Peter could see it all very clearly when he came to figure over the thing; he could see what a whooping jackass he had been. He might have known that it was up to him to be careful, at this time of all times, when he was suspected of having rubbed out Donald Gordon’s pencil marks. They had picked out a girl whom Peter had never seen before, and she had come and posed as Miriam’s friend, and had proceeded to take Peter by the nose and lead him to the edge of the precipice and shove him over. And now she would be laughing at him, telling all her friends about her triumph, and about Peter’s thirty dollars a week that he would never see again.
Peter spent a good part of the night getting up the story that he was to tell McGivney next morning. He wouldn’t mention Rosie Stern, of course; he would say that the Reds had trailed him to Room 427, and it must be they had a spy in Guffey’s office. Peter repeated this story quite solemnly, and again realized too late that he had made a fool of himself. It wasn’t twenty-four hours before every Red in American City knew the true, inside history of the unveiling of Peter Gudge as a spy of the Traction Trust. The story occupied a couple of pages in that week’s issue of the “Clarion,” and included Peter’s picture, and an account of the part that Peter had played in various frame-ups. It was nearly all true, and the fact that it was guess-work on Donald Gordon’s part did not make it any the better for Peter. Of course McGivney and Guffey and all his men read the story, and knew Peter for the whooping jackass that Peter knew himself.
“You go and get yourself a job with a pick and shovel,” said McGivney, and Peter sorrowfully took his departure. He had only a few dollars in his pocket, and these did not last very long, and he had got down to his last nickel, and was confronting the wolf of starvation again, when McGivney came to his lodging house room with a new proposition. There was one job left, and Peter might take it if he thought he could stand the gaff.
It was the job of state’s witness. Peter had been all thru the Red movement, he knew all these pacifists and Socialists and Syndicalists and I. W. Ws. who were now in jail. In some cases the evidence of the government was far from satisfactory; so Peter might have his salary back again, if he were willing to take the witness stand and tell what he was told to tell, and if he could manage to sit in a courtroom without falling in love with some of the lady jurors, or some of the lady spies of the defense. These deadly shafts of sarcasm Peter did not even feel, because he was so frightened by the proposition which McGivney put up to him. To come out into the open and face the blinding glare of the Red hate! To place himself, the ant, between the smashing fists of the battling giants!
Yes, it might seem dangerous, said McGivney, for a cowardly little whelp like himself; but then a good many men had had the nerve to do it, and none of them had died yet. McGivney himself did not pretend to care very much whether Peter did it or not; he put the matter up to him on Guffey’s orders. The job was worth forty dollars a week, and he might take it or leave it.