“What am I?”
She made a sudden gesture as if she gave him up. “Sometimes I think you are like the sea—on a lazy day—with a storm brewing.”
He wondered as he went home—what storm?
He had seen a good deal of Jane since that Saturday night when he had championed her cause. It had been fall then, with the hills brown and the berries red on the pepper trees. It was spring now, with all the world green and growing.
She had spoken of him to Tommy, and Tommy had been a faithful go-between. He had played upon their mutual love of books. At first O-liver had sent her books, then he had taken them. He had met her mother, had seen her in her home doing feminine things, sewing on lengths of pink and blue—filling the vases with the flowers that he brought.
And as they had met and talked his veins had been filled with new wine. He had never known intimately such a woman. His mother transplanted from the East by her marriage to a Western man had turned her eyes always backward. Her son had been born in the East, he had spent his holidays and vacations with his Eastern relatives. He had gone to an Eastern school to prepare for an Eastern college. Except for this one obsession with regard to her son’s education his mother was self-centered. She was an idolized wife, a discontented woman—– she had shown O-liver no heights to which to aspire.
And so he had not aspired. He had spent his days in what might be termed, biblically, riotous living. His mother had hoped for an aristocratic and Eastern marriage. When he married Fluffy Hair she had allowed him three thousand a year and had asked him not to bring his wife to see her. His father had refused to give him a penny. O-liver’s wild oats and wilfulness cut him off, he ruled, from parental consideration. “You are not my son,” he had said sternly. “If the time ever comes when you can say you are sorry, I’ll see you.”
O-liver having married Fluffy Hair had found her also self-centered—not a lady like his mother, but fundamentally of the same type. Neither of them had made him feel that he might be more than he was. They had always shrunk him to their own somewhat small patterns.
Jane’s philosophy came to him therefore like a long-withheld stimulant. “You might be President of the United States.”
When Henry or Atwood or Tommy had said it to him he had laughed. When Jane said it he did not laugh.
And so it came about that one day he rose and went to his father. And he said: “Dad, will you kill the fatted calf?”
His father lived in a great Tudor house which gave the effect of age but was not old. It had a minstrels’ gallery, a big hall and a little hall, mullioned windows and all the rest of it. It had been built because of a whim of his wife’s. But O-liver’s father in the ten years he had lived in it had learned to love it. But more than he loved the house he loved the hills that sloped away from it, the mountains that towered above it, the sea that lay at the foot of the cliff.