Uncle Tom and Aunt Chloe lived happily for many years in their little cottage, or cabin, as it was called. All day Uncle Tom used to work in the fields, while Aunt Chloe was busy in the kitchen at Mr. Shelby’s house. When evening came they both went home to their cottage and their children, and were merry together.
Mr. Shelby was a good man, and kind to his slaves, but he was not very careful of his money. When he had spent all he had, he did not know what to do to get more. At last he borrowed money from a man called Haley, hoping to be able to pay it back again some day.
But that day never came. Haley grew impatient, and said, ’If you don’t pay what you owe me, I will take your house and lands, and sell them to pay myself back all the money I have lent to you.’
So Mr. Shelby sold everything he could spare and gathered money together in every way he could think of, but still there was not enough.
Then Haley said, ’Give me that slave of yours called Tom—he is worth a lot of money.’
But Mr. Shelby knew that Haley was not a nice man. He knew he did not want Tom for a servant, but only wanted to sell him again, to make more money. So Mr. Shelby said, ’No, I can’t do that. I never mean to sell any of my slaves, least of all Tom. He has been with me since he was a little boy.’
‘Oh very well,’ said Haley, ’I shall sell your house and lands, as I said I should.’
Mr. Shelby could not bear to think of that, so he agreed to let Haley have Tom. He made him promise, however, not to sell Tom again except to a kind master.
‘Very well,’ said Haley, ’but Tom isn’t enough. I must have another slave.’
Just at this moment a little boy came dancing into the room where Mr. Shelby and Haley were talking.
He was a pretty, merry little fellow, the son of a slave called Eliza, who was Mrs. Shelby’s maid.
‘There now,’ said Haley, ’give me that little chap, as well as Tom, and we will say no more about the money you owe me.’
‘I can’t,’ said Mr. Shelby. ’My wife is very fond of Eliza, and would never hear of having Harry sold.’
‘Oh, very well,’ said Haley once more, ‘I must just sell your house.’
So again Mr. Shelby gave in, and Haley went away with the promise that next morning Uncle Tom and little Harry should be given to him, to be his slaves.
ELIZA RUNS AWAY WITH LITTLE HARRY
Mr. Shelby was very unhappy because of what he had done. He knew his wife would be very unhappy too, and he did not know how to tell her.
He had to do it that night, however, before she went to bed.
Mrs. Shelby could hardly believe it. ‘Oh, you do not mean this,’ she said. ’You must not sell our good Tom and dear little Harry. Do anything rather than that. It is a wicked, wicked thing to do.