**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

Eight-Legged Friends
by [?]

A singular opportunity was afforded me last summer for making myself thoroughly at home with the habits and manners of the common English geometrical spider. By the pure chance of circumstance, two ladies of that intelligent and interesting species were kind enough to select for their temporary residence a large pane of glass just outside my drawing-room window. Now, it so happened that this particular pane was constructed not to open, being, in fact, part of a big bow-window, the alternate sashes of which were alone intended for ventilation. Hence it came to pass that by diligent care I was enabled to preserve my two eight-legged acquaintances from the devouring broom of the British housemaid, and to keep them constantly under observation at all times and seasons during a whole summer. Of course this result was only obtained by a distinct exercise of despotic authority, for I know those poor spiders were a constant eyesore in Ellen’s sight–the housemaid of the moment bore the name of Ellen–but I persisted in my prohibition of any forcible ejectment, and I carried my point in the end in the very teeth of that constituted domestic authority. So successful was I, indeed, that when at last we flitted southwards ourselves with the swallows on our annual migration to the Mediterranean shores, we left Lucy and Eliza–those were the names we had given them–in undisturbed possession of their prescriptive rights in the drawing-room windows. This year they are gone, and our home is left spiderless.

They were curious and uninviting pets, I’m bound to admit, those great juicy-looking creatures. Nobody could say that any form of spider is precisely what our Italian friends prettily describe in their liquid way as simpatico. At times, indeed, the conduct of Lucy and Eliza was so peculiarly horrible and blood-curdling in its atrocity, that even I, their best friend, who had so often interceded for their lives and saved them from the devastating duster of the aggressive housemaid–even I myself, I say, more than once debated in my own mind whether I was justified in letting them go on any longer in their career of crime unchecked, or whether I ought not rather to rush out at once, avenging rag in hand, and sweep them away at one fell swoop from the surface of a world they disgraced with their unbridled wickedness. Eliza, in particular, I’m constrained to allow, was a perfect monster of vice–a sort of undeveloped arachnid Borgia, quick to slay and relentless in pursuit; a mass of eight-legged sins, stained with the colourless gore of ten thousand struggling victims, and absolutely without a single redeeming point in her hateful character. And yet, whenever any more than usually horrible massacre of some pretty and innocent fly almost moved me in my righteous wrath to rush out into the garden in hot haste and put an end at once to the cruel wretch’s existence with a judicial antimacassar, a number of moral scruples, such as could only be adequately resolved by the editor of the Spectator, always occurred spontaneously to my mind and conscience just in time to ensure that wicked Eliza a fresh spell of life in which to continue unabashed her atrocious behaviour.

Has man, I asked myself at such moments, mere human man, any right to set himself up in the place of earthly providence, as so much better and more moral than insentient nature? If the spider cruelly devours living flies and intelligent or highly sensitive bees, we must at least remember that she has no choice in the matter, and that, as the poet justly remarks, ”tis her nature to.’ But then, on the other hand, it might be plausibly argued that ’tis our nature equally to kill the creature that we see so hatefully fulfilling the law of its own cruel being. And yet again it might be pleaded by any able counsel who undertook the defence of Lucy or Eliza on her trial for her life against her human accusers, that she was impelled to all these evil deeds by maternal affection, one of the noblest and most unselfish of animal instincts. Moreover, if the spider didn’t prey, it would obviously die; and it seems rather hard on any creature to condemn it to death for no better reason than because it happens to have been born a member of its own kind, and not of any other and less morally objectionable species. Jedburgh justice oL that sort rather savours of the method pursued by the famous countryman who was found cutting a harmless amphibian into a hundred pieces with his murderous spade, and saying spitefully as he did so, at every particularly savage cut: ‘I’ll larn ye to be a twoad, I will; I’ll larn ye to be a twoad!’