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The Web and the Kingdom

Bertrand sat down on the stool to rest for a moment. He house was one of the few that were left standing. He had been scrubbing and sweeping all morning. His mother went to the manor house each day to work. His father was away in the army fighting in a distant land. So it was left to Bertrand to keep the cottage clean.

He leaned back and noticed something moving in the corner of the ceiling. It was a spider, hard at work spinning her web. Bertrand climbed up on the stool to get a closer look. As he watched, a fly was caught on one of the sticky strands. The fly struggled, and the spider raced over, running quickly along the web. In a second she lassoed the fly with a silken strand and wrapped him up in a white cocoon. Then she returned to the edge of the web.

Bertrand reached up and pulled the fly out of the web. He wanted to look at it more closely. But when he pulled the fly out of the web, he ripped one of the strands.

Suddenly there was a loud rumbling noise outside. Forgetting about the fly, Bertrand ran over to the window. But he could see nothing.

That evening, when Bertrand's mother returned from the manor house, she was bubbling over with news. "Bertie!" she cried. "Did you hear the big crash at noontime? The bridge up the road collapsed. There were horses and carriages backed up for miles."

The next day Bertrand noticed that the spider had repaired the tear in her web. And that evening his mother told him that the bridge had already been miraculously fixed.

Later that week a bumblebee got caught in the middle of the web. It thrashed and struggled, and the spider raced over. But she seemed afraid to go too close, and her silken lassoes fell short. The bee struggled so mightily that it broke strand after strand. Finally it wrenched itself out of the web and flew away.

Just then a storm blew up outside. The sky darkened, and lightning flashed through the sky. In the center of the kingdom, miles away from Bertrand's cottage, a bolt of lightning struck the palace tower. In one sudden thunderous crash, the tower crumbled to the ground. A second bolt set the stables ablaze. For days, people buzzed with the news of the damage to the palace.

Bertrand wondered about the strange web. He decided to try an experiment. Carefully he snapped one strand at the edge of the web. The next day he heard about an avalanche. Half of the mountain crashed down and stopped up the main road leading out of the kingdom.

Now Bertrand realized how important the web was. In some mysterious way it seemed to be linked to the fortunes of the kingdom. He began to care for the spider, catching flies for her to eat.

He was careful never to let anything disturb the web.

One evening Bertrand's mother noticed him carefully placing a fly in the spider's web. "What are you doing, Bertie?" she asked.

He told his mother about the strange powers of the spider's web. "You silly boy," she laughed. And with that, she took a broom and swept the web away.

That very moment the lands of the kingdom were shaken by a huge earthquake. Walls and towers came crashing down. Bertrand's house was one of the few that were left standing. Following the earthquake, disease spread throughout the kingdom. Bertrand was one of those who fell ill. For days he tossed in his bed, burning with fever.

At last he was well enough to get up. "The spider!" he thought. "I must find the spider to save the kingdom."

He looked at the torn bits of web that still clung to the ceiling and walls. But the spider was not there. He crawled around the whole cottage, looking for her. Finally he found her in a crack in the stones in the fireplace. She was hurt. Carefully he picked her up. She hardly moved. She had been too weak to spin a new web. And so she had not eaten all the time that Bertrand had been ill.

Bertrand took some pieces of the spider's old web and put them in an old cracked cup. Then he laid the spider carefully inside and placed the cup on the mantel in the corner. Day after day he caught flies and other insects to feed to her. As the days went by, she grew stronger.

Then one day, when Bertrand looked into the cup, she was gone. He looked up. There, in the corner, was the beginning of a new web.

The kingdom quickly recovered from its disasters. Villages were rebuilt, and people played and laughed again. The spider and all the generations after her continued the work of tending the web. Bertrand and his children made certain that the web remained safe.

And the kingdom prospered.








©1973, 2013 The Silversteins