O-liver sitting later in front of the post-office with his satellites round him found himself compelled to listen to praise of Jane.
“She’s made a hit,” Atwood said earnestly. “When a woman talks like that it’s the straight goods.”
Henry agreed. “She’s got grit. It’s her kind that get ahead. But it’s a pity that she’s got to work to make a living.”
Atwood, too, thought it was a pity. And presently he and Henry fell into silence as they fitted Jane into various dreams. Atwood’s dream had to do with a mansion high on Frisco’s hills. But Henry saw her beside him in his long and lovely car. He saw her, too, in a fur coat.
“I feel,” said Jane, “like a murderer.” Tommy and O-liver had stopped at her front gate to leave her some books.
“Why?” It was O-liver who asked it.
“Come and see.” She led them round the house. Death and destruction reigned.
“I poured gasoline into the ants’ nests and set them on fire—and now look at them!”
There were a few survivors toiling among the ruins.
“They are taking out the dead bodies,” Jane explained. “It’s so human that it’s tragic. I’ll never do it again.”
“You can’t let them eat you up.”
“I know. It’s one of the puzzles.” She sat looking down at them. “How busy they are!”
“Too busy,” O-liver stated. “They are worse than bees. There are at least some drones in the hive.”
“Poor drones,” said Jane.
“To miss the best.”
“Is work the best?”
She said “Yes,” adding after a little: “I don’t just mean making sandwiches. That’s just a beginning. There’s everything ahead.”
She said it as if the world were hers. O-liver, in spite of himself, was thrilled. “How do you know that everything is ahead?”
“I shall make it come”—securely.
They sat in silence for a while; then O-liver said: “I have brought you a book.”
It was an old copy of Punch.
“I shall like it,” she said. “Sometimes the evenings are dull when my work is over.”
“Dullness comes for me when work begins.”
Her straight gaze met his. “You say that with your lips; you don’t mean it.”
“How do you know?”
“I’m not sure how I know. But you haven’t found the thing yet that you like—the incentive.”
“Tommy wants me to go into politics. He and Henry Bittinger. Henry says I ought to be President.” O-liver chuckled.
But she took it seriously. “Why not? You’ve the brains and the magnetism. Can’t you see how the crowd draws to you on Saturday nights?”
“Like bees round a honey pot? Yes.” His face grew suddenly stern. “But so will mosquitoes buzz round a stagnant pool.”
“You’re not a stagnant pool and you know it.”