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Your Excellency, You Must Needs Love Snakes

“Ah, Kannegieter, you are not so simple as you make out,” said the Count. “Why? Because, my friend, the aversion to snakes is a sound human instinct, the people who have got it have kept alive. The snake is the deadliest of all the enemies of men, but what, except our own instinct of good and evil, is there to tell us so? The claws of the lions, the size, and the tusks, of the Elephants, the horns of the Buffaloes, all jump to the eye. But the snakes are beautiful animals. The snakes are round and smooth, like the things we cherish in life, of exquisite soft colouring, gentle in all their movements. Only to the godly man this beauty and gracefulness are in themselves loathsome, they smell from perdition, and remind him of the fall of man. Something within him makes him run away from the snake as from the devil, and that is what is called the voice of conscience. The man who can caress a snake can do anything.” Count Schimmelmann laughed a little at his own course of thoughts, buttoned his rich fur-coat, and turned to leave the shed.

The showman had stood for a little while in deep thoughts. “Your Excellency,” he said at last, “you must needs love snakes. There is no way round it. Out of my own experience in life, I can tell you so, and indeed it is the best advice that I can give you: You should love the snakes. Keep in your mind, your Excellency, how often,—keep in mind, your Excellency, that nearly every time that we ask the Lord for a fish, he will give us a serpent.”

—Isak Dinesen, Out of Africa

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