“Nonsense,” said Peter, echoing McGivney. “It’s nothing; everybody does it.” But Jennie was apparently not listening. She sat staring with her wild, terrified eyes, and pulling at her dress with her fingers. Peter got to watching these fingers, and they got on his nerves. They behaved like insane fingers; they manifested all the emotions which the rest of little Jennie was choking back and repressing.
“If you would only not take it so seriously!” Peter pleaded. “It’s a miserable accident, but it’s happened, and now we’ve got to make the best of it. Some day I’ll get free; some day I’ll marry you.”
“Stop, Peter!” the girl whispered, in her tense voice. “I don’t want to talk to you any more, if that’s all you have to say. I don’t know that I’d be willing to marry you—now that I know you could deceive me—that you could go on deceiving me day after day for months.”
Peter thought she was going to break out into hysterics again, and he was frightened. He tried to plead with her, but suddenly she sprang up. “Go away!” she exclaimed. “Please go away and let me alone. I’ll think it over and decide what to do myself. Whatever I do, I won’t disgrace you, so leave me alone, go quickly!”
She drove him out of the house, and Peter went, though with many misgivings. He wandered about the streets, not knowing what to do with himself, looking back over the blunders he had made and tormenting himself with that most tormenting of all thoughts: how different my life might have been, if only I had had sense enough to do this, or not to do that! Dinner time came, and Peter blew himself to a square meal, but even that did not comfort him entirely. He pictured Sadie coming home at this hour. Was Jennie telling her or not?
There was a big mass meeting called by the Goober Defense Committee that evening, and Peter attended, and it proved to be the worst thing he could have done. His mind was in no condition to encounter the, fierce passions of this crowded assemblage. Peter had the picture of himself being exposed and denounced; he wasn’t sure yet that it mightn’t happen to him. And here was this meeting—thousands of workingmen, horny handed blacksmiths, longshoremen with shoulders like barns and truckmen with fists like battering rams, long-haired radicals of a hundred dangerous varieties, women who waved red handkerchiefs and shrieked until to Peter they seemed like gorgons with snakes instead of hair.
Such were the mob-frenzies engendered by the Goober case; and Peter knew, of course, that to all these people he was a traitor, a poisonous worm, a snake in the grass. If ever they were to find out what he was doing—if for instance, someone were to rise up and expose him to this crowd—they would seize him and tear him to pieces. And maybe, right now, little Jennie was telling Sadie; and Sadie would tell Andrews, and Andrews would become suspicious, and set spies on Peter Gudge! Maybe they had spies on him already, and knew of his meetings with McGivney!