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
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
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
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
"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
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
"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 hornbug laugh!"
"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 quite serious.
"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
"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, Mas'r George."
"And what did mother say?"
"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
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 sinners
"La, now!" said Uncle Tom,
"they are so full of tickle all the while, they can't behave
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
"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
"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
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
"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 at present.
"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
"Well, it'll stand, if it only
keeps jam up agin de wall!" said Mose.
"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,"
"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
"Come now, be decent, can't
ye?" said Aunt Chloe; "an't yer shamed?"
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 to Peter.
"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', warnt it?"
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
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' sure enough?"
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.
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
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 suppressed eagerness.
"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
"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 noways
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.