IT IS only fair to say that the little boy came to the plantation somewhat prejudiced. His mother, had never known the advantages of association with the old-time negroes, and was a great stickler for accuracy of speech. S
he was very precise in the use of English and could not abide the simple dialect in which the stories had been related to the little boy’s father. She was so insistent in this matter that the child’s father, when asked for a story such as Uncle Remus had told him, thought it best to avoid the dialect that he knew so well. In consequence, the essence of the stories was dissipated for the child, and he lacked the enthusiasm which Uncle Remus had hoped to find.
But this enthusiasm came by degrees as Uncle Remus wandered from one tale to another. The child never told his mother how he enjoyed the stories, and yet he came to play the part that had been played by his father long before he was born, and matters came to such a pass, that, if he was long with Uncle Remus without hearing a story, he straightway imagined that the old man was angry or out of sorts. The lad was gaining in health and strength every day he remained on the plantation, and in consideration of this fact--and as the result of wise diplomacy of Uncle Remus--the child’s mother relaxed the discipline that she had thought necessary for his welfare, so that not many weeks elapsed before his cheeks became ruddy with health. Uncle Remus hailed him as a town rowdy, and declared that the plantation would soon be too small to hold him.
“I pity yo’ gran’ma,” said Uncle Remus, “kaze ef you stay roun’ here, she’ll hatter buy all de ’j’inin’ plantations ef she gwineter keep you on her lan’.”
There was no more corn to be hauled, but there was harness to be mended, and the little boy, sitting on a high stool in the workshop, or leaning against Uncle Remus, watched the operation with great interest. He observed one day that the old man was frowning darkly. His forehead was puckered into knots and seamed with wrinkles that did not belong there, and his eyebrows were drawn together over his nose.
“What is the matter with you, Uncle Remus? Are you angry, or are you going to cry?”
“I’ll tell you de trufe, honey. I’m mighty nigh on de p’int er cryin’. You see my face puckered up, don’t you? Well, ef you had ez much on yo’ min’ ez what I got on mine, you’d be boo-hooin’ same ez a baby. I tell you dat. An’ des ter show you dat I’m in deep trouble, I’ll ax you ter tell me how many times dey is.”
“How many times? How many times what?” the child inquired.
Uncle Remus regarded him sorrowfully, and then returned to his work with a heavy sigh. “Did I ax you ’bout what? No, I ain’t; I ax’d you ’bout times. I say ez plain ez writin’: ‘How many times is dey?’ an’ you ’spon’, ‘How many times what?’ It look mighty funny ter me. Dar’s daytime an’ night-time, bedtime an’ meal-time, an’ some time an’ no time, an’ high time an’ fly time, an’ long time an’ wrong time, ’simmon time an’ plum time. Dey ain’t no use er talkin’; it’s nuff fer ter make yo’ head swim. I been tryin’ fer ter count um up, but de mo’ I count um up de mo’ dey is.”
The little boy looked at the old man with a half-smile on his face. He was plainly puzzled, but he didn’t like to admit it even to himself. “Why do you want to know how many times there are?” he asked.
“Kaze I wanter live an’ l’arn,” replied Uncle Remus. “Le’ me see,” he went on, puckering his face again. “Dars de ol’ time an’ de new time, de col’ time an’ de due time--bless yo’ soul, honey, I can’t count um up. No, suh; you’ll hatter skusen me!”
He paused and looked at the little boy to see what the child could make out of all he had said.
He saw nothing in the small countenance but curiosity. “What made you think of it?” was the question the child asked.
“Mos’ eve’ything I see make me think ’bout it, an’ you’ll think ’bout it you’se’f, when you come ter be ol’ ez what I is. But de reason it wuz runnin’ in my head dis time wuz kaze I start ter tell a tale widout knowin’ when de time wuz. I know it wuz ’way back yander, but de mont’ er de year I can’t tell, an’ when I try ter fix on de time eve’ything look dim an’ smoky, an’ I say ter myse’f dat dey mus’ be a fog in my mind.”
“Can’t you tell the story unless you can find out about the time?” inquired the little boy.
“Tooby sho’ I kin, honey; but you’d b’lieve it lots quicker ef you know’d what time it happen. ’Fo’ yo’ great-gran’ma died she had a trunk full er ollymenacks, an’ I boun’ you ef I had ’em here whar you could look at um, we wouldn’t have no trouble. I speck dey done got strow’d about endurin’ er de war time.
“Well, anyhow, once ’pon a time, when dey wuz mighty few folks in de worl’, ef any, Brer Deer fell in love wid ol’ King Sun’s daughter.” Having made this preliminary statement, Uncle Remus paused to see what effect it had on the child. Amazement and incredulity were written on the little boy’s face, observing which the old man smiled. “You nee’nter git de idee in yo’ head dat ol’ King Sun is like he wuz in dem days. No, bless you! He wuz des ez diffunt ez dem times wuz fum deze times, an’ when you git ter readin’ in de books you’ll fin’ out what de diffunce wuz. He wuz closer by, an’ he ain’t hide out at night like he does now. He wuz up in de sky, but he ain’t live ez high up; he wuz mo’ neighborly, ez you may say.
“He live so close by dat he useter sen’ de house-gal down ter de spring fer drinkin’-water. Three times a day she’d come ter fetch it; she’d clime down wid de bucket in her han’ an’ she’d clime back wid de bucket on her head, an’ she’d sing bofe ways, comin’ an’ gwine. In dem times dey all know’d dat ol’ King Sun had a daughter, but dey ain’t know what ’er name is; an’ dey know she wuz purty. Well, Brer Deer he hear talk un ’er, an’ he tuck a notion dat he gwineter marry ’er, but he dunner how he gwineter git up dar whar she live at. He study an’ study, but he can’t fin’ no way.
“He was settin’ down by de road studyin’ out a plan fer ter git word ter de gal, when ol’ Brer Rabbit come lopin’ down de lane. He mus’ a been playin’ hoss, kaze when he see Brer Deer, he shied an’ sneezed, he did, an’ make like he gwineter run away. But he ain’t run. He pass de time er day wid Brer Deer an’ ax ’im how his copperosity seem to segashuate. Brer Deer ’low dat his copperosity is segashuatin’ all right, but he got trouble in his min’ an’ he can’t git it out. He looked mighty sollumcolly when he say dis, an’ Brer Rabbit say he sorry.
“He sot down, Brer Rabbit did, an’ cross his legs, an’ rub his chin same like de doctor do when he gwineter slap a dose er bitter truck on yo’ insides. He rub his chin, he did, an’ look like he know all dey is fer ter be know’d. He say, ‘Brer Deer, when I wuz growin’ up I useter hear de ol’ folks say dat a light heart made a long life, an’ I b’lieve um. I sho’ does. Dey know’d what dey wuz talkin’ ’bout, kaze I done had de speunce un it.
“Brer Deer shuck his head an’ grieve. Ef he’d ’a’ had a hankcher, he ’a’ had need un it right den an’ dar, but he wink his eye fas’ fer ter git de tears out ’n um. He ’low, ‘I speck youer tellin’ me de trufe, Brer Rabbit, but I can’t he’p it ef you is. I am what I am, an’ I can’t be no ammer. I feels mo’ like cryin’ dan I does like eatin’, an’ I’m dat fractious dat I can’t skacely see straight. Ol’ Mr. Ram tol’ me howdy a while ago, an’ I ain’t done a thing but run at ’im an butt him slonchways. You nee’nter tell me dat I ain’t got no business fer ter do dat a-way; I des can’t he’p it.’
“Brer Rabbit kinder edge hisse’f away fum Brer Deer. He say, ‘Dat bein’ de case, Brer Deer, I speck I better gi’ you mo’ room. When I lef’ home dis mornin’ my ol’ ’oman ’low: “You better take keer er yo’se’f, honey,” an’ I’m gwineter do dat identual thing. I dunno dat I’m skeered er gittin’ hurted, but I’m monstus ticklish when de horned creeturs is roun’.’ Brer Deer say: ‘You nee’nter be fear’d er me, Brer Rabbit. I been knowin’ you a long time, an’ many’s de night dat we bofe graze in de same pastur’, you a-nibblin’ on de green grass an’ me a-crappin’ it. I’m monstus glad I run ’cross you, kaze ef I can’t tell my troubles ter some un, I b’lieve in my soul I’ll bust wide open.’
“Wid dat Brer Deer went on fer ter tell Brer Rabbit dat he done fell dead in love wid ol’ King Sun’s daughter. He dunner how come it ter be so, but anyhow so it is. He ain’t had no talk wid ’er; he ain’t mo’ dan cotch a glimp’ er de gal, yet dar he wuz dead in love wid ’er. Brer Rabbit mought laugh at ’im ef he wanter; he’ll des set dar an’ take it. He talk an’ talk, he did, twel Brer Rabbit got right sorry fer ’im. He sot dar, he did, an’ study, an’ he tell Brer Deer dat he’ll he’p ’im ef he kin, an’ he mos’ know he kin.
“Brer Deer raise his head, an’ open his eyes. He say, ‘Brer Rabbit, you ’stonish me--you sho’ does. Ef you’ll he’p me out in dis, I’ll stan’ by you thoo thick an’ thin.’ But Brer Rabbit say he ain’t doin’ it fer no pay; he done lay by his crap, an’ he ain’t got nothin’ much ter do, an’ he say he’ll he’p Brer Deer des fer ter keep his han’ in. Brer Deer look like he wuz might’ly holp up. Fust he smole a smile, an’ den he broke out in a laugh. He say, ‘Youer de man fer my money!’
“Brer Rabbit kinder wiggle his nose. He say, ‘Ef you keep yo’ money twel you think you got too much, you’ll have it by you fer many a long year ter come.’ Wid dat, he got up an’ bresh de dus’ off’n his britches, an’ shuck han’s wid Brer Deer. He say, ‘I hope fer ter have some good news fer you de nex’ time we meet in de big road.’ He bowed, he did, an’ den off he put, lippity-clip. He look back fer ter see ef Brer Deer wuz follerin’ ’im, but Brer Deer had sense ’nuff fer ter hunt ’im a cool place in de woods, whar he kin take de fust nap what he had in many a night an’ day.
“Brer Rabbit lope off todes de spring, kaze he know’d dat de spring wuz de place whar King Sun’s house-gal come atter water--an’ she hatter tote a mighty heap un it. It look like de mo’ water what King Sun drunk de mo’ he want, an’ dat bein’ de case, de gal had ’bout ez much totin’ ez she kin do. Brer Rabbit went down ter de spring, but dey wa’n’t nobody dar, an’ he look in it an’ see hisse’f in de water. Dar he wuz, his ha’r all comb, his face clean, an’ he look slicker dan sin. He laugh, he did, an’ say ter de Rabbit what he see in de water, ‘You sho’ is mighty good-lookin’, whoever you is, an’ ef you blame anybody, don’t blame me, kaze I can’t he’p it.’
“Now, down at de bottom er de spring wuz ol’ man Spring Lizzard. He wuz takin’ his mornin’ nap, when we hear some un talkin’. He raise up, he did, an’ lissen; den he look an’ see Brer Rabbit lookin’ at hisse’f in de water, an’ he holler out, ‘Maybe you ain’t ez good-lookin’ ez you think you is.’ Brer Rabbit holler back, ‘Hello, dar! dis is de fus time I know’d dat yo’ shadder in de water kin talk back at you.’
“Wid dat, Mr. Spring Lizzard come fum under de green moss, an’ float ter de top er de water. He pass de time er day wid Brer Rabbit, an’ ax ’im whar he gwine, an’ what he gwine ter do when he git dar. Brer Rabbit ’low dat he tryin’ fer ter do a good turn ter a frien’ what’s in trouble an’ den he went on an’ tol’ de ol’ Spring Lizzard ’bout Brer Deer an’ King Sun’s daughter. De Spring Lizzard say she’s a mighty likely gal, kaze he seed her one time when she slip off an’ come wid de house-gal atter water. He say she got long ha’r dat look like spun silk, an’ eyes dat shine like de mornin’ star.
“Brer Rabbit say he don’t ’spute it, but what he wanter know is how he kin git word ter King Sun ’bout Brer Deer. De Spring Lizzard say dat’s easy. He say dat when de house-gal come atter water, she hatter let down de step-ladder, an’ Brer Rabbit kin slip by ’er an’ go up, er he hisse’f kin git in de bucket an’ go up. Brer Rabbit say he kinder jub’us ’bout gwine, kaze he’s a kinder home body, an’ den de Spring Lizzard ’low dat ef Brer Deer will write a note, he’ll take it.
“Well, Brer Deer can’t write an’ Brer Rabbit kin; so dey fix it up ’twix’ um, an’ ’twant long ’fo’ dey had de note writ, an’ Brer Rabbit tuck it an’ gi’ it ter de Spring Lizzard. He say, ‘Don’t let it git wet, whatever you does,’ and de Spring Lizzard ax how it gwineter git wet when he put it in his pocket? He say dat eve’ybody but him, de fishes an’ de frogs got a wrong idee ’bout water, kaze ’tain’t wet ez it mought be, ’ceppin’ on a rainy day.
“Time went on des like it do now; night swung by an’ day swung in, an’ here come King Sun’s house-gal atter a bucket er water. She let down de step-ladder an’ come singin’ ter de spring. She drapped her bucket in, an’ de Spring Lizzard stepped in, an’ crope roun’ ter whar de shadder wuz de heaviest. De gal clomb up de step-ladder, an’ pulled it atter her, an’ went ’long de path ter King Sun’s house. She took de water in de settin’-room fer ter gi’ King Sun a fresh drink, an’ he grabbed up de gourd an’ drunk an’ drunk twel it look like he gwineter bust. Atter dat he went in de liberry, an’ de Spring Lizzard crope out an’ lef’ Brer Deer note on de table, an’ den he crope back in de bucket.
“Atter while, King Sun’s daughter come bouncin’ in de room atter a drink er water, an’ she see de note. She grab it up an’ read it, an’ den she holler: ‘Pa, oh, pa! here’s a letter fer you, an’ I mos’ know dey’s sump’n in it ’bout me! La! I dunner who ’tis dat’s got de impidence fer ter put my name in a letter.’ Ol’ King Sun run his fingers thoo his beard, des like he combin’ it, an’ den he cle’r up his thoat. He take de letter an’ hol’ it off fum ’im, an’ den put on his specks. He ’low, ‘Well, well, well! who’d a thunk it?’ an’ den he look at his daughter. She look at de flo’ an’ pat ’er foot. He say, ‘I ain’t never hear er sech impidence.’ De gal ’low, ‘What do he say, pa?’ Wid dat, he han’ ’er de letter, an’ when she read it, she got red in de face, an’ den she got white. She think one way, an’ den she think an’er. She got mad an’ she got glad, an’ den she had de all-overs, des like gals does deze days when some un ax um fer ter have um.
“So den, dar ’twuz; Brer Deer want ter marry de gal, an’ de gal dunner whedder she wanter marry er not. Den ol’ King Sun got his pen, an’ put a little water in de ink, kaze it wuz mighty nigh dried up, an’ den he writ a letter back ter Brer Deer. He say dat ef de one what writ de letter will sen’ ’im a bag er gold, he kin have de gal. He fol’ de letter up an’ han’ it ter de gal, an’ she not knowin’ what else ter do, tuck an’ put it on de table whar she fin’ de yuther one.
“De Spring Lizzard had his eye on ’er, an’ when she went out’n de room, he clomb up on de table an’ got de letter, an’ went back in de bucket ag’in. Dat evenin’ de house-gal hatter fetch water fer de night, an’ she let down de step-ladder an’ went ter de spring. When she dip de bucket in, de Spring Lizzard, he slide out, an’ went ter his bed un’ de long green moss. ’Twant long ’fo’ Brer Rabbit had de letter, an’ atter dat, ’twant no time ’fo’ Brer Deer know’d what de intents wuz. ’Twix’ an’ ’twen um dey got up a bag er gold, an’ Brer Rabbit tuck it ter de spring whar de house-gal got water.
“De nex’ mornin’ de daughter come ’erse’f, kaze she wanter see what kinder man Brer Deer is. At de spring she fin’ a bag er gold. She clap ’er han’s an’ holler out: ‘Look what I fin’--fin’, fin’, fin’y! It’s min’--min’, min’, min’y!’ Brer Rabbit wuz settin’ in de bushes, an’ Brer Deer wa’n’t fur off, an’ dey bofe watch de gal a-prancin’ an’ dancin’; an’ den, bimeby Brer Deer went out whar she kin see ’im, an’ he des walk up ter ’er an’ say, ‘Look what I fin’; honey, youer mine!’ An’ dat ’uz de way Brer Deer got ol’ King Sun’s daughter.”