The snake had not moved, and appeared somewhat to have lost its power upon the imagination; the gorgeous illusions of a few moments before were not repeated. Beneath that flat and brainless brow its black, beady eyes simply glittered, as at first, with an expression unspeakably malignant. It was as if the creature, knowing its triumph assured, had determined to practice no more alluring wiles.
Gouts of blood
Now ensued a fearful scene. The man, prone upon the floor, within a yard of his enemy, raised the upper part of his body upon his elbows, his head thrown back, his legs extended to their full length. His face was white between its gouts of blood; his eyes were strained open to their uttermost expansion. There was froth upon his lips; it dropped off in flakes. Strong convulsions ran through his body, making almost serpentine undulations. He bent himself at the waist, shifting his legs from side to side. And every movement left him a little nearer to thesnake. He thrust his hands forward to brace himself back, yet constantly advanced upon his elbows.
Dr. Druring and his wife sat in the library. The scientist was in rare good humor.
“I have just obtained, by exchange with another collector,” he said, “a splendid specimen of the Ophiophagus.”
“And what may that be?” the lady inquired with a somewhat languid interest.
“Why, bless my soul, what profound ignorance! My dear, a man who ascertains after marriage that his wife does not know Greek, is entitled to a divorce. The Ophiophagus is a snake which eats other snakes.”
“I hope it will eat all yours,” she said, absently shifting the lamp. “But how does it get the other snakes? By charming them, I suppose.”
“That is just like you, dear,” said the doctor, with an affection of petulance. “You know how irritating to me is any allusion to that vulgar superstition about the snake’s power of fascination.”
The conversation was interrupted by a mighty cry which rang through the silent house like the voice of a demon shouting in a tomb. Again and yet again it sounded, with terrible distinctness. They sprang to their feet, the man confused, the lady pale and speechless with fright. Almost before the echoes of the last cry had died away the doctor was out of the room, springing up the staircase two steps at a time. In the corridor, in front of Brayton’s chamber, he met some servants who had come from the upper flopr. Together, they rushed at the door without knocking.
It was unfastened, and gave way. Brayton lay upon his stomach on the floor, dead. His head and arms were partly concealed under the foot rail of the bed. They pulled the body away, turning it upon the back. The face was daubed with blood and froth, the eyes were wide open, staring—a dreadful sight!
“Died in a fit,” said the scientist, bending his knee and placing his hand upon the heart. While in that position he happened to glance under the bed. “Good God!” he added; “how did this thing get in here?”
He reached under the bed, pulled out the snake, and flung it, still coiled, to the center of the room, whence, with a harsh, shuffling sound, it slid across the polished floor till stopped by the wall where it lay without motion. It was a stuffed snake; its eyes were two shoe buttons.