Page:A Mainsail Haul - Masefield - 1913.djvu/26

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14
A MAINSAIL HAUL

SEA SUPERSTITION

One moonlit night in the tropics, as my ship was slipping south under all sail, I was put to walking the deck on the lee side of the poop, with orders to watch the ship's clock and strike the bell at each half-hour. It was a duty I had done nightly for many nights, but this night was memorable to me. The ship was like a thing carved of pearl. The sailors, as they lay sleeping in the shadows, were like august things in bronze. And the skies seemed so near me, I felt as though we were sailing under a roof of dim branches, as of trees, that bore the moon and the stars like shining fruits.

Gradually, however, the peace in my heart gave way to an eating melancholy, and I felt a sadness, such as has come to me but twice in my life. With the sadness there came a horror of the water and of the skies, till my presence in that ship, under the ghastly corpse-light of the moon, among