“If she had been content to earn an honest living,” Jane stated severely, “the story would have had a different ending.”
“Well, she wanted things,” Tommy said.
“Most women do.” Jane jabbed her needle into a length of pink gingham which, when finished, would be rompers for a youngster across the street. “I do; and I intend to have them.”
“How?” asked the interested Tommy.
“Work for them.”
“O-liver says that fifteen dollars a week is enough for anybody to earn.”
Jane had heard of O-liver. Tommy sang his constant praises.
“After that you get soft.”
Jane laid down the length of pink gingham and looked at him. She hated to sew on pink; it clashed dreadfully with her hair.
“I should say,” she stated with scorn, “that your O-liver’s lazy.”
“No, he isn’t. He only wants enough to eat and enough to smoke and enough to read.”
“That sounds all right, but it isn’t. What’s he going to do when he’s old?”
“He ain’t ever going to grow old. He said so, and if you’d see him you’d know.”
Jane felt within her the stirring of curiosity. But she put it down sternly. She had no time for it.
“Tommy,” she said, “I’ve been thinking. I’ve got to earn more money, and I want your help.”
Tommy’s faithful eyes held a look of doglike affection.
“Oh, if I can—” he quavered.
“I’ve got to get ahead.” Jane was breathless. Her eyes shone.
“I’ve got to get ahead, Tommy. I can’t live all my life like this.” She held up the pink strip. “Even if I am a woman, there ought to be something more than making rompers for the rest of my days.”
“You might,” said the infatuated Tommy, “marry.”
“Marry? Marry whom?”
Tommy wished that he might shout “Me!” from the housetops. But he knew the futility of it.
“I shall never marry,” she said, “until I find somebody different from anything I’ve ever seen.”
Jane’s ideas of men were bounded largely by the weakness of her father and the crudeness of men like Henry Bittinger, Atwood Jones and others of their kind. She didn’t consider Tommy at all. He was a nice boy and a faithful friend. His mother, too, was a faithful friend. She classed them together.
Her plan, told with much coming and going of lovely color, was this: She had read that the way to make money was to find the thing that a community lacked and supply it. Considering it seriously she had decided that in Tinkersfield there was need of good food.
“There’s just one horrid little eating house,” she told Tommy, “when the men come in from out of town.”
“Nothing fit to eat either,” Tommy agreed; “and they make up on booze.”
She nodded. “Tommy,” she said, and leaned toward him, “I had thought of sandwiches—home-made bread and slices of ham—wrapped in waxed paper; and of taking them down and selling them in front of the post-office on Saturday nights.”