Cassy comes to Tom and tries to heal him after his flogging, giving him water and cleaning his wounds. She tells him that no hope exists for the slaves and that he should just give up. She explains that there is no God. Tom urges her not to let the wicked acts of others make her wicked herself. He argues that to become evil would constitute the worst punishment possible. Cassy starts to moan and then tells her story.
Cassy is a mulatto, a woman who is one-half black. She grew up in luxury, the daughter of a rich white man, and became the mistress of a lawyer. She had several children and was happy, but then the lawyer fell in love with another woman and sold her and her children to a new master. That master sold her children and then sold her to a third man, by whom she had a child. When the baby was a few weeks old, she poisoned it in order to prevent herself the pain of having her children taken from her again. She continued to be passed from man to man until she came to Legree.
Legree feels emotional attachment to Cassy, even though she scorns Legree and his ways. As they argue one day, Sambo, one of the overseers, comes into the house with the lock of Eva’s hair that Tom had tied around his neck. It twines around Legree’s finger as if it were alive, and he screams, throwing it off into the fire.
We now learn Legree’s history. Legree grew up with a kind and loving mother but a brutal father. He took after his father and ignored his mother’s advice. His mother nonetheless clung to him, loving him, but he broke away at an early age and sought a life at sea. He later received a letter with a curl of her hair enclosed. His mother wrote that she was dying, but that she blessed and forgave him. The text explains that the lock of Eva’s hair reminded him of this tragic occurrence. He has turned to drink in order to forget his mother, but the image of the hair still haunts him.
Angry, he leaves the house to go to find Emmeline. He can only hear a hymn being sung by the slaves, and thinks he sees some sort of ghost in the fog. He feels a deep fear of Tom’s spiritual power.
The next day, Cassy tells Legree to leave Tom alone from now on. Forgetting his fear of the previous night, he ignores her advice and goes to talk to Tom, to tell him to get down on his knees and beg Legree’s pardon. Tom refuses. Legree threatens him, but Tom says that he has a vision of eternity to look forward to, and Legree can do nothing to harm him.