Read CHAPTER V - CLUTCHED BY A HORROR OF THE DEEP of The Boy With the U. S. Fisheries , free online book, by Francis Rolt-Wheeler, on ReadCentral.com.

In order that the valuable specimen of the oarfish might be properly preserved, for the creature was so soft-fleshed that it would quickly shrivel in the hot sun, the professor accompanied Colin to Astoria the following morning, and shortly after they landed, the city was buzzing with news of the wonderful find. Before the boy left for Santa Catalina that evening he found his name in all the afternoon papers as being one of the men who had “caught the sea-serpent.” As this was the first specimen in perfect preservation that had reached any city of the United States and, indeed, only the sixth ever reported from American shores, a great deal of interest was excited, and Colin was compelled to give an interview to a reporter, telling the story of the capture. He was sorry that his brother to whom he had sent the blue fox was not with the rest of the family in Santa Catalina, so that he could tell him all about it, but the younger lad was at a boys’ camp.

Making a stay of only a couple of hours in Los Angeles, the boy went from there straight to San Pedro, where he took the steamer for Avalon, the only large town on Santa Catalina, and the most famous place in the entire world for taking big game fish with rod and reel.

The passage was only of two hours’ duration, and the weather ideal. The water of the channel was like a mirror, but the daily breeze sprang up at eleven o’clock, its accustomed hour.

Although no more attentive to scenery than most boys of his age, Colin fairly cried aloud with admiration as the steamer rounded the point and turned into Avalon Bay. Almost a perfect semicircle, the beach of glistening white sand enclosed a basin of turquoise sea in which were reflected the dark, rich tones of the cliffs, all glowing like an opal beneath the sun, while above rose the hills covered with the wild lilac and greasewood of California. Even the tame sea-lions which frequent the harbor and follow incoming boats, and which frequently are to be seen hauled up on small fishing-craft, seemed to fit wonderfully into the scene. A passenger who heard the boy’s exclamation of delight, turned to him.

“That’s the way I feel about it,” he said. “I think it more beautiful every time I come.”

“It makes me think of an abalone shell,” Colin remarked thoughtfully, “before the outside is polished; the bay looks just like the glow of the shell inside and the sand-hills resemble the rough outside of the shell, with barnacles growing on it.”

“Perhaps that is why it is called Avalon?” his companion said; “abalone, Avalon it’s not improbable, though I never heard such a derivation before; the Vale of Avalon in Pennsylvania is supposed to have been the prime factor in giving the name. But it’s a wonderful place in itself, and besides, there’s not one of those hundreds of boats moored in the harbor but could tell some thrilling tale of big game at sea. Look,” he continued, as the steamer drew near to the entrance of the harbor, “there’s a chap who’s hooked to something big. By the way he’s playing the fish it’s probably a leaping tuna. Wait a minute and I’ll tell you.”

He unslung his fieldglasses and focused them on the boat.

“Yes, he’s got a tuna,” he continued, “for the flag is flying.”

The news spread rapidly over the boat, for almost every one on board was going to Avalon for the angling, and the capture of a large tuna is an event. The glasses were handed from person to person, and presently were passed to Colin, who noted with eager interest the little motor-boat and the big flag. Then he turned the glass on the people in the boat, and flashed out excitedly:

“Why, that’s Father!”

“He’s in luck, then,” said the boy’s companion. “I hope I get a chance this season. Still, it’s a good omen, seeing a catch like this when coming into the harbor.”

“Sure thing,” said Colin confidently, “there are probably lots of them this season. Do you suppose Father will land him?”

“About nine out of ten get away,” was the reply, “and it takes a good fisherman to bring them to the gaff. Has your father been here before? Perhaps I may know him.”

“He comes nearly every year,” Colin answered. “Dare is his name, Major Dare.”

“Oh, you’re Dare’s son, are you?” was the response, as the older man held out his hand. “I’ve known your father for years. He holds a blue tuna button, doesn’t he?”

“I’ve never heard of it, if he does,” Colin answered. “What’s that for?”

“It is the greatest fishing honor that is to be got anywhere. Only about seventy members of the club have gained it; two, I believe, being women, and the second largest tuna ever caught on rod and line was brought to gaff by a woman angler. It is given for catching a tuna weighing over one hundred pounds, on a light rod.”

“That must be fearfully hard to do,” the boy said; “even a twenty-pound fish is a strain to a light rod.”

“It is difficult,” was the reply, “but the club rules require the use of a rod the tip of which shall be not less than five feet long, weighing not over sixteen ounces in weight, and a line not over a ‘twenty-four’ or smaller than the usual trout-line. With this equipment, to conquer a tuna weighing over one hundred pounds is an angling achievement of the highest rank, and for this the blue tuna button is given by the club.”

“And Father never told me!” Colin said reproachfully, watching the contest with the fish as well as he could considering his distance from the scene of action.

“Major Dare is a thorough sportsman,” the angler said, “and I suppose he thought it would look like boasting. What’s happening there in the boat?”

“It looks as though they had started out to sea,” Colin answered, handing back the glass.

“That’s what’s the matter!” the angler said. “By Jonah’s whale, how she is flying through the water!”

The two watched the boat until a turn of the cliff hid it from sight and then, Colin, turning round, saw that the steamer was nearly at the pier, close enough for him to distinguish his mother and sister waiting there and waving to attract his attention. He signaled enthusiastically in reply, and in a few minutes the steamer was alongside the wharf.

The greeting was most exciting, for the boy was simply bursting with news, and there had been a good deal of anxiety felt by his parents on his behalf while he had been wandering in the Behring Sea. But their talk was broken in upon by an enthusiastic angler friend, who begged Mrs. Dare to come to the extreme end of the pier and watch the battle with the big tuna.

“Oh, Mother,” eagerly said the boy, “do you mind if I jump in a boat so that I can go out and watch Father better? I’m sure he wouldn’t object.”

“I think I would like to have you with me for a little while, Colin,” his mother said with a gentle smile, “after you have been away so long. But you are just the same, after all, eager to do everything immediately. I know you would be happier in going, so you can desert us if you like.”

“I don’t mean that, Mother!” said the boy, feeling a twinge of self-reproach.

“No, I know. But you can tell us all the rest of your adventures when you get back. Lucy quite thinks that you have become a sort of ’Robinson Crusoe.’”

Colin gave his little sister of whom he was very fond an unobserved hug, and then fairly sped down to the end of the pier and called a boatman to take him off. The boatman, who was a native of the place, and to whom everything connected with angling was an old story, laughed at the boy’s excitement.

“Goin’ to catch a tuna with your hands, sir?” he asked, seeing that the boy was not carrying any fishing-tackle.

“No,” the boy answered, “but I just came in on the steamer and, as we passed the point, saw Father’s boat, and he seemed to have something big on the line, so I want to go out and see the fun.”

“I heard Major Dare had a tuna this mornin’,” the boatman said, casting off and starting the little engine, “although there haven’t many of ’em showed up yet this season. Are you his son?”

“Yes,” Colin answered, “I’m the oldest.”

“I hope you’re goin’ to take after him, then,” the boatman said approvingly; “he’s a fine angler. Looks like the tuna was comin’ in,” he continued a moment later, as the boat with the flag flying came speeding into the harbor. But the fish was darting from side to side in short rushes, and it was evident that he was tiring.

“Hullo, Father,” called the boy, as they came within hearing; “are you going to land him?”

“Is that you, Colin?” his father answered, without taking his eyes from his line, however. “Glad to have you back. Yes,” he continued, answering the boy’s question, “I think I’ll land him all right, but I’m pretty well tuckered out, I hooked him over three hours ago.”

Even recalling what the angler aboard the steamer had told him about the sportsmanlike rules that obtain at Avalon, it seemed absurd to Colin for any one to try and catch so heavy a fish as the tuna seemed to be, with a rod and line that would be thought light for trout.

“How big do the fish run here?” he asked the boatman.

“’Bout a thousand pounds for the biggest game fishes, them’s black sea-bass,” the man answered; “leastways there was an eight-hundred pounder brought in, and lots of us have seen bigger ones.”

“But how can they catch fishes that size on a little bit of a spindling rod and a line so fine you can hardly see it?”

“They don’t,” was the reply, “not that big. The record black sea-bass, rod and reel, that has been caught here was four hundred and thirty-six pounds in the season of 1905. The biggest tuna they’re the hardest fighters of any fish that swims was two hundred and fifty-one pounds, caught in the season of 1900. I reckon Major Dare’s fast to one that’s just a good size for sport.”

“You’re getting him, Father!” cried Colin, who had been watching the contest with the fish, while listening to the boatman.

“He’s a fair size,” said the boatman critically, “but not one of the really big ones, probably only about eighty or ninety pounds.”

The fight came to a close sooner than Colin expected. Dexterously, Major Dare reeled in his line during a moment’s pause while the fish sulked, bringing him to the surface, and his boatman, quick as a flash of light, leaned over the side and slipped the long, slender hook, or gaff, into the gills. But the end was not yet, for the tuna, with a powerful shake of his head, nearly pulled the man overboard, shook out the gaff, and commenced another panic-stricken rush.

Colin’s father, however, with thumb on the brake of the reel, gave him absolutely no leeway, and the tuna was stopped within twenty feet, to be reeled in again. In the meantime, the gaffer had recovered his weapon, and as the big fish was brought to the side of the boat, he struck again, this time succeeding in holding against the rush of the fish, though he was pulled elbow-deep into the water. Then, standing on the gunwale, the gaffer lifted the head of the tuna and tilted the boat over as far as was safe, sliding in the fish as he did so, accompanied by the cheers of Colin. As soon as the tuna was fairly secure, a big square of canvas was thrown over it to keep it from pounding and threshing in the bottom of the boat.

“That was bully, Father!” said Colin, reaching out and shaking hands; “I’m glad I got here in time.”

His father looked at him with a twinkle in his eye.

“How the deuce did you know I was out here?” he asked; “I thought the steamer was only just about due.”

“I saw you as we came into the harbor,” Colin answered, “and I yelled loud enough to be heard ’way back in Los Angeles, but you didn’t pay any attention.”

“I thought I heard some one shouting a while back,” his father said, “but I was busy then and didn’t have time to see who it was.”

“How big is the tuna, do you think?”

“Not big enough to be listed. About eighty-five, I should say. What about it, Vincente?”

“Little more,” the boatman said; “I think perhaps ninety.”

“Nothing of a record, you see, Colin,” his father said, “just a good morning’s sport. But I want to hear all about your doings. It seems to me that you’re developing into quite a sensational person with your fights with whales, and your sea-serpents, and all the rest of it. You’ve been writing good letters, too, my boy. I’m glad to see that you make use of your eyes when you’re in strange places. Tell me how you got to Astoria, I didn’t quite follow that salmon business.”

Colin started his yarn, but was only fairly launched into it when they arrived at the wharf. There quite a crowd had gathered to welcome the incoming boat, for a big tuna catch always arouses interest in Avalon, and one of its features is the manner in which it is regarded as a personal triumph for the angler. The promenaders gather to see the prize weighed by the officials of the club, and it is rare that the customary photograph of fish, angler, and gaffer is omitted. As for Colin, he was as proud over the fish he had seen caught as though he had held the rod himself.

“I had thought of going to the other side of the island for black sea-bass to-morrow, Colin,” his father said, “and I purposed going with Colonel Roader. I suppose you would like to come instead, and from what I hear I think I’ll put off that trip and try tuna again to-morrow. You want to come along?”

“I certainly should, Father,” the boy said gratefully, “if it wouldn’t be spoiling your fun.”

“Not a bit, my boy,” was the kindly reply, “I’ve been looking forward to teaching you something about real fishing. Beside which, I have an idea that you and I will have enough to talk about to keep us going for a good while. I’d like to take you up to the club-house now, but you’ll probably want to get back home, and we’ll go along together. I can get the boatman to look after notification at the club, and all that sort of thing.”

“I’ll wait, if you like.”

“No; Vincente knows all the ropes as well as I do. I judge from your letters that you’ve enjoyed running around the way you have?”

“I wish you’d been along, Father,” the boy replied. “I’ve had a bully time. I never expected anything like it when I got aboard the Gull.”

“I didn’t either,” said Major Dare dryly; “if I had thought of the possibility of the ship being rammed by a whale, you’d never have put a foot on her deck. But Captain Murchison said that whales were entirely harmless, and so I let you go.”

“But, Father, you should have seen the way the old whale charged” and the lad plunged into the thick of the story. He was fairly out of breath when they reached the little cottage Major Dare had rented for a couple of months, but the boy was by no means out of material, and nothing short of an absolute command could keep him silent long enough to eat his lunch. In the afternoon he unpacked his trunk, revealing little quaint articles he had picked up on his travels as gifts for the various members of the family. But the excitement of home-coming had tired the boy, and quite early in the evening he found himself getting sleepy, so that not long after his little sister had been snugly tucked up, Colin announced his readiness to go to bed, on the ground that he was to get up early the next day, as he was going tuna-fishing.

The morning broke hot and hazy. The gray-green of the foliage on the mountains had a purple tinge in the early morning light, and the sea took on a mother-of-pearl gleam behind its amethyst, as it reflected the changing hues of the roseate sunrise. Over San Antonio and San Jacinto the sun rose gloriously, and in the freshness of the morning air the giant flying-fish of the Pacific leaped and gleamed across the mirror-smooth sea.

Colin drew a long breath and expanded his lungs to the full, as though he could breathe in the glow of color and the wonder of it all.

“It always feels good to be alive at this hour of the morning!” he said.

His father smiled appreciatively.

“You’re generally asleep,” he said. “But it’s a good thing we did get up in time to-day, for unless my eyes are failing me, I think I can see in the distance the tunas coming in. Say, Vincente, doesn’t that look like them over there?”

“Yes, sair, I t’ink dat’s a school. I overheard a man on ze pier telling of a beeg one he caught yesterday,” said the boatman.

“That was Mr. Retaner,” was the answer, “one of the most famous anglers and authorities on fishing in America. That’s why I came out this morning; he said he thought the school would arrive soon, and what Retaner doesn’t know about fishing isn’t worth knowing. He practically created deep-sea angling in America, so that as an industry it is worth millions of dollars annually to the country, and as a sport it has been put in the first rank.”

Across the sea of glass with its rose reflections of the sunrise and the deep underglow of richly-colored life beneath the transparent water, there came a quick shiver of ripples. Then half a mile away, but advancing rapidly, appeared a strange turmoil, and in the sunlight, a stretch of sea, acres in extent, was churned into white foam, looking like some fairy ice- or snow-field. Above this, at a height of about ten feet, glittered a palpitating silver canopy, almost blinding in its sparkle and its sheen.

“What is that?” asked Colin, wondering.

“The tuna feeding and coming down the coast,” was the reply.

As it drew nearer, Colin saw that the gleaming silver canopy was formed of thousands upon thousands of flying-fish, skimming through the air, dropping to the water every fifty yards or so, then, with a single twist of the screw-like tail, rising in the air for another soaring flight.

Below, from the surface of the water broken to foam by the tumult, would leap those tremendous jumpers of the sea, the tuna, plunging through the living cloud of flying-fish, and dropping to feed upon those which fell stunned under their impetuous charges. Occasionally, but very rarely, a tuna would seize its fish in midair, and it was marvelous to see a fish nearly as large as a man spring like a bolt from a cross-bow out of the sea, often until it was ten feet above the water, then turn and plunge back into the ocean.

“We’d better get out of here, I think,” Major Dare said to the boatman; “this is getting to be too much of a good thing.”

But, as he said the word, the school of flying-fish swerved right in the direction of the boat, and in a minute the anglers were surrounded. The silent, skimming flight of the long-finned flying-fish, the boiling of the sea, lashed to fury by the pursuing tuna, and these living projectiles, hurled as a silvered bolt into the air, frightened Colin not a little, although he was enjoying the experience thoroughly.

“Look out you don’t get struck by a flying-fish,” his father called to him, bending low in his seat. Colin, who had not thought of this possibility, followed suit rapidly, because the California flying-fish, unlike his Atlantic cousin, is a fish sometimes eighteen inches long, and he saw that if he were struck by one in the full speed of its skimming flight, he might easily be knocked overboard.

“Can’t they see where they are going?” asked the boy.

“They can see well enough,” his father answered, “but they have little or no control over their flight. They can’t change the direction in which they are going until they touch water again. That’s how the tuna catches them, it swims under in a straight line and grabs the fish as it comes down to get impetus for another flight.”

“But I thought flying-fish went ever so much higher than that!” said the boy. “I’m sure I’ve read of their landing on the decks of vessels!”

“They do,” was the answer; “they are attracted by the glare of the lights and fall on board. But that is generally on sailing vessels with a low freeboard. You don’t often hear of flying-fish falling on the deck of a modern liner, and in the few cases in which they have, it has been because they happened to come out of the water with a rush against a slant of wind which carried them up twenty or thirty feet. They go with an awful force, and I knew an angler once who was pitched head first overboard by a flying-fish, and was nearly drowned before his boatman could get him aboard. He had been struck square between the shoulders and the blow had stunned him for the moment.”

“Suppose a chap got hit by a tuna?” queried the boy.

“That’s less likely,” the father answered, “because, you see, the tuna comes nearly straight up and down; he leaps, he doesn’t skim.”

“Zere was one went t’rough a boat last season, Major Dare,” the boatman interjected. “It was late in ze year, after you had gone, I t’ink, sair.”

“Had it been hooked?” asked Colin.

“No, sair,” the boatman answered; “tuna don’t leap after zey are hooked. It was when zey were chasing a school, just like this.”

“You’re thinking of the tarpon, Colin,” his father said; “it leaps wildly after it has been hooked. The tuna, although a wonderful leaper, hardly ever rises from the water after it is fast to the line. But the tarpon is a vicious fighter. A couple of years ago a boat was found drifting in the Galveston fishing-ground off Texas, with a dead angler and a dead tarpon. The fish had been hooked and had tried to leap over the boat, striking the angler and breaking his neck, then had fallen into the boat itself and had not been able to get out.”

“There’s some excitement to fishing when it’s like that!” Colin commented.

“It’s as good as big-game hunting any day, I think,” his father answered; “and you don’t have to travel for weeks out of civilization to find it. Well, now, we’ll give you a chance to show how much of the angler you’ve got in you.”

He handed Colin a rod and the boy looked at it. It was nearly seven feet long, and the whole weight of it, except for the short butt which held the reel, was not more than sixteen ounces. The line was thin enough to be threaded through a big darning-needle, it was known as ‘21 thread’ as it had that number of strands, each strand being tested to a breaking strain of two pounds.

“Something will smash, sure,” said Colin, examining the outfit carefully; “that looks as though it wouldn’t hold a trout!”

“The rod is a split bamboo,” his father said, “and if the line breaks it will be because you’ve allowed the fish to jerk. Anybody can catch fish with a heavy line, but the fish hasn’t got any chance, and there’s no sport in it. It’s on a par with shooting quail sitting instead of flushing them. Good angling consists in landing the heaviest fish with the lightest tackle, not in securing the greatest amount of fish. Why, here in Avalon, there isn’t a single boatman who would allow his boat to be used by a ‘fish-hog’ who wanted to use heavy tackle.”

He had hardly finished speaking when there came a quiver on the line, and excitedly Colin jerked up his rod.

“Don’t strike with a jerk!” his father cried, but Colin was in fortune, and the line did not break. The reel screamed “z-z-z-ee” with the speed of its revolutions as the tuna sped to the bottom, and the older angler, leaning forward, wetted thoroughly the leather brake that the boy was holding down with his right thumb.

“Easy on the brake,” came the warning; “don’t put too much strain on the line or she’ll snap!”

But Colin had the makings of an angler in him and he was able instinctively to judge the amount of pressure that was needed. The tuna, followed by a sheet of spume-blue water churned by the rapidly-towed line, plunged on and on, until two hundred and fifty feet of line had been run out. Then, from the ice-cold bottom, rising as a meteor darts across the sky, the great fish clove the water to the surface.

“What will I do when he leaps?” asked Colin breathlessly, reeling for dear life as soon as he felt the upward dash of the tuna.

“He won’t leap after he’s hooked,” his father said; “they very seldom do. I told you that before. It’s the tarpon that plunges and leaps after being hooked.”

The tuna reached the surface with a speed that seemed incredible to the boy, and though he had been reeling as rapidly as he could make his fingers fly, even the big multiplier on the reel had failed to bring in all the slack. The tuna, panic-stricken by the strange line that hissed behind him and which he could neither outrace nor shake off, tried to charge the loops of twine that the reel had not yet been able to bring in. The sea fairly seemed to boil as the fin of the tuna cut through the water at the surface.

“Look out now, Colin,” the boy’s father called. “He’ll see the boat in a minute!”

He did. On the instant he saw the launch and the three men in it, and in the very midst of his charge, the body bent and shot into the depths again.

“Watch out for the jerk!” the older angler cried, and as the fish reached the end of the slack line there was a sudden tug which Colin felt sure meant a lost fish. But his father’s warning had come in time, and by releasing the thumb-brake entirely when the tug came, the reel was free, and it rattled out another fifty feet, the boy gradually beginning to apply the pressure again and to feel the tuna at the end of the line.

One hundred, two hundred, three hundred feet of line reeled out at this second great rush, and the older man began to look grave as the big reel grew empty.

“Ought I to try and stop him with the brake, Father?” asked the boy.

“Better not try too hard,” came the cautious answer, “the weight of the line that is out is a heavy pull on him. Unless he’s a monster he’ll have to stop soon.”

Fifty feet more of line ran out before the rush stopped, and then a change of action at the other end of the line telegraphed the message to the boy’s fingers that the tuna, for the first time in its life, had felt fatigue. From over four hundred feet away Colin felt the call and realized that now he might expect a victory if only he could keep up the fight to the end and never make a slip. One error, he knew, would be fatal; one jerk, and the line would snap, one strain too great, and the strands would give way.

He began to reel in. His back ached and his fingers became cramped, but still he reeled, every fifty feet or so having to let the line run out as the tuna made a rush, so that a quarter of an hour’s careful bringing in would be spoiled in thirty seconds. In forty minutes of heartbreaking strain, the boy had gained not more than forty feet of line, but he was game and stuck to it manfully. Reeling in carefully, the fish either sulking or resting, in the next few minutes he won his greatest gain and pulled in until there was not more than one hundred feet of line out. His heart was beating high with hope, when the tuna sighted the boat again and darted away, apparently as fresh and full of fight as when he had at first been hooked.

At this last rush, when it appeared that there was no immediate slackening of the powers of the splendid fish, Major Dare said:

“Do you want me to finish him for you?”

In his inmost heart Colin feared that he would have to give up, but he did not want to admit it. He was utterly inexperienced in the sport and knew nothing of the many ways whereby older anglers relieve themselves of much of the strain, but the boy’s nerve was untouched, and he set his teeth and answered:

“I want to bring him in all by myself, if I can, Father. I’m not done yet, not by a long shot. But if you think I ought to let you finish it, why, I suppose I’ll have to.”

“No, I want to see you bring him in,” his father said; “only don’t kill yourself at it. It’s just as well not to overstrain yourself; it’s easy to have too much energy without judgment.”

The boy’s grit was soon rewarded, for after this rush, the tuna changed his tactics, and sinking down to about thirty feet from the surface, began a steady powerful swim, not a rush, but a straightaway, having about two hundred feet of line out. To the boy’s surprise the boat began to slip along at a fair rate of speed, and he saw that miracle of angling, a hundred-pound fish, frightened and angry, towing a heavy boat with three people in it at a rate of five miles an hour by a line no thicker than a hairpin. With constant watchfulness and deft management, the boy was able to gain a few inches at a time. But a few inches make but little difference when there is two hundred feet of line out!

For over twenty minutes the tuna towed the boat, and then his mood changed. Though not by any means exhausted, the first undaunted freshness had worn off and, sulky and savage, the fish charged back at the line again, that strange white thing in the water that he could not shake off and that followed him no matter where he went. But in charging back at the line, as before, he found the boat at the other end of it. The return charge had been slower than before, and the big multiplier on the reel had done its work, so that when the tuna came near the boat not more than seventy feet of line was out, and the boy determined to hold on to this.

Reaching the surface of the water, the tuna turned. But this time there was no slack and the fish could not begin a rush. He would not plunge in the direction of his captor, and Colin kept a steady strain upon the line, forcing the tuna to swim round and round the boat. This was fatal to the fish, for Colin was able to keep a sidewise drag upon the line, giving the tiring creature no chance to turn its head and dash away.

“You’re playing very well!” the boy’s father approvingly said, as he saw how, unconsciously, the lad was adopting tricks of angling some experienced fishermen never really learn.

Colin flushed at the praise, and kept closer watch of the constant strain on his line. The boatman, seizing every opportunity, ever and again thrust the boat forward, giving the lad a chance to take in more slack, so that the tuna swam in ever lessening circles. Suddenly he made a sharp flurry and tried to dive. But the line was tight and the brake held him closely, the lifting action curving the giant body in spite of itself and preventing the dive.

The attempt had cost the fish full thirty feet of liberty, and the boat was very near. With a little pumping that is, raising the rod slowly, then dropping the point quickly and reeling in the foot or so gained, the boy’s father showing him how this should be done Colin brought the fish still nearer. Once more the tuna came up to the surface with a rush in order to get slack enough for a plunge. This might mean that the whole performance would have to be done over again, but again the fish was checked, Colin having the line reeled up almost to the wire leader, and with a quickness that was wonderful in its accuracy, the boatman neatly dropped the gaff under the jaws of the tuna. There was a short, sharp flurry, but Vincente knew every trick of the game and speedily brought the gallant fish on board.

“Two hours an’ ten minutes, sair,” said the boatman. “An’ I t’ink, sair, zat it’s over a hundred.”

“You did splendidly, Colin,” began his father. “Why, what’s the matter?” he continued in alarm, as the boy sank back in his seat, looking pale and sick.

“I’m a bit done up, that’s all,” the boy answered, gasping. His hands were trembling so that he could not hold the rod, and his face was ashen.

“Buck fever, I suppose?”

“Yes, sair; he’s all right in a minute,” said the boatman. “It does zat every little sometimes, Major Dare. I’ve seen even ze old angler get very much tired out after ze strain.”

“It’s the reaction,” said Colin’s father, as he laved the boy’s forehead, and just as Vincente had said, in a moment or two the color came back into the lad’s cheeks and he straightened up.

“Silly to act like that,” he said. Then, seeing his father’s look of concern, he added, “I feel as though I’d like some grub.”

Kindly refraining from increasing the boy’s embarrassment by commenting on his exhaustion spell, the older man reached for the basket and handed out a package of sandwiches. Two hours of excitement and exertion in the hot sun, following a very early breakfast, had affected Colin sharply, but boy-like, he was always ready for eating.

“That was what I wanted,” he said, as a few bites disposed of the first sandwich and he took another.

The boatman nodded approvingly.

“He’s goin’ to be fine angler, all right,” he said. “Major Dare, if zat tuna’s over a hundred, ze boy ought to get ze button. Zat’s ze right rod an’ line an’ it was caught accordin’ to ze rules of ze club.”

“Could I really get a button?” asked Colin excitedly, the very thought driving away the last remnants of his attack of weakness. “Is it really a tuna? And is it over a hundred pounds?”

“It’s a tuna without question,” his father answered, “but I’m not so sure about the weight. If Vincente says it is, he’s likely to be right.”

“Near one hundred and ten, I t’ink,” the boatman answered, “an’ I’m sure over one hundred. ’Bout one hundred, six or seven, I should t’ink.”

“Do you want to put out the line again, Colin?” his father asked.

“Thank you, I’ve had enough for one day,” the boy replied. “Let’s see you get one, Father!”

It was a great delight to lie back on the seat with the consciousness of a great feat achieved, to watch the gulls and sea-birds overhead and the flying-fish skimming the rippling sea. Major Dare had excellent sport with a couple of yellowtail one of which was played fifty minutes and the other thirty-five but the honors of the day rested with Colin. It was nearly noon as the little launch came up to the pier, and the sun was burning hot, but there were a score of loungers on the beach to welcome them.

“Any luck, Vincente?” called a friendly boatman, as the little craft sped by.

“Good luck,” was the reply. “Boy got a hundred-pounder!”

“Did, eh?” exclaimed the other boatman, turning round to stare, and Colin felt that this really was fame. Word was sent to a member of the weighing committee of the club, and in his presence the fish was put on the scales. It proved not to be as large as Vincente had thought, being but one hundred and four pounds, but this was a clear margin over the hundred, and Colin was just as well pleased as if it had been a hundred and forty.

He was eager beyond words to know what would be the verdict of the club, but as the catch had been officially registered, was thoroughly within the rules, and Major Dare was a valued member of the club, it was unanimously agreed that a blue button should be awarded to Colin. He was accordingly elected to junior membership and so received it. The next two weeks passed all too quickly for the boy, for he got the fishing fever in his veins, and if he had not been held in check, he would have stayed on the water night and day. He made a very creditable record, getting a thirty-pound yellow-tail and several good-sized white sea-bass and bonito. But he never even got a bite from one of the big black sea-bass, though his father made a splendid four-hour fight, landing a two-hundred-pounder. The lad’s tuna of a hundred and four pounds, also, was far outdone by one his father caught ten days later, which scaled exactly one hundred and seventy pounds.

Three times, in the next two weeks, Colin found himself again fast to a tuna, but was unable to land any of the three. His first he lost by jerking too quickly at the strike. The second walked away with his entire six hundred feet of line at the first rush, and probably was a fish beyond the rod and reel capacity, and the third broke the line suddenly in some unexplained way, possibly, the boatman said, because the tuna had been seized by a shark when down in thirty fathoms of water.

“Does the tuna live on flying-fish only, Vincente?” asked Colin of the boatman, a couple of days before he was going to leave.

“Mos’ly zey do, sair, I t’ink,” was the reply, “zat is, when zey can get dem. But zey’ll eat nearly any fish an’ zey are quite fon’ o’ squid. Some fishermen use squid for tuna bait, but I don’t t’ink much of ze idea.”

“Let’s see,” said the boy thoughtfully, “a squid is something like an octopus, isn’t it?”

“Well, no, sair, not exac’ly,” the boatman answered. “Bot’ of zem have arms wavin’ around, but zey look quite diff’rent, I t’ink. An’ a squid has ten arms, but an octopus has jus’ eight.”

“Eight’s enough, it seems to me,” said Colin. “And are there many of them here? I suppose there must be if they use them for bait.”

“Yes, sair, zere is plenty of zem hidin’ in ze kelp and ozzer seaweed.”

“But how do you catch them?” asked the boy. “Isn’t it dangerous?”

“Not a bit, sair,” answered the boatman. “I t’ink a squid can’t do any harm. In Newfoun’land, so some one tell me, zey run as big as sixty and seventy feet, but in Santa Cat’lina, four or five feet from ze tail to ze end of ze arms is as long a one as I have seen, I t’ink.”

“I’d like to go catching squid, just to see how it’s done,” said the boy. “The squid I’ve seen on the Atlantic coast don’t often grow bigger than twelve inches.”

“Catch plenty of zem, any evening you say,” the boatman answered; “ze easiest way is to spear zem.”

“Bully!” the boy answered; “let’s go to-night! I’ll get leave, when I go back to lunch.”

When Colin proposed a squid-hunt, at first his mother objected, saying she was sure such ugly-looking creatures must be poisonous, but the father knew that this was not the case, and having every confidence in Vincente, who was his regular boatman, he gave the desired permission. Accordingly, after an early supper, Colin started out with Vincente to a section of the shore. The tall, sharp cliffs jutted straight out of the water, and far upon the crest were the characteristic flock of goats browsing along paths impassable to any other animal. Below the water lay the forest of giant kelp.

“We s’all find some squid ’round here,” the boatman said; “and sometimes zere are octopus, too, though ze mos’ of zem are on ze rocks a little furzer along.”

“We’d better get busy, I think,” said Colin, “it won’t be so very long before it begins to get dark.”

“We’ll see,” was the reply, and picking up his gaffing-hook, Vincente prodded here and there amid the kelp. “T’ought so,” he added a minute later, and pointed at the water.

“I don’t see anything,” said Colin, looking closely. “The water’s too muddy.”

“No mud,” said the boatman, “zat’s sepia ink ze squid has squirted so as to hide. Zey always do zat. Zere’s probably a lot of zem zere, for zey always keep togezzer.”

“Is that the real sepia ink, do you know, Vincente?” the boy asked.

“Ze squid, no; ze octopus, yes. Zere is two or t’ree people here zat catch ze octopus an’ sen’ ze ink bags to Frisco. See, zere’s squid!”

As his eyes became a little accustomed to the reflections in the weed, Colin was able to see ghostlike brown forms that seemed to slide rather than swim through the water.

“Do they swim backwards?” he asked in surprise.

“Always, I t’ink,” said the boatman. “Zey take in water at ze gills and zey shoot it out from a pipe near ze moût’, an’ zat way zey push zemselves along tail first. I’ll bring ze boat closer to ze shore for zey’ll back away from ze boat an’ get into shoal water where we can spear zem.”

Moving very slowly and beating the seaweed as they went, little by little the two drove the hosts of squid back through the kelp to a narrow bay, the water being turned to a muddy brownish-black by the discharge of the ink-bags. The squid were of fair size, ranging from one to four feet in length, of which the body was about one-third. Presently Vincente’s hand shot back a little and, with a quick throw, he cast the ‘grains,’ as the small-barbed harpoon was called, into the midst of them. Colin’s eyes were not quick enough to see the squid, but the boatman smiled.

“Got him zat time!” he said. “Pull him in.”

Without a moment’s hesitation Colin grasped the rope that was attached to the small harpoon.

“Don’t jerk,” the boatman warned him; “ze flesh isn’t very tough an’ unless you pull steady ze spear will draw right out.”

Suddenly Colin felt the rope tauten.

“What’s the matter?” he said. “I can’t move it.”

“Ze squid has got hold of ze bottom,” said the boatman with a laugh. “No, you can’t move him. Nozzing move a squid, after he’s got hold of somet’ing. He’ll hang on to ze bottom till ze end of ze world, an’ he’d let himself be cut to pieces before he’d let go his hold. Better jerk ze spear out!”

Colin gave a quick yank and the barbed harpoon came up with the blade as clean as though it had never been plunged into anything.

“Zere!” the boatman cried, as Colin stood holding the ‘grains,’ “one great big one right under you!”

Colin had no time for aim, but seeing a vague shadow below the boat, he allowed for the refraction of the water, and threw the small barbed spear with all his might. His cast was as clean as though he were experienced, and as he grasped the rope he cried to the boatman with a laugh:

“Beginner’s luck!”

“Don’t let him get to anyt’ing solid,” the boatman warned him. “Jus’ keep him from zat an’ you’re all right. Don’t play him like a fish. Jus’ pull him in.”

This was child’s play, for the squid’s queer method of going through the water offered no resistance and he was pulled up to the boat. But no sooner had the cephalopod come within reach than the tables were turned. With the speed of light the creature swung over, threw two of its arms under the boat; one clasped the gunwale and others fixed themselves on the boy’s bare arms, while two waved freely as though waiting a chance to twine around his neck and strangle him.

Colin yelled with fright. As the cold, clammy suckers crinkled themselves into his flesh, the skin all over his body seemed to creep in disgust. He had been bending over as he hauled up the rope and the squid’s tentacles around his arms held him poised half out of the boat, his head not more than a foot and a half from the surface of the water, looking straight into the hypnotic, black, unwinking eyes of the sea-monster.

The instinct of fright arose. Using all his strength, he raised his right arm and grasped the tentacle that had been wound around his left arm. To his surprise he found that a moderate amount of force only was needed to pull the grasp of the tentacle free, and he released himself from the creature almost without difficulty. Nor, except for a slightly reddened spot on his arms, was there any outward evidence of the encounter.

Vincente reached down for the cephalopod, allowing it to wrap some of the tentacles about him, then pried its grasp from the boat with the handle of the gaff. He made no attempt to free himself from the squid, but as he stood still for a minute or two, the creature voluntarily released its hold, falling to the bottom of the boat.

“Zey haven’t any strengt’ at all out of ze water,” the boatman said, “but while swimming zey have a good deal. See, ze whole body of zat squid isn’t more zan two feet long, an’ yet if he’d got a hold of you in ze water, specially with ze bigger suckers on ze t’ick part of ze arms, you might have had some trouble. Zose big fellows wit’ bodies twenty feet long an’ arms t’irty feet, mus’ be one horrible t’ing to meet on a dark night.”

“But would they attack you?”

“Never, I t’ink,” said the boatman. “Ze biggest of zem hasn’t a beak large enough to take in a herring.”

“Well,” Colin said, “I suppose that really wasn’t as exciting as it seemed, but I tell you, for a while, I felt as if I was having all the thrill I wanted.”

“You ought to try ze octopus, now,” said the boatman with a chuckle; “zat is, if you’ve had enough of ze squids. It’s early yet an’ we might go after some of zose octopuses zat hunt crabs.”

“I’m ready,” said Colin. “They won’t get me by surprise, like that squid did!”

The sun was near the horizon when Colin and the boatman landed on the rocky shore, and the sunset colors were gorgeous. But Colin did not want to run any chances of being caught napping, and he followed Vincente, watching every move. Presently the boatman stopped and pointed, like a dog flushing a covey of partridges.

About eight feet away was a crab of fair size, perhaps six inches across the shell. Half-way between where they stood and the crab, right on the edge of the water, was a small octopus with its large, glaring, green eyes fixed on the crab. This was at first the only sight Colin could get of the creature, but by looking into the water closely, he was able to make out the vague shape of the octopus. The cuttlefish had changed from its natural color to the exact hue of the sandy bottom on which it was crawling, and it was advancing so slowly that its progress could hardly be seen.

Suddenly, as a wave washed it within a few feet of the crab, two of the tentacles darted out so swiftly that Colin could scarcely follow the move until they were upon the crab, the rest of the body of the octopus flattening itself upon the sand as though to secure a greater purchase. The crab set both its claws into the soft flesh of the tentacles, whereupon, with a series of horrible convulsions, the cuttlefish lumbered entirely out of the sea and, with two or three repulsive and sinuous gyrations, it forced itself bodily over the crab. By this means the outstretched membranes at the base of the tentacles smothered the movements of the prey and prevented escape, while at the same time the mouth and biting beaks were brought into position where they could find a vital part.

“Do you want zat one as a specimen?” asked the boatman.

Colin was conscious inwardly that he would have preferred to have nothing at all to do with the repulsive object, but as he had come out in pursuit of an octopus, he would not, for the world, have shown the white feather before the boatman.

“Yes, unless we find a bigger,” he said, with an overdone assumption of ease.

“I t’ink, sair,” Vincente responded, “zat we’d better be satisfied wit’ zis one. Shall I take it or will you?”

There was just a hint of irony in the boatman’s tone, and remembering the timidity he had shown when clutched by the squid, Colin felt that this was the chance to redeem himself.

“I don’t mind taking it,” he said. “You say these things are quite harmless.”

“Quite, sair, I t’ink,” the boatman replied.

“All right,” was the boy’s rejoinder, and he walked forward boldly toward the octopus. The green eyes regarded him steadily, and just as the boy stooped to grasp the slimy body, it seemed to gather itself in a heap and started for the sea.

This was an unexpected move, but Colin, having stated that he wanted that octopus, did not propose to be cheated out of it. He was surprised that the cuttlefish could move so fast, and his repugnance gave way to excitement as he started running after the writhing eight-armed creature. He was just about to grab it when he tripped on a rock, covered with slippery seaweed, and fell headlong, the fall throwing him immediately upon the octopus. For a moment the boy was staggered, and he never knew whether he had grabbed the cephalopod or whether it had grasped him, all he knew was that he was lying on the ground with six of the eight arms of the octopus around him.

The boy was just in time to throw up his hands to protect his eyes, as a torrent of the inky fluid deluged him from head to foot. He struggled to get up, but the two tentacles of the cuttlefish held fast to adjacent rocks, and Colin might have found difficulty in freeing himself, owing to the awkward attitude in which he had been caught, but for Vincente, who wrenched the tentacles away from their hold.

“Are you all right, sair?” the boatman asked.

“All right,” said Colin stoutly, as he got up.

Seldom had he been such a sight! He was black from head to foot with the sepia fluid, his clothes were torn where he had fallen on the rocks, and he was smothered in the nauseous embrace of the uncanny and diabolical eight-armed creature clinging to his shoulder. Once, on the way to the boat, the cuttlefish seemed ready to drop off, but, at Vincente’s warning, Colin made believe to force apart the other tentacles, and the octopus renewed its hold. As soon as they reached the boat and the boy stood still a moment, the cuttlefish let go, and fell to the bottom of the boat.

Colin looked down at himself and laughed, then jumped overboard in all his clothes, threshing around in the water to remove as much of the sepia as he could, clambering in when he had washed off the worst of it.

Vincente looked at him.

“I t’ink, sair,” he said, smiling, “you ought to be photograph’ wit’ ze catch!”