“It will be just what you make up your minds now to have it—good and honest and clean, a place that the right kind of people will want to live in, or the place that will attract loungers and loafers.”
He laid upon them the burden of individual responsibility. If a town was honest, he said, it was because the men in it were honest; if it was clean it was because its men were clean. It was for each man to decide at this election whether Tinkersfield should have a future of darkness or of light. There were men in that crowd who squared their shoulders to meet the blows of his eloquence, who kept them squared as they made their decision to do their part in the upbuilding of Tinkersfield.
Yet it was not perhaps so much the things that O-liver said as the way he said them. He had the qualities of leadership—a sincerity of the kind that sways men level with their leaders—the sincerity of a Lincoln, a Roosevelt. For him a democracy meant all the people. Not merely plain people, not indeed selected classes. Rich man, poor man, one, working together for the common good.
Back of his sincerity there was fire—and gradually his audience was lighted by his flame. They listened in a tense silence, which broke now and then into cheers. To Jane sitting high up on the benches he was a prophet—the John the Baptist of Tinkersfield.
“And he’s mine, he’s mine!” she exulted. This fineness of spirit, the fire and flame were hers. “If I know you are there somewhere in the dark I shall pour out my soul—to you—”
The darkness had not yet fallen, but the dusk had come. The platform was illumined by little lights like stars. Back of the platform the eucalyptus trees were now pale spectres, their leaves hanging nerveless in the still air.
O-liver sitting down amid thunders of applause let his eyes go for the moment to Jane. A lamp hung almost directly over her head. She had taken off her wide hat and her hair was glorious. She was leaning forward a little, her lips parted, her hands clasped, as if he still spoke to her.
As Tillotson’s sponsor rose Jane straightened up, smiled at Tommy, and again set herself to listen.
The unctuous voice of the speaker was a contrast to O-liver’s crisp tones. There were other contrasts not so apparent. This man was in the game for what he could get out of it. He wanted Tillotson to win because Tillotson’s winning would strengthen his own position politically. He meant indeed that Tillotson should win. He was not particular as to methods.
He said the usual things: Tinkersfield was no Sunday school; and they weren’t slaves to have their liberty taken from them by a lot of impractical reformers. And Lee was that kind. What had he ever done to prove that he’d make good? They knew Tillotson. They didn’t know Lee. Who was Lee anyhow?
He flung the interrogation at them. “What do you know about Lee?”