Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/533

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519
MY SPIDER.

spider of ancient lineage, who did valiant battle in his ancestral cobwebs against predatory wasps. Perhaps he had won Esau's young affections, and become master of her charms. Perhaps it was some errant knight, who had vowed the extermination of the whole race of parasites which infest the spider's body. Perhaps it was some wealthy spider, who owned vast demesnes of netting, which extended over many a rafter, and offered hunting-ground for many a retainer. Perhaps her spouse was remarkable for his personal beauty, and had carried off her heart by his comeliness. I know that no spider base-born could have been the father of her offspring. Her behavior to Uriah Heep forbids so gross a surmisal.

Then, how was it that she was alone on the hat-peg? The aristocrat might have spurned her from his home from the prospect of a more advantageous alliance. The enthusiast might have doubted her intensity, and so deserted her. Dives might have been jealous, and have procured an act of separation; Adonis probably spirited away by some light of love.

Her history is open to conjecture alone. The fact remains, that she laid eggs, and they were hatched.

If my memory be not deceived, the small spiders appeared a fortnight or three weeks after I first noticed the eggs. When first born, they were small, yellowy-white, and indefinite, like cheese-mites—just what one would imagine spider-babydom to be. They moved at a pace almost imperceptible from its slowness, and their gait was weak and vacillating. As well as I could make out with the naked eye, they were constantly tumbling on their sides for the first few days. They seemed to meet with obstacles which are not apparent to our gross vision.

I thought the sun would be grateful to them, and their jar was placed on the window-sill. Either the warmth suited them, or baby spiders gain strength rapidly; for, before three days were over, Esau's offspring became marvels of agility. When they were at one end of the piece of paper, urgent business called them to the opposite extremity of the cone, and they ran as fast as their small legs could carry them. If they were on the floor of their home, urgent reasons induced them to promenade the ceiling. Occasionally one little chap would take a long journey around the floor of the jar, while another would start off on a commission of inquiry, and investigate the construction of the cobweb with the minutest care. A third would mount its mother's back, and crawl over her out of sheer curiosity. No pair of them ever seemed to do the same thing at the same time. I never saw them feed; but during the next week or two they increased in size and strength. Esau contemplated them with pleasure; her character was softened. Dozens of flies were put into the jar, but few were killed. Some became entangled and died in the toils, but the majority occupied the top of the jar, and especially affected the mus-