Page:A Mainsail Haul - Masefield - 1913.djvu/28

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A MAINSAIL HAUL

Not very long after that night, when I was sitting with a Danish sailor who was all broken on the wheel of his vices and not far from his death, I talked about the sea-spirits and their beauty and their wildness, feeling that such a haunted soul as my companion's would have room in its crannies for such wild birds. He told me much that was horrible about the ghosts who throng the seas. And it was he who gave me the old myth of the sea-gulls, telling me that the souls of old sailors follow the sea, in birds' bodies, till they have served their apprenticeship or purged their years of penitence. He told me of two sailors in a Norway barque, though I believe he lied when he said that he was aboard her at the time, who illustrated his sermon very aptly. The barque was going south from San Francisco, bound home round the Horn, and the two men were in the same watch. Somehow they fell to quarrelling as to which was the better dancer, and the one killed the other and flung him overboard during one of the night watches. The dead body did not sink, said my friend, because no body dares to sink to the undersea during the night-time; but in the dawn of the