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An Idyl Of Rickity Tickle
by [?]

No fish at Whispering Islands: never a quintal–never so much as a fin–at Come-by-Chance; and no more than a catch of tom-cod in the hopeful places past Skeleton Point of Three Lost Souls. The schooner Quick as Wink, trading the Newfoundland outports in summer weather, fluttered from cove to bight and tickle of the coast below Mother Burke, in a great pother of anxiety, and chased the rumor of a catch around the Cape Norman light to Pinch-a-Penny Beach. There was no fish in those places; and the Quick as Wink, with Tumm, the clerk, in a temper with the vagaries of the Lord, as manifest in fish and weather, spread her wings for flight to the Labrador. From Bay o’ Love to Baby Cove, the hook-and-line men, lying off the Harborless Shore, had done well enough with the fish for folk of their ill condition, and were well enough disposed toward trading; whereupon Tumm resumed once more his genial patronage of the Lord God A’mighty, swearing, in vast satisfaction with the trade of those parts, that all was right with the world, whatever might seem at times. “In this here world, as Davy Junk used t’ hold,” he laughed, in extenuation of his improved philosophy, “’tis mostly a matter o’ fish.” And it came about in this way that when we dropped anchor at Dirty-Face Bight of the Labrador, whence Davy Junk, years ago, in the days of his youth, had issued to sail the larger seas, the clerk was reminded of much that he might otherwise have forgotten. This was of a starlit time: it was blowing softly from southerly parts, I recall; and the water lay flat under the stars–flat and black in the lee of those great hills–and the night was clear and warm and the lights were out ashore.

“I come near not bein’ very fond o’ Davy Junk, o’ Dirty-Face Bight,” Tumm presently declared.

“Good Lord!” the skipper taunted. “A rascal you couldn’t excuse, Tumm?”

“I’d no fancy for his religion,” Tumm complained.

“What religion?”

“Well,” the clerk replied, in a scowling drawl, “Skipper Davy always ‘lowed that in this here damned ol’ world a man had t’ bite or get bit. An’ as for his manner o’ courtin’ a maid in consequence—-“

“Crack on!” said the skipper.

And Tumm yarned to his theme….

* * * * *

“Skipper Davy was well-favored enough, in point o’ looks, for fishin’ the Labrador,” he began; “an’ I ‘low, with the favor he had, such as ’twas, he might have done as well with the maids as the fish, courtin’ as he cotched–ay, an’ made his everlastin’ fortune in love, I’ll be bound, an’ kep’ it at compound interest through the eternal years–had his heart been as tender as his fear o’ the world was large, or had he give way, by times, t’ the kindness o’ soul he was born with. A scrawny, pinch-lipped, mottled little runt of a Labrador skipper, his face all screwed up with peerin’ for trouble in the mists beyond the waters o’ the time: he was born here at Dirty-Face Bight, but sailed the Word o’ the Lord out o’ Rickity Tickle, in the days of his pride, when I was a lad o’ the place; an’ he cotched his load, down north, lean seasons or plenty, in a way t’ make the graybeards an’ boasters blink in every tickle o’ the Shore. A fish-killer o’ parts he was: no great spectacle on the roads o’ harbor, though–a mild, backward, white-livered little man ashore, yieldin’ the path t’ every dog o’ Rickity Tickle. ‘I gets my fish in season,’ says he, ‘an’ I got a right t’ mind my business between whiles.’ But once fair out t’ sea, with fish t’ be got, an’ the season dirty, the devil hisself would drive a schooner no harder than Davy Junk–not even an the Ol’ Rascal was trappin’ young souls in lean times, with revivals comin’ on like fall gales. Neither looks nor liver could keep Davy in harbor in a gale o’ wind, with a trap-berth t’ be snatched an’ a schooner in the offing; nor did looks hamper un in courtship, an’ that’s my yarn, however it turns out, for his woe or salvation. ‘Twas sheer perversity o’ religion that kep’ his life anchored in Bachelors’ Harbor–‘A man’s got t’ bite or get bit!’