Chapter III

A small army of men swarmed over, under and through the huge Narcissus for the next three weeks, and the hearts of Cappy Ricks and Matt Peasley were like to burst with pride as they stood on the bridge with Captain Mike Murphy, while he ran the vessel over the measured course to test her speed, and swung her in the bay while adjusting her compass. She was as beautiful as money and paint could make her, and when Terence Reardon, in calm disregard of orders, came up on the bridge to announce his unbounded faith in the rejuvenated condensers and to predict a modest coal bill for the future, Mike Murphy so far forgot himself as to order the steward to bring up a bottle of something and begged Mr. Reardon to join him in three fingers of nepenthe to celebrate the occasion.

"T'ank you, sor, but I never dhrink--on djooty," Mr. Reardon retorted with chill politeness, "nor," he added, "wit' me immejiate superiors."

A superficial analysis of this remark will convince the most sceptical that Mr. Reardon, with true Hibernian adroitness, had managed to convey an insult without seeming to convey it.

"Isn't that a pity!" the skipper replied. "We'll excuse you to attend to your duty, Mr. Reardon;" and he bowed the chief toward the companion leading to the boat deck. The latter departed, furious, with an uncomfortable feeling of having been out-generaled; and once a good Irishman and true has undergone that humiliation it is a safe bet that the Dove of Peace has lost her tail feathers.

"That's an unmannerly chief engineer," Mike Murphy announced blandly, "but for all that he's not without his good points. He'll not waste money in his department."

"A virtue which I trust you will imitate in yours, captain," Cappy Ricks snapped dryly. "Is Reardon working short-handed?"

"Only while we're loading, when he'll need just enough men to keep steam up in the winches. When we go to sea, however, he'll have a full crew, but the fun of it is they'll be non-union men with the exception of the engineers and officers. The engineers will all belong to the Marine Engineers' Association and the mates to Harbor 15, Masters' and Pilots' Association."

"He'll do nothing of the sort," Matt Peasley declared quietly. "We have union crews in all our other steamers, and the unions will declare a strike on us if we put non-union men in the Narcissus."

"Of course--if they find out. But they'll not. Besides, we're going to the Atlantic Coast, so why should we bring a high-priced crew into a low-priced market, Mr. Ricks? Leave it to me, sir. I'll load the ship with longshoremen entirely, and we'll sail with the crew of that German liner that came a few days ago to intern in Richardson's Bay until the European war is over."

"I'm not partial to the German cause," Matt Peasley announced. "So I'll just veto that plan right now, Mike."

"Matt, we're neutral," Cappy declared.

"And it pays to ship those Germans, Matt," Murphy continued. "I confess I'm for the Germans, although not to such an extent that I'd go round offering them jobs just because they are Germans. But the minute I heard about that interned boat I said to myself: 'Now, here's a chance to save the Narcissus some money. The crew of that liner will all be discharged now that she is interned. However, the local unions will not admit them to membership and they cannot work on any Pacific Coast boat unless they hold union cards. Consequently they must seek other occupations, and as the chances are these fellows do not speak English, they're up against it. Also, they are foreigners who have paid no head tax when coming into the country, because they are seamen. They have the right to land and stay ashore three months, if they state that it is their intention to ship out again within that period; but if they do not so ship, then the immigration authorities may deport them as paupers or for failure to pay the head tax; and in that event they will all be returned to the vessel that brought them here, and the owners of the vessel will be forced to intern them and care for them.' Under the circumstances, therefore, I concluded they would jump at a job in an American vessel, for the reason that under the American flag they would be reasonably safe; and even if the Narcissus should be searched by a British cruiser, she would not dare take these Germans off her. Remember, we had a war with England once for boarding our ships and removing seamen!"

"By the Holy Pink-Toed Prophet," said Cappy Ricks, "there's something in that, Matt."

"There's a splendid saving in the pay roll, let me tell you," the proud Murphy continued. "I took the matter up at once with the German skipper and he fixed it for me, and mighty glad he was to get his countrymen off his hands. We get all that liner's coal passers, oilers, firemen, six deckhands and four quartermasters at the scale of wages prevailing in Hamburg. I know what it is in marks, but I haven't figured it out in dollars and cents, although whatever it is it's a scandal! It almost cuts our pay roll in half."

"Do you speak German, captain?" Cappy queried excitedly.

"I do not, sir--more's the pity. But the four quartermasters speak fair English, and I have engaged two good German-American mates who speak German. Reardon has shipped German-American engineers and some of his coal passers and firemen speak fair English. I've got two Native Son Chinamen in the galley and a Cockney steward. We'll get along."

"And a rattling fine idea, too," Cappy Ricks declared warmly. "Mike, my boy, you're a wonder. That's the spirit. Always keep down the overhead, Matt. That's what eats up the dividends."

"Well, I wouldn't agree to it if the Narcissus wasn't going to be engaged in neutral trade, or if she was carrying munitions of war to the Allies," Matt declared. "I'd be afraid some of Mike's Germans might blow up the ship."

"Believe me," quoth Michael J. Murphy, "if she was engaged in freighting munitions to England, it'd be a smart German that would get a chance to blow her up. I think I'd scuttle her myself first."

"Well, Mike, if your courage failed you," Cappy Ricks replied laughingly, "I think we could safely leave the job to Terence Reardon."