From the area of water circled by the bird emerged a school of tuna jumping out of the water. The old man hoped they don’t move too fast, so that he might catch some of them. Just then, the line became taut under his foot-a fish had taken his bait. Santiago dropped the oars, grabbed the line, and started reeling in the tuna against its shivering pull. Slowly, the blue back and gold sides of the fish became clearer, and soon the old man had it pulled onto the boat. The tuna flips around the small vessel, so the old man hit him on the head to end its suffering. Santiago assesses the tuna as an albacore, an excellent ten-pound bait to catch even larger fish.
Santiago then notices for the first time that he had been talking his thoughts aloud. Even though it was considered a virtue not to talk unnecessarily, with no one else to annoy he considered his speech perfectly acceptable. The old man thinks that a larger catch might follow the school of smaller fish. Also, he notices that the school has been moving fast, far out, and to the northeast. Is it the time of a day, a storm, or maybe something else? He is now so far out at sea that only the tops of the highest hills could be seen, and the sea was so dark that light made prisms in the water. The sun was hot, and sweat dripped down the back of his neck.
Just when Santiago considered drifting, napping, and waiting for the fish to come to him, one of the sticks attached to the lines dipped sharply-something had bitten the bait hard. Quickly, the pull was gone, but only moments later a more tentative pull. He knew it was a large marlin one hundred fathoms down nibbling on the sardines on the hook. The old man held the line delicately, and allowed the fish to pull without any resistance. Numerous times, the fish turned back the bite softly on the hook, consuming the bait without taking the hook. Sometimes the fish would leave for minutes, but would return again to pull on the dinner at the end of a hook.
Finally, Santiago feels something hard and unbelievably heavy on the line. He let the line slip down until the entire first reserve coil was gone. Santiago knew the fish had the hook in his mouth sideways, and hoped he would turn and swallow it. The fish continued to pull the line down, and the old man quickly tied the last reserve cable to the reserve cables of another line. The old man decides to pull-twice he yanks on the line as hard as he can but does not stop the progress of the fish. The old man held strong, with the line taut against his back. Slowly, the boat began to move northwest, pulled by the great strength of the fish. He wishes the boy were there to help him.
Four hours later, the fish was still steadily pulling the boat out to sea, with the old man still braced strongly. He could no longer see the land but was not concerned-the glow of Havana could be his beacon. When the sun went down, the air became cold. But still the fish pulled in the same direction. Every once in a while, his mind would wonder about the baseball leagues, but he then forced himself to focus on the fish always. Again, he wished aloud that the boy could be there to help and to see.