“Yes, I guess so,” said Peter, still more coldly.
“We show dem vot de money goes for—hey, Comrade Gudge!” And Comrade Schnitzelmann chuckled, and Peter said, quickly, “Well, good-bye,” and without introducing his lady-love took her by the arm and hurried away.
But alas, the damage had been done! They walked for a minute or two amid ominous silence. Then suddenly the manicurist stood still and confronted Peter. “Mr. Gudge,” she demanded, “what does that mean?”
And Peter of course could not answer. He did not dare to meet her flashing eyes, but stood digging the toe of his shoe into the path. “I want to know what it means,” persisted the girl. “Are you one of those Reds?”
And what could poor Peter say? How could he explain his acquaintance with that Teutonic face and that Teutonic accent?
The girl stamped her foot with impatient anger. “So you’re one of those Reds! You’re one of those pro-German traitors! You’re an imposter, a spy!”
Peter was helpless with embarrassment and dismay. “Miss Frisbie,” he began, “I can’t explain—”
“Why can’t you explain? Why can’t any honest man explain?”
“But—but—I’m not what you think—it isn’t true! I—I—” It was on the tip of Peter’s tongue to say, “I’m a patriot! I’m a 100% American, protecting my country against these traitors!” But professional honor sealed his tongue, and the little manicurist stamped her foot again, and her eyes flashed with indignation.
“You dare to seek my acquaintance! You dare to take me to church! Why—if there was a policeman in sight, I’d report you, I’d send you to jail!” And actually she looked around for a policeman! But it is well known that there never is a policeman in sight when you look for one; so Miss Frisbie stamped her foot again and snorted in Peter’s face. “Goodbye, Comrade Gudge!” The emphasis she put upon that word “comrade” would have frozen the fieriest Red soul; and she turned with a swish of her skirts and strode off, and Peter stood looking mournfully at her little French heels going crunch, crunch, crunch on the gravel path. When the heels were clean gone out of sight, Peter sought out the nearest bench and sat down and buried his face in his hands, a picture of woe. Was there ever in the world a man who had such persistent ill luck with women?
These were days of world-agony, when people bought the newspapers several times every day, and when crowds gathered in front of bulletin boards, looking at the big maps with little flags, and speculating, were the Germans going to get to Paris, were they going to get to the Channel and put France out of the war? And then suddenly the Americans struck their first blow, and hurled the Germans back at Chateau-Thierry, and all America rose up with one shout of triumph!