Far into the night, while the other creatures slept, Charlotte worked on her web. First she ripped out a few of the orb lines near the center. She left the radial lines alone, as they were needed for support. As she worked, her eight legs were a great help to her. So were her teeth. She loved to weave and she was an expert at it. When she was finished ripping things out, her web looked something like this:
A spider can produce several kinds of thread. She uses a dry, tough thread for foundation lines, and she uses a sticky thread for snare lines--the ones that catch and hold insects. Charlotte decided to use her dry thread for writing the new message.
"If I write the word 'Terrific' with sticky thread," she thought, "every bug that comes along will get stuck in it and spoil the effect."
"Now let's see, the first letter is T."
“Now let’s see,
the first letter is T.”
Charlotte climbed to a point at the top of the left hand side of the web. Swinging her spinnerets into position, she attached her thread and then dropped down. As she dropped, her spinning tubes went into action and she let out thread. At the bottom, she attached the thread. This formed the upright part of the letter T. Charlotte was not satisfied, however. She climbed up and made another attachment, right next to the first. Then she carried the line down, so that she had a double line instead of a single line. "It will show up better if I make the whole thing with double lines."
She climbed back up, moved over about an inch to the left, touched her spinnerets to the web, and then carried a line across to the right, forming the top of the T. She repeated this, making it double. Her eight legs were very busy helping.
"Now for the E!"
Charlotte got so interested in her work, she began to talk to herself, as though to cheer herself on. If you had been sitting quietly in the barn cellar that evening, you would have heard something like this:
"Now for the R! Up we go! Attach! Descend! Pay out line! Whoa! Attach! Good! Up you go! Repeat! Attach! Descend! Pay out line. Whoa, girl! Steady now! Attach! Climb! Attach! Over to the right! Pay out line! Attach! Climb! Attach! Over to the right! Pay loop and around and around! Now in to the left! Attach! Climb! Repeat! O.K.! Easy, keep those lines together! Now, then, out and down for the leg of the R! Pay out line! Whoa! Attach! Ascend! Repeat! Good girl!"
And so, talking to herself, the spider worked at her difficult task. When it was completed, she felt hungry. She ate a small bug that she had been saving. Then she slept.
Next morning, Wilbur arose and stood beneath the web. He breathed the morning air into his lungs. Drops of dew, catching the sun, made the web stand out clearly. When Lurvy arrived with breakfast, there was the handsome pig, and over him, woven neatly in block letters, was the word TERRIFIC. Another miracle.
Lurvy rushed and called Mr. Zuckerman. Mr. Zuckerman rushed and called Mrs. Zuckerman. Mrs. Zuckerman ran to the phone and called the Arables. The Arables climbed into their truck and hurried over.
Everybody stood at the pigpen and stared at the web and read the word, over and over, while Wilbur, who really felt terrific, stood quietly swelling out his chest and swinging his snout from side to side.
"Terrific!" breathed Zuckerman, in joyful admiration. "Edith, you better phone the reporter on the Weekly Chronicle and tell him what has happened. He will want to know about this. He may want to bring a photographer. There isn't a pig in the whole state that is as terrific as our pig."
The news spread. People who had journeyed to see Wilbur when he was "some pig" came back again to see him now that he was "terrific."
That afternoon, when Mr. Zuckerman went to milk the cows and clean out the tie-ups, he was still thinking about what a wondrous pig he owned.
"Lurvy!" he called. "There is to be no more cow manure thrown down into that pigpen. I have a terrific pig. I want that pig to have clean, bright straw every day for his bedding. Understand?
"Yes, sir," said Lurvy.
"Furthermore," said Mr. Zuckerman, "I want you to start building a crate for Wilbur. I have decided to take the pig to the County Fair on September sixth. Make the crate large and paint it green with gold letters!"
"What will the letters say?" asked Lurvy.
"They should say Zuckerman's Famous Pig."
“They should say Zuckerman’s Famous Pig.”
Lurvy picked up a pitchfork and walked away to get some clean straw. having such an important pig was going to mean plenty of extra work, he could see that.
Below the apple orchard, at the end of a path, was the dump where Mr. Zuckerman threw all sorts of trash and stuff that nobody wanted any more. here, in a small clearing hidden by young alders and wild raspberry bushes, was an astonishing pile of old bottles and empty tin cans and dirty rags and bits of metal and broken bottles and broken hinges and broken springs and dead batteries and last month's magazines and old discarded dishmops and tattered overalls and rusty spikes and leaky pails and forgotten stoppers and useless junk of all kinds, including a wrong-size crank for a broken ice-cream freezer.
Templeton knew the dump and liked it. There were good hiding places there--excellent cover for a rat. And there was usually a tin can with food still clinging to the inside.
Templeton was down there now, rummaging around. When he returned to the barn, he carried in his mouth an advertisement he had torn from a crumpled magazine.
"How's this?" he asked, showing the ad to Charlotte. "It says 'Crunchy.' 'Crunchy' would be a good word to write in your web."
"Just the wrong idea," replied Charlotte. "Couldn't be worse. We don't want Zuckerman to think Wilbur is crunchy. He might start thinking about crisp, crunchy bacon and tasty ham. That would put ideas into his head. We must advertise Wilbur's noble qualities, not his tastiness. Go get another word, please, Templeton!"
The rat looked disgusted. But he sneaked away to the dump and was back in a while with a strip of cotton cloth. "How's this?" he asked. "It's a label off an old shirt."
Charlotte examined the label. It said PRE-SHRUNK.
"I'm sorry, Templeton," she said, "but 'Pre-shrunk' is out of the question. We want Zuckerman to think Wilbur is nicely filled out, not all shrunk up. I'll have to ask you to try again."
"What do you think I am, a messenger boy?" grumbled the rat. "I'm not going to spend all my time chasing down to the dump after advertising material."
"Just once more--please!" said Charlotte.
"I'll tell you what I'll do," said Templeton. "I know where there's a package of soap flakes in the woodshed. It has writing on it. I'll bring you a piece of the package."
He climbed the rope that hung on the wall and disappeared through a hole in the ceiling. When he came back he had a strip of blue-and-white cardboard in his teeth.
"There!" he said, triumphantly. "How's that?"
Charlotte read the words: "With New Radiant Action."
"What does it mean?" asked Charlotte, who had never used any soap flakes in her life.
"How should I know?" said Templeton. "You asked for words and I brought them. I suppose the next thing you'll want me to fetch is a dictionary."
Together they studied the soap ad. "'With new radiant action,'" repeated Charlotte, slowly. "Wilbur!" she called.
Wilbur, who was asleep in the straw, jumped up.
"Run around!" commanded Charlotte. "I want to see you in action, to see if you are radiant."
Wilbur raced to the end of his yard.
"Now back again, faster!" said Charlotte.
Wilbur galloped back. His skin shone. His tail had a fine, tight curl in it.
"Jump into the air!" cried Charlotte.
Wilbur jumped as high as he could.
"Keep your knees straight and touch the ground with your ears!" called Charlotte.
"Do a back flip with a half twist in it!" cried Charlotte.
Wilbur went over backwards, writhing and twisting as he went.
"O. K., Wilbur," said Charlotte. "You can go back to sleep. O.K., Templeton, the soap ad will do, I guess. I'm not sure Wilbur's action is exactly radiant, but it's interesting."
"Actually," said Wilbur, "I feel radiant."
"Do you?" said Charlotte, looking at him with affection. "Well, you're a good little pig, and radiant you shall be. I'm in this thing pretty deep now--I might as well go the limit."
Tired from his romp, Wilbur lay down in the clean straw. He closed his eyes. The straw seemed scratchy--not as comfortable as the cow manure, which was always delightfully soft to lie in. So he pushed the straw to one side and stretched out in the manure. Wilbur sighed. It had been a busy day--his first day of being terrific. Dozens of people had visited his yard during the afternoon, and he had had to stand and pose, looking as terrific as he could. Now he was tired. Fern had arrived and seated herself quietly on her stool in the corner.
"Tell me a story, Charlotte!" said Wilbur, as he lay waiting for sleep to come. "Tell me a story!"
“Tell me a story, Charlotte!”
So Charlotte, although she, too, was tired, did what Wilbur wanted.
"Once upon a time," she began, "I had a beautiful cousin who managed to build her web across a small stream. One day a tiny fish leaped into the air and got tangled in the web. My cousin was very much surprised, of course. The fish was thrashing wildly. My cousin hardly dared tackle it. But she did. She swooped down and threw great masses of wrapping material around the fish and fought bravely to capture it."
"Did she succeed?" asked Wilbur.
"It was a never-to-be-forgotten battle," said Charlotte. "There was the fish, caught only by one fin, and its tail wildly thrashing and shining in the sun. There was the web, sagging dangerously under the weight of the fish."
"How much did the fish weigh?" asked Wilbur eagerly.
"I don't know," said Charlotte. "There was my cousin, slipping in, dodging out, beaten mercilessly over the head by the wildly thrashing fish, dancing in, dancing out, throwing her threads and fighting hard. First she threw a left around the tail. The fish lashed back. Then a left to the tail and a right to the mid-back. Then a left to the tail and a right to the mid-section. The fish lashed back. Then she dodged to one side and threw a right, and another right to the fin. Then a hard left to the head, while the web swayed and stretched."
"Then what happened?" asked Wilbur.
"Nothing," said Charlotte. "My cousin kept the fish for a while, and then, when she got good and ready, she ate it."
"Tell me another story!" begged Wilbur.
So Charlotte told him about another cousin of hers who was an aeronaut.
"What is an aeronaut?" asked Wilbur.
"A balloonist," said Charlotte. "My cousin used to stand on her head and let out enough thread to form balloon. then she'd let go and be lifted into the air and carried upward on the warm wind."
"Is that true?" asked Wilbur. "Or are you just making it up?"
"It's true," replied Charlotte. "I have some very remarkable cousins."
“And now, Wilbur,
it's time you went to sleep.”
"Sing something!" begged Wilbur, closing his eyes.
So Charlotte sang a lullaby, while crickets chirped in the grass and the barn grew dark. This was the song she sang.
Sleep, sleep, my love, my only,
Deep, deep, in the dung and the dark;
Be not afraid and be not lonely!
This is the hour when frogs and thrushes
Praise the world from the woods and the rushes.
Rest from care, my one and only,
Deep in the dung and the dark!
But Wilbur was already asleep. When the song ended, Fern got up and went home.Back to Top