The Fool-Killer (Henry)

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The Fool-Killer
Summary of the Short Story
from the Collection «The Voice of the City»
Microsummary: A man, envious of his artist friend's love for a factory girl, encounters the mythical Fool-Killer, who threatens his friend's life. He tries to save his friend by convincing the Fool-Killer to spare him.

In the South, there was a myth about a man named Jesse Holmes, known as the Fool-Killer. He was a feared figure who would appear whenever someone committed a particularly foolish act. The narrator, who was friends with an artist named Kerner, often called Kerner a fool for his decision to marry a factory girl named Elise, despite his wealthy father's disapproval.

The Narrator — narrator; envious of his friend's love; protective, imaginative.
Kerner — artist; in love with a factory girl; determined, sentimental.
Elise — factory girl; Kerner's love interest; natural, cheerful.

One evening, the narrator and Kerner were dining at a restaurant when the narrator decided to try an absinthe drip for the first time. As he drank, he noticed the Fool-Killer sitting nearby, staring at Kerner.

Jesse Holmes — mythical Fool-Killer; gray clothes, long gray beard, reddish eyes; relentless, vindictive.

You are a hopeless fool. Haven't you had enough of starvation yet? I offer you one more opportunity.

The narrator tried to warn Kerner, but he seemed oblivious to the presence of the mythical figure. The Fool-Killer approached their table and offered Kerner one last chance to give up Elise and return to his father's wealth, but Kerner refused.

Fearing for his friend's life, the narrator followed the Fool-Killer outside and pleaded with him not to kill Kerner.

Good Mr. Fool-Killer, please don't kill little Kerner. Why can't you go back South and kill Congressmen and clay-eaters and let us alone?

The Fool-Killer asked if the narrator knew Elise, and the narrator admitted that he did and that Kerner was a fool for not marrying her sooner. The Fool-Killer seemed to reconsider his decision and asked the narrator to bring Kerner to him.

When Kerner met with the Fool-Killer, it was revealed that the mythical figure was actually his estranged father. The father finally gave his blessing for Kerner to marry Elise, and the two men reconciled.

Rudolf, I'll give in. Bring her up to the house. Give me your hand, boy.

The narrator, still believing in the myth of Jesse Holmes, walked away, claiming he was going to look for the real Fool-Killer.