The earth shook every few moments—each time I expected to be precipitated from the ledge.
It was too steep to climb straight up, so I commenced to crawl towards the hole in a zig-zag manner.
I had gained a ledge about three feet from it when the creature, who, I thought, had been paying no attention to my movements, gave a shrill cry, and sprang at me.
The onset was so sudden that I nearly lost my foot-hold.
With an effort I recovered myself, and, catching the creature by its short throat, tried to choke it.
Lucky for me, I had chosen weak, small ones for my servants, for, had it been a large male, I should not have had a chance.
As it was, each moment I thought he would get the better of me.
As we were struggling on the ledge, I tried to think of a reason for his sudden attack, but could not.
With a mighty effort he loosened my hold on his throat; as he did so his foot slipped, and he fell into the burning lava, leaving a lock of his long, bluish-white hair in my hand.
Looking down, I saw the snake on a ledge of rock, trying to escape from the heat.
This was the reason of his wish to kill me.