Cappy Ricks Retires by Peter B. Kyne
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."