Caught in a Cobweb—The Spider's Plan
HE days now began to grow very short and when the rain fell, as it often did, it chilled the sodden ground, and was followed by cold, unhealthy fogs, instead of by the warm sweet smell that rises from the earth after a summer shower. The wind wailed dismally through the trees, stripping them of their many-colored leaves, and preparing them for rougher weather to come—as sailors take in canvas before the approach of a gale.
The few flowers that were left, were fading quickly away, and the bees could hardly find enough honey for their own eating, during the short excursions they were able to make.
But there were still occasions when the clouds were content to linger along the horizon, and let the sun take a peep at the world; and although his rays were comparatively weak and watery, they were sometimes pleasant enough to tempt the bees out of their hive.
Buz seldom neglected such opportunities, and was fond of exploring places which she hardly had time to notice during the busy season of the honey harvest.
There was a pretty old cottage, with a thatched roof, standing a little way back from the lane leading from the manor house to the village.
It stood by itself, some way from any other habitation, and in front of it there was a little garden, beautifully kept.
Buz had often visited it during the summer, and had always fancied that its flowers were particularly sweet and full of honey. No wonder if they were, for the poor old man who lived in the cottage was very fond of them.
He kept them free from weeds, and watered them daily, in hot weather, with the sparkling water of a little spring just across the lane, which was almost hidden by ferns and mosses, and which sent down a tiny rill, wandering through watercresses and marsh marigolds and long waving grasses, to join the merry mill-stream at the bottom of the hill.
One day, Buz, after taking a sip of water at the spring, flew to the top of the little garden gate, and thence right into the cottage through the open window.
This she did because her wings happened to carry her there.
It was the first time she had ever entered a room; and, after taking a turn round, the sight of so many things which were new to her caused her to feel nervous, and she made for the window. Unfortunately, however, there were two windows in the room, and Buz darted to the wrong one, which was shut! Against this she flew at such a pace, that for a moment she was quite confused, and taking another turn, came back and bumped herself once more, though not quite so hard.
Hard enough, however, to make her feel a little cross; and so she buzzed noisily about, going over every pane several times—more slowly and carefully as she went up, but coming down again in a great hurry.
"Well!" said Buz to herself; "this is a nasty jar! I came in here—that I know for certain—and as I came in, I suppose I can get out. I will get out—I won't be sealed up like this!" And in a sudden fit of impatience, she buzzed so fiercely against the window that she turned herself head over heels once or twice, and came to the bottom anyhow.
There she remained for a moment, rubbing her antennæ, and considering matters.
Then off she went again, right up to the top of the window.
"I'll explore every corner," she said. "I'll try over and over again! I will not be beaten!
Here there was a most tremendous buzzing; for, right up in one of the top corners, she was caught in a large and dusty cobweb!
Never in her life had Buz been so angry and indignant! She lost all control over herself, and buzzed, and bit, and struggled, and felt all round for something to sting.
There was nothing, however, but the soft, yielding cobweb; and the more she struggled, the more it stuck! and the more she turned, the more it twisted! and the more she rolled, the more it wrapped round her! and the angrier she got, the more aggravating it became!
At last she was quite exhausted, and lay still.
Now when she had cooled down a little, she began to see that she had not gone the right way to work.
"How foolish of me!" said she to herself. "Just what a great drone might have done! If I had taken it quietly at first, I might perhaps have got out; but what will happen now, I can't think. What a fool I have made of myself, to be sure!"
"Ho! Ho!" cried a deep sarcastic voice close by.
Buz looked round, startled, and saw a great big spider near her on the web.
He was horrible to look at, with his cruel, bloodthirsty expression, but seemed perfectly composed, and fixed his wicked, hungry eyes steadily on Buz. For a moment the latter was quite paralyzed with fear, but, recovering a little, made some frantic efforts to free herself. These, however, were unsuccessful, and she again lay still, exhausted by her struggles.
"Ho! Ho!" cried the spider again.
By this time Buz had recovered from her first shock of horror, and her blood was up. Besides, she felt quite a match for the spider, if it came to a fight.
"Is that all you've got to say?" asked Buz scornfully.
"Ho! Ho!" repeated the spider, for the third time.
He said it in such a cold-blooded manner, and seemed so triumphant and confident, that a thrill of horror again ran through her; but, shaking off the feeling, she said:
"I suppose you made this nasty web, didn't you? The spider answered never a word.
"In any case," continued Buz, "you might as well unwind me. I'm not a poor fly, you know, that you can kill and eat. Besides, your web is all torn," continued she, as the spider sat without moving or speaking—only watching; "and you'll have to mend it, you know, if you want to catch any thing. You can't mend it while I am here; I'll take care of that!" The spider neither moved nor spoke. This continued silence disconcerted Buz very much, and made her feel dreadfully helpless; but she presently continued as briskly as she could:
"Come, come; I'm sure we can arrange matters in a sensible way, without any professions of friendship. You want to mend your web; very good. I'm not anxious to stay in it, and you can do nothing while I am here. Give me your assistance, then, and I will go quietly away without hurting you. Come, what do you say?"
The spider partly opened his mouth, as if about to speak, but ended by saying nothing.
His appearance, however, was so terrifying, and his fangs looked so cruel, that Buz could hardly prevent her voice from trembling as she continued, "Have you any argument against what I propose? Tell me that, at any rate."
The spider spoke at last, and as he slowly moved his jaws, his fangs swept round like scythes.
"You are my prisoner," said he: "that's my argument."
He spoke with such contemptuous confidence, that Buz was struck dumb for the moment, and could think of nothing to say.
"A good argument, too," continued the spider; "good enough for me."
There was a long pause, during which Buz struggled hard to throw off the feeling of dismay which had crept over her.
"At any rate," she said at last; "if I am unable to get out, you, on the other hand, dare not come near me; so I don't know which of us would get the worst of it in the end."
"I do," returned the spider, "and you will before long."
He said this with such a sneer, that Buz's brave little spirit rose, and she answered quite sharply: "You seem very well satisfied with your own opinion, Mr. Spider; but mine may be just as good—perhaps better. And I say that I can go quite as long without food as you can, and that you dare not come near me. No, you daren't, you brute!" she continued, as the spider again half opened his mouth without speaking.
"You hungry-looking wretch!" she went on, "if you were not afraid of me, you would have rushed upon me long ago, and dragged me into your den; but you are afraid, you sneaking coward!"
"If I could only put him in a passion," she thought, "so as to make him come at me, we might fight it fairly out, and I could bear whatever happened; but to lie helplessly here is dreadful."
"Not I!" cried Buz disdainfully. "What are your plans to me?" The spider said no more, but moving off to his den, which was close by, settled himself at the mouth of it, and remained perfectly motionless, with his eyes fixed on Buz.
The latter was silent for some time, but although she tried to keep it out of her head, she could not help wondering what the spider's plan was. This thought returned again and again, and each time with greater strength, till at last it became a perfect torment to her. Several times she was on the point of asking, but just managed to prevent herself from doing so.
At last she could restrain the inclination no longer, and said, though as defiantly as she could:
"I might be able to show you the folly of your plan, as you call it; so you had better tell me what it is, after all."
"If you ask me as a favor, I'll tell you," replied the spider; "not else."
"Indeed, I shall ask no favor from you!" cried Buz.
The spider making no reply to this, there was a prolonged silence; but at last, the feeling of anxiety to know the worst, overcame her pride, and Buz said more humbly, "Well then, I ask you as a favor."
"My plan is," said the spider, speaking very slowly and deliberately, "to do nothing yet myself, and to leave you to do what you can. It will answer very well, because you will soon get too weak for mischief, and then I shall kill you and suck you dry, and tear you limb from limb. That's my plan."
"Pray, how do you know," said Buz, "that I shall get weak sooner than you?"
"How foolishly you talk!" replied the spider. "Why, you are nearly exhausted, and half choked already; you are in a terrible fright, and well you may be, for you have nothing to look forward to but death. I am quite comfortable, even enjoying myself, watching you; and I look forward to dinner: it makes a good deal of difference."
Buz felt that this was only too true, and her heart began to fail her, brave as she was.
"Besides," continued the spider, "I dined well yesterday on a fat fly, whose wings you can see here at the mouth of my den, as you call it; so I can easily wait for you. I shall not have to wait very long."
Buz could not help trembling at these cruel words, and after a pause, she said,
in a weaker voice, "I suppose it would be in vain to appeal to your
"To my generosity!" interrupted the spider. "Ho! Ho! That's good, that is! Why, I have never, in all my life, granted an appeal, or a favor, and I never mean to. It is true," he continued, "that I told you my plan, as a favor, but I only did so in order to punish you for the ridiculous airs you gave yourself at first. The punishment has already begun, I see. I knew it would! And you begged me to tell you as a favor! That's good, that is! Ho! Ho!"
The malicious cruelty with which he spoke was enough to freeze her blood; but even at that moment poor little Buz did not lose her pluck.
"He shall not triumph over me," she thought, "more than I can possibly help. I will not say another word, nor attempt to move him to pity. Let the worst come to the worst, I can but die! And if he ventures near me before I am quite gone, let him look out for himself!"
So she remained perfectly still; and the spider sat motionless at the mouth of his den, watching.