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Title: Raintree County

Date of first publication: 1948

Author: Ross Lockridge Jr. (1914-1948)

Date first posted: Jan. 28, 2023

Date last updated: Jan. 28, 2023

Faded Page eBook #20230143

This eBook was produced by: Mardi Desjardins, Pat McCoy & the online Distributed Proofreaders Canada team at https://www.pgdpcanada.net


Map of Raintree County





Hard roads and wide will run through Raintree County.

You will hunt it on the map, and it won’t be there.


For Raintree County is not the country of the perishable

fact. It is the country of the enduring fiction. The clock in

the Court House Tower on page five of the Raintree County Atlas

is always fixed at nine o’clock, and it is summer and the

days are long.








For My Mother

Elsie Shockley Lockridge

This book of lives, loves, and antiquities.

I wish to acknowledge the assistance of my wife, VERNICE BAKER LOCKRIDGE, whose devotion to this book over our joint seven-year period of unintermitted labor upon it was equal to my own. Without her, Raintree County would never have come into being.

Ross Lockridge, Jr.

For the Reader

Raintree County is the story of a single day in which are imbedded a series of flashbacks. The chronologies printed here may assist the reader in understanding the structure of the novel. At the back of the book may be found a chronology of historical events with bearing on the story.






July 4, 1892


  Dawn—MR. JOHN WICKLIFF SHAWNESSY awakens in the town of Waycross. (page 3)

  6:00—The Shawnessy family leaves Waycross by surrey.

  6:45—In the Court House Square of Freehaven, Mr. Shawnessy enters a Museum of Raintree County Antiquities.

  7:45—Across the site of the vanished town of Danwebster, Mr. Shawnessy carries a sickle and a box of cut flowers.

  8:30—Approaching the town of Moreland, EVA Alice Shawnessy reads the last page of Barriers Burned Away. (page 235)

  8:45—Re-entering THE GREAT ROAD OF THE REPUBLIC in Waycross, Mr. Shawnessy is engulfed in wheels and faces. (page 253)

  9:30—Senator Garwood B. Jones arrives by special train in Waycross Station.

10:00—Three men tip their chairs back against the General Store for a talk.

10:05—Esther Root Shawnessy enters the Revival Tent to hear THE OLDEST STORY IN THE WORLD, the Reverend Lloyd G. Jarvey officiating. (page 358)

10:30—Mr. Shawnessy hands Professor Jerusalem Webster Stiles a copy of the News-Historian, containing the legend of a HOUSE DIVIDED. (page 421)

11:15—A photographer, a preacher, a lady in a Victorian mansion, a chorus of men only, and A WHITE BULL prepare respectively to take pictures, glorify God, distribute pamphlets, see an Exhibition for Men Only, and affirm life. (page 553)


12:30—In the intersection of Waycross, General Jacob J. Jackson presents Mr. Shawnessy with a copy of a manuscript entitled FIGHTING FOR FREEDOM, and the G.A.R. parade forms to march on the schoolhouse for a banquet. (page 595)

  2:30—The Grand Patriotic Program begins in the schoolhouse yard.

  4:30—Eva Alice Shawnessy muses in WAYCROSS STATION, where Statesmen, Soldiers, Financiers, and Poets arrive and depart by train. (page 753)

  4:35—As Senator Garwood B. Jones prepares to entrain for the City, Mr. Shawnessy recalls a SPHINX RECUMBENT in his gilded years. (page 765)

  5:05—Financier Cassius P. Carney descends from the Eastbound Express in Waycross Station.

  6:00—BETWEEN TWO WORLDS in contest for her soul, Esther Root Shawnessy passes the intersection in Waycross as a train bears Financier Cassius P. Carney from Waycross Station. (page 869)


  7:30—On the porchswing at Mrs. Evelina Brown’s mansion, an informal meeting of the Waycross Literary Society opens a discussion on THE GOLDEN BOUGH. (page 885)

  9:30—Esther Root Shawnessy watches a cluster of torches approach the garden east of Waycross.

  9:35—From the tower of Mrs. Brown’s mansion, Eva Alice Shawnessy beholds a celestial conflict.

10:50—The last Fourth of July rocket explodes over Waycross.

Midnight—Professor Jerusalem Webster Stiles departs by train from Waycross Station.


(Page numbers show actual order in text.)

Election Day, 1844How on the morning of Election Day9
July 20, 1848Everything was still on the wide fields22
1848-1852A fabulous and forgotten secret was written43
July 4, 1854A big crowd of people65
Summer, 1856Flowing from distant to distant summer, the river93
September 6, 1856Father, Come Out of That Old Saloon124
1857-1859How a quaint visitor arrived145
May 26, 1859The plateglass window of the Saloon168
June 1, 1859Legends in a Class-Day Album186
June 18, 1859The romantic, illstarred, wonderful, wicked Class Picnic200
June 18, 1859Two creatures playing whitely in a riverpool212
July 4, 1859The race to determine the fastest runner in Raintree County891
July 4, 1859Bare except for a chaplet of oakleaves917
Summer 1859How that was a summer of drought258
October 19, 1859A letter at the Post Office was always a big event283
November, 1859How the rock had lain there always297
November 22, 1859The scent of withered summers hovered308
December 1-2, 1859Dawn and its day of long farewell318
December 2, 1859Down the river for you, my boy334
1859-1860Far, far away to an everblooming summer430
1860-1861The house, Susanna’s tall house458
April 12-14, 1861In the dawn, in the red dawn480
1861-1863All’s quiet along the Potomac496
July 2-4, 1863Lost children of a lost republic515
July 4, 1863An Old Southern Melodrama934
1857-1863How in her oldest awareness of being alive366
July 13, 1863Johnny Shawnessy’s departure for the war602
Summer, 1863What faces he saw in the camps621
September 19-21, 1863Chickamauga, the staff officer said637
November 22, 1863War had come to this hollow between hills657
November 25, 1863Hurraaaahhhh! The cry smote him670
November 14-16, 1864Progress through doomed Atlanta680
November 26, 1864Fifty thousand strong on the earth of Georgia696
February 17, 1865Hands pointing and gesturing, Flash Perkins721
April 14, 1865Wearing a battle wound, scarce healed949
May 24, 1865From the last encampment in a hundred fields738
May 31, 1865When Johnny came marching home again1033
May 1, 1866The soft spring weather of Raintree County373
June 1, 1876The New Court House was by far the most380
1865-1876How the first eleven years following the Great War770
July 4, 1876On the morning that America was a hundred years old794
July, 1876Pleasant to the eyes during the Centennial Summer389
1876-1877How he came to the City of New York817
July 21-22, 1877How the Great Strike came upon the land831
July 25, 1877Before the Footlights and Behind the Scenes851
July-August, 1877A message for him to come back home989
August, 1877‘COME TO PARADISE LAKE’394
1877-1878A contest for her soul871
July 4, 1878Waiting for Pa to come home998
Pre-HistoricA strange light was over everything1010
1880-1890How once upon a time a little girl238
1890-1892The Road, the great broad Road, the National Road755

map of waycross

A Great Day

(Epic Fragment from the Free Enquirer, July 4, 1892)

Yes, sir, here’s the Glorious Fourth again. And here’s our special Semicentennial Edition of the Free Enquirer, fifty pages crowded with memories of fifty years since we published the first copy of this newspaper in 1842. And, friends, what a half-century it has been! While the Enquirer has been growing from a little four-page weekly to a daily paper of twice the size, the population of these United States has quadrupled and the territory governed under the Institutions of Freedom has been extended from sea to shining sea. In those fifty years the Great West has been conquered, and the Frontier has been closed. The Union has been preserved in the bloodiest war of all time. The Black Man has been emancipated. Giant new industries have been created. The Golden Spike has been driven at Promontory Point, binding ocean to ocean in bands of steel. Free Education has been brought to the masses. Cities have blossomed from the desert. Inventions of all kinds, from telephones to electric lights, have put us in a world that Jules Verne himself couldn’t have foreseen in 1842.

Folks, it has been an Era of Progress unexampled in the annals of mankind, and all of it has been made possible by the great doctrines on which this Republic was founded on July 4, 1776.

During those fifty years, we haven’t exactly stood still here in Raintree County. Freehaven has grown from a little country town to a bustling city of ten thousand. The Old Court House of 1842 could be put into the court room of the present imposing edifice, one of the finest in the State of Indiana. And we challenge any section of comparable size in this Republic to show a more distinguished progeny of great men than our own little county has produced.

If anybody doubts the above statement, let him take a look at what is going on in the little town of Waycross down in good old Short-water Township. The eyes of the whole nation are fixed on that little rural community today. The celebration there to honor the homecoming of Senator Garwood B. Jones is a striking testimonial to the vitality of our democratic institutions. While we have often opposed Senator Jones on political grounds, we would be the last to diminish the lustre of his name or the distinction he has brought upon the county of his birth. We had hoped that the Senator would see fit to make his homecoming address here in the County Seat, but no one can doubt the political wisdom of Garwood’s decision to speak in his birthplace, a town of two hundred inhabitants, as the opening move in his campaign for reelection. It’s a dramatic gesture, and the Senior Senator from Indiana needs all his vote-winning sagacity, not only to defeat the rising tide of Populism this year, but to further his well-known ambition to achieve the Presidency in 1896.

Nor is the Senator the only nationally known figure in Waycross today. His friend and ours, another Raintree County boy, Mr. Cassius P. Carney, the famous multimillionaire, is expected to be there. And our own great war hero, General Jacob J. Jackson, is going to lead a march of G.A.R. veterans to point up the pension issue. There are rumors of other celebrities coming on the Senator’s special train, and all in all it looks like the little town of Waycross will have dern near as many famous people in it today as Washington, D. C. If the celebrated Stanley set out to explore this dark continent tomorrow for the Greatest Living American, he could do worse than get off a train in Waycross to ask his famous question. . . .


Mr. John Wickliff Shawnessy

I presume?


His voice was tentative as he looked for the woman who had spoken from the dusk of the little post office. The whole thing seemed vaguely implausible. A short while ago, he had left his house to take part in the welcoming exercises for the Senator, whose train was expected momentarily in the Waycross Station. Walking west on the National Road, he had joined the crowd that poured from three directions into the south arm of the cross formed by the County and National roads. A swollen tide of parasols and derby hats blurred and brightened around the Station. Except on Sundays, he had never seen over ten people at once along this street, and he had been afraid that he might not be able to reach the platform where he was to greet the Senator. Near the Station, the crowd had been so dense that he could hardly move. Women in dowdy summer gowns jockeyed his nervous loins. Citizens with gold fobs and heavy canes thrust, butted, cursed. A band blared fitfully. Firecrackers crumped under skirts of women, rumps of horses. From the struggling column of bodies, bared teeth and bulgy eyes stuck suddenly.

Then he had found himself looking into the glass doorpane of the Post Office, where his own face had looked back at him, youthfully innocent for his fifty-three years, brows lifted in discovery, long blue eyes narrowed in the sunlight, dark hair smouldering with inherent redness. He had just begun to smooth his big mustaches and adjust the poet’s tie at his throat when the crowd shoved him against the door. It had opened abruptly, and stepping inside on a sudden impulse, he had heard the woman’s question.

Now he shut the door, drowning the noise of the crowd to a confused murmur.

—I was expecting you, Johnny, the woman said in the same husky voice. Where have you been?

—I was just on my way to greet the Senator, he said. Is there—is there some mail for me?

He walked slowly toward the distribution window, where in the darkness a face was looking out at him.

—Some letters carved on stone, the voice said. The fragments of forgotten language. I take my pen in hand and seat myself——

The woman was lying on a stone slab that extended dimly into the space where the window usually was. She lay on her stomach, chin propped on hands. Her hair was a dark gold, unloosened. Her eyes were a great cat’s, feminine, fountain-green, enigmatic. A dim smile curved her lips.

She was naked, her body palely flowing back from him in an attitude of languor.

He was disturbed by this unexpected, this triumphant nakedness. He was aroused to memory and desire by the stately back and generously sculptured flanks.

—How do you like my costume, Johnny? she asked, her voice tinged with mockery.

—Very becoming, he said.

Her husky laughter filled the room, echoing down the vague recess into which she lay. He hadn’t noticed before that the slab was a stone couch, curling into huge paws under her head. He was trying to understand what her reappearance meant on this memorial day.

Watching him with wistful eyes, she had begun to bind up her hair, fastening it behind her ears with silver coins.

—What creature is it that in the morning of its life——

She paused and opened her left hand, color of the pallid stone on which she lay. The hand was excitingly feminine, though perhaps too broad, too fleshy for perfect beauty. She put her arm on his shoulder. Then with her hand gently plucking and pulling at the base of his neck, like one wishing to uproot a little tree without hurting it, she pressed his head down to hers. Reminding himself that she was an old friend of the family and perhaps even a relative, he was about to kiss her.

Just then she turned her face aside and handed him a rolled newspaper.

—Our Semicentennial Edition, dear, she said, with a special column devoted to the history of the County. The fragments from your own unfinished epic occupy a prominent place on page one. You’ll find a picture of the authentic Raintree——

Opened, the paper was a parchment warm to the touch, engraved with a map of Raintree County so exquisitely made that the principal landmarks showed in relief with living colors. In the middle of the County, Paradise Lake was a pool of shimmering green. Its shore eastward where the river entered dissolved into the steaming substance of the Great Swamp. The roads crisscrossing on the flat earth were brown and gravelly. Tiny shiny carriages moved on the National Road, which, side by side with the Pennsylvania Railroad, cut across the County close to the southern border. Westward on the railroad, a darkly lovely little locomotive pulled a chain of coaches covered with patriotic bunting. The intersection at Waycross was dense with human faces. All over the County, the bladed corn swayed softly in the fields. In the Square of Freehaven, a mile and a half southeast of the lake, the Court House stood in a lawn of slender trees. A flag fluttered from the brave brick tower, and the four clock faces told the time of day. From the northeastern to the southwestern corner of the County, the Shawmucky River lay in loops of green, halved into upper and lower segments by the lake. On the road east from Freehaven two bridges spanned the upper river’s great south loop, and in the halfcircle formed by the road and the river, relics of the vanished town of Danwebster lay in deep grass. Across the river was the graveyard, a mound of pale stones. And somewhat beyond the bridge on the south side of the road was the Old Home Place, a little collection of farmbuildings on a gentle hill, the ancestral Shawnessy home in Raintree County, where Mr. Shawnessy had been born fifty-three years before. So precise was the map that he could see the great rock half sunk in the earth at the limit of the South Field.

He was certain that in the pattern of its lines and letters this map contained the answer to the old conundrum of his life in Raintree County. It was all warm and glowing with the secret he had sought for half a century. The words inscribed on the deep paper were dawnwords, each one disclosing the origin and essence of the thing named. But as he sought to read them, they dissolved into the substance of the map.

With a feeling suspended between erotic hunger and intellectual curiosity, he looked for the young woman. She was no longer lying on the stone couch. Her voice was passionate, musical, receding.

—Johnny! Tall one! Shakamak!

He could see her pale form turning over and over in a slow spiral floating away on green waters. From time to time, one hand rose beckoning while the other untwined her hair. The loose gold cord of her hair was at last all he saw of her, untwisting, prolonged in the water to a single shimmering thread.

Holding a branch of maize loaded with one ripe ear, he stood on the threshold of the door, about to lunge into the delirious crowd. The ceremonial day that he had spent a lifetime preparing, a web of faces and festive rites, trembled before him. The girls in their summer dresses were twirling their parasols and shouting hymen. The official starter of the Fourth of July Race was raising his pistol. A path was opening through the crowd to a platform erected in a distant square. Beyond, beside a sky-reflecting pool, he saw white pillars and a shrine. He heard a far voice calling. The sound was shrill, appealing, with a note of sadness. . . .

He awoke. The whistle of a train at the crossing had at last pressed its way into his sleep. It was early dawn. He lay in bed, among the glowing fragments of the dream. The dream had been vivid with the promise of adventure, consummation. He rewove its tantalizing web, contrasting it with the simple reality into which he had awakened.

His wife, Esther, eighteen years younger than he, lay beside him, her Indianblack hair screwed into curlpapers, her regular features composed by sleep into a look of stony, almost mournful serenity. In the next room slept the three children, Wesley, Eva, and Will, thirteen, twelve, and seven years old. The family slept in the two upstairs rooms of the plain white wooden house. There were four main rooms down—parlor, middle room, dining room, and kitchen, running in that order from front to back. A pumproom adjoined the kitchen, and a small spare bedroom was annexed to the dining room. A cellar with outside entrance was under the kitchen. A porch extended along the front and halfway down the east side of the house. The house was set well forward in a trimly kept yard, fenced in with white pickets in front and on the two sides. Almost against the house behind was a small frame building of two parts, smokehouse and woodshed. A path started at the backdoor and ran along a garden to the outhouse. At the rear of the lawn was a small barn. A narrow field planted in corn extended a hundred yards back to the railroad.

The town of Waycross, where Mr. Shawnessy had lived for two years, had an equally austere pattern. The business buildings were at the intersection of the roads—general store, barber shop, bank, feedstore, blacksmith shop. Half a hundred houses were scattered along the four arms of the cross. On the south arm were a church, the Post Office, and the Railroad Station. The Schoolhouse, where Mr. Shawnessy and his wife were the only teachers, was on the west arm. On the north arm was a huge tent where the Reverend Lloyd G. Jarvey had been conducting his Summer Revival Series. Among the dwellings on the east arm were the Shawnessy house, lying on the south side of the National Road, and the mansion of Mrs. Evelina Brown somewhat beyond the town proper.

In the naked pallor of dawn, Waycross seemed to him devoid of visual complexity, as if to reduce the problem of place to its basic ingredients. And Raintree County also aspired to spatial symmetry, being a perfect square twelve miles to the side. What could be more certain than the location of Raintree County, whose western border was sixty miles from Indianapolis and whose eastern border was fifty miles from the neighboring state of Ohio? And yet, the dream had left him with an uneasy feeling of being anchorless, adrift on an unknown substance. The formal map of Raintree County had been laid down like a mask on something formless, warm, recumbent, convolved with rivers, undulous with flowering hills, blurred with motion, green with life.

He mused upon this mingling of man’s linear dream with the curved earth, couched in mystery like a sphinx.

Had the woman of his dream, whose face had been teasingly familiar, known the answer to this riddle? And what token could she have given him of himself, he who also escaped name and definition in his long journey through time, a traveller from dawn to darkness, and all at once a child, a man, an old man?

He should have asked this gracious lady about time past. He should have followed her beckoning hand down the mystic river of the years back to the gates of time, the beginning of himself. He should have traced a tangled thread to the source of a life on the breast of the land.

It was dawn on Raintree County, and in a little while he would have to yield himself to the ritual day. Past midnight, he had lain awake thinking about the big Fourth of July Program, in which, as principal of the local school and an old friend of the Senator, he had a leading responsibility. First he would drive to Freehaven, where he had some matters to see to before the Senator arrived. Despite the necessarily early hour of the trip, the whole family planned to go along as usual. On the way back, he would stop at the Danwebster Graveyard for his annual visit to the family lot. At nine-thirty the Senator’s special train was due in Waycross, and the substance of Mr. Shawnessy’s dream would be repeated—minus, no doubt, the interesting lady in the Post Office. Then he would entertain the Senator until the G.A.R. parade and banquet at twelve-thirty. The main program was planned for two-thirty, and after that he would see the Senator off at the Station. In the evening there was to be a lawn party sponsored by the Literary Society at the home of Mrs. Evelina Brown. It promised to be the most exciting day since his second marriage fourteen years ago.

He could still hear the thunder of the train on distant rails receding. Its passing echoed in the eastern valleys of his sleep. The lone shriek of it at the crossing had been like a calling of his name. The sound of it ebbing down gray lanes of dawn into the west was the lonely music of a century, awakening memories of himself and the Republic. He would lie awhile and chase a phantom of himself that was always passing on a road from east to west. He would hunt for the earliest mask of an elusive person, a forgotten child named Johnny, the father of a man.

What creature is it that in the morning of its life . . .

It was dawn now on Raintree County, and he would begin with things of the dawn. He would pursue awhile his ancient pastime of looking for the mystic shape of a life upon the land, the legend of a face of stone, a happy valley, an extinct republic, a memory of

Election Day—How—1844

on the morning of Election Day

the mother and the little child were waiting

before the cabin. At the bottom of the yard, a rudely sculptured head stood on the gatepost by the road. Johnny had helped T. D. make it, and they called it Henry Clay, maybe because it had been made out of clay from the river bank.

—Henry Clay, T. D. had said, is the Greatest Living American.

T. D. had also said that Henry Clay was running for President, a matter of interest to Johnny, who for his age was considered a very fast runner himself.

The head on the gatepost had had an ugly, eyeless look when T. D. and Johnny first made it, but now at this distance it had an expression of greatness and distinction.

A few days ago when Johnny was in the yard by himself, a man had driven past in a covered wagon. He was a bearded man in a big hat, his wagon was pulled by two big oxen, it was all stuffed up with things, there was a thinfaced woman on the seat beside him, and a pretty little girl with vivid brown eyes kept peeping out of the wagon and shaking her pigtails at Johnny.

—Hello, son, the man said, stopping the wagon.

Big white teeth flashed through the thick bush of his beard.

—Hello, Mister.

—You look like a smart boy, son. Maybe you could tell me if this here is the road to Freehaven.

—Yes, sir, this here is it.

—How fer is it, son?

—You go on down the road, Johnny said, pointing west, and you git there after a while. They’s a court house and a lots of people.

—Ain’t he a smart boy! the man said, winking at his wife. Maybe you can tell me, son, what that there head is on the fence there.

—Henry Clay, Johnny said.

—Who’s he?

—The Greatest Living American, Johnny said.

—You don’t say, the man said. Who tole you so?

—T. D. did.

—Who’s T. D.?

—My pa. He’s a doctor and a preacher.

—Well, you go tell T. D. that that there head ain’t Clay. It’s mud. Anyhow it’ll be mud after the Election.

—It ain’t mud, Johnny said. It’s clay. It was made out of clay, and it’s Henry Clay.

—It’s mud, dad burn it! the man said. You tell your pappy somethin’ else. You tell him a man passed said Henry Clay ain’t the Greatest Livin’ American. He’s nothin’ but a goddern Whig protectionist. Can you say that?

—Yessir. A goddern Whig protectionist.

The man roared, and the woman said something to him. The man leaned out again.

—You tell your pa you saw a man, and he told you the Greatest Livin’ American was James K. Polk. Yessiree, James K. Polk is the man that’s goin’ to win that election. James K. Polk.

The man was motioning big and violent with a whip.

—James K. Polk. The Lone Star Republic and the Oregon Trail. Can you say that, son?

—The Lone Star Republic and the Oregon Trail, Johnny recited.

—Listen to him say that, the man said. How old are you, son?


—You’re a smart boy, son. You’ll amount to somethin’ some day. Don’t fergit that slogan. James K. Polk is the man that’ll win the Election, and he’ll make Clay’s name mud.

—It ain’t mud, Johnny said. We got it down along the river. Mud’s black. This here’s red, and it’s clay.

—O.K., son, the man said. But all the same, don’t fergit to tell your pa what I said. The Oregon Trail. That’s where I’m a-headin’ right now, and if your pappy was half a man, he’d be a-goin’ there with me to settle out there and git that land fer America instead of votin’ fer Harry Clay and Protection.

The man made his whip lash over the backs of the oxen.

—Oregon, here we come!

As the oxen pulled away, the girl with the pigtails leaned from the wagon and waved her hand. She waved a long time, and Johnny waved back.

It seemed to him then that he had always been a small boy who stood beside a road and waved to people going west.

Later when he had told his father about it, T. D. had laughed and said to his mother,

—I wonder what they were doing off the main road.

—Where is the Lone Star Republic and the Oregon Trail? Johnny had asked.

His father told him something about them.

—Are there Indians out there?

—Yes, I reckon there are, T. D. said.

The Indians used to live right around the Home Place before T. D. and Ellen Shawnessy had come there in 1820. The Indians were naked and had red skins, and they lived in tepees, and they killed and scalped you with tomahawks. They were marvellous people, and they had lived all over America before the pioneers came and made the stumps. Now all the Indians had gone out West, where the man in the covered wagon was heading.

Next to the Indians, the most interesting people were probably the Negroes. Men would get together in front rooms and around the Court House at Freehaven, shake fists, spit tobacco, and talk in loud voices about the Negroes and the Election and Polk and Clay and Texas and the West.

The Negroes were black slaves in the South. It was a bad thing to keep them slaves and make them work. Johnny had walked through the South Field once and had gone a long way back hoping to see a Negro. He never did see one.

But that same day he kept on going and wound around back north until he crossed a road and came out at the Gaither farm. Nell Gaither was playing in the orchard under an appletree. She was a thin, serious girl with long golden hair, big blue-green eyes, and a freckled nose. She had a quiet, grave way of talking in contrast with Johnny’s older sisters, who were very giggly and loud.

—You’re Johnny Shawnessy, she said.

—Yes, I am.

—I’m Nell.

—Is the river back of your house?

—Yes, I’ll show you.

The river was a big mystery to Johnny. Now he and Nell walked a piece and pushed through some trees and came right out at the edge of the river. It was wide and pale green, and it had a cold green odor. He and Nell had played a long time by the river building little mud and stick huts. They both waded out looking for craw-dads and frogs. Johnny forgot all about the time until he noticed that long shadows were falling on the river.

—Your folks’ll be after you, Johnny, Nell said.

—Let ’em, Johnny said.

You had to run away from home to have a good time like that.

When he started down the road that evening, he ran into a lot of people, and they all rushed at him and grabbed him and took him home.

Later his mother had come home on a horse, all hot and dusty and her dark red hair in strings down her face. She began to cry when she saw Johnny in the front yard surrounded by people. She hugged him very hard and kept saying, Thank God! and laughing and crying at the same time. Johnny cried too from sheer excitement. It appeared that he had been lost and found again. People said that his mother had ridden all over Raintree County looking for him.

—Poor Ellen! people said. Johnny, you pretty near killed your poor mother.

They never let him go back and play along the river again with Nell because it was too much fun.

That was when he learned that he was a person of great importance and that his exact location in Raintree County was a matter of intense concern to everyone.

Ellen Shawnessy, his mother, was short and slight. Though not pretty, she had a young girlish look. Her hair, dark with glints of red like Johnny’s, was entirely ungrayed. Johnny was the last of her nine children, four boys and five girls. Two of the girls had died in an epidemic that swept through Raintree County in the early forties, and they lay beneath two stones with letters on them in the Danwebster Graveyard, across the river from the board church where T. D. preached.

—What is a great man, Mamma? Johnny asked as they waited in front of the cabin for T. D.

—A great man is somebody everyone looks up to. He’s a good man who does things for other people.

—Like Pa?

Ellen Shawnessy smiled. Her smile was like Johnny’s, quick and affectionate. More often than not she smiled for no other reason than that she felt animated and happy.

—Well, T. D. is a mighty good man, she said, and he’s smart too. But usually a great man is a wellknown man. That is, he’s famous.

Johnny’s father, T. D. Shawnessy, preached and wrote poetry and delivered babies and made sick people well. He was very tall and thin, and his head looking down at Johnny from a great height always nodded blondly and benignly and smiled confidently and spoke very hopefully of God and the future.

—I aim to be a great man, Johnny said. Is God a great man?

—God isn’t exactly a man, Ellen Shawnessy said. He’s—well—he’s just God. He’s a divine being. That is, he’s greater than any human being.

God was the biggest puzzle of all to Johnny. He had begun to worry about God during the summer when the Millerites were camping out in Raintree County. When the family would be riding down the road, they would see at night the bonfires burning on a distant hill.

—There’s them plaguey Millerites, T. D. would say.

The Millerites were out there on the hill waiting for the End of the World. T. D. said that in his opinion it wouldn’t come for quite a while yet.

In those days, God was a whitebearded giant who lived up in Heaven but had a sneaky way of being everywhere else at the same time. He could do anything he wanted and just waited around for you to make a mistake, whereupon he would land on you and whop you good. Johnny used to wonder if it would do any good to go out and hunt for God. But God was just as scarce as the Indians and the Negroes in Raintree County. There were times when Johnny wondered if God was just a big story, the kind that big people were always telling little people.

Later on that day when T. D. came home, they all got into the wagon, the older ones sitting on chairs in the wagon bed, and went into Freehaven. There was a big crowd around the Court House Square, people talking loud and waving banners. Later the older children took Johnny down to the Polls. Johnny looked around for some tall sticks, but it turned out that the Polls was a place where a lot of people were trying to put papers into a box.

Several big barrels were hoisted on sawhorses and wedged into the crotches of trees, and men kept going over and turning on the taps and getting brown stuff out of the barrels. Johnny got lost from the other children for a while and was swept up in a crowd of people marching and chanting:

—Vote, vote, for James K. Polk!

  The Lone Star Republic and the Oregon Trail!

Johnny marched and chanted too, until T. D. spied him and striding into the middle of the parade carried him off.

—Don’t you know them’s Democrats, John? he said.

A lot of men went around swatting people on the back and laughing fiercely. T. D. put a paper in the ballot box. Things got louder as the night came on. Bonfires burned on the Court House Square. The family had a big feed in the wagon, and after that Johnny slipped off into the crowd with his brother Ezekiel, who was two years older than he and a lot bigger. They watched some men hitting each other and yelling things about God, Polk, and Clay over in front of the Saloon. A man was knocked down and had his coat torn off. A woman came up shrieking and grabbed at the man lying on the sidewalk, so that Johnny didn’t see how he could get up if he wanted to. Zeke disappeared for a while, and when he turned up again, he was grinning all over his face and said he had just beaten up on a goddern kid that admitted he was a Democrat. Zeke showed his knuckles all skinned and bruised.

Late at night, the family started back to the Home Place in the wagon. Johnny lay for a long time awake with his head in his mother’s lap, looking up at the stars. He hunted the heavens until he saw one big star low in the west. He thought it might be the Lone Star. Somewhere out there in the Far West, under the night and the shining stars and across the Great Plains, was the Lone Star Republic and the Oregon Trail. Right now maybe the little girl with the pigtails was out there.

Johnny Shawnessy decided that some day when he was big enough to go away from home by himself, he would go over and get Nell Gaither, and they would get into a big covered wagon and go down and find the National Pike, and they would ride off together toward those big plains and those far western mountains beneath the shining stars, where the land was fair and free, where the Indians lived in tepees, and the streams were full of fish, in the country called the United States of America, which was somewhere in Raintree County.

For in those days, he didn’t very well understand the boundaries of Raintree County or of his own life. Raintree County was simply the place where people lived, it was the earth, and you might go anywhere and never leave it. He had heard people talk of a time when there was no Raintree County. He used to think back and back to see if he could remember such a time, and he would come to a place where all his memories fading reached a green wall of summer. Sometimes he would attempt to cross that wall, vaguely wondering at the murmurous world beyond it from which his being had been ferried up some summer long ago to be deposited in Raintree County. He had some dim intuitions and memories of it, all drenched in green and gold. Nameless, and neither child nor man, he had lived in a beautiful garden where stately trees dripped flowers on the ground. And somehow that life was longer than all the rest of his life together. But long ago that summer of wordless forms had been lost to him, or rather the forms had been subtly changed and hidden by a veil of words.

Now in the still night, Johnny Shawnessy was carried in a wagon over the dark earth of Raintree County, which had no boundaries in time and space, where lurked musical and strange names and mythical and lost peoples, and which was itself only a name musical and strange.

And lying in his mother’s arms, he went to sleep and dreamed that he was riding in a ribbed and canvas-covered wagon down a road at night toward a lone star palely shining over fields of summer.

—Look there! everyone said. The Greatest Living American!

In the red far light of the star, he saw an immense face of clay, and he and all the other people were running for President as fast as they could go. So in the still night

he dreamed a fair young

dream of


Westward, the National Road pursued its way, a streak of straightness to the flat horizon. As the surrey approached the intersection, Mr. Shawnessy was thinking of his dream. Although he had since risen, dressed, eaten breakfast, and set out for Freehaven, he was still haunted by the riddle of a naked woman in the Waycross Post Office. The dream had distilled the conundrum of his life into one image, delightful and disturbing.

She had reminded him of his plural being. He had presented to her Mr. Shawnessy, a dutiful citizen of the Republic calling for his mail. She had addressed herself to mr. shawnessy, a faunlike hero, poised on the verge of festive adventures.

Mr. Shawnessy, meet mr. shawnessy. Hail and farewell! Farewell and hail!

Just now, the majuscular twin, Mr. Shawnessy, was sitting upright in the front seat of the surrey beside his wife, Esther, while the three children, Wesley, Eva, and Will, occupied the back seat. It was a characteristic Mr. Shawnessy attitude, for Mr. Shawnessy was eminently a family man and a respectable citizen. When he called at the Waycross Post Office later in the morning, he wouldn’t find a naked woman on a stone. Instead he would receive the Indianapolis News-Historian from a fat-faced functionary named Bob.

Only the adventurous twin, mr. shawnessy, could achieve naked women in post offices. For mr. shawnessy was a lower-case person, disowning all proper names, including his own, and many other proprieties. Yet it was convenient to call him mr. shawnessy since he was always moving in and out of Mr. Shawnessy with pleasant alacrity, using his obliging companion as a kind of depot for incessant arrivals and departures. In fact, mr. shawnessy used Mr. Shawnessy as a straw man, a large comfortable mask that he had spent a lifetime adapting for public performances.

Mr. Shawnessy, the straw man, was now driving the family westward through Waycross, an inseparable part of the Shawnessy landscape. At the intersection, he would turn due north, being a creature bounded by severe alignments.

He was bounded by the Nineteenth Century and knew only one way to escape—by living his way out moment by moment.

He was bounded by a box, the County, inside a box, the State, inside a box, the Nation, inside a box inside a box inside a box.

He was sartorially bounded by his one good suit, a cloth of light black wool, newly pressed for the day, a white shirt, a black poet’s tie, knobtoed black shoes, dark soft hat. A hundred dollars would not have persuaded him to walk down the street of Waycross in an Elizabethan doublet, a woman’s bonnet, or naked.

He was linguistically bounded by the English language, which he spoke with a Hoosier accent, though, when he pleased, with precision, wit, and eloquence.

He was morally bounded by a certain code of right and wrong that Moses had brought down from Sinai into Raintree County. He had a way of lingering wistfully on thresholds without crossing.

He was a completely legal person. On April 23, 1839, his birth had been accomplished from an inkwell in the Raintree County Court House. His marriage to Esther Root in 1878 had achieved a whole column of print on the first page of the Raintree County Free Enquirer. The children who occupied the back seat of his surrey on trips around the County were what was known as legitimate. He enjoyed certain rights of citizenship under the Constitution of the United States and certain inalienable rights under the Declaration of Independence, among them, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

He was a creature of amazing certainties. He had his infallible Saturdays and his relentless Mondays. He almost never went to bed in the middle of the night or rose at noon. And every year the Fourth of July came and bestowed on him firecrackers, patriotic programs, and a drive with the family to the middle of Raintree County where he placed some flowers on a grave.

He lived in a precariously poised world of taboos, pomps, and games called American Society—with no spectacular triumphs, it is true, but in a manner to inspire confidence and respect. In fact he was one of the priests of the temple, being responsible for teaching the communion to others, for he had spent a lifetime instructing the young of Raintree County in what is known as the rudiments of education.

In a world convulsed with war, famine, industrial unrest, and public and private vice, Mr. Shawnessy was a citizen of the American Republic, living quietly on the National Road of life where it intersected with Raintree County, and tacitly involved in a confused course of human events that the newspapers and people in general agreed to call American History.

The versatile twin, mr. shawnessy, on the other hand, was a fugitive from boundaries. No sooner did he appear to be caught in a definition than he somehow turned inside out to include the includer. He was always pressing beyond the confines of himself, yet could never go anywhere that wasn’t himself.

His seeming foothold in the Nineteenth Century was illusory. His face peered furtively from a frieze of the Parthenon, passed in mob scenes in the reign of Justinian, crossed with crowds on Brooklyn Ferry ever so many centuries hence.

His landscape was an infinitely potential number of Raintree Counties past, present, and to be. He was always arriving in train stations from parts unknown to meet himself departing for unknown parts.

In him, the word and the thing almost rejoined each other at the source. His words were dreams of things; his dreams were things of words.

He had a way of joyfully crossing the thresholds at which Mr. Shawnessy lingered.

He had no legal existence whatsoever. His birth was recorded, if anywhere, in the first chapter of Genesis and his death was foreseen only in Revelation. Eve was his mother, his daughter, and his wife, and he was the citizen of a republic that never was on sea or land.

Of course, his being was all tangled up in that of Mr. Shawnessy. The two were always colliding with each other as Mr. Shawnessy went his ritual way through conversations and thoroughfares, and mr. shawnessy carried on his eternal vagabondage through a vast reserve of memories and dreams. But even in dreams the carefree twin had to do devotion in strange ways to Raintree County and its gods. It was clearly the whim of mr. shawnessy to prepare a naked woman on a stone slab in the Post Office, but it was Mr. Shawnessy who timidly asked for a newspaper, trying his best to adapt himself and his puritan conscience to the bizarre world of his twin.

Yet doubtless there was really only one John Wickliff Shawnessy, one Raintree County, one Republic, one riddle with plural masks. That was what the young woman with the catlike eyes had meant by the half-given line from a legend of antiquity:

What creature is it that in the morning of its life . . .

Mr. Shawnessy had made the turn north onto the County Road. But the insouciant twin had kept the westward bias.

Westward the star of empire. Westward the Great Companion takes his way. Shirt open at the neck, broad hat pushed back on matted, vital hair, he walks the boulevards of westward cities, crosses the wide windrippled plains, ferries the Mississippi, and strikes out strongly through the sagebrush mesas. He climbs the sunblaze summits of the Rockies, descends deep passes to the Golden Shore.

O, Californy!

  That’s the place for me!

I’m off for . . .

Firecrackers crumped in backyards. A smell of patriotism tinged the early morning air.

—How long before we get back, Papa? Wesley asked.

—About nine o’clock. We have to be back by then.

—What yuh readin’, Eva? little Will asked.

—Book, Eva muttered, absorbed.

—I want to be back in time for the service, Esther Shawnessy said, as the surrey passed the Revival Tent.

—We’ll be in time, Mr. Shawnessy said. We won’t be stopping in Freehaven long. And I only mean to leave a few flowers at Mamma’s grave.

—Papa, what’s Senator Jones look like? Will asked.

—I haven’t seen him for twenty years. When I last saw him, he was a big heavyset man, broadshouldered, deepchested, with blue eyes, dark brown hair, and a voice like a bull.

—What’s General Jackson like?

—The General looks like a fighting man. Of course, he’s pretty old now, but in his prime he was a fine figure of a man.

—Will he have his uniform on?

—I imagine so.

—Will he have a sword?

—A dress sword maybe.

—O boy! Jiminy! A sword! How many wars did he fight in?

—Just two. The Mexican War and the Civil War.

—The Mexican War. When was that?

—Eighteen forty-six to eighteen forty-eight. I was about your age then, Will.

Are you Johnny Shawnessy? Yes, sir. Can you read, son? Yes, sir. Well, read this then.

—Did they have a Fourth of July when you were a boy, Papa?


—Did they have firecrackers and things?

—Big ones.

Bang! Forward, boys, all along the line! Kill the damn greasers! Westward the star of empire.

The Fourth of July was the memory of a lone white rocket rising in the purple sky above a town in Raintree County long ago. The rocket burst and feathered into burning spray and floated softly on the fields of night. The Fourth of July was the memory of a new republic, a bloody babe of destiny, waiting to be filled with soul. The Fourth of July was a war on sunbaked plains, a fighting in the high passes and in California. It was the pasteboard red of firecrackers, the blue of armies charging stiffranked in steel engravings, the white of flowers flung by girls in summer dresses for the boys who fought at Buena Vista. It was the fury and the fighting heart of a young republic, fledgling of the nations, conceived in battle and confirmed in battle. It was a lone star rising in the east and westward tending. It was a million faces pressing westward, the harshvoiced dreamers of a strange, disordered dream.

Mr. Shawnessy jingled the reins over President’s back, passing the last houses of Waycross. Meanwhile mr. shawnessy roamed on other roads. There had been a wagon shrugging down a road to westward years ago. It had gone on for days creaking across the vast plain. Where were all the days of the travellers in that wagon?

But those days had passed, and the girl with the pigtails had grown up, no doubt had married and borne children. The burly charioteer of the westward sun, who had driven his oxdrawn car through Johnny Shawnessy’s life, had died long ago, and the wagon itself was ribs of weathering wood in a far lone valley of the West.

A small boy had wandered out into the morning of America and down far ways seeking the Lone Star Republic and the Oregon Trail. A small boy had dreamed forever westward, and the dream had drawn a visible mark across the earth. But the boy had never gone that way. He had only dreamed it.

He saw the face of a girl fading among the vehicular tangle of the years. All the evenings of a life in the West dyed the sunset peaks with purple—the lost years ebbed with waning voices in the cuts where the little trains passed, crying. Yes, he had been fated to stay after all, chosen for a task that called for more than ordinary strength. He and only he had stood on the earth of Raintree County in an early summer dawn and had had that deep vision of the Republic, the passionate, westward dream.

I had a dream the other night,

  When . . .

July 20—Everything—1848

was still on the wide fields

and sleepy stream of summer, and the days

were long in the hot weather that summer, and the world of Raintree County seemed fixed around him like paintings on a wall. Then one day a horse thundered up the road from Freehaven and into the yard of the Home Place, and a young man got off. He had long blond hair under a broad hat.

—This where Doctor Shawnessy lives?

—Yes, sir, Johnny said.

He and the man went to the Office behind the house.

—What’s the trouble, son? T. D. said.

—Why, my wife’s gonna have a baby, sir, the man said. We got into this here town of Danwebster over here last night, and she was took sudden and before her time. Some fellers in town said as how you was the best baby doctor around here. I’d be mighty obliged to git some help for my wife.

While T. D. was getting his medical kit, Ellen came out and talked with the young man, who said that he was from Tennessee and was on his way to California. He and his wife had left the National Pike intending to stop with friends in Middletown, but the woman had come down unexpectedly with labor pains. It was her first baby.

Johnny was pleased when he was permitted to go along with his mother and father to Danwebster.

—It’s the house right aside of the General Store, the man said, getting up on his horse. Name is Alec Doniphant.

While they were driving to Danwebster, Ellen said,

—Courteous young feller. It must be awful hard on ’em having their first baby on the road thisaway. There’s so many of ’em these days. Anything to get out West.

When they got to Danwebster, T. D. and Ellen went into the house with Mr. Doniphant. There were several men sitting on a bench in front of the General Store. Just as Johnny got settled on the bench, he heard a low sound from the house, musical like a mouth rounded. The men on the bench listened without turning their heads.

—She ain’t a-hollerin’ loud enough yet, a man said.

He was a fat old man everyone called Grampa Peters. Those days, he always seemed to be sitting on the bench before the General Store in Danwebster. A Democrat of the old Jacksonian breed, he was reported to have Southern sympathies and was the only person in town who received a newspaper regularly.

—I seen them come in last night, a thin man said. She was in considerable pain then and kept a-cryin’ out all night.

There was another low moan from the house.

—She’ll have to bear down harder than that, Grampa Peters said. She ain’t puttin’ herself into it yet. She’ll have to make up her mind to have that baby.

A cry of pain lay suddenly on the quiet street.

—That’s the first real loud one I’ve heard her give, Grampa Peters said. That was a good loud one.

His flesh stirred a little as if pleasantly goaded by this fierce contact with life. He fumbled around in a coat pocket and drew out a newspaper.

—Son, can you read?

—Yes, sir, Johnny said.

—I heard you could, Grampa Peters said. They say you read as good as a grown person. Well, I want you to read me somethin’ here. I fergot my specs.

Grampa Peters spread out a copy of a newspaper. At the top it said


—Read that there righthand colyum for me, Grampa Peters said.

Johnny read outloud how the Whig Nominating Convention meeting on June 7 had nominated General Zachary Taylor for the Presidency. While he was reading, T. D. and Mr. Doniphant came out of the house.

—How’s she comin’? Grampa Peters asked.

—She’s pretty little and of course it’s her first one, T. D. said absently. But she’s young and strong, and I take a hopeful view of the situation. After all, having a baby is the most natural thing in the world.

—I hope it comes soon, young Mr. Doniphant said.

—I think it’ll be a while, T. D. said. My wife’s going to stay with her. You look fagged out, young feller. You better relax awhile.

—Git us that there banjo of yours, the thin man said, and play us some music.

—I reckon it might take my mind off of it, the young man said, and he went back of the house.

—What about it, T. D.? Grampa Peters said, when Mr. Doniphant was gone.

—It’s a hard case, T. D. said. She hasn’t really got anywhere with it yet, and she’s very narrow. There isn’t anything to do but wait. However, as I said before——

His voice trailed off.

—What you got there, John?


—The boy was just readin’ it to us, the thin man said. He’s a bright boy.

—How’d you learn to read, son? Grampa Peters said.

—I learned at school.

—John learned at this here school in Danwebster, T. D. said. He can read anything. What’s in the news these days? I haven’t seen a paper for mighty near a month.

—I see where your danged Whigs nominated old Blood and Thunder, Grampa Peters said.

—Yes, so I hear, T. D. said. Well, I guess he’d make a good President.

—Maybe that’s what we need, a military man, the thin man said. The country’s so all tore up. Winnin’ the war pretty near wrecked us.

—Pretty near wrecked us! Grampa Peters snorted. What are you talkin’ about, boy? Some folks don’t reason things out. Who made this glorious victory possible and added all this here new land to the Republic? The Democratic Administration—that’s who.

—Couldn’t have done it, hadn’t of been fer ole Zach Taylor whippin’ the damn greasers, the thin man said.

—What’s Taylor’s stand on the slavery question? T. D. said.

—Probly, he ain’t got no stand, Grampa Peters said. Call it a straddle rather.

Johnny read some more from the paper. It appeared that General Taylor had avoided the slavery question. There was a good deal in the paper about the old veteran of many a hardfought campaign who had personally inspired his stalwart troops on the windy plains of Buena Vista.

Johnny was glad that General Zachary Taylor was going to be the Whig candidate for President because he was the Greatest Living American.

Zachary Taylor was a rugged, whitehaired old man standing in the middle of a wall engraving. Stiff ranks of soldiers dressed in blue advanced across a plain through volleys of bounding cannonballs. In the background of the picture a darkskinned horde, color of the earth, dissolved in flight.

The War with Mexico was a pageant of names that made your flesh tingle. The names were Rio Grande, Monterey, Buena Vista, Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo, Cherubusco, Molino del Rey, Chapultepec, Mexico City. The names were Zachary Taylor, Winfield Scott, John C. Frémont. The names were the Santa Fe Trail, Oregon, New Mexico, and California. The names were color of the sun on deserts and treeless mountains, color of buckskin breeches and blue coats, streaming South and West in a perpetual Fourth of July.

The Mexican War was a memory of orators, long hair combed back lush behind their ears, frock coats flapping, standing on the platform in the Court House Square, raising and dropping their arms and bellowing the names of battles and heroes. Johnny remembered the recent Fourth in Freehaven, when the County had turned out to welcome back its boys who had fought in Mexico. Marching at their head was the young hero, Captain Jake Jackson, who had distinguished himself in the attack on Chapultepec and been three times wounded as he led his men over impregnable defenses. The girls of Raintree County had flung flowers on the marching soldiers.

Johnny wished the men in front of the General Store would talk more about the real war, but instead, as usual, they talked about slavery.

Grampa Peters kept saying that the best thing to do was just to leave the whole question alone and not get the South all excited about it and that the territories to be carved out of the new land would settle the question of slavery for themselves. He said there never would have been all this fuss and fidget if it hadn’t been for the Wilmot Proviso. The thin man said that the South was all for throwing over the Missouri Compromise and that they never would be satisfied to let California come in as a free state.

—Damn them! the thin man said, getting excited, as people always did sooner or later when they talked about the new lands and slavery, that’s what they fought the damn war for—slavery.

T. D. was inclined to take a hopeful view of the situation.

—It was destiny, he said. We was going in that direction.

Mr. Doniphant came back, carrying his banjo. He sat down and sang some songs in a soft whanging voice, and while he was singing, Ellen came out of the house to listen, and some other people gathered around.

—Sing that one you sang last night, Grampa Peters said.

Mr. Doniphant sang:

—I come from Alabama

    With my banjo on my knee,

  I’se gwine to Louisiana,

    My true love for to see.

  It rained all day the night I left;

    The weather it was dry.

  The sun so hot, I froze to death,

    Susanna, don’t you cry.

The chorus went:

—O, Susanna,

    Do not cry for me;

  I come from Alabama

    With my banjo on my knee.

The best verse was the second:

—I had a dream the other night,

    When everything was still;

  I thought I saw Susanna dear,

    A-comin’ down the hill.

  The buckwheat cake was in her mouth,

    The tear was in her eye.

  Says I, I’se comin’ from the south,

    Susanna, don’t you cry.

—That’s a good one, Grampa Peters said.

They had him sing it again.

—Where’d you learn it? T. D. said. I don’t recollect ever hearing it before.

—O, I picked it up in a camp of folks over in Ohio. We had a different way of singin’ it too that they made up around there. They was some of ’em singin’ it thisaway:

—O, Californy!

    That’s the place for me!

  I’m off for Sacramento

    With my washbowl on my knee.

—Reckon you intend to git some gold out there, eh, son? Grampa Peters said.

—Well, sir, Mr. Doniphant said. I didn’t know if all them stories about there bein’ gold there was true. Most people just said they heerd it from somebody else. I thought I’d git me some land. If they is gold to be got, maybe I could git some of it too. I ain’t worryin’ none about it. All I want is to git out there.

—What d’yuh think about this here slavery question, son? Grampa Peters said. Do you think they’d ought to keep slavery out of them new lands?

Young Mr. Doniphant strummed softly on his banjo.

—Well, he said softly, I don’t know how you folks feel about it around here. Me and the folks I been travellin’ with goin’ West don’t want no slave labor to compete with in the new lands.

—But have they a constitutional right to prohibit it? Grampa Peters said. That’s the question. There ain’t any right under the Constitution to prohibit it. That’s all I say.

—Maybe they ain’t, the young man said. But I don’t figger there’ll be any slavery in the new lands.

He strummed softly on the banjo, humming,

—O, Californy!

    There’s the land for me.

  I’ve tooken quite a journey from

    My home in Tennessee.

—If we keep slavery from spreading, T. D. said, it will die natural of its own accord. Slavery’s a wrong, and nothing can make it right. I take a more or less hope——

Something bit and tore the mildly spoken words. Young Mr. Doniphant stood up, ashamed and scared.

—D’yuh think——

—She’s all right, T. D. said. It’s natural. The pains are getting sharper.

—No good baby was ever got without a lot of yellin’, Grampa Peters said.

Ellen and some other women went back into the house.

—Take it easy, son, T. D. said. This may go on all day.

—By the way, T. D., Grampa Peters said, could you let me have another bottle of them pokeberry bitters sometime? My stummick’s been actin’ up on me agin. Sometimes I think I can’t hardly stand it.

Mr. Doniphant sat down slowly and kept picking nervously at the banjo and humming,

—O, Californy!

    That’s the place for me!

—What route do you figure on takin’ to git out there? the thin man said.

—Why, I don’t know yet. I aim to take the safest.

—After what happened to them Donners, Grampa Peters said, I reckon you can’t be too careful. I wonder if you ain’t goin’ to have to winter over somewhere before you try it.

—Maybe so, the young man said.

—Have you seen any Mormons along the way? T. D. said.

—Not as I know of. They say the Mormons has all gone out and got them a place out there somewheres.

—I seen a book, Grampa Peters said, and it had a picture in it of a Mormon goin’ to bed with his wives. That there bed was simply swarmin’ with women pullin’ each other’s hair and feedin’ babies.

—One woman’s more’n enough fer me, the thin man said. They’d ought to take and burn all them Mormons at the stake.

Those days, people were always going West. Johnny had heard it said that along the National Pike there was a wagon every hour regular and at times a whole train. Nothing could stop the people from going West. They had babies along the way, like Mr. and Mrs. Doniphant. They died in the snow on the mountains and ate each other to keep from starving, like the Donners. They had a scad of wives in one bed like the Mormons. Most of them were slightly crazy some way. But they kept right on going. Perhaps it had something to do with the sun that made an arc day after day above the National Pike. Johnny thought of the western land under the far setting of the sun, wide plains in purple evening through which on softly thundering hooves the buffalo herds were running, he thought of Indians, riding swift ponies toward the flanks of purple mountains, wagontrains streaming thinly westward, he thought of shining rivers, green slopes, blue ocean on the distant shore of evening.

Those days, Johnny thought much of gold, Indians, great rivers, buffalo, and men who carried guns. Before the war, the West was a vagueness, a direction, a place of few names that belonged mostly to someone else. Now, however, it was good to think that the Nation extended from sea to shining sea.

—Here’s an interesting item, T. D. said, shaking the newspaper. It tells here how they laid the cornerstone for the Washington Monument.

—I wonder will they ever git that thing built, Grampa Peters said. Seems to me I’ve heard talk of it for a long time now.

—O, I guess they’ll get it built some——

A cry cut across T. D.’s sentence. This time it lasted longer than usual, and Mr. Doniphant got up and went into the house.

—Now that’s what I call a good loud one, Grampa Peters said. Sounds like the real business, T. D.

—How do you stand listenin’ to ’em all the time, T. D.? Just this one’s drivin’ me crazy, the thin man said. But I suppose you git use to it.

—I never will get use to it, T. D. said. But the Lord requires it of Woman for her Sin, and so it must be.

—I guess it must hurt ’em somethin’ awful, the thin man said.

Grampa Peters belched complacently.

—By God, I got to git me another bottle a them bitters.

Each time the woman cried, Johnny wanted to crawl off somewhere and hide. His pleasant landscape of Raintree County revolved dizzily, running with rivers of blood. Life was not what he had supposed it to be. When his mother appeared at the door, he turned his face away. He and all his brothers and sisters had entered life by an incredible wound inflicted on that slight beloved form. This was what the word ‘woman’ really meant.

—Daniel Webster, Grampa Peters was saying, much as I oppose him in most questions, has the right idea about this whole slavery thing. Stand upon the Constitution, and all will be well.

In those days, people were always standing on the Constitution. The Constitution was like the Bible. When you appealed to the Constitution, you had made the ultimate appeal. If you could quote the Constitution to support your argument, you had quoted God. People who quoted the Constitution always did so solemnly and as if that finished the matter. The majority of arguments ended by each man appealing to the Constitution, and the man who did it oftenest and in the loudest voice was adjudged the winner.

Not that anyone ever really won.

It seemed as though Grampa Peters’ remark about the Constitution set the argument going again. More men gathered around, and as the woman in the house cried more often, the men talked more loudly and profanely about slavery, westward expansion, and presidential candidates. There appeared to be a contest between the men before the General Store and the woman in the house to see which could get the best of a furious debate in which the two contestants were determined to ignore each other. But to Johnny, only the cry of pain was real. It filled up the street. It drew a bloodred streak across the day. And at last it compelled silence and respect.

After a particularly loud cry, Ellen came to the door and said,

—You better come now, T. D.

—Must be the breakin’ of the waters, Grampa Peters said.

—O, my God! a woman’s voice cried from the house. O, dear God!

—That’s all right, honey, Ellen Shawnessy was heard saying. Go right on and holler, honey. Just holler as loud as you want to, if it helps.

The men sat cowed. Johnny hated them and himself. He hated especially Grampa Peters. He hated the portly bulk of Grampa Peters, squatting majestically before the General Store; he hated the male complacency of Grampa Peters, which never had to be torn open and rent by such an anguish, the trousered fatness of Grampa Peters, who only sat before the General Store on his big dumb behind and made words about politics while life shrieked in an upstairs room. He hated all men in the person of Grampa Peters, because men caused this awful thing to happen and then could do nothing about it.

After the screaming had gone on for a while, the men began to curse softly.

—Well, Jesus God, I wish she’d hurry up and git it over with.

—Goddammit! Grampa Peters said once. I don’t remember my wife yelled that loud, though God and Jesus knows she always yelled loud enough.

—They sure git the raw end of things, the thin man said.

After a particularly frightful yell,

—Well, Jeeeeeeeeeesus God in Heaven, Dear Lord! said Grampa Peters, git rid of it, sister!

The men began to act as though they were being abused in some way. As for Johnny, each time the shrieking came, the skin of his face drew tight, his chest heaved, tears came to his eyes, he wanted to scream, roll on the ground, and yell with laughter. The desire to laugh became so strong that he had to get up and walk away. He went to the big wagon that was in back of the house where Mr. Doniphant had gone for the banjo. He got behind the wagon and tried to laugh, but instead he was sobbing. Apparently that was what he had been wanting to do.

After a while, the shrieking stopped and was followed by a series of moans and then a silence. The men got up and stood looking at the house. Johnny felt strangely calm. He dried his eyes and walked back to the road and stood with the men.

There was a new sound, which was like an echo of the other, a piping, insistent little echo, helpless and shameless as the other. But after that sound began, the other sound never did return.

The men in front of the General Store began to smile, at first a little sheepishly, then broadly.

—By God, listen to that little pipsqueak howl a hisn.

—That ain’t no pipsqueak howl. He’s got a good loud yell fer a baby.

—He ought to have, if he takes after his maw.

After a while, the door opened, and Ellen Shawnessy came out.

—They want you all to come in and see it, she said.

—I reckon they’d better leave us see it, said Grampa Peters. I never worked harder to have a baby in my life.

The men all removed their hats and walked sheepishly into the house. Johnny brought up the rear. In a room upstairs, a woman was lying on the bed. Her cheeks were flushed, and her hair was all strung around on the pillow. She was looking at something lying on her arm. Her husband was standing beside the bed looking at it too.

It was a little hairless monkey with a scalded skin, the ugliest thing Johnny had ever seen.

—It’s a boy, said Mr. Doniphant tentatively.

—It’s a fine boy, Grampa Peters said, lying magnificently.

The mother only lay looking at the baby. The baby was yelling again, and T. D. said,

—A perfect baby. The beginnings of a fine family, my boy.

Some of the men hit Mr. Doniphant solidly between the shoulders, and others pumped his hand. He looked bewildered and kept saying,

—Thank ye, sir, thank ye.

—Well, Missus, Grampa Peters said, how do you feel?

—All right, said the woman on the bed. I’m sorry if I caused y’all trouble by carryin’ on so. I never knowed what it’d be like.

All of them lied, saying they didn’t notice a thing, and anyway it didn’t bother them the least bit.

—What you goin’ to call it, Missus? Grampa Peters asked.

—Well, the young woman said very slowly, looking at it, we was aimin’ to call it, iffen it was a boy, Zachary Taylor Doniphant, but I done change my mind, and my husband and I would like to give him the name of this kind gentleman here who help us out and maybe save my life and the baby’s.

—O, I assure you—— T. D. started to say.

—No, sir, Mr. Doniphant said, we talked about it while you was all out of the room just now, and we’re a-goin’ to christen ’im Timothy Shawnessy Doniphant, if the doctor don’t mind.

—Mind! T. D. said. I would be delighted. But, I assure you——

Johnny thought it was a terrible insult to his father because the baby was a monstrous-looking object, but T. D. seemed to be delighted.

—T. D., one of the women said, I think that calls for a little prayer.

T. D. blew his nose and put his head down. The baby kept on crying.

—Dear Father in Heaven, T. D. said, these good young people have come a long way across the great continent of America and have suffered many hardships. So far Your kind providence has been upon them. We ask You now to continue to favor them with the benign light of Your countenance and take a hopeful view of their future, far-wandering across the land. May this little child that is this day born unto them live and prosper in the far land to which they are journeying. Dear Lord, preserve him and his father and his mother in the trials that await them. May they reach that far-off beautiful land of California and may they find all of their desires fulfilled until they arrive as all of us must, after much wandering, on that Golden Shore where there is no distinction between here and hereafter. We ask it, Lord, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Outside, everyone made a little contribution for the new baby, and T. D., who had already donated his services, gave two dollars. The baby was yelling again when they went in to give the money to the Doniphants. One thing you could say for it: it had a lot of life in it.

Johnny was very quiet until they were on their way home. Then he found that he was humming a song:

—O, Susanna,

    Do not cry for me.

—I wish I could get the words to that song, Ellen said. How much do you remember, Johnny?

Johnny started in, and it turned out that he knew the whole song.

—It pays to have a good memory, T. D. said. With your mind for remembering things, John, you ought to go far.

The tune had a fine gaiety, but the words filled Johnny Shawnessy with delicious sadness, and the name Susanna haunted him even into his sleep, for that night he dreamed that he was hunting through the Court House Square for a mysterious woman, whose stately name he couldn’t remember. Meanwhile the Square darkened; people were rushing by him in wagons going west.

—It’s the breaking of the waters, they said solemnly.

And indeed he could see the cold waters of the Shawmucky rising in the cornfields. He himself, trying to escape, wandered all night through familiar landscapes. They had an empty, joyless look

like paintings on a wall

or pictures









In the back seat of the surrey little Will had the book open.

—Who is that lady above the door, Papa?

He pushed the book over into Mr. Shawnessy’s lap. The title was stamped in gold on a black clothbound cover, eighteen by fifteen inches. The Atlas was an inch deep, corners and spine reinforced in tooled black leather. The fullpage lithograph of the Court House showed a rectangular brick and stone building. A tall tower set into the west end contained the Main Entrance, an American flag stood stiff out from the peak of the tower, and two clock faces visible in the sloped roof read nine o’clock. Two ladies, bustled, bearing parasols, walked on symmetrical paths of the court house lawn. Over the Main Entrance a draperied woman stood in a niche, blindfolded, leaning on a sheathèd sword, holding bronze scales.

—Justice, Mr. Shawnessy said.

—What are those things in her hands?

—Scales. To measure the exact difference between right and wrong.

—Why do they call it an atlas? Will asked.

—An atlas, Mr. Shawnessy said, is a book with maps—pictures of the earth. In the old Greek stories, a giant named Atlas held the world on his shoulders.

—Hercules came and held the world for him once, Wesley said, while Atlas went to the Garden of the Hesperides and got the golden apples for Hercules.

—What did Hercules want with the apples? Will asked.

—It was one of his twelve labors. And when Atlas came back, he just laughed at Hercules and said he was going to leave Hercules there holding the world forever. He didn’t want to take the world back.

—You can’t exactly blame him, Mr. Shawnessy said.

—But, Wesley said, Hercules played a trick on him. He fooled Atlas into taking the world back just long enough so he could fix his lion skin on his shoulders to keep the world from chafing them. And as soon as Atlas had the world back on his shoulders, Hercules just laughed at Atlas and took the apples and beat it, leaving Atlas to hold the world.

—He isn’t still holding it, is he? Will asked.

—No, of course he isn’t, Wesley said. It’s just a Greek myth.

The Illustrated Historical Atlas of Raintree County was not, however, just a myth. It was a very substantial piece of work. A Chicago firm had sent its own compilers, surveyors, and delineators to make a verbal and pictorial record of Raintree County. Fifteen years ago Mr. Shawnessy had bought a copy of the Atlas for ten dollars and put it on the parlor table with the Family Bible and the Photograph Album. The Atlas was printed on paper of excellent quality, great grainy sheets, some forty-eight in all. There was an illustrated title-page, colored fullpage maps of the County and each of its twelve townships, and smaller maps of the principal communities, including Waycross. At the back were unfolding maps of Indiana, the United States, and the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. The reading matter provided a history of the County, statistical tables, and descriptions of churches, eminent public buildings, newspapers, and schools. Ten whole pages were given over to a list of over five hundred prominent citizens, each of whom had given satisfactory proof of prestige and good taste by subscribing to the Atlas in advance.

The name Shawnessy, J. W. appeared on page 44.

The Atlas was remarkable for its illustrations, fullpage lithographs of the New Court House, Freehaven’s leading hotel, the south side of the Square; and half a hundred pictures—some fullpage and some two and four to the page—of Raintree County homes, mostly farms.

Into the faintly golden texture of the great soft sheets, an unknown artist had touched the earth of Raintree County with a sensitive pencil. In the sketches of farm homes, the principal building was seen as from a slight elevation so as to include a generous setting of outbuildings and the land around. Walks, lanes, roads, forests, gardens, pastures, cornfields appeared in accurate perspective. People played croquet on lawns; children skipped ropes, rolled hoops, pulled wagons; families passed in surreys, spring wagons, buggies; mare and colt scampered in the pasture; the great bull passively grazed behind the barn; the farmer engaged in his characteristic occupations—feeding, mowing, raking, plowing.

The earth had the effect of being a massy substance continuous under all traces of humanity. Through page after page, this earth of Raintree County appeared in an unvaried summer morning, radiant and precise to a depth of miles, until sky touched horizon with a frieze of soft clouds.

One played with the idea that the artist had been a gifted young man forced to hack for a living but leaving the stamp of genius even on his routine assignments.

—How come you’re taking the Atlas to town, Papa? Wesley asked.

—What’s that? O, to exchange it for one at the Museum, which is slightly different. They can use mine while I have theirs.

—How is the one at the Museum different? Wesley asked.

—It’s an earlier edition, Mr. Shawnessy said evasively. What’s Eva reading?

He didn’t listen to the answer. He was thinking of Senator Jones’s letter in his pocket and the quaint mission that he was undertaking to Freehaven.

The letter had come to him a week before. Everyone who knew the Senator well, knew that he had two distinct styles—sacred and profane. His informal letters to close friends favored the second vein.

Dear John:

. . . By the way, on top of all your painful responsibilities for the success of my homecoming, I want to pile one more that ought to be a pure joy to you.

As you know, I haven’t been back to the County for twenty years, but I still have good contacts there and keep up pretty well. Now, here’s a story I picked up in ’75 when I received a copy of a Raintree County Atlas. I was told that the artist who drew the pictures for it was on his last job for the company before getting the axe. It seems he fancied himself a Raphael without a patron and was going nutty from so much hack work. Anyway, he got even with his firm and the world in general for years of artistic frustration by letting his imagination run hogwild on the plates he did for the Atlas. So when old Waldo Mays, who founded and ran the Historical Museum and was the leading spirit in getting the Atlas commissioned, received his advance copy, he took one look and beat it the hell up to Chicago, where he demanded the plates and had them altered or destroyed in his presence. All the rest of the subscription was castrated, including your copy and mine.

Meanwhile old Waldo kept the unique copy under lock and key in the Museum and never let anyone see it. Harve Watkins, who gave me the story, says Waldo kept hinting that the damage hadn’t been all cleaned up, so that people kept scurrying to their Atlases to see if they could see anything. My own copy is ragged.

I’ve heard several hot tips about Waldo’s unique copy, to wit: A lovely dame is standing in her pelt, ankledeep in the river under the railroad trestle on the titlepage. The lady going into the dry goods store on the south side of the Square, page 37, is stark naked, except for a parasol. On page 65, Bob Ray’s prize bull, Mr. Jocko the Strong, blue ribbon at the State Fair in ’74, is pictured showing prize-winning form in an intimate domestic scene. On page 53, Titian’s Venus and Adonis are romping in the forest background. Adam and Eve are under an apple tree on page 57. A pair of country lovers are surprised in a haystack on page 17. The fountain in the front yard of John J. Jubal’s palatial home in Beardstown features an ithyphallic Aztec god instead of a cast-iron triton. The sign reading Burke House on Freehaven’s leading hotel has been altered to something more pungent. And Jesus Christ surrounded by the Twelve Apostles is getting ready to jump to Zion from the observation platform of the house on page 61. You can see the possibilities.

Now, I’ve been using this story for years with great éclat in the smokefilled rooms of the Nation’s Capital, Washington, D. C. I adapt it for the company. It’s good for lusty laughter at the stag banquet, and in a daintier version it fetches a giggle from the most cultivated females in Washington.

I’m sure there’s some truth in it because I once wrote old Waldo myself in my best senatorial style, stating that I understood he had in his possession a unique copy of the Atlas containing some interesting variations, and as I was collecting books of all kinds on the old home county out of a sentimental interest, I would be glad to buy his copy—and he could name the price.

The old bastard wrote back that the variations to which I referred were of such a profane character that he had sworn never to allow the copy to get into the hands of another human being, where it might expose a character less staunchly fortified than his own, to overwhelming temptations. He said that he planned to destroy the book before his death and delayed now only because the presence of it in his museum brought hundreds of folks every year who bent bug-eyed over the glass case in his private office, where he kept the book locked up and covers closed. He said he considered this an excellent training in self-denial, not to say that it encouraged people to explore the Museum and its other treasures (all those goddamned stinking stuffed possums and Indian skulls).

That Atlas has become an obsession with me. I have the same feeling about it that a collector would have for the famous Satan’s Bible with the misprint in the seventh commandment or a hitherto undiscovered Shakespeare play published with the author’s face engraved from life in the frontispiece and an autobiographical preface.

Now, just last week I got word from Harve that old Waldo was found stiff and stone-cold at six in the morning on the front steps of the Museum with his key in the lock. Apparently, feeling that his hour had come, he’d staggered down in the dead of the night to get that book and destroy it. And they say his niece by marriage and only heir (who’s been East and got married and widowed) was visiting the old man in his last illness and immediately took over the estate and the Museum lock, stock, and barrel and closed it up for adjustments.

In other words, John, that cussed book is in the hands of a woman, young, pretty they say, and therefore impressionable—instead of an old he-frump who has been lusting over it in secret for seventeen years.

Someone is going to get hold of that book now—and fast. If I were in the County, I’d be willing to bet my chances for the Presidency in ’96 that I’d get access to the lady and the book in a matter of hours. But since I can’t do it, my first thought is you. We all know, John, that where a skirt is involved, you carry a golden key.

Sprout, I’m personally counting on you to put the hex on that woman and get that book and have it in Waycross when I arrive. My letter to her is already in the mail, blazing the trail, and I leave the rest up to you. I’ll personally lay out a cold hundred dollars for the privilege of adding that book to my private collection of prints by the old masters.

Of course, I didn’t give my birthyell yesterday, and I know the whole thing may have been just a figment of the old man’s mind. We all know that Waldo has been off his nut ever since he cracked his marbles on a wagontongue as a boy on his father’s farm. But I don’t want to go to my grave without satisfying my curiosity as to what that twobit Michelangelo did to Raintree County.

By the way, John, not a word on this subject where it might diminish that splendid image of decorum which the hoi polloi entertain for a U. S. Senator. Of course, in the right quarters it will give my character that touch of humanity which woos the beauteous ballot to the box—and after all, this is an Election Year. . . .

Cordially yours,

Garwood B. Jones

Mr. Shawnessy had in his pocket another letter received two days before.

My dear Mr. Shawnessy,

Your kind note in hand, I hasten to reply. The book of which you speak and in which Senator Jones has expressed an interest is in my possession. Apparently my revered uncle placed a great value on it, but I would be glad to see you and talk with you about it.

I am opening the Museum for Independence Day, as many people like to visit. If you come early, before seven, as you suggest, I will meet you there on the Fourth.

By the way, you are wrong—I remember you quite well. As a little girl of ten, I was a doting protégée of yours. You trained me and some other girls for a patriotic pageant on the Court House lawn in 1868. I had the part of the Productive Institutions and wore a skirt made out of corn husks which came off halfway through my speech.

So you see, you are not forgotten after all. Remember me kindly to your family.


Persephone R. Mays

The surrey had turned west at Moreland and was approaching the Old Home Place. Granite boulders were strewn on the earth here, negligent droppings of the great ice sheet whose southernmost rim had lain on Raintree County aeons before, leaving its load of alien rocks and glacial dirt.

Fleshed with loam, tufted with groves, and dense with corn, the earth swam beneath him and away to distant summer. The sky built a vault pillared with far clouds over the floor of Raintree County.

What made the earth of Raintree County? Who holds up the earth? What creature is it that in the morning of its life . . .

Man made an atlas for the earth and tried to get a lasting place among the Prominent Citizens. With straight lines—ranks of corn, telegraph poles, rectangular walls—he tried to overcome its feminine evasions. Across its mapflattened face, devoid of contour, he drew the unwavering legends of his names. But he had never caught the naked goddess in his net.

Mr. John Atlas Shawnessy had reluctantly taken the world back on his shoulders, releasing his heroic twin, Mr. John Hercules Shawnessy, who ran off bearing a branch of golden apples. With fleet thighs, he fled up and down the corridors of a mythical Raintree County. He laughed. His gold hair hung long on his shoulders. He had held the world for a little while, or rather he had drawn it with a sensitive pencil and had made a delightful legend of it, had sketched forbidden beauty into a puritan landscape, achieved Acropolis in the Court House Square, Shakespeare at the County Fair, Venus risen from the Shawmucky, Eden in an apple orchard.

Take back the world a minute while I adjust my lion skin. There, you poor benighted bonehead, you can keep it. Did you build yourself a respectable world and bound yourself beneath it, friend, and call it Raintree County? Well, I will tell you what it is—your Raintree County—to reward you for plucking me these golden and forbidden apples.

I will give you back the world neatly bound in tooled leather and black cloth by the firm of Jackson, Higgs, and Company, Lakeside Building, Corner Clark and Adams Streets, Chicago, but with a few special additions of my own. As the anonymous artist sent down from headquarters, I don’t hesitate to say that I have improved a little on the work of God in making you this legendary Raintree County. The universe never did sufficiently reward me for my intuitive perspectives.

Ladies and gentlemen, let’s take off on our conducted tour of Raintree County. Look sharp! There’s more naked here than meets the eye. These sentimental landscapes are full of sly gods. And from the back of our book, we unveil you the earth, our lady of the stately hemispheres. Look sharp, ladies and gentlemen! This little magic world within a world is strewn with the memories of all mankind.

—There’s the Old Home Place, Wesley said. Look, they’ve been cutting clover in the South Field.

A plain white farmhouse, surrounded by weathered outbuildings, stood on a slight elevation leftward of the road. Scarred and strange, it lay on the immemorial way to Freehaven; and passing it, Mr. Shawnessy passed again through an invisible great gate and into the garden of a Hesperian memory, seeking


fabulous and forgotten secret

was written in a lost language upon the earth

of Raintree County. This he had known from the beginning, and he had known too that the secret was for him to unriddle; he alone could one day find the answer. For this secret was not only the secret of the earth in which he lived but also the secret of himself and what he was. Who and what are you, little manchild? Whence have you come and whither are you going? What are you doing upon this ancient, stream-divided earth?

Many devious paths seemed to lead backward to the secret.

There was the secret of the County’s origin and naming. The County seemed to Johnny an eternal thing, and yet only some twenty years before his birth, it had been an indivisible part of central Indiana, then a new State, admitted to the Union in 1816. In 1818, the central region was opened up for white settlement, and counties were created by an act of the state legislature meeting in the new capital, Indianapolis. After that, the settlers came, mostly Scotch-Irish and English stock from the coastal states. They poured into the southeastern corner of the County by way of the National Pike, among them young T. D. Shawnessy and his wife, Ellen.

The way in which the County got its name was a subject involved in mystery. The first state legislature had called it after a hero of the Revolution, but later, when a legal county government had been formed and a site selected for a county seat, a petition was accepted for changing the name to Raintree County. Clearly enough, a sentiment had grown up in the County for the new name, but exactly why was never fully understood.

According to a popular legend, the earliest settlers found a ragged preacher wandering in the neighborhood of a lake in the middle of the County. He told them that in his youth he had had a vision of Heaven in which he beheld a green land full of fruitbearing trees and pleasant waters and had gone seeking for its earthly counterpart through the wilderness of America, carrying with him the seed of an oriental tree never before planted in America. Now he had found, as he believed, the land of his vision.

—Lo! I have sowed the seed, he cried. The Raintree will blossom in the western earth. The tree of life will drop its golden fruit in the new earthly Paradise.

The mad preacher had worked so strongly on the imagination of the first settlers around Freehaven that they began to refer to the neighborhood, a little facetiously, as the Land of the Raintree. From this source came at length the names Paradise Lake and Raintree County.

Some people insisted that the preacher had been no other than the celebrated John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed. A ragged, quaint, beloved form, he had spent his life travelling through the pioneer West, planting apple orchards in the wilderness and preaching a Swedenborgian gospel of the teeming, sacred earth. If the man who planted the Raintree was Johnny Appleseed, then it seemed likely that the seed he planted was only apple seed. Perhaps he had merely established one of his famous tree nurseries somewhere in what was to become Raintree County.

At any rate, no one had ever found the eponymous tree of Raintree County, and after a passage of years people in general began to assume that there was no such tree as a Raintree.

Then something happened that seemed strangely to confirm the legend of the County’s naming.

In the year 1826, the Scotch philanthropist Robert Owen founded New Harmony on the Wabash River in southern Indiana. Down the Ohio and up the Wabash came a Boatload of Knowledge—scientists, artists, and educators imported from the East and from overseas to found a New Moral World in the western wilderness. People were invited to come and join a paradise regained by innate human goodness. The noble experiment lasted two years and collapsed in the usual picturesque wreckage of innate human selfishness and inefficiency. But many gifted people remained and fostered an interest in science and art so much advanced for the place and the period that New Harmony came to be known as the Athens of the West. Among the New Harmonians were students of natural science, and it was one of these who brought to New Harmony the seeds of an exotic tree, which he planted by the gate of his house. This tree, bearing the scientific name of Koelreuteria paniculata, had been called the Golden Raintree in its native China. From these parent seeds the Golden Raintree—or the Gate Tree, as it was commonly known in Indiana—spread all over New Harmony and more slowly through other parts of the State. It bore no fruit in the popular meaning of the word, but in late June or early July the mature trees, which seldom grew taller than twenty or thirty feet, bloomed with a delicate yellow flower and dropped a rain of yellow pollendust and petals.

Thus, by chance, the State of Indiana did acquire a mysterious seedling of Asia, a true Raintree. But for a long time this tree flourished only in a little town in the southwestern corner of the State, while the county named for such a tree had not a single specimen within its boundaries, as far as anyone knew.

Not that anyone in Raintree County was ever much disturbed by the paradox. No one ever challenged New Harmony’s claim to having introduced the Asiatic Raintree to America. Scarcely anyone knew about the gate trees of New Harmony, and no one except one or two garrulous gaffers and Johnny Shawnessy cared how the County got its name anyway. The earth had taken back one of its legends—that was all.

Nothing would remain at last except the name itself, itself a legend beautiful and talismanic, a sound of magic and of recollection, a phrase of music and of strangeness—Raintree County.

Johnny Shawnessy never doubted the truth of the legend. He felt sure that a wondrous tree grew in secret somewhere in the County. People might have passed beside it a hundred times and never realized that it was the tree planted by the fabulous preacher, whose name was also Johnny.

Johnny Shawnessy used to imagine that someday he would be walking in a wild, rarely visited part of the County and in the late afternoon would come upon a tree rising jetlike from the earth and spreading to a fountain spray of dense leaves, among which was a fruit of delectable flavor. He used to imagine the stately trunk of the tree and the clean isolation of it from the other trees of the forest. Or perhaps it was standing lonely in a field of grass. Once Johnny had asked T. D. where such a tree could grow unseen in the County, and T. D. said,

—They’s a regular wilderness around Paradise Lake, especially where the Shawmucky flows into it. Folks call it the Great Swamp. Why, a man went in there once and never come out again. There could be a whole slew of such trees in there and no one ever know about them.

Johnny felt that there was only one tree, one sacred trunk standing in the druid silence of woodlands in the middle County. Someday, perhaps he would find that tree and thus become the hero of the County, the Alexander who cut the Gordian knot, the Hercules who obtained the Golden Apples of the Hesperides, the Oedipus who solved the Riddle of the Sphinx.

The secret of the tree was blended strangely with the whole secret of his life and the mystery from which he had sprung.

In T. D.’s Office, the little building behind the house, there hung a big picture of a tree with a black printed legend beneath:



When he was very young, Johnny had thought this tree had something to do with the mythical tree of Raintree County. Later he understood why T. D. had the picture.

The Office was nearly as old as the log cabin which had been the original Shawnessy Home in Raintree County. A shrine of memories, it had its own peculiar incense. If from all the herbs of Raintree County a scent had been distilled, that quintessential fragrance would have been the scent of T. D.’s Office.

When he was very young, Johnny had supposed that all things in the Office gave off the scent, the varnished chart of a man’s anatomy, the ancient, papery skull on the threelegged table in the corner, the rows of scuffed books behind the bookcase glass, the littered desk, the bottles on the shelves, the tree engraving, and T. D. himself. But later he knew that the scent was from the bottles only.

The Botanical Medicines in the square glass-stoppered bottles were made by T. D. from roots, barks, grasses, fruits, and flowers of the County. Barkybrown, rivergreen, color of blood, they were the bottled lifejuice of the County and the aroma of all its withered summers.

It was in the Office, oddly appendent to the house itself, that Johnny had come closest to the buried secret of his father’s life.

One day when he was about ten years old, he had gone into the Office during his father’s absence and had found lying on the desk a ledger that T. D. had always before kept carefully locked up and to which he referred for purposes that Johnny had never understood. Now, Johnny picked up the ledger and read on the outside



Inside, Johnny found many strange things. The whole first part of the book contained recipes for the Botanical Medicines. One read:

An Indian Remmady. Cure for Ague Cakes.

Take of the bark of black Haw Root Wild Cherry Root Bitter Sweet Root and Skunk Root of each one hand full put in one gallon of soft water and boil down to one quart. To be drank in one day, and so continue making and drinking for severl days if necessary.


Take of Gambage—2 oz
  Blood-Root—2 oz
  Labelia Seeds—1 oz
  Cayenne pepper—2 drams
  Rhubarb—4 drams
  Penlash—1 dram

All made fine well mixed and formed into pills with butternut syrup. Dose—take one every hour—until they purg or take 4 and they will puke.

There followed many testimonials of people who had been cured by the Botanical Medicines. One read:

This may certify to all whome it may concern that I David Farnsworth of the County of Raintree in the State of Indiana have ben for years subject to repeted attacts of the pleurecy and have ben brought (as I and others have thought) very near the gates of death.

In April of 1822 I had another attact of this distressing and painful complaint. I was taken on Satterday with cold chills and flashes of heat with pains in my bones and headach and a severe pain in my left side, with other disagreeable symtoms which continued until monday with increasing rapidity, when I sent for T. D. Shawnessy to cum and bring with him sum medicines and when he had examened me he stated that I had better be taken through a corse of medicine without delay. Prepperation was made and I began to drink of the hot medicine to rase the internel heat. I was then steemed, and an emettic of Labelia with its appendents was afterwards administered and then steemed again and showered with cold water and vinnegar then wiped off dry and put to bed with a warm rock to my feet still drinking of the warm teas to keep up a perspiration and by the blessing of kind providence through the means of those medicines administered and good nursing I was soon restored to health, and will further add that I never was cured in so short a time of so vilent atact of this complaint. My family has also used his medicine in other complaints and find them to answer the purpose in all cases and are so well convinced of their suppererorety over those used by the medical docters that they seek for no other then the Botanical Medicines.

Daniel Farnsworth

Elizabeth Farnsworth

August 5th, 1822

Farther over in the book were some original poems—hymns and moral diatribes. One poem, inserted on a separate sheet of paper, had been written in purple ink, and although it was in T. D.’s hand, the letters were more carefully formed than usual and the capitals had ornamental flourishes. It seemed to Johnny perhaps a hymn—but a strange one.

It was a morning in the Spring.

  Beneeth a hawthorn tree we lade,

Drunk with the od’rous blosoming,

  Togather, kissing in the shade.

  Heaven! how lustily we played!


It was a day of frollic wind.

  We heard the insecks drone and buz.

God’s purest angle would have sinned

  And i, no angle, did becaus

  My God! how bewtifull she was!


It was a morning in the prime.

  I struv the bewteus prize to win,

And if our gaming was a crime,

  And if our luving was a sin,

  Dear Jesus! let me err agin!

On a few pages in the back of the book were recorded some baffling particulars about the Shawnessy family tree. One entry read:

Eliza Shawnessy, mother of Timothy Duff Shawnessy, came from Scotland to the State of Delaware in 1805 and departed this life in 1820 at the age of forty-six.

Fair from my natif place

  A strainger in this Land was I.

I go to my eturnel rest

  And shall live no more to die.

    From Scottish earth I came to this.

    From here I go to endless bliss.

There was no mention of a Grandfather Shawnessy. Johnny knew that T. D. had come over from Scotland with his mother when he was a boy. T. D. would say only that his own father had ‘passed on’ before mother and son had left Scotland. But there must have been an interesting family connection there, for when Johnny—by far the most gifted of the children—would show a flash of precocity in memory or expression, T. D. would say,

—Well, the boy ought to amount to something some day. He’s related on my father’s side to one of the greatest living writers of the English language. Some day maybe he will make the name of Shawnessy as great in America as the name of Carlyle has become in England.

Then T. D.’s blue eyes would flash, his thin shoulders would snap back, and he would walk rapidly back and forth, coattails flapping, showing the restless energy that had brought him all the way from Scotland to the middle of America.

T. D. himself was a famous man in Raintree County. Whether driving about with a buggyload of the Botanical Medicines or standing in the pulpit of the Methodist Church in Danwebster, rocking back on his heels, he had but one aim—to improve the spiritual and physical welfare of the County. Devoid equally of grammar and guile, he had become known beyond the borders of the County for his sermons, which were sometimes composed in spirited doggerel. He got continual requests from other parts of the State for his poems, especially the one about the Evils of Tobacco, which Johnny had heard so many times that he knew it by heart, including the two celebrated lines:

Some do it chew and some it smoke

Whilst some it up their nose do poke.

There was no special mystery about this everyday T. D., but Johnny was always discovering secrets where no one else could and was endlessly curious about the origin of things and their occult relationships to one another. For him the mystery of his father’s origin and his own was signed and sealed into a ledger of recipes and poems and into a legend of a tree of golden rain.

T. D. Shawnessy, his father, was a tall tree with a golden top, the carrier of a strange seed from the East planted deep in Raintree County. That was why a tree with a black legend beneath, taken from the Bible, grew in the little shrinelike office. T. D. Shawnessy was a tall, windshaken tree of life, and from the branches and the leaves thereof was a healing balsam shaken on the minds and bodies of men. And the seed of this tree had fallen on the County in secret for many years, but none there was who could say the place and the purpose and the meaning thereof.

There was also the secret of his mother, Ellen Shawnessy. His earliest memories, archaic fragments saved out of otherwise razed eras of his life, were all pervaded with the presence of his mother. These memories appeared to have been plucked out of an eternal summer and preserved by an access of strong light that burned the images more lastingly on his awareness. Perhaps the oldest memory of all was one of his mother’s face bending down to him from a vague tumult of sound and color. Painted by the strong light, it was a slender face, the cheek and jawlines emphatic, the skin fair but freckled, the nose pert, the mouth large and mobile, the eyes a vivid blue in dark lashes, the hair a dark, smouldering mass. A smile suffused this precise small face with beauty and warmth. The lips moved; there was a sound, beautiful and talismanic,


With this word, spoken in his mother’s quick, girlish voice, he had been called from the murmurous world where he had been lulled so long in the prehistoric age before there was any Raintree County. Thus his origin was a kind of virgin birth, as if a word had touched him into being.

Later it never ceased to disturb him that he had been a somewhat belated accident in his mother’s life, the last of nine children.

Ellen was universally beloved in the County, more so even than T. D., who, because he was a Methodist minister and an advocate of reform, stirred up antagonisms. In both manner and appearance she had a young charm that made her more like an older sister than a typical Raintree County mother. She was quick to laugh and joke, having an infectious gaiety lacking in T. D.’s amiable but unhumorous nature. Her enjoyments were spontaneous like a child’s, and it was always fun to go with her to one of the typical Raintree County gatherings—family reunions, Saturdays at the Court House Square, church picnics, ice cream socials, patriotic celebrations. She entered into the pastimes of the younger people, even played at the running games. It was a common saying in the County that Johnny had got his great fleetness of foot from his mother. Men would say,

—When your mother first come to this county, son, she could outfoot most of the men.

Among the fairest images of his life were the occasions when Ellen Shawnessy would take some younger person’s challenge to a footrace and sitting down would slip off her shoes and stockings. With shyness and wonder, Johnny saw the white feet, slender and elfin, appear suddenly where he was accustomed to see the prim-buckled shoes.

Ellen was also an excellent horsewoman, never bothering to saddle a horse but jumping on like a man and riding away bareback. This she often did, leaving at a moment’s notice for the home of a friend or relative. In the supreme emergencies of life—childbirth, marriage, death—she was as much in demand as T. D., her small radiant person arriving like an omen of good luck and good hope.

Together she and T. D. were like two invulnerable angels as they went about the County dealing in life and death.

One of Johnny’s most poignant early memories was of standing in the yard of the Home Place waiting for Ellen Shawnessy to come back from one of her sudden missions at a distant home. The girls had prepared both dinner and supper and had left Johnny to his own devices. He heard the talking from time to time in the house and yard.

—I wonder what can be keeping Mamma so long.

It was nearly nightfall. He couldn’t remember when she had stayed away so long. He walked back and forth before the gate, looking east along the road in the direction she had taken. He had never before felt so miserable and lonely. The house, the fields surrounding, and the road had lost all purpose and significance, seeming empty and forlorn at the top of the world. At last, in the fading day, he saw Ellen’s erect form riding swiftly up the road. He ran from the gate, his voice shrill:

—Mamma! Mamma! It’s me—Johnny!

She rode up to him and leaped lightly off the horse, her face flushed, her hair blown and tangled.

—Why, Johnny! she said. Why haven’t you gone to bed?

He was very happy to walk with her into the house and see the usual bustle and excitement on her arrival as she began to tell in her fast, crowded speech some narrative of birth, of life hanging by a thread, of what people said out there in the limitless, enchanted world of Raintree County.

His mother’s being was woven into the substance of his surroundings, unchanging essence of a changing earth. There had been two distinct Home Places. Johnny’s first memories preserved the earlier Home Place, the pioneer Shawnessy dwelling in Raintree County. The central shrine had been the log cabin, a sturdy, competent dwelling well floored and chinked, with two partitions downstairs and a loft above for sleeping. Behind the cabin were T. D.’s office, an outhouse, and the small barn where a few horses and cows were kept. T. D. wasn’t primarily a farmer and had only twenty acres of land. Some distance from the house was a spring welling up from a small rocky hollow to form a trickling branch that made its way circuitously across the field and northward to the river. Back of the house was the main pasture, the South Field, its grassy undulations strewn with firescarred rocks, negligent droppings of some condor-winged bird of time in the ages before the first human beings had come to Raintree County. The South Field rose to a gentle summit behind the Home Place and then fell like a wave of waning strength to the limit of the Shawnessy earth. There, just inside the railfence, was the greatest of the glacial boulders, a rock much taller than Johnny, egg-shaped, faintly red, half sunken in the earth, immovable and lonely. Beyond it was the oak forest, a place of tranquil and great trunks. Johnny could remember when the South Field was stubbled with stumps, having been, some years before his birth, part of the great oak forest which apparently had covered several square miles of the land around the Home Place when T. D. first came to the County, being itself a remnant of that legendary great forest which extended clear across the Mississippi Valley and of which there were still some dim recollections handed down from the earliest settlers and explorers.

In this simple setting of cabin, road, railfences, pasturefield, cornland, forest, spring and branch, the infant Johnny Shawnessy had grown up. Then one day in his ninth year, the family returned from a Saturday on the Court House Square to find the log cabin in flames. From its ashes rose the new Home Place, a plain board farmhouse built in the fashion of the middle forties. Slowly, too, the land lost its raw unfinished look. New outbuildings and a larger barn were built. The farm was entirely fenced in. The road was widened and corduroyed.

But under the thin veil of the new Home Place, under the tidal rhythm of the seasons, Johnny seemed always to be trying to remember and restore a pattern primitive and simple, of which only tantalizing traces remained.

Once in his tenth year he went a long way back of the land and entered the great oak forest and walked a long way through its druid aisles, wondering if he might not find in it somewhere the fabulous Raintree. He stayed longer away than he had intended. Darkness came suddenly among the broad trunks, which even at noon were steeped in a kind of twilight. He hurried back through expiring noises of the day. It seemed to him that he was going much farther than necessary to find the railfence at the limit of the land. A feeling possessed him of the fragility of his life on the earth and of the transiency of all human habitation. He had a sensation of long absence and return, or as if he had reawakened into some earlier time. Suppose he should come out of the forest and find the Home Place as it was in its early and now all but forgotten form. Nay, suppose it wasn’t there at all, the road, the railfence, and the log cabin having been erased by the backward-travelling years. The primeval forest might extend once more in majestic solitude all over the lost earth of Raintree County. He was suddenly afraid, uprooted from his familiar world. He ran like mad between the trees, lashed by branches and weeds.

Abruptly, he came out at the railfence. The rock was there, faintly red in the declining light. He sprang over the fence and ran up the slow bulge of the field. Below him, across the long earth, were the yellow windows of the Home Place. A bell sounded, calling for supper. It was not so late as he had thought. His small fleet legs found a new strength. He ran on slow, floating strides down the slow hill watching for his mother’s form across the land.

He then dimly understood that every memory of his life, like every journey of his body, returned at last to the same mysterious place which had nothing to do with space. And he wondered at the miracle by which he had been spun out of the substance of his mother’s flesh in some prehistoric era that had nothing to do with time. Somehow he had sprung without a pollution into the world of names. And the names made all the difference and rescued him from the feeling of being lost in a void of earth and night—the names, the omnipotent words, Johnny, father, mother, Raintree County.

For Johnny always had a curious feeling that he would one day find the meaning of himself and Raintree County locked up in words. He himself had sprung into being from words in an immense blackboarded book on the parlor table.

This book was the Family Bible. On its first page the beginning of all things was recorded in the inspired word of God. On its last page Johnny’s beginning was recorded in T. D.’s handwriting:

John Wickliff Shawnessy, Borned in Raintree

County at the Home Place, April 23, 1839

It early seemed to Johnny that his whole life had been woven from the pages of this august book. Over and over, at church and in the home, he heard its stories of beginnings, its dreadful dooms, and its beautiful lives and deaths. His very substance was shaped from its archaic language. In a way, even his Christian name had come from the Bible. T. D. had called his last child after the great English Reformer who had been one of the first to attempt a translation of the Bible into English. The name, variously spelled and misspelled in the old texts, was further misspelled ‘Wickliff’ by T. D., and Wickliff it became in the middle of Johnny’s name.

John Wickliff—this name had been set upon him like a badge. Perhaps he too was fated to rewrite the great book of God in a new land and in a new tongue.

Some of the legends of the Bible became as much a part of him as his own life in the County. His mother had early read him the story of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden, of God and the guileful Serpent, and of the Tree that bore the Forbidden Fruit.

The story of Adam and Eve was the oldest story in the world, sealed with the seal of primal mystery. What earth was more secret than the Garden of Eden? Where was this garden in which the father and mother of mankind had wandered naked? At first, Johnny had supposed that because Raintree County was the whole world, therefore Eden was somewhere in Raintree County, especially since there was a lake in the center of the County called Paradise Lake. But T. D. laughed pleasantly at this misconception and cleared it up.

The greatest mystery of all was the Forbidden Tree. What kind of tree was it and why was it forbidden? And where was that other tree, the Tree of Life, that Adam and Eve might also have eaten of to live forever? And why had God forbidden them to eat the fruit of the trees at all?

Yes, that story had a light of dawn like an early memory of the County. Much of the mystery came from the fact that Adam and Eve were the only people who lived naked. He had seen a picture of them in the frontispiece of the Family Bible, tasting the Forbidden Fruit, Eve having her long hair down and a figleaf over the vital spot. This story was the boldest and truest of all the stories and the most marvellous and exciting because in it the father and mother of mankind had been naked. And the wonderful word ‘naked’ was used, and it meant ‘without clothes.’

In the Danwebster Church, where T. D. preached about God and the Bible, everyone wore clothes, a mysterious result of the sin which Adam and Eve had committed in the garden. The divine disease of curiosity that burned in the vitals of Johnny Shawnessy ended for most Raintree County citizens when they entered the church. To it they came for the same answer to life’s riddle that had been given to their fathers before them.

One of the dominant images of Johnny’s childhood was the approach to the Danwebster Church. Following the road from the Home Place, the family wagon would make a sharp turn, dip down through trees across the river bridge, and clattering over and through the screening foliage on the far side, would bring suddenly into view the form of the Danwebster Church standing on a hill above the river, a white frame building with a steeple holding a bell. It was like a revelation austere and tranquil. The doors would open, and the bell would ring, and from miles around the dwellers of Raintree County would gather to raise their voices in song and prayer.

What was the thing to which they prayed?

It was a rather appalling mystery called God. Toward the little church of Danwebster, Johnny had a divided emotion. He always associated it with sunshine, a gentle boredom, the image of T. D. pleasantly rocking in the pulpit. But over it there hovered too the memory of a crime, the old unlucky error by which the history of mankind had been darkened. The mystery of Raintree County was all stained and bloody and confused with this crime. The whole mournful affair was only slightly relieved by the worship of God’s gentle son, who, after all, had been nailed to a cross for being good.

More satisfying to Johnny’s yearning for definite answers was the little schoolhouse at Danwebster where he learned to read and write and cipher. Here he studied a legend called American History, bloody, irrational, and exciting like the Bible, and was told that he lived in the greatest republic since the beginning of time, a place where all men were created equal and where they were all entitled to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Though the school at Danwebster was only spasmodically in operation under a succession of itinerant teachers, Johnny here began to show his phenomenal memory. In Class Day exercises he recited gems of oratory and rhetoric, including the peroration of Webster’s famous reply to Hayne. He emerged from his schooling with the conviction that Liberty and Union were one and inseparable, that George Washington was the greatest man who ever lived, and that two plus two equalled four in Raintree County and throughout the universe. Above all, he acquired a holy faith in the printed word.

After he had learned to read, Johnny read newspapers, books, magazines, or just odd pieces of anything covered with words. He believed that some day, if he read fast and far enough, he would strip away the thin black veil of words and behold the great mystery that dwelt at the beginning of himself. He read with complete absorption, and when he was lost in a book, he was truly and completely lost, so much so that sometimes his mother was obliged to call several times before he heard.

And as he read and didn’t find the answer to the secret, he made a resolution that he would someday write the book that would unlock the riddle of the earth of Raintree County, of his mother and father, and himself. Thus when he was very young, only about seven years old, he decided upon his life work.

Most of the words that he read as a boy only carried him farther from the secret, but a few stories were filled with revelation.

In the summer of 1852, T. D. got hold of a two-volume copy of the novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. He gave sermons about it, and people discussed it for weeks pro and con. It was one of the great spiritual events of Raintree County, having as much effect on the County’s mind as a National Election or even a minor war. Long after Johnny had read the book, a permanent residue of simple images remained, and this residue was the great American legend of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

The legend of Uncle Tom’s Cabin was a legend of the South, but not the South which was below the Ohio River, a hundred and fifty miles from Johnny’s home in Indiana. It was the South of Stephen Foster’s songs. It was way down upon the Swanee Ribber, far far away in the Old Kentucky Home. There beneath a scented beauty lay a black evil called slavery. There the good and the poor and the humble and the enslaved of the earth were set clearly apart by God in black skins and patiently awaited their deliverance. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was the story of a few enduring characters, too simple to be real and thus more true than life: little Eva, that good, goldenhaired child, destroyed somehow by the noxious blight of slavery:

Farewell, beloved child! the bright eternal doors have closed after thee; we shall see thy sweet face no more. . . .

Eliza running across the icefloes on the river from slave land into free with the bloodhounds roaring after; Topsy, the puckish Negro child who wasn’t born but just growed; Simon Legree, whose fist had got hard as iron from knocking down niggers; and Uncle Tom himself, the good old woollytopped Negro, who died like Christ that a people might be saved.

Think of your freedom, every time you see UNCLE TOM’S CABIN; and let it be a memorial to put you all in mind to follow in his steps, and be as honest and faithful and Christian as he was.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin was a legend eternally true because it was eternally good. It spoke directly to the heart of Johnny Shawnessy and became blended in his being with Raintree County and America. After he read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, he was never confused again about the question of slavery. He knew where and what slavery was, he knew that it was bad, he knew also that it would one day be destroyed.

There was a time during which Johnny read and reread all the Greek myths he could get hold of. It seemed to him that in these stories of human forms woven from the teeming earth, of women flying from the love-pursuit of gods beside the river, of monsters that mingled beast and god, of combat, love, and epic quests and everlasting godlike games, he had perhaps recovered the lost prehistoric summer of his own life.

At about the same time he read some of the stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne, the great American mythmaker. One of these filled him again with the old sense of mystery and seemed to have a special meaning for his own life. This was the story of ‘The Great Stone Face.’ Johnny read it over and over until he had it almost by heart. The austere language seemed imbued with a mystical meaning beyond the literal phrase. To him it seemed the most wonderful story ever told.

The story opened with a description of a mother and a little child named Ernest sitting at their cottage door and gazing at a Great Stone Face. High above the populous valley where they lived, a colossal face of stone had been shaped in a cliff by some remote convulsion of the earth and transformed to human aspect by the weathering touch of time. It was a happy lot for children to grow up to manhood or womanhood with the Great Stone Face before their eyes, for all the features were noble, and the expression was at once grand and sweet, as if it were the glow of a vast, warm heart, that embraced all mankind in its affections. Gazing at the Great Stone Face, the mother repeated to the little child a legend of the valley, older even than the Indian peoples who had formerly lived there. The purport was that some day a child would be born in the valley who would become the greatest and noblest personage of his time, and whose face in manhood would bear an exact resemblance to the Great Stone Face.

The boy Ernest grew up in the valley, having no teacher except the Great Stone Face. While he was yet a child, an exceedingly rich merchant returned to the valley, hailed as the one who fulfilled the ancient prophecy. He had great wealth and was known by the name of Gathergold. As the rich man passed in his carriage among the applauding people, Ernest caught a glimpse of a withered yellow face that bore no resemblance at all to the Great Stone Face, having none of its benignity and wisdom. And yet the people seemed actually to believe that here was the likeness of the Great Stone Face.

But as time passed, the episode was forgotten, and Ernest growing now to manhood continued to hope that he might live to see the fulfillment of the prophecy. Then there came back to the valley of his birth an illustrious commander, who was affectionately called Old Blood-and-Thunder and who the people asserted was the exact likeness of the Great Stone Face. Obtaining a view of the famous soldier, Ernest beheld a war-worn and weather-beaten countenance, full of energy, and expressive of an iron will, but lacking the gentle wisdom and humane sympathy of the Great Stone Face.

Years passed. Ernest became a preacher, remaining in the valley and hoping that he might yet see the man who would resemble the beloved Face. Then there came back to the valley of his birth a certain eminent statesman, who was so wonderfully eloquent that he had finally persuaded his countrymen to select him for the Presidency. He was known by the name of Old Stony Phiz, so much was he thought to resemble the Great Stone Face, but once again Ernest was disappointed.

Ernest was now aged and had ceased to be obscure. Meanwhile, a bountiful Providence had granted a new poet to this earth. Likewise a native of the valley, he had spent most of his life a distance from that romantic region, pouring out his sweet music amid the bustle and din of cities. Now he took passage by railroad and returned to the valley in order to speak with Ernest, because he deemed nothing so desirable as to meet this man, whose untaught wisdom walked hand in hand with the noble simplicity of his life and who made great truths so familiar by his simple utterance of them. Ernest hoped that the poet would fulfill the prophecy, but the poet himself declined the nomination, insisting that while he had dreamed great dreams, he had lived by his own choice among poor and mean realities.

Then at the story’s end, Ernest had gone out to address the people, and the light of the setting sun had shone for a brief while in mist and splendor on the distant image of the Great Stone Face. And the poet had called out:

Behold! Behold! Ernest is himself the likeness of the Great Stone Face!’ . . .

But Ernest, having finished what he had to say, took the poet’s arm, and walked slowly homeward, still hoping that some wiser and better man than himself would by and by appear, bearing a resemblance to the GREAT STONE FACE.

Here was the secret that Johnny Shawnessy was hunting. In this story the earth itself acquired the mystical dimensions of a human face. An ideal being appeared in distant splendor above the valley of human years. Here was the meaning of man’s aspiration woven into the very substance of the earth.

His sensation on first reading this famous American fable was much like the thrill he felt when he went one day into an office of the Court House with T. D. and saw hanging on the wall a map of Raintree County, colored and varnished, like the human anatomy in T. D.’s Office. It was the first time he had seen a map of his home earth, and he had a Columbian moment of discovery. The earth acquired shape, coherence, meaning. The road travelling before his house joined other roads, was part of an integrated system. The river coiled like the body of a snake, cutting from corner to corner of the County. The lake was a pool of green concentric circles in the very center of the County.

He had suddenly achieved a world. The dearly bought victory of man over the increate and stubborn earth was his. He had gazed at a map of his own life, the pattern of himself, securely bounded by the four walls of Raintree County. He held the whole great riddle in the focus of his eyes—naked, imminent, perfect.

He left the Court House feeling that he had almost discovered the eternal meaning buried in the debris of all his memories, in the changing seasons of Raintree County, in the streamdivided earth, in the faces of his father and mother, and in his own elusive self that had wandered out from the brightness of an everlasting summer and hunted for itself across the everlasting earth.

And so Johnny Shawnessy passed through the years of his childhood steeping himself in legends old and new. From this preoccupation came a dream that he dreamed repeatedly just before awakening and which he relinquished always with an emotion of regret. The dream itself was apparently the memory of a dream, an archetypal dream; perhaps that was why it was always much the same.

Dreaming, he was trying to recover the memory of a sacred place. He couldn’t remember now in what summer he had been there. He must have been a child, though he had possessed vigor and desire more than a child’s. He remembered only vaguely the temple whose circular roof was open to the summer so that the tree within might live. For a long time, he had possessed a golden bough and had meant to keep it for a token, all heavy with seed and fruit. He could not even remember the face of one whom he had known there in that tranquil summer. She had been beautiful, and, yes, assuredly, his desire had been more than a child’s. And were not the morals of that maternal deity delightfully suspect? He had even forgotten all the names—the names equally of the tree, the goddess, and the shrine, the singular names which he knew he must have heard over and over. He had forgotten the name of the curious and curving pathway to the place. And he had even forgotten his own name, the special name that they had given him because he was the only one who had found the way. He had been amazed by the vast extent of the forest around him, the immense and silent grove steeped in twilight, through which weak sunrays filtering fell, and he remembered the distant and soft floor of the forest, and the trunks of trees, all oaks of an extinct species. Through that forest he had walked, and in its shadow he had lived, and there he had discovered the place of sacred waters. But then all this must have been a memory of something he had read or heard. If only once again he might return and stand where the slant rays touched with fire the topmost branches of the tree! Then perhaps a golden warmth would descend his body, and he would discover in the twilight of the trunk a goddess exquisitely formed, whose gold hair lay along the earth and whose precise face would stir him to recognition. Then perhaps he would recapture the word which had been from the beginning, which had awakened him from sleep and touched his ears with music and ecstasy, a word that quivered through the grove

and caused the tree to shiver and send down

a rain of yellow and


Dust bloomed and drifted from President’s hooves as the surrey drew abreast of the Old Home Place and went by without stopping. Distant explosions, linked and separate, began to intrude through the steady noise of hooves and wheels.

—Listen to them in town, Wesley said.

—We could always hear them on the Fourth from here, Mr. Shawnessy said.

—Was the Fourth any fun when you were a boy, Papa?

—It was a good Fourth. We took it even harder than you do today. We usually went into Freehaven early in the morning. Of course, the town was very different then. The Old Court House was there then and——

—What happened to it? Wesley asked.

—It burned down during the Civil War.

—What was it like?

—Well, it was a rather plain brick building, not nearly so big as the present court house. It was a rectangle in shape with some white wooden columns in front, Southern style, and a little wooden cupola.

—Did it have a clock and a flag?

—A flag, yes. But no clock.

Mr. Shawnessy remembered the Old Court House. It stood soft and clear in the air of a remembered summer, the young earth of Raintree County was beneath it, the ancient buildings of the Square enclosed it, the Court House Square was filled with people, the fronts of stores were gay with bunting, firecrackers burst. And the Old Court House was there, a flag was flying from the cupola, but there was no clock to tell the time of day.

The surrey was well past the Old Home Place. He could see the treebordered fringe of the Shawmucky, where the road made its immemorial jog and straightened out for the run into Freehaven.

Listen, it was all a dream, I know, of the Great War and of growing older and of all the faces of the children. The river crosses there under the bridge, the road jogs, firecrackers are crumping in the distant morning.

I must hurry down the road to the County Seat. I must hurry through the young morning of America. I must be there early and walk ceaselessly around the clockless Court House. I must press my eager young face close to the faces of the crowd. I must see my young tousled head reflected in the store windows. I must also go somewhere and get something hot and strong to eat.

I must find you there, too. I must look wistfully from a distance at your little puritan face with freckles on it. I must hunt you out in the strong light of the Court House Square. I shall not look you straight in the eye and say, I love you, because you will be taller than I.

In the Court House Square, the vender of tonics bestows lush and fragrant locks on all the true believers. The Professor puts his pointer to the Phrenological Chart. The band plays ‘Yankee Doodle,’ and a small boy sets off a big cracker under the Speaker of the Day.

In the Court House Square, the athlete stands with cocked arms bulging. By God, he will run any man in the County! By God, none shall beat him!

But I will walk swiftly and ceaselessly in the fringes of the crowd. My faunlike being shall be woven through the fabric of the crowd. They shall not any of them die or change.

And somewhere in the crowd, the harshvoiced, fierce, exciting crowd, I shall walk holding the little black book in which my name is written. And I shall hear words spoken in the Square, thin syllables of vanished summers, I shall hear the words before the words became Events, before the words became History. I didn’t know it then, but the words were really the seeds of battles and of marches, the words were also love that is a shy flower opening beside remembered waters, the words were also dead men lying in the rain, bloated bodies between the cornrows in the beautiful July earth of America. I didn’t know it then, but the words were seeds, falling at random in the Court House Square, falling through the summer air of Raintree County, and the strange fruit of the little seeding words was always love and death. But now I must hasten to the Square, for in Freehaven it is the Fourth of July, they are hanging out the flag with one and thirty stars, the band is playing ‘Yankee Doodle’ for

July 4—A—1854

big crowd of people

had poured into the Court House Square

of Freehaven for the Fourth of July Celebration. Among them was Johnny Shawnessy, fifteen years old, bony and angular and beginning to bust out of his kneepants. His head looked too big for his body, his hair was a tangled mat of brightness, his cheeks and chin showed the beginnings of a beard and were sprinkled with little pimples. From a platform erected on the court house yard, a military band blasted out number after number, while the people came streaming from every corner of the County, into the foursided, sunflooded morning of the Square. There they walked with shining eyes, looking over their shoulders, craning their necks, bobbing out from behind buildings as if they were hunting for something.

Johnny Shawnessy was hunting for something too. Whenever he came to the Court House Square on festive days, he vaguely hoped for two things: that he would stand before the crowd a hero and be rocked with a thunder of hands; and that he would find in the crowd a lovely girl he had never seen before, who, perceiving at once his great soul through the callow veil of his fifteen years, would go with him to a place remote from the crowd, where she would take off her dress and all her petticoats for him, and he would be her impetuous lover, kneepants and all.

—Hello, Johnny.

The name was said in a manner softly personal. He turned around. A strange girl, half a head taller than he, was standing on the sidewalk with a boy he had never seen before.


Johnny hadn’t seen Nell Gaither for years. When he was much smaller, he had gone to school with her and had seen her often at the Danwebster Church with her father and mother. Mrs. Gaither had been a fragile, lovely woman from a Connecticut family of means and culture. She had come with her husband in the great migration West, and they had settled in Raintree County in the late thirties to the hard existence of making a living from the earth. Nell had been the first child, and for a long time the only one. Johnny remembered how Nell had always seemed so much more ladylike than the other girls he knew, probably because of her mother’s influence. Then when Nell was seven, Mrs. Gaither had died after the birth of a still-born child, and Mr. Gaither had sent the girl back to her mother’s family in the East. And that was the last Johnny had heard of her until now.

—Where did you come from, Nell? he asked.

—I’m back with Daddy, Nell said. He’s married again, you know, and I’m going to live here for a while. O, by the way, Johnny, I want you to meet a friend of mine, Garwood Jones.

Garwood Jones was a large, sleek, florid boy, perhaps a year older than Johnny. He had a broad, smooth face, dark, wavy hair fragrant with oil, and blue eyes filled with faint amusement. He thrust out his hand and said in an incredibly big voice,

—Happy to make your acquaintance, John.

The greeting was both personal and patronizing.

—Pleased to meet you, Johnny said.

—What part of the County are you from, John?

Johnny told him, and the boy said that he used to live at Waycross in the southeast corner but that his family had long ago moved to Freehaven.

—Garwood is speaking on the program today, Johnny, Nell said.

—Just a few patriotic recitations, the boy said with arrogant humility.

Johnny didn’t dislike Garwood Jones, but he envied the smooth, newly razored face, the deep voice, the long trousers, and the place on the Program of the Day.

—How did you and Nell get to know each other? Johnny said.

—O, I get to know all the pretty girls, John, Garwood said.

He laughed a throaty laugh. The flat of his hand fell affectionately between Johnny’s shoulderblades.

In the old days, Johnny had never thought of Nell as especially pretty. Now he looked at her a little more closely. The thin, serious child was gone. Nell had her hair bound up like a woman’s, showing her long white neck. A sort of small crazy hat teetered on her suncolored curls. Her face, which was rather small, was studiedly serene, the chin held high, the unusual, fleshy mouth primly closed. The very wide-apart green eyes, her most attractive feature, looked calmly down at him a little sideways past her nose, which was pert and covered with freckles. She had on a white shortsleeved dress. She had the steep breasts of a budding girl and was getting somewhat wide in the hips, although her waist was very slender and her arms were long, angular, and childlike.

She stood, right hand on hip and left hand over right hand, dangling a parasol, while her left foot was toed out to show her new shoe.

Johnny thought she looked a little dowdy and ridiculous, but when she spoke, her voice was very husky, grave, and sweet. He noticed especially the soft, personal way in which she said his name, as if she had practiced it.

—I’ll see you at church, Sunday, Johnny, she said.

The small lofty face smiled. Nell suddenly shot her parasol open. The interview was at an end.

—Well, John, Garwood Jones said, I trust I will have the pleasure of seeing you again.

He removed his straw hat and made a stately bow, and he and Nell walked away toward a lemonade stand. Johnny stood watching Nell walk, her hips softly moving as if revolving around a center, while her long, slender back and primly held shoulders were motionless.

—Hey, Johnny!

His brother Zeke was waving from in front of the Saloon. In the middle of a crowd there, a young man stood, white teeth flashing from a brown bearded face. In one hand he held a beermug, and with the other he kept pushing back the brown shag of his hair. His skintight pants showed off the hard length of his legs and the great breadth of his whiteshirted chest and shoulders. The young man laughed and said in a harsh, high voice, as Johnny approached,

—I can beat any man or boy in the County, and here’s five dollars says I can.

He buried his white teeth in the mug and came up, mouth and beard shining. A gold coin glinted in his free hand. A hush fell on the crowd. Two men removed their hats, perhaps to see better. Johnny joined Zeke on the edges of the crowd.

—I said I can lick any man or boy in this County.

—And he can do it too, a solemn, sharpfaced man confided to Johnny. Just like he says, can’t none of ’em touch ’im. Flash Perkins kin outrun ’em all.

From this remark, Johnny gathered that the talk was about the annual Fourth of July Footrace by which the fastest runner in Raintree County was determined.

—Our boy from Prairie Township’ll make yuh eat them words this afternoon, a voice in the crowd said.

—Who said that? Flash Perkins said.

His forehead shot up into ridges, his mouth went on smiling, his eyes never changed from the childlike, excited look. He shoved his way into the crowd.

—Hot darn! Zeke said. A fight!

The crowd withdrew leaving one man alone in a ring of red faces. The man, a tall gawky fellow, looked embarrassed and put upon. He extended his arm, his finger almost touching Flash Perkins’ nose.

—Take it easy now, brother, he said. Better not start nothin’ you cain’t finish.

His voice was high and nervous.

—You the man that said that? Flash Perkins asked.

—Yes, I am. I said it, and I stick by it.

—Reckon you wouldn’t want to cover that there statement with a little coin?

The man looked relieved.

—I cain’t cover it by myself, but they’s a bunch of us from Prairie will make up a pot for Pud Foster.

—Git a hat, said a voice.

—Here’s a hat, said a voice.

—Who’s here’ll back Pud Foster from Prairie?

—I’ll put in, a man said. He can beat any beersot from town any day.

Several men shoved their way in and began to talk bets. There was a frightful blast of sound. It was the band starting up again. They were playing ‘Yankee Doodle.’

—Shucks, Zeke said. No fight.

—But that sure ought to be some race, Johnny said.

—What’s going on, boys?

It was T. D. He was taller than anyone else in the crowd. His blond pointed beard was bobbing up and down. He was rubbing his hands together and smacking his lips.

—They’re betting on a race, Johnny said.

—That’s what I thought, T. D. said.

He pushed his way into the crowd.

—Gambling is a sin before the Lord, gentlemen. Put up your money.

—Put up your lip, you old she-goat, a man said.

The crowd roared.

—Pa’s gittin’ hisself into something, Zeke said. Looks like they might be a fight after all, and us in it.

—No harm done, Pop, Flash Perkins said. Here, give the old guy a drink.

—Who is that crazy old bastard, anyway? the solemn, sharpfaced citizen said to Zeke.

—That’s my pa, Zeke said.

Zeke was seventeen and looked a man. His red hair bristled all directions.

—What’s that? the man said.

—I said that’s my father.

—O, the man said. Is that a fact?

He looked thoughtful and began to move away through the crowd.

—Young man, T. D. said to Flash Perkins, who was holding his beermug in one hand and a hatful of money in the other, don’t you know that your body is a temple of the spirit and you defile it and pollute it with that devil’s brew you have there?

Flash’s forehead made ridges.

—If you say so, Pappy.

—Hello, Johnny.

It was Ellen Shawnessy, her face excited and curious, her small body straining on tiptoes to see over the shoulders of the crowd.

—What’s T. D. doing? she asked.

—Pa’s preaching a little at them.

T. D. went on talking awhile about the lusts of the flesh and the wages of sin. He clasped his hands behind his back in the usual way and teetered back and forth from heels to toes, smiling amiably at the crowd, his long blue eyes a little absent and noticing things that went on some distance away. His closing remarks were delivered in some haste, like a child’s recitation.

—What are they betting about? Ellen whispered to Johnny.

—The Footrace, Johnny said.

—When is it?

—I don’t know.

—Be sure not to let me miss it, she said.

—O.K., O.K., Reverend, I get it, Flash Perkins said. We were just foolin’.

T. D. bowed pleasantly, straightened his tie, and walked serenely down the street with Ellen. The crowd went right on arguing and making bets, only now they all moved into the Saloon and got drinks. Johnny could see through the batwing doors how they laughed and swatted each other’s backs and how they kept wiping beer out of their mustaches.

—I hope he loses that race, Zeke said.

But Johnny somehow felt that Flash Perkins would win the race. He looked like the winner type.

—Ladies and Gentlemen, spare me a little of your precious time, boomed a rich voice from the court house lawn.

Behind a table loaded with brightcolored bottles, stood a man with noble black mane and heavy beard, unshorn, lustrous, magnificent.

—I trust you all perceive the object which I hold in my hand, the man said, as the boys joined the crowd.

—Yes, we see it, Perfessor.

—What is it?

—Well, what of it?

—It is nothing, the man said, but a bottle, a simple, unadorned, ordinary bottle. And yet, friends, this simple, plain, unadorned, and ordinary bottle contains in it a secret preparation, the miracle-worker of our age. Ladies and Gentlemen, may I have just a little of your precious time to describe to you the extree-ordinary virtues of the elixir contained in this bottle?

—Sure. Go on.

—Get to the point, Perfessor.

—I am getting to the point, the man said serenely, and judging, my good sir, from the condition of your scalp and hair, you would be wise to pay special heed to what I have to say.

The man who had said, Get to the point, was standing right beside Johnny. He was a short man, genteelly dressed. Singled out, he put his hand up and smoothed a wreath of hair fitted down on his bare dome.

—Now then, the speaker continued, I trust you will all permit me to indulge in a little personal reminiscence. I am sure that few of you will believe me when I tell you that not many years ago my head was fast approaching the condition of hairlessness that you behold in the gentleman on the front row and in several other domes which I see about me here and which are, in the words of the poet,

Open unto the fields and to the sky,

All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.

Now I think we will all agree that the good Lord never does anything without a purpose, and if he meant mankind to go about with his skull naked of hair, why did he bestow upon us this lush and luxuriant foliage that in our natural state starts and stands triumphantly, according to the words of the poet,

With all its fronds in air?

Fellow Americans, the good Lord intended each and every one of us to have his hair and all of it too, for as the fellow said about his wife, She ain’t much, but I mean to hang on to her if I can.

The crowd whahwhahed.

—Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, I was once in the condition of several of you here. For about twenty years, my hair had been turning gray and had become very stiff and unpliant. Bald patches were appearing on my scalp, and the skin scaled off. Each time I brushed my hair, I found the brush matted with dry tufts of hair. I tried all the famous hair restoratives on the market, but they seemed to only aggravate my condition. Then a friend told me about Mrs. Allen’s World Hair Restorer and reported to me the marvellous recoveries effected thereby. I will confess to you that I was very skeptical at first, but on the repeated importunities of my friend, I finally gave in and purchased a bottle of Mrs. Allen’s World Hair Restorer. Ladies and Gentlemen, need I say more? Within a week or two, a noticeable change was apparent. My hair began to recover the black lustre it had in my younger days when a boy in the hills of western Virginia. My head became entirely clear of dandruff, and new hair grew where the old had been. You see before you today, Ladies and Gentlemen, a man whose pride and hair have been restored together and general health improved. Butler, my acquaintances often remark to me, where did you get the fine wig? But I assure you, friends, it is no wig.

—It looks like a wig to me, friend, the baldheaded man said.

—Pull it, friend, the vender said.

The baldheaded man walked right out of the crowd and carefully examined the speaker’s head. He pulled hard.

—No sir, he said, that’s no wig.

—You bet it isn’t, the speaker said. It’s hair, friend, live and lusty, and you can have a head like that too, friend.

—How can I, friend? said the baldheaded man, now standing beside the speaker.

—Very simple, friend. Purchase one bottle of Mrs. Allen’s World Hair Restorer for one dollar and fifty cents, and I will personally guarantee that you will have the beginnings of a fine head of hair in a week or two.

—I’ll take a bottle of that, the baldheaded man said.

He pulled out a dollar and a half and gave it to the speaker.

—And just to be sure that you get your money’s worth, the speaker said, I am going to give away to you free, gratis, and for no extra charge this large bottle of Doctor Hostetter’s Celebrated Stomach Waters, guaranteed to cure any and all diseases of the alimentary tract, nervous, respiratory, muscular, and circulatory systems—to wit, stomach ache, heartburn, dyspepsia, diarrhea, dysentery, dizziness, fainting spells, biliousness, piles, pimples, arthritis, lumbago, rheumatism, jaundice, kidney trouble, female complaints, and organic weaknesses caused by youthful indiscretion or the approach of old age. For the next ten minutes, to everyone who can get up here with a dollar and fifty cents, I will make this extra-special-gigantic-double-for-your-money offer of two bottles. Mrs. Allen’s World Hair Restorer is also an excellent hair-dressing for the ladies.

—I’ll take two orders, Perfessor, said the baldheaded man, who was still holding his money and had not yet got his hands on the bottle.

—Here you are, my friend, the man said.

He gave the baldheaded man four bottles and put the money in his pocket.

The baldheaded man opened a bottle of the hair-restorer, shot a little of the brown liquid into the cup of his hand, and rubbed it on his head. There was a silence. A hundred eager faces watched the little man with the shiny bald head.

—It tingles, said the baldheaded man.

—You bet it does, friend, the vender said. It tingles, and that means it’s taking already. Use that bottle religiously, friend, and I predict the barbers of this community will get a lot of your money before the year is out.

—But he ain’t from this community, a man next to Johnny said.

—Where’s he from? another man said.

—I dunno, the first man said, but I never seen him before.

—And, said the vender, let me be the first to congratulate you on the great discovery which you have just made, Your wife will be a happy woman, friend.

—I’m not married, friend, said the baldheaded man.

—You will be, friend, you will be! said the vender magnificently. No woman in town will be able to resist you when you grow the shiny, black, and vigorous head of hair that will spring up in response to the stimulating power of this wonderful hair restorative.

Johnny Shawnessy felt happy because the baldheaded man had discovered the secret for getting back his hair; he was very happy, too, to see how people flocked up and bought bottle after bottle from the vender. He could not remember ever having seen so much money in so short a time.

—How can he make any money, giving that other bottle away? Johnny asked.

—I reckon he does it for fun, Zeke said. Look how he’s enjoyed hisself.

—I wish I had a dollar and fifty cents, Johnny said. I’d like to get a couple of bottles.

—But you got all your hair, and you ain’t sick, Zeke said.

—Just the same—— Johnny said.

Just then the band struck up again, and the two boys moved reluctantly away. They watched the baldheaded man withdraw from the crowd. Moving along close to this person whose scalp now seemed to shine with the promise of reviving hair, they were a little surprised when he stopped at a small tent on the other side of the Square and went in. They waited, and in a moment, he came out again, carrying a large board frame, which he hung over a nail on a maple tree beside the tent. The frame bore a huge picture of a head, seen in profile and with all the upper part, beginning on a level with the eye, divided into sections, in each of which a word was written. Some of the words were Acquisitiveness, Alimentativeness, Amativeness, Cautiousness, Sublimity, Spirituality, Self-Esteem, Approbativeness. Above the picture were the words



At the bottom were the words


The little man re-entered the tent and reappeared with a pointer, an armload of small clothbound books, and a cowbell, which he began to ring. A large crowd gathered.

—Allow me, said the baldheaded man, to introduce myself, Ladies and Gentlemen. I am Professor Horace Gladstone. Those of you who may have heard me lecture lately in the great city of Cincinnati will pardon me if I repeat some of the things I said there to the distinguished company which assembled in the great lecture hall of that metropolis of the West.

Now I have a question to ask each and every intelligent person gathered here. Friend, are you everything today that you would like to be? Are you as rich as you wish? Do you excel in the social graces? Do you radiate that personal magnetism which makes the great to respect you and the humble to acknowledge your superiority? Why, friends, why are there so many blighted and unhappy lives, so many stunted souls, so many men and women today in this great and glorious country of ours who are something less than they had hoped to be in the blithe optimism of their youth?

Ladies and Gentlemen, I can answer that question. It is through a simple ignorance of the scientific principles that regulate human life. O, you say, Perfessor, don’t go giving me any high-falutin’ language about science because I can’t understand it. Friends, it is my happy good fortune to have it within my power to open up to each and every one of you all the marvellous secrets of a great new science, by which you can achieve, like thousands before you, complete self-knowledge and self-control. That science, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the great new science of Phrenology.

Now we all agree, do we not, that no man can or does exist in rational society without a brain. May I say that in Kentucky, whence I have lately come, I felt some disposition to modify that statement, but——

The Professor waited for the applause and laughter of the crowd to subside.

—But I see no need to do so for the intelligent and enlightened concourse that I see before my eyes. Now, we all know that the brain is the instrument of every mental act, just as every movement of the body has to be performed by a muscle. Certain areas of the brain control certain human faculties and are large or small in proportion to the development of the faculties they control. Thanks to the great experiments and studies of Professors Gall, Spurheiz, and Fowler, it is now possible to say with the strictest accuracy which part of the brain controls which faculty. These facts are now available to all. Nothing is simpler, once these principles are known, than to apply them.

I have myself become a specialist in the science of Phrenology. I have examined the heads of three Presidents and many other great and distinguished heads here and abroad, not excepting the crowned heads of Europe. By helping people to become better acquainted with their strong and weak points, I have been able to direct them to a fuller exercise or restraint of certain faculties. Many hundreds and thousands of people have already benefited from this instruction. Penniless paupers have become the possessors of uncounted pelf. Timid and backward souls have sought and won the hands of the richest and most ravishing maidens. Old men have recovered the lost joys of their juvenescence. Gentlemen and Ladies, I am here in your fair little city of Middletown——

—This ain’t Middletown, said a voice in the crowd. It’s Freehaven.

—Freehaven, said the Professor. Thank you, friend, for the correction. I am here in this fair little city of Freehaven for a limited time. I have a small stock of books left over from my travels in the great cities of the West, and I should like to get rid of them as rapidly as I can. Now I wish I could give each and every one of you a private and personal analysis of your phrenological faculties. Alas, my friends, due to the small time I have at my disposal, I must forego this signal pleasure. But I have here between my two hands a little book that contains all the advice needful. It is perfectly within the comprehension of every one and each of you. On the inside page of this book is a copy of the chart which you see hanging here, and a table of the phrenological faculties. Now the book is entirely self-explanatory, but I am willing to give a little demonstration here of Phrenological Analysis, if someone in the crowd will be so kind as to volunteer.

There was a silence.

—Come, don’t be embarrassed, the Professor said. It’s absolutely free of charge, and furthermore I will give to anyone who so volunteers for the instruction of this amiable and enlightened company one of these books at half-price instead of the usual price of one dollar and fifty cents.

Johnny Shawnessy felt himself propelled from behind out of the crowd. He heard Zeke laughing, and he was about to duck back, but the Professor was tapping him smartly on the shoulder with his pointer.

—Yes, my boy. Step right up here. I am about to do you a great favor, my boy. O, that I had had the inestimable blessing of a Phrenological Analysis when I was your age! How old are you, my boy?

—Fifteen, Johnny said. I didn’t mean to——

—Perfectly all right, my boy. Just come up on this platform and sit down here on the edge of this table.

A firecracker exploded, and the band struck up a number. The Professor waved his hands to indicate that nothing could be accomplished until the band was through. For the first time in his life, Johnny had the sensation of being extracted from the crowd and placed above it in naked isolation. The Court House Square was converging upon him; he was being absorbed by its manifold bright eyes. The band stopped playing.

—Ladies and Gentlemen, said the little man, we have an interesting head here, a very interesting head. To you, this may be only another head, more or less, but to the practiced eye of the phrenologist, this boy’s character and potentialities—nay, his whole past, present, and future—are legible in the geography of his skull. Now, then, just cast your eyes on this chart a moment, friends, and notice this section of the head below the eye.

The pointer touched the glazed, segmented head and underlined the word LANGUAGE.

—According to phrenological principles, friends, we are to measure the degree of prominence which these various areas of the skull possess and we can determine thereby the capabilities of the person we are dealing with. Now then——

A fat hand touched moistly the region below Johnny’s eyes.

—Open your eyes, boy. Don’t sit there blinking like an owl.

As usual the sun hurt his eyes; there was much light in the Square.

—Extraordinary, the man said. Very.

The crowd drew closer. People gathered from far back.

—Very, very interesting. Please observe, folks. Very long eyes and set somewhat forward in the head. Cheekbones prominent. In a boy of fifteen, the development is quite unusual. Now, then, let us turn to the book.

The man expertly thumbed the book.

—Here we are. ‘Such people are (I quote) exceedingly expressive in all they say and do, have a most expressive countenance, eye, and manner in everything; have a most emphatic way of saying and doing everything, and thoroughly impress the various operations of their own minds on the minds of others; use the very word required by the occasion; are intuitively grammatical, even without study, and say oratorically whatever they attempt to say at all; commit to memory by reading or hearing once or twice; learn languages with remarkable facility; are both fluent and copious, even redundant and verbose,’ and so forth, and so forth.

There was a stir in the crowd.

—Here, the man said, are pictures illustrating these developments. An engraving of the great English author Charles Dickens, whose linguistic characteristics are excessively developed.

—Say, Perfessor, Zeke said from the crowd, you ain’t fer wrong about that boy. He’s got a head for memorizing like nothin’ you ever seen.

—There you are, the little bald man said, Phrenology never lies. And I was about to say that even if the boy hadn’t shown any faculty in that direction, it was high time he cultivated his natural aptitude for it. But to pass on.

The Professor went all over Johnny’s head, pointing out interesting hills and hollows and putting numbers in a chart that was in the front of one of the books. Finally, the Professor had worked clear over the top of Johnny’s head and down to the base of his skull behind.

—Mirthfulness, the Professor said. Very large. This boy ought to be the fiddle of the company.

—Ain’t that T. D. Shawnessy’s son? a man said.

—Smart little cuss, someone said.

—What a cute boy! a woman said.

The band blew up; it was another march. Everyone began talking very loud and strong. People were laughing violently. Somebody set off a firecracker under a fat man in the crowd and blew his hat off. A horse got scared and began dragging a buggy down the street. The band finished its number, and by that time the Professor had made another discovery.

—Very remarkable! the Professor said in a loud voice. For a boy of his age too. Most extree-ordinary! Unusual, to say the least.

—What is it, Perfessor?

The crowd was now participating freely in the examination.

—Let us in on it, too, Perfessor.

—Has he got lice?

—Ladies and Gentlemen, the Professor said, please observe the remarkable development of this boy’s head at the base of the skull. The lump of AMATIVENESS is remarkably distended.

—What does that mean, Perfessor?

—What does that mean, friend? To put it bluntly, this young gentleman is going to be an extra-special catch for the ladies.

The Professor winked and rubbed his hands jovially together. People in the crowd sniggered. Various men felt the back of their skulls.

—Hey, girls, Zeke said, I got a lump back there big as a duck’s egg.

—Say, Perfessor, said a little man thrusting forward, and presenting his head for inspection. Feel that there. What do you think of that?

With obliging hand the Professor palped the back of the little man’s skull and whistled.

—Hey, Perfessor, how about me? another man said. Feel that.

—Now, wait a minute, folks, the Professor said, suddenly walking back to the platform and grabbing an armload of books. Much as I would like to, I can’t subject each and all of you to a personal scrutiny, but this book here will answer all your questions. For those whose various organs and faculties are underdeveloped, rules for enlargement are given. Know thyself, said the great philosopher Socrates to the Athenians in the Golden Age of Greece. And I say to you, Know thyself, fellow Americans, in this great age of Progress and Perfection, in this greatest and fairest republic the world has ever known. God bless her on the day of her birth and glorious founding! One dollar, folks, just one round dollar—reduced from a dollar and a half!

As if by prearrangement, the band exploded with ‘Hail, Columbia! Happy Land!’ and with moisture in his eyes, the Professor began to distribute books as fast as he could, at the same time dropping dollars into a box on the table. Johnny sat for a while watching from the platform how the people all rushed up and pulled dollars out of their pockets, rudely grabbing for books in their haste.

—While they last! While they last! the Professor said. One dollar, friends, while they last! One hundred and fifty-four illustrations. Phrenological Self-Instructor.

People who hadn’t even heard what the Professor said fought their way through and bought a book. The pile was almost gone, and Johnny Shawnessy began to feel alarmed.

—Know thyself! Know thyself! One dollar. While they last.

The pile was gone.

—One moment, folks, the Professor said. I have a small reserve supply that I had hoped to save for sale in the great city of St. Louis.

He disappeared in the tent and reappeared immediately with another armload of books. When the last sale had been made, there were still some books left. Johnny went up to the man and put down seventy-five cents.

—It’s a dollar, my friend, the Professor said.

—But you said I could have it half-price. Half of a dollar and a half is——

—Unusual development of the bumps of Calculation and Eventuality, the Professor said.

He laughed at his own good joke.

—Here’s your book, boy, all marked. You’ve a good head on your shoulders there, son. What is your name, my boy?

Johnny told him, and the Professor took a pencil from his coat pocket and on the title page where it said THE CHART AND CHARACTER OF he wrote on blank lines provided for the purpose:

John Wickliff Shawnessy

As Marked By

Professor Horace Gladstone,

July 4, 1854

—I predict a great future for you, my boy, the Professor said, tossing the three quarters deftly into the air.

He bit the tip off a cigar.


—No, thanks, sir.

—Never start it, said the Professor. Filthy habit. Yes, a great future, my boy. Tell me, son, is there a place around here where one can obtain a little liquid refreshment for the stimulation of a jaded physique?

—The Saloon is right over there.

—Good day, boy, the Professor said and walked off briskly, landing smartly on his heels, his toes turned slightly up and out.

—Ladies and Gentlemen, said at that moment a rich, oily voice from the other side of the Square, spare me a little of your precious——

Johnny walked away holding the little book in his hand. For a few bright coins, dropped in a wooden cigar box, a future of wonderful self-mastery had been opened up. In the presence of the people he had become a child of prophecy; his consecration had been sanctified by the majestic adjective ‘scientific’ and the formidable epithet ‘phrenological.’ Here, suddenly and by accident on the Court House Square, there had been a confirmation of something Johnny Shawnessy had always secretly believed—that he was destined to be a great man and to find one day the key to all knowledge. For a while, he felt jealous of all the other people who had purchased the same cheap ticket to intellectual beatitude, but when he saw the innocent, shy joy on their faces, as they wandered somewhat confusedly like himself in the Court House Square, clutching their Self-Instructors, he was thrilled to think that he was to be one of a whole community of Americans working together toward the creation of a perfect republic.

He didn’t have time to look over the book at all, because the Program for the Day was beginning. He and Zeke went over and found seats in a big space in the assembly ground south of the Court House, and all the people sat and listened to a man read the Declaration of Independence. Then the chairman of the program introduced the outstanding boy orator Garwood Jones. Talking in a thundering, artificial way and waving his arms, Garwood brought the crowd down with gems of American oratory, including the peroration of Webster’s Reply to Hayne.

Wearing his Mexican War uniform and all his medals, Captain Jake Jackson, Raintree County’s war hero, got up and gave a very dramatic speech about the security of the Nation. He was a virile young man, of open, fearless countenance. He stood very straight with one leg slightly forward and spoke with chest expanded. He said that the Union was threatened from within and without, but he reminded his hearers that the last bunch who tangled with the sovereign authority of the United States of America had got one devil of a drubbing, in which he, Jake Jackson, had taken, as they knew, a humble part. And he was there to say that although he was a man who loved peace, he, Jacob J. Jackson, would personally Gird on the Sword and once more Bare his Patriot Breast to the Sleet of Battle ere he would permit one corner of the Dear Old Flag to be Dragged in the Dirt. Johnny applauded violently and was angry when an older man close by said he was getting goddam tired of young Jackson’s heroics and fuh Christ’s sake, did he think he fought the Mexican War singlehanded?

The Honorable Somebody or Other was introduced for the Address of the Day. He spoke for two hours, beginning in the usual vein but getting louder, hoarser, and more eloquent all the time as he talked about slavery and the South.

In those days everyone was excited about the Kansas-Nebraska Bill. The word had come through only a day or so before that Congress had made the bill a law. Johnny wasn’t exactly certain what the bill said, but it appeared that land once saved for freedom was going to be opened up for slavery. The Orator of the Day made it out so that you thought of a poisonous black flood boiling up out of the South, and here were people trying to build walls against it, and then one of the people—and a Northerner to boot—Stephen A. Douglas, had gone yellow on them, and let the flood come through, and now there was nothing to stop it anywhere.

Those days, there was a strange spirit abroad in the land. It was not uncommon for families to stop talking to each other over political questions. T. D., who was always fighting some kind of evil or other, talked with a singular fierceness about certain people who were perfectly willing that part of the human race should be in chains, if it meant a few more dollars in their pockets or if they didn’t have to see it happen under their noses. The problem was spatial, geographical—like Phrenology. In a section of the country below a certain line people kept slaves. You could draw a line across the Nation, and half of it was white and half was black. And now that they had passed the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, it was all right for the black part to go over into the white part if it could.

The man on the platform said that that was exactly what would happen.

—Fellow Americans, he said, I am addressing you in one of the darkest hours that has confronted our great republic since those glorious days when Washington was nursing the tiny flickering flame of our freedom in a tattered tent in the windy wilderness of Valley Forge. It is a time when, if necessary, a man should put aside wife and child, leave the hearth of his home, and go resolutely forth to do battle for the preservation of those great principles upon which this republic was founded and which we have just heard read to us from that immortal document, the Declaration of Independence.

—Let them alone, and they’ll leave us alone, shouted a voice from the crowd.

—Throw that guy out! yelled other voices.

—It is a time, said the speaker, to gird on armor and the sword. Our most pious blessing and our most fervent hopes must go with those courageous spirits who are at this moment giving up all they have to rush into the newly opened territories of Kansas and Nebraska to insure that when those territories are petitioning for membership in the Union of the States, no shadow of that cursed blight whose ancient crime has stained the otherwise perfect beauty of our institutions shall sully the virginal banners of their statehood.

The orator went on and on, and the afternoon waned, and when he finished, the formal program was over. But men kept on making speeches. One of them said that he was just passing through on his way to Jackson, Michigan, where a gathering of publichearted citizens was going to talk very seriously about the growing threat to our free institutions and consider the feasibility of creating a new political party. Another man got up and said that the existing Whig party was adequate to meet the threat to the security of the Nation, but he was booed and heckled by Democrats all the way through. A Democrat who succeeded him could not get halfway through his speech and became so angry that he leaped off the platform and got into a fight with one of his persecutors.

Johnny and Zeke rushed over to the neighborhood of the disturbance, and the crowd stormed and shouted. Johnny got lost from Zeke and never did get close enough to see the fight, but he saw some people leading off a man with a bloody mouth, who was weeping and shaking his fist and yelling,

—I’ll beat his goddam head off, goddamn him!

Johnny finally found Zeke, who showed where his knuckles were skinned and said earnestly,

—I just got that there from beating up on a damn Democrat.

Later they saw T. D. standing in the middle of a group of men, including the man who was on his way to Jackson, Michigan.

—Friends, the man was saying, I am not just using a figure of speech when I say to you that here in the North we are going to all hang together or hang separately. The South has opened this question up, and they mean to keep it open. It has become a sectional issue. Men, there will be bloodshed before this thing is over.

—God forbid! T. D. said. Personally, I take a hopeful view of the situation. I don’t think it will ever come to that. Americans will never fight one another.

—Pardon me, my friend, said the man, a sober white-faced person in a tailcoat and a high black hat. But I’m afraid you take too bright a view of the whole thing. They’re fighting now in Kansas, and the whole nation will be at war unless something is done to keep the hotheads of the South in check. It’s getting to be all or nothing with them.

—Personally, said another man, whose face was working with anger, I think we’ll just have to go down there and beat the hell out of ’em.

—That’s just what they’re saying about us, the man said. How long do you think we can exist as a nation, pulling two separate ways and fighting over the new territory? Something has got into the lifeblood of the Nation. It’s a poison, and a black one, and it has diseased the whole body politic. What it will come to I don’t know, but I see dark days ahead.

—Say what you will, T. D. said, speaking calmly and brightly, but Americans will never fight each other. We will resolve our difficulties peacefully.

—I hope so, friend, said the man in the top hat. But what will you do if the South prefers to secede from the Union rather than submit to laws that don’t protect her peculiar institution?

—They may talk of it, T. D. said, but they will never do it.

Johnny agreed with his father. It really didn’t seem possible that a part of the country could separate and not be a part of the country. How could that be? Could an amputated leg grow a new body? T. D. was right. Yes, it was all only words spoken in the Court House Square. None of those words seemed so important as the word ‘Phrenology,’ which provided a clearcut, scientific route to individual and social perfection. He was hoping to get an opportunity to read his Self-Instructor and see what all the words meant that were parts of his head, but the next thing he knew, Zeke ran up, yelling,

—The race is starting!

Naked to the waist and barefooted, Flash Perkins stood in the middle of a crowd at a street intersection one block from the Square.

—What do you think this is, Flash—a prize fight? someone yelled as the two boys came up.

For answer, Flash struck a pose, balled fists up. The muscles of his cocked arms bulged circularly. The afternoon bathed his body with a young radiance. He seemed stronger and more real than anything else in the exploding vortex of the Fourth of July.

—God, don’t he think he’s some punkins! said a man next to Johnny.

—Struttin’ aroun’ like a damn bull on show, said another man. I hope to hell he gets beat and beat proper.

—Pud Foster’ll beat ’im, damn ’im, said the first man. They say this here Perkins has been drinkin’ his guts full all day and can’t hardly walk.

—Seems to me he walks all right, the first man said.

—Yeh, but can he run?

—If he’s drunk, maybe it’d be smart to take some of his money, said the first man.

—Damn right it would be!

It got around the crowd that Perkins was filled to the ears and could hardly stand, and a lot of men began to take some of the Perkins money.

Meanwhile Flash Perkins had gone over to a nearby buggy and then back to the starting line. His hairline jumped up each time he smiled. His eyes, full of drunkenness and goodnatured insolence, had never lost the childlike, excited look.

—They’s a young lady over here, he said, wants to bet somebody five dollars a certain galoot name of Orville Perkins, better known as Flash, will win this here race. Person’ly, I respect the sex too much to doubt this young lady’s opinion, and I’ll add another five dollars to her bet and bet anybody here that I can beat any man in Raintree County—or anywhere else, by God!—and let’s see the color of his coin.

—Christ amighty! he’s drunk! the first man said.

A rather dowdy girl in the buggy fanned herself vigorously.

—It must be her, that one over there, Zeke said. She’s some looker.

—I’ll bet he gets her regular, a man in the crowd said.

Those days, there was always someone in the crowd who took a cynical view of things.

All of a sudden a man walked into the street with a pistol in his hand.

—Ladies and Gentlemen, he yelled, the Annual Fourth of July Footrace is ready to start. The contestants are . . .

The runners lined up, the crowd began pushing out of the street, the starter’s pistol went off, and everyone yelled and pushed and shoved down toward the Square where the race was to end. Johnny got a passing glimpse of Flash Perkins, white teeth bared, fists churning, far ahead of his competitors as he ran toward a distant string.

There was a vast yelling in the Court House Square, and several cannon crackers blew up simultaneously. The band played ‘Hail to the Chief.’

When Johnny and Zeke got to the Square, they saw Flash Perkins on the shoulders of a throng. He was borne toward a platform where a girl sat holding a ring of oakleaves. Bare to the waist, sweating, magnificent, he accepted the circlet of victory and fitted it down over his tangled hair. His teeth were clenched on an unlit cigar.

—Speech! yelled the crowd.

—It was easy, folks, Flash said. They give me a good race, but like I said, I can beat any man in Raintree County.

—Hello, Johnny.

It was his mother. She had been standing at the finish line. Her eyes were still shining with the excitement of the race.

—That Perkins boy is the fastest runner I ever seen, she said.

She looked a little wistfully at the broadshouldered victor sitting on top of a crowd of men and boys, puffing his cigar. Perhaps she was remembering her own fleetfooted days. It had been a long time since Johnny had seen his mother run a race.

Everyone was crazy with excitement. Johnny and several other halfgrown boys organized races on the court house lawn. Johnny ran wildly through the crowd, hoping someone would notice how fast he was for his size.

Later he saw a man who was walking through the streets with a big sign saying,



The man gave a short speech:

—The Washington Monument has reached a height of 154 feet of the projected 500. A national appeal is being made to the people to finance the erection of this beautiful and costly monument. Contribution boxes will be found here and there all over the Square. Remember the Father of Our Country on the day of our Country’s birth, and let us all contribute generously and freely to the erection of this great shaft. First in War, First in Peace, and First in the Hearts of his Countrymen.

That night there was a fireworks display on the court house yard. Rockets rose over the dark town, burst into sparks, and went down, feebly flaming, in distant fields. Some exhibition pieces were hung on trees, and the climax of the whole day came with a contraption called ‘The Glorious Union.’ It was supposed to burn like a lot of stars and stripes in the shape of a shield, but it fizzled at first.

—It ain’t goin’ to go, everyone said.

Then it did go after all; in fact it caught on fire and blew up all at once with a terrific bang.

As they drove home that night, Johnny told T. D. about the book on Phrenology.

—What do you think about it, Pa? Is it any good?

—Sounds scientific, T. D. said. I seen the man giving you a going-over. Of course, it might of been a fraud. You shouldn’t of spent all that money for it, John. You could of looked at someone else’s book.

Rob, the oldest boy, said he heard a fellow say that the phrenology man and the vender of hair tonic had both been at Middletown just a day or two before and that they had put on the same act they did in Freehaven. The baldheaded man had pretended to buy hair tonic from the vender just the same way, and they made the same remarks, and the baldheaded man was just as bald now as he was then, no more and no less. Johnny was a little disturbed at this, but T. D. took a serene view of the matter.

—Probably just a story, he said. Why would anybody want to do that? Besides, he was practically giving those bottles away at that price. I have spent my life studying the beneficent effects of botanical medicines, and the ingredients in those bottles sounded good.

T. D. talked a good deal about the condition of the country.

—This here new party they plan to form up there in Michigan may be just what we need, he said. I’ve voted the Whig ticket faithful for twenty-five years, but it seems to me we need stronger stuff now. If they can just get some big man to head the new party up, someone, say, like John C. Frémont, who is, in my opinion, the Greatest Living American, why, we might bring the country right out of the fix it’s in.

—Things will work out all right, Ellen said.

Johnny Shawnessy looked up at the purple night thicksown with stars that brooded warm and yellow over Raintree County. Yes, things would work out all right. He closed his eyes and seemed to see, ascending in a starless night, the thin, bright streaks of rockets. So would the years go speeding through the purple night of time and bring him all good things before they dropped, feebly flaming, in the distant meadows of the future. So would he too some day know fame and fortune and a great love, and the people in the Court House Square would cheer him. Time and the secret earth of Raintree County would bring all good fruits to him who knew the secret. One day, he would be the fastest runner in Raintree County, because he willed it to be so. One day he would stand with breast expanded, bright with medals, and the crowds would cheer the savior of the Nation. One day he would have the lucid self-understanding that would enable him to say and do everything that he desired, and he would become greater than Charles Dickens or Thomas Carlyle or even William Shakespeare, and he would speak and write words that would resound along the corridors of time forever. And the Court House Square would give place to a more spacious arena, there would be domed tremendous buildings, steps ascending, a platform bigger than was ever seen in Freehaven. And a tall monument would pierce the sky, erected in his memory. All things could be accomplished by him who had the key, who knew the secret, who could pronounce the talismanic word. And in that shining future, he would stand among the greathearted citizens of a perfect America, their heads would be bright with lush and streaming locks, they would all be superbly phrenological in the greatest republic the world had ever seen. And somewhere too in that golden day a vaguely beautiful girl was waiting, her bright hair streamed on delicate shoulders and steep breasts, and on her fruity lips was the highly personal and softly uttered word ‘Johnny.’

When they went to get out of the wagon at the Home Place, Johnny knocked something over.

—Careful there, John, T. D. said. Here, let me have that stuff.

It was a couple of bottles of

Mrs. Allen’s World Hair Restorer and

Dr. Hostetter’s Celebrated


Waters of the Shawmucky River flowed beneath the clattering board bridge. The surrey passed over and, jogging southwest, started along the quarter-mile stretch through the valleyground in the great bend of the river. Reeds, swampgrass, thistles grew where the town of Danwebster had been before the War. Across the river, due south, Mr. Shawnessy could see the hill and the white stones of the graveyard.

—Well, children, he said, feeling old and inarticulate, here’s where I used to shine when I was a boy. Here’s where the old town was.

—I don’t see a thing of it, Will said.

Weeds, swampgrass, thistles, and the river. All is gone. And where is the young Shawnessy, the lover of the river, the budding bard of Raintree County? Where are the Complete Works in a single volume, with biographical preface and notes? Where are the pilgrim thousands and the graven stone beside the river? Good friend, for Jesus’ sake forbear——

—All around here, Mr. Shawnessy was saying, motioning vaguely with his hand, his voice fading, was the little town of . . .


(Epic Fragment from Preface to The Complete Works of John Wickliff Shawnessy)

A vague rapture fills the breast of the pilgrim, as he approaches the very earth which was the birthplace and burial spot of the greatest bard of all time. And indeed these pastoral glades seem as undesecrated by the hand of man as erst they did, so many years ago, when an obscure stripling sauntered through the rural glades, never dreaming that one day his name would be the brightest and loftiest star in all the constellations of the great.

Let us follow a little with reverent feet and pensive tread the windings of this little stream. Each bend and shallow is sanctified to the memory of a great name. In this deep pool beneath a hoary oak, we muse, the young Shawnessy perhaps did plunge and swim. Here his shouts mingled with those of his village companions. Perhaps he came to this haunt sometimes to escape the vigilant eye and stout ferule of the village scholarch, never dreaming that his own name would become both bane and blessing to generations of schoolboys. On the limb of this ancient oak, beside the circling waters of the Shawmucky, perhaps he swung in sportive play. In this open space, he urged the festive ball. How often, too, did he not walk, solitary and pensive, beside the river, bearing perchance a few stray leaves of paper and a quill, stopping now and then to indite the first utterances of a muse that has had no peer in all the annals of mankind!

Then let us proceed farther until we reach the thrice-enchanted ground where stood in ancient days the little village of Danwebster, in whose purlieus the young bard must often have walked, a beardless stripling upon whom, even then, we must believe there dwelt some halo of potential greatness. What unrecorded words, flung random on the ears of laughing comrades, betokened the genial humor, which, running the entire gamut from rude and ridiculous to subtle and sophisticate, was destined to be a perpetual wonder and entertainment for the generations of mankind?

Here, too, along the meanderings of the dulcet Shawmucky, he must have felt the first raptures of love—love, the most holy passion of the human breast, love, which he was later to express in the immortal verses of his great productions.

Aye, it is sacred ground, every inch of it. And we are happy indeed to make one with the thousands of reverent pilgrims who pay each year this tribute to the eternal greatness of the human spirit, which can cause to flower unexpectedly the rarest growth of all the ages on the banks of . . .

The Shawmucky River went south from the road, making its great bend, and returned to meet the surrey at the second bridge. The river flowed beneath the bridge, it was choked with bushes and mudbars, it was a length of savage, swarming life through the cornlands of the County.

—I thought you were going to stop at the graveyard, Wesley said.

—On the way back.

He looked up and down the river, sniffing. The bridge was like a crossroads. The lazy highway of the river beckoned, luring down banks and shoals of memory. Now briefly, the river lay again across his life, opaque and green, a serpent water.

On the banks of the Shawmucky, I had a vision of beauty. I held the river deity between my hands, it was a white flesh and lovely, its eyes were green, but this was long ago.

Little river of the blurred and murmurous name, you still rise from your Delphic cavern in the northeastern corner of the County and come uncoiling to the lake, with greater and greater divagations. Curious fleshes squawk, shriek, spout seed, die, and decay in your reedy marge. But where is the brighthaired boy who lay beside your waters, beholder of beauty in the antique summertime before the War? Where is the innocent young man, beloved of the gods, whose name was secret like your own and carried from afar?

On the banks of the Shawmucky River, I had a vision of beauty. I slept near the earth of the three mounds. I slept and dreamed beside the Indian river.

Yes, I remember now how I came down from haying in the long summers before the War—the smell of the clover was sweet on the upland meadows—and gave my body to your cold arms. O, circling goddess tracing a word of prophecy on the earth of Raintree County, you took the warm seed and the sweat from my body, you loved the plunge of mortals in your cool waters.

I had a vision of beauty on the banks of the Shawmucky River. What dream was that I dreamed of summertime and cities far away, and of corn growing in the valleyplains? What civilization of the maize did I introspect beside the little snakeriver of Raintree County?

On the banks of the Shawmucky, I had a vision of beauty. I lay at the brink of the river. I shut my eyes against the greening brightness. I lay in soft grass. I was sleeping.

I had a vision of beauty


from distant

to distant summer, the river

was a place of archaic lifeforms and primitive sounds, and it was a cold green flowing and a place for beautiful nakedness that summer. That summer Johnny Shawnessy was seventeen years old. His body shot up like a stalk of July corn, he got his man’s height of six feet, his shoulders widened, his arms and legs lengthened and were covered with light hair, his beard had to be shaved. Often in the afternoon, when he had finished working on the farm, he would go barefooted, dressed in blue jeans, shirt, and straw hat down the road to where the river approached from the north, and then cutting across a field would come out on the bank of the Shawmucky. He was free then from the geometry of fences, roads, and railroads, and he plunged naked into the river, re-entering some ancestral part of himself.

The river was the oldest pathway of the County, a place of frogs, fish, waterbirds, turtles, muskrats, coons, wildcats, groundhogs. The life within and upon its banks had not changed for centuries. And the river’s name was the oldest name in Raintree County.

In fact, ‘Shawmucky’ was the only Indian name left in the County. No one knew for sure what the original Indian word was or meant. Some agent of the first land-office in the County, writing the name of the river on the earliest land-deeds, spelled it Shawmucky. In this disguise of English misspelling and mispronunciation lurked a vagrant Indian word, a name never spelled but only spoken, a relic of pure language, the utterance of a vanished people. For within two or three years after the settlers came to the County, the Indians were forever gone.

Johnny Shawnessy probably had a better guess about the river’s name than anyone else as he was the only person in the County for years who made any research into the Indian culture. He finally decided that the river’s name was related to the Indian word ‘Shakamak,’ meaning long fish or eel. There was a Shakamak River in southern Indiana; and in the northern part of the state, an Eel River, which in the Miami tongue had been called the Kenapocomoko, or River of Snake Fish.

The only drawback to Johnny’s theory was the fact that he never found an eel in the Shawmucky River.

Johnny’s interest in the Indians was stimulated by the poem Hiawatha, which he read not long after its publication in 1855. He wished to emulate Longfellow by writing an epic of the people who had given his state a name and who had left the music of their forest language on most of the important rivers of the Middle West, from the Ohio to the Mississippi. Yet the Indians, who had lived less than fifty years before in Raintree County, had vanished utterly, leaving only a few traces, almost all, as it happened, along the Shawmucky River and close to Johnny’s home.

In that summer when he acquired the form of a man, Johnny found a favorite place on the river where it veered away from the road not far from the Shawnessy farm and ran northerly more than a mile as if it intended to flow out of the top of the County. Here on both banks of the stream, he used to find arrowheads and stone heads of tomahawks. As there was no record that the Indians had ever had a city on the banks of the Shawmucky, it was believed that these were relics of a battle that had been fought beside the stream perhaps long before the white men came. Johnny called the place the Indian Battleground.

Still more mysterious were the three symmetrical mounds on the right bank of the river near this place, relics of a much older people than the Indians, who were known simply as the Mound Dwellers.

Hardly anyone visited this part of the river except Johnny Shawnessy. The spot to which he came most often was halfway up the long northerly arm, on the right bank, close to the lowermost of the mounds. There was a place near-by where he would ford the river, book in hand. He would undress and swim in a deep, quiet pool under an oak, whose gnarled roots reached down into the water and fixed themselves in the bank like a giant hand clutched in the coil of a snake. Lying in the shade, he could see up and down the water a halfmile either way. And here he lay and thought about the river.

Then, indeed, he seemed closest to the secret of the County.

It was, he was certain, a water secret in the beginning. What secret lurked in the reedy, fishy, muddy word ‘Shawmucky’? Was this name the memory of a strange creature that the first man discovered in the river? For the river had been there before any man had come. The river was there when the great icesheet withdrew and left the land virginal, dripping, devoid of life. The river was there when the first green life surged up from the south. The river was full of shining fleshes when the first man came wandering into the forest country that was now called Raintree County. And with him man brought names, and the river became a name.

Who was the first man who named the river? Ancestor of the Indian, he had come from those obscure migrations in which mankind, rootless wanderers on the earth, had left their Asian homeland and wandered east and west. They had come across the island bridge from Asia to America and down into a manless continent, bringing the already complex tongue and culture of their homeland. The first man who named the river was not an Indian, nor perhaps even a Mound Dweller. He was, however, a man. He made a husky sound as he saw in the river—or imagined that he saw—a fabulous creature. But the first man standing by the river was himself a fabulous creature. And the word that he pronounced was, like all words, a fabulous sound. He had brought it with him from the far-off source of humanity, which, like the Shawmucky River, had risen from a mysterious place and flowed down between widening banks in huge divagations, seeking for a lake. Words were the music of this murmurous water. All language was a stream flowing from distant to distant summer. Perhaps it all was sprung from some parent word, the first word uttered by the lips of man in the oriental garden of his birth. And the name of Raintree County’s Indian river was thus a palimpsest upon a palimpsest, a wandering, ancient, mutilated sound, a pilgrim from remote shores like man himself.

As the boy lay dreaming beside the river that summer, he thought of the miracle of names. What, was his own name, Shawnessy? What did it mean? Whence had it come? It too had come a devious way, and if the sounds and the meanings that it once had were traced back far enough, it too perhaps would return into the primitive garden of the race, back to the parent Word.

For Johnny had always been vaguely aware of the likeness of his name to the name of the Indian river of Raintree County. Perhaps he was only a more belated wanderer from the Biblical homeland of humanity, who had found here in Raintree County an echo of himself, a murmurous reminder of the common source and common destiny of man.

East and West had met on the earth of Raintree County. Language had flowed around the world and met in intermingling waves. The men who had no spelling had given a sound to the men who spelled. And now in summer afternoons a youth named John Wickliff Shawnessy stretched his white body beside a river called the Shawmucky, in the central, streamdivided earth of America.

The Indians had left in Raintree County one other memorial of their vanished culture, its proudest achievement. This was the plant called maize, or, as it was known to America, corn. It was the County’s chief crop. Even T. D., who never seriously turned his hand to farming, put in a field of corn each year. In May the first tender tips were through the black loam. In June the little plants were a hand high. Kneehigh by the Fourth of July in a good year, the stalks were thick as a child’s arm, and the few blades were inch-broad. During the hot July the corn grew with fantastic speed, sometimes four inches in a single day. By August, the stalks were higher than a man, not rarely shooting ten feet up. Leaves like voluptuous swords stirred in the moist air, drinking light. The bared roots grappled manyfingered at the crusted soil, tassels formed at the tall tips, the stalks made ears. Warm rains of late July and August fattened the kernels. In early fall the ears broke at the stalk, hung heavy for harvest. Then came the cutting of the corn and the piling in shocks. The huskers ripped the sheath and the silk from the hard ears. And the bared fruit was piled yellow in cribs.

This was the great festival of the corn in Raintree County, perhaps the County’s richest image, bequeathed it by a vanished race.

In these years when Johnny Shawnessy became a man, he spent a great part of his summers working on his father’s land and helping with his brothers on neighboring farms. For the big harvests, the ablebodied men in the County travelled about in work gangs. Harvest, of wheat or corn, was a prodigious festival of hard work, huge dinners, rude fun. Day after day, Johnny helped at taking the County’s bountiful yield and loading its cribs. In this work, he developed a body hard and swift, capable of daylong exertion in the hot sun. No one was faster at shucking the corn than he.

He lost himself in this work with pagan identification, came home from it drunk with the good fatigue of a strong young man, his mind full of the tranquil images of harvest—the great mounds of shucked ears, the fodderstacks, the creaking wagons, the loaded harvest tables.

What did it mean, this immense ritual of growth and harvest, this rending of ripe seed from the earth? Perhaps the secret of life reached its climax in the festival moment when armies of harvesters attacked the standing corn.

Properly enough, the season of the harvest in Raintree County was called for the people who had discovered and nurtured the corn. In Indian Summer, the blue bright days flooded the harvest fields with mellow warmth. And at such times Johnny Shawnessy, student of the County’s vanished cultures, bethought him of a legended Indian goddess whose bare, bright limbs slipped deeper and deeper into the nodding leaves as the cornknives felled her guardians one by one. Perhaps the low shriek of an ear of corn cleanly husked was the wail of her spirit as it suffered at last the delicious rape. Then he would wonder at the immense achievement of that old race who named the river, and of all primitive humanity as well, which had somehow learned the lesson of the seasons and the seed. And as he saw the swollen ocean of the corn sweeping to the very rim of the river, as he smelled the rank odor of the green corn’s milky juices, he knew that the cultivating stick had been greater than the tomahawk.

He would always remember homecoming at evening with his brothers, Zeke, Rob, and Bill. Ellen Shawnessy would have a big hot supper waiting, and while the boys ate, telling the feats and pranks of the day, she hovered over them, the maternal spirit of the feast, loading the table with pork, roasting ears, butter, mashed potatoes, apple pie, milk.

Such was the harvest in Raintree County, that ancient valley threaded by an ancient water.

When he came to the river in summer afternoons from working on the farm, Johnny would strip off his clothes and plunge matted with seed and caked with dust into the water. After a swim, he would lie naked in soft grass reading or writing. His skin felt itchy from the hot air and the touch of the tingling grass. His youth was in his blood and on his skin and in the burgeoning parts of his body like a low fever.

That summer, he brought only one book to the banks of the Shawmucky, a copy of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare in a single volume. Summer light ate fiercely around the finely printed words; the little words in turn ate fiercely into Johnny’s being. Like the river itself, this book was a place of life, the columns of the bordered pages were full of streaming, vivid forms, the little words were seeds proceeding from a lifeplace, a magical productive name—William Shakespeare. So on the banks of the Shawmucky the naked American boy, seventeen years old, read in the pages of the greatest poet of all time. He was drunk in the sunlight of Raintree County. He was drunk too with the creative fury of the book, which was for him a book of prophecy revealing himself to himself.

As he read and wrote and mused beside the river in summer afternoons, he thought much of that other gifted child of nature, Willie Shakespeare. Willie Shakespeare, living at Stratford-on-Avon, had been a boy like Johnny Shawnessy, familiar with the course of country waters, growing unheeded like a flower beside a little river whose name was then unknown beyond the speech of those who lived and loved and died along it. Doubtless this Willie Shakespeare had the same stripling form, the adolescent beard and blemishes, the hair long, unshorn, mussed by wind. Doubtless, he felt the fevered, mute desires of youth, had the same inquisitive, beautyseeking mind, made the same shout of sound when he meant mother, father, sun, seed, water, love, and beauty, smiled by the same wrinkling of the face, shook with the same spasmed laughter. Doubtless he yearned after the maids who lived on neighboring farms, lay often tossing on his bed at night, thinking of their saucy breasts, sleek buttocks, velvet-muscled thighs. Doubtless he found, when first he tried to make words in rhythmed sequence, that the world rushed in upon him and peopled his mind with images and filled his ears with rich, strange language. And as he lay beside the sinuous river, Willie Shakespeare must have dreamed how one day he would go to the City and be famous and tup the most exciting woman and make much gold and come back at last to Stratford-on-Avon and buy the finest house in town.

Sometimes it seemed that in some occult way Johnny Shawnessy was Willie Shakespeare, and that the Plays were still waiting to be written and that everyone was somehow Willie Shakespeare and everyone and everything was Johnny Shawnessy, and that life was discovery and not creation—it was permitting oneself to be a great poet and not forcing oneself to be a great poet.

For as he lay on the bank of the Shawmucky, he knew that he too would be a great poet. It seemed to him that he must be a greater poet even than Shakespeare because there was some essence of what he was that Elizabethan England couldn’t possibly compose. He, John Wickliff Shawnessy, was perhaps the bearer of the sacred fire of poetic genius that is given from mind to mind like a regenerating torch. It was he, child of the sunlight, the corndense earth, the simple beliefs of Raintree County, who would become the great American poet. Son of his greathearted mother, of his energetic, sanguine father, he was perhaps a chosen seed, brought from far places.

Johnny Shawnessy didn’t so much read Shakespeare as he read a vaguely imagined book of himself. In Shakespeare’s luxuriant language, strong rhythms, terrific metaphors, Johnny was groping toward a new language of himself, a vocabulary equal to the dramas, characters, ideas, events that only America could produce. In Shakespeare, he discovered not the created but the creating thing. From a source fruitful like the earth, the crowding creatures of the dramas came. Their language was life itself, had life’s variety and rhythm, and at times its senselessness, fury, imperfection. The tears, the terrors, the ecstatic loves, the vast, vulgar laughters were of life itself. And under the lavish veil of Shakespeare’s words, the secret shape of beauty was more truly shown than anywhere else.

Johnny Shawnessy didn’t think he would have to wait long to become the great poet. A whole world of creation seemed waiting. He had only to set pencil to paper in the sunlight of the Shawmucky. And wandlike, the pencil would touch immortal poems into being. Putting a pencil to the coarsegrained paper of a notebook was exciting to him like the touch of a young man’s flowering nakedness to the body of a pretty girl. His whole being then was drained into feeling at one quickening point. Through the wand of the pencil he would jet the rivering lines of life.

He had already discovered that he had a gift for verse. Without effort, he could shape the language of his fancies in any of the English meters. The very resistance of the poetic medium seemed to stir up his word-horde. During that first summer of his great desire to be a poet, he wrote hundreds of verses that seemed to him no less good than Shakespeare’s. In the summer of his body’s maturity, he had become expressive like a god, and like a god, he would ravish beauty by the mere wishing. He already contemplated a lifetime of immortal words, which would one day be treasured by the world in a single volume entitled The Complete Works of John Wickliff Shawnessy.

This was a season of gorgeous dreams by day and night. Achieving all at once a man’s full vigor of body and mind, Johnny Shawnessy lived in a continual torment of desire—desire to know, to possess, to make. He memorized whole books of poetry, read everything he could find, aspired to have all human knowledge, allowing himself a few years at most to accomplish it all. At night, his dreams, always vivid, were enriched with his bardic obsession. He wandered in a world of old enchantments, peopled a sleeptime Raintree County with the memories of all mankind, enacted dramas that seemed to him more passionate and fanciful than Shakespeare’s. What did it signify, this world of sleep? Who was this protean being who borrowed the semblance of a waking self and strove through a self-created world in quest of beauty and high achievement? He didn’t know, but to these sleeptime visions he resigned himself with eager yearning, hoping that they would yield him the consummations denied him during the day.

At this time he began to write a column for the Free Enquirer, one of Raintree County’s two weekly newspapers. He called his articles Meditations from the Upper Shawmucky, and in the pen name Will Westward managed to conceal his identity from everyone, including his own family and the editor of the paper, Niles Foster. The column soon awakened great interest in the County. It contained everything from philosophical musings to political disputation, and in it from time to time Johnny imbedded the poems that he had been writing. The most popular feature was a fictitious rustic philosopher, poet, and amateur politician whom Johnny called Seth Twigs. The scholarly author of the articles, Will Westward, talked frequently with this denizen from the banks of the Shawmucky and reported his sayings in their unvarnished Hoosier dialect. The political bias of Johnny’s articles was Republican, like that of the newspaper itself. Eighteen fifty-six was an election year, the rising young Republican Party was making a strong bid for the Presidency behind the candidacy of John C. Frémont, and partisan feeling ran high in Raintree County. Soon in the Democratic paper of the County, the Freehaven Clarion, a column similar to Johnny’s began to appear, purporting to be written by one Dan Populus and retailing from time to time the wit and wisdom of a backwoods raconteur Rube Shucks. Dan Populus was no mean antagonist for Will Westward, and after a while the rumor went that Dan Populus was none other than the rising young orator Garwood Jones.

Wanting to keep his authorship of the articles a secret, Johnny always composed them at his favorite haunt beside the Shawmucky. For the river drew him to itself. All that came from it fascinated him. Whenever he hooked a fish and jerked it wriggling from the water, he had a momentous feeling of discovery. Was it the sacred being of the river, the Shawmucky itself, goggle-eyed, scaly, gilled, panting in the thin, destroying air? But it always turned out to be a familiar variety of fish and seldom larger than a man’s hand. And yet people said that in the river a catfish had been seen big as a man.

Or he would watch cranes standing in the shallow water. Now and then, he managed to get very close to one, and it seemed to him that if he could catch in his arms the great kingcrane, rank-feathered, gaunt, bony, and throw him down, it would be as if he caught a colossal birdgod, who belonged only to the river.

Or he would hunt for frogs in swamps and shallows of the river. For a while he sought them with as much passion as a prospector hunting gold in California waters. Sometimes at night, he would hear, sounding all the way across the fields to the Home Place, the deep belch of a frog. It was perhaps the biggest frog of all time, hundreds of years old, as big as a man’s head. Whoever caught that frog would have in his hand the rinded, mossy secret of the river. Once Johnny saw a big frog wedged in among rushes near a place where he was swimming. Furiously excited, he grabbed the torpid thing and plucked it from the river. For a moment he felt as though he had the legendary Shawmucky. Held in both hands with legs extended, the frog was shaped grotesquely like a man, had the long slender legs, the toed feet, the tight rump, the white belly, the wide shoulders, the two arms with spread hands, the head. Part for part, it was a man in a forgotten shape. It was an antique man who had stayed too long in the Shawmucky River and had never suffered the air change.

But the river itself was the most mysterious creature of all. It lay like a coiled body on the land. It had its secret source in distant summer and its sinklike goal in distant summer. Johnny had always had a wish to explore the Upper Shawmucky up and down its length, and in that summer, he nearly had his wish fulfilled.

One day, setting out by himself, he walked northeastward along the river to see if he could find the source. He went for miles, following the river as it grew smaller until it was only a few feet wide. But it kept flowing on strongly between fields and past rockstrewn hills, cutting its deep sharp trace through the County. The sun went steeply up at noon and down its western arc, dying at evening in clouds of purple fire, and still Johnny Shawnessy hadn’t reached the source of the Shawmucky River. At dusk, he asked a farmer in a field how far it was to the river’s source, and the farmer said he didn’t recollect ever hearing anybody say. At this, Johnny cut over to the closest road and started home. It was ten o’clock at night and he was weak all over when he staggered into the yard of the Home Place.

Sometime later, he discovered an old boat, foundered in the river. In secret he repaired it, proposing to row down the river to Paradise Lake, which he had never seen. One day in late June, early in the morning, he started out near his favorite haunt beneath the oak. Rowing strongly, he went up the long northward-flowing stroke of the river to where it bent sharply back upon itself. From there on, he was amazed at the great slow vistas of the Shawmucky. After rowing nearly four miles he crossed under the two bridges at Danwebster, only a mile by crowflight from the place where he had started. When he got beyond the town and was veering northwest toward the lake, it was already afternoon. The air seemed more moist and heavy with the rank scent of the widening river and its flowers. The boat grounded many times on mudbars, and Johnny had to get out and shove it loose. Water and air were dense with life. He had never seen so many birds, fish, turtles, frogs, bugs in all his life before. The country too was savage, with acres of forest and swampland on every side. The river spread out among islands so that the main current was hard to follow. Bushes, waterweeds, willows, swampoaks were so dense in places that they nearly choked off the river’s course. The water seemed to Johnny to be flowing the other way in places, as if the lake were the river’s real source.

Meanwhile, he kept looking about him to see if he could see any unusual tree that might be the celebrated Raintree, but he gave up the hunt as hopeless, so thick and various was the thrust of life in the last mile. The boat leaked more and more, and finally in the hot blaze of midafternoon, it stove and foundered in the very middle of the shallow river. Johnny swam and waded toward the shore, but there seemed to be only swampland and water everywhere. He felt that he must be very close to Paradise Lake, but he was so exhausted with coming down the river that he wished only to get home again. Blundering through banks of waterweeds, he tried to find firm ground. More and more, the solid substance of the earth dissolved with life. The creatures of the river swarmed, shrieked, swam, coupled, seeded, bloomed, died, stank around him. He appeared to be in the very source of life, a womblike center. River and shore were one; leaf and flesh, blossom and genitalia, seed and egg were one cruel impulse. All the creatures of the river were fecund, shining, perfect, each one a paragon of the image that all the members of its race embodied. Farther away in the summer afternoon, this furious fecundity became enfeebled—there was a genteel creature called man. But here there was no man, except only Johnny Shawnessy, half naked, an intruder, his body scratched and itchy, his shirt torn by branches, his pants ripped half off, his hair stiff with seed.

Suddenly, as he lurched and stumbled through this vortex of life, his foot slipped through a mesh of vines and he dropped neckdeep into a pool. A thick net of roots and lily stems laced his body. A bottomless ooze drank his feet and legs heavily, heavily. His young strength twisted and sprang, not for a moment admitting that it was in danger. Yet he moved hardly an inch. His hands clutched and tore at roots and stems.

A gigantic willow presided calmly over his struggle, one root fantastically bared within six inches of his hand.

The pool heaved slowly, enveloped him in constricting coils. He was going down surely. The change was so cruelly slow and his body so completely engaged that his mind ran free with skipping alacrity, observing, recording, and a hundred times over reminding him of the grimness of his situation. Slowly a phrase formed in his memory, writhing in green letters.

The Great Swamp. The words of his father spoken long ago ran sluggish and half-submerged in his memory.

—Folks call it the Great Swamp. Why, a man went in there once and never came out again.

Johnny Shawnessy struggled mutely for life in the embrace of the Great Swamp. A few seconds ago he had been a free, happy, purposeful human being on his way back to one of those little firm brown roads that were so reassuringly frequent on the landscape of Raintree County. He had intended to go home and have a good supper and maybe read a little poetry before he went to bed. Now he gasped and fought for dear life, his head thrown back, drowning in a private universe of mud and light. There was no one to know where he was or what had become of him. If his head disappeared under this shining surface, he would be gone forever from the sunlight of Raintree County, sunk without a trace.

He kept his eyes fastened on the willow root still six inches from his hand. The water was over his chin, touched his mouth, covered it. A thick vine looped his neck and prevented the forward thrust of his body. He made a furious effort catching the vine with both hands, trying to push it over his head. As if all his contortions up to this moment had been a grotesque joke prolonged for the amusement of an immensely superior antagonist and now ended with brutal suddenness, his whole body, head and all, plunged under: the vine twisted muscularly in his hands, and his own strength had driven him out of sight.

That instant, freed from the vine, he made a forward lunge in the deep muck groping under water. His left hand touched the submerged willow root, coated with slime. His hand slid on it, but he had drawn himself forward by inches. Blinded and choked, he shot his right hand from the water and caught something dry and firm.

The white hand of Johnny Shawnessy stuck from the surface of the Great Swamp, holding an exposed willow root.

With ridiculous ease, he drew himself from the pool and lay on the roots of the willow, gasping. The whole thing had lasted perhaps half a minute.

He looked about him. He had almost died in the middle of Raintree County. Hundreds of people who loved him, who would willingly have caught his hands and pulled him out, had gone on securely about their work while he wallowed in the gripe of death.

He clung to the willow, gasping with a fear he hadn’t felt during the struggle. Around him, impassive, secret, beautiful, the Great Swamp shimmered and stank. With a brutal indifference, his own earth had nearly killed him.

Finally, he got up from the willow and cautiously hunted for a way out. After a while, he found firm ground and breaking through a screen of rushes, discovered himself on the edge of a lonely, rutted road.

A snappy two-seater spring wagon was coming down the road from the direction of the setting sun. As it approached, the two couples in it giggled and pointed. In the driver’s seat a nattily dressed, broadshouldered young man boomed jovially,

—Look! It’s Johnny Appleseed!

The girls tittered.

—Why, no, Garwood, said the girl beside him. It’s Johnny Shawnessy!

Johnny Shawnessy, who had just come from the Great Swamp, gazed at the improbable creature who had just spoken. Wideapart eyes shone like green jellies in a small white face. The mouth was a red fruit. It moved, made sibilant sounds, lingered huskily on the name ‘Johnny.’ The yellow hair, blooming rankly around a hairless forehead, was pulled back to show the little shameless ears. The white long neck was a supple stem joining the flower of a human head to a white hairless body.

But, after all, this creature had a name, as nothing in the Great Swamp had a name.

—Hello, Nell, he said.

Everyone was laughing at him except her.

—I was out walking, he said weakly.

He hated them all. He had nearly drowned, and here they sat clothed and tittering.

—I nearly drowned in there, he said.

Garwood roared at this, and even Nell smiled a little. Johnny himself began to feel that he had said something absurd.

—For goodness’ sake, what for, Johnny? Nell said.

—A little botanical excursion, he said.

His panic was giving way to a much more human emotion, embarrassment.

—Let’s take him in and get him home, Nell said. Goodness gracious, Johnny, how you are mussed up! But come on, you can sit between us if you’re dry enough.

Johnny climbed up and sat between Nell and Garwood. He was surprised to see Nell coming from the direction of Paradise Lake. It was well known in the County that a certain type of social activity went on in the wild neighborhood of the lake which was not reported in the society columns of the Free Enquirer. Besides, the couple in the back seat were a notorious pair, who had been going steady for some time, and rumor had cast doubt on the chastity of their connection.

—Say, how far is it to the lake, anyway? Johnny said.

—It’s right over there, John, Garwood said, pointing into the very region through which Johnny had floundered.

All the way home, Nell was very maternal. She pulled away at Johnny’s tangled hair with a comb, blowing her breath like warm mist into his face, while he kept his eyes down in an agony of shyness. He kept noticing her hands. It was as though he had never looked carefully at a pair of human hands before. He marvelled at their five fingers, their naked palms, blunt nails. They were swift, slender hands, woman’s hands, knowing and maternal. Suddenly he imagined them like his own, sticking from the surface of the swamp, while below them in the green dusk, enmeshed in vines, a curious white creature lurked. The image made him faint and almost sick.

Nell meanwhile brushed off his shirt, pointing out various rips and tears.

—You poor dear boy, she said, you’re nearly undressed!

Her pert face maintained its composure, but the couple in the back seat sniggered vulgarly. Johnny was glad when Garwood stopped the buggy at the Home Place. He felt like a fool and disliked Nell for mothering him. He had hardly looked at her face after that first moment when he came from the swamp and saw her in the buggy.

His mind was still absorbed with the secret that had whirred, sung, buzzed, squawked around him in the fierce sunlight of the swamp. He was afraid to say what the secret was, even to himself; yet he had penetrated almost to its core.

Part of the secret was that all things that came from the Shawmucky River were one thing, and all were subtle reminders of himself, and all were perfect in their way, and all had been forever in the river, and the river was the ancient valley of his being, and everything that came from its waters was intolerably beautiful.

But the river still had its last, most amazing disclosure to make.

One day in late August during a sweltering heatwave, Johnny had gone to his favorite place on the river. As usual he plunged in for a swim. Then he stretched on grass at the water’s edge, listening to the spiral music of cicadas. The river burned green in sunlight. He lay on his back and let the notebook and pencil he had brought lie untouched beside him. He shut his eyes and felt heat and light rain like soft arrows on his fluttering lids. He slept.

Awakening, he turned over and looked through the reeds that screened his hiding-place. Not twenty yards from where he lay was a skein of gold hair floating backward on the current.

Then while he watched in sleepy bewilderment, a fabulous creature rose slowly from the Shawmucky, walking from midriver to the far shore. Glistening whitely from the green water, the neck emerged, the long back, the stately buttocks, the smooth-fleshed thighs, the tapering calves, and at last the long slender feet. On the left of the deepfleshed hemispheres was a brown mole, pennysized. Then as the creature half turned a moment and stretched up its arms full length in the sunlight, he saw the brightnippled breasts, the wide, smooth belly, and three gold tufts of hair.

He saw also the precise face, the wideapart eyes warily looking up and down the banks, the pert nose, the mouth panting.

While he watched stonestill, the creature ran quickfooted behind some bushes and a few moments later came out barefoot, wearing a loose summer dress, and disappeared in the barky shadow southward down the river.

Johnny Shawnessy opened and closed his eyes several times and shook the sleep out of his head. A sweet tumult beat in his veins. He panted with the anguish of a desire that had not even acquired the image of possession.

He had done it with his own eyes. With his eyes, he had suddenly stripped the costume of Raintree County from its most lovely flesh. With his eyes, he had possessed the white secret of Helen and the Greeks. With his young eyes, he had learned the lesson of the deepfleshed loins of Venus.

For the face had been the face of a Raintree County girl. But the form had been the form of a goddess foamborn and beautiful, sprung from the waters of the inland ocean. That vision of the supple back incurved to the small waist, outcurved to the abundant hips, softly recurved down the greatmuscled thighs to the small knees, gently outcurved to the long calves, distinctly and yet softly returned and tapered to the ankles—that white vision of curves recurrent, so thoroughly unmasculine, so delicately made for erotic and maternal uses, so tranquilly seductive—that vision was Johnny Shawnessy’s first overwhelming awareness of Woman. The small bare face of Nell Gaither, a familiar face which had always risen serenely from a Raintree County dress, had appeared on the nakedest, the most seductive creature that he had ever seen.

In that one vision, the old Nell Gaither was gone. In her place was a woman almost cruelly beautiful, seen through the green mesh of the reeds, with the sigil of her uniqueness delicately staining her beauty. She had risen from the little Indian river of Raintree County, and her name now coursed through Johnny’s mind with a new music, full of love’s precise anguish.

He tried to remind himself of the girl who belonged to the prim world of Raintree County, who wore its highnecked bodice and its formdisguising skirt and petticoats, who spoke its evasive language, worshipped in its little church whitely puritan upon a hill, sedately walked under the taut dome of a parasol. But beneath all these images now, looking warily from under wet gold hair, was the river girl, whose impudent nakedness had stunned him.

Beneath her puritan ways, she was not afraid of life: she had come down to the green prolific river and placed her skin in contact with it. How fortunate would be the hero—how like a young god—who would win for himself the gift of that triumphant nudity, the sweet candors of the river girl!

In the days that followed, Johnny Shawnessy was not quite sane. He wandered around the County in long walks that had no plan and came out nowhere. He lay sometimes all night till dawn without sleeping a wink. Sometimes he could eat nothing at all. Sometimes he stuffed ravenously. But his craziest impulse caused him to write for the Free Enquirer the queerest meditation that had yet come from the Upper Shawmucky. It awakened a good deal of comment.




(Epic Fragment from the Free Enquirer)

August 20. Danwebster has been stirred up with the biggest furore since the Great Comet. A new species of water-creature has been seen in the Shawmucky River. It is well known that the river abounds in rare varieties of flora and fauna that merit the interest of the sauntering naturalist. But judging from the scanty descriptions now available, the new find has never before been classified. A very pretty specimen was observed no longer ago than last Tuesday by the naked eye of a gentleman whose scientific objectivity there is no reason to doubt.

Last Tuesday afternoon, we were lying in our backyard engaged in our favorite pursuit, when suddenly we were awakened by a sound like thunder on the pike. Looking up we saw the form of Seth Twigs flying across a field from the direction of the river. Without a pause, the excellent Seth (whom we do not remember ever seeing run ten steps in his life before) pigeonwinged over the fence and arrived panting in our midst. After resting for half an hour our rural Phidippides was able to gasp out his story. It appears that Seth had been swimming in the Shawmucky and had retired to the bank for a good snooze, when awakening he espied something in the river.

Now precisely what Seth saw is still a question hotly argued these days wherever two minds meet in the northeastern quarter of the County. If Raintree County were ancient Greece and Seth’s bony figure resembled that of the noble hunter Actaeon instead of a scarecrow, we would have no hesitation in saying that the strange new visitant in the waters of the Shawmucky was none other than the goddess Diana or at very least the nymphic deity of the river. But as we are living (according to the best authorities) in the middle of the Nineteenth Century, it is pretty certain that nothing in the shape of a woman, goddess or otherwise, will ever be seen by any Raintree County man bathing in the radiant garment of Nature. The creature seen in the waters of the Shawmucky was, according to Seth, definitely devoid of the outer integument that universally adorns human beings of her sex in Raintree County (Seth’s exact words were, ‘She was nekkid as a shucked ear’). Besides she appeared to have two distinct ‘legs,’ and everyone knows that no woman in the County has anything of the kind that she will admit to.

Many contend that Seth saw the great white fish for which, some say, the Indians named the river, and others that he saw the famous mudcat, big as a man, that is supposed to lurk in the deepest pools of the river. Others say that Seth Twigs never yet told a plain truth in his life and there’s no reason to suppose he deviated into honesty in this particular.

Your correspondent does not intend to let the matter rest here. He is aware that recently in a rival newspaper he was accused of being ‘a lazy no-account who made all his reports from Danwebster without exerting himself any further than to walk between his own back porch and the outhouse or occasionally to join the group of retired gentlemen whose principal occupation in life appears to be the self-appointed task of glazing with the seat of their britches the bench in front of the General Store.’ This statement not only contains a misspelled word, but is too palpably false to deserve the compliment of a formal refutation. In order to put it in the category of repulsive slander to which it clearly belongs, it is only sufficient to remark that it appeared in the Clarion over the name of Dan Populus.

If any doubt can remain in the mind of anyone as to the tireless energy with which at the expense of his own health (not of the strongest) this correspondent pursues the task of reporting the news from the Upper Shawmucky, let it be known that he was the first to catch hold of the exciting development recorded in this article and that he has every intention of devoting his time and his talents, such as they are, to running the whole business to the ground.

As for the ambiguous libeller who imagines that he can with impunity throw his loathsome epithets on an untarnished reputation, be it known that his foul machinations go not unobserved, that his identity is fully known to this correspondent, and that if any further feculence is spewed from that hideous receptacle of filth and fetidness which he possesses in lieu of a mind, this correspondent will openly brand him with the ignominy which he deserves.

Your correspondent intends to keep himself fully informed on this situation, and he hopes to have the whole thing well in hand at the next writing.

Will Westward

At about the same time, Johnny also told a friend what he had seen and where he had seen it. He concealed the identity of the girl, saying that the distance was too great for recognition, and he exacted an oath of absolute secrecy.

A few days later when he repaired to his favorite nook on the river, he was surprised to find five young men sitting under his oak in such a way as to be able to look up and down the river from ambuscade. One of them was Garwood Jones.

—Hello, John, he said. Sit down and have a smoke.

—No, thanks, Johnny said glumly. I don’t smoke.

—Filthy habit, Garwood said. Never start it.

He put a cigar between his moist, full lips, touched a matchflame to the tip, puffed.

—Beautiful view, he said. I love Nature.

Some of the other boys sniggered.

—What brings you here, John? Garwood said.

—Just out for a walk, Johnny said. I don’t remember seeing you here before.

—My interest in Nature has lately been stimulated, Garwood said, by a certain article appearing in the Enquirer. Perhaps you’ve read it too.

Garwood’s blue eyes gazed shrewdly through cigar smoke.

There was a noise of someone walking through bushes across the river.

—Down, men! Garwood barked.

He ground out his cigar and crawled on his belly toward the reeds. On the other side of the river, three young men appeared, walking stealthily. They approached the bank and looked up and down the river.

—Goddam! Garwood said, sitting up. What the hell is this—a political convention?

The next edition of the Freehaven Clarion contained the following article by Dan Populus:




(Epic Fragment from the Clarion)

August 27. Well, we have been checking the facts in the sensational report that came out in the Enquirer a week ago over the name of Will Westward. The facts are simple and they all add up to one fact: Seth Twigs is the biggest liar since the snake fooled Eve.

We should know better by this time, but we sent our deputy, that lovable rustic, Rube Shucks, out to check the story for us. Rube went to the bank of the Shawmucky, intending to get a glimpse, if he could, of the seraphic creature Seth Twigs says he saw there. Here are Rube’s own words for it: ‘They wuz a hull goldern army of men and boys along that thar river. I kept a-flushin’ one out of ever bush. I reckon they ain’t bin sich a scientifick intrust showed in Raintree County since the Widder Black dissolved her faithless husband in a barl of assid. I sot down in a nice private spot with fifty other gennulman and wotched the river. I sot and sot. After a spell, down kum Seth Twigs. He wuz not the least bit drunker than usual, that mutch I will say fer him. “Seth,” sez I, “whar’s this here mermaid you seen?” “Rube,” he sez, “you jist set thar, and I guarantee you’ll see her.” Well, I sot and I sot. I got stang by skeeters and stuck with nittles, but along about five o’clock in the afternoon, my patience and persistunce wuz rewarded. I hurd a noise in the bushes acrost the river. Hyar it kums! thinks I. “I see suthin white,” a man sez. Then and thar we wuz all treated to the excitin’ spectacle of Horace Perkins’ cow Jessica, who kum down to the ford fer a drink. I wish to report to yure readers, Mr. Populus, that Jessica wuz clad only in the coztoom of Natur and that she is an onusual attracktive and well-preporshuned annimule, whooze daily milk-output is unsurpassed in these parts.’

Dan Populus

It was plain from this that Johnny Shawnessy had been found out as the author of the Will Westward articles and therefore also as the beholder of a Raintree County girl naked in the Shawmucky River. In a subsequent article, Will Westward reported that the repentant Seth had confessed the whole thing a fraud, insisting that the vision he saw was caused by ‘guzzlin’ a pint of pure pizen that Rube Shucks wuz sellin’ in the County fer corn likker.’ But the hurt was done. Nell Gaither must have guessed that she was the now celebrated nymph of the Shawmucky and must know, as everyone else seemed to, that Johnny was the author of the article in question. For two weeks, Johnny didn’t go to church or any other place where he might see Nell.

But this cowardice of his couldn’t last long. T. D. had planned a Temperance Rally for September, and the members of the Cold Water Army had enlisted to give a temperance drama. Johnny had agreed to write it, and Nell Gaither and Garwood Jones were both cast in leading parts.

It was on a Sunday at the Danwebster Church that Johnny and Nell met again for the first time since the famous emergence from the river. Johnny was standing at the door of the church handing out some private printings of a new hymn by T. D. called ‘Wash me in the Jordan.’ Just before time for the service to begin, Nell and her father and stepmother arrived. Nell was in a new green dress. Johnny took one look at her getting out of a surrey and then kept his eyes averted. He felt as though he would choke while she climbed the pathway up the steep bank and approached the door.

—Hello, Johnny.

—Hello, Nell. Have a program.

—Thanks, Johnny.

He didn’t look at her, but her voice, low and musical, pronounced the word ‘Johnny’ in her special way. Only now, the touch of her tongue on his name went through him in a tide of sweet anguish. As she went down the aisle, he studied the point where her hair, piled up in a mound, dwindled to a wispy peak on her neck.

While the service was going on, Johnny sat on the front bench, holding a hymnbook. Under his oak on the Shawmucky he had lately memorized the most exciting passages from Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis. In his mind he had repeated unweariedly the assault of a sultry goddess on a shy boy, and all the time against all reason he had endowed the goddess with the fullflanked form, small piquant face, and golden hair of Nell Gaither. He, too, on the fierce tide of this new love had tried his hand at an erotic poem, in which a swain beheld a rustic maid bathing in a woodland water. But there was something in the puritan perspectives of Raintree County or his own fledgling inexperience that had prevented a free, fine handling of the subject in the spirit of his lusty precursor.

T. D. had insisted that Johnny lead the singing of the original hymn. While the congregation was in full cry, Johnny stole a glance at Nell. Her mouth was making pleasing O’s, her eyes were oval pools of rivergreen, she seemed entirely chaste and inaccessible. An innocent young republic had labored to clothe her in her puritan costume, had given her moral serenity and comely speech, had instructed her in the means of hiding the victorious nudity that the river had bequeathed her. (The river flowing out of distant summers, the river coiling past the beautiful twin mounds, the river twisting in slow anguish by reeds and rushes, tarn and tangling swamp unto the lake where life began.)

Wash me spotless in the Jordan,

  Cleanse my soul of earthly sin,

For I’ve wandered from the pathway

  That my fathers put me in.

Lead me back unto the river

  Where I strayed in happy youth

And array my limbs forever

  In the radiant robe of truth.

(The river, older than Helen and the Greeks, older than the Indian peoples who left the relics of savage warfare on its banks, older than man himself, and concealing in its course through Raintree County a fabulous, forgotten secret, of life that buzzed, sang, murmured, flapped great rushing wings, and shouted from the shallows.)

O, wash me in the Jordan,

  And I’ll climb the happy shore

Where the blessed band of angels

  Bathe in bliss forevermore.

In rehearsals for the temperance play and elsewhere during the next few weeks, Johnny saw Nell often. In no way did she betray the secret that she and Johnny shared. After a while, he wondered if he had seen wrong.

Meanwhile, he returned as often as he could to the banks of the Shawmucky. For his desire was of the river. Those days, through all his waking dreams it ran, rank with curious fleshes, to the lake. It had given him beauty and desire. Some day, he must find again forbidden whiteness in the river and become the joyous fisherman, the proud possessor of the river’s most curved and radiant flesh.

He never went to sleep without hoping that he would dream of Nell. And in his sleeping as in his waking dreams, the river ran. He was rowing a rotten boat on the Shawmucky or wading through a fetid swamp. The river shimmered on its mudded floors. Sometimes, he would find a young woman in the reeds. He wanted to look directly into her green eyes, and persuade her to become again the goddess of the river. But in the climax of the dream, as he sought her skin under a green dress, he would find himself entangled in rushes, her slippery body writhed whitebellied and flaggyfooted, escaping in the yellow reeds, and then the spasmed jet of his desire would stream off his body in the night, finding no place for its delicious anguish except the river. He would awaken lying in his bed at the Home Place, drenched with the mystery of his own young seed. Summer night was on the breathing earth. She whom he loved lay somewhere in this night, her curved, pale body stretched in darkness close to the river like his own. They were the children of the rivered earth, meant for each other. And yet there lay between him and this fabled whiteness all the green mesh of Raintree County, a net of names and words, a costume of puritan restraints, and he must be

bold like a young god who would break

his way past all



The gilt words were stamped into a green cloth binding.

—Yes, I’ve read it, Mr. Shawnessy said.

He handed the book back to Eva, who became instantly reabsorbed in the story.

Brief résumé of the Sentimental Epic of America:

Between green cloth covers, on yellow faded pages, an upright young man from the country goes to the wicked city of Chicago to seek his fortune. There he falls in love with a rich girl, innately good but unredeemed by the Christian faith. Scenes of love, misunderstanding, danger, sickness, and death follow each other with dramatic vividness. In the climax of the book, the Great Chicago Fire bursts catastrophically upon the world of private lives and loves. The hero saves the heroine from a villainous rape amid spectacular scenes of fire and death and converts her to Jesus on the shore of the lake while around them the corrupt wealth and social inequalities of the City are leveled by the purging fire, and all barriers between the lovers are forever burned away. The congregation is requested to stand on the last verse.

The river was far behind. The roofs of Freehaven were visible a straight half-mile down the road. The Court House Tower stood in a haze of distance directly from the line of the road, a square stem of red brick, capped with a dull green roof ascending to a blunt point. A clockface recessed in the roofslope was too distant to be read.

He sifted the faded pages of himself.

Beautiful and lost was the secret he had sought to find long ago in a green cloth binding. In the greatest of the sentimental novels, he too had lain beside the river of desire, had been the hero of a sentimental epic—a legend of barriers unburned away. For America was always an education in self-denial. And Raintree County was itself the barrier of form imposed upon a stuff of longing, life-jet of the river.

In a way, all stories, no matter how badly written and printed, were legend—and eternal. Each book was sacred, a unique copy that had somewhere in its crowded pages the famous misprint, the cryptogram, or the lithograph of a beautiful woman whose nudity was signed with the faint signature of her mortality. Wherever paper was covered with print, the papyrus rush shook down its seed again by the river of life, the music of Nilotic reeds was carried on the air of summer. The strange linkage of a sound and its visual symbol was invented by men who lived beside a river, saw a cursive shape written on the earth, heard the continuous sound of flowing water.

And again he was making the memorial journey from the river to the Court House Square, from the random curve of water to the rectilinear stone. It was the pathway of the hero of a legend, of one who rose from the Great Swamp and rode a horse of godlike appetite to the summit of Platonic forms.

Mr. John Wickliff Shawnessy shook the reins over President’s back. He took a deep breath to still his big excitement as the surrey passed the red barn at the edge of town where travellers went abruptly from the open road into the shade of a wide, treebordered street.

Instantly, it seemed, the sound of the firecrackers became multitudinous and intimate. A powdersmell drifted up the sleepy streets, incense of holiday. Flagbright, the broad street stretched between diminished tree trunks to the far enclosure of the Square.

Make way, make way for the Hero of Raintree County! For he is coming to pluck the golden apples! Down with the ancient prohibitions! None shall restrain the intemperate young man with the sunlight in his hair! Make way, make way for . . .

Mr. Shawnessy drove the surrey to a place on the east side of the Square and tied President up to the hitching rail. A firecracker burst in the alley near-by, scattering children. The clock in the Court House Tower showed six-forty.

—I’ve got two or three places to go, Pet, he said. It shouldn’t take me over fifteen or twenty minutes. Keep the children around close.

Atlas under arm, he crossed the street toward a tall, sourfaced brick building. Sandstone steps led up to a door over which a legend was carved into the sandstone arch:




‘Footprints on the sands of time’

H. W. Longfellow

He hesitated at the foot of the steps and looked around the Square. The Court House was a recumbent beast couched on the curled paws of its balustraded stairs. The four walls of the Square were holed with a hundred immutable doors to a hundred immutable desires. The old pomps and prohibitions of Raintree County were enacted into the shapes of this enclosure.

Yet all this had been pulled like a mask over the naked beauty of an ancient human want. This mask quivered on the secret thing that it concealed. And soon all the holiday hundreds would be pouring into the enclosure, wearing their ritual costumes. All would enjoy the sacrifice and the incense, the invocation of the sainted names. All would share in the feast and the communion.

But only the consecrated hero could enter the inmost shrine where a young woman waited with a book of revelation.

He mounted the steps to the museum door.

A few mornings before, the body of an old man had lain on these steps, his face pressing the cold stone, his heart exploded, while in the lock stood his unturned key. An imperturbable god had curved cold lips and had forbidden the old man a last cold lust of killing. For Waldo Mays, Custodian of the Raintree County Historical Museum, had meant to kill the shape of beauty. Priestlike, in the name of the dourly orthodox god of Raintree County, he had meant to make a sacrifice most pleasing to his deity.

Now there came one younger, with a golden key, a hero capable of getting golden apples.

Mr. Shawnessy straightened his poet’s tie in the mirror of the glass doorpane. His reflection exactly filled the statuary niche over the Main Entrance of the Court House across the street.

Entering a little hallway, he sniffed a faint stink of stuffed pelts. Antiquities of Raintree County filled up the four floors of the narrow building: relics of Indians and Mound Dwellers on the first floor; pioneer relics and implements of agriculture on the second; weapons and other mementoes of four American wars on the third; and an exhibit of natural history on the fourth. Metal stairs ascended in spiral from floor to floor. He stood, waiting and listening, in the place where the accumulated residue of life in Raintree County had been preserved. Relics of more than fifty years were crowded into rows of glass cases that walled the gloomy rooms. They had all achieved (these pistols, books, bundles of beribboned letters, daguerreotypes, pioneer cradles, primitive scythes, tallow lamps, candleholders, slates, spinning wheels, arrowheads, tomahawks, moccasins, stone knives, belts of wampum, firebows, cultivating sticks) the antiquarian repose.

This was the land of shades. An elder American bard, the celebrated Longfellow, had met a young aspirant at the portals and ushered him into these fuscous circles.

A sound of high heels started up and tapped smartly toward him. Peering into the brown dusk of the corridor, he saw a young woman approaching. Her hair was tawny yellow, her figure abundant, her face fair, lightly freckled, with wide blue eyes, a large but pretty mouth, and a look of radiant freshness and health.

—Mr. Shawnessy! I’m so pleased to see you again!

The impulsive gesture with which she took his hand was made with her whole body.

—Well, well, he said, you’ve grown a good deal since I saw you last, Persephone.

The remark made him more fully aware of the ample yet classic proportions of her figure, which he now saw was clothed in an attractive green dress, asserted by puffs of cloth flowers over the breasts and by a saucy bustle.

—You hardly change at all, Mr. Shawnessy.

—The light isn’t very good here, he said, smiling with lifted brows. Is it possible that it’s been twenty years!

—Yes. In 1872 I left for the East and haven’t been back until Uncle Waldo took ill a few weeks ago.

—I was sorry to hear of your uncle’s death, he recited. But it’s nice to know that the Museum is to be in such good hands. Do you mean to become our Lady Custodian?

—I really don’t know. I haven’t any plans. I’ve been a widow, you know, for two years now.

As he spoke to her of circumstances and changes, he kept wondering at the inexorable rhythms that had fulfilled themselves in her. She had been a lank stick of a girl when last he saw her; now she stood before him, a mature woman who had known vicissitudes of travel, love, marriage, death. But at this instant of reunion, she brought to him the adoring schoolgirl he had last seen, and he brought to her the youthful yet paternal teacher. And this reunion was for both of them a delightful anachronism among the other antiquities of Raintree County.

It required an act of desperate boldness for him to say,

—I know your time is precious, Persephone. What have you decided about the—the book? I’m to meet the Senator around ten o’clock in Waycross. The Senator is a man of curious tastes and has expressed a keen interest, as you know, in this volume because of its—its rarity.

—Let’s get it out, she said, and have a look at it.

Mr. Shawnessy’s heart paced nimbly after as she walked before him down the corridor, a weaving, fullflanked form, into the office of the defunct Waldo Mays.

In the glass case beside the old man’s desk, the Atlas lay on a bed of red velvet, its gilded letters brightening in the dark oakpaneled room. The young woman seemed studiedly casual as she turned a key in the back of the case and lifted the book out.

—Well, here it is, she said, opening the cover and laying the Atlas on top of the case.

The title-page contained a picture. On the wooded bank of a river, underneath a widebranching tree, a bearded gentleman sighted with a surveyor’s level at a pole held by another gentleman some distance off. Seated near-by on a rock, an artist sketched the scene of a train crossing a river trestle in the background.

Mr. Shawnessy was relieved to see no woman standing in her pelt, ankledeep in the river under the bridge. The picture was exactly like the one in his own copy. Then he felt a depression of spirit as if this one refutation of an idle rumor proved the whole story a fraud.

Lifting the heavy load of the leaves between index finger and thumb of her left hand, the young woman let them sift down slowly as she said,

—It’s a lovely book, isn’t it? I’d never seen a copy until I came back. I’ve been looking through it since I got your letter. It seems to be in good condition.

He watched the earth of Raintree County blurring past in a shower of familiar images. The eyes of the woman were speculative and distant, he thought, as she closed the Atlas. He followed her gaze through the window, which framed a portion of the Court House Tower above the Main Entrance.

Pedestaled in the deep niche thereof, blindfolded, leaning on a sheathèd sword, the Statue of Justice stood, a granite woman sternly pectoral, holding bronze scales, her stony features spattered with pigeondung.

Mr. Shawnessy blushed, bit his lip, fought an irrational desire to grin, then gasped as Mrs. Persephone Mays herself laughed in a clear, bubbling contralto.

—O dear, she said. Pardon me, I—I was just remembering our pageant on the court house lawn in ’68. You remember how my corn-costume came off just as I recited the line

So yearly doth the sturdy husbandman

Strip the dry husks from ranks of standing corn.

O dear, and just then the belt or whatever it was held it together came loose and left me standing there in my petticoat.

Mr. Shawnessy’s answering laugh was too loud. He laid his own copy of the Raintree County Historical Atlas on the glass case.

—Shall we exchange worlds?

—Why, yes, she said, handing him the coveted, mysterious book.

He took it gingerly, as if he expected a strong vibration from it, a flood of that dangerous force which primitive man detected in sacred objects.

—The Senator can let me know if he wants it, she said. I would be a little reluctant to part with it. But I’ll keep yours on display while I’m waiting.

He thought her eyes had a veiled glint as she walked past him down the corridor into the entrance hall. Baffled, he followed her, wondering what treasure he held under his arm. At the door, he took her hand and bowed.

—By the way, he said, three weeks from now I’m conducting a tour of schoolchildren to scenes of historic interest in the County. May I bring them here on the twenty-fifth?

—Of course, she said. Come often—sometime when you can stay longer. I’d love to talk to someone about the County. I’ve been away so long, and people back here are so nice.

He was certain as he stepped out of the door that she would stand a moment watching him from behind the glass pane, her hair gorgeously alive against the dusky inward of the Museum.

Cheeks burning, Atlas clutched under arm, he picked his way carefully down the steps. A man had died on these steps not many days before, reaching a stiffened claw to destroy the thing that Mr. Shawnessy now carried out into the sunlight of the Fourth.

He had saved a thing golden and strange. He hugged the living myth of Raintree County under his arm.

He made a sudden plan to carry the Atlas into the Court House where perhaps he would have leisure to examine it, but he must show no unseemly haste. He crossed the street, walked through the gate onto the court house lawn, approached the Main Entrance, feeling himself watched by thousands of accusing eyes.

Just as he reached the steps, an aging man with white closecropped hair came out of the Court House. It was Niles Foster, founder and editor of the Free Enquirer.

—Hello, John! I’m surprised to see you here.

—Hello, Niles. Had a little business to transact.

—With that big program in Waycross, I should think you’d be too busy. John, I’m counting on you to send me the story of the day there. Much as I hate to, I’ve got to stay here in Freehaven for the program. Say, if you have a minute, come on over to the Office with me, and I’ll give you a copy of the Semicentennial Edition.

Mr. Shawnessy turned and walked with Niles to the south side of the Square.

—Be sure to remember me to Garwood, Niles was saying. Say, I see the Saloon’s open early today. How about a glass of beer with me in honor of the Old Days? Or are you teetotaling?

Mr. Shawnessy eyed the swinging invitation of the batwing doors. A slow sense of joy and power came over him. He had plucked a forbidden fruit and had achieved the wisdom of a god. Bright rivers of intoxication flowed through the Court House Square. He would enjoy strong temptations, be life’s young victor.

—I don’t know, Niles. Have to be back by nine. Wife and children waiting in the surrey and——

—I recall, Niles said, gently rambling, how your pa, old T. D., was dead set against drinking. I hadn’t thought for years about the big Temperance Rally he put on in ’56 and the fire and all that until I read your story of it in the ‘History of the County.’ Say, that reminds me—they’re putting on quite a show at the New Opera House tonight. Anyway, we old-timers call it new.

He thumbsigned at theatre bills pasted on the alleyside of the Saloon.


A Great Experienced Cast



Famous Minstrel Comedians



See Those Burlesque Queens!

Fullfashioned ladies pranced across the poster on tiny toes.

—Sure you won’t have a glass of beer with me, John?

The Saloon was a brown dusk beyond curved halves of the door. Clutching a golden bough, the hero twin lunged over a forbidden threshold, through memories of innocent wickedness, intemperate dreams. Voices gaily accusing pursued him singing, O

September 6—Father,—1856

Come Out of

That Old Saloon

Original Play at Big Temperance Rally Tonight

Free Entertainment

were the words on the crude sign hanging from the wagon. Johnny Shawnessy drove onward past the exhibits at the County Fair until he reached a point opposite the Saloon on the south side of the Square. There he stopped and as the crowd walled him in stood up on the wagon seat and said:

—Ladies and Gentlemen, come to the Opera House tonight, and bring your friends. The Play is a good one. I ought to know because I wrote it.

The crowd laughed.

—Give the boy a drink, a hoarse voice yelled.

Someone threw a tomato. Johnny ducked and drove on, one street north of the Square to the Opera House, a frame building made with wooden columns in front to resemble a Greek temple.

In front stood T. D. talking with a smartly dressed young man of middle height, who was leaning against the hitching rail, cigar in mouth, thumbs hooked in vest, thin legs crossed. He had a soft dark beard, thoughtful brown eyes, a small derby hat.

—Hello, Pa. Hello, Cash, Johnny said, pulling up.

—John, the young man said, I just been telling your pa that we ought to charge admission to this here Rally. Look at this crowd. We could clean up maybe fifty dollars.

The young man’s eyes were christlike as he spoke. He unlipped his cigar and tipped the ash delicately.

—No, T. D. said. We ain’t selling reform. We’re offering it. Virtue ought not to be priced.

—Just a nominal sum, the young man said. Ten cents a ticket. People are likely to take it more serious if they have to pay for it. Besides you’d keep the undesirable element away.

—The undesirable element is what we desire, T. D. said.

—You got to have money to run your organization, the young man said.

—Cassius, you got natural money sense, T. D. said amiably. No getting around that. But I don’t want the taint of money on this purely humanitarian venture.

In those days, Cassius Carney was already known in Raintree County as a comer. Although he wasn’t much more than twenty, he had managed to get a controlling interest in the local feedstore. He had been keeping the books for the outfit when the owner died, leaving a business saddled with debt and an attractive widow, age thirty. Cash and the widow exchanged condolence of sundry kinds, and in a few weeks Cash was in the saddle and driving things with a tight rein. At the end of a year the business was his, lock, stock, and barrel.

—That there’s a longheaded boy, men said. He’ll go fer.

Johnny had met Cash in connection with the Temperance Drive, to which Cash had volunteered his services. One day Cash had said,

—John, you and I are some cuts above the other hicks. Frankly, I like you, and when I like a person I tell him so. Have a cigar?

—No, thanks, Cash, Johnny had said. I don’t smoke. My pa would croak if I took up smoking. He’s against it, you know.

—Never start it. Filthy habit, Cash had said, lighting up. I like your pa too. With all his contacts and energy, he ought to be rolling in dough. But frankly, he don’t know the first thing about money. He isn’t hardboiled enough. He can’t make collections. I took a look at his books the other day, and I said to him, T. D., what’s the use of all these fine columns of figures? You never collect half. He took a hopeful view of the thing, but he’ll never see any of that money. Still, he’s a nice old guy, and I like him. That’s why I agreed to help him out in this Temperance Drive.

Some people said Cash was really in the Drive because he wanted to see the local saloon closed so that he could start a ginstore of his own. But T. D., who was President of the Raintree County Temperance Crusaders, was convinced that Cash had come into the Drive in response to the most virtuous impulses.

—Now that young feller, Cassius Carney, T. D. said, he’s gone and joined up to the Crusaders and offered to keep our books for us and be a sort of business manager for us. A fine young feller, and I have no hesitation in saying to you that he’s got as long a head on his shoulders for business at twenty as I had when I was thirty.

But Cash’s real interest was the railroad. In 1855 a singletrack branch was run from the main line at Beardstown to Freehaven and on east. It passed just below the southernmost bend of the Shawmucky, between the river and the Danwebster Graveyard, running behind the Home Place. Cash would point to the railroad and say,

—There lies the future.

Those days, Johnny didn’t think the future lay down the railroad at all. The railroad was a lonely, manmade thing piercing bleakly through halfcleared forests. Once a day a chugging woodburner engine and a few cars went by.

—Where you going now, John? T. D. said, when Johnny had left the wagon behind the Opera House.

—Back to the Square, Johnny said. I thought I’d look the Fair over.

—If you see Nell and Garwood, T. D. said, tell ’em to be sure to get over here at seven-thirty tonight. Wouldn’t hurt us to have one more quick rehearsal of the Play.

The Square was a tented town within a town. Excepting a cleared space for the political rallies, tents were everywhere on the court house lawn, and venders had set up stands along the curbs and sidewalks. Barkers for sideshows and amusements advertised their wares. One whole side of the Square was roped off for exhibitions of livestock. Bulls bellowed, cows mooed, chickens clucked, pigs snorted from wooden enclosures in the unpaved streets. Crowds flowed by to see the biggest bulls, the gaudiest cocks, the heaviest ears of corn in Raintree County.

—Ladies and gentlemen, spare me a minute of your precious time.

It was a vaguely familiar voice booming across the tented confusion, pouring bright oils of hope on the Square.

—I trust you all perceive the object that I hold in my hand. It is only a plain, unadorned, ordinary . . .

—Fatima, barked a vibrant voice, is the biggest hunk of human flesh on the face of the globe. And yet, friends, she is as bee-ewtiful as she is big. And along with this, friends, I have inside this tent six other impossible, unbelievable freaks. You can’t afford to miss . . .

—Hucko the Strong, a man with a megaphone was shouting from the exhibition ground, is the winner of last year’s prize competition in the yearling class. Notice his unusual . . .

Pointer raised, a bespectacled man standing beneath a tree indicated areas on the Phrenological Chart.

—To each and all of you, I want to put this question. Are you all that you hoped to be in the bloom of your youth? Do you possess . . .


were the words printed on a large sign carried by a belligerent man in a stovepipe hat who was leading a snakedance of citizens through the Square. He disappeared among the tents while the trail of his followers dissolved in confusion.

—What’s this here line formin’ fer? a citizen asked.

—I don’t rightly know, a second citizen said. I hear we’re gittin’ free beer tother end of the Square.

—How’s that? said a third citizen. Ain’t this a demonstration agin Frémont?

—No, it’s fer Frémont, the first citizen said.

—Way I heard it, the second citizen persisted, we was goin’ to git . . .


appeared on a placard carried at the head of another line, which mingled with the first.

A man stood on the sidewalk beside a metal chair that dangled from the hook of a weighing apparatus. While a crowd watched, a woman sitting in the chair pulled the pointer up to a hundred and forty-five.

—Sorry, Madame, the man said. No surprise box of Bonafee’s Bon Bons for you. Next! Guess your weight! Guess your weight! If I miss by more than three pounds, you get a box of . . .

—Hello, Johnny.

Nell was standing beside him, revealed by a shifting of the crowd. She was wearing the green dress he had seen at the Danwebster Church. Her hair was pulled hard to the shape of her head and was rolled up into a huge bun that rode the back of her neck. It gave her little face a bare look and seemed to magnify the big eyes which, when he turned, gazed thoughtfully into his. Except for the caressing way in which she had said the word ‘Johnny’—a word that seemed to invite vocal caresses—she was studiedly proper, as indeed she had been all through the play rehearsals.

—Hello, Nell, he said. Say, I was looking for you.

Along the Shawmucky, the summer reeds are yellow, leaves are falling in the shallows, the waterbirds are crying. I waited by the deep pool close to the twin mounds. I was behind rushes watching all afternoon. But you didn’t come again.

—Smoke, John? Garwood Jones said.

He had been standing on the other side of Nell.

—No, thanks, Johnny said.

Garwood made a fat curl of smoke around his fat lips. His face was smooth and creamy.

—Guess your weight, the weightguessing man said.

—How do you tell? Nell asked.

—We can’t tell about the ladies, the man said. God made ’em, but Godey did ’em over. We just guess the ladies and hope we get within a hundred miles.

Nell put out her tonguetip and fluttered it between her teeth while her eyes studied the apparatus.

—Well, I’ll try, she said.

—Step right up, young lady.

The man was a brash scoundrel with a fox face. He touched Nell’s bare arm and turned her in the street.

—In Kentucky, he said, we feel the ladies. But of course, in Indiana——

The crowd laughed. Nell allowed herself to be turned. Nothing seemed to disturb the green composure of her eyes.

—Brother, said Garwood Jones, if you guess it, I’ll take it away.

—You get the better end of that deal, the weightguesser said.

Who will guess the weight of the most beautiful exhibit at the County Fair? In Kentucky, we feel the ladies. But in Indiana, we hide behind rushes and watch them in the river. Who will guess the weight of the river nymph? Add in, too, the beautyspot, on the left cheek of her saucy tail. Without that, you’ll be a little short.

—Well now, young lady—— the weightguesser said.

He ran eyes of shrewd appraisal all over her body, then back again to her face.

—Chum, I’ll bet you a cigar I can guess it closer than you will, Garwood said.

—Taken, chum, the guesser said, unless you have special advantages. Does this young man know this young lady?

—Not that well, Nell said.

—We have to allow a lot for the things we can’t see, the weightguesser said. With the women, it’s pure magic.

—I say one hundred and thirty pounds, Garwood said.

—I see, my boy, the weightguesser said, that you’re a lame hand at this sport.

The crowd laughed.

—All right, the weightguesser said, I guess this young lady’s weight to be——

He hesitated.

—Let me guess too, Johnny said impulsively.

—No fair, Nell said.

—One hundred and thirteen pounds, shouted the weightguesser, for the young woman and seven for the accessories. One hundred and twenty pounds. Now, young lady, if you’ll just park yourself in this chair and lift your dainty feet off the ground.

Nell sat down, gravely gathering her skirts about her. The pointer squeaked up and stopped at a shade over one hundred and twenty pounds.

—Ha, ha, laughed the weightguesser. Wonder what I left out? Well, do I get to keep her, boy?

The crowd applauded.

—Here’s your smoke, chum, Garwood said in his grand manner. Now don’t forget to vote for James Buchanan for President.

Nell sat swinging gently a moment under the scales, hands folded in her lap. Her eyes were enigmatic.

Had she at last confessed their naughty secret? But she looked slowly away, patting the bun of hair, and stood up.

Johnny gave the message about the rehearsal and then walked away into the crowd. He had seen the arithmetic of gravity applied to the most beautiful thing in Raintree County. For some reason it made him faint with love.

Weigh me a hundred and thirteen pounds of Raintree County earth. Weigh me the loamy, lively earth from the river valley. Weigh in the river and the color of the river and the lazy curve of the river. Weigh in desire.

Johnny slouched around on the fringes of a crowd listening to a political speaker. The man was a Republican candidate for the State Legislature, but his topic was the State of the Nation. He spoke at some length about the fighting in Kansas between the slavery faction and the free-soilers, who were being led by a man named John Brown. He said that the Republican Party was the defender of the Constitution and didn’t seek to kill slavery but only to prevent its spread. He quoted someone he referred to as the Honorable Abraham Lincoln of Illinois as having said,

—Slavery is founded on the selfishness of man’s nature—opposition to it in his love of justice. These principles are in eternal antagonism, and when brought into collision so fiercely as slavery extension brings them, shocks and throes and convulsions must ceaselessly follow.

There was a big crowd in the Opera House at eight o’clock that night when the Temperance Rally began. T. D., Cash Carney, and members of the cast peeked out from between the drawn curtains and were appalled by hundreds of faces.

—If we’d charged fifty cents admission, Cash said, we’d of been able to buy the Saloon and then burn it down.

T. D. had a hard time bringing the crowd to order. Some ladies vocalized a few temperance songs. T. D. gave a speech, but was heckled all the way through by a hoarse voice in the back of the house. When T. D. made the first call for volunteers to come up and take the Total Abstinence Pledge, a young man came down the aisle aided and encouraged by a group of companions. Watching from the wings, Johnny saw that it was Flash Perkins, the undefeated champion runner of the County.

—I wanna take pledge, Flash said in a loud, hoarse voice.

—My dear boy, T. D. said mildly, I want no one but sober men to take this pledge.

—If yuh wan’ no one but sober men, what’s use havin’ ’em take it? Flash said.

The crowd applauded. T. D. tried to explain.

—Then I wanna make testimonial, Flash said. Wanna testify that I been drunk fer two weeks. I have drank beer, wine, whiskey, and hair-ile. Friend, I’m drunk. I defy any man here to drink much as I have and walk straight. I can still outrace any man in this here County.

—Please, T. D. said, you’re disturbing the Rally. Will some friend of this young man’s please——

—I ain’ disturbin’ no rally, Flash said. Wanna make lil testimonial. Wanna tell folks how I got into thish disrespectibubble condition so’s they can avoid same mistake.

—Well, all right, T. D. said. Go ahead.

—When I small boy, Flash said, I sick of the colic. My parents took me emminunt physician in these parts, I mean respected gennulman now on stage fore y’all, Mr. T. D. Shawnessy. Medicine he give me contained brandy, folks, at least a halfpint. I drank it then, when I small and unsuspectin’ infant, and I been drinkin’ ever since.

The crowd laughed. Flash laughed too, baring his white bright teeth. He held his hard belly and laughed a high, hooting laugh that ended in an Indian whoop. Laughing with head thrown back, he walked up the aisle. No one touched him.

Cash Carney reached out, caught T. D.’s coattails, and pulled him gently through the curtain.

—Dim the lights, Cash said. Let’s have the Play. Meanwhile, I’ll go down and get those hoodlums out of here.

T. D. went back out and read the playbill to the audience.



Drink, Crime, Adultery, Poverty, Death,

and Damnation


John Wickliff Shawnessy

Belle Braydon, a beautiful spirited girlMiss Nell Gaither
William Worth, a virtuous young man from the countryMr. John Wickliff Shawnessy
Ferdie Fairweather, a villainous fellowMr. Garwood Jones
Peaches Monroe, a Girl of the TownMiss Fanny Rider
Mr. Webster Weakly, an intemperate FatherMr. Ezekiel Shawnessy
Phoebe Weakly, his hapless daughterMiss Faith Shawnessy
Barney Bilge, a bartenderMr. Jake Dryer
Habitués of the SaloonMessers Bob Parsons, Ezra Joiner, Nat Franklin, and Waldo Pierce

Male Quartette composed of: Messers Jake Dryer, Nat Franklin, Bob Parsons, and John Wickliff Shawnessy.

Original Lyrics by Mr. John Wickliff Shawnessy and sung by members of the cast and the Male Quartette.

Act I

In Barney Bilge’s Barroom


Act II

Scene One: A railroad track in a lonely part of the country

Scene Two: Back at the Barroom



Down by the Railroad Track

The hollow womb of the Opera House rumored applause as Johnny Shawnessy walked out of the dressing room and into the darkened wings, wandering vaguely toward the other side of the stage where the ladies’ dressing room was.

For weeks, he had envisioned to himself an impossibly beautiful thing. It was that some time he would be hunting behind the scenes in the Opera House, when no one else was there, and he would find his way to a forbidden room where the ladies changed their clothes, a neglected closet where costumes and greasepaints were stored. There through the halfopen door he would see Nell Gaither in among the hanging costumes, river-naked in the glow of the gaslight. Her hair, parted in the middle, would be bound up to show her ears, her face would be smouldering with a thin mask of paint and powder. Invitation would be in her eyes as she looked back at him over her shoulder allowing him to see the supple column of her back.

In fact, he now saw Nell coming out of the door of the ladies’ dressing room. She walked over to him.

—Johnny, she said, I’m so scared. Feel my hands.

He took her hands. They were cold and sweating like his own.

—If I remember my first line, I’ll be all right.

—Think how I feel, Johnny said. I wrote this darn play. I wish now I never had.

—It’s a wonderful play, honest! How do you like my costume, Johnny?

—Very becoming, he said.

—Is my make-up on straight?

She held her face up, tilted toward a weak illumination shed through joints in the scenery. Her face, pertly composed with paint and powder, filled him with despair. It was not the face of the loving one, shy, with averted eyes.

—You look beautiful, Nell, he said, but laughed a little to show he didn’t mean anything by it.

Garwood Jones was stomping around through the angles that held up the scenery. He wore a big black mustache with oiled points and a black derby. T. D. was calling from the front. The crowd was applauding. Johnny ran to the left wing. The curtains rolled back. The Play was on.

The scene was the interior of a Saloon, where habitués leaned against the bar, among them an old man who laughed drunkenly and rolled his head on the counter:

william worth

entering, addressing the old man,

—You seem happy, sir. But consider that there are doubtless those who are rendered desperately unhappy by your behavior.


—Ah, yes, alas! Poor little Phoebe! But then I’ll not think of that now. Give us another glass, bartender. Fill it up, and let’s forget our troubles, boys. Laugh with me, boys, laugh!


moving to front of stage with piano accompaniment and singing,

—Laugh if you will, and drink your fill

  Of the cup that is crowned with foam.

But the day will come when the demon rum

  Will lay you in the loam.


Some day a girl with a little curl

  Who once to you was dear

Will point to that den of degraded men

  And say, as she drops a tear:

From the wings entering came Phoebe, thin, forlorn, her corncolored hair down and trailing.


singing in a high sweet voice,

—O Father, come out of that old Saloon.

    They say you are full of gin.

  They say you’ve been drinking there since noon,

    And are sunk in the sink of sin.

  O Father, hearken, dear Father, ’tis I,

    And my heart will be breaking soon,

  Unless you list to my plaintive cry:—

    Come out of that old Saloon!

From this classic opening in the best and purest tradition of the American Temperance Drama, Johnny Shawnessy’s play proceeded according to a well-defined formula. So in the Raintree County Opera House, in a box of quaint and timeless postures called a stage, the Honest Country Boy made his visit to the Wicked City to find his beloved engaged in a Menial Capacity. In the name of the Cold Water Army, he refused the Proffered Glass. The Little Goldenhaired Girl came seeking her Drunken Father, and the Male Quartette assisted her in captivating waltztime. The Bigamous and Glittering Villain proposed marriage to the Virtuous but Misguided Heroine, who was estranged from her True Love by an Unfortunate Misunderstanding. Down by the Railroad Tracks, the Hissing Villain dragged the Unwilling Heroine into the path of the Approaching Train to Force her Virtue. Meanwhile, the Inept but Upright Hero was tempted by a Girl of the Town to Drown his Sorrows in the Lethean Wine. Warned by the sound of the train whistle, he appeared in time to Foil the Villain, who even with a pistol was no match for the Intrepid Strength of Indignant Virtue. The cardboard train ran swiftly across the scene, missed the Shrieking Heroine, and mangled the Prostrate Villain. And back in the barroom, the Play achieved the classic ending:


to assembled cast, minus Ferdie,

—And I attribute whatever success I have had to my inflexible resolution never to touch a drop of intoxicating beverage.

Father and others promised to reform, and the two lovers discovered that their correspondence had been intercepted by the bartender.


—I destroyed all those letters before the young lady had a chance to read them. I am heartily sorry for my nefarious conduct, and in retribution I am going to turn my saloon into a respectable eating house.


taking Belle’s hand and singing,

—I came to the City, a vagrant day,

    In the bloom of my blithesome youth,

  And I sought in the City great and gray

    The beautiful bird of Truth.

  I sought her along the wide, wide streets,

    The glimmering parks and lawns,

  Through all of the City’s dim retreats

    And under its lonely dawns.


entire cast,

—O beautiful, beautiful singing bird

    That I sought in my happy youth.

  O marvellous song that touched and stirred

    My heart with the love of Truth.


second verse,

—And many a year I spent at last

    In the City’s swallowing void,

  Till it seemed that my youthful dream were past

    And its delicate form destroyed.

  Then I decided no more to roam,

    And I turned me with a will

  Back to the hills of my native home

    Where the bird was singing still.



coming forward, after second chorus,

—A toast to the lovers!


—But, Father, you promised!


with a subtle smile,

—A toast to the lovers in that most beneficial of all beverages, that most excellent of elixirs, that plenteous and replenishing draft, that transparent restorer of our strength, which God has lavished upon mankind in such copious quantities. Bartender, bring me a glass of water!

Now while the Play lived its brief existence before the footlights, life had pressed darkly around it from behind the scenes. Between the first two acts, while the scenery was being shifted, unknown to the audience who watched the Play, the Playwright and Principal Actor had climbed a winding metal stair hung like a ladder from the loft of the stage. From the crow’s nest at the top, in a tangle of old curtains and cables, though well hidden himself, the Playwright had looked down on the whole cluttered world behind the scenes, musing, while puppet-like the figures of the stage crew and the cast moved on grotesquely shortened bodies below.

From his perch he had seen Nell Gaither emerge from the ladies’ dressing room in a far corner of the backstage area. The steep angle of his vision had emphasized the feminine bulge of hip and bustle line. Her shoulders and waist had swayed slenderly as she hesitated a moment by the door and then walked slowly toward an obscure corner of the stage, where she appeared to be alone, standing in silhouette against an unused sceneshift of woodland and river scenery. But she had hardly come there when as if by appointment a figure, whose bulky shoulders were hugely enhanced by the downward angle of vision had moved confidently out of a near-by maze of partitions and found its way into the same corner. There the first figure had melted passively into it. The Playwright had heard a stifled giggle and a mellow bass chuckle.

There had been no doubt about it. Garwood Jones was kissing Nell Gaither in that obscure corner of the Opera House, as no doubt he had done many times before during rehearsals. And even at that distance, the Playwright could tell that Garwood’s hands were not unfamiliar with the place where a slender back began its downward curve into Raintree County’s most beautiful twin mounds.

In greasepaint, bowtie, and straw skimmer, simulating the honest boy from the country, Johnny Shawnessy had clung unhappily to his lofty perch and watched the villain of the Play kiss the willing heroine. So life, an intemperate comedy, had giggled and guffawed at his genteel little temperance farce.

He had felt all along that he had miscast the parts. He had early begun to envy Garwood the role of villain. It was much the more exciting role—or perhaps Garwood himself made it that way with his authoritative baritone and his big sleek body, which was now masterfully pushing and throbbing against the little Venus with a Raintree County face.

And at that moment Johnny Shawnessy’s love had reached such a furious peak of unfulfillment that he had felt like shutting his eyes and hurling himself down from his high mast upon the little backstage world to shatter it to bits.

Instead, he had watched until Garwood and Nell separated, then carefully shinnied back to the floor to await the opening of the Second Act.

Now that the Play was over, the curtain opened again to reveal the entire cast singing ‘O Father, Come Out of That Old Saloon.’ T. D. was out before the crowd exhorting them to come forward and take the Total Abstinence Pledge. The gasyellowed walls of the Opera House rang with young joyous voices. In greasepaint and green gown, Nell Gaither swayed in time to the music between Johnny Shawnessy and Garwood Jones, who were holding each a hand. And for this rhythmical moment, it seemed to Johnny that the anguish of his frustrate love became an ecstasy, as of possession.

—O Father, hearken, dear Father, ’tis I,

    And my heart will be breaking soon,

  Unless you list to my plaintive cry:—

—Fire! Fire! yelled a red-faced man who had been standing on the stage like an actor, waving his arms and trying to make himself heard above the song.

This too was a dream of something implausible like the Play, and a dream too was the deadheavy hush that fell on the Opera House, and like a dream the lazy drift of smoke from the wings, and like a dream the crackling sheet of flame.

As fire roared from the vague world of the wings, the pit of the Opera House became a whirlpool of faces and frenzied arms. Johnny, Nell, Garwood, and the other performers ran wildly about looking for water. There was nothing but some jugs of colored water that had been used to simulate liquor in the Play. Johnny threw it at the flames, but the next moment he was driven clear off the stage. As he and the other performers climbed out through a rear window, he heard gas explode, wood smash, glass splinter, women scream.

And then there was running to and fro, the sound of firebells ringing, the sight of the firemen coming down the street pulling their new wagon and unrolling hose. The last few people came out of the darkened, roaring womb of the Opera House with singed hair, torn clothes, bleeding faces.

Apparently no one had been seriously hurt, but there was nothing anyone could do about the Opera House except to watch it burn. The whole County seemed to be there in a vast circle filling up streets and yards for blocks back, cheering the newly organized fire department. Everyone looked happy and excited. Men performed prodigies of valor and strength. Flash Perkins, who an hour before had been almost too drunk to stand, risked his life over and over. Everyone was vastly pleased with the new firewagon. It added a great deal to the interest and excitement of the occasion.

Johnny stood close to Nell and several other members of the cast, all talking excitedly.

—Ain’t the new firewagon a beauty! someone said.

—It’s wonderful, Nell said.

—No building in Raintree County ever burned down so efficiently, Johnny said.

The Opera House was a big broad torch roaring straight-up and casting light down the roads for miles.

—It’s like a pillar of fire by night, T. D. said.

Johnny felt that he must devour this spectacle and possess it all, the dense firelit faces of the crowd, the gay terror of the springing fire, the glistening helmets of the firemen, the shining perfection of the new firewagon. The Play itself had been leading to this great torch of flame in which the yellow interiors of the Opera House were consumed forever.

It was late at night before the Opera House collapsed in ash and smoking timbers. People began to go home, agreeing that the fire was by far the most successful exhibit at the County Fair.

—It was a wonderful play, Johnny, Nell said. I enjoyed being in it.

She was leaning out of Garwood’s buggy. Her face had rivulets of sweat through the greasepaint, her hair hung wispily around her cheeks, her eyes had stains of darkness under them, and her fruity mouth above her small pointed chin looked particularly luscious.

—Let’s go, my proud beauty, Garwood said.

He shook the reins and took her away.

T. D. came up with a small shabby man.

—I want you all to meet Mr. Gruber, T. D. said. He came around after the fire and took the Temperance Pledge. He’s the only one that did.

They all looked at Mr. Gruber. He was little, and he had a red nose and watery eyes. He took off his hat and shook hands with Ellen Shawnessy.

—Well, T. D. said, it’s a start.

As they were driving home, T. D. said,

—People are more interested now in politics than anything else. And of course the fire broke up the whole shebang just when it was about to do the most good.

In the back seat the young people were singing songs from the Play.

—I went to the City, a vagrant day,

    In the bloom of my blithesome youth. . . .

Johnny heard the whistle of a train coming along the branch line behind the Home Place and past the south bend of the Shawmucky. He thought of the river running in the night, treebordered, faintly shining; of the alien engine passing close to its waters, screaming alarm, emergency, disaster; of Nell Gaither’s pretty calves beneath her dress; of her candid face upturned and smeared with greasepaint. And of Garwood Jones, that enormously competent young man, so vigorous in obtaining his objectives, crowding his face against her face.

Then there came to him a terrible image in which Garwood Jones achieved the very conquest that Johnny Shawnessy had dreamed a hundred times for himself. Strangely, this vision was not entirely unpleasant to him—he had some fierce joy in it, or else why did he repeat it obsessively?

And now it seemed to him that he must never love or pursue Nell Gaither again, for she was certainly another’s and laughed at him and cared nothing for him and never could understand his great soul.

And in that thought his love achieved its hopeless climax of desire.

This desire had acquired new backdrops for its tireless make-believe. In the interiors of an extinct Opera House, the ghost of his play lingered, aspiring to be something high, tragic, and meaningful, the Great American Drama, more wondrous than the plays of Shakespeare. It hovered wistfully, all entangled with something confused, remorseless, yet beautiful, the Comedy of Life. Unpencilled and unvocalized, scenes of this greater Play crowded against halfopening curtains of Time. Some day he would write this play, the image of his great desire.

His day would come.

For him, deepfleshed thighs waited in the night under velvet costumes, up stairs that the sceneshifters mount. For him (the intemperate young man), the City great and gray. For him, kisses like alcohol, green inundations of desire.

His desire was of the river, but it was also of the train and its quavering whistle in the night and of the City to which the train was speeding. Desire hunting through the rooms of an old opera house had found its way into a bigger opera house and behind the scenes of an immense stage where the firstnight audience was a lake of murmuring faces. And here Mr. John Wickliff Shawnessy, the greatest playwright of the age, sought a green-eyed girl up the most winding stairs and into the most neglected room, where no one else ever came. Desire was of the river, but the weedy Shawmucky flowed from Raintree County to a joining with greater rivers gemmed with cities in the night! And if not now, then some day, the river nymph would yield herself to a more sophisticated Johnny. He would find on a certain deep, mysterious mound a little hieroglyph, the birthmark of the river. Then, he too would be erring, he too would drink a drink that maddened, a beverage of kisses and of fame, and it would be running in his veins like this fever of the river that he couldn’t lose, and it wouldn’t be at all like the effect of that purest and most excellent of all beverages,

that transparent restorer of our

strength, Bartender, bring


—A glass of water, Niles, if you don’t mind. I’ll just step into the office with you and get the paper.

They stepped through the door of the newspaper office, and Niles went to a stack of fresh papers.

—Here you are, he said. I’ve had a lot of fun putting it together. It stirs up old memories. By the way, thanks for your ‘History of the County.’ No one else knows it so well.

Mr. Shawnessy took the fat memorial newspaper and turned the pages.

—If I could have four or five extra copies, Niles, I’d like to give them to friends at Waycross. The Senator will want a copy. Cash Carney is going to stop off for a little while on his way to Pittsburgh. I’d like to have a copy for him.

—Help yourself, John. Be sure to give one to General Jackson too. I understand he’s going to lead a march of G.A.R. veterans to point up the pension issue.

—Garwood thought of everything.

—Are we ever going to stop fighting that damn war? Niles said from a back room.

He returned with the water.

—I’ve given nearly the whole front page, he said, to the big doings in Waycross. Did you ever stop to think, John, how many great men Raintree County has given to the Nation? Here’s Garwood Jones, a distinguished U.S. Senator for eighteen years and favorably mentioned for the Presidency in the next election, and here’s Cassius Carney, a big railroad magnate, one of the richest men in the country, and of course General Jackson, an outstanding hero of the War—all three of them returning to the County today for this big celebration. I don’t suppose anything like it ever happened before. And to think that you and I knew all those people in the Old Days!

Niles looked out of the front window at the Court House, through the reversed letters of the paper’s name.

—How the face of the County has changed since I founded the Free Enquirer fifty years ago! Just take, for example, those illustrations accompanying your article—the Old Court House, the Old Methodist Church, the Old Opera House, and the Academy. All gone now.

—I thought the Academy Building was still up.

—Only half of it. Up to two years ago it was a cheap hotel. Then the railroad decided to extend the yards into that lot. They ripped off the front half of the old building and put a platform on. I think they’re using it for storing grain and coal now.

Mr. Shawnessy had found the picture on page eighteen over the words:


—Say what you will, John—those were the Good Old Days! I still remember as clear as anything how we brought higher education to Raintree County.

Standing in the office of the Free Enquirer, sniffing the odor of damp newsprint, Mr. Shawnessy ran his eye over the manycolumned ‘History of Raintree County,’ a mist of fine words flowing around the stiff engravings of buildings old and new and scenic views. He remembered then the old Academy Building, a place of young voices and tattered books. He remembered chalked words, light in the little lecture hall, changing with the changing seasons of the County. And he seemed to remember also the frustrate dream of a young republic, an academic dream of pillars and perfection, which had thrust itself to flower in the dark chaos of time and had left a white remembrance on the lips of men. There came to him a noise of waters beating on leaguelong beaches. Undraped forms rose from a shrine in Raintree County, as from a womb of fair and fecund issue.

A forgotten youth sprang toward the forms of that adolescent republic, with a copy of Ovid’s Metamorphoses in his hand.

He remembered reeds made vocal by the passion and pursuit of nymph and god down by the riverside.

And he remembered especially a winged visitor from the direction of the sun, who had alighted walking on the fields of that republic, teaching a forbidden music on his unusual lyre.

Mr. Shawnessy folded the papers and piled them on the face of the Raintree County Historical Atlas.

They were all gone, slain by a smoky dragon, driven from their groves beside the river. The beautiful young gods had abandoned Raintree County. He remembered


a quaint visitor

arrived in the garden of Raintree County

bringing much learning from the East. In September of 1857 the following article appeared in the Free Enquirer:


Raintree County is to have an institution of higher learning. This temple of Minerva, which at the request of its financial sponsors will bear the dignified and not unsonorous appellation of Pedee Academy, is to be instituted in the large brick building formerly known as the Taylor Boarding House. The new college is to be conducted upon the most progressive modern principles. Female as well as male students are desiderated. Courses in Latin, English Rhetoric, Philosophy, Natural History, Mathematics, and Ancient and Modern History will be offered with a diploma after two years of study. Also classes will be conducted in which adults may learn to read and write.

The principal of the new college, Professor Jerusalem Webster Stiles, has studied in the best schools of the East, including Harvard, and has spent some years abroad. A native of the County, he was born on the very day, January 28, 1830, on which Webster delivered the classic reply to Hayne. Hence the name bestowed upon him by his pious and patriotic parents. Professor Stiles is conversant with several languages and is a man of great personal amiability.

Republican Institutions cannot be maintained without universal enlightenment. Let all the intellect and enterprise in Raintree County flock to the new Academy and demonstrate to the world that we have as much gray matter under our hats as the next fellow.

Johnny Shawnessy was among the dozen Raintree County citizens who answered this challenge. During the year that had passed since the Temperance Play, he had been teaching at a school—his first—at Summit in the north-central part of the County. He had lost sight of Nell Gaither, but heard that she had returned to live in the East. It seemed unlikely that he would see her again in Raintree County. Meanwhile, he had gone on writing for the Enquirer, reading all the books he could get his hands on, versifying, and in general preparing to be a Great Man. As winter passed and spring and summer came again, he was annoyed at times by an inability to call up a precise image of Nell’s face. For diversion he attended the usual taffy pulls, square dances, husking bees, barbecues, and ice-cream socials by means of which the County placed its young people in legitimate proximity. Johnny was popular on these occasions and began to lose a little of his shyness. In fact, he kissed and was kissed by several Raintree County girls, who showed great interest and proficiency in the sport. All of them talked a good deal in his presence about friends of theirs who had been recently married.

On the day of his enrollment in the new college, Johnny walked to the Academy building, two blocks south of the Square, finding a comfortable two-story brick house set in the middle of a wide lawn shaded by elms. He walked up onto the verandah and through the front door into a hall where several prospective students were waiting to see the new professor. Among the young men, Johnny recognized Garwood Jones and Cassius Carney.

—Well, look who’s here, boys! Garwood said. High time someone connected with the Enquirer learned to read and write.

Just then a door opened, and from a side room where Professor Stiles was interviewing candidates a young woman appeared.

—Hello, Johnny.

The word was softly uttered and highly personal.

Instantly, as if it had only slept to increase its strength, an old passion came alive. The young woman who looked demurely up at him had not changed from his earlier memory of her.

—Hello, Nell, he said. Are you enrolling in the College?

—Yes, I am, Johnny.

—It’s awfully nice seeing you again, Nell.

—It’s nice seeing you again too, Johnny.

They were shaking hands and smiling in the best Raintree County tradition.

—Next! Come in, my boy! said a pleasant, high-pitched voice.

Blushing from this reunion with desire, Johnny Shawnessy walked through the door to his first meeting with Professor Jerusalem Webster Stiles.

The man who stood in the little office room of the Pedee Academy made Johnny Shawnessy think of a huge, vivid insect that had flown from unknown parts and lit walking in Raintree County. Surely there was nothing else in the County like him. He was tall and thin. Black hair, split exactly in the middle, was slicked flat to a long, narrow head. The nose suggested a cutting instrument. Small piercing black eyes, not quite in focus, peered through pince-nez glasses. From that moment on, Johnny always had an uneasy presentiment that Professor Stiles was not there to stay. Sometime, in the very middle of a sentence, abruptly remembering whence and why he had come, he would rise to the points of his toes, his black coat-tails would erect themselves into shining wings, and his angular brittle body would shoot off the ground and go whirring down the air to some other temporary lodgment on the American earth.

Just now he was holding out a cigar to Johnny.

—Sit down, my boy. Smoke?

—No, thanks, Johnny said. I don’t smoke.

—Filthy habit. Never start it. Ah, to be innocent once again, my boy, as you are now, before women, tobacco, and bad whiskey ruined me!

The man behind the desk showed his even white teeth and shook soundlessly as if his body were being subjected to a series of galvanic shocks.

Johnny was quite certain then that he had never in his life seen anything or anybody remotely like the new teacher, and he had no reason to change that opinion in the weeks and months that followed as he became better acquainted with Professor Jerusalem Webster Stiles.

From the beginning Raintree County called him ‘the Perfessor.’ Johnny Shawnessy, some cuts above the other hicks, as Cassius Carney had said, was careful always to preserve the first syllable pure, but the rest of the County said it perversely wrong; and even to Johnny this quaint distortion had an ideal fitness. For it was the same title that had been applied from time immemorial in the County to all the glib, fraudulent creatures who appeared at carnivals and festive anniversaries to sell hair tonic, quick success, and brand-new sexual potency to the common folk. Each of these egregious fakirs was known to his assistants and to the unschooled yokels as the Perfessor. It was a title of respect for an itinerant wizard who robbed the people by sheer power of language. Johnny had seen it happen a hundred times and never failed to enjoy the magnificently comic spectacle of a victory won by cunning from human hope and greed. So, too, Professor Jerusalem Webster Stiles, most glittering and gifted of all the Perfessors who ever came to Raintree County, understood the aspirations and appetites of mankind. Quack and genius combined, he perpetrated on the citizens of Raintree County a continual farce, whipping and stinging them with the scorn of his incomparably superior intellect, yet in a manner so subtly ironic that they never perceived how entirely they were bilked. As for his Raintree County title, the Perfessor accepted it, as he accepted all things, with tolerant cynicism. In a way he belonged to Raintree County himself, and if he ever had a home, it was there.

For the Perfessor had been born in Raintree County, had left it during his childhood, and had not returned until the opening of the Academy. He still talked the County’s tongue, though in some ways his speech had been slightly altered as if through contact with an older, more sophisticated culture. Often the words he used seemed not wholly spontaneous but as if recollected and put quaintly together from the pages of innumerable books. Exceptional was the Perfessor’s memory for quotations, which he would toss out in the course of lecture or conversation, with skipping irrelevance and a shy smile from his unfocused eyes. Johnny was not always sure whether the Perfessor was quoting or extemporizing. Once after he and the Perfessor had become well acquainted, Johnny asked him about it, and the Perfessor admitted that he wasn’t always sure himself.

—What is all speech, John, but a quotation? When we are not quoting from books, we are quoting from Nature.

Perhaps because of his youth—he was only twenty-seven—the Perfessor placed his students on a basis of entire equality with himself. The boys used to go up to his quarters on the second floor of the Academy and sit around talking literature, philosophy, and politics while the Perfessor presided like a scurrilous and skeptic Greek, sometimes dispensing corn liquor and always cigars. Everyone smoked and drank but Johnny.

The Perfessor imported a great many shocking ideas into Raintree County. In sex, religion, politics, and literature he was a radical departure from everything the County taught. In the classroom, he curbed himself, but in private talk he gave out heretical doctrine. Exchanging his classroom pointer for a cane, he would swing down a country road with one of his disciples—more often Johnny Shawnessy than not—quoting from the incredible grab-bag of his memory, skipping from theme to theme, casting off words and ideas that fell on the County’s fertile soil like seeds of exotic, fastgrowing flowers. His private talk was a mixture of the learned and the colloquial. When he was in vein, his speech was a ceaselessly bright torrent of ideas and witticisms. At first Johnny listened as if charmed. Later he found that he himself became more eloquent than usual in conversation with the Perfessor. It was a little like reading Shakespeare and then becoming one himself. For the Perfessor included among his gifts the power to follow the will-o’-the-wisp of ideas without rancor or arrogance wherever the chase might lead. It seemed to Johnny that in the Perfessor he had discovered an alter ego. His teacher’s words often came to him like queer half-recollections of something he himself might have been or thought a long time ago. The Perfessor, for his part, regarded Johnny as a special being.

—John, he said once, you don’t know how gifted you are. All ideas seem to exist in you already and to await only touching into life. You understand by hints, where someone else must read whole books and live a lifetime. Yours is the poet’s mind—but not your little simpering metrist and maker of sweet parlor verse. No, you make me think of the young Plato, eager for ideas. Or Homer, hearkening to legends. Or the genial young Elizabethan himself, steeped in life. But Raintree County has added something American—a touch of innocence that is like the earth, the sunshine, and the river. Never lose, my boy, this eagerness for life and this primitive innocence. As, alas! I did long ago! Perhaps I should never have left the County.

And the Perfessor’s eyes acquired a look of fake sadness.

Most of the time his words were curling and crackling around ideas that shocked even such enlightened beings as Garwood Jones, Cash Carney, and Johnny Shawnessy.

—The Christian Religion, the Perfessor remarked once, is the product of a dreadful mistake. Somehow the mind of humanity got obsessed with the bloody Hebrew legends and has been lugging around ever since the burden of this vindictive old man called God, who is equally repulsive in his rages and in his self-glorifying love! Pass the cigars, John.

Slightly stunned, Johnny would pass the cigars.

—Perfessor, Garwood said, if one word of that got out to the wrong parties in the County, you’d go out of town on a rail. In fact, I wouldn’t mind daubing on the tar myself.

They all argued with the Perfessor about these matters. Garwood, in particular, appealed to a strict construction of the Bible, as he did of the Constitution in the political debates held at the Academy.

—As for the Bible, said the Perfessor, it’s just a lot of old Jewish myths and archives, some of it pretty dull stuff. If we have to believe in myths, what’s wrong with selecting something beautiful. I would rather contemplate Venus’ cute behind than old Moses’ withered puss. Not that the Hebrews didn’t toss off some wonderful poetry now and then. They were wise, those old beards, and they knew the wine and the roses of life, as well as the ashes. Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love. By the way, did you ever know any Jewish women, Garwood?

—Not since the six I had last New Year’s Eve, said Garwood, always a fast man with a comeback.

—Well, did I ever tell you, the Perfessor went on, about the time I outflanked a Jewess in Vienna. She was the original Assyrian harlot—though of quite good family, understand—a vast, dark beauty who mauled your fragile mentor all of a winter’s night. Ah, those great Babylonian thighs! Jesus and Jacob, what a woman! John, pass the cigars.

Stunned, Johnny would pass the cigars, and the Perfessor would lean his thin, virile body back in the chair and smoke reflectively.

From the Perfessor, Johnny got his first acquaintance with the teachings of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Fresh from New England, the Perfessor was steeped in Transcendentalism and full of definitions peculiarly his own.

—Study Emerson, lads, he would say, our foremost American. Sometimes I think he’s just an ancient Greek with a bad memory. His philosophy, you know, is anti-Christian. It restores Beauty to Nature and Man. The tree resumes the fatal apple. It is the pre-fall Paradise, boys—America another Eden. Of course, as a person, Waldo lacks warmth and flesh. He’s an old woman with a bisected skirt. He may have something lively in his jeans, but I doubt if he ever transcendentalizes it. Still, I consider him by all odds the Greatest Living American. John, dispense some more of the vile weed.

On every subject where Raintree County had a fixed opinion, Professor Stiles could be counted on to express the exact opposite. During the early part of 1859, he came very near getting himself into trouble by his reaction to the celebrated Sickles Murder Case. The principals in the case, as it broke in the newspapers, were the Hon. Daniel Sickles, the Late P. Barton Key, and the Beautiful Young Mrs. Sickles, all prominent in Washington Society. The Hon. Daniel Sickles shot the then not quite Late P. Barton Key for illicit relations with the Beautiful Young Mrs. Sickles. The case made a deep impression on Raintree County, as on the whole nation. For months under the cloak of outraged morality, the County had an excuse for discussing love-making, murder, secret appointments, guilty passion, and other forbidden topics. The judgment of Raintree County was expressed accurately by an editorial in Harper’s Weekly:

There can be no excuse for the adulterer. He commits a three-fold crime: a crime against the woman whom he misleads, a crime against the man whom he dishonors, a crime against society which he disorganizes. Each of the three calls for condign punishment. In these latter days experience proves that in all such cases society will justify the infliction of the last penalty by the husband.

Professor Stiles openly flaunted public opinion in the case. Privately, among the young blades of the Academy, he was overheard to say:

—When did two lovers ever really hurt anyone? Because a woman tires of her gamecock of a husband (who, by the way, was fluting around all he could on the side) and lets another man have the enjoyment of her body, shall the husband have a right to kill? That’s lynch law. Besides, Nature puts no premium on chastity. My God, where would the human race be if it weren’t for the bastards? Pass the perfectos, John.

Completely stunned, Johnny passed the cigars.

When all the preachers in the community, with the exception of T. D., condoned the murder from the pulpit, the Perfessor remarked that he never saw a clergyman yet who would practice more than one commandment at a time.

It was the Perfessor who taught Johnny Greek and Latin. Here again were secret words, these the oldest Johnny had yet seen, older than the Indian names, older than the word ‘Shawmucky.’ On the banks of an Indian river, Johnny studied the plastic rhythm of Homer, the togaed majesty of Virgil. What gave these languages their sculpturesque beauty, like words encircling stone columns? They had ceased to be the living speech of men and had acquired the tranquil beauty of ideas. And yet they had once been exclamations of young republics, rhythmical speech of men who loved the earth, the waters, and the sun and peopled their surfsurrounded lands with gods.

Here too in Raintree County was a young republic; here too were shining waters and much sunshine. Here too was a young worshipper of the earth and its inexhaustible life. And it was one of Raintree County’s most meaningful conundrums that the tongue spoken there contained manifold reminders of the speech of those extinct republics.

Would this America also produce an epic speech, the language of humane poets, philosophers, and statesmen? Would they include in their number the mystical name of John Wickliff Shawnessy, child of the riverpenetrated earth of Raintree County? And then would the visible world of Raintree County, its boundaries and belongings, crumble into nothingness at last, leaving a legend and a name?

Under the tutelage of Professor Jerusalem Webster Stiles, Johnny Shawnessy discovered classic columns beside the Shawmucky River and a memory of pagan peoples who worshiped the undraped human form beside the inland ocean, that fecund womb of ideas, before man had put on the garments of Hebraic morality.

All this the Perfessor accomplished by his words. For he had brought more words to Raintree County than had been there before. Those days, the secret of all things still seemed to Johnny to reside in words. No tongue could pronounce the living language of the ancient Greeks and Romans, but the words remained, visual, plastic, like graven coins. The Perfessor himself was a man of words. Ideas seemed often less important to him than the words in which he framed them. He had thousands—and perhaps hundreds of thousands of words. And Johnny believed that if he himself possessed all words, he would possess all things. Then he would be expressive like a god, more expressive even than that parochial deity, Professor Jerusalem Webster Stiles.

As time went on, Johnny learned that in the Perfessor’s museum of quaint words there lurked a faunlike, baffled creature. This creature was perhaps the real man, a nameless deeper self, who gave blood and being to the words. It gave a flirt of its tail in wild, witty vulgarities. It showed sometimes its yearning, halfsorrowful face under the Perfessor’s pince-nez glasses. It was tender and wistful. It was made distraught by beauty. It was neither good nor evil but was pure feeling and wished to be pure expression.

For curiously, Johnny felt from the beginning—and never quite lost the feeling—that the Perfessor, Raintree County’s most unexpurgated talker, wasn’t really a wicked person. His excesses of speech and idea had their own vigorous rationale. His gods were simply not the gods of Raintree County. And with all his faults, in all the time Johnny knew him the Perfessor remained a strangely gentle, humane person who never deliberately hurt anyone’s feelings and was never vain, hypocritical, petty, or malicious.

During the summer of 1858 Johnny and the Perfessor often went together to the bank of the Shawmucky where they swam, talked, and versified. And because they were close to the river, where life was undisguised, they had few secrets from each other. To the Perfessor, Johnny described the vision he had seen in the Shawmucky and the desire that it awakened. The Perfessor laughed tolerantly.

—My dear boy, he said, you’re an incurable idealist. A little country girl with nice breasts and a cute bottom takes a dip in the river on a hot day, and you act as if it’s Venus reborn from the foam of the inland ocean.

But later the Perfessor told of a forbidden fruit that he too had seen temptingly displayed in the garden of Raintree County.

Lydia Gray, one of the students at the Pedee Academy, was the wife of the Reverend Ezra Gray, who had come to Raintree County from another state not long before. No one ever knew how this chilly January had got such a blithesome May, for the Reverend Gray was at least fifty and had withered lips and eyes like balls of blue flint, while his wife was young, artless, blonde, and endowed with a conspicuously lush figure.

In the Academy, Mrs. Gray was touchingly eager for knowledge. She adored the Perfessor, as did all women without exception. The Perfessor always addressed her formally as the Reverend Mrs. Gray (although the students called her simply Lydia), and adopted in her presence a sanctimonious air shot with flashes of ribald humor, all lost upon her.

—She’s just a bucolic girl, pure and impulsive, the Perfessor said lightly during one of the boarding-house symposiums. Fate loves a paradox and so hitched her to that old frock, her husband, who can’t even beget offspring in that fruitful garden of all delight. Have you noticed her bust, boys?

—I’ve been too busy parsing my Latin, Garwood said, always a fast man with a comeback.

—Plump twins of love, the Perfessor said. Really very nice—and I speak as a connoisseur.

After a while, the Perfessor no longer made fun of Mrs. Gray. He said nothing about her at all.

Then one day on the bank of the Shawmucky, when Johnny was translating from the Aeneid, the Perfessor, who had been lying in the sun with nothing on but his pince-nez glasses, suddenly sat up and spoke an irrelevant word.

—Ach! John! Think of her ripe body in bed with that ugly priest.

—Uh—what’s that, Professor?

—When she sits there in the front row with those two softnosed fawns trembling under her blouse and her big blue eyes watching me, I melt, boy, like wax in a flame. I lose voice and utterance. I become inarticulate.

—O, Johnny said.

The Perfessor laughed a brief and bitter laugh and adjusted his pince-nez.

—Go on with your Latin, John.

That was the last thing he said to Johnny on the subject for a long time.

Thus for two years Johnny Shawnessy sought the answer to life’s riddle in a little shrine of bookish words presided over by the wistfully pagan spirit of Professor Jerusalem Webster Stiles. He had discovered a new place and a new person in Raintree County and at the same time had renewed an old craving. The whole conundrum of the County was now embodied in the person of Nell Gaither.

For Nell was nothing if not Raintree County. It had made her what she was, given her grace, demureness, tenderness, quick sympathies, strong enthusiasms, purity, endeavor, moral delicacy, religious fervor. Yet she was so habitual and easy in the ways of the County that she could doff the whole costume like a dress and return into her passively seductive attitude of Venus in the river. The more demure and sentimental she seemed, the more, by paradox, did she become to him a woman made for erotic and maternal uses, a strange meeting of the eternal feminine river with the illusory rectangle of Raintree County.

To him she was the unconquered paradise called Woman. He had glimpsed only the white gates of it in the river. He had discovered a strange thing—that nakedness is the most mysterious clothing in the world. When Nell Gaither doffed her dress, she put on a garment that concealed, while half suggesting, the secret of life itself.

What gave his whole dream of her a touch of mortal pathos was Johnny’s knowledge that the ideal she embodied was subject like all things human to plunder and ruin in the random collisions of life. Johnny was Raintree County’s one true aesthete and somehow managed to erect all things beautiful and ugly into an ideal existence. But the rest of the County went on living the old remorseless comedy, and the knife that had been driven into Johnny’s heart behind the scenes of the Opera House was cruelly twisted from time to time.

Once during the harvest season of ’58, Johnny had gone for a swim in the Shawmucky with some farmhands who along with him had been helping get in wheat on the Gaither farm. The boys were usual rural types, goodhumored, unlettered, lusty. When they had finished washing the seed and sweat off, they stretched out naked on the bank, smoking cigars and chewing tobacco, and the talk turned on girls. Someone mentioned Nell’s name. One of the boys was in the act of lighting his cigar.

—D’yuh—puff, puff—spose ole Garwood Jones has—puff, puff—been in there?

The words had the callous brutality with which boys in Raintree County often spoke of girls with whom they weren’t very well acquainted.

—Reckon he would if he could, another boy said. If he ain’t too busy stayin’ on top a that girl what’s-her-name over to Summit.

—Lizzie Franklin?

—Yeh, that one.

—Ole Garwood sure gits ’em.

—Garwood thinks he’s some punkins.

—You’d think you was some punkins if you’d of had as many pretty janes under you as old Garwood.

—Them girls is all alike. Any of ’em ud lay down fer a guy with money and smart city talk.

—I’d like to roll in a haystack with that there Nell Gaither. I got as much as Garwood Jones any time.

—Hell, she wouldn’t let a rube like you touch her little finger. She’s too fancy for you.

—Hell she is. Garwood Jones—puff, puff—ain’t got a—puff, puff—thing I ain’t got.

While Johnny lay and listened, the frogs squawked hoarsely in the reeds, and the dialogue of life along the river went on and on, verbally stripping and pawing his beloved. It seemed cruelly proper that this pillage should occur on the banks of the Shawmucky, where life was conscienceless.

Johnny wasn’t the only person who had detected the paradox of Nell Gaither, the image of erotic and spiritual beauty. Professor Jerusalem Webster Stiles had taken special note of his star girl student, helped thereto, no doubt, by Johnny’s vivid account of what he had seen in the river.

—There, he said, by your leave, John, is the most passionate little piece in Raintree County. She’s so poised and invulnerably pure. Such women are always volcanoes of passion when aroused. There’s something about her that reminds me of those old Greek statues which were painted in pure colors. It’s marble, and it’s also life. Good thing you’ve staked out your claim to it. By the way, you don’t suppose Garwood’s been in there?

Some time later the Perfessor told Johnny that in his, the Perfessor’s, opinion he, Johnny, could set all doubts to rest as to Nell’s chastity.

—My word for it, he said, the young lady is—if not imperforable—at least imperforate.

—What makes you think so?

—A small bird, the Perfessor said.

He was gaily evasive, and Johnny didn’t find out exactly what had given the Perfessor this assurance, unless perhaps he had gained it from some of his very private conversations with Nell in his office, where he sometimes remained closeted with his more promising female students after hours.

Meanwhile, Johnny went on loving in secret, hoping that one day he might find the river girl again. And in fact not long after the comic dialogue with the farmhands, he did see Nell again in the Shawmucky River.

A wave of holiness swept through the County in the summer of 1858 on the tide of a Great Revival Program to bring everyone back to the arms of Jesus. Almost everyone was taken back during this time except Johnny Shawnessy, who was not aware that he had ever left the arms of Jesus, and Professor Stiles, who had apparently never been there in the first place.

The Revival featured a succession of mass baptisms in the Shawmucky. Even T. D. yielded to the popular demand for total immersion and three times under. One Sunday night, almost the whole congregation of the Danwebster Methodist Church went from the church to the near-by river for baptism. Johnny stood on the bank watching with the Perfessor, who delivered a running fire of comment on the operation. Wearing nothing but sheets, a hundred people filed barefoot down the bank to T. D. standing hipdeep in water.

—God is doing his laundry, the Perfessor said.

They all sang ‘Wash me in the Jordan,’ and what with the flaring torches and swung lanterns, the flickering shape of the church on its high bank, the wild stream of the river, the splashings, gurglings, stampings, snortings, cries of penitence, shouts of hosanna, everyone had reached a state of violent excitement.

Toward the end of the line came Nell Gaither. Her face was meek and mild. Her gold hair hung to her hips. Her long, graceful feet were bare. She carried a taper.

—This is your chance, my boy, the Perfessor said. Take her home after the baptism. When they’re christbitten, girls will do practically anything. You might even get a kiss.

—Probably Garwood’s waiting around somewhere, Johnny said. She’s crazy about him.

The Perfessor held up his hand and recited,

I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and seeks her adversary, but slinks out of the race, where that immortal garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat!

In the confusion of the night, Nell’s voice was perfectly audible as she stepped into the water.

—Dear Jesus, I have sinned and am repentant. O, dear Lordie Jesus, wash my sins away.

After she had come out, the Perfessor and Johnny went around to help her. She was shivering, the sheet was soaked to her body, her hair was plastered to her neck, but she looked happy and excited. The Perfessor arranged it so that Johnny put her in a buggy and took her home.

—Why don’t you get baptized, Johnny? she said.

—I don’t exactly believe in it, Nell.

—O, I do, Nell said. For sinners, that is. But then I suppose that wouldn’t include you, Johnny.

She was tranquil and sincere.

—And are your sins so very great, Nell?

—O, yes, Nell said, smiling up at Johnny with her radiant and innocent smile. I’m afraid I’m not a very good person, Johnny.

She looked out at the warm purple night brooding with mist of stars on Raintree County.

—I feel so wonderful, she said. You have no idea, Johnny, what it will do for you. Garwood was baptized yesterday at my suggestion. But then he needs it more than you.

—I don’t know, Johnny said. Maybe not.

That night he lay in his bed at the Home Place and wondered what were the mortal stains that Nell had tried to wash away in the waters of the Shawmucky. Did they include a little misprint on the white nudity with which she had ravaged the heart of Johnny Shawnessy?

Johnny Shawnessy ached with the insufficiency of youth. He was never more erotically in love with Nell Gaither than that night when he saw her soaked in a sheet in the name of Raintree County’s puritan religion.

Thus there was too much youth and love and wishing in this whole era of his life. All things were touched with sadness and beauty by this first erotic passion of his young manhood.

The most delicious and frustrating hours were those spent at the Academy, where Johnny and Nell often studied together in the little library. Both spent a great deal of extra time there. It was not unusual for Johnny to come over in the evening and find the library open and only one other person in it—Nell. The Perfessor abetted Johnny’s hopeless passion by assigning to his two prize pupils extra readings in the Greek and Latin texts. Garwood Jones was, as everyone knew, too smart for his own good, but he never aspired to be, as the Perfessor once remarked, either a scholar or a gentleman, so that Nell was, next to Johnny, the best student in the Academy, especially in language and rhetoric. Gifted in versification, her muse was not so vigorous and facile as Johnny’s, but it was fashionably feminine, specializing in affecting compositions about departed beauty, spent passion, withered roses, tombstones, dewy flowers, and unreturning springs. When she read these verbal confections, her face and voice were pleasingly mournful in the approved fashion of the time.

Sometimes she and Johnny would sit in the library to late hours in the evening studying together. They shared each other’s passions in literature, and would sometimes read aloud, but each was too shy to read original poetry to the other. Their great common enthusiasm for a long time was Lord Byron.

—I think Lord Byron was the most fascinating man who ever lived, Nell said once while they were alone in the library. He seemed so much in need of a good woman to love and to love him, and he never really found one. What’s your favorite passage in Lord Byron’s works, Johnny?

—I like the opening sections of Don Juan best, Johnny said.

—I haven’t read that yet, Nell said. My favorite is ‘Fare Thee Well.’ I’ll read the opening passages of Don Juan if you’ll let me have the book.

Johnny had been using the Academy’s unique copy for some time past. He gave Nell the book, but as it made him a little uncomfortable to see her sit down and become absorbed in the exquisitely beautiful canto in which the young Don Juan falls from innocence with Julia and is apprehended and sent off on his travels, he got up and left the Academy. Some days later, Nell gave him the book back, with one of her radiant smiles mixed with a trace of bepuzzlement and concern. Inside the book in the Juan passage, he found a note for him.

Dear Johnny,

I’m surprised at you. But the poetry is very beautiful.


The happiest hours in Johnny’s life during this time were those spent in translating some of the Metamorphoses of Ovid with Nell. They were both deeply touched by the myth of Daphne and Apollo. Both had been essaying a translation of it and met one evening to compare their respective efforts. They sat at the table in the library where they had done so much of their work together. The Perfessor, who was usually hovering about somewhere like the resident deity of the place, had obligingly retired to his quarters upstairs. In the gaslight, Nell sat across from Johnny, wearing the green dress that he had come to associate with her in all his daydreams. She seemed more than usual remote and pensive as her hands nervously played in the loose sheets of her manuscript.

—You read yours first, Johnny.

His composition was in blank verse. In the yellow light of the oakpaneled library, walled in with the softly glowing backs of hundreds of classics, his young voice, which understood so perfectly the music of English verse, re-created the legend of the sungod who sought and was denied the love of a river nymph. The little library was peopled with the Ovidian images—the love-pursuit beside the river, the fleeting nymph, the ardent god. Some of the musical passion of the old republic which had given this myth to the world crept into Johnny’s voice. He too had known the rhythmed pain of love along the river, had seen a white flesh in the reeds, had felt the barky shadow climb up forbidden limbs and cover them from view. He too had come away with a laurel branch to requite him for a frustrate love. His voice was husky with the poem’s music of renunciation and farewell.

He had hardly finished when Nell said in a trembling voice,

—O, Johnny, it’s beautiful! Yours is much better than mine.

A sudden moisture in her eyes increased their green brilliance. Her parted mouth was a scarlet stain on her white face, which had two flushes of scarlet high on the cheeks. Her voice was husky with earnestness.

—Johnny, you know what I think? I think you will be a great poet some day.

She sat across from him, her eyes full of admiration and humility.

—You are the best of us all, she said. I know it.

—No, you are the best of all, Nell.

—No, no, Nell said. You have a gift that can’t be learned. It’s something sacred. To see beauty and to say it—like Byron or Ovid or Shakespeare. It’s really so fine to have known you, Johnny.

He was startled by this strangely elegiac expression.

—Well, he said. Which is better—to express beauty or to have it?

She looked puzzled, and he felt that perhaps he had said more than was wise.

—How now! said a voice from the library door. Up so late, children?

It was the Perfessor, leaning into the door. He came in and bent over Nell’s shoulder.

—The Ovid—eh? How did it go?

—Johnny has a beautiful translation, Nell said.

She was blushing.

—Our boy John, said the Perfessor, has the golden touch. Let me see.

He picked up Johnny’s translation and ran his eyes over it.

—Not bad, not bad, he said. Though rather too full of alliteration.

Garwood came shortly after. Johnny and the Perfessor stood at the gate of the Academy and watched Nell leaning out of Garwood’s buggy smiling her radiant, tender smile, full of Ovidian enthusiasm.

—We’ll have to work out the next liber together, Johnny!

Garwood took Nell away.

—Is there such a thing, Professor, Johnny said, as one man possessing a woman’s soul and another her body?

—You read too much, John, the Perfessor said.

Johnny watched the buggy receding. How well that wise old Roman poet of the protean earth and its mixing and mating forms had understood the only possible reward for the lover of ideal beauty! He shall pursue a lovely flesh and be rewarded with a branch of laurel.

During those years the lyrics of Stephen Foster, especially the more romantic ballads such as ‘Come Where My Love Lies Dreaming’ and ‘Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair,’ became the musical image of Johnny’s love. This love could have existed only in an adolescent republic that tried to dream itself to perfection by ignoring the realities of life’s remorseless comedy. This love could have existed only in a sentimental America of bright, running streams and high, grassy lawns, where girls in shimmering gowns walked with their lovers hand in hand till starlight faded into morn.

Meanwhile, the real republic of the slave and free controversy, growing ever closer to open conflict, loomed menacingly on the horizons of Johnny Shawnessy’s private universe of Raintree County. The students at Pedee Academy gravely debated the issues of the great struggle. Lincoln and Douglas, the western champions of the opposing camps, were quoted everywhere during their contest for the Senate in 1858. But for Johnny Shawnessy, the issues of that day—slavery and emancipation, free lands in the West, senatorial and presidential candidates, new states, supreme court decisions—were shadows and echoes compared to the image of a girl with enigmatic green eyes in a small piquant face, sitting at a table in the Pedee Academy, making pagan polysyllables with her fullflown mouth.

Her image suffused the whole of Raintree County, until the County was changed from what it had been. Somewhere along the way, the County of Johnny’s childhood had been lost. In that County, which would always lie beneath the rest as the parent stratum, his mother, Ellen Shawnessy, had been the dominant image. Then he had been the favored child whose quest was to solve the secret of his origin; and Raintree County was the garden of this quest, an auroral and maternal earth. Now this earlier earth and the myths that embodied its secret (myths not of Eros but of Oedipus) had changed with the changing body and mind of Johnny Shawnessy. He was no longer the child of this earth—he had become its aggressive lover. The old myth of origins—the Raintree in its primitive garden—had temporarily lost its place to the myth of the love-pursuit and conquest of beauty.

Yet the secret of the County was still feminine. It had taken for its image the Venus Callipygos in exchange for Mother Eve in her figleaf.

For this love, which was so intensely ideal that it had absorbed to itself the whole being of Johnny Shawnessy and the whole landscape of Raintree County, was also fiercely erotic, dreaming over and over the image of possession and endlessly inventive in the technique of this possession. And of these dreams the most persistent involved the Academy itself. Pedee Academy enshrined then, as it would forever, the image of his young desire.

Now this was the favorite daydream of Johnny Shawnessy in the days of Pedee Academy and Professor Jerusalem Webster Stiles: He imagined that he came some time of a winter evening to the Academy Building to get a book. Sleet and fine snow were blowing on the fields and roads. He opened the door and found that the Perfessor was not in and that the building was empty. He went back then into the lecture room and along the passageway to the little library where he turned up a lamp and looked for the book. In the Academy the air was close and warm, redolent of ink, varnish, and books. Then he was surprised to see that someone else had entered from the winter night. It was Nell Gaither, who was standing at the library door muffled in her long furcollared coat. As he looked at her, the lamp burned out, and he could see her face, a pale stain in the dark. She held up to him this face with parted lips and unaverted eyes and by a motion of her body invited him to help her off with her wraps. He began with the coat and then, assisted by her, slowly removed her garments one by one. All this they did together without a single word, while she looked back over her shoulder at him. At last her tranquilly seductive form was posed in entire nudity, like a tinted marble in the warm murk of the Academy Building. Her demure face and bound-up hair were strangely in contrast with the pale, deepfleshed mounds, on one of which he saw the tiny imprint of the river. And then among the benches and the books, where their young mouths had said the antique words of the riveted earth, love, death, beauty, and the gods, here in the very center of Raintree County, in its most Delphic cave, here where only a faint light shone, while all around them in the blustering night the fields and roads were swept with sleet, he too became naked, like a young god, and his mouth would touch at last her warm mouth. And love would be tall and imperious, it would be a young man seeking, it would go into the most secret places in Raintree County, where lake and river met and shore and shallow were hardly to be told apart. And his desire, clothed in eager flesh, would find at last the secret source and secret destination, would ache in the anguishingly tight caress of the river girl, her warm breath would beat upon his halfshut lids, her slippery body would writhe in his arms, and she would

drain from him the pooled-up anguish of his body,

too young, too amorous, too beset


—Longing, said Niles Foster, as he and Mr. Shawnessy stepped out into the street, won’t bring those days back. Sure you won’t have a glass with me, John?

—Sorry, Niles. Have to be back in Waycross in time to meet that nine-thirty train.

He walked past the Saloon and turned in at the Photographer’s. The stair was rickety and dark. The building had a stale smell of tobacco and chemicals.

There was no one on the stair. He stopped, hugged the bundle of papers under one arm, opened the Atlas, and flapped the leaves swiftly to page 37. A block of brick business buildings started into life, all the familiar legends and doors of the south side of the Square (including the one he had just entered), little changed in the seventeen years since the artist had drawn the picture.

But the gracefully made lady just stepping into the drygoods store was fully clothed, like all the other precise little figures in the picture.

Nevertheless, this flat, inactual world of light and shadow seemed about to do something, mean something. Buggies passed on wheels of finedrawn spokes, haunches of horses gathered into lumps of muscle, the clock over the jeweler’s read eighteen minutes past eleven. Enmeshed in a thin web of pencil marks was a lost America and a departed Raintree County, struggling for expression. And in the middle of this web, an imagined lady stood, clothed in the possibility of all feminine nakedness. The coil of her dark hair swung between bare shoulders, the long furrow of her back was faintly curved with the walking motion of her body, the palm of her right foot was arched and thrusting from the toes.

With a rush of desire, he seemed about to pluck away a veil of light and shadow and lay bare the shape of beauty and forever.

The door banged open, a rush of light blinded him, and a blocky woman in a hideously white dress burst in.

He slapped the book shut and sprang three steps at a time up the stair to the Photographer’s Shop. He entered a little reception gallery and laid the Atlas on a table, concealing it under the newspapers. He listened as the woman mounted the stair, paused at the landing, breathing audibly, then entered another room.

From oval frames along the wall, the tinted faces of young women looked at him wistfully. He had a mission this day to resurrect the past in pencil sketches and faded photographs.

The door opened at the end of the gallery, and a sallow man of middle age looked out.

—Hello, John. See you made it.

—Morning, Bill. Sorry to get you out so early. Well, what luck?

—I found the plates all right, the man said, preceding him into a room flooded with white light from a glass window slanting from roof to floor.

—I can’t thank you enough, Bill, Mr. Shawnessy said. Did you——

—I’m sorry, John, he said. I didn’t get the prints made. I didn’t have time.

—It was my fault for not writing sooner. The idea occurred to me at the last minute. I’m delighted that you found the plates.

—My father, the first Mr. Huddleston, the man said, kept everything. I dug into some old things in the cellar and found the plates last night stored away with the date of exposure and name of subject on each one.

He opened a package and took out a half-dozen glass plates, three by five inches, each with a strip of paper glued at the bottom edge containing a name and date in ink.

—Perfectly preserved, he said. The old wetplate process. I’ve used it myself.

Mr. Shawnessy picked them up one at a time and read the captions. They had all been taken on the same day, May 26, 1859.

—These are the six I wanted, he said. I had copies of them once, but lost them all.

He carried them to an open window and held them up to the light. Through a glass darkly, he saw one by one four men and two women, hovering in chemical prisons.

—The Senator and Mr. Carney will be pleased to see themselves as young men, the photographer said. As for Mr. Stiles, I don’t remember him, and the two women are unfamiliar. Any relation?

—No, not exactly, Mr. Shawnessy said.

He dwelt a long time on the images of the two women, holding them side by side. Under one picture was the caption N. Gaither; under the other, S. Drake.

Bodies of beautiful women floated in a pale river of remembrance, white flesh dissolving in green acid of years. Traced on the plate of memory with a finger of light, their lost forms wavered, a vaporous smoke on the sullen and triumphant earth.

N. Gaither. Ovidian statue starting into life, Daphne in a mesh of Raintree County reeds. We parted in the springtime of life, Nell and I.

A sweet anguish vexed him, and he turned to the other plate.

S. Drake. Little sleepwalker from an alien earth, bearer of a scarlet mark. O, Susanna! Do not cry for me.

J. Shawnessy. Lost boy whom girl mouths once called Johnny, just risen from the tumult of the Square where all is sunlight and the greatest athlete in Raintree County stands with cocked arm bulging. O, innocent and unforgotten boy!

But where were all the other images that mixed on the plateglass windows of the Square, each window recording the image of a clockless Court House?

He held a vitreous world, the creature of a god whose radiant finger wrote all the legends that were ever written. Musing, he studied a vanished Raintree County reflected on

May 26—The—1859

plateglass window

of the Saloon held the Square

in a golden prism, including the form of Cash Carney, who leaned against the window reading a copy of the Clarion, and the form of Johnny Shawnessy, who had just stopped to say hello.

—Had your face friz yet, John?

—My appointment’s for three o’clock, Johnny said.

—I’ve had mine, Cash said. To while away the time, listen to Garwood’s latest potshot.

He read aloud:

—A report comes from the Upper Shawmucky that Seth Twigs got kicked in his think-box by a mule and sustained a slight injury (the mule cracked a hoof). Seth has been having delusions of grandeur since and has got the idea that he can beat any man in this county footracing, including the great Orville (better known as Flash) Perkins of Freehaven. Now we do not want to discourage the roseate dreams of youth. Nor do we wish to underestimate the speed of foot Seth may have acquired keeping away from various citizens he has slandered in the Enquirer. But when we mentioned this matter to Rube Shucks, Rube said, ‘Seth Twigs is the laziest critter in Raintree County. He never runned a step in his life. Seth Twigs once let a hive of bees swarm on ’im ruthern break out of a shuffle. Flash Perkins kin run faster backways with a pianner on his neck than Seth kin frontways. If Seth Twigs beats Flash Perkins in a footrace, I will personly plunge my haid into the Shawmucky and swaller the fust big ole stinkin’ catfish comes along, horns and all.’

—Garwood isn’t going to like that catfish, Johnny said.

He had been looking at his reflection in the plateglass window. He was twenty years old and had gained a good deal of weight in the last year. He was six feet tall. His hair was dark and wavy and shot with red. His face had lost its pimply, boyish look. He had on a new suit bought especially for the Graduation Exercises at the Academy. His legs in the tight pants were lithe and long. The knobs of his new shoes shone. A bowtie was poised on his throat like an irrelevant butterfly. It had been two years since anyone had beat Johnny Shawnessy in a race, and his friends had been encouraging him to try his speed against Flash Perkins, Raintree County’s most famous athlete, in the annual Fourth of July Footrace.

This day, a Saturday, he had come into town to get his picture taken. The Graduation Exercises were only two weeks away, and the graduates had all agreed to exchange images of each other in the carte de visite size.

Cash unlipped his cigar and tipped the ash. His eyes were soft and visionary.

—It’s been five years since anyone laid a bet against Flash Perkins. John, if you could beat Flash, we could clean up the biggest pot a money ever bet in Raintree County.

—I wouldn’t want my friends to lose any money on me, Johnny said.

—I got a plan, Cash said. You remember the race two years ago when Flash was so drunk they practickly had to carry him to the starting line?

—He nearly got beat.

—By a secondrate runner too—a man you could whip with your legs tied in a potato sack.

—If Flash Perkins is drunk next Fourth, he’s a gone goose, Johnny said. I think I can beat him sober, and I know I can beat him drunk.

The image of Johnny Shawnessy in the window stood with shoulders well back. The bowtie appeared just ready to wing its way off.

—I got a plan, Cash Carney said.

As always when he was dreaming up a good plan, his eyes became soft and christlike.

—I got a sure-fire plan for getting Flash Perkins to the starting line pig-drunk. Listen to this! About an hour before racetime, you go and find Flash. He’ll be here at the Saloon showing his muscles and bragging. You go up to him, and you say, Perkins, I’ve heard enough of your blow about how you can beat any man in Raintree County drunk or sober. I can beat you drinking or running. Now everybody knows Flash Perkins never turned down a dare in his life. He’ll take you up in a second. You and he’ll walk into the Saloon here and call for raw whiskey, the barkeep fills them up, and to the amazement of the crowd you drink with Perkins glass for glass.

—Don’t forget, Johnny said, I’m a member of the Cold Water Army. I never touched a——

Brown eyes upcast, waving his cigar, Cash ignored the interruption.

—Meanwhile, I and some of the boys will have covered every Perkins bet we can get at odds of two to one. Come racetime, they’ll carry Flash Perkins, the Pride of Raintree County, to the starting line, and you’ll beat him all holler.

—Who’ll carry me to the post? Johnny said. Besides, T. D. and Mamma would skin me alive if I did such a thing. I won’t touch any alcoholic beverages.

—Who said anything about you touching any alcoholic beverages? Cash said. Suppose that the bartender pours colored water in your glass and straight stuff in Perkins’.

—He’d never do it.

—He might do it, Cash said, before he’d lose his job. If the Boss asked him to, he might.

—The Boss?

—I don’t want it generly known, John, Cash said, tipping his ash, so keep it under your hat. But I own this joint now.

Johnny argued with Cash about it, but Cash pointed out that T. D. wouldn’t have any kick coming if Johnny touched nothing but colored water, and it would be all in favor of the temperance movement if Flash beat himself by drink.

—Serve him right, Cash said. We’ll take some of our winnings and put them into the next temperance drive.

Garwood Jones, who also had an appointment at the Photographer’s, joined the two in front of the Saloon. He had just come from the barber’s and stood a moment glancing at himself in the plateglass. Pleased, he opened his coat, extracted a cigar, and put a foot up on the low windowsill.

—Well, boys, he said, did you see it go by?

He put the cigar in his face. His handsome blue eyes crossed slightly as he touched matchflame to tip. He puffed, laughed gently. His hair was black and wavy. He palped his newly razored faceskin, soft like a baby’s. His shoulders were bulky and sleek in his dandy coat. He exhaled fragrance of face lotion and hair oil, aroma of success. He reminded Johnny of a well-groomed prize bull.

—What a lovely pair!

Garwood’s voice was deep, and he had a manner of speaking slowly so that every word told.

Professor Jerusalem Webster Stiles crossed the street and joined the group in front of the Saloon.

—Good afternoon, gentlemen. I hope the subject under discussion is sufficiently elevated to engage my interest.

—The Perfessor knows her too, Garwood said.

—Are you referring, the Perfessor said, to our charming little visitor from below the Mason and Dixon Line?

—She just went by the barber shop while I was in the chair, Garwood said. Boy, what a dream!

—Do you think your tone is strictly avuncular? the Perfessor said.

—What’s it all about? Johnny said. Let us country boys in on it too.

—We have a new girl in town, the Perfessor said, affecting a stagey Southern accent, from the great and gran’ old state of Lou’siana.

—Noo Orleans, Lou’siana, that is. Son, have you evuh visited in Dixie? Well, Ah’m heah to tail you, son, thet those accustomed tew the pinchin’ and penurious weathuh of the Nawth cannot possibly imagine, until they have experienced it, the softness and fragrance of the Southuhn air. Below the Mason and Dixon Lahn, one passes impercetibluh into anothuh——

The Perfessor broke off and resumed in his normal voice.

—The new girl has already been closely scrutinized by the local experts and pronounced a very passable specimen of her sex. Just ask Uncle Garwood here, whose protective arm has so far guarded her against all contact with the raucous elements of the County.

—I’m not her uncle, Garwood said. Just a relative of a relative of hers. When I made that trip to New Orleans recently, I met Susanna, and since some of her relatives call me Uncle, goddamned if she didn’t start calling me Uncle too just for a joke.

—Susanna who?

—Susanna Drake, Garwood said.

—Where’d she get all the money? Cash asked.

Apparently Cash knew about her too. Only Johnny Shawnessy was unaware of this exciting new arrival in Raintree County.

—The money, as I understand it, Garwood said, is an independent income which she has received ever since she was a kid and orphaned. Her folks had a big plantation near New Orleans, owned a lot of land and niggers. She was an only child and inherited a pile when they died. Her father’s sister came here to Freehaven and built. She brought Susanna with her. Then Susanna grew up a little and went back South and stayed there. But when Auntie died last year, the house became Susanna’s. It stayed empty for a while, but now Susanna turns up—just why I don’t know.

—By herself? the Perfessor said.

—Couple of nigger girls with her, Garwood said. But I’m surprised at you asking me, Perfessor. You ought to know all about her.

The Perfessor laughed soundlessly and smoothed his already glue-slick hair with sidelong glance in the plateglass.

—The boys are referring to a little fatherly conversation that I had with the young lady last Saturday.

—Fatherly, hell! Garwood said. A bunch of us went on a swimming party to Lake Paradise and took the Perfessor along for a chaperon. Goddamned if he and Susanna didn’t disappear for hours.

—Marvellous swimmer, that girl, the Perfessor said.

—What’s she look like? Johnny asked.

—Well, Garwood said, studying his cigar, I sure would like to put my head between ’em.

—Don’t be crude, Uncle, the Perfessor said. But they are lovely.

—Wish she wouldn’t cover ’em up so with those highnecked dresses, Garwood said. It seems a shame to have all that beauty blush unseen. She has jet black hair, John, big round eyes, olive complexion without a blemish——

—You’d be surprised, though, the Perfessor said.

—O, Garwood said, I suppose she showed you her birthmarks and everything on that swim.

The Perfessor tipped his ash with an appraising eye.

—It’s a shame, he said. I hate to tell you, boys, but she has a large scarlet scar on her beautiful left breast. It starts right here—

He drew a line with his finger across his skinny chest.

—And it ends right here.

He ended up complacently scratching his left nipple.

Garwood watched through smilingly skeptic eyes.

—What’s the diameter of her navel?

The Perfessor contemplated his cigar.

There is no excellent beauty, gentlemen, he said, that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.

—She isn’t as fast as she acts, Cash said. Rob Peters, that has the big gray and the new spring buggy, took her over to Middletown two nights ago, and when he took her home, he tried to get fresh with her, and she slapped his hat off. He said he never saw anything like her to lead a man on and then give ’im the back of her hand.

—It might interest you guys to know, Garwood said, that it’s Uncle Garwood who’s taking her to the Decoration Day Program next week.

Garwood paid a sly glance to himself in the plateglass mirror and caressed his backward-flowing mane.

—Boys, he said, that little lady is a fast filly, a high-steppin’ little thoroughbred, and Uncle Garwood is just the boy that can ride ’em. You fellas wouldn’t believe it if I told you the truth about her. I heard some stories about her down in New Orleans that’d make this County stand up and take note. I’m telling you right now, boys, we’re kinda slow stuff around here compared to the set she’s been——

—Here’s the boy now!

A hoarse, high voice stung Johnny like a slap in the face. Advancing up the street, the first of a throng, came Flash Perkins, Raintree County’s greatest athlete.

By this time whenever Flash Perkins walked through the Square, small boys followed at a reverent distance pointing. He was generally in the middle of a gang of secondrate imitators who enjoyed moving in the reflected glory of the man who could outrun, out-drink, outfight, outlove, and outcuss any other man in the County.

It seemed to Johnny that if anyone had found the secret of pure expression, it was Flash Perkins. Everything Flash did was sheer affirmation. He never analyzed, worried, debated. He fought, worked, drank, and talked with the same sublime physical gusto. Johnny had never seen Flash angry. Flash never took the trouble. His motto was, Hit fust and argeefy after. He was a born clown and played to every crowd like a gallery. His blue eyes were those of an excited child, and one had the feeling that if a single moment of tranquillity were to set in, they would become naïve and baffled. He acted always from sheer impulse, but his impulses were predictable, for he had a code.

It was because of this code that everyone in Raintree County, including Johnny Shawnessy, understood and, after a fashion, adulated Flash Perkins. It was the code of the early Hoosier, the backwoods-man or river man, a type already becoming extinct in Indiana. The code of Flash Perkins was the code of a people who had become great fighters and talkers in a wilderness where there was not much else a man could do for diversion except fight and talk. It was the code of the tellers of tall tales who tried to live up to their tales. It was the code of a competitive people, who had fought the Indian and a still greater antagonist, the wilderness itself, the stubborn, root-filled pioneer earth, the beautiful and deadly river, the sheer space of the West. It was the code of breezy, cocky men, who had no fear in heaven or earth they would admit to. The code involved never hitting a man who was down, never turning down a drink, never refusing to take a dare, never backing out of a fight—except with a woman. The code involved contempt for city folks, redskins, varmints of all kinds, atheists, scholars, aristocrats, and the enemies of the United States of America.

Actually, every Raintree County man had a little of the code in him. It was simply the Code of the West, and though the West had already passed over Raintree County and left it far behind, nevertheless the County had once been and would always be a part of the West. As Professor Jerusalem Webster Stiles was wont to say,

—To the true Easterner, everything on the other side of the Alleghenies is the West. And in a way that’s right.

Now as Flash Perkins walked toward the Saloon, chest thrust out, arms swung wide from his hips, feet flung strongly forward, teeth bared in the insolent smile that always preceded the fight, the tall tale, or the dare, Johnny Shawnessy realized that he had arrived at one of the mythical encounters of his life. He had always known that one day he would stand chest to chest with Flash Perkins in the Court House Square, and Flash would suddenly take notice of him. For years he had watched Flash win the applause of the County by swiftness and strength, the all-conquering beauty of execution. He, too, Johnny Shawnessy, a child of the word and the dream, had always secretly intended to excel as an athlete. Only so, he felt, did one wholly win the applause of Raintree County and its most beautiful women. Only so did one become the completely affirmative man.

For Johnny Shawnessy too had the West in him, the amiably pugnacious West, where a man wanted and meant to get everything the best he could have, where a man meant to be first if he could in everything—from shucking corn to catching the loveliest girl. And because of his great speed of foot, Johnny Shawnessy had long had a special vision of achievement. One day in the Court House Square he would defeat Flash Perkins, and a beautiful girl would fit the crown of oakleaves on his own suncolored locks.

—Are you Jack Shawnessy? Flash said, coming up and standing hands on hips and feet wide apart.

Johnny continued to lean against the plateglass window with a pretense of unconcern. No one had ever called him Jack before.

—I might be, he said. Who wants to know?

—Hear that, boys? Flash said to his crowd. Shall I tell this here kid who I am?

—Go on and tell ’im, Flash.

—Son, Flash said, it gives me great and pecoolyar satisfication and gratifaction to interduce to you and this handsome and intellygent company that emminunt gentleman, Mister Orville—better known as Flash—Perkins, the fastest runner in Raintree County.

—Never heard of him, Johnny said. Who is he?

—Son, Flash said, I’m the originiffical yellin’ Yahoo from the banks of Clay Crick. I’m half horse and half alligator, and rastle bulls in my spare time. I’ve smashed more skulls, drank more corn pisen, and raped more virgins than any other janejumper on the phiz of the arth. I can run like a horse, fight like a barl of wildcats, yell like a skun cattymount, and make love like a bull. I chaw little boys like you up with my terbaccer and I spit holes in walls. Who’re you?

—Son, Johnny said, I’m the cer-tee-fied, gen-u-ine, ripsnortin’, rag-tearin’, ringtailed, headbustin’ mankiller from the banks of the Shawmucky. I fight all the time exceptin’ when I’m eatin’, and I eat all the time exceptin’ when I’m fightin’. I strangle bars with my bar hands fer a livin’, I chaw wildcat tails instidder terbaccer, I’ve slept with ever widder under forty in the County and some of ’em twicet, and I kin run like a colt with a redhot cob under his tail. I use minners like you to bait muh hook with when I go fishin’.

For answer, Flash Perkins jerked off coat and shirt. He threw his hat on the ground. It looked as though he was going to hit Johnny.

—Fight! Fight! someone yelled.

A big crowd had already gathered. But smiling all the time, Flash sat down on the sidewalk and pulled off his shoes.

—Come on, Jack, he said. No use waitin’ till Fourth of July. I’ll race you right now from here to the Baptist Church, or anywheres else you wanna run to.

—Make it the church, Johnny said.

He pulled off coat, tie, and shirt. He sat down on the ground and pulled off shoes and socks. Bare to the waist, he shoved through the crowd to Flash Perkins.

In the saloon window, the reflections of two young men leaned slightly forward. The sun shone on the hard, broadshouldered body of Flash Perkins, who stood in stocking feet a trifle shorter than Johnny, shone on the shag of his brown hair, his curly beard, his smiling teeth, shone on the lean ribs and sinewy shoulders of Johnny Shawnessy, shone on his massy chestnutcolored hair. There was a faint prismatic light around both figures.

—Sot us off, Fred, Flash said.

—Just a minute, Cash Carney said, stepping up. Put your duds on, John.

—What fer? Flash said.

—This boy ain’t racing today, Cash said. He’s under contract to me, and he don’t race for any but big stakes.

—If he don’t race me now, he’s a yallerbellied coward.

—He’s not racing, Cash said. That’s final. You’re afraid to run him regular and official, Perkins, because you’re afraid of losing money.

—Get a hat! Flash Perkins yelled.

—Here’s a hat! somebody yelled.

—I’ll give ’im odds of two to one, Flash said.

—You just say that, Perkins, Cash said, because you know nobody’ll bet you. If someone came along with a little hard coin, you’d try to weasel out of them odds, and you know it.

—Try me and see, Flash said.

Cash Carney reached in a back pocket and coolly took out a leather snap-purse. The crowd became reverently silent as Cash took five gold coins out of the purse and held them in the cup of his hand.

—That thar’s gold, a citizen said.

—It ain’t horse manure, a second citizen said.

—Here’s fifty dollars says you’re a liar, Perkins, Cash said.

—I’ll cover it, Flash said, or if I can’t, my sidekicks will before the Fourth of July.

—I’ll take some of that, myself, Garwood Jones said. Friendship is friendship, John, but a bet on Flash Perkins is a sure thing.

Johnny began to put on his clothes. He fixed his tie in the plateglass window, where the suncreated images of the crowd mixed incessantly. The hard, high nasal talk rasped in his ears.

—I’ll see you racetime, Jack, Flash said. I promise not to beat you more’n a city block.

Flash Perkins walked straight into the batwing doors of the Saloon without bothering to put out his hand. The doors slapped back and forth. Johnny could hear the high, goodhumored voice yelling for a drink, the sound of obsequious laughter.

It was three o’clock as Johnny walked down to a door that had a sign over it reading


Entering, he climbed a rickety stair to a hall on the second floor. The old building smelled of tobacco, urine, chemicals. Johnny had never been up this stair before, and he didn’t know which way to turn for the photographer’s. He was half expecting to meet Nell Gaither, as she too had an appointment. Through an open door on the left he saw a dimly lighted gallery, hung with oval pictures. He walked in toward a closed door at the far end, watching his own image grow larger and larger in a full-length mirror hung on the door. He laid his hand on the knob and opened the door.

Light drenched him, a white radiance without warmth, as if he were inside a camera whose shutter had just been opened. He blinked and narrowed his eyes.

The room was bathed in light. A skylight of milky glass slanted almost to the floor on the left wall. The young afternoon flooding in bathed each object in shadowless purity.

A young woman stood posed for a picture. Her jetblack hair was shaken out over her shoulders and down her cloudy white gown, which resembled a nightdress. She leaned against a cardboard column, holding an artificial lily in her left hand. The backdrop showed a riverscene: a landing in the foreground piled up with cottonbales, a steamboat in the middle distance, and in the background pillared ruins beside the river.

The photographer had just slipped the cap over the lens. The girl relaxed from her pose and turning looked right at Johnny. Instantly she gave a little shriek and clutched her throat with her left hand.

—O, it’s you! she said.

Her olivecolored skin blushed scarlet and she began to laugh.

—O, hello, Johnny said, and backed out and closed the door.

The girl had spoken as if she had recognized him or had even been waiting for him, but he knew that he had never seen a face like hers before. Seen bare and sudden in the white light, the face in the studio had burned its image so brightly on his memory that it was more like an afterimage than a recollection as he paced in the dark little gallery.

In this face innocence was strangely confused with sensuality. The upper part of the face, the patrician brow, the delicately limned eyebrows and the great blue eyes, childlike and almost unnaturally vivid, suggested purity and romantic sadness. But these qualities were lost in the barbarously lovely lower face. The cheekbones were wide. The jawlines swept in to a precise little chin. The nose flared from a fine bridge to wide nostrils. The mouth though not big was deeplipped and protrudent, and challenged the eyes for dominance. It was in a perpetual pout, as if about to offer itself for a kiss. Yet it too, this savage little mouth, when he had first seen it, had been touched by an expression childlike and tender.

Later, the door opened, and the girl came out. She was dressed in a white satin gown, chastely high at the neck and completed by a scarlet neckband, matching her parasol. Her hair, bound up to show her ears and brushed down in bangs over her forehead, emphasized the sensual breadth of her face. Her skin was a beautiful smooth olive, firm and free of blemish. Johnny couldn’t help thinking that the same olivecolored skin covered her whole body, including the breasts, which had been admired by the local experts. They did indeed command admiration, tilting steeply under the white satin.

—I didn’t mean to scream, she said. I saw you all down in the street getting ready to run, and I didn’t expect to see you in the studio. Why didn’t you run?

Her slight drawl was pleasantly Southern and vaguely querulous.

—We’re going to postpone it until the Fourth of July, Johnny said.

—Are you a fast runner?

—Pretty fast, ma’am.

—I’m a good runner myself, the girl said.

—How about a race sometime?

—You don’t believe me, do you? the girl purred. You’d be surprised how fast I can run. I’m as quick as a cat.

She gazed candidly into his eyes, her face turned up just at his shoulder, her eyes drinking his. Her lashes were long and coarse. The whites of her eyes were veined with little violet lines.

—I wouldn’t be at all surprised, he said.

He would not have been surprised. Doubtless, this olivecolored softness could be curved and sudden with catlike muscles.

The girl was still looking at his face when the voice of the photographer broke in.

—Come in, young man.

Johnny went in and had his picture taken. When he came out ten minutes later, the girl was still in the gallery, posing in front of a portrait with both hands on a femininely thrustout hip.

—Hello, she said.


—You’re John Shawnessy, the girl said.

—Thanks for letting me know, Johnny said, grinning.

To his surprise, the girl didn’t smile at all.

—You’re Susanna Drake, he said.

—How’d you know?

—From Uncle Garwood.

This time the girl laughed. Her laughter was like that of an excited child. While she laughed, she put her left hand on her throat.

—What did he say? she asked.

Johnny began obediently to recite what Garwood had said, omitting certain personalities. They walked down the stair together, and it was natural for Johnny to ask her if he might take her home.

—I’d be hurt if you didn’t, she said.

Outside in the Square, her scarlet parasol bloomed suddenly into a taut dome. Johnny was aware of hundreds of eyes turning to watch him. She took his arm, and they walked past the Saloon. She had a cute, bouncy way of walking, moving her shoulders with little thrusts and swaying her hips.

—Hello, Uncle Garwood, she said archly.

Garwood pursed his lips and nodded his head approvingly like a judge at the County Fair appraising a well-proportioned heifer. Cash Carney unlipped his cigar and delicately tipped the ash.

—I think I’ll go in and get my picture took, Garwood said. They give away such nice prizes.

—That boy is definitely ready to graduate, the Perfessor said.

—By the way, how did you know my name? Johnny asked.

—O, I’ve heard of you, the girl said. You write for the newspapers, and you’re very shy around girls, and you’re the most gifted boy in this County, and you’re very idealistic.

—Who told you?

—A friend of yours.

—Ah, the Professor, Johnny said.

—He’s the funniest man!

Susanna Drake began to laugh again, touching her throat with her left hand. Then suddenly serious, she said,

—I’m very idealistic too. Have you read St. Elmo?

—Yes, I have.

—Don’t you think that’s just the most wonderful book! I think it’s just marvellous the way she works for the redemption of that man’s soul! I could really love a man like that marvellous St. Elmo. Isn’t Mrs. Evans about your most favorite woman writer?

—I prefer Mrs. Stowe, Johnny said.

The girl stopped short and thrust him away with a violence that shocked him.

—That dirty slut! she hissed.

Fury poured up and down her body as if a big angry snake were coiling and uncoiling inside the satin. Some of his amazement must have shown in his face, for this voluptuous fury subsided as swiftly as it began, and the girl leaned against him affectionately.

—Don’t pay any attention to me, honey. I just can’t stand to hear that woman’s name. It makes my flesh crawl. It really does.

In fact, her whole body went through a quick convulsion beginning at the knees and flowing up through her back and hunching her shoulders. She shivered violently and shook her head. That appeared to end it, for she emerged from her fit smiling sunnily and talking about other things.

—This is where I live, she said, when they had walked a block south of the Square.

They were standing at the bottom of a steep flight of stone steps that led up a high lawn to a house. Johnny thought he must have noticed this house before, as it looked vaguely familiar. It was not like any of the other houses in town. It was three stories high, and the front had five windows on it in the pattern of a five-spot in a deck of cards. The corniced roof had one little round window under the peak. There was a long, low verandah with small pillars.

—I just love this house, Susanna said. I always have ever since Aunt and I came to live here when I was a little girl.

—Do you live here all by yourself?

—I have two Nigro girls to do the work, she said. I’ll say good-by now.

She held out her small hand, and he took it, supposing that he was about to say good-by. But she allowed her hand to stay in his and remained standing on the first step, so that her head was on a level with his own. From there, she candidly studied his face, her mouth pouting.

—Where did you get that nice smile? she asked.

—That’s my St. Elmo expression, Johnny said, embarrassed.

That was just the beginning of it. It was half an hour before he had trailed her step by step all the way up to the door. Meanwhile they talked of a hundred things, Johnny listening for the most part, enchanted by this alien speech that flowed into his ears like a music vaguely remembered. Every word that she spoke and her manner of speaking, he reflected, was a legend of an alien way of life. This girl had been ferried through languorous days and nights and now stepped down into Raintree County, a barbarous creature with a stately name.

—You must come and visit me sometime.

—I’ll do that, Miss Drake.

—I’m Susanna to special friends.

—May I count myself among that select number, ma’am?

—You may.

—Susanna. It’s a beautiful name, he said. By the way, people call me Johnny, though it’s not special like your name.

—Johnny, she said, pronouncing the name in a special way. It happens to be a name I love, Johnny.

He watched her go in and saw her face a moment looking out at him through the glass doorpane, the pouting mouth touched with an expression of tenderness. As he walked back toward the Square, he remembered the measures of an old tune, racy, yet vaguely unhappy.

I come from Alabama

  With my banjo on my knee,

I’se gwine to Louisiana,

  My true love for to see. . . .


O, Susanna,

  Do not cry for me;

I come from Alabama,

  With my banjo on my knee.

He found himself thinking of those steep breasts nodding a pointed invitation from below the Mason and Dixon Line.

But his yearning wasn’t directed toward the girl he had just seen. Those days, all beauty reminded him of Nell. He was entirely faithful to this love that was entirely faithful to him by remaining in the image of unattainable beauty. Soon his innocent love-communion in the polysyllables of an antique tongue would end. Graduation Day was near. And besides there was a report abroad that Garwood Jones and Nell were going to be married.

As for Johnny Shawnessy, he had that day thrown off a garment of shyness. He had stood stripped to the waist in the Court House Square, shoulder to shoulder with the fastest runner in Raintree County. Who could say

what immortal garland was to be run for,

not without dust


Heat of the sun filled up the valleyground of the river. Mr. Shawnessy, climbing out of the surrey, carefully laid the Atlas facedown on the seat and covered it with a copy of the Free Enquirer.

—Might glance through my article, Pet, while I run over here and have a look at things. You children can amuse yourselves hunting for relics of Danwebster.

He opened a copy of the paper to an inside section. Sunlight on the white sheet smote the fine print into a mist under the headline:


    by Prof. John W. Shawnessy

He took a sickle and a covered cardboard box from the floor of the back seat, opened the gate, and stepped into the deepgrassed field.

In my best historical style, a language of inscriptions.

The origin and early development of Raintree County . . .

He stepped over the ribbed and rotten skeleton of a picket fence. Flies whirled from dried cowpads. Weeds boiled rankly from a filled-in cellar. He walked through a tiny stonehenge, the still vaguely human arrangement of a foundation. He picked his way through tufts of marsh grass approaching the river bank. In a far corner of the field, some cows gazed tranquilly at the intruder.

Quo vadis? Whither goest thou, disturbing this earth? In the marketplace of Rome, we ruminate the summer grass. We drop peaceful dung on the memory of Caesar. Hic jacet the noblest Roman of them all.

Among the earliest settlements in Raintree County was a community in the great south bend of the Shawmucky, a thriving town on the eastern approach to the County Seat, quaintly called Danwebster, in honor of the greatest name of the Ante-Bellum Republic. The swift decline and disappearance of this little town during and after the War is perhaps attributable to . . .

A pig thrust snogging and snorting from a hole under the remains of the mill.

Who goes there, bearing a sickle and a box of cut flowers? Where feet of lovers trod, our snouts grub roots.

He walked warily out on the remains of the dam and leaping from rock to rock crossed the river. He climbed the low bank on the other side, pushed into the river’s fringe of trees, and plunged through nettles and horseweeds, unsettling mists of mosquitoes. He broke from the cool shadow of the river-bordering leaves. Heat and light dizzied him. The waisthigh weeds clung to his clothes. He leaped a marshy ditch, wetting his heels. He paused for breath at the base of the railroad embankment.

Who goes there with a hook of iron and the damp corpses of flowers?

Historian of a vanished culture. Who lies here, sleeping by the river?

Here lies the memory of a little town, of golden and agrarian days and sainted elders on the porches in the evening talking of the Union. Here lies the white republic, founded foursquare on the doctrine of universal law. Here lies a preflood name, Danwebster. Who goes there, with memorial flowers?

A maker of inscriptions. Ave atque vale! Hail and Farewell! What path is this, cutting through the cornlands of the County?

Here lies the clean bright knife that slew an old republic. Here lies the sickle-armed castrater of the elder gods. Tread warily, crossing the pathway of new gods.

He scrambled up the embankment. The slight elevation raised him cleanly above the river-valley. The railroad was a long line rising in a gentle grade from the east to the point where he stood and waning in a gentle grade to the west.

Who goes there hunting for memorial stones?

An archeologist of love. I hunt old mounds beside the river. Who lies there sleeping in a hill of earth?

Level with the railroad, south, some fifty yards away, rising from the waves of a vast cornfield like an island in the corn, was a mound of grass and flowers.

Here lies the enduring bone, more lasting than historians of cultures. Here lies a white bone held in a bracelet of bright hair. Who goes there, bearer of a golden bough?

The hero of a lost inscription, the guardian of a talismanic name, an answerer of riddles. Who lies there buried in the earth of Raintree County?

He saw the stones grayly protruding from the grass and weeds, some nodding to the ground, and on their tranquil forms frail lines of

June 1—Legends—1859

in a Class-Day Album

in memory of happy days together

at the Pedee Academy marked the close of Johnny Shawnessy’s schooling in Raintree County. The Graduation Ceremonies were the occasion of much sprightly newspaper comment. But no newspaper was ever to record an interesting thing that happened to Johnny on Graduation Day.

That spring, in nights of feathery leaves and sweet odors, Johnny lay awake thinking of the coming Graduation Exercises, the Class Picnic, and the Fourth of July Race. Waves of languor succeeded by waves of tumultuous energy made him mad with a springtime madness, and during these days, he decided that he would reveal to Nell Gaither that he was in love with her.

The way he did it was undoubtedly in the purest Johnny Shawnessy tradition.

The Graduation Exercises were in middle June. Everyone agreed that the write-up the following day in the Free Enquirer expressed with unusual felicity the spirit of the occasion. The article went in part as follows:


(Epic Fragment from the Free Enquirer)

Frankly, we were touched at the sight of the blooming and blushful company of young academicians gathered for the final exercises in the yard of that little Parnassus of the West, Pedee Academy. We felt our own wasted boyhood resurgent in our breast as we looked upon those faces steeped in the immortal dreams of youth!

Before the conferring of diplomas, each graduate stood up and delivered an original composition. Mr. John Wickliff Shawnessy, Valedictorian and Class Poet, recited by heart a long ode in which he bade farewell to classmates and academy. Friends and relatives of this upright young citizen were pleased to perceive that his poetical maturity has in no wise belied his early promise. Garwood Jones, Class Orator, delivered a bang-up oration in which he promised that the future of the Republic could be safely entrusted to the graduating class of Pedee Academy. Miss Nell Gaither, the Salutatorian, than whom no fairer flower ever adorned with its cernuous and supple stem the bedded banks of the Shawmucky, read an original composition entitled ‘A Rose of Remembrance in the Faded Garden of Love.’ This verbal bouquet, ornamented with some of the most odorous peonies of rhetoric, acquired no little of its charm from the circumstance of its being uttered by a young woman who unites in her person all the blandishments of beauty with all the witcheries of wit. At the end of this composition was a poem, which, we later learned, had been unexpectedly added by Miss Gaither. As we consider it a flower that ought not to blush unseen, we secured the author’s permission to print it.

Lines Composed in Melancholy Remembrance

In the day when my heart will cease beating

  In the echoing cell of my breast,

And its music so fervid and fleeting,

  Has forever subsided to rest,

If ever thou look’dest with longing

  On her who has passed from thy ken,

O, believe that her heart was belonging

  To thee, though all secretly, then!


O, then, when thine eyes shall discover,

  Too late, how she doted on thee,

When the turf is upmounded above her,

  And her love-fettered spirit is free,

O, then wilt thou pensively hover

  And beweep by her desolate grave,

Thy pale, yet unpenitent lover,

  Thy rejected, yet passionate slave!

So ardent was Miss Gaither’s rendition of this empurpled effusion that both she and the audience were visibly moved, and the young lady delivered the last few lines in a scarcely audible voice before retiring in a pretty confusion amid the plaudits of the crowd.

Finally, from the hands of Professor Jerusalem Stiles, diplomas were dispensed to . . .

The graduates gathered in the Academy Yard after the formal exercises to converse with friends and relatives and to exchange gifts, signatures, photographs, and scraps of sentiment in keepsake books. In everyone’s book, Johnny inscribed the following statement enclosed in a border of ornamental penmarks:

A Concluding Specimen of my Writing with Jerusalem W. Stiles at Pedee Academy, Raintree County, Indiana, June 1, 1859.

John Wickliff Shawnessy

Johnny received a similar inscription from the other graduates. Additional sentiments, original or borrowed, were optional.

The Perfessor signed all the keepsake books. In Johnny’s he wrote:

To John Wickliff Shawnessy, the budding bard of Raintree County, Life’s eternal young American,

Ave atque vale

J. W. Stiles

The Reverend Mrs. Gray came around sniffling and wrote in Johnny’s book a wistfully inappropriate sentiment:

Many the changes since last we met.

Blushes have brightened and tears have been wept.

Friends have been scattered like roses in bloom,

Some to the bridal and some to the tomb.

Johnny retaliated with:

Lydia, now I’ve heard your accents please,

I know what is meant by Lydian melodies.

In Garwood Jones’s book, Johnny wrote:

This is tew surtyfie that I Seth Twigs of the County of Raintree, State of Injianny, in the Yewnited States of Amerikee, am acwainted with the owner of this book, and I have no hezzitation in sayin to all and sundry that he kin read, spel, and rite (tho not ellygant like myself). Single men without funds can employ him with the utmost confidents that they hev nuthin to looze by the transackshun.


Seth Twigs

Garwood, always a fast man with a comeback, wrote in Johnny’s book:

Tew hoom it may consurn:

The owner of this book is wun of my closest pursonal ennumies. I hev no reluctuntz in recommending him fer enny kind of ordeenary household work, inclooding ginneral carpentry (his fabreekations are noomerous and unsurpassed), but vurgins over fiftee wood dew well to keep him out of there drawers.


Rube Shucks

After a half-hour or so, Johnny found that he had collected the following additional posies in his keepsake book or on the backs of photographs:

Remember me as your friend

From now until time shall end.

                                   Sarah Peters


 . . . . .



A place in thy memory, Johnny, is all that I claim.

Wilt thou pause and look back when thou hearest the sound of my name!

                                Matilda Thackett


 . . . . .


Forget me not.

                                     Bob Fraser


 . . . . .


Remember well and bear in mind

A constant friend is hard to find.

And when you find one that is true,

Change not the old one for the new.

                                  Cassius Carney


 . . . . .


Remember me, when this you see,

Your righthand man at old Pedee.

                                   Thomas Smith

The weakest scholar in the graduating class had polished a special gem for the occasion which he inscribed in all the keepsake books:

O, may your pathway ever gleam

With sincere love and joy supreme.

May Him whose eye is felt, not seen,

Bless you with thousand blessings e’en,

With all that fairest love could dream.

Such is the wish of your friend, T. F. Greene.

Then by prearrangement all the graduates gathered in a ring around Professor Stiles, and Mrs. Lydia Gray blushingly presented him with an ornamental cigarbox, which Johnny and Garwood had driven all the way to Middletown to buy. The graduating class had pooled its resources and paid thirteen dollars for it. Lydia’s presentation speech started out bravely enough:

—We the members of the First Graduating Class of Pedee Academy wish to tender to you, Professor Stiles, our beloved mentor and friend, this little token of our deep admiration and abiding esteem. May . . .

From here on Lydia’s voice steadily diminished in strength so that Johnny never heard the concluding words.

—Madame and members of the First Graduating Class of the Pedee Academy, the Perfessor said, accepting the box and gingerly peeping into it like Pandora expecting troubles, I am deeply touched by this manifestation of your affection, which I hope I may have deserved. Let me only say . . .

The Perfessor went on with a shameless collection of clichés and delighted everyone with the classic roundness of his periods and the aptness of his sentiments. The applause was loud when he finally concluded his remarks and began to pass out the cigars.

At that moment, standing in the shade of the Academy Yard, a tall youthful form, his brilliant black eyes glancing about him, Professor Jerusalem Webster Stiles reached the summit of his popularity in Raintree County.

In a short time, Johnny himself had collected the following gifts: four beautifully bound and illustrated gift books entitled Friendship’s Album, Autumn Leaves, The Heart’s Treasure, and Pearls of Memory; a framed picture of a farmhouse with a mother standing in the doorway and waving to her departing boy, whose earthly belongings were bundled to a stick on his shoulder; a framed picture of a farmhouse with a mother standing in the doorway and waving to her returning boy, whose good success in the world was reflected in the neat city clothes and fine suitcase he held in his hand; a handful of carte de visite photographs variously inscribed on the back; and a large blue bowtie. He had also been kissed violently by a young girl graduate, whose great passion had kept itself in hiding until then, and by a dozen female relatives from various corners of the County, some of whom he had never seen before in his life. Most of the girl graduates were weeping here and there on the Academy grounds from emotions of farewell.

Johnny himself had distributed various keepsakes, pictures of himself, and gifts. But the most important sentimental remembrance had not yet been exchanged.

He had watched Nell Gaither all the time after the Exercises were over. It was essential for his plan that he catch her alone and suggest that she come with him to the library where he had something to give her. She had been peculiarly quiet and pale as if she hadn’t yet recovered from the emotion that had betrayed her while she was giving her Graduation Composition. At last she walked away from the crowd and stopped under an elm in a remote corner of the yard, but before Johnny could react, Garwood Jones walked across the lawn to join her.

Garwood had something in his hand which he presented with a courtly motion. In her white graduation gown and bonnet trimmed in green, Nell seemed untouchably aloof. Yet she smiled up at Garwood in a very lovely way. Garwood fastened a necklace around her neck, and she gave something to him which Johnny couldn’t make out; but whatever it was, he could imagine Garwood’s voice mellowly throbbing with gratitude.

At that moment, a relative came up and hit Johnny on the back and shook his hand, and Johnny didn’t see the climax of the scene. When next he looked, Nell was alone, walking along the fence. Then abruptly, as if remembering something, she turned and went swiftly to the porch of the Academy. Just before entering, she swept the yard with her eyes, which rested finally on Johnny Shawnessy. She looked at him a long moment with lifted brows, lips parted. Then she turned and went into the Academy Building.

—Excuse me, Johnny said, rudely leaving the group he had been with.

His chance had come, the moment he had rehearsed in fancy so often that the actuality became many times more exciting than an improvisation. Heart pounding, he followed Nell into the building and down the dim corridor to the library. She was inside, sitting at the table with her head on her hands. He picked up a big book which some hours before he had carefully hidden in a corner of a bookshelf. He put the book on the table in front of her.

—Here’s a little graduation remembrance, Nell.

It was a brandnew leatherbound giltedged copy of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. It had cost Johnny seven dollars and fifty cents and weighed six pounds.

—Sort of in memoriam, he recited in a hoarse voice, for all the good times studying together, Nell.

Nell raised her head. Her eyes were wet. She picked up the huge book and held it helplessly. It struck Johnny that he had done a touchingly brave and also quite pitiable thing. Nell ran her hands wordlessly a few times over the big book, looking up at Johnny and then down at the gilt words on the cover. She tugged at the book, and it opened suddenly, the pages, newly gilded, sticking. Where it opened, the picture of a young man looked out from a carte de visite photograph which had been inserted in the book under the printed words


It was the picture of a youth of twenty in a dandy suit. The shoulders were well back, the chest well forward, the arms fixed at the sides but thrust a little back, the left foot slightly advanced. The head was held high as if forced up by the bowtie at the throat. The eyes were steeped in visions. The mouth was firm but gentle, as if about to smile. The heavy eyebrows were slightly raised as if touched upward with a mild surprise. The whole image had a quality of youthful, affectionate charm.

Johnny winced as he saw this sudden image of himself planted in the immense book of William Shakespeare.

—Please don’t let anyone else see what I wrote on the back of that picture, Nell, he said.

Then he walked swiftly out of the door and down the corridor.

On the back of the picture he had written:


One day a vision was vouchsafed to me,

  That filled my burning heart with bright emotion,

A sight more fair than Venus was when she

  Came streamingly from the Ionian ocean.

I had been lying by a riverside

  And as I lay, I slept and dreamed a dream,

And then awaking, from my covert spied

  A girl—and beautiful—bathed in the stream.

Like one enchanted, swooningly I lay

  And watched her. She was naked. And her bare,

Brightlimbed, and slender body was at play

  With the green water dropping from her hair.

Her name, which even now I dare not tell,

 Rang in my stricken heart a lovely kNELL.


John Wickliff Shawnessy,

June 1, 1859.

No one else had yet seen this sonnet, upon which Johnny had expended all his technical resources, except Professor Stiles, who had remarked,

—Shall the Shawmucky be another Avon? I see our rural bard has been sleeping, by a virgin hand disarmed. You may get your face slapped for that poem. Undressing Raintree County damsels even in pentameters is a pretty risky business.

The summerclad forms of the graduates and their friends bloomed suddenly on Johnny’s vision as he burst from the dusk of the Academy into the sunlight of the yard. The white dresses hurt his eyes; the blithe voices stung his ears. He walked slowly out into the lawn, appalled by the exquisite wickedness of the thing that he had done.

At this very moment, the girl in the Academy Building held in her two hands the soul of Johnny Shawnessy, a throbbing, vulnerable thing. Words were more naked than flesh, and he could never get them back. He had once held her white beauty imprisoned in his cruelly eager eyes; but now she was returning the favor with a vengeance. He had tried to be life’s young Greek in Nineteenth Century America. His poem was wellnamed ‘Actaeon.’ Like the hunter who beheld Diana bathing in the stream and was changed to a stag and hunted by his own dogs, he could hear howling after him already the bloodhounds of Raintree County’s puritan conscience.

—Here’s the boy now, Garwood said, his booming voice calling everyone’s attention to Johnny emerging from the building. Garwood walked importantly through the crowd and taking Johnny by the arm led him to a group of men near the front gate.

—This the boy? one of the men said.

Johnny shifted uneasily. The whole crowd turned to watch.

—Think you got any chance to whip Flash Perkins on the Fourth? the man said.

—I mean to try.

—Garwood here has been offering me odds of three to one Perkins’ll beat you. I thought you and Garwood were friends.

—Garwood and I hate each other affectionately, Johnny said.

—Tell ’em how good you are, John, Garwood said. I’ll give you half my winnings.

—A bet on John Shawnessy’s a sure thing, mister, Johnny said.

—Sure to lose, Garwood said. Ha, Ha, Ha.

—Johnny! Yoo hoo, Johnny! Come here.

It was his mother calling. He walked over to her. As Valedictorian he was a noteworthy object and was expected to show his face and say bright things. Ellen was very proud of him, her great, handsome, likeable Johnny, who had led his class and had been called by the distinguished Professor Stiles ‘the most gifted young man I have ever had the good fortune to teach, Madame.’

—This is Cousin Hurlbut Shawnessy from Middletown, Ellen said. He’s quite a scholar himself and has similar interests to you, Johnny.

—O, is that so? Pleased to meet you.

—Pleased to meet you, young John, Cousin Hurlbut said.

Cousin Hurlbut obviously favored the bigframed, fatfaced, buck-toothed branch of the Shawnessys. He had jawlength sideburns and a portentous manner.

—Cousin Ellen tells me you’re the author of the Will Westward articles in the Freehaven Enquirer, young John, Cousin Hurlbut said.

—Yes, I guess so, Johnny said, watching the door of the Academy.

—I have read your inditings with interest, Cousin Hurlbut said. Maybe you’ve seen some columns appearing in the Middletown Radiant under my numdyploom, Peter Patter.

—Uh, yes, I believe so, Johnny said. Very fine.

He had some memory of having seen some clippings from Cousin Hurlbut’s muse, which specialized in poems about looking backward down the years and realizing that one’s youth was spent.

—John’s the scholar of the family, T. D. said, rocking pleasantly. The boy always had a knack for saying things from the time he was a little shaver.

Johnny excused himself and withdrew from the crowd. He skirted the edges of the yard. He thought of slipping through the side gate and going down to the train station. He had always wanted to go West anyway. In the West, a man could do as he pleased. In Raintree County there were too many barriers and too much beauty.

He was standing alone under the big elm by the side gate when Nell came out of the Academy and picked her way sedately through the yard coming directly toward him. Under her arm was a huge book.

It was clear that she was returning his present.

—Here’s something for you, Johnny, she said in her low, soft voice, lingering her mouth along his name.

As she gave him the book, she put her head to one side in one of her unconsciously statuary attitudes, the sidepoised head communicating its evasive gesture musically down the length of her body and somehow suggesting the emotion of farewell.

The book was a brandnew leatherbound giltedged copy of The Complete Works of Lord Byron.

—I knew you didn’t have a copy, Johnny, and I thought you might want one to keep. Your poem was beautiful.

She turned and walked away with the same undulant, unhurried step and, accepting the arm of Garwood Jones at the gate, climbed into his buggy. As she gathered her dress in, she looked over her right shoulder and her eyes found Johnny’s in a lingering look.

Someone was coming toward him. He walked hurriedly to the Academy and ran up onto the verandah and through the door. The library was still empty. He carried the book over to the recessed window. He pulled at the stuck gilt leaves. Where the book opened, the picture of a girl looked up from a carte de visite photograph underneath the poem ‘Fare Thee Well.’

It was the picture of a young woman standing with her body in profile, so poised that she appeared to be just rising to her toes. Her face was in half-profile, her eyes looking back over her right shoulder and directly out of the picture. The whole pose was an unconsciously classic attitude. It was the river nymph inviting the love-pursuit. On the back of the photograph were the words

Johnny, please keep forever this image of her who has been for longer than you guess

Your pale, yet unpenitent lover,

Your rejected, yet passionate slave.


To his ears came the distant sound of voices and laughter. They beat softly on the brick walls of the Academy Building, echoing in its empty shell. They were like the sound of surf, a blue surf churning on immemorable shores. They poured languor and sweetness of love over the listening soul of Johnny Shawnessy.

On the way back to the Home Place, T. D. kept talking about the significance of higher education.

—Yessirree, John, he said, I wish I had had just half your advantages when I was your age. I always did want to know a little Latin and Greek. I tell you, with Latin and Greek, and your natural aptitudes and faculties, John, I take a very hopeful view of your future. I’m sure I express and echo the sentiments of your mother too, when I say that we’re very proud of you.

You have a bright road ahead of you, my boy,

and we expect you to


Far around on three sides the ocean of July corn undulated toward the Danwebster Graveyard and broke, a gentle surf, against it, ebbing from the wire fence. Mr. Shawnessy opened the gate and stepped inside.

The graveyard, abandoned like the town, was a hundred stones beside the river. In the middle of orderly cornlands, it was an island of disorder. He kicked up crowds of grasshoppers as he walked through uncut grass, gravemyrtle, wild carrot, white top, blackberries, poison ivy.

He stopped and shaded his eyes, looking for familiar stones. In the place of death he felt overwhelmed by life. Life rushed up from the breasts of the dead in a dense tangle of stems that sprayed seeds and spat bugs. As he thought of other memorial journeys to the graveyard, the stones seemed to him doomed and huddled shapes around which green waters were steadily rising. He stood up to his knees in grass and weeds, holding in one hand a box of peaceful cut flowers and in the other a sickle, his eyes hurting with sunlight.

They lie beside the river, lulled by the music of its waters. They lie beside the river.

Where are the forms and faces of my pagan youth? Where is the hunger of the shockhead boy who saw a white flesh in secret waters? Where are youth and maiden?

They lie beside the immemorial river.

Where are the generations of those who loved beside the river? Where are the generations of grass and flowers that bloomed and seeded by the river?

Bare feet of lovers, thudding on the roofs of mounds, press lightly on these crumbled hearts.

There are many mounds beside the running river, become beautiful and secret by the lapse of years. There are entire eras of lost lovers who have left only mounds full of bright boneshards beside the river. All the people who ever lived here were lovers and the seed of lovers. Where are all those who ever beheld beauty in bright waters?

They lie beside the river. They lie beside the river.

He walked a little farther into the graveyard and bent over a stone that rose slenderly from the grass, completing itself in a tranquil arc. He began to tear at the dense grass with his sickle.

O, beautiful, springing hair from the flesh of the dead! I will remember long gold hair around a face that was like no other. I will remember boats that moved in gala procession far down between widening shores. And oars that made languid wounds in the pale flesh of the river.

What difference now does it make that love was a tall, imperious bloom beside the river? What difference if face touched face beside the river?

There was no guilt or recollection of guilt. There was only love that is desire for beauty. We were like flowers that seduce each other without memory and without guilt.

He stood up leaving the base of the stone softly revealed by the sickle. He had put very far from him, he knew, the anxieties of the coming day. Very far from him now was Waycross, on the periphery of the County, where before long he must participate in patriotic ceremonies. He stood in a place of classic stones. Halfshutting his eyes, he felt his body drenched in sunlight. He listened to the murmur of cornleaves swayed by the wind and the music of the river passing through its vocal reeds.

This was the earth of riddles, this was the earth from which had sprung all myths, memories of passion. He shut his eyes entirely. Something white and graven with a legend was approaching him on a sundrenched water. There were words that he had meant to remember, a legend of his life in one of its memorable springtimes.

Then he had a sharp, clear memory of the lecture room of the old Academy Building. He was sitting at his desk, pencil in hand, among the other students. It was the Final Examination in 1859. Across the board a tall, blacksuited man chalked slantingly


Compose an essay suggested by the following incident:

One day a poet walking on the shores of the Mediterranean picked up a broken oar washed in by the sea. These words were graven on the blade:

Remembering the cryptic line, he heard again a sound of surf—young voices, laughter, beating on brick walls.

I see the blue mass of the seamounds shifting in. O, little blade, naked and smooth, borne in from untumultuous seas, I hear the slanting music of your legend.

My body is whitely reclined on leaguelong beaches. O, plastic Mediterranean forms!

What is this white tower of beauty? I see it slenderly arisen from bright waters.

O, goddess, you were borne to me by a white oar sandward washed in summer. Foamborn, with young unpendulous breasts, far from your ancient shores you came to me, forgetful of your old fruitions. We were together youngly before great wars.

I the child of a young republic reached hands of a young desire to your body clad in the archaic garment of nudity. Did we not weary ourselves in a rhythm of rowing, daylong on the inland waters?

Our arms were interlaced, our sobbing breaths beat on each other’s eyelids under the seedenlivening light of eternal day. O, bright annihilator of lines and minutes, o, ceaseless undulator of curves recurrent, o, visual and unvestal goddess, Oft was I weary when I toiled with

June 18—The—1859

romantic, illstarred, wonderful,

wicked Class Picnic was impartially reported

only in the Free Enquirer, and even then not until several days after the excitement had died down. The article, a remarkable one, was published as coming from an unknown pen. It began:


Most of those who have written of the late picnic have told nothing but lies, monstrous fabrications on a thin scaffolding of truth. This observer had hoped that the whole thing would escape the pitiless light of the press, which could only serve to keep wounds open and passions inflamed. Since the lid is off, however, he feels incumbent upon him the melancholy duty of giving a full account of the entire episode which, as it happens, he is in a position to know better than anyone else. And as, except for its unhappy dénouement, the picnic will remain a fadelessly blithe memory in the hearts of most of those who were there, let us paint it for posterity with an impartial pen, gay where gaiety is apposite, grave where, alas! the events that transpired upon the banks of the Shawmucky require such a style. So that those who live after us may have the picture in all its light and shadow, long after hearts that are now embittered have ceased to beat, let us for a little withdraw the curtain and then lower it forever on the events of that memorable and melancholy day. Say, then, Muse, what was the beginning of . . .

The picnic began at the Academy Building, where the students assembled and set out noisily in buggyloads. The Perfessor led the way, driving a black spring buggy belonging to the Reverend Ezra Gray, which his wife Lydia had procured for the afternoon. Johnny, Lydia, and Cassius Carney were squeezed into this buggy. Garwood Jones’s buggy followed with five people wedged in, including Nell Gaither. The third buggy brought the rest. There were thirteen altogether, counting the Perfessor.

—Thirteen, the Perfessor had said at starting. Which is the marked man?

Startled, Johnny Shawnessy had kept his eyes down. It had been a week since he and Nell Gaither had exchanged certain keepsakes. Two nights after, he had decided on a bold move and had walked down the road to Nell’s house. A buggy passed him on the way and turned in at the Gaither drive. When Johnny reached the house, Garwood Jones was giving Nell’s father a cigar on the front porch. Johnny walked back home without paying his respects.

At the Academy, Nell had turned up in Garwood’s buggy, wearing her green dress, her gold hair pulled back to show her ears under a wide white sunbonnet. Stepping down from the buggy, she had fluttered her hand at Johnny, and a smile touched the corners of her mouth, this mouth with the pointed red tongue, so fullflown and sensual and, alas! so often kissed—but never by Johnny Shawnessy.

—Hello, Johnny, it said, lingering on the word. It’s hot, isn’t it?

This remark seemed to Johnny somehow the most exciting and subtly meaningful thing he had ever heard.

But Nell’s eyes gave no special sign. Johnny felt a cold and not wholly irrational fear. Girls were mawkish sentimentalists and would write almost anything in a keepsake book.

On the way over to Danwebster, where picnic tables had been set out beside the mill, everyone laughed and sang. The Perfessor was full of quips and quotations. Johnny Shawnessy kept leaning out of the Reverend’s buggy and yelling things at the Garwood Jones buggy. Each time he did so, Garwood solemnly thumbed his nose, and Nell stuck out her tongue in a very ladylike manner. Johnny deliberately fell out of the Reverend’s buggy once and raced the horse for a hundred yards to loud applause.

When they reached the bank of the river, they put their picnic baskets on the tables and engaged in a new sport that the Perfessor had introduced into Raintree County.


(Epic Fragment from the Free Enquirer)

Arriving on the banks of the legendary Shawmucky, the young men promptly divested themselves of their coats and laying out a ‘base ball diamond’ proceeded to urge the sportive ball hither and thither in the somewhat complicated evolutions of this new game only recently imported by Professor Stiles from the East into Raintree County. Cassius Carney demonstrated a baffling speed and precision in the exacting art of wafting the ethereal sphere across the spot denominated ‘home plate.’ Professor Stiles showed extraordinary agility in snatching the bounding pellet off the ground or stopping it in mid-air, whenas with one graceful sweep of his arm he would propel it to the appropriate spot on the ‘diamond.’ John Shawnessy, he of the limber legspring, shot around the ‘bases’ like a comet whenever he got a chance, which, be it remarked in passing, was not often, as he showed a marked inability to engender that contact between bat and ball which is necessary for a ‘hit.’ The game was marred by a few altercations, at the bottom of which one could invariably expect to find that rising young politician, Garwood Jones, whose ignorance of the rules and regulations of ‘base ball’ did not in the least diminish his readiness to argue about every moot point.

The final score could not be exactly ascertained for a variety of reasons, especially as the rules were scandalously relaxed from time to time in favor of several young ladies who were invited to play in order to make up two ‘teams.’ It is believed that about thirty or forty legal ‘runs’ were scored by each side.

One amusing mishap involved the person of the aforesaid Mr. Jones, who mistook for ‘second base’ a certain circular adornment that is oftentimes found in places where members of the bovine species ruminate.

After the game of ‘base ball’ had terminated, several of the young gentlemen were pitted against each other in a test of fleetness of foot. In all these encounters, John Wickliff Shawnessy, that poetic young denizen of the Upper Shawmucky, dismounted from Pegasus long enough to demonstrate to the assembled company a velocity of pedal locomotion not seen in these parts for many a moon. This young man is being groomed by his supporters as a challenger to the honors now so long held by Orville Perkins of Freehaven, better known as ‘Flash,’ who has been undisputed champion of the County for five years. When asked by your correspondent whether or not he thought he could obtain the victory over the redoubtable Mr. Perkins in the Annual Fourth of July Race in Freehaven, our modest young hero said without a moment’s hesitation, ‘Shucks, it won’t hurt to try. Someone ought to beat that old guy before he trips on his beard.’

Personally, we should like to see the veteran velocipede from Freehaven match his stuff against this brash beanpole from the banks of the Shawmucky. Five dollars will get you one of ours that youth will not be denied and that Mr. Perkins’ venerable years (he is now, we understand, a senile twenty-two), if not the fleetness of his challengers, will at last get the better of him.

But now we approach that part of our recital from which the Muse shrinks in trembling anticipation. It was about three o’clock in the afternoon that . . .

It had been Johnny Shawnessy’s idea that the picnic include a boating excursion down the Shawmucky River. A half dozen rowboats had been procured and rowed laboriously up the river from Danwebster the day before by Johnny and others to a spot where the river looped behind the Gaither Farm. Here the picnickers could break up into twosomes and row the loops of the river back to the picnic ground at Danwebster, arriving in time for supper and a bonfire before breaking up and going home.

On the mile walk over to the river, the girls collected around Professor Stiles, who led the way, while the young men brought up the rear, falling farther and farther back. Near the river Garwood Jones pulled out a bottle of corn whiskey and passed it around. Everyone took a drink but Johnny. Garwood stopped, passed out cigars, and told a hearty joke, while Johnny lingered uneasily, watching the Perfessor and the girls climbing into boats at the water’s edge. Nell hadn’t yet entered a boat but stood as if waiting for someone. She shaded her eyes and, as it seemed to Johnny, looked directly at him. She slowly raised her hand and gently beckoned.

While Garwood roared loudly at his own good joke, Johnny began to run. When he reached Nell, he took her hand, which he hadn’t held since they were children, and together they stepped into a boat.

—Hey! Garwood yelled. What’s the big idea?

He was standing on the bank now, feet wide apart, hands on hips, staring at Nell. Nell bit her lip in confusion and turned her head away. As for Johnny, he stood up, planted the oarblade in the bank squarely between Garwood’s legs and with one shove sent the boat skimming to the middle of the river.


(Epic Fragment from the Free Enquirer)

Their boats dispread upon the river were like swans on classic waters. With a languorous lifting and falling of oarblades, the gala procession floated on the widening stream. In romantic twosomes, they lingered on between green walls. Did they stop to think, in the midst of their gaiety and laughter, that they were passing burial places and battlegrounds of vanished peoples? Did they think that the winding river was the highway of extinct races, whose skimming light canoes did cleave the same waters in centuries long ago? Did these maidens in wide bonnets, these lads in straw skimmers and bowties, dream of aught but innocent love and beauty and desire as they drifted on languid oars down waters of youth and summertime! Ah! let us behold them this brief while, floating on the classic river of Raintree County, with all their gushing joys in their bloom. . . .

Johnny dug the water with slow oars. On the breast of the slow-flooding river, he was floating with Nell Gaither, who sat in the stern of the boat, her feet together, her hands on the sides of the boat, her wide bonnet budding with the breeze that freshened fitfully along the river. Languor and desire flowed from the fullbodied river. Looking past Nell, Johnny could see the broad road of water curving distantly in the haze of afternoon. The air was moist with the odor of the river and its flowers. Nell Gaither’s body in the green dress was curved like the river; her face in the bonnet was an incredible, lush flower swaying on a supple stem. Her eyes glowed with a curious light in the brightness of the river air. Turning now and then, Johnny saw the other boats spread out upon the water. In the farthest boat Professor Stiles, paired with Lydia Gray, rowed fiercely toward the bend.

Garwood Jones and Cash Carney, forced by the shortage of women to row down the river together, hung around Johnny’s boat. Just opposite the place where Johnny had seen Nell in the river, his boat grounded on a mudbar. Everyone else had missed it by yards, but Johnny, who knew that part of the river by heart, drove straight onto it. Garwood, slightly ahead, laughed grimly and stood up in his boat.

—You’ll have to push off, John. Need any help?

—I can manage, Garwood. Thanks.

—Be glad to help, Garwood said grimly.

—No, thanks. I can manage.

Johnny, looking over his shoulder, watched the last boat coasting toward the bend. He and Nell were alone on a mudbar in the middle of the Shawmucky.

Eyes thoughtful, Nell sat with her feet primly together. She reached up often to push a wisp of hair off her forehead, and sometimes she trailed her hand in the river.

—This boat is here to stay, Johnny said, until we push it off. I drove it on hard.

Nell laughed.

—You sure did, Johnny, she said. I thought you knew the river.

—I do.


—You in any hurry to get to Danwebster? Johnny said.

—Not a bit. This is nicer right here.

Johnny raised the oars and laid them up along the sides of the boat. Nell put her hand on the left oar, still dripping from the river.

—I feel so funny, she said, and the sun’s so bright.

She ran her fingers along the thin blade of the oar.

—Remember the line from the Final Examination? she said. I don’t know why I thought of it.

She took off her wide bonnet and shook her hair. Her eyes were nearly shut in the brilliant sunlight. Johnny watched her mouth as she recited in a low voice, rhythmical and pensive:

Oft was I weary when I toiled with thee. I wonder where the Perfessor got it?

—Probably he made it up, Johnny said.

Oft was I weary when I toiled with thee, Nell said. I wonder what it means. It sounds so—so pagan.

She kept running her hand along the smooth oarblade and trailing her other hand in the river.

—Is it wrong to be pagan, Johnny?

—I hope not, Johnny said.

Oft was I weary when I toiled with thee, Nell said.

Her large, lovely mouth moulding and murmuring these words was itself a legend, a series of plastic attitudes. What she said no longer seemed important. But this flowerlike mouth, against which he wished to press his own mouth with undissuadable hunger, seemed important.

—I feel so strange. Johnny, did you ever see the river so beautiful?

The air seemed filled with a mist, through which nevertheless all things were seen with peculiar distinctness. Johnny Shawnessy felt islanded in languor, as the river flooded past on its journey to the lake. Somewhere far down on the greenwalled waters, boats were floating in a gay procession. He could hardly open his eyes against the greening brightness. He was tired with rowing on the river. He had dipped white oars a long time in the pale stream of the river.

—My hair keeps falling down, Nell said, pushing it back. Did you mean to sit here a long time?

—We might go ashore, Johnny said.

—We’ll have to wade, Nell said. But I don’t mind. I feel so funny, Johnny.

They took off their shoes and stockings and left them, along with Nell’s bonnet, in the boat. They stepped out into shallow water close to the right bank of the river and made for shore, where they sat for a while on the bank under Johnny’s oak, their feet trailing in the water. They talked in half sentences about the picnic and graduation. The afternoon ebbed and flooded around them in waves of warmth and stridulous sound. The murmur of the river was constant on its shoals and among its rushes.

It was Nell who suggested that they walk over and see the Indian mounds.

—I’ve never really gone up on them, she said. I guess they’re so close to our own land that they never interested me.

—The two on the river here, I’ve seen often, Johnny said. And there’s another, isn’t there, across the field there?


(Epic Fragment from the Free Enquirer)

The banks of our own not unclassic river vie with any in the world for scenes of historic and poetic charm. To those who celebrate the Tiber, the Euphrates, and the Nile, we say: When Rome first rose in templed splendor on her many hills, this river ran as now upon her centuried pathway to the lake, part of a mighty system of waters going to the gulf. Before the Parthenon was, this river was. When Babylon rose and fell, this river was. Its shores were dense in summer with crowding vegetation. Green frogs and greatwinged birds, more ancient structures than Egyptian columns, peopled its water and the circumambient air. What is older than the antiquity of life itself? We know not what ancient empires rose and flourished on these banks, or how often the syllables of lovers mingled with the vocal passion of the river running in the shallows. This river, too, has its human shards, and we dare to suggest that the true archaeologist of beauty will feel a deep, peculiar charm when he beholds the twin mounds upon the river’s banks, lonely undulations, mysterious hummocks, sole relics of races that flowered and faded on the Shawmucky without a Bible or an epic poet to keep their names alive. . . .

Barefoot, they walked downstream to the twin mounds. The mounds were fifty feet apart and almost perfectly round—smooth humps fifty feet in diameter and ten feet high.

—Think how long these have been here! Nell said. Hundreds of years maybe.

A curious light hid living in her narrowed eyes. Pinpoint pupils burned in green pools, fringed by her lashes, each lash shiny and distinct. Scrambling up the slope of the mound, Johnny took her hand. It was warm and responsive. The odor of her hair and skin was in his nostrils.

Thick grass covered the mounds. The dirt on top was brown and looked somehow old and pulverized. As they stood on top of the left mound, Johnny had a feeling that it was slightly resilient, as if roofed. The ticklegrassed earth was warm to the palms of his feet. He watched the river, a shining sheet of greenness.

He started a little, hearing a train on the branch line. For a moment he felt like an anachronistic ghost from the antiquity of human days. He remembered suddenly the County, its fences and its boundaries, its sickleshaped railroad, its orderly farms, and its thousands of figures in suits and bellshaped dresses. He felt faintly sad and uneasy as the train made a quavering, distant cry. The cry expired slowly, drowned in vistas of afternoon. Frogs shouted from the shallows, the rushes swayed, the waterbirds were crying.

When they left the mound, they walked out upon the bulge of a neighboring clover field. The hay was newly cut, but the fresh stubble didn’t hurt their feet. It was a small field, and on the far side, tufted with flowering weeds, was the third mound.

They never quite got there.

When they reached the haypile in the middle of the field, they stopped. Johnny was panting as if he had been climbing a steep hill. Absurdly, he felt as if it was the grass and clover-stubble on the bottom of his feet that took his breath.

—My hair keeps coming down, Nell said.

She stopped and plucking out a pin let the whole left side of her hair down around her face. She put the pin in her mouth and started to bind the hair back up again.

—Let it fall, Johnny said.

His voice was husky with the heat. Nell leaned back against the hay.

—I don’t know what to do with it, she said. It’s such a nuisance.

She looked directly at him and slowly took the pin out of her mouth. Her lips were parted.

—I haven’t played in hay since I was a kid, Johnny said.

—Me neither.

He put his arms around her to lift her up and his hands sliding down to get a better hold felt her smooth flesh in the Raintree County dress. He touched his mouth to hers as she leaned deeply back in the hay. Her mouth was warm and alive. Her eyes were halfshut, watching him, and her breath came and went in little quick gasps, drinking his. He put his arms clear around her and squeezed her hard, feeling her go limp. Suddenly, she was slipping away from him. He saw her bare feet and legs under her dress as she scrambled halfway up the new soft stack of hay.

—Come on up, Johnny, she said, shaking out her hair.

He sprang up and caught her and put his arms around her again. Her hair was all shaken down now, it touched his cheeks and shook around his face. In this dense hair was the warm, kissing mouth of the river girl, her white powderscented skin, her vivid eyes. He was amazed by the passion of her kisses.

She still breathed with the quick little breaths, but when she lay back and shook the hair out of her face and looked up at him, she was strangely serene.

—O, Johnny, she said. This was a long time happening. I thought you didn’t care for me.

—I thought you didn’t care for me.

—Who wouldn’t care for you, Johnny?

She put her warm, bare arms around his neck and drew his face down to hers. She knew ways of kissing that had never occurred to him. He didn’t know how long they lay in the warm sunshine. Much later, Nell said,

—I feel so funny, Johnny. I don’t know what gets into me sometimes. I want to do crazy things.

—Like swimming in the river with nothing on? Johnny said.

—Yes, Nell said. I’ve done that a lot. I always liked to swim that way.

—Were you mad when I wrote that thing in the Enquirer?

—I should’ve been. But I wasn’t. I wondered if you liked me.

—You were beautiful, Johnny said. You don’t need to feel embarrassed.

—It’s all right, Nell said. Besides I saw you too.


—Yes, Nell said, blushing, with eyes averted. Two can play at that game.

—When? Johnny said, blushing furiously.

—O, several times, Nell said.

—You mean—uh—before I saw you?

—O, don’t ask so many questions, Johnny.

Later when they left the haystack and walked back to the river, the sun was far down over the western bank, but the air seemed moister and warmer than before. Johnny’s face felt swollen with heat, his body itched, he was covered with haystems.

They sat at the river’s edge again and dangled their feet in the water.

—It’s so hot, Nell said. Doesn’t the water feel good to your feet?

The riverpool was a depth of green and clear. He leaned over the water, aching to plunge his hot face into the river, to hide a thought that was too bold for Raintree County.

—If we could only have a swim now, he said.

—It would be sinful, Nell said. What if someone saw?

The way she said it, he knew that she had said yes.

—No one ever comes down here but us. Everyone else is way down the river by now. We could just go in for a little while and get cool.

—I wouldn’t do it with anyone but you, Johnny, Nell said.

When they undressed, she stood on one side of the great oak by the river, he on the other. Undressed, he wished he hadn’t done it.

—How are you, Nell?

There was no response behind the tree.

—If you’d rather not——

—Here I go, Nell said.

She stepped down the bank and into the water. And before he himself plunged desire into the cold pool of evening, John Wickliff Shawnessy, the budding bard of Raintree County, intently watched a rippling mark like the stain of a pressed flower on a page of verse, a signature of mortal beauty

on one of Raintree County’s

most exciting


Mounds and a mound and lettered stones, the Danwebster Graveyard was a formal garden of death, which life was slowly reclaiming to formless fecundity.

Mr. Shawnessy listened—he had heard a distant sound and at the same time a rush of voices by the river. Perhaps the children had cried out, but he had thought that the voices called his name, not as he was called today but as he was called in the old days before the War.


The name had formed suddenly from mixing sound. It had been uttered in a warmly personal way, with a touch of sadness and even of alarm. He listened, his ears still troubled with the sound.

He had remembered love, bare arms embracing, nakedness and young mouths kissing; he had remembered a mythical and seldom remembered boy.

He listened to hear if the imagined call would be repeated, to hear if some voice speaking from the lost days would say again the talismanic, youthawakening word.

But instead there was a troublous sound, a rhythmical and rapid sound across the land.

He watched for the first appearance of the train. Standing among the stones of the Danwebster Graveyard, he was in the attitude of one who listens, a little fearful, for a necessary thing. His heart beat quick and hard, he felt as though the visual impact of the train would be an unendurable violation. He listened, hearing from the archaic valley of the Shawmucky, voices of urgency and faint alarm, calling


June 18—Two—1859

creatures playing whitely

in a riverpool by the twin mounds

stopped and held themselves half-submerged, listening. Great birds plunged squawking into flight from feeding places near shore. Frogs sprang among reeds in quick flat leaps.

The name ‘Johnny’ echoed between the walls of the river, up and down the milelong valley, ebbing and dwindling, renewed, insistent.

The two white ones now swam and waded from the river to the shore. The voices calling ‘Johnny’ called also now the name ‘Nell,’ and the names mixing and blending reverberated on the twilight river.

The two from the river now asserted their fundamental difference, the one by pulling a pair of trousers up his legs, the other by pulling a dress down over her head. There were a few moments of panting speechlessness while Johnny Shawnessy and Nell Gaither resumed the garments of Raintree County. Johnny had a brief view of Nell bending over and pulling up pantaloons beneath her gown while from the unfastened top of her bodice, her left breast spilled out silkily. Then for the first time, though almost clothed, she looked to him naughtily nude.

—O, dear! Johnny! she said, in a forlorn small voice, my hair’s soaked.

—Get out to the boat, Johnny said. Get yourself wet on the way. We’ll upset it and say we couldn’t right it.

They waded to the mudded boat, grabbed out their shoes and stockings and Nell’s bonnet, pulled the boat off the bar, and tried to upset it. It wouldn’t upset.

The calls were close. Johnny recognized the voices of his brother Zeke, Garwood Jones, and Cash Carney. Three figures were barely visible in the fading light walking along the left bank.

—Here we are! Johnny yelled.

He helped Nell into the boat, took the oars, and rowed toward the three boys, who stood waiting on the far shore.

—Where’ve you been? Garwood said. We thought you were drowned.

Johnny said something about walking back from the river to find the mounds, getting lost, and upsetting the boat.

—We got all wet, Nell said.

She laughed, nervously touching her soaked hair. But Johnny could see that the boys on the shore were not amused.

—Better come out of there, John, Zeke said. Just leave the boat tied here.

—What’s the matter? Johnny said.

He heard voices over by the road, men talking, boots in the underbrush.

—What’s the matter, anyway? Johnny repeated. What’s everyone excited about?

—Come on out, Garwood said, and we’ll tell you. I can see you don’t know.

—You better take Nell home first, Zeke said.

—We better get out, Nell said.

They had been putting on their shoes and stockings and now climbed out of the boat. Lanterns were flashing in the underbrush. Several men were crashing down a path to the river. A strange voice called out,

—Did you find ’em?

—Here they are! Cash yelled back.

—We better tell ’im now, Garwood said. Nell might as well hear too. Before these guys get here.

However, the men were already there, at least a dozen in the dim light, and they all had guns. A heavy, blunt-featured man thrust a lantern from face to face. Johnny shrank back from the blazing light, hair dripping. He didn’t remember ever having seen this man before. He couldn’t identify the other men. He blinked sheepishly.

—Is this young Shawnessy? the man said.

—What’s the matter? Johnny said.

The man thrust the hot lantern in Johnny’s face while the other men all crowded in close, breathing hard.

—Listen, young Shawnessy, the leader said menacingly, if you know anything about this, you better come clean.

Johnny felt the flesh on his face crawl. His fists knotted.

—I haven’t told him yet, Garwood said.

—Listen, Shawnessy, the man said, if you had anything to do with this, you’d best tell, or by God, we’ll beat the livin’——

—Say, what the hell! Zeke said, shoving the man back with an openhanded blow on the chest. What makes you think the kid had anything to do with it? Lay a hand on that boy, and I’ll smash hell out of you.

—Take it easy, Zeke, the man said, angrily, but he stayed back.

—What’s the matter? Johnny said.

—It’s the Perfessor, Garwood said. He’s run off with Lydia.

At first Johnny felt a wild desire to laugh. Then he went all weak in the knees.

—How do you know?

—They were seen, Garwood said. They tried to catch the train at Three Mile Junction. You two disappeared, and some folks thought you might be in on it. We said no, but they had to know for sure. What were you doing anyway?

—I told you, Johnny said. We upset in the river.

—It looks funny to me, the man said. Young Shawnessy, they say you’re a good friend of this bastard’s. You have any idea where he might’ve gone?

—If you mean Professor Stiles, Johnny said, no, I haven’t the slightest idea. Maybe it’s all a mistake.

—It’s a mistake all right, the leader said. Nobody can come into this county and run away with a preacher’s wife.

—They have sinned, a mournful voice said, and they shall be made to pay for it.

The Reverend Ezra Gray was standing to one side. He had a shotgun on his arm. His eyes glowed with a cold, determined light. He looked strangely happy.

—I don’t think this boy knows anything, another man said. Let’s git out of here.

The men went away from the river toward the road.

Garwood, Cash, and Zeke stayed with Johnny and Nell.

—The Perfessor’s gone and got himself into a hell of a mess, Garwood said. There’s at least a hundred men out looking for him.

He listened until the footsteps of the posse were faint.

—You got any idea where he is, John?

—No, Johnny said. Honest.

—I got a plan, Cash said. Let’s get another horse at John’s and see if we can find him. If he’s in the County, he’ll be killed sure unless somebody helps him. The Reverend’s out for blood.

—They’ve got every road around Freehaven covered and men planted in the train stations, Garwood said. The Perfessor hasn’t got a chance in a hundred of getting out alive. He and Lydia missed the train at Three Mile Junction and went back east from there. That’s the last anyone’s heard.

—First we got to get Nell home, Johnny said.

—Please don’t bother, Nell said. I know the way.

She turned and plunged into the bushes, running.

—Wait, Nell! he cried.

He ran after her and caught up with her.

—Please, he said. I’ll take you home.

She whirled around facing him, breaking his hold on her arm.

—Let me go, Johnny! Don’t touch me!

The small face with the wet hair plastered around it had an imperious, tragic look, though it was hardly more than a pale stain in the darkness and the eyes pools of shadow.

—I can get home by myself. Good-by, Johnny.

The words were a command. He could hear her running and running in the forest fringe of the river. He rejoined the three boys on the bank.

—Let ’er go, Garwood said. This is serious. We got work to do.

—What’ll we do if we find them?

—Try to bring ’em to the Saloon, Cash said. Through the back way. If we can get ’em upstairs there, they’ll be perfectly safe. The sheriff’s practically in my pay, anyway.

Horsed and galloping in the warm night, the four boys rode into Freehaven, to make inquiries at the Square.

For the first time in Johnny’s memory, murderous passions were unleashed in Raintree County. Through this warm night, where the foliage of the young summer shook out moist odors on the air, armed men like blind projectiles thundered through the County, and somewhere in that maze of dark roads a buggy fled toward dark intersections.

And all this was only because love was a flower that wanted to tear its tassel and scatter its ecstasy of seed in spring beside the river.

He remembered certain columns of print in Harper’s Weekly, stiff engravings, facsimiles of letters.

Finally, the injured husband may take the life of him who has injured him. This is the American system: and latterly it has been followed in many parts of Europe. Terrible as homicide is, this method must, on the whole, be admitted to be the most effectual, the wisest, and the most natural revenge of an outraged husband.

All the way to Freehaven Johnny carried a singularly vivid image. He kept seeing the two lovers in bed together somewhere in the County, enlaced in their forbidden love. Then in the night heavy-booted feet stamped on boards, a door splintered, blackbearded faces, glittering eyes, hoarse male breath filled up the room suddenly. The lovers, clinging to each other, sat up in bed, blinking in the flare of the torches and the swinging arcs of the lamps. The men stood hushed a moment, fully clothed in thick pants, broadbrimmed hats, heavy boots. Then blast after blast of lead seed tore the frail bodies of the lovers, still warm from each other.

Hundreds of people were in the Square talking about the flight of the two lovers. Johnny had seldom seen so many happy, excited faces. Rumors ran wild everywhere. One man insisted that he had heard someone say that the lovers had been caught in bed together down in the southeastern part of the County and that the Reverend had blown the Perfessor’s head off with a shotgun. Another man said, no, he heard that they caught the Perfessor and Mrs. Gray in bed together up in the northwestern part of the County, and that the Perfessor had blown the Reverend’s head off with a shotgun. A report came that a man with no clothes on was seen driving a buggy in the western part of the County. Soon a dozen people swore that they had seen the now fabulous buggy with their own eyes in a dozen different parts of the County.

—Godamighty! Garwood said. The Perfessor sure is travelling fast. Why doesn’t he just stop somewhere and enjoy what he’s got until they catch up with him and blow him to Kingdom Come?

There seemed to be no way of getting the truth from this welter of particulars. Even the original testimony about the buggy’s appearance at Three Mile Junction could be collected in a dozen different versions. Meanwhile, parties of pursuers were beating up and down the County like mad. The four boys decided to wait until they had something definite to go on.

The break came around midnight. Most of the posses had come back to the Square by that time to compare results. The main party, including the Reverend Gray himself and the heavy man who had flashed a lantern in Johnny’s face, had just ridden up to the Saloon and dismounted. The heavy man had a hempen rope in his hand, and the Reverend still cradled the shotgun. While they were trying to get news, a man came up and said,

—Reverend, is that ’ere buggy of yours black with a scroll on her tailboard?

—It is, brother, the Reverend said.

—Is it a black mare with a white mark on her forehead?

—It is, brother, the Reverend said.

—Well, they’s a horse and buggy just like that a-settin’ in front a your house right now not two blocks from here. I just came by there and seen it with my own eyes.

No one said anything. The Reverend’s dry lips opened and snapped shut. He set off the safety on his shotgun and started walking down the street in the direction of his house, which was just one block west from the Square on the same street. A hundred men formed behind and around him and walked with him in a silent, purposeful wedge. The Reverend’s eyes shone like balls of blue flint. He licked his lips. The skin on his forehead jerked.

Suddenly, someone broke into a run. With one impulse the mass of men around the Reverend and the Reverend himself began to run. Without a word, scores of people, mostly men and boys, ran through the Square.

Far ahead was Johnny Shawnessy, who had been the first to think of running. He ran hard, doubling his fists. He felt his coat split at the shoulder seams. He could hear the feet of the crowd behind. He had the sensation that they were chasing him. He kept expecting a blast of gunfire from the voiceless, pursuing crowd. He reached the house. He saw the buggy, covered with dust, one wheel sagging and nearly off, and the horse, lathered and jaded. He bounded to the porch in a single leap and flung open the front door.

—Professor, he yelled. Professor! They’re coming!

The downstairs hall in the large frame house was dark, but a faint light came from upstairs. Johnny called again and listened. He thought he heard someone going down a back stair and a door shutting somewhere in the back of the house, but he couldn’t be sure, for already twenty men were on the porch and through the front door, shoving and shouldering their way into the hall and pouring through the lower floor.

—Try upstairs! Johnny yelled, to divert the crowd.

He himself ran up the stair.

In a room at the head of the stair, sitting in a chair that faced the door, was Lydia Gray. Her head hung to one side, and her eyes were closed. Her yellow hair was unloosened. Her face was flushed but tearless. She had on the dress that she had worn to the picnic, and in one hand she held her widebrimmed hat trailing to the floor. The room was small, and there was obviously no one there but Lydia.

At the door, Johnny was shoved aside by the Reverend and half a dozen other men armed with shotguns.

—Woman, the Reverend said, where is your lover?

Without changing her position, the woman opened her eyes and said,

—He’s not here.

Johnny had expected tears, entreaties, protestations of innocence—anything but this beautiful indifference. The men removed their hats and looked sheepishly at each other.

—Woman, the Reverend said, what can you say for yourself?

—I have nothing to say, she said. I don’t want Mr. Stiles hurt. He isn’t guilty.

The men shuffled their feet uneasily and began to try to put their guns where they couldn’t be seen.

—Ma’am, the heavy man with the rope said in an absurdly courteous voice, could you tell us the whereabouts of Mr. Stiles?

—I don’t know, the woman said.

—Yes, ma’am, the heavy man said. Don’t trouble yourself, ma’am.

—Let’s go, a man said.

All but the Reverend began to bow out of the room. Heavy-booted, they pushed clumsily through the door, replacing their hats. The Reverend stayed in the house, but all the rest of the men went out into the yard. Some of them were giggling like girls with embarrassment and relief.

—Reckon we ought to spread out and comb the town, boys? the heavy man said without conviction.

—Spread out yourself, one of the men said. I’m goin’ home.

There was a vague feeling of disappointment in the crowd.

—You reckon he did? a citizen said.

—Does a cat have claws? a second citizen said.

As he rode home, Johnny was remembering the woman in the chair, trying to recall where he had seen such a thing before. Then he remembered. It was a picture that had appeared in a Harper’s Weekly about the time of the Sickles trial, an engraving of a statue ‘Eve Repentant,’ by the young American sculptor Bartholomew. The beautiful naked woman was seated, her long hair trailed over her shoulders, her gentle head was bent over and slightly averted, and her eyes were closed. In her hand she held the half-eaten apple, and on the ground beneath the seat coiled the serpent.

Johnny felt a hot, choking sensation that made him want to go off and hide his face, but it was shame for himself and himself only. For Lydia and the Perfessor, he felt only pity. They had been lovers and brave. Now they were discovered. And that was over. No, the shame was for himself, as if the hunt had really been for him, the obscene guns for him, the glaring torches for him.

As for Lydia, she was a woman lost, sitting, it might be, on the chair still, her hat trailing the floor, her hair touching her cheeks, and her husband flapping his withered lips at her.

When Johnny and Zeke got home, they had to tell the whole thing to T. D. and Ellen. Johnny felt the shame come back hot and strong as these things were talked of in the presence of his mother.

—Isn’t it terrible! Ellen kept saying. Poor woman! Well, I must say, I blame Perfessor Stiles. Look at all the trouble he caused.

Johnny felt as if he had personally planned and executed the whole thing and as if everyone secretly suspected it.

—If, said T. D., there was only just some way to prove that there wasn’t any uh physical uh any—well, people make such a point of such things.

Johnny went outdoors to put up the horses and get the cold night air on his skin. He kept telling himself that he had, after all, only kissed a girl and swum with her in the Shawmucky River. But it was no use. The feeling of guilt persisted strong as ever.

When he stepped into the barn, a tall figure stood in the gloom.

—Hello, John. Fancy meeting you here.

The Perfessor still had his cane, his straw hat, and his glasses, but he was dusty and sweaty, and his clothes were torn. He looked as if he had been crawling and rolling all over Raintree County.

—Professor, Johnny said, you’ve got to get out of the County!

—This idea has also occurred to me, boy, the Perfessor said. But tell me, what about Lydia?

Johnny told him how they had found her.

—Wonderful woman! the Perfessor said, rapping the barn wall sharply with his cane. I really wanted to carry her away. If we hadn’t missed that goddam train at the Junction, we’d’ve been a hundred miles away by now. Damn buggy wheel nearly came off when we turned in a ditch. We drove all the way down to Beardstown to get the train there. I left the buggy a block from the station and walked in. First man I saw said, You hear about the guy ran away with a preacher’s wife in Freehaven? I’m a stranger in these parts, myself, I said. They telegraphed down here to watch for them, he said. I looked out of the window and saw three men with guns marching up and down the platform. On my way back to the buggy, I passed a whole platoon of God’s cavalry going by hellbent for the station. I got in the buggy, turned her back to Freehaven, deciding I better take Lydia home and put a good face on the thing before somebody got shot. We rode high and handsome all the way back to Freehaven, and not a soul stopped us. I parked the buggy right in front of the Reverend’s house and went upstairs and thought up a beautiful lie to explain the whole thing. Then I heard the yelling and saw that mob of righteous citizens roaring down the street. I hesitated for a minute, and then I heard you yell, and I lit down the backstair. That’s about all there is to it. I guess you think I’m a scoundrel—eh, John?

—I don’t know what to think, Johnny said slowly.

—Ah, John, John! the Perfessor said in his slightly fake tragic manner, love is a strong thing. I loved that woman, boy. Believe it or not, this skinny breast is capable of a generous emotion. I loved and pitied her, and I wanted to carry her away. Don’t think too badly of me, my boy.

—I don’t, Professor. Somehow I can’t. I want to help you get away, if I can.

—I suppose the heroic thing would have been for me to stay around when that mob came thundering up and let the outraged husband discharge his righteous fury by blowing off various parts of my anatomy with his shotgun. But I hate that sanctimonious bastard too much to give him the satisfaction. Besides, I was scared.

—What are you going to do?

—I haven’t decided yet, the Perfessor said. The more I think about this, the madder I get. O, goddamn the injustice of it all!

The Perfessor seated himself in the hay.

—One thing really hurts me, John. I didn’t get a thing. But the hell of it is that no one will ever believe that. Every old venom-dripping hag in the County will have it that I raked the lady fore and aft, and her damned old he-whore of a husband will think the same, and dammit, John, if they’re going to think it, there might as well have been some truth in it.

—I wish there was some way to prove——

—No chance, the Perfessor said. I could go before the Reverend and make a virtuous denial. I’d get my head blown off, and no one would believe it anyway. Well, I managed the whole thing badly. You see, John, I’m a very impetuous man. It all happened in a flash this afternoon.

—But, couldn’t you have waited, Professor, for some legal remedy?

Professor Jerusalem Webster Stiles shook his head sadly and recited,

—Of guilt or peril do they deem

  In that tumultuous tender dream!

He and Johnny talked a long time, but there seemed nothing to do except that the Perfessor would have to get out of the County and go back East.

And thus, in the early dawn, Johnny Shawnessy and Professor Jerusalem Webster Stiles rose from a ditch at the base of the railroad embankment beside the Danwebster Graveyard. Somewhere down the track they heard the train coming along the branchline on its way out of Freehaven, and they knew it would be moving slow enough for a man to hook on when it reached the top of the upgrade.

The tall, skinny figure of the Perfessor stood up against the eastern sky. His black eyes looked at Johnny intently.

—John, my boy, the Perfessor said, holding out his hand and adopting his rhetorical manner, at this affecting moment I find myself inarticulate. What can I say, my boy, that shall convey to you my deep and genuine fondness and admiration? Let me only say that I expect great things of you. Don’t let the world nail you on the cross of respectability. You and I are alike in only a few ways, but those are fundamental. We both love life and beauty. If a series of misadventures have made me a cynic, that need not happen to you, my boy. You have a beautiful girl who loves you and whom you love. By all means, my boy, marry her, love her, beget broods of happy cherubim, go on, my boy, to greater and better things, and in the years that are to come let your mind sometimes revert, not without a feeling of affection, to that amiable miscreant, your misguided but perhaps not wholly misguiding mentor. Your hand, my boy. A scrap of verse may not be unfitting at this moment, if I can lay my tongue to one. Well, perhaps this will do.

The Perfessor winked and, arms gesticulating in his best classroom manner, recited,

—O, may your pathway ever gleam

  With sincere love and joy supreme.

  May Him whose eye is felt for miles,

  Bless you with Nellie’s brightest smiles

  And all that fairest love can dream:

  Such is the wish of your friend, Jerusalem Webster Stiles.

The train was drawing abreast, a lantern swinging from the cow-catcher. The Perfessor climbed the bank. With brittle agility, black coattails flapping, he leaped upon the rear of the ultimate car. Johnny heard a high voice crackling above the sullen rumble of the train:

Ave atque vale!

—Good-by, Professor! Johnny called, waving.

He saw a long, thin arm shaken obscurely against the dull sky. Then the Perfessor was gone in the grayness of the just beginning day.

Johnny’s eyes were blurred with tears. It was because a beautiful, mournful dawn was breaking in the sky, it was because he felt that there had just been a great departure in his life, it was because in this parting he knew that he had not only said good-by to the departing one but to a portion of himself as well. An era of his life was ending. He had discovered that the earth of Raintree County was not only full of beauty but of peril, and that its Hesperian fruits were guarded by dragons breathing fire. All this he had learned in part from the gifted but erring creature who had just gone down the track to eastward, but he knew that he had always suspected it himself.

When he finally got back to the Home Place and in bed, beneath his shut eyes the day just passed sprang to life again. Dreaming, he relived it in bizarre distortions. This dream, like many of his dreams, disturbed him with strange, savage encounters and adventures. And yet his dreaming self passed through the dream’s protean, erotic landscapes somehow always in the best Johnny Shawnessy tradition, pursuing an eternal quest for beauty and the good. This night, more vividly than usual (and his dreams were always vivid) the remorseless comedy of life streamed on; and just before awakening, he dreamed perhaps the most delicious, if frustrating, dream that he had ever dreamed.

He was, it seemed, coming into Freehaven along the oldest pathway of his childhood. Down the road, he saw the redbrick structure of the Court House in a clearing stubbled with stumps. It was some vision of early times in Indiana when the founders of Raintree County imposed their austere dream of freedom on the forest earth. Riding in the wagon with T. D., Ellen, and the other children, he felt as if the scene had been conceived and colored by his own verbal magic, he the budding bard of Raintree County, who like William Shakespeare would write the epic dramas of his people. For him, lusty dialogues in the manner of the elder poets, bards of deathless dramas!

Everyone was waiting for a certain important personage to arrive so that the program might begin. The sky darkened. Over the roofs of Freehaven shot a fiery streak, perhaps the burning stick of a rocket, descending till it became a train pulling into the station. Someone sprang lightly down, turning a somersault in the air, black coattails stiff out behind, eyes compounded by brilliant lenses, black hair slicked flat to a reptile skull.

professor jerusalem webster stiles

bowing gracefully to crowd, twirling malacca cane,

—Greetings, one and all, from foreign parts. As I was about to say before I was so rudely interrupted by the Protestant Reformation, I trust you all perceive the object that I hold in my hand.

the reverend mrs. gray

blushing, speaking with grave and sweet decorum,

—Your majesty, as representative of the ladies of Raintree County, I wish to tender you a cordial token of our gratitude for your ardent efforts in our behalf.


with malacca cane expertly flipping Mrs. Gray’s back skirts up and gravely reading an inscription embroidered across her bloomers,

—When this you see, remember me,

  And all our fun at Old Pedee.

Madame, I accept this festive offering in the spirit in which it is tendered. Henceforth it shall occupy a prominent place in my home as a reminder to me of happy days spent in the old Pedee Academy. And now, folks, time for our geography lesson.

He touched his pointer to a phrenological chart hanging on a tree; and as he did so, the chart, changing slowly, became a varnished study of the human anatomy and then a map of Raintree County.


in best classroom manner,

—Beware, my boy, the Peak of Penis!

  Beware, beware the Mount of Venus,

  The Wandering Isles of Genitalia!

  Beware the Roman Saturnalia

  And all the Paphian Penetralia.


naked, dancing with maenad fury, venereal mounds adorned by the ripe tobacco leaf,

—Some do it chew and some it smoke,

  Whilst some it up their nose do poke!


declining proffered cigars,

—Sorry. No, thanks. You see, my pa—— Besides, they tell me it’s against the law.

garwood jones

bulky and sleek in new suit, handsome blue eyes smiling, exhaling odor of lotion, holding whiskey bottle,

—Pure yellow corn that comes by the cup! Come on, fellers, drink up, drink up!


through megaphone,

—Ladies and gentlemen, yes-sir-ee, we’re ready to start the huskin’ bee! Workin’ fast on the middle row is young John Shawnessy. Go, boy, go!

He husked his way down a corn row growing through the court house yard past a series of exhibits while the crowd cheered him on. Nearing the finish line, he was surrounded by girls in costumes of the corn, swaying with cernuous motion.

corn maidens

—Shakamak! Husky lover! Shawny, shockheaded boy! Reder of riddles!


husky and rehearsed, from within a shrine of pillars, walled with stalks of the ripe corn,

—With yellow and unloosened hair,

  Clothed in a garment white and fair,

  Inside a green and guarded keep,

  A lovely lady lies asleep.

  No key can turn the twisted lock;

  Yet love comes in and tears her smock.

He burst through a wall of laughing girls into the shrine where an ear of corn tall as a maiden grew from a treebroad stalk. He tore the green husk down, laying bare the yellow tresses, ripe redtipped breasts, round white belly of

nell gaither

entangled in green cornstalks, looking back at him with wistful eyes, in low voice, musical, receding,

—Let’s do the next liber together, Johnny. Oft was I weary when I toiled with . . .

He was lying on the bank of the Shawmucky, where he and a great many other young men had been hunting for the fabulous white creature lost in country waters and reported in a famous article of the Free Enquirer.

willie shakespeare

sharpfaced stripling in overalls, straw hat, shirt open at neck, chewing a grass-stem, writing on coarsegrained paper,

—William Shakespeare, his hand and pen.

  He will be great—but God knows when.

johnny shawnessy

—Say, Bill, if it’s not being too personal, what’s the lowdown on your affair with Ann Hathaway? According to the records, she was twenty-six and you were eighteen when the marriage took place, and the first child was born just six months after——


—By cock, John, you’re sharp at your sums. Alackalas and welladay, ’twas midsummer madness with too little method that tumbled poor Will in the hay.

As you like it—and what doth it skill—

Ann Hathaway—and also a Will.

Everyone knows poor Will was to blame

For taming the shrew—and for shrewing the dame.

garwood jones

lying on back, hands under head, blowing smoke rings,

—Ain’t Nature grand?


peering through rushes, pointing at a girl standing naked in green sedge across the river,

—Ain’t God good to Indiana—fellers, ain’t He, ain’t He though?


—By the way, Bill, do you think John’s been in there?


—Don’t be banal, boy.


standing up, baseball bat in hand,

—It’s about time I instructed the local primates in an ingenious game. Now, folks, I trust you all perceive . . .

The bat in the Perfessor’s hand had shrunk into a starter’s pistol. In the Court House Square, hundreds of people crowded to the starting line.

official starter

tall black hat, pistol in air,

—After several delays, folks, we’re ready to start this here dash. Emulate Adam, folks. He set sich a blisterin’ early pace that he started—and dern near finished—the race. (Struggling with pistol) This doggone shootin’ ar’n ain’t wuth a dang. I cain’t seem exactly to git the——



Everyone was running in the Court House Square. Children and dogs ran under the wheels of carriages. Old men ran, waving crutches and shouting hymen. Grandams ran, holding up petticoats and making bony legs blur with speed. Girls in summer dresses ran, emitting high squeaks of excitement, backs gracefully erect, necks and shoulders held with fashionable stiffness, parasols maintained primly over heads.

flash perkins

running a shade ahead of Johnny, white teeth clenched in an insolent grin,

—Five times runnin’ I won that dash—Perkins, Orville—better known as Flash!

southern belle

shaking her shoulders and twisting her hips,

—Come on, honey, the weather’s fine down below the mixin’ and the dazin’ line.


flinging ecstatic flowers,

—Goddess, give of your gracious bounty, to the fastest runner in Raintree County!

Running, his feet were all daubed with mud. He seemed unable to stay up with the other contestants. He was ashamed to see that he was running unclothed like the ancient contenders in the Olympic games. Beside him in the fastgathering murk of the Square was his mother, Ellen Shawnessy. Her white feet glimmered beside him, as she tried to lead him along some darkening path at the end of which was a face of stone or perhaps the mythical Raintree. But he had failed her somehow. He had committed an unpardonable crime. He had done and said pagan, fleshly things and he had known desires that were of the flesh only. For this, he dared not look at her.

ellen shawnessy

her face a pale stain in the darkness,

—A great man is a man who does good for other people. What’s this I hear, Johnny, about you and——

A crowd came by yelling the lustful shout of the mob. At first, Johnny thought that they had come for him, but then he saw that they were full cry in pursuit of a buggy in which a man and woman rode naked.


lashing horses, chanting in thin sardonic voice above the sullen fury of the mob,

—Woodman, spare that tree!

  For my head am bendin’ low!

  My country, ’tis of thee!

  Goddammit, Dobbin, go!

The whole grostesquely comic vision swept past into darkness, and then with a tidal rhythm came flowing back again from darkness. Now the mob bore aloft the body of the Perfessor tied on crossed rails, dripping hot tar, bestuck with feathers. The lean, terrible body began to change form, flapped vast birdwings, tore loose from its rotting cross, began to rise slowly over the river.


beating his condor wings,

—To John Wickliff Shawnessy, life’s eternal young American, ave atque vale. Awk. Awk. Shawkamawk.

Green be the grass above thee,

Friend of my better days.

None knew thee but to love thee.

But whiskey never pays.

It was night along the river. Beams of lantern light accused the darkness. He remembered now why he was here. He had stolen a famous statue by a young American sculptor and had hidden it in his favorite nook beside the river. No doubt the whole County knew of it and was coming to chastise him. In deep grass he tugged at the antique stone and slowly unearthed the marble breasts and back and buttocks of the Venus found in Melos. Pulled loose, it seemed to come alive in his hands, a mature young woman. He strove against her warmfleshed nudity, impeded by a white oarblade, broken, which she held between them. Her green eyes watched him, pensively calm. Her hands played with the planed wood, tracing with featherlight fingertips a legend carven in an antique language. Their slight touch on the oar gave him a remote pleasure, but suddenly the visual pain of beholding their delicate caress became the anguish of his own body, betrayed into spasms of desire. Smiling, the young woman leaned her mouth to his, grazed his lips lightly. The very fury with which he seized her drove her from him. Beneath his hands her twisting waist was barky and rough, her hair was a branch of oakleaves. And she was gone beside the dark river in which he swam and stumbled through mucky pools and webs of waterweeds. Shocks of corn in near-by fields were flooded with the gray waters. . . .

He awoke into the risen day, the full sunlight of the morrow. He awoke from the dream with something like relief, for it had been, after all, less innocent than the realities of the day preceding. The Perfessor was safely gone. Best now to laurel this strange being and the memory of his stay in Raintree County with elegiac words and turn resolutely to the future.


(Epic Fragment from the Free Enquirer)

That a foolish lark ended in unnecessary anguish for many cannot be denied. But this commentator will stake his own honor for it that the lady was returned to the bosom of her spouse as chaste as when she left it. The whole thing appears to have been a sudden improvisation, a mad lark, in which, it is true, the lady acquiesced, but which had for its object nothing more serious than a little frolic at the expense of owl-visaged respectability. The open letter which Professor Stiles addressed some days ago from parts unknown to the columns of this and other Raintree County papers should place the integrity of the lady’s honor beyond any possible suspicion, except such as will always rankle in base minds. And so let us draw the curtain of merciful oblivion upon the name and memory of a man, who whatever . . .

Professor Jerusalem Webster Stiles left his mark on Raintree County. He left, among other things, columns of print in soon-forgotten newspapers, anguish in some hearts, a dozen pieces of printed skin called diplomas, a defunct institution of higher learning that soon began to be referred to as the Old Academy Building, and some unforeseen complications in the life of Johnny Shawnessy.

But it was still early summer in Raintree County. The Fourth of July Footrace was coming and had awakened more excitement than any athletic event for years because it appeared that at last Orville (better known as Flash) Perkins had met a challenger worthy of his mettle. Soon everyone was talking about the Race, and the Perfessor began to be forgotten. Johnny Shawnessy put the guilty memory of an afternoon on the banks of the Shawmucky in the back of his mind. Great preparations were forward for the Footrace. Susanna Drake, a Lovely Southern Belle, visiting in the County, had been selected to make the award of oakleaves to the winner. And Johnny had heard from a roundabout source that she had secretly expressed a preference between the Champion and the Challenger.

A few days before the Fourth, Cash Carney came around and told Johnny that Miss Drake had expressed a desire to include Johnny Shawnessy in an excursion of young people to Paradise Lake in the afternoon of the Fourth, following the Footrace. After perhaps insufficient reflection, Johnny accepted this invitation, the more readily because a few days after the Class Picnic and the Perfessor’s disappearance, he had received a note in the mail, reading:


Never try to speak to me again. I will try to forget you, and I beg you to put from your mind

forever all recollections of

your unworthy but



In the timesoftened valley of the Shawmucky, he stood, retracing with his finger a carven name. From the letters, he dug out a hundred little gray cocoons, blind dwellers in a legend unperceived, a hieroglyph that love and sorrow had wrought in stone.

The last car of the train rumbled by.

He opened the cardboard box and laid a handful of cut flowers, roses and lilies, on the mound. Backing away, he gazed at the stone. Its stately form tranquillized the emotion of farewell. Curved whiteness from the river had become a lapidary attitude. By Ovidian magic, young love was changed to stone.

He walked quickly over to the Shawnessy lot, sickled the five mounds, dropped the remnant flowers by the family monument.

The train, westward diminishing, wailed at a crossing. He pulled out his watch and read the dial. Eight-five.

Train doesn’t know the earth it passes over. Train thunders daily down the stretch behind the Old Home Place. Train is a tumult passing. Hoarse voice of train wails in the valley of Danwebster.

Sleepers in the earth, do you hear the train passing? Do you any longer hear the sound of its diurnal course, beloved sleepers in the earth of Raintree County?

Listen to the voice of train. The way for it is straight and far across the land. It rushes far and fast across the Nation, passing westward, passing through Raintree County.

(O, blithe days, o, early agrarian days on the breast of the land! O, Eden of bland repose!)

Listen! There is a voice of thunder on the land. It is the voice of years and fates, crying at intersections; it is the bullhead beast, who runs on a Cretan maze of iron roads and chases the naked sacrifices hither and thither. The bullgod comes up fast out of the east, under the churning of his round rear haunches. Smell of a blackened ash, odor of hot metal, the frictioning iron parts, blows across the earth of memories.

(O, sweet young days of the aching but unripped seedpurse. O, tall endeavors. O, innocent, fragrant time.)

Listen! What voice is calling now, voice of the grooved wheels on the roads of the hurrying days! It is the thunder of the big events. They are coming, full of malice and arrogance, they are coming on hooves of iron, wounding the earth of Raintree County. They will travel straight and far, through the light barriers of the corngold days. Lo! they will drive the young gods, the beautiful young gods, from the river’s reedy marge.

The day becomes brighter and hotter. In court house squares, the streets of the Nation, the people gather. The train bears its streamer of black smoke, a banner of progress fast and far across the land. Lo! we must keep our appointments. The clock on the Court House Tower is telling the time of day. We have a rendezvous in a train station, there where the thundering express stops a moment in the bright day and lets down out of its smoky womb a procession of remembered faces.

Listen! great voice of thunder and urgency, voice of titan yesterdays and of still more titanic tomorrows! Do you still bring me tidings, have you still a bundle of headlines to throw down for me, will the face of the most beautiful of women look unexpectedly from a window of the trembling coaches for me? Or do you bring again, as so often before, a somber freight for me, who hearken the voice of your passing here on the breast of the land?

He walked back through the tangled grass of the Danwebster Graveyard, trying not to step on graves.

He sighed as he pushed through the gates of the graveyard. He was tired. He had rebuilt the classic stones of a lost republic. He had dreamed again the fabric of an antique Raintree County. His eyes smarted from the sweat of this endeavor.

Hundreds and thousands had travailed at the task. Now they were dead, sleepers in the earth. What did it avail a man, the labor long and hard, the weary road, and many years?

He climbed up the grade of the railroad, plunged longstriding down the far side, retraced his own trail to the riverbank, crossed on the dam, slightly wetting his feet.

In the valley of a vanished name, two boys loitered, hunting for relics. In a surrey by the road, a young woman with grave dark eyes looked down the road in motionless profile.

What creature is it that in the morning of its life . . .

What were the days of a man? Where did the small brown roads lead him at last? Who could preserve the ancient verities of Raintree County?

Mr. John Wickliff Shawnessy replaced a sickle, wet with blood of grass, in the back seat of the surrey, where a girl sat lost in a sentimental legend between green cloth covers. Like the forgotten boy named Johnny, he saw her as given to a quest, believing that all books are somehow legend and eternal, each one containing somewhere the talismanic word, the lost engraving, peace. All the intersections of his life had been necessary so that she too might have her morning on this road of memories and be the child and cherisher of Raintree County, his daughter



closed the book. It had been a noble last page. All the barriers had been burned away.

The surrey had left the site of Danwebster and the river far behind. She had meant to get a good look at the Old Home Place, where she had been born twelve years ago and had spent the first five years of her life, but she had been too much absorbed in the climax of the story. Now the surrey was almost to Moreland.

—Through with the book, Eva?


She handed the book to Wesley, feeling how precious was the thing she surrendered in a gilded cover. But she would linger in a golden world.

She would linger in the world of the sentimental novels, where it wasn’t necessary to be Eva Alice Shawnessy, a girl of twelve beginning to be ungracefully a woman. She would linger in the world of her namesake, the most famous child of the Nineteenth Century. In this world, unknown to all, she would be the heroine of beautiful adventures and beautiful deaths. By purity, courage, faith, she would save lives, free races, win the deathless admiration and love of all who knew her, and at last expire in a circle of weeping friends and relatives with the sun lighting a halo around her pale, thin face. Farewell, beloved child! the bright eternal doors have closed after thee; we shall see thy sweet face no more. . . . Then she would have a hundred resurrections of herself like all those other sunny, deathless little girls who appeared in book after book, narratives grave and gay, intended for the entertainment and instruction of all the wellbroughtup little girls of America.


(Epic Fragment from the Eva Series)

It was a summer’s day, and it was summer too in the heart of a certain small person, who at this commencement of our tale, we find sauntering idly by herself along a country road. And who is this girl whose hair is like finespun gold, whose eyes are the color of the cloudless skies? Some of our little readers have already guessed her name. She is, of course, none other than Eva, that delightful child, heroine of so many happy and instructive tales. At the time of our present story she is about twelve years old, her form foretelling already the graceful proportions of the woman, while retaining the delicate lightness of the child. And where is Eva going? That, my inquisitive little dears, will be discovered to you all in good time. . . .

—Have you finished your book, Eva?

—Yes, Mamma.

Austere and vaguely accusing, the question had shattered the golden dream, and instantly Eva remembered the nightmare she had dreamed just before waking up in the morning. Then as now it had been the earth of Raintree County over which she travelled, but she had been alone, walking, forlornly hunting for her home on roads diminishing in mournful silence to the far horizons. Yes, these were surely the small brown roads of Raintree County, and the houses that she saw at a great distance were surely the plain board houses of Raintree County. But she had somehow become lost in her own familiar earth. She couldn’t even remember what home the family was living in from among the many homes she had had in Raintree County. And what season was it—summer, winter, autumn, spring? Or was it some seasonless and timeless landscape, one in which it was impossible to return to the right home at the right time? If only she could find a familiar landmark—the plain board buildings of the Old Home Place, or perhaps the brick tower of the Greenville house, or the steeple of the Moreland School, or the lonely structure of Waycross Station—she would have her bearings and be instantly at home. Somehow she had got lost from an earlier dream in which small golden flowers had sifted on her eyes and she had floated on a lake at evening, and it was summer and the days were long. Or was that all the legend of another girl, a fabulous, forgotten little girl, the little dreamer of a summer dream?

Then while she wandered in that dawncolored landscape, she remembered about the crazy woman. Right now, the crazy woman might be hiding behind a hedge watching. Looking over her shoulder, Eva saw a tall woman with black hair and bright black eyes coming swiftly across the field behind her.

—Papa! Papa!

Her screaming was a tortured small moaning in her throat. Her legs were glued with earth. The crazy woman came up behind her and raised the knife in her rigid arm; her indianstraight hair was shaken with fury. . . .

—Eva! Time to get up.

It had been her mother’s voice, thrusting into the dream and bringing her back into real life.

Her father shook the reins over President’s back.

—How time passes! he said. It seems only yesterday, children, that we walked along this road on the way to school.

—It seems a long time ago to me, Papa, Eva said.

It was clear to her that her father didn’t measure time as she did. Already she divided the twelve years of her life into distinct periods, according to where she had lived. It made her uneasy to think that perhaps her father regarded the entire fourteen years since his marriage to Esther Root as a single period, in which Eva was a minor—if somewhat noisy and persistent—accident.

She looked at the green earth swimming by her as the surrey passed like a lazy boat rocking on a lazy river. She was passing down one of the oldest pathways of her childhood, a way to school. She was remembering summers of long, slow trips in the surrey from town to little town. In all these memories, her father was a presence mystical, pervasive. The years of his life—those lost years before there was any Eva, years of his boyhood, his youth, and his young manhood—spoke to her with indistinct, soft voices. The legend of her father waited for her to rediscover it between the green covers of a sentimental novel inscribed with a golden legend. In that story, she too would have a part. Unseen, she must have been there all the time, travelling the little long brown roads of Raintree County, tracing on the earth a vast initial, hunting for her home. A hundred bright eternal doors opened for her. Her ways and times were neither before nor after his, but woven with his own in the same gold myth of summer and the earth. Welcome, beloved child, heroine of an endless series! Yes, she would linger in a golden world, remembering


once upon a time

a little girl lived beside a road

that went somewhere and somewhere and how she had a father and a mother and a brother and had always been a little girl in a house beside a road.

Her great desire was to travel on the road that went somewhere and somewhere. Often the family would go together in the surrey and start along the road, and it would be a long day in the summer, and they would go a long way and visit another house beside a road. And sometimes it was night and she slept as the surrey passed along the road, and always she was back at last in the house beside the road.

Behind the big house was a little house where she and her brother Wesley played. The little house was piled with old things, and it had a strange spicy smell that came from glass-stoppered bottles with black words on them. This little house was taken down when she was still very small. It was called the Office, and it belonged once to T. D., who was dead long ago. She and her brother played Explorer too, and sometimes they went to the end of the South Field and watched the train go by. A few big oaks partly hid the hurrying train on its high embankment. Close to the railfence was a scarred boulder, higher than a man, lying like a big egg halfsunk in the earth.

—This is the oldest thing on the Home Place, Eva, her father told her once. Older than you and I.

—Or T. D.?

—Yes, much older.

—Or the road?

—Yes, even than the road.

She tried to think of the time when there hadn’t been a road. But she couldn’t do it. She couldn’t even remember being a baby.

There was a picture of the baby Eva. The baby Eva was a fat, bald, bugeyed thing that looked something like a toad in a dress. It was too bad, because this baby had been given beautiful names. She had been called Eva from a little girl in a book called Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and one time her father told her that the word ‘Eva’ meant Life, and that it was the noblest name a little girl could have. Her other name, Alice, had come from another book called Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It had been written by a grown-up man for a little girl who really lived and whose name was Alice.

Child of the pure unclouded brow

  And dreaming eyes of wonder!

It had taken great courage for her father to call the baby Eva by these noble, beautiful names. Eva would have to become a famous and beautiful woman to justify these names.

But when she got bigger, she was still squatty and plump with large staring blue eyes and peculiar brown hair. When people called, they never said, Isn’t she pretty! but instead, Well, I’ll bet this one isn’t sick much! Then Eva would almost cry for rage and shame, and especially for pity of her father, who had given her the names.

People called her father Mr. Shawnessy—or, rarely, John. But one time a woman Eva didn’t know called him Johnny. Eva was shocked. Her mother had never called him anything but Mr. Shawnessy in front of other people and had never in her life used his first name in any form. Perhaps that was because she had gone to school to him when she was a little girl, years before they were married.

Eva’s father had the school in Moreland, to which he walked every day of the schoolyear. At home he was almost always reading or writing. Eva would think back and back, and it seemed to her that the oldest memories she had were of her father sitting in the yard of the Old Home Place, feet propped on a rock, reading a book or writing in a tablet. She would look over his arm and study the curved, softflowing marks. Her father never got tired of making them. He said that they were poems.

It bothered Eva that she knew so little. The big trouble was that she didn’t know where she came from. Once her father said,

—You came from those two photographs on the wall, Eva. They belong to the Pre-Eva Age.

The two photographs on the parlor wall were a picture of the Shawnessy family and a picture of the Root family, grouped in the respective front yards of the Old Home Place and the Old Root Farm. These pictures had been taken at about the same time, two weeks before a famous Fourth of July in 1878, when Eva’s father and mother had run away to get married. In the middle of the Shawnessy group was T. D., Eva’s grandfather, a tall brittle old man looking vaguely happy about something, as he sat with his three daughters and four sons. He had died a year before there was any Eva, and they had put him into the ground in a hill by the river. In the Root picture Eva’s other grandfather, Gideon Root, sat blackbearded, bigheaded, immense in the middle of his children. On his right, with her hand in his, stood Eva’s mother, Esther Root, in half-profile, her eyes like her father’s, dark and sad.

For a long time Eva never saw her Grandfather Root except in the picture. Then one day he rode hugely out of the picture—or rather Eva rode into it.

The family had been visiting in an unfamiliar part of the County. As the surrey topped a gentle rise, Eva’s mother pointed to a lonely farmhouse on the left, set close to the road.

—That’s where I was brought up, children, she said. That’s the Old Farm.

Then a fearful thing happened.

A buggy came into view as if it had sprung from the ground. It rolled swiftly along a lane from the barn behind the house to the main road. It was a black shiny buggy pulled by a big black horse. It turned onto the main road and came toward the surrey. There was a low thunder of hooves and a squeaking sound. The buggy came closer and closer, and Eva could see a big face under the hood, and a black beard with jags of gray, and a thickfleshed nose ending in a sensitive tip, and eyes black and big that looked right into her eyes.

A few yards away, the man in the buggy jerked the reins and shouted,


His voice was so loud and terrible that buggy and surrey stopped side by side. Eva’s father could have reached out and touched the man in the buggy.

The big man sat, knees close together. He held the reins in one hand, and in the other the crop of a coiled whip of woven leather. He looked at Eva’s mother as if she were the only one in the surrey.

—Esther, he said, the old home’s waitin’ for you. Come on back.

Eva’s mother looked at the man. Her eyes were dark and sad like his own.

—Pa, she said, I’ll come back as soon as I can bring Mr. Shawnessy and the children.

There was a dead hush. The man and the woman looked at each other. The man’s eyes burned with dark hunger, and the woman’s were brooding and sad. The buggy and surrey and their occupants side by side on the narrow road were as still as a photograph. And the lonely little farmhouse was still. And the long acres around it were still.

Then the man’s face changed. From deadwhite, it turned red, bloating with blood. The man looked at Eva’s father and then at herself and her brothers in the back seat and again at her father. The man’s bluntfingered hand bulged on the crop of the black whip, the knuckles of his balled fist turned blue, his mouth opened, he panted, half rose in the buggy, and swung the whip. It went crashing out along the flanks of the black horse. The black horse lunged as if it had been shot, President reared in the stays, and in the same instant, buggy and surrey shot forward and down the road in opposite directions.

After that one meeting with her Grandfather Root, Eva never again felt quite the same sense of peace and security when riding on the County roads. As for why her grandfather hated her father, no one would tell her the reason. It was one of the secrets of the Old Days.

The Old Days were full of maddening secrets. Once while Eva was digging things out of a box in the attic, she found two photographs—one of a woman holding a little boy and another of the same woman holding a doll. The woman was very pretty, but she looked sick or frightened. Eva took the pictures to her father and asked him about them.

—That was my first wife, he said, startled. A long time ago—before I married your mother, Eva.

—Where is she now, Papa?

—She’s dead.

—Whose little boy is that?

—That was my little boy, he said. Here, Eva, we’d better put those pictures away. It makes me sad to look at them. You don’t want to make Papa sad, do you?

Another secret thing from the Old Days was the biggest book in the family bookcase, the Byron book, which Eva once got down, finding these words on the flyleaf in a pretty hand:

For Johnny,

In memory of happy days together at Pedee Academy,


Between the pages of the book were wisps of flowers plucked in some summer of her father’s youth, weightless little corpses that left faint stains and fragrance on the fine black print.

—Who was Nell, Papa? Eva had asked her father.

—Someone I knew in my youth, Eva, he said, closing the book and putting it back into the top row of the bookcase.

In the Old Days, everything was either Before the War, During the War, or After the War. The War had been fought to free the slaves and save the country. President Lincoln was a kind good man with a sad face and a black beard. He had had a small boy named Tad and had been shot in a theatre. Their own father had come home sick at the end of the War with a scar on his left shoulder.

Before the War her father had been a great runner and had run a famous race against someone named Flash Perkins in the Court House Square. Sometimes the surrey would go by an old brick building in Freehaven, and her father would say that it was the old Pedee Academy, where he went to school when he was a boy Before the War. As for the Old Days After the War, they were more mysterious even than the others. One day Eva and Wesley found in the attic a little red book with black words printed on the outside:







Their father said that it was a guidebook he had bought in Philadelphia, where they had a kind of fair like the County Fair, only much bigger.

All through the Old Days her father had taught school in Raintree County. Eva was always meeting people who had gone to school to him, and some of them looked older than he. But then he never changed much, and it was hard to believe that he was eighteen years older than her mother.

Her mother was sallow and slender and had a red smooth mouth and jetblack hair. Her face in repose was sad and almost stern. In her mother’s presence, Eva always felt vaguely guilty of something. When Eva was naughty—which was not seldom—it was her mother who punished her, switching her legs with a rattail plaintain while Eva yelled without shame, being unable to take punishment like Wesley.

—Wesley’s an Indian like his mother, their father would say. They never show their real feelings.

That was a good one of her father’s about Wesley being an Indian. There was something about Indian blood in her mother’s family, but Wesley had blond hair and skyblue eyes. He was a boy, and boys had it better than girls. Their mother always favored him, and everyone looked upon him as the bright light and shining star of the family because he had such a wonderful memory.

Her other brother, Will, was born at the Old Home Place when Eva was five. One morning, not long after his birth, their mother was down on her knees going along the edge of the carpet pulling up tacks, and all the time the tears ran down her cheeks and fell on the floor, but she didn’t make a sound. It was in the late summer, and all their things were loaded into two big wagons, and they all got into the surrey and rode away down the road that went somewhere and somewhere.

The road brought them by evening to a little town called Greenville, and they took an angling street to the outskirts, and in the declining light, across the pastures and the fences, standing in isolation beside a pond, its redbrick sides glowing with a living warmth, its upper windows reddened by the sun, a house stood waiting.

—Why, it’s like a tower! Eva said.

A lonely form, unlike any other in all Raintree County, the house in Greenville where Eva lived for two years was a kind of sixsided brick tower, the whole mass pierced with narrow windows and crowned with a mansard roof rising to an observation platform. A small greenhouse attached to the back of the house and extending to the pond was full of glistening plants. A queer doctor, whom Eva never saw and whose name she couldn’t remember, had made the house, the greenhouse, and the pond.

Her father had the school at Greenville, and except for the new house, his life was as before, with reading, writing, and teaching. But for Eva the life at Greenville was a changed life. The dominant image of this new life was the pond mucky and green, full of spooling and spawning forms of fish and frogs and snakes scaringly beautiful. Deeply puzzled by the miracle of life and the mystery of the sexes, Eva was a moody, jealous little girl during the years at Greenville. It was here that she committed the greatest crime of her life, the murder of the boy doll.

This was a lovely doll that was given to her little brother Will on his second birthday. Eva coveted the doll, and when Will wouldn’t let her hold it and their mother scolded her for taking it away, Eva wished the destruction of the doll. In the afternoon, taking her old rag doll she dipped it into the pond to baptize it, and as she had hoped, Will dipped his doll. As the beautiful new doll slipped out of his hands into the pond, Eva felt a terrible pang of joy and remorse mingled. She took a stick and snagged the doll and brought it to the surface muddy and ruined. Crying, the children laid the soaked dolls at their mother’s feet. As Eva had expected, no one was punished since the harm had come to the doll through a religious motive.

Soon after this, the family left Greenville. But all her life, when she would think of Greenville, Eva would think of how the little blue-eyed human form went down into the green waters of the pond and came up drowned and dead, and then she would think of the house itself with the greenhouse projecting from its base, the house that was like a tower, of a mysterious and significant origin.

And then slowly the image of her father would come to her, prevailing above all the other images, and she would remember her talks with him beside the pond where he had told her the meaning of life and had explained to her the ineffaceable difference that she carried on her small body, source of her darkest speculations and jealousies. She would remember then how she had come home in the evenings from school (for it was at Greenville that she began her schooling) and had seen the house down in its lowlying field far back from the road. The picturesque thrust of it, the piercing uniqueness of it, the quaint distinction that sat upon its lonely form blended somehow with the memory of her father in those ancient years of the life in Greenville. This towerlike house beside a road became with the Old Home Place one of the landmarks of her life, rising mystic and serene above the green pondwoven shapes and passions of her childhood. It was one of the temples of her father’s spirit.

From Greenville, the family returned to the Old Home Place and after a year moved into Moreland, where her father had the school again. Now for the first time, Eva went to school to her father.

Moreland. It was a word forlorn and tender, like the sound and aftersound of a distant schoolbell. This word and the meaning that it came to have for Eva pervaded the plain of her life with a sweet and strenuous sound. Moreland. It called into being a new Eva, who, like a princess imprisoned in a toad, had been waiting to shed her drab skin. The blind little creature of the Greenville pond was touched with light and became a human being with divine aspirations. From the moment that she saw her father at the front of the schoolroom and heard his gentle, leisurely voice, a hunger possessed her to press beyond the barriers of her own existence into her father’s world. It was the world of eternal life, and it called to Eva, the child of life, in the familiar accents of her father’s voice. To find this world, to understand its principles, strong and certain, to learn its language supremely musical and strange, became a religion for Eva.

The temple of this new religion was the Moreland Schoolhouse, standing symmetrical in its wide yard, two equal wings and a tower holding a bell. And the way to school from the Home Place to Moreland became to her the most memorable pathway of her childhood, the most beautiful and secret road in Raintree County, the same road which had gone somewhere and somewhere in her infancy.

She and her father and Wesley would walk together in the early morning to school and in the evening home. The way was very pleasant in the fall, when grass and weeds in the ditches were beginning to toughen and turn color. Later the road froze hard, and sometimes it was snow all the way, so that their eyes hurt, and their faces were red and raw in the soft white world of winter. Then came the first thaws and windy skies of spring, and then gray days of rain and rivulets running, and during this time their father carried a black umbrella. Then blades and buds rushed from the rainsoaked earth, and a faint flush of green lay shimmering down the road from tiny spears of grass in the soft May. Their father always had time to let them loiter and examine things. In season, they would strip the black haw trees while he leaned on a fence, reading a book or perhaps simply regarding the sky as if he owned it and understood it.

During these years of her schooling at Moreland, Eva acquired a clearer image of her father, one that she would never greatly change. He became for her a sacred object toward which she had a special duty greater than that of mere daughter to mere father. The manuscript on which he worked in his spare time contained the most precious words in the world. Her favorite daydream was that the house would catch on fire, and she would climb in through a window, crawl through flame and smoke, grab the huge, sagging pile of her father’s poem, fight her way back through smoke and flame, and come staggering out into the yard, where her father would find her pitiful, dead form, with the great manuscript clutched safe on her breast.

The great reverence which she felt for her father was shared by other people in the County, who sought her father’s advice on all sorts of things. Whenever the family made a progress through the County in the surrey, they were almost certain to have some quaint encounter that testified to the special reverence in which her father was held. Once a man stopped beside them in a buggy and leaning out said,

—John, I’ve had two lines of a pome runnin’ in my head for days. I can’t git rid of it, and I can’t finish it. I says to myself, I’ll see John Shawnessy, and he’ll finish it.

—Let’s hear it, her father said.

The man recited:

—Adam, the first of humankind,

  He had music on his mind.

Her father thought a moment and recited,

—But in that great and dreadful Fall,

  He lost his musicbook and all.

The man sat thoughtful in his buggy a long time, following the surrey with his eyes.

Eva did not entirely conquer her spiteful, envious self during the years at Moreland. It nearly wore her out trying to keep up with her brother Wesley in school. She never hoped to hold her own with him in literature and history, but Wesley had no mind for arithmetic while Eva was a whiz at it.

—Eva has a scientific mind, her father said.

She treasured this statement, a consolation to her in her unending strife with Wesley. The image she made of her brother in this period became fixed like the one she made of her father, and she put it away in her mind along with the shape of the Moreland schoolhouse and other eternal things and never greatly altered it. It was the image of him as going into the contest, whether racing to victory in the schoolyard games or fighting bigger boys to a standstill, his tongue between his teeth, his blue eyes shining with a peculiar light, not anger but more like someone seeing a vision. He was the eternal competitor, ruthless in contest, generous in victory.

Eva must have walked thousands of miles with her father and Wesley on the roads of Raintree County on the way to and from school in the early years of her life. And as always, these roads held for her a promise of strange encounters and discoveries.

One afternoon in the spring, returning without their father from the Moreland School to the Old Home Place, the two children stopped to pick violets and spring beauties where the road turned outside Moreland. Close by in the ditch, Eva saw a pile of trash and right on top the fist-sized bust of a man. But Wesley beat her to it and got the little statuehead, on which as he held it up Eva could see the word BYRON on a scroll at the base. It was a beautiful head, like old marble, virile, with clustering curls, and the only flaw a nick in the left shoulder. Eva, who had seen it first, wanted it more than anything else she had ever seen. She tried to grab it from Wesley, and when he refused to give it up, saying that he planned to put it with his other treasures in a box at the top of a big maple that Eva was afraid to climb, she lost her head completely. There was a scuffle and Wesley broke away and ran down the road with Eva in pursuit, bawling and shrieking. He easily outdistanced her and left her out of breath and blind with tears. At home, she broke out afresh, while Wesley as usual remained stoically calm. Her mother told her to quiet down before they settled the matter. But Eva couldn’t quiet down. She went on sobbing and yelling dreadful things about how she hated Wesley and her mother and how they always hung together. At last, her mother switched her, and Eva went into a bedroom and wished outloud that she were dead. When her father got home, he came in to see her, holding her hand and smoothing her hair. She was aware of herself as a small squatty girl, her face dirtied with crying, her hair mussed, her dress stained, her stockings down, her nose running, while her father sat there looking tired from teaching all day and talking with her a little about the value of things. Eva couldn’t explain to herself now why it was that she had wanted the little head so badly. But gradually she grew calmer and felt horribly ashamed of the whole affair. At suppertime, Wesley came around and offered her the statuehead, and the strange thing was that now she didn’t want it and wouldn’t take it and started to cry again. All her sorrow seemed to come back upon her, but without the angry feeling, and she felt as if she could weep whole rivers of tears and never get over the sorrow that she felt.

It was some time after this episode that she dreamed the most terrible nightmare of her life. In her dream she had just left the schoolhouse to go home. In the quiet time of day, alone and homeward going, her schoolbooks in a strap over her shoulder, her lunchbox in her hand, passing the last houses of Moreland, she was tracing on the earth the silent letter of her being. She thought of the jog in the road, the faces of the few houses along the way, arrival in the evening. She had reached the turning, she was about to turn.

Just then across the fading day a single lone, lorn, clear, compelling bell of sorrow sounded, and her gaze was lifted and prolonged by the sound so that it fell just on a place beside the road where she and her brother sometimes picked violets in the spring.

A human head was lying there among the flowers. She walked slowly to the spot, bending over to see more clearly.

It was her father’s head, cleanly severed at the neck, eyes shut, mouth open. It had been chewed by dogs. She stood rooted, her tongue glued to the roof of her mouth so that she couldn’t scream. Her father’s dark reddish hair had been trampled and mussed, the skin had been worried by dogs’ teeth, but the face retained its warm coloring against the dank earth.

Unutterable sorrow flooded her with an emotion stronger than any she had ever felt before. She began to moan and shake her head. Hot tears ran down her cheeks. With the absurdity of desperation, she wondered if there might not be some way of sewing the head back on the headless trunk, as one might repair a sawdust doll. But then it was necessary to find her father’s body. She turned and with outstretched arms began to run down the road crying,

—Papa! Papa! Papa! . . .

From this dream, her father’s own voice awakened her to the knowledge that the thing was not so. Yet her grief could not have been more real if she had really seen her father’s head lying on the road. And the dreadful image haunted her for days and even weeks so that she was afraid to go to sleep lest she behold it again, an ambush for her soul lurking on some road of Raintree County. What fate, she wondered, pursued her with this sinister image? What guilt required a self-chastisement so terrible? For after all, she alone was the dreamer of these dreams.

But most of the time during the years at Moreland, she was very happy and seemed to be getting the best of the spiteful, passionate Eva of earlier years. Into her great effort to learn everything and to be good and worthy in the eyes of her father, she threw all her strength. She had a secret hope that if she persevered and never admitted defeat, the time would come when Eva Alice Shawnessy would be a great name, equal to those of the world’s most famous women. She would make her father proud, and the name of Shawnessy the equal of any other name down the ages.

Several times she had heard her father say that there would one day be a genius in the family. From time to time, he would have the three children line up, and in a half-humorous way would examine the bumps on their heads. They would all stand solemnly waiting for his pronouncement, and he would say something about Bumps of Calculation, Memory, and the like. Eva would stand with eyes averted while her father examined her head. She hoped that her bumps were right so that some day she might be greatly worthy of her father.

—What do you think, Papa? she would say hopefully.

—A very remarkable head, her father would say. Perhaps Eva will be the best of us all.

It was very kind of her father to say it, because secretly he must have known that he was the best of all in the whole world and also he must have known (what she, Eva, secretly knew, but hardly admitted even to herself) that Wesley was smarter, and that everyone expected Wesley to be the bright light and shining star of the family and not Eva, who was, after all, only a girl.

Eva sometimes wondered if she ever got very far beyond the great enlightenment of those first few years when her father was her teacher and she learned that all things were founded on fundamental principles and that the process of knowing was a matter of grasping those principles and keeping them steadfastly in mind.

The feeling of deliverance from a prison of ignorance made the years at Moreland unique among her memories. Then it was that she discovered the plan of an Eva noble and intelligent. This Eva was the Moreland Eva.

The Moreland Eva had lived in a world of time and longing but now remained forever in a world of eternal images, a world of small brown roads and plain board houses.

The Moreland Eva walked on an ancient road between the Home Place and the Moreland School. She made the turn into Moreland, crossed the tracks, went down the street between the houses, turned left into the grassless playground. The Moreland Eva walked through the single door of the Moreland Schoolhouse and hung her wraps in the cloakroom. She sat at her carved familiar desk, she smelled the odor of chalk and children’s bodies, she saw through the window a lasting shape of earth. She saw her brother Wesley sitting in his place. And at the front of the room in his old black suit, standing at the blackboard holding a piece of chalk, her father stood and moved his lips, his eyes had a remote and sweet expression, words and numbers grew mystically beneath his hand. And after school, the Moreland Eva (a small stocky girl with large blue eyes, straight, strong features, and indecisive brown hair) would go forth from the Moreland School and set off along the road, tracing again

and ever on the earth of Raintree County

the pathway to


—Home in plenty of time to meet the Senator’s train, her father said, consulting his watch.

Looking for the roofs of Waycross, Eva saw something like a vast brown bladder swelling on the south horizon. The unfamiliar became instantly a vague fear.

Then she remembered what it was.

She was wondering if she would see her Grandfather Root at the Revival Tent. He had come to some of the earlier meetings, and Eva had even walked past him, almost touching him with her dress once. Of course, as usual, he didn’t speak to her, although he did go over and talk with her mother awhile.

There was something ominous about the big Revival Tent. Eva knew that her life had always been pierced with flashes of anxiety, just as sometimes on a blithe summer day a black cloud would roll down on Raintree County, the air would split with jags of fire, thunder would bound in heavy balls up and down the County, and then the rain would fall. Raintree County was itself a vast foursided tent, under which might rush at times the four winds of the Nation.

Among the few parked buggies, Eva looked for the shiny black horse of her Grandfather Root, or for her grandfather himself, standing massively apart, his beard shot with jags of gray, his big head pivoting slowly on the motionless block of his body.

Just past the Revival Tent the surrey had to stop behind a line of vehicles waiting to enter the National Road.

—The children and I will just get out here, Esther Shawnessy said, and walk down to the Station. Then I’ll come back alone for the service at the tent.

She and the children climbed out.

—I’ll drive home, their father said, and put President up for the day. I suppose I’ll be busy from then on looking after the Senator. Have a good day, children.

—Pshaw! Did you ever see so many people! Eva’s mother said.

She walked ahead of the children past the stalled vehicles, her straightbacked form moving with grave purpose, her feet planted exactly parallel.

Eva hadn’t stepped on firm ground since they had left home at sun-up. The rocking motion of the surrey still governed her body. She felt languidly aswim in light. For hours, she had floated on the calm ocean of summer and had enjoyed an immense, passive possession of herself and the earth. Now the earth surprised her by its immovable substance. She looked at the sky, walled by far clouds east, but cloudless over Raintree County.


(Epic Fragment from the Eva Series)

Yes, little blue-eyed Eva, you raise your eyes toward the eternal sky. What do you see there, Eva, child of the summer day? Look deep and far, Eva, our favorite little girl, and see if you can read upon the face of this ocean of God’s universe any tracing of your own life in huge characters. Do you see there the far, beautiful realms of peace and love where joy forever dwells, the cloudbuilt ramparts of your heavenly home awaiting, when all earthly barriers have been burned away? Little tempestuous and tender spirit, our own dear Eva of the childlife series, our little heroine of so many episodes fraught with grave and gay, entertainment and instruction for the wellbroughtup little girls of America, do you see there some haven of eternal peace, where all your dreams come true, in the arms of a beneficent Creator, your Father and your God, when the slow-pacing years have carried you home at last along


The Great Road of the Republic

Passing through Waycross made a sound like a prolonged chord, dissonant but not unmusical. It aroused in Mr. Shawnessy an old excitement. It was the sound of humanity in crowds.

As he drove nearer to the Road, the tonal ingredients of the chord emerged. Bandmusic spouted, firecrackers crumped, wheels ground on gravel, hooves clanged, horses whinnied, human throats bubbled.

Beyond the intersection, the long aisle of the street was swollen with parasols, derby hats, flags, blurring and brightening around the railroad station. Stranger even than Mr. Shawnessy’s prophetic dream of the early dawn was this glut of people on the wide and quiet crossing.

At the intersection, he felt the pull of the Great Road. It sucked him out of the narrow county road, picked him up, flung him about in a whirlpool of traffic. Engulfed in the Mississippian stream of the Republic, he navigated the surrey carefully against the tide. He reached his own yard, went into it between parked buggies, and drove into the barn, where he quickly unharnessed President and put him into a stall.

He picked up the Atlas and the newspapers, planning to run into the house and tidy up before going down to the Station. As he went around to the front porch, he saw a man in a white linen suit sitting on the porchswing.

—Mr. John Wickliff Shawnessy, I presume?

The voice was a pleasant, hissing sound.

—Yes? Mr. Shawnessy said, tentatively.

The man stood up and walked briskly down the steps, plucking the cigar from his mouth and switching it to his canehand.

—Glad to see you again, my boy.

—Professor! Mr. Shawnessy said, taking the thin, strong hand.

Nodding amiably, Professor Jerusalem Webster Stiles exhaled aroma of distant places and metropolitan manners.

—Don’t you grow old like other people, my boy?

—You haven’t changed much yourself, Professor.

—I grow old, the Perfessor said. Deep scars of thunder have entrenched, and care sits on this faded cheek. But happily I still have my teeth. Both are sound and sometimes leave a signature of senile passion on the shoulders of the most beautiful women in the City of New York.

The Perfessor shook soundlessly. His skull was bonebright under thin hairs that were still defiantly—almost obscenely—black, slicked back from a middle part. His long, narrow face seemed all features and wrinkles. But the tall form was still erect and jaunty, the malacca cane swung with practised ease, the black eyes darted restlessly about. The essential Perfessor was still there, seen as through a frosted glass.

—You fooled me, Professor. Your letter didn’t say——

—At exactly seven forty-five this morning, the Perfessor said, trainborne I crossed the borders of Raintree County. I haven’t been back since that day thirty-three years ago when the preacher’s shotgun goosed me over the border. When did we last see each other, John?

—Fifteen years ago. July of ’77. Night of the Grand Ball at Laura Golden’s in New York.

—Ah, yes, the Perfessor said. The night you ascended the Great Stair. I envied you that night, John. Tell me the truth, my boy, what did you do up there?

—I was hunting for the exit.

—Hmmmmmmm, the Perfessor said. Won’t tell, eh?

He looked around, twirling his cane.

—So this is where the Bard of Raintree County has elected to spend his declining years. Really, John, isn’t it a bit bucolic for a man of your talents?

—I have a good pure life here.

—Unavoidably! said the Perfessor. What in the devil is that big book under your arm, John?

The Perfessor peered keenly at the Atlas, covered up with newspapers.

—Something I promised to get for the Senator. By the way, is this a professional visit?

—Strictly, the Perfessor said. I persuaded my paper to let me cover this thing. These days, when Garwood moves, the stars zigzag in their orbits, the stock market fluctuates, and the virgins bedew themselves with ecstasy. What an opportunity, I thought, to return unobtrusively to Raintree County, drop a tear once more on the soil that gave me birth, and touch again that magical, mystical time, John, when you and I were young, Maggie.

—Does Evelina know you’re coming?

The Perfessor shot a quick glance at Mr. Shawnessy.

—I did write her a letter, he said. How is our little poetess?

—Lovely as ever, Mr. Shawnessy said.

—Where does she live?

—An improbable big brick mansion just outside town, Mr. Shawnessy said, pointing east. You can’t quite see it from here.

—I’ve never forgiven you, John, for luring the little woman away from New York.

—I had nothing to do with it, Mr. Shawnessy said.

—Of course, I blame myself too, the Perfessor said. You two got together in my column. By the way, do you read it these days?

—It’s been scintillatingly naughty of late, Professor. How do you get away with it?

—The secret is this: The truth, the real truth, sounds so preposterously false to the average citizen of the Republic that he thinks I’m kidding. So they let me go my lonely way as the New York Dial’s Special Reporter on Life, the only man in America who reports the news as it really is.

—Some time, Professor, I want you to publish a newspaper of your own and call it the Cosmic Enquirer.

—Right now I’m cosmically thirsty, the Perfessor said. Where’s the local hell?

—The town is teetotal.

—How lucky, then, that I happen to have a little on me, no?

From a backpocket, the Perfessor pulled a flat bottle of corncolored fluid, uncorked, lipped, gurgled.

—Have some?

—No, thanks, Mr. Shawnessy said, looking warily to see who watched.

—By the way, would you conduct me to the Chair of Philosophy?

On the way back, Mr. Shawnessy said,

—The Senator arrives in a few minutes. I’m supposed to be at the Station to meet him.

—What kind of country is it, the Perfessor said, pushing back the crescentcarved door, that permits itself to be run by such bastards! If we’re not careful he’ll be the next President. Hi, there, Apollo invades the Privy!

The interior walls of the little twoseater were covered with clippings from books and newspapers.

—Wherever Socrates and Plato converse, there is the abode of the Muses, Mr. Shawnessy said.


(Epic Fragment from the Cosmic Enquirer)

Some of the brainiest savants in this section of the country assembled recently for high metaphysical discourse. The scholarchs are reported to have sought out a meetingplace suitably quiet for their deliberations. Occupying the Boylston Chair of Oratory and Rhetoric was that engaging wiseman and wit . . .

Professor Stiles adjusted his glasses and read aloud from one of the clippings,

—Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence. The palaces of kings are erected upon the bowers of Paradise.

We have a text. Mr. Shawnessy, will you elucidate to the goodly and handsome company assembled?

Mr. Shawnessy consulted his watch.

—To be naked is to be either god or beast, he said. Eden is man’s memory of godlike appetite and animal satisfaction, uncurbed by moral law. The forbidden fruit is the act of love resulting in discovery of another and not simply affirmation of oneself. In this act, man becomes man—moral, responsible, parental, and the Republic is born. By the way, Garwood’s train is about due. I have to tidy up a little. Meet me in front of the house.

Walking up the back path, he glanced at the sundial. Inside the circular inscription, I record only the sunshine, the sharp shadowhand darkened the numeral IX. He reflected that in the Atlas, which he carried under his arm, the same hour was fixed forever on the face of the Court House Clock. A radiant god was writing nine o’clock all over Raintree County. With his golden finger he traced a hundred images on great soft sheets of earth, and all proclaimed the magical, morning hour of nine. Without selection or distinction, he traced all legends with a brush of light and shadow. In his bright book of simultaneously existing images, was one thing more forbidden than another?

In the house, Mr. Shawnessy spent a few minutes running through the Atlas, but without success. Remembering the Senator’s request, he carried the book outdoors, sandwiched in copies of the Free Enquirer. On the sidewalk, the Perfessor waited, intoning words for the music which the band at the Station was playing.

—Blow ye the trumpet, blow

    The gladly-solemn sound!

  Let all the nations know,

    To earth’s remotest bound,

  The year of Jubilee has come.

—John Brown’s favorite hymn!

—John Brown! the Perfessor said. How well I remember those days! All that summer and fall of ’59, when the War was coming on and no one knew it. Those were the days of our paradisal innocence, John. Let me see, what were J. W. Shawnessy and J. W. Stiles doing that summer?

—That summer, Mr. Shawnessy said, J. W. Shawnessy left the estate of youth and innocence and entered upon the estate of manhood and bitter wisdom.

—That summer, the Perfessor said, J. W. Stiles left the County of his Birth lest it become the County of his Demise.

—That summer, J. W. Shawnessy discovered the Source of Life.

—And where is that? said the Perfessor.

—Where the river joins the lake.

—That summer, J. W. Stiles remained a small name and alive, while John Brown prepared to be a great name and dead.

—That summer, J. W. Shawnessy became an agriculturist of love, and worried about his crops.

—Ah, and I remember, too, said the Perfessor,


that was a summer

of drought in the Middle States.

The crops were dried and stunted. In the dark earth lay the rejected seed. It was a summer, too, of catastrophe and violence. In the prolonged heat men did strange deeds. The deep of the national character was troubled and cast up monsters. The newspaper columns were filled with rape cases. A woman was said to be running about a desolate part of the country naked. Members of a certain religious sect were reported to be waylaying and violating women with organized efficiency. A man fell into the vault of a privy and suffocated. Trains leaped trestles. The crops in the Middle States were stunted. In the dark earth lay the rejected seed.

On the morning after the Fourth of July, Johnny Shawnessy woke up slowly and reluctantly. He was troubled by a pagan memory. There had been a young man bold like a god. He had bestridden a whiteloined horse and had ridden beneath the sun. Winged and triumphant, he had taken no thought of the morrow. He had been naked, and he had no name.

Johnny kept telling himself that he had had one of his vivid dreams, and now he was waking up from it, and everything was all right. But he kept remembering new details. A sequence of sundrenched images hovered in his mind and refused to be dispelled.

He had a memory of swimming on still waters toward a wooded shore in the region where lake and river met. Of a sleeping in bright sunlight. Of an awakening on a bed of grass. Of a nude form reclined upon his own. Of mouths meeting in more and more perilous kisses. Of a young woman, garmentless, seen running toward an unguessed place. Of a pursuit and of an overtaking. And of a tree with a slender trunk and a shapely roof of foliage from which there sifted a rain of yellow pollen. And it had been as though the two beneath the tree, seizing the supple trunk, had shaken down (at first languorously and then more and more violently) forbidden fruit.

Fully awake, Johnny didn’t want to get up. He himself had a name known and respected. He didn’t want to have any responsibility for a nameless scamp who had acted as though time and causality didn’t exist.

Nevertheless, when the naked ones of that memory had put on their clothes, they had put their names back on too. They were called Johnny Shawnessy and Susanna Drake. They had ridden back from Paradise Lake into Freehaven and had begun to look at each other with thoughtful looks. They were strangers again.

A few weeks before, Johnny Shawnessy had been the most innocent young man in Raintree County. Now he was the most guilty. In the space of a few weeks he had done incredible things. He had told a girl that he loved her and had promptly gone swimming with her naked in the river. Two weeks later he had gone with another girl, an almost total stranger, to a place where he had never been before, and he and she had performed the act of love.

It was useless to point out that by a freak of fate, which was by no means entirely his fault, he had been drunk the second time on whiskey and hard cider. That was merely another crime.

Apparently he had a fatal talent for picking out girls who liked to take off their clothes by lonely waters.

The thing that happened to him at Paradise Lake on the Fourth of July hadn’t seemed evil at the time. Indeed, while he was in full career, he had felt like the Hero of the County, life’s young American, who had discovered beauty by secret waters. He would no more have plucked himself from that terrific happening than he would have plucked himself out of existence. The feeling of guilt came afterwards when he returned to the familiar part of the County and the effects of the cider wore off. Guilt had not been in the act itself. It was superimposed upon the immutable act, as the map of Raintree County was superimposed upon the immutable earth.

He felt that he had always participated in two worlds. One was the guiltless earth of the river of desire, the earth big with seed, the earth of fruit and flower. The other was the world of memory and sadness, guilt and duty, loyalty and ideas. The two worlds were not antithetical. They were flesh and form, thing and thought, river and map, desire and love. Now the second world had reclaimed him with a vengeance, and he was sincerely penitent.

But his sense of guilt was not religious. If a huge voice had thundered down at him from the summer sky and had said, John Wickliff Shawnessy, thou hast lain with a woman named Susanna Drake for thine own lewd pleasure. Why hast thou done this evil thing, my son? Johnny would have been impressed, of course, but he wouldn’t have had any strong sense of guilt. His answer would have been respectful, something like, I’m awfully sorry, Sir. I just drank too much cider and made a slip. I beg Your forgiveness, Sir.

This would be easy. God was impersonal. But Johnny couldn’t even imagine a conversation that he might hold with his mother on such a subject. The mere thought of it made him want to climb into a hole and die.

—A great man, Johnny, is a man who does good for other people.

As an innocent child he had understood what Ellen Shawnessy expected of him—to be a good man, to be pure, to combat human suffering and wickedness. During his whole memory of his mother, she had been an angel of purity and good hope, standing at the gates of life and death, secure in the age-old faith that she and T. D. had conferred upon their last child and emphasized by the name they had given him. In his mother’s Raintree County, there was no official recognition of the strong desire by which life cunningly furthered itself. There was propagation—but not pleasure. There was love—but not the act of love. Eros and his flametipped arrow had abdicated in favor of Jesus and the cross.

And yet Ellen Shawnessy’s most gifted child, John Wickliff, bearing the name of the great reformer and Bible translator like a trumpet-peal of righteousness, had done the Unpardonable Thing. For pleasure, he had stripped the garment of shame from the body of beauty, for pleasure and pastime of his body, had clasped the forbidden whiteness of a young woman in his arms. This he had done in the formrevealing brightness of a July afternoon. Under the circumstances, God, whom T. D. and Ellen were always locating in the sky directly over Raintree County, couldn’t have had any trouble seeing the trespass. Johnny might as well have done it on the court house lawn for all the world to see.

The guilt was peculiarly aggravated by the fact that he had committed this trespass with a young woman whom he scarcely knew, an alien from beyond the County. If he had fallen from the path of righteousness with someone like Nell Gaither, a marriage could be quickly gotten up and the fault condoned by official sanction. Johnny had often heard T. D. say,

—High time them youngsters got married.

The truth was that something about the climate of Raintree County or the resilience of its haystacks encouraged the nuptial embrace before the nuptials. And in such cases, the County was inclined to be smilingly tolerant.

—Guess they just couldn’t wait, was a common expression when a seven-months’ baby had nine months’ fingernails.

But there was nothing to condone what Johnny Shawnessy had done. The only rueful satisfaction that he could derive from his sin was that it had the quality of genius about it. An ordinary sinner couldn’t have conceived and carried out such a brilliantly successful piece of self-damnation.

For nearly two weeks, Johnny holed up at the Home Place. Then, he received two letters at about the same time. The first said:

Dear Johnny,

I take my pen in hand and seat myself to say that I am as well as a distressed heart will let me be. Johnny, why haven’t you come to see me again? Since a certain afternoon, I have thought about you a great deal. I’ll be at home for you next Saturday afternoon, if you care to renew an acquaintance that has already meant more to me, Johnny, than it would be modest in me to say. Johnny, I have been worried and unhappy at not seeing you again. Please come if you can.

Yours trustingly,


The other letter said:

Dear Johnny,

I take my pen in hand and seat myself to write you something that a more discreet, but, alas! less wounded heart would not disclose. Johnny, I have paid dearly for my foolish pride since I wrote you a certain note last spring. If I have hurt you, please forgive me, and believe, Johnny, that to see you again would gladden the grieving heart of

Your disconsolate


All over the County the rain was falling, as he drove through Freehaven to call on Susanna Drake. The rain came down, big drops vertical in dead air, and ran in rivulets on the sunhardened earth. He thought of all the seeds that lay wet in their tombs, beginning to feel an impulse stirring in hard rinds. The rain came as a kind of relief. It was a washing if not a purification.

Susanna’s house on its high lawn gleamed palely under vast, rainy skies. Green branches of trees near-by dripped noisily against it. The gutters of the high roof spouted gray water. The house there on its lofty lawn was a shell of riddles, inscrutable against the veined and hovering skies. As he sat a moment bleakly in the raindrenched buggy looking up at it, a strong excitement possessed him. What waited up the stone steps, in the hollow rooms of the house beyond the five front windows to catch the soul of Johnny Shawnessy in a satin snare?

At the door knocking, he had an involuntary image of himself entering a room whose walls were scarved with scarlet; a naked woman whose olive body curved with sleek muscles pounced on him with catlike fury and thrust him upon a couch while her deeplipped mouth purred and stung his face with savage kisses and her black hair lashed his shoulders. He visualized himself as sturdily resisting this assault in the name of his late—and lamented—innocence.

When Susanna’s face appeared at the glass doorpane, it was the eyes that dominated the face, those soft childlike eyes with their violet veins, which could be, he knew, all misty with passion. The black hair was now pulled back and chastely bound to show the ears and emphasize the forehead. The lips had their perpetual pout, of course, but suggesting now the wistful child rather than the barbarous little voluptuary who had drunk his kisses with such inexhaustible appetite on the shore of Lake Paradise.

The door opened.

—Hello, Johnny.

The girl in the doorway was chastely attired in black with just a few scarlet ribbons at the neck and shoulders. She held out her hand with a gracious ladylike gesture, and he bowed stiffly into the house.

—Won’t you sit down, Johnny, and I’ll have the maid bring tea.

A silent little Negress brought tea, while Johnny sat in a deep chair. Demurely lovely, Susanna poured two cups.

—You like tea, don’t you, Johnny?

—I hardly ever have it, Johnny said.

—You’ll love it, she said.

The expression disturbed him. She had said the same thing on the shores of Lake Paradise, and he had wondered about it ever since, though at the time he hadn’t stopped to consider what it implied. Since then he had thought more calmly of it, wondering at the history of amorous pastime in which this elegant figure in the black dress must have participated. Perhaps he, Johnny Shawnessy of Raintree County, had merely contributed the latest chapter in a legend with the tantalizing title You’ll Love It.

He heard the same phrase many more times that afternoon, applied to a variety of things that were not his things, most of them things Southern, from New Orleans architecture to steamboat excursions on the Mississippi River. The phrase was clearly habitual with her; and indeed it did disclose a vivid, lush, romantic world to Johnny, a world he had always wanted to explore. Susanna dominated the conversation, and it soon appeared to Johnny that only thus was conversation between them possible. Her talk was an incessant self-exposure, candid, vivid, artless—yet somehow never giving a satisfactory explanation of anything. No girl in Raintree County, he was sure, had ever talked as Susanna Drake did that afternoon.

Sometimes he was charmed by her romantic views of life and love and, again, shocked by crudities of speech and anecdote, as when she got off on a whole repertoire of stories intended to show that the Negro was not a human being and that there was no use to talk of emancipating him, people who had any other view were just black abolitionists with Negro wives, and hussies like Harriet Beecher Stowe who didn’t know a thing about the good old South, you had only to come down there and you would just love it. Some of the most offensive stories concerning black people were told in the presence of the Negro girl who carried the tea service in and out. To Johnny this was an inexcusable breach of good taste, and he blushed for it, but it was clear to him that Susanna didn’t regard the Negro girl as a person.

She seemed to have a peculiar relish for sexual atrocities,

—The good Nigroes are just like children, she said. But if they once got equality ideas, we would all be raped in our beds. They’re just like beasts in the jungle. Johnny, I could tell you stories about Nigroes assaulting white women that would make your hair stand up. Why, a few years ago a girl in one of the finest families in New Orleans was out riding in a buggy, and she was attacked by a big run-away Nigro, he made her get out of the buggy, and he tore all her clothes off, and she had to submit to him to save her life. And finally he let her go, and the poor thing drove back into town naked.

Johnny winced and put his head down at this torrent of invective against the immorality of the Negro, creature of the jungle and the Great Swamp. All the time he was remembering how he and Susanna Drake had rediscovered the Great Swamp in the middle of Raintree County, steaming in the sunlight.

A more charming manifestation of Susanna’s absorption in herself was the album of pictures that she brought out toward the end of the afternoon.

—O, here’s the picture taken the day I met you, he said, opening it.

—No, she said, that’s another one.

It turned out that the album was full of pictures of Susanna in romantic attitudes like the one in which he had found her in the Freehaven studio. Usually her black hair was unloosened and her body was buried in a cloudy white robe.

Enclosed in the album separately was a daguerreotype of a house, a Southern mansion pillared and stately with a corniced roof. Standing on the porch were three people, a bearded man, a woman, and a little girl. Behind them, half in shadow, was a tall, imperially lovely woman.

—That’s my mother and father, Susanna said, and there’s me. And there’s Henrietta. She was a mulatto, but you couldn’t tell it to look at her, could you?

—No, Johnny said, barely able to distinguish the faces of the picture because of the fading light in the parlor.

—We lived right by the Mississippi River, Susanna said. That house burned.

She made her habitual gesture, touching her throat with her left hand.

—That’s how I got my scar, she said.

Her voice was low and thrilling and her childlike eyes looked down wistfully at Johnny as she bent over his shoulder.

He was remembering the scar then—how he had awakened on the shore of Lake Paradise and had seen the scar, the whole of it, six inches long, beginning at the base of her neck and making a curious, curving pattern through her olive flesh until it stopped just at the roots of her left breast, as though it shrank from disfiguring anything so exquisitely formed. It was not a deep scar, and there were times when it was hardly visible. There were times too, when the blood beat it crimson, and it glowed and throbbed on the olive smoothness of her body, which had no other blemish.

She had spoken of it then, too, saying simply,

—I hope you don’t mind my scar, Johnny.

She had pronounced the words exactly as a woman of good breeding might refer with quiet pride to a costly necklace.

Remembering what had followed her reference to the scar that other time, Johnny blushed.

—I’ve got to go now, Susanna, he said.

—I’ll show you to the door, she said, her voice pensive, her face turned away and lost in shadow.

And so he left the tall house south of the Square. Except for the mention of the scar, no other reference had been made to the wanton encounter on the shores of Lake Paradise. Nor had any word been said either to release him or to bind him more closely to this mysterious girl. He strongly suspected—indeed almost hoped—that he wasn’t the first to explore her tawny nudity. Johnny wished he could confide his trespass to his erstwhile mentor and get a frank opinion from the Perfessor, who shared with Johnny precise knowledge of a secret anatomical detail. Had that perceptive young man also discovered a pollendropping tree on the shores of Lake Paradise, and had he too made unexpected forays below the Mason and Dixon Line? But Johnny remembered that the Perfessor, who was nothing if not exact in matters of fact, had in describing the scar prolonged it beyond its actual range. Perhaps he was not so deeply seen in this subject as Johnny Shawnessy after all.

So Johnny went on home through the still falling rain. He was a prisoner now in his own beloved earth of Raintree County. All these corridors through sheets of rain led to and from the person of a darkhaired girl whose body had a hidden scarlet mark. Try as he might, he couldn’t fathom her secret. A talented little voluptuary—yes—but she had also been a little girl who once lived in a house beside a river. And in spite of her probable experience, he was convinced that her passion for him had been genuine. It had been tender and undissuadable that afternoon at Lake Paradise; both he and she had been the victims of it and of his own triumphant manhood. She too had fallen—it had been a mutual seduction, and he couldn’t force from his mind the feeling that the woman who had taken the first young giving of his love had a powerful, enduring claim upon him.

Meanwhile, he took no action on Nell Gaither’s note. But the strangest part of his situation was that his passion for Nell had been intensified by all that had happened. What he had begun with her when they swam together in the Shawmucky had been meant to reach its consummation at the lake. It was a damnable piece of luck that somehow, in the moment of discovering the lake, his true beloved had changed her name and the color of her hair, and instead of an imprint on one of Raintree County’s most beautiful twin mounds, there had been a scar like a scarlet letter.

At times, he even indulged the guilty dream of repeating with Nell what he had done with Susanna. He thought of going to the lake and seeking out with Nell the same spot beneath the same tree. He was not at all sure that he could find his way to it, but he played with the fancy that the tree he had only vaguely seen (what with the cider and his amorous excitement) was the celebrated Raintree. At the time it had seemed to him dimly that he had thrust his way to the secret heart of life. And but for a slight error induced by Fate, it would have been so. But now such fancies only added to his sick, unhappy feeling that by one willful act he had cut himself off forever from all the good things of life in Raintree County.

During the next few days, he simply waited for something to happen. He lost all appetite for his usual pursuits. He stayed away from the County Seat. He sent nothing to the newspapers. He did, however, get hold of both the Clarion and the Enquirer every week. Each time he picked up a copy of the papers, his hands trembled, and his heart beat furiously. Perhaps in this paper he would find the article that told his crime to everyone. He read each paper avidly before any other member of the family got hold of it, devouring column after column and finishing with a feeling of exhaustion and relief, which promptly began to dissolve as he thought of the next issue of the paper, in which the fateful article might really appear and brand him for what he was.

The news in general was not important that summer. The country was apathetic on the great issue of the day. No one seemed to care very much what was to be done about the slaves. Editorials complained a little of the speeches of Alexander Stephens, Jefferson Davis, and other important Southerners, who made it manifest that the South was acquiring a unified point of view on the question of slavery and the Union. There was little doubt that the African slave trade would be renewed and that the South’s peculiar institution would continue to expand and require more and more political power and land for its furtherance. But in the heat and stillness of the summer of 1859, the issue was buried in the editorial pages, and nothing indicated that the Republican Party would find the leadership necessary to overthrow the immoral concessions of the Dred Scott Decision and the compromise legislation, or that the South would remain content with them.

In fact, the Republic was deceptively calm, and instead of political explosions as the election of 1860 approached, people concerned themselves with fashions in dress, the Daniel Sickles Murder Trial, rape cases, railroad accidents. The leading news event was the day-by-day account of how a Frenchman named Blondin, balancing himself with a great pole, walked on a tightrope over the chasm of Niagara Falls, defying death again and again in more and more ingenious ways to the shocked delight of thousands of Americans.

Here was danger that could be overcome by skill and determination. But Johnny Shawnessy was up against something that courage couldn’t control. For the first time in his life, he had become the fool of time and its blind processes. There was no person he could surpass, no work he could do, no barrier he could leap. He could only wait. This young agrarian had planted some seed, and after that, it was all a question of time and the earth.

About three weeks after the Fourth, the absence of news from the Upper Shawmucky aroused a comment. Johnny read the following note in the Clarion:




Well, we don’t hear anything these days emanating from a certain sportive individual who used to contribute to the columns of the Enquirer. What has happened to Seth? All his friends and admirers are genuinely alarmed. Both of them admit that they haven’t seen or heard anything of Seth since the famous footrace last Fourth of July. Some say he kept right on running, fell into the Shawmucky River, and was swallowed by the mythical beast, which never forgave Seth for the misrepresentations made about it in the Enquirer a few years ago. If so, we hope Seth didn’t stick in the monster’s craw. He always did in ours.

Dan Populus

At about this time, Johnny made another visit to the tall house south of the Square.

When he knocked at the door, a plain, workworn woman with a cleaning rag in her hand opened.

—Hello, Johnny said. Is Miss Drake in?

—No, she’s gone, the woman said.

—When’ll she be in?

—She won’t be in. She’s gone back South, the woman said.

—You mean she’s left town?

—Yeh, she left all of a sudden last Tuesday.

—You—you live here now?

—I’m just to keep the place up for her, the woman said.

—You—you don’t know why she left?

—I don’t know anything about it, the woman said. But I was here to close up when she left. She and them nigger girls and all the trunks went out a here on three wagons.

—Did she say when she’d be back?

—She said it might be a year or two. I’m to come in every month and dust the place and check up on it. It’s a mighty queer house. You ever see it inside?

—No, not especially, Johnny said. Thanks a lot.

He walked back to the Square, where he hadn’t been since the Fourth of July. He wanted to see faces. He wanted to shake people by the hand. He wanted to be able to say, Look, it’s me, Johnny Shawnessy. He that was dead has risen.

He found Garwood Jones in front of the Saloon. He went up and violently shook Garwood’s hand.

—What the hell’s the matter? Garwood said.

—Nothing, Johnny said. I’m just glad to see you, that’s all.

—I don’t know why, Garwood said. I’ve been giving you one hell of a going over lately. Don’t you ever read the newspapers?

—O, that? Johnny said. They were sweet articles, all of them, Garwood. Really sweet—like you.

—What in the hell’s come over you? You must be saving up something big.

—I’m darn glad to see you again, Garwood. That’s all. I really am.

Johnny stood pumping Garwood’s hand and hitting him on the back.

—By God, I think he means it, Garwood said several times.

The next issue of the Free Enquirer carried the following intelligence from the Upper Shawmucky:


Rejoice, ye virgins, o, make sport, ye maids.

  Bid Error reinvest his dirty den.

Once more a genial shadow haunts the glades:

  Lo! Seth is vocal on his hill again!

Greetings one and all! Your correspondent is glad to report that after a brief sojourn in foreign parts, once more the amiable Mr. Twigs adorns with the tenuous architecture of his frame the shades and shallows of the Upper Shawmucky.

We have been titillated by the several speculations that have come to our ears purporting to explain the disappearance of this kindly bumpkin, and we are frankly at a loss to say exactly what happened to him. Some say that while snoozing in a hedgerow one day, he was discovered by a nearsighted farmer, who mistaking Seth for a scarecrow, tied him to a post, where he dangled helplessly until blown down by the recent storms. Others insist that his well-known weakness for the opposite sex caused him to follow an attractive widow all the way out to California, where, when he at last plucked up nerve enough to make his proposal, the widow replied in the following vein, to wit: that if she were the clinging vine type, she would not know where to find a better beanpole, but that she was more than half persuaded it was not her person so much as her purse the amiable Seth was after, and that she would be willing, if necessary, to dispense all the contents of the second to prevent him from obtaining possession of the first; that she had heard much of the romantic prowess of the gamesome sparrow, but was not under the impression that any poet had composed odes to the amatorial proficiencies of the longshanked crane; and finally that it was better in the whole scheme of things that feckless sorrow should devastate one matronly bosom in California than that it should ravage twenty virginal ones in Raintree County. Acknowledging the cogency of this last argument, it is reported, Seth returned once more to his native haunts.

We cannot in all conscience pretend to be a friend to Mr. Rube Shucks, as though not overly finicky in our tastes we draw some lines, but the sentiment of pity which universally animates the human breast bids us warn him that Seth looks much refreshed, and woe to him who in his absence has taken liberties with the name of Twigs.

Will Westward

It now seemed to Johnny that he had passed safely through the most dangerous trial that life could offer. He had dreamed a dream of guilt and had awakened to find that it was only a dream. The days and weeks slipped past. By October, hearing no more of Susanna Drake, he became convinced that he had been needlessly alarmed from the beginning. He began even to lose his feeling of uneasiness in the presence of his mother. He now looked back with a certain detachment on the superb young man who in the space of two weeks in early summer had accomplished such notable feats. After a wobbly start, he took up again the unfinished work of becoming life’s American, the completely affirmative man, and plunged headlong into plans for composing an epic poem based on American History. A lingering anxiety kept him from making up right away with Nell Gaither, and he was a little nervous when he called for the family mail. But Time, which had been his enemy for a while, was becoming his friend again. And he was beginning to recall with more envy than guilt a pollendropping tree beside the lake, and a companion who had waited for him there as if to teach him

an ingenious and forbidden game and then return

to the alien earth from which she


—Come, Mr. Shawnessy said. The Great Man will soon be here.

—I see why you stay here, John, the Perfessor said. One is not confused about human beings on this little crossroads. One has only a few neighbors, and all of them are innocent cretins. It’s a good naked life. Perhaps you are trying to regain Paradise here.

—You err, Professor. The Republic is established here in all its sophistication. We are very far from the Edenic nakedness. A Waycross housewife would endure whipping before she’d let the man next door see her bottom bare.

—Thus, the Perfessor said, over Raintree County, the backside of creation, is draped the majestic garb of the Republic.

—Yes, the State is the Individual writ large. The Republic is only people.

Mr. Shawnessy made a vague gesture with his arm at the intersection, which he and the Perfessor had just reached. On foot and wheel, the citizenry of Raintree County converged on the street leading south to the Station. A band of business men, flushed and cherubic, marched in the street bearing a banner:




Behind them marched a deputation of Civil War veterans, falsely vigorous men in faded, tightfitting uniforms, bearing a banner:



Behind them marched a delegation of healthy ladies, bearing a banner:



Behind them rolled a score of bicyclists, teetering crazily on their seats atop the huge front wheels, bearing a banner:




Every now and then a band went by, blaring foggily. And all the time small boys broadcast firecrackers on yards and sidewalks.

—Look at them! the Perfessor said. Aren’t they pitiful! All confidently believing that they are going to see the greatest man of the age. Is this your republic of enlightened individuals?

—Here, Professor, are hundreds of republics. And here, too, is one Republic. E pluribus unum, as the emblem on the coin has it.

—How is that? the Perfessor asked.

Show me the man who can solve the problem of the One and the Many, and I will follow in his footsteps as in those of a god.

—If Socrates were living today, the Perfessor said, he’d be reduced to sitting on a crackerbarrel outside Joe’s Saloon chewing tobacco and telling dirty stories. That’s what America does to greatness. The Greeks were way ahead of us. They never made the mistake of attaching undue importance to the Individual. And they were right. We Americans make the modern error of dignifying the Individual. We do everything we can to butter him up. We give him a name, we assure him that he has certain inalienable rights, we educate him, we let him pass on his name to his brats, and when he dies, we give him a special hole in the ground and a hunk of stone with his name on it. But after all, he’s only a seed, a bloom, and a withering stalk among pressing billions. Your Individual is a pretty disgusting, vain, lewd little bastard—with all his puling palaver about his Rights! By God, he has only one right guaranteed to him in Nature, and that is the right to die and stink to Heaven.

Conscious of having come an effective climax, the Perfessor snorted and puffed eloquently on his cigar.

—As for your Republic, he went on, what is it but a brute aggregate of these pointless individuals, all of them worshiping the same illusions, trampling each other in their haste to applaud a fourflusher like Garwood B. Jones!

—You don’t get the Republic by adding bodies together, Mr. Shawnessy said, beginning to be pushed about by the crowd. The Republic is an image that men live by. All life is a self—but in the Republic this self finds a greater self. The Republic begins with love and possibly guilt. In accepting the Republic, man gives up—a little regretfully—brute, naked selfishness. Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence.

—Well, then, John, isn’t it a good thing to lose one’s innocence? Is there any virtue in virginity?

The several bands had all taken up their stations around the Station, and in vying with each other all were defeating music.

Blow ye the trumpet, blow!

—Here where the two roads cross, Mr. Shawnessy said gently, I study and study the riddle of the Sphinx, the intersection of my life with the Republic.

—Your little town seems a solid and steadfast institution, the Perfessor said, with its Bank, its Feedstore, and its Post Office. But all this is a frail mist hovering precariously over the Great Swamp. Only Nature with her blind fruitions is finally meaningful. Nothing can save us from the swamp at last.

—Professor, I consider you definitely worth saving, and I won’t let you go back into that swamp.

—Thank you very much, the Perfessor said, for keeping me out of that great dismal place.

He made a jaunty movement with his malacca cane.

Near the Station, the crowd was so dense that Mr. Shawnessy and the Perfessor could hardly get through. Women in dowdy summer gowns jockeyed the Perfessor’s nervous loins. Citizens with gold fobs and heavy canes thrust, lunged, cursed. The bands blared tunelessly. Firecrackers crumped under skirts of women, rumps of horses. From the struggling column of bodies, bared teeth and bulgy eyes stuck suddenly.

Mr. Shawnessy stopped by a small board building.

—Just a moment, Professor, I see the Post Office is open.

He stepped into the little room and looked into the postmaster’s cage.

—Anything for me, Bob?

He studied the fat, steaming face of the postmaster, dispenser of the government mails.

—Just a minute, John.

The postmaster ran his eye along the pigeonholes.

Out of the ocean that beats forever on the walls of my island self, a few words—like manuscripts found in a bottle or a legend graven on a broken oar.

He remembered hundreds of letters and newspapers. He reached into the pigeonholes of hundreds of lost days and pulled out hundreds and hundreds of lost sheets of paper, and the shimmering mist of their words poured over him from the brightness of departed summers.

Dear Johnny, I take my pen in hand to . . . Dear John, I seat myself and . . . My dearest Johnny, It is a painful task for me to . . . John Wickliff Shawnessy, Esq., Dear Sir, We are in receipt of . . . Dear Son, It pleases me to hear that . . . My dear Professor Shawnessy, We wish to bring to your attention a . . . My sweet husband, Do you miss your . . . Shawnessy, you goddam nogood bastard, if you think nobody’s on to . . . My Darling, It’s been a long time since . . .

Did you want to assure yourself that I was still there? Were you reaching out for me with frail words across the vast spaces of the Republic? (There are no vaster spaces than divide next to next.) But did you want to touch me with words and find me out and reassure yourself that I was there, that I moved somewhere beneath the same day as yourself and that my eyes, falling upon these curved forms dropped on whiteness, would remember you and be touched?

Out of the time that was not my time, out of the world I never knew—fragments of the immense puzzle of myself, letters and newspapers. They brought me tidings of myself and told me what I was and what I must do, brought me the noise of great names and roared them over and over in my ears to be certain I couldn’t forget.

—Nice of you to stay open on the Fourth, Bob.

—Just till the train comes in, John. I’m shutting up right away. I want to see the Senator arrive. Here they are. A letter and your newspaper.

Mr. Shawnessy gave a quick glance at the envelope and then stuffed it along with the rolled newspaper into his pocket, for he had heard a distant whistle. Joining the Perfessor, he stood a little apart from the crowd near the station platform.

—John, said the Perfessor, what in the hell is that big book under your arm?

—Mr. Shawnessy! Yoohoo!

A woman’s voice shrilled at him from the station platform.


—Time for the train. The committee is assembling.

—Hold this for me, Professor. Amuse yourself by examining the beautiful and secret earth of Raintree County. Perhaps you may find something here to delight your pagan soul.

—My God! the Perfessor said, flapping pages. Look at all the pictures of cows, manure piles, and Raintree County citizens.

—Yoohoo, Mr. Shawnessy!


Mr. Shawnessy and the Perfessor pushed through the crowd to the station platform where a place had been reserved for the official Welcoming Committee.

The Perfessor pulled a pencil and a notebook out of his pocket.

—Be sure to say something memorable, John. Something that the world will not willingly let die. I’ll see that it appears in tomorrow’s Dial misquoted and with typographical errors.

They joined the rest of the committee on the platform. A woman from Freehaven, wearing a large badge on her breast, stood holding a horseshoe of flowers. A man in Civil War uniform stood holding a box containing a gold medal. A solid-looking citizen, talltophatted and tailcoated, stood holding a large mantel clock, which showed the time to be nine-twenty-eight.

—My Gracious! Mr. Shawnessy, the woman said, I’m so flustered. How does a person act anyway in the presence of a great man like Senator Jones?

—Just don’t accept any cigars, Mr. Shawnessy said. Confidentially, I always found that Garwood’s cigars were the worst I ever smoked.

—O, Mr. Shawnessy! You’re such a tease, the lady said, arching her back and giving him a sidelong glance. But honestly, I wish the Sitting and Sewing Society had chosen someone else to make the presentation speech.

The man standing there holding the clock said,

—I feel a little silly standing here, holding this clock.

—For my part, I find it much easier to use a pocket watch, Mr. Shawnessy said.

—This is a gift of the Solid Men’s Club, the man said. It cost one hundred and thirteen dollars, the best that money could buy in the City of Indianapolis.

—Are you giving him anything? the lady said.

—Just a bouquet of rhetoric, Mr. Shawnessy said.

—When did you last see Garwood, John? the Perfessor asked.

—It’s been nearly twenty years. I haven’t seen him since ’72, when he and I were opponents in the election for Congressional Representative.

Senator Garwood B. Jones impinged from the East in the guise of a blacksnouted locomotive, pulling three special cars, draped with red, white, and blue bunting. When the train was a quarter of a mile distant, the band began to play ‘Hail to the Chief.’ The crowd strained and stared for a first glimpse of the statesman whose name was a household word throughout the Republic. People moved almost directly into the path of the train, waving the banners of welcome. Professor Stiles was making curves fast in his notebook.

Mr. Shawnessy was deeply unprepared for the man who stood on the platform of the third coach. In a few seconds, he had to make revisions to the form of Garwood Jones that time had taken twenty years to make. The Senator had the belly sag of a fat old man. His hair was a yellow white. He had a stained look as though he had been in too many smokefilled rooms. The famous cigar in the left corner of the mouth pulled the whole face down and left, as if the features, recognizing their true center, were trying to regroup themselves around it. The head was still leonine, but fraudulently so, a mask worn too long without retouching. The eyebrows, thick and black, had a dyed look; and when the Senator, without removing his cigar, smiled his famous smile, his teeth were marmoreal in their chill perfection. It was reported that he had several plates in reserve and that he used now one, now another, depending on his mood and the acoustical situation like an expert violinist changing his Stradivarii.

Only the handsome blue eyes, that always had a faint cynicism in their depths, were unchanged.

The train stopped and left the figure of the Senator gesturing hugely, close to the startled crowd. The head jerked up and down, the teeth clenched hideously on an unlit cigar, the great, grotesque thing smiled, winked, stretched out its arms, incredible in its black senatorial coat and loose black Lincoln tie.

Shocked and disturbed, Mr. Shawnessy stared at the big Greek mask of Senator Garwood B. Jones and wondered about the ego beneath it, putting on this costume with cynical unbelief, no longer caring if the crowds were at first a little shocked by the greasepaint and the theatre hoarseness of the voice, before they slipped into the suspension of unbelief necessary for the enjoyment of the play.

Yet this voice had shaped the future of the Republic from platforms where faces converged in dim banks and shifting masses. And this mask concealed a baffling human being who had come back out of triumphant years to the valley of his humble beginnings, Raintree County.

Briefly the Senator bobbing on the train platform, the environing faces, the little station, the banners, and the bands achieved a pictorial fixity, and over this image was shed the antique, golden light of the Republic.

—Hello, John, the Senator said, stepping down from the platform.

His big voice boomed jovially. His blue eyes had the faint mockery that was neither friendship nor contempt but an indefinable mixture of the two that Mr. Shawnessy had never wholly understood. The Senator’s entourage swarmed out of the car, flanking the Great Man and walling out the crowd. A half-dozen reporters pulled out notebooks and began to make notes.

—Glad to see you, Garwood, Mr. Shawnessy said.

He and the Senator clasped hands, as the crowd applauded. Mr. Shawnessy cleared his throat. His voice was high, uncertain, tremulous.

Senator, he said, we have . . .



(Epic Fragment from the Cosmic Enquirer)

One of the highlights of the Senator’s Homecoming Day was the reception in the little station at Waycross. Visibly moved by this return to the haunts of his childhood, the Senator recognized and called by name several old friends and acquaintances. Among these, the local schoolmaster, a Mr. J. P. O’Shaughnessy, who had been a schoolmate of the Senator’s in the old Pre-War days, came forward as the head of the Reception Committee and delivered a quaintly humorous address of welcome, most of which could barely be overheard because of the commotion in the Station. The Senator, calling upon his celebrated gift for impromptu discourse . . .

—John, said the Senator, in a hoarse whisper when Mr. Shawnessy had finished his speech, give me a little information, will you? Is there anything left in the town that was here in 1850?

—The church was here then, Mr. Shawnessy whispered.

—Where is the goddam thing?

—Right on this street.

—Ladies and Gentlemen, the Senator said in a great voice. The emotion I feel as I . . .




(Epic Fragment from the Cosmic Enquirer)

In his reply, the Senator described the emotion in his breast as one that could find no fit utterance in words. He showed an amazing memory for the most minute details of his old stamping grounds, accurately recalling in his speech one of the oldest buildings in the town, the church, which he said he had often passed on his way to buy eggs from an old widow who resided a little way out in the country. The Senator found a few wellchosen words to express his feeling for his parents and especially his mother, than whom, he asserted, no finer or more virtuous woman ever lived. He concluded his short talk by saying that he was tired after his long trip and must be excused from a lengthy address as he intended to speak more fully of the weighty matters on his heart in the Address of the Day, which he would deliver in the Fourth of July Ceremonies that afternoon. Pursuant to this speech, the Senator listened to short addresses by three other members of the welcoming committee, who . . .

—Senator Jones, the Sitting and Sewing Society of Raintree County wish to tender you this token of their esteem, a symbol of good luck from the Gardenspot of Indiana and America, beautiful Raintree County. To a weaver of immortal garlands of eloquence, I give this garland of living and lovely petals, taken from the very soil that sired a great man.

—Madame, said the Perfessor in a low voice, is the Senator a horse or a flower?

—Madame, the Senator said, dropping shy lids on his beautiful eyes, I accept this lovely floral tribute. Believe me, Madame, I shall treasure this beautiful bouquet and shall be by it reminded that no more beautiful flowers grow anywhere in the world than those which are to be plucked in our own Raintree County, Gardenspot of the Universe, home, as you say, Madame, of beautiful flowers and, Madame, with your permission, of beautiful ladies.

—Your Excellency, the man with the clock said, as Delegate of the Solid Men’s Club of Raintree County, we have a little gift here we would like to uh tender unto you, in appreciation and uh token of uh our esteem and cordial uh appreciation of uh the uh cordial and friendly uh feeling uh you have always uh manifested and shown and uh demonstrated toward the business men of our county, and which we appreciate it very much.

The Senator accepted the clock and, holding it like a bulky baby with soiled diaper, replied,

—My friend, this beautiful clock will occupy a prominent place on the mantel of my home in the Nation’s Capital, Washington, D.C. I assure you, sir—and I wish to extend that assurance to each and every member of your enterprising and forward-looking organization—that I shall never gaze upon this clock without remembering the happy hours which I have spent with old friends, business acquaintances, and rural people in Raintree County. And you may be sure, my friend, that this clock shall record no single second during which my every thought, my every endeavor shall not have been devoted to the furtherance of Raintree County’s best interests.

—Colonel Jones, the uniformed man said, the members of the Raintree County Post of the Grand Army of the Republic wish to give you this little medal commemorating your valiant efforts in their behalf. As the poet laureate of this organization, I have composed a little pome I would like to read:

In the forefront of the battle

  For Union and Freedom and his Nation’s Life,

He fought, nor once was daunted

  In that fierce and bloody strife.


And when the battle’s breath was through

  And scream of shot and shell,

Did he forget his soldier-comrades true

  Who for their country’s flag had fought and fell?


The Good Old Cause he fought for

  He never did let lag,

But fought right on in Congress and Nation

  For the rights of the men who saved the dear old Flag.

Mr. Shawnessy swallowed audibly, and the Perfessor winced visibly.

—Comrade, the Senator said, deeply moved, I am deeply moved. I have no prouder recollection than the fact that I had a small, humble, and inconspicuous part in that Great War for the Preservation of our nation and for the perpetuity of Human Freedom. And you have my word for it, sir, which I hope you will transmit to my comrades-at-arms all over this County, that I do not mean for the Nation to forget the men who saved the Union. You, sir, have touched me more than I can express by the tender lyric which you have seen fit to dedicate to me.

Mr. Shawnessy could not get close to the Senator, who strode down the street shaking hands, swatting backs, and dispensing cigars.

—We have fallen upon degenerate days, John, the Perfessor said. Is this the heir of all the ages?

—Pardon me, gentlemen, said a young attaché of the Senator. I have here some little pictures of the Senator which I would like to circulate unobtrusively during the day. No political motives involved. Only the Senator’s desire to gratify old friends who might be interested in a likeness of the most illustrious statesman of our time.

—Let me see, Mr. Shawnessy said, as the Senator’s secretary lifted from a briefcase a bundle of cheap prints, three-by-five leaflets bearing a bold engraving of the Senator’s face and the simple caption:


—I’ll leave the distribution of these entirely up to you, Mr. Shawnessy said.

—I’ll take a pad, the Perfessor said. I am positive I can put them to good use.

When the secretary had moved on, the Perfessor said,

—I have an idea for a vast promotional stunt. Suppose Garwood contracted with leading toilet paper manufacturers to have his likeness faintly impressed upon every sheet of——

The Perfessor began to shake soundlessly.

—Thank you very much, said the President of the Sitting and Sewing Society, accepting a leaflet from the Perfessor. By the way, what does the B stand for?

—Give you one guess, said the Perfessor.

Mr. Shawnessy holding one of the likenesses in his hand walked on, smiling faintly. From the paper in his hand stared vacantly the face of Senator Garwood B. Jones, Bumwiper Candidate for the Presidency of the United States.

A face fluttered down on a republic of his memory, raining grayly on hundreds of court house squares in the time of the prophets and martyrs.

Blow ye the trumpet, blow!

Blow the lone far bugle of the conscience abroad in the Republic in ancient days! Send the hornnotes crowding in the court house squares all over the Republic! Awaken the conscience of the sleeping North! Blow ye the trumpet, blow, and let the blind walls crumble.

I saw the bitten granite of the face. I could not bear the bitter sadness of those eyes in the Court House Square.

Blow ye the trumpet, blow the gladly-solemn sound!

But (you will remember) I was he who lay with one of the daughters of those Babylonian valleys. Let all men everywhere know that I was forgetful of duty. Beneath a tree in summertime, I was held long, long on the flanks of a daughter of Egypt. The precious seed of the chosen I gave to guilty ground stained by the bondsman’s blood. Let all men know how I slunk from the bosom of my parents, guilty and afraid.

Let all the nations know, to earth’s remotest bound . . .

Let it be repeated by word of mouth, by letter, by items in the corners of the inside pages of the wellthumbed weeklies how I sinned with a daughter of the Philistines.

Who was it then that I took by the supple waist? With whom did I taste of a scarlet fruit close to serpent waters? Whence did they come, those darkskinned patient generations, to bear witness to my guilt? Was my flesh their flesh?

The Year of Jubilee is come! Let it be known all over the Republic. Let it be told by trumpets and by proclamations and by

October 19—A—1859

letter at the Post Office

was always a big event in Raintree County,

and on being advised that there was one there for him, Johnny had lost no time getting into Freehaven. But as he came through the Square, he saw the big crowd around the railroad station a half block north. The excitement there seemed so unusual that he went up to see what it was.

At the depot the crowd was even bigger than he had thought. There were scores of people sitting in buggies or standing in little groups. The telegrapher at his table just inside an open window was taking a dispatch. Garwood Jones and Cash Carney were in the group of men crowding around the window.

—It was a fool thing to do, Garwood was saying, and I hope they string him up.

—String who up? Johnny said. What’s going on anyway?

Garwood turned and took the cigar out of his mouth. His sleek face was streaked with sweat and flushed with excitement.

—I keep forgetting you hillbillies don’t get into town but once a month, he said.

Cash Carney, impeccably dressed as usual, said with an air of detachment,

—There’s been a big insurrection of slaves at Harper’s Ferry in Virginia. A man named John Brown that used to do all that feudin’ in Kansas seems to be at the bottom of it. This old Brown, near as we can find out, got a band of armed men and captured the Federal Arsenal at Harper’s Ferry. They plan to give out arms to the slaves and spread a revolt through the South. But according to the last report Federal troops have surrounded the place. Brown and his men have been holding out for two days.

—By God, I hope he succeeds, a citizen said.

—That’s talkin’, Bill, a second citizen said, thrusting his way into the crowd near the window.

—Say, what do you fellows want, anyway? Garwood said. Civil war?

—Civil war! Shucks! What are you talking about! Civil war!

—Why, man, Garwood said, didn’t you hear? He attacked the Federal Arsenal. That’s an attack on the People, on the Government of the United States, on the Constitution.

—It ain’t an attack on any government I want any part of, a man said.

—Why, man, Garwood said, that’s treason. Much as I feel for the lot of the Black Man, I can’t see any justification for a deed of bloody violence that will hurl the whole country into civil war. Things can’t be settled that way.

—If they won’t give the niggers their freedom, seems like the niggers ought to have the right to fight for it, the man said doggedly.

But Garwood got much the best of the argument, and a majority of the people on the Square seemed to agree reluctantly with his point of view.

Meanwhile Johnny got hold of the latest paper and read the reports of the raid. He remembered how he had read years ago of this same John Brown fighting in Kansas. There had been an undeclared war between slave and free elements, but it had been beyond the Mississippi where men were always fighting something anyway—Indians, buffalo, Mexicans, the earth itself. That wound in the flank of the Republic had closed; the arid West had drunk and dried the gore of those old fights as if they had never been at all. Their distant tumult had dwindled and become lost in the headlines of onward-pressing days. And yet the name ‘John Brown’ had been a tough seed waiting in darkness. Now it had sprung to bloodier fruition in Virginia, Mother of States and Presidents. It was almost as though the deed had been done in Raintree County, so vast and instantaneous was the shock.

Someone had dared to defy the most anciently rooted wrong in the Republic, a wrong grown sacred in the very measure of its age and enormity. Someone had shed blood on the porch of the Republic.

One man had taken the jawbone of an ass to shatter an army. It was sheer act, founded on sheer faith. It restored the age of miracle. The people of Raintree County waited for word of this amazing madman in the hope that an enterprise of such grandly crazy proportions would have a success equally grand and crazy.

—Say, he’s a tough old scoundrel. By God, it wouldn’t surprise me any did he cause a lot of trouble, men were saying on the Square.

—A few more men like him, and we’d see about all this talk of slavery and disunion.

—By God, we need more men with gunpowder in their guts.

—Walked right into a United States Arsenal and held the place up. In my opinion, John Brown is the Greatest Living American.

Around four o’clock in the afternoon, Johnny walked back to the Post Office.

—Do you have a letter there for John Shawnessy?

—Just a minute, the postmaster said.

He sorted through some letters and brought one over. It had a New Orleans postmark. Johnny took the letter and started out. There was a dark passageway between the office and the street, where he stopped and turned the letter over and over in his hands.

—One against a thousand, a citizen outside said. But they’ll hang him as sure as shootin’!

—What’s the latest? a second citizen said.

—Still hemmed in and fightin’, I guess. The whole goldern U.S. Army! What’s a man to do?

Johnny began to tear the letter open. It was only words, inklines on an envelope. It had come to him from beyond the walls of Raintree County. It had come from a remote earth, jasmine-scented, where it was always summer. He unfolded the letter and read it over once quickly. He felt as though he could have written the words himself, so often had he dreamed them. The words said what he had always feared, what he had known would come to pass.

He didn’t want to leave this passageway. Outside there were a thousand eyes. People who had no worries were on the lookout for a tender flesh to crucify. He fumblingly put the letter in his pocket, drew it out again, minutely inspected the outside of the envelope, put it back into his pocket and felt—but conquered—a burning desire to take it out again. He stuffed a handkerchief down on it. He leaned against the wall and waited. Someone would come in and find him leaning insanely against this wall and would know that he was guilty of something. He panted, trying to breathe the hot blush of guilt from his face. Footsteps approached. He walked swiftly out of the door, almost ran into someone.

—Hello, Johnny.

It was his mother.

His mind had just been filled with the exotic image of Susanna Drake. He had been thinking of her young pouting face, her love-talented body in a costly gown. Now suddenly this image was shattered by the apparition of Ellen Shawnessy in her drab little farm-wife’s dress. He saw as never before his mother’s small weathered face, her bony, workroughened hands, her skyblue eyes, her slender body, which to him was neither masculine nor feminine—but simply maternal, this body which had had its anguish of childbirth many times and which was now saved from it by the blessing of the life-change.

—Any mail?

She peered blithely at him, her face heavily lined in the sunlight. She wore a fussy little hat that she had had for years.

—I—guess not, Johnny said.

—The news is exciting. I suppose you’ve heard.

He pressed his hand on the letter in his pocket.

—What? he said. You mean——

—The raid. This man Brown.

—O, Johnny said. Sure.

—I’m afraid nothing can be mended that way, Ellen said. Still it was the act of a brave man. God rest his soul.

—Is he—is he dead?

—Dead or dying. News just came over the wire.

As his mother walked slowly away, he saw a picture of an old man dying heroically from gunshot wounds. It was sweet to die a hero for the right, in an absurdly brave act. In the Act there was no remorse for things past. In the Act, there was only the living present.

A throng of people came up the street. In the middle Garwood Jones was shouting, sweating, waving his arms.

—I tell you, Garwood said, they’ll hang ’im. What else can they do? The local courts will have jurisdiction since a number of people were killed right there in the town.

—It was a foolish thing to do, Cash said. The old guy didn’t have a chance. There’s no future in that kind of thing. Seventeen men or so against the country! The niggers’ll never revolt. What did he expect to accomplish? It was blood thrown away.

—A few more men like that would blow things wide open in this godforsaken country, a man said.

Garwood Jones began to sound more and more like an orator. He drew apart from the other men, and they turned their faces toward him and formed a group.

—Fellow Americans, Garwood said gravely, it was treason. Technically, legally, what he did was directed as much against the North as the South. It was an affront to the whole country. I personally yield to no man in my desire to see the Negro gradually acquire as many rights as he is capable of exercising intelligently, but just to shove a gun in his hand and say, All right, Sambo, go out and start shooting every white man you see, why, men, that’s madness—or—what’s worse—coldblooded murder. I’d like to know what the Republicans——

—Who said anything about the Republicans? a man said hotly. The Republicans never had anything to do with this.

—Well, Garwood said hotly, what have they been doing all along but inflaming the minds of people and keeping this issue alive! No, sir, Douglas is right. Let them——

—O, the hell with Douglas! a man said. By God, if we had more politicians from the North with a little of John Brown’s guts, we’d not be allays backing down when——

—All I say is, Garwood said, his big handsome face flushed with anger, all I say is that——

—What a story! Niles Foster said in passing. I’m getting out an extra. First time in the paper’s history. Folks are demanding it. I guess I can do it.

—What kind of trial will he get down there! a man said.

—If they give him justice, Garwood said, he’ll get hanged. Nothing can save that man but a war.

—Justice! a man said. What was he trying to do but free some slaves?

—He killed some people, didn’t he? Garwood said. He tried to overturn the Government. He broke into a United States Arsenal. You talk about justice. Why, the man’s a murderer!

—Some people have a funny idea of justice, by God!

Words had never been so hot and fierce before in the Court House Square.

—Cash, Johnny said, pulling him aside, I want to talk with you.

He got Cash Carney out of the crowd, took him to a quiet place off the Square, and told him everything.

—I just had to tell someone, he said. What am I going to do?

—-Jesus, John, Cash said, you’re in a mess!

—I know it, Johnny said.

The muscles of Cash Carney’s face twitched. He looked as if he had just got hold of a fat deal for making some money. He rubbed his hands together and puffed happily on his cigar.

—Jesus, John, I didn’t know you had it in you.

He gave Johnny a quick look in which respect, sympathy, and a kind of veiled pleasure were mixed. He threw away his halfsmoked cigar, bit off the end of a new cigar, and covered his face with his cupped hands.

—You got raped, he said.

—No, Johnny said. It was both of us.

—By God, I thought there was something queer about that dame. Here, let me see that letter.

He read it over.

—One-Shot Johnny! he said. Why’d she put it off so long, telling you? Three, four months already. My God, she’s no right asking a man to marry her after that. She’ll stick out.

—I know, Johnny said.

—Now, don’t worry, Cash said. We can lick this thing. We’ll think of something. What if your folks found out?

—I know, Johnny said.

—But don’t worry, Cash said, throwing away his second cigar and biting the tip off a third. Yes, sir, she’ll stick right out. What kind of a marriage would that be, John?

—I know, Johnny said.

—That little dress has been off before. You can bet your bottom dollar on that. Say, do you suppose Garwood’s been in there?

—I don’t know, Johnny said.

Cash finally got the cigar burning. He leaned back against a fence, opened his coat, hooked his thumbs in his waistcoat, and considered the situation calmly. It appealed to his imagination.

—I see just how it happened, John. On top of that whiskey, which under the circumstances wasn’t exactly your fault, you drink cider, which happens to be hard. You swim a little, and you’re a little tired and dizzy, it’s hot, you lie down, you find this girl on top of you, and you——

—I know, Johnny said.

—It could have happened to anyone, John.

—I know, Johnny said.

—Listen, Cash said. Why’nt she write sooner? Why’d she go South? There’s something fishy here.

—I don’t know, Johnny said.

—Now, listen, John, Cash said, don’t worry about this thing. It can be fixed up. There must be a way to get you out of this. Does anyone else know?

—Not that I know of, Johnny said.

—Good, Cash said, as if that solved the whole problem. Fine! Now let me think. Jesus, John, you should have been more careful.

—I know.

—Coming back in a couple of weeks, she says. That gives us some time. Now let me see.

Cash chewed his cigar thoughtfully, but he didn’t say he had a plan.

Nevertheless, Johnny felt much better to have someone else sharing the burden and thinking about it along with him. Good old Cash! It was good to have a man that bit down hard on his cigar and figured out ways to beat the game and come out on top, a practical man, a business man. Cash Carney would grab hold of a problem like this and whip it. Personally, he, Johnny, was helpless.

In the following days, the only relief Johnny Shawnessy had from the burden of his guilt came from reading about the famous raid and its aftermath. The trial of the wounded old man dragged on for two weeks. The Nation was drenched with rivers of black words in narrow columns—questions, counterquestions, legal jargon, names of witnesses, conspirators, friends, innocent dead. One day Johnny went into Freehaven and heard that John Brown had been sentenced to die. He read the record of the old man’s last words to the Court, words that would remain in the Republic’s memory after all the hundreds and thousands of words of that year had been washed away in the acid bath of time.

. . . I say I am yet too young to understand that God is any respecter of persons. I believe that to have interfered as I have done, as I have always freely admitted I have done in behalf of His despised poor, I did no wrong, but right. Now, if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel and unjust enactments, I say, let it be done.

Also at that time, Johnny saw in the Square pictures of John Brown, which could be bought in lots of a dozen for a dollar. During those days the face of the foremost American of the hour loomed above the land like a face of stone. Looking at that face, men knew that the appointed time was nearing when John Brown would go out and the rope would be tied around his neck and the trap would be sprung and his body would drop jerking at the rope’s end and the face with the accusing eyes would be the face of a dead man. Men had a little time to wait and think how and why this death was being done. It was only a question of time.

For Johnny Shawnessy, too, it was only a question of time. Time had become again a real duration that had a seed in the past and a flower in the future. In the Court House Square, he had had his being sown with small black words, and they had become a promise he could neither alter nor diminish. They would remain within him and grow upon him in magnitude and terror.

Always and for all men, he knew, time had been bringing dark events to birth. Some men were passive and let time bully them. But brave men acted. John Brown was such a man. He had performed the living Act and had dared the consequence. Like an Old Testament prophet, in whom trembled the fury of an avenging God, he had made the people mindful of themselves, awakened them from slumber. Somewhere now in darkness and agony, jailed, wounded, spat on, lay John Brown’s body. It was a tough seed that couldn’t be killed. And all men felt that when that body was given to the grave, it would be only that it might go on in darkness preparing for a mightier birth because that name, that body, and that face were chosen.

History had thrust a torch into John Brown’s hand. He had become an image-bearer of the Republic.

The night after hearing of John Brown’s sentence, Johnny Shawnessy got out of bed and silently putting on his clothes, slipped down to the place beside the tracks where he had said good-by to the Perfessor. A train approached, coming from the east. The lone red eye blinked at him, the train chugged up the grade, flame flared from the smokestack in the dark. Johnny Shawnessy rose and ran toward the embankment, slipping and scrambling through dead vines and withering grasses by the river. For an instant, he saw in the engine’s scarlet glare the vision of a new life for him. California, on the Golden Shore! There rushed over him the images of a future of achievement, such as he had always dreamed. He saw himself among the intrepid thousands who went west with the Republic. He would take up again the Quest of the Shawnessys. One of that restless, messianic seed, he would push on and leave the past behind. He would say good-by to Raintree County and go forth and fearless to a land where purple hills were drenched with golden fire at evening.

For a tumultuous instant, the necessary words were rising to his tongue, the words that said farewell and made it possible for him to turn his face from the faces of his people. In that instant, as the last car rolled over the crest of the hill, he looked backward. The river flowed in darkness making its great south loop. On the Home Place leaf-fires were charring in the darkness, and a lonely rock lay at the limit of the land. Then all the summers of his life rushed back upon him. He remembered his mother standing at the back door and calling the boys in from the fields for dinner. He remembered T. D.’s tall, gentle form in the cluttered Office among the squarecornered bottles. Johnny Shawnessy’s voice made a hoarse cry in his throat, and at the same time he heard the lonely wail of the departing engine. Then all that he was and all that he had been, like a hundred feminine and pleading hands, held him fast; he lay entangled with the vines and grasses of the autumnal earth beside the river. He knew then that he could no more uproot himself from this memoryhaunted earth than he could pluck body from soul. He lay in wet weeds at the base of the embankment and wondered at the image of himself departing from himself, of the disinherited one whom he had just sent down the tracks to westward and never would behold again.

The earth was odorous with autumn;

across the fields drifted a scent


Smoke curled up from the cigars of three men seated in front of the General Store.

—Let’s try page 65, the Senator said.

He was wedged into the middle one of three chairs. The Perfessor on his right and Mr. Shawnessy on his left were bent over to see the Atlas lying open in the Senator’s lap. The Perfessor licked his lips. His eyes were beady.

—I must say, he said, I never thought I’d take so much interest in the face of Raintree County. What a priceless opportunity that artist had!

—I’m beginning to think that the whole thing was the figment of an old man’s diseased mind, Mr. Shawnessy said.

—It must be here somewhere, the Senator said, studying page 65. If there weren’t so many interruptions——

Page 65 showed the farm residence of Robert Ray. Hugely passive in the foreground stood Jocko the Strong, blueribbon bull, surrounded by lesser bovine gentry.

—There goes another possibility, the Senator said. Doggone it! Let’s see—have we looked through it carefully?

—Let me try for a while, the Perfessor said.

He began to flap through the pages, holding the book at various angles and removes. He had the air of slipping up on the pictures before something could run away.

—I guess that story was too good to be true, the Senator said.

He tipped his chair back against the wall of the General Store, and nodding pleasantly at a group of hovering pedestrians, began to light a new cigar.

—John—puff, puff—how do you stand living in this little—puff, puff—burg? When I was a—puff, puff—kid, I couldn’t wait to get out.

He sat back breathing hard, triumphant possessor of a lit cigar.

—These are good smokes, he said. I burn about fifteen every day.

—This is the first smoke I’ve had for weeks, Mr. Shawnessy said. My wife doesn’t like the odor.

—Ten o’clock, the Senator said, consulting his watch. What do I do now, John?

—Just sit here and let the people gaze on the Man of the People.

All three men tipped their chairs back against the wall of the General Store.

—John, I remember how your dad, old T. D., was deadset against tobacco, the Senator said. What was that famous couplet of his?

Some do it chew, and some it smoke,

Whilst some it up their nose do poke.

He quaked with senatorial laughter.

Drinking the strong aroma of the cigar, Mr. Shawnessy felt heady and full of words.

Garwood the Great. Occupying the throne. And I in shadow sucking on a borrowed smoke. Well, I was too ambitious to be a great man in this age. We are definitely in the Garwood B. Jones Period of American History.

—Gentlemen, said the Senator, hooking his thumbs under his armpits, where would America be without the cigar?

Mr. Shawnessy watched the crowd go by in the thin mist of his cigar, incense of the Republic.

How will you find this manyness in one, this oneness in many, the Republic? It hovers in the smell of all the pullman cars and diners, and all the lobbies, court rooms, courthouse toilets, and all the senate chambers, hotel rooms, and statehouse corridors. The Republic is rolled up in thin brown leaves and smoked all over the Republic.

I will spend five cents and buy the earth. I will buy the subtle fragrance of sorghum, rum, molasses, dung, and dark flesh from below the Ohio River. For they have taken Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana, and the Carolinas, they have taken Old Virginny, and distilled them into smoke.

I saw a halfburned butt beneath a vaudeville poster. The street outside the drugstore was littered with chewed fragments of the Old Kentucky Home.

Have a smoke, brother. Thank you, Senator. Give me a light, will you? Here’s a good cigar. And don’t forget, brother, I stand for free soil, free speech, and the rights of men.

Can I get more for a nickel anywhere than the memory of all those great white domes and statehouse yards on Independence Day and summer streets and sainted elders reading their papers in the evening?

The cigar is mightier than the sword. Our thin smokes curl upon the summer air, tracing the legend of an elder day. Our thin smokes curl upon the summer air, our thin smokes curl upon, our thin smokes curl . . .

—By the way, men, the Senator was saying, I am eager to have the opinion of two such erudite gentlemen on a book I am writing. As time and the pressure of public duty permit, I have been working on a little magnum opus, a record of my life and the crowding pageant of the Nation’s history during my career as a servant of the people.

—Garwood, Mr. Shawnessy said, for goodness’ sake, get off the platform and talk English. You’re among friends now—not voters. You never got a vote of mine, and by the gods, you never shall.

—That’s what I like about you, John, the Senator said. You make me feel right at home again. Remember how we used to maul each other in the partisan weeklies? Well, what I want you two smart bastards to do is to prod me a little, stir up my ideas about these things. I figure on calling the goddam thing


What do you think of that?

—Why don’t you just call it frankly


the Perfessor said.

—I admit, the Senator said, that the appearance of this book, about two years from now, won’t hurt my candidacy for the Presidency in ’96. But all joking aside, boys, I have been turning over in my mind the whole question of what the United States of America stands for, and where we have been heading in the last fifty years. Or in the last four hundred years, for that matter. Do you fellows realize that we are in the Quadricentennial Year of the Discovery of America by the well-known Wop?

—America, Mr. Shawnessy said, is still waiting to be discovered. America is a perpetual adventure in discovery. I’ve spent my fifty years of life trying to discover America.

—That sounds rather good, the Senator said. Whom are you quoting?

He made a lazy ring, fat breathing of the senatorial lips.

—Well, what is America? Mr. Shawnessy said.

The Senator laughed gently, became silent. At last he said,

—America is the most perfect form of government ever devised by man.

—A lawyer’s definition, Mr. Shawnessy said.

—America, said the Perfessor, is where a great many beasts try to live under a government perfectly devised for men.

—A cynic’s definition, Mr. Shawnessy said.

—We need a poet’s definition, the Perfessor said.

—See my forthcoming opus, Mr. Shawnessy said, which, if the pressure of public duty permits, will appear just in time to strengthen my bid for the Presidency in 1948.

—John, the Senator said, where in Christ’s name is that great book you were always going to write?

A deputation of citizens approached to greet the Senator, who got out of his chair and began shaking hands.

Mr. Shawnessy drew deeply on the cigar.

America is a memory of my pre-Columbian years. America is a cabin in the clearing and a road that scarcely ruts the earth. It is the face of my mother in the sentimental doorway of our home in Indiana. America is an innocent myth that makes us glad and hopeful each time we read it in the book of our own life. It is the same myth each time with multiple meanings. It has the same homeplace in the county, the doorway and the face in the doorway, the cabin made of logs, the spring and running branch, the fields around the house, and it has the same rock lying at the utmost limit of the land at evening.

—Boys, the Senator said, resuming his chair, whatever America may be, I’m sure of one thing—that in fifty years we have seen a radical change in this country, as much so as if we had adopted a different form of government.

—For good or bad? the Perfessor said.

—Why, for good, the Senator said.

—For my part, the Perfessor said, I think we live in the period of the Great Betrayal.

—How so?

—We’ve betrayed the martyrs of the Civil War. We’ve betrayed the Negro. We’ve betrayed the working man. We’ve betrayed the immigrant millions. We’ve betrayed each other. We’ve betrayed the early dream and promise of America.

Mr. Shawnessy drank the strong aroma of the cigar.

Betrayals. The saddest moment of our life is the moment of betrayal. To love someone is to betray someone.

Anguish welled up, a brackish water from dank cisterns. A thin smoke curling had lured him to this pitfall of memory.

Apostate sucking on a borrowed smoke in the Main Street of the Nation, reclaim your heritage. Decayed shell, incapable of tears. My God, how I wept in the old days! The terrible rivers of remembrance streamed from my eyes. Wandering, I went to the farthest limits of the land at evening.

Listen, I did not betray you. I remember you, though you are many years buried in the seed-dense earth. I remember your purity, your hurt eyes, and how I fled to the verge of our land in the evening. I remember the waning light of autumn day, all the land was a conflagration of the fallen and falling leaves, and I remember


the rock had lain,

there always at the limit of the land,

immutable and lonely. Eggshaped, part-sunken in the ground, yet higher than a man, it lay in the South Field just short of the railfence. The land rose gently behind the farmhouse and then fell like a wave of waning strength to the limit of the field where the rock lay. The rock’s immensely solid mass was tinged with red, and sometimes on summer evenings the great scarred shape would glow dull scarlet after the land had turned to gray. The moveless mass of it had been there before the settlers came, had been there when Columbus saw the flowering shores of western islands, had been there when the first man, wandering through the forests of the middle continent discovered a river winding to a lake. Centuries had flowed and faded around the rock as seasons did around the life of Johnny Shawnessy. And yet it had always seemed a stranger in this earth, a stranded voyager from other climes.

He could be sure that in the periphery of all his memories the rock had lain there at the limit of the land. If he had wished, he could have gone there at any time and put his hand on it. Perhaps he would have found the rough rind of it faintly warm.

But one day it seemed to Johnny that perhaps he discovered why the rock was there and what it waited for.

For the rock had been there too during that triumphant spring when Johnny Shawnessy had thrust himself to the inmost recesses of the County. When he lunged through the pollenous air of Lake Paradise and lay with one beautiful and alien, the rock had been there at the utmost verge of the Home Place though he had never given it a thought or wondered how it could be there at that same instant, or how it could be so abidingly at all.

And the rock had been there too when Susanna Drake went back to her own earth, and it was there when she came back to Raintree County.

In early November, Johnny got a letter that read:

Dearest Johnny,

     I’m back.

          Your own


Grass was withering in the fields, and the rock at the limit of the Shawnessy land was a dull dome of color in the gray afternoon when he walked into Freehaven to see Susanna Drake. As he approached the house, standing white and mournful on its high lawn, his imagination involuntarily wished fire upon it, fire that would burn a vacant place against the sky and purge this shape and the memory of it from his life forever.

But after all he wasn’t so badly off, if it came to that. He was not going to have his neck wrung like John Brown.

At the door, he was met by the Negro girl, who ushered him into the parlor. He sat down and waited. While he was waiting, he picked up the album and gloomily conned its pages. There were two or three new pictures of Susanna in various romantic attitudes. Susanna with Child, he mused, mournfully.

The daguerreotype of four people before the old Southern mansion was still there. He examined it more closely than before. When held to avoid reflection, this primitive legend of light and shadow had a precision of detail that more modern methods couldn’t achieve. There were more than four faces in the picture after all. If you wanted to be pedantic, there were five, for the little girl was hugging a doll whose tiny features were clear like a cameo.

The father was a tall, lanky, bearded man, gentle and distinguished in appearance. The mother appeared to be a brunette, her face oval, her body fattish, her eyes distrustful, her mouth twisted. The little girl was a lovely, eager child, her face all eyes and mouth, as she clutched her doll with one hand and held her father’s hand with the other.

Here was a fragment from the lost days of a little girl—innocent, scarless days, bathed in a brown light of arrested time. A secret lurked here in pools of shadow, like the lovely mulatto woman standing on the porch.


He sprang up just in time to catch Susanna’s half-naked body as she fled across the room in a white nightdress.

—O, Johnny! she said, don’t leave me. I’ve been sick.

She was sobbing. It was no ordinary sobbing fit: it lasted a good hour by the clock. She clung to his neck, and when he sat down, she sat on his lap and wept on his coat and face. It was a fit of passion as violent in its way—and as seemingly authentic—as the one at Lake Paradise. Perhaps it was intended to have the same climax, for Susanna kept trying to press her mouth against his between fits of sobbing. But the superb young god of July had given place to a young man with gloomy November scruples. Johnny was terrified to think that he had caused a woman to weep in this way, and he found himself muttering reassuring affirmatives. When at last she seemed a little quieted, he started to say,

—But why didn’t you let me know sooner, Susanna? Now it’s——

At this point, the sobbing broke out afresh and with it an incoherent tide of explanation. She hadn’t wanted to hurt him, she had tried to forget him, she had been very sick and unhappy, mysterious people—her own relatives and friends—had all turned against her in New Orleans, there had been shameful plots to get her property and her good name away from her, he had no idea what she had been through.

It was another half-hour before she subsided again, lying quiet in his arms with her head on his shoulder, like a heartbroken child, soothed but occasionally catching her breath and ready to break out afresh. He decided that the best thing he could do was to get away, if he could, and talk with her when she was calmer.

—I want a little time, he said, to think things out. I’ll come back and see you again, Susanna.

The figure in his arms didn’t stir, but continued to cling to him. Brusquely decisive, he stood up and lifted her to her feet. She offered no resistance, passively allowing him to use her as he pleased. Her eyes were faraway, mournful, pensive.

—I’ll come back and see you again, Susanna.

She didn’t say anything. He moved indecisively toward the door as she stood where he had set her, a picture of forlorn resignation. He felt ashamed of himself.

—Good-by, he said. And try not to worry. Things will work out all right.

She didn’t say anything but threw herself down as if collapsing on the divan, and lay there, silent, with her face down, and hidden by the tumultuous black hair. In falling, the nightdress somehow was pulled up to show her bare thighs. Her feet were pointed to prolong the olive flowing length of her legs. Even in his distress, Johnny couldn’t help noticing how beautifully formed she was. It seemed a little curious that no unsightly bulge marred the slenderness of Susanna’s waist.

—Good-by, he said.

The figure on the couch merely drew a long, quavering breath. He went to the door, opened it, and started down the steps. He felt like running, but he took his time until he reached the street. There was no sound from the tall house. He turned his back on it and began to walk away. He turned a corner and drew a deep breath. He must have been holding his breath, for he was panting. He felt as though someone had been slapping his face.

He stopped in town for his mail. There was a letter for him from New York.

Dear John,

I am personally writing to the proper governmental authority requesting that a bronze medal be struck to commemorate your extraordinary achievement. It shall be engraved with the image of Venus bestowing a garland on the kneeling hero, the circular inscription to read:

Uno fulmine, terram perturbavit

Seriously, my boy, I’m sorry this happened to you, and especially with the female in question. Under the circumstances, I feel I should reply to your highly personal query, if it will set your mind at ease. Yes, I saw that mysterious scar under the following auspices: You will recall that I was acting as duenna to a party of young people at that peculiar little pond in the middle of the County. Everyone was partaking freely of a poisonous compound supplied by Garwood Jones, and after a while I found myself in the water with Miss Drake. The lady is a perfect little hellcat when liquored up—but why tell you! Though I am but an indifferent swimmer, she and I arrived on the far shore, where we amused ourselves by frolicking in the water. The lady swims like a fish and insisted upon ducking me several times and goddam near drowning me. The last time she pushed me under (squealing with lust) I took a good firm purchase on her bathing costume and ripped it open, whereupon I got a peek at Elysium. I guess I was doing the dress rehearsal for your performance.

Don’t believe any other version you may hear of this incident.

As for Miss Drake, I think she’s morally, emotionally, and politically problematical—to say the least. I have even darker suspicions. At any rate, boy, don’t imagine that you seduced anybody. The seduction, if any, was strictly bilateral. My own impression is that you were the only virgin in that brawl.

Get out of it any way you can. Maybe a money settlement would do the trick, but I doubt it—she seems to have plenty of money.

Why are you so perplexed as to her motives? From among the various candidates for the honor of legitimizing the bulge, she elected you—understandably.

Maybe you could talk her into switching her attentions to someone else. By the way, do you think Garwood’s been in there?

Yes, I’m in New York beating up news for the Dial. Would you care to have me run an item on your accomplishment? People are getting tired of balloonists and funambulists, and maybe a series on the Hoosier Hotshot (He only fars once, folks!) would titillate the jaded sensibilities of the polloi.

Apropos, New York is a nice place to get lost in. Better join me there if things get too hot in Raintree County. I firmly believe that the age of prophets and martyrs is over. Better be live Judas than dead Jesus.

Well, think I’ll run along and get Under the Raintree myself. Her name is Agnes, and she stands five ten in her bare feet.

Fraternally yours,

Jerusalem Webster Stiles

Johnny walked down to the Saloon. It was late, but Cash Carney was still standing in front talking with the boys. Johnny hadn’t seen him for two weeks. He gave him the sign, and Cash walked over. The two of them went down a sidestreet.

—She’s back, Johnny said.

—How’s she look?

—You wouldn’t know it.

He told Cash about his reunion with Susanna.

—Now, look, John, Cash said, I’ve given this a lot of time and thought. I’ve personally milked Garwood for everything I could find out. I got some names of some folks down there to write to. I’ve wrote some letters and received some replies. The more I see of this thing, the more I don’t like it.

—I hope you conducted all this in secret.

Cash was lighting a cigar.

—Naturally, John! Of course, Garwood is a smart—puff, puff—bastard, and I think he smelled a mouse.

He exhaled a quantity of smoke.

—First I tried to draw Garwood out to find out how far he went with the girl himself. He wouldn’t tell me a thing. Kept swatting me on the back and saying, Hell, I wouldn’t do a thing like that to my own niece, Ha, Ha. There are laws against that, son, Ha, Ha. But I dug up a lot of dirt about the girl. She’s only twenty-two years old, but she’s been a wild one for years. According to Garwood, she ran off with her cousin’s husband a year ago. They disappeared completely, and the rumor in New Orleans had it they’d run off to Jamaica. He come back a month or two later, very contrite, and Susanna come up here for the scandal to blow over. That was when we first saw her last spring. It seems that when she went back there this summer, people forgave her out of curiosity. She went to a lot of balls and parties and was seen everywhere with a lot of different men and there were rumors of engagements and so on, but nothing come of it. Nobody seems to know down there why she come back up here.

—What can I do?

—Just tell her you have no intention of being the sucker in this situation. Tell her she can’t prove anything anyway, and the best thing she can do is to go back to her own people and try to catch someone back there.

Johnny felt a lump of sickness forming in his stomach and rising in his throat.

—I couldn’t do it, Cash.

—I’ll do it for you, Cash said. I’ll go talk with her.

—I’d rather you’d not, Johnny said. Wait till you hear from me.

They talked some more, but to no purpose.

When he drove back home, he didn’t know what he would do. In the far field of the Home Place under dripping skies, the rock lay, immutable and lonely. And the thought came over him that only the rock and the gray earth were lasting and that the tortured world of conscience, guilt, and consequence in which he lived was really nothing but a kind of mist that passed as seasons did over the immutable and mournful earth.

Meanwhile, the rock lay there lonely at the verge of his ancestral earth; and he didn’t know it then, but in a sense it was waiting for him to discover it.

Only a few days later, he was driving his mother home from Freehaven, where he had arranged to meet her after some work at the Free Enquirer office. As they drove out of town on the old road east, he noticed that she hadn’t said anything but was sitting with her hands folded in her lap and her eyes looking down the road. Ordinarily Ellen would have detailed all the adventures and encounters of the morning in a girlish, ungrammatical narrative. He gave her a quick slantwise glance. Her eyes were hurt, puzzled. She looked aging and pathetic. Her fussy old bonnet was tied on askew, her dark coarse hair had fallen in wisps and strings down her forehead and around her cheeks.

He drove gloomily in silence, waiting. At last, she said,

—Johnny, I want to talk with you about something.

In that one moment, the question was settled forever. He knew then that he would marry Susanna Drake. Thus only could he still the great voice of conscience, which was the voice of Raintree County.

—Yes, Mamma.

—I got a letter from someone today trying to tell me something that I hope isn’t true. I got it right here.

She handed him a short note written in an unfamiliar scrawl, huge, childish letters that looked forged. ‘Dear Mrs. Shawnessy,’ it began, ‘I think you should know that your son John . . .’ It was signed, ‘From a Well-meaning Friend.’ It was explicit, accurate, completely damning.

—That isn’t true, is it, Johnny?

A bitter emotion welled up in him. He wanted to be able to tell his mother that somehow he hadn’t been disloyal to her belief in him, that he was still at heart the virtuous and fortunate Johnny, that there was still possible for him that great, good life to which long ago he had pledged himself on the breast of the land. But as he was aware of her sitting there, waiting, a woman no longer young, her face seamed with the passing of the years, her body clothed in the shapeless mother’s garb of the County, when he thought of the shattered image in her heart, he realized that there could be no real explanation or communion between himself and her. He understood her Raintree County, but she could never understand his. She could never understand the young man’s omnivorous appetite for life. To her, the young man’s pagan world of beauty and desire, which no doubt God had intended for the perpetuation of life, would seem only vulgarity and lewdness.

Johnny Shawnessy bled helplessly in the old tragedy of the son’s rebellion and couldn’t say a word. But his silence was itself an answer.

—If it’s true, Johnny, please tell me so. I want to know.

Now his emotion became so strong that he had to defend himself from it.

—It’s none of your business, Mamma. Please stay out of it.

The words were said the only way they could be, short and bitter.

What she said after that and what he said were merely the truncated mouthings of the Oedipean agony. During the last halfmile of the road from Freehaven to the Home Place, mother and son drove in a shocked silence, which grew more and more terrible. When at last they reached the Home Place and he had driven the buggy up the drive, he wanted nothing more than to get out and run. In fact, he did get out and started walking swiftly across the land, striking off through the South Field as if he had a definite place to go. He felt as if he must get away from the Home Place and from his mother forever if he was to achieve manhood and independence. As he reached the curve of the earth, he heard the train passing on its way behind the woods toward the great bend of the river. It made its disconsolate wail of parting and farewell; the naked little engine and one passenger car were cleanly visible through the thinning foliage of the oak forest. It was evening. Leaves were falling in the woods as he approached the limit of the land.


He turned. Ellen Shawnessy was coming down the long slow hill, an erect small person picking her way, halfrunning to catch up with him. He knew then that she was coming because she feared that in his grief and anger he might do himself some injury.

He had reached the rock that lay solid, faintly tinged with red just short of the railfence. He stopped and bent his head against it and said,

—Please go away, Mamma. I’m all right.

—I just want you to know, Johnny, that anything I’ve done or said was because I love you. If I done anything wrong, tell me what it was. I know that whatever you do’ll be the right thing.

—Please go away, Mamma.

He hid his face against the rock. He was crying. He couldn’t control the violent sobs that shook him. He hadn’t cried since he was a child, but now he cried and didn’t see how he could get hold of himself again.

After a while Ellen had gone back across the land, and it was night. The tears were all gone out of him then, the river of his being had dwindled to its source, the waters had retreated into distant and deep caverns. He stood a long time yet there at the limit of the land, leaning on the rock, and wondering how it was that he had come to be upon this land in the fading evening of the years beside a rock that knew no tears or time or laughter, love or passion or regret. And then he felt deeply stilled and strengthened, and he felt that he could never be hurt again by the world’s opinion. Then he turned and walked back across the field

toward the yellow windows of the Home Place

because he knew that there


—Nowhere else to go, the Perfessor was saying. That’s why they came to America. This nation is the love-child of History. Dame Clio bore the others of a paternity known and acknowledged, but America was a lusty by-blow.

—There’s a good deal to be said for the bastards of men or of nations, the Senator said. The bar sinister is a badge of vitality.

—All life is casually begot, the Perfessor said, but the bastard birth is less casual than the other kind. A certain amount of resolution goes into the fathering of your bastard. Believe me, as Willie Shakespeare says, some woman has to screw her courage to the sticking place—and vice versa.

The Perfessor leaned over and, using the tip of his malacca cane, began to draw lines in a patch of dusty earth between the store and the sidewalk.

—Behold the diagram of Life! he said. At the base of the diagram, there’s an immense swamplike womb, and from this rises a giant tree, the umbilicus, through which saplike pours for aeons the stuff of life. Then dangling from this tree in its maturity would be a tiny seedpod, your post-natal individual, whose separation from the parent tree is, biologically speaking, a brief period. Actually we so-called mature individuals are only the pods of the tree, quaintly contrived to seduce one another so that the precious impulse that we carry, the immortal seed, may again and again be shaken back into the swamp of life.

The Senator got up and shook hands with a large lady from Indianapolis. He bowed, waggled his head, fondled her hand.

—There, said the Perfessor, the seedpod is shaking on its invisible tree. By a million winds of chance, the seed is sprinkled back into the womb of humanity, and the process goes on. Out of this swamplike womb grows the terrific tangle of the family trees and swinging briefly from some branches thereof are those little flowers of life, Jerusalem W. Stiles, John W. Shawnessy, and that big fulsome flower, Garwood B. Jones, the Senator from Indiana.

—Pure Darwinism, Professor. Where is History in this view? What is the life of a nation? And who—or rather what—is God?

—These questions I will leave to you, said the Perfessor.

—You were talking about genealogy, boys, the Senator said, sitting down again. I’ve been looking back into the family past of the Raintree County Joneses in connection with my forthcoming little opus. I’m proud to say that there isn’t an earl or a duke in the family. Just a bunch of barefoot farmers and horsethieves. I recently got a letter from a fourflusher offering to hunt up a suitable coat of arms for me. I told the skunk to go ahead and see what he could find. What would you suggest for a heraldic device, Professor?

The Perfessor thought for a while.

An ass ascendant and about to bray, he said.

—I have one for you, Professor, Mr. Shawnessy said.

—And what’s that?

A serpent pendent from a branch of bay.

—And for you, John, the Perfessor said, how about: A Raintree rampant in a field of hay.

Golden tree, never labelled by arborealists, I look far down from one of your topmost swinging branches to the shadowy trunk. Here is a good tree, tawny with shocks of shaken flowers, the Shawnessy Tree, spreading on the amorous air of summer the seedburst of its golden bloom. Here is a rare seed, brought overseas in old migrations. Beware, ye virgins! It was made for deep plantings. It will spring in your dark wombs with a fierce leaping, blindly hunting the channels of the future.

Seedtime, summer, and bearded harvest. O, young sporespreader, I lift a wisp of memoryladen smoke to you, fragrant with

November 22—The—1859

scent of withered summers

hovered in the dusk of T. D.’s Office,

where Johnny waited for his father to begin. T. D. sat finger-drumming on his desk. After a while he said without looking up,

—John, this marriage that you’ve announced. I uh ought to tell you that I don’t entirely approve of the precipitate but uh under the circumstances necessary haste with which you have gone into it. I have found out something about the whole thing, and I am deeply pained, and——

T. D. looked out of the window at the gray November earth. Johnny stared at the anatomical chart on the wall. He hadn’t seen T. D. so incoherent and pedantic since the time many years before when he had ushered Johnny into the Office to tell him the Facts of Life. At that time, he had taken a pointer and made certain indications at the anatomical chart on the wall. Eyes fixed on the chart now, Johnny saw, under the yellowing varnish, a man’s body laid open to show the internal organs. The genitalia were a wrecked mass of blood vessels and tubes. Johnny felt only a dry resentment and a wish to get the thing over with.

—John, T. D. was saying, maybe I’ve got this whole thing wrong. I hope I have.

—I guess it’s the way you heard it, Johnny said.

—You mean, T. D. said, stealing a glance at Johnny, you mean that you uh that you and this young woman——

—Yes, Johnny said. Yes, we did. I haven’t any excuse. I got drunk on cider. It was after the Fourth of July Race.

—Fourth of July! T. D. said, reflecting. Jerusalem! boy, that was uh—that was——

He tapped his long fingers quickly——

—nearly five months ago!

—Yes, I know, Johnny said. I’d rather not talk about it, Pa. I was wrong. I’m trying to make it right.

—But this young woman uh, I saw her, you know. I went to see her, after someone wrote me an unsigned note and uh I didn’t see any visible outward indication that she uh was in that uh shall we say advanced state of uh the gestatory process which reveals itself uh externally—that is, I——

—I know, Johnny said, feeling sorry for T. D. I don’t know how to explain it. She says she’s with child. It doesn’t make any difference. I’m going to marry her anyway.

—She’s uh she’s quite an attractive young woman, you know, T. D. said, drumming on the table. She uh—that is, I understand how a man might—that is uh, given the circumstances, and the fact that, as you say, you had partaken of what I presume you thought was a harmless beverage—uh, I can see that—but of course, you understand, John, nothing can condone your uh headlong behavior. I had thought that of all my sons—that you——

—Yes, Johnny said, I know. I’ve been a terrible disappointment to you. I’m sorry.

—Not that I entirely blame you, T. D. said. You’re after all only a boy—what?—twenty years old? At twenty, I myself—but then that’s another matter. Still, I want you to know that I understand your feelings and I wish to express to you my uh——

At this point, T. D.’s verbal process broke down completely, and he stood head down before the lone window. There was a long silence.

—John, he said, more quietly, there’s something I might as well tell you right now. I’ve told the three older boys, and it’s been my intention to tell each of my children when they reached the age of twenty-one. Under the circumstances I think I might as well tell you now since you have uh after a manner of speaking reached the age uh—the age where uh——

Johnny had the strange feeling that somehow his own and his father’s role had been subtly reversed and that he, Johnny, was now in the position of the judge and his father in that of the accused.

—I have a special reason for being glad, John, that you’ve done the manly thing in this case—though a bit late—and have decided to make it up to this young woman, whom you have uh—with whom you have——

—Yes, Johnny said.

—You might as well know it, John, T. D. said, turning around and squaring his shoulders. There is a stain on the name of Shawnessy. Do you know what I mean?

—No, I don’t, Johnny said.

—You’ve never heard me speak much of my father, have you, John? I’ve always told you that he died in Scotland when I was very small and that my mother came to America with me. You don’t know much about my life in Scotland, do you?


—Well, the truth is, T. D. said slowly, that Shawnessy is not the name of my father. My father’s name was Carlyle. Shawnessy is my mother’s name.

Johnny felt that he ought to understand now, but somehow he couldn’t grasp the significance of what T. D. had said.

—No use mincing words, T. D. said. I was the issue of an illegitimate union.

T. D. squared his shoulders and turned around, looking a little belligerent. His blue eyes flashed. His rabbity mouth worked under his immense blond mustache.

—In plain English, my boy, I’m a bastard. Just a good cleancut bastard.

—O, Johnny said. Is that a fact?

It was the strongest word he had ever heard T. D. use. He felt relief and also a new respect for T. D., who was (the word was somehow comforting) a bastard.

—Yes, sir, T. D. said. I bear what men might call a dishonored name. But I have never been ashamed of the name of Shawnessy. It’s the name of my mother, a superb woman.

—Yes, sir, Johnny said, coming crisply to attention.

—As for my father, T. D. said, he bore a name which has since become famous in the world.

Then Johnny understood why it was that T. D. had so often told the children that they were related to a name famous in letters. He had never been explicit about the closeness of that connection, saying only that it was through his father’s side of the family.

—Yes, sir, T. D. was saying in his old brisk voice, as if he had suddenly got back all his old assurance, yessirree, and when I got to be old enough to understand my situation, I swore I’d make the name of Shawnessy as great as the name of Carlyle. Here in America, in a virgin wilderness, where a man’s name and past mean nothing, I meant to make the name of Shawnessy a great one in the world.

Johnny nodded. T. D. began to walk back and forth, vibrant with the preternatural energy that seemed to flow into him at times.

—I can’t say, T. D. said, that I’ve entirely realized all my ambitions. I suppose I’ve been handicapped by a want of education, and perhaps I lacked the native ability to realize my hopes. Not that I consider my life a misspent one. Not at all.

—Of course not, Johnny said.

—I come west with the country, T. D. said. I married young and had children to support. I’ve grown up with this great country, and I’ve been one of those who made it grow. I was one of the first settlers in Raintree County. When I come here, this was a wilderness. I’ve saved the lives of many Americans. I’ve done my small part for the spiritual welfare of the people of this republic. And if the name of Shawnessy don’t become famous in the land, as famous as the name which by rights I ought to bear is in England, I am not in the least ashamed of it. I’m proud of it. And I want my children to be proud of it. I’d rather be Timothy Duff Shawnessy in America than a king in England.

—Certainly, Johnny said.

—In America, T. D. said, nobody cares about a man’s past. If I’ve not become a great man, I’ve only myself to blame. But I want my children to know that I pass on to them a great name, my mother’s, and I’m still confident that in generations to come people will speak the name of Shawnessy with reverence. I take as yet the most hopeful view of my own future and that of my children.

T. D. paused then, with one long arm outflung, and seemed to reflect upon something that he had forgotten.

—But that brings me to say, John, that there’s—well—a kind of curse on the Shawnessys. I’ve noticed it in myself, and I’m afraid that you and perhaps other members of our family bear the mark of it. We’re a passionate people, John, us Shawnessys. We are at one and the same time seekers after knowledge, scholars, poets, teachers, and preachers—and also, alas! lovers of beauty. And this second trait is the fatal one. I know, my boy, that you wrestle under more extreme temptation than most men. I know, because I myself have uh in my youth felt that fatal uh susceptibility. It’s hard for a Shawnessy to resist a beautiful woman. It’s our curse, my boy, an amiable one—and one, may I say, which I’d be very unhappy not to have, but just the same a curse.

—Yes, sir, Johnny said.

He found it easier to bear his sense of guilt, when he discovered that he had come by it honestly from his grandmother. The fault had acquired a certain dignity and family standing.

—All my younger life, I fought against this legacy of my noble mother, T. D. was saying. I think I may say that I fairly mastered it. By the way, don’t breathe a word of this to your mother.

—Of course not, Johnny said.

—Who are we, T. D. said, beginning unconsciously to adopt his pulpit manner, to judge of these moments of weakness? The father and mother of the race sinned. They knew each other in guilty passion after they did eat of the forbidden fruit. ’Tis an ancient curse. Yea, my son, who are we to question the weakness of a woman who surrenders to her desire? No more virtuous woman lived than my mother. She loved and sinned. That was all. But I beg you to take notice, my boy, that if she hadn’t, where would you and I be?

T. D. and Johnny looked shyly at each other for a split second and lowered their eyes.

Who shall assign a value to the event or to its consequence? Life has its own inscrutable ends to serve. My grandmother, I am glad that you were once an amorous girl and had the weakness—and the courage—of your love. I am glad, my grandmother, that you allowed yourself to be tumbled in a hayfield beside the little town of Ecclefechan in Scotland years ago. Who knows but even then you fell under the compulsion of the springing impulse that was I! Did you not sin and suffer that I might one day flower and be fair? It was a great gift that you gave that day, my grandmother, in your desirous girlhood. You were one of the makers of America, my gay and guilty paternal grandma. And a woman who gives herself for love only, and without hope of moral security, is she not more courageous than the other kind? O, peerless, antique little Scot, you deserved to give your own great name unto your children and your children’s children. Now it can never die. Another of your line has been busy to that end, in your own inimitable style, my wee, unvirginal grandma.

—I hope, T. D. was saying, that you don’t take this thing too hard.

—Not at all, Johnny said. I’m glad you told me. It makes me feel a little better.

—As for your own case, my boy, T. D. said, you’ve done the manly thing. I hope this young lady is all that she appears to be. Judge not that ye be not judged.

—Yes, sir.

—Marry her, my boy, T. D. said, standing up erect and tall and holding out his hand, and be happy. Do you need money?

—No, I believe not, Papa.

—When is the wedding?

—December 2, Johnny said. Susanna’s choice.

He shook his father’s hand and left the Office.

Later on in the evening, he was aware that T. D. was still out in the Office, with no light on. Undoubtedly, he was pacing there in his cluttered cage, a distinguished-looking gentleman with a large blond mustache, marching back and forth surrounded by the Botanical Medicines. He had come to America to make himself famous, and somehow he had got lost in the land. It was strange now to think how some fifty years ago there had been a casting of seed in a putative hayfield in Scotland, and the vital impulse in it was strong, so very strong, that it was carried safely over the sea and so very, very strong that it was carried west and west. Along the way it had lodged in fertile earth, and now there were many vessels, bearers of seed, many and many on the breast of the land.

O, strange little swimmer of so long ago, o, little immortal! What difference is it to you what name you bear! What do you care for a name! O, little lifegiver, you only are eternal. We exist only for you, and you pay us back by faint repetitions of our features, for you never forget anything. You remember us,

you remember our faces, as you proceed

upon your way, jetting


Faces on the Great Road of the Republic floated through the haze of Mr. Shawnessy’s cigar, rising out of vacant time and fading into vacant time. He thought of all the faces of mankind that had passed briefly through the world of time and space. Flowerlike they rose—like flowers springing and like dense flowers falling and fading back into the swamp.

—Did you ever stop to consider what a face is, Professor?

—Isn’t it bad enough to have one, the Perfessor said, without having to explain it?

—It’s a strange fact, Mr. Shawnessy said, that a woman carries her face naked for all the world to see and thinks she’s respectable because she hides the rest in clothes. The hidden part is, after all, very simple, but the face is delicate, mobile, passionate. The flesh of it moves, the eyes glance about, the lips make sounds. If like Hawthorne’s minister or the Moslem women, we veiled our faces, we’d learn to value the secrecy and mystic beauty of these big lush flowers.

—The face is merely a traffic center for sense organs, the Perfessor said. For economy’s sake, it got crammed together. A face is really a pretty loathsome proposition, you know.

—The face is a human discovery, Mr. Shawnessy said. Other animals don’t think of themselves as having separate faces. And only human beings make love face to face. What an exciting discovery that must have been for some dawn man!

—An ancestor of yours maybe? the Perfessor said. His name should go down to us along with Cadmus, who invented the alphabet. Perhaps the name Shawnessy is a direct lineal derivative and means He-Who-Made-Love-Face-to-Face.

—A face, Mr. Shawnessy said, is also a memory of a million other faces. Our faces are palimpsests. Like all things human, faces are both synoptic and unique.

—Have you ever stopped to figure, John, how fearfully fouled up our family trees are? Each human being is fifty thousand kinds of cousin to the stranger he passes on the street. Each time we make love to a woman we’re committing infinitely multiplied incest. Nothing is more certain.

—How is that? the Senator said. I’m damned if I follow that.

—It’s a simple question of arithmetic, the Perfessor said. Each person is the child of two. Each of these was the child of two. That makes four. Each of these was the child of two. That makes eight. Each of these was the child of two. That makes sixteen. Now, go on in that fashion, and assume that there’s no intermarriage of relatives back to the time of Charlemagne. That would be about fifty generations only. On that basis, do you know how many human beings were living in the time of Charlemagne to form the base of the pyramid of which you are the apex?

—I give up, the Senator said.

—Roughly about six hundred trillion. Just for you—mind you. That’s leaving out of account other human beings now living. Think of all the incest near and far there must have been in order that the few hundred million human beings actually living in Charlemagne’s time could sire the much greater number living now. A few generations back and our family trees get so damnably scrambled that individual names and faces no longer have any importance at all, I assure you. Let me remind you, too, that this does not even take us back to the time of Christ. And even two thousand years is only a quarter of a mile in the Mississippi of human descent. Man has been more or less man for two hundred thousand years. In all this muck of human beings, what is an individual face?

The Perfessor adjusted his glasses and stroked his brows with sensitive fingertips.

—Biologically, the Perfessor went on, there’s just one face—with the standard fixtures. All the fuss people expend on their damfool faces is part of the fuss they make over themselves as damfool individuals. The life-impulse doesn’t really care anything about faces. The ugliest people I know have the most children, and they’re all ugly like their parents. Very beautiful women often have no issue, or ugly issue. Ugly and beautiful, like moral and immoral, are unknown to the Republic of the Great Swamp, which really doesn’t give a hang who your forebears were. It only cares that the seed be sifted back into the muck so that the little faces will pop out again, year after year, generation after generation, and seduce each other like flowers, innocently and promiscuously.

The Perfessor snorted and puffed on his cigar.

—What do you think of that, John?

—I think that you don’t understand faces. Your remorseless logic leaves out the most significant fact about faces.

—What’s that?

—That a face is a map.

—You speak in parables.

—It takes some explaining and involves my whole philosophy, but——

He was interrupted by a chord of male voices from the door of the barber shop. A quartet, calling themselves the Freehaven Chanticleers, were beginning a brief program of popular airs to entertain the Senator.

—Don’t you remember sweet Alice, Ben Bolt?

  Sweet Alice, whose hair was so brown. . . .

Faces of his life rose on the pale stream of the years, like images on cards turning slowly over and over in riverpools. Slowly the white flesh dissolved from the bone. The faces were gone, lost in winter nights. But there had been a republic in which these faces had seemed immortal. Shimmering, it had risen from the Great Swamp, and even the Great Swamp was one of its immortal images. Was this republic really the fool of time? Where was the fading ruin of all its faces?

The Chanticleers had begun another song.

—Beautiful dreamer, wake unto me,

  Starlight and dewdrops are waiting for thee. . . .

Wake unto me, faces of an old republic. Where did you come from, children of a golden god? Like big lush flowers, you briefly swayed in white seductions.

—Over the streamlet vapors are borne,

  Waiting to fade at the bright coming morn.

    Beautiful dreamer, beam on my heart,

      E’en as the morn on the streamlet and sea;

    Then will all clouds of sorrow depart. . . .

Beautiful dreamer, wake unto me! It was in a cold dawn of the unreturning years, and our tears and kisses mingled on our cheeks. There was a path that time never took, down ribboning rails to the great and golden West. Beside the little river that flows into the lake, on the banks where we played in childhood’s golden summer, we two were torn apart long ago, and your pale face glimmered down the vistas of the morn, long ago, long ago, and o, I remember, I remember, your sweet face fading in the mists above the river till the purple haze of morning wreathed it from my view.

The Chanticleers were singing an encore.

—I remember the days of our youth and love. . . .

Mr. Shawnessy ached with love-desire, as there awakened, within the shell of middle-age, the young Shawnessy, the shockheaded boy, tender and sentimental, the adolescent god of early American days.

—Nevermore will come those happy, happy hours,

    Whiled away in life’s young dawn;

  Nevermore we’ll roam thro’ pleasure’s sunny bowers,

    For our bright, bright summer days are gone.

Listen! are you there, face of the young Shawnessy, face that is only half of the archetypal human face, seeking for the other half that will make up the sum of ideal beauty, hunting down the lanes and over the cornfields of an infinite number of hypothetical Raintree Counties! I see you momentarily—a young god, tall. Your hair is shaken into sunlight. You hunt a tree beside the river where you will find at last the face that you were seeking.

—How we joyed when we met, and grieved to part,

  How we sighed when the night came on;

  How I longed for thee in my dreaming heart,

  Till the first fair coming of the dawn.

She has risen from the river. Hurry, be fleet, for the bark is closing on her whitemuscled loins, her face is covered up in leaves. And it is dark, dark, dark in the woodlands of all the Raintree Counties that never were, it is a long, long time till the first fair coming of the

December 1-2—Dawn—1859

and its day of

long farewell were still

many hours distant as Johnny Shawnessy rode home from Freehaven to the Home Place, returning from a bachelor’s dinner given him by Garwood Jones and Cash Carney. On the morrow he was to be married.

The night was cloudy, raw, and moonless but not dark. He could see the wet road palely dissolving in the bleak night; he could see damp fields, dark masses of forest, and the mute farmhouses, lightless at this late hour.

Crossing the bridge at Danwebster, he looked down at the river, a cold, cheerless water. Around him was the immutable and mournful earth of Raintree County, and beyond, the great plains rolling east and west and north and south, the valleys, mountains, deserts of America; beyond that the limitless, cold oceans, and the whole waste of earth, slowly revolving in the night of human time. Was it his earth? Did he hold lasting title to a single handful of it?

He thought of people wandering in the night or making love or dying—all over the Republic. Was one any more important than another? Did any of them possess anything that they could keep forever? Did the lovers really possess each other in the night? Did they really become one? Did the bride and groom really marry and belong forever to each other?

He was thinking then of John Brown, who had fought for the freedom of a few million nameless black men, shadowy projections of the Southern earth where they toiled. What good had it done John Brown to believe, to labor long and hard, to go up and down in the land? Now he would have one brief, reluctant morning. He would have one long farewell.

Perhaps it was better to make a few concessions and live a little longer than to be once brave and forever dead.

But then did it really matter so much if the neck snapped at a predictable time? Wasn’t each sleeper in his bed condemned and merely enjoying a stay of execution? Light was coming always, in great beams up the eastern marches of the earth. No one could keep the old man from the rope. John Brown must die, terribly alone as all men must.

But John Shawnessy was alive. He would go tomorrow to far, strange places. He would escape and pleasure himself with a barbaric love while the old man went down to a dirty grave.

On a clear, cold day in mid-November, Johnny had gone back to the tall house in Freehaven to ask Susanna’s hand in marriage. Ushered in by a Negro girl, he had waited on the divan in the parlor. After a very long time, the maid returned.

—Miss Susanna will receive in her room upstairs.

He followed the maid up the stair from the hall and into a huge bedroom occupying most of the secondfloor front.

The room was shaded by gorgeous red curtains closely drawn over the single window, which was the middle one of five on the front of the house. At first Johnny couldn’t see very well, but slowly his eyes made out a canopied bedstead scarlet-draperied like the window and closed on all sides. Except for mirrors placed at intervals along the walls, the rest of the room was almost empty of furniture.

The maid stopped at the door.

—Here’s the young gentleman to see you, Miss Susanna.

—Come in, Johnny.

It was Susanna’s voice, plaintive and remote from the depths of the bed. The draperies faintly stirred on the side nearest him.

Johnny walked over to the bed.

—How does a person get into this thing?

—Just pull that cord there, the voice in the bed said. I haven’t been well, Johnny.

—I’m sorry, Johnny said.

He jerked the cord, and the curtains parted and shot back on his side.

In the darkly scarlet depths of the huge bed he could see Susanna’s face looking at him from under a sheet. But what startled him was that a hundred other faces were peering at him from the shadowy corners and walls of the bed—tiny, motionless faces, grotesquely fixed at a hundred different angles.

The bed was aswarm with dolls.

Dolls were sitting on the head and foot of the bed, dolls were lying in the corners of the bed, dolls were propped against the head and footboards, dolls were hanging by their coats on hooks. There were all sizes from one as small as a thumb to a monster with a fat, creamy face, leering happily from a sitting position at the foot of the bed. All the dolls stared with a horrible, waxy fixity at nothing at all. Most of them were male.

—My word! Johnny gasped. Are they all friendly?

In the middle of this asylum of hideously diversified little human heads, Susanna lay voluptuously alive, softly moving her shoulders, but only her face showed above the sheet, peculiarly broad and lush in the reclining position. She looked savagely healthy. A shy smile curved her lips.

—Sort of a hobby, she said.

—How—how many are there?

Susanna looked gravely around at the dolls.

—One hundred and sixteen now, counting Jeemie, she said. This is Mr. John Wickliff Shawnessy, children.

—Pleased to meet you, fellows, Johnny said, bowing formally. Nice day, isn’t it?

The dolls continued to stare fixedly at nothing at all, a hundred lidded, mysterious little faces.

—They’ve been sick children today, Susanna said, and they’ve all had to go to bed.

—My word! Johnny said. Don’t tell me you move this gang around with you!

—O, yes, Susanna said. Sometimes we sit on chairs, and sometimes we play on the floor, and sometimes we dress and undress ourselves, don’t we, children?

Susanna looked entirely pathetic and adorable in the great bed as she gravely harangued her dolls. Johnny sat down on the edge of the bed and took one of her hands. She allowed him to have it, extending her naked arm from under the sheet.

—Susanna, I have come to ask your hand in marriage.

She lay for a long time merely looking pensively at the dolls, not changing her position. At last she said in a forlorn, low voice,

—You don’t have to marry me, Johnny. I release you. As for the child——

—I don’t care about the child, Johnny said fiercely. I have asked your hand in marriage, and I expect a reply.

Susanna turned and looked a long time into his eyes with her violet eyes. Then with her free hand she pulled the sheet down a little from the pillow revealing a doll Johnny hadn’t yet seen lying with its little head on the pillow beside her. All the other dolls were beautifully clean and newlooking, but this doll had evidently been through a fire. Its clothes were charred and browned, and its head was blistered and blackened.

—What about it, Jeemie? Susanna said to the doll. Shall we marry this gentleman? He’s a very lovely young man, and I love him very much, Jeemie. I love him much, much, much more than any of the rest. What do you think, Jeemie?

She looked inquiringly at the firepuffed face on the pillow which in the darkness looked like a little Negro’s.

—What does he say? Johnny said, grinning in spite of himself.

—We accept, Susanna said.

Her large lovely eyes were suddenly filled with tears. She squeezed Johnny’s hand and let her free arm bend loosely over his neck so that the open hand swung back and forth languidly at his throat. It was surprising how heavy this hand was, pulling his head down toward hers. Her deep lips pouted and parted under his. She was shuddering with sobs.

—O, Johnny, she said, I do love you so much.

—And I love you too, Johnny said, thinking that perhaps after all he did love this strange, passionate, wistful, wandering child who had come back to him from the Deep South.

But his position was an awkward one, as he still sat on the bed with his head bent all the way down.

—Here, get in with us, Susanna said, and lying on her side, with a quick motion she flipped the sheet back.

She was completely naked. She touched her hand delicately to the everpresent scarlet scar that burned cruelly into the beginnings of the left breast, which—downtilted, tipped with rose—swung softly from the motion of her shoulders.

Confused, Johnny accidentally put his hand on the burnt doll. He picked it up.

Susanna stopped sobbing and watched intently. Johnny carefully put the doll at the top of the pillow. Susanna looked at him and then looked at the doll, sitting stiffly at the top of the pillow.

—There now, Jeemie, how’s that? Johnny said. You can see everything from there.

Susanna smiled sweetly and sank back on the pillow.

—I’m glad the family likes me, Johnny said, feeling as though he had successfully passed an examination of some kind.

—We love you, Johnny, Susanna said.

And with her catlike strength she pulled him violently down upon her, where he lay fully dressed in a tweed suit, stiff collar, and shiny knobtoed shoes. Disturbed, the doll population shook on their hooks and nodded vigorously and in unison from their perches on the head and footboards. One fell down and sat astraddle Johnny’s neck. The big one at the foot of the bed bent over and tackled him heavily on the calves. Another fell with a faint squeak on the small of his back. For a moment, he felt as though he was being attacked by hideous dwarfs, while his face was only three inches away from the dreadful, seared face of the doll Jeemie.

Suddenly, Susanna began to laugh, and Johnny laughed too, as it was all rather absurd and delightful. Susanna laughed with little high shrieks and sobs, and while she laughed her sinewy arms and legs seemed to envelop him in a net of nudity. She laughed and laughed, and the doll heads laughed too, all gently nodding in happy unison.

That was how Johnny Shawnessy had proposed marriage to Susanna Drake, and that was how his proposal had been accepted.

The day following this adventure with a sick girl and a hundred and sixteen dolls, Johnny had his approaching marriage announced in the newspapers. When he dropped in at the Clarion office, Garwood Jones, who had become the editor-in-chief a few weeks before, was busy filling the copy hook.

—Hi, sprout, he said, when Johnny showed up.

Garwood kept on writing. He was in shirt sleeves and bowtie, and his lush dark hair was attractively mussed. His big mobile, sensual mouth pursed at the pencil as he studied for the next word.

—I’m getting married, Garwood, Johnny said casually. Here’s an item on it.

Garwood didn’t bother to look up.

—Go away and be funny somewhere else, he said. I’m busy as hell.

—I really am, Johnny said. And I expect a little better treatment than this from my in-laws.

—Huh? Garwood said. All right. You’re getting married. Who is it?

—This will give you all the needful information, Uncle, Johnny said, dropping the item on Garwood’s desk.

—Well, I’ll be goddamned! Garwood said, as Johnny went out of the door. Susanna!

In the newspapers, the announcement sounded very official and correct. The Clarion in particular laid itself out to do the thing right.


The long and happy engagement of Mr. John Wickliff Shawnessy and Miss Susanna Drake will soon be consummated in marital union, the prospective groom disclosed today. This festive event, toward which the friends and relatives of the blissful pair have long been looking with keen anticipation, has been set for December 2 and at the bride’s request will be held at the Danwebster Methodist Church, with the groom’s father, the Reverend T. D. Shawnessy, presiding. Among the many unusual and romantic features of this genuine love-match is the fact that the bride is a former resident of the Sunny South. Her frequent visits to friends in Freehaven began the friendship which soon ripened into reciprocal esteem and at last achieved the full flower of mutual love. The groom, a young newspaperman and writer of promise, is well-known throughout Raintree County as the author of . . .

A good deal of mischief was circulated at Johnny’s expense by his male friends, but the female contingent of his own family bravely conducted a series of parties at which the bride and groom appeared sometimes singly, sometimes together.

The most embarrassing moment in all the hectic days before the marriage, came when Johnny presented Susanna to his parents. At the appointed time, he brought her from town and ushered her into the front parlor of the Home Place, which was always kept cool and closed, with the shades drawn except for special visits. Ellen Shawnessy had on a new dress, and T. D. was togged out in his one good suit. Susanna had been very nervous on the way over, but when she came in she was all grace and loveliness. Her manner toward Johnny’s mother was a mixture of girlish humility and ladylike reserve. Johnny could tell that Ellen was pleased, and as for T. D. he rocked violently on his heels, yawned, blinked, smiled, bowed, and chuckled with satisfaction. Susanna insisted upon hearing him recite the famous ‘Ode on the Evils of Tobacco’ and listened attentively without a single trace of amusement even on the two celebrated lines:

Some do it chew and some it smoke

Whilst some it up their nose do poke.

She talked with Ellen very diligently about the preparation of certain Southern dishes, admired her dress, which was too large for her bony little figure, and remarked that she saw now where Johnny got his beautiful smile and hair. She also met some of Johnny’s brothers and sisters and was very sweet to them all. There wasn’t a single slip on anyone’s part, except that Zeke whistled when he first saw Susanna. It was a wonderful performance, and Johnny was as grateful and proud as under the circumstances it was possible for him to be.

After it was over and Johnny was taking Susanna home, she said,

—I just love your folks, Johnny. They’re awfully sweet. I see now why you’re the way you are. Johnny——

She had said the name suddenly and plaintively.


—I want to tell you something.


—I’m not going to have a child after all.


—I lied about it, Susanna said, dropping her eyes and nervously smoothing her left coat lapel.

—What for?

But he was so immensely relieved that he couldn’t feel angry at the imposture.

—Because I wanted you more than anything I can remember since I was a little girl.

As far as Johnny was concerned, this was the perfect excuse. The admission proved one thing conclusively—that for some reason Susanna Drake was really in love with him. Now, suddenly, he felt very cheerful and innocent, as if, after all, everything had been scrupulously correct from the start.

—Tell me something, Susanna. With your money and looks, you could have married a lot of different men. Why did you want me?

—I never cared much for the men I met before, except in a passing sort of way. But the minute I laid eyes on you, I fell in love.

—Why? What was it?

—O, I couldn’t explain it to you, she said, smoothing and smoothing her left coat lapel. Any woman would know.

She turned and touched his cheek near the mouth with her right hand and looked intently at his face with the wistfully childlike look of her photographs.

—But you’d look better with beard and mustaches, Johnny, she said. More manly.

In the days preceding the marriage, Ellen Shawnessy threw all her energy into preparations for the event, and in general Raintree County rose heroically to the task of making everything conform to its ancient canons of respectability. There was a great deal to do. Everything was complicated by Susanna’s decision that she wanted to go away immediately after the marriage ceremony. The happy pair were to catch the train at Freehaven and follow a tight schedule which would bring them by nightfall to the city of Louisville, Kentucky, on the other side of the Ohio River from Indiana. This was to be the start of a long honeymoon in the South. The loving pair were going to go by steamboat down the Ohio to the Mississippi, and from there to New Orleans, where Johnny would have a chance to meet Susanna’s relatives. It all sounded lustrous and magnificent and helped give a respectable air to the whole undertaking. In fact, all of Johnny’s friends began to consider his precipitate marriage a step up in life for him. He had married money, beauty, and culture. Raintree County’s fairhaired boy was making good after all.

There were some clouds, of course. Another letter from the Perfessor failed to sound very exultant. One part of it in especial disturbed Johnny.

As for a dark suspicion you say I mentioned in my last letter, I can’t even remember what it was, so it must not have been very important. Forget it, my boy, and be happy. You have a beautiful girl who loves you and whom you love. By all means, my boy, marry her, love her, beget broods of happy cherubim, go on, my boy, to greater and better things. . . .

This stereotype sounded vaguely familiar and thoroughly insincere to Johnny, and besides it was out of tune with the rest of the letter, which made merry at the expense of the sacred human institution of marriage.

As for the evasive remark concerning a dark suspicion, Johnny was perfectly well aware that Professor Jerusalem Webster Stiles never forgot anything.

The worst thing about it all was that Johnny hadn’t stopped loving Nell Gaither. Everything he had done with Susanna and even Susanna’s beauty had merely inflamed the passion that he had for his own privately created Venus with the Raintree County face. In a way he felt that he had not been unfaithful to her. What had happened to him had been a strange accident of fate, caused by occult events and surroundings.

In that wild taking in deep grass under the tree, where the sun fell steeply slanting on two stones, and the leaves had dropped a thin brightness like sifted sunshine, and the tree had swayed, a slender and great reed, and he had seen not very far away the river where it was hardly to be told from the lake (or the lake where it was hardly to be told from the river—green waters swollen with beautiful lifeforms), then he had known that the secret of Raintree County was indeed a secret of water and earth and tree, stone, and the living golden seed, and he had known too that it was a shared secret and could only be carried in the vessel of a woman’s body, and he knew also that it must be brought from afar and bear a rhythmical (though, for the moment, a forgotten) name and that she who brought it must be like-wise a creature of the river, though whether her hair was black or brown or golden did not greatly matter, and he had known too that she must bear upon her body a secret imperfection and he had known too, even in that savagely sweet moment, he had known already by anticipation that to learn the secret was also to learn duty and hot tears.

As he rode home in the night to the Home Place after the bachelor party, that secret plagued him with a delicious sorrow. The secret of human love and desire was to discover something that was at once universal and particular—beauty and a person. At Lake Paradise, he had been lost in the universal. It was only later that he realized that all life is personal beyond escape.

Ever since the Fourth of July outing, he had avoided seeing Nell and had allowed her note of reconciliation to go unanswered. Of course, it had been necessary to go to church, where she appeared without fail, imperially calm as usual. When he reminded himself that this person had once been naked in his arms and that her flowerlike mouth had clung to his in long, long kisses, he was sick with love.

It was not mere longing of the flesh; it was a total longing to possess someone. To him, Nell Gaither was an entire republic of beauty and nostalgic memory, which now he had to relinquish.

When he reached the Home Place, it was after midnight, and everyone else had gone to bed. He went to his room and undressed in the dark. When he pulled back the covers and lay down, his face touched something pinned to his pillow. It had been concealed under the cover. He lit a lamp and unpinned an envelope addressed, ‘To Johnny.’ Inside was a piece of letterpaper beautifully inscribed with a message:

One for whom you once professed affection would esteem it a generous action on your part, though undeserved on hers, if you would see her once again before you leave the County. She will be waiting near a certain spot sanctified to the memory of a profane but sweet encounter. Let your heart and the memory of a blissful hour (perilous, yes, but alas! all the more precious in recollection to one at least who shared its raptures) tell you the name of her who penned these lines.

He reread the note several times, savoring its stylistic beauties, which were as good as a signature. Probably one of his sisters (who were not very happy about the coming marriage) had connived in placing it on his pillow.

With perhaps insufficient reflection, he dressed again and started to slip out of the window, which was on the ground floor. Then he crawled back in and got a big volume out of the bookcase. He hunted among some private papers and keepsakes in a drawer and put something in the book. Then he climbed out of the window again and slipped out to the road. He crossed it and walked through a field following a lane that led to the river. He stayed out of the forest fringe of the river but followed it north along the Indian Battleground. Halfway up the long northwardflowing arm, he cut into the forest, walking among the leafless trees. The ground was deep with damp leaves. There was a cold, dripping mist in the air, almost a rain. He could hear the river trickling between dissolving banks. As he neared the bank opposite the Johnny Shawnessy oak and the pool where he and Nell had swum together, he made out the form of a young woman muffled in a long furcollared coat. She stood by the trunk of a big tree. She was hatless, and she had a large dark object under her arm.

—Hello, Nell.

—Hello, Johnny.

—I got the note, he said. It—it was beautifully written. I—I appreciate your thinking of me, especially at this time.

The tree under which they stood had extinguished the smaller trees within its widebranching circumference, and now that it stood in wintry nudity, the space beneath it was less dark than the forest around. The river swirled not five feet below them. He could make out Nell’s face, small and piquant at the top of her muffled form. It had a pensive, distant look.

—I have something, Johnny, I feel I ought to return to you, she said. I thought probably you would want it back, now—now that I don’t mean anything to you any more.

She held out the big dark object. It was no doubt The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.

—And I’ve left in it your image, she said, which I would like to keep, but considering the poem on the back, feel I am no longer entitled to.

Her voice had a sweet, trailing, rehearsed sound.

—I won’t take it, Johnny said. I’m entirely at fault in this thing, and for that reason I feel that I ought in all honor to return something to you which is more precious to me than life itself but of which I have shown myself unworthy.

He held out the book he had brought with him, a large dark volume. Doubtless, it was a copy of The Complete Poetical Works of Lord Byron.

—And I’ve left in it your image, he said, the image of your beautiful face, which I will always remember with love and admiration.

—I won’t take it, Nell said.

They stood in darkness awkwardly presenting these two huge volumes, some twelve pounds of words, Johnny reflected, by two of the greatest poets of the English language, twelve pounds of distilled, passionate, violent, rhythmical, confused language, the outpouring of man’s desire for life, beauty, and the good, words of the wonderful tragi-comedy of human life.

—I really don’t want to give mine up, Nell said, her voice beginning to sound more and more dim and rehearsed. It’s just because I know you don’t care for me any more and because you’re being married. I just wanted to say to you, Johnny, in the words of that dear book which you gave me and inscribed to me, If ever thou didst hold me in thy——

Her voice, which had been getting smaller and higher, suddenly dissolved in a little shriek of anguish. Johnny tossed his book on the ground and put his arms around Nell. He turned her face up to his, and when he did, this face, which he had always seen (except once) so deceptively composed, was all wet with tears, and the flowerlike mouth kept turning down at the corners and emitting cries of sorrow. Then the mouth found his mouth and kissed him again and again as if it would devour him with hunger. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare fell on the ground. The two bodies tightened to each other. He kissed her mouth, her eyes, her forehead, her hair, her cheeks, her chin, her throat, and again and again her mouth, which melted into his with a taste of passion and farewell.

The old image of escape flashed into his mind. It would be so easy. He knew with a tempting certainty that he had only to say the word. Together they would slip away in the night. They would catch the early morning train at Three Mile Junction, and by morning they would have left Raintree County far behind. Somewhere in the West, the great and golden West, a man might begin life all over again and——

But he knew that he couldn’t say the word. Somehow the whole thing had been decided when he stood by the rock at the limit of the land. One betrayal was enough. Then he had said good-by to an older, sunnier County. Then the borders of his private little earth had dissolved into something called the Republic, full of duty and the memory of a crime.

—Nell, he said, I love you, and will always love you. I tell you now in the most absolute secrecy that my marriage is the result of an error on my part. My wife-to-be is a lovely woman whom I admire and whom I hope I may learn to love, but I wouldn’t now be saying good-by to you—forever—if I hadn’t made a slip. It was the afternoon of the Fourth of July, I had drunk all that whiskey, which wasn’t exactly my fault, and then we went on that picnic and——

—Everyone knows about that, Johnny, Nell said. O, dear! Johnny, why do you have so much conscience!

This remarkably feminine statement, so subtly illogical, startled him and brought him more or less to his senses. If everyone knew, then he was indeed right in pursuing the path of rectitude and in clearing his honor and good name before the County.

—That’s just like you, Johnny, Nell said fiercely, beginning to cry again with sharp intakes of breath after every few words. Why can’t you be a little bit bad like me! Maybe that’s why I love you so much! O, dear heaven, I wish I didn’t love you so much! O, Johnny, I do love you so much!

The turn of the last phrase twisted a cold knife in his heart. He began trying to get control of the situation. At last, after an interval during which her face had been hidden on his shoulder, Nell stepped back. There was a mournful dignity in her manner.

—We can always be friends, Johnny, she said in the best tradition of Raintree County.

—Sure, he said.

Now he was the one who felt like crying.

—I want to tell you, Johnny, that I haven’t lost my faith in you. Some day you will be a great man.

After the events of the last hour, Johnny tacitly agreed.

—Since we won’t either one of us take back the things, Nell said, maybe we’d best destroy them.

—Not the books, Johnny said. We’ll keep our books.

Even for a romantic gesture, he knew he couldn’t do malice on the Complete Works of Lord Byron and William Shakespeare. Besides there was nothing incriminating in the books.

That was why Johnny Shawnessy and Nell Gaither, both twenty years old, standing on a bank over the Shawmucky River at three o’clock of a raw December morning, opened their hands and allowed two stiff little cards to flutter into the cold pool of the river. That was why the eponymous monster of the river, the legendary Shawmucky himself, squatting goggle-eyed at the bottom of that wintry water, perhaps saw the innocent faces of a boy and girl fixed in attitudes of a lost republic, turning over and over and trailing lightly and sadly away in the pale stream.

And that was why Johnny Shawnessy stood in the twilight of early December dawn and watched the figure of a girl in a furcollared coat disappear in the forestfringe of the river.

Then he turned and walked home.

It was somehow in the best Johnny Shawnessy tradition that he was not exactly sad at this moment. He was filled with a young exultation neither joy nor sorrow. A wondrous secret had been almost shown to him. It had come to him out of cold and darkness and across fields of gray December and had thrust itself upon him, feminine and pleading. It said, I waited for you here beside the river, I am still waiting, I will always wait. It said, I love you, I love you, I have always loved you. This secret was a face from which he parted in the springtime of life. It was the bright little smiles of Raintree County that he would never see again. It was millions of such faces in the night, all wishing and waiting for the morrow and trying to find each other in the dark maze of time.

On the morrow he would rise and go forth and marry himself to a strange, wistful girl from the Deep South, and John Brown, too, would go forth to an equally ancient and mysterious wedding. Who were these two men and who were these millions waiting for the dawn, these citizens of the Republic, wounding and loving, losing and finding each other in the human landscape of time and fate? So long as John Wickliff Shawnessy could spring up joyous in the springing day, John Brown could never die, no one could ever die, and one heroic soul was enough to sustain the whole mass and fabric of the world. One hero who had found a white face in the night and had heard warm lips

that shaped his name, could bring the whole race

and the whole republic


—‘A new life,’ read the Senator, ‘began for me with my marriage at the close of the War, a life, which, alas, was fated to endure only a short time when the incomparable woman who became my wife was taken untimely to her . . .’ And so on and so on. I’ll skip a little in here.

The Senator shuffled the manuscript of his Memories of the Republic in War and Peace and stopped to relight his dead cigar.

—You know, boys, he said, it’s been a great political handicap to me not to have a wife and family.

—Your Midas touch has made ballot gold even out of that, Garwood, the Perfessor said. I’m planning to give that recent romantic gesture of yours a special column when I get back to New York.

The Senator wheezed amusement through the shattered stalk of his cigar, as he slowly pulled it into flame.



(Epic Fragment from the Cosmic Enquirer)

In a private upstairs room of his palatial mansion in the Nation’s Capital, Washington, D. C., the distinguished Senator from Indiana was for a long time understood to keep the portrait of a mysterious woman, before which a flame perpetually burned. As the Senator has been for many years one of the most dashing bachelor attractions of Washington society, this rumor awakened a violent curiosity among Capital gossips. Several ladies were nominated by themselves and their friends to this secret niche in the Senator’s room. At last a malignant story gained wide circulation that the lady of the portrait was the wife of a foreign diplomat and that in the periods of her absence from Washington, the romantic Senior Senator from Indiana solaced himself by pagan rites before the image of his beloved. Unable any longer to ignore these invasions of his private life, the Senator invited the Washington press to his house, where, in a voice trembling with sorrow and indignation, he said:

‘Gentlemen, for thirty-five years, I have endured in silence every species of abuse that unscrupulous enemies could heap upon me to discredit my long, and I hope honorable service to the Republic. But now that the venom of partisan hatred has crept into the most sacred recesses of my life, I can no longer be silent. I invite you to examine my home and satisfy your curiosity as to its contents. Go, gentlemen, I give you leave. Open the door. Enter. And, if you are so inclined, report what you see to the World, that the World may not again dare to invade the sacred privacy of a grieving human heart.’

Here, unable to continue, the Senator flung wide the door into the famous chamber. There, the gentlemen of the press beheld the portrait of a beautiful young woman, before which was a lamp burning with a clear white flame.

‘This young woman,’ said the Senator, ‘was my wife, who died in childbirth in the year 1865 when I was an obscure young lawyer in my home state of Indiana.’

Like men caught in the commission of a foul crime, the newsmen slunk in shame from the room. Though all were members of a profession scarcely notorious for indulgence in the softer emotions, several eyes were observed to be filled with a sentimental moisture. This moving drama has touched the heart of the Nation and will, we believe, have no little effect in winning a tremendous victory for Senator Jones and his Hoosier supporters in the coming election. . . .

—I never had a wedding night, the Perfessor said. I must say I wouldn’t relish it. Marriage, I always thought, was a kind of funeral, in which we bury a part of ourselves.

The Senator laughed gently at this macabre witticism, but Mr. Shawnessy winced.

—Great institution, marriage, the Senator said. I remember my wedding night well enough.

He plucked from between his lips the halfspent cigar and holding it between his two fingers tipped the ash.

Mr. Shawnessy blushed, inhaled too much cigar smoke, coughed.

—Youth is a great thing, the Senator said. Ah, to be young again, gentlemen!

—Beauty is Youth, Youth Beauty, the Perfessor said.

—I remember the day of your first marriage, John, the Senator said. I’m afraid I was cockeyed. We sure gave you a hell of a send-off. Of course, no American then living will ever forget that day anyway. One of the most fateful and dramatic days in American History! That was the day they sent that damned old murderer and fanatic

December 2—Down—1859

The River for You,

my boy, Grampa Peters said,

as he walked fatly up the bank to the churchyard. Johnny was leaning against a wagon surrounded by male friends and relatives. Fifty feet away, the church of Danwebster was whitely beautiful in the clear December morning.

—I’m plumb winded, Grampa Peters said. Must be a-gittin’ old. Had to come up, though, and see this boy hitched. Got yourself a fine looker, I hear. How long is it yit?

—About fifteen, twenty minutes, Cash Carney said, consulting his watch. Bride and best man haven’t showed up yet.

People were still driving up and entering the church. Niles Foster, small, quick-eyed, with bright black hair, got out of a buggy and walked briskly up to the yard. He had a folded newspaper in his hand.

—Hello, Niles, Grampa Peters said. What’s the latest on the hangin’?

—We’re just waiting around for the news, Niles said. I’ve got out several special editions already, and I’m all set up and waiting for the dispatch.

—Reckon anything can save him? a man said.

—You can’t tell, T. D. said. They may relent at the last minute, or the Governor pardon him. Of course there’s talk too of his being rescued.

—Not a chance, Cash Carney said. They want that man’s life. They won’t be satisfied till they crack his neck.

Several more buggies stopped close to the church.

—Quite a power of folks here for your weddin’, son, Grampa Peters said. It won’t be long now until . . .


(Epic Fragment from the Free Enquirer)

Many people are coming from all over the country to this little Southern town. The excitement is beyond all comprehension. This correspondent has found it impossible to get a private room in a hotel. A remarkably stout gallows has been constructed especially for the occasion a little way out of town. To this spot hundreds of people gather as if unable to take their eyes off a spot soon to be the scene of an event whose consequences may be fraught with a somber significance in the time to come. As for the several reports that an attempt will be made to rescue Old Brown, this correspondent has been unable to verify any of them or to find anybody who has the slightest information as to any agent whereby such a rescue could be effected. Nevertheless the reports persist and have reached fantastic dimensions. Some say the Negroes are plotting to revolt and to bring off their would-be redeemer. Others say that an Army of Abolitionists will materialize from the crowd surrounding the scaffold. But there is nothing to indicate that such a move is seriously contemplated in any quarter or that, if it is, there is any possibility of its success. John Brown is a doomed man and no one seems to be any more clearly aware of it than he. He does not talk or act like a man who expects or even desires to . . .

—Live and let live, I say, said Grampa Peters. We’ll git along with the South if we just hang enough of these nigger-lovin’ abolitionists.

—I’d best go in and see if everything’s all right, T. D. said. Anyway, it went off good in rehearsal.

—Right smart of you to marry your own boy off, T. D. That’s a sure way to keep ’em respectable.

Grampa Peters wheezed, belched, and shook Johnny by the shoulder. T. D. walked off toward the church, plucking nervously at his mustache.

—Now don’t be skeered, boy, Grampa Peters said. Women is all alike after you git ’em untied. This is the wust part of it right now. What gits you is the waitin’. Now I like to see a . . .


(Epic Fragment from the Free Enquirer)

As the time of execution nears, the prisoner’s calm resignation is the admiration even of his gaolers. Still weakened by the wounds received in his audacious undertaking, he is constantly busy talking with visitors and writing letters to friends. There is no reason to suppose that the dignity and calm which he has so far exhibited will desert him on the scaffold. He is reported to have said to one of his visitors: ‘I am far better now to die than to live.’ As for the preparations for the execution proper, much thought has been given to such questions as . . .

—What do you want done with the body? intoned a deep, familiar voice.

It was Garwood Jones, coming up the bank, sleek and radiant, chewing a fat cigar, thumbs hooked in a flowered vest.

—When does the crucifixion start? he said. When do we nail the Hope of Raintree County to the cross?

—Twenty-five minutes, Cash said. Anyway, we got the best man now.

—Floral tributes, Garwood said, may be left at the sidedoor of the funeral home. What’s the matter with you, John? You aren’t talking much. Whassa trouble, boy? Nervous?

—Leave ’im save his strength, Grampa Peters said. He’ll need it. I recollect muh own weddin’ night. I reckon it won’t hurt to tell it, bein’ as how they’s only men present, though the woman’d be fit to be tied if she knowed it.

—Go on, Grampa, a man said. I heard it a hundred times anyway.

—Well, sir, Grampa Peters said, there I was a-stampin’ and a-pawin’ and a-roustin’ and a-rootin’ fer that there cerrymony to be over. I was gittin’ so wolfy about the head and shoulders, they had to nearly put me in a salt barl to keep me from spilin’. Young and strong—say, I was a prize bull in them days, boys, and don’t you fergit it.

—Still pretty good, ain’t you, Grampa? one of the men said.


(Epic Fragment from the Free Enquirer)

It is noised around through the town that Brown will make a speech on the scaffold. It is reported, also, that he has prepared a last will and testament and has given directions for the disposal of his body. He spent the last few hours writing and praying, leaving this last message to his friends:

‘I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land: will never be purged away: but with Blood. I had as I now think: vainly flattered myself that without very much bloodshed; it might be . . .’

—Done left me so etarnally exorsted, Grampa Peters said, that when the boys arrived around two o’clock in the mornin’ to give us a chivaree, I could hardly lift muh shotgun. Wellsirree, they come right up on the front porch a muh cabin—we sot up housekeepin’ over on Bar Creek—and they hollers, Come out a there, Jack Peters, before we pull ye out. Out I come with a shotgun on muh arm. Clear out a here, boys, sez I, do you want to keep all yer parts. I no sooner stuck my head out a the door than somebuddy jumped me from the side and grabbed muh gun. They got me down and tore off what little I had on, and damn if they didn’t ride me on a rail right down to the Crick and in I went. Next thing, here they come and brang the woman down and throwed her in too, leavin’ her nightgown on out of special respeck to the sex. When we got out a there, somebuddy had sot fire to the woods behind the house, and smashed all the winders a the cabin. The boys was drunk and hogwild, and I didn’t know if I was goin’ to git out a there alive. Wellsirree——

Grampa Peters stopped to pant and light a cigar.

—In the old days, a man said, it was barely wuth a man’s life to git married. Still, I heerd of a boy got married last summer, he was so bad hurt in the chivaree he couldn’t do his dooty as a husband for three weeks. Reckon they don’t aim to do nothin’ like that to you, John.

—We mean to deliver him intact, Garwood said. Besides we won’t have a chance. They’re catching a train right after dinner.

He put his arm over Johnny’s back and winked at Cash. Johnny could smell whiskey.

—What’s keeping Susanna? Cash Carney said, consulting his watch.

—Well, I don’t want to be responsible for any wild rumors, Garwood said. It’s just something I heard.

—What’s that?

—They say she ran off with another fellow, Garwood said.

—Now don’t be nervous, boy, Grampa Peters said. They’s lots wuss things ahead of you than gittin’ married.

Zeke Shawnessy came out of the church and walked over to the group at the wagon.

—Women are in a fearful fuss in there, he said. No use you goin’ in yet, John. Place all stuffed with flowers in pots.

A surrey drove up from the direction of Freehaven and stopped. Two Negro girls got out. Susanna stepped down from the back seat. She had a black hooded mantle drawn so close around her head and body that one could see only her face and the train of her gown, which the two Negro girls carried into the church. Small girls gawked, squealed, clapped their hands trying to get a glimpse of the bridal gown but without success.

—Goddernit, there they go, Grampa Peters said, gittin’ the bride so all fixed up a man cain’t hardly tell what he’s gittin’.

—Is there any advice you’d like to have, sprout? Garwood said. Matrimonial matters openly discussed. Highly important to both sexes.

—Maybe you better take him along, John, Cash said.

—At your disposal, son, Garwood said. Perhaps a little demonstration on the new missus by an expert might not be amiss.

—You better hang out your shingle, Cash said.

—Skillful deflorations at small charge to the client, Garwood said. Our work is guaranteed unconditionally. If entire satisfaction is not had, we will repeat at no extra charge. We are available at any time. Please do not hesitate to call us in. Anything for a friend.

—Garwood, you’re drunk, Cash said.

—By the way, maybe the boy here would like a little slug of this himself. It might help him through.

Johnny shook his head as Garwood pulled a large flat bottle from his hip pocket.

—All right, said a woman’s voice from the door of the church. Bring him in.

—He’s all ready, Garwood said, for . . .


(Epic Fragment from the Free Enquirer)

The streets of Charles Town were lined with hundreds of people as they took John Brown to the place of execution. Few people said anything, and it was impossible to tell by the silent faces, intently watching the old man, what the sentiment of the crowd was. Brown rode in a cart, sitting on his own coffin. As they drew out of the town and into the open country, approaching the place of execution, he looked about him and said, ‘This is a beautiful country.’ The procession finally stopped. . . .

At the church door, several women crowded around Johnny and Garwood whispering instructions, fixing flowers in buttonholes.

—Any last words, Garwood said, folding his hands preacherwise and rolling his eyes, will be appreciated. Some little message that might help others to avoid the same fate.

When Johnny stepped inside the church, the preliminary strains of nuptial music were wheezing from the footpumped organ down-front. The groom and the best man went along a side aisle, picking their way through the crowd. Johnny had never seen the church so packed: the benches were filled; the side aisles were jammed with people standing; more people were coming all the time and, being unable to get in, were waiting before the church to see the bridal couple come out. Faces of small boys kept goggling through the windows.

Johnny stood at T. D.’s left with Garwood, waiting for the bride to appear. Since her arrival, Susanna had been closeted with her two attendants in a little cloakroom off the entry hall. It was she who had planned the wedding and directed the rehearsal.

—I want Uncle Garwood to be best man, she had said, and I want to walk down the middle aisle all by myself.

The wait was a long one. The white light of the church made Johnny’s eyes smart. He let his gaze wander nervously over the crowd. The women looked peculiarly intent. Their eyes were beady; they licked their lips, leering expectantly.

Suddenly he realized that this ceremony was not really for him. It was for Raintree County. The Perfessor’s comments on marriage in a recent letter came to his mind. To this ancient human usage, Raintree County conformed with a peculiar ferocity. All these women had come here to reassert their subtle dominion over the conscience of the County. They had come in their great gowns and petticoats and fussy hats to reaffirm the County’s most sacred institution, the Family. The mystic rite of marriage, in which Johnny Shawnessy seemed to himself hardly more than a stage-prop, was a guarantee that the Family would survive triumphant and that everything which tended to undermine its dominion would be put down.

In the beginning, God had said, Let there be the Family, and there was the Family. But God had also said, Let the Family be brought forth in sorrow, for the crime of lustful love. And even today in Raintree County, it must not be admitted that life was conceived in an act of pleasure. To admit that might endanger the existence of the Family. The County sanctified procreation, but not the procreative act. The Christian religion, which ordained the Family and guaranteed its preservation, had been founded by the virgin birth of an immaculate conception. Thus, deep in the County’s culture was the belief that all sexual congress was a crime, and those who were permitted to indulge that pleasant and necessary crime must be implacably reminded of its consequences, perquisites, and responsibilities.

Let the girl that is now become a woman no longer flaunt her young body before the eyes of the young men. Let her no longer make herself too beautiful, too alluring. Unsex her, and let her get quickly to the production of children. Let her now become a mother, symbol of the home.

Let the young man who enters into this pact no longer look with longing on the form of beauty. Now he will have one brief, reluctant morning. He will have one long farewell.

Yet the old pagan frenzy was still there and not to be concealed. The County gathered for this mystic rite to gratify an ancient craving. It forbade the nuptial embrace before the nuptials, but as soon as they were consummated the embrace became mandatory and unavoidable. Half the women in the church were now permitted to remember how they had themselves been victims of a legal rape on the marriage night.

All these faces that Johnny now saw, these leering, gleaming, happy faces, reflected the intense human curiosity in the mystic rite of love. They replaced a more ancient assemblage in which the community actively took part in the joining of lovers.

In Raintree County, we are civilized. Let there be no more of the laying on of hands and the sacrificial rupture of the hymen by the priest, attired in the habit of a god with great bird beak or costume woven of corn. Let the lusty males of the tribe, themselves initiates, not assist in this violation, one after another, while the cheated groom beholds the ritual defloration of his beloved. In Raintree County, we are civilized and refined, and though there may be a little rough fun after the ceremony, we do not permit ourselves to run amuck.

So they all sat and waited with Johnny for the entrance of the bride-to-be, albeit in this instance the County didn’t look with entire favor on the proceedings because the bride was an out-of-county girl. The nuptial embrace, in which the whole congregation was assisting in fancy, was not quite so intimately communal as if it had been Nell Gaither or someone like that. Besides there was a rumor that the ceremony wasn’t the only part of the marital adventure which the lovers had rehearsed in advance.

The organ went on wailing and squeeching, and Garwood and Johnny began to shift from foot to foot.

—Goddammit, Garwood said under his breath, what’s keeping her?

Just then there was a disturbance in the crowded entryway. The organist took a quick look and plowed through a series of painful discords into the opening strains of the wedding march. The congregation unashamedly craned heads around and stretched necks to see.

A gasp went through the crowded little church of Danwebster.

Susanna was coming through the back door and down the aisle. Her glistening coarse black hair fell in waves down her back. But the real sensation was her dress. The skirt was enormously emphasized, a circular bell of cloth and froth, whitely wound on bone and wire. Out of this shot cleanly the supple stalk of Susanna’s waist, sheathed in white satin that flowed plastically on the lithe contours of her flesh, just catching the soft points of her shoulders and barely containing the abundance of her nodding breasts. Exposed for all to see was a faint scar extending from her throat in a curious curve to the left breast.

Dearly beloved, T. D. said in a far, foggy voice, smiling sweetly and rocking so far back on his heels that Johnny was afraid he would fall down, we are gathered together . . .


(Epic Fragment from the Free Enquirer)

The condemned man mounted the scaffold with little assistance from his attendants. He did not make any speech. He did not delay his executioners. But the swinging off was unaccountably delayed for many minutes while troops of the Virginia militia paraded ostentatiously in the open space before the scaffold. During this time Brown maintained a stoical calm. Then the deathcap was fitted over his head, and the rope was placed around his neck. He stood on the greased trap. His time had come. The State of Virginia was about to close its case against John Brown. A man stood with hatchet raised ready to cut . . .

—That cord ought to hold good, Grampa Peters said. Your pa tied it good.

Standing inside the churchdoor with Susanna, Johnny stuck his finger into his high collar, which was much too tight. While he shook hands with Grampa Peters, Garwood Jones, heading a line of grinning young men, kissed the bride with prolonged zest. As the other young men came off the kissing line, Garwood gave each one a snort from his bottle, meanwhile shouting exhortation and encouragement.

—Get a good long one, Bob. John won’t mind.

—Don’t let go yet, Ezry. There’s plenty more where that came from.

—O.K., Slim, that’s enough. After all, you’re not her uncle.

Garwood went around and got another kiss on the strength of his avuncular relationship.

—After all, I am the best man, he said, and everyone applauded and laughed because everyone in Raintree County considered Garwood Jones a wonderful guy.

There was a big dinner afterwards at the Shawnessy home for relatives and friends. The bride and groom were given seats of honor where they sat blushing in bridal costume and hardly eating. Around them, a great many hungry people gobbled the fat of the County—huge plates of fried chicken, platters full of steaming mashed potatoes, gobs of butter, pots of greasy vegetables, slabs of pie. Johnny had never seen so much eating before except at funerals. Dozens of people he had never met or only vaguely remembered came up, wrung his hand, hit him on the back, claimed relationship with him, and introduced squads of frecklefaced, mat-haired children, as if to impress him with the implications of the thing that he had done. In this wreak and wrangle of faces, voices, laughter, food, handshaking, backslapping, kissing, crying, and singing, Johnny felt that he and his bride were in danger of being swamped. It seemed he had not simply married an alien girl with black hair and a scar on her breast, but the whole of Raintree County.

Confusion, noise, and excitement increased as the time neared for the goingaway.

Susanna ran up a stair and turning threw her bridal bouquet to a crowd of girls, who fell upon it shrieking and clawing. The bouquet burst and flowers scattered everywhere. Girls ran screaming after the fragments, like hens pecking at corn.

Johnny waited downstairs with Zeke, who was in charge of getting the married couple safely onto the train.

—Now don’t worry, John, Zeke said. I got an extra buggy hid out in the barn and all ready to drive off. They think we’re goin’ in the family buggy, but we’re goin’ to fool ’em.

Zeke looked worried when he said it. Garwood Jones, Cash Carney, and some of the other boys were reported to be drinking heavily and hadn’t been seen for an hour. After a while, Zeke said he would slip out to the barn and guard the buggy himself. He left and didn’t come back.

Johnny couldn’t imagine how he and Susanna were going to get away from the house. Rooms and doors were packed with people. Dozens of buggies stood in the lane and along the road. The yard was jammed.

After a while, he was called upstairs, where he found Susanna and his mother and sisters. Susanna was in a dark goingaway dress, trimmed with red velvet. She gave Johnny’s hand a quick squeeze, but otherwise they had been like strangers to each other ever since the ceremony had begun.

When the time came to run downstairs and out of the house together, Zeke was nowhere to be found. Johnny and Susanna ran down the stair anyway. People flung rice at them as they went through the door. Faces rushed at them shouting. Someone tripped Johnny so that he fell headlong, scuffing his knee. A lot of halfgrown boys stung him with handfuls of rice and wheat while he was down. He got up laughing, and he and Susanna ran back toward the barn pursued by a screaming pack. In the barn they found the buggy, but no sign of Zeke. Garwood Jones and some of the boys stood there grinning.

—We’ve been guarding it for you, John, Garwood said.

The buggy was covered with signs, most of which betrayed Garwood’s pungent muse. Cleverest was one that read:

O, my banjo! do not cry for me.

I’se gwine to Louisiana with Susanna on my knee.

Johnny and Susanna started to climb into the buggy, but there was a great dungy pig sitting in it. Johnny gave the pig a kick, and half a dozen chickens flew out of a box on the buggyfloor, squawking and flinging feathers. A big frenzied hen flew into Johnny’s face. Waves of bellylaughter came from Garwood and the others, who stood around the buggy in a cordon preventing anyone from helping the groom.

—Where’s Zeke? Johnny said.

—He went fer a walk, someone said.

There were stifled sounds from a back stall, where three young toughs were sitting on Zeke and trying to hold him down.

—Let him up, Johnny pleaded. He’s got to drive us to the station.

Someone shoved Johnny from behind and threw him to the floor.

—Come on, boys, pile on sacks! yelled a big lout whom Johnny had never seen before.

Johnny struggled to his feet and knocked his assailant down. Another strange person jumped off a stall onto his shoulders and rode him down again. Two others jumped on, and the boy he knocked down got up rubbing his jaw and snarling,

—Let’s throw him in the horse trough, boys.

—Who are these guys? Johnny yelled to Garwood, who was leaning on the stall looking in, cigar in mouth, grinning broadly.

—Just some boys—puff, puff—from the Clay Crick neighborhood, Garwood said, shaking out the match.

Johnny struggled wildly on the ground while drunken bodies wallowed on him, kicking, squeezing, gouging, butting. He felt as if his very life was in danger. Everyone, even his friends, wanted to inflict injury on him. Apparently the marriage ceremony wasn’t over until the blood sacrifice and the dionysiac frenzy.

Into this wallowing sty of male bodies flew a wildcat fury, snarling and clawing. It was Susanna. She tore one boy’s cheek open and bit another in the thumb till he screamed. Ellen Shawnessy appeared and shamed the roisterers. Johnny’s other brothers pitched in, and Zeke got loose and knocked out one of the boys who had been holding him. The boys from the Clay Crick neighborhood were routed.

Johnny stood on the side of the buggy and kicked the pig out. He was almost crying with anger and indignation. Susanna was sobbing as he pulled her up beside him.

—Gangway, he yelled, whipping the horse.

The buggy lunged forward, and a wheel rolled off. The horse began to buck and plunge, and for a moment it looked as though he might run away with the crippled buggy. While Johnny was fighting with the reins and the rearing beast in the middle of a big crowd, Garwood and others who had assisted in unbolting the wheel stood around hitting their knees and holding their bellies. After quieting the horse, Johnny got into the Shawnessy buggy, but wasn’t permitted to start until strings of old shoes and assorted junk had been tied on behind. Zeke took the reins for the drive into Freehaven to catch the train. Johnny had a last glimpse of his mother waving with one hand and holding a handkerchief to her face with the other, and then the buggy rolled out and down the road.

A dozen other buggies full of shrieking young people set out in hot pursuit. Garwood Jones overtook the bridal buggy and driving alongside tried to force it off the road. Everyone shrieked and laughed as if unaware that lives were in danger. Johnny could see Garwood’s flushed, healthy face, eyes gleaming savagely, as his buggy kept drawing abreast, its wheels locking and catching on the bridal buggy’s. Finally Zeke reached out and lashed Garwood’s horses, and Garwood’s buggy nearly upset. Someone fell out of the buggy and lay in a ditch screaming, but Garwood didn’t bother to stop. The whole procession roared into Freehaven and went once around the Court House Square, while a crowd of glum citizens looked on in disgust.

Reaching the station, Johnny began to feel as though he and his bride were not meant to go away together. There seemed no limit to the cruelty of this frenzied mob. But the train was waiting, and he and Susanna grabbed their suitcases and ran toward a coach, with the crowd following. As Johnny handed his wife up, something hit him a blow on the side of the head and nearly knocked him down, bringing tears to his eyes. It was a big old dirty boot. He smiled, pretending not to be hurt, threw a kiss in the general direction of the crowd, and was knocked through the coach door by a shower of shoes. A glass shattered, and an angry conductor had him by the collar, saying,

—Someone will have to pay for this.

—It’s all right, Johnny said, I’ll pay.

He gave someone a dollar, and someone told him that it was too much.

—Have fun with those hundred and fifteen dolls, John! Garwood yelled as the train got up steam.

—Hundred and sixteen now, Uncle, Johnny said, grimly.

—Counting you, sprout? Garwood yelled.

The train began to pull out, and even now as it ran slowly parallel to the road trying to get up steam, the buggies followed, while two rough characters amused themselves by aiming rifles at the train windows and raising the guns slightly just as they fired. Several of the passengers lay on the floor of the cars, and the conductor pulled out a pistol and threatened to fire back.

After a while, the train veered away from the road, and the buggies all stopped, and the occupants sat waving and laughing in wonderful spirits, while the two roughs fired several parting salutes.

Even when the buggies were lost to view, Johnny couldn’t recover from the feeling that he and Susanna hadn’t yet got off safe. He kept expecting some last, most fiendish trick of all to catch them, perhaps just at the border of the County. But they made the change at Beardstown without molestation. A few minutes later they were crossing the western border of the County, and turning then to Susanna, he said,

—Well, honey, I guess we’re safe.

As he put his arm around her, he felt more alone than he had ever felt in his life before.

It was a significant moment for Johnny Shawnessy when late that night he and his bride crossed the Ohio River at Louisville. The broad water shimmered from lights on either bank as the wallowing ferryboat brought them slowly to the southern shore, which was lined dense with shacks in which the black people lived. He turned to the girl beside him. She was looking out of the window at a steamboat swimming on a wash of yellow light. He studied the proud silhouette of her face and shoulders against the window. She was like these rivers and this earth—proud and scarred and beautiful and strange.

—You’re South, she said, turning toward him, impulsively. You’ll love it, honey.

They were very tired when they reached the hotel in downtown Louisville where they had reservations. Johnny felt pensive and uprooted. Alone in a room on the second floor, they opened their hand luggage and were surprised to find a variety of things that they hadn’t packed themselves. There were two dolls, a boy doll and a girl doll, with their arms tied around each other and a paper pinned on inscribed with a poem in Garwood’s hand. Johnny started to read it aloud:

—Then, where is Seth, ye rocks and streamlets, say,

  For whose sweet note Aurora erst did long?

  He doth disport him with a lovelier lay,

  And ringeth in the day with merry—

—Aren’t they cute! Susanna said, holding up the dolls. Isn’t that just like Uncle Garwood!

A bottle of applejack brandy had a note appended,

Remember the hard cider. Ha, Ha.

              Cash Carney

—Ha, Ha, Johnny said.

Susanna was pleased.

—Let’s have some of it, she said. To celebrate.

The brandy was excellent. After a while Johnny and Susanna began to review the events of the marriage, which at a distance became very comical. They both talked and laughed volubly. Johnny imitated Susanna’s Southern accent, and they began to have a very good time. It seemed to him that perhaps this was a good chance to get something off his conscience.

—I ought to tell you something, Susanna, and I should have done it before. My family has a skeleton in the closet.

—What is it?

—My father’s an illegitimate child, Johnny said. I learned about it myself just recently.

—O, is that all? Susanna said. There’s lots worse things than that, Johnny.


—Like having Nigro blood in you, Susanna said.

—Well, Johnny said, laughing, we’re all white in my family except for one of my grandpas, who was as black as the ace. They captured him on the Congo after a terrific fight, and——

—Mustn’t joke about it, Susanna said gravely. Just one little teeny drop, and you’re all Nigro. Think of it. One little teeny-weeny drop makes you black. And you can’t always tell whether you are or not. Some of the octoroons in New Orleans are as white as I am.

—I hear they’re very pretty, Johnny said irrelevantly.

—It makes a person very passionate, Susanna said, to have just a little of it in them. Think of it. One teeny-weeny drop. You heard about the woman, she was all white, and one of the best families of Louisiana, and she married a fine man, a sailing captain or something. He was from one of the wealthiest and most respected families in New Orleans. When they had their baby, it was a Nigro.

—O, Johnny said.

—Men are so careless, Susanna said. Would you want a Nigro woman?

—I? Did I ever tell you about the time I——

But Susanna was not amused.

—O, Johnny, she said, suddenly taking his head in both hands and putting her deep lips to his, I do love you so much. I have a feeling that nothing can happen to me as long as I have you, honey. You won’t let anything happen to me, will you?

She snuggled up and put her head on his shoulder. It was all very sweet and romantic. But abruptly she sat up.

—Now let’s undress you and put you to bed, she said.

It seemed to be a whim of hers to reverse the situation in which they had been once before, and it wasn’t long until Johnny was entirely without clothes and shone upon by gaslight, while Susanna sat fully clothed on his lap, laughing with little excited shrieks and tickling his ribs.

—Enough of this nonsense, Johnny said.

He picked her up and tossed her, still laughing, on the bed.

—No! she shrieked. You can’t see my scar! Protect me, Jeemie!

Earlier she must have hidden the charred doll under her pillow. Now she pulled the hideous little thing out and hugged it to her breast, shaking her head, and laughing helplessly. In a way it was charming.

—Does this little personage go everywhere with us? Johnny asked, tugging at one of Susanna’s shoes.

—Naughty boy! she shrieked, kicking and twisting. Trying to ravish us! I’m going to keep everything on!

However, in a short time, Susanna had nothing on but her wedding ring and her scar. Johnny threw the last stocking on a chair. Feeling victorious, he grabbed, none too gently, the doll in Susanna’s hand.

There was a terrible shriek. It seemed to come from the doll. Johnny sprang up, his flesh crawling. People were shouting and yelling, and over all rose the unearthly screeching of the doll.

Only it wasn’t the doll after all—it was a siren right under the hotel window. Someone began to pound a gong. A woman screamed. People were running on the street. Doors slammed. Fear, guilt, shame rushed over him. He and Susanna both ran and peeped out of the window. Around a lighted building across the way, a growing crowd churned excitedly. Several small boys ran out of the building waving papers and yelling in hoarse voices.

—What is it? Johnny yelled down.

No one paid any attention. A little while later, someone pounded on the door of the room. Johnny opened it a little way, and it was a newsboy with an armload of papers. Johnny gave him a dime and took one of the papers.

—What is it, honey? Susanna asked.

—They hanged John Brown.

—Serves him right, Susanna said.

Johnny read the headlines.







—O, I don’t know, Johnny said wanly. He believed he was doing right.

—He was a damned old murderer! Susanna said, her face broad, flushed, wild-looking in a shower of loose black hair. I only wish the whole race of nigger-lovers and abolitionists had got hung along with him.

They listened a moment. People were trampling around in the rooms of the hotel. A sound of boots approached their door, and someone knocked.

—Who’s there? Johnny said.

—They hanged the son of a bitch, a drunken voice said. Come on out’n have lil drink.

—Go away, Johnny said.

The man went away. Johnny looked at the paper again and saw the words:

The old man was swung off at 11:15 precisely, he having remained firm and dignified to the last.

—Come on to bed, honey, Susanna purred.

He looked about him in the wavering gaslight, and he wondered how he had come to be so far from home in this hollow, rambling, echoing old hotel somewhere in the Southern city of Louisville on the Ohio River, while a naked girl lay on the bed, her body glowing olivebrown in the rich light, her proud eyes closed as if in sleep already, her wide nostrils flaring and falling with her breath, her deep lips parted.

—Come on, Johnny, she said in her small child’s voice. I’m so tired.

It turned out that she wasn’t tired at all. Far from it. And as for young John Wickliff Shawnessy, the life was strong in him that night, so strong that even when at last he slept (while the gasjet burned on weakly through the dawn), he continued his marriage day in fevered and strange dreams that were like a climax and farewell to a life that he had left forever.

In his dream, he was late to his wedding, and besides he hadn’t yet obtained a marriage license. Riding into the Court House Square, he drove up the south side. The Square was jammed with people so that he could hardly get through.


shoving newspaper into Johnny’s hand,

—Read all about it. Git yuh papuh, heah! Biggest dern newstory of the yeah!


stepping into doorway of Post Office, reading from headlines printed in jasmine-scented ink,


The Square had darkened. Some great catastrophe had overtaken the County. Portions of it had been ravaged by fire and flood, and in the darkness crazed multitudes streamed past. Broad waters were flowing through the County, washing away beloved hills. Perhaps it was the last deluge, the flood intended by God to purify a guilty earth, stained with the lust and folly of mankind. Familiar roofs, fences, buildings were slowly sinking in the flood.

nell gaither

turning over and over in December waters, her voice trailing back to him, with a dim, rehearsed sound,

—One for whom you once professed affection, Johnny . . .

He ran along the bank of the river, touched with a great sorrow. What was it that had happened to his beloved earth? It was all dissolving in the flood. The Shawmucky had overflowed its banks and become a torrent of disaster. Who was it that had struck this mortal blow at the old County and its way of life? And how could the bloody wound be healed?

A great assemblage had gathered around him. He was standing on a kind of scaffold overlooking the Ohio River. Softspoken but brutal Southerners were fitting a noose to his neck. In the crowd, he saw his own friends and relatives, waving handkerchiefs. His mother was crying. He remembered then that he had been guilty of a great betrayal. It was he who had uprooted a sacred rock and had caused the dark flood which had come upon the land.

garwood jones

prosecuting attorney,

—The State of Virginity versus John Brown Shawnessy. The prosecution charges that this man did wilfully and willingly beget the said child upon the said woman in the said state at the stated time in the state of the Union, a Union of States, wherefore we do hereby denounce them a man and his life forever redescended into slavery.


—May it please the court, I have a few words to say. My only purpose was to free——

t. d. shawnessy

reading from family Bible,

Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God and in the face of this company to join together . . .

A girl was sitting on his shoulders, her nude legs wrapped around his neck. He had a tenfoot pole in his hand and was teetering on a wire cable stretched from the Indiana to the Kentucky shore of the river. His performance had something to do with reconciling the split between North and South. That was why thousands on both banks were cheering him as he swung perilously above the yellow flood.


tightening her legs,

—You’ll love it, honey. You’ll just l-o-o-o-o-ve . . .

He was strangling. The cable thrashed back and forth. He was falling, falling, falling. . . .

The steamboat going to New Orleans was a fat, wallowing hotel, honeycombed with rooms. He wandered through endless interiors blazing with gaseous light, opulent with scarlet curtains and ornamental mirrors. All the men and women were fashionably dressed. Their faces were unnaturally white, and they all smiled with radiant, fixed grins.

Suddenly from this gay throng there burst a man with a black, blistered face. He seized Johnny and attempted to strangle him. He threw Johnny down, and his knees ground on Johnny’s chest. All the men and women gathered around.


—Help! Pull him off!

No one seemed to understand that this dreadful person was a murderer and fugitive. No one seemed to understand that this broad palace concealed a crime so dark and a secret so dreadful that it had never been put into print. The men and women began to run here and there, waving their arms, swinging their canes, but all still smiling happily. They didn’t seem to know that the boat was sinking from a gash beneath the water line. No one tried to help Johnny, grappling with the stuffed body of his assailant, who uttered fiendish grunts and shrieks.

He saw then that all the men and women were dolls, jiggling and bouncing on hooks and ledges. They began to tumble down on him, shrunken, disintegrating, in a dreadful rain. He was floating down the river in a canopied bed, which was gradually sinking in the yellow water, dolls and all. He held the doll Jeemie, in fact a dead child with faintly negroid features. The bed was sinking; he was going down fully clothed in cold water.

A woman swam nearby, her dress soaked to her body. The flood flung them together. She rose and threw her arms around his neck. He struggled to keep his head above. His hand gripping her dress tore it away exposing . . .

The marriage license which he held in his hand was wet as he floated downstream, turning over and over like a carte de visite photograph. The script was still legible on the fleshlike parchment.

This is to certify that I have this day joined in the bonds of holy matrimony John Wickliff Shawnessy and . . .

The print ran and blurred. The parchment was a map of Raintree County. A red gash had been torn in it, the wound was bleeding, the whole map was covered with dark blood, staining his hands and covering him with shame and a hideous fear from which he kept trying to awaken with small choked cries. . . .

He awoke. He had no idea where he was. A face was leaning over his face, almost as though it had been drinking his breath.

—Johnny, what in the world’s the matter? It’s me, honey! Wake up!

In gaslight enfeebled by the gray dawn coming through the window, he recognized the face of his wife Susanna, lips, eyelids, and cheeks faintly swollen by love and sleep.

And that was how Johnny Shawnessy, in a single day and night, left Raintree County for the first time in his life, crossed the river that divided North from South, and came to his marriage bed at last a long way from home and in an alien earth. And that was how he discovered a dark land and a dark sweet love together in the night, and, in the days that followed, great rivers going to the gulf, majestic steamboats stacking to the piers, music on bright waters, rank odors rising from off swamps, and a city at the river’s mouth, the Mistress of the Delta, languorous and enchanting, steeping in beauty and incantation the oldest, darkest crime in all the world; that was how he found white columns beside the river, and eternal summer like a memory of his prehistoric childhood—a dark land and a dark sweet love together. But he found also that he couldn’t wholly forget a leafless tree that waited for his return in the cold December of Raintree County beside the little river, nor a face with wide green eyes that made hot tears of love in the night, nor a stone at the limit of the land—no, he couldn’t have forgotten them though he had steeped himself

in this darkblooded and delicious land

not once,


—Seven times, the Senator said. Laugh if you will, gentlemen, but back in those days I was a brute of a boy.

Somewhere down the street a boy touched off a cannoncracker. Mr. Shawnessy jumped, felt unhappy. The Senator was approached by delegates of the Sitting and Sewing Society, whose hands he pumped for a while.

—I used to pull a pretty mean oar myself, the Perfessor said. By the way, John, what is that godawful yelling over there?

For some time, a great voice had been booming over the trees, getting louder and angrier. Now and then a stentorian shout soared above the rest, grating hoarsely like a horn blown too high and too hard.

—That’s God, Mr. Shawnessy said.

—What? said the Perfessor, crossing himself. Is he here today too?

—It’s the Revival preacher, fellow named Jarvey. One of these Kentucky evangelists. He confuses himself with the Deity—and understandably, too, if you saw him. From June to August, he’s the most powerful man in Raintree County. The ladies come back every year to get converted all over again. He’s been pitching his tabernacle on the National Road here for the last three summers. No one knows just why. When I first came to Waycross in the summer of 1890, he was already here. Your little friend, Mrs. Evelina Brown, has been very friendly with him. She considers him a magnificent primitive personality, which in a way he is.

—That’s just like Evelina, the Perfessor said. Like all thoroughly erotic women, she begins by falsifying an aesthetic type. I hope it didn’t go any farther than that. Where does he go for the winter?

—Nobody knows. Back to the Kentucky mountains, I suppose, after restoring heaven to the local souls.

—I suppose like all these Southern ranters he’s a goat in shepherd’s clothing.

—So far he’s escaped criticism of that kind, even though he’s a bachelor. But he’s a brutal converter. Built like a blacksmith, he brandishes his great arms and beats the ladies prone. He has a great shout that scares everybody into the arms of Jesus. You ought to hear him.

—I do hear him, goddamn him, the Perfessor said.

—Still he’s a man of God, Mr. Shawnessy said resignedly. My own wife regularly attends his revival meetings. She’s over there now.

—I’d like to meet the little woman, the Perfessor said. Are you happy with her?

—Entirely, Mr. Shawnessy said. My wife Esther is that rare thing—a good woman. Speaking of faces, hers will interest you. Though the family denies it, it’s strongly suspected that great-great-grandma something or other was a fullblooded Miami.

—How did you finally manage to get a good woman, John?

—Fashioned her myself, Mr. Shawnessy said, and Pygmalionwise fell in love with my own fashioning. She went to school to me when she was a little girl. I’m eighteen years older. Like Eve, she sprang from a bone of my breast.

—Raintree County girl?


—The homegrown tomatoes are always, best, said the Perfessor. I’m eager to meet her. Let’s see, your marriage——

—Was on a Fourth of July fourteen years ago. This is our anniversary, as well as the Nation’s.

—Of course I remember about your courtship, the Perfessor said. That must have laid the old county by the ears. You certainly worked to get this philosophical existence at the Crossroads of the Republic, John. You deserve it. Funny, isn’t it, how you had to go through hell to get here. Now you have a wife whom you love and who loves you, a brood of happy cherubim, good health, and a steady source of income. You have achieved the good life. How does it feel to be perfectly secure and serene?

The big voice a quarter of a mile away shot up in a high wail and came down with a snarling crash. Mr. Shawnessy felt vaguely insecure and unserene.

He saw the fabric of his life a moment spread out like a map of interwoven lines. Across this map trailed a single curving line, passing through its many intersections. Source and sink, spring and lake existed all at once. One had to pass by the three mounds and the Indian Battleground to arrive at the great south bend. One had to pass by the graveyard and the vanished town of Danwebster to reach the lake. And one had been hunting the source all one’s life. The forgotten and perhaps mythical tree still shed its golden petals by the lake.

Beyond this map, the earth dissolved into a whole republic of such linear nets, all beaded with human lives. Then all these lines dissolved, and there—without north, south, east or west—was the casual republic of the Great Swamp, a nation of flowers black and white, brown and red and yellow.

We were great men in our youth. It was one life and the only. We strove like gods. We loved—and were fated to sorrow. But from our striving and from our sorrow we fashioned


The Oldest Story in the World


Rev. Lloyd G. Jarvey, Officiating

Esther Root Shawnessy, returning from the Station, walked to a place midway in the tent and sat down. She looked around, but Pa wasn’t there. His shiny buggy and fast black trotter weren’t among the many vehicles parked along the road. Pa had been coming regularly to the revival meetings, since the Reverend Jarvey had converted him a few weeks ago. He would sit in a back seat, and after nearly every meeting, he had come up and said,

—How are you, Esther?

—Just fine, Pa.

—The old home is waitin’, Esther. You can come and visit any time.

—As soon as I can bring Mr. Shawnessy and the children, I’ll be glad to come back, Pa.

Pa would bow his head slightly and kiss her cheek and drive away.

Years ago, not long after Esther had left the Farm, Pa had taken a second wife and had begot nine children upon her before she died. Nevertheless Esther thought of Pa as being alone in that now never-visited part of the County. As for her, whenever she saw him, she had the feeling that Pa still had the power to take her back, though she was thirty-five years old and had three children.

The tent now filled rapidly as the excitement over the Senator’s arrival subsided. A great many people who wished to remain in Waycross for the Patriotic Program in the afternoon dropped in for the revival service, not a few attracted by the fame of the Reverend Lloyd G. Jarvey.

Sitting under the vast foursided tent, the crowd watched the little tent adjoining in which the preacher customarily remained in prayer and meditation until the hour for the service. The flap of this tent was closed. A murmur of expectation ran through the revival crowd. Two ladies were talking in the row behind Esther.

—Do you think he’ll turn loose and convert today?

—I don’t reckon he will. He’ll just preach. I hear he converted a hundred people last Thursday. They say he converted one a minute after he got started.

—He converted me two Sundays ago. I didn’t think he could do it, but he done it.

—Where’d he convert you, Fanny? Big tent or little tent?

—He converted me in the little tent. All the women said it was better that way. They said in the little tent it was harder to resist the Lord. They said to go around after service, and if he wasn’t too tired he’d convert you.

—I like it better that way. More private-like.

—When I said I didn’t like to do it in front of everyone, they kept tellin’ me to go and do it in the little tent. I kept sayin’ no, I didn’t feel like it. I didn’t know if I was ready to let Jesus come into my heart. Finely one night I waited around after service, and nearly everybody was gone, and he was still in the little tent and the flap down. I was terrible skeered. Finely I felt the spirit in me just a little bit, and I went up and raised the flap a little. He was in there all right, convertin’ Lorena Passifee.

—Lorena Passifee! I thought he converted her last summer. In the big tent.

—He did, but I guess she slipped.

—She slipped all right. How’d he convert her?

—It was real good. When I raised the flap, Lorena was on her knees, moanin’. I’m a sinner! she yells. Hosanna! he yells, and he laid her flat on her back and converted her right before my eyes. He did the layin’ on of hands, and he shook her to let the spirit of the Lord come in. She was like a ragdoll in his arms.

—Lorena’s a big woman too.

—I know that, but she was like a ragdoll when he shook her. Then he saw me, and he broke right off as courteous as you please. I’ll come to you directly, Sister, he says. Just wait outside. I waited, and pretty soon Lorena come out of there lookin’ all shook to pieces. I was that skeered I could hardly move. Come on in, Sister, he yells in that big voice of hisn. God’s waitin’ for you. Don’t keep God waitin’! I went in, and from then on I hardly knowed what happened to me. I kept throwin’ my arms around and pretty soon, he picked me up and shoved me right up in the air as if I was goin’ straight to Jesus. I never felt such strength in anybody’s arms. Take her, Jesus! he yells. Jesus, she wants to come to you. Zion! I yelled. Then all of a sudden down he brung me and flat on my back, and the first thing I know I’m proclaimin’ my sins and acceptin’ the Lord, and he converted me.

—He sure works you up. He converted me two summers ago and agin last summer. Mine was both little tent ones. Ain’t he the most powerful man!

—But it’s too bad about his weak eyes.

—Has he got weak eyes?

—They say he’s blind with his glasses off.

—I just love to watch him convert. June, they say he converted the whole Sitting and Sewing Society three weeks ago in one afternoon.

—I believe I’ll have to let him convert me again, June said thoughtfully.

Esther was remembering Preacher Jarvey’s attempt to convert her. Two summers ago, she had gone one day after a Sunday morning service to see him about a program of the Ladies’ Christian Reformers. He was alone in the little tent.

—Come on in, Sister Shawnessy.

While she was explaining her mission, he had peered down at her queerly—he didn’t have his glasses on. Suddenly he had caught her hands.

—Sister, I feel the presence of the Lord in this tent.

—Well, I hope so, Brother Jarvey.

She allowed him to hold her hands. Men of God had always seemed to Esther an elect breed, with peculiar privileges.

—Sister Shawnessy, have you been converted?

—O, yes, Brother Jarvey.

In fact, her conversion at age sixteen had been a dreadful and exhausting experience. She had been broken up for days before and after. She never expected to be converted again, and didn’t understand people who got converted over and over.

—Sister Shawnessy, I think you ought to get converted again. I think you ought to let the sweet light of Christ to shine on your soul again. Sister, I feel that we are both bathed and beautified by the radiant presence of Jesus at this very moment.

—I will never be converted again, Brother Jarvey.

—Let us pray! Preacher Jarvey had shouted. Down on your knees, Sister. The Lord is comin’.

Obediently, she had gone to her knees and had placed her hands in the attitude of prayer. Brother Jarvey had then prayed with wonderful fervor for half an hour, exhorting the kneeling sister to search her heart out for all impurities, to consider well whether or not she was entirely pure and perfect for God’s kingdom.

She had repeated with infinite patience that she didn’t consider herself perfect—no one in this mortal sphere, Brother Jarvey, was perfect except her husband, Mr. Shawnessy—but she had never once swayed from the teachings of Christ, at least since her conversion. It had seemed to her that it would be a blasphemy to the memory of it, the second greatest experience she had known, if she let herself be converted again.

But Brother Jarvey was not easily put off. He had persisted with a force that she would have deemed brutal except for the holy purpose behind it. He exhorted and sweated. When everything else had failed, he finally resorted to his godshout.

—Go-o-o-o-o-o-d, he yelled suddenly, his voice attaining a trumpet pitch of exultation, grating hoarse like a horn blown too hard.

His powerful body shot straight up with the cry, towering above her. He prolonged the shout on a high pitch and then came screaming down:

—is here!

This treatment could be repeated as many times as necessary. But usually one godshout was enough. Most of the ladies caved in and allowed themselves to be thrown bodily to Jesus. But Esther had continued quietly in her attitude of prayer through six successive godshouts, each more triumphant than the last.

After his failure to convert her in the little tent, Esther had observed a coolness toward her in Preacher Jarvey, even though she had been most helpful to him in his work and had attended the services regularly.

Her experience was not typical. As far as she knew, only one other woman in the County had been able to resist that thundering call to Christ. Mrs. Evelina Brown had held out too, though for different reasons. She was a freethinker, and though she was very much interested in Preacher Jarvey as a personality, she didn’t believe in the Christian religion. Nevertheless, she had often gone for talks with the Preacher in the little tent, and he had made mighty efforts to convert her. He had spent hours discussing theology with her, a field of knowledge in which he had a surprisingly deep learning. Preacher Jarvey had publicly remarked that the abiding heresy of Mrs. Brown was the greatest sorrow of his life. Mrs. Brown had privately remarked that she had once lived through twelve godshouts without capitulating.

The highpoint of a revival service in the big tent came when Preacher Jarvey finally unwound and let his voice hit the sky with the godshout. The longer he postponed it, the more devastating it was.

—Go-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-d is here!

With that tremendous cry, he unleashed the thunderblast of divinity on the unshriven sheep, and down they came in flocks trembling to the altar.

—I sort of hope he’ll turn loose this morning, one of the ladies in the back row remarked.

It seemed unlikely to Esther that he would, but the Reverend Lloyd G. Jarvey wasn’t easy to fathom.

It was after ten when without warning the flap of the little tent flew up, and Preacher Jarvey appeared in the opening, clad in a long black preacher’s coat, reversed white collar, tightfitting black pants and hookbuttoned black shoes.

A man of perhaps forty, he stood six feet tall, but seemed less because of his great shoulders and arms. His head had a wild, lawless look; hair and beard made one brown shag that nearly buried his ears and mouth. His brown eyes were savagely restless under frowning brows. He had the look of a huge, primitive god, poised on the brink of some tremendous act.

Instead, he reached into the pocket of his coat and took out a pair of spectacles, which he perched on the bridge of his fleshy nose. All the forbidding grandeur of his aspect was undone by the little thick round lenses, through which the Reverend Lloyd G. Jarvey peered, a great strength imprisoned.

Now he walked under the flap of the big tent and up the steps to the platform, leaning slightly backward, heavily swinging his feet and arms but taking a rather short stride for the effort involved.

Once behind the pulpit, he plucked off the glasses. His brows unbent, and his face assumed a look of majestic displeasure mingled with sorrow. He leaned his head farther back. His eyes closed. He paused.

The congregation became raptly still.

—Let us pray.

The lips flapped slowly, as if themselves immobile but moved by the action of the jaws. The voice was a harsh baritone, monotonous and trumpeting, quavering with sanctity. The Southern accent gave it a faintly barbaric sound to Northern ears. The Preacher’s language was a bastard fruit produced by the grafting of Biblical phrase on the speech of Southern hill people.

The introductory services passed with prayer and hymn-singing. At length, Preacher Jarvey opened the black Bible on the pulpit.

—Brothers and sisters, we are celebratin’ today in pomp and pride the birth of our Republic. It’s a beautiful day that God has given us to remember our beginnin’s. Look about you, and see what the Lord has given you. He has given you this green and pleasant valley teemin’ with all good things. The trees drop their abundance on the earth. The kine return at evenin’ with full udders. The corn is as tall as the knee of a virgin. It is a beautiful mornin’, and the day is all before you.

Beware! Holy and terrible is the voice of the Lord. Beware! lest you hear His awful voice at evenin’ in the cool of the garden.

Brothers and sisters, on just such a day as this did the father and mother of mankind wander in that beautiful garden which God in His great beneficence bestowed upon them. On just such a day as this they heard the sound of the clear fountains flowin’ with perpetual balm, and the voice of the lion roarin’ was like the bleat of a lamb. Alas, on just such a day as this they sinned and knew not God and turned from His teachin’.

On this great day of our national beginnin’s let us remember an older beginnin’. I come before you today to remind you of the origin of mankind. If every word made by man were lost and the first leaves of God’s Book remained to us, man would still know his sinful history and his sorrowful heritage. The oldest story in the world is the story of the Creation and the Fall of Man. Hit’s a beautiful story, o, how beautiful it is, for hit is full of the beauty and the terror of the Lord.

As he warmed to his subject, Preacher Jarvey had spoken with longer cadences, the hoarse chant of his voice achieving higher climaxes before the trumpeting doomfall at end of sentence. Now he plucked the glasses from his pocket and put them on his nose. His brows made their ferocious pucker as he easily lifted the big pulpit Bible and held it close to his eyes, his face hidden by the book.

In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.

Esther listened as the hoarse trumpet of the voice behind the Bible blew on and on. She had often heard these beautiful words, the oldest in the world; they were like a language of her soul, telling her a forgotten legend of herself. As she listened, images of her life in Raintree County crowded through her mind, bathed in the primitive light of myth—pictures of sorrow, love, division, anger.

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.

And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Now, brothers and sisters, I ask you to imagine this primitive garden in the midst of the earth, bloomin’ with the first freshness of creation upon it. How beautiful is the garden before the great crime! Here the first man walks in innocence. He knows not that frail defect called Woman.

Meanwhile, in the midst and middle of this garden two trees are growin’. Some people say that they were apple trees. Some people say that they were pomegranate trees. The Bible does not say what they were. And the reason why the Bible does not say what they were is that they were alone of their kind. Those trees did not bear fruit for seed, after the manner of natural trees. They had no name except the Biblical name. One was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the other was the Tree of Life.

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil—brothers and sisters, hit was no ordinary tree. Hit was God’s tree. Hit was many cubits thicker at the base than the greatest natural oak. The bark of the tree, hit was a thick scale. The leaves of the tree, they were broad and polished. The fruit of the tree, hit was a scarlet cluster of sweetness, burstin’ with juice.

And what was that other tree like? O, dearly beloved, the mind of man is not able to picture hit, and the voice of man, hit is not able to declare hits kind. Hit was called the Tree of Life, and hit grew in the darkest and oldest part of the garden, guarded by dragons breathin’ fire.

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

Disturbed by the sound of a buggy approaching, Esther looked up, but it was not Pa’s buggy.

And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof,

And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and . . .

Under the great tent filled with the trumpet of Preacher Jarvey’s voice, Esther was sad, remembering


in her oldest awareness

of being alive she was standing

in a field back of the farmhouse. She was very close to the earth as if she had just come out of it. It had a brown soft look in the light, and the light was like early morning in the spring. The earth of the field had been freshly turned by the plow. The ribbed furrows seemed to spread from a point far off and come undulating toward her, widening and widening until they engulfed her where she stood, her bare feet pressed down into the earth. Pa came up the field following the plow, the horses became bigger and bigger straining at the lines, she heard the heavy shout of Pa as he tugged at the lines, she saw how he swung the doubled reins crashing against the horses. The sharp share of the plow turned the earth with a digging sound, the team and the plow and Pa came up close, Pa’s bare arms bulged from his grip on the handles, he was grand and terrible in his anger as he made the circle around the place where she stood.

Pa was a black thick beard, a broad pink face streaming with sweat, fierce black eyes, a big nose ending in a delicate tip, a mouth shouting strong words at the horses.

This was a sharp clear memory, but there were a lot of other vague memories of the earth, the plowing, and Pa. She could remember times when Pa would curse the horses so loud and fierce that her mother would shut the back door and cry.

Pa never went to the church on Sundays, but he expected Esther and the other children to go. Her mother got them all ready, and they all went to the church, nine of them after Mollie came along and grew to any size. They took up considerable room in the church. On Sunday Pa dressed in a black suit and left the fields and rested from his work, but he didn’t bother to go to church. It was a thing for women and children and the other people of the countryside, but not for Pa, who was so grandly angry and violent.

When Pa cursed, he sounded a little like the preacher at the church. He swung his arms about and used some of the same words. Only Pa was much broader and stronger and louder even than the preacher.

Of the girls, she liked Ferny the best. She hated Sarah, who was bigger than she and always having it in for her. Sarah was always jealous because she had to work in the house and help their mother. As far back as Esther could remember, all the girls had chores to do in the house except herself. Pa always took her to the field with him, and she would watch him plow. When she was bigger, he would let her help sometimes in little ways.

Her mother told stories to them in the evening before they went to bed. Pa never told any stories but merely sat and listened without saying whether he thought it was a good thing or not. Her mother had round dark eyes and dark hair and skin. She was fat and always a little wistful and tired-looking. But she knew all kinds of stories, for telling or reading. Most of the stories came from the Bible.

The Bible was the big book with stiff covers that lay on the parlor table. It was all full of words that told about the Creation and God and Jesus and many ancient people who did strange things in the earth a long time ago. These things did not happen in Raintree County or even very close to it and did not seem to have a direct connection with anybody or anything she knew. All of the people in the Bible had died a long time ago except God.

God had always been alive. He lived above the earth in Heaven. He had a terrific temper and was big and broad, but his beard was probably white instead of black. He had made the earth a long time ago and had rested from his labors.

All people who died were buried in the earth. There was a place in Raintree County, just a little way down the road from the Farm, where Grandpa and Grandma Root had lived. They had been buried in the earth behind the house on a hill under a tree. Their names were on white stones, and God had them now.

All people that ever lived on the earth, except God, had died and been buried in the ground. Esther was terribly afraid of being buried in the ground like her two little brothers that had never got beyond being babies. But she was very strong, and it did not seem possible that she could ever die.

When they went to school, she proved to be the smartest of the girls. The teacher was a tall, stern man with a bald head. He whipped the ones who didn’t have their lessons or were naughty in school. Esther was afraid of whipping more than anything else, because Pa had said that when they got whipped at school they would get another whipping at home. That was how she happened to remember a Fourth of July when she was six years old.

One day in the spring, one of the older girls at school had teased her about being descended from an Indian.

—I ain’t descended from an Injun, she told the girl. My pa says it ain’t true. We ain’t any of us descended from Injuns.

—My ma says you’re part Injun, all you Root kids got Injun blood in you. Squaw blood. Look at your hair and eyes. Halfbreed! Halfbreed!

Esther had turned and run at the girl, and in her desperation hunting for a word she had called the girl the worst word she knew.

—You’re a nigger, she said.

In their part of the country, that was the worst thing you could call anyone. The niggers were black people and slaves. The War was being fought in those days to free the slaves, and a lot of the men had gone off to the War.

When she called the girl a nigger, the girl had gone and told the teacher.

—Esther, did you call Mabel Coombs a nigger?

The teacher had a switch, and his voice was thin and dry in his throat. The other children sat listening, and the whole room was quiet.

—Yes, Esther said and began to cry.

What she had said and done now seemed so evil that she had forgotten to mention the provocation.

The teacher struck her a few times lightly on the arm with the switch, and it had hardly stung at all. But that was not what worried her.

When they were outdoors, Sarah said,

—Wait till Pa hears. You’ll catch it good.

She begged and pleaded with Sarah not to tell on her.

—Promise you’ll do the dishes in place of me, Sarah said, and anything else I ask you, or I’ll tell Pa.

—I promise, Esther said.

She was very unhappy for weeks after that, afraid that Pa would find out about the whipping she had got at school. Pa had a big black buggy whip. It was terrible to see how he would lash at the horses when he became angry. She had heard him whipping the boys in the barn a few times, and it had made her white and weak so that she would go off and cry to herself.

For weeks, she did everything that Sarah asked her to do. She washed the dishes for her and carried things for her.

—Just you fail to do one little thing I ask you, Sarah said.

Then one day at supper table, Pa had called Sarah down for something, and Sarah had talked nasty and said that their father favored Esther and everyone knew it.

—Sarah, don’t let me hear you say that again, Pa said, standing up, so that they all shrank in their chairs.

His face was red and his little moist red mouth worked inside his beard. He reached a hand across the table toward Sarah.

—I don’t care, Sarah said. I never been whipped in school, and Esther has. She called a girl a nigger, and the teacher whipped her. She made me promise not to tell, but she done it, and he whipped her.

Esther became very still, and her heart beat so hard she thought it would burst.

—Is that true? Pa said.

—Yes, Pa.

—Why did you call the girl a nigger?

—She said we had Injun blood in us, and I called her a nigger.

—Did the teacher whip you for that?

—Yes, Pa. And I promised Sarah I’d do her work for her if she didn’t tell. But she told anyhow.

She was crying now, and she thought she had never seen Pa that angry before. He grabbed Sarah and dragged her out of the house and took her to the barn. Esther ran off to the stormgrove and hid, and she could hear Sarah screaming and Pa whipping her. She thought it would surely be her turn next.

Later on, Pa came out and found her there. The sweat stood out on his head, but he didn’t seem angry with her.

—You done right to call that girl whatever you wanted, he said. There ain’t any Injun blood in our family. That’s a lie. That teacher ain’t in the County any more. If he was, I’d tear him limb from limb. Did he hurt you when he whipped you?

—No, it didn’t hurt a bit.

—If he had hurt you, I’d of gone to find him no matter where, and I’d of taken the hide off of him with a rawhide whip. Anybody ever goes to whip you or hurt you, you let me know.

—Yes, Pa.

The next day was the Fourth, and Pa took her to Freehaven with him, just the two. It was the first time she ever remembered being at the County Seat. She was dressed in her Sunday best, and Pa had on his black suit and looked very fine and terrible and strong. He only cursed a little bit driving the horse into town and seemed to be in a good mood.

In town, it was a big day. Everybody talked about there being a battle in a place called Pennsylvania. Esther walked all around the town with Pa. It was fun to see their faces in the windows of the big stores on the south side of the Square. There were orations and fireworks, and Pa took her around to see everything.

In the evening, Pa put her in the buggy and told her to wait for him. She must have gone to sleep, and when she woke up, there were a lot of people running past the buggy and yelling fire. She got out to see, and there was a big house close to the Square—it was on fire, burning like a tall torch in the night. Pa came and found her and took her hand and led her down to where they could watch the fire. People said that a woman and a little boy had got burnt in the fire.

On the way home, Pa told her never to play with fire, or she might get burnt like the little boy in the house at the County Seat. She felt awfully sorry about the fire, but it had been a wonderful, exciting day, the town was so full of new strange faces and beautiful women in long dresses and handsome men, some of them almost as big and strong as Pa. She went to sleep wondering how they would ever bury the little boy if he was burnt completely up, and

how he could go to Heaven and God have him,

if he hadn’t


—Body and soul, the Woman was made out of Man. Body and soul the Woman belongs to Man. God made her to be Man’s partner and helpmeet, and o, sisters of the congregation, how woefully she betrayed His trust!

Preacher Jarvey shook his shaggy head and bent his brows sternly against the good ladies of Raintree County, who made up the major part of his audience.

—Now, let us consider this Woman. In makin’ her, God put a new thing into creation. He made a frail defect. He did it with a purpose because the Lord God Jehovah does everything with a purpose. He made it to try the Man, to test him. And o, brothers of the congregation, how woefully Man betrayed his Maker’s trust!

But I am gettin’ ahead of my story. Now then, after the Lord made Woman, she wanders alone in the garden. The shinin’ of the sun of that eternal summer, which is the only season of Paradise, shows her body to be without all habiliment or shameful adornment. Sisters of the congregation, she had no other garment than her innocence. God gave it to her, and she needed no other.

The good ladies of Raintree County shifted uneasily in their bustles and great skirts. They patted their flouncy hats and poked at their twisted hair. Preacher Jarvey’s savage eyes glared displeasure on their finery. Then his eyes became remote. He departed upon a point of pedantry.

—Some depict the Mother of the Race as wearin’ a figleaf before the Fall. Fellow Christians, this belief is in error. Hit is against Holy Writ. The Book tells us that she was nekkid, and nekkid she was.

Behold her then, the first Woman, cowerin’ in the dust before her Father and her God. In that first blindin’ moment of existence, she recognizes on bended knee the majesty and godhead of her Maker.

Esther followed a buggy with her eyes as it approached from the direction of Moreland. It was not Pa’s buggy.

—Yes, the Woman knew her Father before she knew her Husband. Then the old story tells us that havin’ made the Woman, the Lord brought her unto the Man. O, sweet encounter! Brothers and sisters of the congregation, hit is the dawn of love before Man knew Woman in carnal pastime. They reach out their arms to each other, not knowin’ that they are the parents of mankind but only knowin’ that the loneliness of the garden has been overcome. Behold them standin’ in

May 1—The—1866

soft spring weather

of Raintree County bathed her

in warmth as she waited in the yard of the Stony Creek School on the last day of the school year. Esther had a gone feeling inside, and her heart went at times like a bird jumping in a cage. Perhaps she could be the first to reach Mr. Shawnessy when he appeared on the path through the woods. Many of the girls were inside the schoolhouse arranging their books and things because it was the last day of school.

She hated the older girls who could run faster than she. The one who reached Mr. Shawnessy first got a kiss and could walk along and hold his hand all the way to the schoolhouse. Usually it was one of the bigger girls, though it was understood that the very biggest girls didn’t play the game. Not that they didn’t want to.

She was afraid that some of the girls would notice her hanging on the bars and see how limp and funny she looked. It seemed to her, though, that if she didn’t get to Mr. Shawnessy first today she would never get over the gone feeling she had inside. It was the last day of school, and she wouldn’t see him again all summer.

Then when no one was watching, she did something that she had thought about before but had never dared to do. She slipped through the bars and started down the path, intending to lie out along the way and watch for him. That way she would get a head start. Once away, she didn’t look back, but her breast was crazy with excitement, and she felt as though she would die if one of the girls yelled out,

—Look at Esther! She’s gittin’ a head start!

Then she was out of sight past some bushes, and no one had seen her.

She walked down the path in the woods. Just beyond the woods on her right she could see a field set in early wheat. The earth was soft from the recent rains, and the air was full of earth odor, the smell of flowers and damp wood. Violets and spring beauties were thick beside the path. She walked very slowly, hidden from all sign of human habitation, from all looking of human eyes.

She walked for about two minutes until she could see the stile across a railfence. Then she sat down in a bank of grass, half hidden behind a fallen log. Sunlight filtering through leaves made warm splotches on her body.

It was warm in the sunlight. The green grass of Raintree County was rushing up around her, a dense hair growing. The precise faces of flowers were close to her face. Shiny insect forms, looking impossibly clean and perfect, were in the thick growing of the green world around her.

The sunlight drenched her naked legs with warmth. She was all alone in the woods beside the little path. She was all alone and waiting in the green murmurous garden of Raintree County, a small girl, nine years old, weak with love and waiting.

Even now she could not banish a fear from her breast—the fear that some of the other girls would notice her absence and come down the path looking for her.

Here when she was lying with the soft hair of the earth brushing against her legs and face, the world was an easy thing to understand. God had made the earth, and he had made Raintree County as a place apart. And he had placed in it the wisest and tenderest of his creatures, Mr. Shawnessy. He had put Esther Root here too, and surely he meant that she should be happy in this beautiful place.

There had been a while months ago when she didn’t know whether she ought to like Mr. Shawnessy. That was early in the year when she had first heard people say he was an atheist. An atheist was a person who did not believe in God. It was the greatest of all crimes not to Believe. She, Esther Root, had never for one single moment doubted or disbelieved in God. She was afraid to think what God would do to her if even for one little moment she were able to Disbelieve.

But it was plain to her very soon that Mr. Shawnessy wasn’t an atheist or anything else bad. In fact, he seemed to her the kindest and best man she had ever seen in her life. She had known only a few men, and none of them were like Mr. Shawnessy. Her other teachers had been stiff, ugly men whom she feared and secretly hated. Mr. Shawnessy, who knew many times more than they did, was never loud or stern or overbearing.

She could remember a thousand things from those few months, which seemed as much as all the years of her life before. Always before, she had been happy when summer came. Now it hurt even to think that there would be no more school for months.

School was Mr. Shawnessy coming along the path in the morning. It was the fierce rush of the small girls to reach him and hold his hands. It was all of them laughing and leaping around him as they went into the schoolhouse door.

School was Mr. Shawnessy telling a story during the Opening Exercises. He told the most thrilling stories, some of them being continued from day to day for weeks. One story that he told during the year was about the War and how a young soldier fought through the Southland and helped emancipate the black people and saw Lincoln’s assassination. It taught them more about the War than any history book, and Mr. Shawnessy said it was a true story, too, about a person he had known.

Mr. Shawnessy had also been in the Civil War. He had come back from the War in 1865, just the summer before the school year opened. People said he had been sick and wounded and had fought in Sherman’s Army, but he never said anything about his own part in the War. Yet he must have been in some of the great battles and seen men killed, and maybe that was why he so often had the sad look that was in his eyes when he wasn’t smiling.

Or maybe he was sad because of that other thing that people said about him. He had been married, and there had been a terrible tragedy, and now he lived alone.

It was very sad and sweet to think of Mr. Shawnessy living alone. Esther would have been only too happy to live with him and help look after him. She could have done the cooking and the housework and everything that would make him comfortable. She could be as good as a wife to him any day. Always she thought of Mr. Shawnessy alone in Raintree County, walking about on lonely roads and streets, remembering the War and his tragic married life, and no one to love him and care for him.

School was also Mr. Shawnessy telling a funny story. At such times, his long blue eyes would light up and flash, his face would become really handsome with his longmouthed, shy grin, he would make people come alive with the way he talked, and the children would just split with laughter. There wasn’t a boy or girl in the school who wouldn’t have gone to the stake for Mr. Shawnessy. Anyway, she, Esther, would have gone to the stake and gladly, and they could have tortured her with whips and put burning splinters in her skin. She would have saved him as Pocahontas did John Smith, putting her own neck in the way of the axe.

Those days, her life had got divided into two worlds. There was her family and Pa, and there was the school and Mr. Shawnessy. She was going to have to give one world up for a summer.

None of the other girls were coming along the path after all. She was lying here limpsy and weak in the mild air, and all of Raintree County was a blurred, beautiful garden in the spring with good things growing, and in this place there were only two people who mattered, Mr. Shawnessy and Esther Root.

Then a new fear came. Suppose that for the first time all year Mr. Shawnessy didn’t come down his accustomed path. After all it was a special day, the last day, and it must be getting a little late now. Suppose he were to come another way.

She sprang to her feet and looked wildly up and down the path. Perhaps school had begun, and she had failed to hear the bell. Sarah would tell on her at home, they would ask her why she was late, and because she wouldn’t dare tell the real reason, Pa would whip her.

Just then, she saw Mr. Shawnessy. He was still a long way off coming along the railfence on the far side, approaching the stile. He had his coat over his arm and was chewing a grass stem. Crossing the stile, he stopped and looked back at the field that he was about to leave.

Esther began to run down the path, afraid now that some of the other girls would come at the last moment and, racing past her, would get to Mr. Shawnessy first. She ran wildly through the woods, teeth clenched, eyes shining, pigtails flying around her shoulders.

—Mr. Shawnessy! Mr. Shawnessy! she cried, panting hard, her voice shrill with love.

Mr. Shawnessy looked a little surprised to see this small girl with the intense brown eyes, who had apparently been running along the path by herself and who now stood beside him gasping and holding up her small, determined face.

—Why, Esther, he said, how you have run!

Then, as if remembering, he smiled a little vaguely, and leaning over put his one free arm around her and brushed her cheek with his mustaches. She put her arms around his neck and held on passionately as long as she dared. His coat fell off on the ground. He leaned over and picked it up and then began to walk absently toward the school.

She could think of nothing to say and so walked along beside him holding his hand. She kept measuring the distance to the schoolhouse and wishing she might slow the walking down. He seemed lost in thought. To herself she was wondering whether he knew,

whether he had the faintest suspicion

that she was so


—In love with him, as he with her, Preacher Jarvey was saying, what a picture she makes, walkin’ there hand in hand with her beloved!

And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

This, brothers and sisters, is the brief period of the innocence of the race. O, transports of love and fellowship with the Lord God Jehovah in the dusk and sunlight of the Garden! O, rapturous evenin’s and mornin’s!

I pause to remind you that scriptural time is different from our own. One day, brothers and sisters, one day in the dawn of Creation is the equal of years of sinful life today. O, how they enjoyed the fruits of that beautiful garden, the yield of wildgrowin’ trees, o, how they plunged and swam in the limpid streams of Paradise! Their bed at even was the pressed grass. God tempered the air to their nekkidness. And reachin’ up they plucked the grapes of Eden that fell to their hands. Truly, brothers and sisters, truly, they fed on honey-dew and drank the milk of Paradise!

This is the time of the testin’ of the Woman. And the Lord God Jehovah walks unseen in the Garden a-watchin’ this last work of His hand. He considers it His best job. Hit is a beautiful and wellproportioned bein’, and He is well pleased. But as yet hit doesn’t have a name. Hit is only Woman, bein’ made out of Man. Hit is the time before the Woman became Eve. Hit is the time before she sinned against her wellbeloved Father.

Esther was filled with somber pleasure to remember the time when the Woman was at peace and without sin, alone in the world with her Father and her Husband, and beloved of both.

—Hit was the time of the testin’ of the Woman. Hit was not the time of the Great Temptation. That time was to come, o, hit was to come, brothers and sisters, hit was to come. Hit was the time of the Lesser Temptation. For durin’ all this time, the Tree was still there and the red fruit a-hangin’ out of it, and the Woman a-walkin’ there. And she let the red fruit of the Tree brush against her nekkid back and breasts, and she brushed her face against the boughs smellin’ the sweet smell of the fruit, and often she just touched her curved lips to the rind—just to test herself, not to eat.

The Reverend Lloyd G. Jarvey perfectly mimicked the Woman’s temptation, twining and twisting about as if he dallied under the branches of a tree laden with forbidden fruit. His voice was louder, more rhythmed in its chant.

—She longed to eat of it, o, how she longed for that forbidden taste, but the time was not yet. The time was not yet, but hit was to come. O, hit was to come. Her womanly nature was sorely tempted. Hit couldn’t be satisfied with the fruit of the other trees of the garden. Yet hit was good fruit, but hit didn’t look as good to her. Hit was the old womanly failing. No daughter of Eve is free from it today. Hit’s what we don’t have that we want the hardest. Makes no difference to a Woman how good the old is, in her weak and womanly nature she longs for

June 1—The—1876

New Court House

was by far the most impressive building

Esther had ever seen. Below and behind the great tower, which stood out from the east wall, the main building was a strong rectangle of brick trimmed with stone at the corners, doors, windows, and eaves. The Main Entrance was through the base of the tower, where Justice, a life-sized woman with scales, stood in a niche above the door. The tower rose to a height of one hundred and ten feet, having at the top a foursided steep roof, dwindling to a small observation platform, fenced, from which stood a masted American flag. Each of the four faces of the tower roof had a clock.

The New Court House had been seven years building, after the Old Court House had burned down during the War. In the years when there was no court house in the middle of the Square, Esther and everyone else had felt as if a sacred object containing the innermost meaning of life in Raintree County had lost its tabernacle. But as the New Court House had begun to rise, slowly the feeling of security returned. It was good once again to be able to walk on one side of the Square without being able to see across to the other. The feeling that had been associated with the Old Court House crept, subtly changed, back into the walls of the New. For a while, only the main building itself was completed, but the tower, slowly taking form above it, so captured the imagination of the people that they quite forgot the Old Court House, which had had no tower. When at last in 1872 the tower was completed and the flag fluttered from an iron mast at the top, visible for miles around, a new era had begun in the life of Raintree County.

Children who had never seen the Old Court House were already referring to the present building simply as the Court House. For Esther, however, and for all the older people, this building would keep forever an indefinable look that connected it with the days when it was a brave new edifice, the finest in the County.

Esther had been in the Old Court House a few times but had never been in the new building until the day she went in for the Teachers’ Examination. It was in the summer of the Centennial Exposition. She was nineteen and had decided to teach. A vacancy had occurred at the country schoolhouse where she had got all her learning, and there was a chance that she might have the place if she could pass the Teachers’ Examination. She was nervous and excited, and it was good to have Pa with her as they hitched the horse on the east side of the Square and walked up to the Main Entrance of the New Court House.

As Esther started up the steps into the great building, she felt wobbly and scared. The Court House was a place of men. Any man might go into it or hang around outside of it, jetting tobacco juice. But a woman went into the Court House only for a very special purpose.

When she got inside the New Court House, she smelled tobacco and urine, the immemorial odor of all American court houses, the masculine odor of civic probity, justice, and official function. There was, however, a difference, perhaps a subtle remnant of the New Court House’s newness.

Her anxiety increased, and she clung hard to Pa’s big arm as they mounted the steep iron stair just inside the Main Entrance. In these gloomy rooms and corridors, the ancient rites of civic administration were performed. The priestlike titles, blacklettered on the door, awed her. Here were the County Commissioners, the Clerk, the Treasurer, the Judge, the Superintendent of Schools, gods who could make their faces benign for the humble aspirant and admit her to the select sisterhood of those who dispensed the sacred mysteries of education. Somewhere in these odorous, secret rooms reposed the State. The Court House was the Republic. The Capitol in Washington was only a greater and grander court house.

She and Pa hurried on up to the Court Room on the second floor, where the examination was to be held. Around the door were several girls and men, all laughing and talking. She looked in vain for her friend Ivy Miller, who was also taking the examination. Inside the Court Room, people were already finding places.

—Now, Esther, Pa said, just you go right in and don’t be afraid. You’ll do fine. You’re as smart as any of them.

He held her hand in both of his, and some of his strength and bigness came into her. His big bearded face was serious, proud, a little flushed from the drive in. He was a handsome, powerful figure of a man, and being a man, felt no weak, womanly fear.

—I’ll do the best I can, Pa, she said. I wish you weren’t going away.

—I’ll stay right here, he said. I’ll be just outside the door. I’ll get a chair and wait. Now go right in and do your best, Esther.

She left him then and went in through the door and took a chair at one of the tables brought in for the examination. The Court Room occupied most of the second floor of the building. Tall windows let in light from two sides on the gilded ornamental walls. Esther was so scared that she hardly dared look around. It would have been better had she stayed at home on the farm to tend the garden and help Pa in the fields. There were so many things that she didn’t know.

Her friend, Ivy, a tall blackhaired girl with an aquiline nose, a big expressive mouth, and vivid brown eyes, came in and sat next to her.

—I’m scared to death! How about you, Esther?

They squeezed each other’s hands and waited. Several men were there, looking supernaturally intelligent. One had spectacles, greased black hair, and a bowtie. He talked with a loud nasal twang and was very sure of himself.

—It’s nothing to be afraid of, girls. It’s a mere formality for a person of intelligence.

There was a fluttering of dresses, pens, and papers as a man came down to the front of the room bearing the examination books.

Esther started violently. It was Mr. Shawnessy. She hadn’t seen him since that single year long ago when he had taught the school near the Farm. In the flood of emotion that came over her, she felt as though she were a little girl again, and she was ashamed for Mr. Shawnessy to see her here, a pretender to knowledge, presuming herself able to take the school that he had once taught.

Standing at the front of the room, Mr. Shawnessy said a few words about the examination and began to distribute the books. After that he wrote the questions on a large, moveable blackboard at the front of the room.

Mr. Shawnessy had changed very little, it seemed to her, since the year 1866, when she had seen him last. His temples were a little higher, but his hair had no gray in it, and despite his heavy auburn eyebrows and mustache, his face had a youthful look, much less than his years, which she thought must now be about thirty-seven. His eyes, she saw, had the same remote, sad expression that she had remembered of old.

She was so excited at this revival of an old emotion that she couldn’t hold her hand still to write her name on the outside of the Examination Book.

The examination lasted for four hours. After her first panic passed, she found that she could answer most of the questions. From time to time, she looked up at Mr. Shawnessy. He was reading a book most of the time, although often he went over to an open window and stood leaning on it and looking at the Square. Once or twice in answering a question from a bewildered candidate, he smiled a little, and his face was so kind that she forgot her fear and wondered how it was that she had ever been afraid.

Once when she glanced up, she found him looking at her, and she wondered if he remembered her. But his eyes were remote and sad, and she hurriedly looked back at her paper.

As the examination drew to a close, several of the girls went up to hand in their papers. They giggled and joked with Mr. Shawnessy. Some of them, Esther noticed, were wearing earrings in the fashion then sweeping the County. Their round eyes, white teeth, and sharp, whispering voices, their jeweled heads, powdered faces, summerclad bodies assaulted the shy, lonely form at the front of the room as if to overwhelm him and bear him off a prize. Esther felt her face flushing with envy as she thought of her plain dress and her hair chastely bound over her ears.

Around five-thirty in the afternoon, Esther was the last one in the room with Mr. Shawnessy. She was violently excited as she took the paper up to the front of the room and handed it to him. She was going to turn away and leave without looking at him, but he smiled and said,

—Pardon me, but aren’t you Esther Root?

—Yes, she said.

—You were a pupil of mine at the Stony Creek School back in ’66?


—You had forgotten me?

—O, no, Mr. Shawnessy.

—Well, he said, it’s nice to see you again.

She held out her hand gravely, and his strong hand closed around it for a moment.

—I hope you get your position, he said. Was the test hard?

—I think I passed it, she said. I don’t really know a great deal. I think I learned more the year with you than I have ever since.

—You were a bright student, he said, the best in the school. I have no doubt you’ll pass the examination.

They talked a little of the school system and the examination, as Mr. Shawnessy began to gather up the papers. She turned to leave. It was late afternoon, the light in the Court Room was changing, and the air held an odor of cigars, varnish, ink. She was very tired now that the examination was over. She said good-by and went to the door.

When she stepped out, Pa was there. She had completely forgotten his promise to stay for her. She was so glad to see him that she threw her arms around his neck and kissed him on the mouth.

—I think I passed it, Pa!

—I been here all the time, he said, thinkin’ about you, knowin’ you was makin’ out all right.

—I was the last one through, she said. I stayed to the very last.

They were both strangely moved.

Esther’s voice was low, sweet, and fast as she and Pa walked down the stair to the lower floor of the Court House.

All that day on the way home and that evening, she felt an unnatural calm as if some great thing had happened to her and passed before she had had time to appraise it.

She had come up from the country in the June weather. A slim and consecrated maiden, she had gone into the place of examination, the masculine place. In the New Court House, she had found again one whom she hadn’t seen for ten years. She had seen his face and had touched his hand, she that was now a mature, comely girl with smooth red lips and budded breasts and jetblack hair.

But she had noticed a sad hunger in his eyes at the coming and going of all the girls in their flowery dresses. She was thinking that perhaps she ought to take more pains with her person, and perhaps adorn herself with some kind of jewel as the other girls did.

At night she stood before her mirror and looked at herself unclothed, at the slender outline of her body in the mirror, the dark shower of hair around her shoulders, her shining black eyes. She was thinking that she might be taking in the eyes of a man if she had an earring, a little globe of brightness just under each ear. Then with her hair bound back she might raise her face to that of Mr. Shawnessy (if she ever saw him again) and the light of his long blue eyes would flow over her face and catch the sophisticated glint of the earrings. Yes, she would have to get her ears pierced for earrings.

She wondered if it would ever be possible in this world that she would one day hold her face up to his and they would look directly into each other’s eyes. It seemed to her that his eyes would look at hers with such a warmth and brightness that she would faint away, being as someone who had emerged from a dark place into a flood of sunlight.

As she lay in the bed, she repeated the long afternoon in the New Court House, the questions that had been asked on the examination, the way the rooms and corridors looked and smelled. She repeated with infinite care the details of her brief conversation with Mr. Shawnessy. Then she thought of how she had come out of the examination room, and how in a sudden fit of wildness she had thrown her arms around Pa, finding him there, and had kissed him, and how his hands and voice trembled.

It seemed to her that she still smelled on her smooth arms the odor of the New Court House, and that she held upon her spirit the whole mass of the building with its terrific ornamental tower. And it was peculiarly right that she had found, in the very quick and core of this stately building in the civic center of Raintree County, the living form of her teacher, Mr. Shawnessy, who had been away from her life for ten years.

Asleep at last, she dreamed of the New Court House. She was wandering through its brown corridors hunting for the room where the examination was to be held, but something was wrong. The New Court House was not as it should be. It appeared that the tower had collapsed, and the wreckage had exposed once more the walls and corridors of the Old Court House, which had been hidden all the time within the New. Vaguely, she remembered the wonderful tower which had risen above the County in some earlier, happier time. She had gone there for a special purpose then. But more timeless, more enduring, musty, dirty,

smelling of tobacco and urine, the old

detested ramparts enclosed


Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.

Preacher Jarvey removed his glasses. He was beginning to breathe hard.

—Brothers and sisters, behold the Serpent! Hit is no ordinary serpent which I am about to describe to you. Hit does not go upon its belly like the common run of snakes. God had not yet cursed it down. This serpent is as big as a man. Hit has the arms and legs of a man. Hit has a long dartin’ head. Hit makes a hissin’ music with its tongue. O, there is somethin’ remarkable familiar and delightful to the eye about this serpent. Hit is a huge, charmin’, and deceitful creature, and here it is lyin’ in wait for the Woman.

The Reverend Lloyd G. Jarvey had undergone a remarkable change. His body was beginning to writhe voluptuously behind the pulpit, his head made rhythmical darts and withdrawals, his eyes glared fixedly.

—When did the Woman first see this damnably beautiful serpent? Maybe it was when she was swimmin’ alone in one of the beautiful rivers or lakes of Paradise, and all of a sudden there it is! Hits green eyes smile at her, hits tongue plays in and out, hit slides through the water beside her. When the Woman touches it with her hand, hits great back shoots up out of sheer pleasure. The Woman is charmed by this talented serpent, and it becomes her constant companion and plaything.

Alas! little does she know what it is. Hit is no ordinary serpent.

And now brothers and sisters of the congregation, we are approachin’ that fateful moment which plunged the world into darkness. For the Woman and the Serpent find themselves one day beneath the Tree. And the fruit is hangin’ low, a-temptin’ the Woman. And the Serpent beguiles her. O, he beguiles her and he seduces her with soft talk about the Tree. Look at it! he says. Hit’s wonderful fruit. Why shouldn’t you eat of it? But the Woman still has some slight stirrin’ of conscience. She is not yet completely seduced and corrupted. The Lord has forbidden it, she says. But let us see what the Book says upon this subject:

And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:

For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was


to the eyes

during the Centennial Summer

were the earrings worn by the young women of Raintree County.

—Esther, Pa said, I absolutely forbid you to git any.

—But why, Pa? All the girls have had their ears pierced.

—I don’t want any daughter of mine gittin’ herself cut up so she can hang gimcracks in her ears.

Pa spoke with an energy unusual even for him, and Esther didn’t pursue the subject further. But inwardly she felt a violent rebellion, such as she had never felt before. She was nineteen and ready to support herself with teaching. She felt that she had a right to be attractive.

On a Saturday two days later, she saddled a horse and rode into town and went to a back room of a jeweler’s shop where the girls got their ears pierced.

While she sat waiting for the operation, panic seized her. For the first time in her life, she was openly rebelling against Pa’s will. None of the other girls had ever dared to do it, and now she, his favorite, dared to do it.

She watched the jeweler, a small uncertain man, fumbling in a drawer for his instruments. The back room was dark and cluttered with bottles and boxes. Esther began to feel that she might have fallen unawares into a nest of iniquity. The silence of the man hunting in the drawer became unbearable.

—I don’t know whether I want my ears pierced after all, she said weakly.

—This will hurt only a little, he said as he bent over her.

His plain, drab face over her shoulder became, she thought, fiendishly intent, his eyes glowed, he seized her ear and touched it with a cold instrument.

At the touch, she began trembling violently, and the courage all drained out of her. She bit her lip to keep from screaming. She shut her eyes. It seemed to her that she had fallen into the hands of a fiend who was about to plunge an infernal weapon into her and rob her of her purity, her religion, perhaps her life.

At the same time, she foresaw Pa, the blackening skin of his face, his terrible anger.

Suddenly and forcibly a hard point of pain pressed against the lobe of her ear. The ravished flesh stung under an implacable assault. Instantly, the pain was unbearable, and she screamed. But already, it was hurting less. She felt unwashably polluted, as the thin, warm stream of her own blood ran down her neck onto the linen cover he had tied there.

A second time the hot pain stabbed her, and again there was the hot flow of the blood. The man dabbed at her ears with a cloth and tied a gut string in each ear to keep the apertures open. She was sobbing uncontrollably with pain and fear.

—There, he said, a little alarmed. It doesn’t hurt now, does it?

Suddenly she stopped crying. She felt that if she didn’t get out of the man’s office she would swoon.

—How much is it? she said nervously.

She gave the man a dollar and, dabbing at her ears with a handkerchief, walked hastily to the street.

—Esther! someone said.

It was Ivy Miller. Esther didn’t know whether she was glad to see Ivy or not. But she stopped and told her what had happened.

—That’s nothing, Ivy said. I’m engaged to be married, and you must be my bridesmaid.

She told how she was going to marry Carl Foster, and she began to run on about the arrangements for the wedding, which was to be in two weeks. One thing that she said came clear to Esther Root, whose ears sang with confused tongues.

—Carl wanted to have John Shawnessy for his best man—you know, Mr. Shawnessy, the famous teacher. But he’s gone off to New York, and won’t be back perhaps ever.

—Mr. Shawnessy has gone to New York? Esther said.

Her ears stopped singing, and she felt cold and quiet.

—Yes, Ivy said. He’s gone clear to New York, to be a great writer or something. I reckon the County ain’t fast enough for him. We’re just small shucks around here to a man like him. He went about a week ago, and there ain’t any certainty he’ll ever be back.

Esther began to untie the horse. She climbed up and said something about having to go on home now because her ears were beginning to hurt. She rode off in the direction of home. She no longer thought of her pierced ears. Her stomach had a queer hot feeling, and her heart was very high in her chest. If he’s gone to New York, she was thinking, then I’ll probably never see him again. We’ll never see him again back here. It seemed to her as if all joy and promise had gone out of Raintree County.

A half-mile from home, she decided to leap the fence and ride the path along the creek. The horse barely cleared the fence, stumbling a little, but she held him up and, tearing a limb from a tree, switched him into a gallop. Along the creekbank, tree branches brushed at her face, but she hardly noticed. Then she was almost torn from the horse by a violent jerk at the left side of her head. She kept her seat, but her left ear burned with pain. A branch had caught in the tied gut and had jerked the earlobe open, so that the flesh hung trembling warm.

When she got home, she went upstairs crying. There was no use trying to conceal the affair from Pa, and somehow or other she didn’t care.

When he learned what had happened, he was angry even beyond what she had expected. He had never spoken to any of the girls as he now spoke to her.

—See what you’ve done, Esther Root! he thundered. I told you not to git your ears pierced! What in the devil has got into you? There must be some young man meetin’ you in secret, like a common whore, and he must have put you up to it!

She had got over crying now and kept her eyes lowered and said nothing. The rest of the family looked on in silent anguish. Even Sarah was abashed by the torrent of passionate language that Pa gave vent to. After a while, however, he shifted his attack to the jeweler.

—What is the name of this goddam butcher of young girls? he said.

Sarah told him who it was.

—He’s done a lot of girls that way, Pa, she said.

—By God, I’ll have his heart’s blood, Pa said.

He fairly burst through the back door. Esther’s mother and several of the children went out and tried to stop him but there was no use.

—I’ll cut the bastard in two for this, he shouted, so help me God, lurin’ young girls up to his place and cuttin’ ’em up! I’ll give ’im a cut with my whip he’ll not soon forgit. I’ll whip that bastard till he hollers for mercy. See that Esther don’t leave the house.

He thundered off in the buggy, leaning far forward in the seat, his face flushed, his black eyes set hard on the road and glittering like obsidian. The whip went crashing over the horse. James and Ransome, the oldest of the boys, both saddled horses and rode after him.

Before the day was over, it was known all over the County how Gideon Root strode into the office of the jeweler and cursed the man by every oath he could lay tongue to and how the jeweler pulled a pistol out of a drawer and threatened to shoot his assailant if he so much as put a finger on him and how James and Ransome Root finally managed to get their father downstairs, and a big crowd gathered, and lawyers and policemen closed in on the thing, and both parties threatened to carry it to the courts. It was one of the big stories in the County papers for weeks.

The upshot of it was that some of the young men who had been thinking of paying court to Esther Root were warned to be careful, her old man was a terrible Turk, and would thrash hell out of them if they tried anything fresh.

—That old bastard is tough as nails, the boys around the Court House said, and would just as soon blow your head off as pick a melon.

As for Esther, little by little, the feeling of shame and mutilation left her. And the ear healed. But the flesh of the left lobe was badly torn and hung loosely with a gash clear through. She never wore earrings in her ears, and she knew now that she would carry to her grave this only blemish

on her body as a reminder of her first

illstarred rebellion


—Her Father is watchin’ her, but He doesn’t attempt to stay her hand. Hit is by her own free will and accord that she does what she does. And the evil and the sin is hers. Hers and the Serpent’s. For now, brothers and sisters, the Woman is about to do it. She is lingerin’ there on the brink of that dreadful act which plunged us all to perdition. She reaches out her hand to take the fruit. She is about to take it. No, she draws back. She fondles the fruit. She is sorely tempted.

Esther had been watching the road. Her eyes still swam with the nooning brightness of the day as she looked back to the Reverend Lloyd G. Jarvey, who was half-rejecting, half-accepting an invisible something on the platform. She closed her eyes and beheld the Woman standing naked under a tree beside a lake. Words came swimming up to her from the picture, alive and blackly writhing like serpents in a place of sunwarmed waters. She could hear voices calling of young men and women by the lake in beautiful, fatherless summertime.

—Down from that tree, all of a sudden the Serpent shoots his hissin’ face and thrusts a big cluster of the fruit upon the tremblin’ hands and lips of the Woman! And his voice is loud in her ears: Eat! Eat! Eat!

Brothers and sisters of the congregation, the fatal hour has



the little advertising booklet had said.

Come to Paradise Lake, situated in the geometrical center of Raintree County. Summer tourists, fishermen, honeymooners, whoever is seeking a happy sojourn in a lovely natural setting will find the realm of their heart’s desire at this little beauty spot, replete with all the charms that Nature can bestow. When the sun is slanting down across the water between gigantic trunks of ancient titans of the forest, and the fish are leaping in the lake, when the songs of amorous couples come wafting through the glades, and the zephyrs of evening fan your relaxed and dewy temples, you will agree that this gardenground of the Universe is indeed, as its name imports, a very Eden. And while there, don’t fail to put up at THE BILTMORE HOTEL, a brandnew edifice, offering the most stylish modern accommodations at reasonable prices.

O, come ye now, and bring your children,

  Bring your wife and sweetheart true,

To the earth’s most lovely garden

  With its treasures just for you.

Come to Paradise, ye tourists,

  And for years thereafter tell

How you spent a week in Heaven

  At the grand Biltmore Hotel.

Though Esther Root had lived in Raintree County all her life, she had never seen the lake until the summer of 1877 when she went to the Raintree County Teachers’ Institute, which was held that year at Paradise Lake for the first time. Her excitement was partly engendered by the folder she had read but mainly by the fact that her two weeks at the lake were to be her first long visit away from home.

It was early afternoon in mid-August that she set out in a buggy with Carl and Ivy Foster from the level acres of her home. It was late afternoon, as the sun sank on the burning horizon, that she approached the secret hills in which the lake was waiting. The earth here was fissured with ravines and strewn with rocks. Elsewhere in the County, the land was level, or gently rolling, sieved with running streams. Here only, remote from any town, the earth had an old scar and a green, smooth water. She was deeply thrilled to think that somewhere in these hills lay a pooled-up essence of the County’s life, a lake.

Come to Paradise Lake, in the very center of Raintree County! What trees grow on the slopes that rim the waters of Paradise Lake! What plants and flowers nod at the water’s edge of Paradise! See how daylight sinks down flaming to the west over the green waters of Lake Paradise in the very center of Raintree County!

The road seemed half-obliterated as they came nearer to the lake. Signs of human habitation disappeared altogether. Now and then there were low places where rushes grew. There was perhaps a sinking of the land now, a moistening and enriching of the earth as it approached the stagnant pit of Lake Paradise. The air was perceptibly cooler. Any moment they might come around the hump of a hill or through a fringe of dark woods and see the lake.

Then they went down a succession of sloping hills, and at last below her in the spent day Esther saw the lake itself. It was a small lake, not more than a quarter of a mile across, and yet Esther had never before seen so much water all at once. Almost to the road, arms of the lake extended, green and scummy, choked with rushes. Beyond fringes of trees, she saw smooth waters. Frogs piped greenly in the shallows.

A single rowboat stood motionless in the very center of the lake; a single fisherman sat in the boat, line in water.

On the south shore where the road ended was a white wooden building with many windows fronting the lake—the Biltmore Hotel. There were a few cottages near it, but at least two-thirds of the lake shore was a dense tangle of bushes and trees.

On a hill overlooking the water’s edge were the tents of the Teachers’ Institute, clustered around a large building with open sides. A sign said:


A pier extended shakily on waterrotten piles into the lake. On and around this pier were a dozen cavorting figures of young men in bathing suits, plunging and splashing in the shallow water by the shore. Soaked heads stuck from the water farther out and moved slowly to handsplashings.

When the buggy stopped by the pier, people crowded around to greet the newcomers. Several young women came down from the tents of the Teachers’ Institute, and several of the men came up from the lake. Esther turned her face aside at the sight of dripping mustaches and bony feet. She was both shocked and excited with this glimpse of a new world. Everyone called her Esther, and several hands were laid upon her modest luggage. The air was loud with harsh voices of young men and shrill, yolky laughter of girls. Esther stepped down from the buggy.

It was evening on the lake; waterbirds were flying flat on the waveless surface. Shoulderdeep at the end of the pier, slowly from the lake emerging, a man came. The slant red rays of the sun were on his head and shoulders as he stood up streaming. His big mustache was dripping, and his hair stuck lankly to his forehead. His face had a remote, sad look as if while swimming he had been thinking of something else besides the swimming. As he came closer to the shore, his body was clearly defined in the soaked bathing suit; he was lean with wide shoulders, narrow hips and slender, longmuscled legs made for swiftness. The skin of his arms and legs and of his chest at the neck was white and firm. There was a scar on the top of his left shoulder.

She had known immediately that it was Mr. Shawnessy. She had thought him hundreds of miles from Raintree County and was so amazed to see him here that she could hardly make coherent replies to the bantering talk that went on around the buggy.

O, come to Lake Paradise, ye virgins, and watch from the shy reeds. The young men bathe along the shore, plunge their hard bodies out of sight, emerge with streaming hair. The lifegiving waters are odorous with the flesh of fish and trees rotten with rains. And the virgins lie at night haunted by memories of the nature gods halfnaked, swift runners with sad eyes. . . .

The first night at the lake was as long as any week of Esther’s life before. When at last she was lying in bed, she could not sleep for thinking of how the sun went down on the lake, how the young people clustered about and sang and joked and yelled, how they all ate together in the Biltmore Hotel in a room especially reserved for them during their two weeks at the lake, how Mr. Shawnessy came in to dinner, dressed in a light summer suit, his hair all carefully brushed, and sat down somewhat to himself, and how late in the evening when they were going to bed, Ivy Foster told her about the sudden loss he had suffered that had brought him back unexpectedly from New York.

—It was Carl and I, Ivy said, persuaded him to come to the Institute. He’s going to teach some of the classes. We thought it might take his mind off his grief. I think we all ought to go out of our way to make him happy, get him to join in the fun and all.

When Esther went to sleep the first night, she was pondering how she might go out of her way to make Mr. Shawnessy happy.

On the following morning, Esther found that Mr. Shawnessy was teaching two classes at the Institute—Natural History and the English Poets. She signed up for both and found them attended by nearly all the teachers at the Institute. Mr. Shawnessy was widely known at that time as the best teacher in Raintree County. Besides that, all the unattached young women were in love with him. They chattered endlessly about his blue eyes, his boyish, lanky look, his pleasant grin, his sense of humor, his sadness, his marital status, the smouldering passion of which they fancied him capable. They reported variant stories of the famous tragedy that people said had wrecked his life during the War. The second day, a girl swooned in his class, and everyone said it was from excitement over a compliment Mr. Shawnessy paid her, though the girl herself claimed it was because she was laced in too tight. Esther never joined in this talk, but she slaved at her work and tried to outdo everyone in the Natural History and Poetry classes, working so hard at them that her performance suffered in the other classes.

The Natural History course was conducted informally as a Nature class, and the students spent much of the time outdoors in biological excursions, learning the names of plants and insects and the principles of their growth. Often the class was continued unofficially in the evenings as the students sat on the front porch of the Biltmore Hotel or on the lawn slanting down to the lake. Many and spirited were the controversies over the origin of life, the doctrine of evolution, the descent of man, the story of Adam and Eve.

In these discussions, Esther entered fully into a world she had halfglimpsed years ago. She acquired a new vision of the earth on which she lived and so of Raintree County. This new Raintree County was a microcosm of the eternal dream of life, a mystical symbol of the human soul invested with the changing, perishable flesh. She learned how the land here had been formed in ages inexpressibly remote when the earth cooled and contracted from a flaming sphere of gas, and how the waters at length withdrew, and how aeons passed with bucklings and crackings of the earth’s surface, and how oceans had lain at one time over this place, and how ice formations had advanced from the north in successive conquests, until the last recession left the rough contours of what was now Raintree County moist and dripping in the great mild age that was to bring the human race to flower. She learned how during this endless process of the alteration of the earth, life had sprung up in a place of waters, and living forms had begun to people the waters, and at last the land had swarmed with life. Here too in Raintree County, stuff of the earth had felt anguish and festered into form. During remote ages archaic monsters had moved in the forests and plains of what was some day to become the County, huge reptiles had swum in lake and river, vast carboniferous forests had swayed their succulent stalks above the earth and silted down their big yellow spores into the swamp of life. And then by dryings and coolings and coverings and depositings, the earth had become firm here, the waters had shortened and shrunk, and now there were only the softened outlines of the scars of old convulsions, there were the rivers, there was the lake in the center of the County, there were the few hills and the lonely boulders and the pebbly silt, relinquished burden of the last glacier.

And then man had come to Raintree County, a form already formed, an impulse already impelled from the remote source of humanity, the Asian womb. He had come and had brought consciousness, memory, conscience, language. One day human eyes had looked on the lake and on the river that fed the lake, and this earth became for the first time, in some sense, Raintree County—the place of names.

She learned then of the history of man on this earth, of man the wanderer, the homeless one. She learned of the races of pre-Columbian man, the peoples who became the Indian peoples, mysterious races, how they had left their traces on the earth of the County, mounds beside the river, and shards of implements, old battlefields where young men fought for the preservation of now forgotten cultures.

And she learned how the white man had come here and only fifty years before had drawn for the first time on the ageless earth the four lines that bounded Raintree County. She learned the theory of how the County had received its name, the legend of the fabulous preacher, Johnny Appleseed, who had planted a tree from seed brought overseas a devious way. She was flung into speculations about this mysterious tree that no one had ever positively seen. She learned of the coming of the settlers, and the naming of Freehaven in the liberal, confident spirit of the eighteen-twenties, when Robert Owen’s New Moral World had been established at New Harmony on the Wabash. Then there had been the schools, the teachers and the books, politics, the controversies over the fate of the Republic, there had been the churches and the homes, the farms, the fences and the roads.

And at last Raintree County was Raintree County, its way of life had been fixed—as if forever—and those who had emerged upon its breast and wore its clothing and spoke its speech felt that they had been born into an eternal way of life.

Then Esther Root, whose descent was the descent of man, had been born upon this earth.

Esther felt that she was in the presence of a mystical secret. Mr. Shawnessy was the poet, the priest, the prophet—perhaps the god—of this holy feeling. All the words he said were eloquent with the language of it, and even when he was drawling along in the late afternoon classes, in his amiable and sometimes slightly bored fashion, she felt that what he said was wondrous because he said it. He was the final embodiment of the magical fact of life in Raintree County, he who had emerged for her with lank hair streaming from the waters of the lake at evening when first she had come down the hills to the little ancient pool of Paradise. The feeling she had toward him was so strong—and, for her, new—that she hadn’t even given it a name like love. It was an ecstasy of adoration in which she was lost.

And indeed she was like one lost out of time and almost out of space during her days at Paradise Lake. She seemed to discover herself for the first time by an immense loss of herself in which she found all human life and history and all meanings near and far. The lifeplace in the center of Raintree County had taken its inarticulate child and had breathed all of its great secret into her, had filled her with its holy mystery.

What was this mystery? What was this life? She could only say that life was the lake and the faintly luminous forms in its green depths. Life was the seed and the burst bloom and the withering flower. Life was also the words, the names, the poems that man, the wanderer, had brought to Raintree County.

Every word that Mr. Shawnessy spoke, every book in which she read during those fleeting days at the Teachers’ Institute at Paradise Lake were graven upon her memory with a stylus of flame. Nature, Humanity, Liberty, Poetry, Passion, Love, these became meaningful concepts to her and summarized eternal images of life on the earth.

Come, o, come to Paradise Lake in Raintree County. There you will see Humanity in the guise of a lanky man of thirty-eight, clad in a wrinkled summer suit, his mustaches are long and roughly trimmed, his skyblue eyes are sad, he recites Byron to the solitary glades, he rows the young girls out across the lake at evening, and they wish he might express to them the Great Passion of which he is capable. Come to Raintree County, and behold primal forms of man and woman against a background of quiet woods and the long upland fields where clover fragrance floats upon the wind of summer. Here is Passion become serene, as among the most tranquil gods, here is life’s purpose made clear, here are Truth, Virtue, Poetry, and Love—Love exalted and purified above all carnal contact.

After a few days, Esther began to have a strong desire to cross the lake to the other side and explore the marshy ground around the region where the Upper Shawmucky emptied. Mr. Shawnessy and others had spoken of the perils of this place and had warned the women not to attempt to find their way through it. But all week there had been a contest on to see who could find the greatest variety of tree leaves for the nature notebooks, and Esther had made up her mind to plunge into the steaming world of the lake’s northern shore where perhaps she would be able to find for Mr. Shawnessy rare leaves that no one else had found. She even played with the thought that she might by persistence and strength find the Golden Raintree in this wild region where the river joined the lake. Mr. Shawnessy had shown them pictures of the raintrees of New Harmony, Indiana, and she was certain that she could identify the leaf. A little after noon, then, on a cloudless day, she took one of the boats from its anchorage and rowed alone across the lake while the other students were relaxing from the heat in the shade of the Revival Tabernacle.

Before she had reached the center, she was half blinded by the brilliant reflections that leapt from the sheeted lake. In her white dress and swaybrimmed bonnet, she felt herself a great flower floating on the water. She saw now that the hotel and the buildings and tents around it were only a random collection on a small part of the shore and that all the rest of Paradise Lake was primitive, green, savage. She saw the low hills sloping to the water’s edge on one side, the marshes and reeds where water birds flapped and cried, and at either end the inlet and outlet rivers, the Upper and Lower Shawmucky, flowing torpidly through shallows choked with rushes and the green paving of the lily pads. And then she thought of the great age of the lake and of the things that grew within and around it, and it seemed to her that it was a living pit, the soft navel-scar left by some old birth of long ago.

Come, o, come to Lake Paradise, the oldest scar upon the earth of Raintree County. See how the soft green hair of life blurs the old scar that is in the very center of Raintree County! . . .

She had a hard time finding a place on the opposite shore where she could run the boat in easily, but she finally tied the boat up to a tree branch and climbed ashore. The hotel looked impossibly small on the far side of the lake. She began to push eastward, finding herself immediately involved with nettles, rushes, berry bushes. But she was not at all afraid. From the moment she set her foot on this side of the lake, she had felt a wild excitement as if she were about to discover something hidden to everyone else. She was a strong walker and had often boasted that she never tired out, and she didn’t intend now to turn back.

All along this side of the lake, the ground was lower. It seemed to her that the leaves were greater, greener, thicker. She found several new plants and placed leaf, bloom, and bits of stalk in a little wooden box with a hooked lid, which she carried for her specimens. She saw big butterflies, amazing dragonflies, and again and again turtles and frogs that slipped from bank to water as she approached. Her luck with leaves was so great that she began to dream of herself as the discoverer of the Raintree, which she pictured as an incredible trunk whose fanshaped burst of foliage towered in isolation above the other trees.

Come, o, come to Raintree County and to the central gardenground thereof, where hills slope circularly to form the ancient scar. Here was an old uprooting. Here grew perhaps the Tree that flowered above the garden in ancient days. O, little transplant from the Asian homeland and heartland of the race! O, Biblical tree! O, mysterious seedling, lost and only vaguely remembered!

She pushed on toward the eastern end of the lake, finding her way ever more difficult. She was obliged to make wide detours to avoid swampy places and thickets; and as she tried to make her way back toward the lake, the water had somehow passed beyond the seeming shoreline and deep into the region where she was hunting. She finally took off her shoes and stockings, and holding up her dress, she waded on, feeling more and more determined to reach the place where the river emptied into the lake. She began to lose her bearings. Great waterbirds sprang shrieking into flight, the sunlight poured a furious brightness into open pools, frogs slithered away in troops of hundreds, green bugs buzzed by her, blind as bullets. She began to be afraid. She had come too far. She didn’t know where she was. Her white dress was stained with the green blood of life, her bonnet was being continually knocked off her head, her feet were stung and bruised by stones and stalks. O dear, she thought, I’ll have to go back. I’ll have to give up. But then she saw not a hundred yards farther on, across bunches of horseweeds and rushes, a clump of trees, cleanroofed and stately as if rising from an island of firm ground.

Halfway there, she began to fear for her life. There was something sinister about this place. Savage and endless variety of forms, each form endlessly and savagely repeated, smote her with the frail uniqueness of her own form. A slender, sallowskinned girl with black hair, she felt foolish, lost, helpless in her white dress and bonnet, but she clutched her shoes and stockings and her specimen box and pushed on.

Then it was that she stepped on the snake, a long lewd fellow, writhing under her very feet and slithering away in the water with a gay fury. She had touched this green and yellow monster with her naked foot, and here she was now helpless in his domain, in the very sink and center of it. She began to run blindly through the water toward the high ground where the trees were.

Just then she saw something that shocked her almost as much as the snake had. It was a man sitting on a wide, flat rock beneath the trees.

Involuntarily, she called his name in a voice mingling surprise and relief.

—Mr. Shawnessy!

He turned and watched her, as, feeling very faint and foolish, she stood motionless, wishing she were miles away.

—Come on up here, child, he said. What in the world are you doing in this swamp, Esther?

It was the first time that week he had called her by her first name. She came up obediently and laid her belongings on the rock.

—I was hunting specimens, she said.

He shook his head and laughed.

—Have you found any?

—Some, she said.

—Well, you can add me to the collection.

He smiled, but Esther had always been of a humorless turn of mind like her Pa and made literal interpretations. She blushed violently and tried to think what Mr. Shawnessy might mean.

—How in the world did you get through the swamp there? What way did you come?

She told him, and again he shook his head and laughed.

—There’s a path, he said, that you might have followed to this point. It curves wide around and comes out on the north shore about where you tied your boat. We can go back that way. My boat is tied along there too. Well, I suppose you’re wondering what I’m doing here.

Strangely, she had not wondered, having immediately accepted his presence on the wild side of the lake as inevitable and right.

—No, Mr. Shawnessy.

—Why don’t you call me by my first name? After all, we’re fellow teachers now. People call me John.

—O, no, Mr. Shawnessy, she said. No, I wouldn’t want to do that.

She knew that she could never under any circumstances call him by his first name.

—As you wish, he said, a little sadly. I forget how young you are.

—Not so young either, she hastened to say.

He looked at the surrounding tangle of grass, reeds, swamptrees, padded pools, mucky places, lost arms of river and lake, mudbars, thickets, flowers, weeds, all bathed in light and heat and stridulous with sound.

—A good place to get lost in, he said, and never found again.

—You seem to know your way.

—This isn’t the first time I’ve been here, but I don’t know my way. Few people have ever been through this place. It’s a strange earth here. From here on to the river, it’s even worse than where you were.

—You’ve been there?

—Once—long ago. I never came back until I came back today hunting for someone.

—Someone? she said, surprised.

—Yes, he said. A boy. A boy twenty years old, a joyous youth. He swam over here eighteen years ago and found his way into this region and never came out again.

He looked at her curiously to see what she was thinking. Later when she repeated this conversation over and over in her mind, she was amazed at what he had said. Now, in the savage light and beauty of the place, as they sat together on the rock, she with her bare feet chastely drawn up under her dress, she was curious to know his meaning but not shocked.

—He’s lost here somewhere, this boy, Mr. Shawnessy went on in a low, pleasant voice that she thought was thrillingly sad and sweet. He’s still here, I suppose, wandering around trying to find his way out. He was a very remarkable boy, you know—perhaps the Hero of the County. Do you know why?

She kept her face turned up to his and shook her head.

—Because, if I’m not mistaken, he’s almost the only person who has seen the Raintree.

—O! she said. You think it’s here then?

—I think it was here, he said. I think the boy found it but didn’t know it at the time.

—Why not?

—He had drunk too much cider. He had swum too far. He was occupied with other things. Only later did he realize that he had seen the Raintree. It was then a slender tree with a rooty base, and it dropped its pollen on the boy’s naked arms and shoulders and into his hair, for that was the season of its blooming.

—But if it was here then, it’s still here.

—Maybe so, he said. But of course, everything changes here. Islands of solid earth dissolve, trees are rotted out and crowded away by others.

—Did—did he find it on firm ground?

—I think he found it on a little island of firm ground closer to the river. There were two stones for markers at the base with rude letters chipped on them—perhaps the initials of the man who planted the tree.

—This boy, she said, watching him intently, he came back?

He shrugged his shoulders again and smiled in a way that showed sadness rather than joy, and then he turned and looked at her a moment as if studying her face.

—I’ll tell you about this boy, he said, if you won’t think it foolish.

—I’d love to hear.

—I’d tell you his name if I could, but in fact he had no name. He left his name on the cultivated side of the lake. It was a hot, bright afternoon like this. He was a good swimmer, and he entered the water somewhere on the southern rim of the lake and began to swim across. This was in a time when few people came to the lake and there were no buildings around it. He swam for a while and landed here, but he found that there was no definable shore here where the Shawmucky flows into the lake. There was someone with him. A girl.

He turned and looked at her, and there seemed to be a gentle question in his eyes. He waited.

—Go on, Mr. Shawnessy, she said. What did he do?

—He didn’t know precisely what he was doing, but at the time this youth believed that he had found the source and secret of all life, beauty, and desire. He thought that he had found all wisdom and had become superior to good and evil. He thought that he was about to pluck the fruit of the tree of everlasting life. Do you understand?

—Maybe, she said.

—He was perhaps a beautiful young man—beautiful because he was young—his hair was thick and tawny and caught the sunlight, he was like a young god, and he had the living present in his hands. The girl was naked like himself and very beautiful. These two slept and awakened beneath a tree. They lay for an incalculable time between the two stones. They ate of a forbidden fruit.

He waited for a while.

—Yes? she said.

Her voice trembled a little, and she felt that for some foolish reason she was going to cry.

—That was when the boy was lost, he said. He never came back. He was nameless anyway, and it didn’t matter if he was lost. But in the evening, a young man who had a name swam back across the lake with a girl and put on clothes and with them shame and a sense of guilt.

She felt a great anguish, because of the thrilling sadness of Mr. Shawnessy’s voice. She understood that he was referring to something in his own life that had happened long ago and had changed everything for him.

—But it was long ago, she said. And it’s all right now, isn’t it?

—Nearly twenty years ago, he said. I wonder if the tree the boy found is still there.

—Let’s go and see, she said.

He looked at her curiously again, and she turned her face away because it seemed to her that she simply couldn’t bear to let him see her eyes. After all this was her teacher, Mr. Shawnessy, whose wisdom and passion were greater than anything else in Raintree County.

—We’d better not, he said. It’s a perilous business, and we’re not dressed for it. Besides, I don’t know that it would do any good to find it. It’s funny, but I’ve made a myth out of that tree, and I don’t want to destroy the myth. Somehow, that tree embodies the secret of life, the riddle of Raintree County, and yet I know it’s not the physical tree itself that embodies it, and I don’t want to disillusion myself. If I found the tree, I should remind myself that in the principle of its growth it’s no more nor less miraculous than any other tree—and all trees are miraculous. I should see that the two stones were like all the other deposits of the glacier—having mass and form, and that the initials on the stones were just chipped letters, no more nor less remarkable than any of the billions of letters that mankind has strewn upon the earth. No, the tree is not the secret, but is itself, like the letters chipped on the stones, part of the secret only. There are secret places in the earth. Every county in America has its secret place and every American life its Delphic cave.

Esther sat very quiet now in the still, bright air, wishing that this time would never change. She felt certain that Mr. Shawnessy had just confided something to her that no one else knew.

—You’ve always lived in the County, haven’t you, Esther?

—Yes, my father’s father was one of the first settlers in the County. And then you know, they used to say that there was Indian blood in our family, but I don’t think it’s true.

—You don’t say! Mr. Shawnessy said.

He studied her face.

—It might very well be, he said.

—I don’t know why I told you, she exclaimed, shocked at herself. It probably isn’t so. I was always ashamed of it. I don’t know what got into me to tell you.

—You should be proud of it, he said. Perhaps that’s the unique quality of your beauty.

—My beauty! she said, surprised. O, Mr. Shawnessy, I never thought—— O, pshaw, you don’t really think I’m pretty! Why, I never——

—Pretty! Why, my dear child, he said, of course you’re pretty. Didn’t you know that?

Esther had known that she was prettier than most girls, but she had never supposed that Mr. Shawnessy would notice it. It was not a usual type of prettiness, what with her sallow skin, her high cheekbones, her dark round, haunting eyes, and her austere, almost stern expression.

—Why, yes, he said, speaking with surprising energy. You’re very beautiful. I always thought so. I should think many a young man would have told you that.

—I’ve not been courted much, she said. Pa doesn’t favor it.

They talked for a long time, and after a while they took the long path around, leaving the solitude of the wild side. Esther had put her shoes and stockings back on and had brushed off her dress. But she was still dizzy from the strange things that had happened to her across the lake. She kept thinking of the young man who had been lost there beneath the Raintree and had never come back. She knew who this young man was, he was just her own age, twenty years old, and to be pursued by this young man and to lie with him unclothed beneath the Raintree would be to . . .

Come to Lake Paradise, o, wandering one, come in the summertime and cross the lake to the wild side. Here you will lose the name and garments that you had in Raintree County. Come and seek the place where, amorous and young beneath the tree, the young god waited for you. For you, a long time there he waited, and only you can find him and restore him to himself. O, little wanderer from a dark earth, o, little vesselbearer from the Asiatic heartland and homeland of the race!

After their afternoon together on the wild side of the lake, Mr. Shawnessy was often in Esther’s company. He went walking with her and sometimes boating with her. He sought out any party of young people which included her. He seemed to like to talk with her, though he didn’t speak again of the daring young man who had been lost on the wild side of the lake, nor did either of them say anything about their afternoon there. He spoke, however, of many things—old days in Raintree County and his experiences in the Civil War. He now always called Esther by her first name, and she of course continued to call him Mr. Shawnessy. Gradually he seemed to recover from the remoteness and gloom of his first days at the Institute, and some of the sadness went out of his handsome eyes. He smiled and joked more frequently.

There were hours of fun at Paradise Lake such as Esther had never known in the world of Pa, who had little laughter and lightness in him. Esther herself didn’t often participate in the funmaking, being by nature stoical and humorless, but she was excited by it and by the part which little by little Mr. Shawnessy took in it.

Some of the best sport was the swimming. The girls wore yards of frilled stuff designed to conceal the shape of their bodies. The lake and the surrounding hills echoed squeals and screams as the young men and women frolicked in the water, splashing and ducking each other. Mr. Shawnessy avoided the more boisterous fun and undertook to show Esther how to swim. She learned to make patient, rhythmical gestures with her arms under the water, pointing her hands as if in prayer and stroking out from her breast like the figure-head of a ship cleaving the water. But her bathing costume was so heavy that these motions never served to keep her afloat, and she went down beneath the water again and again, still stroking stoically as Mr. Shawnessy had shown her. Each time, he would reach down and pull her out.

—Esther, my word, child, you’ll drown! You don’t have to go on doing it after you sink.

—I was doing it all right, wasn’t I?

—Perfectly, he said. Only you always sink. If it weren’t for your suit, you could swim.

He blushed.

—After all, he said, a fish couldn’t swim dressed like that.

One night, the girls went to a remote part of the lake in boats and took off their clothes and bathed and soaped themselves. While they were giggling and dipping their pale forms in the water, they heard a shout from across the lake and a lantern flashed. Some men were rowing in a boat toward them. The lantern palely illumined the white bodies of the young women beside the lake, and they all screamed shrilly and put their hands over their breasts and the dark mound hair.

There was a loud chorus of song, a confused shouting of male voices, the boat drifted slowly farther out on the lake, and the girls spoke in loud voices indignantly as they dried themselves and dressed.

The next day there was much speculation as to what men had made up the party.

—From what I hear, John Shawnessy got the whole thing up, Carl Foster said, winking.

—Mr. Shawnessy is too much of a gentleman to do any such thing, Ivy said. It sounds like some of your doing, Carl Foster!

—The boat was loaded exclusively with married men, someone said.

—More’s the pity, Ivy said. Why waste such a sight on married men!

—Give me a boatload of lusty bachelors any day, said another lady, slightly past forty and of redundant outline.

—The whole thing was the doing of John Shawnessy, Carl Foster said. That’s what I heard.

—What about it, Mr. Shawnessy? several girls said.

—I know nothing of all this, Mr. Shawnessy said. I do, however, recollect rowing out on the lake for a quiet pipe yestereve with a party of kindred spirits, when chancing to put our boat in close to a sequestered arm of the lake, behold! we saw what seemed to be mermaids bathing in the water. More lovely were they than mortal maidens, and like Ulysses we were hard put to keep from beaching our boat there, but as luck would have it, an illomened breeze sprang up and bore us away. Can any rede me this riddle?

The affair was a subject for mirth days afterward, but as for Esther, she was wondering if Mr. Shawnessy had really been in the boat, and if his long blue eyes had been able to spy directly out her own naked form through the lanternlit darkness.

Come to Lake Paradise, ye nymphs. Ungarb and stand beside the lake, brownlimbed, with dark hair down. Plunge deep and cleave the glaucous depths and watch the frogs go by with long legs trailing. On the floor of Lake Paradise, the waterweeds are a dense mat. Be a white form fishlike in the vitreous waters while the god is watching from the glades.

So the days passed at Lake Paradise in the deep of that mythical summer in which Esther Root first left her father’s home. It might have been ages since the evening when she had come down the sloping hills to the lake. So precious was this new existence to her that she had ceased to count the time, for she didn’t wish to remind herself that only a few days remained of the Teachers’ Institute. Nor did she seek to analyze her association with Mr. Shawnessy. She was teased by the other girls because of his obvious preference for her company, but she didn’t dare to imagine what his kindness toward her meant. Perhaps in his mood of bereavement he preferred her stern simplicity to the lighthearted frivolities of the others. She lived lost in the wholeness of the experience and waited for time to tell her what to do.

All week, plans had been in the making for a big picnic which was to be held far up the river at the site of the Indian mounds, whence the picnickers were to row down to the lake. The whole affair had been planned as a climax to the first week’s activities. For two or three days the girls talked of it continually among themselves at night. When the great day arrived, the weather was clear and fine. Already most of the young people had paired off.

At breakfast in the hotel, someone asked Mr. Shawnessy if he intended to go along.

—Why, no, he said. I guess that’s just for the young people and the lovers.

He smiled, but not with his eyes. At the morning class, his voice was very gentle and remote, and it was only by a severe effort that he kept his attention on the wavering responses of the students. Esther didn’t know when she had felt so much pity and love for anyone. She wanted to tell him that she, Esther Root, would be pleased to have him go along on the boating excursion and that to her he was as young as anyone there, no older than a boy of twenty who in some legendary summer had swum boldly across the lake and lain beneath the tree of life. The more she thought about the situation, the more upset she became, until she was annoyed by the excitement and laughter of the other students as they prepared for the picnic. She turned down two invitations from older men who wanted to escort her on the ride back. Just before they were all ready to leave, Carl and Ivy Foster came around for her. They were talking about Mr. Shawnessy.

—Maybe we could persuade him to go now, Ivy said.

—No use, Carl said. He just hasn’t got over his sorrow. You can’t get him now anyway. He left the camp a little after the class, and I don’t know where he went. He hasn’t been back since. John Shawnessy’s a queer cuss in a lot of ways. He told me he was going out for a walk and not to worry about him. I asked him where he was going. I’m going to try to find someone, he said. Someone to love. We have to replace the old loves, Carl, don’t you think? He was smiling and yet I never saw a man in tears look as sad as he did smiling.

When they were all getting into the buggies, Esther said to Ivy,

—I’m not going.

—Why not, honey? Come along.

Esther, who was no good at subterfuge and never lied about matters of fact, merely said,

—I can’t tell you why. I’m just not going.

Carl and Ivy soon gave up trying to persuade her, and the party went off without her.

It was then about two o’clock in the afternoon. Esther ran back to the empty tents. She was wearing her white dress again, newly washed and ironed since the day she had stained it on the far side of the lake. She carefully washed her face and tied up her hair. Then she studied her face in the mirror. It was a slender face with smooth red lips, large liquid-brown eyes, high cheekbones. It had two spots of heatflush just under the eyes, and there was a burning excitement in the eyes. Then she went down to the lake, and taking a boat which didn’t even belong to the Institute—all that did had been taken up the river the day before—she began to row across the lake.

Her stomach was all weak, and she was faint and dizzy. She had eaten little breakfast and no dinner at all. In what seemed an absurdly brief time, she had run the boat against the bank on the far side of the lake. When she climbed out, she was panting and the palms of her hands were red and hot from gripping the oars. She now set off on the wide path that skirted the swamps leading to the little neck of firm ground where she had met Mr. Shawnessy a few days before. She hoped that she would be able to follow the path, but as she went over it in the opposite direction, all was changed. Indeed the whole northern side of the lake seemed different. There was a kind of white soft mist in the air; leaves and grass had a vapory look. It was certainly the hottest day they had had yet, and her handkerchief was soon drenched with wiping her forehead. In a few minutes, she had quite lost her way and began to go on as best she could, pushing through the thickets and wading through low ground in the general direction of her goal.

All the time she kept telling herself that she was foolish and bad to do the thing that she was doing. Nevertheless, she kept on going and looking all the while for the trees. At last she felt sure that she had overshot them, for she was wandering and floundering in a wide marsh of swampgrass and reeds, and began to think that she would have to turn back. She took off her shoes and stockings and stood for a moment looking about her. She was panting, her hair had come down, and her slight body was drenched with sweat. Her heart knocked at the top of her chest. She thought she might faint out here in the cruel sunlight: the bubbly substance of the swamp would close over her, and she would be like a flower destroyed before it could bear its seed. Once again, she saw the insouciant gaiety and swiftness of the water-creatures. A snake swam in a pool not far away. The shining green-shouldered frogs were everywhere. Noon, splendid, uncaring, blazed and buzzed around her.

She decided to go on. For perhaps half an hour she wandered completely lost. She didn’t know what trees she passed, what stones she stumbled over, but at last she saw the familiar headland and the boulder—only she was approaching it from the other direction. There was no one there. She had a great sinking of heart. She began to run on the firm ground toward the boulder. When she reached it, she stopped and put her shoes and stockings down. She had heard steps coming along the path.

Instantly Mr. Shawnessy appeared. She had beaten him to the rock.

She stood, watching him, her lips parted, unable to take her eyes away from him. He walked swiftly up the path, watching her all the time, and when he reached her, he put one arm out as if to steady her, for in fact she was swaying like a great flower bending on its stalk. She put her arms up over his arms, knocking his coat to the ground, and she clung to him so tight that she nearly pulled him off balance. His face was very close to hers. Then she was touching her face against his face. She felt his mustache on her cheek and against her neck as she held to him, shutting her eyes to the unendurable sunlight. Her body seemed to tip backward and sway as if her head had become too heavy for the rest of her.

Come to Lake Paradise, in the very center of Raintree County, o, come, come, come to—o, come to Lake Paradise in the very lifegiving warmth and brightness of—o, come, come, come to——

Esther couldn’t talk, and he put her down on the rock where she sat, still clinging to him.

—I had no idea, child, that you felt this way, he said.

—O, yes, she said, I’ve always loved you, ever since I was a little girl. There was always only one man for me.

He began to tell her something about his marital situation. She nodded her head, but just then this information didn’t seem important to her. He went on explaining something to her with great care, and she kept nodding her head, and still holding to him. She kept shutting her eyes and then opening them hastily as if she were afraid to find that all her happiness was a mirage. Finally, he said,

—Well, what about it, Esther? Do you want me, knowing all that?

—O, yes, Mr. Shawnessy, she said.

He smiled and said,

—Don’t you think you could call me by my first name now?

—I’ll think of something, she said.

She didn’t want to leave the wild side of the lake and return to Raintree County, but about four o’clock Mr. Shawnessy said they must be back before the picnickers.

—We’ll have to be careful, he said. We mustn’t tell anyone, of course, until I have a chance to work this out and find a way to make it all right.

It was hard to be careful, though, during the next few days. The rest of the people at Paradise Lake had become as though they didn’t exist for her. She smiled at them, listened to them, even sometimes said something, but she wasn’t sure afterward what she had said and whether it made any sense at all. In a single hour, the real world had been enormously contracted and by the same token enormously expanded. There were only Mr. Shawnessy, herself, and the lake, and the hours that they spent together. All other hours were a vague dream of waiting to be alone with him. And if some afternoon the mythical youth had suddenly disclosed himself to her, she knew that she would become his companion in ecstasy beneath the Raintree. But he remained lost and didn’t appear, and neither of the two lovers ever referred to him.

—Esther, Ivy Foster said to her sharply one day while they were dressing and no one else was around, what’s happened to you?

—I don’t know, Ivy, Esther said, smiling tranquilly. Why, what do you think has happened?

—I think you’re in love, Ivy said. You silly little fool, you are in love!

—Well, Esther said. Yes, that’s it. I’m in love.

—You’re in love with Mr. Shawnessy, you crazy little thing!

—Yes, Esther said, smiling a sweet smile of resignation and candor. Yes, I am.

—Is he in love with you?


—Don’t you know, Ivy Foster said, her eyes brilliant at the pleasure of having discovered a real passion and a shocking one at that, don’t you know that he was married and has a wife and——

—Yes. Yes, I know. It doesn’t make any difference. I always did love him.

—We mustn’t tell anyone, Ivy said. Maybe it can be arranged. Maybe the woman will die, or something.

—Maybe so, Esther said.

She was hoping that the woman would die. It seemed the only decent and honorable thing that the woman could do. Surely if the woman knew the great love that was between Esther Root and Mr. Shawnessy, she would understand the importance of gracefully dying and permitting that great love to have its course.

—What about your Pa? Ivy said.

At this, Esther came suddenly to her senses. Here was the thing that she had been hiding from herself. Here at Lake Paradise, she had denied that other world.

—I don’t know, she said. I dasn’t tell him.

—He’ll hear, Ivy said.

—He mustn’t, Esther said. We must hide it.

—You aren’t hiding anything, Ivy said. Anyone can tell you’re sappy about Mr. Shawnessy. Everyone’s talking about it.

Next day, a mature maiden lady who had spent a good deal of time thrusting a bounteous bosom under Mr. Shawnessy’s perceptive nose during the earlier days of the Institute, took Esther aside and said in an ardently friendly way,

—Esther Root, I’m goin’ to tell you something for your own good, because I’m your friend and a friend of your family. Everyone knows the goings on between you and Mr. Shawnessy. Now, you’re headin’ for trouble, dear. It’s nothing to me person’ly, but I take a personal interest because of your family and all, and I know how your pa would take it, just to mention one. You must know that John Shawnessy is not a free man, dear, and his reputation isn’t anything to shout about. Besides, child, he’s twice your age, even if he doesn’t look it. Now, I say all this in the warmest spirit of personal friendship, and I’m a little older than you myself, dear, and take this sisterly interest in your welfare, out of my personal friendship for you and your family. What I say is you’d better not have anything more to do with him. That’s just my personal advice to you, and you can do what you want with it.

Esther didn’t feel anger or any other very definite feeling except foreboding and sadness. She thanked the lady and said it was kind of her to say tactfully and honestly what she thought about things.

That afternoon she and Mr. Shawnessy went walking as usual.

The night before the Institute was going to end, there was a big dance in the dining room of the Biltmore Hotel. Esther danced all the dances with Mr. Shawnessy. It was a hot, hushed night on the lake. Parties of young people came out from Freehaven, and there was a tumult of buggies coming and going in the darkness. A sound of singing came from across the water, and someone said that some of the young men at the dance were drunk.

Around ten o’clock, while she was dancing with Mr. Shawnessy, she looked up and saw Pa standing at the door of the hotel. He had his riding whip in his hand, and his big face was stern.

Then she knew that she had sinned a sin so blissful that the penalty must be proportionately severe. She kept her eyes on the floor while Pa walked across the room in his great boots.

He didn’t look at Mr. Shawnessy. He held out his hand to her. Putting her hand in Pa’s, she walked toward the door, but just before leaving the hall, she turned and looked once at Mr. Shawnessy. His eyes had a curious brightness.

Then she was following Pa out, and they got into the buggy, and Pa laid his whip to the horse, and they were riding away.

—Esther, Pa said after they had ridden for a long time in silence and had at last reached a main road, I know you didn’t know what you was doing. It wasn’t your fault. You’re only a child after all. I know I’ve only to tell you what kind of man this feller is to make you see the light. This John Shawnessy is plain no good. If it were anyone else in the world, I don’t know as I would stand in your way. But in this case, I feel it my fatherly duty to protect you. This feller comes from a nogood family, and he’s no good himself. He has a weak streak in him, always had. Besides, he’s married and had a child by his wife years ago. They’s a big mystery about what ever happened to her. He’s a queer sort of feller—folks say he’s an atheist. Any which way you look at it, Esther, he’s not fit to lick your boot. Now, I want you to know that I don’t blame you at all. I blame him. And by the livin’ God, if ever I catch him hangin’ around you again——

Pa’s deep voice rose and trembled violently; his body seemed to bulge as if enlarged by passion.

—You’re wrong, Pa, she said. He’s a good man.

She couldn’t remember ever before saying to Pa in so many words that he was wrong. But Pa’s voice was deceptively gentle as he said,

—You’re just a child, Esther. I don’t blame you at all. You just don’t understand about these things. I’m your pa, and I know what’s good for you. In this case, you’ll just have to take my word for it. I think I know how you feel. This man is much older than you, child, why, he’s about as old as I am, old enough to be your—your father.

She was crying then, sobbing hopelessly as the buggy went on through the night farther and farther from Lake Paradise and back across the level part of the County toward the Farm, from which, as it now seemed, ages ago she had . . .

Come to Lake Paradise. It is—it is in the very center of Raintree County, and here (but o, so long, so many years ago) the father and mother of mankind walked alone and naked. O, come to Paradise Lake in the center of Raintree County! Here was planted the tree from which the County takes its name. O, did we not eat long ago of the fruit—of the delectable flesh of the fruit of the golden tree? It was so long ago, and now the tree is gone, only the scar remains, and the fruit is stricken from our hands. Come back, come back to Paradise Lake, from the wrath of the allseeing father, come back, my darkhaired child,

some day to the still waters and

the circling hills of


—Paradise lost in one willful act! For the Woman takes the fruit and bursts it between her lips. And she finds it delicious. And she’s not satisfied to have a little of it. O, no! She takes down whole armfuls of it, and she and the Serpent both eat of it and gorge themselves on it, and then she goes out and finds her husband. O, I’ve just found the most wonderful thing, Adam! Here, take a taste. Poor Adam suspects what she has done, deep in his heart he knows, but the Woman beguiles him to sin with her. And Adam takes a taste of it too. Hit is good, he says. Hit’s wonderful! she says. And the taste of that fruit maddens them. They look at each other with new eyes. And, o, I’m afraid, I’m very much afraid, that the father and mother of mankind give rein to lewd and improper desires. Anyway, such is the interpretation of Milton, the great Puritan poet. Let us draw a curtain of reticence on them, poor, sinnin’ creatures wallowin’ briefly in the pleasures of their lustful discovery. Hit is good, Adam says. O, hit’s wonderful! she says.

Preacher Jarvey’s voice was elaborately ironical. His small eyes glared lustfully around as he plucked and tore imaginary fruit from an imaginary tree.

—. . . and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.

Esther had been so absorbed in the Preacher’s discourse that she had failed until this moment to observe a buggy approaching on the road from Moreland. Now, looking up, she saw what looked like Pa’s big shiny black pulling a buggy, though dust and distance obscured the face of the driver.

Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. . . .

The buggy was only a few hundred feet now from the tent. In the seat, Esther saw Pa’s erect, broad form, his broadbrimmed black hat, his patriarchal beard.

In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

The buggy began to slow down. Esther could see Pa’s black eyes searching the rows of heads under the Revival Tent. His right hand gripped the handle of a whip.

And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living. . . .

And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever:

Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.

So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

Preacher Jarvey put the book down and closed it resoundingly. He removed his glasses. His great hairy head dripped sweat. The front of his shirt was soaked. The horn of his voice had been muted to a pitch of resignation and sadness.

—So endeth, brothers and sisters in Adam and children of the errin’ mother of mankind, so endeth the Oldest Story in the World. In Adam’s fall we sinnèd all. The highest wisdom is to know that we are sinners. In the pride and pomp of this day on which we celebrate the birth of our nation, let us not forget the birth of our race. With one hand, God giveth, and with the other He taketh away.

The citizens of Raintree County picked up their hymnbooks. The ladies, daughters of Eve, fanned themselves briskly, looked shrewdly around at each other, twisted uncomfortably in their cloth, bone, and metal cages, badges of lost innocence.

The service over, Esther found Pa waiting for her outside the tent.

—I’d like to have a word with you, Esther, he said. I’ll drive you to where you’re goin’.

—I’m going to the schoolhouse to help fix the G.A.R. Banquet.

She got into the buggy with him and they drove slowly through parked vehicles to the National Road. Pa plucked at his black-veined beard and played with the handle of the whip coiled in his lap.

—Esther, he said finally, weighing his words, you know my second wife has died and I’m alone at the old farm. Supposin’ I was to say that you could come and bring the children, and I was to say that I’d take them in and help care for ’em like they was my own, and——

—I’ll come back and visit any time, Pa, when I can bring Mr. Shawnessy.

Her father went on plucking at his beard. His voice was a heavy monotone.

—Supposin’ you was to find out before the day was over that he wasn’t a fittin’ husband for you. And supposin’ you was to regret marryin’ him and runnin’ away from your old pa the way you done fourteen years ago.

—That never could happen, Pa.

They sat in the buggy, side by side, the broad figure of Gideon Root, the slim figure of his daughter Esther. Both looked straight ahead. Their black eyes had the same look of stern endurance.

—It might happen, Pa said. And if it does, you remember what I said. The old home is waitin’ for you, Esther.

They were turning west at the intersection. She could see Mr. Shawnessy sitting in the middle one of three chairs backed against the wall of the General Store. The buggy proceeded west toward the schoolhouse. A vague anxiety had touched her for the tall form in the black schoolmaster’s suit. Was he entirely safe there sitting beside the Great Road?

She realized that she had never felt quite secure in her possession of this strange, wise, godlike creature who had ruled her life from childhood on. She had never quite severed herself from the dark earth of her origin, the obscure, violent parentage embodied in the figure on the seat beside her. Part of her was still living with a divided heart back in the era of a


House Divided



Washington, July 1. On the eve of his departure from the Nation’s Capital to mend political fences back home, the Hon. Garwood B. Jones, Senior Senator from Indiana, expressed his belief that the issues at stake in the present election are the gravest faced by this country since the Election of 1860. ‘Unless an intelligent citizenry registers an overwhelming voice of disapprobation against the forces of anarchy which are abroad in the land, we may face the prospect of a House Divided, such as that which confronted the immortal Lincoln in 1860. The opposing points of view are fundamental and irreconcilable. Our Union is threatened as never before, by a more insidious foe than open rebellion.’ The Senator declined to elaborate further on this statement made in the course of some impromptu remarks during a little farewell gathering at the home of James C. Parks, longtime friend and supporter of the popular statesman from . . .

The Indianapolis News-Historian smelled damp and gray. Mr. Shawnessy glanced at the front page and reached the paper to the Perfessor. The Senator was still talking with the ladies of the Sitting and Sewing Society.

—Time for our history lesson, children, the Perfessor said, shaking out the paper and running his eyes over the front page. Let’s see how the Supreme Being is ruling his creation in a.d. 1892. Hmmmmmm. I see by this that the Senator left Washington amid kisses and tears. If there were truth in print, this article ought to read as follows:



(Epic Fragment from the Cosmic Enquirer)

Garwood Jones, the Senator from Indiana, who is solicitous of keeping his seat (size forty-six) in the Senate, threw a farewell party for himself at the home of his current mistress, that versatile and available female, Mrs. Petronia Parks, whose alleged husband seems to be chronically and cornutely absent from the City on business. The party was well attended by a great many people whose political eggs are in the Senator’s basket. The Senator delivered an impromptu speech, of which advance copies were available to the press. There was a great deal of fun, festivity, and other fricatives. The food was passable, the liquor was plentiful, Petronia was a bad girl again, and a good time was had by all.

The Perfessor flapped pages of the News-Historian, folded it neatly, dropped it on the ground, and plucked a notebook from his coatpocket.

—It’s impossible to report the news as it really is. But, if you’re interested, John, here’s my digest of the news in the year of our Lord 1892, as compiled from the News-Historians of our Nation. I amused myself doing this on the train down.

He adjusted his pince-nez and read in a metallic monotone:


(Epic Fragments from the Cosmic Enquirer)

We the people of the United States in the year 1892, four hundred years after the Discovery of America, one hundred and sixteen years after the Declaration of Independence, seventy-two years after the founding of Raintree County, and nine years before the beginning of the Twentieth Century, have produced the following commentary on the great documents under which we are governed:


The various political factions by which our Republic is controlled began to hate each other with official ferocity. The Republican Party, representing money and the main chance, held a convention in June and nominated Benjamin Harrison for the Presidency. The Democratic Party, representing money and the main chance, held a convention in June and nominated Grover Cleveland. The Populist Party, representing the people against their will, met in convention on July 4 for a result not yet known. All over America, government was conducted by the few for the few.


A colored man was jerked to Jesus in a lynching jubilee down in Memphis, Tennessee, to remind the Negro in an Election Year that the Constitution like the Decalogue is a Sunday instrument.


The domestic manners of the Americans exhibited the usual spicy variety. A wife beat her husband’s actress whore with a whip. An actress beat her stage-manager paramour with a whip. Jack the Ripper cut throats. A Boston man drowned his pregnant sweetheart in the Mystic River. Lesbian love crept into America’s papers when Alice Mitchell, a nice little Southern girl of good family, jealously cut the throat of her sweetheart, Freda Ward, another nice little Southern girl of good family. In North Carolina, the hill people went on swapping wives according to a time-honored custom.


Secretary of State James G. Blaine, the Plumed Knight, assisted by Sancho Panza Benjamin Harrison, Twenty-Third President of the United States, ran a course against various windmills. Little Chile talked sassy to Uncle Sam after Chileans beat up American sailors in Valparaiso. Sam made a fist. Chile yelled Uncle. The Eagle and the Lion engaged in controversy over sealing rights in the Bering Straits. The Seal, interested third party, was not consulted. As Election Day drew on apace, Ben and Blaine tugged vigorously at the Lion’s Tail. While protecting Home Industries, the McKinley Tariff stifled economic recovery in America and free trade everywhere.


Victims of youthful error of either sex were earnestly besought in all newspapers to use Sanativo, sure cure for nervous debility, early decay, and lost manhood, without the aid and publicity of a doctor.


In Pittsburgh, on the Fourth of July, the workers at the Homestead Mill prepared to defend their practical right to feed and clothe themselves and their families, while the employers prepared to defend their sacred right to accrue wealth by the enslavement of men. Three hundred miners were entombed somewhere. Strikes spread as Americans, the richest and happiest people in the world, starved.


The Reverend Lyman Abbott affirmed that God’s Word was a typographical error and that Christianity was civilized paganism. He recommended the marriage of Darwin and Jesus for the salvation of the world. Little blind and deaf Helen Keller asked her instructor, Miss Sullivan, the following questions:

1.Who made God?
2.Where is God?
3.What did God make the universe out of?
4.What is a soul?
5.If God is love, why does he permit sin and suffering?
6.If God made all things, did he not also make the evil in the world?

Dozens of doctors and divines, rushing eagerly into print, flunked the exam.


A female heavyweight wrestler subtly illustrated the general trend of the Nineteenth Century by flattening a succession of males and planting her broad rump on their chests. Thomas Lake Harris was alleged to be conducting a sex community as naughtily nude as Oneida, with Edenic baths and other pastoral pastimes.


Various nude, ravished, dead girls’ bodies in various parts of the United States.


At the suggestion of friends, a man dug up the corpse of his consumptive wife and cremated it lest her diseased lungs feed upon her children’s.


Trains jumped trestles, rivers flooded, ships foundered, and hotels burnt to kill thousands and entertain millions.


People went to the theatre to see Shiloh, a play about the Civil War; Around the World in Eighty Days, a play about the speed of modern transportation; The White Patrol, a play about the Haymarket Bombing; The White Slave, a play about prostitution; The Lost Paradise, a play about a factory owner and a factory waif; and Cleopatra, a play about Madame Sarah Bernhardt. In addition, they saw Lillian Russell, Shakespeare, the Vaudeville, and a Program of Gems, Varieties, Specialties, and Minstrel Comedians. A lionmaned Pole named Paderewski made a majestic assault on America’s concert keyboards. Stoddard lectured. Mark Twain, America’s most famous living writer, hacked out The American Claimant. Americans continued to read Looking Backward, Progress and Poverty, and The Young Mail Carrier of the Rockies. In Camden, New Jersey, Walt Whitman died obscure. Last words: ‘Warry, shift.’


Anthropology: John L. Sullivan, Boston Strong Boy, Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World, in training for his title defense against Challenger Gentleman Jim Corbett, had his right biceps muscle measured and recorded a circumference of seventeen inches. Biology: A twoheaded boy was exhibited talking German on one stalk, Italian on the other. Technology: Reporters were admitted for the first time to an electrocution in Sing Sing. Mineralogy: There was a gold rush near Denver.


Bulls and bears butted and cuffed each other on Wall Street while the Nation ran down hill to another depression.


The Dove of Peace spread its wings on a world becalmed in one of its rare seasons of tranquillity, a blessing conferred upon humanity by the Industrial Revolution, bourgeois enterprise, and Queen Victoria. In Russia, millions were starving, and Count Leo Tolstoi, well-fed, bled for them. In America, on Memorial Day, people laid flowers on the graves of young men who died in the Civil War thirty years ago. Cash, not beauty or intelligence, ruled society. It was generally agreed in pulpits, newspapers, books, barrooms, brothels, congresses, caucuses, schoolrooms, and the Home that humanity had never been so blessed and that the Cosmos was infallibly moving toward a millennial century of Peace and Prosperity.

The Perfessor closed the notebook and returned it to his pocket.

—There, he said, is Life in Our Time. What do you think of it?

Mr. Shawnessy picked up the News-Historian and rubbed a sheet of it between his fingers.

—Fifty years from now, this paper will be a brittle dust. No rag content.

The Hon. Garwood B. Jones was making senatorial faces for the members of the Sitting and Sewing Society. Through the mist of Mr. Shawnessy’s cigar, the Senator in his duckbottomed suit became a stiff cartoon on faded paper. Fat men made word balloons about forgotten issues. Around them swirled brittle bits of headlines. Brown dust of the year 1892 settled slowly in guts of old libraries.

—Remember the papers of the sixties, Professor? Much better paper. Life had an epic quality in those days of the rag content. There was something worth preserving. Thirty years ago the great issues were the Union and Human Slavery. Today, the main parties electioneer over the protective tariff and the free coinage of silver, both artificial issues. But down underneath, the great issues wait to be recognized again. They are still what they’ve always been in human affairs—Union and Human Slavery.

—The Republic has to relax, the Perfessor said, after its moral and military orgies. These are the brown decades. No doubt in a few years we’ll get excited about your so-called great issues again. Meanwhile, we have the Indianapolis News-Historian to remind us that we’re living in a new age, the age of the Modern Man, or perhaps still better, the Common Man—common because he’s becoming commoner all the time and more and more like every other man. The reason for this is that through the free press and the blessings of literacy he shares the atrocities of mankind more fully with his fellows. The newspaper is the true epic of this modern Odysseus, the Common Man. He’s the most exciting hero of all time. The world’s his oyster, and he opens it every morning over his coffee. In the space of a few minutes, he lays the Atlantic Cable, wins and loses wars in Europe, abdicates thrones, treads a tightrope over Niagara, and rapes an unidentified woman on a deserted part of the New York waterfront. For this, he’s lynched from the nearest limb and cured of impotence, baldness, old age, and the piles. His heroic form is carried in pomp and ceremony to the vault of the Vanderbilts in a casket that weighs a ton. Resurrected, he goes off a trestle at ninety miles an hour and around the world in sixty-nine days. He lives a life of gilded ease on Fifth Avenue in New York and makes a pile on the stock market. Taking a vacation from respectability, he murders innocent bystanders with anarchist bombs and assassinates Presidents. The jungle fascinates him, and he buys a sun helmet and bustles off to Darkest Africa, where he emerges into a clearing, bland face smiling, hand outstretched, and greets himself, bland face smiling, hand outstretched, after living two years among the aborigines. Despite his emaciated condition, he has his chest measured for all the world to see, is admired for the bulge of his biceps and the size of his triceps, and wins the heavyweight boxing championship of the Cosmos. All this the Common Man accomplishes by the expenditure of a penny, while sitting squarely on his prosaic beam in the Main Street of Waycross, sucking on a five-cent cigar.

—Meanwhile, Mr. Shawnessy said, the real world goes on, the world of the only possible fact.

—What is this fact?

—A human life. That’s the only thing that ever happens, whereas the News-Historian, like History, deals with something called the Event.

—What is this Event? the Perfessor said, cooperatively.

—The Event is something that never happened. It’s a convenient myth abstracted from the welter of human fact. Events happen only in the newspapers and history books. But life goes on being one human being at a time, who is trying to find that mythical republic in which he can live with honor and happiness.

—Just so, the Perfessor said, and thus the Republic’s a lie and History’s a lie and the newspaper’s a great lie. Culture’s an inherited lie with which we hide from the human beast that he’s only an ape with nightmares. All the world’s a lie, and all the men and women merely liars. And with these lies we divert and deceive ourselves while our life-stuff goes through its little fury of growth, orgasm, and decay. Confess, my boy, that there’s nothing real but the nature of Nature.

—But that’s just the most primitive of all the lies.

—How does one get out of your chamber of mirrors? the Perfessor said, smiling pleasantly.

—It’s better than your chamber of horrors, Mr. Shawnessy said, smiling pleasantly.

The Senator returned to his chair through a series of deep bows, proposing his backside to the Perfessor’s contemplation.

—Thirty years ago, the Perfessor went on, we all murdered and sang and whooped it up for Liberty and Union here in the U.S.A. But the Southern Negro’s still a slave and the Northern Worker’s still a slave. Gentlemen, we grow old in a land of greed and lust.

The Senator, settling himself solidly in his chair, cleared his throat and looked around to see if he was observed.

—Gentlemen, it’s perfectly true that the Southern Negro is still a slave.

He lowered his voice.

—And what of it? I always thought and still do that the South was morally in the right during the Civil War. As a political entity, the South had a right to be independent from the North, as much so as America did from England. As for slavery, Southerners believed—and by God, they were right—that the Negro was a being inferior to a white man as a horse is, though in lesser degree. They believed that because of his jungle background and his native physical and mental characteristics he wasn’t a man in the same sense that the white man is a man. The proud people of the South wouldn’t live on a basis of equality with these pitiful black brutes, because such equality would finally mean that Sambo’s seed was as good as a white man’s and could go where a white man’s could. If Northerners had as many black men around them, they’d feel the same way. Before the War, the South had a system that kept the nigger in his place and yet took care of him. God knows, as a race, the nigger hasn’t been any happier since. I tell you, morally and politically the South was right.

—This Republic, the Perfessor said, will never achieve anything resembling real equality until the mixture of the bloods is complete. It’s too bad we don’t all have a big black buck swinging from a branch of the family elm—we’d all get over our pride of race. Really, the human beast’d be a lot happier and wiser if he returned to the morals of the Great Swamp. Let the seed go where it pleases. It’s all only a little passion and the earth.

—I will say one thing, the Senator said. The hottest women in the world are those famous octoroons. During a brief sojourn in New Orleans lately, I had occasion to—shall we say—observe some of them again. They have just enough black blood in ’em to make ’em boil.

—The loveliest faces in the world, if it comes to that, the Perfessor said, are good old Anglo-Saxon mixed with nigger. You take that noble Northern look, and you taint it with the jungle. For this erotic masterpiece, we’re indebted to the Old Southern Planter. I always thought he was well named. He planted. There was a lot of good black soil handy, and that fahn ole gemman put in a crop.

—I have a real fondness for the South, the Senator said. It gets into your blood.

The Perfessor raised his cane and recited:

—O subtle, musky, slumbrous clime!

    O swart, hot land of pine and palm,

  Of fig, peach, guava, orange, lime,

    And terebinth and tropic balm!

Mr. Shawnessy, brooding and sad, lounged back in his chair and sipped through slow nostrils the black fragrance of his cigar.

Our thin smokes curl upon the summer air

Tracing a legend of an elder day.

Land of perennial summer woven with rivers, lost Eden of America, darkened with memory of a crime! I wandered in your old magnolia swamp and touched my face to one of your most sensual flowers. And a jovial, greatbearded God brooded above us watching. Lost pillars of a Southern paradise enshrined us where we sought a tree.

All this was long ago, the history of a lost republic. In sentimental vistas, we hid our nakedness for shame of old remembrance.

All this was long ago and far away, in the old Kentucky homeland of our soul, where ’tis summer and the darkies are gay, all this was on the river, down upon the river, way down upon the Mississippi River


far away

to an everblooming summer

the river brought him on its broadening flood. Days and nights, he and Susanna travelled in one of the big river boats south, a floating hotel paddled by a huge wheel. The boat’s lobby sparkled with cut-glass chandeliers. Carpets paved the floor with a soundless softness. Mirrors in mahogany frames swarmed with the images of a fashionable throng making the winter journey down the river.

It was a lazy, lavish voyage; yet there was a constant sense of danger.

From what?

It was hard to say. In part, from the yellow river and its snags, shallows, hidden bars, treacherous channels, shifting shores; in part from the leashed fury of the boilers roaring with pine fires in the boat’s entrails; in part also from the glittering crowd that swarmed along the river—gamblers, roustabouts, planters, Negroes, whores, fine ladies, soldiers, statesmen. These and a hundred other vivid types of humanity, most of them entirely new to Johnny Shawnessy, sought the river with a strange devotion. Down the Mississippi, the oldest highway of the Republic, these pilgrims travelled toward a sensual Canterbury. Its name was woven through all their conversations. And always this name meant exciting, sinful, dangerous, much desired.

It was at night that the boat carried Johnny Shawnessy and his wife Susanna into the harbor of New Orleans on the Mississippi Delta. Herds of boats, shrilling and baying, wallowed to their stalls. Down five miles of masts and funnels, light blazed from rows of floating windows. Orchestras played familiar Southern airs, and voices drifted across the water in nostalgic tunes.

As for the City, lying there on its silty bed, it winked, hovered, trembled, breathed, sighed, and stank. Mainly, it stank.

It stank of fish, tar, rum, cess, garbage, horse dung, human beings. It stank appallingly, and this stink as they neared the docks in the windless night almost choked Johnny. He looked in embarrassment at his wife leaning against the rail, eagerly watching the levee. Was it possible that she wasn’t aware of this stink? What about all these others—habitués of New Orleans—didn’t they smell this great stink? As for him, he never would be able to live in this stench. Even if he closed his nose to it, the mere thought of it would gag him.

Yet before long his nostrils had accepted it; and later he had to remind himself that this great human stink was there, always there, and that it would envelop everything he saw and did in New Orleans during the next few months.

—There they are! Look, Johnny! Aren’t they sweet!

The levee, as they approached it, was alight from lanterns and the boat’s own blazing battery of windows. Among the many people waiting there for friends, relatives, and loved ones, Johnny saw a group of young men and women, perhaps a dozen in number, who at this distance looked oddly prim and stiff, bristling and fluttering with canes, hats, curls, ribbons, handkerchiefs. Their faces were all upturned, the women’s in bonnets tied under chin; the men’s under tall, dandy hats. These creatures nodded, waved, smiled in happy unison, jerking their chins.

—Aren’t they wonderful! Susanna shrieked. O, Johnny, you’ll just love them! Hi Bobby! Dody! Barbara! Judy!

As they came nearer, Johnny became uneasily aware of their eyes, all fixed upon him with a brilliant intensity.

But as soon as he and Susanna had descended the gangplank, all these figurines dissolved into real people and overwhelmed the bridal pair with kisses, handshakes, backslaps, hugs, tears. Everyone was delighted to meet Johnny. Though Susanna had posted him ahead of time, so many young women gave him cousinly kisses that he could only distinguish Cousin Barbara Drake, a tall, languid blonde, who said in a voice mingling pleasure with surprise,

—My! Isn’t he nice!

and Cousin Dody Ransome, a plump brunette with big shy eyes, who said in a sweet voice,

—Why, Sue, I’m so pleased with your new husband.

Of the men, he instantly picked out Dody’s husband and Susanna’s favorite relative, Robert Seymour Drake, with whom the honeymooners planned to pass most of their sojourn in New Orleans. Cousin Bobby, as Susanna called him, was in his middle twenties, a tall, lean man with a delightfully casual air. He had kind, handsome blue eyes and a dry, humorous mouth.

—So this is the lucky man, Sue, Cousin Bobby said, holding Johnny by the shoulders at arms’ length. Children, I’m downright proud of you.

Johnny instantly liked Cousin Bobby, and all the others too, for that matter, as they swarmed around him, drenching his ears in an accent musical and mannered almost to lewdness. At first, he felt that he could no more adjust himself to its barbarous exaggerations than he could to the great stench of New Orleans; but in a short time, the whole party had poured into barouches, and with a feeling of enchantment and abandonment Johnny was swallowed up into the malodorous night and the soft voices of Susanna’s people.

Later it seemed to him that during his sojourn in the South, he had lived in the scenes of a new Uncle Tom’s Cabin, starring in the principal role Mr. John Wickliff Shawnessy from Raintree County, Indiana. And indeed this life in which he steeped himself was a delightful, barbarous, cruel old melodrama which for some reason or other all the actors and the audience passionately believed in. Johnny himself was constantly alternating between wholehearted participation and amused aloofness during his time there—and he was there a long time before he finally disentangled himself from that dark sweet land.

From December to the following August, he and his bride were entertained in New Orleans and the country up and down river. Those months were a procession of parties, balls, picnics, river excursions, and country week-ends. As Bobby Drake said when he ushered Johnny into his big winter mansion in New Orleans, a pile of brick, stucco, and iron reflecting the mongrel Spanish-French-English descent of New Orleans,

—Son, we’ll try to show you a little of that famous Southern Hospitality.

The everblooming South showered warmth and fragrance on him from the beginning, beguiled him with beauty and leisure. You’ll love it, honey, Susanna had said. And the truth was that he did love it. For young Johnny Shawnessy at the age of twenty-one was a rare mixture of poet and moralist. Moralist, he stored his memories for another day. Poet, he drank the warm milk of this existence and tasted its dark, exquisitely flavored honey. He had the poet’s insatiable appetite for life, and New Orleans and the downriver country were everything that Southern life was—distilled to a dark quintessence. He saw it all. He saw its chattering blend of races, Spanish, French, Creole, Indian, Negro, Anglo-Saxon, a welter of tongues, bloods, manners. The river had lured them down its broad stream, had carried them along with centuries of silt, and dumped them on the Delta.

He saw the French Quarter, its Place d’Armes and whitewashed cathedral, the cafés where swarthy men and vivid brunette women sipped exotic drinks—eau sucrée, cognac, orange-water.

He saw the glittering amusements of the City, bullfights, cock-fights, dogfights, horse races, operas, acrobats, melodramas, farces, gambling, bals masqués.

He saw the levees, miles of manmade walls to hold back the river, the levees crowded with commerce from all over the world, pouring the lavish wealth of the South into the Gulf and so to the ports of the world. He saw the molasses, sugar, tar, rum, timber, furs.

He saw especially the cotton, fat bales piled high on the docks waiting to be shipped. He saw that it was cotton which made this City the fourth port of the world, filled it with its glut of races, gave it wealth, beauty, seduction, sin, and death.

And as the months went by, he saw the wealth, the beauty, the seduction, the sin, and the death.

The young people of New Orleans with whom Johnny Shawnessy mainly consorted during his sojourn there were not like the people back home. As a class, they enjoyed something that didn’t exist in Raintree County—leisure. Leisure to be fashionable, charming, and—on occasion—exquisitely sinful. The young men seldom read anything or performed any visible labor. They drank, danced, rode, gambled, whored. In the process, they laughed and cursed and talked like gentlemen. They were young Southern gentlemen.

The young women were in general a lively, pretty, romantic lot, completely dominating the men before and after marriage by a posture of defenseless womanhood requiring adoration and protection. The attitude was pretty and natural; they had been educated to it, and their mothers before them. They were young Southern ladies. And if they seemed during those months somewhat more daring than most young ladies of their class in the South, there were no doubt good reasons for it.

The Southern education of Johnny Shawnessy began early with an exposition of the phrase ‘Southern Hospitality.’ The young women of New Orleans, who presided over its hospitality and dispensed its blandishments, were much interested in Johnny for some reasons that he could fathom and some that he couldn’t. At the first balls and parties, he felt himself watched by feverishly brilliant eyes. Later, the interest became more specific and personal. As Susanna had said, there was something about him. Perhaps it was a mixture of virility and gentleness, conscience and humor that could come only from Raintree County. Perhaps it was his dark hair shot with red, his expressive mouth and quick smile, his blue eyes watching the world with a mixture of innocent excitement and serene evaluation under their slightly lifted brows. At any rate, he had a peculiar effect on the young women whom he met in New Orleans—Susanna’s own relatives and friends, some of whom carried the principle of hospitality rather far.

There was, for example, Cousin Barbara Drake. Cousin Barbara was tall, slender, and blonde in a languidly voluptuous way. Perhaps because she was thoroughly wearied of her young husband, who was a gamecock and a bore, she spent a great deal of time with Johnny on social occasions and was always coaxing him out for talks on lawns and balconies. As much the same group went to everything, Johnny was thrown with her constantly, a circumstance that pleased him as she was the most intelligent and witty woman he had met in New Orleans. But he hadn’t become fully aware of the trend of things until one night when she said abruptly,

—Johnny, why did it have to be you?


They were sitting alone in an alcove off the ballroom at a home of mutual friends. Cousin Barbara, who had perhaps taken too much wine, was very languid and relaxed beside him.

—I mean, she said, you’re just so darn nice. Tell me, weren’t you ever in love with anyone but Cousin Sue—some girl up there where you live?

—Well, yes, I was, Cousin Barbara, he said.

She took his hand and gently pressed it.

—And was she in love with you?

—Well, she did in a way reciprocate my youthful passion, Johnny said, more and more embarrassed.

—No wonder. With that smile and those eyes. There’s something about you, Johnny.

For a moment, he thought that that something was going to be the long, slender arms of Barbara Drake, but some other couples drifted by, and after a while Susanna came around and found him.

Johnny had no idea how far the thing had gone until the day he got an unsigned note in elegant script telling him to come, if his heart so prompted him, to a certain street corner in a remote part of New Orleans at dusk where a certain person, whose identity he could perhaps divine, would be waiting in a carriage to impart to him something of value. This invitation savored so finely of all the romantic stories he had read about the romantic South that he kept the rendezvous just out of curiosity. A carriage drove up, and the door opened. A lady in a veil beckoned him in with long, slender hand. When he was inside and the carriage was driving away, the lady in the veil said,

—O, Johnny, you must think me an evil woman. I had something I felt I must tell you.

Before she told him, however, she swooned in his arms and clung languidly to him, staining his shirt collar through the veil with tears and cosmetics. It was a very delicate situation.

—We really mustn’t do this, he said. After all, Susanna’s your cousin, and—uh—that makes you my cousin.

Along with this, he smiled lamely and held the slender trunk of the lady, which was quivering with sobs.

—O, dear, Johnny, she said. What have you done to me?

—We wouldn’t want to hurt Susanna, Johnny said. After all, it’s my honeymoon, and I want to remain worthy of her.

The lady in the veil sat bolt upright.

—O, I wish someone else would tell you, Johnny!

—Tell me what?

—Cousin Sue just isn’t the right type for you, the lady in the veil said evasively.

—Why not? Johnny said, inwardly agreeing.

—Surely you know you’re a very desirable young man, Johnny. You could pick and choose.

—Well, it strikes me that Susanna’s a very desirable match. Money, culture, beauty——

—But why do you suppose she didn’t marry down here? She had enough affairs.

—I don’t know. Why?

—I didn’t mean to get on this subject, the lady in the veil said. I feel so nervous.

She swooned again. Puzzled, he hung on through another storm, and after a while, she became very contrite and murmured some words about a moment of indiscretion and her certainty that a man of Johnny’s character would not betray a heart which had never before deviated from the path of rectitude but which had been in this one instance, alas! too susceptible.

—As for those other things I said, Johnny, she remarked, angrily removing her veil and talking in a suddenly practical little voice as he stepped out of the carriage in a remote part of New Orleans, I was overwrought and no doubt jealous. I ought to hate you. But I don’t. Good-by.

Whatever it was of value she had intended to impart, he never got it.

There was also the time he and Susanna went on a privately chartered steamboat excursion. In the middle of a night of wild festivity and much going about in other people’s cabins, Johnny finally went to bed in what he took to be his own room. The room was unlighted, and when he started to climb into his bunk, a lady in the dark rose up and enveloped him.

—O, dear, Johnny! she whispered. My God!

—My God! Johnny whispered. I’m in the wrong place.

He stumbled out and wandered around all over the boat trying to find his stateroom and Susanna. Later he became convinced that he had been in the right room after all. Next day, the lady in the dark (whose voice he knew perfectly well and who had always seemed very sedate in his presence) was exceptionally noisy at the dinner table.

But the worst shock of all came just a few days before they left New Orleans. Susanna made an overnight visit downriver with Cousin Bobby to attend to some legal matters involving an estate in which she had a part interest. Johnny stayed in New Orleans and along with Bobby’s wife, Cousin Dody, represented the family at a lustrous soirée which he and Susanna had earlier agreed to attend. Sometime during the night, Johnny woke up suddenly in the huge bed which Dody had lovingly draped for the bridal couple. A woman was standing beside the bed with her arms at her sides, her eyes staring straight ahead.

It was Dody in a silk nightdress.

—Dody! Johnny said. What’s the matter, dear?

Dody said nothing but looked at him with her large dark eyes somberly blazing. She slowly collapsed on the bed where she lay on her back, inert. Johnny picked her up and carried her to the door. He looked up and down the hall. It was empty. He carried her to her own room and put her on her bed, which was made.


She said nothing, but her arms clung around his neck.

—Dody, are you awake?

She said nothing but pulled gently at his neck.

—Go to sleep now, dear, Johnny said.

She appeared to be in a trance, and in fact he recalled something that she had said the day before about sleepwalking being a failing in the family.

The following morning at breakfast, she said,

—I think I must have walked in my sleep last night, Johnny. I didn’t disturb you, did I, dear?

—Not at all, dear, Johnny said. I sleep like a log.

The Drakes and related families had large holdings upriver in the cotton and sugar plantations. The most enjoyable part of the honeymoon for Johnny was his visit to some of these great homes, which represented the finest flower of Southern life. Here in the loamy earth behind the levees was the South he had fashioned from all the romantic books he had read and the old nostalgic songs. It was all there—the everblooming summer; the levees holding back the mile-broad river; the cottonfields; the pillared mansions; the Negro quarters, shacks and cabins clustering close to the river; the fine manners; a way of living gentle and proud.

This earth had a kind of voice for him which seemed to say: Young man, you were mistaken. Forget your rigorous square of Raintree County. We give you your archaic dream, perennial summer and the lenient gods. Child of a vigorous northern parentage, stay with us here, and listen to our homeremembering songs. ’Tis summer and the days are long. Listen to the husky music of the darkies singing on the levees. Fondly we embrace you. We are not angry with you for your wrong contempt. White arms will cling about your shoulders, and you will press your lips to scarlet blossoms and delicious fruits. Have we not builded you the republic of your dreams? See how it stretches over slow lawns through gardens of cypress and magnolia to tranquil columns. We waited for you here with soft arms and voices a long time. Stay with us, wandering child and restless seeker. Fondly, fondly we embrace you.

He saw also the black people. In all Raintree County there had been hardly a dozen Negroes; but on the Lower Mississippi there were more black faces than white. In a way, he knew that he had come South to see this nameless swarm. And now he saw them—everywhere—streets, docks, levees, boats, houses, fields. He heard their mutilated tongue, English tainted with the jungle. He heard their music sung in darkness by the river where they lived in little cabins. Their songs were sometimes frenzied like the dances in which they whirled to syncopated rhythms, but more often muffled and sad with the inenarrable misery of their bondage. Few could remember the jungle home. Most had been born to cotton and the river.

They were all slaves, human beings whose dark skins made it legal for other men to rule them. They were also all Christians.