Peter understood clearly that there are two kinds of people in the world, those who eat, and those who are eaten; and it was his intention to stay among the former, group. Peter had come in his twenty years of life to a definite understanding of the things called “ideas” and “causes” and “religions.” They were bait to catch suckers; and there is a continual competition between the suckers, who of course don’t want to be caught, and those people of superior wits who want to catch them, and therefore are continually inventing new and more plausible and alluring kinds of bait. Peter had by now heard enough of the jargon of the “comrades” to realize that theirs was an especially effective kind; and here was poor little Jennie, stuck fast on the hook, and what could Peter do about it?
Yet, this was Peter’s first love, and when he was deeply thrilled, he understood the truth of Guffey’s saying that a man in love wants to tell the truth. Peter would have the impulse to say to her: “Oh, drop all that preaching, and give yourself a rest! Let’s you and me enjoy life a bit.”
Yes, it would be all he could do to keep from saying this—despite the fact that he knew it would ruin everything. Once little Jennie appeared in a new silk dress, brought to her by one of the rich ladies whose heart was touched by her dowdy appearance. It was of soft grey silk—cheap silk, but fresh and new, and Peter had never had anything so fine in his arms before. It matched Jennie’s grey eyes, and its freshness gave her a pink glow; or was it that Peter admired her, and loved her more, and so brought the blood to her cheeks? Peter had an impulse to take her out and show her off, and he pressed his face into the soft folds of the dress and whispered, “Say kid, some day you an me got to cut all this hard luck business for a bit!”
He felt little Jennie stiffen, and draw away from him; so quickly he had to set to work to patch up the damage. “I want you to get well,” he pleaded. “You’re so good to everybody—you treat everybody well but yourself!”
It had been something in his tone rather than his actual words that had frightened the girl. “Oh Peter!” she cried. “What does it matter about me, or about any other one person, when millions of young men are being shot to fragments, and millions of women and children are starving to death!”
So there they were, fighting the war again; Peter had to take up her burden, be a hero, and a martyr, and a “Red.” That same afternoon, as fate willed it, three “wobblies” out of a job came to call; and oh, how tired Peter was of these wandering agitators—insufferable “grouches!” Peter would want to say: “Oh, cut it out! What you call your `cause’ is nothing but your scheme to work with your tongues instead of with a pick and a shovel.” And this would start an imaginary quarrel in Peter’s mind. He would hear one of the fellows demanding, “How much pick and shovel work you ever done?”