Joel Chandler Harris

How Brer Fox Failed To Get His Grapes

[70] ONE night the little boy failed to make his appearance at the accustomed hour, and the next morning the intelligence that the child was sick went forth from the "big house." Uncle Remus was told that it had been necessary during the night to call in two physicians. When this information was imparted to the old man, there was an expression upon his countenance of awe not unmixed with indignation. He gave vent to the latter:—

"Dar now! Two un um! W'en dat chile rize up, ef rize up he do, he'll des nat'ally be a shadder. Yer I is, gwine on eighty year, en I ain't tuck none er dat ar docter truck yit, ceppin' it's dish yer flas' er poke-root w'at ole Miss Favers fix up fer de stiffness in my j'ints. Dey'll come en dey'll go, en dey'll po' in der jollup yer, en slap on der fly-plarster dar, en sprinkle der calomy yander, twel bimeby dat chile won't look like hisse'f. Dat's w'at! En mo'n dat, hit's mighty kuse unter me dat ole folks kin go 'long en stan' up ter de rack en gobble up der 'lowance, en yit chilluns is got ter be strucken down. Ef Miss Sally'll des tu'n dem docter mens loose onter me, I lay I lick up der physic twel dey go off 'stonish'd."

But no appeal of this nature was made to Uncle Remus. The illness of the little boy was severe, but not fatal. He took his medicine and improved, until finally even the doctors pronounced him convalescent. But he was very weak, and it was a fortnight before he was permitted to leave his bed. He was restless, and yet his term of imprisonment was full of pleasure. Every night after supper Uncle Remus would creep softly into the back piazza, place his hat carefully on the floor, rap gently on the door by way of announcement, and so pass into the nursery. How patient his vigils, how tender his ministrations, only the mother of the [71] little boy knew; how comfortable and refreshing the change from the bed to the strong arms of Uncle Remus, only the little boy could say.

Almost the first manifestation of the child's convalescence was the renewal of his interest in the wonderful adventures of Brother Rabbit, Brother Fox, and the other brethren who flourished in that strange past over which this modern Ęsop had thrown the veil of fable. "Miss Sally," as Uncle Remus called the little boy's mother, sitting in an adjoining room, heard the youngster pleading for a story, and after a while she heard the old man clear up his throat with a great affectation of formality and begin.

"Dey ain't skacely no p'int whar ole Brer Rabbit en ole Brer Fox made der 'greements side wid one er 'n'er; let 'lone dat, dey wuz one p'int 'twix' 'um w'ich it wuz same ez fier en tow, en dat wuz Miss Meadows en de gals. Little ez you might 'speck, dem same creeturs wuz bofe un um flyin' 'roun' Miss Meadows en de gals. Ole Brer Rabbit, he'd go dar, en dar he'd fine ole Brer Fox settin' up gigglin' wid de gals, en den he'd skuze hisse'f, he would, en gallop down de big road a piece, en paw up de san' same lak dat ar ball-face steer w'at tuck'n tuck off yo' pa' coat-tail las' Feberwary. En lakwise ole Brer Fox, he'd sa'nter in, en fine old man Rab. settin' 'longside er de gals, en den he'd go out down de road en grab a 'simmon-bush in he mouf, en nat'ally gnyaw de bark off'n it. In dem days, honey," continued Uncle Remus, responding to a look of perplexity on the child's face, "creeturs wuz wuss dan w'at dey is now. Dey wuz dat—lots wuss.

"Dey went on dis a-way twel, bimeby, Brer Rabbit 'gun ter cas' 'roun', he did, fer ter see ef he can't bus' inter some er Brer Fox 'rangerments, en, atter w'ile, one day w'en he wer' settin' down by de side er de road wukkin up de diffunt oggyment w'at strak pun he mine, en fixin' up he tricks, des 'bout dat time he year a clatter up de long green lane, en yer come ole Brer Fox [72] toobookity—bookity—bookity-book—lopin' 'long mo' samer dan a bay colt in de bolly-patch. En he wuz all primp up, too, mon, en he look slick en shiny lak he des come outen de sto'. Ole man Rab., he sot dar, he did, en w'en ole Brer Fox come gallopin' 'long, Brer Rabbit, he up'n hail 'im. Brer Fox, he fotch up, en dey pass de time er day wid one er nudder monst'us perlite; en den, bimeby atter w'ile, Brer Rabbit, he up'n say, sezee, dat he got some mighty good news fer Brer Fox; en Brer Fox, he up'n ax 'im w'at is it. Den Brer Rabbit, he sorter scratch he year wid his behime foot en say, sezee:—

" 'I wuz takin' a walk day 'fo' yistiddy,' sezee, 'w'en de fus' news I know'd I run up gin de bigges' en de fattes' bunch er grapes dat I ever lay eyes on. Dey wuz dat fat en dat big,' sezee, 'dat de natal juice wuz des drappin' fum um, en de bees wuz a-swawmin' atter de honey, en little ole Jack Sparrer en all er his fambly conneckshun wuz skeetin' 'roun' dar dippin' in der bills,' sezee.

"Right den en dar," Uncle Remus went on, "Brer Fox mouf 'gun ter water, en he look outer he eye like he de bes' frien' w'at Brer Rabbit got in de roun' worl'. He done fergit all 'bout de gals, en he sorter sidle up ter Brer Rabbit, he did, en he say, sezee:—

" 'Come on, Brer Rabbit,' sezee, 'en less you 'n me go git dem ar grapes 'fo' deyer all gone,' sezee. En den ole Brer Rabbit, he laff, he did, en up'n 'spon', sezee:—

" 'I hungry myse'f, Brer Fox,' sezee, 'but I ain't hankerin' atter grapes, en I'll be in monst'us big luck ef I kin rush 'roun' yer some'rs en scrape up a bait er pusley time nuff fer ter keep de breff in my body. En yit,' sezee,' ef you take'n rack off atter deze yer grapes, w'at Miss Meadows en de gals gwine do? I lay dey got yo' name in de pot,' sezee.

" 'Ez ter dat,' sez ole Brer Fox, sezee, 'I kin drap 'roun' en see de ladies atterwards,' sezee.

" 'Well, den, ef dat's yo' game,' sez ole man Rab., sezee, 'I kin [73] squot right flat down yer on de groun' en p'int out de way des de same ez leadin' you dar by de han',' sezee; en den Brer Rabbit sorter chaw on he cud lak he gedder'n up his 'membunce, en he up'n say, sezee:—

" 'You know dat ar place whar you went atter sweetgum fer Miss Meadows en de gals t'er day?' sezee.

"Brer Fox 'low dat he know dat ar place same ez he do he own tater-patch.

" 'Well, den,' sez Brer Rabbit, sezee, 'de grapes ain't dar. You git ter de sweetgum,' sezee, 'en den you go up de branch twel you come ter a little patch er bamboo brier—but de grapes ain't dar. Den you follow yo' lef' han' en strike 'cross de hill twel you come ter dat big red oak root—but de grapes ain't dar. On you goes down de hill twel you come ter 'n'er branch, en on dat branch dars a dogwood-tree leanin' 'way over, en nigh dat dogwood dars a vine, en in dat vine, dar you'll fine yo' grapes. Deyer dat ripe,' sez ole Brer Rabbit, sezee, 'dat dey look like deyer done melt tergedder, en I speck you'll fine um full er bugs, but you kin take dat fine bushy tail er yone, Brer Fox,' sezee, 'en bresh dem bugs away.'

"Brer Fox 'low he much 'blige, en den he put out atter de grapes in a han'-gallop, en w'en he done got outer sight, en likewise outer year'n, Brer Rabbit, he take'n git a blade er grass, he did, en tickle hisse'f in de year, en den he holler en laff, en laff en holler, twel he hatter lay down fer ter git he breff back 'gin.

"Den, atter so long time, Brer Rabbit he jump up, he do, en take atter Brer Fox, but Brer Fox, he ain't look ter de right ner de lef', en needer do he look behime; he des keep a-rackin' 'long twel he come ter de sweetgum-tree, en den he tu'n up de branch twel he come ter de bamboo brier, en den he tu'n squar ter de lef' twel he come ter de big red-oak root, en den he keep on down he hill twel he come ter de yuther branch, en dar he see de dogwood; en mo'n dat, dar nigh de dogwood he see de vine, en in dat vine [74] dar wuz de big bunch er grapes. Sho' nuff, dey wuz all kivvud wid bugs.

"Ole Brer Rabbit, he'd bin a-pushin' 'long atter Brer Fox, but he des hatter scratch gravel fer ter keep up. Las' he hove in sight, en he lay off in de weeds, he did, fer ter watch Brer Fox motions. Present'y Brer Fox crope up de leanin' dogwood-tree twel he come nigh de grapes, en den he sorter ballunce hisse'f on a lim' en gun um a swipe wid his big bushy tail, fer ter bresh off de bugs. But, bless yo' soul, honey! no sooner is he done dat dan he fetch a squall w'ich Miss Meadows vow atterwards she year plum ter her house, en down he come—kerblim!"

"What was the matter, Uncle Remus?" the little boy asked.

"Law, honey! dat seetful Brer Rabbit done fool ole Brer Fox. Dem ar grapes all so fine wuz needer mo' ner less dan a great big was'-nes', en dem bugs wuz deze yer red wassies—deze yer speeshy w'at's rank pizen fum cen' ter cen'. W'en Brer Fox drap fum de tree de wassies dey drap wid 'im, en de way dey wom ole Brer Fox up wuz sinful. Dey ain't mo'n tetch' im 'fo' dey had 'im het up ter de b'ilin' p'int. Brer Fox, he run, en he kick, en he scratch, en he bite, en he scramble, en he holler, en he howl, but look lak dey git wuss en wuss. One time, hit seem lak Brer Fox en his new 'quaintance wuz makin' todes Brer Rabbit, but dey ain't no sooner p'int dat way, dan ole Brer Rabbit, he up'n make a break, en he went sailin' thoo de woods wuss'n wunner dese whully-win's, en he ain't stop twel he fetch up at Miss Meadows.

"Miss Meadows en de gals, dey ax 'im, dey did, wharbouts wuz Brer Fox, en Brer Rabbit, he up'n 'spon' dat he done gone a-grape-huntin', en den Miss Meadows, she 'low, she did:—

" 'Law, gals! is you ever year de beat er dat? En dat, too, w'en Brer Fox done say he comin' ter dinner,' sez she. 'I lay I done wid Brer Fox, kaze you can't put no pennunce in deze yer men-folks,' sez she. 'Yer de dinner bin done dis long time, en we bin a-waitin' lak de quality. But now I'm done wid Brer Fox,' sez she.

[75] "Wid dat, Miss Meadows en de gals dey ax Brer Rabbit fer ter stay ter dinner, en Brer Rabbit, he sorter make like he wanter be skuze, but bimeby he tuck a cheer en sot um out. He tuck a cheer," continued Uncle Remus, "en he ain't bin dar long twel he look out en spy ole Brer Fox gwine 'long by, en w'at do Brer Rabbit do but call Miss Meadows en de gals en p'int 'im out? Soon's dey seed 'im dey sot up a monst'us gigglement, kaze Brer Fox wuz dat swell up twel little mo'n he'd a bus'. He head wuz swell up, en down ter he legs, dey wuz swell up. Miss Meadows, she up'n say dat Brer Fox look like he done gone en got all de grapes dey wuz in de neighborhoods, en one er de yuther gals, she squeal, she did, en say:—

" 'Law, ain't you 'shame', en right yer 'fo' Brer Rabbit!'

"En den dey hilt der han's 'fo' der face en giggle des like gals duz deze days."