Loyalty’s Reward – Excerpt
Loyalty’s Reward by J. Robert Whittle
Book 2 of the Victoria Chronicles Trilogy
There was no escaping the mood of the city. As Nancy and Dan made their way home, a small platoon of soldiers marched through the streets while citizens cheered on every corner. Children ran alongside waving to fathers and brothers. Brooding quietly at the madness she saw all around her, Nancy curled up in the corner of the little truck, racking her brain to find a reason why any nation would send its young men away to a foreign country to get possibly wounded … or worse.
“Isn’t it peaceful looking?” Dan’s voice cut into Nancy’s thoughts as they went past a field of sleepily grazing red and white cows. She never answered and Dan became aware of her unusual quietness as the Model T bounced along the road through the multi-coloured Saanich farmland. Glancing over at her as he turned into their drive, he smiled when he heard her whisper, “Home!”
Leaping from the vehicle she dashed over to Meg and Jebediah who were standing on the cliff looking out at the San Juan Islands. It was a marvellous view today with Mount Baker standing proud and tall with its snow-capped peak shining in the sun and a cloudless blue sky. She hugged the Scottish lady fiercely and Dan momentarily wondered about her strange behaviour then put it from his mind.
However, for the rest of the afternoon it continued to pop up in his thoughts. He knew the dark threat of war was looking more and more imminent and although they had not discussed it very much he still harboured the hope that it would never take place. His first duty was to Nancy and the family they’d created. I’ll not sign up, he thought stubbornly, not if I can prevent it.
After supper they were all out sitting on the porch when he broached the subject. “The threat of war is certainly causing some reaction amongst people in town,” he said cautiously, watching their faces. “All everyone talks about is that we’ll have to help in the fight, our loyalties must lie with Canada.”
Meg, in true Scottish fashion agreed exuberantly. “If I were young, I’d be going home to Scotland if she were attacked,” she said steadfastly, causing a ripple of laughter.
Nancy moved her chair closer to Dan affectionately laying a hand on his arm. “I know what you’re doing, Mr. Brown,” she whispered. “You don’t have to worry about me. I know that if war starts, some day you’ll have to go. It’s your duty, but I don’t have to like it.”
This opened up some more conversation giving Jeb the opportunity to tell some lighter stories. As the shadows lengthened Flash, Sam Smith’s little terrier, came confidently out of the forest and wagging his tail wildly, trotted up the steps to Meg.
“He’s even learned who gives out the food in this place!” laughed Jebediah. “You out there, Sam?” he called, peering into the darkness.
Old Sam timidly stepped out of the shadows, limping with the aid of a gnarled tree branch. “You had visitors today,” he growled.
“Sam, you’re hurt, are you hungry?” Meg asked, leaving her chair and heading into the house without waiting for an answer.
“Who was it, Sam?” Dan asked.
“Don’t know, but I scared ’em off good,” he rasped, wobbling on his bad foot but keeping his distance at the bottom of the steps.
Meg returned and handed Jeb the parcel of food.
“Good man,” Jebediah continued, going toward the hermit. “You need any help with that injury?”
“No!” Sam replied, recoiling slightly as Jeb came toward him. Grabbing the parcel, he backed away. “Sea water make good,” he said, then he patted his leg for Flash to come and shuffled off into the trees letting the darkness close in around him.
Dan gazed pensively out the kitchen window the next morning at the fog shrouded water and his mind went back to other foggy days—aboard the Belfast. Remembering the exhilaration he used to feel out on the ocean, his thoughts wandered back to the long years he had spent at sea whaling with his great friends, the Joyce brothers.
“You know, there were days when we couldn’t see a thing the fog was so thick out there,” he mused. “But it didn’t matter much to us, even through the stillness Tim could smell those whales. He had some nose that man!”
“You boys sure teased him about it, too,” added Meg.
“Everyone did, but the crazy thing was, he was always right!”
Nancy came into the room and heard the end of the conversation. “We’re going whaling today, Aunt Meg,” she said happily. “I’m going to put Dan’s nose to the test and see if he can find some whales to show our clients from The States.”
“You mean people will pay you just to see a whale? You’d think they could find a better way to spend their money!” clucked Meg.
Eating quickly, the young people were soon heading down the stairs to the dock. With the redhead at the helm, they chugged slowly out toward the racing tide before she opened the throttle.
“Easy now!” Dan reminded her as the engine roared into life. He came closer and spoke directly into her ear. “This fog likes to sit right down on the water … makes deadheads even more difficult to see.”
Nancy loved it when Dan came so close she could feel his breath on her neck. She also loved the thrill of the open water and even though she had reduced the speed this morning, the boat still bounced over the tiny waves. Excitement enveloped her when the powerful blue boat answered her wishes.
Dan watched as a look of complete contentment washed across her face and her red hair blew wildly in the wind. She’s a picture when she’s out here, he thought, as they turned westward to Victoria and came out of the fog bank. He grabbed for the side when Nancy increased the power, making a face at him.
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