Uncle Tom's Cabin Chapter 18
Tom, having helped St. Clare into bed the previous night after St. Clare had gone to a party and returned home drunk, is depressed, and St. Clare asks him why. Tom begins to cry and tells him that St. Clare is good to everyone but himself, and he worries for his soul because he is not a Christian. Embarrassed, St. Clare promises Tom that he will never come home in such a condition again and laughs the matter off. Privately, he is moved by Tom's conviction and secretly swears he will hold to his promise.
Meanwhile, everyone on the estate gets a taste of Miss Ophelia's strict organization and need for order when she undertakes the cleaning of the kitchen, the sovereign domain of Dinah, the talented but erratic cook. The two clash over Miss Ophelia's attempts to organize the kitchen, which Dinah wants left alone. After several days, the house is thoroughly organized, an undertaking that does not win Miss Ophelia any friends on the estate. She complains to St. Clare that she has never seen such waste and inefficiency and asks him with urgency if he doesn't feel that such a system could lead to dishonesty among the slaves. He laughs and says he does not expect his slaves to be honest, as the system of slavery forces them to resort to cheating and dishonesty just to get by. He says that slaves like Tom are the exception to the rule, and he declares Tom "a moral miracle." Miss Ophelia asks him what becomes of their souls, and he shrugs off the question, saying it is not his problem.
She tells him with disgust that he should be ashamed, and he simply laughs and tells her that New Englanders have a different way of life than Southerners. Meanwhile, Prue, a slave from a neighboring estate, stops by with her basket of bread, which she travels around and sells. Prue, who is thin and looks worn-out, tells Dinah and the other slaves that she wishes she was dead, so that she'd be out of her misery. One of St. Clare's servants tells Prue that she might not be miserable if she didn't steal her master's money to get drunk. Miss Ophelia tells Prue she should be ashamed of herself for such behavior. After Prue leaves, Adolph pronounces her a "horrid creature" and says that if she were his servant, he'd beat her worse than her master already does. Dinah says that would be impossible, as Prue's back is so scarred from lashings and beatings that she can barely get a dress over it. After Prue leaves, Tom sees her walking down the road and compassionately asks her if he could carry her basket for awhile and relieve her of her burden. She sullenly tells him she isn't sick. He tells her he wishes she would stop drinking, as it will lead to her torment in the afterlife. She says bitterly that she knows she's going to hell and she wishes she was there. Horrified, Tom asks her if she knows of Jesus Christ and how he died for the sins of the lowly.
Prue says she has heard of Jesus but doesn't know about his love, as no one has loved her since she was a child. She tells Tom of how she was born in Kentucky and her master kept her to breed children for the market. After she came to New Orleans, she had another child, and she thought she would have been able to keep it as her master wasn't a speculator. But, she tells Tom, when her mistress took sick, Prue had to spend days and nights caring for her, and she lost her milk. The child began to cry and lose weight, but her mistress would not let her buy milk for it and made her put the child in another room, because the child kept Prue awake and made her useless, according to her mistress. The child died, and Prue took up drinking to "keep its crying out of my ears." Tom is moved to pity and asks her if she hasn't ever heard of Jesus and how he can help her go to heaven, where she can finally have rest. She bitterly tells him that if there are white people in heaven, she'd rather go to hell:
"'I looks like gwine to heaven, an't thar where white folks is gwine? S'pose they'd have me thar? I'd rather go to torment, and get away from Mas'r and Missis. I had so.'" Chapter 18, pg. 216
She then takes her basket back and walks home.
Eva runs up to Tom and asks him if he will take her for a ride. He tells her that he is sad, but he will do it. She asks what's wrong, saying she saw him speaking to "cross old Prue." He solemnly tells her Prue's story, and her cheeks become drained with color, and she places her hands on her chest and sighs heavily.