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The Life of the Spider eBook

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

One word more.  The web is often shaken by the wind.  The different parts of the framework, tossed and teased by the eddying air-currents, cannot fail to transmit their vibration to the signalling-thread.  Nevertheless, the Spider does not quit her hut and remains indifferent to the commotion prevailing in the net.  Her line, therefore, is something better than a bell-rope that pulls and communicates the impulse given:  it is a telephone capable, like our own, of transmitting infinitesimal waves of sound.  Clutching her telephone-wire with a toe, the Spider listens with her leg; she perceives the innermost vibrations; she distinguishes between the vibration proceeding from a prisoner and the mere shaking caused by the wind.

CHAPTER XIII:  THE GARDEN SPIDERS:  PAIRING AND HUNTING

Notwithstanding the importance of the subject, I shall not enlarge upon the nuptials of the Epeirae, grim natures whose loves easily turn to tragedy in the mystery of the night.  I have but once been present at the pairing and for this curious experience I must thank my lucky star and my fat neighbour, the Angular Epeira, whom I visit so often by lantern-light.  Here you have it.

It is the first week of August, at about nine o’clock in the evening, under a perfect sky, in calm, hot weather.  The Spider has not yet constructed her web and is sitting motionless on her suspension-cable.  The fact that she should be slacking like this, at a time when her building-operations ought to be in full swing, naturally astonishes me.  Can something unusual be afoot?

Even so.  I see hastening up from the neighbouring bushes and embarking on the cable a male, a dwarf, who is coming, the whipper-snapper, to pay his respects to the portly giantess.  How has he, in his distant corner, heard of the presence of the nymph ripe for marriage?  Among the Spiders, these things are learnt in the silence of the night, without a summons, without a signal, none knows how.

Once, the Great Peacock, {32} apprised by the magic effluvia, used to come from miles around to visit the recluse in her bell-jar in my study.  The dwarf of this evening, that other nocturnal pilgrim, crosses the intricate tangle of the branches without a mistake and makes straight for the rope-walker.  He has as his guide the infallible compass that brings every Jack and his Jill together.

He climbs the slope of the suspension-cord; he advances circumspectly, step by step.  He stops some distance away, irresolute.  Shall he go closer?  Is this the right moment?  No.  The other lifts a limb and the scared visitor hurries down again.  Recovering from his fright, he climbs up once more, draws a little nearer.  More sudden flights, followed by fresh approaches, each time nigher than before.  This restless running to and fro is the declaration of the enamoured swain.

Perseverance spells success.  The pair are now face to face, she motionless and grave, he all excitement.  With the tip of his leg, he ventures to touch the plump wench.  He has gone too far, daring youth that he is!  Panic-stricken, he takes a header, hanging by his safety-line.  It is only for a moment, however.  Up he comes again.  He has learnt, from certain symptoms, that we are at last yielding to his blandishments.

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