days after, a young man drove a light wagon up through the avenue of China
trees, and, throwing the reins hastily on the horse's neck, sprang out and
inquired for the owner of the place.
It was George Shelby; and, to show how
he came to be there, we must go back in our story.
The letter of Miss Ophelia to Mrs.
Shelby had, by some unfortunate accident, been detained, for a month or two, at
some remote post-office, before it reached its destination; and, of course,
before it was received, Tom was already lost to view among the distant swamps of
the Red river.
Mrs. Shelby read the intelligence with
the deepest concern; but any immediate action upon it was an impossibility.
She was then in attendance on the sick-bed of her husband, who lay
delirious in the crisis of a fever. Master
George Shelby, who, in the interval, had changed from a boy to a tall young man,
was her constant and faithful assistant, and her only reliance in superintending
his father's affairs. Miss Ophelia
had taken the precaution to send them the name of the lawyer who did business
for the St. Clares; and the most that, in the emergency, could be done, was to
address a letter of inquiry to him. The
sudden death of Mr. Shelby, a few days after, brought, of course, an absorbing
pressure of other interests, for a season.
Mr. Shelby showed his confidence in his
wife's ability, by appointing her sole executrix upon his estates; and thus
immediately a large and complicated amount of business was brought upon her
Mrs. Shelby, with characteristic energy,
applied herself to the work of straightening the entangled web of affairs; and
she and George were for some time occupied with collecting and examining
accounts, selling property and settling debts; for Mrs. Shelby was determined
that everything should be brought into tangible and recognizable shape, let the
consequences to her prove what they might.
In the mean time, they received a letter from the lawyer to whom Miss
Ophelia had referred them, saying that he knew nothing of the matter; that the
man was sold at a public auction, and that, beyond receiving the money, he knew
nothing of the affair.
Neither George nor Mrs. Shelby could be
easy at this result; and, accordingly, some six months after, the latter, having
business for his mother, down the river, resolved to visit New Orleans, in
person, and push his inquiries, in hopes of discovering Tom's whereabouts, and
After some months of unsuccessful
search, by the merest accident, George fell in with a man, in New Orleans, who
happened to be possessed of the desired information; and with his money in his
pocket, our hero took steamboat for Red river, resolving to find out and
re-purchase his old friend.
He was soon introduced into the house,
where he found Legree in the sitting-room.
Legree received the stranger with a kind
of surly hospitality,
"I understand," said the young
man, "that you bought, in New Orleans, a boy, named Tom.
He used to be on my father's place, and I came to see if I couldn't buy
Legree's brow grew dark, and he broke
out, passionately: "Yes, I did
buy such a fellow,--and a h--l of a bargain I had of it, too! The most rebellious, saucy, impudent dog!
Set up my niggers to run away; got off two gals, worth eight hundred or a
thousand apiece. He owned to that, and, when I bid him tell me where they was,
he up and said he knew, but he wouldn't tell; and stood to it, though I gave him
the cussedest flogging I ever gave nigger yet.
I b'lieve he's trying to die; but I don't know as he'll make it
"Where is he?" said George,
impetuously. "Let me see
him." The cheeks of the young man were crimson, and his eyes flashed fire;
but he prudently said nothing, as yet.
"He's in dat ar shed," said a
little fellow, who stood holding George's horse.
Legree kicked the boy, and swore at him;
but George, without saying another word, turned and strode to the spot.
Tom had been lying two days since the
fatal night, not suffering, for every nerve of suffering was blunted and
destroyed. He lay, for the most
part, in a quiet stupor; for the laws of a powerful and well-knit frame would
not at once release the imprisoned spirit.
By stealth, there had been there, in the darkness of the night, poor
desolated creatures, who stole from their scanty hours' rest, that they might
repay to him some of those ministrations of love in which he had always been so
abundant. Truly, those poor
disciples had little to give,--only the cup of cold water; but it was given with
Tears had fallen on that honest,
insensible face,--tears of late repentance in the poor, ignorant heathen, whom
his dying love and patience had awakened to repentance, and bitter prayers,
breathed over him to a late-found Saviour, of whom they scarce knew more than
the name, but whom the yearning ignorant heart of man never implores in vain.
Cassy, who had glided out of her place
of concealment, and, by overhearing, learned the sacrifice that had been made
for her and Emmeline, had been there, the night before, defying the danger of
detection; and, moved by the last few words which the affectionate soul had yet
strength to breathe, the long winter of despair, the ice of years, had given
way, and the dark, despairing woman had wept and prayed.
When George entered the shed, he felt
his head giddy and his heart sick.
"Is it possible,,--is it
possible?" said he, kneeling down by him.
"Uncle Tom, my poor, poor old friend!"
Something in the voice penetrated to the
ear of the dying. He moved his head
gently, smiled, and said,
"Jesus can make a dying-bed Feel
soft as down pillows are."
Tears which did honor to his manly heart fell from the young
man's eyes, as he bent over his poor friend.
"O, dear Uncle Tom! do wake,--do
speak once more! Look up!
Here's Mas'r George,--your own little Mas'r George.
Don't you know me?"
"Mas'r George!" said Tom,
opening his eyes, and speaking in a feeble voice; "Mas'r George!"
He looked bewildered.
Slowly the idea seemed to fill his soul;
and the vacant eye became fixed and brightened, the whole face lighted up, the
hard hands clasped, and tears ran down the cheeks.
"Bless the Lord! it is,--it
is,--it's all I wanted! They
haven't forgot me. It warms my
soul; it does my heart good! Now I
shall die content! Bless the Lord,
on my soul!"
"You shan't die! you _mustn't_ die,
nor think of it! I've come to buy
you, and take you home," said George, with impetuous vehemence.
"O, Mas'r George, ye're too late.
The Lord's bought me, and is going to take me home,--and I long to go.
Heaven is better than Kintuck."
"O, don't die!
It'll kill me!--it'll break my heart to think what you've suffered,--and
lying in this old shed, here! Poor,
"Don't call me poor fellow!"
said Tom, solemnly, "I _have_ been poor fellow; but that's all past and
gone, now. I'm right in the door,
going into glory! O, Mas'r George!
_Heaven has come!_ I've got the victory!--the Lord Jesus has given it to
me! Glory be to His name!"
George was awe-struck at the force, the
vehemence, the power, with which these broken sentences were uttered.
He sat gazing in silence.
Tom grasped his hand, and
continued,--"Ye mustn't, now, tell Chloe, poor soul! how ye found me;--'t
would be so drefful to her. Only
tell her ye found me going into glory; and that I couldn't stay for no one.
And tell her the Lord's stood by me everywhere and al'ays, and made
everything light and easy. And oh,
the poor chil'en, and the baby;--my old heart's been most broke for 'em, time
and agin! Tell 'em all to follow me--follow me! Give my love to Mas'r, and dear good Missis, and everybody in
the place! Ye don't know!
'Pears like I loves 'em all! I
loves every creature everywhar!--it's nothing _but_ love!
O, Mas'r George! what a thing 't is to be a Christian!"
At this moment, Legree sauntered up to
the door of the shed, looked in, with a dogged air of affected carelessness, and
"The old satan!" said George,
in his indignation. "It's a
comfort to think the devil will pay _him_ for this, some of these days!"
"O, don't!,--oh, ye mustn't!"
said Tom, grasping his hand; "he's a poor mis'able critter! it's awful to
think on 't! Oh, if he only could
repent, the Lord would forgive him now; but I'm 'feared he never will!"
"I hope he won't!" said
George; "I never want to see _him_ in heaven!"
"Hush, Mas'r George!--it worries
me! Don't feel so!
He an't done me no real harm,--only opened the gate of the kingdom for
me; that's all!"
At this moment, the sudden flush of
strength which the joy of meeting his young master had infused into the dying
man gave way. A sudden sinking fell
upon him; he closed his eyes; and that mysterious and sublime change passed over
his face, that told the approach of other worlds.
He began to draw his breath with long,
deep inspirations; and his broad chest rose and fell, heavily.
The expression of his face was that of a conqueror.
"Who,--who,--who shall separate us
from the love of Christ?" he said, in a voice that contended with mortal
weakness; and, with a smile, he fell asleep.
George sat fixed with solemn awe.
It seemed to him that the place was holy; and, as he closed the lifeless
eyes, and rose up from the dead, only one thought possessed him,--that expressed
by his simple old friend,--"What a thing it is to be a Christian!"
He turned: Legree was standing, sullenly, behind him.
Something in that dying scene had
checked the natural fierceness of youthful passion.
The presence of the man was simply loathsome to George; and he felt only
an impulse to get away from him, with as few words as possible.
Fixing his keen dark eyes on Legree, he
simply said, pointing to the dead, "You have got all you ever can of him.
What shall I pay you for the body? I
will take it away, and bury it decently."
"I don't sell dead niggers,"
said Legree, doggedly. "You
are welcome to bury him where and when you like."
"Boys," said George, in an
authoritative tone, to two or three negroes, who were looking at the body,
"help me lift him up, and carry him to my wagon; and get me a spade."
One of them ran for a spade; the other
two assisted George to carry the body to the wagon.
George neither spoke to nor looked at
Legree, who did not countermand his orders, but stood, whistling, with an air of
forced unconcern. He sulkily
followed them to where the wagon stood at the door.
George spread his cloak in the wagon,
and had the body carefully disposed of in it,--moving the seat, so as to give it
room. Then he turned, fixed his
eyes on Legree, and said, with forced composure,
"I have not, as yet, said to you
what I think of this most atrocious affair;--this is not the time and place.
But, sir, this innocent blood shall have justice.
I will proclaim this murder. I
will go to the very first magistrate, and expose you."
"Do!" said Legree, snapping
his fingers, scornfully. "I'd
like to see you doing it. Where you
going to get witnesses?--how you going to prove it?--Come, now!"
George saw, at once, the force of this
defiance. There was not a white
person on the place; and, in all southern courts, the testimony of colored blood
is nothing. He felt, at that
moment, as if he could have rent the heavens with his heart's indignant cry for
justice; but in vain.
"After all, what a fuss, for a dead
nigger!" said Legree.
The word was as a spark to a powder
magazine. Prudence was never a
cardinal virtue of the Kentucky boy. George
turned, and, with one indignant blow, knocked Legree flat upon his face; and, as
he stood over him, blazing with wrath and defiance, he would have formed no bad
personification of his great namesake triumphing over the dragon.
Some men, however, are decidedly
bettered by being knocked down. If
a man lays them fairly flat in the dust, they seem immediately to conceive a
respect for him; and Legree was one of this sort.
As he rose, therefore, and brushed the dust from his clothes, he eyed the
slowly-retreating wagon with some evident consideration; nor did he open his
mouth till it was out of sight.
Beyond the boundaries of the plantation,
George had noticed a dry, sandy knoll, shaded by a few trees; there they made
"Shall we take off the cloak,
Mas'r?" said the negroes, when the grave was ready.
"No, no,--bury it with him!
It's all I can give you, now, poor Tom, and you shall have it."
They laid him in; and the men shovelled
away, silently. They banked it up,
and laid green turf over it.
"You may go, boys," said
George, slipping a quarter into the hand of each.
They lingered about, however.
"If young Mas'r would please buy
us--" said one.
"We'd serve him so faithful!"
said the other.
"Hard times here, Mas'r!" said
the first. "Do, Mas'r, buy us,
"I can't!--I can't!" said
George, with difficulty, motioning them off; "it's impossible!"
The poor fellows looked dejected, and
walked off in silence.
"Witness, eternal God!" said
George, kneeling on the grave of his poor friend; "oh, witness, that, from
this hour, I will do _what one man can_ to drive out this curse of slavery from
There is no monument to mark the last
resting-place of our friend. He
needs none! His Lord knows where he
lies, and will raise him up, immortal, to appear with him when he shall appear
in his glory.
Pity him not! Such a life and death is not for pity! Not in the riches of omnipotence is the chief glory of God;
but in self-denying, suffering love! And blessed are the men whom he calls to
fellowship with him, bearing their cross after him with patience.
Of such it is written, "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall