“I have. The idea of two years’ probation as second and first mate didn’t appeal to me, so while I was waiting round to join the Gualala I went up for my ticket as master of steam. I passed, but when I told your father I had a license to command the largest steam freighter he owns, he only laughed at me and told me the inspectors weren’t running his business for him. Just because I’m not twenty-three years old he says I ought to have two years’ experience in steam as mate before he gives me command of a vessel. He says I’d better learn the Pacific Coast like he knows his front lawn, or some foggy night I’ll walk my vessel overland and the inspectors will set me down for a couple of years.”
“Well, that sounds reasonable, Matt.”
“Yes, I’ll admit there’s some justice in his contention, so I’m going to do it to please him, although I hate to have him think I’m a dog-barking navigator.”
“Why, what’s that?” Florry demanded.
“A dog-barking navigator is a coastwise blockhead that gets lost if he loses sight of land. He steers a course from headland to headland, and every little while on dark nights he stands in close and listens. Pretty soon he hears a dog barking alongshore. ‘All right,’ he says to the mate; ’we’re off Point Montara. I know that Newfoundland dog’s barking. He’s the only one on the coast. Haul her off and hold her before the wind for four hours and then stand in again. When you pick up the bark of a foxhound you’ll be off Pigeon Point.’”
Florry’s laughter drowned a further description of the dog-barking navigator’s wonderful knowledge of Pacific Coast canines, and after some small talk Matt said good-bye and hung up. When he left the telephone booth, however, he was a happier young man than when he had entered it, for he had now satisfied himself that while Cappy Ricks might arrogate to himself the right of proposing, his daughter could be depended upon to attend to the disposing. He went to his boarding house, paid his landlady, packed his clothes and sent them down to the Gualala, rubbing her blistered sides against Howard Street Pier No. 1. At seven o’clock next morning he was aboard her and at seven-five he superintended the casting off of the stern lines and his apprenticeship in steam had commenced.
Cappy Ricks was in a fine rage. A situation, unique in his forty years of experience as a lumber and shipping magnate, was confronting him, with the prospects exceedingly bright for Cappy playing a role analogous to that of the simpleton who holds the sack on a snipe-hunting expedition. He summoned Mr. Skinner into his private office, and glared at the latter over the rims of his spectacles. “Skinner,” he said solemnly, “there’s the very devil to pay.”
Mr. Skinner arched his eyebrows and inclined a respectful ear. Cappy continued: