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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.
Cassy’s health was much better. She sat upon the guards, came to the table, and was remarked upon in the boat as a lady that must have been very handsome.
From the moment that George got the first glimpse of her face, he was troubled with one of those fleeting and indefinite likenesses, which almost everybody can remember, and has been, at times, perplexed with. He could not keep himself from looking at her, and watching her perpetually. At table, or sitting at her state-room door, still she would encounter the young man’s eyes fixed on her, and politely withdrawn, when she showed by her countenance that she was sensible of the observation.
Cassy became uneasy. She began to think that he suspected something; and finally resolved to throw herself entirely on his generosity, and intrusted him with her whole history.
George was heartily disposed to sympathize with any one who had escaped from Legree’s plantation—a place that he could not remember or speak of with patience—and, with the courageous disregard of consequences which is characteristic of his age and State, he assured her that he would do all in his power to protect and bring them through.
The next state-room to Cassy’s was occupied by a French lady, named De Thoux, who was accompanied by a fine little daughter, a child of some twelve summers.
This lady, having gathered from George’s conversation that he was from Kentucky, seemed evidently disposed to cultivate his acquaintance; in which design she was seconded by the graces of her little girl, who was about as pretty a plaything as ever diverted the weariness of a fortnight’s trip on a steamboat.
George’s chair was often placed at her state-room door; and Cassy, as she sat upon the guards, could hear their conversation.
Madame De Thoux was very minute in her inquiries as to Kentucky, where she said she had resided in a former period of her life. George discovered, to his surprise, that her former residence must have been in his own vicinity; and her inquiries showed a knowledge of people and things in his vicinity, that was perfectly surprising to him.
“Do you know,” said Madame de Thoux to him, one day, “of any man in your neighborhood, of the name of Harris?”
“There is an old fellow of that name, lives not far from my father’s place,” said George. “We never have had much intercourse with him, though.”
“He is a large slave-owner, I believe,” said Madame de Thoux, with a manner which seemed to betray more interest than she was exactly willing to show.
“He is,” said George, looking rather surprised at her manner.
“Did you ever know of his having—perhaps you may have heard of his having a mulatto boy, named George?”
“Oh, certainly, George Harris; I know him well. He married a servant of my mother’s, but has escaped, now, to Canada.”
“He has?” said Madame de Thoux, quickly. “Thank God!”
George looked a surprised inquiry, but said nothing.
Madame de Thoux leaned her head on her hand, and burst into tears.
“He is my brother!” she said.
“Madame!” said George, with a strong accent of surprise.
“Yes,” said Madame de Thoux, lifting her head proudly, and wiping her tears; “Mr. Shelby, George Harris is my brother!”
“I am perfectly astonished,” said George, pushing back his chair a pace or two, and looking at Madame de Thoux.
“I was sold to the South when he was a boy,” said she. “I was bought by a good and generous man. He took me with him to the West Indies, set me free, and married me. It is but lately that he died; and I was coming up to Kentucky, to see if I could find and redeem my brother.”
“I have heard him speak of a sister Emily, that was sold South,” said George.
“Yes, indeed! I am the one,” said Madame de Thoux; “tell me what sort of a”——
“A very fine young man,” said George, notwithstanding the curse of slavery that lay on him. He sustained a first-rate character, both for intelligence and principle. I know, you see,” he said, “because he married in our family.”
“What sort of a girl?” said Madame de Thoux, eagerly.
“A treasure,” said George; “a beautiful, intelligent, amiable girl. Very pious. My mother had brought her up, and trained her as carefully, almost, as a daughter. She could read and write, embroider and sew, beautifully; and was a beautiful singer.”
“Was she born in your house?” said Madame de Thoux.
“No. Father bought her once, in one of his trips to New Orleans, and brought her up as a present to mother. She was about eight or nine years old, then. Father would never tell mother what he gave for her; but, the other day, in looking over his old papers, we came across the bill of sale. He paid an extravagant sum for her, to be sure. I suppose, on account of her extraordinary beauty.”
George sat with his back to Cassy, and did not see the absorbed expression of her countenance, as he was giving these details.
At this point in the story, she touched his arm, and, with a face perfectly white with interest, said, “Do you know the names of the people he bought her of?”
“A man of the name of Simmons, I think, was the principal in the transaction. At least I think that was the name on the bill of sale.”
“O, my God!” said Cassy, and fell insensibly on the floor of the cabin.
George was wide awake now, and so was Madame de Thoux. Though neither of them could conjecture what was the cause of Cassy’s fainting, still they made all the tumult which is proper in such cases—George upsetting a wash-pitcher, and breaking two tumblers in the warmth of his humanity; and various ladies in the cabin, hearing that somebody had fainted, crowded the state-room door, and kept out all the air they possibly could, so that, on the whole, everything was done that could be expected.
Poor Cassy! when she recovered, turned her face to the wall, and wept and sobbed like a child, perhaps mother, you can tell what she was thinking of! Perhaps you cannot, but she felt as sure, in that hour, that God had had mercy on her, and that she should see her daughter, as she did, months afterwards—when—but we anticipate.
The rest of our story is soon told. George Shelby, interested, as any other young man might be, by the romance of the incident, no less than by feelings of humanity, was at the pains to send to Cassy the bill of sale of Eliza, whose date and name all corresponded with her own knowledge of facts, and left no doubt upon her mind as to the identity of her child. It remained now only for her to trace out the path of the fugitives.
Madame de Thoux and she, thus drawn together by the singular coincidence of their fortunes, proceeded immediately to Canada, and began a tour of inquiry among the stations where the numerous fugitives from slavery are located. At Amherstberg they found the missionary with whom George and Eliza had taken shelter, on their first arrival in Canada; and through him were enabled to trace the family to Montreal.
George and Eliza had now been five years free. George had found constant occupation in the shop of a worthy machinist, where he had been earning a competent support for his family, which, in the mean time, had been increased by the addition of another daughter.
Little Harry—a fine bright boy—had been put to a good school, and was making rapid proficiency in knowledge.
The worthy pastor of the station in Amherstberg, where George had first landed, was so much interested in the statements of Madame de Thoux and Cassy, that he yielded to the solicitations of the former, to accompany them to Montreal in their search, she bearing all the expense of the expedition.
The scene now changes to a small, neat tenement, in the outskirts of Montreal; the time, evening. A cheerful fire blazes on the hearth; a tea-table, covered with a snowy cloth, stands prepared for the evening meal. In one corner of the room was a table covered with a green cloth, where was an open writing-desk, pens, paper, and over it a shelf of well-selected books.
This was George’s study. The same zeal for self-improvement, which led him to steal the much coveted arts of reading and writing, amid all the toils and discouragements of his early life, still led him to devote all his leisure time to self-cultivation.
At this present time, he is seated at the table, making notes from a volume of the family library he has been reading.
“Come, George,” says Eliza, “you’ve been gone all day. Do put down that book, and let’s talk, while I’m getting tea—do.”
And little Eliza seconds the effort, by toddling up to her father, and trying to pull the book out of his hand, and install herself on his knee as a substitute.
“O, you little witch!” says George, yielding, as, in such circumstances, man always must.
“That’s right,” says Eliza, as she begins to cut a loaf of bread. A little older she looks; her form a little fuller; her air more matronly than of yore; but evidently contented and happy as woman need be.
“Harry, my boy, how did you come on in that sum, to-day?” says George, as he laid his hand on his son’s head.
Harry has lost his long curls; but he can never lose those eyes and eyelashes, and that fine, bold brow, that flushes with triumph, as he answers, “I did it, every bit of it myself, father—and nobody helped me!”
“That’s right,” says his father; “depend on yourself, my son. You have a better chance than ever your poor father had.”
At this moment, there is a rap at the door; and Eliza goes and opens it. The delighted—“Why!—this you?”—calls up her husband; and the good pastor of Amerstberg is welcomed. There are two more women with him, and Eliza asks them to sit down.
Now, if the truth must be told, the honest pastor had arranged a little programme, according to which this affair was to develop itself; and, on the way up, all had very cautiously and prudently exhorted each other not to let things out, except according to prievous arrangement.
What was the good man’s consternation, therefore, just as he had motioned to the ladies to be seated, and was taking out his pocket-handkerchief to wipe his mouth, so as to proceed to his introductory speech in good order, when Madame de Thoux upset the whole plan, by throwing her arms around George’s neck, and letting all out at once, by saying, “O, George! don’t you know me? I’m your sister Emily.”
Cassy had seated herself more composedly, and would have carried on her part very well, had not little Eliza suddenly appeared before her, in exact shape and form, every outline and curl, just as her daughter was when she saw her last. The little thing peered up in her face; and Cassy caught her up in her arms, pressed her to her bosom, saying, what at the moment she really believed, “Darling. I’m your mother.”
In fact, it was a troublesome matter to do up exactly in proper order; but the good pastor at last succeeded in getting everybody quiet, and delivering the speech with which he had intended to open the exercises; and in which, at last, he succeeded so well, that his whole audience were sobbing about him in a manner that ought to satisfy any orator, ancient or modern.
They knelt together, and the good man prayed—for there are some feelings so agitated and tumultuous, that they can find rest only by being poured into the bosom of Almighty love—and then, rising up, 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.
The note-book of a missionary, among the Canadian fugitives, contains truth stranger than fiction. How can it be otherwise, 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, like the eternal shore, often unite again, in glad communion, hearts that for long years have mourned each other as lost. And affecting beyond expression is the earnestness with which every new arrival among them is met, if perchance it may bring tidings of mother, sister, child, or wife, still lost to view in the shadows of slavery.
Deeds of heroism are wrought here more than those of romance, when defying torture, and braving death itself, the fugitive voluntarily threads his way back to the terrors and perils of that dark land, that he may bring out his sister, or mother, or wife.
One young man, of whom a missionary has told us, twice recaptured, and suffering shameful stripes for his heroism, had escaped again; and, in a letter which we heard read, tells his friends that he is going back a third time, that he may, at last, bring away his sister. My good sir, is this man a hero or a criminal? Would not you do as much for your sister? And can you blame him?
But, to return to our friends, whom we left wiping their eyes, and recovering themselves from too great and sudden a joy. They are now seated around the social board, and are getting decidedly companionable; only that Cassy, who keeps little Eliza on her lap, occasionally squeezes the little thing in a manner that rather astonishes her, and obstinately refuses to have her mouth stuffed with cake to the extent the little one desires—alleging, what the child rather wonders at, that she has got something better than cake, and doesn’t want it.
And, indeed, in two or three days, such a change has passed over Cassy, that our readers would scarcely know her. The despairing, haggard expression of her face had given way to one of gentle trust. She seemed to sink, at once, into the bosom of the family, and take the little ones into her heart, as something for which it long had waited. Indeed, her love seemed to flow more naturally to the little Eliza than to her own daughter; for she was the exact image and body of the child whom she had lost. The little one was a flowery bond between mother and daughter, through whom grew up acquaintanceship and affection. Eliza’s steady, consistent piety, regulated by the constant reading of the sacred word, made her a proper guide for the shattered and wearied mind of her mother. Cassy yielded at once, and with her whole soul, to every good influence, and became a devout and tender Christian.
After a day or two, Madame de Thoux told her brother more particularly of her affairs. The death of her husband had left her an ample fortune, which she generously offered to share with the family. When she asked George what way she could best apply it for him, he answered, “Give me an education, Emily; that has always been my heart’s desire. Then, I can do all the rest.”
On mature deliberation, it was decided that the whole family should go, for some years, to France; whither they sailed, carrying Emmeline with them.
The good looks of the latter won the affection of the first mate of the vessel; and, shortly after entering the port, she became his wife.
George remained four years at a French university, and, applying himself with an unintermitted zeal, obtained a very thorough education.
Political troubles in France, at last, led the family again to seek an asylum in this country.
[to be concluded next week.]
Copyright 2011. For introduction and annotation, all rights reserved. The text is distributed under a Creative Commons License. Uncle Tom’s Cabin: National Era by Harriet Beecher Stowe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at Copyright Commons License.