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

Brer Rabbit and the Mosquitoes

The next night Daddy Jack was still away when the little boy went to see Uncle Remus, and the child asked about him.

"Bless yo' soul, honey! don't ax me 'bout Brer Jack. He look lak he mighty ole en trimbly, but he mighty peart nigger, mon. He look lak he shufflin' 'long, but dat ole nigger gits over groun', sho'. Forty year ergo, maybe I mought er kep' up wid 'im, but I let you know Brer Jack is away 'head er me. He mos' sho'ly is."

"Why, he's older than you are, Uncle Remus!" the child exclaimed.

"Dat w'at I year tell. Seem lak hit mighty kuse, but sho' ez youer bawn Brer Jack is a heap mo' pearter nigger dan w'at ole Remus is. He little, yit he mighty hard. Dat's Brer Jack, up en down."

Uncle Remus paused and reflected a moment. Then he went on:—

"Talkin' 'bout Brer Jack put me in min' 'bout a tale w'ich she sho'ly mus' er happen down dar in dat ar country whar Brer Jack come fum, en it sorter ketch me in de neighborhoods er de 'stonishment 'kaze he ain't done up'n tell it. I 'speck it done wuk loose fum Brer Jack 'membunce."

"What tale was that, Uncle Remus?"

"Seem lak dat one time w'en eve'ything en eve'ybody was runnin' 'long des lak dey bin had waggin grease 'pun um, ole Brer Wolf"—

The little boy laughed incredulously and Uncle Remus paused and frowned heavily.

"Why, Uncle Remus! how did Brother Wolf get away from Mammy-Bammy Big-Money?"

The old man's frown deepened and his voice was full of anger as he replied:—

"Now, den, is I'm de tale, er is de tale me? Tell me dat! Is I'm de tale, er is de tale me? Well, den, ef I ain't de tale en de tale ain't me, den how come you wanter take'n rake me over de coals fer?"

"Well, Uncle Remus, you know what you said. You said that was the end of Brother Wolf."

"I bleedz ter 'spute dat," exclaimed Uncle Remus, with the air of one performing a painful duty; "I bleedz ter 'spute it. Dat w'at de tale say. Ole Remus is one nigger en de tale, hit's a n'er nigger. Yit I ain't got no time fer ter set back yer en fetch out de oggyments."

Here the old man paused, closed his eyes, leaned back in his chair, and sighed. After a while he said, in a gentle tone:—

"So den, Brer Wolf done dead, en yer I wuz runnin' on des same lak he wuz done 'live. Well! well! well!"

Uncle Remus stole a glance at the little boy, and immediately relented.

"Yit," he went on, "ef I'm ain't de tale en de tale ain't me, hit ain't skacely make no diffunce whe'er Brer Wolf dead er whe'er he's a high-primin' 'roun' bodder'n 'longer de yuther creeturs. Dead er no dead, dey wuz one time w'en Brer Wolf live in de swamp down dar in dat ar country whar Brer Jack come fum, en, mo'n dat, he had a mighty likely gal. Look lak all de yuther creeturs wuz atter 'er. Dey 'ud go down dar ter Brer Wolf house, dey would, en dey 'ud set up en court de gal, en 'joy deyse'f.

"Hit went on dis a-way twel atter w'ile de skeeters 'gun ter git monst'us bad. Brer Fox, he went flyin' 'roun' Miss Wolf, en he sot dar, he did, en run on wid 'er en fight skeeters des es big ez life en twice-t ez natchul. Las' Brer Wolf, he tuck'n kotch Brer Fox slappin' en fightin' at he skeeters. Wid dat he tuck'n tuck Brer Fox by de off year en led 'im out ter de front gate, en w'en he git dar, he 'low, he did, dat no man w'at can't put up wid skeeters ain't gwine ter come a-courtin' his gal.

"Den Brer Coon, he come flyin' 'roun' de gal, but he ain't bin dar no time skacely 'fo' he 'gun ter knock at de skeeters; en no sooner is he done dis dan Brer Wolf show 'im de do'. Brer Mink, he come en try he han', yit he bleedz ter fight de skeeters, en Brer Wolf ax 'im out.

"Hit went on dis a-way twel bimeby all de creeturs bin flyin' 'roun' Brer Wolf's gal 'ceppin' it's ole Brer Rabbit, en w'en he year w'at kinder treatments de yuther creeturs bin ketchin' he 'low ter hisse'f dat he b'leeve in he soul he mus' go down ter Brer Wolf house en set de gal out one whet ef it's de las' ack.

"No sooner say, no sooner do. Off he put, en 't wa'n't long 'fo' he fine hisse'f knockin' at Brer Wolf front do'. Ole Sis Wolf, she tuck'n put down 'er knittin' en she up'n low, she did:—

" 'Who dat?'

"De gal, she 'uz stannin' up 'fo' de lookin'-glass sorter primpin', en she choke back a giggle, she did, en 'low:—

" 'Sh-h-h! My goodness, mammy! dat's Mr. Rabbit. I year de gals say he's a mighty prop-en-tickler gentermun, en I des hope you ain't gwine ter set dar en run on lak you mos' allers does w'en I got comp'ny 'bout how much soap-grease you done save up en how many kitten de ole cat got. I gits right 'shame' sometimes, dat I does!'"

The little boy looked astonished.

"Did she talk that way to her mamma?" he asked.

"Shoo, chile! 'Mungs' all de creeturs dey ain't no mo' kuse creeturs dan de gals. Ole ez I is, ef I wuz ter start in dis minnit fer ter tell you how kuse de gals is, en de Lord wuz ter spar' me plum twel I git done, yo' head 'ud be gray, en Remus 'ud be des twice-t ez ole ez w'at he is right now."

"Well, what did her mamma say, Uncle Remus?"

"Ole Sis Wolf, she sot dar, she did, en settle 'er cap on 'er head, en snicker, en look at de gal lak she monst'us proud. De gal, she tuck'n shuck 'erse'f 'fo' de lookin'-glass a time er two, en den she tipt ter de do' en open' it little ways en peep out des lak she skeer'd some un gwine ter hit 'er a clip side de head. Dar stood ole Brer Rabbit lookin' des ez slick ez a race-hoss. De gal, she tuck'n laff, she did, en holler:—

" 'W'y law, maw! hit's Mr. Rabbit, en yer we bin 'fraid it 'uz some 'un w'at ain't got no business 'roun' yer!'

"Ole Sis Wolf she look over 'er specks, en snicker, en den she up'n 'low:—

" 'Well, don't keep 'im stannin' out dar all night. Ax 'im in, fer goodness sake.'

"Den de gal, she tuck'n drap 'er hankcher, en Brer Rabbit, he dipt down en grab it en pass it ter 'er wid a bow, en de gal say she much 'blige, 'kaze dat 'uz mo' den Mr. Fox 'ud er done, en den she ax Brer Rabbit how he come on, en Brer Rabbit 'low he right peart, en den he ax 'er wharbouts 'er daddy, en ole Sis Wolf 'low she go fine 'im.

" 'T wa'n't long 'fo' Brer Rabbit year Brer Wolf stompin' de mud off'n he foots in de back po'ch, en den bimeby in he come. Dey shuck han's, dey did, en Brer Rabbit say dat w'en he go callin' on he 'quaintunce, hit ain't feel natchul 'ceppin' de man er de house settin' 'roun' some'rs.

" 'Ef he don't talk none,' sez Brer Rabbit, sezee, 'he kin des set up ag'in' de chimbly-jam en keep time by noddin'.'

"But ole Brer Wolf, he one er deze yer kinder mens w'at got de whimzies, en he up'n 'low dat he don't let hisse'f git ter noddin' front er comp'ny. Dey run on dis a-way twel bimeby Brer Rabbit year de skeeters come zoonin' 'roun', en claimin' kin wid 'im."

The little boy laughed; but Uncle Remus was very serious.

"Co'se dey claim kin wid 'im. Dey claims kin wid folks yit, let 'lone Brer Rabbit. Manys en manys de time w'en I year um sailin' 'roun' en singin' out 'Cousin! Cousin!'  en I let you know, honey, de skeeters is mighty close kin w'en dey gits ter be yo' cousin.

"Brer Rabbit, he year um zoonin'," the old man continued, "en he know he got ter do some mighty nice talkin', so he up'n ax fer drink er water. De gal, she tuck'n fotch it.

" 'Mighty nice water, Brer Wolf.' (De skeeters dey zoon.)

" 'Some say it too full er wiggletails, Brer Rabbit.' (De skeeters, dey zoon en dey zoon.)

" 'Mighty nice place you got, Brer Wolf.' (Skeeters dey zoon.)

" 'Some say it too low in de swamp, Brer Rabbit.' (Skeeters dey zoon en dey zoon.)

"Dey zoon so bad," said Uncle Remus, drawing a long breath, "dat Brer Rabbit 'gun ter git skeer'd, en w'en dat creetur git skeer'd, he min' wuk lak one er deze yer flutter-mills. Bimeby, he 'low:—

" 'Went ter town t'er day, en dar I seed a sight w'at I never 'speckted ter see.'

" 'W'at dat, Brer Rabbit?'

" 'Spotted hoss, Brer Wolf.'

" 'No,  Brer Rabbit!'

" 'I mos' sho'ly seed 'im, Brer Wolf.'

"Brer Wolf, he scratch he head, en de gal she hilt up 'er han's en make great 'miration 'bout de spotted hoss. (De skeeters dey zoon, en dey keep on zoonin'.) Brer Rabbit, he talk on, he did:—

" ''T wa'n't des one spotted hoss, Brer Wolf, 't wuz a whole team er spotted hosses, en dey went gallin'-up hosses,' sezee. 'Let 'lone dat, Brer Wolf, my grandaddy wuz spotted,' sez Brer Rabbit, sezee.

"Gal, she squeal en holler out:—

" 'W'y, Brer Rabbit! ain't you 'shame' yo'se'f fer ter be talkin' dat a-way, en 'bout yo' own-'lone blood kin too?'

" 'Hit's de naked trufe I'm a-ginin' un you,' sez Brer Rabbit, sezee. (Skeeter zoon en come closeter.)

"Brer Wolf 'low 'Well—well—well!' Ole Sis Wolf, she 'low 'Tooby sho'ly, tooby sho'ly!' (Skeeter zoon en come nigher en nigher.) Brer Rabbit 'low:—

" 'Yasser! Des ez sho' ez youer settin' dar, my grandaddy wuz spotted. Spotted all over. (Skeeter come zoonin' up en light on Brer Rabbit jaw.) He wuz dat. He had er great big spot right yer!'"

Here Uncle Remus raised his hand and struck himself a resounding slap on the side of the face where the mosquito was supposed to be, and continued:—

"No sooner is he do dis dan ne'r skeeter come zoonin' 'roun' en light on Brer Rabbit leg. Brer Rabbit, he talk, en he talk:—

" 'Po' ole grandaddy! I boun' he make you laff, he look so funny wid all dem spots en speckles. He had spot on de side er de head, whar I done show you, en den he had n'er big spot right yer on de leg,' sezee."

Uncle Remus slapped himself on the leg below the knee, and was apparently so serious about it that the little boy laughed loudly. The old man went on:—

"Skeeter zoon en light 'twix' Brer Rabbit shoulder-blades. Den he talk:—

" 'B'leeve me er not b'leeve me ef you min' to, but my grandaddy had a big black spot up yer on he back w'ich look lak saddle-mark.'

"Blip Brer Rabbit tuck hisse'f on de back!

"Skeeter sail 'roun' en zoon en light down yer beyan de hip-bone. He say he grandaddy got spot down dar.

"Blip he tuck hisse'f beyan de hip-bone.

"Hit keep on dis a-way," continued Uncle Remus, who had given vigorous illustrations of Brer Rabbit's method of killing mosquitoes while pretending to tell a story, "twel bimeby ole Brer Wolf en ole Sis Wolf dey lissen at Brer Rabbit twel dey 'gun ter nod, en den ole Brer Rabbit en de gal dey sot up dar en kill skeeters right erlong."

"Did he marry Brother Wolf's daughter?" asked the little boy.

"I year talk," replied Uncle Remus, "dat Brer Wolf sont Brer Rabbit wud nex' day dat he kin git de gal by gwine atter 'er, but I ain't never year talk 'bout Brer Rabbit gwine. De day atterwuds wuz mighty long time, en by den Brer Rabbit moughter had some yuther projick on han'."

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