Uncle Tom's Cabin
The Mother's Struggle
It is impossible to conceive of a human creature more wholly desolate and forlorn than
Eliza, when she turned her footsteps from Uncle Tom's cabin.
Her husband's suffering and dangers, and the danger of her child, all blended in her mind,
with a confused and stunning sense of the risk she was running, in leaving the only home
she had ever known, and cutting loose from the protection of a friend whom she loved
and revered. Then there was the parting from every familiar object,--the place where she
had grown up, the trees under which she had played, the groves where she had walked
many an evening in happier days, by the side of her young husband,--everything, as it lay
in the clear, frosty starlight, seemed to speak reproachfully to her, and ask her whither
could she go from a home like that?
But stronger than all was maternal love, wrought into a paroxysm of frenzy by the near
approach of a fearful danger. Her boy was old enough to have walked by her side, and, in
an indifferent case, she would only have led him by the hand; but now the bare thought of
putting him out of her arms made her shudder, and she strained him to her bosom with a
convulsive grasp, as she went rapidly forward.
The frosty ground creaked beneath her feet, and she trembled at the sound; every quaking
leaf and fluttering shadow sent the blood backward to her heart, and quickened her
footsteps. She wondered within herself at the strength that seemed to be come upon her;
for she felt the weight of her boy as if it had been a feather, and every flutter of fear
seemed to increase the supernatural power that bore her on, while from her pale lips burst
forth, in frequent ejaculations, the prayer to a Friend above--"Lord, help! Lord, save me!"
If it were your Harry, mother, or your Willie, that were going to be torn from you by a
brutal trader, tomorrow morning,--if you had seen the man, and heard that the papers
were signed and delivered, and you had only from twelve o'clock till morning to make
good your escape,--how fast could you walk? How many miles could you make in those
few brief hours, with the darling at your bosom,--the little sleepy head on your shoulder,-
-the small, soft arms trustingly holding on to your neck?
For the child slept. At first, the novelty and alarm kept him waking; but his mother so
hurriedly repressed every breath or sound, and so assured him that if he were only still
she would certainly save him, that he clung quietly round her neck, only asking, as he
found himself sinking to sleep,
"Mother, I don't need to keep awake, do I?"
"No, my darling; sleep, if you want to."
"But, mother, if I do get asleep, you won't let him get me?"