A Retrieved Reformation

A GUARD CAME to the prison shoe-shop, where Jimmy Valentine was assiduously stitching uppers, and escorted him to the front office. There the warden handed Jimmy his pardon, which had been signed that morning by the governor. Jimmy took it in a tired kind of way. He had served nearly ten months of a four year sentence. He had expected to stay only about three months, at the longest. When a man with as many friends on the outside as Jimmy Valentine had is received in the “stir” it is hardly worth while to cut his hair.

“Now, Valentine,” said the warden, “you'll go out in the morning. Brace up, and make a man of yourself. You're not a bad fellow at heart. Stop cracking safes, and live straight.”

“Me?” said Jimmy, in surprise. “Why, I never cracked a safe in my life.”

“Oh, no,” laughed the warden. “Of course not. Let's see, now. How was it you happened to get sent up on that Springfield job? Was it because you wouldn't prove an alibi for fear of compromising somebody in extremely high-toned society? Or was it simply a case of a mean old jury that had it in for you? It's always one or the other with you innocent victims.”

“Me?” said Jimmy, still blankly virtuous. “Why, warden, I never was in Springfield in my life!”

“Take him back, Cronin!” said the warden, “and fix him up with outgoing clothes. Unlock him at seven in the morning, and let him come to the bull-pen. Better think over my advice, Valentine.”

At a quarter past seven on the next morning Jimmy stood in the warden's outer office. He had on a suit of the villainously fitting, ready-made clothes and a pair of the stiff, squeaky shoes that the state furnishes to its discharged compulsory guests.

The clerk handed him a railroad ticket and the five-dollar bill with which the law expected him to rehabilitate himself into good citizenship and prosperity. The warden gave him a cigar, and shook hands. Valentine, 9762, was chronicled on the books “Pardoned by Governor,” and Mr. James Valentine walked out into the sunshine.

Disregarding the song of the birds, the waving green trees, and the smell of the flowers, Jimmy headed straight for a restaurant. There he tasted the first sweet joys of liberty in the shape of a broiled chicken and a bottle of white wine—followed by a cigar a grade better than the one the warden had given him. From there he proceeded leisurely to the depot. He tossed a quarter into the hat of a blind man sitting by the door, and boarded his train. Three hours set him down in a little town near the state line. He went to the cafe of one Mike Dolan and shook hands with Mike, who was alone behind the bar.

“Sorry we couldn't make it sooner, Jimmy, me boy,” said Mike. “But we had that protest from Springfield to buck against, and the governor nearly balked. Feeling all right?”

“Fine,” said Jimmy. “Got my key?”

He got his key and went upstairs, unlocking the door of a room at the rear. Everything was just as he had left it. There on the floor was still Ben Price's collar-button that had been torn from that eminent detective's shirt-band when they had overpowered Jimmy to arrest him.

Pulling out from the wall a folding-bed, Jimmy slid back a panel in the wall and dragged out a dust-covered suit-case. He opened this and gazed fondly at the finest set of burglar's tools in the East. It was a complete set, made of specially tempered steel, the latest designs in drills, punches, braces and bits, jimmies, clamps, and augers, with two or three novelties, invented by Jimmy himself, in which he took pride. Over nine hundred dollars they had cost him to have made at—, a place where they make such things for the profession.

In half an hour Jimmy went downstairs and through the cafe. He was now dressed in tasteful and well-fitting clothes, and carried his dusted and cleaned suit-case in his hand.

“Got anything on?” asked Mike Dolan, genially.

“Me?” said Jimmy, in a puzzled tone. “I don't understand. I'm representing the New York Amalgamated Short Snap Biscuit Cracker and Frazzled Wheat Company.”

This statement delighted Mike to such an extent that Jimmy had to take a seltzer-and-milk on the spot. He never touched “hard” drinks.

A week after the release of Valentine, 9762, there was a neat job of safe-burglary done in Richmond, Indiana, with no clue to the author. A scant eight hundred dollars was all that was secured. Two weeks after that a patented, improved, burglar-proof safe in Logansport was opened like a cheese to the tune of fifteen hundred dollars, currency; securities and silver untouched. That began to interest the rogue-catchers. Then an old-fashioned bank-safe in Jefferson City became active and threw out of its crater an eruption of bank-notes amounting to five thousand dollars. The losses were now high enough to bring the matter up into Ben Price's class of work. By comparing notes, a remarkable similarity in the methods of the burglaries was noticed. Ben Price investigated the scenes of the robberies, and was heard to remark:

“That's Dandy Jim Valentine's autograph. He's resumed business. Look at that combination knob—jerked out as easy as pulling up a radish in wet weather. He's got the only clamps that can do it. And look how clean those tumblers were punched out! Jimmy never has to drill but one hole. Yes, I guess I want Mr. Valentine. He'll do his bit next time without any short-time or clemency foolishness.”

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 colored slightly. Young men of Jimmy's style and looks were scarce in Elmore.

Jimmy collared a boy that was loafing on the steps of the bank as if he were one of the stockholders, and began to ask him questions about the town, feeding him dimes at intervals. By and by the young lady came out, looking royally unconscious of the young man with the suit-case, and went her way.

“Isn't that young lady Miss Polly Simpson?” asked Jimmy, with specious guile.

“Naw,” said the boy. “She's Annabel Adams. Her pa owns this bank. What'd you come to Elmore for? Is that a gold watch-chain? I'm going to get a bulldog. Got any more dimes?”

Jimmy went to the Planters' Hotel, registered as Ralph D. Spencer, and engaged a room. He leaned on the desk and declared his platform to the clerk. He said he had come to Elmore to look for a location to go into business. How was the shoe business, now, in the town? He had thought of the shoe business. Was there an opening?

The clerk was impressed by the clothes and manner of Jimmy. He, himself, was something of a pattern of fashion to the thinly gilded youth of Elmore, but he now perceived his shortcomings. While trying to figure out Jimmy's manner of tying his four-in-hand he cordially gave information.

Yes, there ought to be a good opening in the shoe line. There wasn't an exclusive shoe-store in the place. The dry-goods and general stores handled them. Business in all lines was fairly good. Hoped Mr. Spencer would decide to locate in Elmore. He would find it a pleasant town to live in, and the people very sociable.

Mr. Spencer thought he would stop over in the town a few days and look over the situation. No, the clerk needn't call the boy. He would carry up his suit-case, himself; it was rather heavy.

Mr. Ralph Spencer, the phoenix that arose from Jimmy Valentine's ashes—ashes left by the flame of a sudden and alterative attack of love— remained in Elmore, and prospered. He opened a shoe-store and secured a good run of trade.

Socially he was also a success, and made many friends. And he accomplished the wish of his heart. He met Miss Annabel Adams, and became more and more captivated by her charms.

At the end of a year the situation of Mr. Ralph Spencer was this: he had won the respect of the community, his shoe-store was flourishing, and he and Annabel were engaged to be married in two weeks. Mr. Adams, the typical, plodding, country banker, approved of Spencer. Annabel's pride in him almost equaled her affection. He was as much at home in the family of Mr. Adams and that of Annabel's married sister as if he were already a member.

One day Jimmy sat down in his room and wrote this letter, which he mailed to the safe address of one of his old friends in St. Louis:

On the Monday night after Jimmy wrote this letter, Ben Price jogged unobtrusively into Elmore in a livery buggy. He lounged about town in his quiet way until he found out what he wanted to know. From the drug-store across the street from Spencer's shoe-store he got a good look at Ralph D. Spencer.

“Going to marry the banker's daughter are you, Jimmy?” said Ben to himself, softly. “Well, I don't know!”

The next morning Jimmy took breakfast at the Adamses. He was going to Little Rock that day to order his wedding-suit and buy something nice for Annabel. That would be the first time he had left town since he came to Elmore. It had been more than a year now since those last professional “jobs,” and he thought he could safely venture out.

After breakfast quite a family party went downtown together—Mr. Adams, Annabel, Jimmy, and Annabel's married sister with her two little girls, aged five and nine. They came by the hotel where Jimmy still boarded, and he ran up to his room and brought along his suit-case. Then they went on to the bank. There stood Jimmy's horse and buggy and Dolph Gibson, who was going to drive him over to the railroad station.

All went inside the high, carved oak railings into the banking-room— Jimmy included, for Mr. Adams's future son-in-law was welcome anywhere. The clerks were pleased to be greeted by the good-looking, agreeable young man who was going to marry Miss Annabel. Jimmy set his suit-case down. Annabel, whose heart was bubbling with happiness and lively youth, put on Jimmy's hat, and picked up the suit-case. “Wouldn't I make a nice drummer?” said Annabel. “My! Ralph, how heavy it is. Feels like it was full of gold bricks.”

“Lot of nickel-plated shoe-horns in there,” said Jimmy, coolly, “that I'm going to return. Thought I'd save express charges by taking them up. I'm getting awfully economical.”

The Elmore Bank had just put in a new safe and vault. Mr. Adams was very proud of it, and insisted on an inspection by every one. The vault was a small one, but it had a new, patented door. It fastened with three solid steel bolts thrown simultaneously with a single handle, and had a time-lock. Mr. Adams beamingly explained its workings to Mr. Spencer, who showed a courteous but not too intelligent interest. The two children, May and Agatha, were delighted by the shining metal and funny clock and knobs.

While they were thus engaged Ben Price sauntered in and leaned on his elbow, looking casually inside between the railings. He told the teller that he didn't want anything; he was just waiting for a man he knew.

Suddenly there was a scream or two from the women, and a commotion. Unperceived by the elders, May, the nine-year-old girl, in a spirit of play, had shut Agatha in the vault. She had then shot the bolts and turned the knob of the combination as she had seen Mr. Adams do.

The old banker sprang to the handle and tugged at it for a moment. “The door can't be opened,” he groaned. “The clock hasn't been wound nor the combination set.”

Agatha's mother screamed again, hysterically.

“Hush!” said Mr. Adams, raising his trembling hand. “All be quite for a moment. Agatha!” he called as loudly as he could. “Listen to me.” During the following silence they could just hear the faint sound of the child wildly shrieking in the dark vault in a panic of terror.

“My precious darling!” wailed the mother. “She will die of fright! Open the door! Oh, break it open! Can't you men do something?”

“There isn't a man nearer than Little Rock who can open that door,” said Mr. Adams, in a shaky voice. “My God! Spencer, what shall we do? That child—she can't stand it long in there. There isn't enough air, and, besides, she'll go into convulsions from fright.”

Agatha's mother, frantic now, beat the door of the vault with her hands. Somebody wildly suggested dynamite. Annabel turned to Jimmy, her large eyes full of anguish, but not yet despairing. To a woman nothing seems quite impossible to the powers of the man she worships.

“Can't you do something, Ralph—try, won't you?”

He looked at her with a queer, soft smile on his lips and in his keen eyes.

“Annabel,” he said, “give me that rose you are wearing, will you?”

Hardly believing that she heard him aright, she unpinned the bud from the bosom of her dress, and placed it in his hand. Jimmy stuffed it into his vest-pocket, threw off his coat and pulled up his shirt-sleeves. With that act Ralph D. Spencer passed away and Jimmy Valentine took his place.

“Get away from the door, all of you,” he commanded, shortly.

He set his suit-case on the table, and opened it out flat. From that time on he seemed to be unconscious of the presence of any one else. He laid out the shining, queer implements swiftly and orderly, whistling softly to himself as he always did when at work. In a deep silence and immovable, the others watched him as if under a spell.

In a minute Jimmy's pet drill was biting smoothly into the steel door. In ten minutes—breaking his own burglarious record—he threw back the bolts and opened the door.

Agatha, almost collapsed, but safe, was gathered into her mother's arms.

Jimmy Valentine put on his coat, and walked outside the railings toward the front door. As he went he thought he heard a far-away voice that he once knew call “Ralph!” But he never hesitated.

At the door a big man stood somewhat in his way.

“Hello, Ben!” said Jimmy, still with his strange smile. “Got around at last, have you? Well, let's go. I don't know that it makes much difference, now.”

And then Ben Price acted rather strangely.

“Guess you're mistaken, Mr. Spencer,” he said. “Don't believe I recognize you. Your buggy's waiting for you, ain't it?”

And Ben Price turned and strolled down the street.

Dear Old Pal:

I want you to be at Sullivan's place, in Little Rock, next Wednesday night, at nine o'clock. I want you to wind up some little matters for me. And, also, I want to make you a present of my kit of tools. I know you'll be glad to get them—you couldn't duplicate the lot for a thousand dollars. Say, Billy, I've quit the old business—a year ago. I've got a nice store. I'm making an honest living, and I'm going to marry the finest girl on earth two weeks from now. It's the only life, Billy—the straight one. I wouldn't touch a dollar of another man's money now for a million. After I get married I'm going to sell out and go West, where there won't be so much danger of having old scores brought up against me. I tell you, Billy, she's an angel. She believes in me; and I wouldn't do another crooked thing for the whole world. Be sure to be at Sully's, for I must see you. I'll bring along the tools with me.

Your old friend,


  1. O. Henry manages to make Jimmy Valentine a likeable and sympathetic character in spite of the fact that he is a criminal and a convicted felon. One way the author does this is by showing that all the other characters like Jimmy. The warden of the prison obviously finds Jimmy amusing, and he takes a cordial interest in this intelligent young prisoner who is a cut above the ordinary convicts. The warden tries to give him some good advice because he sees his potential to become a respectable and prosperous citizen. Jimmy has apparently been a model prisoner for the ten months he has served. He also must have a lot of friends on the outside, some of whom were willing to pull strings to get him pardoned.

    — William Delaney
  2. O. Henry opens his story inside a prison in order to offer an impression of what prisons are like and what Jimmy wants to avoid and what sort of danger he is running if he continues his life of crime. O. Henry knew what prisons were like because he spent several years in a state prison for embezzlement. He never got over the stigma of being an ex-convict or the horror of life inside a steel cage. This may have been the cause of his terrible alcoholism, which led to his death at the age of only forty-seven.

    — William Delaney
  3. Notice that Jimmy has left his suit-case and all his safe-cracking tools behind. This signifies, among other things, that he has definitely decided to be completely reformed, even if he believes he has lost everything and will be going back to prison.

    — William Delaney
  4. Ben Price is described as a big man in order to suggest that he is capable of overpowering Jimmy if he resists arrest. However, he is only "somewhat in his way" and not actually blocking his way. Price does not intend to arrest Jimmy after seeing him rescue the little girl. Jimmy doesn't think of putting up a fight. He might be able to escape, but he would have lost everything that was important to him. He couldn't keep his shoe business because he is well known as Ralph Spencer and therefore easy to find. He would lose Annabel because Price would tell her all about her fiance. At this point Jimmy doesn't care whether he goes back to prison. This is called a "black moment" by many editors and story writers. 

    — William Delaney
  5. This is sentimental romanticism. Jimmy wants to have something to remember Annabel by, since he feels sure he is going to lose her love as soon as he opens that suit-case.

    — William Delaney
  6. Ben Price is apparently not a police detective but probably an insurance investigator. In other words, he appears to be working for a big private investigation firm like the well-known Pinkerton National Detective Agency, founded in 1850. If Price were a police detective he would not be able to let Jimmy Valentine go free when he had caught him red-handed; but since Price is a private-eye he is not obligated to arrest Jimmy, whom he addresses as Mr. Spencer, pretending not to know his real identity.

    This situation can be contrasted with the one in O. Henry's story "After Twenty Years," in which Jimmy Wells is forced to have his old friend Bob arrested because Wells is in fact a policeman who must do his sworn duty.

    — William Delaney
  7. It is not necessary for O. Henry to describe the safe-cracking tools ("implements") Jimmy takes out of his suitcase, since the author described them in some detail early in the story. Jimmy's suitcase is frequently mentioned, but only the reader knows what is in it until Jimmy feels compelled to open it inside the bank in order to save the little girl. He thereby exposes himself as a professional safecracker, thinking he is ruining his chances of marrying Annabel and that with this same revelation he is certain to be sent to prison for the safecracking jobs he has pulled off since he received his pardon. His "reformation" seems doomed to failure. He expects to be losing his business, his fiancee, his reputation in Elmore, and his freedom.

    — William Delaney
  8. Agatha is in double-jeopardy inside that vault. She might die of fright, or she might die of suffocation. How could Jimmy just stand there and allow that to happen when he is probably the best safe-cracker in the world and has a complete set of the best safe-cracking tools right there in his suit-case? 

    — William Delaney
  9. This is good description. Although Agatha is "wildly shrieking in the dark vault in a panic of terror," the people outside can only hear "the faint sound." This shows the thickness of the steel plate of the vault. We can also imagine how a five-year-old girl would be shrieking in panic when she found herself all alone locked in a "dark vault." The situation not only presents a moral challenge to Jimmy Valentine but a technical challenge, since the bank vault is state-of-the-art and considered impregnable.

    — William Delaney
  10. O. Henry wishes to establish that Ben Price is in a position to see everything that happens inside the room containing the vault. It is only because Price sees and understands the little girl's plight and the sacrifice Jimmy Valentine is making to save her that Price decides not to arrest Jimmy. The detective's motive for following the party into the bank would probably be due to his suspicions being aroused by the fact that Jimmy is carrying a suit-case Price knows to be filled with safe-cracking tools. Otherwise he might have waited outside--or he might not even have been planning to arrest Jimmy that morning. In fact, he might have been waiting until he could catch Jimmy actually in flagrante delicto, in the act of breaking into another safe somewhere in the general vicinity of Elmore.

    — William Delaney
  11. Early in the story the narrator explains that the suit-case is filled with a complete set of burglar tools made of "specially tempered steel."

    — William Delaney
  12. Jimmy probably didn't want to leave his suit-case in the horse and buggy because the driver, Dolph Gibson, might get too curious about it. So Jimmy was forced to carry his burglar tools right inside the bank.

    — William Delaney
  13. This sentence suggests that Ben Price traced Jimmy to the town of Elmore because of the letter Jimmy wrote his old friend, probably with his return address on the envelope. This "old friend" may have passed the information on to Ben Price because the detective had let it be known that he would pay a generous fee to anyone who could tell him where Jimmy was to be found. 

    — William Delaney
  14. The most common kind of knot used to tie a necktie. Soapy in O. Henry's "The Cop and the Anthem" is sporting a four-in-hand tie when he goes into the fancy restaurant to order an expensive meal with no money to pay for it.


    — William Delaney
  15. Notice how O. Henry continues to call attention to that suit-case full of burglar tools throughout the story. It is simultaneously an asset, a burden, and a liability. It will be extremely ironic that he will feel compelled to use his highly specialized burglar tools at just the time when he has decided to get rid of them for good.

    — William Delaney
  16. Another indication that Jimmy is quite different from the usual class of career criminals. It also suggests that Jimmy is not really happy in his profession and would really like to be a respectable citizen if he could. He does not feel any hostility towards society, and he is not a dangerous person. He may carry burglar tools, but there is no mention of his carrying a gun or any other kind of weapon. Everything about Jimmy Valentine suggests that what really sets him apart from ordinary felons is his superior intelligence. 

    — William Delaney
  17. This characterizes Jimmy as being different from the typical hardened, antisocial criminal and hints that there is still hope he will become a respectable citizen. He is a "lone wolf." He probably doesn't fraternize with felons. His acquaintances seem to belong to a higher social order.

    — William Delaney
  18. Ben Price was evidently responsible for sending Jimmy Valentine to prison for a job he pulled in Springfield. When Jimmy is talking to the warden before his release, the warden asks, "How was it you happened to get sent up on that Springfield job?" O. Henry is establishing Ben Price as Jimmy's nemesis and a worthy antagonist. Ben Price may find it easy enough to trace Jimmy to the town of Elmore and identify him as Ralph D. Spencer, but Price will have to catch him in a new burglary before he can have him sent back to prison. Jimmy has been pardoned for the Springfield job, and it might not be possible to convict him of jobs previously committed. 



    — William Delaney
  19. O. Henry seems to know something about the art of safe-cracking. He spend about three years in a state prison for embezzlement and associated with all kinds of career criminals. 

    — William Delaney
  20. This is intended to show that Jimmy has plenty of reserve capital as a result of his expertise as a safe-cracker.

    — William Delaney
  21. The fact that the young lady was "looking royally unconscious of the young man with the suit-case" shows just the opposite: that she was very much aware of that young man and was feeling self-conscious and pleasantly excited by his obvious interest in her.

    — William Delaney
  22. O. Henry specifies that Jimmy Valentine commits a series of safe-cracking crimes right after his release from prison. His previous crimes would have been hard to prove against him. The fresh crimes not only attract the attention of Ben Price, but they would also be easier to connect to Jimmy Valentine, especially if Price could get possession of Jimmy's special set of burglar tools. The tools could be matched up against the drilling done on the safes and provide irrefutable evidence. This may explain why Jimmy seems anxious to get rid of his entire set of tools after he decides to go straight. Without the tools as evidence, it might have been impossible for any district attorney to connect Jimmy to the safe-cracking jobs in Richmond, Logansport, and Jefferson City. There was no other material evidence. O. Henry specifies that Jimmy takes only currency. The tools play a vital part in "A Retrieved Reformation."



    — William Delaney
  23. O. Henry makes many references to Jimmy Valentine's specially designed set of safe-cracking tools. These would have been used as evidence to convict him of the several safe-cracking jobs he committed after being released from prison and before he met Annabel Adams in the town of Elmore. Ben Price could have arrested Jimmy inside Annabel's father's bank. Jimmy could not deny that the burglar tools were his because everyone had seen him carry them inside the bank. O. Henry may have made Jimmy an exceptionally talented and notorious safe cracker and provided him with a one-of-a-kind set of tools just so it would be easy for Ben Price to recognize his handiwork and so it would have been extremely easy for Price to get him convicted for numerous burglaries if the detective hadn't decided to let Jimmy go free.

    — William Delaney
  24. This suggests that Jimmy should have no trouble meeting Annabel Adams and winning her affection. 

    — William Delaney
  25. This is a case of love at first sight. Jimmy becomes transformed at this moment, even though he doesn't even know the girl's name. He realizes that he could not possibly win her and continue to pursue a criminal career.

    — William Delaney
  26. This message is mainly intended to show that Jimmy Valentine is a completely changed man because of the love of a good woman. It encapsulates the moral of the story, which can be stated either as "Crime does not pay" or "Honesty is the best policy." Two of O. Henry's other best-known stories are intended to show that crime does not pay. They are "After Twenty Years" and "The Ransom of Red Chief." In "The Cop and the Anthem," Soapy learns how hard it is to reform when he gets arrested for vagrancy and loitering just after he had decided to lead a straight life. O. Henry himself was haunted by the fact that he had served nearly three years in a big state prison for embezzlement. He tried to hide his past. He wrote under a pseudonym. 

    — William Delaney
  27. This is good writing. The fact that he "dragged" it out shows that it is very heavy, while the fact that it is dust-covered shows how long Jimmy has been doing time in prison. The suitcase will play an important role in the story. It is almost symbolic because it suggests how difficult it is to lead a life of crime.

    — William Delaney
  28. The warden laughs and jokes with Jimmy Valentine because Jimmy is such a likeable fellow. One of Jimmy's outstanding characteristics is his charm.

    — William Delaney
  29. This must be referring to Springfield, Illinois, and the governor who pardoned Jimmy Valentine must be governor of that state. Abraham Lincoln lived there from 1837 to 1861.

    — William Delaney
  30. This is a humorous observation. Mr. Spencer is Jimmy Valentine, and he does not want to appear to know much about such things as bank vaults. Mr. Adams would hardly be likely to show his vault to Mr. Spencer if he knew who he really was and what was in his suitcase!

    — William Delaney
  31. Jimmy has to give some explanation about what is in his suitcase and why it is so heavy. Shoe-horns were common in America in O. Henry's time. Some of them were quite fancy. Practically every man or woman who owned a pair of shoes owned one or more shoe-horns.

    — William Delaney
  32. Jimmy may have come to Elmore with the intention of cracking the safe in the town bank. But his transformation, resulting from falling in love with Annabel Adams, makes him decide that he wants to stay in Elmore and get to meet her. His usual modus operandi is to move around and never stay in the same town where he has cracked a safe. If he wants to stay in Elmore he will have to find another occupation. On the spur of the moment he decides to open a shoe store. He has learned enough about shoes working in the shoe shop for ten months while in state prison. It is the only kind of work he can think of, since he has had little practical experience except for cracking safes. He has enough money from his burglaries to be able to afford to rent a store and buy the necessary merchandise and furnishings. Jimmy has already shown that he is an impulsive and courageous man. His decision to change his whole life does not seem surprising because of his youth and his bold character. 

    — William Delaney
  33. This set of burglar's tools will identify and characterize Jimmy Valentine as a professional burglar in spite of the fact that he has denied his profession to the warden and soon deny it to Mike Dolan.

    • The highly specialized tools will enable him to open the bank safe in order to rescue the little girl accidentally trapped inside.
    • The set of tools will be unquestionable incriminating evidence against him when the master detective Ben Price arrives on the scene at the bank.

    This explains why O. Henry spends an entire paragraph describing the burglar tools.

    — William Delaney
  34. This observation is intended to impress the reader with the gravity of the danger Jimmy Valentine is facing when he reveals his true identity by breaking into the bank vault with his burglar tools. When the story opens he had been sentenced to four years in prison but had used his connections to get pardoned by the governor after serving only about ten months. This time, as Ben Price "was heard to remark," there will be no "clemency." Jimmy, of course, cannot be punished for opening the bank vault, but he can be charged with all the other crimes that brought him to Ben Price's attention. He could be sentenced to as long as ten years on multiple counts of burglary. Since he was caught in the bank with all his burglar equipment, those specialized tools can be used as exhibits to prove he was guilty of all the other safe-cracking jobs in Richmond, Logansport, Jefferson City, and elsewhere.

    — William Delaney
  35. O. Henry uses only two words to identify Ben Price as a dangerous adversary. Ben Price is a sort of American Sherlock Holmes. But, not unlike Sherlock Holmes, he has a compassionate side to his nature. 

    — William Delaney