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Winesburg, Ohio, by Sherwood Anderson
Adventure, Concerning Alice Hindman
HINDMAN, a woman of twenty-seven when George Willard was a mere boy, had
lived in Winesburg all her life. She
clerked in Winney's Dry Goods Store and lived with her mother, who had
married a second husband.
step-father was a carriage painter, and given to drink.
His story is an odd one. It
will be worth telling some day.
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.
she was a girl of sixteen and before she began to work in the store, Alice
had an affair with a young man. The
young man, named Ned Currie, was older than Alice.
He, like George Willard, was employed on the Winesburg Eagle and
for a long time he went to see Alice almost every evening. Together the two walked under the trees through the streets
of the town and talked of what they would do with their lives.
Alice was then a very pretty girl and Ned Currie took her into his
arms and kissed her. He
became excited and said things he did not intend to say and Alice,
betrayed by her desire to have something beautiful come into her rather
narrow life, also grew excited. She
also talked. The outer crust
of her life, all of her natural diffidence and reserve, was 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
prevent your making progress. Don't
marry me now. We will get along without that and we can be together.
Even though we live in the same house no one will say anything.
In the city we will be unknown and people will pay no attention to
Currie was puzzled by the determination and abandon of his sweetheart and
was also deeply touched. He
had wanted the girl to become his mistress but changed his mind. He wanted to protect and care for her. "You don't know what you're talking about," he said
sharply; "you may be sure I'll let you do no such thing.
As soon as I get a good job I'll come back.
For the present you'll have to stay here.
It's the only thing we can do."
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.
got out of the buggy at a place where a long meadow ran down to the bank of
Wine Creek and there in the dim light became lovers. When at midnight they returned to town they were both glad.
It did not seem to them that anything that could happen in the future
could blot out the wonder and beauty of the thing that had happened.
"Now we will have to stick to each other, whatever happens we
will have to do that," Ned Currie said as he left the girl at her
young newspaper man did not succeed in getting a place on a Cleveland paper
and went west to Chicago. For a
time he was lonely and wrote to Alice almost every day.
Then he was caught up by the life of the city; he began to make
friends and found new interests in life.
In Chicago he boarded at a house where there were several women.
One of them attracted his attention and he forgot Alice in Winesburg.
At the end of a year he had stopped writing letters, and only once in
a long time, when he was lonely or when he went into one of the city parks
and saw the moon shining on the grass as it had shone that night on the
meadow by Wine Creek, did he think of her at all.
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.
was glad to be employed because the daily round of toil in the store made
the time of waiting seem less long and uninteresting.
She began to save money, thinking that when she had saved two or
three hundred dollars she would follow her lover to the city and try if her
presence would not win back his affections.
did not blame Ned Currie for what had happened in the moonlight in the
field, but felt that she could never marry another man. To her the thought of giving to another what she still felt
could belong only to Ned seemed monstrous.
When other young men tried to attract her attention she would have
nothing to do with them. "I
am his wife and shall remain his wife whether he comes back or not,"
she whispered to herself, and for all of her willingness to support herself
could not have understood the growing modern idea of a woman's owning
herself and giving and taking for her own ends in life.
worked in the dry goods store from eight in the morning until six at night
and on three evenings a week went back to the store to stay from seven until
nine. As time passed and she
became more and more lonely she began to practice the devices common to
lonely people. When at night
she went upstairs into her own room she knelt on the floor to pray and in
her prayers whispered things she wanted to say to her lover.
She became attached to inanimate objects, and because it was her own,
could not bare to have anyone touch the furniture of her room.
The trick of saving money, begun for a purpose, was carried on after
the scheme of going to the city to find Ned Currie had been given up.
It became a fixed habit, and when she needed new clothes she did not
get them. Sometimes on rainy
afternoons in the store she got out her bank book and, letting it lie open
before her, spent hours dreaming impossible dreams of saving money enough so
that the interest would support both herself and her future husband.
always liked to travel about," she thought. "I'll give him the
chance. Some day when we are
married and I can save both his money and my own, we will be rich.
Then we can travel together all over the world."
the dry goods store weeks ran into months and months into years as Alice
waited and dreamed of her lover's return.
Her employer, a grey old man with false teeth and a thin grey
mustache that drooped down over his mouth, was not given to conversation,
and sometimes, on rainy days and in the winter when a storm raged in Main
Street, long hours passed when no customers came in.
Alice arranged and rearranged the stock.
She stood near the front window where she could look down the
deserted street and thought of the evenings when she had walked with Ned
Currie and of what he had said. "We
will have to stick to each other now." The words echoed and re-echoed
through the mind of the maturing woman.
Tears came into her eyes. Sometimes when her employer had gone out
and she was alone in the store she put her head on the counter and wept.
"Oh, Ned, I am waiting," she whispered over and over, and
all the time the creeping fear that he would never come back grew stronger
the spring when the rains have passed and before the long hot days of summer
have come, the country about Winesburg is delightful. The town lies in the midst of open fields, but beyond the
fields are pleasant patches of woodlands.
In the wooded places are many little cloistered nooks, quiet places
where lovers go to sit on Sunday afternoons.
Through the trees they look out across the fields and see farmers at
work about the barns or people driving up and down on the roads. In the town bells ring and occasionally a train passes,
looking like a toy thing in the distance.
several years after Ned Currie went away Alice did not go into the wood with
the other young people on Sunday, but one day after he had been gone for two
or three years and when her loneliness seemed unbearable, she put on her
best dress and set out. Finding
a little sheltered place from which she could see the town and a long
stretch of the fields, she sat down. Fear
of age and ineffectuality took possession of her.
She could not sit still, and arose.
As she stood looking out over the land something, perhaps the thought
of never ceasing life as it expresses itself in the flow of the seasons,
fixed her mind on the passing years. With
a shiver of dread, she realized that for her the beauty and freshness of
youth had passed. For the first
time she felt that she had been cheated.
She did not blame Ned Currie and did not know what to blame. Sadness swept over her.
Dropping to her knees, she tried to pray, but instead of prayers
words of protest came to her lips. "It
is not going to come to me. I
will never find happiness. Why
do I tell myself lies?" she cried, and an odd sense of relief came with
this, her first bold attempt to face the fear that had become a part of her
the year when Alice Hindman became twentyfive two things happened to disturb
the dull uneventfulness of her days. Her
mother married Bush Milton, the carriage painter of Winesburg, and she
herself became a member of the Winesburg Methodist Church. Alice joined the church because she had become frightened by
the loneliness of her position in life.
Her mother's second marriage had emphasized her isolation.
"I am becoming old and queer. If Ned comes he will not want me.
In the city where he is living men are perpetually young.
There is so much going on that they do not have time to grow
old," she told herself with a grim little smile, and went resolutely
about the business of becoming acquainted with people.
Every Thursday evening when the store had closed she went to a prayer
meeting in the basement of the church and on Sunday evening attended a
meeting of an organization called The Epworth League.
Will Hurley, a middle-aged man who clerked in a drug store and who also
belonged to the church, offered to walk home with her she did not protest.
"Of course I will not let him make a practice of being with me, but if
he comes to see me once in a long time there can be no harm in that,"
she told herself, still determined in her loyalty to Ned Currie.
realizing what was happening, Alice was trying feebly at first, but with
growing determination, to get a new hold upon life. Beside the drug clerk she walked in silence, but sometimes in
the darkness as they went stolidly along she put out her hand and touched
softly the folds of his coat. When
he left her at the gate before her mother's house she did not go indoors,
but stood for a moment by the door. She
wanted to call to the drug clerk, to ask him to sit with her in the darkness
on the porch before the house, but was afraid he would not understand.
"It is not him that I want," she told herself; "I want
to avoid being so much alone. If
I am not careful I will grow unaccustomed to being with people."
the early fall of her twenty-seventh year a passionate restlessness took
possession of Alice. She could
not bear to be in the company of the drug clerk, and when, in the evening,
he came to walk with her she sent him away.
Her mind became intensely active and when, weary from the long hours
of standing behind the counter in the store, she went home and crawled into
bed, she could not sleep. With
staring eyes she looked into the darkness.
Her imagination, like a child awakened from long sleep, played about
the room. Deep within her there
was something that would not be cheated by phantasies and that demanded some
definite answer from life.
took a pillow into her arms and held it tightly against her breasts.
Getting out of bed, she arranged a blanket so that in the darkness it
looked like a form lying between the sheets and, kneeling beside the bed,
she caressed it, whispering words over and over, like a refrain.
"Why doesn't something happen? Why am I left here alone?"
she muttered. Although she sometimes thought of Ned Currie, she no longer
depended on him. Her desire had
grown vague. She did not want
Ned Currie or any other man. She
wanted to be loved, to have something answer the call that was growing
louder and louder within her.
then one night when it rained Alice had an adventure. It frightened and confused her.
She had come home from the store at nine and found the house empty.
Bush Milton had gone off to town and her mother to the house of a
neighbor. Alice went upstairs
to her room and undressed in the darkness. For a moment she stood by the
window hearing the rain beat against the glass and then a strange desire
took possession of her. Without
stopping to think of what she intended to do, she ran downstairs through the
dark house and out into the rain. As
she stood on the little grass plot before the house and felt the cold rain
on her body a mad desire to run naked through the streets took possession of
thought that the rain would have some creative and wonderful effect on her
body. Not for years had she
felt so full of youth and courage. She
wanted to leap and run, to cry out, to find some other lonely human and
embrace him. On the brick
sidewalk before the house a man stumbled homeward.
Alice started to run. A
wild, desperate mood took possession of her.
"What do I care who it is. He is alone, and I will go to
him," she thought; and then without stopping to consider the possible
result of her madness, called softly. "Wait!"
she cried. "Don't go away. Whoever
you are, you must wait."
man on the sidewalk stopped and stood listening.
He was an old man and somewhat deaf. Putting his hand to his mouth,
he shouted. "What? What
say?" he called.
dropped to the ground and lay trembling. She was so frightened at the
thought of what she had done that when the man had gone on his way she did
not dare get to her feet, but crawled on hands and knees through the grass
to the house. When she got to her own room she bolted the door and drew her
dressing table across the doorway. Her body shook as with a chill and her
hands trembled so that she had difficulty getting into her nightdress. When she got into bed she buried her face in the pillow and
wept brokenheartedly. "What
is the matter with me? I will do something dreadful if I am not
careful," she thought, and turning her face to the wall, began trying
to force herself to face bravely the fact that many people must live and die
alone, even in Winesburg.
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