And Peter did not dare open his mouth; the look on the Irishman’s face was so fierce that he was really afraid for his life. God, what a hateful lot these Reds were! And now here was Peter with the worst one of all against him! From now on his life would be in danger from this maniac Irishman! Peter hated him—so heartily and genuinely that it served to divert his thoughts from little Jennie, and to make him regard himself as a victim.
Yes, in the midnight hours when Jennie’s gentle little face haunted him and his conscience attacked him, Peter looked back upon the tangled web of events, and saw quite clearly how inevitable this tragedy had been, how naturally it had grown out of circumstances beyond his control. The fearful labor struggle in American City was surely not Peter’s fault; nor was it his fault that he had been drawn into it, and forced to act first as an unwilling witness, and then as a secret agent. Peter read the American City “Times” every morning, and knew that the cause of Goober was the cause of anarchy and riot, while the cause of the district attorney and of Guffey’s secret service was the cause of law and order. Peter was doing his best in this great cause, he was following the instructions of those above him, and how could he be blamed because one poor weakling of a girl had got in the way of the great chariot of the law?
Peter knew that it wasn’t his fault; and yet grief and terror gnawed at him. For one thing, he missed little Jennie, he missed her by day and he missed her by night. He missed her gentle voice, her fluffy soft hair, her body in his empty arms. She was his first love, and she was gone, and it is human weakness to appreciate things most when they have been lost.
Peter aspired to be a strong man, a “he-man,” according to the slang that was coming into fashion; he now tried to live up to that role. He didn’t want to go mooning about over this accident; yet Jennie’s face stayed with him—sometimes wild, as he had seen it at their last meeting, sometimes gentle and reproachful. Peter would remember how good she had been, how tender, how never-failing in instant response to an advance of love on his part. Where would he ever find another girl like that?
Another thing troubled him especially—a strange, inexplicable thing, for which Peter had no words, and about which he found himself frequently thinking. This weak, frail slip of a girl had deliberately given her life for her convictions; she had died, in order that he might be saved as a witness for the Goobers! Of course Peter had known all along that little Jennie was doomed, that she was throwing herself away, that nothing could save her. But somehow, it does frighten the strongest heart when people are so fanatical as to throw away their very lives for a cause. Peter found himself regarding the ideas of these Reds from a new angle; before this they had been just a bunch of “nuts,” but now they seemed to him creatures of monstrous deformity, products of the devil, or of a God gone insane.