There was the question of Sadie to be settled. There was a certain severe look that sometimes came about Sadie’s lips, and that caused Peter to feel absolutely certain that Comrade Sadie had no sympathy with “free love,” and very little sympathy with any love save her own for Jennie. She had nursed her “little sister” and tended her like a mother for many years; she took the food out of her mouth to give to Jennie—and Jennie in turn gave it to any wandering agitator who came along and hung around until mealtime. Peter didn’t want Sadie to know what had been going on in her absence, and yet he was afraid to suggest to Jennie that she should deceive her sister.
He managed it very tactfully. Jennie began pleading again: “We ought not to do this, Comrade Peter!” And so Peter agreed, perhaps they oughtn’t, and they wouldn’t any more. So Jennie put her hair in order, and straightened her blouse, and her lover could see that she wasn’t going to tell Sadie.
And the next day they were kissing again and agreeing again that they mustn’t do it; and so once more Jennie didn’t tell Sadie. Before long Peter had managed to whisper the suggestion that their love was their own affair, and they ought not to tell anybody for the present; they would keep the delicious secret, and it would do no one any harm. Jennie had read somewhere about a woman poet by the name of Mrs. Browning, who had been an invalid all her life, and whose health had been completely restored by a great and wonderful love. Such a love had now come to her; only Sadie might not understand, Sadie might think they did not know each other well enough, and that they ought to wait. They knew, of course, that they really did know each other perfectly, so there was no reason for uncertainty or fear. Peter managed deftly to put these suggestions into Jennie’s mind as if they were her own.
And all the time he was making ardent love to her; all day long, while he was helping her address envelopes and mail out circulars for the Goober Defense Committee. He really did work hard; he didn’t mind working, when he had Jennie at the table beside him, and could reach over and hold her hand every now and then, or catch her in his arms and murmur passionate words. Delicious thrills and raptures possessed him; his hopes would rise like a flood-tide—but then, alas, only to ebb again! He would get so far, and every time it would be as if he had run into a stone wall. No farther!
Peter realized that McGivney’s “free love” talk had been a cruel mistake. Little Jennie was like all the other women—her love wasn’t going to be “free.” Little Jennie wanted a husband, and every time you kissed her, she began right away to talk about marriage, and you dared not hint at anything else because you knew it would spoil everything. So Peter was thrown back upon devices older than the teachings of any “Reds.”