Uncle Tom's Cabin: The National Era Text
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Washington, D.C.: Gamaliel Bailey, 5 June 1851 - 1 April 1852

FEB. 12, 1852


  Slowly the weary, dispirited creatures wound their way into the room, and one by one, with crouching reluctance, presented their baskets to be weighed. As each was weighed, Legree noted on a slate, on the side of which was pasted a list of names, the amount. Tom's basket was weighed and approved; but he hesitated and lingered to see the success of the poor woman he had befriended. Tottering with weakness, she came forward and delivered her basket. It was of full weight, as Legree well perceived; but affecting anger, he said:

  "What, you lazy beast, short again! Stand aside; you'll catch it this time."

  The woman gave a groan of utter despair, and sat down on a board.

  The person who had been called Misse Cassy now came forward, and with a haughty, negligent air, delivered her basket. As she delivered it, Legree looked in her eyes with a sneering yet inquiring glance. She fixed her black eyes steadily on him, her lips moved slightly, and she said something in French—what it was, no one knew; but Legree's face became for a moment perfectly demoniac as she spoke, and he half raised his hand, as if to strike—a gesture which she regarded with fierce disdain, as she turned and walked away.

  "And now," said Legree, "come here, you Tom; ye see I telled ye I didn't buy you jest for the common work; I mean to promote ye, and make a driver of ye; and to-night yer begin to get yer hand in. So now yer jest take this yer woman and flog her. You've seen enough to know how"——

  "I beg mass'rs pardon," said Tom; "hope mass'r won't set me at that; it's what I aint used to, never did do, and know I couldn't do any way."

  "You'll learn a pretty smart chance of things ye never did know, before I've done with ye," said Legree, taking up a cowhide that lay near, and striking Tom a heavy blow across the cheek, and following up the infliction by a shower of blows.

  "There!" he said, as he stopped to rest. "Now will yer tell me yer can't do it?"

  "Yes, mass'r," said Tom, putting up his hands to wipe the blood that was dripping down his face; "I'm willin to work night and day, and work while thar's life and breath in me; but this yer thing I can't feel it's right to do; and, mass'r, I never shall do itnever."

  Tom had a remarkably soft, smooth voice, and a habitually respectful manner, that had given Legree an idea that he would be cowardly, and easily subdued. When he spoke these last words, a thrill of amazement went through every one; the poor woman clasped her hands, and said, "Oh, Lord!" and every one looked at each other and drew in their breath, as if to prepare for the storm that was about to burst.

  Legree looked stupefied and confounded, but at last burst forth:

  "What! ye blasted black beast! Tell me you don't think it's right to do what I tell yer! What have any of you cussed cattle to do with thinking what's right? I'll put a stop to 't. Why, what do ye think ye are? May be ye think yer a gentleman, master Tom—to be a tellin your master what's right and what aint. So you pretend it's wrong to flog that woman?"

  "I think so, mass'r," said Tom; "the poor critter's sick and feeble; 'twould be downright cruel, and it's what I'll never do, nor begin to. Mass'r, if you mean to kill me, kill me; as to raisin my hand agin one here, I never shall—I'll die first."

  Tom spoke in a mild voice, but with a decision that could not be mistaken. Legree shook with passion; but, like some brutal wild beast that plays with his victim before he devours it, he kept back his strong impulse to proceed to immediate violence, and broke out in bitter raillery—

  "Well, here's a pious dog, at last, let down among us sinners—a saint and a gentleman, and no less, to talk to us bruisers about our sins—powerful holy crittur he must be! Here, you rascal, you make believe be so pious, didn't ye never hear out yer Bible, `Servants, obey yer masters!' and aint I yer master? Didn't I pay down twelve hundred dollars cash, for all there is inside yer old, cussed black shell? Aint yer mine, now, body and soul? Tell me," he said, giving Tom a violent kick with his heavy boot, "tell me."

  In the very depth of physical suffering, and bowed by brutal oppression, this question shot a gleam of joy and triumph through Tom's soul. He suddenly stretched himself up, and looking earnestly to Heaven, while the tears and blood that flowed down his face mingled, he exclaimed—

  "No! no! no! My soul aint yours, mass'r. You haven't bought it—ye can't buy it. It's been bought and paid for by One that's able to keep it, and will keep it. No matter—no matter. You can't harm me!"

  "I can't?" said Legree, with a sneer. "We'll see—we'll see. Here, Sambo and Quimbo, give this dog such a breakin in as he won't get over this month."

  The two gigantic negroes that now laid hold of Tom, with fiendish exultation in their faces, might have formed no unapt personification of powers of darkness. The poor woman screamed with apprehension, and all rose as by a general impulse, while they dragged him unresisting from the place.

* * * * * * *



  "And behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and on the side of their oppressors there was power; and they had no comforter. Wherefore I praise the dead that are already dead more than the living."

  It was near midnight, and Tom lay, groaning and bleeding, alone, in an old, forsaken room of the gin house, among pieces of broken machinery, piles of damaged cotton, and other rubbish, which had there accumulated.

  The night was damp and close—the thick air swarming with mosquitoes, which increased the restless tortures of his wounds—while a burning thirst, a torture beyond all others, filled up the uttermost measure of physical anguish.

  "Oh, good Lord! do look down! Give me the victory—give me the victory over it all! all!" prayed poor Tom, in his anguish.

  A light footstep entered the room behind him, and the light of a lantern flashed on his eyes.

  "Who's there? Oh, for the Lord's sake, massy, please give me some water!"

  The woman Cassy—for it was she—set down her lantern, and, pouring water from a bottle, raised his head, and gave him drink; another and another cup full were drained with feverish eagerness.

  "Drink all you want," she said. "I knew how it would be. It isn't the first time I've been out in the night, carrying water to such as you."

  "Thank you, missis," said Tom, when he had done drinking."

  "Don't call me missis. I'm a miserable slave like yourself; a lower one than you ever can be," said she, bitterly. "But now," said she, going to the door and dragging in a small pallaise, over which she had spread linen cloths, wet with water, "try, my poor fellow, to roll yourself over on to this."

  Stiff with wounds and bruises, Tom was a long time in accomplishing this movement, but, when done, he felt a sensation of relief from the cooling application to his wounds.

  The woman, whom long practice among the victims of outrage and brutality, had made familiar with many healing arts, went on to make many applications to Tom's wounds, by means of which he was soon greatly relieved.

  "Now," said she, when she had raised his head on some damaged cotton she took for a pillow, "that's the best I can do for you."

  Tom thanked her; and the woman, sitting down on the floor, drew up her knees, and, embracing them with her arms, looked fixedly before her, with a bitter and painful expression of countenance. Her bonnet fell back, and long, wavy streams of dark hair fell around her singular and melancholy face.

  "It's no use, my poor fellow," she broke out at last; "it's of no use this that you've been trying to do. You were a brave fellow, and you had the right on your side, but it's all in vain, and out of the question, for you to struggle. You are in the Devil's hands, and he is the strongest; you must give up."

  "Give up!" and had not human weakness and physical agony whispered that before? Tom started; for the mournful, bitter woman, with her wild eyes and melancholy voice, seemed to him an embodiment of the temptation with which he had been wrestling. "Oh, Lord! oh, Lord!" he groaned, "how can I give up?"

  "It's no use calling on the Lord; he never hears," said the woman. "There isn't any God, I believe; or, if there is, He's taken sides against us. All goes against us; heaven and earth—everything—is pushing us into hell. Why shouldn't we go!"

  Tom closed his eyes, and shuddered, at the dark, atheistic words.

  "You see," said the woman, "you don't know anything about it; I do. I've been on this place five years—body and soul under this man's foot—and I hate him as I do the Devil. Here you are, on a lone plantation ten miles from any other, in the cane swamps; not a white person who could testify to it if you were burned alive—if you were scalded—cut to inch pieces—set up for dogs to tear—or hung up and whipped to death. There's no law here, of God or man, that can do you or any one of us the least good; and this man, there's no earthly thing he's too good to do. I could make any one's hair rise, and their teeth clatter, if I should only tell what I've seen and been knowing to here; and it's no use resisting. Did I want to live with him; wasn't I a woman delicately bred; and he—God in heaven—what was he? is he? And yet I've lived with him these five years, and cursed every moment of my life, night and day; and now he's got a new one, a young thing only fifteen, and she brought up, she says, piously; a pious mistress taught her to read the Bible, and she's brought her Bible here to hell with her;" and the woman laughed a wild and doleful laugh, that rung with a strange, supernatural sound through the old ruined shed.

  Tom folded his hands; all was darkness and horror.

  "Oh, Jesus! Lord Jesus! have you quite forgot us poor critturs," burst forth at last. "Help, Lord, I perish!"

  The woman sternly continued—

  "And what are these miserable low dogs you work with, that you should suffer on their account? Every one of them would turn against you the first time they got a chance. They are, all of 'em, as low and cruel to each other as they can be. There's no use in your suffering to keep from hurting them."

  "Poor critturs," said Tom, "what made 'em cruel? and, if I give out, I shall get ust to't, and grow little by little jest like 'em. No, no, misse, I've lost everything—wife, children, and home, and a kind master, and he would have set me free if he'd only lived a week longer. I've lost everything in this world, and its clean gone forever; and now I can't lose heaven, too. No, I can't get to be wicked, besides all."

  "But it can't be that the Lord will lay sin to our account," said the woman. "He won't charge it to us when we're forced to it; he'll charge it to them that drove us to it."

  "Yes," said Tom; "but that won't keep us from growin wicked. If I get to be as hardhearted as that ar Sambo, and as wicked, it won't make much odds to me how I come so—it's the bein so, that ar's what I am a dreadin."

  The woman fixed a wild and startled look on Tom, as if a new thought had struck her, and then, heavily groaning, said:

  "Oh, God a mercy, you speak the truth! Oh! oh! oh!" and with groans she fell on the floor, like one crushed and writhing under the extremity of mental anguish.

  There was a silence awhile, in which the breathings of both parties could be heard, when Tom faintly said, "Oh, please, missis."

  The woman suddenly rose up, with her face composed to its usual stern, melancholy expression.

  "Please, missis, I saw em throw my coat in that ar corner; and in my coat-pocket is my Bible, if missis would get it for me."

  Cassy, as we shall henceforth call the woman, went and got it. Tom opened at once to a heavily-marked passage, much worn, of the last scenes of the life of Him by whose stripes we were healed.

  "If Missis would only be so good as read that ar—it's better than water."

  Cassy took the book with a dry, proud air, and looked over the passage. She then read aloud, in a soft voice, and with a beauty of intonation that was peculiar, that touching account of anguish and of glory. Often as she read her voice faltered, and sometimes for a moment failed her altogether, when she would stop, with an air of frigid composure, till she had mastered herself. When she came to the touching words—"Father, forgive them, they know not what they do!" she threw down the book, and, burying her face in the heavy masses of her hair, she sobbed aloud with a convulsive violence.

  Tom was weeping also, and occasionally uttering a half-smothered ejaculation.

  "If we only could keep up to that ar," said Tom; "it seemed to come so natural to him; and we have to fight so hard for it. Oh, Lord, help us—blessed Lord Jesus, do help us!"

  "Missis," said Tom, after a while, "I can see that somehow you're quite bove me in everything; but there's one thing missis might learn, even from poor Tom."

  "Ye said the Lord took sides agin us because he lets us be bused and knocked round; but ye see what come on his own Son, the blessed Lord of Glory—wan't he allays poor? And have we any on us yet come so low as he come?"

  "No; the Lord haint forgot us, I's sartin o' that. If we suffer with Him we shall also reign, Scripture says; but if we deny him, he will also deny us. Didn't they all suffer—the Lord and all his. It tells how they was stoned and sawn asunder, and wandered about in sheep-skins and goat-skins, and was destitute, afflicted, tormented. Sufferin ain't no reason to make us think the Lord's turned agin us, but jest the contrar, if only we hold on and doesn't give up to sin."

  "But why does he put us where we can't help but sin?" said the woman.

  "I think we can help it," said Tom.

  "You'll see," said Cassy. "What'll you do? To-morrow they'll be at you again. I know em—I've seen all their doings, and can't bear to think of your going through all they'd bring you to; and they'll make you give out at last."

  "Lord Jesus!" said Tom, "you will take care of my soul—oh, Lord, do—don't let me give out."

  "Oh, dear," said Cassy; "I've heard all this crying and praying before; and yet they've been broken down and brought under. There's Emmeline, she's trying to hold on; and you're trying—but what use? You must give up, or be killed by inches."

  "Well, then, I will die," said Tom, with energy. "Spin it out as long as they can, they can't help my dying sometime; and, after that, they can't do no more. I'm clar, I'm set; I know the Lord'll help me, and bring me through."

  The woman did not answer. She sat with her black eyes intently fixed on the floor. "May be it's the way," she said to herself; "but those that have given up—there's no hope for them—none. We live in faith, and grow loathsome, till we loathe ourselves; and we long to die, and we don't dare to kill ourselves. No hope—no hope—no hope! This girl, now—just as old as I was"——

  "You see me now," she said, speaking to Tom very rapidly, "and see what I am. Well, I was brought up in luxury. The first I remember is playing about, when I was a child, in splendid parlors, where I was kept dressed up like a doll, and company and visiters used to praise me; and there was a garden opening from the saloon windows, and there I used to play hide and go seek under the orange trees with my brothers and sisters. I went to a convent, and there I learnt music, and French, and embroidery, and what not; and when I was fourteen, I came out to my father's funeral. He died very suddenly; and when the property came to be settled, they found that there was scarcely enough to cover the debts; and when the creditors took the inventory of the property, I was set down in it. My mother was a slave woman, and my father had always meant to set me free, but he had not done it, and I was down in the list.

  "I'd always known who I was, but never thought much about it. Nobody ever expects that a strong, healthy man is a going to die. My father was a well man only four hours before he died—it was one of the first cholera cases in New Orleans.

  "The day after the funeral, my father's wife took her children, and went up to her father's plantation. I thought they treated me strangely, but didn't know why. There was a young lawyer, who they left to settle the business, came every day, and was about the house, and spoke very politely to me. He brought with him, one day, a young man, whom I thought the handsomest I had ever seen. I shall never forget that day, that evening. I walked with him in the garden. I was lonesome, and full of sorrow, and he was so kind and gentle to me; and he told me that he had seen me before I went to the convent, and that he had loved me a great while, and that he would be my friend and protector. In short, (though he did not tell me that,) he had paid two thousand dollars for me, and I was his property. I became his, willingly, for I loved him. Loved! said the woman, stopping; oh! how I did love that man! how I love him now, and always must, while I breathe! He was so beautiful, so high, so noble! He put me into a beautiful house; I had servants, horses and carriages, and furniture, and dresses; everything that money could buy, he gave me. But I didn't set any value on all that; I only cared for him. I loved him better than my God, or my own soul! and if I tried, I could not have done any other way from what he wanted me to.

  "I wanted only one thing—I did want him to marry me! I thought if he loved me as he said, and if I was what he seemed to think I was, he would be willing to marry me, and set me free. But he showed me that it was impossible. He used to tell me that if we were only faithful to each other, it was marriage before God. If that is true, wasn't I that man's wife? Wasn't I faithful for seven years? Didn't I study every look and motion, and only live and breathe to please him? He had the yellow fever, and for twenty days and nights I watched him—I alone—and gave him all his medicine, and did everything for him; and then he called me his good angel, and said I had saved his life.

  "We had two beautiful children. The first was a boy, and we called him Henry. He was the image of his father. He had such beautiful eyes, and such a forehead! and his hair hung all in curls around it, and he had all his father's spirit, and talent too. Little Elizé, he said, looked like me. He used to tell me that I was the most beautiful woman in Louisiana, and he was so proud of me and the children. He used to love to have me dress them up, and take them and me about in an open carriage, and hear the remarks that people would make on us, and he used to fill my ears constantly with the fine things that were said in praise of me and the children. Oh! those were happy days! I thought I was as happy as any one could be; but then there came evil times. He had a cousin come to New Orleans, who was his particular friend. He thought all the world of him; but from the first time I saw him, I dreaded him. I could not tell why, but I felt sure he was going to bring misery on us.

  "He got Henry to going out with him, and often he would not come home nights, till two or three o'clock. I did not dare say a word, for Henry was so high spirited, I was afraid to. He got him to the gaming-house, and he was one of the sort, that when he once got going, there was no holding back. And then he introduced him to another lady, and I saw soon that his heart was gone from me. He never told me, but I saw it, I knew it, day after day. I felt my heart breaking, but I could not say a word. At last, he offered to buy me and the children of him, to clear off his gambling debts, which stood in the way of his marrying the lady he wished to, and he sold us!

  "He told me, one day, that he had business in the country, and should be gone two or three weeks. He spoke kinder than usual, and said he should come back; but it didn't deceive me. I knew that the time had come, and I was just like one turned into stone. I could not speak, or shed a tear. He kissed me, and kissed the children, a good many times, and went out. I saw him get on his horse, and I watched him till he was quite out of sight, and then I fell down and fainted.

  "Then he came—the cursed wretch! He came to take possession. He told me that he had bought me and my children, and showed me the papers. I cursed him before God, and told him I'd die, sooner than live with him.

  " `Just as you please,' said he; `but if you don't behave reasonably, I'll sell both children where you shall never see them again.' He told me that he always had meant to have me from the first time he saw me; and that he had drawn Henry on, and got him in debt, on purpose to make him willing to sell me. That he had got him in love with another woman; and that I might know, after all that, he shouldn't give up for a few airs, and tears, and things of that sort.

  "I gave up, for my hands were tied. He had my children; and whenever I resisted his will anywhere, he would talk of selling them, and he made me as submissive as he desired. Oh! what a life it was to live, with my heart breaking every day! To keep on, on, on, loving when it was only misery, and to be bound, body and soul, to one I hated.

  "I used to love to read to Henry, to play to him, to waltz with him, and sing to him; but everything I did for this man was a perfect drag. Yet I was afraid to refuse anything.

  "He was very imperious and harsh to the children. Elizé was a timid little thing, but Henry was bold and high-spirited, like his father, and he had never been brought under in the least by any one. He was always finding fault and quarrelling with him, and I used to live in daily fear and dread. I tried to make the child respectful; I tried to keep them apart, for I held on to those children like death, but it did no good. He sold both those children! He took me to ride, one day, and when I came home, they were nowhere to be found. He told me he had sold them. He showed me the money—the price of their blood!

  "Then it seems as if all good forsook me. I raved and cursed—cursed God and man; and for a while I believe he really was afraid of me. But he didn't give up so. He told me that my children were sold, but whether I ever saw their faces again, depended on him; and that all that was to happen to them depended on him; and that if I wasn't quiet they should smart for it. Well, you can do anything with a woman when you've got her children. He made me submit; he made me be peaceable; he flattered me with hopes that perhaps he would buy them back. And so things went on a week or two. One day I was walking out, and passed by the Calaboose; I saw a crowd about the gate, and heard a child's voice; and suddenly my Henry broke away from two or three men, who were holding him, and ran, screaming, and caught my dress. They came up to him, swearing dreadfully; and one man, whose face I never shall forget, told him that he wouldn't get away so; `that he was going with him into the Calaboose, and he'd get a lesson there he never would forget.' I tried to beg and plead—they only laughed; the poor boy screamed, and looked in my face, and held on to me, till, in tearing him off, they tore the skirt of my dress half away; and they carried him in, screaming, `Mother! mother! mother!' There was one man stood there, seemed to pity me. I offered him all the money I had, if he would interfere; he shook his head, and said that the man said that the boy had been impudent and disobedient ever since he bought him, and that he was going to break him in, once for all. I turned and ran, and every step of the way I thought I heard him scream. I got into the house, and run all out of breath to the parlor, where I found Butler. I told him, and begged him to go and interfere. He only laughed, and told me the boy had got his deserts. `He'd got to be broken in, and the sooner the better. What did I expect?' he asked.

  "It seems to me something in my head snapped at that moment. I felt dizzy and furious. I remember seeing a great, sharp bowie knife on the table; I remember something about catching it, and flying upon him; and then all grew dark, and I didn't know any more, not for days and days.

  "When I came to myself, I was in a nice room, but not mine; an old black woman tended me, and a doctor came to see me, and there was a great deal of care taken of me. After a while I found that he had gone away, and left me at this house to be sold; and that's why they took such pains with me.

  "I didn't mean to get well, and hoped I shouldn't; but in spite of me the fever went off, and I grew healthy, and finally got up. Then they made me dress up every day, and gentlemen used to come in, and stand, and smoke their cigars, and look at me, and ask questions, and debate the price. I was so gloomy and silent that none of them wanted me. They threatened to whip me if I wasn't gayer, and didn't take some pains to make myself agreeable. At last, one day came a gentleman named Stuart. He seemed to have some feeling for me; he saw that something dreadful was on my heart, and he came to see me alone a great many times, and finally persuaded me to tell him. He bought me, at last, and promised to do all he could to find and buy back my children. He went to the hotel where my Henry was; they told him he had been sold to a planter up the Pearl river—that is the last I ever heard. Then he found where my daughter was: an old woman was keeping her, training her for the market; he offered an immense sum for her, but they would not sell her. Butler found out that it was for me he wanted her, and he sent me word that I should never have her. I never even saw her after that.

  "Captain Stuart was very kind to me. He had a splendid plantation, and took me to it. In the course of a year I had a son born. Oh, that child! How I loved it. How just like my poor Henry the little thing looked! But I had made up my mind—yes, I had—I would never again let a child live to grow up. I took the little fellow in my arms when he was two weeks old, and kissed him, and cried over him, and then I gave him laudanum, and held him close to my bosom while he slept to death. How I moaned and cried over it! and who ever dreamed that it was anything but a mistake that had made me give it the laudanum! I am not sorry to this day. It's one of the few things that I'm glad of, even now. He at least is out of all pain. What better than death could I give him?

  "After a while the cholera came, and Captain Stuart died. Everybody died that wanted to live; and I—I, though I went down to death's door—I lived! Then I was sold, and passed from hand to hand, till I grew faded and wrinkled, and I had a fever; and then this wretch bought me and brought me here—and here I am."

  The woman stopped. She had hurried on through her story, with a wild, passionate utterance—sometimes seeming to address it to Tom, and sometimes speaking as in a soliloquy. So vehement and overpowering was the force with which she spoke, that for a season Tom was beguiled even from the pain of his wounds, and, raising himself up on one elbow, watched her as she paced restlessly up and down, her long black hair swaying heavily about her as she moved.

  "You tell me," she said, after a pause, "that there is a God—a God that looks down, and sees all these things. May be it's true. The Sisters in the Convent used to tell me of a Day of Judgment, when everything is coming to light. Won't there be vengeance, then?"

  "They think it's nothing what we suffer," she added, vehemently, as she still paced the floor; "nothing what our children suffer; yet I've walked the streets when it seemed as if I had misery enough in my one heart to sink the city; I've wished the houses would fall on me, or the stones sink under me; yes, in the judgment day I will stand up before God and witness against them that have ruined me and my children, body and soul!

  "When I was a girl, I thought I was religious. I used to love God and prayer; now I'm a lost soul, pursued by devils that torment me day and night; they keep pressing me on—on! I'll do it, too! some of these days," she said, in a low tone, and clenching her small hand, while an insane light glared in her heavy black eyes. "I'll send him where he belongs—a short way, too—one of these nights, if they burn me alive for it."

  A wild, long laugh rang through the dreary room, and ended in a hysteric sob. She threw herself on the floor in convulsive sobbings and struggles.

  In a few moments the frenzy fit seemed to pass off. She arose slowly, and seemed to collect herself.

  "Can I do anything more for you, my poor fellow?" she said, approaching where Tom lay. "Shall I give you some more water?"

  There was a graceful and compassionate sweetness in her tone and manner, as she said this, that formed a strange contrast with her former wildness.

  Tom drank the water, and looked earnestly and pitifully into her face.

  "Oh, missis, I wish you'd go to Him that can give you living water!"

  "Go to Him? Where is He? Who is He?" said Cassy.

  "Him that you's been reading of—to the Lord Jesus."

  "I used to see the picture of Him over the altar when I was a girl," said Cassy, her dark eyes fixing themselves in an expression of mournful reverie; "but he isn't here. There's nothing here but sin and despair—long—long—long despair; oh;" she laid her hand on her breast as she spoke, and drew in her breath slowly.

  Tom looked as if he would speak again, but she cut him short with a decided gesture.

  "Don't talk, my poor fellow; try to stop, if you can;" and placing water within reach, and making whatever little arrangements for his comfort she could, Cassy left the shed.