St. Robert Bellarmine, 2020
Where had all the frogs gone? For weeks, the duck pond had been filled with them. I could see them all plunging to safety from the bank into the murky depths when I went to let the ducks and chickens out in the morning.
And then they were gone.
I should have guessed that a snake was responsible, picking off the amphibian delicacies, one by one. But I was not expecting to be confronted by the curious scene that awaited me a few evenings ago, as I locked the ducks away for the evening. There, on the far side of the pond was clearly an eastern king snake, coiled around its prey. Whatever was held in its constricting grip was indiscernible beneath its black coils. Its victim was lighter in colour and I guessed it was probably another snake. Intrigued, I stood, statue-still, and watched and waited. Not much happened for some time. The snake was aware of my presence and was also keeping statue-still. Then, in an instant, it all happened in an instant. The king snake, having swallowed the head of its victim, a northern water snake, manoeuvred itself into the undergrowth beside the pond, releasing its grip on the body of its prey, which struggled forlornly and with no hope of escape. It was in the grip of the maws of a serpentine hell. Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.
What was difficult to believe was how on earth the first snake was ever going to swallow the second, which was almost its equal in size. Knowing from the grisly experience a few weeks ago of discovering that one of our hens had been swallowed from beak to neck by a snake, which then regurgitated it having discovered that the hen’s body was too thick to swallow, I wondered whether I would find the corpse of a regurgitated water snake floating in the pond the following morning. Since there was no sign of a deceased snake when I checked the next day, I’m presuming that it had fit as snug as a glove within the stomach of its nemesis, having been swallowed whole. The mind boggles and the eyes water at the very thought of it.
Leaving the dog-eat-dog and snake-eat-snake world of our duck pen and returning to the comparative safety of my office, I’ve been teaching, editing and writing in roughly equal measure this week.
On Monday, I continued the discussion with Father Fessio and Vivian Dudro of Michael Kurek’s The Sound of Beauty for the FORMED Book Club and in the evening began teaching a new course for the Albertus Magnus Institute on Shakespeare.
Tuesday was a day set aside for the writing of my history of England. It proved very fruitful in the sense that I wrote the whole of chapter twelve, which is on Mary Tudor, a total of more than 3,000 words. On Tuesday evening I co-hosted an online discussion on education with my fellow Troubadours. And then, before retiring for the night, I worked on the editing of the next issue of the St. Austin Review.
Yesterday (Wednesday), I taught my class on Dante for Homeschool Connections at lunchtime and a session on Homer’s Odyssey for Memoria College in the evening, squeezing in a visit to the gym in between.
Today, I’ve written an essay for the Imaginative Conservative on Antifa (a less than pleasant subject!) and have recorded three podcasts for the Inner Sanctum (a much more cheerful exercise).
Tomorrow, God willing, I’ll return to the writing of the book, turning my attention to Elizabeth I, or Bloody Bess.
Having ended as I begun by speaking of a snake, I’ll wish all my friends in the Inner Sanctum a blessed and grace-filled week.