GEORGE SHELBY had written to his mother merely a line, stating the day that she might expect him home. Of the death scene of his old friend he had not the heart to write. He had tried several times, and only succeeded in half choking himself; and invariably finished by tearing up the paper, wiping his eyes, and rushing somewhere to get quiet.
Mrs. Shelby was seated in her comfortable parlor, where a cheerful hickory fire was dispelling the chill of the late autumn evening. A supper-table, glittering with plate and cut glass, was set out, on whose arrangements our former friend, old Chloe, was presiding.
Arrayed in a new calico dress, with clean, white apron, and high, well-starched turban, her black polished face glowing with satisfaction, she lingered, with needless punctiliousness, around the arrangements of the table, merely as an excuse for talking a little to her mistress.
Laws, now! wont it look natural to him? she said. Thar,I set his plate just whar he likes it,round by the fire. Masr George allers wants de warm seat. O, go way!why did nt Sally get out de best tea-pot,de little new one, Masr George got for Missis, Christmas? I ll have it out! And Missis has heard from Masr George? she said, inquiringly.
Jes like Masr George,he s allers so ferce for tellin everything hisself. I allers minded dat ar in Masr George. Dont see, for my part, how white people genlly can bar to hev to write things much as they do, writin s such slow, oneasy kind o work.
I m a thinkin my old man wont know de boys and de baby. Lor! she s de biggest gal, now,good she is, too, and peart, Polly is. She s out to the house, now, watchin de hoe-cake. I s got jist de very pattern my old man liked so much, a bakin. Jist sich as I gin him the mornin he was took off. Lord bless us! how I felt, dat ar morning!
Mrs. Shelby sighed, and felt a heavy weight on her heart, at this allusion. She had felt uneasy, ever since she received her sons letter, lest something should prove to be hidden behind the veil of silence which he had drawn.
Cause I wants to show my old man dem very bills de perfectioner gave me. And, says he, Chloe, I wish you d stay longer. Thank you, Masr, says I, I would, only my old man s coming home, and Missis,she cant do without me no longer. There s jist what I telled him. Berry nice man, dat Masr Jones was.
Chloe had pertinaciously insisted that the very bills in which her wages had been paid should be preserved, to show to her husband, in memorial of her capability. And Mrs. Shelby had readily consented to humor her in the request.
He wont know Polly,my old man wont. Laws, it s five year since they tuck him! She was a baby den,could nt but jist stand. Remember how tickled he used to be, cause she would keep a fallin over, when she sot out to walk. Laws a me!
O, poor Aunt Chloe! said George, stopping compassionately, and taking her hard, black hand between both his; I d have given all my fortune to have brought him with me, but he s gone to a better country.
Thar, said she, gathering it up, and holding it, with a trembling hand, to her mistress, dont never want to see nor hear on t again. Jist as I knew t would be,sold, and murdered on dem ar old plantations!
There was a silence for some time, and all wept together. At last, George, sitting down beside the mourner, took her hand, and, with simple pathos, repeated the triumphant scene of her husbands death, and his last messages of love.
To the surprise of all, he appeared among them with a bundle of papers in his hand, containing a certificate of freedom to every one on the place, which he read successively, and presented, amid the sobs and tears and shouts of all present.
My good friends, said George, as soon as he could get a silence, there ll be no need for you to leave me. The place wants as many hands to work it as it did before. We need the same about the house that we did before. But, you are now free men and free women. I shall pay you wages for your work, such as we shall agree on. The advantage is, that in case of my getting in debt, or dying,things that might happen,you cannot now be taken up and sold. I expect to carry on the estate, and to teach you what, perhaps, it will take you some time to learn,how to use the rights I give you as free men and women. I expect you to be good, and willing to learn; and I trust in God that I shall be faithful, and willing to teach. And now, my friends, look up, and thank God for the blessing of freedom.
An aged, patriarchal negro, who had grown gray and blind on the estate, now rose, and, lifting his trembling hand said, Let us give thanks unto the Lord! As all kneeled by one consent, a more touching and hearty Te Deum never ascended to heaven, though borne on the peal of organ, bell and cannon, than came from that honest old heart.
It was on his grave, my friends, that I resolved, before God, that I would never own another slave, while it was possible to free him; that nobody, through me, should ever run the risk of being parted from home and friends, and dying on a lonely plantation, as he died. So, when you rejoice in your freedom, think that you owe it to that good old soul, and pay it back in kindness to his wife and children. Think of your freedom, every time you see UNCLE TOMS CABIN; and let it be a memorial to put you all in mind to follow in his steps, and be as honest and faithful and Christian as he was.