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

The Fire-Test

"We er sorter bin a-waitin' fer Sis Tempy," Uncle Remus remarked when the little boy made his appearance the next night; "but somehow er n'er look lak she fear'd she hatter up en tell some mo' tales. En yit maybe she bin strucken down wid some kinder ailment. Dey ain't no countin' on deze yer fat folks. Dey er up one minnit en down de nex'; en w'at make it dat a-way I be bless ef I know, 'kaze w'en folks is big en fat look lak dey oughter be weller dan deze yer long hongry kinder folks.

"Yit all de same, Brer Jack done come," continued Uncle Remus, "en we ull des slam de do' shet, en ef Sis Tempy come she'll des hatter hol' 'er han's 'fo' 'er face en holler out:—

" 'Lucky de Linktum, chucky de chin,

Open de do' en let me in!'

"Oh, you kin laugh ef you wanter, but I boun' you ef Sis Tempy wuz ter come dar en say de wuds w'at I say, de button on dat ar do' 'ud des nat'ally twis' hitse'f off but w'at 't would let 'er in. Now, I boun' you dat!"

Whatever doubts the child may have had he kept to himself, for experience had taught him that it was useless to irritate the old man by disputing with him. What effect the child's silence may have had in this instance it is impossible to say, for just then Aunt Tempy came in laughing.

"You all kin des say w'at you please," she exclaimed, as she took her seat, "but dat ar Shucky Cordy  in de tale w'at Daddy Jack done tole, bin runnin' 'roun' in my min' en zoonin 'in my years all de time."

"Yer too!" exclaimed Uncle Remus, with emphasis. "Dat's me up en down. Look lak dat ar cricket over dar in de cornder done tuck it up, en now he gwine, 'Shucky-cordy! Shucky-cordy!'"

"Shuh-shuh!" exclaimed Daddy Jack, with vehement contempt, " 'e jutta cord-la!  'E no 'shucky-cordy' no'n 't all."

"Well, well, Brer Jack," said Uncle Remus, soothingly, "in deze low groun's er sorrer, you des got ter lean back en make 'lowances fer all sorts er folks. You got ter 'low fer dem dat knows too much same ez dem w'at knows too little. A heap er sayin's en a heap er doin's in dis roun' worl' got ter be tuck on trus'. You got yo' sayin's, I got mine; you got yo' knowin's, en I got mine. Man come 'long en ax me how does de wum git in de scaly-bark. I tell 'im right up en down, I dunno, sir. N'er man come 'long en ax me who raise de row 'twix' de buzzud en de bee-martin. I tell 'im I dunno, sir. Yit, 'kaze I dunno," continued Uncle Remus, "dat don't hender um. Dar dey is, spite er dat,—wum in de scaly-bark, bee-martin atter de buzzud."

"Dat's so," exclaimed Aunt Tempy, "dat's de Lord's trufe!"

"Dat ar pullin' at de string," Uncle Remus went on, "en dat ar hollerin' 'bout shucky-cordy"—

"Jutta cord-la!"  said Daddy Jack, fiercely.

" 'Bout de watsizname," said Uncle Remus, with a lenient and forgiving smile,—"all dish yer hollerin' en gwine on 'bout de watsizname put me in min' er one time w'en Brer Rabbit wuz gwine off fum home fer ter git a mess er green truck.

"W'en Brer Rabbit git ready fer ter go, he call all he chilluns up, en he tell um dat w'en he go out dey mus' fas'n de do' on de inside, en dey mus'n' tu'n nobody in, nohow, 'kaze Brer Fox en Brer Wolf bin layin' 'roun' waitin' chance fer ter nab um. En he tuck'n tole um dat w'en he come back, he'd rap at de do' en sing:

" 'I'll stay w'en you away,

 'Kaze no gol' will pay toll!'

"De little Rabs, dey hilt up der ban's en promise dat dey won't open de do' fer nobody 'ceppin' dey daddy, en wid dat, Brer Rabbit he tuck'n put out, he did, at a han'-gallop, huntin' sump'n' n'er ter eat. But all dis time, Brer Wolf bin hidin' out behime de house, en he year eve'y wud dat pass, en ole Brer Rabbit wa'n't mo'n out'n sight 'fo' Brer Wolf went ter de do', en he knock, he did,—blip, blip, blip!

"Little Rab holler out, 'Who dat?'

"Brer Wolf he sing:—

" 'I'll stay w'en you away,

 'Kaze no gol' will pay toll!'

"De little Rabs dey laugh fit ter kill deyse'f, en dey up'n 'low:—

" 'Go 'way, Mr. Wolf, go 'way! You ain't none er we-all daddy!'

"Ole Brer Wolf he slunk off, he did, but eve'y time he thunk er dem plump little Rabs, he des git mo' hongry dan befo', en 't wa'n't long 'fo' he 'uz back at de do'—blap, blap, blap!

"Little Rab holler: 'Who dat?'

"Brer Wolf, he up'n sing:—

" 'I'll stay w'en you away,

 'Kaze no gol' will pay toll!'

"De little Rabs dey laugh en roll on de flo', en dey up'n 'low:—

" 'Go 'way, Mr. Wolf! We-all daddy ain't got no bad col' lak dat.'

"Brer Wolf slunk off, but bimeby he come back, en dis time he try mighty hard fer ter talk fine. He knock at de do'—blam, blam, blam!

"Little Rab holler: 'Who dat?'

"Brer Wolf tu'n loose en sing:—

" 'I'll stay w'en you away,

 'Kaze no gol' will pay toll!'

"Little Rab holler back, he did:—

" 'Go 'way, Mr. Wolf! go 'way! We-all daddy kin sing lots puttier dan dat. Go 'way, Mr. Wolf! go 'way!'

"Brer Wolf he slunk off, he did, en he go 'way out in de woods, en he sing, en sing, twel he kin sing fine ez de nex' man. Den he go back en knock at de do', en w'en de little Rabs ax who dat, he sing dem de song; en he sing so nice, en he sing so fine, dat dey ondo de do', en ole Brer Wolf walk in en gobble um all up, fum de fus' ter de las'.

"W'en ole Brer Rabbit git back home, he fine de do' stannin' wide open en all de chilluns gone. Dey wa'n't no sign er no tussle; de h'a'th 'uz all swep' clean, en eve'ything wuz all ter rights, but right over in de cornder he see a pile er bones, en den he know in reason dat some er de yuther creeturs done bin dar en make hash outen he chilluns.


"De little rabs, dey promise dat
dey won't open de do' fer nobody"

"Den he go 'roun' en ax um 'bout it, but dey all 'ny it; dey all 'ny it ter de las', en Brer Wolf, he 'ny it wuss'n all un um. Den Brer Rabbit tuck'n lay de case 'fo' Brer Tarrypin. Ole Brer Tarrypin wuz a mighty man in dem days," continued Uncle Remus, with something like a sigh,—"a mighty man, en no sooner is he year de state er de condition dan he up'n call all de creeturs tergedder. He call um tergedder, he did, en den he up'n tell um 'bout how somebody done tuck'n 'stroy all er Brer Rabbit chillun, en he 'low dat de man w'at do dat bleedz ter be kotch, 'kaze ef he ain't, dey ain't no tellin' how long it'll be 'fo' de same somebody'll come 'long en 'stroy all de chillun in de settlement.

"Brer B'ar, he up'n ax how dey gwine fine 'im, en Brer Tarrypin say dey er allers a way. Den he 'low:—

" 'Less dig a deep pit.'

" 'I'll dig de pit,' sez Brer Wolf, sezee.

"Atter de pit done dug, Brer Tarrypin say:—

" 'Less fill de pit full er lighter'd knots en bresh.'

" 'I'll fill de pit,' sez Brer Wolf, sezee.

"Atter de pit done fill up, Brer Tarrypin say:—

" 'Now, den, less set it a-fier.'

" 'I'll kindle de fier,' sez Brer Wolf, sezee.

"W'en de fier 'gun ter blaze up, Brer Tarrypin 'low dat de creeturs mus' jump 'cross dat, en de man w'at 'stroy Brer Rabbit chilluns will drap in en git bu'nt up. Brer Wolf bin so uppity 'bout diggin', en fillin', en kindlin', dat dey all 'spected 'im fer ter make de fus' trial; but, bless yo' soul en body! Brer Wolf look lak he got some yuther business fer ter 'ten' ter.

"De pit look so deep, en de fier bu'n so high, dat dey mos' all 'fear'd fer ter make de trial, but atter w'ile, Brer Mink 'low dat he ain't hunted none er Brer Rabbit chilluns, en wid dat, he tuck runnin' start, en lipt across. Den Brer Coon say he ain't hunted um, en over he sailed. Brer B'ar say he feel mo' heavy dan he ever is befo' in all he born days, but he ain't hurted none er Brer Rabbit po' little chilluns, en wid dat away he went 'cross de fier. Dey all jump, twel bimeby hit come Brer Wolf time. Den he 'gun ter git skeered, en he mighty sorry 'kaze he dig dat pit so deep en wide, en kindle dat fier so high. He tuck sech a long runnin' start, dat time he git ter de jumpin' place, he 'uz done wo' teetotally out, en he lipt up, he did, en fetch'd a squall en drapt right spang in de middle er de fier."

"Uncle Remus," said the little boy, after a while, "did Brother Terrapin jump over the fire?"

"Wat Brer Tarrypin gwine jump fer?" responded Uncle Remus, "w'en eve'ybody know Tarrypins ain't eat Rabbits."

"Well, you know you said everything was different then," said the child.

"Look yer, Brer Jack," exclaimed Uncle Remus, "ef you got any tale on yo' mine, des let 'er come. Dish yer youngster gittin' too long-headed fer me; dat he is."

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