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If you don’t like stories with witches or stories that are scary, you don’t have to worry about O. Henry’s story “Witches’ Loaves”. There are no witches in it. I’m not sure about the title, but perhaps it refers to another story somewhere – in the same manner that his Christmas story “The Gift of the Magi” doesn’t really have Magi in it. Perhaps Miss Martha Meachum, bakery owner, seemed a witch to the mild-mannered “artist” customer when she included butter with his usual two loaves a day of stale bread.
I loved the good intentions, or just plain flirting, gone awry in Miss Martha’s actions. One gets the idea that flirting is a frequent activity for her. One also gets the idea that flirting hasn’t really worked out so well for her, hence its continuance. My favorite line in the story revolved around her thought of “helping” the artist:
Butter was no emblem of unmaidenly forwardness.
This is only the second story I’ve read by O. Henry. It is amazing how well-crafted and how funny the short narrative is. The ending with a twist wasn’t earth-shattering but absolutely brilliant, anyway – proof positive of O. Henry’s status as one of the short story greats.