This was a war-hospital, and there were terrible sights to be seen here, terrible sounds to be heard; but Jimmie for a long time missed them almost entirely—he was so comfortable! He lay like a nice dozy cat; he ate good things and drank good things, and then he fell asleep, and then he opened his eyes in the sunshine of a golden brown aureole. It was only gradually that he realized that somewhere in the ward a man was choking and gasping all night, because the inside of his lungs had been partly eaten out with poisonous acids.
Jimmie inquired and was told that more than a hundred people on the transport had lost their lives, including several women; the nurse brought a paper with a list of the casualties, among which he read the name of Mike Angoni—his friend the “wobbly” from the far West! Also the name of Peter Toms—the seaman from Cornwall, caught at the eighth attempt! Jimmie read that the submarine which had sunk the transport had been shattered by a depth-charge, and the sea all strewn with the wreckage of it; and strange and terrible as it might seem, Jimmie, the pacifist, the Socialist, experienced a thrill of satisfaction! Not once did he stop to reflect that on board this under-water craft might have been some German comrade, some poor, enslaved, unhappy internationalist like himself! Jimmie wanted the sneaking, treacherous terrors of the sea exterminated, regardless of everything!
The nurse with the halo of golden-brown hair got interested in her American patient, and would sit and talk with him every chance she got. She learned about Eleeza Betooser and the babies who had been blown to pieces in the explosion. Also she learned about Jimmie’s being a Socialist, and asked him questions about it. Wasn’t he just a little hard on the leisure classes? Might it not be that some of the capitalists would be as glad as he to know about a better social system? The young lady pronounced the word “capitalists” with the accent on the “it”, which puzzled Jimmie for a time; also she assured him that “wage schedules” would never go back to what they were before the war, and Jimmie had to ask what a “schedule” might be. He did not have to ask what she meant by a “tart”, because there it was on his tray—a delicious little strawberry pie.
This meant that the destroyer had come to an English port; the nurse was a Britisher. If Jimmie had had tact, he would have remembered that Britishers have an outfit of earls and dukes and lords and things, to which they are sentimentally attached. But tact is not the leading virtue of Socialists; in fact, Jimmie made a boast of scorning it—if people asked his opinion, he “gave it to ’em straight”. So now he caused this white angel to understand that he regarded the effete aristocracies of the old world with abysmal contempt; he meant to put them out of business right off the bat. In vain the white angel pleaded that some of them might be useful people, or at any rate well-meaning: Jimmie pronounced them a bunch of parasites and grafters; the thing to do was to make a clean sweep of them.