“The rheostat on the searchlight niver was any good; and she may or may not need a new whistle—I dunno. Sure, the skipper niver blew it good an’ long but the wanst; an’, so help me, young man, I was lookin’ at the shteam gauge whin he shtarted that prolonged blast—an’ whin he finished the gauge had dhropped tin pounds! So up I go on the bridge to the ould man, an’ says I to him, says I: ’Clear weather or thick fog, I’m tellin’ ye to lave that whistle alone if ye expect to finish the voyage. Wan toot out av it means a ton av coal gone to hell an’ a dhrop av blood out av the owner’s heart!” An’ from that time on the best I iver hearrd out av that whistle was a sick sort av a sob.”
Matt laughed as Terence Reardon’s natural propensity for romancing came to the front. He thanked the chief for the latter’s invaluable information, and, with a mental resolve to have Terence Reardon presiding over the engines of the Narcissus at no distant date, he returned to the city.
THE TAIL GOES WITH THE HIDE
The following morning Matt called upon MacCandless, the general manager of the Oriental Steamship Company. Mr. MacCandless was a cold individual of Scotch ancestry, with a scent for a dollar a trifle keener than most; and Matt Peasley, young and inexperienced in business fencing, was never more aware of his deficiencies than when he faced MacCandless across the latter’s desk. Consequently, he resolved to waste no words in vain parley. MacCandless was still looking curiously at Matt’s card when the latter said:
“I called with reference to that big freighter of the Oriental Steamship Company—the Narcissus. Is she for sale?”
MacCandless smiled with his lips, but his eyes wore the eternal Show-me! look. He nodded.
“Foolish of me to ask, I know,” Matt continued complacently, “since it is a matter of common gossip that you would have been delighted to have sold her any time these past eight years.”
Since MacCandless did not deny this Matt assumed that it was true and returned to the attack with renewed vigor.
“What do you want for her?”
“Are you acting as a broker in this matter or do you represent principals who have asked you to interview me? In other words, before I talk business with you I want to know that you mean business. I shall waste no time discussing a possible trade unless you assure me that you have a customer in sight. I am weary of brokers. I’ve had forty of them after that vessel from time to time, but no business ever resulted.”
“Which is not at all surprising, considering the circumstances,” Matt retorted. “If you cannot use her yourself you mustn’t expect other people to be over-enthusiastic about owning her. However, I think I can find business for her, and I’ve come to buy her myself. You seem to think a lot of your time, so I’ll conserve it for you. I’m the principal in this deal, and if you really want to get rid of her we’ll do business in two minutes.”