Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/301

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293
REPTILES NUMEROUS—THE COBRA DI CAPELLA.

its head, like the Guinea-fowl, it has a horny protuberance of a reddish color. It dwells chiefly in trees. Its chuckle is heard at nightfall; and people, imagining that the noise proceeds from one of their own domestic fowls that has strayed, hasten to drive it home. But this frequently causes their destruction; for, as soon as the cockatrice perceives its victim within reach, it darts at it with the speed of lightning; and if its fangs enter the flesh, death invariably ensues. Timbo informed me that he once saw a dog belonging to his father thus killed. Moreover, the cockatrice, like the wild dog, wantonly destroys more at a time than it can consume.

Notwithstanding the dryness of the soil and the atmosphere between the Orange River and the seventeenth or eighteenth degrees of south latitude, reptiles are rather numerous. Indeed, some parts of Damara-land are so infested by them as to be almost uninhabitable. For my own part, however, I have encountered comparatively few. I never saw the cobra di capella, though it does exist in these regions. It is common enough in the colony, and is even met with in the neighborhood of the Table Mountain.

An acquaintance of mine had a remarkable escape from this reptile. Being passionately fond of botany, he was one day studying the flora of the so-called "Cape Flats." Having discovered a rare plant, he was stooping down to gather it, when up started a cobra immediately beneath his hand. My friend had no time to turn round, but retreated backward as quickly as his legs would carry him. The serpent, however, was fast gaining ground, and, had the chase lasted a few seconds longer, must inevitably have caught him; but just at this critical moment my friend stumbled over an ant-hill and fell to the ground on his back, and while in this position he saw, to his inexpressible relief, the enraged cobra dash furiously past him.

Pringle says that this snake has been known to dart at a man on horseback, and "with such force as to overshoot its