Chapter 39 Notes from Uncle Tom's Cabin

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Uncle Tom's Cabin Chapter 39

The attic of Legree's house is the subject of legend among the slaves, who know that a slave who crossed Legree's path was once confined there for weeks and carried out after she had died. The slaves don't know what happened there, but they tell stories about how the attic is haunted. Legree, who is very superstitious, flies into a rage whenever he hears the stories and threatens to send the next person who talks about the attic to spend some time there. Everyone, including Legree, is terrified of the attic and won't go near it, and Cassy decides to use this fear to her advantage.

Her room is located directly under the garret, and she moves all her furniture to another room far away from the garret, telling him she can't sleep because of what she hears coming from the garret--horrible groaning and scuffling and knocking sounds that she says last half the night. Legree laughs off her accusations, but she sees he is uneasy and dares him to sleep in the room if he doesn't believe her. Knowing that she has rattled him, Cassy sets the wheels of her plan in motion. She puts an empty bottle in the keyhole of the garret, causing any breeze that blows through to make a horrible wailing sound. The sounds began to spark up the rumors again among the servants, and the house is suddenly filled with a creeping sense of dread--to which Legree is not immune. One particularly windy and noisy night, Legree is sitting in his parlor with Cassy, attempting to read. He asks her suddenly if she believes in ghosts, and declares that he thinks it is all nonsense. She tells him that she has seen the door to the garret opened even after she locked it and placed a chair against it, and that she has seen figures walking up to her bed. He demands to know if that really happened, and she coolly replies that he can sleep there himself, if he wants to know. He declares that he'll have it examined, and he'll take his pistols. She dares him to do it, and just then the clock strikes twelve. She asks him if he heard something, and he says it is only the wind. Then they hear a wild, piercing shriek, and Legree's face grows pale with fear. She taunts him, asking him if he hadn't better get his pistols. She dares him to go up, and he staunchly says he will not. She laughs wildly and climbs up the staircase, daring him to go.

He hears her open the door, and he hears her screaming wildly. A few moments later, she comes back down the stairs, looking pale and frightened. She continued the game for several days, taking advantage of Legree's mortal fear of the garret by stocking it with supplies and provisions. One day, she managed to convince Legree to take her to town with him while he ran an errand, and she memorized the roads and passageway. One night, when Legree is away, she grabs Emmeline and tells her it is time to escape. Emmeline remarks that it is still light out, and the other slaves will surely see them. Cassy replies that this is the plan; once Sambo and Quimbo see them trying to leave, they will cause such a commotion, that they won't even notice when the two slip back inside the house, where Cassy has made a bed for them to sleep in the garret. They will crawl through the river, Cassy explains, so the dogs cannot follow their scent, then sneak back into the house. They will stay there for awhile, until the dust settles and everyone believes they have escaped for good, so that when they finally do leave, no one will notice.

They sneak out and hear Sambo calling after them. They make their way into the river, and Emmeline tells Cassy she is going to faint. Cassy brandishes a stiletto knife, telling Emmeline that she will kill her if she does. They suddenly hear the voice of Legree, who has returned, telling all the slaves to release the dogs. He offers $5 to anyone who can catch them and tells them that they may shoot Cassy if they like, but not Emmeline. Soon, realizing that every servant in the house has joined the hunt, they sneak back in, and Cassy stops at a small desk before they go upstairs. She takes a key she has stolen from Legree and takes several bills from his drawer to pay for their passage. Emmeline protests that it is stealing, and Cassy replies that they will never be able to escape without money. They sneak up to the garret, and Emmeline asks Cassy if she meant it when she said she'd kill her. Cassy says she meant to stop her from fainting, and she tells Emmeline that she must make up her mind not to do it. Emmeline hears the party returning to the house and begs Cassy not to talk, as they might hear. Cassy replies that any noise they make will only add to the effect, as they are all terrified of the garret and believe it is haunted. Meanwhile, Legree curses his luck and retreats to bed.

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