As for Lacey, he was no longer the proud, free, rich young aristocrat; he had suffered, and learned respect for his fellowmen, regardless of money. He heard how this little Socialist machinist, whom once he had cursed in a herd of strikers, had ridden into the jaws of death and helped to nail the Beast through the snout. So he wanted to know about him, and these two sat conversing for hours, each of them discovering a new world.
Just now all Europe and America were engaged in furious argument on the subject of the Bolsheviki. Had they betrayed democracy to the Hun, or were they, as they claimed, leading the way for mankind to a newer and broader kind of democracy? Lacey, of course, believed the former—everyone in the American army believed it, and in fact everybody in France, except a few dyed-in-the-wool reds. When Lacey found that Jimmie was one of these reds, he questioned him, and they had it hot and heavy for days. How could men have done what Lenin and Trotzky had done, unless they were paid German agents? So Jimmie had to set forth the theory of internationalism; the Bolsheviki were making propaganda in Germany, they were doing more to break the power of the Kaiser than even the Allied armies. How did Jimmie know that? He didn’t know the details, of course, but he knew the soul of internationalism; he could tell what Lenin and Trotzky were doing, because he knew what he would be doing, were he in their place!
They talked on and on, and the young lord of Leesville, who would some day fall heir to an enormous fortune, and had been trained to think of it as his by every right, human and divine, heard a little runt of a machinist from the shops explain how he was going to seize that mass of property—he and the rest of his fellows combined into one big union—and how they were going to run it, not for Lacey’s benefit, but for the benefit of all society. Jimmie forgot all respect for persons when he got on this theme; this was his dream, this was the proletariat expropriating the expropriators, and he told about it with shining eyes. In time past the young lord of Leesville would have answered him with insolent serenity, perhaps with a threat of machine-guns; but now he said hesitatingly that it was a large programme, and he feared it couldn’t be made to work.
He was moved to question Jimmie about his past life, so as to understand how such fanaticism had come to be. So Jimmie told about starvation and neglect, about overwork and unemployment, about strikes and jails and manifold oppressions. The other listened, nodding his head. “Yes, of course, that was enough to drive any man to extremes.” And then, thinking further, “I wonder”, said he, “which of us two got the worse deal from life.”
Jimmie was without means of understanding that remark, Lacey had had everything, hadn’t he? To which Lacey answered, “I had too much, and you had too little; and which is worse for a man?”