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

Brer Rabbit and His Famous Foot

The little boy was very glad, one night shortly after he had heard about Daddy Jack's ghosts and witches and 'Tildy's "ha'nts," to find Uncle Remus alone in his cabin. The child liked to have his venerable partner all to himself. Uncle Remus was engaged in hunting for tobacco crumbs with which to fill his pipe, and in turning his pockets a rabbit foot dropped upon the hearth.

"Grab it, honey!" he exclaimed. "Snatch it up off'n de h'a'th. In de name er goodness, don't let it git in de embers; 'kaze ef dat ar rabbit foot git singe, I'm a goner, sho'!"

It was the hind foot of a rabbit, and a very large one at that, and the little boy examined it curiously. He was in thorough sympathy with all the superstitions of the negroes, and to him the rabbit foot appeared to be an uncanny affair. He placed it carefully on Uncle Remus's knee, and after the pipe had been filled, he asked:—

"What do you carry that for, Uncle Remus?"

"Well, honey," responded the old man, grimly, "ef you want me ter make shorts out'n a mighty long tale, dat rabbit foot is fer ter keep off boogers. W'en I hatter run er'n's fer myse'f all times er night, en take nigh cuts thoo de woods, en 'cross by de buryin'-groun', hits monst'us handy fer ter have dat ar rabbit foot. Keep yo' head studdy, now; mine yo' eye; I ain't sayin' deyer any boogers anywhars. Brer Jack kin say w'at he mineter; I ain't sayin' nothin'. But yit, ef dey wuz any, en dey come slinkin' atter me, I let you know dey'd fine out terreckly dat de ole nigger heel'd wid rabbit foot. I 'ud hol' it up des dis a-way, en I boun' you I'd shoo um off'n de face er de yeth. En I tell you w'at," continued Uncle Remus, seeing that the little boy was somewhat troubled, "w'en it come to dat pass dat you gotter be dodgin' 'roun' in de dark, ef you'll des holler fer me, I'll loan you dish yer rabbit foot, en you'll be des ez safe ez you is w'en Miss Sally stannin' by yo' bed wid a lit can'le in 'er han'.

"Strip er red flannil tied 'roun' yo' arm'll keep off de rheumatis; stump-water 'll kyo 'spepsy; some good fer one 'zeeze, en some good fer n'er, but de p'ints is dat dish yer rabbit foot 'll gin you good luck. De man w'at tote it mighty ap' fer ter come out right een' up w'en dey's any racket gwine on in de neighborhoods, let 'er be whar she will en w'en she may; mo' espeshually ef de man w'at got it know 'zactly w'at he got ter do. W'ite folks may laugh," Uncle Remus went on, "but w'en rabbit run 'cross de big road front er me, w'at does I do? Does I shoo at um? Does I make fer ter kill um? Dat I don't—dat  I don't! I des squots right down in de middle er de road, en I makes a cross-mark in de san' des dis way, en den I spits in it."

Uncle Remus made a practical illustration by drawing a cross-mark in the ashes on the hearth.

"Well, but, Uncle Remus, what good does all this do?" the little boy asked.

"Lots er good, honey; bless yo' soul, lots er good. W'en rabbit crosses yo' luck, w'at you gwine do, less'n you sets down en crosses it out, right den en dar? I year talk er folks shootin' rabbit in de big road, yit I notices dat dem w'at does de shootin' ain't come ter no good een'—dat w'at I notices."

"Uncle Remus," the little boy asked, after a while, "how did people happen to find out about the rabbit's foot?"

"Oh, you let folks 'lone fer dat, honey! You des let um 'lone. W'at de wimmen ain't up'n tell bidout anybody axin' un um, folks mighty ap' fer ter fine out fer deyse'f. De wimmen, dey does de talkin' en de flyin', en de mens, dey does de walkin' en de pryin', en betwixt en betweenst um, dey ain't much dat don't come out. Ef it don't come out one day it do de nex', en so she goes—Ant'ny over, Ant'ny under—up one row en down de udder, en clean acrosst de bolly-patch!"

It may be that the child did n't understand all this, but he had no doubt of its wisdom, and so he waited patiently for developments.

"Dey's a tale 'bout de rabbit foot," continued Uncle Remus, "but yo' eye look watery, like ole man Nod 'bout ter slip up behime you; en let 'lone dat, I 'speck Miss Sally clock clickin' fer you right now."

"Oh, no, it is n't, Uncle Remus," said the child, laughing. "Mamma said she'd make 'Tildy call me."

"Dar, now!" exclaimed the old man, indignantly, " 'Tildy dis en 'Tildy dat. I dunner w'at yo' mammy dreamin' 'bout fer ter let dat nigger gal be a-holl'in' en a-bawlin' atter you all 'roun' dish yer plan'ation. She de mos' uppity nigger on de hill, en de fus' news you know dey ull all hatter make der bows en call 'er Mistiss. Ef ole Miss wuz 'live, dey would n't be no sech gwines on 'roun' yer. But nummine. You des let 'er come a-cuttin' up front er my do', en I lay you'll year squallin'. Now, den," continued the old man, settling himself back in his chair, "wharbouts wuz I?"

"You said there was a tale about the rabbit foot," the little boy replied.

"So dey is, honey! so dey is!" Uncle Remus exclaimed, "but she got so many crooks en tu'ns in 'er dat I dunner but w'at I ain't done gone en fergotted some un um off'n my min'; 'kaze ole folks lak me knows lots mo' dan w'at dey kin 'member.

"In de days w'ence Brer Rabbit wuz sorter keepin' de neighborhoods stirred up, de yuther creeturs wuz studyin' en studyin' de whole blessid time how dey gwine ter nab 'im. Dey ain't had no holiday yit, 'kaze w'en de holiday come, dey'd go ter wuk, dey would, en juggle wid one er n'er fer ter see how dey gwine ter ketch up wid Brer Rabbit. Bimeby, w'en all der plans, en der traps, en der jugglements ain't do no good, dey all 'gree, dey did, dat Brer Rabbit got some cunjerment w'at he trick um wid. Brer B'ar, he up'n 'low, he did, dat he boun' Brer Rabbit is a nat'al bawn witch; Brer Wolf say, sezee, dat he 'speck Brer Rabbit des in cahoots wid a witch; en Brer Fox, he vow dat Brer Rabbit got mo' luck dan smartness. Den Jedge B'ar, he drap he head one side, he did, en he ax how come Brer Rabbit got all de luck on he own side. De mo' dey ax, de mo' dey git pestered, en de mo' dey git pestered, de wuss dey worry. Day in en day out dey wuk wid dis puzzlement; let 'lone dat, dey sot up nights; en bimeby dey 'gree 'mungs deyse'f dat dey better make up wid Brer Rabbit, en see ef dey can't fine out how come he so lucky.

"Wiles all dis gwine on, ole Brer Rabbit wuz a-gallopin' 'roun' fum Funtown ter Frolicville, a-kickin' up de devilment en terrifyin' de neighborhoods. Hit keep on dis a-way, twel one time, endurin' de odd-come-shorts, ole Jedge B'ar sont wud dat one er his chilluns done bin tooken wid a sickness, en he ax won't ole Miss Rabbit drap 'roun' en set up wid 'im. Ole Miss Rabbit, she say, co'se she go, en atter she fill 'er satchy full er yerbs en truck, off she put.

"I done fergit," said Uncle Remus, scratching his head gravely, "w'ich one er dem chilluns wuz ailin'. Hit mout er bin Kubs, en hit mout er bin Klibs; but no marter fer dat. W'en ole Miss Rabbit git dar, ole Miss B'ar wuz a-settin' up in de chimbly-cornder des a-dosin' en a-nussin' de young un; en all de wimmin er de neighborhoods wuz dar, a-whispun en a-talkin', des fer all de worl' lak wimmin does deze days. It 'uz:—

" 'Come right in, Sis Rabbit! I mighty proud to see you. I mighty glad you fotch yo' knittin', 'kaze I'm pow'ful po' comp'ny w'en my chillun sick. Des fling yo' bonnet on de bed dar. I'm dat flustrated twel I dunner w'ich een's up, skacely. Sis Wolf, han' Sis Rabbit dat rickin'-cheer dar, 'kaze 't ain't no one step fum her house ter mine.'

"Dat de way ole Miss B'ar run on," continued Uncle Remus, "en dey set dar en dey chatter en dey clatter. Ole Brer Wolf, he 'uz settin' out on de back peazzer smokin' en noddin'. He 'ud take en draw a long whiff, he would, en den he 'ud drap off ter noddin' en let de smoke oozle out thoo he nose. Bimeby ole Sis Rabbit drap 'er knittin' in 'er lap, en sing out, sez she:—

" 'Law, Sis B'ar! I smells 'barker smoke,' sez she.

"Ole Sis B'ar, she jolt up de sick baby, en swap it fum one knee ter de yuther, en 'low:—

" 'My ole man bin smokin' 'roun' yer de whole blessid day, but soon'z dish yer chile tuck sick, I des tuck'n tole 'im, sez I, fer ter take hisse'f off in de woods whar he b'long at, sez I. Yessum! I did dat! I pities any 'oman w'at 'er ole man is fer'verlastin' stuck 'roun' de house w'en dey's any sickness gwine on,' sez she.

"Ole Brer Wolf sot out dar on de back peazzer, en he shot one eye, he did, en open um 'g'in, en let de smoke oozle out'n he nose. Sis B'ar, she jolt de sick baby en swap it fum one knee ter de yuther. Dey sot dar en talk twel bimeby der confab sorter slack up. Fus' news dey know Sis Rabbit drap 'er knittin' en fling up 'er han's en squall out:—

" 'De gracious en de goodness! Ef I ain't done come traipsin' off en lef' my ole man money-pus, en he got sump'n' in dar w'at he won't take a purty fer, needer! I'm dat fergitful,' sez she, 'twel hit keep me mizerbul mighty nigh de whole time,' sez she.

"Brer Wolf, he lif' up he year en open he eye, en let de smoke oozle out'n he nose. Sis B'ar, she jolt de sick baby wuss en wuss, en bimeby, she up'n say, sez she:—

" 'I mighty glad 't ain't me, dat I is,' sez she, 'bekaze ef I wuz ter lef' my ole man money-pus layin' 'roun' dat a-way, he'd des nat'ally rip up de planks in de flo', en t'ar all de bark off'n de trees,' sez she.

"Ole Miss Rabbit, she sot dar, she did, en she rock en study, en study en rock, en she dunner w'at ter do. Ole Sis B'ar, she jolt en jolt de baby. Ole Brer Wolf, he let de 'barker smoke oozle thoo he nose, he did, en den he open bofe eyes en lay he pipe down. Wid dat, he crope down de back steps en lit out fer Brer Rabbit house. Brer Wolf got gait same lak race-hoss, en it ain't take 'im long fer ter git whar he gwine. W'en he git ter Brer Rabbit house, he pull de latch-string en open de do', en w'en he do dis, one er de little Rabs wake up, en he holler out:—

" 'Dat you, mammy?'

"Den Brer Wolf wish he kin sing 'Bye-O-Baby,' but 'fo' he kin make answer, de little Rab holler out 'g'in:—

" 'Dat you, mammy?'

"Ole Brer Wolf know he got ter do sump'n', so he tuck'n w'isper, he did:—

" 'Sh-sh-sh! Go ter sleep, honey. De boogers'll git you!' en wid dat de little Rab 'gun ter whimple, en he whimple hisse'f off ter sleep.

"Den w'en it seem lak de little Rabs, w'ich dey wuz mighty nigh forty-eleven un um, is all gone ter sleep, Brer Wolf, he crope 'roun', he did, en feel on de mantel-shelf, en feel, en feel, twel he come ter ole Brer Rabbit money-pus. Ef he want so light wid he han'," Uncle Remus went on, glancing quizzically at the child, "he'd a knock off de pollygollic vial w'at ole Miss Rabbit put up dar. But nummine! Brer Wolf, he feel, en feel, twel he come ter de money-pus, en he grab dat, he did, en he des flew'd away fum dar.

"W'en he git out er sight en year'n', Brer Wolf look at de money-pus, en see w'at in it. Hit 'uz one er deze yer kinder money-pus wid tossle on de een' en shiny rings in de middle. Brer Wolf look in dar fer ter see w'at he kin see. In one een' dey wuz a piece er calamus-root en some collard-seeds, en in de t'er een' dey wuz a great big rabbit foot. Dis make Brer Wolf feel mighty good, en he gallop off home wid de shorance un a man w'at done foun' a gol' mine."

Here Uncle Remus paused and betrayed a disposition to drop off to sleep. The little boy, however, touched him upon the knee, and asked him what Brother Rabbit did when he found his foot was gone. Uncle Remus laughed and rubbed his eyes.

"Hit's mighty kuse 'bout Brer Rabbit, honey. He ain't miss dat money-pus fer mighty long time, yit w'en he do miss it, he miss it mighty bad. He miss it so bad dat he git right-down sick, 'kaze he know he bleedz ter fine dat ar foot let go w'at may, let come w'at will. He study en he study, yit 't ain't do no good, en he go all 'roun' 'lowin' ter hisse'f:—

" 'I know whar I put dat foot, yit I dunner whar I lef' um; I know whar I put dat foot, yit I dunner whar I lef' um.'

"He mope en he mope 'roun'. Look lak Brer Wolf got all de luck en Brer Rabbit ain't got none. Brer Wolf git fat, Brer Rabbit git lean; Brer Wolf run fas', Brer Rabbit lope heavy lak ole Sis Cow; Brer Wolf feel funny, Brer Rabbit feel po'ly. Hit keep on dis a-way, twel bimeby Brer Rabbit know sump'n' n'er bleedz ter be done. Las' he make up he min' fer ter take a journey, en he fix up he tricks, he do, en he go en see ole Aunt Mammy-Bammy Big-Money."

"And who was old Aunt Mammy-Bammy Big-Money, Uncle Remus?" the little boy inquired.

"Ah-yi!" exclaimed Uncle Remus, in a tone of triumph, "I know'd w'en I fotch dat ole creetur name up, dey wa'n't gwine ter be no noddin' 'roun' dish yer h'a'th. In dem days," he continued, "dey wuz a Witch-Rabbit, en dat wuz her entitlements—ole Aunt Mammy-Bammy Big-Money. She live way off in a deep, dark swamp, en ef you go dar you hatter ride some, slide some; jump some, hump some; hop some, flop some; walk some, balk some; creep some, sleep some; fly some, cry some; foller some, holler some; wade some, spade some; en ef you ain't monst'us keerful you ain't git dar den. Yit Brer Rabbit he git dar atter so long a time, en he mighty nigh wo' out.

"He sot down, he did, fer ter res' hisse'f, en bimeby he see black smoke comin' outer de hole in de groun' whar de ole Witch-Rabbit stay. Smoke git blacker en blacker, en atter w'ile Brer Rabbit know de time done come fer 'im ter open up en tell w'at he want."

As Uncle Remus interpreted the dialogue, Brother Rabbit spoke in a shrill, frightened tone, while the voice of the Rabbit-Witch was hoarse and oracular:—

" 'Mammy-Bammy Big-Money, I needs yo' he'p.'

" 'Son Riley Rabbit, why so? Son Riley Rabbit, why so?'

" 'Mammy-Bammy Big-Money, I los' de foot you gim me.'

" 'O Riley Rabbit, why so? Son Riley Rabbit, why so?'

" 'Mammy-Bammy Big-Money, my luck done gone. I put dat foot down 'pon de groun'. I lef um dar I know not whar.'

" 'De Wolf done tuck en stole yo' luck, Son Riley Rabbit, Riley. Go fine de track, go git hit back, Son Riley Rabbit, Riley.'

"Wid dat," continued Uncle Remus, "ole Aunt Mammy-Bammy Big-Money sucked all de black smoke back in de hole in de groun', and Brer Rabbit des put out fer home. W'en he git dar, w'at do he do? Do he go off in a cornder by hisse'f, en wipe he weepin' eye? Dat he don't—dat he don't. He des tuck'n wait he chance. He wait en he wait; he wait all day, he wait all night; he wait mighty nigh a mont'. He hang 'roun' Brer Wolf house; he watch en he wait.

"Bimeby, one day, Brer Rabbit git de news dat Brer Wolf des come back fum a big frolic. Brer Rabbit know he time comin', en he keep bofe eye open en bofe years h'ist up. Nex' mawnin' atter Brer Wolf git back fum de big frolic, Brer Rabbit see 'im come outer de house en go down de spring atter bucket water. Brer Rabbit, he slip up, he did, en he look in. Ole Miss Wolf, she 'uz sailin' 'roun' fryin' meat en gittin' brekkus, en dar hangin' 'cross er cheer wuz Brer Wolf wes'cut where he keep he money-pus. Brer Rabbit rush up ter do' en pant lak he mighty nigh fag out. He rush up, he did, en he sing out:—

" 'Mawnin', Sis Wolf, mawnin'! Brer Wolf sont me atter de shavin'-brush, w'ich he keep it in dat ar money-pus w'at I 'loant 'im.'

"Sis Wolf, she fling up 'er han's en let um drap, en she laugh en say, sez she:—

" 'I 'clar' ter gracious, Brer Rabbit! You gimme sech a tu'n, dat I ain't got room ter be perlite skacely.'

"But mos' 'fo' she gits de wuds out'n 'er mouf, Brer Rabbit done grab de money-pus en gone!"

"Which way did he go, Uncle Remus?" the little boy asked, after a while.

"Well, I tell you dis," Uncle Remus responded emphatically, "Brer Rabbit road ain't lay by de spring; I boun' you dat!"

Presently 'Tildy put her head in the door to say that it was bedtime, and shortly afterward the child was dreaming that Daddy Jack was Mammy-Bammy Big-Money in disguise.

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