202 THE SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON
I was afraid it might have either left its mate behind it, or else a nest of little ones, which in time would spread terror through the land. I resolved in consequence to undertake two expeditions—the one through the marsh, the other toward Falcon's Nest, through the passage in the rock, whence I supposed the boa had come. Ernest and Jack begged me to allow them to stay at home, for even the usually fearless Jack was nervous.
' I shiver with fright,' said he, ' to think of meeting one of those horrible serpents in the rushes.'
I endeavoured to overcome this childishness, and he succeeded in calming himself, and came with us.
We set out loaded with our guns. We carried some boards, and the bladders of sea-dogs, to sustain us on the water if necessary. The boards we wanted for use in the marsh, for by placing one before the other, and taking them up, we could walk over the quagmire. We easily recognized the traces of the boa; the rushes were bent down where he had passed through, and there were deep spiral impressions in the wet ground where he had rested his enormous rings. But we discovered nothing to make us believe that he had had a com-