A reluctance came over Chopper’s spade-shaped face. He thought Richard was telling on some Auxiliary who was too flare struck to come outside. But there were witnesses, so he went in. He stayed a longer time. When he came out he had a soft, serious look on him. He cupped his hands. He shouted in Richard’s ear, almost with reverence, “More power to his elbow mate, more power to it.”
He might have come from seeing a Prince and Princess.
Richard shouted back, “Pity old Pye never saw,” and wondered if one of these bombs they rained down each night on London would turn him out of the cover he had taken, willy nilly, in his coffin, eaten by worms, six foot underground.
At this moment two ambulance men carried a stretcher up. They laid it down. The twisted creature under a blanket coughed a last gushing, gout of blood.
Two police brought past a looter, most of his clothes torn off, heels dragging, drooling blood at the mouth, out on his feet from the bashing he had been given.
Then, alone, carrying a music case, handkerchief to her mouth, her thin body made angular in the glare, sharp as a saw, an old lady came slowly by, on her own, looking to the ground, ignoring it all.
And then that soldier tottered out. He was drunk. He shouted in Richard’s ear. “Would you boys like to ‘ave a whip round, see, to raise me a shilling so I can ‘ave another go?” Chopper leaned over and was sick. The crew nudged one another, and wryly smiled.
Twelve months almost to a day before such things happened every night, Richard wound up the talk with Hilly by saying :
“Well, you never know. Raids may not be anywhere near as bad as we imagine, when we shan’t know who’s right about the Regulars.”
“Don’t you worry,” she replied, having the last word, “they’ll be much worse, and these men you think so hopeless now will be wonderful, honestly wonderful, you’ll see.”
Henry Green, Caught (1943)