“It is God’s country,” he would say with long-drawn breath. He had been born and bred in this golden West. All the passion he might have given to his alien wife and alien son was lavished on this land which was bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh.
And now his son had ridden up to him over those low hills at the foot of the mountain and had said: “Father, I have sinned.”
O-liver had not put it scripturally. He had said: “I’m sorry, dad. You said I needn’t come back until I admitted the husks and swine.”
There was a light on the fine face of the older man. “Oliver, I never hoped to hear you say it.” His hand dropped lightly on the boy’s shoulders. “My son which was dead is alive again?”
“What brought you to life?”
The hand dropped. “Not—”
“Not my wife. Put your hand back, dad. Another woman.”
He sat down beside his father on the terrace. The sea far below them was sapphire, the cliffs pink with moss—gorgeous color. Orange umbrellas dotted the distant beach.
“Your mother is down there,” Jason Lee said. “Sun baths and all that. You said there was another woman, Oliver.”
“Yes.” Quite simply and honestly he told him about Sandwich Jane. “She’s made me see things.”
“Well, she thinks I’ve got it in me to get anywhere. She insists that if I’d put my heart into it I might be—President.”
One saw their likeness to each other in their twinkling eyes!
“She says that men follow me; and they do. I’ve found that out since I went to Tinkersfield. She wants me to go into politics—there’s a gang down there that rules the town—rotten crowd. It would be some fight if I did.”
His father was interested at once. “It was what I wanted—when I was young—politics—clean politics, with a chance at statesmanship. Yes, I wanted it. But your mother wanted—money.”
“Money hasn’t any meaning to me now, dad. If I slaved until I dropped I couldn’t make fifteen hundred a week.”
“Does—your wife make that now?”
“Yes. She’s making it and spending it, I fancy.”
Silence. Then: “What of this—other woman. What are you going to do about her?”
O-liver leaned forward, speaking earnestly. “I love her. But I’m not free. It’s all a muddle.”
“Does she know you’re married?”
“No. I’ve got to tell her. But I’ll lose her if I do. Her comradeship, I mean. And I don’t want to give it up.”
“There is of course a solution.”
“It wouldn’t be a solution for Jane. She’s not that kind. Marriage with her means till death parts. I’ll have to lose her. But it hurts.”
It was when Jane rented an empty room fronting on the arcade and set up a sandwich shop that Tillotson saw how serious the thing was going to be.