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his new habitation; presently, satisfied, he sits on his haunches and leisurely begins to wash his face. Silently the rock-snake glides over the stones, uncurling his huge folds, which, like a cable, seem to move as though by some agency from without, looks for an instant upon his unconscious victim, and the next has seized him with his cruel jaws. His constricting folds are twisted as swiftly as a whip-lash round his shrieking prey, and for ten minutes the serpent lies still, maintaining his mortal knot until his prey is dead, when, seizing him by the ears, he draws him through his vice-like grip, crushing every bone, and elongating the body preparatory to devouring it. The boa and the rock-snake always swallow their prey head-foremost. How is that fine neck and delicate head to make room for that bulky rabbit? thinks the spectator. Presently he sees the jaws gape, and slowly the reptile draws himself over, rather than swallows, his prey, as you draw a stocking upon your leg. The huge lump descends lower and lower beneath the speckled scales, which seem to stare with distension, and the monster coils himself up once more to digest his meal in quiet. Rabbits and pigeons form the food of the pythons in these gardens. While the smaller birds are preyed upon in the reptile-house, their big brothers, the storks in the paddock, are reciprocating * the law of nature by eating snakes. As we pass to the opposite side of the serpent-room, where the venomous kinds are kept, we perceive that a more cautious arrangement is made for feeding. The door opens at the top instead of at the sides of their dens, and with good reason; for no sooner does the keeper remove with a crooked iron rod the blanket from the cobra, than the reptile springs, with inflated hood, into an S-like attitude, and darts laterally † at his enemy. He seems incapable of striking well any object above or below his level: watch, for instance, that guineapig : again and again he dashes at it, but misses his aim; now he hits it, but only to drive the poor frightened creature with a score of flying pebbles before him: when at last he succeeds in piercing the sides of his victim, tetanic † spasms immediately commence, and it dies convulsed in a few seconds. It is said by those ho have watched venomous snakes, that the manner of dying exhibited by their stricken prey discloses the nature of the reptile that inflicted the poisoned wound. It is scarcely necessary to state that the popular idea that the tongue darts forth the venom is a fallacy. The poison is contained in glands which lie at the root of the fangs on either side, and, by the compression of the powerful muscles which make the head appear so broad and flat, it is forced into the fine tube which runs at the sides of the fang, and finds its exit near the point by a minute opening. The cobra at present in the collection, with its skin a glossy black and yellow, its eye black and angry, its motions agile and graceful, seems to be the very personification of India. As we watch it when ready to spring, we suddenly remember that only a film of glass stands between us and “pure death.” But there is nothing to fear: the python, in the adjoining room, which weighs a hundred and twenty pounds, being incensed on his first arrival at being removed from his. box, darted with all his force at a spectator. Yet the pane of glass had strength enough to bring him up, and he fell back so bruised about the head and muzzle by the collision, that he could not feed well for several months. The cobra that we see is the same that destroyed its keeper. In a fit of drunkenness, the man, against express orders, took the reptile out, and, placing its head inside his waistcoat, allowed it to glide round his body. When it had emerged from under his clothes from the other side, apparently in good humour, he squeezed its tail, when it struck him between his eyes; in twenty minutes his consciousness was gone, and in less than three hours he was dead. Before we leave this reptileroom, let us peep for a moment into the little apartment opening from the corner, where, hanging from the wall, we see all the cast-off dresses of the serpents. If the keeper will allow us to handle one of them for a moment, we shall see that it is indeed an entire suit of light-brown colour and of gauzy texture, which covered not only the body and head, but the very eyeballs of the
* Interchanging, or each giving or doing to the other the same thing. + Laterally or sideways.
# Tetanus is a rigid spasm of the muscles.
The Python-house on the other side of the Museum contains two enormous serpents. The adventures of one of them—the Python reticulatus—deserve to be written: when small enough to be placed in the pocket, he was, with a companion now no more, taken from Ceylon to Brazil by American sailors; they were then exhibited in most of the maritime towns of South America, and were publicly sold for a high price at Callao to the captain of a ship, who brought them to the gardens, and demanded 6ool. for the pair; fully persuaded of their enormous value, he had paid 30l. to insure them on the voyage, and it was not until he had long and painfully cogitated that he agreed to sell them for 401. We have before referred to the extraordinary length of time a python has been known to fast without injury. Their fancies as well as their fastings are rather eccentric. Every one has heard of the snake which swallowed his blanket, a meal which ultimately killed him. A python who had lived for years in a friendly manner with a brother nearly as large as himself, was found one morning alone. As the cage was secure, the keepers were puzzled to know how the serpent had escaped : at last it was observed that the remaining inmate had swollen remarkably during the night, when the horrid fact became plain enough; the fratricide had succeeded in swallowing the entire person of his brother; it was his last meal, however, for in some months he died. A friend informs us that he once saw in these gardens a rat-snake of Ceylon devour a common Coluber natrix. The rat-snake, however, had not taken the measure of his victim, as by no effort could he dispose of the last four inches of his tail, which stuck out rather jauntily from the side of his mouth, with very much the look of a cigar. After a quarter of an hour, the tail began to exhibit a retrograde motion, and the swallowed snake was disgorged, nothing the worse for his living sepulchre, with the exception of the wound made by his partner when first - he seized him. The ant-eater, who lately inhabited the room leading out of the python apartment, has died of a want of ants.
As we issue again into the open air, we have before us the whole length of the avenue, arched with lime-trees, in summer a veritable isle of verdure. What a charming picture it used to be to see the docile elephant pacing towards us with ponderous and majestic steps, whilst, in the scarlet howdah, happy children swayed from side to side as she marched. She, who was our delight for so many years, died some time since of a storm of thunder and lightning. Such indeed was what may seem at first the singular verdict of the medical man who made his post mortem. The terror, however, inspired by the storm appears to have produced some nervous disease, under which she succumbed. There is a suspicion that the carcase, five thousand pounds and upwards in weight, which was disposed of to the knackers, ultimately found its way to the sausage-makers. Do not start, good reader; elephant's flesh is considered excellent eating by the tribes of South Africa, and the Lion-slayer tells us that the feet are a true delicacy. He used to eat them as we do Stilton cheese, scooping out the interior and leaving the rind; he exhibited to his audience some of these relics, which looked like huge leather fire-buckets. And now we have only the young animal left, that once sucked his huge mother, to the delight of the crowd of childron, and to the disgust of the rhinoceros, who
is the sworn enemy to all elephants. The little one is growing apace, however,
and has already been promoted to carry the longdeserted howdah. The rhinoceros, close at hand, is the successor of the fine old fellow purchased in 1836 for 1050l., the largest sum ever given by the Society for a single animal. The specimen now in the gardens cost only 3501. in 1850, so much do these commodities fluctuate in value. His predecessor, who departed this life full of years, was constantly forced upon his belly by a pugnacious elephant, who pressed his tusks upon the back of his neighbour when he came near the palings which separated their inclosures. This rough treatment appears to have led to his death, as Professor Owen found on dissecting the massive brute, which weighed upwards of two tons, that the seventh rib had been fractured at the bend near the vertebral* end, and had wounded the left lung.–From Dr. Wynter's ‘Curiosities of Civilisation.'
George and Harry, with their Tutor, one day in their walk were driven by the rain to take shelter in a blacksmith's shed. The shower lasting some time, the boys, in order to amuse themselves, began to examine the things around them. The great bellows first attracted their rotice, and they admired the roaring it made, and the expedition with which it raised the fire to a heat too intense for them to look at. They were surprised at the dexterity with which the smith fashioned a bar of iron into a horse-shoe: first heating it, then hammering it well on the anvil, cutting off a proper length, bending it round, turning up the ends, and lastly, punching the nail-holes. They watched the whole process of fitting it to the horse's foot, and fastening it on; and it had become fair some minutes before they showed a desire to leave the shop and proceed on their walk.
I could never have thought (said George, beginning the conversation), that such a hard thing as iron could have been so easily managed.
Nor I neither (said Harry).
* Vertebral that is, belonging to the joints of the spine or backbone.
made it soft and flexible, so that the smith could easily hammer it, and cut it, and bend it to the shape he wanted; and then dipping it in water, make it hard again.
G. Are all other metals managed in the same manner ?
T. They are all worked by the help of fire in some way or other, either in melting them, or making them soft.
G. There are a great many sorts of metals, are there not?
T. Yes, several; and if you have a mind I will tell you about them, and their uses.
G. Pray, do, sir.
T. Well, then. First, let us consider what a metal is. Do you think you should know one from a stone ?
G. A stone!—Yes, I could not mistake a piece of lead or iron for a stone.
T. How would you distinguish it?
T. True; brilliance is one of their qualities. But glass and crystal are very bright too.
H. But one may see through glass, and not through a piece of metal.
T. Right. Metals are brilliant, but opaque, or not transparent. The thinnest plate of metal that can be made, will keep out the light as effectually as a stone wall.
G. Metals are very heavy too.
T. True. They are the heaviest bodies in nature; for the lightest metal is nearly twice as heavy as the heaviest stone. Well, what else?
G. Why, they will bear beating with a hammer, which a stone would not, without flying in pieces.
T. Yes; that property of extending or spreading under the hammer is called malleability; and another, like it, is that of bearing to be drawn out into a wire, which is called ductility. Metals have both these properties, and much of their use depends
G. Metals will melt too.
T. Yes; all metals will melt, though some require greater heat than others. The property of melting is called fusibility. Do you know anything more about them?
G. No; except that they come out of the ground, I believe.
T. That is properly added, for it is the circumstance which makes them rank among fossils, or minerals. To sum up their