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 great trouble. “What’s the matter, Uncle Remus?” the youngster asked. “Nuff de matter, honey—mo’ dan 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 witch-stirrups.”
“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 boy.
“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 confidential tone:
“Uncle Remus, what are witches like?”
“Dey comes diffunt,” 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