He was surprised to see how charmingly a grass widow of “good breeding” could take bad tidings. Evidently it wasn’t the first time that Mrs. James had been to the beach. She smiled cheerfully, and said that it was the jury-box for her once more. She gave Peter her card, and told him she would be glad to have him call upon her again—when he had restored his fortunes. She packed up her suit-case and her new trunk full of Peter’s presents, and departed with the most perfect sweetness and good taste.
So there was Peter, down and out once more. But fate was kind to him. That very day came a letter signed “Two forty-three,” which meant McGivney. “Two forty-three” had some important work for Peter, so would he please call at once? Peter pawned his last bit of jewelry for his fare to American City, and met McGivney at the usual rendezvous.
The purpose of the meeting was quickly explained. America was now at war, and the time had come when the mouths of these Reds were to be stopped for good. You could do things in war-time that you couldn’t do in peace-time, and one of the things you were going to do was to put an end to the agitation against property. Peter licked his lips, metaphorically speaking. It was something he had many times told McGivney ought to be done. Pat McCormick especially ought to be put away for good. These were a dangerous bunch, these Reds, and Mac was the worst of all. It was every man’s duty to help, and what could Peter do?
McGivney answered that the authorities were making a complete list of all the radical organizations and their members, getting evidence preliminary to arrests. Guffey was in charge of the job; as in the Goober case, the big business interests of the city were going ahead while the government was still wiping the sleep out of its eyes. Would Peter take a job spying upon the Reds in American City?
“I can’t!” exclaimed Peter. “They’re all sore at me because I didn’t testify in the Goober case.”
“We can easily fix that up,” answered the rat-faced man. “It may mean a little inconvenience for you. You may have to go to jail for a few days.”
“To jail!” cried Peter, in dismay.
“Yes,” said the other, “you’ll have to get arrested, and made into a martyr. Then, you see, they’ll all be sure you’re straight, and they’ll take you back again and welcome you.”
Peter didn’t like the idea of going to jail; his memories of the jail in American City were especially painful. But McGivney explained that this was a time when men couldn’t consider their own feelings; the country was in danger, public safety must be protected, and it was up to everybody to make some patriotic sacrifice. The rich men were all subscribing to liberty bonds; the poor men were going to give their lives; and what was Peter Gudge going to give? “Maybe I’ll be drafted into the army,” Peter remarked.