It was late in the summer afternoon, and the doors and windows of the large parlor all stood open, to invite any stray breeze, that might feel in a good humor, to enter. Mr. Shelby sat in a large hall opening into the room, and running through the whole length of the house, to a balcony on either end. Leisurely tipped back on one chair, with his heels in another, he was enjoying his after-dinner cigar. Mrs. Shelby sat in the door, busy about some fine sewing; she seemed like one who had something on her mind, which she was seeking an opportunity to introduce.
I m sure I dont know, said Mr. Shelby. Once get business running wrong, there does seem to be no end to it. It s like jumping from one bog to another, all through a swamp; borrow of one to pay another, and then borrow of another to pay one,and these confounded notes falling due before a man has time to smoke a cigar and turn round,dunning letters and dunning messages,all scamper and hurry-scurry.
But, at least, said Mrs. Shelby, could not you give me some little insight into yours; a list of all your debts, at least, and of all that is owed to you, and let me try and see if I cant help you to economize.
O, bother! dont plague me, Emily!I cant tell exactly. I know somewhere about what things are likely to be; but there s no trimming and squaring my affairs, as Chloe trims crust off her pies. You dont know anything about business, I tell you.
Mrs. Shelby ceased talking, with something of a sigh. The fact was, that though her husband had stated she was a woman, she had a clear, energetic, practical mind, and a force of character every way superior to that of her husband; so that it would not have been so very absurd a supposition, to have allowed her capable of managing, as Mr. Shelby supposed. Her heart was set on performing her promise to Tom and Aunt Chloe, and she sighed as discouragements thickened around her.
I m sorry, if it is. I think I was premature in promising. I m not sure, now, but it s the best way to tell Chloe, and let her make up her mind to it. Tom ll have another wife, in a year or two; and she had better take up with somebody else.
They are, indeed, said Mrs. Shelby, and that is why, from my soul, I hate the whole thing. I tell you, my dear, I cannot absolve myself from the promises I make to these helpless creatures. If I can get the money no other way, I will take music-scholars;I could get enough, I know, and earn the money myself.
Chloe had a particular fancy for calling poultry poetry,an application of language in which she always persisted, notwithstanding frequent corrections and advisings from the young members of the family.
Chloe stood handling them over abstractedly; it was quite evident that the chickens were not what she was thinking of. At last, with the short laugh with which her tribe often introduce a doubtful proposal, she said,
I dont understand you, Chloe, said Mrs. Shelby, nothing doubting, from her knowledge of Chloes manner, that she had heard every word of the conversation that had passed between her and her husband.
Laws! I ant a proposin nothin; only Sam he said der was one of dese yer perfectioners, dey calls em, in Louisville, said he wanted a good hand at cake and pastry; and said he d give four dollars a week to one, he did.
Well, laws, I s a thinkin, Missis, it s time Sally was put along to be doin something. Sally s been under my care, now, dis some time, and she does most as well as me, considerin; and if Missis would only let me go, I would help fetch up de money. I ant afraid to put my cake, nor pies nother, long side no perfectioners.
Well, I want spectin nothin; only Sam, he s a gwine to de river with some colts, and he said I could go long with him; so I jes put my things together. If Missis was willin, I d go with Sam to-morrow morning, if Missis would write my pass, and write me a commendation.
Law sakes, Masr George! ye did nt know I s a gwine to Louisville to-morrow! she said to George, as entering her cabin, he found her busy in sorting over her babys clothes. I thought I d jis look over siss things, and get em straightened up. But I m gwine, Masr George,gwine to have four dollars a week; and Missis is gwine to lay it all up, to buy back my old man agin!