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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/532

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

When I put my finger near the new spider he gathered his legs together, and assumed an abject attitude; perhaps it was a simulation of death. Anyway, the position gave me the idea of meanness and knavery; so I called him Uriah Heep, because he was "so 'umble."

"Esau," I said, with befitting solemnity, "wilt thou take Uriah to be thy wedded husband?" I dropped him into the jar. The lady was sitting in her web; but she bolted into her chamber the moment she felt the impulse of the fresh arrival.

"Ah," thought I, "she is parading her coyness."

Uriah did not seem at his ease, and, leaving the cobweb, he took up a position between the paper and the wall of the jar. Esau protruded what ought to have been her nose—had she belonged to a higher species—from the doorway of her sanctum. There was evident uneasiness on both sides.

Now, I do not believe that these two creatures slept for two days and two nights. They regarded each other with profound suspicion. I put flies into the jar. They would not be allured by food. If one moved the twentieth part of an inch, the other altered its attitude to a similar degree. If Esau wished to get out of her apartment, Uriah occupied a different strategical position. It was a period of brain-tension, watchfulness, and terror.

On the third morning I found Uriah had fallen a victim. His thorax was separated from his abdomen, his legs were disarticulated and scattered, and Esau sat on her perch, placid and contented, the mistress of the situation.

Spiders of both sexes and of every shade of opinion successively shared the captivity of Esau, and they all shared the fate of Uriah. The blood of Mr. Heep had whetted the appetite of the Amazon, and she increased in valor and ferocity. She gauged the strength of her opponent with infallible precision. Now she would use all the arts of strategy; now she would trust to the prestige of victorious arms. Her jar became a very charnel-house of the remains of her kind. A battle occasionally took place, but superior strength and agility made Esau victress. As a rule, however, the new intruder said Kismet the moment it was seized, and resigned itself to fate.

I have yet to relate the most interesting part of my narrative. Pardon me whispering, reader; but Esau has yet to become a mother. The queen of the pickle-jar, who directed the destinies of her subjects—and I must say she directed them in pretty much the same direction—was herself to become the slave of a numerous progeny. It has been an enigma to me who the sire of that progeny could have been.

"No scandal against Queen Elizabeth, I hope?"

Reader, I assure you, my duties are those of a grave historian. I am no carrier of tattle.

It has been an enigma to me (allow me to resume the subject) who the sire of that progeny could have been. Perhaps it was some