The Policeman's Joke

by Unknown

It was a bitterly cold night, but Jones, the watchman at the hole which was being dug in the street at Armstrong Square, knew how to take care of himself. 'I do not mean to freeze if I can help it!' he remarked to his friend, the policeman, who was going round the square on his beat.

'Don't make yourself too comfortable, that's all,' said the policeman, in a warning voice, as he saw Jones settle himself snugly in his rough shelter with a big coke fire in front of him and a thick sack over his knees. 'Maybe, if you fall asleep, you will wake up to find that some rascal has made off with all the spades and pickaxes, and then your job will be some one else's.'

'No fear!' said Jones, putting some fresh lumps of coal on to the tripod fire. 'If I should drop off (and I shan't!), I am a very light sleeper; the least step wakes me, and then my dog will let no one come near the place. Oh, I am all right, and as warm as toast!

'That's more than I can say!' said the policeman, for he had no warm shed to protect him from the keen east wind. 'Well, good-night—and good-night, Jack,' he added, stooping to pat the dog, who was Jones's close friend and companion.

'Ah, he knows you!' remarked Jones, as the dog rubbed his head against the policeman's legs; 'but he can be a bit nasty to strangers, Jack can.'

'I dare say he can,' was the policeman's answer as he went off, and disappeared into the darkness.

In an hour's time he was round again, and stood awhile at the corner of the square. The tripod fire was burning as fiercely as ever, and gave light enough to show Jones—fast asleep! Jack, however, was awake, and stood there, with bristling hair, ready to guard his master.

'Good old Jack!' said the policeman, as he patted the dog's head, and Jack yawned, stretched his legs, and lay down again.

'And he calls himself a light sleeper!' said the policeman, looking at the snoring Jones, who leant back with his arms folded, and his eyes shut.

'It would be a bit of a joke to make off with his lantern and ropes,' said the policeman to himself; 'it might teach him not to be so bumptious about his light sleeping.'

The idea was irresistible, for the policeman was young, and loved a joke. 'I'll do it!' he said at last, and, as he spoke, he went towards Jones's shelter. Jack—faithful Jack—looked up suspiciously, but the policeman said, briskly, 'It's all right, Jack; your master knows me'—and Jack lay down again, feeling perhaps that a policeman could do no harm.

The next time the policeman passed the square he roused the still-sleeping Jones. 'Wake up, Jones,' he said; 'the men will be here directly, and they must not find you sleeping.'

'I only just closed my eyes,' said Jones, drowsily. He sat up, however, and the next minute exclaimed loudly: 'Hallo! who has been here? Thieves! my lantern is gone and the coil of new rope! I'm ruined, I tell you! I shall never get another night job!'

'Gone?' said the policeman, feigning astonishment. 'Surely not. You are too light a sleeper for any one to take your things without you knowing it, you know.'

'I'm ruined!' repeated the wretched Jones.

'Here, I will have a look with my bull's-eye,' said the policeman, thinking the joke had gone far enough. 'Why, here's the lantern—oh! and the rope, too—hid under these planks,' he called out, after a minute's search.

'Found?' said Jones, joyfully. 'I am glad! I will never sleep at my post again! Don't you let out a word of this, constable,' he said anxiously.

'Not I,' said the policeman, firmly; and he kept his word, for he did not wish his joke to get to the inspector's ears.