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Chapter 10 An Explosion

Day after day the spider waited, head-down, for an idea to come to her. Hour by hour she sat motionless, deep in thought. Having promised Wilbur that she would save his life, she was determined to keep her promise.

  Charlotte was naturally patient. She knew from experience that if she waited long enough, a fly would come to her web; and she felt sure that if she thought long enough about Wilbur’s problem, and idea would come to her mind.

  Finally, one morning toward the middle of July, the idea came. “Why, how perfectly simple!” she said to herself. “The way to save Wilbur’s life is to play a trick on Zuckerman. If I can fool a bug,” thought Charlotte, “I can surely fool a man. People are not as smart as bugs.”

  Wilbur walked into his yard just at that moment.

  “What are you thinking about, Charlotte?” he asked.

  “I was just thinking,” said the spider, “that people are very gullible.”

  “What does ‘gullible’ mean?”

  “Easy to fool,” said Charlotte.

  “That’s a mercy,” replied Wilbur, and he lay down in the shade of his fence and went fast asleep. The spider, however, stayed wide awake, gazing affectionately at him and making plans for his future. Summer was half gone. She knew she didn’t have much time.

  That morning, just as Wilbur fell asleep, Avery Arable wandered into the Zuckerman’s front yard, followed by Fern. Avery carried a live frog in his hand. Fern had a crown of daisies in her hair. The children ran for the kitchen.

  “Just in time for a piece of blueberry pie,” said Mrs. Zuckerman.

  “Look at my frog!” said Avery, placing the frog on the drainboard and holding out his hand for pie.

  “Take that thing out of here!” said Mrs. Zuckerman.

  “He’s hot,” said Fern. “He’s almost dead, that frog.”

  “He is not,” said Avery. “He lets me scratch him between the eyes.” The frog jumped and landed in Mrs. Zuckerman’s dishpan full of soapy water.

  “You’re getting your pie on you,” said Fern. “Can I look for eggs in the henhouse, Aunt Edith?”

  “Run outdoors, both of you! And don’t bother the hens!”

  “It’s getting all over everything,” shouted Fern. “His pie is all over his front.”

  “Come on, frog!” cried Avery. He scooped up his frog. The fog kicked, splashing soapy water onto the blueberry pie.

  “Another crisis!” groaned Fern.

  “Let’s swing in the swing!” said Avery.

  The children ran to the barn.

  Mr. Zuckerman had the best swing in the county. It was a single long piece of heavy rope tied to the beam over the north doorway. At the bottom end of the rope was a fat knot to sit on. It was arranged so that you could swing without being pushed. You climbed a ladder to the hayloft. Then, holding the rope, you stood at the edge and looked down, and were scared and dizzy. Then you straddled the knot, so that it acted as a seat. Then you got up all your nerve, took a deep breath, and jumped. For a second you seemed to be falling to the barn floor far below, but then suddenly the rope would begin to catch you, and you would sail through the barn door going a mile a minute, with the wind whistling in your eyes and ears and hair. Then you would zoom upward into the sky, and look up at the clouds, and the rope would twist and you would twist and turn with the rope. Then you would drop down, down, down out of the sky and come sailing back into the barn almost into the hayloft, then sail out again (not quite so far this time), then in again (not quite so high), then out again, then in again, then out, then in; and then you’d jump off and fall down and let somebody else try it.

  Mothers for miles around worried about Zuckerman’s swing. They feared some child would fall off. But no child ever did. Children almost always hang onto things tighter than their parents think they will.

  Avery put the frog in his pocket and climbed to the hayloft. “The last time I swang in this swing, I almost crashed into a barn swallow,” he yelled.

  “Take that frog out!” ordered Fern.

  Avery straddled the rope and jumped. He sailed out through the door, frog and all, and into the sky, frog and all. Then he sailed back into the barn.

  “Your tongue is purple!” screamed Fern.

  “So is yours!” cried Avery, sailing out again with the frog.

  “I have hay inside my dress! It itches!” called Fern.

  “Scratch it!” yelled Avery, as he sailed back.

  “It’s my turn,” said Fern. “Jump off!”

  “Fern’s got the itch1” sang Avery.

  When he jumped off, he threw the swing up to his sister. She shut her eyes tight and jumped. She felt the dizzy drop, then the supporting lift of the swing. When she opened her eyes she was looking up into the blue sky and was about to fly back through the door.

  They took turns for and hour.

  When the children grew tired of swinging, they went down toward the pasture and picked wild raspberries and ate them. Their tongues turned from purple to red. Fern bit into a raspberry that had a bad-tasting bug inside it, and got discouraged. Avery found and empty candy box and put his frog in it. The frog seemed tired after his morning in the swing. The childr............

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