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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/828

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

light, and flits up and down the coast rivers with screams that can be heard as plainly as the screech of a paroquet. The Vespertilio scandens of eastern San Domingo has a peculiar habit of flitting from tree to tree, and clambering about in quest of insects, almost with the agility of a flying squirrel. There are times when the moonlit woods near Cape Rafael seem to be all alive with the restless little creatures; that keep up a clicking chirp, and every now and then gather in swarms to contest a tempting find, or to settle some probate court litigation. San Domingo also harbors one species of those prototypes of the harpies, the fruit-eating bats. It passes the daylight hours in hollow trees, but becomes nervous toward sunset and apt to betray its hiding place by an impatient twitter—probably a collocution of angry comments on the length of time between meals. The moment the twilight deepens into gloom the chatterers flop out to fall on the next mango orchard and eat away like mortgage brokers. They do not get fat—champion gluttons rarely do—but attain a weight of six ounces, and the Haytian darkey would get even with them after a manner of their own if their prerogatives were not protected by the intensity of their musky odor. The above-mentioned hutia rat appears to have immigrated from some part of the world where the shortness of the summer justified the accumulation of large reserve stores of food, and under the influence of a hereditary hoarding instinct it now passes its existence constructing and filling a series of subterranean granaries. Besides, the females build nurseries, and all these burrows are connected by tunnels that enable their constructors to pass the rainy season under shelter. They gather nuts, belotas (a sort of sweet acorns), and all kinds of cereals, and with their penchant for appropriating roundish wooden objects on general principles would probably give a Connecticut nutmeg peddler the benefit of the doubt.

They also pilfer raisins, and a colony of such tithe collectors is a formidable nuisance, for the hutia is a giant of its tribe, and attains a length of sixteen inches, exclusive of the tail. It is found in Cuba, Hayti, Jamaica, Porto Rico, Antigua, Trinidad, the Isle of Pines, Martinique, and two or three of the southern Bahama Islands, and there may have been a time when it had the archipelago all to itself. The Lucayans had a tradition that their ancestors found it on their arrival from the mainland, and in some coast regions of eastern Cuba it may still be seen basking in the sunlight—

"Sole sitting on the shore of old romance,"

and wondering if there are any larger mammals on this planet.

Its next West Indian congener is the Jamaica rice rat, and there are at least ten species of mice, all clearly distinct from any Old-World