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Jean Henri Fabre
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 211 pages of information about The Life of the Spider.

Might is right, says the beast; or, rather, it knows no right.  The animal world is a rout of appetites, acknowledging no other rein than impotence.  Mankind, alone capable of emerging from the slough of the instincts, is bringing equity into being, is creating it slowly as its conception grows clearer.  Out of the sacred rushlight, so flickering as yet, but gaining strength from age to age, man will make a flaming torch that will put an end, among us, to the principles of the brutes and, one day, utterly change the face of society.

CHAPTER XV:  THE LABYRINTH SPIDER

While the Epeirae, with their gorgeous net-tapestries, are incomparable weavers, many other Spiders excel in ingenious devices for filling their stomachs and leaving a lineage behind them:  the two primary laws of living things.  Some of them are celebrities of long-standing renown, who are mentioned in all the books.

Certain Mygales {36} inhabit a burrow, like the Narbonne Lycosa, but of a perfection unknown to the brutal Spider of the waste-lands.  The Lycosa surrounds the mouth of her shaft with a simple parapet, a mere collection of tiny pebbles, sticks and silk; the others fix a movable door to theirs, a round shutter with a hinge, a groove and a set of bolts.  When the Mygale comes home, the lid drops into the groove and fits so exactly that there is no possibility of distinguishing the join.  If the aggressor persist and seek to raise the trap-door, the recluse pushes the bolt, that is to say, plants her claws into certain holes on the opposite side to the hinge, props herself against the wall and holds the door firmly.

Another, the Argyroneta, or Water Spider, builds herself an elegant silken diving-bell, in which she stores air.  Thus supplied with the wherewithal to breathe, she awaits the coming of the game and keeps herself cool meanwhile.  At times of scorching heat, hers must be a regular sybaritic abode, such as eccentric man has sometimes ventured to build under water, with mighty blocks of stone and marble.  The submarine palaces of Tiberius are no more than an odious memory; the Water Spider’s dainty cupola still flourishes.

If I possessed documents derived from personal observation, I should like to speak of these ingenious workers; I would gladly add a few unpublished facts to their life-history.  But I must abandon the idea.  The Water Spider is not found in my district.  The Mygale, the expert in hinged doors, is found there, but very seldom.  I saw one once, on the edge of a path skirting a copse.  Opportunity, as we know, is fleeting.  The observer, more than any other, is obliged to take it by the forelock.  Preoccupied as I was with other researches, I but gave a glance at the magnificent subject which good fortune offered.  The opportunity fled and has never returned.

Let us make up for it with trivial things of frequent encounter, a condition favourable to consecutive study.  What is common is not necessarily unimportant.  Give it our sustained attention and we shall discover in it merits which our former ignorance prevented us from seeing.  When patiently entreated, the least of creatures adds its note to the harmonies of life.

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