When the animals talked with each other just like people do today, a very handsome alligator lay sunning himself luxuriously on a log in which we now call the Florida Everglades.
Then along came Mr. Rabbit, who said to him, "Mr. Handsome Alligator, have you ever seen the devil?"
"No, Mr. Rabbit, but I am not afraid of the devil. Are you?" replied Mr. Alligator.
"Well now, Mr. A., I did see the devil. Do you know what he said about you?" asked Rabbit.
"Now, just what did the devil have to say about me?" Alligator replied.
"The devil said that you are afraid of him," said Rabbit. "Besides, he said you would not even look at him."
"Rubbish," said Alligator.
"I know that I am not afraid of the devil and I am not afraid to look at him.
Please tell him so for me the next time you see him."
"I do not think you are willing to crawl up the hill the day after tomorrow and allow me to introduce you to the devil himself," said Rabbit.
"Oh, yes, I am willing and ready to go with you," replied Alligator. "Let us go tomorrow."
"That is just fine with me," replied Rabbit. "But Mr. A., when you see some smoke rising somewhere, do not be afraid.
It is a sign that the devil is moving about and will soon be on his way."
"You do not have to worry about me," said Alligator.
"I told you I am not afraid of the devil."
"When you see the friendly birds flying about, and the deer running at a gallop, do not be afraid," said Rabbit.
"Don't you be concerned, because I will not be afraid," repeated Alligator.
"If you hear some fire crackling and its comes closer to you, do not be scared," said Rabbit.
"If the grasses near you begin to smoke, do not be scared.
The devil is only wandering about.
Then is the time for you to get a good look at him when the heat is hottest."
After Rabbit's final words of wisdom, he left Alligator sunning himself.
Next day, Rabbit returned and asked Alligator to crawl up the hill, following him.
Rabbit led him to the very top and directed him to lie in the tallest grass.
Then Rabbit left Alligator, laughing to himself all the way down the hill, because he had led Alligator to the farthest place away from his home in the water.
On his way, Rabbit came to a smoldering stump.
He picked up a piece, carrying it back to the high grass, where he made a fire so the wind blew it toward Alligator.
Soon the fire surrounded the place, burning closer and closer to Alligator.
Rabbit then ran to a sandy knoll and sat down to watch the fun, chuckling over the trick he had played on Mr. Alligator.
Only a short time passed when the smoke rose in thick spirals, and the birds flew upward and away.
Other animals ran for their lives across the field.
Alligator cried out, "Oh, Mr. Rabbit, where are you?"
"You just lie there quietly," replied Rabbit. "It's only the devil prowling about."
The fire began to roar and spread rapidly.
"Oh, Mr. Rabbit, what is that I hear?" asked Alligator.
"That's just the devil breathing hard," replied Rabbit.
"Do not be scared. You will see him soon!"
Rabbit became so amused that he rolled and rolled on the sandy knoll and kicked his heels up in the air with glee.
Soon the grass surrounding Alligator caught fire and began to burn beneath him.
Alligator rolled and twisted with pain from his burns.
"Do not be afraid now, Mr. Alligator," called Rabbit.
"Just be quiet for a little while longer, and the devil will be there for you to get a firsthand look at him."
Alligator could not stand any more toasting!
He started to crawl as fast as he could down the hillside toward the water.
He wriggled through the burning grass, snapping his jaws, rolling in pain, and choking from the smoke.
Rabbit, upon his sandy knoll, laughed and laughed, jumping up and down with delight at the trick he had played on Alligator.
"Wait a minute, Mr. A. Don't be in such a hurry.
You said you were not afraid of the devil," called Rabbit.
By that time Alligator had reached his home in the water, tumbling in to stop the pain of his roasted skin.
Never again did Mr. Handsome Alligator trust that trickster, Mr. Rabbit, or any of his family, ever!