Noel shook her head. “No; my father’s a clergyman, you see.”
“Ah!” said the policeman. And in the glance he bestowed on her could be seen an added respect.
“Of course,” he went on, “you’re bound to have a sense of justice against these Huns; some of their ways of goin’ on have been above the limit. But what I always think is—of course I don’t say these things—no use to make yourself unpopular—but to meself I often think: Take ’em man for man, and you’d find ’em much the same as we are, I daresay. It’s the vicious way they’re brought up, of actin’ in the mass, that’s made ’em such a crool lot. I see a good bit of crowds in my profession, and I’ve a very low opinion of them. Crowds are the most blunderin’ blighted things that ever was. They’re like an angry woman with a bandage over her eyes, an’ you can’t have anything more dangerous than that. These Germans, it seems, are always in a crowd. They get a state o’ mind read out to them by Bill Kaser and all that bloody-minded lot, an’ they never stop to think for themselves.”
“I suppose they’d be shot if they did,” said Noel.
“Well, there is that,” said the policeman reflectively. “They’ve brought discipline to an ‘igh pitch, no doubt. An’ if you ask me,”—he lowered his voice till it was almost lost in his chin-strap, “we’ll be runnin’ ’em a good second ’ere, before long. The things we ’ave to protect now are gettin’ beyond a joke. There’s the City against lights, there’s the streets against darkness, there’s the aliens, there’s the aliens’ shops, there’s the Belgians, there’s the British wives, there’s the soldiers against the women, there’s the women against the soldiers, there’s the Peace Party, there’s ’orses against croolty, there’s a Cabinet Minister every now an’ then; and now we’ve got these Conchies. And, mind you, they haven’t raised our pay; no war wages in the police. So far as I can see, there’s only one good result of the war—the burglaries are off. But there again, you wait a bit and see if we don’t have a prize crop of ’m, or my name’s not ’Arris.”
“You must have an awfully exciting life!” said Noel.
The policeman looked down at her sideways, without lowering his face, as only a policeman can, and said indulgently:
“We’re used to it, you see; there’s no excitement in what you’re used to. They find that in the trenches, I’m told. Take our seamen—there’s lots of ’em been blown up over and over again, and there they go and sign on again next day. That’s where the Germans make their mistake! England in war-time! I think a lot, you know, on my go; you can’t ’elp it—the mind will work—an’ the more I think, the more I see the fightin’ spirit in the people. We don’t make a fuss about it like Bill Kaser. But you watch a little shopman, one o’ those fellows who’s had his house bombed; you watch the way he looks at the mess—sort of disgusted. You watch