« ПредишнаНапред »
ing the four inferior toes of the fore feet, which are extended to a great length, the membrane reaching from them to the hind legs, and from thence to the tail. The first toe, being loose and flexible, serves the animal for a heel when he walks, which is but seldom, or as a hook to suspend himself by, when desirous of adhering to any thing, which is one of its common positions. The hind feet extend beyond the membrane, and are therefore at liberty, and divided into five toes, with strong sharp claws.
This animal remains in a dormant state during all the winter; and even in summer it sleeps a great part of its time, never venturing abroad by day-light, nor in rainy weather : but on the pleasant summer evenings it makes its excursions in quest of food, which is generally gnats, small moths, and other nocturnal insects. Its retreat is generally a chink of an old ruined building, or the trunk of a tree. When it flies abroad at these times, it is often seen to skim along the surface of rivers, canals, and other still waters. Its flight consists in a laborious irregular motion, which it cannot preserve for above the space of an hour; and if it be struck down, or obstructed by any thing in its flight, it sinks to the ground, and is easily caught. On the approach of winter, the bat usually seeks a retreat, in the choice of which it seems to have more regard to solitude than conveniency, for it is often found hanging by its claws to the roof of some cave, regardless of the surrounding damps. Its retreat sometimes lies so open to the weather, that a sudden change of the atmosphere, from cold to very mild weather, will allure the bat abroad before there are insects sufficient to support it, in which case, after a fruitless pursuit, it becomes the prey of the owl, or some other voracious creature.
The bat generally breeds in summer, and brings forth her young alive, and from two to five at
She has but two teats, which are placed very forward on the breast, like those of the hu• man species. In providing for her young, she makes no nest, but takes possession of the first hole she meets with, where, sticking herself up against the wall by her claws, the young hang at her breast for the first, or first and second days, after which she, beginning to grow hungry, goes out in quest of food, sticking her young ones against the wall in the same manner, where they patiently wait her return. The bat is itself a lazy animal, seldom using its legs to walk, and its flights are attended with labour and fatigue to itself; it is, however, perfectly harmless and inoffensive, and while it amuses the imagination by its evening flights, it destroys many of those troublesome, and which might otherwise prove noxious insects.
There are several different species of the bat found in different parts of the world, particularly in the warmer climates.—Dict. of Nat. Hist.
When Jordan hush'd his waters still,
Heaven bursts her azure gates to pour
40. The Beaver.
Endued'; gifted. Displays'; shews, exhibits. Construction ; formation, Habita'tion; dwelling. Rud'der; helm. Ev'idently; plainly. Attach'ment; liking. Remote'; distant. Gregar'ious ; living in flocks. Endeavours; exertions. Associate ; keep company with. Ben'efit ; advantage. Social'ity; familiarity. Detached'; separated. Strat'agem; cunning, artifice. Antipathies; hostile feelings, aversion. Des'titute; in want of. Displayed'; shown, exhibited.
The beaver is a most singular quadruped, endued with a surprising degree of art, which it displays in the construction of its habitation. This animal in external form somewhat resembles a rat, but is vastly larger, being generally three feet from the nose to the tail. The tail is about eleven inches long and three broad.
broad. It is covered all over its body with hair of a deep chesnut brown, and which is composed of two sorts; the one long and coarse, the other short, fine, and silky. This animal has membranes between the toes of its hind feet; and it is the only animal which is furnished with these membranes in the hind feet only. The tail is broad and flat, and covered with scales, and serves as a rudder to direct the animal's course when in the water; for the creature is almost as much attached to that element as to the land. This wonderfnl animal unites in itself somewhat of the three different natures of the beast, the fish, and the bird. It is evidently an animal of the first class. Its attachment to the water, and its scaly tail, give it a similitude to the fish ; while, like the feathered tribe, it has but one vent for its excrements. It inhabits generally the remote parts of America, where it is still to be seen in great numbers.
The beaver is a gregarious animal, and appears to be the only one whose society cannot be dissolved, or its nature altered by the endeavours of man, still associating together in numbers, and providing for their mutual benefit by their sociality and united endeavours. When detached from its companions, it appears incapable of providing for its safety, either by stratagem or defence, and its only resource is in flight; and when taken and kept in a domestic state, it appears a dull, solitarycreature, oppressed with melancholy,
and incapable either of attachments or antipathies : and, in a word, destitute of all that art and ingenuity which it displays in its native situation.
The principal qualities for which this animal is remarkable, as before observed, are, the surprising ingenuity displayed in the construction of its habitation ; the assiduity in the execution of it, and the surprising unanimity and concord of the whole community. These creatures assemble together about the months of June and July, and generally to the amount of two hundred, in order
to provide their future residence. The place of : their rendezvous is generally on the margin of
some lake or river, where they build a dam or dyke : but if the water in the river be often on a level, it is not always necessary to erect a dam. This dam or pier is so constructed over the river or lake, as to form a kind of dead water in those parts which lie above and below it. The dam or pier is often fourscore or a hundred feet in length, and ten or twelve feet thick at the base. The surprising solidity of the work is far more astonishing than its magnitude. They generally fix upon some great tree which overhange the stream, as the principal stay to the work; this tree they soon hew down with their teeth, though it be thicker than a man's body. They first level it on that side on which they wish it to fall, which is always across the stream, and generally in the most shallow part of the river. They afterwards cut off the branches, which is also done with their teeth, that the tree may lie close and even, and serve as the principal beam of the building. The dyke or pier descends with a slope on that side next the water, which gravitates on the work in proportion to its height, pressing it with a prodigious force towards the earth, the other side of