The Red Book Of Animal Stories - online children's book

Stories of Animals, Fantastic and Mundane, Edited By Andrew Lang

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Snakes are usually largest and most dangerous in hot countries, and Dr. Livingstone tells of one in South Africa that is over eight feet long, and has an immense amount of poison in its fangs at once. He has seen it attacked by a herd of dogs, and all four of them stung to death. Of course the poison gets weaker the oftener it is used, and while the first dog dies at once, and the second in five minutes, the one who has received it last may linger for some hours. He mentions a snake that he saw killed, which contained in itself such vast supplies of poisonous fluid that, even after its head was cut off, the fangs con­tinued to drop it for many hours. This particular snake has, according to the natives, a horrid trick of spitting its poison straight into the eyes, with the result of blinding its victim; but we are not told whether it can cause death without a distinct bite.
In cold countries snakes generally seek out a warm place when the air begins to grow chilly, and stay there till the summer comes back. Long ago, a strange thing occurred in the house of an English gentleman living in the country, with a servant who had been with him from a boy. Now this servant, says the chronicler, ' grew very lame and feeble in his legs, and thinking he could never be warm in his bed, did multiply his clothes, and covered himself more and more, but all in vain, till at length he was not able to go about, neither could any skill of physician find out the cause.
' It happened on a day as his master leaned at his parlour window, he saw a great snake slide along the house side, and to creep into the chamber of this lame man, then lying in his bed (as I remember) for he lay in a low chamber, directly against the parlour window afore­said. The gentleman, desirous to see the issue, and what the snake would do in the chamber, followed, and looked into the chamber by the window ; where he espyed the snake to slide up into the bed-straw, by some way open in the bottom of the bed, which was of old boards.
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