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Four more months passed, and peace reigned in the offices of the Blue Star Navigation Company. Matt Peasley's name had never been mentioned in Mr. Skinner's presence since that dark day when he had ventured, for the first time in his career, to lay down the law to Cappy Ricks. The pick-handle still reposed behind Skinner's desk, but that was merely because he had forgotten all about it, and nobody ever touched any of his property without his permission. Not once had Matt Peasley's cheerful countenance darkened the Skinner horizon.
This, then, was the condition of affairs when the office boy carried to Mr. Skinner a piece of disquieting information--to wit, that Captain Matt Peasley was without and desired to hold speech with Mr. Ricks.
"Tell him Mr. Ricks is too busy to see him," Skinner ordered. Not having heard anything of Matt for six months he concluded that the latter's affair with the boss' daughter had languished and died a natural death; hence he felt that he could defy Matt with impunity. Judge of his surprise, therefore, when a heavy hand was laid on his shoulder later and Matt Peasley stood glaring down at him.
"Well, sir!" said Skinner coolly.
"I heard you had a pick-handle waiting here for me," Matt replied evenly, "so I just dropped in to tell you that if you ever pull a pick-handle on me I'll take it away from you and ram it down your throat. That's all I have to say to you, Mr. Skinner. If, the next time I call, at Mr. Ricks' invitation, to see him, you intercept my message and try to block my game--"
The great Peasley hand closed over Mr. Skinner's neck and felt of it tentatively.
"Ouch!" gasped Mr. Skinner.
"Admit the brother," Matt called to an imaginary sentry behind Cappy's door. "He has given the password. The lodge has been duly opened and we are now ready for business."
He smiled at Mr. Skinner and passed on into Cappy Ricks' office.
"Well, Matt," the latter hailed him pleasantly, "it's been a long time since I've seen you in this office."
"And it'll be a long time till you see me here again, sir," Matt retorted pleasantly. "I was about to call on you when your message reached me. So suppose you tell me your business first. Then I'll tell you mine."
"No, you won't, Matt," Cappy challenged him, "because hereafter you're not going to have any business unless I have a finger in it too. Matt, my son, do you recall the day you quit the Quickstep?"
"With pleasure," Matt assured him whimsically.
"You're vindictive; but no matter. Skinner declared you should never again command a Blue Star ship while he was in my employ, and I said, by George, that was right--you shouldn't. I said I was going to make you our port captain, and eventually place you in charge of the shipping after I had broken you in."
"I have a curiosity, sir, to know why you didn't go through with that program."
"Skinner wouldn't let me--said he'd quit if I did, and I just couldn't afford to lose him, Matt. However, I have all that fixed up now, so you quit that tugboat job of yours and come to work here as soon as you can. I could have put you to work three months ago, right after I sewed Skinner up, but I thought I'd wait a little while just to save poor Skinner's face." Cappy commenced to chuckle softly. "In-fer-nal rascal!" he declared. "He had me where the hair is short, Matt; he had me where I dassen't defy my own general manager! Yes, sir, that was the long and short of it. I dassen't call his bluff, because he doesn't bluff worth a cent, and I happen to know some of my competitors would like to get him away from me. A good man is always in demand, Matt; never forget that. You see, Skinner has been carrying the burden of this business for the past ten years practically, and he threatened to toss that burden back on me. Well, if he had, Matt, I just couldn't have carried it without competent help--and by the time I had competent help broken in they'd be measuring me for a tombstone."
"How did you whip him into line?" Matt demanded.
"Just like spearing fish in a dry lake, boy," Cappy chuckled. "I just sold Mr. Skinner part of that burden, and now he has to carry it all until he dies, because if he drops it he loses what I sold him. Only one way to whip that boy into line, Matt, and that is to pelt him with dollars."
"But I do not see how that affects me," Matt answered.
"You don't, eh? Why, you're the port captain of the Blue Star Navigation Company, you-you-you bonehead, and Skinner has to stand for you now whether he likes it or not. He'll not sacrifice his future to vent his grudge against you, because he is a business man, Matt, and he knows it's mighty poor business to bite off his nose to spite his face. So you just come to work."
Matt Peasley beamed across at his future father-in-law.
"That was well done, sir," he said, "and I wish I had known you were going to do it. I would have saved you the trouble, because, you see, I never intended to go to work for you in this office anyhow."
"The devil you say!" Cappy interrupted. "Well, you just put some reverse English on those intentions of yours, my boy. I know what's good for you."
But Matt Peasley only shook his head.
"I can't do it, sir," he said. "While deeply appreciative of all you want to do for me, the fact is, if I'm going to marry your daughter--and I am--I'm not going to do it on your money and be dependent upon you for a job. I'll be my own man, Mr. Ricks. I never ask odds of any man, and I don't like to work for a relative."
"Damn your Yankee independence," snapped Cappy angrily. "Why do you oppose me?"
"Because I'll not have anybody saying: 'There goes Matt Peasley. He fell into a good thing. Yes, indeed! Used to be a common A. B. until Alden P. Ricks' daughter fell in love with him--and of course after that he went right up the line in the Blue Star Navigation Company. He's a lucky stiff.'"
"What do you care what people say? I know what I want."
"I do care what they say, and I care what I feel. I want to fight my own way. I want to make a wad of money and build up a business of my own--"
"You're crazy! Why, here's one ready-made, and it will stand all kinds of building up--"
"Then let Skinner build it. I'll build my own. I do not want anybody to think I married your daughter for your money."
"Matt, you poor, chuckleheaded boy, listen to me. I intend doing for you--"
"And that," roared Matt Peasley, smiting the desk, "is the very reason why I shall not permit you to do anything for me. That's final, Mr. Ricks. I hope you will realize it's useless to argue with me."
"I ought to by this time," Cappy replied bitterly. "Very well, I've told you my business with you. Suppose you state your business with me."
"I'd like to draw twenty thousand dollars from my credit on the Blue Star books."
"Huh! So you want to dig into that money the recharter of the Unicorn is bringing you, eh, Matt?"
"If you can spare it, Mr. Ricks."
"Of course I can spare it--only I'll not. If you want that money, Matt, sue for it; and since you haven't any documents to prove you have it coming to you, I suppose you will agree with me that a suit would be useless expenditure of time, money and energy."
"Then you will not give me the money, sir?" Matt Peasley demanded.
"Not a red," said Cappy calmly. "We've fought this whole matter out before, so why argue?"
"Why, indeed," Matt answered, and reached for his hat. He was fighting mad and desired to go away before he quarreled with Cappy.
"I'll go downstairs to the cigar stand and shake you the dice, one flop, to see whether you go into business for yourself or come to work for me," Cappy pleaded.
Matt came to him and placed his great hands on the old man's shoulders.
"You're the finest man I ever knew, Mr. Ricks," he said, "and you're the meanest man I ever knew, so I'll not shake dice with you. You're too fond of having your own way--"
"Yes, and you're the same, blast you!" Cappy shrilled, losing his temper entirely. "Wait till you're my age. There won't be any standing you at all. Get out!"
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