Animals: Snake, Spiders, Scorpion

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In the cellar of a house in Baltimore one day last week a tiny black spider dangled listlessly from its web, waiting for a stray fly. No fly appeared, but across the cold floor slithered a 12-inch garter snake, foraging for food. Forked tongue flashing, the snake darted into the sticky spider web, got caught, quickly found itself trapped. The householder discovered what was going on in his cellar, began to watch. All that day and all that night the snake wriggled and twisted. Into the cellar next day flocked neigh bors to see the battle. The snake flipped and flopped; the spider watched and waited. On the third day came more neighbors, newshawks, cameramen. The contest was making national news. The snake, called Egbert by his backers, grew weak, stopped writhing. On the fourth day the snake recovered its strength, sought once more to free itself. How long the duel might have gone on no one could say, for that night an agent from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals went into the cellar, snipped off Egbert's head with a pair of dull scissors.

In a dim musty corner of a Long Beach, Calif, garage last week was fought another newsworthy battle when a deadly black-widow spider met a venomous scorpion three times her size and weight. Taking the upper hand at the start, the spider slowly spun sticky strands about the scorpion's forelegs, pinioned one of its knifelike pincers. By the second day odds among the scores of spectators who thronged the garage were 4-to-1 on the spider, with few takers. On the third day the spider began to enmesh the scorpion's stinger in her web, boosted betting odds 5 -to-1, spectators to more than 100. Finally the spider succeeded in lifting the scorpion three inches off the floor, tried time & again to approach it only to be driven back by the deadly stinger's furious lashings.

Pausing to rest, the spider swayed too close to a free foreclaw, was quickly caught and held helpless. Thereafter for a while the battle was even. Each a prisoner of the other, neither could get into position to unleash the poison which would end the fight. On the fourth day the spider tore loose, but it cost her one leg, part of another. Spectators raised the odds to 20-to-1. Like a Gulliver bound with Lilliputian strands, the scorpion struggled until its forelegs were swollen and paralyzed. Finally in a burst of desperate frenzy it freed its stinger from the silken web, got within an inch of the terrified spider when City Prosecutor John K. Hull stepped forward, chloroformed both spider and scorpion.