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´╗┐Title: Winesburg, Ohio; a group of tales of Ohio small town life
Author: Anderson, Sherwood, 1876-1941
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Winesburg, Ohio; a group of tales of Ohio small town life" ***

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Winesburg, Ohio





HANDS, concerning Wing Biddlebaum

PAPER PILLS, concerning Doctor Reefy

MOTHER, concerning Elizabeth Willard

THE PHILOSOPHER, concerning Doctor Parcival

NOBODY KNOWS, concerning Louise Trunnion

GODLINESS, a Tale in Four Parts
       I, concerning Jesse Bentley
       II, also concerning Jesse Bentley
       III Surrender, concerning Louise Bentley
       IV Terror, concerning David Hardy

A MAN OF IDEAS, concerning Joe Welling

ADVENTURE, concerning Alice Hindman

RESPECTABILITY, concerning Wash Williams

THE THINKER, concerning Seth Richmond

TANDY, concerning Tandy Hard

THE STRENGTH OF GOD, concerning the
       Reverend Curtis Hartman

THE TEACHER, concerning Kate Swift

LONELINESS, concerning Enoch Robinson

AN AWAKENING, concerning Belle Carpenter

"QUEER," concerning Elmer Cowley

THE UNTOLD LIE, concerning Ray Pearson

DRINK, concerning Tom Foster

DEATH, concerning Doctor Reefy
       and Elizabeth Willard

SOPHISTICATION, concerning Helen White

DEPARTURE, concerning George Willard


by Irving Howe

I must have been no more than fifteen or sixteen years old
when I first chanced upon Winesburg, Ohio. Gripped by these
stories and sketches of Sherwood Anderson's small-town
"grotesques," I felt that he was opening for me new depths
of experience, touching upon half-buried truths which
nothing in my young life had prepared me for. A New York
City boy who never saw the crops grow or spent time in the
small towns that lay sprinkled across America, I found
myself overwhelmed by the scenes of wasted life, wasted
love--was this the "real" America?--that Anderson sketched
in Winesburg. In those days only one other book seemed to
offer so powerful a revelation, and that was Thomas Hardy's
Jude the Obscure.

Several years later, as I was about to go overseas as
a soldier, I spent my last week-end pass on a somewhat
quixotic journey to Clyde, Ohio, the town upon which
Winesburg was partly modeled. Clyde looked, I suppose, not
very different from most other American towns, and the few
of its residents I tried to engage in talk about Anderson
seemed quite uninterested. This indifference would not have
surprised him; it certainly should not surprise anyone who
reads his book.

Once freed from the army, I started to write literary
criticism, and in 1951 I published a critical biography
of Anderson. It came shortly after Lionel Trilling's
influential essay attacking Anderson, an attack from
which Anderson's reputation would never quite recover.
Trilling charged Anderson with indulging a vaporous
sentimentalism, a kind of vague emotional meandering in
stories that lacked social or spiritual solidity. There
was a certain cogency in Trilling's attack, at least
with regard to Anderson's inferior work, most of which
he wrote after Winesburg, Ohio. In my book I tried,
somewhat awkwardly, to bring together the kinds of
judgment Trilling had made with my still keen affection
for the best of Anderson's writings. By then, I had
read writers more complex, perhaps more distinguished
than Anderson, but his muted stories kept a firm place
in my memories, and the book I wrote might be seen as a
gesture of thanks for the light--a glow of darkness,
you might say--that he had brought to me.

Decades passed.  I no longer read Anderson, perhaps
fearing I might have to surrender an admiration of
youth. (There are some writers one should never return
to.) But now, in the fullness of age, when asked to say
a few introductory words about Anderson and his work, I
have again fallen under the spell of Winesburg, Ohio,
again responded to the half-spoken desires, the
flickers of longing that spot its pages. Naturally, I
now have some changes of response: a few of the stories
no longer haunt me as once they did, but the long story
"Godliness," which years ago I considered a failure, I
now see as a quaintly effective account of the way
religious fanaticism and material acquisitiveness can
become intertwined in American experience.

            *       *       *

Sherwood Anderson was born in Ohio in 1876. His
childhood and youth in Clyde, a town with perhaps three
thousand souls, were scarred by bouts of poverty, but
he also knew some of the pleasures of pre-industrial
American society. The country was then experiencing
what he would later call "a sudden and almost universal
turning of men from the old handicrafts towards our
modern life of machines." There were still people in
Clyde who remembered the frontier, and like America
itself, the town lived by a mixture of diluted
Calvinism and a strong belief in "progress," Young
Sherwood, known as "Jobby"--the boy always ready to
work--showed the kind of entrepreneurial spirit that
Clyde respected: folks expected him to become a
"go-getter," And for a time he did. Moving to Chicago
in his early twenties, he worked in an advertising
agency where he proved adept at turning out copy. "I
create nothing, I boost, I boost," he said about
himself, even as, on the side, he was trying to write
short stories.

In 1904 Anderson married and three years later moved to
Elyria, a town forty miles west of Cleveland, where he
established a firm that sold paint. "I was going to be
a rich man.... Next year a bigger house; and after
that, presumably, a country estate." Later he would say
about his years in Elyria, "I was a good deal of a
Babbitt, but never completely one." Something drove him
to write, perhaps one of those shapeless hungers--a
need for self-expression? a wish to find a more
authentic kind of experience?--that would become a
recurrent motif in his fiction.

And then, in 1912, occurred the great turning point in
Anderson's life. Plainly put, he suffered a nervous
breakdown, though in his memoirs he would elevate this
into a moment of liberation in which he abandoned the
sterility of commerce and turned to the rewards of
literature. Nor was this, I believe, merely a deception
on Anderson's part, since the breakdown painful as it
surely was, did help precipitate a basic change in his
life. At the age of 36, he left behind his business and
moved to Chicago, becoming one of the rebellious
writers and cultural bohemians in the group that has
since come to be called the "Chicago Renaissance."
Anderson soon adopted the posture of a free, liberated
spirit, and like many writers of the time, he presented
himself as a sardonic critic of American provincialism
and materialism. It was in the freedom of the city, in
its readiness to put up with deviant styles of life,
that Anderson found the strength to settle accounts
with--but also to release his affection for--the world
of small-town America. The dream of an unconditional
personal freedom, that hazy American version of utopia,
would remain central throughout Anderson's life and
work. It was an inspiration; it was a delusion.

In 1916 and 1917 Anderson published two novels mostly
written in Elyria, Windy McPherson's Son and Marching
Men, both by now largely forgotten. They show patches
of talent but also a crudity of thought and
unsteadiness of language. No one reading these novels
was likely to suppose that its author could soon
produce anything as remarkable as Winesburg, Ohio.
Occasionally there occurs in a writer's career a
sudden, almost mysterious leap of talent, beyond
explanation, perhaps beyond any need for explanation.

In 1915-16 Anderson had begun to write and in 1919 he
published the stories that comprise Winesburg, Ohio,
stories that form, in sum, a sort of loosely-strung
episodic novel. The book was an immediate critical
success, and soon Anderson was being ranked as a
significant literary figure. In 1921 the distinguished
literary magazine The Dial awarded him its first annual
literary prize of $2,000, the significance of which is
perhaps best understood if one also knows that the
second recipient was T. S. Eliot. But Anderson's moment
of glory was brief, no more than a decade, and sadly,
the remaining years until his death in 1940 were marked
by a sharp decline in his literary standing. Somehow,
except for an occasional story like the haunting "Death
in the Woods," he was unable to repeat or surpass his
early success. Still, about Winesburg, Ohio and a small
number of stories like "The Egg" and "The Man Who
Became a Woman" there has rarely been any critical

            *       *       *

No sooner did Winesburg, Ohio make its appearance than
a number of critical labels were fixed on it: the
revolt against the village, the espousal of sexual
freedom, the deepening of American realism. Such tags
may once have had their point, but by now they seem
dated and stale. The revolt against the village (about
which Anderson was always ambivalent) has faded into
history. The espousal of sexual freedom would soon be
exceeded in boldness by other writers. And as for the
effort to place Winesburg, Ohio in a tradition of
American realism, that now seems dubious. Only rarely
is the object of Anderson's stories social
verisimilitude, or the "photographing" of familiar
appearances, in the sense, say, that one might use to
describe a novel by Theodore Dreiser or Sinclair Lewis.
Only occasionally, and then with a very light touch,
does Anderson try to fill out the social arrangements
of his imaginary town--although the fact that his
stories are set in a mid-American place like Winesburg
does constitute an important formative condition. You
might even say, with only slight overstatement, that
what Anderson is doing in Winesburg, Ohio could be
described as "antirealistic," fictions notable less for
precise locale and social detail than for a highly
personal, even strange vision of American life. Narrow,
intense, almost claustrophobic, the result is a book
about extreme states of being, the collapse of men and
women who have lost their psychic bearings and now
hover, at best tolerated, at the edge of the little
community in which they live. It would be a gross
mistake, though not one likely to occur by now, if we
were to take Winesburg, Ohio as a social photograph of
"the typical small town" (whatever that might be.)
Anderson evokes a depressed landscape in which lost
souls wander about; they make their flitting
appearances mostly in the darkness of night, these
stumps and shades of humanity. This vision has its
truth, and at its best it is a terrible if narrow
truth--but it is itself also grotesque, with the tone
of the authorial voice and the mode of composition
forming muted signals of the book's content. Figures
like Dr. Parcival, Kate Swift, and Wash Williams are
not, nor are they meant to be, "fully-rounded"
characters such as we can expect in realistic fiction;
they are the shards of life, glimpsed for a moment, the
debris of suffering and defeat. In each story one of
them emerges, shyly or with a false assertiveness,
trying to reach out to companionship and love, driven
almost mad by the search for human connection. In the
economy of Winesburg these grotesques matter less in
their own right than as agents or symptoms of that
"indefinable hunger" for meaning which is Anderson's

Brushing against one another, passing one another in
the streets or the fields, they see bodies and hear
voices, but it does not really matter--they are
disconnected, psychically lost. Is this due to the
particular circumstances of small-town America as
Anderson saw it at the turn of the century? Or does he
feel that he is sketching an inescapable human
condition which makes all of us bear the burden of
loneliness? Alice Hindman in the story "Adventure"
turns her face to the wall and tries "to force herself
to face the fact that many people must live and die
alone, even in Winesburg." Or especially in Winesburg?
Such impressions have been put in more general terms in
Anderson's only successful novel, Poor White:

  All men lead their lives behind a wall of
  misunderstanding they have themselves built,
  and most men die in silence and unnoticed
  behind the walls.  Now and then a man, cut
  off from his fellows by the peculiarities
  of his nature, becomes absorbed in doing
  something that is personal, useful and
  beautiful.  Word of his activities is
  carried over the walls.

These "walls" of misunderstanding are only seldom due
to physical deformities (Wing Biddlebaum in "Hands") or
oppressive social arrangements (Kate Swift in "The
Teacher.") Misunderstanding, loneliness, the inability
to articulate, are all seen by Anderson as virtually a
root condition, something deeply set in our natures.
Nor are these people, the grotesques, simply to be
pitied and dismissed; at some point in their lives they
have known desire, have dreamt of ambition, have hoped
for friendship. In all of them there was once something
sweet, "like the twisted little apples that grow in the
orchards in Winesburg." Now, broken and adrift, they
clutch at some rigid notion or idea, a "truth" which
turns out to bear the stamp of monomania, leaving them
helplessly sputtering, desperate to speak out but
unable to. Winesburg, Ohio registers the losses
inescapable to life, and it does so with a deep
fraternal sadness, a sympathy casting a mild glow over
the entire book. "Words," as the American writer Paula
Fox has said, "are nets through which all truth
escapes." Yet what do we have but words?

They want, these Winesburg grotesques, to unpack their
hearts, to release emotions buried and festering. Wash
Williams tries to explain his eccentricity but hardly
can; Louise Bentley "tried to talk but could say
nothing"; Enoch Robinson retreats to a fantasy world,
inventing "his own people to whom he could really talk
and to whom he explained the things he had been unable
to explain to living people."

In his own somber way, Anderson has here touched upon
one of the great themes of American literature,
especially Midwestern literature, in the late
nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: the struggle
for speech as it entails a search for the self. Perhaps
the central Winesburg story, tracing the basic
movements of the book, is "Paper Pills," in which the
old Doctor Reefy sits "in his empty office close by a
window that was covered with cobwebs," writes down some
thoughts on slips of paper ("pyramids of truth," he
calls them) and then stuffs them into his pockets where
they "become round hard balls" soon to be discarded.
What Dr. Reefy's "truths" may be we never know;
Anderson simply persuades us that to this lonely old
man they are utterly precious and thereby
incommunicable, forming a kind of blurred moral

After a time the attentive reader will notice in these
stories a recurrent pattern of theme and incident: the
grotesques, gathering up a little courage, venture out
into the streets of Winesburg, often in the dark, there
to establish some initiatory relationship with George
Willard, the young reporter who hasn't yet lived long
enough to become a grotesque. Hesitantly, fearfully, or
with a sputtering incoherent rage, they approach him,
pleading that he listen to their stories in the hope
that perhaps they can find some sort of renewal in his
youthful voice. Upon this sensitive and fragile boy
they pour out their desires and frustrations. Dr.
Parcival hopes that George Willard "will write the book
I may never get written," and for Enoch Robinson, the
boy represents "the youthful sadness, young man's
sadness, the sadness of a growing boy in a village at
the year's end [which may open] the lips of the old

What the grotesques really need is each other, but
their estrangement is so extreme they cannot establish
direct ties--they can only hope for connection through
George Willard. The burden this places on the boy is
more than he can bear. He listens to them attentively,
he is sympathetic to their complaints, but finally he
is too absorbed in his own dreams. The grotesques turn
to him because he seems "different"--younger, more
open, not yet hardened--but it is precisely this
"difference" that keeps him from responding as warmly
as they want. It is hardly the boy's fault; it is
simply in the nature of things. For George Willard, the
grotesques form a moment in his education; for the
grotesques, their encounters with George Willard come
to seem like a stamp of hopelessness.

The prose Anderson employs in telling these stories may
seem at first glance to be simple: short sentences, a
sparse vocabulary, uncomplicated syntax. In actuality,
Anderson developed an artful style in which, following
Mark Twain and preceding Ernest Hemingway, he tried to
use American speech as the base of a tensed rhythmic
prose that has an economy and a shapeliness seldom
found in ordinary speech or even oral narration. What
Anderson employs here is a stylized version of the
American language, sometimes rising to quite formal
rhetorical patterns and sometimes sinking to a
self-conscious mannerism. But at its best, Anderson's
prose style in Winesburg, Ohio is a supple instrument,
yielding that "low fine music" which he admired so much
in the stories of Turgenev.

One of the worst fates that can befall a writer is that
of self-imitation: the effort later in life, often
desperate, to recapture the tones and themes of
youthful beginnings. Something of the sort happened
with Anderson's later writings. Most critics and
readers grew impatient with the work he did after, say,
1927 or 1928; they felt he was constantly repeating his
gestures of emotional "groping"--what he had called in
Winesburg, Ohio the "indefinable hunger" that prods and
torments people. It became the critical fashion to see
Anderson's "gropings" as a sign of delayed adolescence,
a failure to develop as a writer. Once he wrote a
chilling reply to those who dismissed him in this way:
"I don't think it matters much, all this calling a man
a muddler, a groper, etc.... The very man who throws
such words as these knows in his heart that he is also
facing a wall." This remark seems to me both dignified
and strong, yet it must be admitted that there was some
justice in the negative responses to his later work.
For what characterized it was not so much "groping" as
the imitation of "groping," the self-caricature of a
writer who feels driven back upon an earlier self that
is, alas, no longer available.

But Winesburg, Ohio remains a vital work, fresh and
authentic. Most of its stories are composed in a minor
key, a tone of subdued pathos--pathos marking both the
nature and limit of Anderson's talent. (He spoke of
himself as a "minor writer.") In a few stories,
however, he was able to reach beyond pathos and to
strike a tragic note. The single best story in
Winesburg, Ohio is, I think, "The Untold Lie," in which
the urgency of choice becomes an outer sign of a tragic
element in the human condition. And in Anderson's
single greatest story, "The Egg," which appeared a few
years after Winesburg, Ohio, he succeeded in bringing
together a surface of farce with an undertone of
tragedy. "The Egg" is an American masterpiece.

Anderson's influence upon later American writers,
especially those who wrote short stories, has been
enormous. Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner both
praised him as a writer who brought a new tremor of
feeling, a new sense of introspectiveness to the
American short story. As Faulkner put it, Anderson's
"was the fumbling for exactitude, the exact word and
phrase within the limited scope of a vocabulary
controlled and even repressed by what was in him almost
a fetish of simplicity ... to seek always to penetrate
to thought's uttermost end." And in many younger
writers who may not even be aware of the Anderson
influence, you can see touches of his approach, echoes
of his voice.

Writing about the Elizabethan playwright John Ford, the
poet Algernon Swinburne once said: "If he touches you
once he takes you, and what he takes he keeps hold of;
his work becomes part of your thought and parcel of
your spiritual furniture forever." So it is, for me and
many others, with Sherwood Anderson.

To the memory of my mother,


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.



The writer, an old man with a white mustache, 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 carpenter
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 carpenter 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 forgotten 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
absurd, 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 procession 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 indigestion.

For an hour the procession of grotesques passed before
the eyes of the old man, and then, although 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 impression on my mind. The
book had one central thought that is very strange and
has always remained 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 carelessness 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 some who were quite
strong snatched up a dozen of them.

It was the truths that made the people grotesques. 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 concerning 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 understandable and lovable of all the
grotesques in the writer's book.


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 had 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 beset 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
Willard House, he had formed something like a
friendship. George Willard was the reporter on the
Winesburg Eagle and sometimes in the evenings 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, forever 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 beating 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 inexpressive
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 Winesburg the hands had attracted
attention merely because of their activity. With them
Wing Biddlebaum 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
Moyer's bay stallion, Tony Tip, that had won the
two-fifteen trot at the fall races in Cleveland.

As for George 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 afternoon 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, condemning
his tendency to be too much influenced by the people
about him, "You are destroying yourself," he cried.
"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

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 contentment he launched
into a long rambling talk, speaking as one lost in a

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 face.

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 were a part of the schoolmaster'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 loosehung lips.
Through the Pennsylvania 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 Bradford, who
kept a saloon, came to the schoolhouse door. Calling
Adolph 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 school-master, his wrath became
more and more terrible. Screaming with dismay, the
children 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 Pennsylvania 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 school-master, 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 darkness.

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
experience 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 happened 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
yourself," 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 beyond the field was lost
in the grey shadows. Going 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 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 mistaken 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 hands were extraordinarily
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 Heffner Block above
the Paris Dry Goods Company's store, he worked
ceaselessly, building up something that he himself
destroyed. Little pyramids 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 continually 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 blathering
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 apples and filling his pockets with
them. Only the few know the sweetness of the twisted

The girl and Doctor Reefy began their courtship 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 white horse and went slowly along
country roads. On the papers were written thoughts,
ends of thoughts, beginnings of thoughts.

One by one the mind of Doctor Reefy had made the
thoughts. Out of many of them 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 again.

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
turning 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

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 practitioners, 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.
Listlessly 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 forever on the edge of
failure and he wished himself out of it. He thought of
the old house and the woman who lived there with him as
things defeated 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 business-like
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
sputtered 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
fide 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
becoming governor. Once when a younger member of the
party arose at a political conference and began to
boast of his faithful service, Tom Willard 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 Democrat. In the
old days they fairly hunted us with guns."

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 forgotten that had once
been a part of herself recreated. The prayer concerned
that. "Even though I die, I will in some way keep
defeat from you," she cried, and so deep was her
determination 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. "I ask God now to give
me that privilege. I demand it. I will pay for it. God
may beat me with his fists. I will take any blow that
may befall if but this my boy be allowed to express
something 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 window 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 alleyway
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 outburst 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
alleyway any more, but tried to forget the contest
between the bearded man and the cat. It seemed like a
rehearsal of her own life, terrible in its vividness.

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 Skinner 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 Willard 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, listless. 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 departure. "I thought
I would take a walk," replied George Willard, who felt
awkward and confused.

One evening in July, when the transient guests who made
the New Willard House their temporary home had become
scarce, and the hallways, lighted only by kerosene
lamps turned low, were plunged in gloom, Elizabeth
Willard had an adventure. 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 difficulty. 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 because of its shabbiness and she
thought of herself as also shabby. Her own room was in
an obscure 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 Winesburg.

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 myself."

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 visited 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 steamed 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 succeed. 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 advising concerning some course of
conduct. "I tell you what, George, you've got to wake
up," 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-naturedly. "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 darkness 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 sewing
scissors and held them in her hand like a dagger. "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 within 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 companies
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 understand 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 them.

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 repentance. 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 also.

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, Elizabeth
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

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 evenings, 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 doorknob.
In the room the silence became unbearable 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 better 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 awkwardly 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 snapped up; it was
exactly as though the lid of the eye were a window
shade and someone stood inside 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 gossiping with Tom Willy. The
saloon keeper was a short, broad-shouldered man with
peculiarly marked hands. That flaming kind of birthmark
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 assistant, George
Willard, sat in the office of the Winesburg Eagle and
listened to the talk of Doctor Parcival.

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 amusing, 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 concerned a trunk and ended by the doctor's
being escorted to the village lockup. When he was
released 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. Although 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 inventions, a pack of lies.
And then again he was convinced that they contained the
very essence of truth.

"I was a reporter like you here," Doctor Parcival
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 money 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
anything. 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 Presbyterian 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 looking me up.

"I was going to tell you of my brother. That's the
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
railroad. After he had gone things began to arrive at
our house, groceries and such things. Sometimes 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.

"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 drinking 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 king.

"The men who had jobs in the asylum had found out I was
a newspaper reporter. That made them afraid. There had
been some negligence, 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 attention. 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

Doctor Parcival began talking of George Willard'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 tonight 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 office, Doctor 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 tiptoe
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

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 counter 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 darkness. 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 adventure. 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 Winesburg 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 printshop and started to run along the alleyway.

Through street after street went George Willard,
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 shedlike 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! 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 Williams' barn."

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 muttered 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 standing 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 Williams' 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," 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 sidewalk
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 delightfully 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 behind 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 boards.

            *       *       *

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 toward the New Willard House he went whistling

On the sidewalk at the side of Winney'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 muttered doggedly and went on his way.


A Tale in Four Parts

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 descended 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 corners.

Besides the old people, already mentioned, many others
lived in the Bentley house. There were four hired men,
a woman named Aunt Callie 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 carefully laid the drain, but in order to
understand the man we will have to go back to an
earlier day.

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 reckoned 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 outwardly 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 injured 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

            *       *       *

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, Edward, 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 altogether 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 Tim 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 the 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 womanish 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 delicately
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 stature. 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 background. 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 dependents. 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 himself. 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 fired to think, but to
think of the farm and to be everlastingly making plans
for its success was a relief to Jesse. It partially
satisfied something in his passionate nature.
Immediately 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 barnyard 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 extraordinarily 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
importance, 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
content 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 thinking 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 eagerness.

"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!" 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
overseas, the going and coming of trains, the growth of
cities, the building of the inter-urban car lines that
weave in and out of towns and past farmhouses, and now
in these later days the coming of the automobiles 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
everywhere. 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

In Jesse Bentley's time and in the country districts 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 Sunday 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 eagerness, 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 God.

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 contained 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 narrowed 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 remembered 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. "Jehovah 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


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
deliberately set fire to the house, and often she hid
herself 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. It 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 afternoons 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 marshal.

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,
orderly 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 was 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 altogether
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 overcast 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 weeping 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 darkness. Into his mind came the
conviction that he was walking and running in some
terrible void where no one had ever been before. The
darkness 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 father's house, he was so tired
and excited that he did not know what was happening to

By chance David's father knew that he had disappeared.
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
country. 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 suddenly become another woman. He could
not believe 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 unimportant matter. He thought that he would
have been willing to go through the frightful
experience 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 boyhood he saw
his mother but seldom and she became 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 determined on having
his own way. He talked to John Hardy in the office of
the Winesburg Savings 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
presence," 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

Louise turned and went out of the room, leaving 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
bed she went into his room and sat on the floor until
he fell asleep. When he became drowsy she became bold
and whispered things that he later thought he must have

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 Katherine, 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 disappointed man.

There were two influences at work in Jesse Bentley and
all his life his mind had been a battleground 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 walking 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. Instead he
prayed for it. Sometimes he was altogether 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 glorifying 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 modern 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 reading 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 going 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 excited 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 expanded 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 people 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 shores, 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 morning he made such a noise
coming down stairs that Aunt Callie, the housekeeper,
declared he was trying to tear the house down. When he
had run through the long old house, shutting the 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 before 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 phaeton drawn by the white horse. The
old man scratched his thin white beard and talked to
himself 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 destroyed 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 possessions,
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 wondered what was going to
happen. When a rabbit 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
grandfather 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 head
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
inevitable. "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 muttered.

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, someone 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
everything 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
David. Come down to me out of the sky and make Thy
presence 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 tenderly
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 dost 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 husband in a brick house on Elm
Street in Winesburg, is a story of misunderstanding.

Before such women as Louise can be understood 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 numbers 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 Winesburg 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 education.

Louise went into town to be a student in the Winesburg
High School and she went to live at the Hardys' 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 better 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 threatened 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. Always 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 affection 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 household 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 Winesburg 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 merchant 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, glaring 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
attention 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 altogether
or, if he thought of them, only shrugged his shoulders.
"Oh, well, girls will be girls," he muttered

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 coldness 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

               *  *  *

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 carried 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 making friends
with John Hardy. When he came into the room with the
wood in his arms, she pretended 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 people 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 her.

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 Wednesday 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 embraced. 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 Winesburg,
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 evening 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 window 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 window 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

For an hour Louise sat on the floor in the darkness 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 protest.

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 life.

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 of his
coming that for a long time she did not hear the call
that came up from the orchard. 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 darkness. 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 escort. "I hate
father and the 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 something 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 without 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 it."



When David Hardy was a tall boy of fifteen, he, like
his mother, had an adventure 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 trying to locate his son, but
that is no part of this story.

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 improve it. Great ditches had to be dug
and thousands 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

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 remaining 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, Ohio.

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 afternoon 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

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 shooting at imaginary animals
concealed among the brown leaves in the trees. Thoughts
of his coming 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 grandfather 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 between
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 today. 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 farmhouse 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 frightened 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 happen," 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 released, 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
running and walked rapidly down a road that followed
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 surprised by the boy's disappearance. By the
roadside 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 character 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 physical state in which his eyes roll
and his legs and arms jerk. He was like that, only that
the visitation that descended upon Joe Welling was a
mental and not a physical thing. He was beset by ideas
and in the throes of one of his ideas was
uncontrollable. 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 attention.

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 Moyer's stallion, Tony
Tip, was to race at the June meeting at Tiffin, Ohio,
and there was a rumor that he would meet the stiffest
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, brushing 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 considering.

"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's 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
Sinnings' 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 horizon, a cloud no bigger than a man's

"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 Standard Oil Company. "Hern's Grocery
will be getting 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

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 newspaper. "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 forefinger 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 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 doesn'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 excitement. In
spite of themselves all the players watched him
closely. The opposing pitcher became confused.

"Now! Now! Now! Now!" shouted the excited 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!"

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, advancing, 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 Winesburg on
edge. When it began everyone whispered 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-looking woman who lived with her father and
brother in a brick house that stood opposite the gate
leading 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

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 evening with
Joe Welling, people shook their heads in alarm. She was
tall and pale and had dark rings under her eyes. The
couple looked ridiculous 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 Willard House laughing and
talking of Joe's courtship. After the laughter came the
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 between Joe
Welling and the two Kings, the anticipation 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

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 toward 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 Willard 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 reporter
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 giggle 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 attention to
the grumbled threat of Tom King. Absorbed 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

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 something 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 shivery,
nervous laugh of Edward King rang through the house.
Joe Welling hurried on. "We'd begin, 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 extraordinary 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 always 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 husband.

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 became 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 Wesley Moyer'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 wonder and beauty of the thing that
had happened. "Now we will have to stick to each other,
whatever 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 Chicago he boarded at a house where there
were several 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 carpets, 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 waiting 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 attention 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 evenings 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 became
attached to inanimate objects, and because it was her
own, could not bare 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 impossible dreams
of saving money enough so that the interest would
support both herself and her future husband.

"Ned always liked to travel about," she thought. "I'll
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 customers 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 afternoons. 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 the other young people on
Sunday, but one day after he had been gone for two or
three years and when her loneliness 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 ineffectuality 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 twenty-five two
things happened to disturb the dull uneventfulness of
her days. Her mother married Bush Milton, the carriage
painter of Winesburg, and she herself became a member
of the Winesburg Methodist Church. Alice joined the
church because she had become frightened by the
loneliness 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 resolutely 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 evening 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 loyalty to Ned Currie.

Without realizing what was happening, Alice was trying
feebly at first, but with growing determination, 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 became 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, whispering 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 her.

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 a 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 creative 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 stumbled 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

The man on the sidewalk stopped and stood listening.
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
doorway. 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 brokenheartedly. "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, began 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 creature with ugly, sagging, hairless skin
below his eyes and a bright purple underbody. This
monkey 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

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 unclean. 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 sensitive 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
Winesburg, 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 nothing to do with
them," he said, looking with bleary eyes at the men who
walked along the station platform past the telegraph
office. Up along Main Street he went in the evening to
Ed Griffith's saloon, 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 wholeheartedly, 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 Winesburg was dirty and
smelled abominably, but nothing came of her complaint.
Here and there a man respected the operator.
Instinctively the man felt in him a glowing resentment
of something 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 women.

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 Williams. He once told the
story to George Willard and the telling of the tale
came about in this way:

George Willard went one 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 embraced. The night and their own thoughts
had aroused something in them. As they were returning
to Main Street they passed the little lawn beside the
railroad station and saw Wash Williams 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

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 consumed with curiosity. Something he saw
lurking in the staring eyes told him that the man who
had nothing to say to others had nevertheless something
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 commanded. "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 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 Wash Williams, the hideous, telling his
story of hate.

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.
Already 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 the blue eyes whom
he had met when he was a young operator 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 position
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

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 managed to
acquire three other lovers who came regularly 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 evening 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 respectable 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 coaxing 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 perfectly
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 hallway waiting, hoping we
would--well, you see--waiting."

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 became 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 Winesburg 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 somewhat dimmed. The huge brick house which
Banker White had built on Buckeye Street had
overshadowed it. The Richmond place was in a little
valley far out at the end of Main Street. Farmers
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 become run
down, had in reality grown more beautiful 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 passionate man extraordinarily
admired by his neighbors, had been killed in a street
fight with the editor 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 Richmond had
settled down to a retired life in the village and to
the raising of her son. Although she had been deeply
moved by the death of the husband 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
unfortunate, 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. "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 working
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 noticed in the eyes of others when he looked at

The truth was that the son thought with remarkable
clearness and the mother did not. She expected from all
people certain conventional reactions 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 severest reprimand, he
did not tremble and look at the floor but instead
looked steadily at her, causing 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 company 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 five like kings
and won't have to spend a penny to see the fair and
horse races," they declared 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
determined 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 a pencil and paper and wrote down a series of
sharp, stinging reproofs she intended 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 returned, 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 explained. "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

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 leading 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 understand 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 laugh."

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 the 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 always 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
habitual 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 gesticulating 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
baker, he wished that he himself might become
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,
noting 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 had received a shipment of
straw hats. Ed Byerbaum and Tom Marshall were in
Cleveland Friday. 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 distinction 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 window looking
down into an alleyway and one that looked across
railroad tracks 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 effusively. "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 I'm 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
toward 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."

Seth Richmond arose and went toward 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 going to do? You stay here and
let's talk," he urged.

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. "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 profound 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
something 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 threatened, 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. Village jokes went
back and forth. Away in the distance 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 tomorrow."

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 Doctor 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
boy!" 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
something 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

Seth stumbled forward through the half-darkness,
feeling himself an outcast in his own town. He began to
pity himself, but a sense of the absurdity 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 women'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, closing the door softly.
"I'm going to get out of town. I don't know what I'll
do, but I'm going 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 tonight." He hesitated and
looked doubtfully about. "Perhaps you wouldn't mind
coming to walk with me?"

Seth and Helen walked through the streets beneath 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 delivered 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
burning 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 building 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
coming dearly 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 sidewalk.

"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 said."

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 Richmond'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 connect the
idea of love-making with this girl and a spot he had
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, singing as they worked.

Seth imagined himself lying on a summer evening, 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
sustained masterful song of labor above his head.

On the bench in the garden Seth stirred uneasily.
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 importance 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
whispered. "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 earnestness.
"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 become 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 something, 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

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. Putting her hand
upon Seth's shoulder, she started to draw his face down
toward her own upturned face. The act was one of pure
affection and cutting 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 desire to run
after her came to him, but he only stood staring,
perplexed and puzzled by her action 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 pondered 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 comes to loving
someone, it won't never be me. It'll be someone
else--some fool--someone who talks a lot--someone like
that George Willard."


Until she was seven years old she lived in an old
unpainted 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, redhaired 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 together.

The stranger was the son of a rich merchant of
Cleveland and had come to Winesburg on a 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 drinking
harder than ever. But he did succeed in doing
something. He gave a name rich with meaning 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. Beside him on the board sidewalk sat young
George Willard. The stranger dropped into a chair
beside 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 that ran along the foot of a little
incline before the hotel. Somewhere in the distance,
off to the west, there was a prolonged blast from the
whistle of a passenger engine. A dog that had been
sleeping in the roadway 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 addicted," 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

The stranger became silent and seemed overcome 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

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," he declared. Again he turned to the child. "I
understand," he cried. "Perhaps of all men I alone

His glance again wandered away to the darkened 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 because 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 pleaded. "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 Saturday 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 pleaded, kneeling 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
unpretentious 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, bowing 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 frightened and run away.

For a good many years after he came to Winesburg 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.

The 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 showing 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 tiptoe to the window and closed it
softly. He was horror stricken at the thought of a
woman smoking 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 minister 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 Hartman 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 thousand
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 earnestly.

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 window 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 deliverance
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 Sunday
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 intended 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 discovered 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 dusty room 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 tomorrow 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 temptation 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

Three times 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 darkness 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 denied 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

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 overshoes. 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, plowing 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
declared. "If my nature is such that I cannot resist
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
determination 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

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 evenings 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 occupied by her bed. In the darkness he had waited
until the woman suddenly appeared sitting in the bed in
her white nightrobe. When the light was turned up she
propped herself up among the pillows 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 not 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
incoherently. "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 overshoes called arctics.
"Snow will bring the people 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 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 must be in
love with him and the thought was both pleasing and

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. "I am 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

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 arrival. By ten o'clock all but four
of the eighteen hundred citizens of the town were in

Hop Higgins, the night watchman, was partially awake.
He was lame and carried a heavy stick. On dark nights
he carried a lantern. Between 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
retire. 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. Already 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 sporting papers."

The nightwatchman 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 refreshed 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
darkness 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. Suddenly she sprang to
her feet and, snatching a cloak from a rack by the
front door, ran out of the house.

At the age of thirty Kate Swift was not known in
Winesburg as a pretty woman. Her complexion 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 summer evening.

During the afternoon the school teacher had been to see
Doctor Welling concerning her health. The doctor had
scolded her and had declared she was in danger of
losing her hearing. It was foolish for Kate Swift to be
abroad in the storm, foolish 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
Winters' 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 again.

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 matter 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 confused,
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! Concerning 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. Although no one in
Winesburg would have suspected 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
transpired in her mind. The people of the town thought
of her as a confirmed old maid and because 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 I've waited
for your father to come home, not knowing what new mess
he had got into. I've had my share of uncertainty 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
earnestness. 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
import of life, to learn to interpret it truly and
honestly, 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 minister sat in
the church waiting for her, Kate Swift went to the
office of the Winesburg Eagle, intending 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 fight from the
printshop 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
passionate 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 eagerness to open the
door of life to the boy, who had been her pupil and who
she thought might possess a talent for the
understanding of life, had possession 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 the office
swearing furiously.

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 printshop 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 snow.

George Willard rolled about in the bed on which 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 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
farmhouse 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, accompanied
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 pass.

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 Paris and to finish his art education among
the masters there, but that never turned out.

Nothing ever turned out for Enoch Robinson. He could
draw well enough 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
understand people and he couldn't make people
understand 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 disconcerted 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
together, 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 history of the world they have
gathered in rooms and talked. They talk of art and are
passionately, almost feverishly, in earnest about it.
They think it matters much more than it does.

And so these people gathered and smoked cigarettes 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, something 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 Grayback who
has a farm up the road. He is taking corn to Winesburg
to be ground into meal at Comstock'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 of thing young Enoch Robinson 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 people 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 everyone 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 pictures.

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 Washington Square in
the city of New York.

Then Enoch Robinson got married. He began 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 apartment
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 advertisements.

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
streetcar 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 dignity. Once, coming home from
Philadelphia, he had a discussion with a man met on a
train. Enoch talked about the advisability of the
government'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

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 apartment, 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 insane
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 Connecticut 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, playing 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 importance he talked
aloud, giving instructions, making comments on life. He
was happy and satisfied to go on making his living in
the advertising place until something happened. Of
course something 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
evening when the sun was going down behind the roof of
Wesley Moyer'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 newspaper 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 without 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 evenings 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 sadness, but not
much. He thought about himself and to the young that
always brings sadness.

Enoch Robinson and George Willard met beneath 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
reporter 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 beginning, 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 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 mattered."

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 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 silent 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

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 sudden 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 story."

Enoch Robinson sprang to his feet and ran to the window
that looked down into the deserted main street of
Winesburg. George Willard followed. 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 again."

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 window, 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. Kate 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 National 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

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
returned to his home he donned another black alpaca
coat. Every evening he pressed the clothes worn in the
streets. He had invented an arrangement 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
pressing 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 Willard 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 uncertain.

Handby, the bartender, was a tall, broad-shouldered 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 evening at the resort with their sweethearts.

The affair between Ed Handby and Belle Carpenter 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 Moyer'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
desires. 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 struggles, 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 declared as
he turned to drive away. Then, jumping 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

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 Carpenter, 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 themselves, 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 Wilson 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

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 imagined 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 examine
the accoutrements of the men. Before a tree he stopped
and began to scold. "Your pack is not in order," he
said sharply. "How many times will I have to speak of
this matter? Everything 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 myself 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 better to be alone. If I talked
like Art Wilson the boys would understand me but they
wouldn't understand what I've 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 affairs
with a garden at the back. The more comfortable 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 pigs.

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 rankness 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 cautiously 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,

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

When her lover had departed Belle went indoors and ran
hurriedly upstairs. From a window 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

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 upward 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

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 herself 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 different. 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 darkness. In her whole
attitude there was a suggestion 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 happened 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 gratitude
for the new power in himself and was waiting for the
woman to speak when Ed Handby appeared.

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 ignominiously 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 exercise going indefinitely but
George Willard's head struck the root of a tree and he
lay still. Then Ed Handby 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 box 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 Winesburg 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,
standing at the back door of the Eagle printshop and
staring absentmindedly about. "Well, well, what next!"
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 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 window 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 wedding 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 refuse to
buy and thus 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 Cowley saw
George Willard standing and apparently listening at the
back door of the Eagle printshop, 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 traveling man, who had for sale a
small flat metal substitute 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 exclusive 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 one.'"

The traveling man paused and waited. Taking 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
showcase 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 collar
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 advance 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 into 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 hurried

In the store Elmer Cowley and his father stared at each
other. Now that the immediate object of his wrath had
fled, the younger man was embarrassed. "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 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 fingers, the merchant looked at his son with
the same wavering uncertain stare with which he had
confronted the traveling man. "I'll be starched," he
said softly. "Well, well, I'll be washed and ironed and

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 reporter 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
repassed 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
public 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 person strike also the
greater enemy--the thing that smiled and went its own
way--the judgment of Winesburg?

Elmer Cowley was extraordinarily tall and his arms were
long and powerful. His hair, his eyebrows, and the
downy beard that had begun to grow upon his chin, were
pale almost to whiteness. 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 through
life without friends and he hated the thought.

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 became 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, miserable in body and in

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

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 childlike faith
he believed in the intelligence of the animals 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 expression regarding being
"laundered" into the mouth of his former employer. When
excited or surprised by anything he smiled vaguely and
muttered: "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 say.

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 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 different. 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. "He don't
know but I know," he shouted, stopping 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 anything. I can't."

The fury of the young man became uncontrollable. "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
someone 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 someone like
that George Willard. I had to come to you. I ought to
tell him and I will."

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. Presently 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 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 will."

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 delighted. "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 Hern'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 spasmodically. 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 Winesburg blind with
anger, brought on by his failure to declare his
determination not to be queer. Bitterly the sense of
defeat settled upon him and he wanted to weep. After
the hours of futile sputtering at nothingness that had
occupied the afternoon and his failure in the 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 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 barrel 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 robbers.

Elmer took twenty dollars, two ten-dollar bills, from
the little roll containing perhaps four hundred
dollars, the cash left from the sale of the farm. Then
replacing the box beneath the shavings 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 Cleveland would lose himself in the crowds
there. He would get work in some shop and become
friends with the other workmen and would be
indistinguishable. 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 Willard. 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? You've
got something to tell me, eh?" he said.

Elmer tried to explain. He wet his lips with his
tongue and looked at the train that had begun to groan
and get under way. "Well, you see," 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 incoherently.

Elmer Cowley danced with fury beside the groaning train
in the darkness on the station platform. 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

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 unlike.

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 beside 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 family, who were very
respectable people in Winesburg, 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 Windpeter 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 accident. 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 incessant 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 courage. 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 himself and all fighters and woman-chasers
and generally 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 Winesburg. 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 something was said and they
laughed. Then came silence. Ray, who was the more
sensitive and always 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 into 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 marriage and all that?" 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
being just two indifferent workmen they had become all
alive to each other. Hal sensed it and because 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 everyone 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 anyone
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 Windpeter 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 puttering
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 cornfield 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 country 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 unexpected 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 right.

She only wanted him to go into town for groceries and
as soon as she had told him what she wanted began to
scold. "You're always puttering," 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 overcoat 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 silver dollars in the other.
Somewhere in the house a child wept bitterly and a dog
that had been sleeping 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 little clusters of bushes in
the corners of the fences were alive with beauty. The
whole world seemed to Ray Pearson to have become alive
with something just as he and Hal had suddenly become
alive when they stood in the corn field stating 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 began 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 Minnie
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 anyone
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 before
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, Oregon--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 clutching 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 nothing 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 jauntily 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 shook 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 coward 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 laughing 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 been a lie," he
said softly, and then his form also disappeared into
the darkness 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 mechanic, before he died. Later she went to
stay with her daughter, who had also married a mechanic
and lived in Covington, Kentucky, across the river from

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
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 tree.

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 forward. Her toothless old mouth
twitched nervously, 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

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 woods 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

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

In Winesburg servants were hard to get. The woman who
wanted help in her housework employed 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 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 husband.

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 bigness 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

One could not help wondering where Tom Foster 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 a
messenger for a telegraph company and delivered
messages in a neighborhood 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 office and he did not come back but
joined a group of men and boys and spent the whole
afternoon with them, standing about, listening and
occasionally, 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 belonging 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
afternoon 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 lawyer's chair to smoke
a pipe while Tom remained silent, as he always, did in
the presence of everyone.

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
grandmother 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 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 anyone else
in Winesburg. The matter of sex in particular had
presented itself to him in a quite horrible way and had
made a deep impression 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
before thought of women as quite innocent things, much
like his grandmother, but after that one experience 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 Winesburg. 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 little fight of his own, to keep his
desires in the channel 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 began, 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 residence
streets of the town were all newly clothed in soft
green leaves, in the gardens behind the houses men were
puttering about in vegetable gardens, 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 Wacker'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 whiskey.

Tom got drunk sitting on a bank of new grass beside the
road about a mile north of town. Before him was a white
road and at his back an apple 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
raindrops 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
going 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

Tom got drunk in a very short time. He kept taking
drinks from the bottle as the thoughts visited 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 the stone approach to the
bridge and sighed. His head seemed to be flying about
like a pinwheel 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 became afraid that the drunken
boy would make a mess on the floor and helped him into
the alleyway.

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 printshop. When he had a
little recovered George took Tom for a walk. They went
into the country 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

"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 dearly after this. You see how it is."

George Willard did not see, but his anger concerning
Helen White passed and he felt drawn toward the pale,
shaken boy as he had never before been drawn toward
anyone. With motherly solicitude, he insisted that Tom
get to his feet and walk about. Again they went back to
the printshop 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

Tom was hurt. He couldn't quarrel with George Willard
because he was incapable of quarreling, 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 too. I wanted to suffer, to be hurt
somehow. I thought that was what I should do. I wanted
to suffer, you see, because everyone suffers and does
wrong. I thought of a lot of things to do, but they
wouldn't work. They all hurt someone else."

Tom Foster's voice arose, and for once in his life he
became almost excited. "It was like making 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 understand? I wanted to learn things, you see.
That's why I did it."


The stairway leading up to Doctor Reefy's office, 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 pressure 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 Company. When a
counter or a row of shelves in the store became
useless, clerks carried it up the stairway and threw it
on the pile.

Doctor Reefy's office was as large as a barn. A stove
with a round paunch sat in the middle of 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
Spaniard, 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 awkward. The
grey beard he later wore had not yet appeared, but on
the upper lip grew a brown mustache. He was not a
graceful man, as when he grew older, and was much
occupied with the problem of disposing of his hands and

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 Doctor Reefy's office. Already the woman's
naturally 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 notion of what
happened took a poetic turn. "I had come to the time in
my life when prayer became 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 herself not alone just the same. It was
an experience 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, flared 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 adventure 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 moment
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, putting 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 definite 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 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 forgot what he wanted to say and
spent the time complaining of his own affairs.

In her girlhood and young womanhood Elizabeth 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 desire 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 word.

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 determination 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 always known, grocery clerks or
young farmers. In the evening they walked in Main
Street with their husbands and when she passed they
smiled happily. 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 perplexed 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 abused Tom Willard, and that led
Elizabeth to come to the clerk's defense. The sick man
became 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 I've 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 anyone 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

            *       *       *

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 excitement. 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
her body and her mind, this talking," he muttered.

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 Moyer'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, and make it new and

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 threatened," 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 terrible 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 everything 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 anyone walk before. 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. "You dear! 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 grotesque little incident
brought his love-making 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
Company. With a loud bang he threw an empty box on the
pile of rubbish in the hallway and then went heavily
down the stairs. Elizabeth 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 street.

The sick woman spent the last few months of her life
hungering for death. Along the road of death she went,
seeking, hungering. She personified the figure of death
and made him now a strong black-haired youth running
over hills, now a stem 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. "Be patient, lover," she
whispered. "Keep yourself young and beautiful and be

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!" 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 words.

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 entirely
of his own affairs. The notion of death could not get
hold of him and he was in fact a 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 resentment 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
purpose 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

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 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 madness 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 someone 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 overpowering 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 covered
her, but his courage failed and he, like Doctor Reefy,
turned and went out of the room. In the hallway outside
the door he stopped and trembled 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 began 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
workmen her husband was at that time employing about
the hotel to mend the wall. "I jammed the corner 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 arms.


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 impatiently 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

George Willard, the Ohio village boy, was fast growing
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 feeling 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. Suddenly 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 concerning
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 procession before him, the
countless figures of men who before his time have come
out of nothingness into the world, lived their lives
and again disappeared into nothingness. The sadness of
sophistication 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 breathing 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 womanhood as he grew into manhood.
Once on a summer 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 manhood 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
grand-stand with a young man, one of the instructors
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 stranger. 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 interested. "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
theaters and the seeing of great crowds wandering in
lighted thoroughfares, had changed her profoundly. She
wanted him to feel and be conscious 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 desperation 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
business. 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
Richmond. 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 narrow 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 murmur 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 rapidly along,
swinging his arms. He came to Wesley Moyer's livery
barn and stopped in the shadows to listen to a group of
men who talked of a race Wesley's stallion, Tony Tip,
had won at the Fair during the afternoon. A crowd had
gathered in front of the barn and before the crowd
walked Wesley, prancing up and down boasting. He held a
whip in his hand and kept tapping the ground. Little
puffs of dust arose in the lamplight. "Hell, quit your
talking," Wesley 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 windbag," he sputtered. "Why does he want
to be bragging? Why don't he shut up?"

George went into a vacant lot and, as he hurried along,
fell over a pile of rubbish. A nail protruding 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 pompous 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 running,
and leaned against a tree to laugh hysterically. 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 Winesburg,
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 reflected 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
intensified 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 struggles
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 sensation 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 standing silently beside the trunk of a tree
and what there is of a reflective tendency in his
nature is intensified. 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 eyes.

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 machinery of his life. He began to think of the
people 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 confused by her womanhood.
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 itself 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 sidewalks 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
instruments 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 other's 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 during 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 moment 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 embarrassment 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 darkness
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 roiled down the hill. Helen ran after
him. For just a moment she stopped in the darkness.
There was 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 together 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 underfoot.

George came downstairs 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

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 afternoon 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 different. The land
becomes a wide green billiard table on which tiny human
insects toil up and down.

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 westbound train leaves Winesburg at seven
forty-five in the morning. Tom Little is conductor. 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 returns 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 Willard 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 affairs. 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 pocket-book 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 anyone think you're a greenhorn."

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

He thought of little things--Turk Smollet wheeling
boards through the main street of his town in the
morning, a tall woman, beautifully gowned, who had once
stayed overnight at his father's hotel, Butch Wheeler
the lamp lighter of Winesburg hurrying through the
streets on a summer evening and holding a torch in his
hand, Helen White standing by a window in the Winesburg
post office and putting a stamp on an envelope.

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 occupying 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 Winesburg had
disappeared and his life there had become but a
background on which to paint the dreams of his manhood.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Winesburg, Ohio; a group of tales of Ohio small town life" ***

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