Chapter XII: A Tree-Top Battle
 
   As black is black and white is white,
   So wrong is wrong and right is right.

There isn't any half way about it. A thing is wrong or it is right, and that is all there is to it. But most people have hard work to see this when they want very much to do a thing that the still small voice way down inside tells them isn't right. They try to compromise. To compromise is to do neither one thing nor the other but a little of both. But you can't do that with right and wrong. It is a queer thing, but a half right never is as good as a whole right, while a half wrong often, very often, is as bad as a whole wrong.

Farmer Brown's boy, up in the tree by the nest of Hooty the Owl in the lonesome corner of the Green Forest, was fighting a battle. No, he wasn't fighting with Hooty or Mrs. Hooty. He was fighting a battle right inside himself. It was a battle between right and wrong. Once upon a time he had taken great delight in collecting the eggs of birds, in trying to see how many kinds he could get. Then as he had come to know the little forest and meadow people better, he had seen that taking the eggs of birds is very, very wrong, and he had stopped stealing them. He bad declared that never again would he steal an egg from a bird.

But never before had he found a nest of Hooty the Owl. Those two big eggs would add ever so much to his collection. "Take 'em, " said a little voice inside. "Hooty is a robber. You will be doing a kindness to the other birds by taking them."

"Don't do it, " said another little voice. "Hooty may be a robber, but he has a place in the Green Forest, or Old Mother Nature never would have put him here. It is just as much stealing to take his eggs as to take the eggs of any other bird. He has just as much right to them as Jenny Wren has to hers."

"Take one and leave one, " said the first voice.

"That will be just as much stealing as if you took both, " said the second voice. "Besides, you will be breaking your own word. You said that you never would take another egg."

"I didn't promise anybody but myself, " declared Farmer Brown's boy right out loud. At the sound of his voice, Hooty and Mrs. Hooty, sitting in the next tree, snapped their bills and hissed louder than ever.

"A promise to yourself ought to be just as good as a promise to any one else. I don't wonder Hooty hisses at you, " said the good little voice.

"Think how fine those eggs will look in your collection and how proud you will be to show them to the other fellows who never have found a nest of Hooty's, " said the first little voice.

"And think how mean and small and cheap you'll feel every time you look at them, " added the good little voice. "You'll get a lot more fun if you leave them to hatch out and then watch the little Owls grow up and learn all about their ways. Just think what a stout, brave fellow Hooty is to start housekeeping at this time of year, and how wonderful it is that Mrs. Hooty can keep these eggs warm and when they have hatched take care of the baby Owls before others have even begun to build their nests. Besides, wrong is wrong and right is right, always."

Slowly Farmer Brown's boy reached over the edge of the nest and put back the egg. Then he began to climb down the tree. When he reached the ground he went off a little way and watched. Almost at once Mrs. Hooty flew to the nest and settled down on the eggs, while Hooty mounted guard close by.

"I'm glad I didn't take 'em, " said Farmer Brown's boy. "Yes, Sir, I'm glad I didn't take 'em."

As he turned back toward home, he saw Blacky the Crow flying over the Green Forest, and little did he guess how he had upset Blacky's plans.