And Jimmie Higgins, under martial law, must obey and hold his tongue! Jimmie thought of all his friends at home who had denounced the military machine; he thought of Comrade Mary Allen, of Comrade Mabel Smith, and Comrade Evelyn Baskerville and Comrade Gerrity; he had rejected their advice, and now, if they could see what he was doing, how they would spurn him! Jimmie writhed at the very thought; nor was he consoled when one of the men in his company gave him an “inside” story of what was happening here—that in order to persuade the British to submit their armies to the control of a French general, and thus to save the situation in France, the Americans had been forced to submit their own armies also; and now they found themselves ordered to march in and fight a revolutionary government which had repudiated its debt to France, and so had given offence to a naturally frugal people.
Jimmie met a man whom he might almost have taken for Deror Rabin, so much did he resemble the little Jewish tailor. A big, black-whiskered peasant brought a load of wood for the fires; and there was a Jew helping him—a chap with a sharp face and keen black eyes, his cheeks sunken as if he had not had enough to eat for years, and his chest racked by a cough. He had wrapped his feet and his hands in rags, because he had neither boots nor gloves; but he seemed cheerful, and presently, as he dumped down a load, he nodded and said, “Hello!”
“Hello yourself!” replied Jimmie.
“I speak English,” said the fellow.
It didn’t surprise Jimmie that anybody should speak English; he was only surprised when they didn’t. So he smiled and said, “Sure!”
“I been in America,” went on the other. “I vork by sveat-shop in Grand Street.”
You could see that he preferred gossiping to carrying wood; he stood about and questioned, “Vere you vork in America?” When the peasant grumbled at him in Russian, he went back at his job; but as he went away, he said, “I talk vit you some time about America.” To which, of course, Jimmie answered with a friendly assent.
A couple of hours later, when he went out from his work, he found the little Jew waiting for him in the darkness. “I git lonesome some time for America,” he said; and walked down the street with Jimmie, beating his thin arms to keep warm.
“Why did you come back?” Jimmie inquired.
“I read about revolution. I tink maybe I git rich.”
“Huh!” said Jimmie, and grinned. “What did you get?”
“You belong to union in America?” countered the other.
“You bet I do!” said Jimmie.
“Vat sort of union?”
“You been on strike, maybe?”
“You bet I have!”
“You got licked, maybe?”
“You don’t never scab, hey?”
“You vat you call class-conscious?”