by O. Henry
It was neither the season nor the hour when the
Park had frequenters; and it is likely that the
young lady, who was seated on one of the benches
at the side of the walk, had merely obeyed a sudden
impulse to sit for a while and enjoy a foretaste
of coming Spring.
She rested there, pensive and still. A certain
melancholy that touched her countenance must have
been of recent birth, for it had not yet altered
the fine and youthful contours of her cheek, nor
subdued the arch though resolute curve of her lips.
A tall young man came striding through the park
along the path near which she sat. Behind him
tagged a boy carrying a suit-case. At sight of
the young lady, the man's face changed to red
and back to pale again. He watched her countenance
as he drew nearer, with hope and anxiety mingled
on his own. He passed within a few yards of her,
but he saw no evidence that she was aware of his
presence or existence.
Some fifty yards further on he suddenly stopped
and sat on a bench at one side. The boy dropped
the suit-case and stared at him with wondering,
shrewd eyes. The young man took out his handkerchief
and wiped his brow. It was a good handkerchief,
a good brow, and the young man was good to look
at. He said to the boy:
"I want you to take a message to that young lady
on that bench. Tell her I am on my way to the
station, to leave for San Francisco, where I shall
join that Alaska moose-hunting expedition. Tell
her that, since she has commanded me neither to
speak nor to write to her, I take this means of
making one last appeal to her sense of justice,
for the sake of what has been. Tell her that to
condemn and discard one who has not deserved such
treatment, without giving him her reasons or a
chance to explain whatever the cause may be, is
contrary to her nature as I have believed it to
be. Tell her that I have thus, to a certain degree,
disobeyed her injunctions, in the hope that she
may yet be inclined to see justice done. Go, and
tell her that."
The young man dropped a half-dollar into the boy's
hand. The boy looked at him for a moment with
bright, canny eyes out of a dirty, intelligent
face, and then set off at a run. He approached
the lady on the bench a little doubtfully, but
unembarrassed. He touched the brim of the old
plaid bicycle cap perched on the back of his head.
The lady looked at him coolly, without prejudice
"Lady," he said, "dat gent on de oder bench sent
yer a song and dance by me. If yer don't know de
guy, and he's tryin' to do de Johnny act, say
de word, and I'll call a cop in t'ree minutes.
If yer does know him, and he's on de square, w'y
I'll spiel yer de bunch of hot air he sent yer."
The young lady betrayed a faint interest.
"A song and dance!" she said, in a deliberate,
sweet voice that seemed to clothe her words in
a diaphanous garment of impalpable irony. "A new
idea--in the troubadour line, I suppose. I--used
to know the gentleman who sent you, so I think
it will hardly be necessary to call the police.
You may execute your song and dance, but do not
sing too loudly. It is a little early yet for
open-air vaudeville, and we might attract attention."
"Aw," said the boy, with a shrug down the length
of him, "yer know what I mean, lady. 'Tain't a
turn, it's wind. He told me to tell yer he's got
his collars and cuffs in dat grip for a scoot
clean out to 'Frisco. Den he's goin' to shoot
snow-birds in de Klondike. He says yer told him
not to send 'round no more pink notes nor come
hangin' over de garden gate, and he takes dis
means of puttin' yer wise. He says yer refereed
him out like a has-been, and never give him no
chance to kick at de decision. He says yer swiped
him, and never said why."
The slightly awakened interest in the young lady's
eyes did not abate. Perhaps it was caused by either
the originality or the audacity of the snow-bird
hunter, in thus circumventing her express commands
against the ordinary modes of communication. She
fixed her eye on a statue standing disconsolate in
the disheveled park, and spoke into the transmitter:
"Tell the gentleman that I need not repeat to him
a description of my ideals. He knows what they have
been and what they still are. So far as they touch
on this case, absolute loyalty and truth are the
ones paramount. Tell him that I have studied my own
heart as well as one can, and I know its weakness as
well as I do its needs. That is why I decline to
hear his pleas, whatever they may be. I did not
condemn him through hearsay or doubtful evidence,
and that is why I made no charge. But, since he
persists in hearing what he already well knows, you
may convey the matter.
"Tell him that I entered the conservatory that
evening from the rear, to cut a rose for my mother.
Tell him I saw him and Miss Ashburton beneath the
pink oleander. The tableau was pretty, but the pose
and juxtaposition were too eloquent and evident to
require explanation. I left the conservatory, and,
at the same time, the rose and my ideal. You may
carry that song and dance to your impresario."
"I'm shy on one word, lady. Jux--jux--put me wise
on dat, will yer?"
"Juxtaposition--or you may call it propinquity--or,
if you like, being rather too near for one maintaining
the position of an ideal."
The gravel spun from beneath the boy's feet. He
stood by the other bench. The man's eyes interrogated
him, hungrily. The boy's were shining with the
impersonal zeal of the translator.
"De lady says dat she's on to de fact dat gals is
dead easy when a feller comes spielin' ghost stories
and tryin' to make up, and dat's why she won't listen
to no soft-soap. She says she caught yer dead to
rights, huggin' a bunch o' calico in de hot-house.
She side-stepped in to pull some posies, and yer was
squeezin' de oder gal to beat de band. She says it
looked cute, all right all right, but it made her
sick. She says yer better git busy, and make a sneak
for de train."
The young man gave a low whistle, and his eyes flashed
with a sudden thought. His hand flew to the inside
pocket of his coat, and drew out a handful of letters.
Selecting one, he handed it to the boy, following it
with a silver dollar from his vest-pocket.
"Give that letter to the lady," he said, "and ask
her to read it. Tell her that it should explain the
situation. Tell her that, if she had mingled a little
trust with her conception of the ideal, much heartache
might have been avoided. Tell her that the loyalty
she prizes so much has never wavered. Tell her I am
waiting for an answer."
The messenger stood before the lady.
"De gent says he's had de ski-bunk put on him widout
no cause. He says he's no bum guy; and, lady, yer
read dat letter, and I'll bet yer he's a white sport,
The young lady unfolded the letter; somewhat doubtfully,
and read it.
DEAR DR. ARNOLD: I want to thank you for your most
kind and opportune aid to my daughter last Friday
evening, when she was overcome by an attack of her
old heart-trouble in the conservatory at Mrs. Waldron's
reception. Had you not been near to catch her as
she fell and to render proper attention, we might
have lost her. I would be glad if you would call
and undertake the treatment of her case.
The young lady refolded the letter, and handed it to
"De gent wants an answer," said the messenger. "Wot's
The lady's eyes suddenly flashed on him, bright,
smiling and wet.
"Tell that guy on the other bench," she said, with
a happy, tremulous laugh, "that his girl wants him."
~~~~~~~ THE END ~~~~~~~