Puslapio vaizdai

Fig. 5. Palpi, or Feelers.

as if a man weighing one hundred and fifty pounds were joined to a bigger half of eighteen thousand pounds' weight, and I was not fully convinced that these small spiders were really the males of the Nephila plumipes till I had witnessed the impregnation of the eggs of the females by them.

One morning, in the cell of a large female, I found a cocoon of beautiful yellow silk containing a rounded mass of eggs. Soon the same occurred with other females, and there were fifteen cocoons, which would give about seven thousand spiders. Early in October, just one month after they were laid, the eggs of the first cocoon


broken and disclosed little spiders with rounded yellow bodies and short legs, looking about as little like their parents as could be imagined. The eggs in the other cocoons followed in their order, and now each contained four or five hundred little spiders closely packed.

For some time they seemed to eat nothing at all; but within a few days all had shed their skins, and now the abdomen was smaller, while the cephalothorax and legs were larger and darker but they showed no desire to leave their cocoons. Still they grew perceptibly; and coincident with this was a less pleasing fact: their numbers were decreasing in the same proportion, and occasionally one was seen eating another. It was some time before I could reconcile the good temper and quiet behavior of the parents with this instinctive and habitual fratricide on the part of their children. But look at

it in this way: here were several hundred active little creatures in a space just large enough to contain them; presently they were hungry, and as no two could be of exactly the same size, the smaller and weaker naturally fell a prey to their larger brethren, or rather sisters, for either very few males are hatched, or else they are particularly good eating, and a very small proportion survive the perils of infancy. It is evidently an established and well-understood thing among them: all seem to be aware of their destiny, to eat or be eaten. What else can they do? Human beings would do the same under the same circumstances; and I have never seen the least sign of personal spite or malignity in the spider. There is no pursuit, for there is no escape; and we can only conclude that, as the new-born fish's first nourishment is the contents of the yolk-sac, partly outside, though still a portion of its body, so the first food of the young spiders is, if not themselves, the next best thing, — each other. Thus it is provided that the smaller and less vigorous shall furnish food for the larger until the latter are strong enough to venture forth in search of other means of support.

In consequence of this mutual destruction, aided materially by the depredations of birds and of other insects, and by exposure to the weather, only about one per cent of those hatched reach maturity. If properly protected, however, a far larger proportion may be saved; and as their multiplication is so rapid, no fear need be entertained of a limit to the supply.

By keeping these little spiders in glass jars, inverted, and with a wet sponge at the bottom, they were easily watched and cared for. At first only about one twentieth of an inch long and nearly as wide, they increased in length as they grew, but for many weeks lived in common on an irregular web, feeding together on the crushed flies or bugs thrown to them. But when one fourth of an inch in length, they showed a disposition to separate, and to spin each for herself a regular

web, out of which all intruders were kept. And now it was found that all these webs were inclined at nearly the same angle, and were never exactly vertical; that, like the spider in the first web she made in the Botanical Garden, the insect took a position much nearer the upper than the lower border; and also that, instead of a web of perfect circles laid upon regular radii, as used to be described and is still figured in our books, or even one of a spiral line, as is now more correctly described of ordinary geometrical spiders (Fig. 6),

and more than this, that the lines, though quite regular, were by no means perfectly so, as may be seen in Fig. 7, copied from a photograph.

As usual, the radii, or spokes, of the wheel-shaped structure are first made; then the spider begins a little way from the centre, and, passing from one radius to another, spins a series of loops at considerable distances from each other till she reaches the circumference. These first loops, like the radii, are of white, dry, and inelastic silk, and may be recognized by the little notches at their junction with the radii. The notches are made by the spider's drawing her body a little inward toward the centre of the web at the time of attaching them to the radii, and so they always point in the direction in which the spider is moving at that time, and in opposite directions on any two successive lines (Fig. 8). Having reached

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Fig. 8. Section of Web. what is to be the border of her web, and thus constructed a firm framework or scaffolding, she begins to retrace her steps, moving more slowly and spinning now in the intervals of the dry loops two or three similar loops, but much nearer together and made of the elastic and viscid silk, till she has again reached her startingpoint near the middle of the web, where, on its under side, she takes a position, head downward, hanging by her claws, and thus keeping her body from direct contact with the web.

Here she will remain quiet for hours as if asleep; but no sooner does a fly or other insect strike the web, than she darts in the direction whence the vibrations proceed, and usually seizes her prey; but, strangely enough, if the insect have ceased its struggles before she reaches it, she stops, and if she cannot renew them by shaking the web with her claws, will slowly and disconsolately return to the centre of the web, there to await fresh vibrations. These and many other facts, even more conclusive, have satisfied me that, although this spider has eight eyes (Fig. 9), it is as blind as a man

Fig. 9 Face and Jaws, magnified (eyes dimly seen). with his eyelids shut, and can only distinguish light from darkness, nothing


This seems to be the case with

other geometrical species, but not at all with the field and hunting spiders, some of which will boldly turn upon you and look right in your eyes; they alone, of all insects, seeming to recognize the face of man as different from his body.

The hearing and touch of this spider are very acute. The latter is exercised by the palpi and the tips of the legs, especially the first pair, but no ear has yet been discovered; neither is anything known of the organs of taste and smell, or even whether the insect possesses these senses at all.

I ought before this to have anticipated and answered a question which nine out of ten, perhaps, of my readers have already asked themselves, “Do not spiders bite? and is not their bite poisonous, nay, at times, deadly even to man?" The answer is, in brief, Yes, spiders do bite, probably all of them, if provoked and so confined that they cannot escape; though only a few tropical species can be said to seek of their own accord an opportunity for attacking man, or any creature larger than

the insects that form their natural prey. Even the Nephila plumipes, which, it has been intimated, is “Christian in its disposition, and well-behaved beyond most of its kind," will readily bite, if it is held in the fingers and anything is put to its jaws. But that is nothing. So would you, most gentle reader, if a great giant pinched you between his thumb and finger, and held your hands and feet and head; and if, too, like our spider, you could not see enough to distinguish friends from foes. Spiders, then, will bite. But to the second part of the inquiry our answer must be less positive. They have a very bad name; but much of this is due to their grim and forbidding aspect, and their bloody trade of trapping and eating poor little insects. It is to be remembered that there are very few, if any, medical reports of injuries from the bites of spiders, and that the accounts of such cases occurring in the newspapers consist in great measure of inference, and either make no mention of the offender at all, or merely speak of a little black or gray spider being found in the vicinity. A number of experiments have been made in England to ascertain the effect of the bite of the larger geometrical spiders upon the experimenter himself, upon other spiders, and upon common insects; and the conclusion was, that it produces no greater effect than the prick of a pin, or any other injury of equal extent and severity; while the speedy death of its victim is ascribed to the spider's sucking its juices, rather than to any poison instilled into the wound. But these experiments, though somewhat reassuring, are not conclusive; for they were tried only on one person, and people vary much in their susceptibility to poison of all kinds; moreover, the spiders employed were of the geometrical kinds, which have never been so much feared as the larger field and hunting spiders. Indeed, it may be found that among spiders there is as great a difference in respect to venom as among serpents, and that those which depend upon their jaws for taking and holding their prey, such as the

field and hunting spiders, are poisonous, while the web-builders which ensnare their victims are not so. In regard to our spiders, I have caused a large one to bite, so as to draw blood, a kitten three days old, and the kitten has not appeared to suffer in the least on that account.

They are very quiet insects, and never appear disturbed at what goes on about them; neither do they run away and hide in holes and corners, like our common spiders; but if their webs are injured, or they are startled by a noise, they will shake themselves from side to side in their webs, so as to be wholly invisible. Their natural food is insects of all kinds; but they soon learn to eat soft flesh, such as the liver of chickens, for which, as well as for water, they will sometimes stretch themselves and turn in their webs so as to take it from the point of a pin or camel's-hair pencil. Besides water to drink, they require an atmosphere saturated with moisture, like that of their native isl and, the relative humidity being about seventy on the Hygrodeik scale. If stroked upon the back, they often raise their bodies as a cat does, and sometimes put back a leg to push away your finger. They may be allowed to run over one's person with perfect safety, but, if suddenly seized, will hold on with tooth as well as nail.

They are quite economical, and every few days, when the web has become too dry and dusty for use, will gather it up in a mass, which they stuff into their jaws and masticate for hours, swallowing the gum, but throwing out the rest, with the little particles of dust, in the form of a hard black pellet, - an instance rare, if not indeed unique, of an animal eating a substance already excreted from its body.

Here I must close, though much against my will. It would please me to describe, as it has almost fascinated me to observe, the doings of my spiders, as they grew older and made their webs in the Wardian cases to which they were removed when too many and too large for the jars; how VOL. XVIII. - NO. 106.


the young are gregarious, and move from place to place in a close column, protected on all sides by skirmishers, which continually report to the main body; how some of these young, whose parents were caught on Long Island, South Carolina, a year ago, and which were hatched from the egg in October last, have grown up during a Northern winter, have themselves become parents and laid eggs; how they periodically cast off their skins, even to that of the eyes, the jaws, and the breathing tubes, and how, from too great impatience, sad accidents sometimes befall them on these occasions; how, also, I have reeled silk from several of these spiders, and made a thread which has been woven in a power-loom as a woof or filling upon a warp of common black silk, so as to make a bit of ribbon two inches wide, thereby proving that it is real silk and can be treated as such.

Much, too, could be said of the only other attempts to utilize spiders' silk, a knowledge of which would have materially aided me. In France, one hundred and fifty years ago, M. Bon made gloves and stockings of silk got by carding spiders' cocoons, and seventy years later, as I have but recently ascertained, Termeyer, a Spaniard, not only used the cocoons, but also, by an observation similar to my own, was led to reel the silk from the living insect. He, however, had poorer spiders or too little perseverance, or friends and a government influenced by a most short-sighted economy and prudence, else the highly interesting and instructive account of his experiments would have been familiar to some one in this country, and would not have waited these many years to be found by accident last spring in an obscure corner of the Astor Library.

I will add, finally, that I believe some other geometrical spiders, especially of the genus Nephila, may be found as docile, and as productive of beautiful silk, as the species I have described. At any rate, you cannot find a more interesting inmate of your Wardian case than some large geometrical spider.



COULD not have been more than seven or eight years old, when it happened; but it might have been yesterday. Among all other childish memories, it stands alone. To this very day it brings with it the old, utter sinking of the heart, and the old, dull sense of mystery.

To read the story, you should have known my mother. To understand it, you should understand her. But that is quite impossible now, for there is a quiet spot over the hill, and past the church, and beside the little brook where the crimsoned mosses grow thick and wet and cool, from which I cannot call her. It is all I have left of her now. But after all, it is not of her that you will chiefly care to hear. The object of my story is simply to acquaint you with a few facts, which, though interwoven with the events of her life, are quite independent of it as objects of interest. It is, I know, only my own heart that makes these pages a memorial, but, you see, I cannot help it.

Yet, I confess, no glamour of any earthly love has ever utterly dazzled me, not even hers. Of imperfections, of mistakes, of sins, I knew she was guilty. I know it now, even with the sanctity of those crimsoned mosses, and the hush of the rest beneath, so close to my heart, I cannot forget them. Yet somehow — I do not know how the imperfections, the mistakes, the very sins, bring her nearer to me as the years slip by, and make her dearer.

The key to her life is the key to my story. That given, as I can give it, I will try to compress. It lies in the fact that my mother was what we call an aristocrat. I do not like the term, as the term is used. I am sure she does not now; but I have no other word. She was a royal-looking woman, and she had the blood of princes in her veins. Generations back- how we children used to reckon the thing over!



- she was cradled in a throne. miserable race, to be sure, they were,

the Stuarts; and the most devout genealogist might deem it dubious honor to own them for great-grandfathers by innumerable degrees removed. So she used to tell us, over and over, as a damper on our childish vanity, looking such a very queen as she spoke, in every play of feature, and every motion of her hand, that it was the old story of preachers who did not practise. The very baby was proud of her. The beauty of a face, and the elegant repose of a manner, are by no means influences more unfelt at three years than at thirty.

As insanity will hide itself away, and lie sleeping, and die out, while old men are gathered to their fathers scathless, and young men follow in their footsteps safe and free, - and start into life, and claim its own when children's children have forgotten it; as a single trait of a single scholar in a race of clods will bury itself in day-laborers and criminals, unto the third and fourth generation, and spring then, like a creation from a chaos, into statesmen and poets and sculptors; - so, I have sometimes fancied, the better and truer nature of voluptuaries and tyrants was sifted down through the years, and purified in our little New England home, and the essential autocracy of monarchical blood refined and ennobled in my mother into royalty.

A broad and liberal culture had moulded her; she knew its worth, in every fibre of her heart; scholarly parents had blessed her with their legacies of scholarly mind and name. With the soul of an artist, she quivered under every grace and every defect; and the blessing of a beauty as rare as rich had been given to her. With every instinct of her nature recoiling from the very shadow of crimes the world winks at, as from a loathsome reptile, the family record had been

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