Peter half expected this; but then again, he wondered. They were such strange criminals! They called him “Comrade”; and they spoke with that same affection that had so bewildered him in little Jennie. Was this just a ruse to get his confidence, or did these people really think that they loved him—Peter Gudge, a stranger and a secret enemy? Peter had been at great pains to fool them; but they seemed to him so easy to fool that his pains were wasted. He despised them for this, and all the while he listened to them he was saying to himself, “The poor nuts!”
They had come to hear his story, and they plied him with questions, and made him tell over and over again every detail. Peter, of course, had been carefully instructed; he was not to mention the elaborate confession he had been made to sign; that would be giving too dangerous a weapon to these enemies of law and order. He must tell as brief a story as possible; how he had happened to be near the scene of the explosion, and how the police had tried to force him to admit that he knew something about the case. Peter told this, according to orders; but he had not been prepared for the minute questioning to which he was subjected by Andrews, the lawyer, aided by old John Durand, the leader of the seamen. They wanted to know everything that had been done to him, and who had done it, and how and when and where and why. Peter had a sense of the dramatic, and enjoyed being the center of attention and admiration, even tho it was from a roomful of criminal “Reds.” So he told all the picturesque details of how Guffey had twisted his wrist and shut him in a dungeon; the memory of the pain was still poignant, and came out of him now, with a realism that would have moved a colder group.
So pretty soon here were all these women sobbing and raging. Little Ada Ruth became inspired, and began reciting a poem—or was she composing it right here, before his eyes? She seemed entranced with indignation. It was something about the workers arising—the outcry of a mob—
“No further patience with a heedless foe— Get off our backs, or else to hell you go!”
Peter listened, and thought to himself, “The poor nut!” And then Donald Gordon, the Quaker boy, took the floor, and began shaking his long black locks, and composing a speech, it seemed. And Peter listened, and thought again, “The poor nut!” Then another man, the editor of a labor journal, revealed the fact that he was composing an editorial; he knew Guffey, and was going to publish Guffey’s picture, and brand him as an “Inquisitionist.” He asked for Peter’s picture, and Peter agreed to have one taken, and to be headlined as “The Inquisitionist’s Victim.” Peter had no idea what the long word meant; but he assented, and thought again, “The poor nut!” All of them were “nuts”—taking other people’s troubles with such excitement!