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

Brer Wolf Says Grace

'Tildy, the house-girl, made such a terrible report of the carryings on of Daddy Jack that the little boy's mother thought it prudent not to allow him to visit Uncle Remus so often. The child amused himself as best he could for several nights, but his play-things and picture-books finally lost their interest. He cried so hard to be allowed to go to see Uncle Remus that his mother placed him under the care of Aunt Tempy,—a woman of large authority on the place, and who stood next to Uncle Remus in the confidence of her mistress. Aunt Tempy was a fat, middle-aged woman, who always wore a head-handkerchief, and kept her sleeves rolled up, displaying her plump, black arms, winter and summer. She never hesitated to exercise her authority, and the younger negroes on the place regarded her as a tyrant; but in spite of her loud voice and brusque manners she was thoroughly good-natured, usually good-humored, and always trustworthy. Aunt Tempy and Uncle Remus were secretly jealous of each other, but they were careful never to come in conflict, and, to all appearances, the most cordial relations existed between them.

"Well de goodness knows!" exclaimed Uncle Remus, as Aunt Tempy went in with the little boy. "How you come on, Sis Tempy? De rainy season ain't so mighty fur off w'en you come a-sojourneyin' in dis house. Ef I'd a-know'd you'd a-bin a-comin' I'd a-sorter steered 'roun' en bresh'd de cobwebs out'n de cornders."

"Don't min' me, Brer Remus. Luck in de house whar de cobwebs hangs low. I 'uz des a-passin'—a-passin' 'long—en Miss Sally ax me ef I kin come fur ez de do' wid dat chile dar, but bless you, 't ain't in my manners ter tu'n back at de do'. How you come on, Brer Remus?"

"Po'ly, Sis Tempy; en yit I ain't complainin'. Pain yer, en a ketch yander, wid de cramps th'ow'd in, ain't no mo' dan ole folks kin 'speck. How you is, Sis Tempy?"

"I thank de Lord I'm able to crawl, Brer Remus, en dat's 'bout all. Ef I wa'n't so sot in my ways, deze yer niggers would er run me 'stracted d'reckly."

Daddy Jack was sitting in the corner laughing and talking to himself, and the little boy watched him not without a feeling of awe. After a while he said:—

"Uncle Remus, won't Daddy Jack tell us a story to-night?"

"Now, den, honey," responded the old man, "we ain't got ter push Brer Jack too closte; we ull des hatter creep up on 'im en ketch 'im fer er tale wence he in de humors. Sometimes hoss pull, sometime he ain't pull. You ain't bin down yer so long, hit sorter look lak it my tu'n; 'kaze it done come 'cross my 'membunce dat dey wuz one time w'en Brer Wolf kotch Brer Rabbit, w'ich I ain't never gun it out ter you yit."

"Brother Wolf caught Brother Rabbit, Uncle Remus?" exclaimed the little boy, incredulously.

"Yasser! dat's de up en down un it, sho'," responded the old man with emphasis, "en I be mighty glad ef Sis Tempy yer will 'scuze me w'iles I runs over de tale 'long wid you."

"Bless yo' soul, Brer Remus, don't pay no 'tention ter me," said Aunt Tempy, folding her fat arms upon her ample bosom, and assuming an attitude of rest and contentment. "I'm bad ez de chillun 'bout dem ole tales, 'kaze I kin des set up yer un lissen at um de whole blessid night, un a good part er de day. Yass, Lord!"

"Well, den," said Uncle Remus, "we ull des huddle up yer en see w'at 'come er Brer Rabbit, w'en ole Brer Wolf kotch 'im. In dem days," he continued, looking at Daddy Jack and smiling broadly, "de creeturs wuz constant gwine a-courtin'. Ef 't wa'n't Miss Meadows en de gals dey wuz flyin' 'roun', hit 'uz Miss Motts. Dey wuz constant a-courtin'. En 't wa'n't none er dish yer 'Howdy-do-ma'm-I-'speck-I-better-be-gwine,' n'er. Hit 'uz go atter brekkus en stay twel atter supper. Brer Rabbit, he got tuk wid a-likin' fer Miss Motts, en soon one mawnin', he tuck'n slick hisse'f up, he did, en put out ter call on 'er. W'en Brer Rabbit git ter whar Miss Motts live, she done gone off some'rs.

"Some folks 'ud er sot down en wait twel Miss Motts come back, en den ag'in some folks 'ud er tuck der foot in der han' en went back; but ole Brer Rabbit, he ain't de man fer ter be outdone, en he des tuck'n go in de kitchen en light he seegyar, en den he put out fer ter pay a call on Miss Meadows en de gals.

"W'en he git dar, lo en beholes, he fine Miss Motts dar, en he tipped in, ole Brer Rabbit did, en he galanted 'roun' 'mungs um, same lak one er dese yer town chaps, w'at you see come out ter Harmony Grove meetin'-house. Dey talk en dey laff; dey laff en dey giggle. Bimeby, 'long todes night, Brer Rabbit 'low he better be gwine. De wimmen folks dey all ax 'im fer ter stay twel atter supper, 'kaze he sech lively comp'ny, but Brer Rabbit fear'd some er de yuther creeturs be hidin' out fer 'im; so he tuck'n pay his 'specks, he did, en start fer home.

"He ain't git fur twel he come up wid a great big basket settin' down by de side er de big road. He look up de road; he ain't see nobody. He look down de road; he ain't see nobody. He look befo', he look behime, he look all 'roun'; he ain't see nobody. He lissen, en lissen; he ain't year nothin'. He wait, en he wait; nobody ain't come.

"Den, bimeby Brer Rabbit go en peep in de basket, en it seem lak it half full er green truck. He retch he han' in, he did, en git some en put it in he mouf. Den he shet he eye en do lak he studyin' 'bout sump'n'. Atter w'ile, he 'low ter hisse'f, 'Hit look lak sparrer-grass, hit feel lak sparrer-grass, hit tas'e lak sparrer-grass, en I be bless ef 't ain't sparrer-grass.'

"Wid dat Brer Rabbit jump up, he did, en crack he heel tergedder, en he fetch one leap en lan' in de basket, right spang in 'mungs de sparrer-grass. Dar whar he miss he footin'," continued Uncle Remus, rubbing his beard meditatively, " 'kaze w'en he jump in 'mungs de sparrer-grass, right den en dar he jump in 'mungs ole Brer Wolf, w'ich he wer' quile up at de bottom."

"Dar now!" exclaimed Aunt Tempy, enthusiastically. "W'at I tell you? W'at make him pester t'er folks doin's? I boun' Brer Wolf nail't 'im."

"Time Brer Wolf grab 'im," continued Uncle Remus, "Brer Rabbit knowed he 'uz a gone case; yit he sing out, he did:—

" 'I des tryin' ter skeer you, Brer Wolf; I des tryin' ter skeer you. I know'd you 'uz in dar, Brer Wolf, I know'd you by de smell!' sez Brer Rabbit, sezee.

"Ole Brer Wolf grin, he did, en lick he chops, en up'n say:—

" 'Mighty glad you know'd me, Brer Rabbit, 'kaze I know'd you des time you drapt in on me. I tuck'n tell Brer Fox yistiddy dat I 'uz gwine take a nap 'longside er de road, en I boun' you 'ud come 'long en wake me up, en sho' nuff, yer you come en yer you is,' sez Brer Wolf, sezee.

"Oh-ho, Mr. Rabbit! How you feel now?" exclaimed Aunt Tempy, her sympathies evidently with Brother Wolf.

"W'en Brer Rabbit year dis," said Uncle Remus, paying no attention to the interruption, "he 'gun ter git mighty skeer'd, en he whirl in en beg Brer Wolf fer ter please tu'n 'im loose; but dis make Brer Wolf grin wusser, en he toof look so long en shine so w'ite, en he gum look so red, dat Brer Rabbit hush up en stay still. He so skeer'd dat he bref come quick, en he heart go lak flutter-mill. He chune up lak he gwine cry:—

" 'Whar you gwine kyar me, Brer Wolf?'

" 'Down by de branch, Brer Rabbit.'

" 'W'at you gwine down dar fer, Brer Wolf?'

" 'So I kin git some water ter clean you wid atter I done skunt you, Brer Rabbit.'

" 'Please, sir, lemme go, Brer Wolf.'

" 'You talk so young you make me laff, Brer Rabbit.'

" 'Dat sparrer-grass done make me sick, Brer Wolf.'

" 'You'll be sicker'n dat 'fo' I git done wid you, Brer Rabbit.'

" 'Whar I come fum nobody dast ter eat sick folks, Brer Wolf.'

" 'Whar I come fum dey ain't dast ter eat no yuther kin', Brer Rabbit.'"

"Ole Mr. Rabbit wuz a-talkin', mon," said Aunt Tempy, with a chuckle that caused her to shake like a piece of jelly.

"Dey went on dis a-way," continued Uncle Remus, "plum twel dey git ter de branch. Brer Rabbit, he beg en cry, en cry en beg, en Brer Wolf, he 'fuse en grin, en grin en 'fuse. W'en dey come ter de branch, Brer Wolf lay Brer Rabbit down on de groun' en hilt 'im dar, en den he study how he gwine make way wid 'im. He study en he study, en w'iles he studyin' Brer Rabbit, he tuck'n study some on he own hook.

"Den w'en it seem lak Brer Wolf done fix all de 'rangerments, Brer Rabbit, he make lak he cryin' wusser en wusser; he des fa'rly blubber."

Uncle Remus gave a ludicrous imitation of Brother Rabbit's wailings.

" 'Ber—ber—Brer Wooly—ooly—oolf! Is you gwine—is you gwine ter sakerfice-t me right now—ow—ow?'

" 'Dat I is, Brer Rabbit; dat I is.'

" 'Well, ef I blee-eedz ter be kilt, Brer Wooly—ooly—oolf, I wants ter be kilt right, en ef I blee-eedz ter be e't, I wants ter be e't ri—ight, too, now!'

" 'How dat, Brer Rabbit?'

" 'I want you ter show yo' p'liteness, Brer Wooly—ooly—oolf!'

" 'How I gwine do dat, Brer Rabbit?'

" 'I want you ter say grace, Brer Wolf, en say it quick, 'kaze I gittin' mighty weak.'

" 'How I gwine say grace, Brer Rabbit?'

" 'Fol' yo' han's und' yo' chin, Brer Wolf, en shet yo' eyes, en say: "Bless us en bine us, en put us in crack whar de Ole Boy can't fine us." Say it quick, Brer Wolf, 'kaze I failin' mighty fas'.'"

"Now ain't dat des too much!" exclaimed Aunt Tempy, as delighted as the little boy. Uncle Remus laughed knowingly and went on:—

"Brer Wolf, he put up he han's, he did, en shot he eyes, en 'low, 'Bless us en bine us;' but he ain't git no furder, 'kaze des time he take up he han's, Brer Rabbit fotch a wiggle, he did, en lit on he foots, en he des nat'ally lef a blue streak behime 'im."

"Ah-yi-ee!" exclaimed Daddy Jack, while Aunt Tempy allowed her arms to drop helplessly from her lap as she cried "Dar now!" and the little boy clasped his hands in an ecstasy of admiration.

"Oh, I just knew Brother Rabbit would get away," the child declared.


[Illustration]

Brer Rabbit fotch a wiggle, he did, en lit on he foots

"Dat's right, honey," said Uncle Remus. "You put yo' pennunce in Brer Rabbit en yo' won't be fur out er de way."

There was some further conversation among the negroes, but it was mostly plantation gossip. When Aunt Tempy rose to go she said:—

"Goodness knows, Brer Remus, ef dis de way you all runs on, I'm gwine ter pester you some mo'. Hit come 'cross me like ole times, dat it do."

"Do so, Sis Tempy, do so," said Uncle Remus, with dignified hospitality. "You allers fine a place at my h'a'th. Ole times is about all we got lef'."

"Trufe, too!" exclaimed Aunt Tempy; and with that she took the child by the hand and went out into the darkness.


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