Old Kit was a fine specimen of the old-fashioned Georgia wagoner, of the glorious old times when locomotives didnt whiz about in every direction. He was brought up on the road, and retained a fondness for his early vocation, though now in comparative affluence. Uncle Kit was sixty years old, we suppose, but the merriest old dog alive; and his chirruping laugh sounded every minute in the day. Particularly fond of female society, his great delight was to plague the womanhood of his household and settlement in every possible way. His waggery, of one sort or other, was incessant; and as he was the patriarch of his neighborhoodhaving transplanted every family in it, with himself, from Georgiahis jokes were all considered good jokes, and few dared be offended at his good-humored satire. Besides all this, Uncle Kit was a devoted Jackson man, and an inveterate hater of all nullifiers: hence the name of his creek.
Two chattels had Mr. Kuncker which he prized beyond all his other possessionsone of these was a big yellow dog that followed the wagon, and among other accomplishments, predicted the future. Uncle Kit called him Andy, in honor of General Jackson. The other favorite was a fine old roan horse, named Fiddler Bill, upon which, when a little drinky, he was wont to exhibit very fair horsemanship in the streets, or rather the street, of Dudleyville.
We were making an entry of somebodys chickens, at a store door in the village just mentioned, one August day, when a familiar hillo! reached our ear, and, turning round, we perceived, some twenty yards off, the quizzical face of our old friend projecting over the fore-gate of his wagon, and puckered into five hundred little wrinkles as he cachinated joyously
Hillo, squire! bless your little union snake-skin, yer Uncle Kits so glad to see you, ha! ha! Im jist back from Wetumpky, because, ya! You see, yer Uncle Kits been down to get the trimmins for Niece Susys weddin next Thursday night. You must come over squireits Jim Spraggins thats gwine to pick up Suse; you see yer Uncle Kit waited for you twell he found you wouldnt talk it out, he! he! ha!come over, as I was a-sayin, and you kin take the sensis of the whole krick at one settin, and buss all the gals besides, he! a! yah! yah!
We thanked Uncle Kit, and told him we would come; whereupon the jovial old fellow whistled to Andywho had stepped into the grocery, thinking that, of course, his master would stop there, anyhowclucked to Fiddler Bill, who worked in the lead, cracked the steers at the wheels, and so started.
You must be sure to come, squire, said Uncle Kit, stopping his team so as to be heard; yer Aunt Hetty will look for you certain, he! he!and if she can raise somethin for you to eat, and a year or two o corn for your horse, any way in the world, you will be as welcome to it as the water that runs; and Mr. Kuncker chuckled terribly at the bare idea of our Aunt Hettys being straitened to provide viands for animals human or equine!
We repeated our assurances that we should attend; and Uncle Kit, reassuming the lines, saidWell, now Im off sure, squire. God bless you and Ginnel Jackson, and dn the nullifiers! Wake up, Fid! Good-byand rolled off.
Once again, however, he stopped and shouted back, Dont be afeard to come! Yer Uncle Kit has fust-rate spring-water allers on hand! and he chuckled longer than before at the wit of calling corn-whisky spring-water; and put his finger by the side of his old cut-water of a nose. So lively an old dog was Uncle Kit Kuncker.
Bless your union soul, little squire, he said, shaking our extended hand with both of his; yer Uncle Kit is as proud to see you as ef hed a found a silver dollar with a hole through it. Hetty! he shouted, heres the God-blessed little union squire come to see his uncle! Come out and see him, he! he! yah! and, mind and throw a meal-bag, or somethin else over your head, twell my little squire gits sorter usen to the big ugly! Make haste, you old dried-up witch! Ef you cant find the bag, take yer apern! he! he! e! a! yah! and Uncle Kit laughed till he cried.
Sorter shade your eyes, long at fust, squire, remarked Uncle Kit, as he busied himself in stripping our steed when you look at yer Aunt Hetty. The uglys out on her wuss nor the small-pox! ha! ha! yah! and Im bound to keep it out too, wi all sorts o warm teas. The Lord will be mighty apt to call her home ef ever it strikes in, Im a-thinkinand Uncle Kit laughed again, while he placed our saddle upon the fence, with twenty others.
Come in, squire, said Aunt Hetty, or that poor, light-hearted old critter ill laugh hisself to death; and we walked with her into Mr. Kunckers neat, framed dwellingthe only building of the sort on Union Creek.
The big room of Uncle Kits house was full of light and of company. Most of the latter were known to us, but there were some strange faces; and with these we determined to get acquainted as soon as possible. A little removed from the bustling part of the congregation we observed a fat woman, of middle age, with a sleepy expression of face. A little way from her feet, and sprawling on the floor, was a chubby child, about eighteen months old, whose little coat was pinned up, by the hem behind, to its collar; thus leaving no inconsiderable portion of its person exposed. Here, thought we, is an interesting family; lets take it down; and approaching the dame, we drew our papers, having first saluted her.
Sally! oh, Sally Heston, do run here, said Mrs. Naronfor that proved to be her nameef here aint the man weve hearn so much bout! Heres the chicken-man! I do wonder, she continued, surveying us from crown to soul; well, hits the slimmest crittir, to be sure, ever I seed. Hits legs, I do declar, is not as big as my Thomas Jeffersons. Come here, Thomas Jefferson, and let manne thee af your legth aint ath big ath hitthen, addressing the youngster on the floor.
But Thomas Jefferson did not heed the invitation, but continued to dabble and splash in a little pool of water, which had somehow got there, as proud, apparently, of his sans-culottism as ever his illustrious namesake could have been of his.
Thomas Jefferson did hear this time, and hastened to obey. He raised himself up, spread out his fat arms to preserve his equilibrium, turned half round, lost it, and was instantly seated in the miniature pool with a splash that sent several droplets into his mothers face.
Mrs. Naron flew at the child with an energy that contrasted strongly with her oleaginous appearance; and seizing him by the middle, held him up inverted, with one hand, while with the other she inflicted what, in our nursery days, would have been called a sound spanking, which finished, she reseated herself, and brought him down in a sitting position upon her knee, with sufficient violence to produce a sudden abbreviation of as dreadful a howl as ever vexed human ear.
We didnt altogether relish these indications of a vivacious temperament in Mrs. Naron, and accordingly made our examination as short and smooth as possible. And when she demurred to furnishing the statistical information, because she never had done sich a thing afore, we admitted the cogency of the reason, and pressed the matter no further; for we were convinced that the government did not expect its officers to run the risk of what Master Thomas Jefferson Naron had got, merely to add another dozen yards of cloth, or score of chickens, to the estimated wealth of the country.
There was now a slight bustle in one corner, for which, at first, we couldnt account. It was among a group of young persons, male and female, who appeared to be urging one of their number to do something which he was unwilling, or affected to be unwilling, to do. Do now, Pete. Oh, you kinyou know you kin. Pshaw! I wouldnt be a fool! Jist this one time, Pete, were some of the exclamations and expostulations that we heard. They were not without effect: a young man in a blue coat, with big brass buttons, cleared his throat, and commenced singing, to a tune whiningly dolorous, nasal, unvaried, and interminable, the popular ditty of
The Old Bachelare
Come, while you set silent, Ill have you to hear,
The truth or a lie, from an old bachelare:
Theyll set and theyll think, twell they war out their brains,
Before this verse was half-finished, Andy (the dog), who was coiled up in the entry, commenced a howling accompaniment, worse even than the vocalism of Mr. Peter Marks, who looked vexed and confused, and stopped singing.
I wouldnt mind it, Peter, said good old Mrs. Kuncker, who now approached; I wouldnt mind it. Its nothin but that dratted yaller brute of old Kits, and, bless the Lord, its jist the way he does me, constanthis masters larnt it to himI never kin begin to sing, I rode on the sky, quite ondestified I, or Primrose, or Zion, or any of them sperechal himes, but what the stinkin, yaller cuss strikes up his everlastin howl, and jist makes me quit whether or no! and Aunt Hetty went and drove Andy away!
He! he! yah! yah! e-e- yah! chuckled Uncle Kitaint Andy got a noble vice? Aint he, squire? yah! yah! He sings bass, and yer Aunt Hetty sings tribble, and Im gwine to git a middlin-size dog to sing tenor, and then well be fixedhe! he! yah!and you must come over every other Sunday to yer Uncle Kits singing schoollaughing immoderately at the conceit.
The applause being loud and enthusiastic, Mr. Marks passed his right hand over his well-tallowed side locks, glanced at the buttons of his coat, cleared his throat, and proceeded to give the other side of the picture:
But when you are gone, your wife will prepar
A dish of fine dainties, or somethin thats rar;
Andy, by this time, had got under the house, and accompanied the singer in the two last lines and the chorus, without any particular reference to time, but with an earnestness that showed that the love of music was in his soul. Mr. Marks bit his lips and frowned, but as he had only one more verse to sing, determined to try and get through with it:
My poor dog! exclaimed Mr. Kuncker, affecting great anxiety, my poor dog has got tangled up in that cussed tune, and ll choke hisself to death! Rim, Jimto his sonand ontie the blasted thing, or cut it in two! yah e-e yah! yah! yaw!
Couldnt you give us somethin sperechal before you go? asked Uncle Kit, your Aunt Hetty and Andys tip-top on sperechal songs; and the wrinkles on Mr. Kunckers face formed themselves into fifty little smilets.
Old oman! said Uncle Kit passionately, Ill take that dog kleen awaythinking, in the energy of his own affection for Andy, that the announcement would have a decidedly painful effect upon the mind of his wifeand you never shall set eyes upon him agin, as long as you live!
Well! well! Christopher, old man! said Aunt Hetty, in a conciliatory tone; dont be aggrawated. I oughtent to fret you, I know; and ef Andyll behave hisself like a decent doglike Bull Wilkerson, now, for a sample, which never comes in the hou
Thar aintsaid Uncle Kit, swelling with indignation at the indirect attack upon the morals of his dogthar aint a dog of a better karackter in the settlement than Andy KunckerBull Wilkerson or no Bull Wilkerson! No! thar aint no better nor no gentlemanlier a dog in the whole county than Andy! Savin the presence of this kumpny, Ill be damned ef thar is! and having so spoken, Mr. Kuncker went out to seek his dog and console him in his afflictions.
As soon as Mr. Kuncker returned, the couple desirous of matrimony took the floor, and Squire Berry united them in the bonds of wedlock after the most summary fashion. Uncle Kit then announced that some cold scraps were to be found in an adjoining roomwhich said cold scraps consisted, principally, of one or two half-grown hogs baked brown; two or three very fat turkeys; a hind quarter of beef; together with about a half wagon-load of bread, cake, pies, stewed fruit, and so forth.
Squire! squire! dont set thar! said Uncle Kit, addressing himself to us as we were taking a chair among the masculine portion of the guests; oh, no! he! yah! yah! your Uncle Kit didnt bring you here for that, yah! yah! yah! Heres a little gal has never had her sensis taken, and I want you to see ef you kant git em, yah! yah! and Uncle Kit forced us into a chair, greatly against our will, by the side of Miss Winny Folsom, a very pretty girl, with a pouting mouth. Mr. Kuncker drew up a chair behind us.
Standing near Uncle Kits back, we observed a young man who, somehow or other, took a great apparent interest in either Miss Winny or ourself; but he said nothing. He was a rare specimen of the piney-woods species of the genus homo. His face was not unhandsome, but he had a considerable stoop of the shoulders, and was knock-kneed to deformity. His coat was blue mixed, with a very acute terminus, and it seemed to have a particular affection for the hump of his shoulders, for it touched no other part of his person. His pantaloons were of buff cassimeremost probably bought at second-handand contracted, from excessive washing, or some other cause, to a painful scantiness. There was a white streak between his vest and the waistband, and a red one between the ends of the legs and the tops of his white cotton socks. A pair of red-leather straps, some twenty inches long, exerted themselves to keep the legs down to this mark; but every time that Mr. Isaac Hetsonthat was his namestooped, the pantaloons had slightly the advantage, by reason of the superior elasticity of the straps, and the red streak was, on every such occasion, made a little wider.
We endeavored to make ourselves agreeable to Miss Winny, of course, and during the whispering of one of those confidential nothings common in such circumstances our head came almost in contact with hers. Seizing the opportunity, Mr. Kuncker brought his close up, and with his lips produced such an explosion as might have resulted had we kissed Miss Winny.
Ha! exclaimed the old fellow, starting back in well-feigned amazement; at it aready, squire! Well! twas a buster, anyway! whereupon he laughed immoderately, as did most of the company. Miss Winny turned red, and we looked foolishwe suppose.
Dern my everlastin dog-skin ef Ill stand it! said the furious loverIll die in my tracks fust! Im jist as good as town folks, ef they do war shoe-boots and store close. Im jist a hunderd and forty seving pound, neat weight, and Im a wheel-horse! and then Mr. Hetson doubled his fists and shook himself all over, with an energy that looked dangerous, considered in reference to the excessive tightness of his buff cassimeres.
Aunt Hetty now interposedDo, Ikey! do, now, son, dont be fretted sodont be so jealous-hearted! The squire didnt mean no harm in the world, by bussin Winny; and Winny didnt mean none by lettin of him
Oh, well! we all know that, to be sure, said Aunt Hetty. It were jist the romancin of that simple old crittur, thats never easy without hes got somebody in a brile. I wouldnt mind it, Ikey, no moren I would
A general rushsupper being overto the big room followed this announcement, and Uncle Kit whistled Andy into the house. The dog-prophet came in slowly and crouchingly, for the fear of his mistress was before his eyes; and as he got opposite Mrs. Kuncker he emitted a deprecatory whine, and with a bound attained his masters legs. Aunt Hetty, however, made no attempt to strike him.
Now, Andy, boy, said Uncle Kit, Ive fetched you in here to tell all about Miss Winny Folsoms fortin; and you must do it mighty nice and good, for shes a pretty little union gal! He then set about drawing a huge circle and several smaller circles within, and an immense number of radii and, between these, rude representations of animals, both real and fabulouswhile Andy sat by, wagging his tail and looking very intelligent.
It a-i-n-t rightit a-i-n-t right!its a-g-i-n Scriptur! said Granny Whipple, shaking her head, and dwelling on the italicized words as she surveyed the necromantic operations of old Kityoure a-doin of a w-r-o-n-g thing, Christopher Kuncker! I t-e-l-l you you are! But Mr. Kuncker only laughed at Granny Whipple.
Well, now, replied Mrs. Wilkerson, I dont know what tu say. Its a mighty strange thing how knowin some brutes is. Thars my Cherry cow, I raaly blieve the critter knows when Im a-gwine to feed her jist as well as I do my own dear self! That minute I picks up my tub to go and tote her the slops, shell moo, and moo, and moo. And the knowinest look out of her eyes you ever seen a critter have in all your days!
Its a mighty hard thing, said Aunt Hetty, a mighty hard thing to spend a pinion pon. Sometimes I think its only Kits devilmentand then, agin, the dog do tell sich quar things, looks like Im bleeged to think he knows. Last week, I blieve it wasyes, only last weekJim Hissup fotch a two-gallon jug o sperrets home, for the old man, from town. Well! Kit he spicioned Jim o drinkin some on the way, but Jim denied it mighty bitter. So the old man foch Andy in the house, and Andy give the sign that Jim had tuk some! and then Jim right away owned to it, and told the old man how much he tuk, which was two drinks, as nigh as I can remember!
I dont believe nothin about it, said a withered old crone, as she sucked away industriously to prevent her pipe going out; I know Andy can tell whatll happen. Brutes, in a common wayshe continued aphoristically, as she pushed down the tobacco in the bowl of her pipe with her forefingeris more knowiner an humans. Did ye ever hear, mongst ye, of the snake at John Greens?
Jest as I tells yethar it was! and it licked out its tongueit did, as sures youre bornright at the widder, and looked the venomousest ever was! Well, she run in the house and fainted right away; and ef youll blieve me, the very next week, her little boy, as can jest run about, swallowed a punkin seed, and like to a died. Ef its uncle hadnt a hit it on the back and a made the punkin seed fly out, that child never would a drawd another breath no morenshah! you may tell me that snakes and dogs dont know things, but and Granny Richards didnt finish the sentence, but bobbed her head emphatically, as much as to say that she couldnt be humbugged by any such assertions.
Everything was now ready: the rings, the radii, the serpents, the bats, the unicorns, and the scorpions, all complete; and Andy was seen seated in the exact center of the whole, upon his hind legs, and looking very wise.
Yes! said Uncle Kit, mentally contrasting Andy with Mrs. Kunckers favorite; Bull Wilkerson would look devlish well, settin thar on his hind legs. Bull Wilkerson! He aint got the power about him! Then, explaining to the company that Andy would throw off the cheese without attempting to catch it, if he wished to express a negative, but would toss it up and receive it in his jaws, should he intend to speak affirmatively, he placed a slice of home-made cheese upon the dogs nose.
The company stood around, but outside of the largest circle, Ike Hetsons protruding head thrust farther toward Andy and old Kit than anybody elses. His face was anxious and cadaverous, but he strove to suppress his feelings.
Andy threw the cheese on the floor, and thereupon several old women screamed; and the Adams apple of Mr. Hetsons neck became a very large pippin, in his attempt to swallow his grief. I knowd it! said he, in tones the most dolorous, while the corners of his mouth twitched involuntarily and spasmodically.
Andy dashed gallantly at Mr. Hetson, and, seizing one of his red-leather straps, tore it on one side from the buff cassimere, which, frightened from its propriety by the display of canine teeth, retreated, instanter, to the neighborhood of Mr. Hetsons knee! In his struggle to get away from the dog, Ike fell backward over Master Thomas Jefferson Naron; and as his bare and unstrapped leg flew up, nearly at right angles with his bodywhile its fellow, held quiet by leather and cassimere, lay rigid along the flooran uproarious shout of laughter at the grotesque spectacle shook the whole house.
Well! said the poor fellow as he got up on his freed legthe other wouldnt workthe jigs up nowtaint no use to make a fuss about itbut I wouldnt mind it so bad, ef twarnt that he was to git her. Anyhow, Im off for the Arkansaw!good-by, Winny! And off he did go, in spite of old Mrs. Kunckers most strenuous efforts to detain him, and convince him, that Andy didnt know a thing about it no moren the man in the moon!
Well, its yer Uncle Kits fault! He will have his fun, yah! yah! and Ike Hetsons e-e-yah-yah! Never mind; come over next week, and yer Uncle Kit will go all through the settlement wi you, and down on the river, and to Jim Kents, which has got a sister so ugly the flies wont light on her facewuss nor yer Aunt Hetty, yah! yah! And yer Uncle Kit will tell you how he and his Jim fooled the man from the big-norrod outen Fiddler Bill as we go long; and Becky Kent will tell you bout the frolic me and her had in the krick, the time she started to mill and didnt git thar, yah, yah, e-e-e-yah!