HOW HE HELD THE ROCK
The sun blazed hot next day, and he spread himself out in it to warm, and all his soaked things in it to dry, and blessed it for its wholesome vigour.
Nance or Bernel would be sure to come as soon as the tide served at night, and he would net be sorry for a change of diet; meanwhile, he could get along all right with the unwilling assistance of the puffins.
The birds had all crept out of their hiding-places, and were wheeling and diving and making up for lost time and busily discussing late events at the tops of their voices whenever their bills were not otherwise occupied. Where they had all hidden themselves during the storm, he could not imagine, but there seemed to be as many of them as ever, and they were all quite happy and quarrelsome, except the cormorants, who were so ravenous that they could not spare a moment from their diving and gobbling, even to quarrel with their neighbours.
He levied on the puffins again, and, after a meal, prowled curiously about his rock to see what damage the storm had done, but to his surprise found almost none.
It seemed incredible that all should be the same after the deadly onslaught of the gale. But it was only in the valley of rocks that he found any consequences.
There the huge boulders had been hurled about like marbles: some had been tossed overboard, and some, in their fantastic up-piling, spoke eloquently of all they had suffered.
But one grim—though to him wholly gracious—deed the storm had wrought there. For, out of the pool where the devil-fish dwelt, its monstrous limbs streamed up and lay over the sloping rocks, and he dared not venture near. But, in the afternoon when he came again to look at it, and found it still in the same attitude, something about it struck him as odd and unusual.
The great tentacles had never moved, so far as he could see, and there was surely something wrong with a devil-fish that did not move.
He hurled a stone, picked out of the landslip at the corner, and hit a tentacle full and fair with a dull thud like leather. But the beast never moved.
He was suspicious of the wily one, however. The devil, he knew, was sometimes busiest when he made least show of business. And it was not till next morning, when he found the monster still as before, that he ventured down to the pool and looked into it, and saw what had happened.
The waves had hurled a huge boulder into it—and there you may see it to this day—and it had fallen on the devil-fish and ground him flat, and purged the rock of a horror.
Gard examined the hideous tentacles with the curiosity of intensest repulsion; yet could not but stand amazed at the wonderful delicacy and finish displayed in the tiny powerful suckers with which each limb was furnished on the under side, and the flexible muscularity of the monstrous limbs themselves, thick as his biceps where they came out of the pool, and tapering to a worm-like point, capable, it seemed to him, of picking up a pin.