T HE little people of the Green Meadows and the Green Forest didn't know what to believe. First came Peter Rabbit with the strangest kind of a story about being chased by a terrible creature without legs, head, or tail. He said that it had come down the hill where Prickly Porky the Porcupine lives in the Green Forest. Jimmy Skunk had been sent to call on Prickly Porky and ask him if he had seen any strange creature such as Peter Rabbit had told about. Prickly Porky had said that he hadn't seen any stranger in that part of the Green Forest, and Jimmy had straightway returned to the Green Meadows and told all his friends there that Peter Rabbit must have had something the matter with his eyes or else was crazy, for Prickly Porky hadn't been away from home and yet had seen nothing unusual.
At the same time Unc' Billy Possum was going about in the Green Forest telling everybody whom he met that he had called on Prickly Porky, and that Prickly Porky had told him that Peter Rabbit undoubtedly had seen something strange. Of course Jimmy Skunk's story soon spread through the Green Forest, and Unc' Billy Possum's story soon spread over the Green Meadows, and so nobody knew what to believe or think. If Jimmy Skunk was right, why Peter Rabbit's queer story wasn't to be believed at all. If Unc' Billy was right, why Peter's story wasn't as crazy as it sounded.
Of course all this aroused a great deal of talk and curiosity, and those who had the most courage began to make visits to the hill where Prickly Porky lives to see if they could see for themselves anything out of the ordinary. But they always found that part of the Green Forest just as usual and always, if they saw Prickly Porky at all, he seemed to be fast asleep, and no one liked to wake him to ask questions. Little by little they began to think that Jimmy Skunk was right, and that Peter Rabbit's terrible creature existed only in Peter's imagination.
About this time Unc' Billy told of having just such an experience as Peter had. It happened exactly as it did with Peter, very early in the morning, when he was passing the foot of the hill where Prickly Porky lives.
"Ah was just passing along, minding mah own business, when Ah heard a noise up on the hill behind me," said Unc' Billy, "and when Ah looked up, there was something coming straight down at me, and Ah couldn't see any legs or head or tail."
"What did you do, Unc' Billy?" asked Bobby Coon.
"What did Ah do? Ah did just what yo'alls would have done,—Ah done run!" replied Unc' Billy, looking around the little circle of forest and meadow people, listening with round eyes and open mouths. "Yes, Sah, Ah done run, and Ah didn't turn around until Ah was safe in mah holler tree."
"Pooh!" sneered Reddy Fox, who had been listening. "You're a coward. I wouldn't have run! I would have waited and found out what it was. You and Peter Rabbit would run away from your own shadows."
"You don't dare go there yourself at daybreak to-morrow!" retorted Unc' Billy.
"I do too!" declared Reddy angrily, though he didn't have the least intention of going.
"All right. Ah'm going to be in a tree where Ah can watch to-morrow mo'ning and see if yo' are as brave as yo' talk," declared Unc' Billy.
Then Reddy knew that he would have to go or else be called a coward. "I'll be there," he snarled angrily, as he slunk away.