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O. HENRY MEMORIAL AWARD

PRIZE STORIES

of 1919




CHOSEN BY THE SOCIETY OF ARTS AND SCIENCES



WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY

BLANCHE COLTON WILLIAMS

1924




CONTENTS


ENGLAND TO AMERICA. By Margaret Prescott Montague

"FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO." By Wilbur Daniel Steele

THEY GRIND EXCEEDING SMALL. By Ben Ames Williams

ON STRIKE. By Albert Payson Terhune.

THE ELEPHANT REMEMBERS. By Edison Marshall

TURKEY RED. By Frances Gilchrist Wood

FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS REWARD. By Melville Davisson Post

THE BLOOD OF THE DRAGON. By Thomas Grant Springer

"HUMORESQUE." By Fannie Hurst

THE LUBBENY KISS. By Louise Rice.

THE TRIAL IN TOM BELCHER'S STORE. By Samuel A. Derieux

PORCELAIN CUPS. By James Branch Cabell

THE HIGH COST OF CONSCIENCE. By Beatrice Ravenel

THE KITCHEN GODS. By G.F. Alsop

APRIL 25TH, AS USUAL. By Edna Ferber




INTRODUCTION

On April 18, 1918, the Society of Arts and Sciences of New York City
paid tribute to the memory of William Sydney Porter at a dinner in
honour of his genius. In the ball-room of the Hotel McAlpin there
gathered, at the speakers' table, a score of writers, editors and
publishers who had been associated with O. Henry during the time he
lived in Manhattan; in the audience, many others who had known him, and
hundreds yet who loved his short stories.

Enthusiasm, both immediate and lasting, indicated to the Managing
Director of the Society, Mr. John F. Tucker, that he might progress
hopefully toward an ideal he had, for some time, envisioned. The goal
lay in the establishing of a memorial to the author who had transmuted
realistic New York into romantic Bagdad-by-the-Subway.

When, therefore, in December, 1918, Mr. Tucker called a committee for
the purpose of considering such a memorial, he met a glad response. The
first question, "What form shall the monument assume?" drew tentative
suggestions of a needle in Gramercy Square, or a tablet affixed to the
corner of O. Henry's home in West Twenty-sixth Street. But things of
iron and stone, cold and dead, would incongruously commemorate the
dynamic power that moved the hearts of living men and women, "the master
pharmacist of joy and pain," who dispensed "sadness tinctured with a
smile and laughter that dissolves in tears."

In short, then, it was decided to offer a minimum prize of $250 for the
best short story published in 1919, and the following Committee of Award
was appointed:

BLANCHE COLTON WILLIAMS, Ph.D.
EDWARD J. WHEELER, Litt.D.
ETHEL WATTS MUMFORD
ROBERT WILSON NEAL, M.A.
MERLE ST. CROIX WRIGHT, D.D.

It is significant that this committee had no sooner begun its round
table conferences than the Society promised, through the Director, funds
for two prizes. The first was fixed at $500, the second at $250.

At a meeting in January, 1919, the Committee of Award agreed upon the
further conditions that the story must be the work of an American
author, and must first appear in 1919 in an American publication. At the
same time an Honorary Committee was established, composed of writers and
editors, whose pleasure it might be to offer advice and propose stories
for consideration. The Honorary Committee consisted of

GERTRUDE ATHERTON
EDWARD J. O'BRIEN
FANNIE HURST
JOHN MACY
BURGES JOHNSON
MRS. EDWIN MARKHAM
ROBERT MORSS LOVETT
JOHN S. PHILLIPS
WILLIAM MARION REEDY
VIRGINIA RODERICK
WALTER ROBERTS
CHARLES G. NORRIS
EDWARD E. HALE
MAX EASTMAN
CHARLES CALDWELL DOBIE
MARGARET SHERWOOD
HAMLIN GARLAND
JAMES BRANCH CABELL
STUART P. SHERMAN
WILLIAM ALLEN WHITE
STEPHEN LEACOCK
MAJOR RUPERT HUGHES
EUGENE MANLOVE RHODES

The Committee of Award read throughout the year, month by month, scores
of stories, rejecting many, debating over others, and passing up a
comparative few for final judgment. In January, out of the hundred or
more remaining, they salvaged the following:

1. The Kitchen Gods, by Guglielma Alsop (_Century_, September).

2. Facing It, by Edwina Stanton Babcock (_Pictorial Review_, June).

3. The Fairest Sex, by Mary Hastings Bradley (_Metropolitan_, March).

4. Bargain Price, by Donn Byrne (_Cosmopolitan_, March).

5. Porcelain Cups, by James Branch Cabell (_Century_, November).

6. Gum Shoes, 4-B, by Forrest Crissey (_Harper's_, December).

7. The Trial in Tom Belcher's Store, by Samuel A. Derieux (_American_,
June).

8. April Twenty-fifth As Usual, by Edna Ferber (_Ladies Home Journal_,
July).

9. The Mottled Slayer, by George Gilbert (_Sunset_, August).

10. Dog Eat Dog, by Ben Hecht (_The Little Review_, April).

11. Blue Ice, by Joseph Hergesheimer (_Saturday Evening Post_, December
13).

12. Innocence, by Rupert Hughes (_Cosmopolitan_, September).

13. Humoresque, by Fannie Hurst (_Cosmopolitan_, March).

14. The Yellow Streak, by Ellen La Motte (_Century_, March).

15. The Elephant Remembers, by Edison Marshall (_Everybody's_, October).

16. England to America, by Margaret Prescott Montague (_Atlantic_,
September).

17. Five Thousand Dollars Reward, by Melville D. Post (_Saturday Evening
Post_, February 15).

18. The Lubbeny Kiss, by Louise Rice (_Ainslee's_, October).

19. The High Cost of Conscience, by Beatrice Ravenel (_Harper's_,
January).

20. The Red Mark, by John Russell (_Collier's_, April 15).

21. The Trap, by Myra Sawhill (_American_, May).

22. Evening Primroses, by Anne D. Sedgwick (_Atlantic_, July).

23. Autumn Crocuses, by Anne D. Sedgwick (_Atlantic_, August).

24. The Blood of the Dragon, by Thomas Grant Springer (_Live Stories_,
May).

25. Contact, by Wilbur Daniel Steele (_Harper's_, March).

26. For They Know not What They Do, by Wilbur Daniel Steele (_Pictorial
Review_, July).

27. La Guiablesse, by Wilbur Daniel Steele (_Harpers_, September).

28. On Strike, by Albert Payson Terhune (_The Popular Magazine_,
October).

29. The Other Room, by Mary Heaton Vorse (_McCall's_, April).

30. They Grind Exceeding Small, by Ben Ames Williams (_Saturday Evening
Post_, September 13).

31. On the Field of Honour, by Ben Ames Williams (_American_, March).

32. Turkey Red, by Frances Gilchrist Wood (_Pictorial Review_,
November).

Although the exiguity of the vessel forbids inclusion of all these
stories, yet the Committee wish to record them as worthy of preservation
under covers. Publishing by title, therefore, carries all the honour
attached to publishing the complete story.

Awarding the prizes proved difficult. No title stood first on all the
lists: rated best by one judge, any story lost rank through lower rating
by another. But the following held from first place to fifth place on
the separate final lists: "La Guiablesse," "England to America," "For
They Know not What They Do," "Evening Primroses," "Autumn Crocuses,"
"Humoresque," "The Red Mark," "They Grind Exceeding Small," "On Strike,"
"The Elephant Remembers," "Contact," and "Five Thousand Dollars Reward."
It will be observed that three of Wilbur Daniel Steele's narratives
appear. If the prize had been announced as going to the author of more
stories rated first, he would have received it. But by the predetermined
conditions, it must fall to the author of the best story, and according
to a recognized system of counts,[A] the best is "England to America";
the second best, "For They Know not What They Do." The first award,
therefore, goes to Miss Margaret Prescott Montague; the second to Mr.
Wilbur Daniel Steele.

[Footnote A:
Since there were five judges, the system used was the following:

A story of place 1 was given 5 points
" " " " 2 " " 4 "
" " " " 3 " " 3 "
" " " " 4 " " 2 "
" " " " 5 " " 1 point.]

The Committee were remarkably unanimous in answering the question, "What
is a short-story?"; but they differed, rather violently, over the
fulfilment of requirements by the various illustrations. Without doubt,
the most provocative of these was Mr. Steele's "Contact." Three of the
Committee think it a short-story; two declare it an article; all agree
that no finer instance of literature in brief form was published in
1919.

Their diverging views, however, challenged curiosity: what did the
publishers think about it? The editor of _Harper's_ wrote:

"Contact" was written by Mr. Steele after a personal visit to the North
Sea fleet. It is a faithful portrayal of the work done by our destroyers
and therefore falls under the category of "articles."

And the Author:

I am not quite sure what to say. The piece, "Contact," of which you
speak, was in a sense drawn from life, that is to say it is made up of a
number of impressions gained while I was at sea with the U.S. destroyers
off the coast of France. The characters are elaborations of real
characters, and the "contact" told of was such a one as I actually
witnessed. Otherwise, the chronology of events, conversations, etc.,
were gathered from various sources and woven to the best of my ability
so as to give a picture of the day's work of our convoying forces in the
War.

These data reconcile, in part, the conflicting points of view, or at
least show the tenability of each.

In addition to the first requisite of _struggle_, "the story's the
thing," the judges sought originality, excellence in organization of
plot incidents, skill in characterization, power in moving
emotions - and, again, they differed over their findings. One member
would have awarded the prize to "La Guiablesse" on its original motif - a
ship is jealous of a woman - on its masterful employment of suggestion,
unique presentation of events, and on all the other counts. Another,
while recognizing the essential bigness of the tale, regards it as
somewhat crudely constructed and as extending the use of suggestion into
the mist of obscurity.

Or, take characterization. Mary Hastings Bradley's "The Fairest Sex"
represents, in the climax, a reporter's fiancee betraying the
whereabouts of a young woman who is, technically, a criminal. One of the
Committee held that, under the circumstances, the psychology is false:
others "believed" that particular girl did that particular thing.

Best narrative always compels belief: the longer the period of belief
the greater the story. This business of convincing the reader requires
more labour than the average writer seems to care about performing. Any
reader is willing to be held - for a time. But how many stories compel
recollection of plot and characters as indubitably a part of all that
one has met?

Too frequently the writer neglects the value of atmosphere, forgetful of
its weight in producing conviction. The tale predominantly of atmosphere
(illustrated in the classic "Fall of the House of Usher"), revealing
wherever found the ability of the author to hold a dominant mood in
which as in a calcium light characters and arts are coloured, this tale
occurs so rarely as to challenge admiration when it does occur. "For
They Know not What They Do" lures the reader into its exotic air and
holds him until he, too, is suffused, convinced.

... The Committee were not insensible to style. But expert phrasing,
glowing appreciation of words and exquisite sense of values, the texture
of the story fabric - all dropped into the abyss of the unimportant after
the material they incorporated had been judged. No man brings home
beefsteak in silk or sells figs as thistles.

The Committee accepted style as the fit medium for conveying the
matter....

Since the Committee confess to catholicity of taste, the chosen stories
reveal predilection for no one type. They like detective stories, and
particularly those of Melville Davisson Post. A follower of the founder
of this school of fiction, he has none the less advanced beyond his
master and has discovered other ways than those of the Rue Morgue. "Five
Thousand Dollars Reward" in its brisk action, strong suspense, and
humorous denouement carries on the technique so neatly achieved in "The
Doomdorf Mystery" and other tales about Uncle Abner.

The Committee value, also, the story about animals: universal interest
in puzzles, in the science of ratiocination, is not more pronounced than
the interest in rationalizing the brute. "The Mottled Slayer" and "The
Elephant Remembers" offer sympathetic studies of struggles in the animal
world. Mr. Marshall's white elephant will linger as a memory, even as
his ghost remains, longer than the sagacious play-fellow of Mr.
Gilbert's little Indian; but nobody can forget the battle the latter
fought with the python.

For stories about the home the Committee have a weakness: Miss Ferber's
"April Twenty-fifth As Usual," cheerfully proclaiming the inevitableness
of spring cleaning, might be published with the sub-title, An Epic of
the Housekeeper.

They were alert for reflections of life - in America and elsewhere. The
politics of "Gum Shoes, 4-B"; the local court of law in "Tom Belcher's
Store"; the frozen west of "Turkey Red" seemed to them to meet the
demand that art must hold the mirror up to nature.

In particular, the Committee hoped to find good stories of the war. Now
that fiction containing anything of the Great Struggle is anathema to
editors, and must wait for that indefinite time of its revival, it was
like getting a last bargain to read "Facing It," "Humoresque,"
"Contact," "Autumn Crocuses," and "England to America." In these small
masterpieces is celebrated either manhood which keeps a rendezvous with
death.

The Committee accepted style as the fit medium for conveying the
matter....

Since the Committee confess to catholicity of taste, the chosen stories
reveal predilection for no one type. They like detective stories, and
particularly those of Melville Davisson Post. A follower of the founder
of this school of fiction, he has none the less advanced beyond his
master and has discovered other ways than those of the Rue Morgue. "Five
Thousand Dollars Reward" in its brisk action, strong suspense, and
humorous denouement carries on the technique so neatly achieved in "The
Doomdorf Mystery" and other tales about Uncle Abner.

The Committee value, also, the story about animals: universal interest
in puzzles, in the science of ratiocination, is not more pronounced than
the interest in rationalizing the brute. "The Mottled Slayer" and "The
Elephant Remembers" offer sympathetic studies of struggles in the animal
world. Mr. Marshall's white elephant will linger as a memory, even as
his ghost remains, longer than the sagacious play-fellow of Mr.
Gilbert's little Indian; but nobody can forget the battle the latter
fought with the python.

For stories about the home the Committee have a weakness: Miss Ferber's
"April Twenty-fifth As Usual," cheerfully proclaiming the inevitableness
of spring cleaning, might be published with the sub-title, An Epic of
the Housekeeper.

They were alert for reflections of life - in America and elsewhere. The
politics of "Gum Shoes, 4-B"; the local court of law in "Tom Belcher's
Store"; the frozen west of "Turkey Red" seemed to them to meet the
demand that art must hold the mirror up to nature.

In particular, the Committee hoped to find good stories of the war. Now
that fiction containing anything of the Great Struggle is anathema to
editors, and must wait for that indefinite time of its revival, it was
like getting a last bargain to read "Facing It," "Humoresque,"
"Contact," "Autumn Crocuses," and "England to America." In these small
masterpieces is celebrated either manhood which keeps a rendezvous with
death, womanhood which endures, or the courage of men and women which
meets bodily misfortune and the anguish of personal loss. Leon Kantor of
"Humoresque" and the young Virginian of "England to America" will bring
back, to all who read, their own heroes. It is fitting that Miss
Montague's story should have received the first prize: poignant, short
in words, great in significance, it will stand a minor climactic peak in
that chain of literature produced during the actual progress of the
World War.

* * * * *

In the estimation of the Committee the year 1919 was not one of
pre-eminent short stories. Why? There are several half-satisfactory
explanations. Some of the acknowledged leaders, seasoned authors, have
not been publishing their average annual number of tales. Alice Brown,
Donn Byrne, Irvin Cobb, Edna Ferber, Katharine Gerould, Fannie Hurst and
Mary W. Freeman are represented by spare sheaves. Again, a number of new
and promising writers have not quite attained sureness of touch;
although that they are acquiring it is manifest in the work of Ben Ames
Williams, Edison Marshall, Frances Wood, Samuel Derieux, John Russell,
Beatrice Ravenel and Myra Sawhill. Too frequently, there is "no story":
a series of episodes however charmingly strung out is not a story; a
sketch, however clever or humorous, is not a story; an essay, however
wisely expounding a truth, is not a story. So patent are these facts,
they are threadbare from repetition; yet of them succeeding aspirants
seem to be as ignorant as were their predecessors - who at length found
knowledge. For obvious reasons, names of authors who succeed in a
certain literary form, but who produce no story are omitted.

Again, some stories just miss the highest mark. A certain one, praised
by a magazine editor as the best of the year, suffers in the opinion of
the Committee, or part of the Committee, from an introduction too long
and top-heavy. It not only mars the symmetry of the whole, this
introduction, but starts the reader in the wrong direction. One thing
the brief story must not do is to begin out of tone, to promise what it
does not fulfil, or to lead out a subordinate character as though he
were chief.... Another story suffers from plethora of phrasing, and even
of mere diction. Stevenson believed few of his words too precious to be
cut; contemporary writers hold their utterances in greater esteem.... A
third story shows by its obvious happy ending that the author has
catered to magazine needs or what he conceives to be editorial policies.
Such an author requires a near "Smart Set" sparkle or a pseudo-Atlantic
Monthly sobriety; he develops facility, but at the expense, ultimately,
of conventionality, dullness and boredom.

According to the terms which omit foreign authors from possible
participation in the prize, the work of Achmed Abdullah, Britten Austin,
Elinor Mordaunt and others was in effect non-existent for the Committee.
"Reprisal," by Mr. Austin, ranks high as a specimen of real short-story
art, strong in structure, rich in suggestion. "The Honourable
Gentleman," by the mage from Afghanistan, in reflecting Oriental life in
the Occident, will take its place in literary history. Elinor Mordaunt's
modernized biblical stories - "The Strong Man," for instance - in showing
that the cycles repeat themselves and that today is as one of five
thousand years ago exemplify the universality of certain motifs, fables,
characters.

But, having made allowance for the truths just recounted, the Committee
believe that the average of stories here bound together is high. They
respond to the test of form and of life. "The Kitchen Gods" grows from
five years of service to the women of China - service by the author, who
is a doctor of medicine. "Porcelain Cups" testifies to the interest a
genealogist finds in the Elizabethan Age and, more definitely, in the
life of Christopher Marlowe. The hardships of David, in the story by Mr.
Derieux, are those of a boy in a particular Southern neighbourhood the
author knows. Miss Louise Rice, who boasts a strain of Romany blood,
spends part of her year with the gypsies. Mr. Terhune is familiar, from
the life, with his prototypes of "On Strike." "Turkey Red" relates a
real experience, suited to fiction or to poetry - if Wordsworth was
right - for it is an instance of emotion remembered in tranquility. In
these and all the others, the story's the thing.

Some of them, perhaps, were produced _because_ their creators were
consciously concerned about the art of creation. "Blue Ice," by Joseph
Hergesheimer, proclaims itself a study in technique, a thing of careful
workmanship. "Innocence," by Rupert Hughes, with "Read It Again" and
"The Story I Can't Write" boldly announce his desire to get the most out
of the material. "For They Know not What They Do," an aspiration of
spirit, is fashioned as firmly as the Woolworth Tower.

Just here it may be observed that the Committee noticed a tendency of
the present day story which only the future can reveal as significant or
insignificant. It is this: in spite of the American liking for the brief
tale, as Poe termed it - the conte, as the French know it - in spite of an
occasional call from magazines for stories of fewer than 5,000 words,
yet the number of these narratives approaching perfection is
considerably less than that of the longer story. Whether the long
short-story gives greater entertainment to the greater number may be
questioned. To state that it is farthest from the practice of O. Henry
invites a logical and inevitable conclusion. He wrote two hundred
stories averaging about fifteen pages each. Whether it may be greater
literature is another matter; if it escapes tediousness it may impress
by its weight. If the Committee had selected for publication all the
longest stories in the list of thirty-two, this volume would contain the
same number of words, but only half the titles.

The Honorary Committee expressed, some of them, to the Committee of
Award certain preferences. William Marion Reedy wrote: "I read and
printed one very good story called 'Baby Fever.' I think it is one of
the best stories of the year." John Phillips, though stating that he had
not followed short stories very closely, thought the best one he had
read "The Theatrical Sensation of Springtown," by Bess Streeter Aldrich
(_American_, December). Mrs. Edwin Markham commended Charles Finger's
"Canassa" (_Reedy's Mirror_, October 30). W. Adolphe Roberts submitted
a number of stories from _Ainslee's:_ "Young Love," by Nancy Boyd; "The
Token from the Arena," by June Willard; "The Light," by Katherine
Wilson. He also drew attention to "Phantom," by Mildred Cram (_Green
Book_, March). That the Committee of Award, after a careful study of
these and other recommendations, failed to confirm individual high
estimates is but another illustration of the disagreement of doctors. To
all those of the Honorary Committee who gave encouragement and aid the
Committee of Award is most grateful.

There remains the pleasure of thanking, also, the authors and publishers
who have kindly granted permission for the reprinting of the stories
included in this volume. The Committee of Award would like them to know
that renewal of the O. Henry prize depends upon their generous
cooperation.

BLANCHE COLTON WILLIAMS.

NEW YORK CITY, February 29, 1920.




_O. HENRY MEMORIAL AWARD PRIZE STORIES 1919_



ENGLAND TO AMERICA


By MARGARET PRESCOTT MONTAGUE

From _Atlantic Monthly_


I.

"Lord, but English people are funny!"

This was the perplexed mental ejaculation that young Lieutenant
Skipworth Cary, of Virginia, found his thoughts constantly reiterating
during his stay in Devonshire. Had he been, he wondered, a confiding
fool, to accept so trustingly Chev Sherwood's suggestion that he spend a
part of his leave, at least, at Bishopsthorpe, where Chev's people
lived? But why should he have anticipated any difficulty here, in this
very corner of England which had bred his own ancestors, when he had
always hit it off so splendidly with his English comrades at the Front?
Here, however, though they were all awfully kind, - at least, he was sure
they meant to be kind, - something was always bringing him up short:
something that he could not lay hold of, but which made him feel like a
blind man groping in a strange place, or worse, like a bull in a
china-shop. He was prepared enough to find differences in the American
and English points of view. But this thing that baffled him did not seem
to have to do with that; it was something deeper, something very
definite, he was sure - and yet, what was it? The worst of it was that he
had a curious feeling as if they were all - that is, Lady Sherwood and
Gerald; not Sir Charles so much - protecting him from himself - keeping
him from making breaks, as he phrased it. That hurt and annoyed him, and
piqued his vanity. Was he a social blunderer, and weren't a Virginia



Online LibraryVariousO. Henry Memorial Award Prize Stories of 1919 → online text (page 1 of 24)