The bite of the cobra di capello is not so immediately fatal as is commonly supposed; fowls have been known to live two days after being bitten, though they frequently die within half an hour. The snake never bites while its hood is closed, and as long as this is not erected the animal may be approached, and even handled with impunity; even when the hood is spread, while the creature continues silent, there is no danger. The fearful hiss is at once the signal of aggression and of peril. Though the cobra is so deadly when under excitement, it is, nevertheless, astonishing to see how readily it is appeased, even in the highest state of exasperation, and this merely by the droning music with which its exhibitors seem to charm it.
[Illustration: COBRA DI CAPELLO.]
The natives of India have a superstitious feeling with regard to this snake; they conceive that it belongs to another world, and when it appears in this, it is only as a visitor. In consequence of this notion they always avoid killing it, if possible.
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[Illustration: Letter P.]
Perhaps of all the localities of the Oregon territory so vividly described in Captain Fremont’s adventurous narrative, the Pyramid Lake, visited on the homeward journey from the Dallas to the Missouri river, is the most beautiful. The exploring party having reached a defile between mountains descending rapidly about 2000 feet, saw, filling up all the lower space, a sheet of green water some twenty miles broad. “It broke upon our eyes,” says the narrator, “like the ocean: the neighbouring peaks rose high above us, and we ascended one of them to obtain a better view. The waves were curling to the breeze, and their dark green colour showed it to be a body of deep water. For a long time we sat enjoying the view, for we had become fatigued with mountains, and the free expanse of moving waves was very grateful. It was like a gem in the mountains, which, from our position, seemed to enclose it almost entirely. At the eastern end it communicated with the line of basins we had left a few days since; and on the opposite side it swept a ridge of snowy mountains, the foot of the great Sierra. We followed a broad Indian trail or tract along the shore of the lake to the southward. For a short space we had room enough in the bottom, but, after travelling a short distance, the water swept the foot of the precipitous mountains, the peaks of which are about 3000 feet above the lake. We afterwards encamped on the shore, opposite a very remarkable rock in the lake, which had attracted our attention for many miles. It rose according to our estimation 600 feet above the level of the water, and, from the point we viewed it, presented a pretty exact outline of the great pyramid of Cheops. Like other rocks along the shore, it seemed to be encrusted with calcareous cement.