The Romance Of A Busy Broker by O. Henry, 1906
The magic trick:
Presenting an enthusiastic, comical and vivid description of the world of turn-of-the-century high finance
The story here is pretty silly. The twist ending defies realism. But there is much to appreciate. If you read a batch of O. Henry stories you will come away with, among other things, a vivid picture of turn-of-the-century New York. I’m not sure it’s super-realistic. It’s probably more akin to Dickens’ London. But it’s definitely vivid and exciting.
In “Busy Broker,” the reader is treated to a great description of the world of high finance in Manhattan. The writer’s voice is almost as fast and furious as the world it narrates. And that’s quite a trick on O. Henry’s part.
He who has been denied the spectacle of a busy Manhattan broker during a rush of business is handicapped for the profession of anthropology. The poet sings of the “crowded hour of glorious life.” The broker’s hour is not only crowded, but the minutes and seconds are hanging to all the straps and packing both front and rear platforms.
And this day was Harvey Maxwell’s busy day. The ticker began to reel out jerkily its fitful coils of tape, the desk telephone had a chronic attack of buzzing. Men began to throng into the office and call at him over the railing, jovially, sharply, viciously, excitedly. Messenger boys ran in and out with messages and telegrams. The clerks in the office jumped about like sailors during a storm. Even Pitcher’s face relaxed into something resembling animation.
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