‘A Retrieved Reformation’ by O. Henry


A Retrieved Reformation by O. Henry, 1903

The magic trick:

Brilliant storyline, employing three plot twists

We end O. Henry Love Story Week with one of his best stories. It is quite simply a brilliant storyline. He has a way of making convoluted, highly contrived plots feel very natural. In this one, we not only have the standard-issue O. Henry twist ending. We have the twist beginning and the twist middle. Oh yeah, and it being Love Story Month, there is a very neat bit of love and sacrifice in there.

Mr. Porter was an absolute master of the storytelling craft by this point in his career. There’s really nothing else to say about it. And that’s quite a trick on O. Henry’s part.

The selection:

Ben Price knew Jimmy’s habits. He had learned them while working on 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 with 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 coloured slightly. Young men of Jimmy’s style and looks were scarce in Elmore.


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