Little half dressed white boys, and little negro boys with nothing whatever on but tow-linen shirts with a fine southern exposure, came from various directions and stood with their hands locked together behind them and aided in the inspection. The rest of the population were laying down their employments and getting ready to come, when a man burst through the assemblage and seized the new-comers by the hands in a frenzy of welcome, and exclaimed--indeed almost shouted:

"Well who could have believed it! Now is it you sure enough--turn around! hold up your heads! I want to look at you good! Well, well, well, it does seem most too good to be true, I declare! Lord, I'm so glad to see you! Does a body's whole soul good to look at you! Shake hands again! Keep on shaking hands! Goodness gracious alive. What will my wife say?--Oh yes indeed, it's so!--married only last week--lovely, perfectly lovely creature, the noblest woman that ever--you'll like her, Nancy! Like her? Lord bless me you'll love her--you'll dote on her-- you'll be twins! Well, well, well, let me look at you again! Same old-- why bless my life it was only jest this very morning that my wife says, 'Colonel'--she will call me Colonel spite of everything I can do--she says 'Colonel, something tells me somebody's coming!' and sure enough here you are, the last people on earth a body could have expected. Why she'll think she's a prophetess--and hanged if I don't think so too-- and you know there ain't any, country but what a prophet's an honor to, as the proverb says. Lord bless me and here's the children, too! Washington, Emily, don't you know me? Come, give us a kiss. Won't I fix you, though!--ponies, cows, dogs, everything you can think of that'll delight a child's heart-and--Why how's this? Little strangers? Well you won't be any strangers here, I can tell you. Bless your souls we'll make you think you never was at home before--'deed and 'deed we will, I can tell you! Come, now, bundle right along with me. You can't glorify any hearth stone but mine in this camp, you know--can't eat anybody's bread but mine--can't do anything but just make yourselves perfectly at home and comfortable, and spread yourselves out and rest! You hear me! Here--Jim, Tom, Pete, Jake, fly around! Take that team to my place--put the wagon in my lot--put the horses under the shed, and get out hay and oats and fill them up! Ain't any hay and oats? Well get some--have it charged to me--come, spin around, now! Now, Hawkins, the procession's ready; mark time, by the left flank, forward-march!"

And the Colonel took the lead, with Laura astride his neck, and the newly-inspired and very grateful immigrants picked up their tired limbs with quite a spring in them and dropped into his wake.

Presently they were ranged about an old-time fire-place whose blazing logs sent out rather an unnecessary amount of heat, but that was no matter-supper was needed, and to have it, it had to be cooked. This apartment was the family bedroom, parlor, library and kitchen, all in one. The matronly little wife of the Colonel moved hither and thither and in and out with her pots and pans in her hands', happiness in her heart and a world of admiration of her husband in her eyes. And when at last she had spread the cloth and loaded it with hot corn bread, fried chickens, bacon, buttermilk, coffee, and all manner of country luxuries, Col. Sellers modified his harangue and for a moment throttled it down to the orthodox pitch for a blessing, and then instantly burst forth again as from a parenthesis and clattered on with might and main till every stomach in the party was laden with all it could carry. And when the new-comers ascended the ladder to their comfortable feather beds on the second floor--to wit the garret--Mrs. Hawkins was obliged to say:

"Hang the fellow, I do believe he has gone wilder than ever, but still a body can't help liking him if they would--and what is more, they don't ever want to try when they see his eyes and hear him talk."

Within a week or two the Hawkinses were comfortably domiciled in a new log house, and were beginning to feel at home.

The Gilded Age Page 17

Mark Twain

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