The receipt of Cappy Ricks’ letter actually frightened Matt Peasley for about thirty seconds. Then he reread the last paragraph. Like a dutiful servant he forgave Cappy the letter’s reference to arrogance, impudence and general bad manners; but the reference to his lack of knowledge of the ethics of his profession made him fighting mad.
Cappy Ricks might just as well have passed him the supreme insult of the seas: “Aw, go buy a farm!” He showed the letter to Mr. Murphy.
“Why, that’s adding insult to injury!” the mate declared sympathetically.
The youthful master threw up both hamlike hands in token of complete surrender and profound disgust.
“There’s the gratitude of an owner!” he raved. “He wires me my loading orders and never says a word about docking—though as managing owner it’s up to him to know when the vessel needs docking. I can’t plan her comings and goings so that at the proper time she’ll find herself at a port with a dry dock. Of course when he wired me my loading orders I realized he wasn’t going to dock me; so I took matters into my own hands. Why, Mike, I wouldn’t skipper a ship so foul she can hardly answer her helm. How could I know he’d forgotten she needed docking? I’m not a mind reader.”
“I suppose he’s been so busy hunting another dirty cargo for us he hadn’t time to think of the vessel,” Mr. Murphy sneered, and added: “The dirty old skin-flint!”
“Well, I’ll just tell Cappy Ricks where to head in!” Matt stormed. “Let him fire me if he wants to. I don’t care to sail a ship—particularly a dirty ship—for any man who thinks I don’t know my business. Mike, I’m going to send him a telegram that’ll burn his meddling old fingers.”
“Give him hell for me!” pleaded Mr. Murphy. “If he fires you I’ll quit, too.”
The result of this colloquy was that Cappy Ricks received this night letter the following morning:
Alden P. Ricks,
258 California St.,
Referring your letter. Men that taught me nautical ethics expected things done without orders, minus thanks for doing them well, plus abuse for doing them poorly. Regard your criticism as out of place. Am not the seventh son of a seventh son. How could I know you had overlooked fact that vessel needed docking? Your business to plan my voyages to get me to dry-dock port at least once a year. When you wired loading orders, concluded you were cheap owner; hence decided dock her without orders. Expect to be fired sooner or later, but will leave good ship behind me so my successor cannot say, “Peasley let her run down.” Had I waited orders, vessel would have been ruined. Yet you have not sufficient grace to express your thanks. Had I not acted in this emergency, you would have fired me later for incompetence, and blacklisted me for not telling