“All right, Matt. I’ll obey. But remember, I have given you fair warning. If I move into your cabin to-day, I’ll not move out when the relief skipper comes.”
“I’ll take a chance,” said Matt Peasley.
WORDY WAR AT A DOLLAR A WORD
While the capable Mr. Skinner was preparing the reply to Matt Peasley’s cablegram, and dictating for Cappy Ricks’ signature a letter to Noah Kendall’s widow, Cappy was busy at the telephone. First he retailed the news to the Merchants’ Exchange, to be bulletined on the blackboard and read by Captain Noah’s friends; next he called up the secretary of the American Shipmasters’ Association, of which the deceased had been a member, and lastly he communicated the sad tidings to the water-front reporters of all the daily papers. This detail attended to, Cappy’s active mind returned to more practical and profitable affairs, and he took up Matt Peasley’s cablegram. He was deep in a study of it when Mr. Skinner entered with the letter to Mrs. Kendall.
“‘Captain knifed, killed, Kru boy argument boat fare,’” Cappy read aloud. “Skinner, my dear boy, what is the cable rate per word to Cape Town?”
“Ninety-eight cents per word,” replied Mr. Skinner, who had just looked it up.
“We will if you please, Skinner, confine ourselves to round numbers. There is such a thing as being too exact. Call it a dollar. Figuring on that basis, I see this garrulous mate has squandered five dollars of our money to no purpose—yes, by jingo, more than that. He might have used the code book! Hum-m-m! Ahem! Harump-h-h-h! Skinner, this fellow will not do. He is too windy. Skinner, he tells the story in eight words, and forgets to use his code book. Give me a skipper, Skinner, my boy, who always has his owner’s interest at heart and displays a commendable discretion in limiting the depredations practiced by the cable company. For instance, the man Peasley might have omitted the word knifed; also the explanatory words, argument boat fare, and the word mate. Though regretting Noah’s demise most keenly, as business men we are not cable-gramically interested in the means employed to accomplish his removal. Neither do the causes leading up to the tragedy interest us. The man Peasley should merely have said “Captain murdered.” Also, he might have trusted to us to realize that when the captain dies the first mate takes charge. He need not have identified himself—the infernal chatter-box!”
Cappy read the next sentence. “Instruct consignees honor my drafts as captain.”
“H’m! Harum-ph! He might have said ‘please,’ Skinner! Sounds devilishly like an order, the way he puts it. Though he is temporarily in command I challenge his right to handle our money until I know more about him. Harum-ph! Reading between the lines, Skinner, I see he says: ’If you send a skipper to Cape Town to bring the Retriever home while I’m on the job, you’re crazy.’ Look over the vouchers in Cap’n Noah’s last report and let us ascertain how long this forceful mate has been in our employ.”