But O-liver’s blond mane waved in every passing breeze. It was only when he rode forth on his mysterious journeys that he crowned himself with a Chinese straw helmet.
Because he wore no hat his skin was tanned. He had blue eyes that twinkled and, as I have said, a blond mane.
“Fifteen dollars a week,” he reaffirmed, “is enough.”
Fifteen dollars was all that O-liver earned. He was secretary to an incipient oil king. As the oil king’s monarchy was largely on paper he found it hard at times to compass even the fifteen dollars that went to his secretary.
The other men scorned O-liver’s point of view and told him so. They were a rather prosperous bunch, all except Tommy Drew, who dealt in a dilettante fashion in insurance, and who sat at O-liver’s feet and worshiped him.
It was Saturday and some of the men had drifted in from the surrounding ranches; others from the cities, from the mountains, from the valleys, from the desert, from the sea. Tinkersfield had assumed a sudden importance as an oil town. All of the men had business connected in some way with Tinkersfield. And all of them earned more than fifteen dollars a week.
Therefore they disputed O-liver’s statement. “If you had a wife—” said one.
“Ah,” said O-liver, “if I had—”
“Ain’t you got any ambition?” Henry Bittinger demanded. Henry was pumping out oil in prodigious quantities. He had bought a motor car and a fur coat. It was too hot most of the time for the coat, but the car stood now at rest across the road—long and lovely—much more of an aristocrat than the man who owned it.
“Ambition for what?” O-liver demanded.
Henry’s eyes went to the pride of his heart.
“Well, I should think you’d want a car.”
“I’d give,” said O-liver, “my kingdom for a horse, but not for a car.”
O-liver’s little mare stood quite happily in the shade; she was slim as to leg, shining as to coat, and with the eyes of a loving woman.
“I should think you’d want to get ahead,” said Atwood Jones, who sold shoes up and down the coast. He was a junior member of the firm, but still liked to go on the road. He liked to lounge like this in front of the post-office and smoke in the golden air with a lot of men sitting round. Atwood had been raised on a ranch. He had listened to the call of the city, but he was still a small-town man.
“Ahead of what?” asked O-liver.
Atwood was vague. He felt himself a rising citizen. Some day he expected to marry and set his wife up in a mansion in San Francisco, with seasons of rest and recreation at Del Monte and Coronado and the East. If the shoe business kept to the present rate of prosperity he would probably have millions to squander in his old age.
He tried to say something of this to O-liver.
“Well, will you be any happier?” asked the young man with the bare head. “I’ll wager my horse against your car that when you’re drunk with dollars you’ll look back to a day like this and envy yourself. It’s happiness I’m talking about.”