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UNCLE TOM'S CABIN
Life among the Lowly
Harriet Beecher Stowe
In Which the Reader Is Introduced to a Man of Humanity
Late in the afternoon of a chilly day in February, two
gentlemen were sitting alone over their wine, in a well-furnished
dining parlor, in the town of P----, in Kentucky. There were no
servants present, and the gentlemen, with chairs closely approaching,
seemed to be discussing some subject with great earnestness.
For convenience sake, we have said, hitherto, two _gentlemen_.
One of the parties, however, when critically examined, did not
seem, strictly speaking, to come under the species. He was a short,
thick-set man, with coarse, commonplace features, and that swaggering
air of pretension which marks a low man who is trying to elbow his
way upward in the world. He was much over-dressed, in a gaudy vest
of many colors, a blue neckerchief, bedropped gayly with yellow
spots, and arranged with a flaunting tie, quite in keeping with
the general air of the man. His hands, large and coarse, were
plentifully bedecked with rings; and he wore a heavy gold watch-chain,
with a bundle of seals of portentous size, and a great variety of
colors, attached to it,--which, in the ardor of conversation, he
was in the habit of flourishing and jingling with evident satisfaction.
His conversation was in free and easy defiance of Murray's Grammar,
and was garnished at convenient intervals with various profane
expressions, which not even the desire to be graphic in our account
shall induce us to transcribe.
1 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 arrrangements 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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
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
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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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!
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
"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,
"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,
"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 see 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
"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.
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,
Mericky, 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 I 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
"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
"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,
"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
"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
"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!"
"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
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
"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',
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'
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
"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
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.
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,
"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
"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
"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
"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 per centage--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
"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
"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
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 b'ar 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.
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.
"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.