Neddy's Half Holiday

WE’VE had a good time, Tony, old fellow, haven’t we?” said Neddy Harris, who was beginning to feel tired with his half day’s ramble in the fields. As he said this he sat down on some boards in the barn.

Tony replied to his young master by rubbing his nose against his face, and by a soft “baa,” which was as near as he could come to saying, “A first-rate time, Master Neddy.”

“A grand good time,” added the boy, putting his arms around the lamb’s neck and laying his face on its soft wool.

“And now,” he continued, “as father says we should always do, I’ll just go back and think over what I’ve done this holiday afternoon; and if I forgot myself in anything and went wrong, it will be best for me to know it, so that I can do better next time.

“I’m sorry about that poor squirrel,” said Neddy; “he never did me any harm. What a beautiful little creature he was, with his bright black eyes and shiny skin!”

And the boy’s face grew sad, as well it might, for he had pelted this squirrel with stones from tree to tree, and at last knocked him to the ground.

“But it was so cruel in me! Now, if I live a hundred years, I’ll never harm another squirrel. God made these frisky little fellows, and they’ve just as much right to live as I have.”

Neddy felt better about the squirrel after this good resolution, which he meant to keep.

“That was curious about the spider,” he went on, trying to push all thoughts of the dead squirrel from his mind. Let me tell you about this spider. In the corner of a fence Neddy saw a large circular spider’s web, shaped like a funnel, down in the centre of which was a hole. As he stood looking at the delicate thing, finer than any woven silk, a fly struck against it and got his feet tangled, so that he could not escape. Instantly a great black spider ran out of the hole at the bottom of the web, and seizing the poor fly dragged him out of sight and made his dinner off of him.

Neddy dropped a piece of dry bark about the size of his thumb nail into the web, and it slipped down and covered the hole through which the spider had to come for his prey. Instantly the piece of bark was pushed up by the spider, who came out of his den and ran around on the slender cords of his web in a troubled kind of way. Then he tried to get back into his hidden chamber, but the piece of bark covered the entrance like a shut door. And now Mr. Spider was in a terrible flurry. He ran wildly up one side of his web and down another; then he tugged at the piece of bark, trying to drag it out, but its rough edges took hold of the fine silken threads and tore them.

 “You’ll catch no more flies in that web, old chap,” said Neddy as he stood watching the spider.

But Neddy was mistaken. Spider did not belong to the give-up class. If the thing could not be done in one way, it might in another. He did not reason about things like human beings, but then he had instinct, as it is called, and that teaches animals how to get their food, how to build their houses or make their nests, and how to meet the dangers and difficulties that overtake them in life. After sitting still for a little while, spider went to work again, and this time in a surprising way. He cut a circle close around the piece of bark as neatly as you could have done with a pair of sharp scissors, and lo! it dropped to the ground, leaving a hole in the web about the size of a ten-cent piece.

“Rather hard on the web, Mr. Landpirate,” said Neddy, laughing. “Flies can go through there as well as chips.”

When he called the spider a land-pirate, Neddy was wrong. He was no more a pirate—that is, one who robs and murders—than is the woodpecker or swallow, for they feed on worms and insects. The spider was just as blameless in his work of catching and eating flies as was Neddy’s white bantam when she went off into the fields after grasshoppers.

But Neddy’s laugh at the spider was soon cut short. The most difficult part of his work was done when he got rid of the piece of bark. As soon as that was out of his way he began moving backward and forward over the hole he had cut in the web, just as if he were a weaver’s shuttle, and in about ten minutes it was all covered with gauzy lacework finer than ever was worn by a queen.

“I’ll give it up, old fellow,” exclaimed Neddy, taking a long breath as he saw the work completed. “This just beats me out.” Spider crept down into his den again to wait for another fly, and Neddy, leading Tony, went on his way pleased and wondering.