“I want to try out a theory,” Cappy replied. “I have a great curiosity, Skinner, to ascertain if there is any truth in the old saying that absence makes the heart grow fonder. And if it does, Skinner—why, the sooner I start the sooner I can get back.”
Mr. Skinner went out mystified. As Mark Twain’s friend, Mr. Ballou, remarked about the coffee, Cappy Ricks was a little too “technical” for him.
The Quickstep had arrived in port again before Cappy Ricks and Florry could get away to Europe, so Matt came down by train from Los Medanos and was granted the meager comfort of a farewell with his heart’s desire. Thereafter all comfort fled his life, for, with Cappy Ricks away, Mr. Skinner was high and low justice, and he was not long keeping Matt Peasley in ignorance of the fact that it was one thing to skipper a Blue Star ship for Cappy Ricks and quite another thing to skipper the same ship for the Blue Star manager. For Mr. Skinner had never liked Captain Peasley, and, moreover, he never intended to, for the master of the Quickstep was not sufficiently submissive to earn the general manager’s approbation as a desirable employee, and Cappy Ricks was the only man with a will and a way of his own who could get along amicably in the same office with the efficient and cold-blooded Mr. Skinner.
Cappy wasn’t outside Sandy Hook before Mr. Skinner had Matt on the carpet for daring to bring the Quickstep up river without a pilot. He demanded an explanation.
“I made careful note of all the twists and turns when the pilot took me up the first time,” Matt declared. “It isn’t a difficult channel, so I decided to save forty-five dollars the next time and take her up myself.”
“Suppose you’d buried her nose in the mud and we’d had to lighter her deckload to get her off,” Mr. Skinner suggested.
Matt grinned. “If your aunt was a man she’d be your uncle, wouldn’t she?” he parried. He had made up his mind not to take Mr. Skinner seriously. Mr. Skinner flushed, looked dangerous, but concluded not to pursue the investigation further.
Three weeks later, when making up to a dock at San Pedro, a strong ebb tide and a mistake in judgment swung the bow of the Quickstep into the end of the dock and a dolphin was torn out. In the fullness of time the Blue Star Navigation Company was in receipt of a bill for $112 dock repairs, whereupon Mr. Skinner wrote Matt, prefacing his letter with the query: “Referring to inclosed bill—how did this happen?” Then he went on to scold Matt bitterly for his inability to handle his ship properly in making up to a dock.
Matt promptly returned Mr. Skinner his own letter, with this penciled memorandum at the bottom of the page: “Referring to inclosed bill for dock repairs—the dock happened to be in my course. That’s the only way I can account for it.”