The 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 be.
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 elevation.
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 way!"
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 than you."
"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 meet him."
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 could."
"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
"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
"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 Chloe, delighted;
"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,
"And what did mother say?" said George.
"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 gone!
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
"La, now!" said Uncle Tom, "they are so full of tickle all
the while, they can't behave theirselves."
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 merriment.
"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 composure.
"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 rude machine.
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 meeting.
"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
"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 Chloe.
"Well, it'll stand, if it only keeps jam up agin de wall!"
"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," said Pete.
"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 catastrophe.
"Come now, be decent, can't ye?" said Aunt Chloe; "an't
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
"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',
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 at camp-meetings.
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'
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.
While 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 writing utensils.
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
"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 done!"
"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
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.