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The Strand From Above, From the Danish of Johannes Jorgensen

 

The sun rose on a bright September morning. A thousand gems of dew sparkled in the meadows, and upon the breeze floated, in the wake of summer, the shining silken strands of which no man knoweth the whence or the whither.

One of them caught in the top of a tree, and the skipper, a little speckled yellow spider, quit his airship to survey the leafy demesne there. It was not to his liking, and, with prompt decision, he spun a new strand and let himself down straight into the hedge below.

There were twigs and shoots in plenty there to spin a web in, and he went to work at once, letting the strand from above, by which he had come, bear the upper corner of it.

A fine large web it was when finished, and with this about it that set it off from all the other webs thereabouts, that it seemed to stand straight up in the air, without anything to show what held it. It takes pretty sharp eyes to make out a single strand of a spider-web, even a very little way off.

The days went by. Flies grew scarcer, as the sun rose later, and the spider had to make his net larger that it might reach farther and catch more. And here the strand from above turned out a great help. With it to brace the structure, the web was spun higher and wider, until it covered the hedge all the way across. In the wet October mornings, when it hung full of shimmering raindrops, it was like a veil stitched with precious pearls.

The spider was proud of his work. No longer the little thing that had come drifting out of the vast with nothing but its unspun web in its pocket, so to speak, he was now a big, portly, opulent spider, with the largest web in the hedge.

One morning he awoke very much out of sorts. There had been a frost in the night, and daylight brought no sun. The sky was overcast; not a fly was out. All the long gray autumn day the spider sat hungry and cross in his corner. Toward evening, to kill time, he started on a tour of inspection, to see if anything needed bracing or mending. He pulled at all the strands; they were firm enough. But though he found nothing wrong, his temper did not improve; he waxed crosser than ever.

At the farthest end of the web he came at last to a strand that all at once seemed strange to him. All the rest went this way or that—the spider knew every stick and knob they were made fast to, every one. But this preposterous strand went nowhere—that is to say, went straight up in the air and was lost. He stood up on his hind legs and stared with all his eyes, but he could not make it out. To look at, the strand went right up into the clouds, which was nonsense.

The longer he sat and glared to no purpose, the angrier the spider grew. He had quite forgotten how on a bright September morning he himself had come down this same strand. And he had forgotten how, in the building of the web and afterward when it had to be enlarged, it was just this strand he had depended upon. He saw only that here was a useless strand, a fool strand, that went nowhere in sense or reason, only up in the air where solid spiders had no concern....

“Away with it!” and with one vicious snap of his angry jaws he bit the strand in two.

That instant the web collapsed, the whole proud and prosperous structure fell in a heap, and when the spider came to he lay sprawling in the hedge with the web all about his head like a wet rag. In one brief moment he had wrecked it all—because he did not understand the use of the strand from above.

 
 
 

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