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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 221 pages of information about Nicky-Nan, Reservist.

“My mind moves slowly,” said the Minister after a pause, during which the Vicar drew breath.  “And often, when confronted in a hurry with an argument which I dislike but see no present way to controvert, I fall back for moral support on the tone of the disputant. . . .  I have a feeling at this moment that you are in the wrong, somewhere and somehow, because you are talking like an angry man.”

“So my wife assured me, half an hour ago. . . .  Then let me put it differently and with a sweet reasonableness.  If this War be a Holy War, why may I not share actively in it?  Or on what principle, if the military use of weapons be right for a layman, should it be wrong for a clergyman?  What differentiates us?”

“In a vague way,” said the Minister, “I see that a great deal may differentiate you.  Suppose, now, I were to ask what separates you from a layman, that you should have a right, which you deny him, to pronounce the Absolution.  You will answer me, and in firm faith, that by a laying-on of hands you have inherited—­in direct succession from the Apostles—­a certain particular virtue.  You know me well enough by this time to be sure that, while doubting your claim, I respect its sincerity. . . .  It is a claim, at least, which has silently endured through some hundreds of generations of men, to reassert itself quietly, times and again, after many hundreds of accesses of human madness. . . .  I do not press the validity of my mission, which derives what sanction it may merely from a general spiritual tradition of the race.  But yours is special, you say; by it you are consecrated, separated, reserved.  Then if you are reserved to absolve men of their sins, may you not be rightly reserved against sharing in their combats?”

“I am hot,” the Vicar acknowledged; “and in my heat the most I can manage is sarcasm.  But I have the grace to hope that in process of time I shall acquire the sweeter temper of irony.”

A dull thud shook the atmosphere overhead, and was followed some four seconds later by another and louder reverberation.  The two men, startled for a moment, smiled as they collected their thoughts.  “That means security, not danger.”

“Gun-practice.  We were warned of it by advertisement in this morning’s paper.  A 9.4-inch gun, by the sound of it—­and there goes another!  A battle-cruiser at least!—­Shall we walk out to the cliffs for a sight of her?”

CHAPTER XI.

THE THREE PILCHARDS.

“Boo-oom!” echoed Un’ Benny Rowett on the Quay, mocking the noise of the cannonade.  “War—­bloody war, my hearties!  There goes a hundred pound o’ taxpayers’ money; an’ there go all our pilchards for this season, the most promisin’ in my recollection.”

“He’ll be tellin’ us,” suggested a humourist, “that the British Navy is firin’ on pilchards, in the hope there may be a submarine somewhere amongst ’em.”

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