Also Jimmie watched the target-ranges, from which came all day a rattle of shots, like the whirr of many typewriters. Companies of men came marching, and spread themselves out along the firing-steps, and under the direction of instructors proceeded to contribute their quota to the noise. Over by the targets were others who kept score and telephoned the results; so all day long, winter or summer, rain or shine, men were learning to kill their fellows, mechanically, as if it were a matter of factory routine. At other ranges were moving targets, where sharp-shooters were acquiring skill; you noticed that their targets were never birds and deer, as at the shooting-galleries which Jimmie had seen at the beaches and at Socialist picnics. No, they were the heads or bodies of men, and each body painted a greenish grey, matching the uniforms of the enemy.
So day by day Jimmie lived with the idea of killing, confronting the grim and ferocious face of war. He had thought that repairing motor-cycles would be pretty much the same anywhere you did it; but he found that it was one thing to repair motor-cycles to be ridden by errand-boys and working-men out for a holiday with their sweethearts, and another and entirely different thing to repair them for fighting-men and dispatch-couriers. Jimmie was driven more insistently than ever to make up his mind about this war. It was every day less easy for him to hold two contradictory sets of opinions.
All the men he now met were of one opinion, and by no possibility to be persuaded to consider any other. Jimmie found that he could get them to agree that after this war for democracy there would be vast changes in this world, the people would never more let themselves be hoodwinked and exploited as they had; he found that he could interest them in the idea of having the government run the great industries, producing food and clothing for the people as it was now producing them for the troops. But when he tried to give this programme the name of Socialism, then the trouble began. Weren’t Socialists the lunatics who wanted to have America “lay down” like Russia? The premise from which all discussion started with these men was that America was going to win the war; if you tried to hint that this matter could so much as be hesitated over, you met, first sharp mockery, and then angry looks, and advice to go and take a pill and get the Hun poison out of your system.
Nor was there any use trying to talk about the dangers of militarism. These men knew all about the dangers of militarism—for the Kaiser. The man who is at the buttend of a gun, and knows how to aim it so as to pick off a cat at six hundred yards—that man will let the cat do the worrying. So, at any rate, the matter seemed to these husky young recruits, who were learning to march in the mud and sleep in the rain and chew up carpet-tacks and grind Huns into