She showed him before he went some of the things she had acquired since his last visit—an ermine coat, a string of pearls.
“I saw them in your last picture,” he told her. “You really visit me by proxy. I find your name on the boards, and walk in with a lot of other men and look at you. And not one of them dreams that I’ve ever seen the woman on the screen.”
“Well, they wouldn’t of course.” She had never taken his name. Her own was too valuable.
When he told her good-bye he asked a question: “Are you happy?”
For a moment her face clouded. “I’m not quite sure. Is anybody? But I like the way I am living, Ollie.”
He had a sense of relief. “So do I,” he said. “I earn fifteen dollars a week. The papers say that you earn fifteen hundred—and you’re not quite twenty.”
“There isn’t a man in this hotel that makes so much,” she told him complacently. “The women try to snub me, but they can’t. Money talks.”
It seemed to him that in her case it shouted. As he rode back on Mary Pick he thought seriously of his fifteen dollars a week and her fifteen hundred; and of how little either weighed in the balance of happiness.
It was not until the following Saturday that he saw Jane. She had made two hundred sandwiches. She had got Tommy’s mother to help her. She had invented new combinations, always holding to the idea of satisfying the substantial appetites of men.
There would be no use, she argued, in offering five-o’clock-tea combinations.
She was very busy and very happy and very hopeful.
“If this keeps up,” she told her mother, “I shall rent a little shop and sell them over the counter.”
Her mother had an invalid’s pessimism. “They may tire of them.”
They were not yet tired. They gave Jane and her basket vociferous greeting, crowding round her and buying eagerly. Atwood and Henry having placed orders hung back, content to wait for a later moment when she might have leisure to talk to them.
Tommy helped Jane to hand out sandwiches and make change. He felt like the faithful squire of a great lady. He had read much romantic literature, and he served as well if not as picturesquely as a page in doublet and hose.
So O-liver saw them. He had been riding all the afternoon on Mary Pick. He had gone up into the Canon of the Honey Pots. No one knew it by that name but O-liver, but at all the houses one could buy honey. Up and down the road were little stands on which were set forth glasses and jars of amber sweet. The bees flashed like motes in the sunlight, the air was heavy with the fragrance of the flowers which yielded their largess to the marauders.
It was dark when he rode down toward the town. It lay before him, all twinkling lights. Above it hung a thin moon and countless stars. It might have been a fairy town under the kindly cover of the night.