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

"In Some Lady's Garden"

When the little boy next visited Uncle Remus the old man was engaged in the somewhat tedious operation of making shoe-pegs. Daddy Jack was assorting a bundle of sassafras roots, and Aunt Tempy was transforming a meal-sack into shirts for some of the little negroes,—a piece of economy of her own devising. Uncle Remus pretended not to see the child.

"Hit's des lak I tell you all," he remarked, as if renewing a conversation; "I monst'us glad dey ain't no bad chilluns on dis place fer ter be wadin' in de spring-branch, en flingin' mud on de yuther little chilluns, w'ich de goodness knows dey er nasty nuff bidout dat. I monst'us glad dey ain't none er dat kinder young uns 'roun' yer—I is dat."

"Now, Uncle Remus," exclaimed the little boy, in an injured tone, "somebody's been telling you something on me."

The old man appeared to be very much astonished.

"Heyo! whar you bin hidin', honey? Yer 't is mos' way atter supper en you ain't in de bed yit. Well—well—well! Sit over ag'in in de chimbly jam dar whar you kin dry dem shoes. En de ve'y nex' time w'at I see you wadin' in dat branch, wid de sickly season comin' on, I'm a-gwine ter take you 'cross my shoulder en kyar you ter Miss Sally, en ef dat ain't do no good, den I'll kyar you ter Mars John, en ef dat ain't do no good, den I'm done wid you, so dar now!"

The little boy sat silent a long time, listening to the casual talk of Uncle Remus and his guests, and watching the vapor rise from his wet shoes. Presently there was a pause in the talk, and the child said:—

"Uncle Remus, have I been too bad to hear a story?"

The old man straightened himself up and pushed his spectacles back on his forehead.

"Now, den, folks, you year w'at he say. Shill we pursue on atter de creeturs? Shill er shan't?"

"Bless yo' soul, Brer Remus, I mos' 'shame' myse'f, yit I tell you de Lord's trufe, I'm des ez bad atter dem ar tales ez dat chile dar."

"Well, den," said Uncle Remus, "a tale hit is. One time dey wuz a man, en dish yer man he had a gyardin. He had a gyardin, en he had a little gal fer ter min' it. I don't 'speck dish yer gyardin wuz wide lak Miss Sally gyardin, but hit 'uz lots longer. Hit 'uz so long dat it run down side er de big road, 'cross by de plum thicket, en back up de lane. Dish yer gyardin wuz so nice en long dat it tuck'n 'track de 'tention er Brer Rabbit; but de fence wuz built so close en so high, dat he can't git in nohow he kin fix it."

"Oh, I know about that!" exclaimed the little boy. "The man catches Brother Rabbit and ties him, and the girl lets him loose to see him dance."

Uncle Remus dropped his chin upon his bosom. He seemed to be humbled.

"Sis Tempy," he said, with a sigh, "you'll hatter come in some time w'en we ain't so crowded, en I'll up en tell 'bout Billy Malone en Miss Janey."

"That wasn't the story I heard, Uncle Remus," said the little boy. "Please tell me about Billy Malone and Miss Janey."

"Ah-yi!" exclaimed Uncle Remus, with a triumphant smile; "I 'low'd maybe I wa'n't losin' de use er my 'membunce, en sho' nuff I ain't. Now, den, we'll des wuk our way back en start fa'r en squar'. One time dey wuz a man, en dish yer man he had a gyardin en a little gal. De gyardin wuz chock full er truck, en in de mawnin's, w'en de man hatter go off, he call up de little gal, he did, en tell 'er dat she mus' be sho' en keep ole Brer Rabbit outer de gyardin. He tell 'er dis eve'y mawnin'; but one mawnin' he tuck en forgit it twel he git ter de front gate, en den he stop en holler back:—

" 'O Janey! You Janey! Min' w'at I tell you 'bout ole Brer Rabbit. Don't you let 'im get my nice green peas.'

"Little gal, she holler back: 'Yes, daddy.'

"All dis time, Brer Rabbit he 'uz settin' out dar in de bushes dozin'. Yit, w'en he year he name call out so loud, he cock up one year en lissen, en he 'low ter hisse'f dat he bleedz ter outdo Mr. Man. Bimeby, Brer Rabbit, he went 'roun' en come down de big road des ez natchul ez ef he bin trafflin' some'rs. He see de little gal settin' by de gate, en he up'n 'low:—

" 'Ain't dish yer Miss Janey?'

"Little gal say: 'My daddy call me Janey.'" Uncle Remus mimicked the voice and manner of a little girl. He hung his head, looked excessively modest, and spoke in a shrill tone. The effect was so comical that even Daddy Jack seemed to enjoy it.

" 'My daddy call me Janey; w'at yo' daddy call you?'

"Brer Rabbit look on de groun', en sorter study lak folks does w'en dey feels bad. Den he look up en 'low:—

"I bin lose my daddy dis many long year, but w'en he 'live he call me Billy Malone.' Den he look at de little gal hard en 'low: 'Well, well, well! I ain't seed you sence you 'uz a little bit er baby, en now yer you is mighty nigh a grown 'oman. I pass yo' daddy in de road des now, en he say I mus' come en tell you fer ter gimme a mess er sparrer-grass.'

"Little gal, she fling de gate wide open, en let Mr. Billy Malone git de sparrer-grass.

"Man come back en see whar somebody done bin tromplin' on de gyardin truck, en den he call up de little gal, en up'n ax 'er who bin dar since he bin gone; en de little gal, she 'low, she did, dat Mr. Billy Malone bin dar. Man ax who in de name er goodness is Mr. Billy Malone. Little gal 'low hit's des a man w'at say 'er daddy sont 'im fer ter git some sparrer-grass on account er ole acquaintance. Man got his 'spicions, but he ain't say nothin'.

"Nex' day, w'en he start off, he holler en tell de little gal fer ter keep one eye on ole Brer Rabbit, en don't let nobody git no mo' sparrer-grass. Brer Rabbit, he settin' off dar in de bushes, en he year w'at de man say, en he see 'im w'en he go off. Bimeby, he sorter run 'roun', ole Brer Rabbit did, en he come hoppin' down de road, twel he git close up by de little gal at de gyardin gate. Brer Rabbit drapt 'er his biggest bow, en ax 'er how she come on. Den, atter dat, he 'low, he did:—

" 'I see yo' daddy gwine 'long down de road des now, en he gimme a rakin' down 'kaze I make 'way wid de sparrer-grass, yit he say dat bein' 's how I sech a good fr'en' er de fambly I kin come en ax you fer ter gimme a mess er Inglish peas.'

"Little gal, she tuck'n fling de gate wide open, en ole Brer Rabbit, he march in, he did, en he git de peas in a hurry. Man come back atter w'ile, en he 'low:—

" 'Who bin tromplin' down my pea-vines?'

" 'Mr. Billy Malone, daddy.'

"Man slap he han' on he forrud; he dunner w'at ter make er all dis. Bimeby, he 'low:—

" 'W'at kinder lookin' man dish yer Mr. Billy Malone?'

" 'Split lip, pop eye, big year, en bob-tail, daddy.'

"Man say he be bless ef he ain't gwine ter make de acquaintance er Mr. Billy Malone; en he went ter wuk, he did, en fix 'im up a box-trap, en he put some goobers in dar, en he tell de little gal nex' time Mr. Billy Malone come fer 'vite 'im in. Nex' mawnin', Man git little ways fum de house en tuck'n holler back, he did:—

" 'W'atsumever you does, don't you dast ter let nobody git no mo' sparrer-grass, en don't you let um git no mo' Inglish peas.'

"Little gal holler back: 'No, daddy.'

"Den, atter dat, 't wa'n't long 'fo' yer come Mr. Billy Malone, hoppin' 'long down de big road. He drapt a bow, he did, en 'low:—

" 'Mawnin', Miss Janey, mawnin'! Met yo' daddy down de big road, en he say dat I can't git no mo' sparrer-grass en green peas but you kin gimme some goobers.'

"Little gal, she lead de way, en tell Mr. Billy Malone dar dey is in de box. Mr. Billy Malone, he lick he chops, he did, en 'low:—

" 'You oughter be monst'us glad, honey, dat you got sech a good daddy lak dat.'

"Wid dat, Mr. Billy Malone wunk he off eye, en jump in de box."

"W'at I done tell you!" exclaimed Aunt Tempy.

"He jump in de box," continued Uncle Remus, "en dar he wuz, en ef de little gal hadder bin a minnit bigger, I lay she'd 'a' tuck'n done some mighty tall winkin'.

"Man ain't gone fur, en 't wa'n't long 'fo' yer he come back. W'en Brer Rabbit year 'im comin' he bounce 'roun' in dar same ez a flea in a piller-case, but 't ain't do no good. Trap done fall, en Brer Rabbit in dar. Man look thoo de slats, en 'low:—

" 'Dar you is—same old hoppum-skippum run en jumpum. Youer de ve'y chap I'm atter. I want yo' foot fer ter kyar in my pocket, I want yo' meat fer ter put in de pot, en I want yo' hide fer ter w'ar on my head.'

"Dis make cole chill rush up en down Brer Rabbit backbone, en he git more 'umble dan a town nigger w'at been kotch out atter nine erclock. He holler en cry, en cry en holler:—

" 'Do pray, Mr. Man, tu'n me go! I done 'ceive you dis time, but I ain't gwine ter 'ceive you no mo'. Do pray, Mr. Man, tu'n me go, des dis little bit er time.'

"Man he ain't sayin' nothin'. He look lak he studyin' 'bout somep'n' ne'r way off yan', en den he take de little gal by de han' en go off todes de house."

"Sho'ly Brer Rabbit time done come now!" exclaimed Aunt Tempy, in a tone of mingled awe and expectation.

Uncle Remus paid no attention to the interruption, but went right on:—

"Hit seem lak dat Brer Rabbit got mo' luck dan w'at you kin shake a stick at, 'kaze de man en de little gal ain't good en gone skacely twel yer come Brer Fox a-pirootin' 'roun'. Brer Fox year Brer Rabbit holl'in' en he up'n ax w'at de 'casion er sech gwines on right dar in de broad open daylight. Brer Rabbit squall out:—

" 'Lordy, Brer Fox! you better make 'as'e 'way fum yer, 'kaze Mr. Man ull ketch you en slap you in dish yer box en make you eat mutton twel you ull des nat'ally bus' right wide open. Run, Brer Fox, run! He bin feedin' me on mutton the whole blessid mawnin' en now he done gone atter mo'. Run, Brer Fox, run!'

"Yit, Brer Fox ain't run. He up'n ax Brer Rabbit how de mutton tas'e.

" 'He tas'e mighty good 'long at fus', but nuff's a nuff, en too much is a plenty. Run, Brer Fox, run! He ull ketch you, sho'!'

"Yit, Brer Fox ain't run. He up'n 'low dat he b'leeve he want some mutton hisse'f, en wid dat he onloose de trap en let Brer Rabbit out, en den he tuck'n git in dar. Brer Rabbit ain't wait fer ter see w'at de upshot gwine ter be, needer—I boun' you he ain't. He des tuck'n gallop off in de woods, en he laff en laff twel he hatter hug a tree fer ter keep fum drappin' on de groun'."

"Well, but what became of Brother Fox?" the little boy asked, after waiting some time for Uncle Remus to proceed.

"Now, den, honey," said the old man, falling back upon his dignity, "hit e'en about takes all my spar' time fer ter keep up wid you en Brer Rabbit, let 'lone keepin' up wid Brer Fox. Ole Brer Rabbit tuck'n tuck keer hisse'f, en now let Brer Fox take keer hisse'f."

"I say de word!" exclaimed Aunt Tempy.

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