Mrs. Shelby smiled.
“I’m a thinkin’ my old man won’t know de boys and de baby. Lor’! she’s de biggest gal, now,—good she is, too, and peart, Polly is. She’s out to the house, now, watchin’ de hoe-cake. I ’s got jist de very pattern my old man liked so much, a bakin’. Jist sich as I gin him the mornin’ he was took off. Lord bless us! how I felt, dat ar morning!”
Mrs. Shelby sighed, and felt a heavy weight on her heart, at this allusion. She had felt uneasy, ever since she received her son’s letter, lest something should prove to be hidden behind the veil of silence which he had drawn.
“Missis has got dem bills?” said Chloe, anxiously.
“’Cause I wants to show my old man dem very bills de perfectioner gave me. ‘And,’ say he, ‘Chloe, I wish you’d stay longer.’ ’Thank you, Mas’r,’ says I, ’I would, only my old man’s coming home, and Missis,—she can’t do without me no longer.’ There’s jist what I telled him. Berry nice man, dat Mas’r Jones was.”
Chloe had pertinaciously insisted that the very bills in which her wages had been paid should be preserved, to show her husband, in memorial of her capability. And Mrs. Shelby had readily consented to humor her in the request.
“He won’t know Polly,—my old man won’t. Laws, it’s five year since they tuck him! She was a baby den,—couldn’t but jist stand. Remember how tickled he used to be, cause she would keep a fallin’ over, when she sot out to walk. Laws a me!”
The rattling of wheels now was heard.
“Mas’r George!” said Aunt Chloe, starting to the window.
Mrs. Shelby ran to the entry door, and was folded in the arms of her son. Aunt Chloe stood anxiously straining her eyes out into the darkness.
“O, poor Aunt Chloe!” said George, stopping compassionately, and taking her hard, black hand between both his; “I’d have given all my fortune to have brought him with me, but he’s gone to a better country.”
There was a passionate exclamation from Mrs. Shelby, but Aunt Chloe said nothing.
The party entered the supper-room. The money, of which Chloe was so proud, was still lying on the table.
“Thar,” said she, gathering it up, and holding it, with a trembling hand, to her mistress, “don’t never want to see nor hear on ’t again. Jist as I knew ‘t would be,—sold, and murdered on dem ar’ old plantations!”
Chloe turned, and was walking proudly out of the room. Mrs. Shelby followed her softly, and took one of her hands, drew her down into a chair, and sat down by her.
“My poor, good Chloe!” said she.
Chloe leaned her head on her mistress’ shoulder, and sobbed out, “O Missis! ’scuse me, my heart’s broke,—dat’s all!”
“I know it is,” said Mrs. Shelby, as her tears fell fast; “and I cannot heal it, but Jesus can. He healeth the broken hearted, and bindeth up their wounds.”