The Ocean Cats Paw

George Manville Fenn
The Ocean Cat's Paw
the Story of a Strange Cruise
by George Manville Fenn.
"Here's another, uncle."
This was shouted cheerily, and the reply thereto was a low muttering,
ending with a grunt.
It was a glorious day on Dartmoor, high up in the wildest part amongst
the rugged tors, where a bright little river came flashing and sparkling
along, and sending the bright beams of the sun in every direction from
the disturbed water, as an eager-looking boy busily played the trout he
had hooked, one which darted here and there in its wild rush for
freedom, but all in vain, for after its little mad career it was safely
brought to bank, and landed. There was no need to use the light net
which hung diagonally and unnecessarily across its owner's back, for
the glittering little speckled trout was only about the size of a small
dace, though it fought and kicked as hardily as if it had weighed a
pound, and indulged in a series of active leaps as it was slipped through
the hole in the lid of a creel, to drop into companionship with
half-a-score of its fellows, which welcomed the new prisoner with a
number of leaps almost as wild as its own.
The utterer of the grunt, a stoutly-built man who might have been of
any age, though he could not have been very young, judging from his
bristly greyish whiskers, was also busily occupied, but in a calmer,
more deliberate way.

He had no creel slung from his shoulder, but a coarse clean wallet that
was rather bulgy, its appearance suggesting that it was carried because
it contained something to eat, while its owner held in one hand, slung
by a stoutish lanyard, a big, wide-mouthed glass bottle half full of
water, and in the other hand a little yellow canvas net attached to a
brass ring at the end of a stick, the sort of implement that little boys use
when bound upon the chase and capture of the mighty "tittlebat." And
as his younger companion shouted and landed his little mountain trout,
the net was being carefully passed under water, drawn out and emptied
upon the fine lawn-like grass, and what looked like a little scrap of
opalescent jelly was popped into the wide-mouthed bottle.
"You got one too, uncle?" shouted the boy, who was higher up the
"Yes; some very nice specimens down here. Are you getting plenty of
sport, Rodd?"
"Yes, uncle," replied the boy, who was carefully examining his tiny
artificial gnat before beginning to whip the stream again. "They are
rising famously; but they are awfully small. I shall get a dish, though,
for supper."
"Uncle," as he was called, grunted again, and went on searching
amongst the water-weeds with his net, his tendency being with the
stream, while the boy, who did not scruple about stepping into the
shallows from time to time, went on whipping away upward towards
where one of the tors rose in a chaotic mass of broken, lichen-covered,
fragmentary granite, apparently hiding in the distance the source of the
little bubbling and sparkling stream.
Sometimes, as the boy struck in unison with the rise, he missed his fish,
at others he hooked and held it till it broke away, and then again he
transferred another to his creel, as intent upon his sport as his uncle was
upon his pursuit, but still adding and adding to the contents of the creel
for quite an hour. Then, in an interval when the fish had ceased to rise,
the boy began to look downward, finding to his surprise that he was
quite alone and close up to the towering mass of time-worn granite,

many of whose blocks sparkled in the summer sun with crystals of
quartz, and specks of hornblende, and were rendered creamy by the
abundant felspar which held the grains together in a mass.
"I wonder what's become of Uncle Paul," muttered the boy. "Have I
lost him, or has he lost me? What stuff! One's only got to go down the
stream, and he's sure to be there somewhere, dipping for his
what-do-you-call-'ems--hydras and germs and buds, and the rest of
them. But oh, what a jolly morning it is, and what a jolly place
Dartmoor is now the sun shines! Not very jolly yesterday, though,
when the wind was sweeping the rain across in clouds and you couldn't
see the tops of the tors for the mist. Oh, but it is beautiful to-day. I do
feel jolly!"
The boy let his light tapering rod fall into the hollow of his arm, swung
round his creel to the front, and, raising the lid, peered down at his
speckled prizes lying upon a bed of newly-picked bracken
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