A SPIDER'S CRIME

    "If his web is repeatedly destroyed, a spider reaches a stage
where his power of reproducing it is exhausted. In that case the
spider attacks another spider, kills him, and takes his ball of web
from him." --NATURAL HISTORY.

    There was never a more moral spider hatched out of an
egg, than this little hero of my story.  His friends called him
"Speck."
    He was born in the northeast corner of the garret, and the
early portion of his life was passed quietly there.  He had a
very intimate friend by the name of Scamper, with whom he
had great frolics; whenever he caught an especially fat fly
he always shared it with Scamper, and he loved him dearly
as if he were his brother.  Scamper was a larger, longer-
legged spider, and of a dark-brown color.
    When the two friends were just about fully grown they
began to have restless longings to travel and see the world.
Speck's old mother objected to this, and assured them that
they were better off in the quiet garret where brooms seldom
entered.  The broom is to a spider what a deadly shell or
Gaitling gun is to men in war.  As soon as a spider's eyes
are opened his mother begins to tell him about brooms, and
to warn him against them.
    "If you travel out of this attic," said the old lady, "you
will come to grief.  Here you can live in peace and die a
natural death."
    But Speck and Scamper were not to be kept at home in
this way.  The more the old people told them about dangers
in the great world, the more eager they were to tempt those
dangers.  Day after day they made journeys out over the
window sill, and finally spun down to the second story,
and heard voices and saw faces; and once Speck swung on
his slender swing in front of the front bedroom window, and
watched the housemaid while she swept the floor and brushed
down cobwebs with that terrible broom he had heard so much
about. Then, as she approached the window he flew up his
ladder, and hauled it in after him as he went, and told
Scamper all about what he had seen, as they hurried back to the attic.
    You would think this was quite enough to keep them away
from the second story thereafter; but, instead, it made them
all the more eager for adventure.  And adventures enough
they had in the next week.  Speck went down and deliber-
ately wove his web across a corner of the very window from
which he had watched the housemaid, and Scamper stood on
the outside of the upper casing invisible to eyes within, and
watched proceedings.  Before Speck had been there two
hours he had caught two large flies, and Scamper and he had
dined scrumptuously.  Then, just as they were finishing their
repast, the housemaid approached the window, and off they
ran as fast as their legs would take them.  The maid took a
whisk-broom hanging near by, and brushed down the web.
 But as soon as she had gone, Speck rebuilt it.
    "You see she will not be likely to return here again very
soon," he explained to Scamper.  "She thinks her work all
done now, and she will not bother about this window, so I
shall be unmolested for some days, no doubt.  And I am
really doing far more good in life here than I could do in the
attic.  I destroy flies which are troublesome to the people
who inhabit this room.  Flies in the attic do not matter; but
here I not only make a living, but I destroy a nuisance."
    Scamper listened to all this, and accepted the hospitality
Speck offered so generously, but he took care to weave no
web, and to keep outside the casement, hidden from view.
    Meanwhile Speck's web was again destroyed, how he did
not know.  He was paying a visit in the attic when it oc-
curred.  As soon as he returned he rewove his house with
the obstinate persistency we often see in other than spider
nature.
    "Drat that Spider; I wonder how many times I have
brushed down his web!" said the maid as she demolished it
for the third time, while Speck's bright black eyes peered
over the casing, fascinated by the close proximity of the
broom.  Within an hour he had replaced every beam and fiber
of his web, and had caught a splendid fly.  Then he
went up to tell his mother and Speck about it, and to invite
Scamper to come down and share the fly.
    "That broom will be the death of you yet; mark my words,"
said the mother spider.  "You are getting too fat on the
flies you eat to run fast enough to escape it.  You were far
better off up here, with no danger, and the flies enough to satisfy
hunger, and not enough to make you fat.  Just look at the
stomach you have; its enough to give you apoplexy to carry
it about."
    The next time Speck's web was destroyed he decided to
try a new building place.  His mother begged him to return
to the attic, and settle down into a calm and respectable life,
but Speck declared he should die of dullness in the slow old
attic, and that it would limit his usefulness were he to re-
main there.
    "I am destroying flies who annoy people below stairs,
and if they do not know enough to appreciate my act, I shall not
be discouraged in well-doing. I am going to try the window
on the other side of the house now.  I think there will be
less disturbance there."
    But even here, Speck's web was destroyed three times in
one week, and at the end of that week a terrible discovery
dawned upon him.  He had exhausted his ball of web.
There was not enough left to enable him to spin back to the
attic.  He sat in a dark corner of the window, and thought
of his terrible situation.  He was like some reckless youth
who has spent a fortune in a few years, never thinking of the
possible rainy days, and who at last faces the fact that he is
homeless and penniless.
    Speck had been sitting in the dark corner a long time,
motionless and still, when he saw Scamper coming around
the corner of the house to call upon him.  As he watched the
lithe, free motions of his old comrade, and noted his care-
free manner, a terrible rage seized upon Speck.
    "He has lived in idleness and feasted upon my flies," he
said to himself.  "He has encouraged me in my rash advent-
ures, always keeping out of danger himself.  He has seen
me use my web recklessly, and has guarded his own like a
miser.  He is a false friend, a coward and a villain.  I will
have my revenge."  And before Scamper could take any
precaution, Speck had sprung upon him and had fastened his
poisonous fangs in his slim body.  In a moment Scamper
was dead, and Speck had possessed himself of his ball of
web.  Then he pushed the mutilated carcass of his old play-
mate over the window ledge, and proceeded to build a new
house with his ill-gotten web.
    He built rapidly, and the house was a marvel of art.  After
it was done, he ran up to the attic to call on his mother.  But
a gloom so deep and profound had settled upon his heart that
he found it impossible to converse.  When his mother asked
him if he had met his old friend on the way, re replied "No"
in a careless manner, and remarked that he had better return
at once, as no doubt Scamper was waiting to see him.  So he
hurried away back to the new web, built with the profits of
his crime.
    The attic had been full of memories and he could not
shake them off.  A fly came and tangled his wings in the
new web; but Speck allowed him to extricate himself un-
molested.  He had no appetite.  A day and a night passed,
and he made no effort to obtain food, but sat on one side of
the web, lost in dark and remorseful reverie.
    He remembered his mother's early warning and wished
that he had never strayed from the peaceful attic.  The house-
maid passing by saw him sitting in his web, and paused.
Then she reached for a handy whisk-broom and made a
dash at him.  He never stirred, not attempted to escape.
She threw him upon the floor and crushed him with her foot,
and swept his remains into a dustpan and threw them into
the street below.
    The mother waited in vain day after day for the return of
her son and his friend.  They never came.

The Beautiful Land of Nod by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Chicago: Morrill, Higgins & Co. [1892]


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