“No, you wouldn’t. That’s a part of your splendidness. Never taking anything to yourself. Jane, will you believe this—that what I may be hereafter will be because of you? If I ever do a big thing or a fine thing it will be because I came upon you that night with your head high and that rabble round you. You were light shining into the darkness of Tinkersfield. Jove, I wish I were a painter to put you on canvas as you were that night!”
They had ridden down later under the stars, and as they had stood for a moment overlooking the lights of the little town O-liver had said: “I make my big speech to-morrow night to beat Tillotson. I want you to be there. Will you? If I know you are there somewhere in the dark I shall pour out my soul—to you.”
Was it any wonder that Jane, talking to Tommy the next morning about O-liver, felt her pulses pounding, her cheeks burning? She had lain awake all night thinking of the things he had said to her. It seemed a very big and wonderful thing that a man could love her like that. As toward morning the moonlight streamed in and she still lay awake she permitted herself to let her mind dwell for a moment on what her future might mean if he were in it. She was too busy and healthy to indulge in useless regrets. But she knew in that moment in the moonlight if he was not to be in her future no other man would ever be.
O-liver’s speech was made in the open. There was a baseball park in Tinkersfield, bounded at the west end by a grove of eucalyptus. With this grove as a background a platform had been erected. From the platform the rival candidates would speak. At this time of the year it would be daylight when the meeting opened. Tillotson was not to speak for himself. He had brought a man down from San Francisco, a big politician with an oily tongue. O-liver would of course present his own case. The thing, as Atwood told Henry, promised to be exciting.
Jane came with Tommy. There was a sort of rude grand stand opposite the platform, and she had a seat well up toward the top. She wore a white skirt, a gray sweater and a white hat. She had a friendly smile for the people about her. And they smiled back. They liked Jane.
O-liver spoke first. Bare-headed, slender, with his air of eternal youth, he was silhouetted against the rose red of the afterglow.
When he began he led them lightly along paths of easy thought. He got their attention as he had so often got it in front of the post-office. He made them smile, he made them laugh, he led them indeed finally into roaring laughter. And when he had brought them thus into sympathy he began with earnestness to speak of Tinkersfield.
Jane, leaning forward, not missing a word, felt his magnetism. He spoke of the future of Tinkersfield. Of what must be done if it was to fulfill its destiny as a decent town. He did not mince his words.