“Now, come and look at this splendid fellow,” said Miss White, who, with her sister, was leaning over the rail. “Look at his splendid bars of color! Do you see the beautiful blue sheen on its scales?”
It was a huge anaconda, its body as thick as a man’s leg, lying coiled up in a circle; its flat, ugly head reposing in the middle. He came a bit nearer. “Hideous!” was all he said. And then his eyes was fixed on the eyes of the animal—the lidless eyes, with their perpetual glassy stare. He had thought at first they were closed; but now he saw that that opaque yellow substance was covered by a glassy coating, while in the centre there was a small slit as if cut by a penknife. The great coils slowly expanded and fell again as the animal breathed; otherwise the fixed stare of those yellow eyes might have been taken for the stare of death.
“I don’t think the anaconda is poisonous at all,” said she, lightly.
“But if you were to meet that beast in a jungle,” said he, “what difference would that make!”
He spoke reproachfully, as if she were luring him into some secret place to have him slain with poisonous fangs. He passed on from that case to the others unwillingly. The room was still. Most of the snakes would have seemed dead but for the malign stare of the beaded eyes. He seemed anxious to get out; the atmosphere of the place was hot and oppressive.
But just at the door there was a case some quick motion in which caught his eye, and despite himself he stopped to look. The inside of this glass box was alive with snakes—raising their heads in the air, slimily crawling over each other, the small black forked tongues shooting in and out, the black points of eyes glassily staring. And the object that had moved quickly was a wretched little yellow frog, that was not motionless in a dish of water, its eyes apparently starting out of its head with horror. A snake made its appearance over the edge of the dish. The shooting black tongue approached the head of the frog; and then the long, sinuous body glided along the edge of the dish again, the frog meanwhile being too paralyzed with fear to move. A second afterward the frog, apparently recovering, sprung clean out of the basin; but it was only to alight on the backs of two or three of the reptiles lying coiled up together. It made another spring, and got into a corner among some grass, But along that side of the case another of those small, flat, yellow marked heads was slowly creeping along, propelled by the squirming body; and again the frog made a sudden spring, this time leaping once more into the shallow water, where, it stood and panted, with its eyes dilated. And now a snake that had crawled up the side of the case put out its long neck as if to see whither it should proceed. There was nothing to lay hold of. The head swayed and twisted, the forked tongue shooting out; and at last the snake fell away from its hold, and splashed right into the basin of water on the top of the frog. There was a wild shooting this way and that—but Macleod did not see the end of it. He had uttered some slight exclamation, and got into the open air, as one being suffocated: and there were drops of perspiration on his forehead, and a trembling of horror and disgust had seized him. His two companions followed him out.