So matters stood, when on the afternoon before the meeting there came a heavy rain, and the road to the trolley was rendered impossible for a triple-loaded baby-carriage. So there were more hysterics in the family; Jimmie took his wife’s hand in his and solemnly swore to her that she might trust him to go to this meeting, he would not do anything that could by any possibility get him into trouble. He would not try to make a speech, he would not get up and shout—no matter what happened, he would not say a word! He would merely sell pamphlets, and show people to their seats, as he had done at a hundred meetings before. To make sure of his immunity, he would even leave off the red badge which he was accustomed to display on Socialist occasions! By these pledges repeated over and over, he finally succeeded in pacifying his weeping spouse, and gently removed her clutch on his coat-tails, and departed, waving his hand to her and the kids.
The last thing he saw through the rain was Jimmie Junior, flourishing a red handkerchief which Lizzie at the last moment had extracted from her husband’s pocket. The last sound he heard was Jimmie Junior’s voice, shouting:
“You be good now! You shut up!” Jimmie went off, thinking about this little tike; he was five years old, and growing so that you could notice the difference overnight. He had big black eyes like his mother, and a grin full of all the mischief in the world. The things he knew and the questions he asked! Jimmie and Lizzie never got tired of talking about them; Jimmie recalled them one by one, as he trudged through the mud—and, as always, he set his lips and clenched his hands, and took up anew the task of making the world a fit place for a working-man’s child to grow up in!
The principal orator of the evening was a young college professor who had been turned out of his job for taking the side of the working-class in his public utterances, and who was therefore a hero to Jimmie Higgins. This young man had the facts of the war at his finger-tips; he made you see it as a gigantic conspiracy of capitalists the world over to complete their grip on the raw materials of wealth, and on the bodies and souls of the workers. He bitterly denounced those who had forced the country into the war; he denounced the Wall Street speculators and financiers who had made their billions already, and would be making their tens of billions. He denounced the plan to force men to fight who did not wish to fight, and his every sentence was followed by a burst of applause from the throng which packed the Opera-house. If you judged by this meeting, you would conclude that America was on the verge of a revolution against the war.