The Adventures of Unc' Billy Possum  by Thornton Burgess

Old Mrs. Possum Grows Worried

O LD Mrs. Possum counted her babies to be sure that they all were tucked snug and warm in their bed in the old hollow tree in the Green Forest. "One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight." They were all there. Mrs. Possum looked at them with a great deal of pride and sighed as she thought of how soon they would be leaving the old hollow tree to see the great world and make homes for themselves. Just as soon as the beautiful spring came, they would one by one slip away. Mrs. Possum sighed again. She didn't like winter. No, Sir, she didn't like winter one bit. But when she thought of how her babies would leave her, she almost wished that spring never would come.

Sure that her babies were warm and comfortable, old Mrs. Possum went to the door and looked out. It was plain to be seen that Mrs. Possum was worried. That was the tenth time she had looked out in half an hour. Her sharp little old face looked sharper than ever. It always looks sharper when she is worried, just as the tongues of some people always grow sharper when they are worried.

"Ah don' see what can be keepin' mah ol' man! Ah'm plumb worried to death," muttered old Mrs. Possum.

Right that very minute she heard a noise outside that made her hurry to the door and thrust her head out once more. It was Sammy Jay, shrieking:

"Thief! Thief! Thief!" at the top of his lungs.

"He's a thief himself and just a low-down mischief-maker, for all his smart clo'es, but he knows a powerful lot about what is going on in the Green Forest, and perhaps he has seen mah ol' man," said old Mrs. Possum, as she tried to make her sharp face as pleasant as possible. She looked over at Sammy Jay, who was in the next tree, and smiled, and when she smiled she showed all her sharp teeth.

"Good mo'ning, Brer Jay," said she.

"Hello!" exclaimed Sammy Jay, not at all politely. "Where's Uncle Billy Possum?"

Old Mrs. Possum shook her head, and the worried look came back into her face, although she tried hard, oh, so hard, not to let it.

"He done go out fo' a walk," replied old Mrs. Possum. "Ah reckons yo'all just got up, or yo' would have met up with him somewhere."

Old Mrs. Possum said this just to try to make Sammy Jay talk, for Sammy is very quick-tempered, and quick-tempered people often say a lot more than they mean to. You see, Mrs. Possum was quite sure that if Sammy Jay knew how worried she was over Unc' Billy Possum, he would refuse to tell her whether or not he had seen Unc' Billy, for Sammy Jay is mean and loves to torment others.

Sammy's temper flared up right away. "I've been up ever since sun-up!" he sputtered. "Your old man isn't anywhere in the Green Forest, unless he's gone to sleep in some other hollow tree, and I wouldn't blame him a bit if he had! No, Sir, I wouldn't blame him the least bit!"

"Keep your temper, Brer Jay!

Keep your temper, do, Oh pray!"

said old Mrs. Possum, grinning in the most aggravating way as she turned back to her babies. She had found out what she wanted to know—Sammy Jay had seen nothing of Unc' Billy Possum. Old Mrs. Possum sat down with her head in her hands. She was more worried than ever.