It was the last house in the town at that end.

Tom followed Roxy into the room. She had a pile of clean straw in the corner for a bed, some cheap but well-kept clothing was hanging on the wall, there was a tin lantern freckling the floor with little spots of light, and there were various soap and candle boxes scattered about, which served for chairs. The two sat down. Roxy said:

"Now den, I'll tell you straight off, en I'll begin to k'leck de money later on; I ain't in no hurry. What does you reckon I's gwine to tell you?"

"Well, you--you--oh, Roxy, don't make it too hard for me! Come right out and tell me you've found out somehow what a shape I'm in on account of dissipation and foolishness."

"Disposition en foolishness! NO sir, dat ain't it. Dat jist ain't nothin' at all, 'longside o' what _I_ knows."

Tom stared at her, and said:

"Why, Roxy, what do you mean?"

She rose, and gloomed above him like a Fate.

"I means dis--en it's de Lord's truth. You ain't no more kin to ole Marse Driscoll den I is! _dat's_ what I means!" and her eyes flamed with triumph.

"What?"

"Yassir, en _dat_ ain't all! You's a _nigger!_--_bawn_ a nigger and a _slave!_--en you's a nigger en a slave dis minute; en if I opens my mouf ole Marse Driscoll'll sell you down de river befo' you is two days older den what you is now!"

"It's a thundering lie, you miserable old blatherskite!"

"It ain't no lie, nuther. It's just de truth, en nothin' _but_ de truth, so he'p me. Yassir--you's my _son_--"

"You devil!"

"En dat po' boy dat you's be'n a-kickin' en a-cuffin' today is Percy Driscoll's son en yo' _marster_--"

"You beast!"

"En _his_ name is Tom Driscoll, en _yo's_ name's Valet de Chambers, en you ain't GOT no fambly name, beca'se niggers don't _have_ em!"

Tom sprang up and seized a billet of wood and raised it, but his mother only laughed at him, and said:

"Set down, you pup! Does you think you kin skyer me? It ain't in you, nor de likes of you. I reckon you'd shoot me in de back, maybe, if you got a chance, for dat's jist yo' style--_I_ knows you, throo en throo--but I don't mind gitt'n killed, beca'se all dis is down in writin' and it's in safe hands, too, en de man dat's got it knows whah to look for de right man when I gits killed. Oh, bless yo' soul, if you puts yo' mother up for as big a fool as _you_ is, you's pow'ful mistaken, I kin tell you! Now den, you set still en behave yo'self; en don't you git up ag'in till I tell you!"

Tom fretted and chafed awhile in a whirlwind of disorganizing sensations and emotions, and finally said, with something like settled conviction:

"The whole thing is moonshine; now then, go ahead and do your worst; I'm done with you."

Roxy made no answer. She took the lantern and started for the door. Tom was in a cold panic in a moment.

"Come back, come back!" he wailed. "I didn't mean it, Roxy; I take it all back, and I'll never say it again! Please come back, Roxy!"

The woman stood a moment, then she said gravely:

"Dat's one thing you's got to stop, Valet de Chambers. You can't call me _Roxy_, same as if you was my equal. Chillen don't speak to dey mammies like dat. You'll call me ma or mammy, dat's what you'll call me--leastways when de ain't nobody aroun'. _Say_ it!"

It cost Tom a struggle, but he got it out.

"Dat's all right. don't you ever forgit it ag'in, if you knows what's good for you. Now den, you had said you wouldn't ever call it lies en moonshine ag'in. I'll tell you dis, for a warnin': if you ever does say it ag'in, it's de LAS' time you'll ever say it to me; I'll tramp as straight to de judge as I kin walk, en tell him who you is, en _prove_ it. Does you b'lieve me when I says dat?"

"Oh," groaned Tom, "I more than believe it; I _know_ it."

Roxy knew her conquest was complete. She could have proved nothing to anybody, and her threat of writings was a lie; but she knew the person she was dealing with, and had made both statements without any doubt as to the effect they would produce.

The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson Page 25

Mark Twain

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