Uncle Remus: His Songs and His Sayings/“Jacky-my-Lantern”

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Uncle Remus: His Songs and His Sayings by Joel Chandler Harris
“Jacky-my-Lantern”
Footnotes are from the original text.

Legends of the Old Plantation[edit]

XXXII. “Jacky-my-Lantern”[edit]

(Note)[1]

Upon his next visit to Uncle Remus, the little boy was exceedingly anxious to know more about witches, but the old man prudently refrained from exciting the youngster’s imagination any further in that direction. Uncle Remus had a board across his lap, and, armed with a mallet and a shoe-knife, was engaged in making shoe-pegs.

“W’iles I wuz crossin’ de branch des now,” he said, endeavoring to change the subject, “I come up wid a Jacky-my-lantern, en she wuz bu’nin’ wuss’n a bunch er lightnin’-bugs, mon. I know’d she wuz a fixin’ fer ter lead me inter dat quogmire down in de swamp, en I steer’d cle’r un ’er. Yasser. I did dat. You ain’t never seed no Jacky-my-lanterns, is you, honey?”

The little boy never had, but he had heard of them, and he wanted to know what they were, and thereupon Uncle Remus proceeded to tell him.

“One time,” said the old darkey, transferring his spectacles from his nose to the top of his head and leaning his elbows upon his peg-board, “dere wuz a blacksmif man, en dish yer blacksmif man, he tuck’n stuck closer by his dram dan he did by his bellus. Monday mawnin’ he’d git on a spree, en all dat week he’d be on a spree, en de nex’ Monday mawnin’ he’d take a fresh start. Bimeby, one day, atter de blacksmif bin spreein’ ’roun’ en cussin’ might’ly, he hear a sorter rustlin’ fuss at de do’, en in walk de Bad Man.”

“Who, Uncle Remus?” the little boy asked.

“De Bad Man, honey; de Ole Boy hisse’f right fresh from de ridjun w’at you year Miss Sally readin’ ’bout. He done hide his hawns, en his tail, en his hoof, en he come dress up like w’ite fokes. He tuck off his hat en he bow, en den he tell de blacksmif who he is, en dat he done come atter ’im. Den de black-smif, he gun ter cry en beg, en he beg so hard en he cry so loud dat de Bad Man say he make a trade wid ’im. At de een’ er one year de sperit er de blacksmif wuz to be his’n en endurin’ er dat time de blacksmif mus’ put in his hottes’ licks in de intruss er de Bad Man, en den he put a spell on de cheer de blacksmif was settin’ in, en on his sludge-hammer. De man w’at sot in de cheer couldn’t git up less’n de blacksmif let ’im, en de man w’at pick up de sludge ’ud hatter keep on knockin’ wid it twel de blacksmif say quit; en den he gun ’im money plenty, en off he put.

“De blacksmif, he sail in fer ter have his fun, en he have so much dat he done clean forgot ’bout his contrack, but bimeby, one day he look down de road, en dar he see de Bad Man comin’, en den he know’d de year wuz out. W’en de Bad Man got in de do’, de blacksmif wuz poundin’ ’way at a hoss-shoe, but he wa’n’t so bizzy dat he didn’t ax ’im in. De Bad Man sorter do like he ain’t got no time fer ter tarry, but de blacksmif say he got some little jobs dat he bleedzd ter finish up, en den he ax de Bad Man fer ter set down a minnit; en de Bad Man, he tuck’n sot down, en he sot in dat cheer w’at he done conju’d en, co’se, dar he wuz. Den de blacksmif, he ’gun ter poke fun at de Bad Man, en he ax him don’t he want a dram, en won’t he hitch his cheer up little nigher de fier, en de Bad Man, he beg en he beg, but ’twan’t doin’ no good, kase de blacksmif ’low dat he gwineter keep ’im dar twel he prommus dat he let ’im off one year mo’, en, sho nuff, de Bad Man prommus dat ef de black-smif let ’im up he give ’im a n’er showin’. So den de blacksmif gun de wud, en de Bad Man sa’nter off down de big road, settin’ traps en layin’ his progance fer ter ketch mo’ sinners.

“De nex’ year hit pass same like t’er one. At de ’p’inted time yer come de Ole Boy atter de blacksmif, but still de blacksmif had some jobs dat he bleedzd ter finish up, en he ax de Bad Man fer ter take holt er de sludge en he he’p ’im out; en de Bad Man, he ’low dat r’er’n be disperlite, he don’t keer ef he do hit ’er a biff er two; en wid dat he grab up de sludge, en dar he wuz ’gin, kase he done conju’d de sludge so dat whosomedever tuck ’er up can’t put ’er down less’n de blacksmif say de wud. Dey perlaver’d dar, dey did, twel bimeby de Bad Man he up’n let ’im off n’er year.

“Well, den, dat year pass same ez t’er one. Mont’ in en mont’ out dat man wuz rollin’ in dram, en bimeby yer come de Bad Man. De blacksmif cry en he holler, en he rip ’roun’ en t’ar his ha’r, but hit des like he didn’t, kase de Bad Man grab ’im up en cram ’im in a bag en tote ’im off. W’iles dey wuz gwine ’long dey come up wid a passel er fokes w’at wuz havin’ wanner deze yer fote er July bobbycues, en de Ole Boy, he ’low dat maybe he kin git some mo’ game, en w’at do he do but jine in wid um. He jines in en he talk politics same like t’er fokes, twel bimeby dinnertime come ’roun’, en dey ax ’im up, w’ich ’greed wid his stummuck, en he pozzit his bag underneed de table ’longside de udder bags w’at de hongry fokes’d brung.

“No sooner did de blacksmif git back on de groun’ dan he ’gun ter wuk his way outer de bag. He crope out, he did, en den he tuck’n change de bag. He tuck’n tuck a n’er bag en lay it down whar dish yer bag wuz, en den he crope outer de crowd en lay low in de underbresh.

“Las’, w’en de time come fer ter go, de Ole Boy up wid his bag en slung her on his shoulder, en off he put fer de Bad Place. W’en he got dar he tuck’n drap de bag off’n his back en call up de imps, en dey des come a squallin’ en a caperin’, w’ich I speck dey mus’ a bin hongry. Leas’ways dey des swawm’d ’roun’, hollerin’ out:

“‘Daddy, w’at you brung—daddy, w’at you brung?’

“So den dey open de bag, en lo en behol’s, out jump a big bull-dog, en de way he shuck dem little imps wuz a caution, en he kep’ on gnyawin’ un um twel de Ole Boy open de gate en t’un ’im out.”

“And what became of the blacksmith?” the little boy asked, as Uncle Remus paused to snuff the candle with his fingers.

“I’m drivin’ on ’roun’, honey. Atter ’long time, de blacksmif he tuck’n die, en w’en he go ter de Good Place de man at de gate dunner who he is, en he can’t squeeze in. Den he go down ter de Bad Place, en knock. De Ole Boy, he look out, he did, en he know’d de blacksmif de minnit he laid eyes on ’im; but he shake his head en say, sezee:

“‘You’ll hatter skuze me, Brer Blacksmif, kase I dun had ’speunce ’longer you. You’ll hatter go some’rs else ef you wanter raise enny racket,’ sezee, en wid dat he shet do do’.

“En dey do say,” continued Uncle Remus, with unction, “dat sense dat day de blacksmif bin sorter huv’rin’ ’roun’ ’twix’ de heavens en de ye’th, en dark nights he shine out so fokes call ’im Jacky-my-lantern. Dat’s w’at dey tells me. Hit may be wrong er’t maybe right, but dat’s w’at I years.”


Footnotes[edit]

  1. This story is popular on the coast and among the rice-plantations, and, since the publication of some of the animal-myths in the newspapers, I have received a version of it from a planter in southwest Georgia; but it seems to me to be an intruder among the genuine myth-stories of the negroes. It is a trifle too elaborate. Nevertheless, it is told upon the plantations with great gusto, and there are several versions in circulation.