But Benjamin Bat never cared to have anything more to do with Solomon Owl.
He said he had a good reason for avoiding him.
And ever afterward he passed for a very brave person among his friends. They often pointed him out to strangers, saying, “There’s Benjamin Bat! He doesn’t know what fear is. Why, once he even spent a whole day asleep in Solomon Owl’s house! And if you don’t think that was a bold thing to do, then I guess you don’t know Solomon Owl.”
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.”