A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels, Volume 11 eBook

Robert Kerr (writer)
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 783 pages of information about A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels, Volume 11.
former are most esteemed, as their large feathers are better spread, and their down much softer.  This bird is prodigiously swift of foot, and is hunted down by hounds.  Their wings do not serve them to fly, but assist them in running, especially when they have the wind with them.  The common opinion of their being able to digest iron is totally false.  They swallow pieces of iron indeed, but then it is only to bruise the food in their gizzards, just as other birds swallow stones for the same purpose.  They are also said to leave their eggs uncovered on the sand, and to take no care of their young.  But those of the Cape country hide their eggs in the sand, and are so tender of their young, that, though naturally timorous, if one of them is missing, they become quite furious, so that it is not safe to go near them.  There are abundance of eagles of all sorts at the Cape, which are very bold, and frequently do a great deal of mischief.  They are not very large, yet are incredibly strong, so that they often kill and devour cattle when returning home from work, when they come in great flocks. of fifty or an hundred at once, single out a beast as it feeds among the flock, and falling upon it all at once, kill and devour it.

Some years before our author was at the Cape, there was seen on Table Mountain a bird as large in the body as a horse, having grey and black plumage.  His beak and talons were like those of an eagle, but of a most dreadful size.  He sat and hovered about that mountain for a long time, and the people were persuaded it was a griffin.  It frequently carried off sheep and calves, and at length began to destroy the cows, on which orders were given to destroy it, and it was accordingly shot, its skin stuffed, and sent home as a curiosity to the Company.  No such bird, has been seen since, and the oldest people of the colony do not remember to have heard of any such before.[5]

[Footnote 5:  This was probably a stray Condor, and its size an ordinary exaggeration, in the passage of the story, like that of the three black crows.—­E.]

Africa has been long famous for serpents, and there are such vast numbers of them in the neighbourhood of the Cape, that many of them have no names.  Most of them are extremely venomous, and the colonists would suffer much more than they do from them, were it not that they have a specific remedy for their bites, not known in Europe.  This remedy is the serpent-stone, allowed to be factitious, and is brought from India, where they are made by the bramins who have the secret of composing them, which they so carefully conceal, that no Europeans have hitherto been able to discover how they are made.  The serpent-stone is about the size of a bean, white in the middle, but of a fine sky-blue on the outside.  When a person is bitten by a serpent, this stone is applied to the wound, to which it soon sticks fast of itself, without the aid of any bandage or plaister.  The part bitten begins immediately to swell and becomes inflamed.  The stone also swells till it becomes full of the venom, and then drops off.  It is then put into warm milk, where it soon purges itself from the venom, and resumes its natural colour, after which it is again applied to the wound, where it sticks as before, till a second time full, and so on till all the venom is extracted and the cure perfected.

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