“James I, at the beginning of his reign, to gratify the people, published a book of sports, of which the women had some time before participated on Sunday evenings, but which had been prohibited. These sports consisted of dancing, ringing, wrestling, and other profanations of that day, and which had risen to such a height that the land would have been deluged with immorality, if Charles I had not wisely shown his piety, by totally abolishing them.” — The Mirror of Literature, Amusement and Instruction, Vol. 19, No. 553, 23rd June 1832
Like many bats, Sidney spent much of his time hanging upside down in a dark, damp cave. Both of his parents were still alive, and on Saturdays he would visit them. They lived in the attic of a museum, and enjoyed swooping, wings aflutter, around the heads of any museum employees who came up to the attic, which was used as a clutter-strewn storage area. The museum housed collections of electromagnetic apparatus, galvanometers, and cast iron mesmeric engines. It was the most renowned museum of its kind in the land, numbering among its exhibits not only Von Ick's Patent Trance Mechanism but also an archive of papers from the laboratory of the great celery scientist Kapisko.
Figure 1 : One of the museum exhibits
Professor Maud Dweb was the chief curator. Her in-tray was piled high with complaints about the bats in the attic. One young assistant janitor, on his first ever visit up there, had been literally frightened out of his wits. He had been removed to a sanatorium in remote mountainous country, and his family, despite most of them being brain-addled, had made known their intentions to prosecute the museum. One of the land's most relentless lawyers had been paid a retainer. Professor Dweb decided to act.
One Saturday evening, after the museum had closed, when soon the full moon [would] swim up over the edge of the world and hang like a great golden cheese (in the words attributed to the shade of Oscar Wilde by the spirit medium Hester Travers Smith), the curator ascended the staircase to the gloomy attic. It was the work of minutes to set a number of bat-traps in the darkness. As she made to leave, Professor Dweb stumbled over a crate containing the world's only surviving example of Bickering's Superb New Hinge, banged her head on the wall, and dropped to the floor, unconscious. Sidney's parents swooped low, and perched - do bats perch? - on her back.
Figure 2 : Diagram of the attic
At that very moment, Sidney flapped in through the skylight. He and his parents exchanged greetings, in bat-language. They told him what had happened to Professor Dweb, who was sinking into a catatonic stupor. Sidney was most disappointed, for he could not see any fun in flapping around someone who was unconscious. She wouldn't be scared at all! He resolved to arouse the curator, and at once began to make hideous bat-like squealing noises directly into her ear, flicking his wings against her temples. It took some time, but eventually Maud Dweb woke with a start. Then she screeched, flailing her arms at the mischievous bat. She fled the attic, slamming the trap-door behind her, leaving the fiendish bat-traps to do their work.
An hour later she was back in the attic, armed with a torch. She found Sidney hanging upside down from the rafters. “Well, young bat,” she announced, “Inadvertently, you have performed a great service to your country! Had you not woken me from my stupor, thieves would have made off with the museum's most prized exhibit! I was only just in time to nab them! Fleeing from you, I went downstairs to find a pair of counter-revolutionary ne'er-do-wells about to make off with Darjeeling's Anti-Imperialist Galvanising Motor! You are - as a mere bat - probably unaware that this machine is a potent symbol of our glorious revolution. I shall recommend to the General Secretary of the Party that you are given an award in recognition of your deed. Well done!”
Figure 3 : Counter-revolutionary ne'er-do-wells
Sidney's parents patted him proudly on his bat-head. Professor Dweb dismantled the bat-traps. The full moon shimmered through the skylight.
News has reached us that Mrs Gubbins has been sprung from chokey. (See 23rd March for details of her arrest.) She is now holed up in a safe house - or, more properly, derelict shed - protected by a heavily-armed gang of thugs wearing boa constrictor masks. They are subsisting on a diet of gruel, slops and pap until a criminal supply line can be set in place. We will keep you fully informed of developments. Please remember them in your prayers.