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


[Illustration]

Brer Rabbit Gets the Provisions

The next time the little boy called on Uncle Remus a bright fire was blazing on the hearth. He could see the light shining under the door before he went into the cabin, and he knew by that sign that the old man had company. In fact, Daddy Jack had returned and was dozing in his accustomed corner, Aunt Tempy was sitting bolt upright, nursing her contempt, and Uncle Remus was making a curious-looking box. None of the negroes paid any attention to the little boy when he entered, but somehow he felt that they were waiting for him. After a while Uncle Remus finished his curious-looking box and laid it upon the floor. Then he lifted his spectacles from his nose to the top of his head, and remarked:—

"Now, den, folks, dar she is, en hit's bin so long sence I uv made one un um dat she make me sweat. Yasser! She did dat. Howsumev', hit ain't make no diffunce wid me. Promise is a promise, dough you make it in de dark er de moon. Long time ago, I tuck'n promise one er my passin' 'quaintance dat some er deze lonesome days de ole nigger 'd whirl in en make 'im a rabbit-trap ef he'd des be so good ez to quit he devilment, en l'arn he behavishness."

"Is that my rabbit-trap, Uncle Remus?" exclaimed the child. He would have picked it up for the purpose of examining it, but Uncle Remus waved him off with a dignified gesture.

"Don't you dast ter tetch dat ar trap, honey, 'kaze ef you does, dat spiles all. I'll des hatter go ter wuk en make it bran-new, en de Lord knows I ain't got no time fer ter do dat."

"Well, Uncle Remus, you've had your hands on it."

"Tooby sho' I is—tooby sho' I is! En w'at's mo' dan dat, I bin had my han's in tar-water."

"I year talk er dat," remarked Aunt Tempy, with an approving nod.

"Yasser! in de nat'al tar-water," continued Uncle Remus. "You put yo' han' in a pa'tridge nes', en he'll quit dem premises dough he done got 'lev'm dozen aigs in dar. Same wid Rabbit. Dey ain't got sense lak de ole-time Rabbit, but I let you know dey ain't gwine in no trap whar dey smell folks' han's—dat dey ain't. Dat w'at make I say w'at I does. Don't put yo' han' on it; don't tetch it; don't look at it skacely."

The little boy subsided, but he continued to cast longing looks at the trap, seeing which Uncle Remus sought to change the current of his thoughts.

"She bin er mighty heap er trouble, mon, yet I mighty glad I tuck'n make dat ar trap. She's a solid un, sho', en ef dey wuz ter be any skaceness er vittles, I lay dat ar trap 'ud help us all out."

"De Lord knows," exclaimed Aunt Tempy, rubbing her fat hands together, "I hope dey ain't gwine ter be no famishin' 'roun' yer 'mungs we all."

"Likely not," said Uncle Remus, "yet de time mought come w'en a big swamp rabbit kotch in dat ar trap would go a mighty long ways in a fambly no bigger dan w'at mine is."

"Mo' speshually," remarked Aunt Tempy, "ef you put dat wid w'at de neighbors mought sen' in."

"Eh-eh!" Uncle Remus exclaimed, "don't you put no 'pennunce in dem neighbors—don't you do it. W'en famine time come one man ain't no better dan no yuther man 'ceppin' he be soopless; en he got ter be mighty soople at dat."

The old man paused and glanced at the little boy. The child was still looking longingly at the trap, and Uncle Remus leaned forward and touched him lightly on the shoulder. It was a familiar gesture, gentle and yet rough, a token of affection, and yet a command to attention; for the venerable darkey could be imperious enough when surrendering to the whims of his little partner.

"All dish yer talk 'bout folks pe'shin' out," Uncle Remus went on with an indifferent air, "put me in min' er de times w'en de creeturs tuck'n got up a famine 'mungs deyse'f. Hit come 'bout dat one time vittles wuz monst'us skace en high, en money mighty slack. Long ez dey wuz any vittles gwine 'roun', Brer Rabbit, he 'uz boun' ter git he sheer un um, but bimeby hit come ter dat pass dat Brer Rabbit stomach 'gun ter pinch 'im; en w'iles he gettin' hongry de yuther creeturs, dey 'uz gettin' hongry deyse'f. Hit went on dis a-way twel one day Brer Rabbit en Brer Wolf meet up wid one er n'er in de big road, en atter dey holler howdy dey sat down, dey did, en make a bargain.

"Dey tuck'n 'gree wid one er n'er dat dey sell der mammy en take de money en git sump'n' n'er ter eat. Brer Wolf, he 'low, he did, dat bein' 's hit seem lak he de hongriest creetur on de face er de yeth, dat he sell his mammy fus', en den, atter de vittles gin out, Brer Rabbit he kin sell he own mammy en git some mo' grub.

"Ole Brer Rabbit, he chipt in en 'greed, he did, en Brer Wolf, he tuck'n hitch up he team, en put he mammy in de waggin, en den him en Brer Rabbit druv off. Man come 'long:—

" 'Whar you gwine?'

" 'Gwine 'long down ter town,

Wid a bag er co'n fer ter sell;

We ain't got time fer ter stop en talk,

Yit we wish you mighty well!'"

"Did they talk poetry that way, Uncle Remus?" the little boy inquired.

"Shoo! lot's wuss dan dat, honey. Dey wuz constant a-gwine on dat a-way, en ef I wa'n't gittin' so mighty weak-kneed in de membunce I'd bust aloose yer en I'd fair wake you up wid de gwines on er dem ar creeturs.

"Now, den, dey tuck'n kyar Brer Wolf mammy ter town en sell 'er, en dey start back wid a waggin-load er vittles. De day wuz a-wanin' den de sun wuz a-settin'. De win' tuck'n blow up sorter stiff, en de sun look red when she settin'. Dey druv on, en druv on. De win' blow, en de sun shine red. Bimeby, Brer Wolf scrooch up en shiver, en 'low:—

" 'Brer Rabbit, I'm a-gittin' mighty cole.'

"Brer Rabbit, he laugh en 'low:—

" 'I'm gittin' sorter creepy myself, Brer Wolf.'

"Dey druv on en druv on. Win' blow keen, sun shine red. Brer Wolf scrooch up in little knot. Bimeby he sing out:—

" 'Brer Rabbit, I'm freezin'! I'm dat cole I dunner w'at ter do!'

"Brer Rabbit, he p'int ter de settin' sun en say:—

" 'You see dat great big fier 'cross dar in de woods, Brer Wolf? Well, dey ain't nothin' ter hender you fum gwine dar en wommin' yo'se'f en I'll wait yer fer you. Gimme de lines, Brer Wolf, en you go wom yo'se'f all over.'

"Wid dat Brer Wolf, he put out des ez hard ez he kin, fer ter see ef he can't fin' de fier; en w'iles he wuz gone, bless goodness, w'at should Brer Rabbit do but cut off de hosses' tails en stick um down deep in de mud—"

"Le' 'im 'lone, now! Des le' 'im 'lone!" exclaimed Aunt Tempy in an ecstasy of admiration.

"He stick de hosses' tails down in de mud," continued Uncle Remus, "en den he tuck'n druv de waggin 'way off in de swamp en hide it. Den he tuck'n come back, ole Brer Rabbit did, fer ter wait fer Brer Wolf.

"Atter so long a time, sho' 'nuff, yer come Brer Wolf des a-gallin'-up back. Brer Rabbit he hail 'im.

" 'Is you wom yo'se'f, Brer Wolf?'

" 'Brer Rabbit, don't talk! Dat de mos' 'seetful fier w'at I had any speunce un. I run, en I run, en I run, en de mo' w'at I run de furder de fier git. De nigher you come ter dat fier de furder hit's off.'

"Brer Rabbit, he sorter scratch hisse'f behime de shoulder-blade, en 'low:—

" 'Nummine 'bout de fier, Brer Wolf. I got sump'n' yer dat'll wom you up. Ef you ain't nev' bin wom befo', I lay you'll get wom dis time.'

"Dis make Brer Wolf sorter look 'roun', en w'en he see Brer Rabbit hol'in' on ter de two hoss-tails, he up'n squall out, he did:—

" 'Lawdy mussy, Brer Rabbit! Whar my vittles? Whar my waggin? Whar my hosses?'

" 'Dey er all right yer, Brer Wolf; dey er all right yer. I stayed dar whar you lef' me twel de hosses gun ter git restless. Den I cluck at um, en, bless gracious, dey start off en lan' in a quicksan'. W'en dey gun ter mire, I des tuck'n tu'n eve'ything a-loose en grab de hosses by de tail, en I bin stan'in' yer wishin' fer you, Brer Wolf, twel I done gone gray in de min'. I 'low ter myse'f dat I'd hang on ter deze yer hoss-tails ef it killt eve'y cow in de islan'. Come he'p me, Brer Wolf, en I lay we'll des nat'ally pull de groun' out but w'at we'll git deze creeturs out.'

"Wid dat, Brer Wolf, he kotch holt er one hoss-tail, en Brer Rabbit, he kotch holt er de yuther, en w'en dey pull, co'se de tails come out'n de mud. Dey stood dar, dey did, en dey look at de tails en den dey look at one n'er. Bimeby Brer Rabbit 'low:—

" 'Well, sir, Brer Wolf; we pull so hard twel we pull de tails plum out!'

"Ole Brer Wolf, he dunner w'at ter do, but it 'gun ter git dark, en 't wa'n't long 'fo' he tell Brer Rabbit good-by, en off he put fer home. Dat ar Brer Rabbit," Uncle Remus went on, "he des tuck'n wait twel Brer Wolf git out'n yearin', en den he went into de swamp en druv de hosses home en git all de vittles, en he ain't hatter sell he ole mammy n'er. Dat he ain't."


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