She could not abide such a disaster as that; she couldn't endure the thought of it. Her remark amused Chambers.
"Yah-yah-yah! Jes listen to dat! If I's imitation, what is you? Bofe of us is imitation _white_--dat's what we is--en pow'ful good imitation, too. Yah-yah-yah! We don't 'mount to noth'n as imitation _niggers_; en as for--"
"Shet up yo' foolin', 'fo' I knock you side de head, en tell me 'bout de will. Tell me 'tain't bu'sted--do, honey, en I'll never forgit you."
"Well, _'tain't_--'ca'se dey's a new one made, en Marse Tom's all right ag'in. But what is you in sich a sweat 'bout it for, Mammy? 'Tain't none o' your business I don't reckon."
"'Tain't none o' my business? Whose business is it den, I'd like to know? Wuz I his mother tell he was fifteen years old, or wusn't I?-- you answer me dat. En you speck I could see him turned out po' and ornery on de worl' en never care noth'n' 'bout it? I reckon if you'd ever be'n a mother yo'self, Valet de Chambers, you wouldn't talk sich foolishness as dat."
"Well, den, ole Marse forgive him en fixed up de will ag'in --do dat satisfy you?"
Yes, she was satisfied now, and quite happy and sentimental over it. She kept coming daily, and at last she was told that Tom had come home. She began to tremble with emotion, and straightway sent to beg him to let his "po' ole nigger Mammy have jes one sight of him en die for joy."
Tom was stretched at his lazy ease on a sofa when Chambers brought the petition. Time had not modified his ancient detestation of the humble drudge and protector of his boyhood; it was still bitter and uncompromising. He sat up and bent a severe gaze upon the face of the young fellow whose name he was unconsciously using and whose family rights he was enjoying. He maintained the gaze until the victim of it had become satisfactorily pallid with terror, then he said:
"What does the old rip want with me?"
The petition was meekly repeated.
"Who gave you permission to come and disturb me with the social attentions of niggers?"
Tom had risen. The other young man was trembling now, visibly. He saw what was coming, and bent his head sideways, and put up his left arm to shield it. Tom rained cuffs upon the head and its shield, saying no word: the victim received each blow with a beseeching, "Please, Marse Tom!--oh, please, Marse Tom!" Seven blows--then Tom said, "Face the door--march!" He followed behind with one, two, three solid kicks. The last one helped the pure-white slave over the door-sill, and he limped away mopping his eyes with his old, ragged sleeve. Tom shouted after him, "Send her in!"
Then he flung himself panting on the sofa again, and rasped out the remark, "He arrived just at the right moment; I was full to the brim with bitter thinkings, and nobody to take it out of. How refreshing it was! I feel better."
Tom's mother entered now, closing the door behind her, and approached her son with all the wheedling and supplication servilities that fear and interest can impart to the words and attitudes of the born slave. She stopped a yard from her boy and made two or three admiring exclamations over his manly stature and general handsomeness, and Tom put an arm under his head and hoisted a leg over the sofa back in order to look properly indifferent.
"My lan', how you is growed, honey! 'Clah to goodness, I wouldn't a-knowed you, Marse Tom! 'Deed I wouldn't! Look at me good; does you 'member old Roxy? Does you know yo' old nigger mammy, honey? Well now, I kin lay down en die in peace, 'ca'se I'se seed--"
"Cut it short, Goddamn it, cut it short! What is it you want?"
"You heah dat? Jes the same old Marse Tom, al'ays so gay and funnin' wid de ole mammy. I'uz jes as shore--"
"Cut it short, I tell you, and get along! What do you want?"
This was a bitter disappointment. Roxy had for so many days nourished and fondled and petted her notion that Tom would be glad to see his old nurse, and would make her proud and happy to the marrow with a cordial word or two, that it took two rebuffs to convince her that he was not funning, and that her beautiful dream was a fond and foolish variety, a shabby and pitiful mistake.