Miss Ophelia's confession:
I've always had a prejudice against Negroes, and it's a fact, I never could bear to have that child touch me; but, I don't think she knew it.
Cousin Augustine St. Clare's reply:
Trust any child to find that out, there's no keeping it from them. But I believe that all the trying in the world to benefit a child, and all the substantial favors you can do them, will never excite one emotion of gratitude, while that feeling of repugnance remains in the heart.
"That child" is Topsy, an unruly slave-child that has known nothing of love. St. Clare refers to her as a "specimen among thousands" and she has been abused beyond imagining. Topsy refers to herself as "wicked" and Miss Ophelia cannot leave her alone for a moment lest she lash out by damaging things.
In chapter 27 of Uncle Tom's Cabin there is a scene of mourning. St. Clare's angelic young daughter Eva has died and the entire household is pretty shaken up.
We find Topsy, speaking out in a burst of anguish:
She said she loved me, she did! O, dear! oh, dear! there an't nobody left now, -- there an't! I just wish I hadn't never been born, I didn't want to be born, no ways; and I don't see no use on 't.
And now we see Miss Ophelia -- the prim northerner who has taken on the seemingly impossible task of cultivating Topsy. She raises her gently and takes her from the room. With these words she consoles her:
Topsy, you poor child, don't give up! I can love you, though I am not like that dear little [Eva]. I hope I've learnt something of the love of Christ from her. I can love you; I do, and I'll try to help you to grow up a good Christian girl.
Miss Ophelia's voice was more than her words, and more than that were the honest tears that fell down her face. From that hour, she acquired an influence over the mind of the destitute child that she never lost.
And so we find that love is the magic formula that miraculously transforms Topsy from "depravity" (as Miss Ophelia put it) to a sensible soul striving for good.
"If we want to give sight to the blind, we must be willing to do as Christ did, -- call them to us, and put our hands on them." ~ Harriet Beecher Stowe
A favorite video for you, dear readers --
because you are loved!