After their holiday on Lake Ponchartrain, Eva grows sicker. Marie initially does not believe Miss Ophelia’s reports that Eva is unwell, thinking that only she, Marie, can be sick in the house. A doctor reports that Eva truly is sick, however, and Marie immediately changes, believing that she knew Eva’s illness all along, and that it is part of her curse as a mother. St. Clare tries to find good news, but Marie is convinced that Eva’s situation can end only in tragedy—a terrible burden for Marie.
Marie inverts most of Beecher Stowe’s notions of universal motherhood—she is, in fact, a profoundly inattentive and unloving mother. Eva’s affliction matters to her primarily as an excuse to wallow in her own (perceived) maladies. Yet Marie is not even aware of her self-centeredness, though St. Clare often jokes about it in her presence.
Eva’s condition appears to improve for a time, although Miss Ophelia and the doctor do not believe it. Eva finds comfort in the Bible, believing she is returning “home” to Jesus, but she acknowledges that she will miss her father and the servants she loves. Eva tells Tom she knows why Jesus wished to sacrifice his life for man’s sins. Eva feels she would die for those she loves. Tom believes Eva is meant for heaven.
Eva tells this also to her father, who grows very upset. She asks him, too, why the slaves cannot earn their liberty, and Eva asks him to promise that, when she dies, he will free his slaves and work for the general freedom of all black people. St. Clare agrees to do this and fears greatly for Eva’s life.
An important promise. It is the possibility of Eva’s death that finally sways St. Clare to change his listless, fatalistic attitude toward slavery. From now on, he attempts to be more proactive in righting the wrongs of slavery.