After Eliza doesn’t respond to the Shelby’s bell the following morning, they see her empty room and realize she and Harry have run off. Although Mrs. Shelby is relieved, Mr. Shelby fears Haley might think he has arranged for Eliza’s flight; he claims that this “touches [his] honor.” The slaves talk excitedly about the pair’s escape.
Another instance of Mr. Shelby’s fear about his “honor.” More important, to him, than the bond between mother and son is the business arrangement he has made with Haley. To appear to go back on that arrangement would be “ungentlemanly.”
Haley arrives to pick up the slaves and is greatly angered at the news of their flight. He speaks brusquely of this to Mr. Shelby, who asks him to maintain gentlemanly “decorum,” makes clear that he had nothing to do with Eliza’s escape, and promises to use all resources available to recover the two.
Nevertheless there are layers of “gentlemanliness.” Shelby wishes that Haley watch his tongue in front of his wife. Ironically, of course, the slaves have overhead Shelby himself discussing the sale of individual people, and the notion that white life is more inherently valuable than black life. This racist language is not, however, considered “ungentlemanly.”
An older slave named Black Sam remarks on Tom’s fate with resignation and disappointment, and is then asked by the slave Andy to call for horses to aid in the search for Eliza and Harry. Andy also informs Sam that Mrs. Shelby doesn’t actually want them captured. Sam understands this subterfuge and slips a nut under Haley’s saddle, to aggravate the horse and disrupt the chase. Mrs. Shelby, emerging on the balcony, hints that the search party should move slowly.
A comic episode. “Black Sam” is an interesting foil to Uncle Tom—a character who in some ways is similar to Tom (his age, his loyalty to Mrs. Shelby) but, in many ways, represents traits entirely opposed to Tom’s. It is Sam’s duty to disregard Shelby’s orders and follow Mrs. Shelby’s hints. His trickery—a trickery Tom would never employ—enables Eliza to escape to freedom.
When Haley attempts to mount his horse, the hidden nut causes it to buck and run away; the slaves chase the horse around the property and take until lunchtime to catch it. Sam claims they’ll need to wait till after a meal to let the horses rest. Mrs. Shelby laughs at the morning’s chaos, Haley is furious, and Sam reports to Andy that his faculty of “bobservation,” or his ability to read Mrs. Shelby’s hints, has satisfied his mistress and given Eliza and Harry a few hours’ head start.
It is, interestingly, the power of “bobservation” that Uncle Tom might also be said to possess, although he does not use it to his advantage. Tom understands Mr. Shelby’s debt, Haley’s disregard for slaves’ lives, and Mrs. Shelby’s sympathy, but he wishes only to please Mr. Shelby, and to be sold without fuss.