And so when Jimmie went home that night he carried with him an armful of revolutionary literature, which during the noon-hour he proceeded to distribute among the workers on the construction-job, which was now inside the preserves of the explosives company. So naturally in the course of the afternoon he was summoned before the boss and discharged; they escorted him to the limits of the property, and told him that if he ever returned he would be shot on sight. And then at night he went up to the cross-roads store and tried to give out his literature there, and got into a controversy with some of the cracker-box loungers, one of whom jumped up and shook his fist in Jimmie’s face, shouting, “Get out of here, you dirty little louse! If you don’t stop talking your treason round here, we’ll come down some night and ride you out of the country on a rail!”
JIMMIE HIGGINS MEETS A PATRIOT
The country, it seemed, was hell-bent for war; and Jimmie Higgins was hell-bent for martyrdom. If the great madness were to take possession of America, it would not be without his having done what he could to prevent it. He would stand in the path of the war chariot, he would throw himself beneath the hoofs of the cavalry; and block the road with his dead body. To which vivid programme there was only one obstacle—or, to be precise, four obstacles, one large and three small, the large one being Eleeza Betooser.
Poor Lizzie of course had no real comprehension of the world-forces against which her husband was contending; to Lizzie, life consisted of three babies, whom it was her duty to feed and protect, and a husband, who was her instrument for carrying out this duty. The world outside of these was to her a vague and shadowy place, full of vague and shadowy terrors. Somewhere up in the sky was a Holy Virgin who would help when properly appealed to, but Lizzie was handicapped in appealing to this Virgin by the fact that her husband despised the Holy One, and would cast insulting doubts upon her virtue.
Now the shadowy terrors of this vast outside world were moving to ends of their own, and her poor, puny husband persisted in putting himself in their way. He had got turned out of his job, for the fourth or fifth time since Lizzie had known him, and he was in imminent danger of getting into jail, or into a coat of tar and feathers. As the controversy grew hotter and the peril greater, Lizzie came to a condition which might have been diagnosed as chronic impending hysteria. Her eyes were red from secret weeping, and at the slightest provocation she would burst into floods of tears and throw herself into her husband’s arms. This would start off Jimmie Junior and the little ones, who always took their cue from him. And Jimmie Senior would stand perplexed and helpless. Here was a new aspect of the heroic life, not dealt with in the books. He wondered—had there ever in history been such a thing as a married martyr? If so, what had this martyr done with his family?