Jimmie thought it all over while he took a couple more drinks, and finally settled it to himself: “Aw, hell! What do I want with money? I ain’t a-goin’ to live no more!”
JIMMIE HIGGINS TAKES THE ROAD
Jimmie Higgins was wandering down the street, when he ran into “Wild Bill”, who was, of course, greatly surprised to see his friend in a drunken condition. When he heard the reason, he revealed an unexpected side of his nature. If you judged “Wild Bill” by his oratory, you thought him a creature poisoned through and through, a soul turned rancid with envy, hatred and malice and all uncharitableness. But now the tears came into his eyes, and he put his arm over Jimmie’s shoulder. “Say, old pal, that’s bum luck! By God, I’m sorry!” And Jimmie, who wanted nothing so much as somebody to be sorry with, clasped Bill in his arms, and burst into tears, and told over and over again how he had gone to what had been his home, and found only a huge crater blown out by the explosion, and how he had gone about calling his wife and babies, until at last they had brought him one leg of his wife.
“Wild Bill” listened, until he knew the story through and then he said, “See here, old pal, let’s you and me quit this town.”
“Quit?” said Jimmie, stupidly.
“Every time I open the front of my face now, the police jump in it. Leesville’s a hell of a town, I say. Let’s get out.”
“Where’ll we go?”
“Anywhere—what’s the diff? It’s coming summer. Let’s slam the gates.”
Jimmie was willing—why not? They went back to the lodging-house where Bill lived, and he tied up his worldly goods in a gunny-sack—the greater part of the load consisting of a diary in which he had recorded his adventures as leader of an unemployed army which had started to march from California to Washington, D.C., some four years previously. They took the trolley, and getting off in the country, walked along the banks of the river, Jimmie still sobbing, and Bill in the grip of one of his fearful coughing spells. They sat down beside the stream not so far from where Jimmie had gone in swimming with the Candidate; he gave a touching account of this adventure, but fell asleep in the middle of it, and Bill wandered off and begged some food at a farm-house, using his cough as a convenient lever for moving the heart of the housewife. When night came, they sought the railroad and got on board a southward-moving freight; so Jimmie Higgins went back to the tramps life, at which he had spent a considerable part of his youth.
But there was a difference now; he was no longer a blind and helpless victim of a false economic system, but a revolutionist, fully class-conscious, trained in a grim school. The country was going to war, and Jimmie was going to war on the country. The two agitators got off the train at a mining-village, and got a job as “surface men”, and proceeded to preach their gospel of revolt to the workers in a lousy company boarding-house. When they were found out, they “jumped” another freight, and repeated the performance in another part of the district.