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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.