A vast policeman had materialized from nowhere. He stood beside them, a living statue of Vigilant Authority. One thumb rested easily on his broad belt. The fingers of the other hand caressed lightly a moustache that had caused more heart-burnings among the gentler sex than any other two moustaches in the C-division. The eyes above the moustache were stern and questioning.
“What’s all this?”
George liked policemen. He knew the way to treat them. His voice, when he replied, had precisely the correct note of respectful deference which the Force likes to hear.
“I really couldn’t say, officer,” he said, with just that air of having in a time of trouble found a kind elder brother to help him out of his difficulties which made the constable his ally on the spot. “I was standing here, when this man suddenly made his extraordinary attack on me. I wish you would ask him to go away.”
The policeman tapped the stout young man on the shoulder.
“This won’t do, you know!” he said austerely. “This sort o’ thing won’t do, ’ere, you know!”
“Take your hands off me!” snorted Percy.
A frown appeared on the Olympian brow. Jove reached for his thunderbolts.
“’Ullo! ’Ullo! ’Ullo!” he said in a shocked voice, as of a god defied by a mortal. “’Ullo! ’Ullo! ’Ul-lo!”
His fingers fell on Percy’s shoulder again, but this time not in a mere warning tap. They rested where they fell—in an iron clutch.
“It won’t do, you know,” he said. “This sort o’ thing won’t do!” Madness came upon the stout young man. Common prudence and the lessons of a carefully-taught youth fell from him like a garment. With an incoherent howl he wriggled round and punched the policeman smartly in the stomach.
“Ho!” quoth the outraged officer, suddenly becoming human. His left hand removed itself from the belt, and he got a businesslike grip on his adversary’s collar. “Will you come along with me!”
It was amazing. The thing had happened in such an incredibly brief space of time. One moment, it seemed to George, he was the centre of a nasty row in one of the most public spots in London; the next, the focus had shifted; he had ceased to matter; and the entire attention of the metropolis was focused on his late assailant, as, urged by the arm of the Law, he made that journey to Vine Street Police Station which so many a better man than he had trod.
George watched the pair as they moved up the Haymarket, followed by a growing and increasingly absorbed crowd; then he turned into the hotel.
“This,” he said to himself; “is the middle of a perfect day! And I thought London dull!”
George awoke next morning with a misty sense that somehow the world had changed. As the last remnants of sleep left him, he was aware of a vague excitement. Then he sat up in bed with a jerk. He had remembered that he was in love.