1. LYCEUM-NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY EMILYN R. RAGASA
COLLEGE OF TEACHER EDUCATION
“The Duplicity of Hardgraves”
By: O Henry
Major Pendleton Talbot was living in Washington with his daughter Lydia, but his heart was still in
Alabama in the days before the Civil War. His speech, his manners, and even his clothes were a living
reminder of the good old days.
He had once lived on a prosperous plantation, but he no longer was well-to-do. He lived in a boarding
house owned by Mrs. Vardeman. Lydia was in charge of their finances. They still had enough money to
pay the bills, but Lydia was conscious of the fact that their money would not last forever.
Major Talbot was writing a book about things that he remembered about life in the old South. Its title was
"Anecdotes and Reminiscences of the Alabama Army, Bench, and bar." He hoped that this book would
improve his financial situation.
Henry Hopkins Hargraves also lived in the boarding house of Mrs. Vardeman. He worked in a vaudeville
theater as a dialect comedian. He was adept at imitating the speech of Germans, Swedes, and other
Major Talbot had a low opinion of the work of Hargraves, so he was not inclined to associate with him.
However, when Mr. Talbot told his fellow boarders stories about the old South, Hargraves was his most
enthusiastic admirer. He never became impatient while listening to the major's stories, and he asked
intelligent questions. So Hargraves and the major eventually became friends. He even showed Hargraves
how to make southern julep.
Four months after moving to Washington, Lydia had bad news. Their money was almost gone, and they
had to pay their rent in three days. When Major Talbot checked to see if he had any money on his person,
he found only a two dollar bill.
The major's book was finished and a congressman had promised to use his influence to get it published.
The major left immediately to see whether the congressman had succeeded.
In the evening, he returned disappointed. The congressman had submitted the manuscript to a publisher,
but the publisher said that the book should be pruned down to half its size in order to eliminate sectional
and class prejudices.
Lydia asked the major to give her the two dollar bill so that she could telegraph her uncle and ask for
money. However, the major had already spent the money. At the theater, there was a war play called "The
Magnolia Flower," and he was told that the South received fair treatment. He had bought two tickets with
his two dollars.
At the theater, they found that Hargraves was playing the part of a southerner named Col. Webster
Calhoun. His dress and manners closely resembled those of Major Talbot. He told the same stories that he
2. had heard from the major, and he even made southern julep, just as the major had done in his presence.
He played the part well and received tremendous applause.
The major was upset, especially since the performance was a caricature. When Hargraves enthusiastically
showed him the reviews in the newspapers on the following day, the major expressed his displeasure in
no uncertain terms.
Hargraves had heard about the financial embarrassment of Major Talbot. The actual purpose of his visit
was to help him out. The major said that he would not even accept money from a casual acquaintance, so
he certainly would not accept the help of someone who had insulted him.
Hargraves sadly left. He decided to move out of the boarding house so that he could be closer to the
downtown theater, where "The Magnolia Flower" was going to be performed for an entire week.
Lydia had written a letter to her uncle, but there was little hope that he could offer much help, since he
was far from rich. Major Talbot had to apologize to Mrs. Vardeman when he could not pay the rent on
Then an old colored man visited Major Talbot. The major did not recognize him until the colored man
identified himself as Cindy's Mose. After hearing his name, the major remembered everything. Mose had
taken care of the horses on the plantation. In particular, he had broken the colts. After the South had
surrendered, he called himself Mose Mitchell and went to Nebraska. Lydia was only two years old when
he left, so she had no way of remembering him.
Mose was an elder in a Baptist church. He was attending a convention in Washington. The purpose of his
visit was to pay Major Talbot the money he owed. Major Talbot's father had given him some mules and
told him to pay for them if he ever had the money. Since the father was dead, Mose Mitchell had to pay
his son instead.
In Nebraska, Mose had sold the mules for three hundred dollars. Then he opened a blacksmith's shop and
made some money. So now he was able to pay his debt. He gave Major Talbot three hundred dollars.
Since it was a debt, the major did not hesitate to accept the money. Three hundred dollars had
considerable value in the late 1890s, so it would last a long time.
Later the major received another piece of good news. Another publisher believed that he could sell the
book that Major Talbot had written. All it needed was a little touching up, and some of the highlights had
to be toned down a little.
At a later date, Lydia Talbot received a letter from New York. It was from Hargraves. First, he explained
the success that he was enjoying. Then he told her that he had found a way to give the major three
hundred dollars, even though the major had refused to accept money from him. He asked Lydia not to tell
My wits were rather slow when I first read this story. I figured that Hargraves must have encountered
Mose Mitchell by chance. I figured that Hargraves made up the story about the mules and asked Mitchell
to give the money to Major Talbot, using the story about the mules as a pretext.
Actually, Hargraves himself gave the money to Major Talbot. From the stories that the major had been
telling him, Hargraves undoubtedly knew all about Cindy's Mose. So he put on an act. He disguised
3. himself and pretended to be old Mose. He visited Major Talbot, made up the story about the mules, and
tricked the major into accepting the money.
I figured that the time of the story was the late 1890s for the following reason. Lydia was two years old
when Mose left at the end of the Civil War. She was thirty-five when the story took place. The rest is