THE WIDE CONTRASTS IN LIFE
break, and in detailing the men sent me up the port ratlines and the Portuguese up the starboard. The sail was thrashing and flopping in the wind, the vessel rolling her rails under as the squall struck her. I was so occupied with tying the reefers over the canvas and holding on at the same time to the slippery yard, that I had not noticed the Portuguese, who, with every flop of the sail, was crawling nearer to where I clung.
“He was almost on top of me when I caught sight of him sliding along the foot-stay, his eyes boring into mine with a look that made me stop short and pull myself together. One hand was around the yard, the other clutched his sheath knife. Another lunge of the ship and he would let drive and over I’d go.
“For an instant I quavered before the fellow’s hungry glare, his tiger eyes fixed on mine, the knife in his hand, the sail smothering me as it flapped in my face, while below were the black sea and half-lighted deck. Were he to strike, no trace would be left of me. I was a greenhorn, and it would be supposed I had missed my hold and fallen clear of the ship.
“Bracing myself, I twisted a reefer around my wrist for better hold, determined, if he