He had suddenly decided not to let his shop, after all.
For some time Solomon Owl had known that a queer feeling was coming over him. And he could not think what it meant. He noticed, too, that his appetite was leaving him. Nothing seemed to taste good any more.
So at last, one fine fall evening he went to see Aunt Polly Woodchuck, who was an herb doctor; for he had begun to worry about his health.
“It’s lucky you came to-day,” said Aunt Polly. “Because to-night I’m going to begin my winter’s nap. And you couldn’t have seen me again till spring— unless you happened to come here on ground-hog day, next February.... What appears to be your trouble?” she inquired.
“It’s my appetite, partly,” Solomon Owl said. “Nothing tastes as it did when I was a youngster. And I keep longing for something, though what it is I can’t just tell.”
Aunt Polly Woodchuck nodded her head wisely.
“What have you been eating lately?” she asked.
Solomon Owl replied that he hadn’t eaten anything but mice since the leaves began to turn.
“H-m—the leaves are nearly all off the trees now,” the old lady remarked. “How many mice have you eaten in that time?”
Solomon said that as nearly as he could remember he had eaten twenty-seven—or a hundred and twenty-seven. He couldn’t say which—but one of those numbers was correct.
Aunt Polly Woodchuck threw up her hands.
“Sakes alive!” she cried. “It’s no wonder you don’t feel well! What you need is a change of food. And it’s lucky you came to me now. If you’d gone on like that much longer I’d hate to say what might have happened to you. You’d have had dyspepsia, or some other sort of misery in your stomach.”
“What shall I do?” asked Solomon Owl. “Insects are scarce at this season of the year. Of course, there are frogs—but I don’t seem to care for them. And there are fish—but they’re not easy to get, for they don’t come out of the water and sit on the bank, as the frogs do.”
“How about pullets?” Aunt Polly inquired.
At that Solomon Owl let out a long row of hoots, because he was pleased.
“The very thing!” he cried. “That’s what I’ve been wanting all this time. And I never guessed it.... I’ll pay you for your advice the next time I see you,” he told Aunt Polly. And Solomon Owl hurried away before she could stop him. Since he had no intention of visiting her on ground-hog day, he knew it would be spring before he saw Aunt Polly Woodchuck again.
The old lady scolded a bit. And it did not make her feel any pleasanter to hear Solomon’s mocking laughter, which grew fainter and fainter as he left the pasture behind him. Then she went inside her house, for she was fast growing sleepy. And she wanted to set things to rights before she began her long winter’s nap.