So Jimmie came back to the bosom of his ancient Mother. But alas, he came, not to find joy and health, not as a free man, to win his own way and make a new life for himself; he came as a soil-slave, to drudge from dawn to dark for a hire that barely kept him going. The farmer was the owner of Jimmie’s time, and Jimmie disliked him heartily, because he was surly-tempered and stingy, abusing his horses and nagging at his hired man. Jimmie’s education in farm-economics was not thorough enough to enable him to realize that John Cutter was as much of a slave as himself—bound by a mortgage to Ashton Chalmers, President of the First National Bank of Leesville. John drudged from dawn to dark, just as Jimmie did, and in addition had all the worry and fear; his wife was a sallow and hollow-chested drudge, who took as many bottles of patent-medicine as poor Mrs. Meissner.
But Jimmie kept fairly cheerful because he was learning new things, and because he saw how good it was for the babies, who were getting fresh air and better food than they had ever had in their little lives before. All summer long he ploughed and harrowed and hoed, he tended horses and cows and pigs and chickens, and drove to town with farm produce to be sold. He would be too tired at night even to read his Socialist papers; for six months he let the world go its way unhindered—its way of desperate strife and colossal anguish. It was the time when the German hordes hurled themselves against the fortifications of Verdun. For five horrible months they came on, wave upon endless wave; the people of France set their teeth and swore, “They shall not pass!” and the rest of civilization waited, holding its breath.
The only chance Jimmie had to talk about these matters was of a Saturday night when he strolled up to the store at a near-by cross-roads. The men he met here were of a new type to him—as different from factory people as if they came from another planet. Jimmie had been taught to laugh at them as “hayseeds”; intellectually he regarded them as relics of a vanished age so, of course, he could not listen to their talk very long without “butting in”. He began with the declaration that the Allies were as bad as the Germans. He got away with that, because they had all been taught to hate the “Britishers” in their school-books, and they didn’t know very much about Frenchmen and “Eye-talians”. But when Jimmie went on to say that the American government was as bad as the German government—that all governments were run by capitalists, and all went to war for foreign markets and such plunder—then what a hornet’s nest he brought about his ears! “You mean to say American armies would do what them Proosians done in Belgium?” And when Jimmie answered “Yes,” an indignant citizen rose from his seat on a cracker-box, and tapped him on the shoulder and said: “Look here, young feller, you better run along home. You’ll git yerself a coat of tar and feathers if you talk too much round these parts.”