AFTER the new-comers had settled themselves in their accustomed places, and 'Tildy had cast an unusual number of scornful glances at Daddy Jack, who made quite a pantomime of his courtship, Uncle Remus startled them all somewhat by breaking into a loud laugh.
"I boun' you," exclaimed Aunt Tempy, grinning with enthusiastic sympathy, "I boun' you Brer Remus done fine out some mo' er Brer Rabbit funny doin's; now I boun' you dat."
"You hit it de fus' clip, Sis Tempy, I 'clar' ter gracious ef you aint. You nailed it! You nailed it," Uncle Remus went on, laughing as boisterously as before, "des lak ole Brer Rabbit done."
The little boy was very prompt with what Uncle Remus called his "inquirements," and the old man, after the usual "hems" and "haws," began.
"Hit run'd 'cross my min' des lak a rat 'long a rafter, de way ole Brer Rabbit tuk'n done Brer Fox. 'Periently, atter Brer Rabbit done went en put a steeple on top er he house, all de yuther creeturs wanter fix up dey house. Some put new cellars und' um, some slapped on new winder-blines, some one thing and some er n'er, but ole Brer Fox, he tuck a notion dat he'd put some new shingles on de roof.
"Brer Rabbit, he tuck'n year tell er dis, en nothin'd do but he mus' rack 'roun' en see how ole Brer Fox gittin' on. W'en he git whar Brer Fox house is, he year a mighty lammin' en a blammin' en lo en beholes, dar 'uz Brer Fox settin' straddle er de comb er de roof nailin' on shingles des hard ez he kin.
"Brer Rabbit cut he eye 'roun' en he see Brer Fox dinner settin' in de fence-cornder. Hit 'uz kivered up in a bran new tin pail, en it look so nice dat Brer Rabbit mouf 'gun ter water time he see it, en he 'low ter hisse'f dat he bleedz ter eat dat dinner 'fo' he go 'way fum dar.
"Den Brer Rabbit tuck'n hail Brer Fox, en ax 'im how he come on. Brer Fox 'low he too busy to hol' any confab. Brer Rabbit up en ax 'im w'at is he doin 'up dar. Brer Fox 'low dat he puttin' roof on he house 'g'in de rainy season sot in. Den Brer Rabbit up en ax Brer Fox w'at time is it, en Brer Fox, he 'low dat hit 's wukkin time wid him. Brer Rabbit, he up en ax Brer Fox ef he aint stan' in needs er some he'p. Brer Fox, he 'low he did, dat ef he does stan' in needs er any he'p, he dunner whar in de name er goodness he gwine to git it at.
"Wid dat, Brer Rabbit sorter pull he mustarsh, en 'low dat de time wuz w'en he 'uz a mighty handy man wid a hammer, en he aint too proud fer to whirl in en he'p Brer Fox out'n de ruts.
"Brer Fox 'low he be mighty much erblige, en no sooner is he say dat dan Brer Rabbit snatched off he coat en lipt up de ladder, en sot in dar en put on mo' shingles in one hour dan Brer Fox kin put on in two.
"Oh, he 'uz a rattler--ole Brer Rabbit wuz," Uncle Remus exclaimed, noticing a questioning look in the child's face. "He 'uz a rattler, mon, des ez sho' ez youer settin' dar. Dey wa'n't no kinder wuk dat Brer Rabbit can't put he han' at, en do it better dan de nex' man.
"He nailed on shingles plum twel he git tired, Brer Rabbit did, en all de time he nailin', he study how he gwine git dat dinner. He nailed en he nailed. He 'ud nail one row, en Brer Fox 'ud nail 'n'er row. He nailed en he nailed. He kotch Brer Fox en pass 'im--kotch 'im en pass 'im, twel bimeby w'iles he nailin' 'long Brer Fox tail git in he way.
"Brer Rabbit 'low ter hisse'f, he did, dat he dunner w'at de name er goodness make folks have such long tails fer, en he push it out de way. He aint no mo'n push it out'n de way, 'fo' yer it come back in de way. Co'se," continued Uncle Remus, beginning to look serious, "w'en dat 's de case dat a soon man lak Brer Rabbit git pester'd in he min', he bleedz ter make some kinder accidents some'rs.
"Dey nailed en dey nailed, en, bless yo' soul! 't wa'n't long 'fo' Brer Fox drap eve'yt'ing en squall out:
"'Laws 'a' massy, Brer Rabbit! You done nail my tail. He'p me, Brer Rabbit, he'p me! You done nail my tail!'"
Uncle Remus waved his arms, clasped and unclasped his hands, stamped first one foot and then the other, and made various other demonstrations of grief and suffering.
"Brer Rabbit, he shot fus' one eye en den de yuther en rub hisse'f on de forrerd, en 'low:
"'Sho'ly I aint nail yo' tail, Brer Fox; sho'ly not. Look right close, Brer Fox, be keerful. Fer goodness sake don' fool me, Brer Fox!'
"Brer Fox, he holler, he squall, he kick, he squeal.
"'Laws 'a' massy, Brer Rabbit! You done nailed my tail. Onnail me, Brer Rabbit, onnail me!'
"Brer Rabbit, he make fer de ladder, en w'en he start down, he look at Brer Fox lak he right down sorry, en he up'n 'low, he did:
"'Well, well, well! Des ter t'ink dat I should er lamm'd aloose en nail Brer Fox tail. I dunner w'en I year tell er anyt'ing dat make me feel so mighty bad; en ef I had n't er seed it wid my own eyes I would n't er bleev'd it skacely--dat I would n't!'
"Brer Fox holler, Brer Fox howl, yit 't aint do no good. Dar he wuz wid he tail nail hard en fas'. Brer Rabbit, he keep on talkin' w'iles he gwine down de ladder.
"'Hit make me feel so mighty bad,' sezee, 'dat I dunner w'at ter do. Time I year tell un it, hit make a empty place come in my stomach,' sez Brer Rabbit, sezee.
"By dis time Brer Rabbit done git down on de groun', en w'iles Brer Fox holler'n, he des keep on a-talkin'.
"'Dey's a mighty empty place in my stomach,' sezee, 'en ef I aint run'd inter no mistakes dey's a tin-pail full er vittles in dish yer fence-cornder dat'll des 'bout fit it,' sez ole Brer Rabbit, sezee.
"He open de pail, he did, en he eat de greens, en sop up de 'lasses, en drink de pot-liquor, en w'en he wipe he mouf 'pun he coat-tail, he up'n 'low:
"'I dunner w'en I bin so sorry 'bout anything, ez I is 'bout Brer Fox nice long tail. Sho'ly, sho'ly my head mus' er bin wool-getherin' w'en I tuck'n nail Brer Fox fine long tail,' sez ole Brer Rabbit, sezee.
"Wid dat, he tuck'n skip out, Brer Rabbit did, en 't wa'n't long 'fo' he 'uz playin' he pranks in some yuther parts er de settlement."
"How did Brother Fox get loose?" the little boy asked.
"Oh, you let Brer Fox 'lone fer dat," responded Uncle Remus. "Nex' ter Brer Rabbit, ole Brer Fox wuz mos' de shiftiest creetur gwine. I boun' you he tuck'n tuck keer hisse'f soon ez Brer Rabbit git outer sight en year'n."