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

The Origin of the Ocean

"Uncle Remus," said the little boy, one night shortly after Daddy Jack's story of the lion's sad predicament, "mamma says there are no lions in Georgia, nor anywhere in the whole country."

"Tooby sho'ly not, honey; tooby sho'ly not!" exclaimed Uncle Remus. "I dunner who de name er goodness bin a-puttin' dat kinder idee in yo' head, en dey better not lemme fine um out, needer, 'kaze I'll take en put Mars John atter um right raw en rank, dat I will."

"Well, you know Daddy Jack said that Brother Rabbit met the Lion coming down the road."

"Bless yo' soul, honey! dat's 'way 'cross de water whar ole man Jack tuck'n come fum, en a mighty long time ergo at dat. Hit's away off yan, lots furder dan Ferginny yit. We-all er on one side de water, en de lions en mos' all de yuther servigous creeturs, dey er on t'er side. Ain't I never tell you how come dat?"

The little boy shook his head.

"Well, sir!  I dunner w'at I bin doin' all dis time dat I ain't tell you dat, 'kaze dat's whar de wussest kinder doin's tuck'n happen. Yasser! de wussest kinder doin's; en I'll des whirl in en gin it out right now 'fo' ole man Jack come wobblin' in.

"One time way back yander, 'fo' dey wuz any folks a-foolin' 'roun', Mr. Lion, he tuck'n tuck a notion dat he'd go huntin', en nothin' 'ud do 'im but Brer Rabbit must go wid 'im. Brer Rabbit, he 'low dat he up fer any kinder fun on top side er de groun'. Wid dat dey put out, dey did, en dey hunt en hunt clean 'cross de country.

"Mr. Lion, he'd lam aloose en miss de game, en den Brer Rabbit, he'd lam aloose en fetch it down. No sooner is he do dis dan Mr. Lion, he'd squall out:—

" 'Hit's mine! hit's mine! I kilt it!'

"Mr. Lion sech a big man dat Brer Rabbit skeer'd ter 'spute 'long wid 'im, but he lay it up in he min' fer to git even wid 'im. Dey went on en dey went on. Mr. Lion, he'd lam aloose en miss de game, en ole Brer Rabbit, he'd lam aloose en hit it, en Mr. Lion, he'd take'n whirl in en claim it.

"Dey hunt all day long, en w'en night come, dey 'uz sech a fur ways fum home dat dey hatter camp out. Dey went on, dey did, twel dey come ter a creek, en w'en dey come ter dat, dey tuck'n scrape away de trash en built um a fire on de bank, en cook dey supper.

"Atter supper dey sot up dar en tole tales, dey did, en Brer Rabbit, he tuck'n brag 'bout w'at a good hunter Mr. Lion is, en Mr. Lion, he leant back on he yelbow, en feel mighty biggity. Bimeby, w'en dey eyeleds git sorter heavy, Brer Rabbit, he up'n 'low:—

" 'I'm a monst'us heavy sleeper, Mr. Lion, w'en I gits ter nappin', en I hope en trus' I ain't gwine 'sturb you dis night, yit I got my doubts.'

"Mr. Lion, he roach he ha'r back outen he eyes, en 'low:—

" 'I'm a monst'us heavy sleeper myse'f, Brer Rabbit, en I'll feel mighty glad ef I don't roust you up in de co'se er de night.'

"Brer Rabbit, he tuck'n change his terbacker fum one side he mouf ter de yuther, he did, en he up'n 'low:—

" 'Mr. Lion, I wish you be so good ez ter show me how you sno' des' fo' you git soun' asleep.'

"Mr. Lion, he tuck'n draw in he breff sorter hard, en show Brer Rabbit; den Brer Rabbit 'low:—

" 'Mr. Lion, I wish you be so good ez ter show me how you sno' atter yo done git soun' asleep.'

"Mr. Lion, he tuck'n suck in he breff, en eve'y time he suck in he breff it soun' des lak a whole passel er mules w'en dey whinney atter fodder. Brer Rabbit look 'stonish'. He roll he eye en 'low:—

" 'I year tell youer mighty big man, Mr. Lion, en you sho'ly is.'

"Mr. Lion, he hol' he head one side en try ter look 'shame', but all de same he ain't feel 'shame'. Bimeby, he shot he eye en 'gun ter nod, den he lay down en stretch hisse'f out, en 't wa'n't long 'fo' he 'gun ter sno' lak he sno' w'en he ain't sleepin' soun'.

"Brer Rabbit, he lay dar. He ain't sayin' nothin'. He lay dar wid one year h'ist up en one eye open. He lay dar, he did, en bimeby Mr. Lion 'gun ter sno' lak he sno' w'en he done gone fas' ter sleep.

"W'en ole Brer Rabbit year dis, he git up fum dar, en sprinkle hisse'f wid de cole ashes 'roun' de fier, en den he tuck'n fling er whole passel der hot embers on Mr. Lion. Mr. Lion, he jump up, he did, en ax who done dat, en Brer Rabbit, he lay dar en kick at he year wid he behime foot, en holler 'Ow!'

"Mr. Lion see de ashes on Brer Rabbit, en he dunner w'at ter t'ink. He look all 'roun', but he ain't see nothin'. He drap he head en lissen, but he ain't year nothin'. Den he lay down 'g'in en drap off ter sleep. Atter w'ile, w'en he 'gun ter sno' lak he done befo', Brer Rabbit, he jump up en sprinkle some mo' cole ashes on hisse'f, en fling de hot embers on Mr. Lion. Mr. Lion jump up, he did, en holler:—

" 'Dar yo is 'g'in!'

"Brer Rabbit, he kick en squall, en 'low:—

" 'You oughter be 'shame' yo'se'f, Mr. Lion, fer ter be tryin' ter bu'n me up.'

"Mr. Lion hol' up he han's en des vow 't ain't him. Brer Rabbit, he look sorter jubous, but he ain't say nothin'. Bimeby he holler out:—

" 'Phewee! I smells rags a-bu'nin'!'

"Mr. Lion, he sorter flinch, he did, en 'low:—

" ' 'T ain't no rags, Brer Rabbit; hit's my ha'r a-sinjin'.'

"Dey look all 'roun', dey did, but dey ain't see nothin' ner nobody. Brer Rabbit, he say he gwine do some tall watchin' nex' time, 'kaze he boun' ter ketch de somebody w'at bin playin' dem kinder pranks on um. Wid dat, Mr. Lion lay down 'g'in, en 't wa'n't long 'fo' he drap ter sleep.

"Well, den," continued Uncle Remus, taking a long breath, "de ve'y same kinder doin's tuck'n happen. De cole ashes fall on Brer Rabbit, en de hot embers fall on Mr. Lion. But by de time Mr. Lion jump up, Brer Rabbit, he holler out:—

" 'I seed um, Mr. Lion! I seed um! I seed de way dey come fum 'cross de creek! Dey mos' sho'ly did!'

"Wid dat Mr. Lion, he fetch'd a beller en he jumped 'cross de creek. No sooner is he do dis," Uncle Remus went on in a tone at once impressive and confidential, "no sooner is he do dis dan Brer Rabbit cut de string w'at hol' de banks togedder, en, lo en beholes, dar dey wuz!"

"What was, Uncle Remus?" the little boy asked, more amazed than he had been in many a day.

"Bless yo' soul, honey, de banks! Co'se w'en Brer Rabbit tuck'n cut de string, de banks er de creek, de banks, dey fall back, dey did, en Mr. Lion can't jump back. De banks dey keep on fallin' back, en de creek keep on gittin' wider en wider, twel bimeby Brer Rabbit en Mr. Lion ain't in sight er one er n'er, en fum dat day to dis de big waters bin rollin' 'twix' um."

"But, Uncle Remus, how could the banks of a creek be tied with a string?"

"I ain't ax um dat, honey, en darfo' yo'll hatter take um ez you git um. Nex' time de tale-teller come 'roun' I'll up'n ax 'im, en ef you ain't too fur off, I'll whirl in en sen' you wud, en den you kin go en see fer yo'se'f. But 't ain't skacely wuth yo' w'ile fer ter blame me, honey, 'bout de creek banks bein' tied wid a string. Who put um dar, I be bless ef I knows, but I knows who onloose um, dat w'at I knows!"

It is very doubtful if this copious explanation was satisfactory to the child, but just as Uncle Remus concluded, Daddy Jack came shuffling in, and shortly afterwards both Aunt Tempy and 'Tildy put in an appearance, and the mind of the youngster was diverted to other matters.

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