Chapter XX A PAIR OF RED-HEADS
In the woods there was hardly one of Solomon Owl’s neighbors that couldn’t point out the big hemlock tree where he lived. And mischievous fellows like Reddy Woodpecker sometimes annoyed Solomon a good deal by rapping loudly on his door. When he thrust his head angrily out of his house and blinked in the sunlight, his tormentors would skip away and laugh. They laughed because they knew that they had awakened Solomon Owl. And they dodged out of his reach because he was always ill-tempered when anybody disturbed his rest in the daytime.
Solomon Owl did not mind so very much so long as that trick was not played on him too often. But after a time it became one of Reddy Woodpecker’s favorite sports. Not only once, but several times a day did he go to the hemlock grove to hammer upon Solomon’s hollow tree. And each time that he brought Solomon Owl to his door Reddy Woodpecker laughed more loudly than ever before.
Once Solomon forgot to take off his nightcap (though he wore it in the daytime, it really was a nightcap). And Reddy Woodpecker was so amused that he shouted at the top of his lungs.
“What’s the joke?” asked Solomon Owl in his deep, rumbling voice. He tried to look very severe. But it is hard to look any way except funny with a nightcap on one’s head.
As luck had it, Jasper Jay came hurrying up just then. He had heard Reddy Woodpecker’s laughter. And if there was a joke he wanted to enjoy it, too.
Jasper Jay, alighting in a small hemlock near Reddy Woodpecker, asked the same question that Solomon Owl had just put to his rude caller.
“What’s the joke?” inquired Jasper Jay.
Reddy could not speak. He was rocking back and forth upon a limb, choking and gasping for breath. But he managed to point to the big tree where Solomon Owl lived.
And when Jasper looked, and saw Solomon’s great, round, pale, questioning face, all tied up in a red nightcap, he began to scream.
They were no ordinary screams–those shrieks of Jasper Jay’s. That blue-coated rascal was the noisiest of all the feathered folk in Pleasant Valley. And now he fairly made the woods echo with his hoarse cries.
“This is the funniest sight I’ve ever seen!” Jasper Jay said at last, to nobody in particular. “I declare, there’s a pair of them!”
At that, Reddy Woodpecker suddenly stopped laughing.
“A pair of what?” he asked.
“A pair of red-heads, of course!” Jasper Jay replied. “You’ve a red cap–and so has he!” Jasper pointed at Solomon Owl (a very rude thing to do!).
Then two things happened all at once. Solomon Owl snatched off his red night-cap–which he had quite forgotten. And Reddy Woodpecker dashed at Jasper Jay. He couldn’t pull off his red cap, for it grew right on his head.
“So that’s what you’re laughing at, is it?” he cried angrily. And then nobody laughed any more–that is, nobody but Solomon Owl.
Solomon was so pleased by the fight that followed between Jasper Jay and Reddy Woodpecker that his deep, rumbling laughter could be heard for half an hour–even if it was midday. “Wha-wha! Whoo-ah!” The sound reached the ears of Farmer Green, who was just crossing a neighboring field, on his way home to dinner.
“Well, well!” he exclaimed. “I wonder what’s happened to that old owl! Something must have tickled him–for I never heard an owl laugh in broad daylight before.”