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SPIDER MEETS THE RUBBER GIRL

Once upon a time lazy Spider told his wife to measure out some groundnuts for him.

"I'll plant them in the field," he said. His wife was amazed, for Spider never offered to do work. She quickly gathered together some nuts and handed the sack to Spider.At dawn he ambled off to the fields, carrying his bag of nuts and his hoe. At the sight of the wide, empty field, he shuddered. "What a large field this is," he said to himself. "And what a hot day it is. I'd better rest before I work." So he sat down by a shady stream. Spider, you see, preferred to let others work for him.

Now he gazed at the stream. "I think I'll take just a little drink," he said to himself, and this he did. Then he felt a little hungry. "Perhaps I'll just nibble a few of these nuts," he said, and opened up the sack and began to eat them. Before long he reached inside the sack and found that all the nuts were gone. "Oh well," he sighed. "I suppose I should rest." He lay down in the grass and soon was fast asleep.

When he awoke, he looked up and saw that the sky was filled with pinks and golds. "Oh my," he said, "it's nearly sunset." He stood and stretched and looked all around at his neighbors, who were trudging home after a hard day's work. Spider bent down and dug some mud from the stream bed and rubbed it all over his body. He scampered home.

When he arrived at his house, he said to his wife, "I am so filthy from all my work, I think I'll have a bath."

And that's just what he did.

The next day Spider asked his wife for more nuts, and she handed him a bag. Spider set off for the fields, and once again he decided to rest before working. As before, Spider took a long drink from the stream, and then felt hungry. This time he ate all the nuts in just two gulps, and lay down to rest. Once again he awoke just before sunset, covered himself with mud, and scurried home to take a bath.

The next day the same thing happened, and the next, and the next. Finally, on the sixth day, when Spider arrived home his wife said, "Dear, you've worked hard all week. Now we'll just wait until it's time to harvest the nuts."

Weeks passed. At last the time for gathering nuts was at hand. "Spider," his wife said, "our neighbors are digging up their nuts these days. I think I'll go and dig up ours."

"Oh no," Spider said. "It is I who must dig up the nuts." Amazed, his wife watched her husband head toward the fields.

On his way, Spider stopped at his neighbor's field and stole a few nuts. When he passed the next neighbor's field, he stole a few more. Each field he passed, he stole a nut or two or three or 20 until, at the end of the day, Spider's bag was bulging.

After a few days, Spider's neighbors began to notice him creeping through their fields. They started to whisper among themselves.

"What's that rascal Spider up to?" they asked.

"Have you seen him sneaking through your fields?"

When the neighbors began to watch him, they realized what was happening. Spider was a thief!

One evening all the neighbors gathered together and decided they would set a trap for Spider. Quietly they began to collect resin from their rubber trees. With this they built a tall, sweet-faced girl of sticky resin. They named her Rubber Girl, and set her out in the field nearest Spider's house.

The next day, as Spider was lolling across the field, he spied lovely Rubber Girl. She was a beauty, with her long neck and slender arms and sweet smile upon her face. Spider crept closer and closer. At last he put out his hand to the girl.

"My lady," said he. "I am pleased to meet you." When she did not move, Spider boldly stepped forward and touched her arm. The moment he touched her, his hand was caught fast by the sticky resin.

"Oh my, you must love me," Spider said, and rolled his eyes with pleasure. "I see you will not let me go," he sighed. He reached out to give her a hug, and his other arm stuck fast.

"You are a beauty, but you are holding me a bit too tightly," Spider complained. "Let me go."

Rubber Girl didn't do a thing.

"Let me go!" he insisted. He pulled and tugged, but Rubber Girl held fast. "I'll kick you," he warned. When Rubber Girl did not budge, Spider angrily kicked at her leg.

His foot stuck to her shin.

"I told you to let me go," Spider said angrily. "You must let me go!" When she did nothing, he kicked her other leg. Now both feet were stuck fast to Rubber Girl's shins.

"You are a terrible, terrible girl," Spider moaned. He lowered his head and tried to butt her. His head stuck fast to Rubber Girl's stomach.

One of Spider's neighbors was watching all this from his secret hiding place. When he saw that Spider was stuck to Rubber Girl, he raised his head and praised the gods above.

Then he cut a switch from a tree and rubbed it with grease. He strode out from his hiding place.

"Aha!" said the neighbor. "I've caught you." And he began to swat at Spider with his greasy switch.

"Stop!" Spider begged. "You're hurting me!" He pulled and tugged and tried to turn his head, but he couldn't move an inch.

The other neighbors gathered and began to take pity on Spider.

"We will free you," they said, "but we warn you. If you try to steal from us again, we will punish you for your laziness and thievery."

"Never again," Spider said. "I promise!" The neighbors set him free. The next year Spider carefully planted his fields and rested only after he was done.