“Nonsense!” he cried.
“I’m a doctor; and I ought to know best,” she insisted.
But Solomon Owl hooted rudely.
“I’ll never come to you for advice any more,” he declared. “I firmly believe that my whole trouble was simply that I’ve been eating too sparingly. And I shall take good care to see that it doesn’t happen again.”
No one had ever spoken to Aunt Polly in quite that fashion—though old Mr. Crow had complained one time that she had cured him too quickly. But she did not lose her temper, in spite of Solomon’s jeers.
“You’ll be back here again the very next time you’re ill,” she remarked. “And if you continue to swallow your food whole——”
But Solomon Owl did not even wait to hear what she said. He was so impolite that he flew away while she was talking. And since it was then almost dark, and a good time to look for field mice, he began his night’s hunting right there in Farmer Green’s pasture.
By morning Solomon was so plump that Aunt Polly Woodchuck would have had a good deal of trouble finding his wishbone. But since he did not visit her again, she had no further chance to prod him in the waistcoat.
Afterward, Solomon heard a bit of gossip that annoyed him. A friend of his reported that Aunt Polly Woodchuck was going about and telling everybody how she had saved Solomon’s life.
“Mice!” he exclaimed (he often said that when some would have said “Rats!"). “There’s not a word of truth in her claim. And if people in this neighborhood keep on taking her advice and her catnip tea they’re going to be sorry some day. For they’ll be really ill the first thing they know. And then what will they do?”
Solomon Owl was by no means the only night-prowler in Pleasant Valley. He had neighbors that chose to sleep in the daytime, so they might roam through the woods and fields after dark. One of these was Benjamin Bat. And furthermore, he was the color of night itself.
Now, Benjamin Bat was an odd chap. When he was still he liked to hang by his feet, upside down. And when he was flying he sailed about in a zigzag, helter-skelter fashion. He went in so many different directions, turning this way and that, one could never tell where he was going. One might say that his life was just one continual dodge—when he wasn’t resting with his heels where his head ought to be.
A good many of Benjamin Bat’s friends said he certainly must be crazy, because he didn’t do as they did. But that never made the slightest difference in Benjamin Bat’s habits. He continued to zigzag through life— and hang by his heels—just the same. Perhaps he thought that all other people were crazy because they didn’t do likewise.
Benjamin often dodged across Solomon Owl’s path, when Solomon was hunting for field mice. And since Benjamin was the least bit like a mouse himself— except for his wings—there was a time, once, when Solomon tried to catch him.