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

Brer Fox Figures as an Incendiary

The next night the little boy had been thoughtful enough to save some of his supper for Uncle Remus, and to this "Miss Sally" had added, on her own account, a large piece of fruit-cake. The old man appeared to be highly pleased.

"Ef ders enny kinder cake w'at I likes de mos', hit's dish yer kine w'at's got reezins strowed 'mongs' it. Wid sick folks, now," he continued, holding up the cake and subjecting it to a critical examination, "dish yer hunk 'ud mighty nigh las' a mont', but wid a well man lak I is, hit won't las' a minnit."

And it did n't. It disappeared so suddenly that the little boy laughed aloud, and wanted Uncle Remus to have some more cake; but the latter protested that he did n't come there "fer ter git founder'd," but merely to see "ef somebody's strenk uz strong 'nuff fer ter stan' 'n'er tale." The little boy said if Uncle Remus meant him, he was sure his health was good enough to listen to any number of stories. Whereupon, the old man, without any tantalizing preliminaries, began:—

"Brer Fox done bin fool so much by Brer Rabbit dat he sorter look 'roun' fer ter see ef he can't ketch up wid some er de yuther creeturs, en so, one day, w'iles he gwine long down de big road, who should he strak up wid but old Brer Tarrypin. Brer Fox sorter lick his chops, en 'low dat ef he kin fling ennybody en gin um all-under holt, Brer Tarrypin de man, en he march up, mighty biggity, like he gwine ter make spote un 'im. W'en he git up nigh 'nuff, Brer Fox hail 'im:—

" 'How you 'speck you fine yo'se'f dis mawnin', Brer Tarrypin?' sezee.

" 'Slow, Brer Fox—mighty slow,' sez Brer Tarrypin, sezee. 'Day in en day out I'm mighty slow, en it look lak I'm a-gittin' slower; I'm slow en po'ly, Brer Fox—how you come on?' sezee.

" 'Oh, I'm slanchindickler, same ez I allers is,' sez Brer Fox, sezee. 'W'at make yo' eye so red, Brer Tarrypin?' sezee.

" 'Hit's all 'longer de trouble I see, Brer Fox,' sez Brer Tarrypin, sezee. 'I see trouble en you see none; trouble come en pile up on trouble,' sezee.

" 'Law, Brer Tarrypin!' sez Brer Fox, sezee, 'you ain't see no trouble yit. Ef you wanter see sho' 'nuff trouble, you des oughter go 'longer me; I'm de man w'at kin show you trouble,' sezee.

" 'Well, den,' sez ole Brer Tarrypin, sezee, 'ef youer de man w'at kin show me trouble, den I'm de man w'at want a glimpse un it,' sezee.

"Den Brer Fox, he ax Brer Tarrypin is he seed de Ole Boy, en den Brer Tarrypin, he make answer dat he ain't seed 'im yit, but he year tell un 'im. Wid dat, Brer Fox 'low de Ole Boy de kinder trouble he bin talkin' 'bout, en den Brer Tarrypin, he up'n ax how he gwine see 'im. Brer Fox, he tak'n lay out de pogrance, en he up'n tell Brer Tarrypin dat ef he'll step up dar in de middle er dat ole broom-sage fiel', en squot dar a spell, 't won't be no time 'fo' he'll ketch a glimpse er de Ole Boy.

"Brer Tarrypin know'd ders sump'n' wrong some'rs, yit he mos' too flat-flooted fer ter have enny scuffle wid Brer Fox, en he say ter hisse'f dat he'll go 'long en des trus' ter luck; en den he 'low dat ef Brer Fox he'p 'im 'cross de fence, he b'lieve he'll go up en resk one eye on de Ole Boy. Co'se Brer Fox hope 'im 'cross, en no sooner is he good en gone, dan Brer Fox, he fix up fer ter make 'im see trouble. He lipt out ter Miss Meadows house, Brer Fox did, en make like he wanter borry a chunk er fier fer ter light he pipe, en he tuck dat chunk, en he run 'roun' de fiel', en he sot de grass a fier, en't wa'n't long 'fo' it look lak de whole face er de yeth waz a-blazin' up."

"Did it burn the Terrapin up?" interrupted the little boy.

"Don't push me, honey; don't make me git de kyart 'fo' de hoss. W'en ole Brer Tarrypin 'gun ter wade thoo de straw, de ve'y fus' man w'at he strak up wid wuz ole man Rabbit layin' dar sleepin' on de shady side uv a tussock. Brer Rabbit, he one er deze yer kinder mens w'at sleep wid der eye wide open, en he wuz 'wake d'reckly he year Brer Tarrypin scufflin' en scramblin' 'long thoo de grass. Atter dey shuck han's en ax 'bout one er n'er fambly, hit ain't take long fer Brer Tarrypin fer ter tell Brer Rabbit w'at fotch 'im dar, en Brer Rabbit, he up'n say, sezee:—

" 'Hit's des na'tally a born blessin' dat you struck up wid me w'en you did,' sezee, 'kaze little mo' en bofe un us would 'a' bin bobbycu'd,' sezee.

"Dis kinder tarrify Brer Tarrypin, en he say he wanter git out fum dar; but Brer Rabbit he 'low he'd take keer un 'im, en he tuck'n tuck Brer Tarrypin in de middle er de fiel' whar dey wuz a big holler stump. Onter dis stump Brer Rabbit lif' Brer Tarry pin, en den he lip up hisse'f en crope in de holler, en, bless yo' soul, honey, w'en de fier come a-snippin' en a-snappin', dar dey sot des ez safe en ez snug ez you iz in yo' bed dis minnit.

"W'en de blaze blow over, Brer Tarrypin look 'roun', en he see Brer Fox runnin' up'n down de fence lak he huntin' sump'n'. Den Brer Rabbit, he stick he head up outen de hole, en likewise he seed 'im, and den he holler like Brer Tarrypin" (Here Uncle Remus puckered his voice, so to say, in a most amusing squeak):

" 'Brer Fox! Brer Fox! O Brer Fox! Run yer—we done kotch Brer Rabbit!'

"En den Brer Fox, he jump up on de top rail er de fence en fetch a spring dat lan' 'im 'way out in de bu'nin' grass, en it hurted 'im en sting 'im in de footses dat bad, dat he squeal en he roll, en de mo' he roll de wuss it bu'n him, en Brer Rabbit en Brer Tarrypin dey des holler en laff. Bimeby Brer Fox git out, en off he put down de road, limpin' fus' on one foot en den on de yuther."

The little boy laughed, and then there was a long silence—so long, indeed, that Uncle Remus's "Miss Sally," sewing in the next room, concluded to investigate it. An exceedingly interesting tableau met her sight. The little child had wandered into the land of dreams with a smile on his face. He lay with one of his little hands buried in both of Uncle Remus's, while the old man himself was fast asleep, with his head thrown back and his mouth wide open. "Miss Sally" shook him by the shoulder and held up her finger to prevent him from speaking. He was quiet until she held the lamp for him to get down the back steps, and then she heard him say, in an indignantly mortified tone:—

"Now den, Miss Sally'll be a-riggin' me 'bout noddin', but stidder dat she better be glad dat I ain't bus loose en sno' en 'larm de house—let 'lone dat sick baby. Dat's w'at!"

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