Poems & Short Stories: 4,271
Forum Members: 70,634
Forum Posts: 1,033,546
And over 2 million unique readers monthly!
Cappy Ricks sat at breakfast, tapping meditatively on the apex of a boiled egg, when his daughter swished into the room, saluted her interesting parent by depositing a light kiss on his bald and ingenuous head, and took her place at the table.
Florence Ricks was a radiant vision in a filmy pink breakfast gown and cap, and as she smiled perkily at Cappy he returned her bright look with one a trifle sad and yearning.
"Florence, my love," said Cappy gently, "have you, by any chance, talked with that big, two-fisted sailor of yours within the past twelve hours?"
She shook her head negatively, tilting her nose and pursing her lips in an adorable grimace of disapproval.
"Since Matt Peasley has been master of that tug I see him only when his owners cannot find something more important for him to do. Why do you pop that question at me so suddenly? Did you want to see him about something?"
"No. I saw him yesterday forenoon, and we went into a clinch and fought each other all over my private office. Matt got the decision. I thought he might have called you up to discuss with you his plans for the future. When he left me yesterday he was on his way back to the office of the Red Stack Tugboat Company to tell the port captain he could stick some other skipper on the tug Sea Fox."
Florence clapped her hands ecstatically. "Oh, goody, goody!" she cried.
"Well, it might be worse."
"Why is he resigning? To go to work for you, as I wanted him to do six months ago?"
"Well, I'll tell you, Florry," Cappy began. "I know you're going to be disappointed, but the fact of the matter is we've just got to let that boy paddle his own canoe--though, to hear him talk, he's going to operate his own line of steamers! Matt doesn't think in canoes when the subject of the merchant marine is up for discussion any more than I think in cent pieces when I'm wrestling with a banker for a loan. He has resigned from the tug Sea Fox to go into business for himself!"
"But how can he? He hasn't any money, you silly man!"
"Oh, yes, he has. I gave him twenty thousand dollars yesterday. He had that much credit on the Blue Star books from his share of the recharter of the steamer Unicorn nearly two years ago."
"But I thought you weren't going to give him any of that money," Florence protested.
"I thought so, too," Cappy answered dryly; "but the scoundrel put up a low-down job on me and pried the twenty thousand loose," and Cappy proceeded to relate to Florry the sad tale of the salvage of the Retriever.
Florence was gifted with the same lovable sense of humor that distinguished her father; and, somewhat to his annoyance, she laughed long and heartily at this tale of how her fiance had vanquished him.
"And then what?" she queried with childish insouciance.
"Why, then he made friends with Skinner and, to my complete amazement, surrendered without firing a shot. He said he'd be my port captain now; whereas six months ago he said it was against his religion to work for a relative, and that he wanted to go into business for himself. And only the day before he'd reiterated those sentiments."
"Oh, I'm so glad!" said Florry, much relieved.
"Wait!" said Cappy dramatically. "Don't cheer yet. I've upset your apple cart, my dear. I rejected the young man's proposition and condemned him to a business of his own."
"But you wanted him for your port captain, Daddy dear. You wanted him the very worst way."
"And that's just how I got him, Florry. I don't want any man whose heart is not in his job, and a business man should never surrender for sentimental reasons. You cannot mix sentiment and business, daughter; if you do you'll get chaos. Matt Peasley surrendered to me--not because he wanted to, but to please you. You've been picking on him rather hard lately, haven't you?"
Florry admitted it.
"I knew it," Cappy declared. "I knew it--and that's why I exercised the veto on you, Florry."
Florry's eyes dropped, and in the corners of them her father thought he detected a glint of tears; whereupon he attacked his egg vigorously. After a brief silence he said:
"Of course that means a slight delay in your plans for a June wedding--"
A tear crept through Florry's long lashes and dropped unheeded into her grapefruit. Cappy saw it drop, but resolved to be cruel and ignore it.
"The infernal schemer couldn't resist the temptation to take a fall out of your old man, Florry; so naturally I had to take a fall out of him; though, at that, I have doubts whether I succeeded. I think I played into his hand; and now I'm telling you about it to save him the trouble and grief of an explanation he couldn't make and which you wouldn't understand--from him. Some day my affairs will all be yours, Florry--yours and Matt's; and he'll have to manage them for you. To manage them well, he must have experience; hence, I decided, in about two flips of a humming-bird's tail, that it would be a mighty good thing for you and Matt if I forced him into business for himself and, as I informed him, let him pay for that experience with his own money; for that is the only kind of money that will buy him any experience worth while. No young man ever learned a great deal when some sentimental old fool footed the bill for his tuition fees in the college of hard knocks."
"Poor Matt!" Florry sobbed. "He hasn't--had anything--except hard knocks since he was--fourteen years--old."
"Yes," shrilled Cappy; "and just look at the difference between him and these la-di-da boys that never had any hard knocks! Hard knocks! Why, hard knocks keep that devilish fellow in condition!"
"But I'd planned--we didn't want to have too long an--engagement--"
"I'll guarantee you, little daughter, you will not have to wait longer than six months. Please wait--for my sake." And Cappy rose, made his way round the breakfast table and placed his old arms about the light and joy of his existence. "So, so, now!" he soothed. "Don't you cry, honey, until you hear what the old man has to say. Why, haven't I always given my little daughter everything she wanted? You wanted that big sailor, Florry; I saw he wanted you; and he looked awful good to me. I knew he was man, every inch of him; he was our kind of people and he knew ships and loved them, and so I wanted him for you. What if he was a big hunk of a sailor with hardly enough money saved up to buy you half a dozen party dresses? None of the Ricks tribe was ever born or bred in the purple--and I have money enough for all practical purposes. So I went after him for you, Florry, and you're going to get him; so don't cry about it."
"Life is so filled with disappointments," Florry sobbed, notwithstanding this was the first she had ever known.
Cappy smiled a still small smile as he bent over her.
"Fiddlesticks!" he replied. "Only the day before yesterday Matt told me he didn't want to work for me; that he didn't want a relative handing him any favors; and that he wasn't marrying you to ease himself into a soft job for life. He said he wanted to make the fight himself. And do you know, Florry, if he had been my own boy I couldn't have been prouder of him than when he told me that! When old What-you-may-call-him in Shakespeare's play said: 'Let me have men about me that are fat,' it showed how blamed little Shakespeare knew about men. He should have said: 'Let me have men about me who are long and tough, and fairly thick in the middle; let me have scrappy boys about me with backbone!'
"Well, in a way, Florry, I was disappointed, and perhaps, in the heat of the moment, I showed it, as I have a habit of doing; but after Matt had left the office, and I got to thinking it over, away down low I was proud of him. Consequently when he reversed his decision yesterday I knew why, for I lived twenty-five years with your mother. But a woman's love is selfish sometimes, and I knew that Matt had surrendered, not to me, but to you; though he came across like a sport, he didn't want to, for you'd roweled him and roped him with your love, my dear--and, though you do not know it, that's a terrible thing to do to a free-running colt like Matt Peasley. He has his code, and it's a bully code; and I don't want you to tie knots in it, Florry. Won't you be as spunky and independent as he is, and give him his head for six months more? He'll probably call sometime to-day, or ring up, to tell you how I picked holes in the program; and when he does I want you to smile and tell him you're glad of it, and suggest a postponement of the wedding until he has demonstrated to me that he is a business man."
Florence looked up and bravely smiled a forgiving smile through her tears.
"You're a dreadful Buttinsky, Daddy Ricks!" she protested.
He kissed her hungrily.
"Oh, I'm a devil in my own home town!" he replied, and trotted back to his neglected breakfast. "If Matt hasn't made good as a business man within six months, or has lost his bank roll--and I intend to see to it that he does lose it, if I ever get a hack at him--we'll pull off this wedding anyhow. I guess there's room enough in this house for three."
At nine o'clock Cappy Ricks, with a lilt in his heart, drove down to his office behind his team of high-stepping bays. At the corner of California and Drumm Streets he saw Matt Peasley and hailed him. The latter came to the carriage door and looked in.
"It's all right, Matt," Cappy said with a cunning wink. "I've fixed Florry's clock for her. There won't be the slightest trouble."
Matt Peasley wrung his hand gratefully.
"I quit the Sea Fox last night," he announced gladly.
"Going into business this morning, I suppose?"
"Ship, freight and marine insurance broker."
"Well, that's a line that will keep you hustling for your wheatcakes until you get well acquainted. However, just to give you a shove in the right direction, you might scout round the market and see whether you can dig up a cargo for our steamer Tillicum. Usual commission of two and a half per cent."
"Thank you, Mr. Ricks. I ought to be able to scare up something in the way of a foreign lumber cargo for her."
"We've tried and failed. Moreover, her fuel-oil tankage isn't sufficient to take her too far foreign and back; added to which she is under American registry, employing American seamen, and I'd rather lay her up than put a coolie crew aboard and compete with the British tramps, with their Lascar and Chinamen, at six and seven dollars a month. We've been running her in our own trade; but the lumber market is very dull and she has but one more cargo in sight; after that is freighted, unless we can find outside business for her, she'll have to lay up in Oakland Inner Harbor until the Panama Canal opens--when, of course, we can load her for the Atlantic seaboard. She carries nearly two million feet, and that's what makes it so hard for us to keep her busy coastwise."
"How about some Mexican or Central American business--general cargo?" Matt suggested.
"Pretty hard stuff to get. The Pacific Mail has most of the Central American business; and, owing to the political situation in Mexico, that trade is practically killed. Every vessel that gets in there has trouble with one faction or the other; they're liable to confiscate, and then we'd have to call on the navy to get our ship back for us."
"I'll look round for a grain charter to Honolulu and return with sugar or general cargo."
"We might do that," Cappy suggested, brightening. "Good luck to you, Matt--and don't be a stranger."
|Art of Worldly Wisdom Daily|
In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
Shakespeare wrote over 150 sonnets! Join our Sonnet-A-Day Newsletter and read them all, one at a time.