Inquisitive Mr Possum





It was Mr. Owl who gave the wood folk the warning by calling out one

night, "To whom it may concern!" At least the wood people knew that

was what he meant, but anyone else might have thought he just cried "To

whoo! To whoo!"



So when all the animals both great and small had gathered around his

tree he told them that in his opinion it was to be a very, very hard

winter.



That of course meant that they must begin right away to lay up stores

for the cold, snowed-in days, and everyone bestirred himself at once to

do this.



Even Mrs. Rabbit, who seldom made much preparation for the winter days,

began to do up preserves; all the small bunnies were sent out with

their baskets to gather corn and beans and beet tops and all sorts of

good things. "If we cannot get them green," said Mrs. Rabbit to her

neighbor, Mrs. Squirrel, "we can eat them stewed; but of course we much

prefer them in their natural state."



Mrs. Squirrel, to encourage her neighbor in laying up winter stores,

gave her a big basketful of walnuts which Mrs. Rabbit pickled, and some

say those were the first walnuts ever pickled.



But this story is not about pickled walnuts; it is about the nice

preserves that Mrs. Rabbit put up and the accident that befell Mr.

Possum.



Everybody that passed Mrs. Rabbit's home for many days found it hard to

get by her door, for such spicy, nice-smelling odors as came through

the open windows made everyone feel hungry.



Mr. Possum was especially interested when he found that Mrs. Rabbit

was, among other things, putting up a great deal of canned corn, and he

decided that when it was dark he would just take a peek into her pantry

window and see how many cans she had.



Right in front of the window was a tree and one limb hung low enough so

that Mr. Possum with a little care could easily swing himself from it

and reach the pantry window.



Now this might have been safe enough if the limb had been a good one,

but it wasn't, and when Mr. Possum ran along it, before he could even

get ready to swing, "crackle, snap," went the limb and down went Mr.

Possum into a barrel of whitewash Mrs. Rabbit had ready to use on her

little house.



And that was not the worst of it. When he ran home, so scared he

didn't remember running at all after it was over, Mrs. Possum didn't

know him, but thought he was some terrible white creature come to carry

on her children, and slammed the door right in his face.



All night Mr. Possum had to sit outside, the whitewash dripping from

his coat, and in the morning, bright and early, all the little Bunnies

and Mr. and Mrs. Rabbit, as well, were standing in front of the house,

looking at him.



Mrs. Rabbit wanted to know what he meant by carrying off some of her

whitewash. "I tracked you right to your own door-yard, so you need not

deny it," she said.



Mr. Possum did not try to deny it, for what was the use. He was all

covered in the white stuff? But he did try to tell Mr. and Mrs. Rabbit

that it was all an accident, that he was just running along the limb

and off it broke and he happened to fall into the whitewash.



Mrs. Possum had found out it was her husband by this time, of course,

and she came out to say that what Mrs. Rabbit could think they wanted

of her whitewash was more than she could tell.



Mrs. Rabbit wiggled her nose and looked very wise. "Well," she said,

"if that is true, Mr. Possum, that it was all an accident, why, of

course, that is all there is to it; but you must admit that it did look

suspicious."



Mr. Possum admitted that it did, and off ran the Rabbit family for

home; but it was a long time before Mr. Possum could go abroad again,

for the white coat he wore was to be plainly seen in the daytime or at

night.





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