UNCLE TOM’S CABIN

 

or

 

Life among the Lowly

 

 

By Harriet Beecher Stowe

 

 

 

 

VOLUME I

 

 

CHAPTER I

 

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

of brandy.

 

“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

the music.

 

“Bravo!” said Haley, throwing him a quarter of an orange.

 

“Now, Jim, walk like old Uncle Cudjoe, when he has the rheumatism,” said

his master.

 

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

gravity.

 

“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

female article.

 

“Well, Eliza?” said her master, as she stopped and looked hesitatingly

at him.

 

“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

handsomer.”

 

“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

article!’

 

“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,

sir.”

 

“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

with her.”

 

“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

second Wilberforce.

 

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

promise you.”

 

“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

apartment.

 

“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

astonishment.

 

“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.

 

 

 

CHAPTER II

 

The Mother

 

 

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

cotton-gin.*

 

     *  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

sudden?”

 

“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,

yet.”

 

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

proposed.”

 

“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

WORSE!

 

 

 

CHAPTER III

 

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

eyes.

 

“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

mistress.

 

“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

you me!”

 

“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!”

 he said.

 

“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

him yet!”

 

“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

checked herself.

 

“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

help you.”

 

“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

_you_.”

 

“O, pray yourself, George, and go trusting in him; then you won’t do

anything wicked.”

 

“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.

 

 

 

CHAPTER IV

 

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

him.”

 

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

laugh!”

 

“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

pints is!”

 

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

cakes.”

 

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

content.

 

“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

some good.”

 

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,”

 suggested Mose.

 

“You go long! I’ll boun’ you pulled ‘em out; some o’ your shines,” said

Aunt Chloe.

 

“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

Pete.

 

“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

bar’ls.”

 

“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

interestin’.”

 

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

trader.

 

“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

solitary cigar.

 

 

 

CHAPTER V

 

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

here, ay?”

 

“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

Tom.”

 

“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

myself.”

 

“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

_all_ sold?”

 

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

little suspected.

 

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

conversation.

 

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

your kindness!”

 

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

today.”

 

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,

and said,

 

“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

noiselessly away.

 

 

 

CHAPTER VI

 

Discovery

 

 

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

shaving-water.

 

“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

sigh.

 

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

exclaimed,

 

“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

time.

 

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

off.”

 

“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

that way.”

 

“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

laugh.

 

“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

Washington.

 

“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

highly delighted.

 

“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

tell yer.”

 

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

de go!”

 

“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

careful.”

 

“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.”

 

Andy grinned.

 

“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

hat?”

 

“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

stable-yard.

 

“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

time.”

 

 

 

CHAPTER VII

 

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

cabin.

 

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

in God.

 

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?”

 she said.

 

“No, indeed!” said the woman; “the boats has stopped running.”

 

Eliza’s look of dismay and disappointment struck the woman, and she

said, inquiringly,

 

“May be you’re wanting to get over?--anybody sick? Ye seem mighty

anxious?”

 

“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

over tonight?”

 

“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,”

 said Eliza.

 

“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

the porch.”

 

“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,