The Goophered Grapevine

A short story

"So atter a w'ile Mars Dugal' begin ter miss his scuppernon's. Co'se he 'cuse' de niggers er it, but dey all ‘nied it ter de las'. Mars Dugal' sot spring guns en steel traps, en he en de oberseah sot up nights once't er twice't, tel one night Mars Dugal' - he 'uz a monst’us keerless titan - got his leg shot full er cow-pews. But somehow er nudder day could n' nebber ketch none er de niggers. I dunner how it happen, but it happen des like I tell yes, en de grapes kep' on a-goin des de same.

“But bimeby ole Mars Dugal' fix' up a plan ter stop it. Dey 'uz a cunjuh ‘ooman livin' down mongs de free niggers on the Wim’l’ton Road, en all de darkies fum Rockfish ter Beaver Crick wuz feared uv her. She could wuk de mos powerfulles' kind er goopher -could make people hab fits er rheumatiz, or make 'em des dwinel away en die; en dey say she went out ridin' de niggers at night, for she wuz a witch 'sides bein' a cunjuh 'ooman. Mars Dugal' hearn 'bout Ann' Peggy's doin's, en begun ter 'flect whe'r er no he could n’ git her ter he’p hunt keep de niggers off’n de grapevimes. One day in the spring er de year, ole miss pack' up a basket er chick'n en poun’-cake, en a bottle as scuppernon' wine, en Mars Dugal' tuk it in his buggy en driv ober ter Aun' Peggy’s cabin. He tuk de basket in, en had a long talk wid Aun' Peggy. De nex' day Ann' Peggy come up ter de vimya'd. De niggers seed her slippin' 'roan', en they soon foun' out what she uz doin' dere. Mars Dugal' had hi'ed her ter goopher de grapevimes. She sa'ntered 'roan' mongs' the vimes, en tuk a leaf fum dis one, en a grape-hull fum dat one, en a grape-seed fum anudder one; en den a little twig fum here, en a little pinch en dirt fum dare, -- en put it all in a big black bottle, wid a snake's toof en a speckle' hen's gall en some ha’rs fum a black cat's tail, en den fill' the bottle wid scuppernon’ wine. W’en she got the goopher all ready en fix', she tuk ‘n went out in de woods en buried it under de root uv a red oak tred, en den come back en tole one en the niggurs she done goopher de grapevimes, en a'er a nigger w'at eat dem grapes ud be sho ter die inside'n twel' mont's,

"Atter dat de niggers let de scuppernon's 'lone, en Mars Dugal' did a' hab no casion ter fine no mo' fault en de season wuz mos' gone, w'en a strange gemman stop at do plantation one night ter see Mars Dugal' on some business; en his coachman, seein' de scuppernon's growin' s nice en sweet, slip 'roan' behine de smoke-house, en et all de scuppernon's he could hole. Nobody did n’notice it at de time, but dat night, on de way home, de gemman's hoss runned away en kill' de coachman. Wen’ we hearn de noos, Aun' Lucy, de cook, she up 'a say she seed de strange nigger eat'n' er de scuppernon's behine the smokehouse; en den we knowed de gopher had b’en er wukkin. Den one er de nigger chilluns runned away fum the quarters one day, en got in de scuppernon's, en died the nex' week, W'ite folks say he die' er de fevuh, but de niggers knowed it was de goopher. So you k'n be sho de darkie' did n' hab much ter do wid dem scuppernon' vimes.

“Wen’ de scuppernon' season 'uz ober rer dat year, Mars Dugal' foun' he had made fifteen hund'ed gallon er wine; en one er de niggers hearst him laffin' wid de oberseah fit ter kill, en sayin' dens fifteen hund'ed gallon er wine was monst'us good intrus' on de ten dollars he laid out on de vimya'd. So I 'low ez he paid Ann' Peggy ten dollars for to goopher de grapevimes.

“De goopher did n' wuk no mo' tel de nex' summer, w'en 'long to'ds de middle er de season one er de fiel’ han's died: en ez dat lef' Mars Dugal' sho't er han's, he went off ter town for tar buy anudder. He fotch de noo nigger home wid 'im. He wuz er ole nigger, er de color or a gingy-cake, en ball ez a hossapple on de top er his head. He wuz a peart ole nigget', do', en could do a big day's wuk.

"Now it happen dat one er de niggers on de nex' plantation, one er ole Mars Henry Brayboy's niggers, had runned away de day befo', en tak ter de swamp, en ole Mars Dugal' en some er de yuther nabor w'ite folks had gone out wid dere guns en dere dogs for ter he'p 'em hunt for de nigger; en de han's on our own plantation wuz all so fiusterated dat we fuhgot ter tell de noo han' 'bout de goopher on do scuppernon vimes. Co'se he smell de grapes en see de vimes an atter dahk de fus' thing he done wuz ter slip off ter de grapevimes 'dout sayin' nuffin tot nobody. Nex' mawnin' he tole some er de niggers 'bout de fine bait er scuppernon' he et de night befo'.

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