She taught her to read and to sew. Topsy liked reading, and learned her letters like magic. But she could not bear sewing. So she broke her needles or threw them away. She tangled, broke, and dirtied her cotton and hid her reels. Miss Ophelia felt sure all these things could not be accidents. Yet she could never catch Topsy doing them.
In a very few days Topsy had learned how to do Miss Ophelia’s room perfectly, for she was very quick and clever. But if Miss Ophelia ever left her to do it by herself there was sure to be dreadful confusion.
Instead of making the bed, she would amuse herself with pulling off the pillow-cases. Then she would butt her woolly head among the pillows, until it was covered with feathers sticking out in all directions. She would climb the bedpost, and hang head downwards from the top; wave the sheets and covers all over the room; dress the bolster up in Miss Ophelia’s nightgown and act scenes with it, singing, whistling, and making faces at herself in the looking-glass all the time.
‘Topsy,’ Miss Ophelia would say, when her patience was at an end, ’what makes you behave so badly?’
‘Dunno, missis—I’spects’ cause I’s so wicked.’
‘I don’t know what I shall do with you, Topsy.’
’Laws, missis, you must whip me. My old missis always did. I an’t used to workin’ unless I gets whipped.’
So Miss Ophelia tried it. Topsy would scream and groan and implore. But half an hour later she would be sitting among the other little niggers belonging to the house, laughing about it. ‘Miss Feely whip!’ she would say, ‘she can’t do it nohow.’
‘Law, you niggers,’ she would go on, ’does you know you’s all sinners? Well, you is; everybody is. White folks is sinners too—Miss Feely says so. But I ’spects niggers is the biggest ones. But ye an’t any of ye up to me. I’s so awful wicked, there can’t nobody do nothin’ with me. I ‘spects I’s the wickedest crittur in the world.’ Then she would turn a somersault, and come up bright and smiling, evidently quite pleased with herself.
EVA AND TOPSY
Two or three years passed. Uncle Tom was still with Mr. St. Clare, far away from his home. He was not really unhappy. But always in his heart was the aching longing to see his dear ones again.
Now he began to have a new sorrow. He loved his little mistress Eva very tenderly, and she was ill.
He saw that she was growing white and thin. She no longer ran and played in the garden for hours together as she used to do. She was always tired now.
Miss Ophelia noticed it too, and tried to make Mr. St. Clare see it. But he would not. He loved his little Eva so much, that he did not want to believe that anything could be the matter with her.
Mrs. St. Clare never thought that any one, except herself, could be ill. So Eva grew daily thinner and weaker, and Uncle Tom and Aunt Ophelia more and more sad and anxious.