Short Story #284: A Retrieved Reformation by O. Henry

Title:  A Retrieved Reformation 

Author:  O. Henry


O Henry - Humorist.  Image source: Valentine has just left prison after receiving a pardon in his tenth month of his four year sentence for safe-cracking.  He banters with the warden about his innocence and then returns home and visits his friend Mike who gives Jimmy access to his safe-cracking tools.  Soon after his release, Jimmy returns to his antics and one officer, Ben Price is trying to catch him, again by tracking his movements and burglaries.  During this time, Jimmy finds himself in the town of Elmore, where he comes across a beautiful woman that he follows.  He discovers the woman's name is Annabel Adams, the daughter of the owner of the Elmore Bank.  Jimmy changes his name to Ralph D. Spencer and starts up a shoe-store.  He slowly makes his way into Annabel's heart and is likable by all he meets.  Within a year, he is engaged and making future plans.  He writes a letter to a friend to whom he plans to give his tools away to and continue with his new life in Elmore.  On the day that he is going to catch the train to meet his friend to pass his tools along, Annabel's niece gets locked in the bank's vault and cannot be escaped because the clock was not set.  At the same time, Ben Price arrives, having found out that Spencer and Valentine are the same.  Despite knowing this will be his demise, Spencer takes out his tools and manages to crack the vault to get the girl free.  Valentine finishes and turns to Price, expecting to be arrested but Price pretends he doesn't know who he is.  


A fun story with some amusing naming conventions.  Jimmy Valentine loses his heart in Elmore.  The name "Ralph D. Spencer" has the double meaning of to vomit and to dispense.  Dispelling the first name, D. Spencer or dispense is exactly what Valentine does.  He dispenses his old life and in the act of dispensing his tools is what saves him.  Elmore - could also be "the more," which is what Valentine seeks and acquires--something more than a life sought after money.  

Short Story #284 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  9/15/2014
Source:  You can read the full text of this short story at this website.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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