The End Of Brother Opossum
One day Brother Rabbit, Brother Fox and Brother Opossum were going to work together in the woods, not very far from Brother Rabbit's house. They were going to work for the whole day, and so they took their dinners with them. They put all the food in one place, and they put Brother Fox's butter in a cold spring because the day was hot. Then they began to work. But Brother Rabbit could not forget about the butter. Brother Fox always had butter
and other nice things, while Brother Rabbit very seldom had butter, though he worked more than Brother Fox.
While they were working, Brother Rabbit remembered about the butter, and his mouth watered. At last he said to himself: "I must taste that butter."
Then lie made a plan.
Brother Rabbit suddenly raised his head, listened to something and shouted:
"I'm here! What do you want?"
Then he dropped his axe and ran away in the direction of his house. But he did not run far. When he saw that nobody was following him, he turned and ran to the spring. He took out a small piece of butter and ate it. After that he put the butter back in the spring, returned to his place and began to work again.
"What is the matter?" asked Brother Fox.
"My old woman is ill," said Brother Rabbit. "My children were calling me and I went to them. They told me all about it."
They continued to work, but the butter tasted so good that Brother Rabbit wanted some more. So he raised his head and shouted:
"Hey! Wait a minute! I'm coming!" and he ran away.
This time he did not come back so soon;
and when he returned, Brother Fox asked him again:
'What was the matter this time, Brother Rabbit?"
"I went to see my old woman. I 'm afraid that she is dying."
Very soon Brother Rabbit heard his children again, and he ran away. This time he ate up all the butter in the bucket except one little piece, He hid this little piece of .butter in the bushes. Then he returned and began to work again.
"How is your old woman this time?" asked Brother Fox.
"Thank you for your kind question, Brother Fox, but I'm afraid that she is dead already," said Brother Rabbit. When they heard the sad news, Brother Fox and Brother Opossum were very sorry for Brother Rabbit.
By and by dinner time came, and they all took out their food. Brother Rabbit looked so sad that Brother Fox and Brother Opossum wanted to do something for him.
Brother Fox said:
"Brother Opossum, you run to the spring and bring the butter. I'll get everything ready for dinner."
Brother Opossum ran away to bring the butter, but very soon he came back. He was shaking and his tongue was hanging out.
Brother Fox saw him and shouted:
What is the matter, Brother Opossum?"
Come here!" said Brother Opossum. "There is no butter!"
"What? No butter?" said Brother Fox.
"The bucket is empty," said Brother Opossum. But Brother Rabbit looked at him and said:
"T think the butter went into somebody's mouth."
Then they all went to the spring with Brother Opossum. There was indeed no butter in the bucket. They began to talk about this strange thing, and Brother Rabbit said:
"There are footprints around this place. I think I can catch the man who came here and stole the butter. But let us rest and sleep first, then I shall be able to catch him."
They all lay down, and soon Brother Fox and Brother Opossum fell asleep. But Brother Rabbit did not fall asleep. He got up and rubbed Brother Opossum's mouth with the little piece of butter which was in the bushes. Then he woke Brother Fox and showed him the butter on Brother Opossum's mouth. They woke Brother Opossum and told him about it. But of course Brother Opossum denied everything. Brother Fox knew the laws and he said:
"Who went to bring the butter? Who came and said: 'There is no butter in the bucket?' Who has butter on his mouth? You stole the butter, Brother Opossum; don't try to deny it!"
Brother Opossum was in danger, and he knew it. He thought a little and then said:
"If you want to catch the man who stole the butter, make a big heap of brushwood and set fire to it. Then all of us will try to jump over the fire, and the man who falls into the fire will be the man who stole the butter."
Brother Rabbit and Brother Fox agreed, and soon they made a big heap of brushwood. They made the heap high and wide and then set fire to it. When it began to burn brightly, Brother Rabbit got ready. His turn was the first. He stepped back, looked around, laughed and then jumped. He flew over the fire like a bird. Then came Brother Fox's turn. He stepped back a little further, spat on his hands and jumped. But he could not jump like Brother Rabbit and he almost fell into the fire. The end of his tail caught fire. From that day Brother Fox and all his children have the mark of the brushwood fire: the ends of their tails are white.
Brother Opossum's turn was the last. He stepped back a long way, ran forward and then jumped! He fell — kerblam! — in the middle of the fire. Brother Rabbit tried to save him, but he could not, and that was the end of old Brother Opossum.