HEN the little Water Spiders first opened their eyes, and
this was as soon as they were hatched, they found
themselves in a cosy home of one room which their
mother had built under the water. This room had no
window and only one door. There was no floor at all.
When Father Stickleback had asked
When her home was done, it was half as large as a big
acorn and a charming place for Water Spider babies.
The side walls and the rounding ceiling were all of the
finest Spider silk, and the bottom was just one round
doorway. The house was built under the water and
fastened down by tiny ropes of Spider silk which were
tied to the stems of pond plants.
She crept up the stem of the nearest plant and sat in
the air for a few minutes, eating her lunch and
resting. Next she walked down the stem until just the
end of her body was in the air. She stood so, with her
head down, then gave a little jerk and dived to her
home. As she
jerked, she crossed her hindlegs and caught a small
bubble of air between them and her body. When she
reached her home, she went quickly in the open doorway
and let go of her bubble. It did not fall downward to
the floor, as bubbles do in most houses, and there were
two reasons for this. In the first place, there was no
floor. In the second place, air always falls upward in
the water. This fell up until it reached the rounded
ceiling and had to stop. Just as it fell, a drop of
water went out through the open doorway. The home had
been full of water, you know, but now that
She brought down thirteen more bubbles of air and then
the house was filled with it. On the lower side of the
open doorway there was water and on the upper side was
air, and each stayed where it should. When
After she had laid her eggs, she had some days in which
to rest and visit with the
"We know that they have rather too many legs to look
well," said Mrs.
One day, when Mrs. Water Spider was sitting on a
As soon as he got to floating on his back.
"Really?" exclaimed Mrs. Water Spider. "I shall be so
glad! A house always seems lonely to me without
children." She dived to her house, and found some very
Sometimes they teased to go out with her, but this she never allowed. "Wait until you are older," she would say. "It will not be so very long before you can go safely." The children thought it had been a long, long time already, and one of them made a face when his mother said this. She did not see him, and it was well for him that she did not. He should have been very much ashamed of himself for doing it.
The next time Mrs. Water Spider went for food, one of the children said, "I tell you what let's do! Let's all go down to the doorway and peek out." They looked at each other and wondered if they dared. That was something their mother had forbidden them to do. There was no window to look through and they wanted very much to see the world. At last the little fellow who had made a face said, "I'm going to, anyway." After that, his brothers and sisters went, too. And this shows how, if good little Spiders listen to naughty little Spiders, they become naughty little Spiders themselves.
All the children ran down and peeked around the edge of the door, but they had seen that before. They were sadly disappointed. Somebody said, "I'm going to put two of my legs out!" Somebody else said, "I'll put four out!" A big brother said, "I'm going to put six out!" And then another brother said, "I'll put eight out! Dare you to!"
You know what naughty little Spiders would be likely to do then. Well, they did it. And, as it happened, they had just pulled their last legs through the open doorway when a Stickleback Father came along. "Aren't you rather young to be out of the nest?" said he, in his most pleasant voice.
Poor little Water Spiders! They didn't know he was one of their mother's friends, and he seemed so big to them, and the bones on his cheeks made him look so queer, and the stickles on his back were so sharp, that every one of them was afraid and let go of the wall of the house—and then!
Every one of them rose quickly to the top, into the
light and the open air. They crawled upon a
Here Mrs. Water Spider found them. She came home with something for dinner, and saw her house empty. Of course she knew where to look, for, as she said, "If they stepped outside the door, they would be quite sure to tumble up into the air." She took them home, one at a time, and how she ever did it nobody knows.
When they were all safely there and had eaten the food
that was waiting for them,
Instead of saying at once, "Yes, mother," as they should have done, one of them answered, "Why, we didn't run away. We were just peeking around the edge of the doorway, and we got too far out, and somebody came along and scared us so that we let go, and then we couldn't help falling up into the air."
"Oh, no," said their mother, "you couldn't help it then, of course. But who told you that you might peep out of the door?"
The little Water Spiders hung their heads and looked very much ashamed. Their mother went on, "You needn't say that you were not to blame. You were to blame, and you began to run away as soon as you took the first step toward the door, only you didn't know that you were going so far. Tell me," she said, "whether you would ever have gone to the top of the water if you had not taken that first step?"
The little Water Spiders were more ashamed than ever, but they had to look her in the eye and promise to be good.
It is very certain that not one of those children even peeped around the edge of the doorway from that day until their mother told them that they might go into the world and build houses for themselves. "Remember just one thing," she said, as they started away. "Always take your food home to eat." And they always did, for no Water Spider who has been well brought up will ever eat away from his own home.