32 thoughts on “O. HENRY Stories


    “They were enemies by the law written when the rocks were molten.”

    A wonderful display of a fading violet called Maggie who always went to to the strictly-ruled-attendance dance – in a boxing hall? – accompanied by her best friend and her best friend’s ‘fellow’. Well, what can one say, other than Oh, Henry, how did you fill your modern baroque style with such emotions of rivalry, friendship and brash fisticuffs, and the man Maggie chose to be escorted by with something sharper than a fist. Possible spoiler Is that it all worked well in the end for Maggie. Seems to indicate that instant risk-taking foolhardy instinctive pragmatism is worth more than enduring a slog of a lifeful?
    Coming out as a de-sheathing.


    “Joe and Delia met in an atelier where a number of art and music students had gathered to discuss chiaroscuro, Wagner, music, Rembrandt’s works, pictures, Waldteufel, wall paper, Chopin and Oolong.”

    Another married couple into art and literature, trying to base their very existence on it, caring what each of them think of the other in marriage. I say ‘another’ couple, because half an hour ago I reviewed HERE The Door of Opportunity by W Somerset Maugham. A completely different plot and characterisation, but if you compare one story to the other in their (for me just now) synchronously preternatural mutuality of synergy, you can read even further beyond each story to new realms of thought about married couples who depend in some way on art and literature as their raison d’être alongside the day jobs. Compare and CONTRAST these two stories, in fact.
    Oolong as well as the reference at the start of the O Henry story to the Great Wall of China. Today its Coronalwall!


    “Silent, grim, colossal, the big city has ever stood against its revilers. They call it hard as iron; they say that no pulse of pity beats in its bosom; they compare its streets with lonely forests and deserts of lava.”

    …and in the city boarding-house, a married couple bicker with flatirons etc, flung at each other, as the folks sit on the outside stoop, and all hell breaks loose when a six year old boy is found to be lost. The couple halt their warfare to speculate on how they would feel if their own six year old boy had been born six years before, and was now lost, as lost he actually was by dint of never having been here at all, I guess. Whether the lost boy is found or not, YOU have to guess, like me, whether, thereafter, the couple resume their lethal marital warfare. Jawn was the husband’s name, by the way.


    “While looking in her mirror she had seen fairyland and herself, a princess, just awakening from a long slumber.”

    This word-flighty story of Dulcie – who scrimps in Manhattan with weekly wages of a debatable small amount of dollars, five or six – and of Piggy, a man who I did not seem to like, and hoped Dulcie would not get attached to – and of a ‘fly cop’ or ‘angel policeman’ who seems to know the narrator – and of whether the only things that are not debatable by others at all are the telling of your dreams and what a parrot might say to you. The story seems to be a suitably debatable and happenstance companion to ‘Freda’ that I reviewed earlier today here.


    “His scarfpin was a large diamond, oddly set.”

    I’ll meet this forgotten story’s next reader here, at precisely 3.19 pm in 2040. That thought will keep me alive. Better than spoiling its plot.


    By ‘juxtaposition’ with the precocious boy, also wildly and knowingly talking to adults, in William Trevor’s GOING HOME (a story I happened to read only just half an ago HERE), the love between two lovers is now not lost in translation, but won!


    “A quinzied mother-in-law had knocked his lares and penates sky-high.”

    John used to his routines coming home from work on the shepherding bus and later regular temptation to go out and out again to play pool with his mates, leaving his crazy quilter of a wife at home. The shock of her sudden absence at home to visit her sick mother, makes him feel guilty at the way he is unappreciative of her, and if I tell you more about it that would give you no need to read this story at all. The story is its own false alarm, I guess. O, Henry, the readers love thee after all. Time’s pendulum over routine’s pit, notwithstanding.


    “not to be sneezed at”

    A firm’s younger replacement buyer (co-owner of the firm) from prick-smart Cactus, Texas, a city that has now been replaced with the “earthquakes and Negroes and monkeys and malarial fever and volcanoes” of Caracas City, instead. But he gets his woman nevertheless with the enticements of a valuable diamond ring and a gold marriage band.. Both misogyny (in assessing hidden female motives) and racism deployed just for the story’s smart arse ending. O, Henry, shame on you. But without such stories we would not know what people thought back then, nor learn to remind ourselves what similar things many of them still think now!


    “It is a plot to drive me to bay rum and a monologuing, thumb-handed barber.”

    Rich man Blinker fed up today with signatures and scratchy pens, takes a boat on the river and meets a common girl who sort of teaches him that the common mob has its worthy moments, a sort of falling in love on Blinker’s part, and she says where she lives. So someone wrote down that building for this story’s title with a scratchy pen, accepting, with resigned loss, Blinker’s own fate, with a new common wisdom. Blinker and title found to be mutually owned. The boat’s collision with another boat being a dress rehearsal for wisdom’s near-death flashpoint of synchronicity. Stay close or you’ll sink!


    “, thus inoculating against kingocracy with a drop of its own virus.”

    I am afraid I did not understand at all this story about a hose-cart driver’s seeming biased obsession with the war between Japan and Russia, utilising pins on a map.


    “Gather the idea, girls — all black, you know, with the preference for crêpe de — oh, crêpe de Chine — that’s it. All black, and that sad, faraway look, and the hair shining under the black veil…”

    A girl in China black, seemingly in the “mullygrubs”, enjoys dressing as a Goth, and makes up a whole story to a new admirer about a Count’s death in Italy, her fiancé, so that she can dress in black as mourning. In fact, all ends romantic and happy! Or does it? A neat ending to this story, whatever the case.

    “I met him to-day on the Bowery, and what do you think he does? Comes up and shakes hands.”

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    The story with the world record in so many outlandishly rich similes in so small a space. I challenge you to understand them all. Yet I gather freedom is a tyrant and this story binds you hand and foot in Bohemia (the only country in which you do not live) with all the strictures of deliberated madcap obliquity as shaded with half-grasped meanings of social tipsy gatherings in restaurants (God forbid!), and stolen kisses punished by thumping the kisser so as to maintain suitable distancing. A story about spoilers, bathos and a modernity that out-moderns even our own 2020 vision, a modernity that fetters you nicely forever beyond this story’s prophetic grasp of any viral online progression… beyond the preterite of the preinternet.


    F108F202-56AF-4C50-A449-AABC2259F796“I’ve thought that if I ever had extravagant money I’d rent a two-room cabin somewhere, hire a Chinaman to cook, and sit in my stocking feet and read Buckle’s History of Civilisation.” […] “Give me a cuckoo clock and Sep Winner’s Self-Instructor for the banjo, and I’ll join you.”

    And these two men do just that, still not too old, and settle into their idyllic haven … until they start talking of the mysteries of womenfolk. Even machinations that I could not fathom evolve, showing how such mysteries, when thought about, rub off on men. Best not to think such thoughts. Best not to think at all. (I was happy, though, how neat it ended.)


    The story of homeless tramp Curly in the Wild West and I bet anything – at least by its quirk quoted here explicitly as HAPPENEDICITIS – it be a forerunner of O Henry’s own Cisco Kid.

    “Six cowpunchers of the Cibolo Ranch were waiting around the door of the ranch store. Their ponies cropped grass near-by, tied in the Texas fashion—which is not tied at all. Their bridle reins had been dropped to the earth, which is a more effectual way of securing them (such is the power of habit and imagination) than you could devise out of a half-inch rope and a live-oak tree.”

    • “‘You’ve sure got a case of happenedicitis,’ said Poky Rodgers, fency rider of the Largo Verde potrero. ‘Somebody ought to happen to give you a knock on the head with the butt end of a quirt.’”

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  17. I have returned here, despite my earlier abdication of duty…


    “In the breast of the rib-sprung sex the genius of purse lightening may slumber through years of inopportunity, but never, my brothers, does it become extinct.”

    A cattleman made big money in those days where this takes place, and then he founded a bank but trusts a friend too much with a dodgy call loan by wholly banking on a cattle deal – and a dyspeptic inspector of banks arrives…
    Well, the events pan out happily, if that’s not a spoiler and a half, but you, the trusty reader, can bank on my redeeming the debt of such a mistaken divulgence by means of my effort in drawing your attention to this brief work in the first place, eventually resulting in your enjoyment of its amusing and worthily amoral moral.


    “The Chronicle of the Princess, the Happy Thought, and Lion that Bungled his Job.”

    We are introduced to royalty as cattle ranch monarchs, but they are not otherwise in the story, but their daughter is centre stage as she gulls a princely suitor with a lion cull.
    A story that reminds me of politics today. I’d recognise that Trumpish mane anywhere! And his gun-toting apologists, too.
    But is it Neuces country, or Nueces? My available text has both.


    “I reckon I was locoed to be makin’ a he poll-parrot out of myself for a kid like you.”

    Dry Valley is called Dry Valley to differentiate him from another boring sheepman called Elm Creek Johnson. He sells his sheep farm and sort of retires as a melancholy bachelor of 35, but then while fighting off kids scrumping his strawberries, sees that one of them is 19 year old girl and realises as an epiphany that he has been acting as if he were in the autumn of his years! It takes both her mimicking of his ludicrous dress code and his whipping of her with his whip to bring this story to its own special epiphany! You know somethin’ – O Henry has a style to die for, making you feel reborn. No way can anyone convey the simple-complex tactility and brainsizzling of its semantics, phonology and graphology. Beyond any “anamorphous shadow of a milestone reaching down the road between us and the setting sun.”


    “Go to him all spraddled out, boys. And don’t git too reckless, for what Calliope shoots at he hits.”

    Not sure that last bit is quite right! You see, Calliope is mostly drunk when he goes on shoot-outs in the township of Quicksand. And this town’s Marshall and his spraddled henchmen have a final shoot-out with him, and then his mother turns up on the train with a trunk to see him after eight years. I shoot out at stories and sometimes hit their meanings and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I hit on spoilers by happenstance. Hope no plot spoilers hit here. The fast switching of the Marshall’s badge, and eight jars of home-made quince jam, notwithstanding. (Still counting site hits as unique readers.)


    “In the Big City large and sudden things happen. You round a corner and thrust the rib of your umbrella into the eye of your old friend from Kootenai Falls. You stroll out to pluck a Sweet William in the park — and lo! bandits attack you — you are ambulanced to the hospital — you marry your nurse; are divorced — get squeezed while short on U. P. S. and D. O. W. N. S. — stand in the bread line — marry an heiress, take out your laundry and pay your club dues — seemingly all in the wink of an eye…. The City is a sprightly youngster, and you are red paint upon its toy, and you get licked off.”

    And large and sudden things are as full of flavour in a life as the concatenation of poverty, love and war. John Hopkins leaves his fleabitten dog and wife – at least for a nonce – to buy a cigar without its full price in his pocket and ends up being commissioned to a fight for a lady he had not met before. A story that was archetypal even before it was written or even thought of.
    Does this work contain the earliest mention of New York as Gotham, incidentally?
    No, it was here in THE GHOST by J.K. Paulding in 1829


    “…adorable inutile ribbons floated downward from her shoulders…”

    And a dinner gown as if woven by spiders. Seemingly Irish Caribs (I never knew there were ever such people) living in a past New York, and a husband when he takes his wife out for dinner, at her request, this being the first occasion after three years and he sees other men looking at her, only then he appreciates her himself! A slice of life in a slice of text. With truffles and other trifles. With some mores new to my own mœurs. Words that break the habits of a lifetime of safer reading. Literature is the art of transcending the pointless.


    “Sometimes the very tinkle of the ice in my champagne glass nearly drives me mad.”

    Driven mad if not auto-driven! This is an ingenious story of non-omniscience about two characters, a girl in grey who drops a book and the man Parkenstacker who picks it up. Who fools whom? Who chats up whom? Whose fake news is the fakest? Who parks cars, and who stacks money?

    “Conceive of the bondage of the life wherein we must deceive even our chauffeurs?”


    “He had not realized how thoroughly urbsidized he had become.”

    Beautifully written as this is, I wonder why I have abandoned this book for so long for others, and its charm has returned me to where I should be! Just as this story did to Robert whose return from the city along with his Matterhorn wife successfully garnered there – the story’s title unnoticed till the end – to here again at his farmland home and family. Even the Matterhorn can melt…

    “He had been unmasked by his own actions.”


    “You can fool an editor with a fake picture of a cowboy mounting a pony with his left hand on the saddle horn, but you can’t put him up a tree with a love story. So, you’ve got to fall in love and then write the real thing.”

    A writer as a narrator advising another writer how to write lucrative stories, an obsession in seeking love leading to a fire in hell or a woman’s suicide, I cannot tell. The advice worked, though, as he wrote a great story that shone out before being dumped into the editorial office floor slush bin; he then tore this love story to bits as he had somehow cheated some unseen commandment of ruthless selfishness by experiencing what he knew he must write… The narrator as adviser, being another writer, still had this story published, though. Oh, Henry!

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