"You'll tromple on dat bark twel hit won't be fitten fer ter fling 'way, let 'lone make hoss- collars out'n," said Uncle Remus, as the little boy came running into his cabin out of the rain. All over the floor long strips of "wahoo" bark were spread, and these the old man was weaving into horse- collars.
"I'll sit down, Uncle Remus," said the little boy.
"Well, den, you better, honey," responded the old man, "kaze I 'spizes fer ter have my wahoo trompled on. Ef 'twuz shucks, now, hit mout be diffunt, but I'm a gittin' too ole fer ter be projickin' 'longer shuck collars."
For a few minutes the old man went on with his work, but with a solemn air altogether unusual. Once or twice he sighed deeply, and the sighs ended in a prolonged groan, that seemed to the little boy to be the result of the most unspeakable mental agony. He knew by experience that he had done something which failed to meet the approval of Uncle Remus, and he tried to remember what it was, so as to frame an excuse; but his memory failed him. He could think of nothing he had done calculated to stir Uncle Remus's grief. He was not exactly seized with remorse, but he was very uneasy. Presently Uncle Remus looked at him in a sad and hopeless way and asked:
"W'at dat long rigmarole you bin tellin' Miss Sally 'bout yo' little brer dis mawnin?"
"Which, Uncle Remus?" asked the little boy, blushing guiltily.
"Dat des w'at I'm a axin' un you now. I hear Miss Sally say she's a gwineter stripe his jacket, en den I knowed you bin tellin' on 'im."
"Well, Uncle Remus, he was pulling up your onions, and then he went and flung a rock at me, said the child, plaintively.
"Lemme tell you dis," said the old man, laying down the section of horse- collar he had been plaiting, and looking hard at the little boy--"lemme tell you dis der ain't no way fer ter make tattlers en tailb'arers turn out good. No, dey ain't. I bin mixin' up wid fokes now gwine on eighty year, en I ain't seed no tattler come ter no good een'. Dat I ain't. En ef ole man M'thoozlum wuz livin' clean twel yit, he'd up'n tell you de same. Sho ez you er settin' dar. You 'member w'at 'come er de bird w'at went tattlin' 'roun' 'bout Brer Rabbit?"
The little boy didn't remember, but he was very anxious to know, and he also wanted to know what kind of a bird it was that so disgraced itself.
"Hit wuz wunner dese yer uppity little Jack Sparrers, I speck," said the old man; "dey wuz allers bodder'n' longer udder fokes's bizness, en dey keeps at it down ter dis day- peckin' yer, en pickin' dar, en scratchin' out yander. One day, atter he bin fool by ole Brer Tarrypin, Brer Rabbit wuz settin' down in de woods studyin' how he wuz gwineter git even. He feel mighty lonesome, en he feel mighty mad, Brer Rabbit did. Tain't put down in de tale, but I speck he cusst en r'ar'd 'roun' considerbul. Leas'ways, he wuz settin' out dar by hisse'f, en dar he sot, en study en study, twel bimeby he jump up en holler out:
"'Well, dog- gone my cats ef I can't gallop 'roun' ole Brer Fox, en I'm gwineter do it. I'll show Miss Meadows en de gals dat I'm de boss er Brer Fox,' sezee.
"Jack Sparrer up in de tree, he hear Brer Rabbit, he did, en he sing out:
"'I'm gwine tell Brer Fox! I'm gwine tell Brer Fox! Chick- a-biddy- win'-a- blowin'-acuns- fallin'! I'm gwine tell Brer Fox!"'
Uncle Remus accompanied the speech of the bird with a peculiar whistling sound in his throat, that was a marvelous imitation of a sparrow's chirp, and the little boy clapped his hands with delight, and insisted on a repetition.
"Dis kinder tarrify Brer Rabbit, en he skasely know w'at he gwine do; but bimeby he study ter hisse'f dat de man w'at see Brer Fox fus wuz boun' ter have de inturn, en den he go hoppin' off to'rds home. He didn't got fur w'en who should he meet but Brer Fox, en den Brer Rabbit, he open up:
"'W'at dis twix' you en me, Brer Fox?' sez Brer Rabbit, sezee. 'I hear tell you gwine ter sen' me ter 'struckshun, en nab my fambly, en 'stroy my shanty,' sezee.
"'Den Brer Fox he git mighty mad. 'Who bin tellin' you all dis?' sezee.
"Brer Rabbit make like he didn't want ter tell, but Brer Fox he 'sist en 'sist, twel at las' Brer Rabbit he up en tell Brer Fox dat he hear Jack Sparrer say all dis.
"'Co'se,' sez Brer Rabbit, sezee, 'w'en Brer Jack Sparrer tell me dat I flew up, I did, en I use some langwidge w'ich I'm mighty glad dey weren't no ladies 'round' nowhars so dey could hear me go on, sezee.
"Brer Fox he sorter gap, he did, en say he speck he better be sa'nter'n on. But, bless yo' soul, honey, Brer Fox ain't sa'nter fur, 'fo' Jack Sparrer flipp down on a 'simmon- bush by de side er de road, en holler out:
"'Brer Fox! Oh, Brer Fox!--Brer Fox!'
"Brer Fox he des sorter canter long, he did, en make like he don't hear 'im. Den Jack Sparrer up'n sing out agin:
"'Brer Fox! Oh, Brer Fox! Hol' on, Brer Fox! I got some news fer you. Wait Brer Fox! Hit'll 'stonish you.'
"Brer Fox he make like he don't see Jack Sparrer, ner needer do he hear 'im, but bimeby he lay down by de road, en sorter stretch hisse'f like he fixin' fer ter nap. De tattlin' Jack Sparrer he flew'd 'long, en keep on callin' Brer Fox, but Brer Fox, he ain't sayin' nuthin'. Den little Jack Sparrer, he hop down on de groun' en flutter 'roun' 'mongst de trash. Dis sorter 'track Brer Fox 'tenshun, en he look at de tattlin' bird, en de bird he keep on callin':
"'I got sump'n fer ter tell you, Brer Fox.'
"'Git on my tail, little Jack Sparrer,' sez Brer Fox, sezee, 'kaze I'm de'f in one year, en I can't hear out'n de udder. Git on my tail,' sezee.
"Den de little bird he up'n hop on Brer Fox's tail.
"'Git on my back, little Jack Sparrer, kaze I'm de'f in one year en I can't hear out'n de udder.'
"Den de little bird hop on his back.
"'Hop on my head, little Jack Sparrer, kaze I'm de'f in bofe years.'
"Up hop de little bird.
"'Hop on my toof, little Jack Sparrer, kaze I'm de'f in one year en I can't hear out'n de udder.'
"De tattlin' little bird hop on Brer Fox's toof, en den--"
Here Uncle Remus paused, opened wide his mouth and closed it again in a way that told the whole story. *1
"Did the Fox eat the bird all- all up?" asked the little boy.
"Jedge B'ar come long nex' day," replied Uncle Remus, "en he fine some fedders, en fum dat word went roun' dat ole man Squinch Owl done kotch nudder watzizname."
*1 An Atlanta friend heard this story in Florida, but an alligator was substituted for the fox, and a little boy for the rabbit. There is another version in which the impertinent gosling goes to tell the fox something her mother has said, and is caught; and there may be other versions. I have adhered to the middle Georgia version, which is characteristic enough. It may be well to state that there are different versions of all the stories- the shrewd narrators of the mythology of the old plantation adapting themselves with ready tact to the years, tastes, and expectations of their juvenile audiences.