Imágenes de páginas

but it was too late to render him any aid, for an immense serpent had crushed him to death. The attention of the monster was so wholly occupied with his prey, that he suffered the sailors to come up to him unperceived. They cut off his head, and took both that and the body of the unfortunate man to their boat. The length of the serpent was about thirty feet, and its thickness equal to that of a man. had seized the poor fellow by the right wrist, where the marks of its fore teeth were visible, and had then crushed him to death, by coiling round his head, neck, breast, and thighs, as represented in the plate.


It is said that these creatures are not venomous, but that they inflict their fatal injuries, by crushing as above described, and striking the breath out of the body with its tail. One is mentioned by Pliny and by Livy, which opposed the Roman army, under Regulus, at the river Bagrada in Africa. It destroyed several of the soldiers; and so hard were its scales, that they resisted darts and spears; but at length it was surrounded and killed. Its length was 120 feet; its skin was preserved in one of the temples at Rome as a trophy.

But among the enormous serpents that have been seen and killed in modern days, one of the great Boa kind in South America, mentioned by Stedman in his Expedition to Surinam, vol. i. p. 170, is the most remarkable. Of this monster, which we have represented in the plate, Mr. Stedman thus describes the discovery and conquest. "We had not gone

above twenty yards through mud and water, the negro looking every way with an uncommon degree of vivacity and attention; when, starting behind me, he called out, Me see Snakee!' and in effect there lay the animal, rolled up under the falling leaves and rubbish of the trees; and so well covered, that it was for some time before I distinctly perceived the head of this monster, distant from me not above 16 feet, moving its forked tongue, while its eyes, from their uncommon brightness, appeared to emit sparks of fire. I now, resting my piece upon a branch, for the purpose of taking a surer aim, fired but missing the head, the ball went through the body, when the animal struck round, and with such astonishing force as to cut away all the underwood around him with the facility of a scythe mowing grass; and by flouncing his tail, caused the mud and dirt to fly over our heads to a considerable distance. Of this proceeding, however, we were not torpid spectators, but took to our heels, and crowded into the canoe.

[ocr errors]

"I now found the snake a little removed from his former station, but very quiet, with his head, as before, lying out among the fallen leaves, rotten bark, and old moss. I fired at it immediately, but with no better success than the other time: and now, being but slightly wounded, he sent up such a cloud of dust and dirt, as I never saw but in a whirlwind, and made us once more retreat.

"Having again discovered the snake, we discharg

ed both our pieces at once, and with this good effect that he was now by one of us shot through the head. David, who was made completely happy by this successful conclusion, ran leaping with joy, and lost no time in bringing the boat-rope, in order to drag him down to the canoe; but this again proved not a very easy undertaking, since the creature, notwithstanding its being mortally wounded, continued to writhe and twist about, in such a manner as rendered it dangerous for any person to approach him. The negro, however, having made a running noose on the rope, after some fruitless attempts to make an approach, threw it over his head with much dexterity; and now, all taking hold of the rope, we dragged him to the beach, and tied him to the stern of the canoe, to take him in tow. Being still alive, he kept swimming like an eel; and I had no relish for such a shipmate on board, whose length (notwithstanding, to my astonishment, all the negroes declared it to be but a young one, come to about half its growth,) I found, upon measuring it, to be twenty-two feet and some inches; and its thickness about that of my black boy Quaco, who might then be about twelve years old, and round whose waist I have since measured the creature's skin.

"The negro David having climbed up a tree with the end of the rope, let it down over a strong forked bough, and the other negroes hoisted up the snake, and suspended him from the tree. This done, David, with a sharp knife between his teeth, now left the

tree, and clung fast upon the monster, which was still twisting, and began his operations by ripping it up, and stripping down the skin as he descended. Though I perceived that the animal was no longer able to do him any injury, I confess I could not without emotion see a man stark naked, black and bloody, clinging with arms and legs round the slimy and yet living monster. This labour, however, was not without its use, since he not only dexterously finished the operation, but provided me, besides the skin, with above four gallons of fine clarified fat, or rather oil, though there was wasted perhaps as much more. When I signified my surprise to see the snake still living, after he was deprived of his intestines and skin, Caromaco, the old negro, whether from experience or tradition, assured me he would not die till after sun-set.

"This wonderful creature, in the colony of Surinam, is called Aboma. Its length, when full-grown, is said to be sometimes forty feet, and more than four feet its circumference; its colour is of a greenish black on the back, a fine brownish yellow on the sides, and a dirty white under the belly; the back and sides being spotted with irregular black rings, with a pure white in the middle. Its head is broad and flat, small in proportion to the body, with a large mouth, and a double row of teeth; it has two bright prominent eyes; is covered all over with scales, some about the size of a shilling; and under the body, near the tail, armed with two strong claws like

cockspurs, to help it in seizing its prey. It is an amphibious animal, that is, delights in low marshy places, where it lies coiled up like a rope, and concealed under moss, rotten timber, and dried leaves, to seize its prey by surprise, which, from its immense bulk, it is not active enough to pursue. When hungry, it will devour any animal that comes within its reach, and is indifferent whether it be a sloth, a wild boar, a stag, or even a tiger: round which having twisted itself by the help of its claws, so that the creature cannot escape, it breaks, by an irresistible force, every bone in the animal's body, which it then covers over with a kind of slime or slaver from its mouth, to make it slide; and at last gradually sucks it in, till it disappears: after this, the Aboma cannot shift its situation, on account of the great knob or knot which the swallowed prey occasions in that part of the body where it rests till it is digested; for till then it would hinder the snake from sliding along the ground. During that time the Aboma wants no other subsistence. I have been told of negroes being devoured by this animal, and am disposed to credit the account; for should they chance to come within its reach when hungry, it would as certainly seize them as any other animal. The bite of this snake is said not to be venomous; nor do I believe it bites at all from any other impulse than hunger."

There are several kinds of Sea Serpents, or, as they are sometimes called, marine dragons. They have

« AnteriorContinuar »