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Full Online Book HomeLong Stories100%: The Story Of A Patriot - Section 86
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100%: The Story Of A Patriot - Section 86 Post by :ben.g Category :Long Stories Author :Upton Sinclair Date :May 2012 Read :3502

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100%: The Story Of A Patriot - Section 86

That second morning, when Peter got to his office, he found a letter waiting for him, a letter written on very conspicuous and expensive stationery, and addressed in a woman's tall and sharp-pointed handwriting. Peter opened it and got a start, for at the top of the letter was some kind of crest, and a Latin inscription, and the words: "Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution." The letter informed him by the hand of a secretary that Mrs. Warring Sammye requested that Mr. Peter Gudge would be so good as to call upon her that afternoon at three o'clock. Peter studied the letter, and tried to figure out what kind of Red this was. He was impressed by the stationery and the regal tone, but that word "Revolution" was one of the forbidden words. Mrs. Warren Sammye must be one of the "Parlor Reds," like Mrs. Godd.

So Peter took the letter to McGivney, and said suspiciously, "What kind of a Red plot is this?"

McGivney read the letter, and said, "Red plot? How do you mean?"

"Why," explained Peter, "it says 'Daughters of the American Revolution.'"

And McGivney looked at him; at first he thought that Peter was joking, but when he saw that the fellow was really in earnest, he guffawed in his face. "You boob!" he said. "Didn't you ever hear of the American Revolution? Don't you know anything about the Fourth of July?"

Just then the telephone rang and interrupted them, and McGivney shoved the letter to him saying, "Ask your wife about it!" So when Gladys came in, Peter gave her the letter, and she was much excited. It appeared that Mrs. Warring Sammye was a very tip-top society lady in American City, and this American Revolution of which she was a daughter was a perfectly respectable revolution that had happened a long time ago; the very best people belonged to it, and it was legal and proper to write about, and even to put on your letterheads. Peter must go home and get himself into his best clothes at once, and telephone to the secretary that he would be pleased to call upon Mrs. Warring Sammye at the hour indicated. Incidentally, there were a few more things for Peter to study. He must get a copy of the social register, "Who's Who in American City," and he must get a history of his country, and learn about the Declaration of Independence, and what was the difference between a revolution that had happened a long time ago and one that was happening now.

So Peter went to call on the great society lady in her grey stone mansion, and found her every bit as opulent as Mrs. Godd, with the addition that she respected her own social position; she did not make the mistake of treating Peter as an equal, and so it did not occur to Peter that he might settle down permanently in her home. Her purpose was to tell Peter that she had heard of his lecture about the Red menace, and that she was chairman of the Board of Directors of the Lady Patronesses of the Home for Disabled War Veterans in American City, and she wanted to arrange to have Peter deliver this lecture to the veterans. And Peter, instructed in advance by Gladys, said that he would be very glad to donate this lecture as a patriotic contribution. Mrs. Warring Sammye thanked him gravely in the name of his country, and said she would let him know the date.

Peter went home, and Gladys made a wry face, because the lecture was to be delivered before a lot of good-for-nothing soldiers in some hall, when it had been her hope that it was to be delivered to the Daughters themselves, and in Mrs. Warring Sammye's home. However, to have attracted Mrs. Warring Sammye's attention for anything was in itself a triumph. So Gladys was soon cheerful again, and she told Peter about Mrs. Warring Sammye's life; one picked up such valuable knowledge in the gossip at the manicure parlors, it appeared.

Then, being in a friendly mood, Gladys talked to Peter about himself. They had mounted to a height from which they could look back upon the past and see it as a whole, and in the intimacy and confidence of their domestic partnership they could draw lessons from their mistakes and plan their future wisely. Peter had made many blunders--he must surely admit that. Did Peter admit that? Yes, Peter did. But, continued Gladys, he had struggled bravely, and he had the supreme good fortune to have secured for himself that greatest of life's blessings, the cooperation of a good and capable woman. Gladys was very emphatic about this latter, and Peter agreed with her. He agreed also when she stated that it is the duty of a good and capable wife to protect her husband for the balance of their life's journey, so that he would be able to avoid the traps which his enemies set for his feet. Peter, having learned by bitter experience, would never again go chasing after a pretty face, and wake up next morning to find his pockets empty. Peter admitted this too. As this conversation progressed, he realized that the tour of triumph his life had become was a thing entirely of his wife's creation; at least, he realized that there would be no use in trying to change his wife's conviction on the subject. Likewise he meekly accepted her prophecies as to his future conduct; he would bring home his salary at the end of each week, and his wife would use it, together with her own salary, to improve the appearance and tone of both of them, and to aid them to climb to a higher social position.

Peter, following his wife's careful instructions, has already become more dignified in his speech, more grave in his movements. She tells him that the future of society depends on his knowledge and his skill, and he agrees to this also. He has learned what you can do and what you had better not do; he will never again cross the dead-line into crime, or take chances with experiments in blackmail. He will try no more free lance work under the evil influence of low creatures like Nell Doolin, but will stand in with the "machine," and bear in mind that honesty is the best policy. So he will steadily progress; he will meet the big men of the country, and will go to them, not cringing and twisting his hat in his hands, but with quiet self-possession. He will meet the agents of the Attorney-General aspiring to become President, and will furnish them with material for their weekly Red scares. He will meet legislators who want to unseat elected Socialists, and governors who wish to jail the leaders of "outlaw" strikes. He will meet magazine writers getting up articles, and popular novelists looking for local Red color.

But Peter's best bid of all will be as a lecturer. He will be able to travel all over the country, making a sensation. Did he know why? No, Peter answered, he was not sure he did. Well, Gladys could tell him; it was because he was romantic. Peter didn't know just what this word meant, but it sounded flattering, so he smiled sheepishly, showing his crooked teeth, and asked how Gladys found out that he was romantic. The reply was a sudden order for him to stand up and turn around slowly.

Peter didn't like to get up from his comfortable Morris chair, but he did what his wife asked him. She inspected him on all sides and exclaimed, "Peter, you must go on a diet; you're getting ombongpoing!" She said this in horrified tones, and Peter was frightened, because it sounded like a disease. But Gladys added: "You can not be a romantic figure on a lecture platform if you've got a bay-window!"

Peter found it interesting to be talked about, so he asked again why Gladys thought he was romantic. There were several reasons, she said, but the main one was that he had been a dangerous criminal, and had reformed, which pleased the church people; he had made a happy ending by marriage, which pleased those who read novels.

"Is that so?" said Peter, guilelessly, and she assured him that it was. "And what else?" he asked, and she explained that he had known intimately and at first hand those dreadful and dangerous people, those ogres of the modern world, the Bolsheviks, about whom the average man and woman learned only thru the newspapers. And not merely did be tell a sensational story, but he ended it with a money-making lesson. The lesson was "Contribute to the Improve America League. Make out your checks to the Home and Fireside Association. The existence of your country depends upon your sustaining the Patriot's Defense Legion." So the fame of Peter's lecture would spread, and the Guffeys and Billy Nashes of every city and town in America would clamor for him to come, and when he came, the newspapers would publish his picture, and he and his wife would be welcomed by leaders of the best society. They would become social lions, and would see the homes of the rich, and gradually become one of the rich.

Gladys looked her spouse over again, as they started to their sleeping apartment. Yes, he was undoubtedly putting on "ombongpoing"; he would have to take up golf. He was wearing a little American flag dangling from his watch chain, and she wondered if that wasn't a trifle crude. Gladys herself now wore a real diamond ring, and had learned to say "vahse" and "baahth." She yawned prettily as she took off her lovely brown "tailor-made," and reflected that such things come with ease and security.

Both she and Peter now had these in full measure. They had lost all fear of ever finding themselves out of a job. They had come to understand that the Red menace is not to be so easily exterminated; it is a distemper that lurks in the blood of society, and breaks out every now and then in a new rash. Gladys had come to agree with the Reds to this extent, that so long as there is a class of the rich and prosperous, so long will there be social discontent, so long will there be some that make their living by agitating, denouncing and crying out for change. Society is like a garden; each year when you plant your vegetables there springs up also a crop of weeds, and you have to go down the rows and chop off the heads of these weeds. Gladys' husband is an expert gardener, he knows how to chop weeds, and be knows that society will never be able to dispense with his services. So long as gardening continues, Peter will be a head weedchopper, and a teacher of classes of young weedchoppers.

Ah, it was fine to have married such a man! It was the reward a good woman received for helping her husband, making him into a good citizen, a patriot and an upholder of law and order: For always, of course, those who own the garden would see that their head weedchopper was taken care of, and had his share of the best that the garden produced. Gladys stood before her looking-glass, braiding her hair for the night, and thinking of the things she would ask from this garden. She and Peter had earned, and they would demand, the sweetest flowers, the most luscious fruits. Suddenly Gladys stretched wide her arms in an ecstasy of realization. "We're a Success, Peter! We're a Success! We'll have money and all the lovely things it will buy! Do you realize, Peter, what a hit you've made?"

Peter saw her face of joy, but he was a tiny bit frightened and uncertain, because of this unusual sharing of the honors. So Gladys was impelled to affection, mingled with pity. She held out her arms to him. "Poor, dear Peter! He's had such a hard life! It was cruel he didn't have me sooner to help him!"

And then Gladys reflected for a moment, and was moved to another outburst. "Just think, Peter, how wonderful it is to be an American! In America you can always rise if you do your duty! America is the land of the free! Your example of a poor boy's success ought to convince even the fool Reds that they're wrong--that any boy can rise if he works hard! Why, I've heard it said that in America the poorest boy can rise to be President! How would you like to be President, Peter?"

Peter hesitated. He doubted if he was equal to that big a job, but he knew that it would not please Gladys for him to say so. He murmured, "Perhaps--some day--"

"Anyhow, Peter," his wife continued, "I'm for this country! I'm an American!"

And this time Peter didn't have to hesitate. "You bet!" he said, and added his favorite formula--"100%!"

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100%: The Story Of A Patriot - Appendix 100%: The Story Of A Patriot - Appendix

100%: The Story Of A Patriot - Appendix
A little experimenting with the manuscript of "100%" has revealed to the writer that everybody has a series of questions they wish immediately to ask: How much of it is true? To what extent have the business men of America been compelled to take over the detection and prevention of radicalism? Have they, in putting down the Reds, been driven to such extreme measures as you have here shown?A few of the incidents in "100%" are fictional, for example the story of Nell Doolin and Nelse Ackerman; but everything that has social significance is truth, and has been made to conform

100%: The Story Of A Patriot - Section 85 100%: The Story Of A Patriot - Section 85

100%: The Story Of A Patriot - Section 85
Peter went out from this conference a sober man, realizing for the first time his responsibilities as a voter, and a shepherd to other voters. Peter agreed with Gladys that his views had been too narrow; his conception of the duties of a secret agent had been of the pre-war order. Now he must realize that the world was changed; now, in this new world made safe for democracy, the secret agent was the real ruler of society, the real master of affairs, the trustee, as it were, for civilization. Peter and his wife must take up this new role and