But now here was the religion Peter wanted. These clergymen in their robes of snow white linen, preaching in churches with golden altars and stained-glass windows; these statesmen who wore the halo of fame, and went about with the cheering of thousands in their ears; these mighty captains of industry whose very names were magic—with power, when written on pieces of paper, to cause cities to rise in the desert, and then to fall again beneath a rain of shells and poison gas; these editors and cartoonists of the American City “Times,” with all their wit and learning—these people all combined to construct for Peter a religion and an ideal, and to hand it out to him, ready-made and precisely fitted to his understanding. Peter would go right on doing the things he had been doing before; but he would no longer do them in the name of Peter Gudge, the ant, he would do them in the name of a mighty nation of a hundred and ten million people, with all its priceless memories of the past and its infinite hopes for the future; he would do them in the sacred name of patriotism, and the still more sacred name of democracy. And—most convenient of circumstances—the big business men of American City, who had established a secret service bureau with Guffey in charge of it, would go right on putting up their funds, and paying Peter fifty dollars a week and expenses while he served the holy cause!
It was the fashion these days for orators and public men to vie with one another in expressing the extremes of patriotism, and Peter would read these phrases, and cherish them; they came to seem a part of him, he felt as if he had invented them. He became greedy for more and yet more of this soul-food; and there was always more to be had—until Peter’s soul was become swollen, puffed up as with a bellows. Peter became a patriot of patriots, a super-patriot; Peter was a red-blooded American and no mollycoddle; Peter was a “he-American,” a 100% American—and if there could have been such a thing as a 101% American, Peter would have been that. Peter was so much of an American that the very sight of a foreigner filled him with a fighting impulse. As for the Reds—well, Peter groped for quite a time before he finally came upon a formula which expressed his feelings. It was a famous clergyman who achieved it for him—saying that if he could have his way he would take all the Reds, and put them in a ship of stone with sails of lead, and send them forth with hell for their destination.
So Peter chafed more and more at his inability to get action. How much more evidence did the secret service of the Traction Trust require? Peter would ask this question of McGivney again and again, and McGivney would answer: “Keep your shirt on. You’re getting your pay every week. What’s the matter with you?”
“The matter is, I’m tired of listening to these fellows ranting,” Peter would say. “I want to stop their mouths.”