The “boom” conditions continued in Leesville; speculators were reaping harvests, it seemed as if the masters of the city were all on a spree. Comrade Smith advised Jimmie to stay where he was, for it was getting to be harder and harder for the workers in Leesville to get anything to eat. But out on the heights along the river front, the part of the city called “Nob Hill”, new palaces were rising. And it was that way all over the Eastern part of the country, said the young editor; the rich no longer knew what to do with their millions.
On the day the trial ended, Jimmie stayed in town to attend a meeting of the local and pay his back dues. So he met all his old friends, and heard “Wild Bill” get up and deliver one of his tirades. Bill had in his hand a newspaper clipping telling of the amazing madness that had struck Wall Street. Munition stocks were soaring to prices beyond belief; “war-babies”, men called them, with unthinkably cynical wit. On the “Great White Way”, to which they rushed to celebrate these new Arabian Nights, there was such an orgy of dissipation as the world had never seen. “And is this what we have to slave for!” yelled “Wild Bill”—looking wilder than ever since the police had broken his nose and knocked out his three front teeth. “This is why we are chained to our jobs—shut up in jail if we so much as open our mouths! Piling up millions for old man Granitch, so that young Lacey can marry chorus-girls and divorce them—or steal away another man’s wife, as they say he’s doing just now!”
Then young Emil Forster spoke, explaining to Jimmie the inner significance of terrific world-events. Russia was in the midst of a gigantic offensive, which was meant to overwhelm Austria; England at the same time was hurling in her new armies on the Somme; for these two giant movements they wanted shells—millions and millions of shells from America, which alone could make enough of them. The railroads were clogged with them, they were piled mountain-high at the terminals and ports; whole fleets of steamers were loading up with them, and proceeding to England and France, and to Russia by way of Archangel. And, of course, the German submarines were out to stop them; the whole world was like a powder-magazine over the issue. The President, by his series of notes, had forced Germany to agree not to sink passenger-vessels; but this promise was not easy to keep—accidents kept happening, and the temper of the peoples was rising, America was being drawn nearer every hour to the vortex of this dreadful strife. Such was the picture which Jimmie carried back to the farm; you could hardly wonder if he missed that peace and joy which men are supposed to imbibe at the bosom of their Mother Nature!
JIMMIE HIGGINS MEETS THE OWNER