Frank whined most industriously for five minutes or so, and even attempted two or three feeble barks, but they were not nearly so artistic as the whines. Then he stopped, for his quick eye detected three black objects moving on the water not far from the bank. These objects were the alligator’s two eyes and the end of his snout, which were all of him that showed, the remainder of his body being completely submerged. He was looking for that puppy, and thinking how much he should enjoy it for his supper if he could only locate the whine, and be able to stop it forever.
Again it sounds, clear and distinct, and the sly old ’gator comes on a little farther, alert and watchful, but without making so much as a ripple to betray his presence.
Now the whine sounds fainter and fainter, as though the puppy were moving away, and finally it ceases altogether.
Mr. Alligator is very much disappointed; and now, noticing the fish for the first time, concludes that though not nearly so good as puppy, fish is much better than nothing, and he had better secure it before it swims away.
He does not use caution now; he has learned that fish must be caught quickly or not at all, and he goes for it with a rush. The great jaws open and close with a snap, the fish disappears, and the alligator thinks he will go back to his cove to listen again for that puppy whine. As he turns he opens his mouth to clear his teeth of something that has become entangled between them. Suddenly a tremendous jerk at his mouth is accompanied by a most disagreeable sensation in his stomach. He tries to pull away from both the entanglement and the sensation, but finds himself caught and held fast.
Mark gives a cheer as he jumps up from his uncomfortable position at the bottom of the ferry-boat, and Frank echoes it as he dashes out of the bushes and seizes hold of the line.
Now the alligator pulls and the boys pull, and if the line had not been made fast to the post, the former would certainly have pulled away from them or dragged them into the river. He lashes the water into foam, and bellows with rage, while they yell with delight and excitement. The stout post is shaken, and the Manila line hums like a harp-string.
“It’ll hold him!” screams Frank. “He can’t get away now. See the reason for that last six feet of small lines, Mark? They’re so he can’t bite the rope; the little lines slip in between his teeth.”
The noise of the struggle and the shouts of the boys attracted the notice of the men on their way home from work at the mill, and they came running down to the ferry to see what was the matter.
“We were fishing for minnows,” explained Mark, “and we’ve caught a whale. Take hold here and help us haul him in.”
The men caught hold of the rope, and slowly but surely, in spite of his desperate struggles, the alligator was drawn towards them.
Suddenly he makes a rush at them, and, as the line slackens, the men fall over backward in a heap, and their enemy disappears in deep water. He has not got away, though—a pull on the line assures them of that; and again he is drawn up, foot by foot, until half his body is out on the bank. He is a monster, and Jan with an uplifted axe approaches him very carefully.