Why is it that we rejoice at a birth and grieve at a funeral?
It is because we are not the person involved.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
It is easy to find fault, if one has that disposition. There was once
a man who, not being able to find any other fault with his coal,
complained that there were too many prehistoric toads in it.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
Tom flung himself on the sofa, and put his throbbing head in his hands,
and rested his elbows on his knees. He rocked himself back and
forth and moaned.
"I've knelt to a nigger wench!" he muttered. "I thought I had
struck the deepest depths of degradation before, but oh, dear,
it was nothing to this. . . . Well, there is one consolation,
such as it is--I've struck bottom this time; there's nothing lower."
But that was a hasty conclusion.
At ten that night he climbed the ladder in the haunted house, pale,
weak, and wretched. Roxy was standing in the door of one of the rooms,
waiting, for she had heard him.
This was a two-story log house which had acquired the reputation a few
years ago of being haunted, and that was the end of its usefulness.
Nobody would live in it afterward, or go near it by night,
and most people even gave it a wide berth in the daytime.
As it had no competition, it was called _the_ haunted house.
It was getting crazy and ruinous now, from long neglect.
It stood three hundred yards beyond Pudd'nhead Wilson's house,
with nothing between but vacancy. 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.
"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_--"
"En dat po' boy dat you's be'n a-kickin' en a-cuffin' today
is Percy Driscoll's son en yo' _marster_--"
"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
"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