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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 8 1
- PETER Gudge often went along on these hunting parties. Peter, curiously enough, discovered in himself the same "complex" as the balked soldier boys. Peter had been reading war news for five years, but had missed the fighting; and now he discovered that he liked to fight. What had kept him from liking to fight in the past was the danger of getting hurt; but now that there was no such danger, he could enjoy it. In past times people had called him a coward, and he had heard it so often that he had come to believe it; but now he realized that it was not true, he was just as brave as anybody else in the crowd.
The truth was that Peter had not had a happy time in his youth, he had never learned, like the younger members of the Chamber of Commerce and the Merchants' and Manufacturers' Association, to knock a little white ball about a field with various shapes and sizes of clubs. Peter was like a business man who has missed his boyhood, and then in later years finds the need of recreation, and takes up some form of sport by the orders of his physician. It became Peter's, form of sport to stick an automatic revolver in his hip-pocket, and take a blackjack in his hand, and rush into a room where thirty or forty Russians or "Sheenies" of all ages and lengths of beard were struggling to learn the intricacies of English spelling. Peter would give a yell, and see this crowd leap and scurry hither and thither, and chase them about and take a whack at a head wherever he saw one, and jump into a crowd who were bunched together like sheep, trying to hide their heads, and pound them over the exposed parts of their anatomy until they scattered into the open again. He liked to get a lot of them started downstairs and send them tumbling heels over head; or if he could get them going out a window, that was more exhilarating yet, and he would yell and whoop at them. He learned some of their cries - outlandish gibberish it was - and he would curse them in their own language. He had a streak of the monkey in him, and as he got to know these people better he would imitate their antics and their gestures of horror, and set a whole room full of the "bulls" laughing to split their sides. There was a famous "movie" comedian with big feet, and Peter would imitate this man, and waddle up to some wretched sweat-shop worker and boot him in the trousers' seat, or step on his toes, or maybe spit in his eye. So he became extremely popular among the "bulls," and they would insist on his going everywhere with them.
Later on, when the government set to work to break up the Communist Party and the Communist Labor Party, Peter's popularity and prestige increased still more. For now, instead of just raiding and smashing, the police and detectives would round up the prisoners and arrest them by hundreds, and carry them off and put them thru "examinations." And Peter was always needed for this; his special knowledge made him indispensable, and he became practically the boss of the proceedings. It had been arranged thru "Shorty" Gunton and the other "under cover" men that the meetings of the Communist and Communist Labor parties should be held on the same night; and all over the country this same thing was done, and next morning the world was electrified by the news that all these meetings had been raided at the same hour, and thousands of Reds placed under arrest. In American City the Federal government had hired a suite of about a dozen rooms adjoining the offices of Guffey, and all night and next morning batches of prisoners were brought in, until there were about four hundred in all. They were crowded into these rooms with barely space to sit down; of course there was an awful uproar, moaning and screaming of people who had been battered, and a smell that beat the monkey cage at the zoological gardens.
The prisoners were kept penned up in this place for several weeks, and all the time more were being brought in; there were so many that the women had to be stored in the toilets. Many of the prisoners fell ill, or pretended to fall ill, and several of them went insane, or pretended to go insane, and several of them died, or pretended to die. And of course the parlor Reds and sympathizers were busy outside making a terrible fuss about it. They had no more papers, and could not hold any more meetings, and when they tried to circulate literature the post-office authorities tied them up; but still somehow they managed to get publicity, and Peter's "under cover" men would report to him who was doing this work, and Peter would arrange to have more raids and more batches of prisoners brought in. In one of the "bomb-plots" which had been unveiled in the East they had discovered some pink paper, used either for printing leaflets, or for wrapping explosives, one could not be sure. Anyhow, the secret agencies with which Guffey was connected had distributed samples of this paper over the country, and any time the police wanted to finish some poor devil, they would find this deadly "pink paper" in his possession, and the newspapers would brand him as one of the group of conspirators who were sending infernal machines thru the mails.
C h a p t e r 8 2
- PETER was so busy these days that he missed several nights' sleep, and hardly even stopped to eat. He had his own private room, where the prisoners were brought for examination, and he had half a dozen men under his orders to do the "strong arm" work. It was his task to extract from these prisoners admissions which would justify their being sent to prison if they were citizens, or being deported if they were aliens. There was of course seldom any way to distinguish between citizens and aliens; you just had to take a chance on it, proceeding on the certainty that all were dangerous. Many years ago, when Peter had been working for Pericles Priam, they had spent several months in a boarding house, and you could tell when there was going to be beef-steak for dinner, because you heard the cook pounding it with the potato-masher to "tender it up;" and Peter learned this phrase, and, now used the process upon his alien Reds. When they came into the room, Peter's men would fall upon them and beat them and cuff them, knocking them about from one fist to another. If they were stubborn and would not "come across," Peter would take them in hand himself, remembering how successful Guffey had been in getting things out of him by the twisting of wrists and the bending back of fingers.
It was amazing how clever and subtle some of these fellows were. They were just lousy foreign laborers, but they spent all their spare time reading; you would find large collections of books in their rooms when you made your raids, and they knew exactly what you wanted, and would parry your questions. Peter would say: "You're an Anarchist, aren't you?" And the answer would be: "I'm not an Anarchist in the sense of the word you mean" - as if there could be two meanings of the word "Anarchist!" Peter would say, "You believe in violence, do you not?" And then the fellow would become impertinent: "It is you who believe in violence, look at my face that you have smashed." Or Peter would say, "You don't like this government, do you?" And the answer would be, "I always liked it until it treated me so badly" - all kinds of evasions like that, and there would be a stenographer taking it down, and unless Peter could get something into the record that was a confession, it would not be possible to deport that Red. So Peter would fall upon him and "tender him up" until be would answer what he was told to answer; or maybe Peter would prepare an interview as he wanted it to be, and the detectives would grab the man's hand and make him sign it; or maybe Peter would just sign it himself.
These were harsh methods, but there was no way to help it, the Reds were so cunning. They were secretly undermining the government, and was the government to lie down and admit its helplessness? The answer of 100% Americanism was thundered from every wood and templed hill in the country; also from every newspaper office. The answer was "No!" 100% Americanism would find a way to preserve itself from the sophistries of European Bolshevism; 100% Americanism had worked out its formula: "If they don't like this country, let them go back where they come from." But of course, knowing in their hearts that America was the best country in the world, they didn't want to go back, and it was necessary to make them go.
Peter was there for that purpose, and his devoted wife was by his side, egging him on with her feminine implacability. Gladys had always been accustomed to refer to these people as "cattle," and now, when she smelled them herded together in these office rooms for several weeks, she knew that she was right, and that no fate could be too stern for them. Presently with Peter's help she discovered another bomb-plot, this time against the Attorney-General of the country, who was directing these wholesale raids. They grabbed four Italian Anarchists in American City, and kept them apart in special rooms, and for a couple of months Peter labored with them to get what he wanted out of them. Just as Peter thought be had succeeded, his efforts were balked by one of them jumping out of the window. The room being on the fourteenth story, this Italian Anarchist was no longer available as a witness against himself. The incident set the parlor Bolsheviks all over the country to raging, and caused David Andrews to get some kind of court injunction, and make a lot of inconvenience to Guffey's office.
However, the work went on; the Reds were gradually sorted out, and some who proved not to be Reds were let go again, and others were loaded onto special Red trains and taken to the nearest ports. Some of them went in grim silence, others went with furious cursings, and yet others with wailings and shriekings; for many of them had families, and they had the nerve to demand that the government should undertake to ship their families also, or else to take care of their families for them! The government, naturally, admitted no such responsibility. The Reds had no end of money for printing seditious literature, so let them use it to take care of their own!
In these various raids and examinations Peter of course met a great many of the Reds whom he had once known as friends and intimates. Peter had been wont to imagine himself meeting them, and to tremble at the bare idea; but now he found that he rather enjoyed it. He was entirely delivered from that fear of them, which had formerly spoiled his appetite and disturbed his sleep. He had learned that the Reds were poor creatures who did not fight back; they had no weapons, and many of them did not even have muscles; there was really nothing to them but talk. And Peter knew that he had the power of organized society behind him, the police and the courts and the jails, if necessary the army with its machine guns and airplanes and poison gas. Not merely was it safe to pound these people, to tread on their toes and spit in their eyes; it was safe also to frame up anything on them, because the newspapers would always back you up, and the public would of course believe whatever it read in its newspapers.
No, Peter was no longer afraid of the Reds! He made up his mind that he was not even afraid of Mac, the most dangerous Red of them all. Mac was safely put away in jail for twenty years, and although his case had been appealed, the court had refused to grant a stay of sentence or to let him out on bail. As it happened, Peter got a glimpse into Mac's soul in jail, and knew that even that proud, grim spirit was breaking. Mac in jail had written a letter to one of his fellow-Reds in American City, and the post-office authorities had intercepted the letter, and Guffey had shown it to Peter. "Write to us!" Mac had pleaded. "For God's sake, write to us! The worst horror of being in jail is that you are forgotten. Do at least let us know that somebody is thinking about us!"
So Peter knew that he was the victor, he was "top dog." And when he met these Reds whom he had been so afraid of, he took pleasure in letting them feel the weight of his authority, and sometimes of his fist. It was amusing to see the various ways in which they behaved toward him. Some would try to plead with him, for the sake of old times; some would cringe and whine to him; some would try to reason with him, to touch his conscience. But mostly they would be haughty, they would glare at him with hate, or put a sneer of contempt on their faces. So Peter would set his "bulls" to work to improve their manners, and a little thumb-bending and wrist-twisting would soon do the work.
C h a p t e r 8 3
- AMONG the first load to be brought in was Miriam Yankovich. Miriam had joined the Communist Party, and she had been born in Russia, so that was all there was to her case. Peter, knew, of course that it was Miriam who had set Rosie Stern after him and brought about his downfall. Still, he could not help but be moved by her appearance. She looked haggard and old, and she had a cough, and her eyes were wild and crazy. Peter remembered her as proud and hot-tempered, but now her pride was all gone - she flung herself on her knees before him, and caught hold of his coat, sobbing hysterically. It appeared that she had a mother and five young brothers and sisters who were dependent upon her earnings; all her money had been consumed by hospital expenses, and now she was to be deported to Russia, and what would become of her loved ones?
Peter answered, what could he do? She had violated the law, they had her membership card in the Communist Party, and she had admitted that she was alien born. He tried to draw away, but she clung to him, and went on sobbing and pleading. At least she ought to have a chance to talk with her old mother, to tell her what to do, where to go for help, how to communicate with Miriam in future. They were sending her away without allowing her to have a word with her loved ones, without even a chance to get her clothing!
Peter, as we know, had always been soft-hearted towards women, so now he was embarrassed. In the handling of these cattle he was carrying out the orders of his superiors; he had no power to grant favors to any one, and he told Miriam this again and again. But she would not listen to him. "Please, Peter, please! For God's sake, Peter! You know you were once a little in love with me, Peter - you told me so - "
Yes, that was true, but it hadn't done Peter much good. Miriam bad been interested in Mac - in Mac, that most dangerous devil, who had given Peter so many anxious hours! She had brushed Peter to one side, she had hardly been willing to listen to what he said; and now she was trying to use that love she had spurned!
She had got hold of his hand, and he could not get it away from her without violence. "If you ever felt a spark of love for a woman," she cried, "surely you cannot deny such a favor - such a little favor! Please, Peter, for the sake of old times!"
Suddenly Peter started, and Miriam too. There came a voice from the doorway. "So this is one of your lady friends, is it?" And there stood Gladys, staring, rigid with anger, her little hands clenched. "So this is one of your Red sweethearts, one of your nationalized women?" And she stamped her foot. "Get up, you hussy! Get up, you slut!" And as Miriam continued to kneel, motionless with surprise, Gladys rushed at her, and clutched two handfuls of her heavy black hair, and pulled so that Miriam fell prone on the floor. "I'll teach you, you free lover!" she screamed. "I'll teach you to make love to my husband!" And she dragged Miriam about by that mop of black hair, kicking her and clawing her, until finally several of the bulls had to interfere to save the girl's life.
As a matter of fact Gladys had been told about Peter's shameful past before she married him; Guffey had told her, and she had told Peter that Guffey had told her, she had reminded Peter of it many, many times. But the actual sight of one of these "nationalized women" had driven her into a frenzy, and it was a week before peace was restored in the Gudge family. Meantime poor Peter was buffeted by storms of emotion, both at home and in his office. They were getting ready the first Red train, and it seemed as if every foreign Red that Peter had ever known was besieging him, trying to get at him and harrow his soul and his conscience. Sadie Todd's cousin, who had been born in England, was shipped out on this first train, and also a Finnish lumberman whom Peter had known in the I. W. W., and a Bohemian cigar worker at whose home he had several times eaten, and finally Michael Dubin, the Jewish boy with whom he had spent fifteen days in jail, and who had been one of the victims of the black-snake whippings.
Michael made no end of wailing, because he had a wife and three babies, and he set up the claim that when the "bulls" had raided his home they had stolen all his savings, two or three hundred dollars. Peter, of course, insisted that he could do nothing; Dubin was a Red and an alien, and he must go. When they were loading them on the train, there was Dubin's wife and half a hundred other women, shrieking and wringing their hands, and trying to break thru the guards to get near their loved ones. The police had to punch them in the stomachs with their clubs to hold them back, and in spite of all these blows, the hysterical Mrs. Dubin succeeded in breaking thru the guards, and she threw herself under the wheels of the train, and they were barely able to drag her away in time to save her life. Scenes like this would, of course, have a bad effect upon the public, and so Guffey called up the editors of all the newspapers, and obtained a gentleman's agreement that none of them would print any details.
C h a p t e r 8 4
- ALL over the country the Red trains were moving eastward, loaded with "wobblies" and communists, pacifists and anarchists, and a hundred other varieties of Bolsheviks. They got a shipload together and started them off for Russia - the "Red Ark" it was called, and the Red soap-boxers set tip a terrific uproar, and one Red clergyman compared the "Red Ark" to the Mayflower! Also there was some Red official in Washington, who made a fuss and cancelled a whole block of deportation orders, including some of Peter's own cases. This, naturally, was exasperating to Peter and his wife; and on top of it came another incident that was still more humiliating.
There was a "pink" mass meeting held in American City, to protest against the deportations. Guffey said they would quite probably raid the meeting, and Peter must go along, so as to point out the Reds to the bulls. The work was in charge of a police detective by the name of Garrity, head of what was called the "Bomb Squad"; but this man didn't know very much, so he had the habit of coming to Peter for advice. Now he had the whole responsibility of this meeting, and he asked Peter to come up on the platform with him, and Peter went. Here was a vast audience - all the Red fury which had been pent up for many months, breaking loose in a whirlwind of excitement. Here were orators, well dressed and apparently respectable men, not in any way to be distinguished from the born rulers of the country, coming forward on the platform and uttering the most treasonable sentences, denouncing the government, denouncing the blockade against Russia, praising the Bolshevik government of Russia, declaring that the people who went away in the "Soviet Ark" were fortunate, because they were escaping from a land of tyranny into a land of freedom. At every few sentences the orator would be stopped by a storm of applause that broke from the audience.
And what was a poor Irish Catholic police detective to make of a proposition like that? Here stood an orator declaring: "Whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundations on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness." And Garrity turned to Peter. "What do you think of that?" he said, his good-natured Irish face blank with dismay.
Peter thought it was the limit. Peter knew that thousands of men all over America had been sent to prison for saying things less dangerous than that. Peter had read many sets of instructions from the office of the Attorney-General of the United States, and knew officially that that was precisely the thing you were never under any circumstances permitted to say, or to write, or even to think. So Peter said to Garrity: "That fellow's gone far enough. You better arrest him." Garrity spoke to his men, and they sprang forward on the platform, and stopped the orator and placed him and all his fellow-orators under arrest, and ordered the audience out of the building. There were a couple of hundred policemen and detectives on hand to carry out Garrity's commands, and they formed a line with their clubs, and drove the crowd before them, and carted the speakers off in a patrol wagon. Then Peter went back to Guffey's office, and told what he had done - and got a reception that reminded him of the time Guffey had confronted him with the letter from Nell Doolin! "Who do you think that was you pinched?" cried Guffey. "He's the brother of a United States senator! And what do you think he was saying? That was a sentence from the Declaration of Independence!"
Peter couldn't "get it"; Peter was utterly lost. Could a man go ahead and break the law, just because he happened to be a brother of a United States senator? And what difference did it make whether a thing was in the Declaration of Independence, if it was seditious, if it wasn't allowed to be said? This incident brought Guffey and the police authorities of the city so much ridicule that Guffey got all his men together and read them a lecture, explaining to them just what were the limits of the anti-Red activities, just who it was they mustn't arrest, and just what it was they couldn't keep people from saying. For example, a man couldn't be arrested for quoting the Bible.
"But Jesus Christ, Guffey," broke in one of the men, "have all of us got to know the Bible by heart?"
There was a laugh all round. "No," Guffey admitted, "but at least be careful, and don't arrest anybody for saying anything that sounds as if it came from the Bible."
"But hell!" put in another of the men, who happened to be an ex-preacher. "That'll tie us up tighter than a jail-sentence! Look what's in the Bible!"
And he proceeded to quote some of the things, and Peter knew that he had never heard any Bolshevik talk more outrageous than that. It made one realize more than ever how complicated was this Red problem; for Guffey insisted, in spite of everything, that every word out of the Bible was immune. "Up in Winnipeg," said he, "they indicted a clergyman for quoting two passages from the prophet Isaiah, but they couldn't face it, they had to let the fellow go." And the same thing was true of the Declaration of Independence; anybody might read it, no matter how seditious it was. And the same thing was true of the Constitution, even tho the part called the Bill of Rights declared that everybody in America might do all the things that Guffey's office was sending them to jail for doing!
This seemed a plain crazy proposition; but Guffey explained it as a matter of politics. If they went too far, these fellows would go out and capture the votes from them, and maybe take away the government from them, and where would they be then? Peter had never paid any attention to politics before this, but both he and Gladys realized after this lecture that they must broaden their view-point. It was not enough to put the Reds in jail and crack their skulls, you had to keep public sympathy for what you were doing, you had to make the public understand that it was necessary, you had to carry on what was called "propaganda," to keep the public aware of the odiousness of these cattle, and the desperate nature of their purposes.
The man who perceived that most clearly was the Attorney-General of the country, and Guffey in his lecture pointed out the double nature of his activities. Not merely was the Attorney-General breaking up the Communist and the Communist Labor parties and sending their members to jail; he was using the funds of his office to send out an endless stream of propaganda, to keep the country frightened about these Red plots. Right now he had men in American City working over the data which Guffey had collected, and every week or two he would make a speech somewhere, or would issue a statement to the newspapers, telling of new bomb plots and new conspiracies to overthrow the government. And how clever he was about it! He would get the pictures of the very worst-looking of the Reds, pictures taken after they had been kept in jail for weeks without a shave, and with the third degree to spoil their tempers; and these pictures would be spread on a sheet with the caption: "MEN LIKE THESE WOULD RULE YOU." This would be sent to ten thousand country newspapers all over the nation, and ninety-nine hundred would publish it, and ninety-nine million Americans would want to murder the Reds next morning. So successful had this plan proven that the Attorney-General was expecting to be nominated for President by means of it, and all the agencies of his department were working to that end.
The same thing was being done by all the other agencies of big business all over the country. The "Improve America League" of American City was publishing full-page advertisements in the "Times," and the "Home and Fireside Association" of Eldorado was doing the same thing in the Eldorado "Times," and the "Patriot's Defense Legion" was doing the same thing in the Flagland "Banner." They were investigating the records of all political candidates, and if any of them showed the faintest tinge of pink, Guffey's office would set to work to rake up their records and get up scandals on them, and the business men would contribute a big campaign fund, and these candidates would be snowed under at the polls. That was the kind of work they were doing, and all Guffey's operatives must bear in mind the importance of it, and must never take any step that would hamper this political campaign, this propaganda on behalf of law and order.
C h a p t e r 8 5
- PETER went out from this conference a sober man, realizing for the first time his responsibilities as a voter, and a shepherd to other voters. Peter agreed with Gladys that his views had been too narrow; his conception of the duties of a secret agent had been of the pre-war order. Now he must realize that the world was changed; now, in this new world made safe for democracy, the secret agent was the real ruler of society, the real master of affairs, the trustee, as it were, for civilization. Peter and his wife must take up this new role and make themselves fit for it. They ought of course not be moved by personal considerations, but at the same time they must recognize the fact that this higher role would be of great advantage to them; it would enable them to move up in the world, to meet the best people. Thru five or six years of her young life Gladys had sat polishing the fingernails and fondling the soft white hands of the genteel; and always a fire of determination had burnt in her breast, that some day she would belong to this world of gentility, she would meet these people, not as an employee, but as an equal, she would not merely hold their hands, but would have them hold hers.
Now the chance had come. She had a little talk with Guffey, and Guffey said it would be a good idea, and he would speak to Billy Nash, the secretary of the "Improve America League"; and he did so, and next week the American City "Times" announced that on the following Sunday evening the Men's Bible Class of the Bethlehem Church would have an interesting meeting. It would be addressed by an "under cover" operative of the government, a former Red who had been for many years a most dangerous agitator, but had seen the error of his ways, and had made amends by giving his services to the government in the recent I. W. W. trials.
The Bethlehem Church didn't amount to very much, it was an obscure sect like the Holy Rollers; but Gladys had been shrewd, and had insisted that you mustn't try to climb to the top of the mountain in one step. Peter must first "try it on the dog," and if he failed, there would be no great harm done.
But Gladys worked just as hard to make a success of this lecture as if they had been going into real society. She spent several days getting up her costume and Peter's, and she spent a whole day getting her toilet ready, and before they set out she spent at least an hour putting the finishing touches upon herself in front of a mirror, and seeing that Peter was proper in every detail. When Mr. Nash introduced her personally to the Rev. Zebediah Muggins, and when this apostle of the second advent came out upon the platform and introduced her husband to the crowded working-class audience, Gladys was so a-quiver with delight that it was more a pain than a pleasure.
Peter did not do perfectly, of course. He lost himself a few times, and stammered and floundered about; but he remembered Glady's advice - if he got stuck, to smile and explain that he had never spoken in public before. So everything went along nicely, and everybody in the Men's Bible Class was aghast at the incredible revelations of this ex-Red and secret agent of law and order. So next week Peter was invited again - this time by the Young Saints' League; and when he had made good there, he was drafted by the Ad. Men's Association, and then by the Crackers and Cheese Club. By this time he had acquired what Gladys called "savwaa fair"; his fame spread rapidly, and at last came the supreme hour - he was summoned to Park Avenue to address the members of the Friendly Society, a parish organization of the Church of the Divine Compassion!
This was the goal upon which the eyes of Gladys had been fixed. This was the time that really counted, and Peter was groomed and rehearsed all over again. Their home was only a few blocks from the church, but Gladys insisted that they must positively arrive in a taxi-cab, and when they entered the Parish Hall and the Rev. de Willoughby Stotterbridge, that exquisite almost-English gentleman, came up and shook hands with them, Gladys knew that she had at last arrived. The clergyman himself escorted her to the platform, and after he had introduced Peter, he seated himself beside her, thus definitely putting a seal upon her social position.
Peter, having learned his lecture by heart, having found out just what brought laughter and what brought tears and what brought patriotic applause, was now an assured success. After the lecture he answered questions, and two clerks in the employ of Billy Nash passed around membership cards of the "Improve America League," membership dues five dollars a year, sustaining membership twenty-five dollars a year, life membership two hundred dollars cash. Peter was shaken hands with by members of the most exclusive social set in American City, and told by them all to keep it up - his country needed him. Next morning there was an account of his lecture in the "Times," and the morning after there was an editorial about his revelations, with the moral: "Join the Improve America League."
C h a p t e r 8 6
- THAT second morning, when Peter got to his office, he found a letter waiting for him, a letter written on very conspicuous and expensive stationery, and addressed in a woman's tall and sharp-pointed handwriting. Peter opened it and got a start, for at the top of the letter was some kind of crest, and a Latin inscription, and the words: "Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution." The letter informed him by the hand of a secretary that Mrs. Warring Sammye requested that Mr. Peter Gudge would be so good as to call upon her that afternoon at three o'clock. Peter studied the letter, and tried to figure out what kind of Red this was. He was impressed by the stationery and the regal tone, but that word "Revolution" was one of the forbidden words. Mrs. Warren Sammye must be one of the "Parlor Reds," like Mrs. Godd.
So Peter took the letter to McGivney, and said suspiciously, "What kind of a Red plot is this?"
McGivney read the letter, and said, "Red plot? How do you mean?"
"Why," explained Peter, "it says 'Daughters of the American Revolution.' "
And McGivney looked at him; at first he thought that Peter was joking, but when he saw that the fellow was really in earnest, he guffawed in his face. "You boob!" be said. "Didn't you ever hear of the American Revolution? Don't you know anything about the Fourth of July?"
Just then the telephone rang and interrupted them, and McGivney shoved the letter to him saying, "Ask your wife about it!" So when Gladys came in, Peter gave her the letter, and she was much excited. It appeared that Mrs. Warring Sammye was a very tip-top society lady in American City, and this American Revolution of which she was a daughter was a perfectly respectable revolution that had happened a long time ago; the very best people belonged to it, and it was legal and proper to write about, and even to put on your letterheads. Peter must go home and get himself into his best clothes at once, and telephone to the secretary that he would be pleased to call upon Mrs. Warring Sammye at the hour indicated. Incidentally, there were a few more things for Peter to study. He must get a copy of the social register, "Who's Who in American City," and he must get a history of his country, and learn about the Declaration of Independence, and what was the difference between a revolution that had happened a long time ago and one that was happening now.
So Peter went to call on the great society lady in her grey stone mansion, and found her every bit as opulent as Mrs. Godd, with the addition that she respected her own social position; she did not make the mistake of treating Peter as an equal, and so it did not occur to Peter that he might settle down permanently in her home. Her purpose was to tell Peter that she had heard of his lecture about the Red menace, and that she was chairman of the Board of Directors of the Lady Patronesses of the Home for Disabled War Veterans in American City, and she wanted to arrange to have Peter deliver this lecture to the veterans. And Peter, instructed in advance by Gladys, said that he would be very glad to donate this lecture as a patriotic contribution. Mrs. Warring Sammye thanked him gravely in the name of his country, and said she would let him know the date.
Peter went home, and Gladys made a wry face, because the lecture was to be delivered before a lot of good-for-nothing soldiers in some hall, when it had been her hope that it was to be delivered to the Daughters themselves, and in Mrs. Warring Sammye's home. However, to have attracted Mrs. Warring Sammye's attention for anything was in itself a triumph. So Gladys was soon cheerful again, and she told Peter about Mrs. Warring Sammye's life; one picked up such valuable knowledge in the gossip at the manicure parlors, it appeared.
Then, being in a friendly mood, Gladys talked to Peter about himself. They had mounted to a height from which they could look back upon the past and see it as a whole, and in the intimacy and confidence of their domestic partnership they could draw lessons from their mistakes and plan their future wisely. Peter had made many blunders - he must surely admit that. Did Peter admit that? Yes, Peter did. But, continued Gladys, he had struggled bravely, and he had the supreme good fortune to have secured for himself that greatest of life's blessings, the cooperation of a good and capable woman. Gladys was very emphatic about this latter, and Peter agreed with her. He agreed also when she stated that it is the duty of a good and capable wife to protect her husband for the balance of their life's journey, so that he would be able to avoid the traps which his enemies set for his feet. Peter, having learned by bitter experience, would never again go chasing after a pretty face, and wake up next morning to find his pockets empty. Peter admitted this too. As this conversation progressed, he realized that the tour of triumph his life had become was a thing entirely of his wife's creation; at least, he realized that there would be no use in trying to change his wife's conviction on the subject. Likewise he meekly accepted her prophecies as to his future conduct; he would bring home his salary at the end of each week, and his wife would use it, together with her own salary, to improve the appearance and tone of both of them, and to aid them to climb to a higher social position.
Peter, following his wife's careful instructions, has already become more dignified in his speech, more grave in his movements. She tells him that the future of society depends on his knowledge and his skill, and he agrees to this also. He has learned what you can do and what you had better not do; he will never again cross the dead-line into crime, or take chances with experiments in blackmail. He will try no more free lance work under the evil influence of low creatures like Nell Doolin, but will stand in with the "machine," and bear in mind that honesty is the best policy. So he will steadily progress; he will meet the big men of the country, and will go to them, not cringing and twisting his hat in his hands, but with quiet self-possession. He will meet the agents of the Attorney-General aspiring to become President, and will furnish them with material for their weekly Red scares. He will meet legislators who want to unseat elected Socialists, and governors who wish to jail the leaders of "outlaw" strikes. He will meet magazine writers getting up articles, and popular novelists looking for local Red color.
But Peter's best bid of all will be as a lecturer. He will be able to travel all over the country, making a sensation. Did he know why? No, Peter answered, he was not sure he did. Well, Gladys could tell him; it was because he was romantic. Peter didn't know just what this word meant, but it sounded flattering, so he smiled sheepishly, showing his crooked teeth, and asked how Gladys found out that he was romantic. The reply was a sudden order for him to stand up and turn around slowly.
Peter didn't like to get up from his comfortable Morris chair, but he did what his wife asked him. She inspected him on all sides and exclaimed, "Peter, you must go on a diet; you're getting ombongpoing!" She said this in horrified tones, and Peter was frightened, because it sounded like a disease. But Gladys added: "You can not be a romantic figure on a lecture platform if you've got a bay-window!"
Peter found it interesting to be talked about, so he asked again why Gladys thought be was romantic. There were several reasons, she said, but the main one was that he had been a dangerous criminal, and had reformed, which pleased the church people; he had made a happy ending by marriage, which pleased those who read novels.
"Is that so?" said Peter, guilelessly, and she assured him that it was. "And what else?" he asked, and she explained that he had known intimately and at first hand those dreadful and dangerous people, those ogres of the modern world, the Bolsheviks, about whom the average man and woman learned only thru the newspapers. And not merely did be tell a sensational story, but he ended it with a money-making lesson. The lesson was "Contribute to the Improve America League. Make out your checks to the Home and Fireside Association. The existence of your country depends upon your sustaining the Patriot's Defense Legion." So the fame of Peter's lecture would spread, and the Guffeys and Billy Nashes of every city and town in America would clamor for him to come, and when he came, the newspapers would publish his picture, and he and his wife would be welcomed by leaders of the best society. They would become social lions, and would see the homes of the rich, and gradually become one of the rich.
Gladys looked her spouse over again, as they started to their sleeping apartment. Yes, he was undoubtedly putting on "ombongpoing"; he would have to take up golf. He was wearing a little American flag dangling from his watch chain, and she wondered if that wasn't a trifle crude. Gladys herself now wore a real diamond ring, and had learned to say "vahse" and "baahth." She yawned prettily as she took off her lovely brown "tailor-made," and reflected that such things come with ease and security.
Both she and Peter now had these in full measure. They had lost all fear of ever finding themselves out of a job. They had come to understand that the Red menace is not to be so easily exterminated; it is a distemper that lurks in the blood of society, and breaks out every now and then in a new rash. Gladys had come to agree with the Reds to this extent, that so long as there is a class of the rich and prosperous, so long will there be social discontent, so long will there be some that make their living by agitating, denouncing and crying out for change. Society is like a garden; each year when you plant your vegetables there springs up also a crop of weeds, and you have to go down the rows and chop off the heads of these weeds. Gladys' husband is an expert gardener, he knows how to chop weeds, and be knows that society will never be able to dispense with his services. So long as gardening continues, Peter will be a head weedchopper, and a teacher of classes of young weedchoppers.
Ah, it was fine to have married such a man! It was the reward a good woman received for helping her husband, making him into a good citizen, a patriot and an upholder of law and order: For always, of course, those who own the garden would see that their head weedchopper was taken care of, and had his share of the best that the garden produced. Gladys stood before her looking-glass, braiding her hair for the night, and thinking of the things she would ask from this garden. She and Peter had earned, and they would demand, the sweetest flowers, the most luscious fruits. Suddenly Gladys stretched wide her arms in an ecstasy of realization. "We're a Success, Peter! We're a Success! We'll have money and all the lovely things it will buy! Do you realize, Peter, what a hit you've made?"
Peter saw her face of joy, but he was a tiny bit frightened and uncertain, because of this unusual sharing of the honors. So Gladys was impelled to affection, mingled with pity. She held out her arms to him. "Poor, dear Peter! He's had such a hard life! It was cruel he didn't have me sooner to help him!"
And then Gladys reflected for a moment , and was moved to another outburst. "Just think, Peter, how wonderful it is to be an American! In America you can always rise if you do your duty! America is the land of the free! Your example of a poor boy's success ought to convince even the fool Reds that they're wrong - that any boy can rise if he works hard! Why, I've heard it said that in America the poorest boy can rise to be President! How would you like to be President, Peter?"
Peter hesitated. He doubted if he was equal to that big a job, but he knew that it would not please Gladys for him to say so. He murmured, "Perhaps - some day - "
"Anyhow, Peter," his wife continued, "I'm for this country! I'm an American!"
And this time Peter didn't have to hesitate. "You bet!" he said, and added his favorite formula - "100%!"