The little bottle-packer was living in the same place, having rented the upper part of his house to a Polish family to help meet his constantly-rising expenses. He welcomed Jimmie with open arms—patted him on the back with delight, and opened a bottle of beer to treat him. He asked a hundred questions about Jimmie’s adventures, and told in turn about events in Leesville. The local as a whole had stood firm against the war, and was still carrying on propaganda, in the face of ferocious opposition. The working-classes were pumped so full of “patriotic dope”, you could hardly get them to listen; as for the radicals, they were marked men—their mail was intercepted, their meetings were attended by almost as many detectives as spectators. A number had been drafted—which Meissner considered deliberate conspiracy on the part of the draft-boards.
Who had been taken? Jimmie asked. The other answered: Comrade Claudel, the jeweller—he wanted to go, of course; and Comrade Koeln, the glass-blower—he was a German, but had been naturalized, so they had taken him, in spite of his protests; and Comrade Stankewitz—
“Stankewitz!” cried Jimmie, in dismay.
“Sure, he’s gone.”
“Was he willing?”
“They didn’t ask if he was willing. They just told him to report.”
Somehow that seemed to bring the war nearer to Jimmie’s consciousness than anything that had happened so far. The little Roumanian Jew had given him the greater part of his education on this world-conflict; it was over the counter of the cigar-store that Jimmie had got the first geography lessons of his life. He had learned that Russia was the yellow country, and Germany the green, and Belgium the pale blue, and France the light pink; he had seen how the railroads from the green to the pink ran through the pale blue, and how the big fortresses in the pale blue all faced towards the green—something which Meissner and Schneider and the rest of the green people considered a mortal affront, a confession of guilt on the part of the pale blue people. Comrade Stankewitz’s wizened-up, eager little face rose before Jimmie; he heard the shrill voice, trying to compose the disputes in the local. “Comrades, all this vill not get us anyvere! There is but vun question we have to answer, are we internationalists, or are we not?”
“My God!” cried Jimmie. “Ain’t that awful?”
He had got to the point where he was willing to admit that perhaps the Kaiser had got to be licked, and maybe it was all right for a fellow that felt like Emil Forster to go and lick him. But to lay hold of a man who hated war with all his heart and soul, to drag him away from the little business he had painfully built up, and compel him to put on a uniform and obey other men’s orders—well, when you saw a thing like that, you knew about the atrocities of war!
Comrade Meissner went on. Worse than that—–they had taken Comrade Gerrity. And Jimmie stared. “But he’s married!”