Chapter XXX
 

Three weeks later Alden P. Ricks arrived in New York. After he had been driven to his hotel and had removed the stains of travel he telephoned the office of Gurney & Harlan and got Gurney, Senior, on the line.

"Well, I'm here, Joe," he announced. "Have you followed my instructions and cut Joey off at the pockets?"

"I have, Alden. He's rather desperate as a result, and has been trying to borrow money by hypothecating the inheritance due him on his twenty-fifth birthday. You see, I didn't give him a second's notice; just told him he was spending too much time in play and too much money for pleasure, and that until he came into his private fortune he would have to earn any money he desired to spend. I have been very firm."

"That's the stuff, Joe. And is he trying to earn it?"

"Yes, I think so. He's sticking round the office at any rate."

"Hum-m-m! That's because it costs money to go anywhere else. Has he succeeded in raising a loan by assigning an interest in his inheritance?"

"No, not yet. I blocked him at all the banks and with my old friends, and I do not think he can borrow as much as he needs from any of his friends. They, like him of course, are dependent on their fathers' generosity."

"Fine way to raise a boy! Bully. Well, I'll be down to your office in about an hour and take you and Joey to luncheon at India House. You haven't forgotten what I wrote you, Joe? You know your part, don't you? . . . Well, see that you play your hand well and we'll save that boy yet."

Two hours later the Gurneys were lunching with Cappy Ricks at the one New York club to which Cappy belonged--quaint old India House in Hanover Square, haunt of shipping men and shippers, perhaps the best and least-known club in New York City. Joey had been unaffectedly glad to see his godfather; so much so, indeed, that Cappy rightly guessed Joey had designs on the Ricks pocketbook; for after all, as Cappy admitted to himself, he is a curmudgeon of a godfather indeed who will refuse to loan his godson a much needed twenty-five thousand dollars on gilt-edged security. In expectation of an application for a loan before the day should be done, however, Cappy was careful not to be alone with Joey for an instant, for something told him that only the presence of Gurney, Senior, kept Gurney Junior from promptly putting his fortune to the touch.

"Well, Joey, you young cut-up," Cappy began as the trio settled in the smoking room and the waiter brought the coffee and cigars, "I see you're getting to be quite an amateur sailor. Your Dad tells me you won your last race with that schooner yacht of yours in rather pretty fashion."

"It was a bully race, Mr. Ricks. I wish you could have been aboard with me," Joey declared enthusiastically.

"Hum-m-m! Catch me on a yacht!" Cappy's tones were indicative of profound disgust.

"Ricks, you're a kill-joy," old Gurney struck in. "All you think of is making money, and you've made so much of it I should think the game would have palled on you long ago. I tell Joey to go it while he's young--while he has the capacity for enjoyment."

"Joe, I tell you now, as I've told you before, you're spoiling this boy. When he's twenty-five years old he comes into a fortune and you're not even preparing him for the task of handling that money wisely. You bought Joey that schooner yacht, didn't you?"

"I bought her cheap," old Joe Gurney protested lamely.

"They cost a fortune to maintain, Joe. Now if Joey wanted some salt-water experience you should have sent him to sea as quartermaster on one of your own Red Funnel liners; presently he would have worked up to second mate; then first mate, and finally skipper. By that time he would have known the salt-water end of his father's business, after which he could sit in at a desk and learn the business end. Somehow, Joe, when I see a shipping man's son fooling away his time on a pleasure yacht instead of learning the shipping business, I feel as if I'd just taken a dose of ipecac."

"Godfather is out of sorts," Joey soliloquized sagely, and resolved to wait a day or two before broaching the subject of a loan. Cappy Ricks surveyed the young fellow severely.

"Joey," he began, "I've no doubt you're quite a sailor on your handsome yacht, in your yachting uniform, with all the real head work to be done by your sailing master--"

"Not a bit of it," Joey protested. "I'm not that kind of a yachtsman. I'm the captain tight and the midshipmite, and the crew take orders from me, because I don't employ a sailing master."

"Do you mean to tell me that when you go on a cruise to the West Indies you navigate the yacht yourself--lay out your own courses and work out your own position?"

Joey smiled patronizingly.

"Certainly," he replied. "That's easy."

"Sure. Play is always easy. But let me tell you, young man, if you had command of a big three-legged windjammer, with a deckload of heavy green lumber fresh from the saws, and ran into a stiff sou'-easter such as we have out on the Pacific coast, you'd know what real sailoring is like."

"Joey could handle her like that," old Gurney declared with pride, and snapped his fingers.

"Could you, Joey?" Cappy Ricks demanded. "I have my doubts."

"Why, I think so, Mr. Ricks. I might be a little cautious at first--"

"Well, I don't think you could," Cappy interrupted.

"Well, I do," old Gurney declared with some warmth. "I've been out with Joey on his yacht and I know what the boy can do."

"Bah! You're a doddering old softy, Joe. Yachting is one thing and sailoring is another. I have an old lumber hooker on Gray's Harbor now, loading for a port in Peru, and I'd certainly love to see Joey with her on his hands. I'll bet fifty thousand dollars he couldn't sail her down to Sobre Vista, discharge her and sail back inside of six months." The old schemer chuckled. "Lordy me," he continued, "I'd like to see Joey trying to make her point up into the wind! She'd break his heart."

"Look here, Alden," Old Joe Gurney commenced to bristle. "Are you serious about that or are you just making conversation bets? Because if you're serious I'm just shipping man enough to call you for the sheer sporting joy of it."

"By the Holy Pink-Toed Prophet, you're on!" Cappy Ricks almost yelled. "Put up or shut up--that is, provided Joey is as big a sport as his father and will undertake to sail my schooner Tyee to Sobre Vista and back."

"Oh, she's a schooner!" There was relief in Joey's voice. "Why, I'll sail any vessel with a fore-and-aft rig. I thought perhaps you were trying to ring in a square-rigger on me, and I'm not familiar with them. But a schooner--pooh! Pie for little Joey!"

"She's got three legs, and with a deck-load of lumber she's cranky and topheavy. I'm warning you, Joey. Remember he is a poor ship owner who doesn't know his own ship."

Joey got up and went to a map laid out on a table, with a piece of plate glass over it, to compute the sailing distance from Gray's Harbor to Sobre Vista. He could not find Sobre Vista on the map.

"Figure the distance to Mollendo and you'll be close enough for all practical purposes," Cappy called to him, and winked at the boy's father. "A little pep, here, boy," he whispered to Gurney, "and we'll snare him yet."

Joey came back from his study of the map.

"I'd have the nor'west trades clear to the Line," he remarked to his father. "After that I'd be liable to bang round for a couple of weeks in the doldrums, but in spite of that--did you say I couldn't do it in six months, Mr. Ricks?"

"That's what I said, Joey."

"Take the bet, dad," said Joey quietly, "and I'll take half of it off your hands. I'll give you my note, secured by an assignment of a twenty-five-thousand-dollar interest in mother's estate to secure you in case Mr. Ricks should win and call you for his winnings--but he hasn't a chance in the world."

"Money talks," Cappy Ricks warned him and got out his check book. "Joe, I'll make a check in your favor for fifty thousand dollars and you make one in my favor for the same amount. We will then deposit both checks with the secretary of the club, who will act as stakeholder--"

"'Nuff said, Alden P. Ricks. I accept the dare. Sonny, if you're a worse sailor-man than you appear to be, you're liable to cost your father a sizable wad. However, I can't resist this opportunity to put a nick in the Ricks bank roll." Gurney snickered. "Alden," he declared, "you'll bleed for a month of Sundays. Really, this is too easy! For old sake's sake, I'll give you a chance to withdraw before it is too late."

"Let the tail go with the hide, Joe. I don't often bet, but when I do I'm no piker. Joey, there's just one little condition I'm going to exact, however. I'm going to send one of my own skippers along with you on the Tyee, because your license as master only permits you to skipper pleasure boats up to a hundred tons net register; so in order to comply with the law I'll have to have a sure-enough skipper aboard the Tyee. But he shall have orders from me to be nothing but a companion to you, Joey. Once the tugboat casts you off, you are to be in supreme command until you voluntarily relinquish your authority, when of course he will take the ship off your hands. Any relinquishment of authority, however, will be tantamount to failure, and you will, of course, lose your twenty-five thousand."

"That's a reasonable stipulation, godfather. I accept if father does--that is, provided dad lets me in on half the bet."

"Better let the young feller in, Joe," Cappy suggested. "If you don't he might throw the race."

"Well, I don't like to encourage the habit of betting, least of all with my own son, but in view of the fact that this is a friendly little bet and--er--well, you can have half, Joey."

"Thank you, sir," said Joey. "Mr. Ricks, when do I start?"

Cappy Ricks glanced at his watch.

"The sooner the better," he replied. "The Tyee is loading now, but I'll wire them you're coming and to hold her for you. You have time to arrange your affairs, pack a trunk and catch the Lake Shore Limited for Chicago at five o'clock. From Chicago you take the--"

"Never mind. I know the quickest route. Dad, I'll need some money before I go."

"How much, son?"

"Oh, a couple of thousand, just to play safe. And I'll have to leave you a batch of bills to settle for me."

"All right, son, I'll settle them. Here's your two thousand. You can pay me back out of your winnings on the voyage. And never mind about your note or the assignment of an interest in your inheritance. If I cannot take my own son's word of honor I don't deserve a son. Just take care of yourself, Joey, because if anything should happen to you it would go rather hard with your old man."

He wrote Joey a check for two thousand dollars and took an affectionate farewell of his son.

"Now listen to me, my dear young Hotspur," Cappy Ricks commanded him as he shook Joey's hand in farewell. "The schooner's name is Tyee and you'll find her at the Ricks Lumber & Logging Company's mill dock in Aberdeen, on Gray's Harbor, Washington. And don't be afraid of her. She was built to weather anything. The skipper's name is Mike Murphy, and if you can't get along with Mike and learn to love him before you're in the ship a week, there's something wrong with you, Joey. Just don't start anything with Mike though, because he always finishes strong, and whatever he does is always right--with me. When you get out there he'll show you the orders I will have telegraphed him and you have my word of honor, boy, that there'll be no double-crossing and no interference unless you request it."

"Right-o!" cried Joey, and was off to earn twenty-five thousand dollars of the easiest money he had ever heard of.

"Like spearing a fish in a bathtub," murmured Cappy Ricks dreamily, and tore up the fifty-thousand-dollar check he had just written. "Joe, if your boy is such easy game for a pair of old duffers like us, just think what soft picking he must have been for that nimble-footed lady with the raven hair, the pearly teeth and the eyes that won't behave!"

"But she's coarse and brainless, Alden. I can't imagine a boy like my Joey falling in love with a woman like that. He ought to know better. Just remember how he was raised."

"Fooey! Joey isn't in love. He only thinks he is, and the reason he thinks it is because she has told him so a hundred times. Can't you just see her looking up at Joey with her startled-fawn eyes and saying: 'Oh, you do love me, don't you, Joey?' As if the fact that Joey loved her constituted the eighth wonder of the world! And she's probably told Joey she'll die if he ever ceases to love her; and he's kind and obliging and wouldn't hurt a fly if he could avoid it. Why, Joe, you old idiot, you mustn't feel that Joey has disgraced himself. Isn't he planning to marry the woman? Only a decent man--a born idealist--could hold that designing woman in such reverence. Blamed if it isn't kind of sweet of the boy, although I would love to give him a kick that would jar all his relations--including his father!"

Old Joe Gurney gazed at Cappy in admiration.

"Alden," he declared, "you have a singularly acute knowledge of women."

"I employ about fifteen of 'em round my office; I had several narrow escapes in my youth; I have had a sweet and wonderful wife--and I have a replica of her in my daughter. And I do know young men, for I have been young myself; and I know old fools like you, Joe, because I've never had a son to make an old fool of myself over."

"Well, now that you've hooked Joey for a six months' voyage, what's next on the program?" Gurney asked after a brief silence.

Cappy smiled--a prescient little smile.

"Why, I'm going to pull off a wedding," he declared. "I'm going to marry Joey to the sweetest, nicest, healthiest, prettiest, brainiest little lady of twenty summers that ever threatened to put the Ricks organization on the toboggan. She's my private secretary and I've got to get rid of her or some of the young fellows in our office will be killing each other."

"Here, here, Alden, my boy, go slow! I ought to be consulted in this matter. Who is this young lady and what are her antecedents?"

"Say, who's running this layout?" Cappy demanded. "Didn't you come to me squealing for help? Joe, take a back seat and let me try my hand without any advice from you. The girl's name is Doris Kenyon and she's an orphan. Her father used to be the general manager of my redwood mill on Humboldt Bay, and her mother was a girlhood friend of my late wife's; so naturally I've established a sort of protectorate over her. She has to work for a living, and any time there's a potentially fine, two-million-dollar husband like Joey lying round loose I like to see some deserving working girl land the cuss. As a matter of fact, it's almost a crime to steer her against Joey in his present state. But," Cappy added, "I have a notion that before Joey gets rid of that hula-hula girl he's going to be a sadder, wiser and poorer young man than he is at present."

"Your plan, then, is to give Joey six months away from his captor in order that he may forget her?"

"Exactly. Absence makes the heart grow colder in cases like the one under discussion, and the sea is a great place for a fellow to do some quiet, sane, uninterrupted thinking. The sea, at night particularly, is productive of much introspection and speculation on the various aspects of life, and in order to make Joey forget this vampire in a hurry all that is necessary is to have a real woman round him for a while. The first thing he knows he'll be making comparisons and the contrast will appall him."

"You don't mean--"

"You bet I do. Joey's future wife accompanies him on the voyage, and my bully port captain, Mike Murphy, and his amiable sister go along to chaperone the party and make up a foursome at bridge. I've had a naval architect at work on the old cabin of the Tyee, putting in some extra staterooms, bathrooms, and so on, and in order to make a space for the passengers I subsidized the two squarehead mates into berthing with the crew in the fo'-castle. Doris always did want to take a voyage in one of the Blue Star windjammers, and I had promised to send her at the first convenient opportunity."

"You deep-dyed, nefarious old villain!"

"Old Cupid Ricks, eh? Well, it's lots of fun, Joe, this butting in on love's young dream. And I'm just so constituted I've got to run other people's affairs for them or I wouldn't be happy. I do think, however, that this house party on the old Tyee is about the slickest deal I have ever put over. Joe, they're going to be right comfortable. I've shipped a maid for the girls, and the cook this time is several degrees superior to the average maritime specimen, for there's nothing like a couple of days of bum cooking to upset tempers--and I'm taking no chances. Also, just before I left I gave your future daughter-in-law her quarterly dividend--you see, when her father died I had to sort of look after the family, and I ran a bluff that Kenyon had some Ricks Lumber & Logging Company stock--you know, Joe. Proud stuff! I had to hornswoggle them. Well, as I say, I gave her the money, and my girl Florry went shopping with her. Sports clothes? Wow! Wow! White skirts, blue jersey, little sailor hat--man--oh, man, the stage is set to the last detail! I even had them ship a piano. Doris plays the guitar and has a pleasing voice, and just for good measure I threw in a crackajack cabinet phonograph and a hundred records with enough sentimental drip to sink the schooner."

Joe Gurney stared at his old friend rather helplessly and shook his head. Such finesse was beyond his comprehension.

"You see, now," Cappy continued, "the wisdom of my course? I insisted that you cut off Joey's allowance and get him hungry for money. You did--and he got hungry. He would have been posted at his clubs in thirty days; it is probable he owed a few bets here and there; his tailor may have needed money. Consequently, by the time I arrived on the scene he was ripe for any legitimate enterprise that would bring him in the needful funds; we arranged the enterprise and he promptly smothered it. Right off, Joe, your son said to himself: 'It will be almost a year before I come into my inheritance, and in the interim I'm going to get married, and a married man who lives on the scale my wife will expect me to assume is going to need a lot more money than a clerkship in his father's shipping office will bring him. Now, there's Tootsy-Wootsy out in Reno with a five months' sentence staring her in the eye before she'll be free to marry me, and I can't very well go out to Reno to visit her without running the risk of incurring my father's displeasure or the tongue of gossip. Consequently, I have five months' time to kill, also, and how better can I kill it than by a jolly sea voyage in a bally old lumber hooker? I can easily win twenty-five thousand dollars from my godfather, and that twenty-five thousand will carry us along until dad turns over my mother's estate to me. Fine business! I'll go to it.' And, Joe, he's done gone! Of course I'm going to win his twenty-five thousand bet because he doesn't know what it means to discharge a vessel in Sobre Vista, and Mike Murphy has orders from me to hire all the available stevedores there to do something else while Joey is trying to hire them to discharge the Tyee. Don't worry, Joe! The country is safe in the capable hands of Mike Murphy."

"I see. And the twenty-five thousand dollars you will win from Joey--"

"Will reimburse me for the extraordinary expense I've been to in saving your son. If Joey's end of the bet doesn't cover I'll nick you, Joseph, although I figure Joey's end of it will pay the fiddler. He won't miss it out of his two millions. Besides, I've noticed that the only experience worth while is the kind you pay real money for--and Joey has to buy his experience the same as the rest of us."

Five days later Cappy Ricks dropped into the Red Funnel Line and laid a telegram on old Joe Gurney's desk.

"Read that," he commanded, "and see if you can't work up a couple of cheers."

Gurney read:

"Aberdeen, Wash., June 3, 1916

"Alden P. Ricks

"Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York

"Joey arrived bung up and bilge free. Had loaded and hauled into stream, waiting for him. Came out in launch, climbed Jacob's ladder and stood on rail, sizing up ship. Saw Doris and almost fell face down on deck. He says Doris is a dream, she says Joey is a dear. Take it from me, boss, it is all over but the wedding bells.

"M. CUPID MURPHY."

Old Joe Gurney took Cappy Ricks' hand in both of his and shook it heartily.

"My worries are over, Alden," he declared. "You have, indeed, been my friend in need."

"My troubles and Joey's are just commencing, however," Cappy retorted blithely. "However--'never trouble trouble until trouble troubles you' is my motto. Where's that hundred-and-six-foot schooner yacht of Joey's?"

"She's at her moorings in Greenpoint Basin. Why?"

"I want to borrow her for a cruise to San Francisco, via the Panama Canal. Joey and his bride can sail her back. May I have her, to do what I please with, Joe?"

"Alden, don't ask foolish questions. Take her and God bless you! Joey owns her, but I pay the bills; so her skipper takes orders from me."

Two days later Joey's schooner Seafarer was standing out to sea past Sandy Hook, but Cappy Ricks was not aboard her, for that ingenious schemer had boarded a train and gone back to San Francisco and his lumber and ships.