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Chapter 9 Wilbur’s Boast

A spider's web is stronger than it looks. Although it is made ofthin, delicate strands, the web is not easily broken. However, a webgets torn every day by the insects that kick around in it, and aspider must rebuild it when it gets full of holes. Charlotte likedto do her weaving during the late afternoon, and Fern liked to sitnearby and watch. One afternoon she heard a most interestingconversation and witnessed a strange event.

  “You have awfully hairy legs, Charlotte,” said Wilbur, as thespider busily worked at her task.

  “My legs are hairy for a good reason,” replied Charlotte.

  “Furthermore, each leg of mine has seven sections—the coxa, thetrochanter, the femur, the patella, the tibia, the metatarsus, andthe tarsus.”

  Wilbur sat bolt upright, “You’re kidding,” he said.

  “No, I’m not, either.”

  “Say those names again, I didn't catch them the first time.”

  “Coxa, trochanter, femur, patella, tibia, metatarsus, andtarsus.”

  “Goodness!” said Wilbur, looking down at his own chubby legs.

  “I don’t think my legs have seven sections.”

  “Well,” said Charlotte, “you and I lead different lives. Youdon't have to spin a web. That takes real leg work.”

  “I could spin a web if I tried,” said Wilbur, boasting. “I'vejust never tried.”

  “Let’s see you do it,” said Charlotte. Fern chuckled softly,and her eyes grew wide with love for the pig.

  “O.K.,” replied Wilbur. “You coach me and I'll spin one. Itmust be a lot of fun to spin a web. How do I start?”

  “Take a deep breath!” said Charlotte, smiling. Wilbur breatheddeeply.

  “Now climb to the highest place you can get to, like this.”

  Charlotte raced up to the top of the doorway. Wilbur scrambled tothe top of the manure pile.

  “Very good!” said Charlotte. “Now make an attachment withyour spinnerets, hurl yourself into space, and let out a dragline asyou go down!”

  Wilbur hesitated a moment, then jumped out into the air. Heglanced hastily behind to see if a piece of rope was following himto check his fall, but nothing seemed to be happening in his rear,and the next thing he knew he landed with a thump. “Ooomp!” hegrunted.

  Charlotte laughed so hard her web began to sway.

  “What did I do wrong?” asked the pig, when he recovered fromhis bump.

  “Nothing,” said Charlotte. “It was a nice try.”

  “I think I’ll try again,” said Wilbur, cheerfully. “Ibelieve what I need is a little piece of string to hold me.”

  The pig walked out to his yard. “You there, Templeton?” hecalled. The rat poked his head out from under the trough.

  “Got a little piece of string I could borrow?” asked Wilbur.

  “I need it to spin a web.”

  “Yes, indeed,” replied Templeton, who saved string. “Notrouble at all. Any thing to oblige.” He crept down into his hole,pushed the goose egg out of the way, and returned with an old pieceof dirty white string. Wilbur examined it.

  “That’s just the thing,” he said. “Tie one end to my tail,will you, Templeton?”

  Wilbur crouched low, with his thin, curly tail toward the rat.

  Templeton seized the string, passed it around the end of the pig'stail, and tied two half hitches. Charlotte watched in delight. LikeFern, she was truly fond of Wilbur, whose smelly pen and stale foodattracted the flies that she needed, and she was proud to see thathe was not a quitter and was willing to try again to spin a web.

  While the rat and the spider and the little girl watched, Wilburclimbed again to the top of the manure pile, full of energy and hope.

  “Everybody watch!” he cried. And summoning all his strength,he threw himself into the air, headfirst. The string trailed behindhim. But as he had neglected to fasten the other end to anything, itdidn't really do any good, and Wilbur landed with a thud, crushedand hurt. Tears came to his eyes. Templeton grinned. Charlotte justsat quietly. After a bit she spoke.

  “You can’t spin a web, Wilbur, and I advise you to put theidea out of your mind. You lack two things needed for spinning aweb.”

  “What are they?” asked Wilbur, sadly.

  “You lack a set of spinnerets, and you lack know-how. But cheerup, you don't need a web. Zucherman supplies you with three bigmeals a day. Why should you worry about trapping food?”

  Wilbur sighed. “You're ever so much cleverer and brighter thanI am, Charlotte. I guess I was just trying to show off. Serves meright.”

  Templeton untied his string and took it back to his home.

  Charlotte returned to her weaving.

  “You needn't feel too badly, Wilbur,” she said. “Not manycreatures can spin webs. Even men aren't as good at it as spiders,although they think they're pretty good, and they'll try anything.

  Did you ever hear of the Queensborough Bridge?”

  Wilbur shook his head. “Is it a web?”

  “Sort of,” replied Charlotte. “But do you know how long ittook men to build it? Eight whole years. My goodness, I would havestarved to death waiting that long. I can make a web in a singleevening.”

  “What do people catch in the Queensborough Bridge—bug?” askedWilbur.

  “No,” said Charlotte. “They don’t catch anything. They justkeep trotting back and forth across the bridge thinking there issomething better on the other side. If they’d hang head-down at thetop of the thing and wait quietly, maybe something good would comealong. But no—with men it’s rush, rush, rush, every minute. I’mglad I’m a sedentary spider.”

  “What does sedentary mean?” asked Wilbur.

  “Means I sit still a good part of the time and don’t gowandering all over creation. I know a good thing when I see it, andmy web is a good thi............

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