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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/528

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

had a fluffy appearance, his body looked sodden, and he behaved in a fat and sensual manner. He took the grossest pleasure in warming his ventral surface on the side of the jar toward the sun. He sipped the sweets of life to excess, and had lost that activity a fly ought to possess. Alas! his career rendered him unfit to battle in the struggle for existence. He became the spider's first meal.

The second fly had but one wing. He was lean and ill-nurtured, yet he had withal a chirpy and pleasing manner. He had neither the pompous bearing of opulence nor the boisterous ways of rude health. He was a sweet-tempered and amiable fly, and among the local muscæ undoubtedly occupied the same position that Tiny Tim did in his family. I should have let him go, only that I feared that, if I did so, I should also release the third fly, whom my soul loathed. Now, let me tell you why that fly was objectionable. He was the only fly left on the window-panes, and he walked over them with the arrogance of a landlord. I sought to catch him, but each attempt was more futile than the last. He dodged, he flew away from the window, he calmly floated about the room, and I followed him, flapping with my pocket-handkerchief till I visibly perspired. He was as cunning as the fox of Ballybogue, who, you remember, used to take in the newspaper to see where the meets were to be. My temper overcame me, and I swore I would have that fly.

After a hunt, which brought out all my worst characteristics, I caught him, and deposited him in my vivarium, rejoicing to myself that his death-agonies would be some compensation for my pains. As soon as he got into the jar, Mr. Fly discovered that his poor little brother in adversity had a raw place where his wing had been torn off, and he would follow him from place to place to put his sucker on to the sore. It was not the kindliness of the dogs of Lazarus which led him to lick the wound. He saw that Tim did not like it, and, as he was a nasty, bullying cad, he persisted in his obnoxious performances. I left him disgusted. He was a beast!

In the course of an hour or so I returned. The sensual fly was in the arms of the spider. The hunter, with his quarry in his clutch, was on the piece of paper, and I could see him well. Four black bead-like eyes, situated on the very summit of his head, gleamed at me with ferocity. His mandibles were stretched to their utmost. The hooked extremity of one was driven into the fly's eye, the other was fixed somewhere about its throat. Between these a pair of jaws were working with a synchronous and scissors-like movement, and his upper and lower lip (for such they were, I afterward learned) worked, as it were, between whiles. As the jaws approached each other, the lips parted. His palps, or leg-like antennæ, waved slowly as the tail of an angry cat; and his very spinnerets, six in number, stood out turgid with excitement. The fly was still, except for a quivering motion of one of its legs. It was the tremor of death.