Jimmie finally agreed that he would gag himself, so far as concerned this country-side. What was the use of trying to teach anything to these barnyard fools? They wanted war, let them go to war, and be blown to bits, or poisoned in the trenches! If Jimmie had propaganding to do, he would do it in the city, where the working-men had brains, and knew who their enemies were. So once more Jimmie harnessed up John Cutter’s horses to the plough, and went out into John Cutter’s field to raise another crop of corn for a man whom he hated. All day he guided the plough or the harrow, and at night he fed and cared for the horses and the cows, and then he came home and ate his supper, listening to the rattling of the long freight-train that went through his backyard, carrying materials for the making of TNT.
For the great explosives plant was now working day and night, keeping the war in Jimmie’s thoughts all the time, whether he would or not. In the midnight hours the trains of finished materials went out, making Jimmie’s windows rattle with their rumble and clatter, and bearing his fancies away to the battle-line across the seas, where men were soon to be blown to pieces with the contents of these cars. One night something went wrong on the track, and the train stopped in his backyard, and in the morning he saw the cars, painted black, with the word “danger” in flaming red letters. On top of the cars walked a man with a club in his hand and a bulge on his hip, keeping guard.
It appeared that someone had torn up a rail in the night, evidently for the purpose of wrecking the train; so there came a detective to Jimmie, while he was working in the field, to cross-question him. They had Jimmie’s record, and suspected him of knowing more than he would tell. “Aw, go to hell!” exclaimed the irate Socialist. “D’you suppose, if I’d wanted to smash anything, I’d done it on the place where I work?” And then, when he went home to dinner, he found that they had been after Lizzie, and had frightened her out of her wits. They had threatened to turn them out of their home; Jimmie saw himself hounded here and there by this accursed war—until it finished by seizing him and dragging him to the trenches!
The new Congress had met, and declared a state of war with Germany, and the whole country was rushing into arms. Men were enlisting by hundreds of thousands; but that was not enough for the militarists—they wanted a conscription-law, so that every man might be compelled to go. If they were so sure of themselves and their wonderful war, why weren’t they satisfied to let those fight it who wanted to? So argued the rebellious Jimmie and his anti-militarist associates. But no! the militarists knew perfectly well that the bulk of the people did not want to fight, so they proposed to make them fight. Every energy of the Socialist movement was now concentrated on the blocking of this conscription scheme.