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.