It was there, cleaned and ready, and he picked it up with his left hand and ate it chewing the bones carefully and eating all of it down to the tail.
It has more nourishment than almost any fish, he thought. At least the kind of strength that I need. Now I have done what I can, he thought. Let him begin to circle and let the fight come.
The sun was rising for the third time since he had put to sea when the fish started to circle.
He could not see by the slant of the line that the fish was circling. It was too early for that. He just felt a faint slackening of the pressure of the line and he commenced to pull on it gently with his right hand. It tightened, as always, but just when he reached the point where it would break, line began to come in. He slipped his shoulders and head from under the line and began to pull in line steadily and gently. He used both of his hands in a swinging motion and tried to do the pulling as much as he could with his body and his legs. His old legs and shoulders pivoted with the swinging of the pulling.
“It is a very big circle,” he said. “But he is circling.”
Then the line would not come in any more and he held it until he saw the drops jumping from it in the sun. Then it started out and the old man knelt down and let it go grudgingly back into the dark water.
“He is making the far part of his circle now,” he said. I must hold all I can, he thought. The strain will shorten his circle each time. Perhaps in an hour I will see him. Now I must convince him and then I must kill him.
But the fish kept on circling slowly and the old man was wet with sweat and tired deep into his bones two hours later. But the circles were much shorter now and from the way the line slanted he could tell the fish had risen steadily while he swam.
For an hour the old man had been seeing black spots before his eyes and the sweat salted his eyes and salted the cut over his eye and on his forehead. He was not afraid of the black spots. They were normal at the tension that he was pulling on the line. Twice, though, he had felt faint and dizzy and that had worried him.
“I could not fail myself and die on a fish like this,” he said. “Now that I have him coming so beautifully, God help me endure. I’ll say a hundred Our Fathers and a hundred Hail Marys. But I cannot say them now.
Consider them said, he thought. I’ll say them later.
Just then he felt a sudden banging and jerking on the line he held with his two hands. It was sharp and hard-feeling and heavy.
He is hitting the wire leader with his spear, he thought. That was bound to come. He had to do that. It may make him jump though and I would rather he stayed circling now. The jumps were necessary for him to take air. But after that each one can widen the opening of the hook wound and he can throw the hook.
“Don’t jump, fish,” he said. “Don’t jump.”
The fish hit the wire several times more and each time he shook his head the old man gave up a little line.
I must hold his pain where it is, he thought. Mine does not matter. I can control mine. But his pain could drive him mad.
After a while the fish stopped beating at the wire and started circling slowly again. The old man was gaining line steadily now. But he felt faint again. He lifted some sea water with his left hand and put it on his head. Then he put more on and rubbed the back of his neck.
“I have no cramps,” he said. “He’ll be up soon and I can last. You have to last. Don’t even speak of it.”