Jimmie would try to explain this to his distressed spouse. It was a question of saving a hundred million people from the horrors of war; what did one man matter, in comparison with that? But alas, the argument did not carry at all, the simple truth being that the one man mattered more to Lizzie than all the other ninety-nine million, nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine. And besides, what could the one man do? One poor, obscure, helpless working-man out of a job—
“But it’s the organization!” he cried. “It’s all of us together—it’s the party! We promised to stand together, so we got to do it! If I drop out, I’m a coward, a traitor! We must make the workers understand—”
“But you can’t!” cried Lizzie.
“But we’re doin’ it! Come see!”
“And what can they do?”
Which of course started Jimmy off on a propaganda speech. What could the workers do? Say rather, what could they not do! How could any war be fought without the workers? If only they would stand together, if they would rise against their capitalist oppressors—
“But they won’t!” sobbed the woman. “They got no use for you at all! You go an’ get fired—or you get your face beat in, like poor Bill Murray—”
“But is that any worse than goin’ to war?”
“You ain’t got to go to war!”
“Who says I ain’t? I got to go, if the country goes. They’ll drag me off and make me! If I refuse they’ll shoot me! Ain’t they doin’ that in England and France an’ Roosia an’ all them countries?”
“But will they do it here?” cried Lizzie, aghast.
“Sure they will! That’s exactly what they’re gettin’ ready for—what we’re fightin’ to stop them from! You don’t know what’s goin’ on in this country—listen here!”
And Jimmie hauled out the last issue of the Worker, which quoted speeches made in Congress, calling for conscription, declaring that such a measure was an essential war-step. “Don’t you see what they’re up to? An’ if we’re goin’ to stop them, we gotta act now, before it’s too late. Hadn’t I just as good go to jail here in Leesville as be shipped over to Europe to be shot—or maybe drowned by a submarine on the way?”
And thus a new terror was introduced into Lizzie’s life—robbing her of sleep for many a night thereafter, planting in her mother-heart for the first time the idea that she might be concerned in the world-war. “What’d become of the babies?” she wailed; and Jimmie answered: Whose business was it to bother about working-class babies, under the hellish capitalist system?