Blue Star Navigation Company.
Matt Peasley’s cheeks burned when he read that message. Indeed, could Cappy Ricks have been privileged to hear the terse remarks his telegram elicited, there is no doubt he would have sent Mr. Skinner up to the custom-house immediately to file a certificate of change of master.
“Ha!” Mr. Murphy snorted when Matt showed him the message. “I get the old sinner now. This is to be a grudge fight, Captain Matt. You wished yourself onto him in Cape Town against his will, and now he’s made up his mind that so long as you wanted the job it’s yours—only he’ll make you curse the day you ever moved your sea chest into the skipper’s cabin. He’s going to send us into dogholes to load and open roadsteads to discharge; and if he can find a dirty cargo anywhere we’ll get it. But it’s carrying a grudge too far not to give us stowage.”
“Well, it’s his ship,” Matt Peabody declared passionately. “If the old thief can gamble on good weather I guess I can gamble on my seamanship—and yours.”
The mate inclined his head at the delicate compliment; and Matt, observing this, decided that a few more of the same from time to time would do much to alleviate a diet of creosote.
AN OLD FRIEND RETURNS AND CAPPY LEADS ANOTHER ACE
Three days before the Retriever finished loading, the captain wired a trustworthy Seattle crimp recommended by Mr. Murphy, instructing him to send down a second mate, eight seamen and a good cook—and to bring them drunk, because the vessel was laden with creosoted piling. Captain Noah Kendall, Matt’s predecessor on the Retriever, had been raised on clipper ships and as he grew old had allowed himself the luxury of a third mate, to which arrangement Cappy Ricks, having a certain affection for Captain Noah, had never made any objection; but something whispered to Matt Peasley that the quickest route to Cappy’s heart would be via a short payroll, so he concluded to dispense with a third mate and tack ten dollars a month extra on the pay-check of the excellent Murphy.
The Retriever was lying in the stream fully loaded when the crew arrived, convoyed by the crimp’s runner. In accordance with instructions they were drunk, the crimp having furnished his runner with a two-gallon jug of home-made firewater upon leaving Seattle. One man—the second mate—was fairly sober, however, and while the launch that bore him to the Retriever was still half a mile from the vessel the breezes brought him an aroma which could not, by any possibility, be confused with the concentrated fragrance of the eight alcoholic breaths being exhaled around him. Muttering deep curses at his betrayal, he promptly leaped overboard and essayed to swim ashore. The runner pursued him in the launch, however, and gaffed him by the collar with a boat-hook; the launch-man, for a consideration, aided the runner, and the unwilling wretch was carried struggling to purgatory.