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The Little Nipper O’ Hide-An’-Seek Harbor
by [?]

We nosed into Hide-an’-Seek Harbor jus’ by chance. What come o’ the venture has sauce enough t’ tell about in any company that ever sot down in a forecastle of a windy night t’ listen to a sentimental ol’ codger like me spin his yarns. In the early dusk o’ that night, a spurt o’ foul weather begun t’ swell out o’ the nor’east–a fog as thick as soup an’ a wind minded for too brisk a lark at sea. Hard Harry Hull ‘lowed that we might jus’ as well run into Hide-an’-Seek for a night’s lodgin’ in the lee o’ the hills, an’ pick up what fish we could trade the while, there bein’ nothin’ t’ gain by hangin’ off shore an’ splittin’ the big seas all night long in the rough. ‘Twas a mean harbor, as it turned out–twelve score folk, ill-spoken of abroad, but with what justice none of us knowed; we had never dropped anchor there before. I was clerk o’ the Robin Red Breast in them days–a fore-an’-aft schooner, tradin’ trinkets an’ grub for salt fish between Mother Burke o’ Cape John an’ the Newf’un’land ports o’ the Straits o’ Belle Isle; an’ Hard Harry Hull, o’ Yesterday Cove, was the skipper o’ the craft. Ay, I means Hard Harry hisself–he that gained fame thereafter as a sealin’ captain an’ takes the Queen o’ the North out o’ St. John’s t’ the ice every spring o’ the year t’ this present.

Well, the folk come aboard in a twitter an’ flutter o’ curiosity, flockin’ to a new trader, o’ course, like young folk to a spectacle; an’ they demanded my prices, an’ eyed an’ fingered my stock o’ gee-gaws an’ staples, an’ they whispered an’ stared an’ tittered, an’ they promised at last t’ fetch off a quintal or two o’ fish in the mornin’, it might be, an the fog had blowed away by that time. ‘Twas after dark afore they was all ashore again–all except a sorry ol’ codger o’ the name o’ Anthony Lot, who had anchored hisself in the cabin with Skipper Harry an’ me in expectation of a cup o’ tea or the like o’ that. By that time I had my shelves all put t’ rights an’ was stretched out on my counter, with my head on a roll o’ factory-cotton, dawdlin’ along with my friendly ol’ flute. I tooted a ballad or two–Larboard Watch an’ Dublin Bay; an’ my fingers bein’ limber an’ able, then, I played the weird, sad songs o’ little Toby Farr, o’ Ha-ha Harbor, which is more t’ my taste, mark you, than any o’ the fashionable music that drifts our way from St. John’s. Afore long I cotched ear of a foot-fall on deck–tip-toein’ aft, soft as a cat; an’ I knowed that my music had lured somebody close t’ the cabin hatch t’ listen, as often it did when I was meanderin’ away t’ ease my melancholy in the evenin’.

“On deck!” says Skipper Harry. “Hello, you!”

Nobody answered the skipper’s hail. I ‘lowed then that ’twas a bashful child I had lured with my sad melody.

“Come below,” the skipper bawled, “whoever you is! I say–come below!”

“Isn’t nobody there,” says Anthony Lot.

“I heared a step,” says I.

“Me, too,” says Skipper Harry.

“Nothin’ o’ no consequence,” says Anthony. “I wouldn’t pay no attention t’ that.”

“Somebody up there in the rain,” says the skipper.

“Oh, I knows who ’tis,” says Anthony. “‘Tisn’t nobody that amounts t’ nothin’ very much.”

“Ah, well,” says I, “we’ll have un down here out o’ the dark jus’ the same.”

“On deck there!” says the skipper again. “You is welcome below, sir!”

Down come a lad in response t’ Hard Harry’s hail–jus’ a pallid, freckled little bay-noddie, with a tow head an’ blue eyes, risin’ ten years, or thereabouts, mostly skin, bones an’ curiosity, such as you may find in shoals in every harbor o’ the coast. He was blinded by the cabin lamp, an’ brushed the light out of his eyes; an’ he was abashed–less shy than cautious, however, mark you; an’ I mind that he shuffled and grinned, none too sure of his welcome–halted, doubtful an’ beseechin’, like a dog on a clean kitchen floor. I marked in a sidelong glance, too, when I begun t’ toot again, that his wee face was all in a pucker o’ bewilderment, as he listened t’ the sad strains o’ Toby Farr’s music, jus’ as though he knowed he wasn’t able t’ rede the riddles of his life, jus’ yet awhile, but would be able t’ rede them, by an’ by, when he growed up, an’ expected t’ find hisself in a pother o’ trouble when he mastered the answers. I didn’t know his name, then, t’ be sure; had I knowed it, as know it I did, afore the night was over, I might have put down my flute, in amazement, an’ stared an’ said, “Well, well, well!” jus’ as everybody did, no doubt, when they clapped eyes on that lad for the first time an’ was told whose son he was.