She was hurt to the heart, and so ashamed that for a moment she did not quite know what to do or how to act. Then her breast began to heave, the tears came, and in her forlornness she was moved to try that other dream of hers-- an appeal to her boy's charity; and so, upon the impulse, and without reflection, she offered her supplication:
"Oh, Marse Tom, de po' ole mammy is in sich hard luck dese days; en she's kinder crippled in de arms and can't work, en if you could gimme a dollah--on'y jes one little dol--"
Tom was on his feet so suddenly that the supplicant was startled into a jump herself.
"A dollar!--give you a dollar! I've a notion to strangle you! Is _that_ your errand here? Clear out! And be quick about it!"
Roxy backed slowly toward the door. When she was halfway she stopped, and said mournfully:
"Marse Tom, I nussed you when you was a little baby, en I raised you all by myself tell you was 'most a young man; en now you is young en rich, en I is po' en gitt'n ole, en I come heah b'leavin' dat you would he'p de ole mammy 'long down de little road dat's lef' 'twix' her en de grave, en--"
Tom relished this tune less than any that he preceded it, for it began to wake up a sort of echo in his conscience; so he interrupted and said with decision, though without asperity, that he was not in a situation to help her, and wasn't going to do it.
"Ain't you ever gwine to he'p me, Marse Tom?"
"No! Now go away and don't bother me any more."
Roxy's head was down, in an attitude of humility. But now the fires of her old wrongs flamed up in her breast and began to burn fiercely. She raised her head slowly, till it was well up, and at the same time her great frame unconsciously assumed an erect and masterful attitude, with all the majesty and grace of her vanished youth in it. She raised her finger and punctuated with it.
"You has said de word. You has had yo' chance, en you has trompled it under yo' foot. When you git another one, you'll git down on yo' knees en _beg_ for it!"
A cold chill went to Tom's heart, he didn't know why; for he did not reflect that such words, from such an incongruous source, and so solemnly delivered, could not easily fail of that effect. However, he did the natural thing: he replied with bluster and mockery.
"_You'll_ give me a chance--_you_! Perhaps I'd better get down on my knees now! But in case I don't--just for argument's sake-- what's going to happen, pray?"
"Dis is what is gwine to happen, I's gwine as straight to yo' uncle as I kin walk, en tell him every las' thing I knows 'bout you."
Tom's cheek blenched, and she saw it. Disturbing thoughts began to chase each other through his head. "How can she know? And yet she must have found out--she looks it. I've had the will back only three months, and am already deep in debt again, and moving heaven and earth to save myself from exposure and destruction, with a reasonably fair show of getting the thing covered up if I'm let alone, and now this fiend has gone and found me out somehow or other. I wonder how much she knows? Oh, oh, oh, it's enough to break a body's heart! But I've got to humor her--there's no other way."
Then he worked up a rather sickly sample of a gay laugh and a hollow chipperness of manner, and said:
"Well, well, Roxy dear, old friends like you and me mustn't quarrel. Here's your dollar--now tell me what you know."
He held out the wildcat bill; she stood as she was, and made no movement. It was her turn to scorn persuasive foolery now, and she did not waste it. She said, with a grim implacability in voice and manner which made Tom almost realize that even a former slave can remember for ten minutes insults and injuries returned for compliments and flatteries received, and can also enjoy taking revenge for them when the opportunity offers:
"What does I know? I'll tell you what I knows, I knows enough to bu'st dat will to flinders--en more, mind you, _more!_"
Tom was aghast.
"More?" he said, "What do you call more? Where's there any room for more?"
Roxy laughed a mocking laugh, and said scoffingly, with a toss of her head, and her hands on her hips:
"Yes!--oh, I reckon! _co'se_ you'd like to know--wid yo' po' little ole rag dollah.