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13 January, 2012
Uncle Tom's Cabin
Chapter XXV: The Little Evangelist
by Harriet Beecher Stowe
It was Sunday afternoon. St. Clare was stretched on a bamboo lounge
in the verandah, solacing himself with a cigar. Marie lay reclined
on a sofa, opposite the window opening on the verandah, closely
secluded, under an awning of transparent gauze, from the outrages
of the mosquitos, and languidly holding in her hand an elegantly
bound prayer-book. She was holding it because it was Sunday, and
she imagined she had been reading it,--though, in fact, she had
been only taking a succession of short naps, with it open in her hand.
Miss Ophelia, who, after some rummaging, had hunted up a small
Methodist meeting within riding distance, had gone out, with
Tom as driver, to attend it; and Eva had accompanied them.
"I say, Augustine," said Marie after dozing a while, "I must
send to the city after my old Doctor Posey; I'm sure I've got
the complaint of the heart."
"Well; why need you send for him? This doctor that attends
Eva seems skilful."
"I would not trust him in a critical case," said Marie;
"and I think I may say mine is becoming so! I've been thinking of
it, these two or three nights past; I have such distressing pains,
and such strange feelings."
"O, Marie, you are blue; I don't believe it's heart complaint."
"I dare say you don't," said Marie; "I was prepared to
expect that. You can be alarmed enough, if Eva coughs, or has
the least thing the matter with her; but you never think of me."
"If it's particularly agreeable to you to have heart disease,
why, I'll try and maintain you have it," said St. Clare; "I didn't
know it was."
"Well, I only hope you won't be sorry for this, when it's
too late!" said Marie; "but, believe it or not, my distress about
Eva, and the exertions I have made with that dear child, have
developed what I have long suspected."
What the exertions were which Marie referred to, it would
have been difficult to state. St. Clare quietly made this commentary
to himself, and went on smoking, like a hard-hearted wretch of a
man as he was, till a carriage drove up before the verandah, and
Eva and Miss Ophelia alighted.
Miss Ophelia marched straight to her own chamber, to put
away her bonnet and shawl, as was always her manner, before she
spoke a word on any subject; while Eva came, at St: Clare's call,
and was sitting on his knee, giving him an account of the services
they had heard.
They soon heard loud exclamations from Miss Ophelia's room,
which, like the one in which they were sitting, opened on to the
verandah and violent reproof addressed to somebody.
"What new witchcraft has Tops been brewing?" asked St. Clare.
"That commotion is of her raising, I'll be bound!"
And, in a moment after, Miss Ophelia, in high indignation,
came dragging the culprit along.
"Come out here, now!" she said. "I will tell your master!"
"What's the case now?" asked Augustine.
"The case is, that I cannot be plagued with this child,
any longer! It's past all bearing; flesh and blood cannot
endure it! Here, I locked her up, and gave her a hymn to
study; and what does she do, but spy out where I put my key, and
has gone to my bureau, and got a bonnet-trimming, and cut it all
to pieces to make dolls'jackets! I never saw anything like it,
in my life!"
"I told you, Cousin," said Marie, "that you'd find out that
these creatures can't be brought up without severity. If I had
my way, now," she said, looking reproachfully at St. Clare, "I'd
send that child out, and have her thoroughly whipped; I'd have her
whipped till she couldn't stand!"
"I don't doubt it," said St. Clare. "Tell me of the lovely
rule of woman! I never saw above a dozen women that wouldn't half
kill a horse, or a servant, either, if they had their own way with
them!--let alone a man."
"There is no use in this shilly-shally way of yours, St. Clare!"
said Marie. "Cousin is a woman of sense, and she sees it now,
as plain as I do."
Miss Ophelia had just the capability of indignation that belongs
to the thorough-paced housekeeper, and this had been pretty
actively roused by the artifice and wastefulness of the child; in
fact, many of my lady readers must own that they should have felt
just so in her circumstances; but Marie's words went beyond her,
and she felt less heat.
"I wouldn't have the child treated so, for the world," she
said; "but, I am sure, Augustine, I don't know what to do. I've
taught and taught; I've talked till I'm tired; I've whipped her;
I've punished her in every way I can think of, and she's just what
she was at first."
"Come here, Tops, you monkey!" said St. Clare, calling the
child up to him.
Topsy came up; her round, hard eyes glittering and blinking
with a mixture of apprehensiveness and their usual odd drollery.
"What makes you behave so?" said St. Clare, who could not help
being amused with the child's expression.
"Spects it's my wicked heart," said Topsy, demurely; "Miss
Feely says so."
"Don't you see how much Miss Ophelia has done for you? She says
she has done everything she can think of."
"Lor, yes, Mas'r! old Missis used to say so, too. She whipped
me a heap harder, and used to pull my har, and knock my head
agin the door; but it didn't do me no good! I spects, if they
's to pull every spire o' har out o' my head, it wouldn't do no
good, neither,--I 's so wicked! Laws! I 's nothin but a nigger,
"Well, I shall have to give her up," said Miss Ophelia; "I can't
have that trouble any longer."
"Well, I'd just like to ask one question," said St. Clare.
"What is it?"
"Why, if your Gospel is not strong enough to save one
heathen child, that you can have at home here, all to yourself,
what's the use of sending one or two poor missionaries off with it
among thousands of just such? I suppose this child is about a fair
sample of what thousands of your heathen are."
Miss Ophelia did not make an immediate answer; and Eva,
who had stood a silent spectator of the scene thus far, made a
silent sign to Topsy to follow her. There was a little glass-room
at the corner of the verandah, which St. Clare used as a sort of
reading-room; and Eva and Topsy disappeared into this place.
"What's Eva going about, now?" said St. Clare; "I mean to see."
And, advancing on tiptoe, he lifted up a curtain that
covered the glass-door, and looked in. In a moment, laying his
finger on his lips, he made a silent gesture to Miss Ophelia to
come and look. There sat the two children on the floor, with their
side faces towards them. Topsy, with her usual air of careless
drollery and unconcern; but, opposite to her, Eva, her whole face
fervent with feeling, and tears in her large eyes.
"What does make you so bad, Topsy? Why won't you try and
be good? Don't you love anybody, Topsy?"
"Donno nothing 'bout love; I loves candy and sich, that's all,"
"But you love your father and mother?"
"Never had none, ye know. I telled ye that, Miss Eva."
"O, I know," said Eva, sadly; "but hadn't you any brother,
or sister, or aunt, or--"
"No, none on 'em,--never had nothing nor nobody."
"But, Topsy, if you'd only try to be good, you might--"
"Couldn't never be nothin' but a nigger, if I was ever so
good," said Topsy. "If I could be skinned, and come white, I'd
"But people can love you, if you are black, Topsy. Miss Ophelia
would love you, if you were good."
Topsy gave the short, blunt laugh that was her common mode
of expressing incredulity.
"Don't you think so?" said Eva.
"No; she can't bar me, 'cause I'm a nigger!--she'd 's soon
have a toad touch her! There can't nobody love niggers, and niggers
can't do nothin'! I don't care," said Topsy, beginning to whistle.
"O, Topsy, poor child, I love you!" said Eva, with a sudden
burst of feeling, and laying her little thin, white hand on
Topsy's shoulder; "I love you, because you haven't had any father,
or mother, or friends;--because you've been a poor, abused child!
I love you, and I want you to be good. I am very unwell, Topsy,
and I think I shan't live a great while; and it really grieves me,
to have you be so naughty. I wish you would try to be good, for
my sake;--it's only a little while I shall be with you."
The round, keen eyes of the black child were overcast with
tears;--large, bright drops rolled heavily down, one by one,
and fell on the little white hand. Yes, in that moment, a
ray of real belief, a ray of heavenly love, had penetrated the
darkness of her heathen soul! She laid her head down between her
knees, and wept and sobbed,--while the beautiful child, bending
over her, looked like the picture of some bright angel stooping to
reclaim a sinner.
"Poor Topsy!" said Eva, "don't you know that Jesus loves
all alike? He is just as willing to love you, as me. He loves you
just as I do,--only more, because he is better. He will help you
to be good; and you can go to Heaven at last, and be an angel
forever, just as much as if you were white. Only think of it,
Topsy!--you can be one of those spirits bright, Uncle Tom
"O, dear Miss Eva, dear Miss Eva!" said the child; "I will try,
I will try; I never did care nothin' about it before."
St. Clare, at this instant, dropped the curtain. "It puts me
in mind of mother," he said to Miss Ophelia. "It is true what
she told me; if we want to give sight to the blind, we must be
willing to do as Christ did,--call them to us, and put our hands
"I've always had a prejudice against negroes," said Miss
Ophelia, "and it's a fact, I never could bear to have that child
touch me; but, I don't think she knew it."
"Trust any child to find that out," said St. Clare; "there's
no keeping it from them. But I believe that all the trying in the
world to benefit a child, and all the substantial favors you can
do them, will never excite one emotion of gratitude, while that
feeling of repugnance remains in the heart;--it's a queer kind of
a fact,--but so it is."
"I don't know how I can help it," said Miss Ophelia; "they
are disagreeable to me,--this child in particular,--how can I
help feeling so?"
"Eva does, it seems."
"Well, she's so loving! After all, though, she's no more
than Christ-like," said Miss Ophelia; "I wish I were like her.
She might teach me a lesson."
"It wouldn't be the first time a little child had been used
to instruct an old disciple, if it were so," said St. Clare.