Semijust deserts

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Consider, for a moment, how retribution relentlessly pursues the wicked and exacts its just punishment, but consider, also, that sometimes it doesn't. Look, first, upon the proper apprehension of Jeddie Titcomb, who was arrested by the coastal warden for taking clams in a closed area, to wit: Puddle Cove. This was a big surprise to Jeddie, as you will see. Last summer, after excessive harvesting had depleted, and nearly eradicated, the clams in Puddle Cove, our department of marine resources decided in its usual post facto wisdom to put the law on Puddle Cove and practice conservation. Puddle Cove was posted. The diggers who had been fine-combing it went elsewhere and Puddle Cove was left to restore itself. However, Jeddie Titcomb lives on the shore of Puddle Cove and is not a commercial fisherman. It had long been his custom to step down to the flats on an ebb tide, now and then, and take a quart or two of steamers for his noonin', and while he placed no notices in the papers about this, he continued to do so after Puddle Cove was posted, but only when he knew the warden was at a safe distance. Now let us leave Jeddie and go around the point into the harbor, where we come to the Town Landing.

A group of gentlemen was assembled there on this particular morning with the intention of getting into a skiff and going down to one of the islands on some errand they have neglected to explain to me. It may or may not have been nefarious in complexion, but the excursion was predicated on a small infraction which is important - the registration sticker on the skiff had not been renewed, and it would be illegal to take it to sea. Application had been made and a check forwarded, but the mails had been slow. The gentlemen were accordingly deterred from embarking by the presence on the Town Landing of Monty Blodgett, the fish warden, whose duties include arresting criminals who have stickerless boats. Monty had appeared unannounced and seemed inclined to stick around. The gentlemen prudently decided to postpone their enterprises until Monty was gone.

But at this juncture, Percy Prentiss came walking down to the wharf, purposing to go along with the gentlemen, and taking the situation in at a glance he effected a solution. In a loud voice he said, ''Somebody's clamming over to Puddle Cove!''

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This is where retribution sets in and events are taken from the plans of people and given to the caprices of coincidence. Percy had been nowhere near Puddle Cove that morning and had no idea if anybody was clamming there or not. His announcement was merely a strategem to beguile Warden Blodgett and be rid of him. It worked, too, for Warden Blodgett fancied he had heard something not meant for his ears, and he started at once for Puddle Cove. The gentlemen aforesaid then cranked their outboard motor and went down the bay.

Jeddie Titcomb, being certain that Warden Blodgett was over at the Town Landing, was sad to perceive that he was not. He went quietly.

Contrariwise, we should meditate on the similar, but very different, experience of Flats Jackson, who was arrested for watering his horse. Flats had a twitchin' horse. A good twitching horse is as closely trained as any circus animal, but does his work in the woods where nobody can see how smart he is. When a sawlog is chained to his whiffletree, he will start up and ''twitch'' it from the stump to the landing - often a mile or more away - without a driver. When another man unfastens the chain, the twitching horse will return, all by himself, to the cuttings. Back and forth, all day long, he is trained to work without guidance. Ownership of a good twitching horse has been likened to having a gold mine. Flats stabled his horse behind his house by a brook, and each evening just before bedtime Flats would go out in the dark to dip a pail in the brook and give his horse a drink.

He went to do this one night, and just as he was about to dip, a rustle in the bushes surprised him, and he was jostled by somebody who jumped up and ran. Next, Flats was looking into the business end of the three-cell flashlight in the hand of Game Warden Hosea Judkins. This light revealed some three quarts of smelts in Flats's water pail, dumped there en passantm by the person who had jostled. Warden Judkins had almost nabbed a poacher, but got Flats instead. Caught as he was, red-handed, Flats paid the $35 fine for illegally watering his horse, as he put it. Things like that just go to show.

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