CHAPTER XVI: THE CLOTHO SPIDER
She is named Durand’s Clotho (Clotho Durandi, LATR.), in memory of him who first called attention to this particular Spider. To enter on eternity under the safe-conduct of a diminutive animal which saves us from speedy oblivion under the mallows and rockets is no contemptible advantage. Most men disappear without leaving an echo to repeat their name; they lie buried in forgetfulness, the worst of graves.
Others, among the naturalists, benefit by the designation given to this or that object in life’s treasure-house: it is the skiff wherein they keep afloat for a brief while. A patch of lichen on the bark of an old tree, a blade of grass, a puny beastie: any one of these hands down a man’s name to posterity as effectively as a new comet. For all its abuses, this manner of honouring the departed is eminently respectable. If we would carve an epitaph of some duration, what could we find better than a Beetle’s wing-case, a Snail’s shell or a Spider’s web? Granite is worth none of them. Entrusted to the hard stone, an inscription becomes obliterated; entrusted to a Butterfly’s wing, it is indestructible. ‘Durand,’ therefore, by all means.
But why drag in ‘Clotho’? Is it the whim of a nomenclator, at a loss for words to denote the ever-swelling tide of beasts that require cataloguing? Not entirely. A mythological name came to his mind, one which sounded well and which, moreover, was not out of place in designating a spinstress. The Clotho of antiquity is the youngest of the three Fates; she holds the distaff whence our destinies are spun, a distaff wound with plenty of rough flocks, just a few shreds of silk and, very rarely, a thin strand of gold.
Prettily shaped and clad, as far as a Spider can be, the Clotho of the naturalists is, above all, a highly talented spinstress; and this is the reason why she is called after the distaff-bearing deity of the infernal regions. It is a pity that the analogy extends no further. The mythological Clotho, niggardly with her silk and lavish with her coarse flocks, spins us a harsh existence; the eight-legged Clotho uses naught but exquisite silk. She works for herself; the other works for us, who are hardly worth the trouble.