Besides, it is evident that, if the Spider really wished to mend her web, all her endeavours would be concentrated upon the rent. She would devote to it all the silk at her disposal and obtain in one sitting a piece very like the rest of the web. Instead of that, what do we find? Almost nothing: a hardly visible gauze.
The thing is obvious: the Spider did on that rent what she did every elsewhere, neither more nor less. Far from squandering silk upon it, she saved her silk so as to have enough for the whole web. The gap will be better mended, little by little, afterwards, as the sheet is strengthened all over with new layers. And this will take long. Two months later, the window—my work—still shows through and makes a dark stain against the dead-white of the fabric.
Neither weavers nor spinners, therefore, know how to repair their work. Those wonderful manufacturers of silk-stuffs lack the least glimmer of that sacred lamp, reason, which enables the stupidest of darning-women to mend the heel of an old stocking. The office of inspector of Spiders’ webs would have its uses, even if it merely succeeded in ridding us of a mistaken and mischievous idea.
The spiral network of the Epeirae possesses contrivances of fearsome cunning. Let us give our attention by preference to that of the Banded Epeira or that of the Silky Epeira, both of which can be observed at early morning in all their freshness.
The thread that forms them is seen with the naked eye to differ from that of the framework and the spokes. It glitters in the sun, looks as though it were knotted and gives the impression of a chaplet of atoms. To examine it through the lens on the web itself is scarcely feasible, because of the shaking of the fabric, which trembles at the least breath. By passing a sheet of glass under the web and lifting it, I take away a few pieces of thread to study, pieces that remain fixed to the glass in parallel lines. Lens and microscope can now play their part.
The sight is perfectly astounding. Those threads, on the borderland between the visible and the invisible, are very closely twisted twine, similar to the gold cord of our officers’ sword-knots. Moreover, they are hollow. The infinitely slender is a tube, a channel full of a viscous moisture resembling a strong solution of gum arabic. I can see a diaphanous trail of this moisture trickling through the broken ends. Under the pressure of the thin glass slide that covers them on the stage of the microscope, the twists lengthen out, become crinkled ribbons, traversed from end to end, through the middle, by a dark streak, which is the empty container.