Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Summary
Linda starts her story at age six. She's a happy kid, living with her mom and dad, both of whom are skilled, educated, and light-skinned slaves. Gee, this doesn't sound too bad.
The next few years are all right, too. Her mom dies, but she goes to live with her mother’s young mistress, a pretty nice lady (for a slave-owner) who teaches Linda how to sew and read. Now things go downhill. After her mistress dies, twelve-year-old Linda has to go live with a new mistress, five-year old Emily Flint.
Okay, having a five-year-old for a mistress is a little weird, but what's worse is that Emily's dad is a total terror. As soon as Linda hits puberty, Dr. Flint turns up the creep-o-meter. He whispers gross things in her ear, writes her dirty notes, and even builds a secret cabin to be their love nest. Ew. It's a good thing neither of them had smartphones, or you just know there'd be pictures of his genitalia floating through cyberspace.
So, Linda comes up with a really dodgy plan. If she's got to have sex with anyone, it's at least not going to be Dr. Flint—it's going to be this unmarried white dude named Mr. Sands. The idea is that she's going to get pregnant, and Dr. Flint is going to be so disgusted that he sells her off.
Well, the plans works right up until the point where she realizes that Dr. Flint is even crueler than she thought. He's totally uninterested in selling her off. In fact, he consoles himself with the thought that at least her child is going to be his slave.
Eventually, Dr. Flint ups the stakes. If Linda agrees to a sexual relationship with him, he'll set her and her children (she has two by this point) free. The alternative? Going to work as a field hand on his son's plantation.
But Linda has a secret plan. She refuses the offer of freedom and heads to the plantation. One month later, she's out of there… and right into a teeny crawlspace in her grandmother's shed, where she can peek out to see her children. The space is so small that she can't even stand upright, but she figures Dr. Flint will assume she's gone north and sell her children out of revenge.
Again, not so much with the planning. Dr. Flint flat out refuses to give up. He makes trip after trip to New York to find her; he harasses her friends and family for news; and he keeps her children right by his side, assuming that she'll come back for them.
This goes on for seven years.
Eventually an elaborate network of friends, family members, and abolitionists helps Linda escape to New York. There, Linda works for a woman named Mrs. Bruce until she hears that Dr. Flint was nasty until the day he died—his will has left Linda and her children to a new master, who's hot on her trail.
At this point Mrs. Bruce steps in and secretly arranges to buy the freedom of Linda and her kids for a pretty measly sum of money, and, bam! Decades of bondage are over. Linda is surprisingly not as happy as you'd think.
- We start out with a happy childhood. Carefree, bunny rabbits, Disneyfied soundtrack, the whole thing.
- We're thinking it's about to go downhill.
- Yep, here it comes: the narrator's mom dies, and she's sent to live with and work for her mother’s mistress.
- Oh, okay, whew. The new mistress seems like a nice lady.
- Now we get a little story about the narrator's grandmother:
- Grandma was so smart and faithful that her owners treated her very well.
- They even let her stay up all night after she was done with her chores so she could start her own business, and then pay for her own clothes out of the profit.
- That's so nice of them! Not. Well, okay, for the time, it actually was pretty nice.
- Grandma (whose name is Aunt Martha) sets aside three hundred dollars from baking, hoping to one day buy her children.
- One day, the grandmother’s mistress asks to borrow the three hundred dollars.
- The grandmother has evidently never read a single book, ever, because she's like, "Sure! Take all my money. I'm sure you'll pay it back."
- We suspect that's not going to happen.
- Back to our narrator.
- When the narrator is twelve, her mistress dies.
- She turns out not to be so nice after all, because instead of setting her slaves free she gives them away to her relatives.
- The narrator now belongs to her mistress’s five-year-old niece.
The New Master and Mistress
- The narrator and her brother William move in with their new family, headed by local physician Dr. Flint.
- They are not immediately made welcome.
- We finally get the narrator's name, courtesy of her grandmother. It's Linda.
- More sadness: Linda's dad dies.
- You'd think she might get the day off, but instead Mrs. Flint orders her to pick flowers to decorate the house.
- Remember Grandma's mistress, who borrowed all that money? She dies with the debt still outstanding.
- Grandma goes to the guy who inherited the mistress's estate to ask for the money back, which goes about as well as you'd expect: he basically laughs in her face.
The Slaves’ New Year’s Day
- New Year's Day! Brunches, champagne, and resolutions to finally lose that 10 pounds.
- Unless you're a slave. In that case, January 1st is the day slaves are sold to new masters.
- On one "hiring-day," Linda watched a slave mother lose all seven of her children at the auction-block.
- In case we're not outraged enough, Linda also describes how old slaves are deemed useless since they can no longer work.
- She knows one slave whose owners abandoned her at the auction-block when she was sick. For twenty dollars, they let anyone take her.
The Slave Who Dared To Feel Like A Man
- Linda is fourteen now, and life has… not improved. In fact, you might say it's gotten worse.
- Take this fun little incident:
- One day in the middle of winter, Mrs. Flint sees Linda walking around in a new pair of shoes her grandmother has given her.
- Something about the way these shoes sound really drives Mrs. Flint crazy. She forces Linda to take the shoes off and threatens to burn them if she sees them again.
- And then, she sends Linda on an errand. Barefoot. In the snow.
- Something else that happens around this time: Linda’s uncle Benjamin fights with his master and runs away.
- He tells Linda he's running away to the North.
- Benjamin heads to New York on a boat, but they have to head back to shore when a big storm hits.
- At port, the captain sees a runaway ad for Ben and chains him up. Benjamin manages to escape again briefly, but soon ends up back with his master.
- His master throws him in jail, where Linda and her grandmother visit him.
- He stays in jail for six months until a slave trader buys him.
- Once they reach New Orleans, Benjamin manages to escape again.
- This escape goes better than the last one, and Benjamin ends up in New York.
- One day, he's surprised to run into his brother, Phillip, on the streets of New York. (Apparently, we're not supposed to know how he ended up there.)
- Aunt Martha has raised the money to start buying her children out of slavery, and Phillip is planning to head back South so he can become legally free. He wants Benjamin to join him.
- Benjamin doesn't like this plan one bit.
- He's against the whole idea of being bought, plus he doesn't want Aunt Martha to spend all that money.
- Phillip returns South. Aunt Martha buys him for eight hundred dollars, and he's now a free man.
The Trials of Girlhood
- New year, new troubles.
- Now that Linda is fifteen, Mr. Flint is getting ideas. He whispers dirty suggestions in her ear and threatens to kill her if she tells anyone.
- It's the end of innocence.
- Here's a little anecdote to illustrate how different Linda's life is from that of a white teenager:
- She once saw two young girls playing together, one a free white child and the other a black slave.
- The girls seem like BFFs right now, but not for long.
- The white child will grow up free and protected, while the slave girl will only know sin and misery.
- Linda asks a pointed question: knowing all this, why are Northern men and women so silent on the question of slavery?
The Jealous Mistress
- Dr. Flint figures out that Linda can read.
- Sweet! Now he can write her letters demanding sex.
- Mrs. Flint realizes that something's up and isn't too happy about it. She argues with Dr. Flint. A lot.
- Dr. Flint ups the intrigue by insisting that his four-year-old daughter sleep in his room at night.
- How is this going to help him get Linda into his bed? Well, obvs she has to sleep in there, too, since it's not like he's going to get up at night to tend to the little girl.
- Mrs. Flint finally asks Linda straight out if there's anything hinky going on with her and the Dr.
- Linda spills about everything—the harassment, the demands, the creepy letters—and Mrs. Flint makes her sleep in a room nearby so she can keep an eye on things.
- This doesn't really make her any less jealous, though, and Linda is a little worried that Mrs. Flint is going to snap one day and kill her.
- By the way? Dr. Flint has eleven children with slave women, but no one thinks it’s a big deal. Everyone does it. It's a win-win for the masters: sex and, if you're lucky, a new little piece of property as a bonus.
- Ew. So much ew.
- Ah, young love. Linda has the hots for a young, freeborn carpenter, who proposes marriage.
- Afraid that Dr. Flint won’t let her get married, Linda asks one of Dr. Flint’s female friends to intervene for her.
- Dr. Flint says no way, and smacks Linda around a little for good measure. Oh, and if he ever sees her with the carpenter, he'll beat them both.
- This is a little weird: one day, Dr. Flint slips Linda a note, asking her to move to Louisiana with him and some other slaves.
- Unsurprisingly, this plan never works out.
- Linda tries to sneak visits with the carpenter but Dr. Flint has his eye on her.
- Finally she tells the carpenter that he should move to the Free States and forget about her.
- The carpenter takes her advice, and the two never see each other again. (If only they'd had Facebook.)
- Linda and her little brother William start plotting for freedom.
What Slaves Are Taught To Think Of The North
- So, you might be wondering why more slaves don't run away to the North, considering how crummy the South is.
- Lies, lies, and more lies. Slave owners lie to their slaves about how bad life is up North.
- Like, a slaveholder once told Linda that he saw one of her runaway friends up North, and she was literally dying of starvation.
- Gee, that's weird. Because Linda has actually stayed with that friend, who's totally happy with her new free life.
- Of course, now there's the Fugitive Slave Law, which makes it illegal for Northerners to help runaway slaves and offers rewards for their capture and return.
- So, Northerners, don't injure yourself by patting your own backs, there. As long as the North enforces this law, it's also guilty of slavery.
Sketches of Neighboring Slaveholders
- Linda gives sketches of three slaveholders in her neighborhood.
- Exhibit A: Mr. Litch tortures his slaves through starvation, physical torture, and, sometimes, murder.
- His brother is no better. When a slave runs away, he lets his bloodhounds loose to tear the flesh from his bones.
- Exhibit B: Mr. Conant punishes a slave by tying him a tree, whipping him, and leaving him to freeze to death in winter.
- Exhibit C: Mrs. Wade beats her slaves all day, from morning to night.
- Sure, some slaveholders are very kind. Like, there was this one female slaveholder who treated her slaves like family.
- Buuut…. she ended up marrying a very mean man who raped the female slaves.
- And you'd better believe all this is true. Linda is speaking from personal experience and twenty-one years of observation.
- The moral of this chapter? The institution of slavery is a curse to whites and blacks alike.
A Perilous Passage In The Slave Girl’s Life
- Dr. Flint plans to build a secret house in the woods where he and Linda can have sex.
- Linda is so not into this idea.
- Meanwhile, the town is all het up by what is going on between Dr. Flint and Linda.
- Mr. Sands, a white friend of Aunt Martha’s, takes an interest in Linda.
- You know, that kind of interest.
- Linda starts having sex with Mr. Sands, hoping that he'll buy her from Dr. Flint.
- Dr. Flint finishes the cabin and thinks that Linda is going to be totally stoked about her new love nest.
- She's not. Actually, she can't go, because she's pregnant.
- Dr. Flint storms off in indignant silence.
- Linda confesses her pregnancy to Aunt Martha.
- Aunt Martha is not thrilled about Linda's new eligibility for 16 and Pregnant and sends her away.
- Scared and alone, Linda heads to another friend's house and tells her everything. The woman gets Aunt Martha to come over, and Linda points out that she was in kind of a tough spot.
- Aunt Martha cries, and they hug it out.
The New Tie To Life
- Linda is living at Aunt Martha’s house, but she still belongs to Dr. Flint.
- One day, Dr. Flint shows up and demands to know the race of the baby’s father.
- When he learns that he is a white man, Dr. Flint demands that Linda cut off ties with the guy. Plus, her plan has failed, since Dr. Flint is never going to sell her.
- Linda gets another visitor: Uncle Phillip, who's just back from a trip.
- After Linda gets really sick, her baby is born early. They're both in bad shape, and Linda is stuck in bed for an entire year.
- Luckily, they both pull through.
- Somehow, Dr. Flint still has the hots for Linda, and he gets William to pass her notes.
- This doesn't prevent him from throwing William in jail when he's late to work one day.
- At one year old, Linda's baby gets really sick. Linda prays for him to survive, even though she's pretty sure death is better than slavery.
Fear of Insurrection
- Word spreads of Nat Turner’s slave rebellion in Virginia.
- Worried that the slaves may be planning a revolt, the slaveholders in Edenton hire poor whites to search everyone.
- Dozens of slaves—men, women and children—are whipped and tortured.
- Linda cleans her grandmother’s house to get the searchers off her back.
- Mr. Litch, a neighboring slaveholder, leads the search of Aunt Martha’s house. They ask her what she's doing with so many letters, and she says they're poetry from one of her white friends.
- The search team leaves after not finding anything incriminating, and you can imagine they're a little disappointed.
- This goes on for weeks. It doesn't manage to turn up any plots for rebellion—although if you're just looking at numbers of people tortured and jailed, it's a huge success.
The Church and Slavery
- The slaveholders in Edenton decide that a little churchifying will fix their slaves up.
- Linda is invited to hear the sermon at the house of a free black man, Reverend Pike.
- Reverend Pike basically tells the slaves that they've been naughty, and it's their Christian duty to obey their masters.
- Linda thinks this is a little funny, but she wants to see him again anyway.
- A couple of weeks later, Reverend Pike takes too long to start the sermon. The slaves head to a Methodist church instead, where they get to sing and shout.
- This is way better than listening to a guy preach.
- Now it's time for a little story:
- Linda taught a black church-goer named Fred to read, even though it's illegal for a slave to teach.
- Six months later, Fred is reading the New Testament. Way to go, Fred!
- The thing is, there are thousands of slaves like Fred who want to learn to read the Bible. As Christians, her readers should really work to make this happen by abolishing slavery.
- Linda takes a minute here to point out the hypocrisy of religious people in the South.
- Like, while white pastors can't sleep with other white women, it seems totally okay for them to rape slaves.
- As long as men keep forking over the donations, they can basically do whatever they want.
- For example, Dr. Flint, who's a member of the Episcopal Church, tries to convince Linda that she can have sex with him and still be considered virtuous.
- Nuh-uh, Linda says. Not according to her Bible.
- Dr. Flint promptly flies into a rage, since he figures his slave has no right to tell him what's in the Bible.
Another Link to Life
- Things haven't really improved. Linda is still living with her grandmother, since Mrs. Flint threatened to kill her if she came back to the main house, and Dr. Flint is still harassing Linda and threatening to sell her child.
- This chapter is full of fun little incidents, like one day Dr. Flint throws Linda down the stairs.
- And then he cuts off all her hair when she gets pregnant again at the ripe old age of nineteen.
- Linda's new baby is a girl. This is a huge bummer for Linda, since slavery is bad but being an enslaved woman is even worse.
- One day when Dr. Flint is out of town visiting a patient, Aunt Martha and Linda take her two children to get baptized.
- During the baptism, Linda’s father’s old mistress steps up and says that she can give the new baby, the little girl, her Christian name.
- Linda accepts (we get the impression that this is more of an order than an offer), and adds her father’s last name.
- Of course, that name wasn’t really his, since his paternal grandfather was white.
- Linda isn't thrilled about giving a white man's name to her children, but she has to name them something.
- After the baptism, Linda’s father’s old mistress puts a gold chain around the newborn’s neck.
- Great! A teeny, tiny symbol of slavery.
- Dr. Flint gloats about how much money he's going to make when he sells off Linda's kids.
- But he's still not interested in selling her. One day, Linda’s friends convince a slaveholder to offer to buy Linda and her family. (It's a little murky, but it seems like he's just acting as an agent for them?)
- Dr. Flint refuses, of course, and then throws her son Benny across the room. Benny's okay, but he's passed out for so long that Linda thinks he's dead.
- She's not sure if she's happy when he wakes up.
- The reign of terror continues.
- Finally, Dr. Flint tells Linda that she can either be his mistress or go to his son’s plantation, with—we think?—the implication that she's not going to be treated very well.
- Linda is like, "Sweet! Let me pack my bags."
Scenes at the Plantation
- Linda heads to the plantation with her daughter Ellen. Benny's sick, so he stays behind.
- That's a good thing for him, since poor little Ellen is given work and separated from her mother and basically treated like a slave.
- Eventually, Linda's had enough and sends her back to Aunt Martha's. Mr. Flint is briefly outraged, but Linda is such a good worker that he basically has to let her do whatever she wants.
- After three weeks, Linda sneaks off to Aunt Martha’s for a midnight visit.
- This is a little suspenseful, since she passes by a patrol on the way back and almost gets caught—but luckily the dudes forgot to bring their dogs, so she and her guide get back to the plantation safely.
- And then one day, Mr. Flint’s great-aunt, Miss Fanny, comes to visit.
- In case you were wondering how Aunt Martha got away with so much, this is where we learn that Miss Fanny bought her freedom for fifty dollars.
- Miss Fanny tries to console Linda, but Linda has had about enough.
- She begins to plan her escape. When Mr. Flint goes to pick up his wife, Linda runs off to Aunt Martha’s house to see her children and to pack her things.
- Aunt Martha catches Linda in the act and guilt-trips her into staying by saying that a mother should suffer along with her children.
- That is… questionable logic, but Linda says she’ll try to stick it out a bit longer.
- The young Flints throw a dinner party to celebrate their new home, and Dr. Flint and his wife are invited. It goes about as well as you'd expect.
- The next day, Linda gets a little peek at what her future holds, when the new Mrs. Flint—wife to Mr. Flint—watches the slaves receive their weekly food allowance.
- She stops one old man from getting his food because, when slaves "were too old to work, they ought to be fed on grass" (16). Lovely.
- Things go all right for a while, but then a white friend of the family tells Linda that the Flints are bringing her children down to the plantation to be "broke in,” which sounds all kinds of bad.
- This is the final straw for Linda.
- Linda is out of there.
- She escapes the plantation in the middle of the night. First, she heads off to tell her friend Sally that she's run away. Then, she sneaks away to the house of a friend who will hide her.
- When Mr. Flint realizes Linda has run away, he searches Aunt Martha's house.
- Dr. Flint gets involved by placing a runaway slave ad for her.
Months of Peril
- Linda hides out with her friend and sends messages to her family when she can.
- An old white friend of Aunt Martha’s offers to take Linda in and hide her.
- Linda gets a message that she should leave her friend’s house and go to a designated spot, where someone will be waiting to take her to her new home.
- This is all very Mission: Impossible, only a little lower-budget.
- Following these instructions, Linda sees her friend Betty at the meeting-spot. Betty takes her to the home of the white lady she works for and hides her in an old storage room.
- Dr. Flint tries a lot of different strategies to smoke her out.
- First, he throws William and Benny into jail.
- Then, he tells Aunt Martha that he knows where Linda is, thinking that Aunt Martha will give something away.
- She doesn't.
- Finally, Dr. Flint heads to New York to try to find her.
The Children Sold
- No luck. Dr. Flint returns from New York empty-handed. Well, duh, she's hiding right down the road.
- Mr. Sands (quick refresher: this is the father of Linda's kids) sends an agent to buy Linda’s children and her brother.
- Eventually, Dr. Flint agrees—but only because he doesn't know who he's really selling to.
- Mr. Sands now owns Ellen, Benny, and William, who are all really stoked. Well, as much as they can be, since they're still human property.
- Dr. Flint finds out that Mr. Sands owns the children and flips out. Now he's never going to sell Linda.
- Trying a new tactic, Dr. Flint has Uncle Phillip arrested and jailed. Bet he's sorry he came back South now.
- Even after Phillip is eventually released, Dr. Flint stakes out Aunt Martha’s house.
- Time for a new hiding place.
- Linda dresses up in a sailor's uniform and leaves Betty's house. A guy named Peter rows her out to the really ominously named Snaky Swamp, where Linda hides out for the night.
- The swamp, as you might suspect, is full of snakes.
- The next morning, only slightly traumatized, Linda heads to her new hiding spot.
The Loophole of Retreat
- Home sweet home is a tiny crawlspace above Aunt Martha’s shed.
- And we mean tiny. It's seven by nine feet, about three feet high, and only has room for a tiny bed.
- But it has plenty of room for rats and mice, not to mention little bitey red ants.
- At least Uncle Phillip has built a trap door to the crawlspace so Aunt Martha can send up food.
- Meanwhile, Dr. Flint heads back to New York to find Linda.
- Even in that tiny space, Linda manages to sew new clothes for her children.
- She can't even watch them open their presents—although at least she gets to see them walking by in their fancy new outfits. Worst Christmas ever.
- Months pass. Linda freezes in the winter and soaks during the spring.
- During the second winter, a long illness almost kills her. Her brother William manages to get medicine from a doctor by pretending that her symptoms are his.
- She also sees her son covered in blood from a dog bite. He's fine, but it's a long time before he can walk.
- Mrs. Flint shows off her Christian charity by gloating and wishing that Benny had actually died.
- Meanwhile, Aunt Martha is very sick, too. She recovers, but it's close.
- This chapter is pretty grim.
The Candidate for Congress
- Mr. Sands runs for Congress and wins, as a Whig. He's off to Washington.
- Before he leaves, he visits the children. Linda emerges from her hiding spot and begs him to free them.
- He promises that he will, but we're not going to believe it until we see it.
Competition in Cunning
- Linda decides to write Dr. Flint a letter from New York, in order to convince him that she is living up north.
- She really does her research, asking her friend Peter for a New York newspaper to get the names of New York streets.
- Using the paper, Linda writes two letters, one to Dr. Flint and one to Aunt Martha. She claims that she lives in Boston but often visits New York.
- A sailor friend of Peter’s takes the letters to New York and mails them back to Edenton.
- Dr. Flint falls for the trick. He writes to the mayor of Boston to ask if he has seen anyone who meets Linda’s description.
- Since obviously the mayor of Boston has nothing more important to do than wander the streets looking for an escaped slave.
- Since the trick seems to have worked, Aunt Martha allows Linda out of the crawlspace every once in a while.
- Linda worries that she's going to be permanently crippled from her teeny living quarters.
Important Era In My Brother’s Life
- Here's a little story about William.
- William went to Washington with Mr. Sands. They traveled all through the North and Canada, where William met lots of abolitionists.
- Meanwhile, Mr. Sands gets married.
- When Mr. Sands returns to Edenton with his new wife, he tells Aunt Martha that William has run off with abolitionists.
- Not so. Later, Linda learns that William escaped all on his own, selling his clothes and sailing off to Boston by himself.
- When Dr. Flint hears about his, he's filled with glee.
New Destination for the Children
- This chapter has a bunch of confusing business about Linda's children.
- It begins with Mrs. Flint threatening Linda that she's going to tell Mrs. Sands that Benny and Ellen are Mr. Sands’s children.
- Before she can, Mr. Sands tells his wife that the two children are his, with the vague phrase "his relation to them" (27). It's not clear, but it sounds like he actually told her that he'd fathered them, which is super surprising for the time.
- Mrs. Sands decides that she wants to take Benny, and give Ellen to her sister.
- Even though both Mrs. Sands and her sister seem nice, Linda is just so tired of her children being enslaved.
- So, she sends Aunt Martha to Mr. Sands, asking him to free the children.
- Mr. Sands says that, as far as he's concerned, they are free. (Not that he's going to go to the trouble of, like, signing a document to that effect, it seems.)
- But he agrees that they probably shouldn't hang around Edenton, because Dr. Flint still claims they belong to him.
- So Ellen goes to live with some of Mr. Sands's relatives in Brooklyn, where she'll go to school (while, presumably, working as a servant). Benny's going North with Uncle Phillip.
- The Flints are super mad when they find out about these arrangements. It sounds like Mr. Sands has actually 'fessed up to his wife, because Mrs. Flint is outraged that he's actually acknowledged them.
- So, that's shameful. But it's apparently not shameful that Mrs. Flint is encouraging her daughter—who is technically Linda's mistress—to "steal" back Linda's children, since Dr. Flint allegedly had no right to sell them.
- Yeah, seriously messed up.
- Anyway, Ellen is off. Linda doesn't hear from her for a while, but eventually she gets word that the little girl had landed safely in Brooklyn.
- Here's a really gloomy story about Aunt Nancy:
- Linda’s Aunt Nancy was a slave in Dr. Flint’s family. When she was twenty, her master and mistress allowed her to marry.
- Nancy was Mrs. Flint’s servant when both women were pregnant. Mrs. Flint made Nancy lie outside her door each night, just in case Mrs. Flint needed anything.
- One night she has to leave her station—to give birth to a premature baby. Two weeks later, she's back at work tending to Mrs. Flint's new baby. Over six years, she has miscarriage after miscarriage.
- Finally, the Flints ease up on her, because they're afraid to let such a valuable servant die. She has two live births, but both babies die soon after they're born.
- Over the years, Nancy has been really kind to Linda, acting as a kind of second mother.
- When Linda's been in her little cubby for six years, Nancy dies.
- Mrs. Flint is all sentimental now that Nancy is dead and wants her to be buried near her own future burial plot, since, as Linda snarks, "she was so long used to sleep with her lying near [...], on the entry floor."
- The clergyman, with surprising humanity, suggests that maybe Nancy's mom would like to have a say in where her daughter was buried.
- As it turns out, she does. She'd like Aunt Nancy to be buried with the rest of her family in the slave burying ground. Mrs. Flint graciously permits this.
- Linda watches the funeral from her crawlspace.
Preparations for Escape
- Linda has now lived in the crawlspace for seven years, and her mobility is seriously starting to suffer.
- Linda tells the story of her friend Fanny, who ran away from the auction-block months ago. She has been staying in her mother Aggie’s hut.
- Aggie’s hut is owned by Aunt Martha, and is on her land, so Linda and Fanny are both in hiding pretty close to one another.
- One day, Linda’s friend Peter tells her that there's a hiding place in a boat with her name on it.
- Linda is afraid to leave her son Benny behind where Dr. Flint can get him. (Wait, wasn't Benny supposed to be going North with Uncle Phillip?) But eventually she agrees to go.
- And then, a fugitive slave is brutally murdered, and Aunt Martha freaks out. She begs Linda not to run away.
- Linda agrees. She tells Peter to take Fanny, instead.
- The next day, Aunt Martha has just let Linda into the storeroom to stretch her legs, when a black maid named Jenny walks in.
- Linda quickly hides, but she's convinced that Jenny has seen her and is going to rat her out.
- She asks Peter if the offer still stands. It does.
- Before Linda leaves, she meets with Benny and tells him that she loves him.
- Linda makes it to the boat.
- The captain turns out to be a kind southerner who opposes slavery, but Linda—understandably—has a hard time trusting him.
- Ten days after boarding the boat, they approach Philadelphia.
- Together, Linda and Fanny watch the sunrise on free soil. Their eyes are moist with tears.
- We're feeling a little sniffly ourselves.
Incidents in Philadelphia
- When they reach Philadelphia, Linda meets a black man named Rev. Jeremiah Durham, a local minister. He offers Fanny and Linda places to stay for the night, while they wait for a morning car to New York.
- Linda stays with the Durhams, who are both kind to her, and ask her stories about her life in slavery.
- She tells them everything—and we mean everything. Mr. Durham says that maybe she shouldn't be quite so open, especially about all the sex.
- This new city life is blowing Linda's mind. Fire engines, street vendors, portraits of black children—it's crazy.
- One of their abolitionist friends offers to pay Linda’s way to New York. She refuses, since she has money from Aunt Martha. Instead, they pay Fanny’s way.
- The women stay in Philadelphia for a few days, until one of Mrs. Durham’s friends offers to accompany them to New York.
- Here comes Linda’s first experience of northern prejudice: they can ride the train, all right, but they can't ride in first-class. It's coach for them.
The Meeting of Mother and Daughter
- Fanny and Linda arrive in New York and go their separate ways—Fanny to the Anti-Slavery Society and Linda to friends.
- One day, she runs into her daughter Ellen on the street.
- Linda sends a note to Mrs. Hobbs, the cousin of Mr. Sands who now keeps Ellen.
- Linda is allowed to visit, and she learns that Ellen has not been put in school yet, even though Mr. Sands insisted she be educated.
- Mrs. Hobbs tells Linda that Ellen will make a great waiting-maid for her daughter.
- She seems to have no intention of educating Ellen and really emphasizes that Mr. Sands "gave" her Ellen—as in, gave like a slave.
- Linda freaks out just a little and writes to Dr. Flint and to his daughter, to see if he will sell her.
- Unsurprisingly, he refuses.
A Home Found
- Linda becomes a nursemaid for an English woman named Mrs. Bruce.
- When Linda’s limbs become swollen from walking up and down the stairs taking care of the baby, Mrs. Bruce gets her a doctor and lightens her work load.
- Since the Hobbses are not clothing Ellen, Linda uses her wages to buy Ellen clothes.
- Mrs. Bruce is a really nice lady, and Linda is almost happy. She loves Mrs. Bruce's little baby, because it reminds her of her own little ones.
- One day, looking out the window, Linda sees a handsome young sailor out the window. It's totally her brother!
- She runs downstairs, and they hug and laugh and cry.
The Old Enemy Again
- Dr. Flint writes Linda a letter, posing as his young son, asking Linda to come back home and pretending to be all loving and kind.
- Linda obviously doesn’t respond.
- When she learns that Dr. Flint is coming to New York again to find her, she tells Mrs. Bruce she has to go to Boston on business. She stays there for a month,
- While she's there, her son Benny has managed to find his way North.
- He visits, and he's full of excited plans for making it as a "free boy." She doesn't spoil his happiness, even though she's already figured out that the North isn't exactly a land of paradise.
- Finally, Dr. Flint leaves and she can go back to New York.
- She sends Benny to live with William, and spends a pretty nice winter and spring knowing that, for now, her family is safe.
Prejudice Against Color
- Linda and Mrs. Bruce go off on vacation, and Linda experiences plenty of ugly prejudice, even though she's working as a nurse for Mrs. Bruce's child. Like:
- The waiters won't give her tea when she's eating with Mrs. Bruce.
- She's not allowed to sit in a chair and hold the child on her lap, but has to place the child in the chair and stand behind her.
- The servants won't bring her dinner to her room when Mrs. Bruce asks them to, so she has to go down to the kitchen to get it herself.
- Finally, Linda puts her foot down and says that Mrs. Bruce is paying for her just like any of the white servants, so she'd better be treated like one of them.
- This actually works.
- See, Linda says, you've just got to stand up for your rights.
The Hairbreadth Escape
- Ellen finds out that Mrs. Hobbs’s brother, Mr. Thorpe, has told Dr. Flint where Linda is living.
- Linda finally tells Mrs. Bruce that she is a fugitive slave, and that Dr. Flint will be coming after her.
- Mrs. Bruce contacts her lawyer, who arranges to take Linda, Ellen, and William to Boston.
- Ellen is only allowed to go because Mrs. Hobbs feels a little guilty that her brother is such a meanie.
- In Boston, Linda and Ellen reunite with Benny.
- Linda stays in Boston all winter, teaching Ellen to read and write.
- They have a few months of domestic happiness.
A Visit To England
- Mrs. Bruce dies. This is really sad for Linda, and a little nerve-wracking for us. What's Linda going to do now?
- Luckily, Mr. Bruce keeps her on as a nurse for little Mary. They all travel to England, so Mary can be with her relatives.
- Linda notices that the English poor are oppressed, but they're still better off than American slaves. They’ve got homes, access to education, and legal protection.
- Linda stays in England for ten months and never encounters racial prejudice.
Renewed Invitations to Go South
- Dr. Flint’s recently married daughter (now Mrs. Dodge) writes Linda, asking her to come back to the South.
- Or, if Linda would rather, she can buy herself. As long as she just comes back.
- Linda doesn't respond because (1) she's not stupid enough to fall for that trick, and (2) even if she could buy herself free, it's totally ridiculous that she would have to spend her hard-earned money on that rather than paying for her children's education and future.
- One day, Linda tries to tell Ellen who her father is.
- Actually, Ellen already knows all about it. Mr. Sands's white daughter Fanny had a nurse who told her years ago.
- William sends Ellen off to a boarding school in a New York village.
- Linda lives with Isaac and Amy Post, Quaker abolitionists, for a year. She treasures her time with them.
The Fugitive Slave Law
- William decides to move to California, taking Benny with him.
- Ellen is doing well at school, and people even try to help her out when they learn that her mother is a fugitive slave.
- Before he leaves, they discuss the brutal (and new, as of 1850) Fugitive Slave Law, which makes it illegal for northerners to help runaway slaves.
- Mr. Bruce re-marries an American woman, and they hire Linda on again.
- Linda confesses to Mrs. Bruce that she's a fugitive slave, since the new law puts her freedom in danger.
- Luckily, the second Mrs. Bruce is just as nice as the first, even though she's an American rather than an English woman.
- Still, Linda is constantly afraid. She takes back streets every time she has to run an errand, and fears for her life when she walks outside.
- One day, she runs into a former slave, Luke. Luke's master was a really nasty piece of work, and Luke finally ran off with some of his money.
- He had a right to the money, as unpaid wages.
- Linda is sad that Luke's moral sense is so corrupted, but that's what slavery does to you. It's bad for everyone.
- Word comes from the South that Dr. Flint is hot on Linda's trail again.
- Mrs. Bruce sends Linda to live with a senator’s wife in New England, and even sends along her own baby—so that, if Linda is caught, they'll have to bring the two back to Mrs. Bruce, who might be able to save her.
- Linda stays for a month until she feels safe enough to return to New York.
Free At Last
- Finally, Dr. Flint has died. Free at last!
- Not so fast.
- His daughter and her husband (Mr. and Mrs. Dodge) arrive in New York. They're short on money and think this would be a perfect time to get some value out of Linda.
- Not to mention her kids, whom they claim they still own.
- After an extended game of hide-and-seek, Mrs. Bruce finally manages to buy Linda free.
- Linda is happy, but not that happy. She'd really prefer not to be bought and sold at all.
- Aunt Martha lives long enough to know that Linda has been freed, and then dies. Uncle Phillip follows soon after.
- Linda is free, but she still wishes she had a home of her own for her children.