Wednesday, December 19, 2018

C176. Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox, and King Lion

4: Brother Rabbit, Brother Fox and Two Fat Pullets. Text Source: Uncle Remus Returns by Joel Chandler Harris. Online at Hathi Trust. I have removed the frame material and standardized the spelling; click here for notes to the story.


The critters all used to eat meat instead of grass and hay, and it had to be fresh. They was all so greedy that by and by fresh meat begun to get scarce, and they had to study how and where they gonna get it, and how they gonna keep it from the balance of 'em after they got it. It got so, after while, that they had to all give a share of what they got to King Lion, and it seem like he had a appetite bigger than a threshing machine. Then the time come when King Lion stuck a brier in his foot, and the other critters had to set up all night and get up before day for to keep him with enough fresh meat for to keep him from starving to death.

He'd lay there and groan, till some of 'em come in with a hunk of fresh meat, and then he'd growl and ask 'em if that was all they can fetch. Long about that time his foot got so bad that he had to send for the doctor — and whom should the doctor be but old Brer Rabbit hisself! He ain't had no powders and he ain't had no pills, but he know a mighty heap about herbs and such like green truck. He know how to make bergamot grease for to put on his hair when he go to see Miss Meadows and the gals; he know that peach-leaf poultice is good for boils; he know that sheep-sorrel salve is good for old sores; and he know that white turpentime and mutton-suet will heal up fresh hurts and cuts. The critters hear him talking about all of these salves and truck, and, just for fun they call him doc when they ain't fretting about the way he been doing 'em.

Well, old King Lion sent for the doctor and Brer Rabbit looked in on him for to see what might be done for him. Now, to look at the paw what the brier was stuck in, Brer Rabbit had to go monstrous close to King Lion's mouth, which was spang full of blood red tongue and shiny tooths, and he ain't like that kind of business nohow. Every time Brer Rabbit would feel the hot breath of King Lion blowing on him, he'd flinch and swink up, and when old King Lion gaped, Brer Rabbit like to fainted dead away. But he fumble 'round and stayed there the best he can, and fix up the paw with some kind of soothing salve for to draw the inflammation out, and then he say his so-long.

When he come out of King Lion's house, he took notice that of all the critters waiting their turn for to go in, Brer Fox wasn't there. He up and ask, he did, "Whar Brer Fox?" Nobody make answer. Then Brer Rabbit holler out, loud as what he can, "Is anybody seed Brer Fox?" They shook their heads, one and all; nobody ain't seed him.

Then Brer Rabbit he poled off down the big road. Soon as he got out of sight of the crowd, he sat down by the side of the road and had a laughing spell that lasted for the longest. More than once he made a motion like he going to get up from there and go on where he going, but before he got on his feet good, the giggles'd get the better of him, and he'd had to sit down again.

After so long a time he got so he can walk, and then he put out down the big road. He come to where the roads cross, when who should he meet but old Brer Fox! And not only Brer Fox, but two fat pullets, and the old puddle duck what been waddling 'round in them neighborhoods for more years than I can tell you. Brer Rabbit, he howdied, and Brer Fox, he hello'd, and then Brer Rabbit he up and ask him where he been all this long time, more specially since he wasn't up there where King Lion live at.

"There was a mighty inquirement for you, Brer Fox," says old Brer Rabbit, says he, "and I told 'em all that you was kind of feeble, here lately, and that you was tryin' for to pick up some flesh. An', sure 'nough, you was." With dat, Brer Rabbit flick a thistle seed off of his nose with his behind foot.

Brer Fox look kind of sheepish when he hear that, and he ask Brer Rabbit if King Lion make any inquirements about him. Brer Rabbit allow, "He call out yo' name more than once, and he put some language 'round it that'd burn a hole in my tongue if I was to say it. I hope he'll be feelin' better when next you see him."

Brer Fox, he say, says he, "For goodness' sake, Brer Rabbit! Did he up an' cuss?"

Brer Rabbit allow, he did, "I ain't no toter of tales, Brer Fox, but if you can get out of yo' mind anything worse than cussin' then that just what King Lion say."

Brer Fox ask what he going to do about it, and Brer Rabbit say he be blessed if he know.

They jowered awhile, and about the time that Brer Fox was going to say his so-long, Brer Rabbit, after feeling in his pockets, and looking scared like he done lost something, pull out a piece of paper and hold it up. He allow, "After old King Lion had his spell of warm talk, he hand me this, and say that I was to show it when I seed you. Now, to make sure that you seed it, just tear off one corner, and give it to King Lion when next you see him. 'Tain't nothing at all but a supple-poena."

Brer Fox, he look at it kind of sideways. He allow, "Is there any writin' on it? 'Cause if they is 'tain't going to do me no good for to look at it; I can read readin', but I can't read writin'."

Brer Rabbit say that's the case with him, excepting that he can read writing, but he can't read reading.

Brer Fox, he ask, he did, "What do the writin' say?"

Brer Rabbit, he kind of wrinkle up his forehead, and hold out the paper like you've seed old folks do. He make like he reading, and he allow, "All an' simely, whichever, an' whoever, an' wheresoever, 'specially the howcome and the whatshisname, the 'fore said, flainter and flender, let him come headforemost into the court-house, where the high sheriff and the low can lay him down and flatten him out; all whomst she might concern. 'Nough said."

It mean that King Lion want Brer Fox for to come up there where he can get both paws on him, that what it mean! It would've meant dat if there'd've been any writing on the paper, but Brer Rabbit was just playing one of his pranks. He had one eye on them fat pullets and that old Widdle-Waddle Puddle Duck, that's what he had, and time he see Brer Fox toting 'em, he begun to worry how he going to get one or both, or all of 'em.

Brer Rabbit ain't let on about the pullets and old Widdle-Waddle, but he had 'em in his eye and likewise in his mind. So he say, "Now you done hear what the paper say, Brer Fox, you better follow the say-so. Here the piece what's tor'd off; take that an' put it in yo' pocket, an' when old King Lion ask you is you seed me, just show it — and don't be all day about it, neither."

Brer Fox ask is he got time for to take his meat home, and Brer Rabbit allow that he is. With dat, he put out down the road, and Brer Rabbit sat right flat on the ground and laugh, till, if you'd have seed him, you'd have said he done find a new giggling place.

He followed long after Brer Fox, but took care for to keep out of sight. He seed Brer Fox run in his house, for to put old Widdle-Waddle and the pullets away. Then he run out again, followed by his old woman, and he hear her holler out, "You better come on back here an' help me with these chilluns of yourn, 'cause it's a mighty fine situation when a woman, and her not well at that, has to do every blessed thing there is to be done — split up the wood to make a fire, pick up the chips for to kindle it with, do all the cookin', all the pullin' an' haulin', an' take care of all yo' good-for-nothin' chilluns! You better come on back here, I tell you!" But by that time, Brer Fox was done gone.

Brer Rabbit stay'd where he was a right smart what, long enough for Brer Fox to most get where he going, and then he sauntered out in the big road and make his way to Brer Fox' house. He went up, he did, monstrous polite — it look like butter won't melt in his mouth. He open the gate slow, and he make sure it was shut behind him. He went to the door and rap on it, and stand there with his hat in his hand, and look mighty humble-come-tumble.

Old Miss Fox, she open the door, she did, and Brer Rabbit pass the time of day with her, and then say he got a message for her somewheres in his pocket, if he can ever find it. After so long a time, he find the paper what he say come from old King Lion. He hand her this, and Miss Fox say she ain't a good hand at readin'g, not since the chilluns broke her for-seeing specs, and she don't know what the name of goodness she gonna do, specially when her old man ain't scarcely got time for to stay at home, and when he does run in it look like the floor'll burn blisters in his feet, and she say if she'd have knowed at first what she know at last, she'd take two long thinks and a mighty big thunk before she'd marry anybody in the round world.

Brer Rabbit, he allow, "Yassum!" and then he up and tell her that he met Brer Fox, which King Lion done sent him a supple-poena. Brer Fox ask him how he getting on, and Brer Rabbit say he'd be getting on pretty well if he had anything to eat at his house. (All this is the tale that Brer Rabbit was pouring in old Miss Fox ear.) Then Brer Fox wipe his eye and say it ain't gonna do for Brer Rabbit to go without eating.

Old Miss Fox break into the tale with, "I wish he'd wipe his eye about some of my troubles; his eye is dry enough when he's 'round here."

Brer Rabbit allow, "Yassum!' and then he say that Brer Fox allow as how no longer than that very morning he fetch home two fat pullets and old Widdle-Waddle Puddle Duck, and he say Brer Rabbit can have his choosenment of the pullets or the puddle duck. More than that, Brer Rabbit say, Brer Fox sat right flat in the road and writ Miss Fox a note, so that she'll know his will and desirements.

Old Miss Fox look at Brer Rabbit mighty hard. She done tell him about her for-seeing specs, and she say that if the letter ain't read till she reads it, she mighty sorry for the letter. She took it and turn it upper-side down and round and round, and then hand it back to Brer Rabbit, with, "What do she say?"

Brer Rabbit, he cleared his throat, and make out he reading; he say, "To all whomst it might contrive or concern, both now an' presently: be so pleased as to let Brer Rabbit have the pullets or the puddle duck. I'm well at this writing an' a-hopin' you are enjoyin' the same shower of blessin's."

"Whatsomever it might have been, 'tain't no love-letter," says old Miss Fox, says she, and then she fetch out the two fat pullets, and Brer Rabbit, he moseyed off home, singing the song that tells about how Mr. Fox done left the towny-o.

That might be all, and then again it mightn't. It depends on who's a-telling the tale. Some folks would cut it right short off and let it go at that, but not me. When I starts for to tell a tale, I pursues it right to the end just like the critters was pursuing one another— just like the big men is pursuing the little men, with the little men getting to cover, and a-hitting back as they run.

One thing Brer Rabbit know mighty nigh as well as he know that he's hungry. He know it won't never do in the round world for Brer Fox for to go back home, and find out how the pullets went. So when he get out of sight of Brer Fox' house, he whipped up and went a-running home just as hard as he can, and he tell his old lady for to take the pullets and fix 'em fine with the kind of doings they has with chickens, 'cause he might have company. He say he got to go back and see how old King Lion's paw getting on, and he put out for to be there before Brer Fox come away.

He lit out, he did, and fairly burnt up the big road with his footsies — bookity-bookity — and when he get there, sure enough, Brer Fox was there, looking like the really-truly goodness was just dripping from his mouth, and oozing from his hide. You may have seed folks that look humble-come-tumble, but you ain't never is see nobody that got humble-come-tumbleness down as fine as what Mr. Fox had it. And a mighty good reason, 'cause he was scared that King Lion was going to haul him over the coals for not fetching the meat that he ought've fetch him.

When Brer Fox got to where King Lion do the kinging, there was a whole passel of critters ahead of him, and mighty nigh all of 'em had some meat, and them what ain't had it, come with some tale for to excuse theyself. They went in, one by one, and had their confab, and then come out again, some looking glad and some looking mad; and all that time there sat Brer Fox waiting his turn.

He was mightily helped up when he see Brer Rabbit, 'cause he knowed that Brer Rabbit, being the doctor, can get in there before anybody. He hail Brer Rabbit, and say he mighty glad for to see him once more, live and well, and Brer Rabbit respond that he monstrous glad for to see Brer Fox.

He allow, "I'm mo' than glad for to see you ain't been in there where the King's doing his kinging at," says old Brer Rabbit, says he. "I was fear'd you'd take a notion an' go in there 'fore I can get back, and that would have been mighty bad for you — it sure would." Then Brer Rabbit look like he studying, and by and by, he up and say, says he, "Brer Fox, you stay right where you is, an' don't try to go in there where the King at till I give you the word; I don't what he might do to you." Brer Fox say he mighty glad Brer Rabbit got there in time for to save his hide.

Now, Brer Rabbit being the doctor, he had the right for to go in there where the King at without any standing 'round and waiting, and he elbowed his way through the waiting critters, in spite of their spitting and growling, and went right on in where King Lion at. His paw was all wrapped up, and he was just dropping off to sleep, and while Brer Rabbit was looking at him, he turned loose, he did, and begun to snore like he done swallowed a horse, mane and hoof. Seeing that, Brer Rabbit make a bow, and go right out where Brer Fox and the other critters was waiting at.

Soon as Brer Fox see this, he ask Brer Rabbit what the news. Brer Rabbit took him off one side, and tell him he better go on home, 'cause King Lion was terribly put out by the way Brer Fox been going on. "I begged off for you, Brer Fox," says old Brer Rabbit, says he, "an' he say that he'll 'scuse you this time, but the next time—" Brer Rabbit make a motion like he taking off his head. "You better go on home, Brer Fox," says he, 'fore your old woman gives away them fine fat pullets what I seed you with this mornin'."

Brer Fox laugh; he say he'd like for to see somebody get them pullets away from his old woman. "If you can get 'em, Brer Rabbit," says he, "you are more than welcome."

"Just so!" Brer Rabbit allow. "Thanky, Brer Fox, thanky!"

And he went lippity-clippiting down the road, laughing so loud that Brer Fox stop and look at him, with "I'd like to know what's the joke" kind of expression on his countenance.

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