By desperate, frenzied fighting the British had succeeded in holding up for a few days the colossal German drive. But help was needed—instant help, if civilization was to be saved. The cry came across the seas—America must send assistance—guns, shells, food, and above all else men. Jimmie’s blood was stirred; he had an impulse to answer the call, to rush to the rescue of those desperate men, crouching in shell-holes and fighting day and night for a week without rest. If only Jimmie could have gone right to them! If only it had not been necessary for him to go to a training-camp and submit himself to a military martinet! If only it had not been for war-profiteers, and crooked politicians, and lying, predatory newspapers, and all the other enemies of democracy at home!
Jimmie dropped his letter in the slot, and turned to leave the post office, when his eye was caught by a sign on the wall-a large sign, in bold, black letters: “Your country needs you!” Jimmie thought it was more “Liberty Bond” business; they had been after him several times, trying to separate him from his earnings, but needless to say they hadn’t succeeded. However, he stopped out of curiosity, and read that men were needed to go to France—skilled men of all sorts. There was a long list of the trades, everything you could think of— carpenters, plumbers, electricians, lumbermen, stevedores, railwaymen, laundrymen, cooks, warehousemen—so on for several columns. Jimmie came to “machinists”, and gave a guilty start; then he came to “motor-cycle drivers” and “motor-cycle repairers”—and suddenly he clenched his hands. A wild idea flashed over him, causing such excitement that he could hardly read on. Why should he not go to France—he, Jimmy Higgins! He was a man without a tie in the world—as free as the winds that blow across the ocean! And he was looking for a job—why not take one of these?
It was a way he might share all the adventures, see the marvellous sights of which he had been reading and hearing and without the long delay in a training-camp, without waiting to be bossed about by a military martinet! Jimmie looked to see what pay was offered; fifty-one dollars a month and an “allowance” for board and expenses. At the bottom of the sign he read the words: “Why not work for your Uncle Sam?” Jimmie as it happened was in a fairly friendly mood towards his Uncle Sam at that moment; so he thought, why not give him a chance as a boss? After all, wasn’t that what every Socialist was aiming at—to be an employe of the community, a servant of the public, rather than of some private profiteer?
Jimmie went to the window to inquire, and the clerk told him that the “war-labour recruiting office” was at the corner of Main and Jefferson. He came to the corner designated, and there in a vacant store was a big recruiting sign, “War Labour Wanted”, and a soldier in khaki walking up and down. A week ago Jimmie could not have been bribed to enter a place presided over by a soldier; but he had learned from Emil and Stankewitz that a soldier might be a human being, so he went up and said, “Hello.”