Chapter XVII COUSIN SIMON SCREECHER
Solomon Owl had a small cousin named Simon Screecher. He was unlike Solomon in some respects, because he always wore ear-tufts, and his eyes were yellow instead of black. But in some other ways he was no different from Solomon Owl, for he was a noisy chap and dearly loved mice–to eat.
It happened that the two met in the woods one fine fall evening; and they agreed to go hunting mice together.
Now, being so much smaller than Solomon, Simon Screecher was all the spryer. In fact, he was so active that he could catch mice faster than Solomon Owl could capture them. And they had not hunted long before Solomon discovered that Simon had succeeded in disposing of six mice to his three.
That discovery did not please Solomon at all.
“Look here!” he said. “Since we are hunting together it’s only fair to divide what we catch, half and half.”
Simon Screecher hesitated. But after reflecting that his cousin was very big and very strong, he agreed to Solomon’s suggestion.
So they resumed their hunting. And every time one of them caught two mice, he gave one mouse to his cousin.
Still Solomon Owl was not satisfied.
“Wait a moment!” Solomon called to Simon Screecher. “It has just occurred to me that I am more than twice as big as you are; so I ought to have twice as many mice as you.”
This time Simon Screecher hesitated longer. He did not like the second suggestion even as well as the first. And in the end he said as much, too.
But Solomon Owl insisted that it was only fair.
“You surely ought to be glad to please your own cousin,” he told Simon.
“It’s not that,” said Simon Screecher. “It seems to me that since I’m not half your size, I ought to have twice as many mice to eat, so I’ll grow bigger.”
Well, Solomon Owl hadn’t thought of that. He was puzzled to know what to say. And he wanted time in which to ponder.
“I’ll think over what you say,” he told Simon Screecher. “And now, since it’s almost dawn, we’d better not hunt any longer to-night. But I’ll meet you again at dusk if you’ll come to my house.”
“Very well, Cousin Solomon!” Simon answered. “I’m sure that after you’ve had a good sleep you’ll be ready to agree with me.”
“If that’s the case, I may not take any nap at all,” Solomon replied.
“Oh! You ought to have your rest!” his cousin exclaimed. Simon knew that if Solomon went all day without sleep he would be frightfully peevish by nightfall.
“Well–I’ll try to get forty winks,” Solomon promised. “But I don’t believe I can get more than that, because I have so much on my mind that I’m sure to be wakeful.”
Simon Screecher was somewhat worried as they parted. His wailing, tremulous whistle, which floated through the shadowy woods, showed that he was far from happy.