So for a couple of months Peter and Mrs. James set up housekeeping together. It was a wonderful experience for the former, because Mrs. James was what is called a “lady,” she had rich relatives, and took pains to let Peter know that she had lived in luxury before her husband had run away to Paris with a tight-rope walker. She taught Peter all those worldly arts which one misses when one is brought up in an orphan asylum, and on the road with a patent medicine vender. Tactfully, and without hurting his feelings, she taught him how to hold a knife and fork, and what color tie to select. At the same time she managed to conduct a propaganda which caused him to regard himself as the most favored of mankind; he was overwhelmed with gratitude for every single kiss from the lips of his grass widow. Of course he could not expect such extraordinary favors of fortune without paying for them; he had learned by now that there was no such thing as “free love.” So he paid, hand over fist; he not only paid all the expenses of the unregistered honeymoon, he bought numerous expensive presents at the lady’s tactful suggestion. She was always so vivacious and affectionate when Peter had given her a present! Peter lived in a kind of dream, his money seemed to go out of his pockets without his having to touch it.
Meantime great events were rolling by, unheeded by Peter and his grass widow who never read the newspapers. For one thing Jim Goober was convicted and sentenced to die on the gallows, and Jim Goober’s associate, Biddle, was found guilty, and sentenced to prison for life. Also, America entered the war, and a wave of patriotic excitement swept like a prairie fire over the country. Peter could not help hearing about this; his attention was attracted to one aspect of the matter—Congress was about to pass a conscription act. And Peter was within the age limit; Peter would almost certainly be drafted into the army!
No terror that he had ever felt in his life was equal to this terror. He had tried to forget the horrible pictures of battle and slaughter, of machine-guns and hand-grenades and torpedoes and poison gas, with which little Jennie had filled his imagination; but now these imaginings came crowding back upon him, now for the first time they concerned him. From that time on his honeymoon was spoiled. Peter and his grass widow were like a party of picnickers who are far away in the wilderness, and see a black thunder-storm come rolling up the sky!
Also, Peter’s bank account was running low. Peter had had no conception how much money you could spend on a grass widow who is a “swell dresser” and understands what is “proper.” He was overwhelmed with embarrassment; he put off telling Mrs. James until the last moment—in fact, until he wasn’t quite sure whether he had enough money in bank to meet the last check he had given to the landlady. Then, realizing that the game was up, he told.