(from “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”)
Mr. Shelby had a large plantation and many slaves in the South of America. He never had enough money. He borrowed large sums from a man named Haley, whose business was to buy and sell slaves. Mr. Shelby could not pay the money back, and Haley said be would take Shelby’s house or some slaves. Mr. Shelby decided to sell Tom, who helped him to look after the farm.
«Tom is a good man,» said Mr. Shelby; «he helps me on the farm and I trust him.»
«Well, I’ll take your Tom if you add a boy or a girl to him,» answered Haley.
«I don’t think I have a boy or a girl that I could sell. If I could pay the money back I wouldn’t sell slaves at all.»
Here the door opened and a small Negro boy, between four and five years of age, entered the room. Mr. Shelby gave him some fruit and said, «Now, Harry, show this gentleman how you can dance and sing.» The boy began to sing one of the most popular Negro songs in a clear voice.
«Bravo!» said Haley, throwing the boy a piece of an orange.
«Now, boy, walk like an old man!» said Mr. Shelby. The boy began walking about the room, his master’s stick in his hand, in imitation of an old man.
«Hurrah! Bravo! What a boy!» said Haley. «Shelby, I like that boy, if you add him, the business is done.» At this moment the door opened and a young Negro woman about twenty-five entered the room. You could tell immediately, that she was the mother of the boy. The same beautiful dark eyes and silky black hair.
«Well, Elisa?» asked her master as she stopped and looked at him.
«I was looking for Harry, please, Sir.»
The boy ran to his mother showing her the nice things which he had got from the men for his performance.
«Well, take him away, then,» said Mr. Shelby; and she quickly left the room, carrying the child in her arms.
«I say, Shelby,» said the trader, «that is a fine woman. You could get much money for her in New Orleans, any day. I’ve seen a thousand dollars paid for a girl like that.»
«I don’t want any money for her. My wife likes her and wouldn’t part with her. I don’t want to speak about it.»
«Well, you’ll let me have the boy, won’t you?» said the trader.
«What do you want the boy for?» asked Shelby.
«I have a friend who sells good boys in the market. He sells them to rich people. Boys can be waiters, open doors and help in the house.»
«I don’t want to take the boy from his mother,» said Mr. Shelby.
«Oh, you can send the woman away for a day or a week; then your wife can give her a new dress or some other thing to make it up with her.»
«I’ll think it over and talk to my wife,» said Mr. Shelby.
«But I want to know the result as soon as possible,» said Haley, rising and putting on his coat.
«Well, come this evening between six and seven, and you shall have my answer,» said Mr. Shelby, and the trader left the house.
In the evening Mr. Shelby told his wife that he had sold Tom and little Harry to Haley. Elisa was in the next room and heard the conversation. She decided to take her boy and run away to Canada, where Negroes were free. She packed some of her things, took the boy in her arms and quietly Left the house.
To get to Canada Elisa had to cross the Ohio River. She knew the road to the river, as she had of ten gone with her mistress to visit some friends in the little village near the Ohio River. Elisa walked all the night. In the morning, when people and horses began to move along the road, she sat down behind the trees and gave little Harry something to eat. After a short rest they continued their way. In the afternoon she stopped at a small farm-house to rest and buy some dinner for the boy and herself.
When the sun was already low, they came to the Ohio River. Elisa was tired but strong in heart. She looked at the river that was on her way to freedom. It was spring and the river was swollen, large pieces of ice were floating in the water. She understood that it would be difficult to get a boat and cross the river at such a time.
At a small inn she asked about the boats. The woman there told Elisa that the boats had stopped running, and she looked with curiosity at the woman and her child.
«My boy is dangerously ill, I walked the whole day in the hope to get to the boat,» said Elisa. The woman was sorry for the poor mother and asked her husband for advice.
«He said he would try. There is a man who crosses the river very of ten. He will be here to supper in the evening, so you may stay here and wait,» said the woman. «Take the child into this room» continued she, opening the door into a. small bedroom, where stood a comfortable bed.
Elisa put the tired boy upon the bed, and held his hands in hers till he was asleep. There was no rest for her. She was afraid that the trader and her master would follow her and take little Harry away from her. Elisa stood at the window looking at the river. «How can I get to the other side?» she thought. «I must get over the river with my child, then no one will be able to catch us.»
Suddenly she heard men’s voices and saw Haley. Her room had a door opening to the river. She caught up the boy and ran down to the river. The men saw her and started running after her. She heard their shouts. In a moment she jumped onto a large piece of ice in the river. It was a dangerous jump. Haley and the men cried something to her and lifted their hands. The piece of ice creaked as Elisa jumped onto it, but she did not stay there. She jumped to another and still another piece, falling and jumping again. She lost her shoes, her stocking were cut from her feet, blood marked her every step on the ice; but Elisa saw nothing, felt nothing, till, as in a dream, she saw the other bank of the Ohio, and a man helping her up the bank.