“You’re the man who discovered this plot, I understand?”
“Well, take a chair, there,” said the banker. There was a chair near the bedside, but it seemed to Peter too close to be respectful, so he pulled it a little farther away, and sat down on the front six inches of it, still holding his hat in his hands and twisting it nervously. “Put down that hat,” said the old man, irritably. So Peter stuck the hat under his chair, and said: “I beg pardon, sir.”
The old plutocrat was feeble and sick, but his mind was all there, and his eyes seemed to be boring Peter through. Peter realized that he would have to be very careful—the least little slip would be fatal here.
“Now, Gudge,” the old man began, “I want you to tell me all about it. To begin with, how did you come to be among these Reds? Begin at the beginning.”
So Peter told how he had happened to get interested in the radical movement, laying particular stress upon the dangerousness of these Reds, and his own loyalty to the class which stood for order and progress and culture in the country. “It ought to be stopped, Mr. Ackerman!” he exclaimed, with a fine show of feeling; and the old banker nodded. Yes, yes, it ought to be stopped!
“Well,” said Peter, “I said to myself, `I’m going to find out about them fellows.’ I went to their meetings, and little by little I pretended to get converted, and I tell you, Mr. Ackerman, our police are asleep; they don’t know what these agitators are doing, what they’re preaching. They don’t know what a hold they’ve got on the mobs of the discontented!”
Peter went on to tell in detail about the propaganda of social revolution, and about conspiracies against law and order, and the property and even the lives of the rich. Peter noticed that when the old man took a sip of water his hand trembled so that he could hardly keep the water from spilling; and presently, when the phone rang again, his voice became shrill and imperious. “I understand they’re applying for bail for those men. Now Angus, that’s an outrage! We’ll not hear to anything like that! I want you to see the judge at once, and make absolutely certain that those men are held in jail.”
Then again the old banker had a coughing fit. “Now, Gudge,” he said, “I know more or less about all that. What I want to know is about this conspiracy against me. Tell me how you came to find out about it.”
And Peter told; but of course he embellished it, in so far as it related to Mr. Ackerman—these fellows were talking about Mr. Ackerman all the time, they had a special grudge against him.
“But why?” cried the old man. “Why?”
“They think you’re fighting them, Mr. Ackerman.”
“But I’m not! That’s not true!”
“Well, they say you put up money to hang Goober. They call you—you’ll excuse me?”