Tuesday, December 18, 2018

C123. Death and the Black Man

4: Death and the Negro Man. Text Source: Uncle Remus and His Friends 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.

There was a black man that was a-getting sort of old, and he got so he ain't want to work nohow you can fix it. When folks hangs back from work what they been set to do, it naturally makes bad matters worse, and that the way it was with this here black man. He held back, and he hung back, and then the white folks got fretted with him and set him a task. Gentlemens! That black man was mad. He was one of deze here Africa black folks, and you know how they is — bowlegged and bad tempered. He quarreled and he quarreled when he was by his own lone self, and he quarreled when he was with the other folks.

He got so mad that he say he hope old Grandsire Death'll come take him off, and take his master and the overseer along with him. He talk so long and he talk so loud, that the white folks hear what he say. then the master and the overseer make it up amongst theyself that they going to play a prank on that black man.

So then, one night, a little after midnight, the master got him a white counterpane, he did, and wrap hisself in it, and then he cut two eye-holes in a pillow-case, and drawed it down over his head, and went down to the house where the black man stay. Black man ain't gone to bed. He been frying meat and baking ashcake, and he sat there in the chair nodding, with grease in his mouth and big hunk of ashcake in his hand. The door was half-way open, and the fire burning low.

The master walk in, he did, and sort of clear up his throat. Black man ain't wake up. If he make any movement, it was to clinch the ashcake a little tighter. Then the master knock on the door — blim-blim-blim! Black man sort of fling his head back, but it weren't long before it dropped forward again, and he went on with his nodding like nothing ain't happen. The master knock some more — blam-blam-blam! This time the black man wake up and roll his eye-balls round. He see the big white thing, and he scared to move. His hand shake so he turn the ashcake loose.

Black man allow, "Who dat?"

The master say, "You call me, and I come."

Black man say, "I ain't call you. What yo' name?"

Master allow, "Grandsire Death."

Black man shake so he can't scarcely sit still. The cold sweat come out on him. He allow, "Master Death, I ain't call you. Somebody been fool you."

The master allow, "I been hear you call me pointedly. I listen at you today, and yesterday, and day 'fore yesterday. You say you want me to take you and yo' master and the overseer. Now I done come at yo' call."

Black man shake worse. He say, "Master Death, go get the overseer first. He lots bigger and fatter than what I is. You 'll like him the best. Please, sir, don't take me this time, and I won't bother you no mo' long as I live."

The master allow, "I come for the man that call me! I'm in a hurry! Daylight mustn't catch me here. Come on!"

Well, sir, that black man make a break for the window, he did, and he went through it like a frog diving in the mill pond. He took to the woods, and he was gone mighty nigh a week. When he come back home he went to work, and he work harder than any of the rest. Somebody come along and try to buy him, but his master allow he won't take eleven hundred dollars for him, — cash money, paid down in his hand!

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