A Retrieved Reformation Jimmy Valentine Explanatory Notes & Meanings Class 7

A Retrieved Reformation Jimmy Valentine Explanatory Notes & Meanings Class 7: “A Retrieved Reformation” is a short story by O. Henry. Here we are giving Notes containing Line by Line Meanings, A Summary, Themes and Message.


In “A Retrieved Reformation,” Jimmy Valentine, a notorious safecracker, is released from prison due to a pardon after serving nearly ten months of a four-year sentence. He adopts the identity of Ralph D. Spencer and moves to the town of Elmore, where he meets and falls in love with Annabel Adams, the daughter of the local banker.

Jimmy genuinely tries to lead an honest life and starts working in a shoe store. However, a crisis unfolds when Annabel’s younger sister, Agatha, accidentally gets locked inside the bank vault. In a moment of crisis, Jimmy reverts to his criminal skills, using his expertise to open the vault and rescue Agatha.

Despite his criminal past, Jimmy’s actions save Agatha and win the admiration of the townspeople, including Annabel and her family. Detective Ben Price, who had been trailing Jimmy, encounters him at the bank but chooses not to arrest him. This unexpected act of mercy signifies Jimmy’s redemption and the possibility of change, suggesting that he has truly reformed.

The story explores the themes of redemption, second chances, and the transformative power of love. It illustrates Jimmy Valentine’s journey from a hardened criminal to a reformed man willing to risk everything to save a life, ultimately leading to his redemption in the eyes of the community.


“A Retrieved Reformation” explores several themes that are central to the narrative: The tory “A Retrieved Reformation” explores the transformative power of love, forgiveness, and second chances, portraying the protagonist’s journey from a hardened criminal to a reformed, selfless individual.

  1. Redemption: The story prominently deals with the theme of redemption. Jimmy Valentine, a former safecracker, undergoes a profound transformation during his time in prison and upon his release. His encounter with love and his desire for a new life lead him to reform his ways. Ultimately, he redeems himself through selfless actions, saving Agatha from the vault, and gains acceptance and forgiveness from the people around him.
  2. Second Chances: The narrative underscores the idea of second chances and the potential for individuals to change their lives, regardless of their past mistakes. Jimmy is given a second chance at life when he is pardoned, and he seizes the opportunity to make amends for his criminal past. The story highlights the importance of forgiveness and the possibility of rehabilitation.
  3. Love and Transformation: Love plays a significant role in Jimmy’s transformation. His love for Annabel and his willingness to protect her family lead him to perform a heroic act, using his skills for a noble purpose. Love becomes the catalyst for his redemption, demonstrating its transformative power in changing a person’s character.
  4. Sacrifice and Selflessness: Jimmy’s actions to save Agatha showcase the themes of sacrifice and selflessness. Despite the risk to his own safety and the temptation to revert to his criminal ways, he chooses to help others, displaying genuine concern for their well-being. His selfless act illustrates the capacity for individuals to prioritize others above themselves, reflecting a sense of moral growth and compassion.
  5. Irony: The story also employs irony, particularly in the ending, where Detective Ben Price, who had been pursuing Jimmy throughout the narrative, decides not to arrest him. This unexpected turn of events adds depth to the theme of redemption and underscores the complexity of human nature and morality.

Character Sketch

Jimmy Valentine

Here’s a character sketch of Jimmy Valentine, the protagonist of “A Retrieved Reformation”:

Name: Jimmy Valentine (Alias: Ralph D. Spencer)

Jimmy Valentine is a skilled safecracker who starts the story as a convict, serving time in prison. He is resourceful, intelligent, and possesses exceptional locksmithing skills. Despite his criminal past, he is not portrayed as a stereotypical villain; rather, he is a complex character who undergoes significant development throughout the narrative.

Physical Appearance:
While specific physical details may not be extensively described in the text, Jimmy is generally depicted as a sharp, observant man with a keen eye for detail. He has the ability to blend in and adapt to different situations, which aids him in his criminal endeavours as well as in his attempts to lead a reformed life.


  1. Intelligent and Resourceful: Jimmy is exceptionally intelligent and resourceful, using his skills to crack safes and navigate difficult situations. His ability to plan intricate heists showcases his cleverness.
  2. Charming: Jimmy possesses a charming demeanour, allowing him to win people over with his charisma and affable nature. This charm becomes crucial in gaining the trust of others, both in his criminal endeavours and his attempts to reform.
  3. Redeeming Qualities: Despite his criminal background, Jimmy is not devoid of morals. His capacity for love and his willingness to protect others, particularly Annabel and her family, showcase his capacity for compassion and selflessness.

Transformation and Growth:
Over the course of the story, Jimmy undergoes a significant transformation. Initially, he is a career criminal, unapologetic about his actions. However, his encounter with love, specifically his feelings for Annabel Adams, acts as a catalyst for change. He experiences genuine remorse for his past deeds and embraces the opportunity for redemption, ultimately sacrificing his freedom and risking his life to save Agatha, Annabel’s sister.

Key Moments:

  • Redemption: Jimmy’s decision to use his safecracking skills to save Agatha demonstrates his redemption. This selfless act marks a turning point in his life, showing his willingness to put others’ well-being above his own.
  • Decision to Revert: When faced with the opportunity to escape after saving Agatha, Jimmy chooses not to, accepting the consequences of his actions. This decision underscores his newfound sense of responsibility and accountability.

By the end of the story, Jimmy Valentine leaves a lasting impact. He becomes a symbol of transformation and second chances, showing that individuals can change and redeem themselves, even after a life of crime. His character embodies the idea that redemption is attainable through genuine remorse, selflessness, and the power of love.

Other Characters

Certainly! Here are brief character sketches of the other main characters in “A Retrieved Reformation”:

1. Annabel Adams:

Annabel Adams is the love interest of Jimmy Valentine. She is the daughter of a local banker in Elmore. Annabel is depicted as kind-hearted, perceptive, and understanding. Her presence in Jimmy’s life acts as a catalyst for his transformation, inspiring him to change his criminal ways. She sees the goodness in him and believes in his capacity for change, which becomes a motivating factor for Jimmy’s redemption.

2. Agatha Adams:

Agatha Adams is Annabel’s younger sister and becomes accidentally trapped in the bank vault, leading to a crisis in the story. Agatha is portrayed as a young, innocent girl. Her predicament becomes the focal point of the narrative, driving Jimmy Valentine to use his safecracking skills for a noble cause. Agatha’s innocence and vulnerability evoke empathy and urgency in the characters, emphasizing the stakes of the situation.

3. Mr. Adams:

Mr. Adams is the father of Annabel and Agatha. He is a respected banker in Elmore. Mr. Adams is portrayed as a caring, protective father. His character showcases the importance of family bonds and acts as a representation of the moral compass in the story. He, along with his family, plays a pivotal role in the events that unfold, emphasizing the theme of redemption and the power of compassion.

4. Detective Ben Price:

Detective Ben Price is the law enforcement officer who has been pursuing Jimmy Valentine. He is depicted as astute, observant, and persistent in his pursuit of justice. Despite being determined to capture Jimmy, Price demonstrates a surprising level of understanding and empathy at the end of the story. His decision not to arrest Jimmy after witnessing his act of heroism highlights the complexities of morality and redemption, adding depth to his character.

Message of The Story

The central message of “A Retrieved Reformation” revolves around the themes of redemption, transformation, and the possibility of change. Through the character of Jimmy Valentine, the story illustrates that people, regardless of their past mistakes or criminal activities, have the capacity for redemption and can transform into better individuals.

The narrative suggests that love and genuine human connections can inspire profound change. Jimmy’s love for Annabel Adams becomes the catalyst for his reformation, motivating him to abandon his criminal life and seek a new, honourable path. His selfless act of saving Agatha demonstrates his transformation from a hardened criminal to a compassionate and responsible person.

Additionally, the story highlights the concept of second chances. It emphasizes that society, too, should be willing to forgive and provide opportunities for individuals to reform. Detective Ben Price’s decision not to arrest Jimmy at the end of the story signifies understanding, forgiveness, and the belief in Jimmy’s sincere transformation.

Overall, “A Retrieved Reformation” conveys a hopeful message, suggesting that no one is beyond redemption, and with the right motivations and support, people can change, make amends for their past, and lead meaningful, reformed lives.

Open End of The Story

In “A Retrieved Reformation,” the ending is indeed ambiguous and open to interpretation, leaving readers with a sense of curiosity and speculation. To get at the meaning behind the puzzling ending, one must consider the context, character motivations, and the themes explored throughout the story.

  1. Character Development: Analysing Jimmy Valentine’s character development is crucial. Throughout the narrative, he evolves from a skilled criminal into a reformed, selfless individual due to his love for Annabel and his desire for redemption. His actions, especially saving Agatha, highlight his transformation.
  2. Detective Ben Price’s Decision: Detective Ben Price, who had been pursuing Jimmy throughout the story, chooses not to arrest him despite recognizing his true identity. This decision is unexpected given Price’s earlier determination to capture Jimmy. It suggests a deeper understanding of Jimmy’s transformation and a willingness to acknowledge his redemption.
  3. Symbolism of the Open Door: The story ends with Jimmy walking away from the bank, suggesting his freedom. The open door can symbolize multiple things, including the opportunity for a fresh start, the acceptance of Jimmy’s reformation by society, or the ambiguity of his future. It leaves readers wondering about Jimmy’s next steps.
  4. Themes of Redemption and Second Chances: Considering the overarching themes of redemption and second chances, the open ending implies that Jimmy’s story continues. The story emphasizes the possibility of change and the belief in individuals’ capacity for redemption, leaving room for optimism about Jimmy’s future.
  5. Reader’s Imagination: Lastly, the ambiguous ending invites readers to use their imagination and creativity. Readers can speculate about Jimmy’s future actions, contemplating whether he remains true to his reformed self or faces new challenges that test his transformation.

To reach the meaning of the puzzling ending, readers should consider these factors, interpreting the story’s conclusion in light of Jimmy’s transformation, Ben Price’s decision, and the broader themes of redemption and second chances. This ambiguity prompts readers to engage critically with the text, drawing their own conclusions about Jimmy’s fate.

Para Wise Word Meanings

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 worthwhile to cut his hair.

Word Meanings & Explanation

Assiduously: With great care, attention, and perseverance.

  • Explanation: Jimmy Valentine is working diligently and carefully in the prison shoe-shop, focusing on stitching the uppers of shoes.

Escorted: Accompanied or guided to a particular place.

  • Explanation: A guard led Jimmy Valentine from the prison shoe-shop to the front office.

Pardon: An official forgiveness for a crime, granted by the government or a legal authority, which removes the punishment or penalty associated with the crime.

  • Explanation: The warden gave Jimmy Valentine his pardon, which meant he was officially forgiven for his crime and released from prison.

Stir: Informal term for prison.

  • Explanation: When someone is received in the ‘stir’, it means they have been incarcerated in prison.

Worthwhile: Worth the time, effort, or money spent; rewarding or beneficial.

  • Explanation: The passage suggests that it’s not worthwhile to cut Jimmy Valentine’s hair when he is in prison, possibly indicating that maintaining appearances in prison might not matter much to him or his friends.

In the given passage, Jimmy Valentine, who had been diligently working in the prison shoe-shop, is called to the front office where he is given his pardon by the warden. This pardon signifies that he is officially forgiven for his crime and is being released from prison. Jimmy, however, receives the news with a tired and indifferent attitude. He had already served nearly ten months of a four-year sentence, much longer than he had expected. The passage implies that Jimmy had anticipated a shorter sentence, possibly due to the influence of his friends on the outside. The mention of not cutting his hair in prison suggests a lack of concern for his appearance while incarcerated, indicating his resignation to the situation.

‘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.’

Word Meanings & Explanation

Brace up: To pull oneself together; to gather strength or courage.

  • Explanation: The warden advises Jimmy Valentine to brace up, meaning he should gather strength and face the challenges ahead with courage.

Cracking safes: Breaking into safes using illegal methods, typically associated with theft and burglary.

  • Explanation: The warden advises Jimmy to stop cracking safes, indicating that Jimmy’s criminal activities involved breaking into safes, which is illegal and punishable by law.

Live straight: To lead an honest and law-abiding life, without involvement in criminal activities.

  • Explanation: The warden advises Jimmy to live straight, meaning he should choose an honest and lawful path, refraining from engaging in any illegal activities.

In this passage, the warden informs Jimmy Valentine that he will be released from prison the next morning. The warden encourages Jimmy to transform himself and become a better person. He acknowledges that Jimmy has the potential to be a good person, but he needs to stop his criminal activities, specifically cracking safes, which is breaking into safes unlawfully.

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

Word Meanings & Explanation

Alibi: Evidence or proof that a person was elsewhere at the time a crime was committed, used to establish the innocence of the accused.

  • Explanation: The warden suggests that Jimmy might have been unwilling to provide an alibi, possibly to protect someone from high society, leading to his imprisonment. An alibi could have proven that Jimmy was not at the scene of the crime.

High-toned society: A term used to describe the upper class or aristocratic people who belong to the highest social rank.

  • Explanation: The warden implies that Jimmy might have been protecting someone from high-toned society, suggesting a complex social situation that could have contributed to his legal troubles.

Mean old jury: Refers to a biased or unfair jury that may have made a negative judgment against the accused without proper evidence or fairness.

  • Explanation: The warden questions if Jimmy’s conviction was a result of a prejudiced jury that had a personal grudge against him, leading to an unfair trial and imprisonment.

In this passage, the warden questions the reasons behind Jimmy Valentine’s imprisonment, suggesting the possibility of a refusal to provide an alibi or a biased jury. Jimmy, however, maintains his innocence, denying ever being in Springfield, the location of the alleged crime. The passage deepens the intrigue, leaving the reader curious about Jimmy’s true background and the events that led to his incarceration. It hints at the complexities of his character and the potential hidden truths that are yet to be revealed in the story.

At a quarter past seven on the next morning Jimmy stood in the warden’s outer office. The clerk handed him a railroad ticket and the five-dollar bill and Valentine was chronicled on the books ‘Pardoned by Governor.’ Jimmy headed straight for a restaurant. There he tasted the first sweet joys of liberty in the shape of a broiled chicken. He went to the café and shook hands with Mike, who was alone behind the bar. ‘Sorry we couldn’t make it sooner, Jimmy, my boy,’ said Mike. ‘But we had that protest from Springfield to buck against, and the governor nearly balked. Feeling all right?

Word Meanings & Explanation

In this passage, Jimmy Valentine, having been released from prison, experiences his first moments of freedom.

Chronicled: Recorded or documented in an official record or book.

  • Explanation: After receiving his pardon, Jimmy Valentine’s release was officially recorded in the prison’s books as “Pardoned by Governor.”

Bucked against: To resist or oppose a challenge or obstacle.

  • Explanation: Mike mentions that they had to face opposition, particularly a protest from Springfield, which made Jimmy’s release challenging. The phrase “bucked against” emphasizes the difficulty they faced in overcoming this obstacle.

Balked: Refused to proceed or act; hesitated or resisted.

  • Explanation: The governor nearly balked, indicating that he hesitated or was reluctant in granting Jimmy’s pardon, possibly due to the protest or other concerns.

In this passage, Jimmy Valentine receives his official pardon and is given a railroad ticket and a five-dollar bill, marking his freedom. He immediately indulges in the pleasures of liberty by going to a restaurant and enjoying a broiled chicken, symbolizing his newfound freedom and ability to savor life’s simple pleasures. He then visits a café where he meets Mike, who expresses regret for not being able to secure his release sooner due to the challenges they faced, including opposition from Springfield. Despite the delayed freedom, Jimmy is now a free man, and the passage captures his initial moments of enjoying the taste of liberty after his time in prison.

‘Fine,’ said Jimmy. ‘Got my key?’ He got his key and went upstairs, unlocking the door of a room at the rear. 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 suitcase. He opened this and gazed fondly at the finest set of burglar’s tools in the East. In half an hour, Jimmy went down stairs, and he carried his dusted and cleaned suitcase in his hand.

Word Meanings & Explanation

In this passage, Jimmy Valentine arrives at a room and retrieves a hidden suitcase containing his burglar’s tools. :

Eminent: Famous, respected, or distinguished, especially within a particular field or profession.

  • Explanation: The collar-button belonged to Ben Price, a well-known detective, indicating his eminence in his profession.

Overpowered: Defeated, subdued, or overwhelmed by force or strength.

  • Explanation: Jimmy Valentine was overpowered by the authorities when they arrested him, leading to the torn collar-button from the detective’s shirt.

Panel: A flat or curved component, typically rectangular, that forms or is set into a surface.

  • Explanation: Jimmy slides back a panel in the wall to access his hidden suitcase, suggesting a secret compartment within the room.

Burglar’s tools: Instruments or equipment used for breaking into buildings or safes, typically including items like lock picks, crowbars, etc.

  • Explanation: Jimmy Valentine possesses a set of burglar’s tools, indicating his expertise in breaking into secured places, which he keeps hidden in his suitcase.

In this passage, Jimmy Valentine retrieves his burglar’s tools hidden in a secret compartment within the room. The collar-button mentioned belonged to the eminent detective Ben Price, who had tried to arrest Jimmy earlier. After unlocking the room with his key, Jimmy uncovers his hidden suitcase, which contains a sophisticated set of burglary tools. He looks at these tools fondly, suggesting a certain level of expertise and sentimentality attached to them. After cleaning his tools, he prepares himself for his next venture, indicating his intention to return to his criminal activities after his release from prison. The passage highlights Jimmy’s skill as a professional criminal and sets the stage for further developments in the story.

A week after the release of Valentine, there was a neat job of safe-burglary done in Richmond, Indiana. 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. 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. Ben Price investigated the scenes of the robberies, and was heard to remark: ‘That’s Dandy Jim Valentine’s autograph. He’s got the only clamps that can do it. Yes, I guess I want Mr Valentine. He’ll do his bit next time without any short-time or clemency foolishness.’

Word Meanings & Explanation

In this passage, a series of safe-burglaries occur after Jimmy Valentine’s release from prison.

Neat job: A well-executed or skilfully performed criminal act, in this case, safe-burglary, done with precision and without leaving much evidence.

  • Explanation: The safe-burglaries described in the passage are referred to as “neat jobs” because they are executed cleanly and professionally, indicating the skill of the burglars involved.

Scant: Insufficient or not enough in quantity.

  • Explanation: In the first safe-burglary in Richmond, Indiana, only eight hundred dollars were stolen, indicating a relatively small amount considering the risk involved in the crime.

Burglar-proof: Designed or constructed in a way that makes it extremely difficult for burglars to break into, usually referring to safes or other secure containers.

  • Explanation: The safe in Logansport, which was opened, was described as “patented, improved, burglar-proof,” suggesting it was supposed to be highly secure but was still breached by skilled burglars.

Eruption: A sudden and violent release of something, in this context, referring to a large amount of banknotes being stolen from the bank-safe in Jefferson City.

  • Explanation: The bank-safe in Jefferson City is described metaphorically as erupting bank-notes, emphasizing the substantial amount of money stolen during the burglary.

Clemency: Leniency or mercy shown by authorities, often in the context of reducing a criminal’s sentence.

  • Explanation: Ben Price refers to the previous leniency shown to Jimmy Valentine during his earlier arrest, indicating that this time, there won’t be any clemency or leniency for his crimes.

In this passage, a series of well-executed safe-burglaries occur in different locations, each involving a significant amount of money. These crimes catch the attention of Detective Ben Price, who recognizes the modus operandi as belonging to Jimmy Valentine. Price vows to apprehend Jimmy without any leniency or mercy, suggesting that Jimmy’s criminal activities have escalated, and the law enforcement is determined to bring him to justice without any chance of a reduced sentence. The passage sets the stage for a confrontation between Jimmy Valentine and Detective Ben Price, intensifying the suspense in the story.

Ben Price knew Jimmy’s habits. Long jumps, quick getaways, no confederates, and a taste for good society 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. One afternoon Jimmy Valentine and his suitcase climbed out of the mail-hack in Elmore. 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 coloured slightly. Young men of Jimmy’s style and looks were scarce in Elmore.

Word Meanings & Explanation

In this passage, Detective Ben Price is described as knowing Jimmy Valentine’s habits, and Jimmy arrives in Elmore, where he encounters a young lady.

Confederates: Partners or associates, especially in a criminal context, who collaborate in illegal activities.

  • Explanation: The passage indicates that Jimmy Valentine operates alone without any confederates, making it difficult for authorities to catch him.

Dodger of retribution: A person skilled at avoiding punishment or consequences, particularly in the context of evading the law or legal consequences.

  • Explanation: Jimmy Valentine is described as a successful dodger of retribution, meaning he has managed to escape punishment for his crimes through clever tactics and quick getaways.

Cracksman: Slang term for a burglar or safecracker, particularly one skilled in breaking safes or vaults to steal valuables.

  • Explanation: Jimmy Valentine is referred to as a cracksman due to his expertise in safe-burglary and breaking into secured places.

Elusive: Difficult to catch, grasp, or define; evasive or hard to pin down.

  • Explanation: Jimmy Valentine is described as elusive because he is challenging to capture or apprehend due to his quick escapes and ability to avoid detection by law enforcement.

In this passage, Jimmy Valentine arrives in Elmore, where he encounters a young lady. Their brief interaction causes Jimmy to forget his criminal identity momentarily, and he is captivated by her. The passage illustrates how Jimmy, despite his criminal pursuits, is still human and capable of being affected by emotions and connections. The encounter sets the stage for potential changes in Jimmy’s life and adds complexity to his character, as he is torn between his criminal past and the possibility of a different future influenced by this chance meeting.

Jimmy collared a boy and began to question him about the town. ‘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.’ Jimmy went to the Planters’ Hotel, registered as Ralph D Spencer, and engaged a room. He said to the clerk that he had come to Elmore to look for a location to go into business. How was the shoe business, now, in the town? Was there an opening?

Word Meanings & Explanation

In this passage, Jimmy Valentine, using a false identity, questions a local boy about the town and then checks into a hotel. Here’s the explanation with meanings of the critical words:

Collared: Grabbed or caught hold of someone, often implying a sudden or forceful action.

  • Explanation: Jimmy Valentine seizes a boy to inquire about the local residents, demonstrating his determination to gather information.

Specious: Superficially plausible, but actually false or misleading; deceptive in appearance.

  • Explanation: Jimmy uses specious guile by pretending to know the young lady, Polly Simpson, to extract information from the boy. His question is deceitful and manipulative.

Guile: Cunning, deceitful, or crafty behaviour used to deceive or trick others.

  • Explanation: Jimmy’s use of guile refers to his cunning tactics in questioning the boy and extracting information under false pretences.

Engaged: Reserved or booked, typically in the context of booking a hotel room.

  • Explanation: Jimmy Spencer, using the alias, engages a room at the Planters’ Hotel, indicating that he has reserved a room for himself.

Opening: Opportunity or chance, often in the context of starting a business or pursuing a career.

  • Explanation: Jimmy inquiries about the shoe business in the town and asks if there is an opening, indicating his interest in potentially starting a business in Elmore.

In this passage, Jimmy Valentine, under the alias Ralph D Spencer, pretends to be a businessman interested in setting up a shoe business in Elmore. To gather information, he questions a local boy about a young lady named Polly Simpson, using a false identity. The boy corrects him, revealing that she is Annabel Adams, the daughter of the owner of the local bank. Afterward, Jimmy checks into the Planters’ Hotel and continues his charade by engaging the hotel clerk in conversation about the shoe business in town. His actions showcase his deceptive and manipulative nature as he attempts to blend into the community while concealing his true identity and criminal background.

The clerk was impressed by the clothes and manner of Jimmy. Yes, there ought to be a good opening in the shoe line. He would find it a pleasant town to live in, and the people very sociable. 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. And he accomplished the wish of his heart. He met Miss Annabel Adams, and became more and more captivated by her charms.

Word Meanings & Explanation

In this passage, Jimmy Valentine, now using the alias Ralph Spencer, impresses the hotel clerk with his appearance and manner. He decides to stay in Elmore and prosper, eventually meeting Miss Annabel Adams and falling in love with her.

Phoenix: In mythology, a phoenix is a mythical bird that is said to be reborn from its own ashes after dying in flames. Metaphorically, it refers to something or someone that experiences a significant transformation or revival after a difficult or challenging period.

  • Explanation: The term “phoenix” is used metaphorically to describe Jimmy Valentine’s transformation from his criminal past, symbolizing his rebirth or reinvention in Elmore under the new identity of Ralph Spencer.

Alterative: Having the power to cause a fundamental change or alteration, often used in the context of medical treatments or remedies.

  • Explanation: The phrase “alterative attack of love” implies that Jimmy Valentine underwent a transformative experience caused by a sudden and profound feeling of love. This love altered his perspective and behaviour, leading to his positive transformation.

Captivated: Fascinated, charmed, or enthralled by someone or something.

  • Explanation: Jimmy, now Ralph Spencer, becomes captivated by Miss Annabel Adams, indicating that he is deeply attracted to her and finds her charms irresistible.

In this passage, Jimmy Valentine, now operating as Ralph Spencer, wins the approval of the hotel clerk with his refined appearance and demeanour. He decides to stay in Elmore, embracing his new identity and the opportunities the town offers. Despite his criminal past, he prospers in his new life. Furthermore, he meets Annabel Adams and becomes enamoured with her, symbolizing his transformation and the possibility of a fresh start. The passage emphasizes the power of love in transforming Jimmy’s character, allowing him to leave his criminal life behind and find happiness in a new and honest existence.

At the end of a year the situation of Mr Ralph Spencer was this: he had won the respect of the community and he and Annabel were engaged to be married in two weeks. Mr Adams, the typical, plodding, country banker, approved of Spencer. On Monday night, Ben Price jogged unobtrusively into Elmore. From the drugstore 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!’

Word Meanings & Explanation

In this passage, the story reaches a crucial point where Jimmy Valentine, now known as Ralph Spencer, has successfully integrated into the community. He is engaged to Annabel Adams, the daughter of Mr. Adams, a respected banker. Detective Ben Price, who had been pursuing Jimmy earlier, arrives in Elmore and recognizes him.

Plodding: Moving or proceeding slowly and laboriously, often indicating a methodical but not particularly imaginative or ambitious approach.

  • Explanation: Mr. Adams, Annabel’s father, is described as a “typical, plodding, country banker,” suggesting that he is a steady and reliable but unremarkable person.

Unobtrusively: In a way that avoids attracting attention or being conspicuous.

  • Explanation: Ben Price arrives in Elmore quietly and without drawing attention to himself, indicating his intention to observe discreetly.

In this passage, Ralph Spencer, who is actually Jimmy Valentine operating under a new identity, has successfully gained the respect of the community and is engaged to marry Annabel Adams. Meanwhile, Detective Ben Price, aware of Jimmy’s true identity, arrives in Elmore and discreetly observes Ralph Spencer from across the street. He remarks to himself about Jimmy’s intention to marry the banker’s daughter, showing that he recognizes Jimmy’s true identity despite the new name and life he has built for himself. The passage builds suspense as the detective’s arrival suggests potential complications and conflicts in the story.

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. 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 Elmore Bank had just put in a new safe and vault. Mr Adams was very proud of it, and insisted on an inspection by everyone. 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.

Word Meanings & Explanation

In this passage, the Adams family, including Annabel, her father Mr. Adams, Jimmy (Ralph Spencer), and Annabel’s married sister with her two children, visits the Elmore Bank. Mr. Adams proudly shows them the newly installed safe and vault.

Railings: Protective barriers made of wood, metal, or other materials, used to enclose a specific area or pathway.

  • Explanation: The high, carved oak railings described here mark the entrance into the banking-room of the Elmore Bank.

Patented: Protected by a patent, indicating that the design or technology used in the safe’s door is exclusive and legally protected from imitation.

  • Explanation: The new vault door is described as “patented,” suggesting that its design is unique and proprietary, making it technologically advanced and secure.

Simultaneously: Happening at the same time or instantaneously.

  • Explanation: The safe’s door fastens with three solid steel bolts that are thrown simultaneously with a single handle, indicating that all three bolts lock or unlock at once when the handle is turned.

Time-lock: A security feature on a safe or vault that prevents it from being opened for a specific period, even if the correct combination is entered. It operates on a timer, ensuring the safe cannot be accessed until the preset time has passed.

  • Explanation: The vault is equipped with a time-lock, enhancing its security by preventing access during specific times, making it even more challenging for potential burglars.

In this passage, the Adams family, including Jimmy (Ralph Spencer), visits the Elmore Bank to inspect the newly installed safe and vault. Mr. Adams, proud of the bank’s modern security features, explains the workings of the vault to everyone. The description of the vault door’s simultaneous locking mechanism and the presence of a time-lock emphasizes the advanced security measures in place, highlighting the bank’s commitment to protecting its assets. The passage conveys a sense of innocence and curiosity, particularly in the reactions of the two young children, May and Agatha, who are fascinated by the vault’s shiny metal and unique features.

While they were thus engaged Ben Price sauntered in and leaned on his elbow, looking casually inside between the railings. 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.

Word Meanings & Explanation

In this passage, chaos ensues at the bank as May, the nine-year-old girl, accidentally traps her younger sister, Agatha, inside the vault by imitating Mr. Adams. Detective Ben Price witnesses the situation unfold.

Sauntered: Walked leisurely, in a relaxed manner, often indicating a lack of urgency.

  • Explanation: Detective Ben Price enters the bank casually, strolling in without drawing much attention.

Commotion: A state of confusion, noise, and activity, often due to an unexpected or disruptive event.

  • Explanation: The situation inside the bank becomes chaotic and noisy due to the panic caused by Agatha being trapped in the vault.

Hysterically: In an uncontrollably emotional or panicked manner.

  • Explanation: Agatha’s mother reacts to the situation with hysteria, displaying intense panic and distress.

In this passage, May, the nine-year-old girl, accidentally locks her younger sister, Agatha, inside the bank’s vault while imitating Mr. Adams. This playful act quickly turns into a crisis when May shoots the bolts and turns the combination knob, trapping Agatha inside. Mr. Adams realizes the vault can’t be opened because the clock hasn’t been wound, and the combination hasn’t been set. The situation causes panic among the women present, with Agatha’s mother reacting hysterically. Detective Ben Price observes the unfolding events, adding a layer of tension to the situation as the characters grapple with the unexpected crisis inside the bank.

‘Hush!’ said Mr Adams, raising his trembling hand. ‘All be quiet 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 do something?’ ‘There isn’t a man nearer than Little Rock who can open that door,’ said Mr Adams, in a shaky voice. Agatha’s mother, frantic now, beat the door of the vault with her hands. 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.

Word Meanings & Explanation

In this passage, the panic escalates as Agatha remains trapped inside the dark vault, and the desperate family searches for a solution.

Trembling: Shaking or quivering, often due to fear, nervousness, or weakness.

  • Explanation: Mr. Adams raises his trembling hand, indicating his extreme distress and anxiety over the situation.

Frantic: In a state of wild or frenzied panic or desperation.

  • Explanation: Agatha’s mother becomes frantic, expressing her intense fear and desperation as she pleads for someone to open the vault.

Despairing: Showing a loss of hope or confidence, often in the face of a dire situation.

  • Explanation: Despite the dire circumstances, Annabel’s eyes reflect anguish but not yet complete despair. She clings to the hope that someone might find a solution to rescue her sister.

In this passage, Agatha’s terrified cries can be heard from inside the vault, creating a heart-wrenching scene. Mr. Adams attempts to calm everyone and calls out to Agatha, but her panic-stricken screams continue. Agatha’s mother, overcome with fear, desperately urges someone to open the vault, even suggesting breaking it open. Mr. Adams informs them that there is no one nearby with the expertise to open the vault. Annabel, though distressed, still looks to Jimmy (Ralph Spencer) with hope, believing in his ability to find a solution. The passage captures the sense of helplessness and desperation in the face of Agatha’s predicament while highlighting the unwavering faith and expectation Annabel places in Jimmy to rescue her sister.

‘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 right, 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.

Word Meanings & Explanation

In this passage, Jimmy Valentine reveals his true identity and decides to help rescue Agatha.

Queer: Unusual, strange, or peculiar in a way that is hard to explain or understand.

  • Explanation: Jimmy’s smile is described as “queer,” indicating an unusual or peculiar expression, possibly showing a mix of confidence and determination.

Keen: Sharp, perceptive, or mentally alert.

  • Explanation: The description of Jimmy’s eyes as “keen” suggests that he is sharp-witted and observant, ready to assess the situation and take action.

Bosom: The front of a person’s chest, often specifically referring to a woman’s chest or breast area.

  • Explanation: Annabel unpins the rose from the bosom of her dress, indicating the area where she had placed the flower.

In this passage, Annabel implores Ralph (Jimmy Valentine) to do something to rescue her sister, Agatha. In response, Jimmy requests the rose Annabel is wearing. Annabel, surprised, hands him the rose, and Jimmy, in a sudden transformation, stuffs it into his vest-pocket, revealing his true identity. With a determined expression, he takes off his coat and rolls up his shirt sleeves, symbolizing his readiness to take action. The passage signifies a turning point in the story, as Jimmy Valentine, the expert safecracker, is back, ready to use his skills to rescue Agatha from the vault.

‘Get away from the door, all of you,’ he commanded, shortly. He set his suitcase on the table, and opened it out flat. From that time on he seemed to be unconscious of the presence of anyone 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.

Word Meanings & Explanation

In this passage, Jimmy Valentine takes charge of the situation and starts working to rescue Agatha from the vault.

Commanded: Ordered or directed with authority.

  • Explanation: Jimmy Valentine commands everyone to step away from the door, asserting his control over the situation and making it clear that he is in charge.

Implements: Tools or instruments used for a specific purpose, often referring to specialized equipment.

  • Explanation: In this context, implements refer to the burglary tools that Jimmy Valentine uses to open the vault.

Orderly: Arranged or organized in a neat and systematic manner.

  • Explanation: Jimmy lays out his tools swiftly and orderly, indicating his efficiency and expertise in handling his burglary equipment.

Under a Spell: Completely captivated or mesmerized, as if influenced by magic or enchantment.

  • Explanation: The others watch Jimmy in deep silence and immobility, suggesting that they are entranced or captivated by his skill and focus, as if under a spell.

In this passage, Jimmy Valentine takes control of the situation and begins working on opening the vault to rescue Agatha. He sets up his tools methodically and efficiently, showing his expertise and confidence in his abilities. The onlookers, including Annabel and her family, are mesmerized by Jimmy’s skill and concentration, watching him in complete silence and immobility. The description conveys the sense of tension and anticipation, highlighting Jimmy’s mastery of his craft and the fascination he elicits from those around him.

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…he thought he heard a far-away voice that he once knew call ‘Ralph!’ But he never hesitated.

Word Meanings & Explanation

In this passage, Jimmy Valentine successfully opens the vault door and rescues Agatha.

Biting: Penetrating or making a hole by cutting or drilling, often used in the context of tools working against a hard surface.

  • Explanation: Jimmy’s drill bites smoothly into the steel door, indicating that it is making progress in piercing the metal.

Burglarious: Related to burglary, indicating something illegal or characteristic of a burglar’s activities.

  • Explanation: The term “burglarious record” refers to Jimmy’s personal best or fastest time in breaking into a secure location, showcasing his expertise as a burglar.

Collapsed: To fall down suddenly or lose strength and consciousness due to exhaustion, shock, or relief.

  • Explanation: Agatha almost collapses after being rescued, indicating her emotional and physical exhaustion from the ordeal.

Hesitated: Paused or stopped momentarily due to uncertainty, doubt, or surprise.

  • Explanation: Jimmy thought he heard a familiar voice calling his previous alias, ‘Ralph,’ but he didn’t hesitate, indicating his determination to continue without looking back.

In this passage, Jimmy Valentine efficiently uses his drill to breach the steel door of the vault and successfully opens it in record time. Agatha, safe but emotionally drained, is reunited with her mother. After the rescue, Jimmy calmly puts on his coat and leaves the bank. He believes he hears his old name, ‘Ralph,’ being called from a distance, but he chooses not to acknowledge it or look back, symbolizing his determination to move forward and leave his past behind. The passage portrays Jimmy as a skilled professional, swift in his actions, and resolute in his decision to continue his new life.

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 recognise you. Your buggy’s waiting for you, ain’t it?’ And Ben Price turned and strolled down the street.

Word Meanings & Explanation

In this passage, Detective Ben Price encounters Jimmy Valentine (now known as Mr. Spencer) outside the bank.

  1. Recognize: To identify someone or something as previously known or encountered.
  • Explanation: Ben Price claims not to recognize Mr. Spencer, indicating that he is pretending not to know Jimmy Valentine to avoid acknowledging his true identity.
  1. Buggy: A light, horse-drawn carriage with four wheels, often used in rural areas in the past.
  • Explanation: Ben Price mentions Mr. Spencer’s buggy, referring to a carriage waiting for him, suggesting that Jimmy Valentine might have arrived in a buggy and that Ben Price is aware of it.
  1. Strolled: Walked leisurely and casually, often implying a lack of urgency or haste.
  • Explanation: Ben Price strolls down the street after his encounter with Mr. Spencer, displaying a relaxed demeanour despite the tension of the situation.

In this passage, Jimmy Valentine, now Mr. Spencer, encounters Detective Ben Price at the door of the bank. Despite Jimmy’s acknowledgment and strange smile, Ben Price denies recognizing him and pretends that he has mistaken Mr. Spencer for someone else. Ben Price’s behaviour is unusual, as he chooses not to confront Jimmy directly or arrest him, opting to walk away casually. This unexpected turn of events highlights the complexity of the characters and adds a layer of mystery to the story, leaving readers questioning Ben Price’s motives and Jimmy Valentine’s fate.

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