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Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson

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Winesburg, Ohio





HANDS, concerning Wing Biddlebaum

PAPER PILLS, concerning Doctor Reefy

MOTHER, concerning Elizabeth Willard

THE PHILOSOPHER, concerning Doctor Parcival

NOBODY KNOWS, concerning Louise Trunnion

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

A MAN OF IDEAS, concerning Joe Welling

ADVENTURE, concerning Alice Hindman

RESPECTABILITY, concerning Wash Williams

THE THINKER, concerning Seth Richmond

TANDY, concerning Tandy Hard

THE STRENGTH OF GOD, concerning the
Reverend Curtis Hartman

THE TEACHER, concerning Kate Swift

LONELINESS, concerning Enoch Robinson

AN AWAKENING, concerning Belle Carpenter

"QUEER," concerning Elmer Cowley

THE UNTOLD LIE, concerning Ray Pearson

DRINK, concerning Tom Foster

DEATH, concerning Doctor Reefy
and Elizabeth Willard

SOPHISTICATION, concerning Helen White

DEPARTURE, concerning George Willard


by Irving Howe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All men lead their lives behind a wall of misun-

derstanding they have themselves built, and

most men die in silence and unnoticed behind

the walls. Now and then a man, cut off from

his fellows by the peculiarities of his nature, be-

comes absorbed in doing something that is per-

sonal, useful and beautiful. Word of his activities

is carried over the walls.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To the memory of my mother,


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



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

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

For a time the two men talked of the raising of
the bed and then they talked of other things. The
soldier got on the subject of the war. The writer, in
fact, led him to that subject. The carpenter had once
been a prisoner in Andersonville prison and had lost
a brother. The brother had died of starvation, and
whenever the carpenter got upon that subject he
cried. He, like the old writer, had a white mustache,
and when he cried he puckered up his lips and the
mustache bobbed up and down. The weeping old
man with the cigar in his mouth was ludicrous. The
plan the writer had for the raising of his bed was
forgotten and later the carpenter did it in his own
way and the writer, who was past sixty, had to help
himself with a chair when he went to bed at night.

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

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

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

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

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

For an hour the procession of grotesques passed
before the eyes of the old man, and then, although
it was a painful thing to do, he crept out of bed and
began to write. Some one of the grotesques had
made a deep impression on his mind and he wanted
to describe it.

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

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

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

And then the people came along. Each as he ap-
peared snatched up one of the truths and some who
were quite strong snatched up a dozen of them.

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

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

Concerning the old carpenter who fixed the bed
for the writer, I only mentioned him because he,


like many of what are called very common people,
became the nearest thing to what is understandable
and lovable of all the grotesques in the writer's


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

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

In the presence of George Willard, Wing Bid-
dlebaum, who for twenty years had been the town
mystery, lost something of his timidity, and his
shadowy personality, submerged in a sea of doubts,
came forth to look at the world. With the young
reporter at his side, he ventured in the light of day
into Main Street or strode up and down on the rick-
ety front porch of his own house, talking excitedly.
The voice that had been low and trembling became
shrill and loud. The bent figure straightened. With
a kind of wriggle, like a fish returned to the brook
by the fisherman, Biddlebaum the silent began to
talk, striving to put into words the ideas that had
been accumulated by his mind during long years of

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

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

When he talked to George Willard, Wing Bid-
dlebaum closed his fists and beat with them upon a
table or on the walls of his house. The action made
him more comfortable. If the desire to talk came to
him when the two were walking in the fields, he
sought out a stump or the top board of a fence and
with his hands pounding busily talked with re-
newed ease.

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

As for George Willard, he had many times wanted
to ask about the hands. At times an almost over-
whelming curiosity had taken hold of him. He felt
that there must be a reason for their strange activity
and their inclination to keep hidden away and only
a growing respect for Wing Biddlebaum kept him
from blurting out the questions that were often in
his mind.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And George Willard was right. Let us look briefly
into the story of the hands. Perhaps our talking of
them will arouse the poet who will tell the hidden
wonder story of the influence for which the hands
were but fluttering pennants of promise.

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

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

And yet that is but crudely stated. It needs the
poet there. With the boys of his school, Adolph
Myers had walked in the evening or had sat talking
until dusk upon the schoolhouse steps lost in a kind
of dream. Here and there went his hands, caressing
the shoulders of the boys, playing about the tousled
heads. As he talked his voice became soft and musi-
cal. There was a caress in that also. In a way the
voice and the hands, the stroking of the shoulders
and the touching of the hair were a part of the
schoolmaster's effort to carry a dream into the young
minds. By the caress that was in his fingers he ex-
pressed himself. He was one of those men in whom
the force that creates life is diffused, not centralized.
Under the caress of his hands doubt and disbelief
went out of the minds of the boys and they began
also to dream.

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

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

One afternoon a man of the town, Henry Brad-
ford, who kept a saloon, came to the schoolhouse
door. Calling Adolph Myers into the school yard he
began to beat him with his fists. As his hard knuck-
les beat down into the frightened face of the school-
master, his wrath became more and more terrible.
Screaming with dismay, the children ran here and
there like disturbed insects. "I'll teach you to put
your hands on my boy, you beast," roared the sa-
loon keeper, who, tired of beating the master, had
begun to kick him about the yard.

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

For twenty years Adolph Myers had lived alone
in Winesburg. He was but forty but looked sixty-
five. The name of Biddlebaum he got from a box of
goods seen at a freight station as he hurried through
an eastern Ohio town. He had an aunt in Wines-
burg, a black-toothed old woman who raised chick-
ens, and with her he lived until she died. He had
been ill for a year after the experience in Pennsylva-
nia, and after his recovery worked as a day laborer
in the fields, going timidly about and striving to con-
ceal his hands. Although he did not understand
what had happened he felt that the hands must be
to blame. Again and again the fathers of the boys
had talked of the hands. "Keep your hands to your-
self," the saloon keeper had roared, dancing, with
fury in the schoolhouse yard.

Upon the veranda of his house by the ravine,
Wing Biddlebaum continued to walk up and down
until the sun had disappeared and the road beyond
the field was lost in the grey shadows. Going into
his house he cut slices of bread and spread honey
upon them. When the rumble of the evening train
that took away the express cars loaded with the
day's harvest of berries had passed and restored the
silence of the summer night, he went again to walk
upon the veranda. In the darkness he could not see
the hands and they became quiet. Although he still
hungered for the presence of the boy, who was the
medium through which he expressed his love of
man, the hunger became again a part of his loneli-
ness and his waiting. Lighting a lamp, Wing Bid-
dlebaum washed the few dishes soiled by his simple
meal and, setting up a folding cot by the screen door
that led to the porch, prepared to undress for the
night. A few stray white bread crumbs lay on the
cleanly washed floor by the table; putting the lamp
upon a low stool he began to pick up the crumbs,
carrying them to his mouth one by one with unbe-
lievable rapidity. In the dense blotch of light beneath
the table, the kneeling figure looked like a priest
engaged in some service of his church. The nervous
expressive fingers, flashing in and out of the light,
might well have been mistaken for the fingers of the
devotee going swiftly through decade after decade
of his rosary.


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

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

Winesburg had forgotten the old man, but in Doc-
tor Reefy there were the seeds of something very
fine. Alone in his musty office in the Heffner Block
above the Paris Dry Goods Company's store, he
worked ceaselessly, building up something that he
himself destroyed. Little pyramids of truth he erected
and after erecting knocked them down again that he
might have the truths to erect other pyramids.

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

The story of Doctor Reefy and his courtship of the
tall dark girl who became his wife and left her
money to him is a very curious story. It is delicious,
like the twisted little apples that grow in the or-
chards of Winesburg. In the fall one walks in the
orchards and the ground is hard with frost under-
foot. The apples have been taken from the trees by
the pickers. They have been put in barrels and
shipped to the cities where they will be eaten in
apartments that are filled with books, magazines,
furniture, and people. On the trees are only a few
gnarled apples that the pickers have rejected. They
look like the knuckles of Doctor Reefy's hands. One
nibbles at them and they are delicious. Into a little
round place at the side of the apple has been gath-
ered all of its sweetness. One runs from tree to tree
over the frosted ground picking the gnarled, twisted
apples and filling his pockets with them. Only the
few know the sweetness of the twisted apples.

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

One by one the mind of Doctor Reefy had made
the thoughts. Out of many of them he formed a
truth that arose gigantic in his mind. The truth
clouded the world. It became terrible and then faded
away and the little thoughts began again.

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

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

For a time the tall dark girl thought she would
marry the jeweler's son. For hours she sat in silence
listening as he talked to her and then she began to
be afraid of something. Beneath his talk of virginity
she began to think there was a lust greater than in
all the others. At times it seemed to her that as he
talked he was holding her body in his hands. She
imagined him turning it slowly about in the white
hands and staring at it. At night she dreamed that
he had bitten into her body and that his jaws were
dripping. She had the dream three times, then she
became in the family way to the one who said noth-
ing at all but who in the moment of his passion
actually did bite her shoulder so that for days the
marks of his teeth showed.

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

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

For several weeks the tall dark girl and the doctor
were together almost every day. The condition that
had brought her to him passed in an illness, but she
was like one who has discovered the sweetness of
the twisted apples, she could not get her mind fixed
again upon the round perfect fruit that is eaten in
the city apartments. In the fall after the beginning
of her acquaintanceship with him she married Doc-
tor Reefy and in the following spring she died. Dur-
ing the winter he read to her all of the odds and
ends of thoughts he had scribbled on the bits of
paper. After he had read them he laughed and
stuffed them away in his pockets to become round
hard balls.


ELIZABETH WILLARD, the mother of George Willard,
was tall and gaunt and her face was marked with
smallpox scars. Although she was but forty-five,
some obscure disease had taken the fire out of her
figure. Listlessly she went about the disorderly old
hotel looking at the faded wall-paper and the ragged
carpets and, when she was able to be about, doing
the work of a chambermaid among beds soiled by
the slumbers of fat traveling men. Her husband,
Tom Willard, a slender, graceful man with square
shoulders, a quick military step, and a black mus-
tache trained to turn sharply up at the ends, tried
to put the wife out of his mind. The presence of the
tall ghostly figure, moving slowly through the halls,
he took as a reproach to himself. When he thought
of her he grew angry and swore. The hotel was un-
profitable and forever on the edge of failure and he
wished himself out of it. He thought of the old
house and the woman who lived there with him as
things defeated and done for. The hotel in which he
had begun life so hopefully was now a mere ghost
of what a hotel should be. As he went spruce and
business-like through the streets of Winesburg, he
sometimes stopped and turned quickly about as
though fearing that the spirit of the hotel and of
the woman would follow him even into the streets.
"Damn such a life, damn it!" he sputtered aimlessly.

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

Between Elizabeth and her one son George there
was a deep unexpressed bond of sympathy, based
on a girlhood dream that had long ago died. In the
son's presence she was timid and reserved, but
sometimes while he hurried about town intent upon
his duties as a reporter, she went into his room and
closing the door knelt by a little desk, made of a
kitchen table, that sat near a window. In the room
by the desk she went through a ceremony that was
half a prayer, half a demand, addressed to the skies.
In the boyish figure she yearned to see something
half forgotten that had once been a part of herself re-
created. The prayer concerned that. "Even though I
die, I will in some way keep defeat from you," she
cried, and so deep was her determination that her
whole body shook. Her eyes glowed and she clenched
her fists. "If I am dead and see him becoming a
meaningless drab figure like myself, I will come
back," she declared. "I ask God now to give me that
privilege. I demand it. I will pay for it. God may
beat me with his fists. I will take any blow that may
befall if but this my boy be allowed to express some-
thing for us both." Pausing uncertainly, the woman
stared about the boy's room. "And do not let him
become smart and successful either," she added

The communion between George Willard and his
mother was outwardly a formal thing without mean-
ing. When she was ill and sat by the window in her
room he sometimes went in the evening to make
her a visit. They sat by a window that looked over
the roof of a small frame building into Main Street.
By turning their heads they could see through an-
other window, along an alleyway that ran behind
the Main Street stores and into the back door of
Abner Groff's bakery. Sometimes as they sat thus a
picture of village life presented itself to them. At the
back door of his shop appeared Abner Groff with a
stick or an empty milk bottle in his hand. For a long
time there was a feud between the baker and a grey
cat that belonged to Sylvester West, the druggist.
The boy and his mother saw the cat creep into the
door of the bakery and presently emerge followed
by the baker, who swore and waved his arms about.
The baker's eyes were small and red and his black
hair and beard were filled with flour dust. Some-
times he was so angry that, although the cat had
disappeared, he hurled sticks, bits of broken glass,
and even some of the tools of his trade about. Once
he broke a window at the back of Sinning's Hard-
ware Store. In the alley the grey cat crouched behind
barrels filled with torn paper and broken bottles
above which flew a black swarm of flies. Once when
she was alone, and after watching a prolonged and
ineffectual outburst on the part of the baker, Eliza-
beth Willard put her head down on her long white
hands and wept. After that she did not look along
the alleyway any more, but tried to forget the con-
test between the bearded man and the cat. It seemed
like a rehearsal of her own life, terrible in its

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

One evening in July, when the transient guests
who made the New Willard House their temporary
home had become scarce, and the hallways, lighted
only by kerosene lamps turned low, were plunged
in gloom, Elizabeth Willard had an adventure. She
had been ill in bed for several days and her son had
not come to visit her. She was alarmed. The feeble
blaze of life that remained in her body was blown
into a flame by her anxiety and she crept out of bed,
dressed and hurried along the hallway toward her
son's room, shaking with exaggerated fears. As she
went along she steadied herself with her hand,
slipped along the papered walls of the hall and
breathed with difficulty. The air whistled through
her teeth. As she hurried forward she thought how
foolish she was. "He is concerned with boyish af-
fairs," she told herself. "Perhaps he has now begun
to walk about in the evening with girls."

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

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

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

But Elizabeth Willard was not to return to her bed
and to sleep. As she stood trembling in the darkness
the door of her son's room opened and the boy's
father, Tom Willard, stepped out. In the light that
steamed out at the door he stood with the knob in
his hand and talked. What he said infuriated the

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

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

A definite determination had come into the mind
of the defeated wife of the Winesburg hotel keeper.
The determination was the result of long years of
quiet and rather ineffectual thinking. "Now," she
told herself, "I will act. There is something threaten-
ing my boy and I will ward it off." The fact that the
conversation between Tom Willard and his son had
been rather quiet and natural, as though an under-
standing existed between them, maddened her. Al-
though for years she had hated her husband, her
hatred had always before been a quite impersonal
thing. He had been merely a part of something else
that she hated. Now, and by the few words at the
door, he had become the thing personified. In the
darkness of her own room she clenched her fists
and glared about. Going to a cloth bag that hung on
a nail by the wall she took out a long pair of sewing
scissors and held them in her hand like a dagger. "I
will stab him," she said aloud. "He has chosen to
be the voice of evil and I will kill him. When I have
killed him something will snap within myself and I
will die also. It will be a release for all of us."

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

In her own mind the tall dark girl had been in
those days much confused. A great restlessness was
in her and it expressed itself in two ways. First there
was an uneasy desire for change, for some big defi-
nite movement to her life. It was this feeling that
had turned her mind to the stage. She dreamed of
joining some company and wandering over the
world, seeing always new faces and giving some-
thing out of herself to all people. Sometimes at night
she was quite beside herself with the thought, but
when she tried to talk of the matter to the members
of the theatrical companies that came to Winesburg
and stopped at her father's hotel, she got nowhere.
They did not seem to know what she meant, or if
she did get something of her passion expressed,
they only laughed. "It's not like that," they said.
"It's as dull and uninteresting as this here. Nothing
comes of it."

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

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

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

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

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

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

Silence fell upon the room where the boy and
woman sat together. Again, as on the other eve-
nings, they were embarrassed. After a time the boy
tried again to talk. "I suppose it won't be for a year
or two but I've been thinking about it," he said,
rising and going toward the door. "Something father
said makes it sure that I shall have to go away." He
fumbled with the doorknob. In the room the silence
became unbearable to the woman. She wanted to
cry out with joy because of the words that had come
from the lips of her son, but the expression of joy
had become impossible to her. "I think you had bet-
ter go out among the boys. You are too much in-
doors," she said. "I thought I would go for a little
walk," replied the son stepping awkwardly out of
the room and closing the door.


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

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

In the late afternoon Will Henderson, owner and
editor of the Eagle, went over to Tom Willy's saloon.
Along an alleyway he went and slipping in at the
back door of the saloon began drinking a drink made
of a combination of sloe gin and soda water. Will
Henderson was a sensualist and had reached the
age of forty-five. He imagined the gin renewed the
youth in him. Like most sensualists he enjoyed talk-
ing of women, and for an hour he lingered about
gossiping with Tom Willy. The saloon keeper was a
short, broad-shouldered man with peculiarly marked
hands. That flaming kind of birthmark that some-
times paints with red the faces of men and women
had touched with red Tom Willy's fingers and the
backs of his hands. As he stood by the bar talking
to Will Henderson he rubbed the hands together.
As he grew more and more excited the red of his
fingers deepened. It was as though the hands had
been dipped in blood that had dried and faded.

As Will Henderson stood at the bar looking at
the red hands and talking of women, his assistant,
George Willard, sat in the office of the Winesburg
Eagle and listened to the talk of Doctor Parcival.

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

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

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

Doctor Parcival had been in Winesburg about five
years. He came from Chicago and when he arrived
was drunk and got into a fight with Albert Long-
worth, the baggageman. The fight concerned a trunk
and ended by the doctor's being escorted to the vil-
lage lockup. When he was released he rented a room
above a shoe-repairing shop at the lower end of
Main Street and put out the sign that announced
himself as a doctor. Although he had but few pa-
tients and these of the poorer sort who were unable
to pay, he seemed to have plenty of money for his
needs. He slept in the office that was unspeakably
dirty and dined at Biff Carter's lunch room in a small
frame building opposite the railroad station. In the
summer the lunch room was filled with flies and Biff
Carter's white apron was more dirty than his floor.
Doctor Parcival did not mind. Into the lunch room
he stalked and deposited twenty cents upon the
counter. "Feed me what you wish for that," he said
laughing. "Use up food that you wouldn't otherwise
sell. It makes no difference to me. I am a man of
distinction, you see. Why should I concern myself
with what I eat."

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

"I was a reporter like you here," Doctor Parcival
began. "It was in a town in Iowa--or was it in Illi-
nois? I don't remember and anyway it makes no
difference. Perhaps I am trying to conceal my iden-
tity and don't want to be very definite. Have you
ever thought it strange that I have money for my
needs although I do nothing? I may have stolen a
great sum of money or been involved in a murder
before I came here. There is food for thought in that,
eh? If you were a really smart newspaper reporter
you would look me up. In Chicago there was a Doc-
tor Cronin who was murdered. Have you heard of
that? Some men murdered him and put him in a
trunk. In the early morning they hauled the trunk
across the city. It sat on the back of an express
wagon and they were on the seat as unconcerned
as anything. Along they went through quiet streets
where everyone was asleep. The sun was just com-
ing up over the lake. Funny, eh--just to think of
them smoking pipes and chattering as they drove
along as unconcerned as I am now. Perhaps I was
one of those men. That would be a strange turn of
things, now wouldn't it, eh?" Again Doctor Parcival
began his tale: "Well, anyway there I was, a reporter
on a paper just as you are here, running about and
getting little items to print. My mother was poor.
She took in washing. Her dream was to make me a
Presbyterian minister and I was studying with that
end in view.

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

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

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

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

"'Don't touch it! Don't you dare touch that
money,' my brother roared, and then he himself
took five or ten dollars and went tramping off to the
saloons. When he had spent what he had taken he
came back for more. He never gave my mother any
money at all but stayed about until he had spent it
all, a little at a time. Then he went back to his job
with the painting crew on the railroad. After he had
gone things began to arrive at our house, groceries
and such things. Sometimes there would be a dress
for mother or a pair of shoes for me.

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

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

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

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

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

Jumping to his feet and breaking off the tale, Doc-
tor Parcival began to walk up and down in the office
of the Winesburg Eagle where George Willard sat lis-
tening. He was awkward and, as the office was
small, continually knocked against things. "What a
fool I am to be talking," he said. "That is not my
object in coming here and forcing my acquaintance-
ship upon you. I have something else in mind. You
are a reporter just as I was once and you have at-
tracted my attention. You may end by becoming just
such another fool. I want to warn you and keep on
warning you. That's why I seek you out."

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

One day in August Doctor Parcival had an adven-
ture in Winesburg. For a month George Willard had
been going each morning to spend an hour in the
doctor's office. The visits came about through a de-
sire on the part of the doctor to read to the boy from
the pages of a book he was in the process of writing.
To write the book Doctor Parcival declared was the
object of his coming to Winesburg to live.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

George Willard found Louise Trunnion in the
kitchen of her father's house. She was washing
dishes by the light of a kerosene lamp. There she
stood behind the screen door in the little shedlike
kitchen at the back of the house. George Willard
stopped by a picket fence and tried to control the
shaking of his body. Only a narrow potato patch
separated him from the adventure. Five minutes
passed before he felt sure enough of himself to call
to her. "Louise! Oh, Louise!" he called. The cry
stuck in his throat. His voice became a hoarse

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

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

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

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

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

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

A flood of words burst from George Willard. He
remembered the look that had lurked in the girl's
eyes when they had met on the streets and thought
of the note she had written. Doubt left him. The
whispered tales concerning her that had gone about
town gave him confidence. He became wholly the
male, bold and aggressive. In his heart there was no
sympathy for her. "Ah, come on, it'll be all right.
There won't be anyone know anything. How can
they know?" he urged.

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

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

When George Willard got back into Main Street it
was past ten o'clock and had begun to rain. Three
times he walked up and down the length of Main
Street. Sylvester West's Drug Store was still open
and he went in and bought a cigar. When Shorty
Crandall the clerk came out at the door with him he
was pleased. For five minutes the two stood in the
shelter of the store awning and talked. George Wil-
lard felt satisfied. He had wanted more than any-
thing else to talk to some man. Around a corner
toward the New Willard House he went whistling

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


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