Hermann answered grudgingly that the words were all right, but how about the deeds? Also, how about the other Allies—did the President imagime he could boss them? No—to the imperialists of England and France and Italy those fine words were just bait for gudgeons; they would serve to keep the workers quiet till the war was won, and then the militarists would kick out the American President and pick the bones of the carcass of Germany. If they really meant to abide by the President’s terms, why didn’t they come out squarely and say so? Why didn’t they repudiate the secret treaties? Why didn’t England begin her career in democracy by setting free Ireland and India?
So it went; and Jimmie listened to both speakers, and agreed with both alternately, experiencing more and more that distressing condition of mental chaos, in which he found himself of two absolutely contradictory and diametrically opposite points of view.
All winter long the papers had been full of talk about a mighty German offensive that was coming in the spring. The German people were being told all about it, and how it was to end the war with a glorious triumph. In America nobody was sure about the matter; the fact that the attack was boldly announced seemed good reason for looking elsewhere. Perhaps the enemy was preparing to overwhelm Italy, and wished to keep France and England from sending troops to the weakened Italian line!
But now suddenly, in the third week of March, the Germans made a mighty rush at the British line in front of Cambrai; army upon army they came, and overwhelmed the defenders, and poured through the breach. The British forces fell back—every hour it seemed that their retreat must be turned into a rout. Day by day, as the dispatches came in, Jimmie watched the map in front of the Herald office, and saw a huge gap opening in the British line, a spear-head pointing straight into the heart of France. Three days, four days, five days, this ghastly splitting apart went on, and the whole world held its breath. Even Jimmie Higgins was shaken by the news—he had got enough into the war by this time to realize what a German triumph would mean. It took a strong pacifist stomach indeed to contemplate such an issue of events without flinching.
Comrade Mary Allen had such a stomach; to her religious fervour it made no difference whatever which set of robbers ruled the world. Comrade Schneider had it also; he knew that Germany was the birth-place and cradle of Socialism, and believed that the best fate that could befall the world was for the Germans to conquer it, and let the German Socialists make it into a co-operative commonwealth by and by. Comrade Schneider was now openly gloating over this new proof of German supermanity, the invincibility of German discipline. But most of the other members of the local were awed—realizing in spite of themselves the seriousness of the plight which confronted civilization.