The Mean Spider, by Jeannette Marks

The Cheerful Cricket and Others

Old Stingy sat in the midst of his spider-web, as some old Giant used to sit in his fortress waiting to pounce upon innocent people to kill them and eat them. Stingy's shoulders were all humped up, and his eight claws looked very ugly. He had already tangled up one Noisy Fly, and now he sat waiting for another. Everybody hated him; even Toadie Todson went out of his way to give a lazy snap at Stingy.

All day long Stingy spun webs, caught noisy flies and even other spiders, and yet nobody ever knew what he did with his webs or with the flies he caught. Stingy had never been heard to say one word, and when he wanted exercise, he hung by his leg to a thin cobweb and dangled up and down. But if he saw anything coming he gave a jump, and back he went again into his web. There he would sit with his shoulders humped and his big mean black eyes fairly popping out of his head.

For once in his life Stingy was feeling a little sleepy the evening that something happened to him. All day long the wind had been blowing very hard, and Stingy had to rebuild a great many cobwebs that were blown down. Suddenly he started up. Something was struggling in his web. What do you suppose it was? Nothing less than a beautiful little yellow-winged moth that was caught and was beating his wings and fluttering to get out. Stingy rose slowly and moved his humpy shoulders toward the moth. Quietly he stole on and in a minute more the moth would be choked to death. On, on went Stingy, the tiny yellow moth fluttering more and more feebly. But just at the moment Stingy was almost on the moth, a beak ripped open the web and Stingy went tumbling to the ground while the yellow moth fluttered away toward the waxy white flowers of the nearest syringa bush. The moth had time to see Hummy go whirring off, and that night she told the fireflies and glow-worms and other moths all about it. And each one had some other good deed of Hummy's to relate.

But perhaps you would like to know what became of Stingy? When the web was broken and he tumbled to the ground, he fell into the open mouth of the Frisky Frog, who gave a comfortable croak as he swallowed him. Nobody was sorry that Stingy was swallowed. Mrs. Cricky said it served him right, but then, poor Mrs. Cricky's good wishes were often lost in anxiety, lest harm should come to one of her own little Cricketses, for Stingy, fifteen days before, had been known to smother and eat a little cricket not more than a minute old. Mrs. Cricky herself would probably have been the last person to hurt Stingy, only she could not help feeling relieved; she said it wasn't in cricket-nature to feel otherwise.

Father Cricky was usually too busy singing songs for the Marsh Grass
Vesper Quartette to make remarks. But this time he agreed with Mrs.
Cricky and said they would all better have their evening song and go to
sleep. And this was the song they sang:


Not too fast_

  Come, see where the night winds sleep
  And the dews fall on the ground,
  While the trees a-rustling keep,
  And the stars turn round and round.
  There little frogs leap and croak,
  And little eels slip and slide,
  And the crabs lie still and soak,
  While the marsh is singing wide.
  The sand hills sleep 'neath the moon
  And blink away at the sea,
  While they sing a little sand tune
  Which is plain as plain can be.

  Sleep away,
  Say, my little one,
  Bye-bye to the day.