In "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi," what happens when Rikki first meets the snake?

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On his second day at the bungalow, Rikki goes out to the garden to explore. Almost immediately he comes upon the tailorbirds, who are mourning the loss of a fledgling who fell from the nest and was eaten by Nag. Just as Rikki is inquiring who Nag is, the big black cobra appears. Nag introduces himself grandiosely, but he is afraid of Rikki. Rikki ignores the snake's pomp and confronts him about the morality of eating innocent fledglings. Nag sees a movement in the grass behind Rikki and hopes to put an end to the mongoose right then. He tries to distract Rikki with a philosophical discussion to allow Nagaina, his wicked wife, to strike him from behind.

However, Darzee, the tailorbird, warns Rikki to look behind him. Wisely, Rikki heeds the warning by instantly jumping as high as he can without taking time to turn around to look. Nagaina's head whizzes under him, and when Rikki comes down, he is in the perfect position to end her life with one well-placed and prolonged bite. However, as an inexperienced young mongoose, he is too afraid, and although he bites her hard, he does not debilitate her. He then jumps clear. This encounter sets up the conflict between Rikki and the two cobras, showing the high stakes of the struggle for both parties. It will be a fight to the death.

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