Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/246

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eels, which the people of that isle held in reverence. Another fish-deity was the octopus, which in heathen days it would have been sacrilege to eat, but which is now recognised as excellent food. I have never tasted one myself, but I am told that, though it looks so gelatinous, it really is tough and unpalatable.

The girls catch delicate young cuttle-fish in the shallows on the reef; but sometimes the tables are turned and they are themselves caught by overgrown monsters, which lie concealed in deep holes in the coral, and throw out long arms covered with suckers, with which they grasp whatever lies within reach and drag it inward. Some of these measure fully six feet across the arms, from tip to tip; and many horrible stories are current among the fishers of their adventures with these hideous devil-fish. So fully do they recognise the possibility of danger, that they rarely go out alone to dive for these, or for clam-shells.

The latter have been known to close suddenly, and hold the invader prisoner till he or she was drowned; and the octopii have an unpleasant knack of throwing their arms so as to enfold an enemy, who vainly struggles to extricate himself from their hateful clasp: his arms are held powerless, and sometimes the hideous creature wraps itself round his head, so that death is inevitable unless haply his comrade comes to the rescue.

These fishers know the value of pouring oil on the waters as well as the poachers on our own Scottish rivers, or the oyster-fishers at Gibraltar and the Mediterranean generally, so they invariably carry in their canoes a measure of cocoa-nut oil. By sprinkling a few drops on the surface of the water, it becomes so perfectly smooth that they can see right down through its crystal depths, and detect the exact position of the creatures below. So, when a diver remains under water longer than usual, his friend in the canoe thus clears the surface, and, peering into the depths, ascertains what is going on, and, if need be, dives to the rescue.

Of course these are not the only dangers encountered by the fishers. There is the the ever-abiding dread of sharks, especially the awful white shark, which grows to about thirty feet in length, and is so fearless that it is frequently known to attack canoes and