by Peter B. Kyne
MASTER OF MANY
SKIPPER OF NONE
CHAPTER II. THE
MAN FROM BLUE
UNDER THE BLUE
CHAPTER IV. BAD
NEWS FROM CAPE
CHAPTER V. MATT
WORDY WAR AT A
DOLLAR A WORD
ALL HANDS AND
FEET TO THE
CHAPTER IX. MR.
CHAPTER X. THE
BATTLE OF TABLE
CHAPTER XI. MR.
CHAPTER XII. THE
CHAPTER XIII. AN
INSULT ADDED TO
RUMORS OF WAR
CAPPY FORCES AN
THE WAR IS
PEACE AT LAST!
FACE TO FACE
THE CLEAN UP
HIMSELF A DESPOT
MATT PEASLEY IN
CAPPY HAS A
NATURE TAKES HER
CHAPTER XXX. MR.
SKINNER HEARS A
CHAPTER XXXIV. A
GIFT FROM THE
CHAPTER XXXV. A
CHAPTER XL. THE
WHEN PAIN AND
CAPPY PLANS A
INTO A HUMAN
CAPPY PULLS OFF
CHAPTER XLVI. A
THE TAIL GOES
WITH THE HIDE
or The Subjugation of Matt Peasley
TO THE IDEAL AMERICAN SAILOR
As exemplified in the persons of my good friends,
Captain Ralph E. Peasley,
of Jonesport, Maine,
Who skippered the first five-masted schooner ever built, brought her,
on that first voyage, through the worst typhoon that ever blew, and
upon arriving at the Yang Tse Kiang River for the first time in his
adventurous career, decided he could not trust a Chinese pilot and
established a record by sailing her up himself!
Captain I. N. Hibberd,
of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,
Sometime master of the American clipper ship, Cyrus Wakefield, who, at
the age of twenty-five, broke three world's records in one voyage: San
Francisco to Liverpool and back, eight months and two days; Liverpool
to San Francisco, one hundred days; from the equator to San Francisco,
eleven days. The clipper ship is gone but the skipper remains, an
Captain William P. Cantey,
of San Francisco, California,
Sometime mate of the brig Galilee, who, with his naked hands,
convinced in thirty-five minutes nine larger men than himself of the
incontrovertible fact that you cannot keep a good man down.
TO THE AMERICAN SHIPOWNER
As exemplified in the persons of my good friends,
John H. Rossiter,
Manager of W. R. Grace Co.,
of San Francisco.
Edwin A. Christenson,
President of the Sudden Christenson S.S. Line,
of San Francisco.
John R. Hanify,
President of the John R. Hanify Company,
of San Francisco.
TO THE PACIFIC COAST LUMBERMAN
As exemplified in the person of my good friend,
Augustus J. ("Gus") Russell,
California Manager for the Portland Lumber Company, and my personal
representative, without salary, in the wholesale lumber trade, ever
since I abandoned lumber for literature.
TO FREIGHT, SHIP, AND MARINE INSURANCE BROKERS
As exemplified in the persons of my good friends,
Messrs. E. B. Smith, Oscar J. Beyfuss, and Allan Hayes.
This volume is dedicated, without charge for the advertising but with
profound appreciation of the part they have made in making this book
possible. With the author they must bear an equal burden of whatever
of praise or censure shall entail.
CHAPTER I. MASTER OF MANY SHIPS AND
SKIPPER OF NONE
A psychologist would have termed Alden P. Ricks an individualist,
but his associates in the wholesale lumber and shipping trade of the
Pacific Coast proclaimed him a character.
In his youth he had made one voyage round Cape Horn as a cabin boy,
his subsequent nautical experience having been confined to the
presidency of the Blue Star Navigation Company and occasional voyages
as a first-cabin passenger. Notwithstanding this apparent lack of
salt-water wisdom, however, his intimate knowledge of ships and the
men who go down to the sea in them, together with his very distinct
personality, had conduced to provide him with a courtesy title in his
It is more than probable that, had Alden P. Ricks been a large,
commanding person possessed of the dignity the average citizen
associates with men of equal financial rating, the Street would have
called him Captain Ricks. Had he lacked these characteristics, but
borne nevertheless even a remote resemblance to a retired mariner, his
world would have hailed him as Old Cap Ricks; but since he was what he
was—a dapper, precise, shrewd, lovable little old man with mild,
paternal blue eyes, a keen sense of humor and a Henry Clay collar,
which latter, together with a silk top hat, had distinguished him on
'Change for forty years—it was inevitable that along the Embarcadero
and up California Street he should bear the distinguishing appellation
of Cappy. In any other line of human endeavor he would have been
called Pappy—he was that type of man.
Cappy Ricks had so much money, amassed in the wholesale lumber and
shipping business, that he had to engage some very expensive men to
take care of it for him. He owned the majority of the stock of the
Ricks Lumber and Logging Company, with sawmills and timberlands in
California, Oregon and Washington; his young men had to sell a million
feet of lumber daily in order to keep pace with the output, while the
vessels of the Blue Star Navigation Company, also controlled by Cappy,
freighted it. There were thirty-odd vessels in the Blue Star
fleet—windjammers and steam schooners; and Cappy was registered as
managing owner of every one.
Following that point in his career when the young fellows on the
Street, discovering that he was a true-blue sport, had commenced to
fraternize with him and call him Cappy, the old gentleman ceased to
devote his attention to the details of his business. He was just
beginning to enjoy life; so he shifted the real work of his
multifarious interests to the capable shoulders of a Mr. John P.
Skinner, who fitted into his niche in the business as naturally as the
kernel of a healthy walnut fits its shell. Mr. Skinner was a man
still on the sunny side of middle life, smart, capable, cold-blooded,
a little bumptious, and, like the late Julius Caesar, ambitious.
No sooner had Cappy commenced to take life easy than Skinner
commenced to dominate the business. He attended an efficiency
congress and came home with a collection of newfangled ideas that
eliminated from the office all the joy and contentment old Cappy Ricks
had been a life-time installing. He inaugurated card systems and
short cuts in bookkeeping that drove Cappy to the verge of insanity,
because he could never go to the books himself and find out anything
about his own business. He had to ask Mr. Skinner—which made Skinner
an important individual.
With the passage of five years the general manager was high and low
justice in Cappy's offices, and had mastered the not-too-difficult art
of dominating his employer, for Cappy seldom seriously disagreed with
those he trusted. He saved all his fighting force for his
However, Cappy's interest in the Blue Star Navigation Company did
not wane with the cessation of his activities as chief kicker.
Ordinarily, Mr. Skinner bossed the navigation company as he bossed the
lumber business, for Cappy's private office was merely headquarters
for receiving mail, reading the newspapers, receiving visitors,
smoking an after-luncheon cigar, and having a little nap from three
o'clock until four, at which hour Cappy laid aside the cares of
business and put in two hours at bridge in his club.
Despite this apparent indifference to business, however, Mr.
Skinner handled the navigation company with gloves; for, if Cappy
dozed in his office, he had a habit of keeping one eye open, so to
speak, and every little while he would wake up and veto an order of
Skinner's, of which the latter would have been willing to take an oath
Cappy had never heard. In the matter of engaging new skippers or
discharging old ones Mr. Skinner had to be very careful. Cappy always
declared that any clerk can negotiate successfully a charter at the
going rates in a stiff market, but skippers are, in the final
analysis, the Genii of the Dividends. And Cappy knew skippers. He
could get more loyalty out of them with a mere pat on the back and a
kindly word than could Mr. Skinner, with all his threats, nagging and
driving, yet he was an employer who demanded a full measure of
service, and never permitted sentiment to plead for an incompetent.
And his ships were his pets; in his affections they occupied a
position but one degree removed from that occupied by his only child,
in consequence of which he was mighty particular who hung up his
master's ticket in the cabin of a Blue Star ship. Some idea of the
scrupulous care with which he examined all applicants for a skipper's
berth may be gleaned from the fact that any man discharged from a Blue
Star ship stood as much chance of obtaining a berth with one of Cappy
Ricks' competitors as a celluloid dog chasing an asbestos cat through
The reader will readily appreciate, therefore, the apprehensions
which assailed Cappy Ricks when the Blue Star Navigation Company
discovered it had on its payroll one Matthew Peasley, a Nobody from
Nowhere, who not only had the insufferable impudence to apply for a
job skippering the finest windjammer in the fleet, but when rebuffed
in no uncertain terms, refused to withdraw his application, and defied
his owners to fire him. Such a preposterous state of affairs borders
so closely on the realm of fancy as to require explanation; hence, for
the nonce let us leave Cappy Ricks and Mr. Skinner to their sordid
task of squeezing dividends out of the Blue Star Navigation Company
and turn the searchlight of inquiry upon the amazing Matthew.
CHAPTER II. THE MAN FROM BLUE WATER
If, instead of advancing the theory that man sprang from a monkey,
Darwin had elected to nominate the duck for that dubious honor, there
is no doubt but that he would have pointed to the Peasley family, of
Thomaston, Maine, as evidence of the correctness of his theory of
evolution. The most casual student of natural history knows that the
instant a duckling chips its shell it toddles straightway to the
nearest water. The instant a male Peasley could cut his mother's
apron strings, he, also, made for the nearest water, for the Peasleys
had always been sailors, a statement which a perusal of the tombstones
in Thomaston cemetery will amply justify. Indeed, a Peasley who had
not acquired his master's ticket prior to his twenty-fifth birthday
was one of two things—a disgrace to the family or a corpse.
Consequently, since the traditions of his tribe were very strong in
Matthew Peasley VI, it occasioned no comment in Thomaston when, having
acquired a grammar school education, he answered the call of his
destiny and fared forth to blue water and his first taste of dog's
body and salt horse.
When he was fourteen years old and very large for his age, Matt
commenced his apprenticeship in a codfisher on the Grand Banks, which,
when all is said and done, constitutes the finest training school in
the world for sailors. By the time he was seventeen he had made one
voyage to Rio de Janeiro in a big square-rigger out of Portland; and
so smart and capable an A.B. was he for his years that the Old Man
took a shine to him. Confidentially he informed young Matt that if
the latter would stay by the ship, in due course a billet as third
mate should be the reward of his fealty. The Old Man didn't need a
third mate any more than he needed a tail, but Matt Peasley looked
like a comer to him and he wanted an excuse to encourage the boy by
berthing him aft; also it sounds far better to be known as a third
mate instead of a mate's bosun, which was, in reality, the position
the Old Man had promised Matt. The latter promptly agreed to this
program and the skipper loaned him his copy of Bowditch.
Upon his return from his first voyage as third mate Matt went up
for his second mate's certificate and passed very handily. Naturally
he expected prompt promotion, but the Old Man knew the value of
experience in a second mate—also the value of years and physical
weight; so he informed young Matt he was entirely too precocious and
that to sail as second mate before he was nineteen might tend to swell
his ego. Consequently Matt made a voyage to Liverpool and back as
third mate before the Old Man promoted him.
For a year, Matt Peasley did nicely; then, in a gale off the
Orinoco River, with the captain too ill to appear on deck, the first
mate went by the board, leaving the command of the ship to young Matt.
She was dismasted at the time, but the lad brought her into Rio on
the stumps, thus attracting some little attention to himself from his
owners, who paid his passage back to Portland by steamer and found a
second mate's berth for him in one of their clipper ships bound round
Of course Matt was too young to know they had their eyes on him for
future skipper material and were sending him around Cape Horn for the
invaluable experience he would encounter on such a voyage. All he
realized was that he was going round the Horn, as became one of the
House of Peasley, no member of which would ever regard him as a real
sailor until he could point to a Cape Horn diploma as evidence that he
had graduated from the school for amateurs.
Matt Peasley lacked two months of his twentieth birthday when he
stepped onto a San Francisco dock, in his pocket a highly
complimentary discharge as second mate from the master of the clipper
ship—for Matt had elected to quit. In fact, he had to, for on the
way round the mate had picked on him and called him Sonny and Mother's
Darling Boy; and Matt, having, in the terminology of the forecastle,
come aboard through the hawse pipes, knew himself for a man and a
sailor, despite the paucity of whiskers on his big, square boyish
Accordingly he had advised the mate to address him only in the line
of duty, on which occasions he desired to be referred to as Mr.
Peasley, and, the mate demurring from this program, the customary
maritime fracas had ensued. Consequently, somebody had to quit on
arrival at San Francisco; and since, Matt was the last to come, he was
the first to go. On the strength of his two previous discharges he
shipped as second mate on the bark Andrew Welch, for a voyage to
Honolulu and back; then, his services as second mate being all in, he
went before the inspectors for his first mate's ticket and was awarded
an unlimited license.
Matt was now past twenty; and, though not fully filled out, he was
big enough to be a chief kicker anywhere. Six feet three in his bare
feet; two hundred pounds in the buff; lean, lithe and supple as a
panther, the mere sight of his big lumpy shoulders would have been
sufficient to have quelled an incipient mutiny. Nevertheless,
graduate that he was of a hard, hard school, his face was that of an
innocent, trusting, good-natured, immature boy, proclaiming him
exactly what he knew his men called him—a big, over-grown kid. He
hated himself for his glorious youth.
"You're pretty much of a child to have an unlimited ticket, my
son," the supervising inspector informed him. "However, you've had
the experience and your record is far above the average, so we're
going to issue the license; but if you'll take a bit of advice from an
old sailor you'll be content to go as second mate for a year or two
more, until your jowls blacken up a bit and you get a trifle thicker
in the middle."
With the impudence and irreverence of his tender years, however,
Matt Peasley scorned this well-meant advice, notwithstanding the fact
that he knew it to be sound, for by shipping as second mate and
remaining in the same ship, sooner or later his chance would come.
The first mate would quit, or be promoted or drowned, or get drunk;
and then his shoes would be waiting for Matt tried and true, and the
holder of a first mate's ticket.
However, there is an old saw to the effect that youth must be
served, and young Matt desired a helping totally disproportionate to
his years, if not to his experience; hence he elected to ignore the
fact that shipmasters are wary of chief mates until they have first
tried them out as second mates and learned their strength and their
weaknesses. Being very human, Matt thought he should prove the
exception to a fairly hard-and-fast rule.
He had slept one night on a covered dock and skipped three meals
before it occurred to him that he had pursued the wrong tactics. He
was too far from Thomaston, Maine, where the majority of sailors have
gone to school with their captains. Back home there were a dozen
masters who knew his people, who knew him and his proved ability; but
out here on the Pacific Coast the skippers were nearly all
Scandinavians, and Matt had to show them something besides his
He had failed signally to procure a single opportunity to
demonstrate his fitness for an executive position. After abandoning
his plan to ship as chief mate he had sought a second mate's berth,
but failing to find one, and with each idle day making deeper inroads
into his scant savings, he had at length descended to the ignominy of
considering a job as bosun. Even that was not forthcoming, and now
his money was entirely dissipated.
Now, when a big overgrown kid finds himself penniless three
thousand miles from a friend and minus three meals in succession, the
fourth omission of the daily bread is not likely to pass without
violent protest. Matt was still a growing boy, with a growing boy's
appetite; consequently on the morning of his second day of fasting he
came to the conclusion that, with so much of his life before him, a
few months wasted would, after all, have no material bearing on his
future; so he accepted a two months advance from a crimp and shipped
aboard the American barkentine Retriever as a common A.B.—a most
disgraceful action on the part of a boy, who, since eighteenth
birthday, had been used to having old sailors touch their foretop to
him and address him as "Mr. Peasley, sir."
CHAPTER III. UNDER THE BLUE STAR FLAG
Matt had been attracted to the barkentine Retriever for two very
potent reasons—the first was a delicious odor of stew emanating from
her galley; the second was her house flag, a single large,
five-pointed blue star on a field of white with scarlet trimming.
Garnished left and right with a golden wreath and below with the word
Captain, Matt Peasley knew that house flag, in miniature, would look
exceedingly well on the front of a uniform cap; for he now made up his
mind to enter one service and stick to it until his abilities should
receive their inevitable reward. To ship as a foremast hand and rise
to captain would be a proud record; so Matt throttled his pride and
faced the future with confidence, and a stomach quite filled with very
good beef stew.
From the cook he learned that the Retriever carried a million feet
of lumber; that she was owned by Cappy Ricks; that Cappy Ricks was the
president of the Blue Star Navigation Company, and the most
contemptible old scoundrel in all the world; that the skipper was a
blue-nose and a devil and a fine man rolled into one; that the
barkentine could sail like a yacht; and that presently they would
up-hook and off to Grays Harbor, Washington, there to load a cargo of
fir lumber for Cape Town. And would Matt mind slipping ashore and
buying the cook a bottle of whiskey, for which the latter would settle
very minute he could get an advance out of the Old Man. No?
Disgusted, the cook rattled his pans and dismissed Matt as one
unworthy of further confidence.
Just before the tug came alongside to snake her outside the Heads,
the mate came aboard with his leerail pretty well under and was
indiscreet enough to toss a piece of his lip at the Old Man. Five
minutes later he was paid and off and kicked out on the dock, while
the cook packed his sea bag and tossed it overside after him. The
captain, thereupon, bawled for the second mate, who came running.
Matt noticed this and decided that should the Old Man ever bawl for
him he would come running too.
"Mr.Swenson, you have a chief mate's license, have you not?"
"Very well. You're the first mate. Mr. Lindstrom"—turning to the
bosun—"you've waited a year for your chance, and here it is. You're
the second mate. Bosun!" He was looking straight at Matt Peasley as
he spoke. Matt did not stir. "Hey, there," the skipper roared, "you
big mountain of meat, step lively!"
Matt stepped lively.
"I am not the bosun, sir," he explained. "I'm just A.B."
"How dare you contradict me?" the Old Man growled. "I tell you,
you don't know what you are yet, barring the fact that you're an
American, and the only one, with the exception of myself, in the whole
damned Scowegian crew. Do you think you could get away with a bosun's
"I could get away with your job if I had the chance, sir," Matt
declared, almost impudently.
"There she blows!" the Old Man declared. "Bless me, if you're not
a Native Son! Nobody but a Native Son would be that fresh. I suppose
this is your second voyage, you puling baby?"
Matt Peasley's dander was up instantly.
"I'm sailor enough to know my way alow or aloft in any weather,
sir," he retorted.
The captain saw his opening and struck.
"What's the ring-tail?" he demanded.
"It's a studdin'-s'l on the gaff of a fore-an'-aft, sail, sir. You
haven't got one on the Retriever, sir."
"Huh! You've been reading W. Clark Russell's sea yarns," the
skipper charged. "He was quite a pen-an'-paper sailor when it came to
square-rigged ships, but he didn't have much to say about six-masted
schooners. You see, they didn't build them in his day. Now then,
son, name the sticks on a six-legged schooner, and be sure and name
"Fore, main, mizzen, spanker, jigger and driver, sir," Matt fired
back at him.
"Bully for you, my son. You're the third mate. Cappy Ricks allows
me the luxury of a third mate whenever I run across a young fellow
that appears to be worth a whoop in hell, so grab your duds, and go
aft, and don't bring any cockroaches with you. I'll dig up a bosun
among the squareheads."
"Thank you, sir."
"Mr. Peasley, sir."
Since he was no longer an A B., young Matt concluded he might as
well accord himself the respect due him as a ship's officer; so he
tacked on the Mister, just to show the Old Man he knew his place. The
master noted that; also, the slurring of the sir as only a sailor can
"I shouldn't wonder if you'd do," he remarked as Matt passed him on
his way to the forecastle for his dunnage.
On his way back he carried his bag over his shoulder and his framed
license in his left hand. Two savages were following with his sea
I do declare!" the skipper cried. "If that lubberly boy hasn't got
some sort of a ticket! Let me see it, Mr. Peasley." And he snatched
it out of his grasp.
"So, you're a first mate of sail, for any ocean and any tonnage,
eh?" he said presently. "Are you sure this ticket doesn't belong to
"Sir," declared the exasperated Matt, "I never asked you for this
job of third mate; and if I've got to stomach your insults to hold it
down I don't want it. That's my ticket and I'm fully capable of
living up to it."
"I'm glad to hear that, Mr. Peasley, because if you're not I'll be
the first one to find it out—and don't you forget it! I'll have no
marine impostors aboard my ship. Where do they ship little boys
before the mast, Mr. Peasley?"
"On the Grand Banks, sir."
"I beg your pardon," said the skipper; "but really I thought you
were a Native Son. My father was drowned there thirty years ago."
"The Peasleys have all died on the Banks sir," Matt replied, much
"We'll go down into my cabin and drink a toast to their memory, Mr.
Peasley. It isn't often we skippers out here meet one of our own."
It is hard for a Down-Easter, even though he may have lost the
speech of his people, not to be, partial to his own; and Captain Noah
Kendall, of the barkentine Retriever, was all the cook had declared
him to be. He scolded his Norsk mates so bitterly while the vessel
was taking on cargo at Grays Harbor that both came and asked for their
time an hour before the vessel sailed. However, the old man was aware
they would do this, for he had handled that breed too long not to know
that the Scandinavian sailor on the Pacific Coast quits his job on the
slightest pretext, but never dreams of leaving until he knows that by
so doing he can embarrass the master or owners. Even if the mates had
not quit, Kendall would have discharged them, for it had been in his
mind to try Matt Peasley out as chief mate, and acquire a second mate
with a sweeter disposition than that possessed by the late incumbent.
No sooner had the Norsk mates departed than Captain Noah Kendall
paid a visit to Captain McBride in command of the schooner Nokomis
(also a Blue Star vessel), which had arrived that day and was waiting
for the Retriever's berth at the mill dock, in order to commence
"Mac," quoth Captain Noah, "what kind of a second mate have you
"A no-good Irish hound named Murphy," McBride replied promptly, for
he had heard rumors of war aboard the Retriever and something told him
Kendall had come to borrow his second mate, in order that the
Retriever might tow out immediately. A canny, cunning lad was
McBride, but for all his Scotch blood he was no match for Captain Noah
"I heard he wasn't worth two squirts of bilge water," Captain Noah
lied glibly. "However, I'll take him off your hands and reimburse you
for the expense of bringing his successor down from Seattle or up from
San Francisco. My two mates have just asked to be paid off, and
despite the fact that they have signed articles, I've let them go. No
use going to sea with a pair of sulky mates, you know. Fortunately, I
had a young Down-Easter aboard and I've put him in as first mate—"
"Noah," urged McBride. "I wouldn't advise you to take this man
"Beggars can't be choosers," Captain Noah replied mournfully. "The
tide serves in half an hour and the tug is alongside the Retriever
now. If I have to wire to Seattle for a second mate I may not be able
to get one—and if I am forced to wire to San Francisco I may be stuck
here a week. I've shipped my crew and paid them all in advance, and
if I don't get to sea in an hour I'll lose every man Jack of them, and
have it all to do over again."
"Well, I'll speak to the fellow for you, Noah," McBride suggested,
and darted out of the cabin to interview the said Murphy. Two minutes
later he was back.
"Sorry, Noah, but Murphy says he wouldn't sign up for a trip to
Cape Town at chief mate's wages."
"I'm sorry, too, Mac," Captain Noah answered resignedly. "I'm
sorry you're such a liar. My grief is only compensated by the
knowledge that Murphy is not aboard the Nokomis at this minute, and,
if you did any talking while you were out on deck a minute ago you
must have talked to yourself. Do I get this man, Murphy and thus save
the Blue Star Navigation Company five hundred dollars or must I wire
Cappy Ricks to wire you to do your duty by the company?"
"You infernal thief," shouted McBride, "you're taking the best
second mate I've had in years."
"Never mind that. Do I get Mike Murphy peaceably or—"
"You've got him already" McBride charged.
"You're better at telling the truth than you are at lying, Angus
McBride. You'll have plenty of time to get a second mate while the
Nokomis is loading, and you can send the bill for his railroad fare to
Cappy Ricks and tell him to charge it to the Retriever."
McBride tried to appear aggrieved, but failed. He burst out
laughing, and reached for the locker in which he kept the schooner's
supply of grog.
"Would it was prussic acid," he growled.
"Don't say I went behind your back and stole your mate," Kendall
retorted. "And if your second mate is as poor as your whiskey," he
added, piling insult on to injury, "you can have him back when I
return from Cape Town."
Matt Peasley felt that he was going to like Michael J. Murphy. The
latter was Irish, but he had left Ireland at a very tender age and
was, to all intents and purposes, a breezy American citizen, and while
he wore a slight cauliflower in one ear, his broad, kindly humorous
face and alert, bustling manner was assurance that he would be an easy
man to get along with. When the Old Man introduced him to Matt, he
extended a horny right hand that closed on Matt's like the jaws of a
dredger, the while he ran an equally horny left hand up and down the
chief mate's arm.
"I'm sure we'll get along famously together, Mr. Murphy," Matt
Again Mr. Murphy ran his hand over that great arm.
"You know it!" he declared with conviction.
Captain Noah laughed aloud, and as Matt scampered forward over the
deckload, herding his savages before him, to receive the tug's breast
line and make it fast on the bitts the skipper turned to Mr. Murphy.
"There's a lad for you," he declared.
"He has manners and muscle, and those are two things that seldom go
together," Mr. Murphy rejoined. "He's Down-Easter, I see. Did Cappy
Ricks send him to you, sir?"
"No—not that he wouldn't, however, if he'd ever met the boy. The
crimp brought him aboard with the sweepings and scrapings of San
"I hope he wasn't drunk—like the rest," Mr. Murphy answered
anxiously. "'Twould be a sin to desecrate that lovely body with
"He was bung up and bilge free—and that's why he's chief kicker
now. The hawser's fast for'd, Mr. Murphy. Cast off your stern line."
"All clear for'd, sir," Matt Peasley's shout came ranging down the
wind, and the tug snatched the big barkentine out from the mill dock
into the stream where she cast her off, put her big towing hawser
aboard, paid it out and started for Grays Harbor bar.
CHAPTER IV. BAD NEWS FROM CAPE TOWN
On a certain day in February Mr. Skinner, coming into Cappy Ricks'
office with a cablegram in his hand, found his employer doubled up at
his desk and laughing in senile glee.
"I have a cablegram—" Mr. Skinner began.
"I have a good story," Cappy interrupted. "Let me tell it to you,
Skinner. Oh, dear! I believe this is about going to kill the boys up
on 'Change when I tell them." He wiped his eyes, controlled his mirth
and turned to the general manager. "Skinner," he said, "did you know
I had gotten back into the harness while you were up at the Astoria
mill? Well I did, Skinner. I had to, you know. If it was the last
act of my life I had to square accounts with that man Hudner, of the
Black Butte Lumber Company."
Mr. Skinner nodded. He was aware of the feud that existed between
Cappy and Hudner, and the reasons therefor. The latter had stolen
from Cappy a stenographer, who had grown to spinsterhood in his
employ—one of those rare stenographers who do half a man's thinking
for him. Cappy always paid a little more than the top of the market
for clever service; and whenever, a competitor stole one of his
favorite employees, sooner or later that competitor paid for his sins,
"through the nose."
"While you were away," Cappy went on, "I met Hudner a luncheon.
'Hudner,' I said, 'It's been my experience that nobody gets anything
good in this world without paying for it—and you stole the finest
stenographer I ever had. So I'm going to make you pay for her. See
if I don't.' Well, sir, Skinner, he laughed at me and told me to go
as far as I liked; and, a number of my youthful friends being present,
they each bet Hudner a five-dollar hat I'd hang his hide on my fence
within sixty days.
"We11, Skinner, you know me. Any time it's raining duck soup
you'll never catch me out with a fork; and, of course, when the boys
showed such faith in my ability to trim Hudner I had to make good. I
have a letter from Hudner to prove it; and to-day at luncheon, when
we're all gathered at the Round Table, I'm going to read that letter
and my reply to the same; and Hudner will have fifty dollars' worth of
hat bills to pay!"
"How did you tan his pelt?" Skinner queried.
"Easy! While you were away I chartered his steamer Chehalis for a
load of redwood lumber from Humboldt Bay to San Francisco at three
dollars and a half a thousand feet. Of course, you know a boat like
the Chehalis, with a big pay-roll, will break just even on such a low
freight rate; but inasmuch as he was going to lay the Chehalis up in
Oakland Creek, owing to lack of business, when I offered him a load of
redwood he concluded to take it, just to keep the vessel moving and
pay expenses. I stipulated discharge in San Francisco Bay.
"Well, sir, when the Chehalis got to our mill, Skinner, I ordered
them to load her with sinkers—oh! oh, this will be the death of me
yet, Skinner. And we gave her poor dispatch in loading. Then she had
to lay behind the bar two days longer before she could cross out; and
when she got here I ordered her to discharge into the British bark
Glengarry—and discharging from one vessel in to another is the
slowest work in the world. And Hudner—he's—written—me, Skinner,
declaring he'll never charter a boat to me again; says the Chehalis
lost two thousand dollars on the voyage." And Cappy went off into a
gale of laughter, and handed Skinner the letter to read.
For the benefit of the reader, who may desire a closer insight into
Cappy's Machiavellian nature, be it known that a sinker is a heavy,
close-grained clear redwood butt-log, which, if cut in the spring,
when the tree is alive with sap, is so heavy it will not float in the
millpond; hence the term sinker. A vessel laden with lumber sawed
from sinkers, therefore, will carry just fifty per cent. of her
customary cargo; and unless the freight rate be extremely high, she
cannot make money.
"Do you know, Skinner," Cappy announced presently, "I think you'd
better hunt up a steady job for me! Dadding it, boy, I never knew
there was so much fun in business until I had practically retired!
Really, Skinner, I must take more interest in my affairs."
"Here's something to sharpen your teeth on, Mr. Ricks," the general
manager replied, and presented the cablegram he had been holding for
Cappy took it and read, thereby becoming aware for the first time,
that he had in his employ an individual by the name of Matthew
Cape Town, February 15, —.
Bluestar, San Francisco:
Captain knifed Kru boy argument boat fare. Instruct consignees
honor my drafts as captain.
Matthew Peasley, Mate.
"The murdering black hound!" Cappy murmured in an awed voice. "If
he hasn't gone and killed the best skipper I ever had! Poor Kendall!
Why, Noah and I were good friends, Skinner. Every time the Retriever
touched in at her home port I always had Noah Kendall up to the house
for dinner, and we went to the theatre together afterward. Thank God!
It isn't a week since his life insurance premium fell due and I had
the cashier pay it."
Cappy sat gazing dejectedly at the carpet.
"Poor old Cap'n Noah!" he soliloquized aloud. "Twenty-five years
you sailed under the Blue Star, and in all that time there was never
once when I had to jack up and tell you to 'tend to business. And,
Noah, you could make a suit of sails last longer than any man I ever
knew; but you did have a hell of a temper." And having delivered this
touching eulogy on the late Captain Kendall, Cappy roused himself and
"I should say I have a job on my hands," he announced, "with the
finest sailing ship in the fleet down in South Africa without a
skipper! Skinner, I'll tell you what you do, my boy: You dictate the
nicest letter you know how to dictate to Noah's widow, up in Port
Townsend. Tell her how much we thought of Noah and extend our
sympathy, and a check for his next three months' salary. Put her on
my private pension list, Skinner, and send her Cap'n Noah's salary
every quarter-day as long as she lives. Tell her we'll attend to the
collection of the life insurance and will bring Noah's body home to
Port Townsend at our own expense. It's the least we can do, Skinner.
He was the only skipper I ever had who did not, at one time or
another, manage to embroil me in a lawsuit. Who are our consignees at
"The Harlow Benton Company, Limited."
"Cable them for confirmation of the mate's message, and request
them to have Cap'n Noah's body embalmed and shipped to Port Townsend,
Washington, prepaid, deducting charges from our invoice."
CHAPTER V. MATT PEASLEY ASSUMES
The death of Captain Noah Kendall, while profoundly deplored by his
next in command, first mate Matthew Peasley, had not been permitted by
that brisk young man to interfere in the least with the task of
getting the cargo out of the Retriever, for sailoring, like
soldiering, is a profession in which sentiment is a secondary
consideration. Each day of demurrage to a ship like the Retriever,
even at the prevailing low freight rate, meant a loss of at least a
hundred dollars to the owners, and since navigating a ship safely and
expeditiously is the least of a good skipper's duties, and since,
further, Matt Peasley was determined to be a skipper in the not very
distant future, he concluded to give his owners evidence of the fact
that he was, in addition to being a navigator, also a first-class
"hustler." If the Retriever made a loss on that voyage he was
resolved that no blame should attach to him.
"Skipper's dead, Mike," he announced to Mr. Murphy, the second
mate. "Policeman in a small boat alongside says the old man got into a
row with the Kru boy that rowed him ashore and the black scoundrel
skewered him. I'm going ashore to look after his body and order a tug
to kick us into our berth. I guess the old man didn't get time to
attend to the business that brought him ashore, poor fellow."
"Very well, Sir," Mr. Murphy replied, and murmured some commonplace
expression of regret. He was not particularly shocked for he had lost
shipmates in a hurry before now.
Matt Peasley proceeded to the beach, attended to the necessary
details incident to the skipper's untimely removal, was informed by
the Harlow Benton Company, Limited, of the location of the berth he
was to discharge, ordered a tug for that afternoon, went to the cable
office, registered his cable address, sent a cablegram to the owners
and returned to the ship.
"Well, Mike," he announced to the second mate, "I guess I'm the
skipper; following the same line of deduction, I guess you're the
chief mate, so I'll move my dunnage into the old man's cabin and you
move into mine. I'll pick up a second mate in Cape Town before we
Mr. Murphy eyed his youthful superior with mild curiosity, not
untempered with amusement. "Thank you for the promotion, Captain
Matt," he replied. "However, if you'll excuse my apparent impudence
on the grounds that I'm about fifteen years older than you and have
been longer in the Blue Star employ, I'd like to make a suggestion."
"Fire away, Mike."
Mr. Murphy hitched his belt, walked to the rail, spat tobacco juice
from between his fingers and came back. "You're the youngest chief
mate I've ever seen, and this is your first berth in that capacity,"
he began. "Suppose you hang on to it and don't be so infernally
"But you have a first mate's license, haven't you?"
"No ifs or buts, Mike. The skipper's dead; I was first mate;
consequently I take command of the ship, and by virtue of my authority
I appoint you first mate. That goes. You'll do one of two things,
Mike. You'll be first mate or get out of the ship."
Michael J. Murphy grinned. "You mean that?"
"If you stick by that determination you'll find yourself on the
beach in Cape Town, unless you conclude to take my recently vacated
berth as second mate. And I'd hate like the devil to have you do
that. There's neither sense nor profit for you in swapping jobs with
"But I tell you I'm going to be skipper."
"I know—until old Cappy Ricks sends down a relief captain. If you
promote me now, the relief captain may conclude to retain me as first
mate and then you'd have to take my job or quit the ship; and of
course I wouldn't care to have that happen. I'd have to quit the
ship, too. I wouldn't care to do that. I've made up my mind to sail
under the Blue Star flag for the rest of my natural life and I'd hate
to have to change my mind."
"I've made up my mind to the same thing, Mike, and I know I'm not
going to change my mind."
"Well, then, Matt, you stick in your first mate's berth and I'll be
satisfied with my second mate's berth."
"I suppose you'll say next that the relief skipper will be happy in
poor old Captain Noah's berth, eh?" Matt interrupted. He grinned at
"Mike, listen to me. There isn't going to be any relief skipper.
You're going back to Hoquiam, Grays Harbor, Washington, U. S. A., as
chief kicker of the barkentine Retriever, and you're going to take
orders from me all the way. In fact, you might as well begin right
now. Take your duds and move into my cabin."
"Matt," Mr. Murphy pleaded earnestly, "you don't know Cappy Ricks,
"No, but I'll get acquainted with him in due course. Don't let
that worry you Mike."
"All right, I won't. But what does worry me is the fact that Cappy
Ricks doesn't know you.
"Does he know you?"
"Do you know him?"
"Yes, by proxy. I've heard a lot about him, and that's why I'm in
his employ and resolved to stay there. If a man sails under the Blue
Star flag long enough and behaves himself and displays a little human
intelligence from time to time sooner or later he gets his chance.
Cappy Ricks does all the hiring and firing for the fleet, and whenever
he has a good job to fill, he never goes outside his own employ to
fill it. He always promotes the deserving. You cabled him, of
course, that Captain Kendall has been killed."
"Yes, I did. And I cabled him also to cable me authority to draw
drafts, as skipper, in order to disburse the vessel."
"Just like a kid! Just like a kid!" Mr. Murphy groaned. "That
finishes you, Matt. Cappy'll think you're fresh and you'll be ten
years proving to him you are not."
"It proves I'm on the job," Matt protested doggedly.
"No matter, Matt. Cappy Ricks will go over the list of his
skippers due for promotion into a larger ship and more pay, and right
away he'll start Captain Noah's successor for Cape Town to bring the
"If he does, Mike, he's crazy."
"Oh, he's crazy enough, Matt, like a fox—so blamed crazy he will
not consider handing over this Retriever to an untried and unknown man
who has been in his employ for less than a voyage. Why, I wouldn't
"Maybe you think he'll hand her over to you?" Matt asked, with the
suspicion and impetuosity of youth.
"Boy," said Mr. Murphy patiently, "you're getting into deep water
close to the shore. Starboard your helm and put her on the other
tack. If he gives her to me—which he will not—I'll take her. I've
been three years in his employ. I'm capable—"
"Mike," Matt interrupted. "I like you fine, but I want to tell you
that if Cappy Ricks cabled you to take charge, I wouldn't let you.
I'm next in command, and it's only etiquette that I should have my
"Then," Mr. Murphy murmured sententiously, "there'd be a fight with
skin gloves and I'm afraid you'd get licked, son. I wasted a good
many years in the navy, Matt, and there I learned two things—how to
obey and how to fight with my fists. I was the champion amateur
light-heavy-weight of the Atlantic fleet, and every once in a while
something happens to prove to me that I'm far from being a slouch even
at this late date."
"No offense, Mike. We're crossing our bridges before we come to
them, and besides, I didn't intend to be offensive."
"I understand. Our conversation was entirely academic," Murphy
"You said you learned to obey in the navy," Matt suggested.
"What's the matter with obeying my last order?"
"All right, Matt. I'll obey. But remember, I have given you fair
warning. If I move into your cabin to-day, I'll not move out when the
relief skipper comes."
"I'll take a chance," said Matt Peasley.
CHAPTER VI. WORDY WAR AT A DOLLAR A
While the capable Mr. Skinner was preparing the reply to Matt
Peasley's cablegram, and dictating for Cappy Ricks' signature a letter
to Noah Kendall's widow, Cappy was busy at the telephone. First he
retailed the news to the Merchants' Exchange, to be bulletined on the
blackboard and read by Captain Noah's friends; next he called up the
secretary of the American Shipmasters' Association, of which the
deceased had been a member, and lastly he communicated the sad tidings
to the water-front reporters of all the daily papers. This detail
attended to, Cappy's active mind returned to more practical and
profitable affairs, and he took up Matt Peasley's cablegram. He was
deep in a study of it when Mr. Skinner entered with the letter to Mrs.
"'Captain knifed, killed, Kru boy argument boat fare,'" Cappy read
aloud. "Skinner, my dear boy, what is the cable rate per word to Cape
"Ninety-eight cents per word," replied Mr. Skinner, who had just
looked it up.
"We will if you please, Skinner, confine ourselves to round
numbers. There is such a thing as being too exact. Call it a dollar.
Figuring on that basis, I see this garrulous mate has squandered five
dollars of our money to no purpose—yes, by jingo, more than that. He
might have used the code book! Hum-m-m! Ahem! Harump-h-h-h!
Skinner, this fellow will not do. He is too windy. Skinner, he
tells the story in eight words, and forgets to use his code book.
Give me a skipper, Skinner, my boy, who always has his owner's
interest at heart and displays a commendable discretion in limiting
the depredations practiced by the cable company. For instance, the
man Peasley might have omitted the word knifed; also the explanatory
words, argument boat fare, and the word mate. Though regretting
Noah's demise most keenly, as business men we are not cable-gramically
interested in the means employed to accomplish his removal. Neither
do the causes leading up to the tragedy interest us. The man Peasley
should merely have said "Captain murdered." Also, he might have
trusted to us to realize that when the captain dies the first mate
takes charge. He need not have identified himself—the infernal
Cappy read the next sentence. "Instruct consignees honor my drafts
"H'm! Harum-ph! He might have said 'please,' Skinner! Sounds
devilishly like an order, the way he puts it. Though he is
temporarily in command I challenge his right to handle our money until
I know more about him. Harum-ph! Reading between the lines, Skinner,
I see he says: 'If you send a skipper to Cape Town to bring the
Retriever home while I'm on the job, you're crazy.' Look over the
vouchers in Cap'n Noah's last report and let us ascertain how long
this forceful mate has been in our employ."
Now, the ordinary form of receipt to which a seaman puts his
signature when signing clear bears upon its reverse side a series of
blank spaces, which the captain must fill in. These blanks provide
for mention of the date of signing on, date of discharge, station held
on vessel and remarks. On none of the vouchers of the Retriever's
last voyage, however, did the name of Matthew Peasley appear.
"Must have shipped in San Francisco just before the vessel sailed
for her loading port," Cappy announced. "Send in a boy."
One of Cappy's young men was summoned.
"Son," said Cappy, "you run down, like a good boy, to the office of
the Deputy United States Shipping Commissioner and tell him Mr. Ricks
would like to see the duplicate copy of the crew list of the
When an American vessel clears for a foreign port the law required
that her crew shall be signed on before a Deputy United States
Shipping Commissioner, who furnishes a certified copy of the crew list
to the captain and retains a duplicate for his own files.
The Blue Star youth returned presently with his duplicate list, on
consulting which, to his unspeakable amazement, Cappy Ricks discovered
that Matthew Peasley had shipped aboard the Retriever as an able
seaman, and that the first mate was one William Olson—which goes to
prove that in the heat of passion a skipper will often discharge a
mate on the eve of sailing for a foreign port and forget to tell the
Deputy Shipping Commissioner anything about it.
"Remarkable," Cappy declared. "Ree-markable!"
"Dirty work here," Mr. Skinner announced. "Captain dead and a
common A.B. cabling us for authority to draw drafts as captain, while
posing as first mate. Nigger in the woodpile somewhere, Mr. Ricks."
"I'll smoke him out in five minutes, Skinner. Ring up the local
inspectors and inquire if, by any chance, they have ever issued a
captain's license to one Matthew Peasley."
Skinner obeyed. After a brief wait he was informed that the said
Peasley had an unlimited license as first mate of sail, and was
entitled to act as second mate of steam vessels up to five hundred
tons net register.
"Nothing doing!" Cappy piped. "Skinner, when a mate with an
unlimited license ships before the mast, THERE'S A REASON!"
"Drunkard!" Mr. Skinner suggested without an instant's hesitation.
"Eggs-actly, Skinner. Good seaman, I daresay, but worthless and
unreliable in an executive capacity, and I can't trust a ripping fine
barkentine like the Retriever with that kind of man. I suppose he
feels the hankering for a spree coming on right now. Skinner, if we
gave the man Peasley permission to draw drafts he'd paint Cape Town
red. I feel it in my bones."
"So do I, sir."
"What vessels have we in port at this moment, Skinner?"
"McBride is discharging the Nokomis at Oakland Long Wharf."
"The ideal man." Cappy smote his desk. "I've been wanting to
promote Mac into a larger vessel and pay him twenty-five dollars a
month more for the past two years. He's too good for a little hooker
like the Nokomis, and he's got a steady-going Norwegian mate that's
been with him in the Nokomis for three years. Time to take care of
that mate. Skinner, I have an idea. See that it is carried through.
McBride's mate shall buy out Mac's interest in the Nokomis. If he
hasn't the money, tell him I'll lend it to him, secured by the
insurance, provided he and McBride can come to terms. See that they
do. Tell Mac he's to have the Retriever, and I'll arrange to get
Cap'n Noah's interest for him from the estate at a fair figure. Give
him expense money and his credentials and tell him to start for Cape
Town tomorrow night; and cable the man Peasley to retain charge of the
vessel at captain's pay until McBride arrives to relieve him."
Mr. Skinner retired to his office and got down his code book. The
general manager knew what he desired to say and hoped he might find
something in the code book to help him say it at cut rates, but
despairing after a diligent search he finally evolved and dispatched
this cablegram to Matt Peasley, addressing it to the cable address of
San Francisco, Feb. 16th, 19—.
Peasley, your meager maritime experience renders prohibitive
compliance request. Retain charge master's pay pending arrival
Having dispatched his message to Matt Peasley, Mr. Skinner, as he
thought, had dismissed Peasley from his thoughts forever. It would
appear, however, that in this particular the general manager was
counting Mother Carey s chickens before they were hatched. He little
suspected, in his desire to be fair, even at considerable expense, to
inform Matt Peasley just why the Blue Star Navigation Company couldn't
possibly hand over its fine barkentine to a stranger, that he had only
reopened the controversy; that his unfortunate reference to "meager
maritime experience" had flicked Matt Peasley on a raw spot and been
provocative of this reply, received the same day:
Cape Town, Feb. 16, 19—.
Skipper dying sea foreign port unwritten maritime law
stipulates mate succeeds. Yankee can sail anything afloat.
This my chance. Grant it or insure successor's life. Will
throw him overboard on arrival.
Mr. Skinner promptly carried this defi to Cappy Ricks.
"He's a sea-lawyer," Cappy piped angrily. "The scoundrel! The
un-mi-ti-ga-ted—scoundrel! Cable him instantly, Skinner, that if he
spends another cent of our money in unnecessary cablegrams I'll fire
him." He snapped his fingers. "Attend to it, Skinner, attend to it."
Mr. Skinner attended to it, and the following morning he found this
reply on his desk when he came down to work:
Cape Town, Feb. 17, 19—.
Holler when you're hit. Paid for it myself. Am I to bring
"I dare say the fellow did," Mr. Skinner informed Cappy. "He has
four months' wages coming to him at sixty dollars a month—and if he
didn't, why, I'll instruct McBride to deduct the cable charges from
his wages when he pays him off."
"I think your reference to his meager maritime experience annoyed
him, Skinner," Cappy suggested thoughtfully. "It may be that he is a
most excellent sailor. At least, he spends his money like one."
Cappy had no further comment to make, and the reply to this
impudent communication was accordingly left to Mr. Skinner, who
San Francisco, Feb. 17th, 19—.
"I think that will settle the upstart," Mr. Skinner declared
confidently as he rang for a messenger boy.
It did not. Four hours later he received this:
Cape Town, Feb. 17, 19—.
Now it was a custom of Mr. Skinner's, when a subordinate laid claim
to an inalienable right which the general manager was not willing to
concede, to regard with very grave suspicion that subordinate's
loyalty to the company. If the subordinate protested Mr. Skinner
would warn him, kindly, quietly, but none the less forcefully; and if
he persisted Mr. Skinner would dispense with the services of that
subordinate so fast the offender, nine times out of ten, would be left
standing in a sort of fog and blinking at the suddenness with which
the metaphorical can had, metaphorically speaking, been tied to his
caudal appendage. Every large business office has its Skinner—a
queer combination of decency, honesty, brains and brutality, a
worshiper at the shrine of Mammon in the temple of the great god
Business, a reactionary Republican, treasurer of his church and
eventually a total loss from diabetes, brought on by lack of exercise
and worry over trifles.
However, to return to our particular Mr. Skinner and Matt Peasley,
the rebellious. In all justice to Skinner it must be admitted that
his first impulse with reference to Matt Peasley was eminently fair.
He really desired to convey to this persistent person an intimation
to the effect that the latter was, colloquially speaking, monkeying
with the buzz-saw and in imminent danger of having his head lopped
off; and he would have given it, too, provided the delivery of the
ultimatum should not have cost the Blue Star Navigation Company
ninety-eight cents a word, including the address. Consequently,
Skinner, always efficient and realizing that McBride would doubtless
be enabled to pick up another mate in Cape Town, or in a pinch, could
dispense with a first mate altogether, made answer to Matt Peasley as
San Francisco, Feb. 17th, 19—.
Peasley, you are hereby discharged. Turn over command second
mate, call consignees your wages immediately.
Having dispatched this cablegram and ended it all, as it were, Mr.
Skinner next cast his cold gray glance adown the duplicate crew list
borrowed from the deputy shipping commissioner, and discovered that
the second mate shipped at San Francisco was one Christian Swenson.
"I do hope he's not a drinking man," Skinner sighed. "The
Retriever is quite a responsibility to entrust to a man we have never
seen or heard of before, but the man Swenson can scarcely be as
vicious and insubordinate as this fellow Peasley, and under the
circumstances we'll have to run the risk."
And having wotted the which, Mr. Skinner cabled Christian Swenson
to take charge of the Retriever, at master's wages, until the arrival
of his successor. Next he cabled The Harlow and Benton Company,
Limited, requesting them to pay off Matt Peasley and, if necessary,
invoke the authorities to remove him from the vessel.
"That fellow is a tough one to handle," he remarked to Cappy Ricks,
to whom he showed all the cablegrams, "but I guess this will about cut
off his wind."
"A sea lawyer is the curse of the Seven Seas!" Cappy declared
waspishly. He was very bitter against Matt Peasley, whom he now
regarded as an ally of the piratical cable company.
CHAPTER VII. CAPPY RICKS MAKES BAD
That afternoon Mr. Skinner herded Captain McBride of the Nokomis
and his Norwegian mate into Cappy Ricks' office. Cappy brought them
to terms very promptly, and the captain started for New York on the
Overland the same night. From New York he was to take passage to
Liverpool, thence via the A. D. line to Cape Town. Cappy almost had a
bloody sweat when he reflected on the expense for provisions and wages
for the crew during the weeks of idleness while McBride was on the way
to join the Retriever. Both he and Mr. Skinner had decided that
nothing could be gained by informing McBride, who was a little,
mild-mannered gentleman with gold eyeglasses, of the potential ducking
that awaited him at the hands of Matt Peasley; for just before McBride
said good-bye and started for the train Cappy and Mr. Skinner
discovered that their apple cart again had been upset. The following
cablegram received from Matt Peasley knocked into a cocked hat all
their high hopes of ridding themselves of the incubus.
Cape Town, Feb. 17, 19—.
Swenson fired before leaving San Francisco. Second mate Murphy
declines take your orders, claiming me superior officer; I
decline also, claiming captain en route my superior officer.
Owner can fire captain but only captain can fire or disrate
ship's officers. Besides I shipped for the round trip.
"Well," said Cappy, "what do you know about that? He clings to us
like a barnacle or a poor relation—and the worst of it is the damned
sea lawyer is absolutely right. We have no authority to fire him,
Skinner. Just think of a government that will permit such a
ridiculous state of affairs as that to exist! Think of it, Skinner!
We hire the man Peasley but we can't fire him—and in the meantime
he'll roost in Cap'n Noah's cabin and run up bills on us and consume
our groceries and draw master's pay until McBride arrives and
For geographical and financial reasons Cappy Ricks was barred from
quarreling with Matt Peasley. However, he was as cross as a setting
hen and just naturally had to vent his displeasure on somebody, and as
he paid Mr. Skinner a very large salary to be his general manager, he
figured he could afford to quarrel with Skinner. So he said:
"Well, Skinner, if you hadn't butted in on the shipping end of the
business the man Peasley would not have been given this opening to
swat us. It's nuts for a sailor any time he can trip up a landsman,
and particularly his owners—"
"You 0. K.'d the cablegrams, Mr. Ricks," Skinner reminded him
"Don't talk back to me!" Cappy piped. "Not another peep out of
you, sir! Not another word of discussion about this matter under any
circumstances! I don't want to talk about it further—understand?
It's driving me insane. Now, then, Skinner, tell me: If the man
Peasley should decline to recognize McBride's authority, what course
would you advise pursuing?"
"I do not think he will be that arbitrary, Mr. Ricks. In the first
"Skinner, please do not argue with me. The man Peasley would do
"Well, in that event, McBride can call in the civil authorities of
Cape Town, to remove Peasley by force from the ship."
"Skinner, you'll drive me to drink! I ask you, has a British
official any authority over an American vessel lying in the roadstead?
Will a foreign official dare to set foot on an American deck when an
American skipper orders him not to do so?"
"I am not a sea lawyer," Mr. Skinner retorted, "I do not know."
"The Retriever will have discharged her cargo weeks before McBride
arrives. Then suppose Peasley takes a notion to warp his vessel
outside the three-mile limit. What authority has McBride got then?"
"I repeat, I am not a sea lawyer, Mr. Ricks."
"Don't equivocate with me, Skinner! Let's argue this question
calmly, coolly and deliberately. Don't lose your temper. Now then.
Peasley said he'd throw his successor overboard, didn't he?"
"Oh, merely a threat, Mr. Ricks."
"Skinner, you're a fine, wise manager! A threat, eh?" Cappy
laughed—a short, scornful laugh. "Huh! Threat! Joke!"
"You do not think it is a threat?"
"No, sir. It's a promise. McBride is a splendid little man and
game to the core; but no good, game little man will ever stay on a
deck if a good, game big man takes a notion to throw him overboard,
and the man Peasley is both big and game, otherwise he would not defy
us. Why, Skinner, that fellow wouldn't pause at anything. Hasn't he
spent over a hundred dollars arguing with us by cable? Why, he's a
desperate character! Also, he would not threaten to throw his
successor overboard if he didn't know that he was fully capable of so
doing. Paste that in your hat, Skinner. It isn't done." Skinner
inclined his head respectfully. Cappy continued: "What I should have
done was to have sent a good, game, big man—"
He paused, and his glance met Skinner's wonderingly as a bright
idea leaped into his cunning brain and crystallized into definite
purpose. He sprang up, waved his skinny old arms, and kicked the
waste-basket into a corner of the room.
"I have it, Skinner! I've solved the problem. Go back and 'tend
to your lumber business and leave the man Peasley to me. I'll tan
that fellow's hide and hang it on my fence, just as sure as George
Washington crossed the Delaware River."
Mr. Skinner, glad to be excused, promptly made his escape. When
Cappy Ricks stripped for action, Mr. Skinner knew from long experience
that there was going to be a fight or a foot race; that whenever the
old gentleman set out to confound an enemy, the inevitable result was
wailing and weeping and gnashing of teeth, in which doleful form of
exercise Cappy Ricks had never been known to participate.
"Send in a boy!" Cappy ordered as the general manager withdrew.
The boy appeared. "Sonny," said Cappy Ricks, "do you know All
Hands And Feet?" The boy nodded and Cappy continued: "Well, you go
down on the Embarcadero, like a good boy, and cruise from Folsom
Street to Broadway Wharf Number Two until you find All Hands and Feet.
Look in front of cigar stands and in the shipchandlery stores; and if
you don't find him in those places run over to the assembly rooms of
Harbor Fifteen, Masters' and Pilots' Association, and see if he's
there, playing checkers. When you find him tell him Mr. Ricks wants
to see him at once."
CHAPTER VIII. ALL HANDS AND FEET TO
Captain Ole Peterson was known to the coastwise trade as All Hands
And Feet. He was a giant Swede whose feet resembled twin scow models
and whose clenched fists, properly smoked and cured, might have passed
anywhere for picnic hams. He was intelligent, competent and
belligerent, with a broad face, slightly dished and plentifully
scarred, while his wide flat nose had been stove in and shifted hard
a-starboard. Cappy Ricks liked him, respected his ability and found
him amusing as one finds an educated bear amusing. He had a
reputation for being the undefeated rough and tumble champion of
Sweden and the United States.
"You ban vant to see me, sir?" he rumbled as, hat in hand, he stood
beside Cappy Ricks' desk half an hour later. Compared with the huge
Swede, Cappy looked like a watch charm.
"Sit down, captain," Cappy replied amiably. "I hear you're out of
a job. Why?"
Briefly All Hands And Feet explained what Cappy already knew; that
his last command, being old and rotten and over-loaded, had worked
apart in a seaway and fallen to pieces under him. The inspectors had
held him blameless.
"I have a job for you, Ole," Cappy announced. "But there's a
string attached to it."
"Aye ban able to pull strings, sir," Ole reminded him.
Cappy smiled, and outlined to the Swede the conditions surrounding
the barkentine Retriever. "I'm going to give you command of the
Retriever," he continued confidentially. "You are to bring her home
from Cape Town, and when you get back I'll have a staunch four-masted
schooner waiting for you. I was going to send McBride of the Nokomis
on this job, but thought better of it, for the reason that Mac may not
be physically equipped to perform the additional task I have in mind
and I believe you are. Peterson, if you want a steady job skippering
for the Blue Star Navigation Company you've got to earn it, and to
earn it you've got to give this fellow Peasley a good sound thrashing
for the good of his immortal soul. The very moment you step aboard
the Retriever let him know you're the master."
"Do you tank he ban villin' to fight?" Ole demanded.
"Something tells me he will. However, in case he doesn't, don't
let that embarrass you. Man-handle him until he does. Let me impress
upon you, captain, the fact that I want the man Peasley summarily
chastised for impudence and insubordination."
"All right, sir," said Ole. "Aye ban work him over." To be asked
to fight for a job was to this descendant of the Vikings the ne plus
ultra of sportsmanship. "Aye never ban licked yet," he added
"When we cabled we were sending a man to relieve him," Cappy
complained, "he replied, telling us to insure his successor's life,
because he was going to throw him overboard the minute he arrived."
All Hands And Feet swept away any lingering fears Cappy might
chance to be entertaining. "Aye ban weigh two hundret an' saxty
pounds," he announced.
"Which being the case," Cappy warned him, "should he succeed in
throwing YOU overboard I should consider you unfit for a job in my
employ." (The old fox had not the slightest idea such a contretemps
was possible, but in order to play safe he considered it good policy
to hearten Ole for the fray.) "Should he defeat you, captain, I have
no hesitancy in saying to you now that such a misfortune would have a
most disastrous effect on your future in my employ. You know me.
When I order a job done, I want it done, and I want it done well.
Understand! I don't want you to maim or kill the man, but just give
him a good sound—er—commercial thrashing; and after you've tamed him
I want you to—"
All Hands And Feet nodded his comprehension.
"An'," he interrupted, "after aye ban slap him once or twice aye
ban give good kick under de coattail an' fire dis fresh guy—eh?" he
"Fire nothing!" shrilled Cappy. "You follow instructions, Ole, or
I'll fire you! No, sir. After you've thrashed him I want you to bend
a rope round him amidships and souse him overside to bring him to!
Remember, we fired him once and he would not be fired. The damned sea
lawyer quoted the salt-water code to us and said he'd shipped for the
round trip; so we'll take him at his word. He's your first mate,
captain. Bring him back to Grays Harbor with you; and then, if you
feel so inclined, you may apply the tip of your number twenty-four sea
boot where it will do the most good; in fact, I should prefer it. But
by all means see to it that he completes his contract with the
"Aye skoll see to it," Ole promised fervently.
"I thank you, captain. Come out in the general office now and I'll
introduce you to the cashier, who will furnish you with expense money.
Meantime, I'll have Skinner fill out a certificate of change of
masters and have it registered at the custom-house. Can't send you
down there without your credentials, you know."
All Hands And Feet mumbled his thanks; for, indeed, he was grateful
for this chance to prove his metal. Calm in the knowledge of his past
performances, he took no thought of the personal issue with Matt
Peasley, for never had he met a mate he could not thrash. He followed
Cappy out to the cashier's desk; and while the latter equipped All
Hands And Feet for his journey to South Africa, and Mr. Skinner
departed for the custom-house to have the certificate registered,
Cappy wired McBride, aboard the Overland speeding east, instructing
him to come back to San Francisco.
When Skinner returned to the office he found Cappy clawing
nervously at his whiskers.
"The man Peasley has completely disrupted our organization," he
complained bitterly. "Here I go to work and promote McBride to the
Retriever to make room for his mate in the Nokomis, and now I have to
recall Mac and give the Retriever to All Hands And Feet until she gets
back to Grays Harbor; in consequence of which Mac hasn't a thing to do
for four months and draws full pay for doing it, and later I've got to
provide a permanent place for All Hands And Feet! Skinner, if this
continues, I shall yet fill a pauper's grave." He was silent for
several seconds; then: "By the way, Skinner, have you replied to that
last cablegram from the man Peasley?"
"No, sir. I didn't think it required an answer."
"You mean you didn't know what answer to give him," Cappy snarled.
"Well, neither do I; but since the cuss has got us into the spending
habit, I'm going to be reckless for once and send him a cable myself,
just to let him know I'm calling his bluff."
And, with that remark, Cappy squared round to his desk and wrote,
in a trembling hand: "Special messenger big as horse carries reply
your last cablegram."
"There," he said, turning to his general manager; "send that to the
man Peasley, and sign my name to it."
CHAPTER IX. MR. MURPHY ADVISES
Matt Peasley said nothing to Mr. Murphy when Cappy Ricks' cryptic
cablegram was received. Insofar as Matt was concerned, that cablegram
closed the argument, for even had it seemed to demand a reply the
master of the Retriever would not—nay could not, have answered, for
the controversy had already ruined him financially. So he went on
briskly with his task of discharging the Retriever and when the A. D.
liner pulled out for Liverpool with Captain Noah's body on board, he
laid off work merely long enough to dip the ensign and run it to half
mast again until the steamer was out of sight; then he furled the
flag, stored it in the locker in Captain Noah's stateroom, into which
he had now moved, and went on superintending the discharging. When
the vessel was empty he had a tug tow him out into the roadstead,
where he cast anchor and set himself patiently to await the arrival of
the special messenger "as big as a horse."
Somehow Matt didn't relish that little dash of descriptive writing.
In conjunction with the noun horse Cappy Ricks had employed the
indefinite article a, and while a horse was a horse and Cappy might
have had a Shetland pony in mind when he coined the simile,
nevertheless, a still small voice whispered to Matt Peasley that at
the time Cappy was really thinking of a Percheron. The longer Matt
chewed the cud of anticipation the more acute grew his regret that he
had threatened to throw his successor overboard. He traced a certain
analogy between that threat and Cappy Ricks' simple declarative
sentence, and finally he decided to take Mr. Murphy into his
"Mike," he said, "did you ever hear any gossip to the effect that
Cappy Ricks will swallow a bluff?"
"No, I never have," Mr. Murphy replied. "Why do you ask? You been
trying to bluff him, Matt?"
"No, I really meant it when I said it, and if I'm crowded I'll make
good, but somehow I wish I hadn't said it. It wasn't dignified."
"What did you say, Matt?"
"I cabled the owners that if they sent a skipper down here to
relieve me they had better insure his life, because I'd throw him
overboard upon arrival."
"Why, that's war talk," Mr. Murphy declared, highly scandalized.
"I don't think Cappy Ricks will stand for that. I know blame well I
"What would you do, Mike, if you stood in Cappy's shoes and I sent
you that cablegram?"
"Well," Mr. Murphy mused, "of course I'd be a little old man
weighing about a hundred and thirty pounds ring-side, and I wouldn't
be able to thrash you myself, but if it took my last dollar I'd send
somebody down here to do the job for me.
"Well, I guess that's just about what Cappy has done," Matt
admitted, and handed his mate Cappy's cablegram.
"Hah-hah!" Mr. Murphy commented. "That threat got past the general
manager, right up to headquarters. Why, the old man signed this
cablegram and they do say that when Cappy takes personal charge the
fur begins to fly. Matt, if I was a drinking man I'd offer to bet you
a scuttle of grog it's a case of die dog, or eat the meat-axe. Your
bluff has been called, my son."
"Then," Matt averred impudently, "the only thing for me to do is to
"Why, give his messenger a good trouncing, of course. You don't
suppose I'm going to stand by and take a thrashing or let the other
fellow heave me overboard, do you? I should say not!"
Mr. Murphy puffed at his pipe, in silence for several minutes, the
while he pondered the situation. Presently he arrived at a solution.
"He wouldn't send a prize-fighter down here, just to lick you," he
announced. "The old man is the wildest spendthrift on earth when you
get him started, but as a general rule his middle name is Tight Wad.
He would select a combination of scrapper and skipper, and there are
any number of such combinations on the beach of 'Frisco town. I could
name you a dozen off-hand, and any one of the dozen would make you
mind your P's and Q's, big as you are. Still, they all fight
alike—rough and tumble, catch-as-catch-can. They come wading in,
swinging both arms and you could sail the Retriever through the
openings they leave. Know anything about boxing, Matt?"
"Not a thing, Mike. I've always had to climb the big fellows."
"Then I'll teach you," Mr. Murphy announced with conviction.
"You're in fine shape now—as right as a fox and fit to tackle the
finest, but there isn't any sense in getting mauled up when you don't
have to. I'll go ashore and buy a set of six-ounce gloves, a set of
two-ounce gloves and a punching bag. For the next three weeks you
won't have anything to do except prepare for the battle, and I can
teach you a lot of good stuff in three weeks. To be fore-warned is to
be fore-armed, Matt, and if Cappy has sent a Holy Terror to clean you,
give him a regular fight, even if he licks you."
Matt Peasley nodded. He entertained a profound respect for Mr.
CHAPTER X. THE BATTLE OF TABLE BAY
In due course Captain Ole Peterson arrived at Cape Town. As the
steamer which bore him slipped up Table Bay to her pier All Hands And
Feet saw a big barkentine, flying the American flag, at anchor just
inside the breakwater and rightly conjectured she was his future
command. Three hours ashore proved ample time to consummate all of
the Retriever's neglected business. He discovered that the man to
whom he was to administer a good, sound, commercial thrashing, as per
Cappy Ricks' instructions, had already purchased and gotten aboard
stores and water for the voyage back to Grays Harbor, so All Hands And
Feet drew some money from the consignees, to be deducted from the
freight money, paid off all the vessel's bills, 0.K.'d the consignees'
statement of account to be forwarded to the owners, received a
ninety-day draft on London, in payment of the freight, mailed it to
his owners, cleared his vessel, procured a reliable man to witness the
formal transfer of authority from Matt Peasley to himself, engaged a
launch and set out for the Retriever. All Hands And Feet had had ample
time to plan his campaign, and he had planned it well. Immediately
upon setting foot on the deck of the Retriever he planned to attack;
then, this duty accomplished, he would send his witness ashore, up
hook and away. The attack having taken place in British waters All
Hands And Feet hoped Matt Peasley would have no redress in American
waters; and if he took the complainant to sea with him the man Peasley
would, of a certainty, have no legal redress in British waters!
Mr. Murphy was the first to sight All Hands And Feet. The worthy
fellow had observed the arrival of the steamer and it had occurred to
him that possibly Cappy Ricks' messenger might be aboard her. He had
been on the lookout for two hours, accordingly, and the instant he saw
a launch coming toward the Retriever his suspicions were fully
aroused. He ran below and returned with the two ounce gloves and
Captain Kendall's powerful marine glasses, which latter he leveled at
the approaching launch, and while the new skipper was still a couple
of cable lengths distant, Mr. Murphy recognized him. Instantly he
secured the two ounce gloves and ran aft to where Matt Peasley,
dressed in slippers, duck trousers and undershirt, sat under an awning
reading Sinful Peck.
"Matt," he declared, "the special messenger will be aboard in about
three shakes of a lamb's tail. I recognize him."
"Who is he?" Matt demanded coolly.
"All Hands And Feet—and believe me, he's there! He isn't a man,
Matt, he's a bear—he's a devil, and if he ever gets his hands on you
it's Kitty bar the door! Get into the gloves, boy, get into the
gloves. You could smash that big Swede to your heart's content, but
you wouldn't even stagger him with the first few punches. You'd just
break your hands on him before you could knock him out and then he'd
walk over you. Into the gloves, Matt, and save your knuckles."
"All right, Mike. Don't be in such a hurry. Call a couple of
hands and let down the companion ladder so the special messenger can
bring his dunnage aboard. I'll fight him after I've finished this
chapter—that is, if he insists on being accommodated."
"He'll insist," Mr. Murphy declared. "He likes it, and the reason
he likes it is because he does it well, and that's the reason he's
here. He won't waste any ceremony on you, Matt. He's always up and
Matt finished his chapter of Sinful Peck just as All Hands And
Feet, followed by a Cape Town gentleman and two Kru boys, bearing
respectively a brown canvas telescope basket and a sea chest, bore
down upon him, convoyed by Mr. Murphy.
"A big Swede skipper," Matt Peasley soliloquized, as he eyed the
stranger with alert interest. "Thunder, but he's big. He's the
biggest thing I ever saw walking on two legs, with the exception of a
trick elephant." He rose, put down his book and advanced to greet his
visitors. While All Hands And Feet was still fully thirty feet from
him he bawled aloud:
"You ban Mr. Peasley?"
"Captain Peasley," young Matt corrected him. "Since the death of
Captain Kendall I have been in charge of the vessel; hence, for the
present, I am known as Captain Peasley. What can I do for you,
All Hands And Feet glanced appraisingly at Matt Peasley and did him
the honor to remove his coat and vest.
"Yes; it's pretty hot down in these latitudes," Matt remarked, by
way of being pleasant and making conversation.
All Hands And Feet removed an envelope from his coat pocket and
handed it to Matt; and while the latter perused it the big Swede
strode to the scuttle butt and helped himself to a drink of water.
Matt opened the envelope and read this communication from Cappy
San Francisco, California.
February 20, 19—.
Mr. Matthew Peasley,
Chief Mate Barkentine Retriever,
Cape Town, South Africa.
My Dear Mr. Peasley:
Cast your eye along the lines of the bearer of this note, Captain
Ole Peterson, who comes to Cape Town to take command of the
Retriever. Within five minutes he will, acting under
instructions from me and without the slightest personal animus
toward yourself, proceed to administer to you the beating of a
lifetime. By the time he gets through wiping the deck with you
perhaps you will realize the necessity, in the future, of obeying
orders from your owners.
In your cablegram received to-day, you take occasion to remind us
that no manager or owner has authority to disrate a ship's
officer. This is quite true. Such authority is vested only in
the master of the ship. You need have no fear for your job,
however. We believe you to be a clever first mate, otherwise
Captain Kendall would not have dug you up out of the forecastle;
and believing this, naturally we dislike the thought of disrating
you. We have, therefore, instructed Captain Peterson to retain
you in your berth as first mate.
However, in view of the fact that we have informed him of your
amiable intentions of throwing him overboard, he will first
inculcate in you that spirit of respect to your superiors which
you so manifestly lack. He will then dip you into the drink, to
bring you to, and after that you will kindly go forward and break
out the anchor. You signed for the round trip and you're going
to complete your contract. Remember that.
Cordially and sincerely yours,
Blue Star Navigation Company,
By Alden P. Ricks,
Matt Peasley read this extraordinary communication twice, then
folded it and calmly placed it in his pocket.
"May I inquire, sir," he said, facing the gentleman who had
accompanied All Hands And Feet aboard the Retriever, "who you are and
the nature of your business?"
"I am the American consul, Mr. Peasley, and I am here at the
invitation of Captain Peterson, the master of this ship, to witness
the formal transfer of authority from you to him. I was given to
understand by Captain Peterson that you might offer some slight
objection to this arrangement."
"Slight objection!" Matt Peasley replied with a rising inflection,
and grinned maliciously.
The consul had his Yankee sense of humor with him and chuckled as
Matt lifted his big body on his toes and stretched both arms lazily.
Then Matthew Peasley turned toward All Hands And Feet.
"I have a letter from the owners of the Retriever," he said
respectfully, "which leads me to presume that you are to supersede me
in command of the vessel." All Hands And Feet nodded. "Which being
the case," Matt Peasley continued, "as a mere matter of formality, you
will of course present your credentials as master."
"Sure!" Ole replied pleasantly, and sidled toward Matt Peasley with
outstretched arms. Could Cappy Ricks have seen his skipper then, he
would have reminded the Old Man more than ever of a bear.
Matt Peasley needed no blueprint of the big Swede's plans. All
Hands And Feet, depending on his sheer horse power and superior
weight, always fought in mass formation, as it were. His modus
operandi was to embrace his enemy in those terrible arms, squeeze the
breath out of him with one bearlike hug, then lay him on the deck,
straddle him, and pummel him into insensibility at his leisure. Matt
gave ground rapidly and held up a warning hand.
"One moment, my friend," he requested. "Before you get familiar on
brief acquaintance, don't you think you had better present your
All Hands And Feet shook his two great fists and grinned
"How dese ban suit you for credentials?" he queried.
"Fine," Matt Peasley answered; "only, before you present them, our
first duty is to the ship. I take it that you have cleared the vessel
and that after trimming me you intend to put to sea."
"You ban guess it," the Swede rumbled. "Put up de dooks. Anyhow,
I ban't have to fight little feller. Dat ban one comfort."
"You cleared the ship, eh? Well, Swede, I'm glad to hear that. I
should have cleared her myself and sailed long ago if I had only had a
skipper's ticket; but these British custom-house officials are great
sticklers for red tape and they wouldn't clear me. And, of course, a
man can't sail without his papers. When he does they send a gunboat
after him. However," he added brightly "the ship is cleared and the
skipper—so I am unofficially informed—is aboard. By the way, Swede,
I left a lot of 0.K.'d bills for stores and provision up at the office
of the Harlow Benton Company, Limited. Did you square up for them?"
"Yah; everything ban shipshape," All Hands And Feet assured him.
"And you insist on presenting your credentials in bunches of fives,
All Hands And Feet nodded and once more commenced sidling toward
Matt Peasley, who backed away again, meantime addressing himself to
the United States consul:
"You heard what he said, Mr. Consul. He may be my superior
officer, but I have not been informed of that fact officially; and
meantime, so far as I am concerned, he is merely a fine, big
squarehead who has climbed aboard my ship uninvited and attacked me.
Did you ever see a sea bully licked, Mr. Consul?"
"I have never had that pleasure, Mr. Peasley."
All the time Matt Peasley was circling around the deck, with All
Hands And Feet sidling after him.
"Then you've got something coming, sir," Matt replied. "Help
yourself to a reserved seat on the rail and watch the joyous
procedure. Mr. Murphy?"
"Here, sir," Mr. Murphy replied promptly.
"I'm going to thrash the big fellow, Mr. Murphy. Stand by to see
fair play and keep the crew off him. I observe you have equipped
yourself with a belaying-pin. Thank you, Mr. Murphy. You anticipate
He turned to All Hands And Feet, who was still crowding him as they
circled the deck. "Stop where you are, my friend; otherwise, Mr.
Murphy will crack you on the head with the belaying-pin."
All Hands And Feet grinned patronizingly and paused.
"Vell?" he queried.
"On my ship," Matt continued, "all fights are pulled off under my
rules. Kicking, choking, biting, gouging and deadly weapons are
prohibited. If you get me down you can use your fists on me, but
anything else will necessitate the interference of the referee with
his trusty belaying-pin."
"Vell?" All Hands And Feet queried again. He was very eager for
"We have procured a set of two-ounce gloves in anticipation of this
physical culture exhibition," Matt replied. "Unfortunately, however,
I fear your hands will not fit them. Would you care to try them on?"
"Cut it oud! Cut it oud!" the enemy rumbled contemptuously, and
again commenced his advance.
"One minute, then, my friend, until I put on—"
"Fight mit your bare hands like a man!" the big Swede bellowed
"You forget. I told you all fights on my ship are pulled off under
my rules. I always fight with two-ounce gloves."
"All righd. Suit yourself." All Hands And Feet felt he could
afford to give the enemy a trifle the better of the argument without
the slightest prejudice to his own chances for success.
Accordingly, Mr. Murphy skillfully bandaged Matt Peasley's hands,
drew on the gloves and gently shoved his young champion toward the
center of the deck. "Let 'er go!" he announced.
"Come Swede! Present your credentials!" Matt taunted. His long
left flashed out and cuffed All Hands And Feet on the nose.
It was a mere love-tap! All Hands And Feet grinned pityingly, and
with his left arm guarding his face, rushed.
"Lower deck!" Mr. Murphy warned, and laughed as Matt planted left
and right in the midriff and danced away from the Swede's swinging
right. All Hands And Feet grunted—a most unwarriorlike grunt—and
dropped both hands—whereupon a fog suddenly descended upon his
vision. Faintly he made out a blur that was Matt Peasley; bellowing
wrathfully he rushed. Matt gave ground and the Swede's vision cleared
and he paused to consider the situation.
"No rest for the wicked," Mr. Murphy declared. "At him, boy, at
All Hands And Feet realized he faced a desperate situation, and as
Matt stepped in he ducked and leaped upon his antagonist.
"By yiminy," he yelled. "I got you now!" and his great hands
closed around Matt Peasley's neck.
"Lower deck!" Mr. Murphy yelled shrilly, and a volley of short arm
blows commenced to rattle on the big Swede's stomach. For at least
seven seconds Matt worked 1ike a pneumatic riveter; then—
"Swing your partner for the grand right and left," Mr. Murphy
counseled, and Matt closed with All Hands And Feet, and managed to
shake the badly winded champion off.
"All off," Mr. Murphy declared to the American consul and dropped
his marline-spike, as Matt Peasley ripped left and right, right and
left into Ole Peterson's dish face. "Watch the skipper—our skipper,
I mean. Regular young human pile-driver." He raised his voice and
called to Matt Peasley. "He's rocking on his legs now, sir; but keep
away from those arms. He's dangerous and you're givin' him fifty
pounds the best of it in the weights. Try the short ribs with your
left and feel for his chin with the right, sir. Very nicely done,
sir! Now—once more!"
Mr. Murphy nodded politely to the American consul.
"Excuse me," he said. "The bigger they are the harder they fall,
and the Retriever's deck ain't no nice place to bump a man's head.
I'll just skip round in back and catch him in my arms."
Which being done, Mr. Murphy laid All Hands And Feet gently on
deck, walked to the scuttle butt, procured a dipperful of water and
threw it into the gory, battered face. Matt Peasley had simply walked
round him and, with the advantage of a superior reach, had
systematically cut Captain Ole Peterson to strings and ribbons.
He held up the blood-soaked gloves for Mr. Murphy to untie the
strings, the while he sniffed a little afternoon breeze that had just
sprung up, blowing straight for the open sea.
"When he comes to, Mr. Murphy," he ordered calmly, "escort him to
your old room. Have one of the men stow his dunnage there also; and
tell him if he shows his nose on deck until I give him permission, he
shall have another taste of the same. Mr. Consul, I should be highly
honored if you would step into my cabin and hoist one to our own dear
"With pleasure," the consul replied. "Though I cannot, in my
capacity as a citizen of the United States, endorse your—er—mutiny,
nevertheless, as a United States consul at Cape Town I shall take
pleasure in certifying to the fact that the fallen gladiator was the
aggressor, that he did not present his credentials, and that you had
no official knowledge of his identity."
"I wish you would make an affidavit to that effect, under the seal
of the Consulate, and mail it to me at Hoquiam, Washington, U. S. A.,"
Matt pleaded, as they reached his cabin. He reached into poor old
Cap'n Noah's little private locker. "I've a suspicion, sir, I'm going
to need your affidavit very badly."
"I shall do so, Mr. Peasley. May I inquire what you purpose doing
with Captain Peterson?"
"Captain Peasley—if you please, Mr. Consul." Matt looked up and
grinned. "I think," he continued, as he inserted the corkscrew, "I
shall ship that boy as second mate if he's willing to work. If he's
sullen, of course he'll have to remain in his room—and I shall not
permit him to present his credentials now."
"Captain Peasley," the consul warned seriously. "I'm afraid you're
in very, very Dutch."
"I wouldn't be surprised. However, it will be about three months
before I commence to suffer, and in the meantime I'm going to be
supremely happy skippering the barkentine Retriever back to Grays
Harbor, if they hang me for it when I get there. Say when!"
"Here's success to crime, Mr. Consul."
"Good luck to you, you youthful prodigy; good luck and bon voyage,
Mr.—I mean Captain Peasley."
"Thank you, Mr. Consul. I hate to hurry you away; fact is, I'd like
to have you stay aboard and have dinner with us, but if this breeze
holds good I can save my owners an outward towage bill, and I'll have
to hustle. So I'll bid you good-bye, Mr. Consul. Glad to have had
you for the little exhibition. Here is my name and address—and
please don't forget that affidavit."
When the American consul left the ship Matt Peasley was on the poop
bawling orders; up on the topgallant forecastle the capable Mr. Murphy
and his bully boys were walking around the windlass to the bellowing
chorus of Roll A Man Down! while the boatswain, promoted by Matt
Peasley to second mate, was laying aloft forward shaking out the
topsails and hoisting her head-sails. When the consul looked again,
the American barkentine Retriever had turned her tail on Cape Town and
was scampering down Table Bay with a bone in her teeth; heeling gently
to the freshening breeze, she was rolling home in command of the boy
who had joined her five months before as an able seaman.
Matt Peasley rounded the Cape of Good Hope nicely, but he had added
materially to his stock of seamanship before he won through the
tide-rips off Point Aghulas and squared away across the Indian Ocean.
Coming up along the coast of Australia he had the sou'east trades and
he crowded her until Mr. Murphy forgot the traditions of the sea,
forgot that Matt Peasley was the skipper and hence not to be
questioned, and remembered that the madman was only a boy.
"Captain Matt," he pleaded, "take some clothes off the old girl,
for the love of life! She's making steamer time now, and if the
breeze freshens you'll lift the sticks out of her."
"Lift nothing, Mike. I know her. Cap'n Noah told me all about
her. You can drive the Retriever until she develops a certain little
squeak up forward—and then it's time to shorten sail. She isn't
squeaking yet, Mike. Don't worry. She'll let us know," and his
beaming glance wandered aloft to the straining cordage and bellying
canvas. "Into it, sweetheart," he crooned, "into it, girl, and we'll
show this Cappy Ricks what we know about sailing a ship that can sail!
Meager maritime experience, eh? I'll show him!"
Oh, Sally Brown, I love your daughter,
I love your daughter, indeed I do,
he caroled, and buck-and-winged his way back to the poop, for he
was only a boy, life was good, he was fighting a fight and as Mr.
Murphy remarked a minute later when Matt ordered him to bend the
fore-staysail on her; "What the hell!"
Day and night Matt Peasley drove her into it. He stood far off
shore until he ran out of the sou'east trades, fiddled around two days
in light airs and then picked up the nor'east trades; drove her well
into the north, hauled round and came romping up to Grays Harbor bar
seventy-nine days from Cape Town. A bar tug, ranging down the coast,
hooked on to him and snaked him in.
CHAPTER XI. MR. SKINNER RECEIVES A
Cappy Ricks was having his customary mid-afternoon nap in his big
swivel chair and his feet on his desk, when Mr. Skinner came in and
woke him up.
"I just couldn't help it, sir," he announced apologetically, as
Cappy opened one eye and glared at him, "I had to wake you up and tell
you the news."
"Tell it!" Cappy snapped.
"The Retriever arrived at Grays Harbor this morning, Mr. Ricks.
She's broken the record for a fast passage," and he handed Cappy
Ricks a telegram.
"Bless my withered heart!" Cappy declared, and opened his other
eye. "You don't tell me? Well, well, well! All Hands And Feet is
making good right off the bat, isn't he?" Cappy chuckled. "Skinner,
my dear boy," he bragged, "did you ever see me start out to pick a
skipper and hand myself the worst of it?"
"No, sir," Mr. Skinner maintained dutifully, and turned away to
hide a wicked little smile, which under the circumstances Skinner was
"And you never will, Skinner. Paste that in your hat, boy. That
big Swede, Peterson, can handle a ship as well as he can handle a
refractory mate—and that's going some, Skinner—going some! I'm not
surprised at his fast passage. Not at all, Skinner. Come to think of
it, I'm going to fire that Scotchman in the Fortuna and give All Hands
And Feet his berth. He has earned it."
He adjusted his spectacles and read:
June 27, 19—.
Blue Star Navigation Company,
258 California St.,
Arrived this morning, seventy-nine days from bar to bar, all
hands well, including your special messenger. Offered him job
as second mate, just to show I had no hard feelings, but he
would not work, so I brought him home under hatches. Permitted
him present his formal credentials this morning and turned over
command of ship to him. Declined responsibility and left,
saying you had promised him command four-masted schooner.
Seemed trifle hurt, although it is seventy-nine days since I
thrashed him. Consequently I am still in command and awaiting
For a long time Cappy Ricks kept looking sternly at Mr. Skinner
over the tops of his spectacles. There was blood on the moon again,
and the silence was terrible. He kept rocking gently backward and
forward in his swivel chair, for all the world as though preparing for
a panther-like spring at Mr. Skinner's throat. Suddenly he exploded.
"I won't have another thing to do with the man Peasley!" he
shrilled. "The fellow is a thorn in my side and I want peace!
Understand, Skinner? I—want—peace! What in blue blazes do I pay
you ten thousand a year for if it isn't to give me peace? Answer me
"Well you said you wanted to attend to the shipping—"
"That'll do, Skinner—that'll do! You're an honorary member of the
I-told-you-so Club and I'm thoroughly disgusted with you. Rid me of
this man—immediately. If I ever get another telegram from the
scoundrel I shall hold you personally responsible."
Forthwith Mr. Skinner acted. He went up to the office of the
United States District Attorney and swore out a Federal warrant for
the arrest of Matthew Peasley on a charge of mutiny and
insubordination, assault and battery on the high seas, and everything
else he could think of. The authorities promptly wired north to send a
United States marshal down to Grays Harbor to arrest the culprit; and
the following afternoon, when Cappy Ricks got back to his office after
luncheon and picked up the paper, the very first thing his glance
rested on was the headline:
MATE CHARGED WITH MUTINY!
Mutiny and sundry other crimes on the high seas are out of the
ordinary; hence the United Press correspondent at Hoquiam had
considered the story of Matt Peasley's arrest worthy of dissemination
over the Pacific Coast.
Cappy Ricks read it, the principal item of interest in it being a
purported interview with Matt Peasley, who, in choice newspaperese,
had entered a vigorous denial of the charge. The story concluded with
the statement that Peasley was a native of Thomaston, Maine, where he
had always borne a most excellent reputation for steadiness and
Cappy Ricks laid the paper aside.
Thomaston, Maine! So the man Peasley was a Down-Easter! That
"Well, I hope my teeth may fall into the ocean!" Cappy murmured.
"Thomaston, Maine! Why, he's one of our own town boys—one of my own
people! Dear, dear, dear! Well now, it's strange I didn't know that
name. I must be getting old to forget it."
He sat in his swivel chair, rocking gently backward and forward for
several minutes, after a fashion he had when perturbed. Suddenly his
old hand shot out and pressed the push button on his desk, and his
"Send Mr. Skinner in!" he commanded.
Presently Mr. Skinner came, and again Cappy eyed him over the tops
of his spectacles; again the terrible silence. Skinner commenced to
"Skinner," began Cappy impressively, "how often have I got to tell
you not to interfere with the shipping? Tut, tut! Not a peep out of
you, sir—not a peep! You had the audacity, sir, to swear to a
Federal warrant against the man Peasley. How dare you, sir? Do you
know who the man Peasley is? You don't. Well, sir, I'll tell you.
He's a Down-East boy and I went to school with his people. I'll bet
Ethan Peasley was a relative of this boy Matt, because Ethan had a
cousin by the name of Matthew; and Ethan and Matt and I used to hell
around together until they went to sea.
"Lord bless you, Skinner, I can remember yet the day the Martha
Peasley came up the harbor, with her flag at half-mast—and poor old
Ethan was gone—whipped off the end of her main yard when she rolled!
"We were great chums, Ethan and I, Skinner; and I cried. Why—why,
damn it, sir, this boy Matt's people and mine are all buried in the
same cemetery back home. Yes, sir! And nearly all of 'em have the
same epitaph—'Lost at Sea'—and—you idiot, Skinner! What do you
mean, sir, by standing there with your infernal little smile on your
smug face? Out of my office, you jackanapes, and call the dogs off
this boy Matt. Why, there was never one of his breed that wasn't a man
and a seaman, every inch of him.
"All Hands And Feet thrash a Peasley! Huh! A joke! Why, Ethan
was six foot six at twenty, with an arm like a fathom of towing cable.
Catch me turning down one of our own boys! No, sir! Not by a damned
In all his life Mr. Skinner had never seen Cappy Ricks so wrought
up. He fled at once to call off the dogs, while Cappy turned to his
desk and wrote this telegram:
San Francisco, California.
June 28, 19—.
Care United States Marshal,
Congratulations on splendid voyage. You busted record.
Lindquist, in the John A. Logan, did it in eighty-four days in
the spring of ninety-four. Draw draft and pay off crew, render
report of voyage, place second mate in charge, and proceed
immediately to Seattle to get your master's ticket. Will
telegraph Seattle inspectors requesting waive further probation
as first mate and issue license if you pass examination in
order that you may accept captaincy of Retriever. Skinner, my
manager, had you arrested. Would never have done it myself. I
come from Thomaston, Maine, and I knew your people. Would
never have sent the Swede had I known which tribe of Peasley
you belonged to—though, if he had licked you, no more than you
deserved. I want no more of your impudence, Matt.
Alden P. Ricks.
* * * * * *
For a week business droned along in Cappy Ricks' office as usual,
interrupted at last by the receipt of a telegram from Matt Peasley to
Cappy. It was sent from Seattle and read:
"Have now legal right to be called captain. Rejoin ship
tomorrow. Wire orders. Thank you."
"God bless the lad!" Cappy murmured happily. "I'll bet he's going
to make me a skookum skipper. Still, I think he's pretty young and
sadly in need of training; so I'll have to take some of the conceit
out of him. I'm going to proceed to break his young heart; and if he
yells murder I'll fire him! On the contrary, if he's one of Ethan's
tribe—well, the Peasleys always did their duty; I'll say that for
them. I hope he stands the acid."
Whereupon Cappy Ricks squared round to his desk and wrote:
San Francisco, July 5, 19—.
Captain Matthew Peasley,
Master Barkentine Retriever,
Glad you have legal right to be called captain. Sorry I have
not. Proceed to Weatherby's mill, at Cosmopolis, and load for
Antofagasta, Chile. Remember speed synonymous with dividends
in shipping business.
Blue Star Navigation Company.
When Cappy signed his telegrams with the company name it was always
a sure indication he had discharged his cargo of sentiment and gotten
down to business once more.
"A little creosoted piling now and then is bully for the best of
men," he cackled. "For a month of Sundays that man Peasley will curse
me as far as he can smell the Retriever. Oh, well! Every dog must
have his day—and I'm a wise old dog. I'll teach that Matt boy some
respect for his owners before I'm through with him!"
CHAPTER XII. THE CAMPAIGN OPENS
When Matt Peasley's Yankee combativeness, coupled with the accident
of birth in the old home town of Cappy Ricks, gained for him command
of the Blue Star Navigation Company's big barkentine, Retriever, he
lacked eight days of his twenty-first birthday. He had slightly less
beard than the average youth of his years; and, despite the fact that
he had been exposed almost constantly to salty gales since his
fourteenth birthday, he did not look his age. And of all the
ridiculous sights ashore or afloat the most ridiculous is a sea
captain with the body of a Hercules and the immature features of an
Indeed, such a great, soft, innocent baby type was Matt Peasley
that even the limited sense of humor possessed by his motley crew
forbade their reference to him, after custom immemorial, as the Old
Man. The formal title of captain seemed equally absurd; so they
compromised by dubbing him Mother's Darling.
"If," quoth Mr. Michael Murphy, chief kicker of the Retriever, over
a quiet pipe with Mr. Angus MacLean, the second mate, as the vessel
lay at anchor in Grays Harbor, "Cappy Ricks had laid eyes on Mother's
Darling before ordering him to Seattle to go up for his master's
ticket, the old fox would have scuttled the ship sooner than trust
that baby with her."
"Ye'll nae be denying the lad kens his business," Mr. MacLean
"Aye! True enough, Mac; but 'twould be hard to convince Cappy
Ricks o' that. Every skipper in his employ is a graybeard."
"Mayhap," the canny MacLean retorted. "That's because t'owd boy's
skippers have held their berths ower long."
But Mr. Murphy shook his head. He had come up from before the mast
in the ships of the Blue Star Navigation Company, and since he had
ambitions he had been at some pains to acquaint himself with the
peculiarities of the president of that corporation.
"Give Cappy Ricks one look into Matt Peasley's face and I'll be
skippering the Retriever," he declared.
And in this he was more than half right, for Cappy Ricks had never
met Matt Peasley, and when the Old Man made up his mind that he wanted
the boy to skipper his barkentine, the Retriever, he was acting
entirely on instinct. He only knew that in Matt Peasley he had a man
who had shipped out before the mast and returned from the voyage in
command of the ship, and naturally such an exploit challenged
recognition of the most signal nature—particularly when, in its
performance, the object of Cappy's admiration had demonstrated that he
was possessed of certain sterling attributes which are commonly
supposed to make for success in any walk of life.
Since Matt Peasley had accomplished a man's work it never occurred
to Cappy Ricks to consider that the object of his interest might be a
boy. Young he knew him to be—that is to say, Cappy figured the rascal
to be somewhere between thirty and thirty-five.
Had he known, however, that his prospective captain had but
recently attained his majority the Old Man would have ascribed Matt
Peasley's record-breaking voyage from Cape Town to Grays Harbor as
sheer luck, and forthwith would have set Master Matthew down for a
five-year apprenticeship as first mate; for Cappy was the product of
an older day, and held that gray hairs and experience are the prime
requisites for a berth as master.
Any young upstart can run coastwise, put in his service sailing a
ship from headland to headland, and then take a course in a navigation
school, where in six weeks he can cram sufficient navigation into his
thick head to pass the inspectors and get a master's ticket; but for
offshore cruising Cappy Ricks demanded a real sailor and a thorough
business man rolled into one.
Mother's Darling had returned to Grays Harbor from a flying visit
to Seattle, where two grizzled old ex-salts, the local inspectors, had
put him through a severe examination to ascertain what he knew of
Bowditch on Navigation and Nichols on Seamanship. Naturally he did
not know as much as they thought he should; but, out of sheer
salt-water pride in the exploit of a stripling and in deference to a
letter from Cappy Ricks requesting them to waive further probation as
chief mate and issue Mr. Peasley his master's license if they found
him at all competent—this in order that the said Peasley might take
command of his barkentine, the Retriever, forthwith—the inspectors
concluded to override the rules of the Department of Commerce, and
gave Matt Peasley his master's license.
Upon his return from Seattle, Matt called at the telegraph office
in Hoquiam and received his loading instructions from the owners. His
heart beat high with youthful importance and the joy of victory as he
almost ran to the water front and engaged a big gasoline launch to
take him aboard the Retriever and then kick her into the mill dock at
Cosmopolis. His ship was not where he had left her, however, and
after an hour's search he discovered her several miles up the Chehalis
river. Murphy was on deck, gazing wistfully at the house and wishing
he had some white paint, when Matt Peasley came aboard. Even before
the latter leaped to the deck Mr. Murphy knew the glad tidings—knew
them, in fact, the very instant the boy's shining countenance appeared
above the rail. The skipper was grinning fatuously and Mr. Murphy
grinned back at him.
"Well, sir," he greeted young Matt, "I see you're the permanent
skipper. I congratulate you."
"Thank you, Mike. And I hope you will have no objection to
continuing in your berth as first mate. I realize I'm pretty young
for an old sailor like you to be taking orders from—"
"Bless your soul, sir," Mr. Murphy protested; "of course I'll stick
with you! Didn't you whale the big Swede Cappy Ricks sent to Cape
Town to kick you out of your just due?" He reaffirmed his loyalty
with a contemptuous grunt.
"What are you doing way up the river?" the captain demanded.
"Oh, that's a little liberty I took," the mate declared. "You're
new to this coast; and, of course, when they ordered us to Grays
Harbor I knew we weren't going to be able to go on dry dock, because
there isn't any dry dock here. So, while you were in Seattle, I had a
gasoline tug tow us up-river. We've been lying in fresh water four
days, sir, and that'll kill most of the worms on her bottom."
"Hereafter," said Matt Peasley, "you get ten dollars a month above
the scale. Thank you."
Mr. Murphy acknowledged his appreciation.
"Any orders, sir?" he continued.
Matt Peasley showed him Cappy Ricks' telegram and Mr. Murphy nodded
his approval. He had been in port nearly a week and the whine of the
sawmills and the reek of river water had begun to get on his nerves.
He was ready for the dark blue again.
"There's something wrong about our cargo, I think," Matt remarked
"Why, down at the telegraph office this morning I met the master of
the schooner, Carrier Dove, and when I told him my orders he
"Huh! Well, he ought to know what he snickered about, sir. The
Carrier Dove just finished loading at Weatherby's mill," Mr. Murphy
replied. "She's a Blue Star craft and bound for Antofagasta also. Her
skipper's Salvation Pete Hansen, and it would be just like that
squarehead to dodge a deckload of piling and leave it for us."
"Well, whatever it was it amused him greatly. It must be worse
than a deckload of piling."
"There's nothing worse in the timber line, unless it's a load
underdeck, sir. You take a sixty-foot pile with a fourteen-inch butt
and try to shove it down through the hatch, and you've got a job on
your hands. And after the hold is half filled you've got to quit
loading through the hatch, cut ports in your bows, and shove the
sticks in that way. It's the slowest loading and discharging in the
world; and unless you drive her between ports and make up for the lost
time you don't make a good showing with your owners—and then your
job's in danger. Ship owners never consider anything except results."
"Well," the captain answered, "in order not to waste any more time
than is absolutely necessary, call Mr. MacLean and the cook, and we'll
go for'd and break out the anchor."
Immediately on his arrival from Cape Town, Matt Peasley had paid
off all his foremast hands, leaving the two mates and the cook the
only men aboard the vessel. He joined them now in a walk around the
capstan; the launch hooked on and the Retriever was snaked across the
harbor to Weatherby's mill. And, while they were still three cables'
length from the mill dock, Mr. Murphy, who had taken up his position
on the topgallant forecastle, to be ready with a heaving line,
suddenly raised his head and sniffed upwind.
The captain had the wheel and Mr. MacLean was standing aft waiting
to do his duty by the stern line. Presently he, too, raised his head
"I see you got it too, Mac," Mr. Murphy bawled.
"Aw, weel," Mr. MacLean replied; "Why worrit aboot a bridge till ye
hae to cross it? D'ye ken 'tis oors?"
"What are you two fellows talking about and why are you sniffing?"
Matt Peasley demanded.
"I'm sniffing at the same thing Salvation Pete Hansen laughed
about," the mate answered. "I'll bet you a uniform cap we're stuck
with a cargo of creosoted piling—and hell hath no fury like a
When the vessel had been made fast to the mill dock Matt Peasley
walked forward to meet his mate.
"What about this cargo of ours?" he demanded. "Remember, I'm new
to the lumber trade on this coast. I have never handled any kind of
"Then, sir, you're going to get your education like the boa
constrictor that swallowed the nigger—all in one long, slimy bite."
He gazed at his boyish skipper appraisingly.
"No," he murmured to himself; "I can't do it. I like you for the
way you whaled that big Swede in Cape Town, but this is too much."
"Why, I don't find the odor so very unpleasant," the master
declared; "in fact, I rather like it, and I know it's healthy, because
I remember, when my brother Ezra had pneumonia, they burned creosote
in the room."
"Oh, nobody objects to the smell particularly, sir, though it's
been my experience that anybody can cheapen a good thing by
overuse—and we have three months of that smell ahead of us. It's the
taste that busts my bobstay."
"Why, what do you mean?"
"Well, you see, sir, the odor of creosote is so heavy it won't
float in the air, but just settles down over everything, like mildew
on a pair of boots. So it gets in the stores and you taste it. You
can store flour below deck aft and creosoted piling on deck for'd—and
you won't be out two weeks before that flour is spoiled. Same way
with the tea, coffee, sugar, mush, salt-horse—everything. It all
tastes of creosote; and then the damned stuff rubs off on the ship and
ruins the paintwork. And if the crew happen to have any cuts or
abrasions on their hands they're almost certain to get infected with
the awful stuff, and you'll be kept busy doctoring them. Then, the
first thing, along comes a gale and you're shorthanded, and there's
the devil to pay."
"Aye!" Mr. MacLean interrupted solemnly. "I dinna care for
creosote mysel', sir; so, wi' your kind permission, I'll hae ma
time—an' I'll hae it noo."
Matt Peasley bent upon the recalcitrant Scotchman a withering
glare. "Very well, Mr. MacLean," he said presently, "I never could
sail in the same ship with a quitter; so you might as well go now,
when we can part good friends." He turned to Mr. Murphy. "How about
you, Mike? Are you going to run out on me, too?"
Now, as between the Irish and the Scotch, history records no
preponderance of courage in either, for both are Gaels and a
comparison is difficult.
However, Scotchmen are a conservative race and will walk round a
fight rather than be forced into it, while all that is necessary to
make an Irishman fight is to impugn his courage.
Mr. Murphy had seen the fight ahead of the Retriever and he did not
blame Mr. MacLean for side-stepping it. Indeed, he had intended
pursuing the same course; but Matt Peasley, by his latest remark, had
rendered that impossible. To desert now would savor of dishonor; and,
moreover, Matt Peasley, though master, had called him by his Christian
name. Mr. Murphy touched his forelock respectfully.
"I am not Scotch," he announced, with a slight emphasis on the
pronoun. "Shame on you, Angus MacLean—ditching the skipper like
"Sticks an' stones may break ma bones, but names'll never hur-rt
me," Mr. MacLean retorted. "I tell ye I dinna care for creosote in ma
porridge." And he followed Matt Peasley aft, where the latter paid
him off and gave him five minutes to pack and get off the ship.
Immediately after supper the cook followed the second mate; but, since
the former was a Jap and probably the worst marine cook in the world,
his departure occasioned no heartache.
"We'll board at the mill cook-house until we're loaded, Mike," Matt
Peasley informed the mate. "They have a good Chink up there."
Mr. Murphy sighed as he loaded his pipe and struck a match for it.
"It does look to me, sir," he replied, with that touch of conscious
superiority so noticeable in the Celt, "as though Cappy Ricks might
have slipped this cargo to a Dutchman."
The Retriever commenced taking on cargo at seven o'clock the
following morning, with Mr. Murphy on shipboard and Matt Peasley on
the dock superintending the gang of stevedores. Ordinarily the
masters of lumber freighters ship their crews before commencing to
load, in order that sailors at forty dollars a month may obviate the
employment of an equal number of stevedores at forty cents an hour;
but Mr. Murphy, out of his profound experience, advised against this
course, as tending to spread the news of the Retriever's misfortune
and militate against securing a crew when the vessel should be loaded
and lying in the stream ready for sea. Men employed now, he
explained, would only desert. The thing to do was to let a Seattle
crimp furnish the crew, sign them on before the shipping commissioner
in Seattle, bring them aboard drunk, tow to sea, and let the rascals
make the best of a bad bargain.
The hold was about half filled, and the ship carpenters were at
work cutting ports in the Retriever's bows, when Matt Peasley
discovered that the mill did not have in hand any order for lumber to
be used as stowage to snug up the cumbersome cargo below decks and
keep it from rolling and working in a seaway. Accordingly he wired
his owners as follows:
Cosmopolis, Washington, July 7, 19—.
Blue Star Navigation Company,
258 California St.,
San Francisco, California.
Cappy Ricks having deliberately conspired to hang a series of dirty
cargoes on his newest skipper, for the dual purpose of teaching Matt
Peasley his place and discovering whether he was worthy of it, grinned
evilly when he received that two-word message; and, not to be out-done
in brevity, he dictated this answer:
San Francisco, California, July 7, 19—.
Captain Matthew Peasley,
Master Barkentine Retriever,
Care Weatherby's mill, Cosmopolis, Wash.
Blue Star Navigation Company.
Matt Peasley's cheeks burned when he read that message. Indeed,
could Cappy Ricks have been privileged to hear the terse remarks his
telegram elicited, there is no doubt he would have sent Mr. Skinner up
to the custom-house immediately to file a certificate of change of
"Ha!" Mr. Murphy snorted when Matt showed him the message. "I get
the old sinner now. This is to be a grudge fight, Captain Matt. You
wished yourself onto him in Cape Town against his will, and now he's
made up his mind that so long as you wanted the job it's yours—only
he'll make you curse the day you ever moved your sea chest into the
skipper's cabin. He's going to send us into dogholes to load and open
roadsteads to discharge; and if he can find a dirty cargo anywhere
we'll get it. But it's carrying a grudge too far not to give us
"Well, it's his ship," Matt Peabody declared passionately. "If the
old thief can gamble on good weather I guess I can gamble on my
The mate inclined his head at the delicate compliment; and Matt,
observing this, decided that a few more of the same from time to time
would do much to alleviate a diet of creosote.
CHAPTER XIII. AN OLD FRIEND RETURNS
AND CAPPY LEADS ANOTHER ACE
Three days before the Retriever finished loading, the captain wired
a trustworthy Seattle crimp recommended by Mr. Murphy, instructing him
to send down a second mate, eight seamen and a good cook—and to bring
them drunk, because the vessel was laden with creosoted piling.
Captain Noah Kendall, Matt's predecessor on the Retriever, had been
raised on clipper ships and as he grew old had allowed himself the
luxury of a third mate, to which arrangement Cappy Ricks, having a
certain affection for Captain Noah, had never made any objection; but
something whispered to Matt Peasley that the quickest route to Cappy's
heart would be via a short payroll, so he concluded to dispense with a
third mate and tack ten dollars a month extra on the pay-check of the
The Retriever was lying in the stream fully loaded when the crew
arrived, convoyed by the crimp's runner. In accordance with
instructions they were drunk, the crimp having furnished his runner
with a two-gallon jug of home-made firewater upon leaving Seattle.
One man—the second mate—was fairly sober, however, and while the
launch that bore him to the Retriever was still half a mile from the
vessel the breezes brought him an aroma which could not, by any
possibility, be confused with the concentrated fragrance of the eight
alcoholic breaths being exhaled around him. Muttering deep curses at
his betrayal, he promptly leaped overboard and essayed to swim ashore.
The runner pursued him in the launch, however, and gaffed him by the
collar with a boat-hook; the launch-man, for a consideration, aided
the runner, and the unwilling wretch was carried struggling to
"Oh, look who's here!" Mr. Murphy yelled to the skipper, as the
bedraggled second mate was propelled forcibly up the ship's
companion-ladder to the waiting arms of the first mate. "Welcome
home, Angus, my lad."
It was Mr. MacLean, their quondam second mate, cast back on the
deckload of the Retriever by the resurgent tide of maritime
misfortune. Mr. Murphy sat down and held himself by the middle and
laughed until the tears ran down his ruddy cheeks, while Matt Peasley
joined heartily in the mirth. The unfortunate Mr. MacLean also
wept—but from other causes, to wit—grief and rage.
"I'm happy to have you with us again, Mr. MacLean," Matt saluted
the second mate. "While your courage and loyalty might be questioned,
your ability may not. So the crimp swindled you, eh? Told you he
wanted you for another ship and then switched the papers on you, eh?"
"You should never trust a crimp, Angus," Mr. Murphy warned him.
"And you should never do business with them unless you're cold sober.
Let this be a lesson to you, my lad. Never be a drinking man and
you'll never have to go to a crimp for a snug berth. Run along to
your old room, now, Angus, and shift into some dry clothes, if you
expect to finish the voyage."
"I'll gie ye ma worrd I'll desert in th' discharrgin' port!" Mr.
MacLean burred furiously. "Ye hae me noo, body an' bones—"
"Aye, and we'll keep you, Angus. Have no fear of that. And you'll
not desert in the discharging port. I'll see to that," Matt Peasley
When the last man had been assisted aboard Matt signaled for the
tug he had engaged. By the time she had hooked on and towed them over
the bar three of the seamen were sober enough to assist the skipper
and the mates in getting all plain sail, with the exception of the
square sails, on her, and, with a spanking nor'west breeze on her
quarter she rolled away into the horizon.
Despite the fact that the Retriever's bottom was rather foul with
marine growth, and the further fact that her master had to lay her
head under her wing in a blow which, with an ordinary cargo, he would
have bucked right into, the run to Antofagasta was made in average
time. And when Matt Peasley went ashore to report by cable to his
owners he discovered that Cappy Ricks had provided him with a cargo of
nitrate for Makaweli.
"What did I tell you, sir?" Mr. Murphy growled when the captain
informed him of the owners' orders. "I tell you, sir, the dirtiest
cargo Cappy Ricks can find is too good for us. Praise be, the worst
we can get at Makaweli is a sugar cargo."
Mr. Murphy's grudge against nitrate lay in the annoyance incident
to taking on the cargo properly. Nitrate is very heavy and cannot,
like sugar, be loaded flush with the hatches, thus rendering shifting
of the cargo impossible. In loading nitrate a stout platform must be
erected athwart ship, above the keelsons, in order that the foundation
of the cargo may be laid level; for, as the sacked nitrate is piled,
the pile must be drawn in gradually until the sides meet in a peak
like a roof. It must then be braced and battened securely with heavy
timbers from each side of the ship, in order that the dead weight may
be held in the center of the ship and keep her in trim. Woe to the
ship that shifts a cargo of nitrate in a heavy gale; for it is a
tradition of the sea that, once a vessel rolls her main yard under,
she will not roll it back, and ultimately is posted at Lloyd's as
When the cargo was out Mr. Murphy went ashore and purchased a lot
of Chinese punk, which he burned in the hold, with the hatches
battened down, while Mr. MacLean, who had once been a druggist's
clerk, and who, by the way, had concluded to stay by the ship, sloshed
down the decks with an aromatic concoction mixed by a local
apothecary. The remnant of their spoiled stores Matt Peasley, like a
true Yankee, sawed off to good advantage on a trustful citizen of
Antofagasta, and credited the ship with the proceeds; after which he
got his nitrate aboard and squared away for the Hawaiian Islands.
The run to Makaweli was very slow, for the ship was logy with the
grass and barnacles on her bottom. At Makaweli he found a sugar cargo
awaiting him for discharge at Seattle; and, thanks to the northwest
trades at her quarter, the Retriever wallowed home reasonably fast.
CHAPTER XIV. INSULT ADDED TO INJURY
When Matt Peasley's report of that long voyage reached the Blue
Star Navigation Company it was opened by Mr. Skinner, who, finding no
letter enclosed, had a clerk check and verify it, and then pass it on
to old Cappy Ricks.
"Where's the letter that came with this report, Skinner?" Cappy
"He didn't enclose one, Mr. Ricks."
"All of Captain Peasley's communications with this office since he
entered our employ have been by wire."
"But—dad-burn the fellow, Skinner—why doesn't he write and tell
"Why, about his ship, his voyage—any old thing. An owner likes to
have a report on his property once in a while, doesn't he? Unless we
happen to charter the Retriever for a cargo to her home port, you know
very well, Skinner, we may not see her for years. Besides, I've never
seen the man Peasley, and if he'd only write now and then I could get
a line on him from his letters. I can always tell a fool by the
letter he writes, Skinner."
"Well, then," Skinner replied. "Peasley must be a wise man,
because he never writes at all. The only specimen of that fellow's
handwriting I've ever seen is his signature on the drafts he draws
against us. You will notice that he has even engaged a
stenographer—at his own expense, so the clerk informs me—to
typewrite his statement of account."
"Then that explains it, Skinner. The big-fisted brute can't write
a hand that anybody could read. But, still, he should have dictated a
letter, Skinner. The least he might have done was to say: 'Enclosed
herewith find my report of disbursements for last voyage.' And then he
could have slipped in some mild complaint about the creosote, the
trouble he had in getting a crew, and so on.
"I don't see why you complain about a lack of correspondence, sir,"
Mr. Skinner protested. "For my part, I think it a profound relief to
have a captain that isn't writing or wiring in complaints about slow
dispatch in loading or discharging, his private feuds with marine
cooks and walking delegates from the Sailors' Union. Confound these
fellows that are always unloading a cargo of woe on their owners! It
strikes me that they're trying to square themselves for incompetence."
"I agree with you, Skinner. But then, all the Thomaston Peasleys
were quick-tempered and wouldn't be imposed on; and I hate to think
I've picked the only one of the tribe who will dog it and never let a
peep out of him."
"Oh!" said Mr. Skinner. "I see! You want him to start something
with you, eh?"
Cappy evaded this blunt query, however, and turned his attention to
"Hello!" he said. "I'm blessed if he hasn't anticipated the very
question I should have asked. Here's a footnote in red ink: 'Decided
not to carry third mate. Two mates ample.' And so two mates are
ample, Skinner, though I used to humor Cap'n Noah with three. This
confirms me in the belief that Peasley must be a young man, Skinner,
and not afraid to stand a watch himself if necessary. And here's
another footnote: 'Chief Mate Michael J. Murphy very gallantly
declined to leave when he smelled the creosote, and was a tower of
strength when it came to stowing the nitrate. He holds an unlimited
mate's license, is sober, intelligent, courageous, honest and a hard
worker. He goes up for his master's license this week!"
"Ah-h-h!" Cappy Ricks looked up, smiling. "Skinner," he declared,
"it is as hard to keep a good man down as it is for a camel to enter
the Kingdom of Heaven—I mean for a rich man to enter a camel—bother!
I mean you can't keep a good man down, Skinner. And this is the
reason: The first mate, Murphy, wanted to leave, but his loyalty would
not permit it. Hence the man Peasley must be a good, fair, decent
man, to inspire such loyalty. He is, and this report proves it. His
action in bringing Murphy to our attention indicates appreciation and
a sense of justice. Good! Skinner, make a note of the qualifications
of Michael J. Murphy for a master's berth and give him the first
He returned to a perusal of the report.
"Huh! Harump-h-h-h! 'Credit by skipper's rake-off on stores, and
so on, $57.03.' Skinner, that proves the man Peasley is too decent
and honest to accept a commission from the thieves who supply his
vessel, because he knows that if they give him a commission they'll
only tack it on to the bill, where he can't see it. Well! All the
Thomaston Peasleys were honest, Skinner. No thanks to him. Still,
it's a shame to give him another rough deal, for apparently he
has—er—many—er—commendable qualities. Still—er—Skinner, I've
just got to have a letter from the man Peasley, if it is only a letter
of resignation. Get him another dirty cargo, Skinner, the dirtier the
The dirtiest cargo Mr. Skinner could think of, with the exception
of a load of creosoted piling, was another cargo of the same. So he
scoured the market and finally he found one on Puget Sound, whereupon
he sent Matt Peasley a telegram ordering him to tow to the Ranier Mill
and Lumber Company's dock at Tacoma, and load for Callao. At the same
time he wired the Ranier people requesting them to be ready to furnish
cargo to the Retriever the following day—this on the strength of a
telegram from Matt Peasley received the previous day informing his
owners that he was discharged and awaiting orders.
CHAPTER XV. RUMORS OF WAR
When four days had elapsed the manager of the Ranier mill wired the
Blue Star Navigation Company that the Retriever had not yet appeared
at their dock.
Now four days wasted means something to a big barkentine like the
Retriever; and in the absence of any excuse for the delay Cappy Ricks
promptly came to the conclusion that Matt Peasley was ashore in
Seattle, disporting himself after the time-honored custom of deep-sea
sailors home from a long cruise. There could be no other reason for
such flagrant inattention to orders; for, had the man Peasley been
ill, the mate, Murphy, whom the captain vouched for as sober and
intelligent, would have had his superior sent to a hospital and wired
the office for orders.
"Skinner," said Cappy, "send in a stenographer."
When the girl appeared Cappy Ricks dictated this wire:
Captain Matthew Peasley,
Master Barkentine Retriever,
Colman Dock, Seattle, Washington.
Are you drunk, dead or asleep? You have your orders. Obey
them P.D.Q. or turn over command to Chief Mate Murphy.
Alden P. Ricks.
"There!" he shrilled. "I've signed my name to it. Sign a telegram
Blue Star Navigation Company and these infernal skippers think a clerk
sent it; but when they know the boss is on to them they'll jump
lively. Bring me the answer to that as soon as it comes, Skinner."
However, the answer did not come that day. Indeed, the next day
had almost dragged to a close before Mr. Skinner appeared with this
Alden P. Ricks,
258 California St.,
Neither! Been waiting my turn to go on dry dock. On now.
Didn't reply yesterday because too busy driving toothpicks in
vessel's bottom to plug up wormholes. If Murphy hadn't hauled
into fresh water last time on Grays Harbor while I was in
Seattle getting my ticket, her bottom would look like a
colander now. Sixteen months in the water. You ought to be
ashamed to treat a good staunch ship like that. Off dock day
after to-morrow; will tow to Tacoma immediately thereafter.
Meantime expect apology for insulting telegram.
Sixteen months without dry-docking! Why, her bottom must look like
the devil! Cappy Ricks gazed long and earnestly at his general
"Skinner," he said, "you're an ass! Why was not this vessel
dry-docked before you sent her to Antofagasta?"
Mr. Skinner lost his temper.
"Because I didn't send her to Antofagasta," be replied sharply.
"You did! And the reason she wasn't docked is because there isn't a
dock on Grays Harbor. If you wouldn't interfere in the shipping, Mr.
Ricks, and spoil my plans to satisfy your personal whims, the vessel
would never have gone on that long voyage without being cleaned and
"Enough!" Cappy half screamed. "It's a disgrace! Not another
word, sir! Not another peep out of you. Why didn't you order the man
Peasley to dock her? Why did you leave the decision to him? He knew
his vessel was foul—he thought we ought to know it, also; and
naturally he expected that when we ordered him to Seattle we would
have made arrangements to put him on dry dock. Instead of which he
had to make them himself; and I'm shown up as a regular,
infernal—er—er—baboon! Yes, sir! Regular baboon! Nice spectacle
you've made of me, getting me into a scrape where I have to apologize
to my own captain! Baboon! Huh! Baboon! Yes; you're the baboon!"
"Well, I can't think of everything, Mr. Ricks—"
"Everything! Good Lord, man, if you'd only think of something!
Send in a stenographer."
Mr. Skinner rang for the girl and retired in high dudgeon, while
Cappy Ricks smote his corrugated brow and brought forth the following:
Captain Matthew Peasley,
Master Barkentine Retriever,
Hall's Dry Dock, Eagle Harbor, Wash.
"Yes; that was a grave oversight sending you to Antofagasta
without docking you first. Express my appreciation of Murphy's
forethought in killing some of the worms. Am not kind of owner
that lets a ship go to glory to make dividends. Keep your
vessel in top-notch shape at all times, though I realize this
instruction unnecessary to you. Give the old girl all that is
coming to her, including two coats X. Y. copper paint.
Replace all planking that looks suspicious.
Alden P. Ricks.
"I guess that's friendly enough," he soliloquized. "I think he'll
understand. I don't have to crawl in the dirt to let him know I'm
Cappy had recovered his composure by the following morning and was
addressing Mr. Skinner as "Skinner, my dear boy," when another
telegram from Matt Peasley created a very distinct variation in his
mental compass. It ran as follows:
Alden P. Ricks,
258 California St.
X. Y. copper paint no good. That brand used last time; hence
worms got to her quickly. Giving her two coats O. Z. Costs
more, but does the business. Renewed about a dozen planks.
Repair bill about offsets profit on that infernal nitrate.
Your apology accepted, but do not say that again!
"'Your apology is accepted!'" Cappy's voice rose, shrill with
anger. "Why, the infernal—er—er—porpoise! Me apologize to a man I
employ! By jingo, I'd fire him first! Yes, sir—fire him like that!"
The old man snapped his fingers.
"Really, Skinner, I don't know what I'm going to do about the man
Peasley. I want to befriend him, because he's one of my own people,
so to speak; but I greatly fear, Skinner, I shall have to rough him.
Here he is, disputing with me—with me, Skinner—the relative merits
of copper paint. And not only disputing, sir, but disobeying my
specific instructions. Also, he permits himself the luxury of
criticism. Well! I'll not fire him this time; but, by the gods, I'll
give him a blowing-up he'll remember. Skinner, send in a
"Take letter," the old man ordered presently, and proceeded to
Captain Matthew Peasley,
Master Barkentine Retriever,
Care Rainier M. L. Co.,
Sir:—Your night letter of the fifth is before me and treasured
for its unparalleled effrontery.
Please be advised that in future, when an extraordinary outlay
of cash for your vessel's accounts is contemplated, this office
should first be consulted. When, in your judgment, your vessel
requires docking, repairs, new spars, canvas, and so on, you
will apprise us before proceeding to run up a bill of expense
on your owners. Your business is to navigate your vessel.
Spending money judiciously is a fine art which no sailor, to my
knowledge, has ever acquired.
Though admitting that the vessel needed docking, I maintain you
should have wired us of that fact, whereupon we would have
ordered you to the dry dock patronized by this company. It is
customary for owners to express a preference for dry docks and
copper paint; and in presuming to go counter to my specific
instructions in the matter of paint you are prejudicing your
future prospects with this company.
Another exhibition of your arrogance, impudence, general bad
manners and lack of knowledge of the ethics of your profession
will result in prompt dismissal from the service of the Blue
Star Navigation Company.
Yours, and so on,
Alden P. Ricks, President
CHAPTER XVI. WAR!
The receipt of Cappy Ricks' letter actually frightened Matt Peasley
for about thirty seconds. Then he reread the last paragraph. Like a
dutiful servant he forgave Cappy the letter's reference to arrogance,
impudence and general bad manners; but the reference to his lack of
knowledge of the ethics of his profession made him fighting mad.
Cappy Ricks might just as well have passed him the supreme insult
of the seas: "Aw, go buy a farm!" He showed the letter to Mr. Murphy.
"Why, that's adding insult to injury!" the mate declared
The youthful master threw up both hamlike hands in token of
complete surrender and profound disgust.
"There's the gratitude of an owner!" he raved. "He wires me my
loading orders and never says a word about docking—though as managing
owner it's up to him to know when the vessel needs docking. I can't
plan her comings and goings so that at the proper time she'll find
herself at a port with a dry dock. Of course when he wired me my
loading orders I realized he wasn't going to dock me; so I took
matters into my own hands. Why, Mike, I wouldn't skipper a ship so
foul she can hardly answer her helm. How could I know he'd forgotten
she needed docking? I'm not a mind reader."
"I suppose he's been so busy hunting another dirty cargo for us he
hadn't time to think of the vessel," Mr. Murphy sneered, and added:
"The dirty old skin-flint!"
"Well, I'll just tell Cappy Ricks where to head in!" Matt stormed.
"Let him fire me if he wants to. I don't care to sail a
ship—particularly a dirty ship—for any man who thinks I don't know
my business. Mike, I'm going to send him a telegram that'll burn his
meddling old fingers."
"Give him hell for me!" pleaded Mr. Murphy. "If he fires you I'll
The result of this colloquy was that Cappy Ricks received this
night letter the following morning:
Alden P. Ricks,
258 California St.,
Referring your letter. Men that taught me nautical ethics
expected things done without orders, minus thanks for doing
them well, plus abuse for doing them poorly. Regard your
criticism as out of place. Am not the seventh son of a seventh
son. How could I know you had overlooked fact that vessel
needed docking? Your business to plan my voyages to get me to
dry-dock port at least once a year. When you wired loading
orders, concluded you were cheap owner; hence decided dock her
without orders. Expect to be fired sooner or later, but will
leave good ship behind me so my successor cannot say, "Peasley
let her run down." Had I waited orders, vessel would have been
ruined. Yet you have not sufficient grace to express your
thanks. Had I not acted in this emergency, you would have
fired me later for incompetence, and blacklisted me for not
telling you what you know you ought to know without being told.
Referring copper paint, I know from practical experience which
brand is best; you know only what paint dealer tells you. Will
not stand abuse for knowing my business and attending to it
without instructions from landlubber! When you appointed me
you said remember speed synonymous with dividends in shipping
business. How can I make fast passages with whiskers two feet
long on my keel? Send new flying jib and spanker next loading
port. Send new skipper, too, if you feel that way about it.
"Well, Skinner," Cappy Ricks declared, "this is the first time a
skipper in my employ ever talked back—and it'll be the last. I've
had enough of this fellow's impudence, Skinner. He's right at
that—blast him—but he's too much of a sea lawyer; and I won't have
any employee of mine telling me how to run my business. Send in a
When the stenographer entered Cappy Ricks said:
"Ahem-m! Harump-h-h-h! Take telegram: 'Captain Matthew Peasley,
care Rainier Mill and Lumber Company, Tacoma, Washington. You're
fired! Ricks.' Ahem! Huh! Har-ump! Take 'nother telegram: 'Mr.
Michael J. Murphy, First Mate Barkentine Retriever'—same address as
Peasley—'Accept this telegram as your formal appointment to command
of our barkentine, Retriever, vice Matthew Peasley, discharged this
day; forwarding to-morrow certificate of change of master." Sign
that: 'Blue Star Navigation Company, per Alden P. Ricks,' and get
both telegrams on the wire right away."
Cappy turned to Mr. Skinner and chuckled sardonically.
"I'll bet that will gravel the man Peasley," he declared. "There's
nothing harder on a captain than being fired, and succeeded by his own
mate—particularly after he has so recently recommended that mate!
Peasley will be wild—the pup!"
"Well," Mr. Skinner replied, "appointing Mr. Murphy certainly has
this advantage,—he's there on the ground and we are thus spared the
expense of sending a man from here."
"That's one of the reasons why I appointed him—one of three very
excellent reasons, in fact. Now we'll wait and see what the man
Peasley has to say to that telegram."
They had to wait about two hours, and this was what Matt Peasley
had to say:
"Many thanks. The second mate and the cook quit the minute
they discovered it was to be another cargo of creosoted piling;
and now that I am fired Mr. Murphy has concluded that he might
as well quit also. Will stick by ship, however, until you send
my successor; meantime loading continues as usual."
"Well, that's what the man Peasley says!" Cappy snapped. "Murphy's
quit, eh? Well, I guess Mr. Murphy hadn't received my telegram when
Peasley sent this message. It'll take more than a cargo of creosoted
piling to keep Murphy out of the master's cabin when he hears from
The stenographer entered with another telegram.
"Ah!" Cappy remarked, and rubbed his hands together in pleased
anticipation. "I dare say this is from Mr. Murphy."
It was; and this is what the loyal Murphy had to say:
"I thank you for the consideration. Very sweet of you; but I
wouldn't work for you again on a bet. You couldn't hand me a
ripe peach! Master or mate, creosote tastes the same to me.
At Captain Peasley's request am staying by vessel until new
master arrives and hires new mate. Would have stuck by vessel
for Old Man's sake if you'd slipped us cargo of uncrated
rattlesnakes; but since I encouraged him to tell you things for
good of your soul and you fired him for it I must decline to
profit by his misfortune."
Silently Cappy Ricks folded that telegram and laid it on his desk;
his head sagged forward on his breast and he fell to meditating
deeply. Finally he looked up and eyed Mr. Skinner over the rims of his
"Skinner," he said solemnly, "do you realize, my boy, that we have
two extremely remarkable men on the barkentine Retriever?"
"They are certainly most remarkably deficient in respect to their
superiors, though in all probability exceedingly capable seamen," Mr.
Skinner answered sympathetically, for he had great veneration for the
creator of the pay roll.
"I know," Cappy replied sadly; "but then, you know, Skinner, the
good Lord must certainly hate a bootlicker! Skinner, I simply cannot
afford to lose those two damned scoundrels in the Retriever. They're
good men! And a good man who knows he's good will not take any slack
from man or devil; so I cannot afford to lose those two. Skinner,
I've got myself into an awful mess. Here I've been running by dead
reckoning and now I'm on the rocks! What'll I do, Skinner? I'm
licked; but, dang it all, sir, I can't admit it, can I? Isn't there
some way to referee this scrap and call it a draw?"
"I see no way out of it now except to send another captain to
"Skinner," he declared, "you're absolutely no use to me in an
emergency. When I made you my general manager, on a bank president's
salary, I thought I'd be able to take it easy for the rest of my
life." He wagged his head sadly. "And what's the result? I work
harder than ever. Skinner, if I hadn't any more imagination than you
possess I'd be out there on the corner of California and Market
Streets peddling lead pencils this minute. Leave this problem to me,
Skinner. I suppose I'll find a way out of it, with entire honor to
all concerned. Holy sailor!" he added. "But that man Murphy is
loyal—and loyalty is a pretty scarce commodity these days, let me
CHAPTER XVII. CAPPY FORCES AN
During the week that succeeded, Cappy Ricks did not once mention
the subject of the Retriever and her recalcitrant skipper and mate;
and Mr. Skinner argued from this that all was well. Finally one day
Cappy came into the office and paused beside the general manager's
desk. He was grinning like a boy.
"Well, Skinner," he piped. "I've just come from the Merchants'
Exchange and I see by the blackboard that our Retriever cleared for
"Indeed!" Mr. Skinner replied politely. "So you found a captain
for her. Whom did you send?"
"Nobody," the old man cackled. "Matt Peasley took her out, and the
manager of the Rainier mill wires me that Murphy went with him as
chief kicker. What do you think of that?"
"Why, I'm—er—satisfied if you are, sir."
"Well, you can bet I'm satisfied. If I wasn't I'd have a revenue
cutter out after the man Peasley and his mate right now. By golly,
Skinner," he piped, and slapped his wizened flank, "I tell you I've
worked this deal pretty slick, if I do say it myself. And all on dead
reckoning—dead reckoning, and not a single day of demurrage!"
"Oh! So you wired Peasley and the mate and asked them to go back
to work and forget they were discharged?" Mr. Skinner suggested
"Skinner, on my word, you grow worse every day. You've been with
me, man and boy, twenty-odd years, and in all that time you never saw
anybody cover me with blood, did you?"
"And you never will. Why, I managed this affair by simply
forgetting all about it! When you're in a jam, Skinner, always let
the other fellow do the talking. I just sat tight until I had a
telegram from the man Peasley, informing me that the vessel would be
loaded in two days and that his successor had not appeared as yet. I
threw that telegram in my wastebasket; and when the vessel was loaded
I had another telegram from Peasley, saying that the vessel was
loaded, that his successor was still missing, and the mill manager was
kicking and insisting that the ship be hauled away from the dock to
make room for a steam schooner which wanted to load. So I filed that
telegram in the wastebasket also. It was a night letter, delivered in
"When Peasley didn't get an answer by noon he wired again, saying
that, as a favor to me, he would haul the Retriever into the stream,
but would accept no responsibility for delay thereafter. He said
further that, as a courtesy to me and his successor, he was shipping a
crew that day in order that there might be no delay in sailing when
the new captain arrived; so I thought I had better reply to that
telegram, Skinner—and I did!"
"What did you say, Mr. Ricks?"
"I said: 'Please do not annoy me with your telegrams. You were
fired a week ago, but it seems difficult for you to realize that fact.
If demurrage results through my failure to get new skipper there in
time, that is no skin off your nose. Your pay goes on until you are
relieved, and you will be relieved when I get good and ready.' That
telegram did the business, Skinner. He received it the day before
yesterday and yesterday he towed out!"
Cappy Ricks burst into a shrill senile cackle that was really good
to hear. As they grow old most men lose that capacity for a hearty
laugh, but Cappy's perversity had kept him young at heart. The tears
of mirth cascaded down his seamed old countenance now, and he had to
sit down and have his laugh out.
"Oh, thunder!" he panted. "Really, Skinner—there's so much fun in
business I wonder why a man can retire—just because he's made his
pile! Skinner, I had it on the man Peasley a thousand miles—and he
never guessed it! Dear, dear me! You see, Skinner, when he wired me
he would not accept responsibility for demurrage to the vessel after
she was loaded and hauled into the stream, he forgot that he had to
accept responsibility for the vessel himself until his successor
"Of course, the man Murphy could quit any time he desired; but if
the skipper deserted the ship before being properly relieved, and then
something happened to the vessel and I preferred charges against him,
the inspectors might be induced to revoke his license—and he realized
that. The knowledge made him hopping mad, Skinner; and when he got my
telegram I knew he would begin to figure out some plan to make me mad!
And, of course, I knew Murphy would help him out—the Irish are
imaginative and vindictive; and—oh, dear me, Skinner—read that!" And
Cappy handed his general manager the following telegram:
You are right. I will be relieved when I get good and ready,
and I will not be ready until I get back from Antofagasta.
Shipped crew yesterday afternoon. All arrived drunk. Next
morning all hands sober. Realizing predicament, riot resulted.
Fearing lose crew, Murphy and I manhandled and locked in
fo'castle. When your telegram arrived it found Murphy minus
front tooth, myself black eye. Can stand injury, but not
insult. Hence you are stuck with us for another voyage,
whether you want us or not. Will have towed out by time you
receive this. Go to Halifax!
Mr. Skinner's face was cold and austere as he handed this telegram
back to Cappy.
"So you made peace with honor, eh?" he sneered.
"Peace your grandmother!" Cappy chirped. "This war goes on until I
get a letter from the man Peasley. Skinner, he and Murphy think
they've done something wonderfully brilliant. When I wired him he
would be relieved when I got good and ready it did him an awful lot of
good to throw the words back in my face. Sure, Skinner! They think
they're giving Cappy Ricks the merry ha-ha!"
"Well, of course, sir,"' said Mr. Skinner, "if this sort of
horseplay is your fun—if it's your notion of business—I have no
comment. You own fifteen-sixteenths of the Retriever, and you can
afford to pay for your fancies; but if it was the last act of my life
I'd fire that man Peasley in Callao and let him get home as best he
"Yes; I know," Cappy replied bitterly. "You fired him in Cape Town
once—and how did he come home? He came home in the cabin of the
Retriever—that's how he came home; and the Terrible Swede I sent to
thrash him and fire him came home under hatches. Yes; you'd do a lot
of things, Skinner—in your mind."
Mr. Skinner pounded his desk savagely. Cappy's retort made him
"Well, I'll bet I'd do something," he rasped. "I'd make that bucko
suffer or I'd know the reason why."
"Skinner, that's just what we're going to do—just what we're
doing, in fact. One of my ancestors sailed with the late John Paul
Jones and ever since the Ricks' family motto has been: 'I have not yet
begun to fight.' Now listen to reason, Skinner. The Retriever just
came off dry-dock, didn't she? Well, it stands to reason she was
dirty after that last cargo of creosoted piling; and it stands to
reason, also, that the man Peasley slicked her up with white paint
until she looked like an Easter bride. A Scandinavian doesn't give a
hoot if his vessel is tight, well found and ready for sea; but a
Yankee takes a tremendous pride in his ship and likes to keep her
looking like a yacht. And just think, Skinner, how the man Peasley
must have felt when he came off dry dock, all clean and nice, and then
had to slop her up with another cargo of creosoted piling? Just think
of that, Skinner!" and again he commenced his insane cackle.
"I have other, and more important things to think about," Mr.
Skinner retorted icily. As a business man he was opposed to levity in
the office. "What are your plans with reference to the Retriever? Do
you wish to bring her back from Antofagasta in ballast?"
"Why, certainly not. Hunt a cargo for her, Skinner. We might just
as well let the man Peasley know that though he's gone he's not
forgotten. Use the cable freely and see if you can't pick up something
for the return trip that will make those two firebrands sick at the
A month later Mr. Skinner stepped into Cappy's sanctum.
"Well," he announced. "I've got a return cargo for the Retriever."
"What have you got?" Cappy demanded anxiously; and Mr. Skinner told
"No?" said Cappy incredulously.
"Yes!" Mr. Skinner assured him.
Cappy's laughter testified to his hearty approval.
"Skinner, my dear boy," he cried. "I don't know what I'd do
And then he laid his wicked old head on his desk and laughed until
he wept. Indeed, Mr. Skinner so far forgot his code as to laugh with
"We'll stink those two vagabonds—those maritime outlaws—out of
the ship," he declared.
CHAPTER XVIII. THE WAR IS RENEWED
The belief that they had come off victorious in their skirmish with
Cappy Ricks cheered Matt Peasley and his mate for the first two weeks
out from Puget Sound; after which the creosote commenced to season
their food, and then the victory began to take on the general
appearance of a vacuum. However, thanks to a clean keel and fair
winds, they made a smashing passage and their sufferings were not
Immediately on his arrival at Antofagasta the young skipper
reported by cable to his owners, thereby eliciting the following reply
from Cappy Ricks:
"You stole ship. If you value your ticket bring her back with
cargo agent provides."
Naturally this somewhat cryptic cablegram roused Matt Peasley's
curiosity. He could not rest until be had interviewed the agent—and
after that sop to his inquisitiveness he returned to the Retriever a
broken man. The loyal and disgusted Murphy read the trouble in the
"What new deviltry's afoot now, Matt?" he demanded, in his
eagerness and sympathy forgetting the respect due his superior.
"Green hides, Mike!" the skipper answered, in his distress failing
to notice the mate's faux pas and making one himself. "Green hides,
old pal; and they stink something horrible. Back to Seattle with the
dirty mess, and then another cargo of creosoted—"
"King's X!" yelled Mr. Murphy. "I crossed my fingers the minute
your face appeared over the rail. I quit—and I quit as soon as this
piling is out. I tell you I won't keep company with green hides. No,
sir; I won't. I tell you I will—not—do it! Why, we might as well
have a dead hog in the hold! Captain Matt, I hate to throw you down
in a foreign port; but this—is absolutely—the finish!"
"Do you value your ticket, Mike?" the captain queried ominously.
"What's a ticket when a man's lost his self-respect?" Mr. Murphy
Matt handed him Cappy's cablegram and the mate read it.
"I think that bet goes double, Mike," the skipper warned him. "You
signed for the round trip. I've got to go through—and there's
strength in numbers."
"Well," said Mr. Murphy reluctantly, "I suppose I do attach a
certain—er—sentimental value to my ticket."
"I thought you would. Cappy's got us by the short hair, Mike; and
the only thing to do is to fly to it, with all sails set. We must
never let on he's given us anything out of the ordinary."
Mr. Murphy shivered; for, as Cappy had remarked to Mr. Skinner, the
mate was Irish, hence imaginative. He imagined he smelled the green
hides already, and quite suddenly he gagged and sprang for the rail.
Poor fellow! He had stood much of late and his stomach was a trifle
sensitive from a diet of creosote straight.
Somehow they got the awful cargo aboard, though, at that, there
were not sufficient hides to half load her; in consequence of which
all hands realized that Cappy had merely given them this dab of
freight to sicken them. They cursed him all the way back to Seattle,
where the crew quit the minute the vessel was made fast to the dock.
CHAPTER XIX. CAPPY SEEKS PEACE
"Here's a telegram for you, sir," Mr. Murphy remarked when Matt
Peasley came aboard after cashing a draft on the Blue Star Navigation
Company to pay off his crew. It proved to be from Cappy Ricks and
"Discharge that cargo of hides or take the consequences!"
"The old sinner thought I'd dog it, I suppose," Matt sneered, as he
passed the message to Mr. Murphy, who shivered as he read it. "I
guess you're elected, Mike," the skipper continued. "The second mate
has quit. However, it isn't going to be very hard on you this time.
I was speaking to the skipper of that schooner in the berth ahead of
us, and he gave me a recipe for killing the perfume of a cargo of
"If he'd given it to us in Antofagasta, I'd name a ship after him
some day," Mr. Murphy mourned.
"Well, we've gotten it in time to be of some use," Matt declared.
"You don't suppose I'm going to let this old snoozer Ricks get away
with the notion that he put one over on us, do you? Shall we haul Old
Glory down? No! Never! I'll just switch off the laughing gas on
Cappy Ricks," and the young skipper went ashore and wired his managing
owner as follows:
"Green hides are the essence of horror if you do not know how
to handle them. Fortunately I do. Pour water on a green hide
and you muzzle the stink. I judge from your last telegram you
thought you handed me something."
When Cappy Ricks got that telegram he flew into a rage and refused
to believe Matt Peasley's statement until he had first called up a
dealer in hides and confirmed it. The entire office staff wondered
all that day what made Cappy so savage.
By the following day, however, Cappy's naturally optimistic nature
had reasserted itself. He admitted to himself that he had fanned out,
but still the knowledge brought him some comfort.
"He's walloped me so," Cappy soliloquized, "he just can't help
writing and crowing about it. If I didn't do anything else I bet I've
pried a letter out of him. It certainly will be a comfort to see
something except a telegram and a statement of account from that
However, when the report of the voyage arrived, Mr. Skinner
reported that it contained no letter. Cappy's face reflected his
"I guess you'll have to go stronger than green hides to get a yelp
out of that fellow," Mr. Skinner predicted.
"Why, there isn't anything stronger than a cargo of green hides,
Skinner," Cappy declared thoughtfully. He clawed his whiskers a
moment. Then: "What have you got for her on the Sound, Skinner?"
"Nothing nasty, sir. We'll have to give him a regular cargo this
time—that is, unless he quits. I've got a cargo for Sydney, ready at
our own mill at Port Hadlock."
"Well, he hasn't resigned yet," Cappy declared; "so we might as
well beat him to it. Wire him, Skinner, to tow to our mill at Port
Hadlock and load for Sydney. If he believes we're willing to call
this thing a dead heat he may conclude to stick. Tell him this is a
nice cargo." Again Cappy clawed his whiskers. "Sydney, eh?" he said
musingly. "That's nice! We can send him over to Newcastle from there
to pick up a cargo of coal, and maybe he'll come home afire! If we
can't hand him a stink, Skinner, we'll put a few gray hairs in his
These instructions Mr. Skinner grudgingly complied with; and Matt
Peasley, with his hatches wide open and buckets of punk burning in the
hold to dispel the lingering fragrance of his recent cargo—concluding
that, on the whole, he and Mr. Murphy had come through the entire
affair very handsomely indeed—towed down to Hadlock and commenced to
take on cargo. If Cappy Ricks was willing to declare a truce then
Matt Peasley would declare one too.
Matt's peaceful acquiescence in his owner's program merely served
to arouse Cappy Ricks' abnormal curiosity. The more he thought of
Matt Peasley the greater grew his desire for a closer scrutiny. The
most amazing man in the world had been in his employ a year and a
half, and as yet they had never met; unless the Retriever should
happen to be loaded for San Francisco years might elapse before they
should see each other; and now that he had attained to his allotted
three score years and ten Cappy decided that he could no longer gamble
on the future.
He summoned Mr. Skinner.
"Skinner, my dear boy," he announced with the naive simplicity that
made him so lovable. "I suppose it's very childish of me, but I have
a tremendous desire to see this extraordinary fellow Peasley."
"You can afford to satisfy your slightest whim, Mr. Ricks," he
replied. "I'll load her for San Francisco after she returns from
Australia. I daresay if he ever gets through the Golden Gate he'll
call up at the office."
"Skinner, I can't wait that long. Many things may happen. Ahem!
Harump-h-h-h! Wire the man Peasley, Skinner, to have his photograph
taken and forwarded to me immediately charging expense."
"Very well, sir," Mr. Skinner responded.
"Well, I'll be keel-hauled and skull-dragged," Matt Peasley
declared to Mr. Murphy. "Here's a telegram from the owners demanding
Mr. Murphy read the amazing message, scratched his raven poll, and
declared his entire willingness to be damned.
"It's a trap," he announced presently. "Don't send it. Matt, you
look about twenty years old and for the next few years, if you expect
to work under the Blue Star flag, you must remember your face isn't
your fortune. You've got to be pickled in salt for twenty years to
please Cappy Ricks. If he sees your photograph he'll fire you, Matt.
I know that old crocodile. All he wants is an excuse to give you the
"But he's ordered me to send it, Mike. How am I going to get out
As has been stated earlier in this tale, Mr. Murphy had an
"Go over into the town, sir," he said, "and in any photograph
gallery you can pick up a picture of some old man. Write your name
across it and send it to Cappy. He'll be just as happy, then, as
though he had good sense."
"By George, I'll just do that!" Matt declared, and forthwith went
He sought the only photographer in Port Hadlock. At the entrance
to the shop he found a glass case containing samples of the man's art,
and was singularly attracted to the photograph of a spruce little old
gentleman in a Henry Clay collar, long mutton-chop whiskers, and
Moreover, to Matt's practiced eye, this individual seemed to savor
of a Down-Easter. He was just the sort of man one might expect to
bear the name of Matthew Peasley; so the captain mounted the stairs
and sought the proprietor, from whom he purchased the picture in
question for the trifling sum of fifty cents. Then he bore it away to
the Retriever, scrawled his autograph across the old gentleman's hip
and mailed the picture to Cappy Ricks.
CHAPTER XX. PEACE AT LAST!
Mr. Skinner entered Cappy Ricks' office bearing an envelope marked
"Photo. Do not crush or bend!" From the announcement in the upper
right-hand corner the general manager deduced that the photograph was
from Matt Peasley.
"Well, here's Captain Peasley's picture, Mr. Ricks," he announced.
"Ah! Splendid. Prompt, isn't he?" Cappy tore open the envelope,
drew forth the photograph, scrutinized it carefully and then laid it
face down on his desk, while he got out his spectacles, cleaned them
carefully, adjusted them and gazed at the photograph once more.
"Ahem! Hu-m-m-m! Harump-h-h-h! Well, Skinner, life is certainly
full of glad surprises," he announced presently, and
added—"particularly where that man Peasley is concerned. I never did
see the beat of that fellow."
"May I see his photograph, sir?" Mr. Skinner pleaded.
"Certainly," and Cappy passed it to the general manager, who
glanced once at it and smiled down whimsically at Cappy.
"Yes, I agree with you, Mr. Ricks," he said. "Of all the surprises
that man Peasley has handed us, this is the greatest."
Cappy nodded and smiled a little prescient smile. "Skinner," he
said, "send in a stenographer. I'm going to send him a telegram."
He did. Matt Peasley blinked when he got it, and for the first
time since he had commenced exchanging telegrams and cablegrams with
the peculiar Mr. Ricks he was thoroughly non-plussed—so much so, in
fact, that he called his right bower, Michael J. Murphy, into
"Mike," he said, and handed the mate the telegram, "what in the
world do you suppose the old duffer means by that?"
Mr. Murphy read:
"Matt, I always knew you were young, but I had no suspicion you
were a child in arms until I received your photograph."
"Serves you right," the mate declared. "I told you to send the
photo of an OLD man."
"But I did, Mike. I sent him a picture of an old pappy-guy sort of
man, with long, mutton-chop whiskers, glasses and an old-fashioned
collar as tall as the taffrail."
"It beats my time then what he's driving at, Captain Matt. But
then one can never tell what Cappy Ricks is up to. I've heard he's a
great hand to have his little joke, so I daresay that telegram is
meant for sarcasm."
Matt had a horrifying inspiration. "I know what's wrong," he cried
bitterly. "He thinks I'm so old I ought to be retired, and that
telegram is in the nature of a hint that a letter, asking for my
resignation, is on the way now."
"Why—why—why?" Mr. Murphy stuttered, "did you send him the
picture of Methuselah himself? Heaven's sake, skipper, there's a
happy medium, you know. I meant for you to pick yourself out a man of
about fifty-five, and here you've slipped him a patriarch of ninety.
Sarcasm! I should say so."
They stared at each other a few seconds; then Mr. Murphy had an
equally disturbing inspiration.
"By Neptune!" he suggested, "maybe you sent him the picture of
somebody he knows!"
"Well, in that case, Mike, I'm not going to hang on the hook of
suspicion. Maybe I can find out whose picture I sent," and away Matt
went up town to the photograph gallery. When he returned ten minutes
later Mr. Murphy, sighting him a block in the offing, knew the skipper
of the barkentine Retriever for a broken man! Beyond doubt he had
shipped a full cargo of grief.
"Well?" he queried as Matt hove alongside. "Did you find out?"
Matt nodded gloomily.
"Who?" Mr. Murphy demanded peremptorily.
"Cappy Ricks!" Matt almost wailed.
"NO!" Mr. Murphy roared.
"Yes! The old scoundrel was up here three years ago, visiting this
mill—you know, Mike, he owns it—and the Retriever was here loading
at the time. He and Captain Kendall were close friends, and they went
over to that photograph shop, had their pictures taken and
swapped—and like a poor, helpless, luckless boob I had to come along
and buy the sample picture the photographer hung in his case. It
never occurred to me to ask questions—and I might have known nobody
but a prominent citizen ever gets into a show-case—"
"Glory, glory, hallelujah," Mr. Murphy crooned in a deep,
chain-locker voice, and fled from the skipper's wrath.
An hour later, in the privacy of his cabin, Matt Peasley took his
pen in hand and wrote to Cappy Ricks:
Mr. Alden P. Ricks,
I herewith tender my resignation as master of the barkentine
Retriever, same to take effect on my return from Sydney—or
before I sail, if you desire. If I do not hear from you before
I sail I shall assume that it will be all right to quit when I
get back from Australia.
I will not be twenty-three years old until the Fourth of July.
I was afraid you wouldn't trust me with a big ship like the
Retriever if you knew; so I sent you a photograph I purchased
for fifty cents from the local photographer. I guess that's
all—except that you couldn't find a better man to take my
place than Mr. Murphy. He has had the experience.
There were tears in his eyes as he dropped that letter into the
mail box. The Blue Star Navigation Company owned the Retriever,
but—but—well she was Matt Peasley's ship and he loved her as men
learn to love their homes. It broke his heart to think of giving her
"Skinner," said Cappy Ricks, "I've got a letter from the man
Peasley at last; and now, by golly, I can quit and take a vacation.
Send in a stenographer." The stenographer entered. "Take
telegram—direct message," he ordered, and commenced to dictate:
Captain Matthew Peasley,
Your resignation accepted. You are too almighty good for a
windjammer, Matthew. You need more room for the development of
your talent. Give Murphy the ship, with my compliments, and
tell him I've enjoyed the fight because it went to a knock-out.
Report to me at this office as soon as possible. You belong
in steam. A second mate's berth waiting for you. In a year
you will be first mate of steam; a year later you will be
master of steam, at two-fifty a month, and I will have a
four-million-foot freighter waiting for you if you make good.
The picture was a bully joke; but I could not laugh, Matt. It
is so long since I was a boy.
"Send that right away, like a good girl," he ordered. "He's about
loaded and he may have towed out before the telegram reaches him. Or,
better still, send the message in duplicate—one copy to the mill and
the other in care of the custom-house at Port Townsend. He'll have to
touch in there to clear the ship."
He walked into Mr. Skinner's office.
"Skinner," he said, "Murphy has the Retriever, and you're in charge
of the shipping. Attend to the transfer of authority before she gets
out of the Sound."
CHAPTER XXI. MATT PEASLEY MEETS A
Cappy Ricks' telegram to Matt, in care of the mill at Port Hadlock,
arrived several hours after the Retriever, fully loaded with fir
lumber, had been snatched away from the mill dock by a tug and started
on her long tow to Dungeness, where the hawser would be cast off. It
was not until the vessel came to a brief anchorage in the strait off
Port Townsend, the port of entry to Puget Sound, and Matt went ashore
to clear his ship, that the duplicate telegram sent in care of the
Collector of the Port, was handed to him.
He read and reread it. The news it contained seemed too good to be
"I guess I won't clear her after all," he announced to the deputy
The official nodded. "I didn't think you would," he replied. "I
have a telegram from the custom-house at San Francisco, apprising me
that Michael J. Murphy has been appointed master of the Retriever, so
if she's to be cleared Captain Murphy will have to do the job."
"He's my mate, and if you'll wait about half an hour I'll go get
the old Siwash," Matt replied happily, and started back to the
Retriever in a hurry. He had been gone less than twenty minutes, a
fact noted by the astute Murphy, who met his superior at the rail as
the latter climbed up the Jacob's ladder.
"Why, you haven't cleared the old girl so soon, have you, sir?" he
"Read that," Matt announced dramatically.
Mr. Murphy read the telegram. "Bust my bob-stay!" he murmured.
"The dirty old assassin! The slimy old pile-worm! The blessed old
duffer! After treating us like dogs for a year and a half he gives me
the ship, sets you down for a two year apprenticeship in steam and
says he's going to build you a four-million-foot freighter! The
scoundrelly old renegade! Why, say, Matt, Cappy's been spilling the
acid all over us and we never knew it. Somehow, I have a notion that
if we had yelled murder when he was beating us he'd have had us both
out of his employ while you'd be saying Jack Robinson."
"I believe you, Mike. But he needn't think he's going to grab two
years of my precious young life before he'll trust me with a steamer.
I have an unlimited license for sail, and if I can pass the
examination for steam before the inspectors—and I can—I'll get my
license immediately. Just consider the old boy's inconsistency, Mike.
If a man can handle a square-rigged ship he ought to be trusted with
anything; yet, when be gives me a steamer you'd think he was giving me
a man's job! Fair weather or foul, you stand on the bridge and
control your vessel with the engine room telegraph. Shucks! I wonder
if that crotchety old joker thinks it will take me two years to learn
how to dock a steam schooner?"
Mr. Murphy hitched his trousers, stuck his thumbs in his belt and
glared at Matt Peasley. "See here, you," he declared, "you're a child
wonder, all right, but the trouble with you is, you hate yourself too
much. Listen to me, kid. I'm the skipper of the Retriever now and
you're my friend, young Matt Peasley, so I can talk to you as a
friend. You're a pretty skookum youth and I'd hate like everything to
mix it with you, but if you start to veto the old man's orders you may
look for a fine thrashing from me when I get back from Australia! I
won't have you making a damned fool of yourself, Matt. If you are in
command of a four-million-foot freighter by the time you're
twenty-seven, you'll be the youngest skipper of steam afloat, and you
ought to be down on your marrow bones giving thanks to the good Lord
who has done so much for you, instead of planning insurrection against
Cappy Ricks. The idea!"
"But what sense is there in waiting—"
"When I refereed the scrap between you and All Hands And Feet you
took my advice, didn't you? You didn't say to me then: 'What sense is
there in waiting? Let me go in and finish the job and have done with
it,' did you?"
"But this is business, Mike. For a year and a half Cappy has been
having a whole lot of fun out of me—"
"It might have been fun for him, but it came pretty near being the
death of me," Mr. Murphy contradicted. "If that jag of green hides
from Antofagasta was a joke, beware of Cappy Ricks when he's serious.
He's serious about you, Matt. He's picked on you sight unseen, and
he's going to do something for you. He's an old man, Matt. Let him
have his way and you'll profit by it."
"Well, I'll see what he has to say, at any rate," Matt compromised,
and they went below, Matt to pack his sea chest and Mr. Murphy to
shave and array himself in a manner befitting the master of a big
barkentine about to present himself at the custom-house for the first
time to clear his ship.
An hour later Matt Peasley found himself sitting on his sea chest
on the cap of the wharf, watching the Retriever slipping down the
strait under command of Captain Michael J. Murphy, while a new chief
mate, shipped in Port Townsend, counted off the watches. Presently
she turned a bend and was gone; and immediately he felt like a
homeless wanderer. The thought of the doughty Murphy in that snug
little cabin so long sacred to Matt Peasley brought a pang of near
jealousy to the late commander of the Retriever; as he reflected on
the two years of toil ahead of him before men would again address him
as Captain Peasley, he wondered whether the game really would be worth
the candle; for he had all of a Down-Easter's love for a sailing ship.
He recalled to mind Mr. Murphy's favorite story of the old sailing
skipper who went into steam and who, during his very first watch on
the steamship's bridge, ordered the man at the wheel to starboard his
helm, and then forgot to tell him to steady it—the consequence being
that the helmsman held hard-a-starboard and the ship commenced to
describe a circle; whereupon the old sailing skipper got excited and
screamed: "Back that main yard!" Matt felt that should anything like
that happen to him in steam and the news should ever leak out, he
would have to go back to the Atlantic Coast rather than face the gibes
of his shipmates on the Pacific.
The passenger boat from Victoria picked him up and set him down in
Seattle that night, and the following morning he boarded a train for
San Francisco to report to Cappy Ricks.
At luncheon in the dining car that day Matt Peasley found himself
seated opposite a man who had boarded the train with him at Seattle.
As the young captain plied his knife and fork he was aware that this
person's gaze rested with something more than casual interest on
his—Matt's—left forearm; whereupon the latter realized that his
vis-a-vis yearned to see more of a little decoration which, in the
pride of his first voyage, Matt had seen fit to have tattooed on the
aforesaid forearm by the negro cook. So, since he was the
best-natured young man imaginable, Matt decided presently to satiate
his neighbor's curiosity.
"It's a lady climbing a ladder," he announced composedly and drew
back his sleeve to reveal this sample of black art. "I have a shield
and an eagle on my breast and a bleeding heart, with a dagger stuck
through it, on my right forearm."
"I didn't mean to be rude," the other answered, flushing a little.
"I couldn't help noticing the chorus lady's shapely calves when you
speared that last pickle; so I knew you were a sailor. I concluded
you were an American sailor before I learned that you advertise the
fact on your breast, and I was wondering whether you belong in the
navy or the merchant marine."
"I'm from blue water," Matt replied pleasantly. "You're in the
shipping business, I take it."
"Almost—I'm a ship, freight and marine insurance broker." And the
stranger handed over a calling card bearing the name of Mr. Allan
Hayes. "I'm from Seattle."
"Peasley is my name, Mr. Hayes," Matt answered heartily, glad of
this chance acquaintance with a man with whom he could converse on a
subject of mutual interest. "I haven't any post-office address," he
"Going over to Columbia River to join your ship, I daresay," Mr.
"No, sir. I'm bound for San Francisco, to get a job in steam and
work up to a captaincy."
"Wherein you show commendable wisdom, Mr. Peasley," the broker
answered. "A man can get so far in a windjammer—a hundred a month in
the little coasting schooners and a hundred and twenty-five in the big
vessels running foreign—and there he sticks. In steam schooners a
good man can command two hundred dollars a month, with a chance for
promotion into a big freighter, for the reason that in steam one has
more opportunity to show the stuff that's in one."
"How far are you going?" Matt demanded.
"I'm bound for San Francisco too."
"Good!" Matt replied, for, like most boys, he was a gregarious
animal, and Mr. Hayes seemed to be a pleasant, affable gentleman. "I
suppose you know most of the steam vessels on this coast?" he
continued, anxious to turn the conversation into channels that might
be productive of information valuable to him in his new line of
Mr. Hayes nodded. "I have to," he said, "if I'm to do any business
negotiating charters; in fact, I'm bound to San Francisco now to
charter two steamers."
"Freight or passenger?"
"Freight. There's nothing for a broker in a passenger vessel. I'm
scouting for two boats for the Mannheim people. You've heard of them,
of course. They own tremendous copper mines in Alaska, but they can't
seem to get the right kind of flux to smelt their ore up there; so
they're going to freight it down to their smelter in Tacoma."
"I see. But how do you work the game to pay your office rent?"
"Why, that's very simple, Mr. Peasley. Their traffic manager
merely calls me up and tells me to find two ore freighters for him.
He doesn't know where to look for them, but he knows I do, and that
it will not cost him anything to engage me to find them for him.
Well, I locate the vessels and when I come to terms with the owners,
and those terms are satisfactory to my clients, I close the charter
and the vessel owners pay me a commission of two and a half per cent.
on all the freight money earned under the charter. A shipowner
generally is glad to pay a broker a commission for digging him up
business for his ships—particularly when freights are dull."
Matt Peasley nodded his comprehension and did some quick mental
"Why, you'll make a nice little fee on those ore boats," he said.
"I suppose it's a time charter."
"Four years," Mr. Hayes replied, and smiled fatly at the thought of
his income. "Of course I'd make a larger commission if the freight
rate was figured on a tonnage basis; but on long charters, like these
I mention, the ships are rented at a flat rate a day or month. Say,
for instance, I negotiate these charters at the rate of four hundred
dollars a day, or eight hundred dollars a day for the two boats. Two
and a half per cent. of eight hundred dollars is twenty dollars a day,
which I will earn as commission every day for the next four years that
the vessels are not in dry dock or laid up for repairs."
"And you probably will earn that by one day of labor," Matt Peasley
murmured admiringly—"perhaps one hour of actual labor!"
Mr. Hayes smiled again his fat smile. He shrugged.
"That's business," be said carelessly. "An ounce of promotion is
worth a ton of horse power."
"Well, I should say so, Mr. Hayes! But you'll have quite a search
to find an ore boat on the Pacific Coast. There are some coal boats
running to Coos Bay, but they're hardly big enough; and then I suppose
they're kept pretty busy in the coal trade, aren't they? It seems to
me that what you need for your business would be two of those big
steel ore vessels, with their engines astern—the kind they use on the
"That is exactly why I am going to San Francisco, Mr. Peasley.
There are on this Coast two ships such as you describe—sister ships
and just what the doctor ordered."
"What are their names?"
"The Lion and the Unicorn."
Matt Peasley paused, with a forkful of provender halfway to his
mouth. The S.S. Lion, eh? Why, that was one of Cappy Ricks' vessels!
He remembered passing her off Cape Flattery once and seeing the Blue
Star house flag fluttering at the fore.
"Were they Lake boats originally?" he queried.
Mr. Hayes nodded.
"What are they doing out here?"
"Right after the San Francisco fire, when fir lumber jumped from a
twelve-dollar base to twenty-five, lumber freights soared
accordingly," Hayes explained. "Vessels that had been making a little
money at four dollars a thousand feet, from Oregon and Washington
ports to San Francisco, were enabled to get ten dollars; and anything
that would float was hauled out of the bone yard and put to work. Old
Man Ricks, of the Blue Star Navigation Company, was the first to see
the handwriting on the wall; so he sneaked East and bought the Lion
and the Unicorn. It was just the old cuss's luck to have a lot of
cash on hand; and he bought them cheap, loaded them with general cargo
in New York, and paid a nice dividend on them on their very first
voyage under the Blue Star flag. When he got them on the Coast he put
them into the lumber trade and they paid for themselves within a year.
"Then, just before the panic of 1907, old Ricks unloaded the
Unicorn on the Black Butte Company for ten thousand dollars more than
he paid for her—the old scamp! He's the shrewdest trader on the
whole Pacific Coast. He had no sooner sawed the Unicorn off on the
Black Butte people than the freight market collapsed in the general
crash, and ever since then the owners of the Lion and the Unicorn have
been stuck with their vessels. They're so big it's next to impossible
to keep them running coastwise in the lumber trade during a dull
period, and they're not big enough for the foreign trade. About the
only thing they could do profitably was to freight coal, coal freights
have dropped until the margin of profit is very meager; competition is
keen and for the last six months the Lion and the Unicorn have been
Matt Peasley smiled.
"They'll be hungry for the business," he said, "and I'm sailor
enough to see you'll be able to drive a bargain without much trouble."
"I ought to get them pretty cheap," Mr. Hayes admitted. "As you
perhaps know, a vessel deteriorates faster when laid up than she does
in active service; and an owner will do almost anything to keep her at
sea, provided he can make a modest rate of interest on her cost price
or present market value."
"Naturally," Matt Peasley observed as they rose from the table.
He purchased a cigar for Mr. Hayes, and as they retired to the
buffet car to continue their acquaintance something whispered to Matt
not to divulge to this somewhat garrulous stranger the news that he
was a sea captain lately in the employ of the Blue Star Navigation
Company and soon to enter that employ again. He had learned enough to
realize that Cappy's bank roll was threatened by this man from
Seattle; that with his defenses leveled, as it were, the old gentleman
would prove an easy victim unless warned of the impending attack.
Therefore, since Matt had not sought Mr. Hayes' confidence nor
accepted it under a pledge of secrecy, he decided that there could be
nothing unethical in taking advantage of it. Plainly the broker had
jumped to the conclusion that Matt was a common sailor—above the
average in point of intelligence, but so young and unsophisticated
that one need not bother to be reserved or cautious in his presence.
Some vague understanding of this had come to Matt Peasley; hence
throughout the remainder of the journey his conversations with the
broker bore on every other subject under heaven except ships and
CHAPTER XXII. FACE TO FACE
In his private office Cappy Ricks sat on his spine, with his old
legs on his desk and his head sunk forward on his breast. His eyes
were closed; to the casual observer he would have appeared to be
dozing. Any one of his employees, however, would have known Cappy was
merely thinking. It was his habit to close his eyes and sit very
still whenever he faced a tussle with a tough proposition.
Presently an unmistakably feminine kiss, surreptitiously delivered,
roused Cappy from his meditations. He opened his eyes and beheld his
daughter Florence, a radiant debutante of twenty, and the sole prop of
her eccentric parent's declining years.
"Daddy dear," she announced, "there's something wrong with my bank
account. I've just come from the Marine National Bank and they
wouldn't cash my check."
"Of course not," Cappy replied, beaming affectionately. "They
telephoned about five minutes ago that you're into the red again; so
I've instructed Skinner to deposit five thousand to your credit."
"Oh, but I want ten thousand!" she protested.
"Can't have it, Florry!" he declared. "The old limousine will have
to do. Go slow, my dear—go slow! Why, they're offering random
cargoes freely along the street for nine dollars. Logs cost six
dollars, with a dollar and a half to manufacture—that's seven and a
half; and three and a half water freight added—that's eleven dollars.
Eleven-dollar lumber selling for nine dollars, and no business at
that! I haven't had a vessel dividend in six months—
Mr. Skinner entered.
"Mr. Ricks," he announced, "Captain Peasley, late of the Retriever,
is in the outer office. Shall I tell him to wait?"
"No. Haven't we been itching to see each other the past eighteen
months? Show him in immediately, Skinner." Cappy turned to his
daughter. "I want to show you something my dear," he said; "something
you're not likely to meet very often in your set—and that's a he-man.
Do you remember hearing me tell the story of the mate that thrashed
the big Swede skipper I sent to Cape Town to thrash him and bring the
"Do you mean the captain that never writes letters?"
"That's the man. The fellow I've been having so much fun with—the
Nervy Matt that tried to hornswoggle me with my own photograph.
Passed it off as his own, Florry! He hails from my old home town, and
he's a mere boy—Come in!"
The door opened to admit Matt Peasley; and as he paused just inside
the entrance, slightly embarrassed at finding himself under the cool
scrutiny of the trimmest, most dashing little craft he had ever seen,
Miss Florry decided that her father was right. Here, indeed, was a
specimen of the genus Homo she had not hitherto seen. Six feet three
he was, straight from shoulder to hip, broad-chested and singularly
well formed and graceful for such a big man.
He wore stout shoes, without toe caps—rather old-fashioned
footgear, Florry thought; but they were polished brightly. A
tailor-made, double-breasted blue serge suit, close-hauled and
demoded; a soft white silk shirt, with non-detachable collar; a plain
black silk four-in-hand tie, and a uniform cap, set a little back and
to one side on thick, black, glossy, wavy hair, completed his attire.
He had his right hand in his trousers pocket; his left was on the
doorknob. He glanced from her to her father.
"He's handsome," thought Florry. "What a beautiful tan on his
throat! He looks anything but the brute he is. But he hasn't any
manners. Oh, dear! He stands there like a graven image."
Matt Peasley's hand came out of his pocket; off came his cap and he
"I am Captain Peasley," he said.
Cappy Ricks, leaning forward on the edge of his swivel chair, with
head slightly bent, made a long appraisal of the young man over the
rims of his spectacles.
"Ahem!" he said. "Huh! Harumph!" Ensued another terrible
silence. Then: "Young scoundrel!" Cappy cried. "Infernal young
"I accept the nomination," said Matt dryly. "You'd never know me
from my photograph, would you, sir? I'd know you from yours,
though—in a minute!"
Miss Florry tittered audibly, thus drawing on herself the attention
of the skipper, who was audacious enough to favor her with a solemn
"None of your jokes with me, sir!" said Cappy severely.
"That's just what I say, sir; none of your jokes on me! Those
green hides were absolutely indecent."
"Matt, you're a fresh young fellow," Cappy charged, struggling to
suppress a smile.
"And I was raised on salt water too," Matt added seriously.
"You're a Thomaston Peasley," he declared, and shook hands. "Ever
hear of Ethan Peasley back there?"
"He was my uncle, sir. He was drowned at sea."
"He was a boyhood chum of mine, Matt. Permit me to present my
daughter, Miss Florence."
Miss Florence favored the captain with her most bewitching smile
and nodded perkily. Matt held out his great hand, not realizing that
a bow and a conventional "Delighted, I'm sure!" was the correct thing
in Florry's set. Florry was about to accept his great paw when Cappy
"Don't take it, Florry! He'll squeeze your hand to jelly."
"I won't," Matt declared, embarrassed. "I might press it a
"I know. You pressed mine a little, and if I live to be a thousand
years old I'll never shake hands with you again."
"I'll give her my finger then," Matt declared, and forthwith held
out his index finger, which Florry shook gravely.
"Well, well, boy; sit down, sit down," Cappy commanded briskly,
"while I tell you the plans I have for your future. I ought to have
fired you long ago—"
"I shall always be happy to testify that you tried hard enough,"
Matt interrupted, and Florry's silvery laugh filled the room. Cappy
winced, but had to join with her in the laugh on himself.
"For the sake of your Uncle Ethan, and the fact that you're one of
our own boys, Matt," he continued, "I'll retain you if you behave
yourself. As I believe I wired you, I'm going to put you in steam."
"You didn't consult me about it, sir; but, to please you, I'll
tackle steam. I'm very grateful for your interest in me, Mr. Ricks."
"Huh! That's not true, Matt. You're not grateful; and if you are
you have no business to be. I paid you a hundred and twenty-five
dollars a month to skipper the Retriever; you earned every cent of it
and I made you fight for the job; so, no thanks to me. And I know for
a fact that you and Mr. Murphy cursed me up hill and down dale—"
"Oh, Captain Peasley!" Miss Ricks interrupted. "Did you curse my
"She's trying to fluster me," Matt thought. "She thinks I'm a
farmer." Aloud he said: "Well, you see, Miss Ricks, I had to work for
him. However, Mr. Murphy and I have forgiven him. We're both willing
to let bygones be bygones."
"Young scoundrel!" piped Cappy, delighted beyond measure, for he
was used to unimaginative, rather dull skippers, who revered their
berths and stood before him, hat in hand, plainly uncomfortable in the
presence of the creator of the payroll. "Dashed young scoundrel!
Well, we had some fun anyhow, didn't we, Matt? And, as the young
fellows say, I got your Capricorn. Very well, then. We'll make a new
start, Matthew; and if you pay attention to business it's barely
possible you may amount to something yet.
"I'm going to provide a berth for you, my boy, as second mate on
the dirtiest, leakiest little bumboat you ever saw—our steam schooner
Gualala. She's a nautical disgrace and carries three hundred thousand
feet of lumber—runs into the dogholes on the Mendocino Coast and
takes in cargo on a trolley running from the top of the cliff to the
masthead. It'll be your job to get out in a small boat to pick up the
moorings; and that'll be no picnic in the wintertime, because you lie
just outside the edge of the breakers. But you'll learn how to pick
up moorings, Matt, and you'll learn how to turn a steamer round on her
"I never did that kind of work before," Matt protested. "I stand a
good chance of getting drowned, don't I?"
"Of course! But better men than you do it; so don't kick. In the
spring I'll shift you to a larger boat; but I want you to have one
winter along the Mendocino Coast. It'll about break your heart, but
it will do you an awful lot of good, Matt. When you finish in the
Gualala, you'll go in the Florence Ricks and run from Grays Harbor to
San Pedro. Then, when you get your first mate's license, I'll put you
in our Tillicum, where you'll learn how to handle a big vessel; and by
the time you get your master's license for steam you'll be ready to
start for Philadelphia to bring out the finest freighter on this
Coast. How does that prospect strike you?"
Matt's eyes glowed. He forgot the two years' apprenticeship and
thought only of the prize Cappy was dangling before him.
"If faithful service will be a guaranty of my appreciation—" he
began; but Cappy interrupted.
"Nonsense! Not another peep out of you. You'd better take a
little rest now for a couple of weeks and get your stomach in order
after all that creosote. Meantime, if you should need any money,
Skinner will fix you up."
"I'll not need any, thank you. I saved sixteen hundred dollars
while I was in the Retriever—"
"Fine! Good boy!" exclaimed Cappy, delighted beyond measure at
this proof of Matt's Yankee thrift and sobriety. "But don't save it,
Matt. Invest it. Put it in a mortgage for three years. I know a
captain now that wants to borrow a thousand dollars at eight per cent.
to buy an interest in one of our vessels. You shall loan it to him,
Matt, and he'll secure you with the insurance. Perfectly safe.
Guarantee it myself. Bring your thousand dollars round in the
morning, Matt. Understand? No fooling now! Make your money work for
you. You bet! If I'm not here tomorrow leave the money with Skinner."
"Mr. Skinner is the general manager, isn't he?"
"Yes, and a mighty clever one, too. Don't you monkey with Skinner,
young man. He doesn't like you and he doesn't bluff worth a cent; and
if you ever have a run-in with him while I'm away and he fires
you—well, I guess I'd have to stand by Skinner, Matt. I can't afford
to lose him. Cold-blooded dog—no sense of humor; but honest—a pig
for work, and capable."
"I'll be very careful, sir," Matt assured him. "Thank you for the
vacation, the promised job, and the chance to invest my thousand
dollars at eight per cent. And, now that my affairs are out of the
way, let's talk about yours. I think I can get you a four-year
charter for your steamer Lion—"
"Matt," said Cappy Ricks impressively, "if you can get that brute
of a boat off my hands for four years, and at a figure that will pay
me ten per cent. on her cost price, I'll tell you what—I'll pay you a
"I don't want any commission, sir, for working for the interests of
my employer. What do you reckon it costs a day to operate the Lion?"
Cappy drew a scratch pad toward him and commenced to figure.
"She'll burn a hundred and seventy barrels of crude oil a day, at
sixty-five cents a barrel. That's about a hundred and ten dollars.
Her wages will average seventy-five dollars a day; it costs twenty
dollars a day to feed her crew; incidentals, say twenty dollars a day;
insurance, say, four dollars a day; wireless, three and a half
dollars; depreciation, say, two dollars and seventy-five cents a day;
total in round figures two hundred and thirty-five dollars a day. I
ought to get four hundred dollars a day for her; but in a pinch like
the present I'd be glad to get her off my hands at three hundred and
fifty dollars. But, no matter what the price may be, Matt, I'm afraid
we can't charter her."
"Because the Black Butte Lumber Company owns her sister, the
Unicorn; she's a burden on their back, as the Lion is on mine, there's
war to the finish between Hudner, the Black Butte manager, and myself,
and he'll get the business. He's a dog, Matt—always cutting prices
below the profit point and raising hob in the market. Infernal
marplot! He stole the best stenographer in the United States from me
here about three years ago."
"Where is Hudner's office?" Matt queried.
"In this building—sixth floor." Matt rose and started for the
door. "Where are you going now, Matt?" Cappy piped.
"Why, you say the Unicorn will compete against the Lion for this
charter I have in mind. That is true enough. I know the Black Butte
Lumber Company will be approached for the Unicorn; so I'm going to get
the Unicorn out of the way and give you a clear field with the Lion.
I figured it all out coming down on the train." And, without waiting
to listen to Cappy's protestations, Matt left the office.
CHAPTER XXIII. BUSINESS AND—
Three minutes later he was closeted with Hudner, of the Black Butte
"My name is Peasley, Mr. Hudner," he began truthfully. "I arrived
from Seattle this morning. I am looking for a steam freighter for
some very responsible people and your Unicorn appears to be about the
vessel they're looking for. They would want her to run coastwise, and
prefer to charter at a flat rate a day, owners to pay all expenses of
operating the ship. Would you be willing to charter for sixty days,
with an option on the vessel for an extension of the charter on the
same terms for four years, provided she proves satisfactory for my
Mr. Hudner started slightly. Four years! It seemed almost too
good to be true. He was certain of this the next instant when he
thought of Cappy Ricks' Lion, also laid up and as hungry for business
as the Unicorn. He wondered whether this young broker from Seattle
had called on Cappy Ricks as yet; and, wondering, he decided to name a
price low enough to prove interesting and, by closing promptly,
eliminate his hated competitor from all consideration.
"I should be very glad to consider your proposition, Mr. Peasley,"
he said. "You say your clients are entirely responsible?"
"They will post a bond if you're not satisfied on that point, Mr.
Hudner. What will you charter the Unicorn for, a day?"
Mr. Hudner pretended to do a deal of figuring. At the end of five
minutes he said: "Three hundred and fifty dollars a day, net to the
Matt nodded, rose and reached for his hat.
"I guess you don't want to charter your vessel, sir," he said.
"I'm not working for my health, either; so I guess I'll look for some
other vessel. I hear the Lion is on the market." And without further
ado he walked out.
Mr. Hudner let him go; then ran after him and cornered him in the
"I'll let you have her at three hundred and thirty," he said
desperately; "and that's bedrock. And if your clients elect to take
her for four years, I'll pay you a thousand dollars commission on the
deal. The vessel simply cannot afford to pay more."
After his conversation with Cappy Ricks, Matt realized that Hudner
had, indeed, named a very low price on the Unicorn. But Matt was a
Yankee. He knew he had Hudner where the hair was short; so he said:
"I'll give you three twenty-five and accept a thousand dollars
commission in case my clients take her for four years. That's my
final offer, Mr. Hudner. Take it or leave it."
"I'll take it," said poor Hudner. "It's better than letting the
vessel fall to pieces in Rotten Row. How soon will you hear
definitely from your principals?"
"I'll hear to-day; but meantime you might give me a three-day
option on the vessel, in case of unavoidable delays—though I'll do my
best to close the matter up at once."
Hudner considered. The Unicorn had paid his company but two
dividends since her purchase from Cappy Ricks, while it was common
talk on 'Change that the Lion had paid for herself prior to the 1907
panic. In consideration of the fact, therefore, that the Lion did not
owe Cappy Ricks a cent, Hudner shrewdly judged that Cappy would be
less eager than he for business, and that hence it would be safe to
give a three-day option. He led Matt back to his office, where he
dictated and signed the option. Matt gave him a dollar and the trap
From Hudner's office Matt returned to that of Cappy Ricks. The
heir to the Ricks millions was still there, as Matt noted with a
sudden, strange thrill of satisfaction.
"I've waited until your return, Captain Peasley," she said, "to see
whether you could dispose of dad's competitor as handily as you
disposed of your own that time in Cape Town."
Matt blushed and Cappy chuckled.
"I've bet Florry five thousand dollars you'll dispose of Hudner and
the Unicorn, Matt," he said.
"I'm glad of that, sir, because if you hope to win the bet you'll
have to help me. I've gone as far as I can, sir. I've got an option
on the Unicorn for three days on a sixty-day charter, running
coastwise with general cargo, with the privilege of renewing for four
years at the same rate. The rate, by the way, is three hundred and
twenty-five dollars. I want you to charter her from Hudner; and
"Bless your soul, boy, I don't want her! Haven't I got a boat of
my own I'd almost be willing to charter at the same figure to Hudner?"
"You don't understand, sir. The Mannheim people, with copper mines
in Alaska, want two boats to freight ore—and their agent came down on
the train with me. Don't you see, sir, that you have to control both
boats to get a price? If you don't that agent will play you against
Hudner and Hudner against you, until he succeeds in tying up both
boats at a low price. He wouldn't tell you he wants two boats, but he
was fool enough to tell me—"
"God bless my mildewed soul!" said Cappy excitedly, and smashed his
old fist down on his desk. "For the man to do things, give me the lad
who keeps his ears open and his mouth shut! Of course we'll charter
her; and, what's more, we'll give her business ourselves for sixty
days just to keep her off the market!"
"Then you'd better hurry and close the deal, sir," Matt warned him.
"I only arrived in town this morning; and I checked my baggage at the
depot and came up here immediately. The Seattle broker went up to his
hotel. He said he had to have a bath and a shave and some clean linen
first thing," he added scornfully: "Me, I'd swim Channel Creek at low
tide in a dress suit if I had important business on the other side."
"Matt," said Cappy gratefully, "you're a boy after my own heart.
Really, I think you ought to get something out of this if we put it
"Well, as I stated, I wouldn't take anything out of the Lion
charter, because it's my duty to save you when somebody has a gun at
your head; but on the Unicorn charter I thought—well, if you can
recharter at a profit I thought you might agree to split the profit
with me. I'm a skipper, you know, and this sort of thing is out of my
regular line; and besides, I'm not on your pay roll at present. I've
promoted the deal, so to speak. I supply the ship and the brains and
the valuable information, and you supply business for the ship."
"Yes; and, in spite of the hard times, I'll supply it at a profit
if I have to," Cappy declared happily. "Of course I'll split the
profit with you, Matt. As you say, this Unicorn deal is outside your
regular line. It's a private deal; and as the promoter of it you're
entitled to your legitimate profit." He rang for Mr. Skinner.
"Skinner, my boy," he said when that functionary entered, "Matt and
I are going to unload that white elephant of a Lion and get her off
our hands for four years at a fancy figure; but to do it we've got to
charter another white elephant—the Black Butte Lumber Company's
Unicorn. Here's an option Captain Peasley has just secured on her.
Have the charter parties made out immediately in conformity with this
option and bring them here for my signature."
Mr. Skinner read the option and began to protest.
"Mr. Ricks, I tell you we cannot possibly use the Unicorn for sixty
days, if you are forced to keep her off the market that long. If this
thing develops into a waiting game—"
"I'll wear the other side out," Cappy finished for him. "Listen to
me, Skinner! How's the shingle market in the Southwest?"
"The market is steady at three dollars and fifty cents, f.o.b.
Missouri River common points."
Cappy scratched his ear and cogitated.
"The Unicorn will carry eighteen million shingles," he murmured.
"The going water freight from Grays Harbor to San Francisco is how
"Thirty-five cents a thousand," Mr. Skinner replied promptly.
"Therefore, if we used one of our own vessels to freight eighteen
million shingles it would cost us—"
"Six thousand three hundred dollars," prompted Mr. Skinner.
"Fortunately for us, however, we do not use one of our own vessels.
We use that fellow Hudner's and we get her for three hundred and
twenty-five dollars a day. She can sail from here to Grays Harbor,
take on her cargo, get back to San Francisco and discharge it in
twelve days. What's twelve times three hundred and twenty-five?"
"Thirty-nine hundred dollars," flashed Skinner, to the tremendous
admiration of Matt Peasley, who now considered the manager an
"Being a saving of how much?" Cappy droned on.
"Twenty-four hundred dollars," answered the efficient human machine
without seeming to think for an instant.
"Being a saving of how many cents on a thousand shingles?"
Mr. Skinner closed one eye, cocked the other at the ceiling an
instant and said:
"Thirteen and one-third cents a thousand."
"Very well, then, Skinner. Now listen to my instructions: Wire all
the best shingle mills on Grays Harbor for quotations on Extra Star A
Stars in one to five million lots, delivery fifteen, thirty and
forty-five days from date; and if the price is right buy 'em all. We
have about ten millions on hand at our own mill. To-night send out a
flock of night letters to all the wholesale jobbers and brokers in
Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, and all points taking a sixty-cent
tariff, and quote 'em ten cents under the market subject to prior
He turned to Matt Peasley.
"That clause—'subject to prior acceptance'—saves our faces in
case we find ourselves unable to deliver the goods," he explained, and
turned again to Skinner.
"We can freight the shingles from Grays Harbor to San Francisco in
the Unicorn; re-ship on cars from Long Wharf and beat the direct car
shipments from the mills ten cents, and still make our regular profit.
Besides, the cut in price will bring us in a raft of orders we could
not get otherwise. We can thus keep the Unicorn busy for sixty days
without losing a cent on her, and if we haven't come to terms with the
Mannheim people at the end of that time we'll find something else for
her. And, of course, if we succeed meantime in chartering the Lion at
a satisfactory price, we can throw the Unicorn back on Hudner at the
end of the sixty days." And Cappy snickered malevolently as he
pictured his enemy's discomfiture under these circumstances.
Mr. Skinner nodded his comprehension and hastened away to prepare
the charter parties.
CHAPTER XXIV. THE CLEAN UP
Hudner, manager of the Black Butte Lumber Company, arched his
eyebrows as Matt Peasley entered his office half an hour after he had
left it and presented for Hudner's signature a formal charter party,
in duplicate, wherein the Blue Star Navigation Company chartered from
J. B. Hudner, managing owner of record, the American Steamer Unicorn
for sixty days from date, at the rate of three hundred and twenty-five
dollars a day, said managing owner to pay all expenses of operating
"Huh!" Mr. Hudner snorted. "I'd like to know what the devil Cappy
Ricks wants of my Unicorn when he's got her infernal sister squatting
in the mud of Oakland Creek? There's something rotten in Denmark, Mr.
Peasley. There always is when that old scoundrel Ricks does
"Very likely he's up to some skullduggery, sir," Matt opined.
"I wish you had informed me of the identity of your client, Mr.
Peasley," Hudner complained. "I don't like to sign this charter."
"I cannot help that now, sir," Matt retorted. "You have agreed in
writing to charter the vessel to any responsible person I might bring
to you, and I guess the Blue Star Navigation Company comes under that
Mr. Hudner sighed and gritted his teeth. Instinct told him there
was deviltry afoot, but in an evil moment he had sewed himself up and
he had no alternative now save to complete the contract or stand suit.
So he signed the charter party and retained the original, while Matt
Peasley, with the duplicate in his pocket, hastened back to Cappy
"Matt," said Cappy approvingly, "you're a born business man, and it
will be strange indeed if you don't pick up a nice little piece of
money on this Unicorn deal." He glanced at his watch and then turned
to his daughter.
"Florry, my dear," he said, "would you like to go up-town with your
daddy and Captain Peasley for luncheon?"
Matt Peasley grinned like a Jack-o'-lantern, all lit up for
"Fine!" he said enthusiastically.
Florence withered him with one impersonal glance, saw that she had
destroyed him utterly, relented, and graciously acquiesced. When they
left the office Matt Peasley was stepping high, like a ten-time
winner, for he had suddenly made the discovery that life ashore was a
wonderful, wonderful thing. There was such a lilt in his young heart
that, for the life of him, he could not forbear doing a little double
shuffle as he waited at the elevator with Cappy and his daughter. He
"The first mate's boat was the first away;
But the whale gave a flip of his tail,
And down to the bottom went five brave boys,
Never again to sail—
Never again to sail!
When the captain heard of the loss of his whale,
Right loud-lee then he swore.
When he heard of the loss of his five brave boys,
'Oh,' he said, 'we can ship some more brave boys—
'Oh,' he said, 'we can ship some more.'"
Cappy winked slyly at his daughter, but she did not see the wink.
She had eyes for nobody but Matt Peasley, for he was a brand-new note
in her life. They were half through luncheon before Florry discovered
the exact nature of this fascinating new note. Matt Peasley was real.
There was not an artificial thought or action in his scheme of things;
he bubbled with homely Yankee wit; he was intensely democratic and
ramping with youth and health and strength and the joy of living; he
could sing funny little songs and tell funny little stories about
funny little adventures that had befallen him. She liked him.
After luncheon Cappy declared that Matt should return to the office
with him, while Florry instructed the waiter to ring for a taxicab for
her. Later, when Matt gallantly handed her into the taxi, he asked
"Where are you going, Miss Florry?"
"Home," she said.
He looked at her so wistfully that she could not mistake the hidden
meaning in his words when he asked, with a deprecatory grin:
"Where do you live?"
"With my father," she said, and closed the door.
When Cappy and Matt returned to the Blue Star offices they were
informed that Mr. Allan Hayes was patiently awaiting the arrival of
the managing owner of the Lion. Matt concluded, therefore, to remain
secluded while Cappy went into his own office and met Mr. Hayes.
Two hours later Cappy summoned Skinner and Matt to his sanctum.
"Skinner," he said briskly, "have you bought any shingles?"
"I have not," said Mr. Skinner.
"Have you sent out those telegrams to the dealers?"
"Not yet, Mr. Ricks. I was going to have them filed just before we
close the office."
"Well," said Cappy smilingly, "don't accept any quotations until
to-morrow and don't send out those telegrams until further advice from
me. I locked horns with that man Hayes, and I think I gored him,
Matt. It appeared he called on me first; and when I quoted him four
hundred dollars a day on the Lion, he favored me with a sweet smile
and said he could get the Unicorn for three-fifty. So, of course, I
had to explain to him that he couldn't, because I wouldn't charter her
at any such ridiculous figure! That took the ginger out of him and we
got down to business, with the result that I've given him a
forty-eight-hour option on both boats at four hundred dollars a day
each, with a commission of two thousand dollars cash in full to him."
"Why, he told me he would get two and a half per cent. commission!"
Matt declared. "He figured he'd have an income of twenty dollars a
day for the next four years."
"I daresay he did, Matt," Cappy replied dryly; "but then, in the
very best business circles you never pay a broker two and a half
commission when you know who his principals are! If he insists, you
eliminate him entirely and do business direct. Of course, my boy, if
he had put the proposition up to me, and I had agreed to pay him the
regular commission while ignorant of the identity of his principals,
and he had then reposed confidence in my business honor and told me
whom he represented, he would have been perfectly safe. Remember,
Matt, that the business man without a code of business honor never
stays in business very long. From the office to the penitentiary or
the cemetery is a quick jump for birds of that feather."
"Then, why did you offer him two thousand dollars?"'
"Because it never pays to be a hog, my son, and besides I want to
close this deal and close it quickly. Naturally Hayes isn't fool
enough to toss away two thousand dollars, and something seems to tell
me he'll urge his principals to take the boats at our figure,
Matthew!" And the graceless old villain chuckled and dug his youngest
skipper in the short ribs. "Let this be a lesson to you, my boy," he
warned him. "Remember the old Persian proverb: 'A shut mouth catches
Cappy's prediction proved to be correct, for the following morning
Hayes telephoned that the Mannheim people desired the steamers at
Cappy's figures, the charter parties, signed by Cappy, were forwarded
to Seattle, and in due course were returned signed by the charterers;
whereupon Cappy exercised his option, procured by Matt from Hudner, to
charter the Unicorn for four years additional.
"What did Hudner have to say for himself?" Cappy queried when Matt
returned from the latter's office, after finally completing the deal.
"Not a word! He looked volumes, though, sir."
"Serves him right. That man, sir, is a thorn in the side of the
market. However, since we're making a daily profit on him we can
afford to speak kindly of the unfortunate fellow, Matt; so sit down
and we'll figure out where we stand on the Unicorn. She costs us
three-twenty-five and we've chartered her at four hundred—a daily
profit of seventy-five dollars, of which you receive thirty-seven
dollars and fifty cents. That makes eleven hundred and twenty-five
dollars monthly income for you, my boy; and, believe me, it isn't to
be sneezed at. Meantime you and I, as partners, owe me a thousand
dollars commission to that Seattle broker; so I'll have Skinner make a
journal entry and charge your account five hundred dollars. There's
no need to pay it now, Matt. Wait until the vessel earns it."
"The vessel might sink on her first voyage and that would cancel
the charter," Matt replied; "so I guess I'll be a sport and hold up my
end. You paid out the hard cash and took a chance, and so will I."
And, with the words, Matt drew from his pocket the Black Butte Lumber
Company's check for a thousand dollars, indorsed it and passed it over
to Cappy Ricks. "We're equal partners, sir," he said, "and I pried
that thousand out of Hudner on the side as a commission for chartering
the Unicorn to you. Half of it is yours and I owe you the other half;
so there you are."
Cappy Ricks threw up his hands in token of complete surrender.
"Scoundrel!" he cried. "Damned young scoundrel! You Yankee thief,
haven't you any conscience?" And he laid his old head on his desk and
laughed his shrill, senile laugh, while tears of joy rolled down his
rosy old cheeks. "Oh-h-h-h, my!" he cackled. "But wait until I get
Hudner among my young friends at the Round Table up at the Commercial
Club to-morrow! To think of a young pup like you coming in and
chasing an old dog like Hudner round the lot and taking his bone away
He turned to the general manager:
"Oh, Skinner! Skinner, my dear boy, this will be the death of me
yet! Remember that old maid stenographer Hudner stole away from us,
Skinner? Remember? Oh, but isn't he paying for her through the nose?
Isn't he, Skinner? Oh, dear! Oh, dear, what a lot of fun there is in
just living and raising hell with your neighbor—particularly,
Skinner, when he happens to be a competitor."
When Cappy could control his mirth he handed the money back to
"Oh, Matt, my dear young bandit," he informed that amazed young
man, "I'm human. I can't take this money. It's been worth a thousand
dollars to have had this laugh and to know I've got a lad like you
growing up in my employ. You're worth a bonus, Matt; I'll stand all
the commission. Soak Hudner's thousand away in the bank, Matt; or,
better still—Here! Here; let's figure, Matt: You had sixteen
hundred saved up and you've loaned a thousand on that mortgage. Now
you've made a thousand more. Better buy a good thousand-dollar
municipal bond, Matt. That's better than savings-bank interest, and
you can always realize on the bond. I'll buy the bond for you."
"Thank you, sir," Matt replied.
CHAPTER XXV. CAPPY PROVES HIMSELF A
Cappy Ricks lay back in his swivel chair, his feet on his desk and
his eyes closed. He was thinking deeply, for he had something to
think about. Coming in from his club the night before he had observed
that Florry was entertaining company in the billiard room, as the
crash of pool balls testified. He had scarcely reached his room on
the second floor, however, when the pool game came to an end and he
heard voices in the drawing room, followed presently by a few random
chords struck on the piano, and a resonant baritone was raised in the
strangest song ever heard in that drawing room—a deep-sea chantey.
Cappy was no great shakes on music, but before he had listened to
the first verse of Rolling Home he knew Captain Matt Peasley for the
singer and suspected his daughter of faking the accompaniment. He
listened at the head of the stairs and presently was treated to a
rendition of a lilting little Swedish ballad, followed by one or two
selections from the Grand Banks and the doleful song of the Ferocious
Whale and the Five Brave Boys. Then he heard Florry laugh happily.
Cappy was thinking of the curious inflection in that laugh now.
Once before he had heard it—when he courted Florry's dead mother;
and his old heart swelled a little with pain at the remembrance. He
was wondering just what to do about that laugh when Matt was
"Show him in," said Cappy; and Matt Peasley entered.
"Sit down, Matt," said Cappy kindly. "Yes, I sent for you. The
Gualala will be in to-morrow and you've had a fine two-weeks'
vacation. What's more, I think you've enjoyed it, Matt, and I'm glad
you did; but now it's time to get down to business again. I wanted to
tell you that the skipper of the Gualala will expect you to be aboard
at seven o'clock to-morrow morning."
Matt studied the pattern of the office rug a minute and then faced
"I'm obliged to you, Mr. Ricks, more than I can say; but the fact
of the matter is I've changed my mind about going to sea again. It's
a dog's life, sir, and I'm tired of it."
"Tired at twenty-three?" said Cappy gently.
Matt flushed a little.
"Well, it does appear to me kind of foolish for a man with an
income of more than eleven hundred dollars a month to be going to sea
as second mate of a dirty little steam schooner at seventy-five
dollars a month."
"Well, I can hardly blame you," said Cappy gently. "I suppose I'd
feel the same way about it myself if I stood in your shoes."
"I'm sure you would," Matt replied.
Fell a silence, broken presently by Cappy's:
"Huh! Ahem! Harump!" Then: "When I came in from my club last
night, Matt, I believe Florry had a caller."
"Yes, sir," said Matt; "I was there."
"Huh! I got a squint at you. Am I mistaken in assuming that you
were wearing a dress suit?"
"Whadja mean by wasting your savings on a dress suit?" Cappy
exploded. "Whadja mean by courting my Florry, eh? Tell me that! Give
you an inch and you'll take an ell! Infernal young scoundrel!"
"Well," said Matt humbly, "I intended to speak to you about Miss
Florry. Of course now that I'm going to live ashore—"
"What can a big lubber like you do ashore?" Cappy shrilled.
"Why, I might get a job with some shipping firm—"
"You needn't count on a job ashore with the Blue Star Navigation
Company," Cappy railed. "You needn't think—"
"Have I your permission to call on Miss Florry again?" Matt asked
"No!" thundered Cappy. "You're as nervy as they make 'em! No,
sir! You'll go to sea in the Gualala to-morrow morning—d'ye hear?
That's what you'll do!"
But Matt Peasley shook his head.
"I'm through with the sea," he said firmly. "I have an income of
eleven hundred dollars a month—"
"0h, is that so?" Cappy sneered. "Well, for the sake of argument,
we'll admit you have the income. We don't know how long you'll have
it; but we'll credit your account on the books while we're able to
collect it from the charterers, and I guess we'll collect it while the
Unicorn is afloat. But having an income and being able to spend it,
my boy, are two different things; so in order to set your mind at
ease, let me tell you something: I'm not going to give you a cent out
of that charter deal—"
Matt Peasley sprang up, his big body aquiver with rage.
"You'd double-cross me!" he roared. "Mr. Ricks, if you weren't—"
"Shut up!" snapped Cappy, undaunted. "I know what you're going to
say. If I wasn't an old man I'd let you make a jolly jackanapes of
yourself. Now listen to me! I said I wasn't going to let you have a
cent out of that charter deal—and I mean it. If you couldn't say
Boo! from now until the day you finger a dollar of that income you'd
be as dumb as an oyster by the time I hand you the check. What do you
know about money?" he piped shrilly. "You big, overgrown baby! Yah!
You've had a little taste of business and turned a neat deal, and now
you think you're a wonder, don't you? Like everybody else, you'll
keep on thinking it until some smart fellow takes it all away from you
again; so, in order to cure you, I'm not going to let you have it!"
"I'll sue you—"
"You can sue your head off, young man, and see how much good it
will do you. You surrendered to me your option that Hudner gave you
on the Unicorn, and you failed to procure from me in writing an
understanding of the agreement between us regarding this split. You
haven't a leg to stand on!"
Matt Peasley hung his head.
"I didn't think I had to take business precautions with you, sir,"
"You should take business precautions with anybody and everybody."
"I thought I was dealing with a man of honor. Everybody has always
told me that Cappy Ricks'—"
"How dare you call me Cappy?"
"—word was as good as his bond."
"And so it is, my boy. You'll get your money, but you'll wait for
it; and meantime I'll invest it for you. As I said before, you've had
a taste of business and found it pretty sweet—so sweet, in fact, that
you think you're a business man. Well, hereafter you'll remember,
when you're making a contract with anybody, to get it down in black
and white; and then you'll have something to fight about if you're not
satisfied. Now, by the time you're skipper of steam you'll be worth a
nice little pile of money; you can buy a piece of the big freighter
I'm going to build for you and it'll pay you thirty per cent.
Remember, Matt, I always make my skippers own a piece of the vessel
they command. That gives 'em an interest in their job and they don't
waste their owner's money."
"I won't be dictated to!" Matt cried desperately. "I'm free, white
"Twenty-three!" jeered Cappy. "You big, awkward pup! How dare you
growl at me! I know what's good for you. You go to sea on the
"I must decline—"
"Oh, all right! Have it your own way," said Cappy. "But, at the
rate you've been blowing your money in on Florry for the past two
weeks, I'll bet your wad has dwindled since you struck town. I've put
that thousand dollars out on mortgage for you, and Skinner has the
mortgage in the company safe, where you can't get at it to hock it
when your last dollar is gone. And he has the bond there too; so it
does appear to me, Matt, that if you want any money to spend you'll
have to get a job and earn it. I have the bulge on you, young fellow,
and don't you forget it!"
Matt Peasley rose, walked to the window and stood looking down into
California Street. He was so mad there were tears in his eyes, and he
longed to say things to Cappy Ricks—only, for the sake of Miss
Florence Ricks, he could not abuse her sire. Once he half turned,
only to meet Cappy's glittering eyes fixed on him with a steadiness of
purpose that argued only too well the fact that the old man could not
be bluffed, cajoled, bribed or impressed.
Presently Matt Peasley turned from the window.
"Where does the Gualala lie, sir?" he asked gruffly.
"Howard Street Wharf, Number One, Matt," Cappy replied cheerfully.
"I think she had bedbugs in her cabin, but I'm not sure. I wouldn't
go within a block of her myself."
Matt gazed sorrowfully at the rug. Too well he realized that Cappy
had the whip hand and was fully capable of cracking the whip; so
presently he said:
"Well, I've met bedbugs before, Mr. Ricks. I'll go aboard in the
"I'm glad to hear it, Matt. And another thing: I like you, Matt,
but not well enough for a son-in-law. Remember, my boy, you're only a
sailor on a steam schooner now—so it won't be necessary for you to
look aloft. You understand, do you not? You want to remember your
position, my boy."
Matt turned and bent upon Cappy a slow, smoldering gaze. Cappy
almost quivered. Then slowly the rage died out in Matt Peasley's fine
eyes and a lilting, boyish grin spread over his face, for he was one
of those rare human beings who can smile, no matter what the prospect,
once he has definitely committed himself to a definite course of
action. Only the years of discipline and his innate respect for gray
hairs kept him from bluntly informing Cappy Ricks that he might
forthwith proceed to chase himself! Instead he said quietly:
"Very well, sir. Good afternoon."
"Good afternoon, sir," snapped Cappy.
At the door Matt paused an instant, for he was young and he could
not retire without firing a shot. He fired it now with his eyes—a
glance of cool disdain and defiance that would have been worth a
dollar of anybody's money to see. Cappy had to do something to keep
"Out, you rebel!" he yelled. The door closed with a crash, and
Cappy Ricks took down the telephone receiver and called up his
"Florry," he said gently, "I want to tell you something."
"Fire away, Pop!" she challenged.
"It's about that fellow Peasley," Cappy replied coldly. "I wish
you wouldn't have that big, awkward dub calling at the house, Florry.
He'll fall over the furniture the first thing you know, and do some
damage. I think a lot of him as a sailor, but that's about as far as
my affection extends; and if you insist on having him call at the
house, my dear, my authority over him as an employee will suffer and
I'll be forced to fire the fellow. Of course I realize what a
pleasant boy he is; but then you don't know sailors like I do.
They're a low lot at heart, Florry, and this fellow Peasley is no
exception to the general rule."
Cappy paused to test the effect of this broadside. There was a
little gasp from the other end of the wire; then a click as his
daughter hung up, too outraged to reply.
Cappy's kindly eyes twinkled merrily as he replaced the receiver on
"What a skookum son-in-law to take up the business when I let go!"
he murmured happily. "Oh, Matt, I'm so blamed sorry for you; but it's
just got to be done. If you're going to build up the Blue Star
Navigation Company after the Panama Canal is opened for business,
you've got to know shipping; and to know it from center to
circumference. It isn't sufficient that you be master of sail and
steam, any ocean, any tonnage. You've got to learn the business from
the rules as promulgated by little old Alden P. Ricks, the slave
driver. There's hope for you, sonny. You have already learned to
Mr. Skinner bustled in with the mail.
"Skinner," said Cappy plaintively, "what's the best way to drive
obstinate people south?"
"Head them north," said Mr. Skinner.
"I'm doing it," said Cappy dreamily.
CHAPTER XXVI. MATT PEASLEY IN EXILE
From Cappy Ricks' office Matt Peasley went to the rooms of the
American Shipmaster's Association, entered the telephone booth and
called up Florence Ricks. From the instant he first laid eyes on her,
Miss Florry had occupied practically all of Matt's thoughts during
every waking hour. He had assayed her and appraised her a hundred
times and from every possible angle, and each time he decided that
Florry was possessed of more than sufficient charm, good looks,
sweetness and intelligence to suit the most exacting. Matt wasn't
ultra-exacting and she suited him, and the fact that she was the sole
heir to millions was the least of the sailor's considerations as he
dropped his nickel down the slot. Neither did the identity of the
young lady's paternal ancestor constitute a problem, despite the
recent interview with that variable individual. Matt regarded Cappy
somewhat in the light of a mixed blessing; while he respected him he
was a little bit afraid of him, and just at present he disliked him
exceedingly. And lastly, his own social and economic status as second
mate of the most wretched little steam schooner in the Blue Star
Navigation Company's fleet, failed to enter even remotely into Matt's
scheme of things.
The reason for this mental stand on his part was a perfectly simple
and natural one. To begin, he was a stranger to caste other than that
of decent manhood. The only rank he had ever known was that of a
ship's officer, and that was merely a condition of servitude. When
ashore he regarded himself as the equal of any monarch under heaven
and treated all men accordingly. Since he had never known any of the
restrictions of polite conventions behind which society entrenches
itself in the world occupied by such pampered pets of fortune as Miss
Florence Ricks, Matt Peasley failed to see a single sound reason why
he should not indulge a very natural desire for Cappy's ewe lamb—for
a singularly direct and forceful individual was Matthew. It was his
creed to take what he could get away with, provided that in the taking
he broke no moral, legal or ethical code; and if any thought of the
apparent incongruity of a sailor's aspiring to the hand of a
millionaire shipowner's daughter had occurred to him—which, by the
way, it had not—he would doubtless have analyzed it thusly:
"There she is. Isn't she a queen? I want her and there isn't a
single reason on earth why I shouldn't have her, unless it be that she
doesn't want me. However, I'll learn all about that when I get good
and ready, and if I'm acceptable Cappy Ricks and one of his employees
are going to have a warm debate—subject, matrimony. What do I care
for him? He's only her father, and I'll bet he wasn't half so well
fixed as I am when he got married. I'll just play the game like a
white man, and if Cappy doesn't like it he'll have to get over it."
"Miss Florence," Matt began, "this is Matt."
"Matt who?" she queried with provoking assumption of innocence.
"Door Mat," he replied. "Your daddy has just walked all over me at
"Oh, good morning, captain. Why, what has happened? Your voice
sounds like the growl of a big bear."
"I suppose so. I'm hopping mad. The very first day I was ashore I
turned a nice little trick for your father. I wasn't on the pay roll
at the time, so we went into the deal together and chartered the Lion
and the Unicorn to freight ore for the Mannheim people from Alaska to
Seattle. I furnished the valuable information and the bright idea,
and he capitalized both. The result of the deal was that he has his
own steamer, the Lion, off his hands for four years, chartered at a
fancy figure. Also he chartered the Unicorn from her owner at a cheap
rate and rechartered at an advance of seventy-five dollars a day, and
we split that profit between us. That gives me an income of
thirty-seven and a half a day for the next four years, provided the
Unicorn doesn't get wrecked. Naturally I wanted to stay ashore, when
there's money to be made as easy as that—and he won't let me."
"Oh, I'm so sorry, captain."
"Well, that helps."
"You do not have to go to sea, do you?" Miss Ricks queried
"Yes, Miss Florry, I do; that's what hurts. Your father induced me
to invest all of my savings in a mortgage and a bond, and he has both
locked up in the Blue Star safe with that ogre Skinner in charge, so I
can't get them to realize on. Of course I could go to law and make
him give them to me, but he knows I'll not do that, so he just sits
there and defies me. And I neglected to take the proper business
precautions about my daily income from the charter of the Unicorn, and
because I cannot prove I have a divvy coming on that he says he won't
give me a cent of it. He says he'll credit my account on the
company's books, and when the Unicorn completes her charter he'll give
it to me in a lump. In the meantime he's going to invest it for me,
and without consulting me."
"Oh, dear," said Miss Ricks sympathetically. "I'm so sorry dad's
such a busybody."
"You're not half so sorry as I am. I'm flat broke, and in order to
eat I have to go to work, and in order to go to work I have to get a
job, and in order to get the job I have to take what your father
offers me—in fact, insists upon my taking. You see, Miss Florry, I'm
almost a stranger in Pacific shipping. I don't know any owners except
your father and I've never had any coastwise experience. It might be
years before I could get another job as master of a sailing ship, and
most steamship captains prefer to let some other captains break in
their mates for them. So you see I'm helpless."
A silence. Then: "I'm going to sea in the Gualala to-morrow
It was the first time he had dropped the "Miss," but he dropped it
purposely now. Miss Ricks noticed the omission, which probably imbued
her with the courage to voice again her excess of sympathy. Said she:
"Oh, I'm so sorry, Matt!"
He thrilled at that. "Well," he answered humorously, "for the
first time I'm glad I'm not a captain any more!"
Followed another brief silence, while Florry groped for the hidden
meaning behind that subtle retort; then he continued: "Your father
thinks I was a little presumptuous in calling at the house. He spoke
to me about it, Florry, so I'm not going to call any more until he
invites me. It's his house, you know. But he didn't say anything
about not telephoning to you or seeing you outside his confounded
house, so I suppose there's no necessity for me feeling badly about
it, is there?"
This was a pretty direct feeler, but Florry parried it with
"Of course you can telephone me whenever you get to port. You
mustn't take dad too seriously, Matt. Really he's very fond of you."
"Professionally, yes. Socially, no. I think he wants to give me a
good chance to do something for myself in a business way later on, but
he made it pretty plain that he is the only member of the Ricks family
I'm to take seriously. Of course I expect to have something to say
about that myself, Florry, but I didn't tell him so. He's your
father, you know, and besides, a man can't make a very good showing on
seventy-five dollars a month. But if the Unicorn lives to complete
her charter I'll be up on Easy Street, even if I'll only be a plain
sea captain when I come into that money. Of course now I'm only a
second mate on the worst little steam schooner your father owns and I
cannot say the things I want to say—I don't mean to your father,
Florry, but to you—"
"But you're a captain now," Florry interrupted, in delicious terror
hastening to obstruct any further discussion of what a seventy-five
dollar man might have to say were he but in position to say it. "Why
should you go to work as a second mate—"
"I've been a captain of sail, Florry. Of course, if I had never
been master of a vessel of more than five hundred tons net register,
or my sailing license had been limited to vessels of that tonnage, I
should have to work up from second mate to master in steam. But any
man who has been master of a vessel of more than five hundred tons net
register for more than one year is entitled to apply for a license as
master of steam vessels, and if he can pass the examination he can get
"Then why don't you do that, Matt?" Florry inquired.
"I have. The idea of two years' probation as second and first mate
didn't appeal to me, so while I was waiting round to join the Gualala
I went up for my ticket as master of steam. I passed, but when I told
your father I had a license to command the largest steam freighter he
owns, he only laughed at me and told me the inspectors weren't running
his business for him. Just because I'm not twenty-three years old he
says I ought to have two years' experience in steam as mate before he
gives me command of a vessel. He says I'd better learn the Pacific
Coast like he knows his front lawn, or some foggy night I'll walk my
vessel overland and the inspectors will set me down for a couple of
"Well, that sounds reasonable, Matt."
"Yes, I'll admit there's some justice in his contention, so I'm
going to do it to please him, although I hate to have him think I'm a
"Why, what's that?" Florry demanded.
"A dog-barking navigator is a coastwise blockhead that gets lost if
he loses sight of land. He steers a course from headland to headland,
and every little while on dark nights he stands in close and listens.
Pretty soon he hears a dog barking alongshore. 'All right,' he says
to the mate; 'we're off Point Montara. I know that Newfoundland dog's
barking. He's the only one on the coast. Haul her off and hold her
before the wind for four hours and then stand in again. When you pick
up the bark of a foxhound you'll be off Pigeon Point.'"
Florry's laughter drowned a further description of the dog-barking
navigator's wonderful knowledge of Pacific Coast canines, and after
some small talk Matt said good-bye and hung up. When he left the
telephone booth, however, he was a happier young man than when he had
entered it, for he had now satisfied himself that while Cappy Ricks
might arrogate to himself the right of proposing, his daughter could
be depended upon to attend to the disposing. He went to his boarding
house, paid his landlady, packed his clothes and sent them down to the
Gualala, rubbing her blistered sides against Howard Street Pier No. 1.
At seven o'clock next morning he was aboard her and at seven-five he
superintended the casting off of the stern lines and his
apprenticeship in steam had commenced.
CHAPTER XXVII. PROMOTION
Cappy Ricks was in a fine rage. A situation, unique in his forty
years of experience as a lumber and shipping magnate, was confronting
him, with the prospects exceedingly bright for Cappy playing a role
analogous to that of the simpleton who holds the sack on a
snipe-hunting expedition. He summoned Mr. Skinner into his private
office, and glared at the latter over the rims of his spectacles.
"Skinner," he said solemnly, "there's the very devil to pay."
Mr. Skinner arched his eyebrows and inclined a respectful ear.
"It's about the Hermosa. Skinner, that dog-barking navigator you
put in that schooner while I was on my vacation has balled us up for
fair. I'll be the laughing-stock of the street."
Parenthetically it may be stated that the Blue Star Navigation
Company's schooner, Hermosa, had cleared from Astoria for Valparaiso
with a cargo of railroad ties, and, for some reason which the captain
could not explain but which Cappy Ricks could, the unfortunate man had
become lost at sea, finally ending his voyage on a reef on one of the
Samoan Islands. The Hermosa had been listed as missing and her owners
had been on the point of receiving a check for the insurance on the
vessel and her cargo when an Australian steamer brought news of her
predicament in Samoa. Her captain sent word that she was resting
easily and that he would get her off. Subsequently, Cappy learned
that his dog-barking skipper had discharged his cargo of railroad ties
on barges, in order to lighten the vessel and float her off with the
aid of a launch. Unfortunately, however, he discovered a huge hole in
her garboard, and before he could patch it an extra high tide lifted
the vessel over the reef and sunk her forty fathoms deep in a place
where nobody could ever get at her again.
"Yes, sir," Cappy complained. "I'll be the laughing-stock of the
street. Here's a letter from the insurance people, inclosing a check
for a total loss on the vessel, but they repudiate payment of the
insurance on the cargo."
"Why?" demanded the amazed Skinner. "They insured those ties for
delivery at Callao. They can't get out of it."
"I'll bet they can," Cappy shrilled. "I've just called up the
Board of Underwriters and they say the cargo hasn't been lost. They
say nothing is lost if you know where it is, and the ties are on the
beach in Samoa awaiting our pleasure. Skinner, call up our attorneys
at once and tell them to enter suit."
"I was just about to call them up on another matter," Mr. Skinner
replied. "As secretary of the Blue Star Navigation Company I have
just been served with a summons in another suit, entered against the
"What in the fiend's name is the matter with that infernal
Quickstep? This is the third suit we've had in two years. Skinner,
what is wrong with that steam schooner?"
"She must be hoodooed, Mr. Ricks."
"Another seaman injured by being hit with a cargo block or having a
piece of eight-by-eight drop on his foot, I suppose."
"Not this time, Mr. Ricks. One Halvor Jacobsen has sued the
Quickstep and owners for five thousand dollars for injuries alleged to
have been inflicted upon him by the captain."
"So that Captain Kjellin has been fighting again, eh? Skinner,
that man is too handy with his fists, I tell you. He's another one of
your favorites, by the way. I only put that fellow in the Quickstep
to please you."
"We haven't a better man in our employ," Mr. Skinner asserted
stoutly. "He carries larger cargoes and makes faster time than any
steam-schooner captain in our vessels of similar carrying capacity.
He's a dividend producer, Mr. Ricks, and he is very efficient."
"Don't talk to me of efficiency," Cappy snarled. "What's the sense
rushing the vessel round Robin Hood's barn to make dividends, if we
lose them in lawsuits?"
"His vessel didn't lay up during the strike of the Waterfront
Federation in 1903," Skinner challenged. "You bet she didn't!
Kjellin rustled up a scab crew and kept the mob off the vessel at the
point of a gun. I understand he's a bit short-tempered, but while
there are ships with red-blooded men in them, Mr. Ricks, we must
expect the men to pull off a couple of rounds with skin gloves every
Cappy looked over the rims of his spectacles at Mr. Skinner.
"Skinner," he said impressively, "listen to me: This is the last suit
that's going to be entered against the Quickstep. Was that man Halvor
Jacobsen who is suing us second mate on the Quickstep?"
"I knew it," Cappy shrilled triumphantly. "Skinner, with all your
efficiency ideas, you fail to see anything remarkable in that fact.
Now don't tell me you do, because I know you do not. This is the
third suit since Kjellin took charge, and that's proof enough for me
that there's something wrong with that big Finn. Those other two
suits were for injuries received by men loading cargo in the after
hold. The after hold is presided over by the second mate." Cappy
waved his hands. "Huh!" he said. "Simple!"
"I believe I comprehend," Mr. Skinner admitted. "But what are you
going to do about it? We can scarcely discharge Kjellin without a
hearing and without proof that he is to blame."
"What am I going to do about it?" Cappy echoed. "Why, I'm going to
send a judge and a jury aboard the Quickstep, try this Finn, Kjellin,
and if he's guilty of dereliction of duty I'll bet you a plug hat to
one small five-cent bag of smoking tobacco I'll know all about it
inside of a week."
"Do you mean to put a secret-service operative aboard disguised as
"Huh! Skinner, you distress me. I'm going to put Matt Peasley
aboard the Quickstep as second mate, and let Nature take its course."
"I wouldn't do that if I were you, sir," Mr. Skinner advised.
"That rowdy Peasley and a man like Kjellin will not get along
together for one voyage; then Kjellin will fire him, and first thing
you know you'll be groping around in the dark again."
"Oh, I know this Finn is a pet of yours," Cappy retorted acidly,
"but Matt Peasley is a pet of mine. If we put them together in the
same ship maybe we'll have one of those skin-glove contests you
referred to a minute ago, but between their mutual recriminations you
can bet your hopes of Heaven I'll catch a glimpse of the truth and act
accordingly. Matt will not tell a lie, Skinner. Remember that."
"Neither will Kjellin," Skinner declared with equal warmth.
"Well, I don't know whether he will or not. However, that's beside
the question. Where is the Florence Ricks?"
"Sailed from San Pedro at noon yesterday."
"Where is the Quickstep?"
"Sailed from Eureka to load shingles last night."
"Good. Wireless the master of the Florence to provide himself with
a new second mate. That will give him time to wireless ahead and have
one waiting for him when the vessel touches in to discharge passengers
from the south. Tell him to inform Peasley he isn't fired, but just
transferred. Attend to it, Skinner."
While Mr. Skinner departed to carry out Cappy's order, the old
gentleman called up Harbor 15, Masters' and Pilots' Association, and
asked for the secretary.
"Ricks of the Blue Star speaking," he announced crisply. "Been
furnishing many second mates to the Quickstep lately?"
"Why, yes, Mr. Ricks. Kjellin wires for a new second mate quite
frequently. They don't seem to stay with him more than a voyage or
two. He's quite a driver, you know, Mr. Ricks."
"I know," Cappy replied grimly. "The next time he wires in to have
a second mate join the ship when he touches in here, you might be good
enough to call me up. I have a skookum young second mate in the
Florence Ricks that I'm training for a captain, and I want to switch
him in on the Humboldt Bay run for the sake of the experience. And,
of course, you know how it is with masters—they like to think they're
selecting their own mates, and always resent any interference from
their owners. And if you do ask them to take a certain mate they're
apt to suspect he's a spy from the office, and—well, you understand.
I'd prefer to have this lad I have in mind go aboard as if you had
"I understand, Mr. Ricks. I'll let you know the first time Kjellin
CHAPTER XXVIII. CAPPY HAS A HEART
"Well, Matt," said Cappy Ricks, cheerfully, as he shook hands with
the late second mate of the Florence Ricks. "We don't see much of
each other now that you're a mate. But don't worry, you'll be a
master again, and then you'll be dropping in here a couple of times a
month pestering me for a lot of things for your ship that you could
probably get along without. You're looking fit, my boy."
"I'm feeling fit, sir," Matt replied, grinning.
"I'm glad to hear it," was Cappy's grim reply. "Hum!
Harump-h-h-h! Let me see now. You've had your course in the
Mendocino dog-holes, and that's over. I hope you learned something.
You've run for seven months from all the Washington and Oregon ports
to Southern California, and—er—that's very nice. But you haven't
been over Humboldt Bar yet, have you?"
"Then you have something coming. Quite a bar in the winter time,
Matt, quite a bar! Good many tickets been lost on that bar, Matt, so
you ought to have more than a nodding acquaintance with it. You're
going second mate in the Quickstep. She's carrying redwood shingles
from Eureka to the Shingle Association's air-drying yards up river at
Los Medanos at present, and she'll get to Los Medanos Sunday
afternoon, so you'd better get there about the same time, in order to
turn to discharging bright and early Monday morning. And you'll have
to step lively, Matt. The Quickstep lives up to her name, and the way
they put shingles into that vessel is a scandal."
"Shingles are nice stuff to handle," Matt ventured.
"Not redwood shingles, Matt. All right after they're dry, but when
they come fresh from the saws they bleed a little, so be sure and wear
gloves when you handle them. If you have a cut on your hand that
redwood sap may poison you. I think you'll like the Quickstep, Matt."
"It doesn't matter whether I do or not," Matt replied humorously.
"You always do things for me without consulting me anyhow."
"Why, you don't mind, do you, my boy? It's all for your own good."
"I can bear it, sir, because one of these bright days I'm going to
do something without consulting you."
Cappy favored him with a sharp glance. "As the street boys say,"
he flashed back, "'I get you, Steve!'"
"And having gotten me, Mr. Ricks, do you still want me in your
"Oh, certainly, certainly. Any time I want to get rid of you I'll
fire you or have Skinner do it for me."
Matt looked at his watch and rose. "I have four days' shore leave
before me, sir," he said, "so I guess I'll be trotting along and make
the most of it. I'll be at Los Medanos Sunday night."
"Her skipper's a big Finn," Cappy warned him. "Behave yourself,
Matt. He's bad medicine for young second mates."
"I'll do my duty, sir."
He took his leave. As he went out the door Cappy gazed after him
with twinkling eyes: "Young scoundrel!" he murmured. "Damned young
scoundrel! You'll be ringing Florry up the minute you leave this
office, if you haven't already done it. I'm onto you, young fellow!"
Matt Peasley took Florry Ricks to a matinee that very day. Cappy,
suspecting he might attempt something of the sort and desiring to
verify his suspicions, went home from the office early that day, and
from his hiding place behind the window drapes in his drawing room he
observed a taxicab draw up in front of his residence at six o'clock.
From this vehicle Matt Peasley, astonishingly well tailored, alighted,
handed out the heir to the Ricks millions, said good-by lingeringly
and drove away.
"Well," Cappy soliloquized, "I guess I'm going to land the
son-in-law I'm after. The matinee is over at a quarter of five, and
those two have fooled away an hour. I'll bet a dollar Florry steered
that sailor into a tea fight somewhere, and if she did that, Matt,
you're a tip-top risk and I'll underwrite you."
That same evening Cappy sneaked into his daughter's apartments and
found a photograph of Matt Peasley in a hammered silver frame on
Florry's dressing table.
"Holy sailor!" he chuckled. "They think they're putting one over
on the old gentleman, don't they? Trying to cover me with blood, eh?
Huh! If I'd let that fellow Matt stay ashore he'd have hung round
Florry until he wore out his welcome, and I suppose in the long run
I'd have had to put up with one of these lawn-tennis, tea-swilling
young fellows too proud to work. By Judas Priest, when I quit the
street I want to give my proxy to a lad that will make my competitors
mind their step, and by keeping Matt at sea a couple of years, I'll
get him over the moon-calf period. Deliver my girl and my business
from the hands of a damned fool!"
The following evening Cappy questioned his daughter's chauffeur—a
chauffeur, by the way, being a luxury which Cappy scorned for himself.
He maintained a coachman and a carriage and a spanking team of bays,
and drove to his office like the old-fashioned gentleman he was. From
this chauffeur Cappy learned that he, the chauffeur, had been out all
the afternoon with Miss Florence and a large, light-hearted young
gentleman. They had lunched together at the Cliff House.
"What did she call him?" Cappy demanded, anxious to verify his
suspicions. "Didn't she address him as 'Matt?'"
"No, sir," the man replied, grinning. "She called him 'dearie.'"
"Holy jumped-up Jehosophat!" murmured Cappy, and questioned the man
no further. That evening, however, he decided to have a
heart—particularly after Florry had informed him that she was going
out to dinner the following night.
"And you'll be all alone, popsy-wops," she added, "so you had
better eat dinner at the club."
"Oh, I'm tired of my clubs," Cappy replied sadly. "Still your
remark gives me an idea, Florry. If I happen to run across that young
fellow Peasley—you remember him, Florry; the boy I'm training for a
steamship captain—I'll have him out for dinner with me so I'll not
have to eat alone."
"I thought you didn't care for him socially," Florry put forth a
"Well, he used to remind me considerably of a St. Bernard pup, but
I notice he's losing a lot of that fresh, puppy-dog way he used to
have. And then he's a Down-East boy. His Uncle Ethan Peasley and I
were pals together fifty years ago, and for Ethan's sake I feel that I
ought to show the boy some consideration. He's learning to hold
himself together pretty well, and if I should run into him to-morrow
I'll ask him out."
Florry exhibited not the slightest interest in her father's plans,
but he noticed that immediately after dinner she hurried up to her
room, and that upon her return she declined a game of pool with her
father on the score of not feeling very well.
"You skipped upstairs like a sick woman," Cappy reflected. "I'll
bet a hat you telephoned that son of a sea cook to be sure and throw
himself in my way to-morrow, so I'll invite him out to dinner. And
you're complaining of a headache now so you'll have a good excuse to
cancel that dinner engagement to-morrow night so as to eat at home
with your daddy and his guest. Poor old father! He's such a dub!
I'll bet myself a four-bit cigar I eat breakfast alone to-morrow
And it was even so. Florry sent down word that she was too
indisposed to breakfast with her father, and the old man drove
chuckling to his office. That afternoon Matt Peasley, in an endeavor
to invade the floor of the Merchants' Exchange, to which he had no
right, was apprehended by the doorkeeper and asked to show his
"Oh, I'm Captain Peasley, of the Blue Star Navigation Company," he
replied lightly, and was granted admittance as the courtesy accorded
all sea captains. He knew Cappy Ricks always spent an hour on 'Change
after luncheon at the Commercial Club. When Cappy met him, however,
the old man was mean enough to pay not the slightest attention to
Matt; so after waiting round for three-quarters of an hour longer, the
latter left the Exchange and walked down California Street, where he
posted himself in the shelter of a corner half a block south of No.
258, where the Blue Star Navigation Company had its offices. From
this vantage point presently he spied Cappy trotting home from the
Merchants' Exchange; whereupon Matt strolled leisurely up the street
and met him. And in order that Cappy should realize whom he was
meeting Matt bumped into the schemer and then begged his pardon
"Don't mention it, Matt," the old rascal protested. "You shook up
a flock of ideas in my head and jarred one loose. If you haven't
anything on to-night, my boy, better come out to the house and have
dinner with me. I'm all alone and I want company."
"Thank you, sir," Matt replied enthusiastically; "I'll be glad to
"You bet you will," Cappy thought. Aloud he said: "At
"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir." And Matt Peasley was off like a
tin-canned dog to slick himself up for the party, while Cappy entered
the elevator chuckling. "If I ever find the sour-souled philosopher
who said you can't mix business and sentiment without resultant
chaos," he soliloquized, "I'll boil the kill-joy in oil."
CHAPTER XXIX. NATURE TAKES HER
The big steam schooner Quickstep was lying at the Los Medanos dock
when Matt Peasley reported for duty. The captain was not aboard, but
the first mate received him kindly and explained that Captain Kjellin
had gone down to San Francisco by train for a little social relaxation
and to bring back funds to pay off the longshoremen.
Early on Monday morning the crew and a large force of stevedores
commenced to discharge the vessel. Two winches were kept busy, the
first mate being in charge of the work up forward and Matt
superintending that aft. The shingles were loaded in huge rope cargo
nets, snatched out of the ship and swung overside onto flat cars,
which were shunted off into the drying yard as soon as loaded.
The captain returned at noon on Tuesday, and at two o'clock the
last bundle of shingles was out of the Quickstep, for the mate had
worked overtime Monday night in order that they might finish
discharging early enough on Tuesday afternoon to drop down to Oleum
and take on fuel oil for the next voyage. This schedule would bring
them to the dock at San Francisco about six o'clock, where they would
take on stores and passengers and sail at seven for Eureka, on
Humboldt Bay, where they would arrive Wednesday night. On Thursday
they would commence taking on cargo, but since they had to take
shingles from several mills round the bay, they were bound to be
delayed waiting for tides to get in and out, and in all probability
they would not be loaded and at sea until Saturday night, which would
give them Sunday at sea—and in the lumber trade on the Pacific Coast
the only profitable way to spend Sunday is to spend it at sea. To
spend it in port is a day lost, with the crew loafing and drawing full
pay for it. The mate explained to Matt that Captain Kjellin would
drive them hard to maintain this schedule, for he prized his job as
master of the Quickstep, and had a reputation for speed and efficiency
with his owners which he was anxious to maintain.
Despite their best efforts, however, the vessel was doomed to fall
behind her schedule. At Oleum they found the oil dock lined with
vessels taking on fuel, and in consequence were forced to wait two
hours for a berth; seeing which the captain went ashore and telephoned
his owners that he would be unable to get to the dock in San Francisco
until about eight o'clock. Consequently, Mr. Skinner, realizing that
the passengers their agent had booked for the Quickstep, by reason of
the cut-rates prevailing on lumber steamers, would not wait on the
dock until the Quickstep should arrive, instructed the captain to lay
over in San Francisco all night and put to sea at nine o'clock
Wednesday morning. In the meantime he said he would send a clerk down
to the dock to notify the waiting passengers of the unavoidable change
Promptly at eight o'clock Wednesday morning the Quickstep got away
from the dock. The minute she was fairly out the Golden Gate,
however, she poked her nose into a stiff nor'west gale; and as she was
bound north and was empty, this gale, catching her on the port
counter, caused her to roll and pitch excessively, and cut her
customary speed of ten miles an hour down to five. Every passenger
aboard was soon desperately seasick, and off Point Reyes so violently
did the Quickstep pitch that even some members of the crew became
nauseated, among them Matt Peasley. He had never been seasick before
and he was ashamed of himself now, notwithstanding the fact that he
knew even the hardiest old seadogs are not proof against mal-de-mer
under certain extraordinary conditions. Captain Kjellin, coming up on
the bridge during Matt's watch, found the latter doing the most
unseamanlike thing imaginable. Caught in a paroxysm at the weather
end of the bridge, Matt, in his agony, was patronizing the weather
rail! The captain heard him squawk, and ducked to avoid what instinct
told him the gale would bring him his way.
"Vat you ban tankin' of?" he roared furiously. "You damned
landsman! Don't you know enough to discharge dot cargo over der lee
Having disposed of a hearty breakfast, Matt raised his green face
and stared sheepishly at the Finn. "You didn't get sprayed, did you,
sir?" he queried breathlessly.
"No, but who der devil ever heard of a seaman gettin' sick to
"I know it looks awful, sir," quavered Matt. "I thought something
like this might happen, and in order to be prepared for eventualities
I hung a fire bucket over the edge of the weather-bridge railing and
set another there by the binnacle. The man at the wheel got me
started, sir. He asked me if I liked fat pork. Can't you see that if
I had made a quick run for the lee rail while the vessel was pitching
to leeward the chances are I'd continue right on overboard? As soon
as I get my bearings again I'll empty the bucket, sir."
"Der fire buckets ban't for dot purpose."
"All right, sir. I'll buy you a new fire bucket when we get to
Eureka," Matt answered contritely.
Kjellin stayed on the bridge a few minutes, growling and glaring,
but Matt was too ill and dispirited to pay any attention to him, so
finally he went below.
The Quickstep bucked the gale all the way to Humboldt Bar, and tied
up at the first mill dock at half past one o'clock on Friday. It was
two o'clock before the passengers and their baggage had been sent
ashore, but the minute the last trunk went over the rail the loading
"We'll work overtime again to-night," the first mate told Matt at
luncheon. "The old man will drive us hard to-morrow, and we'll have
more overtime Saturday night so we can get to sea early Sunday
"I don't care," Matt replied. "I get seventy-five cents an hour
for my overtime, and I'm big enough to stand a lot of that. But,
believe me, I'll jump lively. The old man's out of sorts on account
of the delay due to that head wind."
At three o'clock the captain walked aft, where Matt Peasley was
superintending the stowing in the after hold.
"Is dot all you've got to do," he sneered—"settin' roundt mit your
hands in your poggeds?"
Matt glared at him. True, his hands were in his pockets at that
moment, but he was not setting round. He was watching a slingload of
shingles hovering high over the hatch, and the instant it was lowered
he intended to leap upon it, unship the cargo hook, hang the spare
cargo net on it and whistle to the winchman to hoist away for another
slingload. He controlled his temper and said:
"I'm doing the best I can, sir. That winchman doesn't have to wait
on us a second, sir. We handle them as fast as they swing them in
from the mill dock."
"Yump in an' do somedings yourself," Kjellin growled. "Don't stand
roundt like a young leddy."
"D'ye mean you want I should mule shingles round in this hold like
"Sure! Ve got to get to sea Sunday morning, und every liddle bit
"Well, then you'll get along without my little bit. If you don't
know your business, sir, I know mine. Somebody's got to tend that
sling, and everybody's business is nobody's business. If I'm not on
the job a bundle of shingles may come flying down from above and kill
a man, or that heavy cargo block may crack a stevedore on the head.
Who's going to look after the broken bundles and see that they're
repacked if I don't? I can't do that and mule shingles round in this
hold, sir; and what's more I'm not going to do it."
"Den, by yimminy, you get off der ship!" the captain roared. "I
don't vant no loafers aboard my boat, und if you tank—"
"Stow the gab, you big Finn! I'm through. Pay me off and help
yourself to another second mate." And Matt put on his coat and
whistled to the winchman to steady his slingload while he climbed out
of the hold. Kjellin followed and Matt preceded him to his stateroom,
where the captain paid him the few dollars he had coming to him.
"Sign clear," he ordered, and Matt took an indelible pencil and
stooped over the skipper's desk to sign the pay roll. As he
straightened up the captain's powerful left forearm came round Matt's
left shoulder and under his chin, tilting his head backward, while the
Finn's left knee ground into the small of his back. He was held as in
a vise, helpless, and Kjellin spoke:
"Ven I get fresh young faler like you, an' he quit me cold, I lick
him after I pay him off."
"I see," Matt replied calmly. "That makes it a plain case of
assault and battery, whereas if you lick him before you pay him off,
he can sue your owners. You're a fine, smart squarehead!"
"You bet!" Kjellin answered, and struck him a stunning blow behind
the ear. Matt, realizing his inability to wriggle out of the
captain's grasp, kicked backward with his right foot and caught the
Finn squarely on the right shin, splintering the bone. The captain
cried out with the pain of it and released the pressure on Matt's
chin, whereupon the latter whirled, picked the Finn up bodily, and
threw him through the stateroom door out onto the deck, where he
struck the pipe railing and rebounded. He lay where he fell, and when
Matt's brain cleared and he came out on deck the captain was moaning.
"Get up, you brute!" Matt ordered. "You got the wrong pig by the
ear that time."
"My leg ban broken," Kjellin whimpered.
"I wish it was your neck," Matt replied with feeling, and bent over
to examine his fallen foe. When he grasped Kjellin by the right
shoulder, however, the Finn screamed with pain, so Matt called the
steward, and together they lifted him and carried him to his berth.
"I'll bet a cooky you're a total loss and no accident insurance,"
Matt soliloquized. "You're not worth it, but for the sake of the
owners I'll get a doctor to look you over," and he went ashore at
once. When the doctor had looked Thorwald Kjellin over his verdict
was a broken tibia, a broken radius and a broken clavicle.
Matt was concerned. "I don't think I ever had any of those things
to get broken," he declared humorously, "but if mere words mean
anything I'll bet this is a hospital job." The doctor nodded, and
Matt turned to the captain: "Do you want to go to the hospital in
Eureka or in San Francisco?"
"I ban vant to go home," the Finn moaned.
"Very well, captain; I guess your successor will bring you there.
I'm going up to the mill office now to report to the owners by
"Dot ban't none o' your business, Peasley," Kjellin protested.
"Dot is der first mate's job. You ban fired."
"Yes, I know. Now I'm back-firing," Matt retorted.
Fifteen minutes later he had Cappy Ricks on the long-distance
"Mr. Ricks," he began, "this is Peasley talking from Eureka. I
have to report that I'm fired out of the Quickstep. I'm not
complaining about that or asking you to reinstate me, because I can
get another job now, but I want to tell you why I was fired. The
captain got a grouch against me coming up. We had a nor'west gale on
our port counter and she rolled and bucked until even some of the crew
got seasick. I'm ashamed to say I fell by the wayside myself for a
few minutes, and Captain Kjellin caught me draped over the weather
bridge railing. So I guess he thought I wasn't much of a seaman.
Anyhow he picked on me from then on, and a little while ago he
ordered me to mule shingles with the longshoremen in the after hold.
I couldn't do that, Mr. Ricks. I'm a ship's officer, and besides
you've simply got to have somebody to watch the slings when they're
coming into the ship at the rate of two a minute or somebody will get
hurt, and then the vessel will be sued for damages. You see we were
working overtime and in a hurry to get loaded—"
"I see everything," Cappy retorted. "What happened next?"
"The captain got me foul in his cabin when I went to be paid off,
and hung a shanty back of my ear, so I threw him out on deck and hurt
him. You'll have to send a new skipper up to bring the Quickstep home,
sir. The first mate is a good man but he hasn't a master's license—"
"What did you do to Kjellin, Matt?"
"You'll have to ask a doctor, sir. I didn't intend to break him
up, but it seems I damaged all his Latin superstructure, and he'll
have to go to a hospital for a couple of months. I'm sorry I hurt
your skipper, sir, and I felt I couldn't leave your employ, Mr. Ricks,
without an explanation."
"You haven't left my employ at all. Get back on the job and load
that vessel, or the first thing you know you'll be stuck in port over
Sunday, and that's not the way to make a start as master of the
Quickstep. You have a license as master of steam, haven't you?"
"Yes, sir. I can handle her, sir."
"Then do it and don't stand there burning up good money on the
long-distance phone. The Quickstep is yours—on one condition."
"I accept it, sir," Matt exclaimed, overjoyed. "What is it?"
"That you stick in her at least six months."
"I will if I live and she floats that long, sir. Thank you.
Please have a second mate and an ambulance waiting for me at Meiggs
Wharf on Monday. I'll touch in there on my way up river to discharge
what's left of your skipper."
CHAPTER XXX. MR. SKINNER HEARS A
Down in the offices of the Blue Star Navigation Company Cappy
Ricks, having summoned Mr. Skinner, sat peering whimsically at the
general manager over the rims of his spectacles. "Well, Skinner, my
dear boy," he announced presently, "sure enough there was something
wrong with the Quickstep, and now I know what it is; she has had the
wrong master. When he hustles to catch a tide or to get to sea
Saturday night or Sunday morning he drives his mates and tries to make
them do longshoremen's work. When he bullied a weak mate into doing
that, there was nobody to pay exclusive attention to the slingloads as
they came into the ship, and naturally accidents resulted. When
strong second mates refused he fired them, and after firing them he
cornered them in his cabin, held them foul and beat them. You see,
Skinner, this skookum skipper of yours didn't realize that with two
slingloads of shingles a minute dropping into the ship he had to have
a man on the job to watch the loading and do nothing else; and because
he didn't realize the error of his way, Skinner, he and Matt Peasley
have pulled off that little skin-glove contest, and now Kjellin looks
like a barrel of cement that's been dropped out the window of a
six-story building. Hum! Ahem! Harump-h-h-h! Call up the attorney
for that man Jacobsen that's suing the Quickstep, and tell him to come
down here with his man and we'll settle the case out of court. His
charge lies against Kjellin for assault and battery, but after all,
Skinner, I dare say we are in a measure responsible for our servants.
I'll give the attorney about twenty-five dollars for his fee, and
er—the man Jacobsen—let me see, Skinner, he had a broken nose, did
"We'll pay his doctor bill and his wages as second mate since
Kjellin fired him, and give him a hundred dollars extra."
"How about Kjellin's hospital bill?"
"I disclaim responsibility, Skinner. Did he settle up with the
cashier for his last voyage?"
"Yes, Mr. Ricks."
"Then send him a wireless and tell him he's fired. Also, Skinner,
my boy, see that an ambulance is waiting for him at Meiggs Wharf when
he arrives on the Quickstep on Monday. We'll show him we're not
entirely heartless. Make it clear, however, that this office will not
be responsible for the ambulance fee. Matt will bring the vessel down
without a second mate, I dare say. He'll stand a watch himself.
Better call up Harbor 15 and see if there isn't a second mate out of a
job hanging round there, and tell him to join the ship at Meiggs
Mr. Skinner's eyes fairly popped. "You don't mean to tell me, sir,
that you've given the Quickstep to that rowdy Peasley?"
Cappy relapsed into the colloquialism of the younger generation
with which he was wont to associate at luncheon. "Surest thing you
know," he said.
"If I may be permitted a criticism, Mr. Ricks—"
"You may not."
"Your sentimental leaning toward your fellow townsman may be the
cause of losing one of the best paying ships of the fleet."
"Forget it, Skinner!"
"Oh, very well. You're the boss, Mr. Ricks. But if I were in your
place I would have an older and more experienced man to relieve him
the moment he comes into the bay. You must remember, Mr. Ricks, that
while he may run her very nicely during the summer months, he has had
no experience on Humboldt Bay during the winter months—"
"Skinner, the only way he'll ever accumulate experience on that bar
is to give him the opportunity."
"He'll take big risks. He's very young and headstrong."
"I admit he's fiery. But I promised him a ship, and he's earned
her sooner than I planned, so, even if my decision loses the Quickstep
for us, he shall have her. I'll be swindled if I ever did see the
like of that boy Matt. He gets results. And do you know why,
"Because," Mr. Skinner replied coldly, "he's a huge, healthy
animal, able and willing to fight his way in any ship, and at the same
time clever enough to take advantage of your paternal interest in
"Rats! I'll give you the answer, Skinner, my boy: He gets results
because he does his duty and doesn't sidestep for man or devil. And
he's able to do his duty and do it well because he has a clear
understanding of what his duty is—and that, Skinner, is the kind of
skipper material I've been looking for all my life. As for the boy's
horsepower, let me tell you this: If Matt Peasley wasn't any bigger
than I am, he'd fight any man that tried to walk over him. It's in
his breed. Damn it, sir, he's a Yankee skipper, and when you've said
that you're through. I guess I know. How much have we been paying
that bully Kjellin?"
"Two hundred a month."
"Too much! Pay Matt two-twenty-five and attend to the certificate
of change of masters."
When Mr. Skinner had departed Cappy sat back in his chair and
closed his eyes, as was his habit when his gigantic brain grappled
with a problem of more than ordinary dimensions. For fully ten
minutes he sat absolutely motionless, then suddenly he straightened up
like a jack-in-the-box and summoned Mr. Skinner.
"Skinner," he said plaintively, "I'm feeling a little run down.
Will you please be good enough to book Florry and me passage to
Europe right away. I've never been to Europe, you know, Skinner, and
I think it's time I took a vacation."
Mr. Skinner smiled. "Why all the hurry?" he queried.
"I want to try out a theory," Cappy replied. "I have a great
curiosity, Skinner, to ascertain if there is any truth in the old
saying that absence makes the heart grow fonder. And if it does,
Skinner—why, the sooner I start the sooner I can get back."
Mr. Skinner went out mystified. As Mark Twain's friend, Mr.
Ballou, remarked about the coffee, Cappy Ricks was a little too
"technical" for him.
CHAPTER XXXI. INTERNAL COMBUSTION
The Quickstep had arrived in port again before Cappy Ricks and
Florry could get away to Europe, so Matt came down by train from Los
Medanos and was granted the meager comfort of a farewell with his
heart's desire. Thereafter all comfort fled his life, for, with Cappy
Ricks away, Mr. Skinner was high and low justice, and he was not long
keeping Matt Peasley in ignorance of the fact that it was one thing to
skipper a Blue Star ship for Cappy Ricks and quite another thing to
skipper the same ship for the Blue Star manager. For Mr. Skinner had
never liked Captain Peasley, and, moreover, he never intended to, for
the master of the Quickstep was not sufficiently submissive to earn
the general manager's approbation as a desirable employee, and Cappy
Ricks was the only man with a will and a way of his own who could get
along amicably in the same office with the efficient and cold-blooded
Cappy wasn't outside Sandy Hook before Mr. Skinner had Matt on the
carpet for daring to bring the Quickstep up river without a pilot. He
demanded an explanation.
"I made careful note of all the twists and turns when the pilot
took me up the first time," Matt declared. "It isn't a difficult
channel, so I decided to save forty-five dollars the next time and
take her up myself."
"Suppose you'd buried her nose in the mud and we'd had to lighter
her deckload to get her off," Mr. Skinner suggested.
Matt grinned. "If your aunt was a man she'd be your uncle,
wouldn't she?" he parried. He had made up his mind not to take Mr.
Skinner seriously. Mr. Skinner flushed, looked dangerous, but
concluded not to pursue the investigation further.
Three weeks later, when making up to a dock at San Pedro, a strong
ebb tide and a mistake in judgment swung the bow of the Quickstep into
the end of the dock and a dolphin was torn out. In the fullness of
time the Blue Star Navigation Company was in receipt of a bill for
$112 dock repairs, whereupon Mr. Skinner wrote Matt, prefacing his
letter with the query: "Referring to inclosed bill—how did this
happen?" Then he went on to scold Matt bitterly for his inability to
handle his ship properly in making up to a dock.
Matt promptly returned Mr. Skinner his own letter, with this
penciled memorandum at the bottom of the page: "Referring to inclosed
bill for dock repairs—the dock happened to be in my course. That's
the only way I can account for it."
For some time, whenever the Quickstep carried shingle cargoes for
the Shingle Association, there had been disputes over her freight
bill, due to continued discrepancies between the tally in and the
tally out, and Mr. Skinner had instructed Matt to tally his next cargo
into the ship himself and then tally it out again. Matt engaged a
certified lumber surveyor at five dollars a day to do the tallying at
the various mills, but at Los Medanos he tallied the cargo out
personally. To a shingle it agreed with the mill tally. Subsequently
the manager of the drying yard reported a shortage of eight thousand
shingles, and again Mr. Skinner wrote Matt for an explanation, to
which Matt replied as follows:
"Do not pay any attention to the yard manager's tally. Ours is
right. A certified tallyman counted 11,487,250 in, and I counted
11,487,250 out, as I have already reported. Sorry I cannot reverse my
decision. However, I have an idea which may account for the shortage:
After the vessel is reported down river, the stevedores gather on the
dock, and while waiting for us to arrive and commence discharging they
whittle shingles to pass the time away. I give you this information
for what it may be worth."
Mr. Skinner had the grace to see that he had been rebuked and left
standing in a very poor light for one of his noted efficiency, so he
did not pursue the subject further; but the next time Matt came to the
office he jumped on him for carrying a dead-head passenger from San
Pedro in the first cabin.
"Of course I carried him," Matt replied. "When I was before the
mast in the Annabel Lee he was her skipper, so when I met him in Pedro
minus his ticket and stony broke I gave him a lift to San Francisco.
Mr. Ricks informed me that I would be permitted these little
courtesies within the bounds of reason."
"When Captain Kjellin had the Quickstep," Mr. Skinner answered, "he
never carried dead-heads."
"You mean he didn't have the courage to put the name on the
passenger list and write D. H. after it. However, please do not
compare me with Captain Kjellin."
"Well, you're not making the time he made in the Quickstep."
"I know it, sir. My policy is to make haste slowly. Kjellin
hurried—and see what happened to him. He'll never be fast again,
either, with that short leg of his."
"Captain Peasley, I am opposed to your levity."
"Do you want me to worry and stew just because you do not happen to
like me and keep picking on me, Mr. Skinner? Why don't you be a sport
and give me a fair chance, sir? You have all the best of it in any
argument—so why argue?"
"No more dead-heads," Mr. Skinner warned. "Hereafter, pay for your
With the coming on of winter, however, Matt's troubles with Mr.
Skinner really commenced, although, in all justice to Skinner, the
general manager was merely following out his theory of efficiency, and
in respect to the matter upon which he deviled Matt Peasley most he
did not differ vastly from many managing owners of steam schooners on
the Pacific Coast. The trouble lay in the fact that the Quickstep
carried passengers. While she was a cargo boat, and hence had no
regular run or sailing schedule, her cabin accommodations were really
very good and her steward's department excelled that of the regular
passenger boats. By cutting the regular passenger rates from
twenty-five to forty per cent. and advertising the vessel to sail at a
certain hour on a certain date from a certain pier, free-lance ticket
brokers found no difficulty in getting her a fair complement of
passengers each trip. There was a moderate profit in this passenger
traffic, and Mr. Skinner was anxious to increase it.
The difficulty surrounding the passenger business in the
steam-schooner trade, however, lies in the uncertainty of a vessel's
arrival and departure. It is all guesswork. Thus Matt Peasley, with
his cargo half discharged at San Pedro, would estimate that he would
sail from that port, northbound via San Francisco to some Oregon or
Washington port for another cargo, at noon on the following day.
Accordingly, he would wire his owners, who would immediately advertise
the sailing of the vessel from San Francisco forty hours later, the
Quickstep's average running time between San Pedro and San Francisco
being about thirty-eight hours. If the master's estimate proved
correct and there were no strong head winds to retard the vessel, she
would sail within an hour or two of the advertised time, whereas a
delay of six to eight hours in the arrival of the vessel at San
Francisco might mean the loss of all the passenger business garnered
for that trip; for competition was keen, and the ticket agents,
selling on a commission of one dollar per ticket, would switch the
traffic to some other vessel sailing earlier rather than have the
tickets canceled and thus lose the commission.
When through delay or miscalculation the vessel lost passenger
traffic out of a port other than San Francisco, Mr. Skinner did not
feel discouraged. To lose passengers out of San Francisco, where the
home office of the Blue Star Navigation Company was located, however,
savored of a reflection on his efficiency, and caused him much bitter
anguish. Consequently, when Matt Peasley, with a full passenger list
from Eureka to San Francisco, wired Mr. Skinner that he would leave
his loading port at two P. M. on Wednesday, Mr. Skinner allowed him
twenty-two hours for landing his passengers from Eureka to San
Francisco and taking on another load for San Pedro, whither the
Quickstep was bound on that voyage. As a result the Quickstep was
advertised to sail from San Francisco on Thursday at two P. M., and
the agents were notified to commence selling tickets. Judge of Mr.
Skinner's perturbation, therefore, when he received the following
wireless from Matt Peasley at five o'clock on Wednesday:
Bar breaking heavily. At anchor inside. Will cross out as soon as
I judge it safe to do so.
Three hours' delay, already, with the prospects exceedingly bright
for the Quickstep's lurking inside Humboldt Bar all night! Mr.
Skinner saw his passenger traffic gone to glory for that trip, so he
sent a reply to Matt Peasley by wireless, as follows:
You are advertised to sail from here for San Pedro at two o'clock
to-morrow. Hope you will permit nothing to militate against the
preservation of that schedule. Answer.
"That's what comes of having an inexperienced man in the vessel,"
he complained to the cashier. "That fellow Peasley sees a few white
caps on the bar, and he's afraid to cross out. Damn! Kjellin had her
three years and never hung behind a bar once. Many a time he's come
down to Humboldt Bar and found half a dozen steam schooners at anchor
inside, waiting for a chance to duck out. Did Kjellin drop anchor
too? He did not. Out he went and bucked right through it."
Mr. Skinner waited at the office until six o'clock to get Matt
Peasley's answer. He got it—between the eyes:
I have no jurisdiction over Humboldt Bar.
The Quickstep crossed out next morning, and Mr. Skinner wirelessed
her master this message:
Your timidity has spoiled San Pedro passenger business. Drop
Eureka passengers at Meiggs Wharf and continue your voyage.
Now it does not please any mariner to be told that he is timid,
and, while Matt Peasley made no reply, nevertheless, he chalked up a
black mark against Mr. Skinner and commenced to plan against the day
That was an unusually severe winter. Four times Matt Peasley came
down to the entrance to Humboldt Bar and came to anchor. Three times
he tried to cross out and was forced to change his mind; seven times
did Mr. Skinner upbraid him. The eighth time that Matt Peasley's
caution knocked the San Francisco passenger traffic into a deficit,
Mr. Skinner sent him this message where the Quickstep lay behind Coos
What is the matter with you? Your predecessor always managed to
negotiate that bar, and this company expects same of you.
"He's bound to run me out of this ship," Matt soliloquized when he
read that terse aerogram, "but I promised Cappy I'd stick six months
and I'll do it. That penny-pinching Skinner wants me to cut corners
and get myself into trouble so he can fire me. I'll not tell him the
things I want to tell him, so I guess I won't say anything—much."
He didn't. He just wired Mr. Skinner as follows:
Any time you want to commit suicide I will furnish a pistol.
About the beginning of March Mr. Skinner opened his cold heart long
enough to let in a little human love and get married, and shortly
thereafter he found it necessary to make a business trip to the
redwood mill of the Ricks Lumber and Logging Company on Humboldt Bay.
He went up on the regular P. C. passenger boat and took his bride with
him, and while he was at the mill Matt Peasley came nosing in with the
Quickstep and loaded a cargo of redwood lumber. He finished loading
on the same day that Mr. Skinner discovered he had no further excuse
for remaining away from the office, in consequence of which the latter
decided to return to San Francisco on the Quickstep. This for several
very good reasons: The food on the Quickstep was better than the food
on the regular liner, the accommodations were fully as good, the
vessel was loaded deeply and would ride steadily—and Mr. Skinner and
his bride would travel without charge.
The sight of the Skinners coming aboard was not a pleasing one to
Matt Peasley. He did not like Mr. Skinner well enough to care to eat
at the same table with him, and he bethought him now of all the mean,
nagging complaints of the past six months. In particular he recalled
Mr. Skinner's instructions to him anent the carrying of dead-head
passengers—and suddenly he had a brilliant idea. He sent for his
wireless operator and ordered him to send this message:
Blue Star Navigation Company, San Francisco, Cal.
Please accept my resignation as master of your steamer Quickstep,
said resignation to take effect immediately upon my arrival in San
Francisco. Kindly have somebody on hand to relieve me.
Matt had just remembered that his six months in the Quickstep were
up. His next move was to call on the steward.
"Go into Stateroom 7," he ordered, "and collect fifteen dollars
from that man and woman in there. They came aboard without tickets."
Two minutes later the steward was back with word that the
passengers in question were dead-heads, being none other than the
manager of the Blue Star Navigation Company and his wife.
"Steward, you go back and tell that man Skinner that Captain
Peasley never carries any dead-heads on the Quickstep. Tell him that
when Captain Peasley wants to carry a guest he pays the guest's
passage out of his own pocket."
"But he'll fire me, sir."
"Do as I order; he will not fire you. I'm the only man that has
that privilege, and I'll exercise it if you don't obey me."
Two more minutes elapsed; then Mr. Skinner presented himself at the
"Peasley," he said sharply, "what nonsense is this?"
"No dead-heads on this ship, Mr. Skinner. Your own orders, sir.
Fifteen dollars, if you please. You're not my guests."
"Of course," said Mr. Skinner, "I shall do nothing of the sort."
"Then get off the ship."
"Sir, are you crazy?"
"No, I am not; I'm just disgusted with you. Fifteen dollars here
and now before I cast off the lines, or I'll run you off the ship.
Don't tempt me, Skinner. If I ever lay violent hands on you there'll
be work for a doctor."
Mr. Skinner was speechless, but he laid fifteen dollars on the
captain's desk and returned to his stateroom. His silence was
ominous. Five minutes later the Quickstep backed out from the mill
wharf and headed down the bay. As she plowed along, the rain
commenced falling and a stiff southeast breeze warned Matt that he was
in for a wet crossing. He was further convinced of this when the bar
tug Ranger met him a mile inside the entrance. She steamed alongside,
and, as she passed, her captain hailed Matt.
"Don't try to cross out, Peasley," he shouted. "The bar is
"The Quickstep doesn't mind it," Matt answered.
"Don't try it, I tell you. I've been twenty years on Humboldt Bar
and I know it, Peasley. I've never seen it so bad as it is this
"Oh, we'll cross out without any fuss," Matt called back
cheerfully, and rang for full speed ahead. They were down at the
entrance, and the Quickstep had just lifted to the dead water from the
first big green roller, when Mr. Skinner came up and touched Matt
Peasley on the arm.
"Well, sir?" Matt demanded irritably.
"Drop anchor inside, captain. That bar is too rough to attempt to
"Oh, nonsense!" Matt declared.
"But didn't you hear what that tug-boat captain said? He said it
was breaking worse than he had known it for twenty years."
"Bah! What does he know about it?"
"I don't care what he knows, Captain Peasley; I order you not to
attempt to cross out. My wife is aboard and I'll take no chances.
Come to anchor and wait for the bar to settle."
"You order me?" Matt sneered. "Who in blazes are you to give
orders on my ship? I'm at sea, you understand, and you have nothing
to say. You'll give your orders and I'll obey them when I'm at the
dock, but crossing Humboldt Bar, I'm the master of ceremonies. I
can't turn back now. I'd lose my rudder as I came about. Get out.
Who invited you up here?"
"How dare you, sir?" Mr. Skinner cried furiously. "Man, have you
lost your mind? Obey me, I say."
Matt Peasley laughed blithely. "You miserable, cold-blooded,
nagging old woman," he said, and took Mr. Skinner by the nape and
shook him. "I've prayed for this day. Do you remember the time you
wired me at Coos Bay that my timidity had lost you some passenger
traffic? You impugned my courage then, you whelp, and now I'm going
to give you a sample of it. All winter long you've been hounding me,
trying to make me take chances crossing this bar, just so the vessel
might pick up a couple of hundred dollars extra in passenger money.
It didn't matter to you what risks other men's wives ran when you
were snug in your office, did it? You never thought of the passengers
I had aboard, or the lives of my crew or me, did you? You wanted me
to cut corners and risk human lives for the sake of your reputation as
an efficient manager, you—" And he shook Mr. Skinner until the
manager's teeth rattled. "Now you're aboard yourself with your
blushing bride, and how do you like it, eh? How do you like it? You
know all about navigation, don't you? Well, you and your wife are the
only passengers this trip, and I'm going to give you a taste of salt
water you'll remember till your dying day," and with a shove he sent
Mr. Skinner flying aft until he collided with the funnel.
"You're fired!" Skinner screamed, beside himself with fear and
rage. But Matt Peasley was devoting all of his attention to the
Quickstep now; and it was well that he did. The vessel rose on the
crest of a green comber thirty feet high, and plunged with the speed
of an express elevator into the valley between that wave and the next.
A tremendous sea boiled in over the knight heads and swept aft,
burying the Quickstep until nothing showed but her upper works. But
she was a sturdy craft and came up from under it, rode the succeeding
three seas and was comparatively free of water when she shipped the
next one. The crest of it came in along the little promenade deck,
carrying away the companion that led to the bridge, staving in the
doors and windows of all the staterooms on the port side and carrying
away the rails and stanchions. There was two feet of water in
Stateroom 7, where Mrs. Skinner clung to her husband, screaming
But despite the awful buffeting she was receiving the Quickstep
never faltered. On she plowed, riding the green billows like a gull,
and shipping a sea only occasionally. The deckload, double-lashed,
held, although the deckhouse groaned and twisted until Matt Peasley
regretted the impulse that had impelled him to do this foolish thing
for the sake of satisfying a grudge.
"She'll make it, sir," the man at the wheel called up; but Matt's
face was a little white and serious as he tried to smile back.
Another sea came ramping aboard and snatched the port lifeboat out
of the davits, smashed in the door of the dining saloon and flooded
it, gutted the galley, and drove the cook and the steward to the
protection of the engine room. The chief called up through the
"How's the boss making it, captain?"
"It's a wet passage for him, chief. I can hear his wife scream
every time we ship one."
"Serves her right for marrying the pest," the chief growled, and
They crossed out, but at a cost that made Matt Peasley shudder,
when he left the bridge in charge of the mate and went below to take
stock of the damage. A new boat and four days' work for a carpenter
gang—perhaps eighteen hundred dollars' worth of damage, not counting
the demurrage! It was a big price to pay for one brief moment of
triumph, but Matt Peasley felt that it would have been cheap at twice
the money. He passed round on the starboard side of the vessel and
found Mr. Skinner wet to the skin and shivering.
"We're over," Matt announced cheerfully. "How did you like the
"You villain!" Skinner cried passionately. "You'll never command
another ship in the Blue Star fleet, I'll promise you that."
"I know it, Skinner. But if I were you I'd go down in the engine
room and dry out while the cook and the steward straighten things
"I'll discharge you the moment we tie up at the dock in San
Francisco," Skinner stormed.
"Oh, no, you won't," Matt assured him. "I've beaten you to it. I
resigned by wireless before we left the dock at Eureka."
That was a long, cold, cheerless trip for the Skinner family. The
Quickstep bucked a howling southeaster all the way down the coast, and
the Skinners were knocked from one end of their wet stateroom to the
other and slept not a wink. It was a frightful experience, and to add
to the discomfort of the trip Mrs. Skinner wept all the way.
Eventually, however, the Quickstep tied up at the wharf in San
Francisco, and the minute she was fast Matt Peasley, his accounts all
made up to date and his clothes and personal effects packed, sprang
out on the dock.
"There's your ship, Skinner," he called to the general manager.
"I'm through." And he hastened away to the Blue Star office to
settle up with the cashier, while Mr. Skinner and his bride entered a
taxicab and were driven to their home. And two hours later when Mr.
Skinner, warm and dry at last, came down to the office to attend to
the task of selecting a new master for the Quickstep, he found Cappy
Ricks was back from Europe and on the job.
"I hear you've been having some experience," said Cappy cheerfully
as he shook hands with his manager. "Peasley was telling me what he
did to you, and all the disrespectful things he said to you. Skinner,
my dear fellow, that was an outrageous way for him to act."
"I fired him," said Skinner waspishly. "And while we're on the
subject let me declare myself about this man Peasley; as long as I
remain in your employ, Mr. Ricks, that man must never command another
Blue Star vessel. Do I make myself sufficiently clear?"
"You do, Skinner; you do, indeed," Cappy answered. "I warned Matt
that if you ever fired him, I'd have to back you up—and I'll do it,
Skinner. I'll sustain your decision, my boy. As long as you're my
manager that fellow can never go to sea under the Blue Star flag. The
"And I wouldn't recommend him to any other owner either," Mr.
"I'll not, Skinner. He will never go to sea again. I'm not going
to have his license taken away from him—er— Hum! Ahem!
Harump-h-h-h! But I'll see that he doesn't use it again. The fact
is, Skinner, I'm er—getting—old—and—er—you're pretty hard-worked
in the lumber department, so I've—Hum! Harump-h-h-h! decided to
relieve you of the shipping entirely and hire Matt for our port
captain. He's on the pay roll at three hundred a month.
And—er—Skinner, try to be friendly with the boy for my sake. The
young rascal is engaged to marry my daughter, and I—er—it's barely
possible he'll take up the business—Hum! Ahem! I'll stick round
another year and break him into the landward side of shipping and
then, Skinner, d'ye know what I'm going to do then?"
"What?" Mr. Skinner asked dully.
"I'm going to learn to play golf," said Cappy.
CHAPTER XXXII. SKINNER
PROPOSES—AND CAPPY RICKS DISPOSES
Having, as he thought, evaded the spirit of Mr. Skinner's ultimatum
while conforming to its literal terms, Cappy Ricks hurried home
leaving his general manager a stunned and horrified man. In this
instance, however, Cappy had erred in his strategy. Skinner was calm,
cold-blooded, suave, politic and deferential, but in his kind of fight
he never bluffed. He never played his hand until he had sufficient
trumps to take the odd trick.
He looked ahead now, into the not very distant future, and saw Matt
Peasley, husband of the heiress to the Ricks millions, giving him
orders—and the vision did not sit well on the general manager's
stomach. Consequently, Mr. Skinner decided for a test of strength at
Accordingly, when Cappy Ricks came down to the office the following
morning, Mr. Skinner came into the old fellow's sanctum and requested
"Fire away, my boy," said Cappy amiably, yet with a queer sinking
feeling in his vitals, for he did not like the look in Skinner's eye;
and something told him there was blood on the moon.
"With reference to this rowdy, Peasley, whom you tell me you are
going to make port captain—"
"I also told you, Skinner, my boy, that he is to be my son-in-law,"
Cappy interrupted, like a good general bringing up his heavy artillery
prior to ordering a charge. "I beg of you, Skinner, whatever your
animosities, to bear in mind the fact that my daughter could not
possibly engage herself to a rowdy."
"Out of respect to you and Miss Florence I shall not indulge in
personalities, sir," Mr. Skinner replied smilingly, and Cappy
shuddered, for Mr. Skinner never smiled in a fight unless he had the
situation well in hand. "I have merely called to tell you that I have
invested seventy-five cents of my salary in a stout hickory
pick-handle, and the next time Captain Matt Peasley enters my office I
shall test the quality of the said pick-handle over his head. I don't
care if he is engaged to your daughter; the minute you bring that man
into this office I go out. You shall have my resignation instantly.
That decision, Mr. Ricks, is final and irrevocable." And without
giving Cappy an instant for argument Mr. Skinner bowed himself out.
A month and Cappy Ricks remained minus his port captain; Mr.
Skinner was still strongly entrenched in his job as general manager.
It was a hard hand to beat, for the fact of the matter was that Cappy
Ricks simply could not afford to dispense with Mr. Skinner. The man
was too honest, too conscientious, too industrious, too brilliant, too
efficient, not to be reckoned with. To part with Skinner was like
parting with a dividend-producing gold mine; it was equivalent to
unloading on Cappy's shoulders again the burden of work and worry that
would have killed him ten years ago had he not surrendered it to
Skinner, who handled it as a juggler handles nine balls. Moreover,
Skinner knew all of the business secrets of the Ricks Lumber and
Logging Company and the Blue Star Navigation Company—why, he was an
integral part of the business; and, lastly, Cappy was fond of the man.
Skinner had come to him as office boy at the tender age of ten—and
that was twenty-five years before. A daily association for
twenty-five years would make a human being like Cappy fond of the
devil himself; and, barring the fact that he was cold-blooded, Skinner
was a fairly likeable chap, and devoted, body and soul to Cappy Ricks.
The longer Cappy pondered the thought of asserting his authority as
boss and defying Skinner, the more impossible the alternative became.
Also the longer he thought of having Matt Peasley kept out of the
business by Skinner, the higher rose his gorge, for Cappy had yearned
for a son like Matt Peasley and been denied. Now when he had planned
successfully to do the next best thing and have Matt for a son-in-law,
to be blocked by Skinner was unbearable. All Cappy could do was to
search vainly for an "out," and in the interim, whenever he met Matt
Peasley at his home, he carefully avoided all reference to Matt's
future in the Blue Star employ for which, by the way, Matt was
eternally grateful. He did not care to talk business with Cappy for a
month as yet. He was too happy with Cappy's daughter.
Another month passed. Cappy grew thin and lost his relish for his
food. Then Florence, being a woman, began to see, looming out of the
rose-tinted mist of her happy dreams, a huge interrogation mark.
She wondered what her father intended doing for her future husband;
and since she was accustomed to bossing her parent she spoke to Cappy
about it, thereby increasing his mental agony.
About the same time Matt Peasley commenced to wonder also, but
forbore to mention the subject to Cappy. Instead, he went down to the
Red Stack people and got himself a job skippering a tug; and great was
his joy thereat, for the wages were fully as good as he had enjoyed on
the Quickstep, and he was enabled to spend nearly every night in port.
The two months of idleness, albeit the happiest he had ever known, had
commenced to pall on him, and he wanted to be up and doing once more.
Also, being a man, he sensed something of the embarrassment of Cappy's
position, and, manlike, decided to relieve the old fellow of that
embarrassment. Matt concluded that he would retain his job as master
of the tug Sea Fox for a few months—say six—and then ask Cappy Ricks
for twenty thousand dollars, which amount would by that time be to his
credit on the Blue Star books by reason of his half-interest in the
seventy-five-dollar-a-day profit he and Cappy had annexed when
rechartering the steamer Unicorn. With that amount of money in hand,
plus the savings from his salary, he planned to marry Cappy's daughter
and go into business for himself as a ship, freight and marine
Mr. Skinner heard of Matt Peasley's appointment as master of the
tug Sea Fox several hours before the same information reached Matt
himself. The general manager of the tugboat company, scanning Matt's
application and having a vacancy to fill, called up Mr. Skinner.
"Say, Skinner," he said, "I have an application for a job as master
for one of our tugs from Captain Matthew Peasley. He tells me he was
a couple of years under the Blue Star flag, from A. B. to master of
steam and sail, with an unlimited license. Is he a good man?"
"We never had a more capable skipper in our employ," said Mr.
"Why did you let him go then?"
"No, he quit voluntarily."
"Then what's wrong with him?"
"He doesn't like me. But he's capable and fearless and a devil on
wheels. He'll take a ship anywhere and bring her out again whole."
"Then he's my huckleberry. That's the kind of man for a tugboat
skipper," was the reply, and Matt Peasley had the job, greatly to the
joy of Mr. Skinner, who realized now that his ultimatum to Cappy Ricks
had been a knockout blow. Cappy had surrendered, and the rowdy Matt,
having given up hope of a snug berth as port captain of the Blue Star
Navigation Company, had in despair sought a job with a tugboat
Mr. Skinner was so happy he shelved his office dignity long enough
to whistle a popular ballad that had been running through his mind of
late. All too gladly had he recommended Matt Peasley for that tugboat
job! He would have employed anything, short of dishonorable methods,
to rid the Blue Star of that incubus!
Cappy Ricks almost wept with rage when his daughter informed him
that Matt had gone back to salt water. She was a little indignant
over it, and demanded a show-down from her unhappy father, who looked
at her miserably and said he'd think it over.
He did. Every afternoon, upon his return from luncheon he slid
down on his spine in his upholstered swivel chair, draped his old
shanks over his desk, dropped his chin on his breast, closed his eyes
and went into a clinch with the awful problem, with all its dips,
spurs and angles. Save for the nervous clasping and unclasping of his
hands one would have thought him sound asleep.
For a month no gleam of light filtered through the deep gloom of
the old gentleman's predicament. A dozen times had he reached forth
to press the push-button on his desk, summon Skinner and force the
latter to do one of two things; recede from his position or resign as
general manager. Ten times he had paused with his finger on the
push-button. He simply could NOT afford to dispense with Skinner! The
eleventh time, however, grown desperate from much brooding over his
unhappy lot, Cappy pressed the button.
"Send Mr. Skinner in," he commanded bravely to the boy who answered
Mr. Skinner entered and stood awaiting Cappy's pleasure. On the
instant the old fellow was overcome by panic. Frantically he sought
"Skinner, my dear boy," he purred, "has it occurred to you that
young Tommy, the office boy, has been here long enough, and behaved
himself well enough, to merit a raise of about ten dollars a month?"
Mr. Skinner was a natural conservative and considerable of a
"Well, I daresay he has, although I hadn't given the matter any
thought, sir. However, the way lumber has been selling the past few
months, we ought to be cutting salaries instead of raising them."
"I know, Skinner, I know. But a boy needs some encouragement; he
has to have some concrete evidence of appreciation, er—er—attend to
it, Skinner, my boy, attend to it."
Mr. Skinner nodded and retired, leaving Cappy to grit his teeth and
curse himself for a poltroon. "It's certainly hell when a man of my
age and financial rating stands between his love and duty," he
mourned. "Darn that fellow Skinner. If my bluff should fail to work
and he got on his high horse and quit, I'd have to climb off my high
horse and beg him to return to work. And he knows it. He knows I've
been taking it easy so long I never could bring myself to take up the
burden of active business again. Money! What does money mean if it
can't buy happiness? Drat that devilish Skinner. I wish to jiminy he
had the burden of my dollars—"
He paused, overcome by a sudden brilliant thought. "Bully for you,
Alden P., you old, three-ply, copper-riveted, reinforced,
star-spangled jack-ass!" he murmured. "Why didn't you think of it
before and save yourself all this grief?"
His hand shot out once more to the push-button. "Send in Mr.
Hankins, sonny," he ordered the office boy.
Mr. Hankins was the cashier; also secretary of all of Cappy's
companies, of which Mr. Skinner was first vice president. He entered
and stood deferentially beside Cappy's desk.
"Hankins, my dear boy, bring me the stock certificates for my
holdings in the Ricks Lumber and Logging Company and the Blue Star
Navigation Company. I am going to indorse them, after which I wish
you would reissue the stock to me, less one hundred shares of each in
the name of Mr. Skinner. Say nothing to Mr. Skinner about this and
bring the new certificates to me immediately."
When Hankins had complied with his request Cappy Ricks placed the
Skinner certificates in his pocket and went uptown to the office of
his attorney. He returned to his office within an hour and
immediately sent for Mr. Skinner.
"Skinner, my dear boy," began Cappy affably, "sit down. I want to
have a very serious talk with you."
"Nothing wrong, I trust," Skinner began apprehensively, for Cappy's
air was very portentous.
"If there was," Cappy snapped, "you wouldn't be here to-day. Some
other fellow would be holding down your job, and, I dare say, giving
poor satisfaction—by the way, my dear Skinner, something which you
have never done."
Mr. Skinner flushed pleasurably and thanked his employer.
"Some twenty-five years ago," Cappy continued, "you entered my
employ as a spindle-legged office boy. To-day you are my general
manager, and a rattling good one, too, even if we do have our little
run-in together every so often. We mustn't pay any attention to that,
however, for a fight is good for a man, Skinner. I maintain that it
brings out all of his virtues and vices where one can have an
unobstructed view of them. However, passing that, I decided a long
time ago, Skinner, that you are entitled to more than a mere salary—"
"My salary has been eminently satisfactory, sir—" Mr. Skinner
"Don't be an ass, Skinner," Cappy interrupted tartly. "I wouldn't
give two hoots in hell for a satisfied man, unless he's his own
man—understand. You should have a more vital interest in the Ricks
Lumber and Logging Company and the Blue Star Navigation Company. We
always make our skippers own a piece of the vessels they command, so
they will not be tempted to rob us, for in robbing us they rob
themselves. Consequently, thinking it over, Skinner, I have decided
to make you own a piece of both the companies you manage, not because
you may rob them but because I want to reward you for faithful
service. I had planned to do this in my will, but I feel so healthy
lately I think I'll live a long time yet, and there isn't any real
sense in keeping you waiting. What is the book valuation of the Ricks
L. L. stock?"
"Three hundred eighty-seven thirteen, according to the last annual
report," replied Skinner glibly. His eyes glistened.
"And the Blue Star stock?"
"Four hundred thirty-two twenty-seven."
"Hump! Harump-h-h! It will be worth more when the Panama Canal is
opened. We'll have a crack at the Atlantic Seaboard market with our
Pacific Coast lumber, and the water freight will knock the rail rate
silly. Besides, I'm going to buy up a couple of large freighters, or
build them, and that stock of yours will pay dividends then. I'll
soak you four hundred per share for the Blue Star stock. Is that
Nobody knew better than Mr. Skinner the fact that the Blue Star
stock at the book valuation was appraised very conservatively. He
"Lumber market's up and down, down and up, and we never know where
we stand. Give you that at two-fifty a share. Want it?"
"I should say I do!" Skinner gasped.
"Then you owe me sixty-five thousand dollars. I'll take your
promissory note for it at five per cent., and you can pay the note out
of your salary and the dividends. You'll be in the clear in ten years
at the very latest; the stock I'm selling you now will be worth a
hundred thousand—with your management. Here's the contract, which
embodies a promissory note. Sign it, endorse the stock to me to
secure the payment of the note, and then clear out of here. Not a
peep out of you, sir, not a peep. If you say 'Thank you' I'll change
my mind about selling."
Mr. Skinner's hand trembled a little as he wrote his name across
the backs of the stock certificates and appended the same clear,
concise signature to the note. Silently he wrung Cappy's hand.
"Get out," rasped Cappy. Mr. Skinner got out.
CHAPTER XXXIII. CAPPY'S PLANS
Four more months passed, and peace reigned in the offices of the
Blue Star Navigation Company. Matt Peasley's name had never been
mentioned in Mr. Skinner's presence since that dark day when he had
ventured, for the first time in his career, to lay down the law to
Cappy Ricks. The pick-handle still reposed behind Skinner's desk, but
that was merely because he had forgotten all about it, and nobody ever
touched any of his property without his permission. Not once had Matt
Peasley's cheerful countenance darkened the Skinner horizon.
This, then, was the condition of affairs when the office boy
carried to Mr. Skinner a piece of disquieting information—to wit,
that Captain Matt Peasley was without and desired to hold speech with
"Tell him Mr. Ricks is too busy to see him," Skinner ordered. Not
having heard anything of Matt for six months he concluded that the
latter's affair with the boss' daughter had languished and died a
natural death; hence he felt that he could defy Matt with impunity.
Judge of his surprise, therefore, when a heavy hand was laid on his
shoulder later and Matt Peasley stood glaring down at him.
"Well, sir!" said Skinner coolly.
"I heard you had a pick-handle waiting here for me," Matt replied
evenly, "so I just dropped in to tell you that if you ever pull a
pick-handle on me I'll take it away from you and ram it down your
throat. That's all I have to say to you, Mr. Skinner. If, the next
time I call, at Mr. Ricks' invitation, to see him, you intercept my
message and try to block my game—"
The great Peasley hand closed over Mr. Skinner's neck and felt of
"Ouch!" gasped Mr. Skinner.
"Admit the brother," Matt called to an imaginary sentry behind
Cappy's door. "He has given the password. The lodge has been duly
opened and we are now ready for business."
He smiled at Mr. Skinner and passed on into Cappy Ricks' office.
"Well, Matt," the latter hailed him pleasantly, "it's been a long
time since I've seen you in this office."
"And it'll be a long time till you see me here again, sir," Matt
retorted pleasantly. "I was about to call on you when your message
reached me. So suppose you tell me your business first. Then I'll
tell you mine."
"No, you won't, Matt," Cappy challenged him, "because hereafter
you're not going to have any business unless I have a finger in it
too. Matt, my son, do you recall the day you quit the Quickstep?"
"With pleasure," Matt assured him whimsically.
"You're vindictive; but no matter. Skinner declared you should
never again command a Blue Star ship while he was in my employ, and I
said, by George, that was right—you shouldn't. I said I was going to
make you our port captain, and eventually place you in charge of the
shipping after I had broken you in."
"I have a curiosity, sir, to know why you didn't go through with
"Skinner wouldn't let me—said he'd quit if I did, and I just
couldn't afford to lose him, Matt. However, I have all that fixed up
now, so you quit that tugboat job of yours and come to work here as
soon as you can. I could have put you to work three months ago, right
after I sewed Skinner up, but I thought I'd wait a little while just
to save poor Skinner's face." Cappy commenced to chuckle softly.
"In-fer-nal rascal!" he declared. "He had me where the hair is
short, Matt; he had me where I dassen't defy my own general manager!
Yes, sir, that was the long and short of it. I dassen't call his
bluff, because he doesn't bluff worth a cent, and I happen to know
some of my competitors would like to get him away from me. A good man
is always in demand, Matt; never forget that. You see, Skinner has
been carrying the burden of this business for the past ten years
practically, and he threatened to toss that burden back on me. Well,
if he had, Matt, I just couldn't have carried it without competent
help—and by the time I had competent help broken in they'd be
measuring me for a tombstone."
"How did you whip him into line?" Matt demanded.
"Just like spearing fish in a dry lake, boy," Cappy chuckled. "I
just sold Mr. Skinner part of that burden, and now he has to carry it
all until he dies, because if he drops it he loses what I sold him.
Only one way to whip that boy into line, Matt, and that is to pelt
him with dollars."
"But I do not see how that affects me," Matt answered.
"You don't, eh? Why, you're the port captain of the Blue Star
Navigation Company, you-you-you bonehead, and Skinner has to stand for
you now whether he likes it or not. He'll not sacrifice his future to
vent his grudge against you, because he is a business man, Matt, and
he knows it's mighty poor business to bite off his nose to spite his
face. So you just come to work."
Matt Peasley beamed across at his future father-in-law.
"That was well done, sir," he said, "and I wish I had known you
were going to do it. I would have saved you the trouble, because, you
see, I never intended to go to work for you in this office anyhow."
"The devil you say!" Cappy interrupted. "Well, you just put some
reverse English on those intentions of yours, my boy. I know what's
good for you."
But Matt Peasley only shook his head.
"I can't do it, sir," he said. "While deeply appreciative of all
you want to do for me, the fact is, if I'm going to marry your
daughter—and I am—I'm not going to do it on your money and be
dependent upon you for a job. I'll be my own man, Mr. Ricks. I never
ask odds of any man, and I don't like to work for a relative."
"Damn your Yankee independence," snapped Cappy angrily. "Why do
you oppose me?"
"Because I'll not have anybody saying: 'There goes Matt Peasley.
He fell into a good thing. Yes, indeed! Used to be a common A. B.
until Alden P. Ricks' daughter fell in love with him—and of course
after that he went right up the line in the Blue Star Navigation
Company. He's a lucky stiff.'"
"What do you care what people say? I know what I want."
"I do care what they say, and I care what I feel. I want to fight
my own way. I want to make a wad of money and build up a business of
"You're crazy! Why, here's one ready-made, and it will stand all
kinds of building up—"
"Then let Skinner build it. I'll build my own. I do not want
anybody to think I married your daughter for your money."
"Matt, you poor, chuckleheaded boy, listen to me. I intend doing
"And that," roared Matt Peasley, smiting the desk, "is the very
reason why I shall not permit you to do anything for me. That's
final, Mr. Ricks. I hope you will realize it's useless to argue with
"I ought to by this time," Cappy replied bitterly. "Very well,
I've told you my business with you. Suppose you state your business
"I'd like to draw twenty thousand dollars from my credit on the
Blue Star books."
"Huh! So you want to dig into that money the recharter of the
Unicorn is bringing you, eh, Matt?"
"If you can spare it, Mr. Ricks."
"Of course I can spare it—only I'll not. If you want that money,
Matt, sue for it; and since you haven't any documents to prove you
have it coming to you, I suppose you will agree with me that a suit
would be useless expenditure of time, money and energy."
"Then you will not give me the money, sir?" Matt Peasley demanded.
"Not a red," said Cappy calmly. "We've fought this whole matter
out before, so why argue?"
"Why, indeed," Matt answered, and reached for his hat. He was
fighting mad and desired to go away before he quarreled with Cappy.
"I'll go downstairs to the cigar stand and shake you the dice, one
flop, to see whether you go into business for yourself or come to work
for me," Cappy pleaded.
Matt came to him and placed his great hands on the old man's
"You're the finest man I ever knew, Mr. Ricks," he said, "and
you're the meanest man I ever knew, so I'll not shake dice with you.
You're too fond of having your own way—"
"Yes, and you're the same, blast you!" Cappy shrilled, losing his
temper entirely. "Wait till you're my age. There won't be any
standing you at all. Get out!"
CHAPTER XXXIV. A GIFT FROM THE GODS
The barkentine Retriever, lumber laden from Astoria to San
Francisco, lay under the lee of Point Reyes in a dead calm. It was a
beautiful, moonlit night, with the sea as smooth as a fishpond, and
Captain Michael J. Murphy, albeit a trifle surprised at his proximity
to the California coast—the result of three days and nights of thick
fog, which had suddenly lifted—was not particularly worried. At
eight o'clock he turned in, after warning the mate to call him in case
the Retriever should drift inshore.
"Never fear, sir," the mate replied. "We'll have a puff of wind
about daylight at the latest, and the current sets north and south
here rather than toward the beach."
For two hours after Captain Murphy had retired the Retriever rose
and fell gently on the slightest swell, her booms and yards swinging
idly amidships, her sails and cordage slatting listlessly as the
Suddenly the lookout shouted: "Steamer on the port bow!" and the
mate, following the direction indicated, made out the red and green
sidelights and the single white light at the short masthead of the
"Tug," he announced to the man at the wheel. "Good enough! The
lookout at Point Reyes reported us, and the owners have sent a tug out
to snake us in."
The mate's prognostication was correct in some particulars, for in
about half an hour the tug steamed slowly alongside the Retriever and
"Ahoy! Retriever, of the Blue Star, Astoria for San Francisco."
"Sea Fox, of the Red Stack Line. Is Captain Murphy on deck?"
"No, but I'll send for him," the mate shouted, and forthwith sent a
man below to rout out the skipper. When Murphy came on deck and
hailed the tug he nearly fainted at the information that came floating
across the water.
"Murphy, this is Matt Peasley speaking."
"Not Matt Peasley that used to command this old box—"
"Don't speak disrespectfully of my first command, Mike—"
"And you're only a tug captain—a dirty, thieving, piratical
towboat man, holding up every honest skipper that pokes his nose into
San Francisco Bay. Matt, I'm ashamed of you. How are you anyhow?"
"Fine, Mike. Want a tow?"
"I don't need one; I'll have a bit of breeze before long. I'm
independent of you!"
The tug crept in closer. "Don't be foolish, Mike; better let me
slip you a line."
"How much will it cost, Matt? None of your highway robbery now.
Be easy on the Retriever for old times' sake."
"A thousand dollars," Matt Peasley answered pleasantly, and was
rewarded with a volley of oaths from Mike Murphy and his crew.
"You're a thief!" yelled Murphy.
"And you're a fool, Mike. You're not more than two miles off the
breakers, you're in a calm that may last two days, and when the tide
is at flood you'll set in on the beach as sure as death and taxes—and
then I'll have a salvage job that will cost your owners not one
thousand but ten."
"You go to the devil!" was Murphy's reply to this, and the Sea Fox
dropped astern and came round on the starboard bow of the Retriever.
In she backed, a foot at a time, and Captain Murphy, up on the
topgallant fo'castle, was within easy conversational distance of Matt
Peasley, standing on the grating at the stern of the Sea Fox.
"Better grab this heaving line, Mike," Matt suggested.
"Come aboard and have a drink, Matt, but leave your line behind
you," Murphy answered hospitably.
The Sea Fox drifted down fifteen or twenty feet, swung slowly,
headed out to sea, and then backed gingerly in until her stern was
within a few feet of the side of the Retriever.
"Hey, you! What d'ye mean to do? Back into her?" yelled Matt
Peasley to his mate. "Full speed ahead! Quick!"
A bell jangled in the bowels of the Sea Fox, her great screw
churned the water and she shot out from the Retriever.
"That's right! Go clear over to China, and expect me to haggle
with this man through the megaphone, eh?" Matt roared. "Back up
"I tell you, Matt, there isn't the slightest use hanging round for
us," Murphy warned the towboat skipper. "I wouldn't let the ship be
held up by anybody, least of all a towboat man."
"Well, when the lookout on Point Reyes telephoned into our office
that the Retriever was inside the Point, I made up my mind I'd come
out and get her, and I don't purpose being disappointed," Matt replied
jokingly. "I'll just wait until you drift into the breakers, and then
you'll do business with me, never fear."
"G'wan!" snorted Murphy. "How's Cappy Ricks, the old villain?"
"He's fine, Mike. He wanted me to work for him, but I don't like
his general manager—Mr. Olson, full speed ahead or you'll smash our
stern against this barkentine. Steady! That's better. Astern a
trifle. Steady! Mike, how've you been since I saw you last?"
CHAPTER XXXV. A DIRTY YANKEE TRICK
"Skinner," said Cappy Ricks, "I was called out of my bed at five
o'clock this morning by the night operator at the Merchants' Exchange.
He told me our Retriever was in the breakers just south of Point
Reyes, but that a tug was standing by. What have you heard since?"
"She drifted in there in a calm last night, sir," Mr. Skinner
replied. "Fortunately the Point Reyes lookout had reported her early
yesterday evening, and one of the Red Stack tugs—the Sea Fox—took a
chance and went out seeking. Lucky thing for us—"
"The tug hauled her off then?"
"Got a line aboard just in time. I had a telephone message from
Captain Murphy at Meiggs Wharf ten minutes ago. The Retriever is
anchored in the fairway."
"What tug did you say it was?" Cappy queried.
"The Sea Fox."
"That's Matt Peasley's command," Cappy mused. "Lucky? I should
say we are! It's up to the master of the tug very frequently whether,
under such conditions, his task has been a mere towage job at the
going rates or a salvage proposition to be settled in court. I dare
say Matt will give us the benefit of the doubt and call it towage."
"Don't deceive yourself!" Skinner snapped. "It's salvage; Murphy
said so. After he got close in Peasley refused to name a price and
came aboard and made Murphy sign a paper acknowledging that his ship
was in distress and dire peril, before he would even put a line aboard
"Wow! Wow! The tugboat company will libel the ship now, and sue
us for fifty thousand dollars' salvage on vessel and cargo," and Cappy
groaned, for he owned both. "By George!" he continued. "I didn't
think Matt would do anything like that to me. No, sir! If anybody
had told me that boy could be such an ingrate I'd have told him—"
A youth entered Cappy's office uninvited.
"Captain Peasley to see you, sir," he said.
"Show the infernal fellow in," rasped Cappy, and Matt Peasley
stalked into the room.
"I should like to see you privately, Mr. Ricks," he announced, and
cast a significant glance at Skinner, who took the hint and left the
room at once.
Matt sat down. "Well," he said, "I guess the tug Sea Fox and
owners, together with her doughty skipper and crew, will finger some
of your hard-earned dollars before long, Mr. Ricks. I pulled your
barkentine Retriever out of the breakers this morning. In fifteen
minutes she would have been on the beach and a total loss—and I have
a document, signed by Captain Murphy and his mates, to prove it. I
offered the pig-headed fellow a tow at ten o'clock the night before,
but he declined it—trying to save a few dollars, of course—so when I
had him where he had to have my services—"
"Well!" Cappy snapped, "send your owners round and we'll try to
settle out of court. If they're hogs we'll fight 'em, that's all."
"And if you do you'll get licked. We'll get a quarter of the value
of that vessel and her cargo. She's easily worth fifty thousand
dollars and her cargo is worth thirty thousand more—that's eighty
thousand, and a quarter of eighty thousand dollars is twenty
"You'll have to fight for it, I tell you," Cappy reiterated.
"There is no necessity for a fight, Mr. Ricks. It all rests with
me whether this is a salvage job or just a plain towing job at the
Cappy looked at his ex-skipper keenly.
"Matt," he charged, "you've got a scheme. You want something."
"I do; I want to save you a lot of fuss and worry and expense. In
return I want you to do something for me."
"I'll do it, Matt. What is the program?"
"Give me that twenty thousand dollars you justly owe me—twenty
thousand dollars I have to my credit on your books, which you are
withholding just because you have the power to withhold it."
"And in return—"
"I'll tear up the deadly document I extorted from Murphy and report
a mere towage job to my owners."
Cappy pressed the push-button and a boy appeared.
"Tell Mr. Skinner I want to see him," he ordered, and an instant
later Mr. Skinner entered. "Skinner," said Cappy, "draw a check for
twenty thousand in favor of Matt Peasley, and charge it to his
"And then send it over to the bank and certify it," Matt added,
"because before I get through with you, Mr. Ricks, you'll be tempted
to stop payment on it, if I know you—and I think I do."
Half an hour later Cappy handed Matt Peasley, a certified check for
twenty thousand dollars, and in exchange the latter handed Cappy the
only proof the Red Stack people would have had, over and above the
contradictory testimony of the crews of the respective vessels, that
the services of their tug constituted salvage and not towage. Cappy
read it, tore it into shreds and glared at Matt Peasley.
"Matt," he said very solemnly, "I'm glad this thing happened. I've
always had a good opinion of you, but now I know that though you have
many excellent qualities you do not possess that quality which above
all others I require in an employee or a son-in-law.
"You aren't loyal. You had the sweetest case of salvage against
our vessel that any man could go into court with, and you kicked it
away like that, just for your own selfish ends. You sacrificed your
shipmates, who would have been awarded a pro rata of the salvage, and
you were false to the trust your owners reposed in you."
Cappy stood up, his face pale with fury, and shook an admonitory
finger under Matt Peasley's nose.
"That act, sir, is an index of your true character," he thundered.
"A master who will deceive his owners, who will be false to their
interests, is a scoundrel, sir; do you hear me?—a scoundrel. You
will oblige me, sir, by refraining from any attentions to my daughter
in the future. To think that you have descended to such a petty,
miserable subterfuge to trick me and rob your owners! Thank God, I
have found you out in time!"
"Yes, isn't it fortunate?" Matt answered humorously. "And if you
get any angrier you'll bust an artery and die."
"Out of my office!" Cappy raved; for though he was a business man,
and never hesitated to do business in a businesslike way, he was the
soul of business honor, and in all his life he had never taken a mean
or unfair advantage of those who trusted him. The knowledge that Matt
Peasley had done such a thing filled him with rage not unmixed with
"I'll be gone in a minute," Matt replied gently; "only before I go
permit me to tell you something, and on my honor as a man and a sailor
I assure you I speak the truth. That wasn't a salvage job at all."
Matt repeated the statement. Cappy blinked and clawed at his
"Oh," he said presently, "I had forgotten that you and Captain
Murphy were once shipmates. And so that fellow Murphy stood in with
you to work a hocuspocus game on me, eh?" he thundered. "By Godfrey,
I'll fire him for it!" and he rushed to the office door, opened it and
called to Skinner: "Skinner, Murphy is to be fired. Attend to it."
Then he closed the door again and faced Matt Peasley.
"Murphy is to be reinstated," Matt assured Cappy, "for the reason
that Murphy was in deadly earnest when he signed that paper. In five
minutes he would have been a skipper without a ship, and he knew it.
If you fire Murphy you do a fine man a terrible injustice."
"Well, how in blue blazes did he get so close to the beach and let
himself into your clutches?" Cappy raved.
"He couldn't answer that question, sir. He doesn't know. He
thinks the current set him in there. It didn't. I set him in there."
"You set him in?" Cappy queried incredulously.
"I set him in. I kept backing up on his starboard counter,
ostensibly to dicker with him, and as soon as I had the stern of my
tug within a few feet of the Retriever I'd signal my mate at the
wheel, he'd give the engineer full speed ahead—why you have no idea
of the force of the quick water thrown back from that big towing
propeller of the Sea Fox. The rush of it just swung the Retriever's
nose slowly toward the beach and kicked her ahead fifteen or twenty
feet, and then her sheer momentum carried her thirty yards farther.
By that time I was backed up to her again, bargaining with Murphy,
and ready for another kick. It was easier after the flood tide set in,
and I kept at her all night long, and gradually kicked her into the
breakers, where I wanted her. I knew Murphy would listen to reason
then. So you see, Mr. Ricks, it wasn't a salvage job, and I didn't
betray my owners at all—"
"You Yankee thief!" Cappy yelled, and dashed at Matt, to enfold the
son-in-law-to-be in a paternal embrace. "Oh, Matt, my boy, why do you
want to be a tugboat man when I need a man with your brains? Why
don't you be sensible and listen to reason?"
Matt held the old man off at arm's length and grinned at him
"It's worth twenty thousand dollars to get the better of you, sir,"
Cappy sat down very suddenly.
"Ah, yes," he said. "Speaking of money reminds me: What do you
intend doing with that twenty thousand dollars?"
"Well, I thought at first I'd go into the shipping business for
"Skiffs or gasoline launches—which?" Cappy twitted him.
"But you seem bent on having your way, and Florry is making such a
fuss, I suppose I'll have to give in to you after all."
Matt stepped to the door, opened it and called: "Mr. Skinner!"
Mr. Skinner looked up from his desk by the window. "Well, sir!" he
"Murphy is not to be fired," Matt answered.
"Indeed! And by whose orders?"
"Mine! I'm the port captain of the Blue Star Navigation Company,
and, beginning now, I'm going to do all the hiring and firing of
Mr. Skinner turned pale. He started from his chair and made two
steps toward Cappy Ricks' office, firmly resolved to present his
resignation then and there. At the door, however, he thought better
of it, hesitated, returned to his desk and sat down again, for he had
suddenly remembered, and, remembering, discovered that Cappy Ricks had
laid upon him a burden that must be reckoned with—the burden of his
own future. He flushed and bit his lips; then, feeling Matt Peasley's
eyes boring into the small of his back, he turned and said:
"I have every reason to believe, Captain Peasley, that you are the
right man in the right place."
Matt advanced upon him and held out his hand.
"Mr. Ricks has always bragged that you could think quicker and act
quicker in an emergency than any man he ever knew. He's right, you
can. Suppose we bury that pick-handle, Mr. Skinner?"
Mr. Skinner's lips twitched in a wry smile, but he took Matt
Peasley's hand and wrung it heartily, not because he loved Matt
Peasley or ever would, but because he had a true appreciation of
Abraham Lincoln's philosophy to the effect that a house divided
against itself must surely fall. "I'm sure we'll get along famously
together," he said.
"You know it," Matt answered heartily, and stepped back into
"Well," said Cappy, "that was mighty well done, Matt. Thank you.
So you think you'll quit the Sea Fox and be my port captain, eh?"
"I think so, sir."
"Well, I do not, Matt. The fact of the matter is, your business
education is now about to commence, and about two minutes ago I
suddenly decided that you might as well pay for it with your own
money. I have no doubt such a course will meet with the approval of
your independent spirit anyhow. You're a little too uppish yet, Matt.
You must be chastened, and the only way to chasten a man and make him
humble is to turn him loose to fight with the pack for a while.
Consequently I'm going to turn you loose, Matt; there are some wolves
along California Street that will take your twenty thousand away from
you so fast that you won't know it's going till it's gone. But the
loss will do you a heap of good—and I guess Florry can wait a while."
He paused and eyed Matt meditatively for fully a minute.
"And you kicked my barkentine ashore with the quick water from your
tug's propeller," he mused aloud. "Got her where you wanted her—and
Murphy didn't suspect! He laid it to the current!" Cappy shook his
head. "A dirty Yankee trick," he continued, "and I love you for
it—in fact, it breaks my heart not to make good that grandstand play
you just pulled on Skinner, but I've changed my mind about hiring you
yet. I'm just going to sit back and have some fun watching you defend
that little old twenty-thousand dollars I just gave you. Do you know,
Matt, that I never knew a man to save up a thousand dollars, by
denying himself many things, that he didn't invest the thousand in a
wild-cat mine or a dry oil well? Ah, Matt, it's those first few
dollars that come so hard and go so easy that break most men's hearts;
but here you are with twenty thousand that came so easy I've just
naturally got to see how hard they go! You'll be worth more money to
me, Matt, and you'll be a safer man to handle this business when I'm
gone, if you go out and play the game for a while by yourself. You
have a secret itching to do it anyhow, Matt, and in surrendering to me
just now you went down with your colors flying. You just wanted to be
kind to the old man, didn't you? Well, I appreciate it, Matt, because
I'm an old man, and I know how hard it is for a boy to yield to an old
man's wishes; but youth must be served, and God forbid that I should
rob you of the joy of the conflict, my boy. When you're busted flat
and need some more money, you may have it up to the amount to your
credit on our books. And when that's gone I guess you'll make a
better port captain than you will this morning. Does that program
suit you better than the one I originally outlined?"
Matt flushed and hung his head in embarrassment, but answered
truthfully: "Yes, sir."
"Very well," said Cappy, relapsing into one of his frequent
colloquialisms, "go to it, boy. Eat it up."
CHAPTER XXXVI. CAPPY FORBIDS THE
Cappy Ricks sat at breakfast, tapping meditatively on the apex of a
boiled egg, when his daughter swished into the room, saluted her
interesting parent by depositing a light kiss on his bald and
ingenuous head, and took her place at the table.
Florence Ricks was a radiant vision in a filmy pink breakfast gown
and cap, and as she smiled perkily at Cappy he returned her bright
look with one a trifle sad and yearning.
"Florence, my love," said Cappy gently, "have you, by any chance,
talked with that big, two-fisted sailor of yours within the past
She shook her head negatively, tilting her nose and pursing her
lips in an adorable grimace of disapproval.
"Since Matt Peasley has been master of that tug I see him only when
his owners cannot find something more important for him to do. Why do
you pop that question at me so suddenly? Did you want to see him
"No. I saw him yesterday forenoon, and we went into a clinch and
fought each other all over my private office. Matt got the decision.
I thought he might have called you up to discuss with you his plans
for the future. When he left me yesterday he was on his way back to
the office of the Red Stack Tugboat Company to tell the port captain
he could stick some other skipper on the tug Sea Fox."
Florence clapped her hands ecstatically. "Oh, goody, goody!" she
"Well, it might be worse."
"Why is he resigning? To go to work for you, as I wanted him to do
six months ago?"
"Well, I'll tell you, Florry," Cappy began. "I know you're going
to be disappointed, but the fact of the matter is we've just got to
let that boy paddle his own canoe—though, to hear him talk, he's
going to operate his own line of steamers! Matt doesn't think in
canoes when the subject of the merchant marine is up for discussion
any more than I think in cent pieces when I'm wrestling with a banker
for a loan. He has resigned from the tug Sea Fox to go into business
"But how can he? He hasn't any money, you silly man!"
"Oh, yes, he has. I gave him twenty thousand dollars yesterday.
He had that much credit on the Blue Star books from his share of the
recharter of the steamer Unicorn nearly two years ago."
"But I thought you weren't going to give him any of that money,"
"I thought so, too," Cappy answered dryly; "but the scoundrel put
up a low-down job on me and pried the twenty thousand loose," and
Cappy proceeded to relate to Florry the sad tale of the salvage of the
Florence was gifted with the same lovable sense of humor that
distinguished her father; and, somewhat to his annoyance, she laughed
long and heartily at this tale of how her fiance had vanquished him.
"And then what?" she queried with childish insouciance.
"Why, then he made friends with Skinner and, to my complete
amazement, surrendered without firing a shot. He said he'd be my port
captain now; whereas six months ago he said it was against his
religion to work for a relative, and that he wanted to go into
business for himself. And only the day before he'd reiterated those
"Oh, I'm so glad!" said Florry, much relieved.
"Wait!" said Cappy dramatically. "Don't cheer yet. I've upset
your apple cart, my dear. I rejected the young man's proposition and
condemned him to a business of his own."
"But you wanted him for your port captain, Daddy dear. You wanted
him the very worst way."
"And that's just how I got him, Florry. I don't want any man whose
heart is not in his job, and a business man should never surrender for
sentimental reasons. You cannot mix sentiment and business, daughter;
if you do you'll get chaos. Matt Peasley surrendered to me—not
because he wanted to, but to please you. You've been picking on him
rather hard lately, haven't you?"
Florry admitted it.
"I knew it," Cappy declared. "I knew it—and that's why I
exercised the veto on you, Florry."
Florry's eyes dropped, and in the corners of them her father
thought he detected a glint of tears; whereupon he attacked his egg
vigorously. After a brief silence he said:
"Of course that means a slight delay in your plans for a June
A tear crept through Florry's long lashes and dropped unheeded into
her grapefruit. Cappy saw it drop, but resolved to be cruel and
"The infernal schemer couldn't resist the temptation to take a fall
out of your old man, Florry; so naturally I had to take a fall out of
him; though, at that, I have doubts whether I succeeded. I think I
played into his hand; and now I'm telling you about it to save him the
trouble and grief of an explanation he couldn't make and which you
wouldn't understand—from him. Some day my affairs will all be yours,
Florry—yours and Matt's; and he'll have to manage them for you. To
manage them well, he must have experience; hence, I decided, in about
two flips of a humming-bird's tail, that it would be a mighty good
thing for you and Matt if I forced him into business for himself and,
as I informed him, let him pay for that experience with his own money;
for that is the only kind of money that will buy him any experience
worth while. No young man ever learned a great deal when some
sentimental old fool footed the bill for his tuition fees in the
college of hard knocks."
"Poor Matt!" Florry sobbed. "He hasn't—had anything—except hard
knocks since he was—fourteen years—old."
"Yes," shrilled Cappy; "and just look at the difference between him
and these la-di-da boys that never had any hard knocks! Hard knocks!
Why, hard knocks keep that devilish fellow in condition!"
"But I'd planned—we didn't want to have too long an—engagement—"
"I'll guarantee you, little daughter, you will not have to wait
longer than six months. Please wait—for my sake." And Cappy rose,
made his way round the breakfast table and placed his old arms about
the light and joy of his existence. "So, so, now!" he soothed.
"Don't you cry, honey, until you hear what the old man has to say.
Why, haven't I always given my little daughter everything she wanted?
You wanted that big sailor, Florry; I saw he wanted you; and he
looked awful good to me. I knew he was man, every inch of him; he was
our kind of people and he knew ships and loved them, and so I wanted
him for you. What if he was a big hunk of a sailor with hardly enough
money saved up to buy you half a dozen party dresses? None of the
Ricks tribe was ever born or bred in the purple—and I have money
enough for all practical purposes. So I went after him for you,
Florry, and you're going to get him; so don't cry about it."
"Life is so filled with disappointments," Florry sobbed,
notwithstanding this was the first she had ever known.
Cappy smiled a still small smile as he bent over her.
"Fiddlesticks!" he replied. "Only the day before yesterday Matt
told me he didn't want to work for me; that he didn't want a relative
handing him any favors; and that he wasn't marrying you to ease
himself into a soft job for life. He said he wanted to make the fight
himself. And do you know, Florry, if he had been my own boy I
couldn't have been prouder of him than when he told me that! When old
What-you-may-call-him in Shakespeare's play said: 'Let me have men
about me that are fat,' it showed how blamed little Shakespeare knew
about men. He should have said: 'Let me have men about me who are
long and tough, and fairly thick in the middle; let me have scrappy
boys about me with backbone!'
"Well, in a way, Florry, I was disappointed, and perhaps, in the
heat of the moment, I showed it, as I have a habit of doing; but after
Matt had left the office, and I got to thinking it over, away down low
I was proud of him. Consequently when he reversed his decision
yesterday I knew why, for I lived twenty-five years with your mother.
But a woman's love is selfish sometimes, and I knew that Matt had
surrendered, not to me, but to you; though he came across like a
sport, he didn't want to, for you'd roweled him and roped him with
your love, my dear—and, though you do not know it, that's a terrible
thing to do to a free-running colt like Matt Peasley. He has his
code, and it's a bully code; and I don't want you to tie knots in it,
Florry. Won't you be as spunky and independent as he is, and give him
his head for six months more? He'll probably call sometime to-day, or
ring up, to tell you how I picked holes in the program; and when he
does I want you to smile and tell him you're glad of it, and suggest a
postponement of the wedding until he has demonstrated to me that he is
a business man."
Florence looked up and bravely smiled a forgiving smile through her
"You're a dreadful Buttinsky, Daddy Ricks!" she protested.
He kissed her hungrily.
"Oh, I'm a devil in my own home town!" he replied, and trotted back
to his neglected breakfast. "If Matt hasn't made good as a business
man within six months, or has lost his bank roll—and I intend to see
to it that he does lose it, if I ever get a hack at him—we'll pull
off this wedding anyhow. I guess there's room enough in this house
At nine o'clock Cappy Ricks, with a lilt in his heart, drove down
to his office behind his team of high-stepping bays. At the corner of
California and Drumm Streets he saw Matt Peasley and hailed him. The
latter came to the carriage door and looked in.
"It's all right, Matt," Cappy said with a cunning wink. "I've
fixed Florry's clock for her. There won't be the slightest trouble."
Matt Peasley wrung his hand gratefully.
"I quit the Sea Fox last night," he announced gladly.
"Going into business this morning, I suppose?"
"Ship, freight and marine insurance broker."
"Well, that's a line that will keep you hustling for your
wheatcakes until you get well acquainted. However, just to give you a
shove in the right direction, you might scout round the market and see
whether you can dig up a cargo for our steamer Tillicum. Usual
commission of two and a half per cent."
"Thank you, Mr. Ricks. I ought to be able to scare up something in
the way of a foreign lumber cargo for her."
"We've tried and failed. Moreover, her fuel-oil tankage isn't
sufficient to take her too far foreign and back; added to which she is
under American registry, employing American seamen, and I'd rather lay
her up than put a coolie crew aboard and compete with the British
tramps, with their Lascar and Chinamen, at six and seven dollars a
month. We've been running her in our own trade; but the lumber market
is very dull and she has but one more cargo in sight; after that is
freighted, unless we can find outside business for her, she'll have to
lay up in Oakland Inner Harbor until the Panama Canal opens—when, of
course, we can load her for the Atlantic seaboard. She carries nearly
two million feet, and that's what makes it so hard for us to keep her
"How about some Mexican or Central American business—general
cargo?" Matt suggested.
"Pretty hard stuff to get. The Pacific Mail has most of the
Central American business; and, owing to the political situation in
Mexico, that trade is practically killed. Every vessel that gets in
there has trouble with one faction or the other; they're liable to
confiscate, and then we'd have to call on the navy to get our ship
back for us."
"I'll look round for a grain charter to Honolulu and return with
sugar or general cargo."
"We might do that," Cappy suggested, brightening. "Good luck to
you, Matt—and don't be a stranger."
CHAPTER XXXVII. MATT PEASLEY
BECOMES A SHIPOWNER
A youth thrust a wary nose into Cappy Ricks' private office and
announced Captain Matt Peasley was desirous of admittance.
"Show him in," Cappy ordered, and Matt entered.
"Well, young man," said Cappy briskly, "sit down and tell me of
your adventures during your first week as a business man. Of course,
I hear from Florry that you have opened a dink of an office
somewhere—got desk space with the Alaskan Codfish Corporation,
haven't you, with the use of their telephone, stenographer and general
"Yes, sir. The manager, Slade, is a native of Thomaston—never
knew anything but fish all his life; and, inasmuch as I was raised on
the Grand Banks, I got in the habit of drifting round there
occasionally, and Slade offered me the privilege of making it my
headquarters. Ten dollars a month—cheap enough."
"Yes, considering the aroma of codfish that goes with it,
free-gratis," Cappy admitted dryly; "but then I suppose that's what
attracted you in the first place. But have you done any real
"Well, I've arranged with several good old-line insurance companies
to accept any marine-insurance business I may bring in, though I
haven't sold any yet; neither have I been able to find a load for your
Tillicum. By the way, you have a little old three-legged schooner
laid up in Oakland Inner Harbor."
"I have three of them—more's the pity!" Cappy replied—"the Ethel
Ricks, the Nukahiva and the Harpoon. Which one do you mean?"
"The Ethel Ricks. She's the only one I examined closely. Would
you consider selling her?"
"Ah," said Cappy, "I perceive. Your friend Slade wants her for a
"That's all she's good for now, Mr. Ricks. She has had her day in
the lumber trade; the steam schooners have relegated her to a final
resting place in the ooze of Oakland Inner Harbor; her class of
windjammers is a thing of the past for general cargo. She's been laid
up now for three years. True, her bottom is coppered and you dry-dock
her every year; but that's an expense. And then you must consider
taxes and depreciation, and sooner or later, if she lies in the mud
long enough, the Teredo will eat her up; so it occurred to me that you
might be glad to sell. She was built in 1883, but she was built to
"Never built a cheap ship in my life and never ran 'em cheap,"
Cappy challenged proudly. "The Ethel Ricks is in the discard, but
she's as sound a little packet as you'll find anywhere. She's had the
best of care. The same is true of the Harpoon and the Nukahiva."
"What do you want for her?"
"Four thousand dollars," Cappy answered promptly.
"I was offered the Dandelion for three thousand; she's ten years
younger than the Ethel Ricks and in very good condition. Sorry, but I
guess you'll have to keep the Ethel—and let me tell you, the longer
you keep her the less she's worth. However, I guess she doesn't owe
"No; she paid for herself more'n twice," Cappy replied.
"Then if you get three thousand for her it's like finding the money
and losing a worry."
"Sold!" said Cappy.
"I didn't say I'd buy," Matt warned him. "What do you want for the
Harpoon and the Nukahiva?"
"They're all sister ships. Three thousand each."
"I am empowered to make you an offer of twenty-seven hundred and
fifty dollars each for the three!" Matt shot at him.
"Net? The three of them?" Cappy was all attention now; for
selling schooners in lots of three was decidedly new and interesting.
"Hardly! Five per cent to me. Remember I'm a ship, freight and
marine insurance broker, and I'm not working for my health. Why, I
haven't even suggested any other vessels to my clients—and, by the
way, they are not codfish people either. I knew you'd want to get rid
of these little hookers, so I'm giving you first crack at the
"Who wants them?" Cappy demanded craftily.
"If I told you that you'd do me the way you did that Seattle broker
who tried to put through the charter of the Lion and the Unicorn.
When you knew who his clients were you were in position to defy
him—and you did!"
"No offense," Cappy retorted innocently. "Don't be so touchy! Is
this a cash proposition, Matt?"
"In the hand."
"Then give me a written option," Matt warned him. "No more
word-of-mouth business for me with you."
Cappy laughed; and, calling in a stenographer, he dictated the
"Now, then, Matt," he said as he signed the option five minutes
later and handed it to Matt, "who shall we make out the bills of sale
"To the Pacific Shipping Company. When you're ready telephone me
and I'll bring the check round."
"Go get your check now," Cappy ordered. "Skinner will have the
bills of sale ready by the time you return. And I do wish to heaven,"
he added, "that you had called round with this proposition four days
ago. I've just had those three schooners dry-docked, cleaned and
"Which is the very reason why I didn't call round until to-day, Mr.
Ricks. You can afford that dry-dock bill so much better than—er—the
Pacific Shipping Company."
He left, laughing, and proceeded to the office of the Pacific
Shipping Company, where he procured a check for eighty-two hundred and
fifty dollars and returned to the Blue Star Navigation Company's
office. Mr. Skinner had in the meantime prepared proper bills of sale;
a notary, with offices in the building, had been called in to attest
the signatures of Cappy Ricks and Mr. Hankins, president and secretary
respectively of the Blue Star Navigation Company; and when Cappy Ricks
handed over the bills of sale to Matt Peasley, together with the Blue
Star check for four hundred and twelve dollars and fifty cents—Matt's
commission—the latter handed him the certified check of the Pacific
"Who is the Pacific Shipping Company, Matt?" Cappy queried. "I
never heard of them before."
"It's a new company, sir," Matt replied; and, gathering up his
bills of sale and the check for his commission, he fled precipitately,
leaving Cappy Ricks to adjust his spectacles and examine the check.
It was signed: "Pacific Shipping Company, by Matthew Peasley,
For a long time Cappy Ricks sat staring at that check. Finally he
looked up and saw Mr. Skinner gazing at him. He held out the check
and tapped Matt Peasley's signature.
"Get on to that, Skinner, my boy," he said; "get on to that!
Matt's gone into the shipping business, and he's making an humble
start with three little old antiquated schooners, for which he has
paid me more than eight thousand dollars. Now he will go broke!"
"I do not agree with you, Mr. Ricks," Mr. Skinner replied dryly,
"for I notice he didn't forget to stick us four hundred and twelve
dollars and fifty cents for the privilege of selling him those three
schooners! This is the first time I ever heard of anybody's paying
the purchaser a commission!"
"The infernal scoundrel!" Cappy shrilled angrily, for Mr. Skinner's
assertion carried the hint that Cappy had been outgeneraled. "The
Yankee thief!—acting as broker for a company in which he owns all the
capital stock! In business a week and he's made over four hundred
dollars already, neat and nice, and as clean as a hound's tooth! Can
you beat it?"
"It's better than being a port captain for the Blue Star Navigation
Company at three hundred a month," Mr. Skinner suggested wistfully.
He had worked for a salary all his days, and after passing the
thirty mark he had lost the courage to leap into the commercial fray
and be his own man. He wished he might have been endowed at birth
with a modicum of Matt Peasley's courage and reckless disregard of
CHAPTER XXXVIII. WORKING CAPITAL
It was nearly ten weeks before Cappy Ricks laid eyes on Matt
Peasley again. Inquiry from Florry elicited the information that Matt
had gone to Mexico as skipper of his own schooner, the Harpoon, bound
on some mysterious business.
"He's taken the old Harpoon down there to stick a Mexican—I'll bet
a hat on that!" Cappy reflected. "I'll bet he'll have a tale to tell
when he gets back."
There came a day when Matt, looking healthy and happy, dropped in
for a social call.
"Well, young man," Cappy greeted him, "give an account of yourself.
How do you find business?"
"The finest game in the world," Matt replied heartily. "I had the
Ethel Ricks snaked out of the mud and hauled out on the marine
railway, where I bossed a gang of riggers and sailmakers for a week,
getting her gear in shape while she was having a gas engine and tanks
for the distillate installed. Then I gave her a dab of paint here and
there, sweetened her up, and sold her to Slade, of the Alaska
Codfishing Corporation, at a net profit of fifteen hundred dollars
over her total cost to me. Nearly two thousand for my first month in
business. Not so bad, eh?"
"You'll do better after a while," Cappy remarked dryly. "I hear
you've been to Mexico. How about it, boy?"
"I took the Harpoon down myself, and hired a skipper to take the
Nukahiva. Before doing so, however, I overhauled their gear and
installed gas engines in them also—only I'd learned something by this
time. I bought second-hand engines, rebuilt, but with a guaranty, and
they cost me a thousand dollars less than new engines. In
conversation with Captain Kirk, of the steamer San Blas, I had heard
that a company in Guaymas was thinking of buying a couple of little
coasting schooners, putting gas engines in them, and adding these
crafts to their fleet running out of Guaymas to Mazatlan, Topolobampo,
and way ports. So I went down, put my schooners under the Mexican
flag, and started opposition. The old-established company went to the
local military commander and tried to get him to commandeer my vessels
for the use of the government, which pays in depreciated shinplasters
that may be worth something some day a hundred years from now."
"Whew-w-w!" Cappy whistled. "That was a narrow squeak, Matt. How
did you dodge it?"
"I had the local military commander on my payroll, with good
American gold, before I ever started anything. I knew he'd come to
shake me down; so I anticipated him and made a monthly donation to the
cause of liberty. I do not know for certain, but I imagine he went
south with it himself, though I do not begrudge the amount. I only
paid him for one month anyhow. By that time I had an offer to sell
out; and I did, reluctantly, but for real money and at a much better
figure than if I had not made it an object for them to buy. I got out
with a net profit of seventy-four hundred and fifty dollars on the two
schooners. Not so bad, eh, Mr. Ricks? Over nine thousand dollars in
less than three months? Of course, I realize I could not have made
that much if I hadn't had the funds with which to speculate."
Cappy nodded. Words were beyond him for the time being. Finally
"Matt, that was pure gambling, though you think it was a
speculation. It was mighty poor business, even if you did emerge with
a fancy profit. You might have been cleaned out."
"Yes; and if the hare hadn't stopped to take a nap the tortoise
would not have won the race," Matt replied. "So far as I can see, all
business is a gamble and every investment is a bet; hence, a good
business man is a good gambler."
Cappy Ricks sighed.
"There is a special providence," he said, "that looks after fools,
drunken men and sailors."
CHAPTER XXXIX. EASY MONEY
Captain Matt Peasley's first act after consummating his first
successful deal was to purchase for the Pacific Shipping Company a
membership in the Merchants' Exchange, on the floor of which he knew
he would meet daily all the shipping men of San Francisco, and thus be
enabled to keep in touch with trade conditions.
He had been a member less than a week when the wisdom of spending
five hundred dollars for his membership was made delightfully
apparent. While he stood watching the secretary chalk on the
blackboard the record of the latest arrivals and departures, he heard
a man behind him speaking:
"Heyfuss, I'm in the market to charter another freighter for the
Panama run. You might look round and see whether you can line
something up for us. I'd like about a two-thousand-ton boat; and we
could charter her for a year."
"There's only one vessel available," the man addressed as Heyfuss
answered; "and that's the Tillicum. Cappy Ricks had her laid up in
Matt moved away and approached a clerk at the desk.
"That dark-haired man with the thick glasses, talking with Mr.
Heyfuss," he said—"who is he?"
"That is Mr. Henry Kelton, manager of G. H. Morrow Company," the
clerk answered. "They operate a line of sailing vessels foreign and
half a dozen steamers to South American ports."
Matt thanked him, entered a telephone booth and on consulting the
telephone directory, discovered that J. 0. Heyfuss was a broker.
"I'll have to step lively to beat Heyfuss to it," he soliloquized,
and forthwith hastened down to the office of the Blue Star Navigation
"Well, young man!" Cappy greeted him genially. "How about you?"
"Never mind me. How about the Tillicum?"
"Laid up in Oakland Inner Harbor waiting for better times."
"I think I can give her some business. Would you charter her to
the Pacific Shipping Company?"
"Well," Cappy replied, "I might be induced to take a chance in
these hard times. How much money have you in bank to-day?"
"In a pinch I could lay my hands on thirty thousand, cash."
"Well," said Cappy thoughtfully, "that little roll, plus an
established credit and a reputation for business experience, might
carry you far with some people—but not with me. You're not a safe
bet—yet; but we can make it safe."
"You can pay the charter money in advance," Cappy answered
"I have decided not to do any more gambling, Mr. Ricks. Hereafter,
as near as such a thing may be humanly possible, I'm going to play a
sure thing. Therefore, all things being equal, if I can guarantee you
your price for the steamer, on a year's charter, you do not care what
I do with the vessel, provided that I do not injure her?"
"Well, then, in order to play safe and protect you, suppose I
charter her from you, contingent on my ability to recharter her to
some responsible shipping firm. Under those conditions would you
exact the charter money in advance? You know very well that when I
collect my money from the charterers you'll get yours right away."
"Without question, Matt; but sometimes a fellow cannot collect his
money from the charterers, and then the owner has to wait. I'm taking
no chances to speak of on you, Matthew, my son; but for the sake of
making it a sporting proposition I'll talk business on the basis of
fifty per cent. of the charter money, payable monthly in advance."
"That's cold-blooded, but I can stand it. What is the Tillicum
going to cost me a day?"
"What kind of charter do you want—government form or bare boat?"
"You might give me an option with a price based on each form. I
haven't the slightest idea what form my prospective victim prefers,
though I prefer a bare-boat charter. I will close with you on
whatever basis he prefers, if that is satisfactory."
"I'll make many concessions to get that vessel out of the mud and
to sea, and paying a reasonable rate on the money invested in her. I
hate to keep a good skipper and a good chief engineer on the beach,
and I want them to begin drawing their salaries again."
Cappy reached into his desk and produced a little loose-leaf
memorandum book, and from certain figures therein contained he
commenced to figure what he should charge Matt for the ship. On his
part, Matt, whose apprenticeship under the Blue Star had made him
tolerably familiar with every steamer in the fleet, got out a pad and
pencil and commenced to figure the cost of operation himself. Not
knowing the cost of the steamer or the ratio of profit Cappy might
expect on the investment, however, he was more or less at sea until
Cappy had named his figures; whereupon Matt pretended to do some more
figuring. Finally he frowned and said:
"Fifty dollars a day too much."
He did not know a thing about it, but he knew Cappy Ricks well
enough to know that Cappy would first decide on his minimum price and
then add a hundred dollars a day for good measure; hence, Yankeelike,
Matt commenced to chaffer, with the result that before he left the
office Cappy had abated his price fifty dollars a day and given Matt a
forty-eight-hour option on the vessel, agreeing to charter her to him
at the figures specified, contingent on Matt's ability to recharter
her to a responsible firm.
Cappy chuckled as Matt Peasley left the office.
"You're taking a pretty big bite, Matt," he soliloquized; "so I'll
handicap you. And if anything goes wrong, and you fail to collect
from your people, I'll give you a lesson in high finance that you'll
never forget, young man! I'll bet my immortal soul you're going to
try to do business with Morrow Company; and if that outfit isn't
scheduled for involuntary bankruptcy, then I'm a Chinaman. A charter
for a year, eh? They'll never last a year. They'll bust, owing you a
month's charter money, Matthew, and the vessel will be at sea, most
likely, or in a South American port, when that happens; and you can't
throw her back on me until you deliver her in her home port. And
meantime your charter to me keeps rambling right along, and I'll
attach your bankroll if you're a day late with your payment in
advance. Yes, sir; I'll break you in two for the good of your
immortal soul. Matt—Matt, my son—something tells me you're
monkeying with fire and liable to get burned."
From Cappy Ricks' office Matt Peasley called on Kelton of Morrow
Company. Kelton, a shrewd, double-action sort of person and the
smartest shipping man on the street, looked with frank curiosity at
Matt's modest card.
"Pacific Shipping Company, eh? That's a new one on me, Captain
Peasley," he said.
"It's a new one on me also," Matt replied humorously; "in fact, it
is too recent to be very well known. We've been operating a fleet of
windjammers, with auxiliary power, down on the Mexican Coast," he
added truthfully, calm in the knowledge that two schooners constitute
a fleet if one be not inclined to split conversational hairs; "but we
sold them and decided to go into the steamship business. We hope to
buy or build a line of freighters to run to Atlantic Coast ports via
the Panama Canal."
"What steam vessels have you got now?" Kelton queried interestedly.
"Only one at present, Mr. Kelton. We've acquired the Tillicum,
late of the Blue Star fleet."
"Indeed!" replied Kelton.
He was all attention now; for, though Matt Peasley did not know it,
less than ten days previous Kelton had tried to charter the Tillicum
direct from Cappy Ricks, who, knowing something of the financial
condition of Morrow Company, had declined to consider a charter
unless under a guaranty of payment other than that of Morrow Company.
Kelton was in urgent need of a steamer to cope with the congestion of
freight, and the Tillicum suited the purpose of his company admirably;
hence, the news that he might still be able to acquire her filled him
with sudden hope.
"Indeed!" he reiterated. "I had no idea Cappy Ricks contemplated
selling her, though it has been common talk on the street that he made
a mistake in building such a big boat as the Tillicum for the
coastwise lumber trade. She was too hard to find business for, and I
dare say he was sick of his bargain."
"Well, I thought we'd take a chance on her," Matt replied, not
taking the trouble to disabuse Kelton of the impression to which he
had apparently jumped—to wit, that the Pacific Shipping Company had
purchased the Tillicum.
"What do you intend doing with her?" Kelton continued.
"They tell me business is good on the Panama run, and it will be
better when the Canal is opened. However, until the Canal does open,
we would prefer to keep out of the Pacific Coast trade. Competition
always means a rate war, with consequent loss to both parties to the
struggle; so we'd rather charter the Tillicum for a year if we could.
I heard you were in the market for a boat."
"I think we might use the Tillicum," Kelton replied. "What are you
asking for her?"
Matt named a figure considerably in advance of what he expected to
receive and stipulated a bare-boat charter—that is to say, Kelton's
company should pay the entire cost of operating the vessel, and select
her crew and officers with the exception of the captain and chief
engineer, it being customary among many owners, when chartering a
vessel, to stipulate that their own captain, in whom they have
confidence, shall command her. Cappy Ricks always specified his own
skipper and chief engineer.
When Matt named his figure Kelton promptly shouted "Thief!" but
made the mistake of shouting too loud—whereat Matt Peasley knew he
was not sincere and promptly decided to outgame him. At the end of
half an hour of argument and much futile figuring, which deceived
nobody, Matt abated his price twenty-five dollars a day and Kelton
said he would think it over. Matt knew the charter was as good as
closed, and when he left Morrow Company's office he repaired straight
to that of Cappy Ricks.
"I think I'll be able to recharter, Mr. Ricks," he said
confidently. "Have you any objection to Morrow Company as
Cappy started slightly, hesitated a fraction of a second, and
replied that he had no objection whatsoever.
"Very well, sir," Matt replied. "Will you please have Mr. Skinner
prepare the charter parties right away, sign them, and send them over
to my office for my signature? I can't wait to sign them now. And
about the captain—I suppose you'll want to put in your own skipper,
of course. Who is he?"
"Have you any objection to inserting a clause in the charter party
stipulating that, if for any reason Captain Grant proves objectionable
to the charterers, I may take command of the vessel myself? As
charterer I will have a very vital interest in the vessel and I might
feel called on to protect that interest personally."
"Matt," said Cappy earnestly, "I'll trust you in preference to most
men with any ship of mine. Still, Grant is a very able man."
"He might be too slow for me, Mr. Ricks. I prefer to have a spare
anchor in case of necessity."
"Well, have it your own way," Cappy acquiesced, and summoned Mr.
Skinner to prepare the charter parties, while Matt went back to his
own office and gave instructions that he was not to be called to the
Something told him that Kelton would be ringing up before the day
was over to accept his price on the Tillicum, and he did not want to
be placed in the position of having to give a yes or no answer until
he had seen Cappy Ricks' charter parties, with Cappy's signature
attached. He would then close up his deal with Morrow Company, after
which he would sign Cappy's charter parties and turn two copies over
to Cappy. In this way he would be enabled to play safe and save his
face in case any hitch occurred at the last minute.
The charter parties, duly signed and in triplicate, arrived from
Cappy Ricks in the morning's mail, with a request from Cappy for Matt
to append his signature to two copies and return them to the Blue Star
Navigation Company. Matt, after first assuring himself that the
instrument was in order, called up Kelton, who informed him that he
would accept Matt's offer for a year's charter of the Tillicum.
Within half an hour Matt had his charter parties ready for Kelton's
signature and the deal was closed; whereupon Matt signed the charter
party Cappy Ricks had sent him and handed it to Cappy, together with a
check for nine thousand dollars—one half the monthly rental of the
Cappy whistled softly through his teeth as he handed the documents
to Mr. Skinner and instructed him to put the Tillicum in commission at
CHAPTER XL. THE CATACLYSM
For two voyages all went well. The Tillicum was engaged in
carrying general cargo to Panama for reshipment over the Panama
Railroad to Colon, at which point it was reshipped in steamers to
ports along the Atlantic seaboard. Following the universal custom,
Matt's charter with Morrow Company stipulated settlement in full every
thirty days, whereas his charter with Cappy Ricks, for reasons best
known to Cappy, stipulated payment in full every fifteen days; which
arrangement operated to keep nine thousand dollars of Matt's money in
Cappy's hands continuously. This fact graveled Matt whenever he
reflected that money was worth at least seven per cent.; but, since he
was making sixty dollars a day profit as the result of his deal, he
concluded not to mention this point to Cappy Ricks.
Morrow Company met the first monthly payment with cash on the nail.
At the second settlement, however, when Matt called for his check,
Kelton requested, as a special favor, that Matt allow him four days'
time. A clever talker, with a peculiarly winning way about him, he
disarmed suspicion very readily, and Matt assured him he would be very
glad indeed to extend him such a slight courtesy.
Meantime, however, Cappy Ricks had to be reckoned with; so, in
order not to keep him waiting, Matt sent him another check for nine
thousand dollars. Cappy now had eighteen thousand dollars of Matt's
money; and on the fourth day, when the latter called on Kelton for his
check, the latter actually made him feel ashamed of himself for
calling and sent him away with one-half of the sum now overdue! This
perturbed Matt somewhat, but when he showed some slight indication of
it Kelton playfully picked up a glass paper weight and threatened to
destroy him if he did not get out of the office at once; so, because
it is difficult to be serious with a man who declines to take one
seriously, Matt forced a grin and departed, with the light intimation
that he would return in three days, and if the check was not
forthcoming then he would fresco Kelton's office with the latter's
"Get out!" shouted Kelton laughingly. "I know money is tight and I
don't blame you for being Fido-at-the-rat-hole; but if you bother me
about that check for a week I'll not speak to you."
So Matt waited a week, and then the check reached him by mail, with
a courteous note from Kelton thanking him for his leniency. It seemed
to Matt he had scarcely acknowledged the receipt of that check before
he had to give Cappy Ricks another nine thousand dollars!
Morrow Company were late again on the third month, but this time
they did not wait to be dunned. On the day before the payment was due
Kelton took Matt Peasley to luncheon and in the course of the meal he
informed Matt, quite casually, that he would be a little late with his
check. With two dollars' worth of his genial host's food under his
belt, Matt felt that it would be rude, to say the least, if he
insisted on settlement; so he said:
"Oh, don't worry about that, old man! Give it to me as soon as you
can, because I'm a little pinched myself."
Nevertheless, Matt was beginning to worry, for his acquaintance
throughout the trade had extended rapidly, due to his propensity for
making friends, and he had heard one or two little rumors that Morrow
Company had bitten off more than they could chew in a few big deals
of late and had been badly pinched; in fact, to such an extent did
Matt ponder on the possibility of the company's going into the hands
of the receiver, leaving his thirty thousand dollars to disappear into
the ravening maw of the Blue Star Navigation Company, that he forgot
to send Cappy his check for nine thousand dollars the day it was due.
And the next morning Cappy himself called up and, in a voice that
seemed to come straight from a cold-storage plant, asked him what he
meant by it, and requested him—though to Matt it sounded like a
peremptory demand—to send the check over at once. So angry and
humiliated did Matt feel as a result of this dun, he could not trust
himself to call with the check but sent it by special delivery.
The Tillicum had returned from her second voyage to Panama and was
about to commence loading her third cargo when another payment fell
due. To Matt's chagrin Kelton again pleaded for delay; and again Matt
settled with Cappy Ricks prior to collecting from Morrow Company.
Kelton had promised a check on the following Wednesday, and on the
appointed day Matt called, only to be met with a request for further
delay. Kelton explained that Mr. Morrow had been taken very ill and
things were at sixes and sevens in the office as a result. Could not
Matt wait until Saturday, when Mr. Morrow would be back to sign a
"What's wrong with Morrow?" Matt demanded pointedly. "Has he got
paralysis of the right hand?"
"Worse than that," Kelton answered seriously. "He's on the verge
of nervous prostration."
"But can't you sign a check?"
"Y-e-s; but Mr. Morrow generally attends to all financial details."
"Well, we'll excuse him from attending to this detail," Matt
replied. "I want a check and I want it now, because it is a week
overdue; the vessel is nearly loaded and about to go to sea, and if I
do not get my money—"
"Well, suppose I give you half of it now and the other half in a
day or two?" Kelton suggested.
He looked worried and unhappy, and Matt felt sorry for him; for,
indeed, Kelton was a likable chap and perfectly trustworthy, and Matt
sensed some of the worry that was falling on the manager in his
desperate efforts to run a business on short capital. However, Matt's
own financial shoestring was too short for him to afford any
sentiment, though, for the reason that he was naturally kind-hearted
and considerate, he consented to accept a check for half the amount
due and left Kelton to the society of the many devils which seemed to
be tormenting him.
On the sidewalk he paused suddenly. So Morrow was on the verge of
nervous prostration, eh? That was bad. It had been Matt's experience
that, as a usual thing, but two things conduce to bring about nervous
prostration—overwork and worry; and in Morrow's case it must be
worry, for Kelton did all the work! Kelton, too, looked haggard and
"I must be very careful," Matt told himself, "for if that concern
should go broke while the Tillicum is en route to Panama my charter to
Morrow Company may be considered to have terminated automatically;
and if they go under owing me from ten to twenty thousand dollars, I'm
still responsible to Cappy Ricks for my charter of the Tillicum until
I can bring her back to her home port and turn her back to him. Thank
God for that clause in the charter which gives me the privilege of
terminating my charter with Cappy in case Morrow Company terminate
their charter with me! It will be all right if they terminate it
while the vessel is in San Francisco; but if she's very far from home
I'll most certainly be eaten alive while I'm getting her back to
He returned to his office and went into a long executive session
with himself, from which he aroused presently and went down to the
dock where the cargo was pouring into the hold of the Tillicum. Here
he consulted with the captain and the purser, and obtained a list of
all persons, firms or corporations which had furnished supplies of any
kind to the deck department of the steamer. From the chief engineer
he procured a similar list of those who had furnished supplies to the
engine department; and, armed with this information, he returned to
his office and dictated the following form letter:
Gentlemen:—Please take notice that we as charterers of the
steamer Tillicum from the Blue Star Navigation Company, and as
recharterers to Messrs. G. H. Morrow Company, will not be
responsible for the payment to you of any bills for supplies or
stores, of any nature whatsoever, furnished to the said steamer
Tillicum since she has been under charter to said G. H. Morrow
Company. Any bills contracted with you by G. H. Morrow
Company for account of the Tillicum must be paid to you by
G. H. Morrow Company. This notice is hereby given you in order
that we may go on record as disclaiming any responsibility as
charterers prior to the departure of the said steamer Tillicum
on her next voyage.
Yours very truly,
PACIFIC SHIPPING COMPANY,
By Matthew Peasley, President.
A copy of this letter Matt sent by registered mail, with a request
for a return registry receipt, to each of the creditors of the
Tillicum of whom he could get track. He had all the receipts in hand
by the last mail delivery the next day, and at eight o'clock that
night the Tillicum, having cleared the customs the same afternoon,
departed for Panama. Two days later Matt again called on Morrow
Company for the money due him and, after much argument, succeeded in
getting it. He hastened at once to the bank on which it was drawn and
asked the paying teller to certify it. This the latter declined to
do—neither would he cash the check; so Matt took it back to Kelton.
"Kelton," he said, "the bank will not honor your check."
Kelton looked desperate.
"Confound you!" he growled. "I stalled you until five minutes
before the bank closed, thinking you would deposit it in your own bank
to-morrow morning and I'd have a deposit to cover it by that time. It
will be all right first thing in the morning, Peasley."
"It had better be!" Matt told him bluntly. "Your charter provides
for cancellation in the event that payments are not made as
stipulated, and I'm not in a position to carry you or to take any
chances on you—and I'm not going to."
"I can't blame you a bit," Kelton answered regretfully. "I tell
you, with the money market as tight as it is, we're beating the devil
round the stump these days. Confound it, Peasley, a man has to do
some scheming and stalling when everybody is crowding him for money,
The check was not paid when Matt presented it the next morning. As
he came out of the bank a newsboy, crying his daily sensation,
accosted him with the first afternoon edition, and Matt's glance
caught a smear of red ink seven columns wide across the front page:
SHIPPING MAN A SUICIDE!
It was Morrow!
For about a minute Matt Peasley stood on the corner, doing some of
the fastest thinking he had ever done. Morrow had taken a short cut
out of his financial worries, and Matt realized that the tragedy would
undoubtedly bring an avalanche of creditors down on the unhappy Kelton
and ruin the firm. At any rate, the concern would doubtless go into
the hands of a receiver, and Matt Peasley might or might not hope for
his in the sweet by and by, according to the amount of salvage
reported. The Tillicum was seventy-six hours at sea!
"Matthew," Matt Peasley murmured to himself, "'theirs not to reason
why, theirs but to do and die'—and all in one thundering big hurry!"
CHAPTER XLI. WHEN PAIN AND ANGUISH
WRING THE BROW
Cappy Ricks was having his siesta, with his feet on top of his
desk, when Matt Peasley came bounding in, seized him by the shoulder
and shook him wideawake.
"Well, young man," Cappy snapped querulously, "what's all the
"Morrow has committed suicide, and I know the firm is in financial
difficulties. I'll not be able to collect now—I'll have to wait with
the rest of the creditors; and meantime the Tillicum, fully loaded, is
somewhere down off the Mexican coast. Good gracious, Mr. Ricks,
there's the very devil to pay!"
"We will, if you please, not include outsiders in this argument for
the present, Matt," Cappy retorted dryly. "The unfortunate devil does
not pay! You do, Matt. I should worry!"
"But you can help me save something from the wreck!" Matt pleaded
desperately. "It's going to clean me of my last dollar to make good
with you on my charter, even if Morrow Company do not make good with
me on theirs; and—"
Cappy Ricks held up his hand.
"My dear boy," he said with maddening calm, "listen to me! I had a
hunch this would happen. As a matter of fact, I declined to charter
to Morrow Company direct ten days before you came prancing in with
your head all swelled up with a brand-new idea for making a lot of
easy money in a hurry. Me charter to them—me!" In his superb scorn
Cappy waxed ungrammatical. "I should kiss a pig! Why, if sawmills
were selling for six bits each I wouldn't trust that concern with a
hatful of sawdust—not that they weren't honest and capable, but they
haven't got any money to speak of any more!"
"But—but—Why, dad burn it, sir, you said it was perfectly
agreeable to you to have me charter the Tillicum to them!" Matt
roared, angry, hurt and amazed.
"Why should I worry what you do? I have all I can do to attend to
my own business. Why should I tell you yours?"
"No ifs or buts, Matt. I played safe; but you're caught away off
third base and now you're out! You've got to settle with me for every
day you have that vessel under charter until you deliver her back here
in San Francisco Bay and formally surrender her to me. You've got to
pay me—and what's more, I'm going to see to it that you do! Business
is business, my boy."
"Well, I'll pay you all the cash I can and give you my note for the
"Your note!" Cappy jeered. "Your note! What do I want with your
note! Is it hockable at any bank? Huh! Answer me that."
"You needn't insult me!" Matt growled wrathfully.
"Bah!" Cappy sneered. "You think you're mighty smart, don't you,
Matt? Do you remember what I told you when you declined to go to work
for me and insisted on going into business for yourself? I told you
you'd go bust—and you're going right now. All you'll have left in
thirty days will be the clothes you stand in and the corporation seal
of the Pacific Shipping Company. Ho-ho! Isn't that funny? The idea
of a man's paying thirty thousand dollars for a dinky old corporation
seal worth two and a half!"
Matt Peasley's face went white with suppressed fury.
"Yes," he said quietly. "I seem to remember some such prophecy;
also, some conversation to the effect that I'd be a better business
man if I purchased my business experience with my own money. You said
there were wolves along California Street that would take my roll away
from me so fast it'd surprise me. I must confess, however, that I had
no idea you would lead the pack! However, I didn't come here to
argue, Mr. Ricks—"
"What did you come for? Sympathy?" Cappy queried. "Because, if
you did, you've come to the wrong shop, my boy. Business is business,
Matt; I never mix sentiment with it and I advise you never to do it
either. Pay your way and take your beating like a sport—that's my
"Do you want to save the Blue Star Navigation Company some money?"
Matt managed to articulate.
"Certainly! Now you're talking business; so I'll listen."
"As charterer of your steamer Tillicum, I find that Captain Grant,
the master you installed there, is offensive to me. I object to the
way he parts his hair and knots his necktie, and I want a new skipper
on the ship."
Cappy Ricks slid out to the edge of his swivel chair, placed a hand
on each knee and eyed Matt suspiciously over the rims of his
spectacles. After a long silence he shook his head negatively.
"Then I'll sue you!" Matt replied. "There's a clause in the
charter party. You've got to do it."
Cappy's mouth flew open.
"Oh, by Judas Priest, that's right," he said, and laughed. "So
you're providing a job for yourself after the smoke clears away, eh?"
he quizzed. "Well, you can skipper the Tillicum while you keep up the
payments of the charter money, Matt; but I give you my word that the
day you slip up on a payment, out you go and back Captain Grant goes
into the ship. Meantime, however, I think I see now why you inserted
that clause. In the event of just such a contingency as the present
you wanted the privilege of jumping in and taking command yourself."
"Captain Grant is a good man, but old. He can't drive a crew like
I can, Mr. Ricks—and, with me on the job, that steamer will be
discharged and back in San Francisco Bay from three to five days
sooner that she would ordinarily. It means six hundred dollars a day
to me, sir, and every day saved is worth that much cash in hand to
you, since you profess to think so lightly of my promissory note."
"Enough!" Cappy commanded. "I'll admit that the thought does you
credit. It was a mighty bright idea, Matt, and showed fine
forethought. Now, then, what are you going to do to save your roll?"
"The City of Para leaves for Panama to-morrow. Give me a letter to
Captain Grant, commanding him to turn his ship over to me on
presentation of this letter. I will furnish him the funds to pay his
transportation back to San Francisco."
"Fair enough," said Cappy; and, calling in a stenographer, he
dictated the desired letter.
Ten minutes later Matt Peasley had left the office without the
formality of saying good-by to Cappy Ricks, and was in a taxicab en
route to his lodgings to pack his steamer trunk and hand baggage.
Cappy Ricks chuckled as Matt went angrily out.
"Ah—that first time a man goes broke!" he soliloquized. "What a
blow to one's pride! What a shock to the nervous system!" He sighed.
"Poor old Matt! Nobody knows better than Cappy Ricks how you feel,
because he's been there twice and it blamed near broke his heart each
time it happened."
He shook his head with an air of satisfaction, for things were
going well with him. He had made a prophecy and it was in a fair way
of being fulfilled—nay, its fulfillment was inevitable; whereat
Cappy, after the habit of the aged in their conflict with Youth, felt
very much like shaking hands with himself. Indeed, so pleased was he
that presently he called in Mr. Skinner and related the story in
meticulous detail to the general manager.
Mr. Skinner was delighted. More—he was overcome. He sat down and
permitted himself the most soul-satisfying laugh he had had in years.
CHAPTER XLII. UNEXPECTED
Mr. Skinner thrust his head into Cappy Ricks' office and said:
"I've just had a telephone message from the Merchants' Exchange.
The Tillicum is passing in."
"Then," said Cappy Ricks, "in about two hours at the latest we may
expect a mournful visit from Captain Matt Peasley."
"If you don't mind, Mr. Ricks," said Skinner with a smirk, "I
should dearly love to be present at the interview."
Cappy smiled brightly.
"By all means, Skinner, my dear boy; by all means, since you wish
it. It just about breaks my heart to think of the cargo of grief I'm
going to slip that boy; but I have resolved to be firm, Skinner. He
owes us eighteen thousand dollars and he must go through with his
contract to the very letter, and pay the Blue Star Navigation Company
every last cent due it. He will, doubtless, suggest some sort of
settlement—ten cents on the dollar—"
"Don't agree to it," Mr. Skinner pleaded. "He has more than a
thousand dollars a month going to his credit on our books from the
Unicorn charter, and if that vessel stays afloat a year longer we'll
be in the clear. Be very firm with him, Mr. Ricks. As you say, it is
all for his own benefit and the experience will do him a whole lot of
"I love the boy," said Cappy; "but in the present case, Skinner, I
haven't any heart. A chunk of anthracite coal is softer than that
particular organ this morning. Be sure to show Matt in the minute he
comes up from the dock."
Mr. Skinner needed no urging when, less than two hours later,
Captain Matt Peasley arrived. Mr. Skinner greeted him courteously and
followed him into Cappy's office.
"Well, well, well!" Cappy began unctuously. "How do you do, Matt,
my dear boy? Glad to see you; in fact, we're extra glad to see you,"
he added significantly and winked at Mr. Skinner, who caught the hint
and murmured loud enough for Matt Peasley to hear:
"Eighteen thousand dollars to-morrow!"
Cappy extended a hand, which Matt grasped heartily.
"You're looking fit as a fiddle," Cappy continued. "Doesn't look a
bit worried—does he, Skinner?"
"I must admit he appears to carry it off very well, Mr. Ricks. We
had thought, captain," Skinner continued, turning to Matt Peasley,
"that, when Mr. Ricks agreed to permit you to assume command of the
Tillicum when she reached Panama, we might have been treated to an
exhibition of speed; but the fact of the matter is that instead of
economizing on time you are about ten days in excess of the period it
would have taken for Captain Grant to have discharged his cargo and
gotten back to San Francisco." He winked at Cappy Ricks, who returned
"You mean in ballast," Matt suggested. Skinner nodded. "Oh, well,
that accounts for it," Matt continued serenely. "I came home with a
cargo of steel rails."
Cappy Ricks slid out to the extreme edge of his swivel chair; and,
with a hand on each knee, he gazed at Matt Peasley over the rims of
his spectacles. Mr. Skinner started violently.
"You came home with a cargo of steel rails?" Cappy demanded
"Certainly! Do you suppose I would go to the expense of hiring
somebody else to skipper the Tillicum while I was there with my
license? Not by a jugful! I was saving every dollar I could. I had
"Er—er—Where is Captain Grant?" Skinner demanded.
"Captain Grant is free, white and twenty-one. He goes where he
pleases without consulting me, Mr. Skinner. He means nothing in my
life—so why should I know where he is?"
"You infernal scoundrel!" shrilled Cappy Ricks. "You whaled hell
out of him and threw him out on the dock at Panama—that's what you
did to him! You took the Tillicum away from him by force."
"Captain Grant is a fine, elderly gentleman, sir," Matt
interrupted. "I would not use force on him. He left the ship of his
own free will at San Diego, California."
"At San Diego?" Cappy and Skinner cried in unison.
"At San Diego."
"But you said you were going to Panama on the City of Para, the
regular passenger liner," Cappy challenged.
"Well, I wasn't committed to that course, sir. After leaving your
office I changed my mind. I figured the Tillicum was somewhere off
the coast of Lower California; so I wirelessed Captain Grant,
explained to him that the ship was back on my hands by reason of the
failure of Morrow Company, and ordered him to put into San Diego for
further orders. He proceeded there; I proceeded there; we met; I
presented your letter relieving him of his command. Simple enough,
"But what became of him?"
"How should I know, sir? I've been as busy as a bird dog down in
Panama. Please let me get on with my story. I had just cleared Point
Loma and was about to surrender the bridge to my first mate when an
interesting little message came trickling out of the ether—and my
wireless boy picked it up, because it was addressed to 'Captain Grant,
Master S. S. Tillicum.'"
Cappy Ricks quivered and licked his lower lip, but said nothing.
"That message," Matt continued, "was brought to me by the operator,
who really didn't know what to do with it. Captain Grant had left the
ship and Sparks didn't know what hotel in San Diego the late master of
the Tillicum would put up for the night; so I read the message to see
whether it was important, for I felt that it had to do with the ship's
business and that I was justified in reading it."
Again Cappy Ricks squirmed. Mr. Skinner commenced to gnaw his
"That message broke me all up," Matt continued sadly. "It
destroyed completely my faith in human nature and demonstrated beyond
a doubt that there is no such thing in this world as fair play in
business. It's like a waterfront fight. You just get your man down
and everything goes—kicking, biting, gouging, knee-work!" Matt
sighed dolorously and drew from his vest pocket a scrap of paper.
"Just listen to this for a message!" He continued. "Just imagine
how nice you'd feel, Mr. Ricks, if you were skippering a boat and
picked up a message like this at sea:
"'Grant, Master Steamer Tillicum: Gave Captain Matt Peasley a
letter to you yesterday ordering you to turn over command of
Tillicum to him on presentation or demand. This on his request
and on his insistence, as per clause in charter party, copy of
which you have. Peasley leaves to-day for Panama on City of
Para. This will be your authority for declining to surrender
the ship to him when he comes aboard there. Stand pat! Letter
with complete instructions for your guidance follows on City of
Cappy Ricks commenced tapping one foot nervously against the other,
Mr. Skinner coughed perfunctorily, while Matt withered each with a
rather sorrowful glance.
"Of course you can imagine the shock this gave me. I give you my
word that for as much as five seconds I didn't know what to do; but
after that I got real busy. I swung the ship and came ramping back to
San Diego harbor, slipped ashore in the small boat and found Captain
Grant at the railroad station buying a ticket for San Francisco. I
had to wait and watch the ticket office for an hour before he showed
up, and when he did I made him a proposition. I told him that if he
would agree to keep away from the office of the Blue Star Navigation
Company you might think he was peeved at being relieved of his command
so peremptorily, and hence would not attach any importance to his
failure to report at the office.
"In consideration of this I gave him my word of honor that he would
be restored to his command as soon as I could bring the Tillicum back
from Panama, and meantime his salary would continue just the same—in
proof of which I gave him a check for two months' pay in advance. He
said he thought it all a very queer proceeding; but, since he was no
longer in command of the Tillicum, it wasn't up to him to ask
questions, and he agreed to my proposition. However, he said he
thought he ought to wire the company acknowledging receipt of their
instructions with reference to surrendering his command—and I agreed
with him that he should. 'But,' I said, 'why bother sending such a
message, collect, ashore, when we pay a flat monthly rate to the
wireless company for the plant and operator aboard the ship, no matter
how many messages we send? Give me your message to Mr. Ricks and when
I get back aboard the Tillicum I'll wireless it to him for you, and it
won't cost the ship a cent extra.'
"Well, you know your own captains, Mr. Ricks. They'll save their
ships a dollar wherever they can; and simple, honest Old Man Grant
agreed to my suggestion. Before he had an opportunity to consider I
stepped to the telegraph office and wrote this message for him." Matt
produced another telegram and read:
"'Blue Star Navigation Company,
"'258 California Street, San Francisco.
"'Instructions with reference to change of masters received.
Would feel badly if I thought any act of mine necessitated
change; but since my conscience is clear I shall not worry. I
always have done and always shall do my duty to my owners
without thought of my personal interests, and you may rely
fully on that in the present emergency.'
"Well, sir, that sounded so infernally grandiloquent to Old Man
Grant that his hand actually trembled with emotion as he signed it—at
my suggestion. You know I'd hate to be tried for forgery. Then I
shook hands with him and started for Panama once more—only this time
I kept right on going; and I didn't spare the fuel oil either. Why
should I? It wasn't costing me anything."
Both Cappy and Mr. Skinner winced, as from a blow. Matt waited for
them to say something, but they didn't; so after a respectful interval
"Off the Coronado Islands I sent you Captain Grant's diplomatic
message. I was very glad to send it to you, Mr. Ricks, because I knew
its receipt would make you very happy, and I like to scatter happiness
wherever I can. The Scriptures say we should return good for evil."
Cappy Ricks bounded to his feet and shook a skinny fist under Matt
"You're a damned scoundrel!" he piped, beside himself with rage.
"Be careful how you talk to me, young man, or I'll lose my temper;
and if I ever do—"
"That would be terrible, wouldn't it?" Matt laughed. "I suppose
you'd just haul off and biff me one, and I'd think it was autumn with
the leaves falling!"
Cappy choked, turned purple, sat down again, and glanced covertly
at Mr. Skinner, who returned the glance with one that seemed to shout
aloud: "Mr. Ricks, I smell a rat as big as a Shetland pony.
Something has slipped and we're covered with blood. Incredible as it
may seem, this rowdy Peasley has outthought us!"
"Did you get the letter we sent Captain Grant at Panama?" Skinner
managed to articulate presently.
Matt nodded affirmatively.
"Opened it, I suppose!" Cappy accused him.
Matt nodded negatively, produced the letter from his pocket and
handed it to Cappy.
"Where I was raised," he said gently, "they taught boys that it was
wrong to read other people's private correspondence. You will note
that the seal is unbroken."
"Thank God for that!" Cappy Ricks murmured, sotto voice, and tore
the letter into tiny bits. "Now, then," he said, "we'll hear the rest
of your story."
"When did a doctor look you over last?" Matt queried. "I'm afraid
you'll die of heart disease before I finish."
"I'm sound in wind and limb," Cappy declared. "I'm not so young as
I used to be; but, by Jupiter, there isn't any young pup on the street
who can tell me where to head in! What next?"
"Of course, Mr. Ricks, very shortly after I had rechartered the
Tillicum to Morrow Company I began to suspect they were shy of
sufficient capital to run their big business comfortably. I found it
very hard to collect; so, fully a month before they went up the spout,
I commenced to figure on what would happen to me if they did.
Consequently, I wasn't caught napping. On the day Morrow committed
suicide the company gave me a check that was repudiated at the bank.
I protested it and immediately served formal notice on Morrow Company
that their failure to meet the terms of our charter party necessitated
immediate cancellation; and accordingly I was cancelling it."
"Did you send that notice by registered mail?" Skinner demanded.
"You bet!—with a return registry receipt requested."
Cappy nodded at Skinner approvingly, as though to say: "Smart of
him, eh?" Matt continued:
"After sending my wireless to Captain Grant aboard the Tillicum I
sent a cablegram to the Panama Railroad people informing them that,
owing to certain circumstances over which I had no control, the
steamer Tillicum, fully loaded and en route to Panama to discharge
cargo, had been turned back on my hands by the charterers. I informed
them I had diverted the steamer to San Diego for orders, and in the
interim, unless the Panama Railroad guaranteed me by cable immediately
sixty per cent. of the through-freight rate for the Tillicum, and a
return cargo to San Francisco, I would decline to send the Tillicum to
Panama, but would, on the contrary, divert her to Tehuantepec and
transship her cargo over the American-Hawaiian road there. I
"You infernal scoundrel!" Cappy Ricks murmured.
"Of course," Matt went on calmly, "I had no means of knowing what
freight rate Morrow Company received; but I figured that they ought
to get about forty per cent., the Panama Railroad about twenty per
cent., and the steamer on the Atlantic side the remaining forty. So I
decided to play safe and ask sixty per cent. of the through rate,
figuring that the Panama Railroad would give it to me rather than have
the Tillicum's cargo diverted over their competitor's road at
Tehuantepec. In the first place they were depending on business from
Morrow Company's ships; and, with Morrow Company gone broke and a new
company liable to take over their line, it would be a bad precedent to
establish, to permit one cargo to go to the competitor. Future cargoes
might follow it!
"Then, too, the schedule of the ships on the Atlantic side of the
Canal doubtless had been made up already, with a view to handling this
cargo ex-Tillicum, and to lose the cargo would throw that schedule out
of joint; in fact, from whatever angle I viewed the situation, I could
see that the railroad company would prefer to give up its twenty per
cent. rather than decline my terms. They might think their competitor
had already made me an offer! Of course, it was all a mighty bluff on
my part, but bluffs are not always called, particularly when they're
made good and strong; and, believe me, my bluff was anything but weak
in the knees. I told the Panama people to wire their reply to me at
San Diego, and when I got to that city, twenty-four hours later, their
answer was awaiting me."
"They called your bluff?" Mr. Skinner challenged.
"Pooh-pooh for you!" Matt laughed. "God is good and the devil not
half bad. I got the guaranties I asked for, old dear! Don't you ever
think I'd have been crazy enough to go to Panama without them."
Cappy jerked forward in his chair again.
"Matt," he said sternly, "you have defaulted in your payments to
the Blue Star Navigation Company to the tune of eighteen thousand
dollars, and I'd like to hear what you have to say about that."
"Well, I couldn't help it," Matt replied, "I was shy ten thousand
dollars when Morrow Company defaulted on me, and I was at sea when
the other payment fell due. However, you had your recourse. You
could have canceled the charter on me. That was a chance I had to
"Why didn't you grab the ship away from me? If you had done that
you would be in the clear to-day instead of up to your neck in grief."
"We'll grab her away from you to-day—never fear!" Cappy promised
him. "I guess we'll get ours from the freight due on that cargo of
steel rails you came home with."
"You have another guess coming, Mr. Ricks. You'll not do any
grabbing to-day, for the reason that somebody else has already grabbed
"Who?" chorused Cappy and Skinner.
"The United States Marshal. Half an hour ago the Pacific Shipping
Company libeled her."
"What for, you bonehead? You haven't any cause for libel, so how
can you make it stick?"
"The Pacific Shipping Company has cause, and it can make the libel
stick. The first mate of the Tillicum assigned to the Pacific
Shipping Company his claim for wages as mate—"
"Matt, you poor goose! The Pacific Shipping Company OWE him his
wages. Your dink of a company chartered the boat, and we will not pay
such a ridiculous claim."
"I do not care whether you do or not. That libel will keep you
from canceling my charter, although when you failed to cancel when I
failed to make the payments as stipulated, your laxity must be
regarded in the eyes of the law as evidence that you voluntarily
waived that clause in the charter; and after you have voluntarily
waived a thing twice you'll have a job making it stick the third
"If I had only known!" groaned Skinner miserably.
"Besides," Matt continued brightly, "I have a cargo in that vessel,
and she's under charter to my company at six hundred dollars a day.
Of course you know very well, Mr. Ricks, that while the United States
Marshal remains in charge of her I cannot discharge an ounce of that
cargo or move the ship, or—er—anything. Well, naturally that will
be no fault of the Pacific Shipping Company, Mr. Ricks. It will be up
to the Blue Star Navigation Company to file a bond and lift that libel
in order that I may have some use of the ship I have chartered from
you. If you do not pull the plaster off of her of course I'll have to
sue you for heavy damages; and I can refuse to pay you any moneys due
"We'll lift the libel in an hour," Mr. Skinner declared
dramatically; and he took down the telephone to call up the attorney
for the Blue Star.
"Wait!" said Matt. "I'm not through. Before I entered the harbor
I called all hands up on the boat deck and explained matters to them.
They had been engaged by Morrow Company, and the firm of Morrow
Company was in the bankruptcy court; so the prospects of cash from
that quarter did not seem encouraging. The Pacific Shipping Company
had made a bare-boat charter from the Blue Star Navigation Company,
and had then made a similar charter to Morrow Company; consequently
the Pacific Shipping Company would repudiate payment, and, as
president and principal stockholder of that company, I took it on
myself to repudiate any responsibility then and there.
"Then the crew wanted to know what they should do, and I said:
'Why, seek the protection of the law, in such cases made and
provided. A seaman is not presumed to have any knowledge of the
intricate deals his owners may put through. All he knows is that he
is employed aboard a ship, and if he doesn't get his money from the
charterers at the completion of the voyage he can libel the ship and
collect from the owners. This is a fine new steamer, men, and I, for
one, believe she is good for what is owing you all; and if you will
assign your claims to the Pacific Shipping Company I will pay them in
full and trust to the Blue Star Navigation Company to reimburse me.'
So they did that.
"Now go ahead, Mr. Skinner, and lift the libel I put on the vessel
for my first mate's account, and the instant you get it lifted I'll
slap another libel on her for account of the second mate. Get rid of
the second mate's claim and up bobs the steward, and so on, ad
libitum, e pluribus unum, now and forever, one and inseparable. I
care not what course others may pursue, but as for me, give me liberty
or give me death!"
Mr. Skinner quietly hung up the telephone receiver.
"And, by the way," Matt continued, "I forgot to mention that I
requested the steward to stay aboard and make the United States
Marshal comfortable as soon as he arrived. In these little matters
one might as well be courteous, and I should hate to have the Tillicum
acquire a reputation for being cheap and inhospitable."
"You dirty dog!" cried Cappy Ricks hoarsely.
"Really, my dear Peasley, this matter has passed beyond the joke
stage," Mr. Skinner began suavely.
"Let me get along with my story," said he. "The worst is yet to
come. My attorney informs me—"
"Matt Peasley," said Cappy Ricks, "that's the first lie I ever knew
you to tell. You don't have to hire an attorney to tell you where to
head in, you infernal sea lawyer!"
"I thank you for the compliment," Matt observed quizzically.
"Perhaps I deserve it. However, 'we come to bury Caesar, not to
praise him;' so, if you will kindly hold over your head, Mr. Ricks,
I'll be pleased to hit it another swat."
"Well, I'll admit that the failure of Morrow Company and the
Pacific Shipping Company to pay the crew of the Tillicum puts the buck
up to me, and I dare say I'll have to pay," Cappy admitted, his voice
trembling with rage.
"Well, that isn't the only bill you'll have to pay. Don't cheer
until you're out of the woods, Mr. Ricks. You'll have to pay for a
couple of thousand barrels of fuel oil, and a lot of engine supplies,
and sea stores, and laundry, and water—why, Lord bless you, Mr.
Ricks, I can't begin to think of all the things you're stuck for!"
"Not a bit of it!" Cappy cried triumphantly. "It was an open-boat
charter, my son, and you rechartered on the same basis; and, though
Morrow Company were originally responsible you'll find that the
creditors, despairing of collecting from them, will come down on the
Pacific Shipping Company like a pack of ravening wolves, by thunder!
Don't YOU cheer until YOU'RE out of the woods!"
"Well, I have a license to cheer," Matt replied, "because I got out
of the woods a long time ago. Before the vessel sailed from this
port, I sent this letter to all her creditors!" And Matt thrust into
Cappy Ricks' hand a copy of the letter in question.
"That will not help you at all," Mr. Skinner, who had read the
letter over Cappy's shoulder, declared.
"It wouldn't—if I hadn't sent it by registered mail and got a
return receipt," Matt admitted; "but, since I have a receipt from
every creditor acknowledging the denial of responsibility of the
Pacific Shipping Company, I'm in the clear. It was up to the
creditors to protect their hands before the vessel went to sea! They
had ample warning—and I can prove it! I tell you, Mr. Ricks, when
you begin to dig into this matter you will find these creditors will
claim that every article furnished to the Tillicum while Morrow
Company had her was ordered on requisitions signed by Captain Grant,
your employee, or Collins, your chief engineer. They were your
servants and you paid their salaries."
"All right then," Cappy challenged. "Suppose we do have to pay.
How about that freight money you collected in Panama—eh? How about
that? I guess we'll have an accounting of the freight money, young
"I submit, with all due respect, that what I did with that freight
money I collected in Panama is none of your confounded business. I
chartered a vessel from you and she was loaded with a cargo. The only
interest you can possibly have in that cargo lies in the fact that the
Pacific Stevedoring Company stowed it in the vessel and hasn't been
paid some forty-five hundred dollars for so stowing it, and
eventually, of course, you'll have to foot the bill as owner of the
vessel. That vessel and cargo were thrown back on my hands, not on
yours; so why should you ask questions about my business? You've got
your nerve with you!"
"But you'll have to render an accounting to Morrow Company," Cappy
"I'll not. They gave me a check that was returned branded 'Not
sufficient funds;' they didn't keep their charter with me, and if I
hadn't been a fly young fellow their failure would have ruined me, and
then a lot they'd care about it! If I spoke to them about it they'd
say: 'Well, these things will happen in business. We're sorry; but
what can we do about it?' No, Mr. Ricks; I'm in the clear with Morrow
Company, and their creditors will be lucky if I do not present my
claim for ten thousand dollars because of that worthless check I hold.
When I collected from the Panama Railroad Company for the freight on
that southbound cargo I paid myself all Morrow Company owed me, and
the rest is velvet if I choose to keep it. If I do not choose to keep
it the only honorable course for me to pursue will be to send a
statement and my check for the balance to the receiver for Morrow
"What!" demanded Mr. Skinner. "And leave the Blue Star Navigation
Company to pay the crew?"
"Yes—and the fuel bill, and the butcher and the baker and the
candlestick maker, and the stevedoring firm, and the whole infernal,
Cappy Ricks motioned to Mr. Skinner to be silent; then he rose and
placed his hand on Matt's shoulder.
"Matt," he said kindly, "look me in the eyes and see if you can
have the crust to tell me that, with all that freight money in your
possession, you do not intend to apply the residue to the payments of
these claims against the Tillicum."
Matt bent low and peered fiercely into Cappy's face, for all the
world like a belligerent rooster.
"Once more, my dear Mr. Ricks," he said impressively, I desire to
inform you that, so far as the steamer Tillicum is concerned, I
venerate you as a human Christmas tree. I'm the villain in this
sketch and proud of it. You're stabbed to the hilt! Why should I be
expected to pay the debts of your steamer?"
"But you used all the materials placed aboard her for your own use
"That, Mr. Ricks, constitutes my profit," Matt retorted pleasantly.
"She had fuel oil aboard when she was turned back on me sufficient to
last her to Panama and return—she had engine supplies, gear, beef in
the refrigerator, provisions in the storeroom, and clean laundry in
the linen lockers; in fact, I never went to sea in command of a ship
that was better found."
"Matt Peasley," said Cappy solemnly, "you think this is funny; but
it isn't. You do not realize what you are doing. Why, this action of
yours will be construed as highway robbery and no man on the Street
will trust you. You must think of your future in business. If this
leaks out nobody will ever extend you any credit—"
"I should worry about credit when I have the cash!" Matt retorted.
"I'm absolutely within the law, and this whole affair is my picnic and
your funeral. Moreover, I dare you to give me permission to circulate
this story up and down California Street! Yes, sir, I dare you—and
you aren't game! Why, everybody would be cheering for me and laughing
at you, and you'd get about as much sympathy as a rich relative with
arterial sclerosis. I haven't any sympathy for you, Mr. Ricks. You
got me into this whole mess when a kind word from you would have kept
me out of it. But, no; you wouldn't extend me that kind word. You
wanted to see me get tangled up and go broke; and when you thought I
was a dead one you made fun of me and rejoiced in my wretchedness, and
did everything you could to put me down and out, just so you could
say: 'Well, I warned you, Matt; but you would go to it. You have
nobody to blame but yourself.'
"Of course I realize that you didn't want to make any money out of
me; but you did want to manhandle me, Mr. Ricks, just as a sporting
proposition. Besides, you tried to double-cross me with that wireless
message. I knew what you were up to. You thought you had pulled the
same stunt on me I pulled on you, and that letter to Captain Grant
contained full instructions. However, you wanted to be so slick about
it you wouldn't get caught with your fingers in the jam; so you
forbore to cancel my charter. You figured you'd present me with my
troubles all in one heap the day I got back from Panama. I'm onto
"Well, I guess we've still got a sting in our tail," Cappy answered
pertly. "Slap on your libels. We'll lift 'em all, and to-morrow
we'll expect eighteen thousand dollars from you, or I'm afraid,
Matthew, my boy, you're going to lose that ship with her cargo of
steel rails, and we'll collect the freight."
"Again you lose. You'll have to make a formal written demand on me
for the money before you cancel the charter; and when you do I'll hand
you a certified check for eighteen thousand dollars. Don't think for
a minute that I'm a pauper, Mr. Ricks; because I'm not. When a fellow
freights one cargo to Panama and another back, and it doesn't cost him
a blamed cent to stow the first cargo and cheap Jamaica nigger labor
to stow the second, and the cost of operating the ship for the round
trip is absolutely nil—I tell you, sir, there's money in it."
Cappy Ricks' eyes blazed, but he controlled his temper and made one
"Matt," he said plaintively, "you infernal young cut-up, quit
kidding the old man! Don't tell me that a Peasley, of Thomaston,
Maine, would take advantage of certain adventitious circumstances and
the legal loopholes provided by our outrageous maritime laws—"
"To swindle the Blue Star Navigation Company!" Mr. Skinner cut in.
"Swindle is an ugly word, Mr. Skinner. Please do not use it again
to describe my legitimate business—and don't ask any sympathy of me.
You two are old enough and experienced enough in the shipping game to
spin your own tops. You didn't give me any the best of it; you
crowded my hand and joggled my elbow, and it would have been the
signal for a half holiday in the office if I had gone broke."
"But after all Mr. Ricks has done for you—"
"He always had value received, and I asked no favors of him—and
"But surely, my dear Matt," Skinner purred, for the first time
calling his ancient enemy by his Christian name—"surely you're
jesting with us."
"Skinner, old horse, I was never more serious in my life. Mr.
Alden P. Ricks is my ideal of a perfect business man; and just before
I left for Panama he informed me—rather coldly, I thought—that he
never mixed sentiment with business. Moreover, he advised me not to
do it either. To surrender to him now would mean the fracturing, for
the first time in history, of a slogan that has been in the Peasley
tribe for generations."
"What's that?" Cappy queried with shaking voice.
"Pay your way and take your beating like a sport, sir," Matt shot
at him. He drew out his watch. "Well," he continued, "I guess the
United States Marshal is in charge of the Tillicum by this time; so
get busy with the bond and have him removed from the ship. The minute
one of those birds lights on my deck I just go crazy!"
"Yes, you do!" screamed Cappy Ricks, completely losing his
self-control. "You go crazy—like a fox!"
And then Cappy Ricks did something he had never done before. He
swore, with a depth of feeling and a range of language to be equalled
only by a lumberjack. Matt Peasley waited until he subsided for lack
of new invective and then said reproachfully:
"I can't stand this any longer, Mr. Ricks. I'll have to go now.
Back home I belonged to the Congregational Church—"
"Out!" yelled Cappy. "Out, you vagabond!"
CHAPTER XLIII. CAPPY PLANS A
The morning following Matt Peasley's triumphant return from Panama
with the steamer Tillicum, Cappy Ricks created a mild sensation in his
offices by reporting for duty at a quarter past eight. Mr. Skinner
was already at his desk, for he was a slave driver who drove himself
fully as hard as he did those under him. He glanced up apprehensively
as Cappy bustled in.
"Why, what has happened, Mr. Ricks?" he queried.
"I have an idea," said Cappy. "Skinner, my boy, a word with you in
Mr. Skinner rose with alacrity, for instinct warned him that he was
in for some fast and clever work. Cappy sat in at his desk, and
Skinner, drawing up a chair, sat down beside him and waited
respectfully for Cappy to begin.
"Skinner," Cappy began impressively, "for many years you and I have
been harboring the delusion that we are business men, whereas, if we
can stand to hear the truth told about ourselves, we handle a deal
with the reckless abandon of a pair of bear cubs juggling hazel nuts."
"I have sufficient self-esteem," Skinner replied stiffly, "not to
take that pessimistic view of myself. If you refer to the inglorious
rout we suffered yesterday in our skirmish with Captain Matt Peasley,
permit me to remind you, in all respect, that you handled that entire
"Bah!" said Cappy witheringly. "Why, you aided and abetted me,
Skinner. You told me my strategy was absolutely flawless."
"I am not the seventh son of a seventh son, sir. I did not see the
flaw in your strategy. You lost by one of those strange accidents
which must be attributed to the interference of the Almighty in the
affairs of men."
"Lost!" Cappy jeered. "Lost! Skinner, you infuriate me. I
haven't lost. Like John Paul Jones, I haven't yet commenced to fight.
Skinner, listen to me. When I get through with that Matt Peasley you
can take it from me he'll be sore from soul to vermiform appendix."
"If I may be permitted a criticism, sir, I would suggest that you
let this matter rest right where it is. Surely you realize the
delicate position you are in, quarreling with your future
"Agh-h-h! Pooh!" snapped Cappy. "That's all outside office hours.
I haven't any grudge against the boy and he knows it. I don't want
his little old bank roll—that is, for keeps. When I went into this
deal, Skinner, I was actuated by the same benevolent intentions as a
man that desires to cure a hound pup of sucking eggs. He fills an egg
with cayenne pepper and leaves it where the pup can find it—and after
that the pup sucks no more eggs. I love this boy Matt like he was my
own son, but he's too infernally fresh! He holds people too cheap;
he's too trustful. He's made his little wad too easily, and easy
money never did any man any good. So I wanted to teach him that
business is business, and if I could take his roll away from him I was
going to do it. Of course, Skinner, I need not remind you that I
would have loaned him the next minute, without interest and without
security, every cent I'd taken from him in this deal—"
"But why peeve over it, Mr. Ricks? If Captain Matt—"
"At my age—to take a beating like that?" Cappy shrilled.
"Impossible! Why, he'll tell this story on the Merchants' Exchange,
and I can't afford that. Not at my age, Skinner, not at my age! I
have a reputation to sustain, and, by the Holy Pink-toed Prophet, I'm
going to sustain it. I'm going down fighting like a bear cat. I know
he scalded us yesterday, Skinner, but every dog must have his day—and
that dog-gone Matt's day dawned this morning."
"The only tactical error, if I may appear hypercritical," Skinner
said suavely, "was your failure to cancel the charter on the very day
that Matt slipped up on his first advance payment. If you had done
that you would have had him. Don't say I didn't call your attention
to the fact that his payment was overdue!"
"Yes, if I had done that I would have had him, but how much would I
have had him for? Paltry nine thousand dollars! I wanted him to get
into the financial quicksands up to his chin—and then I'd have had
him! Besides, Skinner, I had to go slow. Just think what would have
happened if Florry found me out! Why, I would have had to call off
the dogs before I was half through the job."
"He's probably told her all about it by now," Skinner suggested.
"Don't get him wrong," Cappy protested. "He's no tattle-tale.
He'll fight fair. However, as I was saying, I couldn't do anything
raw, Skinner. I had planned, when Matt reached Panama and discovered
he had been double-crossed to pass the buck up to you!"
Mr. Skinner started, but Cappy continued serenely:
"I planned to be away from the office when the blow-off came, and
you were to have borne the brunt of Matt's fury and despair. Why,
what the devil do I have a general manager for if not to help me out
in these little affairs? And besides, Skinner, when he blew in here
the day Morrow Company hit the ceiling, he was so excited and worried
I felt positive he was busted then; so what was the use calling him
for his overdue payment when if I let him run on I'd have his young
soul in hock for the next ten years?" Cappy leaned forward and laid
an impressive hand on Mr. Skinner's knee. "You know, Skinner, we
really need that boy in this office, and it would have been a fine
thing to have gotten him and gotten him right. Then he wouldn't be
leaving the reservation to chase rainbows. However, as the boys say,
I overlooked a bet, but I'll not overlook another."
"You said you had an idea," Mr. Skinner suggested.
"I have. Just at present there is a libel on the Tillicum, and
when we lift it Matt Peasley is prepared to plaster another libel on
her, and another, and still another. Now, as a result of our
conversation with Matt yesterday, he thinks we'll lift the libel
to-day—in fact, settle with him for what he paid the crew when they
assigned their wage claim to his company, and thus prevent any further
libels. Now, if we do that it leaves Matt in the clear to commence
discharging his cargo, but at the same time it makes it incumbent upon
him to slam a certified check for eighteen thousand dollars down on
the Blue Star counter, in order to hold the vessel long enough to
discharge her and collect the freight. Then he'll turn the vessel
back on our hands with many thanks—rot him!"
"I have no doubt that such are his intentions, Mr. Ricks; in which
event he will, of course, be ready with the certified check the
instant we make formal, written demand upon him for our money. I
believe I have already warned you, sir, that we cannot cancel the
charter without first making formal, written demand for our charter
"Well," said Cappy, "we'll get round that all right."
"What time did Matt Peasley leave this office after the battle
"I should say in the neighborhood of half after three."
"Hum! Ahem! Harump-h-h! The banks close at three, and they do
not reopen for business until ten this morning. It is now exactly a
quarter of nine. Has Matt Peasley had time to procure a certified
check since he arrived from Panama—or has he not?"
"The situation admits of no argument," Mr. Skinner admitted.
"Exactly! He didn't have time yesterday, and he sha'n't have time
to-day, and to-morrow will be too late, because his money is due us
to-day! We shall lift all those libels and free the Tillicum for him;
then we shall make formal demand upon him for eighteen thousand
dollars, in cash or certified check—we can legally decline his check
unless certified—and when he fails to make good we formally cancel
the charter. Then what happens? I'll tell you. We grab the boat
with a full cargo from him as he grabbed it from Morrow Company with
a full cargo. Then we collect the freight on that northbound cargo as
he collected the freight on the southbound cargo, and," Cappy
continued calmly, "I dare say that freight money will put us in the
clear on all those bills we're stuck for."
"And to do all this," Skinner remarked sententiously, "it is
necessary to tie up Matt Peasley's bank account the instant the bank
opens this morning."
"Skinner," said Cappy feelingly, "you get me almost before I get
myself. Now listen, while I give you your orders: Go right up to our
attorney's office, take our copy of the charter with you, explain that
Matt has defaulted in his payments, and instruct our attorney to enter
suit to collect. Tell him to get the complaint out and filed within
three-quarters of an hour, and then, the instant he has filed the
suit, he is to get out a writ of attachment on the Pacific Shipping
Company's bank account."
"But we cannot do that, Mr. Ricks. We must make formal, written
demand for the payments in arrears before we can proceed to force
"Certainly. We'll do that after we've tied up his bank account."
"But when we get into court we'll be nonsuited because we didn't do
"I sincerely hope so. But in the meanwhile we've tied up Matt's
bank account, and while we're arguing the merits of our action in so
doing, another sun will have set, and when it rises again"—Cappy
kissed his hand airily into space—"the good ship Tillicum will be
back under the Blue Star Flag—"
"But Matt Peasley will allege conspiracy and a lot of things, and
he can sue us and get the boat back and force us to render an
accounting of that freight money."
"That situation will admit of much argument, Skinner. However,
Matt will not sue me. Florry wouldn't let him! He'll make us lift
the attachment on his bank account, and then he'll protect himself and
tell us to whistle for the eighteen thousand dollars he owes us.
Whichever way the cat jumps he wins. What I want to do is break even
and with a modicum of my self-respect left intact."
"He'll promptly file a bond to lift the attachment—"
"Will he? Who in this city will go on his bond? Who does he
"There are bonding companies in business, and for a cash
"Rot! They will investigate and ponder before granting his
application for a bond. It takes a day or two to get a bond through a
bonding house, and all I want to do is to tie Matt up for a day. Now,
listen! You see to it that the suit is filed and an attachment levied
on Matt Peasley's bank account in the Marine National. That's where
he keeps his little wad, because I took him over and introduced him
there myself. Well, sir, in the meantime I'll call up Matt and
precipitate a devil of a row with him over the phone. I'll tell him
I've made up my mind to fight him to the last ditch and that those
libels will not be lifted until he lifts them himself. Of course,
he'll figure right away that he won't need a certified check to-day,
and maybe he'll neglect to provide himself with one; or he may be
chump enough to figure we'll take his check uncertified, and if he
does that will teach him something."
"Well, I'm betting he'll not be caught napping," Mr. Skinner
declared, "and if you want my opinion of this new proceeding I will
state frankly that I am not in favor of it. It savors too much of
assination. Of course, you may do it and get away with it—"
"Pooh!" snorted Cappy. "Forget it. At ten minutes of three this
afternoon the libel on the Tillicum will be lifted, and Matt Peasley
will be paid in cash the sum he advanced his crew for wages. That
will block him from slapping any more libels on her and holding us up.
Then we'll make formal, written demand upon him for eighteen thousand
dollars; he won't have it where he can lay his hands on it, and he'll
be up Salt Creek without a paddle."
"I am not in favor of it," Mr. Skinner reiterated firmly.
"Neither am I, Skinner, but I've got to do something. Can't let
that young pup cover me with blood. No, sir, not at my age, Skinner.
I can't afford to be laughed off California Street. And by the way,
since when did you become a champion of Matt Peasley?"
Mr. Skinner did not answer.
"Since when?" Cappy repeated.
"Since he administered such a thorough thrashing to the Blue Star
Navigation Company," Mr. Skinner answered, "and did it without
prejudice. He swatted us, and we deserved it, but he didn't get
angry. Every time he banged us, he'd look at me as much as to say:
'I hate to swat you two, but it's got to be done.' Bang! 'This hurts
me more than it does you.' Biff! And then he went out smiling. I
used to think he was an—an—interloper, I thought he had designs on
the Blue Star Navigation Company and the Ricks Lumber and Logging
Company, but he hasn't. He doesn't give a hoot for anything or
anybody except for what he can be to them; not for what they can be to
him. He's brainy and spunky and, by thunder, I'm for him, and if
you're going to hand him a clout when he isn't looking you'll have to
do it yourself."
"Skinner," said Cappy Ricks impressively. "Look me square in the
eye. Do you refuse orders?"
"I do, sir," Skinner replied, and looked Cappy in the eye so
fiercely that the old schemer quailed. "This is an unworthy business,
Mr. Ricks. You're trying to teach Matt Peasley some business tricks,
and he's taught you a few, so be a sport, sir, and pay for your
"All right," Cappy replied meekly. "When my own general manager
goes back on me, I suppose there's nothing to do but quit. The
program appears to be impracticable, so we'll say no more about it."
"I am glad to hear you say that, Mr. Ricks," Skinner answered
feelingly, and forthwith repaired to his own office.
Cappy Ricks gazed after him almost affectionately, and as the door
closed behind the general manager, Cappy murmured sotto voce:
"Skinner, I've been twenty-five years wondering why the devil I
liked you, and now I know. Why, you cold-blooded, efficient, human
automaton, you've actually got a heart! Bow! wow! Faithful Fido
Skinner was just a-tugging at the chain and dragging the dog house
after him in his efforts to eat me up! I hope I go bankrupt if I
don't raise his salary!"
He turned to a pigeonhole in his desk and drew forth the charter he
had negotiated months before with Matt Peasley for the Tillicum. He
read it over carefully, tucked it in his breast pocket and slipped
quietly out the door. One hour later a suit against the Pacific
Shipping Company was filed in the county clerk's office, and at five
minutes after ten a deputy-sheriff appeared at the paying-teller's
window in the Marine National Bank and filed a writ of attachment on
the funds to their credit.
CHAPTER XLIV. SKINNER DEVELOPS INTO
A HUMAN BEING
Cappy Ricks was having his mid-afternoon siesta in his office when
Captain Matt Peasley appeared at the counter of the general office
and, without awaiting an invitation to enter, swung through the office
gate and made straight for Cappy's office. En route he had to pass
through Mr. Skinner's lair, and the general manager looked up as Matt
"Well, Captain," he said pleasantly, "how goes it?"
"Fine," Matt answered with equal urbanity. "That was a slick piece
of work tying up my bank account. I can't get a bond to-day, the bank
is closed, and I suppose you're going to insist upon payment of that
eighteen thousand dollars before midnight to-night or take the
Tillicum and her cargo away from me."
Mr. Skinner started in genuine amazement.
"Attached your bank account, Matt? I give you my word of honor I
had nothing to do with it."
"Well, it's tied up by the Blue Star Navigation Company, and Cappy
Ricks has served notice on me to call here and pay up or suffer
cancellation of my charter. Of course, for all the good my bank
account is to me this minute he might as well ask me to give him the
"I'm truly sorry," said Skinner. "I protested to Mr. Ricks against
this action. I assure you I would not have taken such a course
myself—under the circumstances."
"Cappy wants cash or a certified check," Matt complained, "and he's
made it impossible for me to go to my bank and get either—to-day.
What am I going to do?"
"I'm afraid you're going to lose the Tillicum and her cargo. The
Blue Star Navigation Company will doubtless collect the freight on
that northbound cargo. Besides, Mr. Ricks has some business offered
for the Tillicum and wants her back—"
"But I was going to give her back to him as soon as I discharged
her cargo. Now, just for that he'll not get her back. I'll keep her
the full year."
"But how?" Mr. Skinner queried kindly.
"By paying the Blue Star Navigation Company eighteen thousand
dollars in good old U. S. yellow-backs." Matt laughed and drew from
his hip pocket a roll that would have choked a hippopotamus.
"Skinner, this is so rich I'll have to tell you about it, and then if
you're good I'll let you be present when I put the crusher on Cappy.
His plan was without a flaw. He had me right where he wanted
me—only something slipped."
"What?" Mr. Skinner demanded breathlessly.
"Why, as soon as my account was attached, the bank called me up and
told me about it. I was just about to start for the bank to make a
deposit of all that freight money I had collected in Panama—about
twenty-four thousand dollars, more or less—the Panama Railroad gave
it to me in a lump—exchange on San Francisco, you know—"
"So you cashed that draft at the bank upon which it was drawn—"
"And I'm here with the cash to smother Cappy Ricks! I'll cover him
with confusion, the old villain! Skinner, I give you my word, if he
hadn't tried to slip one over on me I would never have stuck him with
all those bills Morrow Company didn't pay, but now that he's gone and
attached my bank account—"
Mr. Skinner rose and took Matt Peasley by the arm.
"Matt," he said in the friendliest fashion imaginable. "You and I
have clashed since the first day I learned of your existence, but
we're not going to clash any more." He pointed to the door leading to
Cappy Ricks' office. "One of these days, Matt, whether you want to or
not, you're going to be occupying that office and giving orders to me,
and when you do I want to tell you here and now I shall accord you the
same measure of respect I now accord Mr. Ricks. I've worked
twenty-five years for Mr. Ricks. I—I'm—absurdly fond of him, for
all his er—er—"
"Why, so am I, Skinner. I'd do anything to please him—"
"Then do it," Skinner pleaded. "Give him a cheap victory. He's an
old man and he'll enjoy it. He didn't sleep a wink last night, just
scheming a way to get a strangle hold on you—it's hard for the old to
give way to the young, you know—and now he's inside there, just
hungering for you to arrive so he can jeer at you and lecture you and
make fun of you. He doesn't want your money. Why, he loves you as if
you were his own boy—"
"But how can I let him get away with this deal?" Matt queried
"By rushing in on him now and simulating a terrific rage. Just
imagine you're on the bridge of a steamer making up to a dock against
a strong flood tide, with stupid mates fore and aft, and rotten lines
that won't hold when you get them over the dolphins, and the tide has
grabbed you and slammed you into the dock and done five hundred
dollars' worth of damage—just feel like that, Matt—"
"If I do I'll cuss something scandalous," Matt warned him.
"The harder the better."
"And I'm to keep this money in my pocket, and let him cancel my
charter, and take that northbound cargo away from me, and collect the
freight on me—"
"Exactly that! He'll withdraw his suit against you to-morrow and
release your bank account, and then you decline to pay him the
eighteen thousand dollars you owe him until he gives an accounting of
the freight money he's collected. He'll tell you to go to Halifax,
but you mustn't mind. It's going to make him as happy as a fool to
think he beat you in the end."
A slow smile spread over Matt's face.
"Skinner," he said. "You're a good old wagon, that's what you are.
I'm sorry we ever had any mix-up, and we'll never have another—after
this one—and this is going to be a fake. You see, Skinner, if we're
going to put one over on Cappy let's have it one worth while—so this
is the program. I've just arrived, with blood in my eye, to clean out
the Blue Star office, and I'm starting in with the general manager.
Clinch me now, and we'll wrestle all over the office and bang against
the furniture and that door there—"
As Cappy Ricks was wont to remark, Mr. Skinner could "get" one
before one could "get" one's self.
"Get out of my office, you infernal rowdy," he yelled loud enough
to awaken Cappy Ricks next door. Then he clinched with Matt Peasley.
"A good fight," said Cappy Ricks half an hour after Matt Peasley
had been pried away from Mr. Skinner and forced to listen to reason,
"is the grandest thing in life. Now there's that crazy boy gone out
in a rage just because he had the presumption to tangle with me in a
business deal and get dog-gone well licked! He put it all over me
yesterday, thinking I couldn't protect myself. Well, he knows better
now, Skinner; he knows better now! In-fer-nal young scoundrel! Wow,
but wasn't he a wild man, Skinner? Wasn't he though?" And Cappy
"You have probably cured him of sucking eggs," Mr. Skinner observed
"Well, I handed the young pup a dose of cayenne pepper, at any
rate," Cappy bragged, "and I wouldn't have missed doing it for a cool
hundred thousand. Why, Skinner, a man might as well retire from
business when he gets so weak and feeble and soft-headed he doesn't
know how to protect himself in the clinches and break-aways."
Mr. Skinner smiled. "The old dog for the cold scent," he
"You bet," Cappy cackled triumphantly. "Skinner, my dear boy, what
are we paying you?"
"Ten thousand a year, sir."
"Not enough money. Hereafter pay yourself twelve thousand. Tut,
tut. Not a peep out of you, sir, not a peep. If you do, Skinner,
you'll spoil the happiest day I've known in twenty years."
CHAPTER XLV. CAPPY PULLS OFF A
About a week later, Captain Matt Peasley was studying the weather
chart at the Merchants' Exchange when he heard behind him a
propitiatory "Ahem! Hum-m-m! Harump-h-h-h!"—infallible evidence
that Cappy Ricks was in the immediate offing, yearning for Matt to
turn round in order that he might hail the boy and thus re-establish
diplomatic relations. Matt, however, elected to be perverse and pay
no attention to Cappy; instead, he moved closer to the chart and
affected greater interest in it.
"Hello, you big, sulky boob!" Cappy snapped presently, unable to
stand the silence any longer. "Come away from that weather chart.
It's blowing a fifty-mile nor'west gale off Point Reyes, and that's
all any shipping man cares to know to-day. You haven't got any ships
"No; but you have, sir," Matt replied, unable longer to simulate
indifference to Cappy's presence. "The Tillicum is bucking into that
gale this minute, wasting fuel oil and making about four miles an
hour. I'm glad you're paying for the oil. Where are you loading
"At Hinch's Mill, in Aberdeen, Grays Harbor; discharge at Honolulu
and back with sugar." Cappy came close to Matt and drew the latter's
great arm through his. "Say, Matt," he queried plaintively, "are you
still mad over that walloping I gave you?"
"Well-l, no. I think I've recovered. And I'm not willing to admit
I was walloped. The best you got out of our little mix-up with the
Tillicum was a lucky draw."
"I'm still out a lot of money," Cappy admitted. "You owe me
eighteen thousand dollars on that charter I canceled on you, Matt, and
you ought to pay it. Really, you ought."
"That being tantamount to an admission on your part you cannot go
into court with clean hands and force me to pay it," Matt flashed back
at him, "I'll make you a proposition: You render me an accounting of
the freight you collected on the cargo you stole from me, and I'll
render you an accounting for the freight on the cargo I stole from
you; then we'll get an insurance adjuster in and let him figure out,
by general average, how much I would owe you if I had a conscience;
then I'll give you my note, due in one year, at six per cent. for
whatever the amount may be."
"Why not give me the cash?" Cappy pleaded. "You've got the money
"I know; but I want to use it for a year."
"Your note's no good to me," Cappy protested. "I told you once
before it wasn't hockable at any bank."
"Then I'll withdraw my proposition."
"And present a substitute?"
"I guess I'll take your note," Cappy said eagerly.
"I thank you for the compliment," Matt laughed; and Cappy, no
longer able to dissemble, laughed with him—and their feud was over.
Consequently, post-mortems being in order, Matt went on: "I feel
pretty sneaky about sticking you with all those bills on the Tillicum
that Morrow Company defaulted on, just because the law enabled me to
do so—but you did your best to ruin me; you wouldn't have showed me
any pity or consideration."
"Not a dog-goned bit!" Cappy declared firmly. "I was out to bust
you wide open for the good of your immortal soul. I would have taken
your roll away from you, my son, by fair means—or—er—legal, if I
could." He looked up at Matt, with such a smile as he might have
applied to a lovable and well-beloved son. "I hope you've got
sporting blood enough in you to realize I didn't really want your
little bank roll, Matt," he said half pleadingly. "I don't know just
why I did it—except that I'm an old man and I know it; and I hate to
be out of the running. I suppose, just because I'm old, I wanted to
take a fall out of you—you're so young; and—oh, Matt, you do make a
scrap so worth while!
"And, because I've lived longer in this world and fought harder for
what I've got than you'll ever have to fight, I wanted to put about
six feet of hot iron into your soul. You're a little bit too
cocksure, Matt. I tell you it's a mistake to hold your business
competitor cheap. I want you to know that the fine gentleman who
plays cribbage with you at your club to-night will lift the hair off
your head down here on the Street to-morrow, because that's the game;
and nobody shakes hands with you before giving you the poke that puts
you to sleep. There are a lot of old men out in the almshouse just
because they trusted too much in human nature; and I wanted to show
you how hard and cruel men can be and excuse their piracy on the plea
that it is business! I tell you, Matt Peasley, when you've lived as
long as I have you'll know men for the swine they are whenever they
see some real money in sight."
"Well, I shouldn't be surprised if you got the lesson over after
all," Matt replied gravely. "You certainly made me step lively to
keep from getting run over. You scared me out of a year's growth."
Cappy laughed contentedly.
"And what are you going to do with all this money you admit you owe
me and decline to let me see the color of for a year?"
"Do you really want to know?" Matt queried.
"I'll take you to luncheon up at the Commercial Club if you'll tell
Matt bent low and whispered in Cappy's ear:
"I'm going to marry your daughter. I'll have to furnish a home
"No excuse!" said Cappy fiercely. "Son, all you've got to buy is
the wedding ring and the license, and some clothes. I'm stuck for the
wedding expenses and you don't have to furnish a home. My house is
big enough for three, isn't it?"
"But this thing of living with your wife's relations—" Matt began
mischievously, until he saw the pain and the loneliness in Cappy's
kind old eyes. "Oh, well," he hastened to add, "pull it off to suit
yourself; but don't waste any time."
"In-fer-nal young scoundrel!" Cappy cried happily. "We've waited
too long already."
Florry was a June bride, and the proudest and happiest man present,
not excepting the groom, was old Cappy Ricks. He looked fully two
inches taller as he walked up the church aisle, with Florry on his
arm, and handed her over to Matt Peasley, waiting at the altar. And
when the ceremony was over, and Matt had entered the waiting limousine
with his bride, Cappy Ricks stood on the church steps among a dozen of
his young friends from the wholesale lumber and shipping trade and
made a brief oration.
"Take a good look at him, boys," he said proudly. "You fresh young
fellows will have to tangle with him one of these bright days; and
when you do he'll make hell look like a summer holiday to you. See if
Later, when Matt and Florry, about to leave on their honeymoon,
were saying good-bye, Matt put his huge arm round Cappy and gave him a
filial hug. Cappy's eyes filled with tears.
"I guess we understand each other, sonny," he said haltingly.
"I've wanted a son like you, Matt. Had a boy once—little chap—just
seven when he died—might have been big like you. I was the runt of
the Ricks' tribe, you know—all the other boys over six feet—and his
mother's people—same stock. I—I—"
Matt patted his shoulder. Truly he understood.
CHAPTER XLVI. A SHIP FORGOTTEN
The Blue Star Navigation Company's big steam schooner Amelia Ricks,
northbound to load lumber at Aberdeen in command of a skipper who
revered his berth to such an extent that he thought only of pleasing
Mr. Skinner by making fast time, thus failing to take into
consideration a two-mile current setting shoreward, had come to grief.
Her skipper had cut a corner once too often and started overland with
her right across the toe of Point Gorda. Her wireless brought two
tugs hastening up from San Francisco; but, before they could haul her
off at high tide, the jagged reef had chewed her bottom to rags, and
in a submerged condition she was towed back to port and kicked into
the dry dock at Hunters Point.
Cappy Ricks, feverishly excited over the affair, was very anxious
to get a report on the condition of the vessel as soon as possible.
He had planned to hire a launch and proceed to Hunters Point for a
personal appraisal of the damage to the Amelia Ricks, but the
northwest trades were blowing half a gale that day and had kicked up
just sufficient sea to warn Cappy that seasickness would be his
portion if he essayed to brave it in a launch. It occurred to him,
therefore, to stay in the office and send somebody in whose knowledge
of ships he had profound confidence. He got Matt Peasley on the phone
"Matt," he said plaintively. "I want you to do the old man a favor,
if you will. You heard about our Amelia Ricks, didn't you? Well,
she's in dry dock at Hunters Point now, and they'll have the dock
pumped out in two hours so we can see what her bottom looks like. I
know she's ripped out clear up to the garboards and probably hogged,
and I can hardly wait to make sure. The marine surveyor for the
Underwriters will go down this afternoon to look her over, and then
he'll take a day to present his long, typewritten report—and I can't
wait that long. Will you skip down to Crowley's boathouse, hire a
launch and charge it to us, and go down to see the Amelia? She'll be
shored up by the time you get down there. Make a good quick
examination of the damage and hurry back so I can talk it over with
you. I go a heap on your judgment, Matt."
"I'll start right away, sir," Matt promised, glad of any
opportunity to favor Cappy.
Two hours later, on his way back to the Mission Street bulkhead, he
passed, in Mission Bay, a huge, rusty red box of a steel freighter,
swinging at anchor. Under ordinary weather conditions Matt would have
paid no attention to her; but, as has already been stated, the
northwest trades were blowing a gale and had kicked up a sea; hence
the steamer was rolling freely at her anchorage, and as the launch
bobbed by to windward of her she rolled far over to leeward—and Matt
saw something that challenged his immediate attention and provoked his
profound disgust. The sides of the vessel below the water line were
incrusted with barnacles and eelgrass fully six inches thick!
No skipper that ever set foot on a bridge could pass that scaly
hulk unmoved. Matt Peasley said uncomplimentary things about the
owners of the vessel and directed the launchman to pass in under her
stern, in order that he might read her name. She proved to be the
Narcissus, of London.
He stood in the stern of the launch, staring thoughtfully after the
Narcissus, and before his mind there floated that vision of the
barnacles and eelgrass, infallible evidence that the years had been
long since the Narcissus had been hauled out.
"Do you know how long that steamer has lain there?" he queried of
"I been runnin' launches to and from Hunters Point for seven years
an' she was there when I come on the job," the latter answered.
"It's no place for a good ship," Matt Peasley murmured musingly.
"She ought to be out on the dark blue, loaded and earning good money
for her owners. I must find out why she isn't doing it."
Having rendered a meticulous report to Cappy on the condition of
the Amelia Ricks, Matt, his brain still filled with thoughts of that
lonely big steamer swinging neglected in Mission Bay among the rotting
oyster boats and old clipper ships waiting to be converted into coal
hulks, proceeded to the Merchants' Exchange where Lloyds' Register
soon put him in possession of the following information:
The steamer Narcissus had been built in Glasgow in 1894 by
Sutherland Sons, Limited. She was four hundred and fifty-five feet
long, fifty-eight feet beam and thirty-one feet draft. She had
triple-expansion engines of two thousand indicated horse power, two
Scotch boilers, and was of seventy-five hundred tons net register.
"Huh!" Matt murmured. "She'll carry forty per cent. more than her
registered tonnage; if I had the loading of her she'd carry fifty per
cent. more, at certain seasons of the year. I wonder why her owners
have let her lie idle for eight years? I'll have to ask Jerry Dooley.
He knows everything about ships that a landsman can possibly know."
Jerry Dooley had presided over the desk at the Merchants' Exchange
for so many years that there was a rumor current to the effect that he
had been there in the days when the water used to come up to
Montgomery Street. Before Jerry's desk the skippers of all nations
came and went; to him there drifted inevitably all of the little,
intimate gossip of the shipping world. If somebody built a ship and
she had trouble with her oil burners on the trial trip, Jerry Dooley
would know all about it before that vessel got back to her dock again.
If somebody else's ship was a wet boat, Jerry knew of it, and could,
moreover, give one the name of the naval architect responsible; if a
vessel had been hogged on a reef, Jerry could tell you the name of the
reef, the date of the wreck, the location of the hog, and all about
the trouble they had keeping her cargo dry as a result. To this human
encyclopedia, therefore, did Matt Peasley come in his still-hunt for
information touching the steamer Narcissus.
He opened negotiations by handing Jerry Dooley a good cigar. Jerry
examined it, saw that it was a good cigar, and said: "I don't smoke
myself, but I have a brother that does." He fixed Matt Peasley with
an alert, inquisitive eye and said: "Well, what do you know,
"Nothing much. What do you know about the steamer Narcissus?"
Jerry Dooley scratched his red head.
"Narcissus!" he murmured. "Narcissus! By George, it's a long time
since I heard of her. Has she just come into port?" And he glanced
apprehensively at the register of arrivals and departures, wondering
if he hadn't overlooked the Narcissus.
"She's been in port eight years at least," Matt answered; "tucked
away down in Mission Bay, with a watchman aboard."
"Oh, I remember now," Jerry replied. "She belongs to the Oriental
Steamship Company. Old man Webb, of the Oriental Company, got all
worked up about the possibilities of the Oriental trade right after
the Spanish War. He had a lot of old bottoms running in the combined
freight and passenger trade and not making expenses when the war came
along, and the Government grabbed all his boats for transports to rush
troops over to the Philippines. That was fine business for quite a
while and the Oriental got out of the hole and made a lot of money
besides. About that time Old Webb saw a vision of huge Oriental trade
for the man who would go after it, and in his excitement he purchased
the Narcissus. She carried horses down to the Philippines, and to
China during the Boxer uprising; and when that business was over, and
while old Webb was waiting for the expected boom in trade to the
Orient, he got a lumber charter for her from Puget Sound to Australia.
But she was never built for a lumber boat, though she carried six
million five hundred thousand feet; she was so big and it took so long
to load and discharge her that she lost twenty-five thousand dollars
on the voyage. Run her in the lumber trade and the demurrage would
break a national bank.
"Well, sir, after that lumber charter, old man Webb had a fit. He
tried her out on a few grain charters, but she didn't make any money
to speak of; and about that time the P. S. W., with a view to
grabbing some Oriental freight for their road, got the control of the
steamship company away from Webb. The Oriental trade boom never
developed, and the regular steamers, carrying freight and passengers,
were ample to cope with what business the company was offered; so they
didn't need the Narcissus.
"As I remember it, she was expensive to operate. She had a punk
pair of boilers or she needed another boiler—or something; at any
rate, she was a hog on coal, and they laid her up until such time as
they could find use for her. I suppose after she was laid up a few
years the thought of all the money it would cost to put her in
commission again discouraged them—and she's been down in Mission Bay
"But the Canal will soon be open," Matt suggested. "One would
suppose they'd put her in commission and find business for her between
Pacific and Atlantic coast ports."
"You forget she's a foreign-built vessel and hence cannot run
between American ports."
"She can run between North and South American ports," Matt replied
doggedly. "I bet if I owned her I'd dig up enough business in Brazil
and the Argentine to keep her busy. I'd be dodging backward and
forward through the Canal."
"You would, of course," Jerry answered placidly; "but the Oriental
Steamship Company cannot."
"Fifty-one per cent. of their stock is owned by a railroad—and
under the law no railroad-owned ship may use the Canal."
Matt's eyebrows arched.
"Ah!" he murmured. "Then that's one of the reasons why she's a
white elephant on their hands."
"Got a customer for her?" Jerry queried shrewdly. "A fellow ought
to be able to pick the Narcissus up rather cheap."
Matt shook his head negatively.
"Happened to pass her in a launch a couple of hours ago, and the
sight of the barnacles on her bottom just naturally graveled me and
roused my curiosity. Much obliged for your information." And Matt
excused himself and strolled over to the counter of the Hydro-graphic
Office to look over the recent bulletins to masters.
The information that the whistling buoy off Duxbury Reef had gone
adrift and that Blunt's Reef Lightship would be withdrawn for fifteen
days for repairs and docking interested him but little, however. In
his mind's eye there loomed the picture of that great red freighter,
with her foul bottom, rusty funnel and unpainted, weather-beaten upper
"Her bridge is pretty well exposed to the weather," he murmured.
"I'd build it up so the man on watch could just look over it. I
noticed they'd had the good sense to house over her winches, so I dare
say they're in good shape; her paint will have prevented rust below
the water line, and I'll bet she's as sound as the day she was built.
I think I'd paint her dead black, with red underbody and terra-cotta
upper works." He pondered. "Yes, and I'd paint her funnel dead
black, too, with a broad red band; and on both sides of the funnel, in
the center of this red band, I'd have a white diamond with a black P
in the center of it. By George, they'd know the Peasley Line as far
as they could see it!"
He would have dreamed on had he not bethought himself suddenly of
his modest capital—fifty thousand-odd dollars, out of which he owed
Cappy Ricks a considerable sum on a promissory note due in one year.
On such a meager bank balance it would not do to dream of buying a
vessel worth nearly four hundred thousand dollars. Why, it would
require twenty thousand dollars to put her in commission after all
these years of idleness, and she had to have another boiler because
she was a hog on coal; and, in addition, her operating cost would be
between nine and ten thousand dollars a month.
Matt shook his head and looked round the great room as though in
search of inspiration. He found it. His wandering glance finally
came to rest on Jerry Dooley's alert countenance. Jerry crooked a
finger at him and Matt strolled over to the desk.
"I've been watching you milling the idea round in your head," said
Jerry. "I saw you reject it. You're crazy! It can be done."
"How?" Matt queried eagerly.
"Go get an option on her for the lowest price you can get—then
form a syndicate and sell her to them at a higher price; or, if you
don't want to do that, form your syndicate to buy her at the option
price, and if you work it right you can get the job of managing owner.
I want to tell you that two and one-half per cent. commission on her
freight earnings would make a nice income."
"I wonder whom I could get into the syndicate?" Matt queried.
Jerry scratched his head.
"Well," he suggested, "you're mighty close to old Cappy Ricks. If
you could hook him for a piece of her, the rest would be easy. Any
shipping man on the Street will follow where Cappy Ricks leads. I'd
try Pollard Reilly; Redell, of the West Coast Trading Company; Jack
Haviland, the ship chandler; Charley Beyers, the ship's grocer and
butcher; A. B. Cahill Co., the coal dealers; Pete Hansen, of the
Bulkhead Hotel down on the Embarcadero—he's always got a couple of
thousand dollars to put into a clean-cut shipping enterprise. Then
there's Rickey, the ship-builder, and—yes, even Alcott, the crimp,
will take a piece of her. I'd look in on Louis Wiley, the chronometer
man, and Cox, the coppersmith—why I'd take in every firm and
individual who might hope to get business out of the ship; and, you
bet, I'd sell 'em all a little block of stock in the S. S. Narcissus
"It might be done," Matt answered evasively. "I'll think it over."
He did think it over very seriously the greater portion of that
night. As a result, instead of going to his office next morning he
went to Mission Street bulkhead and engaged a launch, and forty
minutes later, in response to his hail, the aged watchman aboard the
Narcissus came to the rail and asked him what he wanted.
"I want to come aboard!" Matt shouted.
"Got a permit from the office?"
"Orders are to allow nobody aboard without a permit."
"How do you like the color of this permit?" Matt called back, and
waved a greenback.
The answer came in the shape of a Jacob's ladder promptly tossed
overside and Matt Peasley mounted the towering hulk of the Narcissus.
"What do you want?" the watchman again demanded as he pouched the
bill Matt handed him.
"I want to examine this vessel from bilge to truck," Matt answered.
"I'll begin with a look at the winches."
As he had surmised, the winches had been housed over and fairly
buried in grease when the ship laid up; hence they were in absolutely
perfect condition. The engines, too, had received the best of care,
as nearly as Matt could judge from a cursory view. Her cargo space
was littered up with a number of grain chutes, which would have to
come out; and her boats, which had been stored in the empty hold aft,
away from the weather, were in tiptop shape. She had a spare anchor,
plenty of chain, wire cable and Manila lines, though these latter
would doubtless have to be renewed in their entirety, owing to
deterioration from age.
Her crew quarters were commodious and ample, and the officers'
quarters all that could be desired; her galley equipment was complete,
even to a small auxiliary ice plant. What she needed was cleaning,
painting and scraping, and lots of it, also the riggers would be a few
days on her standing rigging; but, so far as Matt could discern, that
was all. From the watchman he learned that one Terence Reardon had
been her chief engineer in the days when the Oriental Steamship
Company first owned her.
From the Narcissus, Matt Peasley returned to the city and went at
once to the office of the Marine Engineers' Association, where he made
inquiry for Terence Reardon. It appeared that Terence was chief of
the Arab, loading grain at Port Costa; so to Port Costa Matt Peasley
went to interview him. He found Reardon on deck, enjoying a short
pipe and a breath of cool air, and introduced himself.
"I understand you were the chief of the Narcissus at one time, Mr.
Reardon," Matt began abruptly. "I understand, also, that under your
coaxing you used to get ten miles out of her loaded."
Parenthetically it may be stated that Matt Peasley had never heard
anything of the sort; but he knew the weaknesses of chief engineers
and decided to try a shot in the dark, hoping, by the grace of the
devil and the luck of a sailor, to score a bull's-eye. He succeeded
at least in ringing the bell.
"Coax, is it?" murmured Terence Reardon in his deep Kerry brogue.
"Faith, thin, the Narcissus niver laid eye on the day she could do
nine an' a half wit' the kindliest av treatment. Wirrah, but 'tis
herself was the glutton for coal. Sure, whin I'd hand in me report to
ould Webb, and he'd see where she'd averaged forty ton a day, the big
tears'd come into the two eyes av him—the Lord ha' mercy on his
"You never had any trouble with her engines," Matt suggested.
"I had throuble keepin' shteam enough in the b'ilers to run thim;
but I'll say this for her ingines: Give them a chancet an' they'd run
like a chronometer."
"Would you consider an offer to leave the Arab and be chief of the
Narcissus?" Matt queried. "I'm thinking of buying her, and if I do
I'll give you twenty-five dollars a month above the regular
"I'll go ye," murmured Reardon, "on wan condition: Ye'll shpend
some money in her ingine room, else 'tis no matther av use for ye to
talk to me. I'll not be afther breakin' me poor heart for the sake av
twenty-five dollars a month. Sure, 'twould be wort' that alone to see
the face av ye, young man, afther wan look at the coal bill."
"What repairs would you suggest? Do you think she needs another
boiler? I noticed she has two. We could move those two over and make
room for another."
"Do nothing av the sort, sir. Before ould Webb got her she'd been
usin' bad wather down on the East African Coast, I'm thinkin', and it
raised hell wit' her. 'Tis the expinse av retubin' her condensers
that always frightened ould Webb, and whin he lost conthrol the
blatherskite booby av a port ingineer the new owners app'inted come
down to the ship, looked her over, wit' niver a question to me that
knew the very sowl av her, and reported to the owners that what she
needed was another b'iler." And Terence Reardon laughed the short,
mirthless chuckle of the man who knows.
"Then," Matt continued, "the money should be spent—"
"In retubing her condensers," declared the engineer emphatically.
"Do that an' do a good job on her, an' she'll have shteam enough for
thim fine big ingines av hers on thirty-two ton a day, an' less. An'
have a care would ye buy her until she ships a new crank shaft. She's
a crack in the web av the afther crank shaft ye could shtick a knife
blade into. She may run for years, but sooner or later some wan'll
have a salvage claim agin ye if ye neglect it now. An', for the love
av heaven, have nothin' to do wit' her big motor. 'Twas bur-rnt out
by him that had her ahead av me—bad cess to him, whereiver he is!
An' they did a poor, cheap job av windin' the armature agin. Ye'll be
in hot wather wit' the electric-light system until ye put in a new
"The rheostat on the searchlight niver was any good; and she may or
may not need a new whistle—I dunno. Sure, the skipper niver blew it
good an' long but the wanst; an', so help me, young man, I was lookin'
at the shteam gauge whin he shtarted that prolonged blast—an' whin he
finished the gauge had dhropped tin pounds! So up I go on the bridge
to the ould man, an' says I to him, says I: 'Clear weather or thick
fog, I'm tellin' ye to lave that whistle alone if ye expect to finish
the voyage. Wan toot out av it means a ton av coal gone to hell an' a
dhrop av blood out av the owner's heart!" An' from that time on the
best I iver hearrd out av that whistle was a sick sort av a sob."
Matt laughed as Terence Reardon's natural propensity for romancing
came to the front. He thanked the chief for the latter's invaluable
information, and, with a mental resolve to have Terence Reardon
presiding over the engines of the Narcissus at no distant date, he
returned to the city.
CHAPTER XLVII. THE TAIL GOES WITH
The following morning Matt called upon MacCandless, the general
manager of the Oriental Steamship Company. Mr. MacCandless was a cold
individual of Scotch ancestry, with a scent for a dollar a trifle
keener than most; and Matt Peasley, young and inexperienced in
business fencing, was never more aware of his deficiencies than when
he faced MacCandless across the latter's desk. Consequently, he
resolved to waste no words in vain parley. MacCandless was still
looking curiously at Matt's card when the latter said:
"I called with reference to that big freighter of the Oriental
Steamship Company—the Narcissus. Is she for sale?"
MacCandless smiled with his lips, but his eyes wore the eternal
Show-me! look. He nodded.
"Foolish of me to ask, I know," Matt continued complacently, "since
it is a matter of common gossip that you would have been delighted to
have sold her any time these past eight years."
Since MacCandless did not deny this Matt assumed that it was true
and returned to the attack with renewed vigor.
"What do you want for her?"
"Are you acting as a broker in this matter or do you represent
principals who have asked you to interview me? In other words, before
I talk business with you I want to know that you mean business. I
shall waste no time discussing a possible trade unless you assure me
that you have a customer in sight. I am weary of brokers. I've had
forty of them after that vessel from time to time, but no business
"Which is not at all surprising, considering the circumstances,"
Matt retorted. "If you cannot use her yourself you mustn't expect
other people to be over-enthusiastic about owning her. However, I
think I can find business for her, and I've come to buy her myself.
You seem to think a lot of your time, so I'll conserve it for you.
I'm the principal in this deal, and if you really want to get rid of
her we'll do business in two minutes."
"Three hundred thousand dollars," MacCandless answered promptly.
"Listen," said Matt Peasley. "I have fifty thousand dollars of my
own in bank this minute, but I will have to raise two hundred and
fifty thousand more before I can afford to buy your vessel, even if we
agree on that price, which does not seem probable. I'll give you two
hundred and fifty thousand dollars for the steamer Narcissus; but when
you turn her over to me I want a ship, not a piece of floating junk.
You'll have to ship a new crank shaft, rewind the main motor, renew
the Manila lines, overhaul the standing rigging, retube the condensers
and dock her before handing her over to me. She's as foul as any hulk
in Rotten Row."
"Why, that will cost in the neighborhood of forty thousand
dollars—nearer fifty!" MacCandless declared.
"I know. But for three hundred thousand dollars I can go to
Sweden, build a smaller vessel than the Narcissus, have her right up
to date, with two-thousand-horsepower oil-burning motors in her; and
the saving in space due to motor installation, with oil tanks instead
of coal bunkers, will enable me to carry fully as much cargo as the
Narcissus. Also, I'll burn six tons of crude oil a day to your forty
tons of coal a day in the Narcissus. I'll employ eight men less in my
crew, and have a cleaner, faster and better ship. The motor ship is
the freighter of the future, and you know it. Your Narcissus is out
of date, and I'm only offering you two hundred and fifty thousand
dollars because I can use her right away."
"Young man," said MacCandless, "you talk like a person that means
business, but you overlook the fact that this company is neither
bankrupt nor silly. The directors will, I feel assured, agree to do
all the work you specify, but the price must be three hundred
thousand. That will leave us two hundred and fifty thousand dollars
"I'll split the difference with you."
MacCandless shook his head.
"Well, that ends our argument," Matt answered pleasantly, and took
up his hat. "You can keep your big white elephant another eight
years, Mr. MacCandless. Perhaps some principal will come along then
and make you another offer; and in the interim you can charge off
about one hundred and fifty thousand dollars interest on the money
tied up in the Narcissus. Fine business—I don't think!" He nodded
farewell and started for the door.
"But you say you have but fifty thousand dollars," MacCandless
"I said I'd have to get two hundred and fifty thousand dollars
more. Well, I'll do it."
"Quite a sum to raise these days," MacCandless remarked doubtfully.
"Well, if you'll give me a sixty-day option on the Narcissus at two
hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars and agree to do the repairs
on her, including dry-docking, cleaning and painting her up to the
water line, I'll take a ten-thousand-dollar chance, Mr. MacCandless,
that I can raise the money."
"Do you mean you'll give the Oriental Steamship Company ten
thousand dollars for a sixty-day option?"
"I do; and I'll pay for the vessel as I raise the remainder of the
money. Ten thousand dollars down for the option, to apply on the
purchase price, of course, if the deal goes through, and to be
forfeited to you if I fail to make the next payment on time."
"What will the next payment be?" the cautious MacCandless demanded.
"Twenty thousand dollars a month, with interest at six per cent. in
deferred payments. You might as well be earning six per cent. on her
as have her rusting holes in her bottom down there in Mission Bay. As
she lies, you're losing at least six per cent. interest on her."
"There's reason in that," MacCandless answered thoughtfully. "You
to insure the vessel as our interest may appear, bill of sale in
escrow; and if you default for more than thirty days on any payment
before we have received fifty per cent. of the purchase price you lose
out and we get our ship back."
"Sharp business, but I'll take it, Mr. MacCandless. After I've
paid half the money I can mortgage her for the remainder and get out
from under your clutches. Put the buck up to your directors, get
their approval to the option and contract of sale, notify me, and I'll
be right up with a certified check for ten thousand dollars." And,
without giving MacCandless time to answer, Matt took his departure.
"If I talked ten minutes with that man," he soliloquized, "he'd
have the number of my mess. He'd realize what a piker I was and
terminate the interview. But—I—think he'll meet my terms, because
he sees I'm pretty young and inexperienced, and he figures he'll make
ten or twenty thousand dollars out of me before I discover I'm a
rotten promoter. And, at that, his is better than an even-money bet!"
At five o'clock that same day MacCandless telephoned.
"I have called a special meeting of our directors, Captain
Peasley," he announced, "and put your proposition up to them. They
have agreed to it, and if you will be at my office at ten o'clock
to-morrow I think we can do business."
"I think so," Matt answered. "I'll be there."
He hung up, reached for a telegraph blank and wrote the following
San Francisco, July 28, 1914.
Chief Engineer, S. S. Arab,
Port Costa, California.
Have bought Narcissus. Offer you one hundred seventy-five a
month quit Arab now and supervise installation new crank shaft,
retubing condensers, and so on; permanent job as chief. Do you
accept? Answer immediately.
PACIFIC SHIPPING COMPANY,
Matthew Peasley, President.
Having dispatched this message, Matt Peasley closed down his desk,
strolled round to the Blue Star Navigation Company's offices, and
picked up his newly acquired father-in-law. On their way home in
Cappy's carriage the old gentleman, apropos of the afternoon press
dispatches from Europe, remarked that the situation abroad was
anything but encouraging.
"Do you think we'll have a war in Europe?" Matt queried.
"Germany seems determined to back up Austria in her demands on
Serbia, and I don't think Serbia will eat quite all of the dish of
dirt Francis Joseph has set before her," Cappy answered seriously.
"Austria seems determined to make an issue of the assassination of the
Archduke Ferdinand and his wife. If she does, Matt, there'll be the
most awful war in history. All Europe will be fighting."
Matt was silent and thoughtful all the way home, but just before
they left the carriage he turned to Cappy.
"If there's war," he remarked, "England will, doubtless, control
the seas because of her superior navy. German commerce will
"The submarine will have to be reckoned with, also," Cappy
suggested. "England's commerce will doubtless be knocked into a cocked
"There'll be a shortage of bottoms, and vessels will be in brisk
demand," Matt predicted. "There'll be a sharp rise in freight rates
on all commodities the instant war breaks out, and the American
mercantile marine ought to reap a harvest."
"My dear boy," said Cappy acidly, "why speak of the American
mercantile marine? There ain't no such animal."
"There will be—if the war in Europe ever starts," Matt retorted;
"and, what's more, I'm going to bet there will be war within thirty
He did not consider it advisable to mention to Cappy that he was
going to bet ten thousand dollars!
CHAPTER XLVIII. VICTORY
At ten o'clock the following morning Matt Peasley, accompanied by
an attorney, an expert in maritime law, presented himself at the
Oriental Steamship Company's office. MacCandless and the attorney for
his company were awaiting them, with a tentative form of contract of
sale already drawn up, and after a two-hour discussion on various
points the finished document was finally presented for the signatures
of both parties, but not, however, until Matt Peasley had been forced
to do something that brought out a gentle perspiration on the backs of
his sturdy legs. Before the shrewd MacCandless would consent to begin
the work of placing the vessel in commission, according to agreement,
he stipulated a payment of twenty-five thousand dollars down! He
estimated the cost of the docking and repair work at fifty thousand
dollars, and, desiring to play safe, insisted that Matt Peasley should
advance at least fifty per cent. of this preliminary outlay in cash.
Matt thereupon excused himself from the conference on the plea that
he had to consult with others before taking this step. He was gone
about fifteen minutes, during which time he consulted with the
"others." They happened to be two newsboys selling rival afternoon
editions. Matt Peasley did business with each, and after a quick
perusal of both papers, he decided that war was inevitable and
resolved to take the plunge. In no sense of the word, however, did he
believe he was gambling. His conversation with Terence Reardon had
convinced him that the Narcissus was a misunderstood ship—that she
had been poorly managed and was the victim of a false financial
Hence, even though the war should not materialize, he would be
making no mistake in tying her up. She was a bully gamble and a
wonderful bargain at the price; with Terence Reardon presiding over
her engines at a salary twenty-five dollars in excess of the union
scale, the orders to keep her out of the shop would be followed, so
far as lay in Terence's power. Even should he not succeed in
financing the enterprise Cappy Ricks would be glad to take his bargain
off his hands—perhaps at a neat profit. Consequently, Matt went over
to his bank, procured an additional certified check for fifteen
thousand dollars and returned to MacCandless' office, where he signed
the contract of sale and paid over his twenty-five thousand dollars.
He trembled a little as he did it.
"I'll have the insurance on her placed this afternoon," MacCandless
suggested as he handed Matt his copy of the sale contract; whereat the
latter came to life with galvanic suddenness.
"Oh, no, you'll not, Mr. MacCandless," he suggested smilingly.
"I'll place that insurance myself. My company has to pay for it, so
I'll act as agent and collect my little old ten per cent. commission.
But, passing that, do you want to know the latest—the very latest
"I don't mind," MacCandless replied.
"Well, there's going to be a devil of big war in Europe and I
wouldn't take four hundred thousand dollars for the Narcissus this
minute. May I use your telephone? Thanks!" He called up his office.
"Is there a telegram there for me?" he queried, and on being answered
in the affirmative he directed his stenographer to read it to him. He
turned to MacCandless.
"Mr. Terence Reardon will have entire charge of the work of
retubing those condensers, and so on," he explained. "I'll give him a
letter to you, which will be his authority to superintend the job.
I'm going to New York tonight, but I think I'll be back in time to
accept the vessel when she's ready for commission." He looked at his
watch. It was just twelve-thirty o'clock. "The Overland leaves at
two-thirty," he murmured. "I'll have just time to pack a suit case."
And he picked up his hat and fled with the celerity and singleness of
purpose of a tin-canned dog.
Cappy Ricks woke from his mid-afternoon doze to find his son-in-law
shaking him by the shoulder.
"Well, young man," Cappy began severely, "so you're back, are you?
Give an account of yourself. Where the devil have you been for the
past two weeks? Why did you go, and why did you have the consummate
nerve to leave Florry behind you? Why, you hadn't been married two
"I couldn't take her with me, sir," Matt protested. "I wanted to,
but she would have been in the way. You see, I knew I was going to be
busy night and day."
Cappy Ricks slid out to the edge of his swivel chair; with a hand
on each knee he gazed at his smiling son-in-law over the rims of his
spectacles. For fully a minute he remained motionless.
"Matt," he demanded suspiciously, "what the devil have you been up
Matt raised a huge forefinger.
"Number one," he began: "I bought the Oriental Steamship Company's
freighter Narcissus, seventy-five hundred tons' register, for two
hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars, and in a month she'll be in
tiptop shape and ready for sea. I've paid twenty-five thousand
dollars down on her and I'll have to make a payment of twenty thousand
dollars on the twenty-sixth of September and twenty thousand dollars a
month on her thereafter until she, is paid for. And if I default on a
payment for more than thirty days before I've paid off half of the
purchase price the Oriental Steamship Company may, at its option, take
the vessel away from me."
Cappy Ricks smiled.
"Ah!" he breathed softly. "So you want help, eh? You finally did
manage to get into deep water close to the shore, and now you're
yelling to father to come through and save you, eh? Well, I'll do it,
my boy, because I think you made a bully buy; and she's worth it.
I'll take over your bargain for you and give you, say—er—ahem!
we—harumph-h-h—say twenty-five thousand dollars profit. Not so bad,
eh? When I was your age—" Cappy paused, open-mouthed. He had
suddenly remembered something. "Oh, no," he contradicted himself;
"this isn't my foolish day—not by a jugful! You owe me a lot of
money on that promissory note you gave me when we settled up for that
Tillicum business—so I'll not give you any money after all. I'll
just take the contract of sale off your hands, give you back the money
you risked in the deal—and your promissory note, cancelled." And
Cappy Ricks sat back and clawed his whiskers expectantly.
"Oh, I'm not in distress," Matt answered cheerfully. "On the
contrary, I'm going to take up that note before the week is out."
Once more Cappy slid out to the edge of his chair.
"Where are you going to get the money?" he demanded bluntly.
"I'm going to sell the Narcissus. The day I purchased her it was a
moral certainty that Europe was to be plunged into a terrible war; so
the ink wasn't dry on the contract before I was streaking it for New
York. War was declared by England on Germany on the fifth of August,
and while you'd be saying Jack Robinson every German freighter went
into neutral ports to intern until the war should terminate. The
German raiders are still out after the British and French commerce,
and the deep-water shipping out of Eastern ports isn't a business any
more. It's a delirium—a night-mare! Why, I was offered any number
of charters for my Narcissus, but I didn't bother trying to charter
her until just before I started for home; and, moreover, the longer I
waited the better charter I could make. Besides, she isn't in
commission yet—and I had other fish to fry."
"For instance?" Cappy inquired wonderingly.
"It is an undisputed fact that the early bird gets the worm," Matt
Peasley replied brightly, "and I was the early bird. I was in New
York a few days before the war became general, and for a week
thereafter everybody was so blamed interested in the fighting they
neglected business. But I didn't. I went to New York to charter,
under the government form, as many big steel freighters as I could lay
Cappy Ricks raised his clasped hands and gazed reverently upward.
"Oh, Lord!" he murmured. "How many? How many?"
"Fifteen," Matt Peasley murmured complacently. "I got about half
of them real cheap, because business was rotten when I landed in the
East. Why, I chartered the entire fleet of one shipping firm in
Boston. I had to pay a stiffer rate for the others; but—"
"How long did you charter them for?" Cappy yelled. "Quick! Tell
"All for a year, with the privilege of renewal at a ten per cent.
advance. I had no difficulty in rechartering to the men who had been
asleep on the job. I shall average a profit of two hundred dollars a
day on each of the fifteen even if I do not charter them longer—"
"A day!" Cappy's voice rose to a shrill scream.
"A day! Any American bottom that will float and move through the
water is worth five times what it was before war was declared, and the
freight rates are going up every day. Three thousand dollars a day
income—three hundred and sixty-five days in the year! Man, if the
war lasts a year I'll make a million dollars net!"
"But—but—about this Narcissus?" Cappy sputtered.
"Just before I left for home I chartered her at fourteen hundred
dollars a day—forty-two thousand dollars a month—on the Government
form of charter."
"Impossible!" Cappy shrieked, losing all control of himself.
"Dog-gone you, Matt Peasley, don't tell me such stories. You're
driving me crazy!"
"It will cost me nine thousand a month to run her—and she doesn't
even go near the war zone. I'm going to run her to South American
Matt Peasley smiled. "How long?" he echoed. "Why, she's only
chartered for one trip just now. You don't suppose I'd charter her
for several voyages or for a year, on a freight market that's growing
"And those fifteen vessels you chartered. You rechartered them.
For what period?"
"Three months, with privilege of renewal at the going rates."
"Matt," Cappy murmured, "you're great. Damn me, sir, I could kiss
Matt grinned at this earnest commendation.
"Of course I can operate the Narcissus and meet my monthly payments
to the Oriental Steamship Company and still be ahead of the game," he
continued. "But I'm going to sell her, Mr. Ricks. I've had an offer
of four hundred and fifty thousand dollars for her already—and she's
still waiting to be hauled out on the marine railway and put in
commission! I'll just wait one week and by that time she'll bring
half a million. At that I hate to sell, but I've got to. I figure a
bird in the hand is worth two in the bush."
"Why have you got to?" Cappy shrilled. "You're crazy! You don't
"But the next payment will come due on her before I receive any
charter money from the Steel people, and that will clean me for fair.
I can't help myself. Besides, I've got these other fifteen vessels
chartered; I'll have to have capital—and I've got to have it quickly
or I'll be a pauper while you'd be saying Jack Robinson."
"But, Matt, you old dunderhead, you mustn't sell a good thing.
Why, man, you've got a million and a half profit right in the hollow
of your hand; and, oh, we mustn't let it get away, Matt—we mustn't
let it get away!
"It was magnificent, Matt—perfectly magnificent. I'll help you,
sonny. By golly, I'll go to the bat for you and back you for the last
dollar I have. No more monkeyshines between us now, boy! We've had a
lot of fun in our day, playing nip and tuck with each other; but this
is real business. You've got to be saved."
"I had an idea that you would see it in that light, sir," Matt
suggested smilingly. I knew you'd back me up; so I didn't worry. But
you'll have to take half the profit on the deals I've made—that's
"Profits!" Cappy Ricks sneered. "Why, what the devil do I care for
profits? You keep the profits. You and Florry are young and you'll
know how to enjoy them. Why, what do you think I am? A human hog?
Let me sit in the game with you—let me play the game of business with
you, son, down to my last buffalo nickel. I can't take the blamed
money with me when I die, can I? But don't ask me to make any money
out of you, my boy. I'm going to get my fun watching you in action."
Matt Peasley came close and took old Cappy Ricks' hand in both of
"I want to be your partner," he said wistfully. "I couldn't come
into this office and sponge off you, and so I've waited until I could
buy in! I wanted to bring some assets besides myself when I should
come to manage the Blue Star. May I, sir? I want to turn in this big
deal I've put over for stock in the Ricks Lumber and Logging Company
and the Blue Star Navigation Company; and, then, with Skinner managing
the lumber end, I'll sit in and run the fleet—and you just sit round
and help and offer advice, Mr. Ricks. Let me turn in the Narcissus
for what I have been offered—four hundred and fifty thousand
dollars—and take stock.
"I don't want to be an employee; I don't want to be just your
son-in-law, waiting for your shoes. I want to be your partner—to be
more than a cog in the machine. And those freighters I've
chartered—why, I could never have chartered them without your help.
Who was I? Would I have had any credit or standing with those big
Eastern shipping firms? Not much! I represented myself as the
general manager of the Blue Star Navigation Company. And they knew
about you—you were rated A-1 in financial circles."
"You what?" yelled Cappy. "General manager! You infernal duffer,
why didn't you cut the whole hog and call yourself president?"
"I had my cards printed to read: Vice President and General
Manager," Matt replied with a twinkle. "I didn't feel any qualms of
conscience about cutting that much of the hog, because I knew you
would make me vice president and general manager as soon as I got back
with the bacon! So I signed all the charters, 'Blue Star Navigation
Company, by Matthew Peasley, V. P. and G.M.'—drew a raft of sight
drafts on you also. They'll be putting in an appearance in a day or
two. I got home just about two jumps ahead of them."
"You're a devil!" said Cappy Ricks. "But—I'll pay the drafts."
Matt laughed happily. "You're bringing about a million and a half
into the company—at least, if everything goes well, you will; and
you've got a half interest in what you have brought in," Cappy
He touched a push button. An instant later Mr. Skinner appeared.
"Skinner, my dear boy," said Cappy, "Matt has a flock of charters
he has made for us in the East—also, a flock of recharters of the
same boats—also, a contract of sale on the steamer Narcissus. Make
out a form of assignment of that contract from the Pacific Shipping
Company to the Blue Star Navigation Company and Matt will sign it.
We'll keep that boat ourselves. Then give Matt a check for the next
payment due that man MacCandless on the Narcissus and after you've
cleaned up with Matt, Skinner, have Hankins issue him seven hundred
and fifty thousand dollars' worth of stock—half in the Blue Star and
half in the Ricks Lumber Logging Company. Tell Hankins, also, to call
a special meeting of the board of directors of both companies for ten
o'clock tomorrow—and to be sure to have a quorum present. And in the
meantime put the Narcissus under provisional American registry."
"Why, what are you going to do?" Mr. Skinner demanded wonderingly.
Cappy walked tip to his general manager and affectionately placed
his hand on Skinner's arm.
"Skinner, my dear boy," he said, "we're going to elect you
president of the lumber company and Matt is to be president of the
Navigation Company. I'm going to resign and be a sort of president
emeritus of both companies and advisory director to both boards.
Matt, you might tell Skinner what your plans are for the Blue Star."
"Well," said Matt, "I'm going to leave the president emeritus on
the job a few months longer."
"Not by a jugful! I quit tomorrow. Hereafter I'm just scenery.
I'm old and I must give way to youth. I've had my day; I'm out of
the running now," Cappy answered sadly.
"We're going to leave the president emeritus on the job," Matt
repeated, "while I go to Europe and pick up a couple of big British
tramps, under the provisions of the recent Emergency Shipping Act, and
stick 'em under the American flag. Regardless of what the other
fellows may do or think, the fact is we're American citizens; and
we're going to do our duty and help establish an American mercantile
marine. Skinner, we'll make the Blue Star flag known on the Seven
Cappy Ricks sprang into the air and got one thin old arm round Matt
Peasley's neck; with the other he groped for Skinner, for there were
tears in his fine old eyes.
"What a pair of lads to have round me!" he said huskily.
"Matt—Skinner, my boy—by the Holy Pink-toed Prophet!—we'll do it;
not because we need the money or want it, or give a particular damn to
hoard up a heap of it, but because it's the right thing to do. It's
patriotic—it's American—our activities shall enrich the world—and
oh, it's such a bully game to play!"
Mr. Skinner glanced at Cappy Ricks with the closest approach to
downright affection he considered quite dignified to permit during
"I notice you were going to quit a minute ago to become president
emeritus—and now you're including yourself in the new program of
activity," he reminded Cappy Ricks. "I seem to remember that for the
past few years you've been talking of the happy day when you could
retire and learn to play golf."
"Golf!" Cappy glanced at Mr. Skinner witheringly. "Skinner," he
continued, "don't be an ass! Golf is an old man's game—and I belong
with the young fellows. Why, don't you remember the day, three years
ago, when we discovered we had a sailor named Matt Peasley before the
mast in the old Retriever? Why, ever since I've been having so much
"And that reminds me," Matt interrupted: "We must send a new
skipper to Aberdeen to relieve Mike Murphy in the Retriever. He has
his ticket for steam and I've hired him at two hundred and fifty a
month to skipper the Narcissus. Mike is one of the best men under the
Blue Star; he has come up from before the mast."
"The only kind I ever gave a whoop for," Cappy declared. "In
effect, he once told me to go chase myself."
"But," Skinner persisted, "how about playing golf?"
Cappy Ricks raised his eyes reverently upward. "Please God," he
said, "I'll die in the harness!"
"Amen!" said Mr. Skinner; and Matt Peasely re-echoed the sentiment.