The stenographer entered with another telegram.
“Ah!” Cappy remarked, and rubbed his hands together in pleased anticipation. “I dare say this is from Mr. Murphy.”
It was; and this is what the loyal Murphy had to say:
“I thank you for the consideration. Very sweet of you; but I wouldn’t work for you again on a bet. You couldn’t hand me a ripe peach! Master or mate, creosote tastes the same to me. At Captain Peasley’s request am staying by vessel until new master arrives and hires new mate. Would have stuck by vessel for Old Man’s sake if you’d slipped us cargo of uncrated rattlesnakes; but since I encouraged him to tell you things for good of your soul and you fired him for it I must decline to profit by his misfortune.”
Silently Cappy Ricks folded that telegram and laid it on his desk; his head sagged forward on his breast and he fell to meditating deeply. Finally he looked up and eyed Mr. Skinner over the rims of his spectacles.
“Skinner,” he said solemnly, “do you realize, my boy, that we have two extremely remarkable men on the barkentine Retriever?”
“They are certainly most remarkably deficient in respect to their superiors, though in all probability exceedingly capable seamen,” Mr. Skinner answered sympathetically, for he had great veneration for the creator of the pay roll.
“I know,” Cappy replied sadly; “but then, you know, Skinner, the good Lord must certainly hate a bootlicker! Skinner, I simply cannot afford to lose those two damned scoundrels in the Retriever. They’re good men! And a good man who knows he’s good will not take any slack from man or devil; so I cannot afford to lose those two. Skinner, I’ve got myself into an awful mess. Here I’ve been running by dead reckoning and now I’m on the rocks! What’ll I do, Skinner? I’m licked; but, dang it all, sir, I can’t admit it, can I? Isn’t there some way to referee this scrap and call it a draw?”
“I see no way out of it now except to send another captain to Tacoma.”
“Skinner,” he declared, “you’re absolutely no use to me in an emergency. When I made you my general manager, on a bank president’s salary, I thought I’d be able to take it easy for the rest of my life.” He wagged his head sadly. “And what’s the result? I work harder than ever. Skinner, if I hadn’t any more imagination than you possess I’d be out there on the corner of California and Market Streets peddling lead pencils this minute. Leave this problem to me, Skinner. I suppose I’ll find a way out of it, with entire honor to all concerned. Holy sailor!” he added. “But that man Murphy is loyal—and loyalty is a pretty scarce commodity these days, let me tell you!”
CAPPY FORCES AN ARMISTICE
During the week that succeeded, Cappy Ricks did not once mention the subject of the Retriever and her recalcitrant skipper and mate; and Mr. Skinner argued from this that all was well. Finally one day Cappy came into the office and paused beside the general manager’s desk. He was grinning like a boy.