Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/299

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291
A SNAKE STORY.

poisonous (not characteristic of this family of reptiles), and, consequently, feared them greatly. The Damaras call the serpent in question the Ondara, and said that its chief food was the rock-rabbit (hyrax capensis). Mr. Hahn had an opportunity of seeing one of these huge creatures, which had been accidentally killed by the people at Rehoboth. It measured eighteen feet in length.[1]

I was told a very striking story of the Ondara, but I am not at all prepared to vouch for its truth.

Two Hill-Damaras had, it seems, gone in search of honey, and having found a bees' nest in the cleft of a rock, one of them made his way through the confined aperture that led to it for the purpose of possessing himself of the honey-comb. But he had not long been thus engaged when he discovered a narrow circular passage leading apparently right through the nest. He told this to his comrade on the outside who suggested that it was probably caused by a serpent. However, seeing nothing to indicate the reptile's presence, he resumed his labor, and, having secured the honey-comb, was about to withdraw from the aperture, when, to his horror, he saw a huge ondara making toward him. The reptile passed the poor fellow in the first instance, but, suddenly turning round, it plunged its murderous fangs into the man's body. The poison was of so virulent a nature as to cause almost instantaneous death. The survivor, witnessing the fate of his


    as they believe that it has a certain influence over their destinies; and affirm that no person has ever been known to maltreat it without sooner or later paying for his audacity."

  1. Mr. Freeman, in "A Tour in South Africa," mentions having heard of one of this kind of reptiles being destroyed that actually exceeded this size nearly three times. "This enormous serpent," says the reverend gentleman, "was hanging from the bough of a large tree, and was killed only after a desperate struggle. It measured fifty feet in length. This was ascertained by a number of men lying down at full length by its side. It took nine men to reach from the head to the tail, and was of prodigious girth round the body."