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Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson

Part 4 out of 5

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groped about in the darkness. "I have missed some-
thing. I have missed something Kate Swift was try-
ing 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 sleep.


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 deli-
cate 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 peo-
ple 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 ciga-
rettes 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 fin-
ished. 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 some-
thing 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,

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 imagina-
tion 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 peo-
ple. 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 es-
sence of himself, something he could mould and
change to suit his own fancy, something that under-
stood all about such things as the wounded woman
behind the elders in the pictures.

The mild, blue-eyed young Ohio boy was a com-
plete 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 peo-
ple 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 de-
sire grew in his mind. At night strange fevers, burn-
ing 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 citi-
zen 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 Philadel-
phia, he had a discussion with a man met on a train.
Enoch talked about the advisability of the govern-
ment's owning and operating the railroads and the
man gave him a cigar. It was Enoch's notion that
such a move on the part of the government would
be a good thing, and he grew quite excited as he
talked. Later he remembered his own words with
pleasure. "I gave him something to think about, that
fellow," he muttered to himself as he climbed the
stairs to his Brooklyn apartment.

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 fac-
ing 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 stock-
ings 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 impor-
tance 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 hap-
pen. That is why he went back to live in Winesburg
and why we know about him. The thing that hap-
pened 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 fig-
ure, bobbing up and down on the streets of an Ohio
town at evening when the sun was going down be-
hind 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 re-
porter because the two happened to be thrown to-
gether at a time when the younger man was in a
mood to understand.

Youthful sadness, young man's sadness, the sad-
ness 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 mean-
ing, 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 eve-
ning 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 side-
walk 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."

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

"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 any-
thing to me. I tried to keep quiet, to keep myself to
myself, but I couldn't. I felt just as I did about open-
ing the door. Sometimes I ached to have her go
away and never come back any more."

The old man sprang to his feet and his voice
shook with excitement. "One night something hap-
pened. 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 every-
thing, 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 com-
mand 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 daugh-
ter of Henry Carpenter, bookkeeper in the First Na-
tional Bank of Winesburg, and lived with him in a
gloomy old house far out at the end of Buckeye
Street. The house was surrounded by pine trees and
there was no grass beneath the trees. A rusty tin
eaves-trough had slipped from its fastenings at the
back of the house and when the wind blew it beat
against the roof of a small shed, making a dismal
drumming noise that sometimes persisted all through
the night.

When she was a young girl Henry Carpenter
made life almost unbearable for Belle, but as she
emerged from girlhood into womanhood he lost his
power over her. The bookkeeper's life was made up
of innumerable little pettinesses. When he went to
the bank in the morning he stepped into a closet
and put on a black alpaca coat that had become
shabby with age. At night when he 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 an-
other 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

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 Carpen-
ter on the surface amounted to nothing. He had suc-
ceeded in spending but one evening in her company.
On that evening he hired a horse and buggy at Wes-
ley 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 de-
clared 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 through."

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 au-
thority 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 Wines-
burg 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. With-
out 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 be-
fore us and no difficult task can be done without

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 every-
thing. 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 some-
thing, 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

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 al-
ready aroused fancy. For a year he had been devot-
ing all of his odd moments to the reading of books
and now some tale he had read concerning fife 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 emo-
tion put up his hands, thrusting them into the dark-
ness 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, loveliness."

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

When George got to Belle Carpenter's house there
had already been a visitor there before him. Ed
Handby had come to the door and calling Belle out
of the house had tried to talk to her. He had wanted
to ask the woman to come away with him and to be
his wife, but when she came and stood by the door
he lost his self-assurance and became sullen. "You
stay away from that kid," he growled, thinking of
George Willard, and then, not knowing what else to
say, turned to go away. "If I catch you together I
will break your bones and his too," he added. The
bartender had come to woo, not to threaten, and
was angry with himself because of his failure.

When her lover had departed Belle went 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

For an hour Belle Carpenter and the young re-
porter walked about under the trees in the sweet
night air. George Willard was full of big words. The
sense of power that had come to him during the
hour in the darkness in the alleyway remained with
him and he talked boldly, swaggering along and
swinging his arms about. He wanted to make Belle
Carpenter realize that he was aware of his former
weakness and that he had changed. "You'll find me
different," he declared, thrusting his hands into his
pockets and looking boldly into her eyes. "I don't
know why but it is so. You've got to take me for a
man or let me alone. That's how it is."

Up and down the quiet streets under the new
moon went the woman and the boy. When George
had finished talking they turned down a side street
and went across a bridge into a path that ran up the
side of a hill. The hill began at Waterworks Pond
and climbed 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 hap-
pened to him that night on the hillside. Later, when
he got to his own room, he wanted to weep and
then grew half insane with anger and hate. He hated
Belle Carpenter and was sure that all his life he
would continue to hate her. On the hillside he had
led the woman to one of the little open spaces
among the bushes and had dropped to his knees
beside her. As in the vacant lot, by the laborers'
houses, he had put up his hands in 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 move-
ment 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

George heard the man and woman making their
way through the bushes. As he crept down the hill-
side 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


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 newspa-
per 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 talk-
ing 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 hang-
ers, patent suspender buttons, cans of roof paint,
bottles of rheumatism cure, and a substitute for cof-
fee that companioned the honey in its patient will-
ingness 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 pur-
chased 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 lis-
tening 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 lis-
tened, 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 offer-
ing 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 Cow-
ley 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 col-
lar 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 away.

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 under-
standing 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 starched!"

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 Wil-
lard. 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 spe-
cial 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 unnam-
able desires visited also his mind. Did he not repre-
sent 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

Elmer Cowley was extraordinarily tall and his
arms were long and powerful. His hair, his eye-
brows, and the downy beard that had begun to
grow upon his chin, were pale almost to 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 Wines-
burg 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 mind.

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

In his hour of misery the young merchant had
returned to the farm where he had lived through
boyhood and where there was another human being
to whom he felt he could explain himself. The man
on the farm was a half-witted old fellow named
Mook. He had once been employed by Ebenezer
Cowley and had stayed on the farm when it was
sold. The old man lived in one of the unpainted
sheds back of the farmhouse and puttered about all
day in the fields.

Mook the half-wit lived happily. With 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 any-
thing 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 fa-
ther 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 wor-
ried 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 any-
thing. 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 some-
one 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 out-
side with me," he said, stepping in and closing the
door. He kept his hand on the knob as though pre-
pared 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 inquir-
ingly 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

In the main street of Winesburg, on the cold No-
vember 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 bas-
ket 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 dark-
ness 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

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 qui-
etly out at the front door and walked again in the

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 Wines-
burg and the trainsmen were coupling cars, swing-
ing 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 groan-
ing 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 un-
conscious, 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


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

Ray was a quiet, rather nervous man of perhaps
fifty with a brown beard and shoulders rounded by
too much and too hard labor. In his nature he was
as unlike Hal Winters as two men can be 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 Wind-
peter Winters who had a sawmill near Unionville,
six miles away, and who was looked upon by every-
one 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 inces-
sant slashing at them, rushed straight ahead to cer-
tain 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 ar-
rested 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 spo-
ken 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

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 in-
duced 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 af-
fected 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 Win-
ters 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 laugh-
ing 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 al-
most 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 stand-
ing in rows behind them and the red and yellow
hills in the distance, and from being just two indif-
ferent 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. Per-
haps 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 hurry."

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

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 mut-
tered 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


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, be-
fore 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 Cincinnati.

Then began the hard years for Tom Foster's
grandmother. First her son-in-law was killed by a
policeman during a strike and then Tom's mother
became an invalid and died also. The grandmother
had saved a little money, but it was swept away by
the illness of the daughter and by 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 com-
ing home from work she found a pocket-book con-
taining 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 grand-
mother 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 belong-
ings 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 ner-
vously, and when Tom grew weary and wanted to
put the pack down at a street crossing, she snatched
it up and if he had not prevented would have slung
it across her own back. When they got into the train
and it had run out of the city she was as delighted
as a girl and talked as the boy had never heard her
talk before.

All through the night as the train rattled along,
the grandmother told Tom tales of Winesburg and
of how he would enjoy his life working in the fields
and shooting wild things in the woods there. She
could not believe that the tiny village of fifty years
before had grown into a thriving town in her ab-
sence, 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 pres-
ence 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 bank-
er's new brick barn.

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

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 forma-
tive 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 also.

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

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 mat-
ter 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, lis-
tening and occasionally, when addressed, saying a
few words. As in the city in the houses of prostitu-
tion 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

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 to-
gether. "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
fife 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 fife 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 under-
stand 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 mak-
ing 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 think-
ing 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

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 resi-
dence streets of the town were all newly clothed in
soft green leaves, in the gardens behind the houses
men were puttering about in vegetable 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 danc-
ing 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

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. Put-
ting 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 or-
chard 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 qui-
etly in the coach and to feel the power of the engine
hurling the train along through the night.

Tom got drunk in a very short time. He kept tak-
ing 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

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 talked.

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

George Willard did not see, but his anger concern-
ing 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.

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