How Spider Was Beaten, Eaten, Skinned, and Burned
Spider discovered a half-town owned by a family of rich Bush Devils. Even during Hungry Season the Bush Devils always had food, and Spider saw that just now their house was packed with good things to eat. He decided to steal as much food as he could, but since he did not know the magic words to open and close the door he hid nearby and listened carefully when the Bush Devils went out to work next day. He heard the magic words.
When all the Bush Devils had gone to the fields Spider opened the door of the biggest house with magic words and went inside. There were too many things inside. Kinjahs of rice and bags of corn, pots of palm oil and piles of nuts, dried fish and dried meat, palm cabbage and potato greens, cassavas and yams and berries, red pepper and spices and salt. He sat down happily and ate and ate. He ate too much. When he had eaten too much he kept eating more, for Spider is the greediest of all animals.
He was still eating when the Bush Devils returned. He his behind a basket and no one saw him. The Bush Devil family sat down to their meal and began talking about the awful Hahnhorn Bird. Hahnhorn Bird eats Bush Devils, and every sensible Bush Devil fears him more than anything else.
Spider watched the family eating, and then he began to beg food from Baby Bush Devil. Every time Spider touched him, the little Bush Devil would say: “Leave me.” Father Bush Devil grew tired of hearing this.
“What’s the trouble, Baby Bush Devil?” he asked. He began to look. Spider screeched out the cry of the awful Hahnhorn Bird. The Bush Devil family were filled with fear. They all piled out of the door and bounded to the fence. Spider bounded after them and pushed them over the fence, and then returned to the house to begin eating again. He pushed his head inside a basket and stuffed and stuffed, and when he heard the Bush Devil family coming back he found he had swelled so much he could not withdraw his head from the basket.
The Bush Devil came armed with big sticks and peered cautiously into the house looking for Hahnhorn Bird. They saw a basket walking around the room on legs, and bumping into things. They watched it in silence for a little while.
“Daddy,” said Baby Bush Devil, “is that Hahnhorn Bird?”
Father Bush Devil said he did not think so. He observed the wandering basket more closely, and then said:
“I think it is Spider. With his head in my basket. He has been stealing food, so let us kill him.”
When Spider heard this he began bumping rapidly around in circles; and when big sticks began to beat him he jumped even more rapidly until he fell down on the floor. The Bush Devils flogged and flailed him and Spider howled in pain. He struggled and fought to free his head from the basket and finally, when the stick had beaten off most of his skin, he managed to get the basket off. But he left all his hair behind in the basket.
He scrambled away from the sticks, rushed outside and flew over the fence like a bird. A skinned bird. He went down to the sea and put sea foam on his head, then asked an old lady to cut his hair.
“But Spider!” she cried, “where have you left your skin?”
“In another place,” said Spider. “Cut my hair.”
When she tried to cut his hair, which was not there, all the sea foam came off. Spider scolded her.
“You have destroyed my beautiful hair. You must bathe me in palm butter.”
Having no skin made Spider feel very sore, and palm butter, he decided, would feel very nice. The old lady began dipping palm butter from a big pot and pouring it over him. It was soothing to Spider’s skin; even more soothing, he thought, when he licked it off. It was excellent palm butter. It had a good taste Spider decided he might as well get inside the palm butter pot, so when the old lady turned away for a moment he jumped in.
But it was the wrong pot. It was a pot full of red pepper. The red pepper seared Spider’s body with a fiery heat, just as fire might scorch an ear of corn. He leaped out and rushed into the sea to cool.
A skinned Spider sauced with palm butter and seasoned with red pepper is Gripper’s favorite meal. Gripper-fish seized Spider and ate him with great relish.