Before her scorn the chant died away in a gasp!
“The thing you’ve got to think about,” she went on, “isn’t Tillotson or O-liver Lee. It’s Tinkersfield. You want an honest man. And O-liver Lee’s honest. He doesn’t want your money. He’s got enough of his own. His father’s the richest man in his part of the state and his wife’s a movie actress and makes as much as the President. It sounds like a fairy tale, but it isn’t. If O-liver Lee wanted to live on his father or his wife he could hold out his hand and let things drop into it. But he’d rather earn fifteen dollars a week and own his soul. And he isn’t a hypocrite. His friends knew about his marriage. Tommy Drew knew, and I knew. And there wasn’t any particular reason why he should tell the rest of you, was there? There wasn’t any particular reason why he should tell Tillotson?”
A murmur of laughter followed her questions. There was a feeling in the crowd that the joke was on Tillotson.
“I wonder how many of you have told your pasts to Tinkersfield! How many of you have made Tillotson your father confessor?
“As for me”—her head was high—“I sell sandwiches. I am very busy. I hardly have time to think. But when I do think it is of something besides village gossip.”
She grew suddenly earnest; leaned down to them. “You haven’t time to think of it either,” she told them; “have you, men of Tinkersfield?”
Her appeal was direct, and the answer came back to her in a roar from the men who knew courage when they saw it; who knew, indeed, innocence!
And it was that “No” which beat Tillotson.
“The way she put it over,” Atwood exulted afterward, “to a packed crowd like this!”
“The thing about Jane”—Henry was very seriously trying to say the thing as he saw it—“the thing about Jane is that she sees things straight. And she makes other people see.”
Well, Tillotson was beaten, and the men who supported O-liver came out of the fight feeling as if they had killed something unclean.
And the morning after the election O-liver had a little note from Jane.
“I’ve got to go away. I didn’t want to worry you with it before this. I have saved enough money to start in at some college where I can work for a part of my tuition. I have had experience in my little lunch room that ought to be a help somewhere.
“When I finish college I’m going into some sort of occupation that will provide a pleasant home for mother and me. I want books, and lovely things, and a garden; and I’d like to speak a language or two and have cultured friends. Then some day when you are made President you can say to yourself: ‘I am proud of my friend, Jane.’ And I’ll come to your inauguration and watch you ride to the White House, and I’ll say to myself as I see you ride, ‘I’ve loved him all these years.’