Wit and Humor of America, The Vol 07



"Well," said Janey, as Aunt 'Phrony finished telling of the loss of Mr. Terrapin's beard, "I saw a terrapin the other day, and it didn't look as though it ever had had a beard or wattles. I thought it was real ugly."

"Law, chil'," answered the story-teller, "you kain't tell w'at one'r dese yer creeturs bin in de times pas' jes' by lookin' at 'em now. W'y, de day's bin w'en ol' man Tarr'pin wuz plumb harnsum. He done bin trick' out er mo'n jes' his by'ud an' wattles, I kin tell you."

"Oh, please do tell us!" cried Janey, and little Kit came and leaned on her knees and looked up into her face and echoed, "'Es, please to tell us."

Thus besieged, Aunt 'Phrony consented to tell how the Terrapin lost his plumage and his whistle.

"I done tol' you," said she. "Tarr'pin wuz onct a harnsum man, an' dat de sho'-'nuff trufe, fer he had nice, sof' fedders all over his body an' a fine, big, spreadin' tail, an' his eyes wuz mighty bright an' his voice wuz de cle'res' whustle you uver yearn. He wuz a gre't man in dem days, I tell you dat, an' his house wuz chock full er all sorts er fine fixin's. He had sof' furs ter set on an' long strings er shells fer money, an clo'es all imbroider' wid dyed pokkypine quills, an' he had spears an' bows an' arrers an' deer-hawns, an' I dunno w'at all sidesen dat.

"In dem days de Quail wuz a homely, no-kyount creetur, wid sca'cely any fedders, an' a shawt, stumpy tail, an' no voice wuf speakin' uv. He wuz po', too, an' nob'dy tuck much notuss uv him, jes' call him 'dat 'ar ol' Bob White,' an' he go wannerin' up an' down de kyountry all by his lonesome.

"One day he come 'long pas' Mistah Tarr'pin's house, an' he peek in thu de do', he did, an' w'en he see all de fine doin's, seem lak he kain't tek his eye 'way f'um de crack. Den he seed Tarr'pin comin' down de road home, an' he 'low ter hisse'f, he did, dat dish yer de harnsumes' man w'at he uver seed, an' he be puffickly sassified ef he cu'd look jes' lak dat. He git mo' an' mo' enviable uv 'im an' tuck ter hangin' 'roun' de naberhood, peekin' an' peerin' in at Tarr'pin w'enuver he git de chanct. Las' he say ter hisse'f dat he jes' natchully 'bleeged ter have dem fedders an' tail an' whustle, but he ain' knowin' jes' how ter git 'em, so he g'long off ter ax de he'p uv a wise ol' Wolf whar live 'way, 'way up on de mountain an' whar wuz one'r dem cunjerers I done tol' you 'bout. Ez he went 'long he wuz fixin' up a tale ter tell Wolf, an' w'en he git ter de kyave whar de cunjerer live he knock an' Wolf 'spon', 'Come in!' in sech a deep, growly voice dat li'l Quail felt kind er skeery, an' he feel mo' skeery yit w'en he go hoppin' in an' see Wolf settin' dar wid bones strowed all roun' him, an' showin' dem long, white toofs er his ev'y time he open his mouf. But he perch hisse'f up in front er Wolf, an' he say in a voice dat wuz right trim'ly, 'Howdy, Uncle Wolf, howdy! I done comed all de way up yer ter ax yo' he'p, 'kase I knows dar ain' nair' nu'rr man on dis mountain whar knows half ez much ez w'at you does. Please, suh, tell me w'at ter do.'

"'Bob White, you is a li'l ol' fool,' sez Wolf, sezee, 'how kin I tell you w'at ter do w'en you ain' tol' me w'at 'tis you wants?'

"Den Quail he git li'l mo' pearter, an' he try ter mek Wolf feel please', so he say, 'Laws-a-mussy! Uncle Wolf, I done fergit dat, but I reckon I do so 'kase you is dat smart I thought you mought know widout me tellin'.'

"'Drap dat foolishness,' sez Wolf, sezee, 'an' lemme know w'at you comed atter.' But all de same he wan't too smart ner too ol' ter feel please' wid de flatt'ry; show me de man whar is; lots uv 'em gits ketched by dat, nuttin' mo' ner less," and here Aunt 'Phrony cast a scornful glance at Nancy, who answered it by a toss of the head.

"Well, den," she resumed, "Quail start inter de meanness he bin hatchin' up, an' he say, sezee, 'Uncle Wolf, deys a man down dar below whar gittin' ter be dangersome. He's rich an' goodlookin', an' a gre't chieft an' a sho'-'nuff fighter, an' he kin do 'bout w'at he please wid tu'rr creeturs. A man lak dat boun' ter wu'k mischief. Now, suh, ef you sesso, 'pears ter me hit be mighty good notion ter tek 'way his good looks an' dat pleasin' voice whar he uses ter 'suade de people wid, an' gin 'em ter some er de quiet an' peace'ble folks whar ain' all de time stickin' derse'fs ter de front an' tryin' ter lead de people. Now yer I is, you bin knowin' me dis good w'ile, an' you knows my numbility an' submissity, an' ef you mek me de one ter do de deed an' den give me de fixin's fer my trouble, I gwine feel dat I kain't ve'y well refuge 'em.' Right dar he putt his haid on one side an' look up at Wolf mighty meek an' innercent.

"Wolf he say he gwine think 'bout hit, an' he tell Quail ter come back in seven days an' git de arnser. So Quail he go hippitty-hoppin' down de mountains, thinkin' he bin mighty smart, an' wunnerin' ef he kin stan' hit ter wait seven mo' days befo' he rob po' ol' Tarr'pin.

"Wolf he went off higher yit, ter de top er de mountain fer ter ax de 'pinion er seven urr wolfs mo' older an' wiser dan w'at he wuz. Dey talked an' dey 'sputed toge'rr fer seven days an' nights. Den Wolf came back an' Quail made has'e up ter see him ag'in. He say Quail mus' go ter Tarr'pin's house at midnight an' do jes' lak he tell 'im to, er hit be wusser fer him, stidder better. Quail lissen an' say he gwine do jes' lak he tell 'im, an' wid dat he g'long off. Jes' at de stroke er midnight, w'en de bats wuz a-flyin' an' de squinch-owls hootin' an' de jacky-my-lanturns trabellin' up an' down, he knock on Mistah Tarr'pin's do' an' gin out dat he wuz a trabeller whar comed a fur ways an' wuz pow'ful tired an' hongry.

"Tarr'pin wuz a kin' man, so he 'vited him in an' gin him sump'n ter eat an' drink an' made him set down on de sof' furs, 'kase he felt saw'y fer any pusson so po' an' ugly ez w'at Quail wuz. Den he say, 'You mus' be tired atter yo' journeyin', lemme rub you a w'iles.' He rub de ugly, rough creetur fer so long time, an' den Quail sez, sezee, 'You sut'n'y is kin', but I ain' wanter tire you out. I is res'ed now, so please, suh, ter lemme rub you a li'l.' He rub an' he rub Tarr'pin wid one han', an' all de time he wuz rubbin' hisse'f wid de urr. Dat-a-way he rub all de fedders offen Tarr'pin onter his own se'f. Den he rub down Tarr'pin's tail 'twel 'twan't nuttin' but a li'l roun', sharp-p'inted stump, an' at de same time he wuz rubbin' his own tail wid tu'rr han' an' puttin' Tarr'pin's fine, spreadin' tail onter his own li'l stump. Hit wuz plumb dark, so't Mistah Tarr'pin ain' see w'at bin done, an' sidesen dat he wuz pow'ful sleepy fum de rubbin'. Den Quail say he 'bleeged ter lay down 'kase he mus' git him a early start in de mawnin'.

"Befo' sun-up he wuz stirrin' an' he say he mus' be gittin' 'long. Tarr'pin go ter de do' wid him an' den Quail say, sezee, 'Mistah Tarr'pin, I year you has a monst'ous fine whustle, I lak mighty well ter year hit befo' I go.'

"'W'y sut'n'y,' sez de Tarr'pin, sezee, an' wid dat he whustle long an' loud. Quail lissen at him wid all his years, an' den he say: 'Well, dog my cats, ef I ain' beat! Yo' voice is de prezack match er mine.

"'You don't sesso! lemme year you whustle,' sez Tarr'pin, sezee.

"'Dat I will,' sez Quail, 'but lemme go off li'l ways an' show you how fer I kin mek myse'f yearn,' sezee. He sesso 'kase he'z gittin' mighty 'feerd dat Tarr'pin gwine fin' out his fedders wuz gone. So he go 'way off inter de bushes an' whustle, an' sho' nuff, 'twuz jes' lak Mistah Tarr'pin's voice. Den Tarr'pin try ter whustle back, but lo, beholst you! his voice clean gone, nuttin' lef' but a li'l hiss, an' hit done stay dat-a-way clean ontwel dis day. 'Twuz gittin' daylight, an' he look down uv a suddint an' dar he wuz! wid nair' a smidgin' uv a fedder on his back. He feel so bad he go inter de house an' cry ontwel his eyes wuz so raid dat dey stayed dat-a-way uver sence.

"Den Mis' Tarr'pin she say, 'Is you a chieft, er is you a ol' ooman? Whyn't you go atter dat man an' gin him a lambastin' an' git back w'at b'long to you?' He feel kind er 'shame', so he pull hisse'f toge'rr an' go out ter see w'at he kin do. 'Fo' long he fin' out dat de cunjerers bin at wu'k, so he know he gotter have he'p, an' he go an' git all tu'rr tarr'pins ter he'p him. Dey went ter de ol' wolfs, de cunjerers, an' dey ses: 'We is a slow people an' you is a swif people, but nemmine dat, we dyar's you-all to a race, an' ef you-all wins, den you kin kill we-all; an' ef we-all wins, den we gwine exescoot you. An' ef you ain't dast ter tek up dis dyar', den ev'yb'dy gwine know you is cowerds.'

"Co'se de wolfs tucken de dyar' up, an' hit wuz 'greed de race wuz ter be over seben mountain ridges, an' dat hit wuz ter be run 'twix' one wolf an' one tarr'pin, de res' ter look on.

"Wen de day come, ol' Tarr'pin he tuck an' fix up dis trick; he git six urr tarr'pins whar look jes' lak him, an' he hide one away in de bresh on top uv each er de six mountains, an' he hide hisse'f away on top er de sebent'. Jes' befo' Wolf git ter de top er de fus' mountain, de tarr'pin whar wuz hidin' dar crawl outen de bresh an' git ter de top fus' an' gin a whoop, an' went over a li'l ways an' hid in de bresh ag'in. Wolf think dat mighty cur'ous, but he keep on, an' 'twuz jesso at ev'y one, an' at de las' ridge co'se Tarr'pin jes' walk hisse'f outen de bresh an' gin a gre't whoop ter let ev'yb'dy know he done won de race.

"Den de tarr'pins mek up der min's ter kill de wolfs by fire, so dey pen 'em all in a big kyave on de mountain an' dey bring bresh an' wood an' pile in front uv hit, a pile mos' ez high ez de mountain, an' den dey set fire to hit, an' de wolfs howl an' de fire hit spit an' sputter an' hiss an' crack an' roar, an' all de creeturs on de mountain set up a big cry an' run dis-a-way an' dat ter git outen de fire; dey wuz plumb 'stracted, an' hit soun' lak all de wil' beas'es in creation wuz turnt aloose an' tryin' w'ich kin yell de loudes'. But de tarr'pins jes' drord inter der shells an' sot dar safe an' soun', an' watched de fire burn an' de smoke an' de flame rollin' inter de kyave.

"De wolfs dey howled an' dey howled an' dey howled, an' de li'l ones dey cried an' dey cried an' dey cried, an' las' de ol' ones felt so bad 'bout de chillen dat dey 'gun ter kill 'em off so's't dey ain' suffer no mo'. Wen de tarr'pins see dat, dey wuz saw'y, an' dey mek up der min's ter let de res' off, so dey turnt 'em aloose f'um de kyave. But lots uv 'em had died in dar, an' dat huccome dar ain' so many wolfs now ez dey useter be. Some wuz nearer ter de fire dan tu'rrs an' got swinged, an' some got smoked black, an' dat w'y, ontwel dis day, some wolfs is black an' some gray an' some white, an' some has longer, bushier tails dan tu'rrs. Dey got so hoarse wid all dat cryin' dat der voices bin nuttin' but a howl uver sence.

"Quail he year w'at gwine on, an' he tucken hisse'f outen dat kyountry fas' ez his laigs cu'd kyar' him, so Tarr'pin nuver got back de fedders ner de whustle, an' ef you goes out inter de fiel' mos' any day you kin see Quail gwine roun' in de stolen fedders an' year him whustle:

'Bob White, do right! do right!
Do right! do right, Bob White!'

jes' ez sassy ez ef he bin doin' right all his days, an' ez ef he bin raised wid dat voice stidder stealin' hit way f'um ol' man Tarr'pin."

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