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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 6 1
- PETER awoke next morning with a vivid sense of the pain and terror of life. He had been clamoring to have those Reds punished; but somehow or other he had thought of this punishment in an abstract way, a thing you could attend to by a wave of the hand. He hadn't quite realized the physical side of it, what a messy and bloody job it would prove. Two hours and more he had listened to the thud of a whip on human flesh, and each separate stroke had been a blow upon his own nerves. Peter had an overdose of vengeance; and now, the morning after, his conscience was gnawing at him. He had known every one of those boys, and their faces rose up to haunt him. What had any of them done to deserve such treatment? Could he say that he had ever known a single one of them to do anything as violent as the thing they had all suffered?
But more than anything else Peter was troubled by fear. Peter, the ant, perceived the conflict of the giants becoming more ferocious, and realized the precariousness of his position under the giants' feet. The passions of both sides were mounting, and the fiercer their hate became, the greater the chance of Peter's being discovered, the more dreadful his fate if he were discovered. It was all very well for McGivney to assure him that only four of Guffey's men knew the truth, and that all these might be trusted to the death. Peter remembered a remark he had heard Shawn Grady make, and which had caused him to lose his appetite for more than one meal. "They've got spies among us," the young Irishman had said. "Well, sooner or later we'll do a bit of spying of our own!"
And now these words came back to Peter like a voice from the grave. Suppose one of the Reds who had money were to hire somebody to get a job in Guffey's office! Suppose some Red girl were to try Peter's device, and seduce one of Guffey's men - by no means a difficult task! The man mightn't even mean to reveal that Peter Gudge was a secret agent; he might just let it slip, as little Jennie had let slip the truth about Jack Ibbetts! Thus Mac would know who had framed him up; and what would Mac do to Peter when he got out on bail? When Peter thought of things like that he realized what it meant to go to war; he saw that he had gained nothing by staying at home, he might as well have been in the front-line trenches! After all, this was war, class-war; and in all war the penalty for spying is death.
Also Peter was worried about Nell. She had been in her new position for nearly a week, and he hadn't heard a word from her. She had forbidden him to write, for fear he might write something injudicious. Let him just wait, Edythe Eustace would know how to take care of herself. And that was all right, Peter had no doubt about the ability of Edythe Eustace to take care of herself. What troubled him was the knowledge that she was working on another "frame-up," and he stood in fear of the exuberance of her imagination. The last time that imagination had been pregnant, it had presented him with a suit-case full of dynamite. What it might bring forth next time he did not know, and was afraid to think. Nell might cause him to be found out by Guffey; and that would be nearly as horrible as to be found out by Mac!
Peter got his morning "Times," and found a whole page about the whipping of the Reds, portraying the job as a patriotic duty heroically performed; and that naturally cheered Peter up considerably. He turned to the editorial page, and read a two column "leader" that was one whoop of exultation. It served still more to cure Peter's ache of conscience; and when he read on and found a series of interviews with leading citizens, giving cordial endorsement to the acts of the "vigilantes," Peter became ashamed of his weakness, and glad that he had not revealed it to anyone. Peter was trying his best to become a real "he-man," a 100% red-blooded American, and he had the "Times" twice each day, morning and evening, to guide, sustain and inspire him.
Peter had been told by McGivney to fix himself up and pose as one of the martyrs of the night's affair, and this appealed to his sense of humor. He cut off the hair from a part of his head, and stuck some raw cotton on top, and plastered it over with surgical tape. He stuck another big wad of surgical tape across his forehead, and a criss-cross of it on his cheek, and tied up his wrist in an excellent imitation of a sprain. Thus rigged out he repaired to the American House, and McGivney rewarded him with a hearty laugh, and then proceeded to give some instructions which, entirely restored Peter's usual freshness of soul. Peter was going up on Mount Olympus again!
The rat-faced man explained in detail. There was a lady of great wealth - indeed, she was said to be several times a millionaire - who was an openly avowed Red, a pacifist of the most malignant variety. Since the arrest of young Lackman she had come forward and put up funds to finance the "People's Council," and the "Anti-Conscription League," and all the other activities which for the sake of convenience were described by the term "pro-German." The only trouble was this lady was so extremely wealthy it was hard to do anything to her. Her husband was a director in a couple of Nelse Ackerman's banks, and had other powerful connections. The husband was a violent, anti-Socialist, and a buyer of liberty bonds; he quarrelled with his wife, but nevertheless he did not want to see her in jail, and this made an embarrassing situation for the police and the district attorney's office, and even for the Federal authorities, who naturally did not want to trouble one of the courtiers of the king of American City. "But something's got to be done," said McGivney. "This camouflaged German propaganda can't go on." So Peter was to try to draw Mrs. Godd into some kind of "overt action."
"Mrs. Godd?" said Peter. It seemed to him a singular coincidence that one of the dwellers on Mount Olympus should bear that name. The great lady lived on a hilltop out in the suburbs, not so far from the hilltop of Nelse Ackerman. One of the adventures looked forward to by Reds and pacifists in distress was to make a pilgrimage to this palace and obtain some long, green plasters to put over their wounds. Now was the time at all times for Peter to go, said McGivney. Peter had many wounds to be plastered, and Mrs. Godd would be indignant at the proceedings of last night, and would no doubt express herself without restraint.
C h a p t e r 6 2
- PETER hadn't been so excited since the time when he had waited to meet young Lackman. He had never quite forgiven himself for this costly failure, and now he was to have another chance. He took a trolley ride out into the country, and walked a couple of miles to the palace on the hilltop, and mounted thru a grove of trees and magnificent Italian gardens. According to McGivney's injunctions, he summoned his courage, and went to the front door of the stately mansion and rang the bell.
Peter was hot and dusty from his long walk, the sweat had made streaks down his face and marred the pristine whiteness of his plasters. He was never a distinguished-looking person at best, and now, holding his damaged straw hat in his hands, he looked not so far from a hobo. However, the French maid who came to the door was evidently accustomed to strange-looking visitors. She didn't order Peter to the servant's entrance, nor threaten him with the dogs; she merely said, "Be seated, please. I will tell madame" - putting the accent on the second syllable, where Peter had never heard it before.
And presently here came Mrs. Godd in tier cloud of Olympian beneficence; a large and ample lady, especially built for the role of divinity. Peter felt suddenly awe-stricken. How had he dared come here? Neither in the Hotel de Soto, with its many divinities, nor in the palace of Nelse Ackerman, the king, had he felt such a sense of his own lowliness as the sight of this calm, slow-moving great lady inspired. She was the embodiment of opulence, she was "the real thing." Despite the look of kindliness in her wide-open blue eyes, she impressed him with a feeling of her overwhelming superiority. He did not know it was his duty as a gentleman to rise from his chair when a lady entered, but some instinct brought him to his feet and caused him to stand blinking as she crossed to him from the opposite end of the big room.
"How do you do?" she said in a low, full voice, gazing at him steadily out of the kind, wide-open blue eyes. Peter stammered, "How d-dy do, M - Mrs. Godd."
In truth, Peter was almost dumb with bewilderment. Could it really, possibly be that this grand personage was a Red? One of the things that had most offended him about all radicals was their noisiness, their aggressiveness; but here was a grand serenity of looks and manner, a soft, slow voice - here was beauty, too, a skin unlined, despite middle years, and glowing with health and a fine cleanness. Nell Doolin had had a glowing complexion, but there was always a lot of powder stuck on, and when you investigated closely, as Peter had done, you discovered muddy spots in the edges of her hair and on her throat. But Mrs. Godd's skin shone just as the skin of a goddess would be expected to shine, and everything about her was of a divine and compelling opulence. Peter could not have explained just what it was that gave this last impression so overwhelmingly. It was not that she wore many jewels, or large ones, for Mrs. James had beaten her at that; it was not her delicate perfume, for Nell Doolin scattered more sweetness on the air; yet somehow even poor, ignorant Peter felt the difference - it seemed to him that none of Mrs. Godd's costly garments had ever been worn before, that the costly rugs on the floor had never been stepped on before, the very chair on which he sat had never been sat on before!
Little Ada Ruth had called Mrs. Godd "the mother of all the world;" and now suddenly she became the mother of Peter Gudge. She had read the papers that morning, she had received a half dozen telephone calls from horrified and indignant Reds, and so a few words sufficed to explain to her the meaning of Peter's bandages and plasters. She held out to him a beautiful cool hand, and quite without warning, tears sprang into the great blue eyes.
"Oh, you are one of those poor boys! Thank God they did not kill you!" And she led him to a soft couch and made him lie down amid silken pillows. Peter's dream of Mount Olympus had come literally true! It occurred to him that if Mrs. Godd were willing to play permanently the role of mother to Peter Gudge, he would be willing to give up his role of anti-Red agent with its perils and its nervous strains; he would forget duty, forget the world's strife and care; he would join the lotus-eaters, the sippers of nectar on Mount Olympus!
She sat and talked to him in the soft, gentle voice, and the kind blue eyes watched him, and Peter thought that never in all his life had he encountered such heavenly emotions. To be sure, when he had gone to see Miriam Yankovich, old Mrs. Yankovich had been just as kind, and tears of sympathy had come into her eyes just the same. But then, Mrs. Yankovich was nothing but a fat old Jewess, who lived in a tenement and smelt of laundry soap and partly completed washing; her hands had been hot and slimy, and so Peter had not been in the least grateful for her kindness. But to encounter tender emotions in these celestial regions, to be talked to maternally and confidentially by this wonderful Mrs. Godd in soft white chiffons just out of a band-box this was quite another matter!
C h a p t e r 6 3
- PETER did not want to set traps for this mother of Mount Olympus, he didn't want to worm any secrets from her. And as it happened, he found that he did not have to, because she told him everything right away, and without the slightest hesitation. She talked just as the "wobblies" had talked in their headquarters; and Peter, when he thought it over, realized that there are two kinds of people who can afford to be frank in their utterance - those who have nothing to lose, and those who have so much to lose that they cannot possibly lose it.
Mrs. Godd said that what had been done to those men last night was a crime, and it ought to be punished if ever a crime was punished, and that she would like to engage detectives and get evidence against the guilty ones. She said furthermore that she sympathized with the Reds of the very reddest shade, and if there were any color redder than Red she would be of that color. She said all this in her quiet, soft voice. Tears came into her eyes now and then, but they were well-behaved tears, they disappeared of their own accord, and without any injury to Mrs. Godd's complexion, or any apparent effect upon her self-possession.
Mrs. Godd said that she didn't see how anybody could fail to be a Red who thought about the injustices of present-day society. Only a few days before she had been in to see the district attorney, and had tried to make a Red out of him! Then she told Peter how there had come to see her a man who had pretended to be a radical, but she had realized that he didn't know anything about radicalism, and had told him she was sure he was a government agent. The man had finally admitted it, and showed her his gold star - and then Mrs. Godd had set to work to convert him! She had argued with him for an hour or two, and then had invited him to go to the opera with her. "And do you know," said Mrs. Godd, in an injured tone, "he wouldn't go! They don't want to be converted, those men; they don't want to listen to reason. I believe the man was actually afraid I might influence him."
"I shouldn't wonder," put in Peter, sympathetically; for he was a tiny bit afraid himself.
"I said to him, 'Here I live in this palace, and back in the industrial quarter of the city are several thousand men and women who slave at machines for me all day, and now, since the war, all night too. I get the profits of these peoples' toil - and what have I done to earn it? Absolutely nothing! I never did a stroke of useful work in my life.' And he said to me, 'Suppose the dividends were to stop, what would you do?' 'I don't know what I'd do,' I answered, 'I'd be miserable, of course, because I hate poverty, I couldn't stand it, it's terrible to think of - not to have comfort and cleanliness and security. I don't see how the working-class stand it - that's exactly why I'm a Red, I know it's wrong for anyone to be poor, and there's no excuse for it. So I shall help to overthrow the capitalist system, even if it means I have to take in washing for my living!"
Peter sat watching her in the crisp freshness of her snowy chiffons. The words brought a horrible image to his mind; he suddenly found himself back in the tenement kitchen, where fat and steaming Mrs. Yankovich was laboring elbow deep in soap-suds. It was on the tip of Peter's tongue to say: "If you really had done a day's washing, Mrs. Godd, you wouldn't talk like that!"
But he remembered that he must play the game, so he said, "They're terrible fellows, them Federal agents. It was two of them pounded me over the head last night." And then he looked faint and pitiful, and Mrs. Godd was sympathetic again, and moved to more recklessness of utterance.
"It's because of this hideous war!" she declared. "We've gone to war to make the world safe for democracy, and meantime we have to sacrifice every bit of democracy at home. They tell you that you must hold your peace while they murder one another, but they may try all they please, they'll never be able to silence me! I know that the Allies are just as much to blame as the Germans, I know that this is a war of profiteers and bankers; they may take my sons and force them into the army, but they cannot take my convictions and force them into their army. I am a pacifist, and I am an internationalist; I want to see the workers arise and turn out of office these capitalist governments, and put an end to this hideous slaughter of human beings. I intend to go on saying that so long as I live." There sat Mrs. Godd, with her lovely firm white hands clasped as if in prayer, one large diamond ring on the left fourth finger shining defiance, and a look of calm, child-like conviction upon her face, confronting in her imagination all the federal agents and district attorneys and capitalist judges and statesmen and generals and drill sergeants in the civilized world.
She went on to tell how she had attended the trial of three pacifist clergymen a week or two previously. How atrocious that Christians in a Christian country should be sent to prison for trying to repeat the words of Christ! "I was so indignant," declared Mrs. Godd, "that I wrote a letter to the judge. My husband said I would be committing contempt of court by writing to a judge during the trial, but I answered that my contempt for that court was beyond anything I could put into writing. Wait - "
And Mrs. Godd rose gravely from her chair and went over to a desk by the wall, and got a copy of the letter. "I'll read it to you," she said, and Peter listened to a manifesto of Olympian Bolshevism -
To His Honor: As I entered the sanctuary, I gazed upward to the stained glass dome, upon which were inscribed four words: Peace. Justice. Truth. Law - and I felt hopeful. Before me were men who had violated no constitutional right, who had not the slightest criminal tendency, who, were opposed to violence of every kind.
The trial proceeded. I looked again at the beautiful stained glass dome, and whispered to myself those majestic-sounding words: "Peace. Justice. Truth. Law." I listened to the prosecutors; the Law in their hands was a hard, sharp, cruel blade, seeking insistently, relentlessly for a weak spot in the armor of its victims. I listened to their Truth, and it was Falsehood. Their Peace was a cruel and bloody War. Their justice was a net to catch the victims at any cost - at the cost of all things but the glory of the Prosecutor's office.
I grew sick at heart. I can only ask myself the old, old question: What can we, the people do? How can we bring Peace, justice, Truth and Law to the world? Must we go on bended knees and ask our public servants to see that justice is done to the defenceless, rather than this eternal prosecuting of the world's noblest souls! You will find these men guilty, and sentence them to be shut behind iron bars - which should never be for human beings, no matter what their crime, unless you want to make beasts of them. Is that your object, sir? It would seem so; and so I say that we must overturn the system that is brutalizing, rather than helping and uplifting mankind.
Yours for Peace..Justice..Truth..Law - Mary Angelica Godd.
What were you going to do with such a woman? Peter could understand the bewilderment of His Honor, and of the district attorney's office, and of the secret service department of the Traction Trust - as well as of Mrs. Godd's husband! Peter was bewildered himself; what was the use of his coming out here to get more information, when Mrs. Godd had already committed contempt of court in writing, and had given all the information there was to give to a Federal agent? She had told this man that she had contributed several thousand dollars to the Peoples' Council, and that she intended to contribute more. She had put up bail for a whole bunch of Reds and Pacifists, and she intended to put up bail for McCormick and his friends, just as soon as the corrupt capitalist courts had been forced to admit them to bail. "I know McCormick well, and he's a lovely boy," she said. "I don't believe he had anything more to do with dynamite bombs than I have."
Now all this time Peter had sat there, entirely under the spell of Mrs. Godd's opulence. Peter was dwelling among the lotus-eaters, and forgetting the world's strife and care; he was reclining on a silken couch, sipping nectar with the shining ones of Mount Olympus. But now suddenly, Peter was brought back to duty, as one wakes from a dream to the sound of an alarm-clock. Mrs. Godd was a friend of Mac's, Mrs. Godd proposed to get Mac out on bail! Mac, the most dangerous Red of them all! Peter saw that he must get something on this woman at once!
C h a p t e r 6 4
- PETER sat up suddenly among his silken cushions, and began to tell Mrs. Godd about the new plan of the Anti-conscription League, to prepare a set of instructions for young conscientious objectors. Peter represented the purpose of these instructions to be the advising of young men as to their legal and constitutional rights. But it was McGivney's idea that Peter should slip into the instructions some phrase advising the young men to refuse military duty; if this were printed and circulated, it would render every member of the Anti-conscription League liable to a sentence of ten or twenty years in jail. McGivney had warned Peter to be very cautious about this, but again Peter found that there was no need of caution. Mrs. Godd was perfectly willing to advise young men to refuse military service. She had advised many such, she said, including her own sons, who unfortunately agreed with their father in being blood-thirsty.
It came to be lunch-time, and Mrs. Godd asked if Peter could sit at table - and Peter's curiosity got the better of all caution. He wanted to see the Godd family sipping their nectar out of golden cups. He wondered, would the disapproving husband and the blood-thirsty sons be present?
There was nobody present but an elderly woman companion, and Peter did not see any golden cups. But he saw some fine china, so fragile that he was afraid to touch it, and he saw a row of silver implements, so heavy that it gave him a surprise each time he picked one up. Also, he saw foods prepared in strange and complicated ways, so chopped up and covered with sauces that it was literally true he couldn't give the name of a single thing he had eaten, except the buttered toast.
He was inwardly quaking with embarrassment during this meal, but he saved himself by Mrs. James's formula, to watch and see what the others were doing and then do likewise. Each time a new course was brought, Peter would wait, and when he saw Mrs. Godd pick up a certain fork or a certain spoon, he would pick up the same one, or as near to it as he could guess. He could put his whole mind on this, because he didn't have to do any talking; Mrs. Godd poured out a steady stream of sedition and high treason, and all Peter had to do was to listen and nod. Mrs. Godd would understand that his mouth was too full for utterance.
After the luncheon they went out on the broad veranda which overlooked a magnificent landscape. The hostess got Peter settled in a soft porch chair with many cushions, and then waved her hand toward the view of the city with its haze of thick black smoke.
"That's where my wage slaves toil to earn my dividends," said she. "They're supposed to stay there - in their 'place,' as it's called, and I stay here in my place. If they want to change places, it's called 'revolution,' and that is 'violence.' What I marvel at is that they use so little violence, and feel so little. Look at those men being tortured in jail! Could anyone blame them if they used violence? Or if they made an effort to escape?"
That suggested a swift, stabbing idea to Peter. Suppose Mrs. Godd could be induced to help in a jail delivery!
"It might be possible to help them to escape," he suggested.
"Do you think so?" asked Mrs. Godd, showing excitement for the first time during that interview.
"It might be," said Peter. "Those jailors are not above taking bribes, you know. I met nearly all of them while I was in that jail, and I think I might get in touch with one or two that could be paid. Would you like me to try it?"
"Well, I don't know - " began the lady, hesitatingly. "Do you really think - "
"You know they never ought to have been put in at all!" Peter interjected.
"That's certainly true!" declared Mrs. Godd.
"And if they could escape without hurting anyone, if they didn't have to fight the jailors, it wouldn't do any real harm - "
That was as far as Peter got with his impromptu conspiracy. Suddenly he heard a voice behind him: "What does this mean?" It was a male voice, fierce and trembling with anger; and Peter started from his silken cushions, and glanced around, thrusting up one arm with the defensive gesture of a person who has been beaten since earliest childhood.
Bearing down on him was a man; possibly he was not an abnormally big man, but certainly he looked so to Peter. His smooth-shaven face was pink with anger, his brows gathered in a terrible frown, and his hands clenched with deadly significance. "You dirty little skunk!" he hissed. "You infernal young sneak!"
"John!" cried Mrs. Godd, imperiously; but she might as well have cried to an advancing thunder-storm. The man made a leap upon Peter, and Peter, who had dodged many hundreds of blows in his lifetime, rolled off the lounging chair, and leaped to his feet, and started for the stairs of the veranda. The man was right behind him, and as Peter reached the first stair the man's foot shot out, and caught Peter fairly in the seat of his trousers, and the first stair was the only one of the ten or twelve stairs of the veranda that Peter touched in his descent.
Landing at the bottom, he did not stop even for a glance; he could hear the snorting of Mr. Godd, it seemed right behind his ear, and Peter ran down the driveway as he had seldom run in his life before. Every now and then Mr. Godd would shoot out another kick, but he had to stop slightly to do this, and Peter gained just enough to keep the kicks from reaching him. So at last the pursuer gave up, and Peter dashed thru the gates of the Godd estate and onto the main highway.
Then he looked over his shoulder, and seeing that Mr. Godd was a safe distance away, he stopped and turned and shook his clenched fist with the menace of a street-rat, shrieking, "Damn you! Damn you!" A whirlwind of impotent rage laid hold upon him. He shouted more curses and menaces, and among them some strange, some almost incredible words. "Yes, I'm a Red, damn your soul, and I'll stay a Red!"
Yes, Peter Gudge, the friend of law and order, Peter Gudge, the little brother to the rich, shouted, "I'm a Red, and what's more, we'll blow you up some day for this - Mac and me'll put a bomb under you!" Mr. Godd turned and stalked with contemptuous dignity back to his own private domestic controversy.
Peter walked off down the road, rubbing his sore trousers and sobbing to himself. Yes, Peter understood now exactly how the Reds felt. Here were these rich parasites, exploiting the labor of working men and living off in palaces by themselves - and what had they done to earn it? What would they ever do for the poor man, except to despise him, and to kick him in the seat of his trousers? They were a set of wilful brutes! Peter suddenly saw the happenings of last night from a new angle, and wished he had all the younger members of the Chamber of Commerce and the Merchants' and Manufacturers' Association right there along with Mr. Godd, so that he could bundle them all off to the devil at once.
And that was no passing mood either. The seat of Peter's trousers hurt so that he could hardly endure the trolley ride home, and all the way Peter was plotting how he could punish Mr. Godd. He remembered suddenly that Mr. Godd was an associate of Nelse Ackerman; and Peter now had a spy in Nelse Ackerman's home, and was preparing some kind of a "frame-up!" Peter would see if he couldn't find some way to start a dynamite conspiracy against Mr. Godd! He would start a campaign against Mr. Godd in the radical movement, and maybe he could find some way to get a bunch of the "wobblies" to carry him off and tie him up and beat him with a black-snake whip!
C h a p t e r 6 5
- WITH these reflections Peter went back to the American House, where McGivney had promised to meet him that evening. Peter went to Room 427, and being tired after the previous night's excitement, he lay down and fell fast asleep. And when again he opened his eyes, he wasn't sure whether it was a nightmare, or whether he had died in his sleep and gone to hell with Mr. Godd. Somebody was shaking him, and bidding him in a gruff voice, "Wake up!" Peter opened his eyes, and saw that it was McGivney; and that was all right, it was natural that McGivney should be waking him up. But what was this? McGivney's voice was angry, McGivney's face was dark and glowering, and - most incredible circumstance of all - McGivney had a revolver in his hand, and was pointing it into Peter's face!
It really made it much harder for Peter to get awake, because he couldn't believe that he was awake; also it made it harder for McGivney to get any sense out of him, because his jaw hung down, and he stared with terrified eyes into the muzzle of the revolver.
"M-m-my God, Mr. McGivney! w-w-what's the matter?"
"Get up here!" hissed the rat-faced man, and he added a vile name. He gripped Peter by the lapel of his coat and half jerked him to his feet, still keeping the muzzle of the revolver in Peter's face. And poor Peter, trying desperately to get his wits together, thought of half a dozen wild guesses one after another. Could it be that McGivney had heard him denouncing Mr. Godd and proclaiming himself a Red? Could it be that some of the Reds had framed up something on Peter? Could it be that McGivney had gone just plain crazy; that Peter was in the room with a maniac armed with a revolver?
"Where did you put that money I gave you the other day;" demanded McGivney, and added some more vile names.
Instantly, of course, Peter was on the defensive. No matter how frightened he might be, Peter would never fail to hang on to his money.
"I-I s-s-spent it, Mr. McGivney."
"You're lying to me!"
"Tell me where you put that money!" insisted the man, and his face was ugly with anger, and the muzzle of the revolver seemed to be trembling with anger. Peter started to insist that he had spent every cent. "Make him cough up, Hammett!" said McGivney; and Peter for the first time realized that there was another man in the room. His eyes had been so fascinated by the muzzle of the revolver that he hadn't taken a glance about.
Hammett was a big fellow, and he strode up to Peter and grabbed one of Peter's arms, and twisted it around behind Peter's back and up between Peter's shoulders. When Peter started to scream, Hammett clapped his other hand over his mouth, and so Peter knew that it was all up. He could not hold on to money at that cost. When McGivney asked him, "Will you tell me where it is?" Peter nodded, and tried to answer thru his nose.
So Hammett took his hand from his mouth. "Where is it?" And Peter replied, "In my right shoe."
Hammett unlaced the shoe and took it off, and pulled out the inside sole, and underneath was a little flat package wrapped in tissue paper, and inside the tissue paper was the thousand dollars that McGivney had given Peter, and also the three hundred dollars which Peter had saved from Nelse Ackerman's present, and two hundred dollars which he had saved from his salary. Hammett counted the money, and McGivney stuck it into his pocket, and then he commanded Peter to put on his shoe again. Peter obeyed with his trembling fingers, meantime keeping his eye in part on the revolver and in part on the face of the rat.
"W-w-what's the matter, Mr. McGivney?"
"You'll find out in time," was the answer. "Now, you march downstairs, and remember, I've got this gun on you, and there's eight bullets in it, and if you move a finger I'll put them all into you."
So Peter and McGivney and Hammett went down in the elevator of the hotel, and out of doors, and into an automobile. Hammett drove, and Peter sat in the rear seat with McGivney, who had the revolver in his coat pocket, his finger always on the trigger and the muzzle always pointed into Peter's middle. So Peter obeyed all orders promptly, and stopped asking questions because he found he could get no answers.
Meantime he was using his terrified wits on the problem. The best guess he could make was that Guffey had decided to believe Joe Angell's story instead of Peter's. But then, why all this gun-play, this movie stuff? Peter gave up in despair; and it was just as well, for what had happened lay entirely beyond the guessing power of Peter's mind or any other mind.
C h a p t e r 6 6
- THEY went to the office of the secret service department of the Traction Trust, a place where Peter had never been allowed to come hitherto. It was on the fourteenth floor of the Merchant's Trust Building, and the sign on the door read: "The American City Land & Investment Company. Walk In." When you walked in, you saw a conventional real estate office, and it was only when you had penetrated several doors that you came to the secret rooms where Guffey and his staff conducted the espionage work of the big business interests of the city.
Peter was hustled into one of these rooms, and there stood Guffey; and the instant Guffey saw him, he bore down upon him, shaking his fist. "You stinking puppy!" he exclaimed. "You miserable little whelp! You dirty, sneaking hound!" He added a number of other descriptive phrases taken from the vocabulary of the kennel.
Peter's knees were shaking, his teeth were chattering, and he watched every motion of Guffey's angry fingers, and every grimace of Guffey's angry features. Peter had been fully prepared for the most horrible torture he had experienced yet; but gradually he realized that he wasn't going to be tortured, he was only going to be scolded and raged at, and no words could describe the wave of relief in his soul. In the course of his street-rat's life Peter had been called more names than Guffey could think of if he spent the next month trying. If all Guffey was going to do was to pace up and down the room, and shake his fist under Peter's nose every time he passed him, and compare him with every kind of a domestic animal, Peter could stand it all night without a murmur.
He stopped trying to find out what it was that had happened, because he saw that this only drove Guffey to fresh fits of exasperation. Guffey didn't want to talk to Peter, he didn't want to hear the sound of Peter's whining gutter-pup's voice. All he wanted was to pour out his rage, and have Peter listen in abject abasement, and this Peter did. But meantime, of course, Peter's wits were working at high speed, he was trying to pick up hints as to what the devil it could mean. One thing was quite clear - the damage, whatever it was, was done; the jig was up, it was all over but the funeral. They had taken Peter's money to pay for the funeral, and that was all they hoped to get out of him.
Gradually came other hints. "So you thought you were going into business on your own!" snarled Guffey, and his fist, which was under Peter's nose, gave an upward poke that almost dislocated Peter's neck.
"Aha!" thought Peter. "Nelse Ackerman has given me away!"
"You thought you were going to make your fortune and retire for life on your income!"
Yes, that was it, surely! But what could Nelse Ackerman have told that was so very bad?
"You were going to have a spy of your own, set up your own bureau, and kick me out, perhaps!"
"My God!" thought Peter. "Who told that?"
Then suddenly Guffey stopped in front of him. "Was that what you thought?" he demanded. He repeated the question, and it appeared that he really wanted an answer, and so Peter stammered, "N-n-no, sir." But evidently the answer didn't suit Guffey, for he grabbed Peter's nose and gave it a tweak that brought the tears into his eyes.
"What was it then?" A nasty sneer came on the head detective's face, and he laughed at Peter with a laugh of venomous contempt. "I suppose you thought she really loved you! Was it that? You thought she really loved you?" And McGivney and Hammett and Guffey ha-ha-ed together, and to Peter it seemed like the mockery of demons in the undermost pit of hell. Those words brought every pillar of Peter's dream castle tumbling in ruins about his ears. Guffey had found out about Nell!
Again and again on the automobile ride to Guffey's office Peter had reminded himself of Nell's command, "Stick it out, Peter! Stick it out!" He had meant to stick it out in spite of everything; but now in a flash he saw that all was lost. How could he stick it out when they knew about Nell, and when Nell, herself, was no longer sticking it out?
Guffey saw these thoughts plainly written in Peter's face, and his sneer turned into a snarl. "So you think you'll tell me the truth now, do you? Well, it happens there's nothing left to tell!"
Again he turned and began pacing up and down the room. The pressure of rage inside him was so great that it took still more time to work it off. But finally the head detective sat down at his desk, and opened the drawer and took out a paper. "I see you're sitting there, trying to think up some new lie to tell me," said he. And Peter did not try to deny it, because any kind of denial only caused a fresh access of rage. "All right," Guffey said, "I'll read you this, and you can see just where you stand, and just how many kinds of a boob you are."
So he started to read the letter; and before Peter had heard one sentence, he knew this was a letter from Nell, and he knew that the castle of his dreams was flat in the dust forever. The ruins of Sargon and Nineveh were not more hopelessly flat!
"Dear Mr. Guffey," read the letter, "I am sorry to throw you down, but fifty thousand dollars is a lot of money, and we all get tired of work and need a rest. This is to tell you that Ted Crothers has just broke into Nelse Ackerman's safe in his home, and we have got some liberty bonds and some jewels which we guess to be worth fifty thousand dollars, and you know Ted is a good judge of jewels.
"Now of course you will find out that I was working in Mr. Ackerman's home and you will be after me hot-foot, so I might as well tell you about it, and tell you it won't do you any good to catch us, because we have got all the inside dope on the Goober frame-up, and everything else your bureau has been pulling off in American City for the last year. You can ask Peter Gudge and he'll tell you. It was Peter and me that fixed up that dynamite conspiracy, but you mustn't blame Peter, because he only did what I told him to do. He hasn't got sense enough to be really dangerous, and he will make you a perfectly good agent if you treat him kind and keep him away from the women. You can do that easy enough if you don't let him get any money, because of course he's nothing much on looks, and the women would never bother with him if you didn't pay him too much.
"Now Peter will tell you how we framed up that dynamite job, and of course you wouldn't want that to get known to the Reds, and you may be sure that if Ted and me get pinched, we'll find some way to let the Reds know all about it. If you keep quiet we'll never say a word, and you've got a perfectly good dynamite conspiracy, with all the evidence you need to put the Reds out of business, and you can just figure it cost you fifty thousand dollars, and it was cheap at the price, because Nelse Ackerman has paid a whole lot more for your work, and you never got anything half as big as this. I know you'll be mad when you read this, but think it over and keep your shirt on. I send it to you by messenger so you can get hold of Nelse Ackerman right quick, and have him not say anything to the police; because you know how it is - if those babies find it out, it will get to the Reds and the newspapers, and it'll be all over town and do a lot of harm to your frame-up. And you know after those Reds have got beaten up and Shawn Grady lynched, you wouldn't like to have any rumor get out that that dynamite was planted by your own people. Ted and me will keep out of sight, and we won't sell the jewels for a while, and everything will be all right. "Yours respectfully, "Edythe.
"P. S. It really ain't Peter's fault that he's silly about women, and he would have worked for you all right if it hadn't been for my good looks!"
C h a p t e r 6 7
- SO there it was. When Peter had heard this letter, he understood that there was no more to be said, and he said it. His own weight had suddenly become more than he could support, and he saw a chair nearby and slipped into it, and sat with eyes of abject misery roaming from Guffey to McGivney, and from McGivney to Hammett, and then back to Guffey again.
The head detective, for all his anger, was a practical man; he could not have managed the very important and confidential work of the Traction Trust if he had not been. So now he proceeded to get down to business. Peter would please tell him everything about that dynamite frame-up; just how they had managed it and just who knew about it. And Peter, being also a practical man, knew that there was no use trying to hide anything. He told the story from beginning to end, taking particular pains to make clear that he and Nell alone were in the secret - -except that beyond doubt Nell had told her lover, Ted Crothers. It was probably Crothers that got the dynamite. From the conversation that ensued Peter gathered that this young man with the face of a bull-dog was one of the very fanciest safecrackers in the country, and no doubt he was the real brains of the conspiracy; he had put Nell up to it, and managed every step. Suddenly Peter remembered all the kisses which Nell had given him in the park, and he found a blush of shame stealing over him. Yes, there was no doubt about it, he was a boob where women were concerned!
Peter began to plead for himself, Really it wasn't his fault because Nell had got a hold on him. In the Temple of Jimjambo, when he was only a kid, he had been desperately in love with her. She was not only beautiful, she was so smart; she was the smartest woman he had ever known. McGivney remarked that she had been playing with Peter even then - she had been in Guffey's pay at that time, collecting evidence to put Pashtian el Kalandra in jail and break up the cult of Eleutherinian Exoticism. She had done many such jobs for the secret service of the Traction Trust, while Peter was still traveling around with Pericles Priam selling patent medicine. Nell had been used by Guffey to seduce a prominent labor leader in American City; she had got him caught in a hotel room with her, and thus had broken the back of the biggest labor strike ever known in the city's history.
Peter felt suddenly that he had a good defense. Of course a woman like that had been too much for him! It was Guffey's own fault if he hired people like that and turned them loose! It suddenly dawned on Peter - Nell must have found out that he, Peter, was going to meet young Lackman in the Hotel de Soto, and she must have gone there deliberately to ensnare him. When McGivney admitted that that was possibly true, Peter felt that he had a case, and proceeded to urge it with eloquence. He had been a fool, of course, every kind of fool there was, and he hadn't a word to say for himself; but he had learned his lesson and learned it thoroughly. No more women for him, and no more high life, and if Mr. Guffey would give him another chance -
Guffey, of course, snorted at him. He wouldn't have a pudding-head like Peter Gudge within ten miles of his office! But Peter only pleaded the more abjectly. He really did know the Reds thoroughly, and where could Mr. Guffey find anybody that knew them as well? The Reds all trusted him; he was a real martyr - look at the plasters all over him now! And he had just added another Red laurel to his brow - he had been to see Mrs. Godd, and had had the seat of his trousers kicked by Mr. Godd, and of course he could tell that story, and maybe he could catch some Reds in a conspiracy against Mr. Godd. Anyhow, they had that perfectly good case against McCormick and the rest of the I. W. Ws. And now that things had gone so far, surely they couldn't back down on that case! All that was necessary was to explain matters to Mr. Ackerman -
Peter realized that this was an unfortunate remark. Guffey was on his feet again, pacing up and down the room, calling Peter the names of all the barnyard animals, and incidentally revealing that he had already had an interview with Mr. Ackerman, and that Mr. Ackerman was not disposed to receive amicably the news that the secret service bureau which he had been financing, and which was supposed to be protecting him, had been the means of introducing into his home a couple of high-class criminals who had cracked his safe and made off with jewels that they guessed were worth fifty thousand dollars, but that Mr. Ackerman claimed were worth eighty-five thousand dollars. Peter was informed that he might thank his lucky stars that Guffey didn't shut him in the hole for the balance of his life, or take him into a dungeon and pull him to pieces inch by inch. As it was, all he had to do was to get himself out of Guffey's office, and take himself to hell by the quickest route he could find. "Go on!" said Guffey. "I mean it, get out!"
And so Peter got to his feet and started unsteadily toward the door. He was thinking to himself: "Shall I threaten them? Shall I say I'll go over to the Reds and tell what I know?" No, he had better not do that; the least hint of that might cause Guffey to put him in the hole! But then, how was it possible for Guffey to let him go, to take a chance of his telling? Right now, Guffey must be thinking to himself that Peter might go away, and in a fit of rage or of despair might let out the truth to one of the Reds, and then everything would be ruined forever. No, surely Guffey would not take such a chance! Peter walked very slowly to the door, he opened the door reluctantly, he stood there, holding on as if he were too weak to keep his balance; he waited - waited -
And sure enough, Guffey spoke. "Come back here, you mut!" And Peter turned and started towards the head detective, stretching out his hands in a gesture of submission; if it had been in an Eastern country, he would have fallen on his knees and struck his forehead three times in the dust. "Please, please, Mr. Guffey!" he wailed. "Give me another chance!"
"If I put you to work again," snarled Guffey, "will you do what I tell you, and not what you want to do yourself?"
"Yes, yes, Mr. Guffey."
"You'll do no more frame-ups but my frame-ups?"
"Yes, yes, Mr. Guffey."
"All right, then, I'll give you one more chance. But by God, if I find you so much as winking at another girl, I'll pull your eye teeth out!"
And Peter's heart leaped with relief. "Oh, thank you, thank you, Mr. Guffey!"
"I'll pay you twenty dollars a week, and no more," said Guffey. "You're worth more, but I can't trust you with money, and you can take it or leave it."
"That'll be perfectly satisfactory, Mr. Guffey," said Peter.
C h a p t e r 6 8
- SO there was the end of high life for Peter Gudge. He moved no more in the celestial circles of Mount Olympus. He never again saw the Chinese butler of Mr. Ackerman, nor the French parlor-maid of Mrs. Godd. He would no more be smiled at by the two hundred and twenty-four boy angels of the ceiling of the Hotel de Soto lobby. Peter would eat his meals now seated on a stool in front of a lunch counter, he would really be the humble proletarian, the "Jimmie Higgins" of his role. He put behind him bright dreams of an accumulated competence, and settled down to the hard day's work of cultivating the acquaintance of agitators, visiting their homes and watching their activities, getting samples of the literature they were circulating, stealing their letters and address-books and note-books, and taking all these to Room 427 of the American House.
These were busy times just now. In spite of the whippings and the lynchings and the jailings - or perhaps because of these very things - the radical movement was seething. The I. W. Ws. had reorganized secretly, and were accumulating a defense fund for their prisoners; also, the Socialists of all shades of red and pink were busy, and the labor men had never ceased their agitation over the Goober case. Just now they were redoubling their activities, because Mrs. Goober was being tried for her life. Over in Russia a mob of Anarchists had made a demonstration in front of the American Legation, because of the mistreatment of a man they called "Guba." At any rate, that was the way the news came over the cables, and the news-distributing associations of the country had been so successful in keeping the Goober case from becoming known that the editors of the New York papers really did not know any better, and printed the name as it came, "Guba!" which of course gave the radicals a fine chance to laugh at them, and say, how much they cared about labor!
The extreme Reds seemed to have everything their own way in Russia. Late in the fall they overthrew the Russian government, and took control of the country, and proceeded to make peace with Germany; which put the Allies in a frightful predicament, and introduced a new word into the popular vocabulary, the dread word "Bolshevik." After that, if a man suggested municipal ownership of ice-wagons, all you had to do was to call him a "Bolshevik" and he was done for.
However, the extremists replied to this campaign of abuse by taking up the name and wearing it as a badge. The Socialist local of American City adopted amid a storm of applause a resolution to call itself the "Bolshevik local," and the "left-wingers" had everything their own way for a time. The leader in this wing was a man named Herbert Ashton, editor of the American City "Clarion," the party's paper. A newspaper-man, lean, sallow, and incredibly bitter, Ashton apparently had spent all his life studying the intrigues of international capital, and one never heard an argument advanced that he was not ready with an answer. He saw the war as a struggle between the old established commercialism of Great Britain, whose government he described as "a gigantic trading corporation," and the newly arisen and more aggressive commercialism of Germany.
Ashton would take the formulas of the war propagandists and treat them as a terrier treats a rat. So this was a war for democracy! The bankers of Paris had for the last twenty years been subsidizing the Russian Tsars, who had shipped a hundred thousand exiles to Siberia to make the world safe for democracy! The British Empire also had gone to war for democracy - first in Ireland, then in India and Egypt, then in the Whitechapel slums! No, said Ashton, the workers were not to be fooled with such bunk. Wall Street had loaned some billions of dollars to the Allied bankers, and now the American people were asked to shed their blood to make the world safe for those loans!
Peter had been urging McGivney to put an end to this sort of agitation, and now the rat-faced man told him that the time for action had come. There was to be a big mass meeting to celebrate the Bolshevik revolution, and McGivney warned Peter to keep out of sight at that meeting, because there might be some clubbing. Peter left off his red badge, and the button with the clasped hands and went up into the gallery and lost himself in the crowd. He saw a great many "bulls" whom he knew scattered thru the audience, and also he saw the Chief of Police and the head of the city's detective bureau. When Herbert Ashton was half way thru his tirade, the Chief strode up to the platform and ordered him under arrest, and a score of policemen put themselves between the prisoner and the howling audience.
Altogether they arrested seven people; and next morning, when they saw how much enthusiasm their action had awakened in the newspapers, they decided to go farther yet. A dozen of Guffey's men, with another dozen from the District Attorney's office, raided the office of Ashton's paper, the "Clarion," kicked the editorial staff downstairs or threw them out of the windows, and proceeded to smash the typewriters and the printing presses, and to carry off the subscription lists and burn a ton or two of "literature" in the back yard. Also they raided the headquarters of the "Bolshevik local," and placed the seven members of the executive committee under arrest, and the judge fixed the bail of each of them at twenty-five thousand dollars, and every day for a week or two the American City "Times" would send a man around to Guffey's office, and Guffey would furnish him with a mass of material which Peter had prepared, showing that the Socialist program was one of terrorism and murder.
Almost every day now Peter rendered some such service to his country. He discovered where the I. W. W. had hidden a printing press with which they were getting out circulars and leaflets, and this place was raided, and the press confiscated, and half a dozen more agitators thrown into jail. These men declared a hunger strike, and tried to starve themselves to death as a protest against the beatings they got; and then some hysterical women met in the home of Ada Ruth, and drew up a circular of protest, and Peter kept track of the mailing of this circular, and all the copies were confiscated in the post-office, and so one more conspiracy was foiled. They now had several men at work in the post-office, secretly opening the mail of the agitators; and every now and then they would issue an order forbidding mail to be delivered to persons whose ideas were not sound.
Also the post-office department cancelled the second class mailing privileges of the "Clarion," and later it barred the paper from the mails entirely. A couple of "comrades" with automobiles then took up the work of delivering the paper in the nearby towns; so Peter was sent to get acquainted with these fellows, and in the night time some of Guffey's men entered the garage, and fixed one of the cars so that its steering gear went wrong and very nearly broke the driver's neck. So yet another conspiracy was foiled!
C h a p t e r 6 9
- PETER was really happy now, because the authorities were thoroughly roused, and when he brought them new facts, he had the satisfaction of seeing something done about it. Ostensibly the action was taken by the Federal agents, or by the District Attorney's office, or by the city police and detectives; but Peter knew that it was always himself and the rest of Guffey's agents, pulling the wires behind the scenes. Guffey had the money, he was working for the men who really counted in American City; Guffey was the real boss. And all over the country it was the same; the Reds were being put out of business by the secret agents of the Chambers of Commerce and the Merchants' and Manufacturers' Associations, and the "Improve America League," and such like camouflaged organizations.
They had everything their own way, because the country was at war, the war excitement was blazing like a prairie fire all over the land, and all you had to do was to call a man a pro-German or a Bolshevik, and to be sufficiently excited about it, and you could get a mob together and go to his home and horsewhip him or tar and feather him or lynch him. For years the big business men had been hating the agitators, and now at last they had their chance, and in every town, in every shop and mill and mine they had some Peter Gudge at work, a "Jimmie Higgins" of the "Whites," engaged in spying and "snooping" upon the "Jimmie Higgins" of the "Reds." Everywhere they had Guffeys and McGivneys to direct these activities, and they had "strong arm men," with guns on their hips and deputy sheriffs' and other badges inside their coats, giving them unlimited right to protect the country from traitors.
There were three or four million men in the training camps, and every week great convoys were sent out from the Eastern ports, loaded with troops for "over there." Billions of dollars worth of munitions and supplies were going, and all the yearnings and patriotic fervors of the country were likewise going "over there." Peter read more speeches and sermons and editorials, and was proud and glad, knowing that he was taking his humble part in the great adventure. When he read that the biggest captains of industry and finance were selling their services to the government for the sum of one dollar a year, how could he complain, who was getting twenty dollars every week? When some of the Reds in their meetings or in their "literature" declared that these captains of industry and finance were the heads of companies which were charging the government enormous prices and making anywhere from three to ten times the profits they had made before the war - then Peter would know that he was listening to an extremely dangerous Bolshevik; he would take the name of the man to McGivney, and McGivney would pull his secret wires, and the man would suddenly find himself out of a job - or maybe being prosecuted by the health department of the city for having set out a garbage can without a cover.
After persistent agitation, the radicals had succeeded in persuading a judge to let out McCormick and the rest of the conspirators on fifty thousand dollars bail apiece. That was most exasperating to Peter, because it was obvious that when you put a Red into jail, you made him a martyr to the rest of the Reds you made him conspicuous to the whole community, and then if you let him out again, his speaking and agitating were ten times as effective as before. Either you ought to keep an agitator in jail for good, or else you ought not put him in at all. But the judges didn't see that - their heads were full of a lot of legal bunk, and they let David Andrews and the other Red lawyers hood-wink them. Herbert Ashton and his Socialist crowd also got out on bail, and the "Clarion" was still published and openly sold on the news-stands. While it didn't dare oppose the war any more, it printed every impolite thing it could possibly collect about the "gigantic trading corporation" known as the British Government, and also about the "French bankers" and the "Italian imperialists." It clamored for democracy for Ireland and Egypt and India, and shamelessly defended the Bolsheviki, those pro-German conspirators and nationalizers of women.
So Peter proceeded to collect more evidence against the "Clarion" staff, and against the I. W. Ws. Presently he read the good news that the government had arrested a couple of hundred of the I. W. W. leaders all over the country, and also the national leaders of the Socialists, and was going to try them all for conspiracy. Then came the trial of McCormick and Henderson and Gus and the rest; and Peter picked up his "Times" one morning, and read on the front page some news that caused him to gasp. Joe Angell, one of the leaders in the dynamite conspiracy, had turned state's evidence! He had revealed to the District Attorney, not only the part which he himself had played in the plan to dynamite Nelse Ackerman's home, but he had told everything that the others had done - just how the dynamite had been got and prepared, and the names of all the leading citizens of the community who were to share Nelse Ackerman's fate! Peter read, on and on, breathless with wonder, and when he got thru with the story he rolled back on his bed and laughed out loud. By heck, that was the limit! Peter had framed a frame-up on Guffey's man, and of course Guffey couldn't send this man to prison; so he had had him turn state's evidence, and was letting him go free, as his reward for telling on the others!
The court calendars were now crowded with "espionage" cases; pacifist clergymen who had tried to preach sermons, and labor leaders who bad tried to call strikes; members of the Anti-conscription League and their pupils, the draft-dodgers and slackers; Anarchists and Communists and Quakers, I. W. Ws., and Socialists and "Russellites." There were several trials going on all the time, and in almost every case Peter had a finger, Peter was called on to get this bit of evidence, or to investigate that juror, or to prepare some little job against a witness for the defense. Peter was wrapped up in the fate of each case, and each conviction was a personal triumph. As there was always a conviction, Peter began to swell up again with patriotic fervor, and the memory of Nell Doolin and Ted Crothers slipped far into the background. When "Mac" and his fellow dynamiters were sentenced to twenty years apiece, Peter felt that he had atoned for all his sins, and he ventured timidly to point out to McGivney that the cost of living was going up all the time, and that he had kept his promise not to wink at a woman for six months. McGivney said all right, they would raise him to thirty dollars a week.
C h a p t e r 7 0
- OF course Peter's statement to McGivney had not been literally true. He had winked at a number of women, but the trouble was none had returned his wink. First he had made friendly advances toward Miriam Yankovich, who was buxom and not bad looking; but Miriam's thoughts were evidently all with McCormick in jail; and then, after her experience with Bob Ogden, Miriam had to go to a hospital, and of course Peter didn't want to fool with an invalid. He made himself agreeable to others of the Red girls, and they seemed to like him; they treated him as a good comrade, but somehow they did not seem to act up to McGivney's theories of "free love." So Peter made up his mind that he would find him a girl who was not a Red. It would give him a little relief now and then, a little fun. The Reds seldom had any fun - their idea of an adventure was to get off in a room by themselves and sing the International or the Red Flag in whispers, so the police couldn't hear them.
It was Saturday afternoon, and Peter went to a clothing store kept by a Socialist, and bought himself a new hat and a new suit of clothes on credit. Then he went out on the street, and saw a neat little girl going into a picture-show, and followed her, and they struck up an acquaintance and had supper together. She was what Peter called a "swell dresser," and it transpired that she worked in a manicure parlor. Her idea of fun corresponded to Peter's, and Peter spent all the money he had that Saturday evening, and made up his mind that if he could get something new on the Reds in the course of the week, he would strike McGivney for forty dollars.
Next morning was Easter Sunday, and Peter met his manicurist by appointment, and they went for a stroll on Park Avenue, which was the aristocratic street of American City and the scene of the "Easter parade." It was war time, and many of the houses had flags out, and many of the men were in uniform, and all of the sermons dealt with martial themes. Christ, it appeared, was risen again to make the world safe for democracy, and to establish self-determination for all people; and Peter and Miss Frisbie both had on their best clothes, and watched the crowds in the "Easter parade," and Miss Frisbie studied the costumes and make-up of the ladies, and picked up scraps of their conversation and whispered them to Peter, and made Peter feel that he was back on Mount Olympus again.
They turned into one of the swell Park Avenue churches; the Church of the Divine Compassion it was called, and it was very "high," with candles and incense - althogh you could hardly smell the incense on this occasion for the scent of the Easter lilies and the ladies. Peter and his friend were escorted to one of the leather covered pews, and they heard the Rev. de Willoughby Stotterbridge, a famous pulpit orator, deliver one of those patriotic sermons which were quoted in the "Times" almost every Monday morning. The Rev. de Willoughby Stotterbridge quoted some Old Testament text about exterminating the enemies of the Lord, and he sang the triumph of American arms, and the overwhelming superiority of American munitions. He denounced the Bolsheviks and all other traitors, and called for their instant suppression; he didn't say that he had actually been among the crowd which had horse-whipped the I. W. Ws. and smashed the printing presses and typewriters of the Socialists, but he made it unmistakably clear that that was what he wanted, and Peter's bosom swelled with happy pride. It was something to a man to know that he was serving his country and keeping the old flag waving; but it was still more to know that he was enlisted in the service of the Almighty, that Heaven and all its hosts were on his side, and that everything he had done had the sanction of the Almighty's divinely ordained minister, speaking in the Almighty's holy temple, in the midst of stained-glass windows and brightly burning candles and the ravishing odor of incense, and of Easter lilies and of mignonette and lavender in the handkerchiefs of delicately gowned and exquisite ladies from Mount Olympus. This, to be sure, was mixing mythologies, but Peter's education had been neglected in his youth, and Peter could not be blamed for taking the great ones of the earth as they were, and believing what they taught him.
The white robed choir marched out, and the music of "Onward Christian Soldiers" faded away, and Peter and his lady went out from the Church of the Divine Compassion, and strolled on the avenue again, and when they had sufficiently filled their nostrils with the sweet odors of snobbery, they turned into the park, where there were places of seclusion for young couples interested in each other. But alas, the fates which dogged Peter in his love-making had prepared an especially cruel prank that morning. At the entrance to the park, whom should Peter meet but Comrade Schnitzelmann, a fat little butcher who belonged to the "Bolshevik local" of American City. Peter tried to look the other way and hurry by, but Comrade Schnitzelmann would not have it so. He came rushing up with one pudgy hand stretched out, and a beaming smile on his rosy Teutonic countenance. "Ach, Comrade Gudge!" cried he. "Wie geht's mit you dis morning?"
"Very well, thank you," said Peter, coldly, and tried to hurry on.
But Comrade Schnitzelmann held onto his hand. "So! You been seeing dot Easter barade!" said he. "Vot you tink, hey? If we could get all de wage slaves to come und see dot barade, we make dem all Bolsheviks pretty quick! Hey, Comrade Gudge?"
"Yes, I guess so," said Peter, still more coldly.
"We show dem vot de money goes for - hey, Comrade Gudge!" And Comrade Schnitzelmann chuckled, and Peter said, quickly, "Well, good-bye," and without introducing his lady-love took her by the arm and hurried away.
But alas, the damage had been done! They walked for a minute or two amid ominous silence. Then suddenly the manicurist stood still and confronted Peter. "Mr. Gudge," she demanded, "what does that mean?"
And Peter of course could not answer. He did not dare to meet her flashing eyes, but stood digging the toe of his shoe into the path. "I want to know what it means," persisted the girl. "Are you one of those Reds?"
And what could poor Peter say? How could he explain his acquaintance with that Teutonic face and that Teutonic accent?
The girl stamped her foot with impatient anger. "So you're one of those Reds! You're one of those pro-German traitors! You're an imposter, a spy!"
Peter was helpless with embarrassment and dismay. "Miss Frisbie," he began, "I can't explain - "
"Why can't you explain? Why can't any honest man explain?"
"But - but - I'm not what you think - it isn't true! I - I - " It was on the tip of Peter's tongue to say, "I'm a patriot! I'm a 100% American, protecting my country against these traitors!" But professional honor sealed his tongue, and the little manicurist stamped her foot again, and her eyes flashed with indignation.
"You dare to seek my acquaintance! You dare to take me to church! Why - if there was a policeman in sight, I'd report you, I'd send you to jail!" And actually she looked around for a policeman! But it is well known that there never is a policeman in sight when you look for one; so Miss Frisbie stamped her foot again and snorted in Peter's face. "Goodbye, Comrade Gudge!" The emphasis she put upon that word "comrade" would have frozen the fieriest Red soul; and she turned with a swish of her skirts and strode off, and Peter stood looking mournfully at her little French heels going crunch, crunch, crunch on the gravel path. When the heels were clean gone out of sight, Peter sought out the nearest bench and sat down and buried his face in his hands, a picture of woe. Was there ever in the world a man who had such persistent ill luck with women?