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The Giants
by [?]

In passing along the shores of the bay, on evenings when the water was smooth, you could hear a succession of dull thuds like the sound of distant guns. Looking to eastward you saw a dark semicircular streak on the water, and inside this streak a coble glided slowly hither and thither. One man rowed gently, letting his oars drop into the water with a slight splash, that could be heard nevertheless a long way off. The sweeps were so long that the rower could not scull in the ordinary way, but crossed his arms and held the handle of the right sweep in his left hand, and vice versa. In the stern of the boat stood a man of gigantic size. At intervals he heaved up a great tiller into the air and brought it down with all his strength; he then gathered himself for another effort while the split end of the tiller floated on the water; then came another strong muscular effort, and then another resounding splash. If the boat drew near the brown rocks the blows of the tiller would startle a piper or a curlew; a long note of warning would pierce the stillness, and a wailing answer came from the next point; then a shrill clamour passed all round the bay, and the birds skimmed towards the island like flights of dark arrows.

The black streak on the water was made by the cork floaters of a net, for the men in the coble were engaged in catching sea-trout. When the tide has flowed for some time, there is a general stir among the fish. First the dainty gobies come forward as vanguard; then come the pretty fish that the men call sea-minnows; then the dark shadows of the flounders fly swiftly over the sandy floor, and the dogcrabs sidle along in a very lively manner. As the foam creeps further and further in the larger fishes come from the deep water. Great congers with their ugly manes and villanous eyes wind in and out the rocky channels, committing assaults on smaller fishes as they come. The red rock cod leaves his stony hollows and swims over the sandy places, looking for soft crabs, or for his favourite food, the luscious crass. Last of all comes the beautiful sea-trout, skirmishing forward with short rushes, and sometimes making a swirl near the surface of the water. The fishermen wait until they think the trout have had time to reach the inner rocks, and then softly paddle the coble away from the shore. The net is dexterously shot, and a good man can manage to do this without making a splash. The long curtain is about four feet deep, and lead sinkers make it hang true. Not a word is spoken until the great bladder which marks the end of the net falls into the sea. Then the boat is taken toward the shore, and the fishermen rest quiet for awhile, until it is time to begin splashing. The big pole is dashed into the water in order to frighten the trout towards the net, and very great judgment is required in the rower, for if he happens to take the wrong track he may easily put the fish in the way of escape.

The gigantic man who used to ply the tiller, and the old rower, were both very clever at this kind of fishing. The older of the two was called “Big Harry,” and the younger was called “Little Harry.” There was humour in this mode of naming, for Little Harry stood six feet four, while Big Harry only measured about six feet three. Big Harry had four sons altogether, and the average height of the family was about six feet four. All the lads were extremely good-looking, but the old man liked Little Harry best, and always took him for partner. The other sons handled the second of the family cobles, and the five men made an excellent living. It was a fine sight to see the fellows go away in the afternoon. They wore great boots that came up to the thigh, blue woollen caps, or sou-westers, and thick dark Guernseys. All of them were dark-haired and dark-eyed, and with their earrings, they looked strange and foreign. The three younger lads, who were much bigger than their father, went partners in one boat, and the two gaudy craft took their several ways. The men never said good-bye or good-night, nor did they use any other form of politeness, because by the fishermen any demonstration of friendliness, even among relations, is counted as showing softness. The mother of the lads was a handsome, broad-shouldered woman who had been a beauty in her day. She mostly used to spare time for seeing her tall fellows off, but she never waved to them. In spite of this reticence, it must not be supposed that the family were unkindly: more gentle and helpful men never lived, and there was not one of them who had not done some brave thing. It may be worth while to tell a story illustrative of their disposition.