Yes, Peter had come to take it as a personal affront that these radicals should go on denouncing the cause which Peter had espoused. They all thought of Peter as a comrade, they were most friendly to him; but Peter had the knowledge of how they would regard him when they knew the real truth, and this imagined contempt burned him like an acid. Sometimes there would be talk about spies and informers, and then these people would exhaust their vocabulary of abuse, and Peter, of course, would apply every word of it to himself and become wild with anger. He would long to answer back; he was waiting for the day when he might vindicate himself and his cause by smashing these Reds in the mouth.
“Well,” said McGivney one day, “I’ve got something interesting for you now. You’re going into high society for a while!”
And the rat-faced man explained that there was a young man in a neighboring city, reputed to be a multi-millionaire, who had written a book against the war, and was the financial source of much pacificism and sedition. “These people are spending lots of money for printing,” said McGivney, “and we hear this fellow Lackman is putting it up. We’ve learned that he is to be in town tomorrow, and we want you to find out all about his affairs.”
So Peter was to meet a millionaire! Peter had never known one of these fortunate beings, but he was for them—he had always been for them. Ever since he had learned to read, he had liked to find stories about them in the newspapers, with pictures of them and their palaces. He had read these stories as a child reads fairy tales. They were his creatures of dreams, belonging to a world above reality, above pain and inconvenience.
And then in the days when Peter had been a servant in the Temple of Jimjambo, devoted to the cult of Eleutherinian Exoticism, he had found hanging in the main assembly room a picture labelled, “Mount Olympus,” showing a dozen gods and goddesses reclining at ease on silken couches, sipping nectar from golden goblets and gazing down upon the far-off troubles of the world. Peter would peer from behind the curtains and see the Chief Magistrian emerging from behind the seven mystic veils, lifting his rolling voice and in a kind of chant expounding life to his flock of adoring society ladies. He would point to the picture and explain those golden, Olympian days when the Eleutherinian cult had originated. The world had changed much since then, and for the worse; those who had power must take it as their task to restore beauty and splendor to the world, and to develop the gracious possibilities of being.
Peter, of course, hadn’t really believed in anything that went on in the Temple of Jimjambo; and yet he had been awed by its richness, and by the undoubtedly exclusive character of its worshippers; he had got the idea definitely fixed in his head that there really had been a Mount Olympus, and when he tried to imagine the millionaires and their ways, it was these gods and goddesses, reclining on silken couches and sipping nectar, that came to his mind!