And yet, many and strange as were the phantoms which Peter’s sick imagination conjured up, there was no one of them as terrible as the reality which prevailed just then in the life of American City, and was determining the destiny of a poor little man by the name of Peter Gudge. There lived in American City a group of men who had taken possession of its industries and dominated the lives of its population. This group, intrenched in power in the city’s business and also in its government, were facing the opposition of a new and rapidly rising power, that of organized labor, determined to break the oligarchy of business and take over its powers. The struggle of these two groups was coming to its culmination. They were like two mighty wrestlers, locked in a grip of death; two giants in combat, who tear up trees by the roots and break off fragments of cliffs from the mountains to smash in each other’s skulls. And poor Peter—what was he? An ant which happened to come blundering across the ground where these combatants met. The earth was shaken with their trampling, the dirt was kicked this way and that, and the unhappy ant was knocked about, tumbled head over heels, buried in the debris; and suddenly—Smash!—a giant foot came down upon the place where he was struggling and gasping!
Peter had been in the “hole” perhaps three days, perhaps a week—he did not know, and no one ever told him. The door was opened again, and for the first time he heard a voice, “Come out here.”
Peter had been longing to hear a voice; but now he shrunk terrified into a corner. The voice was the voice of Guffey, and Peter knew what it meant. His teeth began to rattle again, and he wailed, “I dunno anything! I can’t tell anything!”
A hand reached in and took him by the collar, and he found himself walking down the corridor in front of Guffey. “Shut up!” said the man, in answer to all his wailings, and took him into a room and threw him into a chair as if he had been a bundle of bedding, and pulled up another chair and sat down in front of Peter.
“Now look here,” he said. “I want to have an understanding with you. Do you want to go back into that hole again?”
“N-n-no,” moaned Peter.
“Well, I want you to know that you’ll spend the rest of your life in that hole, except when you’re talking to me. And when you’re talking to me you’ll be having your arms twisted off you, and splinters driven into your finger nails, and your skin burned with matches—until you tell me what I want to know. Nobody’s going to help you, nobody’s going to know about it. You’re going to stay here with me until you come across.”
Peter could only sob and moan.
“Now,” continued Guffey, “I been finding out all about you, I got your life story from the day you were born, and there’s no use your trying to hide anything. I know your part in this here bomb plot, and I can send you to the gallows without any trouble whatever. But there’s some things I can’t prove on the other fellows. They’re the big ones, the real devils, and they’re the ones I want, so you’ve got a chance to save yourself, and you better be thankful for it.”