“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 wife.
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 to it.”
“Degrade! would it degrade me as much as to break my faith with the helpless? No, indeed!”
“Well, you are always heroic and transcendental,” said Mr. Shelby, “but I think you had better think before you undertake such a piece of Quixotism.”
Here the conversation was interrupted by the appearance of Aunt Chloe, at the end of the verandah.