ONE day, when Uncle Remus had told one of the stories that have already been set forth, the little boy was unusually thoughtful. He had asked his mother whether there was ever a time when the animals acted and talked like people, and she, without reflecting, being a young and an impulsive woman, had answered most emphatically in the negative. Now, this little boy was shrewder than he was given credit for being, and he knew that neither his grandmother nor Uncle Remus would set great store by what his mother said. How he knew this would be difficult to explain, but he knew it all the same. Therefore, when he interjected a doubt as to the truth of the tales, he kept the name of his authority to himself.
“Uncle Remus,” said the little boy, “how do you know that the tales you tell are true? Couldn’t somebody make them up?”
The old man looked at the little child, and knew who had sown the seeds of doubt in his mind, and the knowledge made him groan and shake his head. “Maybe you think I done it, honey, but ef you does, de sooner you fergit it off’n yo’ min’, de better fer you, kaze I’d set here an’ dry up an’ blow way ’fo’ I kin tell a tale er my own make-up; an’ ef dey’s anybody deze days what kin make um up, I’d like fer ter snuggle up ter ’im, an’ ax ’im ter l’arn me how.”
“Do you really believe the animals could talk?” asked the child.
“What diffunce do it make what I b’lieve, honey? Ef dey kin talk in dem days, er ef dey can’t, b’lievin’ er not b’lievin’ ain’t gwineter he’p matters. Ol’ folks what live in dem times dey say de creeturs kin talk, kaze dey done talk wid um, an’ dey tell it ter der chillun an’ der chillun tell it ter der chillun right on down ter deze days. So den what you gwineter do ’bout it--b’lieve dem what had it fum de ol’ folks dat know’d, er dem what ain’t never hear nothin’ ’tall about it twel dey git it second han’ fum a ol’ nigger man?”
The child perceived that Uncle Remus was hitting pretty close to home, as the saying is, and he said nothing for a while. “I haven’t said that I don’t believe them,” he remarked presently.
“Ef you said it, honey, you ain’t say it whar I kin hear you, but I take notice dat you hol’ yo’ head on one side an’ kinder wrinkle yo’ face up when I tell deze tales. Ef you don’t b’lieve um, tain’t no mo’ use fer me ter tell um dan ’tis fer me ter fly.”
“My face always wrinkles when I laugh, Uncle Remus.”
“An’ when you cry,” responded the old man so promptly that the child laughed, though he hardly knew what he was laughing at.
“I’m gwineter tell you one now,” remarked Uncle Remus, wiping a smile from his face with the back of his hand, “an’ you kin take it er leave it, des ez you please. Ef you see anything wrong in it anywhar, you kin p’int it out ez we go ’long. I been tellin’ you dat Brer Rabbit wuz a heap bigger in dem days dan what he is now. It looks like de fambly done run ter seed, an’ I bet you dat ninety-nine thousan’ year fum dis ve’y day, de Rabbit-tum-a-hash crowd won’ be bigger dan fiel’-mice--I bet you dat. He wa’n’t only bigger, but he wuz mighty handy ’bout a farm, when he tuck a notion, speshually ef Mr. Man had any greens in his truck-patch. Well, one time, times wuz so hard dat he hatter hire out fer his vittles an’ cloze. He had de idee dat he wuz gittin’ a mighty heap fer de work he done, an Mr. Man tell his daughter dat he gittin’ Brer Rabbit mighty cheap. Dey wuz bofe satchified, an’ when dat’s de case, eve’ybody else oughter be satchified. Brer Rabbit kin hoe taters, an’ chop cotton, an’ fetch up breshwood, an’ split de kindlin, an’ do right smart.
“He say ter hisse’f, Brer Rabbit did, dat ef he ain’t gittin’ no money an’ mighty few cloze, he boun’ he’d have a plenty vittles. De fust week er two, he ain’t cut up no shines; he wuz gittin’ usen ter de place. He stuck ter his work right straight along twel Mr. Man say he one er de bes’ han’s on de whole place, an’ he tell his daughter dat she better set ’er cap fer Brer Rabbit. De gal she toss her head an’ make a mouf, but all de samey she ’gun ter cas’ sheep eyes at ’im.
“One fine day, when de sun shinin’ mighty hot, Brer Rabbit ’gun ter git mighty hongry. He say he want some water. Mr. Man say, ‘Dar de bucket, an’ yan’ de spring. Eve’ything fix so you kin git water monstus easy.’ Brer Rabbit git de water, but still dey wuz a gnyawin’ in his stomach, an’ bimeby he say he want some bread. Mr. Man say, ’Tain’t been so mighty long sense you had brekkus, but no matter ’bout dat. Yan’s de house, in de house you’ll fin’ my daughter, an’ she’ll gi’ you what bread you want.’
“Wid dat Brer Rabbit put out fer de house, an’ dar he fin’ de gal. She say, ‘La, Brer Rabbit, you oughter be at work, but stidder dat here you is at de house. I hear pap say dat youer mighty good worker, but ef dis de way you does yo’ work, I dunner what make ’im sesso.’ Brer Rabbit say, ‘I’m here, Miss Nancy, kaze yo’ daddy sont me.’ Miss Nancy ’low, ‘Ain’t you ’shame er yo’se’f fer ter talk dat a-way? You know pap ain’t sont you.’ Brer Rabbit say, ‘Yassum, he did,’ an’ den he smole one er deze yer lopsided smiles. Miss Nancy kinder hang ’er head an’ low, ‘Stop lookin’ at me so brazen.’ Brer Rabbit stood dar wid his eyes shot, an’ he ain’t say nothin’. Miss Nancy say, ‘Is you gone ter sleep? You oughter be ’shame fer ter drap off dat a-way whar dey’s ladies.’
“Brer Rabbit make a bow, he did, an’ ’low, ‘You tol’ me not ter look at you, an’ ef I ain’t ter look at you, I des ez well ter keep my eyes shot.’ De gal she giggle an’ say Brer Rabbit oughtn’t ter make fun er her right befo’ her face an’ eyes. She ax what her pap sont ’im fer, an’ he ’low dat Mr. Man sont ’im for a dollar an’ a half, an’ some bread an’ butter. Miss Nancy say she don’t b’lieve ’im, an’ wid dat she run down todes de fiel’ whar her pa wuz workin’ an’ holler at ’im--‘Pap! Oh, pap!’ Mr. Man make answer, ‘Hey?’ an’ de gal say, ‘Is you say what Brer Rabbit say you say?’ Mr. Man he holler back dat dat’s des what he say, an’ Miss Nancy she run back ter der house, an’ gi’ Brer Rabbit a dollar an’ a half an’ some bread an’ butter.
“Time passed, an’ eve’y once in a while Brer Rabbit’d go ter de house endurin’ de day, an’ tell Miss Nancy dat her daddy say fer ter gi’ ’im money an’ some bread an’ butter. An’ de gal, she’d go part er de way ter whar Mr. Man is workin’, an’ holler an’ ax ef he sesso, an’ Mr. Man ’d holler back, ‘Yes, honey, dat what I say.’ It got so atter while dat dey ain’t so mighty much money in de house, an’ ’bout dat time, Miss Nancy, she had a beau, which he useter come ter see her eve’y Sunday, an’ sometimes Sat’day, an’ it got so, atter while, dat she won’t skacely look at Brer Rabbit.
“Dis make ’im laugh, an’ he kinder studied how he gwineter git even wid um, kaze de beau got ter flingin’ his sass roun’ Brer Rabbit, an’ de gal, she’d giggle, ez gals will. But Brer Rabbit des sot dar, he did, an’ chaw his terbacker, an’ spit in de fier. But one day Mr. Man hear ’im talkin’ ter hisse’f whiles deyer workin’ in de same fiel’, and he ax Brer Rabbit what he say. Brer Rabbit ’low dat he des try in’ fer ter l’arn a speech what he hear a little bird say, an’ wid dat he went on diggin’ in de groun’ des like he don’t keer whedder anything happen er not. But dis don’t satchify Mr. Man, an’ he ax Brer Rabbit what de speech is. Brer Rabbit ’low dat de way de little bird say it dey ain’t no sense ter it fur ez he kin see. But Mr. Man keep on axin’ ’im what ’tis, an’ bimeby he up an’ ’low, ‘De beau kiss de gal an’ call her honey; den he kiss her ag’in, an’ she gi’ im de money.’
“Mr. Man say, ‘Which money?’ Brer Rabbit ’low, ‘Youer too much fer me. Dey tells me dat money’s money, no matter whar you git it, er how you git it. Ef de little bird wa’n’t singin’ a song, den I’m mighty much mistooken.’ But dis don’ make Mr. Man feel no better dan what he been feelin’. He went on workin’, but all de time de speech dat de little bird made wuz runnin’ in his min’:
“De beau kiss de gal, an’ call her honey;
Den he kiss her ag’in, an’ she gi’ ’im de money.”
“He keep on sayin’ it over in his min’, an’ de mo’ he say it de mo’ it worry him. Dat night when he went home, de beau wuz dar, an’ he wuz mo’ gayly dan ever. He flung sass at Brer Rabbit, an Brer Rabbit des sot dar an’ chaw his terbacker, an’ spit in de fier. Den Mr. Man went ter de place whar he keep his money, an’ he fin’ it mos’ all gone. He come back, he did, an’ he say, ‘Whar my money?’ De gal, she ain’t wanter have no words ’fo’ her beau, an’ ’spon’, ‘You know whar ’tis des ez well ez I does,’ an’ de man say, ‘I speck youer right ’bout dat, an’ sence I does, I want you ter pack up an’ git right out ter dis house an’ take yo’ beau wid you.’ An’ so dar ’twuz.
“De gal, she cry some, but de beau muched her up, an’ dey went off an’ got married, an’ Mr. Man tuck all his things an’ move off somers, I dunner whar, an’ dey wa’n’t nobody lef’ in dem neighberhoods but me an’ Brer Rabbit.”
“You and Brother Rabbit?” cried the little boy.
“Dat’s what I said,” replied Uncle Remus. “Me an’ Brer Rabbit. De gal, she tol’ her chillun ’bout how Brer Rabbit had done her an’ her pa, an’ fum dat time on, deyer been persooin’ on atter him.”