“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 consequences.
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.”