Sleeping with a Snake

from And I’d Do It Again by Aimée Crocker

While married to Jackson Gouraud, stories of live “blackamoors” twined around Aimée’s pearl and jewel draped neck as she moved about among her party guests, began appearing in newspapers around the country. When she was finally photographed fondling a frightening pet snake, the public, at the turn of the century, held its breath and wondered, “What next?” Included in Aimée’s entourage of pearls and snakes were Asian servants, chorus boys, and painted ladies. She wrote in her autobiography about the origins of her adoration of snakes:

     Kaa was a boa-constrictor over four yards long, eight inches thick, and the property of the Princess Mara Davi, a Hindu woman, and a person I came to love and respect as I have seldom done any other of my own sex.

     The past life of Mara Davi I know very little about, and it is not very important to my story. When I knew her, she lived in a rooming house in New York in rather impoverished circumstances. I met her at a cocktail party, liked her, talked India with her, and we became good friends in a very short time.

     When I visited her for the first time, I was surprised, not to say alarmed, to find, curled up on her bed and eyeing me coldly, a huge, beautifully-marked boa-constrictor. She assured me that he was perfectly harmless, and, since he never moved, I soon forgot him as we talked.

     We had chatted on for over two hours, smoking and having tea, when suddenly I felt a slight pressure on my shoulder, and turning my head I looked into the tiny, bright and round eyes of the snake. He had slid out of his first two or three coils silently and held his head erect like an “S” over my shoulder.

     I was frightened, but Mara only laughed.

     “It’s all right,” she said. “He likes you. It’s rather unusual. Don’t do anything. Just pretend he is not there. He wants to be friendly, that’s all.”

     Well, I had had no experience with snakes nor could I say that it was to my liking, but I held my ground and continued to talk, although rather uneasily. The snake did not move from its place at my shoulder for at least half an hour. Then I suddenly felt him ooze round my body, and his smallish hard cold head came into my lap. Again Mara cautioned me not to pay any attention to him, but she seemed surprised that he was making such a demonstration.

     I asked her how it was that she had such a pet, and she told me that he was better than a watchdog, and that she really was as fond of Kaa as one could be of a fine dog. She started to tell me a third reason, but stopped a little embarrassed, and changed the subject.

     I pressed her, and at last she said:

     “Well, I keep him also for a bed-fellow. But I supposed you would not know about that.”

     “About what?”

     And then I learned an extraordinary thing. It seems that Mara never went to bed but that Kaa wrapped himself around her body, very gently, and she spent the entire night in his embrace. I was skeptical, but eventually I learned better.

     I became intimate friends with the Princess Davi, and eventually I brought her to my own home to live, for I had a very large house and plenty of room. With her, too, came Kaa, and it was not long before I was as fond of him as she was.

     One night I had an adventure.

     I had retired early, for me, and had turned out the light to sleep, when I became conscious of a pressure on the bed. At first I was frightened, when I snapped the light on, for there was Kaa’s head and about a yard of his body on the foot of my bed. But he came on towards me so gently and slowly that I kept my self-control. On he came, foot after foot of him. When he reached me he encircled me, and his head went under the bedclothes. I could feel him, cold and stone-like, crawling down, and I could feel the weight of his 60 pounds of muscle moving over the bed.

     Suddenly all fear left. I was curious. Kaa stopped exploring and came up again. He rubbed close to my body. He gave me a strange, tickling sensation that was, I confess, very enjoyable. Slowly his head moved around my body, slowly, inch by inch, he coiled about me. If I had wanted to now, I could not have moved out of his embrace. He was cool. I could feel the vast power of him. I have never felt so helpless nor so over-powered in my life, and yet there was almost no pressure, no force that one could feel. In a few minutes he was completely coiled about me, his head resting over my shoulder. And… astonishing as it may seem, I was not afraid. It was like being in the strong embrace of a man. I was more than comfortable.

     Then there was a knock on my door. I looked up, and there through the open portal I saw Mara Davi in her dressing robe, smiling at me. She said:

     “He slipped out and I missed him. So I naturally came here. I knew he liked you. Are you afraid?”

     I admitted I was not, but was rather glad when she said something to him in Hindu and he began slowly to slip out of his coils and ooze away from my body. She spoke again, and he slowly curled up at the foot of the bed. We talked again for some time, and Mara Davi returned to her room, leaving the snake behind with me.

     “He’s comfortable,” she said, “and he won’t do you any harm. Better leave him there.”

     So I spent the night with a snake.

     But that is not all the story. I slept until fairly late next morning. Kaa had not moved. His eyes were open and his head was pointed, but otherwise he was motionless. I dressed, and he watched me. When my maid came in with breakfast, she nearly fainted. I forgot to mention that none of my servants would go near Mara’s room until she had locked the snake in his big basket.

     Before I went downstairs, I thought I would do what I had seen Princess Davi do… coil him around me and walk about with him. I lifted his head and heavy coil, and quite as if he were trained by me he slipped around my waist.

     In a minute he was all about me, heavily and strongly. I carried his head and about a yard of his fold over my arm and went to Mara’s room to return her pet…