Prosecco N Prose | A Book Club

"The Count and the Wedding Guest" by O. Henry

May 10, 2022 Wendy & Amy Season 4 Episode 37
"The Count and the Wedding Guest" by O. Henry
Prosecco N Prose | A Book Club
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Prosecco N Prose | A Book Club
"The Count and the Wedding Guest" by O. Henry
May 10, 2022 Season 4 Episode 37
Wendy & Amy

Wendy and Amy read an O. Henry tale / Then muse on the idea of love by betrayal. / But Miss Maggie just looks so smashing in black / Pop a cork to her beau who knows which secret to crack!


Show Notes:
Oliver Fox's "Four Pillars of Romance" article
Stuff You Missed in History Class Podcast with Holly and Tracy | O. Henry Episode

Next Episode:
Home Front by Kristin Hannah paired with Cecilia Beretta Prosecco Rose

Show Notes Transcript

Wendy and Amy read an O. Henry tale / Then muse on the idea of love by betrayal. / But Miss Maggie just looks so smashing in black / Pop a cork to her beau who knows which secret to crack!


Show Notes:
Oliver Fox's "Four Pillars of Romance" article
Stuff You Missed in History Class Podcast with Holly and Tracy | O. Henry Episode

Next Episode:
Home Front by Kristin Hannah paired with Cecilia Beretta Prosecco Rose

Prosecco N Prose | Season 4 | Episode 37 | “The Count and the Wedding Guest by O. Henry 

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Co-hosts: Wendy and Amy

Amy (A): Welcome to Prosecco and Prose Episode 37.

Wendy (W): This week’s prosecco is Clara C Fiori Di Prosecco Rosé

A: This week’s prose is “The Count and the Wedding Guest” by O. Henry.                        

 * * * INTRO * * *  

W: This is our last short story of the season.

A: Yeah …. We only did three this season.

W: Well, we’re about to do a whole season of short stories, so we’ll make up for it.

A: Just giving our friends a little teaser for our upcoming Season 5.

W: Just a short teaser.

A: Let’s not completely digress before we’ve even started. Our prosecco today is this very regal-looking labeled Clara C Fiori Di Prosecco Rosé.

W: This was one of the first ones we paired because we knew the story and just felt this crest on the front looked very Count-like.

A: It made us think of a coat of arms or something.

W: Exactly. So, we have again, another bottle with very little info on it.

A: Maybe we’re the only nerds who read the bottles?

W: I highly doubt that. But we have a DOC, a Brut, so a bit drier, 11% …. And that’s about it.

A: Another one at $14.99. Got it from Whole Foods and it’s not yet rated on our trusty Vivino app. Maybe we should be the first! 

W: You read my mind but we’re going in blind. 

A: We could be tasting the next award-winning prosecco.

W: Or not.

A: Well, it’s pretty…and it’s prosecco, so I’m going to think positively …my glass is more than half full. 

W: I think we should get to trying so we can see.

A: There wasn’t a lot of mousse, bubbles on the pour, and I only have a few bubbles in the glass. I mean there’s bubbles, but not a lot. Very sparse.

W: I’ve got a couple streams in the glass, but yeah, not super bubbly in appearance. But the color is pretty. It’s a rosy pink.

A: Oh yeah, definitely rosier in color. More pink than orange, unlike our last couple. Reminds me of my affirmation planner from Aldi. If I can’t journal, I’ll affirm. Love Aldi…so many fun finds there.

W: I have trouble sticking with journaling, too. Maybe I need an affirmation planner. Especially if it matches a bottle of prosecco.

A: Can’t beat a perfect pairing! So what are you getting for an aroma this time? Last bottle was such a struggle.

W: I know. Well, it’s a bit of a fruity smell and there’s a little yeast as well. Not as strong as the Jules, but it’s there.

A: Oh there’s definitely yeast on this one, and yeah, fruity smelling. Can’t really pick out any specific berries though.

W: No, I can’t either. There’s something a bit floral about it. You think?

A: Like rose petals?

W: I don’t know if I’m getting rose petals, but I feel like if I looked at the color and smelled it, I could trick myself into thinking I’m smelling rose.

A: Maybe that’s it. It’s strong in the yeast for sure.

W: Yeah, that’s promising to me. I love a yeasty-smelling prosecco. It’s also kind of got a clean smell.

A: That might be code now for I can’t really smell anything.

W: You might be right. Clean smell as an absence of smell, maybe.

A: Maybe it’s just these rosés. 

W: Maybe. Now I have to say the first thing I notice is it’s kind of fizzy in the mouth and there’s something fruity about it, like the smell, but nothing specific.

A: Really? I’m definitely getting strawberry and …. Raspberry! Yeah, there’s some raspberry.

W: No, not getting any of those specifics, it’s kind of like a, uh, a, like a red fruit Jello. And I really do not like Jello. 

A: Unless it’s in a shot, right? … you know like a Jello shot?

W: I do like those, but such a weird texture. I don’t mind it here in prosecco.

A: The texture of prosecco is not so off-putting to you then?

W: No, I would say definitely not.

A: I would agree it’s very fruity right at the front, and I kind of get your red Jello comparison, but I’m going to say it’s almost like jam flavored. Drinking Smucker’s…So much going on in my mouth right now.

W: Yeah …. Not in a bad way. Can’t say I really get the Brut, just doesn’t seem that dry to me.

A: Oh, you’re right…we’ll see. It’s pretty good so far. Won’t be dumping out my glass.

W: I definitely won’t. Now our author today really needs no introduction, O. Henry.

A: O. Henry…the notorious W…whickity whickity wack…S.P.

W: He did go to jail for embezzlement.

A: But not before he went on the lam. 

W: No, not before he did that. And if you want a fun history of his criminal past, check out the Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast. Hosts Holly and Tracy cover all things O. Henry you could possibly want to know—

A: —but so much more entertaining than how you might’ve remembered history least for me. I remember one of my history teachers used to comb his chest hair in class…Yuck…I won’t go there thank you But we, being two history buffs, loved the fun facts sprinkled throughout the episode, like that he memorized a dictionary…

W:  Made his own absinthe.

A: Would court women for story inspo.

W: And for a time, was writing one short story a day. You and I can’t even stick with a journal entry a day!

A: Guess we aren’t up to O. Henry standards. Plus he didn’t have Instagram and podcasts to edit. 

W: I’m just impressed that between his courting, memorizing, and distilling he had time to write.

A: I guess I digress. He’s the ultimate multitasker!

W: I would say so! But if you guys want to know all about O. Henry’s criminal past, check these ladies out. Really fun and informative. Amy will link that episode in our show notes. 

A: You betcha…will do…These these ladies have loads of other episodes…whatever history you want to learn. Oh, like the Hemingway episode. OMG…Did you know he had a brother?

W: No.

A: Yup. I enjoyed the one on the Invention of Aspirin. You know, for when you have a prosecco hangover.

W: Interesting. Another one, they did earlier this year, on Peter Roget and His Thesaurus. You might like that one as well. Love these rabbit holes.

A: Oh, I have to listen to that one. So, it’s Stuff You Missed in History Class. Check them out.

W: So, O. Henry was a very prolific American short story writer. He’s known for his surprise endings, dubbed the O. Henry twist, and witty narration. The O. Henry Award, named after him, is awarded to outstanding short stories. His most famous story, “The Gift of the Magi,” is one of your very favorite short stories, right Amy?

A: It is. Now in his day, he was called the answer to one of my favorite authors, Guy de Maupassant. They both wrote plot-twist endings. I just love little stingers! 

W: And as lovers of pen names, we had to get to the bottom of O. Henry’s.

A: We tried, anyway. So, there are several stories of how William Sydney Porter, our notorious W.S.P. became O. Henry…Some say he got it from when he was in prison after a prison guard, or a French pharmacist, or it’s a construct of the first two letters of Ohio and the second two and last two of the word penitentiary. There’s also a rumor that the name came from a girlfriend’s cat. 

W: But …. The story is?

A: It was the polite way to excuse himself to the toilet…I’m going to take an O. Henry. 

W: Stop! 

A: Just kidding…but for real…O. Henry gave an interview in 1909 to The New York Times and said this. He wanted to send some writing stuff out, but wasn’t sure of its quality. So, he wanted a literary alias to send it under. He asked a friend for help, who told him to look in the newspaper and pick one from a list of notables.

W: A right proper name.

A: Exactly. They found an article of a fashion ball and when Porter found the name Henry, said it would do as a last name. Then he said he wanted a short first name and the friend suggested a plain initial letter. Porter said O is the easiest letter written and there he had his pen name, O. Henry.

W: We did find that he used other pen names, but O. Henry got the most attention.

A: Yes.

W: Very important to pick a good pen name, Chloe.

A: Indeed, it is. Or a good prosecco one, Giuliana.

W: That goes without saying. Now this short story, “The Count and the Wedding Guest” is found in O. Henry’s 1907 collection The Trimmed Lamp, a collection of 25 short stories.

A: And there are several versions of the story. We found three different ones ourselves, just a few additional details are found in the versions.

W: Yeah, the one I found was quite stripped down, but you found a print and audio version.

A: Loads of audio versions out there as well, if audible is your go-to.

W: You and my niece have really gotten me into audible books. Love them for my long runs.

A: You do the runs, I’ll take ‘em on my long walks. I told you were missing out.

W: You did and you’re such a good friend to make sure I don’t. Now, “The Count and the Wedding Guest,” is a very quick read, or listen, only 5-6 pages, depending on your version.

A: Mr. Andy Donovan and Miss Maggie Conway are boarders at a boarding-house where they meet at dinner one evening. At first, they seem to be quite dismissive of each other.

W: Quite.

A: But then, a couple weeks later, Andy is out on the front steps enjoying a cigar, and Miss Conway steps out in a black dress and literally turns Andy’s head.

W: He catches the sadness in Miss Conway’s eyes and countenance and wonders whether she has lost a relative.

A: Not wanting to burden Andy with her grief, Miss Conway demurs and the two of them go for a walk as a way to cheer her up. It’s revealed that Miss Conway’s fiancé, a Count, has died in an unfortunate accident abroad. Then Miss Conway shows Andy his picture in her locket. 

W: And the framed picture she keeps in her room. Andy, now quite taken with the mourning Miss Conway, begins to court her and after a month, the two are engaged.

A: One evening, while they are out, Andy is in quite a mood and Maggie questions him on it, wondering if he has another girl he’d prefer to be with. Andy says, no, that’s not it, but rather a dear, influential friend of his, Big Mike Sullivan, would like an invitation to the wedding and he shant give him one.

W: Maggie says to go ahead and invite him if it’s such a big deal, Andy says he can’t and to not press him further, but asks her if she loves him as much as she loved the Count. Maggie then bursts into tears and admits there was no Count, but she looked so good in black, she made up the story so she could wear black and catch Andy’s eye.

A: And, spoiler alert, here’s the surprise ending. Andy, rather than upset at Maggie for her deception, lets her know that it was Big Mike Sullivan’s picture that she’s been wearing around her neck.

W: So funny. Now you’re going to be amused by this, but I did not realize until about a fourth reading that the Count and the wedding guest were one and the same.

A: What? You’re kidding. How’d you miss that detail?

W: I don’t know, but I did and then I felt like I’d had such an epiphany moment when I learned it.

A: That’s the wit of O. Henry. I think he should put him on your daily calendar. O. Henry can turn anyone’s frown upside down if need be. 

W: I might take your advice. Now let’s get to our tropes.

A: We found a few…and a few of those are quite a stretch. Please feel free to let us know if you think we took too many liberties. 

W: Or if we flat out missed some you think we should’ve found.

A: Or if you just want to drop us a quick rating and review.

W: Yes. We’d love and appreciate that. Super easy on Apple and Spotify. Thanks in advance!

A: I’m going to start with one that’s a bit of a stretch…secrets and lies. We do have secrets and lies on the part of Miss Conway, but Andy could be hiding something as well. Maybe????

W: He could. Usually, the secret or lie causes the relationship to falter, but for this story, it actually is the reason for the relationship. Another bit of a stretch, forced proximity, the two of them living in the same boarding house, taking their meals together.


A: That’s a good one. Now one I really like is the makeover. Andy meets Miss Conway in her drab brown dress and she knows black looks good on her so she invents a fiancé that she then kills off so she can make herself over in her mourning costume and catch Andy’s eye.

W: Oooh! That’s a good one, too. Didn’t think of that. Maybe secret admirer because at the end, Miss Conway says she only ever liked Andy.

A: I’ll take your secret admirer and raise you a hidden identity since Miss Conway takes on the false persona of a woman in mourning to play into Andy’s sympathies.

W: If we’re talking poker then I have the royal flush and these last two go hand-in-hand and they are our strongest, fake engagement and grieving lover.

A: I’m sorry…I just had poker on the mind…all this faking talk. ...But O. Henry put a little twist on our fake engagement here, rather than the couple faking their engagement, Conway fakes an engagement to get the man she’s wanted all along.

W: And our poor susceptible Andy falls for her grieving schtick. 

A: Although he does know pretty quick that it’s a schtick.

W: He does, but her act provides him the opportunity to be in her company, which he seems to enjoy.

A: And that’s both their secret and lie to each other. Maybe that one’s a twist on the trope like our fake engagement.

W: Maybe. So, let’s see how this one lined up with Oliver Fox’s article “The 4 Pillars of Romance” from the Writer’s Write blog. Pillar 1 - The Couple: Lover and Beloved.

A: Which I also linked in our show notes. Now, I did feel that Andy and Maggie Conway were interchangeable as the lover and beloved, though Maggie did take the lead initially with her whole fake engagement story.

W: Well, that plain brown dress wasn’t attracting any suitors.

A: She looked like a big O. Henry bar…so she put on her mourning costume, glanced across the street, and gave her heavy Instagram looking away look. 

W:She sure did!

A: You know, my son has the best looking away look. I bet Ruffino does too. 

W: No more asides, Amy…moving on.

A: Now speaking of asides…we had an aside from the nameless narrator on how to woo a man.

W: Loved those things. So funny.

A: That witty narrative. So our what, why and how, which thinking about this really puts Maggie in the lover seat. She wants a man—

W: —because she’s lonely in New York.

A: Or doesn’t want to end up as a candy story spinster selling O. Henry’s.

W: Amy!

A: What? Maybe she doesn’t.

W: Do you lay awake thinking of little one-liners you can throw at me?

A: I don’t lay awake. I’m up at the crack of dawn plotting while you’re still asleep.

W: I don’t doubt it. Maggie’s how, her plan, is to invent a fiancé, a Count no less, who will suddenly pass away and she can wear black, which she looks good in, and thus catch Andy’s eye.

A: And Andy will love her more because men love women in black, especially if they have to heal their dark souls.

W: It’s a plan.

A: It is and we have a true Pillar 1. So let’s move onto Pillar 2 - The Obstacles: Rivals, Taboos, and Loved Ones—Oh My!

W: No rivals here, unless you want to count our deceased Count and as he’s part of the plan, can’t really make him a rival.

A: But we do have the lie. That’s definitely an obstacle, though we only truly see it as an obstacle towards the end. When we learn from Maggie there was no Count and that Andy knew all along as the picture in her locket was of the well-known Big Mike. And Maggie didn’t know Big Mike as she was new to New York.

W: The only obstacle for Andy was that he just wanted her to come clean before the wedding. Maybe the picture isn’t even of this Big Mike, maybe it was just a random picture Andy recognized and he concocted his own story to get the truth out of her when he realized she was new in town.

A:  Yeah, I bet she found one of those picture frames they have at Target or Dollar Tree with a hunk of burning love in it. 

W: That’s basically what she did.

A: I think we can say Maggie felt her brown dress was an obstacle. She wasn’t noticeable enough to Andy in it.

W: I think so. That’s why she needed to invent a reason to wear black.

A: A couple taboos we found were mostly of the time period. She was nearing the age of when women were considered a spinster and deemed too old to marry.

W: Right. Had to be something wrong with them if they weren’t married off by a certain age and Maggie laments about the other girls having men to love them and she having no one to love her.

A: Women were dependent on men during this time, and I doubt her candy store career would give her a very good life. I want to know how she afforded crepe-de-chine on a lollipop salary.

W: She was making a calculated investment in purchasing that dress.

A: She sure was. Taboos often refer to social standing and characters crossing them, so I thought it telling she made her fake fiancé a Count. I felt like that was to let Andy know just what her father approved of when it came to courting her.

W: That does raise the stakes, turning department store Danny into an upper-crust Count.

A: Or Dollar Tree Danny…But it makes Miss Maggie seem bigger in reality. Andy’d really have to woo her if she were to want him forever.

W: Andy’s got to put some time in. I think we can say we have a Pillar 2. So, on to Pillar 3 - The Romantic Arc: Winning and Losing and … Winning Back Again?

A: So, these two meet cute over dinner at the boarding house. Which…Andy’s not overly impressed.

W: But Maggie clearly fell for him and devises her plan.

A: And we get this great aside from O. Henry, I have to read it to our listeners….it says“Now girls, if you want to observe a young man hustle out after a pick and shovel, just tell him that your heart is in some other fellow’s grave. Young men are grave-robbers by nature. Ask any widow. Something must be done to restore that missing organ to weeping angels in crepe-di-chine. Dead men certainly get the worst of it from all sides.”  Wonder if O. Henry picked that up when he was courting women for story ideas and got himself a bit sucked in. Candy store Karen?

W: Definitely possible. Maggie shows up on the porch, all beautiful in her mourning and now Andy takes notice.

A: This is where Andy takes on the lover role and begins to pursue Maggie. He has to heal her broken heart. Get her to smile and laugh and, of course, love again.

W: She wins him over with her beauty and sad tale and he wins her over by spending time with her and they grow closer.

A: Then the lie is exposed, but it doesn’t tear them apart, it brings them closer. I think Maggie taking the chance of losing Andy by exposing her lie showed she had some morality or integrity.

W: And Andy has known all along. Couldn’t help but wonder why he didn’t say anything about it sooner?

A: Maybe he was as insecure as she was, maybe he’d really grown to like her, maybe he feels sorry for her, or maybe he’s just so happy she told the truth that he keeps his lying Maggie around.

W: That’s a bit harsh, it’s the stuff country songs are made of not my genre of music but whatever the reason, these two lovebirds seemed to be destined to be together.

A: It does seem they’re going to stick it out. Pillar 4 - The Lover’s Sacrifice.

W: Maybe Andy could be looked at as he sacrificed by biting his tongue when he first saw the locket. Wanted to see where things would go. He did seem to enjoy Maggie’s company.

A: Yeah, I suppose. For me, I saw it a bit differently. I think Maggie wasn’t willing to sacrifice her life on a lie. She came through for me as the character I wanted her to be. And after she came clean, it seems their love was strong enough apparently for them to achieve their goal.

W: That is how we are left. Feeling as if the wedding will go off.

A: And to go back-to-back to what you said, I wondered too why Andy allowed her to lie in the beginning.

W: Maybe he liked the illusion of helping a grieving widow. He liked the part of the lie he was keeping up.

A: Fair point. I’m thinking he’s saving his big one for the future when he has an extramarital affair with Big Mike’s wife or daughter. Or… maybe he’s been meeting Mrs. Scott in the cellar for a nightly bottle of prosecco.

W: Amy!

A: You never know.

W: Your mind. Big Mike might not even be real. I want to see if he shows up at the wedding.

A: I think we need to follow up on this couple…maybe do a retelling or finish the story for O. Henry.

W: I think we need to wrap up. 

A: Probably a good plan. We definitely had a tropey little romance in this short. 

W: We did. And with some humor. I really, really liked it, especially because of the twist. What did you think of our Clara C Prosecco Rosé? We definitely got down to the bottom of the bottle.

A: We did. I liked this one. Never got any apple, and for a brut, didn’t have much of a bite like you’d expect. It’s really just a simple prosecco. A simple Prosecco Rose.

W: I agree with all that. I also expected it to have more bite for a brut. It went so, so good with this strawberry champagne dark chocolate. Where did you get that from?

A: Aldi. Like I said earlier…it’s a one-stop-shop. Didn’t you feel like there was perlage in the chocolate?

W: Nice description of the popping sensation while chewing! It was just so good.

A: Really brought out the strawberry and raspberry in the prosecco.

W: It did. I think this Clara C might also go good with a more pungent cheese. I think it would balance it out. 

A: Yeah, but even a mild cheese and crackers would be good with this.

W: I feel like this prosecco has a lot of flexibility to go with a lot of different things.

A: This is like a really good starter prosecco rosé, not too sweet, not too dry. I’m not really getting the brut labeling… but that’s just me.

W: No, I agree with you on that. Nice, simple, easy drinking prosecco rosé. What’s your rating?

A: I’m going high and giving it a 4.0.

W: Really?

A: Yeah, I do really like it. I would definitely recommend this to someone just getting into prosecco rosés. What about you, miss hard to please?

W: I’m giving it a 3.6. 

A: What? really?

W: I just like mine drier, with more bite, more flavor. I would recommend this one, but maybe not buy. I think for the cost and taste, I’d prefer Kirkland’s Prosecco Rosé.

A: Well, yeah, that is our favorite.

W: Might have to go back and re-rate that one.

A: We can do it in the epilogue.

W: Don’t forget. 

A: I’ll write it in my affirmation planner.

W: Good plan. We’ll be back in two weeks with Home Front by Kristin Hannah paired with Cecilia Beretta Prosecco Rosé.