“IT SEEM like ter me dat I hear somebody say, not longer dan day ’fo’ yistiddy, dat dey’d be mighty glad ef dey could fin’ some un fer ter bet wid um,” said Uncle Remus, staring hard at the little boy, and then suddenly shutting his eyes tight, so that he might keep from laughing at the expression he saw on the child’s face. Receiving no immediate response to his remark, the old man opened his eyes again, and found the little boy regarding him with a puzzled air.
“My mother says it is wrong to bet,” said the child after awhile. He was quite serious, and it was just this aspect of seriousness that made him a little different from another little boy that had been raised at Uncle Remus’s knee. “Mother says that no Christian would want to bet.”
The old man closed his eyes again, as though trying to remember something. He frowned and smacked his mouth before he spoke, “It look like dat I never is ter git de tas’e er dat chicken-pie what yo’ gran’ma sont me out’n my mouf. I dunner when I been had any chicken-pie what stayed wid me like dat chicken-pie. But ’bout dat bettin’,” he remarked, straightening himself in his chair, “I speck I mus’ ’a’ been a-dreamin’. I know mighty well it couldn’t ’a’ been you; so we’ll des up an’ say it wuz little Dreamus, an’ let it go at dat. All I know is dat dey wuz a little chap loungin’ roun’ here tryin’ fer ter l’arn how ter play mumbly-peg wid one er de case-knives what he tuck fum de white folks’ dinner-table, an’ whiles he wuz in de middle er his l’arnin’, de ol’ speckled hen run fum under de house here, an’ sot up a mighty cacklin’, kaze she fear’d some un wuz gwineter interrupt de eggs what she been nussin’ an’ warmin’ up. She cackle, an’ she cackle, an’ den she cackle some mo’ fer ter keep fum fergittin’ how; an’ ’long ’bout dat time, dish yer little boy what I been tellin’ you ’bout--I speck we’ll be bleeze ter call him Dreamus--he up wid a rock an’ flung it right at ’er, an’ ef she’d ’a’ been in de way er de rock, he’d ’a’ come mighty nigh hittin’ her. Dis make de ol’ hen bofe skeer’d an’ fear’d an’ likewise mad, an’ she hitched a squall on ter her cackle, an’ flop her wings. Seein’ dat de hen wuz mad, dis little chap, which he name Dreamus, he got mad, too, an’ he ’lowed, ‘I bet you I make you hush!’ an’ dar dey had it, de ol’ hen runnin’ an’ squallin’, an’ de little chap zoonin’ rocks at her. I speck de hen would ’a’ bet ef she’d ’a’ know’d how--an’ she sho’ would ’a’ won de bet, kaze de las’ news I hear fum ’er she wuz runnin’ an’ squallin’.”
The little boy squirmed uneasily in his chair. He remembered the incident very well, so well that he hardly knew what to say. But after a while, thinking that it was both necessary and polite to say something, he declared that when he made that remark to the hen he knew she wouldn’t understand him, and that what he said about betting was just a saying.
“Dat mought be, honey,” said Uncle Remus, “but don’t you fool yo’se’f ’bout dat hen not knowin’ how ter talk, kaze dey has been times an’ places when de creeturs kin do lots mo’ talkin’ dan folks. When you git ter be ol’ ez what I is, you’ll know dat talkin’ ain’t got nothin’ in de roun’ worl’ ter do wid fedders, an’ needer wid fur. I hear you say you want ter bet wid de ol’ hen, an’ ef you still wantin’ you got a mighty good chance dis day ef de sun is mighty nigh down. I’ll bet you a thrip ag’in a ginger-cake dat when you had yo’ dinner you ain’t fin’ no chicken gizzard in yo’ part er de pie.”
“No,” replied the child, “I didn’t, and when I asked grandmother about it, she said she was going to raise some chickens next year with double gizzards.”
“Did she say dat? Did Miss Sally say dat?” inquired Uncle Remus, laughing delightedly. “Well, suh, dat sho’ do bang my time! How come she ter know dat some er de creeturs got double gizzards? She sho’ is de outdoin’est white ’oman what’s yever been bornded inter de worl’. She done sont me de chicken gizzard des so I kin tell you ’bout de double gizzards an’ de what-nots. Double gizzards! De ve’y name flings me ’way back yander ter ol’ folks an’ ol’ times. Laws-a-massy! I wonder what Miss Sally gwine do nex’; anybody what guess it oughter be president by good rights.” Uncle Remus paused, and lowered his voice to a confidential tone--“She ain’t tell you ’bout de time when de Yallergater wuz honin’ fer ol’ Brer Rabbit’s double gizzards, is she, honey?”
“No, she didn’t tell me that, but she laughed, and when I asked her what she was laughing at, she said I’d find out by the time I was seven feet tall.”
“You hear dat, don’t you?” Uncle Remus spoke as though there were a third person in the room. “What I been tellin’ you all dis time?” and then he laughed as though this third person were laughing with him. “You may try, an’ you may fly, but you never is ter see de beat er Miss Sally.”
“Was grandmother talking about a tale, Uncle Remus? It must have been a very funny one, for she laughed until she had to take off her spectacles and wipe them dry,” said the little boy.
“Dat’s her! dat’s Miss Sally up an’ down, an’ dey can’t nobody git ahead er her. She know’d mighty well dat time you say sump’n ’bout double gizzards my min’ would fly right back ter de time when de Yalligater wuz dribblin’ at de mouf, an’ ol’ Brer Rabbit wuz shaking in his shoes.”
“If it’s a long story, I’m afraid you haven’t time to tell it now,” suggested the little boy.
The child was so polite that the old negro stood somewhat in awe of him, and he was afraid, too, that it was ominous of some misfortune--there was something uncanny about it from Uncle Remus’s point of view. “Bless you, honey! I got des ez much time ez what dey is--it all b’longs ter me an’ you. Maybe you wanter go some’rs else; maybe you’ll wait twel some yuther day fer de platted whip dat I hear you talkin’ ’bout.”
“No; I’ll wait and get the story and the whip together--if you are not too tired.”
The old negro looked at the little boy from the corner of his eye to see if he was really in earnest. Satisfying himself on that score, he promptly began to plait the whip while he unraveled the story. He seemed to be more serious than usual, but one of the peculiarities of Uncle Remus, as many a child had discovered, was that he was not to be judged by any outward aspect. This is the way he began:
“Ever since I been pirootin’ roun’ in deze low-groun’s, it’s been de talk er dem what know’d dat Brer Rabbit wuz a mighty man at a frolic. I don’t speck he’d show up much in deze days, but in de times when de creeturs wuz bossin’ dey own jobs, Brer Rabbit wuz up fer perty nigh ev’ything dat wuz gwine on ef dey want too much work in it. Dey couldn’t be a dance er a quiltin’ nowhar’s aroun’ but what he’d be dar; he wuz fust ter come an’ last ter go.
“Well, dey wuz one time when he went too fur an’ stayed too late, bekaze a big rain come endurin’ de time when dey wuz playin’ an’ dancin’, an’ when Brer Rabbit put out fer home, he foun’ dat a big freshet done come an’ gone. De dreens had got ter be creeks, de creeks had got ter be rivers, an’ de rivers--well, I ain’t gwine ter tell you what de rivers wuz kaze you’d think dat I done tol’ de trufe good-bye. By makin’ big jumps an’ gwine out er his way, Brer Rabbit manage fer ter git ez close ter home ez de creek, but when he git dar, de creek wuz so wide dat it make him feel like he been los’ so long dat his fambly done fergot him. Many an’ many a time had he cross’ dat creek on a log, but de log done gone, an’ de water wuz spread out all over creation. De water wuz wide, but dat wa’n’t mo’ dan half--it look like it wuz de wettest water dat Brer Rabbit ever lay eyes on.
“Dey wuz a ferry dar fer times like dis, but it look like it wuz a bigger fresh dan what dey had counted on. Brer Rabbit, he sot on de bank an’ wipe de damp out’n his face an’ eyes, an’ den he holla’d fer de man what run de ferry. He holla’d an’ holla’d, an’ bimeby, he hear some un answer him, an’ he looked a little closer, an’ dar wuz de man, which his name wuz Jerry, way up in de top lim’s uv a tree; an’ he looked still closer, an’ he seed dat Jerry had company, kaze dar wuz ol’ Brer B’ar settin’ at de foot er de tree, waitin’ fer Jerry fer ter come down so he kin tell ’im howdy.” Uncle Remus paused to see what effect this statement would have on the little boy. The youngster said nothing, but his shrewd smile showed the old man that he fully appreciated the reason why Jerry was in no hurry to shake hands with Brother Bear.
“Well, suh, Brer Rabbit took notice dat dey wuz sump’n mo’ dan dampness ’twix’ um, an he start in ter holla again, an’ he holla’d so loud, an’ he holla’d so long, dat he woke up ol’ Brer Yalligater. Now, it ain’t make ol’ Brer Yalligater feel good fer ter be wokened up at dat hour, kaze he’d des had a nice supper er pine-knots an’ sweet ’taters, an’ he wuz layin’ out at full lenk on his mud bed. He ’low ter hisse’f, he did, ‘Who in de nation is dis tryin’ fer ter holla de bottom out er de creek?’ He lissen, an’ den he turn over an’ lissen ag’in. He shot one eye, an’ den he shot de yuther one, but dey ain’t no sleepin’ in dat neighberhood. Jerry in de tree, he holla back, ‘Can’t come--got comp’ny!’
“Brer Yalligater, he hear dis, an’ he say ter hisse’f dat ef nobody can’t come, he kin, an’ he riz ter de top wid no mo’ fuss dan a fedder-bed makes when you let it ’lone. He riz, he did, an’ his two eyes look des perzackly like two bullets floatin’ on de water. He riz an’ wunk his eye, an’ ax Brer Rabbit howdy, an’ mo’ speshually how is his daughter. Brer Rabbit, he say dat dey ain’t no tellin’ how his daughter is, kaze when he lef’ home her head wuz a-swellin’. He say dat some er de neighbors’ chillun come by an’ flung rocks at her an’ one un um hit her on top er de head right whar de cow-lick is, an’ he hatter run atter de doctor.
“Brer Yalligater ’low, ‘You don’t tell me, Brer Rabbit, dat it’s come ter dis! Yo’ chillun gittin’ chunked by yo’ neighbors’ chillun! Well, well, well! I wish you’d tell me wharbouts it’s all a-gwine ter een’ at. Why, it’ll git so atter while dat dey ain’t no peace anywhar’s ’ceppin at my house in de bed er de creek.’
“Brer Rabbit say, ‘Ain’t it de trufe? An’ not only does Brer Fox chillun chunk my chillun on dey cow-licks, but no sooner is I gone atter de doctor dan here come de creek a-risin’. I may be wrong, but I ain’t skeer’d ter say dat it beats anything I yever is lay eyes on. Over yander in de fur woods is what my daughter is layin’ wid de headache, an’ here’s her pa, an’ ’twix’ us is de b’ilin’ creek. Ef I wuz ter try ter wade, ten ter one de water would be over my head, an’ ef not dat bad, all de pills what de doctor gi’ me would melt in my pocket. An’ dey might pizen me, kaze de doctor ain’t say dey wuz ter be tuck outside.’
“Ol’ Brer Yalligater float on de water like he ain’t weigh no mo’ dan one er deze yer postitch stomps, an’ he try ter drop a tear. He groan, he did, an’ float backerds an’ forrerds like a tired canoe. He say, ‘Brer Rabbit, ef dey yever wuz a rover you is one. Up you come an’ off you go, an’ dey ain’t no mo’ keepin’ up wid you dan ef you had wings. Ef you think you kin stay in one place long enough, I’ll try ter put you ’cross de creek. Brer Rabbit kinder rub his chin whiles he wiggle his nose. He ’low, sezee, ‘Brer ’Gater, how deep is dat water what you floatin’ in?’ Brer Yalligater say, sezee, ‘Brer Rabbit, ef me an’ my ol’ ’oman wuz ter jine heads, an’ I wuz ter stan’ on de tip-een’ my tail, dey’ll still be room enough fer all er my chillun ’fo’ we totch bottom.’
“Brer Rabbit, he fell back like he gwineter faint. He ’low, ‘Brer ’Gater, you don’t tell me! You sholy don’t mean dem last words! Why, you make me feel like I’m furder fum home and dem what’s done lost fer good! How de name er goodness you gwineter put me ’cross dis slippery water?’ Brer Yalligater, he blow a bubble or two out’n his nose, an’ den he say, sezee, ‘Ef you kin stay still in one place long ’nough, I’m gwineter take you ’cross on my back. You nee’nter say thanky, yit I want you ter know dat I ain’t eve’ybody’s water-hoss.’ Brer Rabbit he ’low, sezee, ‘I kin well b’lieve dat, Brer ’Gater, but somehow, I kinder got a notion dat yo’ tail mighty limber. I hear ol’ folks say dat you kin knock a chip fum de back er yo’ head wid de tip-een’ er yo’ tail an’ never haf try.’ Brer Yalligater smack his mouf, an’ say, sezee, ‘Limber my tail may be, Brer Rabbit, an’ fur-reachin’, but don’t blame me. It wuz dat a-way when it wuz ’gun ter me. It’s all j’inted up ’cordin’ ter natur.’
“Brer Rabbit, he study an’ study, an’ de mo’ he study, de wuss he like it. But he bleeze ter go home--dey wa’n’t no two ways ’bout dat--an’ he ’low, sezee, ‘I speck what you say is some’rs in de neighborhoods er de trufe, Brer ’Gater, an’ mo’ dan dat, I b’lieve I’ll go ’long wid you. Ef you’ll ride up a leetle closer, I’ll make up my mind so I won’t keep you waitin’.’ Brer Yalligater, he float by de side er de bank same ez a cork out’n a pickle bottle. He ain’t do like he in a hurry, kaze he drapt a word er two about de wedder, an’ he say dat de water wuz mighty col’ down dar in de slushes. But Brer Rabbit tuck notice dat when he smole one er his smiles, he show’d up a double row er tushes, dat look like dey’d do mighty good work in a saw-mill. Brer Rabbit, he ’gun ter shake like he havin’ a chill; he ’low, ‘I feel dat damp, Brer ’Gater, dat I mought des ez well be in water up ter my chin!’ Brer Yalligater ain’t say nothin’, but he can’t hide his tushes. Brer Rabbit look up, he look down, an’ he look all aroun’. He ain’t skacely know what ter do. He ’low, ‘Brer ’Gater, yo’ back mighty roughnin’; how I gwine ter ride on it?’ Brer Yalligater say, sezee, ‘De roughnin’ will he’p you ter hol’ on, kaze you’ll hatter ride straddle. You kin des fit yo’ foots on de bumps an’ kinder brace yo’se’f when you think you see a log floatin’ at us. You kin des set up dar same ez ef you wuz settin’ at home in yo’ rockin’-cheer.
“Brer Rabbit shuck his head, but he got on, he did, an’ he ain’t no sooner git on dan he wish mighty hard he wuz off. Brer Yalligater say, sezee. ‘You kin pant ef you wanter, Brer Rabbit, but I’ll do de paddlin’,’ an’ den he slip thoo de water des like he greased. Brer Rabbit sho’ wuz skeer’d but he keep his eye open, an’ bimeby he tuck notice dat Brer Yalligater wa’n’t makin’ fer de place whar de lan’in’s at, an’ he up an’ sesso. He ’low, ‘Brer ’Gater, ef I ain’t mighty much mistooken, you ain’t headin’ fer de lan’in’.’ Brer Yalligater say, sezee, ‘You sho’ is got mighty good eyes, Brer Rabbit. I been waitin’ fer you a long time, an’ I’m de wust kinder waiter. I most know you ain’t ferget dat day in de stubble, when you say you gwineter show me ol’ man Trouble. Well, you ain’t only show ’im ter me, but you made me shake han’s wid ’im. You sot de dry grass afire, an’ burn me scandalious. Dat de reason my back so rough, an’ dat de reason my hide so tough. Well, I been a-waitin’ sence dat time, an’ now here you is. You burn me twel I hatter squench de burnin’ in de big quagmire.’
“Brer Yalligater laugh, but he had de laugh all on his side, kaze dat wuz one er de times when Brer Rabbit ain’t feel like gigglin’. He sot dar a-shakin’ an’ a-shiverin’. Bimeby he ’low, sezee, ‘What you gwine do, Brer ’Gater?’ Brer Yalligater, say, sezee, ‘It look like ter me dat sence you sot de dry grass afire, I been havin’ symptoms. Dat what de doctor say. He look at my tongue, an’ feel er my pulsh, an’ shake his head. He say dat bein’s he’s my frien’, he don’t mind tellin’ me dat my symptoms is gittin’ mo’ wusser dan what dey been, an’ ef I don’t take sump’n I’ll be failin’ inter one deze yer inclines what make folks flabby an’ weak.’
“Brer Rabbit, he shuck an’ he shiver’d. He ’low, sezee, ‘What else de doctor say, Brer ’Gater?’ Brer Yalligater keep on a-slippin’ along; he say, sezee, ‘De doctor ain’t only look at my tongue--he medjer’d my breff, an’ he hit me on my bosom--tip-tap-tap!--an’ he say dey ain’t but one thing dat’ll kyo me. I ax ’im what dat is, an’ he say it’s Rabbit gizzard.’ Brer Yalligater slip an’ slide along, an’ wait fer ter see what Brer Rabbit gwineter say ter dat. He ain’t had ter wait long, kaze Brer Rabbit done his thinkin’ like one er deze yer machines what got lightnin’ in it. He ’low, sezee, ‘It’s a mighty good thing you struck up wid me dis day, Brer ’Gater, kaze I got des perzackly de kinder physic what you lookin’ fer. All de neighbors say I’m mighty quare an’ I speck I is, but quare er not quare, I’m long been lookin’ fer de gizzard-eater.’
“Brer Yalligater ain’t say nothin’; he des slide thoo de water, an’ lissen ter what Brer Rabbit sayin’. Brer Rabbit ’low, sezee, ‘De las’ time I wuz tooken sick, de doctor come in a hurry, an’ he sot up wid me all night--not a wink er sleep did dat man git. He say he kin tell by de way I wuz gwine on, rollin’ an’ tossin’, an’ moanin’ an’ groanin’, dat dey wa’n’t no physic gwineter do me no good. I ain’t never see no doctor scratch his head like dat doctor did; he done like he wuz stumped, he sho’ did. He say he ain’t never see nobody wid my kind er trouble, an’ he went off an’ call in one er his brer doctors, an’ de two knock dey heads tergedder, an’ say my trouble all come fum havin’ a double gizzard. When my ol’ ’oman hear dat, she des flung her apron over her head, an’ fell back in a dead faint, an’ a little mo’ an’ I’d ’a’ had ter pay a doctor bill on her accounts. When she squalled, some er my chillun got skeer’d an’ tuck ter de woods, an’ dey ain’t all got back when I lef’ home las’ night.’
“Brer Yalligater, he des went a-slippin’ long thoo de water; he lissen, but he ain’t sayin’ nothin’. Brer Rabbit, he ’low, sezee, ‘It’s de fatal trufe, all dis dat I’m a-tellin’ you. De doctor, he flew’d roun’ twel he fotch my ol’ ’oman to, an’ den he say dey ain’t no needs ter be skittish on accounts er my havin’ a double gizzard, kaze all I had ter do wuz ter be kinder keerful wid my chawin’s an’ gnyawin’s, an’ my comin’s an’ gwines. He say dat I’d hatter suffer wid it twel I fin’ de gizzard-eater. I ax ’im whar bouts is he, an’ he say dat I’d know him when I seed him, an’ ef I fail ter know ’im, he’ll make hisse’f beknown ter me. Dis kinder errytate me, kaze when a man’s a doctor, an’ is got de idee er kyoin’ anybody, dey ain’t no needs ter deal in no riddles. But he say dat tain’t no use fer ter tell all you know, speshually fo’ dinner.’
“Brer Yalligater went a-slidin’ long thoo de water; he lissen an’ smack his mouf, but he ain’t sayin’ nothin’. Brer Rabbit, he talk on; he ’low, sezee, ‘An dey wuz one thing he tol’ me mo’ plainer dan all de rest. He say dat when anybody wuz ’flicted wid de double gizzard, dey dassent cross water wid it, kaze ef dey’s anything dat a double gizzard won’t stan’ it’s de smell er water.’
“Brer Yalligater went slippin’ long thoo de water, but he feel like de time done come when he bleeze ter say sump’n. He say, sezee, ‘How come youer crossin’ water now, ef de doctor tell you dat?’ Dis make Brer Rabbit laugh; he ’low, ‘Maybe I oughtn’t ter tell you, but fo’ I kin cross water dat double gizzard got ter come out. De doctor done tol’ me dat ef she ever smell water, dey’ll be sech a swellin’ up dat my skin won’t hol’ me; an’ no longer dan’ las’ night, ’fo’ I come ter dis creek--’twuz a creek den, whatsomever you may call it now--I tuck out my double gizzard an’ hid it in a hick’ry holler. An’ ef youer de gizzard-eater, now is yo’ chance, kaze ef you put it off, you may rue de day. Ef youer in de notion I’ll take you right dar an’ show you de stump whar I hid it at--er ef you wanter be lonesome ’bout it, I’ll let you go by yo’se’f an’ I’ll stay right here.’
“Brer Yalligater, he slip an’ slide thoo de water. He say, sezee, ‘Whar’d you say you’d stay?’ Brer Rabbit ’low, sezee, ‘I’ll stay right here, Brer ’Gater, er anywhar’s else you may choosen; I don’t keer much whar I stays er what I does, so long ez I get rid er dat double gizzard what’s been a-tarrifyin’ me. You better go by yo’se’f, kaze bad ez dat double gizzard is done me, I got a kinder tendersome feelin’ fer it, an’ I’m fear’d ef I wuz ter go ’long wid you, an’ see you grab it, dey’d be some boo-hooin’ done. Ef you go by yo’se’f, des rap on de stump an’ say--Ef youer ready, I’m ready an’ a little mo’ so, un’ you won’t have no trouble wid her. She’s hid right in dem woods yander, an’ de holler hick’ry stump ain’t so mighty fur fum whar de bank er de creek oughter be.’
“Brer ’Gater ain’t got much mo’ sense dan what it ’ud take fer ter clim’ a fence atter somebody done pulled it down, an’ so he kinder slew’d hisse’f aroun’, an’ steered fer de woods--de same woods whar dey’s so many trees, an’ whar ol’ Sis Owl starts all de whirl-win’s by fannin’ her wings. Brer Yalligater swum an’ steered, twel he come close ter lan’, an’ when he done dat Brer Rabbit make a big jump an’ lan’ on solid ground. He mought er got his feet wet, but ef he did ’twuz ez much. He ’low, sezee--
“‘You po’ ol’ ’Gater, ef you know’d A fum Izzard,
You’d know mighty well dat I’d keep my Gizzard.’
An’ wid dat, he wuz done gone--done clean gone!”