Gateway to the Classics: Nights with Uncle Remus by Joel Chandler Harris
 
Nights with Uncle Remus by  Joel Chandler Harris

Brer Rabbit Lays in His Beef Supply

"I wonder where Daddy Jack is," said the little boy, one night after he had been waiting for some time for Uncle Remus to get leisure to tell him a story.

Uncle Remus, who was delightfully human in his hypocrisy, as well as in other directions, leaned back in his chair, looked at the little boy with an air of grieved resignation, and said:—

"I boun' you does, honey, I boun' you does. Ole Brer Jack look mighty weazly ter de naked eye, but I lay he's a lots mo' likelier nigger dan w'at ole Remus is. De time done gone by w'en a po' ole no-'count nigger lak me kin hol' he han' wid a bran new nigger man lak Brer Jack."

The child stared at Uncle Remus with open-eyed astonishment.

"Now, Uncle Remus! I did n't mean that; you know I did n't," he exclaimed.

"Bless yo' heart, honey! hit don't pester me. I done got de speunce un it. Dat I is. Plough-hoss don't squeal en kick w'en dey puts 'n'er hoss in he place. Brer Jack got de age on 'im but he new ter you. Ole er young, folks is folks, en no longer'n day 'fo' yistiddy, I year you braggin' 'bout how de vittles w'at dey feeds you on up at de big house ain't good ez de vittles w'at yuther childun gits. Nummine ole Remus, honey; you en Brer Jack des go right erlong en I'll be much 'blige ef you'll des lemme set in de cornder yer en chunk de fier. Sho'ly I ain't pas' doin' dat."

The child was troubled to think that Uncle Remus should find it necessary to depreciate himself, and he made haste to explain his position.

"I thought that if Daddy Jack was here he could tell me a story while you are working, so you would n't be bothered."

A broad grin of appreciation spread over Uncle Remus's face. He adjusted his spectacles, looked around and behind him, and then, seeing no one but the child, addressed himself to the rafters and cobwebs:—

"Well! well! well! ef dish yer don't beat all! Gentermens! dish yer little chap yer, he puny in de legs, yit he mighty strong in de head."

He paused, as if reflecting over the whole matter, and then turned to the child:—

"Is dat  w'at make you hone atter Daddy Jack, honey—des 'kaze you wanter set back dar en lissen at a tale? Now, den, ef you had n't 'a' got me off'n de track, you'd 'a' bin settin' yer lis'nen at one un um dis blessid minnit, 'kaze des time I year talk dat Mars John gwine ter have dat ar long-hornded steer kilt fer beef, hit come 'cross my min' 'bout de time w'ence Brer Rabbit en Brer Fox j'ined in wid one er 'n'er en kilt a cow."

"Killed a cow, Uncle Remus?"

"Des ez sho' ez youer settin' dar," replied the old man with emphasis. "Look lak dey wa'n't no kinder doin's w'at dem ar creeturs wa'n't up ter, mo' speshually ole Brer Rabbit. Day in en day out, fum mawnin' twel night en fum night twel mawnin', he 'uz constant a-studyin' up some bran new kinder contrapshun fer ter let de yuther creeturs know he 'uz some'rs in de neighborhoods.

"Come down ter dat, you kin b'leeve me er not b'leeve me, des ez you er min' ter; you kin take yo' choosement; but ole Brer Rabbit en ole Brer Fox, spite er dey fallin' out, dey tuck'n go inter cahoots en kilt a cow. Seem lak I disremember who de cow b'long ter," continued the old man, frowning thoughtfully, and thus, by a single stroke, imparting an air of reality to the story; "but she sho'ly b'long'd ter some er de neighbors, 'kaze you kin des put it down, right pine-blank, dat Brer Rabbit ain't gwine ter kill he own cow, en needer is Brer Fox.

"Well, den, dey tuck'n kilt a cow, en 't wa'n't dey own cow, en alter dey done skunt 'er Brer Rabbit, he up'n 'low, he did, dat ef Brer Fox wanter git de good er de game, he better run home en fetch a tray er sump'n fer put de jiblets in."

"Jiblets, Uncle Remus?"

"Tooby sho', honey. Dats w'at we-all calls de liver, de lights, de heart, en de melt. Some calls um jiblets en some calls um hasletts, but ef you'll lemme take um en kyar um home, you kin des up en call um mos' by any name w'at creep inter yo' min'. You do de namin'," the old man went on, smacking his lips suggestively, "en I'll do de eatin', en ef I'm de loser, I boun' you won't year no complaints fum me.

"But, law bless me! w'at is I'm a-doin'? De time's a-passin', en I'm ain't skacely got start on de tale. Dey kilt de cow, dey did, en Brer Rabbit tell Brer Fox 'bout de jiblets, en w'iles Brer Fox gwine on home atter de bucket fer ter put um in, he say ter hisse'f dat Brer Rabbit ain't bad ez he crackt up ter be. But no sooner is Brer Fox outer sight dan Brer Rabbit cut out de jiblets, he did, en kyar'd um off en hide um. Den he come back en tuck a piece er de meat en drap blood 'way off de udder way.

"Bimeby yer come Brer Fox wid he bucket, en w'en he git dar Brer Rabbit wuz settin' down cryin'. Mon, he 'uz des a-boohoo-in'. Brer Fox, he 'low:—

" 'Name er goodness, Brer Rabbit! w'at de marter?'

" ' 'Nuff de marter—'nuff de marter. I wish you'd 'a' stayed yer w'iles you wuz yer—dat I does, Brer Fox!'

" 'How come, Brer Rabbit,—how come?'

" 'Man come, Brer Fox, en stole all yo' nice jiblets. I bin a-runnin' atter 'im, Brer Fox, but he outrun me.'

" 'W'ich a-way he go, Brer Rabbit?'

" 'Yer de way he went, Brer Fox; yer whar he drap de blood. Ef you be right peart, Brer Fox, you'll ketch 'im.'

"Brer Fox he drapt de bucket, he did, en put out atter de man w'at tuck de jiblets, en he wa'n't out'n sight good, 'fo' ole Brer Rabbit sail in en cut out all de fat en taller, en kyar' it off en hide it. Atter w'ile, yer come Brer Fox back des a-puffin' en a-pantin'. He ain't see no man. Brer Rabbit, he hail 'im:—

" 'You ain't come a minnit too soon, Brer Fox, dat you ain't. W'iles you bin gone 'n'er man come 'long en kyar'd off all de taller en fat. He went right off dat a-way, Brer Fox, en ef you'll be right peart, you'll ketch 'im.'

"Brer Fox, he tuck'n put out, he did, en run, en run, yit he ain't see no man. Wiles he done gone Brer Rabbit kyar off one er de behime quarters. Brer Fox come back; he ain't see no man. Brer Rabbit holler en tell 'im dat 'ne'r man done come en got a behime quarter en run'd off wid it.

"Brer Fox sorter study 'bout dis, 'kaze it look lak nobody yuver see de like er mens folks passin' by dat one lonesome cow. He make out he gwine ter run atter de man w'at steal de behime quarter, but he ain't git fur 'fo' he tuck'n tu'n 'roun' en crope back, en he 'uz des in time fer ter see Brer Rabbit makin' off wid de yuther behime quarter. Brer Fox mighty tired wid runnin' hether en yan, en backards en forrerds, but he git so mad w'en he see Brer Rabbit gwine off dat a-way, dat he dash up en ax 'im whar is he gwine wid dat ar beef.

"Brer Rabbit lay de beef down, he did, en look lak he feelin's hurted. He look at Brer Fox lak he feel mighty sorry fer folks w'at kin ax foolish questions lak dat. He shake he head, he did, en 'low:—

" 'Well, well, well! Who'd 'a' thunk dat Brer Fox would 'a' come axin' me 'bout dish yer beef, w'ich anybody would er know'd I 'uz a-kyar'n off fer ter save fer 'im, so nobody could n't git it?'

"But dish yer kinder talk don't suit Brer Fox, en he tuck'n make a motion 'zef ter ketch Brer Rabbit, but Brer Rabbit he 'gun 'im leg bail, en dar dey had it thoo de woods twel Brer Rabbit come 'pon a holler tree, en inter dat he went, des lak one er deze streaked lizzuds goes inter a hole in de san'."

"And then," said the little boy, as Uncle Remus paused, "along came Brother Buzzard, and Brother Fox set him to watch the hole, and Brother Rabbit said he had found a fat squirrel which he would run out on the other side; and then he came out and ran home."

This was the climax of a story that Uncle Remus had told a long time before, and he looked at his little partner with astonishment not unmixed with admiration.

"I 'clar' ter gracious, honey!" he exclaimed, "ef you hol's on ter yo' pra'rs lak you does ter deze yer tales youer doin' mighty well. But don't you try ter hol' Brer Rabbit down ter one trick, you won't never keep up wid 'im in de 'roun' worl'—dat you won't.

"Ole Brer Buzzard wuz dar, en Brer Fox ax 'im fer ter watch de hole, but he ain't bin dar long 'fo' Brer Rabbit sing out:—

" 'I got de 'vantage un you, dis whet, Brer Buzzard, I sho'ly is.'

" 'How dat, Brer Rabbit?'

" ' 'Kaze I kin see you, en you can't see me.'

"Wid dat Brer Buzzard stuck he head in de hole, en look up; en no sooner is he do dis dan Brer Rabbit fill he eyes full er san', en w'iles he gone ter de branch fer ter wash it out, Brer Rabbit he come down outer de holler, en went back ter whar de cow wuz; en mo' dan dat, Brer Rabbit got de ballunce un de beef."


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