There was a dreadful time on the Green Meadows and in the Green Forest. Oh, dear, dear, dear! It really was dreadful! First Sammy Jay had been accused of screaming in the night and keeping honest little meadow and forest people awake when they wanted to sleep. And all the time Sammy Jay hadn’t made a sound. Then Sticky-toes the Tree Toad had been accused of being noisy, when all the time he was sitting with his mouth closed as tight as tight could be.
All this was bad enough, but now things were so much worse that it was getting so that no one would have anything to do with any one else. Those who had been the very best of friends would pass without speaking. You see, everybody on the Green Meadows and in the Green Forest knows everybody else by their voice. So when Jimmy Skunk, happening along near the Smiling Pool, heard Mrs. Redwing’s voice, he didn’t waste any time trying to see Mrs. Redwing. Instead, he went straight over and told Johnny Chuck the unkind things that he had overheard Mrs. Redwing saying about Johnny.
In the same way Bobby Coon heard the voice of Blacky the Crow in Farmer Brown’s corn-field, and when Bobby listened, he heard some things not at all nice about himself. And so it was, all over the Green Meadows and through the Green Forest. It seemed as if almost everybody was heard talking about some one else, and never saying nice things.
The only one who still managed to keep on good terms with everybody was Unc’ Billy Possum. No one had ever heard him saying unkind things about others and so, because now there were so few others to talk to, everybody was glad to see Unc’ Billy coming, and he soon was the best liked of all the little meadow and forest people. He went about trying to smooth out the troubles, and to see him you never, never would have guessed that he had anything to do with making them. My, my, no, indeed!
But every night when the moon was up, Unc’ Billy would have a caller, who would come and sit just outside the doorway of Unc’ Billy’s house and scream “Thief! thief! thief!” Then out would pop Unc’ Billy’s sharp little face, and then his fat little body would follow, and he and his friend with the long tail and the sharp eyes, for of course you have guessed that is who it was, would put their heads together and laugh and chuckle as if they were enjoying the best joke ever was. Then they would whisper and sometimes talk right out loud, when they felt sure that no one was near to hear.
What were they talking about? Why, about the trouble on the Green Meadows and in the Green Forest, and what a joke it all was, and what was the best way to keep it up. You see, the reason that no one heard Unc’ Billy saying mean things or heard any mean things said about Unc’ Billy was because it was Unc’ Billy himself and his friend with the long tail and the sharp eyes who were making all the trouble. Yes, Sir, they were the mischief-makers. It was great fun to fool everybody so. They never once stopped to think how very, very uncomfortable it kept everybody feeling.