There were tears in his eyes as he dropped that letter into the mail box. The Blue Star Navigation Company owned the Retriever, but—but—well she was Matt Peasley’s ship and he loved her as men learn to love their homes. It broke his heart to think of giving her up.
“Skinner,” said Cappy Ricks, “I’ve got a letter from the man Peasley at last; and now, by golly, I can quit and take a vacation. Send in a stenographer.” The stenographer entered. “Take telegram—direct message,” he ordered, and commenced to dictate:
Captain Matthew Peasley,
Your resignation accepted. You are too almighty good for a windjammer, Matthew. You need more room for the development of your talent. Give Murphy the ship, with my compliments, and tell him I’ve enjoyed the fight because it went to a knock-out. Report to me at this office as soon as possible. You belong in steam. A second mate’s berth waiting for you. In a year you will be first mate of steam; a year later you will be master of steam, at two-fifty a month, and I will have a four-million-foot freighter waiting for you if you make good. The picture was a bully joke; but I could not laugh, Matt. It is so long since I was a boy.
“Send that right away, like a good girl,” he ordered. “He’s about loaded and he may have towed out before the telegram reaches him. Or, better still, send the message in duplicate—one copy to the mill and the other in care of the custom-house at Port Townsend. He’ll have to touch in there to clear the ship.”
He walked into Mr. Skinner’s office.
“Skinner,” he said, “Murphy has the Retriever, and you’re in charge of the shipping. Attend to the transfer of authority before she gets out of the Sound.”
MATT PEASLEY MEETS A TALKATIVE STRANGER
Cappy Ricks’ telegram to Matt, in care of the mill at Port Hadlock, arrived several hours after the Retriever, fully loaded with fir lumber, had been snatched away from the mill dock by a tug and started on her long tow to Dungeness, where the hawser would be cast off. It was not until the vessel came to a brief anchorage in the strait off Port Townsend, the port of entry to Puget Sound, and Matt went ashore to clear his ship, that the duplicate telegram sent in care of the Collector of the Port, was handed to him.
He read and reread it. The news it contained seemed too good to be true.
“I guess I won’t clear her after all,” he announced to the deputy collector.
The official nodded. “I didn’t think you would,” he replied. “I have a telegram from the custom-house at San Francisco, apprising me that Michael J. Murphy has been appointed master of the Retriever, so if she’s to be cleared Captain Murphy will have to do the job.”
“He’s my mate, and if you’ll wait about half an hour I’ll go get the old Siwash,” Matt replied happily, and started back to the Retriever in a hurry. He had been gone less than twenty minutes, a fact noted by the astute Murphy, who met his superior at the rail as the latter climbed up the Jacob’s ladder.