Uncle Tom's Cabin
In Which the Reader Is Introduced to a Man of Humanity
Late in the afternoon of a chilly day in February, two gentlemen were sitting alone over
their wine, in a well-furnished dining parlor, in the town of P----, in Kentucky. There
were no servants present, and the gentlemen, with chairs closely approaching, seemed to
be discussing some subject with great earnestness.
For convenience sake, we have said, hitherto, two gentlemen. One of the parties,
however, when critically examined, did not seem, strictly speaking, to come under the
species. He was a short, thick-set man, with coarse, commonplace features, and that
swaggering air of pretension which marks a low man who is trying to elbow his way
upward in the world. He was much over-dressed, in a gaudy vest of many colors, a blue
neckerchief, bedropped gayly with yellow spots, and arranged with a flaunting tie, quite
in keeping with the general air of the man. His hands, large and coarse, were plentifully
bedecked with rings; and he wore a heavy gold watch-chain, with a bundle of seals of
portentous size, and a great variety of colors, attached to it,--which, in the ardor of
conversation, he was in the habit of flourishing and jingling with evident satisfaction. His
conversation was in free and easy defiance of Murray's Grammar, and was garnished
at convenient intervals with various profane expressions, which not even the desire to be
graphic in our account shall induce us to transcribe.
1 English Grammar (1795), by Lindley Murray (1745-1826), the most authoritative
American grammarian of his day.
His companion, Mr. Shelby, had the appearance of a gentleman; and the arrrangements of
the house, and the general air of the housekeeping, indicated easy, and even opulent
circumstances. As we before stated, the two were in the midst of an earnest conversation.
"That is the way I should arrange the matter," said Mr. Shelby.
"I can't make trade that way--I positively can't, Mr. Shelby," said the other, holding up a
glass of wine between his eye and the light.
"Why, the fact is, Haley, Tom is an uncommon fellow; he is certainly worth that sum
anywhere,--steady, honest, capable, manages my whole farm like a clock."
"You mean honest, as niggers go," said Haley, helping himself to a glass of brandy.
"No; I mean, really, Tom is a good, steady, sensible, pious fellow. He got religion at a
camp-meeting, four years ago; and I believe he really did get it. I've trusted him, since
then, with everything I have,--money, house, horses,--and let him come and go round the
country; and I always found him true and square in everything."