58 AN EGYPTIAN SNAKE CHARMER
anyone shudder. But wherever they might come from, the scorpions all gathered round Abd-el Kerim, as sheep round a shepherd, and he picked them up by handfuls, and popped them in a goatskin sack.
'You see ? ' he asked Delaporte.
' Certainly, I see !—I see scorpions, and a great many scorpions, too ; but I don't see any snakes.'
' You will see some,' replied Abd-el-Kerim.
And he began whistling in another key, whilst his companions re-doubled their clouds of smoke and their cries of ' Allah ! '
And, true enough, to the extreme surprise of the Consul, in a little time a hissing sound, very much like the one Abd-el-Kerim was making, was heard from the sleeping alcove, and from under his bed M. Delaporte beheld a serpent more than four feet long advancing towards the snake charmer, head erect and unrolling his green coils as he glided along.
Delaporte had no difficulty in recognising the species. It was one of those deadly reptiles which the Arabs call taboric, and Europeans Cobra Capclla.
Abd-el-Kerim seized the snake without ceremony by the throat, and was about to stuff it into his bag, when Delaporte stopped him.
' One moment,' he cried.
' What is it? ' asked Abd-el-Kerim.
' That serpent was really in my room ? '
' You saw it yourself.'
' Very good. Then, as whatever is found in my room belongs to me, be so good, instead of putting the serpent into your goatskin bag, to place it in this bottle.'
And he held out to Abd-el-Kerim a large, wide-necked glass jar filled with spirits of wine, of which he kept a supply in a cupboard ready for the preservation of some of the curious Nile fish sometimes brought him by the fishermen.
' But-----,' began Abd el-Kerim.