Dangerous Days (Chapter 5, page 1 of 8)


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Chapter 5

The winter which preceded the entrance of the United States into the war
was socially an extraordinary one. It was marked by an almost feverish
gayety, as though, having apparently determined to pursue a policy
dictated purely by self interest, the people wished to forget their
anomalous position. Like a woman who covers her shame with a smile. The
vast number of war orders from abroad had brought prosperity into homes
where it had long been absent. Mills and factories took on new life.
Labor was scarce and high.

It was a period of extravagance rather than pleasure. People played
that they might not think. Washington, convinced that the nation would
ultimately be involved, kept its secret well and continued to preach a
neutrality it could not enforce. War was to most of the nation a great
dramatic spectacle, presented to them at breakfast and in the afternoon
editions. It furnished unlimited conversation at dinner-parties, led
to endless wrangles, gave zest and point to the peace that made those
dinner parties possible, furnished an excuse for retrenchment here and
there, and brought into vogue great bazaars and balls for the Red Cross
and kindred activities.

But although the war was in the nation's mind, it was not yet in its
soul.

Life went on much as before. An abiding faith in the Allies was the
foundation stone of its complacency. The great six-months battle of the
Somme, with its million casualties, was resulting favorably. On the east
the Russians had made some gains. There were wagers that the Germans
would be done in the Spring.

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