about for a stick long enough to lay gently upon him without danger of being bitten. Meantime he looked about for a hole in the ground, which he was fortunate enough to find before I found a suitable stick. I saw him glide into the vertical hole, and I have seldom parted with a friend more sadly. I still hope some day to go back to that farm and find and keep a real joint-snake. I have never seen one elsewhere.
Ever since that day I have sought in books a fair description of my friend, but in vain. He is called a "glass snake," his breaking to pieces is ill-described, his coming together denied, and he is made the butt of ridicule, as in the above extract. In his behalf I can only testify that he goes to pieces, of regular lengths, by an easy motion, the cleavage occurring at points where he is not touched, and the joints having an admirable arrangement for re-construction. I always supposed it was a defensive provision, a "possuming" process, to deceive the enemy into the belief that his victim was dead, when in fact he was not. Before I had seen one, I used to reason with my school-fellows as to the possibility of joints in the intestines. I now see that the first joint would suffice for the intestines. The cutting off and reopening of channels for the circulation of the blood offer no difficulty.
I never based any positive conclusion on the disappearance of the two specimens which I saw dismembered. I always considered the easy possibility of their having been devoured by large birds. There were no domestic animals in either case to disturb them.
The puzzling question to me is, what possible object has Nature or Divinity in jointing that snake, if his going to pieces, which I know to be at least semi-voluntary, is the end of him? Pending an answer, I shall believe him capable of reconstruction. I was never in the slightest degree superstitious in such matters, and was always skeptical about the joint-snake until I saw it and examined it. I have been very careful not to relate anything more than I actually saw. I was between thirteen and sixteen years old at all these times. I am under the impression that I was fourteen years old when I saw the first specimen.
The farm was in Des Moines County, Iowa, about eight miles west of Burlington, and lay across the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad.
|Henry J. Philpott.|
|Des Moines, Iowa, December' 1, 1886.|
IT is remarkable how many able writers are devoting themselves now-a-days to proving that, under the influence of the scientific and philosophical theories most in vogue, modern society is rushing to destruction. It is also remarkable that, in spite of the clearness with which they discern the danger, not one of them comes forward with a single practical suggestion as to how it may be averted. Last year we had a novel from the pen of a leading French Academician, M. Octave Feuillet, the special object of which was to show how particularly destructive the doctrines of Darwin were to female virtue. The leading character, a certain freethinking and free-living viscount, marries an extremely estimable and rigidly orthodox lady, to whom at the time he is sincerely attached, but whose marked aversion to fashionable follies becomes in the course of time a weariness to him. He then falls in with a young lady who had been brought up by a scientific uncle in complete emancipation from all theological dogmas. This young woman, perceiving that the viscount has conceived a foolish passion for her, and would probably marry her were there no obstacle in the way, seizes a favorable opportunity of poisoning his wife. The plan succeeds perfectly, and the viscount finds himself now with a wife who is prepared to plunge with him into all excesses of gayety and frivolity. He finds, too, that he is not himself more completely emancipated from all severe notions of domestic virtue than is the lady to whom he has given his name and his title. In a word, the pace at which this interesting creature wants to go is as much too fast for him as the pace at which he was going a few years earlier was too fast for his first