Aflame

An excerpt from The Autobiography of William Allen White, published in 1946:

I can remember only one of the scores of rides that we must have taken together (for I always owed Skinner & Strimson at the livery stable).  The ride that I remember was a moonlight sleigh ride.  It cost a dollar and a half an hour, and we sped westward over the hard snowbanked roads out into the stony uplands of Towanda Township.  Not a cloud was in the sky.  The moon glittered.  The air was cold.  The stars on the horizon twinkled; and we were huddled under a regular haymow of blankets.  Old Jerry, my favorite livery horse, was feeling good, and a mere touch of the reins guided him.  So we seemed to be speeding through space at an incredible speed, probably up to six miles an hour.  All I can remember is that I was very bashful, and I think Agnes was too; but I was approaching eighteen, and she was five months younger, and soon I was going back to college again.  She was working in an office and earning money to take her to college too.  And we were afraid of college, both of us, and the big new world beyond, which we feared would part us.  We spoke of it, that I remember, with dread and nameless terror.  But the moon was ineffably lovely.  The night was nippy, and the blood of eighteen years was rising– an insurgent sap from our hearts to our brains.  We greeted the new life crowding in upon us with fear and delight.  When I left her at her door, old Jerry was prancing.  I could not leave the sleigh and, getting out, she kissed me a gentle kind of post-office childish kiss and ran away laughing, and leaving the world of snow aflame with a pink delight.  If God is in religion, and I think he is sometimes, and if he dwells some way in sex, and I believe he is there too, then Agnes and I that night stood beside our burning bush.  It was a long, long time ago.

Even though he’s describing events that happened not long after the Civil War, his experiences are universal.  William White’s autobiography will rank among my favorites, and I’ll feel a real sense of loss when I turn the final page.

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2 thoughts on “Aflame

  1. … this transported me back to a moment in my life that I hadn’t realized was still among my memories… great scene… and it is one that is universal as it is timeless…

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