The next day Millie went about her normal routine. She looked about the cottage, went for a walk outside, and read her books--she had just begun to read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow--but nothing could help ease her guilt from the previous night. She focused very little on the words before her, and finally gave up on reading altogether and began to pace across her desk.. How could she focus on Ichabod Cranes love affair with Katrina when she worried so about the Bat. He had seemed so sad the previous night--perhaps sadder than any night before. But still, she knew she could never accept his proposal. It was just impossible.
But then again
why was it impossible?
Because it jut was, she assured herself. She didnt love the Bat, not enough to marry him. And besides, what kind of life could she have as the wife of a vampire bat? How could she marry someone so
No, Millie was sure it wasnt his appearance. Yes, that at first had been her reason for saying no, but she was used to the way he looked by now. But then, if it wasnt his appearance, than what was it?
Finally, it was time for dinner. Millie hesitantly entered the kitchen and climbed onto the table. There, just like always, she soon found the Bat.
Good evening, Millie, he said with a smile and a bow.
Millie returned the smile gladly. Good evening, Bat. Having traded their customary greetings, the two began to eat. As always, the Bat seemed to have very little appetite, and Millie couldnt deny that she didnt either, but when the Bat asked her about her day, she seemed to forget her guilt, and gladly told him everything she had done since awaking that morning. She was eager to tell him about The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, but felt very sorry for not having read as much of it as she could, for there was very little to discuss about human schoolteachers and their superstitions. The Bat, as light-hearted as ever when on the subject of books, assured her that there was much more to the story to come, and she promised to read more diligently tomorrow.
Suddenly, it had occurred to Millie that, while they always discussed the things she had done during the day, they had never spoken of what the Bat did to while away the hours.
Im afraid I sleep much of the day, the Bat explained when she brought up the subject, I spend much of my waking time in the evening hours. During that time, I mostly hunt for my food, but I also spend much of my time alone in my domain up above.
Then you do live in the attic? Millie asked. The Bat nodded. I would very much like to see it. Ive been so curious about what its like up there.
The Bat seemed surprised. Do you truly wish to see? he asked.
Very much, Millie replied.
The Bat paused a moment as if to consider this, then finally nodded. I can deny you nothing, Millie, he said. Then, after explaining that he would have to carry her in his talons, carefully grasped her front paws and flew up to the ceiling. There, he set her down on a crossbeam, and reached up to move away a panel, revealing a small, square opening hidden in the shadows. He then gently lifted her inside.
Mille, when she was once again set down, looked around at the attic and gasped in amazement. The attic, unlike the lower half of the cottage, was not split into many different rooms, but was one room as long and wide as the entire building. As far as she could see, there were dozens of strange human artifacts--dress forms, old chairs, toys that lay scattered about, even old portraits, cracked and yellowed with age. With a frown, Millie noted that, unlike all the furniture and items below, which were clean, tidy and well preserved, everything in the attic was coated in dust and showed the signs of neglect and decay from who knows how many years.
But that was when her eyes fell upon the enormous bookshelf, and the hundreds of volumes it held. There were all the books she had grown to love--Frankenstein, Romeo and Juliet, Moby Dick, to name a few--plus numerous others she had never seen. No wonder the Bat knew so much about literature! Oh, what she wouldnt have given to be able to read each and every book on that shelf. But the Bat didnt seem very interested in the bookshelf. Instead, he watched Millie as she wandered about, and whenever she enquired about something he gladly explained it to her.
Millie was thrilled at the new and exciting things she saw around her, and her curiosity was piqued when she noticed a small desk by a window. But no, not just a window. It was the very same window shed so often looked up at, wondering if the Bat looked down from it. When she climbed up onto the desk, she found a single candle, which had melted down to almost nothing, and covered the surface of the desk in wax. Next to it, a single book entitled Beauty and the Beast, and other Classical Fairy Tales. And there, leaning against the wall, was an old, tarnished mirror.
The Bat, never far from Millies side, watched as she opened the book, and read a line out loud.
and she saw, at her feet, one of the loveliest princes that eyes ever beheld; who returned her thanks for having put an end to the charm, under which he had so long resembled a Beast. Millie looked at the page, and turned to the Bat with a smile. It sounds like a strange story, she said.
The Bat simply nodded. Yes, but no stranger than any human story, he replied. The humans are fond of these fairy tales about magic and enchantment, and yet they never believe in such things. More often than not, they prefer their tragic lives to the happy endings that theyve come to think of as cliché.
Do we animals have happier lives? she asked. Do we get happy endings, or is that just the domain of human fairy tales?
The Bat frowned sadly and turned away. It depends on the story, I suppose.
Millie, not knowing what to say next, turned back to the book and flipped a few more pages to find a picture of an old man and two children. The title of he story was Hansel and Gretel and it was close to the end, where the two children returned home to their father. Before she could realize it, Millie had shed a tear.
The Bat soon saw this, and grew concerned. When he asked Millie what was wrong, she shook her head and said it was nothing. But when the Bat insisted, she told him she missed her father and her brothers and sisters. I havent seen them in so long, she said. I only wish I knew what they were doing.
The Bat thought a moment, then turned to Millie with a smile. There is a way you can see them, he said. And he pointed to the mirror. This mirror, he explained, can show you anything you want to see. Just look into it and think of what you want it to how you.
Millie was amazed. She would never have thought a mirror could do something so spectacular. But, she wanted to see her family very much, and she knew the Bat wouldnt lie to her. She moved in front of the mirror and looked at her reflection, wishing with all her might to see her family. Then, as she stared, her own image soon melted away, and instead she saw the old tool shed. Inside, her sisters lay curled up in the nest. Millies heart jumped for joy at the familiar sight, and she soon saw her brothers come in carrying food. And there, in the corner, was her dear father. He still looked solemn, as did her brothers, though her sisters seemed very content. All was silent in the little shed, but they all seemed healthy, and they were happy enough together. Millie was glad of that. But, seeing them, she could not suppress a tear which rolled down her cheek and soaked her fur and whiskers.
Whats wrong, Millie? the Bat asked.
Millie quickly wiped away the tear, for she hated the Bat to worry. Nothing, Bat, she replied. I just never expected to feel so sad at seeing my family. I only wish I could be with them, to tell them how well I have lived here in the cottage so that they wouldnt worry about me.
The Bat sighed and looked down at the ground. Then you would leave me, Millie?
Oh, no! Millie quickly turned to the Bat and gave him a smile. I would never leave you, Bat. You are my dearest friend in the world! I only wish to visit my family for a few days. If I could just do that, Id return and never leave you again, I swear it.
The Bat sighed and frowned sadly. I cannot deny you anything, Millie, he said at last, even if it should cost me my life. If you wish, I will let you visit your family.
Millie smiled brightly. Oh, Bat, do you mean it? Really?
Yes. But you must remain with them only a few days, while the moon still casts its light. The moon is full tonight, and will light your way, but with each passing day it will become darker and darker. If you do not return before the new moon, when the moon is completely hidden, you will not find your way back until the moon returns. By then, you would find your Bat dead.
Millie, worried by his solemn words, assured him she would return in time, and thanked him with all her heart. The Bat told her to prepare for her journey, for she would have to leave tonight, and helped her back down to the kitchen.
Millie was too excited to even think as she scurried to her room and gather the few seeds she would need to eat along the way, then headed for the hole in the wall. But, she stopped in the living room when she saw the Bat staring into the fire, and went to bid him farewell.
Thank you again, she said. It means so much to me.
The Bat simply nodded. I am happy to do whatever makes you happy, he replied. For that is all that matters to me.
Millie smiled and--to his surprise--hugged the Bat and nuzzled his cheek affectionately. I promise Ill be back, my friend, she said. And then Ill never leave you again. The Bat returned her smile, but his eyes showed sadness.
After giving the Bat a final farewell, Millie finally headed for the hole and left the cottage. She turned to give a final glance to the place she had called home for so long before she entered the woods.
At first, Millie wondered if shed be able to find her way, but as she walked she soon found that the moonlight guided her, just as it had guided her and her father before. It was not long at all before the edge of the woods came into view, and after that she almost immediately found her way back to the tool shed.
Without hesitation, Millie ran to the shed and called for her family. Instantly, her father and brothers rushed out at the sound of her voice, and they bombarded her with hugs and kisses. Even her sisters were amazed to see her.
The old field mouse, whose eyes were filled with tears of joy, kissed Millie tenderly and asked her how she had ever escaped from the terrible Bat. But Millie quickly explained that she hadnt escaped, and that the Bat was not at all terrible. To her familys surprise, she explained to them that her time at the Bats cottage had been a pleasant experience, and that the Bat had been one of the kindest creatures she had ever met.
But how could such a monster ever be kind? her eldest brother asked her.
Yes, the old mouse agreed. The Bat seemed like an awful monster when I met him.
But you didnt get to know him, Father, Millie explained. Hes really very brilliant and gentle, and not at all a monster.
The old mouse, not quite convinced, said to never mind, and brought Millie inside to tell them all about her life in the Bats cottage. She told them eagerly of the beautiful room she lived in, and of all the books she had to read, which seemed to place themselves on the desk. She told them how she always dined with the Bat, on the table which always had fresh food, and was most excited to tell them all about the attic, and the magical mirror that the Bat owned.
Her father and brothers were amazed by her story, but her two sisters, as petty and selfish as always, grew jealous of Millie yet again. As the days passed, Millie enjoyed being with her father and brothers, and returned to her old life with her family. But her sisters gave her nothing but glares of hatred, or harsh words of criticism.
Why should she be allowed to live in such luxury, they whispered to each other, when were forced to stay in this drafty old shed? But Millie had told them all of what the Bat had told her, and how she had to return before the new moon, and so the sisters began to conspire. If she does not return by the new moon, they said, perhaps the Bat will be so furious at her that he shall drink her blood.
It was with this in mind that the sisters began to whisper to their father and brothers, telling them they should make Millie stay longer. The moon had shrunk down to a crescent by now, and Millie was eager to return, but her father and brothers, who loved her so, listened to the sisters and pleaded for her to stay. Very well, she said, for she loved them so and hated to leave them again, I will stay a day longer. But time passed on, and still the old mouse and his sons pleaded for her to stay, and she had no choice but to comply.
Finally, the moon had been reduced to a tiny sliver. One more day, and the moon would be totally invisible. Millie went to sleep that night in her old familiar nest, but terrible nightmares plagued her. She dreamt she saw the Bat flying through the air, but he seemed frail and thin. Finally, he stopped flapping his wings, and fell to the ground. Then, to her horror, she saw him lying on the ground, dead.
With a start, Millie woke the next morning with tears in her eyes, and she decided he had to get to the Bats cottage right away. She told her family she was leaving and, ignoring her fathers and brothers pleas, prepared for the journey.
Must you go? the old mouse asked, still trying desperately to change her mind. Surely the Bat cannot mind if you stay a little longer, especially if this is the last time well ever see you.
I must, Millie said. The Bat could be dying. If he did, I would never forgive myself.
The old mouse seemed surprised. Then, you really care for this creature?
Care for him? Millie was shocked her father could even ask. Oh, more than you could know. He is my dearest friend, and I could not live without him. The mouse and his children seemed shocked to hear this
but not quite as much as Millie. Did she truly mean what she said? Did she really care that much for the Bat? The worry she felt was proof enough of that. She knew how much she cared for him, and so she bid her family goodbye and headed for the woods.
I truly could not live without him, Millie thought as she walked. He has grown so dear to me. Could it be
that I love him?
At first the notion seemed very odd to her, but as she wandered through the woods she realized it had to be true. The thought of the Bat dying frightened her so badly, more than anything had in her life. Right now she wanted desperately to see his face, to hear his voice. But as she wandered, she found she could not find her way. As the sun set, things only became worse, and Millie became frightened.
I am too late, she thought. He warned me that I would not find my way during the new moon. Why did I stay so long? Oh, Bat, if I could find you again I swear Id never leave your side!
Millie walked in circles it seemed, and she could hear owls and predators all around, but she refused to give up. She continued on, until she became tired and weak from hunger. But even then, her resolve was strong, and she refused to stop even to rest.
Then, finally, she came to the clearing, and was delighted to see the cottage. But something was wrong. The vines seemed to grow wilder on the walls then ever before, and all kinds of weeds grew in the clearing. She rushed to the hole in the wall, and noticed the roses witling. Now, more worried than ever, she rushed inside. She searched the kitchen, and climbed up to the table, but found the same food from her last meal in the cottage. By now it had all spoilt, and was covered in mold. Next, she went to the living room, but the fire had gone out. In her room, too, there was no fire, and her books had not been moved. Now, as she feared for the Bat, she began to call out for him. But he did not answer.
Millie desperately searched the entire cottage, and the clearing, but found no trace of the Bat. Finally, she decided he must be in the attic. It wouldnt be easy, but she knew she had to try and get to him. She climbed the wall as fast as her little limbs could carry her, digging deep into the wood with her claw, and when she reached the crossbeam she was relieved to see the door open and climbed in.
The attic seemed darker than ever before, but she quickly scurried to the old desk and climbed up. There, laying stretched out over his book, was the Bat. He was still, and looked as though he hadnt eaten in days.
When she saw him, she thought he was dead, and cried terribly. She crawled over to his still body and nuzzled his soft, dark fur with her nose. Oh, my poor, poor Bat, she cried. Ive killed you. But then, she heard his heart beating, and after a moment he opened his eyes. She cried tears of joy now, and kissed him tenderly.
The Bat smiled at her, though he appeared to be in pain, and held her in his wing. You came back, he said in a weak voice. When you didnt return at first, I feared you had forgotten me. I could no longer bring myself to hunt, and starved myself until I fell in mid flight. I managed to come here, but I fear Ive injured myself beyond saving. The bat laughed, but winced when the action pained him. At least I was able to see you once more, Millie
now I can die happy.
No, said Millie. You cant die! Im here now, and Im going to take care of you. Oh, Bat, I never knew how much you meant to me. But now I do, and Ill never leave your side.
The Bat smiled. You care for me?
More than anything in the world. Millie nuzzled her face against his chest. Oh, Bat, how could I have been so blind? I know now that I love you so much. Please dont leave me.
The Bat held her tighter in his wing. I love you, too, Millie, he said. Then, his eyes closed and he fell into a deep sleep.
Millie quickly listened for his heartbeat, and when she heard it she quickly went off to gather supplies. She found some stuffing from an old teddy bear, and bits of cloth from and old blanket, and built a nest around the Bat to keep him warm and comfortable. Then, she climbed down to the kitchen, found some bread that hadnt spoiled, and, with great difficulty, carried it back up. But the Bat, drifting I and out of consciousness, wouldnt eat it. Finally, she realized he needed bugs, like the mosquitoes and moths he was accustom to. She couldnt find any moths or mosquitoes, but when she found an old spider web with a fly trapped in it, she carried the fly to the Bat and was relieved when he swallowed it down.
You see, she said with a smile. Youll get better soon enough. Then we can enjoy our talks once again.
The Bat, once again awake, returned her smile. You have taken such good care of me, he said. I am forever grateful.
Its nothing, Millie insisted. And youve already done so much for me, my love. She kissed the Bats cheek and cuddled close to him to keep him warm.
The Bat wrapped his wings around her, and held her close. Millie, he whispered, will you marry me?
Millie, after only a brief moment, smiled and nodded her head. Yes, Bat, she said. I will marry you.
Suddenly, there was a strange pulse of energy, which felt to Millie like it had gone from where he and the Bat lay and rippled throughout the cottage. The attic, which had been pitch black, had suddenly become flooded with light, as though the sun were hinging down through the roof. Millie, surprised by all this, was even more shocked when she no longer felt the Bat next to her, and jumped up to look for him. But there, standing before her, was a strange new creature. She recognized him from her dreams, but was confused to see him in real life, standing before her.
This creature, who smiled at her, was smaller than the bat, about the same size as Millie, and had brown fur just like her, too. His ears were large and pointed, and he had wings just like the Bat, but his claw were much smaller, as were his fangs, his nose was small, like hers, and his eyes were gold instead of red.
Millie stared at this creature a moment, but finally turned away. I must find the Bat, she said, but the creature held out a wing to stop her.
Millie, the creature said. Its voice was soft and gentle, but familiar somehow. Millie, its me, the Bat. Millies eyes grew wide, but the creature just smiled. Its true. Im your own beloved Bat.
But how can that be? Millie asked.
I was not truly a vampire bat, the Bat explained. I was born an ordinary brown bat, the prince of my colony. But I was vain and selfish, caring only for myself and my books. So one day an evil witch, a gypsy moth, cast a spell on me, turning me into a hideous vampire, and forcing me to live alone in this enchanted cottage. The only way I could break the spell was by falling in love with someone who could see beyond my horrible form, and would love me and agree to be my wife.
Millie could hardly believe what she had heard, but the Bat smiled at her in the way he had always smiled at her, and he knew it was him. She hugged him tightly and kissed him. I do love you, Bat, she said, and I will be your wife.
And I love you, too, the Bat replied. And we shall return to my colony, where we will be king and queen.
Millie smiled, but asked what would become of her family. The Bat explained that his colony lived in an old hollow tree, which sat in the middle of a large field where humans were not allowed to go. Millies family were welcome to move there, and they would have an even happier life than before. Her brothers and sisters could meet other mice, and find wives and husbands, and her father could settle down in an old stump all his own.
Its all so hard to believe, Millie sighed as she gazed into the Bats eyes.
Why should it be? the Bat asked with a grin. After all, why shouldnt animals have their happy ending, too?
And it was just as the Bat had said. He took Millie and her family to the field where his colony lived in a hollow tree, and the old field mouse found a cozy little tree stump all his own. Millies brothers soon fell in love with wonderful girl mice, and settled down to begin families of their own. Even her sisters found husbands, though they were still petty and vain, and so were never truly happy.
As for Millie, she and the Bat were married, and became king and queen of the colony. Many animals whispered amongst themselves that it was odd to see a mouse the queen of a bat colony, but Millie and the Bat paid little attention. They ruled the colony well, and grew to love each other even more, and just like in the human fairy tales, the Mouse and the Bat lived happily ever after.