“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 received none.”
“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!”
CAPPY PLANS A KNOCK-OUT
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 private.”
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.