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´╗┐Title: Cappy Ricks Retires: But That Doesn't Keep Him from Coming Back Stronger Than Ever
Author: Kyne, Peter B. (Peter Bernard), 1880-1957
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Cappy Ricks Retires: But That Doesn't Keep Him from Coming Back Stronger Than Ever" ***

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CAPPY RICKS RETIRES

_But that doesn't keep him from coming back stronger than ever_

By Peter B. Kyne


[Illustration: But, in time, Cappy would find her a rich husband]



THE ILLUSTRATIONS


But, in time, Cappy would find her a rich husband

_(Excerpt from the log of Capt. Matt Peasley:)_ "I am alone on the
ship--all the rest are now dead--"

He always shouted when telephoning

"Two million dollars!" cried J. Augustus Redell



CAPPY RICKS RETIRES



CHAPTER I


If you have read previous tales of the Blue Star Navigation Company and
the various brisk individuals connected therewith, you will recall one
Michael J. Murphy, who first came to the attention of Cappy Ricks at the
time he, the said Murphy, was chief kicker of the barkentine _Retriever_
under Captain Matt Peasley. Subsequently, when Matt Peasley presented
in his person indubitable evidence of the wisdom of the old saw that
you cannot keep a good man down, Michael J. became skipper of the
_Retriever_. This berth he continued to occupy with pleasure and profit
to all concerned, until a small financial tidal wave, which began with
Matt Peasley's purchase, at a ridiculously low figure, of the Oriental
Steamship Company's huge freighter, _Narcissus_, swept the cunning
Matthew into the presidency of the Blue Star Navigation Company;
whereupon Matt designed to take Murphy out of the _Retriever_ and have
him try his hand in steam as master of the _Narcissus_.

The same financial tidal wave had swept Cappy Ricks out of the
presidency of the Blue Star Navigation Company--presumably far up the
beach to a place in the sun, where he was to bask for the remainder
of his old age as president emeritus of all his companies. However, if
there was one thing about Cappy you could depend upon absolutely it
was the consistency of his inconsistency. For, having announced his
retirement, his very next move was to bewail his inability to retire.
He insisted upon clinging to the business like a barnacle to a ship,
and was always very much in evidence whenever any deal of the slightest
importance was about to be consummated. Indeed, he was never so
thoroughly in command as when, his first burst of enthusiasm anent the
acquisition of the _Narcissus_ at fifty per cent. of her value having
passed, he discovered that his son-in-law planned to order Mike
Murphy off the quarter-deck of the _Retriever_ onto the bridge of the
_Narcissus_, while an unknown answering to the name of Terence Reardon
had been selected for her chief engineer.

Cappy listened to Matt Peasley's announcement; then with a propitiatory
"Ahem! Hum! Harump-h-h-h!" he hitched himself forward in his chair and
gazed at Matt over the rims of his spectacles.

"Tell me, Matt," he demanded presently, "who is this man Reardon? I do
not recall such an engineer in our employ--and I thought I knew them
all."

"He is not in our employ, sir. He has been chief engineer of the
_Arab_ for the past eight years, and prior to that he was chief of the
_Narcissus_. It was Reardon who told me what ailed her. She's a hog on
coal, and the Oriental steamship people used to nag him about the fuel
bills. Their port engineer didn't agree with Reardon as to what was
wrong with her, so he left. He assures me that if her condensers are
retubed she'll burn from seven to ten tons of coal less per day."

"Hum! So you're going to give him the job for telling you something our
own port engineer would have told us after an examination."

"No, sir, I'm going to give him the job because he has earned it. He
gave me some very valuable information about the wretched condition of
her electric-light plant and a crack, cunningly concealed, in the after
web of her crank shaft--"

"Oh, by thunder," piped Cappy, "that's worth knowing! Ship a new crank
shaft, Matt, and save the Blue Star a salvage bill sooner or later."

"All that inside information will not only save us money in the future,"
Matt continued, "but it enabled me to drive a closer bargain
when dealing with MacCandless, of the Oriental Steamship Company.
Consequently Terence Reardon gets the job. He's only making a hundred
and fifty dollars a month in the _Arab_, and as he is a rattling
good man--I've looked him up, sir--I've promised him a hundred and
seventy-five a month in the _Narcissus_."

"Oh, you've already promised him the job, eh? Mistake, Matt, serious
mistake. You say you looked him up, but I'll bet you a new hat there is
one thing about him that you failed to investigate, and that is: What
kind of Irish is he?"

"Why, regular Irish, of course--mighty good Irish, I should say. Keen,
observing, not too talkative, a hard worker, temperate in his habits and
a crackajack engineer to boot."

Cappy settled back wearily in his chair and favored his youthful partner
with a glance of tolerant amusement.

"Matt," he announced, "those are the qualifications we look for in an
engineer, and it's been my experience that the Irish and the Scotch
make the best marine engineers in the world. But when you've been in the
shipping game as long as I have, young man, you'll know better than
to pick two Irishmen as departmental chiefs in the same ship! I did
it--once. There was a red-headed scoundrel named Dennis O'Leary who went
from A.B. to master in the _Florence Ricks_. That fellow was a bulldog.
He made up his mind he was going to be master of the _Florence_ and
I couldn't stop him. Good man--damned good! And there was a black
Irishman, John Rooney, in the _Amelia Ricks_. Had ambitions just like
O'Leary. He went from oiler to first assistant in the _Amelia_.
Fine man--damned fine! So fine, in fact, that when the chief of the
_Florence_ died I shifted Rooney to her immediately. And what was the
result? Why, riot, of course. Matt, the Irish will fight anybody and
anything, but they'll fight quicker, with less excuse and greater
delight, among themselves, than any other nationality! The _Florence
Ricks_ carried a million feet of lumber, but she wasn't big enough for
Rooney and O'Leary, so I fired them both, not being desirous of playing
favorites. Naturally, each blamed the other for the loss of his job, and
without a word having been spoken they went out on the dock and fought
the bloodiest draw I have ever seen on the San Francisco waterfront.
After they had been patched up at the Harbor Hospital, both came and
cussed me and told me I was an ingrate, so I hired them both back again,
put them in different ships, slipped each of them a good, cheerful
Russian Finn, and saved funeral expenses. That's what I got, Matt, for
not asking those two what kind of Irish they were. Now, then, sonny,
once more. What kind of Irish is Terence Rearden?"

"Why, I don't know, I tell you. He's just Irish."

Cappy lifted his eyes to the ceiling as if praying for the great gift of
patience.

"Listen to the boy," he demanded of an imaginary bystander. "He doesn't
know! Well, stick your head down over his engine-room grating some day,
sing The Boyne Wather--and find out! Now, then, do you happen to know
what kind of Irish Mike Murphy is? You ought to. You were shipmates with
him in the _Retriever_ long enough."

"Oh, Mike's from Galway. He goes to mass on Sunday when he can."

"Hum! If he's from Galway, where did he leave his brogue? He runs to the
broad _a_ like an Englishman."

"That's easily explained. Mike left his brogue in Galway. He came to
this country when he was six years old and was raised in Boston. That's
where he picked up his broad _a_."

"That doesn't help a bit, Matt. He's Irish just the same, and what a
Yankee like you don't know about the Irish would fill a book. You
know, Matt, there are a few rare white men that can handle Chinamen
successfully; now and then you'll run across one that can handle
niggers; but I have never yet met anybody who could figure the mental
angles of the Irish except an Irishman. There's something in an Irishman
that drives him into the bandwagon. He's got to be the boss, and if he
can't be the boss he'll sit round and criticize. But if I want a man to
handle Chinamen, or niggers, or Japs, or Bulgarians I'll advertise for
an Irishman and take the first one that shows up. A young man like you,
Matt, shouldn't monkey with these people. They're a wonderful race and
very much misunderstood, and if you don't start 'em right on the job
you'll always be in trouble. Now, Matt, I've always done the hiring and
firing for the Blue Star Navigation Company, and as a result I've
had blamed little of it to do, considering the size of our fleet;
consequently I'll just give these two Harps the Double-O. Have Murphy
and Reardon at the office at nine o'clock to-morrow morning and I'll
read them the riot act before turning them to."



CHAPTER II


Cappy Ricks was at his office at eight-fifty the following morning.
At eight-fifty-two Mr. Terence Reardon, plainly uncomfortable in a
ready-made blue-serge Sunday suit purchased on the Embarcadero for
twenty-five dollars, came into the office. He was wearing a celluloid
collar, and a quite noticeable rattle as he shook hands with Cappy
Ricks betrayed the fact that he also was wearing celluloid cuffs; for,
notwithstanding the fact that he bathed twice a day, Mr. Reardon's
Hibernian hide contained much of perspiration, coal dust, metal grit and
lubricating oil, and such substances can always be washed off celluloid
collars and cuffs. To his credit be it known that Terence Reardon knew
his haberdashery was not _au fait_, for his wife never failed to remind
him of it; but unfortunately he was the possessor of a pair of grimy
hands that nothing on earth could ever make clean, and even when he
washed them in benzine they always left black thumb prints on a linen
collar during the process of adjustment. He had long since surrendered
to his fate.

At eight-fifty-four Mike Murphy arrived. Murphy was edging up into the
forties, but still he was young enough at heart to take a keen interest
in his personal appearance, and a tailor who belonged to Michael's
council of the Knights of Columbus had decked him out in a suit of
English tweeds of the latest cut and in most excellent taste.

"Good morning, captain," Cappy Ricks greeted him. "Ahead of time as
usual. Meet Mr. Terence Reardon, late chief of the _Arab_. He is to be a
shipmate of yours--chief of the _Narcissus_, you know.

"Mr. Reardon, shake hands with Captain Mike Murphy. Captain Murphy has
been in our employ a number of years as master of sail. The _Narcissus_
will be his first command in steam."

"Terence Reardon, eh?" echoed Mike Murphy pleasantly. "That sounds like
a good name. Glad to meet you, chief. What part of the old country are
you from? The West?"

The wish was father to the thought, since Mike was from the West
himself.

"I'm from the Nort'--from Belfast," Mr. Reardon replied in a deep Kerry
brogue, and extended a grimy paw upon the finger of which Mike Murphy
observed a gold ring that proclaimed Mr. Terence Reardon--an Irishman,
presumably a Catholic--one who had risen to the third degree in
Freemasonry.

Cappy Ricks saw that ring also, and started visibly. A Knight Templar
himself, Terence Reardon was the last person on earth in whom he
expected to find a brother Mason. He glanced at Mike Murphy and saw that
the skipper was looking, not at Mr. Reardon, but at the Masonic emblem.

"Sit down, chief," Cappy hastened to interrupt. "Have a chair, captain.
Mr. Reardon, my son-in-law, Captain Peasley here, tells me you were
chief of the _Narcissus_ when she was on the China run for the Oriental
Steamship Company."

Mr. Reardon sat down heavily, set his derby hat on the floor beside him
and replied briefly: "I was."

Captain Murphy excused himself and drew Matt Peasley out of the room.
"God knows," he whispered hoarsely, "religion should never enter into
the working of a ship, and I suppose I'll have to get along with that
fellow; but did you mark the Masonic ring on the paw of the Far-Down?
And on the right hand, too! The jackass don't know enough to wear it on
his left hand."

"Why, what's wrong about being a Mason?" Matt protested. "Cappy's a
Mason and so am I."

"Nothing wrong about it--with you and Cappy Ricks. That's your
privilege. You're Protestants."

"Well, maybe the chief's a Protestant, too," Matt suggested, but Mike
Murphy silenced him with a sardonic smile.

"With that name?" he queried, and laughed the brief, mirthless laugh of
the man who knows. "And he says he's from Belfast! Man, I could cut that
Kerry brogue with a belaying pin."

"Why, Mike," Matt interrupted, "I never before suspected you were
intolerant of a shipmate's private convictions. I must say this attitude
of yours is disturbing."

"Why, I'm not a bigot," Murphy protested virtuously. "Who told you
that?"

"Why, you're a Catholic, and you resent Reardon because he's a
Protestant."

"Not a bit of it. You're a Protestant, and don't I love you like a
brother?"

Matt thought he saw the light. "Oh, I see," he replied. "It's because
Reardon is an Irish Protestant."

"Almost--but not quite. God knows I hate the Orangemen for what they did
to me and mine, but at least they've been Protestant since the time of
Henry VIII. But the lad inside there has no business to be a Protestant.
The Lord intended him for a Catholic--and he knows it. He's a renegade.
I don't blame you for being a Protestant, Matt. It's none of my
business."

Matt Peasley had plumbed the mystery at last. He had been reading a
good deal in the daily papers about Home Rule for Ireland, the Irish
Nationalists, the Ulster Volunteers, the Unionists, and so on, and in
a vague way he had always understood that religious differences were at
the bottom of it all. He realized now that it was something deeper than
that--a relic of injustice and oppression; a hostility that had come to
Mike Murphy as a heritage from his forbears--something he had imbibed at
his mother's breast and was, for purposes of battle, a more vital issue
than the interminable argument about the only safe road to heaven.

"I see," Matt murmured. "Reardon, being Irish, has violated the national
code of the Irish--"

"You've said it, Matt. They're Tories at heart, every mother's son of
them."

"What do you mean--Tories?"

"That they're for England, of course."

"Well, I don't blame them. So am I. Aren't you, Mike?"

"May God forgive you," Mike Murphy answered piously. "I am not. I'm for
their enemies. I'm for anything that's against England. Ireland is not a
colony. She's a nation. Man, man, you don't understand. Only an Irishman
can, and he gets it at his mother's or his grandmother's knee--the
word-of-mouth history of his people, the history that isn't in the
books! Do you think I can forget? Do you think I want to forget?"

"No," Matt Peasley replied quietly; "I think you'll have to forget--in
so far as Terence Reardon is concerned. This is the land of the free and
the home of the brave, and even when you're outside the three-mile limit
I want you to remember, Mike, that the good ship _Narcissus_ is under
the American flag. The _Narcissus_ needs all her space for cargo, Mike.
There is no room aboard her for a feud. Don't ever poke your nose
into Terence Reardon's engine-room except on his invitation or for the
purpose of locating a leak. Treat him with courtesy and do not discuss
politics or religion when you meet him at table, which will be about the
only opportunity you two will have to discuss anything; and if Reardon
wants to talk religion or politics you change your feeding time and
avoid meeting him. I've taken you out of the old _Retriever,_ Mike,
where you've been earning a hundred and twenty-five dollars a month, to
put you in the _Narcissus_ at two hundred and fifty. That is conclusive
evidence that I'm for you. But Terence Reardon is a crackajack chief
engineer, and I want you to remember that the Blue Star Navigation
Company needs him in its business quite as much as it needs Michael J.
Murphy, and if you two get scrapping I'm not going to take the trouble
to investigate and place the blame. I'll just call you both up on the
carpet and make you draw straws to see who quits."

"Fair enough," replied the honest Murphy. "If I can't be good I'll be as
good as I can."

At that very instant Cappy Ricks was just discovering what kind of Irish
Mr. Terence Reardon was.

The most innocent remark brought him the information he sought.

"Captain Murphy, whom you have just met, is to be master of the
_Narcissus,_ chief," he explained. "He's a splendid fellow personally
and a most capable navigator, and like you he's Irish. I'm sure you'll
get along famously together."

Cappy tried to smile away his apprehension, for a still small voice
whispered to him and questioned the right of Terence Reardon to call him
brother.

Mr. Reardon's sole reply to this optimistic prophecy was a noncommittal
grunt, accompanied by a slight outthrust and uplift of the chin, a
pursing of the lips and the ghost of a sardonic little smile. Only
an Irishman can get the right tempo to that grunt--and the tempo is
everything. In the case of Terence Reardon it said distinctly: "I
hope you're right, sir, but privately I have my doubts." However, not
satisfied with pantomime, Mr. Reardon went a trifle farther--for reasons
best known to himself. He laved the corner of his mouth with the tip
of a tobacco-stained tongue and said presently: "I can't say, Misther
Ricks, that I quite like the cut av that fella's jib."

That was the Irish of it. A representative of any other race on earth
would have employed the third person singular when referring to the
absent Murphy; only an Irishman would have said "that fella," and only
a certain kind of Irishman could have managed to inject into such simple
words such a note of scorn supernal. Cappy Ricks got the message--just
like that.

"Then stay off his bridge, Reardon," he warned the chief. "Your job is
in the engine-room, so even if you and Captain Murphy do not like each
other, there will be no excuse for friction. The only communication you
need have with him is through the engine-room telegraph."

"Then, sor," Terence Reardon replied respectfully, "I'll take it kindly
av you to tell him to keep out av me engine-room. I'll have no skipper
buttin' in on me, tellin' me how to run me engines an' askin' me why
in this an' that I don't go aisy on the coal. Faith, I've had thim do
it--the wanst--an' the wanst only. Begorra, I'd have brained thim wit' a
monkey wrench if they tried it a second time."

"On the other hand," Cappy remarked, "I've had to fire more than one
chief engineer who couldn't cure himself of a habit of coming up on the
bridge when the vessel got to port--to tell the skipper how to berth
his ship against a strong flood tide. I suppose that while we have
steamships the skippers will always wonder how the vessel can possibly
make steerage way, considering the chief engineers, while the chiefs
will never cease marvelling that such fine ships should be entrusted to
a lot of Johnny Know-Nothings. However, Reardon, I might as well tell
you that the Blue Star Navigation Company plays no favorites. When the
chief and the skipper begin to interfere with the dividends, they look
overside some bright day and see Alden P. Ricks waiting for them on the
cap of the wharf. And when the ship is alongside, the said Ricks comes
aboard with five bones in his pocket, and the said skipper and the said
chief are invited into the dining saloon to roll the said bones--one
flop and high man out. Yes, sir. Out! Out of the ship and out of the
Blue Star employ--for ever."

"I hear you, sor. I hearrd you the first time," Terence Reardon replied
complacently and reached for his pipe. "All I ask from you is a square
deal. I'll have it from the captain wit'out the askin'."

Thus the Reardon breathing his defiance.

"I'm glad we understand each other, chief. Just avoid arguments,
political or religious, and treat the skipper with courtesy. Then you'll
get along all right. Now with reference to your salary. The union scale
is one hundred and fifty dollars a month--"

"Beggin' yer pardon for the intherruption, sor, but the young man
promised me a hundhred an' siventy-five."

"That was before the Blue Star Navigation Company took over the young
man and his ship _Narcissus._ Hereafter you'll deal with the old man in
such matters. I'm going to give you two hundred a month, Reardon, and
you are to keep the _Narcissus_ out of the shop. Hear me, chief--out of
the shop."

"No man can ordher me to do me djooty," said Terence Reardon simply.
"Tell the fine gintleman on the bridge to keep her out av the kelp, an'
faith, she'll shtay out av the shop. Thank you kindly, sor. When do I go
to wurrk?"

"Your pay started this morning. The _Narcissus_ goes on Christy's ways
in Oakland Harbor at the tip of the flood this afternoon. Get on the
ship and stay on her. It's a day-and-night rush job to get her in
commission, and you'll be paid time and a half while she's repairing.
Good-day and good luck to you, chief. Come in and see me whenever you
get to port." And Cappy Ricks, most democratic of men, extended his hand
to his newest employee. Terence Reardon took it in his huge paw that
would never be clean any more, and held it for a moment, the while he
looked fearlessly into Cappy's eyes.

"'Tis a proud man I am to wurrk for you, sor," he said simply. "Tip-top
serrvice for tip-top pay, an' by the Great Gun av Athlone, you'll get it
from me, sor. If ever the ship is lost 'twill be no fault of mine."

Mr. Reardon's manner, as he thus calmly exculpated himself from the
penalty for future disaster, indicated quite clearly that Cappy Ricks,
in such a contingency, might look to the man higher up--on the bridge,
for instance.

When Terence Reardon had departed Cappy Ricks called Mike Murphy into
the room.

"Now, captain," he began, "there are a few things I want to tell you.
This man Reardon is a fine, loyal fellow, but he's touchy--"

"I know all about him," Murphy interrupted with a slight emphasis on the
pronoun. Unlike Mr. Reardon he employed the third person singular and
did not say "that fella," for he had been raised in the United States of
America.

"I have already given the captain his instructions," Matt Peasley
announced. "He understands the situation perfectly and will conduct
himself accordingly."



CHAPTER III


A small army of men swarmed over, under and through the huge _Narcissus_
for the next three weeks, and the hearts of Cappy Ricks and Matt Peasley
were like to burst with pride as they stood on the bridge with Captain
Mike Murphy, while he ran the vessel over the measured course to test
her speed, and swung her in the bay while adjusting her compass. She
was as beautiful as money and paint could make her, and when Terence
Reardon, in calm disregard of orders, came up on the bridge to announce
his unbounded faith in the rejuvenated condensers and to predict a
modest coal bill for the future, Mike Murphy so far forgot himself as
to order the steward to bring up a bottle of something and begged
Mr. Reardon to join him in three fingers of nepenthe to celebrate the
occasion.

"T'ank you, sor, but I never dhrink--on djooty," Mr. Reardon retorted
with chill politeness, "nor," he added, "wit' me immejiate superiors."

A superficial analysis of this remark will convince the most sceptical
that Mr. Reardon, with true Hibernian adroitness, had managed to convey
an insult without seeming to convey it.

"Isn't that a pity!" the skipper replied. "We'll excuse you to attend
to your duty, Mr. Reardon;" and he bowed the chief toward the companion
leading to the boat deck. The latter departed, furious, with an
uncomfortable feeling of having been out-generaled; and once a good
Irishman and true has undergone that humiliation it is a safe bet that
the Dove of Peace has lost her tail feathers.

"That's an unmannerly chief engineer," Mike Murphy announced blandly,
"but for all that he's not without his good points. He'll not waste
money in his department."

"A virtue which I trust you will imitate in yours, captain," Cappy Ricks
snapped dryly. "Is Reardon working short-handed?"

"Only while we're loading, when he'll need just enough men to keep steam
up in the winches. When we go to sea, however, he'll have a full crew,
but the fun of it is they'll be non-union men with the exception of
the engineers and officers. The engineers will all belong to the Marine
Engineers' Association and the mates to Harbor 15, Masters' and Pilots'
Association."

"He'll do nothing of the sort," Matt Peasley declared quietly. "We have
union crews in all our other steamers, and the unions will declare a
strike on us if we put non-union men in the _Narcissus_."

"Of course--if they find out. But they'll not. Besides, we're going to
the Atlantic Coast, so why should we bring a high-priced crew into a
low-priced market, Mr. Ricks? Leave it to me, sir. I'll load the ship
with longshoremen entirely, and we'll sail with the crew of that German
liner that came a few days ago to intern in Richardson's Bay until the
European war is over."

"I'm not partial to the German cause," Matt Peasley announced. "So I'll
just veto that plan right now, Mike."

"Matt, we're neutral," Cappy declared.

"And it pays to ship those Germans, Matt," Murphy continued. "I confess
I'm for the Germans, although not to such an extent that I'd go round
offering them jobs just because they _are_ Germans. But the minute I
heard about that interned boat I said to myself: 'Now, here's a chance
to save the _Narcissus_ some money. The crew of that liner will all be
discharged now that she is interned. However, the local unions will not
admit them to membership and they cannot work on any Pacific Coast
boat unless they hold union cards. Consequently they must seek other
occupations, and as the chances are these fellows do not speak English,
they're up against it. Also, they are foreigners who have paid no head
tax when coming into the country, because they are seamen. They have
the right to land and stay ashore three months, if they state that it is
their intention to ship out again within that period; but if they do not
so ship, then the immigration authorities may deport them as paupers
or for failure to pay the head tax; and in that event they will all be
returned to the vessel that brought them here, and the owners of the
vessel will be forced to intern them and care for them.' Under the
circumstances, therefore, I concluded they would jump at a job in an
American vessel, for the reason that under the American flag they would
be reasonably safe; and even if the _Narcissus_ should be searched by
a British cruiser, she would not dare take these Germans off her.
Remember, we had a war with England once for boarding our ships and
removing seamen!"

"By the Holy Pink-Toed Prophet," said Cappy Ricks, "there's something in
that, Matt."

"There's a splendid saving in the pay roll, let me tell you," the proud
Murphy continued. "I took the matter up at once with the German skipper
and he fixed it for me, and mighty glad he was to get his countrymen off
his hands. We get all that liner's coal passers, oilers, firemen, six
deckhands and four quartermasters at the scale of wages prevailing in
Hamburg. I know what it is in marks, but I haven't figured it out in
dollars and cents, although whatever it is it's a scandal! It almost
cuts our pay roll in half."

"Do you speak German, captain?" Cappy queried excitedly.

"I do not, sir--more's the pity. But the four quartermasters speak fair
English, and I have engaged two good German-American mates who speak
German. Reardon has shipped German-American engineers and some of his
coal passers and firemen speak fair English. I've got two Native Son
Chinamen in the galley and a Cockney steward. We'll get along."

"And a rattling fine idea, too," Cappy Ricks declared warmly. "Mike, my
boy, you're a wonder. That's the spirit. Always keep down the overhead,
Matt. That's what eats up the dividends."

"Well, I wouldn't agree to it if the _Narcissus_ wasn't going to be
engaged in neutral trade, or if she was carrying munitions of war to the
Allies," Matt declared. "I'd be afraid some of Mike's Germans might blow
up the ship."

"Believe me," quoth Michael J. Murphy, "if she was engaged in freighting
munitions to England, it'd be a smart German that would get a chance to
blow her up. I think I'd scuttle her myself first."

"Well, Mike, if your courage failed you," Cappy Ricks replied
laughingly, "I think we could safely leave the job to Terence Reardon."



CHAPTER IV


On that first voyage the _Narcissus_ carried general cargo to northern
ports on the West Coast. Then she dropped down to a nitrate port and
loaded nitrate for New York, and about the time she passed through the
Panama Canal the Blue Star Navigation Company wired its New York agent
to provide some neutral business for her next voyage. Freights were
soaring by this time, due to the scarcity of the foreign bottoms which
formerly had carried Uncle Sam's goods to market, and Cappy Ricks and
Matt Peasley knew the rates would increase from day to day, and that
in consequence their New York agents would experience not the slightest
difficulty in placing her--hence they delayed as long as they could
placing her on the market.

On the other hand, the New York agents, realizing that higher freight
rates meant a correspondingly higher commission for them on the charter,
held off until the _Narcissus_ had almost finished discharging at
Hoboken before they closed with a fine old New York importing and
exporting house for a cargo of soft coal from Norfolk, Virginia, to
Manila, or Batavia. The charterers were undecided which of these two
cities would be the port of discharge, and stipulated that the vessel
was to call at Pernambuco, Brazil, for orders. The New York agents
marvelled at this for--to them--very obvious reasons; but inasmuch as
the charterers had offered a whopping freight rate and declined to do
business on any other basis, and since further the agent concluded it
was no part of his office to question the motives of a house that never
before had been subjected to suspicion, he concluded to protect himself
by leaving the decision to the owners of the _Narcissus_. Accordingly he
wired them as follows:

"Blue Star Navigation Company,

"258 California St., San Francisco, Cal.

"Have offer _Narcissus_, coal Norfolk Batavia or Manila, charterers
undecided, Pernambuco for orders, ten dollars per ton. Shall we close?
Answer.

"SEABORN"

2 boards, 1" x 8" and up, and too great a percentage of 4" x 6"-20' No.
1 clear. And there were mighty few clear twenty-foot logs coming into
the boom these days.

"Well, will a cat eat liver?" declared Cappy Ricks. "I should say we do
accept. Why, man, she'll make forty thousand dollars on the voyage,
and whether she goes to Batavia or Manila, we're certain to get a cargo
back."

"All right, I'll wire acceptance," Skinner replied, and paused long
enough to make a notation on the message: "O.K.--Ricks." Mr. Skinner
meant nothing in particular by that. He was a model of efficiency, and
that was his little way of placing the responsibility for the decision
in the event that the wisdom of said decision should, at some future
time, be questioned. Mr. Skinner never took unnecessary chances. He
always played a safe game.

It is necessary to state here also that Matt Peasley was not in the
office when that telegram arrived from Seaborn & Company. If he had been
this story would never have been written. He was down at Hunter's Point
drydock, superintending the repairs to the steam schooner Amelia Ricks,
which recently on a voyage to Seattle had essayed the overland route via
Duxbury Reef. When Matt reached home that night he found his ingenious
father-in-law fairly purring with contentment.

"Well, Matt, old horse," Cappy piped, "I've chartered the Narcissus.
Norfolk to Batavia or Manila with coal. Got a glorious price--ten
dollars a ton. That's what we get for holding off until the last
minute."

"That's encouraging," Matt answered pleasantly, and asked no further
questions. He was obsessed with the engines of the _Amelia Ricks_. It
was going to cost a lot of money to put them in condition again, and
he remarked as much to Cappy. Thus it happened that they entered into
a discussion of other matters, and the good ship _Narcissus_, having
finished discharging her cargo of nitrate, dropped down to Norfolk,
where Captain Michael J. Murphy proceeded to let a stream of coal into
her at a rate that promised to load her fully in less than four days.

It is worthy of remark, at this juncture, that Mike Murphy and
Terence Reardon had, by this time, cast aside all appearance of
even shirt-sleeve diplomacy. Diplomatic relations had, in fact, been
completely severed. Crossing the Gulf Stream, Murphy had called the
engine-room on the speaking-tube and politely queried if Mr. Reardon
didn't think he could get a few more revolutions out of her. To this Mr.
Reardon had replied passionately that if such a thing were possible he
would have done it long ago without waiting to be told. He desired to
inform Captain Murphy that he knew his business; whereupon Murphy
had replied that he never would have guessed Mr. Reardon was that
intelligent, judging by the face of him. In disgust Mr. Reardon had
replied: "Aw, go to--" and then tried to close the speaking-tube before
the captain would have the opportunity to retort. However, Michael J.
knew his own mind, and, like all the Irish, was a marvel at repartee.
Quick as was Terence Reardon, therefore, Michael J. Murphy was quicker.
Perhaps all of his message had not been delivered before Reardon closed
the tube, but the chief got enough of it for all practical purposes.

He caught one word--"Renegade"; a word so terrible that it left the
chief engineer speechless with fury, and before he could call the
skipper a baboon, the golden opportunity was gone. He closed the tube
with a sigh.



CHAPTER V


While the _Narcissus_ was loading, the Fates were keeping in reserve for
Cappy Ricks, Matt Peasley and Mr. Skinner a blow that was to stun them
when it fell. About the time the _Narcissus_, fully loaded, was snoring
out to sea past Old Point Comfort, Matt Peasley came across Seaborn &
Company's telegram in the unanswered-correspondence tray on his desk.
Five times he read it; and then, in the language of the poet, hell began
to pop!

Cappy Ricks came out of a gentle doze to find his big son-in-law waving
the telegram under his nose.

"Why didn't you tell me?" Matt Peasley bawled, for all the world as if
Cappy was a very stupid mate and all the canvas had just been blown out
of the bolt-ropes.

"Why didn't you ask me, you big stiff?" shrilled Cappy. He didn't know
what was coming, but instinct told him it was awful, so he resolved
instantly to meet it with a brave front. "Don't you yell at me, young
feller. Now then, what do you want to find out?"

"Why didn't you tell me the _Narcissus_ was to drop in at Pernambuco for
orders?" roared Matt wrathfully.

Cappy pursed his lips and calmly rang for Mr. Skinner. He eyed the
general manager over the rims of his spectacles for fully thirty
seconds. Then:

"Skinner, what the devil's wrong with you of late? It's getting so I
can't trust you to do anything any more. Tut, tut! Not a peep out of
you, sir. Now then, answer me: Why didn't you tell me, Skinner, that the
_Narcissus_ was to call in at Pernambuco for orders?"

"I read you the telegram, sir," Mr. Skinner replied coldly, and pointed
to the notation: "O.K.--Ricks," the badge of his infernal efficiency. "I
read that telegram to you, sir," he repeated, "and asked you if I should
close. You said to close. I closed. That's all I know about it. You and
Matt are in charge of the shipping and I decline to be dragged into any
disputes originating in your department. All I have to say is that if
you two can't run the shipping end and run it right, just turn it over
to me and I'll run it--right!"

Completely vindicated, Mr. Skinner struck a distinctly defiant attitude
and awaited the next move on the part of Cappy. The latter,
thoroughly crushed--for he knew the devilish Skinner never made any
mistakes--looked up at his son-in-law.

"Well," he demanded, "what's your grouch against Pernambuco?"

"Forgive me for bawling you out that way," Matt replied, "but I guess
you'd bawl, too, if somebody who should have known better had placed a
fine ship in jeopardy for you. It just breaks me all up to think you
may have lost my steamer _Narcissus_--the first steamer I ever owned
too--and to be lost on her second voyage under the Blue Star flag--"

"Our _Narcissus_, if you please," Cappy shrilled. "You gibbering
jackdaw! Out with it! Where do you get that stuff--lose your steamer on
her second voyage! Why, she's snug in Norfolk this minute."

"If she only is," Matt almost wailed, "she'll never be permitted to
clear with that German crew aboard. Pernambuco for orders! Suffering
sailor! And you, of all men, to put over a charter like that!
Pernambuco! Pernambuco! Pernambuco--for--orders! Do you get it?"

"No, I don't. It's over my head and into the bleachers."

"I must say, my dear Matt," Mr. Skinner struck in blandly, "that I also
fail to apprehend."

"Didn't you two ever go to school?" Matt raved. "Didn't you ever study
geography? Why under the canopy should we waste our time and burn up our
good coal steaming to Pernambuco, Brazil, South America, for orders?
Let me put it to you two in words of one syllable: The _Narcissus_ is
chartered to carry a cargo of coal from Norfolk, Virginia, to Batavia
or Manila. At the time of charter--and sailing--the charterers are
undecided which port she is to discharge at, so they ask us to step
over to Pernambuco and find out. Now, whether the vessel discharges at
Batavia or Manila, her course in the Atlantic Ocean while en route to
either port is identical! She passes round the Cape of Good Hope, which
is at the extreme south end of Africa. If her course, on the contrary,
was round Cape Horn or through the Straits of Magellan there might be
some sense in sending her over to the east coast of South America
for orders. But whether she is ordered to Manila or Batavia, the fact
remains that she must put in to Durban, South Africa, for fuel to
continue her voyage; so why in the name of the Flying Dutchman
couldn't the charterers cable the orders to Mike Murphy at Durban?
The _Narcissus_ is worth a thousand dollars a day, so you waste a few
thousand dollars worth of her time, at the very least, sending her to
Pernambuco when a ten-dollar cablegram to Durban would have done the
business! I suppose all you two brilliant shipping men could see was a
ten-dollar-a-ton freight rate. Eh? You--landlubbers! A-a-g-r-r-h! I was
never so angry since the day I was born."

While Matt ranted on, Mr. Skinner's classic features had been slowly
taking on the general color tones of a ripe old Edam cheese, while at
the conclusion of Matt's oration Cappy Ricks' eyes were sticking out
like twin semaphores. He clasped his hands.

"By the Twelve Ragged Apostles!" he murmured in an awed voice. "There's
a nigger in the woodpile."

"I very greatly fear," Mr. Skinner chattered, "that you are mistaken,
Mr. Ricks. Something tells me it's a German!"

"Well, well, well!" Matt Peasley sneered. "Skinner, take the head of the
class. Really, I believe I begin to pick up signs of human intelligence
in this sea of maritime ignorance."

"Oh, Matt, quit your jawing and break the news to me quickly," Cappy
pleaded.

"Haven't you been reading the papers, sir? Australian and Japanese
warships have been hunting for the German Pacific fleet for the past few
weeks, and the Germans have been on the dodge. Therefore, they've
been burning coal. They are only allowed to remain in a neutral port
twenty-four hours, and can only take on sufficient coal and stores to
enable them to reach the nearest German port. Consequently, since they
have been afraid to enter a neutral port, for fear of giving away their
position, it follows that they've had to stay at sea--and naturally they
have run short of coal. A few steamers have cleared from San Francisco
with coal, ostensibly for discharge at Chilean or Mexican ports, but in
reality for delivery to the German fleet at sea, but even with these few
deliveries, there is a coal famine. And now that the Pacific is getting
too hot for it, the general impression is that the German fleet will try
to get through the Straits of Magellan, for, once in the Atlantic, coal
will be easier to get. More ships, you know; more ship-owners willing
to take a chance for wartime profits--and they say Brazil is rather
friendly to the German cause. We will assume, therefore, that the German
secret agents in this country realize it is inevitable that Von Spee's
fleet must be forced into the Atlantic; hence, in anticipation of that
extremity, they are arranging for the delivery of coal to those harassed
cruisers. The agent in Pernambuco is probably in constant communication
with the fleet by wireless; the fleet will probably come ranging up
the coast of South America, destroying British commerce, or some of the
ships may cross over to the Indian Ocean and join the _Emden_,
raiding in those waters. So the German secret agents charter our huge
_Narcissus_, load her with ten thousand tons of coal--"

Matt Peasley paused and bent a beetling glance, first at Cappy Ricks and
then at Skinner.

"Was she to carry soft coal or anthracite?" he demanded.

"I don't know," Mr. Skinner quavered.

"Search me!" Cappy Ricks piped up sourly.

"I thought so. For the sake of argument we'll assume it's soft coal,
because anthracite has not as yet become popular as steamship fuel.
Well, we will assume our vessel gets to Pernambuco. If, in the meantime,
the German admiral wirelesses his Pernambuco agent, 'Send a jag of coal
into the Indian Ocean,' to the Indian Ocean goes the _Narcissus_, and
presently she finds a German warship or two or three ranging along in
her course. They pick her up, help themselves to her coal, give Mike
Murphy a certificate of confiscation for her cargo, to be handed to the
owners, who in this case will be good, loyal sons of the Fatherland and
offer no objection--"

"I see," Cappy Ricks interrupted. "And if, on the other hand, the German
admiral says, 'Send a jag of coal to meet us in a certain latitude and
longitude off the River Plate,' and Mike Murphy objects, that German
crew on our _Narcissus_ will just naturally lock Mike Murphy up in his
cabin and take the vessel away from him! When they're through with her
they'll give her back--"

"I'm not so certain they'll have to lock him up in his cabin in order
to get the ship," Mr. Skinner struck in, a note of alarm in his voice.
"Mike Murphy is so pro-German--"

"Ow! Wow! That hurts," Cappy wailed. "So he is! I never thought of that.
And now that you speak of it, I recall it was his idea, getting that
crew of Germans aboard! He said it would cut down expenses. Holy
mackerel, Matt; do you think it was a frameup?"

"Certainly I do, but--Mike Murphy wasn't in on it. You can bank on that.
No piratical foreigner will ever climb up on Mike Murphy's deck except
over Mike Murphy's dead body. According to the president emeritus there
is more than one kind of Irish, but I'll guarantee Mike Murphy isn't the
double-crossing kind."

A boy entered with a telegram. It was a day letter filed by Mike Murphy
in Norfolk that morning, and Matt Peasley read it aloud:

"Sailing at noon. Regret your failure take me into your confidence when
deciding withdraw vessel from neutral trade. If orders send me to either
of ports named in charter party and I am overhauled _en route_, that is
your funeral. If orders conflict with charter party, as I suspect they
may, that may be my funeral. Regretfully I shall resign at Pernambuco.
You know your own business, and I cannot believe you would go it blind;
if you change your mind before arrival Pernambuco, cable care American
Consul and will do my best for you.

"M. J. M."

Gappy Ricks sprang into the air and tried to crack his aged ankles
together.

"Saved!" he croaked. "By the Holy Pink-toed Prophet! Saved! Bully for
Mike Murphy! Say, when that fellow gets back, if I don't do something
handsome for him--"

Matt Peasley's scowls had been replaced by smiles.

"God bless his old Mickedonian heart!" he said fervently. "He thinks
the coal is for that British fleet reported to be _en route_ across
the Atlantic to give battle to the German Pacific fleet; or for Admiral
Craddock's Pacific fleet in case the Germans chase it back into the
Atlantic. He knows that we know he is pro-German and for anything that's
against England--and if he makes up his mind the coal is for the British
fleet he'll resign before delivering it! By Judas, this would be funny
if it wasn't so blamed serious."

"To be forewarned is to be forearmed," Mr. Skinner quoted sagely. "It is
most fortunate for us that Murphy's suspicions do us a grave injustice.
We know now that he will call on the American consul at Pernambuco and
ask for a cablegram."

"Yes, and by thunder! we'll send it," Cappy declared joyously. "Cable
him, Skinner, to fire that German crew so fast one might play checkers
on their coat tails as they go overside."

"I wish to heaven I could wireless him to put back to New York and ship
a new crew," Matt Peasley mourned. "There's just a possibility that
German crew of his may take over the ship on the high seas and not put
into Pernambuco at all!"

"We can only wait and pray," said Mr. Skinner piously.

Cappy Ricks slid out to the edge of his chair and, pop-eyed with horror,
gazed at his son-in-law over the rims of his spectacles.

"Matt," he declared, "you're as cheerful as a funeral. Here we have this
thing all settled, and you have to go to work and rip the silver lining
out of our cloud of contentment. And the worst of it is, by golly, I
think there's something in that theory of yours after all."

"We should always be prepared to meet the worst, Mr. Ricks," Mr.
Skinner admonished the president emeritus. "While piracy as a practice
practically perished prior to the--"

"Skinner! In the fiend's name, spare us this alliteration and humbug,"
Cappy fairly shrieked. "You're driving me crazy. If it isn't platitude,
it's your dog-gone habit of initialing things!" He placed his old elbows
on his knees and bowed his head in his hands. "If I'm not the original
Mr. Tight Wad!" he lamented. "But you must forgive me, Matt. I got in
the habit of thinking of expense when I was young, and I've never gotten
over it. You know how a habit gets a grip on a man, don't you, Matt? Oh,
if you had only overruled me when I decided to save money by cutting
out the wireless on the _Narcissus!_ I remember now you wanted it, and
I said: 'Well, what's the use? The _Narcissus_ hasn't any passenger
license and she doesn't have to have wireless--so why do something we
don't have to do?' Skinner, you should have known enough--"

"I am managing the lumber end of the business, Mr. Ricks," Skinner
retorted icily.

"Never mind what you're managing. You're my balance wheel. I've raised
you for that very purpose. I've been twenty-five years breaking you in
to your job of relieving me of my business worries--and you don't do it.
No, you don't, Skinner. Don't deny it, now. You don't. I pay you to
boss me, but do you do it? No, sir. You let me have my own way--when
I'm round you're afraid to say your soul's your own. You two boys know
blamed well I'm an old man and that an old man will make mistakes. It
is your duty to watch me. I pay the money, but I don't get the service.
When Matt argued with me about the wireless you sided in with me,
Skinner. You've got that infernal saving habit, too--drat you! Don't
deny it, Skinner. I can see by the look in your eye you're fixing to
contradict me. You're as miserable a miser as I am--afraid to spend five
cents and play safe--you penurious--er--er--fellow! Skinner, if you ever
forget yourself long enough to give three hoots in hell you'll want one
of them back. See now what your niggardly policy has done for us? At a
time when we'd hock our immortal souls for a wireless to talk to Mike
Murphy and tell him things, where are we?" Cappy snapped his fingers.
"Up Salt Creek--without a paddle!"

"Come, come," Matt said soothingly, "As Skinner says, we can only wait
and pray--"

"All right. You two do the praying. I'm going to sit here and cuss."

"Well, we'll hope for the best, Mr. Ricks. No more crying over spilled
milk now. I'll figure out when the _Narcissus_ is due at Pernambuco and
cable Mike to let his crew go. And you know, sir, even if he should
not receive our cablegram, we have still one hope left. True, it is a
forlorn one, but it's worth a small bet. The crew of the _Narcissus_ is
not all German. There are--"

"Two pro-German Irishmen, two disinterested Native Son Chinamen and a
little runt of a Cockney steward," Cappy sneered. "And she carries a
crew of forty, all told. Matt, those odds are too long for any bet
of mine. Besides, Reardon and Murphy hate each other. A house divided
against itself, you know--"

"They might bang each other all over the main deck," Matt replied
musingly, "but I'll bet they'll fight side by side for the ship. Of
course we haven't known Terence Reardon very long; he may be a bad one
after all; but Mike Murphy will go far. He's as cunning as a pet fox,
and he may make up in strategy what he lacks in numbers."

"The Irish are so filled with blarney--" Skinner began, but Cappy cut
him short with a terrible look.

"There goes some more of our silver lining," he rasped. "Skinner, what
are you? A kill-joy? Now, just for that, I'm going to agree with Matt. A
man has got to believe something in this world or go crazy, and I prefer
to believe that the ship is safe with those two Hibernians aboard--win,
lose or draw. And I want you two to quit picking on me; I don't want the
word '_Narcissus_' mentioned in my presence until the ship is reported
confiscated by the British, if her coal is for the Germans, or by the
Germans, if her coal is for the British--which it isn't--or until Mike
Murphy reports at Manila or Batavia and cables us for orders."

"I'm with you there, sir," Matt Peasley declared. "I'm going to bank
on the Irish, and refuse to believe it possible for the _Nar_--for a
certain vessel flying our house-flag to be caught by the wrong warship,
a couple of thousand miles off her course and with coal, or evidences of
coal, in her cargo space. Buck up, Skinner. A little Christian Science
here, boy. Just make up your mind no man in authority is going to come
over the rail of the--of a certain vessel--and ask Mike Murphy or his
successor _pro tem._, for a look at his papers!"

"If she ever is confiscated on an illegal errand," Skinner mourned, "and
Mike Murphy has nothing more tangible than a dime-novel tale of coercion
as an excuse for being in that latitude and longitude--well, we'll never
get our bully big ship back again!"

And for the first time in his life the efficient Mr. Skinner so far
forgot himself as to swear in the office!



CHAPTER VI


Throughout the long, lazy days that the _Narcissus_ rolled into the
South, Captain Michael J. Murphy's alert brain was busy every spare
moment, striving to discover, in the incomprehensible charter his owners
had made for him, what the French call _la raison d'etre._ Not having
any wireless, he was unable to keep in touch with the stirring events
being enacted in Europe and on the high seas, as news of the said events
filtered by him through space. While on the West Coast, where all the
newspapers are printed in Spanish, he had been equally barred from
keeping in touch with the war, although _en route_ through the Panama
Canal he did his best to buy up all the old newspapers on the Zone.

Upon arrival in New York with his cargo of nitrate, his anxiety to make
a record in his first command in steam caused him to stay on the job
every moment the _Narcissus_ was discharging, for Cappy Ricks had
impressed upon him, as he impressed upon every skipper in the Blue
Star employ, the fact that a slow boat is slow paying dividends.
Consequently, the worthy captain had had no time to acquaint himself
with the movements of the various fleets, and when he sent his day
letter to his owners on the morning of the day he sailed from Norfolk
for Pernambuco, his action was predicated, not on what he knew, but on
what he felt. The sixth sense that all real sailors possess warned him
that his cargo of coal was not destined for Batavia nor yet Manila, but
for delivery at sea to the warships of some foreign nation. Devoutly
Michael J. hoped it wasn't for the British fleet, since in such
a contingency he would be cruelly torn between his love and duty.
Consequently he resolved that, should the choice of alternatives be
forced upon him, he would steer a middle course and resign his command.

On the other hand, Mike Murphy knew Matt Peasley and Cappy Ricks to
be intensely pro-Ally in their sympathies, despite the President's
proclamation of neutrality and the polite requests of the motion-picture
houses for their audiences to remain perfectly quiet while Field-Marshal
von Hindenburg, Sir John French and General Joffre came on the screen
and bowed. Under the circumstances, therefore, Murphy found it very
difficult to suspect his owners of conspiring to deliver a cargo of coal
to the German fleet at sea. No, indeed! Matt Peasley and Cappy Ricks
were too intensely American for that; indeed, Cappy was always saying he
hoped to see an American mercantile marine established before he should
be gathered to the bosom of Abraham.

From whatever angle the doughty skipper viewed it, therefore, the tangle
became more and more incomprehensible. Cappy and Matt knew full well
the rules of the game as promulgated by their Uncle Samuel, and the dire
penalties for infraction. However, granted that they knew they could
scheme successfully to evade punishment at the hands of their own
government, Mike Murphy knew full well that no man could guarantee
immunity from the right of a belligerent warship to visit and search, or
from confiscation or months of demurrage in a prize court in the event
that his ship's papers and the course the vessel was travelling failed
to justify her presence in that particular longitude and latitude.
And with the huge profits to be made in neutral trade, it seemed
incomprehensible that a sound business man like Cappy Ricks should
assume all these risks for the sake of a little extra money. Surely
he must realize that if he sent her on an illegal errand her war-risk
insurance would not hold.

On the other hand, it appeared to Murphy that the charter must have
been consummated with the full knowledge and consent of the Blue Star
Navigation Company, for the veriest tyro in the shipping business could
not have failed to be suspicious of that clause in the charter party,
stipulating a call at Pernambuco for orders. Of course there was the
possibility that this acquiescence had been due to misrepresentation
on the part of the New York agents or rank stupidity on the part of the
Blue Star Navigation Company. But Seaborn & Company were above a shady
deal. In putting through the charter for the Blue Star Navigation
Company it might have occurred to them that all was not as it should
be, but that was none of their business. If they spread their hand and
permitted Cappy Ricks an unobstructed view, it was up to Cappy to decide
and order them to close or reject the charter. As for stupidity on the
part of the Blue Star Navigation Company, Murphy knew full well that
stupidity was the crime Cappy Ricks found it hardest to forgive. Even
had Cappy overlooked that suspicious clause in the charter, because of
his age, Matt Peasley's youth and practical maritime knowledge should
have offset Cappy's error; and even if both had erred, there still
remained the matchless Skinner, as suspicious as a burglar, as keen as a
razor, as infallible as a chronometer.

No, it just didn't seem possible that the Blue Star Navigation Company
had gone into the deal with eyes wide open; on the contrary, it seemed
equally impossible that they had gone into it with their eyes shut.
Consequently Michael J. decided to wake them up--provided they slept on
the job--and to give them an opportunity to repent before it should be
too late.

He felt very much better after sending that telegram, but as the
_Narcissus_ ploughed steadily south at the rate of two hundred and
thirty miles a day, he began to grieve because he had no wireless to
bring him a prompt reply; he berated himself for not waiting at the dock
in Norfolk until his owners should have had an opportunity to answer;
he abused himself for his timidity in questioning the judgment of his
owners, for indeed he had been content to hint when more decisive action
was demanded.

How Michael J. Murphy yearned to discuss his problem with some one as
loyal and devoted to the Blue Star Navigation Company as himself! His
dignity as master of the _Narcissus_, however, bade him refrain from
discussing the integrity of his owners with his mates--particularly
with new mates, to whom the house-flag stood for naught but a symbol of
monthly revenue. In fact, of the forty-one men under him, there was but
one with whom he could, with entire dignity, discuss the matter. That
man was Terence Reardon. But even here he was barred, for since he had
called the chief engineer a renegade, the only possible discussion
that could obtain between them now must be anything but academic;
in consequence of which Michael J. Murphy was forced to hug his
apprehensions to himself until the _Narcissus_ steamed slowly into the
outer harbor of Pernambuco. Ten minutes after she dropped her big hook
the skipper's suspicions were crystallized into certainty.

Just as she came to anchor the steward appeared on deck, vociferously
beating his triangle to announce supper--for at sea dinner is always
supper.

"Mr. Schultz," the captain called from the bridge, "as soon as your men
have had their supper clear away the working boat. I'm going ashore."

"Very vell, sir," Mr. Schultz replied heartily, and the captain went
below to supper. He was scarcely seated before Mr. Schultz stuck his
head in the dining saloon window and announced that a gentleman who
claimed to represent the charterers was alongside in a launch and
desired to come aboard and speak with him.

"Let down the accommodation ladder, Mr. Schultz, and when the gentleman
comes aboard, show him round to my state-room," the skipper answered.
"I'll meet him there in a pig's whisper. It is probable he has come
aboard with our orders, Mr. Schultz, so never mind clearing away the
boat until I speak to you further about it. Steward, set an extra cover
at my right. We may have a guest for supper."

He hurried round to his state-room and donned a uniform coat to receive
his visitor. Mr. Schultz came presently, bearing a visiting-card upon
which was engraved the name: Mr. August Carl von Staden. Behind the mate
a sailor with a bulging suitcase stood at attention; two more sailors
stood behind the first, a steamer trunk between them, and as Captain
Murphy stepped out on deck to greet his visitor he observed a tall,
athletic, splendid-looking fellow coming leisurely toward him along the
deck. The stranger carried a large Gladstone bag.

The captain bowed. "I am the skipper of this big box," he announced
pleasantly. "Murphy is my name."

Herr von Staden shook hands and in most excellent English, without
the slightest trace of a German accent, expressed his pleasure in the
meeting. The captain cast a glance of frank curiosity at the bag von
Staden carried and at the baggage the sailors had in tow. Von Staden
interpreted the glance and smiled.

"I have brought you your orders, Captain Murphy. They are contained in
this envelope;" and he handed a blank envelope to the captain. "However,
I happened to know that one of the orders is to provide a berth for me.
I'm to go with you as supercargo."

"I hadn't heard anything about such a possibility," Mike Murphy replied,
with just a shade of formality in his tones. He turned to the first
mate: "Mr. Schultz, will you be good enough to see to it that Mr. von
Staden's baggage is stowed in the owners' suite. Then tell the steward
to see that our guest's quarters are put in order. Mr. von Staden, will
you kindly step into my stateroom here while I read these orders?"

Von Staden nodded. Entering the captain's room he sat down on the
settee and lighted a gold-tipped cigarette, while Murphy tore open the
envelope. It contained a cablegram reading as follows:

"Von Staden & Ulrich,--Pernambuco, Brazil,--Ornillo Montevideo.

"BLUESTAR."

The captain reached for his telegraphic-code book. When decoded the
message read:

"Instruct captain to proceed to Montevideo and there await further
orders.

"BLUE STAR NAVIGATION COMPANY."

The cablegram had been filed at San Francisco two days before. Murphy
looked keenly at his guest, who smoked tranquilly and returned the look
without interest.

"Mr. von Staden," the captain announced, "these are strange orders, in
view of the fact that I cleared from New York for Manila or Batavia,
via the Cape of Good Hope. It would be a sure sign of bad luck to the
steamer _Narcissus_ if a British cruiser should pick her up off the
coast of Uruguay."

Von Staden smiled. "You are very direct, captain--very blunt indeed.
This is a characteristic more Teutonic than Celtic, I believe, so I
shall experience no embarrassment in being equally frank with you. Your
cargo of coal is designed for our German Pacific fleet."

"I guessed as much, sir. Nevertheless, my owners did not see fit to take
me into their confidence in this illegal undertaking, Mr. von Staden--"

"They did not think it necessary," von Staden interrupted smilingly.
"In fact, Captain Peasley assured our people in New York that your
sympathies are so overwhelming in favor of our cause we need anticipate
no worry as to the course you would pursue. Moreover, in the event of a
judicial inquiry it would be an advantage if you could say that you had
had no voice in the matter, but had been instructed to obey the orders
of the charterers--of whom we are the agents in Pernambuco. Perhaps this
cablegram will allay your fears," and he drew an unopened cablegram from
his pocket and handed it to Murphy. It was a code cablegram, signed by
the Blue Star Navigation Company and addressed to Murphy in care of von
Staden & Ulrich. When decoded it read:

"Execute the orders of supercargo if possible. It may lead to further
business. Charterers must take the risk. We do not think there is any
risk. Please remain."

This cablegram was signed "Matt."

"Well, captain?" von Staden queried politely.

"I don't like this business at all," the captain replied. "My owners may
think there is no risk, but I'm afraid. England controls the seas--"

"We are in possession of the secret code of the British Navy, Captain
Murphy. We know the approximate location of every British warship in the
Atlantic and Pacific--and I assure you there is no risk."

"Well, my boss informs me the charterers assume the risk, so I suppose
I shouldn't worry over the Blue Star Navigation Company's end of the
gamble. They know their own business, I dare say. Evidently they feared
I might want to resign, so I have been asked to remain; and when Captain
Peasley says 'please' to me, Mr. von Staden, I find it very, very hard
to refuse."

"I am glad, for the sake of our selfish interests, my dear captain, to
find you so loyal to your owners' financial interests," the supercargo
replied heartily. "Now that you have decided to remain, I need not point
out to you the danger of a resignation at this time. It might lead
to some unlooked-for developments which might prejudice your owners,
although I think they have covered their tracks very effectually.
Nevertheless, it is not well to take the slightest risk--"

"Without being well paid for it," Murphy interrupted sneeringly. "My
owners have been well paid for their risk, but where do I come in? I
haven't been promised double my usual salary, or a split on the profits
of the voyage; and I know if I were to command a vessel loaded with
munitions of war I would not be asked to take her into the North Sea at
the customary skipper's wages. I'd be offered a large bonus."

"You forget, my dear captain, that your charterers assume all the risks.
One of them was the risk that you might resign unless you received
adequate compensation. I came aboard prepared to insure that risk," and
he touched with his toe the Gladstone bag. "What do you say to $5,000?"

Michael J. Murphy smiled. "It is pleasant, sir," he said, "to be paid
$5,000 for doing something one yearns to do for nothing. I am not a hog.
Five thousand dollars is sufficient. How do I get it--and when?"

"In gold coin of the United States, or gold certificates of the same
interesting country, my dear captain, and you may have it immediately."
Again Herr von Staden kicked the Gladstone bag.

"I'll take it in gold certificates. And in order that my dear old
father and mother may have the benefit of my rascality in case anything
unforeseen should arise to prevent my return, I suggest you hand over
the boodle this minute, and I'll go ashore and express it home."

"Captain Murphy, you are a man after my own heart--"

"I am not a born fool, sir," Murphy interrupted. "I'm accepting this
money to be a fool, well knowing it is foolish to do it, for still I
am taking a risk. I am thirty-eight years old, Mr. von Staden, and a
skipper as young as that has his future all before him. Set him down on
the beach, however, with his ticket revoked for all time--and his future
is behind him."

"In that event," the supercargo replied, "you might accept my assurance,
without questioning my authority for such assurance, that you would have
no difficulty in procuring a remunerative position ashore. The firm of
von Staden & Ulrich could use you very handily."

"Thank you, sir. Consider the matter settled. Will you come ashore with
me, sir, and dine, or would you prefer to have supper aboard?"

"I beg of you to be excused from going ashore, captain. I have much to
do to-night. The launch which brought me alongside has a knocked-down
wireless plant aboard, and I am anxious to have it set up on your good
ship _Narcissus_--a task I shall have to oversee personally. I shall
probably work all night."

"Praise be!" Michael J. Murphy answered heartily. "We'll have some
interest in life now. We can get all the war news, going and coming,
can't we? Have you brought along an operator?"

"I am an operator," the supercargo answered. "By the by, can you fix me
up with a wireless room?"

"There are two staterooms and a bath in the owners' suite which you will
occupy. You can take your choice."

"Good. I shall want to sleep close to my instrument."

He opened the bag, counted out five one-thousand-dollar gold
certificates of the United States of America and handed them to the
captain.

"The grand old rag," Michael J. murmured. "How many rascals fight under
the flag of old King Spondulics!"

"I believe you have an Irish chief engineer," von Staden continued.
"While I understand his sympathies are with us, still it seems only
right to compensate--"

"Suit yourself, Mr. von Staden."

"What kind of a man is he, captain?"

"I'd hate to tell you. I've had little to do with him, but that little
was enough. We avoid each other as much as possible and never speak
except in the line of duty. I make no bones of the fact that I think
he's a scrub."

Mr. von Staden nodded sagely. "Perhaps I'd better wait and get
acquainted with him," he suggested, and closed his bag. Murphy
showed him to his quarters, which the steward, under the first mate's
supervision, was already setting in order; and, having decided to set
up the wireless in the sleeping-room, von Staden accompanied the skipper
round to superintend the taking on board of the wireless plant from
the gasoline launch bobbing alongside. When the equipment was finally
hoisted to the deck of the _Narcissus_, Michael J, Murphy boarded the
launch and was whisked ashore for the avowed purpose of sending to his
aged parents the fruits of his elastic conscience.

Herr August Carl von Staden stood at the head of the accommodation
ladder and smiled as the launch disappeared into the tropic twilight.
Then he said something in German to Mr. Schultz, who laughed. Evidently
it was very good news, for even the quartermaster at the companion
ladder smiled covertly. It is possible they would not have felt so
cheerful had they known that Michael J. Murphy's "dear old father and
mother" had been sleeping in a Boston cemetery some fifteen years, and
that their last words to Michael had been an exhortation to remember
that manliness and honor must be his only heritage. And as the launch
bore him shoreward, he looked back and grinned at the dim, duck-clad
figure of von Staden.

"Your agents looked me up, my hearty," he soliloquized, "and if they did
their work half well, they told you I was an honest man. Only a crook
comes with a bag of gold to talk illegitimate business with an honest
man. I'm banking you're as crooked as a bed spring, and that there's
something fishy about this enterprise. Cappy Ricks isn't fully informed,
otherwise he wouldn't be doing business with a crook!"



CHAPTER VII


Arrived ashore, Captain Murphy hurried to the cable office, registered
his cable address, borrowed a code book and sent a code telegram to
his owner. Then, having subsidized the operator liberally to rush it,
Michael J. Murphy set out for a stroll among the limited attractions
of Pernambuco. His cablegram would get through in two hours at the very
most, and though the captain figured the Blue Star offices would
be closed when the message reached San Francisco, still he was not
discouraged. He knew the cable company always telephoned to Mr. Skinner,
at his home, all Blue Star and Ricks Lumber & Logging messages arriving
after office hours and before midnight. Naturally Skinner could be
depended upon to have a copy of the code at home, and if he didn't
Murphy knew he would rush down to the office, no matter what the hour,
and decode it there. Of course he would cable his reply immediately, in
which event it might be that the captain would have an answer shortly
after midnight or by breakfast at the latest.

He decided, therefore, to return to the cable office about midnight and
await the reply to his cablegram. He had proceeded but a few blocks from
the cable office, however, before a disturbing thought struck him with
such force as to bring him to an abrupt pause.

_His owners had cabled him in care of von Staden & Ulrich, when in the
telegram sent just before sailing from Norfolk he had instructed them
to cable him in care of the American consul._ Murphy's native shrewdness
had made him suspicious of von Staden the instant the latter had so
nonchalantly offered him a bribe of five thousand dollars, for
the proffer of a bribe of that magnitude, without any preliminary
bargaining, did not co-ordinate with Michael's idea of business.
Certainly if the charterers had his owners "fixed," five thousand
dollars was too much money to give their captain, particularly since
there were available any number of capable rascals eager to do the job
for twenty-five hundred, and the devil take the consequences.

At the time von Staden had handed him the two cablegrams from the Blue
Star Navigation Company, no suspicion that they were forgeries had
entered the captain's mind; indeed, Matt Peasley's cablegram to him
appeared at first blush to be an answer to the telegram which Murphy had
sent his owners from Norfolk. In that telegram Murphy had mentioned his
suspicions and hinted at unwarranted risks and the possibility of
the circumstances attending the delivery of his cargo forcing his
resignation. Matt's cablegram handed him by von Staden urged him to
remain in the ship and assured him there were no risks; that if there
were, the charterers assumed them. For the nonce, therefore, the
master's mind did not dwell on any doubts as to the genuineness of
the orders he had received, even though he decided instantly as a
precautionary measure to confirm them before proceeding to carry them
out. This, however, was merely because he was suspicious of von
Staden and desired to obviate the possibility of that individual's
double-crossing the Blue Star Navigation Company.

Under the circumstances, therefore, he had considered it good policy to
appear to fall readily in line, and, the better to disarm von Staden's
watchfulness, he had demanded extra compensation. The ease with which
the bribe had been secured having crystallized his suspicions, instantly
he had cast about in his ingenious brain for a good sound excuse for
going ashore and cabling his owners. To demand his bribe in advance and
then announce that he would go ashore and express it to those dependent
upon him, in case he failed to return and enjoy it himself, seemed to
present a reason that would not be questioned and accordingly he had
done so.

Michael J. Murphy removed his uniform cap and thoughtfully scratched his
head. "Now why," he demanded of the scented night, "did Matt cable me
in care of that German firm when he must have known I would call on the
American consul in the expectation of finding a cablegram there?" He
shook his head. "They've got us winging, Michael," he soliloquized, "so
I suppose the only thing to do is to play safe, call upon the American
consul immediately if not sooner, and ask if he has a cablegram for us."

And without further ado the worthy fellow sprang into a cab and was
whirled away to the residence of the American consul. Yes, the consul
had a cablegram for him, but it was at his office. Could Captain Murphy
not wait until morning?

Most emphatically Captain Murphy could not. That cablegram was
important; it meant a great deal of money and possibly life or death--

Regretfully the consul entered the cab with the captain, drove to the
consulate and delivered the cable-gram to the eager mariner, who swore
when he discovered it was in cipher and not code, for this necessitated
immediate return to the _Narcissus_ in order to obtain the key to the
cipher. He thanked the consul and sent the latter home in the cab, while
he hurried for the harbor front and the nearest boat landing. He was
filled with apprehension, for indeed there was something radically
wrong when his owners cabled him in the secret cipher of the Blue Star
Navigation Company--something the company had, doubtless, never found
occasion to do before. For while each vessel of the Blue Star fleet
had a copy of the A.L. code aboard, with the cipher key typewritten and
pasted on the second fly-leaf, not a single Blue Star skipper knew why
it had been pasted there or why the company should have gone to the
trouble of getting up any one of the hundreds of secret ciphers possible
to be developed from the A. L. Telegraphic Code. This was a secret that
lay locked in the breast of Mr. Skinner. It is probable, however, that
it had occurred to him in an idle moment that a secret cipher might
come in handy some day, and Mr. Skinner believed in being prepared for
emergencies.

The captain bade the launch wait for him at the accommodation ladder,
while he hurried round to his state-room and promptly fell to work on
Mr. Skinner's cipher cablegram. When he had laboriously deciphered it
this is what he read:

"Unaccountably failed note suspicious clause charter. Something rotten.
We are playing square game. Think plot deliver coal German fleet South
Atlantic. Discharge your German crew immediately, first notifying
Brazilian authorities and American consul. Have help when you notify
them game is off, otherwise may take vessel away from you. They will
stop at nothing; fleet desperate for coal. Cable acknowledgment these
orders; also cable when orders fulfilled. Very anxious. 'BLUE STAR
NAVIGATION COMPANY.'"

"Ah-h-h!" breathed Michael J. Murphy softly, but very distinctly. "So
that's the game, eh?" His big square chin set viciously; subconsciously
he clenched his hard fist and shook it at his enemies. "The cunning
Dutch devils!" he murmured very audibly, and at that precise instant
Herr August Carl von Staden stood in the open doorway. He coughed, and
Murphy glanced up from the translation of the cipher message just in
time to note a swift shadow pass over the supercargo's face, a shadow
composed of equal parts of suspicion, embarrassment and desperation.

"You have returned very promptly, captain," he remarked smoothly, and
then his restless glance fell on the cablegram and beside it the scratch
pad and the two parallel columns of words scrawled on it. A man of far
less intelligence than von Staden possessed would, have realized as
quickly that the first column was composed of cipher words, while the
second column was the translation. From this tell-tale evidence his
suspicious glance lifted to the skipper's face, and he read in Michael
J. Murphy's black eyes the wild rage which no Irishman could have
concealed--which the majority of his race would not even have taken the
trouble to endeavor to conceal.

In that glance each learned the other's secret; each realized that the
success of his plans depended on the silence of the other; each resolved
instantly to procure that silence at any cost. Von Staden reached for
his hip pocket, but before he could draw his automatic pistol and cover
the skipper, Michael J. Murphy had hurled ten pounds of code book into
the geometric centre of the supercargo's face. It was the first weapon
his hand closed over, and he did not disdain it. The instant it landed
and von Staden reeled before the blow, Murphy came out of his state-room
with a scuttering rush and von Staden fired as he came. The captain felt
the sting of the bullet as it creased the top of his left shoulder;
then his right fist came up in a blow that started at his hip and landed
fairly under the supercargo's heart. Von Staden grunted once, the pistol
dropped clattering to the deck and he folded up like an accordion. For
him the battle was over.

Not so, however, with Mike Murphy. Gone to the winds now was the caution
he would have exercised had the attack been delayed two seconds longer;
forgotten was the shrewd advice of his owners to have help standing by
when the ship cleaning should commence. Michael J. Murphy thought of
nothing but blood, for the fight had started now and he was loath to
have it cease.

"You bloody murderer!" he growled. "You'd kill me and steal my ship,
would you?" And with the reckless abandon of a sailor he planted the
broad toe of a number nine boot in Herr von Staden's short ribs, hoping
to break a few, for in the process of working his way up from the bottom
Michael had fought under deep-sea rules too often to be squeamish now.
So he kicked Herr von Staden again, after which a glimmer of reason
penetrated his hot head and he walked to pick up the supercargo's
automatic pistol. Then something landed on him from above and he went
down backward. His head struck the deck with a resounding thump,
and Michael J. Murphy had a through ticket to the Land of Nod and no
stop-over privileges.

The something which had thus inopportunely dropped on Michael was Mr.
Henckel, the second mate. He had gone up on the bridge to see if
the canvas jacket had been dropped over the brightly polished brass
engine-room telegraph apparatus at each end of the bridge, in order to
protect it from the tropical dew. While thus engaged he had heard the
shot which von Staden fired at the captain, and forthwith had run across
the top of the house and peered over to discover what was happening
on the deck below. Discovering the captain in the act of kicking a
distinguished son of the Fatherland in that fragile section of the human
anatomy frequently referred to as the "slats," the second mate had stood
a moment, immobile with horror, the while he gazed upon the fearful
scene. Then the captain walked to a spot on the deck directly beneath
the position occupied by his subordinate, and stooped to pick something
up.

Even their enemies are proud of the dash and gallantry, the utter
contempt for consequences, which animate the German going into battle,
and Mr. Henckel, second mate of the S.S. _Narcissus_, was as fine a
German as one could find in a day's travel. The instant Michael J.
Murphy stooped to recover von Staden's automatic pistol, therefore, Mr.
Henckel saw his duty and, in the language of the elect, "he went an'
done it"--the which was absurdly simple. He merely leaped down off
the house on top of the captain, and forthwith deep peace and profound
silence brooded over the good ship _Narcissus_, of San Francisco.

It is worthy of remark here that Mr. Terence Reardon who, had he been
present, might have had something to say--not that his action would
indicate that he despised Mike Murphy the less, but that he loved his
owners more--was unfortunately down in the engine-room. Consequently he
failed to hear the shot, and when he came up on deck the victims of
the affray had been collected and taken thence, a seaman with a mop
had removed the profuse evidence which Mike Murphy's rich red blood had
furnished and Mr. Schultz, the first mate, was on the bridge, while Mr.
Henckel was up on the forecastle head with his gang, waiting for the
order to break out the anchor.

Presently a seaman came up on the bridge and reported that the light in
Mr. Reardon's state-room had been out fifteen minutes. So Mr. Schultz
waited an hour longer to make certain the chief engineer would be
asleep; whereupon commenced a harsh, discordant tune--the music of
the anchor chain paying in through the hawse pipe. When it ceased Mr.
Schultz stepped to the marine telegraph; a bell jingled in the bowels of
the _Narcissus_; an instant later all the lights aboard her went out as
the first assistant engineer threw off the switch, and silently in the
heavy velvet gloom the great vessel slipped out of Pernambuco harbor and
headed south.



CHAPTER VIII


Just about the time the _Narcissus_ was kicking ahead at nine knots, in
distant San Francisco the cable company was getting Mr. Skinner out
of bed to dictate to him over the telephone a message which had just
arrived from Pernambuco.

"Ah!" murmured the incomparable Skinner as he donned a dressing gown and
slippers and descended to his library to decode the cablegram. "The
luck of the Blue Star flag still holds. That belligerent and highly
intelligent fellow Murphy has received our cablegram, sent him in care
of the American consul, and in accordance with my instructions he is
acknowledging its receipt. Hum-m-m! The first word is 'oriana.' Let
me turn to 'oriana.' Hum-m! 'I have an order presumably emanating from
blank.' Ah, yes, the next word is 'Buestar,' the cable address of the
Blue Star Navigation Company. Well, well, well, the foxy fellow! After
wiring us to cable him, he gets our cable and then cables us to confirm
it! Caution is a virtue, but this brand is too high-priced. The next
word is 'osculo'."

Mr. Skinner turned to "osculo" and discovered that it meant "I am
ordered to--" The next word in the cablegram was "Montevideo."

"Good heavens!" Mr. Skinner gasped. "He has received orders, presumably
emanating from us, ordering him to Montevideo! Can it be possible that
Mr. Ricks or Matt Peasley has sent him a cablegram without my knowledge?
I must read further."

He did, and having done so he discovered that, in addition to being
ordered to Montevideo, Mike Murphy wanted to know if it was all right
and if von Staden and Ulrich--presumably German--were to be trusted;
that he would remain in command at the company's request, although
he considered such request unreasonable, even if it could be granted
without risk. Also, he wanted these instructions confirmed and was
anxiously awaiting an answer.

"Well, I'm certain of one thing," Mr. Skinner soliloquized after
reading this extraordinary message: "Murphy has not been to the American
consul's office for the cablegram I sent him several days ago. Evidently
there is mischief afoot. However, there is nothing to be gained by
cabling him again in care of the American consul, so I'll just assume
that he has registered his cable address with the cable company; hence,
if I cable him to his cable address the message will be delivered to him
aboard the _Narcissus_. And since he says he is anxiously awaiting an
answer, I'll relieve his anxiety with all possible speed and send him an
answer immediately."

Whereupon Mr. Skinner wasted several dollars cabling Mike Murphy that
the Blue Star Navigation had not, to his knowledge, cabled him any
instructions save those sent in care of the American consul; that von
Staden and Ulrich were unknown to him, and to be very careful not to
lose the ship. This message Mr. Skinner dictated over the telephone to
the telegraph office and asked them to rush it. Evidently they did so,
for just as Cappy Ricks arrived in the office the following morning,
word was received from the telegraph company that owing to the departure
of the _Narcissus_ from Pernambuco the night before, the Blue Star
Navigation Company's cablegram had not been delivered.

"Well, Skinner," Cappy chirped as he sat in at his desk and lighted a
cigar, "what's the news around the shop this fine morning? Any word from
Murphy?"

"Yes--and no," Mr. Skinner replied, and laid his information before
Cappy for perusal. Cappy read it all twice, then slid out to the edge of
his chair, placed his hands on his knees and looked at Mr. Skinner over
the rims of his spectacles.

"Skinner, my dear boy," he said solemnly, "this is certainly hell! Cable
the American consul in Pernambuco and ask him if Murphy received the
cablegram we sent in care of the consulate. And, in the meantime, don't
whisper a word of this disquieting information to Matt Peasley. Time
enough to cross a bridge, Skinner, when you come to it."

Mr. Skinner promptly filed a cablegram to the American consul, and just
before the office closed they got about forty dollars' worth of reply,
informing them that Captain Murphy had appeared at the consulate greatly
excited the night previous; that he had declared the cablegram awaiting
him might mean life or death--certainly a large sum of money; that he
had been given the cablegram and had gone aboard ship to look up his
cipher key. He had not returned and the ship was not in the harbor.

"Let me see the carbon copy of the cablegram you sent Murphy in care of
the American consul," Cappy demanded. Mr. Skinner with a sinking heart
obeyed.

"Skinner," said Cappy, "do I understand you sent this message in cipher,
which necessitated on the part of our captain a trip back to his ship
before he could decipher it? Why didn't you send him the message in
regular code? He would then have decoded it right in the consulate, or
at best he could have gone to the cable office and borrowed a code book
from them."

"I sent it in our secret cipher," Mr. Skinner faltered. "It was delicate
business--quite--er--an international complication, as it were, and in
the event of unpleasant developments--Well, how did I know but that some
German might be on the key at the cable office when the message arrived
there for Murphy--"

"Quite right, Skinner, my boy, quite right," Cappy interrupted
sadly. "The only trouble with you, Skinner, is that you're too danged
efficient. You look so far into the future you're always gumming up the
present." He sighed.

"Why, what do you think--" Skinner began, but Cappy silenced him with an
autocratic finger.

"I do not think, Skinner, I know. Had it not been for your damnable
cipher message, Murphy would have got your warning ashore instead of
being forced to go back to the ship for it. Having got it ashore he
would have taken care to warn the Brazilian authorities and they would
have been on watch and prevented the ship from leaving. As I view the
situation, Mike went aboard, deciphered your message and got ripping
mad. Von Staden and Ulrich were probably aboard, and hot-headed Mike
probably undertook to throw them overboard single-handed--and failed.
His body is doubtless feeding the fishes in Pernambuco harbor this
minute, and our lovely--big--_Narcissus_--the pride of--the Blue Star
fleet--"

"Shall I tell Captain Peasley?" Mr. Skinner faltered.

"Yes, tell him. He's bound to find out sooner or later. Skinner, I could
stand the loss of the ship, but what breaks me all up is the thought
that after forty years of honorable business my friends and my enemies
might suspect me of being a filibuster. I, Alden P. Ricks, whose
great-grandfather died at Yorktown, whose grandfather was killed at
Lundy's Lane, whose father won a medal of honor at Chapultepec--I,
Alden P. Ricks, who had to belong to the Home Guard because I was such
a little runt they wouldn't take me in the Civil War--to think that I
should attain to seventy years and even be suspected of staining the
flag of my country for the sake of a few dirty dollars--after all the
Ricks blood that has been shed for that flag! Horrible!"

Mr. Skinner turned away for, man and boy, he had spent twenty-five years
under Cappy Ricks, and he loved him. He could not bear to see the old
man suffer.



CHAPTER IX


When Michael J. Murphy returned to consciousness he found himself in his
berth, although for all the effort he made to verify this fact it might
have been Mr. Reardon's. For fully half an hour he lay there, gradually
straightening out the tangle in his intellect, and presently he was
aware that the back of his head was very sore and ached, so he put up
his hand to rub it and found a lump as large as a walnut. His right
shoulder was numb and he was unable to move it, although this would not
have surprised him had he been aware that a hundred and eighty pounds
of Teutonic masculinity had landed on that shoulder with both feet and
dislocated it. As it was, the skipper wondered vaguely if the ship's
funnel had fallen over on him. His right side ached externally, and when
he sighed it ached internally. That was a broken rib tickling his lung,
for, while he was in blissful ignorance of the reason therefor, the
chronicler of this tale can serve no good purpose by concealing the true
facts in the case. Immediately upon regaining consciousness, Herr August
Carl von Staden had insisted upon returning Michael J. Murphy's kicks
with compound interest.

"Holy mackerel!" the skipper murmured. "I feel like I've been fed into
a concrete mixer. The only injury I can account for is my left shoulder,
where that supercargo shot me."

After spending another half hour in mild speculation on these phenomena
he was aware of an added impediment in breathing, so he put his hand
up to his nose and found it clogged with blood. His luxuriant black
mustache prevented an extended examination of his upper lip, but
nevertheless, something told him it was split. A hard foreign substance
lying between his right cheek and the inferior maxillary he concluded
must be the pit of an olive left over from dinner. Subsequently,
however, he discovered it was one of his own teeth. So he swore a mighty
oath and felt considerably better.

"This is certainly mutiny on the high seas and punishable by hanging,"
he soliloquized. "I wonder if Cappy Ricks would know me now;" and he
reached up to turn the switch of the electric light over his berth.
He turned the switch, but the light did not come on, and while he lay
considering this state of affairs, he was aware that something that was
not his head was throbbing in the ship. He decided presently that it was
her engines. From the steady rhythmic pulsations he realized the vessel
was being driven full speed ahead; and since he could not recall having
given any orders to that effect, he was not long in arriving at the
correct answer to the riddle--whereupon Michael J. Murphy did what
every shipmaster does when he loses the ship he loves and finds himself
ravished of his reputation as a sane and careful skipper. He wept!

Those who know the breed will bid you beware the Irish when they weep
from any cause save grief or sympathy.



CHAPTER X


Cappy Ricks, who claimed to know Mike Murphy's kind of Irish, doubtless
would have been extremely gratified had he been granted a peep at the
battered, bleeding, weeping wreck of his faithful Michael as the pride
of the Blue Star fleet rolled south to meet the grey sea rovers of the
Fatherland and deliver the cargo of coal that meant so much to them. The
sight might have aroused some hope in Cappy's heavy heart, he being by
nature inconsistent and always seeing a profit where others found naught
but a deficit. However, though Cappy was variously gifted he was not
a clairvoyant, in consequence of which he spent a very sleepless night
following the receipt of that windy cablegram from the American consul.
He dined at his club, and when it was time for him to leave and his
daughter sent her car for him, he lacked the courage to go home and face
his son-in-law. So he spent the night at the club and came down to the
office about noon, hoping Matt Peasley would have recovered from the
shock by that time. The latter was waiting for him, and came into
Cappy's sanctum immediately to hold a post-mortem.

"Matthew, my dear boy," said Cappy miserably, "this is terrible."

"I think we should take the matter up immediately with the State
Department," Matt replied. "There may be a United States warship in
those waters, and she could be instructed by wireless to endeavor to
intercept the _Narcissus._ We can prove a clean bill of health with
those cablegrams, and get back our ship."

"Yes--from our own Government, of course. But, oh, Matt, if old Johnny
Bull ever gets his horns into her we can kiss her good-bye. We can't
bring forward any evidence to alibi that German crew on a ship so far
off her course and loaded with contraband."

"Well, I know if I were skippering a British warship and picked up the
_Narcissus,_ her owners would find I was born and bred in Missouri," the
honest Matt admitted. "By the way, have you read this morning's papers?"

"No, Matt. I've felt too blamed miserable about this _Narcissus_
affair."

"Well, the _Scharnhorst_, the _Gneisenau_, the _Leipzig,_, the _Dresden_
and the _Nurnberg_ met a British fleet under Admiral Craddock, away down
off Coronel, Chile. The British were cleaned for fair."

"You don't tell me!"

"I do tell you. And I'll bet my immortal soul that German fleet is
heading for the entrance to Magellan this minute. If I were a religious
man I'd be praying for clear weather so they'll find the entrance
without any trouble."

"I hope they run ashore and drown every man Jack!" cried Cappy fiercely.

"I do not. You will note that our charterers tried to induce Mike to go
to Montevideo for orders. That was because they expected to lie snug at
Montevideo and be within striking distance of a designated meeting place
in the South Atlantic when the German fleet should pass through Magellan
from the Pacific. Remember that for several weeks the German fleet has
managed to lose itself in the Pacific, but now that the British fleet
has stumbled onto it and forced an engagement, the Australian and
Japanese cruisers will all be headed for the south coast of Chile to
make reprisal. We know the Germans are short of coal; doubtless some of
the fleet have suffered in the engagement with Admiral Craddock's
ships, so it's a safe bet they'll run into the Atlantic now and raid the
Falkland Islands--by the way, a British possession. They will hope to
find coal and stores there, which, with the cargo of the _Narcissus,_
will enable them to continue raiding.

"Of course they will try to accomplish this before England sends a fleet
to avenge Craddock--and I'm hoping the Germans will succeed, for, if
they do, they will surely be decent enough to run our _Narcissus_ into
some South American port and give us an opportunity to get her back
again. On the other hand, if the Germans delay their departure from the
Pacific, the British will surely get wind of the _Narcissus_ waiting at
Montevideo; and when she comes out they'll just naturally grab her."

"I guess you're right," Cappy replied gloomily; "so for the present
we're pro-German. Still, I find that a hard dose to swallow, in view of
the fact that our German crew in the _Narcissus_ has evidently taken the
vessel away from Mike Murphy."

"I am sure they have done just that, sir; otherwise Mike would have
obeyed our orders. We know he received the orders; hence the only reason
he did not carry them out was because he wasn't permitted to do so. My
only hope is that they haven't killed him, for if he is alive and free,
he and Reardon, with the assistance of the cockney steward and the two
Chinese cooks, might--"

"Might what?"

"Might steal her back again."

"Matt! It isn't possible, is it?"

"I'll bet Mike Murphy and I could steal her back if we had half a
chance. The odds would be forty to two against our succeeding, but a
little strategy is sometimes to be preferred to great horsepower. I
think I could do it, and I think Murphy will do it--if he only thinks of
it."

"How? Tell me how you'd steal her back."

"What's the use?" Matt replied wearily. "I'd have to have help. So will
Mike--and I've just remembered Mike Murphy and Terence Reardon are the
wrong kind of Irish to have together in the same ship. We did our best
to prevent it, but the odds are too long for us; the coal is for the
Germans and we hate England, so why worry? I know Mike Murphy will not
take that view of it; for my sake he'll fight to the last gasp, but he
must have help, and Reardon owes me no such allegiance as Murphy."

"Well, he owes me something," Cappy spoke up. "You promised him a
hundred and seventy-five dollars a month and I raised the ante to two
hundred. It was an investment, pure and simple. I was buying loyalty,
and by the Holy Pink-Toed Prophet, I think I'll get it. Come to think
of it, there was a look in Reardon's eyes that I liked, when he took my
hand in those greasy paws of his and said he was a proud man to work for
me. Matt, that fellow is full of bellicose veins. He may not fight
for me, but he'll fight for Mrs. Reardon and the children and that
two-hundred-dollar-a-month job, for it's the first he's ever had and
if he loses out it'll be the last he'll ever get. He was telling me all
about his family and how much the job meant to him, that day we had the
_Narcissus_ out on her trial trip."

Matt Peasley's face brightened. "By Jupiter, that puts a different face
on the situation. If Reardon is alive they might get together for mutual
protection."

"Well," Cappy piped up, greatly relieved to discover Matt was facing the
tragedy so optimistically, "we might do worse than hope. Wire the State
Department, Matt; and in the meanwhile, cheer up, sonny, and trust in
the luck of Alden P. Ricks. I remember Captain Noah Kendall--peace to
his ashes--used to say to me: 'Mr. Ricks, if you ever fell into Channel
Creek at low tide you'd come up with a pearl necklace wrapped round your
ankle, and you'd be smelling like a spray of lemon verbena.' Cheer up,
Matt! What though the cause be lost, the _Narcissus_ is not lost--yet.
The Celtic troops remain, and from now on my war cry is going to be--"

"Ireland uber Alles," Matt Peasley suggested.

"You're blamed whistlin'!" said Cappy Ricks.

So Mr. Skinner was called into consultation, and he and Matt Peasley and
Cappy drew up a heart-rending telegram to the Secretary of State,
who consulted with the Secretary of the Navy, who wired the Blue Star
Navigation Company that he was sorry but he didn't have as much as a
rowboat in the South Atlantic to save their steamer _Narcissus,_ and
would they please keep still about it, since a noise like that, unless
absolutely based on facts--and he understood their wail to be based on
suspicion--would tend to create additional friction in an international
complication already strained to the breaking point. Whereupon Cappy
Ricks flew into a rage and immediately dictated a long letter to his
congressman and his senator, urging them to battle to the last trench in
the campaign for a two-power navy.

Time passed. Then suddenly the world rocked with the news of the
annihilation of the German Pacific fleet off the Falkland Islands. Cappy
Ricks and Matt Peasley read the horrid tale in the morning papers as
they sat at breakfast, and immediately both lost all interest in food.
Like two mourners about to set out for the morgue to identify the corpse
of a loved one recently killed by a taxicab, they drove down to the Blue
Star offices, where immediately upon arrival something terrible in Mr.
Skinner's face brought on palpitation of Cappy Ricks' heart.

"Skinner, my dear boy," he chattered, "Have you any news?"

"Not yet, sir," murmured Mr. Skinner brokenly, "but soon! The British
consul wants you to ring him up. He says he's had a wireless from
H.M.S. _Panther,_ off the Falkland Islands, and he thinks it will be of
interest to you."

"Is my _Narcissus_ confiscated?" Cappy and Matt cried in chorus.

"I--I don't know," Skinner faltered. "I just didn't have the courage to
pursue the matter further. The British consul said she was captured but
as for con--"

"Idiot! Bonehead!" rasped Cappy. "My _Narcissus_ is gone--gone! Oh,
Lord! Matt, you ring up the British consul--I'm an old man--Skinner, my
dear chap, forgive my harsh language. Have you a little drop of whisky
in the office?"



CHAPTER XI


Capt. Michael J. Murphy's futile tears of rage having dried almost as
quickly as they came, he crawled painfully out of his berth and lighted
a match, to discover he was a prisoner in his own state-room. He turned
another electric switch, but still the room remained in darkness.

"Sneaking out of Pernambuco with the lights doused," he soliloquized.
Then he remembered a little stump of candle he kept in his desk for use
when heating sealing wax, so he lighted the candle and by its meager
rays took inventory of his features in the little mirror over his
washstand.

"By the Toe Nails of Moses," he soliloquized, "somebody's sea-boots did
that, and if I ever find out who was wearing them at the time there'll
be a fight or a footrace. I'm a total wreck and no insurance--yes, thank
God! here's the ship's medicine chest."

Having spent the greater portion of an adventurous career far
from medical aid in time of bodily stress, Michael J. was, as most
shipmasters are, rather adept in rough-and-tumble surgery. His compact
little library contained a common-sense treatise on the care of burns,
scalds, cuts, fractures and the few minor physical diseases that sailors
are heir to, and in accordance with immemorial custom he, as master of
the ship, was the custodian of the medicine chest. So he washed the gore
from his face, disinfected his split lip and patched himself up after
a fashion. The bullet wound in his left shoulder proved to be a flesh
wound, high up, so he cleaned that and decided his left wing would be
in fair fighting order within a few days. Then he undressed and said his
prayers, with a special invocation for help from his patron saint,
holy Saint Michael, the archangel. Evidently Saint Michael inclined a
friendly ear, for it is a curious fact that no sooner had his namesake
risen from his marrow bones than a curious sense of peace and comfort
stole over him. As in a vision he saw Herr August Carl von Staden
standing on the bridge, bound at ankle, knee and hand and with a rope
round his neck. From the supercargo's neck the rope led aloft through a
small snatch-block fastened to the end of a cargo derrick and thence to
the drum of the forward winch--a device which had been known to hoist
with a jerk objects several tons heavier than Herr August Carl von
Staden! This picture thus conjured in Murphy's imagination was so real
he was almost tempted to recite the litany for the dying!

"'Twould have been better for them had they killed me dead and hove my
carcass overboard," he decided. "The fact that they didn't, but took the
trouble to carry me to my own bed and lock me in, is proof that they'll
not murder me now--so I'll not worry. I'll have every beer-drinking,
sausage-making son of a seacook begging me for mercy before the week is
out. I'll just lie low and rest up a bit, and by the time we're off Rio
I'll drop on them like a top-mast in a typhoon. Then with the help of
the two Chinamen, the steward and Reardon 'twill not be hard to run her
into Rio. I wonder if that pirate frisked me of my five thousand." He
searched through his clothing and was amazed to discover that the bills
were still in his possession.

"I'll give them back in the morning," he concluded. "I had a pistol in
the drawer of my desk and a rifle in that locker;" and in the wild hope
that his luck still held, he searched eagerly for both. They were gone.

Nevertheless, Michael J. Murphy smiled as he wrapped a wet towel round
his throbbing head, for he had already decided upon his plan of campaign
for regaining command of his ship, a _coup_ for which he required no
weapon more formidable than his native intelligence. As he sank groaning
into the arms of Morpheus, however, even a Digger Indian would have
realized that for the next two weeks the master of the _Narcissus_ would
be unable to defend himself against an old lady armed with a slipper.
Nevertheless, the indomitable fellow, with the amazing optimism of
his race, had already decided to attack and subdue, within four
days, thirty-six husky male enemies; which lends some color to the
oft-repeated declaration that an Irishman fights best when he is on his
back with his opponent feeling for his windpipe.

When Michael J. Murphy awoke it was broad daylight and Herr August
Carl von Staden was standing over him. The supercargo was clad in an
immaculate suit of white flannels and was looking as fresh as new paint.

"Can it be possible?" Murphy queried in amazement. "Upon my word, friend
pirate, I had flattered myself I'd tucked you away for a couple of days
at least."

"The excellent Mr. Henckel tells me I was out for ten minutes from
that solar-plexus blow you landed," Mr. von Staden replied in tones of
mingled admiration and friendliness. "And of course you cannot see how
sore my ribs feel. I take it rather ill of you to have kicked me."

"Kicked you! I wish I'd killed you! And, speaking of kicks, somebody
certainly kicked me. Who was it?"

"Upon recovering consciousness," the supercargo replied with some
embarrassment, "I was overcome with fury. You were lying on the floor of
your stateroom, where Mr. Schultz and Mr. Henckel had hurriedly tossed
you--so I came in and kicked you."

"I never kicked you in the face," Murphy complained.

"No, but you flattened my nose with your code book."

"Well, I'll admit a good smack on the nose does make a man mad. But
you shot me in the shoulder. By the way, do your lungs hurt when you
breathe, Dutchy?"

"No. Do yours?"

"A slight tickle. I think you caved in my super-structure. Who jumped on
me from the top of the house?"

"The second mate."

"He dislocated my shoulder. I can wiggle my fingers, so I know it isn't
a fracture. Suppose you take off your shoe, sit at the foot of my bed,
put your foot under my right armpit and press, and at the same time pull
on my right arm."

"Delighted, I'm sure," declared Herr von Staden in his charming Oxford
accent, and forthwith snapped Michael J. Murphy's shoulder into place
with great dexterity.

"Thank you," the skipper answered, and wiped the beads of agony from his
white face. "If you'll frisk my trousers over there on the settee you'll
find the five thousand dollars you gave me to sell out my owners. I
don't want it. I never intended to keep it. I was suspicious of you and
your confounded cablegrams, and I had to have a reasonable excuse to go
ashore and cable my owners for confirmation. The bribe furnished that
excuse. I suppose you thought I'd fallen for your game."

"I must confess your attitude completely deceived me."

"Thanks for the compliment. And now, if you don't mind, suppose you
tell me something: Was it a German agent who put the bug in my ear about
hiring the crew of that interned German liner in San Francisco?"

"I greatly fear it was," von Staden answered smilingly. "There is an
old man who presides over the destinies of the Blue Star Navigation
Company--"

"You mean Cappy Ricks?"

"I believe that is the name. He has a reputation for being at once the
most reckless spendthrift and the most painstaking money saver in the
world. He is always preaching economy--"

"And well I know it. If he hadn't preached it, Captain Peasley would
never have stood for this rabble your friends wished on me."

The supercargo chuckled. "We wanted the largest vessel we could find,"
he explained; "and when it was reported to us that the Blue Star
Navigation Company's _Narcissus_ was going from San Francisco to the
West Coast and thence to New York with nitrate, we decided to get her.
We investigated you. Your name is Michael J. Murphy; naturally we knew
you were Irish; and the Irish--your kind of Irish--are not sympathetic
toward the cause of Merry England. The same held true of your chief
engineer, Mr. Reardon. We knew of the passion of this interesting
person, Cappy Ricks, for cutting down expenses. We knew you and Reardon
were new to your jobs and would be likely to consider any reasonable
plan for eliminating expense in your respective departments, in the hope
of pleasing your employer. So the suggestion that you ship our people
was made to you and Reardon, and you accepted it with alacrity. The rest
was very easy. We got in touch with your New York agents through some
friends of ours in very good standing there, and they were enabled to
charter the ship merely by offering an extraordinary freight rate. They
purchased the cargo of coal and sold it to us at a nice profit, and we
depended on your national animosity and racial sympathy, seasoned with a
liberal cash subsidy, to enable us to deliver it. We preferred to do
the decent thing, but in the event that you proved unreasonable, we
concluded it would be wise to have our own people aboard and take the
vessel away from you. I admit we tried to trick you with the cablegrams.
Why attempt to conceal the fact now? That was unsportsmanlike. However,
if the fat is in the fire, as you Americans would say, you have put it
there by forcing my hand."

"Very cleverly done," quoth Michael J. Murphy. "I always admire brains
wherever I find them."

"Men in my line of endeavor are trained to provide for all conceivable
emergencies, captain. I think I provided for all of them in the case
under discussion. Who, for instance, would conceive that you would
have taken the trouble to call upon the American consul for the
cipher message that has caused all this unpleasant row and facial
disfigurement?"

"You have read the translation, of course?"

"Naturally."

"It is self-explanatory. You intend delivering my cargo somewhere
off the south coast of Uruguay. May I be pardoned for expressing some
curiosity as to your plans thereafter, my piratical friend?"

"Please do not call me your piratical friend."

"Well, you're a pirate, aren't you?"

"Legally--yes. Morally--no. In times of national necessity one's
patriotism--one's duty to one's country--excuses, in the minds of all
fair men, the commission of acts which ordinarily would bring about the
deepest condemnation. I assure you that if we had had the faintest hope
of doing business in a businesslike way with your owners, we should have
been happy to pay almost any price for their ship, for she carries ten
thousand tons of coal; and you surely must realize, Captain Murphy,
how limited is the number of ships suitable for our purpose under the
American flag. We were desperate--"

"I believe Bethmann-Hollweg said something of the same nature with
regard to Belgium," Murphy replied blandly. "A nation fighting for its
life is a law unto itself, eh?"

"Self-preservation is the first law of human nature," the supercargo
replied.

"All right. Then we understand each other. While I decline to terminate
the war between August Carl von Staden and Michael Joseph Murphy,
nevertheless under the law you have just cited I believe I'm entitled
to breakfast. I'm starved. I figured on having supper ashore last night,
but after I received that cablegram from my owners I forgot all about
food. Now I'm remembering. I wish you'd send the steward in with about
forty dollars' worth of spoon victuals. My grinders are very loose."

"Captain Murphy," his jailer declared, "do you know you are a very
wonderful man?"

"All the Murphys are. It runs in the blood, like a wooden leg."

"I really regret that you are such a wonderful man. If you were not
I'd give you the liberty of the ship. As it is, I crave your pardon for
keeping you a prisoner in your state-room. The exigencies of war, you
know."

"Don't mention it, Dutchy. For the second time I ask you: When you have
delivered this cargo of coal, what do you intend to do with my ship?"

"We will, in all probability, give you a new crew, and the present crew
of the _Narcissus_ will go aboard one of our warships and thus remove
themselves from the reach of a possible indictment for piracy and mutiny
on the high seas."

"Where will you get a new crew for me?"

"Our fleet has sunk a few British tramps in mid-ocean during the past
sixty days. Naturally they removed the crews first. These prisoners are
in our way, and the admiral will welcome an opportunity to load them all
aboard the empty _Narcissus_, for even prisoners of war must eat,
and the stores aboard our fleet are more valuable than these captured
seamen. In obedience to that first law of human nature they will not
object to working the _Narcissus_ into the nearest South American port."

"Well, that's comforting; but for heaven's sake don't be too much of a
hog with my cargo. Leave me enough of it to carry my ship to the
nearest port. She burns about thirty-five tons a day--you might get the
statistics from Reardon."

"By all means, captain. Our capture of the _Narcissus_ is merely
a deplorable national necessity. We would not lose her for you for
anything."

"How about a British cruiser picking her up before we make connections
with your fleet?"

Herr von Staden shrugged. "That," he replied, "would be the fortune of
war."

"It would look like the picture of misfortune to me. And how about the
freight on this cargo you've stolen? Don't my owners get something out
of this deal to help pay expenses? You're going to play as fair as you
can with me, aren't you, Dutchy?"

"By all means. However, you are evidently in doubt as to the real
situation. Your charterers are responsible to your owners for the
freight money. If they do not pay it Mr. Cappy Ricks can sue them. As
for the cargo, we have not stolen it, since one cannot steal that which
one owns. We paid cash for this cargo before you cleared from Norfolk,
for our go-between would take no risks whatsoever."

"I see. Well, I suppose I'll have to grin and bear it. By the way, don't
forget to take back your blood money. It's in my trousers pocket."

Von Staden was genuinely distressed. "Are you quite certain you want
me to do that?" he queried. "Five thousand dollars is quite a sum for a
poor sea captain to toss aside so contemptuously. Why not accept it as
compensation for that broken rib, and that bullet I put through your
left shoulder, the dislocated right shoulder, the loose teeth and the
split lip? In fact, I am so certain five thousand dollars will not cover
your personal injuries I am willing to be a sport and add something to
the sum."

Michael J. Murphy grinned--rather a horrible grin it was, owing to his
swollen lip and jaw.

"Dutchy," he said, "listen to me: All the money in the world couldn't
make me be untrue to my salt. And if you have any lingering notion that
I'm not going to collect a million dollars' worth of satisfaction
for the way you've acted aboard my ship, I can only say that as a
fortune-teller you'll never earn enough money to keep yourself in
cigarettes. You say you have been trained to provide for all conceivable
emergencies, so I'm advising you, as a friend, to brace yourself for the
surprise of your life before you're a week older. Have you pondered the
possibility of sudden death aboard the S.S. _Narcissus?_"

"Certainly. Should we be overhauled by a British cruiser I should take
a short cut to eternity. One naturally dislikes the thought of being
hanged for a pirate. It would be a reflection on one's family. As for
sudden death by violence at the hands of any member of the crew of this
steamship, I should be willing to risk quite a sum of money that no such
tragedy will be enacted."

"Just why?"

"Well, you'll be safe in this stateroom until I am ready to turn your
command back to you, and a man with two shoulders in the condition
of yours is hardly likely to try battering down this stout state-room
door."

"Correct. And I'm a trifle too thick in the middle to think of crawling
through the state-room window."

"And if," the supercargo continued, "you have any idea of calling the
engine-room on that speaking tube and soliciting aid from Mr. Reardon,
please be advised that for the present Mr. Reardon has been relieved
from duty in the engine-room."

"So you've got Reardon locked up, too?" Murphy queried. "Well! Well! I'd
hate to think of being locked up and that man Reardon free. However, you
need not have worried. I'd die before I'd ask that fellow for help--and
he'd die before he'd give it."

"So I understand from the first mate. However, I thought it prudent
to guard against a temporary truce and an alliance for the common
interest."

"Dutchy," said the skipper, "you're pretty smart."

Von Staden smiled most companionably. "I also took the precaution to
remove some weapons from your apartment."

"Take anything from me, Dutchy, except my honor, my pipe and tobacco,
and my ship. Take any one of those four, however, and may the Lord
have mercy on your soul. Please hand me that book entitled _Backwood's
Surgery_ till I see what's good for a broken rib; then send the steward
for my breakfast order. After that--well, after that you might make your
will, Dutchy."

"I did that in Pernambuco," the delightful Herr von Staden replied, "so
your advice is wasted."

He handed the skipper the book on surgery and went out, carefully
locking the door behind him. He returned presently and stood beside the
steward, who thrust his head through the state-room window and desired
to know the captain's choice of breakfast.

"A bowl of mush and milk, three soft-boiled eggs and a pot of coffee. No
toast. Hurry!"

When the steward returned with the order he was accompanied by Mr.
Schultz, the first mate. The sight of the traitor threw Mike into a
furious rage.

"Mr. Schultz," he said ominously, "the things I'm going to do to you
would make the devil blush."

"So?" Mr. Schultz replied soothingly.

"I'm going to hang von Staden. He's a pirate, and the rule of the Seven
Seas is that a skipper hangs a pirate whenever he can lay hands on him.
And you know me, Mr. Schultz. I'm a devil for etiquette aboard ship.
As for you, you're only guilty of mutiny, so I'll content myself with
tricing you up to the shrouds and flogging you with a cat soaked in
brine."

And so on, _ad libitum, ad infinitum_.

Mr. Schultz was frankly mystified. Being a German, he did not understand
the Irish, although in view of the fact that during the war he had room
in his head for but one thing--the Fatherland--perhaps the skipper might
have pardoned his mate the glance of contempt and utter disgust which
the latter now bent upon him. Here was a man, Mr. Schultz told himself,
who, having stipulated his price and struck a bargain, had demonstrated
beyond cavil that he was not a gentleman, for he had refused to stay
bought. More, he had basely attacked his benefactor.

"So?" he repeated.

"Out, you blackguard, and leave me alone!" Murphy yelled.

"It iss an order dot I stay und see dot der steward shall mayg no
conversations vatsoefer," Mr. Schultz declared firmly.

"Verboten, eh?" sneered the skipper. He had once been to Hamburg, and
naturally he had acquired the word most commonly used in the German
language.

"_Ja_," Mr. Schultz replied placidly, but with an air of finality that
left no room for further argument.



CHAPTER XII


In the course of the afternoon, having chewed the bitter cud of
reflection and reviewed his situation from every possible angle, Mike
Murphy came to the conclusion that, for all Terence Reardon's religious
backsliding, he might be fairly honest in money matters and possessed
of a sense of loyalty where his owners' interests were concerned. Also,
having found Herr von Staden bluffing in one instance it occurred to the
captain he might be discovered bluffing in another--so he resolved to
investigate. Accordingly at an hour when he knew Terence should be in
the engine room he took up the speaking-tube at the head of his bed and
blew into it. But no shrill whistle signalled his desire in the engine
room, and though Michael blew until he was red in the face and his lips
hurt him cruelly, reluctantly he came to the conclusion that Herr August
Carl von Staden had the situation very well in hand and Terence Reardon
in the latter's state-room under lock and key.

He was right in one particular: von Staden had the situation very well
in hand, but he did not have Terence Reardon under lock and key. Murphy
had been balked in making connections with the unsuspecting Terence for
the reason that a little ball of cotton waste had very carefully been
tucked into the engine-room howler a few inches at the back of the
whistle at the chief's end of the tube. Hence, in the event that one
sought to whistle up the other, he merely wasted his breath. Having
learned, on the very excellent authority of both men in the case, that
they despised each other and were not on speaking terms, von Staden
decided that the chance of Terence Reardon's listening to Michael
J. Murphy's tale of piracy and mutiny was so vague as to be almost
negligible. However, he was painstaking and careful in all things and
never ran any unnecessary risks; consequently, just to be on the safe
side, he had instructed the first assistant to plug the speaking-tube
leading to the skipper's room. And in order to discourage the captain
from, seeking an interview with the chief, von Staden had told the
former that the chief was a prisoner.

Mr. Reardon was too important a personage to be deprived of his liberty
when nothing was to be gained by such action. If he could be kept in
ignorance of the state of affairs aboard the _Narcissus_, he would
continue to attend to business; if the worst came to the worst
his friendship would be a better asset than his hatred. If he grew
suspicious and demanded a showdown, Herr von Staden would give it to him
without reservation and stuff his mouth with gold; then, if the chief
declined to listen to reason, it would be time enough to lock him up.
While the supercargo would not hesitate to sacrifice his life, his
liberty, or his honor for his country, he was nevertheless desirous of
being a gentleman if accorded the opportuniby. And it must be admitted
he had found Mr. Reardon amusing and vastly entertaining, for the very
first night aboard, after Mr. Schultz had introduced him to the chief
and he had presented the latter with a good cigar, Mr. Reardon, under
the spell of the witchery cast by the sea and the night, had sat on
deck and told the German wonderful tales of the fairies in Ireland--this
while the skipper was ashore. In particular he told von Staden the tale
of the fairy queen with the iron hand.

"Her hand," said Terence, "was as beautiful as ye'd find in a day's
thravel, an' 'twas herself that'd dhrive men crazy afther wan look at
her. An' she was good to the poor, but divii a bit av love did she have
for a redcoat. Whin she'd take human form an' a bowld buck av a British
dragoon would come making love to her, 'tis herself would say to him:
'Captain, alannah, would ye oblige me wit' a dhrink av wather?' An'
whin he turrned to dhraw the wather, she'd breathe on her hand--like
that--an' immejiately 'twould turn to iron an' wit' wan blow she'd knock
his brains out. Sure they found the bodies all over Ireland, but divil
a man, woman, or child could they ever convict av the murrder. For why?
Why, sure, the minute she'd killed a redcoat she'd breathe on her hand
ag'in, an' immejiately 'twas flesh an' blood ag'in!"

No, decidedly it would not do to imprison this excellent fellow. Von
Staden had read fairy tales as a boy, but never had he met a man who
could tell them like Terence Reardon. A hard-headed, highly intelligent
chief engineer of a big tramp steamer telling tales of the fairies! Von
Staden couldn't understand it. It was so childish--and yet there was
nothing childish about Terence Reardon. The German wondered if Terence
Reardon believed in the fairies and finally he asked him point-blank if
he did; whereupon Terence turned a solemn eye upon him and replied:

"Why, av course I do not. Do you think I'm a blubber-jack av a bhoy? But
isn't it pleasant to talk about thim whilst wan has nothing betther to
do? Sure, whin I'm lonely at night I think up new fairy tales to tell to
the childhren whin I come home from a v'yage."

So that was the Irish of it! Strangely enough it did not occur to the
practical German that an individual with an imagination like that,
on such an expedition as the present, was the most dangerous person
imaginable to be given the freedom of the ship.

So passed twelve days and nights. Mr. Schultz kept in his pocket the key
to the captain's state-room, and consequently was always present when
the little cockney steward brought the prisoner his meals, tidied up the
state-room and made up the captain's bed. The captain spent most of
his time lying on his uninjured side and remained very quiet, for the
fractured rib, which had received no attention, was causing him a great
deal of suffering. Neither did the bullet wound in his shoulder heal
cleanly, for the reason, unknown to the captain, that the bullet had
carried with it into the muscle a fragment of Michael J.'s undershirt.

However, his physical sufferings were as nothing compared with those
he experienced mentally. He had hoped to be in fair fighting condition
within a week at the latest. Wrapped in paper and tucked away in the
back of the ship's safe he had a silver-hilted stiletto he had taken
away from a cutthroat who had tried to rob him once in Valparaiso--and
with this weapon he had planned to cut away the lock on the state-room
door. And once outside--

What Michael J. Murphy did not know was that when one has dislocated
one's shoulder one will do very little wood-carving during the three
subsequent weeks. It almost broke the skipper's heart to think he had
made a threat in good faith, and was balked from making it good.

During this entire period Mr. Reardon was going about his duties as
usual, in absolute ignorance of the state of affairs about the ship, for
he was an innocent, trustful sort of fellow, and to a born romanticist
like Terence the fairy tale which Mr. Schultz had spun at breakfast
the morning after leaving Pernambuco was not at all difficult of
assimilation. It appeared--according to Mr. Schultz--that the skipper
had gone ashore for a night of roystering, and upon returning to
the ship about midnight, in a wild state of intoxication, had become
involved in an altercation with the launchman over the fare. In the
resultant battle the skipper, in his helpless condition, was being
terribly beaten by the vicious Pernambucan; hence one could scarcely
blame him for drawing a pistol and shooting the launchman--fatally,
according to Mr. Schultz. Of course, after that, to have lingered longer
inside the three-mile limit would have been sheer insanity, so Mr.
Schultz, taking matters into his own hands, had uphooked and skipped
with doused lights from the jurisdiction of the Pernambuco police.

"And how did the skipper come out of all this?" Mr. Reardon had inquired
anxiously.

"He iss in rodden shape," Mr. Schultz had declared. "Von of hiss angles
vos brogen, und he vos cut mid a knive--preddy deeb, but noddings to
worry aboud. Der only drouble iss der dooty of navigading der shib falls
double on der segond mate und me."

"Make him pay ye over-time out av his own wages, the wurthless
vagabone!" Mr. Reardon had urged. "May he walk wit' a limp for the
rest av his days--bad cess to him! I've a notion, Misther Schultz, that
lad'll never comb his hair grey."

Mr. Schultz nodded lugubriously; then he glanced up and caught the
little cockney steward staring at him so balefully, that he realized he
must have speech in private with the steward. Consequently he lingered
at table until Mr. Reardon finished his breakfast and went below;
whereupon Mr. Schultz intimated to the steward, in his direct blunt
fashion, that for the remainder of the voyage, Riggins--for that was
the steward's name--was to consider himself deaf, dumb and blind; the
penalty for reconsideration within the hearing of Mr. Reardon being a
swift and immediate excursion, personally conducted by Mr. Schultz, to
Davy Jones's locker! Following this earnest exhortation, Riggins, never
a robust person mentally or physically, came abruptly to the conclusion
that this was one of those occasions where silence, if not exactly
golden, was at least to be preferred to great riches.



CHAPTER XIII


IT may appear strange that during the days and nights Michael J. Murphy
lay on his bed of pain Terence Reardon did not once pass the little
open window of the skipper's state-room. Not, however, that the latter
watched for him, for he did not. He believed that Reardon, like himself,
was a prisoner; although, had the chief passed the window and had the
captain observed his passing, the complacence of Herr von Staden and his
patriotic company would have received a jar much earlier in the voyage.

Unfortunately, however, for Murphy's plans, the chief's stateroom was
located in the after part of the house and on the side opposite the
skipper's, and following their brief spat through the speaking-tube,
Terence Reardon had confined himself exclusively to his engine-room
and that portion of the ship along which he must of necessity pass when
going to and from his state-room. He told himself it was the part of
wisdom for one of his ferocious temper to avoid the occasions of sin.
Certainly it would be hard to pass the skipper's state-room without
looking in, particularly since in these warm latitudes the door would
probably be open; for should the skipper be within at the time, they
would peradventure scowl at each other, and he is a fool indeed who
cannot foretell the future when a thousand generations of natural
enemies exchange "the black look." Terence remembered his boy Johnny, a
youth who, according to Mrs. Reardon, should never be a marine engineer,
but the finest lawyer that ever pouched a fat fee. And there was Mary
Agnes and Catherine Bertram. Next year they would begin taking piano
lessons, and in the fullness of time, no matter how hard the pull, both
should go to the state university and acquire the education made to fit
their father's head, but by force of circumstances denied him. And
at the thought Terence looked at his hard black hands and set himself
resolutely to face a life sentence of rattling ash hoists, roaring
furnaces and the soft sucking sounds of the pistons. Two hundred dollars
a month--and the union scale was a hundred and fifty! Ah, no, he dared
not trifle with that job. He must, at all hazard, avoid friction with
the skipper, for what would Mrs. Reardon say if Cappy Ricks forced
him to roll the bones with Mike Murphy--one flop and high man out? Mr.
Reardon could close his eyes and see Mike Murphy roll out a "stiff,"
while with trembling hand the Reardon rolled five sixes!

The _Narcissus_ had been out of Pernambuco harbor four days before
Mr. Reardon, upon comparing the sun--which all are agreed rises in
the east--with the direction in which the ship was headed, and then
extracting the cube root of the resultant product, and subtracting it
from the longtitude and latitude of the Cape of Good Hope, decided that
there must be something wrong with Mr. Schultz's navigation. So he spoke
to Mr. Schultz about it, and was laughingly informed that they were
traveling on a great circle. Thereupon Mr. Reardon remembered that at
sea a ship traveling on the arc of a great circle, for some mysterious
reason repudiates the old geometrical theorem that a straight line
is the shortest distance between two points. He recalled that vessels
plying between San Francisco and Yokohama describe a great circle which
brings them well up toward the Aleutian Islands, So he was satisfied
with the explanation, this being his first voyage into the South
Atlantic anyhow; but he continued to observe the sun each morning, and
still the vessel's head held far to the south. A suspicion that all was
not as it should be slowly settled in Mr. Reardon's head, and though
he said nothing, he used his ejes and ears. A dozen times a day, as the
ship rolled steadily south, he was tempted to take down the speaking
tube and confide his suspicions to the master, confined in his
state-room by reason of deep--but not serious-knife wounds. Each time
he was on the point of yielding, however, he remembered that Mike Murphy
had called him a renegade--so he refrained.

The installation of the wireless plant and the presence aboard the ship
of Herr von Staden had failed to arouse his suspicions the first day
out. True, the wireless could not have been connected with the electric
light plant below without Mr. Reardon's knowledge and consent, but when
he asked Mr. Schultz about it the latter replied that Cappy Ricks must
have changed his mind about installing wireless on the _Narcissus_, for
he had cabled to the agents of the charterers in Pernambuco to have
a wireless plant and a competent operator waiting for the vessel upon
arrival. It was Mr. Schultz's opinion that the owners had evidently
arrived at the conclusion that it was wise to have a wireless aboard
during war times. Personally, Mr. Schultz approved of the innovation.

So did Terence Reardon, for that matter. He found the new wireless
operator a charming fellow, possessed of talents far superior to those
of the young men who ordinarily pound the brass at sea. Indeed, after
the second day out, Mr. Reardon would have been heartbroken had anything
happened to that wireless. For Herr August Carl von Staden sat at the
key almost continuously, eavesdropping on the war news, and Mr. Reardon
never came to the wireless room that the operator did not have some news
of an overwhelming British defeat!

As the voyage proceeded, however, and Mr. Reardon's mind grew a trifle
uneasy, reluctantly he began to view Herr von Staden and the wireless
with apprehension. He asked the affable operator how much the Marconi
company charged the _Narcissus_ for his services and the rental of the
wireless plant, and von Staden, momentarily stumped, replied that the
tariff was two hundred dollars a month; whereupon Reardon knew he lied,
for the charge is one hundred and forty. The German, realizing instantly
that he was not on the target, added: "That is, for a first-grade
operator and a plant like this. Of course we furnish cheaper operators
and less powerful plants, Mr. Reardon."

"Oh! So that's the way av it?" the chief replied, and immediately went
to his state-room for the purpose of thinking it over. Eventually he
came to the conclusion that all was not as it should be, but that,
nevertheless, it was no affair of his. He was paid to obey signals given
him from the bridge.

"'Tis no business av mine, afther all," he soliloquized. "For why should
I be puttin' dogs in windows? He's paid to navigate the ship, an' didn't
Cappy Ricks tell me to mind me own business? And yet, there's something
wrong in this ship. I feel it in me bones."

He felt it with a force that was almost violent when Mr. Schultz called
down through the speaking-tube late one afternoon and told him to put
her under a dead-slow bell. That meant they were practically heaving to,
and steamers only heave to at sea in fine weather when they have reached
a certain longitude and latitude and plan to keep an appointment. On the
instant there was a strong odor of rat in Terence Reardon's engine
room, but his "Very well, sir," contained no hint of his surprise and
suspicion. He gave his orders to the firemen to bank the fires, and when
this had been done he informed his engine-room crew that they might
all go on deck for five minutes and get a breath of fresh air. Nothing
loath, they scrambled up the steel stairway--and the instant the last
man was out of earshot Terence Reardon sprang to the speaking-tube to
whistle up the skipper in his room.

Now, undoubtedly the cool and calculating Herr August Carl von Staden
had been carefully trained to take into consideration, when planning his
strategy, every conceivable contingency that might possibly arise. It is
probable that the German secret service never turned out a more finished
graduate than Herr von Staden; but the fact remains, nevertheless, that
there are certain contingencies over which no human being has control.
One of these is Newton's law of gravitation; another, an equally
immutable law to the effect that water will seek its own level; a third,
the vindictiveness of an outraged Irishman; and a fourth, the very
natural tendency of any man, not excepting Mr. Terence Reardon, to be
profoundly surprised and intensely curious when certain phenomena, which
we shall now proceed to explain, take place in the engine room where he
is chief.

Michael J. Murphy, having only the day before again essayed the task
of whistling up the engine room, and having, by reason of the ball of
cotton waste with which the tube had been plugged by the first assistant
engineer, again failed to receive the courtesy of a reply from any one,
had, to put it mildly, been annoyed.

"Very well, my bullies," he soliloquized as he hung up the tube, "you
wouldn't speak to me when I wanted to speak to you; so now the first
time one of you wants to speak to me I'll hand you a surprise, and
I'll hand it to you right in the mouth." And forthwith Michael J. had
carefully poured down the speaking tube the contents of the basin in
which he had just made his morning ablutions! He longed to do something
nasty, and he succeeded admirably.

As we have already remarked, water seeks its own level. It ran down the
speaking-tube until it encountered the cotton waste plug; whereupon, due
to the hydrostatic pressure, the plug gave way and was forced down to
the tightly closed mouth of the tube, and the suds backed up behind
it. It was pretty warm in the engine room, and most of the water had
evaporated by the time Terence Reardon took down the looped tube and
opened it for the purpose of putting his lips to the mouthpiece and
blowing heartily through it. However, there was about a gill of water
left in the tube.

Now, as everybody knows, water running down a slope of seventy-five or
eighty degrees comes rather fast. Consequently Mr. Reardon had no time
to dodge.

Why be squeamish? He got a mouthful and was very nauseated for half a
minute. Also he cursed, we regret to record, and was very, very angry.
Carefully he drained the devilish tube, wiped it clean with some fresh
waste, and racked his brain for the right thing to say to Michael J.
Murphy. Finally he hit upon something he concluded would about fill the
bill, so he put his lips to the mouthpiece once more and whistled up
the skipper. To his surprise, however, his breath didn't seem to get
anywhere: in fact, it was directed back in his face rather forcefully;
so he investigated and discovered the mouthpiece was only half open.
Upon endeavoring to open it fully he sensed an obstruction in the back
of it, so he unscrewed the mouthpiece and drew forth a ball of dirty,
sour-smelling cotton waste.

He gazed a moment in speechless wonder. Then: "I'll whistle that dirrty
Tomfool, until he answers me in self-defense," he announced'to the main
motor, and forthwith blew a mighty blast. Almost instantly Michael J.
Murphy yelled: "Hullo!"

"Murphy," Terence Reardon announced calmly and very distinctly, "you're
a contimptible dhrunken ape!"

"Holy Moses! Reardon, is that you?" the astounded Murphy demanded.

"It is-as you'll discover whin you're able to come on deck an' give me
the satisfaction I'll demand for the dirrty dab av wather an' cotton
waste you put in the tube, knowin' that the firrst time I took it down
to spheak to you, ye blackguard, in the line av djooty--which is the
only reason I would spheak to you--I'd get it full in the mouth. Ye
dirrty, lyin', schamin', dhrunken murrderer!"

He paused to let that stream of adjectival opprobrium sink in. Silence.
Then:

"I poured the contents of my washbasin in the tube, I'll admit, but
I did not plug it with cotton waste. One of your assistants did that,
chief, and as for the water, as God is my judge, I didn't intend it for
you--"

"Who else would ye be afther insultin' if it wasn't me? Are ye not
friendly wit' me assistants?"

"Forgive me, Reardon, and listen to what I'm going to tell you."

And then the tale was told. When it was done Terence Reardon grunted.

"I knew it!" he said. "I knew it! I felt in me bones there was something
wrong aboard this ship. An' so ye were not dhrunk an' disordherly at
Pernambuco?"

"The liars! Did they tell you that? Reardon, it's only the mercy of
heaven they didn't murder me. I'm lying here, helpless and crippled in
my state-room, with the key turned in the lock. They've stolen my ship
from me, and I can tell by the roll of her she's practically hove to
under a dead-slow bell this minute. We've reached the rendezvous--we're
waiting for the German fleet to deliver the coal; and oh, man, man,
if we're caught by a British cruiser we'll lose the ship! They'll
confiscate her, chief. Wirra! Wirra!" he cried, breaking into the
forgotten wail of his childhood. "How can I ever face Matt Peasley and
Cappy Ricks after this? Reardon, man, they'll think we stood in with
the Germans and let them do it. We're both Irish--they know we're both
pro-German--"

"What's that you said?" Terence demanded sharply. "Me pro-German. Me? I
_was_ pro-German--yis--wanst!"

Fell a silence.

Now, for the benefit of the uninitiated, be it known that there is
a certain curse employed by the Irish and by no other race on earth.
Whenever you hear an Irishman employ it, you know instantly--provided,
of course, you are Irish yourself--just what kind of Irish that Irishman
is. You cannot mistake it. There is no possible chance. It is only
brought forth with the dust of the centuries on it, so to speak, to
grace a fitting occasion. Terence Reardon felt that such an occasion
was now at hand. As naturally, as inevitably, therefore, as the suds ran
down the speaking-tube, that curse climbed up it--softly, distinctly,
and with a wealth of feeling in the back of it:

"God put the curse av Crummle on thim!"

Mr. Reardon, of course, referred to the late Oliver Cromwell. Any one
who has ever read the sorry history of Erin knows what the amiable
Oliver did to the Irish. Consequently such an one will have no
difficulty in estimating the precise proportions of bad luck Terence
Reardon prayed might be the immediate heritage of the crew of the S.S.
_Narcissus_.

Michael J. Murphy blinked rapidly, for all the world as if Mr. Schultz
had entered at that moment and struck him a terrific blow on top of
the head. A more dazed Irishman than he never threw an ancient egg or
a defunct cat at an alleged Celtic comedian with green whiskers. He
was absolutely staggered--but not for long. The Irish come back very
quickly.

"Shame on you, Terence Reardon!" he declared. "And you with a Masonic
ring on your finger."

"Glory be!" cried the delighted Terence. "Sure are you wan av us?"

"One of you!" Mike Murphy fairly shrieked. "The minute I'm out of this
room you'll apologize or fight for thinking I'm a renegade."

"_Naboclish!_" laughed Terence Reardon, slipping into the Gaelic and out
again. "The divil a Mason am I! Sure that ring ye saw on me finger that
day in the office av the owners belonged to me second assistant in the
_Arab_. He'd lost it in the engine room, an' a mont' afther he'd left
I found it. Not knowin' what ship he was in, 'twas me intintion to take
the ring over to the Marine Engineers' Association an' lave it for him
wit' the secreth'ry; and to make sure I wouldn't forget it I put it on
me finger--"

"Well, you knew, Terence, that with the likes of me round you'd not be
liable to forget it," Mike Murphy laughed.

"As for you, ye divil," Terence continued, "faith, what wit' yer English
tweeds an' the fancy cut av thim, an' yer lack av the brogue an' the
broad _a_ av ye, I thought, begorra, ye were a dirrty Far Down! God love
ye, Michael, but 'tis the likes av you I'm proud to be ship-mates wit'."

"But you said you were from Belfast, Terence."

"So I am. I was borrn there, but me parents--the Lord 'a' merrcy on
their sowls--moved back to Kerry."

"Terence!"

"What is it, Michael, me poor lad?"

"Do you ever drink on duty? I don't mean with your superiors--"

The chief chuckled. He knew what Murphy was alluding to.

"I do," he replied, "wit' me equals."

"'Tis a pity, Terence, that man Schultz has the key to my state-room
in his pocket. Now if you could manage to tap that Dutchman on the head
with something hard and heavy, take the key out of his pocket and throw
him overheard, you could let me out of this purgatory I'm in. Then I
wouldn't be surprised if the sight of me and the absence of Mr. Schultz
would put a bit of heart in that little cockney steward--and maybe he'd
bring a drink to hearten you for what's ahead of you this night."

"An' what might that be, avic?" Terence demanded.

"I want you to steal the ship back from them, Terence."

"Very well, Michael. 'Tis not a small thing ye ask me to do, but the
divil a more willin' man could ye find to ask. Have ye figured out the
plan av campaign? Sure what wit' the suddenness av it all I'm all in a
shweat wit' excitement."

"You may be cold enough before morning, Terry, my boy."

"Bad luck to you, Michael! Dyin' is wan thing I cannot afford to do,
although be the same token they tell me ould Ricks has a kind shpot in
the heart av him for the widow an' the orphan--particularly av thim that
dies in his service! As I say, I cannot afford to get kilt, but in
back av that ag'in I cannot afford to lose the best job I ever had.
An' afther all, 'tis a poor man that won't fight for a fine, kind
gentleman--"

"Damn the fine, kind gentleman! It serves him right for letting us
get into this fix. He can afford the loss of the ship, but you and I,
Terence Reardon, cannot afford the loss of our honor and self-respect.
For the sake of the blood that's in us we can't afford to let a lot of
Dutchmen steal our ship and cargo."

"Whist!" Reardon warned. "Hurry up. Me crew is comin' below ag'in."

"Make it a point to pass by my state-room window after dark. You'll find
a scrap of paper on the sill. Help yourself to it."

"Faith, I will," Mr. Reardon promised fervently, and the tube closed
with a click.



CHAPTER XIV


TERENCE Reardon's preparations for the night's work began the instant
he hung up the speaking-tube. The _Narcissus_ carried three assistant
engineers, in consequence of which Mr. Reardon was not required to stand
a watch unless he so elected; although from force of habit acquired
in the days when he had been chief of the _Arab_--a little
three-thousand-ton tramp--and perforce had to stand a regular watch,
he found it very difficult not to spend at least eight hours in
every twenty-four in the engine room. When, eventually, he came to a
realization that his job was not to make the engines behave, but to see
that they behaved properly, he spent more of his time on deck, and
put in only a few hours below during the watch of the third assistant
engineer--the third assistant being a young man in whom the chief
reposed exactly that degree of confidence a chief engineer should always
repose in a third assistant. Mr. Reardon, therefore, was at liberty to
leave the engine-room whenever he felt so disposed; and following his
illuminating conversation with the captain he felt very much disposed to
leave immediately.

He went first to his state-room, where he bathed, changed into new
under-clothes and socks, donned a freshly laundered suit of faded
dungarees--old, faded, well-washed dungarees, by the way, always
appearing neater and cleaner than new ones--and shaved; for if
Providence willed it that lie should die to-night. Mr. Reardon was
resolved to be in such a highly sanitary condition that "those upon whom
should devolve the melancholy duty of laying him out"--which phrase, in
the Hibernian sense, means those who should dispose his limbs, close his
eyes, tie up his black jowls with a towel and fold his hands--alas,
so white in death, at last! across his still breast--might be moved to
remark that, notwithstanding the nature of the deceased's vocation, they
could not recall ever having seen a cleaner corpse.

Having attended to his pre-dissolution toilet, Mr. Reardon next sat
in at his littered desk, swept a space clear of tobacco crumbs, ashes,
pipes and some old copies of the _Cork Eagle_, and sat down to write a
farewell letter to his wife, hoping that, even though his enemies should
slay him, yet would they have sufficient respect for the dead to mail
that letter to Mrs. Reardon. And, in order that he might not anger his
posthumous benefactors, he mentioned nothing of the state of affairs
aboard the ship. He merely stated that she might never see him again, in
which event she was to call upon the owners and ask them to invest for
her the proceeds of his life insurance policy, since they could and
would invest it to better advantage than she. Then he spoke of his grief
at the thought of the children being forced to forego their college
education and suggested that she ask Cappy Ricks to give Johnny a place
in his office; also, should the owners offer anything as compensation
for the loss of her husband, she was to accept it, for, as God was
his judge, she would be entitled to it! This last sentence Terence
underscored for emphasis; that was as close as he came to saying that
if he died it would be in defense of his owner's interest. Then he
commended her to the comfort of her religion and subscribed himself:
"Your loving and devoted husband, Terence P. Reardon, Chief Engineer
S.S. _Narcissus_."

Having set his small affairs in order against a hasty exit from this
vale of hatreds, Mr. Reardon, in unconscious imitation of all the
condemned men who had preceded him on the voyage across the Styx,
repaired to the dining saloon and partook of a hearty meal. He realized
he had undertaken a contract that would require the employment of
weapons more formidable than his hard fists, and devoutly he
wished that, like the fairy queen, he had but to breathe on them to
metamorphose them into pig iron. He pictured the slaughter aboard the
_Narcissus_ when he should wade into the conflict. Finally he made up
his mind that, in lieu of an iron hand or two, he would use his favorite
monkey wrench, for he had no firearms whatsoever; although, had somebody
presented him with a one-man machine gun with full directions for using,
Mr Reardon would have recoiled in horror from it. Firearms were highly
dangerous. They killed so many people!

He left the table long before the others had finished. There was no one
on deck as he emerged from the dining saloon, so he walked leisurely
round past the captain's cabin, whistling the "Cruiskeen Lawn" to let
Mike Murphy know who was coming. Evidently Michael assimilated the hint,
for there was an envelope on the little window sill as Terence hove
abreast of it. He snatched it swiftly away and continued round to his
own state-room.

The envelope contained Michael J. Murphy's plan for campaign worked out
to the most minute detail, by reason of his absolute knowledge of the
customs aboard the ship. Mr. Reardon read the remarkable document and
sat lost in admiration; a twinkle leaped to his eyes and a cunning,
rather deadly little smile came sneaking round the corners of his broad
chin.

"Arrah, but 'tis a beautiful schame," he soliloquized. "Who but that
lad could have t'ought av it? An' here I've been shpendin' the past two
hours borrowin' trouble."

He read and reread the plan of attack, in order to familiarize himself
with the details; then he held a match to the document and destroyed
it. He considered a moment, and then performed a similar service to
his farewell letter to Mrs. Reardon, for the chief engineer of the
S.S. _Narcissus_, of San Francisco, had made up his mind not to
die--to-night!



CHAPTER XV


Mr. Schultz, the first assistant, and Mr. von Staden were engaged in
coffee and repartee when Terence Reardon thrust his head in at the
dining saloon window. He was mildly excited.

"Be the Great Gun av Athlone!" he declared. "I've just been bit be a
bedbug--an' I t'ought there wasn't a bedbug in the ship!"

Mr. Schultz looked up, horrified. "Chieve," he said, "dot is rodden
news. Bedbugs! _Ach!_"

"An' well you may '_Ach_,' Misther Schultz. Let a colony av bedbugs move
into the _Narcissus_ an' Terence P. Reardon will move out. There's
only wan thing to do, Misther Schultz, an' that is to tackle the divils
before we're overwhelmed be the weight av numbers. Have ye a bit av
sulphur in yer shtore-room, Misther Schultz--the kind that comes in
balls an' is used to burrn in shtate-rooms to kill bedbugs?"

When Terence Reardon put that innocent query to the first mate he knew
very well Mr. Schultz would reply in the negative--which he did--for the
reason that Michael J. Murphy had privately informed Mr. Reardon
that the little cockney steward, Riggins, had charge of the bedbug
ammunition. Riggins, who had been standing with his back against the
wall, eyeing Mr. Schultz sourly, now spoke up and said he had some
sulphur.

"More power to ye, Riggins!" Mr. Reardon declared heartily. "Then do ye,
like the good lad, give me two or three balls av it. I'll burn them
in me shtate-room to-night, wit' the door an' window locked, an' be
morrnin' sorra bedbug will be left alive."

"Very well, sir," Riggins replied. "Might Hi arsk, Mr. Reardon, where
you hintend passin' the night?"

"I'll shleep in me auld aisy-chair abaft the house an' next the funnel,
where I'll be snug an' warrm," Mr. Reardon replied, for he desired an
excuse to be on deck all night without arousing the suspicions of Mr.
Schultz or von Staden.

The steward, having finished serving those who ate in the dining saloon,
stepped out on deck and started for his own room. Mr. Reardon remained
by the window a minute, discoursing on the curse of bedbugs aboard a
ship, and then with a sigh followed the steward leisurely. Mr. Schultz
appeared undecided whether or not to accompany him in the capacity of
censor, but finally concluded to remain and finish his coffee, for if
Riggins had decided to enlighten the chief as to the real reason for the
skipper's indisposition he had had frequent opportunity to do so during
the past ten days. It did not seem likely, therefore, that he would run
any risks at this late date. To Mr. Schultz, Riggins appeared to be
a man who could be depended upon to remember which side his bread was
buttered on and who supplied the butter.

Arrived at the steward's state-room, Mr. Reardon helped himself to the
entire box of bedbug exterminator and addressed Riggins very briefly:

"Riggins, ye're a child av Johnny Bull, are ye not?"

Riggins, without the slightest trace of embarrassment, admitted his
disgrace.

"An' bein' what ye are," Mr. Reardon continued, "would ye do somethin'
av great binifit to England?"

Riggins replied that inasmuch as he had lost two brothers at the Battle
of the Marne, that ought to indicate bally well where the Riggins tribe
stood on the subject of defense of the realm.

"Good!" Mr. Reardon murmured. "Even if misguided in their pathriotic
motives, shtill yer brothers were brave min, an' for that I respect
thim. Now, thin, Riggins, ye rabbit, listen to me: In a momint av
surpassin' innocince Captain Murphy an' mesilf swallowed a cute
suggestion from a lad whose back I'll break in two halves whin the
_Narcissus_ gets back to San Francisco. 'Why not save expinse,' says
he, 'an' ship the crew av this German liner that's interned over in
Richardson's Bay?' Riggins, to make a long shtory short, we have thim
this minute, an' the dear God knows that even if shipped at the
German scale av wages that gang'll prove a dear crew to the Blue Star
Navigation Company if you an' I, Riggins, fail to do our djooty. They've
half murdered the captain, shtolen the ship an' cargo from him, an' run
her t'ousands av miles off her course to deliver the coal to the German
fleet."

"Oh, my bloody ol' Aunt Maria!" gasped the horrified Riggins.

"What I want to know from you, Riggins, is this: Will ye help me
shteal the ship back to-night? We're runnin' almost due south, an' that
good-for-nothin' von Staden has been in communication wit' the fleet all
day long. I feel it in me bones. If we get the ship back we'll head due
west for the coast av South America an' hug the three-mile limit-an' the
devil scoort them thin. Riggins, ye gossoon, what for the cause av Merry
England? They wouldn't take ye for a gift in the British Arrmy, for I
doubt if ye'd weigh ninety pounds soakin' wet an' a rock in yer hand,
but for all that, here's an iligant opporchunity for ye to serrve yer
counthry, an' should worrd av yer brave action reach the king--bad cess
to him--he may call ye Sir Thomas Riggins an' make ye consul-general av
the Cannibal Islands.

"Out wit' it, Riggins. Yer king an' counthry calls ye, an' be the same
token so do Michael J. Murphy an' Terence P. Reardon. What'll ye give,
Riggins, to preserve the seas to Britain?"

"Me 'eart's blood, that's wot!" Riggins replied quietly.

"I accept the sacrifice in the name av His Majesty, King Jarge! Be on
deck at ten o'clock sharp, waitin' close undher the shtarboard companion
leadin' to the bridge. Whin I come out on the shtarboard ind av the
bridge an' whistle 'O'Donnell Abu,' do ye--"

"S'help me, chief, I never 'eard of the blighter before," Riggins
interrupted.

"God forgive me!" Mr. Reardon murmured _sotto voce_. "I'll have to do
it. Well, thin, Riggins, whin I come out on the shtarboard ind av the
bridge an' whistle 'God Save the King'--troth, I'll gamble that's one
blighter ye've hearrd tell av--do ye run up into the pilot-house an'
take the wheel. I'll not whistle until we have the deck to ourselves,
wit'out fear av intherruption, an' ye must come quick an' take the
wheel, else the vessel'll fall off into the trough av the sea an'
commince to wallow--which same'll wake up the second mate an' bring him
an' von Staden on deck to see what's wrong wit' her. An' until I'm ready
to call on those lads I'm not wishful to have them call on me! Remimber,
Riggins: Wan jump an' ye're into the pilot-house; then howld her head
up to the sea--an' lave the rest to me. Gwan wit' ye now, or that skut,
Schultz, will be gettin' suspicious av us."

When Mr. Schultz came along ten minutes later he found Mr. Reardon very
busy calking with oakum the cracks round the door and window of his
state-room, through which little wisps of yellow smoke were curling.
Mr. Schultz was so completely deceived that he hurried round to his own
quarters and pawed over his own mattress and bedding in a vain search
for bedbugs.



CHAPTER XVI


At eight o'clock Mr. Schultz relieved the second mate on the bridge,
and five minutes later Terence Reardon, for the first time invaded that
forbidden territory. "Bad cess to me!" he complained plaintively. "I'm
the picthur av bad luck. I've a leaky connection below an' divil a bit
av red lead. Could ye lind me a dab av red lead from yer shtore-room,
Misther Schultz?"

Mr. Schultz marvelled that any man could force his mind to dwell on red
lead, leaky pipe connections, sulphur and bedbugs in a ship like the
_Narcissus_ at a time like this. He had met a few innocents in his day,
but this Irish engineer was most innocent of all.

"Sure, Mike!" he replied, and grinned at his feeble play on words.
"_Und_ as I gannot leave der bridge yet, here iss der key to der
store-room. Helb yourself, mine _Freund, und_ den gif me der key back."

"Ye addie-pated son of sin!" Mr. Reardon soliloquized as he took the key
and departed. "Faith, a booby birrd has more sinse nor you! D'ye suppose
I didn't wait until ye were on djooty before axin' ye, well knowin' ye'd
lind me the key an' I'd be alone in yer shtore-room!"

Mr. Reardon was in the store-room less than two minutes. When he emerged
he carried a daub of red lead on an old spoon, as Mr. Schultz, looking
down on the dimly lighted main deck, observed. What he did not observe,
however, was the chief's action in tossing the spoon overboard the
instant he passed beyond the range of Mr. Schultz's vision. It is
probable, also, that the mate would have been disturbed could he have
seen Mr. Reardon in his state-room, with the door locked, removing from
beneath his dungaree jumper several fathoms of light, strong, cotton
signal halyard, two five-foot lengths of half-inch steel chain, and a
strip of canvas. His pockets also gave up two padlocks, with keys to
fit. This loot Mr. Reardon very carefully hid in the space under
his settee, after which, with due thanks, he returned the key to Mr.
Schultz.

The remainder of the evening until nine-thirty Terence spent in the
wireless room with Herr von Staden. Then he retired, very low in
spirits, to his state-room, to make his preparations for wholesale
assault with a deadly weapon--possibly wholesale murder! He cut the
signal halyard into short lengths; then he cut the piece of canvas into
strips about two inches wide and secreted the halyard and canvas strips
here and there about his person. Then he descended to the engine room
and selected his monkey wrench from the tool rack on the wall, helped
himself to a handful of cotton waste, and returned to his state-room
mournfully keening "The Sorrowful Lamentation of Callaghan, Greally and
Mullen, killed at the Fair of Turloughmore."

"Wirra," he murmured presently, "but 'tis a terrible thing to hit an
unsuspectin' man wit' a monkey wrench! An' that divil von Staden,
for all his faults, is not a bad lad at all at all. An' I'd give five
dollars--yes, seven an' a half--if he were bald an' shiny on any other
shpot save an' exceptin' the shpot I have to hit him. Ochone!


   "'Come tell me, dearest mother, what makes me father shtay
    Or what can be th' reason that he's so long away?'
   'Oh, howld yer tongue, me darlin' son, yer tears do grieve me sore,
    I fear he has been murdhered in the fair av Turloughmore!'


"Sure, I haven't got the heart to dhrive the head av this monkey wrench
into that bald shpot. If he'd hair there I wouldn't mind." Mr. Reardon
sighed dismally. "I'll have to wrap a waddin' av waste around me weapon,
so I'll neither kill nor mangle but lay thim out wit' wan good crack--


   "'It is on the firrst av August, the truth I will declare,
    Those people they assimbled that day all at the fair,
    But little was their notion that evil was in shtore,
    All by the bloody Peelers at the fair av Turloughmore.'


"I must practice crackin' the divils! Sure, 'twould be an awful thing
to have the sin av murrder on me sowl--not that 'tis murrder to kill a
Dutchman that's a self-confessed pirate into the bargain. Shtill, 'tis a
terrible t'ought to carry to the grave--"

Wham! Mr. Reardon brought his padded wrench down on his defenseless bed.
"Too harrd," he told himself. "Sure a blow like that on top av the
head would knock out the teeth av the divil himself! Less horse-power,
Terence!"

Wham! He tried it again, this time with better results. For five minutes
he beat the bedclothes; then his spirits rose and, like the mercurial
Celt that he was, he chanted blithely a verse from "The Night Before
Larry Was Stretched":


   "'Though, sure 'tis the best way to die,
        Oh, the divil a betther a-livin'!
    For sure whin the gallows is high,
        Your journey is shorter to heaven;
    But what harasses Larry the most,
        An' makes his poor sowl melancholy,
    Is to think av the time whin his ghost
        Will come in a sheet to sweet Molly!
            Oh, sure, 'twill kill her alive!'"


He slipped the short, heavy monkey wrench up his right sleeve, walked
out on deck and stood at the corner of the house, smoking placidly and
gazing down on the main deck forward. The look-out on the forecastle
head was not visible in the darkness, but Mr. Reardon was not worried
about that. "For why," he argued to himself, "should I go lookin' for
the skut whin if I wait a bit he'll come fluttherin' into me hand?"

He did. At five minutes after ten Mr. Schultz hailed the look-out in
German, and although Mr. Reardon spoke no German, yet did he understand
that order. Mr. Schultz, a victim of habit, desired the look-out to go
to the galley and bring up some hot coffee for him and the helmsman. It
was the custom aboard the _Narcissus_, as it is in most Pacific Coast
boats, for the cook, just before retiring, to brew a pot of coffee,
drain off the grounds and leave it to simmer on the galley range where,
at intervals of two hours during the night, the watch could come and
help itself.

Terence Reardon knew that the look-out, after heating the coffee and
bringing a few cups up on the bridge, would return to the galley and
partake of a cup and a bite himself.

The man came down off the forecastle head, crossed the main deck and
disappeared in the galley. In about ten minutes Mr. Reardon saw him
climb up the port companion to the bridge; a minute later he came down.
Mr. Reardon waited until he was certain the fellow was sipping his
coffee in the galley; then with the utmost nonchalance he went up on the
bridge and hailed Mr. Schultz, who was standing amidships blowing on a
cup of coffee.

"Begorra," he complained, "Divil a wink can I shleep to-night. I've been
sittin' wit' the wireless operator all evenin', an' now, thinks I,
he's weary listenin' to me nonsinse, so I'll go up on the bridge an'
interview Misther Schultz. If I--be the Rock av Cashel! What was that?"

"Vot? Vere?" Mr. Schultz exclaimed, and set down his cup of coffee.
He was all excitement, for he had been looking for the flash of a
searchlight for the past hour and he wondered now if the unsuspecting
Reardon had seen it first.

"Over that way." Mr. Reardon pointed off the port bow. "Did ye not see
that light?"

"A light. _Gott im Himmel!_"

"Ye can't see it now," Mr. Reardon replied soothingly. He stepped round
to the back of the mate and permitted his trusty monkey wrench to slip
down into his hand. "But if ye continue to look in that direction,
Misther Schultz, ye'll see not wan light but several."

"_Donnerwetter!_ I gannot see dem," Mr. Schultz protested, wondering if
there might not be some defect in his eyesight.

"Have no fear. Keep lookin' that way an' ye'll see thim," Mr. Reardon
reassured him. "Ha-ha, ye divil!" he crooned--and struck.

"I'll gamble ye saw the lights I promised ye," he breathed into the ear
of the unconscious mate as he deftly caught the falling body and
eased it noiselessly to the deck to avoid calling the attention of the
helmsman to the interesting tableau going on behind him. Quickly he
gagged Mr. Schultz with a strip of canvas; then he tied his hands behind
him and bound him at ankle and knee with the short lengths of signal
halyard. As a final attention he "frisked" the mate and removed his keys
and a heavy automatic pistol.

"Lie there now, me jewel," he said, and trotted out to the starboard
end of the bridge, whistling shrilly "God Save the King." When the swift
patter of feet along the deck warned him that the steward was coming, he
walked back amidships and opened the little sliding trap in the roof of
the pilot-house, which on the _Narcissus_ was set just below the bridge.
The quartermaster's head was directly beneath the trap. "Oh-ho, me
laddybuck!" Mr. Reardon murmured, and dropped his padded monkey wrench
on that defenseless head. Instantly the quartermaster staggered and hung
limply to the wheel.

"Bad luck to me, I'll have to hit ye agin," Mr. Reardon complained--and
did it. Then he slid through the trap into the pilot-house, steadied the
wheel with one hand and unlocked the pilot-house door with the other to
admit the steward.

"Strike me pink!" that astounded functionary exclaimed as he gazed at
the quartermaster lying beside the wheel.

"I will--if ye don't take howld av this wheel an' do less talkln'," Mr.
Reardon replied evenly. "Bring her round very slowly, me lad, an' in the
intherval I'll wrap up me little Baby Bunting on the floor forninst ye."

When the quartermaster had been duly wrapped _a la_ Mr. Schultz and
dragged clear of the wheel, Mr. Reardon returned to the bridge and with
brazen impudence set the handle of the marine telegraph over to full
speed ahead. He hummed "Colleen Dhas Cruthin Amoe" as with a light heart
he skipped down to the galley and found the look-out eating bread soaked
in coffee. Mr. Reardon nodded and said "Good nicht, _amigo_" for his
voyages had taken him to many ports and he was naturally quick at
picking up foreign languages. The fellow, concluding Mr. Reardon desired
a cup of coffee also, turned to the rack to get him a cup.

"How dare ye ate up the owners' groceries in this shameful manner?" Mr.
Reardon demanded. "Do ye not get enough at mess that ye must be atin'
between meals? Shame on you--"

One tap did the trick. "'Tis a black way to repay a kind t'ought," Mr.
Reardon observed to his victim as he bound and gagged him; "but war is
war, an' a faint heart an' a weak stomach never shtole a ship back from
forty German pirates!"

He closed the galley door on the unfortunate look-out and climbed up
on the boat deck to get Michael J. Murphy out of prison. Cautiously he
unlocked the state-room door with the key taken from Mr. Schultz, and
the skipper came forth. Mr. Reardon led him under an electric light and
gazed upon him wonderingly.

"Begorra, Michael, me poor lad," he whispered, "be the look av the white
face of you I'm thinkin' ye ought to be in bed instid av out raisin'
ructions."

"I'm weak; I have a fever," Murphy replied. "Still, half that fever may
be plain lunatic rage. Did you find a gun on the mate?"

"I did. Take it, Michael, I'll have nothin' to do wit' it."

The skipper grasped the weapon eagerly. "The ship is headed due west
undher full speed," Terence explained, "an' the mate, the quarter-master
an' the look-out have all received evidence av me affectionate regard.
Next!"

"Von Staden. He kicked me and broke my ribs, Terence."

"Wit' the greatest joy in life, Michael. The skut's busy in the wireless
room."

So they went to the wireless room. Von Staden was taking a message as
they entered; at sound of their footsteps he turned carelessly and found
himself looking down the muzzle of the captain's automatic.

"Will ye take it peaceably, ye gossoon, or must I brain ye wit' this
monkey wrench?" Mr. Reardon queried fiercely.

"And take your hand off that key, you blackguard. No S O S," Murphy
ordered.

The supercargo stared at them impudently. "This," he said presently, "is
one of those inconceivable contingencies."

"Your early education was neglected, Dutchy. However, don't complain and
say I didn't give you warning. Terence!"

"What is it, Michael?"

"All well-regulated ships carry a few sets of handcuffs and leg irons.
If you will put your hand in my right hip pocket, Terence, lad,
you'll find a pair for present emergencies. They were in my desk and I
concluded to bring them along."

"An' a pious t'ought it was, Michael."

So they handcuffed Herr August Carl von Staden and gagged him, after
which Mr. Reardon, leaving the skipper to guard his prisoner, ran round
to his own room and got the two lengths of chain and the padlocks. When
he returned, Michael J. Murphy kicked his unwelcome supercargo to the
mate's store-room and Mr. Reardon locked him in among the paint pots,
pipe, old iron and other odds and ends which accumulate in a mate's
store-room.

They went next to the door of the forecastle. It was open--and, what was
better, it opened inward. Also, it was of steel with a stout brass ring
on the lock, this ring taking the place of what on a landsman's door
would have been a knob.

Terence Reardon and Michael J. Murphy listened. From within came a
medley of gentle sighs, snores and the slow, regular breathing of
sleeping men. Softly Mr. Reardon closed the door, turned the ring until
the latch caught, drew a section of chain through the ring in such a
manner as to prevent the latch from being released, passed the ends of
his chain round the steel handrail along the front of the forecastle and
padlocked them there.

"Now, thin," Mr. Reardon announced, "that takes care av the carpenter,
the bos'n, four seamen, two waiters an' the mess bhoy. Do ye wait here
a minute, Michael, lad, whilst I run up on the bridge and give that
unmintionable Schultz the wanst over."

The weak, half-dead Murphy sat down on the hatch coaming and waited.
The chief was away about ten minutes and the captain was on the point of
investigating when Mr. Reardon appeared.

"That unfortunate divil had come to, an' was lookin' an' feelin' cowld
whin I wint up on the bridge," he explained, "so I wint to me room an'
got a pair av blankets to wrap round him where he lay. It's wan thing
to tap a man on the head, but 'tis another to let him catch his death av
cowld."

Captain Murphy smiled. Ordinarily he would have laughed at the whimsical
Terence, but he didn't have a good laugh left in him. His lung was
hurting, so he suspected an abscess.

They returned to the boat deck, and with his rule Mr. Reardon carefully
measured the exact distance between the ship's rail and the center
of the doors of the state-rooms occupied by the mates and assistant
engineers. This detail attended to, they went to the carpenter's
little shop and cut two scantlings of a length to correspond to the
measurements taken, and in addition Mr. Reardon prepared some thin
cleats with countersunk holes for the insertion of screws. He worked
very leisurely, and it was eleven o'clock when he had everything in
readiness.

"There's nothin' to do now until midnight, whin the watch in the ingine
room is changed," Mr. Reardon suggested, "so lave us go to the galley.
Wan av me brave lads is in there, an' if he's not dead intirely, faith,
I'm thinkin' I might injoy a cup av coffee!"

So they went to the galley and found the look-out glaring at them. He
made inarticulate noises behind his gag, so Mr. Reardon, much relieved,
found seats for each of them and poured coffee. Then he filled his pipe,
crossed his right leg over his left knee and puffed away. He was the
speaking likeness of Contentment. And well he might be.

The first assistant engineer had been driving the _Narcissus_ for an
hour at full speed at right angles to the course he believed she was
pursuing. He would, being totally ignorant of the change of masters,
continue to drive her at full speed until midnight, when he would come
off watch, tired and sleepy, and go straight to his state-room. The
second assistant would go direct from his state-room to duty in the
engine-room and continue to drive the _Narcissus_ at full speed until
four o'clock, and inasmuch as it would be quite dark still when the
third assistant came on at four o'clock to relieve the engineer on
watch, there was not the slightest doubt in the minds of Murphy and the
chief but that the deception could go on until breakfast. However, that
would interfere with their plans. Long before that hour the men locked
in the forecastle would have discovered their plight, and the noise of
the discovery might reach below decks and bring up, to investigate,
just a few more husky firemen and coal passers than even the redoubtable
Terence Reardon could hope to cope with successfully.

"By four o'clock we'll be more than fifty miles off the course Schultz
was holding her on," the captain suggested. "In all likelihood the
German admiral wirelessed his last position and the course he was
steering, and von Staden gave Schultz his course accordingly."

"Faith, we're not a moment too soon at that," Mr. Reardon replied.
"Schultz was lookin' for searchlights whin I tapped him. Be the Toe
Nails av Moses ye're right, Michael. We'll be so far off that course be
daylight they won't even see our shmoke. D'ye think that little handful
av bones, Riggins, can manage the wheel until we've claned up the
ingine-room gang? We can relieve him wit' wan av the Chinamen then."

"Tell him he'll have to stick it out. And by the way, Terence, come to
think of it, you had better run forward and remove the sidelights; then
unscrew all of the incandescent lamps on deck until the contact is lost.
You can screw them in again just before the watch is changed, so they
won't suspect anything, and unscrew them again after we have the watch
under lock and key. The fleet may be too far away to see our smoke by
daylight, but they may be close enough to see our lights to-night! Tell
Riggins to darken the pilot-house. The binnacle light is enough to keep
him company."

"Thrue for ye," Terence replied, and hurried away to carry out Murphy's
instructions.



CHAPTER XVII


At twelve o'clock the second assistant engineer, hurrying along the deck
to relieve the first assistant on watch, found Mr. Reardon leaning
over the rail meditatively puffing his old briar pipe. In answer to the
former's query as to what kept the chief up so late, the latter replied
that he was burning sulphur in his room to kill bedbugs.

"The good Lord forgive me the lie," he prayed when a few minutes later
he was called upon by the first assistant, hurrying off watch, to repeat
the same tale.

The first assistant and his watch had a shower-bath and turned in. They
were not interested in the workings of the deck department in the dark;
they could not know that the vessel's course had been changed; they
thought only of getting to sleep. Mr. Reardon waited until one-thirty
A. M. to provide against possible sleepless ones, and then crept aft on
velvet feet. The _Narcissus_ had very commodious quarters in her stern,
where her coolie crew had been housed in the days when she ran in the
China trade; and when the Blue Star Navigation Company took her over
these quarters had been fitted up to accommodate the engine room crew.
In the same manner, therefore, that he had imprisoned the men of the
deck department in the forecastle, Mr. Reardon now proceeded to imprison
the men of the engine department in the sterncastle. This delicate
mission accomplished, he went up top-side and measured the diameter
of the ventilators, in order to make certain that the thinnest of his
German canaries could not fly the cage via that difficult route. Having
satisfied himself that he had no need to worry on this score, he made
his way forward again.

"Well, Michael, me poor lad," he announced as he rejoined the skipper,
"I'll tell you wan thing--an' it isn't two. The crew av the _Narcissus_
off watch at this minute will never come on watch ag'in--in the
_Narcissus_."

The skipper smiled wanly. "I'm sorry you must take all the risks and do
all the work, Terence," he replied.

"Gwan wit' ye, Michael. Sure if I had a head on me like you, an' a
college edication in back av that ag'in, I'd be out playin' golf this
minute wit' Andhrew Carnegie an' Jawn D. Rockefeller--ayther that, or
I'd have been hung for walkin' away wit' the Treasury Buildin'."

They discussed the remaining details of that portion of the ship
cleaning still before them. "Remember, Terence," Mike Murphy warned the
chief, "when the blow-off comes at four o'clock and the uproar commences
fore and aft, we have the means to keep them quiet. I'll go forward
and you go aft. When we threaten to throw burning sulphur down the
ventilators and suffocate them, they'll sing soft and low!"

Mr. Reardon chuckled. "An' Schultz t'ought I was afther bedbugs whin
I asked the shteward for the sulphur," he replied. "Shtill an' all,
Michael," he added, a trifle wistfully, "I could wish for a bit more
excitement, considerin' the size av the job."

"Don't worry, Terry, you may get it yet. I'm dizzy and weak, chief; I'm
fearful I'll not be able to last out the night--and these Germans are
desperate. Suppose we go forward now, while I'm able, and awaken Mr.
Henckel. It's high time he relieved Mr. Schultz, and he'll be waking
naturally if we let him oversleep much longer."

The subjugation of Mr. Henckel was accomplished without the slightest
excitement or bloodshed. Mr. Reardon rapped at his door and Mr. Henckel
replied sleepily in German. The skipper and the chief merely lurked,
one on each side of his state-room door, until he stepped briskly out;
whereupon the captain jabbed him with the gun while Mr. Reardon shook
the monkey wrench under his nose. Indeed, Mr. Reardon had the gag in the
second mate's mouth even while it hung open in surprise. They bound him
hand and foot, and Mr. Reardon picked him up and tucked him gently in
his berth, for, as the chief remarked to him, he was as safe there as
anywhere and far more comfortable, although Mike Murphy objected and was
for putting him in the mate's store-room with von Staden, whom they had
put in the dirtiest and most unwholesome spot aboard the _Narcissus_,
for two reasons: In the first place, he had kicked Michael J. Murphy
and shot him through the shoulder; and in the second place, he was the
cleanest German and the most wholesome pirate they had ever seen,
and they figured the contrast would annoy him. Mr. Reardon, however,
objected to this plan. He argued that von Staden would be glad of Mr.
Henckel's company, and was it not their original intention to keep that
laddybuck von Staden in solitary confinement? It was. They closed the
state-room door on Mr. Henckel, and left him to meditate on his sins
while they repaired to the carpenter's little shop, to return to the
boat deck presently with the scantlings and cleats Mr. Reardon had
prepared.

With the scantling the chief shored up the doors to the state-room
occupied respectively at the time by the first and third assistant
engineers; then he screwed the cleats into place at top and bottom, so
the scantling could not slip. Not for worlds would he have used a hammer
to nail them into place, for that would have spoiled the surprise for
the objects of his attentions. Throughout the entire operation he was
as silent as a burglar, although by way of additional precaution the
captain stood by with drawn pistol.

"Now thin, Michael," Mr. Reardon whispered as they pussy-footed away,
"there are six fine Germans below in the ingine room, an' two Irishmen
an' half an Englishman on deck. The Chinee cooks don't count, for sure
the poor heathens would only get excited and turrn somebody loose if
we asked them to do anything desperate. And, as ye know, wan good
Irishman--and bad luck to the man that says I am not that--can keep a
hundhred Germans from comin' up out av that ingine room. Go to yer bed,
Michael, an' lie down until I call ye."

"Better take this automatic," Murphy suggested, and showed him how to
use it.

But Mr. Reardon resolutely refused to abandon his monkey wrench,
although he consented to carry the automatic to Riggins in the
pilot-house. The estimable Riggins had been steering a somewhat erratic
course, for he found it impossible to keep his eye on the lubber's mark
while the bound quartermaster glared balefully at him from the floor.
Indeed Riggins had been pondering his fate should that husky Teuton ever
get the upper hand again; hence, when he found himself in a state of
preparedness and was informed that he must stick by the wheel until
relieved, the prospect did not awe him in the least. The present odds
were counterbalanced by the strategic position held by the minority, and
Riggins was content.

On his way back to his state-room, there to rest until the final call
to arms, Michael J. Murphy concluded it would be well to search the
quarters of the second mate and Herr von Staden for contraband of war.
So he did, with the result that he unearthed in von Staden's room the
rifle and revolver which belonged to the _Narcissus_, and under the
second mate's pillow he found another automatic pistol. He confiscated
all three weapons by right of discovery, and hid the rifle in the
galley, the last place anybody would think of looking for it.

In the meantime Mr. Reardon proceeded further to strengthen his position
by closing the port entrance to the engine room and shoring up the door
with a stout scantling, cleated at top and bottom to hold it securely in
place. Then he donned Mr. Schultz's heavy watchcoat, dragged round
from the lee of the house the upholstered easy-chair Mrs. Reardon had
insisted upon his taking to sea with him for use in his leisure moments,
placed this chair on deck just outside the starboard entrance to the
engine room, loaded his pipe, laid his trusty monkey wrench across his
knee and gave himself up to the contemplation of this riot we call life.
He resembled a cat watching beside a gopher hole. By half-past three
o'clock he had finished figuring out approximately the amount of
money Mrs. Reardon would have in the Hibernia Bank at the end of five
years--figuring on a monthly saving of fifty dollars and interest
compounded at the rate of four per cent. So, having satisfied himself
that Johnny would yet be a lawyer and the girls learn to play the piano,
Mr. Reardon heaved a sigh and reluctantly went to call Michael J. Murphy
for the final accounting.



CHAPTER XVIII


At ten minutes to four Mr. Uhl, the second assistant, a man of some
thirty years and ordinarily possessed of a disposition as placid as that
of a little Jersey heifer, ordered one of his firemen to go and call the
watch to relieve them. Mr. Reardon, his monkey wrench firmly grasped in
his right hand, knew that at exactly ten minutes to four Mr. Uhl would
issue that order--so he was on the spot to receive the fireman as
the latter came leisurely up the greasy steel stairway. As the fellow
emerged on deck he paused to wipe his heated brow with a sweat rag
and draw in a welcome breath of cool fresh air. He did not succeed in
getting his lungs quite full, however, for Michael J. Murphy, lurking
beside the door, thrust the barrel of his gun in the fireman's ribs,
effectually curtailing the process of respiration practically at once.
From the other side of the door the chief engineer stepped out and
wagged his bludgeon under the fireman's nose.

"_Ach!_" Mr. Reardon coughed, and grimaced pleasantly. "_Schmierkase und
Sauerkraut_, ye big shtiff! _Vat wilse du haben_, eh? _Zwei bier?_ Damn
the weather, as Misther Schultz would say."

He laid his finger on his lips, enjoining silence; then with the same
finger he pointed sternly onward, and the fireman took the hint. In the
clear space aft the house and next to the funnel Mr. Reardon bound and
gagged him and laid him tenderly on his back to await developments.

"Now thin, Michael," he said to the skipper, "lave us go back an' see
can we catch another. At four o'clock, whin this lad fails to return,
Misther Uhl, the omadhaun, will sind up another man to see what the
divil ails the firrst man."

And it was even so. This time it was the oiler.

At five minutes after four a coal passer came up the stairs, and he was
swearing at the delay in being relieved. Something told Mr. Reardon this
fellow would make trouble, so without warning he hit the coal passer a
light rap "to take the conceit out av him." Two minutes later the coal
passer had joined his fellows beside the funnel.

At a quarter after four Mr. Uhl scratched his head and said something
very explosive in German. He started up the stairs, got halfway up--and
came down. It had occurred to him very suddenly that three men had
already gone up the stairs and had failed to return. He called a fireman
and gave him some very explicit orders in German; whereupon the man
disappeared in the shaft alley. Five minutes later he returned, pop-eyed
with excitement and the bearer of a tale that caused Mr. Uhl to arch his
blond eyebrows and murmur dazedly "_So?_"

Ten minutes passed. Mr. Reardon glanced interrogatively at Michael J.
Murphy. "I think the divils are suspicious," he whispered. "We should
have had another be now. Have a care now, Michael. Whin they come they
come wit' a rush an'--"

A pistol shot echoed through the ship. It came up from forward. Three
more followed in rapid succession--a scream--a shout!

"May the divil damn me!" Terence Reardon cried in a horrified voice. "I
clane forgot the little companion hatch at the ind av the shaft alley.
They've crawled down the shaft alley an' up on deck at the very sterrn
av the ship!"

He dashed aft towards the spot where his prisoners were laid out close
to the funnel. As he turned the corner of the house he observed that the
electric lamp which he had so carefully screwed out of its socket had
been screwed in again, and by its light Terence beheld no less a person
than Mr. Uhl cutting the halyards that bound the oiler. The fireman had
already been cut loose, but the potent effects of Terence Reardon's blow
with the wrench still remained; though conscious, the man was unfit for
combat. The coal passer, evidently the first man to be rescued by Mr.
Uhl, was standing by.

"Gower that, ye divils!" Mr. Reardon shrieked, and charged, swinging his
monkey wrench with all his horsepower. He missed his first stroke at
Mr. Uhl, who very deftly stabbed him high up on the hip for his
carelessness; then the chief swung again, and Mr. Uhl was out of the
fight.

Not so the big coal passer, however. He planted in Terence Reardon's
face as pretty a left and right--hay-makers both--as one could hope to
see anywhere outside a prize-ring; whereupon the chief took the count
with great abruptness. The fireman reached for the monkey wrench--and at
that instant the weak, pale-faced skipper lurched around the corner of
the house and his automatic commenced to bark.

It was not a time for sentiment. Michael J. Murphy glanced once at
Terence Reardon's bloody, upturned face, and the glazed eyes thrilled
him with horror. The chief engineer was dead! That meant that Michael J.
Murphy would soon be dead, too. Well, they had fought a good fight and
lost, so nothing now remained for him to do save slaughter as many of
the enemy as possible and go to his accounting like a gentleman.

He turned his back on the heap of bloody, prostrate men, stepped over a
little rivulet of gore that ran rapidly toward the scupper as the
ship heeled to port, then hesitated and started back as she heeled
to starboard. He was vaguely conscious that Mr. Uhl had shut down his
engines before coming on deck and that in consequence the ship had lost
headway and was beginning to wallow. In his weak state her plunging
caused him to stagger like a drunken man. As he crossed to the port side
of the ship and gazed down the deck he noticed that the incandescent
lamps had all been screwed back in their sockets, and by their brilliant
light he beheld one of the firemen in the act of removing the scantling
from before the first assistant's door. Just as the door swung open the
captain fired, but evidently missed, for the man sprang nimbly into the
state-room for safety.

If the great European War has proved nothing else to date, it has
demonstrated one comforting thing about the German people: one does not
grow impatient waiting for them to carry the fight to him. The fireman
had no sooner entered the first assistant's state-room than the first
assistant came out. He was wearing his pajamas and a piece of young
artillery, and without the slightest embarrassment he commenced shooting
at Michael J. Murphy, who, not to be outdone in politeness while he
could stand and see, promptly returned the compliment.

The first assistant's first shot nipped a neat little crescent out of
Mike Murphy's large red right ear; his second ripped clean through the
inside of the skipper's left leg.

"High and then low," was the thought that capered through Mike Murphy's
brain. "God grant he don't get me through the middle! That's what comes
of fast shooting--so I guess I'll go slow."

The electric lamp over his head was shattered and the fragments
scattered round him as he leaned against the corner of the house and
took careful aim at the first assistant, who missed his next shot by a
whisker and died in his tracks with two cartridges still in his gun.

Dazedly Michael J. Murphy advanced along the deck, stepped over the body
and entered the state-room. In the corner the fireman crouched, hands
uplifted in token of surrender, so the skipper closed the door and
shored it up again with the scantling. Mechanically he picked up the
first assistant's huge revolver, broke it, removed the cartridges and
threw them overboard. Then he slipped a clip of seven cartridges into
his automatic and staggered round to Mr. Henckel's state room.

The door was open. The bird had flown.

Michael J. Murphy went in and sat down on Mr. Henckel's settee, for
he was very weak and dizzy; and at least nobody could shoot at him in
there. "Come, come, Michael," he croaked, "no going out this voyage. You
have work ahead of you. Pull yourself together and let us count noses.
Now then, there were two firemen, two coal passers, one oiler and Mr.
Uhl on watch. Terence killed Mr. Uhl with the monkey wrench, I killed
the big coal passer, I think I killed the oiler, and one fireman was out
of the scrap from the beginning. Then I killed the first assistant and
locked the other fireman in his room. That leaves Mr. Henckel and a coal
passer to be reckoned with. Now there was some shooting up forward and
somebody was hit. That means Riggins shot somebody or somebody shot
Riggins. The second mate probably went forward to let the men out of the
forecastle, while the fireman went aft to let the engine-room gang out
of the sterncastle. They haven't had time to do it yet; they'll have to
pry those rings out of the door with a crowbar. I'll go aft and drive
the fireman forward; when I have them bunched I'll argue with them."

He arrived at the break of the house and looked down on the deck aft.
The lights had been turned on and a man was just raising a short crowbar
to attack the door, from behind which came shouts and cries of anger and
consternation.

Mike Murphy rested his automatic on the deck rail and fired twice at the
man in front of the sterncastle door. The fellow fled at once dashing
along the deck, zigzag fashion, to distract the skipper's aim, and
disappeared in the dark entrance to the starboard alleyway. So Michael
J. Murphy slid down the companion and followed into the alleyway, firing
two shots for luck as he came.

Scarcely had he disappeared into the murk amidships when Terence Reardon
rolled groggily down the companion after him. Terence had no means of
ascertaining which alleyway the skipper had charged into--and he did not
care. Blind with fury he lurched into the port alleyway; in consequence
of which the fugitive, fleeing ahead of the captain down the starboard
alleyway and thinking to turn down the port alleyway and double back to
complete his labors at the sterncastle door, bumped squarely into the
chief engineer.

Mr. Reardon said no word, but wrapped his arms round the man and held
the latter close to his breast.

Thus for a moment they stood, gripping each other, each wondering
whether the other was friend or foe.

Then Mr. Reardon decided that even if his nose was bloody he could not
possibly be mistaken in the odor of a fireman just come off watch. He
had lost his monkey wrench in the _melee_ on the upper deck--the defunct
Mr. Uhl having fallen upon it, thereby obscuring it from Mr. Reardon's
very much befogged vision, but his soul was still undaunted, for Mr.
Reardon, in common with most chief engineers still in their prime,
firmly believed that he could trounce any fireman he saw fit to employ.
He bit suddenly into the fireman's cheek just where the flesh droops
in a fold over the lower jaw, and was fortunate enough to secure a
grip that bade fair to hold; then he crooked his leg at the back of his
opponent's and slowly shoved the fellow's head backward. They came
down together, Mr. Reardon on top, content for once to hold his man
helpless--and rest--while his enemy's shrieks of pain and rage resounded
through the ink-black alleyway.

Michael J. Murphy heard that uproar and halted. After listening a few
seconds he came to the conclusion that a German was in deep distress,
and that hence it was no part of his business to interfere. Besides, he
had business of his own to attend to. He could hear a chain rattling
up forward, and while it was too dark to see who or what was doing the
rattling, he found Mr. Henckel guilty on mere suspicion, and fired
at the sound; whereupon somebody said "_Ach, Gott!_" in tones of deep
disgust, two little flashes of fire cut the dark, and two bullets
whispered of death as they flew harmlessly down the alleyway.

Instantly Mike Murphy returned the salute, firing at the other's
flashes; then he fell to the deck and rolled over into the scupper to
escape the return fire, which was not slow in coming.

"I wonder where the devil he got that gun," was Murphy's comment. "Mr.
Uhl must have had it in his pocket and lent it to him."

There was profound silence within the forecastle, and pending the
destruction of his attacker Mr. Henckel judged it imprudent to make any
further attempts at a delivery. He required time to formulate a plan
of attack, and in the interim he desired shelter. Mike Murphy heard the
patter of feet, the patter ceasing almost as soon as it commenced--and
he smiled grimly.

"He's hiding," the captain soliloquized. "Now, where would I take
shelter if I were in his fix? Why, back of the hatch-coaming, of
course--or the winch." He had a sudden inspiration and called aloud:

"Riggins! Riggins! Answer me, Riggins. This is Captain Murphy calling
you."

"'Ere, sir," came the voice of Riggins from the pilot-house above. The
voice was very weak.

"Climb out of the pilot-house, Riggins, to the bridge, turn on the
searchlight and bend it down here on the deck till I get a shot at this
scoundrel. Don't be afraid of him, Riggins. It's Henckel and he can't
shoot for beans. Get the light fair on him and keep it on him; it'll
blind him and he won't be able to shoot you."

"The dirty dawg!" snarled Riggins wearily. "'E come up on the bridge
a while--ago--an' I drove 'im off--but 'e plugged me, sir--through the
guts, sir--an' me a married man! Wot in 'ell'll my ol' woman--say--"

And that was the last word Riggins ever spoke. True, he managed to crawl
out of the pilot-house and up the short companion to the bridge; he
reached the searchlight, and while Mr. Henckel and Mike Murphy swapped
shots below him he turned on the switch.

"Bend it on the deck, Riggins. On the deck, my bully, on the deck,"
Mike Murphy pleaded as the great beam of white light shot skyward and
remained there; nor could all of Murphy's pleading induce Riggins to
bend it on the deck, for Riggins was lying dead beside the searchlight,
while ten miles away an officer on the flying bridge of H.M.S. Panther
watched that finger of light pointing and beckoning with each roll of
the ship.

"Something awf'lly queer, what?" he commented when reporting it to his
superior.

"Rather," the superior replied laconically. "It can't be the Dresden
and neither is it one of ours. We'll skip over and have a look at her,
Reggie, my son."



CHAPTER XIX


Michael J. Murphy had two shots left in his automatic, and he was saving
those for daylight and Mr. Henckel's rush, when a searchlight came
nickering and feeling its way across the dark waters. Slowly, slowly
it lifted and rested on the big blunt bows of the _Narcissus_, hovered
there a few seconds and came slowly aft, and as it lighted up the main
deck Mr. Henckel rose from behind the hatch-coaming.

"_Deutschland uber Alles!_" he yelled joyously--and rushed.

Terence Reardon, having pounded his firemen into insensibility, had
crept down the port alleyway, and, unknown to Captain Murphy and Mr.
Henckel, he had, from the opposite side of the deck, watched the flashes
of their pistols as they fired at each other.

"I'll have to flank that fella an' put a shtop to this nonsense," Mr.
Reardon decided presently, and forthwith crept across the deck on his
hands and knees until he reached the hatch-coaming. Mr. Henckel lurked
just round the other corner of the coaming, so close Mr. Reardon could
hear him breathing. And there the crafty chief had waited until Mr.
Henckel rose for his charge--whereupon Mr. Reardon rose also.

"Ireland upper always, ye vagabone!" he yelled, and launched himself at
Mr. Henckel's knees. It was a perfect tackle and the second mate went
down heavily.

In an emergency such as the present all Terence Reardon asked was good
fighting light. Fighting in the dark distressed him, he discovered, for
while polishing off the fireman in the black alleyway he had missed one
punch at the fellow's head, and had been reminded to his sorrow and the
ruin of his knuckles, that the deck of the Narcissus was of good Norway
pine. However, H.M.S. Panther was scarcely three cable lengths distant
now, and the officer on her flying bridge could see that some sort of a
jolly row was in progress on the deck of the Narcissus; so he kept the
searchlight on the combatants while Mr. Reardon bent Mr. Henckel's back
over the hatch-coaming, took his automatic away from him, and proceeded
to take a cast of the mate's features in the vulcanite butt of the
weapon. And vulcanite is far from soft!

When Terence Reardon had completed his self-appointed task he stood up,
hitched his dungarees, spat blood on the deck, and stood waving from
side to side like a dancing bear. His face was unrecognizable; his
dungarees, so neat and clean when he donned them the night before, were
now one vast smear of red, and he grinned horribly, for he was war mad!

"Next!" he croaked, and turned to the master for orders.

But Michael Joseph Murphy was out of the fight. He lay prone on the
deck, conscious but helpless, and because his broken rib was tickling
his lung the froth on his lips bore a little tinge of pink. Only his
eyes moved--and they smiled at Terence Reardon as the triumphant exiles
of Erin faced each other.

Terence Reardon turned and shook his battered fists full into the rays
of the searchlight. He was magnificent for one brief instant; then
the war-madness left him, and again he was plain, faithful, whimsical,
capable, honest Terence P. Reardon, chief engineer of the S.S.
Narcissus, who considered it a pleasure to discourse on the fairies when
he had nothing more important to do. Now that the fight was over and the
German fleet had overhauled them at last, he had time to think of Mrs.
Reardon and the children and his best job gone for ever--tossed into the
discard with his honor as a faithful servant.

He sat down very suddenly on the hatch-coaming and covered his terrible
face with his terrible hands.

"Ah, Norah! Norah!" he cried--and sobbed as if his heart must break.



CHAPTER XX


When Captain the Hon. Desmond O'Hara, of H.M.S. Panther, boarded the
steamer Narcissus via the Jacob's ladder Mr. Reardon hove overside
at his command, he paused a moment, balanced on the ship's rail, and
stared.

"My word!" he said, and leaped to the deck, to make room for a
pink-and-white middy. The pink-and-white one stared and said "My aunt!"
Then he, too, leaped to the deck, and a stocky cockney blue-jacket poked
his nose over the rail.

"Damn my eyes!" said this individual. "'Ere's a bloomin' mess!"

"Who is that person?" Captain Desmond O'Hara demanded, pointing to the
semiconscious Mr. Henckel, who was moaning and saying things in his
mother tongue.

"That," said Mr. Reardon with a familiar wink, "was a fine, decent
German until I operated on him!"

"So I observed. And who might you be?"

"Me name is Terence P. Reardon, an' I'm the chief engineer av the United
Shtates steamer _Narcissus_, av San Francisco."

"Ah! An Irish-American, eh?"

Mr. Reardon looked down at the deck, smiled a cunning little smile and
looked up at Captain O'Hara. "Well, sor," he declared, "I had me hyphen
wit' me whin I shipped; as late as yestherd'y afthernoon 'twas in good
worrkin' ordher; but what wit' the exertion av chasin' our Gerrman
crew round the decks, faith I've lost me hyphen, an' I'm thinkin' the
skipper's lost his too. That's him forninst ye. For the prisent he's in
dhrydock awaitin' repairs, which leaves me in command av the ship.
And since he's in no condition to go to his shtate-room an' unlock the
ship's safe, an' sorra wan av me knows the combination, the divil a look
will ye have at our papers. I'll save time an' throuble for us all be
tellin' ye now that we've ten t'ousand tons av soft coal undher
deck, that we cleared from Norfolk, Virginia, for Manila or Batavia,
Pernambuco for ordhers, an' that we're a couple av t'ousand miles off
our course. So confiscate the ship an' be damned to ye! Only I'm hopin'
ye'll not be above takin' a bit av advice from wan who knows. There's a
Gerrman fleet not far off, an' if ye shtop to monkey wit' us, faith ye
may live to regret it--an' ye may not."

Captain the Hon. Desmond O'Hara smiled sweetly. "Divil a fear," he said,
in no way cast down. "We met the beggars off the Falklands yesterday
and sunk them all but the Dresden. She slipped away from us in the dark,
making for the mainland, and we were looking for her when we saw your
searchlight cutting up such queer didos, so the Panther dropped behind
to investigate. Had it not been for your searchlight we would have
missed you."

"An' be the same token a little dead Englishman signalled ye." Mr.
Reardon gave another hitch to his dungarees. "Sor," he said doggedly,
"I never t'ought I'd live to see the day I'd want to cheer a British
victh'ry--but I do." He glanced down at his right hand and shook his
head. "Englishmen that ye are," he continued, "I'll not offer ye a hand
like that--much as I want to shake hands wit' ye."

"Faith, don't let that worry you, Mr. Reardon. I'm not an Englishman."

"In the divil's name, you're not an--an--"

"I'm an Irishman! My name is Desmond O'Hara."

Mr. Reardon was fully aware that here was a grand specimen of the kind
of Irish he had been taught to despise--the Irish that take the king's
shilling, the gentlemen Irish that lead the king's cockneys into battle.
And yet, strange to say, no thought of that entered his head now. He
stepped up to Captain O'Hara, looked round cautiously as if expecting to
be overheard, winked knowingly and whispered, as he jerked a significant
thumb toward the unhappy Mr. Henckel: "Sure 'tis the likes av us that
can take the measure av the likes av thim."

"It is," replied Captain O'Hara, and reached for Terry Reardon's awful
hand. "It is!"

Together they lifted Michael J. Murphy into a boson's chair, the jackies
unslung a cargo derrick, Mr. Reardon went to the winch, and the skipper
was hoisted overside into the _Panther's_ boat and taken aboard the
warship for medical attention. Just before Mr. Reardon hoisted him he
drew the chief's ear down to his lips.

"About von Staden," he whispered. "I thought I wanted to see him hung.
Legally he's a pirate; but, Terence, he was raised wrong; you know,
Terence--_Deutschland ueber Alles_. These Dutch devils thought it was
all right to steal our ship--national necessity, you know. Let von
Staden out of the mate's store-room and tell him the English have
us--that his fleet is gone. Then turn your back on him, Terence."

Mr. Reardon followed orders. "Captain Murphy ordhered me to let ye out,"
he explained to the supercargo, "an' towld me to turrn me back on ye."

"Please thank him for me," von Staden replied gently. "I scarcely
expected such kindness at his hands. You may turn your back now, Mr.
Reardon."

So Mr. Reardon turned his back, and, despite the rush of the British
jackies to stop him, Herr August Carl von Staden reached the rail.
"_Deutschland ueber Alles!_" he shouted defiantly--and jumped. He did
not come up.

Captain the Hon. Desmond O'Hara removed his cap. "They die so infernally
well," he said presently, "one hates to fight them--individually.
Yesterday the _Nuernberg_ fell to us. We outranged her, and when she was
out of action and sinking, with her men swimming and drowning all round
her, the _Panther_ was stripped of life preservers in two minutes. Some
of my lads went overboard to help the Boche."

Mr. Reardon remembered he had wrapped waste round the head of his monkey
wrench and curtailed his indicated horse-power when tapping individuals;
yet, when he fought them in bulk, with what savage joy had he struck
down Mr. Uhl, a poor, inoffensive devil and the victim of a false ideal
of national honor! Mr. Reardon was quite sure he despised Englishmen;
yet the tears came to his eyes when the jackies carried poor little
Riggins away from the searchlight, and he prayed for eternal rest for
the soul of his late assistants, for he had learned in a night, as he
fought with tooth and fist and monkey wrench, what those who fight
with tongue and typewriter will never learn--that racial and religious
animosities are just a pitiful human bugaboo--in bulk. Only that valiant
minority that sheds its blood for the heartless majority can ever know
this great truth--and the pity of it--that warriors never hate each
other.

They are too generous for that.



CHAPTER XXI


Capt. Matt Peasley, with his heart in his throat, called up the British
consul at San Francisco. Cappy Ricks, looking very pale and unhappy,
sagged in his chair, while Mr. Skinner stood by, gnawing his nails and
looking as if he would relish being kicked from one end of California
Street to the other.

"Hullo!" Matt Peasley began. Cappy Ricks shuddered and closed his eyes.
"Is this the British consul's office?... This is Captain Peasley, of the
Blue Star Navigation Company... Yes... About our steamer _Narcissus_...
You say the consul is on his way down to our office... Thank you...
Goodbye."

Cappy Ricks sighed like an old air-compressor. "I hope I live till he
gets here," he declared feebly. "Deliberate race, the British. No pep.
Never get anywhere in a hurry."

As if to give the lie to Cappy's criticisms, the British consul was
admitted at that moment.

"Gentlemen," he announced as the heart-broken trio gathered round him,
"I have some very grave news for you." His voice was vaguely reminiscent
of that of the foreman in a quarry who calls upon a lady to inform her
that her husband has just been caught in a premature blast and that the
boys will be up with the pieces directly. "Your steamer _Narcissus_,
loaded with ten thousand tons of coal, has been captured a hundred miles
north-east of the Falkland Islands by His Majesty's cruiser _Panther_.
In view of your vessel's clearance--"

A low moan broke from Cappy Ricks.

"Tightwad!" he reviled. "Old Alden P. Tightwad, the prince of misers!
He thought he'd add a couple of ten-dollar bills to his roll, so he
encouraged his skipper to hire a lot of interned Germans to work his
ships in neutral trade! He was penny-wise and pound-foolish, so he cut
out the wireless to save a miserable hundred and forty dollars a
month. Bids are invited for the privilege of killing the damned old
fool--Skinner! What are you looking at?"

"N-n-nothing!" stammered Mr. Skinner.

"I won't be looked at that way, Skinner. I have my faults, I know--"

"Ssshh!" Matt Peasley interrupted.

"And I won't be 'sshh-ed' at either. I lost the ship. I admit it. I
O.K.'d the charter, and Murphy did his best to save her for us and
couldn't. I'm the goat, but if it busts me I'll reimburse you two boys
for every cent you have lost through my carelessness--"

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Ricks," the consul interrupted. "Pray permit me
to proceed. The circumstances attending this case are so very unusual--"

"My dear Mister British Consul, I shall not argue the matter with you.
You're too bally deliberate, and, besides, what's the use? The ship is
gone. Let her go. We'll build another twice as big. Of course I could
give you an excuse, but if I did you'd think I was old Nick Carter come
to life. We'll just have to take it up through our State Department,
present our alibi, and try to win her back in the prize court."

"She will never be sent to a prize court, Mr. Ricks. It doesn't require
a prize court to decide the case of the steamer _Narcissus_. The
evidence is too overwhelming. There could not possibly be a reversal of
the decision of our admiral."

Mr. Skinner sat down suddenly to keep from falling down. The consul
continued: "The commander of the _Panther_, Captain Desmond O'Hara--by
the way, an old schoolmate of mine--has sent me a long private report
on the affair; by wireless, of course, and in code. It appears that in
Pernambuco harbor your German crew overpowered the captain--"

"What?" cried Cappy, Matt and Skinner in chorus. "You admit that?"

"We do, Mr. Ricks. And last night your chief engineer, Mr. Terence
Reardon, with the aid of the steward, one Riggins--a British subject and
unfortunately killed in the affray--and Captain Murphy overpowered the
German crew--"

"Oh, Mr. Ricks!" gasped Skinner.

"Oh, Matt!" shrilled Cappy Ricks.

"Oh, Cappy!" yelled Matt Peasley.

"Oh, nonsense," laughed the British consul. "They stole her back,
gentlemen, and when Captain O'Hara found her rolling helplessly and
boarded her, she was a shambles. Dead men tell no tales, Mr. Ricks--yet
it was impossible for any fair-minded man to doubt the testimony of
the dead men aboard your _Narcissus_! Her killed, wounded and prisoners
formed a perfect alibi. In the meantime, Mr. Reardon and Captain
Murphy are aboard the Panther, receiving medical attention, and will be
returned to duty in a few weeks; the _Narcissus_ is proceeding to meet
the other ships of our fleet. She will coal them at sea."

"Then you've confiscated her cargo?" Matt Peasley demanded.

"We should worry about the cargo if they give us back our vessel,"
Cappy Ricks declared happily. "We haven't received our freight money,
of course, but by the time I get through with the charterers they'll pay
the freight and ask no questions about the coal."

"We confiscated it, Mr. Ricks," the British consul continued, "for the
reason that it was German coal. The supercargo who boarded the vessel
at Pernambuco told your captain his people had paid cash for it to the
charterers. But we're going to give you back your vessel because we
haven't any moral right to keep her, since her owners have committed
no breach of international law. The supercargo left fifteen thousand
dollars behind him when he jumped overboard, but Captain O'Hara declined
to confiscate that. At Captain Murphy's suggestion it will be forwarded
to the widow of the man Riggins. Captain O'Hara especially requested
that I call upon you and inform you that you have two of the finest
Irishmen in the world to thank for your ship."

"Thank you, Mister Consul. By the way, can you reach Captain O'Hara by
wireless? If you can, I should be glad to pay for a message if you will
send it."

"I shall be delighted indeed."

"Then tell him the Blue Star Navigation Company thanks him for the
courtesy of his message, but that it does not agree with his statement
that we have two Irishmen to thank for our ship. We think we have
three! I know the Irish. The scoundrels never go back on each other in a
fight."

The consul laughed.

"By the way," he said, as he took up his hat preparatory to leaving,
"your ship is now equipped with wireless--a fine, powerful plant such
as they use in the German Navy. The supercargo brought it aboard at
Pernambuco."

Matt Peasley, the Yankee, came to life at that. "Has that been
confiscated, too?" he queried.

"No, captain. However, we have confiscated that German crew of yours--"

"Hallelujah!" yelled Cappy Ricks.

"--and loaned you a crew of British seamen from the tramp _Surrey Maid_.
The _Scharnhorst_ torpedoed her off the coast of Chile, and we found her
crew on board one of the German transports when we captured them after
the fleet was destroyed. You're all fixed up, from skipper to cabin
boy--"

"Wireless operator, too?" Matt Peasley cried.

The consul nodded. "He's got a steady job," the youthful president
declared, and turned to Cappy Ricks for confirmation of this edict. But
Cappy, the pious old codger, had bowed his head on his breast and they
heard him mutter:

"O Lord, I thank Thee! All unworthy as I am, Lord, thou loadest me with
favors--including a wireless plant, free gratis!"



CHAPTER XXII


Long after the British consul had departed Cappy Ricks sat alone in his
office, dozing. Presently he roused and rang for Mr. Skinner.

"Skinner," he said, "Matt reports that the late Riggins made an
allotment of his wages to his wife when he shipped aboard the
_Narcissus_?"

"Yes, sir."

"Riggins's wages hereafter shall constitute a charge against the
_Narcissus_ while Mrs. Riggins lives and while the Blue Star Navigation
Company can afford to give up seventy dollars every month. Attend to it,
Skinner. Another thing, Skinner."

"Yes, sir."

"We ought to do something for Murphy and Reardon. Now then, Skinner,
you've never had a chance to be a sport heretofore, but you're a
stockholder in the Blue Star Navigation Company now, and as such I feel
that I should not use my position, as owner of a controlling interest in
the stock of the company, to give away the property of the company in
an arbitrary fashion. So I'm going to leave it up to you, Skinner, to
suggest what we shall do for them. I believe you will agree with me that
we should do something very handsome by those two boys."

"Quite so, sir, quite so. Well, to start off with, Mr. Ricks, I think we
ought to pay their hospital bills, if any. Then I think we ought to give
each of them a handsome gold watch, suitably engraved and with a small
blue star--sapphires, you know--set in the front of the case."

"You feel that would about fill the bill, eh, Skinner?"

"Well, next Christmas I think we ought to give them each a month's
salary."

"Hum! You do?"

"Yes, sir. I think that would be a very delicate thing to do."

Cappy sighed. Poor Skinner! Victim of the saving habit! Decent
devil--didn't mean to be small, but just couldn't help it. A
bush-leaguer--Skinner. Never meant for big company--

"In addition--" Skinner began.

"Yes, Skinner, my boy. Go on, go on, old horse. Now then, in addition--"

"It seems like the wildest extravagance, Mr. Ricks, but those men
have fought for their ship and I--remember, Mr. Ricks, this is only
a suggestion--I think it would be a very--er--tactful thing to do
to--er--"

"It'll choke him before he gets it out," Cappy soliloquized. Aloud he
said: "Go on, Skinner, my dear boy. Don't be afraid."

"At a time like this, when freights are so good and vessel property
pays so well, it seems to me--that is, if you and Matt have no
objection--that we ought to give Mike and Terence a--er--a little
piece of the _Narcissus_--the ship--er--they
love--say--er--a--ten-thousand-dollar interest--each--"

"God bless you, Skinner! You came through at last, didn't you? The
president emeritus agrees with you, Skinner, and it is so ordered.

"Now skip along and wireless the glad news to Mike and Terence. Tell
them when they have the coal out to proceed to Rio and load manganese
ore."



CHAPTER XXIII


In due course Captain Michael J. Murphy and Mr. Terence Reardon came off
the dry dock, the sole visible evidence of that unrecorded second naval
engagement off the Falkland Islands being a slight list to starboard
on the part of the Reardon nose, and a notch in Murphy's right ear. Mr.
Skinner had had a local jeweler prepare the presentation watches against
the day of the home-coming of the warriors of the Blue Star, and on
a Saturday night Cappy gave a banquet to Mike and Terence, and every
employee of the Ricks' interests who could possibly attend, was present
to do the doughty pair honor and cheer when the awards for valor were
duly made by Cappy and congratulatory speeches made by Mr. Skinner
and Matt Peasley. It was such a gala occasion that Cappy drank three
cocktails, battened down by a glass or two of champagne, and as a result
was ill for two days thereafter. When he recovered, he announced sadly
and solemnly that he was about to retire--forever; that nothing of
a business nature should ever be permitted to drag him back into the
harness again. Then he bade all of his employees a touching farewell,
packed his golf clubs, and disappeared in the general direction of
Southern California. He was away so long that eventually even the
skeptical Mr. Skinner commenced to wonder if, perchance, the age of
miracles had not yet passed and Cappy had really retired.

Alas! On the morning of December 24th, Cappy suddenly appeared at the
office, his kindly old countenance aglow like a sunrise on the Alps.
Immediately he cited Mr. Skinner to appear with the payrolls of all of
the Ricks enterprises and show what cause, if any, existed, why there
should not be a general whooping up of salaries to the deserving all
along the line. The Ricks Lumber & Logging Company had already declared
a Christmas dividend; the accounts of every ship in the Blue Star fleet
had been made up to date and a special Christmas dividend declared, and,
in accordance with ancient custom, Cappy had appeared to devote one
day in the year to actual labor. Christmas dividend checks and checks
covering Christmas presents to his employees were always signed by him;
it was his way of letting the recipients know that, although retired, he
still kept a wary eye on his affairs.

He had writer's cramp by the time he finished, but while the spending
frenzy was on him he would take no rest; so he seized a pencil and,
while Mr. Skinner called off the names of the deserving and the length
of time each had spent in the Ricks service, Cappy scrawled a five, a
ten or a twenty beside each name. Thus, in time, they came to the first
name on the Blue Star pay roll.

"Matthew Peasley, president; salary, ten thousand dollars a year; length
of service, four months," Mr. Skinner intoned. "How about a raise for
Captain Matt?"

Cappy laid down his pencil and looked at Skinner over the rims of his
spectacles.

"Skinner," he said gravely, "you're only drawing twelve thousand a year,
and you've been with me twenty-five years! And here I'm giving this boy
Matt ten thousand a year and he's been on the pay roll only four months.
Why, it isn't fair!"

"Remember, he was three years in the Blue Star ships that--"

"Can't consider that at all when raising salaries. The salaries of
ship's officers are fixed and immutable anyhow, and when considering
raises for my employees. I can take into consideration only the length
of time they've been directly under my eye. Cut Matt's salary to five
thousand a year and let him grow up with the business. His dividends
from his Ricks L. & L. and Blue Star stock will keep him going, and he
hasn't any household bills to keep up. He and Florry live with me, and
I'm the goat."

"I fear Matt will not take kindly to that program, Mr.
Ricks--particularly at this time, when every ship in the offshore fleet
is paying for herself every voyage."

"Why?" Cappy demanded.

"Well," Mr. Skinner replied hesitatingly, "perhaps I have no business to
tell you this, because the knowledge came to me quite by accident; but
the fact of the matter is, Matt is going to build himself an auxiliary
schooner--"

"Good news!" Cappy piped. "That's the ticket for soup! An auxiliary
schooner with semi-Diesel engines, four masts and about a million-foot
lumber capacity would be a mighty good investment right now. Every yard
in the country that builds steel vessels is filled up with orders, but
our coast shipyards can turn out wooden vessels in a hurry; and, with
auxiliary power, they'll pay five hundred per cent on their cost
before this flurry in shipping, due to the war, is over. I don't care,
Skinner--provided he builds a ship that's big enough to go foreign--"

"But this isn't that kind," Mr. Skinner interrupted.

"No other kind will do, Skinner."

"This is to be a schooner yacht--"

"A what!" Cappy shrilled.

"A yacht--eighty-five feet over all--"

"Eighty-five grandmothers! Why, what the devil does that boy want of a
yacht? How much money does he intend to put into her?"

"I do not know, Mr. Ricks; but we can be reasonably certain of one
thing; Matt Peasley will not build a cheap boat. She'll have a lot of
gewgaws and gadgets, teak rail, mahogany joiner-work--at the very least,
she'll cost him thirty thousand dollars."

"Skinner," Cappy declared solemnly, "he might as well put the money in
a sack, go down to Clay Street Wharf and throw the money overboard!
The other night I saw a couple of soldiers having a pleasant time in
a shooting gallery, but what the president of the Blue Star Navigation
Company wants with a thirty-thousand-dollar yacht beats my time. Why,
he has more than thirty good vessels to play with all week, and yet he
wants a yacht for Sunday! Skinner, my dear boy, that is wild, wanton
extravagance."

"Well, I dare say Matt thinks he can afford the extravagance."

"Skinner, no man can afford it. Extravagance may reach a point where it
becomes sinful. And I say it's a crime to put thirty thousand dollars
into a yacht when the same thirty thousand, invested in a good vessel,
will yield such tremendous returns. Skinner, my boy, how did you find
out about this yacht nonsense?"

"I was looking through Matt's desk for a letter I had given him to read,
and I ran across the plans. Thinking they were Blue Star plans, I looked
them over; there was a letter from the naval architect attached--"

Cappy threw down his pencil.

"By the Holy Pink-Toed Prophet," he cried in deep disgust, "I thought
I was going to have a Merry Christmas--and now it's spoiled! Good Lord,
Skinner! To think of a man throwing away thirty thousand dollars, not to
mention the upkeep and interest after he's thrown it away--"

"You've just this very day thrown away about thirty thousand dollars you
didn't have to," Mr. Skinner reminded him.

"I do have to. I've got to keep all my boys happy and satisfied and up
on their toes, or what the devil would happen to us? They're my partners
when all is said and done, and how am I going to face my Maker if I
don't give my partners a square deal? There's a vast difference between
justice and extravagance. Skinner, you don't suppose Matt's like every
other shellback of a skipper? Why, he's only twenty-five years old; and
if he's got the blue-water fever again, after a year ashore, there'll be
no standing him at thirty."

"Well, he's got it, sir," Mr. Skinner opined firmly. "Did you ever see
an old sailing skipper that didn't get it? You remember Burns, who had
the _Sweet Alferetta_? His father died and left him a million dollars,
and five years later he came sneaking in here one day, told you he was
tired clipping coupons and that if you wanted to save his life you'd
give him back the _Sweet Alferetta_ and a hundred dollars a month to
skipper her! He sold his interest to his successor for two thousand
dollars when he fell into the fortune--and five years later he bought it
back for three thousand, just so he could have a job again."

"Yes," Cappy admitted; "they all get the blue-water fever--after
they've left blue water. I never knew a sailor yet who wouldn't tell
you sailoring was a dog's life; but I never knew one who quit and quite
recovered from the hankering to go back. I think you're right, Skinner.
This yacht is just a symptom of Matt's disease. He realizes his business
interests tie him to the beach; but if he has a sailing yacht that he
can fuss round with on week-ends in the bay, and once in a while make a
little cruise to Puget Sound or the Gulf of Lower California, he figures
he'll manage to survive."

Mr. Skinner nodded.

"Speaking of yachts," Cappy continued, "the case of old Cap'n Cliff
Ashley suggests a cure for this boy Matt. Cap'n Cliff was a Gloucester
fisherman, with the smartest little schooner that ever came home from
the Grand Banks with halibut up to her hatches. He couldn't read or
write and he'd never learned navigation; but he'd been born with the
instincts of a homing pigeon, and somehow whenever he pointed his
schooner toward Gloucester he managed to arrive on schedule; and any
time he got a good fair breeze from the west, like as not he'd run over
to England and sell his catch there.

"Like most of his breed, Cap'n Cliff had to have a fast boat; he had to
keep her as immaculate as a yacht in order to be happy, and he was never
so happy as when he'd meet a squadron of the New York Yacht Club out
on a cruise and sail circles round the flagship with his little old
knockabout fish schooner. On such occasions old Cap'n Cliff would break
out a long red burgee with M.O.B.Y.C. in white letters on it. On one of
his trips to England he hooked up with a big schooner wearing the ensign
of the Royal Yacht Club and dassed 'em to race with him.

"Well, sir, it happened that the late King Edward was aboard his yacht
that day, and you know what a sport he was in his palmy days. Cap'n
Cliff cracked on everything he had in the way of plain sail and, after
holding the King even for a couple of hours, he put his packet under
gaff topsails and fisherman's staysail and broke out the balloon jib,
bade Edward good-bye in the International Code--and flew! About six
hours after Cap'n Cliff came to anchor, the King loafed up in his yacht,
dropped anchor, cleared away his launch, and came over to visit Cap'n
Cliff and shake hands with him.

"'My dear sir,' says Edward, pointing aloft to the red burgee with
M.O.B.Y.C. on it, 'pray to what yacht club do you belong?'

"'My own bloomin' yacht club, your majesty,' says Cap'n Cliff; and if he
hadn't been a Yankee fisherman the King would have knighted him on the
spot!

"And that remark, Skinner, my dear boy, clears the atmosphere in the
case of our own dear Matthew. He shall have his own blooming yacht club,
only his yacht shall carry cargo and pay her way."

"You mean--"

"I mean I'm going to send him to sea for one voyage, once a year,
which will break up that blue-water fever and save Matt thirty thousand
dollars as an initial investment, and about ten thousand a year upkeep
and interest. All that boy needs to cure him, Skinner, is the old
_Retriever_, totally surrounded by horizon and smelling of a combination
of tarred rope, turpentine, wet canvas, fresh paint, green lumber and
the stink of the bilge water. Lordy me, Skinner, it puts them to sleep
and they wake up feeling perfectly bully! Where's the _Retriever_ now,
Skinner, and who is in charge of her destinies?"

"She's due on Puget Sound from the West Coast. Captain Lib Curtis has
her."

"Good news! Well, now, Skinner, you listen to me: The minute he reports
his arrival you wire Lib to put the old harridan on dry dock and slick
her up until she looks like four aces and a king, with everybody in the
game standing pat. Can't have any whiskers on her bottom when Matt takes
her out, Skinner, because if the boy's to enjoy himself she's got to
be able to show a clean pair of heels. Then write Lib to wire his
resignation and give any old reason for it. Have him resign just before
the vessel is loaded and ready for sea, and tell him to insist on being
relieved immediately. Of course, Skinner, Matt will get busy right away,
looking for the right skipper to relieve Captain Curtis--and about that
time the president emeritus will shove in his oar and ball things up.
Every doggoned skipper Matt recommends for the job is going to have his
application vetoed by Alden P. Ricks, and--er--ahem! Harumph-h-h!"

"Yes, Mr. Ricks."

"And you stick by me, Skinner. Follow all my leads and don't trump any
of my aces; and just about the time Matt begins to get good and mad
at my doggoned interference--you know, Skinner, my boy, I'm only a
figurehead--you cut in and say: 'Well, for heaven's sake! You two still
squabbling over a skipper for the _Retriever?_ Matt, why don't you
save the demurrage and take her out yourself--eh?'" And Cappy winked
knowingly and prodded his general manager in the ribs.

"I guess that plan's kind of poor--eh, Skinner? I guess it won't
work--eh? Particularly when I come right back and say: 'Well, he might
as well, for all the use he is round this office. Here I go to work and
appoint him president of the Blue Star and he won't stay in the office
and'tend to the president's business. Yes, sir! Leaves all that to you
and me, Skinner, while he degrades himself doing the work of a port
captain.'"

"All of which is quite true, Mr. Ricks," Mr. Skinner affirmed. "He will
not stay in the office--and he's getting worse. Two-thirds of his time
is spent round the docks."

"Well, two-thirds of his time in 1915 will not be spent round the docks,
Skinner. Play that bet to win! We're going to have a busy old year
in the shipping game in 1915, and a busier one in 1916 if that war in
Europe isn't over by then. A voyage in the _Retriever_ will fix the boy
up, Skinner, and he'll stick round the office and put over some real
business. Yachts! Hah! What does a business man want of a yacht?"

"You overlooked one very important detail, Mr. Ricks," Skinner ventured.

"I overlook nothing, Skinner--nothing. His wife shall accompany him on
the voyage. I shall implant the idea in her head, beginning this very
night as soon as I get home. I'll just tell her she isn't and never will
be a true sailor's true love until she takes a voyage with her husband.
Romantic girl, Florry! She'll about eat that suggestion, feathers and
all, Skinner. She'll do the real work for us. Always remember, my boy,
that an ounce of promotion is worth enough perspiration to float the
_Narcissus_."

"But what shall we do for a port captain?"

"I've ordered Mike Murphy--via Matt, of course--to take a vacation
under full salary and recover from the wounds he received walloping
that German crew on the _Narcissus_. About the time Matt leaves in the
_Retriever_, Mike will be ready to go to work again or commit murder if
we don't give it to him; so we'll slip him a temporary appointment as
port captain. I'm going to make it permanent some day, anyhow. I suppose
you've noticed that Mike Murphy has a crush on your stenographer; and I
don't see how he's going to put anything over if he never gets a chance
to see the girl!"

"I really hadn't noticed it, Mr. Ricks."

"If it was a ten-cent piece you'd notice it," Cappy retorted. "And now
that matter is settled, how about this port steward? Is he a grafter? If
not, raise him five dollars a month. He's been with us only a year."

Late that afternoon, after Cappy had made the rounds of his office,
distributing his checks and wishing all hands the merriest of
Christmases, he paused at last at Mr. Skinner's desk and laid a
thousand-dollar check thereon.

"Not a peep out of you, Skinner--not a peep!" he cautioned his general
manager. "No thanks due me. You've earned it a thousand times over--and
then some. Hum-m! Ahem! Harumph-h-h! By the way, Skinner, my dear boy,
I forgot to mention to you another little idea that's in the back of my
head."

"You mean about sending Matt to sea for a voyage?"

"Exactly. The sea is a wonderful institution, Skinner--wonderful! It
promotes health and strength; and--er--damn it, Skinner, my dear boy,
have you ever observed that there isn't a married skipper in our employ
that hasn't been lucky? Many well-known authorities prescribe a sea
voyage--"

"What for, Mr. Ricks?"

Cappy thrust his thumb into Skinner's ribs, winked, bent low, and
whispered:

"Too slow, Skinner; too slow. I'm getting old, you know--I can't wait
for ever. And if the experiment succeeds--Skinner, my dear boy, you're
next! You've been married more than a year now--"

"I fail to comprehend--"

"Grandson!" Cappy whispered. "Grandson!"

"Oh!" said Mr. Skinner.



CHAPTER XXIV


One of the remarks most frequently heard on California Street was to
the effect that whenever Cappy Ricks girded up his loins and went after
something he generally got it. His scheme to get Matt Peasley to sea for
one voyage, accompanied by Florry, worked as smoothly as a piston; and
on the fifteenth of January the Peasleys went aboard the _Retriever_ at
Bellingham and towed out, bound for Manila with a cargo of fir lumber.
Matt made the run down in sixty-six days, a smart passage, waited a week
in Manila Bay before he could secure a berth and commence discharging,
discharged in a week, loaded a cargo of hemp, with a deckload of
hardwood logs, and was ready for the return trip to San Francisco on
April twenty-fourth, on which day he towed out past Corregidor.

His wife, however, was not with him on the return voyage. Following a
family conference, it was decided that Florry should return home on the
mail steamer--which action Cappy Ricks considered most significant when
Matt apprised him of it by cable, but failed to state a reason. The
president emeritus, immediately upon receipt of this information,
trotted into Mr. Skinner's office and laid Matt Peasley's cablegram on
the latter's desk.

"Well, Skinner, my dear boy," he piped, rubbing his hands together the
while, "what do you know about that?"

"Do you--er--suspect--er--something, Mr. Ricks?"

"Suspect? Not a bit of it. I know! Neither Florry nor Matt would dream
of permitting the other to come home alone if there wasn't a third party
to be considered. Paste that in your hat, Skinner. It isn't done."

Cappy was right, for the same steamer that bore his daughter home
carried also a brief letter from his son-in-law conveying the tidings
of great joy. The old man was so happy he went into Mr. Skinner's office
and struck his general manager a terrible blow between the shoulders,
after which he declared it was a shame that his years and reputation for
respectability denied him the privilege of chartering a seagoing hack
and painting the town red!

The _Retriever_ crept slowly up the China Sea on the first of the
southwest monsoon. At that period of the year, however, the monsoon
is weak and unsteady; and after clearing the northern end of Luzon the
_Retriever_ kicked round in a belt of light and baffling airs for a
week. Then the monsoon freshened somewhat and the _Retriever_ once
more rolled lazily away on her course, with young Matt Peasley humming
chanteys on her quarter-deck and pondering the mystery that confronts
all mankind in their first adventure in fatherhood. Would it be a boy or
a girl? He was expressing to himself for perhaps the thousandth time the
hope that it would be a boy, when from the poop he saw something he did
not relish.

It was the ship's cat coming across the deckload toward him, in
his yellow eyes a singularly pleased expression and in his mouth a
singularly large rat.

Matt Peasley stepped below, found an old glove and drew it over his
right hand, after which he returned to the quarter-deck.

"Come, Tommy!" he called; and pussy came, to be seized by the tail and,
still holding fast to his prey, cast overboard.

"It's bad luck to do that to a black cat, sir," the mate informed him.

Matt Peasley's eyes were blazing.

"And it's worse luck still for any mate aboard my ship who neglects to
put the rat-guards on the lines when the vessel is lying at the dock,"
he growled. "You lubberly idiot!"

"But I did put the rat-guards on the lines," the mate protested.

"Yes, I know you did; but I had to remind you of it," Matt replied. "You
didn't get them on in time--and now the Lord only knows how many rats
we have aboard. Ordinarily I don't mind rats, but an Oriental rat is
something to be afraid of."

"Why, sir?"

"Because they carry the germs of bubonic plague, you farmer!" And Matt
very carefully removed his glove and cast it overboard after the cat.
"And it's a cold day when you can't find an occasional case of plague
in the Orient. The cat caught the rat and mauled it round; hence the
cat had to go, because I never permit in my cabin a cat that has been on
intimate terms with an Oriental rat. And now I bet I know what's wrong
with that fo'castle hand that went into the sick bay the day before
yesterday. He complained of swelling in the glands of his neck and
groins."

The cook left the forward deckhouse and came aft over the deckload. At
the break of the poop he paused.

"Captain Peasley," he announced, "Lindstrom is dead."

"Tell everybody to keep away from him," Matt ordered. He turned to the
mate. "Mr. Matson," he announced, "the first duty of a murderer is to
get rid of the body. Go forward and throw Lindstrom's body overboard;
then stay forward. If you come aft until I send for you I'll blow your
brains out!"



CHAPTER XXV


When the _Retriever_ was out from Manila seventy days Cappy Ricks
remarked to Mr. Skinner that Matt would be breezing in most any day now.
On the eightieth day he remarked to Mr. Skinner that Matt was coming
home a deal slower than he had gone out. The efficient Skinner, however,
cited so many instances of longer passages from Manila to San Francisco
that Cappy was comforted, although he was not convinced. "You make me a
type-written list of all those vessels and their passages, Skinner," he
cautioned; "and when you can't think of any more authentic cases fake up
a few. Florry's beginning to worry. She knows now what it means to be
a sailor's wife, and if that doggoned Matt doesn't report soon 111 know
what it means to be a sailor's father-in-law. I wish to Jimminy I hadn't
sent Matt out with the _Retriever._"

Ninety days passed. Cappy commenced to fidget. A hundred days passed,
and Cappy visited the hydrographic office and spent a long time poring
over charts of the air currents in the China Sea, along the coast of
Asia and in the North Pacific.

"Skinner, my dear boy," he quavered when he returned to the office; "I'm
a most unhappy old man."

Mr. Skinner forgot for an instant that he was a business man and, with a
sudden, impulsive movement, he put his long, thin arm round the old man
and squeezed him.

"If you didn't think so much of him, sir," he comforted Cappy, "you'd
worry less. She really will not be overdue until she's out a hundred and
twenty days."

"Skinner," Cappy piped wearily, "don't try to deceive me. I've been
in the shipping game for forty-odd years, boy. I know it's about six
thousand miles from San Francisco to Manila, and if a vessel averages
ninety miles a day she's making a smart passage. Matt made it down in
sixty-six days, and he ought to come back in sixty, because he has fair
winds all the way. Skinner, the boy's a month overdue; and if he never
shows up--if he stays out much longer--Florry'll break her heart; and
my grandson--think of it, Skinner!--think of the prenatal effect on the
child! Oh, Skinner, my dear, dear boy, I want him big and light-hearted
and sunny-souled like Matt--and to think this is all my doing--my own
daughter! Oh! Oh, Skinner, my heart is breaking!"

Mr. Skinner fled to his own office and did something most
un-Skinner-like. He blinked away several large bright tears; and while
he was blinking them the telephone bell rang. Mechanically Mr. Skinner
answered. It was Jerry Dooley, in charge of the Merchants' Exchange.

"Mr. Skinner," said Jerry, "I've got some bad news for you."

"The-the-_Retriever_--" Skinner almost whispered.

"Yes, sir. I thought I'd tell you first, so you could break it to the
old man gently. The Grace liner _Ecudorian_ arrived at Victoria this
morning and reports speaking the _Retriever_ eight hundred miles off the
coast of Formosa. The vessel was under jib, lower topsail, foretopmast
staysail, mainsail and spanker. She was flying two flags--an inverted
ensign and the yellow quarantine flag. The _Ecudorian_ steamed close
alongside of her, to windward. Captain Peasley was at the wheel--"

"Thank God!" Mr. Skinner almost sobbed. "What was wrong with her, Jerry?
Hurry up, man! Hurry up! Tell me!"

"He was alone on the ship, Mr. Skinner. Bubonic plague! Killed the
entire crew! Matt was the only man immune, and he's sailing the
_Retriever_ home alone!"

Mr. Skinner groaned.

"Good gracious Providence! Why didn't the _Ecudorian_ take him off?"

"Credit them with offering it," Jerry replied. "He wouldn't come. He
declined to jeopardize the people aboard the steamer and he wouldn't
abandon the _Retriever_ with her full cargo; so what could they do? They
had to sail away without him."

Gently Mr. Skinner broke the news to Cappy Ricks; for, of course, the
United Press dispatches had carried it to the later afternoon editions
and it would be useless for Mr. Skinner to attempt to lie kindly. Cappy,
with bowed head, heard him through; when finally he looked up at Skinner
his eyes were dead.

"Quite what I expected of him, Skinner," he said dully. "And I'd rather
have him die than dog it! This report from the _Ecudorian_ helps some,
Skinner. It will do to keep hope alive in my Florry--and every two weeks
until the boy is born we'll--we'll--Oh, Skinner--"

"Yes, sir; I'll attend to it. Leave everything to me, Mr. Ricks. I'll
have wireless reports and telegrams and cablegrams from every port on
earth telling of ships having spoken the _Retriever_, with the skipper
well and hearty, and sending messages of good cheer to his wife."

"You--you won't be--er--stingy, Skinner? You'll send out the
_Tillicum_ to find him and tow him in, won't you? And you'll have real
telegrams--spend money, Skinner! I'll have to bring those messages home
to Florry--"

"Everything, Mr. Ricks. And I'll start right in by slipping fifty
dollars to each of the waterfront reporters on all the papers. They're
good boys, Mr. Ricks. I'll tell them why I have to have the service.
Mrs. Peasley must have our fake reports confirmed in the papers--"

"For work like that the marine reporters should have more money," Cappy
suggested wearily. His old hand reached out gropingly, closed over Mr.
Skinner's and held it a moment childishly. "You're a very great
comfort to me, Skinner--very great indeed! And you'll come home with me
to-night, won't you, Skinner? I'm a little afraid--I want you near me,
Skinner--in case I can't get away with it to Florry."

His dry, dead eyes studied the pattern in the office carpet.

"Two mates, a cook and ten A. B.'s!" he murmured presently. "One man,
even a Matt Peasley, cannot do the work of thirteen men. No, Skinner; it
isn't done. One man simply cannot sail a barkentine."

But Mr. Skinner was not listening. He was on the long-distance phone
calling the master of the _Tillicum_, just about finishing discharge of
a cargo of nitrate at San Pedro. And presently Cappy heard him speaking:

"Mr. Ricks, listen! Grant, of the _Tillicum_, says Matt would go up the
China Sea on the southwest monsoon... Yes, captain. You say--ah, yes;
quite so... Grant says he'd edge over until he got into the Japan
Stream, and that would add a knot or two an hour to his speed... Yes,
Grant. Speak up! ... Grant says, Mr. Ricks, that about the middle of
September or the first of October Matt would run out of the southwest
monsoon into the northeast monsoon--that's it, Grant, isn't it? He'd
get them about off Formosa, eh?... Yes, Grant. Then he'd run into the
prevailing westerly winds and run north on a great circle about five
hundred miles below the Aleutian Islands--I see, Grant. All right! Fill
your oil tanks and take an extra supply on deck, head into the North
Pacific... Yes; use your own judgment, of course. Mine's no good... Yes;
and bring a lot of disinfectants and a doctor, so it'll be safe to put
a few men aboard when you find her and put your hawser on her ... Yes,
Grant. If you find her you'll not have reason to regret it. Good-bye!
Good luck!"

"While the _Tillicum_ is on this wild-goose chase, Skinner," Cappy said
wearily, "she is chartered by the Blue Star Navigation Company to Alden
P. Ricks personally, at the prevailing rates. The stockholders mustn't
pay for my fancies, Skinner. You'll see to that, won't you?"



CHAPTER XXVI


_Excerpt from the log of Captain Matt Peasley relief skipper of the
American barkentine Retriever; Manila to San Francisco._

May Third.--Seaman Olaf Lindstrom died to-day, following an illness of
thirty-six hours. He was taken with chills and fever on the morning
of the second, complained of a severe headache and vomited repeatedly.
Removed him from the forecastle to a spare room in the forward house,
which on the _Retriever_ has always been used as a sick bay. While being
supported along the deck he collapsed, and when the mate undressed him
and put him to bed he complained of soreness in his groins. I examined
them and found them slightly swollen. Treated him for ague--calomel,
salts, quinine and whisky, and one-fortieth-grain strychnine hypodermic
solution to keep up his heart action when the fever registered one
hundred and four and higher. He grew steadily worse. Could not find
anything in my Home Book of Medicine that exactly described his
symptoms, and was at a loss to diagnose Lindstrom's case until I
discovered the ship's cat with a rat it had just killed.

There were no rats aboard the _Retriever_ when she left San Francisco.
I recalled that the first night we tied up to the dock in Manila a dirty
little China Coast tramp lay just ahead of us; and as I passed her on my
way uptown I saw a rat run down her gangplank. She had rat-guards on
her mooring lines. We had just tied up to the dock and I returned
immediately and instructed the mate to be sure to put the rat-guards on
our mooring lines, and not to use any sort of gangplank. When I returned
to the vessel later that night I found that the mate had neglected to
put on the rat-guards and logged him for it. Before we left the dock a
Chinaman died of bubonic plague aboard that tramp, and the port health
authorities put the vessel in quarantine immediately and prevented
further spread of the disease.

When I saw the ship's cat with a rat, therefore, I knew we had some of
that rotten China Coaster's plague rats aboard. Accordingly threw cat
and rat overboard just as the cook announced Lindstrom's death. Upon
looking up the information on plague, I am now convinced we have it
aboard--that Linstrom died of it. First Mate Olaf Matson wrapped
himself in my old bathrobe, gloved his hands and threw Lindstrom's body
overboard, following it with the gloves and bathrobe.

I am, in a measure, prepared for plague. When I learned we had lain
close to a vessel with a case of plague aboard I laid in some plague
medicine, on general principles and just to have an anchor out to
windward. At the English drug store on the Escolta I bought a tiny
bottle of Yersin's Antipest Serum and another of Haffkine's Prophylactic
Fluid. It was all they had on hand and it wasn't much; but--it is enough
to save me--and I intend to be saved if possible. I cannot afford to die
now. I do not know how old the Haffkine's Fluid is; and the older it is,
the longer it takes to render one immune. The antipest serum will render
me immune immediately, but the duration of the immunity thus granted
lasts, at the most, only fifteen days. I must, therefore, first take a
hypodermic injection of antipest serum to render me immune immediately
and the next day follow with an injection of Haffkine's Fluid, which
gives permanent immunity, but not for a week or longer when used alone.

There is this devilish thing about it to be considered, however: I may
at this moment be inoculated with plague, for the period of incubation
is from three to seven days--and I've fondled that cat every day since
we left Manila. If I am already infected and do not know it, and while
in that condition take an injection of the antipest serum, the book says
the serum will immediately bring on a fatal and virulent attack of the
plague! On the other hand, if I am not inoculated and take the antipest
serum I am safe.

The question before the house, therefore, is: Shall I take it or shall
I not? And if I do take it shall I be saving my life or committing
suicide? I am like the fellow in the story who was forced to drink from
one of two glasses of wine. He knew one of them contained poison, but
he didn't know which one it was! I shall make my will and flip a coin to
decide the issue.

May Fourth.--Two a.m. Mate reports another sick man in the forecastle.
Wish I had some formaldehyde gas. Have told mate to sprinkle chloride
of lime in Lindstrom's bunk and to dust the walls and floors of the
forecastle and sick bay with it. That is the only disinfectant I have
aboard in quantity.

At midnight I flipped the coin--heads I'd take it; tails I wouldn't. The
coin fell heads--and I took it.

Four a.m.--Mustered the crew and gave them a lecture on bubonic plague.
I have sufficient antipest serum for four men. After explaining that it
was Hobson's choice, I asked the men to draw matches, held in the hand
of the first mate, to see who should be the lucky ones. They all decided
to take a chance and go without it, with the exception of two seamen and
the mates, who, learning that I had taken it, decided to follow suit.
Accordingly I inoculated them with the antipest serum.

Five p.m.--Inoculated myself with Haffkine's Fluid.

Seven-thirty.--Seaman Ross died. Mr. Matson threw the body overboard. No
services.

Midnight.--Mr. Matson is down with it.

May Fifth.--Mr. Matson very ill and delirious. Cook moping round like
a drunken man; complains of severe headache. Wind blowing lightly from
south-west. Everything set. Inoculated second mate and the two seamen
with Haffkine's.

May Sixth.--Mr. Matson died at noon today. Cook down with it; also
another seaman, and Mr. Eccles, the second mate. Have altered ship's
course and am running for Hongkong. Winds light and baffling. Have not
made thirty miles today. Calm at midnight. Mr. Eccles died just as the
watches were being changed. I now feel that I have escaped; so examined
Mr. Eccles' body. He went so fast I am curious. No swelling of the
glands at all. Am inclined to think his was pneumonic or septicaemic.
Threw him overboard myself.

May Seventh.--Light and baffling airs all day; monsoon blowing in weak
puffs. Another seaman ill. So ends this day.

May Eighth.--Cook died at noon. No buboes on him either. He turned
kind of black. I was chief undertaker. No airs to speak of. Ship barely
making steerage way. So ends this day.

May Ninth.--Seaman Peterson died early this morning. Do not know exact
hour. Found him dead in his berth. Another funeral; no services. Monsoon
freshening. Made forty-eight miles today. Two more seamen on sick
report; and, to add to my worries, they are the very two I inoculated
with the antipest serum and Haffkine's. Is this stuff worthless?

May Tenth.--Seamen Halloran and Kaiser died within an hour of each other
this evening--Halloran at nine-thirty and Kaiser at ten-eighteen. Put
both bodies overboard immediately.

I have four seamen left, and am doing the cooking, navigating, nursing
and undertaking. Wind freshening hourly. Made seventy-two miles today.
Glad Florry and Cappy Ricks cannot see me now, although, for some fool
reason, I have a notion I shall see them again. If I were going to get
plague it would have developed before now. I feel quite safe, but most
unhappy and worried.

Midnight.--Seaman Anderson down with it. Jumped overboard to save me the
bother of throwing him overboard about the day after to-morrow, which
is a courtesy I did not expect of Anderson. I am obliged to him. I am
exhausted and so are my three remaining seamen. We cannot handle the
canvas now, so have taken in the foresail, royals, and topgallant sails,
hauled down the flying jib and got the gaff topsail off her, leaving
her under the jib, fore-topmast staysail, upper and lower fore-topsails,
main-topmast staysail, mainsail and spanker. Hove her to and turned in.

May Eleventh.--After a horrible breakfast, which I cooked, got under way
again. Monsoon blowing nicely, but under the small amount of canvas I
am forced to carry cannot make more than six miles an hour. Have decided
not to run to Hongkong. If I am to lose my three remaining seamen I
shall have lost them long before I sight land, and the tug or steamer
that hooks on to me off Hongkong will stick me with a terrific salvage
bill. If I'm going to be stuck I prefer to be stuck closer to home, and
if I manage to keep these three men the four of us can sail her home.
I'll take a chance and run up the coast of Asia with the Japan Stream
until I reach the northeast monsoon. I'm certain to be spoken and can
send word to Florry. In a pinch, at this season of the year, I can sail
her home alone.

May Fifteenth.--I am alone on the ship. Into the Japan Stream, monsoon
blowing the sweetest it ever blew. Lucky thing for me I had the
forethought to trim her down; otherwise I should have had to cut away a
lot of canvas. And how Cappy Ricks would scream at the sail bill later
on! We were hove to overnight when Borden and Jacobsen died, on the
thirteenth. McBain complained of a headache and vertigo on the morning
of the fourteenth; so I laid to until he died, last night. I was not
with him when he passed. What good would it have done? I had breakfast;
and after breakfast I found him in his berth, dead. I tossed him
overboard, and every last rag of clothing, dunnage and blankets aboard,
with the exception of those in my own cabin. Then I burned sulphur in
the fore-castle, the galley, the cook's room and the stateroom formerly
occupied by the mates, closed the doors, and hoped for the best. Slept a
lot that day and night; and at eight this morning slacked off my spanker
and main sheets, checked in my foreyard and topsail by taking the the
braces to the donkey engine, and was off for home.

Have established my commissary in the lee of the wheel box. Set up a
small kerosene stove I found in the storeroom, and get along nicely. It
is quite an art to fry eggs with one hand and steady the wheel with the
other, but I managed it three times today. To-morrow I will cook enough
at breakfast to last me for luncheon and supper; hence will only have to
heat some coffee.

Logged fifty-one miles by eight o'clock; then lashed the wheel and let
her take care of herself while I got steam up in the donkey and hauled
in my spanker and mainsail; then I slacked off my foreyard and topsail
yards, hove her to on the port tack, hung three red lights on the
forestay to show she wasn't under command, set my alarm clock and turned
in. I have to smile at the ease with which one man--provided he is a
sizable man and able to stand strain--can sail a barkentine before the
wind in fair weather. I am not worried. I am not going to have bubonic
plague. It is horribly lonely, but I am due for fair winds--and I should
worry.

Even if I should get a blow and have to take the lower topsail off her,
I can lower the yard by the topsail halyards until it rests on the cap;
then I'll skip aloft and run a knife along the head of the topsail and
let it whip to glory. After that it may blow and be damned! All the
clothes the old girl is wearing now will never take the sticks out of
her. I've trimmed her down to jib, lower topsail, fore-topmast staysail,
mainsail and spanker. Wish I dared carry the foresail. However, I
must play safe. It is awful, though, to be in a ship as fast as the
_Retriever_ and have to crawl the way I'm crawling. Crawl all day and
sleep all night! Well, sometimes I can crawl all day and night and sleep
half a day. We shall see. I used to be able to stand considerable before
I hit the beach and got soft. The necessity for firing the donkey every
night would soon exhaust my fuel supply; but I have a deck-load of
hardwood logs! [Illustration: (_Excerpt from the log of Cap't Matt
Peasley_) "I am alone on the ship--all the rest are now dead"--]



CHAPTER XXVII


Four months had passed since the _Ecudorian_ had spoken Matt Peasley
off the coast of Formosa; during that period no further news had been
received in Cappy Ricks' office, although the diligent Skinner, aided
and abetted by the waterfront reporters, managed to have a piece of
cheering information for Florry about every two weeks. And, in order
to forestall any possibility of some garrulous girl friend, with a
male relative in the shipping business, "spilling the beans," as Cappy
expressed it, the old man had taken a house in the country, and came
to the office only twice a week to mourn for his lost Matthew and glean
what little comfort he could from the empty words of hope Mr. Skinner
dispensed so lavishly.

"If we can only keep Florry buoyed up with hope until the baby comes!"
Cappy would groan. "She's worried; but, strange to say, Skinner, she
hasn't the slightest idea he's in any danger. Those fake cablegrams and
reports of ships speaking Matt--each time closer to home--have done
the trick, Skinner. Of course the boy's dead, and I killed him; but
Florry--well, she took a trip on the _Retriever_ and knows how safe she
is, and I've had a lot of old sailing skippers down to visit me,
and primed them to tell her just how they would get away with such a
proposition as Matt's--and how easy it would be. Besides, she knows Matt
had some plague prophylactic aboard--"

"Yes; and I've told her she mustn't show the white feather--for your
sake," Mr. Skinner interrupted; "and I think she's sensible enough to
know she mustn't permit herself to show it--for the baby's sake."

Cappy bowed his head and shook like a hooked fish.

"When the baby's two weeks old I'll tell her," he moaned. "Oh, Skinner,
Skinner, my dear boy, this is going to kill me! I won't last long now,
Skinner. All my fault! I had to go butting in. That girl's heart is
breaking with anxiety. When she comes down to breakfast, Skinner, I can
see she's been crying all night."

"Horrible!" Mr. Skinner murmured. "Horrible! We can only hope."

On the twelfth of September Florry's baby was born. It was a boy, and
a bouncing boy at that; and Cappy Ricks forgot for the moment he had
rendered that baby fatherless, and came up to the city to report the
news to Skinner.

"Well, Skinner, my dear boy," he announced with just a touch of his
old-time jauntiness, "little Matthew just arrived! Everything lovely."

Mr. Skinner was about to formulate suitable phrases of congratulation
when the telephone bell rang. It was Jerry Dooley up at the Merchants'
Exchange; and he was all excitement.

"Hey, Skinner," he cried. "The _Retriever_ is passing in!"

"No!" Mr. Skinner shrieked. "It isn't possible!"

"It is! She's coming in the Gate now--she's right under the lookout's
telescope; and there's only one man on deck--"

Mr. Skinner turned to Cappy Ricks, put his arms round him and jerked the
old man from one end of the office to the other.

"He's safe, he's safe, he's safe, he's safe!" he howled indecorously.
"Matt's sailing her in. He's sailing her in--"

"You scoundrel!" Cappy shrilled. "Be quiet! Is she sailing in or
towing--"

"She's sailing in."

Cappy Ricks slumped down in his chair, his arms hanging weakly at his
sides.

"Yes, Skinner," he barely whispered, "Matt's alive, after all. Nobody
else would have the consummate crust to sail her in but him. Any other
skipper under heaven would have hove to off the lightship and sent in
word by the pilot boat to send out a tug. Oh, Lord, I thank Thee! I'm a
wicked, foolish, bone-headed old man; but Lord, I do thank Thee--I do,
indeed!"

Half an hour later Cappy Ricks and Mr. Skinner, in a fast motorboat,
came flying up the bay and caught sight of the _Retriever_ loafing
lazily past Fort Mason. On she came, with a tiny bone in her teeth; and
suddenly, as Cappy peered ahead through the spray that flew in over
the bows of the launch and drenched him to the skin, the _Retriever's_
mainsail was lowered rapidly. The vessel was falling off by the time the
mainsail was down and Cappy and Mr. Skinner saw Matt run aft, steady
the wheel and bring the vessel up on the wind again. She was now under
spanker and the headsails. Matt lashed the wheel and again ran forward,
pausing at the main-topmast-staysail halyards to cast them off and
permit the sail to come down by the run.

On to the topgallant forecastle Matt Peasley leaped, praising his Maker
for patent anchors on the _Retriever_. With a hammer he knocked out the
stopper; the starboard anchor dropped and the red rust flew from her
hawsepipe as the anchor chain screamed through it. With his hand on
the compressor of the windlass, Matt Peasley snubbed her gently to the
forty-five fathom shackle, cast off his jib halyards to let the jib
slide down the stay by its own weight, raced aft, and gently lowered
the spanker as the American barkentine _Retriever_, with the yellow flag
flying at the fore, swung gently to anchor on the quarantine grounds,
two hundred and twenty-one days from Manila.

Cappy Ricks turned to his general manager.

"Pretty work, Skinner!" he said huskily. "I guess there's nothing wrong
with that boy's health. Damn! The quarantine boat will beat us to it!
Matt's throwing the Jacob's ladder over the side for them."

"We can't board her until she passes quarantine--" Mr. Skinner began;
but Cappy silenced him with a terrible look.

"The word can't, Skinner, was eliminated from my vocabulary some fifty
years ago. We can--and I will! You needn't; but I've simply got to! Hey,
you!"--to the launchman--"kick her wide open and show some speed."

Despite the warning cries from the quarantine officers in the health
boat, the launch ran in along the _Retriever's_ side; Cappy Ricks
grasped the Jacob's ladder as the launch rasped by and climbed up with
an agility that caused Mr. Skinner to marvel. As his silk hat appeared
over the _Retriever's_ rail a wind-bitten, bewhiskered, gaunt,
hungry-looking semi-savage reached down, grasped him under the arms,
snaked him inboard and hugged him to his heart.

Silence for a minute, while Cappy Ricks' thin old shoulders shook and
heaved as from some internal spasm, and Matt Peasley's big brown hand
patted Cappy's back. Presently he said:

"Well, father-in-law--"

From somewhere in Matt Peasley's whiskers Cappy's voice came
plaintively:

"Not father-in-law, sonny. New title--this morning--six
o'clock--nine--pounds--grandfather! Eh? Yes; grandfather! Grandpa
Ricks!"

"Boy or girl?" Matt Peasley roared, and shook the newly-elected
grandfather.

"Boy! Florry--fine--never lost hope!"

A port health officer came over the rail. He shook an admonitory finger
at Cappy Ricks.

"Hey, you! Old man, you're under arrest--that is, you're in quarantine,
and you'll have to stay aboard this ship until she's fumigated. Yes; and
we'll fumigate you, too. Whadje mean by coming aboard ahead of us?"

"Cappy," Matt Peasley said, "tell that person to go chase himself! Why,
there hasn't been any plague aboard the ship in nearly five months!"

Cappy looked up and wiped the tears of joy out of his whiskers.

"Scoundrel!" he cackled. "Infernal young scoundrel! What do you mean by
risking my _Retriever_, sailing her through the Gate with a crew of one
man?"

"Take a look at me!" Matt laughed. "I'm all hands! And didn't I prove
I'm enough men to handle her? The pilots wouldn't board me, and by
sailing her in myself I saved pilotage and salvage claims. I lost the
lower topsail and the consignees are going to find a shortage in those
hardwood logs; but that's all--except that I haven't had a decent meal
in God knows when. Say, Cappy, what does he look like? A Peasley or a
Ricks?"

"Both," Cappy chirped diplomatically. "Matt, are you all over the
blue-water fever?"

"You bet!" he declared. "No more relief jobs for me. I've had plenty,
although it might have been worse. It was lonely and sometimes I thought
I was going crazy. Used to talk out loud to myself! I had some awful
weather; but I just tucked her head under her wing and let her roll,
and after I ran into the northeast monsoon, and later into the westerly
winds, I had it easier and got more rest. You know, Cappy, when a
ship is sailing on the wind, if you lash her helm a little bit below
amidships she'll steer herself. Slow work, but--I got here; and, now
that I'm here, I'm going to stay here.

"Of course, Cappy," he added, "I've just got to have something with
sails to play with; but no more offshore sailing in mine--that is--well,
I'm going to stay home for a long time--after a while, maybe--and
meantime I'm going to build a little schooner yacht--"

"For the love of Mike, do!" Cappy pleaded. "I'll be stuck in quarantine
with you for a couple of days and we'll kill time drawing up a rough
set of plans. And when that schooner yacht is ready, Matt, I'll tell you
what I want you to do."

"What, Cappy?"

"Send the bill to grandpa, Matthew!"

"If I hadn't been a case-hardened old fool I'd have cheered you on when
you wanted to build that schooner yacht last year. I'd have saved myself
a world of grief."

He placed his hand gently on Matt's shoulder and his face was ineffably
sad as he continued: "Of course, with you away and your fate undecided,
as it were, Matt, that infernal Skinner wasn't worth two hoots in a
hollow. Why, the boy flopped around the office like a rooster with its
head off, and as a result I've had to come out of my retirement and keep
an eye on things. Thank God, I can let go now. Really, Matt, you have
no idea how I long to separate myself from the hurly-burly of California
street. What I want is peace and seclusion--"

"You can have my share of that commodity for the remainder of my natural
life," Matt laughed happily, "I want noise and people. I want screaming
and yelling and fighting and risks and profits and losses and liars and
scoundrels and honest men all inextricably mixed." He tossed his great
sun-tanned arms above his head. "Lord, I want Life," he half shouted.

Cappy sighed. These young pups! When they grow to see life as old dogs--

"Well, Matt, all I've got to say is that the first man that butts into
my private office and starts unloading a cargo of grief on me, is going
to get busted between the eyes with a paper weight. I'm through with
grief and woe. I don't give a hoot what happens to the world or anybody
in it. I want peace and a rest. I can afford it and wouldn't I be a
first-class idiot not to take it while the taking is good, Matt?"

"No more mixing in the shipping end, eh?" Matt asked hopefully.

Cappy raised his right hand solemnly. "Never again, Matt. I'm through
with ships and sailors and cargoes and the whole cussed Blue Star fleet
can sink and be damned to it, but I'll not lift a hand to save it. I'm
THROUGH."



CHAPTER XXVIII


ALAS! Man proposes, but God disposes. Cappy had smoked his post-prandial
cigar next day and was in the midst of his mid-afternoon siesta, when
the buzzer on his desk waked him with its insistent buzzing. He reached
for the telephone.

"My dear," he reproved his private exchange operator, "how often have I
told you not to disturb me between two and three o'clock?"

"I knew you wouldn't mind being disturbed this afternoon, Mr. Ricks.
Your old friend Mr. Gurney, of New York, is calling."

"Old Joe Gurney? By the Holy Pink-Toed Prophet! Show him in." Cappy
was at the door to meet his visitor when the latter entered. Mr Joseph
Gurney, senior partner of the firm of Gurney & Harlan, was, like Cappy
Ricks, a shiping man and a Down-Easter. He and Cappy Ricks had been a
boyhood friends in Thomaston, Main, and Gurney & Harlan were the agents
and controlling owners of the Red Funnel line plying between New York
and ports on the West Coast.

"Well, Joe, you doddering old pirate?" cried Cappy Ricks affectionately.
"Come in and rest your hands and feet. I'm tremendously glad to see you.
When did you drift into down?"

He shook hands with Gurney and steered him toward a chair.

"Ten minutes ago, Alden, my boy. Delighted to see you again, and
particularly pleased to see how carelessly you carry your years. I'm
three months younger than you--and I feel like the last rose of summer."

"You look it, Joe. Take a leaf out of my book and let the young fellows
'tend to business for you. Don't let worry ride over you in the shank
of your old age, my boy. I never do. Haven't paid a bit of attention to
business in the last ten years, and that's why at my age I'm looking so
fit."

"You'll live to be a hundred, Alden."

Cappy smiled.

"Well," he declared, "I'm going to live while I have the time. I never
expect to be a walking corpse just stalling round in an effort to defer
settlement with the undertaker, and I won't be a dead one until the
neighbors hear a quartet singing Lead Kindly Light out at my house--Joe
you look worried. Anything gone wrong with you, old friend? Need some
money? Have you married a young wife?"

"It's Joey," Gurney confessed miserably.

"What? My godson, little Joey Gurney?"

"He's big Joey Gurney now."

"Yes, and a fine boy, Joe--no thanks to you. His mother's influence
was strong enough to counteract any impulses for crime he might have
inherited from his father."

Gurney smiled sadly at Cappy Ricks' badinage.

"He is a fine boy, Alden, but--he's only a boy, and I'm afraid he's
going to make hash of his young life before it's fairly started."

"Booze?"

"No."

"Well, then where did he first meet this woman?"

Joe Gurney, Senior, hitched his chair close to his friend's and laid an
impressive hand on Cappy's knee.

"Alden," he said feelingly, "you and I have been friends, man and boy,
for about sixty-five years. I believe we were five years old when we
robbed Deacon Follansbee's beehive and got stung to death."

"Yes, and we've both been getting stung more or less ever since,
only somehow we still manage to recover and be none the worse for the
experience. At least, Joe, we learned about bees. When it comes to boys,
however, I've still got my experience coming. My little chap died when
he was twelve, you know. I've never quite gotten over his loss; in fact,
Joe, I was dreaming of him a minute ago when you called."

"You had him long enough, Alden, to realize how I feel about Joey."

Cappy nodded. "Let's see," he answered, reflectively pulling his
whiskers, "Joey must be about twenty-four years old now, isn't he?"

"Twenty-four last Tuesday; and at twenty-five he comes into his mother's
fortune. I've managed his little nest egg pretty well, Alden; invested
it all in the vessel property of Gurney & Harlan, and since the war
started I've swelled what originally was a quarter of a million to
about a million and a half. His stock in the Red Funnel Line is worth a
million at the very least, and the remaining half million is represented
by cold cash in bank and bonds that can be converted into cash
overnight.

"Hum-m-m! Harumph-h-h! Quite a fortune for a youth of a twenty-five to
be intrusted with. I'll bet somebody will take it away from him before
he's thirty."

"That's a safe bet, Alden. He has a candidate for his money on his trail
right now."

"And he doesn't realize it?"

"Alden, he's only twenty-four years old. What does a boy know at
twenty-four?"

"Well, Joe, you and I had accumulated a heap of experience and hard
knocks at that age, and I seem to remember we each had a little money
we'd managed to save here and there. I don't agree with you at all
on this twenty-four-year-old excuse. My son-in-law, Matt Peasley--you
remember the Peasleys of Thomaston; Matt's a nephew of Ethan, who was
lost off the main yard of the _Martha Peasley_--was holding a master's
ticket for sail, any ocean and any tonnage, before he was twenty-one.
He's not much older than your Joey right now, but, nevertheless, he's
president of the Blue Star Navigation Company and worth a million and a
half, every dollar of which he has made by his own energy and ability."

"Well, of course, Alden, there are exceptions to every rule."

"Not if you raise 'em right and you've got the right kind of stock to
work on and the boy is healthy and normal. Now I know your Joey comes
from the right stock; I know his mother raised him right until he was
sixteen when the good Lord took her away from you both; and I know he is
healthy and normal. Hasn't he proved that by falling in love? The only
conclusion I can draw, therefore, is that you've made a monkey out of
him, Joe Gurney."

"Perhaps I have, Alden; perhaps I have," Gurney replied sadly.

"No 'perhaps' about it. I know you have. You sent him to college and
gave him ten thousand dollars a year to spend. If you wanted to give
him a fine education and turn out a man and a gentleman you might have
gotten him into the Naval Academy at Annapolis, where he would have
learned something of ships and graduated with a master's ticket; after
serving a few years and getting the corners knocked off him he could
have resigned and you would have had a sane, dependable man to sit in at
your desk when you're gone. By the Holy Pink-Toed Prophet, Joe Gurney,
you make me sick! You're like every other damphool American father who
accumulates a few million dollars in excess of his legitimate needs and
then gets all puffed up with the notion he's got to give his son all the
so-called advantages his own parents were too poor to afford him--or too
sensible. The result is you turn out an undeveloped or over-developed
boob, too proud to work and not able to take a real man's place in the
world because he hasn't been taught how. And in the course of time he
marries a female boob who has been raised according to the same general
specifications, and nine times out of ten she's too refined to be
bothered with a family. And presently there's a trip out to Reno and the
little squib in the paper and--er--ahem! Drat your picture, Joe, you're
the responsible party. You created a ten-thousand-dollar-a-year parasite
on the body politic while your boy was still in his teens, and now you
want to know what the devil to do about it, don't you?"

"That's exactly what I want to know, Alden," Gurney confessed miserably,
"and I've crossed the continent to get your advice. I haven't very many
real friends--the kind I can open my heart to--"

"Tut, tut, Joe. Enough of vain repining. Now then, old friend, let's get
to the bottom of this thing and see if we can't buy this wreck in from
the underwriters, salvage it and put it in commission again. Never
say die, Joe! Where there's a will there's a lawsuit or a
heartache--particularly if the estate makes it worth while. Now then,
Joe, you must realize that it's the fashion nowadays, when a fellow has
to consult a specialist, to give his personal and family history
for three generations back before receiving treatment. So if I am to
diagnose Joey's case I'll have to have a history of Joey. Now then! He
graduated from college at the age of twenty-two did he not?"

"He didn't graduate, Alden. He was requested to leave."

"Hum-m-m! I didn't know that. What for?"

"General uselessness and animal spirits, I suppose. It wasn't anything
dishonorable. The main contributory cause was an alleged poem lampooning
some individual they called Prexy."

"Hum-m-m! And since leaving college what has he done?"

"I've had him in my office."

"Joe, answer my question. I know you've had him in your office. But what
has he done? Has he earned his salary?"

"I'm afraid he hasn't, Alden. Somehow golf and tennis and week-end
parties and yachting and big-game hunting in Alaska and tarpon fishing
in Florida sort of interfere with business."

"Well, that isn't much of a crime, Joe. I never had time to do those
highly enjoyable things and I couldn't afford them. When I could afford
them and had time to do them I was too old. You say the boy is fond of
yachting?"

"It's his greatest hobby. In his taste for salt water he at least
resembles his ancestors. The Gurneys were all sailors and shipping men."

"Is he a good yachtsman, Joe?"

"He has a schooner that's a hundred and six feet over all and he seems
to win pretty regularly with her. I never knew him to get worse than
second place in all the races he has entered."

"Too bad," Cappy Ricks murmured sadly. "A noble ambition absolutely
misdirected. He would have been a skipper and, lastly, a good shipping
man if you had only managed him like a sensible father should. Now about
this girl he's in love with?"

"That happened about three months ago. He met her at one of those
roof-garden, midnight cabaret, turkey-trot palaces in New York--"

"Yes, I know. I always take in the sights when I go to New York, but
the last time I was at that one up near Fifty-fourth Street the noise
bothered me. And the show was very poor; in fact, after seeing it I made
up my mind I was off cabaret stuff for keeps."

"You ancient scalawag! What were you doing in a place like that?"

"Seeing life as it ought not to be, of course. Your boy Joey took me up
there, by the way. In-fer-nal young scoundrel! He showed me the town and
we had quite a time together."

Joe Gurney's old eyes popped with amazement.

"You went batting round with my Joey--an old ruin like you?"

"Why not? We behaved ourselves, and besides I always trot a heat with
the young fellows whenever I get a chance. It keeps me young. I
enjoyed Joey a heap, although I could see he was a jolly young jackass.
Moreover, I'm his godfather, and I guess it was all right for me to tag
along and see to it that my godson didn't get into deep water close to
the shore, wasn't it? Don't you ever step out with Joey and get your
nose wet?"

"Certainly not!"

Cappy Ricks smiled wistfully.

"If I had a son I'd pal up with him," he declared. "I'd want to get out
with him and raise a little dignified hell once in a while, just to be a
human being and keep him from being a mollycoddle. Ahem! Harumph. So he
flagged this damsel in the leg show, eh?"

Joe Gurney nodded miserably.

"Have you given her the once over?" Cappy demanded.

"Yes, I went up there one night. I was afraid somebody would see me, so
I took along Joey's aunt, Matilda. We saw the young woman. She does a
dance specialty--an alleged Hawaiian hula-hula. It's fake from start to
finish."

"You show a guilty technical knowledge of the hula, Joe," Cappy reminded
him. "But passing that, what's the latest report on the situation?"

"Horrible, Alden, horrible!" replied Joe Gurney.

"Careful, Joe, careful! Many a wheat-straw skirt and sharks'-teeth
necklace may conceal a pure and honest heart."

"Well, she's been married twice and divorced once, to begin with, and--"

"That's a-plenty, Joe."

"And she has just completed her contract in the show and gone out to
Reno to acquire a six months' residence in order to get rid of husband
number two so she can take on Joey."

"Who told you all this?"

"I found it out--by asking."

"Have you told Joey?"

"No."

"Does he know it?"

Gurney nodded.

"I had one of his young friends, whom I can trust, tip him off in
confidence. The news didn't make any difference to Joey. He asked her
about it, and she explained it all away to his entire satisfaction."

"I dare say. And you haven't given any indication to your son that
you're on to him and his love affair?"

"I thought best to pretend ignorance, pending my arrival at a solution
of the difficulty."

"Therein you showed a gleam of real intelligence. Having humored your
boy all his life you could not expect to cross him in his first love
affair and get away with it. No, sir-ree! The thing to do is to put the
skids under Joey and his lady love before they know you know it. Tell me
more about her, however, before I begin making skids and skid grease."

"She is thirty-one years old--"

Cappy Ricks threw up both hands.

"Farewell, O my countrymen!" he murmured.

"She has two children--one by her first husband and one by her second.
They're living with her mother. She supports them from the proceeds of
her hula dancing."

"Score a white mark for her, Joe. Is she a good looker?"

"A brunette, Alden, and Joey's Aunt Matilda admitted against her will
that she was a beauty. My lawyer tells me, however, that she hasn't an
ounce of brains, and proclaims the fact by laughing loudly when there is
nothing particularly worth laughing at."

"I imagine you've had a detective agency investigating her."

"I have. She has little education and no refinement; her people are very
ordinary. Her father is a whitewing in Philadelphia and is separated
from her mother, who keeps a boarding house in Muncie, Indiana."

"I'm afraid, Joe, she won't do for your daughter-in-law," Cappy Ricks
opined slowly. "But don't worry, my boy. You've come all the way from
New York to confide in me and get my advice, and somehow I have a
sneaking notion you've come to the right shop. If there's anybody
calculated to put a crimp in love's young dream, I'm that individual."

"I knew Joey and you were good friends, and besides, you're his
godfather. He thinks a lot of you, Alden, and I kind of thought maybe
you might come East with me, see the boy, get him to confide in you
and--er--sort of advise him in the way he should go. I'm--er--well,
Alden, I'm afraid I feel too badly about this to talk to Joey. I might
lose my temper, and besides--besides, he's all I have and he reminds me
so much of his mother that I--"

"Yes, yes, I understand, Joe. Leave it to me and I'll advise with him.
Yes, I will--with an ax handle! And I'll go East with you and tie knots
in his tail--only he won't know anything about it. It may cost you a
little money, but I assume expense is no object."

"It would be cheap at a million."

"Where that boy and your money are concerned you're such an ass, Joe,
I'm almost tempted to charge you a million extra for the operation.
However, considering Deacon Follansbee's beehive, and Joey's mother and
my godson--"

Old Joe Gurney took Cappy Ricks' hand in both of his, that trembled so
with age and anxiety.

"Dear old Alden," he declared. "I knew you wouldn't fail me."



CHAPTER XXIX


For a long time after old Joe Gurney had terminated his visit Cappy
Ricks sat in the position which with him always denoted intense mental
concentration. He had sunk low in his swivel chair and swung his old
legs to the top of his desk; his head was bowed on his breast and his
eyes were closed.

Suddenly he started as if snake-bitten, sat up at his desk and reached
for the telephone.

"Get me the West Coast Trading Company," he ordered the private exchange
operator, "and tell Mr. J. Augustus Redell I want to speak to him."

Redell answered presently.

"Gus, my dear young friend," Cappy began briskly, "I want you to do me a
favor, and in so doing I think you'll find you are going to perform one
for yourself also."

"Good news, Cappy. Consider it done."

"Thank you, my boy, but this particular favor isn't done quite so
quickly. I want you to tell that Peruvian partner of yours, Live
Wire Luiz Almeida to dig up a specification for a cargo of fir to be
discharged on lighters at some open roadstead on the West Coast, and the
more open the port and the more difficult it is to discharge there;
and the harder it is to get any sane shipowner to charter a vessel to
deliver a cargo there, the better I'll be pleased. Surely, Gus, you must
have a customer down on the West Coast in some such port as I describe,
who is actually watering at the mouth for a cargo of lumber and is
unable to place it with a mill that will guarantee delivery? Look into
the matter, Augustus, and see what you can do for me."

"Do you want to furnish such a cargo from one of the Ricks Lumber &
Logging Company's northern mills and freight it in one of your Blue Star
Navigation Company vessels?"

"No, I don't want to do it," Cappy replied; "but in this particular case
the acceptance of such a cargo and the freighting of it via a Blue Star
windjammer, even though the usual demurrage at such discharging ports
will cause the vessel a loss, is a consummation devoutly to be wished.
Ordinarily, if you made such a proposition to me I'd call in the boys
from the general office and tell them to throw you out, but--well, in
this case I'm willing to stand the loss, Augustus."

"Yes, you are--not. Somebody else will recompense you for any loss, Cappy
Ricks, never fear. Do you want the West Coast Trading Company to give
you a bonus for accepting our order?"

"No, my boy. I'll make Skinner sell you the lumber at the regular base
price at the mill, plus insurance and freight to point of discharge. And
I won't stick you too deep on the freight, even in wartime."

"There's something wrong with you this morning, Cappy," Redell declared,
highly mystified. "You're too obliging. However, I'm not to be outgamed.
I have a specification for a cargo of half a million feet for delivery
at Sobre Vista, Peru; I've been trying for a month to place the order
and nobody will accept it because nobody wants to guarantee delivery. On
the other hand, the purchasers have been unable to get any ship owner
to charter them a vessel to go to Sobre Vista without a guaranty of a
perfectly prohibitive rate of demurrage per diem; consequently I had
just about abandoned my efforts to place the order."

"Fine business, Gus. And is Sobre Vista a rotten port at which to
discharge?"

"It's vile, Cappy. It's an open roadstead and the vessel lies off-shore
and discharges into lighters. About four days a week the surf is so high
the lighters cannot lie alongside the ship or be run up on the beach
without being ruined, and to complicate the situation they only have
two or three lighters at the port. Labor is scarce, too, and the few
_cargadores_ a skipper can hire have a habit of working two days and
staying drunk for the remainder of the week on the proceeds of those two
days of labor. So you can see for yourself that discharge in Sobre Vista
is very hard on the skipper's nerves, and that if he can work two days
a week he's in luck. And when we deduct from those two days all the
national holidays and holy days and saints' feast days that have to be
duly celebrated, not to mention the three hundred and sixty-five days in
the year the populace doesn't feel like exerting itself--well, Cappy,
I couldn't give you anything worse than Sobre Vista if you paid me for
it."

"May the good Lord bless you, Augustus! Come down and do business with
Skinner on the cargo. Get him to quote you a price f.o.b. ship's tackles
at the mill dock and tell him you'll furnish the tonnage when the cargo
is ready for delivery. There's no sense in worrying poor Skinner until
his worries are due, and when I send a Blue Star schooner to load your
cargo for Sobre Vista I'm going to have to fight him and my son-in-law,
Matt Peasley. But leave it to me, Gus. I'll guarantee the tonnage."

"This is certainly wonderful," the grateful Redell observed. "Thank you,
Cappy. What I'll do to those Peruvian customers of mine on price will be
a shame and a disgrace. Are you going to stick me for any demurrage on
the vessel, Cappy? Because if you are, I'll have to stick my customers
in order to get out clean."

"No demurrage, Gus, not a penny."

"Bully! Then I'll stick my customers anyhow. It makes the profit all the
greater, and since they expect to pay a reasonable demurrage I see no
reason why I should disappoint them."

When Redell had hung up Cappy summoned into his presence Captain Matt
Peasley.

"Matt," he queried, "what schooners have you got due at any one of our
northern mills within the next thirty days?"

Matt Peasley pondered and counted on his big fingers. "The _Tyee_ will
be in from Valparaiso about that time," he answered.

"Have you got her chartered?"

"Oh, no. We're using her in our own trade. Skinner will have a cargo
ready for her by the time she gets back, although we don't know yet
where we will send her."

"Well, Matt, you tell Skinner he can't have her and to look around for
some other vessel to take her place. I may give her to him at the last
minute, but then again I may not. When she arrives at the mill, Matthew,
my boy, tie her up to the mill dock to await my pleasure."

"Why, what the devil are you going to do with the _Tyee?_" Matt
demanded, astounded beyond measure.

"I might want to take a cruise for my health and use the _Tyee_ as a
pleasure boat," Cappy answered enigmatically. "They tell me she's as
fast as a yacht in a breeze of wind."

"The longer I'm acquainted with you, father-in-law," Matt Peasley
declared, "the less I know you. You can have your _Tyee_, but for every
day she is held awaiting your pleasure your personal account will be
charged with something in three figures. I'll figure out her average
profit per day for the last five voyages and soak you accordingly."

"Fair enough," quoth Cappy Ricks.



CHAPTER XXX


Three weeks later Alden P. Ricks arrived in New York. After he had been
driven to his hotel and had removed the stains of travel he telephoned
the office of Gurney & Harlan and got Gurney, Senior, on the line.

"Well, I'm here, Joe," he announced. "Have you followed my instructions
and cut Joey off at the pockets?"

"I have, Alden. He's rather desperate as a result, and has been
trying to borrow money by hypothecating the inheritance due him on his
twenty-fifth birthday. You see, I didn't give him a second's notice;
just told him he was spending too much time in play and too much money
for pleasure, and that until he came into his private fortune he would
have to earn any money he desired to spend. I have been very firm."

"That's the stuff, Joe. And is he trying to earn it?"

"Yes, I think so. He's sticking round the office at any rate."

"Hum-m-m! That's because it costs money to go anywhere else. Has
he succeeded in raising a loan by assigning an interest in his
inheritance?"

"No, not yet. I blocked him at all the banks and with my old friends,
and I do not think he can borrow as much as he needs from any of his
friends. They, like him of course, are dependent on their fathers'
generosity."

"Fine way to raise a boy! Bully. Well, I'll be down to your office in
about an hour and take you and Joey to luncheon at India House. You
haven't forgotten what I wrote you, Joe? You know your part, don't you?
. . . Well, see that you play your hand well and we'll save that boy
yet."

Two hours later the Gurneys were lunching with Cappy Ricks at the one
New York club to which Cappy belonged--quaint old India House in
Hanover Square, haunt of shipping men and shippers, perhaps the best and
least-known club in New York City. Joey had been unaffectedly glad to
see his godfather; so much so, indeed, that Cappy rightly guessed Joey
had designs on the Ricks pocketbook; for after all, as Cappy admitted
to himself, he is a curmudgeon of a godfather indeed who will refuse to
loan his godson a much needed twenty-five thousand dollars on gilt-edged
security. In expectation of an application for a loan before the day
should be done, however, Cappy was careful not to be alone with Joey
for an instant, for something told him that only the presence of Gurney,
Senior, kept Gurney Junior from promptly putting his fortune to the
touch.

"Well, Joey, you young cut-up," Cappy began as the trio settled in the
smoking room and the waiter brought the coffee and cigars, "I see you're
getting to be quite an amateur sailor. Your Dad tells me you won your
last race with that schooner yacht of yours in rather pretty fashion."

"It was a bully race, Mr. Ricks. I wish you could have been aboard with
me," Joey declared enthusiastically.

"Hum-m-m! Catch me on a yacht!" Cappy's tones were indicative of
profound disgust.

"Ricks, you're a kill-joy," old Gurney struck in. "All you think of
is making money, and you've made so much of it I should think the game
would have palled on you long ago. I tell Joey to go it while he's
young--while he has the capacity for enjoyment."

"Joe, I tell you now, as I've told you before, you're spoiling this boy.
When he's twenty-five years old he comes into a fortune and you're
not even preparing him for the task of handling that money wisely. You
bought Joey that schooner yacht, didn't you?"

"I bought her cheap," old Joe Gurney protested lamely.

"They cost a fortune to maintain, Joe. Now if Joey wanted some
salt-water experience you should have sent him to sea as quartermaster
on one of your own Red Funnel liners; presently he would have worked up
to second mate; then first mate, and finally skipper. By that time he
would have known the salt-water end of his father's business, after
which he could sit in at a desk and learn the business end. Somehow,
Joe, when I see a shipping man's son fooling away his time on a pleasure
yacht instead of learning the shipping business, I feel as if I'd just
taken a dose of ipecac."

"Godfather is out of sorts," Joey soliloquized sagely, and resolved to
wait a day or two before broaching the subject of a loan. Cappy Ricks
surveyed the young fellow severely.

"Joey," he began, "I've no doubt you're quite a sailor on your handsome
yacht, in your yachting uniform, with all the real head work to be done
by your sailing master--"

"Not a bit of it," Joey protested. "I'm not that kind of a yachtsman.
I'm the captain tight and the midshipmite, and the crew take orders from
me, because I don't employ a sailing master."

"Do you mean to tell me that when you go on a cruise to the West Indies
you navigate the yacht yourself--lay out your own courses and work out
your own position?"

Joey smiled patronizingly.

"Certainly," he replied. "That's easy."

"Sure. Play is always easy. But let me tell you, young man, if you had
command of a big three-legged windjammer, with a deckload of heavy green
lumber fresh from the saws, and ran into a stiff sou'-easter such as we
have out on the Pacific coast, you'd know what real sailoring is like."

"Joey could handle her like that," old Gurney declared with pride, and
snapped his fingers.

"Could you, Joey?" Cappy Ricks demanded. "I have my doubts."

"Why, I think so, Mr. Ricks. I might be a little cautious at first--"

"Well, I don't think you could," Cappy interrupted.

"Well, I do," old Gurney declared with some warmth. "I've been out with
Joey on his yacht and I know what the boy can do."

"Bah! You're a doddering old softy, Joe. Yachting is one thing and
sailoring is another. I have an old lumber hooker on Gray's Harbor now,
loading for a port in Peru, and I'd certainly love to see Joey with her
on his hands. I'll bet fifty thousand dollars he couldn't sail her down
to Sobre Vista, discharge her and sail back inside of six months." The
old schemer chuckled. "Lordy me," he continued, "I'd like to see Joey
trying to make her point up into the wind! She'd break his heart."

"Look here, Alden," Old Joe Gurney commenced to bristle. "Are you
serious about that or are you just making conversation bets? Because if
you're serious I'm just shipping man enough to call you for the sheer
sporting joy of it."

"By the Holy Pink-Toed Prophet, you're on!" Cappy Ricks almost yelled.
"Put up or shut up--that is, provided Joey is as big a sport as his
father and will undertake to sail my schooner _Tyee_ to Sobre Vista and
back."

"Oh, she's a schooner!" There was relief in Joey's voice. "Why, I'll
sail any vessel with a fore-and-aft rig. I thought perhaps you were
trying to ring in a square-rigger on me, and I'm not familiar with them.
But a schooner--pooh! Pie for little Joey!"

"She's got three legs, and with a deck-load of lumber she's cranky and
topheavy. I'm warning you, Joey. Remember he is a poor ship owner who
doesn't know his own ship."

Joey got up and went to a map laid out on a table, with a piece of plate
glass over it, to compute the sailing distance from Gray's Harbor to
Sobre Vista. He could not find Sobre Vista on the map.

"Figure the distance to Mollendo and you'll be close enough for all
practical purposes," Cappy called to him, and winked at the boy's
father. "A little pep, here, boy," he whispered to Gurney, "and we'll
snare him yet."

Joey came back from his study of the map.

"I'd have the nor'west trades clear to the Line," he remarked to his
father. "After that I'd be liable to bang round for a couple of weeks in
the doldrums, but in spite of that--did you say I couldn't do it in six
months, Mr. Ricks?"

"That's what I said, Joey."

"Take the bet, dad," said Joey quietly, "and I'll take half of it
off your hands. I'll give you my note, secured by an assignment of a
twenty-five-thousand-dollar interest in mother's estate to secure you in
case Mr. Ricks should win and call you for his winnings--but he hasn't a
chance in the world."

"Money talks," Cappy Ricks warned him and got out his check book. "Joe,
I'll make a check in your favor for fifty thousand dollars and you make
one in my favor for the same amount. We will then deposit both checks
with the secretary of the club, who will act as stakeholder--"

"'Nuff said, Alden P. Ricks. I accept the dare. Sonny, if you're a worse
sailor-man than you appear to be, you're liable to cost your father a
sizable wad. However, I can't resist this opportunity to put a nick in
the Ricks bank roll." Gurney snickered. "Alden," he declared, "you'll
bleed for a month of Sundays. Really, this is too easy! For old sake's
sake, I'll give you a chance to withdraw before it is too late."

"Let the tail go with the hide, Joe. I don't often bet, but when I
do I'm no piker. Joey, there's just one little condition I'm going to
exact, however. I'm going to send one of my own skippers along with
you on the _Tyee_, because your license as master only permits you to
skipper pleasure boats up to a hundred tons net register; so in order to
comply with the law I'll have to have a sure-enough skipper aboard the
_Tyee_. But he shall have orders from me to be nothing but a companion
to you, Joey. Once the tugboat casts you off, you are to be in supreme
command until you voluntarily relinquish your authority, when of course
he will take the ship off your hands. Any relinquishment of authority,
however, will be tantamount to failure, and you will, of course, lose
your twenty-five thousand."

"That's a reasonable stipulation, godfather. I accept if father
does--that is, provided dad lets me in on half the bet."

"Better let the young feller in, Joe," Cappy suggested. "If you don't he
might throw the race."

"Well, I don't like to encourage the habit of betting, least of all with
my own son, but in view of the fact that this is a friendly little bet
and--er--well, you can have half, Joey."

"Thank you, sir," said Joey. "Mr. Ricks, when do I start?"

Cappy Ricks glanced at his watch.

"The sooner the better," he replied. "The _Tyee_ is loading now, but
I'll wire them you're coming and to hold her for you. You have time to
arrange your affairs, pack a trunk and catch the Lake Shore Limited for
Chicago at five o'clock. From Chicago you take the--"

"Never mind. I know the quickest route. Dad, I'll need some money before
I go."

"How much, son?"

"Oh, a couple of thousand, just to play safe. And I'll have to leave you
a batch of bills to settle for me."

"All right, son, I'll settle them. Here's your two thousand. You can pay
me back out of your winnings on the voyage. And never mind about your
note or the assignment of an interest in your inheritance. If I cannot
take my own son's word of honor I don't deserve a son. Just take care
of yourself, Joey, because if anything should happen to you it would go
rather hard with your old man."

He wrote Joey a check for two thousand dollars and took an affectionate
farewell of his son.

"Now listen to me, my dear young Hotspur," Cappy Ricks commanded him
as he shook Joey's hand in farewell. "The schooner's name is _Tyee_ and
you'll find her at the Ricks Lumber & Logging Company's mill dock in
Aberdeen, on Gray's Harbor, Washington. And don't be afraid of her. She
was built to weather anything. The skipper's name is Mike Murphy, and if
you can't get along with Mike and learn to love him before you're in the
ship a week, there's something wrong with you, Joey. Just don't start
anything with Mike though, because he always finishes strong, and
whatever he does is always right--with me. When you get out there he'll
show you the orders I will have telegraphed him and you have my word
of honor, boy, that there'll be no double-crossing and no interference
unless you request it."

"Right-o!" cried Joey, and was off to earn twenty-five thousand dollars
of the easiest money he had ever heard of.

"Like spearing a fish in a bathtub," murmured Cappy Ricks dreamily, and
tore up the fifty-thousand-dollar check he had just written. "Joe, if
your boy is such easy game for a pair of old duffers like us, just think
what soft picking he must have been for that nimble-footed lady with the
raven hair, the pearly teeth and the eyes that won't behave!"

"But she's coarse and brainless, Alden. I can't imagine a boy like my
Joey falling in love with a woman like that. He ought to know better.
Just remember how he was raised."

"Fooey! Joey isn't in love. He only thinks he is, and the reason he
thinks it is because she has told him so a hundred times. Can't you just
see her looking up at Joey with her startled-fawn eyes and saying: 'Oh,
you do love me, don't you, Joey?' As if the fact that Joey loved her
constituted the eighth wonder of the world! And she's probably told Joey
she'll die if he ever ceases to love her; and he's kind and obliging and
wouldn't hurt a fly if he could avoid it. Why, Joe, you old idiot, you
mustn't feel that Joey has disgraced himself. Isn't he planning to marry
the woman? Only a decent man--a born idealist--could hold that designing
woman in such reverence. Blamed if it isn't kind of sweet of the boy,
although I _would_ love to give him a kick that would jar all his
relations--including his father!"

Old Joe Gurney gazed at Cappy in admiration.

"Alden," he declared, "you have a singularly acute knowledge of women."

"I employ about fifteen of 'em round my office; I had several narrow
escapes in my youth; I have had a sweet and wonderful wife--and I have a
replica of her in my daughter. And I do know young men, for I have been
young myself; and I know old fools like you, Joe, because I've never had
a son to make an old fool of myself over."

"Well, now that you've hooked Joey for a six months' voyage, what's next
on the program?" Gurney asked after a brief silence.

Cappy smiled--a prescient little smile.

"Why, I'm going to pull off a wedding," he declared. "I'm going to marry
Joey to the sweetest, nicest, healthiest, prettiest, brainiest
little lady of twenty summers that ever threatened to put the Ricks
organization on the toboggan. She's my private secretary and I've got
to get rid of her or some of the young fellows in our office will be
killing each other."

"Here, here, Alden, my boy, go slow! I ought to be consulted in this
matter. Who is this young lady and what are her antecedents?"

"Say, who's running this layout?" Cappy demanded. "Didn't you come to me
squealing for help? Joe, take a back seat and let me try my hand without
any advice from you. The girl's name is Doris Kenyon and she's an
orphan. Her father used to be the general manager of my redwood mill on
Humboldt Bay, and her mother was a girlhood friend of my late wife's; so
naturally I've established a sort of protectorate over her. She has
to work for a living, and any time there's a potentially fine,
two-million-dollar husband like Joey lying round loose I like to see
some deserving working girl land the cuss. As a matter of fact, it's
almost a crime to steer her against Joey in his present state. But,"
Cappy added, "I have a notion that before Joey gets rid of that
hula-hula girl he's going to be a sadder, wiser and poorer young man
than he is at present."

"Your plan, then, is to give Joey six months away from his captor in
order that he may forget her?"

"Exactly. Absence makes the heart grow colder in cases like the one
under discussion, and the sea is a great place for a fellow to do some
quiet, sane, uninterrupted thinking. The sea, at night particularly, is
productive of much introspection and speculation on the various aspects
of life, and in order to make Joey forget this vampire in a hurry all
that is necessary is to have a real woman round him for a while. The
first thing he knows he'll be making comparisons and the contrast will
appall him."

"You don't mean--"

"You bet I do. Joey's future wife accompanies him on the voyage, and
my bully port captain, Mike Murphy, and his amiable sister go along to
chaperone the party and make up a foursome at bridge. I've had a naval
architect at work on the old cabin of the _Tyee_, putting in some extra
staterooms, bathrooms, and so on, and in order to make a space for the
passengers I subsidized the two squarehead mates into berthing with the
crew in the fo'-castle. Doris always did want to take a voyage in one of
the Blue Star windjammers, and I had promised to send her at the first
convenient opportunity."

"You deep-dyed, nefarious old villain!"

"Old Cupid Ricks, eh? Well, it's lots of fun, Joe, this butting in on
love's young dream. And I'm just so constituted I've got to run other
people's affairs for them or I wouldn't be happy. I do think, however,
that this house party on the old _Tyee_ is about the slickest deal I
have ever put over. Joe, they're going to be right comfortable. I've
shipped a maid for the girls, and the cook this time is several degrees
superior to the average maritime specimen, for there's nothing like
a couple of days of bum cooking to upset tempers--and I'm taking no
chances. Also, just before I left I gave your future daughter-in-law her
quarterly dividend--you see, when her father died I had to sort of look
after the family, and I ran a bluff that Kenyon had some Ricks Lumber &
Logging Company stock--you know, Joe. Proud stuff! I had to hornswoggle
them. Well, as I say, I gave her the money, and my girl Florry went
shopping with her. Sports clothes? Wow! Wow! White skirts, blue jersey,
little sailor hat--man--oh, man, the stage is set to the last detail!
I even had them ship a piano. Doris plays the guitar and has a pleasing
voice, and just for good measure I threw in a crackajack cabinet
phonograph and a hundred records with enough sentimental drip to sink
the schooner."

Joe Gurney stared at his old friend rather helplessly and shook his
head. Such finesse was beyond his comprehension.

"You see, now," Cappy continued, "the wisdom of my course? I insisted
that you cut off Joey's allowance and get him hungry for money. You
did--and he got hungry. He would have been posted at his clubs in thirty
days; it is probable he owed a few bets here and there; his tailor may
have needed money. Consequently, by the time I arrived on the scene
he was ripe for any legitimate enterprise that would bring him in the
needful funds; we arranged the enterprise and he promptly smothered
it. Right off, Joe, your son said to himself: 'It will be almost a year
before I come into my inheritance, and in the interim I'm going to get
married, and a married man who lives on the scale my wife will expect
me to assume is going to need a lot more money than a clerkship in his
father's shipping office will bring him. Now, there's Tootsy-Wootsy
out in Reno with a five months' sentence staring her in the eye before
she'll be free to marry me, and I can't very well go out to Reno to
visit her without running the risk of incurring my father's displeasure
or the tongue of gossip. Consequently, I have five months' time to kill,
also, and how better can I kill it than by a jolly sea voyage in a bally
old lumber hooker? I can easily win twenty-five thousand dollars from my
godfather, and that twenty-five thousand will carry us along until dad
turns over my mother's estate to me. Fine business! I'll go to it.' And,
Joe, he's done gone! Of course I'm going to win his twenty-five thousand
bet because he doesn't know what it means to discharge a vessel in Sobre
Vista, and Mike Murphy has orders from me to hire all the available
stevedores there to do something else while Joey is trying to hire them
to discharge the _Tyee_. Don't worry, Joe! The country is safe in the
capable hands of Mike Murphy."

"I see. And the twenty-five thousand dollars you will win from Joey--"

"Will reimburse me for the extraordinary expense I've been to in saving
your son. If Joey's end of the bet doesn't cover I'll nick you, Joseph,
although I figure Joey's end of it will pay the fiddler. He won't
miss it out of his two millions. Besides, I've noticed that the only
experience worth while is the kind you pay real money for--and Joey has
to buy his experience the same as the rest of us."

Five days later Cappy Ricks dropped into the Red Funnel Line and laid a
telegram on old Joe Gurney's desk.

"Read that," he commanded, "and see if you can't work up a couple of
cheers."

Gurney read:

"Aberdeen, Wash., June 3, 1916

"Alden P. Ricks

"Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York

"Joey arrived bung up and bilge free. Had loaded and hauled into stream,
waiting for him. Came out in launch, climbed Jacob's ladder and stood
on rail, sizing up ship. Saw Doris and almost fell face down on deck. He
says Doris is a dream, she says Joey is a dear. Take it from me, boss,
it is all over but the wedding bells.

"M. CUPID MURPHY."

Old Joe Gurney took Cappy Ricks' hand in both of his and shook it
heartily.

"My worries are over, Alden," he declared. "You have, indeed, been my
friend in need."

"My troubles and Joey's are just commencing, however," Cappy retorted
blithely. "However--'never trouble trouble until trouble troubles
you' is my motto. Where's that hundred-and-six-foot schooner yacht of
Joey's?"

"She's at her moorings in Greenpoint Basin. Why?"

"I want to borrow her for a cruise to San Francisco, via the Panama
Canal. Joey and his bride can sail her back. May I have her, to do what
I please with, Joe?"

"Alden, don't ask foolish questions. Take her and God bless you! Joey
owns her, but I pay the bills; so her skipper takes orders from me."

Two days later Joey's schooner _Seafarer_ was standing out to sea past
Sandy Hook, but Cappy Ricks was not aboard her, for that ingenious
schemer had boarded a train and gone back to San Francisco and his
lumber and ships.



CHAPTER XXXI


Cappy Ricks' meditations were interrupted by a knock at the door of his
private office.

"Come in," he piped, and his son-in-law, Captain Matt Peasley, stuck his
head in.

"The _Tyee_ is sailing in, Cappy," he announced. "The Merchants'
Exchange has just telephoned."

"It's an infernal lie," Cappy shrilled excitedly. "It can't be the
_Tyee_. If it is, she's two months ahead of her schedule, and by the
Holy Pink-Toed Prophet, I fixed up that schedule myself."

Matt Peasley grinned.

"Perhaps Joey didn't like your schedule and re-arranged it to suit
himself," he suggested.

"Impossible! That infernal young scoundrel put it over me? Preposterous!
Why, Mike Murphy was on the job. Get out, Matt, and don't come in here
again today throwing scares into the old man."

Nevertheless, Cappy's confidence in human nature was badly jarred when
Captain Michael J. Murphy was announced two hours later. Indeed Cappy
could scarcely credit his sense of sight when the redoubtable Michael
entered the room. He glared at the worthy fellow over the rims of his
spectacles for fully a minute while Murphy stood fidgeting just inside
the doorway.

"Well," said the Blue Star despot presently, "all I've got to say to
you, Mike Murphy, is that you're certainly a hell of a seaman to stand
idly by and see that young Joey do me up like this. Give an account of
yourself!"

"They're engaged," Murphy protested valiantly.

"That's my work, Mike, not yours. Don't take any credit that isn't
coming to you. I want a report on your end of this deal. How does it
happen that this boy harpoons me for twenty-five thousand dollars?
Have the _cargadores_ at Sobre Vista gone on the water wagon? Did Joey
out-bid you for their services? Have they added a lot more lighters to
their lighterage fleet? Has the surf quit rolling in on the beach? Have
the inhabitants of Sobre Vista been converted to the Mohammedan faith
and declined to celebrate saints' days and holy days? Is there smallpox
in the town, that the quietus has been put on fiestas and fandangoes,
and has Peru been annexed by Chile and the celebration of the national
holidays forbidden?"

"No, Mr. Ricks. It's the same old _manana_ burg. The trouble was that
Joey is a better sailorman than he appeared to be. He cracked on all the
way down and made a smashing voyage, and, of course, as soon as we got
there he went ashore. Two other schooners were there ahead of us. One
was loading general cargo and the other was discharging it, and when
Joey heard they had been there a month he investigated conditions and
saw where you had him. Mr. Ricks, he came back as mad as a hatter. Of
course I saw he would have to wait until the other schooners were out of
the way before he could begin discharging, because they had first call
on the lighters; so in view of the situation and the fact that Miss
Murphy and Doris were a bit tired of the ship and wanted to go ashore
and see the back country, I organized a trip for them."

"You left Joey aboard the Tyee, of course."

"Yes, sir. And there's where I made my fatal break. The minute my back
was turned the son of a pirate got busy. It appears there was a six-inch
waste pipe leading from the crew's lavatory out under the stern of the
ship, and this pipe had rusted away and broken off at the flange just
inside the skin of the ship sometime during the vessel's previous
voyage. Of course it happened while she was homeward bound in ballast,
and was standing so high out of the water that this vent where the pipe
was broken was above the waterline; consequently not enough of a leak
developed to be noticeable. At the mill dock, however, after we got
her under-deck cargo aboard, the vessel had settled until this vent was
under water, and immediately she developed a mysterious leak. In fact,
due to the enormous pressure, the water came in faster than the pumps
could handle it. Fortunately, however, we discovered where the leak was,
though it was then too late to mend it. To do so we would have had to
take out the under-deck cargo again. So I just whittled out a six-inch
wooden plug, fastened it to the end of the boat hook, ran it down the
narrow space through which the broken pipe led, found the vent, hammered
the plug home, stopped the leak, pumped out the well, finished taking on
cargo and sailed for Sobre Vista."

"A small leak will sink a great ship," Cappy Ricks murmured. "I think I
anticipate the blow-off, Mike; but proceed."

"Unfortunately for us that cargo of lumber we had was for the Peruvian
government. They were going to use it in the construction of barracks
or a new customhouse or something--and Joey knew this. And he knew about
that plug. So the minute my back was turned he pulled out the plug
and the water came in and trickled all through the cargo and the ship
commenced to settle. But Joey didn't care. He knew a little salt water
couldn't hurt the lumber. When the top of the _Tyee's_ rail was flush
with the water he plugged the hole again, got his crew busy with the
pumps, and by judiciously plugging and unplugging that leak he kept the
crew pumping all day and all night without raising the vessel an inch,
and the people ashore could see the streams of water cascading overside
and the crew pumping like mad. And presently Joey gave up, went ashore,
sought the captain of the port and put up a hard luck story about a leak
in his ship--a leak he couldn't find anywhere--a leak that was getting
away from him, because his men were too exhausted to do any more
pumping. And he said his ship would get water-logged and settle until
the surf began to break over her. And presently the deck lashings would
part under the battering of the surf and the deck load would go by the
board. Half of it would drift out to sea, and the other half would pound
on the beach and get filled with sand, which would dull the saws and
planes of the carpenters when they came to cut it up. Also, the ship's
cabin would be sure to go, and unless he had help he would have to
abandon the vessel and she would lie there, submerged, at anchor, a
menace to the navigation of the port."

"The scoundrel! The in-fer-nal young scoundrel!" cried Cappy Ricks.

"Well, he got away with it, sir. Remember our cargo was for the Peruvian
government and they'd had the devil's own time getting it; consequently
they couldn't afford to lose any part of it and have their anchorage
ground menaced by a derelict. So the captain of the port took it up
with the commandant of the local garrison, and the commandant, as Joey
expressed it, heard the Macedonian cry and got busy. He commandeered all
the lighters the other schooners were using; the soldiers rounded up the
_cargadores_ at the point of the bayonet, and they started discharging
the American schooner _Tyee_, with the spiggoty soldiers swelling
Joey's crew at the pumps and Joey doing business with that wooden plug
according to the requirements. Fortunately there weren't any surf days
that week, and the way the cargo poured out of the _Tyee_ was a shame
and a disgrace. And when it was all out Joey plugged the leak again,
pumped out the ship, and wired me at Mollendo to hurry back with the
ladies or he'd sail without me. So you can see for yourself, Mr. Ricks,
it was a hard hand to beat. And his luck held. He cracked on all the way
home and, as you know, sir, the _Tyee_ is fast in a breeze of wind, and
you told me not to interfere unless he asked me to."

Despite his disappointment Cappy Ricks lay back in his chair and laughed
until he wept.

"Oh, Mike," he declared, "it's worth twenty-five thousand dollars
to know a boy who can pull one like that. What do you think of him,
anyhow?"

"He'll do. His father has spoiled him, but not altogether. I think a
heap of him, sir. Remember I've been shipmates with him a trifle over
four months, and that's a pretty good test."

"Very well, Mike. I forgive you, my boy. I hope Miss Murphy enjoyed the
trip. Tell her--"

The door opened and Joey Gurney, accompanied by Miss Doris Kenyon
entered unannounced.

"Hello, godfather," yelled Joey joyously. He jerked the old man out of
his chair and hugged him. "I'm back with your schooner, sir. She was
easy to navigate, but that was a cold deck you handed me in Sobre
Vista--"

"Glad to see you, Joey, glad to see you," Cappy interrupted. "Ah, and
here's my little secretary again. Miss Kenyon, this is a pleasure--"

"Mr. Ricks," Joey interrupted him, "the lady's name is no longer Miss
Kenyon. She is now Mrs. Joseph K. Gurney, Junior. The minute we got
ashore at Meiggs' wharf and could shake the Murphys, who stood out till
the last for a church wedding, we chartered a taxicab, went up to the
City Hall, procured a license, rounded up a preacher--and got married.
What do you know about that?"

"You're as fast as a second-story worker, Joey. I shall kiss the bride."
And Cappy did. Then he sat down and stared at the fruit of his cunning
labors.

"Well, well, well!" cried Joey. "Kick in, godfather, kick in. You owe
me twenty-five thousand dollars, and if I'm going to support a wife I'll
need it."

Cappy summoned Mr. Skinner, who felicitated the happy pair and departed
pursuant to Cappy's order, to make out a check for Joey.

"And now," said Cappy, as he handed the groom his winnings, "you get
out of here with your bride, Joey, and I'll telephone Florry and we'll
organize a wedding supper. And to-morrow morning, Joey, I'd like to see
you at ten o'clock, if you can manage to be here."

Joey promised, and hastened away with his bride.



CHAPTER XXXII


True to his word he presented himself in Cappy's lair promptly at ten
next morning. The old gentleman was sitting rigidly erect on the extreme
edge of his chair; in his hand he held a typewritten statement with a
column of figures on it, and he eyed Joey very appraisingly over the
rims of his spectacles.

"My boy," he said solemnly, "sit down. I'm awfully glad you cabled that
hula-hula girl of yours in Reno that the stuff was all off."

Joey's mouth flew open.

"Why--why, how did you know?" he gasped.

"I know everything, Joey. I'm that kind of an old man."

Joey paled.

"Oh, Mr. Ricks," he pleaded, "for heaven's sake don't let a whisper of
that affair reach my wife." He wrung his hands. "I told her she was the
only girl I had ever loved--that I'd never been engaged before--that
I--oh, godfather, if she ever discovers I've lied to her--"

"She'll not discover it. Compose yourself, Joey. I've seen to all that.
I knew you'd give Doris the same old song and dance; everybody's doing
it, you know, so I took pains to see to it that you'll never have to eat
your words."

"I must have been crazy to engage myself to that woman," Joey wailed.
"I don't know why I did it--I don't know how it happened--Oh, Mr. Ricks,
please believe me!"

"I do, Joey, I do. I understand perfectly, because at the tender age of
twenty-four I proposed marriage to a snake-charmer lady in the old Eden
Musee. She was forty years old if she was a day, but she carried her
years well and hid the wrinkles with putty, or something. Barring a
slight hare-lip, she was a fairly handsome woman--in the dark." He
reached into a compartment of his desk and drew forth a package of
letters tied with red ribbon. "You can have these, Joey," he announced;
"only I shouldn't advise keeping them where your wife may find them.
They are your letters to your Honolulu lady."

Joey let out a bleat of pure ecstacy and seized them.

"You haven't read them, sir, have you?" he queried, blushing
desperately.

"Oh, yes, my boy. I had to, you know, because I was buying something and
I wanted to make certain I got value received. Pretty gooey stuff, Joey!
Read aloud, they sound like a cow's hoof settling into a wet meadow!"

"I'm so glad she took it sensibly," Joey announced, for he was anxious
to change the topic of conversation. "I suppose she saw it was the only
way."

"No, she didn't, my son. Don't flatter yourself. On your way out West to
join the _Tyee_ you wrote her every day on the train. You told her about
your bet with me, and who I was and all about me. Lucky for you that you
did, and doubly lucky for you that you cabled her the jilt from Sobre
Vista, or she would not have come to me with her troubles. Joey, that
must have taken courage on your part. It's mighty hard for a gentleman
to cable a lady and break an engagement. That's the lady's privilege,
Joey."

"I--I was desperate, Mr. Ricks. I had to. I had to have her out of the
way by the time I got back, or Doris might have found it out. You see, I
wanted to clear the atmosphere."

"Well, you clouded it for fair! You see, Joey, in all those letters it
appears that you never once mentioned the words marriage or engagement.
But your cablegram was an admission that an engagement existed, and the
lady was smart enough to realize that. It appears also that about a week
after you cleared for Sobre Vista her annoying husband was killed by a
taxicab in New York, so that saved her any divorce proceedings; and
when your cablegram reached her she was a single lady who had been
heartlessly jilted. The first thing she did was to hire a lawyer, and
the first person that lawyer called on was Alden P. Ricks, the old
family friend. It appears a suit for breach of promise was to be
instituted unless a fairly satisfactory financial settlement could be
arrived at."

"How much did she want?" Joey barely whispered the words.

"Only a million."

"How much did you settle for? I'll pay it out of my inheritance, Mr.
Ricks. Don't worry! I won't see you stuck, for you've stood by me
through thick and thin."

"Why, I didn't give her anything, Joey. I just had her lawyer bring her
on to San Francisco for a conference. Of course when lunch time came
round and I hadn't heard any proposition I felt I could submit to your
father, I invited Miss Fontaine and her lawyer to luncheon with me in
the Palace Hotel Grill, and while we were lunching, who should come
up and greet me but my old friend, the Duke of Killiekrankie, formerly
Duncan MacGregor, first mate of our barkentine _Retriever_. Mac is an
excellent fellow and for some time I had felt he merited promotion. So I
made him a duke.

"Well, the duke was awfully glad to see me, and being a gentleman I
couldn't do less than introduce him to the lady and her lawyer. He only
stayed at our table a minute and then rejoined his friends, but
all during the meal I could see Betsy Jane's mind wasn't on her
breach-of-promise suit. She asked me several questions about the duke,
and I told her I didn't know much about him except that he was sinfully
rich and a globe-trotter, and that we'd met in Paris. Lies, Joey, but
pardonable, I hope, under the circumstances.

"Well, Joey, it seems that she and the duke were registered at the same
hotel and I'll be shot if his lordship didn't meet her--by accident, of
course--in the lobby that afternoon. He lifted his hat and she smiled
and they had a chat. The next day she cut an engagement with her lawyer
and me to go motoring with the duke in my French car, and Florry's
chauffeur driving, for, of course, the duke was an expensive luxury and
I was trying to save a dollar wherever possible. That night the duke
gave a dinner party in honor of the lady--and he gave it aboard his
yacht, the _Doris_, formerly the _Seafarer_, right out here in San
Francisco harbor--"

Joey went up and put his arm round Cappy's shoulders.

"Oh, Cappy Ricks, Cappy Ricks!" he cried, and then his voice broke and
his eyes filled with tears.

"Yes," Cappy continued, "I had sort o' suspected she might pull that
breach-of-promise stuff on you, Joey--"

"What made you suspect it?"

"Why, I sort of suspected you were going to marry Doris Kenyon--"

"You planned to get us together on the same ship--!"

"Only place I could think of where you were safe from the Honolulu lady
and couldn't run away from Doris, Joey. Well, as I say, I had sort of
suspected she might sue you and disgrace you and break the heart of that
little girl I'd picked out for you long before you ever met her--so I
started to get there first and with the heaviest guns, I borrowed your
yacht for the duke and had him sail her round himself, so he'd have her
here to give the dinner party on. Then I got a Burke's peerage and told
MacGregor who he was and had him study up on his family history and
get acquainted with his sister, Lady Mary, and his younger brother, the
Honorable Cecil Something-or-other--in particular he was not to forget
to rave about the grouse shooting in Scotland."

Cappy paused and puffed his cigar meditatively for half a minute.

"Joey," he continued, "any time you run a bluff, run a good one.
If you're starring a globe-trotting duke, have his ancestry all
straightened out in advance, because he's bound to break into the
newspapers and the motto of the newspaper editor is 'Show me.' And the
yacht--just one of the props of the comedy, Joey; and with a little
cockney steward in livery to say 'Your ludship'; and the name of the
yacht changed in case she'd ever heard you speak about the _Seafarer;_
and the cabin done over in white enamel with mahogany trim; and a new
set of dishes with your family crest and the name of the yacht on
every piece in case you had ever had her aboard; and a private
secretary--borrowed him from my general manager, Skinner, by the way--we
were certainly there when it came to throwing the ducal front. And we
got away with it, for MacGregor's accent is just Scotchy enough, and he
comes of good family and has excellent manners. Yes, I must say Mac made
a very comfortable duke. Skinner's young man tells me it would bring
tears of joy to your eyes to see him kiss the lady's hand.

"Well, Joey, the upshot of it was that after paying violent court to the
lady for two weeks--Mac said he could have pulled the stunt the night of
the dinner, for she fell for the title right way, but I told him to make
haste slowly--the duke received a cablegram calling him home from his
furlough. Oh, yes, Joey, I had him in the army. Any young unattached
duke that doesn't join the British army these days doesn't get by in
good society, and I had my duke on a six months' furlough to recover
from his wounds. Fortunately a bunch of cedar shingles had fallen on
Mac's foot recently and he was dog lame, which strengthened the play.

"Of course the duke was up in the air right away. In a passionate scene
he confessed his love for that damsel of yours, Joey, and laid his
dukedom at her feet. Would she marry him P. D. Q. and help him sail the
yacht home? Would she? 'Oh, darling, this is so sudden!' she cried, and
almost swooned in his arms. From a cabaret to a dukedom. Some jump!
Sail the yacht home to England through the mine fields and submarines?
Perfectly ripping, by Jove! I give you my word, Joey, she tacked on one
of those New York British accents for the duke's special benefit. There
was a lot of beam to her _a_'s, Mac told me, but blamed little molded
depth to her mentality. So they were married in haste, and after the
duke had seen his bride in the elevator bound for their rooms at the
hotel, he excused himself to get a highball. And I guess he got the
highball, because I find it in this expense account he turned in to me."

"It sounds like a fairy tale," Joey murmured in an awed voice. "What did
the duke do next?"

"Came right down to this office and informed me he was, plumb weary of
the life of a bon vivant and was anxious to get to sea again. So I made
him master of a new steamer we acquired recently, and he's gone out to
Vladivostok with munitions for the Russians."

"But didn't you give him some money, Mr. Ricks?"

"No. Why should I? Didn't I give him command of a steamer? You can slip
him a fat check if you feel that way about it, but I never coddle my
skippers, Joey, until I'm sure they're worth while. I think, however,
that Mac will make good. He's very thorough."

"Wha--what became of Ernestine?"

"Oh, by Godfrey, that's a sad story, Joey. It seems she waited at the
hotel for the duke to come back and he didn't come, so the following
morning she went down to the water front looking for the yacht--and the
yacht was gone. During the night I'd had it towed over to Sausalito;
consequently the launchman she hired couldn't find it down in Mission
Bay, and back to the beach she came. After a couple of days had passed,
however, she commenced to smell a rat, so she came down to my office and
asked me if I'd seen anything of the duke.

"'Why, yes, I have,' I told her. 'The old duke came in here yesterday
afternoon, soused to the guards, and complaining he'd been cruelly
deceived into marrying a two-time loser with a couple of youngsters,
and inasmuch as he was certain the family wouldn't receive her he was
leaving the United States immediately, never to return.

"'And this morning the justice of the peace who performed the ceremony
mailed him the license, which has been duly recorded in the office
of the Secretary of State in accordance with law; and inasmuch as the
license was sent to him in my care I am holding it in our safe until he
calls for it.'

"Well, Joey, she looked at me and she knew the stuff was all off. She'd
married the duke; I had the license to prove it, and of course she
realized her breach of promise suit and claim for a million dollars'
worth of heart balm would be laughed out of court if she had the crust
to present it. So she did the next best thing. She abused me like a
pickpocket and ended up by getting hysterical when I told her how I'd
swindled her. When she got through crying I lectured her on the error of
her ways and suggested that inasmuch as she had had one divorce already,
another wouldn't be much of a strain on her, and I'd foot the bill for
separating her legally from John Doe, alias the duke, on a charge of
desertion. Then I offered her a thousand dollars and a ticket back to
New York for the surrender of all your letters to her and that infernal
cablegram and a release of all claims against you. I guess she was broke
for she grabbed it in a hurry, Joey. The atmosphere is now clear, my
son, and nothing further remains to be done in the premises, save settle
the bill of expense. Fortunately the _Tyee_ made money on that fast
voyage under your command, but the cost of bringing the yacht round from
New York, doing over the cabin, buying the new dishes with the crest,
and settling with the lady should rightfully be borne by you. As I
say, the duke was expensive, for the rascal certainly rolled 'em high.
Skinner has made me up a statement of the total cost, with interest at
six per cent to date, and it appears, Joey, that you owe your godfather
$12,143.18. On the day you come into your inheritance, add six per cent
to that sum and send me a check."

"But the twenty-five thousand dollars I won from you--" Joey began, but
Cappy held up a rigid finger, enjoining silence.

"I am going to stick your dub of a father for that, as a penance for his
sins of omission, Joey; for by the Holy Pink-Toed Prophet, if ever a
boy won a bet and was entitled to it, you're that young man. In-fer-nal
young scoundrel! Keep it and split fifty-fifty with your wife. You won
a straight bet from a crooked gambler, and if I haven't had a million
dollars' worth of fun out of this transaction I hope I may marry a
hula-hula woman--and I've passed my three score and ten and ought to
know better!"

"But about this man MacGregor--"

"Don't worry about him. The Scotch are a hardy race and Mac is a sailor.
Joey, I know sailors. The scoundrels have a wife in every port!"



CHAPTER XXXIII


During the period when Joey Gurney was busy doing all that Cappy
Ricks desired him to do and some things that were slightly off Cappy's
program, the president emeritus of the Blue Star Navigation Company and
allied interests was discovering that it is one thing to declare for the
simple life and quite another to live it. The Great War challenged
so much of the Ricks interest that he could not bear to live far
from morning and evening editions--and he wanted them red hot off the
presses. Things were doing in the shipping world. The most inconceivable
trades were being consummated daily, freights were soaring, lumber
prices had reached an unprecedentedly high level and promised to go
higher; there was something doing every minute and not enough minutes
in a working day to accommodate half of these somethings. What more
natural, therefore, than that Cappy presently should find himself caught
in the maelstrom, even though he told himself daily that, come what
might _he_ would keep out of it.

The first indefinite evidence that he was about to be engulfed came in
the form of a newspaper story, ex the steamer _Timaru_, from Sydney, via
Tahiti. There it was, as big as a church--a paragraph of it, tucked away
in a column-and-a-half story of the bombardment of Papeete by the German
Pacific fleet early in September of 1914:

"An incident of the bombardment was the sinking of the German freight
steamer _Valkyrie_ by shells from the German fleet. The vessel had been
captured by the French gunboat _Zeile_ some weeks previous and was at
anchor in the harbor, under the guns of the _Zeile_, when the German
squadron appeared off the entrance. The gunboat immediately was made the
target for the German guns, and sunk. During the attack, however, a wild
shell missed the _Zeile_ and struck the _Valkyrie_, tearing a great hole
in her hull and causing her to sink in ten fathoms at her anchorage."

Ten fathoms! Sixty feet! Why, at that depth Cappy should have known that
her masts and funnel would be above water; that in all probability
she carried war-risk insurance; that she was so far from anywhere the
underwriters would have abandoned her, even had she not been a prize of
war, since there are no appliances in Papeete for salving a vessel of
her size; that she could be raised if one cared to spend a little money
on doing it; that one projectile probably had not ruined her beyond
repair; that she was a menace to navigation in Papeete Harbor and hence
would have to be gotten out of the way, either by dynamite or auction;
that--well, any number of thats should have occurred to Cappy Ricks
to suggest the advisability of keeping track of the wreck of the
_Valkyrie_. However, for some mysterious reasons--his resentment against
the German cause, probably--the golden prospect never appealed to him,
for when he had finished reading the article he merely said:

"Well, what do you know about that? Skinner, it's a mighty lucky thing
for that German admiral that I'm not the Kaiser, for I'd certainly make
him hard to catch. The idea of sinking that fine steamer--and a German
steamer at that! Here was the little old French gunboat, about as
invulnerable as a red-cedar shingle; and instead of moving into proper
position and raking her with their light guns--instead of calling on her
to surrender--these Germans had to go to work in a hurry and inaugurate
a campaign of frightfulness. The minute they were off the harbor--Zowie!
Blooey! Bam! It was all over but the cheering, and they'd chucked an
eight-inch projectile through a ship that was worth four of the gunboat.

"Skinner, that's what I call spilling the beans. Why they didn't take
their time, recapture that freighter and give her skipper a chance to
hustle across to San Francisco or Honolulu and intern, is a mystery to
me. The idea! Why, for that German fleet to waste ammunition on that
Jim-Crow town and a hand-me-down gunboat was equivalent to John L.
Sullivan whittling out a handle on a piece of two-by-four common fir in
order to attack a cockroach!"

Cappy was so incensed that he growled about the Germans for an hour.
Then he forgot the _Valkyrie_, notwithstanding the fact that the press
jogged his memory again when the German fleet, deciding that prudence
was the better part of valor, fled from the Pacific to escape the
Japanese, only to be destroyed in the South Atlantic by the British
fleet. A resume of the operations of the German squadron in the
Pacific brought forth mention of the destruction of the _Zeile_ and the
_Valkyrie_. However, Cappy's mind was not in Tahiti now, but off the
Falkland Islands, for he was very much pro-Ally and devoted more thought
to military and naval strategy than he did to the lumber and shipping
business.

However, the climax of Cappy's indignation over the disaster to
the _Valkyrie_ was not attained until a few months later when, in
conversation on the floor of the Merchants' Exchange with the skipper
of the schooner _Tarus_, who happened to have been in Papeete at
the bombardment, he learned he had done the German admiral a grave
injustice. He came back to his office, boiling, declaring the French
were a crazy nation, and that, after all, he could recall meeting one or
two fine Germans during the course of a fairly busy career. He summoned
Mr. Skinner and Matt Peasley to hear the sordid tale.

"Remember that steamer _Valkyrie_ the Germans were supposed to have sunk
by accident in the harbor of Papeete during the bombardment in September
of 1914?" he queried.

"I believe I read something about it in the papers at the time," Mr.
Skinner replied.

"What about her?" Matt Peasley demanded.

"Why, the Germans didn't sink her at all, Matt! The Frenchmen did it,"
Cappy shrilled. "The crazy, frog-eating jumping-jacks of Frenchmen! The
tramp wasn't flying the German flag--naturally the Frenchmen had hauled
it down; so the Germans didn't investigate her. Besides, they were in a
hurry--you'll remember the Japs were on their trail at the time; so they
just devoted forty minutes to shooting up the town, and beat it. I don't
suppose they ever knew they hit the _Valkyrie_; perhaps they figured
that, having sunk the gunboat, the _Valkyrie_ could up hook and away at
her leisure, since there was nothing left to prevent her.

"Huh! Makes me sick to talk about it; but the skipper of the _Taurus_
was there at the time and he tells me that, though the _Valkyrie_
was pretty well down by the stern, her bulkheads were holding and she
wouldn't have sunk if those blamed Frenchmen, fearful that the German
fleet was coming back after her, hadn't gone aboard and opened her sea
cocks! Yes, sir. Rather than risk having her recaptured, they opened her
sea cocks and sunk her! And, at that, they didn't have sense enough to
run her out to deep water. No! They had to do the trick as she lay at
anchor; and there she lies still, a menace to navigation and a perennial
reminder to those Papeete Frenchmen that he who acts in haste will
repent at leisure."

To this outburst Mr. Skinner made some perfunctory remark, attributing
the situation to a lack of efficiency, while Matt Peasley went back to
his office and grieved as he reflected on the corrosive action of salt
water on those fine, seven-year-old engines.



CHAPTER XXXIV


Time passed. Mr. Skinner developed a pallor and irritability that
bespoke all too truly an attack of nerves, from overwork, and sore
against his will was hustled off to Honolulu for a rest while Cappy
Ricks had the audacity to take charge of the lumber business. Whereupon
Mr. J. Augustus Redell, of the West Coast Trading Company, discovered
the unprotected condition of the Ricks Lumber & Logging Company and
promptly, in sheer wanton deviltry, proceeded to sew Cappy Ricks up on
an order for a million grape stakes.

A word here regarding the said J. Augustus Redell. He was a blithe,
joyous creature, still in the sunny thirties, and what he didn't
know about the lumber business--particularly the marketing of lumber
products--could be tucked into anybody's eyes without impairing their
eyesight. Mr. Redell had fought his way up from office boy with the
Black Butte Lumber Company to lumber broker with offices of his own. He
had owned a retail yard in which business he had gone "bust" for more
money than the world appeared to contain. But he had fought his way back
and paid a hundred cents on the dollar, including some hundred and
forty thousand dollars he had owed the Ricks mills at the time of his
collapse. Because he was young and fine and good-natured and brave and
brilliant, Cappy had always admired J. Augustus Redell, but after
the latter had so splendidly re-established his credit and formed a
partnership with a Peruvian gentleman, one Senor Luiz Almeida, known
locally as Live Wire Luiz, Cappy found that he had for the genial
J. Augustus an admiration that amounted to affection. The West Coast
Trading Company, under which title Live Wire Luiz and J. Augustus Redell
did a lumber brokerage business with Mexico, Central American and South
American countries principally, had Cappy Ricks' entire confidence,
although he would have died rather than admit this. Live Wire Luiz he
ignored and always dismissed as a factor in the affairs of that company,
but whenever Redell had a deal on that was too heavy for his financial
sinews, Cappy could always be depended upon to lend a helping hand. On
his part, Redell revered Cappy Ricks as only an idealistic and naturally
lovable rascal of a boy can revere an idealistic and lovable old man.
To J. Augustus Redell little, old, naive, whimsical, gentle, terrible,
brilliant, cunning, generous, altruistic, prudent, youthful old Cappy
Ricks was a joy forever. With the impishness of his tender years, Mr.
Redell could conceive of no greater joy than picking on Cappy Ricks just
to see the latter fight back.

Quite early in their friendship, the astute Redell discovered a rift in
Cappy's armor--two rifts, in fact. The first was that Cappy feared and
loathed old age and fiercely resented even the most shadowy intimation
that with age he was, to employ a sporting phrase, "losing his punch."
The second weakness that lay exposed to Redell was Cappy's passion for
wringing a profit, by ingenious means, from apparently barren soil where
no profit had ever hitherto burgeoned. At heart Cappy was a speculator;
only the fact that he was a prudent and careful speculator had conduced
to enrich him rather than impoverish him.

Now, Cappy was fully convinced, from optical evidence, that J. Augustus
Redell was a gambler. He admired Redell's genius for business, the
soundness of his decisions, the alertness of his mind and the brilliance
of his financial _coups_, but--he deprecated the younger man's daring.
Cappy called it recklessness. By degrees the old gentleman had come to
assume a proprietary interest in Gus Redell and the latter's affairs,
for the younger man frequently sought counsel from Cappy and not
infrequently, a loan! Cappy knew his young friend to be the soul of
manly honor, but--he was young! Ah, yes! He was young. Ergo, he was
foolish. True, his foolishness had not as yet been discovered, but Cappy
was certain it would come to the surface sooner or later. The boy
was reckless--a gambler. Cappy abhorred gambling. He never gambled.
Occasionally he speculated! What more natural, therefore, than that
little Cappy should presently arrogate to himself the privilege of
stabbing young J. Augustus to the vitals from time to time, just to
impress upon the boy the knowledge that this is a hard, cold, cruel
world with a great many bad men in it!

Nothing could possibly have delighted Redell more. Whenever Cappy
stabbed him, forthwith he set about to stab Cappy in return, and thus
had developed a joyous business feud. These best of friends spent an
hour and a half daily, at luncheon, "picking" on each other, telling
tales on each other, eternally "joshing" for the edification of a
coterie of their lumber and shipping friends who always lunched in a
private dining room at the Commercial Club and who were known within
that organization as the Bilgewater Club.

Early in 1915 Redell had seen an opportunity for inducing Cappy Ricks to
speculate in grape stakes--to his financial hurt and humiliation. There
was to be an election that fall--a special election to see whether
California should "go dry" or "stay wet," and for some reason not quite
apparent to Mr. Redell, a great many people believed the state would
"go dry." Among the people who so believed, Redell discovered, were the
woodsmen who, during the winter of 1914, would, under normal conditions,
have split from redwood trees sufficient grape stakes to support such
new vineyards as would come into bearing in the fall of 1915. Fearing
that there would be no market for their grape stakes when the making of
wine should be prohibited by law, these woodsmen had made no effort
to supply the demand; wherefore the Machiavellian J. Augustus Redell,
taking advantage of Mr. Skinner's absence from the office of the Ricks
mills, cleverly managed to inculcate in Cappy Ricks the idea that it
would be a splendid and profitable venture if he, the said Cappy, should
wade into the grape stake market and corner it. The idea appealed to the
speculative part of the old gentleman's nature and he had gone to work
in a hurry, only to discover, after he had accepted orders from the
West Coast Trading Company for a great many carloads of grape stakes for
future delivery, that, when the day of reckoning should come, he would
not be enabled to pick up enough grape stakes to fill his orders, for
the very sufficient reason that nobody had manufactured grape stakes for
that year's market, and they were not available at any price!

It had been a cruel blow and Cappy's weakness had been exposed
without mercy to the members of the Bilgewater Club by Mr. Redell, who
thereafter kept both eyes wide open, knowing that sooner or later Cappy
would retaliate.

Retaliation was, of course, inevitable. Cappy realized this. For the
first time in his career as a lumber and shipping king the sly old dog
realized he had been out-thought, out-played, out-gamed and man-handled
by a mere pup. And, though he had taken his beating like the rare old
sport that he was, nevertheless the leaves of memory had a horrible
habit of making a most melancholy rustling; and for two weeks, following
his ignominious rout at the hands of J. Augustus Redell, Cappy's
days and nights were entirely devoted to scheming ways and means of
vengeance. Curiously enough, it was the West Coast Trading Company that
accorded him the opportunity he craved.

Having massacred Cappy in the grape-stake deal and established an
unlimited credit thereby, the West Coast Lumber Company, per Senor
Felipe Luiz Almeida, alias Live Wire Luiz, decided to purchase a little
jag of spruce from the Ricks Lumber & Logging Company. Cappy Ricks
looked at the proffered order, saw that it called for number one clear
spruce, and promptly accepted it at a dollar under the market. He was
to bring the spruce in to San Francisco on one of his own schooners,
lay her alongside the _City of Panama_ and discharge it into her, for
delivery at Salina Cruz, Mexico.

Cappy knew, of course, that Live Wire Luiz handled exclusively the West
Coast Trading Company's Mexican, Central and South American business. He
knew, also, that there were many points about the lumber business that
the explosive little Peruvian had still to learn; so he decided to stab
the West Coast Trading Company, through the innocent and trusting Senor
Almeida, with a weapon he would not have dreamed of employing had J.
Augustus Redell placed the order. Live Wire Luiz knew the Ricks Lumber
& Logging Company always sold its output on mill tally and inspection;
that Cappy Ricks' grading rules were much fairer to his customers than
those of his competitors; that when he contracted to deliver number one
clear spruce he would deliver exactly that and challenge anybody to pick
a number two board out of the lot. But what Live Wire Luiz did not know
was that there are two kinds of number one spruce on the Pacific Coast.
One grows in California and the other in Oregon and Washington--and
Cappy Ricks had both kinds for sale.

"Aha!" Cappy murmured as he glanced over Live Wire Luiz's order after
the latter had gone. "Number one clear spruce, eh? All right, sir! Away
down in my wicked heart I know you want some nice number one stock from
our Washington mill, at Port Hadlock; but unfortunately you have failed
to stipulate it--so we'll slip you a little of the California product
and teach you something you ought to know."

Whereupon Cappy sent the order to his mill on Humboldt Bay, California.
Though this plant manufactured redwood lumber almost exclusively,
whenever the woods boss came across a nice spruce or bull-pine tree
among the redwood he was wont to send it down to the mill, where it was
sawed and set aside for trusting individuals like Live Wire Luiz.
When seasoned this spruce was very good stock. Unfortunately, however,
experts differ in their diagnosis of California spruce. There are those
who will tell you it is not spruce, but a bastard fir; while others
will tell you it is not fir, but a bastard spruce. Cappy Ricks had no
definite ideas on the subject, for he didn't own enough of that kind of
stumpage to grieve him. All he knew or cared was that when such outlawed
stock was billed as spruce no judge or jury in the land could say it was
fir; also, that in its green state it possessed an abominable odor!

The lumber was delivered to the _City of Panama_ in due course and, as
Cappy had suspected, Live Wire Luiz failed to come down to her dock
and take a smell. This was a privilege left intact for the consignee at
Salina Cruz; and he, according to Mexican custom, which only demands
a ghost of an excuse to seek a rebate, promptly wired a protest and
declared himself swindled to the extent of five dollars a thousand feet,
gold.

Also, having been similarly outraged once before, he demanded to know
why he had been sent California spruce; whereupon Live Wire Luiz called
up Cappy Ricks, abused him roundly and sent him a bill for six dollars
a thousand, rebate! Unfortunately for the West Coast Trading Company,
however, it had already discounted Cappy's invoice; so the latter could
afford to stand pat--which he did.



CHAPTER XXXV


Shortly after noon on the day of his small triumph over the West Coast
Trading Company, Cappy Ricks bustled up California Street, bound for
luncheon with the Bilgewater Club.

On this day, of all days, Cappy would not have missed luncheon with the
Bilgewater Club for a farm. As he breezed along there was a smile on his
ruddy old face and a lilt in his kind old heart, for he was rehearsing
his announcement to his youthful friends of how he had but recently
tanned the hide of a brother! He almost laughed aloud as he pictured
himself solemnly relating, in the presence of J. Augustus Redell and
Live Wire Luiz, the tale of the ill-favored spruce, excusing his own
mendacity the while on the ground that he wasn't a mind reader; that if
the West Coast Lumber Company desired northern spruce they should have
stipulated northern spruce; that, as alleged business men, it was high
time they were made aware of the ancient principle of _caveat emptor_,
which means, as every schoolboy knows, that the buyer must protect
himself in the clinches and breakaways. And lastly, he planned to claim
it the solemn duty of the aged to instruct the young and ignorant in the
hard school of experience.

Judge, therefore, of his disappointment when, on entering the lobby of
the Merchants' Exchange Building, on the two top floors of which the
Commercial Club is situated, he encountered Redell and Live Wire Luiz
leaving the elevator.

The West Coast Trading Company had offices in the same building and, as
Redell carried a plethoric suit case, while Live Wire Luiz followed with
a small hand bag, Cappy realized they were bound for parts unknown.
In consequence of which he realized he had rehearsed to no purpose his
expose of the pair before the Bilgewater Club. He halted the partners
and secured a firm grip on the lapel of each.

"Cowards!" he sneered. "Running out on me, eh? By Judas Priest, I
just knew you didn't dast to stay and hear me tell the boys about that
spruce. Drat you! The next time you'll know the difference between attar
of roses and California spruce!"

Redell put down his suit case, pulled out his watch, glanced at it and
then at his partner.

"Shall I tell him, Luiz?" he queried.

Live Wire Luiz thereupon consulted his watch, scratched his ear and
said:

"Friend of my heart, do you theenk eet ees safe?"

"Oh, yes. He isn't a bit dangerous, Luiz. He's lost all his teeth and
all he can do now is sit and bay at the moon."

Live Wire Luiz shrugged.

"I theenk maybe so you are right, _amigo mio_. The steamer she will
go to depart in half an hour, an' that ees not time for thees ol'
high-binder to do somet'ing. Eet ees what you call one stiff li'l'
order. I admit thees spruce bandit ees pretty smart, but--" again Live
Wire Luiz shrugged his expressive shoulders--"he ees pretty ol', no? I
theenk to myself he have lose--what you call heem? ah, yes, he have lose
hees punch!"

"I fear he has, Luiz; so I'll tell him. At least the knowledge will
gravel him and take all the joy out of that stinking little spruce
swindle of his."

"'Twon't neither!" Gappy challenged. "I stung you there--drat your
picture!--and I'm glad I did it. I rejoice in my wickedness. Cost you
five hundred dollars for making a monkey out of the old man in that
grape-stake deal, Gus."

"Why," said Redell wonderingly, "I thought you'd forgiven me that,
Cappy."

"So I have; but I haven't forgotten. Expect me to lose my self-respect
and forget about it? No, sir! When I go into a deal and emerge in the
red, I take a look at my loss-and-gain account and forget it; but when
I'm ravished of my self--respect-wow! Look out below and get out from
under! In-fer-nal young scoundrel! If I don't show you two before I die
that I haven't lost my punch I'll come back from the grave to ha'nt you.
Go on and spin your little tale, Augus-tus. You can't tell me anything
that'll make me mad. What you got on your mind besides your hair, Gus?
Out with it, boy; out with it! I'm listening."

And Cappy came close to Redell and inclined his head close to the young
fellow's breast; whereupon Redell put his lips close to Cappy's ear and
answered hoarsely:

"I'm going to Papeete to bid in that sunken German steamer, _Valkyrie_."

Cappy nodded.

"Huh!" he said. "Is that all? Well, when you return from Papeete you're
going to take another journey right away."

"Where?"

"Into the bankruptcy court first, and then up to the Home for the
Feeble-Minded. On the level, boy, you're overdue at the foolish farm."

"I'll take a chance, Cappy. All you old graybeards can do is sit on the
fence and decry the efforts of the rising generation. You just croak and
knock. Of course I admit that once on a time an opportunity couldn't fly
by you so fast you wouldn't get some of the tail feathers; but that was
a long time ago."

He paused and glanced at his partner. Sorrowfully Live Wire Luiz tapped
his forehead with his brown, cigarette-stained forefinger.

"Senile decay!" Redell murmured.

"Sure; I bet you, Mike!" Live Wire Luiz answered.

He wagged his head lugubriously, turned aside and affected to wipe away
a vagrant tear with his salmon-colored silk handkerchief.

"Look here!" Cappy rasped. "This thing is getting personal. Never mind
about my years, you pup. If my back is bent a trifle it's from carrying
a load of experience and other people's mistakes. And never mind about
my noodle! It may have a few knots and shakes in it, but they're tight
and sound, and it's free of pitch pockets, wane and rotten streaks; so
this old head grades as merchantable timber still.

"As for your head, Gus, and that of this human firecracker with you,
both have streaks of sap round the edges, and I'll prove it to you yet.
No; on second thought I don't have to prove it. You've already done that
yourself! You're going to Papeete to try to bid in the _Valkyrie_, and
she's junk!"

"Partly." Redell admitted. "She's been under water about two years and I
suppose the teredo have digested her upper works by now; but they can be
rebuilt quickly and without a great deal of expense."

"How about her boilers? You'll have to retube them."

"I don't think so. I was talking with Captain Hippard, of the
Morrison-Hippard Line. They had the steamer _Chinook_ under water a year
in Norton Sound, but they raised her and brought her to San Francisco
under her own steam. You know, Cappy, it's the combination of water and
air that makes iron and steel rust. It seems that when a boiler is under
water and not exposed to the air it rusts very slowly; also, the rust
is like a soft film--it doesn't pit and scale off in great flakes. And
a couple of years under water will not do any appreciable damage to the
_Valkyrie's_ boilers. The _Chinook_ is running yet, notwithstanding the
fact that fifteen years ago she was submerged for a year."

"Huh!" Cappy grunted.

"The same condition, of course, holds true with regard to her hull, only
more so," Redell continued. "The paint will protect the hull perfectly.
Of course if, after getting her up, she is permitted to lie exposed to
the air, the soft film of rust will promptly harden and scale off and
she'll go to glory in a few months. However, nothing like that will
happen, because the minute she's up she'll be thoroughly cleaned and
scrubbed and painted. Of course the asbestos cover will have peeled off
her boilers, but even at that I'll bring her to San Francisco under her
own steam. She'll just be ungodly hot below decks and a hog for coal
until the boilers are re-covered."

Cappy sighed. He was not prepared to combat this argument, for he had a
sneaking impression Redell was right. However, he returned undaunted to
the attack.

"She's shot full of holes," he declared.

"She has one hole through her, and when she's loaded light that hole is
above water line. The wrecking vessel that goes down to salve her will
have steel plates, tools and mechanics aboard, and new plates can be put
in temporarily. And if that cannot be done those holes can be patched
with planking and cemented over."

"Well, all right. Grant that. But think of her engines, Gus. Think of
those fine, smooth bearings and polished steel rods all corroded and
pitted by salt water. The water may not have a disastrous effect on the
boilers and hull, but an engine can't stand any rust at all and still
remain one hundred per cent efficient. I tell you I know, Gus. I had my
_Amelia Ricks_ submerged on Duxbury Reef for a week; then I hauled her
off and she lay on the tide flats in Mission Bay another three weeks
until I could patch her up and float her into the dry dock. Do you
know what it cost me to make her engines over again? Thirteen thousand
dollars, young man--and, at that, they're nothing to brag of now."

"Quite right; but that's because you didn't employ a German engineer and
tell him you were going to put the _Amelia Ricks_ on Duxbury Reef. Are
you familiar with the characteristics of German engineers, Cappy?"

Cappy threw up both hands.

"I'm neutral, Gus. Between them and the French it's a case of heads I
win, tails you lose."

"No, no, Cappy. You're wrong. The Germans are a careful, thrifty,
painstaking, systematic race, and the chief of the _Valkyrie_ was the
flower of the flock. When that little French gunboat captured her this
chief engineer looked into the future and saw himself and the _Valkyrie_
interned indefinitely--and he didn't like it. It just broke his heart to
think of a stranger messing round among his engines; so the instant he
got into Papeete and blew down his boilers he did a wise thing. He knew
the war risk insurance would probably cover the _Valkyrie's_ loss as a
war prize, but there was a chance that her German owners might send one
of their hyphenated brethren down to Papeete to buy her in the prize
court; and if that happened the chief wanted them to have a good ship.
Perhaps, also, he figured on getting his old job back after the war. At
any rate he got out a barrel of fine heavy grease and slobbered up his
engines for fair."

It was too much. Cappy Ricks was too fine a sport not to acknowledge a
beating; he was too generous not to rejoice in a competitor's gain.

"You lucky, lucky scoundrel!" he murmured in an awed voice. "Not enough
salt water will get through that grease to hurt those engines. Gus, how
did you find this all out?"

"Well, you can bet your whiskers, Cappy, I didn't depend on hearsay
evidence and water-front reporters to dig it up for me. The minute I
heard her sea cocks had been opened and that her funnels and masts were
sticking up out of the harbor I concluded I was interested; so I sent
Bill Jinks, of our office, down to Papeete to get me some first-hand
information. The chief of the _Valkyrie_ is interned there, of course."

"May mad dogs bite me! Why in the name of all that's sweet and holy
didn't I have sense enough to do that?" Cappy mourned.

"You have lose the punch!" chirped Live Wire Luiz, and Cappy glared at
him.

"She's an honest vessel, Cappy."

"An' what you s'pose she have in her?" Live Wire Luiz demanded. "Oh,
notheeng very much, Senor Ricks. Just two t'ousand tons of phosphate."

"Worth ten or twelve dollars a ton, Cappy."

"An' t'irteen hundred tons of the good coal to bring her to San
Francisco, _Ai_, Santa Maria!" Live Wire Luiz blew a kiss airily into
space and added: "I die weeth dee-light!"

"You haven't got her yet," Cappy snapped viciously.

"No; but we'll get her all right," Redell declared confidently.

"How'll you get her?"

"We've only one real competitor to buck--an Australian steamship
company. They're crazy to get her; and as there are no French bidders on
this side of the world, naturally and in view of the present condition
of world politics the French authorities in Papeete are pulling for the
Britisher. Jinks is now in Papeete and I'm about to start for there at
one o'clock. Two bids, Cappy; I'll be the dark horse and file my bid at
the last minute, after I've sized up the lay of the land. But, before I
do so, I'm going to take the representative of that Australian steamship
company into my confidence and find out what he's going to bid. For
instance, now, Cappy, if you were bidding against me, how high would you
go?"

"She's a long way from nowhere," Cappy replied thoughtfully. "It means
sending a wrecking steamer down there with a lot of expert wreckers,
divers, mechanics and carpenters; it means lumber for cofferdam and
pontoons; it means donkey engines, cables, pumps, the stress of wind and
wave--"

"She lies in a protected cove, Cappy; the mean rise and fall of the
tide, so close to the equator, is about eighteen inches, and the water
is so clear you can always see what the divers are doing. Forget the
stress of wind and wave."

"Forty thousand dollars would be my top figure if I were the Australian
bidder," Cappy declared, and added to himself: "But, as Alden P. Ricks,
seventy-five might not stagger me in view of the present freight rates."

"Just what I figured," Redell answered. "She'll cost us two hundred
thousand dollars before we get her in commission again. I figure the
Australian people will not go over forty thousand dollars. They won't
figure Jinks as a heavyweight. I told him to create the impression that
he was a professional wrecker--a sort of fly-by-night junk dealer, who
would buy the vessel if he could get her at a great bargain. Then I'll
drop quietly into Papeete, and at the eleventh hour fifty-ninth minute
I'll slip in a bid that will top the Australian's. If by any chance
Jinks' bid should also top the Australian's I'll just forfeit the
certified check for ten per cent of my bid, run out and leave the ship
to Jinks, the next highest bidder. The chances are I'll make a few
thousand dollars at that."

"How do you purpose raising her--provided you are the successful
bidder?"

"Well, she has four hatches and she lies on an even keel. I'll build a
coffer dam on her deck round these four hatches and pump her out. If we
have enough pumps we can pump her out faster than the water can leak
in under the coffer dam. When I've lightened her somewhat I'll kick her
into the shore, little by little, until she lies in shallow water with
her bulwarks above the surface. Then I'll patch the holes in her, pump
her out--and up she'll come, of course."

"You say that so glibly," Gappy growled, "one would almost think you
could whistle it."

"Don't feel sore, Cappy. Do you know what a vessel of her age and class
is worth nowadays? Well, I'll tell you. About sixty dollars a ton,
dead weight capacity--and the _Valkyrie_ can carry seven thousand tons;
that's four hundred and twenty thousand dollars--"

"If you can get her up," Cappy interrupted.

"If I bid her in I'll get her up. Don't worry."

'"It'll clean you of your bank roll to do it."

"Of course. Luiz and I aren't millionaires like you; so we'll just form
a corporation and call it the S. S. Valkyrie Company and sell stock
in our venture. I have you down right now for a ten-thousand-dollar
subscription at the very least, though you can have more if you want
it."

"Gus," Cappy pleaded, "if you bid that boat in for forty thousand
dollars I'll give you ten thousand dollars for your bargain and
reimburse you for all the expense you've been put to."

"Nothing doing, Cappy."

"I'll make it--let me see--I'll make it twenty thousand."

"You waste your breath. She'll pay for herself the first year she's in
commission."

"I'll furnish the sinews of war, Gus, for a half interest in her. Let me
add her to the Blue Star Fleet and you'll never regret it."

"Sorry, Cappy; but Luiz and I are ambitious. We want to get into the
steamship business ourselves."

"Well, then, I've offered to do the fair thing by you two lunatics,"
Cappy declared with a great air of finality. "So now I'll deliver my
ultimatum: I'm going to keep the _Valkyrie_ and not give you two as much
as one little piece of her. Yes, sir! I'm going to send a representative
to Papeete and match you and that Australian chap for your shoe-strings.
Gus, you know me! If I ever go after a thing and don't get it, the man
that takes it away from me will know he's been in a fight."

"Indeed, I know it, Cappy--which is why I kept this information
carefully to myself. However, I guess you'll not get in on this good
thing."

"Why?"

"You're too late for the banquet."

"Not one leetle hope ees left for you, Cappy Reeks," Senor Almeida
asserted. "The _Moana_, on which my good partner have engaged passage
to-day, ees the last steamer which shall arrive to Papeete before the
bids shall be open. The next steamer, Capitan Reeks ees arrive too
late."

"Yes; and the _Moana_ sails in just twenty-five minutes, Cappy. If
you're thinking of sending a man down to bid against me you'll have to
step lively."

Cappy Ricks was now beside himself; this gentle, good-natured heckling
had made of him a venerable Fury.

"I'll cable my bid!" he shrilled.

"No you won't Cappy, for the reason that there is no cable to Tahiti."

"Then I'll wireless it!"

"Well, you can try that, Cappy. Unfortunately, however, the only
wireless station in Tahiti is a little, old, one-cat-power set. It can
receive your message, but it can't send one that will reach the nearest
wireless station--and that's at Honolulu. And until the bank in Tahiti
can confirm drafts by wireless I imagine it will not pay them on
presentation."

Cappy surrendered. He couldn't stand any more.

"Good-bye, Gus," he said. "Good luck to you! If you get that vessel
you'll deserve her, and when you're forming the S.S. Valkyrie Company
I'll head the list of stock subscribers with a healthy little chunk. You
know me, Gus! I'm the old bell mare in shipping circles; a lot of others
will follow where I lead."

"I forgive you the spruce deal, Cappy. You're an awful pirate; but, for
all that, you're a grand piece of work. God bless you!" And Redell put
his arm round the old man affectionately. "Good-bye."

And, followed by Live Wire Luiz, who was going to the dock to see his
partner aboard the _Moana_, Redell disappeared into California Street.

"Dammit!" Cappy soliloquized bitterly. "I can't eat lunch now. One bite
would choke me."



CHAPTER XXXVI


And he turned toward the entrance to the Merchants' Exchange, being
minded to enter a telephone booth and notify the Bilgewater Club he
would not be present that day. As he walked through the gate into the
Exchange, however, he was accosted by a heavy, florid-faced man carrying
a thick woolen watch coat over his arm. This individual was Captain
Aaron Porter, one of the San Francisco bar pilots, and he greeted Cappy
with a respectful query after the old gentleman's health.

"I don't feel very well," Cappy replied wearily. "I'm getting old,
captain--getting old."

Then he noted the watch coat the pilot was carrying and decided
subconsciously that there could be no connection between it and the
sultry August weather prevailing at that moment; consequently it
informed the observant Cappy, as plainly as if it had a tongue and had
spoken, that Captain Aaron Porter expected shortly to be exposed to
the chill northwest winds outside as he piloted a vessel to sea. In the
manufacture of sheer inane conversation, therefore, Cappy tugged the
coat and said:

"Going to take a ship out this afternoon, captain?"

"Yes, sir. I'll be responsible for the _Moana_ until we cross the Potato
Patch--"

"The _Moana!_" Cappy cried, and pulled out his watch. "You'd better be
stepping lively, then. She sails at one, and you have twenty minutes to
get to Greenwich Street Pier."

"Oh, there's no hurry, Mr. Ricks. She'll be delayed from half to
three-quarters of an hour waiting for the Australian mail. The mail
train from the East is late, and of course the _Moana_ cannot sail
till--"

"You will pardon me, captain," Cappy Ricks interrupted politely, "but
I've just thought of a very important matter. I must run and telephone."

As J. Augustus Redell had just pointed out, twenty minutes was scarcely
ample time in which to decide on the right emissary to send to Papeete,
get into communication with the said individual and induce him to go. In
addition, such a person would have to have time to pack some clothing;
also, to procure a letter of credit at the bank and purchase a ticket,
not to mention the time requisite to receive his instructions and get to
the steamer's dock. But with almost an hour--well, a wide-awake man
can accomplish much in an hour, and Cappy Ricks was a natural leader of
forlorn hopes. In the brief interval required to accomplish the journey
from the door of the Merchants' Exchange to a telephone booth a flock of
bright ideas capered through Cappy's ingenious head like goats on a tin
roof.

"Main 2000!" he barked, and in five seconds he had the connection. "Put
Skinner on the line!"

Cappy's own private exchange operator had the temerity to inform him
that Mr. Skinner was out at luncheon.

"The in-fer-nal scoundrel--just when I need him! Put Captain Matt
Peasley on the line, and be quick about it. Matt! Matt, listen! This is
the old man speaking. Get an earful of what I'm going to tell you now,
and don't ask any questions--just obey! Do you remember that big German
freighter--the Valkyrie--sunk in Papeete Harbor?"

"Yes, sir."

"She's a prize, Matt. I've just been given a low-down on her condition.
Gus Redell is leaving on the _Moana_ to bid her in at the government
sale--the young scoundrel told me all about it and twitted me because
we were asleep on the job and let the good thing get away from us.
The _Moana's_ supposed to sail at one o'clock, but the Eastern mail is
late--she won't get away from the dock until about one-thirty; but when
she does--"

"When she does we'll have a man aboard her to beat Redell to the German
steamer," Matt Peasley interrupted. "I've got the message. Where are
you, father-in-law?"

"At the Merchants' Exchange."

"You attend to the funds and I'll do the rest."

"Confound you!" rasped Cappy Ricks. "You're so headstrong, you'll jam
things up yet if you don't listen to me."

"But you'll have to send somebody Redell doesn't know."

"That doesn't matter at all. Now, son, will you listen to me? I'll
attend to the money and I'll also frame this entire deal. Is Miss Keenan
in the office--you know--Skinner's stenographer?"

"Yes, sir."

"She's been wanting to go on a vacation. When I heard about it I asked
her how she'd like a cruise to Alaska--remember we have the _Tillicum_
leaving at six to-night for St. Michael's. She said that would be fine;
so I gave her a pass and the owner's suite on the _Tillicum_."

"So I hear. Her trunk was sent to the _Tillicum's_ dock this morning and
she has her suit case in the office. She planned to work today and go
aboard the _Tillicum_ after office hours."

"Good! Then she's all ready lor a voyage to Tahiti. Have the private
exchange operator phone our wharf office instantly and tell them to load
Miss Keenan's trunk on the first wagon handy and rush it over to the
_Moana_. Give Miss Keenan fifteen hundred dollars and tell her she's
to go to Papeete. If she kicks about clothes tell her to get along with
what she has and buy what she needs on arrival."

He waited while Matt Peasley gave the necessary instructions to the
exchange operator. Then:

"It's all right, sir. Miss Keenan will go. She'll be on her way in five
minutes. I've told her to go aboard and buy her ticket from the purser
or from the ticket agent at the gang plank."

"Fine business! Now who else have we in our employ that I can send? I
want a man--and a rattling smart one."

"Mike Murphy, the skipper of the _Narcissus_," Matt suggested.

"The very man! He's discharging at Union Street Wharf. Phone the
wharfinger's office and tell him he'll not regret taking a message down
to the dock to Captain Murphy. Murphy will probably be at lunch aboard.
Tell the wharfinger to tell him to throw a few clothes into a suit
case--that he's to go to Papeete on mighty important business--and to
meet me at the head of Greenwich Street Dock at one-twenty, without
fail, for his orders and his money. Having phoned these orders, Matt,
take the office automobile and scorch to the water front to see that
they're carried out. Take Miss Keenan with you. Good-bye."

And Cappy Ricks dashed out of the Merchants' Exchange as though the
devil was at his heels walloping him at every jump. It was four blocks
to the Marine National Bank, but the California Street cable car took
him there in four minutes. Gasping and perspiring Cappy trotted into the
cashier's office, where for ten precious seconds he stood, open-mouthed,
unable to say a word.

"Well, Mr. Ricks," the cashier greeted him, "if you can't talk make
signs."

Cappy flapped his hands and made three rapid strokes with his index
finger, like a motion-picture actor writing a twelve-line letter; then
the words came in a veritable cascade.

"Letters of credit," he croaked-"two." The cashier picked up a pencil
and a scratch pad. "One, twenty-five thousand, favor Michael J. Murphy;
one, favor--oh, what in blue blazes is that girl's first name? Oh, dear!
Oh, dear! I never heard her first name--she's just Miss Keenan. Oh,
the devil! Call her Matilda--that's it--Matilda Keenan--fifty thousand
dollars for her; and--"

"You appear to be in a terrific hurry for them, Mr. Ricks, so I'll
get them started immediately," the cashier interrupted, and turned his
memorandum over to an underling, with instructions to give Mr. Ricks'
letters of credit precedence over all other business.

"Now write--check--your favor--seventy thousand. I'll sign it--hope
Skinner has enough cash on deposit; if he hasn't--my personal note, you
know."

"A mere trifle, Mr. Ricks. We will not worry over that." The cashier
filled in the check and Cappy signed it with a trembling hand. "And
now," the cashier continued, "we will have to have Miss Keenan and Mr.
Murphy come to the bank to register their respective signatures--"

"Nothing doing!" Cappy piped. "Give me the cards and I'll have 'em write
their signatures on them aboard the steamer and send them ashore by
the pilot. None o' your efficiency monkey business, my son! I guarantee
everything."

He dashed to the telephone and yelled into the receiver: "Taxicab!
Taxicab!"

"One of the cars belonging to the bank is at the curb, Mr. Ricks.
The chauffeur will take you wherever you desire to go," the cashier
suggested.

"Bully for you!" Again Cappy commenced to flap his hands.
"Stenographer--where's the stenographer? Oh, Judas Priest, nobody helps
me! Bless your sweet heart, my dear, here you are, aren't you? Yes,
and I'll not forget you for it either. No, no, no! No notes. Just stick
piece of paper in the typewriter--now then! Ready! Dictation direct to
machine. Er--ah! Harumph-h-h! Oh, suffering sailor! What's the name
of the French bank in Papeete? I don't know. I'm a director and vice
president of this infernal bank--and I don't know I'm alive! Man, man,
I want it--a thing--a what-you-may-call-'em--a--Oh, the devil! Why do I
deposit in this dratted bank? Eureka! I have it! I want a notice."

"You mean an advice, Mr. Ricks."

"Bully boy! An advice. That's it. Holy mackerel, how I love a man that's
fast on his feet! A notice to the bank in Papeete, Island of Tahiti,
that you've given Captain Michael J. Murphy a letter of credit for
twenty-five thousand dollars--only one notice for one letter of
credit. I'm up to skullduggery. Man, man, why don't you dictate? Usual
courtesies--good customer of your bank--you know; usual flubdub. No
advice regarding Miss Keenan's letter of credit--just Murphy's."

The cashier good-naturedly shouldered Cappy Ricks aside and dictated to
the bank's correspondent in Papeete a brief note to the effect that
the Marine National had that day issued to Captain Michael J. Murphy
a letter of credit in the sum of twenty-five thousand dollars; that it
understood Captain Murphy was proceeding to Papeete on some matter of
business and took this occasion to commend him to their kindly offices.

"Stick that in an envelope--address envelope, seal it, and write
outside: 'Kindness purser S.S. _Moana._' The mail to Papeete is closed,
but I'll see that the _Moana's_ purser delivers it to the bank," Cappy
ordered.



CHAPTER XXXVII


Ten minutes later Cappy dashed up to the entrance of Greenwich Street
Pier and found Matt Peasley waiting for him, with Captain Murphy. Miss
Keenan had already gone aboard the _Moana_, the huge funnel of which,
as Cappy noted with a thrill, was still sticking up over the roof of
the dock. He crooked his finger and Michael J. Murphy leaped up on the
running board of his car.

"Mike," said Cappy solemnly, "listen to me! Here's a letter of credit in
your name for twenty-five thousand dollars, and an advice to the bank
in Papeete from our bank here stating that the letter of credit has been
issued. Give this letter to the purser, together with a good-sized bill,
and ask him to deliver it to the Papeete bank when the _Moana_ arrives
there. Here, also, is a letter of credit for Miss Keenan in the sum of
fifty thousand--and the bank in Papeete has no notice of it! Remember
that! It's important. Keep it to yourself. Miss Keenan has the expense
money for both of you; tell her to split the roll with you. Tell her,
also, that her name from now until she gets back is Matilda Keenan, and
to sign her drafts that way.

"Here are the signature cards. You sign yours and have her sign hers;
then you give both to Captain Porter, the pilot, when he leaves the
ship, and ask him to deliver them to me. I, in turn, will deliver them
to the bank. Tell Miss Keenan she is absolutely under your orders; that
she's to forget she ever heard of the lumber and shipping business. Both
of you are to keep away from a man by the name of J. Augustus Redell.
He's aboard and he's our enemy, captain. He's going to bid forty
thousand dollars on the German steamer _Valkyrie_; so you bid forty
thousand and five dollars--and take her away from him. At the very last
minute have Miss Keenan put in a bid for thirty thousand--in case--you
know, Mike--we might catch it going and coming. It might pay to have you
fall down on your bid--you know, Mike! She's the dark horse--the reserve
capital. Papeete--one-horse town, Mike. Everybody knows the other
fellow's business--principal competitor for the steamer is an Australian
steamship company. Considering condition world politics today, and no
French bidders, naturally Frenchmen will pull for the Britisher.
Expect bank will leak and tell 'em you only arrived with twenty-five
thousand--you know, Mike! Can't be too careful. Trust nobody--and
remember this man Redell is the smartest young man in the world and
the trickiest scoundrel under heaven. Don't hold him cheap. He's a holy
terror! He'd pinch the gold out of your wisdom teeth while you'd be
laughing at him."

"How high am I to go--if it becomes necessary to bid more than--"

"Shoot the piece!" Cappy ordered. It is to be regretted that the
Bilgewater Club, cut off from the house rules in a private dining room,
had a habit of shooting craps occasionally after luncheon, and Cappy
Ricks had picked up the patois of the game. "Seventy-five thousand is
the limit; but satisfy yourself she's worth the limit before you go to
it."

"And Redell is going to bid forty thousand, sir?"

"That's his limit. He told me so in confidence when he felt certain I
couldn't possibly be a competitor--told it to me, and kidded me for a
dead one at twenty minutes of one, when he knew I couldn't possibly have
time to act. But he forgot the mail--it was delayed--"

"I get you, sir. There's more to this job than merely acquiring the
ship," retorted the astute Murphy.

"There's a million dollars' worth of satisfaction in it for me if I can
beat Gus Redell to that steamer. He says I've lost my punch."

But Captain Murphy was off down the dock, suit case in hand, while Cappy
dismissed his borrowed car and climbed into the office car with Matt
Peasley. Five minutes they waited at the head of the dock--and then
four huge motor trucks, laden with mail, lumbered through the dock gate.
Cappy beamed into Captain Matt Peasley's face.

"I guess this is a rotten day's work for the president emeritus, eh?"
he chuckled. "President emeritus! By the Holy Pink-Toed Prophet, if I
waited for you and Skinner to get wise to all the good things that are
lying round loose, the Blue Star Navigation Company would be in the
hands of a receiver within the year. Matt, if you expect to manage
the Blue Star you'll have to wake up. You're slow, boy--s-l-o-w-w! For
heaven's sake, don't force me back into the harness! You know I've been
wanting to retire for years."

"Well, our messengers are aboard, so let's get out of here. I'm hungry;
I haven't had any lunch," Matt replied.

"Come to think of it," Cappy answered cheerfully, "I believe I could
eat a little something myself. However, I still have one small duty to
perform, Matthew. I've got to send a wireless."

"To whom?"

"That scoundrel Redell, of course. Think I'm going to swat him and leave
him in ignorance of the fact?"

Immediately upon arrival at the Commercial Club, Cappy sent the
following message:

"J. Augustus Redell,

"Aboard S. S. _Moana_.

"Augustus, my dear young friend, I have known men who grew rich by
keeping their mouths closed!

"CAPPY."

"There!" said Cappy, as he dispatched this simple declarative sentence.
"I'll wager one small five-cent bag of smoking tobacco our friend Gus
Redell will not sleep to-night. He'll just lie awake wondering what in
Sam Hill I meant by that."

When he got back to his office he found an aerogram, which read as
follows:

"Alden P. Ricks

"258 California Street

"San Francisco

"Everything lovely. After getting aboard decided to bluff; went to
Redell, told him I was your representative. He went green clear back of
the ears; said he had observed delay in sailing. Told him he'd better
quit and go ashore with pilot; that I had bank roll choke hippopotamus.
Your wireless handed him that moment! Would hesitate repeat his
language. Have agreed pay him for his first-class ticket. All
first-class cabins sold out; had to have it for Matilda. Steerage an
awful place for a skipper, but will have to make the best of it.

"MUHPHY."

Mr. Skinner, alarmed at the shrill screams emanating from Cappy Ricks'
office, rushed in and found the president emeritus rolling round in his
swivel chair, beating the air and stamping on the floor.

"Good gracious, Mr. Ricks!" Skinner cried. "What's the matter? Are you
hurt?"

"Hurt!" Cappy shrilled. "Hurt? Well, I should say so! Skinner, my boy,
if you ever lose your punch you'll know just how much I'm suffering. As
Live Wire Luiz would say: 'I die weeth dee-light!'"



CHAPTER XXXVIII


Three months later Cappy Ricks sat alone in his office, his feet on
his desk, his old head bowed on his breast. Apparently he was having
a gentle snooze. Suddenly he sat up with the suddenness of a
jack-in-the-box and stepped to the door leading to Mr. Skinner's office.

"Skinner, my dear boy," he said, "do you remember that stinking Humboldt
spruce I sawed off on Live Wire Luiz one day when you were out to
lunch?"

Mr. Skinner nodded.

"They claimed a rebate of six dollars a thousand on it," he declared;
"and we declined to allow the claim. Well, I've decided to allow it,
Skinner. Tell Hankins to draw a check for the rebate in full and bring
it in to me. Send in a stenographer."

Cappy clawed his whiskers as the stenographer took her seat at his desk.

"Ahem! Hum! Harumph-h-h!" he began. "Take letter."

"Mr. J. Augustus Redell

"President West Coast Trading Co.

"Merchants' Exchange Building, City.

"My dear Gus: Having waited for several weeks in the hope of meeting
you at the Bilgewater Club, to which, due to some mysterious reason,
you appear to have been excessively disloyal of late, I despair of the
delight of a personal interview and am accordingly writing you.

"You will recall that jag of odoriferous spruce your excitable partner
was chump enough to buy from the Ricks Lumber & Logging Company. On
the receipt this morning of a communication from my exceedingly capable
representative in Papeete I came to the conclusion that I could afford
to allow the rebate claimed by the excessively sour-balled Senor
Almeida, and accordingly I am inclosing herewith, to the order of your
company, the Ricks Lumber & Logging Company's check for $536.12.

"I also beg to tender you my assurance that if I have seemed in the
past to cherish an unchristian resentment of that little deal in grape
stakes, the memory of the outrage no longer rankles in my bosom. For
you, my dear young friend, I entertain the kindliest, the most paternal
of feelings. I have not only forgiven, but I have also forgotten; for my
honor is clear again and I figure I can pretty blamed well afford myself
the luxury.

"Regarding that steamer _Valkyrie_, please be advised that the next
steamer to Australia, via Papeete and Raratonga, will carry a Blue Star
flag and my instructions to our representative to have it tacked to the
main truck of the _Valkyrie_ as she dies submerged in the harbor.
Since I assume you will be interested in learning the details of our
acquisition of the steamer in question, and since, further, I cannot
see that I have anything to lose by withholding this interesting
information, please be advised that we bought her in for twenty-two
thousand five hundred dollars.

"I fear you will be inclined to doubt this and accuse me of romancing
for the purpose of dropping more salt in a wound still fresh and
bleeding; but I assure you such a suspicion would be a grave injustice
to an old man whose portion from you should be pity, not opprobrium.

"To begin, it was very easy--after we had you out of the way. Like a
sensible man, you knew you were licked and threw up the sponge to save
yourself unnecessary punishment. It has been my experience that only a
very wise man has sense enough to do that; consequently, despite your
youth and impetuosity, I seem to see the glimmer of a very brilliant
commercial future for the West Coast Trading Company.

"However, to the story: When Mike Murphy got down to Papeete he found
a couple of broken-down junk dealers hanging round--the kind of fellows
who would have been glad to bid in the vessel at a couple of thousand
dollars for the privilege of breaking her up for junk and gutting her
of her cargo. A little reflection convinced Captain Murphy that he could
eliminate these small fry and centre his attention on the Australian
steamship company; and he was aided in arriving at this conclusion by
your Mr. Jinks, whom he found glooming at the dock on the arrival of
the _Moana_ minus your handsome self. By the way, Mr. Jinks' action in
aiding and abetting Murphy, after discovering that his own company was
out of the running, was so sportsmanlike that, if you will kindly advise
me of the expense to which you were put in sending him to Papeete, we
will gladly send you our check to cover.

"It took the capable Murphy about an hour and a half to get the lay of
the land--and then he started to play his little game. In the rather
restricted society of Papeete Murphy played the fool. Every little while
he would apparently acquire a small jag and get very confidential. He
told everybody his business--in confidence--and everybody in Papeete
knew just how much he was going to bid on the wreck. Finally, the day
before the bids were to be opened--Murphy was waiting till the last
minute before filing his--the captain of the port got a wireless from
some adventurer down in Noumea, asking him to withhold the opening of
the bids till he could get up to Papeete and make a bid. Murphy had
already fooled away three weeks in Papeete and if the captain of the
port hearkened to the request from the man from Noumea it would mean a
wait of another three weeks. Consequently he awaited the next move with
interest.

"Well, Augustus, the captain of the port had the temerity to delay the
opening of the bids, and Murphy noticed that his competitor hired
an attorney and made a bitter and formal protest against the delay.
However, it looked to Murphy like they had made just a little bit too
much noise--so he hired an attorney and made a lot of noise himself.
The captain of the port overruled both protests, however; and about that
time Murphy decided to put over a dirty Irish trick. He announced
he could see very clearly there was a move on to double-cross the
legitimate bidders and that he wasn't going to hang round any longer.
The _Timaru_ was due the next day, so he and Jinks engaged passage to
San Francisco on her; and, just before he left, Murphy went up to the
bank and drew eighteen thousand dollars on his letter of credit.

"He got a certificate of deposit in his own name, and that same
afternoon his attorney filed a sealed bid with the captain of the port.

"Now I had suspected there might be a leak from that French bank in
favor of the Australian; so I had taken care to have it advised by the
Marine National here that the latter bank had issued a letter of credit
for twenty-five thousand dollars to Captain Murphy. Therefore, the
Papeete bank very naturally concluded that twenty-five thousand dollars
was all the money Murphy had with him! And when he drew eighteen
thousand dollars on it they thought they knew the exact amount of his
bid; they thought, also, he had made a bid, in view of the fact that his
attorney filed one the same afternoon. At any rate, the news reached the
Australian and he withdrew his bid and substituted another. Since he
was the possessor of straight inside information as to the amount of his
single competitor's bid, he saw no reason why he should waste money;
so he bid four thousand pounds, or approximately nineteen thousand five
hundred dollars. They say he felt pretty sore when the bids were opened
and the _Valkyrie_ went to Miss Matilda Keenan for twenty-two thousand
five hundred dollars.

"Miss Keenan, by the way, is Skinner's stenographer. Murphy was only the
decoy. She carried the real bank roll and nobody suspected her; in fact,
Murphy was so certain of his prey he didn't even bid! He tells me the
_Valkyrie_ is really a gift, and that, at the widest possible estimate
of salvage cost, the Blue Star Navigation Company has purchased, for
two hundred thousand dollars, a four-hundred-and-fifty-thousand-dollar
ship--thanks to you!

"With kindest regards, and again assuring you of the pleasure I have
always taken in our friendship--a friendship which, I trust, nothing
will ever disrupt--I am

"Cordially and sincerely--"

Cappy paused and gazed at the stenographer appraisingly.

"Read that over again, my dear young lady," he commanded.

The girl complied and Cappy nodded his satisfaction.

"You and Mr. Skinner get along all right?" he queried.

"Oh, yes, sir."

"I'm very glad to hear that. You've been substituting for Miss Keenan,
haven't you?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well, you can have the job for keeps if you want it. You suit me. Take
letter: 'Miss M. Keenan--' I called her Matilda, but her name's Mary; so
let it go at that.

"My dear Miss Keenan: Captain Murphy arrived on the _Timaru_, with the
information that he had taken a chance and left our affairs in the laps
of the gods and the capable hands of his understudy. It has been pretty
tough sledding waiting for the next Australian steamer, but, thank God!
she made port yesterday and your report of the success of your mission
is before me. I thank you. Yen're a good girl, and I am very happy to
learn of your engagement to Captain Murphy. He is a splendid fellow and
I am sending him back to Papeete in command of our _Amelia Ricks_, which
has been fitted up as a wrecker, to raise the _Valkyrie_. You had better
wait in Papeete and marry him there, as I am opposed to long engagements
among my employees; and Michael will do better and faster work if he
settles all his personal worries before tackling those of the Blue Star
Navigation Company.

"On his return with the _Valkyrie_ I shall make him port captain of the
Blue Star Fleet, which job will keep him home nights. And since, by
his ingenuity, he succeeded in purchasing for twenty-two thousand five
hundred dollars a piece of property for which I was prepared to pay as
high as seventy-five thousand dollars, for your wedding present I
shall allot you and Captain Murphy a ten-thousand-dollar piece of the
_Valkyrie_. It should earn you thirty per cent and make you independent
in your old age.

"Very sincerely--"

Cappy Ricks ceased dictating and clawed his whiskers reflectively.

"Yes," he murmured irrelevantly; "I guess that's considerable of a
knock-out from an old fogy who's lost his punch!"

Then, to the stenographer:

"That will be all, my dear. As you pass through the general office
tell those fellows out there that I've gone into executive session with
myself and am not to be disturbed unless it's something very important.
I've got to decide which one of our skippers to promote into the
_Valkyrie_ when we get her up and I must think up a new name for her.
I think I'll call her the J. H. Skinner. Skinner's a little slow on his
feet, but he means well and he's old enough to have a ship named after
him."



CHAPTER XXXIX


The practical theft from the West Coast Trading Company of the German
steamer _Valkyrie_, had, to Cappy's mind, atoned for the loss and
humiliation he had suffered in that grape stake deal. His honor
was clean again and for weeks he taunted Redell with the latter's
inefficiency, insufficiency and general business debility, until, having
extracted the last shred of triumph from the affair, a vague sympathy
for Redell commenced to surge up in Cappy's kindly heart and he
commenced casting about for an opportunity to do the former a favor.

Redell had enjoyed his beating, for he was, indeed, a rare sport.
However, he would have to retaliate. The feud must go on. Unless he
could mix a modicum of fun with his profits, J. Augustus would not have
regarded the fight worth while, so accordingly he kept his eyes and his
ears open for a handy weapon with which to jab Cappy through that same
old rift in his armor--his passion for a large profit through an adroit
and ingenious deal in a commodity where even a very modest profit was
not discernible to ordinary mortals.

Finally Redell found the opportunity he sought. He was so proud of his
formula that he could not forbear remarking casually to Live Wire Luiz
one bright day that, granted good health and the approval of Providence
for one week, he would knock Cappy Ricks for a goal. And he narrated his
scheme.

"Friend of my heart!" the little Peruvian cried excitedly, and held out
his arms to Redell, inviting a fraternal embrace. "I love you! Damn eet!
I say eet! You are one wezard weeth the money-making schemes!"

Mr. Redell cautiously compromised on a hearty handshake; to avoid a kiss
he was careful to keep the table between himself and Live Wire Luiz.

"Shall we empty the corporate sock and climb aboard for every cent we
can beg, borrow or steal?" he demanded.

"Sure, I bet you!" Live Wire Luiz cried; for, though a featherweight
physically, he was possessed of the courage of an Alexander.

J. Augustus Redell put on his hat, took from a pigeonhole in his desk
the last trial balance of the West Coast Trading Company's books
and departed for a conference with his banker. Half an hour later he
returned, and the expectant Luiz promptly noted a cloud on Mr. Redell's
sunny countenance.

"I can't arrange for a loan," he reported disgustedly. "The limit, in
view of our present obligations, has been reached."

"On the margin of ten cents," suggested Live Wire Luiz, "take a chance,
_amigo_. Thees is not speculation. It ees what you call the ceench weeth
the copper reevets."

"I figure it that way; nevertheless, copper-riveted cinches sometimes
aren't properly cinched and Fortune backs out of the packsaddle. I dare
not take a long chance on this, Luiz. If something went wrong we'd be
sadly embarrassed. We dare not take a chance up to the limit of what
money we have on hand, because we need those funds for other things."

Live Wire Luiz swore mournfully in Spanish. Redell nodded and retired
to his own office, where for an hour he sat with his head in his hands,
searching his agile brain for a bright idea that would lead him out
of his dilemma. Suddenly he leaped to his feet, tossed his hat to the
ceiling and caught it again as it came down.

"Cappy Ricks is my meat," he declared aloud. "Besides, I owe Cappy one
for making a monkey out of me on that last deal. He hoisted me on my own
petard. Now I'll hoist him, and incidentally annex a profit for the West
Coast Trading Company."

He rushed out into California Street and for the major portion of the
day was very busy among various shipping offices. When he returned, late
in the afternoon, to the offices of the West Coast Trading Company,
his alert young face wore a pleased and confident smile. Live Wire Luiz
noted this and took heart of hope.



CHAPTER XL


Cappy Ricks was, for the thousandth time since his voluntary retirement
from active business some ten years previous, overwhelmed with his
ancient responsibilities. Mr. Skinner had, under the insistent prodding
of his wife, consented grudgingly to a vacation and had gone up into the
Sierras to loaf and fish.

Scarcely had Skinner departed when one of the Blue Star steamers ran
ashore on the Southern California coast, and Captain Matt Peasley left
immediately for the scene of the disaster to superintend the work
of floating the stranded vessel. This left Cappy riding herd on
the destinies of the Blue Star ships, with Mr. Hankins, Skinner's
understudy, looking after the lumber.

Prior to boarding the train, Matt Peasley had ventured the suggestion
that Mr. Skinner be ordered by wire to return to town at once; but this
veiled hint that the Blue Star ships could not be managed by the man
who had built up the Blue Star Navigation Company had been received very
coldly by the president emeritus of the Ricks interests.

"Young feller," Cappy informed his son-in-law testily, "I'll have you
know I was managing the Blue Star Navigation Company quite some years
before you quit wearing pinafores; so I guess, while you and Skinner are
away from the office, we can manage to stagger along after a fashion."

"But I don't like to have you worried with business after you've
retired--"

"Retired!" Cappy hooted. "Swell chance I've got to retire! I'll die in
the harness whether I want to or not. Tut, tut, my boy! Don't be afraid
to put me in as a pinch hitter for this organization. The worst I can do
is to single--and I might clout a home run."

"But Skinner has been away two weeks--"

"Enough! It would be a bad thing to obsess Skinner with the notion that
we can't get along without him. Then he never would take a rest; and
I don't want any martyrs or neurasthenics round my office. You got
anything on the fire that's liable to burn or boil over, before you get
back?"

"Nothing to worry about, Cappy," Matt answered. "Our five-masted
schooner _Mindoro_ is the only vessel requiring immediate attention. She
arrived at Sydney yesterday with lumber from Gray's Harbor, and as yet I
haven't been able to get a satisfactory return cargo for her."

"What have you been holding out for?"

"I want to get a cargo for delivery in San Francisco if possible. The
vessel will be ready to go on dry dock by the time she gets back here;
and besides, I'm planning to put a semi-Diesel-type engine in her."

'"Not by a jugful! She wasn't built with a shaft log, and I won't have
you weakening my _Mindoro_ by cutting away her deadwood--"

"Tish! Tush! You're a back number, Cappy. They don't cut through the
deadwood any more. They run the shaft out over her quarter and hang it
on struts."

"She'll carry a helm--"

"She'll not; but if she does, let her. It'll give the helmsman something
to do."

Cappy subsided, fearful that if he persisted he might be given new
evidence of the fact that times had changed a trifle, here and there,
since he had--ostensibly--gone on the retired list.

"Well, I'll take care of the _Mindoro_," he assured his son-in-law.
"Early in life I adopted the woodpecker as my patron saint. Ever since,
whenever I want anything I keep pecking away, and pretty soon I bust
through somewhere."

The following morning, bursting with a sense of responsibility, Cappy
came bustling down to the office and got on the job at eight-thirty.
After looking through the mail he called up all the freight brokers in
town and urged them to make a special effort to line up a San Francisco
cargo for the _Mindoro_; then he summoned Mr. Skinner's stenographer and
was busy dictating when Mr. J. Augustus Redell was announced by a youth
from the general office. Cappy went to the door to welcome his beloved
young friend and business enemy.

"Come in, Gus, my dear boy," he chirped, "and rest your face and hands."
He turned to the stenographer. "That will be all, my dear, for
the present. I can't dictate business secrets in the presence of
this--ahem--harumph-h-h!--er--"

His desk telephone rang. Cappy took down the receiver and grunted.

"J. O. Heyfuss & Co. are calling you, Mr. Ricks," his private exchange
operator announced.

Cappy smiled and nodded. J. O. Heyfuss & Co. were ship, freight and
marine insurance brokers.

"Something doing for my _Mindoro_," he soliloquized aloud.

"Mr. Ricks?" a voice came over the wire.

"Hello there!" Cappy replied at the top of his voice. For some reason
he always shouted when telephoning. "Ricks on the job! Whatja got for
my _Mindoro_, Heyfuss?... Zinc ore? Never carried any before. Don't know
what it looks like.... Yes; that freight rate is acceptable. We should
have more, but God forbid that we should be considered human hogs...
Yes.... Sure it's for discharge in San Francisco? ... All right. Close
for it.... Good-bye!... Hey there, Heyfuss! Don't close in a hurry. See
if you can't get the charterers to pay the towage over to her loading
port. If they won't pay all, strike 'em for half."

He hung up without saying good-bye.

"Well, that's out of the way," he declared with satisfaction. "Just
closed for a cargo of zinc ore from Australia to San Francisco ex our
schooner _Mindoro_. Matt Peasley's been hunting wild-eyed for a cargo
for her--scouring the market, Gus--and nothing doing! And here the
old master comes along and digs up a cargo while you'd be saying Jack
Robinson. By the Holy Pink-Toed Prophet, if you can show me how the
rising generation is going to get by--"

He paused suddenly, leaned forward, and pointed an accusing finger at
his visitor.

"Gus," he charged, "you're up to something. I can see it in your eyes.
You look guilty."

Mr. Redell hitched his chair close to Cappy and with his index finger
tapped the old gentleman three times on the right knee-three impressive
taps.

"Alden P. Ricks," he began with equal impressiveness, "I have a
scheme--"

Cappy chuckled and slapped his thin old thigh.

"I knew it! By the Holy Pink-Toed Prophet! Gus, if you ever come into my
office and fail to unload a scheme on me I'll think you aren't enjoying
your usual robust health. What are you going to start now? A skunk farm
for cornering the market on Russian sable?"

"Cut out the hilarity. This is serious business, Cappy. I can show
you where you and I can waltz into the Chicago Pit, make a killing on
December wheat, and escape with a sizable wad before our identity is
discovered."

Cappy, caught off his guard, blinked at the enormity of the prospect;
but, remembering his dignity as a business man, he shook his head sadly
and replied:

"Wheat! Wheat, eh? A lumber and shipping man monkeying with wheat? Not
for little old Alden P. Ricks! No, sir! When I go speculating I stick
to my specialties--lumber and ships. Did you ever hear of a gambler,
winning a fortune at faro, who didn't drop his winnings on the ponies?"

"But this is a beautiful layout."

"I don't know anything about wheat and I'm too old to learn. Besides, I
don't trust you, Gus. You're an infernal scoundrel; and experience has
taught me that any time I take your tip and go in on a deal I have to
step lively to keep from being walked on."

"But this time I'm free from guile. I won't stab you, Cappy."

"No use! The last boat just left, Augustus."

[Illustration with caption: He always shouted when telephoning.]

Mr. Redell, however, was made of rather stern stuff. He was a young man
who never took "No" for an answer. Persistence was his most striking
characteristic.

"Now listen," he implored. "Let the dead past bury itself. I give you
my word of honor, Cappy, that this deal is on the level. Just let me put
all my cards on the table while you take a look; then, if you don't want
to come in, all I ask is your word of honor that you'll stay out while I
round up a partner with red blood in his veins."

Cappy pricked up his ears at that. He saw that Redell was serious; he
knew that once the latter passed his word of honor he never broke it.
Still, Cappy did not wish to appear precipitate in his surrender; so he
said weakly:

"I am against speculation."

"You mean you're against foolish speculation," Redell corrected him. "I
take it, however, that you have no objection to playing a sure thing."

"Well," Gappy admitted, "in that event I might be persuaded.
Nevertheless, I'm afraid of you. There's a fly in the ointment, even if
I cannot see it. You owe me a poke, and you'll never rest until you've
squared the account between us."

Mr. Redell held up his hands in abject distress.

"Cappy," he pleaded, "don't say that. You wrong me cruelly. It is in
my power to stand idly by and let you assimilate a poke right now; but,
just to show you I haven't any hard feelings, I'll do something nice for
you instead."

"What do you mean--nice?"

"I'll save you money--not only today but for years to come; and I'll
save your self-respect."

"Shoot!"

"Call up J. O. Heyfuss & Co. and tell them to take their cargo of zinc
ore in bulk for your schooner _Mindoro_ and go to the devil with it!"

"But, good gracious, boy, I have to get something for her homeward
trip!"

"In this case nothing is better than something. Do you know anything
about zinc ore?"

"Yes; as much as an Eskimo knows about the doctrine of
transubstantiation."

"I thought so. Well, I'll enlighten you. Zinc ore is blamed near as
heavy as lead, and it's as fine as cement. Load it in a ship in bulk
and, what with the pitching and rolling of a vessel on a long voyage,
she opens up every seam and crack in her interior; then this powdered
ore sifts into the skin of the ship and down into her bilge, and you'll
never be able to get it out without tearing the ship apart. Why, after
a vessel has freighted a cargo of zinc ore there may be as much as fifty
tons left in her after she's supposed to be discharged; and, of course,
thereafter she'll carry that much less cargo than she did before.
Besides, the consignees are liable to send you a bill for the shortage;
you can gamble your head they'll deduct it from the freight bill."

"Holy sailor!" Cappy was appalled.

"Why," Redell continued, "I'm surprised at your ignorance, Cappy!"

"And I'm amazed at your intelligence! Where did you get all this
zinc-ore dope?" Cappy challenged. "How do you know it's true?"

"I got it from Captain Matt Peasley. I heard him give it to J. O.
Heyfuss on the floor of the Merchants' Exchange two weeks ago, when
Heyfuss tried to sneak up on his blind side and hang that cargo of zinc
ore on him. I guess they weren't importing much zinc ore when you were
active in business, Cappy, or you'd have known all about it. You see
the plot, don't you? As soon as Heyfuss learned that Matt Peasley and
Skinner had gone away, leaving a defenseless old man on the job, he
organized himself to spear you."

"The shameless son of a sea cook! By gravy, Gus, you're my friend!"

"Need any more proof?"

"Not a speck."

"Then I'll give you some. Call up Heyfuss and declare that ore cargo
off; after you've done that I'll tell you where you can get something
better. Moreover, you can close the deal yourself and save the
brokerage."



CHAPTER XLI


Cappy Ricks called up J. O. Heyfuss and in a few terse sentences told
that individual where to head in.

"Now, then--" he began, facing round on Redell once more.

Again Redell's index finger tapped Cappy's knee. Dramatically he
pronounced a single word:

"Wheat!"

"Wheat?"

"Wheat!"

"What kind of wheat?" In his amazement Cappy was rather helpless.

"Number One white Australian wheat."

"You jibbering jackdaw! Wheat? Don't you know blamed well that wheat is
one of the commodities Australia never exports to these United States?
Why? Because we don't need her doggoned wheat! We grow all the wheat we
need and a lot more we don't need; we export that, and it's just as fine
wheat as you'll find anywhere. Moreover, any time our crop is a failure,
our next-door neighbor, Canada, is Johnny-on-the-spot, ready to make
prompt delivery. So what in thunder are you talking about?"

For answer J. Augustus Redell drew from his pocket that morning's paper
and pointed to the headline of a front-page story. Cappy adjusted his
spectacles and read: Bakers Announce Six-Cent Loaf!

"Hum-m-m!" said Cappy.

"You bet! And it's a smaller loaf, by the way. Doesn't that argue that
there is something doing in wheat, when the price of bread goes to six
cents for a half portion?"

"Well, there might be something in that, Gus. Crack along and tell me
some more."

"Until the identity of the real culprits is fixed, Cappy, we must blame
the war in Europe for the six-cent loaf; likewise for the fifteen-dollar
shoe that formerly cost our wives six or seven; for the eleven pounds of
sugar for a dollar, when twenty to twenty-two pounds was the standard in
the good old days. Europe is too busy fighting to pay much attention to
farming; the wheat farmers of Canada are somewhere in France instead of
being at home 'tending to business; and it has been up to Uncle Sam
and the Argentine Republic to feed the world, you might say. Naturally
speculators have seized upon this condition to shoot the price of wheat
to the skies, and in desperation the millers have been casting about to
buy cheaper wheat. Investigation discloses the fact that Australia has
an enormous quantity of wheat on hand; some of it is the surplus of the
1915 crop. Of course she has exported all she could to England; but, at
that, she has been handicapped."

"How?"

"Because when a ship sails from Liverpool with goods for Australia, it
is a rare case when that same ship promptly loads with Australian
goods and puts back to Liverpool. She takes a cargo of coal, say, from
Newcastle up to Manila; a general cargo from Manila to Seattle or San
Francisco; thence to a West Coast port with a general cargo; thence to
New York with nitrate; thence to Europe with foodstuffs or munitions.
Australia hasn't had the tonnage to export her wheat and it's been
piling up on her. Now they've simply got to sell something to get some
ready money."

"This is perfectly re-markable!"

Redell took a document from his pocket and gravely handed it to
Cappy, who examined it and discovered the same to be a charter party,
consummated the day before between the West Coast Trading Company,
owners of the barkentine _Mazeppa_, and Messrs. Ford & Carter, a well
known export and import firm whose principal business was done in grain.
Cappy read the charter party carefully and even verified the signatures,
with which he was familiar. The vessel was to carry a cargo of wheat
from Melbourne to San Francisco at a freight rate that fairly shrieked
the word "Dividend."

"Re-markable!" Cappy declared. "Preposterous!"

"Seeing is believing. Call up Ford & Carter, and they'll jump over
themselves to give you a cargo of wheat for your _Mindoro_."

"Im-possible!"

"Well, I'm telling you. Why, it stands to reason, Cappy! Canada and the
United States are so much nearer Europe than is Australia that it has
been cheaper to use our wheat, and the result is we've been cleaned out;
and the newspapers are filled with dismal stories of the sufferings of
the poor due to the increased price of bread."

"Come to think of it, Gus, there _has_ been a lot of that stuff in the
papers lately. But, of course, when a fellow's stomach is full and he
isn't in danger of being attached for debt, he never thinks of the less
fortunate brother. Yes, Gus, I dare say the demand for our wheat now
exceeds the visible supply."

"Is it any wonder, then, that this condition of affairs should come to
the attention of the Australian exporters? Just because Australian
wheat has never been shipped into the United States is no reason why
it shouldn't be shipped--particularly when the price of flour goes up
daily. Why, we pay two and a half dollars for the fifty-pound sack
of flour that formerly cost us a dollar and a quarter! Eggs are up to
seventy cents a dozen--by jingo, Cappy, what's going to become of us?"

"God knows!" Cappy answered dismally.

Redell had him hypnotized. Already Cappy could see the gates of the
poorhouse opening to receive them all. Redell's voice brought him back
to a realization of his peril.

"You'll find, Cappy Ricks, that for months to come every sailing vessel
that carries lumber to Australia from the Pacific Coast will come back
with a cargo of wheat while these war prices are maintained."

"Great Jumping Jehoshaphat! How'd you get next to all this, Gus?"

"The early bird gets the worm, and success comes to the man who creates
his own opportunities. I thought it all up out of my own head, Cappy,
and then tried it out on Ford & Carter. It knocked 'em cold for a
minute; but that was only because the proposition was so unusual. When
I explained the situation to them, however, and gave them time to digest
it, both offered to take me out to luncheon. You can see for yourself
they've chartered our Mazeppa at a fancy freight rate."

Cappy licked his lips.

"The _Mindoro_ is sound, tight and seaworthy," he murmured. "She could
carry wheat."

"Come on in, Cappy. The water's fine!"

"I'll do it! Gus, you're a mighty good fellow, if I do say it that
shouldn't. I have five windjammers en route to Australia this minute,
and, by the Holy Pink-Toed Prophet, if I can get wheat charters for
all of them on the return trip I'll accept, if it costs me money. Gus,
something has got to be done about this high cost of living or we'll all
go to hell together. There comes a time in a man's life when he must put
aside the sordid question of 'How much is there in it for me?' and ask
himself: 'How much can I put in it for the other fellow?' Gus, it's our
Christian duty to furnish tonnage to import this wheat. We should, as
patriotic citizens, make it our business to boom Australian wheat in
the United States and give these doggoned pirates that gamble in the
foodstuffs of the country a run for their money. Food prices should be
regulated by this Government. The Chicago Pit should be abolished by
legislative enactment--"

"Well, they won't do it this year, Cappy," Redell interrupted dryly.
"Still, it occurred to me that I saw an opening where two high-minded
philanthropists--to wit, Alden P. Ricks and J. Augustus Redell--might
strike a blow for freedom and at the same time give these wheat
speculators a kick where it will do them the most good. When one cannot
annihilate his enemy the next best thing is to take some money away
from him; and you and I, Cappy Ricks, can take a young fortune away from
these fellows, while at the same time depressing the price of wheat and
doing our fellow countrymen a favor. Are you prepared to volunteer under
my banner? If so, hold up your right hand."

Cappy held up his right hand.

"Out with it, Gus," he ordered; "out with it! This is most interesting."

"Ah! You're interested now, are you? Well, bearing in mind the fact that
your specialty is lumber and ships, I will give you an opportunity to
withdraw before it is too late. Besides, it occurs to me that I have
already done enough for you today."

"Don't be greedy, Gus. Remember there is an exception to every rule.
Besides, I'm getting old and--er--ahem!--hell's bells, boy, I've got
to have my fling every once in a while. Come now, Gus! Out with it! I
believe your proposition embodied the coupling of both our names in the
betting, did it not?"

"It did, Cappy. Still, come to think of it, I really ought not to come
in here and tempt you into speculating--"

"How much money do you want?" Cappy shrilled impatiently. "Cut out this
infernal drivel and get down to business. Unfold your proposition; and
if it looks to me like a winner I'll take a flyer with you if it's the
last act of my sinful life."

"On your own head be it, Cappy. Here goes! However, before laying my
plan before you, perfect frankness compels me to state that my visit to
you was not born of an overweening desire to do you a kindness or make
money for you. Philanthropy is not my long suit--in business hours; and
my interest in you today is purely a selfish one."

"Go on; go on, boy! Am I a child in arms?"

"I have made a ball, Cappy," Redell continued, "and I want you to
fire it. I have a splendid prescription to make a clean-up in December
wheat--"

"Give me your prescription."

"Well, sir, my prescription lacks one small ingredient to make it a
standard household remedy. You can supply that ingredient--to wit, cash
of the present standard of weight and fineness. Every spare dollar that
Live Wire Luiz and I can get our hands on is working overtime in the
legitimate business of the West Coast Trading Company; every loose asset
with a hockable value has been hocked, and we dare not strain our credit
with our banker by borrowing money with which to speculate. If I apply
for a sizable loan, without putting up collateral, he'll ask me what I
want to do with the money--and if I answer truthfully he'll throw
Luiz and me and our account out of his bank. And I never was a very
successful liar. Therefore, in consideration of the valuable information
I can furnish, I suggest that you carry me for a quarter of a million
bushels of December wheat."

"How much will that cost me?" Cappy queried warily.

"We'll operate on margin. I think a margin of ten cents a bushel will do
the trick; of course, if wheat should go up a point you'll be asked to
come through with more money. However, I have a sneaking notion that
a well-known heavyweight like you can place his order with any of the
local brokers without having to put up a single cent; at the most they
might ask you for five thousand or ten thousand dollars. But they know
you're good for any engagement you may make; they'd be tickled to death
to have your promissory note. I suggest that you get in touch with a
sound brokerage house in this city--one that is a member of the New York
Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade--and sell, for my account, two
hundred and fifty thousand bushels of December wheat at the market."

"What'll I do for myself?"

"Go as far as you like. You know your own limitations. I'm desirous
of selling a quarter of a million bushels at the market; and, as I am
furnishing the plans and specifications for this raid, I suggest that
you sell at least a quarter of a million yourself."

"Funny business!" Cappy murmured. "Selling a quarter of a million
bushels of wheat you do not own and never will! Hum-m-m! Ahem!
Harumph-h-h! Then what?"

He bent his head and gazed very severely at Mr. Redell over the rims
of his spectacles. For reply Mr. Redell took from his pocket thirteen
sheaves of paper and handed them to Cappy, who investigated and
discovered them to be thirteen forty-eight-hour options on thirteen
sailing vessels bound to Australian ports with lumber, and not as yet
provided with a return cargo to the United States.

"By to-morrow morning I shall have exercised those options and closed
for thirteen cargoes of wheat," Redell explained. "You have five vessels
bound to Australia also. Give me an option on them for their return
cargo and that will make eighteen."

"Yes, yes. Then what?"

"I will charter all of the eighteen to Ford grain of it, in order to
protect themselves against a falling market."

"Naturally. And the market is--"

"December wheat closed in the Chicago Pit yesterday at $1.89 1/2, and
the market has been very stiff for quite a while. The bulls are right on
the job."

"Will not the advent of all this Australian wheat depress the market?"
Cappy shrilled excitedly.

"Not unless the bears happen to find it out, Cappy," Redell retorted
gently. "It is our job to bring the matter to their attention, for it
so happens that Alden P. Ricks and J. Augustus Redell are the only two
people in the United States who happen to know about it. Ford bulls
will get panicky; the bears will take heart of hope, and with Number One
white Australian wheat they'll beat the brains out of the market and in
all probability kick it down to $1.85, at which figure we promptly buy
as much wheat as we have previously sold. Thus we cover our shorts,
and the difference between $1.89 1/2 and $1.85, less brokerage and
interest--if any--will be, roughly speaking, four cents. Four cents on a
quarter of a million bushels is ten thousand dollars--not a great deal,
truly, in these days of swollen fortunes, but, nevertheless, a nice
piece of velvet--eh, Cappy, you sporty boy?"

"It isn't so much the money we make," Cappy replied sagely. "It's the
fun we have making it, my boy; the joy of putting over a winner. The
instant a man begins to love money for money's sake he's a knave and
a fool. Kill him! But--er--ahem--as you say, my dear young friend, ten
thousand each is not to be--er--sneezed at."

"Then you're coming in on the deal?"

"I should tell a man!"

After the fashion of the West they shook hands on it and went to
luncheon at the Commercial Club.



CHAPTER XLII


Directly luncheon was over and Cappy Ricks had returned to his office,
J. Augustus Redell moved into action. He called on Messrs. Ford &
Carter, talked the situation over with them, and showed them where they,
having the necessary tonnage in hand with which to guarantee delivery,
could bring a couple of million bushels of fine Number One white
Australian wheat to the Pacific Coast, cut the price a cent, and
doubtless unload every kernel of it at a fair profit. There was
every probability that wheat would go to two dollars. For his part in
producing this profit Mr. Redell desired a commission of five per cent
on all sales of wheat imported in the bottoms he had under option and
which he stood ready to turn over to Ford & Carter without profit,
since the owners of the vessels would pay him the customary broker's
commission on the freight money earned on the voyage. Ford & Carter
said they would think the matter over; so Mr. Redell tactfully withdrew,
stating that he would call up the following day for an answer.

He knew Ford & Carter would promptly dispatch a long cablegram to their
agent in Australia, instructing him to get a forty-eight-hour option on
the wheat, with a guaranty of delivery to the vessels as they arrived
from time to time. Meantime, Ford & Carter would quote every milling
company in the West, subject to prior acceptance and their ability
to deliver Number One Australian wheat at a price that would be of
interest. If the milling companies accepted this rather nebulous
quotation and telegraphed orders, and Ford & Carter's Australian agent
could purchase at a satisfactory price the wheat to fill these orders,
then Ford & Carter would make formal acceptance and purchase the wheat.
If, on the other hand, their agent in Australia failed to get the wheat,
then Ford & Carter had an "out" with the milling companies who desired
to buy the wheat from them, and the entire matter would be off, with
Ford & Carter merely out a couple of hundred dollars in telegraph bills.
That was the bet they had to make to put their fortune to the touch; and
right cheerfully did they make it.

J. Augustus Redell gave them all the time he could. His forty-eight-hour
options on the vessels then en route to Australia had cost him nothing;
that was a courtesy which one shipowner always extends to another, free
of charge, unless the vessel happens to be on demurrage at the time the
option is given. When his options were within two hours of expiring he
called on Ford & Carter.

"We'll take 'em all," Carter almost shouted at him. "They'll be arriving
with sufficient time elapsing between arrivals to guarantee us immunity
from any undue delay or embarrassment in loading them. We've bought the
wheat and sold it; now give us the tonnage to freight it, Redell, and
we'll all be happy, and a little richer than we were the day before
yesterday."

Redell took up the telephone and called each shipowner, in turn, to
inform him that he would exercise his option on the latter's ship, and
for the owner to prepare charter parties and send them up to his office
for signature.

"I will have no difficulty in getting the owners to agree to an
assignment of these charters to you," he advised Carter. "You and Ford
are brothers in good standing, I take it. However, if they insist on
doing business through me, in order that they may hold me responsible,
I'll simply recharter to you at the same rate."

"Lovely!" cried Messrs. Ford & Carter in unison.

Ten minutes later J. Augustus Redell burst into Cappy Ricks' sanctum and
wakened the old gentleman from his afternoon siesta.

"The trap is set," he announced. "Come on, Cappy! We're going up to the
broker's office now and give the order to sell our December wheat. I
can't go alone, you know. There wouldn't be an odor of sanctity about
the transaction if I did."

"We'll have Gregg & Company attend to it for us," Cappy announced. "You
remember Harry Gregg, don't you? Used to be in the steamship business
years ago. Gosh, that boy knows me! He'll take a stiff finger bet from
Alden P. Ricks."

Together they motored uptown to the office of Gregg & Co., where Cappy's
card gained him instant admittance to the broker's private office.
Redell remained in the anteroom on pretense of speaking to an
acquaintance, and the instant Cappy disappeared into Gregg's office
Redell stepped out into the hall, where he waited until Cappy had booked
his order and came hunting for him.

"Well, I've sold my two hundred and fifty thousand bushels at a
dollar-ninety," Cappy announced.

"How much margin?" Redell demanded.

"Oh, Gregg didn't sting me very hard. Ten cents a bushel. It seemed like
a good bet to him. He looks for a drop in December wheat."

"Met a pest out here and couldn't seem to get away from him," Redell
explained. "Take me in and introduce me to Gregg, and I'll give him an
order to sell a jag of wheat for me."

Cappy complied and Redell gave the broker his order.

"It will take about twenty-five thousand dollars to margin this trade,
Mr. Redell," the latter remarked easily as he wrote out the order and
handed a copy to Redell.

"Nonsense!" Cappy struck in. "Mr. Redell is one of our most delightful,
trustworthy and popular young men, and to ask him for twenty-five
thousand dollars today would prejudice his standing with his banker. I
guarantee him, Harry. Treat him as you'd treat me. I guarantee him up to
a hundred thousand dollars."

"Your guaranty goes with me, Mr. Ricks," Gregg answered promptly, and
shoved the copy of the order he had just booked over to Cappy, together
with the fountain pen. Cappy wrote: "O. K. Alden P. Ricks." Redell gave
his check for ten thousand dollars margin and the deal was closed. When
the scheming pair returned to Cappy's office the latter gave Redell his
check for ten thousand to reimburse Redell for margining the trade, in
accordance with Cappy's verbal agreement to provide the sinews of war.

"Now then, Cappy," Redell announced as he stuffed Cappy's check into his
pocket, "the next move is to return to my office, close those charters
with the owners and turn the ships over to Ford & Carter. That matter
attended to, I shall, with eighteen charter parties in my pocket, drift
casually over to the Merchants' Exchange. There I shall find the market
reporters for both of our sunrise sheets; if they are not there I shall
wait until they arrive. These gifted young men I shall draw to one side;
to them I shall, with great gusto, relate a tale of Number One white
Australian wheat, shortly to descend upon the United States of America
in no less than eighteen vessels, now chartered for that purpose, with
more to follow. In proof of this statement I shall exhibit the charter
parties; and then--"

"Front-page story!" Cappy declared, interrupting.

"Not yet--but soon. To get on the front page a story must be rather
unusual. A perusal of our daily rags will convince the most skeptical
that the sensational, the unusual, the bizarre are what appeal most to
the men who make the newspapers. The unusual thing about our deal lies
in the fact that this is the first time in the history of Australia or
the United States that the former country has exported wheat into the
latter--the first time the latter has ever had to call on an outsider
for help. Then, Cappy, it will be a front-page story--and how those boys
will hop to it! Why, we'll get a column about Australian wheat invading
the land of the free whose rapacity threatens the very food that goes
into the mouths of little children! Little children and their mouths is
good stuff! I'll use that line when slipping the story to the boys. They
might overlook it if I didn't. I'll remind them of the six-cent loaf
of bread, the sufferings of the poor, and how far the importation of
Australian wheat will go to knock the Chicago wheat barons for a goal."

"Here, here! You're too precipitate," Cappy cautioned. "Don't tip this
story off to both reporters. That's coarse work. Tell it to one only.
Put him under obligations to you by seeming to give him a scoop. Tell
him you won't say a word to his competitor, and he'll tell his city
editor the story is exclusive; then they'll be certain to play it up
big."

"Cappy, you're the shadow of a rock in a weary land! Who'll tip off the
other reporter?"

"I will, of course. Leave it to me. A man doesn't go through the mill
of Big Business without knowing the way of that singularly useful
individual, the newspaper man."

Redell sat down and laughed until the tears ran down his merry
countenance. Cappy thought the outlook sufficiently cheerful to warrant
that laugh, and suspected nothing. He even joined in the laugh.

"And to-morrow morning, when that story appears, the local brokerage
firms will be calling up Ford friend and gave him a paternal hug. He
winked wickedly.

"My dear boy," he suggested, "suppose you and I go out and pin one on?
Hey? How about you, boy? A pint of '98, in order that we may properly
drink confusion to the wolf of want and damnation to dull care!"



CHAPTER XLIII


Late that afternoon Cappy Ricks graciously summoned the Chronicle
reporter to his office and told him in detail all he knew about the
Australian wheat invasion.

"Of course," he added, "this may be mere street gossip; but I think
there's something in it, my boy. At any rate, I thought you might care
to be tipped off to the situation. It looks like a corking story to me.
I suggest that you call up Ford & Carter and see what they have to say
about it."

"I wonder whether the Examiner reporter has a tip on this?" the
Chronicle man queried hopefully.

"Not from me. This story is for you, young man. That's why I called you
down to my office."

About the same hour J. Augustus Redell might have been seen at the press
table on 'Change, unfolding a similar story to the market reporter
of the Examiner, who thought it was a humdinger of a story, and so
declared.

"All right. Glad you think so," Mr. Redell replied, beaming upon him.
"And just to show you I'm right, I'll not breathe a word of it to the
Chronicle man."

Having planted his journalistic bomb, Mr. Redell glanced at his watch.
It was exactly eleven o'clock. "I still have time," he murmured, and
departed immediately to the office of Gregg of December wheat, but to
cease selling the instant the market hesitated to absorb it or the price
broke a point. At the same moment, in another brokerage office, Cappy
Ricks was issuing a similar order. Before the market closed, Cappy had
succeeded in selling a hundred and eighty thousand bushels, while Redell
had disposed of a hundred and thirty. Evidently the bears took it as it
came, for the market closed strong at $1.89.

Neither Cappy nor Redell reported at his office the following day. At
the hour when the market opened in Chicago both schemers appeared on
the floor of the Merchants' Exchange and bent their gaze upon the
only blackboard on 'Change they had not heretofore honored with
their scrutiny--the board in back of the Grain Pit, which carried the
quotations on the Chicago Board of Trade, already beginning to come in
by wire.

For an hour the trading was inactive. Then suddenly the price broke
half a point as somebody tossed a lot of fifty thousand bushels on
the market. Cappy and Redell each wondered whether he might not be the
responsible party; and while they pondered somebody unloaded a hundred
thousand bushels at $1.88. Cappy gasped as the quotations appeared on
the blackboard.

"Something doing, Gus!" he whispered; Redell nodded.

And now commenced a period of wild trading. The price crept back to
$1.89, only to be assaulted and beaten back to $1.87; then, fraction
by fraction and point by point, the price fell; and J. Augustus Redell
wagged his head approvingly.

"They have received our message," he said. "The riot is on!"

When the price had been beaten down to $1.83 Cappy turned to his
associate.

"I'm through!" he said. "Time to cover my shorts." And he trotted away
to a telephone booth.

As for Redell, he would not intrust his fortune to a telephonic order,
but sprang into 'his runabout, parked at the curb outside the Exchange,
and scorched uptown to Gregg & Co.'s offices, where he learned that he
had sold four hundred and ten thousand bushels of December wheat. One
hundred thousand had been sold at $1.90, two hundred and eighty thousand
at prices varying from $1.89 to $1.88 1/8, and the remainder at 1.88.

"Buy me four hundred and ten thousand bushels at the market," he
ordered.

Before he left the office the sale had been confirmed and Mr. Redell's
shorts had been covered at a price ranging from $1.83 to $1.83 5/8,
whereupon he closed out his trade and received a check for his margin
and his profits. An hour later he met Cappy Ricks again on 'Change.

"Well, Cappy?" he queried.

"I cleaned up, thank you," the old gentleman informed him. "Sold,
bought, and got the money. This is one time it rained duck soup and I
was there with a bucket."

He prodded Mr. Redell playfully in the short ribs and the incident was
closed. They had made a profit of more than twenty thousand dollars
each; and when each returned to his office he forgot all about December
wheat until half past five that evening, when both met on the deserted
floor of the exchange to scan the blackboard. December wheat had closed
that day at $1.83! Two days later J. Augustus Redell called Cappy Ricks
on the telephone.

"That you, Cappy?"

"Yep!"

"Redell speaking. Read the story on the front page of the Chronicle this
morning?"

"No; what was it?"

"The British Government has placed an embargo on the exportation of
wheat from Australia; so all those eighteen charters I negotiated with
Ford were placed with Ford & Carter subject to Ford & Carter's ability
to make delivery and to prior sale. Before Ford & Carter could make
them firm orders and get in over their heads, I tipped them off to the
possibility of this government embargo."

"You tipped them off! How did you know the British Government was going
to clap an embargo on Australian wheat?"

"Why, I didn't know," Redell confessed. "I just guessed it would; so
I advised Ford than I did--and I made a trifle more than twenty-four
thousand dollars."

"Is that so? Well, listen to me tell it; When you and I cashed in that
day our deal was closed wasn't it?"

"Yes."

"And I'd played fair with you?"

"You certainly did, Gus."

"Then I was freed from any further obligations to take you into
partnership with me, was I not?"

"That's how I figure it, my boy."

"That's how I figured it also, Cappy. Consequently, being morally
certain that the British Government would place an embargo on the
exportation of Australian wheat--Cappy, you must admit that the British
Government would have been absolutely crazy if it hadn't--I just called
on Gregg & Co. and bought another half million bushels of December wheat
at $1.83 to $1.84 a bushel. Then I sat tight and waited for that embargo
story to break. Cappy, do you know that story just raised hell on the
Chicago Pit today? The bears were caught napping; and the bulls got busy
and kicked the price up to $1.90 again, at which figure I unloaded and
took my profit."

"You amazing rascal! Why didn't you tip your partner off to that deal?"

"We were no longer partners. You admitted that a moment ago. When I
first outlined this scheme I didn't have a dollar to spare with which I
could speculate. Every last cent was tied up in the business of the
West Coast Trading Company. So I schemed to take you in as a partner on
one-half of the deal; and you not only financed me but guaranteed me to
the broker! Your introduction was all I wanted. After that my credit
was as good as December wheat; in consequence of which, without a cent
invested, I was actually enabled to carry a trade for half a million
bushels! Much obliged to you, Cappy. You're a fine old sport, and I
like you--I wouldn't be surprised if you laid off on me after this--eh,
Cappy?"

"Gus," said Cappy Ricks, "one of these days the Democratic party is
going to wake up and discover that America isn't where they left it the
night before! And when that happens they're going to ask you about it,
you--you--infer-nal--"

The phone clicked. J. Augustus Redell had hung up.

"Drat it!--God bless him!" murmured Cappy Ricks--and hung up, too.



CHAPTER XLIV


Whenever Cappy Ricks made up his mind that his Blue Star Navigation
Company ought to add another vessel to its rapidly growing fleet, he
preferred to build her; for a few bitter experiences early in life
had convinced him that the man who buys the other fellow's ship
quite frequently is given a bonus in the shape of the other fellow's
troubles--troubles which have the unhappy faculty of tilting the
profit-and-loss account over into the red-ink figures. In order to avoid
these troubles, therefore, Cappy would summon his naval architect, whom
he would practically drive to distraction by fussing over the plans
submitted before giving a final grudging acceptance. The blue prints
approved, Cappy would spend a week picking holes in the specifications,
and when there was no more fault to find Mr. Skinner, his general
manager and the president of the Ricks Lumber & Logging Company, would
send a list of the timbers, planking, and so on required, to one of
Cappy's sawmills in Washington; for Cappy had a theory--the good
Lord knows why or where acquired--that Douglas fir from the state of
Washington was better for shipbuilding purposes than Douglas fir grown
in Oregon. Perhaps he figured that the Columbia River, which separates
the two states, made a difference in grade.

The woods boss would then be adjured to select his trees with great
care. No tree would do that sprouted a limb within eighty feet of the
butt, and the butt had to be at least six feet in diameter, in order
that it might produce fine, clear, long-length planks that would not
contain "heart" timber--the heart of a log having a tendency to check
or split when seasoned. When the material was sawed a Blue Star steam
schooner would transport it to San Francisco Bay, and it would be stored
in Cappy's retail lumber yard in Oakland, to be seasoned and air-dried;
following which Cappy Ricks would let the contract for the building of
the vessel to a shipyard on Oakland Estuary, and sell the builder this
seasoned stock at the price of rough green material, even though it was
worth two dollars a thousand extra--not to mention the additional value
for the extra-long lengths furnished specially. Cappy's ancestors, back
in Maine, had built too many ships to have failed to impress upon
him the wisdom of this course; for, on this point at least, initial
extravagance inevitably develops into ultimate economy.

Following the laying of the keel, Cappy would come out of retirement and
become an extremely busy man. He had the vessel's engines to consider;
and for two weeks his private office would resound with the arguments
and recriminations of Cappy and his port engineer. There would be
much talk of pistons, displacement of cylinders, stroke, reciprocating
engines, steeple compound and triple-expansion engines, Scotch boilers,
winches, compressors, dynamos, composition and iron propellers and the
latest developments in crude-oil burners. And on the day when the port
engineer, grown desperate because of the old man's opposition to some
detail, would fly into a rage and resign, Cappy would know that, at
last, everything was all right; whereupon he would scornfully reject
the resignation and take his port engineer to luncheon at the Commercial
Club, just to show he wasn't harboring a grudge.

In the meantime the port captain would be making daily visits to the
shipyard to make certain that the builder was holding rigidly to the
specifications and not trying to skimp here and there; and on Saturdays
Cappy would accompany him and satisfy himself that the port captain
wasn't being imposed upon. Finally the ship would be launched; and as
she slid down the ways Cappy Ricks would be standing on her forecastle
head, his old heart fluttering in his thirty-six-inch chest and his
coat-tails fluttering in the breeze, one arm round the port captain and
the other round the port engineer. As the hull slipped into the drink he
would say:

"Boys, this is the life! I love it! By the Holy Pink-Toed Prophet,
there's more romance in ships than you'll find in most married lives!"
Then he would wave an arm up Oakland Estuary, which prior to the great
war was the graveyard of Pacific Coast shipping, and say with great
pride: "Well, we've done a good job on this craft, boys; she'll never
end in Rotten Row! Every sliver in her is air-dried and seasoned. That's
the stuff! Build 'em of unseasoned material and dry rot develops the
first year; in five years they're punk inside, and then--some fine day
they're posted as missing at Lloyd's. Did you ever see a Blue Star ship
lying in Rotten Row? No; you bet you didn't--and you never will! I never
built a cheap boat and I never ran 'em cheap. By gravy, the Blue Star
ships are like the Blue Nose that owns 'em! They'll be found dead on the
job!"

Quite early in 1915 the Blue Star Navigation Company had found ample
opportunity, due to a world scarcity of tonnage, to dispose of several
of their oldest and smallest steam schooners at unbelievably fine
prices.

"Get rid of them, Matt," Cappy advised his son-in-law, Captain Matt
Peasley, whom he had made president of the company. "You have the
permission of the president emeritus to go as far as you like. Big boats
for us from now on, boy. Slip the little ones while the slipping is
good. These high prices will not prevail very long--only while the
war continues; and at the rate they're slaughtering each other over
in France the war will be over in six months; then prices will fall
kerflump! Then we'll build a couple of real steamers."

So Matt Peasley promptly sold five steam schooners, following which he
made up his mind that the world still had two years of war ahead of
it. Accordingly he urged the letting of contracts for two
seven-thousand-five-hundred-ton steel freighters immediately.

"Nothing doing!" Cappy declared. "Why, it's rank nonsense to think of
building now at wartime prices. If our recent sales have pinched us for
tonnage we'll have to charter from our neighbors and worry along as best
we can until the war is over."

"You're making a mistake, Cappy Ricks," his son-in-law warned him.

"Ask Skinner if I am. Skinner, let's have your opinion."

Mr. Skinner, always cautious and ultra-conservative promptly advised
against Matt Peasley's course; but Matt would not be downed without a
fight.

"I know prices for ship construction are fearfully high just now," he
admitted; "but--mark my words!--they're going to double; and if we
place our contracts now, while we have an opportunity to do so, we'll
be getting in on the ground floor. I tell you that war hasn't really
started yet; and the longer it continues the higher will prices on all
commodities soar--but principally on ship construction. Father-in-law, I
beg of you to let me get busy and build. Suppose the boats do cost us a
quarter of a million dollars more each than we could have built them
for in 1914. What of it? We have the money--and if we didn't have it we
could borrow it. I don't care what a ship costs me when freight rates
are soaring to meet the advance in construction costs."

Nevertheless, Cappy and Mr. Skinner hooted him down. Three months later,
however, when Cappy Ricks had changed his mind, and Mr. Skinner was too
heartbroken to curse himself for a purblind idiot, it was too late to
place the contracts. Every shipyard in the United States and abroad was
loaded up with building orders for three years in advance, and the Blue
Star Navigation Company was left to twiddle its corporate thumbs. Matt
Peasley was so angry that he almost speculated on the delight of being
at sea again, in command of a square rigger, with Cappy Ricks and Mr.
Skinner signed on as A.B.'s; in which condition of servitude he might
dare to call them aft and knock their heads together. However, he
managed to have his revenge. Every time nitrate freights went up a
dollar a ton he told them about it with great gusto, and the day he
chartered the _Tillicum_ for Vladivostok, with steel for the Russian
Government at seventy-five dollars a ton, he had poor Cappy moaning in
his wretchedness.

"Just think how nice it would be," he taunted his aged relative, "if
we had only placed contracts for two big boats when I urged it. By the
middle of summer I'd have them both on the Vladivostok run--perhaps at a
hundred dollars a ton; and long before the war is over you could do what
you've been trying to do for the past ten years."

"Do what?" Cappy queried.

"Retire!" Matt retorted meaningly.

"In-fernal young scoundrel!" Cappy was angry enough to commit murder.
"Out of my office!" he shrilled, and pointed to the door.



CHAPTER XLV


For once in his busy life it was, figuratively speaking, raining duck
soup, and poor Cappy was there with a fork! When he had recovered his
composure he sent for Matt Peasley.

"Matt, my dear boy," he confessed miserably, "this is certainly one
occasion upon which father appears to have overlooked his hand. However,
none of us is perfect; and if we're caught out without an umbrella, so
to speak--"

"We?" Matt reminded him witheringly. "Cappy, it's all right to use
that 'we' stuff when you're talking to Skinner, but trot out the
perpendicular pronoun when you're talking to me. I hate to say 'I told
you so'; but--"

"Lay off me!" Cappy pleaded. "I'm an old man, Matt; so be easy on me.
Besides, I don't make a mistake very often, and you know it."

"I do know it. But when you blocked me on that building scheme you
certainly made up for lost time. Really, Cappy, you mustn't make me play
so close to my vest in these brisk times. If I'm to manage the Blue Star
Navigation Company I mustn't have my ideas pooh-poohed as if I were a
hare-brained child."

"I know, Matt; I know. But I built up the Blue Star Navigation Company
and the Ricks Lumber & Logging Company by playing 'em close, and it's a
hard habit to break.

"However, let us forget the past and look forward with confidence to
the future. Matt, my dear boy, since we cannot get a shipyard to build
a steamer for us, I'm going to break a rule of forty years' standing
and buy one in the open market. I guess that'll prove to you I'm not so
hide-bound with conservatism as you think. Go forth into the highways
and the byways, Matt, and see what they have for sale."

"How high do you want me to go?"

"As high as they hung Haman--if you find it necessary."

"That's certainly a free hand; but I'm afraid it comes too late. I
doubt if there is an owner with the kind of steamer we want who is crazy
enough to sell her."

"Tish! Tush! All things are for sale all the time. Scour the market,
Matt, and you'll find Cappy Ricks isn't the only damned fool left in the
shipping business. My boy, you'd be surprised at the number of so-called
business men who are entirely devoid of imagination. Dozens of them
still think the war will end this fall, but I'm willing to make a
healthy bet that the fall of 1917 still finds them going to it to beat
four of a kind."

"You said something that time, father-in-law," Matt replied laughingly.

Then he roughed the old man affectionately and went forth into
California Street, where he wore out much shoe leather before he
located what he considered a bargain and reported back to the president
emeritus.

"You're right, Cappy!" he declared. "You aren't the only boob in the
shipping business. I've located another."

"That's what you get by taking father's advice," Gappy retorted proudly.
"Have you bought a steamer?"

"No; but I'm going to buy one this afternoon. She's going to cost us
half a million dollars, cash on the nail, and I have an option on her at
that figure until noon today. Skinner has a lot of lumber money he isn't
using, and I'm going to borrow a quarter of a million from his company
on the Blue Star note at six per cent. Don't want to run our own
treasury too low."

"Dog-gone that Skinner! That's some more of his efficiency. I own both
companies, and it's just like taking money out of one pocket and putting
it into the other; but Skinner's a bug on system. Just think of making
me pay myself six per cent interest! However, I suppose we must have
some kind of order. What's the name of the steamer?"

"The _Penelope_."

Cappy Ricks slid out to the edge of his chair, placed one hand on each
knee, and appraisingly eyed his son-in-law over the rims of his glasses.

"Say that again, Matt--and say it slow," he ordered.

"I said _Penelope--P-e-n-e-l-o-p-e_. Maybe you call her the
_Pen-elope!_"

"Are you buying her as is?" Matt nodded. "To hear you tell it, Matt, one
might gather the impression that half a million dollars is about what
we give the janitor at Christmas. Boy, half a million dollars is real
money."

"Not in the shipping business these days, Cappy. Why, you have to wave
that much under an owner's nose before he'll look up and show interest
enough to ask you who you are and who let you in."

"Well, the man who would, in cold blood, consider paying half a million
dollars for the _Penelope_ is certainly ripe for a padded cell," Cappy
jeered. "That fellow Hudner, of the Black Butte Lumber Company, owns
her, does he not?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then you know exactly the condition she's in. I'll bet a cooky her
bottom plates are rusted so thin from lack of an occasional coat of red
paint that if you were to stand on her bridge and toss a tack
hammer down her main hatch you'd punch a hole in her. She's a long,
narrow-gutted, cranky coffin--that's what she is; and the worst-found
ship in Pacific waters. Why, let me tell you something, young man: she
can't get by the inspectors this minute."

"She has just gotten by them," Matt contradicted. "Passed yesterday."

"What does that signify? When her skipper has her up for inspection he
scours the water front like a hungry dog, borrowing a boathook here, a
sound life-boat there, some fire buckets elsewhere, a hose from the fire
tug, and a lot of engine-room tools wherever he can get them. As for
life preservers, he rents them for ten cents each from a marine junk
dealer. So, when the inspectors arrive, the _Penelope_ is a well-found
ship; as soon as they pass her the skipper returns the equipment, with
thanks. As for paint--why, the only painting she ever gets is when
Hudner lays her alongside some British ship to discharge a foreign cargo
of lumber into the lime-juicer; then her mate steals all the paint
in the Britisher's lazaret. The poor, unfortunate devil! He has to do
something to make a showing with the _Penelope's_ owner! I tell you,
Matt, I know this man Hudner! He's as thrifty as an Armenian and as
slippery as a skating rink. He's laying to stab you, boy. Mind your
step!"

"Even so, Cappy, she's a bargain. I expect to spend fifty thousand
dollars putting her in first-class condition after we get her."

"You expect to spend it! Why, how you talk! Hudner is the one that
should spend that money. For the love of trade, what is he selling you?
A ship or a hulk?"

"I don't care what she is; we can make her pay for herself and earn half
a million or a million extra before this war ends. And she won't be such
a bad vessel after she's shipped a couple of new plates. She has a dead
weight capacity for six thousand tons and was built at Sunderland in
1902. When she went ashore off Point Sur, in 1909, Hudner bought her
from the underwriters for five thousand dollars and spent more than half
her original cost repairing her. That, of course, made her tantamount to
a ship built in the United States, and under American registry she can
run between American ports. And that's what we want. She'll be just the
thing to carry lumber to New York, via the Canal, when the war ends and
the nitrate harvest is over."

Cappy Ricks threw up his hands.

"You see before you, my boy," he said mournfully, "a dollar-burdened,
world-weary old man, who for ten years has been trying to retire from
active business, and cannot. The reason is he dassent; if he dassed,
this shebang would be in the hands of the sheriff within a year. Now,
listen, young feller! I know all about the _Penelope_. Before the war
she had repaid Hudner, with interest, every cent she cost him, and since
the war I suppose she's made half a million dollars. Now when Hudner
finds he has to spend a lot of money fixing her up, he figures it's best
to get rid of her and saddle somebody else with the bill. Her intrinsic
value is just about one hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars, and
when Hudner asks half a million for her he expects to get four hundred
and fifty thousand. In order to play safe, go back and offer him four
hundred thousand dollars; presently he'll come down fifty thousand and
you'll come up fifty thousand, and the trade will be closed on that
basis. Meantime I'll sit here and weep as I reflect on the cost of
putting that ruin in fit shape to receive a Blue Star house flag. I tell
you, Matt, I wouldn't send Pancho Villa to sea in her as she is now."

Matt Peasley, like Cappy Ricks, was a Yankee; when he did business he
liked to chaffer; and, after all--he thought--there was a certain shrewd
philosophy in what his foxy father-in-law had said. At least Cappy had
supplied him with ammunition for argument; so he went back to Hudner's
office and argued and pleaded and ridiculed, but all to no avail. He
returned to Cappy Ricks' office.

"I fought him all over his office," he complained, "but he wouldn't
come down a cent. I think we'd better take a chance and give him half a
million."

"Fiddlesticks! Stay with him, Matt. I know Hudner. He acts like he's
full of bellicose veins, but anybody can outgame him. Let your option
expire; then to-morrow meet him accidentally on 'Change and talk with
him half an hour about everything on earth except the S. S. _Penelope_.
Just before you leave him he'll grab you by the lapel of your coat and
ask if you're still interested in the _Penelope_. Then you say: 'Why,
yes--moderately; but not at half a million.' Then you make him a firm
offer--for the last time--of four hundred and fifty thousand dollars;
and he'll say: 'I'll split the difference with you'--and before he can
crawfish you accept. You're bound to make at least twenty-five thousand
by following my advice, Matt."

Matt Peasley ran his big hand through his thick black locks.

"By jingo," he declared, "we'd make twenty-five thousand dollars while
we're dickering with Hudner!"

"I know, my boy; but then I don't like Hudner, and it's awful to do
business with a son of a horsethief you don't like and let him put one
over on you. That's the thrill of doing business, Matt. Though I'd hate
to have anybody think I'm in business for fun, still, if I thought
I couldn't get some fun out of business I'd go right down to Mission
Street Wharf and end all."

"Nitrate freights are up to thirty dollars a ton," said Matt later that
day. "They were twelve a year and a half ago. Cappy, we can't risk the
delay; and I'm sorry I took your advice and let my option expire. I
insist on buying." He reached for Cappy's desk 'phone. "I'm going to
tell Hudner to prepare the bill of sale--that I'll be up in fifteen
minutes with the check. He who hesitates is lost, and--"

The door opened and a youth stood in the entrance.

"Mr. J. O. Heyfuss is calling," he announced.

"Show him in immediately," Cappy ordered, glad of the opportunity to
delay Matt's telephonic acceptance of the vessel at Hudner's price.
"Hold on a minute, Matt," he continued, turning to his son-in-law.
"Heyfuss is a ship broker; maybe he has a ship to sell us; she might
prove to be a better buy than the _Penelope_... Howdy, Heyfuss? Come in
and sit down."

Mr. Heyfuss entered smilingly, saluted both satellites of the Blue Star
and sat down.

"Well, gentlemen," he announced, "wonders will never cease. Every day
I'm seeing, hearing and doing wonderful things in the shipping business.
Day before yesterday I bought the old barkentine _Mayfair_. She'd been
laid up in Rotten Row for seven years, and for at least four years the
tide has been rising and falling inside her. She cost me seven hundred
and fifty dollars, and I sold her the same afternoon to Al Hanify for
a thousand. Not very much of a profit; but then it was Saturday and
everybody closes up shop at noon, you know. So I felt the day wasn't a
blank, anyhow.

"And what do you suppose Al did? You'll laugh. He called up Crowley her
out on Hanlon's Marine Way, putting a new bottom in her. They're going
to spend twenty thousand dollars on her; and when she's ready for sea
Redell has a cargo of fir for Sydney waiting for her.

"She'll come back with coal and make her owners at least fifty thousand
dollars."

"That's all very interesting to outsiders, but commonplace stuff to us,"
Cappy reminded his visitor. "Have you got a commission to sell a ship
for somebody?"

"Want one?"

"Surest thing you know!"

"All right. I'll sell you the _Alden Besse_. She's an old tea clipper,
built in the forties; but she's sound and tight. Been a motion picture
ship for the past five years. I can deliver her to you for forty
thousand dollars."

"No, you'll not. I sold her to the motion picture people for fifteen
hundred," Cappy countered, "and I don't want her back at any price.
I send my boys to sea to earn a safe living, not to visit Davy Jones'
locker."

"Well, I think I might get you the old Australian prison ship,
_Success_. She was built at Rangoon in 1790, of teak, and will last
forever. Perhaps you saw her when she was exhibited at the Exposition
last year. Might get her for you kind of cheap."

"Nothing doing. Heyfuss, we want a steamer."

"Sorry, but I haven't a thing in steamers. Just sold the last one I had
ten minutes ago--the _Penelope_."

"The what!" Matt Peasley and Cappy cried in chorus.

"The _Penelope_. Sold her to a big Eastern powder company. She goes into
the nitrate trade, of course. These munition manufacturers must have
powder, and to get powder they must have nitrate, and to get nitrate
they must have ships, and to get ships they must pay the price. I got
Hudner a million dollars for that ruin of a _Penelope._"

Matt Peasley gently seized J. O. Heyfuss by the ear and led him to the
door.

"Out, thief!" he cried. "You can't sell us anything; so we don't want
you hanging round this office. You might steal the safe or a roll-top
desk, or something."

Heyfuss departed, laughing good-naturedly, and Matt Peasley turned to
confront Cappy Ricks. The latter had shrunk up in his chair and was
looking as chopfallen and guilty as a dog caught sucking eggs. He
favored his big son-in-law with a quick, shifty glance, and then looked
down at the carpet.

Matt folded his arms and stared at him until he looked up.

"Don't you go to pick on me!" he warned Matt furiously. "I'll not be
picked on in my own office, even by a relative."

Matt threw back his head and chanted,


   _"There was I, waiting at the church,
    Waiting at the church--"_

"I was right!" Cappy shrilled. "My mode of procedure was without a
flaw."

"Absolutely! The operation was a success, but the patient died."

"But a feller just has to haggle!" Cappy wailed. He was almost on the
verge of tears. "It's the basic principle of all trading. Why, I've made
my everlasting fortune by haggling. Drat your picture, don't you
know that the very pillars of financial success rest on
counter-propositions?"

"Listen, relative, listen: I haven't said a word to you, have I?" Matt
replied.

"No; but you looked it, and I'll not be looked at."

"All right, Cappy, I'll not look. But I can't help thinking."

"Thinking what?"

"That it's about time you quit talking about retiring--and retired!"



CHAPTER XLVI


With this Parthian shot Matt himself retired, leaving Cappy to shiver
and bow his head on his breast; in which position he remained motionless
for fully an hour.

"I guess the boy's right," he soliloquized finally. "I think I'd better
retire, after pulling that kind of a deal twice in the same place. The
pace is getting too swift for me, I think; I can't keep up... Well, I
guess they've got the goods on me this time. Matt was certainly on the
job twice, and I blocked him both times ... Oh, Lord! I'll never hear
the last of this... By the Holy Pink-Toed Prophet, I've lost my punch!
Matt didn't say so; but he thinks it. And I don't blame him a bit."

The door of Cappy's office opened and again the youth stood in the
entrance. "Mr. Redell is calling; there's a gentleman with him," he
announced.

"Tell 'em I'm busier'n a cranberry merchant," Cappy snarled. "And unless
you're figuring on hunting a new job, my son, don't you come in here
again today."

The youth retired. However, he knew from experience that Cappy Ricks
never discharged anybody save for insubordination or rank incompetence;
hence, he did not hesitate to disobey the old gentleman's edict.

"Mr. Redell says his business is very important," he announced,
presenting himself once more at the door.

"All right! No rest for the weary. Show them in."

J. Augustus Redell entered, accompanied by no less a personage than the
British Consul. Cappy greeted them without enthusiasm and bade them be
seated.

"Well," J. Augustus Redell announced cheerily, "It's plain to be seen
that Little Sunshine hasn't been round this office recently."

Cappy grunted.

"What's gone wrong, Cappy?"

"Everything! Been going wrong for years and I never realized it until
this afternoon. Ah, Gus, my dear young friend, how I envy you your
youth, your capacity to think, your golden dreams, your boundless
energy, your ability to make two-dollar bills grow where one-dollar
bills grew before, thus making an apparently barren prospect as verdant
as a meadow in spring. But make the most of your opportunity, young
feller! The day will come to you, as it has come to me, when everything
you do will be done twenty minutes too late; when every dollar you make
will be subject to a cash discount of one hundred per cent; when every
competitor you held cheap will suddenly develop the luck of the devil,
the brains of a Demosthenes, and the courage of a hog going to war."

"I should judge that you have recently suffered a great bereavement."

"I have, Augustus, I have. Through my indecision I have just lost a
bank roll a greyhound couldn't have jumped over. Suppose it was a paper
profit? I grieve just the same."

"Forget it, Cappy! Life is real, life is earnest, and you have a bank
roll of real profits a giraffe couldn't reach the top of."

"Oh, it isn't the money, Gus. Money is only a vulgar symbol of my
bereavement. The trouble is--I've lost my punch! I can't think, Gus; I
can't act promptly. I'm out of touch with my times. I remind myself of
nothing so much as the old rooster that suddenly discovered he had been
elected to furnish the dinner the following Sunday. His hens cackled and
called to him that they had found some worms, but he wouldn't pay
any attention to them; just leaned up against the wire netting in the
poultry yard and said to himself: 'Oh, hell! What's the use? Today an
egg--tomorrow a feather duster!'"

"Don't be pessimistic, Cappy. Don't! It doesn't become you, and I don't
believe a word you're telling me. You're still the old he-fox of the
world; and I've come to you for help on a deal that's going to mean a
whole lot of money to both of us if we can only put it through."

"I'm sorry, Gus, but I'm not interested. As a matter of fact, I've
retired."

"Nonsense! Nonsense! I know where there's a beautiful ten-thousand-ton,
net register, steel steamer to be bought for three hundred thousand
dollars--"

Cappy Ricks threw out an arm and pressed his hand against Redell's
mouth.

"Sh-h-h!" he warned. "Sh-h-h! Hush!"

With the agility of a man half his age Cappy ran to the door, bolted it
on the inside and returned to his desk. He was rubbing his hands and his
eyes were aglow with interest.

"What are you sh-h-h-ing about?" Redell demanded.

"Matt Peasley and that cowardly Skinner. Not a word of this to them,
Gus! Not--a--whisper!" And he winked one eye and twisted up the corner
of his mouth knowingly. Mr. Redell nodded his promise and Cappy went on:
"Now Gus, my dear young friend, start in at the beginning and tell me
everything. I assume, of course, that this is real business and not
another of your jokes on the old man. Word of honor, Gus?"

"Word of honor, Cappy."

"All right; blaze away! Come, come! What have you got to offer?"

"I have a condition and I offer you a half interest in it if you can
suggest a plan to circumvent His Royal Highness, Kaiser Wilhelm--"

"Hum-m-m! Enough!" Cappy interrupted, and turned to the British
Consul: "This is an international affair, eh? See if I don't state
the proposition in a nutshell--if I may be pardoned the bromide.
This steamer is a German, and the proposition is to get her under the
American flag so firmly that she'll stay there; then, I suppose,
we're to charter her to the British Government, or one of Britain's
allies--Russia, for instance."

J. Augustus Redell and the British Consul exchanged admiring winks.

"What did I tell you, Mister Consul?" Redell declared triumphantly. "Mr.
Ricks knows the story before we have told it. And yet he's complaining
about the loss of his punch!"

Cappy looked slightly self-conscious; it was plain the compliment
pleased him.

"Well, Gus, my boy," he answered, "I have lost my punch, though at that
I'm not exactly a pork-and-beaner. Hum-m-m! Ahem! Harumph-h-h! This must
be a hard order to fill. Mister Consul, when Gus Redell has to come
to me for help. That son of a gun can move faster and go through more
obstacles than quicksilver. Gus, what's gone wrong with you? Have you
lost your punch too? And at your age?"

"Looks like it, Cappy. I've thought and thought until I'm desperate, and
not an idea worth while has presented itself. That's why I've come to
you."

"Well, I don't guarantee a cure, my boy. But I'll say this much: If you
and I can't put this thing over, then it just isn't put-overable. Fire
away, Gus!"

"Have you ever heard of the steamer _Bavarian?"_

"Of course! She belongs to Adolph Koenitz and flies the German flag.
Since the war started she's been interned down in Mission Bay."

Redell nodded.

"Adolph Koenitz never became an American citizen, despite the fact that
he had lived in San Francisco twenty years and operated three steamers
out of this port. He was a reserve officer in the German Navy; and when
the war broke out he interned his ships, placed his entire estate in his
wife's name and reported for duty. He perished in the Battle of Jutland,
both his boys were killed at Verdun, and now his widow would like to
sell the _Bavarian_ and get some cash. She had a large income from an
estate in Germany, but the war cut that off.

"Also, it appears that Koenitz was rather heavily involved, and the
expense of maintaining those interned steamers, with their German crews
aboard, has his widow badly worried; in fact, she has reached the point
where she finds it necessary to sell one of the steamers in order to
hang on to the other two. She has tried to raise a mortgage on the
_Bavarian_, but nobody cares to loan money on an interned German
steamer."

"Naturally," Cappy replied sarcastically. "And I'm amazed that you
should consider me boob enough to consider seriously buying the same
steamer outright! Gus, I'd have about as much use for that steamer as
I would have for a tail. Even if I should buy her now, and not use her
until the war is over, I should be risking my money; for the German
Government, if you remember, issued an order in 1915 forbidding its
subjects to sell their interned ships without the consent of the said
government. And, even if Mrs. Koenitz can procure the Kaiser's consent,
I fail to see the wisdom of tying up three hundred thousand dollars in
an idle investment."

"Ah, but under those circumstances she wouldn't be an idle investment."

"Yes, she would, my boy. Great Britain issued an Order in Council in
1914 notifying all neutral nations that she would not sanction the
transfer of registry of any German vessel. A few daring devils took a
chance--and what happened? The British Navy overhauled the ships at
sea and took them into a British port where a British prize court
confiscated them. There is the case of the _Mazatlan_, for instance. She
was German owned and flew the German flag; her owner put her under the
Mexican flag, and subsequently she was sold at a bargain to one of our
neighbors, who put her under American registry. Do you know where the
_Mazatlan_ is now? Well, I'll tell you: She's freighting war munitions
for Johnny Bull--and our optimistic neighbor isn't collecting the
freight money either."

"Quite true, Mr. Ricks; quite true--in ordinary cases," the Consul told
him smilingly.

"By the Holy Pink-Toed Prophet! I smell a mouse. Hum-m-m! That
simplifies matters. We-l-l! If you are in position, Mister Consul, to
give me your word of honor as a gentleman and an officer of your king
that the British Navy will turn its blind side to the _Bavarian_ when
she puts to sea, I'll buy the _Bavarian_ so fast it'll make your head
swim. In return for this favor, of course, I am to charter the ship at
the going rates to--"

"Our ally, the Russian Government, Mr. Ricks. And you have my word of
honor, which is all I can give you; for a deal like this, as you know,
cannot be made in writing. I have had the matter up with the Admiralty,
however, and permission has been granted me to give the verbal assurance
of my government."

"I'll make a finger bet with your government, Mister Consul. As for
Kaiser Bill's consent to the transfer--_heraus mit 'em!_ We'll get along
without that. Wilhelm doesn't cut much ice with me these days and I'm
willing to wager the price of the _Bavarian_ that such ice as he does
cut will blame soon melt. Gus, you say Mrs. Koenitz wants to sell?"

"Yes."

"And she doesn't care who buys?"

"Not a particle! She's sore on the Kaiser; it's been thumbs down on
Wilhelm ever since Adolph and the boys lost the number of their mess.
She says to me: 'Herr Riddle, dot Kaiser orders war like I order beer!'
However, there's an 'if' to the transfer. While we know the British
Navy will not bother us should we buy the steamer, still enthusiastic
Britishers all over the world will have their eyes on the _Bavarian_
and clamor for her capture. Great Britain cannot publicly--or, at least,
obviously--make any exceptions to her Order in Council, and we'll have
to mess up that steamer's title and nativity to save John Bull's social
standing. We must make a bluff at deceiving him. If we can show some
sort of legal transfer to another flag J. B. can play blindman's buff
with dignity and honor; otherwise nix!"

Cappy Ricks' eyes sought the ceiling.

"What have I done to deserve this?" he demanded of an invisible
Presence. "Why am I afflicted thus? Job had his boils; but you and I,
Augustus, are covered with a financial rash, bleeding at every pore, and
with no relief in sight."

"I told you this was a tough one, Cappy. I've pondered the situation
until my brain is addled like a last year's nest egg, and finally I've
come to you as a last resort. If you can't cook up an airtight scheme,
then there is no help; and I'm going to forget the _Bavarian_ and attend
to some business more profitable and less debilitating."

"There must be an out, Gus. It's too good a thing to abandon. Suppose
you and the Consul go away and give me time to concentrate my thoughts
on this problem. It's a holy terror; but--Well, I've seen dogs almost as
sick as this one cured."

"God bless you!" Mr. Redell murmured fervently. "Consul, let us depart
and leave Mr. Ricks to himself. Call me up, Cappy, when you see a ray of
light. Two heads are better than one, you know."



CHAPTER XLVII


When his visitors had gone Cappy Ricks gave orders that he was not to be
disturbed on any pretext whatever. Then he locked himself in, swung his
legs to the top of his desk, slid low in his chair until he rested on
his spine, bowed his head on his breast and closed his eyes. The battle
was on.

One hour later J. Augustus Redell entered breathlessly in response to a
telephonic invitation from Cappy.

"Gus," the latter began, "am I right in assuming that you possess a
reasonable amount of influence with that hair-trigger partner of yours,
Live Wire Luiz?" Redell nodded. "And is Luiz absolutely trustworthy?
Will he stay put and keep his mouth closed?"

"He is my partner, Cappy. He's mercurial, but a gentleman. I'd trust him
with my life, and I always trust him with my bank roll. He requires no
watching."

"Good! Gus, send Live Wire Luiz down to Guaymas and have him incorporate
the North and South American Steamship Company there, under the
extremely flexible and evershifting laws of the Republic of Mexico. Luiz
is a Peruvian and speaks Spanish, and knows the Mexican temperament. He
can easily procure three Mexicans to act as a dummy board of directors;
his own name, of course, for obvious reasons, must never appear in
connection with this company. A thousand dollars ought to cover this
Mexican expense."

"Consider that point attended to, Cappy."

"Fine! Now then, when this corporate vehicle is in running order and has
opened an office in Guaymas, Live Wire Luiz will write your company, The
West Coast Trading Company, saying that his company has been referred to
you by some mutual friends in Guaymas. Of course Luiz doesn't sign this
letter. It is signed by the North and South American Steamship Company,
per the dummy secretary or president. The letter goes on to say that
the latter company is in the market for a steamer, the general
specifications of which, singularly enough, fit the _Bavarian._ The
vessel is to be used for transporting troops up and down the west coast
of Mexico and for freighting munitions from Japan; and in a delicate
way it might be hinted that the de facto Mexican Government is the
real buyer. A commission of five per cent is offered you for buying the
vessel for them, said commission to be split fifty-fifty with the North
and South American Steamship Company; this being the Mexican way of
doing business, as you know."

"Consider that matter attended to also. I'll write the letter myself
before Luiz starts for Guaymas, so I'll be certain the job will be done
exactly right."

"As soon as you receive this letter you get busy and wire the North
and South American Steamship Company that you have just the vessel they
want, price three hundred thousand dollars. Live Wire Luiz will then
cause a reply to that telegram to be sent, advising you that his clients
would not balk at paying half a million! That, of course, is hint enough
for you. Right away you see the old Mexican graft sticking out, and
you say to yourself, 'Why not?' And you do! You reply to that telegram,
saying you erred when naming the price in your first telegram; that it
is five hundred thousand instead of three. Then you come down to me and
I hand you three hundred thousand dollars in currency; for in such a
transaction as this, checks, with their indorsements, provide a trail
that may prove embarrassing. You take that money and deposit it in
escrow in any local bank against a bill of sale of the _Bavarian_ from
Mrs. Koenitz to the North and South American Steamship Company, of
Guaymas, Mexico. Before doing so, however, have Mrs. Koenitz place
the vessel under Mexican registry. She can do that through the Mexican
Consul for the de facto government; and when the bill of sale is turned
over to you, record it promptly with the Mexican Consul. Later you will
record it in Mexico.

"The vessel is now the property of the North and South American
Steamship Company; and the North and South American Steamship Company
is the property of Cappy Ricks and the West Coast Trading Company, per
Senor Felipe Luiz Almeida. But we must never admit this. To have the
North and South American Steamship Company transfer the vessel to us
would be very coarse work indeed; so we must avoid that."

"How?"

"I'll get to that presently. The steamer is now in our possession, and
you will already have notified her German skipper and crew to hunt a
new residence. You will then put an American skipper in charge and ship
American engineers and a crew of parrakeets; and on the very day the
sale is consummated, just before the customhouse closes, have the
skipper clear the vessel for Guaymas and put to sea that night. Since
she carries no cargo the collector of the port will not stop you; the
risk of going to sea is all our own--if we care to take it.

"The next day the newspaper boys will be hot on the trail. An interned
German merchantman has suddenly transferred to Mexican registry and put
to sea! Now! Inquiry at the customhouse and at the Mexican consulate
shows that the vessel has been sold, and the trail leads straight to the
office of the West Coast Trading Company. You are interviewed--and
say nothing; and that day, when I appear on 'Change, these baffled
journalists drive me into a corner and ask me what I think about it. And
I'll tell them it's just another case of the lowly Mexican peon being
hornswoggled by the foxy Americano. The Mexicans wanted a ship and asked
the American to buy one for them. He did--only he forgot to tell them
she was a German. She was such a good buy they snapped her up without
asking questions, though in all probability the poor devils had no
knowledge of Kaiser Wilhelm's edict that no German ships shall be sold
without the consent of the German Government. I will say that it looks
to me as if the ancient rule of _caveat emptor_ applied, and that the
Mexicans are stung and have no comeback. Then, again, it may be a shrewd
German trick to put something over.

"Well, they make a snorting story out of what I give them; the frau's
friends read it and think she's done something smart. Nobody feels
sorry for a Mexican. Next morning you come out with a blast of righteous
indignation and admit that you cannot or will not deny that the vessel
was sold to parties representing the de facto Mexican Government. You
deny, however, that you sold them a pig in a poke; and the papers print
a copy of your letter to the North and South American Steamship Company
specifically advising them that the vessel was a German and liable to
prove an embarrassment. This, of course, clears you, and the blame for
the graft is placed where it belongs--on the shoulders of the North and
South American Steamship Company, which has deliberately stung the de
facto government!"

"Cappy," said J. Augustus Redell admiringly, "you're immense!"

"I accept the nomination. Upon her arrival in Guaymas the _Bavarian's_
name is changed to _La Golondrina_, or _Sobre las Olas_, or _Manana_, or
_Poco Tiempo_--whatever's right. I think we may safely gamble that she
will arrive in Guaymas in the light of what the British Consul told us;
and, in view of her departure unannounced, no British warship on the
West Coast can get so far north as Guaymas in time to intercept her.

"Well, having changed her name, she picks up a general cargo and comes
back to San Francisco, where she goes on dry dock and is cleaned and
painted, has her gear overhauled, fills up with fuel oil and stores,
and--but that's enough. Now comes the blow-off.

"Strange to relate, you haven't received a cent of that five-per-cent
commission due you from the North and South American Steamship Company
for buying the _Bavarian_ for them. The issue is in dispute. They claim
you are not entitled to any commission, because you stung them with a
German vessel; and you claim you told them she was a German, but that
they needed her so badly they would take a chance. Also, the fact that
she went to sea that time in such a hurry, and forgot to pay for her
fuel oil and stores, looks rather suspicious; so, when the vessel comes
off dry dock, with about ten thousand dollars' worth of bills against
her, you decide to protect your claim for the commission--and, by the
Holy Pink-Toed Prophet, Gus, you libel her! The news breaks into the
papers, and next day every creditor of the ship files a libel on her,
also, to protect his claim. Gus, she'll have so many plasters on her
she'll look like a German coming home from the war."

J. Augustus Redell leaped from his chair and picked little Cappy Ricks
up in his arms and hugged him.

"Oh, Cappy! Cappy!" he yelled. "You're the shadow of a rock in a weary
land--a cup of cool water in the suburbs of hell!"

"Are you game?" Cappy gurgled.

"Does a cat eat liver? Cappy, you've solved the problem! Naturally
the North and South American Steamship Company does not directly or
indirectly make any attempt to lift these libels and get the vessel to
sea. Why? I'll tell you--or, rather, I'll tell the newspaper boys and
they'll tell everybody. It will appear that as soon as the Mexican
Consul here got an inkling of the apparent plan of the North and South
American Steamship Company, of Guaymas, to sting Don Venustiano Carranza
by slipping him a steamer with a clouded title, he must have wired Don
Venustiano to round up the directors of the said company and give them
the _ley fuga_. Fortunately for these culprits, however, they got next
in time to get out from under. Mounting swift steeds, the entire board
of directors fled north and east, never pausing until they had joined
Pancho Villa; and we learn from some Border gossips that all three
subsequently were killed in action. But, before leaving Guaymas, they
left their tangled steamship affairs in the hands of their attorney--"

"Nothing doing, Gus! They left their tangled steamship affairs in the
hands of my attorney, and they gave him an absolute, ironclad, airtight
power of attorney to sell the ship, receive and receipt for all money
due the company, and so on, and so on, ad libitum, ad infinitum; said
power of attorney being nonrevocable for five years."

"Great stuff! In due course the libelants sue in the United States
District Court; your attorney appears for the defendants and confesses
judgment, but pleads for a ten-day stay of execution until he can raise
a mortgage on the vessel. But, strange to relate, the ten-day stay
expires and the judgments against the steamer are not paid; so the judge
of the United States District Court orders the steamer sold at public
auction on the floor of the Merchants' Exchange to the highest bidder,
to satisfy the claims of the creditors. Thirty days later the United
States Marshal conducts the sale, and a gentleman named Cappy Ricks buys
her in. The United States Marshal gives the said Ricks a bill of sale
for her, which the said Ricks thereupon records in the United States
Customhouse, and--"

"_Und Hoch der Kaiser! Und Hoch der_ John J. Bull! We've finally got
that clear American title we've been looking for. It makes no difference
what the nationality of a vessel is; the minute she enters the
territorial waters of the United States of America she is amenable to
the laws of the United States of America, one of which reads thusly:
'Thou shalt pay thy bills; and if thou dost not, then _poco tiempo_ thou
shalt be made to pay them, even unto the seizure and sale of thy ship.'
And with the purchase of that ship, under an order of sale issued by
the United States District Court, she becomes a United States ship; we
register her as such; and the United States simply has to stand back
of the bill of sale it gave us. Germany knows that; England knows it;
Austria knows it; and from the jackstaff of the late _Bavarian_, now
renamed the _Alden M. Peasley_, in honor of my first grandson, there
floats--"

J. Augustus Redell raised his index finger, enjoining silence:

"Now then! One, two, three! Down, left, up!"

     _"O-ho, say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
         What so-ho pro-houdly we hailed at the twilight's last
            gleaming?"_

Cappy Ricks sprang to attention. Presently, through the partition, his
cracked old voice reached Mr. Skinner:


     _"Then conquer we must, when our cause is so just;
         And this be our motto: 'May we nev-er go bust!'"_

"What's doing here?" Mr. Skinner demanded, banging at the door, which
was locked.

"Go way back and sit down!" Cappy shrilled. "I'll show you and Matt
Peasley where to head in, yet--see if I don't!"



CHAPTER XLVIII


Cappy Ricks and J. Augustus Redell arrived at the Merchants' Exchange
promptly at one o'clock on the date of the sale of the S. S. _General
Carranza,_ as the _Bavarian_ was now called. Just inside the door they
paused and looked at each other.

"Whe-e-e-ew!" murmured Cappy Ricks. "All the shipping men in the world
are here to bid on our property, Gus."

Mr. Redell whistled softly. "This," he said, "will be some auction!"

Cappy chuckled.

"There is only one thing that a shipping man in this country has more
respect for than an Order in Council--and that is an Order in the United
States District Court!"

"Naturally. It's backed up by our army and navy."

"By the Holy Pink-Toed Prophet, somebody's sporting blood is going to be
tested today; and something tells, me, Augustus, my dear young friend,
that it's going to be Matt Peasley's."

"What makes you think so, Cappy?"

Again Cappy chuckled.

"Having used German methods to bring about this auction sale," he
confessed, "I concluded to steal a little more of this Teutonic stuff;
so I established a system of espionage in Skinner's office and another
in Matt Peasley's. Gus, I got a lot of low-down information on those two
young pups; they're trying to slip something over on the old dog."

"Well, they'll never teach him any new tricks, Cappy."

"You know it! I observe that, as usual, Jim Searles will conduct the
auction. He's climbing up on the block now, and, by the Toenails of
Moses, Matt Peasley is on the job! Look, Gus! You can see his black head
sticking up out of the heart of the riot."

As Cappy and Redell joined the crowd Jim Searles, by acclamation the
auctioneer of the Port of San Francisco, rapped smartly with his little
gavel, and a tense silence settled over the crowd.

"This," Mr. Searles announced, "will be a fight to a finish, winner take
all. In accordance with an order of the United States District Court I
am about to sell, at public auction, to the highest bidder, the Mexican
Steamship _General Carranza_, ex-German Steamship _Bavarian_, to satisfy
the following judgments: Mr. J. Augustus Redell--"

"Cut it out!" roared Matt Peasley. "We've all read the list of
creditors, and you're only gumming up the game. Come down to business
Jim."

"Good boy, Peasley! Sure! Cut it out, Jim! Get busy!" A dozen voices
seconded Captain Matt Peasley's motion and Jim Searles rapped for order.

"How much am I offered?" he cried.

"One million dollars!" roared Matt Peasley.

On the fringe of the eager crowd Cappy Ricks leaned up against his
friend Redell and commenced to laugh.

"The young scoundrel!" he chortled. "He never said a word to me about
this auction; he was afraid I'd butt in and block his purchase; so, for
his impudence, I'll teach him a lesson he'll never forget. Bid, Gus! Bet
'em as high as a hound's back."

"Captain Matt Peasley, representing the Blue Star Navigation Company,
bids one million dollars. Chicken feed! Won't some real sport please
tilt the ante?" Jim Searles pleaded. "Don't waste my time, gentlemen.
It's valuable. Let's get this thing over and go back to our offices."

"One million five hundred thousand!" called J. Augustus Redell.

"I called for a sport and drew a piker," Jim Searles retorted. "Mr. J.
Augustus Redell, of the West Coast Trading Company, bids a million and a
half."

Young Dalton Mann, representing the Pacific Mail Steamship Company,
raised his hand and snapped his fingers at the auctioneer.

"And a hundred thousand!" he shouted.

"And a hundred thousand!" Matt Peasley retorted.

"And fifty thousand!" Mann flung back at him.

Matt Peasley eyed his antagonist belligerently.

"That's doing very well for a young fellow," Searles complimented the
last bidder. "Skipper Peasley, are you going to let this landlubber
outgame you? He has bid a million and three-quarters. Think of the
present high freight rates and speak up, or remain forever silent."

The bidding had so suddenly and by such prodigious bounds reached the
elimination point that every piker present was afraid to open his mouth
in the presence of these plungers. Matt Peasley licked his lips and
glanced round rather helplessly. He knew he had about reached the limit
of his bidding, but he suspected that Mann had reached his also.

"And ten thousand!" he shouted desperately.

"Cheap stuff! Cheap stuff!" the crowd jeered good-naturedly.

Cappy Ricks nudged J. Augustus Redell as Mann waved his hand in token of
surrender. "One million seven hundred and sixty thousand I am offered,"
the auctioneer intoned. "Any further bids?" He waited a full minute;
then resorted to three minutes of cajolery, but in vain. There were no
more bids.

Jim Searles raised his hammer.

"Going--once!" he called--and waited. "Going--twice!" Another pause.
"Going--"

"Two million dollars!" cried J. Augustus Redell; and a sigh went up from
the excited onlookers.

"Ah! Mr. Redell is a sport, after all! Two million, flat!" Searles
looked down on Matt Peasley. "Die, dog, or eat the meat ax!" he warned
the unhappy young man.

"Let him have her," Matt growled; and, very red of face, he commenced to
shoulder his way through the crowd.

"Beat it, Cappy; he's coming!" Redell warned the president emeritus.

Cappy Ricks, dodging round the flank of the crowd, fled through the side
entrance of the Merchants' Exchange; and he was tranquilly smoking a
cigar in his private office when Matt Peasley dropped in on him an hour
later. Cappy eyed him coldly.

"Is Skinner back from luncheon?" he demanded. Matt nodded. "Tell him to
come in here. I want to see him," Cappy continued ominously. "And you
might stick round yourself."

Mr. Skinner made his appearance.

[Illustration: "Two million dollars'" cried J Augustus Redell.]

"Close the door," Cappy commanded.

Mr. Skinner looked a little startled and surprised, but promptly closed
the door.

"You wanted to see me, Mr. Ricks?" he queried.

Cappy Ricks edged forward until he was seated on the extreme edge of his
chair. Then he rested a hand on each knee, bent his head, and glared at
the unhappy Skinner over the rims of his glasses. After thirty seconds
of this scrutiny he turned to his son-in-law.

"Well," he said, "I hear you've been attending an auction sale and
making a star-spangled monkey of yourself bidding a million seven
hundred and sixty thousand dollars on that Mexican steamer. Matt, have
you taken leave of your senses?"

"No, sir--not quite; but Gus Redell has. He bought her in for two
million dollars. Of course he was acting for somebody else, because
every cent he has is working overtime in the West Coast Trading
Company."

"Oh!" Cappy murmured. "Then you didn't get her, after all?"

"No, sir! So perhaps you'd better not holler until you're hit." Matt
sighed. "By Neptune," he declared, "I'd give a cooky to know the name of
the crazy man who paid two million dollars for that steamer!"

"Behold the lunatic, Matt! Grandpa Ricks, in his second childhood! Gus
Redell was bidding for me, sonny."

Matt Peasley sat down rather limply and stared at the president
emeritus.

"Cappy," he said presently, "you sent a boy to do a man's work. I had
the boat bought for a million seven hundred and sixty thousand! For
heaven's sake, why didn't you tell me you wanted her? And I would have
laid off. For the love of heaven, why did you go bidding against me?"

"Why didn't you tell me you wanted her, you big simp?" Cappy retorted.
"You never said a word to me; and naturally Redell thought you were
acting for somebody else. He had orders from me to get her and damn the
cost--and he fulfilled his orders."

"A comedy of errors, truly!" Mr. Skinner observed witheringly.

Matt Peasley raised his huge arms and clenched his great fists in agony.

"Oh, Cappy! Cappy!" he pleaded. "Won't you please retire? You're just
raising hell with the organization!"

"All right, Matt; I'll retire. But, before I do, I'm going to give
Skinner a piece of my mind. Skinner, what the devil do you mean by going
up to the Marine National Bank and borrowing a million dollars on the
credit of the Ricks Lumber Company? I admit I have given you entire
charge of the lumber end, and you were quite within your rights when
you negotiated the loan and signed the note as president; but how did it
happen that you didn't consult with the old man, if only as a matter of
common courtesy?"

"I-I-that is, I-well, I didn't mean to be discourteous, Mr. Ricks. Oh, I
wouldn't have you think, sir--"

"No; you'd have me be a dummy if you could. Why, you almost put the
skids under me; because, when I went up to the Marine National to make a
little personal loan in a spirit of preparedness, I discovered that the
loan you had been given on my assets had jazzed my personal credit all
to glory! I used to be able to borrow a million dollars on my bare note;
but I'll be shot if they didn't make me dig up a lot of collateral this
time! Skinner, I wouldn't have thought that of you. After trusting you
as I have done for a quarter of a century, to find you giving me the
double-cross just about breaks my heart. Great Godfrey, Skinner,
how could you be so false to me? I expect that sort of thing from
Matt--those one loves the best always swat one; but from you--Skinner,
I don't know what prevents me from demanding your resignation here and
now, unless it be because of your previous splendid character and loyal
service."

"Oh, Mr. Ricks, Mr. Ricks!" Poor Skinner held up his hands appealingly
and commenced to weep. "Please do not think ill of me. I swear--"

"You loaned the Ricks Lumber Logging Company's million dollars to Matt
Peasley to help buy that steamer for the Blue Star Navigation Company;
and he, the son of a pirate, went to work and borrowed it from you,
well knowing he had no business to do so. What are you paying the Marine
National for that money?"

"Five per cent," Skinner sniffled, for his heart was broken.

"What are you soaking the Blue Star Navigation Company for it?"

"Six," Skinner confessed miserably.

"That's all right, Skinner, my boy. Cheer up! I forgive you. That little
profit of one per cent saves your bacon, boy. I guess there's some good
left in you still; and I'm happy to have this evidence that, though I
own both companies, you have not forgotten you are responsible for the
profit-and-loss account of one of them, and Matt Peasley for the other.
You did quite right to claim that one per cent jerk from Matt. Business
is business!"

"Yes, you bet it is!" Matt Peasley struck in. "And I want you to lay
off on Skinner, because what he did was done in fear and trembling, and
under duress. We were both afraid you'd block the purchase; so we agreed
to keep our plans secret from you, because--Well, somehow I did want
that bully big boat the very worst way."

"And that's exactly the way you set about getting her, Matthew. However,
you're young--you don't know any better; so I forgive you. Of course
I realized you wanted, that steamer, boy. I knew your heart was set on
seeing our house flag floating from her mainstruck; so I--Well, I just
thought I'd get her for you, to sort of square myself for those two
bonehead plays I pulled earlier in the year."

"Oh, but you shouldn't have paid two millions for her, Cappy! Business
is one thing and sentiment is another."

"Why, I didn't pay any such price for her! Originally I bought her, as
a German, for three hundred thousand dollars; in addition to that I've
spent about ten thousand dollars improving her, and maybe five thousand
more fussing up the trail of my operations so no smart secret-service
operative could come round and hang something on me." He reached into
his coat pocket and drew forth the United States Marshal's bill of sale.
"Here, sonny," he announced, "is your Uncle Sam's certificate of title.
Hustle up to the customhouse and get it recorded; then make out a bill
of sale for a one-third interest to the West Coast Trading Company and
record that also. Then change her name to _Alden M. Peasley_, in honor
of your first-born, and put her under these two flags."

He jerked open a drawer in the desk and brought forth a bright new
edition of Old Glory, followed by the familiar white muslin burgee with
the blue star.

"Skinner!"

"Yes, Mr. Ricks."

"The United States Marshal has paid all the debts of the _Alden M.
Peasley_, and this afternoon he'll send his check for the proceeds of
the sale still remaining in his hands to my lawyer, who holds a most
ungodly power of attorney from that dummy Guaymas corporation Live Wire
Luiz organized to buy the ship for us. Our attorney will cash that check
and send the cash down to you. Please bank it to my credit and take up
that note I gave the Marine National; then get the securities I hocked
and tuck them back in my safe-deposit vault. As for the interest at five
per cent, which the Ricks Lumber & Logging Company will have to pay on
that million you borrowed to help Matt Peasley hornswoggle father, you
just charge that to your personal account as a penance for your sins. As
for the six per cent you pay the Ricks Lumber & Logging Company for
the money loaned your Blue Star Navigation Company, Matt Peasley, just
charge that to your personal account as a penance for your sins."

Both culprits nodded dazedly.

"Now," Cappy continued, "I'll tell you something else: The _Alden M.
Peasley_ belongs to the West Coast Trading Company and Alden P. Ricks;
they own one-third for bringing the deal to my attention and furnishing
some labor, and I own two-thirds, or the lion's share, for doing a
lion's work--to wit, putting up the cash and promoting the deal to a
clean title. Consequently, though you two boys own a nice little block
of stock in the Blue Star Navigation Company, you don't own a red cent
in the _Alden M. Peasley_, because she doesn't belong to the Blue Star
Navigation Company, but to the president emeritus thereof. However, as
I am about to retire for keeps this time, I'll tell you what I purpose
doing with my two-thirds of the _Alden M. Peasley_: Skinner, my dear
boy, I kidded you into tears. Bless you, boy, it broke your heart when
you thought your old boss figured you'd quit being Faithful Fido,
didn't it? Skinner, loyalty like yours is very, very precious; and your
affection is--er--Skinner, you human icicle, you can't bluff me! I'm on
to you, young feller! Matt, you prepare a deed of gift for one-half of
my two-thirds interest to Skinner, and take the other half for yourself;
and when the _Alden M. Peasley_ has earned what I put into her, credit
my account with it. After that, you and Skinner and Gus Redell and Live
Wire Luiz can collect the dividends."

"Oh, Mr. Ricks! This is too much," Skinner began.

"Tut, tut, sir! Not a peep out of you, sir! How dare you argue with me?
Now just one word more before you fellers go: The next time you boys go
bidding on a ship at auction, take a leaf out of Cappy Ricks' book and
bid against yourself! You can always scare the other fellows off that
way; the sky is the limit--and you're bound to get your money back. So
you should _Ish ka bibble_.

"Now you two young freshies go back to your desks and try to learn
humility. Thus endeth the first lesson, my children."

Matt Peasley came close to Cappy and put his big arm round the little
old man.

"Cappy," he whispered, "please don't retire!"

"All right, son," Cappy answered; "but get that infernal cry-baby,
Skinner, out of my office. He's breaking my heart."

If J. Augustus Redell had been content to sue for peace following his
deal with Cappy in Australian wheat, all would have been well for that
young man. Alas! As we have already stated, he was young--and there
is an old saying to the effect that youth must be served. J. Augustus
Redell, like Oliver Twist, desired more. His triumph over Cappy in the
wheat deal merely whetted his desire for more of the Ricks blood, and
in the end the ingenious rascal evolved a plan for making Cappy the
laughing stock of the Bilgewater Club for a month of Sundays.



CHAPTER XLIX


MONSIEUR LE CAPITAINE RICKS

Cappy Ricks entered his office at the unheard-of hour of eight-thirty.
On his way to his sanctum at the end of the long suite of offices Cappy
paused in the lair of Mr. Skinner, who looked up, amazed.

"Hello!" he saluted the president emeritus. "What brings you down on the
job so early this morning, Mr. Ricks?"

"I've got a hen on," Cappy replied briskly. He glanced at Skinner and
rubbed his hands together. "Skinner, my dear boy," he continued, "this
is a one-horse concern."

"Three sawmills with a combined output of a million feet a day on a
ten-hour shift--not to mention a billion feet of stumpage--isn't my idea
of a one-horse concern," Mr. Skinner retorted with some asperity.

"Tut, tut, Skinner! I'm not referring to the lumber end at all; so don't
get touchy. I'm referring to the Blue Star Navigation Company. It's a
dinky proposition.

"Forty-two vessels--windjammers, steam schooners and foreign-going
freighters--" began Mr. Skinner; but Cappy cut him short:

"Foreign-going grandmothers! We've got the _Narcissus_ and the
_Tillicum_."

"How about my boat--the _John P. Skinner?_"

"Oh, yes! That one we scraped up off the bottom of Papeete Harbor,"
Cappy answered maliciously. "Well, that makes three; and really the
_Skinner_ and the _Narcissus_ are the only vessels built to go foreign.
Remember, Skinner, we built the _Tillicum_, for the coast-wise lumber
trade, even though she's so big our competitors thought when we launched
her we were crazy to build such a whale for that trade."

"Well, Mr. Ricks?"

"We ought to have more big bottoms, Skinner. We'll have hell-cracking
freight rates during the war and for a long time thereafter--and here we
sit round like a lot of dubs, too conservative to help ourselves to the
gravy. Why, you and Matt Peasley ought to be knitting socks in an old
ladies' home, for all the progressiveness you're displaying."

"I am not in charge of the shipping end, Mr. Ricks."

"No; but you've got a tongue in your head, haven't you? You were
practically in charge of the Blue Star for more than six months--during
the entire period Matt was at sea in the _Retriever_ and we thought he
was a goner. Why, dog-gone you, Skinner, even when you thought Matt was
dead you didn't suggest increasing the fleet. I'm surprised, Skinner, my
boy, that in my old age, after gathering a lot of young fellows round me
to carry on the business, I've still got to be the bell mare!"

Mr. Skinner had nothing to say to this; if he had it is doubtful whether
he would have said it, for he had been too long with Cappy Ricks not
to know the signs when the old gentleman took the bit in his teeth and
declared for a new deal.

"I'm going into my office to do some tall thinking, Skinner," Cappy
continued. "Remember! No visitors until I've threshed this whole
business out to my satisfaction. I'm not in to anybody."

Cappy retired to his office, sat down on his spine in his upholstered
swivel chair, swung his thin old shanks to the top of his desk, bowed
his head on his breast, and closed his eyes. Scarcely had he done so
when the door opened and Matt Peasley thrust his head in.

"Well, Matt?" Cappy queried without opening his eyes.

"I have an offer of forty thousand dollars for our old bark _Altair_,
Cappy. What do you think we ought to do?"

"Take it!" Cappy shrilled. "You jibbering jackdaw! Grab it! She's been
a failure since the day I built her; never balanced, always burying her
nose in the seas, and drowning a sailor about once a year. If we keep
that ship much longer she'll sail herself under some day and we'll be
out the forty thousand. _Altair!_ Fancy name! Skinner got it out of Ben
Hur. He'd been in the shipping game ten years then and hadn't learned
that was the name of a star! We should have called her the _Water
Spaniel_. Sell her, Matt, and we'll put the money into a steamer that
can run foreign."

"If you can tell me where we can buy, even at three times her intrinsic
value, a steamer that will run foreign, I'm willing to consider selling
the _Altair_. Just at present she's earning big dividends; and until we
can find a place to invest her selling price, the money will earn six
per cent instead of sixty, as at present."

"Clear out and let me think!" Cappy commanded, and Matt Peasley retired
to Mr. Skinner's office.

"Have you noticed the old gentleman lately?" he inquired of Skinner.
"Ever since his grandson arrived grandpa has been paying attention to
business."

"He's dissatisfied with his own and our efforts thus far. He thinks he's
been a piker and that you and I are his first-assistant pikers. He has
ships on the brain."

"He's getting pretty cocky," Matt agreed; "but, at that, I guess he has
a license to be."

"I've been with him twenty-six--yes, twenty-seven--years; and I know
him, Matt. He's cooking up something prodigious--and it will soon be
done."

The door of Cappy's office opened and Cappy stood in the entrance.

"Skinner," he ordered, "get me a letter of credit for about twenty
thousand dollars. I'm going travelling."

"Where?" Matt and Skinner queried in chorus.

"To Europe."

"You're not!" Matt Peasley declared. "You're liable to be torpedoed en
route."

"I know, but then, too, I'm liable not to be; and if I am, why, I'm an
old man, and I'll only be cheating the devil by a few years or a few
months. Come in here, you two dead ones."

They followed him into his office.

"We need some steamers," Cappy announced. "Every shipyard in the United
States that could build the kind of steamer we want is full up with
contracts for the next three years; so I'm going to Norway or Sweden
or Denmark, or some non-belligerent European country, and see whether I
can't place some contracts there for a couple of real freighters. Then,
too, I may be able to pick up good vessels over there at a reasonable
price. Under the Emergency Shipping Act we can get them provisional
American registry--and that's all we need. Before a great while Uncle
Sam is going to turn his antiquated shipping laws inside out, and any
foreign-built boats we may acquire now will be given the right to run in
the coastwise trade also."

"See here, Cappy," Matt reminded the old man; "you're retired and I'm
in charge of the destinies of the Blue Star Navigation Company. I don't
want you working yourself to death."

"You mean you don't want me butting in. Nonsense! What's the use of
having a grandson if a fellow doesn't hustle up something for the boy to
sharpen his teeth on when he grows up? Here I've been living from day to
day, just marking time on the road to eternity and figuring life wasn't
worth while because the stock was going to die out with me. Up until
recently I was content with a little old one-horse business; but now, by
the Holy Pink-Toed Prophet, boy, we've got to get out and shake a leg!
Freighters! That's what we want. Big, well-decked tramps, flying the
Stars and Stripes in every port on earth. Why, what kind of a nation are
we getting to be, anyway? We're a passel of mollycoddles, asleep on the
job. We haven't half enough ships to coal our navy. In the event of war
it would take us a week to dig up ships enough to transport the New York
Police Department. I tell you, Matt, when I'm gone you'll have to have
something for that grandson of mine to do or he'll grow up into one of
these idle-rich, ne'er-do-well, two-for-a-quarter dudes. You bet I've
been doing a deal of thinking lately. We can't send that boy to college,
and spoil him before he's twenty-five. We'll run that young man through
high school; just about that time he'll begin to get snobbish and we'll
take that out of him by sending him to sea as a cadet on one of our own
ships. We'll teach him democracy--that's what we'll teach him. When
he's twenty-one he'll be a skipper like his forebears and you'll be only
about forty-six. Good Lord! To think of you two young fellows running my
Blue Star ships--and not enough ships to keep you busy! Preposterous! I
can't consider--Well, Hankins, my dear boy, what's troubling you?"

Mr. Hankins, the secretary, had entered.

"I wanted to see Mr. Skinner a moment. I'll wait. Didn't know you were
busy."

And he started to retire. Cappy checked him: "Finish with Skinner,
Hankins. He'll be in consultation here with Matt and me for an hour
yet."

"I just wanted to know, Mr. Skinner, whether all those cablegrams to
Captain Landry, of the _Altair_, are to be charged to general expense,
Captain Landry's personal account, or to the _Altair_."

"It seems to me you should charge them to Captain Landry, Hankins,"
Mr. Skinner spoke up. "It isn't ship's business and it isn't Blue Star
business. If he wants this office to cable him every day about his
family--"

"Here! What's this you're talking about, Skinner?" Cappy interrupted.

"When Captain Landry sailed for Callao his wife didn't accompany him--"

"Lucky rascal! He told me he was expecting an heir."

"And he's still expecting that heir."

"Naturally," Mr. Hankins explained, "he's been anxious for news;
and ever since his arrival in Callao he's cabled us every other
day--latterly every day--asking whether the baby has been born, and
whether it's a boy or a girl."

"A very pardonable human curiosity, my boy. Proceed."

"Unfortunately the baby appears to be held up on demurrage and I think
we've spent at least fifty dollars cabling to Landry that the youngster
has failed to report. I imagine the skipper has spent twice that sum
inquiring for news--"

"Of course! It's his first baby, isn't it? You must allow for human
nature."

"I thought we would--for the first half dozen cablegrams; but after it
became a habit it appeared that Landry ought to pay for his fancies."

"He should," Mr. Skinner declared firmly. "Charge the cablegrams to
Landry."

"Nothing doing!" piped Cappy. "Charge 'em to general expense. Dang you,
Skinner, I despair of ever breaking you of that habit of operating on
the cheap!"

"Oh, very well, sir--only the expense is getting to be quite an item."

"I'm just about to send him another cablegram," Mr. Hankins declared
fretfully. "The _Altair_ is due to sail from Callao and the baby is
still unborn; it will be two months old, at least, before the skipper
gets any further news."

"Let's see your cablegram," Cappy ordered, and Mr. Hankins passed
it over. Cappy read it. "Holy suffering sailor!" he cried. "Why this
concern isn't in the hands of a receiver is a mystery to me." He looked
up at Mr. Hankins with blood in his eye. "Here you are, Hankins, trying
to saddle a bill of expense on a poor, heartbroken, anxious, embryo
parent-to-be. Knowing full well that he only makes a hundred and
fifty dollars a month, you admit to an endeavor to stick him for fifty
dollars' worth of cablegrams from this end, not to mention those from
his end. If you had spent your time, sir, figuring out a way to cut down
that cable expense, instead of discovering a rotten way to get rid of
it--Why, look here! You can use your code book and save a couple of
dollars."

"Code book!" Mr. Hankins protested indignantly. "Why, who ever heard of
a code book for cabling on baby business?"

"Use your shipping code. Here; hand me that code book. There's bound
to be something to fit the occasion--there always is. Hum-m-m! Ahem!
Harumph-h-h! Let us see what we shall see under the head of cargoes;
Loading! Discharging! Demurrage! Ahem! That won't do. He'd be liable to
confuse it with the ship's business. Harumph-h-h! Arrivals. Now we have
it. Landry has been asking of an expected arrival, hasn't he?" Cappy
ran his index finger down the page. "Here you are, Hankins. Hum-m-m!
Afilamos--meaning no new arrivals. Naturally Landry will say to himself:
'Well, for heaven's sake, when will that child arrive?' We should
enlighten him on that point."

"We cannot."

"Very well, then. Say so. Here you are. Affumicata--meaning: We cannot
guarantee time of arrival. Hankins, have you talked with Mrs. Landry's
physician in order to get the latest ringside reports?"

"Yes, sir."

"What does he say?"

"Well, he says he thinks it will be twins, in a couple of days at the
most."

"Good news! Here you are. Afilaba--meaning: Heavy arrivals expected
shortly. Now then, Hankins, he'll want some news of his wife, won't he?
How about her?"

"She went to the hospital this morning."

Cappy closed his eyes and pondered; then once more took up the code
book. Followed a silence. Then:

"Bully! He'll understand perfectly, being a sailor. Desdoble--meaning:
Is now in dry dock. And, of course, Landry will want to know whether his
wife is in any danger. Danger! Danger! Ships are sometimes in danger.
When? When they're wrecked, of course. Let us look under the head of
wrecks... No; nothing seems to fill the bill. Wreck, wrecked, worse,
writ, write, wrong--ah, I have it! Wohlgemuth--meaning: There is nothing
wrong." He looked up at Mr. Hankins. "Now there's the kind of cablegram
to send--even on baby business. Those four code words translated mean:
No new arrivals; heavy arrivals expected shortly; is now in dry dock;
there is nothing wrong. Literally translated it means: Baby not born
yet; twins expected shortly; your wife now in hospital; everything
lovely! I suppose, Hankins, you have carbon copies of all these
cablegrams you've been sending?"

"Yes, sir."

"Code them all, so far as possible, and ascertain how much money you
might have saved the Blue Star by the exercise of a little common sense;
then charge the cablegrams, on the coded basis, to our general expense,
and charge to your personal account the sum you might have saved by the
exercise of the ingenuity and efficiency I have a right to expect of a
man who draws down as fat a salary as you do."



CHAPTER L


Mr. Hankins withdrew, greatly crestfallen, and the despot of the Blue
Star office turned to his trusted lieutenants.

"Well," he declared, "one after the other you have to come to the old
man to be shown. I guess I've proved to you two boys this morning that
I'm to be trusted with buying a few ships and letting contracts for a
few more, haven't I?"

"I don't like the idea of Cappy Ricks on a steamer that's likely to be
torpedoed. I don't want you to go to Europe alone--"

"I'm not going alone. Captain Mike Murphy, our new port captain, is
going with me. I wouldn't think of buying a steamer unless that splendid
fellow O.K.'d the hull. And Terry Reardon, our new port engineer, will
accompany me also. Terry has to O.K. the engines. Between the three of
us, it's going to take a smart trader to sell us any junk, I'm telling
you!"

"I ought to go with you," Matt suggested.

"You have your work at home, attending to the fleet. It isn't much of a
fleet, I'll admit; but such as it is it requires some attention. I'll be
the chief scout of this organization and see whether I can't rustle
up some major-league vessels from some of those bush-league European
owners."

"I've had a fine time getting good men to take their places in the
_Narcissus_ since you promoted Mike and Terry in my absence!" Matt
complained. "Mike and Terry know her well--and she's such a big brute to
handle."

"Where is the _Narcissus_, by the way?"

"Loading nitrate at Tocopilla and Antofagasta, Chile. This is her last
voyage under the old charter."

"Got any new business in sight for her?"

"I won't have the slightest difficulty getting another nitrate charter
and at a rate double what she's been getting."

"Every vessel taken off the nitrate run stiffens the freight rate in
these days, when they have to have so much nitrate in the manufacture
of war munitions," the astute Cappy declared. "If I were you, Matt,
I'd find her a good outside cargo or two, and then slip her back in the
nitrate business again. Freights may have advanced in the interim."

"I have a mighty profitable cargo offered me this morning, Cappy. An
agent of the British Government called on me and offered a whopping
price for carrying a cargo of mules and horses from Galveston to Havre.
I think I shall turn the proposition down. It's too dangerous, Cappy."

"You mean we might have our ship blown up by a German submarine?"

Matt nodded.

"Well, we'd collect our freight in advance, wouldn't we? And the British
Government will guarantee to reimburse us if the ship is lost, will it
not? Well, then, where's the risk?"

"There's the danger to the crew."

"Any man that goes to sea knows he has to take a chance. Bet you Mike
Murphy could take that cargo of livestock across and bring another cargo
back. He's luckier than a cross-eyed coon. And another thing, Matt:
If you accept that business we can kill two birds with one stone--yes,
three--because Mike and Terry and I will cross over on the _Narcissus_
and save the price of transportation from here to New York, and from New
York to Liverpool. Then, while the _Narcissus_ is discharging and taking
on another cargo, we'll go scouting for available steamers."

"It might be done, though I hate to think of it Cappy. If we lose the
vessel they'll pay us a million and a half for her, of course--and she
cost us less than three hundred thousand a year ago. And, as you say,
we'll collect the freight in advance. They're very anxious to get the
_Narcissus_. She's a whopping big boat, and that's the kind of a vessel
they need for a horse transport."

"Yes; and, by the Holy Pink-Toed Prophet, it will be a bully vacation,
and a bully vacation is something I haven't had since the night of the
big wind in Ireland. Moreover, I combine business with pleasure, which
is always desirable; and, if that isn't excuse enough, I want to tell
you it's cheaper to travel dead-head on our own boats than to pay for
three round-trip tickets to Europe on a Cunard liner."

"But suppose a German submarine--"

"Matt, all my life I've played a quiet, safe, sane, conservative game.
I've always longed for adventure and never had it. Why, just consider a
moment what a tiresome thing life would be were it not for the
prospect of death at any moment! That's all that keeps us hustling,
my boy--trying to put over a winning run before the game is called on
account of darkness. Hell's bells! Don't try to scare me with a sheet
and the rattle of old bones. Suppose they do blow us up? We don't lose a
dollar; in fact, we make money--and we can take to the boats, can't we?"

"They only give you fifteen minutes--"

"We'll have the boats swung overside, provisioned and ready, two days
ahead."

"But they don't care how far out to sea they leave you. I spent two
weeks in an open boat once and I know you can't stand two days. The
exposure--"

"When we get down to Galveston," Cappy interrupted triumphantly, "I'll
have Mike Murphy buy a nice, staunch little secondhand motor cruiser,
thirty-eight or forty feet long, with plenty of power and comfortable
living accommodations for half a dozen people. Mike will arrange for
extra oil and gasoline tankage, and we'll swing this cruiser in on the
main deck and let it rest there in a cradle, with the slings round it,
ready to lift overside with the cargo derricks at a minute's notice.
I'll be as snug in that little cruiser as a bug under a chip--and we'll
tow the lifeboats. So that settles it--and if it doesn't I'd like to
know who's the boss of this shebang, anyhow!"

Mr. Skinner glanced covertly at Captain Matt Peasley and shook his head
almost imperceptibly, as who should say: "Better give in to him, Matt.
I know him longer than you do; he'll have his way if it kills him."
And Matt took the hint, with the result that some six weeks later Cappy
Ricks, accompanied by his faithful port captain and his equally faithful
port engineer, cleared for Galveston aboard the Sunset Limited. And at
Galveston began the only real vacation Cappy Ricks had ever had.



CHAPTER LI


To begin, there was the task of superintending the installation of the
accommodations for the cargo of mules and horses. Cappy was particularly
interested in the ventilating system below decks, for he was fond of
horses and had resolved to deliver the cargo without the loss of a
single animal. Of no mediocre turn of mind mechanically, he, assisted by
Terry Reardon, made a few suggestions that the British veterinaries in
charge were very glad to accept.

The real enjoyment of the trip, however, Cappy found down at the
breaking corrals where the horses were detraining. They were all young
and full of life, and fully ninety per cent of them had only been
halter-broken. In the lot was many an outlaw whose ancestors had run
wild for generations in Nevada; and as the delivery contract specified
that a horse to be accepted must be broken--God save the mark!--as
Terence Reardon remarked after seeing one passed as broken, following
five minutes of furious pitching and squealing--Cappy Ricks was one of
the first at the corral and the last to leave. Perched on the topmost,
rail, he piped encouragement to the lank, flat-bellied border busters
who, a dozen times a day, risked life and limb at five dollars a bust.

Mike Murphy and Terence Reardon, who had ridden more than one China Sea
typhoon and West India hurricane, marvelled that men should take such
risks for any amount of money. Privately they considered Cappy Ricks
an accessory before the fact, inasmuch as Cappy hung up at least five
hundred dollars in small prizes for the vaqueros. Whenever they had
a "bad one" they could always induce Cappy to offer ten dollars for
staying two minutes and five dollars a minute for each minute over the
limit--which seldom reached two minutes. Also, Cappy was willing to
furnish two silver dollars whenever some adventurer thought he could put
a dollar between each leg and the saddle and have the dollars there when
the horse surrendered. They ran in a couple of trained buckers on Cappy
and depleted his bank roll considerably before he began to smell a rat.

To these plainsmen, charged with the destinies of the mounts for the
young British soldier, Cappy Ricks was known familiarly as Cap. Before
the last of the horses had been passed as broken and hustled aboard the
big _Narcissus_, Cappy knew each horse wrangler by his first name or
nickname, and had learned the intricacies of many hitherto unheard-of
games of chance that flourish along the Rio Grande. He was an expert
at cooncan, and Pangingi fascinated him; then they taught him Mexican
monte, and one worthless individual stole an ace out of the deck,
whereupon all hands had a joyous hack at Cappy, who, when informed
privately by his friend, Sam Daniels, foreman of the outfit, that he
was in bad company and being skinned alive, went uptown and bought some
specially constructed dice, which he introduced brazenly into a crap
game, thereby more than catching even. He was the last man in the world
a gang of wicked cowboys would suspect of guile; all of them, quite
foolishly, thought he had more money than brains.

Eventually, however, the _Narcissus_ was loaded, Cappy moved into the
owner's suite, and his new-found friends bunked in a temporary deck
house forward when they weren't busy below decks playing chambermaid to
the cargo. And with Cappy's motor cruiser swung in the cradle, ready
for launching from the main deck aft, the _Narcissus_ slipped out of
Galveston and went snoring across the Gulf of Mexico, bound for Le
Havre.

Mike Murphy was not happy, however. He resented Cappy Ricks, who would
persist in going below to inspect the cargo and in consequence smelled
like a hostler. Moreover, Michael was the port captain of the Blue
Star Navigation Company now and not the master of the ship; and the
_Narcissus_ wasn't out of sight of land before Mike made the discovery
that the boatswain of the ship was absolutely inefficient, that the cook
was wasteful, that the first officer was too talkative, and the skipper
too easy-going.

And these conditions, on a ship he had once commanded, irked Murphy
exceedingly. Terence Reardon was in much the same state of mind. Being
port engineer, he investigated the engine room and found that his
favorite monkey wrench had been lost; there were two leaky tubes in
the main boiler; the ash hoist was out of kilter; his successor in the
_Narcissus_ was carrying ten pounds of steam less than Terence used to
carry; and there was something not quite right with the condenser.
The engine room crew Terence characterized to Mike Murphy as a gang of
"vagabones," and hinted darkly at sweeping changes when the ship should
get back to the United States. Once he went so far as to state that he
might have expected as much when, upon leaving the _Narcissus_ to become
port engineer, he had given her to his old first assistant; since he had
never known a first assistant, barring himself, to make a good chief!



CHAPTER LII


On the very day the _Narcissus_ left Galveston the German submersible
V-l4 left her base at Zeebrugge, with oil and torpedoes sufficient to
last her on an ordinary three weeks' cruise, and promptly headed for
that section of the Atlantic where information and belief told her
commander the hunting would be good. And it was--so good, in fact, that
to the very great disgust of her crew she had just two torpedoes in
stock when the man on watch at her periscope reported a large freight
steamer to the west. Promptly the V-l4 submerged and proceeded on
a course calculated to intercept the freighter, which presently was
discovered to be the U.S.S. _Narcissus_.

The captain of the V-l4 almost licked his chops. He had heard of the
_Narcissus_. The neutrality laws of the United States had prevented him
from hearing of her by wireless when she cleared from Galveston, but
he had been on the lookout for her, just the same, ever since a Dutch
steamer from New York, with an alert German chief mate, had touched at
Copenhagen, from which point the dispatches that mate carried had
gone underground straight to the office of the German Admiralty. The
information anent the _Narcissus_ had been brief but illuminating:
She had been chartered to carry horses for the British Government from
Galveston to Le Havre, and the word to get her at all hazards had been
passed to the submarine flotilla.

Captain Emil Bechtel, of the V-l4, did not possess an Iron Cross of any
nature whatsoever, and as he studied the oncoming _Narcissus_ through
the periscope he reflected that this big brute of a boat would bring him
one, provided he was lucky. He remembered he had but two torpedoes left,
and under the circumstances he paused to consider.

Clearly--since the _Narcissus_ was laden with horses and mules for the
enemy she was carrying contraband--she must not escape. On the other
hand, there had been a deal of unpleasantness of late because President
Wilson had been protesting the sinking of vessels without warning--and
the _Narcissus_ was a United States steamer. Consequently if he
torpedoed her without warning the temperamental Kaiser might make of
Captain Emil Bechtel what is colloquially known as the goat; whereas,
on the other hand, should he conform to international law and place her
crew in safety before sinking her, there was a chance that her wireless
might summon a patrol boat to the vicinity--Bechtel had sighted one less
than an hour before--and patrol boats had a miserable habit, when they
sighted a periscope, of shooting it to pieces.

Then, too, it was just possible that the perfidious English had mounted
a couple of six-inch guns on her after getting to sea--and the German
knew a six-inch shell, well-placed, would send his vessel to the bottom.
Moreover, it was sunset; in half an hour it would be twilight; he had
no knowledge of the speed of the _Narcissus_ and she might try to make a
run for it, thus forcing him to come to the surface and shell her should
he miss with his torpedoes. Further, if he attacked her and she escaped,
there was an elderly gentleman with whiskers back in Berlin who would do
things to him if the Kaiser didn't.

There was, however, one course open to the German. To his way of
thinking, during the exciting diplomatic tangle with the United States,
he would be damned if he did and damned if he didn't; but if he did, and
nobody could prove it, old Von Tirpitz would ask no questions.

"I'll let her have it," Captain Emil Bechtel concluded; and he passed
the word to get ready.

A minute later Cappy Ricks, smoking his after-dinner cigar on the bridge
of the Narcissus with her skipper and Mike Murphy, pointed far off the
port bow.

"There's a shark or a swordfish, or something, breaching," he said. "I
can see his wake."

Mike Murphy took a casual glance in the direction Cappy was pointing,
while the master of the _Narcissus_ reached for his marine glasses and
lazily put them to his eyes.

"Shark be damned!" yelled Murphy. "It's a torpedo or I'm a Chinaman!
Hard-a-starboard!"

He leaped for the engine-room telegraph and jammed it over to Full Speed
Astern; then dashed into the pilot house and commenced a furious ringing
of the ship's bell, summoning the crew to boat drill, the while his
anxious eye marked the swift progress of the white streak coming toward
them. What wind there was happened fortunately to be on the vessel's
port counter, and as the helmsman spun the wheel the big vessel fell off
quickly and easily, while the rumble of her shaft, suddenly reversed,
fairly shook the ship. To Cappy Ricks it seemed that the vessel must be
brought up standing, like one of the broncos he had seen ridden with
a Spanish bit; but a big ship under full headway is not stopped very
abruptly, and the _Narcissus_ swept on, turning as she went in order to
offer as little target as possible to the torpedo.

"Will we make it, Mike?" Cappy Ricks queried in a very small, awed
voice.

Mike Murphy turned and found his owner at his elbow.

"I hope it hits her forward," he replied. "That motor cruiser is cradled
aft and we might save it. They never hailed us--ah-h-h, missed!"

The torpedo flew by, missing the big blunt bow by less than three feet.

"I guess they'll get us just the same," Mike Murphy murmured quietly;
"but we're going down fighting."

And, disregarding the master of the _Narcissus_, who was staring
vacantly after the flying torpedo, he rang for Full Speed Ahead, and
called down the speaking tube to the chief to hook her on for all he
had; then, with his helm still hard-a-starboard, he swung the ship in
as small a circle as possible and headed her at full speed back over the
course so recently traveled by the torpedo.

"That was a beautifully timed shot--that last one," he informed Cappy
Ricks admiringly. "If we'd sighted it thirty seconds later--"

"Where the devil are you going, man?" Cappy yelled frantically.

"I'm going to give that fellow a surprise," Murphy growled. "He expected
us to run for it after that first one missed--and I'm running for him!
He may not get me with the next one if I come bows on--and I might ram
him! I'll take a chance. Keep your eyes open for his periscope."

Aboard the V-l4 Captain Emil Bechtel said nothing, but thought a great
deal--when he saw that his first torpedo had missed its prey. He was
in for it now; he had started something and he had to go through. And,
anticipating that the _Narcissus_ would show him her heels and steer
a zigzag course, he immediately launched his last torpedo as the horse
transport lay quartering to him.

To his disgust, however, the steamer, having avoided the first torpedo,
did not run as he had anticipated. Instead, she continued to turn round
on her heels, each revolution of her wheel lifting her out of the course
of the second torpedo, since the submarine had fired slightly ahead of
the vessel, knowing that if she continued for two minutes on the course
he expected her to take she would steam fairly across the path of the
huge missile. So he missed again--the torpedo slid under her stern--and
here was that demon horse transport bearing down on him at full speed
and with a bone in her teeth.

"The jig is up," murmured Bechtel, and gave the order to submerge
deeper, for he would not risk showing his periscope to the keen eyes on
that bridge.

For ten minutes he waited, while the submarine scuttled blindly out
of the path of the onrushing transport; then, concluding that the
_Narcissus_ had passed him, he came up and took a look round. He was
right. A cable length astern and another off his port quarter the
steamer was plunging over the darkening sea, and Captain Emil Bechtel
knew he had her now; so promptly he came to the surface.

Mike Murphy, glancing off his starboard quarter, saw her periscope come
swiftly up; then her turret showed; then her turtle deck flashed for a
moment on the surface, like a giant fish, before she rose higher and the
water cascaded down her sides.

Cappy Ricks' anxious face turned a delicate green; he glanced up at his
bully port captain as if in that rugged personality alone could he hope
for salvation. Murphy caught the glance, shook his head, walked over to
the engine-room telegraph and set the handle over to stop.

"No use, sir," he informed Cappy. "That Dutchman is out of torpedoes, so
he's coming up to shell us. We'll heave to and save funeral expenses."
He turned to the master of the _Narcissus_. "Captain, I'll stay on the
bridge and conduct all negotiations with that fellow; get your mates,
round up everybody and prepare to abandon the ship in a hurry. Get the
motor cruiser overside first."

As the captain hurried away, Terence Reardon came up on the bridge. The
port engineer's gloomy visage portended tears, but through his narrowed
lids Cappy Ricks saw not tears, but the light of murder. Terence did
not speak, but thoughtfully puffed his pipe, and, with Murphy and Cappy
Ricks, watched the booby hatch on the submarine's deck slide back and
her long, slim, three-inch gun appear, like the tongue of a huge viper.

Heads appeared round the breech of the gun; so Michael J. Murphy seized
a megaphone and shouted:

"_Nein! Nix!_" accompanying his words with wild pantomime that meant
"Don't shoot!"

Captain Emil Bechtel was vastly relieved. He was not an inhuman man,
even if, on occasion, as has already been demonstrated, he could, for
the sake of national expediency, sink a ship without warning. Having
missed with both torpedoes, he could now, in the event of national
complications, enter a vigorous denial of any affidavits alleging an
attempted breach of international law, and his government would uphold
him. This knowledge rendered him both cheerful and polite, as he hove to
some hundred yards to starboard of the _Narcissus_ and informed Captain
Michael J. Murphy that the latter had just fifteen minutes in which to
save the ship's company; whereat Michael J. proved himself every inch a
sailor, while Terence P. proved himself a marine engineer. If there was
a word of opprobrium, mundane or nautical, which the port skipper didn't
shout at that submarine commander, the port engineer supplied it. In
all his life Cappy Ricks had never listened to such rich, racy, unctuous
abuse; it lifted itself about the level of the commonplace and became a
work of art. Cappy was horrified.

"Boys! Boys!" he pleaded. "This is frightful!"

"What do you expect from a German, sir?" Murphy demanded. "Frightfulness
is his middle name."

"I mean you two--and your language. Stop it! You'll contaminate me."

"Well, sor," Terence Reardon replied philosophically, "I suppose there's
small use cryin' over spilt milk--musha, what are they up to now?"

"They're dragging a collapsible boat up from below," Mike Murphy
declared. "That means they're going to board us, place bombs in the
bilges, and sink us that way. They know blamed well we've wirelessed for
help and a patrol has answered; so that--"

"No profanity!" Cappy shrilled.

"So he has decided he won't try to sink us by shell fire with such a
small gun. It'll be dark in five minutes and he's afraid the flame of
the discharge or the reports of the gun may guide the patrol boat here
before he's finished his job. Oh, wirra, wirra!"

Murphy's surmise proved to be correct, for he had scarcely finished
speaking before the submarine commander hailed him and ordered him to
let down his gangway. Terence P. Reardon's eyes flamed with the lust for
battle.

"Be the great gun av Athlone," he cried, "if they're comin' aboard sure
we can get at them!"

Murphy's rage vanished as suddenly as it had gripped him; he smiled at
Terence affectionately, approvingly.

"You with your monkey wrench, eh, Terry, my lad? And they with automatic
pistols and wishful of an excuse to use them, not to mention the
nitroglycerin and guncotton bombs they'll be carrying--a divilish bad
thing to have kicking round in a free-for-all fight?" he queried.

Terry's face showed his deep disappointment.

"They'll see us all in the boats," Murphy continued; "then they'll go
below, set the bombs, light a slow fuse to give them time to get back to
the submarine--and then--"

"With all these poor dumb beasts aboard?" Cappy Ricks quavered.
"Horrible! Horrible! I could kill them for it."

"I could kill them for a greater crime than that," his port captain
reminded him. "Didn't they try twice to sink us without warning? Damn
them! They're forty fathoms outside the law this minute."



CHAPTER LIII


For the first time in his life Cappy Ricks was in financial and physical
danger coincidently. Old he was, and a landlubber, for all his courtesy
title; but in his veins there coursed the blood of a long line of
fighting ancestors. It occurred to him now that in all his life he had
never cried "Enough;" that always, when cornered and presumably beaten,
he had gone into executive session with himself and, fox that he was,
schemed a way out. In this supreme moment there came to him now the
words of the gallant Lawrence: "Don't give up the ship!" They inspired
him; his agile old brain, benumbed by the shock of the exciting events
of the last quarter of an hour, threw off its paralysis; his little
five-feet-four body thrilled with the impact of a sudden brilliant idea.

"I have it!" he piped. "By the Holy Pink-Toed Prophet, it might be done!
Mike, the submarine lies to starboard. Tell the mate to lower the port
gangway."

Murphy ran out on the end of the bridge and bawled the order. Then he
came back, and he and Terence and Cappy Ricks put their heads together
while in brief, illuminating sentences Cappy Ricks unfolded the fruit of
his genius.

"Tell me," he pleaded when he had finished, "is that scheme
practicable?"

"It might be done, sir," Mike Murphy assented.

"I'll thry anything the wanst," Terry Reardon almost barked.

"It means some fighting--probably some killing."

"Sorra wan av me'll feel broken-hearted at killin' the likes av that
Dutchman," Terry answered. "Shtill, we'll be needin' some help, I'm
thinkin'."

"We'll get it, or I'm no judge of human nature. Mike, pass the word for
Sam Daniels, the boss of muleteers and broncho busters. Sam used to be a
Texas Ranger."

Accordingly Sam Daniels was sent for and arrived on the jump.

"Sam, my dear boy," said Cappy calmly, "I'm enlisting volunteers to
raise hell with that submarine. They're going to put bombs in the bilges
and blow up the ship."

"Count me in, Cap," Sam Daniels replied laconically. "Want me to rustle
up a couple of the boys?"

"Yes, about three real ones--boys that are handy with a six-shooter."

"I guess most of the boys from the border have their guns in their war
bags. I'll go get them together."

He did--in about three minutes; by which time the collapsible boat from
the submarine had been launched and was pulling toward the _Narcissus_.
While her master directed them to pull round to the port gangway, Sam
Daniels slipped down unobserved into Number Three hatch, two of his
horse wranglers disappeared with an equal lack of ostentation down the
gangway into Number Two hatch, and a third man went forward and down
Number One. The trap was set.

A stout young lieutenant clad in soiled dungarees, his uniform cap
alone denoting his rank, came briskly up the companion, followed by four
jackies carrying the bombs. A fifth man remained in the boat, fending it
away with a boat hook from the tall black side of the _Narcissus_.

"Who commands here?" the German demanded in most excellent English.

"I do," the master of the _Narcissus_ replied, and stepped a pace
forward.

"Then hurry and get your boats overside. We're going to bomb the ship,
and if anybody remains aboard when those bombs explode it will be his
fault, not ours."

The motor cruiser had already been dropped overboard, and the
life-boats, having been for two days swung out in the davits, were
quickly filled and lowered away. As each boat pulled clear of the ship
the man in charge of it was ordered by the submarine lieutenant to stay
to port of the _Narcissus_, and to pull well clear of the ship before
proceeding to pass the towing painters to the cruiser.

"Are all your men off the ship?" the officer queried of the skipper as
the latter entered the last boat and gave the order to lower away.

"All off; I've accounted for all of them," was the answer.

The German waited until the boat had slipped away in the gloom before
turning to his command.

"Proceed!" he said briefly; and, followed by his four men, he led the
way down the cleated temporary gangway built diagonally down Number
Three hatch to accommodate the horses when they had been led aboard.

The better to facilitate their progress, Terence Reardon had turned on
all the electric lights in the ship, and the detail proceeded quickly
to the lower hold, where they set two bombs and piled double-compressed
baled hay round them, with the fuse leading out from under the bales.
In addition to blowing a hole in the ship they were taking the added
precaution of setting her afire after the explosion.

From the spot where the bombs were set a long alleyway, lined on each
side with the rumps of horses, each neatly boxed in a stall just wide
enough and long enough to inclose him firmly and hold him on his feet in
the event of rough weather, led forward and aft to the bulkheads. And
in one of these stalls, close up against the rump of a horse he could
trust, Sam Daniels, the ex-Texas Ranger, crouched, with one eye round
the corner of the stall, calmly watching the grim proceedings. Something
told him that, having arranged the bombs in that hold, the enemy would
not light the fuses until he had set similar bombs at the bottom of the
other hatches; then, all being in readiness, a man would be sent into
each hold to light the fuse, scurry on deck, descend to the waiting
boat, and be pulled clear of danger before the fuses should burn down to
the fulminating caps.

So Daniels waited until the men were about to pick up the remaining
bombs and ascend to the deck; whereupon he stepped quietly out into
the alleyway, a long-barreled forty-five in his hand, and pussyfooted
swiftly toward the Germans, whose backs were now turned toward him.
Halfway down the alleyway, on one of the heavy six-by-six-inch uprights
temporarily set in to support the weight of the hundred mules on the
deck above, was the electric switch controlling the circuit in that
hold--and Sam Daniels reached up and turned it down. Instantly the hold
was in darkness; and then the horseman spoke:

"Hey, you Dutchies! Stay right where you are! I want to have a little
powwow with you before you go any farther."

Having said this, the astute Mr. Daniels, out of a vast experience
gained while fighting Mexicans and outlaws in the dark, promptly lay
down. In case the enemy should become rattled and fire at the sound of
his voice he preferred to have plenty of room for the bullets to pass
over him.

"Who's there?" the lieutenant demanded in English; and by the firm,
resolute voice the Texan knew that the German was not rattled and that
his men would not fire unless he gave the word.

"Great thing, this naval discipline!" Mr. Daniels soliloquized. Aloud he
replied:

"The fastest, straightest little wing shot with a six shooter that ever
was, old-timer!"

"What do you purpose doing, my friend?"

"I purpose giving you some good advice; though whether you accept it or
not is a matter of indifference to me. You will observe that this hold
is in comparative darkness. I say comparative, because through the hatch
space a certain amount of light is projected from the deck above, and
you and your men are standing in that light, whereas I am in the dark. I
can see you and you cannot see me. I have a forty-five caliber revolver
in my hand and another in reserve. There are five of you fellows,
constituting a fair target--and I seldom miss a fair target. I can kill
all five of you in five seconds. Of course some of you may manage to
fire at the flash of my gun and accidentally kill me; but--make no
mistake about it, son--I'll get you and your gang before I kick the
bucket. Now, then, which do you want to do--live or die? I'm going to
be fair to you fellows and give you some choice in the matter--which is
more than you did when you launched those two torpedoes at us. Speak up,
brother! I'm a nervous man and dislike suspense."

The German lieutenant glanced at his men, who had not yet touched the
other bombs and were looking stolidly at him for orders. He licked his
lower lip and scowled, sighed gustily--and made a swift grab for his
automatic. A streak of flame came out of the dark alleyway and the
German's arm hung limp at his side. He had a bullet in his shoulder.

"Told you I was a wing shot!" the plainsman cautioned him pleasantly.
"I would have put that one through your heart if I didn't need an
interpreter. I imagine these roustabouts with you only speak their
mother tongue."

"What do you want me to do?"

"Well, first, I want you to leave that high explosive right where it is.
Then I want you to deposit all your sidearms on the floor, and have your
men do likewise."

The German had had his lesson and arrived at the conclusion that valor
without discretion is not good business. He slipped his belt off and let
it drop to the floor; at a word from him his men did likewise, whereupon
Daniels stood up, threw on the electric switch, and revealed himself and
his artillery to the gaze of the invaders.

"Forward; in a bunch, up the gangway!" he ordered.

They obeyed. As the Texan passed the little heap of belts, with the
automatics in the holsters attached, he gathered them up and followed.
Just before the procession reached the main deck he halted them and
whistled--whereupon Michael J. Murphy, Terence P. Reardon and Cappy
Ricks came to the edge of the hatch and peered over.

"Well, look who's here!" Cappy exclaimed maliciously. "Five nice little
pirates, who would sink my _Narcissus_ without so much as a be-damned to
you! Mike, bring the irons. Terence, my boy, restrain yourself. If you
use that monkey wrench until I give the word the Blue Star Navigation
Company will have a new port engineer. Undress these fellows. Just
remove their caps and outer garments--and be quick about it."

"Tell them to molt--_muy pronto!_" Sam Daniels ordered the lieutenant,
who relayed the order in a voice that had in it a suspicion of tears.

In three minutes they were undressed and handcuffed together; leg irons
were put on them, and they were expeditiously gagged and chained to a
stanchion.

"Now then, Terence, I have work for you and your monkey wrench,"
Cappy continued. "You're about the same size as this officer. Into his
dungarees and uniform cap; and don't forget to slip on his belt, with
the automatic."

"In two shakes av a lamb's tail, sor. What next?"

"As you run down the gangway to the waiting boat, hold your handkerchief
over that Irish mug of yours. Pretend you're blowing your nose. The man
in the boat won't recognize you until you're on top of him."

"Wan little love tap--no more!" Terence breathed lovingly.

"When Terence has tapped him, Sam," Cappy continued, "you go down and
help to get him out on the landing stage. He'll be off our hands there
and the submarine people cannot see what's happened to him. They're
still lying on our starboard beam."

Terence and the deadly Samuel disappeared, to return presently and
report all well. Thereupon Michael J. Murphy retired to the port side of
the house, lit a kerosene torch he had brought up from the engine room
and waved it. He waited. Presently, in the gloom off to port, he saw
the red and green side lights of the little cruiser. For a moment both
lights were visible; then the master of the _Narcissus_, now in charge
of the cruiser, ported his helm and showed his red only. Murphy waited,
and presently both red and green showed again.

"Starboard now, and show your green," Murphy pleaded.

The red went out and the green alone showed; so Mike Murphy extinguished
his torch and rejoined Cappy Ricks, Terence and the ubiquitous Mr.
Daniels.

"Sam, my dear boy," Cappy was saying as Murphy came up, "Mike and
Terence own in the _Narcissus_ and they work for me--hence their
alliance. You owe me no fealty--"

"The hell I don't, Cap!" Sam retorted lightly. "You're a fine old sport,
and I'm for you till the last dog is hung."

"Sam, I am deeply grateful. Your friendship is very dear to me indeed.
I have a twenty-two-thousand acre ranch down in Monterey County,
California--don't know why I bought it, unless it was because it was
a bargain and ranch property in California is bound to increase in
value--and you're my foreman if we ever get out of this with a whole
skin. I'll make it the best job you ever had, Sam."

"Thank you, Mr. Ricks!" A moment before it had been Cap. "If you never
saw a man fight for a good job before, just watch me!"



CHAPTER LIV


The horse tenders in the other holds were summoned and informed that for
the present the _Narcissus_ would not be bombed. Quickly two of them,
with Mike Murphy and Sam Daniels, donned the dungarees and caps of the
prisoners and strapped on their belts containing the automatics in their
holsters. In the interim Terence had descended to the collapsible boat
bumping at the gangway and fended her off until Sam Daniels, the two
cowboys and Mike Murphy joined him; whereupon Terence took one pair of
oars, while Murphy handled the other, and the boat crept out from the
steamer and headed directly for the submarine, which had been ratching
backward and forward under a dead-slow bell, watching the towering black
hulk of the _Narcissus_ rolling idly. A light showed on the turret of
the submarine, outlining vaguely the figures of half a dozen men on her
small deck.

The disposition of Mike Murphy's forces was such that the chances of the
enemy detecting the substitution of the boarding party before it should
reach the submersible were reduced to a minimum. In the bow of the
collapsible one of the cowboys sat, facing the stern; Terence and Mike
also faced the stern, by reason of the fact that they were rowing; and
Sam Daniels and the other cowboy, seated in the stern sheets, were under
orders to turn and look back at the _Narcissus_ as the boat came within
the radius of the meager light from the submarine's turret. Thus they
ran little risk of premature discovery.

"For," as Cappy Ricks sagely reminded them just before they pulled away
from the _Narcissus_, "the German is both cautious and cocksure. The
capture of his bombing party has been effected without a sound; the
commander saw our men leave the steamer in the boats; he sees the
_Narcissus_ now not under command and wallowing; he figures that all is
lovely and the goose honks high. Therefore, he will be off his guard,
since his suspicions have not been roused. His deck is very dimly
lighted by that single light on the turret, and he knows that light is
sufficient to guide the boat party back to the submarine. There is no
sea running to speak of; so it will not be necessary for him to turn his
searchlight on you to light the way for you.

"Moreover, he will not care to use his searchlight, because it may guide
a patrol boat to this spot, and Terence has very carefully turned out
all the lights on the ship which might be visible from a distance,
because that is precisely what that lieutenant would or should have done
if we had given him time. And when you row toward that submarine, row
like the devil, because that's the way the bombing party would row in
their hurry to board the submarine and steam clear of the explosion.
It is my guess that the instant you heave alongside you will be snagged
with boat hooks by the men on her deck. In the excitement of making a
quick get-away nobody will be looking into your faces, anyhow; they'll
see your familiar dungaree suits and caps; some of them may even give
you a hand to help you when you leap aboard. Do not despise such help;
just extend your left hands and before you let go the enemy's right bend
your guns--and you, Terry, your monkey wrench--over their heads. You'll
have the deck in a pig's whisper! Then, Mike, the rest is up to you.
I've made the ball; now you fire it.

"I take it the submarine will be in such a hurry to get away that all
the men on her deck will reach down and snake the boat in; once out of
danger, they'll plan on knocking that collapsible down and storing
it away at their leisure. Tackle 'em while they're busy with the
boat--provided you get aboard unsuspected. Terence, remember to shout
the minute you go into action--and I'll give you fighting light."

Following these instructions, Cappy had very solemnly shaken hands all
round and departed for the bridge, where he removed the canvas covering
from the searchlight, bent the reflector toward the submarine, and
waited, with his nervous old finger on the switch.

In pursuance of Cappy Ricks' instructions, Mike Murphy and Terence
Reardon rowed furiously toward the submarine--so furiously, indeed, that
the harsh grating of their oars in the rowlocks apprised Captain Emil
Bechtel of their approach some seconds before the boat was visible. At
his brisk command the men on deck stepped down to the low pipe railing
on the port side of the deck, prepared to snag the boat the instant she
drew alongside. When he could hear the sound of the commander's voice,
Mike Murphy chanced a quick look over his shoulder, noted the position
of the submarine, and turned his head again.

"Four more strokes, Terry; then ship your oars," he cautioned the
engineer in a low voice.

At the fourth stroke Terence obediently shipped his oars; with a deft
twist of one oar, Murphy straightened the boat and shot neatly in
alongside the submarine, the deck of which was less than three feet
above the water. As Cappy Ricks had anticipated, the men on that deck
promptly snagged the boat at bow and stern with boat hooks--and on the
instant Cappy Ricks' bully boys leaped for their prey.

As luck would have it, Terence P. Reardon was the only one offered a
helping hand--and he did not despise it; neither did he forget Cappy's
last instructions. With neatness and ample force he brought his monkey
wrench down on the German's skull; and then to Cappy Ricks, waiting
on the bridge of the _Narcissus_, came the ancient Irish battlecry of
_Faugh-a-ballagh!_ For the benefit of those not versed in the ways of
the fighting Celt, be it known that _Faugh-a-ballagh_ means Clear the
Road. And history records but few instances when Irish soldiery have
raised that cry and rushed without clearing a pathway.

The fight was too short and savage for description. Suffice it to say
that not a shot was fired--the work was too close for that, for the
surprise had been complete. Even before Cappy Ricks could focus the
steamer's searchlight on the fracas, it was over. Terence P. Reardon got
two in two strokes of his trusty monkey wrench; Sam Daniels and his
two fellow-bronco-busters each laid open a German scalp with the long
barrels of their forty-fives; and Michael J. Murphy, plain lunatic-crazy
with rage, disdaining all but Nature's weapons, tied into the amazed
Captain Emil Bechtel under the rules of the Longshoremen's Union--which
is to state that Michael J. Murphy clinched Emil Bechtel, lifted him,
set him down hard on his plump back, crawled him, knelt on his arms, and
addressed him in these words:

"Hah! (A right jab to the face.) You would, would you? (Left jab to
face.) You pig-iron polisher! (Bending the nose back forcibly with the
heel of his fist.) When I get (smash) through with your (smash) head
(smash) it'll be long (smash) before you'll block (smash) your hat again
(smash) on the Samson post, you--"

"Out av me way, Michael, lad, till I get a kick at his slats!" crooned
Terence P. Reardon, heaving alongside.

"You gossoon! Take care of the scuttle; don't let them close it down,
or they'll submerge and drown us. Leave this lad to me, I tell you. He's
the captain, and why shouldn't he be killed by one of his own rank?"

Thus rebuked, Terence curbed his blood-thirsty proclivities. Leaving
his countryman to beat his devil's tattoo on the submarine commander,
Terence leaped to the open scuttle just in time to bang another head as
it appeared on a level with the deck.

"Let that be a lesson to you!" he called as the unconscious man slid
back down the companion into the interior of the vessel.

Then he sat on the lid of the scuttle, poised his monkey wrench on high
over the scuttle, and awaited developments, the while he tossed an order
over his shoulder to Sam Daniels:

"Bring me the bum!"

"Which one?" Mr. Daniels queried.

"The German bum, av coorse," Terence retorted waspishly.

"But all these bums are Germans--"

"Not that kind av a bum!" howled Terence. "I mean the bum in the boat."

Thus enlightened, Sam brought a bomb from the boat and handed it to the
engineer. In the interim Mike Murphy had polished off his man to his
entire satisfaction and joined Terence at the scuttle, while one of the
horse wranglers, a cool individual and a firm believer in safety first,
collected the weapons from the fallen.

Mike Murphy approached the scuttle and bawled down it to the amazed and
puzzled crew below. As a linguist Mike was no great shakes, particularly
when called upon to juggle German; but he was a resolute fellow and not
afraid to do his best at all times. Consequently his hail took the form
of "Hey! _Landsmann!_"

Something told Terence Reardon that Michael was through; so he added his
mite to the store and bellowed:

"_Spreckels die deutsch,_ ye blackguards?"

Then both sat back to await developments. Presently a voice at the foot
of the companion said:

"Hello dere! Vat iss?"

"Vat iss? Hell iss! Dot's vat! Listen to me, you Dutchy. I'm the skipper
of that horse transport your commander tried to sink without warning,
and I'm in command of the deck of this craft, with the scuttle open; and
you can't submerge and wash me off, either. When I give the word I
want you and your men to come up, one at a time and no crowding. And if
you're not up five minutes after I order you up I'll not wait; I'll
set a bomb in your turret, back off in the small boat and kill with
revolvers any man that tries to come up and see where the fuse is
burning in order to put it out. Do you surrender, or would you rather
die?"

"Vait a minute und I find oud," the German answered promptly.

It required five minutes for a council of war below decks; then the
interpreter came to the foot of the companion and informed Mike Murphy
that, considering the circumstances, they had decided to live. In
the interim the skipper of the _Narcissus_ had arrived, with
re-enforcements, in the cruiser, and reported that his crew was getting
back aboard the steamer as fast as possible and would have her under
command again in a minute. At Murphy's order the unconscious Germans
were put aboard the cruiser; later, when the remainder of the
submersible's crew came up, one at a time, they were disarmed and lined
up on the little deck; whereupon Michael J. Murphy addressed their
spokesman thus:

"Listen--you! It would be just like you to have set a time bomb
somewhere in this submarine to blow her up after you were all safely out
of her. If you did you made a grave tactical error. You're not going
to leave her for quite a while yet. You're going to sit quietly here on
deck, under guard, while the steamer hooks on to this submarine and tows
her; and if my prize crew is blown up, remember, you--"

The spokesman--he was the chief engineer, by the way--yelled "_Ach,
Gott!_" and leaped for the scuttle. Mike Murphy followed him into the
engine room in time to see him stamp out a long length of slow-burning
fuse.

"Any more?" Murphy queried.

"Dot von vas sufficient, if it goes off," the German answered simply.

"All right!" Mike Murphy replied. "I'll take a chance and so will you.
You'll stay aboard and run those oil engines."

Half an hour later with the submarine's crew safely under lock and key
on the _Narcissus,_ the big freighter continued on her course, followed
by the captured submarine, with Michael J. Murphy in her turret and a
quartermaster from the _Narcissus_ at her helm. In the engine room her
own engineer grudgingly explained to Terence P. Reardon the workings of
an oil engine and the ramifications of the electric-light system--and
during all of that period the deadly monkey wrench never left the port
engineer's hand.

Sam Daniels and his comrades were once more back aboard the _Narcissus,_
attending to the horses; and Cappy Ricks, his heart so filled with pride
that it was like to burst, occupied the submarine's turret with the
doughty Michael J. For an hour they discussed the marvelous coup until
there was no angle of it left undiscussed; whereupon fell a silence,
with Michael J.'s eyes fixed on the dark bulk ahead that marked the
_Narcissus_, and Cappy's thoughts on what Matt Peasley and Mr. Skinner
would say when they heard the glorious news.

For nearly an hour not a word passed between the pair.

Presently Cappy's regular breathing drew Murphy's attention to him. He
had fallen asleep in his seat, his chin bent on his old breast, a little
half-smile on his lips. And as Murphy looked at him pridefully Cappy
spoke in his sleep:

"Holy sailor! How Mike Murphy can swear!"

Terence P. Reardon came to the foot of the little spiral staircase
leading to the turret.

"Michael, me lad," he announced, "the internal-combustion ile ingin'
is the marine ingin' av the future. They're as simple as two an' two is
four. Listen, _avic!_ Does she not run like a twenty-four-jewel watch?
An' this man that invinted thim was a Ger-r-man--more power to him!
Faith, I'm thinkin' if the Ger-r-mans were as great in war as they are
in peace 'twould need more nor the Irish to take the measure av thim!"

"Irish?" Mike Murphy answered irritably. "Terence, quit your bragging!
God knows the Irish are great--"

"The greatest in the wide, wide wur-rld!" Terence declared, with all the
egotism of his race.

"Whist, Terry! There's a little old Yankee man aboard; if you wake him
up he'll call you a liar."

"The darlin' ould fox!" Terry murmured affectionately, and went back to
his engines.



CHAPTER LV


The entire office force of the Blue Star Navigation Company and the
Ricks Lumber & Logging Company had assembled in the general office to
greet Cappy Ricks, Mike Murphy and Terence Reardon upon their return
from Europe, and to hear at first hand the story of their wanderings and
adventures. And when the wondrous tale had been told, and business was
once more resumed, Matt Peasley, Mr. Skinner, Mike and Terence convened
in Cappy Ricks' office for further discussion.

"We sent that half million dollars to New York to be transferred to the
credit of the French Government when the bill of sale for that steamer
should be deposited with the bank there," Matt remarked presently. "What
kind of a vessel did you buy, Cappy? What are her dimensions?"

"What kind of a ship did I buy?" Cappy piped. "Hum-m-m! A ship is good.
I bought four; and--believe me!--they're no skiffs, either. All of them
are big foreign-going steel tramps, with lots of speed and power."

"Four for half a million dollars?" Matt Peasley cried unbelievingly.

"They would have cost anybody else a million and a half; but--er--well,
you see, Matt, I had a stand-in with the right people. The four vessels
I bought were all prizes of war--German merchantmen converted into
commerce raiders, which had slipped through the cordon of British
cruisers and got into the North Atlantic, where French cruisers
overhauled them and brought them into port. They were all there and up
for sale to the highest bidder when we got there with the horses and our
captured submarine.

"I bid half a million for the lot, which is probably about half of
what it cost to build them; and there was a Frenchman and an Englishman
bidding against me. They each had me topped, and the vessels
were knocked down to the Frenchman; but when he found I was a
competitor--that I was Monsieur le Capitaine Ricks--that's what
they called me, Matt--in command of the party that captured a German
submarine, intact and without the loss of a single man on either
side-say, Matt, the stuff was all off!

"He and the Englishman went into a conference; and the result was, the
Frenchman ran out on his bid and forfeited his ten-per-cent certified
check. That left the Englishman the next highest bidder; and he ran out
on his bid and left the ships to me! Then the Englishman shook hands
with me and the Frenchman kissed me. I thought the least I could do was
to make good to them on the earnest money they had forfeited, and they
accepted it. Then the President of France heard about it and came down
to Brest to see me; and he kissed me, too, and gave me the Officers'
Cross of the Legion of Honor. I didn't tell him I was just a private
in the ranks. Oh, no! Nothing doing. I was introduced as Monsieur le
Capitaine Ricks--and that settled it. I was an officer, for all my
courtesy title; and I took the Cross, because I was prouder than Punch
to have it.

"Then the Chamber of Deputies met and voted the Frenchman and the
Englishman back their forfeited earnest money; and they gave me back
my checks, and I wrote new ones for the same amount and split the swag
fifty-fifty between the two nations for the care of their wounded.
Then I gave a dinner aboard the submarine, and President Poincare was
present. I presented the submarine, with the compliments of the Blue
Star Navigation Company, to the Republic of France, and the President
accepted, all hands went out on deck and we cracked a bottle of
champagne over that submersible's bows and rechristened her."

"What name?" Matt and Skinner chorused.

"The Shamrock--out of compliment to Mike and Terence."

"Fine!" Matt cried. "Then what?"

"Nothing, Matt. Our business was finished and I was anxious to get
back on the job; so we engaged skippers and crews to bring our four
freighters to New York, and came home.

"Better step lively, boy, and dig up some business for them! Mike will
give you the data on their tonnage."

Matt drew Mike Murphy aside.

"Tell me, Mike," he whispered, "did the old man get soused at that
dinner aboard the _Shamrock?_"

"Look here, Matt," Murphy answered; "what Monsieur le Capitaine Ricks
does outside of office hours is none of my business--or yours, either.
And if you don't like that answer help yourself to a new port captain.
I'm not telling everything I know, Matt."



CHAPTER LVI


On the morning of April 3, 1917, Cappy Ricks came down to his office,
spread a newspaper on his desk and carefully cut from it the war address
of President Wilson to Congress, made the night before. This clipping
the old gentleman folded carefully; he placed it in an envelope, sealed
it and wrote across the face of the envelope: "Property of Alden Matthew
Peasley." Then he summoned Mr. Skinner, president of the Ricks Lumber &
Logging Company.

"Skinner, my dear boy," he began, "have you read the President's Message
to Congress?"

"I have," replied Skinner.

"I guess that President of ours isn't some tabasco, eh? By the Holy
Pink-Toed Prophet, he's just naturally read Bill Hohenzollern out of the
party. Bully for Woodrow!"

Mr. Skinner's calm cold features refused to thaw, however, under the
heat of his employer's enthusiasm, seeing which Cappy slid out to the
edge of his chair and gazed contemplatively at Skinner over the rims
of his spectacles. "Hum-m-m!" he said. The very tempo of that
throat-clearing should have warned Mr. Skinner that he was treading on
thin ice, but with his usual complacence he ignored the storm signal,
for his mind was upon private, not public affairs.

"I'm offered the old barkentine _C. D. Bryant_ for a cargo of redwood to
Sydney," he began. "The freight rate is two hundred and twenty shillings
per thousand feet, but the _Bryant_ is so old and rotten I can't get any
insurance on the cargo if I ship by her. I'm just wondering if--"

"Haramph-h-h! Ahem-m-m!"

"--it's worth while taking a chance to move that foreign order."

"Skinner!" Cappy almost shouted.

Mr. Skinner looked at him, startled.

"How can you think and talk of old barkentines and non-insurable foreign
cargoes at this crisis in our country's history?" the autocrat of the
numerous Ricks corporations shrilled furiously. "Dad burn your picture,
Skinner, are you human? Don't you ever get a thrill from reading a
document like this?"--and he tapped the envelope containing the press
clipping. "What kind of juice runs in your arteries, anyhow? Red blood
or buttermilk? Is your soul so dog-goned dead, crushed under the weight
of dollars, that you have failed to realize this document is destined to
go down in history side by side with Lincoln's Gettysburg speech? I'll
bet you don't know the Gettysburg speech. Bet you never heard of it!"

"Oh, nonsense, Mr. Ricks," Skinner retorted suavely. "Pray do not excite
yourself. Suppose war does impend? Is that any reason why I should
neglect business?"

"Of course it is, you gibbering jackdaw! I feel like setting fire to the
building, just to celebrate. Can't you step into my office on a day like
this and discuss the country and her affairs for five minutes, just to
prove you're an American citizen? Can't you rejoice with me over these
lofty, noble sentiments--"

"Words, words, empty words," warned Mr. Skinner, always a reactionary
Republican.

"Skinner," said Cappy with deadly calm, "one more disloyal peep out of
you and I shall have no alternative save to request your resignation. I
think you're a pacifist at heart, anyhow!"

"Huh," snorted Skinner. "You've changed your tune, haven't you? Who
trotted up and down California Street last fall, soliciting campaign
contributions for the Republican nominee from the lumber and shipping
interests? Wasn't it Alden P. Ricks? Who thought the country was going
to wrack and ruin--"

"That was last fall," Cappy interrupted shrilly. "We live and
learn--that is, some of us do," he added significantly. "Never mind
about my politics last fall; just remember I haven't any this spring.
I'm an American citizen, and by the Holy Pink-Toed Prophet, some German
or Germans will find it out before I'm gathered to the bosom of Abraham.
I have a right to disapprove of my President if I feel like it, but I'll
be shot if I'll let anybody else pick on him." And Cappy shook his head
emphatically several times like a squinch-owl.

"Oh, I'm for him, now that we're committed to this war," Skinner
declared in an effort to soothe the old man.

"Sure! We're locking the stable door after the horse has been stolen. If
we'd been for him when the _Lusitania_ was sunk instead of being divided
in our opinions and swayed in our judgment by a lot of hysterical
pacifists and German propagandists we'd have been into the war long
ago and saved millions of human lives; we'd have had the war won." He
sighed.

"What a prime lot of jackasses we Americans are!" he continued. "We talk
of liberty and demand license; we prate of democracy and we're a nation
of snobs!"

"You wanted to see me about something," Skinner reminded him.

"Ah, yes; I was forgetting. This envelope, Skinner, contains the
President's address. Take it and put it in the vault, and when my
grandson is twelve years old give that press clipping to his mother and
tell her I said she was to read it to the boy and make him learn it
by heart. I won't be on hand to do the Americanizing of that youngster
myself, and most likely Matt Peasley will be too busy to think much
about it, so I'm taking no chances. You rile me to beat the band
sometimes, Skinner, but I'll say this much in your favor: I have never
known you to forget anything."

"Thank you, sir."

Mr. Skinner took the envelope and departed, and Cappy rang for a
stenographer.

"Take a telegram, fast day message," he barked: "'His Excellency, The
President, White House, Washington, D. C. Dear Mister President: I did
not vote for you last fall, but your address of last night makes
me ashamed that I did not. I am controlling owner of the Blue Star
Navigation Company, operating a fleet of fifty vessels of various kinds,
twelve of which are foreign-going steam freighters. Am also controlling
owner of the Ricks Lumber & Logging Company, cutting a million feet of
lumber daily. Everything I control, every dollar I possess, is at the
service of my country. God bless you, sir! Alden P. Ricks.'

"That sounds sloppy, but it's the way I feel," Cappy declared. "When
a man has a big heart-breaking job to do and a lot of Philistines are
knocking him, maybe it helps him to retain his faith in humankind to
have some fellow grow sincerely sloppy and slip a telegraphic cheer in
with the hoots. Besides, if I didn't let off steam today I'd swell up
and bust myself all over the office--"

The door opened and Mr. Terence P. Reardon, port engineer of the Blue
Star Navigation Company, entered. Mr. Reardon's right eye was in deep
mourning and at no very remote period something--presumably a fist--had
shifted his nose slightly to starboard; indeed, even as he entered
Cappy's office a globule of the rich red Reardon blood trembled in each
of the port engineer's nostrils. His knuckles were slightly skinned and
the light of battle blazed in his black eyes.

"Terence, my dear, dear fellow," murmured the horrified Cappy, "you look
as if you had been fed into a concrete mixer. Have you been fighting?"

"Well, sor," Mr. Reardon replied in his deep Kerry brogue, "ye might
call it that for lack of somethin' more expressive. I've just fired the
chief engineer o' the _Tillicum."_

"Mr. Denicke? Why, Terry, he's a first-rate engineer. I'm amazed. He was
with us ten years before you entered the employ--worked up from oiler;
in fact, I must have an explanation of your action in this case,
Terence."

"He called the President a nut. I fired him for that. Then he said the
Kaiser was the greatest single force for civilization that ever was, an'
wit' that I gave him a lift under the lug an' we wint at it. He's in
the Harbor Receivin' Hospital this minute, an' I'm here to tell ye,
sor, wit' all respect, that if ye don't like the way I've treated that
Dutchman ye can get yerself a new port ingineer, for I'll quit, an'
that's somethin' I'm not wishful to do."

Quite calmly Cappy Ricks pressed the buzzer on his desk. The cashier of
the Blue Star Navigation Company entered. "Son," said Cappy, "hereafter,
when making out Mr. Reardon's pay check, tack onto it twenty-five
dollars extra each month. That is all."

"Thank you, sor," murmured Mr. Reardon, quite overcome.

"Get out!" cried Cappy. "You're a vision of sudden death. Go wash
yourself."

As Mr. Reardon took his departure Cappy sighed. "If Skinner only had a
set of works like that port engineer!" he murmured. "If he only had!"



CHAPTER LVII


It will be recalled that war with Germany was declared on Good Friday.
Bright and early on Saturday morning Cappy Ricks arrived at his office
and immediately summoned Mr. Skinner.

"Skinner, my dear boy," he chirped, "'the tumult and the shouting dies.
We're down to brass tacks--at last; and now is time for all good men and
true to come to the aid of the party. I'm too old to bear arms, and when
I was young enough bantam battalions weren't fashionable; nevertheless,
I am enlisting for the war, and I start in this morning to do my part. I
won't wear any uniform, but believe me, Skinner, I'm the little corporal
who's going to mobilize the Blue Star Navigation Company and the
Ricks Lumber & Logging Company, together with all and sundry of their
subsidiary corporations. I'm starting with you, Skinner. Are you
figuring on enlisting?"

"Certainly not, sir. I'm forty-three years old, married--"

"No excuses necessary, Skinner. Even if you had planned to enlist I
would have forbidden the banns. You'd make a bird of a paymaster or
quartermaster, but as an enlisted man--well, the other bad soldier boys
would toss you in a blanket. So I'll assign you to a job in civil life.
Skinner, what do you know about aeroplanes?"

"Absolutely nothing, except that they fly."

"Then learn something! Skinner, the ideal wood for aeroplane
construction is clear Pacific Coast spruce. I've been reading up on the
subject. Inasmuch as this war must be won in the air, you can imagine
the number of aeroplanes the country must turn out in the next eighteen
months. Stu-pen-dous, Skinner, simply stu-pen-dous! Try to visualize
the wastage alone in the aeroplanes on the battle fronts; consider the
thousands of seaplanes that will scour the Atlantic on the lookout
for submarines, and then ask yourself, Skinner, what the devil those
overworked army and navy officers in Washington are going to do about
laying in a supply of clear Pacific Coast spruce before these pirates of
lumbermen get next and boost the price clear out of sight. Skinner, what
is clear spruce worth at the Northern mills today?"

"About fifty-five dollars per thousand, sir. For years clear spruce
never rose in price beyond thirty-five dollars, but purchases by the
British Government have shot the price up during the past year."

"Exactly! And purchases by the United States Government will shoot the
price up to a hundred and fifty dollars a thousand if you and I don't
get busy. Now then, Skinner, listen to me! We have a couple of thousand
acres of wonderful spruce timber adjacent to our fir holdings at
Port Hadlock, Washington. Wire the mill manager to swamp in a logging
railroad to that spruce timber, put in logging camps and concentrate
on spruce. The clear stock we'll sell to the Government, and the lower
grades will be snapped up by the box factories."

Mr. Skinner nodded his comprehension of the order and Cappy continued:
"Wire our mill managers at Astoria, Oregon and Eureka, California,
to log out all the spruce they come across among the fir. As for
you, Skinner, accept no more orders for clear spruce from our regular
customers, and go easy on accepting orders for any kind of lumber
from our Eastern customers. All those car shipments must be made up of
kiln-dried stock, and we'll want most of the space in our dry kilns to
cook this clear green spruce for Uncle Sam, because he's going to want
it in a hurry, and if he can't get it when he wants it--why, chaos has
come again and all hell's let loose!"

"What price do you propose charging the Government for this clear
spruce?" the cautious Skinner queried. He owned a little stock in the
Ricks Lumber & Logging Company and already he had a vision of an extra
dividend.

"Absolute cost plus ten per cent," replied Cappy promptly. "No excess
profits at the expense of the country at war, Skinner."

He gazed upon Skinner contemplatively for several seconds. "And mind you
don't figure the cost too liberally," he warned him.

"Very well, sir. Is that all?"

"Not by a jugful! You scatter round the market and buy up every stick
of clear two-inch spruce sawed and on hand at the Northern mills. Buy
at the market, but do not hesitate to go five dollars over the market if
necessary to get the stock. Then place orders for all the clear spruce
the mills can cut and deliver within the next six months, and we'll have
the market hog tied.

"Got to do it, Skinner. I tell you there isn't a whole lot of difference
between a lumberman and a manufacturer or a food speculator. When he
gets the public foul, doesn't the public pay through the nose? Haven't
we been doing it ourselves in the matter of ship freights? But we must
reform, Skinner, we must reform and get down to a cooperative basis,
no matter how great the agony. On this spruce deal alone, for instance,
we'll save the Government a couple of million dollars. See if we don't."

"We're entitled to a liberal profit," Mr. Skinner protested. "If--"

"No ifs, buts or ands! Obey orders! About the time we have the market on
clear spruce well cornered the lumbermen's boys will be in the army
and the lumbermen themselves will have begun to realize that they must
sacrifice something for their country. And once we're sane we'll be able
to work hand in glove with the Government. The United States of America
has been money-mad for a long time, Skinner, but this war is going
to spiritualize us and show us that there's a lot more in life than
dollar-chasing. Hop to your job, P. D. Q., Skinner, my boy; and as you
pass out send Captain Matt Peasley in to me."

Matt Peasley came smilingly into his father-in-law's office. "Well,
Cappy," he hailed the old gentleman, "I understand you've come out of
your retirement."

"You're damned whistling, I have!" Cappy rejoined. "Something doing,
boy, something for everybody! Have they told you about it in the general
office?"

"Told me about what?"

"About the President asking me if I would cooperate with him to the
extent of serving as the Pacific Coast member of the Shipping Board?
I guess that isn't some honor, eh? How the devil he ever dug up an old
fossil like me is a mystery. I wired him, advising that he appoint a
younger man, but he replied that he knew I was the livest shipping man
in the country and an American through and through. So, of course, Matt,
I have accepted."

"Your forty odd years' experience will be of inestimable value to the
country in this emergency," Matt declared heartily. "I'm proud of you."

"Thank you, son. Now then, Matt, to business! The Government's going to
need every one of our ships that can run foreign." Matt nodded. "Very
well, then," Cappy continued; "as fast as their present charters lapse,
decline to recharter except for single trips. We must go on a war
basis and be prepared to turn our ships over to the Government on short
notice. I'll be too busy to keep my eye on the details of the Blue
Star's transactions with the Government, so I'll give you a straight tip
now--I want no gouging. Remember that, Matthew, my son."



CHAPTER LVIII


The following day Cappy had a call from Sam Daniels.

"Hello, Sam," Cappy greeted his lanky ranch manager. "What brings you
up to town? Not that I'm not glad to see you, for I was on the point of
writing you on some matters that had occurred to me."

"I've come up to resign my job," Daniels declared humbly.

"Resign the best job you've ever had, Sam!" Cappy was amazed.

"To resign the best job I ever will have, Mr. Ricks."

Mr. Daniels hitched his chair close to his employer's desk. "Boss," he
said, "I'm awful sorry, but I'm goin' soldiering."

Cappy Ricks sprang to his feet with an oath. "You're not!" he shouted.
"I won't hear of it. You're too valuable a man to go into the army and
get yourself killed--particularly since you can do your share at
home. Why, I was just going to write you and give you your orders for
patriotic duty. You go back to the ranch, Sam, and get busy. Plant
spuds, wheat, oats, barley, corn--plant all you can of it. Raise
heifers, sheep, hogs, cows, bulls, calves, turkeys--everything that can
be eaten. Raise horses--and in particular, raise mules."

"I'd rather raise hell with a bunch of Germans," Sam Daniels declared
feelingly.

"Your job is to help produce cereals and canned beef for the
hell-raisers," Cappy declared. "The army will want horses for the
artillery and mules for the transport. Why, this war may last for years.
Sam, you infernal scoundrel, you get back on the farm. You're forty-five
years old and you've been shot and whittled enough in your day to last
you the remainder of your natural life. Let the young fellows do the
fighting abroad, while you and I and the other hasbeens do it at home."

"I'd a heap rather lay off in the brush somewheres an' snipe Germans,"
Mr. Daniels pleaded. "On the level, boss, if they'll give me a
Springfield rifle with telescopic sights I'll guarantee to sicken
anythin' I get a fair sight on at a thousand yards."

"In-fer-nal scoundrel! How dare you argue with me! You get back on your
job!"

"Boss, I'm going into the army," Daniels announced sadly, but
nevertheless firmly. "I'm givin' you a month's notice so you can get a
man to take my place."

Cappy surrendered. "All right, Sam. If you survive, your job will be
waiting for you when you get back. However, you needn't give me any
notice. I'll have another man in charge of the ranch to-morrow, and you
can enlist today."

"And you're not sore at me, Mr. Ricks?"

"Sam, I'm proud of you. Wish I were young enough to go it with you. Are
you in a hurry to get to France?"

"Certainly am."

"Then join the marines. They always go first. Good-bye, Sam. Good luck
to you and God bless you! Draw your wages as you go out and tell the
cashier I said to give you an extra month's wages for tobacco money."

Mr. Daniels withdrew, visibly filled with emotion. Ten minutes later
Cappy Ricks, watching at his office window, saw Mr. Daniels cross the
street and enter the marines' recruiting office. Immediately Cappy
called that recruiting office on the telephone and asked for the doctor.

"Look here, doctor!" he said. "In a few minutes a lanky, battle scarred
rancher is coming in to be examined. I don't want him to enlist. He's
my ranch manager and worth more to the country in his job than at the
Front. You turn him down physically, doctor, and I'll guarantee to
send you five fine recruits instead of that old fossil. His name is Sam
Daniels, and I'm Alden P. Ricks, of the Blue Star Navigation Company,
across the street."

"We need an automobile to send our recruiting sergeant out through the
state," the wary medico replied. "Now, if you could loan us one--"

"I'll have my own car and chauffeur over in half an hour, and you keep
him as long as you need him," Cappy piped. "Only tell Sam Daniels he's
faltering on the brink of the grave and send him back to me."

An hour later Mr. Daniels slouched into Cappy Ricks' office. "Well,
Private Daniels," the old man saluted him, "you look downcast. Has
something slipped?"

"I should say it has. The doc over to the recruitin' office says I got a
heart murmur from smoking cigarettes, which it's a cinch the excitement
o' battle brings on death from heart failure, an' then folks would say I
died o' fright."

"He's crazy Sam! Tell him to go chase himself."

"I guess he's right, Mr. Ricks. He 'most cried to let me go, an' was for
waivin' the heart murmur, but it seems I got a floatin' kidney, an' flat
feet. Gosh, I never knew I had flat feet, but then I've rid horses all
my life an' ain't never hiked none to speak of."

He was silent several minutes, studying the pattern of the office
carpet. Presently he looked up. "Is my successor at the ranch already
appointed?" he queried.

"Go back to the fields and the kind-faced cows, Samuel," quoth Cappy
gently. "Hurry, or you'll miss the train."

Sam Daniels fled, and hard on his heels came Mrs. Michael J. Murphy,
_nee_ Miss Keenan. It will be recalled that prior to her happy alliance
with Michael J. Murphy, Mrs. Murphy had been Cappy Ricks' favorite
stenographer. He received her cordially.

"Now then, what's gone wrong, my dear?" he demanded. "Have you and Mike
been making a hash of your married life that you should come in here on
the verge of tears?"

Mrs. Murphy blinked away a tear or two and sat down. "Some of the boys
in the office will be enlisting, Mr. Ricks," she faltered. "I wonder
if there might be a vacancy for me--if I might not have my old position
back?"

Cappy Ricks was genuinely concerned. "Why, Mike won't let you earn your
living," he declared. "Why do you make such an extraordinary request?"

"For Mike's sake, Mr. Ricks. Of late he has been very nervous and
distrait; scarcely touches his meals, and thinks, talks and dreams of
war. Last night he dreamed he was back in the navy and shouted out an
order that woke him up."

"Come to think of it, I believe Mike did spend several years in the navy
prior to going into mercantile marine," Cappy observed. "So he has the
war fever again, eh? Wants to go back?"

"Ever since he received a letter from the Navy League. They're searching
out all the old navy men--gun pointers particularly--and asking them to
come back to help train the young fellows just coming into the service.
Mike was a gun pointer--"

"Well, what in thunder is he hesitating for?" Cappy piped wrathfully.

"About me. Mike's married to me, you know, and he worries about
what will happen to me if he should be killed. He knows I'll be
broken-hearted if he enlists--he's afraid I'll not let him go. But if I
got my job back and was self-supporting, Mike's conscience would be--"

"Do you want him to go?"

"No, Mr. Ricks, but he must go. I do not want to make a coward or a
slacker out of Mike. I've got to do my part, you know."

"My dear," said Cappy feelingly, "you're a noble woman. Go back and
attend to your little home; Mike may go whenever he's ready and his
salary with the Blue Star will go on while he is in the navy; his job
will be waiting for him when he comes back. Good old Mike! How dreadful
a crime to hobble that Irishman with a first-class fight in sight."

When Mrs. Mike had left the office Cappy stiffened out suddenly in
his chair, clenched his fists and closed his eyes, as if in pain. And
presently between the wrinkled old lids two tears crept forth. Poor
Cappy! He was finding it very, very hard to be old and little and out
of the fight, for in every war in which the United States had engaged
representatives of the tribe of Ricks had gladly offered their bodies
for the supreme sacrifice, and as Cappy's active mind ran down the long
and bloody list his heart swelled with anguish in the knowledge that
he was doomed to play an inglorious part in the war with Germany. Mr.
Skinner coming in with a letter to Cappy, observed the old man's emotion
and asked him if he was ill.

"Yes, Skinner, I am," he replied. "I'm sick at heart. God has given
me everything I ever wanted except six big strapping sons. Just think,
Skinner, what a glorious honor would be mine if I had six fine boys to
give to my country." His old lips trembled. "And you could bank on the
Ricks boys," he added. "My boys would never wait to be drafted. No,
sir-ree! When they heard the call they'd answer, like their ancestors.

"Skinner, what has come over our boys of this generation? Why don't they
volunteer? Why does the President have to beg for men? Has the soul
of the idealist been corroded by a life of ease? Did the spirit of
adventure die with our forefathers? Is it any harder to die just because
war has become more terrible--more deadly? Oh, Skinner, Skinner! To be
young and tall and strong and whirled in the cycle of vast events--to
play a man's part in a glorious undertaking--to feel that I have
enriched the world with my efforts, however humble, or with my body
revitalized the soil made fallow by a ravishing monster. I feel,
Skinner--I feel so much and can do so little."

Nevertheless, he did do something that very afternoon. One after the
other he examined all the young men in his employ, discovered which of
them could afford the luxury of enlisting and then asked them bluntly
whether they were going to enlist. Three of them said they were, and
Cappy promised each of them a month's salary the day he should report to
him in uniform. Nine others appeared to be uncertain of their duty,
so Cappy fired them all, to the great distress of Mr. Skinner and Matt
Peasley. Cappy, however, turned a deaf ear to their remonstrances.

"A man who won't fight for his country is no good," he declared; "and I
won't keep a no-good son of a slacker on my pay roll. Get married men
or men who have been rejected for military service to take the places of
these bums who haven't courage enough even to try to enlist."



CHAPTER LIX


The campaign for the Liberty bonds brought Cappy an appointment from
the mayor as captain of a corps of volunteer bond salesmen to work
the wholesale lumber and shipping trade, and for three weeks the old
gentleman was as busy as the proverbial one-armed paper hanger with
the itch. He was obsessed with a fear that the bond issue would be
under-subscribed by about a billion and a half and result in the
United States of America being accorded a hearty Teutonic horse laugh.
Consequently he made five separate subscriptions on his own account, and
just before the lists closed on the last day he was again overcome with
apprehension and subscribed for an additional ten thousand dollars'
worth for his grandson! When the result of the Liberty-bond campaign was
made known he almost wept with joy and gave a wonderful dinner to his
corps of salesmen, after which he went down to his ranch to rest for a
week and see what Sam Daniels was up to.

The morning he returned to town, prepared to leap, heart and soul into
the hundred-million-dollar Red Cross drive, he had a visit from his port
captain, Michael J. Murphy.

"Well, sir," Murphy announced, "I've cleaned up all the little details
in my department, your new port captain is on the job, and I'm about to
go over to the naval training station on Goat Island and hold up my hand
again. But before I go, sir, I want to express to you something of what
I feel for what you've done for me and mine."

"Tut, tut. Not another peep out of you, sir!" Cappy commanded. To be
thanked for anything always made him feel uncomfortable. "What branch of
the service do you hope to get into, Mike?"

"I want to get aboard a destroyer, sir, though they're the divil an' all
to live aboard. They offer the best chance for action. Patrolling the
submarine zone, you know."

"Gosh," Cappy groaned; "everybody's got the submarines on the brain,
and I'm tagging along with the rest. Mike, I swear I can't sleep nights,
thinking of this war. It breaks my heart to realize I'm out of it. And
because I'm a shipping man, naturally my fool brain runs to submarines
and how to control them. Mike, I have a great yearning to sink a
submarine; the screams of those scoundrels aboard her would be music to
my ears."

"It's a serious problem," Murphy declared soberly; "but I'm hoping our
Yankee ingenuity will solve it."

"Well, we haven't done it to date, and in the meantime all the nut
inventors in the world are sending their nut ideas in to the National
Council of Defense. Of course I have a bright idea too. I'm a great hand
at hatching cute schemes, you know. However, I differ from the average
submarine nut in this--that I want to try out my theory in practice
before submitting it to an expectant world. Still, I'd need you to
help me; and now that you're going into the navy I suppose I'll have to
forget it."

"I seem to remember a scheme of yours that resulted in the capture of
a submarine last year," Murphy reminded the old man. "That was a bully
scheme, and I'm willing to wager that the head which produced it
can produce another just as good. Tell me your plan for eliminating
submarines, Mr. Ricks."

"My scheme doesn't contemplate a continuous performance," Cappy hastened
to explain, "but it might work out once or twice--and in this great
international emergency anything is worth trying once. I could
demonstrate my theory in about two months--with your help."

"Then," declared Michael J. Murphy, "I'll wait until you give the
demonstration before enlisting in the navy."

"Bully for you, Mike! I'll declare Terry Reardon in on the experiment
also, for the reason that one of the ingredients required is a chief
engineer with courage to spare. Now then, for my scheme: Do you know the
_Costa Rica?_"

"That old steamer that used to run to Panama for the Pacific Mail?"

"The same."

"What about her?"

"She's in the bone yard--laid up for keeps, Mike. Her plates are so
thin and soft the least jar would punch a hole in her; she's wrecked
and strained from fifty years of service; her engines are worn out, her
boilers are burned out, her gear is antiquated, and even in these
times of abnormal freight rates she's too far gone to patch up and
keep running. They kicked her up in the mud of Oakland Inner Harbor
yesterday, and there she'll be stripped of everything of value and left
to rot. My plan, Mike, is to buy the old _Costa Rica_ for a couple of
thousand dollars, turn Terence Reardon and his gang loose on her engines
and boilers for a couple of weeks and take the old coffin out for one
final voyage. She can make eight or nine knots in good weather, and if
she's torpedoed the loss will be trifling. Will you run the risk and
take her out for me, Mike?"

"Yes, sir. What for?"

"As a decoy."

"I don't understand."

"We'll put a hand-picked crew aboard her, Mike; we'll arm her fore and
aft with six-inch guns, which we can readily get from the navy now
that it's the fashion to arm merchantmen; and then go cruising in the
submarine zone. You can pick up a few old navy men for a gun crew and
train some of the Costa Rica's crew, can't you?"

"If we can get somebody to give me the range and manage to get the
gun loaded somehow, I'll do the gun pointing; with half a chance I'll
guarantee results."

"And that is exactly what I plan to give you--half a chance," Cappy
declared enthusiastically. "The Costa Rica isn't worth two hoots in a
hollow, but she still looks enough like a steamer to attract submarines;
and during this fine summer weather we can chance a final voyage with
the old wreck."

"Where do you get this 'we' stuff, Mr. Ricks?" Mike Murphy queried
bluntly. "You're not figuring on going to sea in that coffin, are you?"

"I most certainly am so figuring. I take my fun where I find it, Mike,
and if I'm to plan and pay for this experiment--then, by gravy, I'm
going to be on deck to watch it work out if it's the last act of my
sinful career."

"But if they fire on us you may be killed."

"We'll be firm' back at 'em, won't we? And if I'm killed in action,
won't that be a fitting finish for a Ricks?"

"We may be afloat in an open boat for a week. I don't want you to die of
exposure, sir."

"Forget it, Mike! I've been charged off to profit and loss for so many
years it makes me ill to think of them. And you remember, my dear Mike,

   _"'To every man upon this earth
    Death cometh soon or late;
    And how can man die better
    Than facing fearful odds
    For the ashes of his fathers
    And the temples of his gods?'_

Don't argue with me, Mike. My mind is quite made up. I'm going
into action in this war, for, as I said before, I'll try anything
once--particularly when it isn't very expensive and I can afford the
luxury. We're going to buy the _Costa Rica_, take her into the submarine
zone and lose her, but, by the Holy Pink-Toed Prophet, we'll take a
submarine with us!"

"Not if the German sees us first."

Cappy leaned forward and laid his index finger impressively on Michael
J. Murphy's knee. "That's the only way we can hope to win," he declared.
"We must make certain the submarine sees us first. Mike, a German is a
rabid disciple of law and order; anything out of the usual run of things
upsets him terribly; he never makes allowance for the unexpected or for
the other fellow's point of view. To be more exact, Mike, I figure
that German psychology is the only kind of psychology a German can
understand. And to tell you the truth, Mike," he added musingly, "there
are blamed few people who can understand mine."

Michael J. Murphy nodded a vigorous indorsement to this last remark, and
Cappy went on: "Do you think any proud and arrogant skipper of a German
submarine would ever suspect an American citizen of such a harebrained
scheme as the sending out of a rusty, creaking old rattletrap of a
steamer that can't get out of her own way, for the avowed purpose of
destroying him and his sub? No sir! His microphones will tell him, while
he is still totally submerged, that his approaching prey is a slow poke
and cannot possibly outrun him; then he'll come up, take a look and
clinch his conclusions--after which he will attack."

"True for you sir. He'll launch his torpedo and dive before I can get a
shot at him or correct my range to hit him; then the torpedo will hit
us and we'll go up like a shower of mush--probably with half a dozen men
killed and nothing accomplished in the way of a return swat."

"That was the program a few months ago," Cappy retorted triumphantly.
"Have you noticed, however, that since merchantmen have been armed
the submarines are more and more prone, when attacking in daylight, to
pursue a steamer at a reasonable distance and rake her with shell
fire? If a vessel is fired on and her skipper, looking back, notes the
position of the submarine and realizes that he cannot possibly outrun
her and that she outranges him, what does he do, Mike?"

"He does the sensible thing. Heaves to to avoid loss of life, gets his
men into the boats and abandons his ship to the Hun."

"Precisely! And if the Hun thinks he is not likely to be disturbed for a
couple of hours, what does he do?"

"Why," said Murphy, "he comes aboard, removes all the stores he
can--particularly engine oil--and strips the vessel of all her brass,
copper and bronze fittings. These metals are very scarce in Germany and
they need all they can get in the manufacture of munitions."

"Correct! And we must bear in mind, Mike, the fact that a German is
naturally thrifty; if he can sink a ship with shell fire or bombs set
in her bilges he will not waste on her a torpedo that costs from ten to
twenty thousand dollars. Now, will he?"

"Well, I wouldn't, Mr. Ricks."

"Then my plan is absurdly simple. We merely provide a gorgeous
opportunity for the enemy; we inculcate in him the idea that he is about
to pick a soft one--then: Alas, poor Yorick!"

Michael J. Murphy rose and put on his hat. "Where are you going, Mike?"
Cappy demanded.

"I'm going up to the navy yard at Mare Island," the port captain
declared, "to see if I cannot pick up a couple of six-inch rifles of
the model they used when I was in the navy. They're obsolete now, but
I understand them--and while I'm getting the guns I'll pick up four or
five old navy men. Leave it to me, Mr. Ricks."

"We'll give 'em hell!" shouted Cappy.

"We will!" quoth Michael J. Murphy with conviction.



CHAPTER LX


Two weeks later the old _Costa Rica,_ looking somewhat youthful in a
new coat of black paint and with a huge American flag painted on each
topside, slipped quietly out of San Francisco in ballast and for the
last time turned her nose toward Panama. In the brief period given him
in which to overhaul her interior, Terence P. Reardon had accomplished
wonders, and an hour after Mike Murphy had taken his bearings from Point
San Pedro and laid out his course the chief came into the chart room to
announce that the old girl was doing eight knots and, barring unexpected
bad weather, would continue to do it without falling to pieces. "If I
could have spint two thousand dollars more on her," Terence declared, "I
believe I could get another knot out av her. Time was whin she could do
sixteen."

Cappy Ricks, enjoying his afternoon cigar in the snug chart room,
snorted vigorously. "I don't very often take a notion to throw my money
into the sea, Terence," he reminded his port engineer, "but when I do
get that reckless I limit myself to twenty thousand dollars, and that,
in round figures, is what this old ruin will stand me about the time the
torpedo blows you up on top of the fiddle. However, that is a trifling
investment if we succeed in destroying a late-type German submarine with
a couple of hundred thousand dollars' worth of torpedoes aboard. As a
sporting proposition it's somewhat more expensive than golf, but the
excitement makes up for the added cost."

"The old box is alive with rats and bedbugs," Murphy complained.

"If they annoy you, Mike, my boy, comfort yourself with the thought that
they're all going to be drowned," Cappy replied gayly.

Slowly the old packet wallowed down the coast, the while her crew, under
Mike Murphy's supervision, built gun platforms fore and aft. Following
their completion, the two six-inch guns Cappy had succeeded in getting
from the navy were lifted out of the hold with the aid of the cargo
winch and placed in position, one forward and the other aft. Thereupon
the mate took charge of the _Costa Rica,_ while Mike Murphy drilled his
crew in range finding and celerity in loading the piece. Pointing the
gun was entirely up to Murphy and, needless to state, the task was in
capable hands, as was frequently demonstrated during target practice as
they loafed down the coast.

Upon arrival at Panama the _Costa Rica's_ bunkers were replenished
and an extra supply of sacked coal was piled on deck, for with her
patched-up boilers the old steamer was a hog on fuel. Then the mechanics
and carpenters and all men not vitally needed aboard for the remainder
of the voyage were put ashore and furnished with transportation back to
San Francisco by the regular Pacific Mail liner. Next, the name on the
bows of the _Costa Rica_ was painted out, the name boards at each end of
her bridge removed and the raised-letter record of her identity and
home port chipped off her stern; following which Cappy Ricks, Terence
P. Reardon and Michael J. Murphy commended their souls to their Creator,
and the _Costa Rica_ slipped leisurely through the ditch and out into
the Caribbean Sea.

Fourteen days later Mike Murphy dropped round to Cappy Ricks' cabin.
"We're in the danger zone, sir," he announced. "And from now on we're
liable to meet one of the larger type of U-boats that operate a couple
of thousand miles from the base at Zeebrugge."

"Very well," Cappy replied calmly. "Whether torpedoed or shelled, your
instructions are the same. Forbid the wireless operator to send out a
call for help, heave to immediately and get the men into the boats and
away from the ship. Terry Reardon will remain on duty in the engine
room, provided it isn't wrecked by a torpedo and the engine room
crew killed; you and your gun crew will remain aboard and hide in the
forecastle if it's action front, and in the auxiliary steering-gear
house if it's action rear. I will relieve the quartermaster, take charge
of the wheel and direct the action. If I see that there isn't going to
be any action we'll put on life preservers, jump overboard and be picked
up by our men in the boats. However, something tells me, Mike, that
we're going to have a crack at--"

At that very instant something rapped the _Costa Rica_ terrifically
on the starboard side amidships and tore through her with a grinding,
wrenching noise, followed by an explosion.

"There's the crack you were speaking of, sir," Murphy yelled and started
for the door. Cappy Ricks grasped him frantically by the arm. "Was that
a shell or a torpedo?" he cried. His voice, thin and shrill with age,
quavered now with excitement.

"It was a shell," Murphy answered. "Went through the second cabin."

"Then that German belongs to Alden P. Ricks," Cappy declared, and
scurried for the pilot house. "Out and into life-boats!" he ordered the
quartermaster, and shoved him away from the wheel. "Set her over to slow
speed ahead," he called to the mate, who was standing stupidly, gazing
at the white puffs of smoke that marked the position of the submarine
two miles off the starboard bow. The mate came to life, jammed over the
handle of the marine telegraph and, obeying an order bellowed to him by
Mike Murphy from the main deck, abandoned the bridge for the boat deck,
there to superintend the task of getting the men away from the ship.

His first thrill of excitement having subsided, Cappy carefully drew
the little half curtains on the pilot-house window, leaving a small
slit through which he could observe the submarine without being observed
himself, for it was no part of his plan to disclose to the enemy the
fact that the ship was not entirely deserted--and that the submarine
commander should jump to the conclusion that she was deserted by all
hands was precisely the condition that Cappy desired to bring about.

Down in the engine room the indomitable Terence Reardon, with one hand
on the throttle and one eye on the steam gauge, put the _Costa Rica_
under a dead-slow bell; she seemed scarcely to move, yet she had
sufficient steerage way to enable Cappy to keep her pointed in the
general direction of the submarine, the commander of which, seeing the
crew of the Costa Rica scurrying for the boats, contented himself with
sending over half a dozen shells for the purpose of hurrying them along;
then he ceased firing, and when the boats pulled out from the ship in
tow of a motor lifeboat and his powerful glasses showed neither guns nor
sign of life upon the _Costa Rica's_ decks, he did exactly what Cappy
Ricks figured he would do.

He circled warily round his prize, but the absence of frantic wireless
calls for help lulled his suspicions, and presently he bore down upon
her, hove to two cable lengths abreast the wallowing hulk and watched
her fully five minutes for a possible trap, for the absence of any name
puzzled him. His suspicions subsided at length, however, the hatch
in her turtle deck slid back and men appeared, dragging up a small
collapsible boat.

Slowly, slowly--so gradually that it seemed the old vessel was merely
drifting, Cappy brought the _Costa Rica_ round until her bow pointed
toward the submarine. Mike Murphy, standing just inside the forecastle
door, kept his glance on the slit in the curtains on the pilot-house
window-and presently Cappy motioned violently to him.

"To the gun!" ordered the captain. Followed by his gun crew he dashed
out of the forecastle and up the companion ladder to the forecastle
head. A jerk at a lever connecting a cunningly constructed set of
controls, and the false topsides on the forecastle head flopped to the
deck, revealing Mike Murphy's six-inch gun. Cappy saw him deflect the
gun while another man traversed it; for five seconds his eyes pressed
the sight, and when the gun remained motionless Cappy knew that the hull
of the submarine was looming fairly on the intersection of the cross
wires in the sight. The range was point-blank!

Quick as were Murphy and his crew, however, the gun crew of the
submarine was quicker. Before the _Costa Rica's_ gun was properly laid,
a shell from the submarine flew a foot over the heads of the Murphyites
and burst fifty yards beyond the ship. "Ah, missed!" breathed Michael J.
and raised his hand. The gunner released the firing pin and the six-inch
projectile with which the gun had been loaded for two days crashed into
the submarine at her water line.

A terrific explosion followed the shot. Cappy Ricks, gazing popeyed
with horror, saw the submarine disintegrate and disappear in a huge
water-spout; when the water settled only a vast and widening smear of
heavy fuel oil showed where she had been.

From the forecastle head Michael Murphy yelled to Cappy Ricks. "Well,
are you satisfied, sir?" On his part, Cappy, jubilant, even in the
instant when he knew thirty new faces were already whining round the
devil, dashed out on the bridge, seized the whistle cord and swung on
it. A sad, nautical sob from the _Costa Rica's_ siren answered him, and
ten seconds later Terence Reardon whistled up the bridge. Cappy let go
the whistle cord and took up the speaking tube. "Hello," he piped.

"What the divil do ye mean be blowin' that whistle?" roared Terence,
thinking he was addressing the mate. "Wit' me alone in the engine
room how d'ye expect me to keep shteam up on this ould hooker wit' you
blowin' it off in the whistle! Take shame to yourself!"

"Mike sunk the submarine! Mike sunk the submarine!" Cappy shrilled
over and over again. "Come up, Terence, and see the oil. See the oil,
Terence, see the oil! Mike sunk the submarine, Mike sunk it. Bully for
Mike! Oh, bully! Bully! Bully! Mike sunk it, but I schemed it. Come up,
Terence, I'm going to faint."

And then, with shrill yips of delirious delight he slid down the
companion to the main deck, to be gathered in Michael J. Murphy's
arms and hugged and passed to the gun crew, who hoisted him to their
shoulders and paraded joyously and blasphemously round the deck.

"I told you he wouldn't use a torpedo if he could do the trick with
shells," Gappy shouted. "I told you he'd board us if we didn't wireless
for help. Ha, ha, ha! Te-hee!" And he burst into shrill cachinnations.
"I out-thought the scoundrel--goin' to get a patent on my idea--turn
it over to the Government--oh, Mike! Oh, Terence! Get the steward back
aboard. We must have some liquor. They used to serve grog in the old
navy after a victory, didn't they? Yi-yi-yi!"

Terence P. Reardon came up and proffered his greasy paw, the while
his quizzical glance swept the oily sea. "Well, sor," he remarked
philosophically, "what wit' bein' a Christian I'm a little bit sorry
the Dutchman lost, but back av that again I'm a little bit glad we won.
Michael, do you get those blackguards o' mine down below as quick as ye
can, or we'll be all day gettin' shteam up agin in this ould brute av a
ship."



CHAPTER LXI


Two days passed uneventfully; then shortly before sunset on the third
day the look-out reported a periscope about a thousand yards distant and
three points off the port bow. Cappy Ricks' old knees promptly commenced
to knock together with excitement.

"Here's where Terence gets that torpedo if he doesn't come up out of the
engine room," Mike Murphy remarked laconically, and promptly whistled
Terence on the engine room speaking tube. "Come up or be blown up," he
yelled.

"Divil a fear! We're comin'," Terence replied.

The chief and his crew had just reached the deck when the black shining
turtleback of the submarine broke water.

"They have to come to the surface to discharge a torpedo," Murphy
explained to Cappy Ricks.

"Great Godfrey! Here it comes!" shrilled Cappy, and watched, fascinated,
the wake of the torpedo as it raced toward them. Just as Terence Reardon
and his engine crew came panting up on the bridge, the old _Costa Rica_
walked into it. "Me ingine room! I knew it!" cried Terence. Then the
explosion came.

From where he lay on his back, half stunned, Cappy Ricks saw water and
wreckage fly high in the air. The _Costa Rica_ shivered. So did Cappy.
Then the debris descended, and Cappy, choked with salt water, dimly
realized that Terence Reardon had him in his arms and was carrying
him down to the boat deck, where the motor lifeboat swung wide in the
davits.

"Here, take the boss from me," Terence commanded, and passed Cappy to a
negro fireman, who carried the old man forward and laid him on a pile of
blankets, previously placed there for just such an emergency.

Then the lifeboat commenced to drop away from the towering black
topside and Cappy was aware of Michael J. Murphy's face--white, anxious,
terrified--gazing down at him from the ship's rail.

"I'm just suffering from the shock," Cappy called. "Mike, you 'tend
to business. Remember what I told you and tell the crew to keep their
mouths shut. He'll do the natural thing and walk into your hand."

Murphy, reassured, waved his hand, and with his gun crew fled aft to
the little house that protected the auxiliary steering gear from the
weather, where they concealed themselves. In the meantime the other
lifeboats had been lowered away; the painter from the third boat was
passed to the second, which in turn passed its painter to the motor
boat, and the ship's company hauled clear of the shattered, sinking
ship. The _Costa Rica_ was going down by the head, and Cappy, curious as
any human being, sat up to watch his decoy disappear.

The submarine steamed up to them. "What vessel is that?" her commander
shouted from the conning tower in excellent English.

"The American steamer _Soak-it-to-'em_, of Rotten Row," Cappy Ricks
replied, "carrying a cargo of post holes. She has three decks and no
bottom."

"How do you spell the name?" the German bawled.

"Can't hear you," Cappy fibbed. Then, _sotto voce_, to Mr. Reardon:
"Kick her ahead, Terry."

"How do you spell the name?" the submarine captain repeated.

Cappy jibbered something unintelligible, and Mr. Reardon added to the
puzzle by bellowing the information that the _p_ was silent, as in
pneumonia. All this time the motor boat was putting distance between
itself and the submarine, and the disgusted German, as a last resort,
steamed away and circled round the rapidly lifting stern of the doomed
_Costa Rica_, confident that there he would find the record of her
identity and home port--information which, in his methodical German way,
he desired to include in his official report to the Admiralty. And while
he ratched slowly past, striving to find with his binoculars that which
was not, Michael J. Murphy and his bully boys came aft with a rush, tore
aside the tarpaulin that screened the stern gun and expeditiously opened
fire. To Cappy Ricks' horror Murphy's first shot was a clean miss, and
instantly the big sub started to submerge with a hoarse sucking sound
that brought despair to Cappy Ricks' heart. She was halfway under before
Murphy's gun was reloaded, but quite calmly the gun was traversed and
deflected until the black stern flashed across the intersection of the
wires in the sight; then Murphy's hand dropped and the gun roared.

"That'll do nicely, lads," he told his crew. "Tore the stern off her
that time; and from this dive she'll not come up. Cappy Ricks was right.
He banked on human nature, and if curiosity isn't a human trait then I'm
a Chinaman. Overboard with you, and away before the old girl goes under
or we'll be sucked down in the vortex."

And overboard they went, to be picked up five minutes later by Terence
and Cappy in the motor lifeboat. "You were right, Mr. Ricks," cried
Murphy as he scrambled into the boat. "Curiosity killed the cat!"

"Yes, and it's blamed near killed me," Cappy declared feebly. "Some of
that debris came down and hit me a slap on the dome--Jerusalem! There
goes my decoy--peace to her bones!"

The _Costa Rica_ dove to the Port of Missing Ships. Michael J. Murphy,
however, did not turn to see her disappear; he was gazing, instead, at
a thin red trickle that came from under Cappy's cap band and was running
down his wizened neck. "Mr. Ricks," he said anxiously, "you're wounded."

Cappy rubbed the sore spot, and when he withdrew his fingers they were
bloody.

"By the Holy Pink-Toed Prophet!" he gasped wonderingly. "You're right,
Mike. I've been wounded in action with the enemies of my country! So
help me, Mike. I've actually lived to shed my blood for the Stars and
Stripes, like any other Ricks."

He gazed wonderingly at Mike Murphy. "Now I can die happy," he murmured.
"I've done my bit."

"Yes, begorra," rumbled Terence P. Reardon, "an' if I have my way about
it ye're honorably discharged from the service this minute, Misther
Ricks. I'll gallivant no more wit' you in ye're ould breadbaskets av
shteamers. 'Tis highly dangerous an' no business for a man of family."

Mike Murphy grinned at his colleague. "For all that, Terence," he
declared, "you must admit that Mr. Ricks' scheme for destroying
submarines is the only practical one yet devised."

"Thrue for ye, Michael. But shtill, like all fine invintions, the idjea
has its dhrawbacks. Now if we could only be sure av a continyous supply
av ould ships for use as decoys--"

"I see a smudge of smoke," cried Gappy Ricks.

Mike Murphy followed the old man's pointing finger. "There's only
one kind of boat makes a smudge like that," he declared; "and it's a
destroyer. Safe and well out of a glorious adventure. Faith, we're
the lucky devils; and by this and by that, I'll enlist aboard that
destroyer, now that I'm here on the job."

"Do--an' good luck to you!" murmured Terence.

"Amen," said Cappy Ricks, and fingered his trifling but honorable wound.
"Gosh!" he murmured. "If Skinner could only know a thrill like this!"

THE END.





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