I'm looking for the title of a short story I read in the late '90s (but which I think was significantly older).

The core element of the story was a piece of furniture (or maybe a curio?) with some kind of salacious carvings on it. One character (the narrator?) originally acquires it, but decides that the carvings make it inappropriate for a person at his stage/role in life. He gifts it to a friend or acquaintance.

At the end of the story, we learn that the item of furniture has passed through a chain of recipients, and is about to be given to the main character by someone who recognizes it as a "matching piece" to the one in his possession.

I believe it was set in England. The general feel was late-Victorian or Edwardian, though it could possibly have been mid-20th century.

I have an uncertain memory of having read it in a hardbound anthology with pages that felt old, and of a vintage in which there were illustrated plates interspersed in the pages. It was certainly in English, and would have been either in the US or in the collection of (British) South African relatives.

At one point I considered the possibility that it was a Roald Dahl story, but my search through his bibliography didn't produce any likely matches, and I'm more inclined to believe it was older than that.

It has a bit of an O. Henry ring to it (and relies on a conceit similar to that in "Conscience in Art") but it doesn't match any of the synopses of his well-known stories that I can find. I have not completely searched through the actual text of his works.

  • 1
    Welcome to Literature Stack Exchange, take our tour! Please look through the identification-request wiki and, if you can answer any of its questions, please edit your question. For example, was this story part of a collection or magazine? If so, do you remember anything else about it: other stories, what it was printed on (if it was printed), etc.? Were there accompanying illustrations? Was this in English? What context was this read in (from a store, for a high school class, etc.)? Every detail may help us identify the story you're looking for.
    – bobble
    Dec 6, 2021 at 21:59
  • Added some more details. (The anonymous edit is mine as well, I somehow got logged out in the middle of posting it)
    – RLH
    Dec 7, 2021 at 2:45
  • There's a searchable Complete Works of O. Henry at the Internet Archive.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Dec 7, 2021 at 9:59


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.