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Winesburg Ohio 

Intimate Histories of Every-day People 

Sherwood Anderson 

Author of Toor White, etc. 

Jonathan Cape 
Eleven Gower Street, London 

First Published 1922 
All Rights Reserved 

20-1 (-33 

Printed in the United States of America 


Whose keen observations on the life about her 
first awoke in me the hunger to see beneath 
the surface of lives, this book is dedicated. 












102 TERROR (PART iv) concerning DAVID HARDY. 

110 A MAN OF IDEAS concerning JOE WELLING. 




166 TANDY concerning TANDY HARD. 



184 THE TEACHER concerning KATE SWIFT. 



228 "QUEER" concerning ELMER COWLEY. 


254 DRINK concerning TOM FOSTER. 





THE writer, an old man with a white mus- 
tache, had some difficulty in getting into 
bed. The windows of the house in which 
he lived were high and he wanted to look at the 
trees when he awoke in the morning. A carpen- 
ter came to fix the bed so that it would be on a 
level with the window. 

Quite a fuss was made about the matter. The 
carpenter, who had been a soldier in the Civil 
War, came into the writer's room and sat down 
to talk of building a platform for the purpose of 
raising the bed. The writer had cigars lying 
about and the carpenter smoked. 

For a time the two men talked of the raising 
of the bed and then they talked of other things. 
The soldier got on the subject of the war. The 
writer, in fact, led him to that subject. The car- 
penter had once been a prisoner in Andersonville 
prison and had lost a brother. The brother had 
died of starvation, and whenever the carpenter 
got upon that subject he cried. He, like the old 
writer, had a white mustache, and when he cried 
he puckered up his lips and the mustache bobbed 



up and down. The weeping old man with the 
cigar in his mouth was ludicrous. The plan the 
writer had for the raising of his bed was for- 
gotten and later the carpenter did it in his own 
way and the writer, who was past sixty, had to 
help himself with a chair when he went to bed at 

In his bed the writer rolled over on his side 
and lay quite still. For years he had been beset 
with notions concerning his heart. He was a 
hard smoker and his heart fluttered. The idea 
had got into his mind that he would some time die 
unexpectedly and always when he got into bed he 
thought of that. It did not alarm him. The 
effect in fact was quite a special thing and not 
easily explained. It made him more alive, there 
in bed, than at any other time. Perfectly still he 
lay and his body was old and not of much use 
any more, but something inside him was altogether 
young. He was like a pregnant woman, only that 
the thing inside him was not a baby but a youth. 
No, it wasn't a youth, it was a woman, young, and 
wearing a coat of mail like a knight. It is ab- 
surd, you see, to try to tell what was inside the 'old 
writer as he lay on his high bed and listened to 
the fluttering of his heart. The thing to get at is 
what the writer, or the young thing within the 
writer, was thinking about. 

The old writer, like all of the people in the 


world, had got, during his long life, a great many 
notions in his head. He had once been quite 
handsome and a number of women had been in 
love with him. And then, of course, he had 
known people, many people, known them in a 
peculiarly intimate way that was different from 
the way in which you and I know people. At 
least that is what the writer thought and the 
thought pleased him. Why quarrel with an old 
man concerning his thoughts? 

In the bed the writer had a dream that was not 
a dream. As he grew somewhat sleepy but was 
still conscious, figures began to appear before his 
eyes. He imagined the young indescribable 
thing within himself was driving a long proces- 
sion of figures before his eyes. 

You see the interest in all this lies in the figures 
that went before the eyes of the writer. They 
were all grotesques. All of the men and women 
the writer had ever known had become grotesques. 

The grotesques were not all horrible. Some 
were amusing, some almost beautiful, and one, a 
woman all drawn out of shape, hurt the old man 
by her grotesqueness. When she passed he made 
a noise like a small dog whimpering. Had 
you come into the room you might have supposed 
the old man had unpleasant dreams or perhaps 

For an hour the procession of grotesques passed 


before the eyes of the old man, and then, al- 
though it was a painful thing to do, he crept out 
of bed and began to write. Some one of the 
grotesques had made a deep impression on his 
mind and he wanted to describe it. 

At his desk the writer worked for an hour. 
In the end he wrote a book which he called "The 
Book of the Grotesque." It was never published, 
but I saw it once and it made an indelible impres- 
sion on my mind. The book had one central 
thought that is very strange and has always re- 
mained with me. By remembering it I have been 
able to understand many people and things that 
I was never able to understand before. The 
thought was involved but a simple statement of 
it would be something like this : 

That in the beginning when the world was 
young there were a great many thoughts but no 
such thing as a truth. Man made the truths 
himself and each truth was a composite of a great 
many vague thoughts. All about in the world 
were the truths and they were all beautiful. 

The old man had listed hundreds of the truths 
in his book. I will not try to tell you of all of 
them. There was the truth of virginity and the 
truth of passion, the truth of wealth and of 
poverty, of thrift and of profligacy, of careless- 
ness and abandon. Hundreds and hundreds were 
the truths and they were all beautiful. 


And then the people came along. Each as he 
appeared snatched up one of the truths and som j 
who were quite strong snatched up a dozen of 

It was the truths that made the people gro- 
tesques. The old man had quite an elaborate 
theory concerning the matter. It was his notion 
that the moment one of the people took one of 
the truths to himself, called it his truth, and tried 
to live his life by it, he became a grotesque and 
the truth he embraced became a falsehood. 

You can see for yourself how the old man, who 
had spent all of his life writing and was filled with 
words, would write hundreds of pages concern- 
ing this matter. The subject would become so 
big in his mind that he himself would be in danger 
of becoming a grotesque. He didn't, I suppose, 
for the same reason that he never published the 
book. It was the young thing inside him that 
saved the old man. 

Concerning the old carpenter who fixed the bed 
for the writer, I only mentioned him because he, 
like many of what are called very common people, 
became the nearest thing to what is understand- 
able and lovable of all the grotesques in the 
writer's book. 

Winesburg, Ohio 


UPON the half decayed veranda of a small 
frame house that stood near the edge of a 
ravine near the town of Winesburg, Ohio, 
a fat little old man walked nervously up and 
down. Across a long field that has been seeded 
for clover but that had produced only a dense 
crop of yellow mustard weeds, he could see the 
public highway along which went a wagon filled 
with berry pickers returning from the fields. The 
berry pickers, youths and maidens, laughed and 
shouted boisterously. A boy clad in a blue shirt 
leaped from the wagon and attempted to drag 
after him one of the maidens who screamed and 
protested shrilly. The feet of the boy in the 
road kicked up a cloud of dust that floated across 
the face of the departing sun. Over the long 
field came a thin girlish voice. "Oh, you Wing 
Biddlebaum, comb your hair, it's falling into your 
eyes," commanded the voice to the man, who was 



bald and whose nervous little hands fiddled about 
the .bare white forehead as though arranging a 
mass of tangled locks. 

Wing Biddlebaum, forever frightened and be- 
set by a ghostly band of doubts, did not think 
of himself as in any way a part of the life of 
the town where he had lived for twenty years. 
Among all the people of Winesburg but one had 
come close to him. With George Willard, son 
of Tom Willard, the proprietor of the new Wil- 
lard House, he had formed something like a 
friendship. George Willard was the reporter on 
the Winesburg Eagle and sometimes in the eve- 
nings he walked out along the highway to Wing 
Biddlebaum's house. Now as the old man walked 
up and down on the veranda, his hands moving 
nervously about, he was hoping that George 
Willard would come and spend the evening with 
him. After the wagon containing the berry 
pickers had passed, he went across the field 
through the tall mustard weeds and climbing a 
rail fence peered anxiously along the road to the 
town. For a moment he stood thus, rubbing his 
hands together and looking up and down the 
road, and then, fear overcoming him, ran back 
to walk again upon the porch on his own house. 

In the presence of George Willard, Wing 
Biddlebaum, who for twenty years had been the 
town mystery, lost something of his timidity, and 


his shadowy personality, submerged in a sea of 
doubts, came forth to look at the world. With 
the young reporter at his side, he ventured in the 
light of day into Main Street or strode up and 
down on the rickety front porch of his own house, 
talking excitedly. The voice that had been low 
and trembling became shrill and loud. The bent 
figure straightened. With a kind of wriggle, 
like a fish returned to the brook by the fisherman, 
Biddlebaum the silent began to talk, striving to 
put into words the ideas that had been accumulated 
by his mind during long years of silence. 

Wing Biddlebaum talked much with his hands. 
The slender expressive fingers, forever active, for- 
ever striving to conceal themselves in his pockets 
or behind his back, came forth and became the 
piston rods of his machinery of expression. 

The story of Wing Biddlebaum is a story of 
hands. Their restless activity, like unto the beat- 
ing of the wings of an imprisoned bird, had given 
him his name. Some obscure poet of the town 
had thought of it. The hands alarmed their 
owner. He wanted to keep them hidden away 
and looked with amazement at the quiet inex- 
pressive hands of other men who worked beside 
him in the fields, or passed, driving sleepy teams 
on country roads. 

When he talked to George Willard, Wing 
Biddlebaum closed his fists and beat with them 


upon a table or on the walls of his house. The 
action made him more comfortable. If the desire 
to talk came to him when the two were walking 
in the fields, he sought out a stump or the top 
board of a fence and with his hands pounding 
busily talked with renewed ease. 

The story of Wing Biddlebaum's hands is 
worth a book in itself. Sympathetically set forth 
it would tap many strange, beautiful qualities in 
obscure men. It is a job for a poet. In Wines- 
burg the hands had attracted attention merely 
because of their activity. With them Wing Bid- 
dlebaum had picked as high as a hundred and 
forty quarts of strawberries in a day. They 
became his distinguishing feature, the source of 
his fame. Also they made more grotesque an 
already grotesque and elusive individuality. 
Winesburg was proud of the hands of Wing 
Biddlebaum in the same spirit in which it was 
proud of Banker White's new stone house and 
Wesley Mover's bay stallion, Tony Tip, that had 
won the two-fifteen trot at the fall races in Cleve- 

As for Geoirge Willard, he had many times 
wanted to ask about the hands. At times an 
almost overwhelming curiosity had taken hold of 
him. He felt that there must be a reason for 
their strange activity and their inclination to keep 
hidden away and only a growing respect for 


Wing Biddlebaum kept him from blurting out 
the questions that were often in his mind. 

Once he had been on the point of asking. The 
two were walking in the fields on a summer after- 
noon and had stopped to sit upon a grassy bank. 
All afternoon Wing Biddlebaum had talked as 
one inspired. By a fence he had stopped and 
beating like a giant woodpecker upon the top 
board had shouted at George Willard, condemn- 
ing his tendency to be too much influenced by the 
people about him. "You are destroying your- 
self, " he cried. u You have the inclination to be 
alone and to dream and you are afraid of dreams. 
You want to be like others in town here. You 
hear them talk and you try to imitate them." 

On the grassy bank Wing Biddlebaum had tried 
again to drive his point home. His voice became 
soft and reminiscent, and with a sigh of content- 
ment he launched into a long rambling talk, speak- 
ing as one lost in a dream. 

Out of the dream Wing Biddlebaum made a 
picture for George Willard. In the picture men 
lived again in a kind of pastoral golden age. 
Across a green open country came clean-limbed 
young men, some afoot, some mounted upon 
horses. In crowds the young men came to gather 
about the feet of an old man who sat beneath 
a tree in a tiny garden and who talked to them. 

Wing Biddlebaum became wholly inspired. 


For once he forgot the hands. Slowly they stole 
forth and lay upon George Willard's shoulders. 
Something new and bold came into the voice that 
talked. "You must try to forget all you have 
learned," said the old man. "You must begin to 
dream. From this time on you must shut your 
ears to the roaring of the voices." 

Pausing in his speech, Wing Biddlebaum looked 
long and earnestly at George Willard. His eyes 
glowed. Again he raised the hands to caress the 
boy and then a look of horror swept over his 

With a convulsive movement of his body, Wing 
Biddlebaum sprang to his feet and thrust his 
hands deep into his trousers pockets. Tears came 
to his eyes. "I must be getting along home. I 
can talk no more with you," he said nervously. 

Without looking back, the old man had hurried 
down the hillside and across a meadow, leaving 
George Willard perplexed and frightened upon 
the grassy slope. With a shiver of dread the boy 
arose and went along the road toward town. 
"I'll not ask him about his hands," he thought, 
touched by the memory of the terror he had seen 
in the man's eyes. "There's something wrong, 
but I don't want to know what it is. His hands 
have something to do with his fear of me and 
of everyone." 

And George Willard was right. Let us look 


briefly into the story of the hands. Perhaps our 
talking of them will arouse the poet who will tell 
the hidden wonder story of the influence for which 
the hands were but fluttering pennants of promise. 

In his youth Wing Biddlebaum had been a 
school teacher in a town in Pennsylvania. He 
was not then known as Wing Biddlebaum, but 
went by the less euphonic name of Adolph Myers. 
As Adolph Myers he was much loved by the boys 
of his school. 

Adolph Myers was meant by nature to be a 
teacher of youth. He was one of those rare, 
little-understood men who rule by a power so 
gentle that it passes as a lovable weakness. 
In their feeling for the boys under their charge 
such men are not unlike the finer sort of women 
in their love of men. 

And yet that is but crudely stated. It needs 
the poet there. With the boys of his school, 
Adolph Myers had walked in the evening or had 
sat talking until dusk upon the schoolhouse steps 
lost in a kind of dream. Here and there went 
his hands, caressing the shoulders of the boys, 
playing about the tousled heads. As he talked his 
voice became soft and musical. There was a 
caress in that also. In a way the voice and the 
hands, the stroking of the shoulders and the 
touching of the hair was a part of the school- 
master's effort to carry a dream into the young 


minds. By the caress that was in his fingers he 
expressed himself. He was one of those men in 
whom the force that creates life is diffused, not 
centralized. Under the caress of his hands doubt 
and disbelief went out of the minds of the boys 
and they began also to dream. 

And then the tragedy. A 'half-witted boy of 
the school became enamored of the young master. 
In his bed at night he imagined unspeakable 
things and in the morning went forth to tell his 
'dreams as facts. Strange, hideous accusations 
fell from his loose-hung lips. Through the Penn- 
sylvania town went a shiver. Hidden, shadowy 
doubts that had been in men's minds concerning 
Adolph Myers were galvanized into beliefs. 

The tragedy did not linger. Trembling lads 
were jerked out of bed and questioned. "He put 
his arms about me," said one. "His fingers were 
always playing in my hair," said another. 

One afternoon a man of the town, Henry Brad- 
ford, who kept a saloon, came to the schoolhouse 
door. Calling Adolp'h Myers into the school 
yard he began to beat him with his fists. As his 
hard knuckles beat down into the frightened face 
of the schoolmaster, his wrath became more and 
more terrible. Screaming with dismay, the chil- 
dren ran here and there like disturbed insects. 
"I'll teach you to put your hands on my boy, you 
beast," roared the saloon keeper, who, tired of 


beating the master, had begun to kick him about 
the yard. 

Adolph Myers was driven from the Pennsyl- 
vania town in the night. With lanterns in their 
hands a dozen men came to the door of the house 
where he lived alone and commanded that he dress 
and come forth. It was raining and one of the 
men had a rope in his hands. They had intended 
to hang the schoolmaster, but something in his 
figure, so small, white, and pitiful, touched their 
hearts and they let him escape. As he ran away 
into the darkness they repented of their weakness 
and ran after him, swearing and throwing sticks 
and great balls of soft mud at the figure that 
screamed and ran faster and faster into the dark- 

For twenty years Adolph Myers had lived alone 
in Winesburg. He was but forty but looked sixty- 
five. The name of Biddlebaum he got from a 
box of goods seen at a freight station as he hurried 
through an eastern Ohio town. He had an aunt 
in Winesburg, a black-toothed old woman who 
raised chickens, and with her he lived until she 
died, He had been ill for a year after the ex- 
perience in Pennsylvania, and after his recovery 
worked as a day laborer in the fields, going 
timidly about and striving to conceal his hands. 
Although he did not understand what had hap- 
pened he felt that the hands must be to blame. 


Again and again the fathers of the boys had 
talked of the hands. "Keep your hands to your- 
self," the saloon keeper had roared, dancing with 
fury in the schoolhouse yard. 

Upon the veranda of his house by the ravine, 
Wing Biddlebaum continued to walk up and down 
until the sun had disappeared and the road be- 
yond the field was lost in the grey shadows. Go- 
ing into his house he cut slices of bread and spread 
honey upon them. When the rumble of the 
evening train that took away the express cars 
loaded with the day's harvest of berries had 
passed and restored the silence of the summer 
night, he went again to walk upon the veranda. 
In the darkness he could not see the hands and 
they became quiet. Although he still hungered 
for the presence of the boy, who was the medium 
through which he expressed his love of man, the 
hunger became again a part of his loneliness and 
his waiting. Lighting a lamp, Wing Biddlebaum 
washed the few dishes soiled by his simple meal 
and, setting up a folding cot by the screen door 
that led to the porch, prepared to undress for the 
night. A few stray white bread crumbs lay on 
the cleanly washed floor by the table; putting the 
lamp upon a low stool he began to pick up the 
crumbs, carrying them to his mouth one by one 
with unbelievable rapidity. In the dense blotch 
of light beneath the table, the kneeling figure 

HANDS 1 9 

looked like a priest engaged in some service of his 
church. The nervous expressive fingers, flashing 
in and out of the light, might well have been mis- 
taken for the fingers of the devotee going swiftly 
through decade after decade of his rosary. 



HE was an old man with a white beard and 
huge nose and hands. Long before the 
time during which we will know him, he 
was a doctor and drove a jaded white horse from 
house to house through the streets of Winesburg. 
Later he married a girl who had money. She had 
been left a large fertile farm when her father died. 
The girl was quiet, tall, and dark, and to many 
people she seemed very beautiful. Everyone in 
Winesburg wondered why she married the doctor. 
Within a year after the marriage she died. 

The knuckles of the doctor's hand were extraor- 
dinarily large. When the hands were closed they 
looked like clusters of unpainted wooden balls as 
large as walnuts fastened together by steel rods. 
He smoked a cob pipe and after his wife's death 
sat all day in his empty office close by a window 
that was covered with cobwebs. He never 
opened the window. Once on a hot day in 
August he tried but found it stuck fast and after 
that he forgot all about it. 

Winesburg had forgotten the old man, but in 
Doctor Reefy there were the seeds of something 



very fine. Alone in his musty office in the Heff- 
ner Block above the Paris Dry Goods Company's 
Store, he worked ceaselessly, building up some- 
thing that he himself destroyed. Little pyra- 
mids of truth he erected and after erecting 
knocked them down again that he might have the 
truths to erect other pyramids. 

Doctor Reefy was a tall man who had worn one 
suit of clothes for ten years. It was frayed at 
the sleeves and little holes had appeared at the 
knees and elbows. In the office he wore also a 
linen duster with huge pockets into which he con- 
tinually stuffed scraps of paper. After some 
weeks the scraps of paper became little hard round 
balls, and when the pockets were filled "he dumped 
them out upon the floor. For ten years he had 
but one friend, another old man named John 
Spaniard who owned a tree nursery. Sometimes, 
in a playful mood, old Doctor Reefy took from 
his pockets a handful of the paper balls and threw 
them at the nursery man. "That is to confound 
you, you blithering old sentimentalist," he cried, 
shaking with laughter. 

The story of Doctor Reefy and his courtship 
of the tall dark girl who became his wife and left 
her money to him is a very curious story. It is 
delicious, like the twisted little apples that grow 
in the orchards of Winesburg. In the fall one 
walks in the orchards and the ground is hard with 


frost underfoot. The apples have been taken 
from the trees by the pickers. They have been 
put in barrels and shipped to the cities where they 
will be eaten in apartments that are filled with 
books, magazines, furniture, and people. On the 
trees are only a few gnarled apples that the pickers 
have rejected. They look like the knuckles of 
Doctor Reefy's hands. One nibbles at them and 
they are delicious. Into a little round place at 
the side of the apple has been gathered all of its 
sweetness. One runs from tree to tree over the 
frosted ground picking the gnarled, twisted ap- 
ples and filling his pockets with them. Only the 
few know the sweetness of the twisted ap- 

The girl and Doctor Reefy began their court- 
ship on a summer afternoon. He was forty-five 
then and already he had begun the practice of 
filling his pockets with the scraps of paper that 
became hard balls and were thrown away. The 
habit had been formed as he sat in his buggy 
behind the jaded grey horse and went slowly 
along country roads. On the papers were writ- 
ten thoughts, ends of thoughts, beginnings of 

One by one the mind of Doctor Reefy had made 
the thoughts. Out "of many of fhem he formed 
a truth that arose gigantic in his mind. The 
truth clouded the world. It became terrible and 


then faded away and the little thoughts began 

The tall dark girl came to see Doctor Reefy 
because she was in the family way and had become 
frightened. She was in that condition because 
of a series of circumstances also curious. 

The death of her father and mother and the 
rich acres of land that had come down to her had 
set a train of suitors on her heels. For two years 
she saw suitors almost every evening. Except 
two they were all alike. They talked to her of 
passion and there was a strained eager quality 
in their voices and in their eyes when they looked 
at her. The two who were different were much 
unlike each other. One of them, a slender young 
man with white hands, the son of a jeweler in 
Winesburg, talked continually of virginity. When 
he was with her he was never off the subject. 
The other, a black-haired boy with large ears, 
said nothing at all but always managed to get her 
into the darkness where he began to kiss her. 

For a time the tall dark girl thought she would 
marry the jeweler's son. For hours she sat in 
silence listening as he talked to her and then she 
began to be afraid of something. Beneath his 
talk of virginity she began to think there was a 
lust greater than in all the others. At times it 
seemed to her that as he talked he was holding 
her body in his hands. She imagined him turn- 


ing it slowly about in the white hands and staring 
at it. At night she dreamed that he had bitten 
into her body and that his jaws were dripping. 
She had the dream three times, then she became 
in the family way to the one who said nothing at 
all but who in the moment of his passion actually 
did bite her shoulder so that for days the marks 
of his teeth showed. 

After the tall dark girl came to know Doctor 
Reefy it seemed to her that she never wanted to 
leave him again. She went into his office one 
morning and without her saying anything he 
seemed to know what had happened to her. 

In the office of the doctor there was a woman, 
the wife of the man who kept the bookstore in 
Winesburg. Like all old-fashioned country prac- 
titioners, Doctor Reefy pulled teeth, and the 
woman who waited held a handkerchief to her 
teeth and groaned. Her husband was with her 
and when the tooth was taken out they both 
screamed and blood ran down on the woman's 
white dress. The tall dark girl did not pay any 
attention. When the woman and the man had 
gone the doctor smiled. "I will take you driving 
into the country with me," he said. 

For several weeks the tall dark girl and the 
doctor were together almost every day. The 
condition that had brought her to him passed in 
an illness, but she was like one who has discovered 


the sweetness of the twisted apples, she could not 
get her mind fixed again upon the round perfect 
fruit that is eaten in the city apartments. In the 
fall after the beginning of her acquaintanceship 
with him she married Doctor Reefy and in the 
following spring she died. During the winter he 
read to her all of the odds and ends of thoughts 
he had scribbled on the bits of paper. After he 
had read them he laughed and stuffed them away 
in his pockets to become round hard balls. 


ELIZABETH WILLARD, the mother of 
George Willard, was tall and gaunt and 
her face was marked with smallpox scars. 
Although she was but forty-five, some obscure 
disease had taken the fire out of her figure. List- 
lessly she went about the disorderly old hotel 
looking at the faded wall-paper and the ragged 
carpets and, when she was able to be about, 
doing the work of a chambermaid among beds 
soiled by the slumbers of fat traveling men. Her 
husband, Tom Willard, a slender, graceful man 
with square shoulders, a quick military step, and 
a black mustache, trained to turn sharply up at 
the ends, tried to put the wife out of his mind. 
The presence of the tall ghostly figure, moving 
slowly through the halls, he took as a reproach to 
himself. When he thought of her he grew angry 
and swore. The hotel was unprofitable and for- 
ever on the edge of failure and he wished him- 
self out of it. He thought of the old house and 
the woman who lived there with him as things de- 
feated and done for. The hotel in which he had 
begun life so hopefully was now a mere ghost of 



what a hotel should be. As he went spruce and 
businesslike through the streets of Winesburg, he 
sometimes stopped and turned quickly about as 
though fearing that the spirit of the hotel and 
of the woman would follow him even into the 
streets. "Damn such a life, damn it!" he sput- 
tered aimlessly. 

Tom Willard had a passion for village politics 
and for years had been the leading Democrat in 
a strongly Republican community. Some day, he 
told himself, the tide of things political will turn 
in my favor and the years of ineffectual service 
count big in the bestowal of rewards. He 
dreamed of going to Congress and even of be- 
coming governor. Once when a younger member 
of the party arose at a political conference and 
began to boast of his faithful service, Tom Wil- 
lard grew white with fury. "Shut up, you," he 
roared, glaring about. "What do you know of 
service? What are you but a boy? Look at 
what I've done here ! I was a Democrat here in 
Winesburg when it was a crime to be a Demo- 
crat. In the old days they fairly hunted us with 

Between Elizabeth and her one son George 
there was a deep unexpressed bond of sympathy, 
based on a girlhood dream that had long ago 
died. In the son's presence she was timid and 
reserved, but sometimes while he hurried about 


town intent upon his duties as a reporter, she 
went into his room and closing the door knelt by 
a little desk, made of a kitchen table, that sat near 
a window. In the room by the desk she went 
through a ceremony that was half a prayer, half 
a demand, addressed to the skies. In the boyish 
figure she yearned to see something half forgot- 
ten that had once been a part of herself re- 
created. The prayer concerned that. "Even 
though I die, I will in some way keep defeat 
from you," she cried, and so deep was her de- 
termination that her whole body shook. Her 
eyes glowed and she clenched her fists. "If I am 
dead and see him becoming a meaningless drab 
figure like myself, I will come back," she declared. 
4 'I ask God now to give me that privilege. I de- 
mand it. I will pay for it. God may beat me 
with his fists. I will take any blow that may be- 
fall if but this my boy be allowed to express some- 
thing for us both." Pausing uncertainly, the 
woman stared about the boy's room. "And do 
not let him become smart and successful either," 
she added vaguely. 

The communion between George Willard and 
his mother was outwardly a formal thing without 
meaning. When she was ill and sat by the win- 
dow in her room he sometimes went in the evening 
to make her a visit. They sat by a window that 
looked 'over the roof of a small frame building 



into Main Street. By turning their heads they 
could see, through another window, along an al- 
leyway that ran behind the Main Street stores and 
into the back door of Abner Groff's bakery. 
Sometimes as they sat thus a picture of village 
life presented itself to them. At the back door of 
his shop appeared Abner Groff with a stick or an 
empty milk bottle in his hand. For a long time 
there was a feud between the baker and a grey cat 
that belonged to Sylvester West, the druggist. 
The boy and his mother saw the cat creep into the 
door of the bakery and presently emerge followed 
by the baker who swore and waved his arms about. 
The baker's eyes were small and red and his black 
hair and beard were filled with flour dust. 
Sometimes he was so angry that, although the cat 
had disappeared, he hurled sticks, bits of broken 
glass, and even some of the tools of his trade 
about. Once he broke a window at the back of 
Sinning's Hardware Store. In the alley the grey 
cat crouched behind barrels filled with torn paper 
and broken bottles above which flew a black 
swarm of flies. Once when she was alone, and 
after watching a prolonged and ineffectual out- 
burst on the part of the baker, Elizabeth Willard 
put her head down on her long white hands and 
wept. After that she did not look along the alley- 
way any more, but tried to forget the contest be- 
tween the bearded man and the cat. It seemed 


like a rehearsal of her own life, terrible in its 

In the evening when the son sat in the room 
with his mother, the silence made them both feel 
awkward. Darkness came on and the evening 
train came in at the station. In the street below 
feet tramped up and down upon a board sidewalk. 
In the station yard, after the evening train had 
gone, there was a heavy silence. Perhaps Skin- 
ner Leason, the express agent, moved a truck the 
length of the station platform. Over on Main 
Street sounded a man's voice, laughing. The 
door of the express office banged. George Wil- 
lard arose and crossing the room fumbled for the 
doorknob. Sometimes he knocked against a 
chair, making it scrape along the floor. By the 
window sat the sick woman, perfectly still, list- 
less. Her long hands, white and bloodless, could 
be seen drooping over the ends of the arms of 
the chair, "I think you had better be out among 
the boys. You are too much indoors," she said, 
striving to relieve the embarrassment of the de- 
parture. "I thought I would take a walk," re- 
plied George Willard, who felt awkward and con- 

One evening in July, when the transient guests 
who made the New Willard House their tempo- 
rary homes had become scarce, and the hallways, 
lighted only by kerosene lamps turned low, were 


plunged in gloom, Elizabeth Willard had an ad- 
venture. She had been ill in bed for several days 
and her son had not come to visit her. She was 
alarmed. The feeble blaze of life that remained 
in her body was blown into a flame by her anxiety 
and she crept out of bed, dressed and hurried 
along the hallway toward her son's room, shaking 
with exaggerated fears. As she went along she 
steadied herself with her hand, slipped along the 
papered walls of the hall and breathed with dif- 
ficulty. The air whistled through her teeth. As 
she hurried forward she thought how foolish she 
was. "He is concerned with boyish affairs," she 
told herself. "Perhaps he has now begun to walk 
about in the evening with girls." 

Elizabeth Willard had a dread of being seen 
by guests in the hotel that had once belonged to 
her father and the ownership of which still stood 
recorded in her name in the county courthouse. 
The hotel was continually losing patronage be- 
cause of its shabbiness and she thought of herself 
as also shabby. Her own room was in an ob- 
scure corner and when she felt able to work she 
voluntarily worked among the beds, preferring 
the labor that could be done when the guests were 
abroad seeking trade among the merchants of 

By the door of her son's room the mother 
knelt upon the floor and listened for some sound 


from within. When she heard the boy moving 
about and talking in low tones a smile came to her 
lips. George Willard had a habit of talking 
aloud to himself and to hear him doing so had 
always given his mother a peculiar pleasure. The 
habit in him, she felt, strengthened the secret bond 
that existed between them. A thousand times she 
had whispered to herself of the matter. "He is 
groping about, trying to find himself," she thought. 
"He is not a dull clod, all words and smartness. 
Within him there is a secret something that is 
striving to grow. It is the thing I let be killed in 

In the darkness in the hallway by the door the 
sick woman arose and started again toward her 
own room. She was afraid that the door would 
open and the boy come upon her. When she had 
reached a safe distance and was about to turn a 
corner into a second hallway she stopped and 
bracing herself with her hands waited, thinking to 
shake off a trembling fit of weakness that had 
come upon her. The presence of the boy in the 
room had made her happy. In her bed, during 
the long hours alone, the little fears that had vis- 
ited her had become giants. Now they were all 
gone. "When I get back to my room I shall 
sleep," she murmured gratefully. 

But Elizabeth Willard was not to return to her 
bed and to sleep. As she stood trembling in the 


darkness the door of her son's room opened and 
the boy's father, Tom Willard, stepped out. In 
the light that streamed out at the door he stood 
with the knob in his hand and talked. What he 
said infuriated the woman. 

Tom Willard was ambitious for his son. He 
had always thought of himself as a successful 
man, although nothing he had ever done had 
turned out successfully. However, when he was 
out of sight of the New Willard House and had 
no fear of coming upon his wife, he swaggered 
and began to dramatize himself as one of the 
chief men of the town. He wanted his son to suc- 
ceed. He it was who had secured for the boy 
the position on the Winesburg Eagle. Now, with 
a ring of earnestness in his voice, he was advis- 
ing concerning some course of conduct. "I tell 
you what, George, youVe got to wake up/ 1 he said 
sharply. "Will Henderson has spoken to me 
three times concerning the matter. He says you 
go along for hours not hearing when you are 
spoken to and acting like a gawky girl. What 
ails you?" Tom Willard laughed good-natur- 
edly. "Well, I guess you'll get over it," he said. 
"I told Will that. You're not a fool and you're 
not a woman. You're Tom Willard's son 
and you'll wake up. I'm not afraid. What you 
say clears things up. If being a newspaper man 
had put the notion of becoming a writer into your 


mind that's all right. Only I guess you'll have 
to wake up to do that too, eh?" 

Tom Willard went briskly along the hallway 
and down a flight of stairs to the office. The 
woman in the darkness could hear him laughing 
and talking with a guest who was striving to wear 
away a dull evening by dozing in a chair by the 
office door. She returned to the door of her 
son's room. The weakness had passed from her 
body as by a miracle and she stepped boldly along. 
A thousand ideas raced through her head. When 
she heard the scraping of a chair and the sound 
of a pen scratching upon paper, she again turned 
and went back along the hallway to her own room. 

A definite determination had come into the 
mind of the defeated wife of the Winesburg Hotel 
keeper. The determination was the result of long 
years of quiet and rather ineffectual thinking. 
"Now," she told herself, "I will act. There is 
something threatening my boy and I will ward it 
off." The fact that the conversation between 
Tom Willard and his son had been rather quiet 
and natural, as though an understanding existed 
between them, maddened her. Although for 
years she had hated her husband, her hatred had 
always before been a quite impersonal thing. He 
had been merely a part of something else that she 
hated. Now, and by the few words at the door, 
he had become the thing personified. In the dark- 


ness of her own room she clenched her fists and 
glared about. Going to a cloth bag that hung on 
a nail by the wall she took out a long pair of sew- 
ing scissors and held them in her hand like a dag- 
ger. "I will stab him," she said aloud. "He has 
chosen to be the voice of evil and I will kill him. 
When I have killed him something will snap with- 
in myself ,and I will die also. It will be a release 
for all of us." 

In her girlhood and before her marriage with 
Tom Willard, Elizabeth had borne a somewhat 
shaky reputation in Winesburg. For years she 
had been what is called "stage-struck" and had 
paraded through the streets with traveling men 
guests at her father's hotel, wearing loud clothes 
and urging them to tell her of - life in the 
cities out of which they had come. Once she 
startled the town by putting on men's clothes 
and riding a bicycle down Main Street. 

In her own mind the tall dark girl had been in 
those days much confused. A great restlessness 
was in her and it expressed itself in two ways. 
First there was an uneasy desire for change, for 
some big definite movement to her life. It was 
this feeling that had turned her mind to the stage. 
She dreamed of joining some company and 
wandering over the world, seeing always new faces 
and giving something out of herself to all people. 
Sometimes at night she was quite beside herself 


with the thought, but when she tried to talk of 
the matter to the members of the theatrical com- 
panies that came to Winesburg and stopped at her 
father's hotel, she got nowhere. They did not 
seem to know what she meant, or if she did get 
something of her passion expressed, they only 
laughed. "It's not like that," they said. "It's 
as dull and uninteresting as this here. Nothing 
comes of it." 

With the traveling men when she walked about 
with them, and later with Tom Willard, it was 
quite different. Always they seemed to under- 
stand and sympathize with her. On the side 
streets of the village, in the darkness under the 
trees, they took hold of her hand and she thought 
that something unexpressed in herself came forth 
and became a part of an unexpressed something in 

And then there was the second expression of 
her restlessness. When that came she felt for a 
time released and happy. She did not blame the 
men who walked with her and later she did not 
blame Tom Willard. It was always the same, 
beginning with kisses and ending, after strange 
wild emotions, with peace and then sobbing re- 
pentance. When she sobbed she put her hand 
upon the face of the man and had always the 
same thought. Even though he were large and 
bearded she thought he had become suddenly a 


little boy. She wondered why he did not sob 

In her room, tucked away in a corner of the old 
Willard House, Elizabeth Willard lighted a lamp 
and put it on a dressing table that stood by the 
door. A thought had come into her mind and 
she went to a closet and brought out a small 
square box and set it on the table. The box 
contained material for make-up and had been 
left with other things by a theatrical company that 
had once been stranded in Winesburg. Elizabeth 
Willard had decided that she would be beautiful. 
Her hair was still black and there was a great 
mass of it braided and coiled about her head. 
The scene that was to take place in the office 
below began to grow in her mind. No ghostly 
worn-out figure should confront Tom Willard, but 
something quite unexpected and startling. Tall 
and with dusky cheeks and hair that fell in a mass 
from her shoulders, a figure should come striding 
down the stairway before the startled loungers in 
the hotel office. The figure would be silent it 
would be swift and terrible. As a tigress whose 
cub had been threatened would she appear, coming 
out of the shadows, stealing noiselessly along and 
holding the long wicked scissors in her hand. 

With a little broken sob in her throat, Eliza- 
beth Willard blew out the light that stood upon 
the table and stood weak and trembling in the 


darkness. The strength that had been as a 
miracle in her body left and she half reeled across 
the floor, clutching at the back of the chair in which 
she had spent so many long days staring out over 
the tin roofs into the main street of Winesburg. 
In the hallway there was the sound of footsteps 
and George Willard came in at the door. Sitting 
in a chair beside his mother he began to talk. 
"I'm going to get out of here," he said. "I don't 
know where I shall go or what I shall do but I am 
going away." 

The woman in the chair waited and trembled. 
An impulse came to her. "I suppose you had 
better wake up," she said. "You think that? 
You will go to the city and make money, eh? It 
will be better for you, you think, to be a business 
man, to be brisk and smart and alive?" She 
waited and trembled. 

The son shook his head. "I suppose I can't 
make you understand, but oh, I wish I could," he 
said earnestly. "I can't even talk to father about 
it. I don't try. There isn't any use. I don't 
know what I shall do. I just want to go away 
and look at people and think." 

Silence fell upon the room where the boy and 
woman sat together. Again, as on the other eve- 
nings, they were embarrassed. After a time the 
boy tried again to talk. "I suppose it won't be 
for a year or two but I've been thinking about it," 


he said, rising and going toward the door. 
"Something father said makes it sure that I shall 
have to go away." He fumbled with the door 
knob. In the room the silence became unbear- 
able to the woman. She wanted to cry out with 
joy because of the words that had come from the 
lips of her son, but the expression of joy had 
become impossible to her. "I think you had bet- 
ter go out among the boys. You are too much 
indoors," she said. "I thought I would go for 
a little walk," replied the son stepping awk- 
wardly out of the room and closing the door. 


DOCTOR PARCIVAL was a large man with 
a drooping mouth covered by a yellow 
mustache. He always wore a dirty white 
waistcoat out of the pockets of which protruded 
a number of the kind of black cigars known as 
stogies. His teeth were black and irregular and 
there was something strange about his eyes. The 
lid of the left eye twitched ; it fell down and snap- 
ped up; it was exactly as though the lid of the 
eye were a window shade and someone stood in- 
side the doctor's head playing with the cord. 

Doctor Parcival had a liking for the boy, 
George Willard. It began when George had 
been working for a year on the Winesburg Eagle 
and the acquaintanceship was entirely a matter of 
the doctor's own making. 

In the late afternoon Will Henderson, owner 
and editor of the Eagle, went over to Tom 
Willy's saloon. Along an alleyway he went 
and slipping in at the back door of the saloon 
began drinking a drink made of a combination of 
sloe gin and soda water. Will Henderson was 
a sensualist and had reached the age of forty-five. 



He imagined the gin renewed the youth in him. 
Like most sensualists he enjoyed talking of 
women, and for an hour he lingered about gossip- 
ing with Tom Willy. The saloon keeper was a 
short, broad-shouldered man with peculiarly 
marked hands. That flaming kind of birth- 
mark that sometimes paints with red the faces of 
men and women had touched with red Tom 
Willy's fingers and the backs of his hands. As 
he stood by the bar talking to Will Henderson he 
rubbed the hands together. As he grew more and 
more excited the red of his fingers deepened. It 
was as though the hands had been dipped in blood 
that had dried and faded. 

As Will Henderson stood at the bar looking 
at the red hands and talking of women, his assist- 
ant, George Willard, sat in the office of the Wi^es- 
lourg Eagle and listened to the talk of Doctor 

Doctor Parcival appeared immediately after 
Will Henderson had disappeared. One might 
have supposed that the doctor had been watching 
from his office window and had seen the editor 
going along the alleyway. Coming in at the front 
door and finding himself a chair, he lighted one of 
the stogies and crossing his legs began to talk. 
He seemed intent upon convincing the boy of the 
advisability of adopting a line of conduct that 
he was himself unable to define. 


"If you have your eyes open you will see that 
although I call myself a doctor I have mighty few 
patients," he began. "There is a reason for that. 
It is not an accident and it is not because I do 
not know as much of medicine as anyone here. 
I do not want patients. The reason, you see, 
does not appear on the surface. It lies in fact in 
my character, which has, if you think about it, 
many strange turns. Why I want to talk to you 
of the matter I don't know. I might keep still 
and get more credit in your eyes. I have a desire 
to make you admire me, that's a fact. I don't 
know why. That's why I talk. It's very amus- 
ing, eh?" 

Sometimes the doctor launched into long tales 
concerning himself. To the boy the tales were 
very real and full of meaning. He began to 
admire the fat unclean-looking man and, in the 
afternoon when Will Henderson had gone, looked 
forward with keen interest to the doctor's coming. 

Doctor Parcival had been in Winesburg about 
five years. He came from Chicago and when he 
arrived was drunk and got into a fight with Albert 
Longworth, the baggageman. The fight con- 
cerned a trunk and ended by the doctor's being 
escorted to the village lockup. When he was re- 
leased he rented a room above a shoe-repairing 
shop at the lower end of Main Street and put out 
the sign that announced himself as a doctor. Al- 


though he had but few patients and these of the 
poorer sort who were unable to pay, he seemed to 
have plenty of money for his needs. He slept 
in the office that was unspeakably dirty and dined 
at Biff Carter's lunch room in a small frame 
building opposite the railroad station. In the 
summer the lunch room was filled with flies and 
Biff Carter's white apron was more dirty than his 
floor. Doctor Parcival did not mind. Into the 
lunch room he stalked and deposited twenty cents 
upon the counter. "Feed me what you wish for 
that," he said laughing. "Use up food that you 
wouldn't otherwise sell. It makes no difference 
to me. I am a man of distinction, you see. Why 
should I concern myself with what I eat." 

The tales that Doctor Parcival told George 
Willard began nowhere and ended nowhere. 
Sometimes the boy thought they must all be inven- 
tions, a pack of lies. And then again he was 
convinced that they contained the very essence of 

"I was a reporter like you here," Doctor Par- 
cival began. "It was in a town in Iowa or was 
it in Illinois? I don't remember and anyway it 
makes no difference. Perhaps I am trying to 
conceal my identity and don't want to be very 
definite. Have you ever thought it strange that 
I have momey for my needs although I do nothing? 
I may have stolen a great sum of money or been 


involved in a murder before I came here. There 
is food for thought in that, eh? If you were a 
really smart newspaper reporter you would look 
me up. In Chicago there was a Doctor Cronin 
who was murdered. Have you heard of that? 
Some men murdered him and put him in a trunk. 
In the early morning they hauled the trunk across 
the city. It sat on the back of an express wagon 
and they were on the seat as unconcerned as any- 
thing. Along they went through quiet streets 
where everyone was asleep. The sun was just 
coming up over the lake. Funny, eh just to 
think of them smoking pipes and chattering as 
they drove along as unconcerned as I am now. 
Perhaps I was one of those men. That would be 
a strange turn of things, now wouldn't it, eh?" 
Again Doctor Parcival began his tale: "Well, 
anyway there I was, a reporter on a paper just 
as you are here, running about and getting little 
items to print. My mother was poor. She took 
in washing. Her dream was to make me a Pres- 
byterian minister and I was studying with that end 
in view. 

"My father had been insane for a number of 
years. He was in an asylum over at Dayton, 
Ohio. There you see I have let it slip out! All 
of this took place in Ohio, right here in Ohio. 
There is a clew if you ever get the notion of look- 
ing me up. 


U I was going to tell you of my brother. That's 
die object of all this. That's what I'm getting at. 
My brother was a railroad painter and had a job 
on the Big Four. You know that road runs 
through Ohio here. With other men he lived in 
a box car and away they went from town to town 
painting the railroad property switches, crossing 
gates, bridges, and stations. 

"The Big Four paints its stations a nasty orange 
color. How I hated that color! My brother 
was always covered with it. On pay days he used 
to get drunk and come home wearing his paint- 
covered clothes and bringing his money with him. 
He did not give it to mother but laid it in a pile 
on our kitchen table. 

"About the house he went in the clothes covered 
with the nasty orange colored paint. I can see 
the picture. My mother, who was small and had 
red, sad-looking eyes, would come into the house 
from a little shed at the back. That's where she 
spent her time over the washtub scrubbing people's 
dirty clothes. In she would come and stand by 
the table, rubbing her eyes with her apron that 
was covered with soap-suds. 

" 'Don't touch it! Don't you dare touch that 
money,' my brother roared, and then he himself 
took five or ten dollars and went tramping off to 
the saloons. When he had spent what he had 
taken he came back for more. He never gave my 


mother any money at all but stayed about until he 
had spent it all, a little at a time. Then he went 
back to his job with the painting crew on the rail- 
road. After he had gone things began to arrive 
at our house, groceries and such things. Some- 
times there would be a dress for mother or a pair 
of shoes for me. 

"Strange, eh? My mother loved my brother 
much more than she did me, although he never 
said a kind word to either of us and always raved 
up and down threatening us if we dared so much 
as touch the money that sometimes lay on the 
table three days. 

u We got along pretty well. I studied to be a 
minister and prayed. I was a regular ass about 
saying prayers. You should have heard me. 
When my father died I prayed all night, just as I 
did sometimes when my brother was in town drink- 
ing and going about buying the things for us. In 
the evening after supper I knelt by the table where 
the money lay and prayed for hours. When no 
one was looking I stole a dollar or two and put it 
in my pocket. That makes me laugh now but 
then it was terrible. It was on my mind all the 
time. I got six dollars a week from my job on 
the paper and always took it straight home to 
mother. The few dollars I stole from my 
brother's pile I spent on myself, you know, for 
trifles, candy and cigarettes and such things. 


"When my father died at the asylum over at 
Dayton, I went over there. I borrowed some 
money from the man for whom I worked and went 
on the train at night. It was raining. In the 
asylum they treated me as though I were a 

"The men who had jobs in the asylum had 
found out I was a newspaper reporter. That 
made them afraid. There had been some negli- 
gence, some carelessness, you see, when father was 
ill. They thought perhaps I would write it up in 
the paper and make a fuss. I never intended to 
do anything of the kind. 

"Anyway, in I went to the room where my 
father lay dead and blessed the dead body. I 
wonder what put that notion into my head. 
Wouldn't my brother, the painter, have laughed, 
though. There I stood over the dead body and 
spread out my hands. The superintendent of the 
asylum and some of his helpers came in and stood 
about looking sheepish. It was very amusing. 
I spread out my hands and said, 'Let peace brood 
over this carcass.' That's what I said." 

Jumping to his feet and breaking off the tale, 
Doctor Parcival began to walk up and down in 
the office of the Winesburg Eagle where George 
Willard sat listening. He was awkward and, as 
the office was small, continually knocked against 
things. "What a fool I am to be talking," he 


said. "That is not my object in coming here and 
forcing my acquaintanceship upon you. I have 
something else in mind. You are a reporter just 
as I was once and you have attracted my atten- 
tion. You may end by becoming just such another 
fool. I want to warn you and keep on warning 
you. That's why I seek you out." 

Doctor Parcival began talking of George Wil- 
lard's attitude toward men. It seemed to the 
boy that the man had but one object in view, to 
make everyone seem despicable. "I want to fill 
you with hatred and contempt so that you will be a 
superior being," he declared. "Look at my 
brother. There was a fellow, eh? He despised 
everyone, you see. You have no idea with what 
contempt he looked upon mother and me. And 
was he not our superior? You know he was. 
You have not seen him and yet I have made you 
feel that. I have given you a sense of it. He is 
dead. Once when he was drunk he lay down on 
the tracks and the car in. which he lived with the 
other painters ran over him." 

One day in August Doctor Parcival had an 
adventure in Winesburg. For a month George 
[Willard had been going each morning to spend 
an hour in the doctor's office. The visits came 
about through a desire on the part of the doctor 
to read to the boy from the pages of a book he 


was in the process of writing. To write the book 
Doctor Parcival declared was the object of his 
coming to Winesburg to live. 

On the morning in August before the coming of 
the boy, an incident had happened in the doctor's 
office. There had been an accident on Main 
Street. A team of horses had been frightened by 
a train and had run away. A little girl, the 
daughter of a farmer, had been thrown from a 
buggy and killed. 

On Main Street everyone had become excited 
and a cry for doctors had gone up. All three of 
the active practitioners of the town had come 
quickly but had found the child dead. From the 
crowd someone had run to the office of Doctor 
Parcival who had bluntly refused to go down out 
of his office to the dead child. The useless cruelty 
of his refusal had passed unnoticed. Indeed, the 
man who had come up the stairway to summon him 
had hurried away without hearing the refusal. 

All of this, Doctor Parcival did not know and 
when George Willard came to his office he found 
the man shaking with terror. "What I have done 
will arouse the people of this town," he declared 
excitedly. "Do I not know human nature? Do 
I not know what will happen? Word of my 
refusal will be whispered about. Presently men 
will get together in groups and talk of it. They 
will come here. We will quarrel and there will 


be talk of hanging. Then they will come again 
bearing a rope in their hands." 

Doctor Parcival shook with fright. "I have a 
presentiment," he declared emphatically. "It may 
be that what I am talking about will not occur this 
morning. It may be put off until to-night but 
I will be hanged. Everyone will get excited. I 
will be hanged to a lamp-post on Main Street." 

Going to the door of his dirty little office, Doc- 
tor Parcival looked timidly down the stairway 
leading to the street. When he returned the 
fright that had been in his eyes was beginning 
to be replaced by doubt. Coming on tip-toe 
across the room he tapped George Willard on the 
shoulder. "If not now, sometime," he whispered, 
shaking his head. "In the end I will be crucified, 
uselessly crucified." 

Doctor Parcival began to plead with George 
Willard. "You must pay attention to me," he 
urged. "If something happens perhaps you will 
be able to write the book that I may never get 
written. The idea is very simple, so simple that 
if you are not careful you will forget it. It is 
this that everyone in the world is Christ and they 
are all crucified. That's what I want to say. 
Don't you forget that. Whatever happens, don't 
you dare let yourself forget." 



LOOKING cautiously about, George Willard 
arose from his desk in the office of the 
Winesburg Eagle and went hurriedly out 
at the back door. The night was warm and 
cloudy and although it was not yet eight o'clock, 
the alleyway back of the Eagle office was pitch 
dark. A team of horses tied to a post somewhere 
in the darkness stamped on the hard-baked ground. 
A cat sprang from under George Willard's feet 
and ran away into the night. The young man was 
nervous. All day he had gone about his work 
like one dazed by a blow. In the alleyway he 
trembled as though with fright. 

In the darkness George Willard walked along 
the alleyway, going carefully and cautiously. 
The back doors of the Winesburg stores were open 
and he could see men sitting about under the store 
lamps. In Myerbaum's Notion Store Mrs. 
Willy the saloon keeper's wife stood by the coun- 
ter with a basket on her arm. Sid Green the clerk 
was waiting on her. He leaned over the counter 
and talked earnestly. 

George Willard crouched and then jumped 


through the path of light that came out at the 
door. He began to run forward in the dark- 
ness. Behind Ed Griffith's saloon old Jerry 
Bird the town drunkard lay asleep on the ground. 
The runner stumbled over the sprawling legs. 
He laughed brokenly. 

George Willard had set forth upon an adven- 
ture. All day he had been trying to make up 
his mind to go through with the adventure and 
now he was acting. In the office of the Wines- 
burg Eagle he had been sitting since six o'clock 
trying to think. 

There had been no decision. He had just 
jumped to his feet, hurried past Will Henderson 
who was reading proof in the print shop and 
started to run along the alleyway. 

Through street after street went George Wil- 
lard, avoiding the people who passed. He 
crossed and recrossed the road. When he passed 
a street lamp he pulled his hat down over his 
face. He did not dare think. In his mind there 
was a fear but it was a new kind of fear. He was 
afraid the adventure on which he had set out 
would be spoiled, that he would lose courage and 
turn back. 

George Willard found Louise Trunnion in the 
kitchen of her father's house. She was washing 
dishes by the light of a kerosene lamp. There 
she stood behind the screen door in the little shed- 


like kitchen at the back of the house. George 
Willard stopped by a picket fence and tried to 
control the shaking of his body. Only a narrow 
potato patch separated him from the adventure. 
Five minutes passed before he felt sure enough 
of himself to call to her. "Louise 1 Oh Louise !" 
he called. The cry stuck in his throat. His 
voice became a hoarse whisper. 

Louise Trunnion came out across the potato 
patch holding the dish cloth in her hand. "How 
do you know I want to go out with you," she said 
sulkily. "What makes you so sure?" 

George Willard did not answer. In silence the 
two stood in the darkness with the fence between 
them. "You go on along," she said. "Pa's in 
there. I'll come along. You wait by William's 

The young newspaper reporter had received a 
letter from Louise Trunnion. It had come that 
morning to the office of the Winesburg Eagle. 
The letter was brief. "I'm yours if you want 
me," it said. He thought it annoying that in 
the darkness by the fence she had pretended there 
was nothing between them. "She has a nerve! 
Well, gracious sakes, she has a nerve," he mut- 
tered as he went along the street and passed a 
row of vacant lots where corn grew. The corn 
was shoulder high and had been planted right 
down to the sidewalk. 


When Louise Trunnion came out of the front 
door of her house she still wore the gingham dress 
in which she had been washing dishes. There was 
no hat on her head. The boy could see her stand- 
ing with the doorknob in her hand talking to 
someone within, no doubt to old Jake Trunnion, 
her father. Old Jake was half deaf and she 
shouted. The door closed and everything was 
dark and silent in the little side street. George 
Willard trembled more violently than ever. 

In the shadows by William's barn George and 
Louise stood, not daring to talk. She was not 
particularly comely and there was a black smudge 
on the side of her nose. George thought she 
must have rubbed her nose with her finger after 
she had been handling some of the kitchen pots. 

The young man began to laugh nervously. 
"It's warm," he said. He wanted to touch her 
with his hand. "I'm not very bold, 1 ' he thought. 
Just to touch the folds of the soiled gingham dress 
would, he decided, be an exquisite pleasure. She 
began to quibble. "You think you're better than 
I am. Don't tell me, I guess I know," she said 
drawing closer to him. 

A flood of words burst from George Willard. 
He remembered the look that had lurked in the 
girl's eyes when they had met on the streets and 
thought of the note she had written. Doubt left 
him. The whispered tales concerning her that 


had gone about town gave him confidence. He 
became wholly the male, bold and aggressive. 
In his heart there was no sympathy for her. 
"Ah, come on, it'll be all right. There won't be 
anyone know anything. How can they know?" 
he urged. 

They began to walk along a narrow brick side- 
walk between the cracks of which tall weeds grew. 
Some of the bricks were missing and the sidewalk 
was rough and irregular. He took hold of her 
hand that was also rough and thought it delight- 
fully small. "I can't go far," she said and her 
voice was quiet, unperturbed. 

They crossed a bridge that ran over a tiny 
stream and passed another vacant lot in which corn 
grew. The street ended. In the path at the side 
of the road they were compelled to walk one be- 
hind the other. Will Overton's berry field lay 
beside the road and there was a pile of boards. 
"Will is going to build a shed to store berry crates 
here," said George and they sat down upon the 


When George Willard got back into Main 
Street it was past ten o'clock and had begun to 
rain. Three times he walked up and down the 
length of Main Street. Sylvester West's Drug 
Store was still open and he went in and bought a 
cigar. When Shorty Crandall the clerk came 


out at the door with him he was pleased. For 
five minutes the two stood in the shelter of the 
store awning and talked. George Willard felt 
satisfied. He had wanted more than anything 
else to talk to some man. Around a corner to- 
ward the New Willard House he went whistling 

On the sidewalk at the side of Winny's Dry 
Goods Store where there was a high board fence 
covered with circus pictures, he stopped whistling 
and stood perfectly still in the darkness, attentive, 
listening as though for a voice calling his name. 
Then again he laughed nervously. "She hasn't 
got anything on me. Nobody knows," he mut- 
tered doggedly and went on his way. 



THERE were always three or four old people 
sitting on the front porch of the house or 
puttering about the garden of the Bentley 
farm. Three of the old people were women and 
sisters to Jesse. They were a colorless, soft- 
voiced lot. Then there was a silent old man with 
thin white hair who was Jesse's uncle. 

The farmhouse was built of wood, a board 
outer-covering over a framework of logs. It was 
in reality not one house but a cluster of houses 
joined together in a rather haphazard manner. 
Inside, the place was full of surprises. One went 
up steps from the living room into the dining room 
and there were always steps to be ascended or de- 
scended in passing from one room to another. At 
meal times the place was like a beehive. At one 
moment all was quiet, then doors began to open, 
feet clattered on stairs, a murmur of soft voices 
arose and people appeared from a dozen obscure 



Beside the old people, already mentioned, many 
others lived in the Bentley house. There were 
four hired men, a woman named Aunt Gallic 
Beebe, who was in charge of the housekeeping, a 
dull-witted girl named Eliza Stoughton, who made 
beds and helped with the milking, a boy who 
worked in the stables, and Jesse Bentley himself, 
the owner and overlord of it all. 

By the time the American Civil War had been 
over for twenty years, that part of Northern Ohio 
where the Bentley farms lay had begun to emerge 
from pioneer life. Jesse then owned machinery 
for harvesting grain. He had built modern 
barns and most of his land was drained with care- 
fully laid tile drain, but in order to understand 
the man we will have to go back to an earlier 

The Bentley family had been in Northern 
Ohio for several generations before Jesse's time. 
They came from New York State and took up 
land when the country was new and land could 
be had at a low price. For a long time they, in 
common with all the other Middle Western 
people, were very poor. The land they had 
settled upon was heavily wooded and covered with 
fallen logs and underbrush. After the long hard 
labor of clearing these away and cutting the 
timber, there were still the stumps to be reck- 
oned with. Plows run through the fields caught 


on hidden roots, stones lay all about, on the low 
places water gathered, and the young corn turned 
yellow, sickened and died. 

When Jesse Bentley's father and brothers had 
come into their ownership of the place, much of 
the harder part of the work of clearing had been 
done, but they clung to old traditions and worked 
like driven animals. They lived as practically 
all of the farming people of the time lived. In 
the spring and through most of the winter the 
highways leading into the town of Winesburg were 
a sea of mud. The four young men of the family 
worked hard all day in the fields, they ate heavily 
of coarse, greasy food, and at night slept like 
tired beasts on beds of straw. Into their lives 
came little that was not coarse and brutal and out- 
wardly they were themselves coarse and brutal. 
On Saturday afternoons they hitched a team of 
horses to a three-seated wagon and went off to 
town. In town they stood about the stoves in 
the stores talking to other farmers or to the store 
keepers. They were dressed in overalls and in 
the winter wore heavy coats that were flecked with 
mud. Their hands as they stretched them out 
to the heat of the stoves were cracked and red. 
It was difficult for them to talk and so they for 
the most part kept silent. When they had bought 
meat, flour, sugar, and salt, they went into one of 
the Winesburg saloons and drank beer. Under 


the influence of drink the naturally strong lusts of 
their natures, kept suppressed by the heroic labor 
of breaking up new ground, were released. A 
kind of crude and animal-like poetic fervor took 
possession of them. On the road home they stood 
up on the wagon seats and shouted at the stars. 
Sometimes they fought long and bitterly and at 
other times they broke forth into songs. Once 
Enoch Bentley, the older one of the boys, struck 
his father, old Tom Bentley, with the butt of a 
teamster's whip, and the old man seemed likely to 
die. For days Enoch lay hid in the straw in the 
loft of the stable ready to flee if the result of his 
momentary passion turned out to be murder. 
He was kept alive with food brought by his 
mother who also kept him informed of the in- 
jured man's condition. When all turned out well 
he emerged from his hiding place and went back 
to the work of clearing land as though nothing 
had happened. 

The Civil War brought a sharp turn to the 
fortunes of the Bentleys and was responsible for 
the rise of the youngest son, Jesse. Enoch, Ed- 
ward, Harry, and Will Bentley all enlisted and 
before the long war ended they were all killed. 
For a time after they went away to the South, 
old Tom tried to run the place, but he was not 


successful. When the last of the four had been 
killed he sent word to Jesse that he would have 
to come home. 

Then the mother, who had not been well for a 
year, died suddenly, and the father became alto- 
gether discouraged. He talked of selling the 
farm and moving into town. All day he went 
about shaking his head and muttering. The work 
in the fields was neglected and weeds grew high 
in the corn. Old Tom hired men but he did not 
use them intelligently. When they had gone 
away to the fields in the morning he wandered 
into the woods and sat down on a log. Sometimes 
he forgot to come home at night and one of the 
daughters had to go in search of him. 

When Jesse Bentley came home to the farm 
and began to take charge of things he was a slight, 
sensitive-looking man of twenty-two. At eighteen 
he had left home to go to school to become a 
scholar and eventually to become a minister of the 
Presbyterian Church. All through his boyhood 
he had been what in our country was called an 
"odd sheep" and had not got on with his brothers. 
Of all the family only his mother had understood 
him and she was now dead. When he came home 
to take charge of the farm, that had at that time 
grown to more than six hundred acres, everyone 
on the farms about and in the nearby town of 
Winesburg smiled at the idea of his trying to 


handle tht work that had been done by his four 
strong brothers. 

There was indeed good cause to smile. By the 
standards of his day Jesse did not look like a man 
at all. He was small and very slender and wom- 
anish of body and, true to the traditions of young 
ministers, wore a long black coat and a narrow 
black string tie. The neighbors were amused 
when they saw him, after the years away, and they 
were even more amused when they saw the woman 
he had married in the city. 

As a matter of fact, Jesse's wife did soon go 
under. That was perhaps Jesse's fault. A farm 
in Northern Ohio in the hard years after the Civil 
War was no place for a delicate woman, and 
Katherine Bentley was delicate. Jesse was hard 
with her as he was with everybody about him in 
those days. She tried to do such work as all the 
neighbor women about her did and he let her go 
on without interference. She helped to do the 
milking and did part of the housework; she made 
the beds for the men and prepared their food. 
For a year she worked every day from sunrise 
until late at night and then after giving birth to a 
child she died. 

As for Jesse Bentley although he was a deli- 
cately built man there was something within him 
that could not easily be killed. He had brown 
curly hair and grey eyes that were at times hard 


and direct, at times wavering and uncertain. Not 
only was he slender but he was also short of stat- 
ure. His mouth was like the mouth of a sensitive 
and very determined child. Jesse Bentley was a 
fanatic. He was a man born out of his time and 
place and for this he suffered and made others 
suffer. Never did he succeed in getting what he 
wanted out of life and he did not know what he 
wanted. Within a very short time after he came 
home to the Bentley farm he made everyone there 
a little afraid of him, and his wife, who should 
have been close to him as his mother had been, 
was afraid also. At the end of two weeks after 
his coming, old Tom Bentley made over to him 
the entire ownership of the place and retired into 
the background. Everyone retired into the back- 
ground. In spite of his youth and inexperience, 
Jesse had the trick of mastering the souls of his 
people. He was so in earnest in everything he 
did and said that no one understood him. He 
made everyone on the farm work as they had never 
worked before and yet there was no joy in the 
work. If things went well they went well for 
Jesse and never for the people who were his de- 
pendents. Like a thousand other strong men who 
have come into the world here in America in 
these later times, Jesse was but half strong. He 
could master others but he could not master him- 
self. The running of the farm as it had never 


been run before was easy for him. When he came 
home from Cleveland where he had been in 
school, he shut himself off from all of his people 
and began to make plans. He thought about the 
farm night and day and that made him successful. 
Other men on the farms about him worked too 
hard and were too tired to think, but to think of 
the farm and to be everlastingly making plans for 
its success was a relief to Jesse. It partially satis- 
fied something in his passionate nature. Imme- 
diately after he came home he had a wing built on 
to the old house and in a large room facing the 
west he had windows that looked into the barn- 
yard and other windows that looked off across the 
fields. By the window he sat down to think. 
Hour after hour and day after day he sat and 
looked over the land and thought out his new place 
in life. The passionate burning thing in his 
nature flamed up and his eyes became hard. He 
wanted to make the farm produce as no farm in 
his state had ever produced before and then he 
wanted something else. It was the indefinable 
hunger within that made his eyes waver and that 
kept him always more and more silent before 
people. He would have given much to achieve 
peace and in him was a fear that peace was the 
thing he could not achieve. 

All over his body Jesse Bentley was alive. In 
his small frame was gathered the force of a long 


line of strong men. He had always been extraor- 
dinarily alive when he was a small boy on the 
farm and later when he was a young man in school. 
In the school he had studied and thought of God 
and the Bible with his whole mind and heart. As 
time passed and he grew to know people better, he 
began to think of himself as an extraordinary man, 
one set apart from his fellows. He wanted 
terribly to make his life a thing of great import- 
ance, and as he looked about at his fellow men and 
saw how like clods they lived it seemed to him 
that he could not bear to become also such a clod. 
Although in his absorption in himself and in his 
own destiny he was blind to the fact that his 
young wife was doing a strong woman's work 
even after she had become large with child and 
that she was killing herself in his service, he did 
not intend to be unkind to her. When his father, 
who was old and twisted with toil, made over to 
him the ownership of the farm and seemed con- 
tent to creep away to a corner and wait for death, 
he shrugged his shoulders and dismissed the old 
man from his mind. 

In the room by the window overlooking the 
land that had come down to him sat Jesse think- 
ing of his own affairs. In the stables he could 
hear the tramping of his horses and the restless 
movement of his cattle. Away in the fields he 
could see other cattle wandering over green hills. 


The voices of men, his men who worked for him, 
came in to him through the window. From the 
milkhouse there was the steady thump, thump of 
a churn being manipulated by the half-witted girl, 
Eliza Stoughton. Jesse's mind went back to the 
men of Old Testament days who had also owned 
lands and herds. He remembered how God had 
come down out of the skies and talked to these 
men and he wanted God to notice and to talk 
to him also. A kind of feverish boyish eagerness 
to in some way- achieve in his own life the flavor 
of significance that had hung over these men took 
possession of him. Being a prayerful man he 
spoke of the matter aloud to God and the sound 
of his own words strengthened and fed his eager- 

"I am a new kind of man come into possession 
of these fields," he declared. "Look upon me, O 
God, and look Thou also upon my neighbors and 
all the men who have gone before me here ! O 
God, create in me another Jesse, like that one of 
old, to rule over men and to be the father of 
sons who shall be rulers I" Jesse grew excited as 
he talked aloud and jumping to his feet walked up 
and down in the room. In fancy he saw himself 
living in old times and among old peoples. The 
land that lay stretched out before him became of 
vast significance, a place peopled by his fancy 
with a new race of men sprung from himself. It 


seemed to him that in his day as in those other and 
older days, kingdoms might be created and new 
impulses given to the lives of men by the power of 
God speaking through a chosen servant. He 
longed to be such a servant. "It is God's work I 
have come to the land to do," he declared in a 
loud voice and his short figure straightened 
and he thought that something like a halo of 
Godly approval hung over him. 

It will perhaps be somewhat difficult for the 
men and women of a later day to understand Jesse 
Bentley. In the last fifty years a vast change 
has taken place in the lives of our people. A 
revolution has in fact taken place. The coming 
of industrialism, attended by all the roar and rattle 
of affairs, the shrill cries of millions of new voices 
that have come among us from over seas, the 
going and coming of trains, the growth of cities, 
the building of the interurban car lines that weave 
in and out of towns and past farmhouses, and 
now in these later days the coming of the auto- 
mobiles has worked a tremendous change in the 
lives and in the habits of thought of our people 
of Mid-America. Books, badly imagined and 
written though they may be in the hurry of our 
times, are in every household, magazines circulate 
by the millions of copies, newspapers are every- 
where. In our day a farmer standing by the 


stove in the store in his village has his mind filled 
to overflowing with the words of other men. The 
newspapers and the magazines have pumped him 
full. Much of the old brutal ignorance that had 
in it also a kind of beautiful childlike innocence is 
gone forever. The farmer by the stove is brother 
to the men of the cities, and if you listen you will 
find him talking as glibly and as senselessly as the 
best city man of us all. 

In Jesse Bentley's time and in the country dis- 
tricts of the whole Middle West in the years after 
the Civil War it was not so. Men labored too 
hard and were too tired to read. In them was no 
desire for words printed upon paper. As they 
worked in the fields, vague, half-formed thoughts 
took possession of them. They believed in God 
and in God's power to control their lives. In the 
little Protestant churches they gathered on Sun- 
day to hear of God and his works. The churches 
were the center of the social and intellectual life 
of the times. The figure of God was big in the 
hearts of men. 

And so, having been born an imaginative child 
and having within him a great intellectual eager- 
ness, Jesse Bentley had turned wholeheartedly 
toward God. When the war took his brothers 
away, he saw the hand of God in that. When his 
father became ill and could no longer attend to 


the running of the farm, he took that also as a sign 
from God. In the city, when the word came to 
him, he walked about at night through the 
streets thinking of the matter and when he had 
come home and had got the work on the farm well 
under way, he went again at night to walk through 
the forests and over the low hills and to think of 

As he walked the importance of his own figure 
in some divine plan grew in his mind. He grew 
avaricious and was impatient that the farm con- 
tained only six hundred acres. Kneeling in a 
fence corner at the edge of some meadow, he sent 
his voice abroad into the silence and looking up 
he saw the stars shining down at him. 

One evening, some months after his father's 
death, and when his wife Katherine was expecting 
at any moment to be laid abed of childbirth, 
Jesse left his house and went for a long walk. 
The Bentley farm was situated in a tiny valley 
watered by Wine Creek, and Jesse walked along 
the banks of the stream to the end of his own 
land and on through the fields of his neighbors. 
As he walked the valley broadened and then nar- 
rowed again. Great open stretches of field and 
wood lay before him. The moon came out from 
behind clouds, and, climbing a low hill, he sat 
down to think. 


Jesse thought that as the true servant of God 
the entire stretch of country through which he had 
walked should have come into his possession. He 
thought of his dead brothers and blamed them 
that they had not worked harder and achieved 
more. Before him in the moonlight the tiny 
stream ran down over stones, and he began to 
think of the men of old times who like himself had 
owned flocks and lands. 

A fantastic impulse, half fear, half greediness 
took possession of Jesse Bentley. He remem- 
bered how in the old Bible story the Lord had 
appeared to that other Jesse and told him to send 
his son David to where Saul and the men of Israel 
were fighting the Philistines in the Valley of Elah. 
Into Jesse's mind came the conviction that all of 
the Ohio farmers who owned land in the valley 
of Wine Creek were Philistines and enemies of 
God. "Suppose," he whispered to himself, "there 
should come from among them one who, like 
Goliath the Philistine of Gath, could defeat me 
and take from me my possessions." In fancy he 
felt the sickening dread that he thought must have 
lain heavy on the heart of Saul before the coming 
of David. Jumping to his feet, he began to run 
through the night. As he ran he called to God. 
His voice carried far over the low hills. "Jeho- 
vah of Hosts," he cried, "send to me this night 
out of the womb of Katherine, a son. Let thy 


grace alight upon me. Send me a son to be called 
David who shall help me to pluck at last all of 
these lands out of the hands of the Philistines and 
turn them to Thy service and to the building of 
Thy kingdom on earth." 

Btv*f * indene -farm 

A -* 

. Had 




DAVID HARDY of Winesburg, Ohio was 
the grandson of Jesse Bentley, the owner 
of Bentley farms. When he was twelve 
years old he went to the old Bentley place to live. 
His mother, Louise Bentley, the girl who came 
into the world on that night when Jesse ran 
through the fields crying to God that he be given 
a son, had grown to womanhood on the farm and 
had married young John Hardy of Winesburg 
who became a banker. Louise and her husband 
did not live happily together and everyone agreed 
that she was to blame. She was a small woman 
with sharp grey eyes and black hair. From 
childhood she had been inclined to fits of temper 
and when not angry she was often morose and 
silent. In Winesburg it was said that she drank. 
Her husband, the banker, who was a careful, 
shrewd man, tried hard to make her happy. 
When he began to make money he bought for her 
a large brick house on Elm Street in Winesburg 
and he was the first man in that town to keep a 
manservant to drive his wife's carriage. 



But Louise could not be made happy. She 
flew into half insane fits of temper during which 
she was sometimes silent, sometimes noisy and 
quarrelsome. She swore and cried out in her 
anger. She got a knife from the kitchen and 
threatened her husband's life. Once she delib- 
erately set fire to the house, and often she hid her- 
self away for days in her own room and would 
see no one. Her life, lived as a half recluse, gave 
rise to all sorts of stories concerning her. ft was 
said that she took drugs and that she hid herself 
away from people because she was often so under 
the influence of drink that her condition could 
not be concealed. Sometimes on summer after- 
noons she came out of the house and got into her 
carriage. Dismissing the driver she took the 
reins in her own hands and drove off at top speed 
through the streets. If a pedestrian got in her 
way she drove straight ahead and the frightened 
citizen had to escape as best he could. To the 
people of the town it seemed as though she wanted 
to run them down. When she had driven 
through several streets, tearing around corners 
and beating the horses with the whip, she drove 
off into the country. On the country roads after 
she had gotten out of sight of the houses she let 
the horses slow down to a walk and her wild, 
reckless mood passed. She became thoughtful 
and muttered words. Sometimes tears came into 


her eyes. And then when she came back into 
town she again drove furiously through the quiet 
streets. But for the influence of her husband and 
the respect he inspired in people's minds she would 
have been arrested more than once by the town 

Young David Hardy grew up in the house with 
this woman and as can well be imagined there 
was not much joy in his childhood. He was too 
young then to have opinions of his own about 
people, but at times it was difficult for him not to 
have very definite opinions about the woman who 
was his mother. David was always a quiet or- 
derly boy and for a long time was thought by 
the people of Winesburg to be something of a 
dullard. His eyes were brown and as a child 
he had a habit of looking at things and people 
a long time without appearing to see what he was 
looking at. When he heard his mother spoken of 
harshly or when he overheard her berating his 
father, he was frightened and ran away to hide. 
Sometimes he could not find a hiding place and that 
confused him. Turning his face toward a tree or 
if he were indoors toward the wall, he closed his 
eyes and tried not to think of anything. He had 
a habit of talking aloud to himself, and early in 
life a spirit of quiet sadness often took possession 
of him. 

On the occasions when David went to visit his 


grandfather on the Bentley farm, he was alto- 
gether contented and happy. Often he wished 
that he would never have to go back to town and 
once when he had come home from the farm after 
a long visit, something happened that had a lasting 
effect on his mind. 

David had come back into town with one of the 
hired men. The man was in a hurry to go about 
his own affairs and left the boy at the head of the 
street in which the Hardy house stood. It was 
early dusk of a fall evening and the sky was over- 
cast with clouds. Something happened to David. 
He could not bear to go into the house where his 
mother and father lived, and on an impulse he 
decided to run away from home. He intended 
to go back to the farm and to his grandfather, 
but lost his way and for hours he wandered weep- 
ing and frightened on country roads. It started 
to rain and lightning flashed in the sky. The 
boy's imagination was excited and he fancied that 
he could see and hear strange things in the dark- 
ness. Into his mind came the conviction that he 
was walking and running in some terrible void 
where no one had ever been before. The dark- 
ness about him seemed limitless. The sound of 
the wind blowing in trees was terrifying. When 
a team of horses approached along the road in 
which he walked he was frightened and climbed 
a fence. Through a field he ran until he came 


into another road and getting upon his knees felt 
of the soft ground with his fingers. But for the 
figure of his grandfather, whom he was afraid.he 
would never find in the darkness, he thought the 
world must be altogether empty. When his cries 
were heard by a farmer who was walking home 
from town and he was brought back to his fath- 
er's house, he was so tired and excited that he did 
not know what was happening to him. 

By chance David's father knew that he had dis- 
appeared. On the street he had met the farm 
hand from the Bentley place and knew of his son's 
return to town. When the boy did not come 
home an alarm was set up and John Hardy with 
several men of the town went to search the coun- 
try. The report that David had been kidnapped 
ran about through the streets of Winesburg. 
When he came home there were no lights in the 
house, but his mother appeared and clutched him 
eagerly in her arms. David thought she had sud- 
denly become another woman. He could not be- 
lieve that so delightful a thing had happened. 
With her own hands Louise Hardy bathed his 
tired young body and cooked him food. She 
would not let him go to bed but, when he had put 
on his nightgown, blew out the lights and sat down 
in a chair to hold him in her arms. For an hour 
the woman sat in the darkness and held her boy. 
All the time she kept talking in a low voice. 


David could not understand what had so changed 
her. Her habitually dissatisfied face had become, 
he thought, the most peaceful and lovely thing he 
had ever seen. When he began to weep she held 
him more and more tightly. On and on went her 
voice. It was not harsh or shrill as when she 
talked to her husband, but was like rain falling on 
trees. Presently men began coming to the door 
to report that he had not been found, but she 
made him hide and be silent until she had sent 
them away. He thought it must be a game his 
mother and the men of the town were playing 
with him and laughed joyously. Into his mind 
came the thought that his having been lost and 
frightened in the darkness was an altogether un- 
important matter. He thought that he would 
have been willing to go through the frightful ex- 
perience a thousand times to be sure of finding at 
the end of the long black road a thing so lovely 
as his mother had suddenly become. 

During the last years of young David's boy- 
hood he saw his mother but seldom and she be- 
came for him just a woman with whom he had 
once lived. Still he could not get her figure out 
of his mind and as he grew older it became more 
definite. When he was twelve years old he went 
to the Bentley farm to live. Old Jesse came into 
town and fairly demanded that he be given charge 


of the boy. The old man was excited and de- 
termined on having his own way. He talked to 
John Hardy in the office of the Winesburg Sav- 
ings Bank and then the two men went to the house 
on Elm Street to talk with Louise. They both 
expected her to make trouble but were mistaken. 
She was very quiet and when Jesse had explained 
his mission and had gone on at some length about 
the advantages to come through having the boy 
out of doors and in the quiet atmosphere of the 
old farmhouse, she nodded her head in approval. 
"It is an atmosphere not corrupted by my pre- 
sence," she said sharply. Her shoulders shook 
and she seemed about to fly into a fit of temper. 
"It is a place for a man child, although it was 
never a place for me," she went on. "You never 
wanted me there and of course the air of your 
house did me no good. It was like poison in my 
blood but it will be different with him." 

Louise turned and went out of the room, leav- 
ing the two men to sit in embarrassed silence. As 
very often happened she later stayed in her room 
for days. Even when the boy's clothes were 
packed and he was taken away she did not appear. 
The loss of her son made a sharp break in her 
life and she seemed less inclined to quarrel with 
her husband. John Hardy thought it had all 
turned out very well indeed. 

And so young David went to live in the Bentley 


farmhouse with Jesse. Two of the old farmer's 
sisters were alive and still lived in the house. 
They were afraid of Jesse and rarely spoke when 
he was about. One of the women who had been 
noted for her flaming red hair when she was 
younger was a born mother and became the boy's 
caretaker. Every night when he had gone to bad 
she went into his room and sat on the floor until 
he fell asleep. When he became drowsy she be- 
came bold and whispered things that he later 
thought he must have dreamed. 

Her soft low voice called him endearing names 
and he dreamed that his mother had come to him 
and that she had changed so that she was always 
as she had been that time after he ran away. He 
also grew bold and reaching out his hand stroked 
the face of the woman on the floor so that she 
was ecstatically happy. Everyone in the old 
house became happy after the boy went there. 
The hard insistent thing in Jesse Bentley that had 
kept the people in the house silent and timid and 
that had never been dispelled by the presence of 
the girl Louise was apparently swept away by the 
coming of the boy. It was as though God had 
relented and sent a son to the man. 

The man who had proclaimed himself the only 
true servant of God in all the valley of Wine 
Creek, and who had wanted God to send him 
a sign of approval by way of a son out of 


the womb of Katharine, began to think that at last 
his prayers had been answered. Although he was 
at that time only fifty-five years old he looked 
seventy and was worn out with much thinking and 
scheming. The effort he had made to extend his 
land holdings had been successful and there were 
few farms in the valley that did not belong to 
him, but until David came he was a bitterly dis- 
appointed man. 

There were two influences at work in Jesse 
Bentley and all his life his mind had been a battle- 
ground for these influences. First there was the 
old thing in him. He wanted to be a man of 
God and a leader among men of God. His walk- 
ing in the fields and through the forests at night 
had brought him close to nature and there were 
forces in the passionately religious man that ran 
out to the forces in nature. The disappointment 
that had come to him when a daughter and not a 
son had been born to Katherine had fallen upon 
him like a blow struck by some unseen hand and 
the blow had somewhat softened his egotism. He 
still believed that God might at any moment make 
himself manifest out of the winds or the clouds, 
but he no longer demanded such recognition. In- 
stead he prayed for it. Sometimes he was alto- 
gether doubtful and thought God had deserted 
the world. He regretted the fate that had not 
let him live in a simpler and sweeter time when 


at the beckoning of some strange cloud in the sky 
men left their lands and houses and went forth 
into the wilderness to create new races. While he 
worked night and day to make his farms more 
productive and to extend his holdings of land, he 
regretted that he could not use his own restless 
energy in the building of temples, the slaying of 
unbelievers and in general in the work of glorify- 
ing God's name on earth. 

That is what Jesse hungered for and then also 
he hungered for something else. He had grown 
into maturity in America in the years after the 
Civil War and he, like all men of his time, had 
been touched by the deep influences that were at 
work in the country during those years when mod- 
ern industrialism was being born. He began to 
buy machines that would permit him to do the 
work of the farms while employing fewer men 
and he sometimes thought that if he were a 
younger man he would give up farming altogether 
and start a factory in Winesburg for the making 
of machinery. Jesse formed the habit of read- 
ing newspapers and magazines. He invented a 
machine for the making of fence out of wire. 
Faintly he realized that the atmosphere of old 
times and places that he had always cultivated in 
his own mind was strange and foreign to the 
thing that was growing up in the minds of others. 
The beginning of the most materialistic age in the 


history of the world, when wars would be fought 
without patriotism, when men would forget God 
and only pay attention to moral standards, when 
the will to power would replace the will to serve 
and beauty would be well-nigh forgotten in the 
terrible headlong rush of mankind toward the 
acquiring of possessions, was telling its story to 
Jesse the man of God as it was to the men about 
him. The greedy thing in him wanted to make 
money faster than it could be made by tilling the 
land. More than once he went into Winesburg 
to talk with his son-in-law John Hardy about it. 
"You are a banker and you will have chances I 
never had," he said and his eyes shone. "I am 
thinking about it all the time. Big things are go- 
ing to be done in the country, and there will be 
more money to be made than I ever dreamed of. 
You get into it. I wish I were younger and had 
your chance." Jesse Bentley walked up and down 
in the bank office and grew more and more ex- 
cited as he talked. At one time in his life he had 
been threatened with paralysis and his left side 
remained somewhat weakened. As he talked his 
left eyelid twitched. Later when he drove back 
home and when night came on and the stars came 
out it was harder to get back the old feeling of 
a close and personal God who lived in the sky 
overhead and who might at any moment reach out 
his hand, touch him on the shoulder, and appoint 


for him some heroic task to be done. Jesse's 
mind was fixed upon the things read in newspapers 
and magazines, on fortunes to be made almost 
without effort by shrewd men who bought and 
sold. For him the coming of the boy David did 
much to bring back with renewed force the old 
faith and it seemed to him that God had at last 
looked with favor upon him. 

As for the boy on the farm, life began to reveal 
itself to him in a thousand new and delightful 
ways. The kindly attitude of all about him ex- 
panded his quiet nature and he lost the half timid, 
hesitating manner he had always had with his 
people. At night when he went to bed after a 
long day of adventures in the stables, in the fields, 
or driving about from farm to farm with his 
grandfather he wanted to embrace everyone in 
the house. If Sherley Bentley, the woman who 
came each night to sit on the floor by his bedside, 
did not appear at once, he went to the head of 
the stairs and shouted, his young voice ringing 
through the narrow halls where for so long there 
had been a tradition of silence. In the morning 
when he awoke and lay still in bed, the sounds that 
came in to him through the windows filled him 
with delight. He thought with a shudder of the 
life in the house in Winesburg and of his mother's 
angry voice that had always made him tremble. 
There in the country all sounds were pleasant 


sounds. When he awoke at dawn the barnyard 
back of the house also awoke. In the house peo- 
ple stirred about. Eliza Stoughton the half- 
witted girl was poked in the ribs by a farm hand 
and giggled noisily, in some distant field a cow 
bawled and was answered by the cattle in the 
stables, and one of the farm hands spoke sharply 
to the horse he was grooming by the stable door. 
David leaped out of bed and ran to a window. 
All of the people stirring about excited his mind, 
and he wondered what his mother was doing in 
the house in town. 

From the windows of his own room he could 
not see directly into the barnyard where the farm 
hands had now all assembled to do the morning 
chores, but he could hear the voices of the men 
and the neighing of the horses. When one of the 
men laughed, he laughed also. Leaning out at 
the open window, he looked into an orchard where 
a fat sow wandered about with a litter of tiny pigs 
at her heels. Every morning he counted the pigs. 
"Four, five, six, seven," he said slowly, wetting 
his finger and making straight up and down marks 
on the window ledge. David ran to put on his 
trousers and shirt. A feverish desire to get out 
of doors took possession of him. Every morn- 
ing he made such a noise coming down stairs that 
Aunt Sallie, the housekeeper, declared he was try- 
ing to tear the house down. When he had run 


through the long old house, shutting doors behind 
him with a bang, he came into the barnyard and 
looked about with an amazed air of expectancy. 
It seemed to him that in such a place tremendous 
things might have happened during the night. 
The farm hands looked at him and laughed. 
Henry Strader, an old man who had been on the 
farm since Jesse came into possession and who be- 
fore David's time had never been known to make 
a joke, made the same joke every morning. It 
amused David so that he laughed and clapped his 
hands. "See, come here and look/' cried the old 
man, "Grandfather Jesse's white mare has torn 
the black stocking she wears on her foot." 

Day after day through the long summer, Jesse 
Bentley drove from farm to farm up and down 
the valley of Wine Creek, and his grandson went 
with him. They rode in a comfortable old phae- 
ton drawn by the white horse. The old man 
scratched his thin white beard and talked to him- 
self of his plans for increasing the productiveness 
of the fields they visited and of God's part in the 
plans all men made. Sometimes he looked at 
David and smiled happily and then for a long time 
he appeared to forget the boy's existence. More 
and more every day now his mind turned back 
again to the dreams that had filled his mind when 
he had first come out of the city to live on the 
land. One afternoon he startled David by letting 


his dreams take entire possession of him. With 
the boy as a witness, he went through a ceremony 
and brought about an accident that nearly de- 
stroyed the companionship that was growing up 
between them. 

Jesse and his grandson were driving in a distant 
part of the valley some miles from home. A 
forest came down to the road and through the 
forest Wine Creek wriggled its way over stones 
toward a distant river. All the afternoon Jesse 
had been in a meditative mood and now he began 
to talk. His mind went back to the night when 
he had been frightened by thoughts of a giant that 
might come to rob and plunder him of his pos- 
sessions, and again as on that night when he had 
run through the fields crying for a son, he became 
excited to the edge of insanity. Stopping the 
horse he got out of the buggy and asked David 
to get out also. The two climbed over a fence 
and walked along the bank of the stream. The 
boy paid no attention to the muttering of his 
grandfather, but ran along beside him and won- 
dered what was going to happen. When a rab- 
bit jumped up and ran away through the woods, he 
clapped his hands and danced with delight. He 
looked at the tall trees and was sorry that he was 
not a little animal to climb high in the air without 
being frightened. Stooping, he picked up a small 
stone and threw it over the head of his grand- 


father into a clump of bushes. "Wake up, little 
animal. Go and climb to the top of the trees," 
he shouted in a shrill voice. 

Jesse Bentley went along under the trees with 
his bead bowed and with his mind in a ferment. 
His earnestness affected the boy who presently 
became silent and a little alarmed. Into the old 
man's mind had come the notion that now he could 
bring from God a word or a sign out of the sky, 
that the presence of the boy and man on their 
knees in some lonely spot in the forest would make 
the miracle he had been waiting for almost in- 
evitable. "It was in just such a place as this that 
other David tended the sheep when his father 
came and told him to go down unto Saul," he 

Taking the boy rather roughly by the shoulder, 
he climbed over a fallen log and when he had come 
to an open place among the trees, he dropped 
upon his knees and began to pray in a loud voice. 

A kind of terror he had never known before 
took possession of David. Crouching beneath a 
tree he watched the man on the ground before 
him and his own knees began to tremble. It 
seemed to him that he was in the presence, not 
only of his grandfather but of someone else, some- 
one who might hurt him, someone who was not 
kindly but dangerous and brutal. He began to 
cry and reaching down picked up a small stick 


which he held tightly gripped in his fingers. 
When Jesse Bentley, absorbed in his own idea, 
suddenly arose and advanced toward him, his 
terror grew until his whole body shook. In the 
woods an intense silence seemed to lie over every- 
thing and suddenly out of the silence came the old 
man's harsh and insistent voice. Gripping the 
boy's shoulders, Jesse turned his face to the sky 
and shouted. The whole left side of his face 
twitched and his hand on the boy's shoulder 
twitched also. "Make a sign to me, God," he 
cried, "here I stand with the boy Davjd. Come 
down to me out of the sky and make Thy pres- 
ence known to me." 

With a cry of fear, David turned and shaking 
himself loose from the hands that held him, ran 
away through the forest. He did not believe that 
the man who turned up his face and in a harsh 
voice shouted at the sky, was his grandfather at 
all. The man did not look like his grandfather. 
The conviction that something strange and terrible 
had happened, that by some miracle a new and 
dangerous person had come into the body of the 
kindly old man took possession of him. On and 
on he ran down the hillside sobbing as he ran. 
When he fell over the roots of a tree and in 
falling struck his head, he arose and tried to run 
on again. His head hurt so that presently he 
fell down and lay still, but it was only after 


Jesse had carried him to the buggy and he awoke 
to find the old man's hand stroking his head ten- 
derly, that the terror left him. "Take me away. 
There is a terrible man back there in the woods," 
he declared firmly, while Jesse looked away over 
the tops of the trees and again his lips cried out 
to God. "What have I done that Thou doest not 
approve of me," he whispered softly, saying the 
words over and over as he drove rapidly along the 
road with the boy's cut and bleeding head held 
tenderly against his shoulder. 



THE story of Louise Bentley, who became 
Mrs. John Hardy and lived with her hus- 
band in a brick house on Elm Street in 
Winesburg, is a story of misunderstanding. 

Before such women as Louise can be under- 
stood and their lives made livable, much will have 
to be done. Thoughtful books will have to be 
written and thoughtful lives lived by people 
about them. 

Born of a delicate and overworked mother, and 
an impulsive, hard, imaginative father, who did 
not look with favor upon her coming into the 
world, Louise was from childhood a neurotic, one 
of the race of over-sensitive women that in later 
days industrialism was to bring in such great num- 
bers into the world. 

During her early years she lived on the Bentley 
farm, a silent, moody child, wanting love more 
than anything else in the world and not getting it. 
When she was fifteen she went to live in Wines- 
burg with the family of Albert Hardy who had 



a store for the sale of buggies and wagons, and 
who was a member of the town board of educa- 

Louise went into town to be a student in the 
Winesburg High School and she went to live at 
the Hardy's because Albert Hardy and her father 
were friends. 

Hardy, the vehicle merchant of Winesburg, 
like thousands of other men of his times, was an 
enthusiast on the subject of education. He had 
made his own way in the world without learning 
got from books, but he was convinced that had 
he but known books things would have gone bet- 
ter with him. To everyone who came into his 
shop he talked of the matter, and in his own 
household he drove his family distracted by his 
constant harping on the subject. 

He had two daughters and one son, John 
Hardy, and more than once the daughters threat- 
ened to leave school altogether. As a matter of 
principle they did just enough work in their classes 
to avoid punishment. "I hate books and I hate 
anyone who likes books," Harriet, the younger of 
the two girls, declared passionately. 

In Winesburg as on the farm Louise was not 
happy. For years she had dreamed of the time 
when she could go forth into the world, and she 
looked upon the move into the Hardy household 
as a great step in the direction of freedom. Al- 


ways when she had thought of the matter, it had 
seemed to her that in town all must be gaiety and 
life, that there men and women must live happily 
and freely, giving and taking friendship and affec- 
tion as one takes the feel of a wind on the cheek. 
After the silence and the cheerlessness of life in 
the Bentley house, she dreamed of stepping forth 
into an atmosphere that was warm and pulsating 
with life and reality. And in the Hardy house- 
hold Louise might have got something of the 
thing for which she so hungered but for a mistake 
she made when she had just come to town. 

Louise won the disfavor of the two Hardy 
girls, Mary and Harriet, by her application to her 
studies in school. She did not come to the house 
until the day when school was to begin and knew 
nothing of the feeling they had in the matter. She 
was timid and during the first month made no 
acquaintances. Every Friday afternoon one of 
the hired men from the farm drove into Wines- 
burg and took her home for the week-end, so that 
she did not spend the Saturday holiday with the 
town people. Because she was embarrassed and 
lonely she worked constantly at her studies. To 
Mary and Harriet, it seemed as though she tried 
to make trouble for them by her proficiency. In 
her eagerness to appear well Louise wanted to 
answer every question put to the class by the 


teacher. She jumped up and down and her eyes 
flashed. Then when she had answered some 
question the others in the class had been unable to 
answer, she smiled happily. "See, I have done 
it for you," her eyes seemed to say. "You need 
not bother about the matter. I will answer all 
questions. For the whole class it will be easy 
while I am here." 

In the evening after supper in the Hardy house, 
Albert Hardy began to praise Louise. One of 
the teachers had spoken highly of her and he was 
delighted. "Well, again I have heard of it," he 
began, looking hard at his daughters and then 
turning to smile at Louise. "Another of the 
teachers has told me of the good work Louise is 
doing. Everyone in Winesburg is telling me how 
smart she is. I am ashamed that they do not 
speak so of my own girls." Arising, the mer- 
chant marched about the room and lighted his 
evening cigar. 

The two girls looked at each other and shook 
their heads wearily. Seeing their indifference the 
father became angry. "I tell you it is something 
for you two to be thinking about," he cried, glar- 
ing at them. "There is a big change coming here 
in America and in learning is the only hope of the 
coming generations. Louise is the daughter of a 
rich man but she is not ashamed to study. It 


should make you ashamed to see what she does." 
The merchant took his hat from a rack by the 
door and prepared to depart for the evening. At 
the door he stopped and glared back. So fierce 
was his manner that Louise was frightened and 
ran upstairs to her own room. The daughters 
began to speak of their own affairs. "Pay at- 
tention to me," roared the merchant. "Your 
minds are lazy. Your indifference to education 
is affecting your characters. You will amount to 
nothing. Now mark what I say Louise will be 
so far ahead of you that you will never catch up." 
The distracted man went out of the house and 
into the street shaking with wrath. He went 
along muttering words and swearing, but when 
he got into Main Street his anger passed. He 
stopped to talk of the weather or the crops with 
some other merchant or with a farmer who had 
come into town and forgot his daughters alto- 
gether or, if he thought of them, only shrugged 
his shoulders. "Oh, well, girls will be girls," he 
muttered philosophically. 

In the house when Louise came down into the 
room where the two girls sat, they would have 
nothing to do with her. One evening after she 
had been there for more than six weeks and was 
heartbroken because of the continued air of cold- 
ness with which she was always greeted, she burst 
into tears. "Shut up your crying and go back to 


your own room and to your books," Mary Hardy 
said sharply. 

The room occupied by Louise was on the second 
floor of the Hardy house, and her window looked 
out upon an orchard. There was a stove in the 
room and every evening young John Hardy car- 
ried up an armful of wood and put it in a box that 
stood by the wall. During the second month 
after she came to the house, Louise gave up all 
hope of getting on a friendly footing with the 
Hardy girls and went to her own room as soon 
as the evening meal was at an end. 

Her mind began to play with thoughts of mak- 
ing friends with John Hardy. When he came 
into the room with the wood in his arms, she pre- 
tended to be busy with her studies but watched 
him eagerly. When he had put the wood in the 
box and turned to go out, she put down her head 
and blushed. She tried to make talk but could 
say nothing, and after he had gone she was angry 
at herself for her stupidity. 

The mind of the country girl became filled with 
the idea of drawing close to the young man. She 
thought that in him might be found the quality she 
had all her life been seeking in people. It seemed 
to her that between herself and all the other peo- 
ple in the world, a wall had been built up and that 
she was living just on the edge of some warm 


inner circle of life that must be quite open and 
understandable to others. She became obsessed 
with the thought that it wanted but a courageous 
act on her part to make all of her association with 
people something quite different, and that it was 
possible by such an act to pass into a new life as 
one opens a door and goes into a room. Day 
and night she thought of the matter, but although 
the thing she wanted so earnestly was something 
very warm and close it had as yet no conscious 
connection with sex. It had not become that 
definite, and her mind had only alighted upon the 
person of John Hardy because he was at hand 
and unlike his sisters had not been unfriendly to 

The Hardy sisters, Mary and Harriet, were 
both older than Louise. In a certain kind of 
knowledge of the world they were years older. 
They lived as all of the young women of Middle 
Western towns lived. In those days young women 
did not go out of our towns to eastern colleges 
and ideas in regard to social classes had hardly 
begun to exist. A daughter of a laborer was in 
much the same social position as a daughter of a 
farmer or a merchant, and there were no leisure 
classes. A girl was "nice" or she was "not nice." 
If a nice girl, she had a young man who came to 
her house to see her on Sunday and on Wednes- 
day evenings. Sometimes she went with her 


young man to a dance or a church social. At 
other times she received him at the house and was 
given the use of the parlor for that purpose. No 
one intruded upon her. For hours the two sat 
behind closed doors. Sometimes the lights were 
turned low and the young man and woman em- 
braced. Cheeks became hot and hair disarranged. 
After a year or two, if the impulse within them 
became strong and insistent enough, they married. 

One evening during her first winter in Wines- 
burg, Louise had an adventure that gave a new 
impulse to her desire to break down the wall that 
she thought stood between her and John Hardy. 
It was Wednesday and immediately after the eve- 
ning meal Albert Hardy put on his hat and went 
away. Young John brought the wood and put it 
in the box in Louise's room. "You do work hard, 
don't you?" he said awkwardly, and then before 
she could answer he also went away. 

Louise heard him go out of the house and had 
a mad desire to run after him. Opening her win- 
dow she leaned out and called softly. "John, 
dear John, come back, don't go away." The 
night was cloudy and she could not see far into 
the darkness, but as she waited she fancied she 
could hear a soft little noise as of someone going 
on tiptoes through the trees in the orchard. She 
was frightened and closed the window quickly. 
For an hour she moved about the room trembling 


with excitement and when she could not longer 
bear the waiting, she crept into the hall and down 
the stairs into a closet-like room that opened off 
the parlor. 

Louise had decided that she would perform the 
courageous act that had for weeks been in her 
mind. She was convinced that John Hardy had 
concealed himself in the orchard beneath her win- 
dow and she was determined to find him and tell 
him that she wanted him to come close to her, to 
hold her in his arms, to tell her of his thoughts 
and dreams and to listen while she told him her 
thoughts and dreams. "In the darkness it will be 
easier to say things," she whispered to herself, as 
she stood in the little room groping for the door. 

And then suddenly Louise realized that she was 
not alone in the house. In the parlor on the other 
side of the door a man's voice spoke softly and 
the door opened. Louise just had time to conceal 
herself in a little opening beneath the stairway 
when Mary Hardy, accompanied by her young 
man, came into the little dark room. 

For an hour Louise sat on the floor in the dark- 
ness and listened. Without words Mary Hardy, 
with the aid of the man who had come to spend 
the evening with her, brought to the country girl 
a knowledge of men and women. Putting her 
head down until she was curled into a little ball 
she lay perfectly still. It seemed to her that by 


some strange impulse of the gods, a great gift 
had been brought to Mary Hardy and she could 
not understand the older, woman's determined 

The young man took Mary Hardy into his arms 
and kissed her. When she struggled and laughed, 
he but held her the more tightly. For an hour 
the contest between* them went on and then they 
went back into the parlor and Louise escaped up 
the stairs. "I hope you were quiet out there. 
You must not disturb the little mouse at her 
studies," she heard Harriet saying to her sister 
as she stood by her own door in the hallway above. 

Louise wrote a note to John Hardy and late 
that night when all in the house were asleep, she 
crept downstairs and slipped it under his door. 
She was afraid that if she did not do the thing 
at once her courage would fail. In the note she 
tried to be quite definite about what she wanted. 
"I want someone to love me and I want to love 
someone," she wrote. "If you are the one for 
me I want you to come into the orchard at night 
and make a noise under my window. It will be 
easy for me to crawl down over the shed and come 
to you. I am thinking about it all the time, so 
if you are to come at all you must come soon." 

For a long time Louise did not know what 
would be the outcome of her bold attempt to 
secure for herself a lover. In a way she still did 


not know whether or not she wanted him to come. 
Sometimes it seemed to her that to be held tightly 
and kissed was the whole secret of life, and then 
a new impulse came and she was terribly afraid. 
The age-old woman's desire to be possessed had 
taken possession of her, but so vague was her 
notion of life that it seemed to her just the touch 
of John Hardy's hand upon her own hand would 
satisfy. She wondered if he would understand 
that. At the table next day while Albert Hardy 
talked and the two girls whispered and laughed, 
she did not look at John but at the table and as 
soon as possible escaped. In the evening she went 
out of the house until she was sure he had taken 
the wood to her room and gone away. When 
after several evenings of intense listening she 
heard no call from the darkness in the orchard, 
she was half beside herself with grief and decided 
that for her there was no way to break through 
the wall that had shut her off from the joy of 

And then on a Monday evening two or three 
weeks after the writing of the note, John Hardy 
came for her. Louise had so entirely given up 
the thought bf his coming that for a long time she 
did not hear the call that came up from the or- 
chard. On the Friday evening before, as she was 
being driven back to the farm for the week-end 
by one of the hired men, she had on an impulse 


done a thing that had startled her, and as John 
Hardy stood in the darkness below and called her 
name softly and insistently, she walked about in 
her room and wondered what new impulse had 
led her to commit so ridiculous an act. 

The farm hand, a young fellow with black curly 
hair, had come for her somewhat late on that 
Friday evening and they drove home in the dark- 
ness. Louise, whose mind was filled with thoughts 
of John Hardy, tried to make talk but the country 
boy was embarrassed and would say nothing. 
Her mind began to review the loneliness of her 
childhood and she remembered with a pang the 
sharp new loneliness that had just come to her. 
"I hate everyone," she cried suddenly, and then 
broke forth into a tirade that frightened her es- 
cort. "I hate father and old man Hardy, too," 
she declared vehemently. "I get my lessons there 
in the school in town but I hate that also." 

Louise frightened the farm hand still more by 
turning and putting her cheek down upon his 
shoulder. Vaguely she hoped that he like that 
young man who had stood in the darkness with 
Mary would put his arms about her and kiss her, 
but the country boy was only alarmed. He struck 
the horse with the whip and began to whistle. 
"The road is rough, eh?" he said loudly. Louise 
was so angry that reaching up she snatched his hat 
from his head and threw it into the road. When 


he jumped out of the buggy and went to get it, 
she drove off and left him to walk the rest of the 
way back to the farm. 

Louise Bentley took John Hardy to be her 
lover. That was not what she wanted but it was 
so the young man had interpreted her approach 
to him, and so anxious was she to achieve some- 
thing else that she made no resistance. When 
after a few months they were both afraid that she 
was about to become a mother, they went one 
evening to the county seat and were married. 
For a few months they lived in the Hardy house 
and then took a house of their own. All during 
the first year Louise tried to make her husband 
understand the vague and intangible hunger that 
had led to the writing of the note and that was 
still unsatisfied. Again and again she crept into 
his arms and tried to talk of it, but always with- 
out success. Filled with his own notions of love 
between men and women, he did not listen but 
began to kiss her upon the lips. That confused 
her so that in the end she did not want to be kissed. 
She did not know what she wanted. 

When the alarm that had tricked them into 
marriage proved to be groundless, she was angry 
and said bitter, hurtful things. Later when her 
son David was born, she could not nurse him and 
did not know whether she wanted him or not. 
Sometimes she stayed in the room with him all day, 


walking about and occasionally creeping close to 
touch him tenderly with her hands, and then other 
days came when she did not want to see or be 
near the tiny bit of humanity that had come into 
the house. When John Hardy reproached her 
for her cruelty, she laughed. "It is a man child 
and will get what it wants anyway," she said 
sharply. "Had it been a woman child there is 
nothing in the world I would not have done for 




"TIT THEN David Hardy was a tall boy of 
y y fifteen, he, like his mother, had an ad- 
venture that changed the whole current 
of his life and sent him out of his quiet corner into 
the world. The shell of the circumstances of his 
life was broken and he was compelled to start 
forth. He left Winesburg and no one there ever 
saw him again. After his disappearance, his 
mother and grandfather both died and his father 
became very rich. He spent much money in try- 
ing to locate his son, but that is no part of this 

It was in the late fall of an unusual year on the 
Bentley farms. Everywhere the crops had been 
heavy. That spring, Jesse had bought part of a 
long strip of black swamp land that lay in the 
valley of Wine Creek. He got the land at a low 
price but had spent a large sum of money to im- 
prove it. Great ditches had to be dug and thou- 
sands of tile laid. Neighboring farmers shook 
their heads over the expense. Some of them 



laughed and hoped that Jesse would lose heavily 
by the venture, but the old man went silently on 
with the work and said nothing. 

When the land was drained he planted it to 
cabbages and onions, and again the neighbors 
laughed. The crop was, however, enormous and 
brought high prices. In the one year Jesse made 
enough money to pay for all the cost of preparing 
the land and had a surplus that enabled him to buy 
two more farms. He was exultant and could 
not conceal his delight. For the first time in all 
the history of his ownership of the farms, he went 
among his men with a smiling face. 

Jesse bought a great many new machines for 
cutting down the cost of labor and all of the re- 
maining acres in the strip of black fertile swamp 
land. One day he went into Winesburg and 
bought a bicycle and a new suit of clothes for 
David and he gave his two sisters money with 
which to go to a religious convention at Cleveland, 

In the fall of that year when the frost came 
and the trees in the forests along Wine Creek were 
golden brown, David spent every moment when 
he did not have to attend school, out in the open. 
Alone or with other boys he went every after- 
noon into the woods to gather nuts. The other 
boys of the countryside, most of them sons of 
laborers on the Bentley farms, had guns with 


which they went hunting rabbits and squirrels, but 
David did not go with them. He made himself 
a sling with rubber bands and a forked stick and 
went off by himself to gather nuts. As he went 
about thoughts came to him. He realized that 
he was almost a man and wondered what he would 
do in life, but before they came to anything, the 
thoughts passed and he was a boy again. One 
day he killed a squirrel that sat on one of the 
lower branches of a tree and chattered at him. 
Home he ran with the squirrel in his hand. One 
of the Bentley sisters cooked the little animal and 
he ate it with great gusto. The skin he tacked on 
a board and suspended the board by a string from 
his bedroom window. 

That gave his mind a new turn. After that 
he never went into the woods without carrying 
the sling in his pocket and he spent hours shoot- 
ing at imaginary animals concealed among the 
brown leaves in the trees. Thoughts of his com- 
ing manhood passed and he was content to be a 
boy with a boy's impulses. 

One Saturday morning when he was about to 
set off for the woods with the sling in his pocket 
and a bag for nuts on his shoulder, his grand- 
father stopped him. In the eyes of the old man 
was the strained serious look that always a little 
frightened David. At such times Jesse Bentley's 
eyes did not look straight ahead but wavered and 


seemed to be looking at nothing. Something like 
an invisible curtain appeared to have come be- 
tween the man and all the rest of the world. "I 
want you to come with me," he said briefly, and 
his eyes looked over the boy's head into the sky. 
"We have something important to do to-day. 
You may bring the bag for nuts if you wish. It 
does not matter and anyway we will be going into 
the woods." 

Jesse and David set out from the Bentley farm- 
house in the old phaeton that was drawn by the 
white horse. When they had gone along in 
silence for a long way they stopped at the edge 
of a field where a flock of sheep were grazing. 
Among the sheep was a lamb that had been born 
out of season, and this David and his grandfather 
caught and tied so tightly that it looked like a 
little white ball. When they drove on again Jesse 
let David hold the lamb in his arms. "I saw it 
yesterday and it put me in mind of what I have 
long wanted to do," he said, and again he looked 
away over the head of the boy with the wavering, 
uncertain stare in his eyes. 

After the feeling of exaltation that had come 
to the farmer as a result of his successful year, 
another mood had taken possession of him. For 
a long time he had been going about feeling very 
humble and prayerful. Again he walked alone at 
night thinking of God and as he walked he again 


connected his own figure with the figures of old 
days. Under the stars he knelt on the wet grass 
and raised up his voice in prayer. Now he had 
decided that like the men whose stories filled the 
pages of the Bible, he would make a sacrifice to 
God. "I have been given these abundant crops 
and God has also sent me a boy who is called 
David," he whispered to himself. "Perhaps I 
should have done this thing long ago." He was 
sorry the idea had not come into his mind in the 
days before his daughter Louise had been born 
and thought that surely now when he had erected 
a pile of burning sticks in some lonely place in the 
woods and had offered the body of a lamb as a 
burnt offering, God would appear to him and give 
him a message. 

More and more as he thought of the matter, 
he thought also of David and his passionate self 
love was partially forgotten. "It is time for the 
boy to begin thinking of going out into the world 
and the message will be one concerning him," he 
decided. "God will make a pathway for him. 
He will tell me what place David is to take in 
life and when he shall set out on his journey. It 
is right that the boy should be there. If I am 
fortunate and an angel of God should appear, 
David will see the beauty and glory of God made 
manifest to man. It will make a true man of 
God of him also." 


In silence Jesse and David drove along the 
road until they came to that place where Jesse 
had once before appealed to God and had fright- 
ened his grandson. The morning had been bright 
and cheerful, but a cold wind now began to blow 
and clouds hid the sun. When David saw the place 
to which they had come he began to tremble with 
fright, and when they stopped by the bridge where 
the creek came down from among the trees, he 
wanted to spring out of the phaeton and run away. 

A dozen plans for escape ran through David's 
head, but when Jesse stopped the horse and 
climbed over the fence into the wood, he followed. 
"It is foolish to be afraid. Nothing will hap- 
pen," he told himself as he went along with the 
lamb in his arms. There was something in the 
helplessness of the little animal, held so tightly 
in his arms that gave him courage. He could 
feel the rapid beating of the beast's heart and 
that made his own heart beat less rapidly. As 
he walked swiftly along behind his grandfather, 
he untied the string with which the four legs of 
the lamb were fastened together. "If anything 
happens we will run away together," he thought. 

In the woods, after they had gone a long way 
from the road, Jesse stopped in an opening among 
the trees where a clearing, overgrown with small 
bushes, ran up from the creek. He was still 
silent but began at once to erect a heap of dry 


sticks which he presently set afire. The boy sat 
on the ground with the lamb in his arms. His 
imagination began to invest every movement of 
the old man with significance and he became every 
moment more afraid. "I must put the blood of 
the lamb on the head of the boy," Jesse muttered 
when the sticks had begun to blaze greedily, and 
taking a long knife from his pocket he turned and 
walked rapidly across the clearing toward David. 
Terror seized upon the soul of the boy. He 
was sick with it. For a moment he sat perfectly 
still and then his body stiffened and he sprang to 
his feet. His face became as white as the fleece 
of the lamb, that now finding itself suddenly re- 
leased, ran down the hill. David ran also. Fear 
made his feet fly. Over the low bushes and logs 
he leaped frantically. As he ran he put his hand 
into his pocket and took out the branched stick 
from which the sling for shooting squirrels was 
suspended. When he came to the creek that was 
shallow and splashed down over the stones, he 
dashed into the water and turned to look back, 
and when he saw his grandfather still running 
toward him with the long knife held tightly in his 
hand he did not hesitate but reaching down, 
selected a stone and put it in the sling. With all 
his strength he drew back the heavy rubber bands 
and the stone whistled through the air. It hit 
Jesse, who had entirely forgotten the boy and was 


pursuing the lamb, squarely in the head. With 
a groan he pitched forward and fell almost at the 
boy's feet. When David saw that he lay still and 
that he was apparently dead, his fright increased 
immeasurably. It became an insane panic. 

With a cry he turned and ran off through the 
woods weeping convulsively. "I don't care I 
killed him, but I don't care," he sobbed. As he 
ran on and on he decided suddenly that he would 
never go back again to the Bentley farms or to 
the town of Winesburg. "I have killed the man 
of God and now I will myself be a man and go 
into the world," he said stoutly as he stopped run- 
ning and walked rapidly down a road that fol- 
lowed the windings of Wine Creek as it ran 
through fields and forests into the west. 

On the ground by the creek Jesse Bentley moved 
uneasily about. He groaned and opened his 
eyes. For a long time he lay perfectly still and 
looked at the sky. When at last he got to his 
feet, his mind was confused and he was not sur- 
prised by the boy's disappearance. By the road- 
side he sat down on a log and began to talk about 
God. That is all they ever got out of him. 
Whenever David's name was mentioned he looked 
vaguely at the sky and said that a messenger from 
God had taken the boy. "It happened because 
I was too greedy for glory," he declared, and 
would have no more to say in the matter. 


HE lived with his mother, a grey, silent 
woman with a peculiar ashy complexion. 
The house in which they lived stood in a 
little grove of trees beyond where the main street 
of Winesburg crossed Wine Creek. His name 
was Joe Welling, and his father had been a man 
of some dignity in the community, a lawyer and 
a member of the state legislature at Columbus. 
Joe himself was small of body and in his charac- 
ter unlike anyone else in town. He was like a 
tiny little volcano that lies silent for days and 
then suddenly spouts fire. No, he wasn't like 
that he was like a man who is subject to fits, 
one who walks among his fellow men inspiring 
fear because a fit may come upon him suddenly 
and blow him away into a strange uncanny physi- 
cal state in which his eyes roll and his legs and 
arms jerk. He was like that, only that the visita- 
tion that descended upon Joe Welling was a men- 
tal and not a physical thing. He was beset by 
ideas and in the throes of one of his ideas was un- 
controllable. Words rolled and tumbled from his 
mouth. A peculiar smile came upon his lips. 



The edges of his teeth that were tipped with gold 
glistened in the light. Pouncing upon a bystander 
he began to talk. For the bystander there was 
no escape. The excited man breathed into his 
face, peered into his eyes, pounded upon his chest 
with a shaking forefinger, demanded, compelled 

In those days the Standard Oil Company did 
not deliver oil to the consumer in big wagons and 
motor trucks as it does now, but delivered instead 
to retail grocers, hardware stores and the like. 
Joe was the Standard Oil agent in Winesburg and 
in Several towns up and down the railroad that 
went through Winesburg. He collected bills, 
booked orders, and did other things. His 
father, the legislator, had secured the job for him. 

In and out of the stores of Winesburg went Joe 
Welling silent, excessively polite, intent upon his 
business. Men watched him with eyes in which 
lurked amusement tempered by alarm. They 
were waiting for him to break forth, preparing to 
flee. Although the seizures that came upon him 
were harmless enough, they could not be laughed 
away. They were overwhelming. Astride an 
idea, Joe was overmastering. His personality 
became gigantic. It overrode the man to whom 
he talked, swept him away, swept all away, all 
who stood within sound of his voice. 

In Sylvester West's Drug Store stood four men 


who were talking of horse racing. Wesley Mov- 
er's stallion, Tony Tip, was to race at the June 
meeting at Tiffin, Ohio, and there was a rumor 
that he would meet the stiff est competition of his 
career. It was said that Pop Geers, the great 
racing driver, would himself be there. A doubt 
of the success of Tony Tip hung heavy in the air 
of Winesburg. 

Into the drug store came Joe Welling, brush- 
ing the screen door violently aside. With a 
strange absorbed light in his eyes he pounced 
upon Ed Thomas, he who knew Pop Geers and 
whose opinion of Tony Tip's chances was worth 

"The water is up in Wine Creek," cried Joe 
Welling with the air of Pheidippides bringing 
news of the victory of the Greeks in the struggle 
at Marathon. His finger beat a tattoo upon Ed 
Thomas' broad chest. "By Trunion bridge it is 
within eleven and a half inches of the flooring," 
he went on, the words coming quickly and with a 
little whistling noise from between his teeth. An 
expression of helpless annoyance crept over the 
faces of the four. 

"I have my facts correct. Depend upon that. 
I went to Sinning' s Hardware Store and got a rule. 
Then I went back and measured. I could hardly 
believe my own eyes. It hasn't rained you see for 
ten days. At first I didn't know what to think. 


Thoughts rushed through my head. I thought of 
subterranean passages and springs. Down under 
the ground went my mind, delving about. I sat 
on the floor of the bridge and rubbed my head. 
There wasn't a cloud in the sky, not one. Come 
out into the street and you'll see. There wasn't 
a cloud. There isn't a cloud now. Yes, there 
was a cloud. I don't want to keep back any facts. 
There was a cloud in the west down near the hori- 
zon, a cloud no bigger than a man's hand. 

"Not that I think that has anything to do with 
it. There it is you see. You understand how 
puzzled I was. 

"Then an idea came to me. I laughed. You'll 
laugh, too. Of course it rained over in Medina 
County. That's interesting, eh? If we had no 
trains, no mails, no telegraph, we would know that 
it rained over in Medina County. That's where 
Wine Creek comes from. Everyone knows that. 
Little old Wine Creek brought us the news. 
That's interesting. I laughed. I thought I'd tell 
you it's interesting, eh?" 

Joe Welling turned and went out at the door. 
Taking a book from his pocket, he stopped and 
ran a finger down one of the pages. Again he 
was absorbed in his duties as agent of the Stand- 
ard Oil Company. "Hern's Grocery will be get- 
ting low on coal oil. I'll see them," he muttered, 
hurrying along the street, and bowing politely to 


the right and left at the people walking past. 

When George Willard went to work for the 
Winesburg Eagle he was besieged by Joe Welling. 
Joe envied the boy. It seemed to him that he 
was meant by Nature to be a reporter on a news- 
paper. "It is what I should be doing, there is 
no doubt of that," he declared, stopping George 
Willard on the sidewalk before Daugherty's Feed 
Store. His eyes began to glisten and his fore- 
finger to tremble. "Of course I make more 
money with the Standard Oil Company and I'm 
only telling you," he added. "I've got nothing 
against you, but I should have your place. I could 
do the work at odd moments. Here and there 
I would run finding out things you'll never see." 

Becoming more excited Joe Welling crowded 
the young reporter against the front of the feed 
store. He appeared to be lost in thought, rolling 
his eyes about and running a thin nervous hand 
through his hair. A smile spread over his face 
and his gold teeth glittered. "You get out your 
note book," he commanded. "You carry a little 
pad of paper in your pocket, don't you? I knew 
you did. Well, you set this down. I thought of 
it the other day. Let's take decay. Now what 
is decay? It's fire. It burns up wood 4 and other 
things. You never thought of that? Of course 
not. This sidewalk here and this feed store, the 
trees down the street there they're all on fire. 


They're burning up. Decay you see is always 
going on. It don't stop. Water and paint can't 
stop it. If a thing is iron, then what? It rusts, 
you see. That's fire, too. The world is on fire. 
Start your pieces in the paper that way. Just 
say in big letters 'The World Is On Fire.' That 
will make 'em look up. They'll say you're a 
smart one. I don't care. I don't envy you. I 
just snatched that idea out of the air. I would 
make a newspaper hum. You got to admit 

Turning quickly, Joe Welling walked rapidly 
away. When he had taken several steps he 
stopped and looked back. "I'm going to stick to 
you," he said. "I'm going to make you a regular 
hummer. I should start a newspaper myself, 
that's what I should do. I'd be a marvel. 
Everybody knows that." 

When George Willard had been for a year on 
the Winesburg Eagle, four things happened to 
Joe Welling. His mother died, he came to live 
at the New Willard House, he became involved 
in a love affair, and he organized the Winesburg 
Baseball Club. 

Joe organized the baseball club because he 
wanted to be a coach and in that position he began 
to win the respect of his townsmen. "He is a 
wonder," they declared after Joe's team had 
whipped the team from Medina County. "He 


gets everybody working together. You just 
watch him." 

Upon the baseball field Joe Welling stood by 
first base, his whole body quivering with excite- 
ment. In spite of themselves all of the players 
watched him closely. The opposing pitcher be- 
came confused. 

"Now! Now! Now! Now!" shouted the ex- 
cited man. "Watch me! Watch me! Watch 
my fingers ! Watch my hands ! Watch my feet ! 
Watch my eyes! Let's work together here! 
Watch me ! In me you see all the movements of 
the game! Work with me! Work with me! 
Watch me ! Watch me ! Watch me I" 

With runners of the Winesburg team on bases, 
Joe Welling became as one inspired. Before they 
knew what had come over them, the base runners 
were watching the man, edging off the bases, ad- 
vancing, retreating, held as by an invisible cord. 
The players of the opposing team also watched 
Joe. They were fascinated. For a moment they 
watched and then as though to break a spell that 
hung over them, they began hurling the ball wildly 
about, and amid a series of fierce animal-like cries 
from the coach, the runners of the Winesburg 
team scampered home. 

Joe Welling' s love affair set the town of Wines- 
burg on edge. When it began everyone whis- 
pered and shook his head. When people tried to 


laugh, the laughter was forced and unnatural. 
Joe fell in love with Sarah King, a lean, sad-look- 
ing woman who lived with her father and brother 
in a brick house that stood opposite the gate lead- 
ing to the Winesburg Cemetery. 

The two Kings, Edward the father, and Tom 
the son, were not popular in Winesburg. They 
were called proud and dangerous. They had 
come to Winesburg from some place in the South 
and ran a cider mill on the Trunion Pike. Tom 
King was reported to have killed a man before 
he came to Winesburg. He was twenty-seven 
years old and rode about town on a grey pony. 
Also he had a long yellow mustache that dropped 
down over his teeth, and always carried a heavy, 
wicked-looking walking stick in his hand. Once 
he killed a dog with the stick. The dog belonged 
to Win Pawsey, the shoe merchant, and stood on 
the sidewalk wagging its tail. Tom King killed 
it with one blow. He was arrested and paid a 
fine of ten dollars. 

Old Edward King was small of stature and 
when he passed people in the street laughed a 
queer unmirthful laugh. When he laughed he 
scratched his left elbow with his right hand. The 
sleeve of his coat was almost worn through from 
the habit. As he walked along the street, looking 
nervously about and laughing, he seemed more 
dangerous than his silent, fierce looking son. 


When Sarah King began walking out in the eve- 
ning with Joe Welling, people shook their heads 
in alarm. She was tall and pale and had dark 
rings under her eyes. The couple looked ridicu- 
lous together. Under the trees they walked and 
Joe talked. His passionate eager protestations 
of love, heard coming out of the darkness by the 
cemetery wall, or from the deep shadows of the 
trees on the hill that ran up to the Fair Grounds 
from Waterworks Pond, were repeated in the 
stores. Men stood by the bar in the New Wil- 
lard House laughing and talking of Joe's court- 
ship. After the laughter came silence. The 
Winesburg baseball team, under his management, 
was winning game after game, and the town had 
begun to respect him. Sensing a tragedy, they 
waited, laughing nervously. 

Late on a Saturday afternoon the meeting be- 
tween Joe Welling and the two Kings, the antici- 
pation of which had set the town on edge, took 
place in Joe Welling' s room in the New Willard 
House. George Willard was a witness to the 
meeting. It came about in this way: 

When the young reporter went to his room 
after the evening meal he saw Tom King and his 
father sitting in the half darkness in Joe's room. 
The son had the heavy walking stick in his hand 
and sat near the door. Old Edward King walked 
nervously about, scratching his left elbow with his 


right hand. The hallways were empty and silent. 

George Willard went to his own room and sat 
down at his desk. He tried to write but his hand 
trembled so that he could not hold the pen. He 
also walked nervously up and down. Like the 
rest of the town of Winesburg he was perplexed 
and knew not what to do. 

It was seven-thirty and fast growing dark when 
Joe Welling came along the station platform to- 
ward the New Willard House. In his arms he 
held a bundle of weeds and grasses. In spite of 
the terror that made his body shake, George Wil- 
lard was amused at the sight of the small spry 
figure holding the grasses and half running along 
the platform. 

Shaking with fright and anxiety, the young re- 
porter lurked in the hallway outside the door of 
the room in which Joe Welling talked to the two 
Kings. There had been an oath, the nervous gig- 
gle of old Edward King, and then silence. Now 
the voice of Joe Welling, sharp and clear, broke 
forth. George Willard began to laugh. He 
understood. As he had swept all men before 
him, so now Joe Welling was carrying the two 
men in the room off their feet with a tidal wave of 
words. The listener in the hall walked up and 
down, lost in amazement. 

Inside the room Joe Welling had paid no at- 
tention to the grumbled threat of Tom King. Ab- 


sorbed in an idea he closed the door and lighting 
a lamp, spread the handful of weeds and grasses 
upon the floor. "I've got something here," he 
announced solemnly. "I was going to tell George 
Willard about it, let him make a piece out of it 
for the paper. I'm glad you're here. I wish 
Sarah were here also. I've been going to come 
to your house and tell you of some of my ideas. 
They're interesting. Sarah wouldn't let me. She 
said we'd quarrel. That's foolish." 

Running up and down before the two perplexed 
men, Joe Welling began to explain. "Don't you 
make a mistake now," he cried. "This is some- 
thing big." His voice was shrill with excitement. 
"You just follow me, you'll be interested. I 
know you will. Suppose this suppose all of the 
wheat, the corn, the oats, the peas, the potatoes, 
were all by some miracle swept away. Now here 
we are, you see, in this county. There is a high 
fence built all around us. We'll suppose that. 
No one can get over the fence and all the fruits 
of the earth are destroyed, nothing left but these 
wild things, these grasses. Would we be done 
for? I ask you that. Would we be done for?" 
Again Tom King growled and for a moment there 
was silence in the room. Then again Joe plunged 
into the exposition of his idea. "Things would 
go hard for a time. I admit that. I've got to 
admit that. No getting around it. We'd be hard 


put to it. More than one fat stomach would 
cave in. But they couldn't down us. I should 
say not." 

Tom King laughed good naturedly and the shiv- 
ery, nervous laugh of Edward King rang through 
the house. Joe Welling hurried on. "We'd be- 
gin, you see, to breed up new vegetables and fruits. 
Soon we'd regain all we had lost. Mind, I don't 
say the new things would be the same as the old. 
They wouldn't. Maybe they'd be better, maybe 
not so good. That's interesting, eh? You can 
think about that. It starts your mind working, 
now don't it?" 

In the room there was silence and then again 
old Edward King laughed nervously. "Say, I 
wish Sarah was here," cried Joe Welling. "Let's 
go up to your house. I want to tell her of this." 

There was a scraping of chairs in the room. 
It was then that George Willard retreated to his 
own room. Leaning out at the window he saw 
Joe Welling going along the street with the two 
Kings. Tom King was forced to take extraordi- 
nary long strides to keep pace with the little man. 
As he strode along, he leaned over, listening 
absorbed, fascinated. Joe Welling again talked 
excitedly. "Take milkweed now," he cried. "A 
lot might be done with milkweed, eh? It's almost 
unbelievable. I want you to think about it. I 
want you two to think about it. There would be a 


new vegetable kingdom you see. It's interesting, 
eh? It's an idea. Wait till you see Sarah, she'll 
get the idea. She'll be interested. Sarah is al- 
ways interested in ideas. You can't be too smart 
for Sarah, now can you? Of course you can't. 
You know that." 


ALICE HINDMAN, a woman of twenty- 
seven when George Willard was a mere 
boy, had lived in Winesburg all her life. 
She clerked in Winney's Dry Goods Store and 
lived with her mother who had married a second 

Alice's step-father was a carriage painter, and 
given to drink. His story is an odd one. It will 
be worth telling some day. 

At twenty-seven Alice was tall and somewhat 
slight. Her head was large and overshadowed 
her body. Her shoulders were a little stooped 
and her hair and eyes brown. She was very quiet 
but beneath a placid exterior a continual ferment 
went on. 

When she was a girl of sixteen and before she 
began to work in the store, Alice had an affair with 
a young man. The young man, named Ned 
Currie, was older than Alice. He, like George 
Willard, was employed on the Winesburg Eagle 
and for a long time he went to see Alice almost 
every evening. Together the two walked under 
the trees through the streets of the town and 



talked of what they would do with their lives. 
Alice was then a very pretty girl and Ned Currie 
took her into his arms and kissed her. He be- 
came excited and said things he did not intend to 
say and Alice, betrayed by her desire to have 
something beautiful come into her rather narrow 
life, also grew excited. She also talked. The 
outer crust of her life, all of her natural diffidence 
and reserve, was torn away and she gave herself 
over to the emotions of love. When, late in the 
fall of her sixteenth year, Ned Currie went away 
to Cleveland where he hoped to get a place on a 
city newspaper and rise in the world, she wanted 
to go with him. With a trembling voice she told 
him what was in her mind. "I will work and you 
can work," she said. "I do not want to harness 
you to a needless expense that will prevent your 
making progress. Don't marry me now. We 
will get along without that and we can be together. 
Even though we live in the same house no one 
will say anything. In the city we will be unknown 
and people will pay no attention to us." 

Ned Currie was puzzled by the determination 
and abandon of his sweetheart and was also deeply 
touched. He had wanted the girl to become his 
mistress but changed his mind. He wanted to 
protect and care for her. "You don't know what 
you're talking about," he said sharply; "you may 
be sure I'll let you do no such thing. As soon as I 


get a good job I'll come back. For the present 
you'll have to stay here. It's the only thing we 
can do." 

On the evening before he left Winesburg to 
take up his new life in the city, Ned Currie went 
to call on Alice. They walked about through the 
streets for an hour and then got a rig from Wes- 
ley Mover's livery and went for a drive in the 
country. The moon came up and they found 
themselves unable to talk. In his sadness the 
young man forgot the resolutions he had made 
regarding his conduct with the girl. 

They got out of the buggy at a place where a 
long meadow ran down to the bank of Wine Creek 
and there in the dim light became lovers. When 
at midnight they returned to town they were both 
glad. It did not seem to them that anything that 
could happen in the future could blot out the won- 
der and beauty of the thing that had happened. 
"Now we will have to stick to each other, what- 
ever happens we will have to do that," Ned Currie 
said as he left the girl at her father's door. 

The young newspaper man did not succeed in 
getting a place on a Cleveland paper and went 
west to Chicago. For a time he was lonely and 
wrote to Alice almost every day. Then he was 
caught up by the life of the city; he began to make 
friends and found new interests in life. In Chi- 
cago he boarded at a house where there were sev- 


eral women. One of them attracted his attention 
and he forgot Alice in Winesburg. At the end 
of a year he had stopped writing letters, and only 
once in a long time, when he was lonely or when 
he went into one of the city parks and saw the 
moon shining on the grass as it had shone that 
night on the meadow by Wine Creek, did he think 
of her at all. 

In Winesburg the girl who had been loved grew 
to be a woman. When she was twenty-two years 
old her father, who owned a harness repair shop, 
died suddenly. The harness maker was an old 
soldier, and after a few months his wife received 
a widow's pension. She used the first money she 
got to buy a loom and became a weaver of car- 
pets, and Alice got a place in Winney's store. For 
a number of years nothing could have induced her 
to believe that Ned Currie would not in the end 
return to her. 

She was glad to be employed because the daily 
round of toil in the store made the time of wait- 
ing seem less long and uninteresting. She began 
to save money, thinking that when she had saved 
two or three hundred dollars she would follow her 
lover to the city and try if her presence would not 
win back his affections. 

Alice did not blame Ned Currie for what had 
happened in the moonlight in the field, but felt 
that she could never marry another man. To her 


the thought of giving to another what she still felt 
could belong only to Ned seemed monstrous. 
When other young men tried to attract her atten- 
tion she would have nothing to do with them. "I 
am his wife and shall remain his wife whether he 
comes back or not," she whispered to herself, and 
for all of her willingness to support herself could 
not have understood the growing modern idea of 
a woman's owning herself and giving and taking 
for her own ends in life. 

Alice worked in the dry goods store from eight 
in the morning until six at night and on three eve- 
nings a week went back to the store to stay from 
seven until nine. As time passed and she became 
more and more lonely she began to practice the 
devices common to lonely people. When at night 
she went upstairs into her own room she knelt on 
the floor to pray and in her prayers whispered 
things she wanted to say to her lover. She be- 
came attached to inanimate objects, and because 
it was her own, could not bear to have anyone 
touch the furniture of her room. The trick of 
saving money, begun for a purpose, was carried 
on after the scheme of going to the city to find 
Ned Currie had been given up. It became a fixed 
habit, and when she needed new clothes she did 
not get them Sometimes on rainy afternoons in 
the store she got out her bank book and, letting it 
lie open before her, spent hours dreaming impos- 


sible dreams of saving money enough so that the 
interest would support both herself and her fu- 
ture husband. 

"Ned always liked to travel about," she 
thought. 'Til give him the chance. Some day 
when we are married and I can save both his 
money and my own, we will be rich. Then we 
can travel together all over the world." 

In the dry goods store weeks ran into months 
and months into years as Alice waited and 
dreamed of her lover's return. Her employer, 
a grey old man with false teeth and a thin grey 
mustache that drooped down over his mouth, was 
not given to conversation, and sometimes, on rainy 
days and in the winter when a storm raged in 
Main Street, long hours passed when no custo- 
mers came in. Alice arranged and rearranged 
the stock. She stood near the front window 
where she could look down the deserted street 
and thought of the evenings when she had walked 
with Ned Currie and of what he had said. "We 
will have to stick to each other now." The words 
echoed and re-echoed through the mind of the 
maturing woman. Tears came into her eyes. 
Sometimes when her employer had gone out and 
she was alone in the store she put her head on the 
counter and wept. "Oh, Ned, I am waiting," 
she whispered over and over, and all the time the 


creeping fear that he would never come back grew 
stronger within her. 

In the spring when the rains have passed and 
before the long hot days of summer have come, 
the country about Winesburg is delightful. The 
town lies in the midst of open fields, but beyond 
the fields are pleasant patches of woodlands. In 
the wooded places are many little cloistered nooks, 
quiet places where lovers go to sit on Sunday aft- 
ernoons. Through the trees they look out across 
the fields and see farmers at work about the barns 
or people driving up and down on the roads. In 
the town bells ring and occasionally a train passes, 
looking like a toy thing in the distance. 

For several years after Ned Currie went away 
Alice did not go into the wood with other young 
people on Sunday, but one day after he had been 
gone for two or three years and when her loneli- 
ness seemed unbearable, she put on her best dress 
and set out. Finding a little sheltered place from 
which she could see the town and a long stretch of 
the fields, she sat down. Fear of age and ineffec- 
tuality took possession of her. She could not sit 
still, and arose. As she stood looking out over 
the land something, perhaps the thought of never 
ceasing life as it expresses itself in the flow of the 
seasons, fixed her mind on the passing years. 
With a shiver of dread, she realized that for her 


the beauty and freshness of youth had passed. 
For the first time she felt that she had been 
cheated. She did not blame Ned Currie and did 
not know what to blame. Sadness swept over 
her. Dropping to her knees, she tried to pray, 
but instead of prayers words of protest came to 
her lips. "It is not going to come to me. I will 
never find happiness. Why do I tell myself lies?" 
she cried, and an odd sense of relief came with 
this, her first bold attempt to face the fear that 
had become a part of her everyday life. 

In the year when Alice Hindman became twen- 
ty-five two things happened to disturb the dull un- 
eventfulness of her days. Her mother married 
Bush Milton, the carriage painter of Winesburg, 
and she herself became a member of the Wines- 
burg Methodist Church. Alice joined the church 
because she had become frightened by the loneli- 
ness of her position in life. Her mother's second 
marriage had emphasized her isolation. "I am 
becoming old and queer. If Ned comes he will 
not want me. In the city where he is living men 
are perpetually young. There is so much going 
on that they do not have time to grow old," she 
told herself with a grim little smile, and went res- 
olutely about the business of becoming acquainted 
with people. Every Thursday evening when the 
store had closed she went to a prayer meeting in 
the basement of the church and on Sunday eve- 


ning attended a meeting of an organization called 
The Epworth League. 

When Will Hurley, a middle-aged man who 
clerked in a drug store and who also belonged to 
the church, offered to walk home with her she did 
not protest. "Of course I will not let him make 
a practice of being with me, but if he comes to see 
me once in a long time there can be no harm in 
that," she told herself, still determined in her loy- 
alty to Ned Currie. 

Without realizing what was happening, Alice 
was trying feebly at first, but with growing deter- 
mination, to get a new hold upon life. Beside 
the drug clerk she walked in silence, but sometimes 
in the darkness as they went stolidly along she put 
out her hand and touched softly the folds of his 
coat. When he left her at the gate before her 
mother's house she did not go indoors, but stood 
for a moment by the door. She wanted to call to 
the drug clerk, to ask him to sit with her in the 
darkness on the porch before the house, but was 
afraid he would not understand. "It is not him 
that I want," she told herself; "I want to avoid 
being so much alone. If I am not careful I will 
grow unaccustomed to being with people." 

During the early fall of her twenty-seventh year 
a passionate restlessness took possession of Alice. 
She could not bear to be in the company of the 


drug clerk, and when, in the evening, he came to 
walk with her she sent him away. Her mind be- 
came intensely active and when, weary from the 
long hours of standing behind the counter in the 
store, she went home and crawled into bed, she 
could not sleep. With staring eyes she looked 
into the darkness. Her imagination, like a child 
awakened from long sleep, played about the room. 
Deep within her there was something that would 
not be cheated by phantasies and that demanded 
some definite answer from life. 

Alice took a pillow into her arms and held it 
tightly against her breasts. Getting out of bed, 
she arranged a blanket so that in the darkness it 
looked like a form lying between the sheets and, 
kneeling beside the bed, she caressed it, whisper- 
ing words over and over, like a refrain. "Why 
doesn't something happen? Why am I left here 
alone?" she muttered. Although she sometimes 
thought of Ned Currie, she no longer depended 
on him. Her desire had grown vague. She did 
not want Ned Currie or any other man. She 
wanted to be loved, to have something answer the 
call that was growing louder and louder within 

And then one night when it rained Alice had an 
adventure. It frightened and confused her. She 
had come home from the store at nine and found 
the house empty. Bush Milton had gone off to 


town and her mother to the house of a neighbor. 
Alice went upstairs to her room and undressed in 
the darkness. For ? moment she stood by the 
window hearing the rain beat against the glass 
and then a strange desire took possession of her. 
Without stopping to think of what she intended to 
do, she ran downstairs through the dark house 
and out into the rain. As she stood on the little 
grass plot before the house and felt the cold rain 
on her body a mad desire to run naked through 
the streets took possession of her. 

She thought that the rain would have some cre- 
ative and wonderful effect on her body. Not for 
years had she felt so full of youth and courage. 
She wanted to leap and run, to cry out, to find 
some other lonely human and embrace him. On 
the brick sidewalk before the house a man stum- 
bled homeward. Alice started to run. A wild, 
desperate mood took possession of her. "What 
do I care who it is. He is alone, and I will go 
to him," she thought; and then without stopping 
to consider the possible result of her madness, 
called softly. "Wait!" she cried. "Don't go 
away. Whoever you are, you must wait." 

The man on the sidewalk stopped and stood lis- 
tening. He was an old man and somewhat deaf. 
Putting his hand to his mouth, he shouted: 
"What? What say?" he called. 

Alice dropped to the ground and lay trembling. 


She was so frightened at the thought of what she 
had done that when the man had gone on his way 
she did not dare get to her feet, but crawled on 
hands and knees through the grass to the house. 
When she got to her own room she bolted the 
door and drew her dressing table across the door- 
way.. Her body shook as with a chill and her 
hands trembled so that she had difficulty getting 
into her nightdress. When she got into bed she 
buried her face in the pillow and wept broken- 
heartedly. "What is the matter with me? I 
will do something dreadful if I am not careful," 
she thought, and turning her face to the wall, be- 
gan trying to force herself to face bravely the fact 
that many people must live and die alone, even in 


IF you have lived in cities and have walked in 
the park on a summer afternoon, you have 
perhaps seen, blinking in a corner of his iron 
cage, a huge, grotesque kind of monkey, a crea- 
ture with ugly, sagging, hairless skin below his 
eyes and a bright purple underbody. This mon- 
key is a true monster. In the completeness of his 
ugliness he achieved a kind of perverted beauty. 
Children stopping before the cage are fascinated, 
men turn away with an air of disgust, and women 
linger for a moment, trying perhaps to remember 
which one of their male acquaintances the thing in 
some faint way resembles. 

Had you been in the earlier years of your life 
a citizen of the village of Winesburg, Ohio, there 
would have been for you no mystery in regard to 
the beast in his cage. "It is like Wash Williams," 
you would have said. "As he sits in the corner 
there, the beast is exactly like old Wash sitting on 
the grass in the station yard on a summer evening 
after he has closed his office for the night." 

Wash Williams, the telegraph operator of 
Winesburg, was the ugliest thing in town. His 



girth was immense, his neck thin, his legs feeble. 
He was dirty. Everything about him was un- 
clean. Even the whites of his eyes looked soiled. 

I go too fast. Not everything about Wash 
was unclean. He took care of his hands. His 
fingers were fat, but there was something sensi- 
tive and shapely in the hand that lay on the table 
by the instrument in the telegraph office. In his 
youth Wash Williams had been called the best 
telegraph operator in the state, and in spite of 
his degradement to the obscure office at Wines- 
burg, he was still proud of his ability. 

Wash Williams did not associate with the men 
of the town in which he lived. "I'll have noth- 
ing to do with them," he said, looking with bleary 
eyes at the men who walked along the station plat- 
form past the telegraph office. Up along Main 
Street he went in the evening to Ed Griffith's sa- 
loon, and after drinking unbelievable quantities of 
beer staggered off to his room in the New Willard 
House and to his bed for the night. 

Wash Williams was a man of courage. A 
thing had happened to him that made him hate 
life, and he hated it whole-heartedly, with the 
abandon of a poet. First of all, he hated women. 
"Bitches," he called them. His feeling toward 
men was somewhat different. He pitied them. 
"Does not every man let his life be managed for 
him by some bitch or another?" he asked. 


In Winesburg no attention was paid to Wash 
Williams and his hatred of his fellows. Once 
Mrs. White, the banker's wife, complained to the 
telegraph company, saying that the office in Wines- 
burg was dirty and smelled abominably, but noth- 
ing came of her complaint. Here and there a 
man respected the operator. Instinctively the 
man felt in him a glowing resentment of some- 
thing he had not the courage to resent. When 
Wash walked through the streets such a one had 
an instinct to pay him homage, to raise his hat or 
to bow before him. The superintendent who had 
supervision over the telegraph operators on the 
railroad that went through Winesburg felt that 
way. He had put Wash into the obscure office 
at Winesburg to avoid discharging him, and he 
meant to keep him there. When he received the 
letter of complaint from the banker's wife, he 
tore it up and laughed unpleasantly. For some 
reason he thought of his own wife as he tore up 
the letter. 

Wash Williams once had a wife. When he was 
still a young man he married a woman at Dayton, 
Ohio. The woman was tall and slender and had 
blue eyes and yellow hair. Wash was himself 
a comely youth. He loved the woman with a love 
as absorbing as the hatred he later felt for all 

In all of Winesburg there was but one person 


who knew the story of the thing that had made 
ugly the person and the character of Wash Wil- 
liams. He once told the story to George Willard 
and the telling of the tale came about in this 

George Willard went t>ne evening to walk with 
Belle Carpenter, a trimmer of women's hats who 
worked in a millinery shop kept by Mrs. Kate 
McHugh. The young man was not in love with 
the woman, who, in fact, had a suitor who worked 
as bartender in Ed Griffith's saloon, but as they 
walked about under the trees they occasionally em- 
braced. The night and their own thoughts had 
aroused something in them. As they were re- 
turning to Main Street they passed the little lawn 
beside the railroad station and saw Wash Wil- 
liams apparently asleep on the grass beneath a 
tree. On the next evening the operator and 
George Willard walked out together. Down the 
railroad they went and sat on a pile of decaying 
railroad ties beside the tracks. It was then that 
the operator told the young reporter his story 
of hate. 

Perhaps a dozen times George Willard and the 
strange, shapeless man who lived at his father's 
hotel had been on the point of talking. The 
young man looked at the hideous, leering face 
staring about the hotel dining room and was con- 
sumed with curiosity. Something he saw lurking 


in the staring eyes told him that the man who had 
nothing to say to others had nevertheless some- 
thing to say to him. On the pile of railroad ties 
on the summer evening, he waited expectantly. 
When the operator remained silent and seemed to 
have changed his mind about talking, he tried to 
make conversation. "Were you ever married, 
Mr. Williams?" he began. "I suppose you were 
and your wife is dead, is that it?" 

Wash Williams spat forth a succession of vile 
oaths. "Yes, she is dead," he agreed. "She is 
dead as all women are dead. She is a living-dead 
thing, walking in the sight of men and making the 
earth foul by her presence." Staring into the 
boy's eyes, the man became purple with rage. 
"Don't have fool notions in your head," he com- 
manded. "My wife, she is dead; yes, surely. I 
tell you, all women are dead, my mother, your 
mother, that tall dark woman who works in the 
millinery store and with whom I saw you walking 
about yesterday, all of them, they are all dead. 
I tell you there is something rotten about them. 
I was married, sure. My wife was dead before 
she married me, she was a foul thing come out of 
a woman more foul. She was a thing sent to 
make life unbearable to me. I was a fool, do 
you see, as you are now, and so I married this 
woman. I would like to see men a little begin to 
understand women. They are sent to prevent 


men making the world worth while. It is a trick 
in Nature. Ugh! They are creeping, crawling, 
squirming things, they with their soft hands and 
their blue eyes. The sight of a woman sickens 
me. Why I don't kill every woman I see I don't 

Half frightened and yet fascinated by the light 
burning in the eyes of the hideous old man, 
George Willard listened, afire with curiosity. 
Darkness came on and he leaned forward trying 
to see the face of the man who talked. When, in 
the gathering darkness, he could no longer see 
the purple, bloated face and the burning eyes, a 
curious fancy came to him. Wash Williams 
talked in low even tones that made his words 
seem the more terrible. In the darkness the 
young reporter found himself imagining that he 
sat on the railroad ties beside a comely young man 
with black hair and black shining eyes. There 
was something almost beautiful in the voice of 
iWash Williams, the hideous, telling his story of 

The telegraph operator of Winesburg, sitting 
in the darkness on the railroad ties, had become a 
poet. Hatred had raised him to that elevation. 
"It is because I saw you kissing the lips of that 
Belle Carpenter that I tell you my story," he 
said. "What happened to me may next happen 
to you. I want to put you on your guard. Al- 


ready you may be having dreams in your head. 
I want to destroy them." 

Wash Williams began telling the story of his 
married life with the tall blonde girl with blue 
eyes whom he had met when he was a young oper- 
ator at Dayton, Ohio. Here and there his story 
was touched with moments of beauty intermingled 
with strings of vile curses. The operator had 
married the daughter of a dentist who was the 
youngest of three sisters. On his marriage day, 
because of his ability, he was promoted to a posi- 
tion as dispatcher at an increased salary and sent 
to an office at Columbus, Ohio. There he settled 
down with his young wife and began buying a 
'house on the installment plan. 

The young telegraph operator was madly in 
love. With a kind of religious fervor he had 
managed to go through the pitfalls of his youth 
and to remain virginal until after his marriage. 
He made for George Willard a picture of his life 
in the house at Columbus, Ohio, with the young 
wife. "In the garden back of our house we 
planted vegetables," he said, "you know, peas and 
corn and such things. We went to Columbus in. 
early March and as soon as the days became warm 
I went to work in the garden. With a spade I 
turned up the black ground while she ran about 
laughing and pretending to be afraid of the worms 
I uncovered. Late in April came the planting., 


In the little paths among the seed beds she stood 
holding a paper bag in her hand. The bag was 
filled with seeds. A few at a time she handed me 
the seeds that I might thrust them into the warm, 
soft ground." 

For a moment there was a catch in the voice of 
the man talking in the darkness. "I loved her," 
he said. "I don't claim not to be a fool. I love 
her yet. There in the dusk in the spring evening 
I crawled along the black ground to her feet and 
groveled before her. I kissed her shoes and the 
ankles above her shoes. When the hem of her 
garment touched my face I trembled. When 
after two years of that life I found she had man- 
aged to acquire three other lovers who came reg- 
ularly to our house when I was away at work, I 
didn't want to touch them or her. I just sent her 
home to her mother and said nothing. There was 
nothing to say. I had four hundred dollars in 
the bank and I gave her that. I didn't ask her 
reasons. I didn't say anything. When she had 
gone I cried like a silly boy. Pretty soon I had 
a chance to sell the house and I sent that money 
to her." 

Wash Williams and George Willard arose 
from the pile of railroad ties and walked along 
the tracks toward town. The operator finished 
his tale quickly, breathlessly. 

"Her mother sent for me," he said. "She 


wrote me a letter and asked me to come to their 
house at Dayton. When I got there it was eve- 
ning about this time." 

Wash Williams' voice rose to a half scream. 
"I sat in the parlor of that house two hours. Her 
mother took me in there and left me. Their 
house was stylish. They were what is called re- 
spectable people. There were plush chairs and 
a couch in the room. I was trembling all over. 
I hated the men I thought had wronged her. I 
was sick of living alone and wanted her back. 
The longer I waited the more raw and tender I 
became. I thought that if she came in and just 
touched me with her hand I would perhaps faint 
away. I ached to forgive and forget." 

Wash Williams stopped and stood staring at 
George Willard. The boy's body shook as from 
a chill. Again the man's voice became soft and 
low. "She came into the room naked," he went 
on. "Her mother did that. While I sat there 
she was taking the girl's clothes off, perhaps coax- 
ing her to do it. First I heard voices at the door 
that led into a little hallway and then it opened 
softly. The girl was ashamed and stood per- 
fectly still staring at the floor. The mother 
didn't come into the room. When she had pushed 
the girl in through the door she stood in the hall- 
way waiting, hoping we would well, you see 


George Willard and the telegraph operator 
came into the main street of Winesburg. The 
lights from the store windows lay bright and 
shining on the sidewalks. People moved about 
laughing and talking. The young reporter felt 
ill and weak. In imagination, he also become 
old and shapeless. "I didn't get the mother 
killed," said Wash Williams, staring up and down 
the street. "I struck her once with a chair and 
then the neighbors came in and took it away. 
She screamed so loud you see. I won't ever have 
a chance to kill her now. She died of a fever a 
month after that happened." 


THE house in which Seth Richmond of Wines- 
burg lived with his mother had been at one 
time the show place of the town, but when 
young Seth lived there its glory had become some- 
what dimmed. The huge brick house which Ban- 
ker White had built on Buckeye Street had over- 
shadowed it. The Richmond place was in a little 
valley far out at the end of Main Street. Farm- 
ers coming into town by a dusty road from the 
south passed by a grove of walnut trees, skirted 
the Fair Ground with its high board fence covered 
with advertisements, and trotted their horses down 
through the valley past the Richmond place into 
town. As much of the country north and south 
of Winesburg was devoted to fruit and berry 
raising, Seth saw wagon-loads of berry pickers 
boys, girls, and women going to the fields in the 
morning and returning covered with dust in the 
evening. The chattering crowd, with their rude 
jokes cried out from wagon to wagon, sometimes 
irritated him sharply. He regretted that he also 
could not laugh boisterously, shout meaningless 
jokes and make of himself a figure in the endless 



stream of moving, giggling activity that went up 
and down the road. 

The Richmond house was built of limestone, 
and although it was said in the village to have be- 
come run down, had in reality grown more beau- 
tiful with every passing year. Already time had 
begun a little to color the stone, lending a golden 
richness to its surface and in the evening or on 
dark days touching the shaded places beneath the 
eaves with wavering patches of browns and blacks. 

The house had been built by Seth's grandfather, 
a stone quarryman, and it, together with the stone 
quarries on Lake Erie eighteen miles to the north, 
had been left to his son, Clarence Richmond, 
Seth's father. Clarence Richmond, a quiet pas- 
sionate man extraordinarily admired by his neigh- 
bors, had been killed in a street fight with the ed- 
itor of a newspaper in Toledo, Ohio. The fight 
concerned the publication of Clarence Richmond's 
name coupled with that of a woman school teacher, 
and as the dead man had begun the row by firing 
upon the editor, the effort to punish the slayer 
was unsuccessful. After the quarryman's death 
it was found that much of the money left to him 
had been squandered in speculation and in insecure 
investments made through the influence of friends. 

Left with but a small income, Virginia Rich- 
mond had settled down to a retired life in the vil- 
lage and to the raising of her son. Although she 


had been deeply moved by the death of the hus- 
band and father, she did not at all believe the 
stories concerning him that ran about after his 
death. To her mind, the sensitive, boyish man 
whom all had instinctively loved, was but an un- 
fortunate, a being too fine for everyday life. 
"You'll be hearing all sorts of stories, but you are 
not to believe what you hear," she said to her son. 
u He was a good man, full of tenderness for 
everyone, and should not have tried to be a man 
of affairs. No matter how much I were to plan 
and dream of your future, I could not imagine 
anything better for you than that you turn out as 
good a man as your father." 

Several years after the death of her husband, 
Virginia Richmond had become alarmed at the 
growing demands upon her income and had set 
herself to the task of increasing it. She had 
learned stenography and through the influence of 
her husband's friends got the position of court 
stenographer at the county seat. There she went 
by train each morning during the sessions of the 
court and when no court sat, spent her days work- 
ing among the rosebushes in her garden. She was 
a tall, straight figure of a woman with a plain face 
and a great mass of brown hair. 

In the relationship between Seth Richmond and 
his mother, there was a quality that even at 
eighteen had begun to color all of his traffic with 


men. An almost unhealthy respect for the youth 
kept the mother for the most part silent in his 
presence. When she did speak sharply to him he 
had only to look steadily into her eyes to see 
dawning there the puzzled look he had already no- 
ticed in the eyes of others when he looked at them. 

The truth was that the son thought with re- 
markable clearness and the mother did not. She 
expected from all people certain conventional re- 
actions to life. A boy was your son, you scolded 
him and he trembled and looked at the floor. 
When you had scolded enough he wept and all was 
forgiven. After the weeping and when he had 
gone to bed, you crept into his room and kissed 

Virginia Richmond could not understand why 
her son did not do these things. After the se- 
verest reprimand, he did not tremble and look at 
the floor but instead looked steadily at her, caus- 
ing uneasy doubts to invade her mind. As for 
creeping into his room after Seth had passed his 
fifteenth year, she would have been half afraid to 
do anything of the kind. 

Once when he was a boy of sixteen, Seth in com- 
pany with two other boys, ran away from home. 
The three boys climbed into the open door of an 
empty freight car and rode some forty miles to a 
town where a fair was being held. One of the 
boys had a bottle filled with a combination of 


whiskey and blackberry wine, and the three sat 
with legs dangling out of the car door drinking 
from the bottle. Seth's two companions sang and 
waved their hands to idlers about the stations of 
the towns through which the train passed. They 
planned raids upon the baskets of farmers who 
had come with their families to the fair. "We 
will live like kings and won't have to spend a 
penny to see the fair and horse races,' 1 they de- 
clared boastfully. 

After the disappearance of Seth, Virginia 
Richmond walked up and down the floor of her 
home filled with vague alarms. Although on the 
next day she discovered, through an inquiry made 
by the town marshal, on what adventure the boys 
had gone, she could not quiet herself. All 
through the night she lay awake hearing the clock 
tick and telling herself that Seth, like his father, 
would come to a sudden and violent end. So de- 
termined was she that the boy should this time 
feel the weight of her wrath that, although she 
would not allow the marshal to interfere with his 
adventure, she got out pencil and paper and wrote 
down a series of sharp, stinging reproofs she in- 
tended to pour out upon him. The reproofs she 
committed to memory, going about the garden 
and saying them aloud like an actor memorizing 
his part. 

And when, at the end of the week, Seth re- 


turned, a little weary and with coal soot in his 
ears and about his eyes, she again found herself 
unable to reprove him. Walking into the house 
he hung his cap on a nail by the kitchen door and 
stood looking steadily at her. "I wanted to turn 
back within an hour after we had started," he ex- 
plained. "I didn't know what to do. I knew 
you would be bothered, but I knew also that if I 
didn't go on I would be ashamed of myself. I 
went through with the thing for my own good. 
It was uncomfortable, sleeping on wet straw, and 
two drunken negroes came and slept with us. 
When I stole a lunch basket out of a farmer's 
wagon I couldn't help thinking of his children 
going all day without food. I was sick of the 
whole affair, but I was determined to stick it out 
until the other boys were ready to come back." 

"I'm glad you did stick it out," replied the 
mother, half resentfully, and kissing him upon the 
forehead pretended to busy herself with the work 
about the house. 

On a summer evening Seth Richmond went to 
the New Willard House to visit his friend, George 
Willard. It had rained during the afternoon, but 
as he walked through Main Street, the sky had 
partially cleared and a golden glow lit up the west. 
Going around a corner, he turned in at the door 
of the hotel and began to climb the stairway lead- 
ing up to his friend's room. In the hotel office the 


proprietor and two traveling men were engaged in 
a discussion of politics. 

On the stairway Seth stopped and listened to 
the voices of the men below. They were excited 
and talked rapidly. Tom Willard was berating 
the traveling men. "I am a Democrat but your 
talk makes me sick/' he said. "You don't under- 
stand McKinley. McKinley and Mark Hanna 
are friends. It is impossible perhaps for your 
mind to grasp that. If anyone tells you that a 
friendship can be deeper and bigger and more 
worth while than dollars and cents, or even more 
worth while than state politics, you snicker and 

The landlord was interrupted by one of the 
guests, a tall grey-mustached man who worked for 
a wholesale grocery house. "Do you think that 
I've lived in Cleveland all these years without 
knowing Mark Hanna?" he demanded. "Your 
talk is piffle. Hanna is after money and nothing 
else. This McKinley is his tool. He has 
McKinley bluffed and don't you forget it." 

The young man on the stairs did not linger to 
hear the rest of the discussion, but went on up the 
stairway and into a little dark hall. Something in 
the voices of the men talking in the hotel office 
started a chain of thoughts in his mind. He was 
lonely and had begun to think that loneliness was 
a part of his character, something that would al- 


ways stay with him. Stepping into a side hall he 
stood by a window that looked into an alleyway. 
At the back of his shop stood Abner Groff, the 
town baker. His tiny bloodshot eyes looked up 
and down the alleyway. In his shop someone 
called the baker who pretended not to hear. The 
baker had an empty milk bottle in his hand and an 
angry sullen look in his eyes. 

In Winesburg, Seth Richmond was called the 
"deep one." "He's like his father," men said 
as he went through the streets. "He'll break out 
some of these days. You wait and see." 

The talk of the town and the respect with 
which men and boys instinctively greeted him, as 
all men greet silent people, had affected Seth 
Richmond's outlook on life and on himself. He, 
like most boys, was deeper than boys are given 
credit for being, but he was not what the men of 
the town, and even his mother, thought him to be. 
No great underlying purpose lay back of his ha- 
bitual silence, and he had no definite plan for his 
life. When the boys with whom he associated 
were noisy and quarrelsome, he stood quietly at 
one side. With calm eyes he watched the gestic- 
ulating lively figures of his companions. He 
wasn't particularly interested in what was going 
on, and sometimes wondered if he would ever be 
particularly interested in anything. Now, as he 
stood in the half-darkness by the window watching 

THE TH IN KER . 153 

the baker, he wished that he himself might be- 
come thoroughly stirred by something, even by 
the fits of sullen anger for which Baker Groff 
was noted. "It would be better for me if I could 
become excited and wrangle about politics like 
windy old Tom Willard," he thought, as he left 
the window and went again along the hallway to 
the room occupied by his friend, George Willard. 

George Willard was older than Seth Richmond, 
but in the rather odd friendship between the two, 
it was he who was forever courting and the 
younger boy who was being courted. The paper 
on which George worked had one policy. It 
strove to mention by name in each issue, as many 
as possible of the inhabitants of the village. Like 
an excited dog, George Willard ran here and 
there, rioting on his pad of paper who had gone 
on business to the county seat or had returned 
from a visit to a neighboring village. All day he 
wrote little facts upon the pad. "A. P. Wringlet 
has received a shipment of straw hats. Ed Byer- 
baum and Tom Marshall were in Cleveland Fri- 
day. Uncle Tom Sinnings is building a new barn 
on his place on the Valley Road." 

The idea that George Willard would some day 
become a writer had given him a place of dis- 
tinction in Winesburg, and to Seth Richmond 
he talked continually of the matter. "It's the 
easiest of all lives to live," he declared, becoming 


excited and boastful. "Here and there you go 
and there is no one to boss you. Though you are 
in India or in the South Seas in a boat, you have 
but to write and there you are. Wait till I get 
my name up and then see what fun I shall have." 

In George Willard' s room, which had a win- 
dow looking down into an alleyway and one that 
looked across railroad track's to Biff Carter's 
Lunch Room facing the railroad station, Seth 
Richmond sat in a chair and looked at the floor. 
George Willard who had been sitting for an hour 
idly playing with a lead pencil, greeted him effu- 
sively. "I've been trying to write a love story," 
he explained, laughing nervously. Lighting a 
pipe he began walking up and down the room. "I 
know what Fm going to do. I'm going to fall in 
love. I've been sitting here and thinking it over 
and I'm going to do it." 

As though embarrassed by his declaration, 
George went to a window and turning his back to 
his friend leaned out. "I know who I'm going 
to fall in love with," he said sharply. "It's 
Helen White. She is the only girl in town with 
any 'get-up' to her." 

Struck with a new idea, young Willard turned 
and walked towards his visitor. "Look here," 
he said. "You know Helen White better than I 
do. I want you to tell her what I said. You just 
get to talking to her and say that I'm in love with 


her. See what she says to that. See how she 
takes it, and then you come and tell me. 1 * 

Seth Richmond arose and went towards the 
door. The words of his comrade irritated him 
unbearably. "Well, good-bye," he said briefly. 

George was amazed. Running forward he 
stood in the darkness trying to look into Seth's 
face. "What's the matter? What are you go- 
ing to do? You stay here and let's talk," he 

A wave of resentment directed against his 
friend, the men of the town who were, he thought, 
perpetually talking of nothing, and most of all, 
against his own habit of silence, made Seth half 
desperate. u Aw, speak to her yourself," he 
burst forth and then going quickly through the 
door, slammed it sharply in his friend's face. 
"I'm going to find Helen White and talk to her, 
but not about him," he muttered. 

Seth went down the stairway and out at the 
front door of the hotel muttering with wrath. 
Crossing a little dusty street and climbing a low 
iron railing, he went to sit upon the grass in the 
station yard. George Willard he thought a pro- 
found fool, and he wished that he had said so 
more vigorously. Although his acquaintanceship 
with Helen White, the banker's daughter, was 
outwardly but casual, she was often the subject 
of his thoughts and he felt that she was some- 


thing private and personal to himself. "The busy 
fool with his love stories/* he muttered, staring 
back over his shoulder at George Willard's room, 
"why does he never tire of his eternal talking." 

It was berry harvest time in Winesburg and 
upon the station platform men and boys loaded 
the boxes of red, fragrant berries into two express 
cars that stood upon the siding. A June moon 
was in the sky, although In the west a storm threat- 
ened, and no street lamps were lighted. In the 
dim light the figures of the men standing upon the 
express truck and pitching the boxes in at the 
doors of the cars were but dimly discernible. 
Upon the iron railing that protected the station 
lawn sat other men. Pipes were lighted. Vil- 
lage jokes went back and forth. Away in the dis- 
tance a train whistled and the men loading the 
boxes into the cars worked with renewed activity. 

Seth arose from his place on the grass and went 
silently past the men perched upon the railing and 
into Main Street. He 'had come to a resolution. 
"I'll get out of here," he told himself. "What 
good am I here ? I'm going to some city and go 
to work. I'll tell mother about it to-morrow." 

Seth Richmond went slowly along Main Street, 
past Wacker's Cigar Store and the Town Hall, 
and into Buckeye Street. He was depressed by 
the thought that he was not a part of the life in 
his own town, but the depression did not cut 


deeply as he did not think of himself as at fault. 
In the heavy shadows of a big tree before Dr. 
Welling' s house, he stopped and stood watching 
half-witted Turk Smollet, who was pushing a 
wheelbarrow in the road. The old man with his 
absurdly boyish mind had a dozen long boards on 
the wheelbarrow, and as he hurried along the 
road, balanced the load with extreme nicety. 
"Easy there, Turk! Steady now, old boyl" the 
old man shouted to himself, and laughed so that 
the load of boards rocked dangerously. 

Seth knew Turk Smollet, the half dangerous 
old wood chopper whose peculiarities added so 
much of color to the life of the village. He knew 
that when Turk got into Main Street he would 
become the center of a whirlwind of cries and 
comments, that in truth the old man was going far 
out of his way in order to pass through Main 
Street and exhibit his skill in wheeling the boards. 
"If George Willard were here, he'd have some- 
thing to say," thought Seth. "George belongs to 
this town. He'd shout at Turk and Turk would 
shout at him. They'd both be secretly pleased by 
what they had said. It's different with me. I 
don't belong. I'll not make a fuss about it, but 
I'm going to get out of here." 

Seth stumbled forward through the half dark- 
ness, feeling himself an outcast in his own town. 
He began to pity himself, but a sense of the ab- 


surdity of his thoughts made him smile. In the 
end he decided that he was simply old beyond his 
years and not at all a subject for self-pity. "I'm 
made to go to work. I may be able to make a 
place for myself by steady working, and I might 
as well be at it," he decided. 

Seth went to the house of Banker White and 
stood in the darkness by the front door. On the 
door hung a heavy brass knocker, an innovation 
introduced into the village by Helen White's 
mother, who had also organized a woman's club 
for the study of poetry. Seth raised the knocker 
and let it fall. Its heavy clatter sounded like a 
report from distant guns. "How awkward and 
foolish I am," he thought. "If Mrs. White 
comes to the door, I won't know what to say?" 

It was Helen White who came to the door and 
found Seth standing at the edge of the porch. 
Blushing with pleasure, she stepped forward, clos- 
ing the door softly. "I'm going to get out of 
town. I don't know what I'll do, but I'm go- 
ing to get out of here and go to work. I think 
I'll go to Columbus," he said. "Perhaps I'll get 
into the State University down there. Anyway, 
I'm going. I'll tell mother to-night." He hesi- 
tated and looked doubtfully about. "Perhaps you 
wouldn't mind coming to walk with me?" 

Seth and Helen walked through the streets be- 
neath the trees. Heavy clouds had drifted across 


the face of the moon, and before them in the deep 
twilight went a man with a short ladder upon his 
shoulder. Hurrying forward, the man stopped at 
the street crossing and, putting the ladder against 
the wooden lamp post, lighted the village lights so 
that their way was half lighted, half darkened, by 
the lamps and by the deepening shadows cast by 
the low-branched trees. In the tops of the trees 
the wind began to play, disturbing the sleeping 
birds so that they flew about calling plaintively. 
In the lighted space before one of the lamps, two 
bats wheeled and circled, pursuing the gathering 
swarm of night flies. 

Since Seth had been a boy in knee trousers there 
had been a half expressed intimacy between him 
and the maiden who now for the first time walked 
beside him. For a time she had been beset with 
a madness for writing notes which she* addressed 
to Seth. He had found them concealed in his 
books at school and one had been given him by a 
child met in the street, while several had been de- 
livered through the village post office. 

The notes had been written in a round, boyish 
hand and had reflected a mind inflamed by novel 
reading. Seth had not answered them, although 
he had been moved and flattered by some of the 
sentences scrawled in pencil upon the stationery of 
the banker's wife. Putting them into the pocket 
of his coat, he went through the street or stood by 


the fence in the school yard with something burn- 
ing at his side. He thought it fine that he should 
be thus selected as the favorite of the richest and 
most attractive girl in town. 

Helen and Seth stopped by a fence near where 
a low dark building faced the street. The build- 
ing had once been a factory for the making of 
barrel staves but was now vacant. Across the 
street upon the porch of a house a man and 
woman talked of their childhood, their voices com- 
ing clearly across to the half-embarrassed youth 
and maiden. There was the sound of scraping 
chairs and the man and woman came down the 
gravel path to a wooden gate. Standing outside 
the gate, the man leaned over and kissed the 
woman. "For old times' sake," he said and, 
turning, walked rapidly away along the side- 

"That's Belle Turner," whispered Helen, and 
put her hand boldly into Seth's hand. "I didn't 
know she had a fellow. I thought she was too 
old for that." Seth laughed uneasily. The hand 
of the girl was warm and a strange, dizzy feeling 
crept over him. Into his mind came a desire to 
tell her something he had been determined not 
to tell. "George Willard's in love with you," 
he said, and in spite of his agitation his voice was 
low and quiet. "He's writing a story, and he 
wants to be in love. He wants to know how it 


feels. He wanted me to tell you and see what you 

Again Helen and Seth walked in silence. They 
came to the garden surrounding the old Richmond 
place and going through a gap in the hedge sat on 
a wooden bench beneath a bush. 

On the street as he walked beside the girl new 
and daring thoughts had come into Seth Rich- 
mond's mind. He began to regret his decision to 
get out of town. "It would be something new and 
altogether delightful to remain and walk often 
through the streets with Helen White," he 
thought. In imagination he saw himself putting 
his arm about her waist and feeling her arms 
clasped tightly about his neck. One of those odd 
combinations of events and places made him con- 
nect the idea of love-making with this girl and a 
spot he Bad visited some days before. He had 
gone on an errand to the house of a farmer who 
lived on a hillside beyond the Fair Ground and 
had returned by a path through a field. At the 
foot of the hill below the farmer's house Seth had 
stopped beneath a sycamore tree and looked about 
him. A soft humming noise had greeted his ears. 
For a moment he had thought the tree must be the 
home of a swarm of bees. 

And then, looking down, Seth had seen the bees 
everywhere all about him in the long grass. He 
stood in a mass of weeds that grew waist-high in 


the field that ran away from the hillside. The 
weeds were abloom with tiny purple blossoms and 
gave forth an overpowering fragrance. Upon 
the weeds the bees were gathered in armies, sing- 
ing as they worked. 

Seth imagined himself lying on a summer eve- 
ning, buried deep among the weeds beneath the 
tree. Beside him, in the scene built in his fancy, 
lay Helen White, her hand lying in his hand. A 
peculiar reluctance kept him from kissing her lips, 
but he felt he might have done that if 'he wished. 
Instead, he lay perfectly still, looking at her and 
listening to the army of bees that sang the sus- 
tained masterful song of labor above his head. 

On the bench in the garden Seth stirred un- 
easily. Releasing the hand of the girl, he thrust 
his hands into his trouser pockets. A desire to 
impress the mind of his companion with the im- 
portance of the resolution he had made came over 
him and he nodded his head toward the house. 
"Mother'll make a fuss, I suppose," he whis- 
pered. "She hasn't thought at all about what 
I'm going to do in life. She thinks I'm going to 
stay on here forever just being a boy." 

Seth's voice became charged with boyish ear- 
nestness. "You see, I've got to strike out. I've 
got to get to work. It's what I'm good for." 

Helen White was impressed. She nodded her 
head and a feeling of admiration swept over her. 


"This is as it should be," she thought. "This boy 
is not a boy at all, but a strong, purposeful man." 
Certain vague desires that had been invading her 
body were swept away and she sat up very straight 
on the bench. The thunder continued to rumble 
and flashes of heat lightning lit up the eastern sky. 
The garden that had been so mysterious and vast, 
a place that with Seth beside her might have be- 
come the background for strange and wonderful 
adventures, now seemed no more than an ordinary 
Winesburg back yard, quite definite and limited in 
its outlines. 

"What will you do up there ?" she whispered. 

Seth turned half around on the bench, striving 
to see her face in the darkness. He thought her 
infinitely more sensible and straightforward than 
George Willard, and was glad he had come away 
from his friend. A feeling of impatience with 
the town that had been in his mind returned, and 
he tried to tell her of it. "Everyone talks and 
talks," he began. "I'm sick of it. I'll do some- 
thing, get into some kind of work where talk 
don't count. Maybe I'll just be a mechanic in 
a shop. I don't know. I guess I don't care 
much. I just want to work and keep quiet. 
That's all I've got in my mind." 

Seth arose from the bench and put out his hand. 
He did not want to bring the meeting to an end 
but could not think of anything more to say. "It's 


the last time we'll see each other,'* he whispered. 

A wave of sentiment swept over Helen. Put- 
ting her hand upon Seth's shoulder, she started to 
draw his face down towards her own upturned 
face. The act was one of pure affection and cut- 
ting regret that some vague adventure that had 
been present in the spirit of the night would now 
never be realized. "I think I'd better be going 
along," she said, letting her hand fall heavily to 
her side. A thought came to her. "Don't you 
go with me; I want to be alone," she said. "You 
go and talk with your mother. You'd better do 
that now." 

Seth hesitated and, as he stood waiting, the girl 
turned and ran away through the hedge. A de- 
sire to run after her came to him, but he only 
stood staring, perplexed and puzzled by her ac- 
tion as he had been perplexed and puzzled by all 
of the life of the town out of which she had come. 
Walking slowly toward the house, he stopped in 
the shadow of a large tree and looked at his 
mother sitting by a lighted window busily sewing. 
The feeling of loneliness that had visited him 
earlier in the evening returned and colored his 
thoughts of the adventure through which he had 
just passed. "Huh!" he exclaimed, turning and 
staring in the direction taken by Helen White. 
"That's how things'll turn out. She'll be like the 
rest. I suppose she'll begin now to look at me in 


a funny way." He looked at the ground and pon- 
dered this thought. "She'll be embarrassed and 
feel strange when I'm around," he whispered to 
himself. "That's how it'll be. That's how 
everything'll turn out. When it conies to loving 
some one, it won't never be me. It'll be some 
one else some fool some one who talks a lot 
some one like that George Willard." 


UNTIL she was seven years old she lived in 
an old unp;imted house on an unused road 
that led off Trunion Pike. Her father 
gave her but little attention and her mother was 
dead. The father spent his time talking and 
thinking of religion. He proclaimed himself an 
agnostic and was so absorbed in destroying the 
ideas of God that had crept into the minds of his 
neighbors that he never saw God manifesting 
himself in the little child that, half forgotten, 
lived here and there on the bounty of her dead 
mother's relatives. 

A stranger came to Winesburg and saw in the 
child what the father did not see. He was a tall, 
red-haired young man who was almost always 
drunk. Sometimes he sat in a chair before the 
New Willard House with Tom Hard, the father. 
As Tom talked, declaring there could be no God, 
the stranger smiled and winked at the bystanders. 
He and Tom became friends and were much to- 

The stranger was the son of a rich merchant 
of Cleveland and had come to Winesburg on a 


TANDY 167 

mission. He wanted to cure himself of the habit 
of drink, and thought that by escaping from his 
city associates and living in a rural community he 
would have a better chance in the struggle with 
the appetite that was destroying him. 

His sojourn in Winesburg was not a success. 
The dullness of the passing hours led to his drink- 
ing harder than ever. But he did succeed in do- 
ing something. He gave a name rich with mean- 
ing to Tom Hard's daughter. 

One evening when he was recovering from a 
long debauch the stranger came reeling along the 
main street of the town. Tom Hard sat in a 
chair before the New Willard House with his 
daughter, then a child of five, on his knees. Be- 
side him on the board sidewalk sat young George 
Willard. The stranger dropped into a chair be- 
side them. His body shook and when he tried to 
talk his voice trembled. 

It was late evening and darkness lay over the 
town and over the railroad than ran along the foot 
of a little incline before the hotel. Somewhere 
in the distance, off to the west, there was a pro- 
longed blast from the whistle of a passenger en- 
gine. A dog that had been sleeping in the road- 
way arose and barked. The stranger began to 
babble and made a prophecy concerning the child 
that lay in the arms of the agnostic. 

"I came here to quit drinking," he said, and 


tears began to run down his cheeks. He did not 
look at Tom Hard, but leaned forward and 
stared into the darkness as though seeing a vision. 
"I ran away to the country to be cured, but I am 
not cured. There is a reason.** He turned to 
look at the child who sat up very straight on her 
father's knee and returned the look. 

The stranger touched Tom Hard on the arm. 
"Drink is not the only thing to which I am ad- 
dicted," he said. "There is something else. I 
am a lover and have not found my thing to love. 
That is a big point if you know enough to realize 
what I mean. It makes my destruction inevitable, 
you see. There are few who understand that." 

The stranger became silent and seemed over- 
come with sadness, but another blast from the 
whistle of the passenger engine aroused him. "I 
have not lost faith. I proclaim that. I have 
only been brought to the place where I know my 
faith will not be realized," he declared hoarsely. 
He looked hard at the child and began to address 
her, paying no more attention to the father. 
"There is a woman coming," he said, and his voice 
was now sharp and earnest. "I have missed her, 
you see. She did not come in my time. You may 
be the woman. It would be like fate to let me 
stand in her presence once, on such an evening as 
this, when I have destroyed myself with drink and 
she is as yet only a child." 

TANDY 169 

The shoulders of the stranger shook violently, 
and when he tried to roll a cigarette the paper fell 
from his trembling fingers. He grew angry and 
scolded. "They think it's easy to be a woman, to 
be loved, but I know better,' 7 he declared. Again 
he turned to the child. "I understand," he cried. 
"Perhaps of all men I alone understand." 

His glance again wandered away to the dark- 
ened street. "I know about her, although she has 
never crossed my path," he said softly. "I know 
about her struggles and her defeats. It is be- 
cause of her defeats that she is to me the lovely 
one. Out of her defeats has been born a new 
quality in woman. I have a name for it. I call 
it Tandy. I made up the name when I was a 
true dreamer and before my body became vile. 
It is the quality of being strong to be loved. It is 
something men need from women and that they 
do not get." 

The stranger arose and stood before Tom 
Hard. His body rocked back and forth and he 
seemed about to fall, but instead he dropped to 
his knees on the sidewalk and raised the hands of 
the little girl to his drunken lips. He kissed them 
ecstatically. "Be Tandy, little one," he plead. 
"Dare to be strong and courageous. That is the 
road. Venture anything. Be brave enough to 
dare to be loved. Be something more than man 
or woman. Be Tandy." 


The stranger arose and staggered off down the 
street. A day or two later he got aboard a train 
and returned to his home in Cleveland. On the 
summer evening, after the talk before the hotel, 
Tom Hard took the girl child to the house of a 
relative where she had been invited to spend the 
night. As he went along in the darkness under 
the trees he forgot the babbling voice of the 
stranger and his mind returned to the making of 
arguments by which he might destroy men's faith 
in God. He spoke his daughter's name and she 
began to weep. 

"I don't want to be called that," she declared. 
"I want to be called Tandy Tandy Hard." The 
child wept so bitterly that Tom Hard was touched 
and tried to comfort her. He stopped beneath a 
tree and, taking her into his arms, began to caress 
her. "Be good, now," he said sharply; but she 
would not be quieted. With childish abandon she 
gave herself over to grief, her voice breaking the 
evening stillness of the street. "I want to be 
Tandy. I want to be Tandy. I want to be Tandy 
Hard," she cried, shaking her head and sobbing 
as though her young strength were not enough to 
bear the vision the words of the drunkard had 
brought to her. 


THE Reverend Curtis Hartman was pastor 
of the Presbyterian Church of Winesburg, 
and had been in that position ten years. 
He was forty years old, and by his nature very 
silent and reticent. To preach, standing in the 
pulpit before the people, was always a hardship 
for him and from Wednesday morning until Sat- 
urday evening he thought of nothing but the two 
sermons that must be preached on Sunday. Early 
on Sunday morning he went into a little room 
called a study in the bell tower of the church and 
prayed. In his prayers there was one note that 
always predominated. "Give me strength and 
courage for Thy work, O Lord !" he plead, kneel- 
ing on the bare floor and bowing his head in the 
presence of the task that lay before him. 

The Reverend Hartman was a tall man with a 
brown beard. His wife, a stout, nervous woman, 
was the daughter of a manufacturer of underwear 
at Cleveland, Ohio. The minister himself was 
rather a favorite in the town. The elders of the 
church liked him because he was quiet and unpre- 
tentious and Mrs. White, the banker's wife, 
thought him scholarly and refined. 



The Presbyterian Church held itself somewhat 
aloof from the other churches of Winesburg. It 
was larger and more imposing and its minister 
was better paid. He even had a carriage of his 
own and on summer evenings sometimes drove 
about town with his wife. Through Main Street 
and up and down Buckeye Street he went, bow- 
ing gravely to the people, while his wife, afire with 
secret pride, looked at him out of the corners of 
her eyes and worried lest the horse become fright- 
ened and run away. 

For a good many years after he came to Wines- 
burg things went well with Curtis Hartman. He 
was not one to arouse keen enthusiasm among the 
worshippers in his church but on the other hand 
he made no enemies. In reality he was much in 
earnest and sometimes suffered prolonged periods 
of remorse because he could not go crying the 
word of God in the highways and byways of the 
town. He wondered if the flame of the spirit 
really burned in him and dreamed of a day when 
a strong sweet new current of power would come 
like a great wind into his voice and his soul and 
the people would tremble before the spirit of God 
made manifest in him. "I am a poor stick and 
that will never really happen to me," he mused 
dejectedly and then a patient smile lit up his 
features. "Oh well, I suppose I'm doing well 
enough," he added philosophically. 


room in the bell tower of the church, 
where on Sunday mornings the minister prayed for 
an increase in him of the power of God, had but 
one window. It was long and narrow and swung 
outward on a hinge like a door. On the window, 
made of little leaded panes, was a design show- 
ing the Christ laying his hand upon the head of a 
child. One Sunday morning in the summer as he 
sat by his desk in the room with a large Bible 
opened before him, and the sheets of his sermon 
scattered about, the minister was shocked to see, 
in the upper room of the house next door, a woman 
lying in her bed and smoking a cigarette while 
she read a book. Curtis Hartman went on tip- 
toe to the window and closed it softly. He was 
horror stricken at the thought of a woman smok- 
ing and trembled also to think that his eyes, just 
raised from the pages of the book of God, had 
looked upon the bare shoulders and white throat 
of a woman. With his brain in a whirl he went 
down into the pulpit and preached a long sermon 
without once thinking of his gestures or his voice. 
The sermon attracted unusual attention because of 
its power and clearness. "I wonder if she is 
listening, if my voice is carrying a message into 
her soul," he thought and began to hope that on 
future Sunday mornings he might be able to say 
words that would touch and awaken the woman 
apparently far gone in secret sin. 


The house next door to the Presbyterian 
Church, through the windows of which the min- 
ister had seen the sight that had so upset him, was 
occupied by two women. Aunt Elizabeth Swift, 
a grey competent-looking widow with money in 
the Winesburg National Bank, lived there with 
her daughter Kate Swift, a school teacher. The 
school teacher was thirty years old and had a neat 
trim-looking figure. She had few friends and 
bore a reputation of having a sharp tongue. 
When he began to think about her, Curtis Hart- 
man remembered that she had been to Europe 
and had lived for two years in New York City. 
"Perhaps after all her smoking means nothing," 
he thought. He began to remember that when he 
was a student in college and occasionally read 
novels, good, although somewhat worldly women, 
had smoked through the pages of a book that had 
once fallen into his hands. With a rush of new 
determination he worked on his sermons all 
through the week and forgot, in his zeal to reach 
the ears and the soul of this new listener, both his 
embarrassment in the pulpit and the necessity of 
prayer in the study on Sunday mornings. 

Reverend Hartman's experience with women 
had been somewhat limited. He was the son of 
a wagon maker from Muncie, Indiana, and had 
worked his way through college. The daughter 
of the underwear manufacturer had boarded in 


a house where he lived during his school days and 
he had married her after a formal and prolonged 
courtship, carried on for the most part by the girl 
herself. On his marriage day the underwear 
manufacturer had given his daughter five thou- 
sand dollars and he promised to leave her at least 
twice that amount in his will. The minister had 
thought himself fortunate in marriage and had 
never permitted himself to think of other women. 
He did not want to think of other women. What 
he wanted was to do the work of God quietly and 

In the soul of the minister a struggle awoke. 
From wanting to reach the ears of Kate Swift, 
and through his sermons to delve into her soul, 
he began to want also to look again at the figure 
lying white and quiet in the bed. On a Sunday 
morning when he could not sleep because of his 
thoughts he arose and went to walk in the streets. 
When he had gone along Main Street almost to 
the old Richmond place he stopped and picking 
up a stone rushed off to the room in the bell tower. 
With the stone he broke out a corner of the win- 
dow and then locked the door and sat down at 
the desk before the open Bible to wait. When 
the shade of the window to Kate Swift's room was 
raised he could see, through the hole, directly into 
her bed, but she was not there. She also had 
arisen and had gone for a walk and the hand that 


raised the shade was the hand of Aunt Elizabeth 

The minister almost wept with joy at this de- 
liverence from the carnal desire to "peep" and 
went back to his own house praising God. In an 
ill moment he forgot, however, to stop the hole in 
the window. The piece of glass broken out at 
the corner of the window just nipped off the bare 
heel of the boy standing motionless and looking 
with rapt eyes into the face of the Christ. 

Curtis Hartman forgot his sermon on that Sun- 
day morning. He talked to his congregation and 
in his talk said that it was a mistake for people to 
think of their minister as a man set aside and in- 
tended by nature to lead a blameless life. "Out 
of my own experience I know that we, who are the 
ministers of God's word, are beset by the same 
temptations that assail you," he declared. "I 
have been tempted and have surrendered to 
temptation. It is only the hand of God, placed 
beneath my head, that has raised me up. As he 
has raised me so also will he raise you. Do not 
despair. In your hour of sin raise your eyes to 
the skies and you will be again and again saved." 

Resolutely the minister put the thoughts of the 
woman in the bed out of his mind and began to 
be something like a lover in the presence of his 
wife. One evening when they drove out together 
he turned the horse out of Buckeye Street and in 


the darkness on Gospel Hill, above Waterworks 
Pond, put his arm about Sarah Hartman's waist. 
When he had eaten breakfast in the morning and 
was ready to retire to his study at the back of his 
house he went around the table and kissed his wife 
on the cheek. When thoughts of Kate Swift 
came into his head, he smiled and raised his eyes 
to the skies. "Intercede for me, Master," he 
muttered, "keep me in the narrow path intent on 
Thy work." 

And now began the real struggle in the soul of 
the brown-bearded minister. By chance he dis- 
covered that Kate Swift was in the habit of lying 
in her bed in the evenings and reading a book. 
A lamp stood on a table by the side of the bed 
and the light streamed down upon her white 
shoulders and bare throat. On the evening when 
he made the discovery the minister sat at the desk 
in the study from nine until after eleven and when 
her light was put out stumbled out of the church 
to spend two more hours walking and praying in 
the streets. He did not want to kiss the shoulders 
and the throat of Kate Swift and had not allowed 
his mind to dwell on such thoughts. He did not 
know what he wanted. "I am God's child and 
he must save me from myself," he cried, in the 
darkness under the trees as he wandered in the 
streets. By a tree he stood and looked at the 
sky that was covered with hurrying clouds. He 


began to talk to God intimately and closely. 
* 'Please, Father, do not forget me. Give me 
power to go to-morrow and repair the hole in 
the window. Lift my eyes again to the skies. 
Stay with me, Thy servant, in his hour of need." 

Up and down through the silent streets walked 
the minister and for days and weeks his soul was 
troubled. He could not understand the tempta- 
tion that had come to him nor could he fathom 
the reason for its coming. In a way he began to 
blame God, saying to himself that he had tried 
to keep his feet in the true path and had not run 
about seeking sin. "Through my days as a young 
man and all through my life here I have gone 
quietly about my work," he declared. "Why 
now should I be tempted? What have I done 
that this burden should be laid on me?" 

Three tiines during the early fall and winter of 
that year Curtis Hartman crept out of his house 
to the room in the bell tower to sit in the dark- 
ness looking at the figure of Kate Swift lying in 
her bed and later went to walk and pray in the 
streets. He could not understand himself. For 
weeks he would go along scarcely thinking of the 
school teacher and telling himself that he had 
conquered the carnal desire to look at her body. 
And then something would happen. As he sat 
in the study of his own house, hard at work on a 
sermon, he would become nervous and begin to 


walk up and down the room. "I will go out into 
the streets," he told himself and even as he let 
himself in at the church door he persistently de- 
nied to himself the cause of his being there. "I 
will not repair the hole in the window and I will 
train myself to come here at night and sit in the 
presence of this woman without raising my eyes. 
I will not be defeated in this thing. The Lord 
has devised this temptation as a test of my soul 
and I will grope my way out of darkness into the 
light of righteousness." 

One night in January when it was bitter cold 
and snow lay deep on the streets of Winesburg 
Curtis Hartman paid his last visit to the room in 
the bell tower of the church. It was past nine 
o'clock when he left his own house and he set out 
so hurriedly that he forgot to put on his over- 
shoes. In Main Street no one was abroad but 
Hop Higgins the night watchman and in the whole 
town no one was awake but the watchman and 
young George Willard, who sat in the office of the 
Winesburg Eagle trying to write a story. Along 
the street to the church went the minister, plow- 
ing through the drifts and thinking that this time 
he would utterly give way to sin. "I want to look 
at the woman and to think of kissing her shoulders 
and I am going to let myself think what I choose," 
he declared bitterly and tears came into his eyes. 
He began to think that he would get out of the 


ministry and try some other way of life. "I shall 
go to some city and get into business," he de- 
clared. "If my nature is such that I cannot re- 
sist sin, I shall give myself over to sin. At least 
I shall not be a hypocrite, preaching the word of 
God with my mind thinking of the shoulders and 
neck of a woman who does not belong to me." 

It was cold in the room of the bell tower of the 
church on that January night and almost as soon 
as he came into the room Curtis Hartman knew 
that if he stayed he would be ill. His feet were 
wet from tramping in the snow and there was no 
fire. In the room in the house next door Kate 
Swift had not yet appeared. With grim deter- 
mination the man sat down to wait. Sitting in the 
chair and gripping the edge of the desk on which 
lay the Bible he stared into the darkness thinking 
the blackest thoughts of his life. He thought of 
his wife and for the moment almost hated her. 
"She has always been ashamed of passion and 
has cheated me," he thought. "Man has a right 
to expect living passion and beauty in a woman. 
He has no right to forget that he is an animal and 
in me there is something that is Greek. I will 
throw off the woman 'of my bosom and seek other 
women. I will besiege this school teacher. I 
will fly in the face of all men and if I am a creature 
of carnal lusts I will live then for my lusts." 

The distracted man trembled from head to 


foot, partly from cold, partly from the struggle in 
which he was engaged. Hours passed and a 
fever assailed his body. His throat began to hurt 
and his teeth chattered. His feet on the study 
floor felt like two cakes of ice. Still he would 
not give up. "I will see this woman and will 
think the thoughts I have never dared to think,'* 
he told himself, gripping the edge of the desk 
and waiting. 

Curtis Hartman came near dying from the 
effects of that night of waiting in the church, and 
also he found in the thing that happened what he 
took to be the way of life for him. On other eve- 
nings when he had waited he had not been able 
to see, through the little hole in the glass, any 
part of the school teacher's room except that oc- 
cupied by her bed. In the darkness he had waited 
until the woman suddenly appeared sitting in the 
bed in her white night-robe. When the light was 
turned up she propped herself up among the pil- 
lows and read a book. Sometimes she smoked 
one of the cigarettes. Only her bare shoulders 
and throat were visible. 

On the January night, after he had come near 
dying with cold and after his mind had two or 
three times actually slipped away into an odd land 
of fantasy so that he had by an exercise of will 
power to force himself back into consciousness, 
Kate Swift appeared. In the room next door a 


lamp was lighted and the waiting man stared into 
an empty bed. Then upon the bed before his 
eyes a naked woman threw herself. Lying face 
downward she wept and beat with her fists upon 
the pillow. With a final outburst of weeping she 
half arose, and in the presence of the man who 
had waited to look and to think thoughts the 
woman of sin began to pray. In the lamplight 
her figure, slim and strong, looked like the figure 
of the boy in the presence of the Christ on the 
leaded window. 

Curtis Hartman never remembered how he got 
out of the church. With a cry he arose, dragging 
the heavy desk along the floor. The Bible fell, 
making a great clatter in the silence. When the 
light in the house next door went out he stumbled 
down the stairway and into the street Along 
the street he went and ran in at the door of the 
Winesburg Eagle, To George Willard, who was 
tramping up and down in the office undergoing a 
struggle of his own, he began to talk half inco- 
herently. "The ways of God are beyond human 
understanding," he cried, running in quickly and 
closing the door. He began to advance upon the 
young man, his eyes glowing and his voice ringing 
with fervor. "I have found the light," he cried. 
"After ten years in this town, God has manifested 
himself to me in the body of a woman." His 
voice dropped and he began to whisper. "I did 


not understand," he said. "What I took to be a 
trial of my soul was only a preparation for a new 
and more beautiful fervor of the spirit. God has 
appeared to me in the person of Kate Swift, the 
school teacher, kneeling naked on a bed. Do you 
know Kate Swift? Although she may not be 
aware of it, she is an instrument of God, bearing 
the message of truth." 

Reverend Curtis Hartman turned and ran out 
of the office. At the door he stopped, and after 
looking up and down the deserted street, turned 
again to George Willard. "I am delivered. 
Have no fear." He held up a bleeding fist for 
the young man to see. "I smashed the glass of 
the window," he cried. "Now it will have to be 
wholly replaced. The strength of God was in 
me and I broke it with my fist." 


SNOW lay deep in the streets of Winesburg. 
It had begun to snow about ten o'clock in 
the morning and a wind sprang up and blew 
the snow in clouds along Main Street. The frozen 
mud roads that led into town were fairly 
smooth and in places ice covered the mud. "There 
will be good sleighing," said Will Henderson, 
standing by the bar in Ed Griffith's saloon. Out 
of the saloon he went and met Sylvester West the 
druggist stumbling along in the kind of heavy over- 
shoes called arctics. "Snow will bring the peo- 
ple into town on Saturday," said the druggist. 
The two men stopped and discussed their affairs. 
Will Henderson, who had on a light overcoat and 
no overshoes, kicked the heel of his left foot with 
the toe of the right. "Snow will be good for the 
wheat," observed the druggist sagely. 

Young George Willard, who had nothing to do, 
was glad because he did not feel like working that 
day. The weekly paper had been printed and 
taken to the post office on Wednesday evening and 
the snow began to fall on Thursday. At eight 
o'clock, after the morning train had passed, he put 



a pair of skates in his pocket and went up to 
Waterworks Pond but did not go skating. Past 
the pond and along a path that followed Wine 
Creek he went until he came to a grove of beech 
trees. There he built a fire against the side of a 
log and sat down at the end of the log to think. 
When the snow began to fall and the wind to blow 
he hurried about getting fuel for the fire. 

The young reporter was thinking of Kate Swift 
who had once been his school teacher. On the 
evening before he had gone to her house to get a 
book she wanted him to read and had been alone 
with her for an hour. For the fourth or fifth 
time the woman had talked to him with great 
earnestness and he could not make out what she 
meant by her talk. He began to believe she 
might be in love with him and the thought was 
both pleasing and annoying. 

Up from the log he sprang and began to pile 
sticks on the fire. Looking about to be sure he 
was alone he talked aloud pretending he was in the 
presence of the woman. "Oh, you're just letting 
on, you know you are," he declared. _!lLam going 
to find out about you. You wait and see." 

The young man got up and went back along the 
path toward town leaving the fire blazing in the 
wood. As he went through the streets the skates 
clanked in his pocket. In his own room in the 
New Willard House he built a fire in the stove 


and lay down on top of the bed. He began to 
have lustful thoughts and pulling down the shade 
of the window closed his eyes and turned his face 
to the wall. He took a pillow into his arms and 
embraced it thinking first of the school teacher, 
who by her words had stirred something within 
him and later of Helen White, the slim daughter 
of the town banker, with whom he had been for 
a long time half in love. 

By nine o'clock of that evening snow lay deep 
in the streets and the weather had become bitter 
cold. It was difficult to walk about. The stores 
were dark and the people had crawled away to 
their houses. The evening train from Cleveland 
was very late but nobody was interested in its ar- 
rival. By ten o'clock all but four of the eighteen 
hundred citizens of the town were in bed. 

Hop Higgins, the night watchman, was par- 
tially awake. He was lame and carried a heavy 
stick. On dark nights he carried a lantern. Be- 
tween nine and ten o'clock he went his rounds. 
Up and down Main Street he stumbled through 
the drifts trying the doors of the stores. Then 
he went into alleyways and tried the back doors. 
Finding all tight he hurried around the corner to 
the New Willard House and beat on the door. 
Through the rest of the night he intended to stay 
by the stove. "You go to bed. I'll keep the 


stove going," he said to the boy who slept on a 
cot in the hotel office. 

Hop Higgins sat down by the stove and took 
off his shoes. When the boy had gone to sleep he 
began to think of his own affairs. He intended 
to paint his house in the spring and sat by the 
stove calculating the cost of paint and labor. 
That led him into other calculations. The night 
watchman was sixty years old and wanted to re- 
tire. He had been a soldier in the Civil War 
and drew a small pension. He hoped to find 
some new method of making a living and aspired 
to become a professional breeder of ferrets. Al- 
ready he had four of the strangely shaped savage 
little creatures, that are used by sportsmen in the 
pursuit of rabbits, in the cellar of his house. 
"Now I have one male and three females," he 
mused. "If I am lucky by spring I shall have 
twelve or fifteen. In another year I shall be able 
to begin advertising ferrets for sale in the sport- 
ing papers." 

The night watchman settled into his chair and 
his mind became a blank. He did not sleep. By 
years of practice he had trained himself to sit for 
hours through the long nights neither asleep nor 
awake. In the morning he was almost as re- 
freshed as though he had slept. 

With Hop Higgins safely stowed away in the 


chair behind the stove only three people were 
awake in Winesburg. George Willard was in the 
office of the Eagle pretending to be at work on the 
writing of a story but in reality continuing the 
mood of the morning by the fire in the wood. In 
the bell tower of the Presbyterian Church the 
Reverend Curtis Hartman was sitting in the dark- 
ness preparing himself for a revelation from God, 
and Kate Swift, the school teacher, was leaving 
her house for a walk in the storm. 

It was past ten o'clock when Kate Swift set out 
and the walk was unpremeditated. It was as 
though the man and the boy, by thinking of her, 
had driven her forth into the wintry streets. 
Aunt Elizabeth Swift had gone to the county seat 
concerning some business in connection with 
mortgages in which she had money invested and 
would not be back until the next day. By a huge 
stove, called a base burner, in the living room of 
the house sat the daughter reading a book. Sud- 
denly she sprang to her feet and, snatching a cloak 
from a rack by the front door, ran out of the 

At the age of thirty Kate Swift was not known 
in Winesburg as a pretty woman. Her complex- 
ion was not good and her face was covered with 
blotches that indicated ill health. Alone in the 
night in the winter streets she was lovely. Her 
back was straight, her shoulders square and her 


features were as the features of a tiny goddess on 
a pedestal in a garden in the dim light of a sum- 
mer evening. 

During the afternoon the school teacher had 
been to see Dr. Welling concerning her health. 
The doctor had scolded her and had declared she 
was in danger 'of losing her hearing. It was fool- 
ish for Kate Swift to be abroad in the storm, fool- 
ish and perhaps dangerous. 

The woman in the streets did not remember the 
words of the doctor and would not have turned 
back had she remembered. She was very cold but 
after walking for five minutes no longer minded 
the cold. First she went to the end of her own 
street and then across a pair of hay scales set in 
the ground before a feed barn and into Trunion 
Pike. Along Trunion Pike she went to Ned Win- 
ter's barn and turning east followed a street of low 
frame houses that led over Gospel Hill and into 
Sucker Road that ran down a shallow valley past 
Ike Smead's chicken farm to Waterworks Pond. 
As she went along, the bold, excited mood that had 
driven her out of doors passed and then returned 

There was something biting and forbidding in 
the character of Kate Swift. Everyone felt it. 
In the schoolroom she was silent, cold, and stern, 
and yet in an odd way very close to her pupils. 
Once in a long while something seemed to have 


come over her and she was happy. All of the 
children in the schoolroom felt the effect of her 
happiness. For a time they did not work but sat 
back in their chairs and looked at her. 

With hands clasped behind her back the school 
teacher walked up and down in the schoolroom 
and talked very rapidly. It did not seem to mat- 
ter what subject came into her mind. Once she 
talked to the children of Charles Lamb and made 
up strange intimate little stories concerning the 
life of the dead writer. The stories were told 
with the air of one who had lived in a house with 
Charles Lamb and knew all the secrets of his 
private life. The children were somewhat con- 
fused, thinking Charles Lamb must be someone 
who had once lived in Winesburg. 

On another occasion the teacher talked to the 
children of Benvenuto Cellini. That time they 
laughed. What a bragging, blustering, brave, 
lovable fellow she made of the old artist! Con- 
cerning him also she invented anecdotes. There 
was one of a German music teacher who had a 
room above Cellini's lodgings in the city of Milan 
that made the boys guffaw. Sugars McNutts, a 
fat boy with red cheeks, laughed so hard that he 
became dizzy and fell off his seat and Kate Swift 
laughed with him. Then suddenly she became 
again cold and stern. 


On the winter night when she walked through 
the deserted snow-covered streets, a crisis had 
come into the life of the school teacher. Al- 
though no one in Winesburg would have sus- 
pected it, her life had been very adventurous. It 
was still adventurous. Day by day as she worked 
in the schoolroom or walked in the streets, grief, 
hope, and desire fought within her. Behind a 
cold exterior the most extraordinary events trans- 
pired in her mind. The people of the town 
thought of her as a confirmed old maid and be- 
cause she spoke sharply and went her own way 
thought her lacking in all the human feeling that 
did so much to make and mar their own lives. In 
reality she was the most eagerly passionate soul 
among them, and more than once, in the five years 
since she had come back from her travels to settle 
in Winesburg and become a school teacher, had 
been compelled to go out of the house and walk 
half through the night fighting out some battle 
raging within. Once on a night when it rained 
she had stayed out six hours and when she came 
home had a quarrel with Aunt Elizabeth Swift. 
"I am glad you're not a man," said the mother 
sharply. "More than once Fve waited for your 
father to come home, not knowing what new mess 
he had got into. I've had my share of uncer- 
tainty and you cannot blame me if I do not want 


to see the worst side of him reproduced in you." 

Kate Swift's mind was ablaze with thoughts of 
George Willard. In something he had written 
as a school boy she thought she had recognized 
the spark of genius and wanted to blow on the 
spark. One day in the summer she had gone to 
the Eagle office and finding the boy unoccupied 
had taken him out Main Street to the fair ground, 
where the two sat on a grassy bank and talked. 
The school teacher tried to bring home to the 
mind of the boy some conception of the difficulties 
he would have to face as a writer. "You will 
have to know life," she declared, and her voice 
trembled with earnestness. She took hold of 
George Willard's shoulders and turned him about 
so that she could look into his eyes. A passer-by 
might have thought them about to embrace. "If 
you are to become a writer you'll have to stop 
fooling with words,'* she explained. "It would 
be better to give up the notion of writing until 
you are better prepared. Now it's time to be 
living. I don't want to frighten you, but I would 
like to make you understand the import of what 
you think of attempting. You must not become 
a mere peddler of words. The thing to learn is 
to know what people are thinking about, not what 
they say." 

On the evening before that stormy Thursday 



night, when the Reverend Curtis Hartman sat in 
the bell tower of the church waiting to look at her 
body, young Willard had gone to visit the teacher 
and to borrow a book. It was then the thing 
happened that confused and puzzled the boy. He 
had the book under his arm and was preparing to 
depart. Again Kate Swift talked with great ear- 
nestness. Night was coming on and the light in 
the room grew dim. As he turned to go she spoke 
his name softly and with an impulsive movement 
took hold of his hand. Because the reporter was 
rapidly becoming a man something of his man's 
appeal, combined with the winsomeness of the 
boy, stirred the heart of the lonely woman. A 
passionate desire to have him understand the im- 
port of life, to learn to interpret it truly and hon- 
estly, swept over her. Leaning forward, her lips 
brushed his cheek. At the same moment he for 
the first time became aware of the marked beauty 
of her features. They were both embarrassed, 
and to relieve her feeling she became harsh and 
domineering. "What's the use? It will be ten 
years before you begin to understand what I mean 
when I talk to you," she cried passionately. 

On the night of the storm and while the min- 
ister sat in the church waiting for her, Kate Swift 
went to the office of the Winesburg Eagle, in- 
tending to have another talk with the boy. After 


the long walk in the snow she was cold, lonely, 
and tired. As she came through Main Street she 
saw the light from the print shop window shining 
on the snow and on an impulse opened the door 
and went in. For an hour she sat by the stove 
in the office talking of life. She talked with pas- 
sionate earnestness. The impulse that had driven 
her out into the snow poured itself out into talk. 
She became inspired as she sometimes did in the 
presence of the children in school. A great eager- 
ness to open the door of life to the boy, who had 
been her pupil and whom she thought might pos- 
sess a talent for the Understanding of life, had pos- 
session of her. So strong was her passion that it 
became something physical. Again her hands, 
took hold of his shoulders and she turned him 
about. In the dim light her eyes blazed. She 
arose and laughed, not sharply as was customary 
with her, but in a queer, hesitating way. "I must 
be going," she said. "In a moment, if I stay, I'll 
be wanting to kiss you." 

In the newspaper office a confusion arose. Kate 
Swift turned and walked to the door. She was a 
teacher but she was also a woman. As she looked 
at George Willard, the passionate desire to be 
loved by a man, that had a thousand times before 
swept like a storm over her body, took possession 
of her. In the lamplight George Willard looked 


no longer a boy, but a man ready to play the part 
of a man. 

The school teacher let George Willard take her 
into his arms. In the warm little office the air 
became suddenly heavy and the strength went out 
of her body. Leaning against a low counter by 
the door she waited. When he came and put a 
hand on her shoulder she turned and let her body 
fall heavily against him. For George Willard 
the confusion was immediately increased. For a 
moment he held the body of the woman tightly 
against his body and then it stiffened. Two sharp 
little fists began to beat on his face. When the 
school teacher had run away and left him alone, he 
walked up and down in the office swearing furi- 

It was into this confusion that the Reverend 
Curtis Hartman protruded himself. When he 
came in George Willard thought the town had 
gone mad. Shaking a bleeding fist in the air, the 
minister proclaimed the woman George had only 
a moment before held in his arms an instrument 
of God bearing a message of truth. 

George blew out the lamp by the window and 
locking the door of the print shop went home. 
Through the hotel office, past Hop Higgins lost in 
his dream of the raising of ferrets, he went and up 


into his own room. The fire in the stove had 
gone out and he undressed in the cold. When he 
got into bed the sheets were like blankets of dry 

George Willard rolled about in the bed on 
which he had lain in the afternoon hugging the 
pillow and thinking thoughts of Kate Swift. The 
words of the minister, who he thought had gone 
suddenly insane, rang in his ears. His eyes stared 
about the room. The resentment, natural to the 
baffled male, passed and he tried to understand 
what had happened. He could not make it out. 
Over and over he turned the matter in his mind. 
Hours passed and he began to think it must be 
time for another day to come. At four o'clock he 
pulled the covers up about his neck and tried to 
sleep. When he became drowsy and closed his 
eyes, he raised a hand and with it groped about in 
the darkness. "I have missed something. I 
have missed something Kate Swift was trying to 
tell me," he muttered sleepily. Then he slept 
and in all Winesburg he was the last soul on that 
winter night to go CQ sleep, 


* " 4 been drinking and the incident amused 

^ against the wall of a building 

fhat another man stopped 

LONELINfiS two went away to - 

HE was the son of Mrs. Al Robinson who 
once owned a farm on a side road leading 
off Trunion Pike, east of Winesburg and 
two miles beyond the town limits. The farm- 
house was painted brown and the blinds to all of 
the windows facing the road were kept closed. In 
the road before the house a flock of chickens, ac- 
companied by two guinea hens, lay in the deep 
dust. Enoch lived in the house with his mother 
in those days and when he was a young boy went 
to school at the Winesburg High School. Old 
citizens remembered him as a quiet, smiling youth 
inclined to silence. He walked in the middle of 
the road when he came into town and sometimes 
read a book. Drivers of teams had to shout and 
swear to make him realize where he was so that 
he would turn out of the beaten track and let them 

When he was twenty-one years old Enoch went 
to New York City and was a city man for fifteen 
years. He studied French and went to an art 
school, hoping to develop a faculty he had for 
drawing. In his own mind he planned to go to 



into his own room. The fire in the rlnong the 
gone out and he undressed in th* "~u out 
got into bed the sheets ^ T ut for Enoch Robinson, 
'"ow.,^,^ -nough and he had many odd 

delicate thoughts hidden away in his brain that 
might have expressed themselves through the 
brush of a painter, but he was always a child and 
that was a handicap to his worldly development. 
He never grew up and of course he couldn't under- 
stand people and he couldn't make people under- 
stand him. The child in him kept bumping 
against things, against actualities like money and 
sex and opinions. Once he was hit by a street 
car and thrown against an iron post. That made 
him lame. It was one of the many things that 
kept things from turning out for Enoch Robinson. 
In New York City, when he first went there to 
live and before he became confused and discon- 
certed by the facts of life, Enoch went about a 
good deal with young men. He got into a group 
of other young artists, both men and women, and 
in the evenings they sometimes came to visit him 
in his room. Once he got drunk and was taken 
to a police station where a police magistrate 
frightened him horribly, and once he tried to have 
an affair with a woman of the town met on the 
sidewalk before his lodging house. The woman 
and Enoch walked together three blocks and then 
the young man grew afraid and ran away. The 


woman had been drinking and the incident amused 
her. She leaned against the wall of a building 
and laughed so heartily that another man stopped 
and laughed with her. The two went away to- 
gether, still laughing, and Enoch crept off to his 
room trembling and vexed. 

The room in which young Robinson lived in 
New York faced Washington Square and was long 
and narrow like a hallway. It is important to 
get that fixed in your mind. The story of Enoch 
is in fact the story of a room almost more than it 
is the story of a man. 

And so into the room in the evening came young 
Enoch's friends. There was nothing particularly 
striking about them except that they were artists 
of the kind that talk. Everyone knows of the 
talking artists. Throughout all 'of the known his- 
tory of the world they have gathered in rooms 
and talked. They talk of art and are passion- 
ately, almost feverishly, in earnest about it. They 
think it matters much more than it does. 

And so these people gathered and smoked cig- 
arettes and talked and Enoch Robinson, the boy 
from the farm near Winesburg, was there. He 
stayed in a corner and for the most part said 
nothing. How his big blue childlike eyes stared 
about ! On the walls were pictures he had made, 
crude things, half finished. His friends talked of 
these. Leaning back in their chairs, they talked 


and talked with their heads rocking from side to 
side. Words were said about line and values and 
composition, lots of words, such as are always 
being said. 

Enoch wanted to talk too but he didn't know 
how. He was too excited to talk coherently. 
When he tried he sputtered and stammered and 
his voice sounded strange and squeaky to him. 
That made him stop talking. He knew what he 
wanted to say, but he knew also that he could never 
by any possibility say it. When a picture he had 
painted was under discussion, he wanted to burst 
out with something like this : "You don't get the 
point," he wanted to explain: "the picture you 
see doesn't consist of the things you see and say 
words about. There is something else, some- 
thing you don't see at all, something you aren't 
intended to see. Look at this one over here, by 
the door here, where the light from the window 
falls on it. The dark spot by the road that you 
might not notice at all is, you see, the beginning 
of everything. There is a clump of elders there 
such as used to grow beside the road before our 
house back in Winesburg, Ohio, and in among the 
elders there is something hidden. It is a woman, 
that's what it is. She has been thrown from a 
horse and the horse has run away out of sight. 
Do you not see how the old man who drives a 
cart looks anxiously about? That is Thad Gray- 


back who has a farm' up the road. He is taking 
corn to Winesburg to be ground into meal at Com- 
stock's mill. He knows there is something in 
the elders, something hidden away, and yet he 
doesn't quite know. 

"It's a woman you see, that's what it is! It's 
a woman and, oh, she is lovely! She is hurt and 
is suffering but she makes no sound. Don't you 
see how it is? She lies quite still, white and still, 
and the beauty comes out from her and spreads 
over everything. It is in the sky back there and 
all around everywhere. I didn't try to paint the 
woman, of course. She is too beautiful to be 
painted. How dull to talk of composition and 
such things ! Why do you not look at the sky and 
then run away as I used to do when I was a boy 
back there in Winesburg, Ohio ?" 

That is the kind t>f thing young Enoch Robin- 
son trembled to say to the guests who came into 
his room when he was a young fellow in New York 
City, but he always ended by saying nothing. 
Then he began to doubt his own mind. He was 
afraid the things he felt were not getting expressed 
in the pictures he painted. In a half indignant 
mood he stopped inviting people into his room and 
presently got into the habit of locking the door. 
He began to think that enough people had visited 
him, that he did not need people any more. With 
quick imagination he began to invent his own peo- 


pie to whom he could really talk and to whom he 
explained the things he had been unable to explain 
to living people. His room began to be inhabited 
by the spirits of men and women among whom he 
went, in his turn saying words. It was as though 
every one Enoch Robinson had ever seen had left 
with him some essence of himself, something he 
could mould and change to suit his own fancy, 
something that understood all about such things as 
the wounded woman behind the elders in the 

The mild, blue-eyed young Ohio boy was a 
complete egotist, as all children are egotists. He 
did not want friends for the quite simple reason 
that no child wants friends. He wanted most of 
all the people of his own mind, people with whom 
he could really talk, people he could harangue and 
scold by the hour, servants, you see, to his fancy. 
Among these people he was always self-confident 
and bold. They might talk, to be sure, and even 
have opinions of their own, but always he talked 
last and best. He was like a writer busy among 
the figures of his brain, a kind of tiny blue-eyed 
king he was, in a six-dollar room facing Washing- 
ton Square in the city of New York. 

Then Enoch Robinson got married. He be- 
gan to get lonely and to want to touch actual flesh 
and bone people with his hands. Days passed 
when his room seemed empty. Lust visited his 


body and desire grew in his mind. At night 
strange fevers, burning within, kept him awake. 
He married a girl who sat in a chair next to his 
own in the art school and went to live in an apart- 
ment house in Brooklyn. Two children were 
born to the woman he married, and Enoch got a 
job in a place where illustrations are made for ad- 

That began another phase of Enoch's life. He 
began to play at a new game. For a while he was 
very proud of himself in the role of producing 
citizen of the world. He dismissed the essence of 
things and played with realities. In the fall he 
voted at an election and he had a newspaper 
thrown on his porch each morning. When in the 
evening he came home from work he got off a 
street car and walked sedately along behind some 
business man, striving to look very substantial and 
important. As a payer of taxes he thought he 
should post himself on how things are run. "I'm 
getting to be of some moment, a real part of 
things, of the state and the city and all that," he 
told himself with an amusing miniature air of dig- 
nity. Once coming home from Philadelphia, he 
had a discussion with a man met on a train. 
Enoch talked about the advisability of the govern- 
ment's owning and operating the railroads and 
the man gave him a cigar. It was Enoch's notion 
that such a move on the part of the government 


would be a good thing, and he grew quite excited 
as he talked. Later he remembered his own 
words with pleasure. "I gave him something to 
think about, that fellow/* he muttered to himself 
as he climbed the stairs to his Brooklyn apart- 

To be sure, Enoch's marriage did not turn out. 
He himself brought it to an end. He began to 
feel choked and walled in by the life in the apart- 
ment, and to feel toward his wife and even toward 
his children as he had felt concerning the friends 
who once came to visit him. He began to tell 
little lies about business engagements that would 
give him freedom to walk alone in the street at 
night and, the chance offering, he secretly re-rented 
the room facing Washington Square. Then Mrs. 
Al Robinson died on the farm near Winesburg, 
and he got eight thousand dollars from the bank 
that acted as trustee of her estate. That took 
Enoch out of the world of men altogether. He 
gave the money to his wife and told her he could 
not live in the apartment any more. She cried and 
was angry and threatened, but he only stared at 
her and went his own way. In reality the wife 
did not care much. She thought Enoch slightly in- 
sane and was a little afraid of him. When it was 
quite sure that he would never come back, she took 
the two children and went to a village in Connecti- 
cut where she had lived as a girl. In the end she 


married a man who bought and sold real estate 
and was contented enough. 

And so Enoch Robinson stayed in the New 
York room among the people of his fancy, play- 
ing with them, talking to them, happy as a child is 
happy. They were an odd lot, Enoch's people. 
They were made, I suppose, out of real people he 
had seen and who had for some obscure reason 
made an appeal to him. There was a woman 
with a sword in her hand, an old man with a long 
white beard who went about followed by a dog, a 
young girl whose stockings were always coming 
down and hanging over her shoe tops. There 
must have been two dozen of the shadow people, 
invented by the child-mind of Enoch Robinson, 
who lived in the room with him. 

And Enoch was happy. Into the room he went: 
and locked the door. With an absurd air of im- 
portance he talked aloud, giving instructions, mak- 
ing comments on life. He was happy and satis- 
fied to go on making his living in the advertising 
place until something happened. Of course some- 
thing did happen. That is why he went back to 
live in Winesburg and why we know about him. 
The thing that happened was a woman. It would 
be that way. He was too happy. Something 
had to come into his world. Something had to 
drive him out of the New York room to live out 
his life, an obscure, jerky little figure, bobbing up 


and down on the streets of an Ohio town at eve- 
ning when the sun was going down behind the roof 
of Wesley Mover's livery barn. 

About the thing that happened. Enoch told 
George Willard about it one night. He wanted 
to talk to someone, and he chose the young news- 
paper reporter because the two happened to be 
thrown together at a time when the younger man 
was in a mood to understand. 

Youthful sadness, young man's sadness, the 
sadness of a growing boy in a village at the year's 
end opened the lips of the old man. The sadness 
was in the heart of George Willard and was with- 
out meaning, but it appealed to Enoch Robinson. 

It rained on the evening when the two met and 
talked, a drizzly wet October rain. The fruition 
of the year had come and the night should have 
been fine with a moon in the sky and the crisp 
sharp promise of frost in the air, but it wasn't 
that way. It rained and little puddles of water 
shone under the street lamps on Main Street. In 
the woods in the darkness beyond the Fair Ground 
water dripped from the black trees. Beneath the 
trees wet leaves were pasted against tree roots 
that protruded from the ground. In gardens 
back of houses in Winesburg dry shriveled potato 
vines lay sprawling on the ground. Men who had 
finished the evening meal and who had planned to 
go uptown to talk the evening away with other 


men at the back of some store changed their 
minds. George Willard tramped about in the 
rain and was glad that it rained. He felt that 
way. He was like Enoch Robinson on the eve- 
nings when the old man came down out of his 
room and wandered alone in the streets. He was 
like that only that George Willard had become a 
tall young man and did not think it manly to weep 
and carry on. For a month his mother had been 
very ill and that had something to do with his sad- 
ness, but not much. He thought about himself 
and to the young that always brings sadness. 

Enoch Robinson and George Willard met be- 
neath a wooden awning that extended out over the 
sidewalk before Voight's wagon shop on Maumee 
Street just off the main street of Winesburg. 
They went together from there through the rain- 
washed streets to the older man's room on the 
third floor of the Heffner Block. The young re- 
porter went willingly enough. Enoch Robinson 
asked him to go after the two had talked for ten 
minutes. The boy was a little afraid but had 
never been more curious in his life. A hundred 
times he had heard the old man spoken of as a 
little off his head and he thought himself rather 
brave and manly to go at all. From the very be- 
ginning, in the street in the rain, the old man 
talked in a queer way, trying to tell the story of 
the room in Washington Square and of his life in 


the room. "You'll understand if you try hard 
enough," he said conclusively. "I have looked at 
you when you went past me on the street and I 
think you can understand. It isn't hard. All 
you have to do is to believe what I say, just listen 
and believe, that's all there is to it." 

It was past eleven o'clock that evening when 
Old Enoch, talking to George Willard in the room 
in the Heffner Block, came to the vital thing, the 
story of the woman and of what drove him out 
of the city to live out his life alone and defeated 
in Winesburg. He sat on a cot by the window 
with his head in his hand and George Willard 
was in a chair by a table. A kerosene lamp sat 
on the table and the room, although almost bare 
of furniture, was scrupulously clean. As the man 
talked George Willard began to feel that he 
would like to get out of the chair and sit on the 
cot also. He wanted to put his arms about the 
little old man. In the half darkness the man 
talked and the boy listened, filled with sadness. 

"She got to coming in there after there hadn't 
been anyone in the room for years," said Enoch 
Robinson. "She saw me in the hallway of the 
house and we got acquainted. I don't know just 
what she did in her own room. I never went 
there. I think she was a musician and played a 
violin. Every now and then she came and 
knocked at the door and I opened it. In she came 


and sat down beside me, just sat and looked about 
and said nothing. Anyway, she said nothing that 

The old man arose from the cot and moved 
about the room. The overcoat he wore was wet 
from the rain and drops of water kept falling 
with a soft little thump on the floor. When he 
again sat upon the cot George Willard got out of 
the chair and sat beside him. 

"I had a feeling about her. She sat there in 
the room with me and she was too big for the 
room. I felt that she was driving everything else 
away. We just talked of little things, but I 
couldn't sit still. I wanted to touch her with my 
fingers and to kiss her. Her hands were so 
strong and her face was so good and she looked at 
me all the time." 

The trembling voice of the old man became si- 
lent and his body shook as from a chill. "I was 
afraid," he whispered. "I was terribly afraid. 
I didn't want to let her come in when she knocked 
at the door but I couldn't sit still. 'No, no,' I said 
to myself, but I got up and opened the door just 
the same. She was so grown up, you see. She 
was a woman. I thought she would be bigger 
than I was there in that room." 

Enoch Robinson stared at George Willard, his 
childlike blue eyes shining in the lamplight. Again 
he shivered. "I wanted her and all the time I 


didn't want her," he explained. "Then I began 
to tell her about my people, about everything that 
meant anything to me. I tried to keep quiet, to 
keep myself to myself, but I couldn't. I felt just 
as I did about opening the door. Sometimes I 
ached to have her go away and never come back 
any more.'* 

The old man sprang to his feet and his voice 
shook with excitement. "One night something 
happened. I became mad to make her understand 
me and to know what a big thing I was in that 
room. I wanted her to see how important I was. 
I told her over and over. When she tried to go 
away, I ran and locked the door. I followed her 
about. I talked and talked and then all of a sud- 
den things went to smash. A look came into her 
eyes and I knew she did understand. Maybe she 
had understood all the time. I was furious. I 
couldn't stand it. I wanted her to understand but, 
don't you see, I couldn't let her understand. I 
felt that then she would know everything, that 
I would be submerged, drowned out, you see. 
That's how it is. I don't know why." 

The old man dropped into a chair by the lamp 
and the boy listened, filled with awe. "Go away, 
boy," said the man. "Don't stay here with me 
any more.. I thought it might be a good thing to 
tell you but it isn't. I don't want to talk any 
more. Go away." 


George Willard shook his head and a note of 
command came into his voice. "Don't stop now. 
Tell me the rest of it," he commanded sharply. 
"What happened? Tell me the rest of the 

Enoch Robinson sprang to his feet and ran to 
the window that looked down into the deserted 
main street of Winesburg. George Willard fol- 
lowed. By the window the two stood, the tall 
awkward boy-man and the little wrinkled man- 
boy. The childish, eager voice carried forward 
the tale. "I swore at her," he explained. "I 
said vile words. I ordered her to go away and 
not to come back. Oh, I said terrible things. At 
first she pretended not to understand but I kept at 
it. I screamed and stamped on the floor. I made 
the house ring with my curses. I didn't want ever 
to see her again and I knew, after some of the 
things I said, that I never would see her 

The old man's voice broke and he shook his 
head. "Things went to smash," he said quietly 
and sadly. "Out she went through the door and 
all the life there had been in the room followed 
her out. She took all of my people away. They 
all went out through the door after her. That's 
the way it was." 

George Willard turned and went out of Enoch 
Robinson's room. In the darkness by the win- 


dow, as he went through the door, he could hear 
the thin old voice whimpering and complaining. 
"I'm alone, all alone here," said the voice. "It 
was warm and friendly in my room but now I'm 
all alone." 


BELLE CARPENTER had a dark skin, grey 
eyes and thick lips. She was tall and 
strong. When black thoughts visited her 
she grew angry and wished she were a man and 
could fight someone with her fists. She worked 
in the millinery shop kept by Mrs. Nate McHugh 
and during the day sat trimming hats by a window 
at the rear of the store. She was the daughter 
of Henry Carpenter, bookkeeper in the First Na- 
tional Bank of Winesburg, and lived with him in 
a gloomy old house far out at the end of Buckeye 
Street. The house was surrounded by pine trees 
and there was no grass beneath the trees. A rusty 
tin eaves-trough had slipped from its fastenings 
at the back of the house and when the wind blew 
it beat against the roof of a small shed, making 
a dismal drumming noise that sometimes persisted 
all through the night. 

When she was a young girl Henry Carpenter 
made life almost unbearable for Belle, but as she 
emerged from girlhood into womanhood he lost 
his power over her. The bookkeeper's life was 
made up of innumerable little pettinesses. When 



he went to the bank in the morning he stepped into 
a closet and put on a black alpaca coat that had 
become shabby with age. At night when he re- 
turned to his home he donned another black al- 
paca coat. Every evening he pressed the clothes 
worn in the streets. He had invented an arrange- 
ment of boards for the purpose. The trousers to 
his street suit were placed between the boards and 
the boards were clamped together with heavy 
screws. In the morning he wiped the boards with 
a damp cloth and stood them upright behind the 
dining room door. If they were moved during 
the day he was speechless with anger and did not 
recover his equilibrium for a week. 

The bank cashier was a little bully and was 
afraid of his daughter. She, he realized, knew 
the story of his brutal treatment of her mother 
and hated him for it. One day she went home at 
noon and carried a handful of soft mud, taken 
from the road, into the house. With the mud she 
smeared the face of the boards used for the press- 
ing of trousers and then went back to her work 
feeling relieved and happy. 

Belle Carpenter occasionally walked out in the 
evening with George Willard. Secretly she loved 
another man, but her love affair, about which no 
one knew, caused her much anxiety. She was in 
love with Ed Handby, bartender in Ed Griffith's 
Saloon, and went about with the young reporter 


as a kind of relief to her feelings. She did not 
think that her station in life would permit her to 
be seen in the company of the bartender and 
walked about under the trees with George Wil- 
lard and let him kiss her to relieve a longing that 
was very insistent in her nature. She felt that 
she could keep the younger man within bounds. 
About Ed Handby she was somewhat uncer- 

Handby, the bartender, was a tall, broad-shoul- 
dered man of thirty who lived in a room upstairs 
above Griffith's saloon. His fists were large and 
his eyes unusually small, but his voice, as though 
striving to conceal the power back of his fists, was 
soft and quiet. 

At twenty-five the bartender had inherited a 
large farm from an uncle in Indiana. When sold, 
the farm brought in eight thousand dollars which 
Ed spent in six months. Going to Sandusky, on 
Lake Erie, he began an orgy of dissipation, the 
story of which afterward filled his home town with 
awe. Here and there he went throwing the 
money about, driving carriages through the 
streets, giving wine parties to crowds of men and 
women, playing cards for high stakes and keeping 
mistresses whose wardrobes cost him hundreds of 
dollars. One night at a resort called Cedar 
Point, he got into a fight and ran amuck like a 
wild thing. With his fist he broke a large mirror 


in the wash room of a hotel and later went about 
smashing windows and breaking chairs in dance 
halls for the joy of hearing the glass rattle on the 
floor and seeing the terror in the eyes of clerks 
who had come from Sandusky to spend the eve- 
ning at the resort with their sweethearts. 

The affair between Ed Handby and Belle Car- 
penter on the surface amounted to nothing. He 
had succeeded in spending but one evening in her 
company. On that evening he hired a horse and 
buggy at Wesley Mover's livery barn and took her 
for a drive. The conviction that she was the 
woman his nature demanded and that he must get 
her settled upon him and he told her of his de- 
sires. The bartender was ready to marry and to 
begin trying to earn money for the support of his 
wife, but so simple was his nature that he found 
it difficult to explain his intentions. His body 
ached with physical longing and with his body he 
expressed .himself. Taking the milliner into his 
arms and holding her tightly in spite of her strug- 
gles, he kissed her until she became helpless. Then 
he brought her back to town and let her out of the 
buggy. "When I get hold of you again I'll not 
let you go. You can't play with me," he de- 
clared as he turned to drive away. Then, jump- 
ing out of the buggy, he gripped her shoulders 
with his strong hands. "I'll keep you for good 
the next time," he said. "You might as well 


make up your mind to that. It's you and me for 
it and I'm going to have you before I get through. 1 ' 
One night in January when there was a new 
moon George Willard, who was in Ed Handby's 
mind the only obstacle to his getting Belle Car- 
penter, went for a walk. Early that evening 
George went into Ransom Surbeck's pool room 
with Seth Richmond and Art Wilson, son of the 
town butcher. Seth Richmond stood with his 
back against the wall and remained silent, but 
George Willard talked. The pool room was 
filled with Winesburg boys and they talked of 
women. The young reporter got into that vein. 
He said that women should look out for them- 
selves, that the fellow who went out with a girl 
was not responsible for what happened. As he 
talked he looked about, eager for attention. He 
held the floor for five minutes and then Art Wil- 
son began to talk. Art was learning the barber's 
trade in Cal Prouse's shop and already began to 
consider himself an authority in such matters as 
baseball, horse racing, drinking, and going about 
with women. He began to tell of a night when he 
with two men from Winesburg went into a house 
of prostitution at the county seat. The butcher's 
son held a cigar in the side of his mouth and as he 
talked spat on the floor. "The women in the 
place couldn't embarrass me although they tried 
hard enough," he boasted. "One of the girls in 


the house* tried to get fresh, but I fooled her. As 
soon as she began to talk I went and sat in her lap. 
Everyone in the room laughed when I kissed her. 
I taught her to let me alone." 

George Willard went out of the pool room and 
into Main Street. For days the weather had been 
bitter cold with a high wind blowing down on the 
town from Lake Erie, eighteen miles to the north, 
but on that night the wind had died away and a 
new moon made the night unusually lovely. 
Without thinking where he was going or what he 
wanted to do, George went out of Main Street and 
began walking in dimly lighted streets filled with 
frame houses. 

Out of doors under the black sky filled with 
stars he forgot his companions of the pool room. 
Because it was dark and he was alone he began to 
talk aloud. In a spirit of play he reeled along 
the street imitating a drunken man and then im- 
agined himself a soldier clad in shining boots that 
reached to the knees and wearing a sword that 
jingled as he walked. As a soldier he pictured 
himself as an inspector, passing before a long line 
of men who stood at attention. He began to ex- 
Jmine the accoutrements of the men. Before a 
tree he stopped and began to scold. "Your pack 
\s not in order," he said sharply. "How many 
times will I have to speak of this matter? Every- 
thing must be in order here. We have a difficult 


task before us and no difficult task can be done 
without order." 

Hypnotized by his own words, the young man 
stumbled along the board sidewalk saying more 
words. "There is a law for armies and for men 
too," he muttered, lost in reflection. "The law 
begins with little things and spreads out until it 
covers everything. In every little thing there 
must be order, in the place where men work, in 
their clothes, in their thoughts. I myself must be 
orderly. I must learn that law. I must get my- 
self into touch with something orderly and big that 
swings through the night like a star. In my little 
way I must begin to learn something, to give and 
swing and work with life, with the law." 

George Willard stopped by a picket fence near 
a street lamp and his body began to tremble. He 
had never before thought such thoughts as had 
just come into his head and he wondered where 
they had come from. For the moment it seemed 
to him that some voice outside of himself had 
been talking as he walked. He was amazed and 
delighted with his own mind and when he walked 
on again spoke of the matter with fervor. "To 
come out of Ransom Surbeck's pool room and 
think things like that," he whispered. "It is bet- 
ter to be alone. If I talked like Art Wilson the 
boys would understand me but they wouldn't un- 
derstand what IVe been thinking down here." 


In Winesburg, as in all Ohio towns of twenty 
years ago, there was a section in which lived day 
laborers. As the time of factories had not yet 
come, the laborers worked in the fields or were 
section hands on the railroads. They worked 
twelve hours a day and received one dollar for 
the long day of toil. The houses in which they 
lived were small cheaply constructed wooden af- 
fairs with a garden at the back. The more com- 
fortable among them kept cows and perhaps a pig, 
housed in a little shed at the rear of the garden. 

With his head filled with resounding thoughts, 
George Willard walked into such a street on the 
clear January night. The street was dimly 
lighted and in places there was no sidewalk. In 
the scene that lay about him there was something 
that excited his already aroused fancy. For a 
year he had been devoting all of his odd moments 
to the reading of books and now some tale he had 
read concerning life in old world towns of the 
middle ages came sharply back to his mind so that 
he stumbled forward with the curious feeling of 
one revisiting a place that had been a part of some 
former existence. On an impulse he turned out 
of the street and went into a little dark alleyway 
behind the sheds in which lived the cows and 

For a half hour he stayed in the alleyway, 
smelling the strong smell of animals too closely 


housed and letting his mind play with the strange 
new thoughts that came to him. The very rank- 
ness of the smell of manure in the clear sweet air 
awoke something heady in his brain. The poor 
little houses lighted by kerosene lamps, the smoke 
from the chimneys mounting straight up into the 
clear air, the grunting of pigs, the women clad in 
cheap calico dresses and washing dishes in the 
kitchens, the footsteps of men coming out of the 
houses and going off to the stores and saloons of 
Main Street, the dogs barking and the children 
crying all of these things made him seem, as he 
lurked in the darkness, oddly detached and apart 
from all life. 

The excited young man, unable to bear the 
weight of his own thoughts, began to move cau- 
tiously along the alleyway. A dog attacked him 
and had to be driven away with stones, and a man 
appeared at the door of one of the houses and 
swore at the dog. George went into a vacant lot 
; and throwing back his head looked up at the sky. 
He felt unutterably big and remade by the simple 
experience through which he had been passing and 
in a kind of fervor of emotion put up his hands, 
thrusting them into the darkness above his head 
and muttering words. The desire to say words 
overcame him and he said words without meaning, 
rolling them over on his tongue and saying them 
because they were brave words, full of meaning. 


"Death," he muttered, "night, the sea, fear, love- 

George Willard came out of the vacant lot and 
stood again on the sidewalk facing the houses. 
He felt that all of the people in the little street 
must be brothers and sisters to him and he wished 
he had the courage to call them out of their houses 
and to shake their hands. "If there were only a 
woman here I would take hold of her hand and 
we would run until we were both tired out," he 
thought. "That would make me feel better." 
With the thought of a woman in his mind he 
walked out of the street and went toward the 
house where Belle Carpenter lived. He thought 
she would understand his mood and that he could 
achieve in her presence a position he had long 
been wanting to achieve. In the past when he 
had been with her and had kissed her lips he had 
come away filled with anger at himself. He had 
felt like one being used for some obscure purpose 
and had not enjoyed the feeling. Now he thought 
he had suddenly become too big to be used. 

When George got to Belle Carpenter's house 
there had already been a visitor there before him. 
Ed Handby had come to the door and calling 
Belle out of the house had tried to talk to her. 
He had wanted to ask the woman to come away 
with him and to be his wife, but when she came 
and stood by the door he lost his self-assurance 


and became sullen. "You stay away from that 
kid," he growled, thinking of George Willard, and 
then, not knowing what else to say, turned to go 
away. "If I catch you together I will break your 
bones and his too," he added. The bartender 
had come to woo, not to threaten, and was angry 
with himself because of his failure. 

When her lover had departed Belle went in- 
doors and ran hurriedly upstairs. From a win- 
dow at the upper part of the house she saw Ed 
Handby cross the street and sit down on a horse 
block before the house of a neighbor. In the dim 
light the man sat motionless holding his head in 
his hands. She was made happy by the sight, 
and when George Willard came to the door she 
greeted him effusively and hurriedly put on her 
hat. She thought that, as she walked through the 
streets with young Willard, Ed Handby would 
follow and she wanted to make him suffer. 

For an hour Belle Carpenter and the young 
reporter walked about under the trees in the sweet 
night air. George Willard was full of big words. 
The sense of power that had come to him during 
the hour in the darkness in the alleyway remained 
with him and he talked boldly, swaggering along 
and swinging his arms about. He wanted to 
make Belle Carpenter realize that he was aware of 
his former weakness and that he had changed. 
"You'll find me different," he declared, thrusting 


his hands into his pockets and looking boldly into 
her eyes. "I don't know why but it is so. You've 
got to take me for a man or let me alone. That's 
how it is." 

Up and down the quiet streets under the new 
moon went the woman and the boy. When 
George had finished talking they turned down a 
side street and went across a bridge into a path 
that ran up the side of a hill. The hill began at 
Waterworks Pond and climbed upwards to the 
Winesburg Fair Grounds. On the hillside grew 
dense bushes and small trees and among the 
bushes were little open spaces carpeted with long 
grass, now stiff and frozen. 

As he walked behind the woman up the hill 
George Willard's heart began to beat rapidly and 
his shoulders straightened. Suddenly he decided 
that Belle Carpenter was about to surrender her- 
self to him. The new force that had manifested 
itself in him had, he felt, been at work upon her 
and had led to her conquest. The thought made 
him half drunk with the sense of masculine power. 
Although he had been annoyed that as they walked 
about she had not seemed to be listening to his 
words, the fact that she had accompanied him to 
this place took all his doubts away. "It is dif- 
ferent. Everything has become different," he 
thought and taking hold of her shoulder turned 


her about and stood looking at her, his eyes shining 
with pride. 

Belle Carpenter did not resist. When he 
kissed her upon the lips she leaned heavily against 
him and looked over his shoulder into the dark- 
ness. In her whole attitude there was a sugges- 
tion of waiting. Again, as in the alleyway, 
George Willard's mind ran off into words and, 
holding the woman tightly he whispered the words 
into the still night. "Lust," he whispered, "lust 
and night and women." 

George Willard did not understand what hap- 
pened to him that night on the hillside. Later, 
when he got to his own room, he wanted to weep 
and then grew half insane with anger and hate. 
He hated Belle Carpenter and was sure that all 
his life he would continue to hate her. On the 
hillside he had led the woman to one of the little 
open spaces among the bushes and had dropped to 
his knees beside her. As in the vacant lot, by the 
laborers' houses, he had put up his hands in grat- 
itude for the new power in himself and was wait- 
ing for the woman to speak when Ed Handby 

The bartender did not want to beat the boy, 
who he thought had tried to take his woman away. 
He knew that beating was unnecessary, that he had 
power within himself to accomplish his purpose 


without using his fists. Gripping George by the 
shoulder and pulling him to his feet, he held him 
with one hand while he looked at Belle Carpenter 
seated on the grass. Then with a quick wide 
movement of his arm he sent the younger man 
sprawling away into the bushes and began to bully 
the woman, who had risen to her feet "You're 
no good," he said roughly. "I've half a mind 
not to bother with you. I'd let you alone if I 
didn't want you so much." 

On his hands and knees in the bushes George 
Willard stared at the scene before him and tried 
hard to think. He prepared to spring at the man 
who had humiliated him. To be beaten seemed 
to be infinitely better than to be thus hurled igno- 
miniously aside. 

Three times the young reporter sprang at Ed 
Handby and each time the bartender, catching him 
by the shoulder, hurled him back into the bushes. 
The older man seemed prepared to keep the ex- 
ercise going indefinitely but George Willard's 
head struck the root of a tree and he lay still. 
Then Ed Hanby took Belle Carpenter by the arm 
and marched her away. 

George heard the man and woman making their 
way through the bushes. As he crept down the 
hillside his heart was sick within him. He hated 
himself and he hated the fate that had brought 
about his humiliation. When his mind went back 


to the hour alone in the alleyway he was puzzled 
and stopping in the darkness listened, hoping to 
hear again the voice outside himself that had so 
short a time before put new courage into his heart. 
When his way homeward led him again into the 
street of frame houses he could not bear the sight 
and began to run, wanting to get quickly out of 
the neighborhood that now seemed to him utterly 
squalid and commonplace, 


FROM his seat on a bcr in the rough board 
shed that stuck like a burr on the rear of 
Cowley & Son's store in Winesburg, Elmer 
Cowley, the junior member of the firm, could 
see through a dirty window into the printshop 
of the fPinesburg Eagle. Elmer was putting 
new shoelaces in his shoes. They did not go 
in readily and he had to take the shoes off. 
With the shoes in his hand he sat looking at a 
large hole in the heel of one of his stockings. 
Then looking quickly up he saw George Willard, 
the only newspaper reporter in Winesburg, stand- 
ing at the back door of the Eagle printshop and 
staring absent-mindedly about. "Well, well, what 
next 1" exclaimed the young man with the shoes in 
his hand, jumping to his feet and creeping away 
from the window. 

A flush crept into Elmer Cowley' s face and his 
hands began to tremble. In Cowley & Son's store 
a Jewish traveling salesman stood by the counter 
talking to his father. He imagined the reporter 
could hear what was being said and the thought 
made him furious. With one of the shoes still 


"QUEER 7 229 

held in his hand he stood in a corner of the shed 
and stamped with a stockinged foot upon the 
board floor. 

Cowley & Son's store did not face the main 
street of Winesburg. The front was on Maumee 
Street and beyond it was Voight's wagon shop 
and a shed for the sheltering of farmers' horses. 
Beside the store an alleyway ran behind the main 
street stores and all day drays and delivery 
wagons, intent on bringing in and taking out 
goods, passed up and down. The store itself was 
indescribable. Will Henderson once said of it 
that it sold everything and nothing. In the win- 
dow facing Maumee Street stood a chunk of coal 
as large as an apple barrel, to indicate that orders 
for coal were taken, and beside the black mass of 
the coal stood three combs of honey grown brown 
and dirty in their wooden frames. 

The honey had stood in the store window for 
six months. It was for sale as were also the coat 
hangers, patent suspender buttons, cans of roof 
paint, bottles of rheumatism cure and a substitute 
for coffee that companioned the honey in its patient 
willingness to serve the public. 

Ebenezer Cowley, the man who stood in the 
store listening to the eager patter of words that 
fell from the lips of the traveling man, was tall 
and lean and looked unwashed. On his scrawny 
neck was a large wen partially covered by a grey 


beard. He wore a long Prince Albert coat. 
The coat had been purchased to serve as a wed- 
ding garment. Before he became a merchant 
Ebenezer was a farmer and after his marriage he 
wore the Prince Albert coat to church on Sundays 
and on Saturday afternoons when he came into 
town to trade. When he sold the farm to become 
a merchant he wore the coat constantly. It had 
become brown with age and was covered with 
grease spots, but in it Ebenezer always felt dressed 
up and ready for the day in town. 

As a merchant Ebenezer was not happily placed 
in life and he had not been happily placed as a 
farmer. Still he existed. His family, consisting 
of a daughter named Mabel and the son, lived 
with him in rooms above the store and it did not 
cost them much to live. His troubles were not 
financial. His unhappiness as a merchant lay in 
the fact that when a traveling man with wares to 
be sold came in at the front door he was afraid. 
Behind the counter he stood shaking his head. 
He was afraid, first that he would stubbornly re- 
fuse to buy and fhus lose the opportunity to sell 
again; second that he would not be stubborn 
enough and would in a moment of weakness buy 
what could not be sold. 

In the store on the morning when Elmer Cow- 
ley saw George Willard standing and apparently 
listening at the back door of the Eagle printshop, 

"QUEER" 231 

a situation had arisen that always stirred the son's 
wrath. The traveling man talked and Ebenezer 
listened, his whole figure expressing uncertainty. 
"You see how quickly it is done," said the travel- 
ing man who had for sale a small flat metal sub- 
stitute for collar buttons. With one hand he 
quickly unfastened a collar from his shirt and then 
fastened it on again. He assumed a flattering 
wheedling tone. "I tell you what, men have come 
to the end of all this fooling with collar buttons 
and you are the man to make money out of the 
change that is coming. I am offering you the ex- 
clusive agency for this town. Take twenty dozen 
of these fasteners and I'll not visit any other store. 
I'll leave the field to you." 

The traveling man leaned over the counter and 
tapped with his finger on Ebenezer's breast. "It's 
an opportunity and I want you to take it," he 
urged. "A friend of mine told me about you. 
'See that man Cowley,' he said. 'He's a live 


The traveling man paused and waited. Tak- 
ing a book from his pocket he began writing out 
the order. Still holding the shoe in his hand 
Elmer Cowley went through the store, past the 
two absorbed men, to a glass show case near the 
front door. He took a cheap revolver from the 
case and began to wave it about. "You get out 
of here!" he shrieked. "We don't want any col- 


lar fasteners here." An idea came to him. 
"Mind, I'm not making any threat," he added. 
"I don't say I'll shoot. Maybe I just took this 
gun out of the case to look at it. But you better 
get out. Yes sir, I'll say that. You better grab 
up your things and get out." 

The young storekeeper's voice rose to a scream 
and going behind the counter he began to ad- 
vance upon the two men. "We're through being 
fools here!" he cried. "We ain't going to buy 
any more stuff until we begin to sell. We ain't 
going to keep on being queer and have folks 
staring and listening. You get out of here !" 

The traveling man left. Raking the samples 
of collar fasteners off the counter mtq a black 
leather bag, he ran. He was a small man and 
very bow-legged and he ran awkwardly. The 
black bag caught against the door and he stumbled 
and fell. "Crazy, that's what he is crazy!" he 
sputtered as he arose from the sidewalk and hur- 
ried away. 

In the store Elmer Cowley and his father stared 
at each other. Now that the immediate object of 
his wrafh had fled, the younger man was em- 
barrassed. "Well, I meant it. I think we've 
been queer long enough," he declared, going to 
the showcase and replacing the revolver. Sitting 
on a barrel he pulled on and fastened the shoe he 
had been holding in his hand. He was waiting 

"QUEER" 233 

for some word of understanding from his father 
but when Ebenezer spoke his words only served to 
reawaken the wrath in the son and the young man 
ran out of the store without replying. Scratching 
his grey beard with his long dirty lingers, the 
merchant looked at his son with the same wa- 
vering uncertain stare with which he had con- 
fronted the traveling man. "I'll be starched," 
he said softly. "Well, well, I'll be washed and 
ironed and stardied!" 

Elmer Cowley went out of Winesburg and 
along a country road that paralleled the railroad 
track. He did not know where he was going or 
what he was going to do. In the shelter of a deep 
cut where the road, after turning sharply to the 
right, dipped under the tracks he stopped and the 
passion that had been the cause of his outburst in 
the store began to again find expression. "I will 
not be queer one to be looked at and listened 
to," he declared aloud. "I'll be like other people. 
I'll show that George Willard. He'll find out. 
I'll show him!" 

The distraught young man stood in the middle 
of the road and glared back at the town. He did 
not know the reporter George Willard and had 
no special feeling concerning the tall boy who ran 
about town gathering the town news. The re- 
porter had merely come, by his presence in the 
office and in the printshop of the Winesburg Eagle, 


to stand for something in the young merchant's 
mind. He thought the boy who passed and re- 
passed Cowley & Son's store and who stopped to 
talk to people in the street must be thinking of him 
and perhaps laughing at him. George Willard, 
he felt, belonged to the town, typified the town, 
represented in his person the spirit of the town. 
Elmer Cowley could not have believed that 
George Willard had also his days of unhappiness, 
that vague hungers and secret unnamable desires 
visited also his mind. Did he not represent pub- 
lic opinion and had not the public opinion of 
Winesburg condemned the Cowleys to queerness? 
Did he not walk whistling and laughing through 
Main Street ? Might not one by striking his per- 
son strike also the greater enemy the thing that 
smiled and went its own way the judgment of 

Elmer Cowley was extraordinarily tall and his 
arms were long and powerful. His hair, his eye- 
brows, and the downy beard that had begun to 
grow upon his chin, were pale almost to white- 
ness. His teeth protruded from between his lips 
and his eyes were blue with the colorless blueness 
of the marbles called "aggies" that the boys of 
Winesburg carried in their pockets. Elmer had 
lived in Winesburg for a year and had made no 
friends. He was, he felt, one condemned to go 

"QUEER" 235 

through life without friends and he hated the 

Sullenly the tall young man tramped along the 
road with his hands stuffed into his trouser 
pockets. The day was cold with a raw wind, but 
presently the sun began to shine and the road be- 
came soft and muddy. The tops of the ridges of 
frozen mud that formed the road began to melt 
and the mud clung to Elmer's shoes. His feet 
became cold. When he had gone several miles he 
turned off the road, crossed a field and entered a 
wood. In the wood he gathered sticks to build 
a fire by which he sat trying to warm himself, mis- 
erable in body and in mind. 

For two hours he sat on the log by the fire and 
then, arising and creeping cautiously through a 
mass of underbrush, he went to a fence and looked 
across fields to a small farmhouse surrounded by 
low sheds. A smile came to his lips and he began 
making motions with his long arms to a man who 
was husking corn in one of the fields. 

In his hour of misery the young merchant had 
returned to the farm where he had lived through 
boyhood and where there was another human 
being to whom he felt he could explain himself. 
The man on the farm was a half-witted old fellow 
named Mook. He had once been employed by 
Ebenezer Cowley and had stayed on the farm 


when it was sold. The old man lived in one of 
the unpainted sheds back of the farmhouse and 
puttered about all day in the fields. 

Mook the half-wit lived happily. With child- 
like faith he believed in the intelligence of the ani- 
mals that lived in the sheds with him, and when he 
was lonely held long conversations with the cows, 
the pigs, and even with the chickens that ran about 
the barnyard. He it was who had put the ex- 
pression regarding being "laundered" into the 
mouth of his former employer. When excited or 
surprised by anything he smiled vaguely and mut- 
tered: "I'll be washed and ironed. Well, well, 
I'll be washed and ironed and starched." 

When the half-witted old man left his husking 
of corn and came into the wood to meet Elmer 
Cowley, he was neither surprised nor especially 
interested in the sudden appearance of the young 
man. His feet also were cold and he sat on the 
log by the fire, grateful for the warmth and 
apparently indifferent to what Elmer had to 

Elmer talked earnestly and with great freedom, 
walking up and down and waving his arms about. 
"You don't understand what's the matter with me 
so of course you don't care," he declared. "With 
me it's different. Look how it has always been 
with me. Father is queer and mother was queer, 
too. Even the clothes mother used to wear were 

"QUEER" 237 

not like other people's clothes, and look at that 
coat in which father goes about there in town, 
thinking he's dressed up, too. Why don't he 
get a new one ? It wouldn't cost much. I'll tell 
you why. Father doesn't know and when mother 
was alive she didn't know either. Mabel is dif- 
ferent. She knows but she won't say anything. 
I will, though. I'm not going to be stared at any 
longer. Why look here, Mook, father doesn't 
know that his store there in town is just a queer 
jumble, that he'll never sell the stuff he buys. 
He knows nothing about it. Sometimes he's a 
little worried that trade doesn't come and then 
he goes and buys something else. In the evenings 
he sits by the fire upstairs and says trade will come 
after a while. He isn't worried. He's queer. 
He doesn't know enough to be worried." 

The excited young man became more excited. 
u He don't know but I know," he shouted, stop- 
ping to gaze down into the dumb, unresponsive 
face of the half-wit. "I know too well. I can't 
stand it. When we lived out here it was different. 
I worked and at night I went to bed and slept. I 
wasn't always seeing people and thinking as I am 
now. In the evening, there in town, I go to the 
post office or to the depot to see the train come 
in, and no one says anything to me. Everyone 
stands around and laughs and they talk but they 
say nothing to me. Then I feel so queer that I 


can't talk either. I go away. I don't say any- 
thing. I can't." 

The fury of the young man became uncontrolla- 
ble. "I won't stand it," he yelled, looking up at 
the bare branches of the trees. "I'm not made to 
stand it." 

Maddened by the dull face of the man on the 
log by the fire, Elmer turned and glared at him as 
he had glared back along the road at the town 
of Winesburg. "Go on back to work," he 
screamed. "What good does it do me to talk to 
you?" A thought came to him and his voice 
dropped. "I'm a coward too, eh?" he muttered. 
"Do you know why I came clear out here afoot? 
I had to tell some one and you were the only one 
I could tell. I hunted out another queer one, you 
see. I ran away, that's what I did. I couldn't 
stand up to some one like that George Willard. 
I had to come to yo. I ought to tell him and I 

Again his voice arose to a shout and his arms 
flew about. "I will tell him. I won't be queer. 
I don't care what they think. I won't stand it." 

Elmer Cowley ran out of the woods leaving the 
half-wit sitting on the log before the fire. Pres- 
ently the old man arose and climbing over the 
fence went back to his work in the corn. "I'll be 
washed and ironed and starched," he declared. 
"Well, well, I'll be washed and ironed." Mook 

"QUEER" 239 

was interested. He went along a lane to a field 
where two cows stood nibbling at a straw stack. 
"Elmer was here," he said to the cows. "Elmer 
is crazy. You better get behind the stack where 
he don't see you. He'll hurt someone yet, Elmer 

At eight o'clock that evening Elmer Cowley 
put his head in at the front door of the office of 
the Winesburg Eagle where George Willard sat 
writing. His cap was pulled down over his eyes 
and a sullen determined look was on his face. 
"You come on outside with me," he said, stepping 
in and closing the door. He kept his hand on the 
knob as though prepared to resist anyone else 
coming in. "You just come along outside. I 
want to see you." 

George Willard and Elmer Cowley walked 
through the main street of Winesburg. The 
night was cold and George Willard had on a new 
overcoat and looked very spruce and dressed up. 
He thrust his hands into the overcoat pockets and 
looked inquiringly at his companion. He had 
long been wanting to make friends with the young 
merchant and find out what was in his mind. 
Now he thought he saw a chance and was de- 
lighted. "I wonder what he's up to? Perhaps 
he thinks he has a piece of news for the paper. 
It can't be a fire because I haven't heard the fire 
bell and there isn't anyone running," he thought. 


In the main street of Winesburg, on the cold 
November evening, but few citizens appeared and 
these hurried along bent on getting to the stove 
at the back of some store. The windows of the 
stores were frosted and the wind rattled the tin 
sign that hung over the entrance to the stairway 
leading to Doctor Welling's office. Before 
Hearn's Grocery a basket of apples and a rack 
filled with new brooms stood on the sidewalk. 
Elmer Cowley stopped and stood facing George 
Willard. He tried to talk and his arms began 
to pump up and down. His face worked spas- 
modically. He seemed about to shout. "Oh, 
you go on back," he cried. "Don't stay out here 
with me. I ain't got anything to tell you. I 
don't want to see you at all." 

For three hours the distracted young merchant 
wandered through the resident streets of Wines- 
burg blind with anger, brought on by his failure 
to declare his determination not to be queer. Bit- 
terly the sense of defeat settled upon him and he 
wanted to weep. After the hours of futile sput- 
tering at nothingness that had occupied the after- 
noon and his failure in Che presence of the young 
reporter, he thought he could see no hope of a 
future for himself. 

And then a new idea dawned for him. In the 
darkness that surrounded him he began to see a 
light. Going to the now darkened store, where 

"QUEER" 241 

Cowley & Son had for over a year waited vainly 
for trade to come, he crept stealthily in and felt 
about in a barrel that stood by the stove at the 
rear. In the barrel beneath shavings lay a tin 
box containing Cowley & Son's cash. Every 
evening Ebenezer Cowley put the box in the bar- 
rel when he closed the store and went upstairs to 
bed. "They wouldn't never think of a careless 
place like that," he told himself, thinking of rob- 

Elmer took twenty dollars, two ten dollar bills, 
from the little roll containing perhaps four hun- 
dred dollars, the cash left from the sale of the 
farm. Then replacing the box beneath the shav- 
ings he went quietly out at the front door and 
walked again in the streets. 

The idea that he thought might put an end to 
all of his unhappiness was very simple. "I will 
get out of here, run away from home," he told 
himself. He knew that a local freight train passed 
through Winesburg at midnight and went on to 
Cleveland where it arrived at dawn. He would 
steal a ride on the local and when he got to Cleve- 
land would lose himself in the crowds there. He 
would get work in some shop and become friends 
with the other workmen. Gradually he would be- 
come like other men and would be indistinguish- 
able. Then he could talk and laugh. He would 
no longer be queer and would make friends. Life 


would begin to have warmth and meaning for him 
as it had for others. 

The tall awkward young man, striding through 
the streets, laughed at himself because he had been 
angry and had been half afraid of George Wil- 
lard. He decided he would have his talk with 
the young reporter before he left town, that he 
would tell him about things, perhaps challenge 
him, challenge all of Winesburg through him. 

Aglow with new confidence Elmer went to the 
office of the New Willard House and pounded 
on the door. A sleep-eyed boy slept on a cot in 
the office. He received no salary but was fed at 
the hotel table and bore with pride the title of 
"night clerk." Before the boy Elmer was bold, 
insistent. "You wake him up," he commanded. 
"You tell him to come down by the depot. I got 
to see him and I'm going away on the local. Tell 
him to dress and come on down. I ain't got 
much time." 

The midnight local had finished its work in 
Winesburg and the trainsmen were coupling cars, 
swinging lanterns and preparing to resume their 
flight east. George Willard, rubbing his eyes and 
again wearing the new overcoat, ran down to the 
station platform afire with curiosity. "Well, 
here I am. What do you want? YouVe got 
something to tell me, eh?" he said. 

Elmer tried to explain. He wet his lips with 

"QUEER" 243 

his tongue and looked at the train that had begun 
to groan and get under way. "Well, you see, 1 * 
he began, and then lost control of his tongue. 
"I'll be washed and ironed. I'll be washed and 
ironed and starched," he muttered half incoher- 

Elmer Cowley danced with fury beside the 
groaning train in the darkness on the station plat- 
form. Lights leaped into the air and bobbed up 
and down before his eyes. Taking the two ten 
dollar bills from his pocket he thrust them into 
George Willard's hand. "Take them," he cried. 
"I don't want them. Give them to father. I 
stole them." With a snarl of rage he turned and 
his long arms began to flay the air. Like one 
struggling for release from hands that held him 
he struck out, hitting George Willard blow after 
blow on the breast, the neck, the mouth. The 
young reporter rolled over on the platform half 
unconscious, stunned by the terrific force of the 
blows. Springing aboard the passing train and 
running over the tops of cars, Elmer sprang down 
to a flat car and lying on his face looked back, 
trying to see the fallen man in the darkness. 
Pride surged up in him. "I showed him," he 
cried. "I guess I showed him. I ain't so queer. 
I guess I showed him I ain't so queer." 


RAY PEARSON and Hal Winters were 
farm hands employed on a farm three 
miles north of Winesburg. On Saturday 
afternoons they came into town and wandered 
about through the streets with other fellows from 
the country. 

Ray was a quiet, rather nervous man of perhaps 
fifty with a brown beard and shoulders rounded 
by too much and too hard labor. In his nature 
he was as unlike Hal Winters as two men can be 

Ray was an altogether serious man and had a 
little sharp featured wife who had also a sharp 
voice. The two, with half a dozen thin legged 
children, lived in a tumble-down frame house be- 
side a creek at the back end of the Wills farm 
where Ray was employed. 

Hal Winters, his fellow employee, was a young 
fellow. He was not of the Ned Winters fam- 
ily, who were very respectable people in Wines- 
burg, but was one of the three sons of the old man 
called Windpeter Winters who had a sawmill near 
Unionville, six miles away, and who was looked 



upon by everyone in Winesburg as a confirmed 
old reprobate. 

People from the part of Northern Ohio in 
which Winesburg lies will remember old Wind- 
peter by his unusual and tragic death. He got 
drunk one evening in town and started to drive 
home to Unionville along the railroad tracks. 
Henry Brattenburg, the butcher, who lived out 
that way, stopped him at the edge of the town and 
told him he was sure to meet the down train but 
Windpeter slashed at him with his whip and drove 
on. When the train struck and killed him and 
his two horses a farmer and his wife who were 
driving home along a nearby road saw the acci- 
dent. They said that old Windpeter stood up on 
the seat of his wagon, raving and swearing at the 
onrushing locomotive, and that he fairly screamed 
with delight when the team, maddened by his in- 
cessant slashing at them, rushed straight ahead to 
certain death. Boys like young George Willard 
and Seth Richmond will remember the incident 
quite vividly because, although everyone in our 
town said that the old man would go straight to 
hell and that the community was better off without 
him, they had a secret conviction that he knew 
what he was doing and admired his foolish cour- 
age. Most boys have seasons of wishing they 
could die gloriously instead of just being grocery 
clerks and going on with their humdrum lives. 


But this is not the story of Windpeter Winters 
nor yet of his son Hal who worked on the Wills 
farm with Ray Pearson. It is Ray's story. It 
will, however, be necessary to talk a little of young 
Hal so that you will get into the spirit of it. 

Hal was a bad one. Everyone said that. 
There were three of the Winters boys in that 
family, John, Hal, and Edward, all broad 
shouldered big fellows like old Windpeter him- 
self and all fighters and woman-chasers and gen- 
erally all-around bad ones. 

Hal was the worst of the lot and always up to 
some devilment. He once stole a load of boards 
from his father's mill and sold them in Wines- 
burg. With the money he bought himself a suit 
of cheap, flashy clothes. Then he got drunk and 
when his father came raving into town to find him, 
they met and fought with their fists on Main Street 
and were arrested and put into jail together. 

Hal went to work on the Wills farm because 
there was a country school teacher out that way 
who had taken his fancy. He was only twenty- 
two then but had already been in two or three of 
what were spoken of in Winesburg as "women 
scrapes." Everyone who heard of his infatuation 
for the school teacher was sure it would turn out 
badly. "He'll only get her into trouble, you'll 
see," was the word that went around. 

And so these two men, Ray and Hal, were at 


work in a field on a day in the late October. 
They were husking corn and occasionally some- 
thing was said and they laughed. Then came si- 
lence. Ray, who was the more sensitive and al- 
ways minded things more, had chapped hands and 
they hurt. He put them into his coat pockets and 
looked away across the fields. He was in a sad 
distracted mood and was affected by the beauty of 
the country. If you knew the Winesburg country 
in the fall and how the low hills are all splashed 
with yellows and reds you would understand his 
feeling. He began to think of the time, long ago 
when he was a young fellow living with his father, 
then a baker in Winesburg, and how on such days 
he had wandered away to the. woods to gather 
nuts, hunt rabbits, or just to loaf about and smoke 
his pipe. His marriage had come about through 
one of his days of wandering. He had induced a 
girl who waited on trade in his father's shop to go 
with him and something had happened. He was 
thinking of that afternoon and how it had affected 
his whole life when a spirit of protest awoke in 
him. He had forgotten about Hal and muttered 
words. "Tricked by Gad, that's what I was, 
tricked by life and made a fool of," he said in a 
low voice. 

As though understanding his thoughts, Hal 
Winters spoke up. "Well, has it been worth 
while,? What about it, eh? What about mar- 


riage and all that? 1 * he asked and then laughed. 
Hal tried to keep on laughing but he too was in 
an earnest mood. He began to talk earnestly. 
"Has a fellow got to do it?" he asked. "Has he 
got to be harnessed up and driven through life 
like a horse?" 

Hal didn't wait for an answer but sprang to his 
feet and began to walk back and forth between the 
corn shocks. He was getting more and more 
excited. Bending down suddenly he picked up an 
ear of the yellow corn and threw it at the fence. 
"I've got Nell Gunther in trouble," he said. "I'm 
telling you, but you keep your mouth shut." 

Ray Pearson arose and stood staring. He was 
almost a foot shorter than Hal, and when the 
younger man came and put his two hands on the 
older man's shoulders they made a picture. There 
they stood in the big empty field with the quiet 
corn shocks standing in rows behind them and the 
red and yellow hills in the distance, and from be- 
ing just two indifferent workmen they had become 
all alive to each other. Hal sensed it and be- 
cause that was his way he laughed. "Well, old 
daddy," he said awkwardly, "come on, advise me. 
I've got Nell in trouble. Perhaps you've been in 
the same fix yourself. I know what every one 
would say is the right thing to do, but what do you 
say? Shall I marry and settle down? Shall I 
put myself into the harness to be worn out like 


an old horse ? You know me, Ray. There can't 
any one break me but I can break myself. Shall 
I do it or shall I tell Nell to go to the devil? 
Come on, you tell me. Whatever you say, Ray, 
I'll do." 

Ray couldn't answer. He shook Hal's hands 
loose and turning walked straight away toward 
the barn. He was a sensitive man and there were 
tears in his eyes. He knew there was only one 
thing to say to Hal Winters, son of old Wind- 
peter Winters, only one thing that all his own 
training and all the beliefs of the people he knew 
would approve, but for his life he couldn't say 
what he knew he should say. 

At half-past four that afternoon Ray was put- 
tering about the barnyard when his wife came up 
the lane along the creek and called, him. After 
the talk with Hal he hadn't returned to the corn 
field but worked about the barn. He had already 
done the evening chores and had seen Hal, dressed 
and ready for a roistering night in town, come out 
of the farmhouse and go into the road. Along 
the path to his own house he trudged behind his 
wife, looking at the ground and thinking. He 
couldn't make out what was wrong. Every time 
he raised his eyes and saw the beauty of the coun- 
try in the failing light he wanted to do something 
he had never done before, shout or scream or hit 
his wife with his fists or something equally unex- 


pected and terrifying. Along the path he went 
scratching his head and trying to make it out. He 
looked hard at his wife's back but she seemed all 

She only wanted him to go into town for grocer- 
ies and as soon as she had told him what she 
wanted began to scold. "You're always putter- 
ing," she said. "Now I want you to hustle. 
There isn't anything in the house for supper and 
you-ve got to get to town and back in a 

Ray went into his own house and took an over- 
coat from a hook back of the door. It was torn 
about the pockets and the collar was shiny. His 
wife went into the bedroom and presently came 
out with a soiled cloth in one hand and three sil- 
ver dollars in the other. Somewhere in the house 
a child wept bitterly and a dog that had been sleep- 
ing by the stove arose and yawned. Again the 
wife scolded. "The children will cry and cry. 
Why are you always puttering?" she asked. 

Ray went out of the house and climbed the fence 
into a field. It was just growing dark and the 
scene that lay before him was lovely. All the 
low hills were washed with color and even the lit- 
tle clusters of bushes in the corners by the fences 
were alive with beauty. The whole world seemed 
to Ray Pearson to have become alive with some- 
thing just as he and Hal had suddenly become 


alive when they stood in the corn field staring into 
each other's eyes. 

The beauty of the country about Winesburg 
was too much for Ray on that fall evening. 
That is all there was to it. He could not stand it. 
Of a sudden he forgot all about being a quiet old 
farm hand and throwing off the torn overcoat be- 
gan to run across the field. As he ran he shouted 
a protest against his life, against all life, against 
everything that makes life ugly. "There was no 
promise made," he cried into the empty spaces 
that lay about him. "I didn't promise my Min- 
nie anything and Hal hasn't made any promise to 
Nell. I know he hasn't. She went into the 
woods with him because she wanted to go. What 
he wanted she wanted. Why should I pay? Why 
should Hal pay? Why should any one pay? I 
don't want Hal to become old and worn out. I'll 
tell him. I won't let it go on. I'll catch Hal be- 
fore he gets to town and I'll tell him." 

Ray ran clumsily and once he stumbled and fell 
down. "I must catch Hal and tell him," he kept 
thinking and although his breath came in gasps he 
kept running harder and harder. As he ran he 
thought of things that hadn't come into his mind 
for years how at the time he married he had 
planned to go west to his uncle in Portland, Ore- 
gon how he hadn't wanted to be a farm hand, 
but had thought when he got out west he would 


go to sea and be a sailor or get a job on a ranch 
and ride a horse into western towns, shouting and 
laughing and waking the people in the houses with 
his wild cries. Then as he ran he remembered 
his children and in fancy felt their hands clutch- 
ing at him. All of his thoughts of himself were 
involved with the thoughts of Hal and he thought 
the children were clutching at the younger man 
also. "They are the accidents of life, Hal," he 
cried. "They are not mine or yours. I had noth- 
ing to do with them." 

Darkness began to spread over the fields as 
Ray Pearson ran on and on. His breath came 
in little sobs. When he came to the fence at the 
edge of the road and confronted Hal Winters, all 
dressed up and smoking a pipe as he walked jaunt- 
ily along, he could not "have told what he thought 
or what he wanted. 

Ray Pearson lost his nerve and this is really 
the end of the story of what happened to him. 
It was almost dark when he got to the fence and 
he put his hands on the top bar and stood staring. 
Hal Winters jumped a ditch and coming up close 
to Ray put his hands into his pockets and laughed. 
He seemed to have lost his own sense of what had 
happened in the corn field and when he put up a 
strong hand and took hold of the lapel of Ray's 
coat he sho'ok the old man as he might have shaken 
a dog that had misbehaved. 


"You came to tell me, eh?" he said. "Well, 
never mind telling me anything. I'm not a cow- 
ard and I've already made up my mind." He 
laughed again and jumped back across the ditch. 
"Nell ain't no fool," he said. "She didn't ask 
me to marry her. I want to marry her. I want 
to settle down and have kids." 

Ray Pearson also laughed. He felt like laugh- 
ing at himself and all the world. 

As the form of Hal Winters disappeared in the 
dusk that lay over the road that led to Winesburg, 
he turned and walked slowly back across the fields 
to where he had left his torn overcoat. As he 
went some memory of pleasant evenings spent with 
the thin-legged children in the tumble-down house 
by the creek must have come into his mind, for he 
muttered words. "It's just as well. Whatever I 
told him would have Keen a lie," he said softly, 
and then his form also disappeared into the dark- 
ness of the fields. 


TOM FOSTER came to Winesburg from 
Cincinnati when he was still young and 
could get many new impressions. His 
grandmother had been raised on a farm near the 
town and as a young girl had gone to school there 
when Winesburg was a village of twelve or fifteen 
houses clustered about a general store on the 
Trunion Pike. 

What a life the old woman had led since she 
went away from the frontier settlement and what 
a strong, capable little old thing she was! She 
had been in Kansas, in Canada, and in New York 
City, traveling about with her husband, a me- 
chanic, before he died. Later she went to stay 
with her daughter who had also married a me- 
chanic and lived in Covington, Kentucky, across 
the river from Cincinnati. 

Then began the hard years for Tom Foster's 
grandmother. First her son-in-law was killed by 
a policeman during a strike and then Tom's 
mother became an invalid and died also. The 
grandmother had saved a little money, but it was 
swept away by the illness of the daughter and by 


DRINK 255 

the cost of the two funerals. She became a half 
worn-out old woman worker and lived with the 
grandson above a junk shop on a side street in 
Cincinnati. For five years she scrubbed the floors 
in an office building and then got a place as dish 
washer in a restaurant. Her hands were all 
twisted out of shape. When she took hold of a 
mop or a broom handle the hands looked like the 
dried stems of an old creeping vine clinging to a 

The old woman came back to Winesburg as 
soon as she got the chance. One evening as she 
was coming home from work she found a pocket- 
book containing thirty-seven dollars, and that 
opened the way. The trip was a great adventure 
for the boy. It was past seven o'clock at night 
when the grandmother came home with the pocket- 
book held tightly in her old hands and she was so 
excited she could scarcely speak. She insisted on 
leaving Cincinnati that night, saying that if they 
stayed until morning the owner of the money 
would be sure to find them out and make trouble. 
Tom, who was then sixteen years old, had to go 
trudging off to the station with the old woman 
bearing all of their earthly belongings done up in 
a worn-out blanket and slung across his back. By 
his side walked the grandmother urging him for- 
ward. Her toothless old mouth twitched nerv- 
ously, and when Tom grew weary and wanted to 


put the pack down at a street crossing she 
snatched it up and if he had not prevented would 
have slung it across her own back. When they 
got into the train and it had run out of the city 
she was as delighted as a girl and talked as the 
boy had never heard her talk before. 

All through the night as the train rattled along, 
the grandmother told Tom tales of Winesburg 
and of how he would enjoy his life working in the 
fields and shooting wild things in the wood there. 
She could not believe that the tiny village of fifty 
years before had grown into a thriving town in her 
absence, and in the morning when the train came 
to Winesburg did not want to get off. "It isn't 
what I thought. It may be hard for you here," 
she said, and then the train went on its way and 
the two stood confused, not knowing where to 
turn, in the presence of Albert Longworth, the 
Winesburg baggage master. 

But Tom Foster did get along all right. He 
was one to get along anywhere. Mrs. White, the 
banker's wife, employed his grandmother to work 
in the kitchen and he got a place as stable boy in 
the banker's new brick barn. 

In Winesburg servants were hard to get. The 
woman who wanted help in her housework em- 
ployed a "hired girl" who insisted on sitting at 
the table with the family. Mrs. White was sick 
of hired girls and snatched at the chance to get 

DRINK 257 

hold of the old city woman. She furnished a 
room for the boy Tom upstairs in the barn. "He 
can mow the lawn and run errands when the 
horses do not need attention," she explained to her 

Tom Foster was rather small for his age and 
had a large head covered with stiff black hair that 
stood straight up. The hair emphasized the big- 
ness of his head. His voice was the softest thing 
imaginable, and he was himself so gentle and quiet 
that he slipped into the life of the town without 
attracting the least bit of attention. 

One could not help wondering where Tom Fos- 
ter got his gentleness. In Cincinnati he had lived 
in a neighborhood where gangs of tough boys 
prowled through the streets, and all through his 
early formative years he ran about with tough 
boys. For a while he was messenger for a tele- 
graph company and delivered messages in a neigh- 
borhood sprinkled with houses of prostitution. 
The women in the houses knew and loved Tom 
Foster and the tough boys in the gangs loved him 

He never asserted himself. That was one 
thing that helped him escape. In an odd way he 
stood in the shadow of the wall of life, was meant 
to stand in the shadow. He saw the men and 
women in the houses of lust, sensed their casual 
and horrible love affairs, saw boys fighting and 


listened to their tales of thieving and drunkenness 
unmoved and strangely unaffected. 

Once Tom did steal. That was while he still 
lived in the city. The grandmother was ill at the 
time and he himself was out of work. There was 
nothing to eat in the house, and so he went into a 
harness shop on a side street and stole a dollar and 
seventy-five cents out of the cash drawer. 

The harness shop was run by an old man with a 
long mustache. He saw the boy lurking about 
and thought nothing of it. When he went out 
into the street to talk to a teamster Tom opened 
the cash drawer and taking the money walked 
away. Later he was caught and his grandmother 
settled the matter by offering to come twice a week 
for a month and scrub the shop. The boy was 
ashamed, but he was rather glad, too. "It is all 
right to be ashamed and makes me understand 
new things," he said to the grandmother, who 
didn't know what the boy was talking about but 
loved him so much that it didn't matter whether 
she understood or not. 

For a year Tom Foster lived in the banker's 
stable and then lost his place there. He didn't 
take very good care of the horses and he was a 
constant source of irritation to the banker's wife. 
She told him to mow the lawn and he forgot. 
Then she sent him to the store or to the post of- 
fice and he did not come back but joined a group 

DRINK 259 

of men and boys and spent the whole afternoon 
with them, standing about, listening and occasion- 
ally, when addressed, saying a few words. As in 
the city in the houses of prostitution and with the 
rowdy boys running through the streets at night, 
so in Winesburg among its citizens he had always 
the power to be a part of and yet distinctly apart 
from the life about him. 

After Tom lost his place at Banker White's he 
did not live with his grandmother, although often 
in the evening she came to visit him. He rented 
a room at the rear of a little frame building be- 
longing to old Rufus Whiting. The building 
was on Duane Street, just off Main Street, and 
had been used for years as a law office by the old 
man who had become too feeble and forgetful for 
the practice of his profession but did not realize 
his inefficiency. He liked Tom and let him have 
the room for a dollar a month. In the late after- 
noon when the lawyer had gone home the boy had 
the place to himself and spent hours lying on the 
floor by the stove and thinking of things. In the 
evening the grandmother came and sat in the law- 
yer's chair to smoke a pipe while Tom remained 
silent, as he always did in the presence of every 

Often the old woman talked with great vigor. 
Sometimes she was angry about some happening 
at the banker's house and scolded away for hours. 


Out of her own earnings she bought a mop and 
regularly scrubbed the lawyer's office. Then 
when the place was spotlessly clean and smelled 
clean she lighted her clay pipe and she and Tom 
had a smoke together. "When you get ready to 
die then I will die also," she said to the boy lying 
on the floor beside her chair. 

Tom Foster enjoyed life in Winesburg. He 
did odd jobs, such as cutting wood for kitchen 
stoves and mowing the grass before houses. In 
late May and early June he picked strawberries in 
the fields. He had time to loaf and he enjoyed 
loafing. Banker White had given him a cast-off 
coat which was too large for him, but his grand- 
mother cut it down, and he had also an overcoat, 
got at the same place, that was lined with fur. 
The fur was worn away in spots, but the coat was 
warm and in the winter Tom slept in it. He 
thought his method of getting along good enough 
and was happy and satisfied with the way life in 
Winesburg had turned out for him. 

The most absurd little things made Tom Foster 
happy. That, I suppose, was why people loved 
him. In Hern's grocery they would be roasting 
coffee on Friday afternoon, preparatory to the 
Saturday rush of trade, and the rich odor invaded 
lower Main Street. Tom Foster appeared and 
sat on a box at the rear of the store. For an hour 
he did not move but sat perfectly still, filling his 

DRINK 261 

being with the spicy odor that made him half 
drunk with happiness. "I like it," he said gently. 
"It makes me think of things far away, places and 
things like that." 

One night Tom Foster got drunk. That came 
about in a curious way. He never had been drunk 
before, and indeed in all his life had never taken a 
drink of anything intoxicating, but he felt he 
needed to be drunk that one time and so went and 
did it. 

In Cincinnati, when he lived there, Tom had 
found out many things, things about ugliness and 
crime and lust. Indeed, he knew more of these 
things than any one else in Winesburg. The mat- 
ter of sex in particular had presented itself to him 
in a quite horrible way and had made a deep im- 
pression on his mind. He thought, after what he 
had seen of the women standing before the squalid 
houses on cold nights and the look he had seen in 
the eyes of the men who stopped to talk to them, 
that he would put sex altogether out of his own 
life. One of the women of the neighborhood 
tempted him once and he went into a room with 
her. He never forgot the smell of the room nor 
the greedy look that came into the eyes of the 
woman. It sickened him and in a very terrible 
way left a scar on his soul. He had always be- 
fore thought of women as quite innocent things, 
much like his grandmother, but after that one ex- 


perience in the room he dismissed women from his 
mind. So gentle was his nature that he could not 
hate anything and not being able to understand he 
decided to forget. 

And Tom did forget until he came to Wines- 
burg. After he had lived there for two years 
something began to stir in him. On all sides he 
saw youth making love and he was himself a youth. 
Before he knew what had happened he was in 
love also. He fell in love with Helen White, 
daughter of the man for whom he had worked, 
and found himself thinking of her at night. 

That was a problem for Tom and he settled it 
in his own way. He let himself think of Helen 
White whenever her figure came into his mind and 
only concerned himself with the manner of his 
thoughts. He had a fight, a quiet determined lit- 
tle fight of his own, to keep his desires in the chan- 
nel where he thought they belonged, but on the 
whole he was victorious. 

And then came the spring night when he got 
drunk. Tom was wild on that night. He was 
like an innocent young buck of the forest that has 
eaten of some maddening weed. The thing be- 
gan, ran its course, and was ended in one night, 
and you may be sure that no one in Winesburg 
was any the worse for Tom's outbreak. 

In the first place, the night was one to make a 
sensitive nature drunk. The trees along the resi- 

DRINK 263 

dence streets of the town were all newly clothed 
in soft green leaves, in the gardens behind the 
houses men were puttering about in vegetable gar- 
dens, and in the air there was a hush, a waiting 
kind of silence very stirring to the blood. 

Tom left his room on Duane Street just as the 
young night began to make itself felt. First he 
walked through the streets, going softly and 
quietly along, thinking thoughts that he tried to 
put into words. He said that Helen White was 
a flame dancing in the air and that he was a little 
tree without leaves standing out sharply against 
the sky. Then he said that she was a wind, a 
strong terrible wind, coming out of the darkness 
of a stormy sea and that he was a boat left on the 
shore of the sea by a fisherman. 

That idea pleased the boy and he sauntered 
along playing with it. He went into Main Street 
and sat on the curbing before Wracker's tobacco 
store. For an hour he lingered about listening to 
the talk of men, but it did not interest him much 
and he slipped away. Then he decided to get 
drunk and went into Willy's saloon and bought a 
bottle of whiskey. Putting the bottle into his 
pocket, he walked out of town, wanting to be 
alone to think more thoughts and to drink the 

Tom got drunk sitting on a bank of new grass 
beside the road about a mile north of town. Be- 


fore him was a white road and at his back an ap- 
ple orchard in full bloom. He took a drink out 
of the bottle and then lay down on the grass. He 
thought of mornings in Winesburg and of how the 
stones in the graveled driveway by Banker White's 
house were wet with dew and glistened in the 
morning light. He thought of the nights in the 
barn when it rained and he lay awake hearing the 
drumming of the rain drops and smelling the 
warm smell of horses and of hay. Then he 
thought of a storm that had gone roaring through 
Winesburg several days before and, his mind go- 
ing back, he relived the night he had spent on the 
train with his grandmother when the two were 
coming from Cincinnati. Sharply he remembered 
how strange it had seemed to sit quietly in the 
coach and to feel the power of the engine hurling 
the train along through the night. 

Tom got drunk in a very short time. He kept 
taking drinks from the bottle as the thoughts vis- 
ited him and when his head began to reel got up 
and walked along the road going away from 
Winesburg. There was a bridge on the road that 
ran out of Winesburg north to Lake Erie and the 
drunken boy made his way along the road to the 
bridge. There he sat down. He tried to drink 
again, but when he had taken the cork out of the 
bottle he became ill and put it quickly back. His 
head was rocking back and forth and so he sat on 

DRINK 265 

the stone approach to the bridge and sighed. His 
head seemed to be flying about like a pin wheel and 
then projecting itself off into space and his arms 
and legs flopped helplessly about. 

At eleven o'clock Tom got back into town. 
George Willard found him wandering about and 
took him into the Eagle printshop. Then he be- 
came afraid that the drunken boy would make a 
mess on the floor and helped him into the alley- 

The reporter was confused by Tom Foster. 
The drunken boy talked of Helen White and said 
he had been with her on the shore of a sea and 
had made love to her. George had seen Helen 
White walking in the street with her father during 
the evening and decided that Tom was out of his 
head. A sentiment concerning Helen White that 
lurked in his own heart flamed up and he became 
angry. "Now you quit that," he said. "I won't 
let Helen White's name be dragged into this. I 
won't let that happen." He began shaking Tom's 
shoulder, trying to make him understand. "You 
quit it," he said again. 

For three hours the two young men, thus 
strangely thrown together, stayed in the print- 
shop. When he had a little recovered George 
took Tom for a walk. They went into the coun- 
try and sat on a log near the edge of a wood. 
Something in the still night drew them together 


and when the drunken boy's head began to clear 
they talked. 

"It was good to be drunk," Tom Foster said. 
"It taught me something. I won't have to do it 
again. I will think more clearly after this. You 
see how it is." 

George Willard did not see, but his anger con- 
cerning Helen White passed and he felt drawn to- 
wards the pale, shaken boy as he had never before 
been drawn towards any one. With motherly so- 
licitude, he insisted that Tom get to his feet and 
walk about. Again they went back to the print- 
shop and sat in silence in the darkness. 

The reporter could not get the purpose of Tom 
Foster's action straightened out in his mind. 
When Tom spoke again of Helen White he again 
grew angry and began to scold. "You quit that," 
he said sharply. "You haven't been with her. 
What makes you say you have? What makes 
you keep saying such things? Now you quit it, 
do you hear?" 

Tom was hurt. He couldn't quarrel with 
George Willard because he was incapable of quar- 
reling, so he got up to go away. When George 
Willard was insistent he put out his hand, laying it 
on the older boy's arm, and tried to explain. 

"Well," he said softly, "I don't know how it 
was. I was happy. You see how that was. 
Helen White made me happy and the night did 

DRINK 267 

too. I wanted to suffer, to be hurt somehow. I 
thought that was what I should do. I wanted to 
suffer, you see, because every one suffers and does 
wrong. I thought of a lot of things to do, but 
they wouldn't work. They all hurt some one 

Tom Foster's voice arose, and for once in his 
life he became almost excited. "It was like mak- 
ing love, that's what I mean," he explained. 
"Don't you see how it is? It hurt me to do what 
I did and made everything strange. That's why 
I did it. I'm glad, too. It taught me something, 
that's it, that's what I wanted. Don't you under- 
stand ? I wanted to learn things, you see. That's 
why I did it." 


THE stairway leading up to Dr. Reefy' s of- 
fice, in the Heffner Block above the Paris 
Dry Goods Store, was but dimly lighted. 
At the head of the stairway hung a lamp with a 
dirty chimney that was fastened by a bracket to 
the wall. The lamp had a tin reflector, brown 
with rust and covered with dust. The people who 
went up the stairway followed with their feet the 
feet of many who had gone before. The soft 
boards of the stairs had yielded under the pres- 
sure of feet and deep hollows marked the way. 

At the top of the stairway a turn to the right 
brought you to the doctor's door. To the left 
was a dark hallway filled with rubbish. Old 
chairs, carpenter's horses, step ladders and empty 
boxes lay in the darkness waiting for shins to be 
barked. The pile of rubbish belonged to the 
Paris Dry Goods Co. When a counter or a row 
of shelves in the store became useless, clerks car- 
ried it up the stairway and threw it on the 

Doctor Reefy' s office was as large as a barn. 
A stove with a round paunch sat in the middle of 


DEATH 269 

the room. Around its base was piled sawdust, 
held in place by heavy planks nailed to the floor. 
By the door stood a huge table that had once been 
a part of the furniture of Herrick's Clothing Store 
and that had been used for displaying custom- 
made clothes. It was covered with books, bottles 
and surgical instruments. Near the edge of the 
table lay three or four apples left by John Span- 
iard, a tree nurseryman who was Doctor Reefy's 
friend, and who had slipped the apples out of his 
pocket as he came in at the door. 

At middle age Doctor Reefy was tall and awk- 
ward. The grey beard he later wore had not yet 
appeared, but on the upper lip grew a brown mus- 
tache. He was not a graceful man, as when he 
grew older, and was much occupied with the prob- 
lem of disposing of his hands and feet. 

On summer afternoons, when she had been 
married many years and when her son George was 
a boy of twelve or fourteen, Elizabeth Willard 
sometimes went up the worn steps to Doc- 
tor Reefy's office. Already the woman's nat- 
urally tall figure had begun to droop and to drag 
itself listlessly about. Ostensibly she went to see 
the doctor because of her health, but on the half 
dozen occasions when she had been to see him the 
outcome of the visits did not primarily concern her 
health. She and the doctor talked of that but 
they talked most of her life, of their two lives and 


of the ideas that had come to them as they lived 
their lives in Winesburg. 

In the big empty office the man and the woman 
sat looking at each other and they were a good 
deal alike. Their bodies were different as were 
also the color of their eyes, the length of their 
noses and the circumstances of their existence, 
but something inside them meant the same thing, 
wanted the same release, would have left the same 
impression on the memory of an onlooker. Later, 
and when he grew older and married a young wife, 
the doctor often talked to her of the hours spent 
with the sick woman and expressed a good many 
things he had been unable to express to Elizabeth. 
He was almost a poet in his old age and his no- 
tion of what happened took a poetic turn. "I 
had come to the time in my life when prayer be- 
came necessary and so I invented gods and prayed 
to them," he said. "I did not say my prayers in 
words nor did I kneel down but sat perfectly still 
in my chair. In the late afternoon when it was 
hot and quiet on Main Street or in the winter when 
the days were gloomy, the gods came into the office 
and I thought no one knew about them. Then I 
found that this woman Elizabeth knew, that she 
worshipped also the same gods. I have a notion 
that she came to the office because she thought the 
gods would be there but she was happy to find her- 
self not alone just the same. It was an experi- 

DEATH 271 

ence that cannot be explained, although I suppose 
it is always happening to men and women in all 
sorts of places." 

On the summer afternoons when Elizabeth and 
the doctor sat in the office and talked of their two 
lives they talked of other lives also. Sometimes 
the doctor made philosophic epigrams. Then he 
chuckled with amusement. Now and then after a 
period of silence, a word was said or a hint given 
that strangely illuminated the life of the speaker, 
a wish became a desire, or a dream, half dead, 
Sared suddenly into life. For the most part the 
words came from the woman and she said them 
without looking at the man. 

Each time she came to see the doctor the hotel 
keeper's wife talked a little more freely and after 
an hour or two in his presence went down 
the stairway into Main Street feeling renewed and 
strengthened against the dullness of her days. 
With something approaching a girlhood swing to 
her body she walked along, but when she had got 
back to her chair by the window of her room and 
when darkness had come on and a girl from the 
hotel dining room brought her dinner on a tray, 
she let it grow cold. Her thoughts ran away to 
her girlhood with its passionate longing for ad- 
venture and she remembered the arms of men that 
had held her when adventure was a possible thing 


for her. Particularly she remembered one who 
had for a time been her lover and who in the mo- 
ment of his passion had cried out to her more than 
a hundred times, saying the same words madly 
over and over: "You dear! You dear! You 
lovely dear!" The words she thought expressed 
something she would have liked to have achieved 
in life. 

In her room in the shabby old hotel the sick 
wife of the hotel keeper began to weep and put- 
ting her hands to her face rocked back and forth. 
The words of her one friend, Doctor Reefy, rang 
in her ears. "Love is like .a wind stirring the 
grass beneath trees on a black night/' he had said. 
"You must not try to make love definite. It is 
the divine accident of life. If you try to be defi- 
nite and sure about it and to live beneath the trees, 
where soft night winds blow, the long hot day of 
disappointment comes swiftly and the gritty dust 
from passing wagons gathers upon lips inflamed 
and made tender by kisses." 

Elizabeth Willard could not remember her 
mother who had died when she was but five years 
old. Her girlhood had been lived in the most 
haphazard manner imaginable. Her father was 
a man who had wanted to be let alone and the 
affairs of the hotel would not let him alone. He 
also had lived and died a sick man. Every 

DEATH 273 

day he arose with a cheerful face, but by ten 
o'clock in the morning all the joy had gone out of 
his heart. When a guest complained of the fare 
in the hotel dining room or one of the girls who 
made up the beds got married and went away, he 
stamped on the floor and swore. At night when 
he went to bed he thought of his daughter growing 
up among the stream of people that drifted in and 
out of the hotel and was overcome with sadness. 
As the girl grew older and began to walk out in 
the evening with men he wanted to talk to her, but 
when he tried was not successful. He always for- 
got what he wanted to say and spent the time com- 
plaining of his own affairs. 

In her girlhood and young womanhood Eliza- 
beth had tried to be a real adventurer in life. At 
eighteen life had so gripped her that she was no 
longer a virgin but, although she had a half dozen 
lovers before she married Tom Willard, she had 
never entered upon an adventure prompted by de- 
sire alone. Like all the women in the world, she 
wanted a real lover. Always there was something 
she sought blindly, passionately, some hidden 
wonder in life. The tall beautiful girl with the 
swinging stride who had walked under the trees 
with men was forever putting out her hand into 
the darkness and trying to get hold of some other 
hand. In all the babble of words that fell from 


the lips of the men with whom she adventured she 
was trying to find what would be for her the true 

Elizabeth had married Tom Willard, a clerk in 
her father's hotel, because he was at hand and 
wanted to marry at the time when the determina- 
tion to marry came to her. For a while, like most 
young girls, she thought marriage would change 
the face of life. If there was in her mind a doubt 
of the outcome of the marriage with Tom she 
brushed it aside. Her father was ill and near 
death at the time and she was perplexed because 
of the meaningless outcome of an affair in which 
she had just been involved. Other girls of her 
age in Winesburg were marrying men she had al- 
ways known, grocery clerks or young farmers. In 
the evening they walked in Main Street with their 
husbands and when she passed they smiled hap- 
pily. She began to think that the fact of marriage 
might be full of some hidden significance. Young 
wives with whom she talked spoke softly and 
shyly. "It changes things to have a man of your 
own," they said. 

On the evening before her marriage the per- 
plexed girl had a talk with her father. Later she 
wondered if the hours alone with the sick man 
had not led to her decision to marry. The father 
talked of his life and advised the daughter to 
avoid being led into another such muddle. He 

DEATH 275 

abused Tom Willard, and that led Elizabeth to 
come to the clerk's defense. The sick man be- 
came excited and tried to get out of bed. When 
she would not let him walk about he began to 
complain. "I've never been let alone," he said. 
"Although I've worked hard Fve not made the 
hotel pay. Even now I owe money at the bank. 
You'll find that out when I'm gone." 

The voice of the sick man became tense with 
earnestness. Being unable to arise, he put out 
his hand and pulled the girl's head down beside 
his own. "There's a way out," he whispered. 
"Don't marry Tom Willard or any one else here 
in Winesburg. There is eight hundred dollars in 
a tin box in my trunk. Take it and go away." 

Again the sick man's voice became querulous. 
"You've got to promise," he declared. "If you 
won't promise not to marry, give me your word 
that you'll never tell Tom about the money. It 
is mine and if I give it to you I've the right to 
make that demand. Hide it away. It is to make 
up to you for my failure as a father. Some time 
it may prove to be a door, a great open door to 
you. Come now, I tell you I'm about to die, give 
me your promise." 

In Doctor Reefy's office, Elizabeth, a tired 
gaunt old woman at forty-one, sat in a chair near 
the stove and looked at the floor. By a small 


desk near the window sat the doctor. His hands 
played with a lead pencil that lay on the desk. 
Elizabeth talked of her life as a married woman. 
She became impersonal and forgot her husband, 
only using him as a lay figure to give point to her 
tale. "And then I was married and it did not 
turn out at all," she said bitterly. "As soon as I 
had gone into it I began to be afraid. Perhaps 
I knew too much before and then perhaps I found 
out too much during my first night with him. I 
don't remember. 

"What a fool I was. When father gave me the 
money and tried to talk me out of the thought of 
marriage, I would not listen. I thought of what 
the girls who were married had said of it and I 
wanted marriage also. It wasn't Tom I wanted, 
it was marriage. When father went to sleep I 
leaned out of the window and thought of the life 
I had led. I didn't want to be a bad woman. 
The town was full of stories about me. I even 
began to be afraid Tom would change his mind." 

The woman's voice began to quiver with excite- 
ment. To Doctor Reefy, who without realizing 
what was happening had begun to love her, there 
came an odd illusion. He thought that as she 
talked the woman's body was changing, that 
she was becoming younger, straighter, stronger. 
When he could not shake off the illusion his mind 
gave it a professional twist. "It is good for both 

DEATH 277 

her body and her mind, this talking," he mut- 

The woman began telling of an incident that 
had happened one afternoon a few months after 
her marriage. Her voice became steadier. "In 
the late afternoon I went for a drive alone," she 
said. "I had a buggy and a little grey pony I 
kept in Mover's Livery. Tom was painting and 
repapering rooms in the hotel. He wanted 
money and I was trying to make up my mind to 
tell him about the eight hundred dollars father 
had given to me. I couldn't decide to do it. I 
didn't like him well enough. There was always 
paint on his hands and face during those days and 
he smelled of paint. He was trying to fix up the 
old hotel, make it new and smart." 

The excited woman sat up very straight in her 
chair and made a quick girlish movement with her 
hand as she told of the drive alone on the spring 
afternoon. "It was cloudy and a storm threat- 
ened," she said. "Black clouds made the green 
of the trees and the grass stand out so that the 
colors hurt my eyes. I went out Trunion Pike a 
mile or more and then turned into a side road. 
The little horse went quickly along up hill and 
down. I was impatient. Thoughts came and I 
wanted to get away from my thoughts. I began 
to beat the horse. The black clouds settled down 
and it began to rain. I wanted to go at a terri- 


ble speed, to drive on and on forever. I wanted 
to get out of town, out of my clothes, out of my 
marriage, out of my body, out of everything. I 
almost killed the horse, making him run, and when 
he could not run any more I got out of the buggy 
and ran afoot into the darkness until I fell and 
hurt my side. I wanted to run away from every- 
thing but I wanted to run towards something too. 
Don't you see, dear, how it was?" 

Elizabeth sprang out of the chair and began to 
walk about in the office. She walked as Doctor 
Reefy thought he had never seen any one walk be- 
fore. To her whole body there was a swing, a 
rhythm that intoxicated him. When she came 
and knelt on the floor beside his chair he took her 
into his arms and began to kiss her passionately. 
"I cried all the way home," she said, as she tried 
to continue the story of her wild ride, but he did 
not listen. u You dear I You lovely dear! Oh 
you lovely dear !" he muttered and thought he held 
in his arms, not the tired out woman of forty-one 
but a lovely and innocent girl who had been able 
by some miracle to project herself out of the husk 
of the body of the tired-out woman. 

Doctor Reefy did not see the woman he had 
held in his arms again until after her death. On 
the summer afternoon in the office when he was 
on the point of becoming her lover a half gro- 
tesque little incident brought his love-making 

DEATH 279 

quickly to an end. As the man and woman held 
each other tightly heavy feet came tramping up 
the office stairs. The two sprang to their feet 
and stood listening and trembling. The noise on 
the stairs was made by a clerk from the Paris 
Dry Goods Store Co. With a loud bang he threw 
an empty box on the pile of rubbish in the hallway 
and then went heavily down the stairs. Eliza- 
beth followed him almost immediately. The 
thing that had come to life in her as she talked to 
her one friend died suddenly. She was hysterical, 
as was also Doctor Reefy, and did not want to 
continue the talk. Along the street she went with 
the blood still singing in her body, but when she 
turned out of Main Street and saw ahead the 
lights of the New Willard House, she began to 
tremble and her knees shook so that for a 
moment she thought she would fall in the 

The sick woman spent the last few months of 
her life hungering for death. Along the road of 
death she went, seeking, hungering. She person- 
ified the figure of death and made him, now a 
strong black-haired youth running over hills, 
now a stern quiet man marked and scarred by 
the business of living. In the darkness of her 
room she put out her hand, thrusting it from under 
the covers of her bed, and she thought that death 
like a living thing put out his hand to her. u Be 


patient, lover," she whispered. "Keep yourself 
young and beautiful and be patient." 

On the evening when disease laid its heavy hand 
upon her and defeated her plans for telling her son 
George of the eight hundred dollars hidden away, 
she got out of bed and crept half across the room 
pleading with death for another hour of life. 
"Wait, dear ! The boy ! The boy ! The boy I" 
she pleaded as she tried with all of her strength 
to fight off the arms of the lover she had wanted 
so earnestly. 


Elizabeth died one day in March in the year 
when her son George became eighteen, and the 
young man had but little sense of the meaning of 
her death. Only time could give him that. For 
a month he had seen her lying white and still and 
speechless in her bed, and then one afternoon the 
doctor stopped him in the hallway and said a few 

The young man went into his own room and 
closed the door. He had a queer empty feeling 
in the region of his stomach. For a moment he 
sat staring at the floor and then jumping up 
went for a walk. Along the station platform 
he went, and around through residence streets 
past the high school building, thinking almost en- 
tirely of his own affairs. The notion of death 
could not get hold of him and he was in fact a 

DEATH 281 

little annoyed that his mother had died on that 
day. He had just received a note from Helen 
White, the daughter of the town banker, in answer 
to one from him. "Tonight I could have gone to 
see her and now it will have to be put off," he 
thought half angrily. 

Elizabeth died on a Friday afternoon at 
three o'clock. It had been cold and rainy in 
the morning but in the afternoon the sun came out. 
Before she died she lay paralyzed for six days 
unable to speak or move and with only her mind 
and her eyes alive. For three of the six days she 
struggled, thinking of her boy, trying to say some 
few words in regard to his future, and in her eyes 
there was an appeal so touching that all who saw 
it kept the memory of the dying woman in their 
minds for years. Even Tom Willard who had 
always half resented his wife forgot his resent- 
ment and the tears ran out of his eyes and lodged 
in his mustache. The mustache had begun to 
turn grey and Tom colored it with dye. There 
was oil in the preparation he used for the pur- 
pose and the tears, catching in the mustache and 
being brushed away by his hand, formed a fine 
mist-like vapor. In his grief Tom Willard's face 
looked like the face of a little dog that has been 
out a long time in bitter weather. 

George came home along Main Street at dark 
on the day of his mother's death and, after going 


to his own room to brush his hair and clothes, went 
along the hallway and into the room where the 
body lay. There was a candle on the dressing 
table by the door and Doctor Reefy sat in a chair 
by the bed. The doctor arose and started to go 
out. He put out his hand as though to greet the 
younger man and then awkwardly drew it back 
again. The air of the room was heavy with the 
presence of the two self-conscious human beings, 
and the man hurried away. 

The dead woman's son sat down in a chair and 
looked at the floor. He again thought of his own 
affairs and definitely decided he would make a 
change in his life, that he would leave Winesburg. 
"I will go to some city. Perhaps I can get a job 
on some newspaper," he thought and then his mind 
turned to the girl with whom he was to have spent 
this evening and again he was half angry at the 
turn of events that had prevented his going to her. 

In the dimly lighted room with the dead woman 
the young man began to have thoughts. His 
mind played with thoughts of life as his mother's 
mind had played with the thought of death. He 
closed his eyes and imagined that the red young 
lips of Helen White touched his own lips. His 
body trembled and his hands shook. And then 
something happened. The boy sprang to his feet 
and stood stiffly. He looked at the figure of the 
dead woman under the sheets and shame for his 

DEATH 283 

thoughts swept over him so that he began to weep. 
A new notion came into his mind and he turned 
and looked guiltily about as though afraid he 
would be observed. 

George Willard became possessed of a mad- 
ness to lift the sheet from the body of his mother 
and look at her face. The thought that had come 
into his mind gripped him terribly. He became 
convinced that not his mother but some one else 
lay in the bed before him. The conviction was so 
real that it was almost unbearable. The body 
under the sheets was long and in death looked 
young and graceful. To the boy, held by some 
strange fancy, it was unspeakably lovely. The 
feeling that the body before him was alive, that 
in another moment a lovely woman would spring 
out of the bed and confront him became so over- 
powering that he could not bear the suspense. 
Again and again he put out his hand. Once he 
touched and half lifted the white sheet that cov- 
ered her, but his courage failed and he, like Doc- 
tor Reefy, turned and went out of the room. In 
the hallway outside the door he stopped and trem- 
bled so that he had to put a hand against the wall 
to support himself. "That's not my mother. 
That's not my mother in there," he whispered to 
himself and again his body shook with fright and 
uncertainty. When Aunt Elizabeth Swift, who 
had come to watch over the body, came out of an 


adjoining room he put his hand into hers and be- 
gan* to sob,* shaking his head from side to side, 
half blind with grief. "My mother is dead," he 
said, and then forgetting the woman he turned 
and stared at the door through which he had just 
come. "The dear, the dear, oh the lovely dear," 
the boy, urged by some impulse outside himself, 
muttered aloud. 

As for the eight hundred dollars, the dead 
woman had kept hidden so long and that was to 
give George Willard his start in the city, it lay 
in the tin box behind the plaster by the foot of 
his mother's bed. Elizabeth had put it there a 
week after her marriage, breaking the plaster 
away with a stick. Then she got one of the work- 
men her husband was at that time employing about 
the hotel to mend the wall. "I jammed the cor- 
ner of the bed against it," she had explained to 
her husband, unable at the moment to give up her 
dream of release, the release that after all came to 
her but twice in her life, in the moments when her 
lovers Death and Doctor Reefy held her in their 


IT was early evening of a day in the late fall 
and the Winesburg County Fair had brought 
crowds of country people into town. The 
day had been clear and the night came on warm 
and pleasant. On the Trunion Pike, where the 
road after it left town stretched away between 
berry fields now covered with dry brown leaves, 
the dust from passing wagons arose in clouds. 
Children, curled into little balls, slept on the straw 
scattered on wagon beds. Their hair was full of 
dust and their fingers black and sticky. The dust 
rolled away over the fields and the departing sun 
set it ablaze with colors. 

In the main street of Winesburg crowds filled 
the stores and the sidewalks. Night came on, 
horses whinnied, the clerks in the stores ran madly 
about, children became lost and cried lustily, an 
American town worked terribly at the task of 
amusing itself. 

Pushing his way through the crowds in Main 
Street, young George Willard concealed himself 
in the stairway leading to Doctor Reefy's office 
and looked at the people. With feverish eyes he 



watched the faces drifting past under the store 
lights. Thoughts kept coming into his head and 
he did not want to think. He stamped impa- 
tiently on the wooden steps and looked sharply 
about. "Well, is she going to stay with him all 
day? Have I done all this waiting for nothing?" 
he muttered. 

George Willard, the Ohio village boy, was fast 
grbwing into manhood and new thoughts had been 
coming into his mind. All that day, amid the 
jam of people at the Fair, he had gone about feel- 
ing lonely. He was about to leave Winesburg 
to go away to some city where he hoped to get 
work on a city newspaper and he felt grown up. 
The mood that had taken possession of him was 
a thing known to men and unknown to boys. He 
felt old and a little tired. Memories awoke in 
him. To his mind his new sense of maturity 
set him apart, made of him a half-tragic figure. 
He wanted someone to understand the feeling 
that had taken possession of him after his mother's 

There is a time in the life of every boy when he 
for the first time takes the backward view of life. 
Perhaps that is the moment when he crosses the 
line into manhood. The boy is walking through 
the street of his town. He is thinking of the 
future and of the figure he will cut in the world. 
Ambitions and regrets awake within him. Sud- 


denly something happens; he stops under a tree 
and waits as for a voice calling his name. Ghosts 
of old things creep into his consciousness; the 
voices outside of himself whisper a message con- 
cerning the limitations of life. From being quite 
sure of himself and his future he becomes not at 
all sure. If he be an imaginative boy a door is 
torn open and for the first time he looks out upon 
the world, seeing, as though they marched in pro- 
cession before him, the countless figures of men 
who before his time have come out of nothingness 
into the world, lived their lives and again disap- 
peared into nothingness. The sadness of sophis- 
tication has come to the boy. With a little gasp 
he sees "himself as merely a leaf blown by the wind 
through the streets of his village. He knows that 
in spite of all the stout talk of his fellows he must 
live and die in uncertainty, a thing blown by the 
winds, a thing destined like corn to wilt in the sun. 
He shivers and looks eagerly about. The eighteen 
years he has lived seem but a moment, a breath- 
ing space in the long march of humanity. Already 
he hears death calling. With all his heart he 
wants to come close to some other human, touch 
someone with his hands, be touched by the hand 
of another. If he prefers that the other be a 
woman, that is because he believes that a woman 
will be gentle, that she will understand. He 
wants, most of all, understanding. 


When the moment of sophistication came to 
George Willard his mind turned to Helen White, 
the Winesburg banker's daughter. Always he 
had been conscious of the girl growing into woman- 
hood as he grew into manhood. Once on a sum- 
mer night when he was eighteen, he had walked 
with her on a country road and in her presence 
had given way to an impulse to boast, to make 
himself appear big and significant in her eyes. 
Now he wanted to. see her for another purpose. 
He wanted to tell her of the new impulses that 
had come to him. He had tried to make her think 
of him as a man when he knew nothing of man- 
hood and now he wanted to be with her and to 
try to make her feel the change he believed had 
] taken place in his nature. 

As for Helen White, she also had come to a 
period of change. What George felt, she in her 
young woman's way felt also. She was no longer 
a girl and hungered to reach into the grace and 
beauty of womanhood. She had come home from 
Cleveland, where she was attending college, to 
spend a day at the Fair. She also had begun to 
have memories. During the day she sat in the 
grandstand with a young man, one of the instruc- 
tors from the college, who was a guest of her 
mother's. The young man was of a pedantic turn 
of mind and she felt at once he would not do for 
her purpose. At the Fair she was glad to be seen 


in his company as he was well dressed and a stran- 
ger. She knew that the fact of his presence would 
create an impression. During the day she was 
happy, but when night came on she began to grow 
restless. She wanted to drive the instructor away, 
to get out of his presence. While they sat 
together in the grand-stand and while the eyes of 
former schoolmates were upon them, she paid so 
much attention to her escort that he grew inter- 
ested. "A scholar needs money. I should marry 
a woman with money," he mused. 

Helen White was thinking of George Willard 
even as he wandered gloomily through the crowds 
thinking of her. She remembered the summer 
evening when they had walked together and 
wanted to walk with him again. She thought that 
the months she had spent in the city, the going 
to theatres and the seeing of great crowds wan- 
dering in lighted thoroughfares, had changed her 
profoundly. She wanted him to feel and be con- 
scious of the change in her nature. 

The summer evening together that had left its 
mark on the memory of both the young man and 
woman had, when looked at quite sensibly, been 
rather stupidly spent. They had walked out of 
town along a country road. Then they had 
stopped by a fence near a field of young corn and 
George had taken off his coat and let it hang on 
his arm. "Well, I've stayed here in Winesburg 


yes I've not yet gone away but I'm growing 
up," he had said. "I've been reading books and 
I've been thinking. I'm going to try to amount to 
something in life. 

"Well," he explained, "that isn't the point. 
Perhaps I'd better quit talking." 

The confused boy put his hand on the girl's arm. 
His voice trembled. The two started to walk 
back along the road toward town. In his desper- 
ation George boasted, "I'm going to be a big man, 
the biggest that ever lived here in Winesburg," 
he declared. "I want you to do something, I 
don't know what. Perhaps it is none of my busi- 
ness. I want you to try to be different from other 
women. You see the point. It's none of my 
business I tell you. I want you to be a beautiful 
woman. You see what I want." 

The boy's voice failed and in silence the two 
came back into town and went along the street to 
Helen White's house. At the gate he tried to 
say something impressive. Speeches he had 
thought out came into his head, but they seemed 
utterly pointless. "I thought I used to think 
I had it in my mind you would marry Seth Rich- 
mond. Now I know you won't," was all he 
could find to say as she went through the gate and 
toward the door of her house. 

On the warm fall evening as he stood in the 
stairway and looked at the crowd drifting through 


Main Street, George thought of the talk beside 
the field of young corn and was ashamed of the 
figure he had made of himself. In the street the 
people surged up and down like cattle confined in 
a pen. Buggies and wagons almost filled the nar- 
row thoroughfare. A band played and small 
boys raced along the sidewalk, diving between 
the legs of men. Young men with shining red 
faces walked awkwardly about with girls on their 
arms. In a room above one of the stores, where 
a dance was to be held, the fiddlers tuned their 
instruments. The broken sounds floated down 
through an open window and out across the mur- 
mer of voices and the loud blare of the horns of 
the band. The medley of sounds got on young 
Willard's nerves. Everywhere, on all sides, the 
sense of crowding, moving life closed in about 
him. He wanted to run away by himself and 
think. "If she wants to stay with that fellow she 
may. Why should I care? What difference 
does it make to me?" he growled and went along 
Main Street and through Hern's grocery into a 
side street. 

George felt so utterly lonely and dejected that 
he wanted to weep but pride made him walk rap- 
idly along, swinging his arms. He came to West- 
ley Mover's livery barn and stopped in the shad- 
ows to listen to a group of men who talked of a 
race Westley's stallion, Tony Tip, had won at the 


Fair during the afternoon. A crowd had gath- 
ered in front of the barn and before the crowd 
walked Westley, prancing up and down and boast- 
ing. He held a whip in his hand and kept tap- 
ping the ground. Little puffs of dust arose in the 
lamplight. "Hell, quit your talking," Westley 
exclaimed. "I wasn't afraid, I knew I had 'em 
beat all the time. I wasn't afraid." 

Ordinarily George Willard would have been 
intensely interested in the boasting of Moyer, the 
horseman. Now it made him angry. He turned 
and hurried away along the street. "Old wind- 
bag," he sputtered. "Why does he want to be 
bragging? Why don't he shut up?" 

George went into a vacant lot and as he hur- 
ried along, fell over a pile of rubbish. A nail pro- 
truding from an empty barrel tore his trousers. 
He sat down on the ground and swore. With a 
pin he mended the torn place and then arose and 
went on. "I'll go to Helen White's house, that's 
what I'll do. I'll walk right in. I'll say that I 
want to see her. I'll walk right in and sit down, 
that's what I'll do," he declared, climbing over a 
fence and beginning to run. 

On the veranda of Banker White's house Helen 

was restless and distraught. The instructor sat 
between the mother and daughter. His talk 
wearied the girl. Although he had also been 


raised in an Ohio town, the instructor began to 
put on the airs of the city. He wanted to appear 
cosmopolitan. "I like the chance you have given 
me to study the background out of which most of 
our girls come," he declared. "It was good of 
you, Mrs. White, to have me down for the day." 
He turned to Helen and laughed. "Your life is 
still bound up with the life of this town?" he 
asked. "There are people here in whom you are 
interested?" To the girl his voice sounded pom- 
pous and heavy. 

Helen arose and went into the house. At the 
door leading to a garden at the back she stopped 
and stood listening. Her mother began to talk. 
"There is no one here fit to associate with a girl 
of Helen's breeding," she said. 

Helen ran down a flight of stairs at the back of 
the house and into the garden. In the darkness 
she stopped and stood trembling. It seemed to 
her that the world was full of meaningless people 
saying words. Afire with eagerness she ran 
through a garden gate and turning a corner by 
the banker's barn, went into a little side street. 
"George! Where are you, George?" she cried, 
filled with nervous excitement. She stopped run- 
ning, and leaned against a tree to laugh hysteri- 
cally. Along the dark little street came George 
Willard, still saying words. "I'm going to walk 
right into her house. I'll go right in and sit 


down," he declared as he came up to her. He 
stopped and stared stupidly. "Come on," he said 
and took hold of her hand. With hanging heads 
they walked away along the street under the trees. 
Dry leaves rustled under foot. Now that he had 
found her George wondered what he had better 
do and say. 

At the upper end of the fair ground, in Wines- 
burg, there is a half decayed old grand-stand. It 
has never been painted and the boards are all 
warped out of shape. The fair ground stands on 
top of a low hill rising out of the valley of Wine 
Creek and from the grand-stand one can see at 
night, over a cornfield, the lights of the town re- 
flected against the sky. 

George and Helen climbed the hill to the fair 
ground, coming by the path past Waterworks 
Pond. The feeling of loneliness and isolation 
that had come to the young man in the crowded 
streets of his town was both broken and intensi- 
fied by the presence of Helen. What he felt was 
reflected in her. 

In youth there are always two forces fighting in 
people. The warm unthinking little animal strug- 
gles against the thing that reflects and remembers, 
and the older, the more sophisticated thing had 
possession of George Willard. Sensing his mood, 
Helen walked beside him filled with respect. 


When they got to the grand-stand they climbed up 
under the roof and sat down on one of the long 
bench-like seats. 

There is something memorable in the experience 
to be had by going into a fair ground that stands 
at the edge of a Middle Western town on a night 
after the annual fair has been held. The sensa- 
tion is one never to be forgotten. On all sides are 
ghosts, not of the dead, but of living people. 
Here, during the day just passed, have come the 
people pouring in from the town and the country 
around. Farmers with their wives and children 
and all the people from the hundreds of little 
frame houses have gathered within these board 
walls. Young girls have laughed and men with 
beards have talked of the affairs of their lives. 
The place has been filled to overflowing with life. 
It has itched and squirmed with life and now it is 
night and the life has all gone away. The silence 
is almost terrifying. One conceals oneself stand- 
ing silently beside the trunk of a tree and what 
there is of a reflective tendency in his nature is in- 
tensified. One shudders at the thought of the 
meaninglessness of life while at the same instant, 
and if the people of the town are his people, one 
loves life so intensely that tears come into the 

In the darkness under the roof of the grand- 
stand, George Willard sat beside Helen White 


and felt very keenly his own insignificance in the 
scheme of existence. Now that he had come out 
of town where the presence of the people stirring 
about, busy with a multitude of affairs, had been 
so irritating the irritation was all gone. The 
presence of Helen renewed and refreshed him. 
It was as though her woman's hand was assisting 
him to make some minute readjustment of the ma- 
chinery of his life. He began to think of the peo- 
ple in the town where he had always lived with 
something like reverence. He had reverence for 
Helen. He wanted to love and to be loved by 
her, but he did not want at the moment to be con- 
fused by her womarihood. In the darkness he took 
hold of her hand and when she crept close put a 
hand on her shoulder. A wind began to blow and 
he shivered. With all his strength he tried to 
hold and to understand the mood that had come 
upon him. In that high place in the darkness the 
two oddly sensitive human atoms held each other 
tightly and waited. In the mind of each was the 
same thought. "I have come to this lonely place 
and here is this other," was the substance of the 
thing felt. 

In Winesburg the crowded day had run it- 
self out into the long night of the late fall. Farm 
horses jogged away along lonely country roads 
pulling their portion of weary people. Clerks 
began to bring samples of goods in off the side- 


walks and lock the doors of stores. In the Opera 
House a crowd had gathered to see a show and 
further down Main Street the fiddlers, their in- 
struments tuned, sweated and worked to keep the 
feet of youth flying over a dance floor. 

In the darkness in the grand-stand Helen White 
and George Willard remained silent. Now and 
then the spell that held them was broken and they 
turned and tried in the dim light to see into each 
others eyes. They kissed but that impulse did not 
last. At the upper end of the fair ground a half 
dozen men worked over horses that had raced dur- 
ing the afternoon. The men had built a fire and 
were heating kettles of water. Only their legs 
could be seen as they passed back and forth in the 
light. When the wind blew the little flames of the 
fire danced crazily about. 

George and Helen arose and walked away into 
the darkness. They went along a path past a 
field of corn that had not yet been cut. The wind 
whispered among the dry corn blades. For a mo- 
ment during the walk back into town the spell 
that held them was broken. When they had come 
to the crest of Waterworks Hill they stopped by 
a tree and George again put his hands on the girl's 
shoulders. She embraced him eagerly and then 
again they drew quickly back from that impulse. 
They stopped kissing and stood a little apart. 
Mutual respect grew big in them. They were 


both embarrassed and to relieve their embarrass- 
ment dropped into the animalism of youth. They 
laughed and began to pull and haul at each other. 
In some way chastened and purified by the mood 
they had been in they became, not man and woman, 
not boy and girl, but excited little animals. 

It was so they went down the hill. In the dark- 
ness they played like two splendid young things 
in a young world. Once, running swiftly forward, 
Helen tripped George and he fell. He squirmed 
and shouted. Shaking with laughter, he rolled 
down the hill. Helen ran after him. For just a 
moment she stopped in the darkness. There is 
no way of knowing what woman's thoughts went 
through her mind but, when the bottom of the hill 
was reached and she came up to the boy, she took 
his arm and walked beside him in dignified silence. 
For some reason they could not have explained 
they had both got from their silent evening to- 
gether the thing needed. Man or boy, woman or 
girl, they had for a moment taken hold of the 
thing that makes the mature life of men and 
women in the modern world possible. 


YOUNG George Willard got out of bed 
at four in the morning. It was April and 
the young tree leaves were just coming out 
of their buds. The trees along the residence 
streets in Winesburg are maple and the seeds are 
winged. When the wind blows they whirl crazily 
about, filling the air and making a carpet under- 

George came down stairs into the hotel office 
carrying a brown leather bag. His trunk was 
packed for departure. Since two o'clock he had 
been awake thinking of the journey he was about 
to take and wondering what he would find at the 
end of his journey. The boy who slept in the 
hotel office lay on a cot by the door. His mouth 
was open and he snored lustily. George crept 
past the cot and went out into the silent deserted 
main street. The east was pink with the dawn 
and long streaks of light climbed into the sky 
where a few stars still shone. 

Beyond the last house on Trunion Pike in 
Winesburg there is a great stretch of open fields. 
The fields are owned by farmers who live in town 



and drive homeward at evening along Trunion 
Pike in light creaking wagons. In the fields are 
planted berries and small fruits. In the late aft- 
ernoon in the hot summers when the road and the 
fields are covered with dust, a smoky haze lies over 
the great flat basin of land. To look across it is 
like looking out across the sea. In the spring 
when the land is green the effect is somewhat dif- 
ferent. The land becomes a wide green billiard 
table on which tiny human insects toil up and 

All through his boyhood and young manhood 
George Willard had been in the habit of walking 
on Trunion Pike. He had been in the midst of 
the great open place on winter nights when it 
was covered with snow and only the moon looked 
down at him; he had been there in the fall when 
bleak winds blew and on summer evenings when 
the air vibrated with the song of insects. On the 
April morning he wanted to go there again, to 
walk again in the silence. He did walk to where 
the road dipped down by a little stream two miles 
from town and then turned and walked silently 
back again. When he got to Main Street clerks 
were sweeping the sidewalks before the stores. 
"Hey, you George. How does it feel to be going 
away?" they asked. 

The west bound train leaves Winesburg at seven 
forty-five in the morning. Tom Little is conduc- 


tor. His train runs from Cleveland to where 
it connects with a great trunk line railroad with 
terminals in Chicago and New York. Tom has 
what in railroad circles is called an "easy run." 
Every evening he returned to his family. In the 
fall and spring he spends his Sundays fishing in 
Lake Erie. He has a round red face and small 
blue eyes. He knows the people in the towns 
along his railroad better than a city man knows 
the people who live in his apartment building. 

George came down the little incline from the 
New Willard House at seven o'clock. Tom Wil- 
lard carried his bag. The son had become taller 
than the father. 

On the station platform everyone shook the 
young man's hand. More than a dozen people 
waited about. Then they talked of their own af- 
fairs. Even Will Henderson, who was lazy and 
often slept until nine, had got out of bed. George 
was embarrassed. Gertrude Wilmot, a tall thin 
woman of fifty who worked in the Winesburg post 
office, came along the station platform. She had 
never before paid any attention to George. Now 
she stopped and put out her hand. In two words 
she voiced what everyone felt. "Good luck/' she 
said sharply and then turning went on her way. 

When the train came into the station George 
felt relieved. He scampered hurriedly aboard. 
Helen White came running along Main Street 


hoping to have a parting word with him, but he 
had found a seat and did not see her. When the 
train started Tom Little punched his ticket, 
grinned and, although he knew George well and 
knew on what adventure he was just setting out, 
made no comment. Tom had seen a thousand 
George Willards go out of their towns to the city. 
It was a commonplace enough incident with him. 
In the smoking car there was a man who had just 
invited Tom to go on a fishing trip to Sandusky 
Bay. He wanted to accept the invitation and talk 
over details. 

George glanced up and down the car to be sure 
no one was looking then took out his pocketbook 
and counted his money. His mind was occupied 
with a desire not to appear green. Almost the 
last words his father had said to him concerned 
the matter of his behavior when he got to the city. 
"Be a sharp-one," Tom Willard had said. "Keep 
your eyes on your money. Be awake. That's 
the ticket. Don't let any one think you're a green- 

After George counted his money he looked out 
of the window and was surprised to see that the 
train was still in Winesburg. 

The young man, going out of his town to meet 
the adventure of life, began to think but he did 
not think of anything very big or dramatic. 
Things like his mother's death, his departure from 


Winesburg, the uncertainty^ of his future life in 
the city, the serious and larger aspects of his life 
did not come into his mind. 

He thought of little things Turk Smallet 
wheeling boards through the main street "of his 
town in the morning, a tall woman, beautifully 
gowned, who had once stayed over night at his 
father's hotel, Butch Wheeler the lamp lighter of 
Winesburg hurrying through the streets on a sum- 
mer evening and holding a torch in his hand, 
Helen White standing by a window in the Wines- 
burg post office and putting a stamp on an en- 

The young man's mind was carried away by 
his growing passion for dreams. One looking at 
him would not have thought him particularly 
sharp. With the recollection of little things oc- 
cupying his mind he closed his eyes and leaned 
back in the car seat. He stayed that way for a 
long time and when he aroused himself and again 
looked out of the car window the town of Wines- 
burg had disappeared and his life there had be- 
come but a background on which to paint the 
dreams of his manhood. 





- 1980 

MAR 2 1987