Chapter XV DISPUTES SETTLED
Solomon Owl looked so wise that many of his neighbors fell into the habit of going to him for advice. If two of the forest folk chanced to have a dispute which they could not settle between them they frequently visited Solomon and asked him to decide which was in the right. And in the course of time Solomon became known far and wide for his ability to patch up a quarrel.
At last Jimmy Rabbit stopped Solomon Owl one night and suggested that he hang a sign outside his house, so that there shouldn’t be anybody in the whole valley that wouldn’t know what to do in case he found himself in an argument.
Solomon decided on the spot that Jimmy Rabbit’s idea was a good one. So he hurried home and before morning he had his sign made, and put out where everyone could see it. It looked like this: DISPUTES SETTLED WITHIN.
There was only one objection to the sign. As soon as Jimmy Rabbit saw it he told Solomon that it should have said: DISPUTES SETTLED WITHOUT.
“Without what?” Solomon Owl inquired.
“Why, without going into your house!” said Jimmy Rabbit. “I can’t climb a tree, you know. And neither can Tommy Fox. We might have a dispute to-night; and how could you ever settle it?”
“Oh, I shall be willing to step outside,” Solomon told him. And he refused to change the sign, declaring that he liked it just as it was.
Now, there was only one trouble with Solomon Owl’s settling of disputes. Many of the forest folk wanted to see him in the daytime. And night was the only time he was willing to see them. But he heard so many objections to that arrangement that in the end Solomon agreed to meet people at dusk and at dawn, when it was neither very dark nor very light. On the whole he found that way very satisfactory, because there was just enough light at dusk and at dawn to make him blink. And when Solomon blinked he looked even wiser than ever.
Well, the first disputing pair that came to Solomon’s tree after he hung out his new sign were old Mr. Crow and Jasper Jay. They reached the hemlock grove soon after sunset and squalled loudly for Solomon. “Hurry!” Mr. Crow cried, as soon as Solomon Owl stepped outside his door. “It will be dark before we know it; and it’s almost our bedtime.”
“What’s your difficulty?” Solomon asked them.
Mr. Crow looked at Jasper Jay. And then he looked at Solomon again.
“Maybe you won’t like to hear it,” he said. And he winked at Jasper. “But you’ve put out this sign–so we’ve come here.”
“You’ve done just right!” exclaimed Solomon Owl. “And as for my not liking to hear the trouble, it’s your dispute and not mine. So I don’t see how it concerns me–except to settle it.”
“Very Well,” Mr. Crow answered. “The dispute, then, is this: Jasper says that in spite of your looking so wise, you’re really the stupidest person in Pleasant Valley.”
“He does, eh?” cried Solomon Owl, while Jasper Jay laughed loudly. “And you, of course, do not agree with him,” Solomon continued.
“I do not!” Mr. Crow declared.
“Good!” said Solomon, nodding his head approvingly.
“No, I do not agree with Jasper Jay,” Mr. Crow said. “I claim that there’s one other person more stupid than you are–and that’s Fatty Coon.”
Well, Solomon Owl certainly was displeased. And it didn’t make him feel any happier to hear Jasper Jay’s boisterous shouts, or the hoarse “haw-haw” of old Mr. Crow.
“I hope you can decide which one of us is right,” Mr. Crow ventured.
“I am, of course!” cried Jasper Jay.
“You’re not!” Mr. Crow shouted. And to Solomon Owl he said, “We’ve been disputing like this all day long.”
Solomon Owl didn’t know what to say. If he announced that Jasper was right it would be the same as admitting that he was the stupidest person in the whole neighborhood. And if he said that old Mr. Crow’s opinion was correct he would not be much better off. Naturally he didn’t want to tell either of them that he was right.
“I’ll have to think about this,” Solomon observed at last.
“We don’t want to wait,” said Mr. Crow. “If we keep on disputing we’re likely to have a fight.”
Now, Solomon Owl hoped that they would have a fight. So he was determined to keep them waiting for his decision.
“Come back tomorrow at this time,” he said.