“Deah, deah,” said Richard.
The ferryman said: “If the King of England—why, if the two ghosts of Queen Victoria and Albert the Good—was waiting to cross now, I wouldn’t come in for them, not if it was going to give you a chance to set foot on Mitten Island.”
The crowd across the river, divining that a climax of defiance was being reached, shouted: “Yah, yah,” in unison.
“Is either of you parties an ’ouse’older on Mitten Island?” asked the policeman of Sarah Brown and Richard.
“I am,” said Richard, to his companion’s surprise.
“Can you give me any information regarding the whereabouts of a cherecter known under any of these names: Iris ’Yde, T.B. Watkins, Hangela the Witch, possibly a male in female disguise, believed to conduct a general shop and boardin’ ’ouse on Mitten Island?”
“There is only one shop on Mitten Island,” said Richard. “And one boarding house. All in one. I own it. I can recite you the prospectus if you like. I have a superintendent there. I have known her all my life. I did not know she was believed to be a male in female disguise. I did not know she had any name at all, let alone half-a-dozen.”
The policeman seemed to be troubled all the time by mosquitoes. He slapped his face and his ears and the back of his neck. He succeeded in killing one insect upon the bridge of his nose, and left it there by mistake, a strangely ignoble corpse. Sarah Brown suspected Richard of some responsibility for this untimely persecution.
“That party is charged with an offence against the Defence of the Realm Act,” said the policeman,—“with being, although a civilian, in possession of a flying machine, and—er—obstructin’ ’Is Majesty’s enemies in the performance of their dooty.”
“Oh deah, deah,” said Richard. “Deah, deah, deah....”
“Do either of you know the present whereabouts of the party?” persisted the policeman. Attacked on every side by insects, he was becoming rather pathetic in his discomfort and indignity. His small eyes, set in red fat, stared with uncomprehending protest; his fat busy hands were not agile enough to defend him. He felt unsuccessful and foolish, and very near the ground. He wished quite disproportionately to be at home with his admiring wife in Acton.
Sarah Brown shook her head in reply, and Richard could say nothing but “Oh deah, deah....”
“May I take your name and ’ome address, and regimental number, please, young man,” said the policeman, after a baffled pause.
“Now my address,” said Richard, with genuine shame, “is a thing I honestly can never remember. I know I’ve heard it; I’ve tried and tried to learn it at my mother’s knee. It begins with an H, I think. That’s the worst of not being able to read or write. I can describe the place to you exactly, a house with a lot of windows, that sees a long way. If you turn your back on the Marble Arch, and go on till you get to a big poster saying Eat Less Meat, and then turn to your right—(pointing to the left)—or again, if you go by air as the crow flies—or rather as the witch flies——”