It was during the time I was in Dilmun that I first made the acquaintance of the akana, of which there are many species on the islands from Dilmun to beyond. They are called hooded snakes, not because they have a head covering, but on account of the manner in which they flatten out their necks and stand upright when angry or alarmed. Akana hunting is very dangerous work, for some species are able to eject their poison into your eyes, and so blind you for a time, and perhaps permanently. One of the first that I caught satisfied me of his danger by landing some drops on my cheek. After this experience it remained for me to find some way of protecting my sight; or else leave akanas alone for the future. Accordingly, as a shield for my eyes I took a sheet of common glass, a hand by half a hand, an made a shield for my eyes cutting in a notch for my nose, besides fastening on wires to the ends of it, so as to hook behind my ears and keep it in place when next I went akana hunting.
One morning around 10 I prepared to give the new invention a trial. The sun was blazing vigorously and the wind was blowing hot as from the mouth of an oven, drying up every trace of moisture, until ones eyelids felt parched and irritable. Even the leaves of the trees began to droop, and the birds were silent and hidden away in the shadiest retreats. This was the day for the snakes, for it is at such times that you find them wandering about in search of water or lying coiled on the sides of rocky ravines.
Just as I had pocked my new invention, taken my hat long snake hunting stick, and was stepping from the door, two men ran up and halted, panting, before me , blurting out excitedly; ‘spitting snake sir, spitting snake! Come we’ll show you’. Off we set together at a trot, and in half and hour, streaming with perspiration, arrived on the sun-dried hillside, where there was a crudely thatched hut out side of which sat two worried anxious looking women and a child. This indicated that the cause of the anxiety was within; I put on my eye glasses, and leaving the crowd behind I went cautiously over to look at the new doorway. As I entered there was I was presented immediately with a hooded akana some 4 to 5 hands long. Drawing back with a start, I at the same time reached my stick towards him to draw his attention to it rather than myself. Had I not done so quickly he would almost certainly have struck me, for he flew at the stick, leaving the poison from his fangs trickling over it to the ground.
It was necessary to attract him from the house as a second one might be inside and attack me from the rear if I entered to capture his fellow. Standing without at a safe distance, a little teasing with the long stick kept him busy and as after each dash he would advance a little, the keeping of this manoeuvre for a few minutes soon had him outside in the sunlight. The lower part of the stick was now wet with venom for fully a hand. Rage and proud defiance kept him there standing upright at bay, while I moved a couple of paces back to admire his attitude. For some moments I stayed perfectly still to see if he would try to glide away. But, no; they he remained reared erect standing as steady as if he was a carving of black and white marble, and not a vigorous and active death dealing akana.
Then I heard; ‘take care sir there’s another one behind you’. As I heard this, I knew better than to start. I stood still, turning my head as slowly as it is possible to do, in order that I might see the one behind without alarming either of them. There he was, true enough, about 4 paces away. He was not at all excited; on the contrary, he showed every sign of being unconscious of my presence, for his neck was not flattened out and he was crawling slowly, prone to the ground, right towards me. Without moving a muscle, I stayed exactly as I was, half turning towards him and on he came as calmly as if I were and old tree stump. I knew there was nothing to fear as long as I remained motionless, even though he should pass between my legs. I bent down my head very slightly and very quietly to watch him. As he progressed the black forked tongue was shooting out busily, feeling everything in his way.
At last its hair like points touched my boot, and as they did he raised his head and passed over my instep, going on with the same slowness to his partner on the other side of me, who was remaining there still, and standing up, waiting for battle. The latter seeing that I remained so quiet, ether forgetting that I was any longer an object of fear or perhaps having his attention distracted by his companion’s approach, quietly lowered himself to the ground, where he lay flat, but with his hood extended. The new-comer also as he approached him spread his hood but did not rise, and instead of going up nudged the other in the side. At this the first raised himself proudly erect and followed by the other and for a few second both snakes stood upright staring at each other, while there hissing was plainly audible. It was a dramatic picture and at first it seemed it would end the battle; but after this exchange of compliments both akanas dropped flat to the ground and commenced to glide off in opposite directions. One was returning towards the house, I rushed towards him and getting the stick across his neck I pressed him to the ground to stop him biting. I grasped him close behind the jaws and quickly and safely with my hand, and placed him immediately tail first into my bag. I tied up the bag and grabbing my stick went in search of the other who had disappeared into a hole in the hillside.
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