They walked on, Emil lost in thought. “You know,” he broke out, suddenly, “this war has been a revelation to me—the most horrible you could imagine. It’s as if you loved a woman, and saw her go insane before your eyes, or turn into some sort of degenerate. For I believed in the Christmas-tree Germany; I loved it, and I argued for it, I just couldn’t bring myself to believe what I read in the papers. Now I look back, and it seems like a trap that the German war-lords had set for my mind—reaching way over here into America, and making me think what they wanted me to! Perhaps I’ve gone to the other extreme—I find I distrust everything that’s German. Father accused me of it last night; he was singing an old German song that says that when you hear men singing you may lie down in peace, for bad men have no songs. And I reminded him that the nation which taught that idea had marched into Belgium singing!”
“Gee!” exclaimed Jimmie. He could imagine how old Hermann Forster had taken that remark!
The young carpet-designer smiled, rather sadly. “He says it’s because I’ve put on khaki. But the truth is, I’d been full of these thoughts, and all at once they came to a head. I was drafted, and I had to make up my mind one way or the other. I decided I’d fight—and then, when I’d decided, I wanted to get into it right away.” Emil paused, and looked at his friend and asked, “What about you?”
Jimmie, of course, was a draft-evader, one of the hated “slackers”. Ordinarily, he would have told Emil, and the two of them would have grinned. But now Emil was in khaki, Emil was a patriot; perhaps it would not be wise to trust him entirely! “They haven’t got me yet,” said Jimmie; and then, “I ain’t so sure as I used to be, but I ain’t ready to be a soldier—I dunno’s I could stand bein’ bossed like that fellow does it.”
Emil laughed. “Don’t you suppose I want to learn?”
“But does he need to call you names?”
“That’s part of the game—nobody minds that. He’s putting the pep into us—and we want it in.”
Jimmie found that such a new point of view that he didn’t know what to reply.
“You see,” the other went on, “if you really want to fight, you go in for it; it’s quite remarkable how your feelings change. You imagine yourself in the presence of the enemy, and you know your success depends on discipline; if there’s a leader, and especially if you feel that he knows his business, you’re glad to have him to teach you, to make the whole machine do what you want it to. I know it sounds funny from me, but I’ve learnt to love discipline.” And Emil laughed, a nervous laugh. “This army means business, let me tell you; and it’s got right down to it. They’ve been fighting three and a half years over in Europe, and they send their best men over to show us, and we dig in and learn—I tell you, we work as if the devil was after us!”