Skip to main content

Full text of "Selected stories from O. Henry"

See other formats




of tl?? 

ImtiFrsttg 0f N nrtlj (Carnltna 

ainll^rttatt af NortI| (SarnUnlana 

nf tlyr (Elasa of lBfi9 




This book must not 
be taken from the 
Library building. 





Repetition and Parallelism est English Verse 

Anglo-Saxon Grammar and Exercise Book 

Studies in English Syntax 

Die Amerikanische Literatur 

What Can Literature Do for Me ? 

O, Henry Biogil^phy 

Keynote Studies in Kjeynote Books of the 

New Words Self-Defined 

Edgar Allan Poe : How to Know Him 










COPYRIGHT, 1906, 1907, 1908, 1909, 1910, 1911, 1922, BY 















O. Henry Frontispiece 


Introduction v" 

The Duplicity of Hargraves 1 

Roads of Destiny 16 

A Retrieved Reformation 41 

The Brief Debut of Tildy 50 

A LicKPENNY Lover 57 

The Pendulum ^"^ 

Transients in Arcadia '^0 

The Roads We Take 77 

The Furnished Room 83 

Makes the Whole World Eon 91 

Squaring the Circle 97 

The Cop and the Anthem 103 

The Making OF A New Yorker Ill 

A Cosmopolite in a Cafe 118 

Mammon and the Archer 125 

An Unfinished Story 133 

The Last Leaf 141 

The Gift of the Magi 149 

The Handbook of Hymen 156 

The Trimmed Lamp 169 

The Caballero's Way 182 

The World and the Door 196 

'*The Rose OF Dixie" 211 

A Municipal Report 224 

Let Me Feel Your Pulse 242 


A GOOD coign of vantage for the appraisal of O. Henry is 
found in the number and variety of authors with whom he has 
been compared. No other American writer of recent times 
has sent his critics on so many or so diverse quests for sug- 
gestive parallels or equally suggestive contrasts. He himself 
once wrote :^ "When we strove to set forth real life they 
reproached us for trying to imitate Henry George, George 
Washington, Washington Irving, and Irving Bacheller. We 
wrote of the West and the East, and they accused us of both 
Jesse and Henry James." He has not been, so far as my 
reading goes, "accused" of Henry James; but the vocabulary 
and plots of the two have been interestingly likened. "We 
reahze," says a writer in The Unpopular Review,^ "that we 
are dealing with no uncouth ranchman who has literary 
aspirations, who writes in slang for want of legitimate vocabu- 
lary. We are in the hands of one who has read widely and 
well one who has a vocabulary, not including his slang, which 
may be called unique, which may be compared indeed with 
that of a Pater or a James." And Miss Blanche Colton 
Winiams,^ after mentioning a group of O. Henry stories, 
among which are Transients in Arcadia, The Gift of the Magi, 
and The World and the Door, adds: "In connection with these 
plots, O. Henry must have observed that Henry James had 
employed the method he himself had used. It is a far call 
from one of these stylists to the other; yet the older writer's 

^The Girl and the Habit 

2April-June, 1917. 

^Our ShoH Story Writers (1920), page 220. 


Broken Wings, The Real Thing, and The Madonna oj the 
Future have at their bases the very plot principle on which 
O. Henry rested the group just given." 

No one, however, has gone so far afield for an analogue as 
Nicholas Vachel Lindsay : ^ 

How coolly he misquoted. 'Twas his art — 
Slave-scholar, who misquoted — from the heart. 
So when we slapped his back with friendly roar 
Esop awaited him without the door, — 
Esop the Greek, who made dull masters laugh 
With little tales of fox and dog and calf. 

It is hardly adequate to say that O. Henry misquoted 
"coolly." He misquoted reconstructively. He made mis- 
quotation an art. Instead of merely mutilating, as Sheridan 
makes Mrs. Malaprop do, O. Henry impresses a new meaning 
and releases a new thought. Many of his misquotations de- 
serve to live as original creations. Two of his characters, for 
example, lose their booty by quarreling over it: "There was a 
rift within the loot, as Albert Tennyson says." A connois- 
seur in ordering fashionable dinners is described as "one tc 
the menu born." Spenser's famous warning in The Faerie 
Qiieene, "Be bolde, be bolde, and everywhere be bolde. Be 
not too bolde" is metamorphosed into "Be bold; everywhere 
be bold, but be not bowled over." "A straw vote," says O. 
Henry, "only shows which way the hot air blows." "Strong 
drink," we are assured, "is an adder, and subtracter, too." 
Tennyson's "Fierce light which beats upon a throne" is 
democratized into "The fierce light that beats upon the 

At first Mark Twain and Kipling were the authors most 
often requisitioned for comparison. "O. Henry is a humorist," 
said The Nation," "in spite of his local color and his cheer- 
ful spirit, a humorist after Kipling rather than after Mark 

^ The Knight in Disguise. 
*July 4, 1907. 


Twain. More than once in the present volume^ he pays a 
tribute, stated or impHed, to the author of the Plain Tales, 
and though his characteristic mood is more grim [less grim?], 
his style has much of Kiphng's terseness and saliency." 
There is no doubt that Kipling influenced O. Henry's style. 
He was deeply gratified by the message that Kipling was said 
to have sent him : " Do you know O. Henry ? Well, when you 
see him, tell him Hello for me." Mr. Oilman Hall relates 
also that O. Henry was most interested in Stevenson but 
that he had left his edition of Stevenson in Texas, and had 
in all only about twenty-seven books in his room in New 

Mr. O. W. Firkins, in one of the most discriminating 
critiques^ yet written of O. Henry, finds a contrasting point de 
repere in Shakespeare and Chaucer. "There is," he says, 
"one literary trait in which I am unable to name any writer 
of tales in any literature who surpasses O. Henry. It is not 
primary or even secondary among literary merits; it is less a 
value per se than the condition or foundation of values. But 
its utihty is manifest, and it is rare among men; Chaucer and 
Shakespeare prove the possibility of its absence in masters of 
that very branch of art in which its presence would seem to 
be imperative. I refer to the designing of stories— not to the 
primary intuition or to skill in development, in both of which 
finer phases of invention O. Henry has been largely and 
frequently surpassed, but to the disposition of masses, to the 
blocking-out of plots. That a half-educated American 
provincial should have been original in a field in which orig- 
inal men have been copyists is enough of itself to make his 
personality observable." Mr. Firkins cites as illustrations 
AJter Twenty Years and The Furnished Room. 

An Enghsh critic, Mr. S. P. B. Mais,^ finds a bond between 
Shakespeare and O. Henry in the common compass of their 
sympathies. Citing the foreword to The Four Million Mr. 

1 The Trimmed Lamp. 

2 The Review. New York, September 13, 1919. 
^In From Shakespeare to 0. Henry (1918). 


Mais continues: "Here we get the clue to O. Henry's great 
ness, his kinship with Dickens and Shakespeare and all great 
writers. He was the born, large-hearted democrat who, 
with the utmost sincerity, can lay his hand upon his breast 
and say: Humani nihil a me alienum piito.'* 

The resemblance to Dickens seems to Mr. Stephen Lea- 
cock ^ more a matter of canvas than of common sympathies : 
"It is an error of the grossest kind to say that O. Henry's 
work is not sustained. In reality his canvas is vast. His 
New York stories, like those of Central America or of the 
West, form one great picture as gloriously comprehensive in 
its scope as the lengthiest novels of a Dickens or the canvas of 
a Da Vinci. It is only the method that is different, not the 

Another English critic^ discovers a likeness to O. Henry 
in the sketches of Phil May and the dramas of Eugene Scribe : 
"His work reminds us of Phil May's sketches in economy of 
material and ruthless elimination of the unessential. His 
action never lags unmeaningly. As the story approaches its 
close, the apparently irrelevant delays, the side-issues taken 
up and dropped ostensibly without purpose, suddenly assume 
a vital importance and reach their true proportion in the re- 
flected light of the finale. . . . Alike in his merits and 
defects, O. Henry had a strong affinity to Eugene Scribe, the 
master-carpenter of the French drama. Scribe had the same 
constructive ability, the same talent for finding neat and 
unexpected solutions to his imbroglios, the same gift of know- 
ing what the public wanted almost before it knew itself, the 
same disregard of all that did not make for the immediate 
appeal. He had sufficient wit and humor to keep his audi- 
ence amused, and sufficient skill in character-drawing to make 
his action seem plausible. More he hardly attempted." 

To Miss Williams^ O. Henry has proved both a summariz- 
ing and a projecting influence: "He sums up the development 

^Essays and Literary Studies (1916). 

2 Writing anonymously in The Spectator, London, April 7, 1917. 

^Our Short Story Writers (1920). 


ot the short story from Poe to the present. Stockton humor. 
Aldrich surprise, and Harte's exaltation of local color con- 
tributed to his flood tide. But they remam tributary ... 
It is quite likely that not one writer who learned the tools 
of his trade after 1900 has been able to avoid the influence o 
the most American of short-story writers of the tirst 
twentieth century decade." 

H C Bunner has also been mentioned many times among 
Henry's Uneal if not contributory predecessors. ihe 
resemblance." writes an unnamed reviewer, ^ is persistently 
felt before it can be named; recognized, unmistakably, betore 
it is analyzed. Because it is not a superficial likeness, but an 
essential similarity . They were one kin, Bunner and Porter 
in their stories. One spirit moved them. Both '^ere keen 
reporters. Neither missed the significance in the slightest 
clue to character. Each responded to the stimulus of sug- 
gestion m every odd 'situation,' every incident packed with 
humor or tragedy. And each had that rare power of putting 
too a few paragraphs the secret ot a life, the summary 

of a character." , , 

But Guy de Maupassant has been summoned to bear 
comparative testimony to O. Henry's merits or demerits 
more often than any other writer. "It •« a truism to ob- 
serve " says Miss WiUiams once more, that O. Henry 
learned from Aldrich and Maupassant how to construct sur- 
prise; but not to remark that he progressed beyond the 
French author in this particular phase of technique. And 
the English critic already cited^ finds the most salient differ- 
ential between the two men to consist in their attitude towa d 
women: "O. Henry's intense and chivalrous sympathy for the 
working girl and the woman of the underworld crucified or 
L sin! of men preserved his work from that cold cruelty 
which makes some of Maupassant's short atones an insult to 
our general humanity. When he wrote on their behalf he 
wrote keenly and bitterly, and his words were barbed with 

iln The Sun, New York, March 4, 1917. 
^The Spectator, London, AprU 7, 1917. 


insight and conviction." To Mr. Henry James Forman^ the 
difference lies chiefly in Maupassant's defective humor: "No 
one, it is safe to say, has brought so much fun and humor to 
the Western story. Cattle-king, cowboy, miner, the plains 
and the chaparral — material of the 'dime novel' but all 
treated with the skill of a Maupassant, and a humor Mau- 
passant never dreamed of." 

IVIrs. Katharine Fullerton Gerould, who maintains that O. 
Henry is a "pernicious influence," that he did not write short 
stories but only expanded anecdotes, contrasts the two 
authors thus: *'In Maupassant's stories you know how the 
characters would act whatever extraneous conditions might 
enter; but in O. Henry's stories you know how the people 
acted in one set of circumstances, but you have no idea how 
they w^ould act at any other time." The remark is eminently 
just, but do the honors go to Maupassant? I do not know 
for the life of me how the characters in our selected stories 
"would act under other circumstances. Human nature is 
proverbially incalculable. Thackeray said that when writing 
Vanity Fair he not only did not know what Becky Sharp was 
going to do next but was equally ignorant of what she had 
already done. The short story is the simplification of a small 
section of life ; it is not the projection of a life curve. Charac- 
ter may be revealed or determined in it; but in either case it 
is not petrified or predestined. Maupassant's art of course 
needs no defence, but a wise insight into human nature was 
not among his virtues. His characters can hardly be said to 
act. They react, and react with such abnormal uniformity 
that the reader can conjecture not only their reaction to other 
happenings but their reaction in the story itself before the 
story has fairly begun. 


But O. Henry's life furnishes a more intimate introduction 
to his stories than can be found in even the most elaborate 

The North American Review, May, 1908. 



array of comparative estimates. His reputation was made, 
it is true, before his life was known well enough to serve as 
runnmg comment on his work. But I can recall no author 
whose life parallels his writing more closely or more reveal- 
ingly than O. Henry's. 

William Sidney Porter, better known as O. Henry, was 
born on September 11, 1862 (not 1867), in Greensboro, Guil- 
ford County, North Carolina. Here he resided until 1882, 
and here the O. Henry Hotel with its memorial room attests 
the affectionate regard in which his boyhood friends still 
cherish his memory. He went to school to his aunt and for a 
few months to the graded school that had just been founded in 
Greensboro. He was original and painstaking in all of his 
school duties and before he reached his teens was reading 
widely and assimilatively. In these early years he would 
catch quickly the style of an author and reproduce it with 
humorous additions in stories told to his coterie. He made 
several attempts at this time to unravel and complete 
Dickens's unfinished story. The Mystery of Edwin Drood, but 
gave it up as beyond his powers. As he always said that he 
read more in Greensboro than at any other period of his life, 
it may be well to summarize here the books and authors re- 
ferred to by him in his stories. The Bible leads with sixty- 
three references; Shakespeare follows with thirty-four; 
Tennyson, always his favorite poet, with twenty-one; The 
Arabian Nights with fourteen, though the figures do not show 
the relative significance of the great classic in his work; 
Kipling with twelve; Byron and Dickens with seven each; 
Omar Khayyam with six; Conan Doyle with five; Csesar, 
Marcus Aurelius, Keats, and Henry James each with four. 
The total number of authors alluded to directly or indirectly 
is one hundred and thirty-six. 

From school he passed to his uncle's drug store where he 
remained until 1882. In both school and store he was known 
not only as a timid and reticent boy, living chiefly within 
himself, but as a rarely promising cartoonist. Individuals 
and groups were reproduced by him in pen or pencil sketch 


with equal ease and fidelity. The drug store was the rendez« 
vous of all types of Greensboro characters as it was the clear- 
ing house of all local news; and Will Porter, who as O. Henry 
was later to become the interpreter of New York through his 
stories, became first the historian of Greensboro through his 

At the age of twenty he went to Texas where he remained, 
with the exception of about six months, until 1898. He 
lived first on a ranch in La Salle County, then moved to 
Austin, then to Houston. In Austin he edited The Rolling 
Stone and was teller in the First National Bank; in Houston 
he was a reporter on The Daily Post. While in Houston he 
was summoned back to Austin to stand trial for the alleged 
misappropriation of $1153.68j Had he gone he would 
certainly have been acquitted. He protested his innocence 
to the last, and nobody in Austin, so far as I could learn, 
believed or believes him guilty. The indictment was contra- 
dictory in itself. One item of the charge was that on 
November 12, 1895, while acting as teller of the Austin bank, 
he had embezzled $299.60. But O. Henry had resigned his 
position in the wretchedly managed institution early in 
December, 1894, and had been living in Houston ever since. 

There is profound pathos in a note just received from 
Colonel Edward M. House. Colonel House was born in 
Houston but his home was then and still is in Austin: '*I have 
always thought O. Henry was innocent and I have no doubt 
that if he had remained in Austin and had stood his trial he 
would have been proved so. Judge E. P. Hill, then owner of 
the Houston Post for which O. Henry was writing, enhsted 
my sympathies in his behalf and I looked into the matter 
closely enough to feel convinced that he had done no wrong. 
I had in mind the year he died to invite him that autumn 
to Austin as my guest. It was my purpose to give him a 
dinner and to have present the Governor, the members of the 
Supreme Court, and other State officials in order that an 
expression of regard and affection might be offered him. 
Unhappily, he died before I could extend the invitation to 


bim. I wished also to show some appreciation of the many 
delightful hours he had given me through his stories. I con- 
sider him the greatest short story writer the world has pro- 

ABut after taking the train for Austin O. Henry was moved 
by a whim of the moment to turn back at Hempstead. He 
passed through New Orleans, took a fruiter for Honduras, 
and remained in Central and South America until he learned 
that his wife was desperately ill. He returned at once to 
Austin after an absence of a half year, surrendered himself 
to the authorities, and was sentenced to the federal prison in 
Columbus, Ohio. He entered the prison on April 25, 1898, 
and was released on July 24, 1901. It was here that he wrote 
his first stories and assumed the now famous pen-name O. 

~ ^ After a short stay in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where his 
daughter and her grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. P. G. Roach, 
were then living, he moved to New, York City. His real 
flowering period began in December, 1903, when he signed a 
contract with The New York World for a story a week at the 
rate of $100 a story. j From March to November of this year 
he had dabbled in verse, publishing five second-rate poems in 
Ainslee's Magazine under the names of Howard Clark, T. B. 
Dowd, and S. H. Peters; the latter name together with that 
of James L. Bliss he also signed to several of the stories 
written in 1903. • But from now on the short story was his 
central concern, his output being sometimes seven stories a 
month. Only once was he deflected — ^for six months during 
1909 he collaborated with Mr. Franklin P. Adams on a 
musical comedy of Indian life to which O. Henry gave the 
title La from Pope's couplet, 

Lo, the poor Indian! whose untutor'd mind 
Sees God in clouds, or hears him in the wind. 

Ill health set in early in 1907, though there was never 
any dechne in the quality of the stories. The end came on 


June 5, 1910. He was buried in Asheville, North Carolina, 
near the home of his second wife, Miss Sara Coleman. Into 
his last story. Let Me Feel Your Pulse, he has woven the 
initial stages of his fatal illness and his brave but unavaihng 
fight for life among the highlands of his native State. His 
grave is visited annually by throngs of tourists and a nation- 
wide movement is already under way to erect a monument 
that shall testify fittingly if not adequately to the admiration 
and affection of his readers. 

The volumes of O. Henry's stories were issued in the 
following order: Cabbages and Kings, 1904; The Four Million, 
1906; TJie Trimmed Lamp, 1907; Heart of the West, 1907; The 
Voice of the City, 1908; The Gentle Grafter, 1908; Roads of 
Destiny, 1909; Options, 1909; Strictly Business, 1910; Whirl- 
igigs, 1910; Sixes and Sevens, 1911; Rolling Stones, 1913; 
Waifs and Strays, 1919. These are all published by Double- 
day, Page and Company except Options which is published 
by Harper and Brothers. 


The twenty-five stories that follow are arranged chrono- 
logically and represent O. Henry's chief regional interests, 
his favorite themes, his varying technique, his humor and 
pathos, and the four distinctive stages of his career. That 
they are the best twenty-five stories that he wrote no two 
readers would probably agree. AYith the exception of per- 
haps six of these stories substitutes equally good but hardly 
better could probably be found. ^Mien it is remembered 
that the ten lists of O. Henry's best ten stories (see page 133) 
resulted in a vote of sixty -two best, it can hardly be expected 
that my own choice of twenty -five will escape the dissent of 
the critic. If censure be mingled with dissent, no harm will 
be done; a closer study of O. Henry's work will be ample 
recompense for both censor and censured. 



From Sij:es and Sevens. First published in Munsey's Magazine. 
February, 1902, but written in prison. The difference between the 
Northerner and the Southerner occupied much of O. Henry's 
thought. Regional differences, however, never became sectional 
differences with him, and characterization never passed into carica- 
ture. Six years later he writes Thimble, Thimble from this brief 
jotting in his notebook: "Old darkey — difference between Yankee 
and Southerner — ^N. Y." In the mediatorial character of Miss 
Lydia, as in the attitude of O. Henry himself, one sees a forecast of 
that larger and blended Americanism which combines the best in 
both Major Talbot and Hargraves but without the prejudice of the 
one or the blind spot of the other For a characteristic statement of 
O. Henry's Southernism see the paragraph (page 228) in A Municipal 
Report, beginning, "I desire to interpolate here that I am a 
Southerner. But I am not one by profession or trade." 

When Major Pendleton Talbot, of Mobile, sir, and his 
daughter, Miss Lydia Talbot, came to Washington to reside, 
they selected for a boarding place a house that stood fifty 
yards back from one of the quietest avenues. It was an old- 
fashioned brick building, with a portico upheld by tall white 
pillars. The yard was shaded by stately locusts and elms, 
and a catalpa tree in season rained its pink and white blos- 
soms upon the grass. Rows of high box bushes lined the 
fence and walks. It was the Southern style and aspect of the 
place that pleased the eyes of the Talbots. 

In this pleasant, private boarding house they engaged 


rooms, including a study for Major Talbot, who was adding 
the finishing chapters to his book, "Anecdotes and Remi- 
niscences of the Alabama Army, Bench, and Bar." 

Major Talbot was of the old, old South. The present day 
had little interest or excellence in his eyes. His mind lived in 
that period before the Civil War, when the Talbots o^oied 
thousands of acres of fine cotton land and the slaves to till 
them; when the family mansion was the scene of princely 
hospitality, and drew its guests from the aristocracy of the 
South. Out of that period he had brought all its old pride 
and scruples of honor, an antiquated and punctilious polite- 
ness, and (you would think) its wardrobe. 

Such clothes were surely never made w^ithin fifty years. 
The major was tall, but w^henever he made that wonderful, 
archaic genuflexion he called a bow, the corners of his frock 
coat swept the floor. That garment was a surprise even to 
Washington, which has long ago ceased to shy at the frocks 
and broad-brimmed hats of Southern congressmen. One of 
the boarders christened it a "Father Hubbard," and it 
certainly was high in the waist and full in the skirt. 

But the major, with all his queer clothes, his immense area 
of plaited, raveling shirt bosom, and the little black string 
tie with the bow always slipping on one side, both was smiled 
at and liked in Mrs. Vardeman's select boarding house. 
Some of the young department clerks would often "string 
him," as they called it, getting him started upon the subject 
dearest to him — the traditions and history of his beloved 
Southland. During his talks he would quote freely from the 
"Anecdotes and Reminiscences." But they were very care- 
ful not to let him see their designs, for in spite of his sixty- 
eight years, he could make the boldest of them uncomfortable 
under the steady regard of his piercing gray eyes. 

Miss Lydia was a plump, little old maid of thirty -five, with 
smoothly drawn, tightly twisted hair that made her look still 
older. Old fashioned, too, she was; but ante-bellum glory 
did not radiate from her as it did from the major. She 
possessed a thrifty common sense; and it was she who handled 


the finances of the family, and met all comers when there were 
bills to pay. The major regarded board bills and wash bills 
as contemptible nuisances. They kept coming in so per- 
sistently and so often. Why, the major wanted to know, 
could they not be filed and paid in a lump sum at some con- 
venient period — say when the "Anecdotes and Reminis- 
cences " had been published and paid for? Miss Lydia would 
calmly go on with her sewing and say, "We'll pay as we go as 
long as the money lasts, and then perhaps they'll have to 
lump it." 

Most of Mrs. Vardeman's boarders were away during the 
day, being nearly all department clerks and business men; but 
there was one of them who was about the house a great deal 
from morning to night. This was a young man named Henry 
Hopkins Hargraves — every one in the house addressed him by 
his full name— who was engaged at one of the popular vaude- 
ville theatres. Vaudeville has risen to such a respectable 
plane in the last few years, and Mr. Hargraves was such a 
modest and well-mannered person, that Mrs. Vardeman 
could find no objection to enrolling him upon her list of 

At the theatre Hargraves was known as an all-round 
dialect comedian, having a large repertoire of German, Irish, 
Swede, and black-face specialties. But Mr. Hargraves was 
ambitious, and often spoke of his great desire to succeed in 
legitimate comedy. 

This young man appeared to conceive a strong fancy for 
Major Talbot. Whenever that gentleman would begin his 
Southern reminiscences, or repeat some of the liveUest of the 
anecdotes, Hargraves could always be found, the most at- 
tentive among his listeners. 

For a time the major showed an inchnation to discourage 
the advances of the "play actor," as he privately termed him; 
but soon the young man's agreeable manner and indubitable 
appreciation of the old gentleman's stories completely won 
him over. 

It was not long before the two were like old chums. The 


major set apart each afternoon to read to him the manuscript 
of his book. During the anecdotes Hargraves never failed to 
laugh at exactly the right point. The major was moved to 
declare to Miss Lydia one day that young Hargraves pos- 
sessed remarkable perception and a gratifying respect for the 
old regime. And when it came to talking of those old days — 
if Major Talbot liked to talk, INIr. Hargraves was entranced to 

Like almost all old people who talk of the past, the major 
loved to linger over details. In describing the splendid, 
almost royal, days of the old planters, he would hesitate until 
he had recalled the name of the Negro who held his horse, or 
the exact date of certain minor happenings, or the number of 
bales of cotton raised in such a year; but Hargraves never 
grew impatient or lost interest. On the contrary, he would 
advance questions on a variety of subjects connected with the 
life of that time, and he never failed to extract ready replies. 

The fox hunts, the 'possum suppers, the hoe dowTis and 
jubilees in the Negro quarters, the banquets in the plantation- 
house hall, when invitations w^ent for fifty miles around; 
the occasional feuds with the neighboring gentry; the major's 
duel with Rathbone Culbertson about Ejtty Chalmers, who 
afterward married a Thwaite of South Carolina; and private 
yacht races for fabulous sums on Mobile Bay; the quaint 
beliefs, improvident habits, and loyal virtues of the old slaves 
— all these were subjects that held both the major and Har- 
graves absorbed for hours at a time. 

Sometimes, at night, when the young man would be coming 
upstairs to his room after his turn at the theatre was over, the 
major would appear at the door of his study and beckon 
archly to him. Going in, Hargraves would find a little table 
set with a decanter, sugar bowl, fruit, and a big bunch of 
fresh green mint. 

"It occurred to me," the major would begin — he was 
always ceremonious — "that perhaps you might have found 
your duties at the — at your place of occupation — sufiBciently 
arduous to enable you, Mr. Hargraves, to appreciate what the 


poet might well have had in his mind when he wrote, 'tired 
Nature's sweet restorer,'— one of our Southern juleps." 

It was a fascination to Hargraves to watch him make it. 
He took rank among artists when he began, and he never 
varied the process. With what delicacy he bruised the mint; 
with what exquisite nicety he estimated the ingredients; with 
what solicitous care he capped the compound with the scarlet 
fruit glowing against the dark green fringe! And then the 
hospitality and grace with which he offered it, after the 
selected oat straws had been plunged into its tinkling depths! 

After about four months in Washington, Miss Lydia dis- 
covered one morning that they were almost without money. 
The "Anecdotes and Reminiscences" was completed, but 
pubhshers had not jumped at the collected gems of Alabama 
sense and wit. The rental of a small house which they still 
owned in Mobile was two months in arrears. Their board 
money for the month would be due in three days. Miss 
Lydia called her father to a consultation. 

"No money? " said he with a surprised look. "It is quite 
annoying to be called on so frequently for these petty sums. 

Really, I " , , 

The major searched his pockets. He found only a two- 
dollar bill, which he returned to his vest pocket. 

"I must attend to this at once, Lydia," he said. "Kindly 
get me my umbrella and I will go down town immediately. 
The congressman from our district, General Fulghum, assured 
me some days ago that he would use his influence to get my 
book published at an early date. I will go to his hotel at once 
and see what arrangement has been made." 

With a sad little smile Miss Lydia watched him button his 
"Father Hubbard" and depart, pausing at the door, as he 
always did, to bow profoundly. 

That evening, at dark, he returned. It seemed that 
Congressman Fulghum had seen the publisher who had the 
major's manuscript for reading. That person had said that 
if the anecdotes, etc., were carefully pruned down about one 
haK, in order to eliminate the sectional and class prejudice 


with which the book was dyed from end to end, he might, 
consider its pubhcation. 

The major was in a white heat of anger, but regained his 
equanimity, according to his code of manners, as soon as he 
was in Miss Lydia's presence. 

"We must have money," said Miss Lydia, with a httle 
wrinkle above her nose. "Give me the two dollars, and I 
will telegraph to Uncle Ralph for some to-night." 

The major drew a small envelope from his upper vest 
pocket and tossed it on the table. 

"Perhaps it was injudicious," he said mildly, "but the sum 
was so merely nominal that I bought tickets to the theatre 
to-night. It's a new war drama, Lydia. I thought you 
would be pleased to witness its first production in Washington. 
I am told that the South has very fair treatment in the play. 
I confess I should like to see the performance myself." 

Miss Lydia threw up her hands in silent despair. 

Still, as the tickets were bought, they might as well be used. 
So that evening, as they sat in the theatre listening to the 
lively overture, even Miss Lydia was minded to relegate their 
troubles, for the hour, to second place. The major, in spot- 
less linen, w^th his extraordinary coat showing only where it 
was closely buttoned, and his white hair smoothly reached, 
looked really fine and distinguished. The curtain went up 
on the first act of "A Magnolia Flower," revealing a typical 
Southern plantation scene. Major Talbot betrayed some 

"Oh, see!" exclaimed Miss Lydia, nudging his arm, and 
pointing to her programme. 

The major put on his glasses and read the line in the cast of 
characters that her finger indicated. 

Col. Webster Calhoun. . . . H. Hopkins Hargraves. 

"It's our Mr. Hargraves," said Miss Lydia. "It must be 
his first appearance in what he calls *the legitimate.' I'm 
so glad for him." 

Not until the second act did Col. Webster Calhoun appear 
upon the stage. When he made his entry Major Talbot gave 


an audible sniff, glared at him, and seemed to freeze solid. 
Miss Lydia uttered a little, ambiguous squeak and crumpled 
her programme in her hand. For Colonel Calhoun was made 
up as nearly resembling Major Talbot as one pea does 
another. The long, thin white hair, curly at the ends, the 
aristocratic beak of a nose, the crumpled, wide, raveling shirt 
front, the string tie, with the bow nearly under one ear, were 
almost exactly duplicated. And then, to clinch the imitation, 
he wore the twin to the major's supposed to be unparalleled 
coat. High-collared, baggy, empire-waisted, ample-skirted, 
hanging a foot lower in front than behind, the garment could 
have been designed from no other pattern. From then on, 
the major and Miss Lydia sat bewitched, and saw the 
counterfeit presentment of a haughty Talbot "dragged," as 
the major afterward expressed it, "through the slanderous 
mire of a corrupt stage." 

Mr. Hargraves had used his opportunities well. He had 
caught the major's little idiosyncrasies of speech, accent, and 
intonation and his pompous courtliness to perfection — ex- 
aggerating all to the purpose of the stage. When he per- 
formed that marvellous bow that the major fondly imagined 
to be the pink of all salutations, the audience sent forth a 
sudden round of hearty applause. 

Miss Lydia sat immovable, not daring to glance toward her 
father. Sometimes her hand next to him would be laid 
against her cheek, as if to conceal the smile which, in spite of 
her disapproval, she could not entirely suppress. 

The culmination of Hargraves's audacious imitation took 
place in the third act. The scene is where Colonel Calhoun 
entertains a few of the neighboring planters in his "den." 

Standing at a table in the centre of the stage, with his 
friends grouped about him, he delivers that inimitable, 
rambling, character monologue so famous in "A Magnolia 
Flower," at the same time that he deftly makes juleps for the 

Major Talbot, sitting quietly, but white with indignation, 
heard his best stories retold, his pet theories and hobbies ad- 


vanced and expanded, and the dream of the ** Anecdotes and 
Reminiscences" served, exaggerated and garbled. His 
favorite narrative — that of his duel with Rathbone Cul- 
bertson — was not omitted, and it was delivered with more 
fire, egotism, and gusto than the major himself put into it. 

The monologue concluded with a quaint, delicious, witty- 
little lecture on the art of concocting a julep, illustrated by 
the act. Here Major Talbot's delicate but sho\\y science was 
reproduced to a hair's breadth — from his dainty handling of 
the fragrant weed — "the one-thousandth part of a grain too 
much pressure, gentlemen, and you extract the bitterness, in- 
stead of the aroma, of this heaven-bestowed plant" — to his 
solicitous selection of the oaten straws. 

At the close of the scene the audience raised a tumultuous 
roar of appreciation. The portrayal of the type was so exact, 
so sure and thorough, that the leading characters in the play 
were forgotten. After repeated calls, Hargraves came before 
the curtain and bowed, his rather boyish face bright and 
flushed with the knowledge of success. 

At last Miss Lydia turned and looked at the major. His 
thin nostrils were working like the gills of a fish. He laid 
both shaking hands upon the arms of his chair to rise. 

'*We will go, Lydia," he said, chokingly. "This is an 
abominable — desecration." 

Before he could rise, she pulled him back into his seat. 

"We will stay it out," she declared. "Do you want to 
advertise the copy by exhibiting the original coat?" So they 
remained to the end. 

Hargraves's success must have kept him up late that night, 
for neither at the breakfast nor at the dinner table did he 

About three in the afternoon he tapped at the door of 
Major Talbot's study. The major opened it, and Hargraves 
walked in with his hands full of the morning papers — too full 
of his triumph to notice anything unusual in the major's de- 

"I put it all over 'em last night, major," he began ex- 


ultantly. "I had my inning, and, I think, scored. Here's 
what the Post says: 

His conception andportrayal of the old-tiroe Southern colonel, with 
his absurd grandiloquence, his eccentric garb, his quaint idioms and 
phrases, his moth-eaten pride of family, and his really kind heart, 
fastidious sense of honor, and lovable simplicity, is the best deline- 
ation of a character role on the boards to-day. The coat worn by 
Colonel Calhoun is itself nothing less than an evolution of genius. 
Mr. Hargraves has captured his public. 

"How does that sound, major, for a first nighter.^" 

"I had the honor" — the major's voice sounded ominously 
frigid — "of witnessing your very remarkable performance, 
sir, last night." 

Hargraves looked disconcerted. 

"You were there .^ I didn't know you ever — I didn't know 
you cared for the theatre. Oh, I say. Major Talbot," he 
exclaimed frankly, " don't you be offended. I admit I did get 
a lot of pointers from you that helped me out wonderfully 
in the part. But it's a type, you know — not individual. 
The way the audience caught on shows that. Half the 
patrons of that theatre are Southerners. They recognized 

"Mr. Hargraves," said the major, who had remained 
standing, "you have put upon me an unpardonable insult. 
You have burlesqued my person, grossly betrayed my 
confidence, and misused my hospitality. If I thought you 
possessed the faintest conception of what is the sign manual 
of a gentleman, or what is due one, I would call you out, sir, 
old as I am. I will ask you to leave the room, sir." 

The actor appeared to be slightly bewildered, and seemed 
hardly to take in the full meaning of the old gentleman's 

"I am truly sorry you took offence," he said regretfully. 
"Up here we don't look at things just as you people do. 
I know men who would buy out half the house to have 


their personality put on the stage so the public would 
recognize it." 

"They are not from Alabama, sir," said the major 

"Perhaps not. I have a pretty good memory, major; let 
me quote a few lines from your book. In response to a toast 
at a banquet given in — Milledgeville, I believe — you uttered 
and intend to have printed, these words: 

The Northern man is utterly without sentiment or warmth except 
in so far as the feelings may be turned to his o-wti commercial profit. 
He will suffer without resentment any imputation cast upon the 
honor of himself or his loved ones that does not bear with it the 
consequence of pecuniary loss. In his charity, he gives with a 
liberal hand; but it must be heralded with the trumpet and chroni- 
cled in brass. 

"Do you think that picture is fairer than the one you saw 
of Colonel Calhoun last night?" 

"The description," said the major frowning, "is — not 
without grounds. Some exag — ^latitude must be allowed in 
public speaking." 

"And in public acting," replied Hargraves. 

"That is not the point," persisted the major, unrelenting. 
"It was a personal caricature. I positively decline to over- 
look it, sir." 

"Major Talbot," said Hargraves, with a winning smile, 
" I wish you would understand me. I want you to know that 
I never dreamed of insulting you. In my profession, all life 
belongs to me. I take what I want, and what I can, and 
return it over the footlights. Now, if you will, let's let it go 
at that. I came in to see you about something else. We've 
been pretty good friends for some months, and I'm going to 
take the risk of offending you again. I know you are hard 
up for money — never mind how I found out; a boarding house 
is no place to keep such matters secret — and I want you to let 
me help you out of the pinch. I've been there often enough 
myself. I've been getting a fair salary all the season, and 


I've saved some money. You're welcome to a couple hun- 
dred — or even more — until you get " 

"Stop!" commanded the major, with his arm outstretched. 
" It seems that my book didn't lie, after all. You think your 
money salve will heal all the hurts of honor. Under no 
circumstances would I accept a loan from a casual acquaint- 
ance; and as to you, sir, I would starve before I would con- 
sider your insulting offer of a financial adjustment of the 
circumstances we have discussed. I beg to repeat my request 
relative to your quitting the apartment." 

Hargraves took his departure without another word. He 
also eft the house the same day, moving, as Mrs. Vardeman 
explained at the supper tab e, nearer the vicinity of the down- 
town theatre, where "A Magnolia Flower" was booked for a 
week's run. 

Critical was the situation with Major Talbot and Miss 
Lydia. There was no one in Washington to whom the 
major's scruples allowed him to apply for a loan. Miss Lydia 
wrote a letter to Uncle Ralph, but it was doubtful whether 
that relative's constricted affairs would permit him to furnish 
help. The major was forced to make an apologetic address 
to Mrs. Vardeman regarding the delayed payment for board, 
referring to "delinquent rentals" and "delayed remittances" 
in a rather confused strain. 

Deliverance came from an entirely unexpected source. 

Late one afternoon the door maid came up and announced 
an old colored man who wanted to see Major Talbot. The 
major asked that he be sent up to his study. ^ Soon an old 
darkey appeared in the doorway, with his hat in hand, bow- 
ing, and scraping with one clumsy foot. He was quite 
decently dressed in a baggy suit of black. His big, coarse 
shoes shone with a metallic lustre suggestive of stove polish. 
His bushy wool was gray— almost white. After middle life, 
it is difficult to estimate the age of a Negro. This one might 
have seen as many years as had Major Talbot. 

"I be bound you don't know me, Mars' Pendleton," were 
his first words. 


The major rose and came forward at the old, famiHar style 
of address. It was one of the old plantation darkeys without 
a doubt; but they had been widely scattered, and he could 
not recall the voice or face. 

"I don't believe I do," he said kindly — "unless you wdll 
assist my memory." 

"Don't you 'member Cindy's Mose, Mars' Pendleton, 
what 'migrated 'mediately after de war? " 

"Wait a moment," said the major, rubbing his forehead 
with the tips of his fingers. He loved to recall everything 
connected with those beloved days. "Cindy's Mose," he 
reflected. "You worked among the horses — breaking the 
colts. Yes, I remember now. After the surrender, you took 
the name of — don't prompt me — Mitchell, and went to the 
West — to Nebraska." 

"Yassir, yassir," — the old man's face stretched with a 
delighted grin — "dat's him, dat's it. Newbraska. Dat's 
me — Mose Mitchell. Old Uncle Mose Mitchell, dey calls me 
now. Old mars', your pa, gimme a pah of dem mule colts 
when I lef fur to staht me goin' with. You 'member dem 
colts. Mars' Pendleton?" 

"I don't seem to recall the colts," said the major. "You 
know I was married the first year of the war and living at the 
old Follinsbee place. But sit down, sit down. Uncle Mose. 
I'm glad to see you. I hope you have prospered." 

Uncle Mose took a chair and laid his hat carefully on the 
floor beside it. 

"Yassir; of late I done mouty famous. WTien I first got to 
Newbraska, dey folks come all roun' me to see dem mule 
colts. Dey ain't see no mules like dem in Newbraska. I 
sold dem mules for three hundred dollars. Yassir — three 

"Den I open a blacksmith shop, suh, and made some 
money and bought some Ian'. Me and my old 'oman done 
raised up seb'm chillun, and all doin' well 'cept two of 'em 
what died. Fo' year ago a railroad come along and staht a 
town slam ag'inst my Ian', and, suh. Mars' Pendleton, Uncle 


Mose am worth leb*m thousand dollars in money, property, 
and Ian'." 

"I'm glad to hear it," said the major heartily. "Glad to 
hear it." 

"And dat little baby of yo'n, Mars' Pendleton — one what 
you name Miss Lyddy — I be bound dat little tad done 
growed up tell nobody wouldn't know her." 

The major stepped to the door and called: "Lydia, dear, 
will you come?" 

Miss Lydia, looking quite grown up and a little worried, 
came in from her room. 

"Dar, now! WTiat'd I tell you? I kno wed dat baby done 
be plum growed up. You don't 'member Uncle Mose, 

"This is Aunt Cindy's Mose, Lydia," explained the major. 
"He left Sunny mead for the West when you were two years 

"Well," said Miss Lydia, "I can hardly be expected to 
remember you. Uncle Mose, at that age. And, as you say, 
I'm 'plum growed up, ' and was a blessed long time ago. But 
I'm glad to see you, even if I can't remember you." 

And she was. And so was the major. Something alive 
and tangible had come to link them with the happy past. 
The three sat and talked over the olden times, the major and 
Uncle Mose correcting or prompting each other as they re- 
viewed the plantation scenes and days. 

The major inquired what the old man was doing so far 
from his home. 

"Uncle Mose am a delicate," he explained, "to de grand 
Baptis' convention in dis city. I never preached none, but 
bein' a residin' elder in de church, and able fur to pay my 
own expenses, dey sent me along." 

"And how did you know we were in Washington?" in- 
quired Miss Lydia. 

"Dey's a cuUud man works in de hotel whar I stops, what 
comes from Mobile. He told me he seen Mars' Pendleton 
comin' outen dish here house one mawnin'. 


"What I come fur," continued Uncle Mose, reaching into 
his pocket — "besides de sight of home folks — was to pay 
Mars' Pendleton what I owes him." 

"0^'e me?" said the major, in surprise. 

"Yassir— three hundred dollars." He handed the major a 
roll of bills. "AMien I lef old mars' says: 'Take dem mule 
colts, Mose, and, if it be so you gits able, pay for 'em'. Yassir 
— dem was his words. De war had done lef old mars' po' 
hisself. Old mars' bein' 'long ago dead, de debt descends to 
Mars' Pendleton. Three hundred dollars. Uncle Mose is 
plenty able to pay now. When dat railroad buy my Ian' I 
laid off to pay fur dem mules. Count de money. Mars' 
Pendleton. Dat's what I sold dem mules fur. Yassir." 

Tears were in Major Talbot's eyes. He took Uncle Mose's 
hand and laid his other upon his shoulder. 

"Dear, faithful, old servitor," he said in an unsteady voice, 
"I don't mind saying to you that 'Mars' Pendleton' spent his 
last dollar in the world a week ago. We will accept this 
money. Uncle Mose, since, in a way, it is a sort of payment, as 
well as a token of the loyalty and devotion of the old regime. 
Lydia, my dear, take the money. You are better fitted than 
I to manage its expenditure." 

"Take it, honey," said Uncle Mose. "Hit belongs to you. 
Hit's Talbot money." 

After Uncle Mose had gone, Miss Lydia had a good cry — 
for joy; and the major turned his face to a corner, and smoked 
his clay pipe volcanically. 

The succeeding days saw the Talbots restored to peace and 
ease. Miss Lydia's face lost its worried look. The major 
appeared in a new frock coat, in which he looked like a wax 
figure personifying the memory of his golden age. Another 
publisher who read the manuscript of the "Anecdotes and 
Reminiscences" thought that, with a little retouching and 
toning down of the high lights, he could make a really bright 
and salable volume of it. Altogether, the situation was com- 
fortable, and not without the touch of hope that is often 
sweeter than arrived blessings. 


One day, about a week after their piece of good luck, a 
maid brought a letter for Miss Lydia to her room. The 
postmark showed that it was from New York. Not knowing 
any one there. Miss Lydia, in a mild flutter of wonder, sat 
down by her table and opened the letter with her scissors. 
This was what she read : 

Dear !Miss Talbot: 

I thought you might be glad to learn of my good fortune. I have 
received and accepted an offer of two hundred dollars per week by a 
New York stock company to play Colonel Calhoun in "A Magnolia 

There is something else I wanted you to know. I guess you'd 
better not tell Major Talbot. I was anxious to make him some 
amends for the great help he was to me in studying the part, and for 
the bad humor he was in about it. He refused to let me, so I did it 
anyhow. I could easily spare the three hundred. 

Sincerely yours, 

H. Hopkins Hargraves. 
P. S. How did I play Uncle Mose.? 

Major Talbot, passing through the hall, saw Miss Lydia's 
door open and stopped. 

"Any mail for us this morning, Lydia, dear?" he asked. 

Miss Lydia slid the letter beneath a fold of her dress. 

"The Morning Chronicle came," she said promptly. "It*S 
on the table in your study." 


From Roads of Destiny. First published in Ainslee's Magazine, 
April, 1903. This story is unique among O. Henry's works. It 
returns a studied and philosophic "No" to the stanzaed question 
that introduces it. The first adventure, "The Left Branch," shows 
the influence, I think, of The Sire de Maletroit's Door, by Stevenson; 
but the story as a whole suggests Poe in its connective repetitions, 
Dumas in its swashbuckling, Maupassant in its detachment, and 
Omar Khay^^am in its fatalism. It is even more fatalistic than 
Omar; for not only is death preordained and inescapable, whichever 
road David takes, but death from the bullet of the same pistol. In 
sheer but impersonal technique O. Henry never surpassed this story. 
In The Enchanted Kiss (February, 1904), the same theme is put 
again upon the same triple framework; but Fate and Tansey pulled 
different ways. For O. Henry's final treatment of fatalism, see The 
Roads We Take (page 77). 

I go to seek on many roads 

\NTiat is to be. 
True heart and strong, with love to light- 
Will they not bear me in the fight 
To order, shun or wield or mould 

My Destiny? 

Unpublished Poems of David Mignot. 

The song was over. The words were David's; the air, one 
of the countryside. The company about the inn table ap- 
plauded heartily, for the young poet paid for the wine. Only 
the notary, M. Papineau, shook his head a little at the lines, 
for he was a man of books, and he had not drunk with the 

David went out into the village street, where the night air 
drove the wine vapor from his head. And then he remem- 



bt?red that he and Yvonne had quarreled that day, and that 
he had resolved to leave his home that night to seek fame and 
honor in the great world outside. 

"When my poems are on every man's tongue," he told him- 
self, in a fine exhilaration, "she will, perhaps, think of the 
hard words she spoke this day." 

Except the roysterers in the tavern, the village folk were 
abed. David crept softly into his room in the shed of his 
father's cottage and made a bundle of his small store of cloth- 
ing. With this upon a staff, he set his face outward upon the 
road that ran from Vernoy. 

He passed his father's herd of sheep huddled in their 
nightly pen — the sheep he herded daily, leaving them to 
scatter while he wrote verses on scraps of paper. He saw a 
light yet shining in Yvonne's window, and a weakness shook 
his purpose of a sudden. Perhaps that light meant that she 

rued, sleepless, her anger, and that morning might But, 

no! His decision was made. Vernoy was no place for him. 
Not one soul there could share his thoughts. Out along that 
road lay his fate and his future. 

Three leagues across the dim, moonlit champaign ran the 
road, straight as a ploughman's furrow. It was believed in 
the village that the road ran to Paris, at least; and this name 
the poet whispered often to himseK as he walked. Never so 
far from Vernoy had David traveled before. 


Three leagues, then, the road ran, and turned into a puzzle. 
It joined with another and a larger road at right angles. David 
stood, uncertain, for a while, and then took the road to the 

Upon this more important highway were, imprinted in the 
dust, wheel tracks left by the recent passage of some vehicle. 
Some half an hour later these traces were verified by the sight 
of a ponderous carriage mired in a little brook at the bottom 
of a steep hill. The driver and postilions were shouting and 


tugging at the horses' bridles. On the road at one side stood 
a huge, black-clothed man and a slender lady wrapped in a 
long, light cloak. 

David saw the lack of skill in the efforts of the servants. 
He quietly assumed control of the work. He directed the 
outriders to cease their clamor at the horses and to exercise 
their strength upon the wheels. The driver alone urged the 
animals with his familiar voice; David himself heaved a 
powerful shoulder at the rear of the carriage, and with one 
harmonious tug the great vehicle rolled up on solid ground. 
The outriders climbed to their places, 

David stood for a moment upon one foot. The huge gen- 
tleman waved a hand. *'You will enter the carriage," he 
said, in a voice large, like himself, but smoothed by art and 
habit. Obedience belonged in the path of such a voice. 
Brief as was the young poet's hesitation, it was cut shorter 
still by a renewal of the command. David's foot went to the 
step. In the darkness he perceived dimly the form of the 
lady upon the rear seat. He was about to seat himself op- 
posite, when the voice again swayed him to its will. "You 
will sit at the lady's side." 

The gentleman s^omg his great weight to the forward seat. 
The carriage proceeded up the hill. The lady was shrunk, 
silent, into her corner. David could not estimate whether 
she was old or young, but a delicate, mild perfume from her 
clothes stirred his poet's fancy to the belief that there was 
loveliness beneath the mystery. Here was an adventure such 
as he had often imagined. But as yet he held no key to it, 
for no word was spoken while he sat with his impenetrable 

In an hour's time David perceived through the window that 
the vehicle traversed the street of some town. Then it 
stopped in front of a closed and darkened house, and a pos- 
tilion alighted to hammer impatiently upon the door. A 
latticed window above flew wide and a nightcapped head 
popped out. 

" Who are ye that disturb honest folk at this time of night? 


My house is closed. 'Tis too late for profitable travelers to 
be abroad. Cease knocking at my door, and be off." 

"Open!" spluttered the postilion, loudly; "open for Mon- 
seigneur, the Marquis de Beaupertuys." 

"Ah ! " cried the voice above. "Ten thousand pardons, my 
lord. I did not know — the hour is so late — at once shall the 
door be opened, and the house placed at my lord's disposal." 

Inside was heard the clink of chain and bar, and the door 
was flung open. Shivering with chill and apprehension, the 
landlord of the Silver Flagon stood, half clad, candle in hand, 
upon the threshold. 

David followed the marquis out of the carriage. "Assist 
the lady," he was ordered. The poet obeyed. He felt her 
small hand tremble as he guided her descent. "Into the 
house," was the next command. 

The room was the long dining-hall of the tavern. A great 
oak table ran down its length. The huge gentleman seated 
himself in a chair at the nearer end. The lady sank into 
another against the wall, with an air of great weariness. 
David stood, considering how best he might now take his 
leave and continue upon his way. 

"My lord," said the landlord, bowing to the floor, "h-had I 
ex-expected this honor, entertainment would have been ready. 
T-t-there is wine and cold fowl and m-m-may-be " 

"Candles," said the marquis, spreading the fingers of one 
plump white hand in a gesture he had. 

"Y-yes, my lord." He fetched half a dozen candles, 
lighted them, and set them upon the table. 

"If monsieur would, perhaps, deign to taste a certain Bur- 
gundy — there is a cask " 

"Candles," said monsieur, spreading his fingers. 

"Assuredly — quickly — I fly, my lord." 

A dozen more lighted candles shone in the hall. The great 
bulk of the marquis overflowed his chair. He was dressed 
in fine black from head to foot save for the snowy ruffles at 
his wrist and throat. Even the hilt and scabbard of his 
sword were black. His expression was one of sneering pride. 


The ends of an upturned moustache reached nearly to his 
mocking eyes. 

The lady sat motionless, and now David perceived that 
she was young, and possessed of pathetic and appealing 
beauty. He was startled from the contemplation of her for- 
lorn loveliness by the booming voice of the marquis. 

"What is your name and pursuit.^" 

"David Mignot. I am a poet." 

The moustache of the marquis curled nearer to his eyes. 

"How do you live.'^" 

"I am also a shepherd; I guarded my father's flock," David 
answered, with his head high, but a flush upon his cheek. 

"Then listen, master shepherd and poet, to the fortune 
you have blundered upon to-night. This lady is my niece, 
Mademoiselle Lucie de Varennes. She is of noble descent 
and is possessed of ten thousand francs a year in her own 
right. As to her charms, you have but to observe for your- 
self. If the inventory pleases your shepherd's heart, she 
becomes your wife at a word. Do not interrupt me. To- 
night I conveyed her to the chateau of the Comte de Ville- 
maur, to whom her hand had been promised. Guests were 
present; the priest was waiting; her marriage to one eligible 
in rank and fortune was ready to be accomplished. At the 
altar this demoiselle, so meek and dutiful, turned upon me 
like a leopardess, charged me with cruelty and crimes, and 
broke, before the gaping priest, the troth I had plighted for 
her. I swore there and then, by ten thousand devils, that she 
should marry the first man we met after leaving the chateau, 
be he prince, charcoal-burner, or thief. You, shepherd, are 
the first. Mademoiselle must be wed this night. If not you, 
then another. You have ten minutes in which to make your 
decision. Do not vex me with words or questions. Ten 
minutes, shepherd; and they are speeding." 

The marquis drummed loudly with his white fingers upon 
the table. He sank into a veiled attitude of waiting. It was 
as if some great house had shut its doors and windows against 
approach. David would have spoken, but the huge man's 


bearing stoppea his tongue. Instead, he stood by the lady's 
chair and bowed. 

*' Mademoiselle," he said, and he marveled to find his 
words flowing easily before so much elegance and beauty. 
*'You have heard me say I was a shepherd. I have also had 
the fancy, at times, that I am a poet. If it be the test of 
a poet to adore and cherish the beautiful, that fancy is now 
strengthened. Can I serve you in any way, mademoiselle?" 

The young woman looked up at him with eyes dry and 
mournful. His frank, glowing face, made serious by the 
gravity of the adventure, his strong, straight figure and the 
liquid sympathy in his blue eyes, perhaps, also, her imminent 
need of long-denied help and kindness, thawed her to sudden 

"Monsieur," she said, in low tones, "you look to be true 
and kind. He is my uncle, the brother of my father, and 
my only relative. He loved my mother, and he hates me 
because I am like her. He has made my life one long ter- 
ror. I am afraid of his very looks, and never before dared 
to disobey him. But to-night he would have married me to 
a man three times my age. You will forgive me for bringing 
this vexation upon you, monsieur. You will, of course, de- 
cline this mad act he tries to force upon you. But let me 
thank you for your generous words, at least. I have had 
none spoken to me in so long." 

There was now something more than generosity in the 
poet's eyes. Poet he must have been, for Yvonne was for- 
gotten; this fine, new loveliness held him with its freshness 
and grace. The subtle perfume from her filled him with 
strange emotions. His tender look fell warmly upon her. 
She leaned to it, thirstily. 

"Ten minutes," said David, "is given me in which to do 
what I would devote years to achieve. I will not say I pity 
you, mademoiselle; it would not be true — I love you. I 
cannot ask love from you yet, but let me rescue you from this 
cruel man, and, in time, love may come. I think I have a 
future, I will not always be a shepherd. For the present I 


will cherish you with all my heart and make your life less sad 
Will you trust your fate to me, mademoiselle?'* 

'*Ah, you would sacrifice yourself from pity!" 

"From love. The time is almost up, mademoiselle." 

"You will regret it, and despise me." 

"I will live only to make you happy, and myself worthy of 

Her fine small hand crept into his from beneath her cloak. 

"I will trust you," she breathed, "with my life. And — 
and love — may not be so far off as you think. Tell him. 
Once away from the power of his eyes I may forget." 

David went and stood before the marquis. The black figure 
stirred, and the mocking eyes glanced at the great hall clock. 

"Two minutes to spare. A shepherd requires eight min- 
utes to decide whether he will accept a bride of beauty and 
income! Speak up, shepherd, do you consent to become 
mademoiselle's husband?" 

"Mademoiselle," said David, standing proudly, "has done 
me the honor to yield to my request that she become my 

"Well said!" said the marquis. "You have yet the mak- 
ing of a courtier in you, master shepherd. Mademoiselle 
could have drawn a worse prize, after all. And now to be 
done with the affair as quick as the Church and the devil will 

He struck the table soundly with his sword hilt. The 
landlord came, knee-shaking, bringing more candles in the 
hope of anticipating the great lord's whims. "Fetch a 
priest," said the marquis, " a priest; do you understand? In 
ten minutes have a priest here, or " 

The landlord dropped his candles and flew. 

The priest came, heavy-eyed and ruffled. He made David 
Mignot and Lucie de Varennes man and wife, pocketed a 
gold piece that the marquis tossed him, and shuffled out 
again into the night. 

"Wine," ordered the marquis, spreading his ominous 
fingers at the host. 


"Fill glasses," he said, when it was brought. He stood up 
at the head of the table in the candlelight, a black mountain 
of venom and conceit, with something like the memory of an 
old love turned to poison in his eye, as it fell upon his niece. 

"Monsieur Mignot," he said, raising his wineglass, "drink 
after I say this to you : You have taken to be your wife one 
who will make your life a foul and wretched thing. The 
blood in her is an inheritance running black lies and red ruin. 
She will bring you shame and anxiety. The devil that de- 
scended to her is there in her eyes and skin and mouth that 
stoop even to beguile a peasant. There is your promise, mon- 
sieur poet, for a happy life. Drink your wine. At last, 
mademoiselle, I am rid of you." 

The marquis drank. A little grievous cry, as if from a 
sudden wound, came from the girl's lips. David, with his 
glass in his hand, stepped forward three paces and faced the 
marquis. There was little of a shepherd in his bearing. 

"Just now," he said, calmly, "you did me the honor to 
^all me 'monsieur.' May I hope, therefore, that my marriage 
to mademoiselle has placed me somewhat nearer to you in — • 
let us say, reflected rank — ^has given me the right to stand 
more as an equal to monseigneur in a certain little piece o* 
business I have in my mind.f^" 

"You may hope, shepherd," sneered the marquis. 

"Then," said David, dashing his glass of wine into the 
contemptuous eyes that mocked him, "perhaps you will con- 
descend to fight me." 

The fury of the great lord outbroke in one sudden curse 
like a blast from a horn. He tore his sword from its black 
sheath; he called to the hovering landlord: "A sword there, 
for this lout!" He turned to the lady, with a laugh that 
chilled her heart, and said: "You put much labor upon me, 
madame. It seems I must find you a husband and make you 
a widow in the same night.'* 

"I know not sword-play," said David. He flushed to 
make the confession before his lady. 

" *I know not sword-play, ' " mimicked the marquis. "Shall 


we fight like peasants with oaken cudgels? Hola ! Frangoisj 
my pistols!" 

A postilion brought two shining great pistols ornamented 
with carven silver, from the carriage holsters. The marquis 
tossed one upon the table near David's hand. "To the other 
end of the table," he cried; "even a shepherd may pull a 
trigger. Few of them attain the honor to die by the weapon 
of a De Beaupertuys." 

The shepherd and the marquis faced each other from the 
ends of the long table. The landlord, in an ague of terror, 
clutched the air and stammered: "M-M-Monseigneur, for 
the love of Christ! not in my house! — do not spill blood — it 
will ruin my custom " The look of the marquis, threaten- 
ing him, paralyzed his tongue. 

"Coward," cried the lord of Beaupertuys, "cease chattering 
your teeth long enough to give the word for us, if you can." 

Mine host's knees smote the floor. He was without a vo- 
cabulary. Even sounds were beyond him. Still, by gestures 
he seemed to beseech peace in the name of his house and 

" I will give the word," said the lady, in a clear voice. She 
went up to David and kissed him sweetly. Her eyes w^ere 
sparkling bright, and color had come to her cheek. She stood 
against the wall, and the two men leveled their pistols for her 

" Un — deux — trois .'" 

The tW'O reports came so nearly together that the candles 
■flickered but once. The marquis stood, smiling, the fingers 
of his left hand resting, outspread, upon the end of the table. 
David remained erect, and turned his head very slowly, 
searching for his wife with his eyes. Then, as a garment falls 
from where it is hung, he sank, crumpled, upon the floor. 

With a little cry of terror and despair, the widowed maid 
ran and stooped above him. She found his wound, and then 
looked up with her old look of pale melancholy. "Through 
his heart," she whispered. "Oh, his heart!" 

"Come, " boomed the great voice of the marquis, "out with 


you to the carriage! Daybreak shall not find you on my 
hands. Wed you shall be again, and to a living husband, 
this night. The next we come upon, my lady, highwayman 
or peasant. If the road yields no other, then the churl that 
opens my gates. Out with you to the carriage!" 

The marquis, implacable and huge, the lady wrapped again 
in the mystery of her cloak, the postilion bearing the weapons 
— all moved out to the waiting carriage. The sound of its 
ponderous wheels rolling away echoed through the slumbering 
village. In the hall of the Silver Flagon the distracted land- 
lord wrung his hands above the slain poet's body, while the 
flames of the four and twenty candles danced and flickered 
on the table. 


Three leagues, then, the road ran, and turned into a puzzle. 
It joined with another and a larger road at right angles. David 
stood, uncertain, for a while, and then took the road to the right. 

Whither it led he knew not, but he was resolved to leave 
Vernoy far behind that night. He traveled a league and 
then passed a large chateau which showed testimony of recent 
entertainment. Lights shone from every window; from the 
great stone gateway ran a tracery of wheel tracks drawn in 
the dust by the vehicles of the guests. 

Three leagues farther and David was weary. He rested 
and slept for a while on a bed of pine boughs at the roadside. 
Then up and on again along the unknown way. 

Thus for five days he traveled the great road, sleeping 
upon Nature's balsamic beds or in peasants' ricks, eating of 
their black, hospitable bread, drinking from streams or the 
willing cup of the goatherd. 

At length he crossed a great bridge and set his foot within 
the smiling city that has crushed or crowned more poets than 
all the rest of the world. His breath came quickly as Paris 
sang to him in a little undertone her vital chant of greeting — ■ 
the hum of voice and foot and wheel. 

High up under the eaves of an old house in the Rue Conti. 


David paid for lodging, and set himself, in a wooden chairj 
to his poems. The street, once sheltering citizens of import 
and consequence, was now given over to those who ever follow 
in the wake of decline. 

The houses were tall and still possessed of a ruined dignity, 
but many of them were empty save for dust and the spider. 
By night there was the clash of steel and the cries of brawlers 
straying restlessly from inn to inn. Where once gentility 
abode was now but a rancid and rude incontinence. But 
here David found housing commensurate to his scant purse. 
Daylight and candlelight found him at pen and paper. 

One afternoon he was returning from a foraging trip to 
the lower world, with bread and curds and a bottle of thin 
wine. Halfway up his dark stairway he met — or rather 
came upon, for she rested on the stair — a young woman of a 
beauty that should balk even the justice of a poet's imagina- 
tion. A loose, dark cloak, flung open, showed a rich gown 
beneath. Her eyes changed swiftly with every little shade 
of thought. Within one moment they would be round and 
artless like a child's, and long and cozening like a gipsy's 
One hand raised her gown, undraping a little shoe, high-heeled 
with its ribbons dangling, untied. So heavenly she was, so 
unfitted to stoop, so qualified to charm and command ! Per' 
haps she had seen David coming, and had waited for his 
help there. 

Ah, would monsieur pardon that she occupied the stairway, 
but the shoe ! — the naughty shoe ! Alas ! it would not remain 
tied. Ah! if monsieur would be so gracious! 

The poet's fingers trembled as he tied the contrary ribbons. 
Then he would have fled from the danger of her presence, 
but the eyes grew long and cozening, like a gipsy's, and 
held him. He leaned against the balustrade, clutching his 
bottle of sour wine. 

"You have been so good," she said, smiling. "Does mon 
sieur, perhaps, five in the house.'*" 

*'Yes, madame. I — I think so, madame." 

''Perhaps in the third story, then?'* 


"No, madame; higher up." 

The lady fluttered her fingers with the least possible ges« 
ture of impatience. 

"Pardon. Certainly I am not discreet in asking. Mon- 
sieur will forgive me ? It is surely not becoming that I should 
inquire where he lodges." 

"Madame, do not say so. I live in the " 

"No, no, no; do not tell me. Now I see that I erred. But 
I cannot lose the interest I feel in this house and all that is 
in it. Once it was my home. Often I come here but to 
dream of those happy days again. Will you let that be my 


"Let me tell you, then, for you need no excuse, stam- 
mered the poet. "I live in the top floor — the small room 
where the stairs turn." 

"In the front room.^" asked the lady, turning her head 

"The rear, madame." 

The lady sighed, as if with relief. 

"I will detain you no longer, then, monsieur," she said, 
employing the round and artless eye. "Take good care of 
my house. Alas! only the memories of it are mine now. 
Adieu, and accept my thanks for your courtesy." 

She was gone, leaving but a smile and a trace of sweet 
perfume. David climbed the stairs as one in slumber. But 
he awoke from it, and the smile and the perfume lingered 
with him and never afterward did either seem quite to leave 
him. This lady of whom he knew nothing drove him to lyrics 
of eyes, chansons of swiftly conceived love, odes to curling 
hair, and sonnets to shppers on slender feet. 

Poet he must have been, for Yvonne was forgotten; this 
fine, new loveliness held him with its freshness and grace. 
The subtle perfume about her filled him with strange emo- 

On a certain night three persons were gathered about a 
table in a room on the third floor of the same house. Three 


chairs and the table and a Hghted candle upon it was all the 
furniture. One of the persons was a huge man, dressed in 
black. His expression was one of sneering pride. The ends 
of his upturned moustache reached nearly to his mocking 
eyes. Another was a lady, young and beautiful, with eyes 
that could be round and artless, like a child's, or long and 
cozening, like a gipsy's, but were now keen and ambitious, like 
any other conspirator's. The third was a man of action, a 
combatant, a bold and impatient executive, breathing fire 
and steel. He was addressed by the others as Captain 

This man struck the table with his fist, and said, with con- 
trolled violence: 

"To-night. To-night as he goes to midnight mass. I am 
tired of the plotting that gets nowhere. I am sick of signals 
and ciphers and secret meetings and such haragouin. Let us 
be honest traitors. If France is to be rid of him, let us kill 
in the open, and not hunt with snares and traps. To-night, 
I say. I back my words. My hand will do the deed. To- 
night, as he goes to mass." 

The lady turned upon him a cordial look. Woman, how- 
ever wedded to plots, must ever thus bow to rash courage. 
The big man stroked his upturned moustache. 

"Dear captain," he said, in a great voice, softened by habit, 
"this time I agree with you. Nothing is to be gained by 
waiting. Enough of the palace guards belong to us to make 
the endeavor a safe one." 

"To-night," repeated Captain Desrolles, again striking the 
table. "You have heard me, marquis; my hand will do the 

"But now," said the huge man, softly, "comes a question. 
Word must be sent to our partisans in the palace, and a signal 
agreed upon. Our stanchest men must accompany the royal 
carriage. At this hour what messenger can penetrate so far 
as the south doorway.^ Ribout is stationed there; once a mes- 
sage is placed in his hands, all will go well/' 

"I will send the message," said the lady. 


"You, countess?" said the marquis, raising his eyebrows. 
"Your devotion is great, we know, but " 

"Listen!" exclaimed the lady, rising and resting her hands 
upon the table; "in a garret of this house lives a youth from 
the provinces as guileless and tender as the lambs he tended 
there. I have met him twice or thrice upon the stairs. I 
questioned him, fearing that he might dwell too near the 
room in which we are accustomed to meet. He is mine, if I 
will. He writes poems in his garret, and I think he dreams 
of me. He will do what I say. He shall take the message 
to the palace." 

The marquis rose from his chair and bowed. "You did 
not permit me to finish my sentence, countess," he said. "I 
would have said: 'Your devotion is great, but your wit and 
charm are infinitely greater. 

While the conspirators were thus engaged, David was pol- 
ishing some lines addressed to his amorette d'escalier. He 
heard a timorous knock at his door, and opened it, with a 
great throb, to behold her there, panting as one in straits, 
with eyes wide open and artless, like a child's. 

"Monsieur," she breathed, "I come to you in distress. I 
believe you to be good and true, and I know of no other help. 
How I flew through the streets among the swaggering men! 
Monsieur, my mother is dying. My uncle is a captain of 
guards in the palace of the king. Some one must fly to bring 
him. May I hope " 

"Mademoiselle," interrupted David, his eyes shining with 
the desire to do her service, "your hopes shall be my wings. 
Tell me how I may reach him." 

The lady thrust a sealed paper into his hand. 

"Go to the south gate — the south gate, mind — and say 
to the guards there, *The falcon has left his nest.' They 
will pass you, and you will go to the south entrance to the 
palace. Repeat the words, and give this letter to the man 
who will reply 'Let him strike when he will.' This is the 
password, monsieur, entrusted to me by my uncle, for now 
when the country is disturbed and men plot against the king's 


life, no one without it can gain entrance to the palace grounds 
after nightfall. If you will, monsieur, take him this letter 
so that my mother may see him before she closes her 

Give it me," said David, eagerly. "But shall I let you 
return home through the streets alone so late.^ I " 

"No, no — fly. Each moment is like a precious jewel. 
Some time," said the lady, with eyes long and cozening, like a 
gipsy's, "I will try to thank you for your goodness." 

The poet thrust the letter into his breast, and bounded 
doTVTi the stairway. The lady, when he was gone, returned to 
the room below. 

The eloquent eyebrows of the marquis interrogated her. 

"He is gone," she said, "as fleet and stupid as one of his 
own sheep, to deliver it." 

The table shook again from the batter of Captain Des- 
rolles's fist. 

"Sacred name!" he cried; "I have left my pistols behind! 
I can trust no others." 

"Take this," said the marquis, drawing from beneath his 
cloak a shining, great weapon, ornamented with carven 
silver. "There are none truer. But guard it closely, for it 
bears my arms and crest, and already I am suspected. Me, 
I must put many leagues between myself and Paris this night. 
To-morrow must find me in my chateau. After you, dear 

The marquis puffed out the candle. The lady, well 
cloaked, and the two gentlemen softly descended the stairway 
and flowed into the crowd that roamed along the narrow 
pavements of the Rue Conti. 

David sped. At the south gate of the king's residence a 
halberd was laid to his breast, but he turned its point with 
the words: "The falcon has left his nest." 

"Pass, brother," said the guard, "and go quickly." 

On the south steps of the palace they moved to seize 
him, but again the mot de passe charmed the watchers. 
One smong them stepped forward and began: "Let him 


strike " but a flurry among the guards told of a surprise. 

A man of keen look and soldierly stride suddenly pressed 
through them and seized the letter which David held in his 
hand. *' Come with me," he said, and led him inside the great 
hall. Then he tore open the letter and read it. He beckoned 
to a man uniformed as an officer of musketeers, who was pass- 
ing. "Captain Tetreau, you will have the guards at the 
south entrance and the south gate arrested and confined. 
Place men known to be royal in their places." To David he 
said: "Come with me." 

He conducted him through a corridor and an anteroom into 
a spacious chamber, where a melancholy man, sombrely 
dressed, sat brooding in a great, leather-covered chair. To 
that man he said: 

" Sire, I have told you that the palace is as full of traitors 
and spies as a sewer is of rats. You have thought, sire, that 
it was my fancy. This man penetrated to your very door 
by their connivance. He bore a letter which I have inter- 
cepted. I have brought him here that your majesty may 
Qo longer think my zeal excessive." 

"I will question him," said the king, stirring in his chair. 
He looked at David with heavy eyes dulled by an opaque 
film. The poet bent his knee. 

"From where do you come.^^" asked the king. 

"From the village of Vernoy, in the province of Eure-et- 
Loir, sire." 

"What do you follow in Paris?" 

"I — I would be a poet, sire." 

"What did you in Vernoy?" 

"I minded my father's flock of sheep." 

The king stirred again, and the film lifted from his eyes. 

"Ah! in the fields!" 

"Yes, sire." 

"You lived in the fields; you went out in the cool of the 
morning and lay among the hedges in the grass. The flock 
distributed itself upon the hillside; you drank of the living 
stream; you ate your sweet, brown bread in the shade, and 


you listened, doubtless, to blackbirds piping in the grove. Is 
not that so, shepherd?" 

**It is, sire," answered David, with a sigh; "and to the 
bees at the flowers, and, maybe, to the grape gatherers sing- 
ing on the hill." 

*'Yes, yes," said the king, impatiently; "maybe to them; 
but surely to the blackbirds. They whistled often, in the 
grove, did they not?" 

"Nowhere, sire, so sweetly as in Eure-et-Loir. I have 
endeavored to express their song in some verses that I have 

"Can you repeat those verses?" asked the king, eagerly. 
"A long time ago I listened to the blackbirds. It would be 
something better than a kingdom if one could rightly con- 
strue their song. And at night you drove the sheep to the 
fold and then sat, in peace and tranquillity, to your pleasant 
bread. Can you repeat those verses, shepherd?" 

"They run this way, sire," said David, with respectful 
ardor : 

"'Lazy shepherd, see your lambkins 
Skip, ecstatic, on the mead; 
See the firs dance in the breezes. 
Hear Pan blowing at his reed. 

'Hear us calling from the tree-tops. 
See us swoop upon your flock; 

Yield us wool to make our nests warm 
In the branches of the — ' ' 

"If it please your majesty," interrupted a harsh voice, "I 
will ask a question or two of this rhymester. There is little 
time to spare. I crave pardon, sire, if my anxiety for your 
safety offends." 

"The loyalty," said the king, "of the Duke d'Aumale is 
too well proven to give offence." He sank into his chair, and 
the film came again over his eyes. 


"First," said the duke, '*I will read you the letter he 
brought : 

" *To-night is the anniversary of the dauphin's death. If he goes, 
as is his custom, to midnight mass to pray for the soul of his son, the 
falcon will strike, at the corner of the Rue Esplanade. If this be his 
intention, set a red light in the upper room at the southwest corner 
of the palace, that the falcon may take heed.' 

"Peasant," said the duke, sternly, "you have heard these 
words. Who gave you this message to bring?" 

"My lord duke," said David, sincerely, "I will tell you. 
A lady gave it me. She said her mother was ill, and that this 
writing would fetch her uncle to her bedside. I do not know 
the meaning of the letter, but I will swear that she is beautiful 
and good." 

"Describe the woman," commanded the duke, "and how 
you came to be her dupe." 

"Describe her!" said David with a tender smile. "You 
would command words to perform miracles. Well, she is 
made of sunshine and deep shade. She is slender, like the 
alders, and moves with their grace. Her eyes change while 
you gaze into them; now round, and then half shut as the 
sun peeps between two clouds. When she comes, heaven is 
all about her; when she leaves, there is chaos and a scent of 
hawthorn blossoms. She came to me in the Rue Conti, 
number twenty -nine." 

"It is the house," said the duke, turning to the king, 
"that we have been watching. Thanks to the poet's 
tongue, we have a picture of the infamous Countess 

"Sire and my lord duke," said David, earnestly, "I hope 
my poor words have done no injustice. I have looked into 
that lady's eyes. I will stake my life that she is an angel, 
letter or no letter." 

The duke looked at him steadily. "I will put you to the 
proof," he said, slowly. "Dressed as the king, you shall. 


yourself, attend mass in his carriage at midnight. Do you 
accept the test?'* 

David smiled. "I have looked into her eyes," he said. 
"I had my proof there. Take yours how you will." 

Half an hour before twelve the Duke d'Aumale, with his 
own hands, set a red lamp in a southwest window of the pal- 
ace. At ten minutes to the hour, David, leaning on his arm, 
dressed as the king, from top to toe, with his head bowed in 
his cloak, walked slowly from the royal apartments to the 
waiting carriage. The duke assisted him inside and closed 
the door. The carriage whirled away along its route to the 

On the qui vive in a house at the corner of the Rue Espla- 
nade w^as Captain Tetreau with twenty men, ready to pounce 
upon the conspirators when they should appear. 

But it seemed that, for some reason, the plotters had 
slightly altered their plans. When the royal carriage had 
reached the Rue Christopher, one square nearer than the Rue 
Esplanade, forth from it burst Captain Desrolles, with his 
band of would-be regicides, and assailed the equipage. The 
guards upon the carriage, though surprised at the premature 
attack, descended and fought valiantly. The noise of con- 
flict attracted the force of Captain Tetreau, and they came 
pelting down the street to the rescue. But, in the meantime, 
the desperate Desrolles had torn open the door of the king's 
carriage, thrust his weapon against the body of the dark fig- 
ure inside, and fired. 

Now, with loyal reinforcements at hand, the street rang 
with cries and the rasp of steel, but the frightened horses had 
dashed away. Upon the cushions lay the dead body of the 
poor mock king and poet, slain by a ball from the pistol of 
Monseigneur, the Marquis de Beaupertuys. 

The Main Road 

Three leagues, then, the road ran, and turned into a puzzle. 
It joined with another and a larger road at right angles, David 


stood, uncertain, for a while, and then sat himself to rest upon 
its side. 

Whither those roads led he knew not. Either way there 
seemed to he a great world full of chance and peril. And 
then, sitting there, his eye fell upon a bright star, one that 
he and Yvonne had named for theirs. That set him think- 
ing of Yvonne, and he wondered if he had not been too hasty. 
Why should he leave her and his home because a few hot 
words had come between them.f^ Was love so brittle a thing 
that jealousy, the very proof of it, could break it.^ Mornings 
always brought a cure for the little heartaches of evening. 
There was yet time for him to return home without any one 
in the sweetly sleeping village of Vernoy being the wiser. His 
heart was Yvonne's; there where he had lived always he 
could write his poems and find his happiness. 

David rose, and shook off his unrest and the wild mood that 
had tempted him. He set his face steadfastly back along the 
road he had come. By the time he had retraveled the road 
to Vernoy, his desire to rove was gone. He passed the sheep- 
fold, and the sheep scurried, with a drumming flutter, at his 
late footsteps, warming his heart by the homely sound. He 
crept without noise into his little room and lay there, thankful 
that his feet had escaped the distress of new roads that night. 

How well he knew woman's heart! The next evening 
Yvonne was at the well in the road where the young con- 
gregated in order that the cure might have business. The 
corner of her eye was engaged in a search for David, albeit 
her set mouth seemed unrelenting. He saw the look; braved 
the mouth, drew from it a recantation and, later, a kiss as 
they walked homeward together. 

Three months afterward they were married. David's 
father was shrewd and prosperous. He gave them a wedding 
that was heard of three leagues away. Both the young 
people were favorites in the village. There was a procession 
in the streets, a dance on the green; they had the marionettes 
and a tumbler out from Dreux to delight the guests. 

Then a year, and David's father died. The sheep and the 


cottage descended to him. He already had the seemliest wife 
in the village. Yvonne's milk pails and her brass kettles were 
bright — ouf! they blinded you in the sun when you passed 
that way. But you must keep your eyes upon her 3-ard, for 
her flower beds were so neat and gay they restored to you 
your sight. Xnd you might hear her sing, aye, as far as 
the double chestnut tree above Pere Gruneau's blacksmith 

But a day came when David drew out paper from a long- 
shut drawer, and began to bite the end of a pencil. Spring 
had come again and touched his heart. Poet he must have 
been, for now Yvonne was well-nigh forgotten. This fine 
new loveliness of earth held him with its witchery and grace» 
The perfume from her woods and meadows stirred him 
strangely. Daily had he gone forth with his flock, and 
brought it safe at night. But now he stretched himself under 
the hedge and pieced words together on his bits of paper. 
The sheep strayed, and the wolves, perceiving that difficult 
poems make easy mutton, ventured from the woods and stole 
his lambs. 

David's stock of poems grew larger and his flock smaller. 
Yvonne's nose and temper waxed sharp and her talk blunt. 
Her pans and kettles grew dufl, but her eyes had caught their 
flash. She pointed out to the poet that his neglect was re- 
ducing the flock and bringing woe upon the household. 
David hired a boy to guard the sheep, locked himself in the 
little room in the top of the cottage, and wrote more poems. 
The boy, being a poet by nature, but not furnished with an 
outlet in the way of writing, spent his time in slumber. The 
wolves lost no time in discovering that poetry and sleep are 
practically the same; so the flock steadily grew smaller. 
Yvonne's ill temper increased at an equal rate. Sometimes 
she would stand in the yard and rail at David through his 
high window. Then you could hear her as far as the double 
chestnut tree above Pere Gruneau's blacksmith forge. 

M. Papineau, the kind, wise, meddling old notary, saw 
this, as he saw everything at which his nose pointed. He 


went to David, fortified himself with a great pinch of snuff, 
and said: 

"Friend Mignot, I affixed the seal upon the marriage cer- 
tificate of your father. It would distress me to be obliged to 
attest a paper signifying the bankruptcy of his son. But 
that is what you are coming to. I speak as an old friend. 
Now% listen to what I have to say. You have your heart set, 
I perceive, upon poetry. At Dreux, I have a friend, one 
Monsieur Bril — Georges Bril. He fives in a fittle cleared 
space in a houseful of books. He is a learned man; he visits 
Paris each year; he himself has written books. He will tell 
you when the catacombs were made, how they found out the 
names of the stars, and why the plover has a long bill. The 
meaning and the form of poetry is to him as intelligent as the 
baa of a sheep is to you. I will give you a letter to him, and 
you shall take him your poems and let him read them. Then 
you will know if you shall write more, or give your attention 
to your wife and business." 

"Write the letter," said David, "I am sorry you did not 
speak of this sooner." 

At sunrise the next morning he was on the road to Dreux 
with the precious roll of poems under his arm. At noon he 
mped the dust from his feet at the door of Monsieur Bril. 
That learned man broke the seal of M. Papineau's letter, and 
sucked up its contents through his gleaming spectacles as the 
sun draws water. He took David inside to his study and sat 
him down upon a little island beat upon by a sea of books. 

Monsieur Bril had a conscience. He flinched not even at 
a mass of manuscript the thickness of a finger length and 
rolled to an incorrigible curve. He broke the back of the 
roll against his knee and began to read. He slighted nothing: 
he bored into the lump as a worm into a nut, seeking for a 

Meanwhile, David sat, marooned, trembling in the spray 
of so much literature. It roared in his ears. He held no 
chart or compass for voyaging in that sea. Half the world, 
he thought, must be writing books. 


Monsieur Bril bored to the last page of the poems. Then 
he took off his spectacles and wiped them with his handker- 

"My old friend, Papineau, is well.'^" he asked. 

"In the best of health," said David. 

"How many sheep have you, Monsieur Mignot.'^" 

"Three hundred and nine, when I counted them yesterday. 
The flock has had ill fortune. To that number it has de- 
creased from eight hundred and fifty." 

"You have a wife and a home, and lived in comfort. The 
sheep brought you plenty. You went into the fields with 
them and lived in the keen air and ate the sweet bread of 
contentment. You had but to be vigilant and recline there 
upon nature's breast, listening to the whistle of the black- 
birds in the grove. Am I right thus far.?" 

"It was so," said David. 

"I have read all your verses," continued Monsieur Bril, 
his eyes wandering about his sea of books as if he conned the 
horizon for a sail. "Look yonder, through that window, 
Monsieur Mignot; tell me what you see in that tree." 

"I see a crow," said David, looking. 

"There is a bird," said Monsieur Bril, "that shall assist 
me where I am disposed to shirk a duty. You know that 
bird. Monsieur Mignot; he is the philosopher of the air. He 
is happy through submission to his lot. None so merry or 
full-crawed as he with his whimsical eye and rollicking step. 
The fields yield him what he desires. He never grieves that 
his plumage is not gay, like the oriole's. And you have 
heard. Monsieur Mignot, the notes that nature has given 
him.^ Is the nightingale any happier, do you think.?" 

David rose to his feet. The crow cawed harshly from his 

"I thank you, Monsieur Bril," he said, slowly. "There 
was not, then, one nightingale note among all those croaks.?" 

"I could not have missed it," said Monsieur Bril, with a 
sigh. "I read every word. Live your poetry, man; do not 
try to write it any more." 


"I thank you," said David, again. "And now I will be 
going back to my sheep." 

*'If you would dine with me," said the man of books, "and 
overlook the smart of it, I will give you reasons at length." 

"No," said the poet, "I must be back in the fields cawing 
at my sheep." 

Back along the road to Vernoy he trudged with his poems 
under his arm. When he reached his village he turned into 
the shop of one Zeigler, a Jew out of Armenia, who sold any- 
thing that came to his hand. 

"Friend," said David, "wolves from the forest harass my 
sheep on the hills. I must purchase firearms to protect them. 
What have you.^" 

"A bad day, this, for me, friend Mignot," said Zeigler, 
spreading his hands, "for I perceive that I must sell you a 
weapon that will not fetch a tenth of its value. Only last 
week I bought from a peddler a wagon full of goods that 
he procured at a sale by a commissionaire of the crown. The 
sale was of the chateau and belongings of a great lord — I know 
not his title — who has been banished for conspiracy against 
the king. There are some choice firearms in the lot. This 
pistol — oh, a weapon fit for a prince! — it shall be only forty 
francs to you, friend Mignot — if I lost ten by the sale. But 
perhaps an arquebuse " 

"This will do," said David, throwing the money on the 
counter. "Is it charged.^" 

" I will charge it," said Zeigler. "And, for ten francs more, 
add a store of powder and ball." 

David laid his pistol under his coat and walked to his cot- 
tage. Yvonne was not there. Of late she had taken to 
gadding much among the neighbors. But a fire was glowing 
in the kitchen stove. David opened the door of it and thrust 
his poems in upon the coals. As they blazed up they made 
a singing, harsh sound in the flue. 

"The song of the crow!" said the poet. 

He went up to his attic room and closed the door. So 
quiet was the village that a score of people heard the roar 


of the great pistol. They flocked thither, and up the stairs 
where the smoke, issuing, drew their notice. 

The men laid the body of the poet upon his bed, awkwardly 
arranging it to conceal the torn plumage of the poor black 
crow. The women chattered in a luxury of zealous pity. 
Some of them ran to tell Yvonne. 

M. Papineau, whose nose had brought him there among the 
first, picked up the weapon and ran his eye over its silver 
mountings with a mingled air of connoisseurship and grief. 

"The arms," he explained, aside, to the cure, "and crest of 
Monseigneur, the Marquis de Beaupertuys." 


From Roads of Destiny. First published in The Cosmopolitan 
Magazine, April, 1903. For the singular history of this story, see 
the 0. Henry Biography pages 191-194. The popularity of the story 
as a motion picture added greatly to the author's vogue, though in 
the English, French, and Spanish versions O. Henry's name was not 
mentioned. The character of Jimmy Valentine is taken from life 
but there is a close parallel to the leading incident in chapter XLII 
of Hugo's Les Miserables. The chief criticism of the story has been 
that in spite of the hero's reformation he offers his kit of burglar's 
tools to a pal instead of destroying them. O. Henry's interpre- 
tation of the character, however, is thoroughly consistent. Jimmy's 
reformation, as the title of the story intimates, was as yet incom- 
plete. It concerned himself, not his pals. He had not reached that 
maturer stage where the exemplar of a virtue becomes also its propa- 

A GUARD came to the prison shoe-shop, where Jimmy 
Valentine was assiduously stitching uppers, and escorted him 
to the front office. There the w^arden handed Jimmy his par- 
don, which had been signed that morning by the governor. 
Jimmy took it in a tired kind of way. He had served nearly 
ten months of a four-year sentence. He had expected to 
stay only about three months, at the longest. When a man 
w4th as many friends on the outside as Jimmy Valentine had 
is received in the ''stir" it is hardly worth while to cut his 

"Now, Valentine," said the warden, "you'll go out in the 
morning. Brace up, and make a man of yourself. You're not 
a bad fellow at heart. Stop cracking safes, and live straight." 

"Me.^" said Jimmy, in surprise. "Why, I never cracked 
a safe in my Hfe." 



"Oh, no," laughed the warden. "Of course not. Let's 
see, now. How was it you happened to get sent up on that 
Springfield job.^ Was it because you wouldn't prove an 
aUbi for fear of compromising somebody in extremely high- 
toned society? Or was it simply a case of a mean old jury 
that had it in for you.^ It's always one or the other with you 
innocent victims." 

"Me.f^" said Jimmy, still blankly virtuous. "Why, war- 
den, I never was in Springfield in my life ! " 

"Take him back, Cronin," smiled the warden, "and fix him 
up with outgoing clothes. Unlock him at seven in the morn- 
ing, and let him come to the bull-pen. Better think over 
my advice, Valentine." 

At a quarter past seven on the next morning Jimmy stood 
in the warden's outer office. He had on a suit of the villain- 
ously fitting, ready-made clothes and a pair of the stiff, 
squeaky shoes that the state furnishes to its discharged com- 
pulsory guests. 

The clerk handed him a railroad ticket and the five-dollar 
bill with which the law expected him to rehabilitate himseH 
into good citizenship and prosperity. The warden gave him 
a cigar, and shook hands. Valentine, 9762, was chronicled 
on the books "Pardoned by Governor," and Mr. James Val- 
entine walked out into the sunshine. 

Disregarding the song of the birds, the waving green trees, 
and the smell of the flowers, Jimmy headed straight for a 
restaurant. There he tasted the first sweet joys of liberty 
in the shape of a broiled chicken and a bottle of white wine 
— ^followed by a cigar a grade better than the one the war- 
den had given him. From there he proceeded leisurely to 
the depot. He tossed a quarter into the hat of a blind man 
sitting by the door, and boarded his train. Three hours set 
him down in a little town near the state line. He went to 
the cafe of one Mike Dolan and shook hands with Mike, who 
was alone behind the bar. 

"Sorry we couldn't make it sooner, Jimmy, me boy," 
said Mike. "But we had that protest from Springfield to 


buck against, and the governor nearly balked. Feeling all 

"Fine," said Jimmy. "Got my key.?" 

He got his key and went upstairs, unlocking the door of 
a room at the rear. Everything was just as he had left it. 
There on the floor was still Ben Price's collar-button that had 
been torn from that eminent detective's shirt-band when they 
had overpowered Jimmy to prrest him. 

Pulling out from the wall a folding-bed, Jimmy shd back 
a panel in the wall and dragged out a dust-covered suit-case. 
He opened this and gazed fondly at the finest set of burglar's 
tools in the East. It was a complete set, made of specially 
tempered steel, the latest designs in drills, punches, braces 
and bits, jimmies, clamps, and augers, with two or three 
novelties, invented by Jimmy himself, in which he took pride. 
Over nine hundred dollars they had cost him to have made 
at , a place where they make such things for the profession. 

In half an hour Jimmy went downstairs and through the 
cafe. He was now dressed in tasteful and well-fitting clothes, 
and carried his dusted and cleaned suit-case in his hand. 

"Got anything on?" asked Mike Dolan, genially. 

"Me?" said Jimmy, in a puzzled tone. "I don't under- 
stand. I'm representing the New York Amalgamated Short 
Snap Biscuit Cracker and Frazzled Wheat Company." 

This statement delighted Mike to such an extent that 
Jimmy had to take a seltzer-and-milk on the spot. He never 
touched "hard" drinks. 

A week after the release of Valentine, 9762, there was a 
neat job of safe-burglary done in Richmond, Indiana, with 
no clue to the author. A scant eight hundred dollars was all 
that was secured. Two weeks after that a patented, im- 
proved, burglar-proof safe in Logansport was opened like 
a cheese to the tune of fifteen hundred dollars, currency; 
securities and silver untouched. That began to interest the 
rogue-catchers. Then an old-fashioned bank-safe in Jeffer- 
son City became active and threw out of its crater an erup- 
tion of bank-notes amounting to five thousand dollars. The 


losses were now high enough to bring the matter up into 
Ben Price's class of work. By comparing notes, a remark- 
able similarity in the methods of the burglaries was noticed. 
Ben Price investigated the scenes of the robberies, and was 
heard to remark: 

*' That's Dandy Jim Valentine's autograph. He's resumed 
business. Look at that combination knob — jerked out as 
easy as pulling up a radish in wet weather. He's got the 
only clamps that can do it. And look how clean those tum- 
blers were punched out! Jimmy never has to drill but one 
hole. Yes, I guess I want Mr. Valentine. He'll do his bit 
next time without any short-time or clemency foolishness." 

Ben Price knew Jimmy's habits. He had learned them 
while working up the Springfield case. Long jumps, quick 
get-aways, no confederates, and a taste for good society — 
these ways had helped Mr. Valentine to become noted as a 
successful dodger of retribution. It was given out that Ben 
Price had taken up the trail of the elusive cracksman, and 
other people w^ith burglar-proof safes felt more at ease. 

One afternoon Jimmy Valentine and his suit-case climbed 
out of the mail-hack in Elmore, a little town five miles off 
the railroad down in the black-jack country of Arkansas. 
Jimmy, looking like an athletic young senior just home from 
college, went down the board side-walk toward the hotel. 

A young lady crossed the street, passed him at the corner, 
and entered a door over which was the sign "The Elmore 
Bank." Jimmy Valentine looked into her eyes, forgot what 
he was, and became another man. She lowered her eyes and 
colored slightly. Young men of Jimmy's style and looks were 
scarce in Elmore. 

Jimmy collared a boy that was loafing on the steps of the 
bank as if he w^ere one of the stockholders, and began to ask 
him questions about the town, feeding him dimes at intervals. 
By and by the young lady came out, looking royally uncon- 
scious of the young man with the suit-case, and went her way. 

''Isn't that young lady Miss Polly Simpson.?" asked 
Jimmy, with specious guile. 


"Naw," said the boy. "She's Annabel Adams. Her pa 
owns this bank. What'd you come to Elmore for? Is that 
a gold watch-chain .P I'm going to get a bulldog. Got any 
more dimes.'^" 

Jimmy went to the Planters' Hotel, registered as Ralph D. 
Spencer, and engaged a room. He leaned on the desk and 
declared his platform to the clerk. He said he had come to 
Elmore to look for a location to go into business. How was 
the shoe business, now, in the town? He had thought of the 
shoe business. Was there an opening? 

The clerk was impressed by the clothes and manner of 
Jimmy. He himself was something of a pattern of fashion 
to the thinly gilded youth of Elmore, but he now perceived 
his shortcomings. While trying to figure out Jimmy's 
manner of tying his four-in-hand he cordially gave informa- 

Yes, there ought to be a good opening in the shoe line. 
There wasn't an exclusive shoe-store in the place. The dry- 
goods and general stores handled them. Business in all lines 
was fairly good. Hoped Mr. Spencer would decide to locate 
in Elmore. He would find it a pleasant town to live in, and 
the people very sociable. 

Mr. Spencer thought he would stop over in the town a few 
days and look over the situation. No, the clerk needn't 
call the boy. He would carry up his suit-case, himseK; it 
was rather heavy. 

Mr. Ralph Spencer, the phoenix that arose from Jimmy 
Valentine's ashes— ashes left by the flame of a sudden and 
alterative attack of love— remained in Elmore, and prospered. 
He opened a shoe-store and secured a good run of trade. 

Socially he was also a success, and made many friends. 
And he accomplished the wish of his heart. He met Miss 
Annabel Adams, and became more and more captivated by 
her charms. 

At the end of a year the situation of Mr. Ralph Spencer was 
this: he had won the respect of the community, his shoe-store 
was flourishing, and he and Annabel were engaged to be mar- 


ried in two weeks. Mr. Adams, the typical, plodding, 
country banker, approved of Spencer. Annabel's pride in 
him almost equaled her affection. He was as much at home 
in the family of IVIr. x^dams and that of Annabel's married 
sister as if he were already a member. 

One day Jimmy sat down in his room and wrote this letter, 
which he mailed to the safe address of one of his old friends in 
St. Louis: 

Dear Old Pal: 

I want you to be at Sullivan's place, in Little Rock, next Wednes- 
day night, at nine o'clock. I want you to wind up some little mat- 
ters for me. And, also, I want to make you a present of my kit of 
tools. I know you'll be glad to get them — you couldn't duplicate 
the lot for a thousand dollars. Say, Billj^ I've quit the old busi- 
ness — a year ago. I've got a nice store. I'm making an honest 
living, and I'm going to marry the finest girl on earth two weeks from 
now. It's the only life, Billy — the straight one. I wouldn't touch 
a dollar of another man's money now for a million. After I get 
married I'm going to sell out and go West, where there won't be so 
much danger of having old scores brought up against me. I tell you, 
Billy, she's an angel. She believes in me; and I wouldn't do another 
crooked thing for the whole world. Be sure to be at Sully's, for I 
must see you. I'll bring along the tools with me. 

Your old friend, 


On the Monday night after Jimmy wrote this letter, Ben 
Price jogged unobtrusively into Elmore in a livery buggy. 
He lounged about town in his quiet way until he found out 
what he wanted to know. From the drug-store across the 
street from Spencer's shoe-store he got a good look at Ralph 
D. Spencer. 

"Going to marry the banker's daughter are you, Jimmy.?" 
said Ben to himself, softly. "Well, I don't know!" 

The next morning Jimmy took breakfast at the Adamses. 
He was going to Little Rock that day to order his wedding- 
suit and buy something nice for Annabel. That would be 
the first time he had left town since he came to Elmore. It 


had been more than a year now since those last professional 
"jobs," and he thought he could safely venture out. 

After breakfast quite a family party went downtown to- 
gether — Mr. Adams, Annabel, Jimmy, and Annabel's mar- 
ried sister with her two little girls, aged five and nine. They 
came by the hotel where Jimmy still boarded, and he ran up 
to his room and brought along his suit-case. Then they went 
on to the bank. There stood Jimmy's horse and buggy and 
Dolph Gibson, who was going to drive him over to the rail- 
road station. 

All went inside the high, carved oak railings into the bank- 
ing-room — Jimmy included, for Mr. Adams's future son-in- 
law was welcome anywhere. The clerks were pleased to 
be greeted by the good-looking, agreeable young man who 
was going to marry Miss Annabel. Jimmy set his suit-case 
down. Annabel, whose heart was bubbling with happiness 
and lively youth, put on Jimmy's hat, and picked up the suit* 
case. "Wouldn't I make a nice drummer.?" said Annabel. 
"My! Ralph, how heavy it is.^^ Feels like it was full of gold 

"Lot of nickel-plated shoe-horns in there," said Jimmy, 
coolly, "that I'm going to return. Thought I'd save ex- 
press charges by taking them up. I'm getting awfully eco- 

The Elmore Bank had just put in a new safe and vault. 
Mr. Adams was very proud of it, and insisted on an inspec- 
tion by everyone. The vault was a small one, but it had a 
new, patented door. It fastened with three solid steel bolts 
thrown simultaneously with a single handle, and had a time- 
lock. Mr. Adams beamingly explained its workings to Mr. 
Spencer, who showed a courteous but not too intelligent in- 
terest. The two children. May and Agatha, were delighted 
by the shining metal and funny clock and knobs. 

While they were thus engaged Ben Price sauntered in and 
leaned on his elbow, looking casually inside between the rail- 
ings. He told the teller that he didn't want anything; he 
was just waiting for a man he knew. 


Suddenly there was a scream or two from the women, and 
a commotion. Unperceived by the elders. May, the nine- 
year-old girl, in a spirit of play, had shut Agatha in the vault. 
She had then shot the bolts and turned the knob of the com- 
bination as she had seen Mr. Adams do. 

The old banker sprang to the handle and tugged at it for a 
moment. "The door can't be opened," he groaned. "The 
clock hasn't been wound nor the combination set." 

Agatha's mother screamed again, hysterically. 

"Hush!" said Mr. Adams, raising his trembling hand. 
"All be quiet for a moment. Agatha! " he called as loudly as 
he could. "Listen to me." During the following silence 
they could just hear the faint sound of the child wildly shriek- 
ing in the dark vault in a panic of terror. 

"My precious darling!" wailed the mother. "She will die 
of fright! Open the door! Oh, break it open! Can't you 
men do something.?" 

"There isn't a man nearer than Little Rock who can open 
that door," said Mr. Adams, in a shaky voice. "My God. 
Spencer, what shall we do.^^ That child — she can't stand 
it long in there. There isn't enough air, and, besides, she'll 
go into convulsions from fright." 

Agatha's mother, frantic now, beat the door of the vault 
with her hands. Somebody wildly suggested dynamite. 
Annabel turned to Jimmy, her large eyes full of anguish, but 
not yet despairing. To a woman nothing seems quite im- 
possible to the powers of the man she worships. 

"Can't you do something, Ralph — try, won't you?" 

He looked at her with a queer, soft smile on his lips and in 
his keen eyes. 

"Annabel," he said, "give me that rose you are wearing, 
will you?" 

Hardly believing that she heard him aright, she unpinned 
the bud from the bosom of her dress, and placed it in his hand. 
Jimmy stuffed it into his vest-pocket, threw off his coat, and 
pulled up his shirt-sleeves. With that act Ralph D. Spencer 
passed away and Jimmy Valentine took his place. 


"Get away from the door, all of you," he commanded, 

He set his suit-case on the table, and opened it out flat. 
From that time on he seemed to be unconscious of the pres- 
ence of any one else. He laid out the shining, queer imple- 
ments swiftly and orderly, whistling softly to himself as he 
always did when at work. In a deep silence and immovable, 
the others watched him as if under a spell. 

In a minute Jimmy's pet drill was biting smoothly into the 
steel door. In ten minutes — breaking his own burglarious 
record — ^he threw back the bolts and opened the door. 

Agatha, almost collapsed, but safe, was gathered into her 
mother's arms. 

Jimmy Valentine put on his coat, and walked outside the 
railings toward the front door. As he went he thought he 
heard a far-away voice that he once knew call "Ralph!" 
But he never hesitated. 

At the door a big man stood somewhat in his way. 

"Hello, Ben!" said Jimmy, still with his strange smile. 
"Got around at last, have you.? Well, let's go. I don't 
know that it makes much difference, now." 

And then Ben Price acted rather strangely. 

"Guess you're mistaken, Mr. Spencer," he said. "Don't 
believe I recognize you. Your buggy's waiting for you, ain't 

And Ben Price turned and strolled down the street. 


From The Four Million. First published in The World, March 27, 
1904. Stories are commonly thought of as compounded of back- 
ground or setting, character or characters, plot or plan, these con- 
stituting the short story "rule of three." But in many writers 
the background or setting is mentioned at the beginning and then 
dismissed. Not so with O. Henry. His settings are no more 
initial than terminal. They are continuous. They condition the 
talk: they flavor the adjectives, they nominate the nouns, they 
move with the verbs. Try to retell this story, and see what has gone 
out of it. You have omitted an essential, the restaurant atmosphere. 
When O. Henry's stories are called mere anecdotes, the critic is im- 
peaching nothing more than his own retold and impoverished 
product. To omit background or setting or atmosphere — call it 
what you will in O. Henry's work — is to omit the integration of both 
plot and character. Is it any more discreditable to a short story 
that it may be cut up and then summarized fragmentarily in terms 
of an anecdote than it is to a New Testament parable that it may be 
similarly mutilated and distilled into a proverb.'^ This story and 
A Lickpenny Lover have been dubbed not stories but anecdotes. 

If you do not know Bogle's Chop House and Family 
Restaurant it is your loss. For if you are one of the fortunate 
ones who dine expensively you should be interested to know 
how the other half consumes provisions. And if you belong 
to the half to whom waiters' checks are things of moment, you 
should know Bogle's, for there you get your money's worth — 
in quantity, at least. 

Bogle's is situated in that highway of bourgeoisie, that 
boulevard of Brown-Jones-and-Robinson, Eighth Avenue. 
There are two rows of tables in the room, six in each row. On 
each table is a caster-stand, containing cruets of condiments 
and seasons. From the pepper cruet you may shake a cloud 



of something tasteless and melancholy, like volcanic dust. 
From the salt cruet you may expect nothing. Though a man 
should extract a sanguinary stream from the pallid turnip, 
yet will his prowess be balked when he comes to wrest salt 
from Bogle's cruets. Also upon each table stands the counter- 
feit of that benign sauce made "from the recipe of a nobleman 
in India." 

At the cashier's desk sits Bogle, cold, sordid, slow, 
smouldering, and takes your money. Behind a mountain of 
toothpicks he makes your change, files your check, and ejects 
at you, like a toad, a word about the weather. Beyond a 
corroboration of his meteorological statement you would 
better not venture. You are not Bogle's friend; you are a 
fed, transient customer, and you and he may not meet again 
until the blowing of Gabriel's dinner horn. So take your 
change and go— to the devil if you like. There you, have 
Bogle's sentiments. 

The needs of Bogle's customers were supplied by two 
waitresses and a Voice. One of the waitresses was named 
Aileen. She was tall, beautiful, lively, gracious, and learned 
in persiflage. Her other name? There was no more neces- 
sity for another name at Bogle's than there was for finger- 

The name of the other waitress was Tildy. Why do you 
suggest Matilda? Please listen this time— Tildy— Tildy. 
Tildy was dumpy, plain-faced, and too anxious to please to 
please. Repeat the last clause to yourself once or twice, and 
make the acquaintance of the duplicate infinite. 

The Voice at Bogle's was invisible. It came from the 
kitchen, and did not shine in the way of originality. It was 
a heathen Voice, and contented itself with vain repetitions of 
exclamations emitted by the waitresses concerning food. 

Will it tire you to be told again that Aileen was beautiful? 
Had she donned a few hundred dollars' worth of clothes and 
joined the Easter parade, and had you seen her, you would 
have hastened to say so yourself. 

The customers at Bogle's were her slaves. Six tables full 


she could wait upon at once. They who were in a hurry 
restrained their impatience for the joy of merely gazing upon 
her swiftly moving, graceful figure. They who had finished 
eating ate more that they might continue in the light of her 
smiles. Every man there — and they were mostly men — 
tried to make his impression upon her. 

Aileen could successfully exchange repartee against a 
dozen at once. And every smile that she sent forth lodged, 
like pellets from a scatter-gun, in as many hearts. And all 
this while she would be performing astounding feats with 
orders of pork and beans, pot roasts, ham-and, sausage-and- 
the-wheats, and any quantity of things on the iron and in the 
pan and straight up and on the side. With all this feasting 
and flirting and merry exchange of wit Bogle's came mighty 
near being a salon, with Aileen for its Madame Recamier. 

If the transients were entranced by the fascinating Aileen, 
the regulars were her adorers. There was much rivalry 
among many of the steady customers. Aileen could have had 
an engagement every evening. At least twice a week some 
one took her to a theatre or to a dance. One stout gentleman 
whom she and Tildy had privately christened "The Hog" 
presented her with a turquoise ring. Another one known as 
"Freshy," who rode on the Traction Company's repair 
wagon, was going to give her a poodle as soon as his brother 
got the hauling contract in the Ninth. And the man who 
always ate spareribs and spinach and said he was a stock 
broker asked her to go to "Parsifal" with him. 

"I don't know where this place is," said Aileen while talk- 
ing it over with Tildy, "but the wedding-ring's got to be on 
before I put a stitch into a traveling dress — ain't that right .^^ 
Well, I guess!" 

But, Tildy! 

In steaming, chattering, cabbage-scented Bogle's there was 
almost a heart tragedy. Tildy with the blunt nose, the hay- 
colored hair, the freckled skin, the bag-o'-meal figure, had 
never had an admirer. Not a man followed her with his 
eyes when she went to and fro in the restaurant save now and 


then when they glared with the beast-hunger for food. None 
of them bantered her gaily to coquettish interchanges of wit. 
None of them loudly "jollied" her of mornings as they did 
Aileen, accusing her, when the eggs were slow in coming, of 
late hours in the company of envied swains. No one had 
ever given her a turquoise ring or invited her upon a voyage to 
mysterious, distant "Parsifal." 

Tildy was a good waitress, and the men tolerated her. 
They who sat at her tables spoke to her briefly with quo- 
tations from the bill of fare; and then raised their voices in 
honeyed and otherwise-flavored accents, eloquently addressed 
to the fair Aileen. They writhed in their chairs to gaze 
around and over the impending form of Tildy, that Aileen's 
pulchritude might season and make ambrosia of their bacon 
and eggs. 

And Tildy was content to be the unwooed drudge if Aileen 
could receive the flattery and the homage. The blunt nose 
was loyal to the short Grecian. She was Aileen's friend; and 
she was glad to see her rule hearts and wean the attention of 
men from smoking pot-pie and lemon meringue. But deep 
below our freckles and hay-colored hair the unhandsomest of 
us dream of a prince or a princess, not vicarious, but coming 
to us alone. 

There was a morning when Aileen tripped in to work with 
a slightly bruised eye; and Tildy 's solicitude was almost 
enough to heal any optic. 

"Fresh guy," explained Aileen, "last night as I was going 
home at Twenty-third and Sixth. Sashayed up, so he did, 
and made a break. I turned him down, cold, and he made a 
sneak; but followed me down to Eighteenth, and tried his hot 
air again. Gee! but I slapped him a good one, side of the 
face. Then he give me that eye. Does it look real awful, 
Til.'^ I should hate that Mr. Nicholson should see it when he 
comes in for his tea and toast at ten." 

Tildy listened to the adventure with breathless admiration. 
No man had ever tried to follow her. She was safe abroad 
at any hour of the twenty-four. What bliss it must have 


been to have had a man follow one and black one's eye for 

Among the customers at Bogle's was a young man named 
Seeders, who worked in a laundry office. Mr. Seeders was 
thin and had hght hair, and appeared to have been recently 
rough-dried and starched. He was too diffident to aspire to 
Aileen's notice; so he usually sat at one of Tildy's tables, 
where he devoted himself to silence and boiled weakfish. 

One day when Mr. Seeders came in to dinner he had been 
drinking beer. There were only two or three customers in 
the restaurant. TMien Mr. Seeders had finished his weakfish 
he got up, put his arm around Tildy's waist, kissed her loudly 
and impudently, walked out upon the street, snapped his 
fingers in the direction of the laundry, and hied himself to 
play pennies in the slot machines at the Amusement Arcade. 

For a few moments Tildy stood petrified. Then she was 
aware of Aileen shaking at her an arch fore-finger, and saying : 

"Why, Til, you naughty girl! Ain't you getting to be 
a-^^ful, Miss Slyboots ! First thing I know you'll be stealing 
some of my fellows. I must keep an eye on you, my lady." 

Another thing dawned upon Tildy's recovering wits. In 
a moment she had advanced from a hopeless, lowly admirer 
to be an Eve-sister of the potent Aileen. She herself was now 
a man-charmer, a mark for Cupid, a Sabine who must be coy 
when the Romans were at their banquet boards. Man had 
found her waist achievable and her lips desirable. The sud- 
den and amatory Seeders had, as it were, performed for her a 
miraculous piece of one-day laundry vvork. He had taken 
the sackcloth of her uncomeliness, had washed, dried, 
starched and ironed it, and returned it to her sheer em- 
broidered lawn — the robe of Venus herself. 

The freckles in Tildy's cheeks merged into a rosy flush. 
Now both Circe and Psyche peeped from her brightened eyes. 
Not even Aileen herself had been publicly embraced and 
kissed in the restaurant. 

Tildy could not keep the delightful secret. When trade 
was slack she went and stood at Bogle's desk. Her eyes 


were shining; she tried not to let her words sound proud and 

"A gentleman insulted me to-day," she said. "He hugged 
me around the waist and kissed me." 

"That so.?" said Bogle, cracking open his business armor. 
"After this week you get a dollar a week more." 

At the next regular meal when Tildy set food before 
customers with whom she had acquaintance she said to 
each of them modestly, as one whose merit needed no bol- 

"A gentleman insulted me to-day in the restaurant. He 
put his arm around my waist and kissed me." 

The diners accepted the revelation in various ways — some 
incredulously, some with congratulations; others turned 
upon her the stream of badinage that had hitherto been 
directed at Aileen alone. And Tildy's heart swelled in her 
bosom, for she saw at last the towers of Romance rise above 
the horizon of the gray plain in which she had for so long 

For two days Mr. Seeders came not again. During that 
time Tildy established herself firmly as a woman to be wooed. 
She bought ribbons, and arranged her hair like Aileen's, and 
tightened her waist two inches. She had a thrilling but 
delightful fear that Mr. Seeders would rush in suddenly and 
shoot her with a pistol. He must have loved her desperately; 
and impulsive lovers are always blindly jealous. 

Even Aileen had not been shot at with a pistol. And then 
Tildy rather hoped that he would not shoot at her, for she 
was always loyal to Aileen; and she did not want to over- 
shadow her friend. 

At 4 o'clock on the afternoon of the third day Mr. Seeders 
came in. There were no customers at the tables. At the 
back end of the restaurant Tildy was refilling the mustard 
pots and Aileen was quartering pies. Mr. Seeders walked 
back to where they stood. 

Tildy looked up and saw him, gasped, and pressed the 
mustard spoon against her heart. A red hair bow was in her 


hair; she wore Venus's Eighth Avenue badge, the blue bead 
necklace with the swinging silver symbolic heart. 

Mr. Seeders was flushed and embarrassed. He plunged 
one hand into his hip pocket and the other into a fresh 
pumpkin pie. 

"Miss Tildy," said he, "I want to apologize for what I 
done the other evenin'. Tell you the truth, I was pretty well 
tanked up or I wouldn't of done it. I wouldn't do no lady 
that a-way when I was sober. So I hope, Miss Tildy, you'll 
accept my 'pology, and believe that I wouldn't of done it if 
I'd known what I was doin' and hadn't of been drunk." 

With this handsome plea Mr. Seeders backed away, and 
departed, feeling that reparation had been made. 

But behind the convenient screen Tildy had thrown herself 
flat upon a table among the butter chips and the coffee cups, 
and was sobbing her heart out — out and back again to the 
gray plain wherein travel they with blunt noses and hay- 
colored hair. From her knot she had torn the red hair bow 
and cast it upon the floor. Seeders she despised utterly; she 
had but taken his kiss as that of a pioneer and prophetic 
prince who might have set the clocks going and the pages to 
running in fairyland. But the kiss had been maudlin and 
unmeant; the court had not stirred at the false alarm; she 
must forevermore remain the Sleeping Beauty. 

Yet not all was lost. Aileen's arm was around her; and 
Tildy 's red hand groped among the butter chips till it found 
the warm clasp of her friend's. 

"Don't you fret. Til," said Aileen, who did not understand 
entirely. "That turnip-faced little clothespin of a Seeders 
ain't worth it. He ain't anything of a gentleman or he 
wouldn't ever of apologized." 


From The Voice of the City. First published in The World, May 
29, 1904. Few reviews of O. Henry fail to acclaim him as "The 
little shop-girl's knight unto the end." "The reforms that I 
attempted m behalf of the shop-girls of New York," said Colonel 
Roosevelt, "were suggested by the stories of O. Henry." The more 
notable of these stories in the order of their publication are: A Lick- 
penny Lover, An Unfinished Story, Elsie in New York, Brickdust Row, 
and The Trimmed Lamp. There is less reform purpose, however, in 
A Lickpenny Lover than m any of the others, but the art is consum- 
mate. Coney Island may so dominate the working girl's imagi- 
nation as to make her mistake the sham for the real, the imitation 
for the original, the sjTnbol for the thing symbolized — m some such 
thought the germ of the story is probably to be found. Masie's 
vocabulary had become narrowed, not in the number of words but 
in their connotation. All of us are Masies more or less when we 
read Saint John, Dante, Shakespeare, Goethe, or Browning. We 
understand the words but the reach and altitude of the ideas are 
bounded by the reach and altitude of our own experience. 

There were 3,000 girls in the Biggest Store. Masie was 
one of them. She was eighteen and a saleslady in the gents' 
gloves. Here she became versed in two varieties of human 
beings — the kind of gents who buy their gloves in department 
stores and the kind of women who buy gloves for unfortunate 
gents. Besides this wide knowledge of the human species, 
Masie had acquired other information. She had listened to 
the proniulgated wisdom of the 2,999 other girls and had 
stored it in a brain that was as secretive and wary as that of a 
Maltese cat. Perhaps nature, foreseeing that she would lack 
wise counsellors, had mingled the saving ingredient of shrewd- 
ness along with her beauty, as she has endowed the silver fox 
of the priceless fur above the other animals with cunning. 



For Masie was beautiful. She was a deep-tinted blonde, 
with the calm poise of a lady who cooks butter cakes in a 
window. She stood behind her counter in the Biggest Store; 
and as you closed your hand over the tape-line for your 
glove measure you thought of Hebe; and as you looked again 
you wondered how she had come by Minerva's eyes. 

When the floorwalker was not looking Masie chewed tutti 
frutti; when he was looking she gazed up as if at the clouds 
and smiled wistfully. 

That is the shop-girl smile, and I enjoin you to shun it unless 
you are well fortified with callosity of the heart, caramels, and 
a congeniality for the capers of Cupid. This smile belonged 
to Masie's recreation hours and not to the store; but the floor- 
walker must have his own. He is the Shylock of the stores. 
WTien he comes nosing around, the bridge of his nose is a toll- 
bridge. It is goo-goo eyes or "git" when he looks toward a 
pretty girl. Of course not all floorwalkers are thus. Only a 
few days ago the papers printed news of one over eighty years 
of age. 

One day Irving Carter, painter, millionaire, traveler, poet, 
automobilist, happened to enter the Biggest Store. It is due 
to him to add that his visit was not voluntary. Filial duty 
took him by the collar and dragged him inside, while his 
mother philandered among the bronze and terra-cotta 

Carter strolled across to the glove counter in order to shoot 
a few minutes on the wing. His need for gloves was genuine; 
he had forgotten to bring a pair with him. But his action 
hardly calls for apology, because he had never heard of glove- 
counter flirtations. 

As he neared the vicinity of his fate he hesitated, suddenly 
conscious of this unknown phase of Cupid's less worthy 

Three or four cheap fellows, sonorously garbed, were lean- 
ing over the counters, wrestling with the mediatorial hand- 
coverings, while giggling girls played vivacious seconds to 
their lead upon the strident string of coquetry. Carter would 


have retreated, but he had gone too far. Masie confronted 
him behind her counter with a questioning look in eyes as 
coldly, beautifully, warmly blue as the glint of summer sun- 
shine on an iceberg drifting in Southern seas. 

And then Irving Carter, painter, millionaire, etc., felt a 
warm flush rise to his aristocratically pale face. But not 
from diffidence. The blush was intellectual in origin. He 
knew in a moment that he stood in the ranks of the ready- 
made youths who wooed the giggling girls at other counters. 
Himself leaned against the oaken trysting place of a cockney 
Cupid with a desire in his heart for the favor of a glove sales- 
girl. He was no more than Bill and Jack and Mickey. And 
then he felt a sudden tolerance for them, and an elating, 
courageous contempt for the conventions upon which he had 
fed, and an unhesitating determination to have this perfect 
creature for his own. 

When the gloves were paid for and wrapped Carter lingered 
for a moment. The dimples at the corners of Masie's dam- 
ask mouth deepened. All gentlemen w^ho bought gloves lin- 
gered in just that way. She curved an arm, showing like 
Psyche's through her shirt-waist sleeve, and rested an elbow 
upon the show-case edge. 

Carter had never before encountered a situation of which 
he had not been perfect master. But now he stood far more 
awkward than Bill or Jack or Mickey. He had no chance 
of meeting this beautiful girl socially. His mind struggled to 
recall the nature and habits of shop-girls as he had read or 
heard of them. Somehow he had received the idea that they 
sometimes did not insist too strictly upon the regular channels 
of introduction. His heart beat loudly at the thought of 
proposing an unconventional meeting with this lovely and 
virginal being. But the tumult in his heart gave him cour- 

After a few friendly and well-received remarks on general 
subjects, he laid his card by her hand on the counter. 

"Will you please pardon me," he said, "if I seem too bold; 
but I earnestly hope you will allow me the pleasure of seeing 


you again. There is my name; I assure you that it is with 
the greatest respect that I ask the favor of becoming one of 
your fr acquaintances. May I not hope for the privi- 

Masie knew men — especially men who buy gloves. With- 
out hesitation she looked him frankly and smilingly in the 
eyes, and said: 

"Sure. I guess you're all right. I don't usually go out 
with strange gentlemen, though. It ain't quite ladylike. 
When should you want to see me again .^" 

"As soon as I may," said Carter. "If you would allow me 
to call at your home, I " 

Masie laughed musically. "Oh, gee, no!" she said, em- 
phatically. " If you could see our flat once ! There's five of 
us in three rooms. I'd just like to see ma's face if I w^as to 
bring a gentleman friend there!" 

"Anywhere, then," said the enamored Carter, "that will 
be convenient to you." 

"Say," suggested Masie, with a bright-idea look in her 
peach-blow face; "I guess Thursday night will about suit me. 
Suppose you come to the corner of Eighth Avenue and Forty- 
eighth Street at 7 :30. I hve right near the corner. But I've 
got to be back home by eleven. Ma never lets me stay out 
after eleven." 

Carter promised gratefully to keep the tryst, and then 
hastened to his mother, who was looking about for him to 
ratify her purchase of a bronze Diana. 

A salesgirl, with small eyes and an obtuse nose, strolled 
near Masie, with a friendly leer. 

"Did you make a hit with his nobs, Masie.^" she asked, 

"The gentleman asked permission to call," answered 
Masie, with the grand air, as she slipped Carter's card into 
the bosom of her waist. 

"Permission to call!" echoed small eyes, with a snigger. 
"Did he say anything about dinner in the Waldorf and a 
spin in his auto afterward .f*" 


''*0h, cheese it!" said Masie, wearily. "You've been used 
to swell things, I don't think. You've had a swelled head 
ever since that hose-cart driver took you out to a chop suey 
joint. No, he never mentioned the Waldorf; but there's a 
Fifth Avenue address on his card, and if he buys the supper 
you can bet your life there won't be no pigtail on the waiter 
what takes the order." 

As Carter glided away from the Biggest Store with his 
mother in his electric runabout, he bit his lip with a dull pain 
at his heart. He knew that love had come to him for the 
first time in all the twenty-nine years of his life. And that 
the object of it should make so readily an appointment with 
him at a street corner, though it was a step toward his desires, 
tortured him with misgivings. 

Carter did not know the shop-girl. He did not know that 
her home is often either a scarcely habitable tiny room or a 
domicile filled to overflowing with kith and kin. The street- 
corner is her parlor; the park is her drawing-room; the avenue 
is her garden walk; yet for the most part she is as inviolate 
mistress of herself in them as is my lady inside her tapestried 

One evening at dusk, two weeks after their first meeting. 
Carter and Masie strolled arm-in-arm into a little, dimly-lit 
park. They found a bench, tree-shadowed and secluded, and 
sat there. 

For the first time his arm stole gently around her. Her 
golden-bronze head slid restfully against his shoulder. 

"Gee!" sighed Masie, thankfully. "Why didn't you ever 
think of that before.^" 

"Masie," said Carter, earnestly, "yo^ surely know that 
I love you. I ask you sincerely to marry me. You know me 
well enough by this time to have no doubts of me. I want 
you, and I must have you. I care nothing for the difference 
in our stations." 

"What is the difference.'^" asked Masie, curiously. 

"Well, there isn't any," said Carter, quickly, "except in 
the minds of foolish people. It is in my power to give you a 


life of luxury. My social position is beyond dispute, and my 
means are ample." 

"They all say that," remarked Masie. "It's the kid they 
aU give you. I suppose you really work in a delicatessen or 
follow the races. I ain't as green as I look." 

"I can furnish you aU the proofs you want," said Carter, 
gently. "And I want you, Masie. I loved you the first day 
I saw you." 

"They all do," said Masie, with an amused laugh, "to hear 
'em talk. If I could meet a man that got stuck on me the 
third time he'd seen me I think I'd get mashed on him." 

"Please don't say such things," pleaded Carter. "Listen 
to me, dear. Ever since I first looked into your eyes you 
have been the only woman in the world for me." 

"Oh, ain't you the kidder!" smiled Masie. "How many 
other girls did you ever teU that-f^" 

But Carter persisted. And at length he reached the 
flimsy, fluttering little soul of the shop-girl that existed some- 
where deep down in her lovely bosom. His words penetrated 
the heart whose very lightness was its safest armor. She 
looked up at him with eyes that saw. And a warm glow 
visited her cool cheeks. Tremblingly, a^-fully, her moth 
w^ngs closed, and she seemed about to settle upon the flower 
of love. Some faint glimmer of life and its possibilities on the 
other side of her glove counter dawned upon her. Carter 
felt the change and crowded the opportunity. 

"Marry me, Masie," he whispered softly, "and we will go 
away from this ugly city to beautiful ones. We will forget 
work and business, and life will be one long holiday. I know 
where I should take you — I have been there often. Just 
think of a shore where summer is eternal, where the waves 
are always rippling on the lovely beach and the people are 
happy and free as children. We will sail to those shores and 
remain there as long as you please. In one of those far-away 
cities there are grand and lovely palaces and towers full of 
beautiful pictures and statues. The streets of the city are 
water^ and one travels about in " 


"I know," said Masie, sitting up suddenly. "Gondolas." 

"Yes," smiled Carter. 

"I thought so," said Masie. 

"And then," continued Carter, "we will travel on and see 
whatever we wish in the world. After the European cities 
we will visit India and the ancient cities there, and ride on 
elephants and see the wonderful temples of the Hindoos and 
Brahmins and the Japanese gardens and the camel trains and 
chariot races in Persia, and all the queer sights of foreign 
countries. Don't you think you would like it, Masie.^^" 

Masie rose to her feet. 

"I think we had better be going home," she said, coolly. 
"It's getting late." 

Carter humored her. He had come to know her varying, 
thistle-down moods, and that it was useless to combat them. 
But he felt a certain happy triumph. He had held for a 
moment, though but by a silken thread, the soul of his wild 
Psyche, and hope was stronger within him. Once she had 
folded her wings and her cool hand had closed about his o^\ti. 

At the Biggest Store the next day Masie's chum, Lulu, way- 
laid her in an angle of the counter. 

"How are you and your swell friend making it?" she asked. 

"Oh, him?" said Masie, patting her side curls. "He ain't 
in it any more. Say, Lu, what do you think that fellow 
wanted me to do?" 

"Go on the stage?" guessed Lulu, breathlessly. 

"Nit; he's too cheap a guy for that. He wanted me to 
marry him and go down to Coney Island for a wedding tour ! " 


From The Trimmed Lamp. First published in The World, June 
12, 1904. Habit, especially the alternation of resolve and relapse, 
furnished O. Henry with rich story material. He first approached 
the theme in The Passing of Black Eagle (March, 1902), which was 
quickly followed by Round the Circle (see Waifs and Strays, pages 
17-24), the latter being little more than a first draft of The Pendu- 
lum. Then followed A Comedy in Rubber, From the Cabby's Seat, 
The Girl and the Habit, and The Harbinger (March 18, 1906). His 
text in The Girl and the Habit is from the dictionary: "Habit — a 
tendency or aptitude acquired by custom or frequent repetition." 
In The Harbinger he hails habit as "the power that keeps the earth 
from flying to pieces, though there is some silly theory of gravi- 
tation." "Habit," says William James in his great chapter on the 
subject, "is thus the enormous fly-wheel of society, its most precious 
conservative agent. It alone is what keeps us all within the bounds 
of ordinance." Read also Maupassant's stoiy called An Artist and 
Armistead Churchill Gordon's Baytop (in Omviirandy, Scribners, 
1917). The latter is a happy illustration of Professor James's re- 
mark about habit in animals: "Riderless cavalry-horses, at many a 
battle, have been seen to come together and go through their custom- 
ary evolutions at the sound of the bugle-call." 

"Eighty-First Street — let 'em out, please," yelled the 
shepherd in blue. 

A flock of citizen sheep scrambled out and another flock 
scrambled aboard. Ding-ding! The cattle cars of the 
Manhattan Elevated rattled away, and John Perkins drifted 
down the stairway of the station with the released flock. 

John walked slowly toward his flat. Slowly, because in 
the lexicon of his daily life there was no such word as "per- 
haps." There are no surprises awaiting a man who has been 
married two years and lives in a flat. As he walked John 



Per'kins prophesied to himself with gloomy and downtrodden 
cynicism the foregone conclusions of the monotonous day. 

Katy would meet him at the door with a kiss flavored with 
cold cream and butter-scotch. He would remove his coat, 
sit upon a macadamized lounge, and read, in the evening 
paper, of Russians and Japs slaughtered by the deadly lino- 
type. For dinner there would be pot roast, a salad flavored 
with a dressing warranted not to crack or injure the leather, 
stewed rhubarb, and the bottle of strawberry marmalade 
blushing at the certificate of chemical purity on its label. 
After dinner Katy would show him the new patch in her crazy 
quilt that the iceman had cut for her off the end of his four-in- 
hand. At half -past seven they would spread newspapers 
over the furniture to catch the pieces of plastering that fell 
when the fat man in the flat overhead began to take his 
physical culture exercises. Exactly at eight Hickey & Moo- 
ney, of the vaudeville team (unbooked) in the flat across the 
hall, would yield to the gentle influence of delirium tremens 
and begin to overturn chairs under the delusion that 
Hammerstein was pursuing them with a five-hundred-dollar- 
a-week contract. Then the gent at the window across the 
air-shaft would get out his flute; the nightly gas leak would 
steal forth to frolic in the highways; the dumbwaiter would 
slip off its trolley; the janitor would drive Mrs. Zanowitski's 
five children once more across the Yalu; the lady with the 
champagne shoes and the Skye terrier would trip downstairs 
and paste her Thursday name over her bell and letter-box — 
and the evening routme of the Frogmore flats would be under 

John Perkins knew these things would happen. And he 
knew that at a quarter past eight he would summon his nerve 
and reach for his hat, and that his wife would deliver this 
speech in a querulous tone: 

"Now, where are you going, I'd like to know, John Per- 

"Thought I'd drop up to McCloskey's," he would answer, 
"and play a game or two of pool with the fellows." 


Of late such had been John Perkins's habit. At ten or 
eleven he would return. Sometimes Katy would be asleep; 
sometimes waiting up, ready to melt in the crucible of her ire 
a little more gold plating from the \^Tought steel chains of 
matrimony. For these things Cupid will have to answer 
when he stands at the bar of justice with his victims from the 
Frogmore flats. 

To-night John Perkins encountered a tremendous upheaval 
of the commonplace when he reached his door. No Katy 
was there with her affectionate, confectionate kiss. The 
three rooms seemed in portentous disorder. All about lay 
her things in confusion. Shoes in the middle of the floor, 
curling tongs, hair bows, kimonos, powder box, jumbled 
together on dresser and chairs — this was not Xaty's way. 
With a sinking heart John saw the comb with a curling cloud 
of her brown hair among its teeth. Some unusual hurry and 
perturbation must have possessed her, for she always care- 
fully placed these combings in the little blue vase on the 
mantel to be some day formed into the coveted feminine 

Hanging conspicuously to the gas jet by a string was a 
folded paper. John seized it. It was a note from his wife 
running thus: 

''Dear John: I just had a telegram saying mother is very 
sick, I am going to take the 4-30 train. Brother Sam is going 
to meet me at the depot there. There is cold mutton in the ice box. 
I hope it isn't her quinzy again. Pay the milkman 50 cents. 
She had it bad last spring. DonH forget to write to the company 
about the gas meter, and your good socks are in the top drawer. 
I will write to-morrow. 

Hastily, katy:' 

Never during their two years of matrimony had he and 
Katy been separated for a night. John read the note over 
and over in a dumbfounded way. Here was a break in a 
routine that had never varied, and it left him dazed. 


There on the back of a chair hung, pathetically empty and 
formless, the red wrapper with black dots that she always 
wore while getting the meals. Her week-day clothes had 
been tossed here and there in her haste. A little paper bag of 
her favorite butter-scotch lay with its string yet unwound. 
A daily paper sprawled on the floor, gaping rectangularly 
where a railroad time-table had been clipped from it. Every- 
thing in the room spoke of a loss, of an essence gone, of its soul 
and life departed. John Perkins stood among the dead re- 
mains with a queer feeling of desolation in his heart. 

He began to set the rooms tidy as well as he could. When 
he touched her clothes a thrill of something like terror went 
through him. He had never thought what existence would 
be without Katy. She had become so thoroughly annealed 
into his life that she was like the air he breathed — necessary 
but scarcely noticed. Now, without warning, she was gone, 
vanished, as completely absent as if she had never existed. 
Of course it would be only for a few days, or at most a week 
or two, but it seemed to him as if the very hand of death had 
pointed a finger at his secure and uneventful home. 

John dragged the cold mutton from the ice-box, made 
coffee, and sat down to a lonely meal face to face with the 
strawberry marmalade's shameless certificate of purity. 
Bright among withdrawn blessings now appeared to him the 
ghosts of pot roasts and the salad with tan polish dressing. 
His home was dismantled. A quinzied mother-in-law had 
knocked his lares and penates sky-high. After his solitary 
meal John sat at a front window. 

He did not care to smoke. Outside the city roared to him 
to come join in its dance of folly and pleasure. The night 
was his. He might go forth unquestioned and thrum the 
strings of jollity as free as any gay bachelor there. He might 
carouse and wander and have his fling until dawn if he liked; 
and there would be no wrathful Katy waiting for him, bearing 
the chalice that held the dregs of his joy. He might play 
pool at McCloskey's with his roistering friends until Aurora 
dimmed the electric bulbs if he chose. The hymeneal strings 


that had curbed him always when the Frogmore flats had 
palled upon him were loosened. Katy was gone. 

John Perkins was not accustomed to analyzing his 
emotions. But as he sat in his Katy-bereft 10x12 parlor 
he hit unerringly upon the keynote of his discomfort. He 
knew now that Katy was necessary to his happiness. His 
feeling for her, lulled into unconsciousness by the dull round 
of domesticity, had been sharply stirred by the loss of her 
presence. Has it not been dinned into us by proverb and 
sermon and fable that we never prize the music till the sweet- 
voiced bird has flown — or in other no less florid and true 

*'I'm a double-dyed dub," mused John Perkins, "the way 
I've been treating Katy. Off every night playing pool and 
bumming with the boys instead of staying home with her. 
The poor girl here all alone with nothing to amuse her, and 
me acting that way ! John Perkins, you're the worst kind of 
a shine. I'm going to make it up for the little girl. I'll take 
her out and let her see some amusement. And I'll cut out 
the McCloskey gang right from this minute." 

Yes, there was the city roaring outside for John Perkins to 
come dance in the train of Momus. And at McCloskey 's the 
boys were knocking the balls idly into the pockets against the 
hour for the nightly game. But no primrose w^ay nor clicking 
cue could woo the remorseful soul of Perkins the bereft. The 
thing that was his, lightly held and half scorned, had been 
taken away from him, and he wanted it. Backward to a 
certain man named Adam, whom the cherubim bounced 
from the orchard, could Perkins, the remors/eful, trace his 

Near the right hand of John Perkins stood a chair. On the 
back of it stood Katy's blue shirtwaist. It still retained 
something of her contour. Midway of the sleeves were fine, 
individual wrinkles made by the movements of her arms in 
working for his comfort and pleasure. A delicate but im- 
pelling odor of blue-bells came from it. John took it and 
looked long and soberly at the unresponsive grenadine 


Katy had never been unresponsive. Tears: — yes, tears — 
came into John Perkins's eyes. When she came back things 
would be different. He would make up for all his neglect. 
What was life without her? 

The door opened. Katy walked in carrying a little hand 
satchel. John stared at her stupidly. 

"My! I'm glad to get back," said Katy. "Ma wasn't 
sick to amount to anything. Sam was at the depot, and said 
she just had a little spell, and got all right soon after they 
telegraphed. So I took the next train back. I'm just dying 
for a cup of coffee." 

Nobody heard the click and rattle of the cog-wheels as the 
third-floor front of the Frogmore flats buzzed its machinery 
back into the Order of Things. A band slipped, a spring was 
touched, the gear was adjusted, and the wheels revolved in 
their old orbit. 

John Perkins looked at the clock. It was 8.15. He 
reached for his hat and walked to the door. 

"Now, where are you going, I'd like to know, John Per^ 
kins?" asked Katy, in a querulous tone. 

"Thought I'd drop up to McCloskey's," said John, "and 
play a game or two of pool with the fellows." 


From The Voice of the City. First published in The World, July 
17, 1904. "There was a certain Caliph of Bagdad," says O. Henry 
in The Caliph and the Cad, written a few months before Transients in 
Arcadia, "who was accustomed to go dowTi among the poor and 
lowly for the solace obtained from the relation of their tales and 
histories. Is it not strange that the humble and poverty-stricken 
have not availed themselves of the pleasure they might glean by 
donning diamonds and silks and playing Caliph among the haunts 
of the upper world ^ There was one who saw the possibilities of thus 
turning the tables on Haroun al Raschid. His name was Corny 
Brannigan. " No, his name was O. Henry. He not only turned the 
tables on Haroun al Raschid but illustrated a new phase of psy- 
chology and colonized a new area for the short story. 

There is a hotel on Broadway that has escaped discovery 
by the summer-resort promoters. It is deep and wide and 
cool. Its rooms are finished in dark oak of a low temperature. 
Home-made breezes and deep-green shrubbery give it the 
delights without the inconveniences of the Adirondacks. 
One can mount its broad staircases or glide dreamily upward 
in its aerial elevators, attended by guides in brass buttons, 
with a serene joy that Alpine climbers have never attained. 
T^ere is a chef in its kitchen who will prepare for you brook 
trout better than the White Mountains ever served, sea food 
that would turn Old Point Comfort— "by Gad, sah!"— 
green with envy, and Maine venison that would melt the 
oflScial heart of a game warden. 

A few have found out this oasis in the July desert of 
Manhattan. During that month you will see the hotel's 
reduced array of guests scattered luxuriously about in the 
cool twilight of its lofty dining-room, gazing at one another 



across the snowy waste of unoccupied tables, silently con- 

Superfluous, watchful, pneumatically moving waiters 
hover near, supplying every want before it is expressed. 
The temperature is perpetual April. The ceiling is painted 
in water colors to counterfeit a summer sky across which 
delicate clouds drift and do not vanish as those of nature do 
to our regret. 

The pleasing, distant roar of Broadway is transformed in 
the imagination of the happy guests to the noise of a waterfall 
filhng the woods with its restful sound. At every strange 
footstep the guests turn an anxious car, fearful lest their 
retreat be discovered and invaded by the restless pleasure- 
seekers who are forever hounding nature to her deepest lairs. 

Thus in the depopulated caravansary the little band of 
connoisseurs jealously hide themselves during the heated 
season, enjoying to the uttermost the delights of mountain 
and seashore that art and skill have gathered and served to 

In this July came to the hotel one whose card that she sent 
to the clerk for her name to be registered read "Mme. Heloise 
D'Arcy Beaumont." 

Madame Beaumont was a guest such as the Hotel Lotus 
loved. She possessed the fine air of the elite, tempered and 
sweetened by a cordial graciousness that made the hotel 
employes her slaves. Bell-boys fought for the honor of 
answering her ring; the clerks, but for the question of owner- 
ship, would have deeded to her the hotel and its contents; 
the other guests regarded her as the final touch of feminine 
exclusiveness and beauty that rendered the entourage per- 

This super-excellent guest rarely left the hotel. Her 
habits were consonant with the customs of the discriminating 
patrons of the Hotel Lotus. To enjoy that delectable 
hostelry one must forego the city as though it were leagues 
away. By night a brief excursion to the nearby roofs is in 
order; but during the torrid day one remains in the um- 


brageous fastnesses of the Lotus as a trout hangs poised in 
the pellucid sanctuaries of his favorite pool. 

Though alone in the Hotel Lotus, Madame Beaumont 
preserved the state of a queen whose loneliness was of position 
only. She breakfasted at ten, a cool, sweet, leisurely, deli- 
cate being who glowed softly in the dimness like a jasmine 
flower in the dusk. 

But at dinner was Madame 's glory at its height. She wore 
a gown as beautiful and immaterial as the mist from an un- 
seen cataract in a mountain gorge. The nomenclature of 
this gown is beyond the guess of the scribe. Always pale-red 
roses reposed against its lace-garnished front. It was a 
gown that the head-waiter viewed with respect and met at 
the door. You thought of Paris when you saw it, and maybe 
of mysterious countesses, and certainly of Versailles and 
rapiers and IMrs. Fiske and rouge-et-noir. There was an 
untraceable rumor in the Hotel Lotus that Madame was s 
cosmopolite, and that she was pulling with her slender white 
hands certain strings between the nations in the favor of 
Russia. Being a citizeness of the world's smoothest roads it 
was small wonder that she was quick to recognize in the 
refined purlieus of the Hotel Lotus the most desirable spot in 
America for a restful sojourn during the heat of mid-summer. 

On the third day of Madame Beaumont's residence in the 
hotel a young man entered and registered himself as a guest. 
His clothing — to speak of his points in approved order — was 
quietly in the mode; his features good and regular; his ex- 
pression that of a poised and sophisticated man of the world. 
He informed the clerk that he would remain three or four 
days, inquired concerning the sailing of European steamships, 
and sank into the blissful inanition of the nonpareil hotel 
with the contented air of a traveler in his favorite inn. 

The young man — not to question the veracity of the regis- 
ter — was Harold Farrington. He drifted into the exclusive 
and calm current of life in the Lotus so tactfully and silently 
that not a ripple alarmed his fellow-seekers after rest. He 
ate in the Lotus and of its patronym, and was lulled into bliss- 


ful peace with the other fortunate mariners. In one day he 
acquired his table and his waiter and the fear lest the panting 
chasers after repose that kept Broadway warm should pounce 
upon and destroy this contiguous but covert haven. 

After dinner on the next day after the arrival of Harold 
Farrington Madame Beaumont dropped her handkerchief in 
passing out. Mr. Farrington recovered and returned it with- 
out the effusiveness of a seeker after acquaintance. 

Perhaps there was a mystic freemasonry between the dis- 
criminating guests of the Lotus. Perhaps they were drawn 
one to another by the fact of their common good fortune in 
discovering the acme of summer resorts in a Broadway hotel. 
Words delicate in courtesy and tentative in departure from 
formality passed between the two. And, as if in the ex- 
pedient atmosphere of a real summer resort, an acquaintance 
grew, flowered, and fructified on the spot as does the mystic 
plant of the conjuror. For a few moments they stood on a 
balcony upon which the corridor ended, and tossed the 
feathery ball of conversation. 

"One tires of the old resorts," said Madame Beaumont, 
with a faint but sweet smile. "What is the use to fly to the 
mountains or the seashore to escape noise and dust when the 
very people that make both follow us there?" 

"Even on the ocean," remarked Farrington, sadly, "the 
Philistines be upon you. The most exclusive steamers are 
getting to be scarcely more than ferry boats. Heaven help 
us when the summer resorter discovers that the Lotus is 
further away from Broadway than Thousand Islands or 

"I hope our secret will be safe for a week, anyhow," said 
Madame, with a sigh and a smile. "I do not know where I 
would go if they should descend upon the dear Lotus. I 
know of but one place so delightful in summer, and that is the 
castle of Count Polinski, in the Ural Mountains." 

"I hear that Baden-Baden and Cannes are almost deserted 
this season," said Farrington. "Year by year the old resorts 
fall in disrepute. Perhaps many others, like ourselves, are 


seeking out the quiet nooks that are overlooked by the 

"I promise myself three days more of this delicious rest," 
said Madame Beaumont. "On Monday the Cedric sails." 

Harold Farrington's eyes proclaimed his regret. "I 
too must leave on Monday," he said, *'but I do not go 

Madame Beaumont shrugged one round shoulder in a 
foreign gesture. 

''One cannot hide here forever, charming though it may be. 
The chateau has been in preparation for me longer than a 
month. Those house parties that one must give — ^rv^hat a 
nuisance! But I shall never forget my week in the Hotel 

"Nor shall I," said Farrington in a low voice, "and I shall 
neyer forgive the Cedric.'' 

On Sunday evening, three days afterward, the two sat at a 
little table on the same balcony. A discreet waiter brought 
ices and small glasses of claret cup. 

Madame Beaumont wore the same beautiful evening gown 
that she had worn each day at dinner. She seemed thought- 
ful. Near her hand on the table lay a small chatelaine purse. 
After she had eaten her ice she opened the purse and took out 
a one-dollar bill. 

"Mr. Farrington," she said, with the smile that had won 
the Hotel Lotus, "I want to tell you something. I'm going 
to leave before breakfast in the morning, because I've got to 
go back to my work. I'm behind the hosiery counter at 
Casey's Mammoth Store, and my vacation's up at eight 
^'clock to-morrow. That paper dollar is the last cent I'll see 
till I draw my eight dollars salary next Saturday night. 
You're a real gentleman, and you've been good to me, and I 
wanted to tell you before I went. 

"I've been saving up out of my wages for a year just for 
this vacation. I wanted to spend one week like a lady if I 
never do another one. I wanted to get up when I please 
instead of having to crawl out at seven every morning; and 


I wanted to live on the best and be waited on and ring beUs 
for things just hke rich folks do. Now I've done it, and I've 
had the happiest time I ever expect to have in my life. I'm 
going back to my work and my little hall bedroom satisfied 
for another year. I wanted to tell you about it, Mr. Farring- 
ton, because I — I thought you kind of liked me, and I — I 
liked you. But, oh, I couldn't help deceiving you up till 
now, for it was all just like a fairy tale to me. So I talked 
about Europe and the things I've read about in other coun- 
tries, and made you think I was a great lady. 

"This dress I've got on — it's the only one I have that's fit 
to wear — I bought from O'Dowd & Levinsky on the instal- 
ment plan. 

"Seventy-five dollars is the price, and it was made to 
measure. I paid $10 down, and they're to collect $1 a week 
till it's paid for. That'll be about all I have to say, Mr. 
Farrington, except that my name is Mamie Siviter instead of 
Madame Beaumont, and I thank you for your attentions. 
This dollar will pay the instalment due on the dress to- 
morrow. I guess I'll go up to my room now." 

Harold Farrington listened to the recital of the Lotus's 
loveliest guest with an impassive countenance. WTien she 
had concluded he drew a small book like a checkbook from 
his coat pocket. He wrote upon a blank form in this with a 
stub of pencil, tore out the leaf, tossed it over to his com- 
panion and took up the paper dollar. 

"I've got to go to work, too, in the morning," he said, 
"and I might as well begin now. There's a receipt for the 
dollar instalment. I've been a collector for O'Dowd & 
Levinsky for three years. Funny, ain't it, that you and me 
both had the same idea about spending our vacation? I've 
always wanted to put up at a swell hotel, and I saved up out 
of my twenty per, and did it. Say, Mame, how about a trip 
to Coney Saturday night on the boat — what?" 

The face of the pseudo Madame Heloise D'Arcy Beaumont 

"Oh, you bet I'll go, Mr. Farrington. The store closes at 


twelve on Saturdays. I guess Coney '11 be all right even if 
we did spend a week with the swells." 

Below the balcony the sweltering city growled and buzzed 
in the July night. Inside the Hotel Lotus the tempered, 
cool shadows reigned, and the solicitous waiter single-footed 
near the low windows, ready at a nod to serve Madame and 
her escort. 

At the door of the elevator Farrington took his leave, and 
Madame Beaumont made her last ascent. But before they 
reached the noiseless cage he said: "Just forget that 'Harold 
Farrington,* will you? — McManus is the name — James Mc- 
Manus. Some call me Jimmy." 

"Good-night, Jimmy," said Madame, 


From Whirligigs. First published in The Worlds August 7, 1904. 
Tidball's summary (page 80), a Western version of, 

*'The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars. 
But in ourselves, that we are underlings," 

is a direct denial of the fatalism found in Roads of Destiny (page 16). 
When Channing Pollock's melodrama, called also Roads of Destiny 
and suggested by O. Henry's story, was put upon the stage in New 
York, November 27, 1918, it was explained that the original stark 
fatalism of O. Henry's story had been tempered with more modern 
and Western thought: *'Fate, inexorable as it is, is in some measure, 
at least, the result of character. The power which decrees our ends 
is within ourselves — the things we think and are." This is precisely 
O. Henry's doctrme in The Roads We Take. There is a striking 
adumbration of this story in a passage from Colonel Roosevelt's 
Winning of the West, volume I, chapter 5. He is speaking of the 
backwoodsmen of the AUeghanies: "All qualities, good and bad, 
are intensified and accentuated in the life of the wilderness. The 
man who in civilization is merely sullen and bad-tempered becomes a 
murderous, treacherous ruffian when transplanted to the wilds; while, 
on the other hand, his cheery, quiet neighbor develops into a hero, 
ready uncomplainingly to lay down his life for his friend. One who 
in an eastern city is merely a backbiter and slanderer, in the western 
woods lies in wait for his foe with a rifle; sharp practice in the East 
becomes highway robbery in the West." Note in the next to the last 
paragraph of the story the same illuminating use of repetition that 
formed a characteristic of Roads of Destiny. 

Twenty miles west of Tucson the "Sunset Express" 
stopped at a tank to take on water. Besides the aqueous 
addition the engine of that famous flyer acquired some other 
things that were not good for it. 



While the fireman was lowering the feeding hose, Bob 
Tidball, "Shark" Dodson, and a quarter-bred Creek Indian 
called John Big Dog climbed on the engine and showed the 
engineer three round orifices in pieces of ordnance that they 
carried. These orifices so impressed the engineer with their 
possibilities that he raised both hands in a gesture such as 
accompanies the ejaculation "Do tell!" 

At the crisp command of Shark Dodson, who was leader 
of the attacking force, the engineer descended to the ground 
and uncoupled the engine and tender. Then John Big Dog, 
perched upon the coal, sportively held two guns upon the 
engine driver and the fireman, and suggested that they run 
the engine fifty yards away and there await further orders. 

Shark Dodson and Bob Tidball, scorning to put such low- 
grade ore as the passengers through the mill, struck out for 
the rich pocket of the express car. They found the messenger 
serene in the belief that the "Sunset Express" was taking on 
nothing more stimulating and dangerous than aqua pura. 
While Bob was knocking this idea out of his head with the 
butt-end of his six-shooter Shark Dodson was already dosing 
the express-car safe with dynamite. 

The safe exploded to the tune of $30,000, all gold and 
currency. The passengers thrust their heads casually out of 
the windows to look for the thunder-cloud. The conductor 
jerked at the bell-rope, which sagged down loose and un- 
resisting, at his tug. Shark Dodson and Bob Tidball, with 
their booty in a stout canvas bag, tumbled out of the express 
car and ran awkwardly in their high-heeled boots to the 

The engineer, sullenly angry but wise, ran the engine, 
according to orders, rapidly away from the inert train. But 
before this was accomplished the express messenger, re- 
covered from Bob Tidball's persuader to neutrality, jumped 
out of his car with a Winchester rifle and took a trick in the 
game. IVir. John Big Dog, sitting on the coal tender, un- 
wittingly made a wrong lead by giving an imitation of a tar- 
get, and the messenger trumped him. With a ball exactly 


between his shoulder blades the Creek chevalier of industry- 
rolled off to the ground, thus increasing the share of his com- 
rades in the loot by one sixth each. 

Two miles from the tank the engineer was ordered to stop. 

The robbers waved a defiant adieu and plunged down the 
steep slope into the thick woods that lined the track. Five 
minutes of crashing through a thicket of chaparral brought 
them to open woods, where three horses were tied to low- 
hanging branches. One was waiting for John Big Dog, who 
would never ride by night or day again. This animal the 
robbers divested of saddle and bridle and set free. They 
mounted the other two with the bag across one pommel, and 
rode fast and with discretion through the forest and up a 
primeval, lonely gorge. Here the animal that bore Bob 
Tidball sUpped on a mossy boulder and broke a foreleg. 
They shot him through the head at once and sat down to 
hold a council of flight. Made secure for the present by the 
tortuous trail they had traveled, the question of time was no 
longer so big. Many miles and hours lay between them and 
the spryest posse that could follow. Shark Dodson's horse, 
with trailing rope and dropped bridle, panted and cropped 
thankfully of the grass along the stream in the gorge. Bob 
Tidball opened the sack, drew out double handfuls of the 
neat packages of currency and the one sack of gold, and 
chuclded with the glee of a child. 

"Say, you old double-decked pirate," he called joyfully 
to Dodson, "you said we could do it— you got a head for 
financing that knocks the horns off of anything in Arizona." 

"What are we going to do about a hoss for you, Bob? We 
ain't got long to wait here. They'll be on our trail before 
daylight in the mornin'." 

"Oh, I guess that cayuse of yourn'U carry double for a 
while," answered the sanguine Bob. "We'll annex the first 
animal we come across. By jingoes, we made a haul, didn't 
we? Accordin' to the marks on this money there's $30,000 — 
$15,000 apiece!" 

"It's short of what I expected," said Shark Dodson. kick- 


ing softly at the packages with the toe of his boot. And then 
he looked pensively at the wet sides of his tired horse. 

'*01d Bolivar's mighty nigh played out," he said, slowly. 
*'I wish that sorrel of yours hadn't got hurt." 

"So do I," said Bob, heartily, "but it can't be helped. 
Bolivar's got plenty of bottom — he'll get us both far enough 
to get fresh mounts. Dang it, Shark, I can't help thinkin' 
how funny it is that an Easterner like you can come out 
here and give us Western fellows cards and spades in the 
desperado business. What part of the East was you from, 

New York State," said Shark Dodson, sitting down on a 
boulder and chewing a twig. "I was born on a farm in 
Ulster County. I ran aw^ay from home when I was seven- 
teen. It was an accident my comin' West. I was walkin' 
along the road with my clothes in a bundle, makin' for New 
York City. I had an idea of goin' there and makin' lots of 
money. I always felt like I could do it. I came to a place 
one evenin' where the road forked and I didn't know which 
fork to take. I studied about it for half an hour, and then I 
took the left-hand. That night I run into the camp of a 
Wild West show that was travelin' among the little towns, 
and I went West with it. I've often wondered if I wouldn't 
have turned out different if I'd took the other road." 

"Oh, I reckon you'd have ended up about the same," said 
Bob Tidball, cheerfully philosophical. "It ain't the roads 
we take; it's what's inside of us that makes us turn out the 
way we do." 

Shark Dodson got up and leaned against a tree. 

"I'd a good deal rather that sorrel of yourn hadn't hurt 
himself, Bob," he said again, almost pathetically. 

"Same here," agreed Bob; "he was sure a first-rate kind of 
a crowbait. But Bolivar, he'll pull us through all right. 
Reckon we'd better be movin' on, hadn't we. Shark.? I'll 
bag this boodle ag'in and we'll hit the trail for higher 

Bob Tidball replaced the spoil in the bag and tied the 


mouth of it tightly with a cord. When he looked up the 
most prominent object that he saw was the muzzle of Shark 
Dodson's .45 held upon him without a waver. 

"Stop your funnin'," said Bob, with a grin. "We got to 
be hittin' the breeze." 

"Set still," said Shark. "You ain't goin' to hit no breeze, 
Bob. I hate to tell you, but there ain't any chance for but 
one of us. BoUvar, he's plenty tired, and he can't carry 


"We been pards, me and you. Shark Dodson, for three 
year," Bob said quietly. "We've risked our lives together 
time and again. I've always give you a square deal, and I 
thought you was a man, I've heard some queer stories about 
you shootin' one or two men in a peculiar way, but I never 
believed 'em. Now if you're just havin' a little fun with me, 
Shark, put your gun up, and we'll get on Bolivar and vamose. 
If you mean to shoot— shoot, you blackhearted son of a 

Shark Dodson's face bore a deeply sorrowful look. 

"You don't know how bad I feel," he sighed, "about that 
sorrel of yourn breakin' his leg, Bob." 

The expression on Dodson's face changed in an instant to 
one of cold ferocity mingled with inexorable cupidity. The 
soul of the man showed itself for a moment like an evil face in 
the window of a reputable house. 

Truly Bob Tidball was never to "hit the breeze" again. 
The deadly .45 of the false friend cracked and filled the gorge 
with a roar that the walls hurled back with indignant echoes. 
And Bolivar, unconscious accomplice, swiftly bore away the 
last of the holders-up of the "Sunset Express," not put to the 
stress of "carrying double." 

But as Shark Dodson galloped away the woods seemed 
to fade from his view; the revolver in his right hand turned 
to the curved arm of a mahogany chair; his saddle was 
strangely upholstered, and he opened his eyes and saw his 
feet, not in stirrups, but resting quietly on the edge of a 
quartered-oak desk. 


I am telling you that Dodson, of the firm of Dodson & 
Decker, Wall Street brokers, opened his eyes. Peabody, the 
confidential clerk, was standing by his chair, hesitating to 
speak. There was a confused hum of wheels below, and the 
sedative buzz of an electric fan. 

"Ahem! Peabody," said Dodson, blinking. "I must 
have fallen asleep. I had a most remarkable dream. What 
is it, Peabody?" 

"Mr. WilHams, sir, of Tracy & Williams, is outside. He 
has come to settle his deal in X. Y. Z. The market caught 
him short, sir, if you remember." 

"Yes, I remember. What is X. Y. Z. quoted at to-day, 

"One eighty-five, sir." 

"Then that's his price." 

"Excuse me," said Peabody, rather nervously, "for speak- 
ing of it, but I've been talking to Williams. He's an old 
friend of yours, Mr. Dodson, and you practically have a 
corner in X. Y. Z. I thought you might — that is, I thought 
you might not remember that he sold you the stock at 98. 
If he settles at the market price it will take every cent he has 
in the world and his home too to deliver the shares." 

The expression on Dodson's face changed in an instant to 
one of cold ferocity mingled with inexorable cupidity. The 
soul of the man show^ed itself for a moment like an evil face 
in the window of a reputable house. 

"He will settle at one eighty-five," said Dodson. " Bolivaj 
cannot carry double." 


From The Four Million. First published in The World, August 
14, 1904. To my mind this is O. Henry's greatest story, though, 
being without humor, it can hardly be called his most characteris- 
tic story. In unity, convergence of parts, purity of style, structural 
craftsmanship, saturation with the main idea, it stands alone. It 
is Poe in all his "totality of effect," Hawthorne in The House of the 
Seven Gables, Shakespeare when he set the weird sisters upon the 
heath to croak the curtained doom of Macbeth. Saintsbury in The 
English Novel, page 122, says of Smollett's Sir Launcelot Greaves; 
*T have always thought that the opening passage more than entitles 
the book to an honorable place in the history of English fiction. I do 
not know where to look, before it, for such an interior — such a com- 
plete Dutch picture of room and furniture and accessories gen- 
erally." Against Smollett's picture I should pit confidently 
O. Henry's paragraph beginning, "One by one, as the characters 
of a cryptograph become explicit, " etc. Indeed this room, this inte- 
rior, is one of the characters in the story, as is Dulcie's room in An 
Unfinished Story. 

Restless, shifting, fugacious as time itself is a certain vast 
bulk of the population of the red brick district of the lower 
West Side. Homeless, they have a hundred homes. They 
flit from furnished room to furnished room, transients forever 
— transients in abode, transients in heart and mind. They 
sing "Home, Sweet Home" in ragtime; they carry their lares 
et senates in a bandbox; their vine is entwined about a picture 
hat; a rubber plant is their fig tree. 

Hence the houses of this district, having had a thousand 
dwellers, should have a thousand tales to tell, mostly dull 
ones, no doubt; but it would be strange if there could not be 
found a ghost or two in the wake of all these vagrant guests. 

One evening after dark a young man prowled among these 



crumbling red mansions, ringing their bells. At the twelfth 
he rested his lean hand-baggage upon the step and wiped the 
dust from his hat-band and forehead. The bell sounded 
faint and far away in some remote, hollow depths. 

To the door of this, the twelfth house whose bell he had 
rung, came a housekeeper who made him think of an un- 
wholesome, surfeited worm that had eaten its nut to a hollow 
shell and now sought to fill the vacancy with edible lodgers. 

He asked if there was a room to let. 

"Come in," said the housekeeper. Her voice came from 
her throat; her throat seemed lined with fur. "I have the 
third floor back, vacant since a week back. Should you wish 
to look at it.?^" 

The young man followed her up the stairs. A faint light 
from no particular source mitigated the shadows of the halls. 
They trod noiselessly upon a stair carpet that its own loom 
would have forsworn. It seemed to have become vegetable; 
to have degenerated in that rank, sunless air to lush lichen or 
spreading moss that grew in patches to the stair-case and was 
viscid under the foot like organic matter. At each turn of 
the stairs were vacant niches in the wall. Perhaps plants 
had once been set within them. If so they had died in that 
foul and tainted air. It may be that statues of the saints had 
stood there, but it was not difficult to conceive that imps and 
devils had dragged them forth in the darkness and down to 
the unholy depths of some furnished pit below. 

"This is the room," said the housekeeper, from her furry 
throat. "It's a nice room. It ain't often vacant. I had 
some most elegant people in it last summer — no trouble at 
all, and paid in advance to the minute. The w^ater's at the 
end of the hall. Sprowls and Mooney kept it three months. 
They done a vaudeville sketch. Miss B'retta Sprowls — 
you may have heard of her — Oh, that was just the stage 
names — right there over the dresser is where the marriage 
certificate hung, framed. The gas is here, and you see there 
is plenty of closet room. It's a room everybody likes. It 
never stays idle long." 


"Do you have many theatrical people rooming here?" 
asked the young man. 

"They comes and goes. A good proportion of my lodgers 
is connected with the theatres. Yes, sir, this is the theatrical 
district. Actor people never stays long anywhere. I get my 
share. Yes, they comes and they goes." 

He engaged the room, paying for a week in advance. 
He was tired, he said, and would take possession at once. 
He counted out the money. The room had been made 
ready, she said, even to towels and water. As the house- 
keeper moved away he put, for the thousandth time, the 
question that he carried at the end of his tongue. 

"A young girl — Miss Vashner — Miss Eloise Vashner — do 
you remember such a one among your lodgers? She would 
be singing on the stage, most likely. A fair girl, of medium 
height and slender, with reddish, gold hau* and a dark mole 
near her left eyebrow." 

"No, I don't remember the name. Them stage people 
has names they change as often as then- rooms. They comes 
and they goes. No, I don't call that one to mind." 

No. Always no. Five months of ceaseless interrogation 
and the mevitable negative. So much time spent by day in 
questioning managers, agents, schools, and choruses; by night 
among the audiences of theatres from all-star casts down to 
music halls so low that he dreaded to find what he most 
hoped for. He who had loved her best had tried to find her. 
He was sure that since her disappearance from home this 
great, water-girt city held her somewhere, but it was like a 
monstrous quicksand, shifting its particles constantly, with 
no foundation, its upper granules of to-day buried to-morrow 
in ooze and slime. 

The furnished room received its latest guest with a first 
glow of pseudo-hospitality, a hectic, haggard, perfunctory 
welcome like the specious smile of a demirep. The sophisti- 
cal comfort came in reflected gleams from the decayed furni- 
ture, the ragged brocade upholstery of a couch and two chairs, 
a foot-wide cheap pier glass between the two windows, from 


one or two gilt picture frames and a brass bedstead in a 

The guest reclined, inert, upon a chair, while the room, 
confused in speech as though it were an apartment in Babel, 
tried to discourse to him of its divers tenantry. 

A polychromatic rug like some brilliant-flowered rectangu- 
lar, tropical islet lay surrounded by a billowy sea of soiled 
matting. Upon the gay-papered wall were those pictures 
that pursue the homeless one from house to house — The 
Huguenot Lovers, The First Quarrel, The Wedding Break- 
fast, Psyche at the Fountain. The mantel's chastely severe 
outline was ingloriously veiled behind some pert drapery 
dra^Ti rakishly askew like the sashes of the Amazonian 
ballet. Upon it was some desolate flotsam cast aside by the 
room's marooned when a lucky sail had borne them to a fresh 
port — a trifling vase or two, pictures of actresses, a medicine 
bottle, some stray cards out of a deck. 

One by one, as the characters of a cryptograph become 
explicit, the httle signs left by the furnished room's procession 
of guests developed a significance. The threadbare space in 
the rug in front of the dresser told that lovely woman had 
marched in the throng. The tiny finger prints on the wall 
spoke of little prisoners trying to feel their way to sun and 
air. A splattered stain, raying like the shadow of a bursting 
bomb, witnessed where a hurled glass or bottle had splintered 
with its contents against the wall. Across the pier glass had 
been scrawled with a diamond in staggering letters the name 
"Marie." It seemed that the succession of dwellers in the 
furnished room had turned in fury — perhaps tempted be- 
yond forebearance by its garish coldness — and wreaked 
upon it their passions. The furniture was chipped and 
bruised; the couch, distorted by bursting springs, seemed a 
horrible monster that had been slain during the stress of some 
grotesque convulsion. Some more potent upheaval had 
cloven a great slice from the marble mantel. Each plank in 
the floor owned its particular cant and shriek as from a sepa- 
rate and individual agony. It seemed incredible that all this 


malice and injury had been wrought upon the room by those 
who had called it for a time their home; and yet it may have 
been the cheated home instinct surviving blindly, the resent- 
ful rage at false household gods that had kindled their wrath. 
A hut that is our own we can sweep and adorn and cherish. 

The young tenant in the chair allowed these thoughts to 
file, soft-shod, through his mind, while there drifted into the 
room furnished sounds and furnished scents. He heard in 
one room a tittering and incontinent, slack laughter; in others 
the monologue of a scold, the rattling of dice, a lullaby, and 
one crymg dully; above him a banjo tinkled with spirit. 
Doors banged somewhere; the elevated trains roared inter- 
mittently; a cat yowled miserably upon a back fence. And 
he breathed the breath of the house— a dank savor rather 
than a smell— a cold, musty effluvium as from underground 
vaults mingled with the reeking exhalations of linoleum and 
mildewed and rotten woodwork. 

Then, suddenly, as he rested there, the room was filled with 
the strong, sweet odor of mignonette. It came as upon a 
single buffet of wind with such sureness and fragrance and 
emphasis that it almost seemed a living visitant. And the 
man cried aloud: *'What, dear?" as if he had been called, 
and sprang up and faced about. The rich odor clung to him 
and wrapped him around. He reached out his arms for it, 
all his senses for the time confused and commingled. How 
could one be peremptorily called by an odor? Surely it 
must have been a sound. But, was it not the sound that had 
touched, that had caressed him? 

"She has been in this room," he cried, and he sprang to 
wrest from it a token, for he knew he would recognize the 
smallest thing that had belonged to her or that she had 
touched. This envelopmg scent of mignonette, the odor 
that she had loved and made her own — ^whence came it? 

The room had been but carelessly set in order. Scattered 
upon the flimsy dresser scarf were half a dozen hairpins — 
those discreet, indistinguishable friends of womankmd, 
feminine of gender, infinite of mood, and uncommunicative of 


tense. These he ignored, conscious of their triumphant lack 
of identity. Ransacking the drawers of the dresser he came 
upon a discarded, tiny, ragged handkerchief. He pressed 
it to his face. It was racy and insolent with heliotrope; he 
hurled it to the floor. In another drawer he found odd but- 
tons, a theatre programme, a pawnbroker's card, two lost 
marshmallows, a book on the divination of dreams. In 
the last was a woman's black satin hair bow, which halted 
him, poised between ice and fire. But the black satin hair 
bow also is femininity's demure, impersonal, common orna- 
ment and tells no tales. 

And then he traversed the room like a hound on the scent, 
skimming the walls, considering the corners of the bulging 
matting on his hands and knees, rummaging mantel and 
tables, the curtains and hangings, the drunken cabinet in the 
corner, for a visible sign, unable to perceive that she was 
there beside, around, against, within, above him, clinging to 
him, wooing him, calling him so poignantly through the 
finer senses that even his grosser ones became cognizant of 
the call. Once again he answered loudly: "Yes, dear!" and 
turned, wild-eyed, to gaze on vacancy, for he could not yet 
discern form and color and love and outstretched arms in 
the odor of mignonette. Oh, God, whence that odor, and 
since when have odors had a voice to call.^^ Thus he groped. 

He burrowed in crevices and corners, and found corks and 
cigarettes. These he passed in passive contempt. But once 
he found in a fold of the matting a half -smoked cigar, and 
this he ground beneath his heel with a green and trenchant 
oath. He sifted the room from end to end. He found 
dreary and ignoble small records of many a peripatetic ten- 
ant; but of her whom he sought, and who may have lodged 
there, and whose spirit seemed to hover there, he found no 

And then he thought of the housekeeper. 

He ran from the haunted room downstairs and to a dooi 
that showed a crack of light. She came out to his knock. 
He smothered his excitement as best he could. 


"Will you tell me, madam," he besought her, "who oc- 
cupied the room I have before I came?" 

"Yes, sir. I can tell you again. 'Twas Sprowls and 
Mooney, as I said. Miss B'retta Sprowls it was in the 
theatres, but Missis Mooney she was. My house is well 
known for respectability. The marriage certificate hung, 
framed, on a nail over " 

"What kind of a lady was Miss Sprowls — in looks, I 

"WTiy, black-haired, sir, short, and stout, with a comical 
face. They left a week ago Tuesday." 

"And before they occupied it?" 

"Why, there was a single gentleman connected with the 
draying business. He left owing me a week. Before him 
was Missis Crowder and her two children, that stayed four 
months; and back of them was old Mr. Doyle, whose sons 
paid for him. He kept the room six months. That goes 
back a year, sir, and further I do not remember." 

He thanked her and crept back to his room. The room was 
dead. The essence that had vivified it was gone. The per- 
fume of mignonette had departed. In its place was the old, 
stale odor of mouldy house furniture, of atmosphere in stor- 

The ebbing of his hope drained his faith. He sat staring 
at the yellow, singing gaslight. Soon he walked to the bed 
and began to tear the sheets into strips. With the blade of 
his knife he drove them tightly into every crevice around 
windows and door. When all was snug and taut he turned 
out the light, turned the gas full on again, and laid himself 
gratefully upon the bed. 

It was Mrs. McCool's night to go with the can for beer. 
So she fetched it and sat with Mrs. Purdy in one of those sub- 
terranean retreats where house-keepers foregather and the 
worm dieth seldom. 

"I rented out my third floor, back, this evening," said Mrs. 


Purdy, across a fine circle of foam. *'A young man took it 
He went up to bed two hours ago.'* 

*'Now, did ye, Mrs. Purdy, ma'am.^" said Mrs. McCool, 
with intense admiration. "You do be a wonder for rentin' 
rooms of that kind. And did ye tell him, then.?" she con- 
cluded in a husky whisper laden with mystery. 

"Rooms," said Mrs. Purdy, in her furriest tones, "are 
furnished for to rent. I did not tell him, Mrs. McCool." 

" 'Tis right ye are, ma'am; 'tis by renting rooms we kape 
alive. Ye have the rale sense for business, ma'am. There 
be many people will rayjict the rentin' of a room if they be 
tould a suicide has been after dyin' in the bed of it." 

"As you say, we has our living to be making," remarked 
Mrs. Purdy. 

"Yis, ma'am; 'tis true. 'Tis just one wake ago this day 
I helped ye lay out the third floor, back. A pretty slip of a 
colleen she was to be killin' herself wid the gas — a swate little 
face she had, Mrs. Purdy, ma'am." 

"She'd a-been called handsome, as you say," said Mrs. 
Purdy, assenting but critical, "but for that mole she had a- 
growin' by her left eyebrow. Do fill up your glass again, 
Mrs. McCool." 


From Sixes and Sevens. First published in The World, September 
25, 1904. Drugs and drug-store experiences enter into many of 
O. Henry's stories. As a boy he was a drug clerk in Greensboro, 
North Carolina, and later in Austin, Texas, and Columbus, Ohio. 
At a crisis in his career he owed freedom and probably life itself to his 
having been a registered pharmacist in his native town: see 
0. Henry Biography, pages 147-148. It should be remembered, too, 
that O. Henry found his now famous pen-name in the United States 
Dispensatory, the daily companion of every American drug clerk. 
O. Henry is the abbreviated name, just as it appears in the Dis- 
pensatory, of the celebrated French pharmacist, Etienne-Ossian 
Henry: see The Nation, New York, May 11, 1918, and Nouvelles de 
France, Paris, July 25, 1918. But it is not so much a special knowl- 
edge of drugs that this story reflects as the special kind of conver- 
sation that is heard in the drug store of a typical small town. It is 
here that patients of all classes gather to report on common ailments 
and to compare common remedies. Latent friendships are de- 
veloped via patent medicines. Makes the Whole World Kin does 
more than furnish a title to a single O. Henry story: it sums the 
service of them all. 

The burglar stepped inside the window quickly, and then 
he took his time. A burglar who respects his art always 
takes his time before taking anything else. 

The house was a private residence. By its boarded front 
door and untrimmed Boston ivy the burglar knew that the 
mistress of it was sitting on some oceanside piazza telling a 
sympathetic man in a yachting cap that no one had ever 
understood her sensitive, lonely heart. He knew by the light 
in the third-story front windows, and by the lateness of the 
season, that the master of the house had come home, and 
would soon extinguish his light and retire. For it was 



September of the year and of the soul, in which season the 
house's good man comes to consider roof gardens and sten- 
ographers as vanities, and to desire the return of his mate 
and the more durable blessings of decorum and the moral 

The burglar lighted a cigarette. The guarded glow of 
the match illuminated his salient points for a moment. He 
belonged to the third type of burglars. 

This third type has not yet been recognized and accepted. 
The police have made us familiar with the first and second. 
Their classification is simple. The collar is the distinguish- 
ing mark. 

When a burglar is caught who does not wear a collar he is 
described as a degenerate of the lowest type, singularly vi- 
cious and depraved, and is suspected of being the desperate 
criminal who stole the handcuffs out of Patrolman Hennessy's 
pocket in 1878 and walked away to escape arrest. 

The other well-known type is the burglar who wears a 
collar. He is always referred to as a Raffles in real life. He 
is invariably a gentleman by daylight, breakfasting in a dress 
suit, and posing as a paper-hanger, while after dark he plies 
his nefarious occupation of burglary. His mother is an ex- 
tremely wealthy and respected resident of Ocean Grove, and 
when he is conducted to his cell he asks at once for a nail 
file and the Police Gazette. He always has a wife in every 
State in the Union and fiancees in all the Territories, and the 
newspapers print his matrimonial gallery out of their stock 
of cuts of the ladies who were cured by only one bottle after 
having been given up by five doctors, experiencing great re- 
lief after the first dose. 

The burglar wore a blue sweater. He was neither a Raffles 
nor one of the chefs from Hell's Kitchen. The police would 
have been baffled had they attempted to classify him. They 
have not yet heard of the respectable, unassuming burglar 
who is neither above nor below his station. 

This burglar of the third class began to prowl. He wore no 
masks, dark lanterns, or gum shoes. He carried a 38-calibre 


revolver in his pocket, and he chewed peppermint gum 

The furniture of the house was swathed in its summer dust 
protectors. The silver was far away in safe-deposit vaults. 
The burglar expected no remarkable "haul.'* His objective 
point was that dimly lighted room where the master of the 
house should be sleeping heavily after whatever solace he 
had sought to lighten the burden of his loneliness. A 
*' touch" might be made there to the extent of legitimate, 
fair professional profits — loose money, a watch, a jewelled 
stick-pin — nothing exorbitant or beyond reason. He had 
seen the window left open and had taken the chance. 

The burglar softly opened the door of the lighted room. 
The gas was turned low. A man lay in the bed asleep. 
On the dresser lay many things in confusion — a crumpled 
roll of bills, a watch, keys, three poker chips, crushed cigars, 
a pink silk hair bow, and an unopened bottle of bromo- 
seltzer for a bulwark in the morning. 

The burglar took three steps toward the dresser. The 
man in the bed suddenly uttered a squeaky groan and opened 
his eyes. His right hand slid under his pillow, but remained 

"Lay still," said the burglar in conversational tone. Bur- 
glars of the third type do not hiss. The citizen in the bed 
looked at the round end of the burglar's pistol and lay still. 

"Now hold up both your hands," commanded the burglar. 

The citizen had a little, pointed, brown-and-gray beard, 
like that of a painless dentist. He looked solid, esteemed, 
irritable, and disgusted. He sat up in bed and raised his 
right hand above his head. 

"Up with the other one," ordered the burglar. "You 
might be amphibious and shoot with your left. You can 
count two, can't you? Hurry up, now." 

"Can't raise the other one," said the citizen with a contor- 
tion of his lineaments. 

"What's the matter with it.?" 

"Rheumatism in the shoulder." 


" Inflammatory? " 

"Was. The inflammation has gone down." 

The burglar stood for a moment or two, holding his gun 
on the afilicted one. He glanced at the plunder on the 
dresser and then, with a half -embarrassed air back at the man 
in the bed. Then he, too, made a sudden grimace. 

"Don't stand there making faces," snapped the citizen, 
bad-humoredly. "If you've come to burgle why don't yoii 
do it? There's some stuff lying around." 

"'Sense me," said the burglar, with a grin: "but it just 
socked me one, too. It's good for you that rheumatism 
and me happens to be old pals. I got it in my left arm, too. 
Most anybody but me would have popped you when you 
wouldn't hoist that left claw of yours." 

"How long have you had it?" inquired the citizen. 

"Four years. I guess that ain't all. Once you've got it, 
it's you for a rheumatic life — that's my judgment." 

"Ever try rattlesnake oil?" asked the citizen, interestedly. 

"Gallons," said the burglar. "If all the snakes I've used 
the oil of was strung out in a row they'd reach eight times as 
far as Saturn, and the rattles could be heard at Valparaiso, 
Indiana, and back." 

"Some use Chiselum's Pills," remarked the citizen. 

"Fudge!" said the burglar. "Took 'em five months. No 
good. I had some relief the year I tried Finkelham's Ex- 
tract, Balm of Gilead poultices, and Potts's Pain Pulverizer; 
but I think it was the buckeye I carried in my pocket what 
done the trick." 

"Is yours worse in the morning or at night?" asked the 

"Night," said the burglar; "just when I'm busiest. Say, 

take down that arm of yours — I guess you won't Say ! 

did you ever try Blickerstaff's Blood Builder?" 

"I never did. Does yours come in paroxysms or is it a 
steady pain?" 

The burglar sat down on the foot of the bed and rested his 
gun on his crossed knee. 


"It jumps," said he. "It strikes me when I ain't looking 
for it. I had to give up second-story work because I got 
stuck sometimes half-way up. Tell you what— I don't be- 
lieve the bloomin' doctors know what is good for it." 

"Same here. I've spent a thousand dollars without get- 
ting any relief . Yours swell any?" 

*'0f mornings. And when it's goin' to rain— great Chris- 
topher!" .11. 
"Me, too," said the citizen. "I can tell when a streak of 
humidity the size of a tablecloth starts from Florida on its 
way to New York. And if I pass a theatre where there's an 
'East Lynne' matinee going on, the moisture starts my left 
arm jumping Uke a toothache." 

"It's undiluted— hades!" said the burglar. 
"You're dead right," said the citizen. 
The burglar looked down at his pistol and thrust it into 
his pocket with an awkward attempt at ease. 

"Say, old man," he said, constramedly, "ever try opo- 
deldoc?" „ ^ 

"Slop!" said the citizen angrily. "Might as well rub on 
restaurant butter." 

"Sure," concurred the burglar. "It's a salve suitable for 
little Minnie when the kitty scratches her finger. I'll tell 
you what! We're up against it. I only find one thing that 
eases her up. Hey? Little old sanitary, ameliorating, lest- 
we-forget Booze. Say— this job's off— 'sense me— get on 
70ur clothes and let's go out and have some. 'Sense the 
liberty, but — ouch! There she goes again!" 

"For a week," said the citizen, "I haven't been able to 
dress myself without help. I'm afraid Thomas is in bed, 

and " 

"Chmb out," said the burglar, "I'll help you get into 

your duds." 

The conventional returned as a tidal wave and flooded 
the citizen. He stroked his brown-and-gray beard. 

"It's very unusual " he began. 

"Here's your shirt," said the burglar, " fall out. I know a 


man who said Omberry's Ointment fixed him in two weeks so 
he could use both hands in tying his four-in-hand." 

As they were going out the door the citizen turned and 
started back. 

" 'Liked to forgot my money," he explained; "laid it on 
the dresser last night." 

The burglar caught him by the right sleeve. 

"Come on," he said bluffly. "I ask you. Leave it alone. 
I've got the price. Ever try witch hazel and oil of winter- 


From The Voice of the City. First published in The World, No- 
vember 27, 1904. This is the first one of our twenty-five stories 
that begins with a philosophical overture, with what O. Henry has 
called a "recitative by the chorus." But he was fond of such be- 
ginnings: see Ulysses and the Dogman, Dougherty's Eye-Opener , A 
Comedy in Rubbery The Green Door, The Voice of the City, The Har- 
binger, The Venturers, and A Municipal Report (page 224). These 
openings do not enable the reader to anticipate the denouement but, 
with the denouement reached and reviewed, they almost compel 
him to believe that no other was possible. It was the expositor in 
O. Henry, rather than the pure narrator, that prefixed these over- 
tures. They strike the keynote and enable the reader to attach the 
plot or plan of the story to a central motif. In this opening 
O. Henry was on familiar ground. Two years before, in Round the 
Circle, he had written: *'The straight line is Art. Nature moves 
in circles. A straightforward man is a more artificial product than a 
diplomatist is. Men lost in the snow travel in exact circles until 
they sink, exhausted, as their footprints have attested. Also, 
travelers in philosophy and other mental processes frequently wind 
up at their starting-point." See also Introduction to The Making of 
a Netv Yorker, page 111. 

At the hazard of wearying you this tale of vehement 
emotions must be prefaced by a discourse on geometry. 

Nature moves in circles; Art in straight lines. The nat< 
ural is rounded; the artificial is made up of angles. A man 
lost in the snow wanders, in spite of himself, in perfect cir- 
cles; the city man's feet, denaturalized by rectangular streets 
and floors, carry him ever away from himself. 

The round eyes of childhood typify innocence; the nar- 
rowed line of the flirt's optic proves the invasion of art. The 
hori^pntal mouth is the mark of determined cunning; who has 



not read Nature's most spontaneous lyric in lips rounded 
for the candid kiss? 

Beauty is Nature in perfection; circularity is its chief at- 
tribute. Behold the full moon, the enchanting golf ball, 
the domes of splendid temples, the huckleberry pie, the wed- 
ding ring, the circus ring, the ring for the waiter, and the 
"round" of drinks. 

On the other hand, straight lines show that Nature has 
been deflected. Imagine Venus 's girdle transformed into a 
"straight front*'! 

When we begin to move in straight lines and turn sharp 
corners our natures begin to change. The consequence is 
that Nature, being more adaptive than Art, tries to conform 
to its sterner regulations. The result is often a rather curi- 
ous product — for instance: A prize chrysanthemum, wood 
alcohol whiskey, a Republican Missouri, cauliflower au gratiriy 
and a New Yorker. 

Nature is lost quickest in a big city. The cause is geomet- 
rical, not moral. The straight lines of its streets and archi- 
tecture, the rectangularity of its laws and social customs, 
the undeviating pavements, the hard, severe, depressing, un- 
compromising rules of all its ways — even of its recreations 
and sports — coldly exhibit a sneering defiance of the curved 
line of Nature. 

Wherefore, it may be said that the big city has demon- 
strated the problem of squaring the circle. And it may 
be added that this mathematical introduction precedes an 
account of the fate of a Kentucky feud that was imported 
to the city that has a habit of making its importations con- 
form to its angles. 

The feud began in the Cumberland Mountains between 
the Folwell and the Harkness families. The first victim of 
the homespun vendetta was a 'possum dog belonging to Bill 
Harkness. The Harkness family evened up this dire loss by 
laying out the chief of the Folwell clan. The Folwells were 
prompt at repartee. They oiled up their squirrel rifles and 
made it feasible for Bill Harkness to follow his dog to a land, 


where the 'possums come down when treed without the stroke 
of an ax. 

The feud flourished for forty years. Harknesses were 
shot at the plough, through their lamp-Kt cabin windows, 
coming from camp-meeting, asleep, in duello, sober and 
otherwise, singly and in family groups, prepared and unpre- 
pared. Folwells had the branches of their family tree lopped 
off in similar ways, as the traditions of their country pre- 
scribed and authorized. 

By and by the pruning left but a single member of each 
family. And then Cal Harkness, probably reasoning that 
further pursuance of the controversy would give a too de- 
cided personal flavor to the feud, suddenly disappeared from 
the relieved Cumberlands, baulking the avenging hand of 
Sam, the ultimate opposing Folwell. 

A year afterward Sam Folwell learned that his hereditary, 
unsuppressed enemy was living in New York City. Sam 
turned over the big iron wash-pot in the yard, scraped off 
some of the soot, which he mixed with lard, and shined his 
boots with the compound. He put on his store clothes of 
butternut dyed black, a white shirt and collar, and packed 
a carpet-sack with Spartan lingerie. He took his squirrel 
rifle from its hooks, but put it back again with a sigh. How- 
ever ethical and plausible the habit might be in the Cumber- 
lands, perhaps New York would not swallow his pose of hunt- 
ing squirrels among the skyscrapers along Broadway. An 
ancient but reliable Colt's revolver that he resurrected from a 
bureau drawer seemed to proclaim itself the pink of weapons 
for metropolitan adventure and vengeance. This and a 
hunting-knife in a leather sheath, Sam packed in the carpet- 
sack. As he started, muleback, for the lowland railroad 
station the last Folwell turned in his saddle and looked 
grimly at the little cluster of white-pine slabs in the clump of 
cedars that marked the Folwell burying-ground. 

Sam Folwell arrived in New York in the night. Still 
moving and living in the free circles of nature, he did not 
perceive the formidable, pitiless, restless, fierce angles of the 


great city waiting in the dark to close about the rotundity 
of his heart and brain and mould him to the form of its mil- 
lions of reshaped victims. A cabby picked him out of the 
whirl, as Sam himself had often picked a nut from a bed of 
wind-tossed autumn leaves, and whisked him away to a hotel 
commensurate to his boots and carpet-sack. 

On the next morning the last of the Folwells made his 
sortie into the city that sheltered the last Harkness. The 
Colt was thrust beneath his coat and secured by a narrow 
leather belt; the hunting-knife hung between his shoulder- 
blades, with the haft an inch below his coat collar. He 
knew this much — that Cal Harkness drove an express wagon 
somewhere in that town, and that he, Sam Folwell, had come 
to kill him. And as he stepped upon the sidewalk the red 
came into his eye and the feud-hate into his heart. 

The clamor of the central avenues drew him thitherward. 
He had half expected to see Cal coming down the street in 
his shirt-sleeves, with a jug and a whip in his hand, just as 
he would have seen him in Frankfort or Laurel City. But 
an hour went by and Cal did not appear. Perhaps he was 
waiting in ambush, to shoot him from a door or a window. 
Sam kept a sharp eye on doors and windows for a while. 

About noon the city tired of playing with its mouse anr^. 
suddenly squeezed him with its straight lines. 

Sam Folwell stood where two great, rectangular arteries 
of the city cross. He looked four ways, and saw the world 
hurled from its orbit and reduced by spirit level and tape to 
an edged and cornered plane. All life moved on tracks, in 
grooves, according to system, within boundaries, by rote. 
The root of life was the cube root; the measure of existence 
was square measure. People streamed by in straight rows; 
the horrible din and crash stupefied him. 

Sam leaned against the sharp corner of a stone building. 
Those faces passed him by thousands, and none of them were 
turned toward him. A sudden foolish fear that he had died 
and was a spirit, and that they could not see him, seized him. 
And then the city smote him with loneliness. 


A fat man dropped out of the stream and stood a few feet 
distant, waiting for his car. Sam crept to his side and 
shouted above the tumult into his ear: 

"The Rankinses' hogs weighed more'n ourn a whole passel, 
but the mast in thar neighborhood was a fine chance better 
than what it was down " 

The fat man moved away unostentatiously, and bought 
roasted chestnuts to cover his alarm. 

Sam felt the need of a drop of mountain dew. Across the 
street men passed in and out through swinging doors. Brief 
glimpses could be had of a glistening bar and its bedeckings. 
The feudist crossed and essayed to enter. Again had Art 
eliminated the familiar circle. Sam's hand found no door- 
knob — it slid, in vain, over a rectangular brass plate and 
polished oak with nothing even so large as a pin's head upon 
which his fingers might close. 

Abashed, reddened, heartbroken, he walked away from 
the bootless door and sat upon a step. A locust club tickled 
him in the ribs. 

*'Take a walk for yourself," said the policeman. "You've 
been loafing around here long enough." 

At the next corner a shrill whistle sounded in Sam's ear. 
He wheeled around and saw a black-browed villain scowling 
at him over peanuts heaped on a steaming machine. He 
started across the street. An immense engine, running with- 
out mules, with the voice of a bull and the smell of a smoky 
lamp, whizzed past, grazing his knee. A cab-driver bumped 
him with a hub and explained to him that kind words were 
invented to be used on other occasions. A motorman 
clanged his bell wildly and, for once in his life, corroborated 
a cab-driver. A large lady in a changeable silk waist dug an 
elbow into his back, and a newsy pensively pelted him with 
banana rinds, murmuring, " I hates to do it — but if anybody 
seen me let it pass!" 

Cal Harkness, his day's work over and his express wagon 
stabled, turned the sharp edge of the building that, by the 
cheek of architects, is modeled upon a safety razor. Out 


of the mass of hurrying people his eye picked up, three yards 
away, the surviving bloody and implacable foe of his kith 
and kin. 

He stopped short and wavered for a moment, being un- 
armed and sharply surprised. But the keen mountaineer's 
eye of Sam Folwell had picked him out. 

There was a sudden spring, a ripple in the stream of passers- 
by, and the sound of Sam's voice crying: 

"Howdy, Cal! I'm durned glad to see ye." 

And in the angles of Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and Twenty 
third Street the Cumberland feudists shook hands. 


From The Four Million. First published in The World, December 
4,1904. "The irony of fate!" we say on reading this story, or, 
with Foe, "The imp of the perverse!" But Foe's unp operated 
from within, never from without. The story is a perfect illustration 
of O. Henry's genius in taking the merest whifif or whimsy of an idea» 
the merest wraith or gossamer of a thought, and making of it some- 
thing solid, durable, appeahng. " On the technical side of his craft," 
says a writer in The Spectator (London, April 7, 1917), "he has 
probably never been surpassed either in fertility or ingenuity. The 
original themes on which he wove his stories are often of the very 
slightest description; but give him a mannerism, a racial contrast, 
an inverted proverb, to start with, and his inventive opulence would 
soon clothe it in a wealth of appropriate incident." Was O. Hemy 
greater in designing stories or in clothing them with appropriate 
incident? Mr. Firkins (see Introduction, page ix) would say the 
former; our anonymous English critic, the latter. If the two re- 
quirements must be distinguished, I should give first place to 
O.Henry's resourcefulness in filling in. It is not difficult to think of 
a plan or plot or thesis for a short story; but to flesh the skeleton, to 
make the abstract concrete, to hold the interest increasingly from 
first detail to last — this is the most exigent requirement laid upon 
the narrative artist. When we call a short story original, we refer of 
course to the blend of theme and development but more distmctively 
to development than to theme. The irony of fate is not a novel or 
origmal idea; Anatole France's short story, Crainquehille, develops 
the same motif . But the incarnation of the theme in Soapy is novel 
and original. Is there any story in our twenty-five in which you 
thmk the complementary detail falls below the excellence of the 

On his bench in Madison Square Soapy moved uneasily. 
When wild geese honk high of nights, and when women with- 
out sealskin coats grow kind to their husbands, and when 



Soapy moves uneasily on his bench in the park, you may 
know that winter is near at hand. 

A dead leaf fell in Soapy 's lap. That was Jack Frost's 
card. Jack is kind to the regular denizens of Madison Square 
and gives fair w^arning of his annual call. At the corners of 
four streets he hands his pasteboard to the North Wind, 
footman of the mansion of All Outdoors, so that the inhabit- 
ants thereof may make ready. 

Soapy 's mind became cognizant of the fact that the time 
had come for him to resolve himself into a singular Com- 
mittee of Ways and Means to provide against the coming 
rigor. And therefore he moved uneasily on his bench. 

The hibernatorial ambitions of Soapy were not of the 
highest. In them there were no considerations of Mediter- 
ranean cruises, of soporific Southern skies, or drifting in the 
Vesuvian Bay. Three months on the Island was what his 
soul craved. Three months of assured board and bed and 
congenial company, safe from Boreas and bluecoats, seemed 
to Soapy the essence of things desirable. 

For years the hospitable Blackwell's had been his winter 
quarters. Just as his more fortunate fellow New Yorkers 
had bought their tickets to Palm Beach and the Riviera each 
winter, so Soapy had made his humble arrangements for his 
annual hegira to the Island. And now the time was come. 
On the previous night three Sabbath new^spapers, distributed 
beneath his coat, about his ankles, and over his lap, had failed 
to repulse the cold as he slept on his bench near the spurting 
fountain in the ancient square. So the Island loomed big 
and timely in Soapy 's mind. He scorned the provisions 
made in the name of charity for the city's dependents. In 
Soapy 's opinion the Law was more benign than Philanthropy. 
There was an endless round of institutions, municipal and 
eleemosynary, on which he might set out and receive lodging 
and food accordant with the simple life. But to one of 
Soapy 's proud spirit the gifts of charity are encumbered. 
If not in coin you must pay in humiliation of spirit for every 
benefit received at the hands of philanthropy. As Csesar 


had his Brutus, every bed of charity must have its toll of a 
bath, every loaf of bread its compensation of a private and 
personal inquisition. Wherefore it is better to be a guest of 
the law which, though conducted by rules, does not meddle 
unduly with a gentleman's private affairs. 

Soapy, having decided to go to the Island, at once set about 
accomplishing his desire. There were many easy ways of 
doing this. The pleasantest was to dine luxuriously at some 
expensive restaurant; and then, after declaring insolvency, 
be handed over quietly and without uproar to a policeman. 
An accommodating magistrate would do the rest. 

Soapy left his bench and strolled out of the square and 
across the level sea of asphalt, where Broadway and Fifth 
Avenue flow together. Up Broadway he turned, and halted 
at a glittering cafe, where are gathered together nightly the 
choicest products of the grape, the silkworm, and the proto- 

Soapy had confidence in himself from the lowest button 
of his vest upward. He was shaven, and his coat was decent 
and his neat black, ready-tied four-in-hand had been pre- 
sented to him by a lady missionary on Thanksgiving Day. 
If he could reach a table in the restaurant unsuspected, suc- 
cess would be his. The portion of him that would show 
above the table would raise no doubt in the waiter's mind. 
A roasted mallard duck, thought Soapy, would be about the 
thing — ^with a bottle of Chablis, and then Camembert, a 
demi-tasse and a cigar. One dollar for the cigar would be 
enough. The total would not be so high as to call forth any 
supreme manifestation of revenge from the cafe manage- 
ment; and yet the meat would leave him filled and happy for 
the journey to his winter refuge. 

But as Soapy set foot inside the restaurant door the head 
waiter's eye fell upon his frayed trousers and decadent shoes. 
Strong and ready hands turned him about and conveyed him 
in silence and haste to the sidewalk and averted the ignoble 
fate of the menaced mallard. 

Soapy turned off Broadway. It seemed that his route to 


the coveted island was not to be an epicurean one. Some 
other way of entering Hmbo must be thought of. 

At a corner of Sixth Avenue electric lights and cunningly 
displayed wares behind plate-glass made a shop window con- 
spicuous. Soapy took a cobblestone and dashed it through 
the glass. People came running around the corner, a police- 
man in the lead. Soapy stood still, with his hands in his 
pockets, and smiled at the sight of brass buttons. 

"WTiere's the man that done that.^" inquired the officer 

"Don't you figure out that I might have had something 
to do with it.^ " said Soapy, not without sarcasm, but friendly, 
as one greets good fortune. 

The policeman's mind refused to accept Soapy even as a 
clue. Men who smash windows do not remain to parley 
with the law's minions. They take to their heels. The 
policeman saw a man half way down the block running to 
catch a car. With drawn club he joined in the pursuit. 
Soapy, with disgust in his heart, loafed along, twice un- 

On the opposite side of the street was a restaurant of nc 
great pretensions. It catered to large appetites and modest 
purses. Its crockery and atmosphere were thick; its soup 
and napery thin. Into this place Soapy took his accusive 
shoes and telltale trousers without challenge. At a table 
he sat and consumed beefsteak, flapjacks, doughnuts, and 
pie. And then to the waiter he betrayed the fact that the 
minutest coin and himself were strangers. 

"Now, get busy and call a cop," said Soapy. "And don't 
keep a gentleman waiting." 

"No cop for youse," said the waiter, with a voice like 
butter cakes and an eye like the cherry in a Manhattan 
cocktail. "Hey, Con!" 

Neatly upon his left ear on the callous pavement two 
waiters pitched Soapy. He arose, joint by joint, as a car- 
penter's rule opens, and beat the dust from his clothes. Ar- 
rest seemed but a rosy dream. The Island seemed very far 


away. A policeman who stood before a drug store two 
doors away laughed and walked down the street. 

Five blocks Soapy traveled before his courage permitted 
him to woo capture again. This time the opportunity pre- 
sented what he fatuously termed to himself a "cinch." A 
young woman of a modest and pleasing guise was standing 
before a show window gazing with sprightly interest at its 
display of shaving mugs and inkstands, and two yards from 
the window a large policeman of severe demeanor leaned 
against a water plug. 

It was Soapy 's design to assume the role of the despicable 
and execrated "masher." The refined and elegant appear- 
ance of his victim and the contiguity of the conscientious 
cop encouraged him to believe that he would soon feel 
the pleasant official clutch upon his arm that would 
insure his winter quarters on the right little, tight little 

Soapy straightened the lady missionary's ready-made tie, 
dragged his shrinking cuffs into the open, set his hat at a 
killing cant, and sidled toward the young woman. He made 
eyes at her, was taken with sudden coughs and "hems," 
smiled, smirked, and went brazenly through the impudent 
and contemptible litany of the "masher." With half an eye 
Soapy saw that the policeman was watching him fixedly. 
The young woman moved away a few steps, and again be- 
stowed her absorbed attention upon the shaving mugs. 
Soapy followed, boldly stepping to her side, raised his hat 
and said: 

"Ah there, Bedelia! Don't you want to come and play 
in my yard?" 

The policeman was still looking. The persecuted young 
woman had but to beckon a finger and Soapy would be prac- 
tically en route for his insular haven. Already he imagined 
he could feel the cozy warmth of the station-house. The 
young woman faced him and, stretching out a hand, caught 
Soapy 's coat sleeve. 

**Sure, Mike," she said joyfully, "if you'll blow me to a pail 


of suds I'd have spoke to you sooner, but the cop was 

With the young woman playing the clinging ivy to his oak 
Soapy walked past the policeman overcome with gloom. He 
seemed doomed to liberty. 

At the next corner he shook off his companion and ran. 
He halted in the district where by night are found the light- 
est streets, hearts, vows, and librettos. Women in furs and 
men in greatcoats moved gaily in the wintry air. A sudden 
fear seized Soapy that some dreadful enchantment had ren- 
dered him immune to arrest. The thought brought a little 
of panic upon it, and when he came upon another policeman 
lounging grandly in front of a transplendent theatre he caught 
at the immediate straw of "disorderly conduct." 

On the sidewalk Soapy began to yell drunken gibberish 
at the top of his harsh voice. He danced, howled, raved, and 
otherwise disturbed the welkin. 

The policeman twirled his club, turned his back to Soapy 
and remarked to a citizen: 

*' 'Tis one of them Yale lads celebratin' the goose egg they 
give to the Hartford College. Noisy; but no harm. We've 
instructions to lave them be." 

Disconsolate, Soapy ceased his unavailing racket. Would 
never a policeman lay hands on him.'^ In his fancy the Island 
seemed an unattainable Arcadia. He buttoned his thin 
coat against the chilling wind. 

In a cigar store he saw a well-dressed man lighting a cigar 
at a swinging light. His silk umbrella he had set by the door 
on entering. Soapy stepped inside, secured the umbrella, 
and sauntered off with it slowly. The man at the cigar light 
followed hastily. 

"My umbrella," he said, sternly. 

"Oh, is it.^" sneered Soapy, adding insult to petit larceny. 
"Well, why don't you call a policeman? I took it. Your 
umbrella! Why don't you call a cop. ^ There stands one on 
the corner." 

The umbrella owner slowed his steps. Soapy did likewise,! 


with a presentiment that luck would again run against him. 
The policeman looked at the two curiously. 

"Of course," said the umbrella man — "that is — well, you 
know how these mistakes occur — I — if it's your umbrella 
I hope you'll excuse me — I picked it up this morning in 
a restaurant — if you recognize it as yours, why — I hope 
you'll " 

"Of course it's mine," said Soapy, viciously. 

The ex-umbrella man retreated. The policeman hurried 
to assist a tall blonde in an opera cloak across the street 
in front of a street car that was approaching two blocks away. 

Soapy walked eastward through a street damaged by im- 
provements. He hurled the umbrella wrathfully into an 
excavation. He muttered against the men who wear helmets 
and carry clubs. Because he wanted to fall into their 
clutches, they seemed to regard him as a king who could do 
no wrong. 

At length Soapy reached one of the avenues to the east 
where the glitter and turmoil was but faint. He set his face 
down this toward Madison Square, for the homing instinct 
survives even when the home is a park bench. 

But on an unusually quiet corner Soapy came to a stand- 
still. Here was an old church, quaint and rambling and 
gabled. Through one violet-stained window a soft light 
glowed, where, no doubt, the organist loitered over the keys, 
making sure of his mastery of the coming Sabbath anthem. 
For there drifted out to Soapy 's ears sweet music that caught 
and held him transfixed against the convolutions of the iron 

The moon was above, lustrous and serene; vehicles and 
pedestrians were few; sparrows twittered sleepily in the eaves 
— for a little while the scene might have been a country 
churchyard. And the anthem that the organist played 
cemented Soapy to the iron fence, for he had known it well 
in the days when his life contained such things as mothers 
and roses and ambitions and friends and immaculate thoughts 
and collars. 


The conjunction of Soapy 's receptive state of mind and the 
influences about the old church wrought a sudden and won- 
derful change in his soul. He viewed with swift horror the 
pit into which he had tumbled, the degraded days, unworthy 
desires, dead hopes, wTccked faculties, and base motives that 
made up his existence. 

And also in a moment his heart responded thrillingly to 
this novel mood. An instantaneous and strong impulse 
moved him to battle with his desperate fate. He would pull 
himself out of the mire; he would make a man of him- 
self again; he would conquer the evil that had taken 
possession of him. There was time; he was comparatively 
young yet; he would resurrect his old eager ambitions and 
pursue them without faltering. Those solemn but sweet 
organ notes had set up a revolution in him. To-morrow he 
would go into the roaring downtown district and find work. 
A fur importer had once offered him a place as driver. He 
would find him to-morrow and ask for the position. He 
would be somebody in the world. He would 

Soapy felt a hand laid on his arm. He looked quickly 
around into the broad face of a policeman. 

"What are you doin' here.'^" asked the oflBcer. 

"Nothin'," said Soapy. 

"Then come along," said the policeman. 

"Three months on the Island," said the Magistrate in the 
Police Court the next morning. 


From The Trimmed Lamp. First published in The World, Janu- 
ary 1, 1905. The second paragraph is as autobiographical as any- 
thing that O. Henry ever wrote unless, perhaps, we except a 
paragraph from The Voice of the City: "I must go and find out," I 
said, "what is the Voice of this city. Other cities have voices. It 
is an assignment. I must have it. New York," I continued, in a 
rising tone, "had better not hand me a cigar and say: 'Old man, I 
can't talk for publication.' No other city acts in that way. Chicago 
says, imhesitatingly, 'I will'; Philadelphia says, 'I should'; New 
Orleans says, T used to'; Louisville says, 'Don't care if I do'; St. 
Louis says, 'Excuse me'; Pittsburgh says, 'Smoke up.' Now, New 

York " One hundred and thirty-eight of O. Henry's stories 

take place in New York, the great city being not merely the station- 
ary locale but a cooperative agent in developing the plot. What 
London was to Johnson, to Lamb, to Dickens, what Paris was to 
Victor Hugo, that was New York to O. Henry. But with a differ- 
'ince. O. Henry persisted to the last m his endeavor to body forth 
\he spirit of New York, to find its central characteristics, to differ- 
entiate it from other cities, to appraise and phrase not only its more 
notable streets, parks, places, etc., but its distinctive service as w^U. 
It is not mere description in which he excels; it is description as an 
aid to characterization, and characterization as an ally of mterpre- 
tation. This is a city, so runs Raggles's experience, that is cold and 
indifferent on the surface but warm-hearted, sympathetic, helpful 
beneath the surface. It is a Levite till you are hurt ; then it is a good 
Samaritan. The very types that seemed to embody the aloofness of 
New York are the first to reach Raggles's side when he is down. 
From this mdividual solicitude shown for the fractured Haggles on 
the pavement, he passes to the organized and institutional charity of 
the hospital. Whoever defames New York now has Raggles to 
reckon with. Compare with this characteristic of New York the 
achievement of the same city recorded in Squaring the Circle. 
page 97. 



Besides many other things, Raggles was a poet. He was 
called a tramp; but that was only an elliptical way of saying 
that he was a philosopher, an artist, a traveler, a naturalist, 
and a discoverer. But most of all he was a poet. In all his 
life he never wrote a line of verse; he lived his poetry. His 
Odyssey would have been a Limerick, had it been written. 
But, to Hnger with the primary proposition, Raggles was a 

Raggles's specialty, had he been driven to ink and paper, 
would have been sonnets to the cities. He studied cities as 
women study their reflections in mirrors; as children study 
the glue and sawdust of a dislocated doll; as the men who 
write about wild animals study the cages in the zoo. A city 
to Raggles was not merely a pile of bricks and mortar, 
peopled by a certain number of inhabitants; it was a thing 
with a soul characteristic and distinct; an individual conglom- 
eration of life, with its own peculiar essence, flavor, and feel- 
ing. Two thousand miles to the north and south, east and 
west, Raggles wandered in poetic fervor, taking the cities 
to his breast. He footed it on dusty roads, or sped magnifi- 
cently in freight cars, counting time as of no account. And 
when he had found the heart of a city and listened to its 
secret confession, he strayed on, restless, to another. Fickle 
Raggles! — but perhaps he had not met the civic corporation 
that could engage and hold his critical fancy. 

Through the ancient poets we have learned that the cities 
are feminine. So they were to poet Raggles; and his mind 
carried a concrete and clear conception of the figure that sym- 
bolized and typified each one that he had wooed. 

Chicago seemed to swoop down upon him with a breezy 
suggestion of Mrs. Partington, plumes and patchouli, and to 
disturb his rest with a soaring and beautiful song of future 
promise. But Raggles would awake to a sense of shivering 
cold and a haunting impression of ideals lost in a depressing 
aura of potato salad and fish. 

Thus Chicago affected him. Perhaps there is a vagueness 
and inaccuracy in the description; but that is Raggles's 


fault. He should have recorded his sensations in magazine 

Pittsburgh impressed him as the play of "Othello" per- 
formed in the Russian language in a railroad station by Dock- 
stader's minstrels. A royal and generous lady this Pittsburgh, 
though — ^homely, hearty, with flushed face, washing the 
dishes in a silk dress and white kid slippers, and bidding 
Raggles sit before the roaring fireplace and drink champagne 
with his pigs' feet and fried potatoes. 

New Orleans had simply gazed down upon him from a 
balcony. He could see her pensive, starry eyes and catch 
the flutter of her fan, and that was all. Only once he came 
face to face with her. It was at dawn, when she was flushing 
the red bricks of the banquette with a pail of water. She 
laughed and hummed a chansonette and filled Raggles's 
shoes with ice-cold water. Allons ! 

Boston construed herself to the poetic Raggles in an erratic 
and singular way. It seemed to him that he had drunk cold 
tea and that the city was a white, cold cloth that had been 
bound tightly around his brow to spur him to some unknown 
but tremendous mental effort. And, after all, he came to 
shovel snow for a livelihood; and the cloth, becoming wet, 
tightened its knots and could not be removed. 

Indefinite and unintelligible ideas, you will say; but your 
disapprobation should be tempered with gratitude, for these 
are poets' fancies — and suppose you had come upon them 
in verse! 

One day Raggles came and laid siege to the heart of the 
great city of Manhattan. She was the greatest of all; and 
he wanted to learn her note in the scale ; to taste and appraise 
and classify and solve and label her and arrange her with the 
other cities that had given him up the secret of their individ- 
uality. And here we cease to be Raggles's translator and be- 
come his chronicler. 

Raggles landed from a ferry-boat one morning and walked 
into the core of the town with the blase air of a cosmopolite. 
He was dressed with care to play the role of an "unidentified 


man." No country, race, class, clique, union, party clan, or 
bowling association could have claimed him. His clothing, 
which had been donated to him piece-meal by citizens of 
different height, but same number of inches around the heart, 
was not yet as uncomfortable to his figure as those speci- 
mens of raiment, self-measured, that are railroaded to you 
by transcontinental tailors with a suit case, suspenders, silk 
handkerchief, and pearl studs as a bonus. Without money 
— as a poet should be — but with the ardor of an astronomer 
discovering a new star in the chorus of the milky way, or a 
man who has seen ink suddenly flow from his fountain pen, 
Raggles wandered into the great city. 

Late in the afternoon he drew out of the roar and commo- 
tion with a look of dumb terror on his countenance. He 
was defeated, puzzled, discomfited, frightened. Other cities 
had been to him as long primer to read; as country maidens 
quickly to fathom; as send-price-of-subscription-with-answer 
rebuses to solve; as oyster cocktails to swallow; but here was 
one as cold, glittering, serene, impossible as a four-carat 
diamond in a window to a lover outside fingering damply 
in his pocket his ribbon-counter salary. 

The greetings of the other cities he had known — their 
homespun kindliness, their human gamut of rough charity, 
friendly curses, garrulous curiosity, and easily estimated 
credulity or indifference. This city of Manhattan gave him 
no clue; it was walled against him. Like a river of adamant 
it flowed past him in the streets. Never an eye was turned 
upon him; no voice spoke to him. His heart yearned for 
the clap of Pittsburgh's sooty hand on his shoulder; for 
Chicago's menacing but social yawp in his ear; for the pale 
and eleemosynary stare through the Bostonian eyeglass — 
even for the precipitate but unmalicious boot-toe of Louisville 
^r St. Louis. 

On Broadway Raggles, successful suitor of many cities, 
stood, bashful, like any country swain. For the first time he 
experienced the poignant humiliation of being ignored. 
And when he tried to reduce this brilliant, swiftly changing, 


ice-cold city to a formula he failed utterly. Poet though he 
was, it offered him no color similes, no points of comparison, 
no flaw in its polished facets, no handle by which he could 
hold it up and view its shape and structure, as he familiarly 
and often contemptuously had done with other towns. The 
houses were interminable ramparts loopholed for defense; 
the people were bright but bloodless spectres passing in 
sinister and selfish array. 

The thing that weighed heaviest on Raggles's soul and 
clogged his poet's fancy was the spirit of absolute egotism 
that seemed to saturate the people as toys are saturated with 
paint. Each one that he considered appeared a monster of 
abominable and insolent conceit. Humanity was gone from 
them; they were toddling idols of stone and varnish, worship- 
ping themselves and greedy for, though oblivious of, worship 
from their fellow graven images. Frozen, cruel, implacable, 
impervious, cut to an identical pattern, they hurried on their 
ways like statues brought by some miracles to motion, while 
soul and feeling lay unaroused in the reluctant marble. 

Gradually Raggles became conscious of certain types. 
One was an elderly gentleman with a snow-white, short beard, 
pink, unwrinkled face and stony, sharp blue eyes, attired in. 
the fashion of a gilded youth, who seemed to personify the 
city's wealth, ripeness, and frigid unconcern. Another type 
was a woman, tall, beautiful, clear as a steel engraving, god- 
dess-like, calm, clothed like the princesses of old, with eyes 
as coldly blue as the reflection of sunlight on a glacier. And 
another was a by-product of this town of marionettes — a 
broad, swaggering, grim, theateningly sedate fellow, with a 
jowl as large as a harvested wheat field, the complexion of a 
baptized infant, and the knuckles of a prize-fighter. This 
type leaned against cigar signs and viewed the world with 
f rapped contumely. 

A poet is a sensitive creature, and Raggles soon shriveled 
in the bleak embrace of the undecipherable. The chill, 
sphinx-like, ironical, illegible, unnatural, ruthless expression 
of the city left him downcast and bewildered. Had it no 


heart? Better the woodpile, the scolding of vinegar-faced 
housewives at back doors, the kindly spleen of bartenders 
behind provincial free-lunch counters, the amiable truculence 
of rural constables, the kicks, arrests, and happy-go-lucky 
chances of the other vulgar, loud, crude cities than this freez- 
ing heartlessness. 

Raggles summoned his courage and sought alms from the 
populace. Unheeding, regardless, they passed on without 
the wink of an eyelash to testify that they were conscious 
of his existence. And then he said to himself that this fair 
but pitiless city of Manhattan was without a soul; that its 
inhabitants were manikins moved by wires and springs, and 
that he was alone in a great wilderness. 

Raggles started to cross the street. There was a blast, a 
roar, a hissing and a crash as something struck him and 
hurled him over and over six yards from where he had been. 
As he was coming down like the stick of a rocket the earth 
and all the cities thereof turned to a fractured dream. 

Raggles opened his eyes. First an odor made itself known 
to him — an odor of the earliest spring flowers of Paradise. 
And then a hand soft as a falling petal touched his brow. 
Bending over him was the woman clothed like the princess 
of old, with blue eyes, now soft and humid with human 
sympathy. Under his head on the pavement were silks and 
furs. With Raggles's hat in his hand and with his face 
pinker than ever from a vehement burst of oratory against 
reckless driving, stood the elderly gentleman who personified 
the city's wealth and ripeness. From a nearby cafe hurried 
the by-product with the vast jowl and baby complexion, 
bearing a glass full of a crimson fluid that suggested delight- 
ful possibilities. 

"Drink dis, sport," said the by-product, holding the glass 
to Raggles's lips. 

Hundreds of people huddled around in a moment, their 
faces wearing the deepest concern. Two flattering and gorge- 
ous policemen got into the circle and pressed back the over- 
plus of Samaritans. An old lady in a black shawl spoke 


loudly of camphor; a newsboy slipped one of his papers be- 
neath Raggles's elbow, where it lay on the muddy pave- 
ment. A brisk young man with a notebook was asking for 

A bell clanged importantly, and the ambulance cleaned a 
lane through the crowd. A cool surgeon slipped into the 
midst of affairs. 

"How do you feel, old man?" asked the surgeon, stooping 
easily to his task. The princess of silks and satins wiped a 
red drop or two from Raggles's brow with a fragrant cobweb. 

*'Me.^" said Raggles, wath a seraphic smile, *'I feel fine." 

He had found the heart of his new city. 

In three days they let him leave his cot for the convales- 
cent ward in the hospital. He had been in there an hour 
when the attendants heard sounds of conflict. Upon inves- 
tigation they found that Raggles had assaulted and damaged 
a brother convalescent — a glowering transient whom a freight 
train collision had sent in to be patched up. 

"What's all this about.^" inquired the head nurse. 

"He was runnin' down me town," said Raggles. 

"What town?" asked the nurse. 

"Noo York," said Raggles. 


From The Four Million. First published in The World, January 
22, 1905. Does not the leading character here stand out with the 
utmost distinctness? You may forget that he was named E. Rush- 
more Coglan, but shall j'ou ever forget the kind of man that he was? 
He is not a hypocrite. He firmly believes, as does the hero in Best- 
Seller, that he is what he is proved at last not to be. He is an ex- 
emplar not only of Kipling's quoted lines To the City of Bombay but 
of his later lines on Sussex : 

God gave all men all earth to love, 

But since our hearts are small. 
Ordained for each one spot should prove 

Beloved over all. 

It is greatly to E. Rushmore Coglan's credit that he is self-deceived. 
Says Tennyson: 

That man's the best Cosmopohte 
Who loves his native country best. 

But O. Henry's purpose is so clear and the character plays his part 
so well that to read the story is to remember not so much the plan 
as the character that illustrates the plan. Yet E. Rushmore Coglan 
is no better portrayed than Hargraves or Jimmy Valentine or Tildy 
or Masie or John Perkins or Madame Beaumont or Shark Dodson or 
at least a half dozen of the characters yet to appear. Why, then, 
is the charge sometimes brought against O. Henry that he failed in 
the ability to portray unforgettable characters? Has he failed? 
Of course the comparison must be made with other short story 
writers, not with novelists. Can you mention any other writer, 
living or dead, who confined himself strictly to the short story and 
yet lodged more characters (not names of characters) in the memory 
of more readers than O. Henrys has done? The name of the charac- 
ter among O. Henry's more than a thousand may not be recalled. 



But if the character of the character, his reaction to his environment, 
what he or she did or said, the distinctive trait of human nature that 
each illustrated, the obscure motive that each illumined— if these 
come back, is not the author's art vmdicated? 

At midnight the cafe was crowded. By some chance 
the little table at which I sat had escaped the eye of incom- 
ers, and two vacant chairs at it extended their arms with 
venal hospitality to the influx of patrons. 

And then a cosmopolite sat in one of them, and I was glad, 
for I held a theory that since Adam no true citizen of the 
world has existed. We hear of them, and we see foreign 
labels on much luggage, but we find travelers instead of 

I invoke your consideration of the scene — the marble- 
topped tables, the range of leather-upholstered wall seats, 
the gay company, the ladies dressed in demi-state toilets, 
speaking in an exquisite visible chorus of taste, economy, 
opulence or art; the sedulons and largess-loving gargons, the 
music wisely catering to all with its raids upon the com- 
posers; the melange of talk and laughter— and, if you will, 
the WUrzburger in the tall glass cones that bend to your lips 
as a ripe cherry sways on its branch to the beak of a robber 
jay. I was told by a sculptor from Mauch Chunk that the 
scene was truly Parisian. 

My cosmopolite was named E. Rushmore Coglan, and he 
will be heard from next summer at Coney Island. He is to 
establish a new "attraction" there, he informed me, offering 
kingly diversion. And then his conversation rang along 
parallels of latitude and longitude. He took the great, round 
world in his hand, so to speak, familiarly, contemptuously, 
and it seemed no larger than the seed of a Maraschino cherry 
in a table d'hote grape fruit. He spoke disrespectfully of the 
equator, he skipped from continent to continent, he derided 
the zones, he mopped up the high seas with his napkin. 
With a wave of his hand he would speak of a certain bazaar 
in Hyderabad. Whiff ! He would have you on skis in Lap- 


land. Zip! Now you rode the breakers with the Kanakas 
at Kealaikahiki. Presto! He dragged you through an 
Arkansas post-oak swamp, let you dry for a moment on the 
alkali plains of his Idaho ranch, then whirled you into the 
society of Viennese archdukes. Anon he would be telling 
you of a cold he acquired in a Chicago lake breeze and how 
old Escamila cured it in Buenos Ayres with a hot infusion 
of the chuchula weed. You would have addressed a letter 
to '*E. Rushmore Coglan, Esq., the Earth, Solar System, 
the Universe," and mailed it, feeling confident that it would 
be delivered to him. 

I was sure that I had found at last the one true cosmopolite 
since Adam, and I listened to his world-wide discourse fearful 
lest I should discover in it the local note of the mere globe- 
trotter. But his opinions never fluttered or drooped; he was 
as impartial to cities, countries, and continents as the winds 
or gravitation. 

And as E. Rushmore Coglan prattled of this little planet 
I thought with glee of a great almost-cosmopolite who wrote 
for the whole world and dedicated himseK to Bombay. In a 
poem he has to say that there is pride and rivalry between the 
cities of the earth, and that "the men that breed from them, 
they traflSc up and down, but cling to their cities' hem as a 
child to the mother's gown." And whenever they walk 
*'by roaring streets unknown" they remember their native 
city "most faithful, foolish, fond; making her mere-breathed 
name their bond upon their bond." And my glee was roused 
because I had caught Mr. Kipling napping. Here I had 
found a man not made from dust; one who had no narrow 
boasts of birthplace or country, one who, if he bragged at all, 
would brag of his whole round globe against the Martians and 
the inhabitants of the Moon. 

Expression on these subjects was precipitated from E. 
Rushmore Coglan by the third corner to our table. While 
Coglan was describing to me the topography along the Si- 
berian Railway the orchestra glided into a medley. The 
concluding air was "Dixie," and as the exliilarating notes 


tumbled forth they were almost overpowered by a great 
clapping of hands from almost every table. 

It is worth a paragraph to say that this remarkable scene 
can be witnessed every evening in numerous cafes in the City 
of New York. Tons of brew have been consumed over theor- 
ies to account for it. Some have conjectured hastily that all 
Southerners in town hie themselves to cafes at nightfall. 
This applause of the *' rebel" air in a Northern city does 
puzzle a little; but it is not insolvable. The war with Spain, 
many years' generous mint and watermelon crops, a few 
long-shot winners at the New Orleans race track, and the 
brilliant banquets given by the Indiana and Kansas citizens 
who compose the North Carolina Society have made the 
South rather a *'fad" in Manhattan. Your manicure will 
lisp softly that your left forefinger reminds her so much of a 
gentleman's in Richmond, Va. Oh, certainly; but many a 
lady has to work now — the war, you know. 

When "Dixie" was being played a dark-haired young man 
sprang up from somewhere with a Mosby guerrilla yell and 
waved frantically his soft-brimmed hat. Then he strayed 
through the smoke, dropped into the vacant chair at our 
table, and pulled out cigarettes. 

The evening was at the period when reserve is thawed. 
One of us mentioned three Wurzburgers to the waiter; the 
dark-haired young man acknowledged his inclusion in the 
order by a smile and a nod. I hastened to ask him a question 
because I wanted to try out a theory I had. 

"Would you mind telling me," I began, "whether you are 
from " 

The fist of E. Rushmore Coglan banged the table and I was 
jarred into silence. 

"Excuse me," said he, "but that's a question I never like 
to hear asked. What does it matter where a man is from? 
Is it fair to judge a man by his post-office address? WTiy, 
I've seen Kentuckians who hated whiskey, Virginians who 
weren't descended from Pocahontas, Indianians who hadn't 
written a novel, Mexicans who didn't wear velvet trousers 


with silver dollars sewed along the seams, funny Englishmen, 
spendthrift Yankees, cold-blooded Southerners, narrow- 
minded Westerners, and New Yorkers who were too busy to 
stop for an hour on the street to watch a one-armed grocer's 
clerk do up cranberries in paper bags. Let a man be a man 
and don't handicap him with the label of any section." 

"Pardon me," I said, "but my curiosity was not alto- 
gether an idle one. I know the South, and when the band 
plays 'Dixie' I like to observe. I have formed the belief that 
the man who applauds that air with special violence and os- 
tensible sectional loyalty is invariably a native of either Se- 
caucus, N. J., or the district between Murray Hill Lyceum 
and the Harlem River, this city. I was about to put my 
opinion to the test by inquiring of this gentleman when 
you interrupted with your own — larger theory, I must 

And now the dark-haired young man spoke to me, and it 
became evident that his mind also moved along its own set 
of grooves. 

"I should like to be a periwinkle," said he, mysteriously, 
"on the top of a valley, and sing too-ralloo-ralloo." 

This was clearly too obscure, so I turned again to Coglan. 

"I've been around the world twelve times," said he. "I 
know an Esquimau in IJpernavik who sends to Cincinnati for 
his neckties, and I saw a goatherder in Uruguay who won a 
prize in a Battle Creek breakfast food puzzle competition. I 
pay rent on a room in Cairo, Egypt, and another in Yoko- 
hama all the year around. I've got slippers waiting for me 
in a tea-house in Shanghai, and I don't have to tell 'em how 
to cook my eggs in Rio Janeiro or Seattle. It's a mighty little 
old world. What's the use of bragging about being from the 
North, or the South, or the old manor house in the dale, or 
Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, or Pike's Peak, or Fairfax County, 
Va., or Hooligan's Flats or any place? It'll be a better world 
when we quit being fools about some mildewed town or ten 
acres of swampland just because we happened to be born 


"You seem to be a genuine cosmopolite," I said admiringly. 
"But it also seems that you would decry patriotism." 

" A relic of the stone age," declared Coglan, warmly. " We 
are all brothers— Chinamen, Englishmen, Zulus, Patagonians, 
and the people in the bend of the Kaw River. Some day all 
this petty pride in one's city or State or section or country 
will be wiped out, and we'll all be citizens of the world, as we 
ought to be." 

" But while you are wandering in foreign lands," I persisted, 
"do not your thoughts revert to some spot — some dear 
and " 

*'Nary a spot," interrupted E. R. Coglan, flippantly. 
"The terrestrial, globular, planetary hunk of matter, slightly 
flattened at the poles, and known as the Earth is my abode. 
I've met a good many object-bound citizens of this country 
abroad. I've seen men from Chicago sit in a gondola in Ven- 
ice on a moonlight night and brag about their drainage canal. 
I've seen a Southerner on being introduced to the King of 
England hand that monarch, without batting his eyes, the 
information that his grand-aunt on his mother's side was re- 
lated by marriage to the Perkinses, of Charleston. I knew a 
New Yorker who was kidnapped for ransom by some Afghan- 
istan bandits. His people sent over the money and he came 
back to Kabul with the agent. 'Afghanistan?' the natives 
said to him through an interpreter. 'Well, not so slow, do 
you think?' 'Oh, I don't know,' says he, and he begins to 
tell them about a cab driver at Sixth Avenue and Broadway. 
Those ideas don't suit me. I'm not tied down to anything 
that isn't 8,000 miles in diameter. Just put me down as E. 
Rushmore Coglan, citizen of the terrestrial sphere." 

My cosmopolite made a large adieu and left me, for he 
thought he saw some one through the chatter and smoke 
whom he knew. So I was left with the would-be periwinkle, 
who was reduced to Wurzburger without further ability to 
voice his aspirations to perch, melodious, upon the summit of 
a valley. 

I sat reflecting upon my evident cosmopolite and wonder- 


ing how the poet had managed to miss him. He was my 
discovery and I beheved in him. How was it.^ "The men 
that breed from them they traffic up and down, but cHng to 
their cities* hem as a child to the mother's gown." 

Not so E. Rushmore Coglan. With the whole world for 

My meditations were interrupted by a tremendous noise 
and conflict in another part of the cafe. I saw above the 
heads of the seated patrons E. Rushmore Coglan and a 
stranger to me engaged in terrific battle. They fought be- 
tween the tables like Titans, and glasses crashed, and men 
caught their hats up and were knocked down, and a brunette 
screamed, and a blonde began to sing "Teasing." 

My cosmopolite was sustaining the pride and reputation 
of the Earth when the waiters closed in on both combatants 
with their famous flying wedge formation and bore them out- 
side, still resisting. 

I called McCarthy, one of the French gargons, and asked 
him the cause of the conflict. 

"The man with the red tie" (that was my cosmopolite), 
said he, "got hot on account of things said about the bum 
sidewalks and water supply of the place he come from by the 
other guy." 

"Why," said I, bewildered, "that man is a citizen of the 
world — a cosmopolite. He " 

"Orginally from Mattawamkeag, Maine, he said," con- 
tinued McCarthy, "and he wouldn't stand for no knockin' 
the place." 


From The Four Million. First published in The Worlds March 19. 
1905. This has been called "perhaps the O. Henriest of all O. 
Henry's stories. " Why? Following is a tentative but by no means 
complete summary: (1) The background or setting, "the vast 
space where Broadway, Sixth Avenue, and Thirty-fourth Street 
cross one another," is preeminently O. Henry Land. It is not only 
the Where? of the main action of the story but the Why? and the 
How? "In one sense," says Francis Hackett, "Broadway is the 
spinal column of his art, and the nerve branches cover all Manhat- 
tan." (2) Anthony Rockwall and his sister. Aunt Ellen, are con- 
trasted in a manner and spirit peculiarly O. Henryesque. (3) The 
part of the story following "The story should end here. . . . 
But we must go to the bottom of the well for truth," gives what is 
popularly known as the O. Henry touch. It exhibits the blending of 
the unexpected but inevitable, the unlooked-for but not unprepared' 
for. (4) The humor is irresistible but kindly, elemental, con- 
tagious. You want to read the story aloud to others but you do not 
have to choose your audience for fear that feelings will be hurt. 
There is no class spirit in it. Aunt Ellen is sure that the ring won; 
Rockwall thinks mammon was the victor; we know at last that the 
happy result was brought about by the cooperation of the two. (5) 
The ring in this story, the mole by the left eyebrow in The Furnished 
Room, and the button in A Municipal Report illustrate a favorite 
technical device of the author. (6) Equally characteristic are the 
piquancy, originality, and picturesqueness of the style. "O. Henry 
can introduce a felicity," says a critic, "with a noiselessness that 
numbers him for a flying second among the sovereigns of English." 
Do you find examples in this story? You will find them m the story 
that follows. 

Old Anthony Rockwall, retired manufacturer and pro- 
prietor of Rockwall's Eureka Soap, looked out the library 
mndow of his Fifth Avenue mansion and grinned. His 



neighbor to the right — the aristocratic clubman, G. Van 
Schuylight Siiffolk-Jones — came out to his waiting motor* 
car, wrinkling a contumelious nostril, as usual, at the Italian 
renaissance sculpture of the soap palace's front elevation. 

"Stuck-up old statuette of nothing doing!" commented 
the ex-Soap King. "The Eden Musee'll get that old frozen 
Nesselrode yet if he don't w^atch out. I'll have this house 
painted red, white, and blue next summer and see if that'll 
make his Dutch nose turn up any higher." 

And then Anthony Rockw^all, who never cared for bells, 
went to the door of his library and shouted "Mike!" in the 
same voice that had once chipped off pieces of the welkin on 
the Kansas prairies. 

"Tell my son," said Anthony to the answering menial, 
**to come in here before he leaves the house." 

When young Rockwall entered the library the old man 
laid aside his newspaper, looked at him with a kindly grim- 
ness on his big, smooth, ruddy countenance, rumpled his mop 
of white hair with one hand, and rattled the keys in his pocket 
with the other. 

"Richard," said Anthony Rockwall, "what do you pay 
for the soap that you use?" 

Richard, only six months home from college, was startled a 
little. He had not yet taken the measure of this sire of his, 
who was as full of unexpectednesses as a girl at her first party. 

"Six dollars a dozen, I think, dad." 

"And your clothes?" 

"I suppose about sixty dollars, as a rule." 

"You're a gentleman," said Anthony, decidedly. "I've 
heard of these young bloods spending $24 a dozen for soap, 
and going over the hundred mark for clothes. You've got as 
much money to waste as any of 'em, and yet you stick to 
what's decent and moderate. Now I use the old Eureka — 
not only for sentiment, but it's the purest soap made. When- 
ever you pay more than 10 cents a cake for soap you buy 
bad perfumes and labels. But 50 cents is doing very w^ell for 
a young man in your generation, position, and condition. As 


I said, you're a gentleman. They say it takes three genera- 
tions to make one. They're off. Money'll do it as sHck as 
soap grease. It's made you one. By hokey! it's almost 
made one of me. I'm nearly as impolite and disagreeable 
and ill-mannered as these two old Knickerbocker gents on 
each side of me that can't sleep of nights because I bought in 
between 'em." 

"There are some things that money can't accomplish," 
remarked young Rockwall, rather gloomily. 

"Now, don't say that," said old Anthony, shocked. "I 
bet my money on money every time. I've been through the 
encyclopaedia down to Y looking for something you can't buy 
with it; and I expect to have to take up the appendix next 
week. I'm for money against the field. Tell me something 
money won't buy." 

"For one thing," answered Richard, rankling a little, "it 
won't buy one into the exclusive circles of society." 

"Oho! won't it.''" thundered the champion of the root of 
evil. "You tell me where your exclusive circles would be if 
the first Astor hadn't had the money to pay for his steerage 
passage over?" 

Richard sighed. 

"And that's what I was coming to," said the old man, less 
boisterously. " That's why I asked you to come in. There's 
something going wrong with you, boy. I've been noticing it 
for two weeks. Out with it. I guess I could lay my hands 
on eleven millions within twenty-four hours, besides the real 
estate. If it's your liver, there's the Rambler down in the 
bay, coaled, and ready to steam down to the Bahamas in two 

"Not a bad guess, dad; you haven't missed it far." 

"Ah," said Anthony, keenly; "what's her name.^^" 

Richard began to walk up and down the library floor. 
There was enough comradeship and sympathy in this crude 
old father of his to draw his confidence. 

"Why don't you ask her.^ " demanded old Anthony. "She'll 
jump at you. You've got the money and the looks, and 


you're a decent boy. Your hands are clean. You've got no 
Eureka soap on 'em. You've been to college, but she'll 
overlook that." 

**I haven't had a chance," said Richard. 

"Make one," said Anthony. "Take her for a walk in the 
park, or a straw ride, or walk home with her from church. 
Chance! Pshaw!" 

"You don't know the social mill, dad. She's part of the 
stream that turns it. Every hour and minute of her time is 
arranged for days in advance. I must have that girl, dad, 
or this town is a blackjack swamp forevermore. And I can't 
write it — I can't do that." 

"Tut!" said the old man. "Do you mean to tell me that 
with all the money I've got you can't get an hour or two of a 
girl's time for yourself.'^" 

"I've put it off too late. She's going to sail for Europe at 
noon day after to-morrow for a two years' stay. I'm to 
s€3 her alone to-morrow evening for a few minutes. She's 
at Larchmont now at her aunt's. I can't go there. But 
I'm allowed to meet her with a cab at the Grand Central 
Station to-morrow evening at the 8.30 train. We drive down 
Broadway to Wallack's at a gallop, where her mother and a 
box party will be w^aiting for us in the lobby. Do you think 
she would listen to a declaration from me during that six or 
eight minutes under those circumstances? No. And what 
chance would I have in the theatre or afterward? None. 
No, dad, this is one tangle that your money can't unravel. 
We can't buy one minute of time with cash; if we could, rich 
people would live longer. There's no hope of getting a talk 
with Miss Lantry before she sails." 

"All right, Richard, my boy," said old Anthony, cheerfully. 
"You may run along do\\Ti to your club now. I'm glad it 
ain't your liver. But don't forget to burn a few punk sticks 
in the joss house to the great god Mazuma from time to time. 
You say money won't buy time? Well, of course, you can't 
order eternity wrapped up and delivered at your residence 
for a price, but I've seen Father Time get pretty bad stone 


bruises on his heels when he walked through the gold dig- 

That night came Aunt Ellen, gentle, sentimental, wrinkled, 
sighing, oppressed by wealth, in to Brother Anthony at his 
evening paper, and began discourse on the subject of lovers' 

"He told me all about it," said brother Anthony, yawning. 
**I told him my bank account was at his service. And then 
he began to knock money. Said money couldn't help. Said 
the rules of society couldn't be bucked for a yard by a team of 
ten-millionaires. ' ' 

"Oh, Anthony," sighed Aunt Ellen, "I wish you would not 
think so much of money. Wealth is nothing where a true 
affection is concerned. Love is all-powerful. If he only had 
spoken earlier! She could not have refused our Richard. 
But now I fear it is too late. He will have no opportunity 
to address her. All your gold cannot bring happiness to your 

At eight o'clock the next evening Aunt Ellen took a quaint 
old gold ring from a moth-eaten case and gave it to Richard. 

"Wear it to-night, nephew," she begged. "Your mother 
gave it to me. Good luck in love she said it brought. She 
asked me to give it to you when you had found the one you 

Young Rockwall took the ring reverently and tried it on 
his smallest finger. It slipped as far as the second joint and 
stopped. He took it off and stuffed it into his vest pocket, 
after the manner of man. And then he 'phoned for his cab. 

At the station he captured Miss Lantry out of the gadding 
mob at eight thirty-two. 

"We mustn't keep mamma and the others waiting," said 

"To Wallack's Theatre as fast as you can drive!" said 
Richard loyally. 

They whirled up Forty-second to Broadway, and then down 
the white-starred lane that leads from the soft meadows of 
sunset to the rocky hills of morning. 


At Thirty-tourth Street young Richard quickly thrust up 
the trap and ordered the cabman to stop. 

"I've dropped a ring," he apologized, as he chmbed out. 
**It was my mother's, and I'd hate to lose it. I won't detain 
you a minute — I saw where it fell." 

In less than a minute he was back in the cab with the ring. 

But within that minute a crosstown car had stopped di- 
rectly in front of the cab. The cabman tried to pass to the 
left, but a hea\y express wagon cut him off. He tried the 
right, and had to back away from a furniture van that had no 
business to be there. He tried to back out, but dropped his 
reins and swore dutifully. He was blockaded in a tangled 
mess of vehicles and horses. 

One of those street blockades had occurred that sometimes 
tie up commerce and movement quite suddenly in the big city. 

"Why don't you drive on?" said Miss Lantry, impa- 
tiently. "We'll be late." 

Richard stood up in the cab and looked around. He saw 
a congested flood of wagons, trucks, cabs, vans, and street 
cars filling the vast space where Broadway, Sixth Avenue, 
and Thirty-fourth Street cross one another as a twenty-six 
inch maiden fills her twenty-two inch girdle. And still from 
all the cross streets they were hurrying and rattling toward 
the converging point at full speed, and hurling themselves 
into the struggling mass, locking wheels and adding their 
drivers' imprecations to the clamor. The entire traffic of 
Manhattan seemed to have jammed itself around them. 
The oldest New Yorker among the thousands of spectators 
that lined the sidewalks had not witnessed a street blockade 
of the proportions of this one. 

"I'm very sorry," said Richard, as he resumed his seat, 
"but it looks as if we are stuck. They won't get this jumble 
loosened up in an hour. It was my fault. E I hadn't 
dropped the ring we " 

"Let me see the ring," said Miss Lantry. "Now that it 
can't be helped, I don't care. I think theatres are stupid, 
anyway. " 


At 11 o'clock that night somebody tapped hghtly on An- 
thony Rockwall's door. 

"Come in," shouted Anthony, who was in a red dressing- 
gown, reading a book of piratical adventures. 

Somebody was Aunt Ellen, looking like a gray-haired angel 
that had been left on earth by mistake. 

*' They 're engaged, Anthony," she said, softly. "She has 
promised to marry our Richard. On their way to the theatre 
there was a street blockade, and it was two hours before their 
cab could get out of it. 

"And oh, brother Anthony, don't ever boast of the power 
of money again. A little emblem of true love— a little ring 
that symbolized unending and unmercenary affection — was 
the cause of our Richard finding his happiness. He dropped 
it in the street, and got out to recover it. And before they 
could continue the blockade occurred. He spoke to his love 
and won her there while the cab was hemmed in. Money is 
dross compared with true love, Anthony." 

"All right," said old Anthony. "I'm glad the boy has 
got what he wanted. I told him I wouldn't spare any ex- 
pense in the matter if " 

"But, brother Anthony, what good could your money have 

"Sister," said Anthony Rockwall. "I've got my pirate 
in a devil of a scrape. His ship has just been scuttled, and 
he's too good a judge of the value of money to let drown. I 
wish you would let me go on with this chapter." 

The story should end here. I wish it would as heartily 
as you who read it wish it did. But we must go to the bot- 
tom of the well for truth. 

The next day a person with red hands and a blue polka- 
dot necktie, who called himself Kelly, called at Anthony 
Rockwall's house, and was at once received in the library. 
"Well," said Anthony, reaching for his cheque-book, 
'*it was a good bihn' of soap. Let's see— you had $5,000 in 

"I paid out $300 more of my own," said Kelly. "I had 


to go a little above the estimate. I got the express wagons 
and cabs mostly for $5; but the trucks and two-horse teams 
mostly raised me to $10. The motormen wanted $10, and 
some of the loaded teams $20. The cops struck me hardest 
— $50 I paid two, and the rest $20 and $25. But didn't it 
work beautiful, Mr. Rockwall.^ I'm glad William A. Brady 
wasn't onto that little outdoor vehicle mob scene. I 
wouldn't want Wilham to break his heart with jealousy, 
And never a rehearsal, either! The boys was on time to the 
fraction of a second. It was two hours before a snake could 
get below Greeley's statue. " 

"Thirteen hundred — there you are, Kelly," said Anthony, 
tearing off a check. "Your thousand, and the $300 you were 
out. You don't despise money, do you, Kelly?" 

"Me?" said Kelly. "I can lick the man that invented 

Anthony called Kelly when he was at the door. 

"You didn't notice," said he, "anywhere in the tie-up, 
a kind of a fat boy without any clothes on shooting arrows 
around with a bow, did you? " 

"Why, no," said Kelly, mystified. "I didn't. If he was 
like you say, maybe the cops pinched him before I got there." 

"I thought the little rascal wouldn't be on hand," chuckled 
Anthony. "Good-by, Kelly." 


From The Four Million. First published in McClure's Magazine, 
A.ugust, 1905. Two months later O. Henrj^ built another indictment. 
The Guilty Party, on the framework of An Unfinished Story; but the 
latter maintains its supremacy. In the plebiscite held by The Book- 
man, June, 1914, in which ten persons voted independently on the 
ten best stories by O. Henry, An Unfinished Story led with seven 
votes, A Municipal Report coming next with six votes. Then 
followed A Lickpenny Lover, The Furnished Room, and The Gift of 
the Magi, each with four votes; Mammon and the Archer and Let Me 
Feel Your Pulse, each with two votes. One of the finest touches 
in the story is the sudden and unexpected emergence of General 
Kitchener. O. Henry's tribute to his eyes was recalled by a London 
paper at the time of Lord Kitchener's death. "They strike you," 
says Harold Begbie in Kitchener: Organizer of Victory, "with a kind of 
clutching terror; you look at them, try to say something, look away, 
and then, trying to speak, find your eyes returning to that dreadful 
gaze, and once more choke with silence." Dulcie holds her own 
or is held to her own until General Kitchener " happens to be looking 
the other way." It is not often that O. Henry expresses loathing 
for anybody. It is worth noting, however, that the three most 
loathsome characters in our twenty-five stories are pilloried by O. 
Henry for the same offence, their treatment of women. Compare 
Mrs. Purdy in TJie Furnished Room, Piggy in this story, and Major 
Caswell in A Municipal Report. Piggy, the "connoisseur in star- 
vation," finds his prey only because there are men who hire working- 
girls for five or six dollars a week. It is for these employers that O. 
Henry reserves his terminal lightning. If satire is to humor as 
corporal punishment is to moral suasion, this story hints the gallows. 

We no longer groan and heap ashes upon our heads when 
the flames of Tophet are mentioned. For, even the preachers 
have begun to tell us that God is radium, or ether or some 



scientific compound, and that the worst we wicked ones may 
expect is a chemical reaction. This is a pleasing hypothesis; 
but there lingers yet some of the old, goodly terror of ortho- 

There are but two subjects upon which one may discourse 
with a free imagination, and without the possibility of being 
controverted. You may talk of your dreams; and you may 
tell what you heard a parrot say. Both Morpheus and the 
bird are incompetent witnesses; and your listener dare not 
attack your recital. The baseless fabric of a vision, then, 
shall furnish my theme — chosen with apologies and regrets 
instead of the more limited field of pretty Polly's small talk. 

I had a dream that was so far removed from the higher 
criticism that it had to do with the ancient, respectable, and 
lamented bar-of- judgment theory. 

Gabriel had played his trump; and those of us who could 
not follow suit were arraigned for examination. I noticed 
at one side a gathering of professional bondsmen in solemn 
black and collars that buttoned behind; but it seemed there 
was some trouble about their real estate titles; and they did 
not appear to be getting any of us out. 

A fly cop — an angel policeman — flew over to me and took 
me by the left wing. Near at hand was a group of very pros- 
perous-looking spirits arraigned for judgment. 

"Do you belong with that bunch?" the policeman asked. 

"Who are they?" was my answer. 

"Why," said he, "they are " 

But this irrelevant stuff is taking up space that the story 
should occupy. 

Dulcie worked in a department store. She sold Hamburg 
edging, or stuffed peppers, or automobiles, or other little 
trinkets such as they keep in department stores. Of what 
she earned, Dulcie received six dollars per week. The re- 
mainder was credited to her and debited to somebody else's 

account in the ledger kept by G Oh, primal energy, 

you say, Reverend Doctor Well then, in the Ledger of 

Primal Energy. 


During her first year in the store, Dulcie was paid five 
dollars per week. It would be instructive to know how she 
lived on that amount. Don't care? Very well; probably 
you are interested in larger amounts. Six dollars is a larger 
amount. I will tell you how she lived on six dollars per 

One afternoon at six, when Dulcie was sticking her hat- 
pin within an eighth of an inch of her medulla oblongata, 
she said to her chum, Sadie — the girl that waits on you 
with her left side: 

"Say, Sade, I made a date for dinner this evening with 


"You never did!" exclaimed Sadie admiringly. "Well, 
ain't you the lucky one.^^ Piggy's an awful swell; and he 
always takes a girl to swell places. He took Blanche up to 
the Hoffman House one evening, where they have swell 
music, and you see a lot of swells. You'll have a swell time, 

Dulcie hurried homeward. Her eyes were shining, and 
her cheeks showed the delicate pink of life's — real life's — 
approaching dawn. It was Friday; and she had fifty cents 
left of her last week's wages. 

The streets were filled w^ith the rush-hour floods of people. 
The electric lights of Broadway were glowing — calling moths 
from miles, from leagues, from hundreds of leagues out of 
darkness around to come in and attend the singeing school. 
Men in accurate clothes, with faces like those carved on 
cherry stones by the old salts in sailors' homes, turned and 
stared at Dulcie as she sped, unheeding, past them. Man- 
hattan, the night-blooming cereus, was beginning to unfold 
its dead-white, heavy-odored petals. 

Dulcie stopped in a store where goods were cheap and 
bought an imitation lace collar with her fifty cents. That 
money was to have been spent otherwise — fifteen cents for 
supper, ten cents for breakfast, ten cents for lunch. Another 
dime was to be added to her small store of savings; and five 
cents was to be squandered for licorice drops — the kind 


that made your cheek look Hke the toothache, and last as 
long. The licorice was an extravagance — almost a carouse — 
but what is life without pleasures? 

Dulcie lived in a furnished room. There is this difference 
between a furnished room and a boarding-house. In a 
furnished room, other people do not know it when you go 

Dulcie went up to her room — the third floor back in a West 
Side broT\Tistone-front. She lit the gas. Scientists tell us 
that the diamond is the hardest substance knowTi. Their 
mistake. Landladies know of a compound beside which 
the diamond is as putty. 

They pack it in the tips of gas-burners; and one may stand 
on a chair and dig at it in vain until one's fingers are pink 
and bruised. A hairpin w411 not remove it; therefore let us 
call it immovable. 

So Dulcie lit the gas. In its one-fourth-candle-power 
glow we will observe the room. 

Couch-bed, dressf^r, table, washstand, chair — of this mud^ 
the landlady was guilty. The rest was Dulcie's. On the 
dresser were her treasures — a gilt china vase presented to her 
by Sadie, a calendar issued by a pickle works, a book on the 
divination of dreams, some rice powder in a glass dish, and 
a cluster of artificial cherries tied with a pink ribbon. 

Against the wrinkly mirror stood pictures of General 
Kitchener, William Muldoon, the Duchess of Marlborough, 
and Benvenuto Cellini. Against one wall was a plaster of 
Paris plaque of an O'Callahan in a Roman helmet. Near 
it was a violent oleograph of a lemon-colored child as- 
saulting an inflammatory butterfly. This was Dulcie's 
final judgment in art; but it had never been upset. Her rest 
had never been disturbed by whispers of stolen copes; no 
critic had elevated his eyebrows at her infantile entomologist. 

Piggy was to call for her at seven. While she swiftly 
makes ready, let us discreetly face the other way and gossip, 

For the room, Dulcie paid two dollars per week. On 
week-days her breakfast cost ten cents; she made coffee 


and cooked an egg over the gaslight while she was dressing. 
On Sunday mornings she feasted royally on veal chops and 
pineapple fritters at "Billy's" restaurant, at a cost of twenty- 
five cents — and tipped the waitress ten cents. New York 
presents so many temptations for one to run into ex- 
travagance. She had her lunches in the department-store 
restaurant at a cost of sixty cents for the week; dinners were 
$1.05. The evening papers — show me a New Yorker going 
without his daily paper! — came to six cents; and two Sunday 
papers — one for the personal column and the other to read — 
were ten cents. The total amounts to $4.76. Now, one 
has to buy clothes, and 

I give it up. I hear of wonderful bargains in fabrics, and 
of miracles performed with needle and thread; but I am in 
doubt. I hold my pen poised in vain when I would add to 
Dulcie's life some of those joys that belong to woman by 
virtue of all the unwritten, sacred, natural, inactive 
ordinances of the equity of heaven. Twice she had been to 
Coney Island and had ridden the hobby-horses. 'Tis a 
weary thing to count your pleasures by summers instead 
of by hours. 

Piggy needs but a word. When the girls named him, an 
undeserving stigma was cast upon the noble family of swine. 
The words-of-three-letters lesson in the old blue spelling 
book begins with Piggy's biography. He was fat; he had 
the soul of a rat, the habits of a bat, and the magnanimity 
of a cat. ... He wore expensive clothes; and was a 
connoisseur in starvation. He could look at a shop-girl 
and tell you to an hour how long it had been since she had 
eaten anything more nourishing than marshmallows and tea. 
He hung about the shopping districts, and prowled around 
in department stores with his invitations to dinner. Men 
who escort dogs upon the streets at the end of a string look 
down upon him. He is a type; I can dwell upon him no 
longer; my pen is not the kind intended for him; I am no 

At ten minutes to seven Dulcie was ready. She looked 


at herseK in the wrinkly mirror. The reflection was satis* 
factory. The dark blue dress, fitting without a WTinkle, 
the hat with its jaunty black feather, the but-slightly-soiled 
gloves — all representing self-denial, even of food itself — 
were vastly becoming. 

Dulcie forgot everything else for a moment except that she 
was beautiful, and that life was about to lift a corner of its 
mysterious veil for her to observe its wonders. No gentle^ 
man had ever asked her out before. Now she was going 
for a brief moment into the glitter and exalted show. 

The girls said that Piggy was a "spender." There would 
be a grand dinner, and music, and splendidly dressed ladies 
to look at, and things to eat that strangely twisted the 
girl's jaws when they tried to tell about them. No doubt 
she would be asked out again. 

There was a blue pongee suit in a window that she knew — 
by saving twenty cents a week instead of ten, in — let's see 
Oh, it would run into years! But there was a second- 
hand store in Seventh Avenue where 

Somebody knocked at the door. Dulcie opened it. The 
landlady stood there with a spurious smile, sniflfing for cook 
ing by stolen gas. 

"A gentleman's do^Tistairs to see you," she said. "Name 
is Mr. Wiggins." 

By such epithet was Piggy knoTvm to unfortunate ones 
who had to take him seriously. 

Dulcie turned to the dresser to get her handkerchief; 
and then she stopped still, and bit her under-lip hard. While 
looking in her mirror she had seen fairyland and herself, 
a princess, just awakening from a long slumber. She had 
forgotten one that was watching her with sad, beautiful, 
stern eyes — the only one there was to approve or condemn 
what she did. Straight and slender and tall, with a look 
of sorrowful reproach on his handsome, melancholy face. 
General Kitchener fixed his wonderful eyes on her out of 
his gilt photograph frame on the dresser. 

Dulcie turned like an automatic doll to the landlady. 


"Tell him I can't go," she said dully. "Tell him I'm 
sick, or something. Tell him I'm not going out." 

After the door was closed and locked, Dulcie fell upon 
her bed, crushing her black tip, and cried for ten minutes. 
General Kitchener was her only friend. He was Dulcie 's 
ideal of a gallant knight. He looked as if he might have a 
secret sorrow, and his wonderful moustache was a dream, 
and she was a little afraid of that stern yet tender look in 
his eyes. She used to have little fancies that he would call 
at the house sometime, and ask for her, with his sword 
clanking against his high boots. Once, when a boy was 
rattling a piece of chain against a lamp-post she had opened 
the window and looked out. But there was no use. She 
knew that General Kitchener w^as away over in Japan, 
leading his army against the savage Turks; and he would 
never step out of his gilt frame for her. Yet one look from 
him had vanquished Piggy that night. Yes, for that night. 

When her cry was over Dulcie got up and took off her best 
dress, and put on her old blue kimono. She wanted no din- 
ner. She sang two verses of "Sammy." Then she became 
intensely interested in a little red speck on the side of her 
nose. And after that was attended to, she drew up a chair to 
the rickety table, and told her fortune with an old deck of 

"The horrid, impudent thing!" she said aloud. "And 
I never gave him a word or a look to make him think it!" 

At nine o'clock Dulcie took a tin box of crackers and a 
little pot of raspberry jam out of her trunk, and had a feast. 
She offered General Kitchener some jam on a cracker; but 
he only looked at her as the sphinx would have looked at a 
butterfly — if there are butterflies in the desert. 

"Don't eat it if you don't want to," said Dulcie. "And 
don't put on so many airs and scold so with your eyes. I 
wonder if you'd be so superior and snippy if you had to live 
on six dollars a week." 

It was not a good sign for Dulcie to be rude to General 
Kitchener. And then she turned Benvenuto CelHni face 


downward with a severe gesture. But that was not inex- 
cusable; for she had always thought he was Henry VHI, 
and she did not approve of him. 

At half-past nine Dulcie took a last look at the pictures 
on the dresser, turned out the light, and skipped into bed. 
It's an awful thing to go to bed with a good-night look at 
General Kitchener, William Muldoon, the Duchess of Marl- 
borough, and Benvenuto Cellini. 

This story really doesn't get anj^here at all. The rest 
of it comes later — sometime when Piggy asks Dulcie again 
to dine with him, and she is feeling lonelier than usual, and 
General Kitchener happens to be looking the other way; 
and then 

As I said before, I dreamed that I was standing near a 
crowd of prosperous-looking angels, and a policeman took 
me by the wing and asked if I belonged with them. 

"Who are they.^" I asked. 

"\Miy," said he, "they are the men who hired working- 
girls, and paid 'em five or six dollars a week to live on. Are 
you one of the bunch?" 

"Not on your immortality," said I. "I'm only the fellow 
that set fire to an orphan asylum, and murdered a blind 
man for his pennies." 


From The Trimmed Lamp. First published in The World, October 
15, 1905. In Bruno's Weeklij for December 11, 1915, "edited by 
Guido Bruno in his Garret on Washington Square," the editor says: 
"There is one man in American letters, the late O. Henry, who knew 
Greenwich Village, who knew it as it was and is, and who never 
hesitated to show m the most humorous way that it is not what 
newspapers and magazines and even some of the people down there 
themselves are trying to make you believe that it is. . . . And 
The Last Leaf is the very best story that he ever wrote and is the 
most characteristic of his personality and of his literary style." The 
story is at least a good illustration of the original way in which O. 
Henry used his sources. He is reported to have said, as he looked at 
a leaf -covered brick wall in Greenwich Village: "There is a story 
there, a story that suggests an episode in Murger's Vw de Boheme, 
where the grisette at night waters the flowers to keep them alive. 
The lifetime of the flowers, you remember, was to be the lifetime of 
that transient love." Murger narrates the incident in Chapter VI: 
*T will remam with you," Musette says to Marcel, "until the 
flowers that you have just given me shall fade." Unobserved by 
Marcel she slips out every night and waters the flowers so that the 
liaison is prolonged fifteen days instead of the expected two days. 
But in motif there is hardly more resemblance here than in the 
Slavic and Hungarian folk-songs in which the lover secretly feeds 
wheat to Chanticleer that he may delay his crowing, that being the 
signal for leave-taking. O. Henry, at any rate, has so improved the 
setting and so elevated the motif as to make the resemblance hardly 
recognizable. Is it not possible also that Oliver WendeU Hohnes's 
poem furnished more than the mere title of the story? "The fun in 
Hohnes," says F. H. Underwood (m Good Words, volume 28), "is 
always jostling the pathos. . . . The pathos of The Last 
Leaf is all the more surprising in connection with the queer 
humor in the description of the old man who is the subject of the 



In a little district west of Washington Square the streets 
have run crazy and broken themselves into small strips 
called "places." These *' places" make strange angles and 
curves. One street crosses itself a time or two. An artist 
once discovered a valuable possibility in this street. Suppose 
a collector with a bill for paints, paper, and canvas should, 
in traversing this route, suddenly meet himseK coming back, 
without a cent having been paid on account! 

So, to quaint old Greenwich Village the art people soon 
came prowling, hunting for north windows and eighteenth- 
century gables and Dutch attics and low rents. Then they 
imported some pewter mugs and a chafing dish or two from 
Sixth Avenue, and became a ''colony." 

At the top of a squatty, three-story brick Sue and Johnsy 
had their studio. "Johnsy" was familiar for Joanna. One 
was from INIaine; the other from California. They had met 
at the table dliote of an Eighth Street "Delmonico's," and 
found their tastes in art, chicory salad, and bishop sleeves so 
congenial that the joint studio resulted. 

That was in May. In November a cold, unseen stranger, 
whom the doctors called Pneumonia, stalked about the colony, 
touching one here and there with his icy fingers. Over on 
the East Side this ravager strode boldly, smiting his victims 
by scores, but his feet trod slowly through the maze of the 
narrow and moss-grown "places." 

Mr. Pneumonia was not what you w ould call a chivalric old 
gentleman. A mite of a little woman with blood thinned by 
California zephyrs was hardly fair game for the red-fisted, 
short-breathed old duffer. But Johnsy he smote ; and she lay, 
scarcely moving, on her painted iron bedstead, looking 
through the small Dutch window-panes at the blank side of 
the next brick house. 

One morning the busy cioctor invited Sue into the hallway 
with a shaggy, gray eyebrow. 

"She has one chance in — let as say, ten," he said, as he 
shook down the mercury in his clinical thermometer. "And 
that chance is for her to want to live. This way people have 


of lining-up on the side of the undertaker makes the entire 
pharmacopeia look silly. Your little lady has made up her 
mind that she's not going to get well. Has she anything on 
her mind?" 

"She — she wanted to paint the Bay of Naples some day," 
said Sue. 

"Paint? — bosh! Has she anything on her mind worth 
thinking about twice — a man, for instance? " 

"A man?" said Sue, with a jew's-harp twang in her voice. 
"Is a man worth — but, no, doctor; there is nothing of the 

"Well, it is the weakness, then," said the doctor. "I will 
do all that science, so far as it may filter through my efforts, 
can accomplish. But whenever my patient begins to count 
the carriages in her funeral procession I subtract 50 per cent, 
from the curative power of medicines. If you will get her to 
ask one question about the new winter styles in cloak sleeves 
I will promise you a one-in-five chance for her, instead of one 
in ten." 

After the doctor had gone Sue went into the workroom 
and cried a Japanese napkin to a pulp. Then she swaggered 
into Johnsy's room with her drawing board, whistling 

Johnsy lay, scarcely making a ripple under the bedclothes, 
dth her face toward the window. Sue stopped whisthng, 
thinking she was asleep. 

She arranged her board and began a pen-and-ink drawing 
to illustrate a magazine story. Young artists must pave their 
way to Art by drawing pictures for magazine stories that 
young authors write to pave their way to Literature. 

As Sue was sketching a pair of elegant horse-show riding 
trousers and a monocle on the figure of the hero, an Idaho 
cowboy, she heard a low sound, several times repeated. She 
went quickly to the bedside. 

Johnsy's eyes were open wide. She was looking out the 
window and counting — counting backward. 

"Twelve," she said, and a Httle later "eleven'*; and then 


"ten," and "nine"; and then "eight" and "seven," almost 

Sue looked solicitously out of the window. What was there 
to count .'^ There was only a bare, dreary yard to be seen, 
and the blank side of the brick house twenty feet away. An 
old, old ivy vine, gnarled and decayed at the roots, climbed 
half way up the brick wall. The cold breath of autumn had 
stricken its leaves from the vine until its skeleton branches 
clung, almost bare, to the crumbling bricks. 

"AVhat is it, dear?" asked Sue. 

"Six," said Johnsy, in almost a whisper. "They're falling 
faster now. Three days ago there were almost a hundred. 
It made my head ache to count them. But now it's easy. 
There goes another one. There are only five left now." 

"Five what, dear. Tell your Sudie." 

" Leaves. On the ivy vine. WTien the last one falls I must 
go, too. I've known that for three days. Didn't the doctor 
tell you?" 

"Oh, I never heard of such nonsense," complained Sue, 
wdth magnificent scorn. "TVTiat have old i\'y leaves to do 
with your getting well? And you used to love that vine so, 
you naughty girl. Don't be a goosey. \Miy, the doctor 
told me this morning that your chances for getting well real 
soon were — let's see exactly what he said — he said the chances 
were ten to one ! WTiy, that's almost as good a chance as we 
have in New York when we ride on the street cars or walk 
past a new building. Try to take some broth now, and let 
Sudie go back to her drawing, so she can sell the editor man 
with it, and buy port wine for her sick child, and pork chops 
for her greedy self." 

"You needn't get any more wine," said Johnsy, keeping 
her eyes fixed out the window. "There goes another. No, 
I don't want any broth. That leaves just four. I want to 
see the last one fall before it gets dark. Then I'll go, too." 

"Johnsy, dear," said Sue, bending over her, "will you prom- 
ise me to keep your eyes closed, and not look out the win- 
dow until I am done working? I must hand those drawings 


in by to-morrow. I need the light, or I would draw the 
shade down.'* 

"Couldn't you draw in the other room?" asked Johnsy 

"I'd rather be here by you," said Sue. "Besides, I don't 
want you to keep looking at those silly ivy leaves." 

"Tell me as soon as you have finished," said Johnsy, clos- 
ing her eyes, and lying white and still as a fallen statue, "be- 
cause I want to see the last one fall. I'm tired of waiting. 
I'm tired of thinking. I want to turn loose my hold on every- 
thing, and go sailing down, down, just like one of those poor, 
tired leaves." 

"Try to sleep," said Sue. "I must call Behrman up to be 
my model for the old hermit miner. I'll not be gone a minute. 
Don't try to move till I come back." 

Old Behrman was a painter who lived on the ground floor 
beneath them. He was past sixty and had a Michael 
Angelo's Moses beard curling down from the head of a satyr 
along the body of an imp. Behrman was a failure in art. 
Forty years he had wielded the brush without getting near 
enough to touch the hem of his Mistress's robe. He had been 
always about to paint a masterpiece, but had painted nothing 
except now and then a daub in the line of commerce or ad- 
vertising. He earned a little by serving as a model to those 
young artists in the colony who could not pay the price of a 
professional. He drank gin to excess, and still talked of his 
coming masterpiece. For the rest he was a fierce little old 
man, who scoffed terribly at softness in any one, and who 
regarded himself as especial mastiff -in-waiting to protect the 
two young artists in the studio above. 

Sue found Behrman smelling strongly of juniper berries in 
his dimly lighted den below. In one corner was a blank can- 
vas on an easel that had been waiting there for twenty-five 
years to receive the first line of the masterpiece. She toxd 
him of Johnsy 's fancy, and how she feared she would, indeed, 
light and fragile as a leaf herself, float away when her slight 
hold upon the world grew weaker. 


Old Behrman, with his red eyes plainly streaming, shouteci 
his contempt and derision for such idiotic imaginings. 

"Vass!" he cried. "Is dere people in de world mit der 
foolishness to die because leafs dey drop off from a confounded 
vine? I haf not heard of such a thing. No, I will not bose 
as a model for your fool hermit-dunderhead. Vy do you al- 
low dot silly pusiness to come in der prain of her? Ach, dot 
poor lettle Miss Johnsy.'* 

"She is very ill and weak," said Sue, "and the fever has 
left her mind morbid and full of strange fancies. Very well, 
Mr. Behrman, if you do not care to pose for me, you needn't. 
But I think you are a horrid old — old flibbertigibbet." 

"You are just like a woman!" yelled Behrman. "WTio 
said I vill not bose? Go on. I come mit you. For half an 
hour I haf peen trying to say dot I am ready to bose. Gottl 
dis is not any blace in which one so goot as Miss Yohnsy shall 
lie sick. Some day I vill baint a masterpiece, and ve shall al) 
go away. Gott! yes." 

Johnsy was sleeping when they went upstairs. Sue pulled 
the shade down to the window-sill, and motioned Behrman 
into the other room. In there they peered out the window 
fearfully at the ivy vine. Then they looked at each other for 
a moment without speaking. A persistent, cold rain was 
falling, mingled with snow. Behrman, in his old blue shirt, 
took his seat as the hermit-miner on an upturned kettle for a 

When Sue awoke from an hour's sleep the next morning 
she found Johnsy with dull, wide-open eyes staring at the 
drawn green shade. 

" Pull it up; I want to see," she ordered, in a whisper. 

Wearily Sue obeyed. 

But, lo ! after the beating rain and fierce gusts of wind that 
had endured through the livelong night, there yet stood out 
against the brick wall one ivy leaf. It was the last on the 
vine. Still dark green near its stem, but with its serrated 
edges tinted with the yellow of dissolution and decay, it hung 
bravely from a branch some twenty feet above the ground. 


"It is the last one," said Johnsy. "I thought it would 
surely fall during the night. I heard the wind. It will fall 
to-day, and I shall die at the same time." 

"Dear, dear!" said Sue, leaning her worn face down to the 
pillow, "think of me, if you won't think of yourself. What 
would I do.^" 

But Johnsy did not answer. The lonesomest thing in all 
the world is a soul when it is making ready to go on its mys- 
terious, far journey. The fancy seemed to possess her more 
strongly as one by one the ties that bound her to friendship 
and to earth were loosed. 

The day wore away, and even through the twilight they 
could see the lone ivy leaf clinging to its stem against the wall. 
And then, with the coming of the night the north wind was 
again loosed, while the rain still beat against the windows 
and pattered down from the low Dutch eaves. 

When it was light enough Johnsy, the merciless, com- 
manded that the shade be raised. 

The ivy leaf was still there. 

Johnsy lay for a long time looking at it. And then she 
called to Sue, who was stirring her chicken broth over the gas 

"I've been a bad girl, Sudie," said Johnsy. "Something 
has made that last leaf stay there to show me how wicked I 
was. It is a sin to want to die. You may bring me a little 
broth now, and some milk with a little port in it, and — no; 
bring me a hand-mirror first, and then pack some pillows 
about me, and I will sit up and watch you cook." 

An hour later she said. 

"Sudie, Some day I hope to paint the Bay of Naples." 

The doctor came in the afternoon, and Sue had an excuse 
to go into the hallway as he left. 

"Even chances," said the doctor, taking Sue's thin, shaking 
hand in his. "With good nursing you'll win. And now I 
must see another case I have downstairs. Behrman, his 
name is — some kind of an artist, I believe Pneumonia, too. 
He is an old, weak man, and the attack is acute. There is no 


hope for him; but he goes to the hospital to-day to be made 
more comfortable." 

The next day the doctor said to Sue : " She's out of danger. 
You've won. Nutrition and care now — that's all." 

And that afternoon Sue came to the bed where Johnsy lay, 
contentedly knitting a very blue and very useless woolen 
shoulder scarf, and put one arm around her, pillows and all. 

*'I have something to tell you, white mouse," she said. 
*'Mr. Behrman died of pneumonia to-day in the hospital. 
He was ill only two days. The janitor found him on the 
morning of the first day in his room doTvTistairs helpless with 
pain. His shoes and clothing were wet through and icy cold, 
They couldn't imagine where he had been on such a dreadful 
night. And then they found a lantern, still lighted, and a 
ladder that had been dragged from its place, and some scat- 
tered brushes, and a palette with green and yellow colors 
mixed on it, and — look out the window, dear, at the last ivy 
leaf on the wall. Didn't you wonder why it never fluttered 
or moved when the wind blew? Ah, darling, it's Behrman's 
masterpiece — he painted it there the night that the last leaf 


From The Four Million. First published in The World, December 
10, 1905. "And when they [the magi] were come into the house, 
they saw the young child with Mary, his mother, and fell down, and 
worshipped him; and when they had opened their treasures, they 
presented unto him gifts: gold, and frankincense, and myrrh" 
{Matthew, 11, 11). These were the gifts of the magi but their gift 
was love; and love is the theme of this perfect little Christmas story. 
The infant Christ could make no use of gold or frankincense or 
myrrh, nor could Delia and Jim make use of the combs and the 
chain. But the love that prompted the giving shines all the brighter 
because the gifts were, in a utilitarian sense, egregious misfits. 
*'That the gold at least," says a learned commentator, "would be 
highly serviceable to the parents in their unexpected journey to 
Egypt and during their stay there — thus much at least admits of no 
dispute." Perhaps so. But read the famous passage once more 
and turn again to O. Henry's story. WTiich interpretation goes 
deeper into the heart of the incident? Which is more in accord with 
the spirit of the text? Which leaves you more in love with love? 
Notice that the real surprise in this story is not m what the lovers 
do. It is in what O. Henry says about what they do. He con- 
gratulates them. They acted wisely. But all this is told us at the 
end. The author has thus combined in a single paragraph his 
terminal surprise and the explanatory remarks that usually come 
first. See Sqimring the Circle, page 97. 

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And 
sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two 
at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man 
and the butcher until one's cheeks burned with the silent im- 
putation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three 
times Delia counted it. One dollar and eighty-seven cents. 
And the next day would be Christmas. 



There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the 
shabby little couch and howl. So Delia did it. Wliich in- 
stigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, 
snifiles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating. 

^yhile the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from 
the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A fur- 
nished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar de- 
scription, but it certainly had that word on the lookout for 
the mendicancy squad. 

In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter 
would go, and an electric button from which no mortal finger 
could coax a ring. Also appertaining thereunto was a card 
bearing the name "Mr. James Dillingham Young." 

The "Dillingham" had been flung to the breeze during a 
former period of prosperity when its possessor was being paid 
$30 per week. Now, when the income was shrunk to $20, 
the letters of "Dillingham" looked blurred, as though they 
were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and un- 
assuming D. But whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young 
came home and reached his flat above he was called "Jim" 
and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, al- 
ready introduced to you as Defla. Which is all very good. 

Delia finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the 
powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully 
at a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard. To- 
morrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 
with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every 
penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars 
a week doesn't go far. Expenses had been greater than she 
had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a 
present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent 
planning for something nice for him. Something fine and 
rare and sterling — something just a little bit near to being 
worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim. 

There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room. 
Perhaps you have seen a pier-glass in an $8 flat. A very thin 
and very agile person may, by observing his reflection in a 


rapid sequence of longitudinal strips, obtain a fairly accurate 
conception of his looks. Delia, being slender, had mastered 
the art. 

Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before 
the glass. Her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face 
had lost its color within twenty seconds. Rapidly she pulled 
down her hair and let it fall to its full length. 

Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham 
Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was 
Jim's gold watch that had been his father's and his grand- 
father's. The other was Delia's hair. Had the Queen of 
Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Delia would have 
let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to de- 
preciate Her Majesty's jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon 
been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the base- 
ment, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he 
passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy. 

So now Delia's beautiful hair fell about her, rippling and 
shining like a cascade of bro^Ti waters. It reached below 
her knee and made itself almost a garment for her. And 
then she did it up again nervously and quickly. Once she 
faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two 
splashed on the worn red carpet. 

On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat. 
With a whirl of skirts and with the brilliant sparkle still in 
her eyes, she fluttered out the door and down the stairs to the 

Where she stopped the sign read: "Mme. Sofronie. 
Hair Goods of All Kinds." One flight up Delia ran, and 
collected herself, panting. Madame, large, too w^hite, chilly, 
hardly looked the "Sofronie." 

"Will you buy my hair?" asked Delia. 

"I buy hair," said Madame. "Take yer hat off and let's 
have a sight at the looks of it." 

Down rippled the brown cascade. 

"Twenty dollars," said Madame, lifting the mass with a 
practised hand. 


"Give it to me quick," said Delia. 

Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings. For- 
get the hashed metaphor. She was ransacking the stores for 
Jim's present. 

She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and 
no one else. There was no other like it in any of the stores, 
and she had turned all of them inside out. It was a platinum 
fob chain simple and chaste in design, properly proclaiming 
its value by substance alone and not by meretricious orna- 
mentation — as all good things should be. It was even 
worthy of The Watch. As soon as she saw it she knew that 
it must be Jim's. It was like him. Quietness and value — 
the description applied to both. Twenty-one dollars they 
took from her for it, and she hurried home with the 87 cents. 
With that chain on his watch Jim might be properly anxious 
about the time in any company. Grand as the watch was, 
he sometimes looked at it on the sly on account of the old 
leather strap that he used in place of a chain. 

WTien Delia reached home her intoxication gave way a 
little to prudence and reason. She got out her curlmg irons 
and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages 
made by generosity added to love. WTiich is always a tre- 
mendous task, dear friends — a mammoth task. 

Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, close- 
lying curls that made her look wonderfully like a truant 
schoolboy. She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, 
carefully, and critically. 

"If Jim doesn't kill me," she said to herself, "before he 
takes a second look at me, he'll say I look like a Coney Island 
chorus girl. But what could I do — oh! what could I do w^ith 
a dollar and eighty-seven cents .^" 

At 7 o'clock the coffee was made and the frying-pan was 
on the back of the stove hot and ready to cook the chops. 

Jim was never late. Delia doubled the fob chain in her 
hand and sat on the corner of the table near the door that he 
always entered. Then she heard his step on the stair away 
down on the first flight, and she turned white for just a mo- 


ment. She had a habit of saying Uttle silent prayers about the 
simplest everyday things, and now she whispered: "Please 
God, make him think I am still pretty." 

The door opened and Jim stepped in and closed it. He 
looked thin and serious. Poor fellow, he was only twenty- 
two — and to be burdened with a family! He needed a new 
overcoat and he was without gloves. 

Jim stopped inside the door, as immovable as a setter at 
the scent of quail. His eyes were fixed upon Delia, and there 
was an expression in them that she could not read, and it 
terrified her. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, 
nor horror, nor any of the sentiments that she had been pre- 
pared for. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar 
expression on his face. 

Delia wriggled off the table and went for him. 

"Jim, darling," she cried, "don't look at me that way. I 
had my hair cut off and sold it because I couldn't have lived 
through Christmas without giving you a present. It'll grow 
out again — ^you won't mind, will you.^^ I just had to do it. 
My hair grows awfully fast. Say * Merry Christmas!' Jim, 
and let's be happy. You don't know what a nice — what a 
beautiful, nice gift I've got for you." 

"You've cut off your hair.^^ " asked Jim, laboriously, as if he 
had not arrived at that patent fact yet even after the hardest 
mental labor. 

"Cut it off and sold it," said Delia. "Don't you like me 
just as well, anyhow .^^ I'm me without my hair, ain't I?" 

Jim looked about the room ciu*iously. 

"You say your hair is gone.^" he said, with an air almost 
of idiocy. 

"You needn't look for it," said Delia. "It's sold, I tell 
you — sold and gone, too. It's Christmas Eve, boy. Be good 
to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were 
numbered," she went on with a sudden serious sweetness, 
"but nobody could ever coimt my love for you. Shall I put 
the chops on, Jim?" 

Out of his trance Jim seemed quickly to wake. He enfolded 


his Delia. For ten seconds let us regard with discreet scrut* 
iny some inconsequential object in the other direction. Eight 
dollars a week or a million a year — what is the difference.? 
A mathematician or a wit would give you the 'WTong an- 
swer. The magi brought valuable gifts, but that was not 
among them. This dark assertion will be illuminated later 

Jim drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it 
upon the table. 

"Don't make any mistake, Dell," he said, "about me. I 
don't think there's anything in the way of a haircut or a shave 
or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less. But 
if you'll un^^Tap that package you may see why you had me 
going awhile at first." 

AVhite fingers and nimble tore at the string and paper. 
And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! a quick 
feminine change to hysterical tears and wails, necessitating 
the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of 
the lord of the flat. 

For there lay The Combs — the set of combs, side and back, 
that Delia had worshipped for long in a Broadway window. 
Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jeweled rims — 
just the shade to wear in the beautiful vanished hair. Thej" 
were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply 
craved and yearned over them without the least hope of 
possession. And now, they were hers, but the tresses that 
should have adorned the coveted adornments were gone. 

But she hugged them to her bossom, and at length she was 
able to look up with dim eyes and a smile and say: "My 
hair grows so fast, Jim!" 

And then Delia leaped up like a little singed cat and cried, 
"Oh, oh!" 

Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out 
to him eagerly upon her open palm. The dull precious metal 
seemed to flash with a reflection of her bright and ardent 

"Isn't it a dandy, Jim? I hunted all over town to find it. 


You'll have to look at the time a hundred times a day now. 
Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it." 

Instead of obeying, Jim tumbled down on the couch and 
put his hands under the back of his head and smiled. 

"Dell," said he, "let's put our Christmas presents away 
and keep 'em awhile. They're too nice to use just at present. 
I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And 
now suppose you put the chops on." 

The magi, as you know, were wise men— wonderfully wise 
men— who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They 
invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, 
their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privi- 
lege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have 
lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish 
children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other 
the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to 
the wise of these days let it be said that of all who gave gifts 
these two were the wisest . Of all who give and receive gifts 
such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. Thev 
are the magi. ^ 


From Heart of the West. First published in Munsey's Magazine, 
July, 1906. Twice before this story was written O. Henry had 
staged a courtship in which the two rival suitors adopt opposed 
methods, and a year before his death he returned to the contest with 
four strategic suitors instead of two. But the contrast between the 
rivals is better based and better enacted in this roaring farce than 
in either Psyche and the Pskyscraper or Telemachus, Friend or A Poor 
Rule. The contrast here is between the ultra-matter-of-fact man 
and the ultra-imaginative man, between the statistical and the 
poetic mind. In its two leading characters the story is a sort of 
miniature Don Quixote: Sanderson Pratt, like Sancho Panza, is the 
f actualist; Idaho Green, like the Knight de la Mancha, is the ro- 
manticist. The factualist wins out, though O. Henry's heart was 
with Omar, not with Herkimer. Perhaps, however, he meant us to 
see in the character of Mrs. Sampson a victorious defeat for the up- 
holder of Omar. 

'Tis the opinion of myself, Sanderson Pratt, who sets this 
down, that the educational system of the United States 
should be in the hands of the weather bureau. I can give 
you good reasons for it; and you can't tell me why our college 
professors shouldn't be transferred to the meteorological de- 
partment. They have been learned to read; and they could 
very easily glance at the morning papers and then wire in to 
the main office what kind of weather to expect. But there's 
the other side of the proposition. I am going on to tell you 
how the weather furnished me and Idaho Green with an ele- 
gant education. 

We was up in Bitter Root Mountains over the Montana 
line prospecting for gold. A chin-whiskered man in Walla- 
Walla, carrying a line of hope as excess baggage, had grub- 



staked us; and there we was in the foothills pecking away, 
with enough grub on hand to last an army through a peace 

Along one day comes a mail-rider over the mountains from 
Carlos, and stops to eat three cans of green-gages, and leave us 
a newspaper of modern date. This paper prints a system of 
premonitions of the weather, and the card it dealt Bitter 
Root Mountains from the bottom of the deck was "warmer 
and fair, with light westerly breezes." 

That evening it began to snow, with the wind strong in the 
east. Me and Idaho moved camp into an old empty cabin 
higher up the mountain, thinking it was only a November 
flurry. But after falling three foot on a level it went to work 
in earnest; and we knew we was snowed in. We got in plenty 
of firewood before it got deep, and we had grub enough for 
two months, so we let the elements rage and cut up all they 
thought proper. 

If you want to instigate the art of manslaughter just shut 
two men up in a eighteen by twenty -foot cabin for a month. 
Human nature won't stand it. 

When the first snowflakes fell me and Idaho Green laughed 
at each other's jokes and praised the stuff we turned out of a 
skillet and called bread. At the end of three weeks Idaho 
makes this kind of a edict to me. Says he : 

"I never exactly heard sour milk dropping out of a balloon 
on the bottom of a tin pan, but I have an idea it would be 
music of the spears compared to this attenuated stream of 
asphyxiated thought that emanates out of your organs of 
conversation. The kind of half -masticated noises that you 
emit every day puts me in mind of a cow's cud, only she's 
lady enough to keep hers to herself, and you ain't." 

"Mr. Green," says I, "you having been a friend of mine 
once, I have some hesitations in confessing to you that if I 
had my choice for society between you and a common yellow, 
three-legged cur pup, one of the inmates of this here cabin 
would be wagging a tail just at present." 

This way we goes on for two or three days, and then we 


quits speaking to one another. We divides up the cooking 
implements, and Idaho cooks his grub on one side of the fire- 
place, and me on the other. The snow is up to the windows, 
and we have to keep a fire all day. 

You see me and Idaho never had any education beyond 
reading and doing "if John had three apples and James five" 
on a slate. We never felt any special need for a university 
degree, though we had acquired a species of intrinsic intelli- 
gence in knocking around the world that we could use in 
emergencies. But snowbound in that cabin in the Bitter 
Roots, we felt for the first time that if we had studied Homer 
or Greek and fractions and the higher branches of informa- 
tion, we'd have had some resources in the line of meditation 
and private thought. I've seen them Eastern college fellows 
working in camps all through the West, and I never noticed 
but what education was less of a drawback to 'em than you 
w^ould think. WTiy, once over on Snake River, when Andrew 
Mc Williams' saddle horse got the botts, he sent a buckboard 
ten miles for one of these strangers that claimed to be a bota- 
nist. But that horse died. 

One morning Idaho was poking around with a stick on top 
of a little shelf that was too high to reach. Two books fell 
down to the floor. I started toward 'em, but caught Idaho's 
eye. He speaks for the first time in a week. 

"Don't burn your fingers," says he. "In spite of the fact 
that you're only fit to be the companion of a sleeping mud- 
turtle, I'll give you a square deal. And that's more than 
your parents did when they turned you loose in the world 
with the sociability of a rattlesnake and the bedside manner of 
a frozen turnip. I'll play you a game of seven-up, the winner 
to pick up his choice of the book, the loser to take the other." 

We played; and Idaho won. He picked up his book; and 1 
took mine. Then each of us got on his side of the house and 
went to reading. 

I never was as glad to see a ten-ounce nugget as I was that 
book. And Idaho looked at his like a kid looks at a stick 
of candy. 


Mine was a little book about five by six inches called "Her- 
kimer's Handbook of Indispensable Information." I may 
be wrong, but I think that was the greatest book that ever 
was written. I've got it to-day; and I can stump you or any 
man fifty times in five minutes with the information in it. 
Talk about Solomon or the New York Tribune! Herkimer 
had cases on both of 'em. That man must have put in fifty 
years and traveled a million miles to find out all that stuff. 
There was the population of all cities in it, and the way to 
tell a girl's age, and the number of teeth a camel has. It 
told you the longest tunnel in the world, the number of the 
stars, how long it takes for chicken pox to break out, what a 
lady's neck ought to measure, the veto powers of Governors, 
the dates of the Roman aqueducts, how many pounds of rice 
going without three beers a day would buy, the average an- 
nual temperature of Augusta, Maine, the quantity of seed re- 
quired to plant an acre of carrots in drills, antidotes for poi- 
sons, the number of hairs on a blonde lady's head, how to pre- 
serve eggs, the height of all the mountains in the world, and 
the dates of all wars and battles, and how to restore drowned 
persons, and sunstroke, and the number of tacks in a pound, 
and how to make dynamite and flowers and beds, and what to 
do before the doctor comes — and a hundred times as many 
things besides. If there was anything Herkimer didn't know 
I didn't miss it out of the book. 

I sat and read that book for four hours. All the wonders 
of education was compressed in it. I forgot the snow, and I 
forgot that me and old Idaho was on the outs. He was sit- 
ting still on a stool reading away with a kind of partly soft 
and partly mysterious look shining through his tan-bark 

"Idaho," says I, "what kind of a book is yours?" 

Idaho must have forgot, too, for he answered moderate, 
without any slander or malignity. 

"Why," says he, "this here seems to be a volume by Homer 

"Homer K. M. what.?" I asked. 


"WTiy, just Homer K. M.," says he. 

"You're a liar," says I, a little riled that Idaho should 
try to put me up a tree. "No man is going 'round signing 
books with his initials. If it's Homer K. M. Spoopendyke, 
or Homer K. M. McSweeney, or Homer K. M. Jones, why 
don't you say so like a man instead of biting off the end of it 
like a calf chewing off the tail of a shirt on a clothes-line?" 

" I put it to you straight, Sandy," says Idaho, quiet. " It's 
a poem book," says he, "by Homer K. M. I couldn't get 
color out of it at first, but there's a vein if you follow it up. 
I wouldn't have missed this book for a pair of red blankets.'* 

"You're welcome to it," says I. "What I want is a disin- 
terested statement of facts for the mind to w;ork on, and that's 
what I seem to fiind in the book I've drawTi." 

"^Vhat you've got," says Idaho, "is statistics, the lowest 
grade of information that exists. They'll poison your mind. 
Give me old K. M.'s system of surmises. He seems to be a 
kind of a wine agent. His regular toast is 'nothing doing,' 
and he seems to have a grouch, but he keeps it so well lubri- 
cated with booze that his worst kicks sound like an invitation 
to split a quart. But it's poetry," says Idaho, "and I have 
sensations of scorn for that truck of yours that tries to con- 
vey sense in feet and inches. When it comes to explaining 
the instinct of philosophy through the art of nature, old 
K. M. has got your man beat by drills, rows, paragraphs, 
chest measurement, and average annual rainfall." 

So that's the way me and Idaho had it. Day and night all 
the excitement we got was studying our books. That snow- 
storm sure fixed us with a fine lot of attainments apiece. By 
the time the snow melted, if you had stepped up to me sud- 
denly and said: "Sanderson Pratt, what would it cost per 
square foot to lay a roof with twenty by twenty -eight tin at 
nine dollars and fifty cents per box?" I'd have told you as 
quick as light could travel the length of a spade handle at 
the rate of one hundred and ninety -two thousand miles per 
second. Howmany cando it? You wake up 'most any man 
you know in the middle of the night, and ask him quick to 


tell you the number of bones in the human skeleton exclusive 
of the teeth, or what percentage of the vote of the Nebraska 
Legislature overrules a veto. Will he tell you ? Try him and 

About what benefit Idaho got out of his poetry book I 
didn't exactly know. Idaho boosted the wine-agent every 
time he opened his mouth; but I wasn't so sure. 

This Homer K. M., from what leaked out of his libretto 
through Idaho, seemed to me to be a kind of a dog who looked 
at life like it was a tin can tied to his tail. After running 
himself half to death, he sits down, hangs his tongue out, and 
looks at the can and says: 

"Oh, well, since we can't shake the growler, let's get it 
filled at the corner, and all have a drink on me." 

Besides that, it seems he was a Persian; and I never hear of 
Persia producing anything worth mentioning unless it was 
Turkish rugs and Maltese cats. 

That spring me and Idaho struck pay ore. It was a habit 
of ours to sell out quick and keep moving. We unloaded on 
our grubstaker for eight thousand dollars apiece; and then 
we drifted down to this little town of Rosa, on the Salmon 
River, to rest up, and get some human grub, and have our 
whiskers harvested. 

Rosa was no mining-camp. It laid in the valley, and was 
as free of uproar and pestilence as one of them rural towns in 
the country. There was a three-mile trolley line champing 
its bit in the environs; and me and Idaho spent a week riding 
on one of the cars, dropping off of nights at the Sunset View 
Hotel. Being now well read as well as traveled, we was 
soon pro re nata with the best society in Rosa, and was in- 
vited out to the most dressed-up and high-toned entertain- 
ments. It was at a piano recital and quail-eating contest in 
the city hall, for the benefit of the fire company, that me and 
Idaho first met Mrs. De Ormond Sampson, the queen of Rosa 

Mrs. Sampson was a widow, and owned the only two-story 
house in town. It was painted yellow, and whichever way 


you looked from, you could see it as plain as egg on the chin 
of an O' Grady on a Friday. Twenty-two men in Rosa be- 
sides me and Idaho was trying to stake a claim on that yellow 

There was a dance after the song books and quail bones 
had been raked out of the Hall. Twenty-three of the bunch 
galloped over to Mrs. Sampson and asked for a dance. I 
side-stepped the two-step, and asked permission to escort her 
home. That's where I made a hit. 

On the way home says she: 

"Ain't the stars lovely and bright to-night, Mr. Pratt?" 

"For the chance they've got," says I, "they're humping 
themselves in a mighty creditable way. The big one you 
see is sixty-six billions of miles distant. It took thirty-six 
years for its light to reach us. With an eighteen-foot tele- 
scope you can see forty-three millions of 'em, including them 
of the thirteenth magnitude, which, if one was to go out now, 
you w^ould keep on seeing it for twenty-seven hundred years." 

"My!" says Mrs. Sampson. "I never knew that before. 
How warm it is ! I'm as damp as I can be from dancing so 

"That's easy to account for," says I, "when you happen 
to know that you've got two million sweat-glands working 
all at once. If every one of your perspiratory ducts, which 
are a quarter of an inch long, was placed end to end, they 
would reach a distance of seven miles." 

"Lawsy!" says Mrs. Sampson. "It sounds like an irriga- 
tion ditch you was describing, Mr. Pratt. How do you get 
all this knowledge of information.^" 

"From observation, Mrs. Sampson," I tells her. "I keep 
my eyes open when I go about the world." 

"Mr. Pratt," says she, "I always did admire a man of 
education. There are so few scholars among the sap-headed 
plug-uglies of this town that it is a real pleasure to converse 
with a gentleman of culture. I'd be gratified to have you 
call at my house whenever you feel so inclined." 

And that was the way I got the goodwill of the lady in the 


yellow house. Every Tuesday and Friday evenings I used 
to go there and tell her about the wonders of the universe as 
discovered, tabulated, and compiled from nature by Herki- 
mer. Idaho and the other gay Lutherans of the town got 
every minute of the rest of the week that they could. 

I never imagined that Idaho was trying to work on IVIrs. 
Sampson with old K. M.'s rules of courtship till one afternoon 
when I was on my way over to take her a basket of wild hog- 
plums. I met the lady coming down the lane that led to her 
house. Her eyes was snapping, and her hat made a danger- 
ous dip over one eye. 

"Mr. Pratt," she opens up, "this Mr. Green is a friend of 
yours, I believe." 

"For nine years," says I. 

"Cut him out," says she. "He's no gentleman!" 

"Why ma'am," says I, "he's a plain incumbent of the 
mountains, with asperities and the usual failings of a spend- 
thrift and a liar, but I never on the most momentous occasion 
had the heart to deny that he was a gentleman. It may be 
that in haberdashery and the sense of arrogance and display 
Idaho offends the eye, but inside, ma'am, I've found him 
impervious to the lower grades of crime and obesity. After 
nine years of Idaho's society, Mrs. Sampson," I winds up, 
"I should hate to impute him, and I should hate to see him 

"It's right plausible of you, Mr. Pratt," says Mrs. Samp- 
son, "to take up the curmudgeons in your friend's behalf; 
but it don't alter the fact that he has made proposals to 
me sufficiently obnoxious to ruffle the ignominy of any 

"Why, now, now, now!" says I. "Old Idaho do that! I 
could believe it of myself sooner. I never knew but one thing 
to deride in him; and a blizzard was responsible for that. 
Once while we was snowbound in the mountains he became a 
prey to a kind of spurious and uneven poetry, which may 
have corrupted his demeanor." 

"It has," says Mrs. Sampson. "Ever since I knew him 


he has been reciting to me a lot of irreligious rhymes by some 
person he calls Ruby Ott, and who is no better than she 
should be, if you judge by her poetry." 

"Then Idaho has struck a new book," says I, "for the one 
he had was by a man who writes under the nom de phwie of 
K. M." 

"He'd better have stuck to it," says Mrs. Sampson, "what- 
ever it was. And to-day he caps the vortex. I get a bunch 
of flowers from him, and on 'em is pinned a note. Now, 
Mr. Pratt, you know a lady when you see her; and you know 
how I stand in Rosa society. Do you think for a moment 
that I'd skip out to the woods with a man along with a jug 
of wine and a loaf of bread, and go singing and cavorting up 
and down under the trees with him.'^ I take a little claret 
with my meals, but I'm not in the habit of packing a jug of 
it into the brush and raising Cain in any such style as that. 
And of course he'd bring his book of verses along, too. He 
said so. Let him go on his scandalous picnics alone! Or 
let him take his Ruby Ott with him. I reckon she wouldn't 
kick unless it was on account of there being too much bread 
along. And what do you think of your gentleman friend 
now, IVIr. Pratt?" 

"Well, 'm," says I, "it may be that Idaho's invitation was 
a kind of poetry, and meant no harm. May be it belonged 
to the class of rhymes they call figurative. They offend 
law and order, but they get sent through the mails on the 
grounds that they mean something that they don't say. I'd 
be glad on Idaho's account if you'd overlook it," says I, "and 
let us extricate our minds from the low regions of poetry to 
the higher planes of fact and fancy. On a beautiful afternoon 
like this, Mrs. Sampson," I goes on, "we should let our 
thoughts dwell accordingly. Though it is warm here, we 
should remember that at the equator the line of perpetual 
frost is at an altitude of fifteen thousand feet. Between 
the latitudes of forty degrees and forty-nine degrees it is 
from four thousand to nine thousand feet." 

"Oh, jVIt. Pratt," says Mrs. Sampson, "it's such a comfort 


to hear you say them beautiful facts after getting such a jar 
from that minx of a Ruby's poetry!" 

"Let us sit on this log at the roadside," says I, "and forget 
the inhumanity and ribaldry of the poets. It is in the glori- 
ous columns of ascertained facts and legalized measures that 
beauty is to be found. In this very log we sit upon, Mrs. 
Sampson," says I, "is statistics more wonderful than any 
poem. The rings show it was sixty years old. At the depth 
of two thousand feet it would become coal in three thousand 
years. The deepest coal mine in the world is at Killingworth, 
near Newcastle. A box four feet long, three feet w^de, and 
two feet eight inches deep will hold one ton of coal. If 
an artery is cut, compress it above the wound. A man's 
leg contains thirty bones. The Tower of London was burned 
in 1841." 

"Go on, Mr. Pratt," says Mrs. Sampson. "Them ideas 
is so original and soothing. I think statistics are just as 
lovely as they can be." 

But it wasn't till two weeks later that I got all that was 
coming to me out of Herkimer. 

One night I was waked up by folks hollering "Fire!" all 
around. I jumped up and dressed and went out of the hotel 
to enjoy the scene. When I seen it was Mrs. Sampson's 
house, I gave forth a kind of yell, and I was there in two 

The whole lower story of the yellow house was in flames, 
and every masculine, feminine, and canine in Rosa was there, 
screeching and barking and getting in the way of the firemen. 
I saw Idaho trying to get away from six firemen who were 
holding him. They was telling him the whole place was on 
fire downstairs, and no man could go in it and come out alive. 

"Where's Mrs. Sampson?" I asks. 

"She hasn't been seen," says one of the firemen. "She 
sleeps upstairs. We've tried to get in, but we can't, and our 
company hasn't got any ladders yet." 

I runs around to the light of the big blaze, and pulls the 
Handbook out of my inside pocket. I kind of laughed when 


I felt it in my hands — I reckon I was some daffy with the sen- 
sation of excitement. 

"Herky, old boy," I says to it, as I flipped over the pages, 
"you ain't ever lied to me yet, and you ain't ever thro wed 
me doTVTi at a scratch yet. Tell me what, old boy, tell me 
what!" says I. 

I turned to "\Miat to do in Case of Accidents," on page 
117. I run my finger down the page, and struck it. Good 
old Herkimer, he never overlooked anything! It said: 

Suffocation from Inhaling Smoke or Gas. — There is nothing 
better than flaxseed. Place a few seed in the outer comer of the eye. 

I shoved the Handbook back in my pocket, and grabbed 
a boy that was running by. 

"Here," says I, giving him some money, "run to the drug 
store and bring a dollar's worth of flaxseed. Hurry, and 
you'll get another one for yourself. Now," I sings out to 
the crowd, "we'll have Mrs. Sampson!" And I throws away 
my coat and hat. 

Four of the firemen and citizens grabs hold of me. It's 
sure death, they say, to go in the house, for the floors was 
beginning to fall through. 

"How in blazes," I sings out, kind of laughing yet, but not 
feeling like it, "do you expect me to put flaxseed in a eye 
without the eye?" 

I jabbed each elbow in a fireman's face, kicked the bark 
off of one citizen's shin, and tripped the other one with a side 
hold. And then I busted into the house. If I die first I'll 
write you a letter and tell you if it's any worse down there 
than the inside of that yellow house was ; but don't believe it 
yet. I was a heap more cooked than the hurry-up orders 
of broiled chicken that you get in restaurants. The fire 
and smoke had me down on the floor twice, and was about to 
shame Herkimer, but the firemen helped me with their little 
stream of water, and I got to Mrs. Sampson's room. She'd 
lost conscientiousness from the smoke, so I wrapped her in 


the bedclothes and got her on my shoulder. Well, the floors 
wasn't as bad as they said, or I never could have done it — 
not by no means. 

I carried her out fifty yards from the house and laid her on 
the grass. Then, of course, every one of them other twenty- 
two plaintiffs to the lady's hand crowded around with tin 
dippers of water ready to save her. And up runs the boy 
with the flaxseed. 

I unwrapped the covers from Mrs. Sampson's head. She 
opened her eyes and says: 

"Is that you, Mr. Pratt.?" 

"S-s-sh," says I. "Don't talk till you've had the remedy." 

I runs my arm around her neck and raises her head, gentle, 
and breaks the bag of flaxseed with the other hand; and as 
easy as I could I bends over and slips three or four of the seeds 
in the outer corner of her eye. 

Up gallops the village doc by this time, and snorts around, 
and grabs at Mrs. Sampson's pulse, and wants to know what 
I mean by any such sandblasted nonsense. 

"Well, old Jalap and Jerusalem oakseed," says I, "I'm 
no regular practitioner, but I'll show you my authority, 

They fetched my coat, and I gets out the Handbook. 

"Look on page 117," says I, "at the remedy for suffoca- 
tion by smoke or gas. Flaxseed in the outer corner of the 
eye, it says. I don't know whether it works as a smoke-con- 
sumer or whether it hikes the compound gastro-hippopotamus 
nerve into action, but Herkimer says it, and he was called 
to the case first. If you want to make it a consultation, 
there's no objection." 

Old doc takes the book and looks at it by means of his 
specs and a fireman's lantern. 

"Well, Mr. Pratt," says he, "you evidently got on the 
wrong line in reading your diagnosis. The recipe for suffoca- 
tion says : 'Get the patient into fresh air as quickly as possible, 
and place in a rechning position.' The flaxseed remedy is 
for *Dust and Cinders in the Eye,' on the line above. But, 
after all " 


"See here," interrupts Mrs. Sampson, "I reckon I've got 
something to say in this consultation. That flaxseed done 
me more good than anything I ever tried." And then she 
raises up her head and lays it back on my arm again, and 
says: "Put some in the other eye, Sandy dear." 

And so if you was to stop off at Rosa to-morrow, or any 
other day, you'd see a fine new yellow house with Mrs. Pratt, 
that was ^Irs. Sampson, embellishing and adorning it. And 
if you was to step inside you'd see on the marble-top centre 
table in the parlor "Herkimer's Handbook of Indispensable 
Information," all rebound in red morocco, and ready to be 
consulted on any subject pertaining to human happiness and 


From The Trimmed Lamp. First published in McClure's Maga- 
s^ine, August, 1906. Unlike most of O. Henry's shop-girl stories 
The Trimmed Lamp does not concern itself with possible pitfalls but 
with means of self-improvement. It is a classic of self-culture 
through the vocation. Its text might well have been these words 
of the historian Froude: "Every occupation, even the meanest — 
I don't say the scavenger's or the chimney-sweep's — but every 
productive occupation which adds anything to the capital of man- 
kind, if followed assiduously with a desire to understand everything 
connected with it, is an ascending stair whose summit is nowhere, 
and from the successive steps of which the horizon of knowledge 
perpetually enlarges." Notice the three types of character sketched: 
Dan, like Kent in King Lear or Horatio in Hamlet, is the good, 
steady, stationary type; Nancy is the ascending type; Lou is the 
descending type. ''The Trimmed Lamp," said O. Henry, "is the 
other side of An Unfinished Story.''' It is the other side because 
Nancy, the leading character, moves or is seK-impelled upward, 
while Dulcie moved or was drawn downward. 

Of course there are two sides to the question. Let us 
look at the other. We often hear "shop-girls" spoken of. 
No such persons exist. There are girls who work in shops. 
They make their living that way. But why turn their occu- 
pation into an adjective? Let us be fair. We do not refer 
to the girls who live on Fifth Avenue as "marriage-girls." 

Lou and Nancy were chums. They came to the big city 
to find work because there was not enough to eat at their 
homes to go around. Nancy was nineteen; Lou was twenty. 
Both were pretty, active, country girls who had no ambition 
to go on the stage. 

The little cherub that sits up aloft guided them to a cheap 



and respectable boarding-house. Both found positions and 
became wage-earners. They remained chums. It is at the 
end of six months that I would beg you to step forward and 
be introduced to them. Meddlesome Reader: My Lady 
friends, Miss Nancy and Miss Lou. TMiile you are shaking 
hands please take notice — cautiously — of their attire. Yes, 
cautiously; for they are as quick to resent a stare as a lady 
in a box at the horse show is. 

Lou is a piece-work ironer in a hand laundry. She is 
clothed in a badly fitting purple dress, and her hat plume is 
four inches too long; but her ermine muff and scarf cost $25, 
and its fellow beasts will be ticketed in the windows at $7.98 
before the season is over. Her cheeks are pink, and her light 
blue eyes bright. Contentment radiates from her. 

Nancy you would call a shop-girl — because you have the 
habit. There is no type ; but a perverse generation is always 
seeking a type; so this is what the type should be. She has 
the high-ratted pompadour, and the exaggerated straight- 
front. Her skirt is shoddy, but has the correct flare. No 
furs protect her against the bitter spring air, but she wears 
her short broadcloth jacket as jauntily as though it were 
Persian lamb ! On her face and in her eyes, remorseless type- 
seeker, is the typical shop-girl expression. It is a look of 
silent but contemptuous revolt against cheated womanhood; 
of sad prophecy of the vengeance to come. \^Tien she laughs 
her loudest the look is still there. The same look can be 
seen in the eyes of Russian peasants; and those of us left will 
see it some day on Gabriel's face when he comes to blow us 
up. It is a look that should wither and abash man; but he 
has been known to smirk at it and offer flowers — with a string 
tied to them. 

Now lift your hat and come away, while you receive Lou's 
cheery "See you again," and the sardonic, sweet smile of 
Nancy that seems, somehow, to miss you and go fluttering 
like a white moth up over the housetops to the stars. 

The two waited on the corner for Dan. Dan was Lou's 
steady company. Faithful.^ Well, he was on hand when 


Mary would have had to hire a dozen subpoena servers to 
find her lamb. 

"Ain't you cold, Nance? " said Lou. "Say, what a chump 
you are for working in that old store for $8 a week! I 
made $18.50 last week. Of course ironing ain't as swell 
work as selling lace behind a counter, but it pays. None of 
us ironers make less than $10. And I don't know that it's 
any less respectful work, either." 

*'You can have it," said Nancy, w^th uplifted nose. "I'll 
take my eight a week and hall bedroom. I like to be among 
nice things and swell people. And look what a chance I've 
got ! Why, one of our glove girls married a Pittsburgh — steel 
maker, or blacksmith or something — the other day worth a 
million dollars. I'll catch a swell myself some time. I ain't 
bragging on my looks or anything; but I'll take my chances 
where there's big prizes offered. \^liat show would a girl 
have in a laundry .f^" 

"Why, that's where I met Dan," said Lou, triumphantly. 
"He came in for his Sunday shirt and collars and saw me at 
the first board, ironing. We all try to get to work at the 
first board. Ella Maginnis was sick that day, and I had her 
place. He said he noticed my arms first, how round and 
white they was. I had my sleeves rolled up. Some nice 
fellows come into laundries. You can tell 'em by their bring- 
ing their clothes in suit cases, and turning in the door sharp 
and sudden." 

"How can you wear a waist like that, Lou?" said Nancy, 
gazing down at the offending article with sweet scorn in her 
heavy-lidded eyes. "It shows fierce taste." 

"This waist?" cried Lou, w4th wide-eyed indignation. 
"Why, I paid $16 for this waist. It's worth twenty-five. 
A woman left it to be laundered, and never called for it. The 
boss sold it to me. It's got yards and yards of hand em- 
broidery on it. Better talk about that ugly, plain thing 
you've got on." 

"This ugly, plain thing," said Nancy, calmly, "was copied 
from one that Mrs. Van Alstyne Fisher was wearing. The 


girls say her bill in the store last year was $12,000. I made 
mine, myself . It cost me $1.50. Ten feet away you couldn't 
tell it from hers." 

"Oh, well," said Lou, good-naturedly, "if you want to 
starve and put on airs, go ahead. But I'll take my job and 
good wages; and after hours give me something as fancy and 
attractive to w^ear as I am able to buy." 

But just then Dan came — a serious young man with a 
ready-made necktie, who had escaped the city's brand of 
frivolity — an electrician earning $30 per week who looked 
upon Lou with the sad eyes of Romeo, and thought her em- 
broidered waist a web in which any fly should delight to be 

*'My friend, Mr. Owens — shake hands with Miss Dan- 
forth," said Lou. 

*' I'm mighty glad to know you. Miss Danforth," said Dan, 
with outstretched hand. "I've heard Lou speak of you so 

"Thanks," said Nancy, touching his fingers with the tips 
of her cool ones, "I've heard her mention you — a few times." 

Lou giggled. 

"Did you get that handshake from Mrs. Van Alstyne 
Fisher, Nance?" she asked. 

"If I did, you can feel safe in copying it," said Nancy. 

"Oh, I couldn't use it at all. It's too stylish for me. It's 
intended to set off diamond rings, that high shake is. Wait 
till I get a few and then I'll try it." 

"Learn it first," said Nancy wisely, "and you'll be more 
likely to get the rings." 

"Now, to settle this argument," said Dan, with his ready, 
cheerful smile, "let me make a proposition. As I can't take 
both of you up to Tiffany's and do the right thing, what do 
you say to a little vaudeville.'^ I've got the tickets. How 
about looking at stage diamonds since we can't shake hands 
with the real sparklers .f^" 

The faithful squire took his place close to the curb; Lou 
next, a little peacocky in her bright and pretty clothes; Nancy 


on the inside, slender, and soberly clothed as the sparrow, 
but with the true Van Alstyne Fisher walk — thus they set 
out for their evening's moderate diversion. 

I do not suppose that many look upon a great department 
store as an educational institution. But the one in which 
Nancy worked was something like that to her. She was 
surrounded by beautiful things that breathed of taste and 
refinement. If you live in an atmosphere of luxury, luxury 
is yours whether your money pays for it, or another's. 

The people she served were mostly women whose dress, 
manners, and position in the social world were quoted as 
criterions. From them Nancy began to take toll — the best 
from each according to her view. 

From one she would copy and practice a gesture, from an- 
other an eloquent lifting of an eyebrow, from others, a man- 
ner of walking, of carrying a purse, of smiling, of greeting 
a friend, of addressing "inferiors in station." From her best 
beloved model, Mrs. Van Alstyne Fisher, she made requi- 
sition for that excellent thing, a soft, low voice as clear 
as silver and as perfect in articulation as the notes of a thrush. 
Suffused in the aura of this high social refinement and good 
breeding, it was impossible for her to escape a deeper effect 
of it. As good habits are said to be better than good prin- 
ciples, so, perhaps, good manners are better than good habits. 
The teachings of your parents may not keep alive your New 
England conscience; but if you sit on a straight-back chair 
and repeat the words "prisms and pilgrims" forty times, the 
devil will flee from you. And when Nancy spoke in the 
Van Alstyne Fisher tones she felt the thrill of noblesse oblige 
to her very bones. 

There was another source of learning in the great depart- 
mental school. Whenever you see three or four shop-girls 
gather in a bunch and jingle their wire bracelets as an ac- 
companiment to apparently frivolous conversation, do not 
think that they are there for the purpose of criticizing the 
way Ethel does her back hair. The meeting may lack the dig- 
nity of the deliberative bodies of man; but it has all the in?- 


portance of the occasion on which Eve and her first daughter 
first put their heads together to make Adam understand his 
proper place in the household. It is Woman's Conference 
for Common Defense and Exchange of Strategical Theories 
of Attack and Repulse upon and against the World, which 
is a stage, and Man, its audience who Persists in Throwing 
Bouquets Thereupon. Woman, the most helpless of the 
young of any animal — with the fawn's grace but without its 
fleetness; with the bird's beauty but without its power of 
flight; with the honey-bee's burden of sweetness but without 

its Oh, let's drop that simile — some of us may have been 


During this council of war they pass weapons one to an- 
other, and exchange stratagems that each has devised and 
formulated out of the tactics of life. 

*'I says to 'im," says Sadie, "ain't you the fresh thing! 
Who do you suppose I am, to be addressing such a remark 
to me? And what do you think he says back to me?" 

The heads, brown, black, flaxen, red, and yellow, bob 
together; the answer is given; and the parry to the thrust is 
decided upon, to be used by each thereafter in passages- 
at-arms with the common enemy, man. 

Thus Nancy learned the art of defense; and to woman suc- 
cessful defense means victory. 

The curriculum of a department store is a wide one. 
Perhaps no other college could have fitted her as well for 
her life's ambition — the drawing of a matrimonial prize. 

Her station in the store was a favored one. The music 
room was near enough for her to hear and become familiar 
with the works of the best composers — at least to acquire 
the familiarity that passed for appreciation in the social 
world in which she was vaguely trying to set a tentative and 
aspiring foot. She absorbed the educating influence of art 
wares, of costly and dainty fabrics, of adornments that are 
almost culture to women. 

The other girls soon became aware of Nancy's ambition. 
"Here comes your millionaire, Nancy," they would call to her 


whenever any man who looked the role approached her coun- 
ter. It got to be a habit of men, who were hanging about 
while their women folk were shopping, to stroll over to the 
handkerchief counter and dawdle over the cambric squares. 
Nancy's imitation high-bred air and genuine dainty beauty 
was what attracted. Many men thus came to display their 
graces before her. Some of them may have been millionau-es ; 
others were certainly no more than their sedulous apes! 
Nancy learned to discriminate. There was a window at the 
end of the handkerchief counter; and she could see the rows 
of vehicles waiting for the shoppers in the street below. She 
looked and perceived that automobiles differ as well as do 
their owners. 

Once a fascinating gentleman bought four dozen hand- 
kerchiefs, and wooed her across the counter with a King 
Cophetua air. When he had gone one of the girls said: 
"What's wrong, Nance, that you didn't warm up to that 
!?^.^ He looks the swell article, all right, to me." 
"Him.?" said Nancy, with her coolest, sweetest, most 
impersonal, Van Alstyne Fisher smile; "not for mine. I 
saw him drive up outside. A 12 H. P. machine and an 
Irish chauffeur! And you saw what kind of handkerchiefs 
he bought— silk! And he's got dactylis on him. Give me 
the real thing or nothing, if you please." 

Two of the most "refined" women in the store— a forelady 
and a cashier— had a few "swell gentlemen friends" with 
whom they now and then dined. Once they included Nancy 
m an invitation. The dinner took place in a spectacular 
cafe whose tables are engaged for New Year's Eve a year in 
advance. There were two "gentlemen friends"— one with- 
out any hair on his head— high living ungrew it; and we can 
prove It— the other young man whose worth and sophisti- 
cation he impressed upon you in two convincing ways- 
he swore that all the wme was corked; and he wore diamond 
cuff buttons. This young man perceived irresistible ex- 
ceUencies in Nancy. His taste ran to shop-girls; and here 
was one that added the voice and manners of his high social 


world to the franker charms of her own caste. So, on the 
following day, he appeared in the store and made her a 
serious proposal of marriage over a box of hemstitched., 
grass-bleached Irish linens. Nancy declined. A brown 
pompadour ten feet away had been using her eyes and ears. 
TVTien the rejected suitor had gone she heaped carboys of up- 
braidings and horror upon Nancy's head. 

*'^Miat a terrible little fool you are! That fellow's a 
millionaire — he's a nephew of old Van Skittles himself. And 
he was talking on the level, too. Have you gone crazy, 

*'Have I?" said Nancy. "I didn't take him, did I? He 
isn't a millionaire so hard that you could notice it, anyhow. 
His family only allows him $20,000 a year to spend. The 
bald-headed fellow was guying him about it the other night 
at supper." 

The browTi pompadour came nearer and narrowed her eyes. 

"Say, what do you want?" she inquired, in a voice hoarse 
for lack of chewing-gum. "Ain't that enough for you? Do 
you want to be a Mormon, and marry Rockefeller and Glad- 
stone Dowie and the King of Spain and the whole bunch? 
Ain't $20,000 a year good enough for you? " 

Nancy flushed a little under the level gaze of the black, 
shallow eyes. 

"It wasn't altogether the money, Carrie," she explained. 
"His friend caught him in a rank lie the other night at dinner. 
It was about some girl he said he hadn't been to the theater 
with. Well, I can't stand a liar. Put everything together — 
I don't like him; and that settles it. When I sell out it's not 
going to be on any bargain day. I've got to have something 
that sits up in a chair like a man, anyhow. Yes, I'm looking 
out for a catch; but it's got to be able to do something more 
than make a noise like a toy bank." 

"The physiopathic ward for yours!" said the brown pom- 
padour, walking away. 

These high ideas, if not ideals — ^Nancy continued to cul- 
tivate on $8 per week. She bivouacked on the trail of the 


great unknown "catch," eating her dry bread and tightening 
her belt day by day. On her face was the faint, soldierly, 
sweet, grim smile of the preordained man-hunter. The store 
was her forest; and many times she raised her rifle at game 
that seemed broad-antlered and big; but always some 
deep unerring instinct — perhaps of the huntress, perhaps 
of the woman — made her hold her fire and take the trail 

Lou flourished in the laundry. Out of her $18.50 per week 
she paid $6 for her room and board. The rest went mainly 
for clothes. Her opportunities for bettering her taste and 
manners were few compared with Nancy 's. In the steaming 
laundry there was nothing but work, work, and her thoughts 
of the evening pleasures to come. Many costly and showy 
fabrics passed under her iron; and it may be that her growing 
fondness for dress was thus transmitted to her through the 
conducting metal. 

When the day's work was over Dan awaited her outside, 
her faithful shadow in whatever light she stood. 

Sometimes he cast an honest and troubled glance at Lou's 
clothes that increased in conspicuity rather than in style; 
but this was no disloyalty; he deprecated the attention they 
called to her in the streets. 

And Lou was no less faithful to her chum. There was a 
law that Nancy should go with them on whatsoever outings 
they might take. Dan bore the extra burden heartily and 
in good cheer. It might be said that Lou furnished the color, 
Nancy the tone, and Dan the weight of the distraction-seek- 
ing trio. The escort, in his neat but obviously ready-made 
suit, his ready-made tie and unfailing, genial, ready-made 
wit, never startled or clashed. He was cf that good kind 
that you are likely to forget while they are present, but 
remember distinctly after they are gone. 

To Nancy's superior taste the flavor of these ready-made 
pleasures was sometimes a little bitter: but she was young.' 
and youth is a gourmand, when it cannot be a gourmet. 

"Dan is always wanting me to marry him right away," 


Lou told her once. "But why should I? I'm independent 
I can do as I please with the money I earn; and he never 
would agree for me to keep on working afterward. And 
say, Nance, what do you want to stick to that old store for, 
and half starve and half dress yourself.'^ I could get you a 
place in the laundry right now if you'd come. It seems to 
me that you could afford to be a little less stuck-up if you 
could make a good deal more money." 

"I don't think I'm stuck-up, Lou," said Nancy, "but I'd 
rather live on half rations and stay where I am. I suppose 
I've got the habit. It's the chance that I want. I don't 
expect to be always behind a counter. I'm learning some- 
thing new every day. I'm right up against refined and rich 
people all the time — even if I do only wait on them; and I'm 
not missing any pointers that I see passing around." 

" Caught your millionaire yet.^ " asked Lou with her teasing 

"I haven't selected one yet," answered Nancy. "I've 
been looking them over." 

" Goodness ! the idea of picking over 'em ! Don't you ever 
let one get by you, Nance — even if he's a few dollars shy. 
But of course you're joking — millionaires don't think about 
working girls like us." 

"It might be better for them if they did," said Nancy, 
with cool wisdom. "Some of us could teach them how to 
take care of their money." 

"If one was to speak to me," laughed Lou, "I know I'd 
have a duck-fit." 

"That's because you don't know any. The only difference 
between swells and other people is you have to watch 'em 
closer. Don't you think that red silk lining is just a little 
bit too bright for that coat, Lou.^" 

Lou looked at the plain, dull olive jacket of her friend. 

"Well, no, I don't — but it may seem so beside that faded^ 
looking thing you've got on." 

"This jacket," said Nancy, complacently, "has exactly 
the cut and fit of one that Mrs. Van Alstyne Fisher was wear- 


ing the other day. The material cost me $3.98. I suppose 
hers cost about $100 more." 

*'0h, well," said Lou lightly, "it don't strike me as million- 
aire bait. Shouldn't wonder if I catch one before you do, 

Truly it would have taken a philosopher to decide upon 
the values of the theories held by the two friends. Lou, 
lacking that certain pride and fastidiousness that keeps stores 
and desks filled with girls working for the barest living, 
thumped away gaily with her iron in the noisy and stifling 
laundry. Her wages supported her even beyond the point 
of comfort; so that her dress profited until sometimes she 
cast a sidelong glance of impatience at the neat but inelegant 
apparel of Dan — Dan the constant, the immutable, the 

As for Nancy, her case was one of tens of thousands. Silk 
and jewels and laces and ornaments and the perfume and 
music of the fine world of good-breeding and taste — these 
were made for woman; they are her equitable portion. 
Let her keep near them if they are a part of life to her, and 
if she will. She is no traitor to herself, as Esau was; for she 
keeps her birthright and the pottage she earns is often very 

In this atmosphere Nancy belonged; and she throve in 
it and ate her frugal meals and schemed over her cheap dresses 
with a determined and contented mind. She already knew 
woman; and she was studying man, the animal, both as to 
his habits and eligibility. Some day she would bring down 
the game that she wanted; but she promised herself it would 
be what seemed to her the biggest and the best, and nothing 

Thus she kept her lamp trimmed and burning to receive 
the bridegroom when he should come. 

But, another lesson she learned, perhaps unconsciously. 
Her standard of values began to shift and change. Some- 
times the dollar-mark grew blurred in her mind's eye, and 
shaped itself into letters that spelled such words as "truth" 


and "honor" and now and then just *'bHndness." Let us 
make a hkeness of one who hunts the moose or elk in some 
mighty wood. He sees a Httle dell, mossy and embowered, 
where a rill trickles, babbling to him of rest and comfort. 
At these times the spear of Nimrod himself grows blunt. 

So, Nancy wondered sometimes if Persian lamb was always 
quoted at its market value by the hearts that it covered. 

One Thursday evening Nancy left the store and turned 
across Sixth Avenue westward to the laundry. She was ex- 
pected to go with Lou and Dan to a musical comedy. 

Dan was just coming out of the laundry when she arrived. 
There was a queer, strained look on his face. 

"I thought I would drop around to see if they had heard 
from her," he said. 

"Heard from who?" asked Nancy. "Isn't Lou there?" 

"I thought you knew," said Dan. "She hasn't been here 
or at the house where she lived since Monday. She moved 
all her things from there. She told one of the girls in the 
laundry she might be going to Europe." 

"Hasn't anybody seen her anyT\^here?" asked Nancy. 

Dan looked at her with his jaws set grimly, and a steely 
gleam in his steady gray eyes. 

"They told me in the laundry," he said, harshly, "that 
they saw her pass yesterday — in an automobile. With one 
of the millionaires, I suppose, that you and Lou were forever 
busying your brains about." 

For the first time Na\icy quailed before a man. She laid 
her hand that trembled slightly on Dan's sleeve. 

"You've no right to say such a thing to me, Dan — as if 
I had anything to do with it ! " 

"I didn't mean it that way," said Dan, softening. He 
fumbled in his vest pocket. 

"I've got the tickets for the show to-night," he said, with 
a gallant show of lightness. "If you " 

Nancy admired pluck whenever she saw it. 

"I'll go with you, Dan," she said. 

Three months went by before Nancy saw Lou again. 


At twilight one evening the shop-girl was hurrying home 
along the border of a little quiet park. She heard her name 
called, and wheeled about in time to catch Lou rushing into 
her arms. 

After the first embrace they drew their heads back as 
serpents do, ready to attack or to charm, with a thousand 
questions trembling on their swift tongues. And then 
Nancy noticed that prosperity had descended upon Lou, 
manifesting itself in costly furs, flashing gems, and creations 
of the tailors' art. 

"You little fool!" cried Lou, loudly and affectionately. 
"I see you are still working in that store, and as shabby as 
ever. And how about that big catch you were going to make 
• — nothing doing yet, I suppose.?^" 

And then Lou looked, and saw that something better than 
prosperity had descended upon Nancy — something that 
shone brighter than gems in her eyes and redder than a rose 
in her cheeks, and that danced like electricity anxious to be 
loosed from the tip of her tongue. 

"Yes, I'm still in the store," said Nancy, "but I'm going 
to leave it next week. I've made my catch — the biggest 
catch in the world. You won't mind now, Lou, will you? — 
I'm going to be married to Dan — to Dan! — he's my Dan 
now — why, Lou!" 

Around the corner of the park strolled one of those new- 
crop, smooth-faced young policemen that are making the 
force more endurable — at least to the eye. He saw a woman 
with an expensive fur coat and diamond-ringed hands crouch- 
ing down against the iron fence of the park sobbing tur- 
bulently, while a slender, plainly dressed working girl leaned 
close, trying to console her. But the Gibsonian cop, being 
of the new order, passed on, pretending not to notice, for he 
was w^ise enough to know that these matters are beyond 
help so far as the power he represents is concerned, though 
he rap the pavement with his night-stick till the sound goes 
up to the furthermost stars. 


From Heart of the West. First published in Everybody's Magazine, 
July, 1907. For O. Henry's intimate knowledge of the life por- 
trayed in this dramatic story, see Chapter V of the 0. Henry Biog- 
raphy. The style alone, however, is proof that he does not write from 
hearsay or book sources. It is different from the New York style. 
Though equally direct and vivid, it is wider-spaced. It is conscious 
of a sky above it rather than a roof. Forty of O. Henry's stories 
take place in Texas. When he was a prisoner m Ohio, a guard asked 
him why he was sitting in a certain corner of the yard. "Are you 
seeking the shade.^" "No, Mr. Nolan," he replied, "I like to sit 
over here because I feel a little nearer Texas." This stor3% however. 
Jinks him interestingly to Greensboro, his birthplace. His school- 
mates remember how at the age of ten he used to sing or shout a 
Negro song running, 

*Tf you don't stop fooling with my Lula 
I tell you what I'll do ; 
I'll feel around your heart with a razor 
And I'll cut your liver out too." 

A slightly different version, from East Tennessee, may be found in 
The Journal of American Folk-Lore, April-June, 1915, page 184. 
Note how a fragment of this stanza with its ominous "and so on" 
is used to foreshadow without revealing the tragic ending of the 
story, and how at the close the same fragment recurs but without 
"and so on" — there was no need of it. 

The Cisco Kid had killed six men in more or less 
fair scrimmages, had murdered twice as many (mostly 
Mexicans), and had winged a larger number whom he 
modestly forbore to count. Therefore a woman loved 



The Kid was twenty-five, looked twenty; and a careful 
insurance company would have estimated the probable time 
of his demise at, say, twenty-six. His habitat was anywhere 
between the Frio and the Rio Grande. He killed for the love 
of it — because he was quick-tempered — to avoid arrest — 
for his own amusement — any reason that came to his mind 
w^ould suflfice. He had escaped capture because he could 
shoot five-sixths of a second sooner than any sheriff or ranger 
in the service, and because he rode a speckled roan horse that 
knew every cow-path in the mesquite and pear thickets from 
San Antonio to Matamoras. 

Tonia Perez, the girl who loved the Cisco Kid, was half 
Carmen, half Madonna, and the rest — oh, yes, a woman who 
is half Carmen and half Madonna can always be something 
more — the rest, let us say, was humming-bird. She lived 
in a grass-roofed jacal near a little Mexican settlement at the 
Lone Wolf Crossing of the Frio. With her lived a father oi 
grandfather, a lineal Aztec, somewhat less than a thousand 
years old, who herded a hundred goats and lived in a con- 
tinuous drunken dream from drinking mescal. Back of the 
jacal a tremendous forest of bristling pear, twenty feet high 
at its worst, crowded almost to its door. It was along the 
bewildering maze of this spinous thicket that the speckled 
roan would bring the Kid to see his girl. And once, clinging 
like a lizard to the ridge-pole, high up under the peaked 
grass roof, he had heard Tonia, with her Madonna face 
and Carmen beauty and humming-bird soul, parley with the 
sheriff's posse, denying knowledge of her man in soft melange 
of Spanish and English. 

One day the adjutant-general of the State, who is, ex 
officio, commander of the ranger forces, wrote some sarcastic 
lines to Captain Duval of Company X, stationed at Laredo, 
relative to the serene and undisturbed existence led by mur- 
derers and desperadoes in the said captain's territory. 

The captain turned the color of brick dust under his 
tan, and forwarded the letter, after adding a few comments, 
per ranger Private Bill Adamson, to ranger Lieutenant 


Sandridge, camped at a water hole on the Nueces with a 
squad of five men in preservation of law and order. 

Lieutenant Sandridge turned a beautiful couleur de rose 
through his ordinary strawberry complexion, tucked the letter 
in his hip pocket, and chewed off the end of his gamboge 

The next morning he saddled his horse and rode alone 
to the Mexican settlement at the Lone Wolf Crossing of the 
Frio, twenty miles away. 

Six feet two, blond as a viking, quiet as a deacon, dan- 
gerous as a machine gun, Sandridge moved among the jacales, 
patiently seeking news of the Cisco Kid. 

Far more than the law, the Mexicans dreaded the cold 
and certain vengeance of the lone rider that the ranger 
sought. It had been one of the Kid's pastimes to shoot 
Mexicans "to see them kick": if he demanded from them 
moribund Terpsichorean feats, simply that he might be enter- 
tained, what terrible and extreme penalties would be certain 
to follow should they anger him! One and all they lounged 
w^ith upturned palms and shrugging shoulders, filling the air 
with "quien sabes" and denials of the Kid's acquaintance. 

But there was a man named Fink who kept a store at the 
Crossing — a man of many nationalities, tongues, interests, 
and ways of thinking. 

"No use to ask them Mexicans," he said to Sandridge. 
"They're afraid to tell. This hombre they call the Kid — 
Goodall is his name, ain't it? — he's been in my store once or 
twice. I have an idea you might run across him at — but 
I guess I don't keer to say, myself. I'm two seconds later 
in pulling a gun than I used to be, and the difference is worth 
thinking about. But this kid's got a half-Mexican girl at 
the Crossing that he comes to see. She lives in that jacal 
a hundred yards down the arroyo at the edge of the pear. 
Maybe she — no, I don't suppose she would, but that jacal 
would be a good place to watch, anyway." 

Sandridge rode down to the jacal of Perez. The sun was 
low, and the broad shade of the great pear thicket already 


covered the grass-thatched hut. The goats were enclosed 
for the night in a brush corral near by. A few kids walked 
the top of it, nibbling the chaparral leaves. The old Mexi- 
can lay upon a blanket on the grass, already in a stupor 
from his mescal^ and dreaming, perhaps, of the nights when 
he and Pizarro touched glasses to their New World fortunes — 
so old his wrinkled face seemed to proclaim him to be. And 
in the door of the jacal stood Tonia. And Lieutenant 
Sandridge sat in his saddle staring at her like a gannet 
agape at a sailorman. 

The Cisco Kid was a vain person, as all eminent and suc- 
cessful assassins are, and his bosom would have been ruffled 
had he known that at a simple exchange of glances two per- 
sons, in whose minds he had been looming large, suddenly/ 
abandoned (at least for the time) all thought of him. 

Never before had Tonia seen such a man as this. He 
seemed to be made of sunshine and blood-red tissue and clear 
weather. He seemed to illuminate the shadow of the pear 
when he smiled, as though the sun were rising again. The 
men she had known had been small and dark. Even the 
Kid, in spite of his achievements, was a stripling no larger 
than herself, with black, straight hair and a cold, marble 
face that chilled the noonday. 

As for Tonia, though she sends description to the poorhouse, 
let her make a millionaire of your fancy. Her blue-black 
hair, smoothly divided in the middle and bound close to 
her head, and her large eyes full of the Latin melancholy, gave 
her the Madonna touch. Her motions and air spoke of the 
concealed fire and the desire to charm that she had inherited 
from the gitanas of the Basque province. As for the hum- 
ming-bird part of her, that dwelt in her heart; you could not 
perceive it unless her bright red skirt and dark blue blouse 
gave you a symbolic hint of the vagarious bird. 

The newly lighted sun-god asked for a drink of water. 
Tonia brought it from the red jar hanging under the brush 
shelter. Sandridge considered it necessary to dismount so 
as to lessen the trouble of her ministrations. 


I play no spy; nor do I assume to master the thoughts of 
any human heart; but I assert, by the chronicler's right, that 
before a quarter of an hour had sped, Sandridge was teaching 
her how to plait a six-strand rawhide stake-rope, and Tonia 
had explained to him that were it not for her little English 
book that the peripatetic padre had given her and the little 
crippled chivo, that she fed from a bottle, she would be very, 
very lonely indeed. 

Which leads to a suspicion that the Kid's fences needed re- 
pairing, and that the adjutant-general's sarcasm had faller* 
upon unproductive soil. 

In his camp by the water hole Lieutenant Sandridge an- 
nounced and reiterated his intention of either causing the 
Cisco Kid to nibble the black loam of the Frio country prair- 
ies or of haling him before a judge and jury. That sounded 
business-like. Twice a week he rode over to the Lone Wolt 
Crossing of the Frio, and directed Tonia's slim, slightly 
lemon-tinted fingers among the intricacies of the slowly grow- 
ing lariata. A six-strand plait is hard to learn and easy to 

The ranger knew that he might find the Kid there at any 
visit. He kept his armament ready, and had a frequent 
eye for the pear thicket at the rear of the jacal. Thus he 
might bring down the kite and the humming-bird with one 

While the sunny-haired ornithologist was pursuing his 
studies the Cisco Kid was also attending to his professional 
duties. He moodily shot up a saloon in a small cow village 
on Quintana Creek, killed the town marshal (plugging him 
neatly in the center of his tin badge), and then rode away, 
morose and unsatisfied. No true artist is uplifted by shoot- 
ing an aged man carrying an old-style .38 bulldog. 

On his way the Kid suddenly experienced the yearning 
that all men feel when wrong-doing loses its keen edge of de- 
light. He yearned for the woman he loved to reassure him 
that she was his in spite of it. He wanted her to call his 
bloodthirstiness bravery and his cruelty devotion. He 


wanted Tonia to bring him water from the red jug under the 
brush shelter, and tell him how the chivo was thriving on the 

The Kid turned the speckled roan's head up the ten-mile 
pear flat that stretches along the Arroyo Hondo until it ends 
at the Lone Wolf Crossing of the Frio. The roan whickered; 
for he had a sense of locality and direction equal to that of a 
belt-line street-car horse; and he knew he would soon be 
nibbling the rich mesquite grass at the end of a forty -foot 
stake rope while Ulysses rested his head in Circe's straw- 
roofed hut. 

More weird and lonesome than the journey of an Ama- 
zonian explorer is the ride of one through a Texas pear flat. 
With dismal monotony and startling variety the uncanny and 
multiform shapes of the cacti lift their twisted trunks, and 
fat, bristly hands to encumber the way. The demon plant, 
appearing to live without soil or rain, seems to taunt the 
parched traveler with its lush gray greenness. It warps itself 
a thousand times about what look to be open and inviting 
paths, only to lure the rider into blind and impassable spine- 
defended "bottoms of the bag," leaving him to retreat, if he 
can, with the points of the compass whirling in his head. 

To be lost in the pear is to die almost the death of the thief 
on the cross, pierced by nails and with grotesque shapes of 
all the fiends hovering about. 

But it was not so with the Kid and his mount. Winding, 
twisting, circling, tracing the most fantastic and bewildering 
trail ever picked out, the good roan lessened the distance to 
the Lone Wolf Crossing with every coil and turn that he 

While they fared the Kid sang. He knew but one tune and 
he sang it, as he knew but one code and lived it, and but one 
girl and loved her. He was a single-minded man of conven- 
tional ideas. He had a voice like a coyote with bronchitis, 
but whenever he chose to sing his song he sang it. It was a 
conventional song of the camps and trail, running at its be- 
ginning as near as may be to these words: 


Don't you monkey with my Lulu girl 
Or I'll tell you what I'll do 

and so on. The roan was inured to it, and did not mind 

But even the poorest singer will, after a certain time, gain 
his own consent to refrain from contributing to the world's 
noises. So the Kid, by the time he was within a mile or two 
of Tonia's jacal, had reluctantly allowed his song to die away 
— not because his vocal performance had become less charm- 
ing to his own ears, but because his laryngeal muscles were 

As though he were in a circus ring the speckled roan 
wheeled and danced through the labyrinth of pear until at 
length his rider knew by certain landmarks that the Lone 
Wolf Crossing was close at hand. Then, where the pear was 
thinner, he caught sight of the grass roof of the jacal, and 
the hackberry tree in the edge of the arroyo. A few yards 
farther the Kid stopped the roan — and gazed intently through 
the prickly openings. Then he dismounted, dropped the 
roan's reins, and proceeded on foot, stooping and silent, like 
an Indian. The roan, knowing his part, stood still, making 
no sound. 

The Kid crept noiselessly to the very edge of the pear 
thicket and reconnoitered between the leaves of a clump of 

Ten yards from his hiding-place, in the shade of the jacal, 
sat his Tonia calmly plaiting a rawhide lariat. So far she 
might surely escape condemnation; women have been known, 
from time to time, to engage in more mischievous occupations. 
But if all must be told, there is to be added that her head 
reposed against the broad and comfortable chest of a tall 
red-and-yellow man, and that his arm was about her, guiding 
her nimble small fingers that required so many lessons at the 
intricate six-strand plait. 

Sandridge glanced quickly at the dark mass of pear when 
he heard a slight squeaking sound that was not altogether 
unfamiliar. A gun-scabbard will make that sound when one 


grasps the handle of a six-shooter suddenly. But the sound 
was not repeated; and Tonia's fingers needed close atten- 

And then, in the shadow of death, they began to talk of 
their love; and in the still July afternoon every word they 
uttered reached the ears of the Kid. 

"Remember, then," said Tonia, "you must not come again 
until I send for you. Soon he will be here. A vaquero at the 
tienda said to-day he saw him on the Guadalupe three days 
ago. When he is that near he always comes. If he comes 
and finds you here he will kill you. So, for my sake, you 
must come no more until I send you the word." 

"All right," said the ranger. "And then what.?" 

"And then," said the girl, "you must bring your men here 
and kill him. If not, he will kill you." 

"He ain't a man to surrender, that's sure," said Sandridge. 
"It's kill or be killed for the oflficer that goes up against Mr. 
Cisco Kid." 

"He must die," said the girl. "Otherwise there will not 
be any peace in the world for thee and me. He has killed 
many. Let him so die. Bring your men, and give him no 
chance to escape." 

"You used to think right much of him," said Sandridge^ 

Tonia dropped the lariat, twisted herself around, and 
curved a lemon-tinted arm over the ranger's shoulder. 

"But then," she murmured in liquid Spanish, "I had not 
beheld thee, thou great, red mountain of a man ! And thou 
art kind and good, as well as strong. Could one choose him, 
knowing thee ? Let him die ; for then I will not be filled with 
fear by day and night lest he hurt thee or me." 

"How can I know when he comes? " asked Sandridge. 

"When he comes," said Tonia, "he remains two days, 
sometimes three. Gregorio, the small son of old Luisa, the 
lavandera, has a swift pony. I will write a letter to thee 
and send it by him, saying how it will be best to come upon 
him. By Gregorio will the letter come. And bring many 
men with thee, and have much care, oh, dear red one, for the 


rattlesnake is not quicker to strike than is 'El Chivato,* as they 
call him, to send a ball from his pistola.'' 

"The Kid's handy with his gun, sure enough," admitted 
Sandridge, "but when I come for him I shall come alone 
I'll get him by myself or not at all. The Cap wrote one or 
two things to me that make me want to do the trick without 
any help. You let me know when Mr. Kid arrives, and I'll 
do the rest." 

"I will send you the message by the boy Gregorio," said 
the girl. "I knew you were braver than that small slayer of 
men who never smiles. How could I ever have thought I 
cared for him.f^" 

It was time for the ranger to ride back to his camp on the 
water hole. Before he mounted his horse he raised the 
slight form of Tonia with one arm high from the earth for a 
parting salute. The drowsy stillness of the torpid summer 
air still lay thick upon the dreaming afternoon. The smoke 
from the fire in the jacal, where the frijoles blubbered in the 
iron pot, rose straight as a plumb-line above the clay-daubed 
chimney. No sound or movement disturbed the serenity of 
the dense pear thicket ten yards away. 

When the form of Sandridge had disappeared, loping his 
big dun down the steep banks of the Frio crossing, the Kid 
crept back to his own horse, mounted him, and rode back 
along the tortuous trail he had come. 

But not far. He stopped and waited in the silent depths 
of the pear until half an hour had passed. And then Tonia 
heard the high, untrue notes of his unmusical singing coming 
nearer and nearer; and she ran to the edge of the pear to meet 

The Kid seldom smiled; but he smiled and waved his hat 
when he saw her. He dismounted, and his girl sprang into 
his arms. The Kid looked at her fondly. His thick, black 
hair clung to his head like a wrinkled mat. The meeting 
brought a slight ripple of some undercurrent of feeling to his 
smooth, dark face that was usually as motionless as a clay 


**How's my girl?" he asked, holding her close. 

"Sick of waiting so long for you, dear one," she answered. 
"My eyes are dim with always gazing into that devil's pin- 
cushion through which you come. And I can see into it 
such a little way, too. But you are here, beloved one, and 
I will not scold. Que mal muchacho ! not to come to see your 
alma more often. Go in and rest, and let me water your horse 
and stake him with the long rope. There is cool water in the 
jar for you." 

The Kid kissed her affectionately. 

" Not if the court knows itself do I let a lady stake my horse 
for me," said he. "But if you'll run in, chica, and throw a pot 
of coffee together while I attend to the caballo, I'll be a good 
deal obliged." 

Besides his marksmanship the Kid had another attribute 
for which he admired himself greatly. He was muy cahallero, 
as the Mexicans express it, where the ladies were concerned. 
For them he had always gentle words and consideration. 
He could not have spoken a harsh word to a woman. He 
might ruthlessly slay their husbands and brothers, but he 
could not have laid the weight of a finger in anger upon a 
woman. Wherefore many of that interesting division of 
humanity who had come under the spell of his politeness de- 
clared their disbelief in the stories circulated about Mr, Kid. 
One shouldn't believe everything one heard, they said. 
When confronted by their indignant men folk with proof of 
the caballero's deeds of infamy, they said maybe he had been 
driven to it, and that he knew how to treat a lady, anyhow. 

Considering this extremely courteous idiosyncrasy of the 
Kid and the pride that he took in it, one can perceive that 
the solution of the problem that was presented to him by 
what he saw and heard from his hiding-place in the pear that 
afternoon (at least as to one of the actors) must have been 
obscured by difficulties. And yet one could not think of the 
Kid overlooking little matters of that kind. 

At the end of the short twilight they gathered around a sup- 
per offrijolesy goat steaks, canned peaches, and coffee, by the 


light of a lantern in the jacal. Afterward, the ancestor, his 
flock corraled, smoked a cigarette and became a mummy in a 
gray blanket. Tonia washed the few dishes while the Kid 
dried them with the flour-sacking towel. Her eyes shone; 
she chatted volubly of the inconsequent happenings of her 
small world since the Kid's last visit; it was as all his other 
home-comings had been. 

Then outside Tonia sw^ung in a grass hammock with her 
guitar and sang sad canciones de amor. 

*'Do you love me just the same, old girl.^^" asked the Kid, 
hunting for his cigarette papers. 

"Always the same, little one,'* said Tonia, her dark eyes 
lingering upon him. 

"I must go over to Fink's," said the Kid, rising, "for some 
tobacco. I thought I had another sack in my coat. I'll be 
back in a quarter of an hour." 

"Hasten," said Tonia, "and tell me — how long shall I call 
you my own this time.^ Will you be gone again to-morrow, 
leaving me to grieve, or will you be longer with your Tonia .^ " 

"Oh, I might stay two or three days this trip," said the 
Kid, yawning. "I've been on the dodge for a month, and 
I'd like to rest up." 

He was gone half an hour for his tobacco. When he re- 
turned Tonia was still lying in the hammock. 

"It's funny," said the Kid, "how I feel. I feel like there 
was somebody lying behind every bush and tree waiting to 
shoot me. I never had mullygrubs like them before. May- 
be it's one of them presumptions. I've got half a notion to 
light out in the morning before day. The Guadalupe coun- 
try is burning up about that old Dutchman I plugged down 

"You are not afraid — no one could make my brave little 
one fear." 

"Well, I haven't been usually regarded as a jack-rabbit 
when it comes to scrapping; but I don't want a posse smoking 
me out when I'm in your jacal. Somebody might get hurt 
that oughtn't to." 


''Remain with your Tonia; no one will find you here." 
The Kid looked keenly into the shadows up and down the 
arroyo and toward the dim lights of the Mexican village. 
"I'll see how it looks later on," was his decision. 

At midnight a horseman rode into the rangers' camp, 
blazing his way by noisy "halloes" to indicate a pacific 
mission. Sandridge and one or two others turned out to in- 
vestigate the row. The rider announced himself to be Do- 
mingo Sales, from the Lone Wolf Crossing. He bore a letter 
for Senor Sandridge. Old Luisa, the lavandera, had per- 
suaded him to bring it, he said, her son Gregorio being too ill 
of a fever to ride. 

Sandridge lighted the camp lantern and read the letter. 
These were its words : 

Dear One: He has come. Hardly had you ridden away when he 
came out of the pear. When he first talked he said he would stay 
three days or more. Then as it grew later he was like a wolf or a fox, 
and walked about without rest, looking and listening. Soon he said 
he must leave before daylight when it is dark and stillest. And then 
he seemed to suspect that I be not true to him. He looked at me so 
strange that I am frightened. I swear to him that I love him, his 
own Tonia. Last of all he said I must prove to him I am true. He 
thinks that even now men are waiting to kill him as he rides from my 
house. To escape he says he will dress in my clothes, my red skirt 
and the blue waist I wear and the brown mantilla over the head, and 
thus ride away. But before that he says that I must put on his 
clothes, his pantalones and camisa and hat, and ride away on his 
horse from the jacal as far as the big road beyond the crossing and 
back again. This before he goes, so he can tell if I am true and if 
men are hidden to shoot him. It is a terrible thing. An hour before 
daybreak this is to be. Come, my dear one, and kill this man and 
take me for your Tonia. Do not try to take hold of him alive, but 
kill him quickly. Knowing all, you should do that. You must 
come long before the time and hide yourself in the little shed near the 
jacal where the wagon and saddles are kept. It is dark in there. 
He will wear my red skirt and blue waist and brown mantilla. I 
send you a hundred kisses. Come surely and shoot quickly and 

^*"^^g^t- Thine Own Tonia. 


Sandridge quickly explained to his men the official part 
of the missive. The rangers protested against his going 

"I'll get him easy enough," said the lieutenant. "The 
girl's got him trapped. And don't even think he'll get the 
drop on me." 

Sandridge saddled his horse and rode to the Lone Wolf 
Crossing. He tied his big dun in a clump of brush on the 
arroyo, took his Winchester from its scabbard, and care- 
fully approached the Perez jacal. There was only the half of 
a high moon drifted over by ragged, milk-white gulf clouds. 

The wagon-shed was an excellent place for ambush; and 
the ranger got inside it safely. In the black shadow of the 
brush shelter in front of the jacal he could see a horse tied 
and hear him impatiently pawing the hard-trodden earth. 

He waited almost an hour before two figures came out of 
the jacal. One, in man's clothes, quickly mounted the horse 
and galloped past the wagon-shed toward the crossing and 
village. And then the other figure, in skirt, waist, and man- 
tilla over its head, stepped out into the faint moonlight, gaz- 
ing after the rider. Sandridge thought he would take his 
chance then before Tonia rode back. He fancied she might 
not care to see it. 

"Throw up your hands," he ordered loudly, stepping out 
of the wagon-shed with his Winchester at his shoulder. 

There was a quick turn of the figure, but no movement 
to obey, so the ranger pumped in the bullets — one — two — 
three — and then twice more; for you never could be too sure 
of bringing down the Cisco Kid. There was no danger of 
missing at ten paces, even in that half moonlight. 

The old ancestor, asleep on his blanket, was awakened by 
the shots. Listening further, he heard a great cry from some 
man in mortal distress or anguish, and rose up grumbling at 
the disturbing ways of moderns. 

The tall, red ghost of a man burst into the jacal, reaching 
one hand, shaking like a tule reed, for the lantern hanging 
on its nail. The other spread a letter on the table. 


"Look at this letter, Perez," cried the man. "Who wrote 

"Ah, Dios! it is Senor Sandridge," mumbled the old man, 
approaching. '' Pues, senor, that letter was written by ^El 
ChivatOy' as he is called — by the man of Tonia. They say 
he is a bad man; I do not know. While Tonia slept he wrote 
the letter and sent it by this old hand of mine to Domingo 
Sales to be brought to you. Is there anything wrong in the 
letter? I am very old; and I did not know. Valgame 
Dios! it is a very foolish world; and there is nothing in the 
house to drink — nothing to drink." 

Just then all that Sandridge could think of to do was to go 
outside and throw himself face downward in the dust by the 
side of his humming-bird, of whom not a feather fluttered. 
He was not a caballero by instinct, and he could not under- 
stand the niceties of revenge. 

A mile away the rider who had ridden past the wagon- 
shed struck up a harsh, untuneful song, the words of which 

Don't you monkey with my Lulu girl 
Or I'll tell you what I'U do 


From Whirligigs. First published in The American Magazine, 
August, 1907. O. Henry never treated a bigger theme than the 
subject that gives unity to this story. On a first reading the gist 
of it would seem to be that while love may of course be based on 
community of taste, of feeling, of experience, it cannot be based on 
community of guilt; as soon as the engaged murderers find that they 
are not murderers, it's all off with them. But this theme, touched 
upon in the earlier Blind Man's Holiday, is not the theme of The 
World and the Door. This is proved by the title, by the develop- 
ment of the plot, and by what O. Henry himself said many times 
about the story. The real theme is that in the normal man and 
woman the desire for the larger fellowship of the world, for mixmg 
with folks, for having friends and neighbors, is innate and irre- 
sistible. Love itself when pitted against it — certainly a love like 
that of Merriam and Mrs. Conant — will be found the weaker 
passion. Community of supposed guilt, the dream of being a world 
to themselves, made the two lovers shut out the larger world and 
close the door — as they thought. But with the consciousness of 
innocence there came to both the inspiriting vision of a slowly open- 
ing door. "The whole out-of-doors is mine once more" is what 
throbbed through Merriam's pulses, and Mrs. Conant's thoughts 
reverted instantly and exultantly to the world that she thought she 
had shut out, to domestic and neighborly things, to the chit-chat of 
department stores, to an apron for the cook, patterns for sleeves, 
callers, tea. That italicized paragraph is one of O. Henry's triumphs, 
an illustration of how often his romanticism is only realism touched 
with understanding. This was the story that he wished to drama- 
tize so as to stage for all time the inextinguishable desire of those 
down and out to get back to civilization. "O. Henry talked for 
hours about this theme," says Mr. Oilman Hall. "He wrote me," 
says Mrs. Porter, "that two acts of the play. The World and the Door, 
were just about finished. As you say, it was to show that every 
human soul has this tendency toward respectability. It was greater, 
he insisted, than love." 



A FAVORITE dodge to get your story read by the public is 
to assert that it is true, and then add that Truth is stranger 
than Fiction. I do not know if the yarn I am anxious for 
you to read is true; but the Spanish purser of the fruit steamer 
El Carrero swore to me by the shrine of Santa Guadalupe 
that he had the facts from the U. S. vice-consul at La Paz — 
a person who could not possibly have been cognizant of half 
of them. 

As for the adage quoted above, I take pleasure in punctur- 
ing it by affirming that I read in a purely fictional story the 
other day the hne : ** 'Be it so,' said the policeman." Nothing 
so strange has yet cropped out in Truth. 

When H. Ferguson Hedges, millionaire promoter, investor, 
and man-about-New-York, turned his thoughts upon mat- 
ters convivial, and word of it went '*down the line," bouncers 
took a precautionary turn at the Indian clubs, waiters put 
ironstone china on his favorite tables, cab drivers crowded 
close to the curbstone in front of all-night cafes, and careful 
cashiers in his regular haunts charged up a few bottles to his 
account by way of preface and introduction. 

As a money power a one-millionaire is of small account in 
a city where the man who cuts your slice of beef behind the 
free-lunch counter rides to work in his own automobile. But 
Hedges spent his money as lavishly, loudly, and showily as 
though he were only a clerk squandering a week's wages. 
And, after all, the bartender takes no interest in your re- 
serve fund. He would rather look you up on his cash register, 
than in Bradstreet. 

On the evening that the material allegation of facts begins, 
Hedges was bidding dull care begone in the company of 
five or six good fellows — acquaintances and friends who had 
gathered in his wake. 

Among them were two younger men — Ralph Merriam, a 
broker, and Wade, his friend. 

Two deep-sea cabmen were chartered. At Columbus 
Circle they hove to long enough to revile the statue of the 


great navigator, unpatriotically rebuking him for having 
voyaged in search of land instead of Hquids. Midnight ov"er- 
took the party marooned in the rear of a cheap cafe far up- 

Hedges was arrogant, overriding, and quarrelsome. He 
was burly and tough, iron-gray but vigorous, "good" for 
the rest of the night. There was a dispute — about nothing 
that matters — and the five-fingered words were passed — the 
words that represent the glove cast into the lists. Merriam 
played the role of the verbal Hotspur. 

Hedges rose quickly, seized his chair, swung it once and 
smashed wildly down at Merriam's head. Merriam dodged, 
drew a small revolver and shot Hedges in the chest. The 
leading roysterer stumbled, fell in a wry heap, and lay still. 

Wade, a commuter, had formed that habit of promptness. 
He juggled Merriam out a side door, walked him to the 
corner, ran him a block, and caught a hansom. They rode 
five minutes and then got out on a dark corner and dismissed 
the cab. Across the street the lights of a small saloon be- 
trayed its hectic hospitality. 

*'Go in the back room of that saloon," said Wade, "and 
wait. I'll go find out what's doing and let you know. Yov 
may take two drinks while I am gone — no more." 

At ten minutes to one o'clock Wade returned. 

"Brace up, old chap," he said. "The ambulance got there 
just as I did. The doctor says he's dead. You may have 
one more drink. You let me run this thing for you. You've 
got to skip. I don't believe a chair is legally a deadly weapon. 
You've got to make tracks, that's all there is to it." 

Merriam complained of the cold querulously, and asked 
for another drink. "Did you notice what big veins he had 
on the back of his hands?" he asked. "I never could stand 
— I never could " 

"Take one more," said Wade, "and then come on. I'll 
see you through." 

Wade kept his promise so well that at eleven o'clock the 
next morning Merriam, with a new suit case full of new 


clothes and hair-brushes, stepped quietly on board a Httle 
500-ton fruit steamer at an East River pier. The vessel 
had brought the season's first cargo of limes from Port 
Limon, and was homeward bound. Merriam had his bank 
balance of $2,800 in his pocket in large bills, and brief in- 
structions to pile up as much water as he could between him- 
self and New York. There was no time for anything more. 

From Port Limon Merriam worked down the coast by 
schooner and sloop to Colon, thence across the isthmus to 
Panama, where he caught a tramp bound for Callao and such 
intermediate ports as might tempt the discursive skipper 
from his course. 

It was at La Paz that Merriam decided to land — La Paz 
the Beautiful, a little harborless town smothered in a living 
green ribbon that banded the foot of a cloud-piercing moun- 
tain. Here the little steamer stopped to tread water while 
the captain's dory took him ashore that he might feel the 
pulse of the cocoanut market. Merriam went too, with his 
suit case, and remained. 

Kalb, the vice-consul, a Grseco -Armenian citizen of the 
United States, born in Hessen-Darmstadt, and educated i» 
Cincinnati ward primaries, considered all Americans hi* 
brothers and bankers. He attached himself to Merriam 's 
elbow, introduced him to every one in La Paz who wore 
shoes, borrowed ten dollars, and went back to his hammock. 

There was a little wooden hotel in the edge of a banana 
grove, facing the sea, that catered to the tastes of the few 
foreigners that had dropped out of the world into the triste 
Peruvian town. At Kalb's introductory: "Shake hands 

with ," he had obediently exchanged manual salutations 

with a German doctor, one French and two Italian mer- 
chants, and three or four Americans who were spoken of as 
gold men, rubber men, mahogany men — anything but men 
of living tissue. 

After dinner Merriam sat in a corner of the broad front 
galeria with Bibb, a Vermonter interested in hydraulic min- 
ing, and smoked and drank Scotch *' smoke." The moonlit 


sea, spreading infinitely before him, seemed to separate him 
beyond all apprehension from his old life. The horrid 
tragedy in which he had played such a disastrous part now 
began, for the first time since he stole on board the fruiter, a 
wretched fugitive, to lose its sharper outlines. Distance lent 
assuagement to his view. Bibb had opened the flood-gates 
of a stream of long-dammed discourse, overjoyed to have 
captured an audience that had not suffered under a hundred 
repetitions of his views and theories. 

"One year more," said Bibb, "and I'll go back to God's 
country. Oh, I know it's pretty here, and you get dolce far 
niente handed to you in chunks, but this country wasn't 
made for a white man to live in. You've got to have to plug 
through snow now and then, and see a game of baseball and 
wear a stiff collar and have a policeman cuss you. Still, La 
Paz is a good sort of a pipe-dreamy old hole. And IVIrs. 
Conant is here. When any of us feels particularly like jump- 
ing into the sea we rush around to her house and propose. 
It's nicer to be rejected by IVIrs. Conant than it is to be 
drowned. And they say drowning is a delightful sensation." 

"Many like her here?" asked Merriam. 

"Not anywhere," said Bibb, with a comfortable sigh. 
"She's the only white woman in La Paz. The rest range 
from a dappled dun to the color of a b-flat piano key. She's 
been here a year. Comes from — well, you know how a 
woman can talk — ask 'em to say *string' and they'll say 
*crow's foot' or *cat's cradle.' Sometimes you'd think she 
was from Oshkosh, and again from Jacksonville, Florida, and 
the next day from Cape Cod." 

"Mystery.^" ventured Merriam. 

"M — well, she looks it; but her talk's translucent enough. 
But that's a woman. I suppose if the Sphinx were to begin 
talking she'd merely say: 'Goodness me! more visitors coming 
for dinner, and nothing to eat but the sand which is here.' 
But you won't think about that when you meet her, Merriam 
You'll propose to her, too." 

To make a hard story soft, Merriam did meet her and pro 


pose to her. He found her to be a woman in black with hair 
the color of a bronze turkey's wings, and mysterious, remem- 
bering eyes that — well, that looked as if she might have been 
a trained nurse looking on when Eve was created. Her 
words and manner, though, were translucent, as Bibb had 
said. She spoke, vaguely, of friends in California and some 
of the lower parishes in Louisiana. The tropical climate 
and indolent life suited her; she had thought of buying an 
orange grove later on; La Paz, all in all, charmed her. 

Merriam's courtship of the Sphinx lasted three months, 
although he did not know that he was courting her. He 
was using her as an antidote for remorse, until he found, too 
late, that he had acquired the habit. During that time he 
had received no news from home. Wade did not know where 
he was; and he was not sure of Wade's exact address, and 
was afraid to write. He thought he had better let matters 
rest as they were for a while. 

One afternoon he and Mrs. Conant hired two ponies and 
rode out along the mountain trail as far as the little cold river 
that came tumbling down the foothills. There they stopped 
for a drink, and Merriam spoke his piece — ^he proposed, as 
Bibb had prophesied. 

Mrs. Conant gave him one glance of brilliant tenderness, 
and then her face took on such a strange, haggard look that 
Merriam was shaken out of his intoxication and back to his 

"I beg your pardon, Florence," he said, releasing her 
hand; "but I'll have to hedge on part of what I said. I can't 
ask you to marry me, of course. I killed a man in New York 
— a man who was my friend — shot him down — in quite a 
cowardly manner, I understand. Of course, the drinking 
didn't excuse it. Well, I couldn't resist having my say; and 
I'll always mean it. I'm here as a fugitive from justice, 
and — I suppose that ends our acquaintance." 

Mrs. Conant plucked little leaves assiduously from the low- 
hanging branch of a lime tree. 

"I suppose so," she said, in low and oddly uneven tones, 


"but that depends upon you. I'll be as honest as you were. 
I poisoned my husband. I am a self-made widow. A man 
cannot love a murderess. So I suppose that ends our ac- 

She looked up at him slow^ly. His face turned a little 
pale, and he stared at her blankly, like a deaf-and-dumb man 
who was wondering what it was all about. 

She took a swift step toward him, with stiffened arms and 
eyes blazing. 

*' Don't look at me like that!" she cried, as though she 
were in acute pain. "Curse me, or turn your back on me, 
but don't look that way. Am I a woman to be beaten .^^ If 
I could show you — here on my arms, and on my back are 
scars — and it has been more than a year — scars that he made 
in his brutal rages. A holy nun would have risen and struck 
the fiend down. Yes, I killed him. The foul and horrible 
words that he hurled at me that last day are repeated in my 
ears every night when I sleep. And then came his blows, 
and the end of my endurance. I got the poison that after- 
noon. It was his custom to drink every night in the library 
before going to bed a hot punch made of rum and wine. 
Only from my fair hands would he receive it — because h^ 
knew^ the fumes of spirits always sickened me. That night 
when the maid brought it to me I sent her dowmstairs on an 
errand. Before taking him his drink I went to my little 
private cabinet and poured into it more than a teaspoonful 
of tincture of aconite — enough to kill three men, so I had 
learned. I had drawn $6,000 that I had in bank, and with 
that and a few things in a satchel I left the house without 
any one seeing me. As I passed the library I heard him 
stagger up and fall heavily on a couch. I took a night train 
for New Orleans, and from there I sailed to the Bermudas. 
I finally cast anchor in La Paz. And now what have you to 
say? Can you open your mouth .f^" 

Merriam came back to life. 

"Florence," he said earnestly, "I want you. I don't 
care what youVe done. If the world " 


"Ralph," she interrupted, almost with a scream, "be my 

Her eyes melted; she relaxed magnificently and swayed 
toward Merriam so suddenly that he had to jump to catch 

Dear me! in such scenes how the talk runs into artificial 
prose. But it can't be helped. It's the subconscious smell 
of the footHghts' smoke that's in all of us. Stir the depths 
of your cook's soul sufficiently and she will discourse in 

Merriam and Mrs. Conant were very happy. He an- 
nounced their engagement at the Hotel Orilla del Mar. Eight 
foreigners and four native Astors pounded his back and 
shouted insincere congratulations at him. Pedrito, the 
Castihan-mannered barkeep, was goaded to extra duty until 
his agility would have turned a Boston cherry-phosphate 
clerk a pale lilac with envy. 

They were both very happy. According to the strange 
mathematics of the god of mutual affinity, the shadows that 
clouded their pasts when united became only half as dense 
instead of darker. They shut the world out and bolted the 
doors. Each was the other's world. Mrs. Conant lived 
again. The remembering look left her eyes. Merriam was 
with her every moment that was possible. On a little plateau 
under a grove of palms and calabash trees they were going 
to build a fairy bungalow. They were to be married in two 
months. Many hours of the day they had their heads to- 
gether over the house plans. Their joint capital w^ould set 
up a business in fruit or woods that would yield a comfortable 
support. "Good night, my world," would say Mrs. Conant 
every evening when Merriam left her for his hotel. They 
were very happy. Their love had, circumstantially, that 
element of melancholy in it that it seems to require to attain 
its supremest elevation. And it seemed that their mutual 
great misfortune or sin was a bond that nothing could sever. 

One day a steamer hove in the offing. Bare-legged and 
bare-shouldered La Paz scampered down to the beach, for 


the arrival of a steamer was their loop-the-loop, circus, 
Emancipation Day, and four o'clock tea. 

When the steamer was near enough, wise ones proclaimed 
that she was the PajarOy bound up-coast from Callao to 

The Pajaro put on brakes a mile off shore. Soon a boat 
came bobbing shoreward. Merriam strolled down on the 
beach to look on. In the shallow water the Carib sailors 
sprang out and dragged the boat with a mighty rush to the 
firm shingle. Out climbed the purser, the captain, and two 
passengers ploughing their way through the deep sand 
toward the hotel. Merriam glanced toward them with the 
mild interest due to strangers. There was something famil- 
iar to him in the walk of one of the passengers. He looked 
again, and his blood seemed to turn to strawberry ice cream 
in his veins. Burly, arrogant, debonair as ever, H. Ferguson 
Hedges, the man he had killed, was coming toward him ten 
feet away. 

When Hedges saw Merriam his face flushed a dark red. 
Then he shouted in his old, bluff way: "Hello, Merriam. 
Glad to see you. Didn't expect to find you out here. Quinby, 
this is my old friend Merriam, of New York — Merriam, Mr. 

Merriam gave Hedges and then Quinby an ice-cold hand. 

"Br-r-r-r ! " said Hedges. "But you've got a f rapped flip- 
per! Man, you're not well. You're as yellow as a China- 
man. Malarial here.^^ Steer us to a bar if there is such a 
thing, and let's take a prophylactic." 

Merriam, still half comatose, led them toward the Hotel 
Orilla del Mar. 

"Quinby and I," explained Hedges, puflSng through the 
slippery sand, "are looking out along the coast for some in- 
vestments. We've just come up from Concepcion and Val- 
paraiso and Lima. The captain of this subsidized ferry 
boat told us there was some good picking around here in silver 
mines. So we got off. Now, where is that cafe, Merriam? 
Oh, in this portable soda-water pavilion?" 


Leaving Quinby at the bar, Hedges drew Merriam aside. 

"Now, what does this mean? " he said, with gruff kindness. 
*'Are you sulking about that fool row we had?" 

"I thought," stammered Merriam — "I heard — they told 
me you were — that I had " 

'*Well, you didn't, and I'm not," said Hedges. "That 
fool young ambulance surgeon told Wade I was a candidate 
for a coffin just because I'd got tired and quit breathing. I 
laid up in a private hospital for a month; but here I am, 
kicking as hard as ever. Wade and I tried to find you, but 
couldn't. Now, Merriam, shake hands and forget it all. I 
was as much to blame as you were; and the shot really did 
me good — I came out of the hospital as healthy and fit as a 
cab horse. Come on; that drink's waiting." 

"Old man," said Merriam, brokenly, "I don't know how 
to thank you — I — ^well, you know " 

"Oh, forget it," boomed Hedges. "Quinby '11 die of thirst 
if we don't join him." 

Bibb was sitting on the shady side of the gallery waiting 
for the eleven -o'clock breakfast. Presently Merriam came 
out and joined him. His eye was strangely bright. 

"Bibb, my boy," said he, slowly waving his hand, "do 
you see those mountains and that sea and sky and sunshine? 
— they're mine, Bibbsy — all mine." 

"You go in," said Bibb, "and take eight grains of quinine, 
right away. It won't do in this climate for a man to get to 
thinking he's Rockefeller, or James O'Neill either." 

Inside, the purser was untying a great roll of newspapers, 
many of them weeks old, gathered in the lower ports by the 
Pajaro to be distributed at casual stopping-places. Thus 
do the beneficent voyagers scatter news and entertainment 
among the prisoners of sea and mountains. 

Tio Pancho, the hotel proprietor, set his great silver- 
rimmed anteojos upon his nose and divided the papers into a 
number of smaller rolls. A barefooted muchacho dashed in, 
desiring the post of messenger. 

"'Bien venido,"' said Tio Pancho. "This to Senora Conant; 


that to el Doctor S-S-Schlegel — Dios! what a name to say !— 
that to Senor Davis — one for Don Alberto. These two for 
the Casa de Huespedes, Numero 6, en la calle de las Bnenas 
Gracias. And say to them all, Muchacho, that the Pajaro 
sails for Panama at three this afternoon. If any have letters 
to send by the post, let them come quickly, that they may 
first pass through the correo.'* 

IVIrs. Conant received her roll of newspapers at four o'clock. 
The boy was late in delivering them, because he had been de- 
flected from his duty by an iguana that crossed his path and 
to which he immediately gave chase. But it made no hard- 
ship, for she had no letters to send. 

She was idling in a hammock in the patio of the house that 
she occupied, half awake, half happily dreaming of the para- 
dise that she and Merriam had created out of the wrecks of 
their pasts. She was content now for the horizon of that 
shimmering sea to be the horizon of her life. They had shut 
out the w^orld and closed the door. 

Merriam was coming to her house at seven, after his dinner 
at the hotel. She would put on a white dress and an apricot- 
colored lace mantilla, and they would walk an hour under 
the cocoanut palms by the lagoon. She smiled contentedly, 
and chose a paper at random from the roll the boy had 

At first the words of a certain headline of a Sunday news- 
paper meant nothing to her; they conveyed only a visualized 
sense of familiarity. The largest type ran thus: "Lloyd B. 
Conant secures divorce." And then the subheadings : "Well- 
known Saint Louis paint manufacturer wins suit, pleading 
one year's absence of wife." "Her mysterious disappearance 
recalled." "Nothing has been heard of her since." 

Twisting herself quickly out of the hammock, Mrs. Con- 
ant's eye soon traversed the half-column of the Recall. 
It ended thus: "It will be remembered that Mrs. Conant 
diappeared one evening in March of last year. It was freely 
rumored that her marriage with Lloyd B. Conant resulted 
in much unhappiness. Stories were not wanting to i^e effect^ 


that his cruelty toward his wife had more than once taken 
the form of physical abuse. After her departure a full bottle 
of tincture of aconite, a deadly poison, was found in a small 
medicine cabinet in her bedroom. This might have been an 
indication that she meditated suicide. It is supposed that 
she abandoned such an intention if she possessed it, and 
left her home instead." 

Mrs. Conant slowly dropped the paper, and sat on a chair, 
clasping her hands tightly. 

"Let me think — O God! — let me think," she whispered. 
**I took the bottle with me ... I threw it out of the 
window of the train . . . I . . . there was an- 
other bottle in the cabinet . . . there were two, side by 
side — the aconite — and the valerian that I took when I could 
not sleep ... If they found the aconite bottle full, why 
— but, he is alive, of course — I gave him only a harmless dose 
of valerian ... I am not a murderess in fact . . . 
Ralph, I — O God, don't let this be a dream!" 

She went into the part of the house that she rented from 
the old Peruvian man and his wife, shut the door, and walked 
up and down her room swiftly and feverishly for half an hour. 
Merriam's photograph stood in a frame on a table. She 
picked it up, looked at it with a smile of exquisite tenderness, 
and — dropped four tears on it. And Merriam only twenty 
rods away! Then she stood still for ten minutes, looking 
into space. She looked into space through a slowly opening 
door. On her side of the door was the building material for a 
castle of Romance — love, an Arcady of waving palms, a 
lullaby of waves on the shore of a haven of rest, respite, peace, 
a lotus land of dreamy ease and security — a life of poetry 
and heart's ease and refuge. Romanticist, will you tell me 
what Mrs. Conant saw on the other side of the door? You 
cannot .f^ — that is, you will not? Very well; then listen. 

She saw herself go into a department store and buy five spools 
of silk thread and three yards of gingham to make an apron for 
the cook. ''Shall I charge it, ma'am?'' asked the clerk. As 


she walked out a lady whom she met greeted her cordially. " OA, 
where did you get the pattern for those sleeves, dear Mrs. Con- 
ant?^' she said. At the corner a policeman helped her across 
the street and touched his helmet. ''Any callers?" she asked 
the maid when she reached home. ''Mrs. Waldron/' answered 
the maid, "and the two Misses Jenkinson." "Very welly'* 
she said. " You may bring me a cup of tea, Maggie.'' 

Mrs. Conant went to the door and called Angela, the old 
Peruvian woman. *'If Mateo is there send him to me.'* 
Mateo, a half-breed, shuffling and old but efficient, came. 

"Is there a steamer or a vessel of any kind leaving this 
coast to-night or to-morrow that I can get passage on?" she 

Mateo considered. 

"At Punta Reina, thirty miles down the coast, senora," 
he answered, "there is a small steamer loading with cinchona 
and dyewoods. She sails for San Francisco to-morrow at 
sunrise. So says my brother, who arrived in his sloop to- 
day, passing by Punta Reina." 

"You must take me in that sloop to that steamer to-night 
Will you do that.^" 

"Perhaps " Mateo shrugged a suggestive shouldei. 

IVIrs. Conant took a handful of money from a draw^er and gave 
it to him. 

"Get the sloop ready behind the little point of land below 
the town," she ordered. "Get sailors, and be ready to sail 
at six o'clock. In half an hour bring a cart partly filled with 
straw into the patio here, and take my trunk to the sloop. 
There is more money yet. Now, hurry." 

For one time Mateo walked away without shuffling his feet. 

"Angela," cried Mrs. Conant, almost fiercely, "come and 
help me pack. I am going away. Out with this trunk. 
My clothes first. Stir yourself. Those dark dresses first. 

From the first she did not waver from her decision. Her 
view was clear and final. Her door had opened and let the 


world in. Her love for Merriam was not lessened; but it 
DOW appeared a hopeless and unrealizable thing. The visions 
of their future that had seemed so blissful and complete had 
vanished. She tried to assure herself that her renunciation 
was rather for his sake than for her own. Now that she was 
cleared of her burden — at least, technically — would not his 
own weigh too heavily upon him? If she should cling to 
him, would not the difference forever silently mar and corrode 
their happiness.? Thus she reasoned; but there were a thou- 
sand little voices calling to her that she could feel rather 
than hear, like the hum of distant, powerful machinery — 
the little voices of the world, that, when raised in unison, can 
send their insistent call through the thickest door. 

Once while packing, a brief shadow of the lotus dream came 
f)ack to her. She held Merriam 's picture to her heart with 
one hand, while she threw a pair of shoes into the trunk with 
her other. 

At six o'clock Mateo returned and reported the sloop ready. 
He and his brother lifted the trunk into the cart, covered it 
with straw, and conveyed it to the point of embarkation. 
From there they transferred it on board in the sloop's dory. 
Then Mateo returned for additional orders. 

Mrs. Conant was ready. She had settled all business 
matters with Angela, and was impatiently waiting. She 
wore a long, loose black-silk duster that she often walked 
about in when the evenings were chilly. On her head was 
a small round hat, and over it the apricot-colored lace 

Dusk had quickly followed the short twilight. Mateo 
led her by dark and grass-grown streets toward the point 
behind which the sloop was anchored. On turning a corner 
they beheld the Hotel Orilla del Mar three streets away, 
nebulously aglow with its array of kerosene lamps. 

Mrs. Conant paused, with streaming eyes. "I must I 
must see him once before I go," she murmured in anguish. 
But even then she did not falter in her decision. Quickly 
she invented a plan by which she might speak to him, and 


yet make her departure without his knowing. She would 
walk past the hotel, ask some one to call him out and talk a 
few moments on some trival excuse, leaving him expecting 
to see her at her home at seven. 

She unpinned her hat and gave it to Mateo. "Keep this, 
and wait here till I come," she ordered. Then she draped 
the mantilla over her head as she usually did when walking 
after sunset, and went straight to the Orilla del Mar. 

She was glad to see the bulky, w^hite-clad figure of Tie 
Pancho standing alone on the gallery. 

"Tio Pancho," she said, with a charming smile, "may I 
trouble you to ask Mr. Merriam to come out for just a few 
moments that I may speak with him.'^" 

Tio Pancho bowed as an elephant bows. 

''Buenas tardes, Sefiora Conant," he said, as a cavalier 
talks. And then he went on, less at his ease: 

"But does not the sefiora know that Senor Merriam sailed 
on the Pajaro for Panama at three o'clock of this afternoon? " 


From Options. Copyright, Harper and Brothers, and used here 
by arrangement with the pubHshers. First pubhshed in Everybody's 
Magazine, June, 1908. In Art and the Bronco, pubhshed in 1903, 
O. Henry's theme was art by ancestry. His theme here is hterature 
by ancestry. The jotting in the notebook is: "Southern Maga- 
zine. All contributors relatives of Southern distinguished men." 
There w^as enough truth in the picture to drive the message home, 
and the South has joined whole-heartedly in the laughter raised at 
its own expense. Colonel Telfair rather than Mr. Thacker has thus 
unwittingly become the exponent of literature not only divorced from 
ancestral claims but liberalized and modernized in its appeal. The 
changed attitude was in evidence, however, at least four years before 
1902, the year in which the story is supposed to take place. The 
ending is a triumph of unexpectedness and convincingness un- 
surpassed even by O. Henry. The reader w^ill not be surprised to 
learn that Colonel Roosevelt greatly enjoyed the humor of the story, 
so I am told by Mr. Kermit Roosevelt, and passed it around for 
other members of the family to read. If Colonel Telfair extended 
his "investigation" far enough, he doubtless learned not only that 
Colonel Roosevelt's mother, Martha Bulloch, was a native of 
Georgia but that she had two brothers in the Confederate Navy and 
that she herself was as loyal to the cause of the South as her husband 
was to the cause of the North. 

When The Rose of Dixie magazine was started by a stock 
company in Toombs City, Georgia, there was never but one 
candidate for its chief editorial position in the minds of its 
owners. Col. Aquila Telfair was the man for the place. 
By all the rights of learning, family, reputation, and Southern 
traditions, he was its foreordained, fit, and logical editor. 
So, a committee of the patriotic Georgia citizens who had 
subscribed the founding fund of $100,000 called upon Colonel 



Telfair at his residence, Cedar Heights, fearful lest the en- 
terprise and the South should suffer by his possible refusal. 

The colonel received them in his great library, where he 
spent most of his days. The library had descended to him 
from his father. It contained ten thousand volumes, some 
of which had been published as late as the year 1861. When 
the deputation arrived, Colonel Telfair was seated at his 
massive white-pine center-table, reading Burton's "Anatomy 
of Melancholy.'* He arose and shook hands punctiliously 
with each member of the committee. If you were familiar 
with The Rose of Dixie you will remember the colonel's por- 
trait, which appeared in it from time to time. You could 
not forget the long, carefully brushed white hair; the hooked, 
high-bridged nose, slightly twisted to the left; the keen eyes 
under the still black eyebrows; the classic mouth beneath the 
drooping white moustache, slightly frazzled at the ends. 

The committee solicitously offered him the position of 
managing editor, humbly presenting an outline of the field 
that the publication was designed to cover and mentioning 
a comfortable salary. The colonel's lands were growing 
poorer each year and were much cut up by red gullies. Be- 
sides, the honor was not one to be refused. 

In a forty -minute speech of acceptance. Colonel Teffair 
gave an outline of English literature from Chaucer to Macau- 
lay, re-fought the battle of Chancellorsville, and said that, 
God helping him, he would so conduct The Rose of Dixie that 
its fragrance and beauty would permeate the entire world, 
hurling back into the teeth of the Northern minions their 
belief that no genius or good could exist in the brains and 
hearts of the people whose property they had destroyed and 
whose rights they had curtailed. 

OflBces for the magazine were partitioned off and furnished 
in the second floor of the First National Bank building; and 
it was for the colonel to cause The Rose of Dixie to blossom 
and flourish or to wilt in the balmy air of the land of flowers. 

The staff of assistants and contributors that Editor-Colonel 
Telfair drew about him was a peach. It was a whole crate 


of Georgia peaches. The first assistant editor, ToUiver Lee 
Fairfax, had had a father killed during Pickett's charge. 
The second assistant, Keats Unthank, was the nephew of one 
of Morgan's Raiders. The book reviewer, Jackson Rocking- 
ham, had been the youngest soldier in the Confederate army, 
having appeared on the field of battle with a sword in one 
hand and a milk-bottle in the other. The art editor, Ron- 
cesvalles Sykes, was a third cousin to a nephew of Jefferson 
Davis. Miss Lavinia Terhune, the colonel's stenographer 
and typewriter, had an aunt who had once been kissed by 
Stonewall Jackson. Tommy Webster, the head office-boy, 
got his job by having recited Father Ryan's poems, complete, 
at the commencement exercises of the Toombs City High 
School. The girls who wrapped and addressed the magazines 
were members of old Southern families in Reduced Cir- 
cumstances. The cashier was a scrub named Hawkins, from 
Ann Arbor, Michigan, who had recommendations, and a bond 
from a guarantee company filed w4th the owners. Even 
Georgia stock companies sometimes realize that it takes 
live ones to bury the dead. 

Well, sir, if you believe me. The Rose of Dixie blossomed 
five times before anybody heard of it except the people who 
buy their hooks and eyes in Toombs City. Then Hawkins 
climbed off his stool and told on 'em to the stock company. 
Even in Ann Arbor he had been used to having his business 
propositions heard of at least as far away as Detroit. So 
an advertising manager was engaged — Beauregard Fitzhugh 
Banks — a young man in a lavender necktie, whose grand- 
father had been the Exalted High Pillow-slip of the Kuklux 

In spite of which The Rose of Dixie kept coming out every 
month. Although in every issue it ran photos of either the 
Taj Mahal or the Luxembourg Gardens, or Carmencita or 
La Follette, a certain number of people bought it and sub- 
scribed for it. As a boom for it, Editor-Colonel Telfair ran 
three different views of Andrew Jackson's old home, "The 
Hermitage," a full-page engraving of the second battle of 


Manassas, entitled "Lee to the Rear!'* and a five-thousand- 
word biography of Belle Boyd in the same number. The 
subscription Hst that month advanced 118. Also there were 
poems in the same issue by Leonina Vashti Haricot (pen- 
name), related to the Haricots of Charleston, South Carolina, 
and Bill Thompson, nephew of one of the stockholders, and 
an article from a special society correspondent describing 
a tea-party given by the swell Boston and English set, where 
a lot of tea was spilled overboard by some of the guests mas- 
querading as Indians. 

One day a person whose breath would easily cloud a mirror, 
he was so much alive, entered the office of The Rose of Dixie. 
He was a man about the size of a real-estate agent, with a 
self -tied tie and a manner that he must have borrowed con- 
jointly from W. J. Bryan, Hackenschmidt, and Hetty Green. 
He was shown into the editor-colonel's pons asinorun. Colo- 
nel Telfair rose and began a Prince Albert bow\ 

"I'm Thacker," said the intruder, taking the editor's 
chair— "T. T. Thacker, of New York." 

He dribbled hastily upon the colonel's desk some cards, a 
bulk manila envelope, and a letter from the owners of The 
Rose of Dixie. This letter introduced Mr. Thacker, and po- 
litely requested Colonel Telfair to give him a conference and 
whatever information about the magazine he might desire. 

"I've been corresponding with the secretary of the maga- 
zine owners for some time," said Thacker, briskly. "I'm a 
practical magazine man myself, and a circulation booster as 
good as any, if I do say it. I'll guarantee an increase of any- 
where from ten thousand to a hundred thousand a year for 
any publication that isn't printed in a dead language. I've 
had my eye on The Rose of Dixie ever since it started. I know 
every end of the business from editing to setting up the clas- 
sified ads. Now, I've come down here to put a good bunch of 
money in the magazine, if I can see my way clear. It ought 
to be made to pay. The secretary tells me it's losing money. 
I don't see why a magazine in the South, if it's properly 
handled, shouldn't get a good circulation in the North, too." 


Colonel Telfair leaned back in his chair and polished his 
gold-rimmed glasses. 

"Mr. Thacker," said he, courteously but firmly, " The Rose 
of Dixie is a publication devoted to the fostering and the voic- 
ing of Southern genius. Its watchword, which you may 
have seen on the cover, is 'Of, For, and By the South."* 

"But you wouldn't object to a Northern circulation, would 
you.'^" asked Thacker. 

"I suppose," said the editor-colonel, "that it is customary 
to open the circulation lists to all. I do not know. I have 
nothing to do with the business affairs of the magazine. I 
was called upon to assume editorial control of it, and I have 
devoted to its conduct such poor literary talents as I may 
possess and whatever store of erudition I may have acquired." 

"Sure," said Thacker. "But a dollar is a dollar anywhere. 
North, South, or West — whether you're buying codfish, 
goober peas, or Rocky Ford cantaloupes. Now, I've been 
iooking over your November number. I see one here on 
your desk. You don't mind running over it with me.^^ 

"Well, your leading article is all right. A good write-up 
of the cotton-belt with plenty of photographs is a winner any 
time. New York is always interested in the cotton crop. 
And this sensational account of the Hatfield-McCoy feud, 
by a schoolmate of a niece of the Governor of Kentucky, 
isn't such a bad idea. It happened so long ago that most 
people have forgotten it. Now, here's a poem three pages 
long called 'The Tyrant's Foot,' by Lorella Lascelles. I've 
pawed around a good deal over manuscripts, but I never saw 
her name on a rejection slip." 

"Miss Lascelles," said the editor, "is one of our most 
widely recognized Southern poetesses. She is closely related 
to the Alabama Lascelles family, and made with her own 
hands the silken Confederate banner that was presented to 
the governor of that state at his inauguration." 

"But why," persisted Thacker, "is the poem illustrated 
with a view of the M. & O. Railroad freight depot at Tus- 


"The illustration," said the colonel, with dignity, "shows 
a corner of the fence surrounding the old homestead where 
Miss Lascelles was born." 

"All right," said Thacker. "I read the poem, but I 
couldn't tell whether it was about the depot or the battle 
of Bull Run. Now, here's a short story called 'Rosie's 
Temptation,' by Fosdyke Piggott. It's rotten. What is a 
Piggott, anyT\^ay.?" 

"Mr. Piggott," said the editor, "is a brother of the prin- 
cipal stockholder of the magazine." 

"All's right with the world — Piggott passes," said Thacker. 
"Well, this article on Arctic exploration and the one on tar- 
pon fishing might go. But how about this write-up of the 
Atlanta, New Orleans, Nashville, and Savannah breweries? 
It seems to consist mainly of statistics about their output 
and the quality of their beer. What's the chip over the bug? " 

"If I understand your figurative language," answered 
Colonel Telfair, "it is this : the article you refer to was handed 
to me by the owners of the magazine with instructions to 
publish it. The literary quality of it did not appeal to me. 
But, in a measure, I feel impelled to conform, in certain 
matters, to the wishes of the gentlemen who are interested 
in the financial side of The Rose.'' 

" I see," said Thacker. "Next we have two pages of selec- 
tions from 'Lalla Rookh,' by Thomas Moore. Now, what 
Federal prison did Moore escape from, or what's the name 
of the F. F. V. family that he carries as a handicap?" 

"Moore was an Irish poet who died in 1852," said Colonel 
Telfair, pityingly. "He is a classic. I have been thinking 
of reprinting his translation of Anacreon serially in the maga- 

"Look out for the copyright laws," said Thacker, flip- 
pantly. " Who's Bessie Belleclair, who contributes the essay 
on the newly completed water- works plant in Millodgeville?" 

"The name, sir," said Colonel Telfair, "is the nom de 
guerre of Miss Elvira Simpkins. I have not the honor of 
knowing the lady; but her contribution was sent us by Con- 


gressman Brower, of her native state. Congressman Brow- 
er's mother was related to the Polks of Tennessee." 

"Now, see here, Colonel," said Thacker, throwing down 
the magazine, "this won't do. You can't successfully run a 
magazine for one particular section of the country. You've 
got to make a universal appeal. Look how the Northern 
publications have catered to the South and encouraged the 
Southern writers. And you've got to go far and wide for 
your contributors. You've got to buy stuff according to its 
quality, without any regard to the pedigree of the author. 
Now, I'll bet a quart of ink that this Southern parlor organ 
you've been running has never played a note that originated 
above Mason & Hamlin's line. Am I right.'^" 

"I have carefully and conscientiously rejected all contri- 
butions from that section of the country — if I understand 
your figurative language aright," replied the colonel. 

"All right. Now, I'll show you something." 

Thacker reached for his thick manila envelope and dumped 
a mass of typewritten manuscript on the editor's desk. 

"Here's some truck," said he, "that I paid cash for, and 
brought along with me." 

One by one he folded back the manuscripts and showed 
their first pages to the colonel. 

"Here are four short stories by four of the highest priced 
authors in the United States — three of 'em living in New 
York, and one commuting. There's a special article on 
Vienna-bred society by Tom Vampson. Here's an Italian 
serial by Captain Jack — ^no — it's the other Crawford. Here 
are three separate exposes of city governments by Sniffings, 
and here's a dandy entitled 'What Women Carry in Dress- 
Suit Cases' — a Chicago newspaper woman hired herself out 
for five years as a lady's maid to get that information. And 
here's a Synopsis of Preceding Chapters of Hall Caine's new 
serial to appear next June. And here's a couple of pounds of 
vers de societe that I got at a rate from the clever magazines. 
That's the stuff that people everywhere want. And now 
here's a write-up with photographs at the ages of four, 


twelve, twenty-two, and thirty of George B. McClellan. It's 
a prognostication. He's bound to be elected Mayor of New 
York. It'll make a big hit all over the country. He " 

"I beg your pardon," said Colonel Telfair, stiffening in 
his chair. "What was the name?" 

*'0h, I see," said Thacker, with half a grin. "Yes, he's a 
son of the General. We'll pass that manuscript up. But, 
if you'll excuse me. Colonel, it's a magazine we're trying to 
make go off — not the first gun at Fort Sumter. Now, here's 
a thing that's bound to get next to you. It's an original poem 
by James \ATiitcomb Riley, J. W. himself. You know what 
that means to a magazine. I won't tell you what I had to 
pay for that poem; but I'll tell you this — Riley can make more 
money \\Titing with a fountain-pen than you or I can vvith 
one that lets the ink run. I'll read you the last two stanzas 

" Ta lays around 'n' loafs all day, 

'N' reads and makes us leave him be. 
He lets me do just like I please, 

'N' when I'm bad he laughs at me, 
'N' when I holler loud 'n' say 

Bad words 'n' then begin to tease 
The cat, 'n' pa just smiles, ma's mad 
'N' gives me Jesse crost her knees. 
I always wondered why that wuz — 
I guess it's cause 
Pa never does. 

"**N' after all the lights are out 
I'm sorry 'bout it; so I creep 
Out of my trundle bed to ma's 

'N' say I love her a whole heap, 
'N' kiss her, 'n' I hug her tight. 

'N' it's too dark to see her eyes. 
But every time I do I know 

She cries 'n' cries 'n' cries 'n' cries. 
I always wondered why that wuzr-^ 
1 guess it's cause 
Pa never does.' 


"That's the stuff," contmued Thacker. "What do you 
think of that?" 

"I am not unfamiliar with the works of Mr. Riley," said 
the colonel, deliberately. "I believe he lives in Indiana. 
For the last ten years I have been somewhat of a literary re- 
cluse, and am familiar with nearly all the books in the Cedar 
Heights library. I am also of the opinion that a magazine 
should contain a certain amount of poetry. Many of the 
sweetest singers of the South have already contributed to the 
pages of The Rose of Dixie. I, myself, have thought of trans- 
lating from the original for publication in its pages the works 
of the great Italian poet Tasso. Have you ever drunk from 
the fountain of this immortal poet's lines, Mr. Thacker?" 

"Not even a demi-Tasso," said Thacker. "Now, let's 
come to the point. Colonel Telfair. I've already invested 
some money in this as a flyer. That bunch of manuscripts 
cost me $4,000. My object was to try a number of them 
in the next issue — I believe you make up less than a month 
ahead — and see what effect it has on the circulation. I be- 
lieve that by printing the best stuff we can get in the North, 
South, East, or West we can make the magazine go. You 
have there the letter from the owning company asking you 
to co-operate with me in the plan. Let's chuck out some of 
this slush that you've been publishing just because the writers 
are related to the Skoopdoodles of Skoopdoodle County. 
Are you with me?" 

"As long as I continue to be the editor of The Rose^' said 
Colonel Telfair, with dignity, "I shall be its editor. But I 
desire also to conform to the wishes of its owners if I can do 
so conscientiously." 

"That's the talk," said Thacker, briskly. "Now, how 
much of this stuff I've brought can we get into the January 
number? We want to begin right away." 

"There is yet space in the January number," said the 
editor, "for about eight thousand words, roughly estimated." 

"Great!" said Thacker. "It isn't much, but it'll give 
the readers some change from goobers, governors, and Gettys- 


burg. I'll leave the selection of the stuff I brought to fill the 
space to you, as it's all good. I've got to run back to New 
York, and I'll be down again in a couple of weeks." 

Colonel Telfair slowly swung his eye-glasses by their broad, 
black ribbon. 

"The space in the January number that I referred to," 
said he, measuredly, "has been held open purposely, pending 
a decision that I have not yet made. A short time ago a con- 
tribution was submitted to The Rose of Dixie that is one of 
the most remarkable literary efforts that has ever come under 
my observation. None but a master mind and talent could 
have produced it. It would about fill the space that I have 
reserved for its possible use." 

Thacker looked anxious. 

"WTiat kind of stuff is it?" he asked. "Eight thousand 
words sounds suspicious. The oldest families must have been 
collaborating. Is there going to be another secession.? " 

"The author of the article," continued the colonel, ignoring 
Thacker's allusions, "is a writer of some reputation. He 
has also distinguished himself in other ways. I do not feel 
at liberty to reveal to you his name — at least not until I have 
decided whether or not to accept his contribution." 

"Well," said Thacker, nervously," is it a continued story, 
or an account of the unveiling of the new town pump in Whit- 
mire, South Carolina, or a revised list of General Lee's body- 
servants, or what?" 

"You are disposed to be facetious,'' said Colonel Telfair, 
calmly. "The article is from the pen of a thinker, a philoso- 
pher, a lover of mankind, a student, and a rhetorician of high 

"It must have been written by a syndicate," said Thacker. 
"But, honestly. Colonel, you want to go slow. I don't know 
of any eight-thousand-word single doses of written matter 
that are read by anybody these days, except Supreme Court 
briefs and reports of murder trials. You haven't by any ac- 
cident gotten hold of a copy of one of Daniel Webster's 
speeches, have you?" 


Colonel Telfair swung a little in his chair and looked stead- 
ily under his bushy eyebrows at the magazine promoter. 

'*Mr. Thacker," he said, gravely, "I am willing to segre- 
gate the somewhat crude expression of your sense of humor 
from the solicitude that your business investments undoubt- 
edly have conferred upon you. But I must ask you to cease 
j'our jibes and derogatory comments upon the South and 
the Southern people. They, sir, will not be tolerated in the 
ojSSce of The Rose of Dixie for one moment. And before 
you proceed with more of your covert insinuations that I, 
the editor of this magazine, am not a competent judge of the 
merits of the matter submitted to its consideration, I beg that 
you will first present some evidence or proof that you are my 
superior in any way, shape, or form relative to the question 
in hand." 

"Oh, come. Colonel," said Thacker, good-naturedly. "I 
didn't do anything like that to you. It sounds like an m- 
dictment by the fourth assistant attorney-general. Let's 
get back to business. What's this 8,000 to 1 shot about.'^" 

"The article," said Colonel Telfair, acknowledging the 
apology by a slight bow, "covers a wide area of knowledge. 
It takes up theories and questions that have puzzled the world 
for centuries, and disposes of them logically and concisely. 
One by one it holds up to view the evils of the world, points 
out the way of eradicating them, and then conscientiously 
and in detail commends the good. There is hardly a phase 
of human life that it does not discuss wisely, calmly, and 
equitably. The great policies of governments, the duties of 
private citizens, the obligations of home life, law, ethics, 
morality — all these important subjects are handled with a 
calm wisdom and confidence that I must confess has captured 
my admiration." 

"It must be a crackerjack," said Thacker, impressed. 

"It is a great contribution to the world's wisdom," said 
the colonel. "The only doubt remaining in my mind as to 
the tremendous advantage it would be to us to give it publica- 
tion in The Rose of Dixie is that I have not yet suiSficient in- 


formation about the author to give his work pubHcity in our 

"I thought you said he is a distinguished man," said 

"He is," repHed the colonel, "both in literary and in other 
more diversified and extraneous fields. But I am extremely 
careful about the matter that I accept for pubhcation. My 
contributors are people of unquestionable repute and connec- 
tions, which fact can be verified at any time. As I said, I 
am holding this article until I can acquire more information 
about its author. I do not know whether I will publish it or 
not. If I decide against it, I shall be much pleased, Mr 
Thacker, to substitute the matter that you are leaving with 
me in its place." 

Thacker was somewhat at sea. 

"I don't seem to gather," said he, "much about the gist 
of this inspired piece of literature. It sounds more like a 
dark horse than Pegasus to me." 

"It is a human document," said the colonel-editor, con- 
fidently, "from a man of great accomplishments who, in my 
opinion, has obtained a stronger grasp on the world and its 
outcomes than that of any man living to-day." 

Thacker rose to his feet excitedly. 

"Say!" he said. "It isn't possible that youVe cornered 
John D. Rockefeller's memoirs, is it? Don't tell me that all 
at once." 

"No, sir," said Colonel Telfair. "I am speaking of men- 
tality and literature, not of the less worthy intricacies of 

"Well, what's the trouble about running the article," asked 
Thacker, a little impatiently, "if the man's well known and 
has got the stuff?" 

Colonel Telfair sighed. 

"Mr. Thacker," said he, "for once I have been tempted. 
Nothing has yet appeared in The Rose of Dixie that has not 
been from the pen of one of its sons or daughters. I know 
little about the author of this article except that he has ac- 


quired prominence in a section of the country that has al- 
ways been inimical to my heart and mind. But I recognize 
his genius; and, as I have told you, I have instituted an in- 
vestigation of his personality. Perhaps it will be futile. But 
I shall pursue the inquiry. Until that is finished, I must 
leave open the question of filling the vacant space in our 
January number.'* 

Thacker arose to leave. 

"All right. Colonel," he said, as cordially as he could. 
"You use your own judgment. If you've really got a scoop 
or something that will make 'em sit up, run it instead of my 
stuff. I'll drop in again in about two weeks. Good luck!" 

Colonel Telfair and the magazine promoter shook hands. 

Returning a fortnight later, Thacker dropped off a very 
focky Pullman at Toombs City. He found the January 
number of the magazine made up and the forms closed. 

The vacant space that had been yawning for type was 
filled by an article that was headed thus : 


Written for 


A Member of the Well-known 


T. Roosevelt 


From Strictly Business. First published in Hampton*s Magazine, 
November, 1909. This story, says a writer in the New York Times, 
April 28, 1918, "is coming to be regarded as O. Henry's greatest 
short story and one of the greatest in the language." Writing about 
the story to Mr. William Griffith, then editor of Hampton's,0. Henry 
says: "Title will follow with the remainder; have to take time on 
title. ... In the end there is a dramatic and mysterious 
murder, the victim being Major Caswell. The *snapper' comes in 
the last paragraph, revealing the slayer by a bare intimation. The 
whole scheme is to show that an absolutely prosaic and conventional 
town such as Nashville, can equal San Francisco, Bagdad, or Paris 
when it comes to a human story. The beginning of the story is not 
yet written — there will be two or three pages to follow, containing 
references to Frank Norris's lines, in which the words occur, * Think 
of anything happening in Nashville, Tennessee.'" It was knowTi 
before that O. Henry pondered long over his titles, that he blocked 
out his plots slowly, but that he wrote rapidly and with hardly an 
erasure after the plot had been thought through to its denouement. 
This letter indicates also that the expository openings (see page 97) 
were sometimes written after the purely narrative part had been 
completed. In the structure of the story, note especially the 
artistic use made of Rand and McNally's prosaic summary. The 
repetition of a quotation or parts of a quotation at intervals through 
a story for re-enforcement or continuousness is not an uncommon 
device. But the quotations from Rand and McNally are employed 
differently. They strike an opposing note; they take the side of 
Frank Norris; they build up the material Nashville by the side of 
O. Henry's romantic Nashville. The story becomes a sort 
of debate, with periodic rejoinders from the opposition. The 
initial quotation from Frank Norris is taken from The House with 
the Blindsy one of the stories in the volume called The Third 
Circle (1909). 



The cities are full of pride. 

Challenging each to each — 
This from her mountainside. 

That from her burthened beach. 

R. Kipling. 

Fancy a novel about Chicago or Buffalo, let us say, or Nashville, 
Tennessee! There are just three big cities in the United States that 
are "story cities" — New York, of course. New Orleans, and, best 
of the lot, San Francisco. — Frank Norris. 

East is East, and West is San Francisco, according to 
Calif ornians. Calif ornians are a race of people; they are 
not merely inhabitants of a State. They are the Southern- 
ers of the West. Now, Chicagoans are no less loyal to their 
city; but when you ask them why, they stammer and speak 
of lake fish and the new Odd Fellows Building. But Cali- 
fornians go into detail. 

Of course they have, in the climate, an argument that is 
good for half an hour while you are thinking of your coal 
bills and heavy underwear. But as soon as they come to mis- 
take your silence for conviction, madness comes upon them, 
and they picture the city of the Golden Gate as the Bagdad 
of the New World. So far, as a matter of opinion, no refuta- 
tion is necessary. But, dear cousins all (from Adam and 
Eve descended), it is a rash one who will lay his finger on the 
map and say: *'In this town there can be no romance — what 
could happen here?" Yes, it is a bold and a rash deed to 
challenge in one sentence history, romance, and Rand and 

Nashville. — A city, port of delivery, and the capital of the State 
of Tennessee, is on the Cumberland River and on the N. C. & St. L. 
and the L. & N. railroads. This city is regarded as the most im 
portant educational centre in the South. 

I stepped off the train at 8 p. m. Having searched the 
thesaurus in vain for adjectives, I must, as a substitution, 
hie me to comparison in the form of a recipe. 


Take of London fog 30 parts; malaria 10 parts; gas leaks 
20 parts; dewdrops gathered in a brick yard at sunrise, 25 
parts; odor of honeysuckle 15 parts. Mix. 

The mixture will give you an approximate conception of a 
Nashville drizzle. It is not so fragrant as a moth-ball nor 
as thick as pea-soup; but 'tis enough — 'twill serve. 

I went to a hotel in a tumbril. It required strong self- 
suppression for me to keep from climbing to the top of it 
and giving an imitation of Sidney Carton. The vehicle was 
drawm by beasts of a bygone era and driven by something 
dark and emancipated. 

I was sleepy and tired, so when I got to the hotel I hur- 
riedly paid it the fifty cents it demanded (with approximate 
lagniappe, I assure you). I knew its habits; and I did not 
want to hear it prate about its old "marster" or anything 
that happened *'befo' de w^ah." 

The hotel was one of the kind described as "renovated." 
That means $20,000 worth of new marble pillars, tiling, elec- 
tric lights and brass cuspidors in the lobby, and a new L. &. N. 
time table and a lithograph of Lookout Mountain in each 
one of the great rooms above. The management was with- 
out reproach, the attention full of exquisite Southern cour- 
tesy, the service as slow as the progress of a snail and as good- 
humored as Rip Van Winkle. The food was worth traveling 
a thousand miles for. There is no other hotel in the world 
where you can get such chicken livers en brochette. 

At dinner I asked a Negro waiter if there was anything 
doing in town. He pondered gravely for a minute, and then 
replied: "Well, boss, I don't really reckon there's anything 
at all doin' after sundown." 

Sundown had been accomphshed; it had been drowned 
in the drizzle long before. So that spectacle was denied 
me. But I went forth upon the streets in the drizzle to see 
what might be there. 

It is built on undulating grounds; and the streets are lighted by 
electricity at a cost of $32,470 per annum. 


As I left the hotel there was a race riot. Down upon me 
charged a company of freedmen, or Arabs, or Zulus, armed 
with — ! no, I saw with relief that they were not rifles, but 
whips. And I saw dimly a caravan of black, clumsy vehicles; 
and at the reassuring shouts, "Kyar you anywhere in the 
town, boss, fuh fifty cents," I reasoned that I was merely a 
"fare" instead of a victim. 

I walked through long streets, all leading uphill. I won- 
dered how those streets ever came down again. Perhaps 
they didn't until they were "graded." On a few of the 
"main streets" I saw lights in stores here and there; saw 
street cars go by conveying worthy burghers hither and yon; 
saw people pass engaged in the art of conversation, and 
heard a burst of semi-lively laughter issuing from a soda- 
water and ice-cream parlor. The streets other than " main" 
seemed to have enticed upon their borders houses con- 
secrated to peace and domesticity. In many of them lights 
shone behind discreetly drawn window shades; in a few 
pianos tinkled orderly and irreproachable music. There 
was, indeed, little "doing." I wished I had come before 
sundown. So I returned to my hotel. 

In November, 1864, the Confederate General Hood advanced 
against Nashville, where he shut up a National force under General 
Thomas. The latter then sallied forth and defeated the Confeder- 
ates in a terrible conflict. 

All my life I have heard of, admired, and witnessed the 
fine marksmanship of the South in its peaceful conflicts in 
the tobacco-chewing regions. But in my hotel a surprise 
awaited me. There were twelve bright, new, imposing, ca- 
pacious brass cuspidors in the great lobby, tall enough to 
be called urns and so wide-mouthed that the crack pitcher 
of a lady baseball team should have been able to throw a ball 
into one of them at five paces distant. But, although a 
terrible battle had raged and was still raging, the enemy had 
not suffered. Bright, new, imposing, capacious, untouched. 


they stood. But, shades of Jefferson Brick! the tile floor — • 
the beautiful tile floor! I could not avoid thinking of the 
battle of Nashville, and trying to draw, as is my foolish habit, 
some deductions about hereditary marksmanship. 

Here I first saw Major (by misplaced courtesy) Went- 
worth Caswell. I knew him for a type the moment my eyes 
suffered from the sight of him. A rat has no geographical 
habitat. My old friend, A. Tennyson, said, as he so well 
said almost everything: 

Prophet, curse me the blabbing lip. 

And curse me the British vermin, the rat. 

Let us regard the word "British" as interchangeable ad lib, 
A rat is a rat. 

This man w as hunting about the hotel lobby like a starved 
dog that had forgotten where he had buried a bone. He 
had a face of great acreage, red, pulpy, and with a kind of 
sleepy massiveness like that of Buddha. He possessed one 
single virtue — he was very smoothly shaven. The mark 
of the beast is not indelible upon a man until he goes about 
with a stubble. I think that if he had not used his razor 
that day I w^ould have repulsed his advances, and the crim- 
inal calendar of the world would have been spared the addi- 
tion of one murder. 

I happened to be standing within five feet of a cuspidor 
when Major Caswell opened fire upon it. I had been ob- 
servant enough to perceive that the attacking force was using 
Gatlings instead of squirrel rifles ; so I side-stepped so prompt- 
ly that the major seized the opportunity to apologize to a non- 
combatant. He had the blabbing lip. In fcur minutes 
he had become my friend and had dragged me to the bar. 

I desire to interpolate here that I am a Southerner. But 
I am not one by profession or trade. I eschew the string tie, 
the slouch hat, the Prince Albert, the number of bales of 
cotton destroyed by Sherman, and plug chewing. When 
the orchestra plays Dixie I do not cheer. I slide a little lower 


on the leather-cornered seat and, well, order another Wiirz- 
burger and wish that Longstreet had But what's the use? 

Major CasweU banged the bar with his fist, and the first 
gun at Fort Sumter re-echoed. When he fired the last one 
at Appomattox I began to hope. But then he began on fam- 
ily trees, and demonstrated that Adam was only a third cou- 
sin of a collateral branch of the Caswell family. Genealogy 
disposed of, he took up, to my distaste, his private family 
matters. He spoke of his wife, traced her descent back to Eve, 
and profanely denied any possible rumor that she may have 
had relations in the land of Nod. 

By this time I began to suspect that he was trying to ob- 
scure by noise the fact that he had ordered the drinks, on the 
chance that I would be bewildered into paying for them. 
But when they were down he crashed a silver dollar loudly 
upon the bar. Then, of course, another serving was obliga- 
tory. And when I had paid for that I took leave of him 
brusquely; for I wanted no more of him. But before I had 
obtained my release he had prated loudly of an income that 
his wife, received, and showed a handful of silver money. 

When I got my key at the desk the clerk said to me cour- 
teously: "If that man Caswell has annoyed you, and if you 
would like to make a complaint, we will have him ejected. 
He is a nuisance, a loafer, and without any known means of 
support, although he seems to have some money most of the 
time. But we don't seem to be able to hit upon any means 
of throwing him out legally." 

"Why, no," said I, after some reflection; "I don't see my 
way clear to making a complaint. But I would like to place 
myself on record as asserting that I do not care for his com- 
pany. Your town," I continued, "seems to be a quiet one. 
What manner of entertainment, adventure, or excitement 
have you to offer to the stranger within your gates?" 

"Well, sir," said the clerk, "there will be a show here next 
Thursday. It is — I'll look it up and have the announcement 
sent up to your room with the ice water. Good night." 

After I went up to my room I looked out the window. 


It was only about ten o'clock, but I looked upon a silent town. 
The drizzle continued, spangled with dim lights, as far apart 
as currants in a cake sold at the Ladies' Exchange. 

*'A quiet place," I said to myself, as my first shoe struck 
the ceiling of the occupant of the room beneath mine. 
"Nothing of the life here that gives color and variety to the 
cities in the East and West. Just a good, ordinary, humdrum, 
business town.*' 

Nashville occupies a foremost place among the manufacturing 
centers of the country. It is the fifth boot and shoe market in the 
United States, the largest candy and cracker manufacturing city in 
the South, and does an enormous wholesale drygoods, grocery, and 
drug business. 

I must tell you how I came to be in Nashville, and I assure 
you the digression brings as much tedium to me as it does to 
you. I was traveling elsewhere on my own business, but I 
had a commission from a Northern literary magazine to stop 
over there and establish a personal connection between the 
publication and one of its contributors. Azalea Adair. 

Adair (there was no clue to the personality except the hand- 
writing) had sent in some essays (lost art:) and poems that 
had made the editors swear approvingly over their one o'clock 
luncheon. So they had commissioned me to round up said 
Adair and corner by contract his or her output at two 
cents a word before some other publisher offered her ten or 

At nine o'clock the next morning, after my chicken livers 
en brochette (try them if you can find that hotel), I strayed 
out into the drizzle, which was still on for an unlimited run. 
At the first corner I came upon Uncle Csesar. He was a 
stalwart Negro, older than the pyramids, with gray wool and 
a face that reminded me of Brutus, and a second afterwards 
of the late King Cettiwayo. He wore the most remarkable 
coat that I ever had seen or expect to see. It reached to his 
ankles and had once been a Confederate gray in co/ors. But 
rain and sun and age had so variegated it that Jo.«eph's coat 


beside it, would have faded to a pale monochrome. I must 
linger with that coat, for it has to do with the story — the 
story that is so long in coming, because you can hardly expect 
anything to happen in Nashville. 

Once it must have been the military coat of an officer. The 
cape of it had vanished, but all adoT\Ti its front it had been 
frogged and tasseled magnificently. But now the frogs and 
tassels were gone. In their stead had been patiently stitched 
(I surmised by some surviving "black mammy") new frogs 
made of cunningly twisted common hempen twine. This 
twine was frayed and disheveled. It must have been added 
to the coat as a substitute for vanished splendors, with taste- 
less but pains taking devotion, for it followed faithfully the 
curves of the long-missing frogs. And, to complete the 
comedy and pathos of the garment, all its buttons were gone 
save one. The second button from the top alone remained. 
The coat was fastened by other twine strings tied through the 
buttonholes and other holes rudely pierced in the opposite 
side. There was never such a weird garment so fantastically 
bedecked and of so many mottled hues. The lone button 
was the size of a half-dollar, made of yellow horn and sewed 
on with coarse twine. 

This Negro stood by a carriage so old that Ham himself 
might have started a hack line with it after he left the ark 
with the two animals hitched to it. As I approached he threw 
open the door, drew out a feather duster, waved it without 
using it, and said in deep, rumbling tones : 

"Step right in, suh; ain't a speck of dust in it — ^jus' got 
back from a funeral, suh.'* 

I inferred that on such gala occasions carriages were given 
an extra cleaning. I looked up and down the street and per- 
ceived that there was little choice among the vehicles for 
hire that lined the curb. I looked in my memorandum book 
for the address of Azalea Adair. 

*'I want to go to 861 Jessamine Street," I said, and was 
about to step into the hack. But for an instant the thick, 
long, gorilla-like arm of the Negro barred me. On his mas- 


sive and saturnine face a look of sudden suspicion and enmity 
flashed for a moment. Then, with quickly returning con- 
viction, he asked blandishingly : "What are you gwine there 
for, boss?" 

'* What is that to you? " I asked, a little sharply. 

"Nothin', suh, jus' nothin'. Only it's a lonesome kind 
of part of town and few folks ever has business out there. 
Step right in. The seats is clean — jes' got back from a 
funeral, suh." 

A mile and a half it must have been to our journey's end. 
I could hear nothing but the fearful rattle of the ancient 
hack over the uneven brick paving; I could smell nothing 
but the drizzle, now further flavored with coal smoke and 
something like a mixture of tar and oleander blossoms. 
All I could see through the streaming windows were two 
rows of dim houses. 

The city has an area of 10 square miles; 181 miles of streets, et 
which 137 miles are paved; a system of water- works that cost 
$2,000,000, with 77 miles of mains. 

Eight-sixty-one Jessamine Street was a decayed mansion. 
Thirty yards back from the street it stood, out-merged in a 
splendid grove of trees and untrimmed shrubbery. A row 
of box bushes overflowed and almost hid the paling fence 
from sight; the gate was kept closed by a rope noose that 
encircled the gate post and the first paling of the gate. But 
when you got inside you saw that 861 was a shell, a shadow, a 
ghost of former grandeur and excellence. But in the story, 
I have not yet got inside. 

When the hack had ceased from rattling and the weary 
quadrupeds came to a rest I handed my jehu his fifty cents 
with an additional quarter, feeling a glow of conscious gen- 
erosity, as I did so. He refused it. 

"It's two dollars, suh," he said. 

"How's that?" I asked. "I plainly heard you call out 
at the hotel: 'Fifty cents to any part of the town.' '* 


"It's two dollars, suh," he repeated obstinately. "It's 
a long ways from the hotel." 

"It is within the city limits and well within them," I 
argued. "Don't think that you have picked up a greenhorn 
Yankee. Do you see those hills over there?" I went on, 
pointing toward the east (I could not see them, myself, for 
the drizzle) ; "well, I was born and raised on their other side. 
You old fool nigger, can't you tell people from other people 
when you see 'em?" 

The grim face of King Cettiwayo softened. "Is you from 
the South, suh? I reckon it was them shoes of yourn fooled 
me. They is somethin' sharp in the toes for a Southern 
gen '1 'man to wear." 

"Then the charge is fifty cents, I suppose?" said I in- 

His former expression, a mingling of cupidity and hos- 
tility, returned, remained ten seconds, and vanished. 

"Boss," he said, "fifty cents is right; but I needs two dol- 
lars, suh; I'm obleeged to have two dollars. I ain't demandin* 
it now, suh; after I knows whar you's from; I'm jus' say in' 
that I has to have two dollars to-night, and business is mighty 

Peace and confidence settled upon his heavy features. He 
had been luckier than he had hoped. Instead of having 
picked up a greenhorn, ignorant of rates, he had come upon 
an inheritance. 

"You confounded old rascal," I said, reaching down to 
my pocket, "you ought to be turned over to the police." 

For the first time I saw him smile. He knew; he knew; 

I gave him two one-dollar bills. As I handed them over 
I noticed that one of them had seen parlous times. Its upper 
right-hand corner was missing, and it had been torn through 
in the middle, but joined again. A strip of blue tissue paper, 
pasted over the split, preserved its negotiability. 

Enough of the African bandit for the present: I left him 
happy, lifted the rope, and opened the creaky gate. 


The house, as I said, was a shell. A paint brush had not 
touched it in twenty years. I could not see why a strong 
wind should not have bowled it over like a house of cards 
until I looked again at the trees that hugged it close — the 
trees that saw the battle of Nashville and still drew their pro- 
tecting branches around it against storm and enemy and cold. 

Azalea Adair, fifty years old, white-haired, a descendant 
of the cavaliers, as thin and frail as the house she lived in, 
robed in the cheapest and cleanest dress I ever saw, with an 
air as simple as a queen's, received me. 

The reception room seemed a mile square, because there 
was nothing in it except some rows of books, on unpainted 
white-pine bookshelves, a cracked marble-top table, a rag 
rug, a hairless horse-hair sofa, and two or three chairs. Yes, 
there was a picture on the wall, a colored crayon drawing of 
a cluster of pansies. I looked around for the portrait of 
Andrew Jackson and the pine-cone hanging basket but they 
were not there. 

Azalea Adair and I had conversation, a little of which will 
be repeated to you. She was a product of the old South, 
gently nurtured in the sheltered life. Her learning was not 
broad, but was deep and of splendid originality in its some- 
what narrow scope. She had been educated at home, and 
her knowledge of the world was derived from inference and 
by inspiration. Of such is the precious, small group of es- 
sayists made. While she talked to me I kept brushing my 
fingers, trying, unconsciously, to rid them guiltily of the ab- 
sent dust from the half -calf backs of Lamb, Chaucer, Haziitt, 
Marcus Aurelius, Montaigne, and Hood. She was exquisite, 
she was a valuable discovery. Nearly everybody nowadays 
knows too much — oh, so much too much — of real life. 

I could perceive clearly that Azalea Adair was very poor. 
A horuse and a dress she had, not much else, I fancied. So, 
divided between my duty to the magazine and my loyalty 
to the poets and essayists who fought Thomas in the valley 
of the Cumberland, I listened to her voice, which was like a 
harpsichord's, and found that I could not speak of contracts. 


In the presence of the nine Muses and the three Graces one 
hesitated to lower the topic to two cents. There would have 
to be another colloquy after I had regained my commer- 
cialism. But I spoke of my mission, and three o'clock of the 
next afternoon was set for the discussion of the business prop- 

"Your town," I said, as I began to make ready to depart 
(which is the time for smooth generalities), "seems to be a 
quiet, sedate place. A home town, I should say, where few 
things out of the ordinary ever happen." 

It carries on an extensive trade in stoves and hollow ware with the 
West and South, and its flouring mills have a daily capacity of more 
than 2,000 barrels. 

Azalea Adair seemed to reflect. 

"I have never thought of it that way," she said, with a 
kind of sincere intensity that seemed to belong to her. " Isn't 
it in the stiU, quiet places that things do happen.? I fancy 
that when God began to create the earth on the first Monday 
morning one could have leaned out one's window and heard 
the drops of mud splashing from His trowel as He built up the 
everlasting hills. What did the noisiest project in the world 
— I mean the building of the tower of Babel — result in finally? 
A page and a half of Esperanto in the North American Re- 

"Of course," said I platitudinously, "human nature is the 
same everywhere; but there is more color — er — more drama 
and movement and — er — romance in some cities than in 

"On the surface," said Azalea Adair. "I have traveled 
many times around the world in a golden airship wafted on 
two wings — print and dreams. I have seen (on one of my 
imaginary tours) the Sultan of Turkey bowstring with his own 
hands one of his wives who had uncovered her face in public. 
I have seen a man in Nashville tear up his theatre tickets be- 
cause his wife was going out with her face covered — with 


rice powder. In San Francisco's Chinatown I saw the slave 
girl Sing Yee dipped slowly, inch by inch, in boiling almond 
oil to make her swear she would never see her American lover 
again. She gave in when the boiling oil had reached three 
inches above her knee. At a euchre party in East Nash- 
ville the other night I saw Kitty Morgan cut dead by seven 
of her schoolmates and lifelong friends because she had mar- 
ried a house painter. The boiling oil was sizzling as high as 
her heart; but I wish you could have seen the fine little smile 
that she carried from table to table. Oh, yes, it is a hum- 
drum town. Just a few miles of red brick houses and mud 
and stores and lumber yards." 

Some one knocked hollowly at the back of the house. 
Azalea Adah* breathed a soft apology and went to investigate 
the sound. She came back in three minutes with brightened 
eyes, a faint flush on her cheeks, and ten years lifted from her 

"You must have a cup of tea before you go," she said, 
"and a sugar cake." 

She reached and shook a little iron bell. In shuffled a small 
Negro girl about twelve, barefoot, not very tidy, glowering 
at me with thumb in mouth and bulging eyes. 

Azalea Adair opened a tiny, worn purse and drew out a 
dollar bill, a dollar bill with the upper right-hand corner 
missing, torn in two pieces and pasted together again with 
a strip of blue tissue paper. It was one of the bills I had 
given the piratical Negro — there was no doubt of it. 

"Go up to Mr. Baker's store on the corner, Impy," she 
said, handing the girl the dollar bill, "and get a quarter of a 
pound of tea — the kind he always sends me — and ten cents 
worth of sugar cakes. Now, hurry. The supply of tea in 
the house happens to be exhausted," she explained to me. 

Impy left by the back way. Before the scrape of her hard, 
bare feet had died away on the back porch, a wild shriek — 
I was sure it was hers — filled the hollow house. Then the 
deep, gruff tones of an angry man's voice mingled with the 
givVs further squeals and unintelligible words. 


Azalea Adair rose witnout surprise or emotion and disap- 
peared. For two minutes I heard the hoarse rumble of the 
man's voice; then something like an oath and a slight scuffle, 
and she returned calmly to her chair. 

"This is a roomy house," she said, "and I have a tenant 
for part of it. I am sorry to have to rescind my invitation to 
tea. It was impossible to get the kind I always use at the 
store. Perhaps to-morrow Mr. Baker will be able to supply 

I was sure that Impy had not had time to leave the house. 
I inquired concerning street-car lines and took my leave. 
After I was well on my way I remembered that I had not 
learned Azalea Adair's name. But to-morrow would do. 

That same day I started in on the course of iniquity that 
this eventful city forced upon me. I was in the town only 
two days, but in that time I managed to lie shamelessly by 
telegraph, and to be an accomplice — after the fact, if that 
is the correct legal term — to a murder. 

As I rounded the corner nearest my hotel the Afrite coach- 
man of the polychromatic, nonpareil coat seized me, swung 
open the dungeony door of his peripatetic sarcophagus, 
flirted his feather duster, and began his ritual: "Step right 
in, boss. Carriage is clean — jus' got back from a funeral. 
Fifty cents to any " 

And then he knew me and grinned broadly. " 'Souse me, 
boss; you is de genl'man what rid out with me dis mawnin'. 
Thank you kindly, suh." 

"I am going out to 861 again to-morrow afternoon at 
three," said I, "and if you will be here, I'll let you drive me. 
So you know Miss Adair.^ " I concluded, thinking of my dol- 
lar bill. 

"I belonged to her father, Judge Adair, suh," he replied. 

"I judge that she is pretty poor," I said. "She hasn't 
much money to speak of, has she?" 

For an instant I looked again at the fierce countenance of 
King Cettiwayo, and then he changed back to an extortionate 
old Negro hack driver. 


"She ain't gwine to starve, suh,'* he said slowly. "She 
has reso'ces, suh; she has reso'ces.'* 

"I shall pay you fifty cents for the trip," said I. 

"Dat is puffeckly correct, suh," he answered humbly. "I 
jus' had to have dat two dollars dis mawnin', boss." 

I went to the hotel and lied by electricity. I wired the 
magazine: "A. Adair holds out for eight cents a word." 

The answer that came back was: "Give it to her quick, 
you duffer." 

Just before dinner "Major" Wentworth Caswell bore down 
upon me with the greetings of a long-lost friend. I have seen 
few men whom I have so instantaneously hated, and of whom 
it was so difficult to be rid. I was standing at the bar w^hen 
he invaded me; therefore I could not wave the white ribbon 
in his face. I would have paid gladly for the drinks, hoping, 
thereby, to escape another; but he w^as one of those despic- 
able, roaring, advertising bibbers who must have brass bands 
and fireworks attend upon every cent that they waste in 
their follies. 

With an air of producing millions he drew two one-dollar 
bills from a pocket and dashed one of them upon the bar. 
I looked once more at the dollar bill with the upper right- 
hand corner missing, torn through the middle, and patched 
with a strip of blue tissue paper. It w^as my dollar bill again. 
It could have been no other. 

I went up to my room. The drizzle and the monotony of 
a dreary, eventless Southern towTi had made me tired and 
listless. I remember that just before I went to bed I men- 
tally disposed of the mysterious dollar bill (which might have 
formed the clew to a tremendously fine detective story of 
San Francisco) by saying to myself sleepily: "Seems as if 
a lot of people here own stock in the Hack-Driver's Trust. 

Pays dividends promptly, too. Wonder if " Then I 

fell asleep. 

King Cettiwayo was at his post the next day, and rattled 
my bones over the stones out to 861. He was to wait and 
rattle me back again when I was ready. 


Azalea Adair looked paler and cleaner and frailer than she 
had ^oked on the day before. After she had signed the con- 
tract at eight cents per word she grew still paler and began to 
slip out of her chair. Without much trouble I managed to 
get her up on the antediluvian horse-hair sofa and then I 
ran out to the sidewalk and yelled to the coffee-colored 
Pirate to bring a doctor. With a wisdom that I had not 
suspected in him, he abandoned his team and struck off up 
the street afoot, realizing the value of speed. In ten min- 
utes he returned with a grave, gray-haired, and capable man 
of medicine. In a few words (worth much less than eight 
cents each) I explained to him my presence in the hollow 
house of mystery. He bowed with stately understanding, 
and turned to the old Negro. 

"Uncle Caesar," he said calmly, "run up to my house and 
ask Miss Lucy to give you a cream pitcher full of fresh milk 
and half a tumbler of port wine. And hurry back. Don't 
drive — run. I want you to get back sometime this week." 

It occurred to me that Dr. Merriman also felt a distrust 
as to the speeding powers of the land-pirate's steeds. After 
Uncle Caesar was gone, lumberingly, but swiftly, up the 
street, the doctor looked me over with great politeness and 
as much careful calculation until he had decided that I 
might do. 

"It is only a case of insufficient nutrition," he said. "In 
other words, the result of poverty, pride, and starvation. 
Mrs. Caswell has many devoted friends who would be glad 
to aid her, but she will accept nothing except from that old 
Negro, Uncle Caesar, who was once owned by her family." 

"Mrs. Caswell!" said I, in surprise. And then I looked 
at the contract and saw that she had signed it "Azalea Adair 

"I thought she was Miss Adair," I said. 

"Married to a drunken, worthless loafer, sir," said the 
doctor. "It is said that he robs her even of the small sums 
that her old servant contributes toward her support." 

When the milk and wine had been brought the doctor soon 


revived Azalea Adair. She sat up and talked of the beauty 
of the autunm leaves that were then in season, and their 
height of color. She referred lightly to her fainting seizure 
as the outcome of an old palpitation of the heart. Impy fan- 
ned her as she lay on the sofa. The doctor was due else- 
where, and I followed him to the door. I told him that it 
was within my power and intentions to make a reasonable 
advance of money to Azalea Adair on future contributions 
to the magazine, and he seemed pleased. 

"By the way," he said, "perhaps you would like to know 
that you have had royalty for a coachman. Old Csesar's 
grandfather was a king in Congo. Csesar himself has royal 
ways, as you may have observed." 

As the doctor was moving off I heard Uncle Caesar's voice 
inside: "Did he git bofe of dem two dollars from you, Mis' 

"Yes, Csesar," I heard Azalea x\dair answer weakly. And 
then I went in and concluded business negotiations with our 
contributor. I assumed the responsibility of advancing fifty 
dollars, putting it as a necessary formality in binding our 
bargain. And then Uncle Caesar drove me back to the hotel. 

Here ends all of the story as far as I can testify as a witness. 
The rest must be only bare statements of facts. 

At about six o'clock I went out for a stroll. Uncle Caesar 
was at his corner. He threw open the door of his carriage, 
flourished his duster, and began his depressing formula: 
"Step right in, suh. Fifty cents to anywhere in the city — 
hack's puflBckly clean, suh — jus' got back from a funeral " 

And then he recognized me. I think his eyesight was get- 
ting bad. His coat had taken on a few more faded shades 
of color, the twine strings were more frayed and ragged, the 
last remaining button — the button of yellow horn — was gone. 
A motley descendant of kings was Uncle Caesar ! 

About two hours later I saw an excited crowd besieging the 
front of a drug store. In a desert where nothing happens 
this was manna; so I wedged my way inside. On an extem- 
porized couch of empty boxes and chairs was stretched the 


mortal corporeality of Major Wentworth Caswell. A doctor 
was testing him for the immortal ingredient. His decision 
was that it was conspicuous by its absence. 

The erstwhile Major had been found dead on a dark street 
and brought by curious and ennuied citizens to the drug 
store. The late human being had been engaged in terrific 
battle — the details showed that. Loafer and reprobate 
though he had been, he had been also a warrior. But he had 
lost. His hands were yet clinched so tightly that his fingers 
would not be opened. The gentle citizens who had known 
him stood about and searched their vocabularies to find some 
good words, if it were possible, to speak of him. One kind- 
looking man said, after much thought: "When *Cas' was 
about fo'teen he was one of the best spellers in school." 

While I stood there the fingers of the right hand of "the 
man that was," which hung down the side of a white pine 
box, relaxed, and dropped something at my feet. I covered 
it with one foot quietly, and a little later on I picked it up 
and pocketed it. I reasoned that in his last struggle his 
hand must have seized that object unwittingly and held it 
in a death grip. 

At the hotel that night the main topic of conversation, with 
the possible exceptions of politics and prohibition, was the 
demise of Major Caswell. I heard one man say to a group 
of listeners: 

"In my opinion, gentlemen, Caswell was murdered by 
some of these no-account niggers for his money. He had 
fifty dollars this afternoon which he showed to several gentle- 
men in the hotel. When he was found the money was not 
on his person." 

I left the city the next morning at nine, and as the train was 
crossing the bridge over the Cumberland River I took out 
of my pocket a yellow horn overcoat button the size of a 
fifty-cent piece, with frayed ends of coarse twine hanging 
from it, and cast it out of the window into the slow, muddy 
^yaters below. 

I wonder what's doing in Buffalo 1 


From Sixes and Sevens. First published in The Cosmopolitan 
Magazine, July, 1910. This last complete story that O. Henry 
wrote shows no diminution of humor or charm. An English critic, 
S. P. B. Mais, in From Shakespeare to 0. Henry (1918), says: "For 
pure humor I place Let Me Feel Your Pulse easily first. It has an 
appeal which none of the others has for the purely English 
reader. ... It obeys the laws laid down by Meredith for the 
Comic Spirit: it makes us laugh at human follies; it satirizes and 
ridicules and yet it does us quite active and appreciable good. It is 
an anodyne in itself for all bodily ailments, an infallible prescription 
from an unerring doctor." The story was first published as Ad- 
ventures in Neurasthenia and was heralded by the announcement: 
*'If you want to get well, read this story by O. Henry;" but the 
author was dead before it appeared. The latter half of the story 
takes place in or near Asheville (Pineville) , North Carolina, at Mrs. 
Porter's home, where O. Henry had sought and seemingly found 
restoration of health. "It was \\Titten," says Dr. William Pinkney 
Herbert, of Asheville, "with the aid of my medical books. Some- 
times he would take them to his office and again he would sit in my 
outer office." There is not the usual surprise at the end, for the 
story passes almost imperceptibly into an allegory of rest and 
heart's-ease with Amaryllis in the shade. But there is exquisite 
imagery, there is release at last from the spell of the unquiet Lady 
Neurasthenia, and there is a terminal beauty of thought and melody 
of phrase that in themselves are restful and remedial. 

So I went to a doctor. 

"How long has it been since you took any alcohol into 
your system?" he asked. 

Turning my head sidewise, I answered, "Oh, quite a 

He was a young doctor, somewhere between twenty and 



forty. He wore heliotrope socks, but he looked like Napoleon. 
I like him immensely. 

"Now," said he, "I am going to show you the effect of 
alcohol upon your circulation." I think it was '* circulation " 
he said; though it may have been "advertising." 

He bared my left arm to the elbow, brought out a bottle of 
whiskey, and gave me a drink. He began to look more like 
Napoleon. I began to like him better. 

Then he put a tight compress on my upper arm, stopped 
my pulse with his fingers, and squeezed a rubber bulb con- 
nected with an apparatus on a stand that looked like a ther- 
mometer. The mercury jumped up and down without 
seeming to stop anywhere; but the doctor said it registered 
two hundred and thirty-seven or one hundred and sixty-five 
or some such number. 

"Now," said he, "you see what alcohol does to the blood- 

"It's marvelous," said I, "but do you think it a sufficient 
test.^ Have one on me, and let's try the other arm." But, 

Then he grasped my hand. I thought I was doomed and 
he was saying good-bye. But all he wanted to do was to jab 
a needle into the end of a finger and compare the red drop 
with a lot of fifty-cent poker chips that he had fastened to a 

"It's the haemoglobin test," he explained. "The color of 
your blood is wrong." 

"Well," said I, "I know it should be blue; but this is a 
country of mix-ups. Some of my ancestors were cavaliers; 
but they got thick with some people on Nantucket Island, 
so " 

"I mean," said the doctor, "that the shade of red is too 
ligHt." ^^ ^ 

"Oh," said I, "it's a case of matching instead of matches." 

The doctor then pounded me severely in the region of the 
chest. When he did that I don't know whether he reminded 
me most of Napoleon or Battling or Lord Nelson. Then he 


looked grave and mentioned a string of grievances that the 
flesh is heir to — mostly ending in "itis." I immediately 
paid him fifteen dollars on account. 

"Is or are it or some or any of them necessarily fatal?" 
I asked. I thought my connection with the matter justified 
toy manifesting a certain amount of interest. 

"All of them," he answered cheerfully. "But their prog- 
ress may be arrested. With care and proper continuous treat- 
ment you may live to be eighty-five or ninety." 

I began to think of the doctor's bilL "Eighty-five would 
be sufficient, I am sure," was my comment. I paid him ten 
dollars more on account. 

"The first thing to do," he said, with renewed animation, 
"is to find a sanitarium where you will get a complete rest 
for a while, and allow your nerves to get into a better con- 
dition. I myself will go with you and select a suitable one." 

So he took me to a mad-house in the Catskills. It was on 
a bare mountain frequented only by infrequent frequenters. 
You could see nothing but stones and boulders, som^e patches 
of snow, and scattered pine trees. The young physician in 
charge was most agreeable. He gave me a stimulant with- 
out applying a compress to the arm. It was luncheon time, 
and we were invited to partake. There were about twenty 
inmates at little tables in the dining room. The young 
physician in charge came to our table and said: "It is a 
custom with our guests not to regard themselves as patients, 
but merely as tired ladies and gentlemen taking a rest. 
Whatever slight maladies they may have are never alluded to 
in conversation." 

My doctor called loudly to a waitress to bring some phos- 
phoglycerate of lime hash, dog-bread, bromo-seltzer pan- 
cakes, and nux vomica tea for my repast. Then a sound 
arose like a sudden wind storm among pine trees. It was pro- 
duced by every guest in the room whispering loudly, "Neur- 
asthenia!" — except one man with a nose, whom I distinctly 
heard say, " Chronic alcoholism." I hope to meet him again. 
The physician in charge turned and walked away. 


An hour or so after luncheon he conducted us to the work- 
shop — say fifty yards from the house. Thither the guests 
had been conducted by the physician in charge's understudy 
and sponge-holder — a man with feet and a blue sw^eater. He 
was so tall that I was not sure he had a face ; but the Armour 
Packing Company would have been delighted with his hands. 

"Here," said the physician in charge, "our guests find re- 
laxation from past mental worries by devoting themselves 
to physical labor — recreation, in reality." 

There were turning-lathes, carpenters' outfits, clay-model- 
ing tools, spinning-wheels, weaving-frames, treadmills, 
bass drums, enlarged-crayon-portrait apparatuses, black- 
smith forges, and everything, seemingly, that could interest 
the paying lunatic guests of a first-rate sanitarium. 

"The lady making mud pies in the corner," whispered the 
physician in charge, "is no other than — Lula Lulington, the 
authoress of the novel entitled 'Why Love Loves.' What she 
is doing now is simply to rest her mind after performing that 
piece of work." 

I had seen the book. "Why doesn't she do it by writing 
another one instead?" I asked. 

As you see, I wasn't as far gone as they thought I was. 

"The gentleman pouring water through the funnel," con- 
tinued the physician in charge, "is a Wall Street broker 
broken down from overwork." 

I buttoned my coat. 

Others he pointed out were architects playing with Noah's 
arks, ministers reading Darwin's "Theory of Evolution," 
lawyers sawing wood, tired-out society ladies talking Ibsen 
to the blue-sweatered sponge-holder, a neurotic millionaire 
lying asleep on the floor, and a prominent artist drawing a 
little red wagon around the room. 

"You look pretty strong," said the physician in charge to 
me. "I think the best mental relaxation for you would be 
throwing small boulders over the mountainside and then 
bringing them up again." 

I was a hundred yards away before my doctor overtook me. 


"What's the matter?" he asked. 

"The matter is," said I, "that there are no aeioplanes 
handy. So I am going to merrily and hastily jog the foot- 
pathway to yon station and catch the first milimited-soft- 
coal express back to town." 

"Well," said the doctor, "perhaps you are right. This 
seems hardly the suitable place for you. But what you need 
is rest — absolute rest and exercise." 

That night I went to a hotel in the city, and said to the 
clerk: "What I need is absolute rest and exercise. Can you 
give me a room with one of those tall folding beds in it, and 
a relay of bellboys to work it up and down while I rest.^" 

The clerk rubbed a speck off one of his finger nails and 
glanced sidewise at a tall man in a white hat sitting in the 
lobby. That man came over and asked me politely if I had 
seen the shrubbery at the west entrance. I had not, so he 
showed it to me and then looked me over. 

"I thought you had 'em," he said, not unkindly, "but I 
guess you're all right. You'd better go see a doctor, old 

A week afterward my doctor tested my blood pressure 
again without the preliminary stimulant. He looked to me 
a little less like Napoleon. And liis socks were of a shade of 
^an that did not appeal to me. 

"What you need," he decided," is sea air and companion- 

"Would a mermaid " I began; but he slipped on his 

professional manner. 

"I myself," he said, "will take you to the Hotel Bonair 
off the coast of Long Island and see that you get in good 
shape. It is a quiet, comfortable resort where you will soon 

The Hotel Bonair proved to be a nine-hundred-room fash- 
ionable hostelry on an island off the main shore. Every- 
body who did not dress for dinner was shoved into a side 
dining-room and given only a terrapin and champagne 
table d'hote. The bay was a great stamping ground for 


wealthy yachtsmen. The Corsair anchored there the day 
we arrived. I saw Mr. Morgan standing on deck eating a 
cheese sandwich and gazing longingly at the hotel. Still, 
It was a very inexpensive place. Nobody could afford to 
pay their prices. When you went away you simply left 
your baggage, stole a skiff, and beat it for the mainland in 
the night. 

When I had been there one day I got a pad of mono- 
grammed telegraph blanks at the clerk's desk and began to 
wire all my friends for get-away money. My doctor and I 
played one game of croquet on the golf links and went to 
sleep on the lawn. 

When we got back to town a thought seemed to occur to him 
suddenly. "By the way," he asked, "how do you feel.?" 
"ReHeved of very much," I replied. 

Now a consulting physician is different. He isn't 
exactly sure he is to be paid or not, and this uncertainty 
msures you either the most careful or the most careless at- 
tention. My doctor took me to see a consulting physician. 
He made a poor guess and gave me careful attention. I 
liked him immensely. He put me through some co-ordina- 
tion exercises. 

"Have you a pain in the back of your head.?" he asked. 
I told him I had not. 

"Shut your eyes," he ordered, "put your feet close to- 
gether, and jump backward as far as you can." 

I always was a good backward jumper with my eyes shut, 
so I obeyed. My head struck the edge of the bathroom 
door, which had been left open and was only three feet away. 
The doctor was very sorry. He had overlooked the fact 
that the door was open. He closed it. 

"Now touch your nose with your right forefinger," he 


"Where is it.?" I asked. 

"On your face," said he. 

"I mean my right forefinger," I explained. 

"Oh, excuse me," said he. He reopened the bathroom 


door, and I took my finger out of the crack of it. After I had 
performed the marvelous digito-nasal feat I said: 

"I do not wish to deceive you as to symptoms, Doctor; 
I really have something hke a pain in the back of my head." 
He ignored the symptom and examined my heart carefully 
with a latest-popular-air-penny-in-the-slot ear-trumpet. I 
felt like a ballad. "Now," he said, "gallop like a horse for 
about five minutes around the room." 

I gave the best imitation I could of a disqualified Percheron 
being led out of Madison Square Garden. Then, without 
dropping in a penny, he listened to my chest again. 

"No glanders in our family, Doc," I said. 

The consulting physician held up his forefinger within three 
inches of my nose. "Look at my finger," he commanded. 

"Did you ever try Pears' " I began; but he went on 

with his test rapidly. 

"Now look across the bay. At my fijiger. Across the 
bay. At my finger. At my finger. Across the bay. A- 
cross the bay. At my finger. Across the bay." This for 
about three minutes. 

He explained that this was a test of the action of the brain. 
It seemed easy to me. I never once mistook his finger for 
the bay. I'll bet that if he had used the phrases: "Gaze, 
as it were, unpreoccupied, outward — or rather laterally — in 
the direction of the horizon, underlaid, so to speak, with the 
adjacent fluid inlet," and "Now, returning — or rather, in a 
manner, withdrawing your attention, bestow it upon my up- 
raised digit" — I'll bet, I say, that Henry James himself could 
have passed the examination. 

After asking me if I had ever had a grand uncle with curva- 
ture of the spine or a cousin with swelled ankles, the two doc- 
tors retired to the bathroom and sat on the edge of the bath 
tub for their consultation. I ate an apple, and gazed first 
at my finger and then across the bay. 

The doctors came out looking grave. More: they looked 
tombstones and Tennessee-papers-please-copy. They wrote 
out a diet list to which I was to be restricted. It had every- 


thing that I had ever heard of to eat on it, except snails. And 
I never eat a snail unless it overtakes me and bites me first. 

*'You must follow this diet strictly," said the doctors. 

"I'd follow it a mile if I could get one-tenth of what's 
on it," I answered. 

"Of next importance," they went on, "is outdoor air and 
exercise. And here is a prescription that will be of great 
benefit to you." 

Then all of us took something. They took their hats, and 
I took my departure. 

I went to a druggist and showed him the prescription. 

"It will be $2.87 for an ounce bottle," he said. 

"Will you give me a piece of your wrapping cord.^^" said I. 

I made a hole in the prescription, ran the cord through it, 
tied it around my neck, and tucked it inside. All of us have 
a little superstition, and mine runs to a confidence in amulets. 

Of course there was nothing the matter with me, but I 
was very ill. I couldn't work, sleep, eat, or bowl. The only 
way I could get any sympathy was to go without shaving 
for four days. Even then somebody would say : "Old man, 
you look as hardy as a pine knot. Been up for a jaunt in the 
Maine woods, eh?" 

Then, suddenly, I remembered that I must have outdoor 
air and exercise. So I went down South to John's. John 
is an approximate relative by verdict of a preacher standing 
with a little book in his hands in a bower of chrysanthemums 
while a hundred thousand people looked on. John has a 
country house seven miles from Pineville. It is at an altitude 
and on the Blue Ridge Mountains in a state too dignified to 
be dragged into this controversy. John is mica, which is 
more valuable and clearer than gold. 

He met me at Pineville, and we took the trolley car to his 
home. It is a big, neighborless cottage on a hill surrounded 
by a hundred mountains. We got off at his little private 
station, where John's family and Amaryllis met and greeted 
us. Amaryllis looked at me a trifle anxiously. 

A rabbit came bounding across the hill between us and the 


house. I threw down my suit-case and pursued it hotfoot. 
After I had run twenty yards and seen it disappear, I sat 
down on the grass and wept disconsolately. 

"I can't catch a rabbit any more," I sobbed. "I'm of 
no further use in the world. I may as well be dead." 

"Oh, what is it — what is it, Brother John.^" I heard 
Amaryllis say. 

"Nerves a little unstrung," said John, in his calm way. 
"Don't worry. Get up, you rabbit-chaser, and come on to 
the house before the biscuits get cold." It was about twi- 
light, and the mountains came up nobly to Miss Murfree's 
descriptions of them. 

Soon after dinner I announced that I believed I could sleep 
for a year or two, including legal holidays. So I was shown 
to a room as big and cool as a flower garden, where there was 
a bed as broad as a lawn. Soon afterward the remainder of 
the household retired, and then there fell upon the land a 

I had not heard a silence before in years. It was absolute. 
I raised myself on my elbow and listened to it. Sleep! I 
thought that if I only could hear a star twinkle or a blade of 
grass sharpen itself I could compose myself to rest. I 
thought once that I heard a sound like the sail of a catboat 
flapping as it veered about in a breeze, but I decided that it 
was probably only a tack in the carpet. Still I listened. 

Suddenly some belated bird alighted upon the window-sill, 
and, in what he no doubt considered sleepy tones, enunciated 
the noise generally translated as "cheep!" 

I leaped into the air. 

*'Hey! what's the matter down there?" called John from 
his room above mine. 

"Oh, nothing," I answered, "except that I accidentally 
bumped my head against the ceiling." 

The next morning I went out on the porch and looked at 
the mountains. There were forty-seven of them in sight. I 
shuddered, went into the big hall sitting room of the house, 
selected "Pancoast's Family Practice of Medicine" from a 


bookcase, and began to read. John came in, took the book 
away from me, and led me outside. He has a farm of three 
hundred acres furnished with the usual complement of 
barns, mules, peasantry, and harrows with three front 
teeth broken off. I had seen such things in my childhood, 
and my heart began to sink. 

Then John spoke of alfalfa, and I brightened at once. 
**0h, yes," said I, "wasn't she in the chorus of — let's see *' 

"Green, you know," said John, "and tender, and you 
plough it under after the first season." 

"I know," said I, "and the grass grows over her." 

"Eight," said John. "You know something about farm- 
ing, after all." 

"I know something of some farmers," said I, "and a sure 
scythe will mow them down some day." 

On the way back to the house a beautiful and inexplicable 
creature walked across our path. I stopped irresistibly 
fascinated, gazing at it. John waited patiently, smoking his 
cigarette. He is a modern farmer. After ten minutes he said : 
"Are you going to stand there looking at that chicken all day? 
Breakfast is nearly ready." 

"A chicken?" said I. 

"A White Orpington hen, if you want to particularize." 

"A White Orpington hen?" I repeated, with intense in- 
terest. The fowl walked slowly away with graceful dignity, 
and I followed like a child after the Pied Piper. Five minutes 
more were allowed me by John, and then he took me by the 
sleeve and conducted me to breakfast. 

After I had been there a week I began to grow alarmed. 
I was sleeping and eating well and actually beginning to 
enjoy life. For a man in my desperate condition that would 
never do. So I sneaked down to the trolley-car station, 
took the car for Pineville, and went to see one of the best 
physicians in town. By this time I knew exactly what to do 
when I needed medical treatment. I hung my hat on the 
back of a chair, and said rapidly: 

"Doctor, I have cirrhosis of the heart, indurated arteries. 


neurasthenia, neuritis, acute indigestion, and convalescence. 
I am going to live on a strict diet. I shall also take a tepid 
bath at night and a cold one in the morning. I shall en- 
deavor to be cheerful, and fix my mind on pleasant subjects. 
In the way of drugs I intend to take a phosphorous pill three 
times a day, preferably after meals, and a tonic composed of 
the tinctures of gentian, cinchona, calisaya, and cardamon 
compound. Into each teaspoonful of this I shall mix tincture 
of nux vomica, beginning with one drop and increasing it 
a drop each day until the maximum dose is reached. I shall 
drop this with a medicine-dropper, which can be procured at 
a trifling cost at any pharmacy. Good morning." 

I took my hat and walked out. After I had closed the 
door I remembered something that I had forgotten to say. 
I opened it again. The doctor had not moved from where he 
had been sitting, but he gave a slightly nervous start when he 
saw me again. 

"I forgot to mention," said I, "that I shall also take abso- 
lute rest and exercise." 

After this consultation I felt much better. The re-establish- 
ing in my mind of the fact that I was hopelessly ill gave me 
so much satisfaction that I almost became gloomy again. 
There is nothing more alarming to a neurasthenic than to 
feel himself growing well and cheerful. 

John looked after me carefully. After I had evinced so 
much interest in his ^Vhite Orpington chicken he tried his 
best to divert my mind, and was particular to lock his hen 
house of nights. Gradually the tonic mountain air, the 
wholesome food, and the daily walks among the hills so 
alleviated my malady that I became utterly wretched and 
despondent. I heard of a country doctor who lived in the 
mountains near by. I went to see him and told him the 
whole story. He was a gray-bearded man with clear, blue, 
wrinkled eyes, in a home-made suit of gray jeans. 

In order to save time I diagnosed my case, touched 
my nose with my right forefinger, struck myself below 
the knee to make my foot kick, sounded my chest, stuck 


out my tongue, and asked him the price of cemetery lots in 

He ht his pipe and looked at me for about three minutes. 
"Brother," he said, after a while, "you are in a mighty bad 
way. There's a chance for you to pull through, but it's a 
mighty slim one." 

"What can it be?" I asked eagerly. "I have taken 
arsenic and gold, phosphorus, exercise, nux vomica, hy- 
drotherapeutic baths, rest, excitement, codein, and aromatic 
spirits of ammonia. Is there anything left in the pharma- 

"Somewhere in these mountains," said the doctor, "there's 
a plant growing — a flowering plant that'll cure you, and 
it's about the only thing that will. It's of a kind that's as 
old as the world; but of late it's powerful scarce and hard to 
find. You and I will have to hunt it up. I'm not engaged 
in active practice now: I'm getting along in years; but I'll 
take your case. You'll have to come every day in the after^ 
noon and help me hunt for this plant till we fimd it. The 
city doctors may know a lot about new scientific things, 
but they don't know much about the cures that nature carries 
around in her saddle bags." 

So every day the old doctor and I hunted the cure-all plant 
among the mountains and valleys of the Blue Ridge. To- 
gether we toiled up steep heights so slippery with fallen 
autumn leaves that we had to catch every sapling and branch 
within our reach to save us from falling. We waded through 
gorges and chasms, breast-deep with laurel and ferns; we 
followed the banks of mountain streams for miles; we wound 
our way like Indians through brakes of pine — road side, hill 
side, river side, mountain side we explored in our search for 
the miraculous plant. 

As the old doctor said, it must have grown scarce and hard 
to find. But we followed our quest. Day by day we 
plumbed the valleys, scaled the heights, and tramped the 
plateaus in search of the miraculous plant. Mountain-bred, 
he never seemed to tire. I often reached home too fatigued 


to do anything except fall into bed and sleep until morning. 
This we kept up for a month. 

One evening after I had returned from a six-mile tramp with 
the old doctor, Amaryllis and I took a Httle walk under the 
trees near the road. We looked at the mountains drawing 
their royal-purple robes around them for their night's repose. 
"I'm glad you're well again," she said. "When you first 
came you frightened me. I thought you were really ill." 

"Well again!" I almost shrieked. "Do you know that 
I have only one chance in a thousand to live.'^" 

AmaryUis looked at me in surprise. "WTiy," said she, 
"you are as strong as one of the plough-mules, you sleep 
ten or twelve hours every night, and you are eating us out 
of house and home. What more do you want.^ " 

"I tell you," said I, "that unless we find the magic — that 
is, the plant we are looking for — in time, nothing can save me. 
The doctor tells me so." 
"What doctor?" 

"Doctor Tatum — the old doctor who lives half way up 
Black Oak Mountain. Do you know him?" 

"I have known him since I was able to talk. And is that 
where you go every day — is it he who takes you on these 
long walks and climbs that have brought back your health 
and strength? God bless the old doctor." 

Just then the old doctor himself drove slowly down the 
road in his rickety old buggy. I waved my hand at him and 
shouted that I would be on hand the next day at the usual 
time. He stopped his horse and called to Amaryllis to come 
out to him. They talked for five minutes while I waited. 
Then the old doctor drove on. 

When we got to the house Amaryllis lugged out an en- 
cyclopaedia and sought a word in it. "The doctor said," 
she told me, "that you needn't call any more as a patient, 
but he'd be glad to see you any time as a friend. And then 
he told me to look up my name in the encyclopaedia and tell 
you what it means. It seems to be the name of a genus of 
flowering plants, and also the name of a country girl in 


Theocritus and Virgil. What do you suppose the doctor 
meant by that?" 

"I know what he meant," said I. " I know now." 

A word to a brother who may have come under the spell 
of the unquiet Lady Neurasthenia. 

The formula was true. Even though gropingly at times, 
the physicians of the walled cities had put their fingers upon 
the specific medicament. 

And so for the exercise one is referred to good Doctor 
Tatum on Black Oak Mountain — take the road to your 
right at the Methodist meeting house in the pine-grove. 

Absolute rest and exercise! 

What rest more remedial than to sit with Amaryllis in 
the shade, and, with a sixth sense, read the wordless Theoc- 
ritan idyl of the gold-bannered blue mountains marching 
orderly into the dormitories of the night?