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Mulattoes George and Eliza, the "beloved slaves" of neighboring Kentucky plantation owners, are about to be married when their plans are scotched by Edward Harris, George's master. Over the next years, the Shelbys, Eliza's kindly masters, incur a deepening debt to a blackguard named Haley, forcing them to surrender their slaves Tom and Harry, Eliza's young son. Eliza, overhearing the plans, escapes with Harry across the border. She is pursued by Lawyer Marks and his companion, Loker, and, although harbored by Quaker Phineas Fletcher, is extradited by dint of the new Dred Scott Decision. Returning home, they find themselves on a riverboat with Haley, Tom, and George, who had escaped from Harris' clutches and obtained work as a stoker. Haley's presence forces George into a watery escape and Marks and Loker into stealthy evasion until they can sell Harry to yet another slave owner; meanwhile, Eliza's grief drives her to near self-destruction. White northerner Augustus St. Claire and his young daughter, Eva, intervene on Tom's behalf and buy him, leaving Eliza to be sold downriver at a New Orleans slave auction. A deep friendship develops between Eva and Topsy, a scurvy black imp who becomes her servant, but the little white girl dies, soon followed by her father. Tom is then sold to Simon Legree, a villainous northerner who also buys Eliza. He brings her into his home, usurping the place of Cassie, an older mulatto slave, who jealously confides to Tom her bitter and tortuous history at the hands of Legree. The story reveals Cassie to be Eliza's mother; reunited, they try to escape, ending up in Legree's attic. Though Tom is beaten to death, their whereabouts are concealed until Legree happens upon them. A fight ensues, in which Legree, drunk, hysterical, and tormented by visions of the goodly Tom, falls from the attic to his death. George, who has found and claimed little Harry, emerges from a passing band of refugees, and the long-sought reunion takes place.