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T h e S t o r y o f
a P a t r i o t
- C h a p t e r 2 1
- MCGIVNEY laid the money on the bed. "There it is," he said, "and if you give me the name of the spy you can take it. But you'd better take my advice and not spend it, because if it turns out that you haven't got the spy, by God, I believe Ed Guffey'd twist the arms out of you!"
Peter was easy about that. "I know he's the spy all right."
"Well, who is he?"
"He's Jack Ibbetts."
"The devil you say!" cried McGivney, incredulously.
"Jack Ibbetts, one of the night keepers in the jail."
"I know him," said the other. "But what put that notion into your head?"
"He's a cousin of the Todd sisters."
"Who are the Todd sisters?"
"Jennie Todd is my girl," said Peter.
"Girl!" echoed the other; he stared at Peter, and a grin spread over his face. "You got a girl in two weeks? I didn't know you had it in you!"
It was a doubtful compliment, but Peter's smile was no less expansive, and showed all his crooked teeth. "I got her all right," he said, "and she blabbed it out the first thing - that Ibbetts was her cousin. And then she was scared, because Andrews, the lawyer, had made her and her sister swear they wouldn't mention his name to a soul. So you see, they're using him for a spy - there ain't a particle of doubt about it."
"Good God!" said McGivney, and there was genuine dismay in his tone. "Who'd think it possible? Why, Ibbetts is as decent a fellow as ever you talked to - and him a Red, and a traitor at that! You know, that's what makes it the devil trying to handle these Reds - you never can tell who they'll get; you never know who to trust. How, d'you suppose they manage it?"
"I dunno," said Peter. "There's a sucker born every minute, you know!"
"Well, anyhow, I see you ain't one of 'em," said the rat-faced man, as he watched Peter take the roll of bills from the bed and tuck them away in an inside pocket.
C h a p t e r 2 2
- PETER was warned by the rat-faced man that he must be careful how he spent any of that money. Nothing would be more certain to bring suspicion on him than to have it whispered about that he was "in funds." He must be able to show how he had come honestly by everything he had. And Peter agreed to that; he would hide the money away in a safe place until he was thru with his job.
Then he in turn proceeded to warn McGivney. If they were to fire Ibbetts from his job, it would certainly cause talk, and might direct suspicion against Peter. McGivney answered with a smile that he wasn't born yesterday. They would "promote" Jack Ibbetts, giving him some job where he couldn't get any news about the Goober case; then, after a bit, they would catch him up on some mistake, or get him into some trouble, and fire him.
At this meeting, and at later meetings, Peter and the rat-faced man talked out every aspect of the Goober case, which was becoming more and more complicated, and bigger as a public issue. New people were continually being involved, and new problems continually arising; it was more fascinating than a game of chess. McGivney had spoken the literal truth when he said that the big business interests of American City had put up a million dollars to hang Goober and his crowd. At the very beginning there had been offered seventeen thousand dollars in rewards for information, and these rewards naturally had many claimants. The trouble was that people who wanted this money generally had records that wouldn't go well before a jury; the women nearly always turned out to be prostitutes, and the men to be ex-convicts, forgers, gamblers, or what not. Sometimes they didn't tell their past records until the other side unearthed them, and then it was necessary to doctor court records, and pull wires all over the country.
There were a dozen such witnesses as this in the Goober case. They had told their stories before the grand jury, and innumerable flaws and discrepancies had been discovered, which made more work and trouble for Guffey and his lieutenants. Thru a miserable mischance it happened that Jim Goober and his wife had been watching the parade from the roof of a building a couple of miles away, at the very hour when they were accused of having planted the suit-case with the bomb in it. Somebody had taken a photograph of the parade from this roof, which showed both Goober and his wife looking over, and also a big clock in front of a jewelry store, plainly indicating the very minute. Fortunately the prosecution got hold of this photograph first; but now the defense had learned of its existence, and was trying to get a look at it. The prosecution didn't dare destroy it, because its existence could be proven; but they had photographed the photograph, and re-photographed that, until they had the face of the clock so dim that the time could not be seen. Now the defense was trying to get evidence that this trick had been worked.
Then there were all the witnesses for the defense. Thru another mischance it had happened that half a dozen different people had seen the bomb thrown from the roof of Guggenheim's Department Store; which entirely contradicted the suit-case theory upon which the prosecution was based. So now it was necessary to "reach" these various witnesses. One perhaps had a mortgage on his home which could be bought and foreclosed; another perhaps had a wife who wanted to divorce him, and could be persuaded to help get him into trouble. Or perhaps he was engaged in an intrigue with some other man's wife; or perhaps some woman could be sent to draw him into an intrigue.
Then again, it appeared that very soon after the explosion some of Guffey's men had taken a sledge hammer and smashed the sidewalk, also the wall of the building where the explosion had taken place. This was to fit in with the theory of the suit-case bomb, and they had taken a number of photographs of the damage. But now it transpired that somebody had taken a photograph of the spot before this extra damage had been done, and that the defense was in possession of this photograph. Who had taken this photograph, and how could he be "fixed"? If Peter could help in such matters, he would come out of the Goober case a rich man.
Peter would go away from these meetings with McGivney with his head full of visions, and would concentrate all his faculties upon the collecting of information. He and Jennie and Sadie talked about the case incessantly, and Jennie and Sadie would tell freely everything they had heard outside. Others would come in - young McCormick, and Miriam Yankovitch, and Miss Nebbins, the secretary to Andrews, and they would tell what they had learned and what they suspected, and what the defense was hoping to find out. They got hold of a cousin of the man who had taken the photograph on the roof; they were working on him, to get him to persuade the photographer to tell the truth. Next day Donald Gordon would come in, cast down with despair, because it had been learned that one of the most valuable witnesses of the defense, a groceryman, had once pleaded guilty to selling spoilt cheese! Thus every evening, before he went to sleep, Peter would jot down notes, and sew them up inside his jacket, and once a week he would go to the meeting with McGivney, and the two would argue and bargain over the value of Peter's news.
C h a p t e r 2 3
- IT had become a fascinating game, and Peter would never have tired of it, but for the fact that he had to stay all day in the house with little Jennie. A honeymoon is all right for a few weeks, but no man can stand it forever. Little Jennie apparently never tired of being kissed, and never seemed satisfied that Peter thoroughly loved her. A man got thru with his love-making after awhile, but a woman, it appeared, never knew how to drop the subject; she was always looking before and after, and figuring consequences and responsibilities, her duty and her reputation and all the rest of it. Which, of course, was a bore.
Jennie was unhappy because she was deceiving Sadie; she wanted to tell Sadie, and yet somehow it was easier to go on concealing than admit that one had concealed. Peter didn't see why Sadie had to be told at all; he didn't see why things couldn't stay just as they were, and why he and his sweetheart couldn't have some fun now and then, instead of always being sentimental, always having agonies over the class war, to say nothing of the world war, and the prospects of America becoming involved in it.
This did not mean that Peter was hard and feelingless. No, when Peter clasped trembling little Jennie in his arms he was very deeply moved; he had a real sense of what a gentle and good little soul she was. He would have been glad to help her - but what could he do about it? The situation was such that he could not plead with her, he could not try to change her; he had to give himself up to all her crazy whims and pretend to agree with her. Little Jennie was by her weakness marked for destruction, and what good would it do for him to go to destruction along with her?
Peter understood clearly that there are two kinds of people in the world, those who eat, and those who are eaten; and it was his intention to stay among the former, group. Peter had come in his twenty years of life to a definite understanding of the things called "ideas" and "causes" and "religions." They were bait to catch suckers; and there is a continual competition between the suckers, who of course don't want to be caught, and those people of superior wits who want to catch them, and therefore are continually inventing new and more plausible and alluring kinds of bait. Peter had by now heard enough of the jargon of the "comrades" to realize that theirs was an especially effective kind; and here was poor little Jennie, stuck fast on the hook, and what could Peter do about it?
Yet, this was Peter's first love, and when he was deeply thrilled, he understood the truth of Guffey's saying that a man in love wants to tell the truth. Peter would have the impulse to say to her: "Oh, drop all that preaching, and give yourself a rest! Let's you and me enjoy life a bit."
Yes, it would be all he could do to keep from saying this - despite the fact that he knew it would ruin everything. Once little Jennie appeared in a new silk dress, brought to her by one of the rich ladies whose heart was touched by her dowdy appearance. It was of soft grey silk - cheap silk, but fresh and new, and Peter had never had anything so fine in his arms before. It matched Jennie's grey eyes, and its freshness gave her a pink glow; or was it that Peter admired her, and loved her more, and so brought the blood to her cheeks? Peter had an impulse to take her out and show her off, and he pressed his face into the soft folds of the dress and whispered, "Say kid, some day you an me got to cut all this hard luck business for a bit!"
He felt little Jennie stiffen, and draw away from him; so quickly he had to set to work to patch up the damage. "I want you to get well," he pleaded. "You're so good to everybody - you treat everybody well but yourself!"
It had been something in his tone rather than his actual words that had frightened the girl. "Oh Peter!" she cried. "What does it matter about me, or about any other one person, when millions of young men are being shot to fragments, and millions of women and children are starving to death!"
So there they were, fighting the war again; Peter had to take up her burden, be a hero, and a martyr, and a "Red." That same afternoon, as fate willed it, three "wobblies" out of a job came to call; and oh, how tired Peter was of these wandering agitators - insufferable "grouches!" Peter would want to say: "Oh, cut it out! What you call your 'cause' is nothing but your scheme to work with your tongues instead of with a pick and a shovel." And this would start an imaginary quarrel in Peter's mind. He would hear one of the fellows demanding, "How much pick and shovel work you ever done?" Another saying, "Looks to me like you been finding the easy jobs wherever you go!" The fact that this was true did not make Peter's irritation any less, did not make it easier for him to meet with Comrade Smith, and Brother Jones, and Fellow-worker Brown just out of jail, and listen to their hard-luck stories, and watch them take from the table food that Peter wanted, and - the bitterest pill of all - let them think that they were fooling him with their patter!
The time came when Peter wasn't able to stand it any longer. Shut up in the house all day, he was becoming as irritable as a chained dog. Unless he could get out in the world again, he would surely give himself away. He pleaded that the doctors had warned him that his health would not stand indoor life; he must get some fresh air. So he got away by himself, and after that he found things much easier. He could spend a little of his money; he could find a quiet corner in a restaurant and get himself a beefsteak, and eat all he wanted of it, without feeling the eyes of any "comrades" resting upon him reprovingly. Peter had lived in a jail, and in an orphan asylum, and in the home of Shoemaker Smithers, but nowhere had he fared so meagerly as in the home of the Todd sisters, who were contributing nearly everything they owned to the Goober defense, and to the "Clarion," the Socialist paper of American City.
C h a p t e r 2 4
- PETER went to see Andrews, the lawyer, and asked for a job; he wanted to be active in the case, he said, so he was set to work in the offices of the Defense Committee, where he heard people talking about the case all day, and he could pick up no end of valuable tips. He made himself agreeable and gained friends; before long he was intimate with one of the best witnesses of the defense, and discovered that this man had once been named as co-respondent in a divorce case. Peter found out the name of the woman, and Guffey set to work to bring her to American City. The job was to be done cleverly, without the woman's even knowing that she was being used. She would have a little holiday, and the spell of old love would reassert itself, and Guffey would have a half dozen men to spring the trap - and there would be a star witness of the Goober defense clean down and out! "There's always something you can get them on!" said McGivney, and cheerfully paid Peter Gudge five hundred dollars for the information he had brought.
Peter would have been wildly happy, but just at this moment a dreadful calamity befell him. Jennie had been talking about marriage more and more, and now she revealed to him a reason which made marriage imperative. She revealed it with downcast eyes, with blushes and trembling; and Peter was so overcome with consternation that he could not play the part that was expected of him. Hitherto in these love crises he had caught Jennie in his arms and comforted her; but now for a moment he let her see his real emotions.
Jennie promptly had a fit. What was the matter with him? Didn't he mean to marry her, as he had promised? Surely he must realize now that they could no longer delay! And Peter, who was not familiar with the symptoms of hysterics, lost his head completely and could think of nothing to do but rush out of the house and slam the door.
The more he considered it, the more clearly he realized that he was in the devil of a predicament. As a servant of the Traction Trust, he had taken it for granted that he was immune to all legal penalties and obligations; but here, he had a feeling, was a trouble from which the powerful ones of the city would be unable to shield their agent. Were they able to arrange it so that one could marry a girl, and then get out of it when one's job was done?
Peter was so uneasy that he had to call up the office of Guffey and get hold of McGivney. This was dangerous, because the prosecution was tapping telephone wires, and they feared the defense might be doing the same. But Peter took a chance; he told McGivney to come and meet him at the usual place; and there they argued the matter out, and Peter's worst fears were confirmed. When he put the proposition up to McGivney, the rat-faced man guffawed in his face. He found it so funny that he did not stop laughing until he saw that he was putting his spy into a rage.
"What's the joke?" demanded Peter. "If I'm ruined, where'll you get any more information?"
"But, my God!" said McGivney. "What did you have to go and get that kind of a girl for?"
"I had to take what I could," answered Peter. "Besides, they're all alike - they get into trouble, and you can't help it."
"Sure, you can help it!" said McGivney. "Why didn't you ask long ago? Now if you've got yourself tied up with a marrying proposition, it's your own lookout; you can't put it off on me."
They argued back and forth. The rat-faced man was positive that there was no way Peter could pretend to marry Jennie and not have the marriage count. He might get himself into no end of trouble and certainly he would be ruined as a spy. What he must do was to pay the girl some money and send her somewhere to get fixed up. McGivney would find out the name of a doctor to do the job.
"Yes, but what excuse can I give her?" cried Peter. "I mean, why I don't marry her!"
"Make something up," said McGivney. "Why not have a wife already?" Then, seeing Peter's look of dismay: "Sure, you can fix that. I'll get you one, if you need her. But you won't have to take that trouble - just tell your girl a hard luck story. You've got a wife, you thought you could get free from her, but now you find you can't; your wife's got wind of what you're doing here, and she's trying to blackmail you. Fix it up so your girl can't do anything on account of hurting the Goober defense. If she's really sincere about it, she won't disgrace you; maybe she won't even tell her sister."
Peter hated to do anything like that. He had a vision of little Jennie lying on the sofa in hysterics as he had left her, and he dreaded the long emotional scene that would be necessary. However, it seemed that he must go thru with it; there was no better way that he could think of. Also, he must be quick, because in a couple of hours Sadie would be coming home from work, and it might be too late.
C h a p t e r 2 5
- PETER hurried back to the Todd home, and there was white-faced little Jennie lying on the bed, still sobbing. One would think she might have used up her surplus stock of emotions; but no, there is never any limit to the emotions a woman can pour out. As soon as Peter had got fairly started on the humiliating confession that he had a wife, little Jennie sprang up from the bed with a terrified shriek, and confronted him with a face like the ghost of an escaped lunatic. Peter tried to explain that it wasn't his fault, he had really expected to be free any day. But Jennie only clasped her hands to her forehead and screamed: "You have deceived me! You have betrayed me!" It was just like a scene in the movies, the bored little devil inside Peter was whispering.
He tried to take her hand and reason with her, but she sprang away from him, she rushed to the other side of the room and stood there, staring at him as if she were some wild thing that he had in a corner and was threatening to kill. She made so much noise that he was afraid that she would bring the neighbors in; he had to point out to her that if this matter became public he would be ruined forever as a witness, and thus she might be the means of sending Jim Goober to the gallows.
Thereupon Jennie fell silent, and it was possible for Peter to get in a word. He told her of the intrigues against him; the other side had sent somebody to him and offered him ten thousand dollars if he would sell out the Goober defense. Now, since he had refused, they were trying to blackmail him, using his wife. They had somehow come to suspect that be was involved in a love affair, and this was to be the means of ruining him.
Jennie still would not let Peter touch, her, but she consented to sit down quietly in a chair, and figure out what they were going to do. Whatever happened, she said, they must do no harm to the Goober case. Peter had done her a monstrous wrong in keeping the truth from her, but she would suffer the penalty, whatever it might be; she would never involve him.
Peter started to explain; perhaps it wasn't so serious as she feared. He had been thinking things over; he knew where Pericles Priam, his old employer, was living, and Pericles was rich now, and Peter felt sure that he could borrow two hundred dollars, and there were places where little Jennie could go - there were ways to get out of this trouble -
But little Jennie stopped him. She was only a child in some ways, but in others she was a mature woman. She had strange fixed ideas, and when you ran into them it was like running into a stone wall. She would not hear of the idea Peter suggested; it would be murder.
"Nonsense," said Peter, echoing McGivney. "It's nothing; everybody does it." But Jennie was apparently not listening. She sat staring with her wild, terrified eyes, and pulling at her dress with her fingers. Peter got to watching these fingers, and they got on his nerves. They behaved like insane fingers; they manifested all the emotions which the rest of little Jennie was choking back and repressing.
"If you would only not take it so seriously!" Peter pleaded. "It's a miserable accident, but it's happened, and now we've got to make the best of it. Some day I'll get free; some day I'll marry you."
"Stop, Peter!" the girl whispered, in her tense voice. "I don't want to talk to you any more, if that's all you have to say. I don't know that I'd be willing to marry you - now that I know you could deceive me - that you could go on deceiving me day after day for months."
Peter thought she was going to break out into hysterics again, and he was frightened. He tried to plead with her, but suddenly she sprang up. "Go away!" she exclaimed. "Please go away and let me alone. I'll think it over and decide what to do myself. Whatever I do, I won't disgrace you, so leave me alone, go quickly!"
C h a p t e r 2 6
- SHE drove him out of the house, and Peter went, though with many misgivings. He wandered about the streets, not knowing what to do with himself, looking back over the blunders he had made and tormenting himself with that most tormenting of all thoughts: how different my life might have been, if only I had had sense enough to do this, or not to do that! Dinner time came, and Peter blew himself to a square meal, but even that did not comfort him entirely. He pictured Sadie coming home at this hour. Was Jennie telling her or not?
There was a big mass meeting called by the Goober Defense Committee that evening, and Peter attended, and it proved to be the worst thing he could have done. His mind was in no condition to encounter the, fierce passions of this crowded assemblage. Peter had the picture of himself being exposed and denounced; he wasn't sure yet that it mightn't happen to him. And here was this meeting - thousands of workingmen, horny handed blacksmiths, longshoremen with shoulders like barns and truckmen with fists like battering rams, long-haired radicals of a hundred dangerous varieties, women who waved red handkerchiefs and shrieked until to Peter they seemed like gorgons with snakes instead of hair.
Such were the mob-frenzies engendered by the Goober case; and Peter knew, of course, that to all these people he was a traitor, a poisonous worm, a snake in the grass. If ever they were to find out what he was doing - if for instance, someone were to rise up and expose him to this crowd - they would seize him and tear him to pieces. And maybe, right now, little Jennie was telling Sadie; and Sadie would tell Andrews, and Andrews would become suspicious, and set spies on Peter Gudge! Maybe they had spies on him already, and knew of his meetings with McGivney!
Haunted by such terrors, Peter had to listen to the tirades of Donald Gordon, of John Durand, and of Sorensen, the longshoremen's leader. He had to listen to exposure after exposure of the tricks which Guffey had played; he had to hear the district attorney of the county denounced as a suborner of perjury, and his agents as blackmailers and forgers. Peter couldn't understand why such things should be permitted - why these speakers were not all clapped into jail. But instead, he had to sit there and listen; he even had to applaud and pretend to approve! All the other secret operatives of the Traction Trust and of the district attorney's office had to listen and pretend to approve! In the hall Peter had met Miriam Yankovich, and was sitting next to her. "Look," she said, "there's a couple of dicks over there. Look at the mugs on them!"
"Which?" said Peter.
And she answered: "That fellow that looks like a bruiser, and that one next to him, with the face of a rat." Peter looked, and saw that it was McGivney; and McGivney looked at Peter, but gave no sign.
The meeting lasted until nearly midnight. It subscribed several thousand dollars to the Goober defense fund, and adopted ferocious resolutions which it ordered printed and sent to every local of every labor union in the country. Peter got out before it was over, because he could no longer stand the strain of his own fears and anxieties. He pushed his way thru the crowd, and in the lobby he ran into Pat McCormick, the I. W. W. leader.
There was more excitement in this boy's grim face than Peter had ever seen there before. Peter thought it was the meeting, but the other rushed up to him, exclaiming: "Have you heard the news?"
"Little Jennie Todd has killed herself!"
"My God!" gasped Peter, starting back.
"Ada Ruth just told me. Sadie found a note when she got home. Jennie had left - she was going to drown herself."
"But what - why?" cried Peter, in horror.
"She was suffering so, her health was so wretched, she begs Sadie not to look for her body, not to make a fuss - they'll never find her."
And horrified and stunned as Peter was, there was something inside him that drew a deep breath of relief. Little Jennie had kept her promise! Peter was, safe!
C h a p t e r 2 7
- YES, Peter was safe, but it bad been a close call, and he still had painful scenes to play his part in. He had to go back to the Todd home and meet the frantic Sadie, and weep and be horrified with the rest of them. It would have been suspicious if he had not done this; the "comrades" would never have forgiven him. Then to his dismay, he found that Sadie had somehow come to a positive conviction as to Jennie's trouble. She penned Peter up in a corner and accused him of being responsible; and there was poor Peter, protesting vehemently that be was innocent, and wishing that the floor would open up and swallow him.
In the midst of his protestations a clever scheme occurred to him. He lowered his voice in shame. There was a man, a young man, who used to come to see Jennie off and on. "Jennie asked me not to tell." Peter hesitated a moment, and added his master-stroke. "Jennie explained to me that she was a free-lover; she told me all about free love. I told her I didn't believe in it, but you know, Sadie, when Jennie believed in anything, she would stand by it and act on it. So I felt certain it wouldn't do any good for me to butt in."
Sadie almost went out of her mind at this. She glared at Peter. "Slanderer! Devil!" she cried. "Who was this man?"
Peter answered, "He went by the name of Ned. That's what Jennie called him. It wasn't my business to pin her down about him."
"It wasn't your business to look out for an innocent child?"
"Jennie herself said she wasn't an innocent child, she knew exactly what she was doing - all Socialists did it." And to this parting shot he added that he hadn't thought it was decent, when he was a guest in a home, to spy on the morals of the people in it. When Sadie persisted in doubting him, and even in calling him names, he took the easiest way out of the difficulty - fell into a rage and stormed out of the house.
Peter felt pretty certain that Sadie would not spread the story very far; it was too disgraceful to her sister and to herself; and maybe when she had thought it over she might come to believe Peter's story; maybe she herself was a "free lover." McGivney had certainly said that all Socialists were, and he had been studying them a lot. Anyhow, Sadie would have to think first of the Goober case, just as little Jennie had done. Peter had them there all right, and realized that he could afford to be forgiving, so he went to the telephone and called up Sadie and said: "I want you to know that I'm not going to say anything about this story; it won't become known except thru you."
There were half a dozen people whom Sadie must have told. Miss Nebbins was icy-cold to Peter the next time he came in to see Mr. Andrews; also Miriam Yankovich lost her former cordiality, and several other women treated him with studied reserve. But the only person who spoke about the matter was Pat McCormick, the I. W. W. boy who had given Peter the news of little Jennie's suicide. Perhaps Peter hadn't been able to act satisfactorily on that occasion; or perhaps the young fellow had observed something for himself, some love-glances between Peter and Jennie. Peter had never felt comfortable in the presence of this silent Irish boy, whose dark eyes would roam from one person to another in the room, and seemed to be probing your most secret thoughts.
Now Peter's worst fears were justified. "Mac" got him off in a corner, and put his fist under his nose, and told him that he was "a dirty hound," and if it hadn't been for the Goober case, he, "Mac," would kill him without a moment's concern.
And Peter did not dare open his mouth; the look on the Irishman's face was so fierce that he was really afraid for his life. God, what a hateful lot these Reds were! And now here was Peter with the worst one of all against him! From now on his life would be in danger from this maniac Irishman! Peter hated him - so heartily and genuinely that it served to divert his thoughts from little Jennie, and to make him regard himself as a victim.
Yes, in the midnight hours when Jennie's gentle little face haunted him and his conscience attacked him, Peter looked back upon the tangled web of events, and saw quite clearly how inevitable this tragedy had been, how naturally it had grown out of circumstances beyond his control. The fearful labor struggle in American City was surely not Peter's fault; nor was it his fault that he had been drawn into it, and forced to act first as an unwilling witness, and then as a secret agent. Peter read the American City "Times" every morning, and knew that the cause of Goober was the cause of anarchy and riot, while the cause of the district attorney and of Guffey's secret service was the cause of law and order. Peter was doing his best in this great cause, he was following the instructions of those above him, and how could he be blamed because one poor weakling of a girl had got in the way of the great chariot of the law?
Peter knew that it wasn't his fault; and yet grief and terror gnawed at him. For one thing, he missed little Jennie, he missed her by day and he missed her by night. He missed her gentle voice, her fluffy soft hair, her body in his empty arms. She was his first love, and she was gone, and it is human weakness to appreciate things most when they have been lost.
Peter aspired to be a strong man, a "he-man," according to the slang that was coming into fashion; he now tried to live up to that role. He didn't want to go mooning about over this accident; yet Jennie's face stayed with him - sometimes wild, as he had seen it at their last meeting, sometimes gentle and reproachful. Peter would remember how good she had been, how tender, how never-failing in instant response to an advance of love on his part. Where would he ever find another girl like that?
Another thing troubled him especially - a strange, inexplicable thing, for which Peter had no words, and about which he found himself frequently thinking. This weak, frail slip of a girl had deliberately given her life for her convictions; she had died, in order that he might be saved as a witness for the Goobers! Of course Peter had known all along that little Jennie was doomed, that she was throwing herself away, that nothing could save her. But somehow, it does frighten the strongest heart when people are so fanatical as to throw away their very lives for a cause. Peter found himself regarding the ideas of these Reds from a new angle; before this they had been just a bunch of "nuts," but now they seemed to him creatures of monstrous deformity, products of the devil, or of a God gone insane.
C h a p t e r 2 8
- THERE was only one person whom Peter could take into his confidence, and that was McGivney. Peter could not conceal from McGivney the fact that he was troubled over his bereavement; and so McGivney took him in hand and gave him a "jacking up." It was dangerous work, this of holding down the Reds; dangerous, because their doctrines were so insidious, they were so devilishly cunning in their working upon people's minds. McGivney had seen more than one fellow start fooling with their ideas and turn into one himself. Peter must guard against that danger.
"It ain't that," Peter explained. "It ain't their ideas. It's just that I was soft on that kid."
"Well, it comes to the same thing," said McGivney. "You get sorry for them, and the first thing you know, you're listening to their arguments. Now, Peter, you're one of the best men I've got on this case - and that's saying a good deal, because I've got charge of seventeen." The rat-faced man was watching Peter, and saw Peter flush with pleasure. Yes, he continued, Peter had a future before him, he would make all kinds of money, he would be given responsibility, a permanent position. But he might throw it all away if he got to fooling with these Red doctrines. And also, he ought to understand, he could never fool McGivney; because McGivney had spies on him!
So Peter clenched his hands and braced himself up. Peter was a real "he-man," and wasn't going to waste himself. "It's just that I can't help missing the girl!" he explained; to which the other answered: "Well, that's only natural. What you want to do is to get yourself another one."
Peter went on with his work in the office of the Goober Defense Committee. The time for the trial had come, and the struggle between the two giants had reached its climax. The district attorney, who was prosecuting the case, and who was expecting to become governor of the state on the strength of it, had the backing of half a dozen of the shrewdest lawyers in the city, their expenses being paid by the big business men. A small army of detectives were at work, and the court where the trial took place was swarming with spies and agents. Every one of the hundreds of prospective jurors had been investigated and card-cataloged, his every weakness and every prejudice recorded; not merely had his psychology been studied, but his financial status, and that of his relatives and friends. Peter had met half a dozen other agents beside McGivney, men who had come to question him about this or that detail; and from the conversation of these men he got glimpses of the endless ramifications of the case. It seemed to him that the whole of American City had been hired to help send Jim Goober to the gallows.
Peter was now getting fifty dollars a week and expenses, in addition to special tips for valuable bits of news. Hardly a day passed that he didn't get wind of some important development, and every night he would have to communicate with McGivney. The prosecution had a secret office, where there was a telephone operator on duty, and couriers traveling to the district attorney's office and to Guffey's office - all this to forestall telephone tapping. Peter would go from the headquarters of the Goober Defense Committee to a telephone-booth in some hotel, and there he would give the secret number, and then his own number, which was six forty-two. Everybody concerned was known by numbers, the principal people, both of the prosecution and of the defense; the name "Goober" was never spoken over the phone.
After the trial had got started it was hard to get anybody to work in the office of the Defense Committee - everybody wanted to be in court! Someone would come in every few minutes, with the latest reports of sensational developments. The prosecution had succeeded in making away with the police court records, proving the conviction of its star witness of having kept a brothel for negroes. The prosecution had introduced various articles alleged to have been found on the street by the police after the explosion; one was a spring, supposed to have been part of a bomb - but it turned out to be a part of a telephone! Also they had introduced parts of a clock - but it appeared that in their super-zeal they had introduced the parts of two clocks! There was some excitement like this every day.
C h a p t e r 2 9
- THE time came when the prosecution closed its case, and Peter was summoned to the office of Andrews, to be coached in his part as a witness. He would be wanted in two or three days, the lawyers told him.
Now Peter had never intended to appear as a witness; he had been fooling the defense all this time - "stringing them along," as he phrased it, so as to keep in favor with them to the end. Meantime he had been figuring out how to justify his final refusal. Peter was eating his lunch when this plan occurred to him, and he was so much excited that he swallowed a piece of pie the wrong way, and had to jump up and run out of the lunch-room. It was his first stroke of genius; hitherto it was McGivney who had thought these things out, but now Peter was on the way to becoming his own boss! Why should he go on taking orders, when he had such brains of his own? He took the plan to McGivney, and McGivney called it a "peach," and Peter was so proud he asked for a raise, and got it.
This plan had the double advantage that not merely would it save Peter's prestige and reputation, among the Reds, it would ruin McCormick, who was one of the hardest workers for the defense, and one of the most dangerous Reds in American City, as well as being a personal enemy of Peter's. McGivney pulled some of his secret wires, and the American City "Times," in the course of its accounts of the case, mentioned a rumor that the defense proposed to put on the stand a man who claimed to have been tortured in the city jail, in an effort to make him give false testimony against Goober; the prosecution had investigated this man's record and discovered that only recently he had seduced a young girl, and she had killed herself because of his refusal to marry her. Peter took this copy of the American City "Times" to the office of David Andrews, and insisted upon seeing the lawyer before he went to court; he laid the item on the desk, and declared that there was his finish as a witness in the Goober case. "It's a cowardly, dirty lie!" he declared. "And the man responsible for circulating it is Pat McCormick."
Such are the burdens that fall upon the shoulders of lawyers in hard-fought criminal trials! Poor Andrews did his best to patch things up; he pleaded with Peter - if the story was false, Peter ought to be glad of a chance to answer his slanderers. The defense would put witnesses on the stand to deny it. They would produce Sadie Todd to deny it.
"But Sadie told me she suspected me!"
"Yes," said Andrews, "but she told me recently she wasn't sure."
"Much good that'll do me!" retorted Peter. "They'll ask me if anybody ever accused me, and who, and I'll have to say McCormick, and if they put him on the stand, will he deny that he accused me?"
Peter flew into a rage against McCormick; a fine sort of radical he was, pretending to be devoted to the cause, and having no better sense than to repeat a cruel slander against a comrade! Here Peter had been working on this case for nearly six months, working for barely enough to keep body and soul together, and now they expected him to go on the and have a story like that brought out in the papers, and have the prosecution hiring witnesses to prove him a villain. "No, sir!" said Peter. "I'm thru with this case right now. You put McCormick on the witness stand and let him save Goober's life. You can't use me, I'm out!" And shutting his ears to the lawyer's pleading, he stormed out of the office, and over to the office of the Goober Defense Committee, where he repeated the same scene.
C h a p t e r 3 0
- THUS Peter was done with the Goober case, and mighty glad of it he was. He was tired of the strain, he needed a rest and a little pleasure. He had his pockets stuffed with money, and a good fat bank account, and proposed to take things easy for the first time in his hard and lonely life.
The opportunity was at hand: for he had taken McGivney's advise and got himself another girl. It was a little romance, very worldly and delightful. To understand it, you must know that in the judicial procedure of American City they used both men and women jurors; and because busy men of affairs did not want to waste their time in the jury-box, nor to have the time of their clerks and workingmen wasted, there had gradually grown up a class of men and women who made their living by working as jurors. They hung around the courthouse and were summoned on panel after panel, being paid six dollars a day, with numerous opportunities to make money on the side if they were clever.
Among this group of professional jurors, there was the keenest competition to get into the jury-box of the Goober case. It was to be a long and hard-fought case, there would be a good deal of prestige attached to it, and also there were numerous sums of money floating round. Anybody who got in, and who voted right, might be sure of an income for life, to say nothing of a life-job as a juror if he wanted it.
Peter happened to be in court while the talesmen were being questioned. A very charming and petite brunette - what Peter described as a "swell dresser" - was on the stand, and was cleverly trying to satisfy both sides. She knew nothing about the case, she had never read anything about it, she knew nothing and cared nothing about social problems; so she was accepted by the prosecution. But then the defense took her in hand, and it appeared that once upon a time she had been so indiscreet as to declare to somebody her conviction that all labor leaders ought to be stood up against the wall and filled with lead; so she was challenged by the defense, and very much chagrined she came down from the stand, and took a seat in the courtroom next to Peter. He saw a trace of tears in her eyes, and realizing her disappointment, ventured a word of sympathy. The acquaintance grew, and they went out to lunch together.
Mrs. James was her name, and she was a widow, a grass widow as she archly mentioned. She was quick and lively, with brilliant white teeth, and cheeks with the glow of health in them; this glow came out of a little bottle, but Peter never guessed it. Peter had got himself a good suit of clothes now, and made bold to spend some money on the lunch. As it happened, both he and Mrs. James were thru with the Goober case; both were tired and wanted a change, and Peter, blushing shyly, suggested that a sojourn at the beach might be fun. Mrs. James agreed immediately, and the matter was arranged.
Peter had seen enough of the detective business by this time to know what you can safely do, and what you had better not do. He didn't travel with his grass widow, he didn't pay her car-fare, nor do anything else to constitute her a "white slave." He simply went to the beach and engaged himself a comfortable apartment; and next day, strolling on the board walk, he happened to meet the widow.
So for a couple of months Peter and Mrs. James set up housekeeping together. It was a wonderful experience for the former, because Mrs. James was what is called a "lady," she had rich relatives, and took pains to let Peter know that she had lived in luxury before her husband had run away to Paris with a tight-rope walker. She taught Peter all those worldly arts which one misses when one is brought up in an orphan asylum, and on the road with a patent medicine vender. Tactfully, and without hurting his feelings, she taught him how to hold a knife and fork, and what color tie to select. At the same time she managed to conduct a propaganda which caused him to regard himself as the most favored of mankind; he was overwhelmed with gratitude for every single kiss from the lips of his grass widow. Of course he could not expect such extraordinary favors of fortune without paying for them; he had learned by now that there was no such thing as "free love." So he paid, hand over fist; he not only paid all the expenses of the unregistered honeymoon, he bought numerous expensive presents at the lady's tactful suggestion. She was always so vivacious and affectionate when Peter had given her a present! Peter lived in a kind of dream, his money seemed to go out of his pockets without his having to touch it.
Meantime great events were rolling by, unheeded by Peter and his grass widow who never read the newspapers. For one thing Jim Goober was convicted and sentenced to die on the gallows, and Jim Goober's associate, Biddle, was found guilty, and sentenced to prison for life. Also, America entered the war, and a wave of patriotic excitement swept like a prairie fire over the country. Peter could not help hearing about this; his attention was attracted to one aspect of the matter - Congress was about to pass a conscription act. And Peter was within the age limit; Peter would almost certainly be drafted into the army!
No terror that he had ever felt in his life was equal to this terror. He had tried to forget the horrible pictures of battle and slaughter, of machine-guns and hand-grenades and torpedoes and poison gas, with which little Jennie had filled his imagination; but now these imaginings came crowding back upon him, now for the first time they concerned him. From that time on his honeymoon was spoiled. Peter and his grass widow were like a party of picnickers who are far away in the wilderness, and see a black thunder-storm come rolling up the sky!
Also, Peter's bank account was running low. Peter had had no conception how much money you could spend on a grass widow who is a "swell dresser" and understands what is "proper." He was overwhelmed with embarrassment; he put off telling Mrs. James until the last moment - in fact, until he wasn't quite sure whether he had enough money in bank to meet the last check he had given to the landlady. Then, realizing that the game was up, he told.
He was surprised to see how charmingly a grass widow of "good breeding" could take bad tidings. Evidently it wasn't the first time that Mrs. James had been to the beach. She smiled cheerfully, and said that it was the jury-box for her once more. She gave Peter her card, and told him she would be glad to have him call upon her again - when he had restored his fortunes. She packed up her suit-case and her new trunk full of Peter's presents, and departed with the most perfect sweetness and good taste.