Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/81

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71
THE COBRA AND OTHER SERPENTS.

and lively. Accordingly, lie gave us "Pop goes the Weasel." "Miss McLeod's Reel" and "The White Cockade"; but never a snake moved. I then invited him inside, but the result was the same, the flute was a failure. Next day I tried the violin. The performer again sat outside, but all his efforts were useless; both quick and slow music were alike lost upon them. On my invitation he came in and sat still a few moments preparatory to commencing afresh. He soon thought himself an Orpheus; for as he began playing, the cobras stood up on the floor. "Aha!" said he, "see that!" However, believing that they were only alarmed at the quick movements of his arm, I stood over between him and them, thus cutting off their view, whereupon they showed that their fears were quieted by gently lowering themselves to the floor.

On the table was a glass-fronted wooden box in which was a large puff adder. I got the musician to sit close opposite to this and play his loudest, but the snake never showed the slightest sign. Then at my request he went round behind the cage and let one end of the violin rest on the top of it. At first he played the higher notes, and the snake showed no sign; but when he touched the deep bass chords the animal swelled himself up and began to blow as if alarmed. Thus from the instrument resting on the wood of the top the vibration was conveyed to the whole box, and the snake felt it throughout his entire body where he lay in contact with it, in the very same way that I myself felt it when I laid my hand upon it.

Many trials were made with other instruments, but always with the same results, viz., 1. Music from an unseen performer had no effect whatever. 2. If the performer were seen, any noticeable movements of his would alarm the snakes, but in exactly the same way as if he made no noise at all. 3. They gave signs of disturbance when the vibration, especially of bass sounds, was communicated to the material on which they lay.

Thus was proved not only that cobras do not dance to music, but that, far from being charmed with the melody, the poor animal is only frightened at the movements of the musician, and that the apparent dancing and bowing are only so many half-hearted attempts to strike at the performer or some one moving in his vicinity. Furthermore, I was led to the conclusion that snakes can not hear any sound with sufficient distinctness to determine their acts, unless it is so great as to cause objects in contact with their skin to vibrate sensibly to the touch, and that even then they can only be said to feel the sound's effects.

At the present moment as I write there is on the table before me a glass-fronted box in which are some of our common garter snakes. On the top of this box is placed an alarm clock. Now,