Tuesday, December 18, 2018

C121. Brother Bear and the Honey Orchard

2: Brother Bear and the Honey Orchard. Text Source: Uncle Remus and His Friends by Joel Chandler Harris. Online at Internet Archive. (The scan at Hathi Trust is missing a page.) I have removed the frame material and standardized the spelling; click here for notes to the story.

Well, there was one time when most all  the critters, horn, claw, and wing, live in  the same settlement. They'd have some fusses, but they ain't had no falling out, and they was living just as satisfactual as what folks does. Times was mighty hard, and it was in about all they can do for to scuffle along and make buckle and tongue meet. Eke and scrape as they would, some of 'em'd have to go to bed hungry.

Yet they took notice of one thing, that whiles all of 'em was getting poor and poorer, ole Brer Bear was getting fatter and fatter. Whiles the other critters' ribs was standing out like barrel hoops, Brer Bear was slick and round as a butter ball. He just wallowed in fat; he was too fat to keep the flies off of hisself. 

They all study and study how Brer Bear can keep so fat when times is so hard. Brer Rabbit made up his mind that he going to get at the bottom of the matter, and so he keep his eye on Brer Bear. He watch him, he did, and it weren't long before he seed that Brer Bear was doing mighty queer. Instead of sitting up late and talking politics, he'd go to bed with the chickens, and by good daylight he'd be up and gone. This bother Brer Rabbit mightily. He got so pestered and fretted that many's the time when he'd be going along the road he'd squat right flat on the ground and scratch his head and study. 

Brer Rabbit had done got the knack of sitting up all night and sleeping late in the day, but by and by, one night he took and pay Brer Bear a visit for to see what he can find out. He got to the door, he did, and scrape his foot on the step and sort of clear up his throat. Old Miss Bear, she come out on the porch for to see who it is, and she was monstrous polite. She howdied with Brer Rabbit, and ask him if he won't come in and take off his things and set awhile with 'em. Brer Rabbit say he don't care if he do, being's how he ain't seed 'em all in so long, and old Miss Bear, she rustle round and fetch a chair, and ask Brer Rabbit for to make hisself at home. 

Brer Rabbit cross his legs, he did, and allow that he ain't seed Brer Bear in a coon's age; and Miss Bear, she fan herself with a turkey-tail fan, and allow that times so hard her old man had to work soon and late for to make both ends meet. Then she excuse herself, and say she got to go right now and fix a bag of ashes for him to take to work with him in the morning. 

Brer Rabbit ask what in the name of goodness Brer Bear do with a bag of ashes, and old Miss Bear laugh and say she don't know what on top side of earth he do with 'em, but she expect it's just one of his notions. 

Old Miss Bear work her fan till it fair flutter, and she allow, "Goodness knows, that old bag of ashes is done occasion me more trouble than it worth. But you know how men folks is, Brer Rabbit, they'll have their way if it's the last act. What my old man want with a bag of ashes every mornin' is more than I can tell you, but have 'em he will, spite of all creation. They got to be out there by the chimey corner so he can get 'em when he start to work." 

Brer Rabbit say, "Where Brer Bear now? I ain't hear him in there."
Old Miss Bear laugh till she bent over. She allow, "You ain't going to hear him neither, Brer Babbit, 'less you happen to hear him snore. Sleep! I ain't never is see nobody what can sleep like my old man. He ain't take time to eat, scarcely, 'fore he's ready for the bed, and he don't more'n strike the bed before he's sound asleep. I laugh, and tell him it's mighty blessing for him that I ain't know what a sleepy-head he is before I marry him."

With that Brer Rabbit say he better be going, and he tip old Miss Bear a bow and wish her mighty well. He went off a little piece, he did, and sat down by the road, and twist his moustaches, and study about that bag of ashes. He ask hisself was old Miss Bar trying for to fool him, and he got so pestered that he ain't know what to do. 

After so long a time, he slipped back to Brer Bear's house, and, sure enough, there was the bag of ashes in the chimney corner, and inside the house he could hear Brer Bear snoring away like somebody sawing gourds. Brer Rabbit make up his mind that he'd sort of hang 'round and see where Brer Bear go to so soon in the morning. So he capered 'round in the grass one half the night, and played with the lightning bugs the other half. 

Time the chickens begun to crow for day, Brer Bear was up and a-stirring, and by the time it was light good, he'd done slung the bag of ashes across his shoulder and was a-making for the woods. Brer Rabbit try to keep up, but he scared to get too close, and first news he know Brer Bear done make his disappearance. When that happen, they ain't nothing more for Brer Rabbit to do but go home and dreama'bout what the name of goodness Brer Bear gonna do with that bag of ashes. 

The next night Brer Rabbit played round and run after lightning bugs till everything got still at Brer Bear's house, and then he went to look for the bag of ashes. Sure enough, there it was — same bag in the same chimney corner. Brer Rabbit felt the heft of it, and it seem like to him that they was about a bushel of ashes in there. Then he grab hold of one corner of the bag and tored a hole in it. Some of the ashes got up Brer Rabbit's nose, and he find out he pleased to sneeze. He hold in as long as he can, and make a break for to get as far from the house as he can before the sneeze come. He held his breath, he did, long as he can, and when the sneeze did bust aloose, gentlemens! He turned a fair somersault backwards, and there was such a splutterment that the Guinea hens got to hollering and the chickens to cackling, and old Brer Rabbit took his foot in his hand and lit out from there. 

Well, sir, next morning he got up some sooner than he in the habits of doing, and he went 'round by Brer Bear's house. He went 'round the same way where he see Brer Bear go the morning before that, and he ain't gone far till he see where the ashes been spilling out of the bag. That what he make the hole in the bag for. Every time Brer Bear take a step, he'd jolt the ashes out. Brer Rabbit, he followed the track of the ashes. He followed long, he did, up hill and down, through bushes and through briers, till by and by he come upon Brer Bear, and what you reckon that critter was a-doing? Well, sir, he weren't doing nothing in the round world but eating honey! Pure honey! Eating honey and cleaning the comb. Just the natural stark-naked bee-juice! 

When Brer Rabbit see that, he like to fainted. He flung both hands up and fell down on the ground like he dead. The sight scare him. He pleased to be scared. Old Brer Bear ain't look like hisself. He done empty the bag of ashes on the ground and wallow in 'em till he look like he done turn gray enduring the night. He put 'em on him, I expect, for to keep bees from stinging him. There hwas, up a tree, eating honey by the handful, and all 'round that place there was a clump of big poplar trees. Every one of 'em was hollow, and every one of 'em was full of honey, 'cause Brer Rabbit seed the bees just a-swaming in and out constant. He sat there, he did, and watch Brer Bear eating honey till he begun to dribble at the mouth, and he got so hungry that by and by he went up closer, and ask Brer Bear for to please, sir, give him a handful of honey.

Brer Bear allow, "Go way from there, you triflin', low down villain! I give you nothin'! Go on about yo' business, 'fore I come down there an' wear you out to a frazzle!"

Brer Rabbit say, "Please, sir, Brer Bear, just give me a little piece; just a teenchy bit of the comb, Brer Bear." 

With dat, Brer Bear sort of scramble down the tree like he coming after Brer Rabbit, and I bet you Brer Rabbit got up and dusted away from there. He took a nigh cut home, and he sat down in the chimney corner and studied out a plan for to get even with Brer Bear. So the next day, whiles Brer Bear done gone to the honey orchard, Brer Rabbit assemble all the critters, horn, claw, and wing, and tell 'em how the land lay, and how Brer Bear been fooling 'em. He say it ain't no wonder that Brer Bear rolling in fat when he go off there every day and gorge hisself on honey, and not let nobody get a smell of it, much less a taste. 

All the critters agree with Brer Rabbit, and they say they'd do anything he tell 'em, if they can learn Brer Bear some manners. Then Brer Rabbit say he expect the best way to do is to get up a hurricane. The critters ask him how the name of goodness they gonna do that, and Brer Rabbit say he'll fix it. Then he took 'em all out there close to the honey orchard, and all the big critters he made stand by big saplings, and the little ones he put at the little saplings. 

He allow, "Now then, when you hear me holler, you rub up against these saplin's and shake 'em as hard as you can."

The wing critters what can fly, he made get up in the top of the trees. He allow, "When you hear me holler, you flutter just as hard as you can." 

The wing critters what can run, he made 'em get in the broom-sage, and he allow, "When you hear me holler, run through the grass as hard as you can."

Brer Rabbit had a long rope, and he went off a little piece for to get a good start, and directly here he come, dragging the rope and running like a yellow dog with a tin pail tied to his tail. Brer Bear, up there in the bee-tree, hear him running, and ask him what the matter. 

With that Brer Rabbit fetch a whoop, and allow, "There's a hurricane comin', Brer Bear, and I pleased to run somewheres and tie myself to a tree, for to keep from being blowed away. Don't you hear it comin'?" 

Course, when Brer Rabbit hollered, the critters at the saplings begun to shake 'em, and the wing critters in the trees begun to flutter, and the others begun to run in the grass, and they make the biggest kind of noise. Brer Bear, he scrambled about half-way down the bee-tree, and then he turn everything loose and hit the ground kerbiff! Look like it was enough to jolt the life out of him. 

He say, "For mercy sake, Brer Rabbit, tie me along with you. This just as good a place as you'll find. Tie me with you, Brer Rabbit." The critters keep on making their fuss, and Brer Bear get scareder and scareder. Brer Rabbit took Brer Bear at his word, and he tied him hard and fast to a tree.

When he had him fastened so he can't get loose, he call to all the critters, Brer Rabbit did, and tell 'em to come look at Brer Bear. Then he allow, "Whiles the hurricane going on, let's us go get a bite of honey. There ain't no wind what can blow Brer Bear off whiles he fix this away." 

With that they raided the honey orchard, and gobble up all they want, and took some home for their women folks and chilluns. That what's in the tale I can tell you; that what ain't you'll have to figure out for yourself.

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