Uncle Remus: His Songs and His Sayings/The Fourth of July
XXI. The Fourth of July
Uncle Remus made his appearance recently with his right arm in a sling and his head bandaged to that extent that it looked like the stick made to accompany the Centennial bass-drum. The old man evidently expected an attack all around, for he was unusually quiet, and fumbled in his pockets in an embarrassed manner. He was not mistaken. The agricultural editor was the first to open fire:
“Well, you old villain! what have you been up to now?”
“It is really singular,” remarked a commencement orator, “that not even an ordinary holiday—a holiday, it seems to me, that ought to arouse all the latent instincts of patriotism in the bosom of American citizens—can occur without embroiling some of our most valuable citizens. It is really singular to me that such a day should be devoted by a certain class of our population to broils and fisticuffs.”
This final moral sentiment, which was altogether an impromptu utterance, and which was delivered with the air of one who addresses a vast but invisible audience of young ladies in white dresses and blue sashes, seemed to add to the embarrassment of Uncle Remus, and at the same time to make an explanation necessary.
“Dey ain’t none er you young w’ite men never had no ’casion fer ter strike up wid one er deze Mobile niggers?” asked Uncle Remus. “’Kaze ef you iz, den you knows wharbouts de devilment come in. Show me a Mobile nigger,” continued the old man, “an’ I’ll show you a nigger dat’s marked for de chain-gang. Hit may be de fote er de fif’ er July, er hit may be de twelf’ er Jinawerry, but w’en a Mobile nigger gits in my naberhood right den an’ dar trubble sails in an’ ’gages bode fer de season. I speck I’m ez fon’ er deze Nunited States ez de nex’ man w’at knows dat de Buro is busted up; but long ez Remus kin stan’ on his hin’ legs no Mobile nigger can’t flip inter dis town longer no Wes’ P’int ’schushun an’ boss ’roun’ ’mong de cullud fokes. Dat’s me, up an’ down, an’ I boun’ dere’s a nigger some’rs on de road dis blessid day dat’s got dis put away in his ’membunce.”
“How did he happen to get you down and maul you in this startling manner?” asked the commencement orator, with a tone of exaggerated sympathy in his voice.
“Maul who?” exclaimed Uncle Remus, indignantly. “Maul who? Boss, de nigger dat mauled me ain’t bornded yit, an’ dey er got ter have anudder war ’fo’ one is bo’nded.”
“Well, what was the trouble?”
“Hit wuz sorter dis way, boss. I wuz stannin’ down dere by Mars John Jeems’s bank, chattin’ wid Sis Tempy, w’ich I ain’t seed ’er befo’ now gwine on seven year, an’ watchin’ de folks trompin’ by, w’en one er deze yer slick-lookin’ niggers, wid a bee-gum hat an’ a brass watch ez big ez de head uv a beerbar’l, come long an’ bresh up agin me—so. Dere wuz two un um, an’ dey went long gigglin’ an’ laffin’ like a nes’ful er yaller-hammers. Bimeby dey come long agin an’ de smart Ellick brush up by me once mo’. Den I say to myse’f, ‘I lay I fetch you ef you gimme anudder invite.’ An’, sho’ ’nuff, yer he come agin, an’ dis time he rub a piece er watermillion rime under my lef’ year.”
“What did you do?”
“Me? I’m a mighty long-sufferin’ nigger, but he hadn’t no mo’n totch me ’fo’ I flung dese yer bones in his face.” Here Uncle Remus held up his damaged hand triumphantly. “I sorter sprained my han’, boss, but dog my cats if I don’t b’leeve I spattered de nigger’s eyeballs on de groun’, and w’en he riz his count’nence look fresh like beef-haslett. I look mighty spindlin’ an’ puny now, don’t I, boss?” inquired the old man, with great apparent earnestness.
“Well, you des oughter see me git my Affikin up. Dey useter call me er bad nigger long ’fo’ de war, an hit looks like ter me dat I gits wuss an’ wuss. Brer John Henry say dat I oughter supdue my rashfulness, an’ I don’t ’spute it, but tu’n a Mobile nigger loose in dis town, fote er July or no fote er July, an’, me er him, one is got ter lan’ in jail. Hit’s proned inter me.”