Chapter XII BENJAMIN BAT
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.
But Solomon Owl soon found that chasing Benjamin Bat made him dizzy. If Benjamin hadn’t been used to hanging head downward, maybe he would have been dizzy, too.
Though the two often saw each other, Benjamin Bat never seemed to care to stop for a chat with Solomon Owl. One night, however, Benjamin actually called to Solomon and asked his advice. He was in trouble. And he knew that Solomon Owl was supposed by some to be the wisest old fellow for miles around.
It was almost morning. And Solomon Owl was hurrying home, because a terrible storm had arisen. The lightning was flashing, and peals of thunder crashed through the woods. Big drops of rain were already pattering down. But Solomon Owl did not care, for he had almost reached his house in the hollow hemlock near the foot of Blue Mountain.
It was different with Benjamin Bat. That night he had strayed a long distance from his home in Cedar Swamp. And he didn’t know what to do. “I want to get under cover, somewhere,” he told Solomon Owl. “You don’t know of a good place near-by, do you, where I can get out of the storm and take a nap?”
“Why, yes!” answered Solomon Owl. “Come right along to my house and spend the day with me!”
But Benjamin Bat did not like the suggestion at all.
“I’m afraid I might crowd, you,” he said. He was thinking of the time when Solomon Owl had chased him. And sleeping in Solomon Owl’s house seemed far from a safe thing to do.
Solomon was wise enough to guess what was going on inside Benjamin’s head.
“Come along!” he said. “We’ll both be asleep before we know it. I’m sorry I can’t offer you something to eat. But I haven’t a morsel of food in my house. No doubt, though, you’ve just had a good meal. I ate seven mice tonight. And I certainly couldn’t eat anything more.”
When Solomon Owl told him that, Benjamin Bat thought perhaps there was no danger, after all. And since the rain was falling harder and harder every moment, he thanked Solomon and said he would be glad to accept his invitation.
“Follow me, then!” said Solomon Owl. And he led the way to his home in the hemlock.
For once, Benjamin Bat flew in a fairly straight line, though he did a little dodging, because he couldn’t help it.
There was more room inside Solomon’s house than Benjamin Bat had supposed. While Benjamin was looking about and telling Solomon that he had a fine home, his host quickly made a bed of leaves in one corner of the room–there was only one room, of course.
“That’s for you!” said Solomon Owl. “I always sleep on the other side of the house.” And without waiting even to make sure that his guest was comfortable, Solomon Owl lay down and began to snore–for he was very sleepy.
It was so cozy there that Benjamin Bat was glad, already, that he had accepted Solomon’s invitation.