Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/303

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295
CREDULITY—FEW DEATHS FROM SNAKE-BITES.

the zwart-slang. Our wagon-driver told us that this snake is very fond of women's milk, and solemnly declared that he had known several instances where it has entered people's dwellings at night, and if it met with a sleeping mother, has dexterously abstracted her milk. I remember a somewhat similar story having been told me by the peasantry of some parts of Sweden, who state that to kill a snake was not alone a duty, but an expiatory sacrifice, since "seven sins" would be forgiven an individual for each serpent slain by him. Accordingly, in the credulity of my childish days, I was a perfect Thalaba!

Incorrect ideas of the power of the reptile family, coupled with superstitious dread, have no doubt served considerably to exaggerate the fear of snakes. Many, we know, are of the most venomous character; but, as we become better acquainted with the different species, we shall find that by far the greater portion are harmless, or nearly so. The remarkably few cases of death occurring from their bites are a corroboration of this. Moreover, like the rest of lower animals, the most deadly reptile will generally fly at the sight of man. It only exerts its formidable powers of destruction when about to be trampled upon or assailed. Were it otherwise, many of the more humid parts of our globe, where snakes literally swarm, would be uninhabitable. Before setting foot on African soil, my head was full of the dangers to which I should be exposed from them, either when "treading the maze of the jungle," or when traversing the endless sand-plains. Habit and experience have since taught me to regard snakes with something akin to indifference.

Some of the antidotes in Southern Africa for the bites of snakes and the stings of poisonous insects are simple, singular, and striking.

The first point to be attended to is (if it be practicable) to tie a string or ligature tight above the wounded part, so as to prevent the venom spreading.