St. Clare’s personality changes: he begins reading the Bible and attempts to increase his oversight of household activities. He promises to set Tom free and is surprised that Tom has no desire to remain in the St. Clare house, even though he is well-treated and surrounded by opulence. Tom states that his freedom is the most important thing a man can receive, and so even being a well-treated slave is not something he would choose for himself. Tom then promises to stay at the house until St. Clare becomes a practicing Christian.
Tom is finally granted the promise of his freedom—though we shall see that this promise is ill-fated and is not ultimately kept. Tom reiterates a version of what George Harris has said to Tom Loker, his wife, Mr. Wilson, and others: that nothing counts in life without freedom. Thus Tom cannot enjoy St. Clare’s life of comfort—he must be free instead.
Miss Ophelia is “softened” after Eva’s death, and Topsy has taken to reading a collection of Bible passages Eva gave her before her death. Miss Ophelia wishes to “purchase” Topsy so that she might free her and raise her as her charge in the north. St. Clare agrees and signs Topsy over to Ophelia. Ophelia asks if he has written into his will something regarding his slaves’ freedom, should he die unexpectedly.
Miss Ophelia’s foreshadowing of St. Clare’s untimely death will unfortunately bear out. Eva’s death has taught Miss Ophelia that she, too, must love Topsy, both as a Christian and as a woman in a mothering role.
St. Clare reads Tom a Bible passage from Matthew ending, “Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these my brethren, ye did it not to me.” He is taken by its meaning. He plays a hymn, the Dies Irae, on the piano, and resolves to Miss Ophelia that he will proceed more bravely, and more actively, as a Christian in the future, though he worries what effect a general emancipation of slaves might have on the country.
St. Clare is moved by Christ’s words. He wishes to make himself an example to others, and he hopes that freeing his slaves might make the world a better place, at least in some small way. Nevertheless he maintains his reservations regarding national emancipation—an issue that would prove intractable during and after the Civil War. And yet, is the difficulty of an issue a reason to perpetuate a clear evil such as slavery?
After making this resolution, St. Clare goes for a walk in the streets. Later that evening a commotion erupts, and it is revealed that St. Clare was stabbed and mortally wounded while trying to break up a fight at a café. St. Clare, dying, asks Tom to pray with him, and he announces that he is going home—his last word is “Mother.”
Again the question of coincidence and timing in the novel might be raised—it does seem that St. Clare’s death comes quickly after his conversion. But he is dead, Miss Ophelia’s fears have come to pass, and it is not clear what will happen to Tom and his fellow slaves.