The first time Richard ever saw Ela was in the closed stacks of West Virginia University’s Library. She was sleeping, sitting on the floor, leaning against the back issues of The Sewanee Review. All this happened on the eighth floor of the library where they kept all of what Richard’s dear friend Tom Rutledge called “the Lit-Ter-A-Chur” books when it was close to 11 p.m., just before closing, and Richard had abandoned his carrel and was roaming the dimly lit stacks looking for a book. Actually, he wasn’t looking for “a book”, he was looking for The Book, the one that would fill him up and make him whole forever, the book he always imagined finding, the book that held the secrets he longed to know—secrets of the heart and soul, because Richard was, above all else, a poet at heart and poets are eternally searching. He had almost despaired of finding that book, but that night, in late September, he walked the aisles of the stacks, searching…. Richard’s searching had become almost frantic since it was the autumn of his junior year of college, the year he would turn 21 and be a man.
Unfortunately for him, Richard had no idea whatsoever what it meant to “be a man”. And Ela, now only a few yards away from him, leaning back against a bookshelf, dozing off, needed, of all things, “a man.”
Soon they would meet—for better or worse, and with equally ridiculous hopes and expectations. Then they would talk on the plaza outside the library as most of Morgantown tucked in to sleep away on an September night in 1968. And, quite frankly, nothing would ever be the same for either of them again. Not ever.
But we have jumped ahead of life. Life has its own rhythm and flow and we’ve ignored it. Back in the moment, we have two people on the eighth floor of a University library about to encounter each other for the first time. We should go back there.
In 1968, the Library at West Virginia University closed at 11 p.m. as if people stopped reading books, stopped searching for knowledge, stopped wanting to learn an hour before mid-night. Since Richard was a library rat, he knew the signs of closing. At 10:50 the lights went dark and then blinked on again. And at 10:55 the lights in the stacks blinked off and on three times. Richard often wondered if the lights were on a timer or if someone’s job was to blink them to warn of closing. He would stare at the librarians, wondering which one had to find the switch to flip once at 10:50 and three times at 10:55. What a job!, Richard thought each evening since he was almost always there when the lights flickered.
But this night in particular—in the midst of September—Richard had been waiting for the second warning, carrying his book bag full of reference works on Spencer and Trollop and Beowulf like the good Honors English major he was, looking for The Book for a while, never knowing what he would find would be Ela instead.
This is, after all, a misbegotten meeting between two people who will find each other and lose each other and almost find each other again, but not. They are not meant to be together—not in this world at any rate. They are so different from each other that we should ache for them, knowing as we do that this will never work. It would be wondrous and romantic if their love could overcome the vast expanses between them and their worlds. But, since this is real, their love will not be enough—or, if it could be, they would squander it and waste it and never say what needs to be said or do what needs to be done to bridge the chasm between the son of a coal miner who will be an Ivy League professor someday and the daughter of an advisor to the President who will give up her due rewards to become a social worker in West Virginia. Richard and Ela will pass each other going in different directions. Their lives will be full and productive and good: especially “good” since both of them are remarkably decent people. The time they share with each other will be tinged with magic and hopefulness. And it will never find fruition. It will die on the vine. It will never be what it could have been. More than once, Lord help them, they will miss by a mite that is just as much as a mile. However, it is worth the telling, what happens to them after this night in the stacks of a University Library on a hill above a river in the northern part of West Virginia. Worth the telling and worth the wondering too—the wondering of what might have been.
“Once softly, October….”
She was lovely. Richard would remember that as he was checking out his books at the main desk and thinking about what he needed to do before he slept. The thought would come to him all at once, full blown, while he watched the elderly librarian-lady imprint a return date on the cards she was inserting neatly into the little pockets inside the books he would carry home and read, mark and inwardly digest. “Ca-chunk” went the little tool the librarian-lady was using, and just as Richard was asking himself what the imprint device with ink pad and movable rubber numbers was called, the thought exploded into his mind and his heart, perhaps even into his marrow and his soul.
She was lovely….
When he turned the corner of the stacks, he almost tripped over her legs. She was leaning up against the bookshelf asleep, her legs crossed and across the aisle. She was tiny, fairy-small and wrapped around a book as she slept. In his mind Richard thought, “what a fickle fiend Fate is: to send me The Book wrapped up in a sleeping girl.” And deeper than that, in some damp place where things really matter, Richard saw the face of that sleeping girl and knew she would haunt his dreams forever. He noticed her extremely short hair—blond, he thought in the dim light of the library, though later he would think it almost white and only whispered with blond—and her small, fine-featured face. “Like a Loris or a Lemur,” he thought to himself, “like some small night-creature that begins with an L.” She was wearing a shapeless sweat shirt, gray with small, dark, gothic letters spelling out “RADCLIFF” and faded, too-big jeans. A hint of shin showed pale between her jeans and white socks covering feet inside well-worn penny loafers. “Cordovan”, Richard thought, involuntarily, about her shoes, fascinated as he was by the word and by a color that, so far as he knew, did not exist in nature.
But all that thinking was in a little used part of his brain that simply observed and recorded. The electrical impulses in his frontal cortex weren’t registering any of that—and he wasn’t, in the moment, taken by her loveliness. What caught his conscious attention was that the sleeping girl was cradling a book against her breasts as she dozed away at closing time. “The Book,” Richard thought in the most reptilian part of his brain—the part that dwells on survival and food and reproduction and safety. “This might be The Book,” he thought, “and it is ‘a sign unto you’ from the gods who conspire to make me whole.” (Richard actually thought those thoughts, though he imagined, later, that he was reading back into the experience. But what besides those primitive thoughts could have caused him to reach out and take the book between his thumb and forefinger, blowing on her face until she moved her hand and he took the book from Ela’s grasp, brushing her breast with the back of his hand, waking her from her slumber, causing her to open her slate-gray eyes and stare at him?)
“Excuse me,” Ela said, staring up at the man who was holding her book and looking not a little confused—so confused he didn’t seem to hear her. He was too busy noticing what a whore Fate had been to him. The Book was written in French! “Excuse me,” she said again, louder this time, “what the fuck do you think you’re doing?”
Richard shook his head. His face, Ela thought, was as fresh and clean as a mountain stream. He was far from handsome, but there was something “wholesome” about him, something she found attractive even in the dimness, something worth wondering about.
No stranger to the accents of West Virginia, Richard knew from the girl’s one sentence that she was a “foreigner”. He was quite adroit at accents and before her question registered clearly, he was pondering where she could be from: “Philadelphia? No. Maryland somewhere? Not quite. New England, maybe there….”
“Pardon me,” Richard finally said.
“You’ve got my book,” Ela responded, chill and threatening.
Somewhere near Boston, Richard thought to himself, ignoring the aggressiveness in the girl’s voice. But something else….
“You grew up in Boston,” Richard blurted out, “but you went to school somewhere else, somewhere further south. Where?”
Ela squinted up at him. “I want my book,” is all she said.
“You were asleep, I didn’t think you’d mind,” he said.
“I wasn’t sleeping,” Ela told him, fiercely.
Richard handed the slim volume back to her and shrugged. “It’s in French,” he said.
Effortlessly, like some slim animal, Ela stood up, holding the book next to her.
“Of course it is. Becket.”
“Pardon?” Richard said.
“Samuel Becket,” Ela told him, coldly, flat and hard. “He wrote in French.”
She turned and moved away from him. She did not so much walk away as glide, with an instinctive, inbred gracefulness of night animals. As he watched her go, crazed by the cosmic irony that The Book was written in a language he could recognize well enough but not read, Richard subliminally shivered at the faint scent of vanilla the girl left in her wake and wondered, somewhere deep within himself if large, unseen creatures had started to move to leave him frozen in place. He thought, without intending to, about long walks, coffee at some shop, things he had never imagined. And all of those thoughts were tinged with the smell of vanilla and gray eyes the color of December clouds.
The second blinking happened and time passed before he tore himself from his spot and took the elevator to the main floor. He thought he saw her going through the revolving door, but it may just have been the smell of vanilla—like an ice-cream soda, that seemed to envelope him just at that moment. “Waiting for Godot”, he realized, was what the French words he’d read on the cover of The Book had said. “Beckett, of course”, he thought, because when he fanned the pages the words had formed short sentences separated by white space and magic. Someone he’d briefly met could read the play in French. He smiled, involuntarily, emptying his bag of the books he needed to read in front of the librarian-lady.
“Sorry,” he said, as the books scattered across the surface and skittered toward the elderly woman.
She looked up and didn’t smile. Then she started checking out the books, carefully clicking a date on each lined card before sliding them back toward Richard. She knew him by sight and by his University ID. Always in the library. Always with books from the stacks that tumbled toward her in a wild profusion so she could mark them and slide them back. “That accent,” she thought, considering only the one word sorry that Richard had spoken. “Southwestern Virginia? Eastern Kentucky?” She would never know how close she was and how fascinated Richard would have been, being a devotee of accents as well, to know she could almost place him from the one word he’d said. The librarian never asked and, therefore, never knew. Close calls often go for naught.
While Elsie French—the librarian’s name—was wondering about Richard’s accent, Richard was suddenly, completely, unexpectedly consumed with one thought: She was lovely. His heart beat a different rhythm. He felt lightheaded and scooped up his books, pouring them into his bag, slipping on the tile floor as he tried to turn, his eyes on the revolving door, just now slowing to a stop, hoping he could catch up to the vanilla smelling girl who could read French and apologize for inadvertently touching her breast when he took her book.
Then, remembering his raising, he turned back to Elsie and said, “Sorry to be in such a rush.” And she knew in that moment—with just those extra words said in his distinctive accent—that he grew up within 50 miles of Beckley, West Virginia, which was off by only four miles. So she smiled.
(What Richard did not know was the librarian-lady’s last name. French. And “The Book” was written in French. And the girl could read French. And Richard grew up in French, West Virginia, exactly 54 miles from Beckley. Had he had all that information he might have torn through the revolving door with a little more vigor and urgency. Such coincidences are nothing short of magic. But, when it is considered, the vigor and magic and urgency in Richard was quite enough already.)
Outside the air was slightly chill and the sky was full of stars. Richard emerged onto the plaza outside the library and spun around looking for the girl. Weeks later he would reflect back on that night and think: “I didn’t find The Book but I found The Girl.” And he was right in many ways, ways he would never know or realize.
There she was, standing by the wall in front of the acre of Lawn that led down to University Avenue and then, sharply, down the hill to the River. For years afterwards, Richard would remember that there was a full moon that night and that Ela was bathed in moonlight as he approached her. It wasn’t true, unfortunately. That night was cloudy so the stars he saw were in his heart and the moon, a mere sliver, was in his soul. It was actually quite dark where he found her. She was holding an unlit cigarette in her thin fingers and looking out across the river to the factories on the other bank. Richard stared at her for a long moment.
“Do you have a light?” she asked, softly, distracted by whatever she was seeing in the distance.
“Pardon,” Richard said, when he found his breath again.
She shook the cigarette and handed him a book of matches. “Light mine,” she said, “if you will.”
As he took the cardboard match book, his hand grazed hers. A month later he would attribute a great deal to that first touch (as if he had forgotten the back of his hand against her breast when he stole her book.) In the moment, he scarcely noticed.
The match exploded and she took a deep drag to light her cigarette. Ela would teach Richard to smoke in the times to come, among other things. In the amber flame of the match he saw her face for the first time. Years later, being honest with Johanna, the woman he loved, his wife, the mother of his child, he considered telling her about how lovely Ela’s face looked in the match glow. Wisely, he choked that awful truth back and told her a harmless truth instead. And he never forgot.
“What’s going on over there?” she asked him, expelling smoke, looking across the river where windows in the factories were red-hot and burning.
“I don’t know,” he said, looking where she looked. “Something to do with glass, though that might not be true. Maybe the room is just on fire.”
They gazed across the river and wondered what was going on in the red hot rooms.
“I’m sorry, you know,” Ela finally said, dragging on her cigarette. “Pardon?” Richard said.
She smiled at him for the first time. “Are you hard of hearing,” she asked, “or do you just like the sound of ‘pardon’?”
“I’m a mountain boy,” he said, bolder than he’d ever felt in his life. “What we mountain boys say when we don’t understand is ‘pardon’.”
She just stared at him, as if he were a puzzle to solve or a problem to understand, which, actually, was true for Ela.
“Further north,” is all she said.
“Par….what?” he asked.
“I did grow up near Boston. But I went to school further north of there—New Hampshire actually.” She watched his eyes.
“But your accent…” he began.
“I roomed with a girl from Richmond for three years at boarding school,” she said, “we talked a lot.”
He grinned—which was actually his best feature, a grin to break the heart of the hardest woman. Ela was not immune.
“You do accents?” she said, near laughter at his grin.
“Well….Among other things….” Another grin, more potent than ever this time.
“I have to go,” she said, quickly, knowing how important it was not to bask too long in Richard’s smile. She turned to glide away.
“I was asleep,” she said, pausing, not looking back.
“So you lie,” Richard was trying to hold her, keep her from gliding away.
She turned toward him. “You still have my matches.”
He fumbled through his pocket and found them. “Close cover before striking”, was all he could think for a moment. She took the matches and turned way.
“I steal,” he told her, longing in his voice.
She shook her head several times. Her back was toward him. “I lie and you steal, quite a pair. No way to start a relationship,” she said. “Can you ever trust me?”
“Should I?” Richard asked softly.
“Should you what?” Ela said, never looking back at him.
“Trust you.” He answered.
“That’s for me to know,” she said. And then she was gone.
Richard stood in the gathering chill for a long time, staring at the stars and moon he could not have seen because of the heavy cloud cover. But forever after, he remembered moon and stars and Ela.
The thing hard to imagine in such a love story as this is that Richard, for the next few days, almost forgot about the girl with the book who smelled of vanilla and smoked Marlboro cigarettes (though he did remember her brand somehow). It is possible to forgive him because he was, after all, reading Spencer in large doses and early British novels and dealing with what was necessary to put out the students’ literary journal because he was the editor—the first Junior ever to editor the “Spirit”. Plus, he lived in a dorm on the Main Campus with Freshmen because he was one of the “dorm counselors”—something few Juniors had ever been either. The Freshmen on his floor were, so far as Richard could tell, Neanderthals from the far-reaches of West Virginia and Pennsylvania and Ohio and Kentucky. Madmen all, he thought. And they consumed his time and attention—like his classes, like the magazine. He had things to do, duties to attend to, papers to write, books to read.
Fox and Trotter—two of the freshmen—had destroyed a bathroom on his floor on Friday night after a round of Fraternity Rush drink-a-thons. Richard liked them, animals that they were, and had spent much of Saturday dealing with the Dean of Student Affairs and the maintenance men in Arthur E. Boreman Hall trying to keep Fox and Trotter in school while they slept off their remarkable, almost mythic hang-overs.
He called home and talked to Vernon and Susan, his parents, back in French, almost telling them about the girl he’d met in the stacks on Wednesday night and how the starlight fell on her shoulders as they stood outside and briefly talked. But he didn’t. Instead he told them about his classes and about the food in the cafeteria and about the football game he’d missed because of the disaster in the bathroom. And he listened as they repeated the litany of illnesses and deaths and hard times back in French, where—it seemed to Richard—nothing ever turned out as well as it could have. And then he read some and wrote some and slept.
On Sunday morning, Richard repeated his normal rounds. He stopped in at the little Greek restaurant across the street from his dorm for some scrambled eggs and a grilled roll. He paid Plato, the youngest son, who was the hero of any student who actually studied and understood Western Civilization, for his breakfast. Then he went to church at Trinity, the Episcopal Church a block away. Richard had left his Methodist upbringing as a Freshman when he discovered the Episcopal faith by accident, drug to Trinity by a girl from Parkersburg he knew from a Freshman Honors class. Tina disappeared in the midst of the Eucharist. Richard was consumed by the liturgy and ritual and richness of the language of Anglican worship. He and Tina never dated, but Richard became an Episcopalian, confirmed by the Bishop in his Sophomore year of college. He was, if nothing else, a faithful man and attended church every Sunday.
After the last prayers and postlude he wandered around campus because it was an unusually warm Autumn. And in his wanderings, he happened on the great lawn in front of the library. And there he saw her, smoking a cigarette, making sketches on a pad, squinting against the morning sun.
He had not “thought” of her for four days. He had dreamed of her, in dreams he never remembered, each night. So much of what happened between Richard and Ela was subconscious that it is difficult to tell their story. But it must be told.
So you must know that, filled with the Anglican version of the Body and Blood of Christ, empowered by the sacrament, stepping out of his shy, mountain-boy path, Richard crossed the Lawn and plopped himself on the fall grass beside of Ela. He waited.
As Richard waited he suddenly and unexpectedly remembered a poem he had written when he was 15 years old. He thought he had long ago forgotten it, but it came back, all new.
Soon will come the chill, the cold.
It is upon us, at the very door.
Winter conquers all—and all is lost.
The warmth is lost forever.
Life and love are but memories.
And yet today there is a warmth
A warmth we do not deserve.
But we must embrace it and love it.
We must reach out to it and rejoice.
Before November and the freeze,
Once softly, October.
It was a terrible poem, full of the kind of longings Richard imagined were not part of his life any more. But there it was. And there she was—this Girl beyond imagining, right before him, sketching one of the oaks on the Lawn, paying him no attention.
Her delicate hand, holding the cigarette now, flicked across the page with a pencil. She was left-handed, Richard noticed, wondering how that might be, if she’d been disciplined in grade school, criticized by how her arm embraced the desk as she tried to print. And now she drew. It wasn’t the oak at all, but it was an oak—some tree in her memory or vision, more wondrous, stark and unforgiving than the actual tree.
She laid the pad aside, finally and handed him a book of matches so he could light another cigarette for her.
She inhaled deeply, astonishingly deep, holding the smoke within her until she began to let it out as she spoke.
“You’re all dressed up,” she said, trailing smoke above her head.
Richard noticed he had on a jacket and a tie. He always did for church—something he hadn’t noticed before since it was simply part of him.
“Church,” he said. “I’ve been to church.”
She seemed vaguely interested, he thought. She leaned her fragile head to one side, stretching out her long, lovely neck. “What cult are you?”
Confused, Richard answered, “pardon?”
She laughed, freely and electric, like the air that October Sunday. But Richard noticed that though her body laughed, there was next to no sound. Her laughter was silent, haunting, just out of reach.
“I’m sorry,” he said, “about the ‘pardon’. I know you don’t like it. And I don’t know your name. I’m Richard and I’m an Episcopalian.”
Ela rolled around in a joyous circle, sitting on the grass. This boy, she thought, is nothing that I need; but I want to know him….”
She tossed away her cigarette and fell backwards in the grass. Her legs were still crossed in front of her and she spread her arms out wide to either side.
“He’s not there, you know,” she said.
“Who?” that strange boy asked.
Ela laughed inside and her body shook. “God, Allah, Jehovah, the Bananaman, none of them, nobody….” She said, still laughing.
(This is the first moment when all that happened, all that was to be and can’t most likely be changed, could have shifted away and been different. In a moment all this happened inside Richard: he was shocked and dismayed by Ela’s words, he was convinced—on some level—that nothing would ever come of this moment, and…and, he was hooked on her, her audacity and verve and shear energy. And, let it be known, he was shocked into being by the way the color of her eyes matched the stones, gray and ancient, of the library, by the way she looked like some creature you couldn’t tame or hold, by the way the laughed without sound, by the very being of this girl whose name he still did not know. So he didn’t leave. He stayed. And the truth be known, he already loved her.)
“Who’s the Bananaman?” is all he said.
“That’s for later,” she smiled and said, “and maybe never. We’ll see.”
If we had been watching what we would have seen for a long time was Ela in the grass, smiling and Richard sitting beside her and her sketch pad off to the side, between them. For a long time, that would have been all we could see.
Finally, Richard said, “I love your drawing of that oak.”
She stirred in the grass and sat up. “It’s a maple.”
He grinned and she was swallowed into his grin. “No,” he said, “it’s an oak tree. I know from the shape and the few leaves still left. My father could tell you from the bark, but not me.”
“You’re a ‘shape’ and ‘leaf’ man, I take it,” said Ela, sitting up, looking from her sketch to the tree to Richard.
“Mostly,” he said. And if Elsie French had been out on the Lawn instead of hid away in the library, when Richard said “mostly”, she would have known he grew up further south of Beckley than she imagined before.
And if Richard had been listening to Ela’s accent rather than falling in love with her—hopelessly and hopelessly in love with her—he would have known, from the few sentences she said that her roommate at St. Paul’s hadn’t been from Richmond at all, but from Tidewater Virginia somewhere, a place so unknown and forgettable that she had said she was from Richmond. Such intimacies as that are oft forgotten on Spring days that fall, inexplicably, in October when the sun is bright and warm and you are younger than you’ll ever be again, younger than anyone ever could deserve. You’re that young and already that in love.
After what seemed to both of them to be a long time, Ela finally said, “My name is Ela, Ela Dunning.”
“Like Ella Fitzgerald?” Richard asked.
“With just one l. I don’t know why, but Ela with one l.” She smiled at Richard and into the midday sun. And she was lovely.
“I’m pleased to meet you Miss Dunning,” he said in his deepest Appalachian accent, “I’m Richard Lucas.”
“Mr. Lucas,” she said, savoring the words in her mouth, finding them sweet to the taste. “The sentiment is mutual.”
And they both smiled, neither knowing, not for a moment, the sweetness and joy and pain and disappointment and memories this moment in the pale October sun would bring. Not for a moment could they have known that. But they were young—younger than anyone ever deserves to be. And though they would almost find a love for the ages, a love beyond imagining, a love that would endure forever…although they had several moments to find that kind of love and never did…it was enough in that moment.
And they couldn’t have known or imagined what they were in for…it would be sweet and joyful and painful and remembered always in their hearts. Just that moment on that Lawn before that Library, near that river, waiting for something to happen next, Ela and Richard couldn’t have been happier. And that, after all, is something to be devoutly wished.
“Want to go for a walk?” Richard asked, already scooping up Ela’s sketch pad, already imagining the joy and hopefulness.
Ela touched her face. Years later, Richard would remember that simple gesture and smile.
“A walk might be good, Mr. Lucas,” she said.
So they walked until the October sun waned and dimmed and set. They walked until they were fully in love.
Nothing happened to Richard, ever....
Richard David Lucas, only child of Vernon Lucas and Susan Brown Lucas, was someone nothing ever happened to. Something happening to him that was extraordinary or transforming would, most likely, have seemed like a mistake to him. He was loved by and devoted to his parents. He was the type of fellow almost everyone likes and some admired. He never felt confounded or betrayed of put upon in any significant way. Nothing much ever confused or annoyed him. Years after his time loving Ela, he would reflect on his blood from time to time. There was no part of his DNA that did not originate in the British Isles. His poetic sense came from the Irish parts of him. His calm from his Scottish roots. His sweet reasonableness from the peasant stock of Kent.
Richard would have been hard put to tell you—when he was a boy becoming a man—about what made him happy. “Happy” wasn't a term he connected with readily. It would have been equally difficult to discuss his sadness. Richard rode gracefully on the rail between powerful emotions. He hated no one he could think of and loved but a few. He mostly simply 'liked' people and his life and how things were turning out. He felt a profound and universe sized emptiness only because he thought there must be somethng--'the Book' or the aphorism or the key, clue, cloud parting Truth that would make him completely Whole and Right. Mostly, though, he felt he was as close to Whole and Right as people get to come. He imagined that if he found the Deep-Down-Meaning of it all, he might turn to white light and cease to exist as he did.
And Richard David Lucas preferred his existence greatly to not existing at all. Back in 1968—eons ago as things go—he was 'seeking' but not 'longing', not in any existentially painful way. He didn't mind being who he was and when and where he was. He had no concept of 'boredom' in the way his friends all discussed it endlessly. He wasn't sure the world was dying to get better—in fact, the world as he knew it was, for the most part, comfortable and copacetic (though, even as an English major, he may not have known the meaning of that word in 1968.) If you looked up “well adjusted” in some cosmic dictionary in the autumn of 1968, there just might have been a picture of Richard along with the definition. “Easy going” didn't begin to fill in his blanks. Though he didn't think in terms of being 'confident' or having a healthy ego, by virtue of the way people evaluated such things in those days, Richard was the poster boy.
He had a girl friend of sorts—and since the two of them were an enigma to everyone in French, West Virginia—the 'of sorts' part was what most people focused on. They weren't passionately in love. In fact, they seemed to be best friends who dated. Rosemary Ball was the only child of the man who was Richard's father's boss. Alex Ball was the General Superintendent of French Coal Mine. Vernon Lucas was the Mine Foreman. Everyone—over 200 men--'men' literally in those days—who worked in the coal mines of French, worked for Vernon Lucas. Vernon Lucas worked for Alex Ball and whatever concept of the Almighty Vernon had. The two progeny of those two good, fair men were born within seven days of each other, grew up next door—though Rosemary's house was the 'big house' of brick at the end of the street and Richard's house was the wooden frame house, with more rooms than any other of the wooden houses on the street.