STORY XXXVII BATS
- Bats are very strange little animals, having hair like mice, and wings like birds. During the day, they live in crevices of rocks, in caves, and in other dark places.
- At night, they go forth in search of food; and, no doubt, you have seen them flying about, catching such insects as happen to be out rather late at night.
- The wings of a bat have no quills. They are only thin pieces of skin stretched upon a framework of bones. Besides this, it may be said that while he is a quadruped, he can rise into the air and fly from place to place like a bird.
- There is a funny fable about the bat, founded upon this double character of beast and bird, which I will tell you.
- An owl was once prowling about, when he came across a bat. So he caught him in his claws, and was about to devour him. Upon this, the bat began to squeal terribly; and he said to the owl, “Pray, what do you take me for, that you use me thus?”
- “Why, you are a bird, to be sure,” said the owl, “and I am fond of birds. I love dearly to break their little bones.”
- “Well,” said the bat, “I thought there was some mistake. I am no bird. Do n’t you see, Mr. Owl, that I have no feathers, and that I am covered with hair like a mouse?”
- “Sure enough,” said the owl, in great surprise; “I see it now. Really, I took you for a bird, but it appears you are only a kind of mouse. I ate a mouse last night, and it gave me the nightmare. I can’t bear mice! Bah! it makes me sick to think of it.” So the owl let the bat go.
- The very next night, the bat encountered another danger. He was snapped up by puss, who took him for a mouse, and immediately prepared to eat him.
- “I beg you to stop one moment,” said the bat. “Pray, Miss Puss, what do you suppose I am?” “A mouse, to be sure!” said the cat. “Not at all,” said the bat, spreading his long wings.
- “Sure enough,” said the cat: “you seem to be a bird, though your feathers are not very fine. I eat birds sometimes, but I am tired of them just now, having lately devoured four young robins; so you may go. But, bird or mouse, it will be your best policy to keep out of my way hereafter.”
- The meaning of this fable is, that a person playing a double part may sometimes escape danger; but he is always, like the bat, a creature that is disgusting to everybody, and shunned by all.
Continue to Lesson 38