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It was nearly ten weeks before Cappy Ricks laid eyes on Matt Peasley again. Inquiry from Florry elicited the information that Matt had gone to Mexico as skipper of his own schooner, the Harpoon, bound on some mysterious business.
"He's taken the old Harpoon down there to stick a Mexican--I'll bet a hat on that!" Cappy reflected. "I'll bet he'll have a tale to tell when he gets back."
There came a day when Matt, looking healthy and happy, dropped in for a social call.
"Well, young man," Cappy greeted him, "give an account of yourself. How do you find business?"
"The finest game in the world," Matt replied heartily. "I had the Ethel Ricks snaked out of the mud and hauled out on the marine railway, where I bossed a gang of riggers and sailmakers for a week, getting her gear in shape while she was having a gas engine and tanks for the distillate installed. Then I gave her a dab of paint here and there, sweetened her up, and sold her to Slade, of the Alaska Codfishing Corporation, at a net profit of fifteen hundred dollars over her total cost to me. Nearly two thousand for my first month in business. Not so bad, eh?"
"You'll do better after a while," Cappy remarked dryly. "I hear you've been to Mexico. How about it, boy?"
"I took the Harpoon down myself, and hired a skipper to take the Nukahiva. Before doing so, however, I overhauled their gear and installed gas engines in them also--only I'd learned something by this time. I bought second-hand engines, rebuilt, but with a guaranty, and they cost me a thousand dollars less than new engines. In conversation with Captain Kirk, of the steamer San Blas, I had heard that a company in Guaymas was thinking of buying a couple of little coasting schooners, putting gas engines in them, and adding these crafts to their fleet running out of Guaymas to Mazatlan, Topolobampo, and way ports. So I went down, put my schooners under the Mexican flag, and started opposition. The old-established company went to the local military commander and tried to get him to commandeer my vessels for the use of the government, which pays in depreciated shinplasters that may be worth something some day a hundred years from now."
"Whew-w-w!" Cappy whistled. "That was a narrow squeak, Matt. How did you dodge it?"
"I had the local military commander on my payroll, with good American gold, before I ever started anything. I knew he'd come to shake me down; so I anticipated him and made a monthly donation to the cause of liberty. I do not know for certain, but I imagine he went south with it himself, though I do not begrudge the amount. I only paid him for one month anyhow. By that time I had an offer to sell out; and I did, reluctantly, but for real money and at a much better figure than if I had not made it an object for them to buy. I got out with a net profit of seventy-four hundred and fifty dollars on the two schooners. Not so bad, eh, Mr. Ricks? Over nine thousand dollars in less than three months? Of course, I realize I could not have made that much if I hadn't had the funds with which to speculate."
Cappy nodded. Words were beyond him for the time being. Finally he said:
"Matt, that was pure gambling, though you think it was a speculation. It was mighty poor business, even if you did emerge with a fancy profit. You might have been cleaned out."
"Yes; and if the hare hadn't stopped to take a nap the tortoise would not have won the race," Matt replied. "So far as I can see, all business is a gamble and every investment is a bet; hence, a good business man is a good gambler."
Cappy Ricks sighed.
"There is a special providence," he said, "that looks after fools, drunken men and sailors."
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