Page:A Mainsail Haul - Masefield - 1913.djvu/30

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18
A MAINSAIL HAUL

came limping, bent on a crutch, in the ship's wake. So vivid was the image of that cripple, he leaned across the wheel-box to his mate, bidding him to look; and his mate looked, and immediately went white to the lips, calling to the saints to preserve him. My friend then told me that the cripple only appears to ships foredoomed to shipwreck, "And," he said, "we were run down in the Channel and sunk in ten minutes" by a clumsy tramp from London.

After a while I left that country in a steamer whose sailors were of nearly every nation under the sun, and from a Portuguese aboard her I got another yarn. In the night watches, when I was alone on the poop, I used to lean on the taffrail to see the water reeling away from the screws. While loafing in this way one night, a little while before the dawn, I was joined by the Portuguese, an elderly, wizened fellow, who wore earrings. He said he had often seen me leaning over the taffrail, and had come to warn me that there was danger in looking upon the sea in that way. Men who looked into the water, he told me, would at first see only the bubbles, and the eddies, and the