methods to ascertain if the snake-stone is good, and that there is no
fraud. The first is by placing the stone in the mouth, for then, if
good, it leaps and attaches itself immediately to the palate. The other
is to place it in a glass full of water, and immediately, if it is
genuine, the water begins to boil, and small bubbles ascend from the
stone which is at the bottom, to the top of the water.
There is still another stone which is called ' stone of the hooded snake.'J
It is a kind of snake which has, as it were, a hood which hangs behind
the head, and it is behind this hood that the stone is found, the
smallest being of the size of a hen's egg. There are snakes in Africa
and in Asia of an enormous size,2 and up to 25 feet in
length, as was that one whose skin is preserved at Batavia. This snake
had swallowed a girl of eighteen years, of which fact I have elsewhere
given an account.3 You find these stones only in snakes
which are, at the least, two feet in length. The stone, which is not
hard, when rubbed against another stone yields a kind of slime which,
when dissolved in water and drunk by a person who has some poison in
his body, has the property of driving it out at once. These snakes are
only to be found on the coasts of Melinda, and you can obtain the
stones from Portuguese sailors and soldiers on their return from
Concerning the places from whence gold is obtained in Asia and Africa.
of many islands to the east of China trending northwards ; some even
believe that Niphon, which is the largest of them, is, as it were, in
contact with the mainland ; it is the region of all Asia which
furnishes the greatest quantity
1 Cobra di capello—Naja tripudians. The figure referred to is a spirited one of a cobra, but is not reproduced here.
2 Pythons. Marco Polo's great snakes were probably alligators (ii. 45, 49). For pythons nearly 30 feet long see Ency. Brit., xxii. 704.
* Ball could not find the account to which Tavernier refers.