02 November 2010

The Venomous Worm.

From McGuffey's Fifth Eclectic Reader.  Guess the name given to this animal by the author.  I'll publish the results Thursday morning.  This one's harder.  Let's see if anyone comes close!


Who has not heard of the rattlesnake or copperhead?  An unexpected sight of either of these reptiles will make even the lords of creation recoil; but there is a species of worm, found in various parts of this country, which conveys a poison of a nature so deadly that, compared with it, even the venom of the rattlesnake is harmless.  To guard our readers against this foe of human kind is the object of this lesson.

This worm varies much in size.  It is frequently an inch in diameter, but, as it is rarely seen except when coiled, its length can hardly be conjectured.  It is of a dull lead color, and generally lives near a spring or small stream of water, and bites the unfortunate people who are in the habit of going there to drink.  The brute creation it never molests.  They avoid it with the same instinct that teaches the animals of India to shun the deadly cobra.

Several of these reptiles have long infested our settlements, to the misery and destruction of many of our fellow-citizens.  I have, therefore, had frequent opportunities of being the melancholy spectator of the effects produced by the subtile poison which this worm infuses.

The symptoms of its bite are terrible.  The eyes of the patient become red and fiery, his tongue swells to an immoderate size, and obstructs his utterance; and delirium of the most horrid character quckly follows.  Sometimes, in his madness, he attempts the destruction of his nearest friends.

If the sufferer has a family, his weeping wife and helpless infants are not unfrequently the objects of his frantic fury.  In a word, he exhibits, to the life, all the detestable passions that rankle in the bosom of a savage; and such is the spell in which his senses are locked, that no sooner has the unhappy patient recovered from the paroxysm of insanity occasioned by the bite, than he seeks out the destroyer for the sole purpose of being bitten again.

I have seen a good old father, his locks as white as snow, his step slow and trembling, beg in vain of his only son to quit the lurking place of the worm.  My heart bled when he turned away; for I knew the fond hope that his son would be the "staff of his declining years," had supported him through many a sorrow.

Youths of America, would you know the name of this reptile?


  1. By the way, I did NOT get this one. Probably because the name of the reptile is at the end of the lesson, and I didn't have to blank it out in typing out the passage.

    Maybe everyone else will be a better guesser than I was, but D also read it and didn't get it. Hm.

  2. Is it a worm or a snake or a reptile? Are snakes really reptiles? I don't have a clue, but I shall guess...what are those poisonous water snakes called? Water Moccasins?

  3. I thought water moccasin as well! But I was wrong! :)


Non-troll comments always welcome! :)