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LIFE AMONG THE LOWLY              45
He 'd sell his own mother at a good percentage, — not wishing the old woman any harm, either."
"And this wretch owns that good, faithful Tom, and Eliza's child! "
" Well, my dear, the fact is that this goes rather hard with me ; it's a thing I hate to think of. Haley wants to drive matters, and take possession to-morrow. I 'm going to get out my horse bright and early, and be off. I canrt see Tom, that's a fact; and you had better arrange a drive somewhere, and carry Eliza off. Let the thing be done when she is out of sight."
" No, no," said Mrs. Shelby; " I '11 be in no sense ac­complice or help in this cruel business. I '11 go and see poor old Tom, God help him, in his distress! They shall see, at any rate, that their mistress can feel for and with them. As to Eliza, I dare not think about it. The Lord forgive us ! What have we done, that this cruel neces­sity should come on us ? "
There was one listener to this conversation whom Mr. and Mrs. Shelby little suspected.
Communicating with their apartment was a large closet, opening by a door into the outer passage. When Mrs. Shelby had dismissed Eliza for the night, her feverish and excited mind had suggested the idea of this closet; and she had hidden herself there, and with her ear pressed close against the crack of the door, had lost not a word of the conversation.
When the voices died into silence, she rose and crept stealthily away. Pale, shivering, with rigid features and compressed lips, she looked an entirely altered being from the soft and timid creature she had been hitherto. She moved cautiously along the entry, paused one moment at her mistress's door and raised her hands in mute appeal to Heaven, and then turned and glided into her own room. It was a quiet, neat apartment, on the same floor with her mistress. There was the pleasant sunny window, where she had often sat singing at her sewing; there, a little