This story was told me by a woman who lives here in Genoa during the winter, but goes up into the mountains for the summer. She says she is quite sure it is true: “ma poi non lo so.” I wish I could tell it as well as she did:—
NOT far from the villa where she goes in the summer, a stream makes a pool where the women go to do their washing. The pool is surrounded by stones and rocks, and once when the women were washing they noticed a very large snake (biscia) gliding among the rocks. They watched him and saw that at a certain place he stopped, put something down behind a stone, and went away. The women went to look, and found his poison like two little horns. In the evening he came back, went to the place where he had hidden his fangs, found them, and fixed them in position again. This happened several days in succession, until one of the women suggested that they should steal the poison-fangs, and see what happened. So the next day they took them into the house with them, and stood at the window to watch the biscia. When he came back and could not find his poison fangs, he gave every sign of the utmost surprise; he looked again and again behind the stone where he had left them, as though to say:—“This was certainly the place!” He examined all the stones round the pool, and at last, hissing with rage, began to dash his head against the stones. And the women were watching him all the time from the window. After a while he was so overcome with despair that he gave his head an extra hard knock and split open his skull so that he died.