This evening, while the boys were reading and talking to Mr. Harvey, several bats flew in at the window. John caught one of them in his hat, and placed it on the table for his cousin to examine. Samuel asked his uncle if it would not fly away.
"No," said Mr. Harvey, "it cannot raise itself from the ground. What we call its wings, are, you see, nothing but two thin skins, or membranes, stretched from its hind legs to its fore ones, and fastened to its sides. When flying, it spreads out its toes, so as to unfold these membranes, and thus balances itself in the air."
"Do not some people think that the bat is a bird?" asked Samuel.
"Yes. But probably they never examined a bat closely. You see that it looks nothing at all like a bird."
"Father," said John, "where did those great bats come from, which you have in your cabinet?"
"From the island of Java," said Mr. Harvey. "They are called Java bats. I have seen some with bodies as large as hens, and wings like umbrellas. Hundreds of these animals fly about the gardens and orchards of that island, every night, destroying great quantities of fruit. The people there, spread nets over the trees, to protect the fruit."
"I have read, in a book of travels," said Samuel, "that while persons are asleep, these bats, or some other large kind, suck their blood. Is that true, sir?"
"No," said Mr. Harvey. "Such tales were long believed, even by writers. No kind of bat will attack an animal as large as itself, nor enter a house when there is an abundance of fruit and insects in the field."
"Shall we let this bat go now?" said John. Mr. Harvey said yes; and then John lifted it on a large sheet of paper, and threw it into the air. In a moment it spread out its thin wings, and after flying about the room two or three times, passed out of the window. Mr. Harvey told them, that although the bat was so feeble when on the ground, yet its strength of wing was greater than that of any bird.