“They’ll send you to jail for life.”
“What the hell do I care?”
It was difficult to know what to do with a person like that. If they did put him in jail, they would only be feeding him at the expense of the community, and that would not help to beat the Germans. They could see from the flash in his eyes that he would not be an easy man to break. Local interest asserted itself, and the old fellow with the wagging beard demanded: “If we let ye go, will ye get out o’ this county?”
“What the hell do I care about your old county?” replied Jimmie.
So they turned him loose, and “Wild Bill” also, because it was evident at a glance that he was not long for this world and its wars. The two of them broke into an empty freight-car, and went thundering over the rails all night; and lying in the darkness, Jimmie was awakened by a terrified cry from his companion, and put out his hand and laid it in a mess that was hot and wet.
“Oh, my God!” gasped Bill. “I’m done for!”
“What is it?”
The terrified Jimmie did not even know what that was. There was nothing he could do but sit there, holding his friend’s trembling hand and listening to his moans. When the train stopped, Jimmie sprang out and rushed to one of the brakemen, who came with his lantern, and saw “Wild Bill” lying in a pool of blood, already so far gone that he could not lift his head. “Jesus!” exclaimed the brakeman. “He’s a goner, all right.”
The “goner” was trying to say something, and Jimmie leaned his ear down to him. “Good-bye, old pal,” whispered Bill. That was all, but it caused Jimmie to burst out sobbing.
The engine whistled. “What the hell you stiffs doin’ on this train?” demanded the brakeman—but not so harshly as the words would indicate. He lifted the dying man—no very serious burden—and laid him on the platform of the station. “Sorry,” he said, “but we’re behind schedule.” He waved his lantern, and the creaking cars began to move, and the train drew away, leaving Jimmie sitting by the corpse of his pal. The world seemed a lonely place that long night.
In the morning the station-agent came, and notified the nearest authorities, and in the course of the day came a wagon to fetch the body. What was the use of Jimmie’s waiting? One “Potter’s field” was the same as another, and there would be nothing inspiring about the funeral. The man who drove the wagon looked at Jimmie suspiciously and asked his age; they were scarce of labour in that country, he said-the rule was “Work or fight”. Jimmie foresaw another session with a draft-board, so he leaped on to another freight train, taking with him as a legacy “Wild Bill’s” diary of the unemployed army.