Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/527

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A SPIDER, sitting placidly on a hat-peg, awakened in me a vague enthusiasm for natural history; so I captured him, and put him in a bottle. He was lean and gaunt, and had an ominous countenance. The small row of eyes on the vertex of his head looked murder and rapine, and the formidable jaws—which he moved slowly, as if he were sucking his teeth—meant death to those who were his inferiors in strength. He seemed to have been lately in distressed circumstances, for the light came through his very carcass, and his legs were almost as weakly as the gossamer he wove. The strongest part of him seemed to be the stiff hairs that covered him. They stood out independently, and covered his body with such profusion that I was led to call him Esau.

The bottle most likely did not impart a generous warmth, and probably the garish light of day was not pleasant to this denizen of the rafters and remote corners, yet he settled himself in his new habitation with a calmness which commanded my admiration. No fear entered his breast; he was not daunted by captivity. He did not wildly seek an outlet, like most of the things we call insects. He seemed to be of the school of the ascetic Brahmans, and apparently regarded fate as invincible.

"Even if I keep you in captivity," I said, "I will provide you with a mansion, and you shall have an amplicity of food." After a little search a wide-necked jar was obtained, and I set to work to catch flies. The jar was glass, and its mouth was covered with muslin; but in case Arachnida cared not for light and ventilation, I provided him with a piece of paper rolled cone-wise, and in this inner chamber he could seek retirement.

On being placed in his new abode, my friend betrayed no curiosity. He merely settled himself on the piece of paper, as it had a more genial feel than the transparent floor. Perhaps he watched me, but I could not tell that from his expression. His face was typical of indifference.

I now began to make havoc among a colony of flies who had apparently spent their lives in obtaining from the window-panes some occult flavor which is not perceptible to our coarser palates. I made three captives, who were passed beneath the muslin door of the jar with a little sleight of hand. The appearance of these flies was my next subject of observation. They each had an individuality which I did not till then know that flies possessed. Their deportment, their figures, their very moral tone, had a distinct stamp; yet there was an harmonious something which united characters so different. The first