BRER RABBIT and THE CALICO
Well, sir, after Brer Rabbit get done laughing, he moseyed off home where his wife and chilluns live at, and Brer Fox, he went on towards his house where his old woman live at. If he'd've had his eyes shut, he'd've know'd when he got dar, 'cause old Miss Fox was standing in the door waiting for him. She begun to jaw at him, long before he got in listening distance, and you might've hear her a mile or more. When he got where he know'd what she was saying, he ain't say nothing; he just amble along till he come to the door. By that time old Miss Fox was so mad that she can't say nothing and do justice to herself, so she just stand there and make motions with the broom what she had in her hand.
Brer Fox, he wipe the persweat off of his face and eyes, and say, "It seem like to me that I hear you talkin' to someone just now; what was you sayin', sugar-honey?"
Soon as she can catch her breath, she allow, "I'll sugar you! I'll honey you! What make you fetch vittles home if you goin' to sen' it off again? What you want to put yo'self to the trouble of totin' it to this house, when you know you goin' to give it away just as soon as you turn yo' back on the place? An' what business you got sendin' ol' Miss Rabbit the two fine, fat pullets what you brung home, which they made me dribble at the mouth the first time I seed 'em? An' I ain't more than seed 'em before here come old Brer Rabbit, a-bowin' an' a-scrapin', an' a-simperin' an' a-sniggerin', an' he allow that you done sent him for the pullets. If it had've just've been his own lone say-so, he'd've never got them pullets in the round world — I'd've gouged out his goozle first — but here he come with a letter what you writ, though you know'd good an' well that when it comes to writing I dunno B from Bull's-Foot."
Brer Fox shook his head; he say he ain't never writ no letter, 'cause he don't know how, and it seem mighty funny to him that his sugar-honey and dumpling-pie don't know that much.
Old Miss Fox, she allow, she did, that dumpling-pie ain't chicken-pie, and then she rail at Brer Fox. "How come you givin' pullets to old Brer Rabbit an' his family, when yo' own chilluns, 'twixt yo' laziness an' the hard times, is goin' roun' here so gaunt that they can't make a shadow in the moonshine? You know mighty well — none better — that we ain't never is neighbored with that kind of trash, an' I don't know what done come over you that you are takin' vittles out of yo' own chilluns mouth an' feedin' that Rabbit brood."
Brer Fox vow and declare he ain't done no such of a thing, and his old woman vow and declare that he is, and she shake the broom so close under his nose that he had to sneeze. Then he allow, "Does you mean for to stan' there, flat-footed, an' right 'fore my face an' eyes, an' where yo' own chilluns can hear you, an' tell me that you took an' give Brer Rabbit them there fine, fat pullets what I brung home? Does you mean for to tell me that?"
She say, "If I done it, I done it 'cause you writ me a 'pistle an' tell me for to do it."
Brer Fox allow, "Is you got the impertinence to tell me that just 'cause Brer Rabbit han' you a piece of paper, with somethin' another there marked on it, you ain't got nothin' better to do than to up an' give him the fine, fat pullets what I brung for to make some chicken-pie?"
This make old Miss Fox so mad that she can't see straight, and when she get so she can talk plain, she vow she going to hurt Brer Rabbit if it took a lifetime for to do it. And there was Brer Fox just as mad, if not madder. They both sat down and grit their tooths, and mumble and growl like they talking to theyself. Brer Rabbit wasn't so mighty far off, and he laugh and laugh till he can't laugh no more.
But whiles he laughing, he laugh too loud, and Brer Fox hear him. He say to his old woman, "I'm goin' to get some rabbit meat for to make up for the chickens what you done give 'way. You be sweepin' here in front of the door, an' I'll slip roun' the back way, an' come up on him when he ain't thinkin' 'bout it; an' whiles you sweepin' make out you talkin' to me like I'm in the house."
So said, so done. Miss Fox she sweep and sweep, and whiles she sweeping she make out she talking to Brer Fox whiles he in the house. She say, "You better come on out of there an' go on 'bout yo' business if you got any. Here I'm constant a-goin', from mornin' till night, an' there you is a-loungin' roun', waitin' for Brer Rabbit for to play tricks on you. You better come on out of there an' go find somethin' another to eat for yo' family."
That's the way she talk, whiles she was pretending to sweep, and just about that time, up come old Brer Rabbit with a mighty polite bow. He took off his hat, he did, "Good evenin' this evenin', Miss Fox. I hope I see you well, ma'am."
Miss Fox allow that she ain't as pert as she look to be, and more than that, her old man laying in the house right now with a mighty bad case of the influenzways.
Brer Rabbit say he mighty sorry, but it's what we all got to look out for, 'cause disease and trouble, and one thing and another, is all the time making the rounds of the places where folks live at. Then old Brer Rabbit kind of hold his head on one side and sort of smile; he up and ask, he did, "Miss Fox, how you like that cut of calico what King Lion sent you for to make a frock out of? Reason I ask, I'm a-goin' to see him this evenin', an' I 'most know that he'll ask me if you like the pattern."
Miss Fox lean her broom against the house, and put her hands on her hips, and make Brer Rabbit say over what he done told her. "Well, well, well!" says old Miss Fox, says she; "the King sent me a calico frock, an' I ain't never lay eyes on it! If that don't beat my time!"
Brer Rabbit, he put his hand over his mouth and cough sort of soft; he allow, he did, "You'll have to 'scuse me, ma'am," says he. 'I'm afear'd I done gone an' said somethin' that I oughtn't to say. When I knows what I'm a-doin', I never likes for to come 'twixt man an' wife, if I can help myself—no, ma'am, not me! Yet Brer Fox is right there in the house an' you can ask him, if you don't believe me."
For one long minute, Miss Fox was so mad that she had to wait till she catch her breath before she can say a word. Lots of women would've stood up there and squealed, but Miss Fox, she held her breath. Quick as she can, she holler out, "No, he ain't in the house; he's out yonder tryin' for to slip up on you 'bout them pullets."
"I'm glad you got that idea," says Brer Rabbit, says he, "'cause it's liable for to keep down trouble. If you was a man, Miss Fox," says he, "you might get the idea that he seed me comin' an' was hidin' out 'cause he fear'd I'd ask you 'bout that frock what the King sent you. It sure was a mighty pretty piece of calico, an' if I'd've knowed then what I know now, I'd've got it from Brer Fox an' give it to my old woman — I sure would!"
With that, Brer Rabbit make his bow and light out from there; and he wasn't none too soon, neither, 'cause he ain't more than got in the bushes where he can hide hisself, before here come old Brer Fox. He look all round, but he ain't see nobody but his old woman, 'cause Brer Rabbit done gone along. Brer Fox say, says he, "Where is the triflin' scoundrel? I seed him standin' right here — where is he? where he gone?"
Old Miss Fox, she up with the broom and hit him a biff side the head that come mighty nigh knocking him into one of the adjoining counties. "That's where he is," says she, and she fetch her old man a whack across the backbone, that sound like old Miss Jenkins a-beating that old rag carpet by hitting it againat the fence.
Old Brer Fox took a notion that he been struck by lightning; he fell down and roll over, and by the time that old Miss Fox had mighty nigh worn the broom out, he find out what was happening. He holler out, "Why, lawds-a-mercy, honey! What the matter with you? What you biffin' me for? I ain't Brer Rabbit! Ow! Please, honey, don't bang me so hard; I ain't gonna do it no mo'."
Old Miss Fox says, says she, "Ah-yi! You owns up, does you? You ain't gonna do it no mo', ain't you? Now, where my fine calico frock what the King sent me?" and all the time she was talking she was wiping him up with the broom. Man, the way she beat that critter was a start-natural scandal.
Well, when Brer Fox got out of reach, and she'd kind of cooled down, she up and told him about the calico frock what King Lion had sent her, and she ask him what the name of goodness is he done with it, and if he ain't brung it home unbeknownst to her, who in the dashes and the dickenses is he give it to? He vow he ain't seed no calico frock, and she allow that he done say, whiles she was a-biffing him, that he ain't gonna do it no more. Brer Fox say he ain't know what she was beating him for, and he was most pleased to promise not to do it no more, 'cause she was hurting him so bad.
They put their heads together, they did, and colloquy and confab about how they going to get even with Brer Rabbit, 'cause the King ain't sent no fine calico frock, and neither is they got their two fat pullets. There they was, no frock, no pullets, and Brer Rabbit still cutting up his capers and playing his pranks on everything and everybody. They say they was going to catch him if it killed every cow in the island, with a couple of steers throwed in for good measure. They was going to hide close to the places where he had to pass by; they was going to do this and they was going to do that, but whatsomever they done, they was going to catch up with Brer Rabbit.
Now, then, it takes two to make a bargain, and one more for to see that it's done all right. Brer Rabbit, he know mighty well — none better — all the goings-on in that part of the country, and he make his arrangerments according. He been used to keeping his eyeball skinned when all was peace, but when they was any trouble ahead, he was so nervous that he'd kick out with his behind foot if a weed tickled him. When it come down to plain nervousness, he can't be beat.
Brer Fox can't make a move but what Brer Rabbit would know about it; he know'd when he went out and when he went in, and he keep such a close watch on 'em that it was even about all he can do for to keep Brer Fox from catching him.
After so long a timer Brer Rabbit got tired of leading this kind of life. He could've put up with it maybe a fortnight, but when it run over that, he got plumb tired, Brer Rabbit did. Yet it look like that luck was constant a-running his way, 'cause he ain't been dodging round in the bushes, trying for to keep out of Brer Fox's way — he ain't been doing this more than a week, when there come word from old King Lion for go and see him. It seem like the place where he stuck the brier in his hand was cured up too quick, and had done turn into a boil — a great big one.
Well, Brer Rabbit ain't no sooner get the word than he run right straight to the place where they done their kinging at, and it aint take him long, neither, 'cause when Brer Rabbit take a notion for to go anywhere right quick, he just picks up the miles with his feet and drops 'em off again, just like a dog sheds fleas. He got there, he did, and when he see how bad the boil was, he kind of shook his head and rub his nose just like the sure enough doctors does. He ask 'em whyn't they tell him about this when the boil begun to show, and they say they been hunting for him high and low, and they can't find him nowhere and nohow.
Brer Rabbit put on his specs and allow, "Tut, tut, tut! if this ain't too bad! I'm feared they ain't but one cure for a place like this. I hate mightily to be the occasion of any trouble, but it look like I'm just a-pleased to."
King Lion kind of flinch and frown when he hear this, but Brer Rabbit say that the trouble ain't for him, but for one of his old-time acquaintance. "If you wasn't the King," he say to the Lion, "I'd just let you go on an' suffer, but bein' what you is, I'm pleased to pull old friendship up by the roots. If you want to get well, you'll just have to wrap yo' hand up in a fox-hide. Not only that, but the hide must be so fresh that it's warm."
Then Brer Rabbit make out he about to cry. He allow, "I can't bear to tell my old friend good-by, 'cause we done had many a night together, up an' down an' roun' the worl'. The sooner you gets Brer Fox here the better — but I'll have to ask you for to let me out the back way, an' I 'll go off somewhere in the woods an' wonder at the flight of time an' the changes that the years is brung."
Then he bow to King Lion; he say, "De nex' time I see you yo' hand will be well, but where will Brer Fox be?" The King he say, "Why, I'll send you the carcass," but Brer Rabbit say, "No, please don't, 'cause I couldn't bear to look at it. Just send it to Miss Fox; it might be some sort of comfort to that poor critter."