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in need of Bacon's philosophy, which might be called common sense systematized and refined, having for its object the finding of facts, and tracing them to their roots, or from their roots through their various ramifications; which constitute the philosophy of any question. I am well aware of the difficulties attending the reception of new facts and ideas, which are apt to bewilder and bore people whose judgments have never been really cultivated. The general and sometimes almost involuntary aversion to receive them is somewhat like the resistance made to a suit at law to dispossess people of their properties, to say nothing of the timidity of many to commit themselves to what might be, or what might be held by the public to be,“ vulgar errors;" but that is presumed, by the “force of truth,” sooner or later to disappear.
It is wonderful how much the Serpent is mixed up with the Old and New Testament histories, and how little is known about it; and it would be remarkable if no meaning could be attached to the Scriptural allusions to it, or that no interest should be felt in regard to it. However odious the reptile is held to be, it wonderfully rivets the attention of people meeting it, and it is either timidly avoided or savagely killed. Many of them are not only harmless, but of great use to the farmer in clearing his fields of mice and other vermin ; but some of the venomous kinds are so dangerous, that a person bitten by them might as well, in some instances, lay himself down and die, like a poisoned rat in its hole. It is one of the mysteries of nature why some snakes should be poisonous and others harmless, when the former could apparently serve the end for which it was created without its venomous peculiarity. The leading traits in the natural history of the Snake are incidentally illustrated in the present Contributions.
The Papers on Other Subjects were added after the above was written.
NEW YORK, Ist September, 1874.
ticed communications in Land soon thereafter, he was surprised at and Water on the question, “ Do finding a number of young snakes vipers swallow their young ?” but I wriggling about on it, the heat of have not seen the subject investi- the fire having brought the eggs to gated in this way: Has any one, in the hatching point. Now it is exdissecting a female viper, found eggs tremely likely that the snake that within her ? and has any one found laid these eggs was of the same young ones inside of another? If species as the one that was killed, both have been found, then, as a for both were in the same neighbourmatter of course, the reptile must hood, where they were very numerhave swallowed her progeny. ous; and it is a peculiarity of
I will establish the principle by snakes in America that you seldom what I have observed on Long Is or never find two kinds occupying land, a short distance from New the same ground--at least, during York. When strolling with a friend, two years, I never came across any he very suddenly seized a stone and other kind than that of the one dashed it with all his might upon killed, and I saw many of them. I the top of a low dry stone wall, and at once concluded that the snake killed a pretty large snake of the that laid the eggs, and the one conordinary brown striped species, ly- taining the young ones, were of the ing on it, basking in the sun. As it same species; and as a natural conappeared more than ordinarily full sequence, that the latter had swalabout the body, I began to dissect lowed her young-quite indepenit in a rough way, by tearing it dent of the general belief, and the apart with two sticks (for I did not positive ocular testimony of one like to touch it), to see what it con- person as to the fact.t tained, thinking it might be an ani Now to confirm the question by mal it had swallowed, as a few days analogy, and on my own testimony. before I had killed another that had I have said that different kindsmat a frog partly down its gullet, feet least certain kinds—of snakes are foremost, but making no noise, not apt to be found on the same when its intended prey hopped ground. There is a deadly enmity away as if it had not been injured. between black - snakes and some Having always understood that others. At a place in New Jersey, snakes were animals that “laid where I frequently visited, and kept eggs," I was greatly surprised at a lookout for snakes, I never met finding about twenty snakelets of with any on the same ground but considerable size, and rather lively; black ones. On one occasion I but my friend asserted on the spot killed one, very full about the body, that snakes swallowed their young and took it to the house I was visitThis naturally led me to make in- ing for careful dissection, expectquiries, and I found a trustworthy ing to find it with young, when I neighbour who said positively that would satisfy myself whether the he had seen it done.
Another, equally trustworthy, informed me * Dated December 7th, 1872 ; printed that he found a bunch of snake's 21st. eggs when repairing a fence, and
+ As will be seen, they were of the placed them as a curiosity on his identical species.
young had been swallowed or were / snake's eggs, generally near the in a state previous to birth. To stumps of trees, and exposed to the my surprise I extracted fifteen, six- sun. He says that the covering reteen, or seventeen eggs (I forget sembled the white of a hen's egg which), all of one size, perhaps a very hard boiled-a fair description little thicker at one end than the of those taken out of the animal. other, and of a dirty white colour, He says that he has taken the and soft, indiarubbery touch, con- young out of various kinds of nected together by a glutinous sub- snakes, particularly black ones, and stance, and lying like a necklace that the creatures always conducted along, as it were, the backbone of themselves as if they had been on the animal. On being torn asunder the earth before. He knew a numthe eggs contained a thick, milky- ber of people, who not only saw like matter. The glutinous sub- young snakes run into the mother's stance would make the eggs stick mouth, but took them out of her together like a bunch, in the manner after killing her. As to the swalof those placed on the mantelpiece. lowing, he does not understand how Being all of one size and maturity, any one could doubt it. the snake would evidently lay them I repeat the question I started all at once, which she does some-with Has
anyone in England what like the turtle, to be hatched found eggs in a viper? and has by heat, altogether disconnected anyone found young ones in the from herself. Indeed the snake is same species? If both have been such a cold-blooded animal-cold found, then the latter were swalto touch in the hottest of weather-lowed; for it would be simply abthat it could not apparently hatch surd to say that the same animal its eggs.* I came at once to the con- could bring forth its young in both clusion that, if brown and black ways.
As American snakes swalsnakes brought forth their young low their young, the same should in the same way, then surely the easily be believed of the English brown snake had swallowed 'hers. viper, even if no one had seen it To confirm this analogous proof, a done. It has surprised me that, at friend, in whom every confidence this time of day, such a question can be placed, positively affirmed should be an open one. What is that a black-snake-of the same the meaning of science, if it cannot species as the one from which I be settled whether or not vipers took the eggs-was cut in two in swallow their young without it behis presence, when about twenty ing necessary for people to see it young ones were taken out of it, done? I should think the anatomy of of about five inches long, and so the reptile, in the hands of a skilful active that they had to be killed to man, would show whether it was an prevent their escape. In short, the egg or animal-bearing creature. Mr. mother had swallowed them. Frank Buckland is, therefore, very
I then consulted an old New Jer- unreasonable, when he says he will sey justice, a very reliable man, not believe that vipers swallow their who ploughed up many a nest of young, unless he or some one else
sees it done: and still more so, * This is in allusion to the oviparous
when he expects the creature to do. snakes, the eggs of which are hatched in it to order in a state of captivity, the ground. The so-called viviparous when it has no incentive to do it. bring the eggs far forward to maturity It is uncertain what leads snakes to inside of them, leaving it an open ques. do it. Perhaps they do it for no tion whether the eggs are hatched inside or outside of the reptile, or in the act of particular reason, when they take parturition.
charge of the young after being