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The Illustrated London Reading Book eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 275 pages of information about The Illustrated London Reading Book.

The poison of the Viper consists of a yellowish liquid, secreted in a glandular structure (situated immediately below the skin on either side of the head), which is believed to represent the parotid gland of the higher animals.  If a viper be made to bite something solid, so as to avoid its poison, the following are the appearances under the microscope:—­At first nothing is seen but a parcel of salts nimbly floating in the liquor, but in a very short time these saline particles shoot out into crystals of incredible tenuity and sharpness, with something like knots here and there, from which these crystals seem to proceed, so that the whole texture in a manner represents a spider’s web, though infinitely finer and more minute.  These spiculae, or darts, will remain unaltered on the glass for some months.  Five or six grains of this viperine poison, mixed with half an ounce of human blood, received in a warm glass, produce no visible effects, either in colour or consistence, nor do portions of this poisoned blood, mixed with acids or alkalies, exhibit any alterations.  When placed on the tongue, the taste is sharp and acrid, as if the tongue had been struck with something scalding or burning; but this sensation goes off in two or three hours.  There are only five cases on record of death following the bite of the viper; and it has been observed that the effects are most virulent when the poison has been received on the extremities, particularly the fingers and toes, at which parts the animal, when irritated (as it were, by an innate instinct), always takes its aim.

F.T.  BUCKLAND

* * * * *

ORIGIN OF “JACK THE GIANT-KILLER.”

[Illustration:  Letter A.]

After various adventures, Thor, accompanied by Thialfi and Loke, his servants, entered upon Giantland, and wandered over plains—­wild uncultivated places—­among stones and trees.  At nightfall they noticed a house; and as the door, which indeed formed one whole side of the house, was open, they entered.  It was a simple habitation—­one large hall, altogether empty.  They stayed there.  Suddenly, in the dead of the night, loud voices alarmed them.  Thor grasped his hammer, and stood in the doorway, prepared for fight.  His companions within ran hither and thither, in their terror, seeking some outlet in that rude hall:  they found a little closet at last, and took refuge there.  Neither had Thor any battle; for lo! in the morning it turned out that the noise had been only the snoring of a certain enormous, but peaceable, giant—­the giant Skrymir, who lay peaceably sleeping near by; and this, that they took for a house, was merely his glove thrown aside there:  the door was the glove-wrist; the little closet they had fled into was the thumb!  Such a glove!  I remark, too, that it had not fingers, as ours have, but only a thumb, and the rest undivided—­a most ancient rustic glove!

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