On a very hot day, the narrator in his pajamas, headed towards his water trough to drink some cool and refreshing water, in order to beat the heat. Little did he know that a wild snake from the neighboring jungle had crawled towards the water-trough too. The two are about to encounter each other in a subtle way. In the deep strange-scented shade of the great dark carob-trees, the narrator came down the steps with his pitcher. He suddenly saw the snake, stopped and waited, for there the snake was at the trough before him. The snake reached down from a fissure: a narrow opening, cleft or crevice; a splitting apart or break; cleavage; to crack, split or cleave; in the earth wall in the gloom; a dark place: and trailed its yellow brown slackness soft-bellied down, over the edge of the store trough and it rested its throat upon the stone bottom. The water had dripped from the tap in a small clearness. The snake sipped with its clear mouth and softly drank through its straight gums into his slack long body, very silently. Someone was before the narrator at his water trough and he is waiting like a second comer.
The snake lifted its head from its drinking and starred at the narrator very vaguely, in some manner as the cattle do. It flickered its two forked tongue from its lips and mused a moment, and stooped and drank a little more. Its appearance is earth brown, earth golden from the burning bowels of the earth on the day of Sicilian July, with Etna smoking: a very active volcano in Sicily, Italy. The voice of the narrator’s education said to him that the snake must be killed: for in Sicily, the black snakes are considered to be innocent while the golden colored are considered to be venomous. The inner voice instigated him by reminding him that if he were a man, he would take a stick and break it now to finish the snake off. However, the narrator must confess how he liked the snake. How he was glad that it had come like a guest in quiet, to drink at his water-trough. The snake then departed peacefully, pacified: peaceful and thankless, while he returned into the burning bowels of this earth. Was it cowardice that the narrator dared not kill the snake? Was it perversity that he longed to talk to it? Was it humility to feel so honored? Yet the narrator felt so honored. Those voices that spoke to him saying that if he was not afraid, he would kill it, and truly he was afraid and was most afraid. But even so, honored still more that the snake should seek his hospitality from out of the dark door of the secret earth.
The snake drank enough and lifted its head dreamily as one who is intoxicated and drunk, while flickering his tongue like a forked night on the air so black. It seemed to lick its lips and looked around like a god, unseeing, into the air, and very slowly turning its head as if thrice a dream proceeded to draw its slow length curving round and climb again the broken bank of its wall face. As the snake put its head into that dreadful hole and as it slowly drew up, snake easing its shoulders and entered farther, a sort of horror and protest against its withdrawing into that horrid black hole. It deliberately entered into the blackness and slowly drew itself after, overcoming the narrator, now that its back was turned. The narrator looked round, put his pitcher down, picked up a clumsy log and threw it at the water trough with a clatter. But it did not hit the snake.
But suddenly that part of the snake that was left behind convulsed: to affect with violent movements; agitate violently: in an undignified haste. He writhed: twist or distort the body: like lightning, and was gone into the black hole. The earth lipped fissure in the wall, in the front at which, in the intense still noon, the narrator starred with fascination. Immediately, the narrator regretted it. He thought how paltry: Neither having little or no worth nor value: how vulgar and quite a mean art. He despised himself and the voices of his accursed human education. So he thought of albatross: a large web-footed sea-bird with long narrow wings and a hooked beak: and wished for the snake to come back. For the snake seemed to the narrator again like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld but now due to be crowned again. So he missed his chance with one of the lords of life and he has something to expiate: to atone for: a pettiness.