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

How Brer Fox Was Too Smart

"Uncle Remus," said the little boy, one night when he found the old man alone, "I don't like these stories where somebody has to stand at the door and sing, do you? They don't sound funny to me."

Uncle Remus crossed his legs, took off his spectacles and laid them carefully on the floor under his chair, and made a great pretence of arguing the matter with the child.

"Now, den, honey, w'ich tale is it w'at you ain't lak de mos'?"

The little boy reflected a moment and then replied:—

"About the snake swallowing the little girl. I don't see any fun in that. Papa says they have snakes in Africa as big around as his body; and, goodness knows, I hope they won't get after me."

"How dey gwine git atter you, honey, w'en you settin' up yer 'long side er me en de snakes 'way 'cross dar in Affiky?"

"Well, Daddy Jack, he came, and the snakes might come too."

Uncle Remus laughed, more to reassure the child than to ridicule his argument.

"Dem ar snakes ain't no water-moccasin, not ez I knows un. Brer Jack bin yer mighty long time, en dey ain't no snake foller atter 'im yit."

"Now, Uncle Remus! papa says they have them in shows."

"I 'speck dey is, honey, but who's afear'd er snake stufft wid meal-bran? Not none er ole Miss gran'chillun, sho'!"

"Well, the stories don't sound funny to me."

"Dat mought be, yit deyer funny ter Brer Jack, en dey do mighty well fer ter pass de time. Atter w'ile you'll be a-gwine 'roun' runnin' down ole-Brer Rabbit en de t'er creeturs, en somehow er n'er you'll take'n git ole Remus mix up wid um twel you won't know w'ich one un um you er runnin' down, en let 'lone dat, you won't keer needer. Shoo, honey! you ain't de fus' chap w'at I done tole deze yer tales ter."

"Why, Uncle Remus," exclaimed the little boy, in a horrified tone, "I would n't; you know I would n't!"

"Don't tell me!" insisted the old man, "you er outgrowin' me, en you er outgrowin' de tales. Des lak Miss Sally change de lenk er yo' britches, des dat a-way I got ter do w'ence I whirl in en persoo atter de creeturs. Time wuz w'en you 'ud set down yer by dish yer h'a'th, en you'd take'n holler en laugh en clap yo' han's w'en ole Brer Rabbit 'ud kick outen all er he tanglements; but deze times you sets dar wid yo' eyes wide open, en you don't crack a smile. I say it!" Uncle Remus exclaimed, changing his tone and attitude, as if addressing some third person concealed in the room. "I say it! Stidder j'inin' in wid de fun, he'll take'n lean back dar en 'spute 'long wid you des lak grow'd up folks. I'll stick it out dis season, but w'en Chrismus come, I be bless ef I ain't gwine ter ax Miss Sally fer my remoovance papers, en I'm gwine ter hang my bundle on my walkin'-cane, en see w'at kinder dirt dey is at de fur een' er de big road."

"Yes!" exclaimed the little boy, triumphantly, "and, if you do, the patter-rollers will get you."

"Well," replied the old man, with a curious air of resignation, "ef dey does, I ain't gwine ter do lak Brer Fox did w'en Brer Rabbit showed him de tracks in de big road."

"How did Brother Fox do, Uncle Remus?"

"Watch out, now! Dish yer one er de tales w'at ain't got no fun in it."

"Uncle Remus, please tell it."

"Hol' on dar! Dey mought be a snake some'rs in it—one er deze yer meal-bran snakes."

"Please,  Uncle Remus, tell it."

The old man never allowed himself to resist the artful pleadings of the little boy. So he recovered his specks from under the chair, looked up the chimney for luck, as he explained to his little partner, and proceeded:—

"One day w'en Brer Fox went callin' on Miss Meadows en Miss Motts en de t'er gals, who should he fine settin' up dar but ole Brer Rabbit? Yasser! Dar he wuz, des ez sociable ez you please. He 'uz gwine on wid de gals, en w'en Brer Fox drapt in dey look lak dey wuz mighty tickled 'bout sump'n' n'er Brer Rabbit bin sayin'. Brer Fox, he look sorter jub'ous, he did, des lak folks does w'en dey walks up in a crowd whar de yuthers all a-gigglin'. He tuck'n kotch de dry grins terreckerly. But dey all howdied, en Miss Meadows, she up'n say:—

" 'You'll des hatter skuse us, Brer Fox, on de 'count er dish yer gigglement. Tooby sho', hit monst'us disperlite fer we-all fer to be gwine on dat a-way; but I mighty glad you come, en I sez ter de gals, s'I, " 'Fo' de Lord, gals! dar come Brer Fox, en yer we is a-gigglin' en a-gwine on scan'lous; yit hit done come ter mighty funny pass," s'I, "ef you can't run on en laugh 'fo' home folks," s'I. Dat des 'zactly w'at I say, en I leave it ter ole Brer Rabbit en de gals yer ef 't ain't.'

"De gals, dey tuck'n jine in, dey did, en dey make ole Brer Fox feel right splimmy-splammy, en dey all sot dar en run on 'bout dey neighbors des lak folks does deze days. Dey sot dar, dey did, twel atter w'ile Brer Rabbit look out todes sundown, en 'low:—

" 'Now, den, folks and fr'en's, I bleedz ter say goo' bye. Cloud comin' up out yan, en mos' 'fo' we know it de rain 'll be a-po'in' en de grass 'll be a-growin'.'"

"Why, that's poetry, Uncle Remus!" interrupted the little boy.

"Tooby sho' 't is, honey! tooby sho' 't is. I des let you know Brer Rabbit 'uz a mighty man in dem days. Brer Fox, he see de cloud comin' up, en he up'n 'low he 'speck he better be gittin' 'long hisse'f, 'kaze he ain't wanter git he Sunday-go-ter-meetin' cloze wet. Miss Meadows en Miss Motts, en de gals, dey want um ter stay, but bofe er dem ar creeturs 'uz mighty fear'd er gittin' der foots wet, en atter w'ile dey put out.

"W'iles dey 'uz gwine down de big road, jawin' at one er 'n'er, Brer Fox, he tuck'n stop right quick, en 'low:—

" 'Run yer, Brer Rabbit! run yer! Ef my eye ain't 'ceive me yer de signs whar Mr. Dog bin 'long, en mo'n dat dey er right fresh.'

"Brer Rabbit, he sidle up en look. Den he 'low:—

" 'Dat ar track ain't never fit Mr. Dog foot in de roun' worl'. W'at make it mo' bindin',' sezee, 'I done gone en bin 'quainted wid de man w'at make dat track, too long 'go ter talk 'bout,' sezee.

" 'Brer Rabbit, please, sir, tell me he name.'

"Brer Rabbit, he laugh lak he makin' light er sump'n' 'n'er.

" 'Ef I ain't make no mistakes, Brer Fox, de po' creetur w'at make dat track is Cousin Wildcat; no mo' en no less.'

" 'How big is he, Brer Rabbit?'

" 'He des 'bout yo' heft, Brer Fox.' Den Brer Rabbit make lak he talkin' wid hisse'f. 'Tut, tut, tut! Hit mighty funny dat I should run up on Cousin Wildcat in dis part er de worl'. Tooby sho', tooby sho'! Many en manys de time I see my ole Grandaddy kick en cuff Cousin Wildcat, twel I git sorry 'bout 'im. Ef you want any fun, Brer Fox, right now de time ter git it.'

"Brer Fox up'n ax, he did, how he gwine have any fun. Brer Rabbit, he 'low:—

" 'Easy 'nuff; des go en tackle ole Cousin Wildcat, en lam 'im 'roun'.'

"Brer Fox, he sorter scratch he year, en 'low:—

" 'Eh-eh, Brer Rabbit, I fear'd. He track too much lak Mr. Dog.'

"Brer Rabbit des set right flat down in de road, en holler en laugh. He 'low, sezee:—

" 'Shoo, Brer Fox! Who'd 'a' thunk you 'uz so skeery? Des come look at dish yer track right close. Is dey any sign er claw anywhar's?'

"Brer Fox bleedz ter 'gree dat dey wa'n't no sign er no claw. Brer Rabbit say:—

" 'Well, den, ef he ain't got no claw, how he gwine ter hu't you, Brer Fox?'

" 'W'at gone wid he toofs, Brer Rabbit?'

" 'Shoo, Brer Fox! Creeturs w'at barks de trees ain't gwine bite.'

"Brer Fox tuck'n tuck 'n'er good look at de tracks, en den him en Brer Rabbit put out fer ter foller um up. Dey went up de road, en down de lane, en 'cross de turnip patch, en down a dreen, en up a big gully. Brer Rabbit, he done de trackin', en eve'y time he fine one, he up'n holler:—

" 'Yer 'n'er track, en no claw dar! Yer 'n'er track, en no claw dar!'

"Dey kep' on en kep' on, twel bimeby dey run up wid de creetur. Brer Rabbit, he holler out mighty biggity:—

" 'Heyo dar! W'at you doin'?'

"De creetur look 'roun', but he ain't sayin' nothin'. Brer Rabbit 'low:—

" 'Oh, you nee'nter look so sullen! We ull make you talk 'fo' we er done 'long wid you! Come, now! W'at you doin' out dar?'

"De creetur rub hisse'f 'gin' a tree des lak you see deze yer house cats rub 'gin' a cheer, but he ain't sayin' nothin'. Brer Rabbit holler:—

" 'W'at you come pesterin' 'long wid us fer, w'en we ain't bin a-pesterin' you? You got de consate dat I dunner who you is, but I does. Youer de same ole Cousin Wildcat w'at my gran'daddy use ter kick en cuff w'en you 'fuse ter 'spon'. I let you know I got a better man yer dan w'at my gran'daddy ever is bin, en I boun' you he ull make you talk. Dat w'at I boun' you.'

"De creetur lean mo' harder 'gin' de tree, en sorter ruffle up he bristle, but he ain't sayin' nothin'. Brer Rabbit, he 'low:—

" 'Go up dar, Brer Fox, en ef he 'fuse ter 'spon' slap 'im down! Dat de way my gran'daddy done. You go up dar, Brer Fox, en ef he dast ter try ter run, I'll des whirl in en ketch 'im.'

"Brer Fox, he sorter jub'ous, but he start todes de creetur. Ole Cousin Wildcat walk all 'roun' de tree, rubbin' hisse'f, but he ain't sayin' nothin'. Brer Rabbit, he holler:—

" 'Des walk right up en slap 'im down, Brer Fox—de owdashus vilyun! Des hit 'im a surbinder, en ef he dast ter run, I boun' you I'll ketch 'im.'

"Brer Fox, he went up little nigher. Cousin Wildcat stop rubbin' on de tree, en sot up on he behime legs wid he front paws in de a'r, en he balance hisse'f by leanin' 'gin' de tree, but he ain't sayin' nothin'. Brer Rabbit, he squall out, he did:—

" 'Oh, you nee'nter put up yo' han's en try ter beg off. Dat de way you fool my ole gran'daddy; but you can't fool we-all. All yo' settin' up en beggin' ain't gwine ter he'p you. Ef youer so humble ez all dat, w'at make you come pesterin' longer we-all? Hit 'im a clip, Brer Fox! Ef he run, I'll ketch 'im!'

"Brer Fox see de creetur look so mighty humble, settin' up dar lak he beggin' off, en he sorter take heart. He sidle up todes 'im, he did, en des ez he 'uz makin' ready fer ter slap 'im ole Cousin Wildcat draw'd back en fotch Brer Fox a wipe 'cross de stomach."

Uncle Remus paused here a moment, as if to discover some term strong enough to do complete justice to the catastrophe. Presently he went on:—

"Dat ar Cousin Wildcat creetur fotch Brer Fox a wipe 'cross de stomach, en you mought a yeard 'im squall fum yer ter Harmony Grove. Little mo' en de creetur would er to' Brer Fox in two. W'ence de creetur made a pass at 'im, Brer Rabbit knew w'at gwine ter happen, yit all de same he tuck'n holler:—

" 'Hit 'im ag'in, Brer Fox! Hit 'im ag'in! I'm a-backin' you, Brer Fox! Ef he dast ter run, I'll inabout cripple 'im—dat I will. Hit 'im ag'in!'

"All dis time w'iles Brer Rabbit gwine on dis a-way, Brer Fox, he 'uz a-squattin' down, hol'in' he stomach wid bofe han's en des a-moanin':—

" 'I'm ruint, Brer Rabbit! I'm ruint! Run fetch de doctor! I'm teetotally ruint!'

" 'Bout dat time, Cousin Wildcat, he tuck'n tuck a walk. Brer Rabbit, he make lak he 'stonish' dat Brer Fox is hurted. He tuck'n 'zamin' de place, he did, en he up'n 'low:—

" 'Hit look lak ter me, Brer Fox, dat dat owdashus vilyun tuck'n struck you wid a reapin'-hook.'

"Wid dat Brer Rabbit lit out fer home, en w'en he git out er sight, he tuck'n shuck he han's des lak cat does w'en she git water on 'er foots, en he tuck'n laugh en laugh twel it make 'im sick fer ter laugh."

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