been drawn across it, as if by a walking stick. ‘He must have been a large one,’ the old man muttered half to himself, ‘or he would not have left such a trail, I wonder if he is near; he seems to have moved this way.’ He then went behind some bushes which grew on the right side of the road, and appeared to be in quest of something, moving behind the bushes with his head downwards, and occasionally striking their roots with his foot: at length he exclaimed, ‘Here he is!’ and forthwith I saw him dart amongst the bushes. There was a kind of scuffling noise, the rustling of branches, and the crackling of dry sticks. ‘I have him!’ said the man at last; ‘I have got him!’ and presently he made his appearance about twenty yards down the road, holding a large viper in his hand. ‘What do you think of that, my boy?’ said he, as I went up to him - ‘what do you think of catching such a thing as that with the naked hand?’ ‘What do I think?’ said I. ‘Why, that I could do as much myself.’ ‘You do,’ said the man, ‘do you? Lord! how the young people in these days are given to conceit; it did not use to be so in my time: when I was a child, childer knew how to behave themselves; but the childer of these days are full of conceit, full of froth, like the mouth of this viper’; and with his forefinger and thumb he squeezed a considerable quantity of foam from the jaws of the viper down upon the road. ‘The childer of these days are a generation of - God forgive me, what was I about to say?’ said the old man; and opening his bag he thrust the reptile into it, which appeared far from empty. I passed on. As I was returning, towards the evening, I overtook the old man, who was wending in the same direction. ‘Good evening to you, sir,’ said I, taking off a cap which I wore on my head. ‘Good evening,’ said the old man; and then, looking at me, ‘How’s this?’ said he, ‘you aren’t, sure, the child I met in the morning?’ ‘Yes,’ said I, ‘I am; what makes you doubt it?’ ‘Why, you were then all froth and conceit,’ said the old man, ‘and now you take off your cap to me.’ ‘I beg your pardon,’ said I, ‘if I was frothy and conceited; it ill becomes a child like me to be so.’ ‘That’s true, dear,’ said the old man; ‘well, as you have begged my pardon, I truly forgive you.’ ‘Thank you,’ said I; ‘have you caught any more of those things?’ ‘Only four or five,’ said the old man; ‘they are getting scarce, though this used to be a great neighbourhood for them.’ ‘And what do you do with them?’ said I; ‘do you carry them home and play with them?’ ‘I sometimes play with one or two that I tame,’ said the old man; ‘but I hunt them mostly for the fat which they contain, out of which I make unguents which are good for various sore troubles, especially for the rheumatism.’ ‘And do you get your living by hunting these creatures?’ I demanded. ‘Not altogether,’ said the old man; ‘besides being a viper-hunter, I am what they call a herbalist, one who knows the virtue of particular herbs; I gather them at the proper season, to make medicines with for the sick.’ ‘And do you live in the neighbourhood?’ I demanded. ‘You seem very fond of asking questions, child. No, I do not live in this neighbourhood in particular, I travel about; I have not been in this neighbourhood till lately for some years.’

From this time the old man and myself formed an acquaintance; I often accompanied him in his wanderings about the neighbourhood, and, on two or three occasions, assisted him in catching the reptiles which he hunted. He generally carried a viper with him which he had made quite tame, and from which he had extracted the poisonous fangs; it would dance and perform various kinds of tricks. He was fond of telling me anecdotes connected with his adventures with the reptile species. ‘But,’ said he one day, sighing, ‘I must shortly give up this business, I am no longer the man I was, I am become timid, and when a person is timid in viper- hunting, he had better leave off, as it is quite clear his virtue is leaving him. I got a fright some years ago, which I am quite sure I shall never get the better of; my hand has been shaky more or less ever since.’ ‘What frightened you?’ said I. ‘I had better not tell you,’ said the old man, ‘or you may be frightened too, lose your virtue, and be no longer good for the business.’ ‘I don’t care,’ said I; ‘I don’t intend to follow the business: I daresay I shall be an officer, like my father.’ ‘Well,’ said the old man, ‘I once saw the king of the vipers, and since then - ‘ ‘The king of the vipers!’ said I, interrupting him; ‘have the vipers a king?’ ‘As sure as we have,’ said the old man - ‘as sure as we have King George to rule over us, have these reptiles a king to rule over them.’ ‘And where did you see him?’ said I. ‘I will tell you,’ said the old man, ‘though I don’t like talking about the matter. It may be about seven years ago that I happened to be far down yonder to the west, on the other side of England, nearly two hundred miles from here, following my business. It was a very sultry day, I remember, and I had been out several hours catching creatures. It might be about three o’clock in the afternoon, when I found myself on some heathy land near the sea, on the ridge of a hill, the side of which, nearly as far down as the sea, was heath; but on the top there was arable ground, which had been planted, and from which

  By PanEris using Melati.

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