Cassy enters to find a scared Emmeline, who thought Cassy might have been Legree. Emmeline asks Cassy if she has ever thought of or tried escape, and Emmeline vows she could make her way through the swamps. Emmeline says she does not wish to drink Legree’s brandy, as he would like, and Cassy says she ought to get used to it. Cassy says she herself now “cannot live without it.” Emmeline wishes she had never been born, and Cassy says killing oneself in these circumstance is just as cruel as the cruelty foisted upon the slaves by Legree.
This is an honest discussion of suicide among slaves. Although their spirits might be very low, suicide remains a major taboo, and tends to crop up in the novel only among mothers who have lost their children (like Cassy). Emmeline believes that suicide is un-Christian and inhuman.
Legree consumes an impressive amount of alcohol in order to drown his superstitious fears. He has a dream where the locks of hair are following him, “whispering” to him. Cassy appears in the dream, as does an image of his mother removing a veil. The next morning, Cassy recommends that a hung-over Legree not too work Tom so hard, since it would ruin Legree’s investment. Cassy repeats that Legree will not be able to break Tom.
Cassy begins the ruse that will result ultimately in her freedom. Legree cannot stand the thought of his mother, and her “appearance” to him is enough to plant a seed of doubt in his mind—a fear that will keep him from heading into the attic.
Legree finds Tom and tells him to “beg pardon” for his impudence the previous day. Tom refuses, since he believes he acted correctly in refusing to whip Lucy. Tom repeats that, although Legree can harm his body, he cannot take Tom’s soul. Tom says he will have Jesus’ help. Legree strikes Tom but Cassy interferes, saying that beating him would make him useless in the fields. Legree tells Tom to get to work, promising not to forget his recalcitrance. Cassy warns Tom that Legree will follow through on his threats.
Cassy must remind Legree that harming Tom is of no benefit to him. After all, Tom would work in the fields and do as he is told. The only thing he will not do is harm another human being. But this is not enough for Legree—he must remake Tom completely and stamp out his Christian goodness. Such total control is, of course, impossible in Tom’s case because his faith puts his soul beyond Legree's reach.