The Bard of Avalon wrote, “The course of true love never did run smooth.” When Lysander said this to his true love Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, he realized that their love was forbidden by Hermia’s father who wanted his daughter to marry a more upper-class citizen of Athens.
I don’t know if O. Henry was thinking of Hermia and Lysander when he wrote Mammon and The Archer. For in his short story Richard Rockwall is in love with a Miss Lantry.
Anthony Rockwall is a self-made man who does not care for the blue-nosed snobs around him. They in turn do not fancy a blue-collar soap maker who made good—very good. Anthony believes his money can solve any dilemma, even this one.
Richard tells his father that Miss Lantry is set to sail for Europe for a two-year stay. He is allowed a short time with her tomorrow because she is part of the “stream which turns the social mill” in New York City. Her time is structured by the demands of society.
Into the story enters Aunt Ellen who believes “love is all-powerful”. She gives Richard his mother’s ring which she had given to Aunt Ellen to hold for her son. The ring gives Richard an idea.
In the cab the next day as he and Miss Lantry headed to Wallack’s Theatre, he purposefully dropped his mother’s ring and halted the cab. Jumping out of the cab he retrieved the ring which caught the eye of the young lady.
However, the trip to theatre became entangled in a mass transit snarl. Out of nowhere traffic surrounded the cab for two hours.
O. Henry does not relate the conversation between these two young people, but the ring was on the engagement finger of Miss Lantry when they arrived at Wallack’s Theatre. New York traffic has played a part in many a romance over the decades.
Of course later that night Aunt Ellen came over and told Anthony the news. She said, “A little emblem of true love—a little ring that symbolized unending and unmercenary affection—was the cause of our Richard finding his happiness.” Aunt Ellen was a true romantic.
This is such a sweet romantic tale about which true romantics would sigh and say, “Destiny. True love…” However, this is O. Henry with a twist.
As Paul Harvey would say, “Now, for the rest of the story.” The next morning a man named Kelly showed up at Anthony’s mansion for his payment. He had arranged the mass transit snarl which gave Richard the time to use the magic of the ring as well as his heart flutters to seal the deal.
As Kelly headed for the door with his check, Anthony calls out
“You didn’t notice anywhere in the tie-up, a kind of a fat boy without any clothes on shooting arrows with a bow, did you?”
“Why, no,” said Kelly mystified. “I didn’t. if he was like you say, maybe the cops pinched him before I got there.”
“I thought the little rascal wouldn’t be on hand,” chuckled Anthony.
In A Midsummer Night’s Dream Lysander and Hermia do get married after much interference from the Greek deities and their magical flower potion. Perhaps, for Richard and Miss Lantry a magical flower for the eyes is just a simple old ring which catches the romantic fancy of a young woman’s gaze.
G. D. Williams © 2012