122 IN THE AMERICAN DESERT
short and fat, and her tail, which was nearly the length of her whole body, was quite naked. Underneath, she had a pouch like a kangaroo.
When she had got rid of her thirteen children, the old opossum stood still and stared straight up into a tall pawpaw, where the birds were fluttering and screaming more wildly than ever ; every now and then making a dive down to the opossum, who took no notice of their proceedings. The twro men followed her eyes, and saw an oriole's nest, hanging like a pocket from the top twigs of the tree.
The old opossum saw it too, and uttered a sharp cry which brought all the little ones running helter-skelter from their game in the dead leaves. Some tucked themselves safely into their mother's pouch, two used her tail as a rope, and lay comfortably down in her hair, while others held on by her neck. When seven or eight had gone to their places, the whole mass began to climb the pawpaw. At the first branch the heavily laden animal stopped, and then, holding the kittens one by one in her mouth, she passed their tails twice round the branch, and there they hung heads downwards, looking very funny indeed. When she had disposed of those she had with her, she went back to the ground for the rest, till the whole thirteen were suspended from the branch !
This business done she could now go up the tree with an easy mind, and very cautiously she made her way towards the nest, the birds growing more and more excited the higher she climbed, till their wings almost touched her nose. When she reached the branch on which the nest hung, she stopped doubtfully. It was very thin, and creaked beneath her weight as she moved along it. Clearly it was too dangerous, so she backed carefully till she was safe on the trunk, where she paused to consider what she could do next. All at once the branch of an oak, that stretched exactly out over the nest, caught her eye, and turning, she ran swiftly down the