Gateway to the Classics: Display Item
Joel Chandler Harris

Brer Rabbit Pretends To Be Poisoned

Not many nights after the story of how Mr. Benjamin Ram frightened Brother Wolf and Brother Fox, the little boy found himself in Uncle Remus's cabin. It had occurred to him that Mr. Ram should have played on his fiddle somewhere in the tale, and Uncle Remus was called on to explain. He looked at the little boy with an air of grieved astonishment, and exclaimed:—

"Well, I be bless if I ever year der beat er dat. Yer you bin a-persooin' on atter deze yer creeturs en makin' der 'quaintunce, en yit look lak ef you 'uz ter meet um right up dar in der paff you'd fergit all 'bout who dey is."

"Oh, no, I would n't, Uncle Remus!" protested the child, glancing at the door and getting a little closer to the old man.

"Yasser! you'd des nat'ally whirl in en fergit 'bout who dey is. 'T ain't so mighty long sence I done tole you 'bout ole Mr. Benjermun Ram playin' he fiddle at Brer Wolf house, en yer you come en ax me how come he don't take en play it at 'im 'g'in. W'at kinder lookin' sight 'ud dat ole creetur a-bin ef he'd jump up en grab he fiddle en go ter playin' on it eve'y time he year a fuss down de big road?"

The little boy said nothing, but he thought the story would have been a great deal nicer if Mr. Benjamin Ram could have played one of the old-time tunes on his fiddle, and while he was thinking about it, the door opened and Aunt Tempy made her appearance. Her good-humor was infectious.

"Name er goodness!" she exclaimed, "I lef' you all settin' yer way las' week; I goes off un I does my wuk, un I comes back, un I fines you settin' right whar I lef' you. Goodness knows, I dunner whar you gits yo' vittles. I dunner whar I ain't bin sence I lef' you all settin' yer. I let you know I bin a-usin' my feet un I been a-usin' my han's. Dat's me. No use ter ax how you all is, 'kaze you looks lots better'n me."

"Yas, Sis Tempy, we er settin' yer whar you lef' us, en der Lord, he bin a-pervidin'. W'en de vittles don't come in at de do' hit come down de chimbly, en so w'at de odds? We er sorter po'ly, Sis Tempy, I'm 'blige ter you. You know w'at de jay-bird say ter der squinch owl! 'I'm sickly but sassy.'"

Aunt Tempy laughed as she replied: "I 'speck you all bin a-havin' lots er fun. Goodness knows I wish many a time sence I bin gone dat I 'uz settin' down yer runnin' on wid you all. I ain't bin gone fur—dat's so, yit Mistiss put me ter cuttin'-out, un I tell you now dem w'at cuts out de duds fer all de niggers on dis place is got ter wuk fum soon in de mawnin' plum tel bed-time, dey ain't no two ways. 'T ain't no wuk youk'n kyar' 'bout wid you needer, 'kaze you got ter spread it right out on de flo' un git down on yo' knees. I mighty glad I done wid it, 'kaze my back feel like it done broke in a thous'n pieces. Honey, is Brer Remus bin a-tellin' you some mo' er dem ole-time tales?"

Aunt Tempy's question gave the little boy an excuse for giving her brief outlines of some of the stories. One that he seemed to remember particularly well was the story of how Brother Rabbit and Brother Fox killed a cow, and how Brother Rabbit got the most and the best of the beef.

"I done year talk uv a tale like dat," exclaimed Aunt Tempy, laughing heartily, "but 't ain't de same tale. I mos' 'shame' ter tell it."

"You gittin' too ole ter be blushin', Sis Tempy," said Uncle Remus with dignity.

"Well den," said Aunt Tempy, wiping her fat face with her apron: "One time Brer Rabbit un Brer Wolf tuck'n gone off som'ers un kilt a cow, un w'en dey come fer ter 'vide out de kyarkiss, Brer Wolf 'low dat bein's he de biggest he oughter have de mos', un he light in, he did, un do like he gwine ter take it all. Brer Rabbit do like he don't keer much, but he keer so bad hit make 'im right sick. He tuck'n walk all 'roun' de kyarkiss, he did, un snuff de air, un terreckly he say:—

" 'Brer Wolf!—O Brer Wolf!—is dis meat smell 'zuckly right ter you?'

"Brer Wolf, he cuttin' un he kyarvin' un he ain't sayin' nothin'. Brer Rabbit, he walk all 'roun' un 'roun' de kyarkiss. He feel it un he kick it. Terreckly he say:—

" 'Brer Wolf!—O Brer Wolf!—Dis meat feel mighty flabby ter me; how it feel ter you?'

"Brer Wolf, he year all dat's said, but he keep on a-cuttin' un a kyarvin'. Brer Rabbit say:—

" 'You kin talk er not talk, Brer Wolf, des ez youer min' ter, yit ef I ain't mistooken in de sign, you'll do some tall talkin' 'fo' youer done wid dis beef. Now you mark w'at I tell you!'

"Brer Rabbit put out fum dar, en 't wa'n't long 'fo' yer he come back wid a chunk er fier, un a dish er salt. W'en Brer Wolf see dis, he say:—

" 'W'at you gwine do wid all dat, Brer Rabbit?'

"Brer Rabbit laugh like he know mo' dan he gwine tell, un he say:—

" 'Bless yo' soul, Brer Wolf! I ain't gwine ter kyar er poun' er dis meat home tel I fin' out w'at de matter wid it. No I ain't—so dar now!'

"Den Brer Rabbit built 'im a fier un cut 'im off a slishe er steak un br'ilte it good un done, un den he e't little uv it. Fus' he'd tas'e un den he'd nibble; den he'd nibble un den he'd tas'e. He keep on tel he e't right smart piece. Den he went'n sot off little ways like he waitin' fer sump'n'.

"Brer Wolf, he kyarve un he cut, but he keep one eye on Brer Rabbit. Brer Rabbit sot up dar same ez Judge on de bench. Brer Wolf, he watch his motions. Terreckly Brer Rabbit fling bofe han's up ter he head un fetch a groan. Brer Wolf cut un kyarve un watch Brer Rabbit motions. Brer Rabbit sorter sway backerds un forrerds un fetch 'n'er groan. Den he sway fum side to side un holler 'O Lordy!' Brer Wolf, he sorter 'gun ter git skeer'd un he ax Brer Rabbit w'at de matter. Brer Rabbit, he roll on de groun' un holler:—

" 'O Lordy, Lordy! I'm pizen'd, I'm pizen'd! O Lordy! I'm pizen'd! Run yer, somebody, run yer! De meat done got pizen on it. Oh, do run yer!'

"Brer Wolf git so skeer'd dat he put out fum dar, un he wa'n't out er sight skacely 'fo' Brer Rabbit jump up fum dar un cut de pidjin-wing, un 't wa'n't so mighty long atter dat 'fo' Brer Rabbit done put all er dat beef in his smoke-house."

"What became of Brother Wolf?" the little boy inquired.

"Brer Wolf went atter de doctor," continued Aunt Tempy, making little tucks in her apron, "un w'en he come back Brer Rabbit un de beef done gone; un, bless goodness, ef it had n't er bin fer de sign whar Brer Rabbit built de fier, Brer Wolf would er bin mightly pester'd fer ter fine der place whar de cow bin kilt."

At this juncture, 'Tildy, the house-girl, came in to tell Aunt Tempy that one of the little negroes had been taken suddenly sick.

"I bin huntin' fer you over de whole blessid place," said 'Tildy.

"No, you ain't—no, you ain't. You ain't bin huntin' nowhar. You know'd mighty well whar I wuz."

"Law, Mam' Tempy, I can't keep up wid you. How I know you down yer courtin' wid Unk Remus?"

"Yo' head mighty full er courtin', you nas' stinkin' huzzy!" exclaimed Aunt Tempy.

Uncle Remus, strange to say, was unmoved. He simply said:—

"W'en you see dat ar 'Tildy gal pirootin' 'roun' I boun' you ole Brer Affikin Jack ain't fur off. 'T won't be so mighty long 'fo' de ole creetur'll show up."

"How you know dat, Unk Remus?" exclaimed 'Tildy, showing her white teeth and stretching her eyes. "Hit's de Lord's trufe; Mass Jeems done writ a letter ter Miss Sally, en' he say in dat letter dat Daddy Jack ax 'im fer ter tell Miss Sally ter tell me dat he'll be up yer dis week. Dat ole Affikin ape got de impidence er de Ole Boy. He dunner who he foolin' 'longer!"