So then Peter knew that the case was hopeless, and there was nothing left but to ascertain his fate. Had they come just to scold him and appeal to his conscience? Or did they plan to carry him away and strangle him and torture him to death? The latter was the terror that had been haunting Peter from the beginning of his career, and when gradually be made out that the three Aztecs did not intend violence, and that all they hoped for was to get him to admit how much he had told to his employers—then there was laughter inside Peter, and he broke down and wept tears of scalding shame, and said that it had all been because McCormick had told that cruel lie about him and little Jennie Todd. He had resisted the temptation for a year, but then he had been out of a job, and the Goober Defense Committee had refused him any work; he had actually been starving, and so at last he had accepted McGivney’s offer to let him know about the seditious activities of the extreme Reds. But he had never reported anybody who hadn’t really broken the law, and he had never told McGivney anything but the truth.
Then Andrews proceeded to examine him. Peter denied that he had ever reported anything about the Goober case. He denied most strenuously that he had ever had anything to do with the McCormick “frame-up.” When they tried to pin him down on this case and that, he suddenly summoned his dignity and declared that Andrews had no right to cross-question him, he was a 100%, red-blooded American patriot, and had been saving his country and his God from German agents and Bolshevik traitors.
Donald Gordon almost went wild at that. “What you’ve been doing was to slip stuff into our pamphlet about conscientious objectors, so as to get us all indicted!”
“That’s a lie!” cried Peter. “I never done nothing of the kind!”
“You know perfectly well you rubbed out those pencil marks that I drew through that sentence in the pamphlet.”
“I never done it!” cried Peter, again and again.
And suddenly big John Durand clenched his hands, and his face became terrible with his pent-up rage. “You white-livered little sneak!” he hissed. “What we ought to do with you is to pull the lying tongue out of you!” He took a step forward, as if he really meant to do it.
But David Andrews interfered. He was a lawyer, and knew the difference between what he could do and what Guffey’s men could do. “No, no, John,” he said, “nothing like that. I guess we’ve got all we can get out of this fellow. We’ll leave him to his own conscience and his Jingo God. Come on, Donald.” And he took the white-faced Quaker boy with one hand, and the big labor giant with the other, and walked them out of the room, and Peter heard them tramping down the stairs of his lodging house, and he lay on his bed and buried his face in the pillows, and felt utterly wretched, because once more he had been made a fool of, and as usual it was a woman that had done it.