118 IN THE AMERICAN DESERT
from the tone of her voice they knew quite well that an enemy must be at hand.
At first nothing was to be seen that would explain the bird's alarm, but on glancing from the trees to the ground, they saw a thin yellow body moving noiselessly through the grass. Every now and then it stopped, raised its head, and touched the dry leaves with its tongue, and in so doing it stretched itself out, showing its full length, which was over six feet. At the end of its tail was a loose row of horny substances, which made a horrid sound when shaken, and gave the creature its name of ' rattle-snake.'
Now, of course, no snake in the world could catch a bird if the bird chose to fly away, and the rattle-snake least of all, as it cannot climb trees. But snakes, as everybody knows, have a deadly power of fascination, and the people who were looking on were anxious to see whether the blue-jay would be able to resist the charm, or whether she would fall a victim to his spell.
By this time the snake had reached the foot of a big magnolia, and after sniffing all round the tree, coiled itself up in a great yellow heap, close to the stem, paying no heed to the foolish blue-jay, who had done her best to bring about her own death by the silly noise she was making. However, seeing at last that the snake was paying no attention to her, but only getting ready for a nap, the bird plucked up courage, and flew away to its nest.
A moment after, the rattle-snake made a slight movement, which proved he was not asleep after all. What was he waiting for ? A squirrel most likely, for squirrels are the dinner which rattle-snakes like the best. Yes, sure enough, high up in the tree there was a hole, and along the grass was a tiny trail leading straight to the magnolia, and from certain marks on the bark, it was quite plain that the squirrels came and went that way. Now it was close to this trail that the snake had taken up his station.