124 IN THE AMERICAN DESERT
evidently in a very bad temper, she took her whole cargo off into the wood.
The birds now changed their note, and after singing a short song of victory, became quite still. Suddenly the fluttering and chattering began afresh, and through the grass came gliding a huge moccason snake. If the birds had only known, they and their nest were safe enough, for the moccason cannot climb trees, but it has other ways of getting at its prey.
The nearer the snake came the greater grew the noise of the orioles, though every circle that they made brought them lower and lower, and closer to the snake. The moccason watching steadily, saw that the spell of his fascination had almost worked, for the birds sometimes actually touched the ground in their flutterings, while their wings moved more and more slowly. At length one stood quite still with his mouth open; but instead of seizing his prey, the moccason suddenly uncoiled himself and took flight the way he had come, while the birds, who had so narrowly escaped death, flew into the tree.
The reason of the snake's strange conduct was the sudden appearance of a peccary or wild hog on the outskirts of the wood, a creature about as large as a wolf, with bristles in place of hair, and sharp tusks sticking out of its mouth. It was closely followed by two young ones who, instead of being dark grey, were a kind of red.
The peccary had not seen the snake, and was not thinking about it, till suddenly she stepped by accident across its trail. The smell of the moccason was quite unmistakable, and she ran about with her nose on the ground, sniffing the scent. At first she made one or two false starts, for, of course, the snake had left a double track; but having settled on the right one, she started off at full speed.
Meanwhile the snake was hastening as quickly as its