“I see Miss Jones has got some of her swell friends visitin’ her,” a soldier who was cutting grass remarked to a comrade newer to the service. “Great swell—they tell me Miss Jones is. They say she’s it in Washington all right—way ahead of some that outranks her. Got outside money—their own money. Handy, ain’t it?” he laughed. “Though it ain’t just the money, either. Her mother was—well, somebody big—don’t just recollect the name. Friendly, Miss Jones is. Not like some, afraid you’re going to forget your place the minute she has a civil word with you. That one with her is some swell from Washington or New York. You can tell that by the looks of her, all right. Lord, don’t they have it easy though?”
It would indeed seem so. Men looking from the windows of the big shops—those great shops where army supplies were manufactured—noticed them with much the same thought, some of them admiringly, some resentfully, as they chanced to feel about things. They drove past building after building, buildings in which hundreds of men toiled on preparations for a possible war. The throb of those engines, sight of the perspiring faces, might suggest that rather large, a trifle extravagant, a bit cumbersome, was the price for peace. But these girls did not seem to be thinking of the possible war, or of the men who earned their bread thwarting it by preparation. One would suppose them to be just two beautifully cared for, careless-of-life girls, thinking of what some man had said at the dance the night before, or of the texture of the plume on some one’s hat, or, to get down to the really serious issues of life, whether or not they could afford that love of a dinner gown.
They left the main avenue and were winding in and out of the by-roads, roads which had all the care of a great park and all the charm of the deep woods. Here and there were soldiers doing nothing more warlike than raking grass or repairing roads. It seemed far removed from the stress and the struggle, place where the sense of protection but contributed to the sense of freedom. There would come occasional glimpses of the river, the beautiful homes and great factories of the busy, prosperous, middle-western city opposite. To the other side was a town, too, a little city of large enterprises; to either side seethed the questions of steel, and all those attendant questions of mind and heart whose pressure grew ever bigger and whose safety valves seemed tested to their uttermost. To either side the savage battles of peace, and there in between—an island—the peaceful preparations for war.
And in such places, sheltered, detached, yet offered all she would have from without, had always lived Katie Jones, a favorite child of the favored men whom precautions against war offered so serene a life; surrounded by friends who were likewise removed from the battles of peace to the peace of possible war, knowing the social struggle only as it touched their own detached questions of pay and rank, pleasant and stupid posts, hospitable and inhospitable commandants.