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days more the cure was completed. On each leaf the new skin formed a small swelling, so that the whole had the appearance of having been quilted.
The boa constrictor of the countries watered by the river of Sierra Leone is sometimes thirty feet in length, or, as the negroes say, forty, and four feet in circumference: they also say that he swallows an ox or a buffalo intire. They give the following account of this prodigious serpent.
He hides himself near some spring, or pool of water, where he remains perfectly still, convolved in three spiral rows. While an animal is quenching its thirst, he springs upon it, twines himself round its body, compresses it with great forcę, and suffocates it. When he is convinced that it is dead, he untwists himself, and quits it. He then attacks it with his teeth, which he drives deeply into every part of its body. After this, he again winds himself round his prey, and by rapid motions, powerful contractions, and repeated efforts, he crushes every bone to powder. When this operation is completed, he moistens the body all over with a kind of thick saliva, which he disgorges in great abundance, and stretches it out at full length by creeping along it on both sides. All things being now ready for swallowing his victim, he places himself opposite to it. He opens his mouth, approaches it in an erect posture, snaps in the head, or muzzle of his prey, and swallows the whole, by degrees, without letting it go.
But before this monstrous reptile devours any large animal, he carefully inspects all the surrounding places, to be assured that no enemy
is near; for, after such a repast, he is so horribly full,
that he is incapable of the least motion or resistance. During this state of absolute helplessness the negroes kill him, and regale themselves at once with his flesh and that of the prey he has swallowed. In this state of lethargy he is also attacked by the ants, which penetrate into his body by millions, through his ears, nose, and mouth, devour in less than twenty-four hours both the serpent and his prey, and leave nothing but the empty skin.
The termites are not less wonderful than the boa constrictor. They are about the sixth part of an inch in length. Their colour is white; their head is small, and without eyes; they have feelers composed of small cohesive globules, very short jaws, and three small legs on each side the body. These are the labourers of the community.
In the second state of the termites, their head is larger, and their jaws are longer. These are the soldiers. The last stage of existence is that of a winged insect. The body is now between six and seven tenths of an inch in length, the wings above two inches and a half from tip to tip. In this form the animal comes abroad during, or soon after, the first tornado, which proclaims the approach of the rains. If this happen in the night, the number of insects which cover the earth and the waters is astonishing; for their wings are only calculated to carry them a few hours, and few are on the wing after the rising of the sun. Some are running upon the ground, with one or two wings still hanging to their bodies, impeding, instead of assisting their progress; the greater number are without wings, but they run exceedingly fast, the males after the females, and often two males after one female, regardless of the innumerable dangers by which they are surrounded. Ants, birds, reptiles and men, are hunting in every possible place for these insects, which, in this state, make no resistance to the smallest of their enemies; so that probably not a pair in many millions arrives at a place of safety, and lays the foundation of a new colony. Some, however, are found by the labourers, and inclosed in a chamber of clay, with an entrance so small that neither the female nor the male can ever quit it.
The abdomen of an old queen is fifteen hundred, or two thousand times the bulk of the rest of her body, extending, in the whole, to the length of from three to nearly six inches; nor is its extension more remarkable than its constant undulating motion, which is always protruding eggs. I have frequently counted sixty in a minute. These are instantly taken away by her attendants, and carried to nurseries; and here, after they are hatched, they are provided for till they are able to take their share of the labours of the community. The termite king is not larger than the rest of his species.
There seems to be about a hundred labourers to one fighting insect ; but the termites, whether working or fighting, never expose themselves to the open air. They form passages under ground, or within such trees or substances as they destroy. When they cannot proceed by these passages, or when they seek for plunder above ground, they make arched ways on the surface of the earth. These are continued with many windings and ramifications, and have, wherever it is possible, subterranean galleries exactly underneath, into
which the termites sink for safety, if any violence be offered to them in those above. When a person enters a solitary grove in which many of these upper arched ways are erected, the termites give the alarm by loud hissings, which are heard distinctly at every step he takes. After this, he
examine the arched ways in vain, no insects will be found; but he may find little holes, through which they have made their escape into their subterranean roads.
Whenever the termites are dislodged from their covered ways, the various species of ants instantly seize them, and drag them to their nests, as food for their young; the termites are therefore extremely solicitous to keep their arched ways in repair. If you demolish the arch for a few inches in length, you see them arrive at the opening before they are aware of it, and suddenly stop. Some venture to run on as speedily as possible till they have passed the gap; but most of them turn as hastily back. In a few minutes you will see them rebuilding the arch, and by the next morning the work will be completed, even if three or four yards have been destroyed. If the arch be demolished several times, they will still rebuild it, and unless their nest be destroyed they never totally abandon their gallery.
If a breach be made in a slight part of one of their hills, a soldier runs out, as if to discover the cause of the attack, and whether the
have retreated. He is followed by two or three others, and presently by an army, who rush out as fast as the breach will permit. If the attack continue, they are in the most violent agitation, biting every thing they run against, and it is not easy to describe
their fury. If they seize a man's leg, the stain of blood upon the stocking will extend an inch in width. They make their hooked jaws meet, at the first stroke, and will suffer themselves to be torn away, leg after leg, and piece after piece, without quitting their hold. If no farther violence be offered to their city, the soldiers, in less than half an hour, retire within the walls, and the labourers are hastening from all quarters, with mortar, ready tempered, in their mouths. This they lay on the breach as fast as they come up, and with such dispatch and regularity, that though there are millions, they never wait for, or embarrass each other.
One soldier is stationed as the overseer of from six hundred to a thousand labourers; and one, who seems to be the commanding officer, takes his post close to the building that is being repaired, turns himself on all sides, and, at intervals of a minute or two, beats with his forceps on the wall, producing a sound like the beating of a watch. This admonition is answered by a general hiss of the workmen, who instantly redouble their pace.
The curious spectator has only to strike the hill; the labourers vanish into the many pipes and galleries with which the citadel is perforated, and the soldiers rush out as vindictive as before. The one of these orders never attempts to fight, nor the other to labour, let the emergency be ever so great.
If, in your attack upon the hill, you stop short of the royal chamber, which is always placed exactly in the centre of the edifice, though you lay open some thousands of chambers and galleries, they will all be shut up with thin sheets of clay