“Hello, yourself,” said the soldier, looking him over with an appraising eye.
“If I was to hire here, when would I start for France?”
“To-night,” said the soldier.
“You kiddin’ me?”
“They ain’t payin’ me to kid people,” said the other; and then, “What’s your hurry?”
“Well, I don’t want to be stalled in a trainin’-camp.”
“You won’t be stalled if you know your business. What are you?”
“I’m a machinist; I’ve repaired bicycles, an’ I know a bit about motor-cycles.”
“Walk in,” said the soldier, and led the way, and presented Jimmie to a sergeant at the desk. “Here’s a machinist,” he said, “and he’s in a hurry to get to work. Runnin’ away from his wife, maybe.”
“There’s a bunch of men starting for the training-camp to-night,” said the sergeant.
“Trainin’-camp?” echoed Jimmie. “I want to go to France.”
The other smiled. “You wouldn’t expect us to send you till we’d tried you out, would you?”
“No, I suppose not,” replied Jimmie, dubiously. He was on his guard against tricks. Suppose they were to enlist him as a worker, and then make him fight!
The other went on. “If you’re competent, you’ll get to France all right. We need men over there in a hurry, and we won’t waste your time.”
“Well, now,” said Jimmie, “I dunno’s you’ll want me at all when you hear about me. I’m a Socialist.”
“Thought you were a machinist,” countered the sergeant.
“I’m a Socialist, too. I was in the strike at the Empire a couple of years ago, and they blacklisted me. I can’t get no work in the big places here.”
“Well,” said the sergeant, “it’s a good town for you to quit, I should say.”
“You want a man like that?” persisted Jimmie.
“What we want is men that know machinery, and’ll dig in and work like hell to beat the Kaiser. If you’re that sort we don’t ask your religion. We’ve got a bunch that start to-night.”
“Holy smoke!” said Jimmie. He had thought he would have time to ask questions and to think matters over, time to see his friends and say good-bye. But the sergeant was so efficient and business-like; he took it so completely for granted that any man who was worth his salt must be anxious to help wallop the Hun! Jimmie, who had come in full of hurry, was now ashamed to back water, to hem and haw, to say, “I dunno; I ain’t so sure.” And so the trap snapped on him—the monster of Militarism grabbed him!
“Sit down,” said the sergeant, and the anxious little Socialist took the chair beside the desk,
“What’s your name?”
“I’m just stayin’ with a friend.”