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The Bedtime Story-Books

THE ADVENTURES OF UNC' BILLY POSSUM

by

THORNTON W. BURGESS

Author of _The Adventures of Peter Cottontail_, _Old Mother West Wind_,
etc.

With Illustrations by HARRISON CADY

Boston
Little, Brown, and Company

1920







[Illustration: Reddy Fox sprang up as if some one had stuck a pin into
him. FRONTISPIECE.]




CONTENTS


CHAPTER

I. UNC' BILLY POSSUM IS CAUGHT
II. REDDY FOX THINKS HE SEES A GHOST
III. UNC' BILLY POSSUM SENDS FOR HIS FAMILY
IV. BOBBY COON ENTERS THE WRONG HOUSE
V. BOBBY COON IS WAKED UP
VI. SAMMY JAY LEARNS PETER RABBIT'S SECRET
VII. FOUR LITTLE SCAMPS PLAN MISCHIEF
VIII. PETER RABBIT SENDS OUT WORD
IX. MR. TOAD AND PRICKLY PORKY PUT THEIR HEADS TOGETHER
X. THE RUNAWAY CABBAGE
XI. REDDY FOX GOES HUNGRY
XII. PRICKLY PORKY MAKES HIMSELF AT HOME
XIII. UNC' BILLY POSSUM GROWS HUNGRY
XIV. OLD MRS. POSSUM GROWS WORRIED
XV. THE FOOLISHNESS OF UNC' BILLY POSSUM
XVI. WHY UNC' BILLY POSSUM DIDN'T GO HOME
XVII. UNC' BILLY POSSUM LIES LOW
XVIII. UNC' BILLY POSSUM IS A PRISONER
XIX. WHAT THE SNOW DID
XX. UNC' BILLY POSSUM WISHES HE HAD SNOWSHOES
XXI. FARMER BROWN'S BOY CHOPS DOWN A TREE
XXII. WHERE UNC' BILLY POSSUM WAS
XXIII. HAPPY JACK SQUIRREL MAKES AN UNEXPECTED CALL
XXIV. HAPPY JACK SQUIRREL HELPS UNC' BILLY POSSUM
XXV. HAPPY JACK SQUIRREL'S BRIGHT IDEA




LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


REDDY FOX SPRANG UP AS IF SOME ONE HAD STUCK A PIN INTO HIM

MY! MY! MY! SUCH A RUMPUS AS THERE WAS RIGHT AWAY IN THAT
HOLLOW TREE!

"WHAT DO YOU MEAN?" EXCLAIMED THE OTHERS ALL TOGETHER

HE JUST ATE AND ATE AND ATE UNTIL HE COULDN'T EAT ANOTHER ONE

THERE ALL THE WAY FROM FARMER BROWN'S HEN-HOUSE, WAS A BROAD TRAIL
IN THE SMOOTH WHITE SNOW

"YO' TELL UNC' BILLY POSSUM THAT AH DON' CARE IF HE NEVER COMES BACK"





I

UNC' BILLY POSSUM IS CAUGHT


The Green Meadows were thrown into great excitement late one
afternoon, just as the black shadows came creeping down from the
Purple Hills. Reddy Fox brought the news, and when he told it he
grinned as if he enjoyed it and was glad of it.

"Old Billy Possum is dead. I know it because I saw Farmer Brown's boy
carrying him home by the tail," said Reddy. "So you see he wasn't so
smart as you thought he was," he added maliciously.

No one really believed Reddy Fox, for every one knows that he seldom
tells the truth, but when Jimmy Skunk came mournfully down the Crooked
Little Path and said that it was true, they had to believe it. Then
everybody began to talk about Unc' Billy and say nice things about him
and tell how much they had enjoyed having him live in the Green Forest
since he came up from "Ol' Virginny." That is, everybody but Reddy Fox
said so. Reddy said that it served Unc' Billy right, because he was of
no account, anyway. Then everybody began to hoot and hiss at Reddy
until he was glad enough to slink away.

And while they were all saying such nice things about him, Unc' Billy
Possum was having an exciting adventure. For once he had been too
bold. He had gone up to Farmer Brown's hen-house before dark. Jimmy
Skunk had tried to stop him, but he had heeded Jimmy Skunk not at
all. He had said that he was hungry and wanted an egg, and he couldn't
wait till dark to get it. So off he had started, for Unc' Billy Possum
is very headstrong and obstinate.

He had reached the hen-house and slipped inside without being seen.
The nests were full of eggs, and soon Unc' Billy was enjoying his
feast so that he forgot to keep watch. Suddenly the door opened, and
in stepped Farmer Brown's boy to get some eggs for supper. There was
no time to run. Unc' Billy just dropped right down in his tracks as if
he were dead.

When Farmer Brown's boy saw him, he didn't know what to make of him,
for he had never seen Unc' Billy before.

"Well, well, I wonder what happened to this fellow," said Farmer
Brown's boy, turning Unc' Billy over with the toe of one foot. "He
certainly is dead enough, whatever killed him. I wonder what he was
doing in here."

Then he saw some egg on Unc' Billy's lips. "Ho! ho!" shouted Farmer
Brown's boy. "So you are the thief who has been getting my eggs!" And
picking up Unc' Billy by the tail, he started with him for the house.

As they passed the woodpile, he tossed Unc' Billy on the
chopping-block while he gathered an armful of kindlings to take to the
house. When he turned to pick up Unc' Billy again, Unc' Billy wasn't
there.

Farmer Brown's boy dropped his wood and hunted everywhere, but not a
trace of Unc' Billy could he find.




II

REDDY FOX THINKS HE SEES A GHOST


Reddy Fox came down the Lone Little Path through the Green Forest on
his way to the Green Meadows. He had brushed his red coat until it
shone. His white waistcoat was spotless, and he carried his big tail
high in the air, that it might not become soiled. Reddy was feeling as
fine as he looked. He would have liked to sing, but every time he
tried his voice cracked, and he was afraid that some one would hear
him and laugh at him. If there is one thing that Reddy Fox dislikes
more than another, it is being laughed at.

Reddy chuckled at his thoughts, and what do you think he was thinking
about? Why, about how he had seen Farmer Brown's boy carrying off
Unc' Billy Possum by the tail the afternoon before. He knew how Farmer
Brown's boy had caught Unc' Billy in the hen-house, and with his own
eyes he had seen Unc' Billy carried off. Of course Unc' Billy was
dead. There could be no doubt about it. And Reddy was glad of it. Yes,
Sir, Reddy was glad of it. Unc' Billy Possum had made altogether too
many friends in the Green Forest and on the Green Meadows, and he had
made Reddy the laughing-stock of them all by the way he had dared
Reddy to meet Bowser the Hound, and actually had waited for Bowser
while Reddy ran away.

Reddy remembered that Unc' Billy's hollow tree was not far away. He
would go over that way, just to have another look at it. So over he
went. There stood the old hollow tree, and half way up was the door
out of which Unc' Billy used to look down on him and grin. It was
Reddy's turn to grin now. Presently he sat down with his back against
the foot of the tree, crossed his legs, looked this way and that way
to make sure that no one was about, and then in a dreadfully cracked
voice he began to sing:

"Ol' Bill Possum, he's gone before!
Ol' Bill Possum, he is no more!
Bill was a scamp, Sir;
Bill was a thief!
Bill stole an egg, Sir;
Bill came to grief.
Ol' Bill Possum, it served him right;
And he is no more, for he died last night."

"Very good, Sah, very good. Ah cert'nly am obliged to yo'all for yo'
serenade," said a voice that seemed to come out of the tree at Reddy's
back.

Reddy Fox sprang up as if some one had stuck a pin into him. Every
hair stood on end, as he looked up at Unc' Billy's doorway. Then his
teeth began to chatter with fright. Looking out of Unc' Billy's
doorway and grinning down at him was something that looked for all the
world like Unc' Billy himself.

"It must be his ghost!" said Reddy, and tucking his tail between his
legs, he started up the Crooked Little Path as fast as his legs could
take him.

Reddy never once looked back. If he had, he might have seen Unc' Billy
Possum climb down from the hollow tree and shake hands with Jimmy
Skunk, who had just come along.

"How did Ah do it? Why, Ah just pretended Ah was daid, when Farmer
Brown's boy caught me," explained Unc' Billy. "Of course he' wouldn't
kill a daid Possum. So when he tossed me down on the chopping-block
and turned his back, Ah just naturally came to life again, and here
Ah am."

Unc' Billy Possum grinned broader than ever, and Jimmy Skunk grinned,
too.




III

UNC' BILLY POSSUM SENDS FOR HIS FAMILY


The news that Unc' Billy Possum wasn't dead at all but was back in his
hollow tree in the Green Forest soon spread through all the Green
Forest and over the Green Meadows. Everybody hastened to pay their
respects, that is everybody but Reddy Fox. Unc' Billy and his partner,
Jimmy Skunk, told every one who called how Reddy Fox had thought that
Unc' Billy was a ghost and had been frightened almost to death, so
that he ran away as fast as his legs could take him. Unc' Billy
grinned as he told how Reddy had sat under the hollow tree and tried
to sing because he was so glad that Unc' Billy was dead, and all the
little people of the Green Forest and the Green Meadows laughed until
their sides ached when in a funny, cracked voice Unc' Billy sang the
song for them.

Thereafter whenever one of them caught sight of Reddy Fox at a safe
distance, he would shout:

"Ol' Bill Possum, he's gone before!
Ol' Bill Possum, he is no more!"

It got so that Reddy never came down on the Green Meadows in the
daytime, and at night he avoided meeting any one if possible, even his
old friend, Bobby Coon. And of course Reddy Fox hated Unc' Billy
Possum more than ever.

But Unc' Billy didn't care, not he! He knew that all the rest of the
little people of the Green Forest and the Green Meadows thought him
the smartest of them all, because of the way in which he had fooled
Bowser the Hound and Farmer Brown's boy. He liked his neighbors, he
liked the Green Forest, and so he made up his mind that this was the
place for him to stay.

But in spite of all his friends, Unc' Billy was lonesome. The longer
he stayed, the more lonesome he grew, Unc' Billy wanted his family,
whom he had left way down in "Ol' Virginny." Finally he told Jimmy
Skunk all about it, and for once Unc' Billy had forgotten how to grin.
Yes, Sir, Unc' Billy had forgotten how to grin. Instead he just wept,
wept great big tears of lonesomeness.

"Ah reckon Ah'll have to go back to Ol' Virginny, Ah cert'nly do,"
said Unc' Billy Possum.

Jimmy Skunk grew very thoughtful. Since he and Unc' Billy Possum had
been in partnership, Jimmy had had more eggs to eat than ever before
in his whole life. Now Unc' Billy was talking about going away. Jimmy
thought very hard. Then he had a bright idea.

"Why not send for your family to come here and live in the Green
Forest, Uncle Billy?" he asked.

Unc' Billy stopped crying. His two little eyes looked up sharply. "How
do yo'all reckon Ah can send word?" he asked.

Jimmy scratched his head. "There's Mr. Skimmer the Swallow; he's
fixing to go South. Perhaps he'll take the message to your family,"
said he.

"The very thing!" cried Unc' Billy Possum, wiping his eyes. "Ah thanks
yo', Sah. Ah does, indeed. Ah'll see Mistah Skimmer at once."

And without another word Unc' Billy Possum started down the Crooked
Little Path for the Green Meadows to look for Skimmer the Swallow.




IV

BOBBY COON ENTERS THE WRONG HOUSE


After Unc' Billy Possum had arranged with Skimmer the Swallow, who was
going South, to take a message to his family in "Ol' Virginny,"
telling them to come and join him in the Green Forest, he at once
began to make preparations to receive them. Unc' Billy isn't any too
fond of work. He had a lot rather that some one else should do the
work for him, and he is smart enough to fix it so that usually some
one else does.

But getting ready to receive his family was different. No one else
could arrange things to suit him. This was Unc' Billy's own job, and
he tended right to it every minute of the day. First of all he had to
clean house. He had been keeping bachelor's hall so long in the big
hollow tree that things were not very tidy. So Unc' Billy cleaned
house, and while he worked he whistled and sang. Peter Rabbit, passing
that way, overheard Unc' Billy singing:

"Mah ol' woman is away down Souf -
Come along! Come along!
Ain't nothin' sharper than the tongue in her mouf -
Come along! Come along!
She once was pretty, but she ain't no mo',
But she cooks mah meals an' she sweeps mah flo';
She darns mah stockings an' she mends mah coat,
An' she knows jes' how mah chillun fer to tote -
Come along! Come along!

"Mah pickaninnies am a-headin' dis way -
Come along! Come along!
Daddy am a-watchin' fo' 'em day by day -
Come along! Come along!
Mah ol' haid aches when Ah thinks ob de noise
De's boun' to be wid dem gals an' boys,
But Ah doan care if it busts in two
If de good Lord brings dem chillun troo -
Come along! Come along!"

Every little while Unc' Billy Possum would sit down to rest, for he
wasn't used to so much real work. But finally he got his house clean
and made as comfortable as possible, and about that time be began to
think how good an egg would taste. The more he thought about it, the
more he wanted that egg.

"It's no use talking, Ah just naturally has to have that egg," said
Unc' Billy to himself, and off he started for Farmer Brown's.

Now Unc' Billy was hardly out of sight when along came Bobby Coon.
Bobby Coon was absent-minded, or else he was so sleepy that he didn't
know what he was doing, for Bobby Coon had been out all night. Anyway,
when he reached Unc' Billy Possum's hollow tree, he began to climb up
it just as if it were his own. He looked in at Unc' Billy's door.
There was the most comfortable bed that he had seen for a long time.
He looked this way and he looked that way. Nobody was in sight. Then
he looked in at Unc' Billy's door once more. That bed certainly did
look soft and comfortable. Bobby Coon chuckled to himself.

"I believe I'll just see if that bed is as comfortable as it looks,"
said he.

And two minutes later Bobby Coon was curled up fast asleep in Unc'
Billy Possum's bed.




V

BOBBY COON IS WAKED UP


"Dey's a-coming, dey's a-coming, dey's a-coming mighty soon.
But dey can't come soon enuff fo' me!
Dey's a-coming, dey's a-coming at de turning ob de moon,
Whar Ah waits in mah ol' holler tree!"

Unc' Billy Possum was singing to himself, as he slowly trudged home
from Farmer Brown's hen-house. He was feeling very good, very good
indeed, was Unc' Billy Possum. No one appreciates strictly fresh eggs
more than Unc' Billy does, and he had found more than he could eat
waiting for him in Farmer Brown's hen-house. Now his stomach was full,
his house had been cleaned and put to rights, ready for his family
when they should arrive from "Ol' Virginny," and he had nothing to do
but wait for them. So he trudged along and sang in a funny, cracked
voice.

Presently he came to his big hollow tree and started to climb up to
the door of his house. Half way up he broke off short in the middle of
his song and sat down on a convenient branch. He put one ear against
the trunk of the tree and listened. Then he put the other ear against
the tree and listened. There certainly was a funny noise, and it
seemed to come from right inside his hollow tree. Unc' Billy turned
and looked up at his doorway, scratching his head thoughtfully with
one hand.

"Mah goodness!" said Unc' Billy, "it cert'nly sounds like there was
somebody in mah house!"

Then very softly Unc' Billy crept up to his doorway and peeped in. It
was dark inside, so that Unc' Billy could see little else than that
his nice, freshly made, comfortable bed was all mussed up. But if he
couldn't see, he could hear. Oh, yes, indeed, Unc' Billy could hear
perfectly well, and what he heard was a snore! There was some one in
Unc' Billy's house, and more than that, they were fast asleep in Unc'
Billy's bed.

"Mah goodness! Mah goodness!" exclaimed Unc' Billy Possum, and his two
sharp little eyes began to snap. Then he stuck his head in at the door
and shouted:

"Hi, yo'all! What yo' doing in mah house?"

The only answer was another snore. Unc' Billy waited a minute. Then he
put his head in once more.

"Yo' better come out of mah house, Mr. Who-ever-yo'-are, before Ah
comes in and puts yo' out!" shouted Unc' Billy.

The only answer was a snore louder than before. Then Unc' Billy quite
lost his temper. Some one who had no business there was in his house!
He didn't know who it was, and he didn't care. They were going to come
out or he would know why not. Unc' Billy gritted his teeth and in he
went.

My! my! my! such a rumpus as there was right away in that hollow tree!
Peter Rabbit happened to be coming along that way and heard it. Peter
stopped and gazed at the hollow tree with eyes and mouth wide open.
Such a snarling and growling! Then out of the doorway began to fly
leaves and moss. They were part of Unc' Billy's bed. Then Peter saw a
big ringed tail hanging out of the doorway. Peter recognized it right
away. No one possessed a tail like that but Bobby Coon.

In a minute Bobby followed his tail, hastily backing down the tree.
Then Unc' Billy's sharp little old face appeared at the doorway. Unc'
Billy looked down at Peter Rabbit and grinned.

"Ah guess Mistah Coon done make a mistake when he went to bed in mah
house," said he.

And Bobby Coon sheepishly admitted that he did.




VI

SAMMY JAY LEARNS PETER RABBIT'S SECRET


"I'm Mr. Jaybird, tee-hee-hee!
I'm Mr. Jaybird; you watch me!
You've got to rise 'fore break of day
If you want to fool old Mr. Jay."


Over and over Sammy Jay hummed this, as he brushed his handsome blue
and white coat. Then he laughed as he remarked to no one in
particular, for no one was near enough to hear: "Peter Rabbit's got a
secret. When Peter goes about whispering, it's a sure sign that he's
got a secret. He thinks that he can keep it from me, but he can't. Oh,
my, no! I never knew of a secret that could be kept by more than two
people, and already I've seen Peter whisper to five. I'll just see
what Reddy Fox knows about it."

With a flirt of his tail Sammy Jay started for the Green Meadows,
where Reddy Fox was busy hunting for his breakfast.

"It's a fine morning, Reddy Fox," said Sammy Jay.

"It would be finer, if I could fill my stomach faster," replied Reddy.

"That's a pretty good secret of Peter Rabbit's, isn't it?" asked
Sammy, pretending to look very wise.

Reddy pricked up his sharp little ears.

"What secret?" he demanded.

"If you don't know, I'm not going to tell," retorted Sammy Jay, just
as if he knew all about it, and off he flew to hunt up his cousin,
Blacky the Crow. Blacky knew nothing about Peter Rabbit's secret, nor
did Shadow the Weasel, whom he met by the way. But Sammy Jay was not
in the least bit discouraged.

"I'll try Johnny Chuck; he'll know," said Sammy to himself.

He found Johnny sitting on his doorstep, watching the world go by.

"Good morning, Johnny Chuck," said Sammy, with a low bow.

"Good morning," replied Johnny Chuck, who always is polite.

"Isn't that a fine secret of Peter Rabbit's?" exclaimed Sammy, just as
if he knew all about it.

Johnny Chuck raised his eyebrows and put on the most surprised look.

"Do tell me what it is!" he begged.

"Oh, if you don't know, I won't tell, for that wouldn't be fair,"
replied Sammy, and tried to look very honest and innocent, and then he
flew over to the Green Forest. And as he flew, he said to himself:
"Johnny Chuck can't fool me; he does know Peter Rabbit's secret."

Over in the Green Forest he found Drummer the Woodpecker making a
great racket on the hollow limb of an old chestnut. Sammy sat down
near by and listened. "My, that's fine! I wish I could do that. You
must be practising," said Sammy at the end of a long rat-a-tat-tat.

Drummer the Woodpecker felt very much flattered. "I am," said he. "I'm
practising for Peter Rabbit's party."

"I thought so," replied Sammy Jay. Of course he hadn't thought
anything of the kind.

"Won't Unc' Billy Possum be surprised?" remarked Drummer the
Woodpecker, as he sat down to rest.

"He surely will," replied Sammy Jay, and then he flattered and
flattered Drummer the Woodpecker until finally Drummer told all about
Peter's plan for a surprise party for Unc' Billy Possum.

By and by, as he flew home, Sammy Jay chuckled and said:

"You've got to rise 'fore break of day
If you want to fool old Mr. Jay."




VII

FOUR LITTLE SCAMPS PLAN MISCHIEF

"Some folks think they're mighty smart -
Oh, la me! Oh, la me!
Like the knave who stole the tart -
Oh, la me! Oh, la me!
Some folks will waken up some day -
And find they can't fool Mr. Jay!"


Sammy Jay was mightily pleased with himself. He had found out all
about Peter Rabbit's plan to give Unc' Billy Possum a surprise party
when his family came up from "Ol' Virginny." He had found out that all
the little forest and meadow people but himself and his cousin, Blacky
the Crow, and Reddy Fox and Shadow the Weasel had been invited, and
that each was to bring something good to eat. Sammy Jay smacked his
lips as he thought of this. Then he looked up at jolly, round, red Mr.
Sun and winked.

Now on all the Green Meadows and in all the Green Forest, there live
no greater scamps than Sammy Jay and Blacky the Crow and Reddy Fox and
Shadow the Weasel. The worst of it is, they are not honest. They steal
whenever they get a chance, and always they try to get others into
trouble. That was why Peter Rabbit had left them out, when he planned
his surprise party for Unc' Billy Possum.

Sammy Jay called the three others together under the Lone Pine and
told them all about Peter Rabbit's plan and how they had been left
out. Of course Blacky the Crow and Reddy Fox and Shadow the Weasel
were angry, very angry indeed, for no one likes to be left out of a
good time. The more Sammy Jay told them, the angrier they grew; and
the angrier they grew, the more Sammy Jay chuckled, way down inside.
Sammy had a plan, and the angrier the others grew, the more likely
were they to help him.

"You wait till I catch Peter Rabbit!" said Reddy Fox and showed all
his teeth. He quite forgot that, despite all his smartness, he never
yet had caught Peter Rabbit.

Blacky the Crow scratched his head thoughtfully. "We can spoil his
surprise by telling Unc' Billy Possum all about it beforehand," said
he.

Sammy Jay winked at each of the others. He cleared his throat and
looked all around, to make sure that no one else was near. Then he
leaned forward and whispered: "Let's invite ourselves to the party."

"What do you mean?" exclaimed the others, all together.

"Just what I say," replied Sammy. "We'll be the real surprise. Before
the party begins, you will hide close to where it is to be. When
everybody has got there and brought all the good things to eat, I'll
come flying along and scream: 'Here comes Bowser the Hound!' Of course
every one will run away, and we'll have all the good things to eat."

"Haw! haw! haw! The very thing! We'll all be there," cried Blacky the
Crow.

The four little scamps shook hands and separated. As they went across
the Green Meadows, Sammy Jay's voice floated back to the Lone Pine. He
was singing, although he has a very poor voice for singing, and this
was his song:

[Illustration: "What do you mean?" exclaimed the others all
together.]

"Some folks think they're mighty smart -
Oh, la me! Oh, la me!
Like the knave who stole the tart -
Oh, la me! Oh, la me!
Some folks will waken up some day -
And find they can't fool Mr. Jay!"

"Is that so? Really now, I want to know," said old Mr. Toad, crawling
from under the very piece of bark on which Sammy Jay had sat when he
told his plan. Then old Mr. Toad winked slowly and solemnly at jolly,
round, red Mr. Sun and started off to find Peter Rabbit.




VIII

PETER RABBIT SENDS OUT WORD


It was a beautiful morning. Everybody said so, and what everybody says
is usually so. Peter Rabbit wore the broadest kind of a smile. He
hopped and skipped all the way down the Lone Little Path on to the
Green Meadows and was waiting there when Old Mother West Wind came
down from the Purple Hills and, turning her big bag upside down,
tumbled out all her children, the Merry Little Breezes, to play. Peter
stopped them before they had a chance to run away. He whispered to


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