“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 again!”
“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?”
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?”