Tom and the other slaves continue to travel down the Mississippi River, joined by travelers and workers headed for New Orleans. Tom has won Haley’s confidence with his meek obedience. Therefore, he has received permission to roam the boat freely. He sits up in a nook in the cotton bales, reading his Bible. While there, Tom meets a little girl named Eva St. Clare. An angel of a girl, she dances among the passengers, spreading smiles and good cheer. Tom and Eva quickly become friends, and she tells him she will ask her father, Augustine St. Clare, if he will buy Tom.
One day, Eva falls over the side of the boat, and, while everyone else stands by in shock, Tom plunges over the side of the boat and saves her. Grateful to Tom for rescuing his daughter, St. Clare offers to buy Tom from Haley; Eva urges him to pay whatever price is asked. When her father inquires why she is so intent on buying Tom, she answers that she wants to make Tom happy. St. Clare signs the bill of sale and tells Tom that he shall be in charge of driving the family’s coach.
Here we learn the background of the St. Clare family, beginning with Augustine St. Clare. St. Clare was born to a wealthy planter in Louisiana. Raised by a mother of unparalleled goodness, he grew up soft and gentle. When he became a man, he fell in love with a beautiful woman in the North whom he wanted to marry. However, he received a letter from her guardian saying that she was to marry someone else, and he married a different woman, Marie. After his marriage to Marie, he received a letter from his true love explaining that he had been the victim of deceit, and that she had always loved him. He wrote her back, saying that there was nothing he could do; he was married to Marie, and his heart was broken.
We also learn something about St. Clare’s wife. Possessive, materialistic, and vain, Marie irritates everyone around her. She suffers from hundreds of imagined illnesses and constantly complains.
Next the reader learns that, to help him take care of his child and his difficult wife, St. Clare has brought his cousin, Miss Ophelia, to live with him. A robust woman from New England, Ophelia proves industrious and responsible. Although she and St. Clare possess nearly opposite dispositions—St. Clare is passionate and volatile—they love each other dearly. She regards her years in his New Orleans household as a kind of “project”—a burden that she willingly undertakes for the good of the family.
St. Clare, Eva, and Tom arrive at the house. Adolph, the black doorman, shows Tom into the kitchen, and Marie and St. Clare begin to fight. She berates him for having left her alone too long. He gives her a gift, but she refuses to be placated.