- “…the phoenix… Valentine’s ashes…” – In ancient Egyptian mythology, the phoenix was a bird, which burned itself every five hundred years and then arose anew from its own ashes. The phoenix is commonly used as a symbol for resurrection or rebirth.
- alterative – liable to be changed
Read and listen online O. Henry. A Retrieved Reformation (part 5):
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:
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,