“Do you think we’ll have a war in Europe?” Matt queried.
“Germany seems determined to back up Austria in her demands on Serbia, and I don’t think Serbia will eat quite all of the dish of dirt Francis Joseph has set before her,” Cappy answered seriously. “Austria seems determined to make an issue of the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand and his wife. If she does, Matt, there’ll be the most awful war in history. All Europe will be fighting.”
Matt was silent and thoughtful all the way home, but just before they left the carriage he turned to Cappy.
“If there’s war,” he remarked, “England will, doubtless, control the seas because of her superior navy. German commerce will absolutely cease.”
“The submarine will have to be reckoned with, also,” Cappy suggested. “England’s commerce will doubtless be knocked into a cocked hat.”
“There’ll be a shortage of bottoms, and vessels will be in brisk demand,” Matt predicted. “There’ll be a sharp rise in freight rates on all commodities the instant war breaks out, and the American mercantile marine ought to reap a harvest.”
“My dear boy,” said Cappy acidly, “why speak of the American mercantile marine? There ain’t no such animal.”
“There will be—if the war in Europe ever starts,” Matt retorted; “and, what’s more, I’m going to bet there will be war within thirty days.”
He did not consider it advisable to mention to Cappy that he was going to bet ten thousand dollars!
At ten o’clock the following morning Matt Peasley, accompanied by an attorney, an expert in maritime law, presented himself at the Oriental Steamship Company’s office. MacCandless and the attorney for his company were awaiting them, with a tentative form of contract of sale already drawn up, and after a two-hour discussion on various points the finished document was finally presented for the signatures of both parties, but not, however, until Matt Peasley had been forced to do something that brought out a gentle perspiration on the backs of his sturdy legs. Before the shrewd MacCandless would consent to begin the work of placing the vessel in commission, according to agreement, he stipulated a payment of twenty-five thousand dollars down! He estimated the cost of the docking and repair work at fifty thousand dollars, and, desiring to play safe, insisted that Matt Peasley should advance at least fifty per cent. of this preliminary outlay in cash.
Matt thereupon excused himself from the conference on the plea that he had to consult with others before taking this step. He was gone about fifteen minutes, during which time he consulted with the “others.” They happened to be two newsboys selling rival afternoon editions. Matt Peasley did business with each, and after a quick perusal of both papers, he decided that war was inevitable and resolved to take the plunge. In no sense of the word, however, did he believe he was gambling. His conversation with Terence Reardon had convinced him that the Narcissus was a misunderstood ship—that she had been poorly managed and was the victim of a false financial policy.