[This story was written by Perry Manwaring for his daughter, Marian, who loved playing the piano but hated spiders. The illustration is by Claire Hartman.]
Arachne the spider climbed up on a stem. Up, up on a limb ‘til it started to bend then farther and farther right out to the end. Right out where the breeze blew the branch to and fro. “This is fun,” said Arachne. “I’d like to let go.” So she spun out some silk, not much, just enough, let it float in the breeze, then suddenly PUFF! The breeze lifted her up in the air until soon Arachne was sailing just like a balloon.
Up over the trees and the telephone wire, and over the housetops and higher and higher, Arachne sailed up in the sky over town until the wind stopped then she started back down. Down, down came Arachne in eddies and whirls, in loop-the-loop spirals, in circles and swirls. Down she came falling. Down, down more and more. Then Marian Middleton opened the door. She opened the door to give kitty her dish, and Arachne sailed in from the patio—swish.
Arachne said, “Oh, this is quite a neat place.” Mrs. Middleton gasped, “There’s a web on my face. Quick get the dust mop, the vacuum, the broom. We’ll clean ceiling and walls in all of the rooms. We’ll get every spider. Just count on me. We’ll dust them, we’ll spray them, we’ll use DDT.” “I must,” said Arachne, “find some place to hide.” The piano was near so she crawled right inside. Arachne said, “Say, what a nice place to play. It’s cozy and warm. I think I will stay.”
So she played and explored each string, hammer and key! Then she spun her a web just above middle C. She rested and slept. She kept herself warm while outside raged a fierce vacuum-sweeper windstorm. Soon Marian’s teacher, Mr. Orlando, came to instruct her on the piano. He listened while Marian played her crescendos, her prestos, and lentos, retards, and morendos. To Mr. Orlano she’d never played finer. To Arachne an earthquake, both major and minor.
Arachne was thrown from the place she had sat to high C to low C and back to B flat. Arachne said, “Oh,” when she’d set herself straight and counted each leg to be sure there were eight. “That was awfully rough, but still it was fun. I think I’ll crawl out to see how it was done.” She spun out some thread and fastened it so, gave a small jump and let herself go. Marian ran. She screamed, “Mother!” Hide me! A spider came out and sat down right beside me.”
Arachne was puzzled to get such a buffet. (She hadn’t heard about Little Miss Muffet.) “Come, come. Don’t run,” said Mr. Orlano. “Come back to your music here at the piano. Don’t be so fussy, so foolish, so furious. This spider won’t hurt you. It’s just a bit curious. A harmless house spider, a nice little fella’. Let’s see what it does if we play Tarantella.” Marian said, “Well—maybe—all right. I’ll do what you say if you’re sure it won’t bite.”
“Come here. Play like this,” said Mr. Orlano. And he played Tarantella on the piano. So gay was the music, so lively the sound, Arachne climbed up and just danced ‘round and ‘round. Then Marian laughed and had so much fun that she stayed there and practiced ‘til quarter past one. And Marian looked for Arachne each day to come from her hiding and dance as she’d play.
Then Arachne one day floated out through the door out into the world where she’d come from before. Back in the garden she spun a web fine and hatched out some babies—one hundred and nine. I’m certain she told them about her long ride through the air to the house, how she sailed right inside, of the girl in the house and of Mr. Orlano, about Tarantella, about the piano.
Then each little spider climbed up on a stem, up, up on a limb ‘til it started to bend, still farther and farther right out to the end, right out where the breeze blew the branch to and fro. “What fun,” they all said. Then they let go. Just where they all sailed I can’t possible know, but one might just be there in your piano. And if you take a peek perhaps you may see a little arachnid above middle C.