Peter turned to ask Unc’ Billy Possum what he thought, but Unc’ Billy wasn’t there.
UNC’ BILLY POSSUM DOES A LITTLE SURPRISING HIMSELF
When Unc’ Billy Possum first heard what sounded like the voice of Sticky-toes the Tree Toad, he had thought, just as Peter Rabbit did, that Sticky-toes was over in an alder tree on the other side of the Laughing Brook. But when he heard a whisper right over their heads and looked up to see Sticky-toes himself, Unc’ Billy almost chuckled out loud.
“Yo’ can’t fool Uncle
So don’t go fo’ to try!
Ah knows yo’, yes, Ah knows yo’—
Ah knows yo’, Mistah Sly.”
He said that to himself and quite under his breath, for all the time that Peter Rabbit and Sticky-toes the Tree Toad were whispering together, Unc’ Billy Possum was stealing away under the alder bushes. Unc’ Billy is very soft-footed, oh, very soft-footed indeed, when he wants to be. You see one must needs be very soft-footed to steal eggs in Farmer Brown’s hen-house. So Unc’ Billy stole away without making a sound, and when Peter Rabbit turned to speak to him, there was no Unc’ Billy there.
Peter rubbed his eyes and stared all around, this way and that way, but no sign of Unc’ Billy could he see. This so surprised Peter Rabbit that he felt queer all over. First there was the voice of Sticky-toes over on the other side of the Laughing Brook, when all the time Sticky-toes wasn’t there at all. Now here Unc’ Billy Possum had disappeared, just as if the earth had swallowed him up.
“This isn’t any place for me!” said Peter Rabbit, and off he started for the Green Meadows as fast as he could go, lipperty-lipperty-lip!
All this time Unc’ Billy Possum had been crawling along without the tiniest sound. When he came to the Laughing Brook, he went up a way until he found a big tree with a branch stretching clear across. Of course Unc’ Billy could have swum across, but he didn’t feel like swimming that night, so he climbed up the big tree, ran out along the branch, let himself down by the tail, and then dropped. He was across the Laughing Brook without even wetting his feet.
Unc’ Billy didn’t waste any time. Just as soft-footed as before, he crept along in the darkest shadows, until he was right under the alder tree from which the complaining voice of Sticky-toes the Tree Toad seemed to come. Unc’ Billy listened, and the longer he listened, the broader grew the smile on Unc’ Billy’s shrewd face.
“Thief! thief! thief!”
It certainly sounded for all the world like Sammy Jay’s voice, and it was right over Unc’ Billy’s head. Unc’ Billy peered up through the alders. The leaves were so thick that he could not see very well, but what he did see was enough. It was a long tail, a tail of feathers hanging down. It wasn’t Sammy Jay’s tail, either.