The Tar Baby and the Tomahawk: Race and Ethnic Images in American Children's Literature, 1880-1939


How Jube Waked the Elephant.

(A story of a dreadfully naughty little Black Boy.)

JUBE'S life, ever since he could remember, had been spent in "Ole Isrul's" cabin, underneath a spur of the Alleghanies,— and a very happy-go-lucky life it was.

After "freedom come," Israel and Hannah, Jube's nearest of kin, had drifted from the cotton-fields of the Mississippi back to "Ole Virginny," and to their old life of tobacco-raising on the Alleghany slopes. They had brought Jube with them, the motherless boy having from babyhood, as Hannah expressed it, "been fotch up by her hand in the way he or' ter go." If ever "fotch [illustration - "Jube dodged the blow."] up" in the way he should go, the boy, at twelve years of age, had widely departed therefrom, for no more mischievous spirit than naughty little Jube infested the turnpike leading from the cabin to the village beyond.

The day came, however, when Jube was made to pay off at least a part of the score being continually added up against him. Yet the boy himself did not imagine that such a day of reckoning had arrived on that sunshiny morning, when he arose early to deck himself for a holidau, which was to be given entirely to the enjoyment of Forepaugh's Great Circus and Menagerie. Twice before, during that week, he had made a pilgrimage to the village, and had spent hours, each time, inspecting the wonderful display of show-papers glaring everywhere. Such riders, such vaulters, such gymnasts, surely had never been known before, even to Jube's vivid imagination. Such animals, too! the sacred bull, the ibex, the llama, the rhinoceros, fiercer than the lion, and the royal Bengal tiger, fiercer that the fiercest of all besides.

"Ki, yi, Juba!" saluted Aunt Hannah, as the boy rushed into her cabin that morning, his white eyeballs rolling, and his red lips parted in grins of delight. "Isrul, what you s'pose is up wid this nigger, now?"

"Humph!" grunted the cabin's patriarch, puffing, in the breaks of his sentences, volumes of smoke from his short corn-cob pipe. "I 'specs dat boy, Hannah"—puff—"has jes' done"— puff, puff, puff— "gone crazy ober"—puff— "Foreper's surcuss."

"What dat you say? Foreper's surcuss? Juba, whar dat money you fetch me fur de garden-sass an' dem eggs? Ef you jes' done bruk one ob dem dozen eggs wid yer capers, I'll Foreper's surcuss you, see ef I don't."

Jube dodged a blow from the hand that had "fotch him up," and proceeded without delay to give up every farthing of his evening's sales.

Aunt Hannah deigned to give a grunt of satisfaction as the last penny was counted into her hand. The Jube sidled into the corner of the hearth where "Ole Isrul" sat enjoying his pipe. He stood for a moment digging his toes into the cracks of the hearth.

"Daddy!" he drawled, by and by. "Daddy!"

No answer. "Ole Isrul" never so much as winked an eyelash, but sat smoking his pipe as unresponsive as a Camanche Indian.

"Daddy, say! May n't I go to Foreper's nagerie? My! it's a show what is a show. There's beasts an' beasts— but it's the elerphunt what beats all holler! Whew! Daddy, dat elerphunt's a whale, I tell yer!"

"Juba," said Aunt Hannah, severely, "what you sayin'—eh? De elerphunt am not a whale. How kin it be? It's agin natur'."

Jube subsided.

"Daddy," he whispered, after a few more desperate digs into the seams of the hearth, and under cover of the clatter of Hannah's supper dishes,—"Daddy, may n't I go?"

"Whar to—whar to, Jube?"


"To Forper's 'nagerie. You is gwine fur ter le' me go? Aint yer, Daddy?"

"Sartain, boy; sartain—ef yer kin find a silver mine 'twixt now an' show-day."

Jube looked disheartened for a moment. The his face brightened. He was not lacking in expedients, and it was a great matter to have "Daddy's" consent. He began to do a double shuffle, but bought up in short order as he caught Aunt Hannah's eyes turned upon him.

"You, Jube! You jis' shuffle out 'er dis, an' hang dat last load ob tobaccy-cuttin's on de scaffold, down by de tree."

Jube obeyed with alacrity, as he felt it would not do to provoke "Mammy's" ire at that critical stage of his plottings. Having tossed up the pile of tobacco waiting for him, he quickly mounted upon the shed, in order to hang up the cuttings for drying. The scaffold was a swinging one, supported on its lower side by forked stakes driven into the ground, while on the back, or higher side, the horizontal poles supporting the stems were, after the shiftless manner of Jube's race, suspended by grape-vine twists to the low, spreading boughs of an oak tree. The tree itself should have been in the prime of strength and beauty, but, like a parasite, the clinging scaffold had, through years of gnawing, eaten into it, until now many of its lower branches were quite dead. Jube, however, briskly hanging the tobacco, while marvelously preserving his balance on the swaying poles, was not concerning himself with the fate of this tree. His brain, active as it was, had enough work to do to work out the problem "Daddy" had set for it to solve. How was he to find that silver mine? Just two days more and Forepaugh's menagerie would make its grand entry into the village. Now, Jube was an expert at treeing coons, and had ceased to boast of the ground-hog and rabbit burrows which he had found—but a silver mine! That was different. He didn't believe "Daddy" himself had ever found one of them, though with a witch-hazel he had found more than one under-ground spring. But a silver mine! "Jeemes's River!" said Jube to himself; "how I wish a witch-hazel would point to one of them!"

But suddenly Jube narrowed his range of fancy to a more promising field.

If he could find a silver dollar, wouldn't "Daddy" think that the next thing to a silver mine? He had heard tell it took acres to make a silver mine— but a silver dollar a smart boy like him might find in a sheep's track, or thereabouts. A cunning look twinkled in the corners of the boy's eyes. He gave the tobacco a final shove with his toes, then leaped down and went whistling back to report to Aunt Hannah, and have his share of the mush and milk, for which his afternoon's work had given him a hearty relish.

Next morning, two of Aunt Hannah's biggest melons were missing from the patch, and a brace of her fattest capons from the roost; but suspicion was diverted from the real culprit by the tracks of huge shoes feely displayed throughout the patch.

"'Pears to me, Isrul," said the woe-begone Hannah, "dat theif mus' have wore shoes made upon his own las'— I nebber saw sich a foot on any ob my acquaintance."

"Dat's so, Hanner; dat's gospel truf. Der aint no sich build of foot sca'cely sence de days ob Goli-er."

Yet, as Hannah turned off in perplexed thought, the old sinner slyly thrust forward his own huge shoes, giving a significant poke with the bowl of his pipe at the sand and clay filling the coarse seams.

"Ki," he inwardly chuckled, "dat boy Jube better not let de ole 'ooman know how close under her nose he done 'skiver his silver mine. She'll have her shere of intrus' off o' him, shore as yer born."

But Jube was as sly as he was naughty. Aunt Hannah was unsuspecting.

"Juba," she said, tenderly, "ef I had the money, you should go ter Foreper's 'nagerie tomorrow."

Jube was prompt to seize his golden opportunity.

"Ef I earned the money, Mammy, mought I go?"

"Ye-es," drawled "Mammy," cooling a little; "ef Isrul s'poses he kin spar' yer from the 'baccy gathering, yer mought."

"Ef yer fines the silver mine, Jube, ef yer fines the silver mine, yer kin go," said Israel, pressing in the feathery ashes of his pipe with the horny tip of his finger.

This time, Jube executed a double shuffle in good earnest, and returned to the tobacco-field much relieved. That afternoon, when he went to the pasture for the cow, he turned old Brindle's nose homeward, and hurried off to the village to do a little trading on his own account. For this, Hannah had a well-seasoned hickory laid up for him when he came back, but Jube knew her weak point, and when he had hauled forth a whole quarter of a pound of good tea, "which," he said, "a feller at a store had gin him for runnin' of a arrant," she was so touched by his thought of her, that the rod was quietly slipped out of sight, and Jube felt quite enough in favor to exhibit the tiny square of cardboard which he had brought back as the result of his stolen expedition. Hannah's curiosity was at once aroused by the mysterious signs thereon.

"What's dis Juba?"

Why lor', Mammy! Dat's a ticket of 'mission to Foreper's surcuss."


"Dat is? Sho, now! An' what's dis writin', Jube? You is a scholard. What do de writin' say?"

"It says to le' me into Foreper's 'nagerie an' big show," said Jube, who, having enjoyed three [illustration - "The beast lifted him quickly down from his perch."] months of educational advantages at a free school, felt competent to render a free translation of the hieroglyphics which so puzzled his illiterate relative.

"Well, land o' Canaan!" ejaculated Aunt Hannah. "But whar did yer git it, Juba?"

Jube was ready for the question, and he assured her that "one of Foreper's surcuss-men had gin it to him fur carryin' of his nags to water."

Hannah did not look convinced, but she had learned discretion in "argufyin'" with Jube, so contented herself with a word of "warnin', by saing: "Remembah, you Jube, ef you's a foolin' me, de truf will out some day!"

Jube, however, was content to rish any calamity, if it should only come after he had enjoyed one day with Forepaugh's circus. And he had his day, for next morning, as we have said, he was up and dressed betimes, and, indeed, was well on his way to the village before the sun had lifted his head above the eastern hills.

Such a day of rare fun and jollity as that was for Jube! His dusky skin fairly glowed and glistened with the fullness of his delight. In all the twelve years of his life he had never been to a circus, so, even before he had reached the climax of wonders under the canvas of this one, he had decided, like the Queen of Sheba, that he had not been told the half of the glories he was to see.

The grande entree was of itself a stupendous revelation to him. Was there on the earth such another glittering line of men, women, horses, and band-wagons? There, too, were cages of wild beasts, poking out here a great foot and there a ferocious head, or the whole terrible animal pacing restlessly. But the elephant was, as Jube had told "Ole Isrul," the wonder of all.

"My! Aint he a whale!" he said, under his breath, as if fearful his words might reach Aunt Hannah.

And just here we may chronicle that Jube had an adventure with this gigantic brute before the day was done. Not content with following in the wake of his Indian majesty through the whole morning, the boy, in the afternoon, formed part of an admiring retinue accompanying him to and from his bath in the mill-pond, which was the only bath-tub large enough for his high mightiness. As this procession returned through the village, Jube, anxious to secure a more elevated point of observation, rushed ahead of the throng to perch himself upon a projecting ledge of a corner store-house, from which he might view the breadth and length of the elephant's might back; but, in his haste, Jube had not taken note of the fact that he was just at the point where two streets converged— that, but a moment later, the elephant must round the sharp angle, with barely room to crowd himself between the ledge and the irom lamp-post beyond.
He was only made conscious of his predicament when the beast was close upon him. On came the mountain of flesh to crush him to powder! Jube sickened with horror, and turned ashy with fright. He could feel the heated steam arising from the creature's moist sides— those monstrous flanks which would sweep him from where he clung, like a fly from a wall. The great ears flapped at and fanned him— the small, twinkling eyes were turned upon him. A shout or cry of warning and horror went up from the crowd. It was answered by a careless grunt from the elephant, and in an instant his proboscis was thrown into the air. Jube gave himself up for lost. He found himself enfolded as by the coils of a serpent, and immediately there followed a sensation as of flying. Another shout ascended from the crowd, but this time it was a shout of derisive laughter at poor Jube's expense, for the beast had lifted him quickly down from his perch, and dropped him, not too gently, into the middle of the dusty street. His majesty and retinue swept on, leaving poor Jube to whimper, and rub his shins, as he crept into an alley-way close by. He was not much hurt, he found, after an examination of his joints and bones, but he did have a regular ague-chill from the fright, and so felt revengeful enough as he crouched in the shelter of a garden wall to recover his strength and spirits.

"The ole tough-hided, ole stump-footed ole critter! I'll be even wi' 'im yit; ef I don't, I wish er may die," he muttered, nursing his wrath.

Nevertheless, he was quite ready to enjoy the night-exhibition under the canvas, and when the performance was over, he took his last look at the actors, horses, wild beasts, and elephant, regretting heartily that such days could not last forever.

"Only," he thought, sidling past the modern mammoth reposing in state upon his bed of straw, "I should like to git a twist at one o' them tails of his'n— like I twists ole Brindle's, sometimes, when he wont git outen the paster quick. I wonder, now, ef I'd jist stick a pin into dat foremos' one, an' run fer it, ef he'd think't would pay 'im to chase me."

Fortunately, however, discretion, or cowardice, decided Jube not to encounter the risk, so he started home in safety from the village with a party of men and boys going in his direction. Reaching the cabin about midnight, he crept up the outside ladder to his bed in the loft, and was soon rivaling Hannah and Israel in their duct of snores below.

From the overeating or over-excitement of the day, his sleep was not of long duration. He was aroused, an hour or two before dawn, by the sound of wheels passing along the turnpike. In an instant he was wide awake and on the alert.

"Goodness!" he exclaimed, in a quiver of excitement. "Ef't aint Foreper's surcuss and 'nagerie on its travels! Wish-er-may-die, if I don't get one more blink at the elerphunt."

In a trice he had slipped from his bed, and was at the hole in the gable-end which did service for him as door and window. The moonlight was flooding the pike, and, as far as he could see along it, there was passing a ghostly procession of men, horses, vehicles, etc. It was Forepaugh's circus on its move to the neighboring town. Without more ado, Jube, in his airy costume, slipped down the rickety ladder to the ground. He found, near the tumble-down gate, an excellent covert and outlook. Crouching in the clump of Aunt Hannah's privet and lilac bushes, he watched with the utmost zest until every wagon of the lumbering train had rolled past, and disappeared, in shadowy outline, far up the road.

Then his heart sank, heavy as lead. He had not seen the elephant. It must have gone by, ahead of the train. He waited five minutes longer, to see if there were anything more to come. Excepting that a whip-poor-will, dreaming in the big oak-tree upholding Israel's drying tobacco-crop, now and then sounded its plaintive cry, not a sound disturbed the moon-flooded stillness of his watch. Heaving a profound sigh of disappointment, he took one more look up and down the turnpike, and was in the act of turning about to go back into the cabin, when an object some distance down the road caught his attention. He crouched again and waited. Whatever the object was, it drew slowly nearer, momently increasing in proportions, until it loomed up, a ponderous mass, clearly defined within the range of his enchanted vision.

It was Forepaugh's elephant, moving drowsily along. His keeper, riding alongside, seemed half asleep, too, as also did the pony he rode. It was evidently a somnambulistic trio, jogging leisurely along in the wake of Forepaugh's show. But Jube was wide awake, and there was a spirit of mischief awake within him, besides.

"I sed I'd be even wi' the tough-hided, stump-footed ole thing," he chuckled, squaring himself for action. "He skeered me to-day, but I'll gin him sich a skeer, now, as never was."

On came the somnolent three. Directly, they were abreast of the gate behind which crouched the waiting Jube. Suddenly this gate was flung wide on its hinges, and the boy leaped into the road with a screech and a yell, flinging his arms about, and flapping his very scanty drapery almost in the face of the beast. You may believe his Indian majesty napped no longer! In an instant his proboscis was waved frantically in the air, sounding his trump of alarm, the prolonged, screaming whistle fairly deafening its hearers.

Poor Jube had by no means calculated upon this
dire result of his attempt at revenge. His eye-balls rolled, wild and big with terror, as he watched for a second the cloud of dust veiling the wrestling [illustration - "The result of Jube's attempt at revenge] of the fettered beast and his angry guardian. But the struggle was a brief one, as might have been expected from the odds in favor of the elephant. Freed from his keeper, he rushed in pursuit of Jube, pressing him so hotly that he had no time to mount his ladder to the cabin loft. At almost every step, too, the infuriated beast sounded his trump. A roaring blast he gave, as, in his mad haste, he struck against a corner of the cabin, jostling Hannah and Israel from their deep sleep. Terrified out of their wits, the old couple tumbled out upon the floor, and fell upon their knees, thinking it was the horn of Gabriel summoning them from death to judgment. What but destruction and judgment could mean those yells and shouts and bellowings, turning the calm, moon-lit night into pandemonium? Clinging together, and quaking, they managed to reach the door, and to open a crack wide enough to peep through.

"Laws, Isrul!" cried Hannah, falling upon her knees again, all in a tremble. "Isrul, it am the judgment-day, as I is a sinner! An' there goes de debbil now arter Jube! Didn't I alluz say he'd git dat boy, shore? He wouldn't say his pra'rs, ner so much ez min' me, what fotch him up by han'. Come in, Isrul, an' latch the do', fer he'll be arter you nex'. Oh, laws, ef he'll only be satinsfied wi' you and Juba, Isrul! You is wickeder 'an me— wickeder sinners, you know yer is, ole man,—you know yer is."

Her "ole man" attempted no self-defense. With a dexterity quite unusual with him, he had managed to latch and chain the door, but now he was leaning up against the lintel, speechless and knock-kneed with terror.


All at once there was a quick, heavy wrap upon the door.

Hannah howled, and sunk lower on her knees. "It's de debbil!" she whispered, in a sepulchral tone. "He's done come fer yer, Isrul! Speak up, ole man— speak perlite, sorter, an' may be he'll be easy on yer. Answer him, Isrul."

"Who-o—who dar?" chattered Israel, with a dismal whine.

"Open the door!" shouted an angry voice without. "I thought everybody was dead inside there. It's nobody but me— the keeper of Forepaugh's elephant, that's broke loose and will tramp down all your things here, to say nothing of your rascally boy, who ought to be well whipped. The beast will kill him if I can't get a pitchfork, or something. Haven't you a pitchfork somewhere? Hurry— your boy's in a lot of danger! Stir about— will you? Let's have a pitchfork!"

"Ki, yi, Hannah!" exulted Israel, beginning to straighten his bent knees. "Yer debbil's nothin' but Foreper's elerphunt, arter all. Hi—jes' yer run an' fetch the pitchfork fer de gemman."

"Yer go an' git it yerself, Isrul; I is engaged," was his wife's prompt response.

"Hurry up there!" shouted the voice outside. "Fetch me the fork, or the beast will kill your boy, for certain."

"I say," answered "Ole Isrul," with his mouth at the latch-hole— "I say, massa, I'se clean and crippled, an' bed-rid with the rheumatiz, an' the ole 'ooman here, she's skeered clar inter spasims. You'll find the fork in the shed, so jes' help yerself, as we's onable ter, massa."

With loud mutterings of anger, the keeper departed in search of the pitchfork. While he was gone, the elephant had regularly treed Jube. Too closely pressed to secure the shelter of his room in the cabin loft, Jube instinctively had made for the only other acessible place of refuge. Into the big oak-tree he had scrambled, by the aid of the drying-scaffold suspended from its boughs. Nor, thoroughly scared as he was, did he stop in the lower branches. Not knowing what might be the stretching capacity of that awful proboscis which had once enfolded him, he clambered, hand over hand, until at a considerable elevation he reached the second forking of the tree. Perched therein, he took time to draw his breath, and look down at his enemy. Evidently this enemy was determined not to consider himself baffled. He was charging Jube's stronghold with the intrepidity of Napolean's "Old Guard" and the concentrated strength of a battering-ram. But the oak, although its day of kingly glory was past, was stronger than Forepaugh's elephant. Its bare lims trembled under the shock, yet the mighty roots held firm. The blow, however, dislodged the drying-scaffold, so that, broken from its fatal clinging, it fell with a great crash to the ground. In default of other prey, the elephant at once charged upon this framework of poles, with its burden of half-dried tobacco-cuttings. He stamped and tore at and pulled to pieces the structure, tossing the cuttings until his eyes and mouth and proboscis were well filled with the dust of the dried tobacco. Frenzied by the fumes and the taste of the weed he wated with a deadly hatred, as well as maddened by the agony of its smarting and burning, the animal's rage seemed to know no bounds. Overjoyed at his reprieve from destruction, Jube began a faint, hysterical laugh as the infuriated beast plunged and charged, snorting and sneezing, about the tree. At last the elephant sounded his trump again frantically, setting off at the top of his speed for the river flowing at the base of the hill.

So, for a time, the coast was left clear, but Jube was too thoroughly scared to think of deserting his present place of security; and, in a little while, his majesty, relieved of the tobacco, again advanced to the attack. This time he was better armed, having filled his trunk at the river with a copious supply of water. Taking fair aim at poor Jube, he let him have the benefit of the whole stream, blowing it into his face with a directness and force for which the boy was utterly unprepared. Of course his balance was destroyed, and, tumbled from his perch, he doubtless would have fallen headlong to the ground, but that he had the good fortune to land in the fork below, where he was just beyond the reach of the dreaded proboscis. Encouraged by this success, the beast charged again, but the ground was now well strewn with the tobacco, and, as he rushed forward, he was again blinded and strangled by the pungent powder. Once more he made a frenzied rush for the river. This time, however, his hind legs became entangled among the grape-vines, linking the poles together, so that, after some vigorous but vain kicking and shaking, he was compelled to proceed on his way, dragging the scaffold, and much of the tobacco, with him.

At this juncture, the keeper, armed with Israel's long fork, appeared on the stage of action. Taking advantage of the elephant's blinded condition, he attacked him vehemently, goading him right and left. Yet the beast, infuriated, would not cry for mercy. But finally, in one of his blinded plunges, he rushed upon Hannah's empty root-pit, and, the slight covering giving way under the enormous weight, his majesty was pitched headlong in shame and terror to the bottom of the pit. Then his proud spirit was conquered by a vigorous assault, and he trumpeted for mercy.

It was not until he was thus subdued that Jube,
notified by Aunt Hannah, deemed it safe to descend once more to the ground; even then he did not think it necessary to show himself to the twinkling eye of his late adversary. Nor, perhaps, did he feel safe at all until, with the assistance of returned showmen and some of the neighbors, the elephant had been helped from the pit, and had quietly continued its journey toward the neighboring town.

"Now you, Juba, jes' you mark my words," was Israel's closing piece of advice when the tumult had finally subsided and Jube, clothed, and in his right mind, was sitting on the stool of repentance in the cabin, "ef I ever does hear of you a findin' ob a silver mine anywheres when Foreper's surcuss am around, shore's I is a livin' man, I'll war out on yer back some ob dat extry shoe-leather what made tracks through the ole 'ooman's watermillium patch. You hear dat, Juba? Now, you jes' clar outer dis, an' gether up ebery spear ob dat tobaccy what you an' Foreper's elerphunt hab done scattered from Dan to Beershebeh. An' min' what I say, dat dis aint Hanner what's foolin' long with yer, now."

And since that time Jube has never pined for the circus on his holidays.