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CHINESE TORTURES.

THE HOOP SNAKE.

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THE HOOP SNAKE. The Hoop Snake is marvellous enough to have come out of a fairy story, but he lives on the earth and is one of its real dangers in some parts-that is, if you live where there are deep swamps or thick woods or wild, rough hillsides. That is his choice of a world to live in, and there he is peaceable enough. If you happen to in- vade it he will rnu away if possible, and fight only as a last resort. He will even lie so quietly that you may step over him scatliless a d,,zeii times—if only you do not step on to him. You may see him sometimes basking on a log or bare rock, blinking at the sun and looking inert and harmless as a fallen twig. He is long and slim, rarely under 4 feet or over 6. His back is dull dark brown, his belly reddish ochre with brown lights. He has a mouthful of sharp teeth, but no fangs. At the top of his tail you see a horny spur, for all the world like a cock's spur, but something sharper. So he creeps and blinks away the spring and early summer, feeding on frogs, mice, berries, and small birds and their eggs. Nobody sees him unless they go hunting him, and then only by rare good luck. By and by midsummer dries up the marshes and the woodland pools the hill streams run low or fall altogether. Sportsmen and foresters begin to say apprehensively "Better be careful time for heop snakes to come whirling out of the water crazy mad." In this midsummer madness the creature curves itself till the horned tail rests just on the back of its head, and whirls out alonw country roads or open woodland. betide whatsoever may cross its path. Vision is im- possible, yet in some way the .reature scents a living creature and strikes madly at it, flinging its barbed tail almost its own length in front of its head. There is a poison gland at the root of the spur full of venom so swift, so subtle, that it has no known antidote. A horse struck'by it falls shivering and groaning, bathed in cold sweat and dies within the hour. Cattle either run bellowing for the nearest thicket in foaminw fienzy or deep in their tracks as though shot if struck. A dog dies with the quick rigors of strychnine poisoning, human beings grow blind and faint, then fall into a merciful insensibility that runs rapidly into death. Luckily thejsnakes misses as often as it strikes. In that case it makes no second attempt, but whirls away in search of new victims. It can not strike sideways, but it is so full of fight it will turn squarely on its course to deliver a straight- out blow. Few things are more awesome than on a lonesome moonlit country road to encounter one of these wheels of vengeance. The name hoopsnake or cartwheel snake comes from its locomotion on these midsummer forages. The full moon of August is their usual sea»on some- times, though, the snake runs amuck by dav- j light. Once a group in front of a roadside smithy were horror-stricken at the si'^ht of a tremendous fellow rolling down-hill at them with the speed and force of a thunderbolt. There were three men, with a tethered horse in the midst of them. It struck madly at the animal, which reared, plunged backward, and broke the rein just in time. Instead of it the snake struck the sapling to which it had been tied, and with such force that the horn penetrated the bark, and held the reptile prisoner. The smith smashed it with a blow of his hammer. Whenever a tree sud- denly and accountably dies where the hoopsnake is known, the country folks will tell you that it has been stung by a hoopsnake.

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