Aunty Tempy did not attempt to conceal the pleasure which Uncle Remus's praise gave her. She laughed somewhat shyly, and said:—
"Bless you, Brer Remus! I des bin a-settin' yer l'arnin'. 'Sides dat, Chris'mus ain't fur off en I 'speck we er all a-feelin' a sight mo' humorsome dan common."
"Dat's so, Sis Tempy. I 'uz comin' thoo de lot des 'fo' supper, en I seed de pigs runnin' en playin' in de win', en I 'low ter myse'f, sez I, 'Sholy dey's a-gwine ter be a harrycane,' en den all at once hit come in my min' dat Chris'mus mighty close at han', en den on ter dat yer come de chickens a-crowin' des now en 't ain't nine er'clock. I dunner how de creeturs know Chris'mus comin', but dat des de way it stan's."
The little boy thought it was time enough to think about Christmas when the night came for hanging up his stockings, and he asked Uncle Remus if it was n't his turn to tell a story. The old man laid down the piece of glass with which he had been scraping the cow's horn, and hunted around among his tools for a piece of sandpaper before he replied. But his reply was sufficient. He said:—
"One time w'iles Brer Rabbit wuz gwine thoo de woods he tuck'n strak up wid ole Brer Fox, en Brer Fox 'low, he did, dat he mighty hongry. Brer Rabbit 'low dat he ain't feelin' dat a-way hisse'f, 'kaze he des bin en had er bait er w'ite muscadimes, en den he tuck'n smack he mouf en lick he chops right front er Brer Fox. Brer Fox, he ax, sezee:—
" 'Brer Rabbit, whar de name er goodness is deze yer w'ite muscadimes, en how come I'm ain't never run 'crosst um?' sezee.
" 'I dunner w'at de reason you ain't never come up wid um,' sez Brer Rabbit, sezee; 'some folks sees straight, some sees crooked, some sees one thing, some sees 'n'er. I done seed dem ar w'ite muscadimes, en let 'lone dat, I done wipe um up. I done e't all dey wuz on one tree, but I lay dey's lots mo' un um 'roun' in dem neighborhoods,' sezee.
"Ole Brer Fox mouf 'gun to water, en he git mighty restless.
" 'Come on, Brer Rabbit; come on! Come show me whar dem ar w'ite muscadimes grows at,' sezee.
"Brer Rabbit, he sorter hang back. Brer Fox, he 'low:—
" 'Come on, Brer Rabbit, come on!'
"Brer Rabbit, he hang back, en bimeby he 'low:—
" 'Uh-uh, Brer Fox! You wanter git me out dar in de timber by myse'f en do sump'n' ter me. You wanter git me out dar en skeer me.'
"Ole Brer Fox, he hol' up he han's, he do, en he 'low:—
" 'I des 'clar' 'fo' gracious, Brer Rabbit, I ain't gwine do no sech uv a thing. I dunner w'at kinder 'pinion you got 'bout me fer ter have sech idee in yo' head. Come on, Brer Rabbit, en less we go git dem ar w'ite muscadimes. Come on, Brer Rabbit.'
" 'Uh-uh, Brer Fox! I done year talk er you playin' so many prank wid folks dat I fear'd fer ter go 'way off dar wid you.'
"Dey went on dat a-way," continued Uncle Remus, endeavoring to look at the little boy through the crooked cow's horn, "twel bimeby Brer Fox promise he ain't gwine ter bodder 'long er Brer Rabbit, en den dey tuck'n put out. En whar you 'speck dat ar muscheevous Brer Rabbit tuck'n kyar' Brer Fox?"
Uncle Remus paused and gazed around upon his audience with uplifted eyebrows, as if to warn them to be properly astonished. Nobody made any reply, but all looked expectant, and Uncle Remus went on:—
"He ain't kyar 'im nowhars in de roun' worl' but ter one er deze yer great big scaly-bark trees. De tree wuz des loaded down wid scaly-barks, but dey wa'n't ripe, en de green hulls shined in de sun des lak dey ben whitewash'. Brer Fox look 'stonish'. Atter w'ile he up'n 'low:—
" 'Is dem ar de w'ite muscadimes? Mighty funny I ain't fine it out 'fo' dis.'
"Ole Brer Rabbit, he scratch hisse'f en 'low:—
" 'Dems um. Dey may n't be ripe ez dem w'at I had fer my brekkus, but dems de w'ite muscadimes sho' ez youer bawn. Dey er red bullaces en dey er black bullaces, but deze yer, dey er de w'ite bullaces.'
"Brer Fox, sezee, 'How I gwine git um?'
"Brer Rabbit, sezee, 'You'll des hatter do lak I done.'
"Brer Fox, sezee, 'How wuz dat?'
"Brer Rabbit, sezee, 'You'll hatter clam fer 'm.'
"Brer Fox, sezee, 'How I gwine clam?'
"Brer Rabbit, sezee, 'Grab wid yo' han's, clam wid yo' legs, en I'll push behime!'"
"Man—Sir!—he's a-talkin' now!" exclaimed Aunt Tempy, enthusiastically.
"Brer Fox, he clum, en Brer Rabbit, he push, twel, sho' 'nuff, Brer Fox got whar he kin grab de lowmos' lim's, en dar he wuz! He crope on up, he did, twel he come ter whar he kin retch de green scaly-bark, en den he tuck'n pull one en bite it, en, gentermens! hit uz dat rough en dat bitter twel little mo' en he'd 'a' drapt spang out'n de tree.
"He holler 'Ow!' en spit it out'n he mouf des same ez ef 't wuz rank pizen, en he make sech a face dat you would n't b'leeve it skacely less'n you seed it. Brer Rabbit, he hatter cough fer ter keep fum laughin', but he make out ter holler, sezee:—
" 'Come down, Brer Fox! Dey ain't ripe. Come down en less go some'rs else.'
"Brer Fox start down, en he git 'long mighty well twel he come ter de lowmos' lim's, en den w'en he git dar he can't come down no furder, 'kaze he ain't got no claw fer cling by, en not much leg fer clamp.
"Brer Rabbit keep on hollerin', 'Come down!' en Brer Fox keep on studyin' how he gwine ter come down. Brer Rabbit, he 'low, sezee:—
" 'Come on, Brer Fox! I tuck'n push you up, en ef I 'uz dar whar you is, I'd take'n push you down.'
"Brer Fox sat dar on de lowmos' lim's en look lak he skeer'd. Bimeby Brer Rabbit tuck he stan' 'way off fum de tree, en he holler, sezee:—
" 'Ef you'll take'n jump out dis way, Brer Fox, I'll ketch you.'
"Brer Fox look up, he look down, he look all 'roun'. Brer Rabbit come little closer, en 'low, sezee:—
" 'Hop right down yer, Brer Fox, en I'll ketch you.'
"Hit keep on dis a-way, twel, bimeby, Brer Fox tuck a notion to jump, en des ez he jump Brer Rabbit hop out de way en holler, sezee:—
" 'Ow! Scuze me, Brer Fox! I stuck a brier in my foot! Scuze me, Brer Fox! I stuck a brier in my foot!'
"En dat ole Brer Fox," continued Uncle Remus, dropping his voice a little, "dat ole Brer Fox, gentermens! you oughter bin dar! He hit de groun' like a sack er taters, en it des nat'ally knock de breff out'n 'im. W'en he git up en count hisse'f fer ter see ef he all dar, he ain't kin walk skacely, en he sat dar en lick de so' places a mighty long time 'fo' he feel lak he kin make he way todes home."
When the little boy wanted to know what became of Brother Rabbit Uncle Remus said:—
"Shoo! don't you pester 'bout Brer Rabbit. He kick up he heels en put out fum dar." Then he added: "Dem ar chick'ns crowin' 'g'in, honey. Done gone by nine er'clock. Scoot out fum dis. Miss Sally'll be a-rakin' me over de coals."