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

Why the Guinea-Fowls Are Speckled

One night, while the little boy was watching Uncle Remus broil a piece of bacon on the coals, he heard a great commotion among the guinea-fowls. The squawking and pot-racking  went on at such a rate that the geese awoke and began to scream, and finally the dogs added their various voices to the uproar. Uncle Remus leaned back in his chair and listened.

"I 'speck may be dat's de patter-rollers gwine by," he said, after a while. "But you can't put no 'pen'unce in dem ar Guinny-hins, 'kaze dey'll wake up en holler ef dey year deyse'f sno'. Dey'll fool you, sho'."

"They are mighty funny, anyhow," said the little boy.

"Dat's it!" exclaimed Uncle Remus. "Dey looks quare, en dey does quare. Dey ain't do lak no yuther kinder chick'n, en dey ain't look lak no yuther kinder chick'n. Yit folks tell me," the old man went on, reflectively, "dat dey er heap mo' kuse lookin' now dan w'at dey use' ter be. I year tell dat dey wuz one time w'en dey wuz all blue, 'stid er havin' all dem ar teenchy little spots on um."

"Well, how did they get to be speckled, Uncle Remus?" asked the little boy, seeing that the old man was disposed to leave the subject and devote his attention to his broiling bacon.

Uncle Remus did not respond at once. He turned his meat over carefully, watched it a little while, and then adroitly transferred it to the cover of a tin bucket, which was made to answer the purpose of a plate. Then he searched about in the embers until he found his ash-cake, and in a little while his supper was ready to be eaten.

"I ain't begrudgin' nobody nothin'," said Uncle Remus, measuring the victuals with his eye; "yit I'm monst'us glad Brer Jack ain't nowhar's 'roun', 'kaze dey ain't no tellin' de gawm dat ole nigger kin eat. He look shaky, en he look dry up, en he ain't got no toof, yit w'ence he set hisse'f down whar dey any vittles, he des nat'ally laps hit up. En let 'lone dat, he ull wipe he mouf en look' roun' des lak he want mo'. Time Miss Sally see dat ole nigger eat one meal er vittles, I boun' you he hatter go back down de country. I ain't begrudgin' Brer Jack de vittles," Uncle Remus went on, adopting a more conciliatory tone, "dat I ain't, 'kaze folks is got ter eat; but, gentermens! you be 'stonish' w'en you see Brer Jack 'pesterin' 'long er he dinner."

The little boy sat quiet awhile, and then reminded Uncle Remus of the guinea-fowls.

"Tooby sho', honey, tooby sho'! W'at I doin' runnin' on dis-a-way 'bout ole Brer Jack? W'at he done ter me? Yer I is gwine on 'bout ole Brer Jack, en dem ar Guinny-hins out dar waitin'. Well, den, one day Sis Cow wuz a-grazin' 'bout in de ole fiel' en lookin' atter her calf. De wedder wuz kinder hot, en de calf, he tuck'n stan', he did, in he mammy shadder, so he kin keep cool, en so dat one flip un he mammy tail kin keep the flies off'n bofe un um. Atter w'ile, 'long come a drove er Guinnies. De Guinnies, dey howdied, en Sis Cow, she howdied, en de Guinnies, dey sorter picked 'roun' en sun deyse'f; en Sis Cow, she crap de grass en ax um de news er de neighborhoods. Dey went on dis a-way twel 't wa'n't long 'fo' dey year mighty kuse noise out dar t'er side er de ole fiel'. De Guinnies, dey make great 'miration, des lak dey does deze days, en ole Sis Cow fling up 'er head en look all 'roun'. She ain't see nothin'.

"Atter w'ile dey year de kuse fuss 'g'in, en dey look 'roun', en bless gracious! stan'in' right dar, 'twix' dem en sundown, wuz a great big Lion!"

"A Lion, Uncle Remus?" asked the little boy, in amazement.

"Des ez sho' ez you er settin' dar, honey,—a great big Lion. You better b'leeve dey wuz a monst'us flutterment 'mungs de Guinnies, en ole Sis Cow, she looked mighty skeer'd. De Lion love cow meat mos' better dan he do any yuther kinder meat, en he shake he head en 'low ter hisse'f dat he'll des about ketch ole Sis Cow en eat 'er up, en take en kyar de calf ter he fambly.

"Den he tuck'n shuck he head, de Lion did, en make straight at Sis Cow. De Guinnies dey run dis a-way, en dey run t'er way, en dey run all 'roun' en 'roun'; but ole Sis Cow, she des know she got ter stan' 'er groun', en w'en she see de Lion makin' todes 'er, she des tuck'n drapt 'er head down en pawed de dirt. De Lion, he crope up, he did, en crope 'roun', watchin' fer good chance fer ter make a jump. He crope 'roun', he did, but no diffunce which a-way he creep, dar wuz ole Sis Cow hawns p'intin' right straight at 'im. Ole Sis Cow, she paw de dirt, she did, en show de white er her eyes, en beller way down in 'er stomach.

"Dey went on dis a-way, dey did, twel bimeby de Guinnies, dey see dat Sis Cow ain't so mighty skeer'd, en den dey 'gun ter take heart. Fus' news you know, one un um sorter drap he wings en fuzzle up de fedders en run out 'twix' Sis Cow en de Lion. W'en he get dar, he sorter dip down, he did, en fling up dirt des lak you see um do in de ash-pile. Den he tuck'n run back, he did, en time he git back, 'n'er one run out en raise de dus' 'twix' Sis Cow en de Lion. Den 'n'er one, he run out en dip down en shoo up de dus'; den 'n'er one run out en dip down, en 'n'er one en yit 'n'er one, twel, bless gracious! time dey all run out en dip down en raise de dus', de Lion wuz dat blin' twel he ain't kin see he han' befo' 'im. Dis make 'im so mad dat he make a splunge at Sis Cow, en de old lady, she kotch 'im on her hawns en got 'im down, en des nat'ally to' intruls out."

"Did she kill the Lion, Uncle Remus?" asked the little boy, incredulously.

"Dat she did—dat she did! Yit 't ain't make 'er proud, 'kaze atter de Lion done good en dead, she tuck en call up de Guinnies, she did, en she 'low, dey bin so quick fer ter he'p 'er out, dat she wanter pay um back. De Guinnies, dey say, sezee:—

" 'Don't bodder 'long er we all, Sis Cow,' sezee. 'You had yo' fun en we all had ourn, en 'ceppin' dat ar blood en ha'r on yo' hawn,' sezee, 'dey ain't none un us any de wuss off,' sezee.

"But ole Sis Cow, she stan' um down, she did, dat she got ter pay um back, en den atter w'ile she ax um w'at dey lak bes'.

"One un um up en make answer dat w'at dey lak bes', Sis Cow, she can't gi' um. Sis Cow, she up en 'low dat she dunno 'bout dat, en she ax um w'at is it.

"Den de Guinnies, dey tuck'n huddle up, dey did, en hol' er confab wid one er 'n'er, en w'iles dey er doin' dis, ole Sis Cow, she tuck'n fetch a long breff, en den she call up 'er cud, en stood dar chawin' on it des lak she ain't had no tribalation dat day.

"Bimeby one er de Guinnies step out fum de huddlement en make a bow en 'low dat dey all 'ud be mighty proud ef Sis Cow kin fix it some way so dey can't be seed so fur thoo de woods, 'kaze dey look blue in de sun, en dey look blue in de shade, en dey can't hide deyse'f nohow. Sis Cow, she chaw on 'er cud, en shet 'er eyes, en study. She chaw en chaw, en study en study. Bimeby she 'low:—

" 'Go fetch me a pail!' Guinny-hin laff!

" 'Law, Sis Cow! w'at de name er goodness you gwine do wid a pail?'

" 'Go fetch me a pail!'

"Guinny-hin, she run'd off, she did, en atter w'ile yer she come trottin' back wid a pail. She sot dat pail down," continued Uncle Remus, in the tone of an eye-witness to the occurrence, "en Sis Cow, she tuck 'er stan' over it, en she let down 'er milk in dar twel she mighty nigh fill de pail full. Den she tuck'n make dem Guinny-hins git in a row, en she dip 'er tail in dat ar pail, en she switch it at de fust un en sprinkle 'er all over wid de milk; en eve'y time she switch 'er tail at um she 'low:—

" 'I loves dis un!' Den she 'ud sing:—

" 'Oh, Blue, go 'way! you shill not stay!

Oh, Guinny, be Gray, be Gray!"

"She tuck'n sprinkle de las' one un um, en de Guinnies, dey sot in de sun twel dey git dry, en fum dat time out dey got dem little speckles un um."

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