LOOKING CAUTIOUSLY ABOUT, George Willard arose from his desk in the office of the Winesburg Eagle and went hurriedly out at the back door. The night was warm and cloudy and although it was not yet eight o clock, the alleyway back of the Eagle office was pitch dark. A team of horses tied to a post somewhere in the darkness stamped on the hard-baked ground. A cat sprang from under George Willard s feet and ran away into the night. The young man was nervous. All day he had gone about his work like one dazed by a blow. In the alleyway he trembled as though with fright.
George Willard crouched and then jumped through the path of light that came out at the door. He began to run forward in the darkness. Behind Ed Griffiths saloon old Jerry Bird the town drunkard lay asleep on the ground. The runner stumbled over the sprawling legs. He laughed brokenly.
George Willard had set forth upon an adventure. All
day he had been trying to make up his mind to go through with the adventure
and nowhe was acting. In the office of theWinesburg Eagle he had been
sitting since six o clock trying to think.
There had been no decision. He had just jumped to his
feet, hurried past Will Henderson who was reading proof in the printshop
and started to run along the alleyway.
Through street after street went George Willard, avoiding
the people who passed. He crossed and recrossed the road. When he passed
a street lamp he pulled his hat down over his face. He did not dare
think. In his mind there was a fear but it was a new kind of fear. He
was afraid the adventure on which he had set out would be spoiled, that
he would lose courage and turn back.
George Willard found Louise Trunnion in the kitchen
of her father s house. She was washing dishes by the light of
a kerosene lamp. There she stood behind the screen door in the little
shedlike kitchen at the back of the house. George Willard stopped by
a picket fence and tried to control the shaking of his body. Only a
narrow potato patch separated him from the adventure. Five minutes passed
before he felt sure enough of himself to call to her. Louise!
Oh, Louise! he called. The cry stuck in his throat. His voice
became a hoarse whisper.
Louise Trunnion came out across the potato patch holding
the dish cloth in her hand. How do you know I want to go out with
you, she said sulkily. What makes you so sure?
George Willard did not answer. In silence the two stood
in the darkness with the fence between them. You go on along,
she said. Pa s in there. I ll come along. You
wait by Williams barn.
The young newspaper reporter had received a letter from
Louise Trunnion. It had come that morning to the office of the Winesburg
Eagle. The letter was brief. I m yours if you want me, it
said. He thought it annoying that in the darkness by the fence she had
pretended there was nothing between them. She has a nerve! Well,
gracious sakes, she has a nerve, he muttered as he went along
the street and passed a row of vacant lots where corn grew. The corn
was shoulder high and had been planted right down to the sidewalk.
When Louise Trunnion came out of the front door of her
house she still wore the gingham dress in which she had been washing
dishes. There was no hat on her head. The boy could see her standing
with the doorknob in her hand talking to someone within, no doubt to
old Jake Trunnion, her father. Old Jake was half deaf and she shouted.
The door closed and everything was dark and silent in the little side
street. George Willard trembled more violently than ever.
In the shadows by Williams barn George and Louise
stood, not daring to talk. She was not particularly comely and there
was a black smudge on the side of her nose. George thought she must
have rubbed her nose with her finger after she had been handling some
of the kitchen pots.
The young man began to laugh nervously. It s
warm, he said. He wanted to touch her with his hand. I
m ot very bold, he thought. Just to touch the folds of the
soiled gingham dress would, he decided, be an exquisite pleasure. She
began to quibble. You think you re better than I am. Don
t tell me, I guess I know, she said drawing closer to him.
A flood of words burst from George Willard. He remembered
the look that had lurked in the girl s eyes when they had met
on the streets and thought of the note she had written. Doubt left him.
The whispered tales concerning her that had gone about town gave him
confidence. He became wholly the male, bold and aggressive. In his heart
there was no sympathy for her. Ah, come on, it ll be all
right. There wo t be anyone know anything. How can they know?he
They began to walk along a narrow brick side-walk between
the cracks of which tall weeds grew. Some of the bricks were missing
and the sidewalk was rough and irregular. He took hold of her hand that
was also rough and thought it delightfully small. I can t
go far, she said and her voice was quiet, unperturbed.
They crossed a bridge that ran over a tiny stream and
passed another vacant lot in which corn grew. The street ended. In the
path at the side of the road they were compelled to walk one behind
the other. Will Overto s berry field lay beside the road and there
was a pile of boards. Will is going to build a shed to store berry
crates here, said George and they sat down upon the boards.
WHEN GEORGE WILLARD got back into Main Street it was
past ten o clock and had begun to rain. Three times he walked
up and down the length of Main Street. Sylvester West s Drug Store
was still open and he went in and bought a cigar. When Shorty Crandall
the clerk came out at the door with him he was pleased. For five minutes
the two stood in the shelter of the store awning and talked. George
Wil-lard felt satisfied. He had wanted more than anything else to talk
to some man. Around a corner toward the New Willard House he went whistling
On the sidewalk at the side of Winney s Dry Goods Store where there was a high board fence covered with circus pictures, he stopped whistling and stood perfectly still in the darkness, attentive, listening as though for a voice calling his name. Then again he laughed nervously. She hasn t got anything on me. Nobody knows, he muttered doggedly and went on his way.