And there sat Peter, with only a nickel and a couple of pennies in his pocket, and the rent for his room two weeks over-due, and his landlady lying in wait in the hallway like an Indian with a tomahawk. Peter objected, what about all those bad things in his early record, Pericles Priam and the Temple of Jimjambo, which had ruined him as a witness in the Goober case. McGivney answered dryly that he couldn’t let himself out with that excuse; he was invited to pose as a reformed “wobbly,” and the more crimes and rascalities he had in his record, the more convinced the jury would be that he had been a real “wobbly.”
Peter asked, just when would he be expected to appear? And McGivney answered, the very next week. They were trying seventeen of the “wobblies” on a conspiracy charge, and Peter would be expected to take the stand and tell how he had heard them advocate violence, and heard them boast of having set fire to barns and wheat fields, and how they had put phosphorus bombs into haystacks, and copper nails into fruit trees, and spikes into sawmill logs, and emery powder into engine bearings. Peter needn’t worry about what he would have to say, McGivney would tell him everything, and would see him thoroughly posted, and he would find himself a hero in the newspapers, which would make clear that he had done everything from the very highest possible motives of 100% Americanism, and that no soldier in the war had been performing a more dangerous service.
To Peter it seemed they might say that without troubling their conscience very much. But McGivney went on to declare that he needn’t be afraid; it was no part of Guffey’s program to give the Reds the satisfaction of putting his star witness out of business. Peter would be kept in a safe place, and would always have a body-guard. While he was in the city, giving his testimony, they would put him up at the Hotel de Soto.
And that of course settled it. Here was poor Peter, with only a nickel and two coppers in his pocket, and before him stood a chariot of fire with magic steeds, and all he had to do was to step in, and be whirled away to Mount Olympus. Peter stepped in!
McGivney took him to Guffey’s office, and Guffey wasted no time upon preliminaries, but turned to his desk, and took out a long typewritten document, a complete account of what the prosecution meant to prove against the seventeen I. W. Ws. First, Peter told what he himself had seen and heard—not very much, but a beginning, a hook to hang his story upon. The I. W. W. hall was the meeting place for the casual and homeless labor of the country, the “bindle-stiffs” who took the hardest of the world’s hard knocks, and sometimes returned them. There was no kind of injustice these fellows hadn’t experienced, and now and then they had given blow for blow. Also there were loose talkers among them, who worked off their feelings by threats