He shipped his oars and brought a small line from under the bow. It had a
wire leader and a medium- sized hook and he baited it with one of the sardines.
He let it go over the side and then made it fast to a ring bolt in the stern.
Then he baited another line and left it coiled in the shade of the bow. He went
back to rowing and to watching the long-winged black bird who was working, now,
low over the water.
As he watched the bird dipped again slanting his wings for the dive and
then swinging them wildly and ineffectually as he followed the flying fish. The
old man could see the slight bulge in the water that the big dolphin raised as
they followed the escaping fish. The dolphin were cutting through the water
below the flight of the fish and would be in the water, driving at speed, when
the fish dropped. It is a big school of dolphin, he thought. They are widespread
and the flying fish have little chance. The bird has no chance. The flying fish
are too big for him and they go too fast.
He watched the flying fish burst out again and again and the ineffectual
movements of the bird. That school has gotten away from me, he thought. They are
moving out too fast and too far. But perhaps I will pick up a stray and perhaps
my big fish is around them. My big fish must be somewhere.
over the land now rose like mountains and the coast was only a long green line
with the gray blue hills behind it. The water was a dark blue now, so dark that
it was almost purple. As he looked down into it he saw the red sifting of the
plankton in the dark water and the strange light the sun made now. He watched
his lines to see them go straight down out of sight into the water and he was
happy to see so much plankton because it meant fish. The strange light the sun
made in the water, now that the sun was higher, meant good weather and so did
the shape of the clouds over the land. But the bird was almost out of sight now
and nothing showed on the surface of the water but some patches of yellow,
sun-bleached Sargasso weed and the purple, formalized, iridescent, gelatinous
bladder of a Portuguese man-of-war floating close beside the boat. It turned on
its side and then righted itself. It floated cheerfully as a bubble with its
long deadly purple filaments trailing a yard behind it in the water.