Uncle Tom's Cabin Chapter XIII: The Quaker Settlement
by Harriet Beecher Stowe
A quiet scene now rises before us. A large, roomy,
neatly-painted kitchen, its yellow floor glossy and smooth, and
without a particle of dust; a neat, well-blacked cooking-stove;
rows of shining tin, suggestive of unmentionable good things to
the appetite; glossy green wood chairs, old and firm; a small
flag-bottomed rocking-chair, with a patch-work cushion in it, neatly
contrived out of small pieces of different colored woollen goods,
and a larger sized one, motherly and old, whose wide arms breathed
hospitable invitation, seconded by the solicitation of its feather
cushions,--a real comfortable, persuasive old chair, and worth, in
the way of honest, homely enjoyment, a dozen of your plush or
brochetelle drawing-room gentry; and in the chair, gently swaying
back and forward, her eyes bent on some fine sewing, sat our fine
old friend Eliza. Yes, there she is, paler and thinner than in
her Kentucky home, with a world of quiet sorrow lying under the
shadow of her long eyelashes, and marking the outline of her
gentle mouth! It was plain to see how old and firm the girlish heart
was grown under the discipline of heavy sorrow; and when, anon, her
large dark eye was raised to follow the gambols of her little Harry,
who was sporting, like some tropical butterfly, hither and thither
over the floor, she showed a depth of firmness and steady resolve
that was never there in her earlier and happier days.
By her side sat a woman with a bright tin pan in her lap, into
which she was carefully sorting some dried peaches. She might
be fifty-five or sixty; but hers was one of those faces that time
seems to touch only to brighten and adorn. The snowy fisse crape
cap, made after the strait Quaker pattern,--the plain white muslin
handkerchief, lying in placid folds across her bosom,--the drab
shawl and dress,--showed at once the community to which she belonged.
Her face was round and rosy, with a healthful downy softness,
suggestive of a ripe peach. Her hair, partially silvered by age,
was parted smoothly back from a high placid forehead, on which time
had written no inscription, except peace on earth, good will to
men, and beneath shone a large pair of clear, honest, loving brown
eyes; you only needed to look straight into them, to feel that you
saw to the bottom of a heart as good and true as ever throbbed in
woman's bosom. So much has been said and sung of beautiful young
girls, why don't somebody wake up to the beauty of old women?
If any want to get up an inspiration under this head, we refer them
to our good friend Rachel Halliday, just as she sits there in her
little rocking-chair. It had a turn for quacking and squeaking,--that
chair had,--either from having taken cold in early life, or from
some asthmatic affection, or perhaps from nervous derangement; but,
as she gently swung backward and forward, the chair kept up a kind
of subdued "creechy crawchy," that would have been intolerable in
any other chair. But old Simeon Halliday often declared it was as
good as any music to him, and the children all avowed that they
wouldn't miss of hearing mother's chair for anything in the world.
For why? for twenty years or more, nothing but loving words, and
gentle moralities, and motherly loving kindness, had come from that
chair;--head-aches and heart-aches innumerable had been cured
there,--difficulties spiritual and temporal solved there,--all by
one good, loving woman, God bless her!
"And so thee still thinks of going to Canada, Eliza?" she said,
as she was quietly looking over her peaches.
"Yes, ma'am," said Eliza, firmly. "I must go onward. I dare
"And what'll thee do, when thee gets there? Thee must think
about that, my daughter."
"My daughter" came naturally from the lips of Rachel
Halliday; for hers was just the face and form that made "mother"
seem the most natural word in the world.
Eliza's hands trembled, and some tears fell on her fine
work; but she answered, firmly,
"I shall do--anything I can find. I hope I can find something."
"Thee knows thee can stay here, as long as thee pleases,"
"O, thank you," said Eliza, "but"--she pointed to Harry--"I
can't sleep nights; I can't rest. Last night I dreamed I saw that
man coming into the yard," she said, shuddering.
"Poor child!" said Rachel, wiping her eyes; "but thee
mustn't feel so. The Lord hath ordered it so that never hath a
fugitive been stolen from our village. I trust thine will not be
The door here opened, and a little short, round, pin-cushiony
woman stood at the door, with a cheery, blooming face, like a
ripe apple. She was dressed, like Rachel, in sober gray, with
the muslin folded neatly across her round, plump little chest.
"Ruth Stedman," said Rachel, coming joyfully forward; "how
is thee, Ruth? she said, heartily taking both her hands.
"Nicely," said Ruth, taking off her little drab bonnet, and
dusting it with her handkerchief, displaying, as she did so,
a round little head, on which the Quaker cap sat with a sort
of jaunty air, despite all the stroking and patting of the
small fat hands, which were busily applied to arranging it.
Certain stray locks of decidedly curly hair, too, had escaped
here and there, and had to be coaxed and cajoled into their
place again; and then the new comer, who might have been
five-and-twenty, turned from the small looking-glass, before
which she had been making these arrangements, and looked well
pleased,--as most people who looked at her might have been,--for
she was decidedly a wholesome, whole-hearted, chirruping little
woman, as ever gladdened man's heart withal.
"Ruth, this friend is Eliza Harris; and this is the little
boy I told thee of."
"I am glad to see thee, Eliza,--very," said Ruth, shaking
hands, as if Eliza were an old friend she had long been expecting;
"and this is thy dear boy,--I brought a cake for him," she said,
holding out a little heart to the boy, who came up, gazing through
his curls, and accepted it shyly.
"Where's thy baby, Ruth?" said Rachel.
"O, he's coming; but thy Mary caught him as I came in, and
ran off with him to the barn, to show him to the children."
At this moment, the door opened, and Mary, an honest,
rosy-looking girl, with large brown eyes, like her mother's,
came in with the baby.
"Ah! ha!" said Rachel, coming up, and taking the great, white,
fat fellow in her arms, "how good he looks, and how he does grow!"
"To be sure, he does," said little bustling Ruth, as she took
the child, and began taking off a little blue silk hood, and
various layers and wrappers of outer garments; and having given a
twitch here, and a pull there, and variously adjusted and arranged
him, and kissed him heartily, she set him on the floor to collect
his thoughts. Baby seemed quite used to this mode of proceeding,
for he put his thumb in his mouth (as if it were quite a thing of
course), and seemed soon absorbed in his own reflections, while
the mother seated herself, and taking out a long stocking of
mixed blue and white yarn, began to knit with briskness.
"Mary, thee'd better fill the kettle, hadn't thee?" gently
suggested the mother.
Mary took the kettle to the well, and soon reappearing,
placed it over the stove, where it was soon purring and steaming,
a sort of censer of hospitality and good cheer. The peaches,
moreover, in obedience to a few gentle whispers from Rachel, were
soon deposited, by the same hand, in a stew-pan over the fire.
Rachel now took down a snowy moulding-board, and, tying on
an apron, proceeded quietly to making up some biscuits, first saying
to Mary,--"Mary, hadn't thee better tell John to get a chicken
ready?" and Mary disappeared accordingly.
"And how is Abigail Peters?" said Rachel, as she went on
with her biscuits.
"O, she's better," said Ruth; "I was in, this morning; made
the bed, tidied up the house. Leah Hills went in, this afternoon,
and baked bread and pies enough to last some days; and I engaged
to go back to get her up, this evening."
"I will go in tomorrow, and do any cleaning there may be,
and look over the mending," said Rachel.
"Ah! that is well," said Ruth. "I've heard," she added,
"that Hannah Stanwood is sick. John was up there, last night,--I
must go there tomorrow."
"John can come in here to his meals, if thee needs to stay
all day," suggested Rachel.
"Thank thee, Rachel; will see, tomorrow; but, here comes Simeon."
Simeon Halliday, a tall, straight, muscular man, in drab
coat and pantaloons, and broad-brimmed hat, now entered.
"How is thee, Ruth?" he said, warmly, as he spread his
broad open hand for her little fat palm; "and how is John?"
"O! John is well, and all the rest of our folks," said
"Any news, father?" said Rachel, as she was putting her
biscuits into the oven.
"Peter Stebbins told me that they should be along tonight,
with friends," said Simeon, significantly, as he was washing his
hands at a neat sink, in a little back porch.
"Indeed!" said Rachel, looking thoughtfully, and glancing
"Did thee say thy name was Harris?" said Simeon to Eliza,
as he reentered.
Rachel glanced quickly at her husband, as Eliza tremulously
answered "yes;" her fears, ever uppermost, suggesting that possibly
there might be advertisements out for her.
"Mother!" said Simeon, standing in the porch, and calling
"What does thee want, father?" said Rachel, rubbing her
floury hands, as she went into the porch.
"This child's husband is in the settlement, and will be
here tonight," said Simeon.
"Now, thee doesn't say that, father?" said Rachel, all her
face radiant with joy.
"It's really true. Peter was down yesterday, with the wagon,
to the other stand, and there he found an old woman and two men;
and one said his name was George Harris; and from what he told
of his history, I am certain who he is. He is a bright, likely
"Shall we tell her now?" said Simeon.
"Let's tell Ruth," said Rachel. "Here, Ruth,--come here."
Ruth laid down her knitting-work, and was in the back porch
in a moment.
"Ruth, what does thee think?" said Rachel. "Father says Eliza's
husband is in the last company, and will be here tonight."
A burst of joy from the little Quakeress interrupted the speech.
She gave such a bound from the floor, as she clapped her little
hands, that two stray curls fell from under her Quaker cap,
and lay brightly on her white neckerchief.
"Hush thee, dear!" said Rachel, gently; "hush, Ruth! Tell us,
shall we tell her now?"
"Now! to be sure,--this very minute. Why, now, suppose 't
was my John, how should I feel? Do tell her, right off."
"Thee uses thyself only to learn how to love thy neighbor,
Ruth," said Simeon, looking, with a beaming face, on Ruth.
"To be sure. Isn't it what we are made for? If I didn't
love John and the baby, I should not know how to feel for her.
Come, now do tell her,--do!" and she laid her hands persuasively
on Rachel's arm. "Take her into thy bed-room, there, and let me
fry the chicken while thee does it."
Rachel came out into the kitchen, where Eliza was sewing,
and opening the door of a small bed-room, said, gently, "Come in
here with me, my daughter; I have news to tell thee."
The blood flushed in Eliza's pale face; she rose, trembling
with nervous anxiety, and looked towards her boy.
"No, no," said little Ruth, darting up, and seizing her hands.
"Never thee fear; it's good news, Eliza,--go in, go in!"
And she gently pushed her to the door which closed after her; and
then, turning round, she caught little Harry in her arms, and began
"Thee'll see thy father, little one. Does thee know it?
Thy father is coming," she said, over and over again, as the boy
looked wonderingly at her.
Meanwhile, within the door, another scene was going on.
Rachel Halliday drew Eliza toward her, and said, "The Lord
hath had mercy on thee, daughter; thy husband hath escaped
from the house of bondage."
The blood flushed to Eliza's cheek in a sudden glow, and
went back to her heart with as sudden a rush. She sat down, pale
"Have courage, child," said Rachel, laying her hand on her head.
"He is among friends, who will bring him here tonight."
"Tonight!" Eliza repeated, "tonight!" The words lost all
meaning to her; her head was dreamy and confused; all was mist for
When she awoke, she found herself snugly tucked up on the bed,
with a blanket over her, and little Ruth rubbing her hands
with camphor. She opened her eyes in a state of dreamy, delicious
languor, such as one who has long been bearing a heavy load, and
now feels it gone, and would rest. The tension of the nerves,
which had never ceased a moment since the first hour of her flight,
had given way, and a strange feeling of security and rest came over
her; and as she lay, with her large, dark eyes open, she followed,
as in a quiet dream, the motions of those about her. She saw the
door open into the other room; saw the supper-table, with its snowy
cloth; heard the dreamy murmur of the singing tea-kettle; saw Ruth
tripping backward and forward, with plates of cake and saucers of
preserves, and ever and anon stopping to put a cake into Harry's
hand, or pat his head, or twine his long curls round her snowy
fingers. She saw the ample, motherly form of Rachel, as she ever
and anon came to the bedside, and smoothed and arranged something
about the bedclothes, and gave a tuck here and there, by way of
expressing her good-will; and was conscious of a kind of sunshine
beaming down upon her from her large, clear, brown eyes. She saw
Ruth's husband come in,--saw her fly up to him, and commence
whispering very earnestly, ever and anon, with impressive gesture,
pointing her little finger toward the room. She saw her, with the
baby in her arms, sitting down to tea; she saw them all at table,
and little Harry in a high chair, under the shadow of Rachel's ample
wing; there were low murmurs of talk, gentle tinkling of tea-spoons,
and musical clatter of cups and saucers, and all mingled in a delightful
dream of rest; and Eliza slept, as she had not slept before, since
the fearful midnight hour when she had taken her child and fled
through the frosty starlight.
She dreamed of a beautiful country,--a land, it seemed to her,
of rest,--green shores, pleasant islands, and beautifully
glittering water; and there, in a house which kind voices told
her was a home, she saw her boy playing, free and happy child.
She heard her husband's footsteps; she felt him coming nearer;
his arms were around her, his tears falling on her face, and
she awoke! It was no dream. The daylight had long faded; her
child lay calmly sleeping by her side; a candle was burning dimly
on the stand, and her husband was sobbing by her pillow.
The next morning was a cheerful one at the Quaker house.
"Mother" was up betimes, and surrounded by busy girls and boys,
whom we had scarce time to introduce to our readers yesterday, and
who all moved obediently to Rachel's gentle "Thee had better," or
more gentle "Hadn't thee better?" in the work of getting breakfast;
for a breakfast in the luxurious valleys of Indiana is a thing
complicated and multiform, and, like picking up the rose-leaves
and trimming the bushes in Paradise, asking other hands than those
of the original mother. While, therefore, John ran to the spring
for fresh water, and Simeon the second sifted meal for corn-cakes,
and Mary ground coffee, Rachel moved gently, and quietly about,
making biscuits, cutting up chicken, and diffusing a sort of sunny
radiance over the whole proceeding generally. If there was any
danger of friction or collision from the ill-regulated zeal of so
many young operators, her gentle "Come! come!" or "I wouldn't, now,"
was quite sufficient to allay the difficulty. Bards have written
of the cestus of Venus, that turned the heads of all the world in
successive generations. We had rather, for our part, have the
cestus of Rachel Halliday, that kept heads from being turned, and
made everything go on harmoniously. We think it is more suited to
our modern days, decidedly.
While all other preparations were going on, Simeon the elder
stood in his shirt-sleeves before a little looking-glass in
the corner, engaged in the anti-patriarchal operation of shaving.
Everything went on so sociably, so quietly, so harmoniously, in
the great kitchen,--it seemed so pleasant to every one to do just
what they were doing, there was such an atmosphere of mutual
confidence and good fellowship everywhere,--even the knives and
forks had a social clatter as they went on to the table; and the
chicken and ham had a cheerful and joyous fizzle in the pan, as if
they rather enjoyed being cooked than otherwise;--and when George
and Eliza and little Harry came out, they met such a hearty,
rejoicing welcome, no wonder it seemed to them like a dream.
At last, they were all seated at breakfast, while Mary stood
at the stove, baking griddle-cakes, which, as they gained the
true exact golden-brown tint of perfection, were transferred
quite handily to the table.
Rachel never looked so truly and benignly happy as at the head
of her table. There was so much motherliness and full-heartedness
even in the way she passed a plate of cakes or poured a cup of
coffee, that it seemed to put a spirit into the food and drink
It was the first time that ever George had sat down on equal terms
at any white man's table; and he sat down, at first, with some
constraint and awkwardness; but they all exhaled and went off like
fog, in the genial morning rays of this simple, overflowing kindness.
This, indeed, was a home,--home,--a word that George had
never yet known a meaning for; and a belief in God, and trust in
his providence, began to encircle his heart, as, with a golden
cloud of protection and confidence, dark, misanthropic, pining
atheistic doubts, and fierce despair, melted away before the light
of a living Gospel, breathed in living faces, preached by a thousand
unconscious acts of love and good will, which, like the cup of cold
water given in the name of a disciple, shall never lose their reward.
"Father, what if thee should get found out again?" said
Simeon second, as he buttered his cake.
"I should pay my fine," said Simeon, quietly.
"But what if they put thee in prison?"
"Couldn't thee and mother manage the farm?" said Simeon, smiling.
"Mother can do almost everything," said the boy. "But isn't
it a shame to make such laws?"
"Thee mustn't speak evil of thy rulers, Simeon," said his
father, gravely. "The Lord only gives us our worldly goods that
we may do justice and mercy; if our rulers require a price of us
for it, we must deliver it up.
"Well, I hate those old slaveholders!" said the boy, who
felt as unchristian as became any modern reformer.
"I am surprised at thee, son," said Simeon; "thy mother never
taught thee so. I would do even the same for the slaveholder
as for the slave, if the Lord brought him to my door in affliction."
Simeon second blushed scarlet; but his mother only smiled,
and said, "Simeon is my good boy; he will grow older, by and by,
and then he will be like his father."
"I hope, my good sir, that you are not exposed to any
difficulty on our account," said George, anxiously.
"Fear nothing, George, for therefore are we sent into the world.
If we would not meet trouble for a good cause, we were not
worthy of our name."
"But, for me," said George, "I could not bear it."
"Fear not, then, friend George; it is not for thee, but for God
and man, we do it," said Simeon. "And now thou must lie by
quietly this day, and tonight, at ten o'clock, Phineas Fletcher
will carry thee onward to the next stand,--thee and the rest of
they company. The pursuers are hard after thee; we must not delay."
"If that is the case, why wait till evening?" said George.
"Thou art safe here by daylight, for every one in the
settlement is a Friend, and all are watching. It has been found
safer to travel by night."