There came rain and snow and blizzards, but the rail-road construction stopped for nothing. It went on in three shifts, day and night; for half the world was clamouring for the means to blow itself up, and the other half must work like the devil to furnish the means. At least that was the way the matter presented itself to Jimmie Higgins, who took it as a personal affront the way this diabolical war kept pursuing him. He had fled into the country from it, bringing his little family to a tenant-house on an obscure, worn-out farm, several miles from the nearest town; but here all of a sudden came a gang of Dagoes with picks and shovels. They lifted up and set to one side the chicken-house where Lizzie kept her eleven hens and one rooster, and the pig-sty where one little hog gobbled up their table-scraps; and two days later came a huge machine, driven by steam, creeping on a track, picking up rails and ties from a car behind it, swinging them round and laying them in front of it, and then rolling ahead over the bed it had made. So the railroad just literally walked out into the country, and before long whole train-loads of cement and sand and corrugated iron walls and roofing came rattling and banging past the Higgins’s back-door. Day and night this continued; and a little way beyond they knew that a two-mile square of scrubby waste was being laid out with roads and tracks and little squat buildings, set far apart from each other. In a few months the frightened family would lie awake at night and listen to trains rattling past, coming out from the explosives plant, piled to the tops with loads of trinitrotoluol, and such unpronounceable instruments of murder and destruction. And this was the fate which capitalism had handed out to an ardent anti-militarist, a propagandist of international fraternity!
Jimmie Higgins went into the Socialist local now and then, to pay his dues and to refresh his soul on pacifist speeches. Just before Christmas the President of the United States wrote a letter to all the warring nations pleading with them to end the strife; intimating that all the belligerents were on a par as to badness, and stating explicitly that America had nothing to do with their struggle. This, of course, brought intense satisfaction to the members of Local Leesville of the Socialist party; it was what they had been proclaiming for two years and four months! They had never expected to have a capitalist President in agreement with them, but when the opportunity came, they made the most of it; clamouring that the capitalist President should go farther—should back up his words by actions. If the warring nations would not make peace, let America at least clear her skirts by declaring an embargo, refusing to furnish them with the means of self-destruction!