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Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson

Part 5 out of 5

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

Tom was hurt. He couldn't quarrel with George
Willard because he was incapable of 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, carpen-
ter'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 in-
struments. 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 awk-
ward. The grey beard he later wore had not yet ap-
peared, 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 dispos-
ing of his hands and feet.

On summer afternoons, when she had been mar-
ried many years and when her son George was a
boy of twelve or fourteen, Elizabeth Willard some-
times went up the worn steps to Doctor Reefy's of-
fice. 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 un-
able 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

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 chuck-
led with amusement. Now and then after a period
of silence, a word was said or a hint given that
strangely illuminated the fife of the speaker, a wish
became a desire, or a dream, half dead, flared sud-
denly 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 dark-
ness 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 remem-
bered the arms of men that had held her when ad-
venture 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, ex-
pressed 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 man-
ner 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 complain-
ing 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 en-
tered 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 out-
come 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 out-
come of an affair in which she had just been in-
volved. 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 ear-
nestness. 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 promise."

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

"What a fool I was. When father gave me the
money and tried to talk me out of the thought of
marriage, I would not listen. I thought of what the
girls who were married had said of it and I wanted
marriage also. It wasn't Tom I wanted, it was mar-
riage. 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 sto-
ries about me. I even began to be afraid Tom would
change his mind."

The woman's voice began to quiver with excite-
ment. To Doctor Reefy, who without realizing what
was happening had begun to love her, there came
an odd illusion. He thought that as she talked the
woman's body was changing, that she was becom-
ing younger, straighter, stronger. When he could
not shake off the illusion his mind gave it a profes-
sional 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 hun-
dred dollars father had given to me. I couldn't de-
cide 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 smart."

The excited woman sat up very straight in her
chair and made a quick girlish movement with her
hand as she told of the drive alone on the spring
afternoon. "It was cloudy and a storm 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 her-
self out of the husk of the body of the tired-out

Doctor Reefy did not see the woman he had held
in his arms again until after her death. On the sum-
mer 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 immedi-
ately. 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 trem-
ble 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 patient."

On the evening when disease laid its heavy hand
upon her and defeated her plans for telling her son
George of the eight hundred dollars hidden away,
she got out of bed and crept half across the room
pleading with death for another hour of life. "Wait,
dear! The boy! The boy! The boy!" 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 star-
ing 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, for-
got 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

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 fife, that he would leave Winesburg.
"I will go to some city. Perhaps I can get a job on
some newspaper," he thought, and then his mind
turned to the girl with whom he was to have spent
this evening and again he was half angry at the turn
of events that had prevented his going to her.

In the dimly lighted room with the dead woman
the young man began to have thoughts. His mind
played with thoughts of life as his mother's mind
had played with the thought of death. He closed his
eyes and imagined that the red young lips of Helen
White touched his own lips. His body trembled and
his hands shook. And then something happened.
The boy sprang to his feet and stood stiffly. He
looked at the figure of the dead woman under the
sheets and shame for his 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, be-
came 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 Doc-
tor 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 mar-
riage, 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 wag-
ons 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 muttered.

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 death.

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 re-
grets awake within him. Suddenly something hap-
pens; 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 be-
comes not at all sure. If he be an imaginative boy a
door is tom 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 disap-
peared into nothingness. The sadness of sophistica-
tion 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 under-
stand. He wants, most of all, understanding.

When the moment of sophistication came to George
Willard his mind turned to Helen White, the Wines-
burg banker's daughter. Always he had been con-
scious 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 coun-
try 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 be-
lieved 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 wom-
an'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. Dur-
ing 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 in-
structor 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 think-
ing 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 thor-
oughfares, had changed her profoundly. She wanted
him to feel and be conscious of the change in her

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. Per-
haps 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 de-
clared. "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 stair-
way 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 side-
walk, 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 Moy-
er'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 in-
tensely 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 be-
tween 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 back-
ground 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 gar-
den 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 excite-
ment. 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

At the upper end of the Fair Ground, in Wines-
burg, there is a half decayed old grand-stand. It has
never been painted and the boards are all warped
out of shape. The Fair Ground stands on top of a
low hill rising out of the valley of Wine Creek and
from the grand-stand one can see at night, over a
cornfield, the lights of the town reflected against the

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 posses-
sion 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

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 gath-
ered 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 na-
ture is intensified. One shudders at the thought of
the meaninglessness of life while at the same in-
stant, and if the people of the town are his people,
one loves life so intensely that tears come into the

In the darkness under the roof of the grand-stand,
George Willard sat beside Helen White and felt very
keenly his own insignificance in the scheme of exis-
tence. 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 re-
newed and refreshed him. It was as though her
woman's hand was assisting him to make some mi-
nute 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 mo-
ment 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 dark-
ness 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 sam-
ples 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

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 after-
noon. 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

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 em-
braced him eagerly and then again they drew
quickly back from that impulse. They stopped kiss-
ing 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

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 car-
pet underfoot.

George came downstairs into the hotel office car-
rying a brown leather bag. His trunk was packed
for departure. Since two o'clock he had been awake
thinking of the journey he was about to take and
wondering what he would find at the end of his
journey. The boy who slept in the hotel office lay
on a cot by the door. His mouth was open and he
snored lustily. George crept past the cot and went
out into the silent deserted main street. The east was
pink with the dawn and long streaks of light climbed
into the sky where a few stars still shone.

Beyond the last house on Trunion Pike in Wines-
burg 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 in-
sects 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 apart-
ment 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 invi-
tation and talk over details.

George glanced up and down the car to be sure
no one was looking, then took out his pocketbook
and counted his money. His mind was occupied
with a desire not to appear green. Almost the last
words his father had said to him concerned the mat-
ter 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 seri-
ous and larger aspects of his life did not come into
his mind.

He thought of little things--Turk Smollet wheel-
ing 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 hur-
rying 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 put-
ting 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.

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