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THE STORY OF LI’L’ HANNIBAL
Once on a time, ‘way down South, there lived a little boy named Hannibal, Li’l’ Hannibal. He lived along with his gran’mammy and his gran’daddy in a li’l’ one-story log cabin that was set right down in a cotton field. Well, from morning until night, Li’l’ Hannibal’s gran’mammy kept him toting things. As soon as he woke up in the morning it was:

“Oh, Li’l’ Hannibal, fetch a pine knot and light the kitchen fire.”

“Oh, Li’l’ Hannibal, fetch the teakettle to the well and get some water for the tea.”

“Oh, Li’l’ Hannibal, mix a li’l’ hoecake for your gran’daddy’s brea’fus’.”

“Oh, Li’l’ Hannibal, take the bunch of 98turkeys’ feathers and dust the ashes off the hearth.”

And from morning until night, Li’l’ Hannibal’s gran’daddy kept him toting things, too.

“Oh, Li’l’ Hannibal,” his gran’daddy would say, “fetch the corn and feed the turkeys.”

“Oh, Li’l’ Hannibal, take your li’l’ ax and chop some lightwood for gran’mammy’s fire.”

“Oh, Li’l’ Hannibal, run ‘round to the store and buy a bag of flour.”

“Oh, Li’l’ Hannibal, fetch your basket and pick a li’l’ cotton off the edge of the field.”

So they kept poor little Hannibal toting ‘most all day long, and he had only four or five hours to play.

Well, one morning when Li’l’ Hannibal woke up, he made up his mind to something. Before they could ask him to light the kitchen fire, or fill the teakettle, or mix the hoecake, or dust the hearth, or feed the turkeys, or chop any wood, or go to the store, or pick any cotton, he had made up his mind that he was not going to tote for his gran’mammy and 99his gran’daddy any longer. He was going to run away!

So Li’l’ Hannibal got out of bed very quietly. He put on his li’l’ trousers, and his li’l’ shirt, and his li’l’ suspenders, and his li’l’ shoes—he never wore stockings. He pulled his li’l’ straw hat down tight over his ears, and then Li’l’ Hannibal ran away!

He went down the road past all the cabins. He went under the fence and across the cotton fields. He went through the pine grove past the schoolhouse, stooping down low—so the schoolmistress couldn’t see him—and then he went ‘way, ‘way off into the country.

When he was a long way from town, Li’l’ Hannibal met a possum loping along by the edge of the road, and the possum stopped and looked at Li’l’ Hannibal.

“How do? Where you goin’, Li’l’ Hannibal?” asked the possum.

Li’l’ Hannibal sat down by the side of the road and took off his straw hat to fan himself, for he felt quite warm, and he said,

“I done run away, Br’er Possum, my gran’mammy 100and my gran’daddy kept me totin’, totin’ for them all the time. I don’t like to work, Br’er Possum.”

“Po’ Li’l’ Hannibal!” said the possum, sitting up and scratching himself. “Any special place you bound for?”

“I don’t reckon so,” said Li’l’ Hannibal, for he was getting tired, and he had come away without any breakfast.

“You come along with me, Li’l’ Hannibal,” said the possum; “I reckon I kin take you somewhere.”

So the possum and Li’l’ Hannibal went along together, the possum loping along by the side of the road and Li’l’ Hannibal going very slowly in the middle of the road, for his shoes were full of sand and it hurt his toes. They went on and on until they came, all at once, to a sort of open space in the woods and then they stopped. There was a big company there—Br’er Rabbit and Br’er Partridge, and Br’er Jay Bird and Br’er Robin, and Ol’ Miss Guinea Hen.

“Here’s po’ Li’l’ Hannibal come to see 101you,” said the possum. “Li’l’ Hannibal done run away from his gran’mammy and gran’daddy.”

Li’l’ Hannibal hung his head as if he was ashamed, but nobody noticed him. They were all as busy as they could be, and so he just sat down on a pine stump and watched them.

Each one had his own special work and he was keeping at it right smart. Br’er Robin was gathering all the holly berries from the south side of the holly tree and singing as he worked:
“Cheer up, cheer-u-up!”

Br’er Partridge was building a new house down low in the bushes. As he hurried back and forth with twigs, he would stop and drum a little, he felt so happy to be busy.

Br’er Jay Bird was taking corn down below. You know that is what Br’er Jay Bird does all the time. He takes one kernel of corn in his bill to the people down below and then comes back for another. It is a very long trip to take with one kernel of corn, but 102Br’er Jay Bird doesn’t seem to mind how hard he works.

Ol’ Miss Guinea Hen was almost the busiest of the whole company, for she was laying eggs. As soon as ever she laid one she would get up on a low branch and screech, “Catch it! Catch it! Catch it!” like to deafen everybody.

But Li’l’ Hannibal was most interested to see what Br’er Rabbit was doing. Br’er Rabbit had on a li’l’ apron, and he kept bringing things in his market basket. Then he cooked the things over a fire back in the bushes, and when it got to be late in the afternoon, he spread a tablecloth on a big stump and then he pounded on his stewpan with his soup ladle. “Supper’s ready,” said Br’er Rabbit.

Then Br’er Robin, and Br’er Partridge, and Br’er Jay Bird, and Br’er Possum, and Ol’ Miss Guinea Hen all scrambled to their places at the table and Li’l’ Hannibal tried to find a place to sit at, but there wasn’t any.

“Po’ Li’l’ Hannibal!” said Br’er Rabbit as he poured the soup. “Doesn’t like work! 103Doesn’t like to tote for his gran’mammy. Can’t have no supper!”

“Catch him! Catch him!” said Ol’ Miss Guinea Hen, but no one did it. They were all too busy eating.

They had a grand supper. There was breakfast strip, and roast turkey, and fried chicken, and mutton and rice, and hominy and sweet potatoes, and peas and beans, and baked apples, and cabbage, and hoe cake, and hot biscuits, and corn muffins, and butter cakes and waffles and maple syrup.

When they were through eating, it was dark, and they all went home, and they left Li’l’ Hannibal all by himself.

Well, after a while it began to get darker. Br’er Mocking Bird came out, and he looked at Li’l’ Hannibal and then he began to scream, just like Ol’ Miss Guinea Hen,

“Catch him! Catch him! Catch him!” Br’er Screech Owl looked down from a tree and he said very hoarsely:
“Who! Who! Who-oo!”

Then all the frogs began to say, loud and 104shrill, “Li’l’ Hannibal! Li’l’ Hannibal!” like they thought he was deaf.

So Li’l’ Hannibal got up from his pine stump and he said, “I reckon I better go home to my gran’mammy.”

Well, Li’l’ Hannibal started for home slowly, because his feet hurt and he was hungry. When he came to the pine grove by the schoolhouse the shadows came out from behind the trees and followed him, and that was much worse than seeing the schoolmistress. But Li’l’ Hannibal got away from them all right. He crawled under the fence and ran across the cotton field, and there in the door of the cabin was his gran’daddy with a lantern. His gran’daddy had been out looking for Li’l’ Hannibal.

“Why, Li’l’ Hannibal, where you been all day?” asked his gran’daddy.

“Oh, Li’l’ Han’,” said his gran’mammy, “here’s your corn mush. I kep’ it warm on the hearth, but afore you eat your supper, Li’l’ Han, jus’ take your li’l’ basket and run ‘round to the chicken house for a couple of eggs.”

105So Li’l’ Hannibal took his li’l’ basket, and he started for those eggs singing all the way. You see, he reckoned he was mighty glad to be at home, and toting again.


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