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!