Then, being in a friendly mood, Gladys talked to Peter about himself. They had mounted to a height from which they could look back upon the past and see it as a whole, and in the intimacy and confidence of their domestic partnership they could draw lessons from their mistakes and plan their future wisely. Peter had made many blunders—he must surely admit that. Did Peter admit that? Yes, Peter did. But, continued Gladys, he had struggled bravely, and he had the supreme good fortune to have secured for himself that greatest of life’s blessings, the cooperation of a good and capable woman. Gladys was very emphatic about this latter, and Peter agreed with her. He agreed also when she stated that it is the duty of a good and capable wife to protect her husband for the balance of their life’s journey, so that he would be able to avoid the traps which his enemies set for his feet. Peter, having learned by bitter experience, would never again go chasing after a pretty face, and wake up next morning to find his pockets empty. Peter admitted this too. As this conversation progressed, he realized that the tour of triumph his life had become was a thing entirely of his wife’s creation; at least, he realized that there would be no use in trying to change his wife’s conviction on the subject. Likewise he meekly accepted her prophecies as to his future conduct; he would bring home his salary at the end of each week, and his wife would use it, together with her own salary, to improve the appearance and tone of both of them, and to aid them to climb to a higher social position.
Peter, following his wife’s careful instructions, has already become more dignified in his speech, more grave in his movements. She tells him that the future of society depends on his knowledge and his skill, and he agrees to this also. He has learned what you can do and what you had better not do; he will never again cross the dead-line into crime, or take chances with experiments in blackmail. He will try no more free lance work under the evil influence of low creatures like Nell Doolin, but will stand in with the “machine,” and bear in mind that honesty is the best policy. So he will steadily progress; he will meet the big men of the country, and will go to them, not cringing and twisting his hat in his hands, but with quiet self-possession. He will meet the agents of the Attorney-General aspiring to become President, and will furnish them with material for their weekly Red scares. He will meet legislators who want to unseat elected Socialists, and governors who wish to jail the leaders of “outlaw” strikes. He will meet magazine writers getting up articles, and popular novelists looking for local Red color.
But Peter’s best bid of all will be as a lecturer. He will be able to travel all over the country, making a sensation. Did he know why? No, Peter answered, he was not sure he did. Well, Gladys could tell him; it was because he was romantic. Peter didn’t know just what this word meant, but it sounded flattering, so he smiled sheepishly, showing his crooked teeth, and asked how Gladys found out that he was romantic. The reply was a sudden order for him to stand up and turn around slowly.