THE NEXT time the little boy got permission to call upon Uncle
Remus, the old man was sitting in his door, with his elbows on his
knees and his face buried in his hands, and he appeared to be in
great trouble. Whats the matter, Uncle Remus? the youngster
asked. Nuff de matter, honeymo dan deys enny kyo fer. Ef dey
aint some quare gwines on roun dis place I aint name Remus.
The serious tone of the old man caused the little boy to open his
eyes. The moon, just at its full, cast long, vague, wavering shadows
in front of the cabin. A colony of tree-frogs somewhere in the
distance were treating their neighbors to a serenade, but to the
little boy it sounded like a chorus of lost and long-forgotten
whistlers. The sound was wherever the imagination chose to locate
itto the right, to the left, in the air, on the ground, far away or
near at hand, but always dim and always indistinct. Something in
Uncle Remuss tone exactly fitted all these surroundings, and the
child nestled closer to the old man. Yasser, continued Uncle
Remus, with an ominous sigh and mysterious shake of the head,
ef dey aint some quare gwines on in dish yer naberhood, den Im
de ball-headest creetur twix dis en nex Jinawerry wuz a year go,
wich I knows I aint. Dats what. What is it, Uncle Remus?
I know Mars John bin drivin Cholly sorter hard ter-day, en I say ter
mysef dat Id drap round bout dus en fling nudder year er corn in
de troff en kinder gin im a techin up wid de kurrier-koam; en
bless grashus! I aint bin in de lot mon a minnit fo I seed sumpn
wuz wrong wid de hoss, and sho nuff dar wuz his mane full er
Full of what, Uncle Remus?
Full er witch-stirrups, honey. Aint you seed no witch-stirrups?
Well, wen you see two stran er har tied tergedder in a hosss
mane, dar you see a witch-stirrup, en, mon dat, dat hoss done bin
rid by um.
Do you reckon they have been riding Charley? inquired the little
Cose, honey. Tooby sho dey is. Wat else dey bin doin?
Did you ever see a witch, Uncle Remus?
Dat aint needer yer ner dar. Wen I see coon track in de branch, I
know de coon bin long dar.
The argument seemed unanswerable, and the little boy asked, in a
Uncle Remus, what are witches like?
Dey comes djihint, responded the cautious old darkey. Dey
comes en dey cunjus fokes. Squinch-owl holler evey time he
see a witch, en wen you hear de dog howlin in de middle er de
night, one un ums mighty ap ter be prowlin roun, Cunjun fokes
kin tell a witch de minnit dey lays der eyes on it, but dem wat
aint cunjun, hits mighty hard ter tell wen dey see one, kaze dey
might come in de pearunce un a cow en all kinder creeturs. I aint
bin useter no cunjun mysef, but I bin livin long nuff fer ter know
wen you meets up wid a big black cat in de middle er de road, wid
yaller eyeballs, dars yo witch fresh fum de Ole Boy. En,
fuddermo, I know dat taint proned inter no dogs fer ter ketch de
rabbit wat use in a beryyin-groan. Dey er de mos ongodlies
creeturs wat you ever laid eyes on, continued Uncle Remus, with
unction. Down dar in Putmon County yo Unk Jeems, he make
like he gwineter ketch wunner dem dar graveyard rabbits. Sho
nuff, out he goes, en de dogs aint no mon got ter de place fo up
jump de old rabbit right mong urn, en atter ruunin roun a time or
two, she skip right tip ter Mars Jeems, en Mars Jeems, he des put
de gun-bairl right on er en lammed aloose. Hit tored up de groun
all roun, en de dogs, dey rush up, but dey want no rabbit dar; but
bimeby Mars Jeems, he seed de dogs tuckin der tails tween der
legs, en he look up, en dar wuz de rabbit caperin roun on a toom
stone, en wid dat Mars Jeems say he sorter feel like de time done
come wen yo granma was speck-tin an him home, en he call off
de dogs en put out. But dem wuz hants. Witches is deze yer kinder
fokes wat kin drap der body en change inter a cat en a wolf en all
Papa says there aint any witches, the little boy interrupted.
Mars John aint live long ez I is, said Uncle Remus, by way of
comment. He aint bin broozin roun all hours er de night en day. I
knowd a nigger wich his brer wuz a witch, kaze he upn tole me
how he tuckn kyod im; en he kyod im good, mon.
How was that? inquired the little boy.
Hit seem like, continued Uncle Remus, dat witch fokes is got a
slit in de back er de neek, en wen dey wanter change dersef, dey
des pull de hide over der head same ez if twuz a shut, en dar dey
Do they get out of their skins? asked the little boy, in an awed
Tooby sho, honey. You see yo pa pull his shut off? Well, dat dez
zackly de way dey duz. But dish yere nigger wat Im tellin you
bout, he kyod his brer de vey fus pass he made at him. Hit got so
dat fokes in de settlement didnt have no peace. De chilluns ud
wake up in de mawnins wid der har tangle up, en wid scratches on
um like dey bin thoo a brier-patch, twel bimeby one day de nigger
he low dat hed set up dat night en keep one eye on his brer; en
sho nuff dat night, des ez de chickens wuz crowin fer twelve, up
jump de brer and pull off his skin en sail outn de house in de
shape an a bat, en wat duz de nigger do but grab up de hide, and
turn it wrong-sudoutards en sprinkle it wid salt. Den he lay down
en watch fer ter see wat de news wuz gwineter be. Des fo day yer
come a big black cat in de do, en de nigger git up, he did, en druv
her away. Bimeby, yer come a big black dog snuffin roan, en de
nigger up wid a chunk en lammed im side er de head. Den a
squinch-owi lit on de koam er de house, en de nigger jam de
shovel in de fier en make im flew away.
Las, yer come a great big black wolf wid his eyes shinin liko fier
coals, en he grab de hide and rush out. Twant long fo de nigger
year his brer hollern en squallin, en he tuck a light, he did, en
went out, en dar wuz his brer des a wallern on de groun en
squirmin roun, kaze de salt on de skin wuz stingin wussn ef he
had his britches lineded wid yallerjackets. By nex mawnin he got
so he could sorter shuffle long, but he gun up cunjun, en ef dere
wuz enny mo witches in dat settlement dey kep mighty close, en
dat nigger he aint skunt hissef no mo not endurin er my
The result of this was that Uncle Remus had to take the little boy
by the hand and go with him to the big house, which the old man
was not loath to do; and, when the child went to bed, he lay awake
a long time expecting an unseemly visitation from some
mysterious source. It soothed him, however, to hear the strong,
musical voice of his sable patron, not very far away, tenderly
contending with a lusty tune; and to this accompaniment the little
boy dropped asleep:
Hits eighteen hunderd, forty-en-eight,|
Christ done made dat crooked way straight
En I dont wanter stay here no longer;
Hits eighteen hunderd, forty-en-nine,
Christ done turn dat water inter wine
En I dont wanter stay here no longer.