Harriet Beecher Stowe - Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852)
(United States, 1812-1896)
The critic who spoke of Uncle Tom's Cabin as the "most potent and widely read novel in modern literature," might well have omitted the last two words of his characterization. It is doubtful whether any work of fiction, however ancient, has had as many readers in all the centuries of its existence as Uncle Tom in its little more than half a century. It appeared at what is called in these days the psychological moment, when not only the United States but the whole civilized world was deeply interested in the problem of slavery. Mrs. Stowe attacked the institution, not the people who maintained it. She took great pains to picture the pleasantest side of slavery, while also depicting its darkest, and her own impression was that her Abolitionist friends would reject the book as inadequate, and that the South would hail it as a just treatment of the question. Exactly the reverse happened. The scenes of terrible cruelty in the course of the tale offended the South, whereas the Abolitionists everywhere were delighted. But the amazing success of the work depended undoubtedly on something more than interest in the local problem, for it went quickly into more than twenty languages, including Armenian, Chinese, and Japanese. Within a year of its publication six different translations were current in France, and eighteen publishing houses in England had put out editions. The story appeared first as a serial in the Abolitionist weekly, The National Era, published in Washington. Only the merest fragment of the work was written when the first instalment appeared, and Mrs. Stowe completed it week by week, writing in the intervals of household duties, for nearly a year. When it was in book form the presses could not supply copies fast enough to meet the demand. No sensational success of recent-day "best sellers" can compare with the success of Uncle Tom, which is still a live book in the market. Its record in its dramatic versions is equally phenomenal. Mrs. Stowe herself made it into a play called The Christian Slave, and there have been unnumbered other stage versions, some of which are still played by strolling companies. Indeed, to-day no play is so sure to attract audiences as Uncle Tom's Cabin, and it is safe to say that no play—regarding all the dramatic versions as one—in any language, has been heard by so many persons. The leading character, Uncle Tom, was drawn from the life of the Rev. Josiah Henson (1787-1881), a slave who escaped to Canada, and most of the minor characters, black and white, were studies of persons with whom Mrs. Stowe was acquainted during her residence in southern Ohio and her travels in the South The most dramatic episodes of the story, too, were well-authenticated facts transplanted to the pages of fiction.
MR. SHELBY'S fine plantation in Kentucky was encumbered with debt, and the chief creditor, Haley, pressed for a settlement. After raising all the money he could the planter found himself several hundred dollars short of the necessary amount. Haley, whose main business consisted in buying slaves for the New Orleans market, suggested that some of Shelby's "stock" might be transferred in liquidation of the encumbrance on the estate, and Mr. Shelby felt compelled to acquiesce. He was a humane man, a good master, and while he would have parted with any of his people reluctantly, it was with positive repugnance that he viewed the transfer to Haley, who looked upon the blacks as merely so much property and gave no consideration to such matters as affection and family ties. The trader had shown his business acumen in selecting the best negro on the place as one whom he would be willing to accept in part payment of the debt. This was Tom, or, as he was always called, Uncle Tom, a man of great physical strength and unusual mental endowment. Uncle Tom was married and had children; his wife, Aunt Chloe, was the chief cook in the master's household; and their cabin was in a place of honor close beside the mansion itself.
Not only was Tom the most valuable negro on the place, but he was the best beloved by whites and blacks alike. He was devoutly religious and led the slaves in their meetings. Mr. Shelby's son, George, had taught him to read, a privilege he esteemed especially because it enabled him to make personal study of the Bible. He was more than a laborer, for he had marked executive ability, and Mr. Shelby had come to depend on him almost as he would upon a business manager. Often had Tom been sent with crops to Cincinnati, collected money there, and returned always with every dollar properly accounted for. Obedient, industrious, a total abstainer, he was an ideal slave; and it was this man whom Haley had picked for the Southern market.
But from the trader's point of view Tom's value did not equal the remander of the debt. There Must be another sacrifice, and again Haley made a suggestion. Why not throw in Eliza Harris and her little boy? Mr. Shelby returned such a peremptory negative to this that even Haley perceived that there must be concession. on his side. Eliza, a girl who might readily have passed for a white woman, was Mrs. Shelby's favorite servant, and the mistress never would consent to part with her. Haley argued the Matter a little for the sake of effect, and then consented to call things even for Tom and Eliza's boy. The master's heart revolted at the idea of parting mother and child; easy-going, weak though he Was, Mr. Shelby advanced all the commonplace arguments of humanity against the trader's proposal, and Haley met them with sound assertions concerning the law of property and the palpable fact that " niggers " haven't the same feelings as whites: It was not considerations of this kind that won Mr. Shelby at last; it was sheer business necessity; for Haley announced an ultimatum. He would take Tom and the boy, or he would not discharge the debt.
Eliza's husband, George Harris, was owned on a neighboring plantation. Like her, he was almost white, and the white that was in him made him much too valuable for a field-hand. His master, therefore, had hired him out to it manufacturer, under Whose kindly oversight the slave had learned to read and write. He had also invented a machine of great Use in the factory. Recently his master, fearing that George was coming to have too high an opinion of himself, had sacrificed the wages the man earned, and withdrawn him from the factory, compelling him to work again in the field. George's resentment was bitterly aroused, And at the very time of Haley's visit to Mr. Shelby he had told his wife that he Meant to make his escape to Canada. His memory rankled with more than his own suffering, for in his early boyhood he had been sold away from his family. There were two sisters Who had been taken south, from whom he never had heard. He lived in continual dread lest he himself, or his wife and little one, should be disposed of in the same way.
Haley concluded his negotiations with Mr. Shelby and, the bills of sale for the two slaves having passed, departed for the night. He was to take away his purchases next morning.
Eliza, whose duties were almost wholly indoors, happened to overheat Mr. Shelby break the disagreeable news to his wife about the sale. Her terror was unbounded, but her resolution was taken instantly. She would not let Harry, the only survivor of her three children, be taken from her. Her love for her master and mistress was genuine and deep; she had no complaint to make, she had no keen desire for freedom, such as tormented her husband; but maternal love was fierce and strong, and horror of that region of distress vaguely known as "The South" was enough in itself to spur her to action.
When everybody in the mansion was asleep she took Harry from his bed and went to Uncle Tom's cabin. There had been a protracted religious meeting there that evening, and Untie Tom and Aunt Chloe had not yet retired. Eliza told them the dreadful news and her own determination: Chloe,. though well-nigh prostrated by grief on her own account, could yet see the younger woman's case clearly, and counseled her to haste. Tom trusted in God; it was his nature to be submissive; one lesson he had learned from the Bible was non-resistance to evil; yet he, too, found no Word to dissuade Eliza from her course.
Away into the night she went, sometimes carrying her boy, sometimes inducing him to run by tricks of play, as tossing an apple ahead of him and hastening after when he ran to get it. She was making for the Ohio river, north of which was a free State. Even there she knew that she Might be taken, for the Fugitive-Slave Law was in force. She toiled on through the night and all the next day; and in the edge of the evening she came to the Ohio. The Month was February, and the river was choked with broken ice. No ferry was running, and Eliza, in despair, sought shelter in a tavern by the river-bank, where her color was not suspected. Harry was tired out, and she could do nothing but let him sleep, and wait.
Her absence was not discovered until Haley came in the morning. The boy was Haley's loss, Eliza Mr. Shelby's. There was, therefore, reason for common pursuit of the fugitives. Haley consented to defer beginning the chase until after breakfast, as they felt sure of overtaking them: Mrs. Shelby gave orders that the Meal be hastened, but somehow the mischief was in the kitchen that morning; Aunt Chloe was more particular than ever; some freshly cooked food was spilled, and had to be done over; things were forgotten that never were be-fore; and altogether the breakfast was much longer in coming to table than usual. Afterward, when the horses were brought around, Sam, one of Shelby's slaves, who had been ordered to accompany Haley, managed to frighten and lose control of the animals, and in spite of the energetic efforts of all the boys and men about the place, it was two hours before the horses were assembled again. Then the animals were altogether too exhausted with the wild running to be put on the road at once, and the start was therefore postponed until after dinner. Even then there was abundant time to overhaul a woman walking with a little boy, and although Sam managed to get Haley on the wrong road, the pursuers actually did arrive at the river-bank only a short time after Eliza had laid Harry upon a bed in the tavern.
Sam, riding ahead of Haley and Andy, another of Shelby's slaves, saw Eliza at the tavern window. Immediately he knocked his hat off and, with a loud yell, dismounted to get it. She understood the warning. In desperation, not knowing clearly what she tried to do, the mother took her child from the bed and ran down to the river's edge, leaving the tavern by a side door just as Haley entered at the front. He saw her and ordered Sam and Andy to pursue. They had to obey, and Haley went with them. Between Eliza and the nearest ice was an open space several feet wide, where the current ran with great violence. The hands of her pursuers were all but on her when she screamed and leaped, while they drew back in wonder and horror.
"Mas'r, I saw her, with my own eyes," said Sam next day, "a crossin' on the floatin' ice. She crossed most 'markably; it wasn't no less nor a miracle; and I saw a man help her up the 'Hio side, and then she was lost in the dark. Couldn't nobody a done it, widout de Lord. Mas'r Haley he seed her, and yelled out, an' him an' me' an' Andy, we took arter. Down she come to de river, an' thar was de current runnin' ten feet wide by de shore, an' over t'other side ice a sawin' an' a jiggling up an' down, kinder as 'twere a great island. We come right behind her, and I thought my soul he'd got her sure enuf, when she gin sich a screech as I never hearn, an' thar she was, clar over t'other side de current, on de ice, an' then on she went, a screechin' an' a jumpin'—de ice went crack ! c'wallop ! crackin' ! chunk ! an' she a boundin' like a buck! Lord! de spring dat ar gal's got in her ain't common, I'm o"pinion."
Haley lingered on the Kentucky side of the river until he had made arrangements for the pursuit of the fugitives through Ohio. This was undertaken by a lawyer named Marks, and Tom Loker, a man whose regular business was slave-hunting. Harry was to be restored to Haley without other charge than fifty dollars paid in advance; Marks was to set up a fictitious claim to Eliza, and, having gained possession of her, he was to sell her and divide the proceeds with Loker. Haley then re-turned to Mr. Shelby's and took Uncle Tom away. In spite of Mr. Shelby's assurance that Tom could be trusted, Haley put iron shackles on the negro's ankles, and when it was necessary to stay overnight in a town, Haley put up at a hotel, while Tom was accommodated in the jail. Haley paused here and there to add to his purchases.
During the voyage down the Mississippi, Haley relaxed his precautions so far as Uncle Tom was concerned. It was a part of his business policy to treat his "stock" well, and make them cheerful, to the end that his slaves should be more attractive to purchasers, and as he had become convinced of Tom's submissiveness, the shackles were removed from his limbs, and he was allowed to move about freely on that limited part of the deck allotted to negro freight.
Among the white people on board was Mr. St. Clair, a wealthy New Orleans gentleman returning from a visit to Vermont. With him was his little daughter, Eva, and his cousin, Miss Ophelia, whom he had persuaded to become his house-keeper. Eva became acquainted with Uncle Tom. The unhappy lot of the slaves on the way to market touched her childish sympathy deeply. She was an angel of mercy to them all through the voyage down the river. Tom appealed to her more than all the rest, perhaps, because he spent so many hours poring over his Bible, spelling out the words slowly, and persisting in spite of difficulties, in absorbing the meaning of the sacred text. One day she asked him where he was going. "I don't know, missy," he answered. "I shall be sold somewhere?
"My papa will buy you," she said at once.
Tom smiled his appreciation, but without hope. At a small landing where the steamboat stopped to take on wood, Eva stood at the rail when the boat started unexpectedly, and the sudden lurch caused her to fall into the stream. Uncle Tom was near. Unimpeded now by shackles, he leaped overboard, swam to Eva, and held her above the surface until the boat was backed to him and many hands were extended to pull them both to the deck.
That deed settled Tom's fate for several years. Mr. St. Clair paid Haley thirteen hundred dollars for him before the boat reached New Orleans. It was such good fortune as Tom and his sorrowing people in Kentucky had not dared hope for him; and if he could have forgotten wife and children he might have regarded the change as for the better. Mr. St. Clair made him head coachman, with an assistant to do the stable work; he provided him with a fine livery and encouraged him in taking pride in his appearance; he gave him no irksome tasks and in nowise interfered with his religious calling, which was as dear to Tom as life itself. The big black man's friendship for little Eva grew in sweetness as the weeks passed. Many hours they spent together, with the Bible as their common ground. Eva read the passages aloud and Tom expounded them, giving them a wealth of meaning that she did not get from them at church, and bringing to her receptive intelligence a profounder conviction of Divine love than could have been derived from the influences to which she was ordinarily subjected. For her father was a skeptic and her mother a fretful, selfish woman, to whom the form of the church service set the boundaries of religion.
Among the throng of negro children on the estate was a ten-year-old girl called Topsy, whom St. Clair had bought for a trifle to rescue her from brutal ill treatment. This small specimen of humanity he gave to his cousin, Miss Ophelia, the prim maiden lady from Vermont, telling her it was virgin soil, in which she might implant all the New England virtues—if she could. Topsy was conceded by everyone on the place, white and black, to be "a limb "; she averred that she never had "no father nor mother nor nothin'—never was born— sped I growed"; she was an expert thief and habitual liar, and had a hand in every bit of mischief on the place. Lectures and whip-pings from her well-meaning mistress did no good; as she her-self said to her companions after undergoing discipline, "Miss Feely's whippin's wouldn't kill a skeeter." The only person that had any good influence over this little imp of darkness was the gentle Eva, who spoke to her the only words of real affection the poor child had ever heard.
Tom never complained; but his heart still yearned for the old home and his own people, and, with some help, he contrived a letter to Mrs. Shelby, in the course of which he expressed his hope that some day she would be able to redeem the promise she had given him at parting, that she would buy him back, Mr. St. Clair was cognizant of this letter, and its contents surprised him and made him more than ever skeptical, for his doubts extended to more than religion. He actually doubted the wisdom of the institution that enslaved such beings as Uncle Tom, and frankly admitted the weakness of the arguments, in support of it when he debated, as he often did, with his Northern cousin, Miss Ophelia. But St. Clair labored under two difficulties—an easy-going, not to say indolent disposition, and an intellectual grasp of the situation that made him see all sides of the question. Unable to see that one was unmistakably better than all the others, he with placid discontent allowed matters to take their course, with no effort to influence them save as he abolished all forms of cruelty in the treatment of his own slaves.
Eliza and Harry were, as Sam had reported, assisted up the river-bank on the Ohio side by a man who led her to a house Where dwelt people noted for their kindness to the blacks. From that house they were taken, to a station on the famous "Underground Railroad," and thereafter, traveling by night and resting by day, they made their way slowly toward Sandusky, where they hoped to take a boat for Canada. They were about half-way across Ohio when good fortune united Eliza to her husband. George Harris had escaped also, and though at first he took a different route, he was eventually guided to the same line of the "railroad" that she followed. One night word was brought to them at the house of a Quaker who sheltered them, that Marks and Loker, with a posse of assistants, were but a few miles away and well mounted.
Phineas Fletcher, one of the Quakers, undertook to drive them to the next station, although there was small hope that it could be reached ahead of the pursuers. At daybreak the fugitives saw a party of horsemen surmounting a hill not far behind them. It was then impossible to gain the next station, but Phineas laid on the lash, and the horses galloped along the road, while Marks, Loker, and the others drew steadily nearer. At last Phineas halted suddenly and bade his black friends alight and make for a steep cliff a short distance from the road. Another white man drove on as fast as possible in the empty wagon, while Phineas led the fugitives by a narrow path to the top of the cliff and along its edge, where they had to walk in single file. They leaped across a narrow cleft in the rock, and stopped on a kind of platform, which could be reached only by the path by which they had come. There were loaded pistols in the party, and the men prepared to use them. They saw the pursuers dismount and approach the cliff, for there was no attempt at concealment on either side. George Harris stood forth plainly and hailed his enemies. He confessed his identity, re-fused to go down, and warned them that any who ventured to come up would be met with bullets.
Marks expostulated, and stated the law. George was unmoved. He acknowledged that the law was against him, but he knew that before he left Kentucky. Marks advised him of the vanity of resistance. "Be sensible," he said, "for it's only a matter of time when we get you." George told him that he might get a dead man, but not a live one. Then Loker reminded the lawyer that, so far as George Harris was concerned, the re-ward was the same alive or dead, and after some prudent hesitation the pursuers began to climb the cliff.
"I'll do the fighting," said George to the Quaker, "for this is my affair."
"Thee's welcome to do the fighting," Phineas replied, "but I suppose I may have the fun of looking on?"
Loker fired at George as he began to climb, and the fugitives heard the bullet hiss past them. A moment of intense anxiety followed, for the pursuers were out of sight during the greater part of their climb. There was no more parley. George waited until Loker appeared on the narrow path along the edge, and then fired. The shot entered the man's side, but Loker was a man of indomitable courage, and he pushed on to the very edge of the chasm. At this moment, Phineas stepped forth.
"Friend," said he, giving Loker a push with his long arms, "thee's not wanted here."
Down he fell into the chasm, crackling among bushes, trees, logs, loose stones, till he lay, bruised and groaning, thirty feet below. He would have been killed by his fall but for the measure of protection afforded by the trees that checked his descent.
The other pursuers retreated in fright, and, after a short consultation among themselves, galloped away, leaving their leader in the hands of the fugitives. Phineas led his friends down the cliff, and they cared for Loker as tenderly as if he had been of their own party. Their wagon returned presently with help from the next "Underground" station. Loker was taken to the house of a Quaker, where he was nursed to full recovery.
George and Eliza arrived at Sandusky without further molestation, but were informed that Marks was there ahead of them, watching every outgoing boat. George, whose face was not familiar to the lawyer, disguised his appearance as best he could; Eliza donned male attire and had her hair cut short; Harry, dressed as a girl, was put in charge of a white woman who was returning to her home in Canada. Marks stood by the gang-plank when his quarry walked serenely on board; and he stared in a puzzled way when the boat drew away with George Harris leaning idly against the rail and looking unconcernedly at him.
Soon after Uncle Tom's departure from Kentucky, Aunt Chloe asked permission to be hired out to a confectioner, so that she might earn money to redeem her husband. Mrs. Shelby gladly consented, for Mr. Shelby's affairs gave no promise of mending. Aunt Chloe, then, toiled away, never spending a cent of her wages, with the prospect of accumulating enough in six years to buy Tom from his Southern owner.
In these years Tom's fortunes underwent unhappy changes. Little Eva was stricken with an ailment that no medicine, no treatment, could cure. It was hardly a disease, but a gradual fading away. For months her father would not permit himself to be anxious about her. She was the one comfort of his life, for there was no love or sympathy on the part of Eva's mother to sustain him, and he shut his eyes stubbornly to the evidences of his child's weakness. Even when she herself assured him that she was going to leave him, he could not believe it, and, while he supplied her with everything that the wisest intelligence could suggest, he shut his eyes to the truth that everybody else in the household perceived.
The day came when he could be blind no longer. He knew that his beloved child was dying, and then her sweet pleas for the black people made a deeper impression on him than all the arguments of Miss Ophelia or his Abolitionist friends. Eva spoke as a prophet in those last days, trying to direct her father's attention to God; and St. CIair, bitterly resentful, tried manfully to learn the lessons she taught. And so Eva died, deeply be-loved by all, the only ray of love and light in the lives of her humble friends, Tom and little Topsy.
For some time after this Tom was in great anxiety for his master. St. Clair suppressed his emotion, and his unsympathetic wife believed him to be heartless; but Tom knew. He followed his master on all possible occasions, fearing that the strain would be intolerable and lead to tragic consequences. One day St. Clair asked Tom, with an affectation of his old-time easy humor, if he would like to be free. Tom was excited at the prospect, and when St. Clair amusedly reproved him for wishing to give up a life of comparative ease and luxury for the doubtful benefits and certain drudgery of freedom, Tom replied that freedom under any conditions would be better than all the luxuries that bondage could bestow. St. Clair affected to be shocked, but promised to make the man free; and then, with his characteristic negligence, he postponed the making out of the papers until a more convenient time. Before that time came he was the accidental victim of a shot fired in a café where he had gone to read the papers. He was brought home dead, and not long after his burial his widow sent Tom to the slave-market.
Miss Ophelia, who knew that freedom had been promised to Tom, did her best to persuade Mrs. St. Clair to observe her husband's expressed wishes, but in vain; and the next best thing she could do was to write to Mrs. Shelby an explanation of the situation. Fortune, having turned against Uncle Tom, decreed that that letter should be missent, and it was months in reaching its destination.
Uncle Tom was bought by Simon Legree, a type of the worst product of slavery in its influence upon the whites. He took Tom and other human purchases, including a well-bred, almost white girl called Emmeline, to his plantation far up the Red River. There he ruled as a savage despot over a vast estate, the only white person upon it, for he was unmarried. His over-seers were negroes trained in his own school of brutality, which was epitomized by his remark to a stranger with whom he con-versed on the steamboat.
" Just feel of my knuckles, now," said he; "look at my fist. Tell ye, sir, the flesh on't has come jest like a stone, practisin' on niggers. Feel on't 1"
In Legree's household there was one woman, Cassy, who might readily have passed for white. She was educated, capable, and, before contact with Legree, she had been refined. Long ago she had been the wife in all but name of a wealthy white man who had lavished tenderness upon her but who had not married her because there was nothing in the laws to legalize their relations. He lost his property and was led into dissipation. Cassy and her child were put in the market and sold to different masters. What had become of her daughter she knew not; she herself went to Legree, who now had brought Emmeline home to supplant her.
Tom was put to work in the cotton-fields, where he toiled with his accustomed industry and docility, but Legree had a higher use for him. The master had heard of Tom's ability, and he observed that he was worth more than an ordinary laborer; so he planned to make Tom an overseer. Before he broached this plan, Tom gave offense by helping a sick woman to fill her basket. This gave Legree an opportunity to accomplish two things at once-punish the sick woman for her "laziness," and induct Tom into the duties of an overseer. He ordered the woman to be flogged and bade Tom lay on the lash. Tom quietly refused. Legree stormed and threatened in vain, and at last he had Tom strung up and beaten until he was helpless.
Cassy went to the suffering man in the night and took him water. Hardened by her years of captivity there, she advised him to yield and conform to Legree's rules; but Tom, in spite of his agony, held to his principles. The white man might torture his body, might kill him; he should not ruin the black man's soul. He was equally firm when Legree came to him on the following morning and demanded that he beg pardon for his contumacy.
"Mas'r Legree," said Tom, "I can't do it. I did only what I thought was right. I shall do just so again, if ever the time comes. I will never do a cruel thing, come what may."
"Yes, but ye don't know what may come, Master Tom," said Legree. "How would ye like to be tied to a tree, and have a slow fire lit up around ye?"
"Mas'r," said Tom, "I know ye can do dreadful things, but after ye've killed the body there ain't any more ye can do. And, oh, there's all eternity to come after that."
Legree, in his anger, knocked the stricken man flat, and he would have had him flogged again at once but for considerations of business. The cotton was right for picking; it needed the incessant labor of every hand to get in the crop; already he had regretted the necessity of disciplining Tom, for thereby he lost his services for at least a week; and for fear of making his most efficient slave incapable for the rest of the season, he bottled up his rage and awaited a more favorable opportunity.
It came some days after Cassy and Emmeline disappeared. The swamps in every direction were searched by the aid of bloodhounds, and no trace of the fugitives was found. They were all the time concealed in the garret of the mansion. Cassy had worked out a clever plan with rare patience. She began by stirring Legree's ignorant superstition, and persuaded him that the garret was haunted. When she was certain that he never would dare invade that part of the house, and she already knew that none of the slaves would, she and Emmeline slipped away at dusk, taking pains that they should be seen. Pursuit was organized at once, by which all the negroes were drawn away from the house. By walking some distance in a shallow stream the women disconcerted the dogs, for they lost the scent, and while the hunters were trying to recover it Cassy and Emmeline returned to the house by a back way and fled to the garret, which they had previously stocked abundantly with food. There they waited until there should be just time to walk to the nearest landing on the Red River and make quick connection with the next boat to New Orleans, Cassy intending to pass as a lady and Emmeline as her servant.
Tom had not joined in the search on the night of the disappearance. Legree noticed this, and, after several days had passed in a vain hunt all about the country, he accused Tom of cognizance of the escape. Tom did know something about it, for Cassy had talked freely with him. He would not lie and say that he knew nothing, but he calmly refused to tell. Legree, certain that Tom could expose the fugitives if he would, flew into his worst passion and ordered his overseers to flog him until "the nigger was conquered or killed."
The dreadful deed was done. The brave, true heart was firm on the Eternal Rock. Like his Master, he knew that, if he saved others, himself he could not save; nor could the utmost extremity wring from him words, save of prayer and holy trust.
"Pay away till he gives up!" shouted Legree.
Tom opened his eyes and looked upon his master.
"Ye poor, miserable critter," he said, "there ain't no more ye can do. I forgive ye with all my soul." And he fainted entirely away.
Two days afterward young George Shelby drove up to Legree's house. His father was dead, and the management of the Kentucky estate had devolved upon him. As soon as possible after the receipt of Miss Ophelia's delayed letter George had set out with money to redeem Uncle Tom. It had taken time and patience to find the clue to Tom's whereabouts, but it had been found, and he arrived just in time to bring a ray of joy to Tom's death-bed. Tom knew him, and his agony was for-gotten. He died praising God that he had been privileged to see his young master again, and pleading with George, with all the earnestness of a man who knows that he is dying, to be a Christian.
Cassy and Emmeline succeeded in their ruse and went down the Red river on the same boat with George Shelby, after he had given Tom's body to a grave out of view from the place where he had suffered the extreme of physical torture. Before the boat arrived at New Orleans Cassy made a confidant of George, and he helped her and Emmeline pass the dangers that lay in transferring themselves to a boat bound north.
On the up-river boat George became acquainted with a passenger, Madame de Thoux, who told him her story. She had been a slave, but, taken to the West Indies, had married a man of wealth. Her husband was dead, and she was now journeying to Kentucky in the hope of tracing a brother who had been sold, as she had learned, to somebody in that State. She wished to buy her brother's freedom.
Questions and answers soon established the fact that George Harris was the brother she sought. George Shelby told her what he knew about Harris, not omitting the marriage to Eliza who had been bought when she was very little, in New Orleans, by the elder Shelby. Cassy happened to overhear a part of this conversation. It was then her turn to ask questions, and the answers this time assured her that Eliza was her daughter. The natural result of these revelations was a journey to Canada. Harris was traced to Montreal, where he was found with Eliza and Harry, and such a reunion took place as the former slaves had not dared hope for. Madame de Thoux placed her fortune at, George's disposal, and he took advantage of it to complete his education at a European university, after which he went to Liberia, believing that in that republic lay the most promising opportunity for developing the possibilities of his race.
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
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