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A week had elapsed and nothing of an eventful nature had transpired to disturb the routine of life aboard the Maggie, until Bartholomew McGuffey, having heard certain waterfront whispers, considered it the part of prudence to lay his information before Scraggs and Mr. Gibney.
"Look here, Scraggs," he began briskly. "It's all fine an' dandy to promise me a new boiler, but when do I git it?"
"Why, jes' as soon as we can get this glut o' freight behind us, Bart, my boy. The way it's pilin' up on us now, what with this bein' the height o' the busy season an' all, it stands to reason we got to wait a while for dull times before layin' the Maggie up."
"What's the matter with orderin' the new boiler now so's to have it ready to chuck into her over the week-end," McGuffey suggested. "There needn't be no great delay."
"As owner o' the Maggie," Scraggs reminded him with just a touch of asperity, "you've got to leave these details to me. You've managed with the old boiler this long, so it 'pears to me you might be patient an' bear with it a mite longer, Bart."
"Oh, I ain't tryin' to be disagreeable, Scraggs, only it sort o' worries me to have to go along without bein' able to use our whistle. We got a reputation for joggin' right along, mindin' our business an' never replyin' to them vessels that whistle us they're goin' to pass to port or starboard, as the case may be. Of course when they whistle, we know what they're goin' to do, but the trouble is they don't know what we're goin' to do. Dan Hicks an' Jack Flaherty's been makin' a quiet brag that one o' these days or nights they'll take advantage o' this well-known peculiarity of ourn to collide with the Maggie an' sink us, and in that case we wouldn't have no defense an' no come-back in a court of law. Me, I don't feel like drownin' in that engine room or gettin' cut in half by the bow o' the Bodega or the Aphrodite. Consequently, you'd better ship that new boiler you promised me an' save funeral expenses. We just naturally got to commence whistlin', Scraggsy."
"We'll commence it when business slacks up," Scraggs decided with finality.
Mr. Gibney who, up to this moment, had said nothing, now fixed Captain Scraggs with a piercing glance and threatened him with an index finger across the cabin table. "We don't have to wait for the slack season to have that there compass adjusted an' paint the topsides o' the Maggie," he reminded Scraggs. "As for her upper works, I'll paint them myself on Sundays, if you'll dig up the paint. How about that program?"
"We'll do it all at once when we lay up to install the boiler," Scraggs protested. He glanced at his watch. "Sufferin' sailor!" he cried in simulated distress. "Here it's one o'clock an' I ain't collected a dollar o' the freight money from the last voyage. I must beat it."
When Captain Scraggs had "beaten it," Gibney and McGuffey exchanged expressive glances. "He's runnin' out on us," McGuffey complained.
"Even so, Bart, even so. Therefore, the thing for us to do is to run out on him. In other words, we'll work a month, save our money, an' then, without a word o' complaint or argyment, we'll walk out."
"Oh, I ain't exactly broke, Gib. I got eighty-five dollars."
"Then," quoth Gibney decisively, "we'll go on strike to-night. Scraggsy'll be stuck in port a week before he can get another engineer an' another navigatin' officer, me an' you bein' the only two natural-born fools in San Francisco an' ports adjacent, an' before three days have passed he'll be huntin' us up to compromise."
"I don't want no compromise. What I want is a new boiler."
"You'll git it. We'll make him order the paint an' the boiler an' pay for both in advance before we'll agree to go back to work."
The engineer nodded his approval and after sealing their pact with a hearty handshake, they turned to and commenced discharging the Maggie. When Captain Scraggs returned to the little steamer shortly after five o'clock, to his great amazement, he discovered Mr. Gibney and McGuffey dressed in their other suits--including celluloid collars and cuffs.
"The cargo's out, Scraggsy, my son, the decks has been washed down an' everything in my department is shipshape." Thus Mr. Gibney.
"Likewise in mine," McGuffey added.
"Consequently," Mr. Gibney concluded, "we're quittin' the Maggie an' if it's all the same to you we'll have our time."
"My dear Gib. Why, whatever's come over you two boys?"
"Stow your chatter, Scraggs. Shell out the cash. The only explanation we'll make is that a burned child dreads the fire. You've fooled us once in the matter o' that new boiler an' the paintin', an' we're not goin' to give you a second chance. Come through--or take the consequences. We'll sail no more with a liar an' a fraud."
"Them's hard words, Mr. Gibney."
"The truth is allers bitter," McGuffey opined.
Captain Scraggs paused to consider the serious predicament which confronted him. It was Saturday night. He knew Mr. McGuffey to be the possessor of more money than usual and if he could assure himself that this reserve should be dissipated before Monday morning he was aware, from experience, that the strike would be broken by Tuesday at the latest. And he could afford that delay. He resolved, therefore, on diplomacy.
"Well, I'm sorry," he answered with every appearance of contrition. "You fellers got me in the nine-hole an' I can't help myself. At the same time, I appreciate fully your p'int of view, while realizin' that I can't convince you o' mine. So we won't have no hard feelin's at partin', boys, an' to show you I'm a sport I'll treat to a French dinner an' a motion picture show afterward. Further, I shall regard a refusal of said invite as a pers'nal affront."
"By golly, you're gittin' sporty in your old age," the engineer declared. "I'll go you, Scraggs. How about you, Gib?"
"I accept with thanks, Scraggsy, old tarpot. Personally, I maintain that seamen should leave their troubles aboard ship."
"That's the sperrit I appreciate, boys. Come to the cabin an' I'll pay you off. Then wait a coupler minutes till I shift into my glad rags an' away we'll go, like Paddy Ford's goat--on our own hook."
"Old Scraggsy's as cunnin' as a pet fox, ain't he?" the new navigating officer whispered, as Scraggs departed for his stateroom to change into his other suit. "He's goin' to blow himself on us to-night, thinkin' to soften our hard resolution. We'll fool him. Take all he gives us, but stand pat, Bart."
Bart nodded. His was one of those sturdy natures that could always be depended upon to play the game, win, lose, or draw.
As a preliminary move, Captain Scraggs declared in favour of a couple of cocktails to whet their appetites for the French dinner, and accordingly the trio repaired to an adjacent saloon and tucked three each under their belts--all at Captain Scraggs's expense. When he proposed a fourth, Mr. Gibney's perfect sportsmanship caused him to protest, and reluctantly Captain Scraggs permitted Gibney to buy. Scraggs decided to have a cigar, however, instead of another Martini. The ethics of the situation then indicated that McGuffey should "set 'em up," which he did over Captain Scraggs's protest--and again the wary Scraggs called for a cigar, alleging as an excuse for his weakness that for years three cocktails before dinner had been his absolute limit. A fourth cocktail on an empty stomach, he declared, would kill the evening for him.
The fourth cocktail having been disposed of, the barkeeper, sensing further profit did he but play his part judiciously, insisted that his customers have a drink on the house. Captain Scraggs immediately protested that their party was degenerating into an endurance contest--and called for another cigar. He now had three cigars, so he gave one each to his victims and forcibly dragged them away from the bar and up to a Pine Street French restaurant, the proprietor of which was an Italian. Captain Scraggs was for walking the six blocks to this restaurant, but Mr. McGuffey had acquired, on six cocktails, what is colloquially described as "a start," and insisted upon chartering a taxicab.
But why descend to sordid and vulgar details? Suffice that when the artful Scraggs, pretending to be overcome by his potations and very ill into the bargain, begged to be delivered back aboard the Maggie, Messrs. McGuffey and Gibney loaded him into a taxicab and sent him there, while they continued their search for excitement. Where and how they found it requires no elucidation here; it is sufficient to state that it was expensive, for when men of the Gibney and McGuffey type have once gotten a fair start naught but financial dissolution can stop them.
On Monday morning, Messrs. Gibney and McGuffey awoke in Scab Johnny's boarding house. Mr. Gibney awoke first, by reason of the fact that his stomach hammered at the door of his soul and bade him be up and doing. While his head ached slightly from the fiery usquebaugh of the Bowhead saloon, he craved a return to a solid diet, so for several minutes he lay supine, conjuring in his agile brain ways and means of supplying this need in the absence of ready cash. "I'll have to hock my sextant," was the conclusion at which he presently arrived. Then he commenced to heave and surge until presently he found himself clear of the blankets and seated in his underclothes on the side of the bed. Here, he indulged in a series of scratchings and yawnings, after which he disposed at a gulp of most of the water designed for his matutinal ablutions. Ten minutes later he took his sextant under his arm and departed for a pawnshop in lower Market Street. From the pawnshop he returned to Scab Johnny's with eight dollars in his pocket, routed out the contrite McGuffey, and carried the latter off to ham and eggs.
They felt better after breakfast and for the space of an hour lolled at the table, discussing their adventures of the past forty-eight hours. "Well, there's one thing certain," McGuffey concluded, "an' that thing is sure a cinch. Our strike has petered out. I'm not busted, but I ain't heeled to continue on strike very long, so let's mosey along down to the Maggie's dock an' see how Scraggsy's gettin' along. If he has our places filled we won't say nothin', but if he hasn't got 'em filled he'll say somethin'."
"That's logic, Bart," Gibney agreed, and forthwith they set out to interview Captain Scraggs. The owner of the Maggie greeted them cheerily, but after discussing generalities for half an hour, Scraggs failed to make overtures, whereupon Mr. Gibney announced casually that he guessed he and Mac would be on their way. "Same here, boys," Captain Scraggs piped breezily. "I got a new mate an' a new engineer comin' aboard at ten o'clock an' we sail at twelve."
"Well, we'll see you occasionally," Mr. Gibney said at parting.
"Oh, sure. Don't be strangers. You're always welcome aboard the old Maggie," came the careless rejoinder.
Somewhat crestfallen, the striking pair repaired to the Bowhead saloon to discuss the situation over a glass of beer. However, Mr. Gibney's spirits never dropped below zero while he had one nickel to rub against another; hence such slight depression as he felt was due to a feeling that Captain Scraggs had basely swindled him and McGuffey. He was disappointed in Scraggs and said as much. "However, Bart," he concluded, "we'll never say 'die' while our money holds out, and in the meantime our luck may have changed. Let's scatter around and try to locate some kind of a job; then when them new employees o' Scraggsy quit or get fired--which'll be after about two voyages--an' the old man comes round holdin' out the olive branch o' peace, we'll give him the horselaugh."
Three days of diligent search failed to uncover the coveted job for either, however, and on the morning of the fourth day Mr. Gibney announced that it would be necessary to "raise the wind," if the pair would breakfast. "It'll probably be a late breakfast," he added.
"How're we goin' to git it, Gib?"
"We must test our credit, Mac. You go down to the rooms o' the Marine Engineers' Association and kick somebody's eye out for five dollars. I'd get out an' do some rustlin' myself, but I ain't got no credit. When a man that's been a real sailor sinks as low as I've sunk--from clipper ships to mate on a rotten little bumboat--people don't respect him none. But it's different with a marine engineer. You might be first assistant on a P.M. boat to-day an' second assistant on a bay tug to-morrow but nothin's thought of it."
"What're we goin' to do with the five dollars?"
"Well, we might invest it in a lottery ticket an' pray for the capital prize--but we won't. Ain't it dawned on you, Mac, that it's up to you an' me to find the steamer Maggie an' git back to work quick an' no back talk? Scraggs has new men in our jobs an' these new men has got to be got rid of, otherwise there's no tellin' how long they'll last. Naturally, this here riddance can be accomplished easier an' without police interference on the dock at Halfmoon Bay. We got to walk twenty miles to Halfmoon Bay to connect with the Maggie an' the five dollars is to keep us from starvin' to death in case we miss him an' have to walk back or wait for the return trip o' the Maggie."
"But suppose, after we've walked all that distance, we find Scraggs won't take us back? Then what?"
"Why, of course he'll take us back, Bart. He'll be glad to after we've finished with them scabs that's took our jobs an' are doin' us out of an honest livin'. He won't be able to work the Maggie back to San Francisco alone, will he?"
McGuffey nodded his approbation, and set forth to borrow the needful five dollars. Whatever the reason, he was not successful, and when they met again at Scab Johnny's, Mr. Gibney employed his eloquence to obtain credit from that cold-hearted publican, but all in vain. Scab Johnny had been too long operating on a cash basis with Messrs. Gibney and McGuffey to risk adding to an old unpaid bill.
They retired to the sidewalk to hold a caucus and Mr. McGuffey located a dime which had dropped down inside the lining of his coat. "That settles it," Gibney declared. "We've skipped two meals but I'll be durned if we skip another. We'll ride out to the San Mateo county line on the trolley with that dime an' then hoof it over the hills to Halfmoon Bay. Scraggs won't git away from the dock here until after twelve o'clock, so we know he'll lie at Halfmoon Bay all night. If we start now we'll connect with him in time for supper. Eh, Bart?"
"A twenty-mile hike on a tee-totally empty stomach, with a battle royal on our hands the minute we arrive, weak an' destitoote, ain't quite my idea o' enjoyment, Gib, but I'll go you if it kills me. Let's up hook an' away. I'm for gittin' back to work an' usin' moral persuasion to git that new boiler."
They took a hitch in their belts and started. From the point at which they left the trolley to their journey's end was a stiff six-hour jaunt, up hill and down dale, and long before the march was half completed the unaccustomed exercise had developed sundry galls and blisters on the Gibney heels, while the soles of poor McGuffey's feet were so hot he voiced the apprehension that they might burn to a crisp at any moment and drop off by the wayside. Men less hardy and less desperate would have abandoned the trip before ten miles had been covered.
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