Imatges de pÓgina


work in concert. The spiders might make would have given him some friendly admoan immense web by working together. nitions, but in a free and easy manner he

“Dear child,” replied the father, “it is informed me that he was a diver by profesonly for good ends that many can enter into sion, and could not neglect his trade. friendly alliance. The league of selfishness In the course of our conversation, he told and malice bears in itself the seeds of dis- me that he lived on boat-flies, water-mites, solution. Wise nature, therefore, will not and the larvæ of gnats, caddice-flies, and essay that which men often find by expe. dragon-flies, of which there were the greatest rience to be impracticable and pernicious." abundance. He pressed me to visit his

As they returned to the house the boy home, which, to my surprise, I found to be said

amongst the stargrass at the bottom of the “I have learned something to-day from stream ; so I had to decline. However, on that ugly animal."

parting, I promised to return and renew our “And why not?” replied the father. “Na acquaintance, so pleasantly formed, but in ture has placed the malignant side by side the meantime I could only take up my posiwith the amiable, the evil with the good, tion on a leaf of the duckmeat and watch his that thus the good inay appear the more aquatic movements. Almost before my distinct and beautiful. And thus may men sentence was finished he was off, and all at learn something even from the wicked.” once, plunging headlong into the water,

What more was said I could not hear, but made little ripples which agitated the leafI felt that I had heard too much. I could lets around so that the accuracy of my obnot stay in a place where I had been so un- servations was considerably marred. Neverjustly reviled. · Consequently, after casting a theless, I soon caught sight of him bearing sorrowful look at my shattered web, I left a bubble of air at the apex of his abdomen, the garden for ever. After a while I became which he had taken with him as he started, calmer, and reasoned with myself about the and which looked like silver in the water. I man's seeming injustice, and came to the saw him select a suitable place to locate it, conclusion that he only used the bee and and watched him fasten it to a branch of the spider as figures by which to portray the stargrass some two or three feet from the good and the bad amongst men. Neverthe surface. When he came up again for anless, I am grieved to know that I and my other bubble, I asked him what he was inrace are looked upon as terrible monsters of tending to do, but all the reply he gave me cruelty in the insect world. It was this con- as he dived down again was, “Fools and tinual persecution--for it was nothing else bairns shouldna see half dune wark.” De--that first induced me to visit other climes. termined to see the half-finished work comI thought that surely other nations were not pleted, I continued at my post of observation, our sworn enemies like the whites; but in and was perfectly astonished to see the this I was sometimes mistaken, for, in fact, I rapidity with which his visits to the surface was seldom out of hearing of the English for bubbles of air were accomplished. As language. Like the spider race, you find the air balloon became enlarged he had to the speakers of it everywhere.

tie it by threads which he spun, so that it Shortly after leaving the vineyard I found might not break away from its moorings myself in a low marsh, through which a and rise to the surface. After he had assluggish stream was slowly forcing its way. cended and descended about a dozen times, The surface of the water was almost covered the air-bell was sufficiently large for his acwith a plant called duckmeat, and down in commodation, and I now saw that all the the depths I could see the stargrass growing while he was constructing a home for himwith rank luxuriance. As I was passing self

. He wove a covering over the top of along, discontented with myself and at vario it, so as to darken it somewhat, and entering ance with all mankind, I saw a pale, red from below turned himself about so that he dish spider, about my own size, wearing a might be hidden whilst he kept a sharp close nap of hair along his throat and abdo- look-out for game. By-and by the oxygen men, in the very act of plunging headlong in the diving-bell was exhausted by his into the water. My startled cry arrested his breathing, and he came up for a fresh supattention, and, as I thought, prevented an act ply. I took the opportunity of informing of premeditated suicide. I hailed him, and him that I was neither a fool nor a child, for



I had seen his home completed without be- can adapt itself to circumstances. Further
ing made any the wiser by his information. in, where the daylight never enters, and no-
Seeing me a little piqued, he smiled as only thing but night prevails, I found some of my
a spider can, and proceeded to make race, totally blind, eking out a precarious liv-
amends for his impoliteness before. He ing, having long, slender, colourless bodies,
told me that he was going to spin a staircase, and hairy feet which formed delicate organs
by which he could ascend and descend with of touch. This seemed to me to be another
still greater rapidity, and that then he in- instance of the law of compensation, where
tended spinning several threads from the the want of sight is counterbalanced by the
bottom of his air-cell to the branches and sensitive feelers which those of us who can
leaves near his home, to act as telegraph see do not possess. They seemed happy
wires, by informing him of the approach of any and contented, however ; but it was with a
booty or danger. By these threads he would sigh of relief that I gazed on the pure light
be able to run hither and thither after his of heaven once more, for what was their
prey, and easily secure it. If he felt hungry, safety was my misery, and what is my delight
he said, he generally carried his victims to would be their ruin.
his home, but if otherwise he secured them Leaving the cave spiders to pursue their
by threads outside, as a supply to fall back unenviable lot, I continued my rambles
upon in case of a dearth in the water.

southward, and after a time came into the
I was certainly very much pleased with warm, balmy breezes of the torrid zone,
my amphibious friend, and not a little proud where everything grows with wonderful luxu.
when he earnestly besought me to occupy riance, and a profusion of all things is scat-
one of these airy prison cells with him. Itered around.
had to refuse, however; not that I had any Of course I cannot describe the beauty
objections to him as a mate for life, but I of the torrid zone I can only speak of
did object to his style of living. And let friends I made during my wanderings there,
me here say that I have seen young women which extended over many years. I found
refuse on the same score, but with feelings many tribes of the spider sace, some of whom
of proud disdain which afterwards changed were giants in size and strength compared
into those of just regret. Others have ac- with my own family. I was perfectly as-
cepted a course of life as foreign to their tonished at the magnitude and resistance of
natures as this would have been to me, only their webs. In Mexico they are so strong
to regret the choice when it was impossible that if a traveller strikes his hat against one
to unsay it, just because they would not hanging above his path it will knock it off.
listen to the words of reason and judgment, They entangle not only flies and moths, but
but allowed their shifting feelings to lead butterflies; and even small birds have been
the van.

caught in their enormous meshes. In SeneBut the best of friends must part. The gal they will bear the weight of several gnawings of hunger reminded me that I had ounces, and some people make good ropes to go, so with a hearty good-bye I continued of these giant threads. In the island of Java my wanderings, as if I were a branded child the people often use a knife to cut them out of Cain ; and, like a near descendant of of the way, when, if they had any sense of Ishmael, I resolved to wage warfare against justice and compassion, they would pass them all those who would unjustly condemn our by. race as ugly, brutal, and vile.

As an instance of this, let me relate what I Not knowing where to go, I resolved to saw out in one of the prairies of the Westmake the noonday sun my guiding star, and ern States. *

Amongst a tangle of vines so travelled towards the south. Whilst on thickly interspersed with myriads of flowers, my long pilgrimage, I was induced on one a number of ruby-breasted humming-birds occasion, through sheer curiosity, to enter a were gaily flitting. All at once I saw one cave somewhere in Southern Europe. To of my jumping cousins-called leaping spimy surprise, I found some spiders living in ders--coming, crouching and crawling, sidethe perpetual twilight, with frail

, delicate, and ways and every way, now hiding himself and almost colourless bodies. What struck me now making short springs from one object the most was that their eyes were very imperfectly developed, showing how nature * Howitt's “Boy Hunters.”


to another. He was a horrid-looking crea- his skin, or the leopard his spots ?” what ture, I must say, covered with dark brown could I say? hair, and about the size of one of the hum- Another feature of my equatorial relations ming-birds before him. His sharp, glitter- is their gorgeous colours. O, how insiging eyes and his two great claws before him nificant and ugly I appeared compared with gave him a noble appearance, and I pitied some of the epeiras of the Philippine Islands the pretty little birds from my heart, who ap- with whom I associated! I have heard of peared so guileless and yet so careless of a deer admiring his antlers in the'water, and danger. Onward he came, watching his op- have seen many a conceited fop and foolish portunities until one of them flew within his maiden loving their shadow in the glass ; reach—then, when the unsuspecting victim but when I saw my dirty brown, hairy, was hovering over a flower, with its head wrinkled body reflected in one side of a deep down amongst its lovely petals, my calabash of water, with my Philippine neighcousin made a spring that terrified me, and bour on the other, I felt as mean as if I had clasped the ruby breast with his great feel been stealing. Many of them are striped ers. With a wild, despairing chirrup, the alternately with red, yellow, and black; poor bird flew away aloft, trying to carry its whilst others have white figures on a red destroyer with it. But the great strong background. Some are orange, marbled thread of my jumping relative was a chain with brown ; others are light green, with to freedom, even as his great jaws were dag- white; others yellow, with light brown fesgers for the heart. The untimely flight soon toons marked upon them; and many are ceased, for one end of the thread was fas- ash-coloured, with chesnut bodies. These tened to a tree, and as he held the other it colours, traced in every kind of hieroglyphic rapidly brought his victim to the earth. The upon their gigantic bodies, beautifies, or little wings forgot to move, and the hungry rather illuminates these gay friends of mine pincers of my cousin were soon deep in, hid- only whilst they live. Their beauty dies den beneath the ruby breast of his lifeless with them. As I gazed on one of the most victim.

gorgeous, lying on a palm leaf, and ebbing Mankind has pronounced this horrible, his life-blood away; as I saw the light fade but I look upon the trampling of a worm out from his eye, and the rainbow tints from in the dust as wanton cruelty surpassing this. his noble frame, I felt more reconciled to

Suppose I were to become a reformer of my lot, and could appreciate the old maid's this so-called bloodthirstiness in our race, comforting proverb : and convene an Ecumenical Council, with

“Beauty's skin deep ; delegates from the uttermost bounds of spi

Ugly's to the bone. derdom, what could be more appropriate

Beauty soon fades ; but than that I should repeat to them these

Ugly holds its own." lines with deep feeling and solemnity ? I soon noticed that our Creator had a de

sign in all this. The Philippines have their “Let dogs delight to bark and bite,

colour as their protection. Those who live For God hath made them so ;

in dark, dingy places would appear far too Let bears and lions growl and fight,

conspicuous if they were dressed in livid For 'tis their nature too ; But, children, you should never let

purple or sky-blue or scarlet ; their darkYour angry passions rise ;

coloured and sombre garbs are in accordYour little hands were never made

ance with their habits and homes. My old To tear each other's eyes.”

brown fustian jacket is good for all kinds of

weather and for almost every style of living, Why, the jeers that would greet me would so that for another reason I am quite reconbe greater than the applause I received as ciled to my lot. Those with beautiful marks the world's champion spinner.

of black, yellow, green, and orange live Suppose, also, that an aged spider-one amongst the flowers and evergreen foliage of who had spent his days in solitude and med- the trees. So with the others. Their coitation, far away amongst the rocks of lour indicates where their homes should be. some desert waste, and ignorant of the ways I was very much amused one day when I of the world—suppose such an one should heard and saw something that terrified a arise and reply, "Can the Ethiopian change number of them. The sombre ones ran



over the black sticks and earth ; the brown at the same time waged war against the best ones crouched on withered leaves; and means for their riddance. If I had had a the green ones fled for refuge under the human voice when she, with a large negress leaves of the nearest flower. This instinct, and a coloured boy, was hunting two Migwith us, is as reason and intelligence with dales to the death, I should have said, man.

“Woman, spare these spiders. Such heart. One tribe called the Migdales inter- less cruelty will meet with its own reward. ested me very much. Migdale Blondii is These Migdales are as harmless as I am, the name of the largest. Five inches in and their chief object in coming beneath length is about the average proportion of your inhospitable roof is to extirpate these this family. The friend with whom I as-cockroaches which are so troublesome to sociated was covered with brownish-black you." hair, and his legs encircled a space of more Another family of the Migdales displays a than half a foot in diameter. His long feel- wonderful degree of ingenuity in constructers had sharp hooks provided, by which he ing strongholds for times of danger. I got could inflict terrible wounds upon the hap- caught in one, and felt under deep obligaless victims that fell a lawful prey to his tions to my big brother for his gallantry and rapacious appetite. Although sombre in skill

. I had been noticed by a ravenous appearance, he was by no means sober in bird, and would most certainly have been his actions. He did not spin his yarn, nor captured if, in my endeavour to hide, I had weave an airy web to be shattered by every not espied a round hole neatly constructed, breeze. I considered him one of the wise and about nine inches in depth. The wall men of the East—a wiseacre of spiderdom- was lined with a coarse tissue, but the innerboth from his appearance and actions. His most was like silken paper, velvety and white. black suit, which in some cases has a faded In a few minutes a dark figure appeared at and threadbare look, gave him a sort of the entrance, and the builder and occupant professorial appearance, and his sharp, descended. Mutual recognitions having business-like manner spoke plainly of job- taken place, he let down what appeared to bing wanted or work on hand to be done. be a lid, and enveloped us in total darkness. He had a kind of funereal look about him. This contrivance I greatly admired, as it He remained most of the time in the houses seemed to be planned with almost human of the natives, running about here, there, ingenuity. It is made of particles of earth and everywhere. White people never took cemented with silken thread, and of course kindly to my friend Migdale Blondii

. His looks exactly like the ground. A silken erratic movements terrified the nervous and hinge joins it to the upper side of the hole, timid, for he was in, out, and about all the so that when it is raised it shuts again of its trunks, boxes, and bandboxes that the own accord. To make it more secure, a foreigners possessed. They had a whole few little holes are drilled in the lid opposite some dread of him, because they imagined the hinge on the under side. The Migdales, that with one leap and a slender bite he being furnished with hooks at the end of would send them into another world. But their feelers, insert them into these holes, Migdale the Great is not able to accomplish and thus bolt and bar their fortresses against such a feat, for in cases where he has bitten any intruder. Scripture is thus literally fulmen the inflammation has not greatly ex

filled when it says, “The spider taketh hold ceeded that of a wasp or a mosquito. with her hands."

In the West Indies the natives are glad to There is one grand characteristic that have this tribe in their dwellings, and if they ought to be a redeeming feature when the have none they go where they can buy them. habits of the spider are considered, and that I wish the same good sense would actuate is a mother's love for its offspring, than the people who live in temperate climates. which nothing on earth can be stronger. Tidy housewiveshate us with a perfect hatred, The love of mothers among mankind has and yet cannot understand why the flies are been known to fail, but that of the spider, so numerous. I was in a house in the South- never. True to its instinct, it would rather ern States which was kept as clean and care- sacrifice its own life for the preservation of ful as need be. The lady could not see its young, than basely desert them to their where all the cockroaches came from, and fate.

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]


In Paraguay the thread of some of the have done good by my simple recital of past spiders is spun into silken fabrics. About events,—this good at least, that by endeathe beginning of the last century a French-vouring to show that we are not cruel by man named M. Bon undertook to weave nature, and that we do not seek to entrap some of our threads into cloth. He made the thoughtless flies for the gratification of some stockings and gloves of what he had our savage propensities, the minds of the collected, and presented them to the King, higher creation may be more kindly disposed Louis XIV., and the Academy of Paris. It towards us than before. caused quite a sensation, and what he wrote on the subject was even translated into the “ See yonder web with dew-drops laden, Chinese language by the Emperor's com

Surpassing all the skill of man; mand. But the bubble soon burst. To

No tried expert, no gentle maiden,

Ever wove as spiders can. succeed, we should indeed have been spared from motives of greed and not of kindness, “See yonder noble insect mother, but being deprived of our webs, who or Dying for her offspring's life; what would have been able to give us the

Can Iordly man produce another,

Maid or matron, mother, wife? flies our appetites demand.

I rejoice that my own thread has never “O brand us not with every passion brought gain to man, but to the sufferer it Lurking in the human breast !

We live like every other nation, has often given relief. It has staunched the

Doing God's supreme behest. bleeding wound, and indirectly has been the means of saving many from an untimely “Then let us be at peace together, grave.

Holding sacred Nature's ties; And now I must conclude; my seventh

Till power Divine these bonds shall sever ;

And now adieu, -Arachne dies.'' web has been spun. I fervently hope I

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

A noon sun brightly glowing, on the orchard's waving mass ;
A warm wind softly throwing, apple blooms on the grass.

Oh! my love and I are glad,

Never more can earth be sad
For us, by the dancing river.

A chill mist slowly creeping, under the shuddering sky;
The rain clouds wildly weeping, oppress me, as I cry

Oh! my love, is this thy grave ?

Where the rushes slowly wave,
By the careless, cruel river.


M. B.

« AnteriorContinua »