« PreviousContinue »
Placing its mouth on the front of the head of the dead animal it commenced by lubricating with its saliva that part of the goat ;, and then taking its muzzle into its mouth, which had, and indeed always has, the appearance of a newly-lacerated wound, he sucked it in as far as the horns would allow. These protuberances opposed some little difficulty, not so much from their extent as from their points; however, they in a very short time disappeared ; that is to say externally; for their progress was still to be traced very distinctly on the outside, threatening every moment to protrude through the skin. The victim had now descended as far as the shoulders; and it was an astonishing sight to see the extraordinary aetion of the snake's muscles when stretched to such an unnatural extent, an extent which must have utterly destroyed all muscular power in any animal that was not, like itself, endowed with very peculiar faculties of expansion and action at the same time. When its head and neck had no other appearance than that of a serpent's skin, stuffed almost to bursting ; still the workings of the muscles were evident ; and his power' of suction, as it is erroneously called, unabated : it was, in fact, the effect of a contractile muscular power, assisted by two rows of strong hooked teeth. With all this, he must be so formed as to be able to suspend, for a time, its respiration; for it is impossible to conceive that the process of breathing could have been carried on when the mouth and throat were so completely stuffed and expanded by the body of the goat, and the lungs themselves (admitting the trachea to be ever so hard) compressed, as they must have been by its passage downwards.
The whole operation of completely gorging the goat ocupied about two hours and twenty minutes, at the end of which time, the tumefaction was confined to the middle part of the body or. stomach, the superior parts, which had been so much distended, having resumed their natural dimensions. He now coiled himself up again, and lay quieiely, in its usual torpid state for ahout three weeks or a month, when, its last meal appearing to be completely digested and dissolved, it was presented with another goat, which it devoured with equal facility.
Few of those who had witnessed the first exibition were desirous of being present at the second. A man may be impelled by curiosity, or a wish to ascertain the truth of a fact frequently stated, (which seems almost incredible) to satisfy his mind by ocular proof; but he will leave the scene with those feelings of horror and disgust which such a sight is well calculated to create. It is difficult to behold, without the most painful sensations, the anxiety, and trepidation of the harmless victim, or to observe the hideous writhing of the serpent around its prey, and not to imagine what our own case would be in the same helpless and dreadful situation.
In the room stood two men who apppeared to be Arabs, with long bushy hair and black beards ; and I was told that they were a particular ráce of men that could charm serpents. A wooden box, about four feet long and two feet wide, was placed near the door, with a string fastened to a slide at the end of it: this string went through a hole in the door. The two serpent-eaters were dressed in haioks only, and those very small ones. After they had gone through their religious.ceremonies most devoutly, they appeared to take an eternal farewell of each other ; this done, one of them retired from the room, and shut the door tight after him. The Arab :within seemed to be in dreadful distress; I could observe his heart throb and his bosom heave most violently; and he cried out very loudly, “ Allah, hou kiber !" three times, whieh is, as I understand it, “ God have mercy upon me !" The Arab was at the farthest end of the room; and at that instant the cage was opened, and a serpent crept ont slowly; it was about four feet long, and eight inches in circumference; its colours were the most beautiful in nature being bright, and variegated with deep yellow, a purple, and a cream colour, black and brown spotted, &c. As soon as he saw the Arab in the room, its eyes were small and green, and kindled as with fire'; it erected itself in a second, its head two feet high, and darting on the defenceless Arab seized him between the folds of his haick, just above his right hip-bone, hissing most horribly: the Arab gave a horrid shriek, when another serpent came out of the cage. This last was black, very shining, and appeared to be seven or eight feet long, but not more than two in diameter : as soon as he cleared the cage, it darted its fiery eyes on its intended victim and springing like lightning on the Arab, struck its fangs into his neck, near the jugular vein, while its tail and body flew round his body in two or three folds. The Arab, set up the most hideous and piteous yelling, foamed and frothed at the mouth, grasping the folds of the serpent, which were around his arms, with his right hand, and seemed to be in the greatest agony -striving to tear the reptile from around his neck, with his left, he seized it near its head, but could not break its hold. By this time the other had twined itself around his legs, and kept biting all around the others parts of his body, making apparently deep incisions; the blood issuing from every wound, both in his neck and body, streaming all over his haick and skin. I was chilled with horror at this sight ; and it was with difficulty my legs would support my frame. Notwithstanding the Arab's greatest exertions to tear away the serpents with his hand, they twined themselves still tighter ; stopped his breath, and he fell on the floor, where he continued for a moment, as if in the most inconceivable agony, rolling over, and covering every part of his body with his own blood and froth, until he ceased to move, and appeared expired. In his last struggle, he had wounded the black serpent with his teeth, as it was striving, as it were, to force its head into his mouth ; which wound seemed to increase its rage. At this instant, I heard the shrill sound of a whistle, and looking towards the door, saw the other Arab applying a call to his mouth; the serpents listened to the music; their fury seemed to forsake them by degrees ; they disengaged themselves leisurely from the apparently lifeless carcass ; and creeping towards the cage, they soon entered it, and were immediately fastened in. The door of the apartment was now opened, and he without, ran to assist his companion ; he had a phial of blackish liquor in one hand, and an iron chisel in the other; finding the teeth of his companion set he thrust in the chisel, forced them open, and then poured a little of the liquor into his mouth ; and holding his lips together, applied his mouth to the dead man's nose, and filled his lungs with air; he next anointed his numerous wounds with a little of the same liquid ; yet no sign of life appeared. I thought he was dead in earnest ; his neck and veins were exceedingly swollen ; when his comrade taking up the lifeless trunk in his arms, brought it out into the open air, and continued the
operation of blowing for several minutes, before a sign of life appeared at length he gasped, and after a time recovered so far as to be able to speak. The swelling in his neck, body, and legs, gradually subsided, as they continued washing the wounds with clear cold water and a sponge, and applying the black liquid occasionally : a clean haick was wrapped about him, but his strength seemed so far exhausted, that he could not support himself standing; so his comrade laid him on the ground by a wall where he sunk into a sleep. This exhibition lasted for about an hour from the time the serpents were let loose, until they were called off, and it was more than an hour from that time before he could speak. I thought that I could discover that the poisonous fangs had been pulled out of these formidable serpents' jaws, and mentioned that circumstance to the showman, who said that they had indeed been extracted ; and when I wished to know how the swellings on his neck and other parts could be assumed, he assured me, that though their deadly fangs were out, yet that the poisonous quality of their breath and spittle would cause the death of those they attack; that after a bite from either of these serpents, no man could exist longer than fifteen minutes, and that there was no remedy for any but thosc who were endowed by the Almighty with power to charm and manage them ; and that he and his associates were of that favoured number.
Two young Greeks were kneeling at the feet of a statue of Minerva, in her temple, at Athens, one was from Megara, the other an Athenian. The first said : “ Powerful goddess, grant me the riches which I am destitute of, and which all Megarians desire ; I wish to be happy by thy benefits alone." The Athenian heard this prayer, and made his in the following
“O! Minerva ! I am not rich but I shall acconnt myself so, and I have nothing farther to desire, if thou deignest to grant me the most precious of all gifts, wisdom, virtue, and health.” The goddess smiled, as if to say, “ You both deserve to be heard.”
The covetous Megarian learned with joy, the moment that he left the temple, that a rich inheritance had just fallen to him. What is acquired suddenly, and without labour, is seldom long preserved, the young heir forgot his own country and went to display his luxury at Athens. He abandoned himself to his pleasures, and shortly dissipated all his fortune. The wise Athenian continued to attend the school of Zeno, and arrived at the first offices of the republic.
He one day, at the temple, met the Megarian, abandoned by his parasites, and begging his bread. He blamed himself too late for his rash prayer, and the judge did not refuse his assistance to a repentant wretch. He had seen him in his state of opulence and gaiety without envy; he could not see him in grief and indigence without compassion. He afforded him assistance, but he had asked for wisdom, 'virtue and health ; and he added ; O! great goddess, may these happy gifts be the eternal inheritance of my children and fellow citizens. Minerva reign over Athens with philosophy and the arts of peace, and may our enemies offer their incense to Fortune, the blind deity of blind mortals.
In visiting Alexandria, what most engages the attention of travellers is the pillar of Pompey, as it is commoly called, situated at a quarter of a league from the southern gate. It is composed of red granite. The capital is Corinthian, with palm leaves, and not intented, It is nine feet high. The shaft and the upper member of the base are of one piece ninety feet long, and nine in diameter. The base is a square of about fifteen feet on each side. - This block of marble, sixty feet in circumference, rests on two layers of stone bound together with lead; which however, has not prevented the Arabs from forcing out several of them, to search for an imaginary treasure. The whole column is one hundred and fourteen feet high. It is perfectly polished, and only a little shivered on the eastern side. Nothing can equal the majesty of this monument ; seen from a distance, it overtops the towu, and serves as a signal for vessels. Approaching it nearer, it produces an astonishment mixed with awe. One can never be tired with admiring the beauty of the capital, the length of the shaft, nor the extraordinary simplicity of the pedestal. This last has been somewhat damaged by the instruments of travellers, who are curious to possess a relic of this antiquity ; and one of the volutes of the column was prematurely brought down twelve years ago, by a prank of some English captains, which is thus related by Mr Irwin.!
“These jolly, sons of Neptune had been pushing about the can on board one of the ships in the harbour, until a strange freak entered into one of their brains. The eccentricity of the thought occasioned it immediately to be adopted ; and its apparent impos