will
help me; and, in the course of a week or so, I shall be among the
missing, some day. Pray for me, Eliza; perhaps the good Lord will hear
“O, pray yourself, George, and go trusting in him; then you won’t do
“Well, now, _good-by_,” said George, holding Eliza’s hands, and gazing
into her eyes, without moving. They stood silent; then there were last
words, and sobs, and bitter weeping,--such parting as those may make
whose hope to meet again is as the spider’s web,--and the husband and
wife were parted.
An Evening in Uncle Tom’s Cabin
The cabin of Uncle Tom was a small log building, close adjoining to “the
house,” as the negro _par excellence_ designates his master’s dwelling.
In front it had a neat garden-patch, where, every summer, strawberries,
raspberries, and a variety of fruits and vegetables, flourished under
careful tending. The whole front of it was covered by a large
scarlet bignonia and a native multiflora rose, which, entwisting and
interlacing, left scarce a vestige of the rough logs to be seen. Here,
also, in summer, various brilliant annuals, such as marigolds, petunias,
four-o’clocks, found an indulgent corner in which to unfold their
splendors, and were the delight and pride of Aunt Chloe’s heart.
Let us enter the dwelling. The evening meal at the house is over, and
Aunt Chloe, who presided over its preparation as head cook, has left
to inferior officers in the kitchen the business of clearing away and
washing dishes, and come out into her own snug territories, to “get her
ole man’s supper”; therefore, doubt not that it is her you see by the
fire, presiding with anxious interest over certain frizzling items in
a stew-pan, and anon with grave consideration lifting the cover of
a bake-kettle, from whence steam forth indubitable intimations of
“something good.” A round, black, shining face is hers, so glossy as
to suggest the idea that she might have been washed over with white of
eggs, like one of her own tea rusks. Her whole plump countenance beams
with satisfaction and contentment from under her well-starched checked
turban, bearing on it, however, if we must confess it, a little of
that tinge of self-consciousness which becomes the first cook of the
neighborhood, as Aunt Chloe was universally held and acknowledged to be.
A cook she certainly was, in the very bone and centre of her soul. Not
a chicken or turkey or duck in the barn-yard but looked grave when they
saw her approaching, and seemed evidently to be reflecting on their
latter end; and certain it was that she was always meditating on
trussing, stuffing and roasting, to a degree that was calculated to
inspire terror in any reflecting fowl living. Her corn-cake, in all its
varieties of hoe-cake, dodgers, muffins, and other species too numerous
to mention, was a sublime mystery to all less practised compounders; and
she would shake her fat sides with honest pride and merriment, as she
would narrate the fruitless efforts that one and another of her compeers
had made to attain to her elevation.
The arrival of company at the house, the arranging of dinners and
suppers “in style,” awoke all the energies of her soul; and no sight
was more welcome to her than a pile of travelling trunks launched on the
verandah, for then she foresaw fresh efforts and fresh triumphs.
Just at present, however, Aunt Chloe is looking into the bake-pan; in
which congenial operation we shall leave her till we finish our picture
of the cottage.
In one corner of it stood a bed, covered neatly with a snowy spread; and
by the side of it was a piece of carpeting, of some considerable size.
On this piece of carpeting Aunt Chloe took her stand, as being decidedly
in the upper walks of life; and it and the bed by which it lay, and the
whole corner, in fact, were treated with distinguished consideration,
and made, so far as possible, sacred from the marauding inroads
and desecrations of little folks. In fact, that corner was the
_drawing-room_ of the establishment. In the other corner was a bed of
much humbler pretensions, and evidently designed for _use_. The wall
over the fireplace was adorned with some very brilliant scriptural
prints, and a portrait of General Washington, drawn and colored in
a manner which would certainly have astonished that hero, if ever he
happened to meet with its like.
On a rough bench in the corner, a couple of woolly-headed boys,
with glistening black eyes and fat shining cheeks, were busy in
superintending the first walking operations of the baby, which, as
is usually the case, consisted in getting up on its feet, balancing a
moment, and then tumbling down,--each successive failure being violently
cheered, as something decidedly clever.
A table, somewhat rheumatic in its limbs, was drawn out in front of
the fire, and covered with a cloth, displaying cups and saucers of a
decidedly brilliant pattern, with other symptoms of an approaching meal.
At this table was seated Uncle Tom, Mr. Shelby’s best hand, who, as he
is to be the hero of our story, we must daguerreotype for our readers.
He was a large, broad-chested, powerfully-made man, of a full glossy
black, and a face whose truly African features were characterized by an
expression of grave and steady good sense, united with much kindliness
and benevolence. There was something about his whole air self-respecting
and dignified, yet united with a confiding and humble simplicity.
He was very busily intent at this moment on a slate lying before him,
on which he was carefully and slowly endeavoring to accomplish a copy
of some letters, in which operation he was overlooked by young Mas’r
George, a smart, bright boy of thirteen, who appeared fully to realize
the dignity of his position as instructor.
“Not that way, Uncle Tom,--not that way,” said he, briskly, as Uncle
Tom laboriously brought up the tail of his _g_ the wrong side out; “that
makes a _q_, you see.”
“La sakes, now, does it?” said Uncle Tom, looking with a respectful,
admiring air, as his young teacher flourishingly scrawled _q_’s and
_g_’s innumerable for his edification; and then, taking the pencil in
his big, heavy fingers, he patiently recommenced.
“How easy white folks al’us does things!” said Aunt Chloe, pausing
while she was greasing a griddle with a scrap of bacon on her fork, and
regarding young Master George with pride. “The way he can write, now!
and read, too! and then to come out here evenings and read his lessons
to us,--it’s mighty interestin’!”
“But, Aunt Chloe, I’m getting mighty hungry,” said George. “Isn’t that
cake in the skillet almost done?”
“Mose done, Mas’r George,” said Aunt Chloe, lifting the lid and peeping
in,--“browning beautiful--a real lovely brown. Ah! let me alone for dat.
Missis let Sally try to make some cake, t’ other day, jes to _larn_ her,
she said. ‘O, go way, Missis,’ said I; ‘it really hurts my feelin’s,
now, to see good vittles spilt dat ar way! Cake ris all to one side--no
shape at all; no more than my shoe; go way!”
And with this final expression of contempt for Sally’s greenness, Aunt
Chloe whipped the cover off the bake-kettle, and disclosed to view a
neatly-baked pound-cake, of which no city confectioner need to have been
ashamed. This being evidently the central point of the entertainment,
Aunt Chloe began now to bustle about earnestly in the supper department.
“Here you, Mose and Pete! get out de way, you niggers! Get away,
Polly, honey,--mammy’ll give her baby some fin, by and by. Now, Mas’r
George, you jest take off dem books, and set down now with my old man,
and I’ll take up de sausages, and have de first griddle full of cakes on
your plates in less dan no time.”
“They wanted me to come to supper in the house,” said George; “but I
knew what was what too well for that, Aunt Chloe.”
“So you did--so you did, honey,” said Aunt Chloe, heaping the smoking
batter-cakes on his plate; “you know’d your old aunty’d keep the best
for you. O, let you alone for dat! Go way!” And, with that, aunty gave
George a nudge with her finger, designed to be immensely facetious, and
turned again to her griddle with great briskness.
“Now for the cake,” said Mas’r George, when the activity of the
griddle department had somewhat subsided; and, with that, the youngster
flourished a large knife over the article in question.
“La bless you, Mas’r George!” said Aunt Chloe, with earnestness,
catching his arm, “you wouldn’t be for cuttin’ it wid dat ar great heavy
knife! Smash all down--spile all de pretty rise of it. Here, I’ve got a
thin old knife, I keeps sharp a purpose. Dar now, see! comes apart light
as a feather! Now eat away--you won’t get anything to beat dat ar.”
“Tom Lincon says,” said George, speaking with his mouth full, “that
their Jinny is a better cook than you.”
“Dem Lincons an’t much count, no way!” said Aunt Chloe, contemptuously;
“I mean, set along side _our_ folks. They ‘s ‘spectable folks enough in
a kinder plain way; but, as to gettin’ up anything in style, they don’t
begin to have a notion on ‘t. Set Mas’r Lincon, now, alongside Mas’r
Shelby! Good Lor! and Missis Lincon,--can she kinder sweep it into a
room like my missis,--so kinder splendid, yer know! O, go way! don’t
tell me nothin’ of dem Lincons!”--and Aunt Chloe tossed her head as one
who hoped she did know something of the world.
“Well, though, I’ve heard you say,” said George, “that Jinny was a
pretty fair cook.”
“So I did,” said Aunt Chloe,--“I may say dat. Good, plain, common
cookin’, Jinny’ll do;--make a good pone o’ bread,--bile her taters
_far_,--her corn cakes isn’t extra, not extra now, Jinny’s corn cakes
isn’t, but then they’s far,--but, Lor, come to de higher branches, and
what _can_ she do? Why, she makes pies--sartin she does; but what kinder
crust? Can she make your real flecky paste, as melts in your mouth, and
lies all up like a puff? Now, I went over thar when Miss Mary was gwine
to be married, and Jinny she jest showed me de weddin’ pies. Jinny and
I is good friends, ye know. I never said nothin’; but go ‘long, Mas’r
George! Why, I shouldn’t sleep a wink for a week, if I had a batch of
pies like dem ar. Why, dey wan’t no ‘count ‘t all.”
“I suppose Jinny thought they were ever so nice,” said George.
“Thought so!--didn’t she? Thar she was, showing em, as innocent--ye see,
it’s jest here, Jinny _don’t know_. Lor, the family an’t nothing! She
can’t be spected to know! ‘Ta’nt no fault o’ hem. Ah, Mas’r George, you
doesn’t know half ‘your privileges in yer family and bringin’ up!” Here
Aunt Chloe sighed, and rolled up her eyes with emotion.
“I’m sure, Aunt Chloe, I understand my pie and pudding privileges,”
said George. “Ask Tom Lincon if I don’t crow over him, every time I meet
Aunt Chloe sat back in her chair, and indulged in a hearty guffaw of
laughter, at this witticism of young Mas’r’s, laughing till the tears
rolled down her black, shining cheeks, and varying the exercise with
playfully slapping and poking Mas’r Georgey, and telling him to go way,
and that he was a case--that he was fit to kill her, and that he sartin
would kill her, one of these days; and, between each of these sanguinary
predictions, going off into a laugh, each longer and stronger than the
other, till George really began to think that he was a very dangerously
witty fellow, and that it became him to be careful how he talked “as
funny as he could.”
“And so ye telled Tom, did ye? O, Lor! what young uns will be up ter!
Ye crowed over Tom? O, Lor! Mas’r George, if ye wouldn’t make a hornbug
“Yes,” said George, “I says to him, ‘Tom, you ought to see some of Aunt
Chloe’s pies; they’re the right sort,’ says I.”
“Pity, now, Tom couldn’t,” said Aunt Chloe, on whose benevolent
heart the idea of Tom’s benighted condition seemed to make a strong
impression. “Ye oughter just ask him here to dinner, some o’ these
times, Mas’r George,” she added; “it would look quite pretty of ye.
Ye know, Mas’r George, ye oughtenter feel ‘bove nobody, on ‘count yer
privileges, ‘cause all our privileges is gi’n to us; we ought al’ays to
‘member that,” said Aunt Chloe, looking quite serious.
“Well, I mean to ask Tom here, some day next week,” said George; “and
you do your prettiest, Aunt Chloe, and we’ll make him stare. Won’t we
make him eat so he won’t get over it for a fortnight?”
“Yes, yes--sartin,” said Aunt Chloe, delighted; “you’ll see. Lor! to
think of some of our dinners! Yer mind dat ar great chicken pie I made
when we guv de dinner to General Knox? I and Missis, we come pretty near
quarrelling about dat ar crust. What does get into ladies sometimes,
I don’t know; but, sometimes, when a body has de heaviest kind o’
‘sponsibility on ‘em, as ye may say, and is all kinder _‘seris’_
and taken up, dey takes dat ar time to be hangin’ round and kinder
interferin’! Now, Missis, she wanted me to do dis way, and she wanted
me to do dat way; and, finally, I got kinder sarcy, and, says I, ‘Now,
Missis, do jist look at dem beautiful white hands o’ yourn with long
fingers, and all a sparkling with rings, like my white lilies when de
dew ‘s on ‘em; and look at my great black stumpin hands. Now, don’t ye
think dat de Lord must have meant _me_ to make de pie-crust, and you to
stay in de parlor? Dar! I was jist so sarcy, Mas’r George.”
“And what did mother say?” said George.
“Say?--why, she kinder larfed in her eyes--dem great handsome eyes o’
hern; and, says she, ‘Well, Aunt Chloe, I think you are about in the
right on ‘t,’ says she; and she went off in de parlor. She oughter
cracked me over de head for bein’ so sarcy; but dar’s whar ‘t is--I
can’t do nothin’ with ladies in de kitchen!”
“Well, you made out well with that dinner,--I remember everybody said
so,” said George.
“Didn’t I? And wan’t I behind de dinin’-room door dat bery day? and
didn’t I see de General pass his plate three times for some more dat
bery pie?--and, says he, ‘You must have an uncommon cook, Mrs. Shelby.’
Lor! I was fit to split myself.
“And de Gineral, he knows what cookin’ is,” said Aunt Chloe, drawing
herself up with an air. “Bery nice man, de Gineral! He comes of one of
de bery _fustest_ families in Old Virginny! He knows what’s what, now,
as well as I do--de Gineral. Ye see, there’s _pints_ in all pies, Mas’r
George; but tan’t everybody knows what they is, or as orter be. But the
Gineral, he knows; I knew by his ‘marks he made. Yes, he knows what de
By this time, Master George had arrived at that pass to which even a
boy can come (under uncommon circumstances, when he really could not eat
another morsel), and, therefore, he was at leisure to notice the pile of
woolly heads and glistening eyes which were regarding their operations
hungrily from the opposite corner.
“Here, you Mose, Pete,” he said, breaking off liberal bits, and throwing
it at them; “you want some, don’t you? Come, Aunt Chloe, bake them some
And George and Tom moved to a comfortable seat in the chimney-corner,
while Aunte Chloe, after baking a goodly pile of cakes, took her baby
on her lap, and began alternately filling its mouth and her own, and
distributing to Mose and Pete, who seemed rather to prefer eating theirs
as they rolled about on the floor under the table, tickling each other,
and occasionally pulling the baby’s toes.
“O! go long, will ye?” said the mother, giving now and then a kick, in
a kind of general way, under the table, when the movement became too
obstreperous. “Can’t ye be decent when white folks comes to see ye?
Stop dat ar, now, will ye? Better mind yerselves, or I’ll take ye down a
button-hole lower, when Mas’r George is gone!”
What meaning was couched under this terrible threat, it is difficult to
say; but certain it is that its awful indistinctness seemed to produce
very little impression on the young sinners addressed.
“La, now!” said Uncle Tom, “they are so full of tickle all the while,
they can’t behave theirselves.”
Here the boys emerged from under the table, and, with hands and faces
well plastered with molasses, began a vigorous kissing of the baby.
“Get along wid ye!” said the mother, pushing away their woolly heads.
“Ye’ll all stick together, and never get clar, if ye do dat fashion.
Go long to de spring and wash yerselves!” she said, seconding her
exhortations by a slap, which resounded very formidably, but which
seemed only to knock out so much more laugh from the young ones, as they
tumbled precipitately over each other out of doors, where they fairly
screamed with merriment.
“Did ye ever see such aggravating young uns?” said Aunt Chloe, rather
complacently, as, producing an old towel, kept for such emergencies,
she poured a little water out of the cracked tea-pot on it, and began
rubbing off the molasses from the baby’s face and hands; and, having
polished her till she shone, she set her down in Tom’s lap, while she
busied herself in clearing away supper. The baby employed the intervals
in pulling Tom’s nose, scratching his face, and burying her fat hands
in his woolly hair, which last operation seemed to afford her special
“Aint she a peart young un?” said Tom, holding her from him to take a
full-length view; then, getting up, he set her on his broad shoulder,
and began capering and dancing with her, while Mas’r George snapped at
her with his pocket-handkerchief, and Mose and Pete, now returned again,
roared after her like bears, till Aunt Chloe declared that they “fairly
took her head off” with their noise. As, according to her own statement,
this surgical operation was a matter of daily occurrence in the cabin,
the declaration no whit abated the merriment, till every one had roared
and tumbled and danced themselves down to a state of composure.
“Well, now, I hopes you’re done,” said Aunt Chloe, who had been busy
in pulling out a rude box of a trundle-bed; “and now, you Mose and you
Pete, get into thar; for we’s goin’ to have the meetin’.”
“O mother, we don’t wanter. We wants to sit up to meetin’,--meetin’s is
so curis. We likes ‘em.”
“La, Aunt Chloe, shove it under, and let ‘em sit up,” said Mas’r George,
decisively, giving a push to the rude machine.
Aunt Chloe, having thus saved appearances, seemed highly delighted to
push the thing under, saying, as she did so, “Well, mebbe ‘t will do ‘em
The house now resolved itself into a committee of the whole, to consider
the accommodations and arrangements for the meeting.
“What we’s to do for cheers, now, _I_ declar I don’t know,” said Aunt
Chloe. As the meeting had been held at Uncle Tom’s weekly, for an
indefinite length of time, without any more “cheers,” there seemed some
encouragement to hope that a way would be discovered at present.
“Old Uncle Peter sung both de legs out of dat oldest cheer, last week,”
“You go long! I’ll boun’ you pulled ‘em out; some o’ your shines,” said
“Well, it’ll stand, if it only keeps jam up agin de wall!” said Mose.
“Den Uncle Peter mus’n’t sit in it, cause he al’ays hitches when he gets
a singing. He hitched pretty nigh across de room, t’ other night,” said
“Good Lor! get him in it, then,” said Mose, “and den he’d begin, ‘Come
saints--and sinners, hear me tell,’ and den down he’d go,”--and Mose
imitated precisely the nasal tones of the old man, tumbling on the
floor, to illustrate the supposed catastrophe.
“Come now, be decent, can’t ye?” said Aunt Chloe; “an’t yer shamed?”
Mas’r George, however, joined the offender in the laugh, and declared
decidedly that Mose was a “buster.” So the maternal admonition seemed
rather to fail of effect.
“Well, ole man,” said Aunt Chloe, “you’ll have to tote in them ar
“Mother’s bar’ls is like dat ar widder’s, Mas’r George was reading
‘bout, in de good book,--dey never fails,” said Mose, aside to Peter.
“I’m sure one on ‘em caved in last week,” said Pete, “and let ‘em all
down in de middle of de singin’; dat ar was failin’, warnt it?”
During this aside between Mose and Pete, two empty casks had been rolled
into the cabin, and being secured from rolling, by stones on each side,
boards were laid across them, which arrangement, together with the
turning down of certain tubs and pails, and the disposing of the rickety
chairs, at last completed the preparation.
“Mas’r George is such a beautiful reader, now, I know he’ll stay to
read for us,” said Aunt Chloe; “‘pears like ‘t will be so much more
George very readily consented, for your boy is always ready for anything
that makes him of importance.
The room was soon filled with a motley assemblage, from the old
gray-headed patriarch of eighty, to the young girl and lad of fifteen. A
little harmless gossip ensued on various themes, such as where old Aunt
Sally got her new red headkerchief, and how “Missis was a going to give
Lizzy that spotted muslin gown, when she’d got her new berage made up;”
and how Mas’r Shelby was thinking of buying a new sorrel colt, that was
going to prove an addition to the glories of the place. A few of the
worshippers belonged to families hard by, who had got permission to
attend, and who brought in various choice scraps of information, about
the sayings and doings at the house and on the place, which circulated
as freely as the same sort of small change does in higher circles.
After a while the singing commenced, to the evident delight of all
present. Not even all the disadvantage of nasal intonation could prevent
the effect of the naturally fine voices, in airs at once wild and
spirited. The words were sometimes the well-known and common hymns
sung in the churches about, and sometimes of a wilder, more indefinite
character, picked up at camp-meetings.
The chorus of one of them, which ran as follows, was sung with great
energy and unction:
_“Die on the field of battle,
Die on the field of battle,
Glory in my soul.”_
Another special favorite had oft repeated the words--
_“O, I’m going to glory,--won’t you come along with me?
Don’t you see the angels beck’ning, and a calling me away?
Don’t you see the golden city and the everlasting day?”_
There were others, which made incessant mention of “Jordan’s banks,”
and “Canaan’s fields,” and the “New Jerusalem;” for the negro mind,
impassioned and imaginative, always attaches itself to hymns and
expressions of a vivid and pictorial nature; and, as they sung,
some laughed, and some cried, and some clapped hands, or shook hands
rejoicingly with each other, as if they had fairly gained the other side
of the river.
Various exhortations, or relations of experience, followed, and
intermingled with the singing. One old gray-headed woman, long past
work, but much revered as a sort of chronicle of the past, rose, and
leaning on her staff, said--“Well, chil’en! Well, I’m mighty glad to
hear ye all and see ye all once more, ‘cause I don’t know when I’ll be
gone to glory; but I’ve done got ready, chil’en; ‘pears like I’d got
my little bundle all tied up, and my bonnet on, jest a waitin’ for the
stage to come along and take me home; sometimes, in the night, I think
I hear the wheels a rattlin’, and I’m lookin’ out all the time; now, you
jest be ready too, for I tell ye all, chil’en,” she said striking her
staff hard on the floor, “dat ar _glory_ is a mighty thing! It’s a
mighty thing, chil’en,--you don’no nothing about it,--it’s _wonderful_.”
And the old creature sat down, with streaming tears, as wholly overcome,
while the whole circle struck up--
_“O Canaan, bright Canaan
I’m bound for the land of Canaan.”_
Mas’r George, by request, read the last chapters of Revelation, often
interrupted by such exclamations as “The _sakes_ now!” “Only hear that!”
“Jest think on ‘t!” “Is all that a comin’ sure enough?”
George, who was a bright boy, and well trained in religious things by
his mother, finding himself an object of general admiration, threw
in expositions of his own, from time to time, with a commendable
seriousness and gravity, for which he was admired by the young and
blessed by the old; and it was agreed, on all hands, that “a minister
couldn’t lay it off better than he did; that ‘t was reely ‘mazin’!”
Uncle Tom was a sort of patriarch in religious matters, in the
neighborhood. Having, naturally, an organization in which the
_morale_ was strongly predominant, together with a greater breadth and
cultivation of mind than obtained among his companions, he was looked up
to with great respect, as a sort of minister among them; and the simple,
hearty, sincere style of his exhortations might have edified even better
educated persons. But it was in prayer that he especially excelled.
Nothing could exceed the touching simplicity, the childlike earnestness,
of his prayer, enriched with the language of Scripture, which seemed so
entirely to have wrought itself into his being, as to have become a part
of himself, and to drop from his lips unconsciously; in the language
of a pious old negro, he “prayed right up.” And so much did his prayer
always work on the devotional feelings of his audiences, that there
seemed often a danger that it would be lost altogether in the abundance
of the responses which broke out everywhere around him.
While this scene was passing in the cabin of the man, one quite
otherwise passed in the halls of the master.
The trader and Mr. Shelby were seated together in the dining room
afore-named, at a table covered with papers and writing utensils.
Mr. Shelby was busy in counting some bundles of bills, which, as they
were counted, he pushed over to the trader, who counted them likewise.
“All fair,” said the trader; “and now for signing these yer.”
Mr. Shelby hastily drew the bills of sale towards him, and signed them,
like a man that hurries over some disagreeable business, and then pushed
them over with the money. Haley produced, from a well-worn valise,
a parchment, which, after looking over it a moment, he handed to Mr.
Shelby, who took it with a gesture of suppressed eagerness.
“Wal, now, the thing’s _done_!” said the trader, getting up.
“It’s _done_!” said Mr. Shelby, in a musing tone; and, fetching a long
breath, he repeated, _“It’s done!”_
“Yer don’t seem to feel much pleased with it, ‘pears to me,” said the
“Haley,” said Mr. Shelby, “I hope you’ll remember that you promised, on
your honor, you wouldn’t sell Tom, without knowing what sort of hands
he’s going into.”
“Why, you’ve just done it sir,” said the trader.
“Circumstances, you well know, _obliged_ me,” said Shelby, haughtily.
“Wal, you know, they may ‘blige _me_, too,” said the trader.
“Howsomever, I’ll do the very best I can in gettin’ Tom a good berth;
as to my treatin’ on him bad, you needn’t be a grain afeard. If there’s
anything that I thank the Lord for, it is that I’m never noways cruel.”
After the expositions which the trader had previously given of his
humane principles, Mr. Shelby did not feel particularly reassured by
these declarations; but, as they were the best comfort the case admitted
of, he allowed the trader to depart in silence, and betook himself to a
Showing the Feelings of Living Property on Changing Owners
Mr. and Mrs. Shelby had retired to their apartment for the night. He was
lounging in a large easy-chair, looking over some letters that had come
in the afternoon mail, and she was standing before her mirror, brushing
out the complicated braids and curls in which Eliza had arranged her
hair; for, noticing her pale cheeks and haggard eyes, she had excused
her attendance that night, and ordered her to bed. The employment,
naturally enough, suggested her conversation with the girl in the
morning; and turning to her husband, she said, carelessly,
“By the by, Arthur, who was that low-bred fellow that you lugged in to
our dinner-table today?”
“Haley is his name,” said Shelby, turning himself rather uneasily in his
chair, and continuing with his eyes fixed on a letter.
“Haley! Who is he, and what may be his business here, pray?”
“Well, he’s a man that I transacted some business with, last time I was
at Natchez,” said Mr. Shelby.
“And he presumed on it to make himself quite at home, and call and dine
“Why, I invited him; I had some accounts with him,” said Shelby.
“Is he a negro-trader?” said Mrs. Shelby, noticing a certain
embarrassment in her husband’s manner.
“Why, my dear, what put that into your head?” said Shelby, looking up.
“Nothing,--only Eliza came in here, after dinner, in a great worry,
crying and taking on, and said you were talking with a trader, and that
she heard him make an offer for her boy--the ridiculous little goose!”
“She did, hey?” said Mr. Shelby, returning to his paper, which he seemed
for a few moments quite intent upon, not perceiving that he was holding
it bottom upwards.
“It will have to come out,” said he, mentally; “as well now as ever.”
“I told Eliza,” said Mrs. Shelby, as she continued brushing her hair,
“that she was a little fool for her pains, and that you never had
anything to do with that sort of persons. Of course, I knew you never
meant to sell any of our people,--least of all, to such a fellow.”
“Well, Emily,” said her husband, “so I have always felt and said; but
the fact is that my business lies so that I cannot get on without. I
shall have to sell some of my hands.”
“To that creature? Impossible! Mr. Shelby, you cannot be serious.”
“I’m sorry to say that I am,” said Mr. Shelby. “I’ve agreed to sell
“What! our Tom?--that good, faithful creature!--been your faithful
servant from a boy! O, Mr. Shelby!--and you have promised him his
freedom, too,--you and I have spoken to him a hundred times of it. Well,
I can believe anything now,--I can believe _now_ that you could sell
little Harry, poor Eliza’s only child!” said Mrs. Shelby, in a tone
between grief and indignation.
“Well, since you must know all, it is so. I have agreed to sell Tom
and Harry both; and I don’t know why I am to be rated, as if I were a
monster, for doing what every one does every day.”
“But why, of all others, choose these?” said Mrs. Shelby. “Why sell
them, of all on the place, if you must sell at all?”
“Because they will bring the highest sum of any,--that’s why. I could
choose another, if you say so. The fellow made me a high bid on Eliza,
if that would suit you any better,” said Mr. Shelby.
“The wretch!” said Mrs. Shelby, vehemently.
“Well, I didn’t listen to it, a moment,--out of regard to your feelings,
I wouldn’t;--so give me some credit.”
“My dear,” said Mrs. Shelby, recollecting herself, “forgive me. I have
been hasty. I was surprised, and entirely unprepared for this;--but
surely you will allow me to intercede for these poor creatures. Tom is
a noble-hearted, faithful fellow, if he is black. I do believe, Mr.
Shelby, that if he were put to it, he would lay down his life for you.”
“I know it,--I dare say;--but what’s the use of all this?--I can’t help
“Why not make a pecuniary sacrifice? I’m willing to bear my part of the
inconvenience. O, Mr. Shelby, I have tried--tried most faithfully, as a
Christian woman should--to do my duty to these poor, simple, dependent
creatures. I have cared for them, instructed them, watched over them,
and know all their little cares and joys, for years; and how can I ever
hold up my head again among them, if, for the sake of a little paltry
gain, we sell such a faithful, excellent, confiding creature as poor
Tom, and tear from him in a moment all we have taught him to love and
value? I have taught them the duties of the family, of parent and
child, and husband and wife; and how can I bear to have this open
acknowledgment that we care for no tie, no duty, no relation, however
sacred, compared with money? I have talked with Eliza about her boy--her
duty to him as a Christian mother, to watch over him, pray for him, and
bring him up in a Christian way; and now what can I say, if you tear him
away, and sell him, soul and body, to a profane, unprincipled man, just
to save a little money? I have told her that one soul is worth more than
all the money in the world; and how will she believe me when she sees
us turn round and sell her child?--sell him, perhaps, to certain ruin of
body and soul!”
“I’m sorry you feel so about it,--indeed I am,” said Mr. Shelby; “and
I respect your feelings, too, though I don’t pretend to share them to
their full extent; but I tell you now, solemnly, it’s of no use--I can’t
help myself. I didn’t mean to tell you this Emily; but, in plain words,
there is no choice between selling these two and selling everything.
Either they must go, or _all_ must. Haley has come into possession of
a mortgage, which, if I don’t clear off with him directly, will take
everything before it. I’ve raked, and scraped, and borrowed, and all but
begged,--and the price of these two was needed to make up the balance,
and I had to give them up. Haley fancied the child; he agreed to settle
the matter that way, and no other. I was in his power, and _had_ to do
it. If you feel so to have them sold, would it be any better to have
Mrs. Shelby stood like one stricken. Finally, turning to her toilet, she
rested her face in her hands, and gave a sort of groan.
“This is God’s curse on slavery!--a bitter, bitter, most accursed
thing!--a curse to the master and a curse to the slave! I was a fool to
think I could make anything good out of such a deadly evil. It is a sin
to hold a slave under laws like ours,--I always felt it was,--I always
thought so when I was a girl,--I thought so still more after I joined
the church; but I thought I could gild it over,--I thought, by kindness,
and care, and instruction, I could make the condition of mine better
than freedom--fool that I was!”
“Why, wife, you are getting to be an abolitionist, quite.”
“Abolitionist! if they knew all I know about slavery, they _might_ talk!
We don’t need them to tell us; you know I never thought that slavery was
right--never felt willing to own slaves.”
“Well, therein you differ from many wise and pious men,” said Mr.
Shelby. “You remember Mr. B.’s sermon, the other Sunday?”
“I don’t want to hear such sermons; I never wish to hear Mr. B. in our
church again. Ministers can’t help the evil, perhaps,--can’t cure it,
any more than we can,--but defend it!--it always went against my common
sense. And I think you didn’t think much of that sermon, either.”
“Well,” said Shelby, “I must say these ministers sometimes carry matters
further than we poor sinners would exactly dare to do. We men of the
world must wink pretty hard at various things, and get used to a deal
that isn’t the exact thing. But we don’t quite fancy, when women and
ministers come out broad and square, and go beyond us in matters of
either modesty or morals, that’s a fact. But now, my dear, I trust you
see the necessity of the thing, and you see that I have done the very
best that circumstances would allow.”
“O yes, yes!” said Mrs. Shelby, hurriedly and abstractedly fingering
her gold watch,--“I haven’t any jewelry of any amount,” she added,
thoughtfully; “but would not this watch do something?--it was an
expensive one, when it was bought. If I could only at least save Eliza’s
child, I would sacrifice anything I have.”
“I’m sorry, very sorry, Emily,” said Mr. Shelby, “I’m sorry this takes
hold of you so; but it will do no good. The fact is, Emily, the thing’s
done; the bills of sale are already signed, and in Haley’s hands; and
you must be thankful it is no worse. That man has had it in his power
to ruin us all,--and now he is fairly off. If you knew the man as I do,
you’d think that we had had a narrow escape.”
“Is he so hard, then?”
“Why, not a cruel man, exactly, but a man of leather,--a man alive to
nothing but trade and profit,--cool, and unhesitating, and unrelenting,
as death and the grave. He’d sell his own mother at a good
percentage--not wishing the old woman any harm, either.”
“And this wretch owns that good, faithful Tom, and Eliza’s child!”
“Well, my dear, the fact is that this goes rather hard with me; it’s
a thing I hate to think of. Haley wants to drive matters, and take
possession tomorrow. I’m going to get out my horse bright and early,
and be off. I can’t see Tom, that’s a fact; and you had better arrange a
drive somewhere, and carry Eliza off. Let the thing be done when she is
out of sight.”
“No, no,” said Mrs. Shelby; “I’ll be in no sense accomplice or help in
this cruel business. I’ll go and see poor old Tom, God help him, in his
distress! They shall see, at any rate, that their mistress can feel for
and with them. As to Eliza, I dare not think about it. The Lord forgive
us! What have we done, that this cruel necessity should come on us?”
There was one listener to this conversation whom Mr. and Mrs. Shelby
Communicating with their apartment was a large closet, opening by a door
into the outer passage. When Mrs. Shelby had dismissed Eliza for the
night, her feverish and excited mind had suggested the idea of this
closet; and she had hidden herself there, and, with her ear pressed
close against the crack of the door, had lost not a word of the
When the voices died into silence, she rose and crept stealthily away.
Pale, shivering, with rigid features and compressed lips, she looked
an entirely altered being from the soft and timid creature she had been
hitherto. She moved cautiously along the entry, paused one moment at her
mistress’ door, and raised her hands in mute appeal to Heaven, and then
turned and glided into her own room. It was a quiet, neat apartment,
on the same floor with her mistress. There was a pleasant sunny window,
where she had often sat singing at her sewing; there a little case of
books, and various little fancy articles, ranged by them, the gifts of
Christmas holidays; there was her simple wardrobe in the closet and in
the drawers:--here was, in short, her home; and, on the whole, a happy
one it had been to her. But there, on the bed, lay her slumbering boy,
his long curls falling negligently around his unconscious face, his rosy
mouth half open, his little fat hands thrown out over the bedclothes,
and a smile spread like a sunbeam over his whole face.
“Poor boy! poor fellow!” said Eliza; “they have sold you! but your
mother will save you yet!”
No tear dropped over that pillow; in such straits as these, the heart
has no tears to give,--it drops only blood, bleeding itself away in
silence. She took a piece of paper and a pencil, and wrote, hastily,
“O, Missis! dear Missis! don’t think me ungrateful,--don’t think hard of
me, any way,--I heard all you and master said tonight. I am going to try
to save my boy--you will not blame me! God bless and reward you for all
Hastily folding and directing this, she went to a drawer and made up
a little package of clothing for her boy, which she tied with a
handkerchief firmly round her waist; and, so fond is a mother’s
remembrance, that, even in the terrors of that hour, she did not forget
to put in the little package one or two of his favorite toys, reserving
a gayly painted parrot to amuse him, when she should be called on to
awaken him. It was some trouble to arouse the little sleeper; but, after
some effort, he sat up, and was playing with his bird, while his mother
was putting on her bonnet and shawl.
“Where are you going, mother?” said he, as she drew near the bed, with
his little coat and cap.
His mother drew near, and looked so earnestly into his eyes, that he at
once divined that something unusual was the matter.
“Hush, Harry,” she said; “mustn’t speak loud, or they will hear us. A
wicked man was coming to take little Harry away from his mother, and
carry him ‘way off in the dark; but mother won’t let him--she’s going to
put on her little boy’s cap and coat, and run off with him, so the ugly
man can’t catch him.”
Saying these words, she had tied and buttoned on the child’s simple
outfit, and, taking him in her arms, she whispered to him to be
very still; and, opening a door in her room which led into the outer
verandah, she glided noiselessly out.
It was a sparkling, frosty, starlight night, and the mother wrapped the
shawl close round her child, as, perfectly quiet with vague terror, he
clung round her neck.
Old Bruno, a great Newfoundland, who slept at the end of the porch,
rose, with a low growl, as she came near. She gently spoke his name,
and the animal, an old pet and playmate of hers, instantly, wagging his
tail, prepared to follow her, though apparently revolving much, in this
simple dog’s head, what such an indiscreet midnight promenade might
mean. Some dim ideas of imprudence or impropriety in the measure seemed
to embarrass him considerably; for he often stopped, as Eliza glided
forward, and looked wistfully, first at her and then at the house, and
then, as if reassured by reflection, he pattered along after her again.
A few minutes brought them to the window of Uncle Tom’s cottage, and
Eliza stopping, tapped lightly on the window-pane.
The prayer-meeting at Uncle Tom’s had, in the order of hymn-singing,
been protracted to a very late hour; and, as Uncle Tom had indulged
himself in a few lengthy solos afterwards, the consequence was, that,
although it was now between twelve and one o’clock, he and his worthy
helpmeet were not yet asleep.
“Good Lord! what’s that?” said Aunt Chloe, starting up and hastily
drawing the curtain. “My sakes alive, if it an’t Lizy! Get on your
clothes, old man, quick!--there’s old Bruno, too, a pawin round; what on
airth! I’m gwine to open the door.”
And suiting the action to the word, the door flew open, and the light
of the tallow candle, which Tom had hastily lighted, fell on the haggard
face and dark, wild eyes of the fugitive.
“Lord bless you!--I’m skeered to look at ye, Lizy! Are ye tuck sick, or
what’s come over ye?”
“I’m running away--Uncle Tom and Aunt Chloe--carrying off my
child--Master sold him!”
“Sold him?” echoed both, lifting up their hands in dismay.
“Yes, sold him!” said Eliza, firmly; “I crept into the closet by
Mistress’ door tonight, and I heard Master tell Missis that he had sold
my Harry, and you, Uncle Tom, both, to a trader; and that he was going
off this morning on his horse, and that the man was to take possession
Tom had stood, during this speech, with his hands raised, and his eyes
dilated, like a man in a dream. Slowly and gradually, as its meaning
came over him, he collapsed, rather than seated himself, on his old
chair, and sunk his head down upon his knees.
“The good Lord have pity on us!” said Aunt Chloe. “O! it don’t seem as
if it was true! What has he done, that Mas’r should sell _him_?”
“He hasn’t done anything,--it isn’t for that. Master don’t want to sell,
and Missis she’s always good. I heard her plead and beg for us; but he
told her ‘t was no use; that he was in this man’s debt, and that this
man had got the power over him; and that if he didn’t pay him off clear,
it would end in his having to sell the place and all the people, and
move off. Yes, I heard him say there was no choice between selling these
two and selling all, the man was driving him so hard. Master said he was
sorry; but oh, Missis--you ought to have heard her talk! If she an’t a
Christian and an angel, there never was one. I’m a wicked girl to leave
her so; but, then, I can’t help it. She said, herself, one soul was
worth more than the world; and this boy has a soul, and if I let him be
carried off, who knows what’ll become of it? It must be right: but, if
it an’t right, the Lord forgive me, for I can’t help doing it!”
“Well, old man!” said Aunt Chloe, “why don’t you go, too? Will you
wait to be toted down river, where they kill niggers with hard work and
starving? I’d a heap rather die than go there, any day! There’s time for
ye,--be off with Lizy,--you’ve got a pass to come and go any time. Come,
bustle up, and I’ll get your things together.”
Tom slowly raised his head, and looked sorrowfully but quietly around,
“No, no--I an’t going. Let Eliza go--it’s her right! I wouldn’t be the
one to say no--‘tan’t in _natur_ for her to stay; but you heard what she
said! If I must be sold, or all the people on the place, and everything
go to rack, why, let me be sold. I s’pose I can bar it as well as
any on ‘em,” he added, while something like a sob and a sigh shook his
broad, rough chest convulsively. “Mas’r always found me on the spot--he
always will. I never have broke trust, nor used my pass no ways contrary
to my word, and I never will. It’s better for me alone to go, than to
break up the place and sell all. Mas’r an’t to blame, Chloe, and he’ll
take care of you and the poor--”
Here he turned to the rough trundle bed full of little woolly heads, and
broke fairly down. He leaned over the back of the chair, and covered
his face with his large hands. Sobs, heavy, hoarse and loud, shook the
chair, and great tears fell through his fingers on the floor; just such
tears, sir, as you dropped into the coffin where lay your first-born
son; such tears, woman, as you shed when you heard the cries of your
dying babe. For, sir, he was a man,--and you are but another man. And,
woman, though dressed in silk and jewels, you are but a woman, and, in
life’s great straits and mighty griefs, ye feel but one sorrow!
“And now,” said Eliza, as she stood in the door, “I saw my husband
only this afternoon, and I little knew then what was to come. They have
pushed him to the very last standing place, and he told me, today, that
he was going to run away. Do try, if you can, to get word to him. Tell
him how I went, and why I went; and tell him I’m going to try and find
Canada. You must give my love to him, and tell him, if I never see him
again,” she turned away, and stood with her back to them for a moment,
and then added, in a husky voice, “tell him to be as good as he can, and
try and meet me in the kingdom of heaven.”
“Call Bruno in there,” she added. “Shut the door on him, poor beast! He
mustn’t go with me!”
A few last words and tears, a few simple adieus and blessings, and
clasping her wondering and affrighted child in her arms, she glided
Mr. and Mrs. Shelby, after their protracted discussion of the night
before, did not readily sink to repose, and, in consequence, slept
somewhat later than usual, the ensuing morning.
“I wonder what keeps Eliza,” said Mrs. Shelby, after giving her bell
repeated pulls, to no purpose.
Mr. Shelby was standing before his dressing-glass, sharpening his razor;
and just then the door opened, and a colored boy entered, with his
“Andy,” said his mistress, “step to Eliza’s door, and tell her I have
rung for her three times. Poor thing!” she added, to herself, with a
Andy soon returned, with eyes very wide in astonishment.
“Lor, Missis! Lizy’s drawers is all open, and her things all lying every
which way; and I believe she’s just done clared out!”
The truth flashed upon Mr. Shelby and his wife at the same moment. He
“Then she suspected it, and she’s off!”
“The Lord be thanked!” said Mrs. Shelby. “I trust she is.”
“Wife, you talk like a fool! Really, it will be something pretty awkward
for me, if she is. Haley saw that I hesitated about selling this child,
and he’ll think I connived at it, to get him out of the way. It touches
my honor!” And Mr. Shelby left the room hastily.
There was great running and ejaculating, and opening and shutting of
doors, and appearance of faces in all shades of color in different
places, for about a quarter of an hour. One person only, who might have
shed some light on the matter, was entirely silent, and that was the
head cook, Aunt Chloe. Silently, and with a heavy cloud settled down
over her once joyous face, she proceeded making out her breakfast
biscuits, as if she heard and saw nothing of the excitement around her.
Very soon, about a dozen young imps were roosting, like so many crows,
on the verandah railings, each one determined to be the first one to
apprize the strange Mas’r of his ill luck.
“He’ll be rael mad, I’ll be bound,” said Andy.
“_Won’t_ he swar!” said little black Jake.
“Yes, for he _does_ swar,” said woolly-headed Mandy. “I hearn him
yesterday, at dinner. I hearn all about it then, ‘cause I got into the
closet where Missis keeps the great jugs, and I hearn every word.” And
Mandy, who had never in her life thought of the meaning of a word she
had heard, more than a black cat, now took airs of superior wisdom,
and strutted about, forgetting to state that, though actually coiled up
among the jugs at the time specified, she had been fast asleep all the
When, at last, Haley appeared, booted and spurred, he was saluted with
the bad tidings on every hand. The young imps on the verandah were not
disappointed in their hope of hearing him “swar,” which he did with a
fluency and fervency which delighted them all amazingly, as they
ducked and dodged hither and thither, to be out of the reach of his
riding-whip; and, all whooping off together, they tumbled, in a pile of
immeasurable giggle, on the withered turf under the verandah, where they
kicked up their heels and shouted to their full satisfaction.
“If I had the little devils!” muttered Haley, between his teeth.
“But you ha’nt got ‘em, though!” said Andy, with a triumphant flourish,
and making a string of indescribable mouths at the unfortunate trader’s
back, when he was fairly beyond hearing.
“I say now, Shelby, this yer ‘s a most extro’rnary business!” said
Haley, as he abruptly entered the parlor. “It seems that gal ‘s off,
with her young un.”
“Mr. Haley, Mrs. Shelby is present,” said Mr. Shelby.
“I beg pardon, ma’am,” said Haley, bowing slightly, with a still
lowering brow; “but still I say, as I said before, this yer’s a sing’lar
report. Is it true, sir?”
“Sir,” said Mr. Shelby, “if you wish to communicate with me, you must
observe something of the decorum of a gentleman. Andy, take Mr. Haley’s
hat and riding-whip. Take a seat, sir. Yes, sir; I regret to say that
the young woman, excited by overhearing, or having reported to her,
something of this business, has taken her child in the night, and made
“I did expect fair dealing in this matter, I confess,” said Haley.
“Well, sir,” said Mr. Shelby, turning sharply round upon him, “what am
I to understand by that remark? If any man calls my honor in question, I
have but one answer for him.”
The trader cowered at this, and in a somewhat lower tone said that “it
was plaguy hard on a fellow, that had made a fair bargain, to be gulled
“Mr. Haley,” said Mr. Shelby, “if I did not think you had some cause
for disappointment, I should not have borne from you the rude and
unceremonious style of your entrance into my parlor this morning. I say
thus much, however, since appearances call for it, that I shall allow
of no insinuations cast upon me, as if I were at all partner to any
unfairness in this matter. Moreover, I shall feel bound to give you
every assistance, in the use of horses, servants, &c., in the recovery
of your property. So, in short, Haley,” said he, suddenly dropping from
the tone of dignified coolness to his ordinary one of easy frankness,
“the best way for you is to keep good-natured and eat some breakfast,
and we will then see what is to be done.”
Mrs. Shelby now rose, and said her engagements would prevent her being
at the breakfast-table that morning; and, deputing a very respectable
mulatto woman to attend to the gentlemen’s coffee at the side-board, she
left the room.
“Old lady don’t like your humble servant, over and above,” said Haley,
with an uneasy effort to be very familiar.
“I am not accustomed to hear my wife spoken of with such freedom,” said
Mr. Shelby, dryly.
“Beg pardon; of course, only a joke, you know,” said Haley, forcing a
“Some jokes are less agreeable than others,” rejoined Shelby.
“Devilish free, now I’ve signed those papers, cuss him!” muttered Haley
to himself; “quite grand, since yesterday!”
Never did fall of any prime minister at court occasion wider surges of
sensation than the report of Tom’s fate among his compeers on the place.
It was the topic in every mouth, everywhere; and nothing was done in
the house or in the field, but to discuss its probable results. Eliza’s
flight--an unprecedented event on the place--was also a great accessory
in stimulating the general excitement.
Black Sam, as he was commonly called, from his being about three shades
blacker than any other son of ebony on the place, was revolving
the matter profoundly in all its phases and bearings, with a
comprehensiveness of vision and a strict lookout to his own personal
well-being, that would have done credit to any white patriot in
“It’s an ill wind dat blow nowhar,--dat ar a fact,” said Sam,
sententiously, giving an additional hoist to his pantaloons,
and adroitly substituting a long nail in place of a missing
suspender-button, with which effort of mechanical genius he seemed
“Yes, it’s an ill wind blows nowhar,” he repeated. “Now, dar, Tom’s
down--wal, course der’s room for some nigger to be up--and why not
dis nigger?--dat’s de idee. Tom, a ridin’ round de country--boots
blacked--pass in his pocket--all grand as Cuffee--but who he? Now, why
shouldn’t Sam?--dat’s what I want to know.”
“Halloo, Sam--O Sam! Mas’r wants you to cotch Bill and Jerry,” said
Andy, cutting short Sam’s soliloquy.
“High! what’s afoot now, young un?”
“Why, you don’t know, I s’pose, that Lizy’s cut stick, and clared out,
with her young un?”
“You teach your granny!” said Sam, with infinite contempt; “knowed it a
heap sight sooner than you did; this nigger an’t so green, now!”
“Well, anyhow, Mas’r wants Bill and Jerry geared right up; and you and I
‘s to go with Mas’r Haley, to look arter her.”
“Good, now! dat’s de time o’ day!” said Sam. “It’s Sam dat’s called
for in dese yer times. He’s de nigger. See if I don’t cotch her, now;
Mas’r’ll see what Sam can do!”
“Ah! but, Sam,” said Andy, “you’d better think twice; for Missis don’t
want her cotched, and she’ll be in yer wool.”
“High!” said Sam, opening his eyes. “How you know dat?”
“Heard her say so, my own self, dis blessed mornin’, when I bring in
Mas’r’s shaving-water. She sent me to see why Lizy didn’t come to dress
her; and when I telled her she was off, she jest ris up, and ses she,
‘The Lord be praised;’ and Mas’r, he seemed rael mad, and ses he, ‘Wife,
you talk like a fool.’ But Lor! she’ll bring him to! I knows well enough
how that’ll be,--it’s allers best to stand Missis’ side the fence, now I
Black Sam, upon this, scratched his woolly pate, which, if it did
not contain very profound wisdom, still contained a great deal of a
particular species much in demand among politicians of all complexions
and countries, and vulgarly denominated “knowing which side the bread is
buttered;” so, stopping with grave consideration, he again gave a hitch
to his pantaloons, which was his regularly organized method of assisting
his mental perplexities.
“Der an’t no saying’--never--‘bout no kind o’ thing in _dis_ yer world,”
he said, at last. Sam spoke like a philosopher, emphasizing _this_--as
if he had had a large experience in different sorts of worlds, and
therefore had come to his conclusions advisedly.
“Now, sartin I’d a said that Missis would a scoured the varsal world
after Lizy,” added Sam, thoughtfully.
“So she would,” said Andy; “but can’t ye see through a ladder, ye black
nigger? Missis don’t want dis yer Mas’r Haley to get Lizy’s boy; dat’s
“High!” said Sam, with an indescribable intonation, known only to those
who have heard it among the negroes.
“And I’ll tell yer more ‘n all,” said Andy; “I specs you’d better be
making tracks for dem hosses,--mighty sudden, too,---for I hearn Missis
‘quirin’ arter yer,--so you’ve stood foolin’ long enough.”
Sam, upon this, began to bestir himself in real earnest, and after a
while appeared, bearing down gloriously towards the house, with Bill and
Jerry in a full canter, and adroitly throwing himself off before they
had any idea of stopping, he brought them up alongside of the horse-post
like a tornado. Haley’s horse, which was a skittish young colt, winced,
and bounced, and pulled hard at his halter.
“Ho, ho!” said Sam, “skeery, ar ye?” and his black visage lighted up
with a curious, mischievous gleam. “I’ll fix ye now!” said he.
There was a large beech-tree overshadowing the place, and the small,
sharp, triangular beech-nuts lay scattered thickly on the ground.
With one of these in his fingers, Sam approached the colt, stroked
and patted, and seemed apparently busy in soothing his agitation. On
pretence of adjusting the saddle, he adroitly slipped under it the sharp
little nut, in such a manner that the least weight brought upon the
saddle would annoy the nervous sensibilities of the animal, without
leaving any perceptible graze or wound.
“Dar!” he said, rolling his eyes with an approving grin; “me fix ‘em!”
At this moment Mrs. Shelby appeared on the balcony, beckoning to him.
Sam approached with as good a determination to pay court as did ever
suitor after a vacant place at St. James’ or Washington.
“Why have you been loitering so, Sam? I sent Andy to tell you to hurry.”
“Lord bless you, Missis!” said Sam, “horses won’t be cotched all in a
minit; they’d done clared out way down to the south pasture, and the
Lord knows whar!”
“Sam, how often must I tell you not to say ‘Lord bless you, and the Lord
knows,’ and such things? It’s wicked.”
“O, Lord bless my soul! I done forgot, Missis! I won’t say nothing of de
sort no more.”
“Why, Sam, you just _have_ said it again.”
“Did I? O, Lord! I mean--I didn’t go fur to say it.”
“You must be _careful_, Sam.”
“Just let me get my breath, Missis, and I’ll start fair. I’ll be bery
“Well, Sam, you are to go with Mr. Haley, to show him the road, and help
him. Be careful of the horses, Sam; you know Jerry was a little lame
last week; _don’t ride them too fast_.”
Mrs. Shelby spoke the last words with a low voice, and strong emphasis.
“Let dis child alone for dat!” said Sam, rolling up his eyes with a
volume of meaning. “Lord knows! High! Didn’t say dat!” said he, suddenly
catching his breath, with a ludicrous flourish of apprehension, which
made his mistress laugh, spite of herself. “Yes, Missis, I’ll look out
for de hosses!”
“Now, Andy,” said Sam, returning to his stand under the beech-trees,
“you see I wouldn’t be ‘t all surprised if dat ar gen’lman’s crittur
should gib a fling, by and by, when he comes to be a gettin’ up. You
know, Andy, critturs _will_ do such things;” and therewith Sam poked
Andy in the side, in a highly suggestive manner.
“High!” said Andy, with an air of instant appreciation.
“Yes, you see, Andy, Missis wants to make time,--dat ar’s clar to der
most or’nary ‘bserver. I jis make a little for her. Now, you see, get
all dese yer hosses loose, caperin’ permiscus round dis yer lot and down
to de wood dar, and I spec Mas’r won’t be off in a hurry.”
“Yer see,” said Sam, “yer see, Andy, if any such thing should happen as
that Mas’r Haley’s horse _should_ begin to act contrary, and cut up, you
and I jist lets go of our’n to help him, and _we’ll help him_--oh yes!”
And Sam and Andy laid their heads back on their shoulders, and broke
into a low, immoderate laugh, snapping their fingers and flourishing
their heels with exquisite delight.
At this instant, Haley appeared on the verandah. Somewhat mollified by
certain cups of very good coffee, he came out smiling and talking, in
tolerably restored humor. Sam and Andy, clawing for certain fragmentary
palm-leaves, which they were in the habit of considering as hats, flew
to the horseposts, to be ready to “help Mas’r.”
Sam’s palm-leaf had been ingeniously disentangled from all pretensions
to braid, as respects its brim; and the slivers starting apart, and
standing upright, gave it a blazing air of freedom and defiance, quite
equal to that of any Fejee chief; while the whole brim of Andy’s being
departed bodily, he rapped the crown on his head with a dexterous thump,
and looked about well pleased, as if to say, “Who says I haven’t got a
“Well, boys,” said Haley, “look alive now; we must lose no time.”
“Not a bit of him, Mas’r!” said Sam, putting Haley’s rein in his hand,
and holding his stirrup, while Andy was untying the other two horses.
The instant Haley touched the saddle, the mettlesome creature bounded
from the earth with a sudden spring, that threw his master sprawling,
some feet off, on the soft, dry turf. Sam, with frantic ejaculations,
made a dive at the reins, but only succeeded in brushing the blazing
palm-leaf afore-named into the horse’s eyes, which by no means tended
to allay the confusion of his nerves. So, with great vehemence, he
overturned Sam, and, giving two or three contemptuous snorts, flourished
his heels vigorously in the air, and was soon prancing away towards the
lower end of the lawn, followed by Bill and Jerry, whom Andy had not
failed to let loose, according to contract, speeding them off with
various direful ejaculations. And now ensued a miscellaneous scene
of confusion. Sam and Andy ran and shouted,--dogs barked here and
there,--and Mike, Mose, Mandy, Fanny, and all the smaller specimens
on the place, both male and female, raced, clapped hands, whooped, and
shouted, with outrageous officiousness and untiring zeal.
Haley’s horse, which was a white one, and very fleet and spirited,
appeared to enter into the spirit of the scene with great gusto; and
having for his coursing ground a lawn of nearly half a mile in extent,
gently sloping down on every side into indefinite woodland, he appeared
to take infinite delight in seeing how near he could allow his pursuers
to approach him, and then, when within a hand’s breadth, whisk off with
a start and a snort, like a mischievous beast as he was and career far
down into some alley of the wood-lot. Nothing was further from Sam’s
mind than to have any one of the troop taken until such season as
should seem to him most befitting,--and the exertions that he made were
certainly most heroic. Like the sword of Coeur De Lion, which always
blazed in the front and thickest of the battle, Sam’s palm-leaf was to
be seen everywhere when there was the least danger that a horse could be
caught; there he would bear down full tilt, shouting, “Now for it! cotch
him! cotch him!” in a way that would set everything to indiscriminate
rout in a moment.
Haley ran up and down, and cursed and swore and stamped miscellaneously.
Mr. Shelby in vain tried to shout directions from the balcony, and Mrs.
Shelby from her chamber window alternately laughed and wondered,--not
without some inkling of what lay at the bottom of all this confusion.
At last, about twelve o’clock, Sam appeared triumphant, mounted on
Jerry, with Haley’s horse by his side, reeking with sweat, but with
flashing eyes and dilated nostrils, showing that the spirit of freedom
had not yet entirely subsided.
“He’s cotched!” he exclaimed, triumphantly. “If ‘t hadn’t been for me,
they might a bust themselves, all on ‘em; but I cotched him!”
“You!” growled Haley, in no amiable mood. “If it hadn’t been for you,
this never would have happened.”
“Lord bless us, Mas’r,” said Sam, in a tone of the deepest concern, “and
me that has been racin’ and chasin’ till the sweat jest pours off me!”
“Well, well!” said Haley, “you’ve lost me near three hours, with your
cursed nonsense. Now let’s be off, and have no more fooling.”
“Why, Mas’r,” said Sam, in a deprecating tone, “I believe you mean to
kill us all clar, horses and all. Here we are all just ready to drop
down, and the critters all in a reek of sweat. Why, Mas’r won’t think of
startin’ on now till arter dinner. Mas’r’s hoss wants rubben down; see
how he splashed hisself; and Jerry limps too; don’t think Missis would
be willin’ to have us start dis yer way, no how. Lord bless you, Mas’r,
we can ketch up, if we do stop. Lizy never was no great of a walker.”
Mrs. Shelby, who, greatly to her amusement, had overheard this
conversation from the verandah, now resolved to do her part. She came
forward, and, courteously expressing her concern for Haley’s accident,
pressed him to stay to dinner, saying that the cook should bring it on
the table immediately.
Thus, all things considered, Haley, with rather an equivocal grace,
proceeded to the parlor, while Sam, rolling his eyes after him
with unutterable meaning, proceeded gravely with the horses to the
“Did yer see him, Andy? _did_ yer see him?” said Sam, when he had got
fairly beyond the shelter of the barn, and fastened the horse to a post.
“O, Lor, if it warn’t as good as a meetin’, now, to see him a dancin’
and kickin’ and swarin’ at us. Didn’t I hear him? Swar away, ole fellow
(says I to myself ); will yer have yer hoss now, or wait till you cotch
him? (says I). Lor, Andy, I think I can see him now.” And Sam and Andy
leaned up against the barn and laughed to their hearts’ content.
“Yer oughter seen how mad he looked, when I brought the hoss up.
Lord, he’d a killed me, if he durs’ to; and there I was a standin’ as
innercent and as humble.”
“Lor, I seed you,” said Andy; “an’t you an old hoss, Sam?”
“Rather specks I am,” said Sam; “did yer see Missis up stars at the
winder? I seed her laughin’.”
“I’m sure, I was racin’ so, I didn’t see nothing,” said Andy.
“Well, yer see,” said Sam, proceeding gravely to wash down Haley’s pony,
“I ‘se ‘quired what yer may call a habit _o’ bobservation_, Andy. It’s a
very ‘portant habit, Andy; and I ‘commend yer to be cultivatin’ it,
now yer young. Hist up that hind foot, Andy. Yer see, Andy, it’s
_bobservation_ makes all de difference in niggers. Didn’t I see which
way the wind blew dis yer mornin’? Didn’t I see what Missis wanted,
though she never let on? Dat ar’s bobservation, Andy. I ‘spects it’s
what you may call a faculty. Faculties is different in different
peoples, but cultivation of ‘em goes a great way.”
“I guess if I hadn’t helped your bobservation dis mornin’, yer wouldn’t
have seen your way so smart,” said Andy.
“Andy,” said Sam, “you’s a promisin’ child, der an’t no manner o’ doubt.
I thinks lots of yer, Andy; and I don’t feel no ways ashamed to take
idees from you. We oughtenter overlook nobody, Andy, cause the smartest
on us gets tripped up sometimes. And so, Andy, let’s go up to the house
now. I’ll be boun’ Missis’ll give us an uncommon good bite, dis yer
The Mother’s Struggle
It is impossible to conceive of a human creature more wholly desolate
and forlorn than Eliza, when she turned her footsteps from Uncle Tom’s
Her husband’s suffering and dangers, and the danger of her child, all
blended in her mind, with a confused and stunning sense of the risk she
was running, in leaving the only home she had ever known, and cutting
loose from the protection of a friend whom she loved and revered. Then
there was the parting from every familiar object,--the place where she
had grown up, the trees under which she had played, the groves where
she had walked many an evening in happier days, by the side of her young
husband,--everything, as it lay in the clear, frosty starlight, seemed
to speak reproachfully to her, and ask her whither could she go from a
home like that?
But stronger than all was maternal love, wrought into a paroxysm of
frenzy by the near approach of a fearful danger. Her boy was old enough
to have walked by her side, and, in an indifferent case, she would only
have led him by the hand; but now the bare thought of putting him out
of her arms made her shudder, and she strained him to her bosom with a
convulsive grasp, as she went rapidly forward.
The frosty ground creaked beneath her feet, and she trembled at the
sound; every quaking leaf and fluttering shadow sent the blood backward
to her heart, and quickened her footsteps. She wondered within herself
at the strength that seemed to be come upon her; for she felt the weight
of her boy as if it had been a feather, and every flutter of fear seemed
to increase the supernatural power that bore her on, while from her
pale lips burst forth, in frequent ejaculations, the prayer to a Friend
above--“Lord, help! Lord, save me!”
If it were _your_ Harry, mother, or your Willie, that were going to be
torn from you by a brutal trader, tomorrow morning,--if you had seen the
man, and heard that the papers were signed and delivered, and you had
only from twelve o’clock till morning to make good your escape,--how
fast could _you_ walk? How many miles could you make in those few brief
hours, with the darling at your bosom,--the little sleepy head on your
shoulder,--the small, soft arms trustingly holding on to your neck?
For the child slept. At first, the novelty and alarm kept him waking;
but his mother so hurriedly repressed every breath or sound, and so
assured him that if he were only still she would certainly save him,
that he clung quietly round her neck, only asking, as he found himself
sinking to sleep,
“Mother, I don’t need to keep awake, do I?”
“No, my darling; sleep, if you want to.”
“But, mother, if I do get asleep, you won’t let him get me?”
“No! so may God help me!” said his mother, with a paler cheek, and a
brighter light in her large dark eyes.
“You’re _sure_, an’t you, mother?”
“Yes, _sure_!” said the mother, in a voice that startled herself; for it
seemed to her to come from a spirit within, that was no part of her;
and the boy dropped his little weary head on her shoulder, and was soon
asleep. How the touch of those warm arms, the gentle breathings that
came in her neck, seemed to add fire and spirit to her movements! It
seemed to her as if strength poured into her in electric streams,
from every gentle touch and movement of the sleeping, confiding child.
Sublime is the dominion of the mind over the body, that, for a time, can
make flesh and nerve impregnable, and string the sinews like steel, so
that the weak become so mighty.
The boundaries of the farm, the grove, the wood-lot, passed by her
dizzily, as she walked on; and still she went, leaving one familiar
object after another, slacking not, pausing not, till reddening daylight
found her many a long mile from all traces of any familiar objects upon
the open highway.
She had often been, with her mistress, to visit some connections, in the
little village of T----, not far from the Ohio river, and knew the road
well. To go thither, to escape across the Ohio river, were the first
hurried outlines of her plan of escape; beyond that, she could only hope
When horses and vehicles began to move along the highway, with that
alert perception peculiar to a state of excitement, and which seems to
be a sort of inspiration, she became aware that her headlong pace and
distracted air might bring on her remark and suspicion. She therefore
put the boy on the ground, and, adjusting her dress and bonnet,
she walked on at as rapid a pace as she thought consistent with the
preservation of appearances. In her little bundle she had provided a
store of cakes and apples, which she used as expedients for quickening
the speed of the child, rolling the apple some yards before them, when
the boy would run with all his might after it; and this ruse, often
repeated, carried them over many a half-mile.
After a while, they came to a thick patch of woodland, through which
murmured a clear brook. As the child complained of hunger and thirst,
she climbed over the fence with him; and, sitting down behind a large
rock which concealed them from the road, she gave him a breakfast out of
her little package. The boy wondered and grieved that she could not eat;
and when, putting his arms round her neck, he tried to wedge some of
his cake into her mouth, it seemed to her that the rising in her throat
would choke her.
“No, no, Harry darling! mother can’t eat till you are safe! We must go
on--on--till we come to the river!” And she hurried again into the road,
and again constrained herself to walk regularly and composedly forward.
She was many miles past any neighborhood where she was personally known.
If she should chance to meet any who knew her, she reflected that
the well-known kindness of the family would be of itself a blind to
suspicion, as making it an unlikely supposition that she could be a
fugitive. As she was also so white as not to be known as of colored
lineage, without a critical survey, and her child was white also, it was
much easier for her to pass on unsuspected.
On this presumption, she stopped at noon at a neat farmhouse, to rest
herself, and buy some dinner for her child and self; for, as the danger
decreased with the distance, the supernatural tension of the nervous
system lessened, and she found herself both weary and hungry.
The good woman, kindly and gossipping, seemed rather pleased than
otherwise with having somebody come in to talk with; and accepted,
without examination, Eliza’s statement, that she “was going on a little
piece, to spend a week with her friends,”--all which she hoped in her
heart might prove strictly true.
An hour before sunset, she entered the village of T----, by the Ohio
river, weary and foot-sore, but still strong in heart. Her first glance
was at the river, which lay, like Jordan, between her and the Canaan of
liberty on the other side.
It was now early spring, and the river was swollen and turbulent; great
cakes of floating ice were swinging heavily to and fro in the turbid
waters. Owing to the peculiar form of the shore on the Kentucky side,
the land bending far out into the water, the ice had been lodged and
detained in great quantities, and the narrow channel which swept round
the bend was full of ice, piled one cake over another, thus forming
a temporary barrier to the descending ice, which lodged, and formed a
great, undulating raft, filling up the whole river, and extending almost
to the Kentucky shore.
Eliza stood, for a moment, contemplating this unfavorable aspect of
things, which she saw at once must prevent the usual ferry-boat from
running, and then turned into a small public house on the bank, to make
a few inquiries.
The hostess, who was busy in various fizzing and stewing operations over
the fire, preparatory to the evening meal, stopped, with a fork in her
hand, as Eliza’s sweet and plaintive voice arrested her.
“What is it?” she said.
“Isn’t there any ferry or boat, that takes people over to B----, now?”
“No, indeed!” said the woman; “the boats has stopped running.”
Eliza’s look of dismay and disappointment struck the woman, and she
“May be you’re wanting to get over?--anybody sick? Ye seem mighty
“I’ve got a child that’s very dangerous,” said Eliza. “I never heard of
it till last night, and I’ve walked quite a piece today, in hopes to get
to the ferry.”
“Well, now, that’s onlucky,” said the woman, whose motherly sympathies
were much aroused; “I’m re’lly consarned for ye. Solomon!” she called,
from the window, towards a small back building. A man, in leather apron
and very dirty hands, appeared at the door.
“I say, Sol,” said the woman, “is that ar man going to tote them bar’ls
“He said he should try, if ‘t was any way prudent,” said the man.
“There’s a man a piece down here, that’s going over with some truck this
evening, if he durs’ to; he’ll be in here to supper tonight, so you’d
better set down and wait. That’s a sweet little fellow,” added the
woman, offering him a cake.
But the child, wholly exhausted, cried with weariness.
“Poor fellow! he isn’t used to walking, and I’ve hurried him on so,”
“Well, take him into this room,” said the woman, opening into a small
bed-room, where stood a comfortable bed. Eliza laid the weary boy upon
it, and held his hands in hers till he was fast asleep. For her there
was no rest. As a fire in her bones, the thought of the pursuer urged
her on; and she gazed with longing eyes on the sullen, surging waters
that lay between her and liberty.
Here we must take our leave of her for the present, to follow the course
of her pursuers.
Though Mrs. Shelby had promised that the dinner should be hurried on
table, yet it was soon seen, as the thing has often been seen before,
that it required more than one to make a bargain. So, although the order
was fairly given out in Haley’s hearing, and carried to Aunt Chloe by at
least half a dozen juvenile messengers, that dignitary only gave certain
very gruff snorts, and tosses of her head, and went on with every
operation in an unusually leisurely and circumstantial manner.
For some singular reason, an impression seemed to reign among the
servants generally that Missis would not be particularly disobliged by
delay; and it was wonderful what a number of counter accidents occurred
constantly, to retard the course of things. One luckless wight contrived
to upset the gravy; and then gravy had to be got up _de novo_, with
due care and formality, Aunt Chloe watching and stirring with dogged
precision, answering shortly, to all suggestions of haste, that she
“warn’t a going to have raw gravy on the table, to help nobody’s
catchings.” One tumbled down with the water, and had to go to the spring
for more; and another precipitated the butter into the path of events;
and there was from time to time giggling news brought into the kitchen
that “Mas’r Haley was mighty oneasy, and that he couldn’t sit in his
cheer no ways, but was a walkin’ and stalkin’ to the winders and through
“Sarves him right!” said Aunt Chloe, indignantly. “He’ll get wus nor
oneasy, one of these days, if he don’t mend his ways. _His_ master’ll be
sending for him, and then see how he’ll look!”
“He’ll go to torment, and no mistake,” said little Jake.
“He desarves it!” said Aunt Chloe, grimly; “he’s broke a many, many,