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Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson

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A Tale in Four Parts

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

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

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

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

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

When Jesse Bentley's father and brothers had
come into their ownership of the place, much of the
harder part of the work of clearing had been done,
but they clung to old traditions and worked like
driven animals. They lived as practically all of the
farming people of the time lived. In the spring and
through most of the winter the highways leading
into the town of Winesburg were a sea of mud. The
four young men of the family worked hard all day
in the fields, they ate heavily of coarse, greasy food,
and at night slept like tired beasts on beds of straw.
Into their lives came little that was not coarse and
brutal and outwardly they were themselves coarse
and brutal. On Saturday afternoons they hitched a
team of horses to a three-seated wagon and went
off to town. In town they stood about the stoves in
the stores talking to other farmers or to the store
keepers. They were dressed in overalls and in the
winter wore heavy coats that were flecked with
mud. Their hands as they stretched them out to the
heat of the stoves were cracked and red. It was dif-
ficult for them to talk and so they for the most part
kept silent. When they had bought meat, flour,
sugar, and salt, they went into one of the Winesburg
saloons and drank beer. Under the influence of
drink the naturally strong lusts of their natures, kept
suppressed by the heroic labor of breaking up new
ground, were released. A kind of crude and animal-
like poetic fervor took possession of them. On the
road home they stood up on the wagon seats and
shouted at the stars. Sometimes they fought long
and bitterly and at other times they broke forth into
songs. Once Enoch Bentley, the older one of the
boys, struck his father, old Tom Bentley, with the
butt of a teamster's whip, and the old man seemed
likely to die. For days Enoch lay hid in the straw in
the loft of the stable ready to flee if the result of his
momentary passion turned out to be murder. He
was kept alive with food brought by his mother,
who also kept him informed of the injured man's
condition. When all turned out well he emerged
from his hiding place and went back to the work of
clearing land as though nothing had happened.

The Civil War brought a sharp turn to the fortunes
of the Bentleys and was responsible for the rise of
the youngest son, Jesse. Enoch, Edward, Harry, and
Will Bentley all enlisted and before the long war
ended they were all killed. For a time after they
went away to the South, old Tom tried to run the
place, but he was not successful. When the last of
the four had been killed he sent word to Jesse that
he would have to come home.

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

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

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

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

As for Jesse Bentley--although he was a delicately
built man there was something within him that
could not easily be killed. He had brown curly hair
and grey eyes that were at times hard and direct, at
times wavering and uncertain. Not only was he slen-
der but he was also short of stature. His mouth was
like the mouth of a sensitive and very determined
child. Jesse Bentley was a fanatic. He was a man
born out of his time and place and for this he suf-
fered and made others suffer. Never did he succeed
in getting what he wanted out of fife and he did not
know what he wanted. Within a very short time
after he came home to the Bentley farm he made
everyone there a little afraid of him, and his wife,
who should have been close to him as his mother
had been, was afraid also. At the end of two weeks
after his coming, old Tom Bentley made over to him
the entire ownership of the place and retired into
the background. Everyone retired into the back-
ground. In spite of his youth and inexperience, Jesse
had the trick of mastering the souls of his people.
He was so in earnest in everything he did and said
that no one understood him. He made everyone on
the farm work as they had never worked before and
yet there was no joy in the work. If things went well
they went well for Jesse and never for the people
who were his dependents. Like a thousand other
strong men who have come into the world here in
America in these later times, Jesse was but half
strong. He could master others but he could not
master himself. The running of the farm as it had
never been run before was easy for him. When he
came home from Cleveland where he had been in
school, he shut himself off from all of his people
and began to make plans. He thought about the
farm night and day and that made him successful.
Other men on the farms about him worked too hard
and were too fired to think, but to think of the farm
and to be everlastingly making plans for its success
was a relief to Jesse. It partially satisfied something
in his passionate nature. Immediately after he came
home he had a wing built on to the old house and
in a large room facing the west he had windows that
looked into the barnyard and other windows that
looked off across the fields. By the window he sat
down to think. Hour after hour and day after day
he sat and looked over the land and thought out his
new place in life. The passionate burning thing in
his nature flamed up and his eyes became hard. He
wanted to make the farm produce as no farm in his
state had ever produced before and then he wanted
something else. It was the indefinable hunger within
that made his eyes waver and that kept him always
more and more silent before people. He would have
given much to achieve peace and in him was a fear
that peace was the thing he could not achieve.

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

In the room by the window overlooking the land
that had come down to him sat Jesse thinking of his
own affairs. In the stables he could hear the tramp-
ing of his horses and the restless movement of his
cattle. Away in the fields he could see other cattle
wandering over green hills. The voices of men, his
men who worked for him, came in to him through
the window. From the milkhouse there was the
steady thump, thump of a churn being manipulated
by the half-witted girl, Eliza Stoughton. Jesse's mind
went back to the men of Old Testament days who
had also owned lands and herds. He remembered
how God had come down out of the skies and talked
to these men and he wanted God to notice and to
talk to him also. A kind of feverish boyish eagerness
to in some way achieve in his own life the flavor
of significance that had hung over these men took
possession of him. Being a prayerful man he spoke
of the matter aloud to God and the sound of his
own words strengthened and fed his eagerness.

"I am a new kind of man come into possession of
these fields," he declared. "Look upon me, O God,
and look Thou also upon my neighbors and all the
men who have gone before me here! O God, create
in me another Jesse, like that one of old, to rule over
men and to be the father of sons who shall be rul-
ers!" Jesse grew excited as he talked aloud and
jumping to his feet walked up and down in the
room. In fancy he saw himself living in old times
and among old peoples. The land that lay stretched
out before him became of vast significance, a place
peopled by his fancy with a new race of men sprung
from himself. It seemed to him that in his day as in
those other and older days, kingdoms might be cre-
ated and new impulses given to the lives of men by
the power of God speaking through a chosen ser-
vant. He longed to be such a servant. "It is God's
work I have come to the land to do," he declared
in a loud voice and his short figure straightened and
he thought that something like a halo of Godly ap-
proval hung over him.

It will perhaps be somewhat difficult for the men
and women of a later day to understand Jesse Bent-
ley. In the last fifty years a vast change has taken
place in the lives of our people. A revolution has in
fact taken place. The coming of industrialism, at-
tended by all the roar and rattle of affairs, the shrill
cries of millions of new voices that have come
among us from overseas, the going and coming of
trains, the growth of cities, the building of the inter-
urban car lines that weave in and out of towns and
past farmhouses, and now in these later days the
coming of the automobiles has worked a tremen-
dous change in the lives and in the habits of thought
of our people of Mid-America. Books, badly imag-
ined and written though they may be in the hurry
of our times, are in every household, magazines cir-
culate by the millions of copies, newspapers are ev-
erywhere. In our day a farmer standing by the stove
in the store in his village has his mind filled to over-
flowing with the words of other men. The newspa-
pers and the magazines have pumped him full.
Much of the old brutal ignorance that had in it also
a kind of beautiful childlike innocence is gone for-
ever. The farmer by the stove is brother to the men
of the cities, and if you listen you will find him
talking as glibly and as senselessly as the best city
man of us all.

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

And so, having been born an imaginative child
and having within him a great intellectual eagerness,
Jesse Bentley had turned wholeheartedly toward
God. When the war took his brothers away, he saw
the hand of God in that. When his father became ill
and could no longer attend to the running of the
farm, he took that also as a sign from God. In the
city, when the word came to him, he walked about
at night through the streets thinking of the matter
and when he had come home and had got the work
on the farm well under way, he went again at night
to walk through the forests and over the low hills
and to think of God.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

David had come back into town with one of the
hired men. The man was in a hurry to go about his
own affairs and left the boy at the head of the street
in which the Hardy house stood. It was early dusk
of a fall evening and the sky was overcast with
clouds. Something happened to David. He could not
bear to go into the house where his mother and
father lived, and on an impulse he decided to run
away from home. He intended to go back to the
farm and to his grandfather, but lost his way and
for hours he wandered weeping and frightened on
country roads. It started to rain and lightning
flashed in the sky. The boy's imagination was ex-
cited and he fancied that he could see and hear
strange things in the darkness. Into his mind came
the conviction that he was walking and running in
some terrible void where no one had ever been be-
fore. The darkness about him seemed limitless. The
sound of the wind blowing in trees was terrifying.
When a team of horses approached along the road
in which he walked he was frightened and climbed
a fence. Through a field he ran until he came into
another road and getting upon his knees felt of the
soft ground with his fingers. But for the figure of
his grandfather, whom he was afraid he would
never find in the darkness, he thought the world
must be altogether empty. When his cries were
heard by a farmer who was walking home from
town and he was brought back to his father's house,
he was so tired and excited that he did not know
what was happening to him.

By chance David's father knew that he had disap-
peared. On the street he had met the farm hand
from the Bentley place and knew of his son's return
to town. When the boy did not come home an alarm
was set up and John Hardy with several men of the
town went to search the country. The report that
David had been kidnapped ran about through the
streets of Winesburg. When he came home there
were no lights in the house, but his mother ap-
peared and clutched him eagerly in her arms. David
thought she had suddenly become another woman.
He could not believe that so delightful a thing had
happened. With her own hands Louise Hardy bathed
his tired young body and cooked him food. She
would not let him go to bed but, when he had put
on his nightgown, blew out the lights and sat down
in a chair to hold him in her arms. For an hour the
woman sat in the darkness and held her boy. All
the time she kept talking in a low voice. David could
not understand what had so changed her. Her habit-
ually dissatisfied face had become, he thought, the
most peaceful and lovely thing he had ever seen.
When he began to weep she held him more and
more tightly. On and on went her voice. It was not
harsh or shrill as when she talked to her husband,
but was like rain falling on trees. Presently men
began coming to the door to report that he had not
been found, but she made him hide and be silent
until she had sent them away. He thought it must
be a game his mother and the men of the town were
playing with him and laughed joyously. Into his
mind came the thought that his having been lost
and frightened in the darkness was an altogether
unimportant matter. He thought that he would have
been willing to go through the frightful experience
a thousand times to be sure of finding at the end of
the long black road a thing so lovely as his mother
had suddenly become.

During the last years of young David's boyhood
he saw his mother but seldom and she became for
him just a woman with whom he had once lived.
Still he could not get her figure out of his mind and
as he grew older it became more definite. When he
was twelve years old he went to the Bentley farm
to live. Old Jesse came into town and fairly de-
manded that he be given charge of the boy. The old
man was excited and determined on having his own
way. He talked to John Hardy in the office of the
Winesburg Savings Bank and then the two men
went to the house on Elm Street to talk with Louise.
They both expected her to make trouble but were
mistaken. She was very quiet and when Jesse had
explained his mission and had gone on at some
length about the advantages to come through having
the boy out of doors and in the quiet atmosphere of
the old farmhouse, she nodded her head in ap-
proval. "It is an atmosphere not corrupted by my
presence," she said sharply. Her shoulders shook
and she seemed about to fly into a fit of temper. "It
is a place for a man child, although it was never a
place for me," she went on. "You never wanted me
there and of course the air of your house did me no
good. It was like poison in my blood but it will be
different with him."

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

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

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

The man who had proclaimed himself the only
true servant of God in all the valley of Wine Creek,
and who had wanted God to send him a sign of
approval by way of a son out of the womb of Kather-
ine, began to think that at last his prayers had been
answered. Although he was at that time only fifty-
five years old he looked seventy and was worn out
with much thinking and scheming. The effort he
had made to extend his land holdings had been suc-
cessful and there were few farms in the valley that
did not belong to him, but until David came he was
a bitterly disappointed man.

There were two influences at work in Jesse Bent-
ley and all his life his mind had been a battleground
for these influences. First there was the old thing in
him. He wanted to be a man of God and a leader
among men of God. His walking in the fields and
through the forests at night had brought him close
to nature and there were forces in the passionately
religious man that ran out to the forces in nature.
The disappointment that had come to him when a
daughter and not a son had been born to Katherine
had fallen upon him like a blow struck by some
unseen hand and the blow had somewhat softened
his egotism. He still believed that God might at any
moment make himself manifest out of the winds or
the clouds, but he no longer demanded such recog-
nition. Instead he prayed for it. Sometimes he was
altogether doubtful and thought God had deserted
the world. He regretted the fate that had not let
him live in a simpler and sweeter time when at the
beckoning of some strange cloud in the sky men
left their lands and houses and went forth into the
wilderness to create new races. While he worked
night and day to make his farms more productive
and to extend his holdings of land, he regretted that
he could not use his own restless energy in the
building of temples, the slaying of unbelievers and
in general in the work of glorifying God's name on

That is what Jesse hungered for and then also he
hungered for something else. He had grown into
maturity in America in the years after the Civil War
and he, like all men of his time, had been touched
by the deep influences that were at work in the
country during those years when modem industrial-
ism was being born. He began to buy machines that
would permit him to do the work of the farms while
employing fewer men and he sometimes thought
that if he were a younger man he would give up
farming altogether and start a factory in Winesburg
for the making of machinery. Jesse formed the habit
of reading newspapers and magazines. He invented
a machine for the making of fence out of wire.
Faintly he realized that the atmosphere of old times
and places that he had always cultivated in his own
mind was strange and foreign to the thing that was
growing up in the minds of others. The beginning
of the most materialistic age in the history of the
world, when wars would be fought without patrio-
tism, when men would forget God and only pay
attention to moral standards, when the will to power
would replace the will to serve and beauty would
be well-nigh forgotten in the terrible headlong rush
of mankind toward the acquiring of possessions,
was telling its story to Jesse the man of God as it
was to the men about him. The greedy thing in him
wanted to make money faster than it could be made
by tilling the land. More than once he went into
Winesburg to talk with his son-in-law John Hardy
about it. "You are a banker and you will have
chances I never had," he said and his eyes shone.
"I am thinking about it all the time. Big things are
going to be done in the country and there will be
more money to be made than I ever dreamed of.
You get into it. I wish I were younger and had your
chance." Jesse Bentley walked up and down in the
bank office and grew more and more excited as he
talked. At one time in his life he had been threat-
ened with paralysis and his left side remained some-
what weakened. As he talked his left eyelid twitched.
Later when he drove back home and when night
came on and the stars came out it was harder to get
back the old feeling of a close and personal God
who lived in the sky overhead and who might at
any moment reach out his hand, touch him on the
shoulder, and appoint for him some heroic task to
be done. Jesse's mind was fixed upon the things
read in newspapers and magazines, on fortunes to
be made almost without effort by shrewd men who
bought and sold. For him the coming of the boy
David did much to bring back with renewed force
the old faith and it seemed to him that God had at
last looked with favor upon him.

As for the boy on the farm, life began to reveal
itself to him in a thousand new and delightful ways.
The kindly attitude of all about him expanded his
quiet nature and he lost the half timid, hesitating
manner he had always had with his people. At night
when he went to bed after a long day of adventures
in the stables, in the fields, or driving about from
farm to farm with his grandfather, he wanted to
embrace everyone in the house. If Sherley Bentley,
the woman who came each night to sit on the floor
by his bedside, did not appear at once, he went to
the head of the stairs and shouted, his young voice
ringing through the narrow halls where for so long
there had been a tradition of silence. In the morning
when he awoke and lay still in bed, the sounds that
came in to him through the windows filled him with
delight. He thought with a shudder of the life in the
house in Winesburg and of his mother's angry voice
that had always made him tremble. There in the
country all sounds were pleasant sounds. When he
awoke at dawn the barnyard back of the house also
awoke. In the house people stirred about. Eliza
Stoughton the half-witted girl was poked in the ribs
by a farm hand and giggled noisily, in some distant
field a cow bawled and was answered by the cattle
in the stables, and one of the farm hands spoke
sharply to the horse he was grooming by the stable
door. David leaped out of bed and ran to a window.
All of the people stirring about excited his mind,
and he wondered what his mother was doing in the
house in town.

From the windows of his own room he could not
see directly into the barnyard where the farm hands
had now all assembled to do the morning shores,
but he could hear the voices of the men and the
neighing of the horses. When one of the men
laughed, he laughed also. Leaning out at the open
window, he looked into an orchard where a fat sow
wandered about with a litter of tiny pigs at her
heels. Every morning he counted the pigs. "Four,
five, six, seven," he said slowly, wetting his finger
and making straight up and down marks on the
window ledge. David ran to put on his trousers and
shirt. A feverish desire to get out of doors took pos-
session of him. Every morning he made such a noise
coming down stairs that Aunt Callie, the house-
keeper, declared he was trying to tear the house
down. When he had run through the long old
house, shutting the doors behind him with a bang,
he came into the barnyard and looked about with
an amazed air of expectancy. It seemed to him that
in such a place tremendous things might have hap-
pened during the night. The farm hands looked at
him and laughed. Henry Strader, an old man who
had been on the farm since Jesse came into posses-
sion and who before David's time had never been
known to make a joke, made the same joke every
morning. It amused David so that he laughed and
clapped his hands. "See, come here and look," cried
the old man. "Grandfather Jesse's white mare has
tom the black stocking she wears on her foot."

Day after day through the long summer, Jesse
Bentley drove from farm to farm up and down the
valley of Wine Creek, and his grandson went with
him. They rode in a comfortable old phaeton drawn
by the white horse. The old man scratched his thin
white beard and talked to himself of his plans for
increasing the productiveness of the fields they vis-
ited and of God's part in the plans all men made.
Sometimes he looked at David and smiled happily
and then for a long time he appeared to forget the
boy's existence. More and more every day now his
mind turned back again to the dreams that had filled
his mind when he had first come out of the city to
live on the land. One afternoon he startled David
by letting his dreams take entire possession of him.
With the boy as a witness, he went through a cere-
mony and brought about an accident that nearly de-
stroyed the companionship that was growing up
between them.

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

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

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

A kind of terror he had never known before took
possession of David. Crouching beneath a tree he
watched the man on the ground before him and his
own knees began to tremble. It seemed to him that
he was in the presence not only of his grandfather
but of someone else, someone who might hurt him,
someone who was not kindly but dangerous and
brutal. He began to cry and reaching down picked
up a small stick, which he held tightly gripped in
his fingers. When Jesse Bentley, absorbed in his own
idea, suddenly arose and advanced toward him, his
terror grew until his whole body shook. In the
woods an intense silence seemed to lie over every-
thing and suddenly out of the silence came the old
man's harsh and insistent voice. Gripping the boy's
shoulders, Jesse turned his face to the sky and
shouted. The whole left side of his face twitched
and his hand on the boy's shoulder twitched also.
"Make a sign to me, God," he cried. "Here I stand
with the boy David. Come down to me out of the
sky and make Thy presence known to me."

With a cry of fear, David turned and, shaking
himself loose from the hands that held him, ran
away through the forest. He did not believe that the
man who turned up his face and in a harsh voice
shouted at the sky was his grandfather at all. The
man did not look like his grandfather. The convic-
tion that something strange and terrible had hap-
pened, that by some miracle a new and dangerous
person had come into the body of the kindly old
man, took possession of him. On and on he ran
down the hillside, sobbing as he ran. When he fell
over the roots of a tree and in falling struck his head,
he arose and tried to run on again. His head hurt
so that presently he fell down and lay still, but it
was only after Jesse had carried him to the buggy
and he awoke to find the old man's hand stroking
his head tenderly that the terror left him. "Take me
away. There is a terrible man back there in the
woods," he declared firmly, while Jesse looked away
over the tops of the trees and again his lips cried
out to God. "What have I done that Thou dost not
approve of me," he whispered softly, saying the
words over and over as he drove rapidly along the
road with the boy's cut and bleeding head held ten-
derly against his shoulder.



THE STORY OF Louise Bentley, who became Mrs. John
Hardy and lived with her husband in a brick house
on Elm Street in Winesburg, is a story of mis-

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

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

During her early years she lived on the Bentley
farm, a silent, moody child, wanting love more than
anything else in the world and not getting it. When
she was fifteen she went to live in Winesburg with
the family of Albert Hardy, who had a store for the
sale of buggies and wagons, and who was a member
of the town board of education.

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

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

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

In Winesburg as on the farm Louise was not
happy. For years she had dreamed of the time when
she could go forth into the world, and she looked
upon the move into the Hardy household as a great
step in the direction of freedom. Always when she
had thought of the matter, it had seemed to her that
in town all must be gaiety and life, that there men
and women must live happily and freely, giving and
taking friendship and affection as one takes the feel
of a wind on the cheek. After the silence and the
cheerlessness of life in the Bentley house, she
dreamed of stepping forth into an atmosphere that
was warm and pulsating with life and reality. And
in the Hardy household Louise might have got
something of the thing for which she so hungered
but for a mistake she made when she had just come
to town.

Louise won the disfavor of the two Hardy girls,
Mary and Harriet, by her application to her studies
in school. She did not come to the house until the
day when school was to begin and knew nothing of
the feeling they had in the matter. She was timid
and during the first month made no acquaintances.
Every Friday afternoon one of the hired men from
the farm drove into Winesburg and took her home
for the week-end, so that she did not spend the
Saturday holiday with the town people. Because she
was embarrassed and lonely she worked constantly
at her studies. To Mary and Harriet, it seemed as
though she tried to make trouble for them by her
proficiency. In her eagerness to appear well Louise
wanted to answer every question put to the class by
the teacher. She jumped up and down and her eyes
flashed. Then when she had answered some ques-
tion the others in the class had been unable to an-
swer, she smiled happily. "See, I have done it for
you," her eyes seemed to say. "You need not bother
about the matter. I will answer all questions. For the
whole class it will be easy while I am here."

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

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

The merchant took his hat from a rack by the door
and prepared to depart for the evening. At the door
he stopped and glared back. So fierce was his man-
ner that Louise was frightened and ran upstairs to
her own room. The daughters began to speak of
their own affairs. "Pay attention to me," roared the
merchant. "Your minds are lazy. Your indifference
to education is affecting your characters. You will
amount to nothing. Now mark what I say--Louise
will be so far ahead of you that you will never catch

The distracted man went out of the house and
into the street shaking with wrath. He went along
muttering words and swearing, but when he got
into Main Street his anger passed. He stopped to
talk of the weather or the crops with some other
merchant or with a farmer who had come into town
and forgot his daughters altogether or, if he thought
of them, only shrugged his shoulders. "Oh, well,
girls will be girls," he muttered philosophically.

In the house when Louise came down into the
room where the two girls sat, they would have noth-
ing to do with her. One evening after she had been
there for more than six weeks and was heartbroken
because of the continued air of coldness with which
she was always greeted, she burst into tears. "Shut
up your crying and go back to your own room and
to your books," Mary Hardy said sharply.

* * *

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

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

The mind of the country girl became filled with
the idea of drawing close to the young man. She
thought that in him might be found the quality she
had all her life been seeking in people. It seemed to
her that between herself and all the other people in
the world, a wall had been built up and that she
was living just on the edge of some warm inner
circle of life that must be quite open and under-
standable to others. She became obsessed with the
thought that it wanted but a courageous act on her
part to make all of her association with people some-
thing quite different, and that it was possible by
such an act to pass into a new life as one opens a
door and goes into a room. Day and night she
thought of the matter, but although the thing she
wanted so earnestly was something very warm and
close it had as yet no conscious connection with sex. It
had not become that definite, and her mind had only
alighted upon the person of John Hardy because he
was at hand and unlike his sisters had not been un-
friendly to her.

The Hardy sisters, Mary and Harriet, were both
older than Louise. In a certain kind of knowledge of
the world they were years older. They lived as all
of the young women of Middle Western towns
lived. In those days young women did not go out
of our towns to Eastern colleges and ideas in regard
to social classes had hardly begun to exist. A daugh-
ter of a laborer was in much the same social position
as a daughter of a farmer or a merchant, and there
were no leisure classes. A girl was "nice" or she was
"not nice." If a nice girl, she had a young man who
came to her house to see her on Sunday and on
Wednesday evenings. Sometimes she went with her
young man to a dance or a church social. At other
times she received him at the house and was given
the use of the parlor for that purpose. No one in-
truded upon her. For hours the two sat behind
closed doors. Sometimes the lights were turned low
and the young man and woman embraced. Cheeks
became hot and hair disarranged. After a year or
two, if the impulse within them became strong and
insistent enough, they married.

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

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

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

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

For an hour Louise sat on the floor in the darkness
and listened. Without words Mary Hardy, with the
aid of the man who had come to spend the evening
with her, brought to the country girl a knowledge
of men and women. Putting her head down until
she was curled into a little ball she lay perfectly still.
It seemed to her that by some strange impulse of
the gods, a great gift had been brought to Mary
Hardy and she could not understand the older wom-
an's determined protest.

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

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

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

And then on a Monday evening two or three
weeks after the writing of the note, John Hardy
came for her. Louise had so entirely given up the
thought of his coming that for a long time she did
not hear the call that came up from the orchard. On
the Friday evening before, as she was being driven
back to the farm for the week-end by one of the
hired men, she had on an impulse done a thing that
had startled her, and as John Hardy stood in the
darkness below and called her name softly and insis-
tently, she walked about in her room and wondered
what new impulse had led her to commit so ridicu-
lous an act.

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

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

Louise Bentley took John Hardy to be her lover.
That was not what she wanted but it was so the
young man had interpreted her approach to him,
and so anxious was she to achieve something else
that she made no resistance. When after a few
months they were both afraid that she was about to
become a mother, they went one evening to the
county seat and were married. For a few months
they lived in the Hardy house and then took a house
of their own. All during the first year Louise tried
to make her husband understand the vague and in-
tangible hunger that had led to the writing of the
note and that was still unsatisfied. Again and again
she crept into his arms and tried to talk of it, but
always without success. Filled with his own notions
of love between men and women, he did not listen
but began to kiss her upon the lips. That confused
her so that in the end she did not want to be kissed.
She did not know what she wanted.

When the alarm that had tricked them into mar-
riage proved to be groundless, she was angry and
said bitter, hurtful things. Later when her son David
was born, she could not nurse him and did not
know whether she wanted him or not. Sometimes
she stayed in the room with him all day, walking
about and occasionally creeping close to touch him
tenderly with her hands, and then other days came
when she did not want to see or be near the tiny
bit of humanity that had come into the house. When
John Hardy reproached her for her cruelty, she
laughed. "It is a man child and will get what it
wants anyway," she said sharply. "Had it been a
woman child there is nothing in the world I would
not have done for it."



WHEN DAVID HARDY was a tall boy of fifteen, he,
like his mother, had an adventure that changed the
whole current of his life and sent him out of his
quiet corner into the world. The shell of the circum-
stances of his life was broken and he was compelled
to start forth. He left Winesburg and no one there
ever saw him again. After his disappearance, his
mother and grandfather both died and his father be-
came very rich. He spent much money in trying to
locate his son, but that is no part of this story.

It was in the late fall of an unusual year on the
Bentley farms. Everywhere the crops had been
heavy. That spring, Jesse had bought part of a long
strip of black swamp land that lay in the valley of
Wine Creek. He got the land at a low price but had
spent a large sum of money to improve it. Great
ditches had to be dug and thousands of tile laid.
Neighboring farmers shook their heads over the ex-
pense. Some of them laughed and hoped that Jesse
would lose heavily by the venture, but the old man
went silently on with the work and said nothing.

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

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

In the fall of that year when the frost came and
the trees in the forests along Wine Creek were
golden brown, David spent every moment when he
did not have to attend school, out in the open.
Alone or with other boys he went every afternoon
into the woods to gather nuts. The other boys of the
countryside, most of them sons of laborers on the
Bentley farms, had guns with which they went
hunting rabbits and squirrels, but David did not go
with them. He made himself a sling with rubber
bands and a forked stick and went off by himself to
gather nuts. As he went about thoughts came to
him. He realized that he was almost a man and won-
dered what he would do in life, but before they
came to anything, the thoughts passed and he was
a boy again. One day he killed a squirrel that sat on
one of the lower branches of a tree and chattered at
him. Home he ran with the squirrel in his hand.
One of the Bentley sisters cooked the little animal
and he ate it with great gusto. The skin he tacked
on a board and suspended the board by a string
from his bedroom window.

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

One Saturday morning when he was about to set
off for the woods with the sling in his pocket and a
bag for nuts on his shoulder, his grandfather stopped
him. In the eyes of the old man was the strained
serious look that always a little frightened David. At
such times Jesse Bentley's eyes did not look straight
ahead but wavered and seemed to be looking at
nothing. Something like an invisible curtain ap-
peared to have come between the man and all the
rest of the world. "I want you to come with me,"
he said briefly, and his eyes looked over the boy's
head into the sky. "We have something important
to do today. You may bring the bag for nuts if you
wish. It does not matter and anyway we will be
going into the woods."

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

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

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

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

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

In the woods, after they had gone a long way
from the road, Jesse stopped in an opening among
the trees where a clearing, overgrown with small
bushes, ran up from the creek. He was still silent
but began at once to erect a heap of dry sticks which
he presently set afire. The boy sat on the ground
with the lamb in his arms. His imagination began to
invest every movement of the old man with signifi-
cance and he became every moment more afraid. "I
must put the blood of the lamb on the head of the
boy," Jesse muttered when the sticks had begun to
blaze greedily, and taking a long knife from his
pocket he turned and walked rapidly across the
clearing toward David.

Terror seized upon the soul of the boy. He was
sick with it. For a moment he sat perfectly still and
then his body stiffened and he sprang to his feet.
His face became as white as the fleece of the lamb
that, now finding itself suddenly released, ran down
the hill. David ran also. Fear made his feet fly. Over
the low bushes and logs he leaped frantically. As he
ran he put his hand into his pocket and took out
the branched stick from which the sling for shooting
squirrels was suspended. When he came to the
creek that was shallow and splashed down over the
stones, he dashed into the water and turned to look
back, and when he saw his grandfather still running
toward him with the long knife held tightly in his
hand he did not hesitate, but reaching down, se-
lected a stone and put it in the sling. With all his
strength he drew back the heavy rubber bands and
the stone whistled through the air. It hit Jesse, who
had entirely forgotten the boy and was pursuing the
lamb, squarely in the head. With a groan he pitched
forward and fell almost at the boy's feet. When
David saw that he lay still and that he was appar-
ently dead, his fright increased immeasurably. It be-
came an insane panic.

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

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


HE LIVED WITH his mother, a grey, silent woman
with a peculiar ashy complexion. The house in
which they lived stood in a little grove of trees be-
yond where the main street of Winesburg crossed
Wine Creek. His name was Joe Welling, and his fa-
ther had been a man of some dignity in the commu-
nity, a lawyer, and a member of the state legislature
at Columbus. Joe himself was small of body and in
his character unlike anyone else in town. He was
like a tiny little volcano that lies silent for days and
then suddenly spouts fire. No, he wasn't like that--
he was like a man who is subject to fits, one who
walks among his fellow men inspiring fear because
a fit may come upon him suddenly and blow him
away into a strange uncanny physical state in which
his eyes roll and his legs and arms jerk. He was like
that, only that the visitation that descended upon
Joe Welling was a mental and not a physical thing.
He was beset by ideas and in the throes of one of his
ideas was uncontrollable. Words rolled and tumbled
from his mouth. A peculiar smile came upon his
lips. The edges of his teeth that were tipped with
gold glistened in the light. Pouncing upon a by-
stander he began to talk. For the bystander there
was no escape. The excited man breathed into his
face, peered into his eyes, pounded upon his chest
with a shaking forefinger, demanded, compelled

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

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

In Sylvester West's Drug Store stood four men
who were talking of horse racing. Wesley Moyer's
stallion, Tony Tip, was to race at the June meeting
at Tiffin, Ohio, and there was a rumor that he would
meet the stiffest competition of his career. It was
said that Pop Geers, the great racing driver, would
himself be there. A doubt of the success of Tony Tip
hung heavy in the air of Winesburg.

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

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

"I have my facts correct. Depend upon that. I
went to Sinnings' Hardware Store and got a rule.
Then I went back and measured. I could hardly be-
lieve my own eyes. It hasn't rained you see for ten
days. At first I didn't know what to think. Thoughts
rushed through my head. I thought of subterranean
passages and springs. Down under the ground went
my mind, delving about. I sat on the floor of the
bridge and rubbed my head. There wasn't a cloud
in the sky, not one. Come out into the street and
you'll see. There wasn't a cloud. There isn't a cloud
now. Yes, there was a cloud. I don't want to keep
back any facts. There was a cloud in the west down
near the horizon, a cloud no bigger than a man's

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

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

Joe Welling turned and went out at the door. Tak-
ing a book from his pocket, he stopped and ran a
finger down one of the pages. Again he was ab-
sorbed in his duties as agent of the Standard Oil
Company. "Hern's Grocery will be getting low on
coal oil. I'll see them," he muttered, hurrying along
the street, and bowing politely to the right and left
at the people walking past.

When George Willard went to work for the Wines-
burg Eagle he was besieged by Joe Welling. Joe en-
vied the boy. It seemed to him that he was meant
by Nature to be a reporter on a newspaper. "It is
what I should be doing, there is no doubt of that,"
he declared, stopping George Willard on the side-
walk before Daugherty's Feed Store. His eyes began
to glisten and his forefinger to tremble. "Of course
I make more money with the Standard Oil Company
and I'm only telling you," he added. "I've got noth-
ing against you but I should have your place. I could
do the work at odd moments. Here and there I
would run finding out things you'll never see."

Becoming more excited Joe Welling crowded the
young reporter against the front of the feed store.
He appeared to be lost in thought, rolling his eyes
about and running a thin nervous hand through his
hair. A smile spread over his face and his gold teeth
glittered. "You get out your note book," he com-
manded. "You carry a little pad of paper in your
pocket, don't you? I knew you did. Well, you set
this down. I thought of it the other day. Let's take
decay. Now what is decay? It's fire. It burns up
wood and other things. You never thought of that?
Of course not. This sidewalk here and this feed
store, the trees down the street there--they're all on
fire. They're burning up. Decay you see is always
going on. It doesn't stop. Water and paint can't stop
it. If a thing is iron, then what? It rusts, you see.
That's fire, too. The world is on fire. Start your
pieces in the paper that way. Just say in big letters
'The World Is On Fire.' That will make 'em look up.
They'll say you're a smart one. I don't care. I don't
envy you. I just snatched that idea out of the air. I
would make a newspaper hum. You got to admit

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joe Welling's love affair set the town of Winesburg
on edge. When it began everyone whispered and
shook his head. When people tried to laugh, the
laughter was forced and unnatural. Joe fell in love
with Sarah King, a lean, sad-looking woman who
lived with her father and brother in a brick house
that stood opposite the gate leading to the Wines-
burg Cemetery.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inside the room Joe Welling had paid no attention
to the grumbled threat of Tom King. Absorbed in
an idea he closed the door and, lighting a lamp,
spread the handful of weeds and grasses upon the
floor. "I've got something here," he announced sol-
emnly. "I was going to tell George Willard about it,
let him make a piece out of it for the paper. I'm glad
you're here. I wish Sarah were here also. I've been
going to come to your house and tell you of some
of my ideas. They're interesting. Sarah wouldn't let
me. She said we'd quarrel. That's foolish."

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

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

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

There was a scraping of chairs in the room. It was
then that George Willard retreated to his own room.
Leaning out at the window he saw Joe Welling going
along the street with the two Kings. Tom King was
forced to take extraordinary long strides to keep
pace with the little man. As he strode along, he
leaned over, listening--absorbed, fascinated. Joe
Welling again talked excitedly. "Take milkweed
now," he cried. "A lot might be done with milk-
weed, eh? It's almost unbelievable. I want you to
think about it. I want you two to think about it.
There would be a new vegetable kingdom you see.
It's interesting, eh? It's an idea. Wait till you see
Sarah, she'll get the idea. She'll be interested. Sarah
is always interested in ideas. You can't be too smart
for Sarah, now can you? Of course you can't. You
know that."


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

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

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

When she was a girl of sixteen and before she
began to work in the store, Alice had an affair with
a young man. The young man, named Ned Currie,
was older than Alice. He, like George Willard, was
employed on the Winesburg Eagle and for a long time
he went to see Alice almost every evening. Together
the two walked under the trees through the streets
of the town and talked of what they would do with
their lives. Alice was then a very pretty girl and Ned
Currie took her into his arms and kissed her. He
became excited and said things he did not intend to
say and Alice, betrayed by her desire to have some-
thing beautiful come into her rather narrow life, also
grew excited. She also talked. The outer crust of her
life, all of her natural diffidence and reserve, was
tom away and she gave herself over to the emotions
of love. When, late in the fall of her sixteenth year,
Ned Currie went away to Cleveland where he hoped
to get a place on a city newspaper and rise in the
world, she wanted to go with him. With a trembling
voice she told him what was in her mind. "I will
work and you can work," she said. "I do not want
to harness you to a needless expense that will pre-
vent your making progress. Don't marry me now.
We will get along without that and we can be to-
gether. Even though we live in the same house no
one will say anything. In the city we will be un-
known and people will pay no attention to us."

Ned Currie was puzzled by the determination and
abandon of his sweetheart and was also deeply
touched. He had wanted the girl to become his mis-
tress but changed his mind. He wanted to protect
and care for her. "You don't know what you're talk-
ing about," he said sharply; "you may be sure I'll
let you do no such thing. As soon as I get a good
job I'll come back. For the present you'll have to
stay here. It's the only thing we can do."

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

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

The young newspaper man did not succeed in get-
ting a place on a Cleveland paper and went west to
Chicago. For a time he was lonely and wrote to Alice
almost every day. Then he was caught up by the
life of the city; he began to make friends and found
new interests in life. In Chicago he boarded at a
house where there were several women. One of
them attracted his attention and he forgot Alice in
Winesburg. At the end of a year he had stopped
writing letters, and only once in a long time, when
he was lonely or when he went into one of the city
parks and saw the moon shining on the grass as it
had shone that night on the meadow by Wine
Creek, did he think of her at all.

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

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