readers may not be unwilling to glance back, for a brief interval, at Uncle
Tom's Cabin, on the Kentucky farm, and see what has been transpiring among those
whom he had left behind.
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.
"Do you know," she said,
"that Chloe has had a letter from Tom?"
"Ah! has she?
Tom 's got some friend there, it seems.
How is the old boy?"
"He has been bought by a very fine
family, I should think," said Mrs. Shelby,--"is kindly treated, and
has not much to do."
"Ah! well, I'm glad of it,--very
glad," said Mr. Shelby, heartily. "Tom,
I suppose, will get reconciled to a Southern residence;--hardly want to come up
"On the contrary he inquires very
anxiously," said Mrs. Shelby,
"when the money for his redemption is to be raised."
"I'm sure _I_ don't 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
"It does seem to me, my dear, that
something might be done to straighten matters.
Suppose we sell off all the horses, and sell one of your farms, and pay
"O, ridiculous, Emily!
You are the finest woman in Kentucky; but still you haven't sense to know
that you don't understand business;--women never do, and never can.
"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 can't help you to economize."
"O, bother! don't plague me,
Emily!--I can't 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 don't know anything about business, I tell you."
And Mr. Shelby, not knowing any other
way of enforcing his ideas, raised his voice,--a mode of arguing very convenient
and convincing, when a gentleman is discussing matters of business with his
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.
"Don't you think we might in some
way contrive to raise that money? Poor
Aunt Chloe! her heart is so set on it!"
"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."
"Mr. Shelby, I have taught my
people that their marriages are as sacred as ours.
I never could think of giving Chloe such advice."
"It's a pity, wife, that you have
burdened them with a morality above their condition and prospects.
I always thought so."
"It's only the morality of the
Bible, Mr. Shelby."
"Well, well, Emily, I don't pretend
to interfere with your religious notions; only they seem extremely unfitted for
people in that condition."
"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."
"You wouldn't degrade yourself that
way, Emily? I never could consent
"Degrade! would it degrade me as
much as to break my faith with the helpless?
"Well, you are always heroic and
transcendental," said Mr. Shelby,
"but I think you had better think before you undertake such a piece of
Here the conversation was interrupted by
the appearance of Aunt Chloe, at the end of the verandah.
"If you please, Missis," said
"Well, Chloe, what is it?"
said her mistress, rising, and going to the end of the balcony.
"If Missis would come and look at
dis yer lot o' poetry."
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
"La sakes!" she would say,
"I can't see; one jis good as turry,--poetry suthin good, any how;"
and so poetry Chloe continued to call it.
Mrs. Shelby smiled as she saw a
prostrate lot of chickens and ducks, over which Chloe stood, with a very grave
face of consideration.
"I'm a thinkin whether Missis would
be a havin a chicken pie o' dese yer."
"Really, Aunt Chloe, I don't much
care;--serve them any way you like."
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,
"Laws me, Missis! what should Mas'r
and Missis be a troublin theirselves 'bout de money, and not a usin what's right
in der hands?" and Chloe laughed again.
"I don't understand you,
Chloe," said Mrs. Shelby, nothing doubting, from her knowledge of Chloe's
manner, that she had heard every word of the conversation that had passed
between her and her husband.
"Why, laws me, Missis!" said
Chloe, laughing again, "other folks hires out der niggers and makes money
on 'em! Don't keep sich a tribe
eatin 'em out of house and home."
"Well, Chloe, who do you propose
that we should hire out?"
"Laws! I an't 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 an't afraid to
put my cake, nor pies nother, 'long side no _perfectioner's_.
"Law sakes, Missis! 'tan't no
odds;--words is so curis, can't never get 'em right!"
"But, Chloe, do you want to leave
"Laws, Missis! de boys is big
enough to do day's works; dey does well enough; and Sally, she'll take de
baby,--she's such a peart young un, she won't take no lookin arter."
"Louisville is a good way
"Law sakes! who's afeard?--it's
down river, somer near my old man, perhaps?" said Chloe, speaking the last
in the tone of a question, and looking at Mrs. Shelby.
"No, Chloe; it's many a hundred
miles off," said Mrs. Shelby.
Chloe's countenance fell.
"Never mind; your going there shall
bring you nearer, Chloe. Yes, you
may go; and your wages shall every cent of them be laid aside for your husband's
As when a bright sunbeam turns a dark
cloud to silver, so Chloe's dark face brightened immediately,--it really shone.
"Laws! if Missis isn't too good!
I was thinking of dat ar very thing; cause I shouldn't need no clothes,
nor shoes, nor nothin,--I could save every cent.
How many weeks is der in a year, Missis?"
"Fifty-two," said Mrs. Shelby.
"Laws! now, dere is? and four
dollars for each on em. Why, how much 'd dat ar be?"
"Two hundred and eight
dollars," said Mrs. Shelby.
"Why-e!" said Chloe, with an
accent of surprise and delight; "and how long would it take me to work it
"Some four or five years, Chloe;
but, then, you needn't do it all,--I shall add something to it."
"I wouldn't hear to Missis' givin
lessons nor nothin. Mas'r's quite
right in dat ar;--'t wouldn't do, no ways.
I hope none our family ever be brought to dat ar, while I 's got
"Don't fear, Chloe; I'll take care
of the honor of the family," said Mrs. Shelby, smiling.
"But when do you expect to go?"
"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 tomorrow morning, if Missis would write my
pass, and write me a commendation."
"Well, Chloe, I'll attend to it, if
Mr. Shelby has no objections. I
must speak to him."
Mrs. Shelby went up stairs, and Aunt
Chloe, delighted, went out to her cabin, to make her preparation.
"Law sakes, Mas'r George! ye didn't
know I 's a gwine to Louisville tomorrow!" she said to George, as entering
her cabin, he found her busy in sorting over her baby's clothes.
"I thought I'd jis look over sis's things, and get 'em straightened
up. But I'm gwine, Mas'r
George,--gwine to have four dollars a week; and Missis is gwine to lay it all
up, to buy back my old man agin!"
"Whew!" said George,
"here's a stroke of business, to be sure!
How are you going?"
"Tomorrow, wid Sam.
And now, Mas'r George, I knows you'll jis sit down and write to my old
man, and tell him all about it,--won't ye?"
"To be sure," said George;
"Uncle Tom'll be right glad to hear from us. I'll go right in the house, for paper and ink; and then, you
know, Aunt Chloe, I can tell about the new colts and all."
"Sartin, sartin, Mas'r George; you
go 'long, and I'll get ye up a bit o' chicken, or some sich; ye won't have many
more suppers wid yer poor old aunty."