In this last place, to be sure, the discussions were rather one-sided. Practically all who came there regarded the munitions industry as an accursed thing, and made no secret of their glee at the misfortunes which befell it; at shipyards which caught fire and burned up, at railroad bridges and ships at sea destroyed by mysterious explosions. Kumme, a wizened-up, grizzle-haired old fellow with a stubby nose and a bullet-head, would fall to cursing in a mingling of English and German when anyone so much as mentioned the fleets of ships that went across the water, loaded with shells to kill German soldiers; he would point a skinny finger at whoever would listen to him, declaring that the Germans in this country were not slaves, and would protect their Fatherland from the perfidious British and their Wall Street hirelings. Kumme took a newspaper printed in German, and a couple of weeklies published in English for the promotion of the German cause; he would mark passages in these papers and read them aloud—everything that the mind of man could recall or invent that was discreditable to Britain, to France and Italy, to Wall Street, and to the nation which allowed Wall Street to bamboozle and exploit it. There were many Americans who had “muck-raked” their own country in the interests of social reform, and had praised the social system of Germany. These arguments the German propagandists now found useful, and Jimmie would take them to the Socialist local and pass them about. From the meeting of the local he and Meissner would go to the saloon where they had rendezvous with Jerry Coleman, who would distribute more ten-dollar bills to be used in the printing of anti-war literature.
Old Kumme had a nephew by the name of Heinrich, who paid him a visit now and then. He was a tall, fine-looking fellow, who spoke much better English than his uncle, and wore better clothes. Finally he came to stay, and Kumme announced that he was to help in the shop. They didn’t need any help that Jimmie could see, and certainly not from a fellow like Heinrich, who couldn’t tell a spoke from a handle-bar; but it was none of Jimmie’s business, so Heinrich put on working clothes, and spent a couple of weeks sitting behind the counter conversing in low tones with men who came to see him. After a while he took to going out again, and finally announced that he had secured a job in the Empire.
And then to the hangers-on in the shop there was another addition—an Irish working man named Reilly. The Irishman was a peculiar problem in the war—the thorn of the Allied conscience, the weak spot in their armour, the broken link in their chain of arguments; and so every German was happy when an Irishman entered the room. This fellow Reilly came to have a punctured tyre mended, and stopped to tell what he thought about the world-situation. Old man Kumme slapped him over the back, and shook him by the hand, and told him he was the right sort, and to come again. So Reilly took to hanging about; he would pull from his pocket a paper called Hibernia, and Kummc would produce from under the counter a paper called Germania, and the two would denounce “perfidious Albion” by the hour. Jimmie, bending over the straightening of a sprocket, would look up and grin, and exclaim, “You bet!”