Transcription of Chapters 41 and 42
After this, Legree became a harder drinker than ever before. He no longer drank cautiously, prudently, but imprudently and recklessly.
There were reports around the country, soon after, that he was sick and dying. Excess had brought on that frightful disease that seems to throw the lurid shadows of a coming retribution back into the present life. None could bear the horrors of that sick room, when he raved and screamed, and spoke of sights which almost stopped the blood of those who heard him; and, at his dying bed, stood a stern, white, inexorable figure, saying, “Come! come! come!”
By a singular coincidence, on the very night that this vision appeared to Legree, the house-door was found open in the morning, and some of the Negroes had seen two white figures gliding down the avenue towards the high-road.
It was sunrise when Cassy and Emmeline paused for a moment in a little knot of trees near the town.
Cassy was dressed after the manner of the Creole Spanish ladies—wholly in black. A small black bonnet on her head, covered by a veil thick with embroidery, concealed her face. It had been agreed that, in their escape, she was to personate the character of a Creole lady, and Emmeline that of her servant.
Brought up from early life in connection with the highest society, the language, movements, and air of Cassy were all in agreement with this idea; and she had still enough remaining with her of a once splendid wardrobe and set of jewels, to enable her to personate the thing to advantage.
She stopped in the outskirts of the town, where she had noticed trunks for sale, and purchased a handsome one. This she requested the man to send along with her. And, accordingly, thus escorted by a boy wheeling her trunk, and Emmeline behind her carrying her carpet-bag and sundry bundles, she made her appearance at the small tavern like a lady of consideration.
The first person that struck her, after her arrival, was George Shelby, who was staying there, awaiting the next boat.
Cassy had remarked the young man from her loop-hole in the garret, and seen him bear away the body of Tom, and observed, with secret exultation, his rencontre with Legree. Subsequently, she had gathered, from the conversations she had overheard among the Negroes, as she glided about in her ghostly disguise, after nightfall, who he was, and in what relation he stood to Tom. She therefore felt an immediate accession of confidence, when she found that he was, like herself, awaiting the next boat.
Cassy’s air and manner, address, and evident command of money, prevented any rising disposition to suspicion in the hotel. People never inquire too closely into those who are fair on the main point, of paying well—a thing which Cassy had foreseen when she provided herself with money.
In the edge of the evening, a boat was heard coming along, and George Shelby handed Cassy aboard, with the politeness which comes naturally to every Kentuckian, and exerted himself to provide her with a good state-room.
Cassy kept her room and bed, on pretext of illness, during the whole time they were on Red river; and was waited on, with obsequious devotion, by her attendant.
When they arrived at the Mississippi river, George, having learned that the course of the strange lady was upward, like his own, proposed to take a state-room for her on the same boat with himself—good-naturedly compassionating her feeble health, and desirous to do what he could to assist her.
Behold, therefore, the whole party safely transferred to the good steamer Cincinnati, and sweeping up the river under a powerful head of steam.
[Continue reading Part 2 of Chapter 41 and Part 1 of chapter 42, here.]
Commentary by Beth Lueck
Associate Professor of Language and Literature at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
Uncle Tom’s Cabin is filled with separations and losses because of slavery: husbands and wives separated, mothers and children torn from each other, families irretrievably broken. As a mother herself, one who had lost a much loved baby, Charley, Harriet Beecher Stowe sympathized with the losses wrought by slavery. “It was at his dying bed & at his grave,” she recalled, “that I learnt what a poor slave mother may feel when her child is torn away from her.” She prayed that “such anguish” on her own part “might not be suffered in vain!” Stowe was especially sensitive to slavery’s destruction of the family, and her novel offers one heartbreaking example after another of these separations. In the early chapters, Eliza’s son, Harry, is sold, compelling her to run away in an effort to save him. Uncle Tom, of course, is also sold; headed south, he doubts that he will ever see his wife or children again.
The last chapters of the book, however, reverse this movement. Although many of the characters will never see their loved ones again—most notably, Uncle Tom himself—others are reunited. George Harris and his wife, Eliza, are already reunited, but George is also reunited with his sister, Emily, now Madame de Thoux. Cassy, whose older children were sold and who killed her infant son rather than let him grow up to be sold, is finally reunited with her lost daughter, Eliza, and introduced to her granddaughter. In chapter 42 Stowe describes the tender reunion of the two families: “the new-found family embraced each other, with a holy trust in Him who from such peril and dangers, and by such unknown ways, had brought them together.” She underscores the truthfulness of such stories “when a system prevails which whirls families and scatters their members, as the wind whirls and scatters the leaves of autumn. These shores of refuge [Canada], like the eternal shore, often unite again, in glad communion, hearts that for long years have mourned each other as lost.”
Stowe attests to the truthfulness of this in the last chapter, Concluding Remarks: “There are those living who know the mothers whom this accursed traffic has driven to the murder of their children; and themselves seeking in death a shelter from woes more dreaded than death.”
[Continue reading the full text of Beth Lueck’s commentary here.]