"It's all so funny, so perfectly absurd," said Jane with a nervous little laugh.
"Absurd," cried Fleck indignantly, "what do you mean? It's frightfully serious."
"Of course, I understand," Jane hastened to say. "I was just thinking, though, how funny we are here in America, especially in the big cities.
We know nothing whatever about our neighbors, about the people right next door to us. In one apartment we'll be doing all we can to help win the war, and in the apartment next door the people will be plotting and scheming to help Germany win, and it is only by accident we find out about it. Take my own father and mother. They haven't the slightest suspicion of the people next door. They would hardly believe me if I told them the Hoffs were German spies. They see them every day in the elevator. Young Mr. Hoff has been in our apartment several times. My mother has met him and talked with him. I was just thinking how amazed and horrified she will be when she hears about it and learns what I have been doing."
"You are perfectly right," said Fleck soberly. "We are entirely too careless here in America about our acquaintances and neighbors. We know that we are decent and respectable, and we're apt to take it for granted that everybody else is. We don't mind our neighbors' business enough. Nobody in a New York apartment house ever bothers to know who his neighbors are or what their business is, so long as they present a respectable appearance. I know New York people who live on the same floor with two ex-convicts and have lived there for three years without suspecting it. We should have here in America some system of registration as they have in Germany. Tenants and travelers ought to be required to file reports with the police, giving their occupation and other details. If that plan were in use here enemy spies would lack most of the opportunities we have been giving them."
"Yes," said Dean, "you are right. I've lived in Germany. Over there a crook of any sort can hardly move without the police knowing it. Their system certainly has its good points."
"It surely has," Fleck agreed. "If the Prussians' character were only equal to their intelligence they would be the most wonderful people in the world, but they are rotten clear through. They have no conception of honor as we understand it. Only the other day I read of a Prussian officer who led his men in an attack on a chateau, guiding them by plans of the place he had made himself while being entertained in the chateau as a guest before the war."