« PreviousContinue »
drawn off backward, like a stocking or a woman's glove. Not only the whole skin, but even the scales from the eyes were peeled off, and appeared in the slough like a pair of spectacles. The reptile, at the time of changing his coat, had entangled himself intricately in the grass and weeds, in order that the friction of the stalks and blades might promote this curious shifting of his exuvia."
The Snake of warmer countries is not so harmless as that of this island, as will be easily perceived by what will follow.
Is a native of the new world; it grows to five, and sometimes to six feet in length, and is nearly as thick as a man's leg; and is not unlike the viper, having a large head and small neck, and inflicting a very dangerous wound. Over each eye is a large pendulous scale, the use of which has not yet been ascertained; the body is scaly and hard, variegated with several different colours. The principal characteristic of this justly dreaded serpent is the rattle, a kind of instrument resembling the curb chain of a bridle, and affixed at the extremity of the tail; it is formed of thin, hard, hollow bones, linked together, and rattling on the least motion. When disturbed, the creature shakes this
rattle with a considerable noise and rapidity, striking terror into all other animals, which are afraid of the destructive venom which this serpent communicates to the wounded limb with his bite. The wound he inflicts, through the uncommon sharpness and rapid fluency of his poison, generally terminates the torment and life of the unhappy victim in the course of six or seven hours.
The Rattlesnake is known to devour several of the smaller species of animals; and, by many persons, is supposed to be endowed with the power of fascinating its prey, until they run into its jaws. Some colour is given to this account by M. Le Vaillant, who says that he saw, on the branch of a tree, a species of shrike, trembling as if in convulsions; and at the distance of nearly four feet, on another branch, he beheld a large species of Snake, that was lying with outstretched neck, and fiery eyes, gazing steadily at the poor animal. The agony of the bird was so great, that it was deprived of the power of moving away; and when one of the party killed the Snake, the shrike was found dead on the spot, and that entirely from fear; for on examination it appeared not to have received the slightest wound. The same traveller informs us, that a short time afterwards, he observed a small mouse, in similar agonizing convulsions, about two yards distant from a Snake, whose eyes were intently fixed upon it; and on frightening away the reptile, and taking up the mouse, it expired in his hand.
A Snake of this kind exhibited in London, at a menagery of foreign beasts, in the year 1810, wounded a carpenter's hand, who was repairing his cage, and seeking for his rule; the man suffered the most excruciating pain, and his life could not be saved, although medical assistance was immediately applied, and all efforts were made to prevent the dire effect of the poison. The proprietor was condemned to pay a deodand for the guilt of the serpent.
WHOSE name is so intimately connected with the memory of Cleopatra, the queen of Egypt, and her spontaneous and melancholy death, is found in Africa; its venom is the most subtle of that of all serpents; it is incurable; and if the wounded part is not instantly amputated, it speedily terminates the existence of the sufferer. In Deuteronomy, xxxii. 33, it is thus mentioned: "Their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of Asps."
The Asp is from three to six feet in length; it has two teeth longer than the rest, through which the venom flows. The body is covered with small round scales, and is of a greenish colour, bordered with brown; its neck is capable of inflation. The jugglers of Egypt, by pressing the Asp on the nape of the neck with the finger, throw the animal into a kind of catalepsy, which renders it stiff and immoveable. The habit which this species has of raising itself up when approached induced the ancient Egyptians to believe that it guarded the fields where it was found; and it is sculptured on the gates of their temples as an emblem of the protecting divinity of the world.
Is a serpent of a harmless nature, being destitute of those fangs which prepare the venom in similar animals. Each extremity of his body is of an equal thickness, which has given occasion to the story that this animal has two heads. Lucan, in his poem, gives us a poetical description of this and several other serpents and snakes found in Libya, in which elegance of language, beauty of versification, and liveliness of fancy, have perhaps a greater claim than truth to the admiration of the reader.
With hissings fierce, dire Amphisbænas rear
The body of this serpent is black, variegated with white, its head has six large scales, in three rows; the tongue broad, rough above, forked, and free; its eyes small, and covered by a membrane; the anus surrounded by eight tubercles. It inhabits Ceylon.
THE BOA CONSTRICTOR.
THIS immense animal, the largest of all the serpent tribe, is frequently from thirty to forty feet in length, and of proportionate thickness; the ground colour of its skin is yellowish gray, on which is distributed, along the back, a series of large chain-like, reddish brown, and sometimes perfectly red, variegations, with other smaller and more irregular marks and spots. It is a native of Africa, India, the larger Indian islands, and South America, where it chiefly resides in the most retired situations in woods and marshes.
When Captain Stedman was on board of one of his boats, on the river Cottica, in Surinam, he was informed, by one of his slaves, that a large snake was lying among the brushwood on the beach, not far distant; and, after some persuasion, he was induced to land in order to shoot it. At the first shot, the ball, missing the head, went through the body: when the animal struck round, and with such astonishing force, as to cut away, with the facility of a scythe mowing grass, all the underwood around; and by flouncing his tail, caused the mud and dirt, in which he lay, to fly to a considerable distance, over the heads of the men that were with him. They started back some way, but the Snake was quiet again in a few minutes. Captain Stedman again fired, but with no better success than before; and the animal sent up such a cloud of dust and dirt, as he had never seen but in a whirlwind: this caused them once more suddenly to retreat. After some persuasions, he was induced, though much against his inclinations, being exceedingly weak from illness, to make a third attempt. Having, therefore, once more discovered the Snake, they discharged their pieces at once, and shot him through the head. The