“No, you won’t—not if you take this job,” said McGivney. “We can fix that. A man like you, who has special abilities, is too precious to be wasted.” Peter decided forthwith that he would accept the proposition. It was much more sensible to spend a few days in jail than to spend a few years in the trenches, and maybe the balance of eternity under the sod of France.
Matters were quickly arranged. Peter took off his good clothes, and dressed himself as became a workingman, and went into the eating-room where Donald Gordon, the Quaker boy, always got his lunch. Peter was quite sure that Donald would be one of the leading agitators against the draft, and in this he was not mistaken.
Donald was decidedly uncordial in his welcoming of Peter; without saying a word the young Quaker made Peter aware that he was a renegade, a coward who had “thrown down” the Goober defense. But Peter was patient and tactful; he did not try to defend himself, nor did he ask any questions about Donald and Donald’s activities. He simply announced that he had been studying the subject of militarism, and had come to a definite point of view. He was a Socialist and an Internationalist; he considered America’s entry into the war a crime, and he was willing to do his part in agitating against it. He was going to take his stand as a conscientious objector; they might send him to jail if they pleased, or even stand him against a wall and shoot him, but they would never get him to put on a uniform.
It was impossible for Donald Gordon to hold out against a man who talked like that; a man who looked him in the eye and expressed his convictions so simply and honestly. And that evening Peter went to a meeting of Local American City of the Socialist Party, and renewed his acquaintance with all the comrades. He didn’t make a speech or do anything conspicuous, but simply got into the spirit of things; and next day he managed to meet some of the members, and whenever and wherever he was asked, he expressed his convictions as a conscientious objector. So before a week had passed Peter found that he was being tolerated, that nobody was going to denounce him as a traitor, or kick him out of the room.
At the next weekly meeting of Local American City, Peter ventured to say a few words. It was a red-hot meeting, at which the war and the draft were the sole subjects of discussion. There were some Germans in the local, some Irishmen, and one or two Hindoos; they, naturally, were all ardent pacifists. Also there were agitators of what was coming to be called the “left wing”; the group within the party who considered it too conservative, and were always clamoring for more radical declarations, for “mass action” and general strikes and appeals to the proletariat to rise forthwith and break their chains. These were days of great events; the Russian revolution had electrified the world, and these comrades of the “left wing” felt themselves lifted upon pinions of hope.