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.