The reader will readily appreciate, therefore, the apprehensions which assailed Cappy Ricks when the Blue Star Navigation Company discovered it had on its payroll one Matthew Peasley, a Nobody from Nowhere, who not only had the insufferable impudence to apply for a job skippering the finest windjammer in the fleet, but when rebuffed in no uncertain terms, refused to withdraw his application, and defied his owners to fire him. Such a preposterous state of affairs borders so closely on the realm of fancy as to require explanation; hence, for the nonce let us leave Cappy Ricks and Mr. Skinner to their sordid task of squeezing dividends out of the Blue Star Navigation Company and turn the searchlight of inquiry upon the amazing Matthew.
THE MAN FROM BLUE WATER
If, instead of advancing the theory that man sprang from a monkey, Darwin had elected to nominate the duck for that dubious honor, there is no doubt but that he would have pointed to the Peasley family, of Thomaston, Maine, as evidence of the correctness of his theory of evolution. The most casual student of natural history knows that the instant a duckling chips its shell it toddles straightway to the nearest water. The instant a male Peasley could cut his mother’s apron strings, he, also, made for the nearest water, for the Peasleys had always been sailors, a statement which a perusal of the tombstones in Thomaston cemetery will amply justify. Indeed, a Peasley who had not acquired his master’s ticket prior to his twenty-fifth birthday was one of two things—a disgrace to the family or a corpse. Consequently, since the traditions of his tribe were very strong in Matthew Peasley VI, it occasioned no comment in Thomaston when, having acquired a grammar school education, he answered the call of his destiny and fared forth to blue water and his first taste of dog’s body and salt horse.
When he was fourteen years old and very large for his age, Matt commenced his apprenticeship in a codfisher on the Grand Banks, which, when all is said and done, constitutes the finest training school in the world for sailors. By the time he was seventeen he had made one voyage to Rio de Janeiro in a big square-rigger out of Portland; and so smart and capable an A.B. was he for his years that the Old Man took a shine to him. Confidentially he informed young Matt that if the latter would stay by the ship, in due course a billet as third mate should be the reward of his fealty. The Old Man didn’t need a third mate any more than he needed a tail, but Matt Peasley looked like a comer to him and he wanted an excuse to encourage the boy by berthing him aft; also it sounds far better to be known as a third mate instead of a mate’s bosun, which was, in reality, the position the Old Man had promised Matt. The latter promptly agreed to this program and the skipper loaned him his copy of Bowditch.