Because his Kentucky plantation is encumbered by debt, Mr. Shelby makes plans to sell one of his slaves to his chief creditor, a New Orleans slave dealer named Haley. The dealer shrewdly selects Uncle Tom as partial payment on Shelby’s debt. While Haley and Shelby are discussing the transaction, Harry, the son of another slave, Eliza, comes into the room. Haley wants to buy Harry too, but at first Shelby is unwilling to part with the child. Eliza hears enough of the conversation to be frightened. She confides her fears to George Harris, her husband, a slave on an adjoining plantation. George, who is already bitter because his master has put him to work in the fields when he is capable of doing better work, promises that someday he will have his revenge on his hard masters. Eliza has been brought up more indulgently by the Shelbys, and she begs George not to try anything rash.
After supper, the Shelby slaves gather for a meeting in the cabin of Uncle Tom and his wife, Aunt Chloe. They sing songs, and young George Shelby, who has eaten his supper there, reads from the Bible. In the big house, Mr. Shelby signs the papers making Uncle Tom and little Harry the property of Haley. Eliza, upon learning her child’s fate from some remarks made by Mr. Shelby to his wife, flees with Harry, hoping to reach Canada and safety. Uncle Tom, hearing that he has been sold, resigns himself to the wisdom of Providence.
The next day, after Haley discovers his loss, he sets out to capture Eliza. She has a good head start, however, and Mrs. Shelby purposely delays Haley’s pursuit by serving a late breakfast. When Eliza catches sight of her pursuers, she escapes across the partially frozen Ohio River by jumping from one piece of floating ice to another, with young Harry in her arms. Haley hires two slave catchers, Marks and Loker, to track Eliza and Harry through Ohio. If they catch her and her son, they are to be given Eliza as payment for their work. They set off that night.
Eliza and Harry, on the run, find shelter in the home of Senator and Mrs. Bird. The senator takes them to the house of a man known to aid fugitive slaves. Uncle Tom, however, is not so lucky. Haley makes sure that Tom will not escape by shackling his ankles before taking him to the boat bound for New Orleans. When young George Shelby hears that Tom has been sold, he follows Haley on his horse. George gives Tom a dollar as a token of his sympathy and tells the slave that he will buy him back one day.
At the same time, George Harris begins his escape. Light-skinned enough to pass as a Spaniard, he appears at a tavern as a gentleman and takes a room there, hoping to find help through the Underground Railroad before too long. Eliza is resting at the home of Rachel and Simeon Halliday when George Harris arrives in the same Quaker settlement.
On board the boat bound for New Orleans, Uncle Tom saves the life of young Eva St. Clare, and in gratitude Eva’s father purchases the slave from Haley. Eva tells Tom that he will now have a happy life, for her father is kind to everyone. Augustine St. Clare is married to a woman who imagines herself sick and therefore takes no interest in her daughter, Eva. St. Clare had gone north to bring his cousin, Miss Ophelia, back to the South to provide care for the neglected and delicate Eva. When they arrive at the St. Clare plantation, Tom is made head coachman.
Meanwhile, Loker and Marks are on the trail of Eliza, George, and Harry. They catch up with the fugitives, and in a fight George wounds Loker. Marks flees, and the Quakers who have been protecting the runaways take Loker along with them and give him medical treatment.
Unused to lavish southern customs, Miss Ophelia tries to understand the South. Shocked at the extravagance of St. Clare’s household, she attempts to bring order out of the chaos, but she receives no encouragement. Indulgent in all things, St. Clare is indifferent to the affairs of his family and his property. Uncle Tom lives an...
(The entire page is 1,408 words.)
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