XXXI. A PLANTATION WITCH
The next time the little boy got permission to call upon Uncle
Remus, the old man was sitting in his door, with his elbows on his
knees and his face buried in his hands, and he appeared to be in
"What's the matter, Uncle Remus?" the youngster
"Nuff de matter, honey-mo' den dey's enny kyo fer. Ef dey
ain't some quare gwines on 'roun' dis place I ain't name Remus."
The serious tone of the old man caused the little boy to open his
eyes. The moon, just at its full, cast long, vague, wavering shadows
in front of the cabin. A colony of tree-frogs somewhere in the
distance were treating their neighbors to a serenade, but to the
little boy it sounded like a chorus of lost and long-forgotten
whistlers. The sound was wherever the imagination chose to locate
it-to the right, to the left, in the air, on the ground, far away or
near at hand, but always dim and always indistinct. Something in
Uncle Remus's tone exactly fitted all these surroundings, and the
child nestled closer to the old man. "Yasser," continued Uncle
Remus, with an ominous sigh and mysterious shake of the head,
"ef dey ain't some quare gwines on in dish yer naberhood, den I'm
de ball-headest creetur 'twix' dis en nex' Jinawerry wuz a year 'go,
w'ich I knows I ain't. Dat's what."
"What is it, Uncle Remus?" ~
"I know Mars John bin drivin' Cholly sorter hard ter-day, en I say ter
myse'f dat I'd drap 'round 'bout dus' en fling nudder year er corn in
de troff en kinder gin 'im a techin' up wid de kurrier-koam; en
bless grashus! I ain't bin in de lot mo'n a minnit 'fo' I seed sump'n
wuz wrong wid de hoss, and sho' nuff dar wuz his mane full er
"Full of what, Uncle Remus?"
"Full er witch-stirrups, honey. Ain't you seed no witch-stirrups?
Well, w'en you see two stran' er ha'r tied tergedder in a hoss's
mane, dar you see a witch-stirrup, en, mo'n dat, dat hoss done bin
rid by um."
"Do you reckon they have been riding Charley?" inquired the little
"Co'se, honey. Tooby sho dey is. W'at else dey bin doin'?"
"Did you ever see a witch, Uncle Remus?"
"Dat ain't needer yer ner dar. W'en I see coon track in de branch, I
know de coon bin 'long dar."
The argument seemed unanswerable, and the little boy asked, in a
"Uncle Remus, what are witches like?"
"Dey comes djihint," responded the cautious old darkey. "Dey
comes en dey cunjus fokes. Squinch-owl holler eve'y time he
see a witch, en w'en you hear de dog howlin' in de middle er de
night, one un um's mighty ap' ter be prowlin' 'roun', cunjun fokes
kin tell a witch de minnit dey lays der eyes on it, but dem w'at
ain't cunjun, hit's mighty hard ter tell w'en dey see one, kaze dey
might come in de 'pearunce un a cow en all kinder creeturs. I ain't
bin useter no cunjun myse'f, but I bin livin' long nuff fer ter know
w'en you meets up wid a big black cat in de middle er de road, wid
yaller eyeballs, dars yo' witch fresh fum de Ole Boy. En,
fuddermo', I know dat 'tain't proned inter no dogs fer ter ketch de
rabbit w'at use in a berryin'-groan'. Dey er de mos' ongodlies'
creeturs w'at you ever laid eyes on, continued Uncle Remus, with
unction. "Down dar in Putmon County yo' Unk Jeems, he make
like he gwineter ketch wunner dem dar graveyard rabbits. Sho
nuff, out he goes, en de dogs ain't no mo'n got ter de place fo' up
jump de old rabbit right 'mong um, en atter runnin''roun' a time or
two, she skip right up ter Mars Jeems, en Mars Jeems, he des put
de gun-bairl right on 'er en lammed aloose. Hit tored up de groun'
all 'roun', en de dogs, dey rush up, but dey wa'n't no rabbit dar; but
bimeby Mars Jeems, he seed de dogs tuckin' der tails 'tween der
legs, en he look up, en dar wuz de rabbit caperin' 'roun' on a toom
stone, en wid dat Mars Jeems say he sorter feel like de time done
come w'en yo' gran'ma was 'speck-tin' un him home, en he call off
de dogs en put out. But dem wuz ha'nts. Witches is deze yer kinder
fokes wat kin drap der body en change inter a cat en a wolf en all
"Papa says there ain't any witches," the little boy interrupted.
"Mars John ain't live long ez I is," said Uncle Remus, by way of
comment. "He ain't bin broozin' roun' all hours er de night en day. I
know'd a nigger w'ich his brer wuz a witch, kaze he up'n tole me
how he tuck'n kyo'd 'im; en he kyo'd 'im good, mon."
"How was that?" inquired the little boy.
"Hit seem like," continued Uncle Remus, "dat witch fokes is got a
slit in de back er de neek, en w'en dey wanter change derse'f, dey
des pull de hide over der head same ez if 'twuz a shut, en dar dey
"Do they get out of their skins?" asked the little boy, in an awed
"Tooby sho, honey. You see yo' pa pull his shut off? Well, dat dez
'zackly de way dey duz. But dish yere nigger w'at I'm tellin' you
'bout, he kyo'd his brer de v'ey fus pass he made at him. Hit got so
dat fokes in de settlement didn't have no peace. De chilluns 'ud
wake up in de mawnins wid der ha'r tangle up, en wid scratches on
um like dey bin thoo a brier-patch, twel bimeby one day de nigger
he 'low dat he'd set up dat night en keep one eye on his brer; en
sho' nuff dat night, des ez de chickens wuz crowin' fer twelve, up
jump de brer and pull off his skin en sail out'n de house in de
shape an a bat, en w'at duz de nigger do but grab up de hide, and
turn it wrong-sudout'ards en sprinkle it wid salt. Den he lay down
en watch fer ter see w'at de news wuz gwineter be. Des 'fo' day yer
come a big black cat in de do', en de nigger git up, he did, en druv
her away. Bimeby, yer come a big black dog snuffin' roun', en de
nigger up wid a chunk en lammed 'im side er de head. Den a
squinch-owl lit on de koam er de house, en de nigger jam de
shovel in de fier en make 'im flew away.
"Las', yer come a great big black wolf wid his eyes shinin' like fier
coals, en he grab de hide and rush out. 'Twa'n't long 'fo' de nigger
year his brer holler'n en squallin', en he tuck a light, he did, en
went out, en dar wuz his brer des a waller'n on de groun' en
squirmin' 'roun', kaze de salt on de skin wuz stingin' wuss'n ef he
had his britches lineded wid yallerjackets. By nex' mawnin' he got
so he could sorter shuffle long, but he gun up cunjun, en ef dere
wuz enny mo' witches in dat settlement dey kep' mighty close, en
dat nigger he ain't skunt hisse'f no mo' not endurin' er my
The result of this was that Uncle Remus had to take the little boy
by the hand and go with him to the "big house," which the old man
was not loath to do; and, when the child went to bed, he lay awake
a long time expecting an unseemly visitation from some
mysterious source. It soothed him, however, to hear the strong,
musical voice of his sable patron, not very far away, tenderly
contending with a lusty tune; and to this accompaniment the little
boy dropped asleep:
"Hit's eighteen hunder'd, forty-en-eight,
Christ done made dat crooked way straight-
En I don't wanter stay here no longer;
Hit's eighteen hunder'd, forty-en-nine,
Christ done turn dat water inter wine-
En I don't wanter stay here no longer."