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Full Online Book HomeLong Stories100%: The Story Of A Patriot - Section 70
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100%: The Story Of A Patriot - Section 70 Post by :runtonk Category :Long Stories Author :Upton Sinclair Date :May 2012 Read :2463

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100%: The Story Of A Patriot - Section 70

Of course Peter's statement to McGivney had not been literally true. He had winked at a number of women, but the trouble was none had returned his wink. First he had made friendly advances toward Miriam Yankovich, who was buxom and not bad looking; but Miriam's thoughts were evidently all with McCormick in jail; and then, after her experience with Bob Ogden, Miriam had to go to a hospital, and of course Peter didn't want to fool with an invalid. He made himself agreeable to others of the Red girls, and they seemed to like him; they treated him as a good comrade, but somehow they did not seem to act up to McGivney's theories of "free love." So Peter made up his mind that he would find him a girl who was not a Red. It would give him a little relief now and then, a little fun. The Reds seldom had any fun--their idea of an adventure was to get off in a room by themselves and sing the International or the Red Flag in whispers, so the police couldn't hear them.

It was Saturday afternoon, and Peter went to a clothing store kept by a Socialist, and bought himself a new hat and a new suit of clothes on credit. Then he went out on the street, and saw a neat little girl going into a picture-show, and followed her, and they struck up an acquaintance and had supper together. She was what Peter called a "swell dresser," and it transpired that she worked in a manicure parlor. Her idea of fun corresponded to Peter's, and Peter spent all the money he had that Saturday evening, and made up his mind that if he could get something new on the Reds in the course of the week, he would strike McGivney for forty dollars.

Next morning was Easter Sunday, and Peter met his manicurist by appointment, and they went for a stroll on Park Avenue, which was the aristocratic street of American City and the scene of the "Easter parade." It was war time, and many of the houses had flags out, and many of the men were in uniform, and all of the sermons dealt with martial themes. Christ, it appeared, was risen again to make the world safe for democracy, and to establish self-determination for all people; and Peter and Miss Frisbie both had on their best clothes, and watched the crowds in the "Easter parade," and Miss Frisbie studied the costumes and make-up of the ladies, and picked up scraps of their conversation and whispered them to Peter, and made Peter feel that he was back on Mount Olympus again.

They turned into one of the swell Park Avenue churches; the Church of the Divine Compassion it was called, and it was very "high," with candles and incense--althogh you could hardly smell the incense on this occasion for the scent of the Easter lilies and the ladies. Peter and his friend were escorted to one of the leather covered pews, and they heard the Rev. de Willoughby Stotterbridge, a famous pulpit orator, deliver one of those patriotic sermons which were quoted in the "Times" almost every Monday morning. The Rev. de Willoughby Stotterbridge quoted some Old Testament text about exterminating the enemies of the Lord, and he sang the triumph of American arms, and the overwhelming superiority of American munitions. He denounced the Bolsheviks and all other traitors, and called for their instant suppression; he didn't say that he had actually been among the crowd which had horse-whipped the I. W. Ws. and smashed the printing presses and typewriters of the Socialists, but he made it unmistakably clear that that was what he wanted, and Peter's bosom swelled with happy pride. It was something to a man to know that he was serving his country and keeping the old flag waving; but it was still more to know that he was enlisted in the service of the Almighty, that Heaven and all its hosts were on his side, and that everything he had done had the sanction of the Almighty's divinely ordained minister, speaking in the Almighty's holy temple, in the midst of stained-glass windows and brightly burning candles and the ravishing odor of incense, and of Easter lilies and of mignonette and lavender in the handkerchiefs of delicately gowned and exquisite ladies from Mount Olympus. This, to be sure, was mixing mythologies, but Peter's education had been neglected in his youth, and Peter could not be blamed for taking the great ones of the earth as they were, and believing what they taught him.

The white robed choir marched out, and the music of "Onward Christian Soldiers" faded away, and Peter and his lady went out from the Church of the Divine Compassion, and strolled on the avenue again, and when they had sufficiently filled their nostrils with the sweet odors of snobbery, they turned into the park, where there were places of seclusion for young couples interested in each other. But alas, the fates which dogged Peter in his love-making had prepared an especially cruel prank that morning. At the entrance to the park, whom should Peter meet but Comrade Schnitzelmann, a fat little butcher who belonged to the "Bolshevik local" of American City. Peter tried to look the other way and hurry by, but Comrade Schnitzelmann would not have it so. He came rushing up with one pudgy hand stretched out, and a beaming smile on his rosy Teutonic countenance. "Ach, Comrade Gudge!" cried he. "Wie geht's mit you dis morning?"

"Very well, thank you," said Peter, coldly, and tried to hurry on.

But Comrade Schnitzelmann held onto his hand. "So! You been seeing dot Easter barade!" said he. "Vot you tink, hey? If we could get all de wage slaves to come und see dot barade, we make dem all Bolsheviks pretty quick! Hey, Comrade Gudge?"

"Yes, I guess so," said Peter, still more coldly.

"We show dem vot de money goes for--hey, Comrade Gudge!" And Comrade Schnitzelmann chuckled, and Peter said, quickly, "Well, good-bye," and without introducing his lady-love took her by the arm and hurried away.

But alas, the damage had been done! They walked for a minute or two amid ominous silence. Then suddenly the manicurist stood still and confronted Peter. "Mr. Gudge," she demanded, "what does that mean?"

And Peter of course could not answer. He did not dare to meet her flashing eyes, but stood digging the toe of his shoe into the path. "I want to know what it means," persisted the girl. "Are you one of those Reds?"

And what could poor Peter say? How could he explain his acquaintance with that Teutonic face and that Teutonic accent?

The girl stamped her foot with impatient anger. "So you're one of those Reds! You're one of those pro-German traitors! You're an imposter, a spy!"

Peter was helpless with embarrassment and dismay. "Miss Frisbie," he began, "I can't explain--"

"_Why can't you explain? Why can't any honest man explain?"

"But--but--I'm not what you think--it isn't true! I--I--" It was on the tip of Peter's tongue to say, "I'm a patriot! I'm a 100% American, protecting my country against these traitors!" But professional honor sealed his tongue, and the little manicurist stamped her foot again, and her eyes flashed with indignation.

"You dare to seek my acquaintance! You dare to take me to church! Why--if there was a policeman in sight, I'd report you, I'd send you to jail!" And actually she looked around for a policeman! But it is well known that there never is a policeman in sight when you look for one; so Miss Frisbie stamped her foot again and snorted in Peter's face. "Goodbye, _Comrade Gudge!" The emphasis she put upon that word "comrade" would have frozen the fieriest Red soul; and she turned with a swish of her skirts and strode off, and Peter stood looking mournfully at her little French heels going crunch, crunch, crunch on the gravel path. When the heels were clean gone out of sight, Peter sought out the nearest bench and sat down and buried his face in his hands, a picture of woe. Was there ever in the world a man who had such persistent ill luck with women?

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Peter was really happy now, because the authorities were thoroughly roused, and when he brought them new facts, he had the satisfaction of seeing something done about it. Ostensibly the action was taken by the Federal agents, or by the District Attorney's office, or by the city police and detectives; but Peter knew that it was always himself and the rest of Guffey's agents, pulling the wires behind the scenes. Guffey had the money, he was working for the men who really counted in American City; Guffey was the real boss. And all over the country it was the same; the
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