He returned to a perusal of the report.
“Huh! Harump-h-h-h! ’Credit by skipper’s rake-off on stores, and so on, $57.03.’ Skinner, that proves the man Peasley is too decent and honest to accept a commission from the thieves who supply his vessel, because he knows that if they give him a commission they’ll only tack it on to the bill, where he can’t see it. Well! All the Thomaston Peasleys were honest, Skinner. No thanks to him. Still, it’s a shame to give him another rough deal, for apparently he has—er—many—er—commendable qualities. Still—er—Skinner, I’ve just got to have a letter from the man Peasley, if it is only a letter of resignation. Get him another dirty cargo, Skinner, the dirtier the better.”
The dirtiest cargo Mr. Skinner could think of, with the exception of a load of creosoted piling, was another cargo of the same. So he scoured the market and finally he found one on Puget Sound, whereupon he sent Matt Peasley a telegram ordering him to tow to the Ranier Mill and Lumber Company’s dock at Tacoma, and load for Callao. At the same time he wired the Ranier people requesting them to be ready to furnish cargo to the Retriever the following day—this on the strength of a telegram from Matt Peasley received the previous day informing his owners that he was discharged and awaiting orders.
RUMORS OF WAR
When four days had elapsed the manager of the Ranier mill wired the Blue Star Navigation Company that the Retriever had not yet appeared at their dock.
Now four days wasted means something to a big barkentine like the Retriever; and in the absence of any excuse for the delay Cappy Ricks promptly came to the conclusion that Matt Peasley was ashore in Seattle, disporting himself after the time-honored custom of deep-sea sailors home from a long cruise. There could be no other reason for such flagrant inattention to orders; for, had the man Peasley been ill, the mate, Murphy, whom the captain vouched for as sober and intelligent, would have had his superior sent to a hospital and wired the office for orders.
“Skinner,” said Cappy, “send in a stenographer.”
When the girl appeared Cappy Ricks dictated this wire:
Captain Matthew Peasley,
Master Barkentine Retriever,
Colman Dock, Seattle, Washington.
Are you drunk, dead or asleep? You
have your orders. Obey
them P.D.Q. or turn over command to Chief Mate Murphy.
Alden P. Ricks.
“There!” he shrilled. “I’ve signed my name to it. Sign a telegram Blue Star Navigation Company and these infernal skippers think a clerk sent it; but when they know the boss is on to them they’ll jump lively. Bring me the answer to that as soon as it comes, Skinner.”
However, the answer did not come that day. Indeed, the next day had almost dragged to a close before Mr. Skinner appeared with this telegraphic bomb: