Of their Birds, Fish, Serpents, Commodities.
In the next place I will entertain you with some relation of the other living Creatures among them. I begin with their Birds. In that Land there are Crowes, Sparrowes, Tom-titts, Snipes, just like these in England, Wood-Pigeons also, but not great flocks of any sorts, as we have, onely of Crowes and Pigeons. I have seen there Birds just like Woodcocks and Partridges, but they are scarce. A great many wild Peacocks: small green Parrots, but not very good to talk. But here is another Bird in their Language called Mal-cowda, which with teaching will speak excellently well. It is black with yellow gills about the bigness of a Black-Bird: And another sort there is of the same bigness, called Cau-cowda, yellow like gold, very beautiful to the eye, which also might be taught to speak.
Here are other sorts of small Birds, not much bigger than a Sparrow, very lovely to look on, but I think good for nothing else: some being in colour white like Snow, and their tayl about one foot in length, and their heads black like jet, with a tuft like a plume of Feathers standing upright thereon. There are others of the same sort onely differing in colour, being reddish like a ripe Orange, and on the head a Plume of black Feathers standing up. I suppose, one may be the Cock, and the other the Hen
Here is a sort of Bird they call Carlo, which never lighteth on the ground, but always sets on very high Trees. He is as big as a Swan, the colour black, the Legs very short, the Head monstrous, his Bill very long, a little rounding like a Hawks, and white on each side of the head, like ears: on the top of the crown groweth out a white thing, somewhat like to the comb of a Cock; commonly they keep four or five of them together; and always are hopping from bough to bough; They are seldom silent, but continually make a roaring noyse, somewhat like the quacking of a Duck, that they may be heard at least a mile off; the reason they thus cry, the Chingulayes say, is for Rain, that they may drink. The bodies of these Fowls are good to eat.
Here is a sort of Bird very much resembling a Duck, but not very plentiful. And another sort of Fowl as big as a Duck, cole black, which liveth altogether upon Fish. It is admirable to see, how long they will remain under water, and at what a distance they will rise again. Besides these, there are many other kinds of Birds, much larger than Swans, which keep about the Ponds and Marshes to catch Fish, but the people eat them not: Nature hath endowed them with an admirable understanding, that they are not to be catched by the Allegators, tho there be many of them in those waters
The Peacocks in rainy weather are sometimes hunted and caught by Dogs; for their Feathers being wet, they are uncapable of flying far.
The King hath Geese, Ducks, Turkeys, Pigeons, which he keeps tame, but none else may. Turkeys he delights not in, because they change the colour of their heads: Neither doth he kill any of these to eat, nor any other creature of what sort soever, and he hath many, that he keeps tame.
They have no want of Fish, and those good ones too. All little Rivers and Streams running thro the Valleys are full of small Fish, but the Boyes and others wanting somewhat to eat with their Rice, do continually catch them before they come to maturity: nay all their Ponds are full of them, which in dry weather drying up, the people catch multitudes of them in this manner.
They have a kind of a Basket made of small Sticks, so close that Fish cannot get thro; it is broad at bottom, and narrow at top, like a funnel, the hole big enough for a man to thrust his Arm in, wide at the mouth about two or three foot; these baskets they jobb down, and the ends stick in the mud, which often happen upon a Fish; when they do, they feel it by the Fish beating it self against the sides. Then they put in their hands and take them out. And rieve a Rattan thro their gills, and so let them drag after them. One end of this Rattan is stuck in the fisher’s girdle, and the other knotted, that the fish should not slip off: which when it is full, he discharges himself of them by carrying them ashore. Nay every ditch and little plash of water but anckle deep hath fish in it.
The great River, Mavela-gonga, abounds exceedingly with them. Some of them as big as Salmons. But the people have little understanding in the way of taking them. In very dry weather, they stretch a With over the River, which they hang all full of boughs of Trees to scare the Fish. This With thus hung they drag down with the stream, and to Leeward they place Fish-pots between the Rocks, and so drive the Fish into them. Nets or other wayes they have few or none.
At a Passage-place near to the City of Candy, the Fish formerly have been nourished and fed by the Kings order, to keep them there for his Majesties pleasure; whither, having used to be thus provided for, notwithstanding Floods and strong Streams, they will still resort: and are so tame, that I have seen them eat out of mens hands; but death it is to them that presume to catch them. The people passing over here, will commonly feed them with some of their Rice, accounting it a piece of charity so to do, and pleasure to see them eat it. In many other places also there are Fish thus fed and kept onely for the Kings Recreation: for he will never let any be catched for his use.
Of Serpents, there are these sorts. The Pimberah, the body whereof is as big as a mans middle, and of a length proportionable. It is not swift, but by subtilty will catch his prey; which are Deer or other Cattel; He lyes in the path where the Deer use to pass, and as they go, he claps hold of them by a kind of peg that growes on his tayl, with which he strikes them. He will swallow a Roe Buck whole, horns and all; so that it happens sometimes the horns run thro his belly, and kill him. A Stag was caught by one of these Pimberahs, which siesed him by the buttock, and held him so fast, that he could not get away, but ran a few steps this way and that way. An Indian seeing the Stag run thus, supposed him in a snare, and having a Gun shot him; at which he gave so strong a jerk, that it pulled the Serpents head off while his tayl was encompassing a Tree to hold the Stag the better.
There is another venomous Snake called Polongo, the most venomous of all, that kills Cattel. Two sorts of them I have seen, the one green, the other of a reddish gray, full of white rings along the sides, and about five or fix foot long.
Another poysonous Snake there is called Noya, of a grayish colour, about four foot long. This will stand with half his body upright two or three hours together, and spread his head broad open, where there appears like as it were a pair of spectacles painted on it. The Indians call this Noy-Rogerati, that is, a Kings-Snake, that will do no harm. But if the Polonga and the Noya meet together, they cease not fighting till one hath kill’d the other.
The reason and original of this fatal enmity between these two Serpents, is this, according to a Fable among the Chingulays. These two chanced to meet in a dry Season, when water was scarce. The Polonga being almost famished for thirst, asked the Noya, where he might go to find a little water. The Noya a little before had met with a bowl of water in which a Child lay playing. As it is usual among this people to wash their Children in a bowl of water, and there leave them to tumble and play in it. Here the Noya quenched his thirst, but as he was drinking, the Child that lay in the bowl, out of his innocency and play, hit him on the Head with his hand, which the Noyamade no matter of but bare patiently, knowing it was not done out of any malice: and having drunk as much as sufficed him, went away without doing the Child any harm.
Being minded to direct the Polonga to this bowl, but desirous withal to preserve the Child, he told him, That he knew of water, but that he was such a surly hasty creature, that he was fearful to let him know where it was, lest he might do some mischief; Making him therefore Page 29promise that he would not, he then told him, that at such a place there was a bowl of water with a Child playing in it, and that probably the Child might, as he was tumbling give him a pat on the Head, as he had done to him before, but charged him nevertheless not to hurt the Child, Which the Polonga having promised went his way towards the water, as the Noya had directed him. The Noya knowing his touchy disposition, went after him, fearing he might do the Child a mischief, and that thereby he himself might be deprived of the like benefit afterwards. It fell out as he feared. For as the Polonga drank, the Child patted him on the head, and he in his hasty humour bit him on the hand and killed him. The Noya seeing this, was resolved to be revenged; and so reproaching him for his baseness, fought him so long till he killed him, and after that devoured him. Which to this day they ever do, always fight when they meet, and the Conquerour eats the the body of the vanquished. Hence the Proverb among the Chingulayes, when they see two men irreconcileable, they compare them to the Polonga and Noya, and say, Noya Polonga waghe, like a Noya and Polonga.
There is the Carowala, about two foot in length very poysonous, that lurks in the holes and thatch of houses. The Cats will seize these and kill and eat them.
Other Snakes there are, called Gerende, whereof there are many but not venomous. Of the former there are but a few in comparison. These last mentioned the greatest mischief they do, is to destroy young Birds and Eggs, and young Hares. Rabbets cannot be kept here to run wild, because of these and other Vermin, such as Polecats, Ferrets, Weazels, &c.
Hickanella, much like a Lizzard, venomous, but seldom bites unless provoked, these ly in the thatch of the houses.
There is a Spider called Democulo, very long black and hairy, speckled and glistering. Its body is as big as a mans fist with feet proportionable. These are very poysonous; and they keep in hollow Trees and holes. Men bitten with them will not dy, but the pain will for some time put them out of their Sences.
Cattle are often bit by some of these Snakes, and as often found dead of them, tho not eaten. Treading upon them sleeping, or the like, may be the cause of it. When the people are bitten by any of these, they are cured by Charms and Medicines, if taken and applyed in time.
There are also a sort of Water Snakes they call Duberria; but harmless.
Alligators may be reduced hither: there be many of them. Of which we have said somewhat before.
There is a Creature here called Kobbera guion, resembling an Alligator. The biggest may be five or six foot long, speckled black and white. He lives most upon the Land but will take the water and dive under it: hath a long blew forked tongue like a sting, which he puts Page 30forth and hisseth and gapeth, but doth not bite nor sting, tho the appearance of him would scare those that knew not what he was. He is not afraid of people, but will ly gaping and hissing at them in the way, and will scarce stir out of it. He will come and eat Carrion with the Dogs and Jackals, and will not be feared away by them, but if they come near to bark or snap at him, with his tayl, which is about an Ell long like a whip, he will so slash them, that they will run away and howl. This Creature is not eatable.
But there is the Tolla guion very like the former, which is eaten, and reckoned excellent meat. The Chingulays say it is the best sort of flesh; and for this reason, That if you eat other flesh at the same time you eat of this, and have occasion to vomit, you will never vomit out this tho you vomit all the other. This creature eats not carrion, but only leaves and herbs; is less of size than the Kobbera guion, and blackish, lives in hollow Trees and holes in the Humbosses: And I suppose is the same with that which in the West Indies they call the Guiana.
This Countrey has its Vermin also. They have a sort of Rats, they call Musk-Rats, because they smell strong of Musk. These the Inhabitants do not eat of, but of all other sort of Rats they do.
Before I conclude my discourse of the Growth and Product of this Countrey, it will not be improper to reduce under this head its Precious Stones, Minerals, and other Commodities. Of which I shall briefly speak, and so make an end of this First Part.
In this Island are several sorts of Precious Stones, which the King for his part has enough of, and so careth not to have more discovery made. For in certain places where they are known to be, are sharp Poles set up fixed in the ground, signifying, that none upon pain of being stuck and impaled upon those Poles, presume so much as to go that way; Also there are certain Rivers, out of which it is generally reported they do take Rubies and Saphires for the Kings use, and Cats eyes. And I have seen several pretty coloured stones, some as big as Cherry-stones, some as Buttons, and transparent, but understood not what they were. Rubies and Saphires I my self have seen here.
Here is Iron and Christal in great plenty. Salt-Petre they can make. Brimstone some say, is here, but the King will not have it discovered. Steel they can make of their Iron. Ebony in great abundance, with choice of tall and large Timber. Cardamums, Jaggory, Rack, Oyl, black Lead, Turmeric, Salt, Rice, Bettel-Nuts, Musk, Wax, Pepper, Which last grows here very well, and might be in great plenty, if it had a Vend. And the peculiar Commodity of the Island, Cinnamon. Wild Cattel, and wild Honey in great plenty in the Woods; it lyes in holes or hollow Trees, free for any that will take the pains to get it. Elephants Teeth, and Cotton, of which there is good plenty, growing in their own Grounds, sufficient to make them good and strong cloth for their own use, and also to sell to the People of the Uplands, where Cotton is not so plenty. All these things the Land affords, and it might do it in much greater quantity, if the People were but laborious and industrious. But that they are not. For the Chingulays are Naturally, a people given to sloth and laziness: if they can but any ways live, they abhor to work; onely what their necessities force them to, they do, that is, to get Food and Rayment. Yet in this I must a little vindicate them; For what indeed should they do with more than Food and Rayment, seeing as their Estates encrease, so do their Taxes also? And altho the People be generally covetous, spending but little, scraping together what they can, yet such is the Government they are under, that they are afraid to be known to have any thing, lest it be taken away from them. Neither have they any encouragement for their industry, having no Vend by Traffic and Commerce for what they have got.