home | authors | books | about

Home -> O. Henry -> Roses, Ruses and Romance

Roses, Ruses and Romance

Short Stories


A Bird of Bagdad

A Blackjack Bargainer

A Call Loan

A Chaparral Christmas Gift

A Chaparral Prince

A Comedy in Rubber

A Cosmopolite in a Cafe

A Departmental Case

A Dinner at--------*

A Double-Dyed Deceiver

A Fog in Santone

A Harlem Tragedy

A Lickpenny Lover

A Little Local Colour

A Little Talk about Mobs

A Madison Square Arabian Night

A Matter of Mean Elevation

A Midsummer Knight's Dream

A Midsummer Masquerade

A Municipal Report

A Newspaper Story

A Night in New Arabia

A Philistine in Bohemia

A Poor Rule

A Ramble in Aphasia

A Retrieved Reformation

A Ruler of Men

A Sacrifice Hit

A Service of Love

A Snapshot at the President

A Strange Story

A Technical Error

A Tempered Wind

According to Their Lights

After Twenty Years

An Adjustment of Nature

An Afternoon Miracle

An Apology

An Unfinished Christmas Story

An Unfinished Story

Aristocracy Versus Hash

Art and the Bronco

At Arms With Morpheus

Babes in the Jungle


Between Rounds

Bexar Scrip No. 2692

Blind Man's Holiday

Brickdust Row

Buried Treasure

By Courier

Calloway's Code


Cherchez La Femme

Christmas by Injunction

Compliments of the Season

Confessions of a Humorist

Conscience in Art

Cupid a La Carte

Cupid's Exile Number Two


Dougherty's Eye-Opener

Elsie in New York

Extradited from Bohemia

Fickle Fortune or How Gladys Hustled

Friends in San Rosario

From Each According to His Ability

From the Cabby's Seat

Georgia's Ruling


He Also Serves

Hearts and Crosses

Hearts and Hands

Helping the Other Fellow

Holding Up a Train

Hostages to Momus

Hygeia at the Solito

Innocents of Broadway

Jeff Peters as a Personal Magnet

Jimmy Hayes and Muriel

Law and Order

Let Me Feel Your Pulse

Little Speck in Garnered Fruit

Lord Oakhurst's Curse

Lost on Dress Parade

Madame Bo-Peep, of the Ranches

Makes the Whole World Kin

Mammon and the Archer

Man About Town

Masters of Arts

Memoirs of a Yellow Dog

Modern Rural Sports

Money Maze

Nemesis and the Candy Man

New York by Camp Fire Light

Next to Reading Matter

No Story

October and June

On Behalf of the Management

One Dollar's Worth

One Thousand Dollars

Out of Nazareth

Past One at Rooney's


Proof of the Pudding

Psyche and the Pskyscraper

Queries and Answers

Roads of Destiny

Roses, Ruses and Romance

Rouge et Noir

Round the Circle

Rus in Urbe

Schools and Schools

Seats of the Haughty

Shearing the Wolf



Sisters of the Golden Circle


Sociology in Serge and Straw

Sound and Fury

Springtime a La Carte

Squaring the Circle

Strictly Business

Strictly Business

Suite Homes and Their Romance

Telemachus, Friend

The Admiral

The Adventures of Shamrock Jolnes

The Assessor of Success

The Atavism of John Tom Little Bear

The Badge of Policeman O'Roon

The Brief Debut of Tildy

The Buyer From Cactus City

The Caballero's Way

The Cactus

The Caliph and the Cad

The Caliph, Cupid and the Clock

The Call of the Tame

The Chair of Philanthromathematics

The Champion of the Weather

The Church with an Overshot-Wheel

The City of Dreadful Night

The Clarion Call

The Coming-Out of Maggie

The Complete Life of John Hopkins

The Cop and the Anthem

The Count and the Wedding Guest

The Country of Elusion

The Day Resurgent

The Day We Celebrate

The Defeat of the City

The Detective Detector

The Diamond of Kali

The Discounters of Money

The Dog and the Playlet

The Door of Unrest

The Dream

The Duel

The Duplicity of Hargraves

The Easter of the Soul

The Emancipation of Billy

The Enchanted Kiss

The Enchanted Profile

The Ethics of Pig

The Exact Science of Matrimony

The Ferry of Unfulfilment

The Fifth Wheel

The Flag Paramount

The Fool-Killer

The Foreign Policy of Company 99

The Fourth in Salvador

The Friendly Call

The Furnished Room

The Gift of the Magi

The Girl and the Graft

The Girl and the Habit

The Gold That Glittered

The Greater Coney

The Green Door

The Guardian of the Accolade

The Guilty Party - An East Side Tragedy

The Halberdier of the Little Rheinschloss

The Hand that Riles the World

The Handbook of Hymen

The Harbinger

The Head-Hunter

The Hiding of Black Bill

The Higher Abdication

The Higher Pragmatism

The Hypotheses of Failure

The Indian Summer of Dry Valley Johnson

The Lady Higher Up

The Last Leaf

The Last of the Troubadours

The Lonesome Road

The Lost Blend

The Lotus And The Bottle

The Love-Philtre of Ikey Schoenstein

The Making of a New Yorker

The Man Higher Up

The Marionettes

The Marquis and Miss Sally

The Marry Month of May

The Memento

The Missing Chord

The Moment of Victory

The Octopus Marooned

The Passing of Black Eagle

The Pendulum

The Phonograph and the Graft

The Pimienta Pancakes

The Plutonian Fire

The Poet and the Peasant

The Pride of the Cities

The Princess and the Puma

The Prisoner of Zembla

The Proem

The Purple Dress

The Ransom of Mack

The Ransom of Red Chief

The Rathskeller and the Rose

The Red Roses of Tonia

The Reformation of Calliope

The Remnants of the Code

The Renaissance at Charleroi

The Roads We Take

The Robe of Peace

The Romance of a Busy Broker

The Rose of Dixie

The Rubaiyat of a Scotch Highball

The Rubber Plant's Story

The Shamrock and the Palm

The Shocks of Doom

The Skylight Room

The Sleuths

The Snow Man

The Social Triangle

The Song and the Sergeant

The Sparrows in Madison Square

The Sphinx Apple

The Tale of a Tainted Tenner

The Theory and the Hound

The Thing's the Play

The Third Ingredient

The Trimmed Lamp

The Unknown Quantity

The Unprofitable Servant

The Venturers

The Vitagraphoscope

The Voice of the City

The Whirligig of Life

The World and the Door

Thimble, Thimble


To Him Who Waits

Tobin's Palm

Tommy's Burglar

Tracked to Doom

Transformation of Martin Burney

Transients in Arcadia

Two Recalls

Two Renegades

Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen

Ulysses and the Dogman

Vanity and Some Sables

What You Want

While the Auto Waits

Whistling Dick's Christmas Stocking

Witches' Loaves

Ravenel -- Ravenel, the traveller, artist and
poet, threw his magazine to the floor. Sammy Brown,
broker's clerk, who sat by the window, jumped.

"What is it, Ravvy?" he asked. "The critics
been hammering your stock down?"

"Romance is dead," said Ravenel, lightly. When
Ravenel spoke lightly be was generally serious. He
picked up the magazine and fluttered its leaves.

"Even a Philistine, like you, Sammy," said Rave-
nel, seriously (a tone that insured him to be speak-
ing lightly), "ought to understand. Now, here is
a magazine that once printed Poe and Lowell and
Whitman and Bret Harte and Du Maurier and Lanier
and -- well, that gives you the idea. The current
number has this literary feast to set before you: an
article on the stokers and coal bunkers of battleships,
an expose of the methods employed in making liver-
wurst, a continued story of a Standard Preferred
International Baking Powder deal in Wall Street, a
'poem' on the bear that the President missed, an-
other 'story' by a young woman who spent a week
as a spy making overalls on the East Side, another
'fiction' story that reeks of the 'garage' and a cer-
tain make of automobile. Of course, the title contains
the words 'Cupid' and 'Chauffeur' -- an article on
naval strategy, illustrated with cuts of the Spanish
Armada, and the new Staten Island ferry-boats; an-
other story of a political boss who won the love of a
Fifth Avenue belle by blackening her eye and refusing
to vote for an iniquitous ordinance (it doesn't say
whether it was in the Street-Cleaning Department or
Congress), and nineteen pages by the editors brag-
ging about the circulation. The whole thing, Sammy,
is an obituary on Romance."

Sammy Brown sat comfortably in the leather arm-
chair by the open window. His suit was a vehement
brown with visible checks, beautifully matched in
shade by the ends of four cigars that his vest pocket
poorly concealed. Light tan were his shoes, gray his
socks, sky-blue his apparent linen, snowy and high
and adamantine his collar, against which a black but-
terfly had alighted and spread his wings. Sammy's
face -- least important -- was round and pleasant
and pinkish, and in his eyes you saw no haven for
fleeing Romance.

That window of Ravenel's apartment opened upon
an old garden full of ancient trees and shrubbery.
The apartment-house towered above one side of it;
a high brick wall fended it from the street; oppo-
site Ravenel's window an old, old mansion stood, half-
hidden in the shade of the summer foliage. The house
was a castle besieged. The city howled and roared
and shrieked and beat upon its double doors, and
shook white, fluttering checks above the wall, offering
terms of surrender. The gray dust settled upon the
trees; the siege was pressed hotter, but the draw-
bridge was not lowered. No further will the language
of chivalry serve. Inside lived an old gentleman who
loved his home and did not wish to sell it. That is
all the romance of the besieged castle.

Three or four times every week came Sammy
Brown to Ravenel's apartment. He belonged to the
poet's club, for the former Browns had been con-
spicuous, though Sammy bad been vulgarized by
Business. He had no tears for departed Romance.
The song of the ticker was the one that reached
his heart, and when it came to matters equine and
batting scores he was something of a pink edition.
He loved to sit in the leather armchair by Ravenel's
window. And Ravenel didn't mind particularly.
Sammy seemed to enjoy his talk; and then the broker's
clerk was such a perfect embodiment of modernity and
the day's sordid practicality that Ravenel rather
liked to use him as a scapegoat.

"I'll tell you what's the matter with you," said
Sammy, with the shrewdness that business had taught
him. "The magazine has turned down some of your
poetry stunts. That's why you are sore at it."

"That would be a good guess in Wall Street or in
a campaign for the presidency of a woman's club,"
said Ravenel, quietly. "Now, there is a poem - if
you will allow me to call it that - of my own in this
number of the magazine."

"Read it to me," said Sammy, watching a cloud
of pipe-smoke be had just blown out the window.

Ravenel was no greater than Achilles. No one is.
There is bound to be a spot. The Somebody-or-Other
must take bold of us somewhere when she dips us in
the Something-or-Other that makes us invulnerable.
He read aloud this verse in the magazine:


'One rose I twined within your hair --

(White rose, that spake of worth);

And one you placed upon your breast --

(Red rose, love's seal of birth).

You plucked another from its stem --

(Tea rose, that means for aye);

And one you gave -- that bore for me

The thorns of memory."

"That's a crackerjack," said Sammy, admiringly.

There are five more verses," said Ravenel, pa-
tiently sardonic. "One naturally pauses at the end
of each. Of course -- "

"Oh, let's have the rest, old man," shouted Sammy,
contritely, " I didn't mean to cut you off. I'm not
much of a poetry expert, you know. I never saw a
poem that didn't look like it ought to have terminal
facilities at the end of every verse. Reel off the rest
of it."

Ravenel sighed, and laid the magazine down. "All
right," said Sammy, cheerfully, "we'll have it next
time. I'll be off now. Got a date at five o'clock."

He took a last look at the shaded green garden
and left, whistling in an off key an untuneful air from
a roofless farce comedy.

The next afternoon Ravenel, while polishing a
ragged line of a new sonnet, reclined by the window
overlooking the besieged garden of the unmercenary
baron. Suddenly he sat up, spilling two rhymes and
a syllable or two.,

Through the trees one window of the old mansion
could be seen clearly. In its window, draped in flow-
ing white, leaned the angel of all his dreams of ro-
mance and poesy. Young, fresh as a drop of dew,
graceful as a spray of clematis, conferring upon the
garden hemmed in by the roaring traffic the air
of a princess's bower, beautiful as any flower sung
by poet -- thus Ravenel saw her for the first time.
She lingered for a while, and then disappeared within,
leaving a few notes of a birdlike ripple of song to
reach his entranced ears through the rattle of cabs
and the snarling of the electric cars.

Thus, as if to challenge the poet's flaunt at ro-
mance and to punish him for his recreancy to the
undying spirit of youth and beauty, this vision bad
dawned upon him with a thrilling and accusive power.
And so metabolic was the power that in an instant
the atoms of Ravenel's entire world were redistrib-
uted. The laden drays that passed the house in which
she lived rumbled a deep double-bass to the tune of
love. The newsboys' shouts were the notes of singing
birds; that garden was the pleasance of the Capulets;
the janitor was an ogre; himself a knight, ready with
sword, lance or lute.

Thus does romance show herself amid forests of
brick and stone when she gets lost in the city, and
there has to be sent out a general alarm to find her

At four in the afternoon Ravenel looked out across
the garden. In the window of his hopes were set
four small vases, each containing a great, full-blown
rose - red and white. And, as he gazed, she leaned
above them, shaming them with her loveliness and
seeming to direct her eyes pensively toward his own
window. And then, as though she had caught his
respectful but ardent regard, she melted away, leaving
the fragrant emblems on the window-sill.

"Yes, emblems! -- he would be unworthy if be had
not understood. She had read his poem, "The Four
Roses"; it had reached her heart; and this was its
romantic answer. Of course she must know that
Ravenel, the poet, lived there across her garden. His
picture, too, she must have seen in the magazines.
The delicate, tender, modest, flattering message could
not be ignored.

Ravenel noticed beside the roses a small flowering-
pot containing a plant. Without shame be brought
his opera-glasses and employed them from the cover
of his window-curtain. A nutmeg geranium!

With the true poetic instinct be dragged a book
of useless information from his shelves, and tore open
the leaves at "The Language of Flowers."

"Geranium, Nutmeg - I expect a meeting."

So! Romance never does things by halves. If she
comes back to you she brings gifts and her knitting,
and will sit in your chimney-corner if you will let

And now Ravenel smiled. The lover smiles
when be thinks he has won. The woman who loves
ceases to smile with victory. He ends a battle; she
begins hers. What a pretty idea to set the four roses
in her window for him to see! She must have
a sweet, poetic soul. And now to contrive the

A whistling and slamming of doors preluded the
coming of Sammy Brown.

Ravenel smiled again. Even Sammy Brown was
shone upon by the far-flung rays of the renaissance.
Sammy, with his ultra clothes, his horseshoe pin, his
plump face, his trite slang, his uncomprehending
admiration of Ravenel -- the broker's clerk made an
excellent foil to the new, bright unseen visitor to the
poet's sombre apartment.

Sammy went to his old seat by the window, and
looked out over the dusty green foliage in the
garden. Then he looked at his watch, and rose

"By grabs!" he exclaimed. "Twenty after four!
I can't stay, old man; I've got a date at 4:30."

"Why did you come, then?" asked Ravenel, with
sarcastic jocularity, "if you had an engagement at
that time. I thought you business men kept better
account of your minutes and seconds than that."

Sammy hesitated in the doorway and turned

"Fact is, Ravvy," be explained, as to a customer
whose margin is exhausted, "I didn't know I had it
till I came. I'll tell you, old man - there's a dandy
girl in that old house next door that I'm dead gone
on. I put it straight -- we're engaged. The old
man says 'nit' but that don't go. He keeps her
pretty close. I can see Edith's window from yours
here. She gives me a tip when she's going shopping,
and I meet her. It's 4:30 to-day. Maybe I ought
to have explained sooner, but I know it's all right
with you -- so long."

"How do you get your 'tip,' as you call it?" asked
Ravenel, losing a little spontaneity from his smile.

"Roses," said Sammy, briefly. Four of 'em to-
day. Means four o'clock at the corner of Broadway
and Twenty-third."

"But the geranium?" persisted Ravenel, clutch-
ing at the end of flying Romance's trailing robe.

"Means half-past 5," shouted Sammy from the hall.
"See you to-morrow."

© Art Branch Inc. | English Dictionary