Nicky-Nan, Reservist eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 304 pages of information about Nicky-Nan, Reservist.

Nicky-Nan dropped off again into a sleep punctuated by twinges of pain.

Towards dawn, as the pain eased, his slumber grew deeper and undisturbed.  He was awakened by—­What?

At first it seemed to be the same sound of sobbing to which he had listened early in the night.  Then, with a start, he knew it to be something quite different—­an impatient knocking at the foot of his bed-chamber stairs.

Nicky-Nan shuffled out of bed, opened his door, and peered down the stairway.

“Who’s there?” he challenged.  “And what’s your business?  Hullo!”—­ catching sight of Bill Varco, coastguardsman, on the flat below—­“the house afire?  Or what brings you?”

“The Reserves are called out,” answered up Bill Varco.  “You’ll get your paper later.  But the Chief Officer’s here from Troy with a little fellow from the Customs there, and I be sent round with first news.  I’ve two dozen yet to warn . . .  In the King’s name!  An’ there’ll be a brake waiting by the bridge-end at ten-thirty.  If War isn’t declared, it mighty soon will be.  Take notice!”

Bill Varco disappeared, sharp on the word.  Nicky-Nan paused a moment, hobbled back to bed and sat on the edge of it, steadying himself, yet half-awake.

“It’s some trick of Pamphlett’s to get me out,” he decided, and went downstairs cautiously.



In the passage he found Mrs Penhaligon standing, alone, rigid as a statue.  By her attitude she seemed to be listening.  Yet she had either missed to hear or, hearing, had missed to understand Varco’s call up the stairs.  At Nicky-Nan’s footstep she turned, with a face white and set.

“Sam’s got to go,” she said.  Her lips twitched.

“Nonsense, woman!  Some person’s playin’ a trick ’pon the town.”

“They start from the bridge at ten-thirty.  There’s no trick about it.  Go an’ see for yourself.”  She motioned with her hand.

Nicky-Nan limped to the porch and peeked out (as they say at Polpier).  Up the street the women stood clacking the news just as though it were a week-day and the boats had brought in a famous haul.  Feminine gossip in Polpier is not conducted in groups, as the men conduct theirs on the Quay.  By tradition each housewife takes post on her own threshold-slate, and knits while she talks with her neighbours to right and left and across the road; thus a bit of news, with comment and embellishment zigzags from door to door through the town like a postal delivery.  To-day being Sunday, the women had no knitting; but it was observable that while Mrs Trebilcock, two doors away, led the chorus as usual, her hands moved as though plying imaginary needles:  and so did the hands of Sarah Jane Johns over the way.

Down by the bridge-end two men in uniform sat side by side on the low parapet, sorting out a small pile of blue papers.  They were Mr Irons, the chief officer of Coastguard at Troy, and a young custom-house officer—­a stranger to Nicky-Nan.  The morning sunlight played on their brass buttons and cap-rims.

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Nicky-Nan, Reservist from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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