JIMMIE HIGGINS PUTS ON KHAKI
There were seven fellows who boarded the train that evening, under the temporary charge of a blacksmith from the near by country. At seven o’clock next morning they presented their papers at the entrance-gate of the training-camp, and under the escort of a soldier were marched down the main street, hanging on to their bundles and suit-cases, and staring about them at the sights.
It was a city inhabited by some forty thousand men, on a site which a year ago had been waste scrub-land. Long rows of wooden buildings stretched in every direction—barracks, dining-rooms, study-rooms, offices, store-houses—with great stretches of exercise and training-grounds between. Just to see this city, with its swarming population of young men, all in uniform, erect, eager, well-set-up and vivid with health, every man of them busy, and every man seemingly absorbed in his job—that alone was a worth-while experience. It was a new kind of city—a city without a loafer, without a drunkard, without a parasite. The seven working-men from Leesville felt suddenly slouchy and disgraced, with their ill-fitting civilian clothes and their miscellaneous bundles and suitcases.
The first thing they did with the new arrivals was to make them clean, to fumigate and vaccinate them. In a Socialist local one meets all sorts of eccentrics, the lunatic-fringe of the movement, and so it happened that Jimmie had listened to a tirade against the diabolical practice of inoculation, which caused more deadly diseases than it was supposed to prevent. But the medical officers of this camp did not stop to ask Jimmie’s conclusions on that vital subject; they just told him to roll up the sleeve of his left arm, and proceeded to wipe his skin clean and scratch it with a needle.
And then came the tailor, to do him up in khaki. This also was something the little machinist had not bargained for; he had taken it as a matter of course that he would be allowed to work for Uncle Sam in any old clothes, just as he had done for Abel Granitch. But no—he must have an outfit, complete even to a tooth-brush, which they would show him how to use. Having been done up neat and tight in khaki, with a motor-wheel on his sleeve to show his branch of the service, he stood and looked at himself in the glass, experiencing a demoralizing and unworthy excitement. He was every bit as handsome as Comrade Stankewitz! When he walked down the street would the girls giggle, and turn to look at him, as they did at the sedate and proper Comrade Emil? So the meshes of Militarism were being woven about the soul of Jimmie Higgins.