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THE LIFE AND LESSONS OF A SPIDER.
BY T. T. J., QUEENSVILLE, ONT.
LTHOUGH my name is Arachne, Ivictor, the champion spinner and weaver of
am only a spider. Do not be dis- creation. I felt my bosom heave with pride appointed at this, kind reader, for heathen when I heard these welcome words, and I mythology declares that I was once what I stood disdainfully watching the angry counam not now.
tenance of the defeated Minerva. Alas, In years gone by I was a fair young vir- that I should have so completely forgotten gin in the Province of Lydia. My father's myself, and the might of her who had just name was Idmon, and our home, the per- opposed me! I have no doubt that it was fection of happiness and peace, was at Colo- my sinful conduct then, more than the fact phon. He was celebrated as a dyer of pur- of victory, that proved the forerunner of ple, and I seemed to have inherited his in- impending ruin. It is one thing to excel in genuity, perseverance, and skill
. The maid- skill, and another to surpass in power. I ens of Lydia delighted in all manner of was champion of the one, but she was mishousehold work, but I had the honour of tress of the other. My sun had risen steadbeing the inventor of spinning and weaving. ily with my ripening maidenhood, until on Others soon copied from me, and a spirit of that day it had stood at its zenith, but, now rivalry sprung up amongst the fair ones of it was soon to set for ever.
Minerva was Lydia. However, I soon surpassed them the goddess of war, and wisdom also, and all, and felt happy, joyous and free, as the she soon displayed her shrewdness, as well virgin queen of the maidenly art.
as the refinement of her cruelty. She had Unfortunately my success made me been planning as she sat on the ground, haughty and disdainful, as is too often the exhausted, beside her broken distaff and case with favoured maidens. In my pride I shattered loom, whilst I had been exulting became presumptuous. O, if I had only as I stood, fanned by the evening breeze, been contented with my unrivalled success, and drinking in the plaudits of an admiring and had not listened to the sweet rippling multitude. At last she arose and stood tongue of ambition ! But I was infatuated, before me. Her black eyes glittered and and did not know what the wise man had her lips quivered with half-suppressed emowritten: "A man's pride shall bring him tions of malice and rage, as she suddenly low.” To the astonishment and terror of seized hold of my faultless pattern and tore all my companions, and, in fact, of the it into a thousand shreds. Then striding up whole country-side, I sent a challenge to the to where I stood, she took a part of my great Minerva Athena, goddess of the loom and with one stroke felled me to the fine arts, to compete with me at my earth. As my senses were leaving me, I favourite employment. They tried every heard the shouts of the multitude, and not means to dissuade me from my rash inten- knowing whether they were cheers or jeers, tion, but I was deaf to every entreaty. Even I fancied that their approbation of me had when the goddess accepted the invitation I turned into loathing and contempt. did not fear her presence, nor did I for a When I returned to consciousness I moment imagine any evil results.
found that I was alone, and that the shades When the time came I felt nerved for the of evening had faded out into the gloom of occasion, although the odds seemed to be a starless night. O, how miserable I felt ! all against me. We had each our distaff | Struck by the great Minerva, and now the and loom, and I took for my pattern the goddess of gods against me! Pride and amours of the gods. After we had woven ambition had been my counsellors, and like till the shades of evening were gathering Ahithophel of old, when most needed, their · around us, it was pronounced that I was the suggestions were weighed in the balance
and found wanting. How could I return to loathsome insect-for Arachne is now only my home and the friends of my youth whose a spider. counsel I bad contemned ? My existence Yet with the dawn of my new life came was now a reproach to myself, and to die new desires and other enjoyrnents. As soon would have been inexpressible gain. Would as Minerva had left me to myself I put that she had killed me when she struck me forth the instincts of my new nature, in orin her irrepressible rage; then the pity der to satisfy the cravings of a voracious of the living would have followed me to my appetite. The knowledge of the past was virgin tomb.
so confused, and the tenderness of my feelI resolved to die. Gathering up the irgs so seared, that what I had considered shreds of that fabric so hateful to me now, to be cruel in the spider before, I now I twisted them into a strong and suitable thought was both right and proper. I could rope, intending to make the means of tri- tear the flies into pieces, or suck their lifeumph the instrument of my death. Yes, I blood, with pleasure and satisfaction instead could not help thinking that I was twining of wanton cruelty. My greatest trouble was together the fond hopes of brighter days to catch them. If I had been possessed of the transient realizations of triumph, and the wings, or if the flies had had none; if I had burning thoughts of despair into a three- had opportunities of seizing them at any other fold cord not easily broken. The deed was time but on the wing, I should have been a soon accomplished. The limb of a blasted terrible scourge to them. As it was, and oak was a noble gallows-tree. Shrivelled by still is, I have often been without a meal, the withering stroke of the lightning's fork, and know from hard-earned experience it was a fit emblem of my blighted anticipa- what it is to feel the pangs of a gnawing tions, and of my awakening from my dreams hunger. I soon found that it was safest to of fame and glory. The gnarled limb, the live in some dark corner, where the flies twisted rope, and the running noose soon would not suspect my presence, and the ended the brief existence of Arachne. broom of the thrifty housewife could not
What followed, when the spirit, houseless reach me. I soon learned also that I could and homeless, fled from its earthly abode, spin beautiful thread, perfect in its fineness must not be told; but Minerva, though un- and finish, which was a marvel to myself. seen by me, witnessed all that happened, Minerva had triumphed; her words were and by her immortal touch soon recalled the true. What was before a recreation, now wandering spirit to its former habitation. became my daily avocation. O, cruel, cruel Minerva !
My spinning jenny is wonderful and simsion for me was the fulness of inhuman bar- ple—not at all like those intricate machines barity. Why did she not let me alone ? that I have seen in factories called by that When I was once more conscious and
I have lived in many of these busy able to recline on the ground, she bent over homes, and must say I rather like them, for me, and hissed forth, in the fulness of her the din and dust are favourable to my daily unrighteous triumph: “Cursed be thou, work. And, as I have been sitting watching Arachne, for seeking to contend with me. for a passing fly, I have wondered at the Hearken to thy fate. Day and night this enormous size of the threads made, comshall be thy lot, for thou shalt spin thy life pared with the minuteness of mine. I have
She unravelled the rope, and even spun my web beside their finest fabspread it on the limb and trunk of the tree, rics, so that they might make comparisons ; when it changed into a spider's web. 0! yet no one ever said : “How far Arachne how sadly did I regret my rashness when it surpasses us all !” Neither did they see the was for ever too late! I felt a mighty revo- skill of our Divine Creator in enabling me lution in body, soul, and spirit. My to weave a finer and more perfect texture form and beauty, my desires and affec- than the most consummate ingenuity of man tions, were all so changed that I could have could devise. If I had all the cogs, belts, put an end to my existence again, if it had and pulleys within me that a spinning jenny been in my power. I looked up, and I must have, I should never have made a sinthought I could see the once beclouded face gle gossamer snare to entrap the heedless of Minerva brighten with a look of demoniac Ay. In place of all that dreadful machinery, triumph, when I lay before her a miserable, I have six spinnerets at the lower extremity
of my abdomen, each shaped like a cylinder, of either of my hinder feet, which are toothed and each enclosing about a thousand tubes. like a comb for the purpose. The third From each of these tubes issues a single claw on either foot is used whenever I want strand, which, united with all the others, to wind up any superfluous thread that I do makes what is seen and known as the spi- not need, so that none of it inay be lost. In der's thread. For the purpose of uniting common with all others of spiderdom, I them, there are little nipples at the end of have sufficient material within to make at my abdomen that yield me a substance like least six or seven good-sized webs, and to glue. With it I can cement the different keep them in repair. After that is exhauststrands together. It also enables me to ed, I must either die of starvation or rob fasten the thread to any substance against some of my younger neighbours of what they which the breeze may have blown it. As may have woven. So that with us wilful an instance of this, let me tell you one of waste would certainly make woful want. the many adventures that I have had in try- I often deplore my helplessness, although ing to earn an honest and peaceful liveli- it is wrong for me to do so when I consider hood :*
the other insects around me. The fly has Some time ago a naturalist caught me its wings, and the beetle its covering and in his garden, where I had spun my web claws. The mosquito has its blood-sucking in the bright hope that some of the great bill, and the bee its poisonous sting. But fat and lazy flies sporting there might fall here am I, wingless and stingless, with many to my lot. He carried me, bruised and enemies and but few protectors.
My skin half dead from fright, into his curiosity-shop is so tender I can hardly bear to be pressed. of a study, and set me down on a slip of My legs are seemingly so imperfectly atpaper. In a little while I mustered courage tached, that the gentlest pull dismembers to look about me. I found to my great them, and the one-half of my body is only dismay that the piece of paper was in a basin united to the other by what would appear to of water, and escape seemed impossible. be a slender thread. My main defence is a So the thoughtful face bending over me evi- liquid which I can eject from my mouth, dently believed, as with a curiosity deepen- and which has the power of paralyzing ining into interest it watched my every move- sects much stronger and far more formidment. I walked around my prison island, and able than myself :stretched my arms out as far as I could on every side, but could touch nothing but the “ Still I have skill to seize my prey, water. As the paper sailed about it came
And always food for every day, to the side of the vessel, and I tried to climb
Caught in my airy snare ;
For helpless as Arachne seems, the slippery wall of my dungeon, but found
Our great all-wise Creator ems my efforts of no avail. Then I tried ano
Her worthy of His care.” ther plan, which caused the face above me to pourtray the greatest surprise. I raised It has gratified me to think that, even myself on my legs, and elevated my spin- though I am so helpless, I have often been nerets as much as I could. Then I spun of vise to man, the lord of creation. threads which, being quite free at the one One instance, I remember, took place end, waved about in the air until they fas- years ago, when in my wanderings I haptened themselves by their stickiness to some pened to be in Scotland. I was living at books on a stand about twenty inches dis- the time in a little cabin, and had concluded tant. Finding them all secure, I fastened to form my web amongst the rafters. Bethe other ends to the paper, and embarking neath the chosen spot was a bed, and one on my gossamer pontoon, soon made good day I noticed a soldier reclining upon it. my escape. Thus my all-wise Creator has I let myself down a little from the roof given me a mucilage which has often been by my thread, and then, wanting to reach a my preserver.
rafter some little distance off, began swingFor the purpose of uniting the different ing myself backwards and forwards. It strands, or of dividing them into two or seemed that as I began, the Scottish chiefmore threads at pleasure, I use two claws tain was watching me and counting my
movements. I had a trying time of it, but * Taken from the Family Treasury.
every swing I made brought me nearer to
the beam, so that on the seventh occasion “Each chose his place and went to work ; I caught it with a mighty effort, and quietly
The light webs grew apace ; began my web. It so happened that this
One on the sofa spun his thread,
But shortly came the sexton dread, soldier had lost six battles in trying to re- And swept him off, and so half-dead, store Scotia's freedom, and felt like giving
He sought another place. up in despair. However, my efforts gave him hope and courage. And as Bruce had
“I'll try the pulpit next,' said he,
• There surely is a prize ; never gained a victory before this, so ever
The desk appears so neat and clean, afterwards he hardly lost a battle.
I'm sure no spider there has been ; Man is said to be born to trouble, and Besides, how often have I seen certainly I have been doomed to the same.
The pastor brushing Aies!' I have often had to run for my life, and see
"He tried the pulpit, but alas ! with sorrow my beautiful web' torn from its
His hopes proved visionary ; fastenings by the broom of some meddle- With dusting-brush the sexton came, some housewife. On one occasion I hap
And spoilt his geometric game,
Nor gave him time or space to claim pened to stroll into a house where an over
The right of sanctuary. petted monkey was a great source of danger. He was not content with driving us out of “ At length, half-starved and weak and lean, the stable where he was kept, but he would
He sought his former neighbour, often pull out great stones from the wall to
Who now had grown so sleek and round,
He weighed the fraction of a pound, get at us. Seeing the vigilance of this hor
And looked as if the art he'd found rid monster, the mistress of the house would
Of living without labour. let him run up the window curtains, and everywhere, so that we had to beat a retreat “How is it, friend,' he asked, “that I
Endured such thumps and knocks, altogether, for between the maid's broom
While you have grown so very gross ?' and the monkey's appetite we had neither
« 'Tis plain,' he answered ; 'not a loss peace nor quietness.
I've met since first I spun across I have been driven about from post to
The contribution box.' pillar all my life, until I know not where a resting place can be found. Once I thought However, I was soon forced to leave my I had succeeded. It was in a fashionable peaceful abode, for the time came when the church, and when I heard the artistic choir box was to be emptied of its consecrated and a few others singing
It would certainly, to my own mind, be “O land of rest, for thee I sigh ;
an interesting study to retrace the steps that When will the moment come That I shall lay my armour by,
I have taken through life. On one occasion And dwell in peace at home?
I had the pleasure of gazing at the Royal
family from behind a gilded cornice in their 'No tranquil joys on earth I know, home at Osborne. I also heard Her Majesty No peaceful sheltering dome ;
read from Scripture a passage during her This world's a wilderness of woe, This world is not my home !"
devotions that struck me as being remark
able :-“The spider taketh hold with her I thought I had found my rest, my shelter- hands, and is in king's palaces.” In fulfiling place and home at last. My retreat, ling Scripture, however, the time is not taken however
, was noticed by a young lady* who into account, and an officious maid, a few had the kindness not to disturb me. I give days afterwards, nearly put an end to me, the circumstance in her own words, cheer- as she was brushing the corners, instead of fully forgiving her for calling me a male, gathering the gossip at the stair-head. I I when I am still Arachne :
have no patience with this class of humanity, “Two spiders, so the story goes,
and I can safely infer they have just as little Upon a living bent,
with Arachne. Better, for me at least, if they Entered the meeting-house one day,
would leave the nooks and crannies to their And hopefully were heard to say:
natural occupants, and learn how their neighHere we shall have at least fair play, With nothing to prevent.'
bours are scandalizing them behind their
backs. * Alice Clark.
But a feeling of aversion towards us is not peculiar to housemaids alone. I hear just as I was ready to spring upon it, the remarks continually, about the cruelty and gentleman's son freed the bee and spoiled barbarity of the spider, which are certainly my web. His father saw it and said :unmerited. We are as God made us, and “How canst thou, my son, so lightly esteem we do what He has commanded us. Conse- the skill and the industry of the insect as to quently, the doing of the righteous will of destroy its toilsome and ingenious work? God cannot be acts of savage cruelty on Didst thou not see the regularity and beauty our part. To man God has not given such with which the delicate threads were ara law of nature as wanton cruelty, even ranged? How couldst thou, then, be at though all creation is subject to his control. once so compassionate and so cruel ? " When, therefore, he is guilty of inhuman The boy answered, “Is not the ingedeeds, he breaks God's law; whereas we, in nuity of the spider mischievous, and emdoing what appears the same, are guiltless, ployed for murder and destruction ? But but are daily brought under the same con- the bees gather honey and wax into their demnation. Not only so, but man repre- cells. For this cause I released the bee, sents the insect world as branding us as and destroyed the web of the spider.” paragons of cruelty, if the following con- The father praised the judgment of unversation be true, which is purported to sophisticated simplicity, which condemned have taken place in a garden not long ago. even the brilliant ingenuity that arises out
“How busy you are this morning,” said of selfishness, and aims at mischief and dethe butterfly to the spider.
struction. [O, how unjust I felt these words “I am spinning, merely spinning,” said to be, for why should I be judged so when the spider demurely.
my very life depended upon such a course “How good the spider is. She is just of action ? Let them who reason thus have like you, always at work. I found her at a care lest they are found charging their home just now, on the rose bush, hard at Creator with the same condemnation.] her spinning,” cried the butterfly, to a sage
“But," continued the father, “perhaps you old bee that was gathering honey with all have yet done the spider injustice. Observe his might.
that she guards our ripening clusters from “ Like me !” exclaimed the bee. “No, the flies and the wasps, by the web that friend, no, I am never idle : I love industry she spins about them.” and practise it ; so far you may compare me “ Does she do this," asked the boy, “for to the spider, but there we part. My labour the purpose of guarding them, or is it is spent in preparing sweet food for others; rather to quench her own thirst for blood ?" hers is devoted to spinning snares wherewith “Why, really," answered the father, “she she catches the unwary for her own devour- probably troubles herself very little about ing. Work and workers are to be judged, the grapes.". not by the skill and pains taken, but by the Oh,” said the boy, “then there is no end proposed. My mission is one of love worth in all the good she does without and life; hers is malignant, and has death meaning to do it. The good-will is the for its object.”
whole virtue and beauty of goodness.” It may be so, for I do not understand “Right,” said the father, “ the thanks for the language of either the butterfly or the this are due to nature, who knows how to bee; but this I know, we are as the creative use even mischievous and malignant things hand of God made us, and cannot be what for the preservation of the useful and the we are not. Another instance which fell good.” [If I had my maiden voice I should under my own notice I may give, to show have asked the gentleman if my “quenchhow deep-rooted man's hatred is it
ing my thirst for blood ” did not free him One day a bee got caught in a remarkably in a great measure from having a perpetual strong web that I had woven in a gentle Egyptian plague. My so-called mischief man's vineyard. I had not looked for such and malignancy came from God. I have a prize, and felt greatly concerned about the perverted no law to acquire them; hence results of my capture. At this juncture, this man's reasoning is vain.]
: The boy then asked his father why the * Fable in Leisure Hour, 1875.
spider sits so solitary in its web, while the + Krummacher.
bees live together in sociable union, and