AUTHOR: O. Henry (William Sydney Porter)
PUBLISHER: McClure, Phillips & Co., NY
COLLECTION: The Four Million
Conceivably it is within this narrative that O Henry succumbs to his inclination the hardest regarding his methodology of using elongated verbiage when perchance truncation might well have better sufficed. It reads a bit like a forked-tongue flim-flam of a carnie selling a bill of goods to a rube. Although breaking the fourth wall helps let you in on the game and... crap... where's my wallet. I bought a bridge where exactly?
At least I was entertained while having my pocket picked. I will say that Tildy headlines a quite good final entry into The Four Million collection because of this and more which sees it serve as a form of recapitulation or almost encore. It's also an excellent look at how deftly O draws characters and the dialog between them, even to the realistic extent that the two waitresses (the lovely Aileen and the frumpy Tildy) here seem to miss each other's meanings quite often. It's just they're so different you see.
The two perform their conversings at their workplace, an equally well-drawn greasy spoon by the name of Bogle's Chop House. Bogle himself mans the register but "You are not Bogle's friend." And those three hold down the fort as a myriad of irregulars and regulars and regular irregulars file in and out, hungry then cheaply fed. All flirt with the lovely Aileen whom doth hold court and Tildy takes her lower less glamorous lot in life in stride until one day when a certain fellow shows her some passing, drunken, and regretted affection.
Along the way, Aileen gets a black eye from a 'Fresh guy.' And "Tildy listened to the adventure with breathless admiration." Perhaps her own grabby Mr. Seeders would show her the immense love she craved and "rush in suddenly and shoot her with a pistol." Alas, after laying low a few days after his trespass he has nothing for her but an apology and I do hope she got to keep the raise she was given on account of her newly found although mistook admirer. It's all quite sordidly toxically masculine.
Also, it's all written in a surprisingly modern manner, content aside. It feels much more to employ and deploy a living language than in some of its contemporary penned by other hands tales. That's a thing I've noticed in my reading of Henry. It feels so familiar to these days. You don't need to reach back in time and consume these bite-sized stories as one would in a way sort of like period pieces. It's all so vividly alive. And the twist at the end, of course, an O trademark, the thing that allows you to admire the con and even maybe adore the con artist.
"Don't fret, Til," said Aileen, who did not understand entirely. "That turnip-faced little clothespin of a Seeders ain't worth it. He ain't anything of a gentleman or he wouldn't have apologised." I don't know why I say this reads timeless as I type out those words but it does, or else I have been hood-winked. I know for sure, that if the case is hood-winking, O Henry wouldn't apologize. He'd remain a gentleman if even just in kayfabe and a gentleman if even just in kayfabe never strays from that--even when 'pretty well tanked up.'
FINAL GRADE: A-
A 90-100 B 80-89 C 70-79
::: very :::