“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 Cape Town?”
“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.”
MATT PEASLEY ASSUMES OFFICE
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.