Hearts and Hands Summary by O. Henry
Hearts and Hands Summary About the Author
O. Henry (11 September 1862 – 5 June 1910), was born under the name of, William Sydney Porter. During his early age he was imprisoned with a charge of embezzlement of bank funds. There he started writing to support his daughter and when he emerged from the prison, W. S. Porter had become O. Henry. This American short story writer has a good collection of stories which are well-known throughout the world for their clever word play and surprise endings. His first book was, ‘Cabbages and Kings’ (1904). His other famous works being, ‘The Four Million’ (1906), ‘The Trimmed Lamp’ (1907), ‘Heart of the West’ (1907), ‘Voice of the City’ and ‘Whirligigs’ (1910) etc.
Hearts and Hands Summary
‘Hearts and Hands’, like many of O. Henry’s short stories, have an unexpected twist. It is a story about two acquaintances who coincidentally, meet on a train. A woman, Miss Fairchild, spots an old friend Mr. Easton on a train B. & M. Express in Denver.
Miss Fairchild, an elegantly dressed woman, was travelling with all rich comforts. When Mr. Easton, a handsome young man with a bold look, entered the coach with a grumpy, strong and roughly dressed man. They sat down on the seat facing the lady. Miss Fairchild blushed on seeing Mr. Easton, she started talking about their old friendship but is suddenly surprised to discover that her friend was handcuffed to the other man seated beside him.
The other man, comprehending the situation, comes up with an explanation. He tells that Easton is a Marshal and is taking him to the prison at Leavenworth as he had been charged with seven years of imprisonment for counterfeiting. As the conversation advances, the lady feels amazed to know that Mr. Easton has discarded his life in Washington to become a Marshal in the West. Though she continues to chat but is little uneasy with the handcuffs. Sensing her discomfort, the other man again interrupts and tells her that she need not worry, smart Marshal like Easton, handcuffed themselves to their prisoners to stop them from escaping.
Suddenly making an excuse of smoking, the man requests Mr. Easton to take him to the smoking room. Then we get to know the special twist of the story from the two passengers who were eves dropping to their chats. One of them remarks on Mr. Easton’s appearance, saying he is too young to be a marshal, while the other corrects him saying that, it’s Easton who is the counterfeiter while the other one is the Marshal because Marshal’s never handcuff a man with their right hand.
Hearts and Hands Word Meantngs:
1. influx : The arrival of a large number of people
2. Elegant : Graceful and attractive
3. Countenance : A person’s expression
4. Ruffled : irritated
5. Glum-faced : Sad or depressed
6. Aisle : A passage between sections of seats
7. Tingeing : Giving small amount of colour to
8. Bewildered : Confused
9. Forestalled : Stopped, prevented
10. Counterfeiting : Forgery
11. Irrelevantly : Unimportantly
Hearts and Hands Questions and Answers
Comment on the character of Miss Fairchild in the story, ‘Hearts and Hands’.
Miss Fairchild is one of the central characters in the short story, ‘Hearts and Hands’, written by O. Henry. She is an elegant woman with a glass of style and manner. She has a fascination for travelling which is marked by all the luxurious comforts she is surrounded by. She is wearing gloves.She has a full, sweet and deliberate voice which is highlighted when she converses with Mr. Easton. She has a bright countenance with a tender pink colour on her cheeks, especially when she smiles.
She becomes interested in talking to Mr. Easton and she gets too blinded by her feelings that she couldn’t see past them and allowed herself to be lied to. So she discusses of her happy past with Mr. Easton, in Washington, but gets horrified to see the handcuffs. Thus, Miss Fairchild is described as a beautiful, amicable lady, with certain shortcomings, like any other normal human being.
Justify the appropriateness of the little ‘Hearts & Hands’.
In O. Henry’s story Hearts and Hands’, the title speaks about the compassionate heart of the Marshal, who saved Mr. Easton from the humiliation of being identified as a convict in front of an old friend. The story is set on a train to Denver. An elegantly attired woman named Miss Fairchild is seated on the train when two men arrive and take their seats facing her. It quickly becomes apparent that the woman knows one of them. She speaks to this man, Mr. Easton, and then she is rather surprised to discover that he is handcuffed to the man seated beside him.
Evidently, the man with Easton senses the embarrassment of both of them and tells that heaven worth Mr. Easton is a Marshal and he himself is a convict who is being convicted to seven years of imprisonment in heaven worth prison for counterfeiting. The young woman continues to chat with her acquaintance, but also continues to stare at the handcuffs. To make her comfortable, the other man tells her not to worry because all Marshals handcuff themselves to their prisoners to keep them from getting away.
He then requests that he should be taken to the smoker car as he badly needs to smoke. The two other passengers, who were sitting nearby, listening to the conversation between Miss Fairchild and Mr. Easton, finally makes it clear to the readers that Mr. Easton is not the Marshal, but the other is, as no Marshal would handcuff any convict to his own right hand.
Thus, we see that the glum – faced man handled the situation very appropriately. He referred Mr. Easton, the prisoner, as the Marshal while himself as the prisoner, not caring about his reputation in front of the people in the coach. Miss Fairchild believed Easton to be a ‘Dashing Western Hero’. Thus, Marshal had a big and generous ‘Heart’. The word ‘Hands’ in the little most ? probably refers to the handcuffs tied to the hands of both the men, which led to the Marshal speaking the lie and then the placement of the handcuff on their ‘Hands’, reveals the truth about their identity.
Hearts and Hands Extract Based Questions
Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow.
“Well, Mr. Easton, if you will make me speak first, l suppose I must.”
(i) Who is the speaker? How is the speaker described just before the extract?
(ii) Which train is Miss Fairchild travelling in? Who is Mr. Easton whom she is talking to ?
(iii) How does Mr. Easton look? Describe his companion.
(iv) Who are referred as the ‘linked couple’? Where do they get seated? What is the reaction of the co-passenger?
(v) Why did the colour of Miss Fairchild fade away and what made it come back?
(i) The speaker is a young woman named Miss Fairchild. She has been described as an attractive, young lady, elegantly dressed, travelling with all the luxuries and seemed to be an experienced traveller.
(ii) Miss Fairchild was travelling on the eastbound B. & M. Express.Mr. Easton, whom she is talking to, was a new passenger on the train and they two were old acquaintances.
(iii) Mr. Easton was a young handsome man with bold appearance and mannerism. The man accompanying him was a young, upset looking, grim faced, roughly dressed strong-built man.
(iv) The ‘linked couple’ is referred to the two young men who boarded the train at Denver. They are linked because they are handcuffed to each other. They got seated on the seat facing the young lady.At first the lady glanced them indifferently but as soon as she recognized one of them as her old friend, a lovely smile glowed on her face and made her cheeks blush.
(v) When Miss Fairchild held out her hand towards Mr. Easton, he shook it with his left hand and told that his right hand was busy. She was bewildered to see his hand bound at the wrist with a handcuff tied to the left hand of his companion. This faded the glow from her cheeks. But when the ‘glum faced’ man told her that Mr. Easton was a Marshal and was taking him to the prison, she relaxed, and the colour brightened her cheeks again.
Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow.
“I can’t deny a petition for tobacco,” he said lightly. “It’s the one friend of the unfortunate.”
(i) What does the girl tell about her experience with the West?
(ii) What favour does the other man ask from Miss Fairchild?
(iii) What explanation does Easton give when Miss Fairchild exclaims to know that he had shifted to the West on the post of a Marshal?
(iv) Who makes a petition for tobacco? Why?
(v) How do the handcuffs reveal the true identity of Mr. Easton?
(i) The girl said that she loved the West. She spent the summers, with her mother, in Denver. Her mother returned back due to her father’s ill-health. But she could live happily in the West as the air here was comfortable to her.
(ii) The other man-requests Miss Fairchild to ask her friend Mr. Easton, who was suppose to be the Marshal, to speak a word in his favour so that he may get a relaxation in his punishment, otherwise it was seven years prison for counterfeiting.
(iii) Mr. Easton tells her that he had to make money because money has power which makes one feel respected and can make one fly and soar high. He also says that he had to compete with the crowd and settle himself among the high class society in Washington.
(iv) The ‘glum-faced’ man who was the actual Marshal, makes a petition for tobacco. Though Miss Fairchild carries on flirting with Mr. Easton but seemed to be uneasy with the handcuffs, the man senses it and to save Mr. Easton from embarrassment, requests him for tobacco and they leave for the smoker car.
(v) After Mr. Easton and the other man leave, two eavesdropping fellow passengers converse, in which the first passenger told as being a Marshal at such a young age, was amazing. Then the other man corrected him that the man, ‘Mr. Easton’, was not the Marshal but the other man was, because a Marshal never handcuffed a convict with his right hand, it is always the left hand. Thus, the handcuffs revealed the truth about Mr. Easton.