And, with that remark, Cappy squared round to his desk and wrote, in a trembling hand: “Special messenger big as horse carries reply your last cablegram.”
“There,” he said, turning to his general manager; “send that to the man Peasley, and sign my name to it.”
MR. MURPHY ADVISES PREPAREDNESS
Matt Peasley said nothing to Mr. Murphy when Cappy Ricks’ cryptic cablegram was received. Insofar as Matt was concerned, that cablegram closed the argument, for even had it seemed to demand a reply the master of the Retriever would not—nay could not, have answered, for the controversy had already ruined him financially. So he went on briskly with his task of discharging the Retriever and when the A. D. liner pulled out for Liverpool with Captain Noah’s body on board, he laid off work merely long enough to dip the ensign and run it to half mast again until the steamer was out of sight; then he furled the flag, stored it in the locker in Captain Noah’s stateroom, into which he had now moved, and went on superintending the discharging. When the vessel was empty he had a tug tow him out into the roadstead, where he cast anchor and set himself patiently to await the arrival of the special messenger “as big as a horse.”
Somehow Matt didn’t relish that little dash of descriptive writing. In conjunction with the noun horse Cappy Ricks had employed the indefinite article a, and while a horse was a horse and Cappy might have had a Shetland pony in mind when he coined the simile, nevertheless, a still small voice whispered to Matt Peasley that at the time Cappy was really thinking of a Percheron. The longer Matt chewed the cud of anticipation the more acute grew his regret that he had threatened to throw his successor overboard. He traced a certain analogy between that threat and Cappy Ricks’ simple declarative sentence, and finally he decided to take Mr. Murphy into his confidence.
“Mike,” he said, “did you ever hear any gossip to the effect that Cappy Ricks will swallow a bluff?”
“No, I never have,” Mr. Murphy replied. “Why do you ask? You been trying to bluff him, Matt?”
“No, I really meant it when I said it, and if I’m crowded I’ll make good, but somehow I wish I hadn’t said it. It wasn’t dignified.”
“What did you say, Matt?”
“I cabled the owners that if they sent a skipper down here to relieve me they had better insure his life, because I’d throw him overboard upon arrival.”
“Why, that’s war talk,” Mr. Murphy declared, highly scandalized. “I don’t think Cappy Ricks will stand for that. I know blame well I wouldn’t.”
“What would you do, Mike, if you stood in Cappy’s shoes and I sent you that cablegram?”
“Well,” Mr. Murphy mused, “of course I’d be a little old man weighing about a hundred and thirty pounds ring-side, and I wouldn’t be able to thrash you myself, but if it took my last dollar I’d send somebody down here to do the job for me.