“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 he said:
“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.”
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 Oakland Creek—”
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.”