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  1. #1
    keannu's Avatar
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    excuse the other hand;

    Why did he say "It's Miss Fairchild" when he can say "you are Miss Child"? What did he mean by "excuse the other hand"? I think it's because his hand is handcuffed with the prisoner. So did he say just for an etiquette?Does "engage" mean "active"? "active hand"?
    Hearts and Hands by O. Henry
    "Well, Mr. Easton, if you will make me speak first, I suppose I must. Don't vou ever recognize old friends when you meet them in the West?"
    The younger man roused himself sharply at the sound of her voice, seemed to struggle with a slight embarrassment which he threw off instantly, and then clasped her fingers with his left hand.
    "It's Miss Fairchild," he said, with a smile. "I'll ask you to excuse the other hand; "it's otherwise engaged just at present."
    <===Previous part...At Denver there was an influx of passengers into the coaches on the eastbound B. & M. express. In one coach there sat a very pretty young woman dressed in elegant taste and surrounded by all the luxurious comforts of an experienced traveler. Among the newcomers were two young men, one of handsome presence with a bold, frank countenance and manner; the other a ruffled, glum-faced person, heavily built and roughly dressed. The two were handcuffed together.

  2. #2
    emsr2d2's Avatar
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    Re: excuse the other hand;

    Quote Originally Posted by keannu View Post
    Why did he say "It's Miss Fairchild" when he can say "you are Miss Child"? What did he mean by "excuse the other hand"? I think it's because his hand is handcuffed with the prisoner. So did he say just for an etiquette?Does "engage" mean "active"? "active hand"?
    Hearts and Hands by O. Henry
    "Well, Mr. Easton, if you will make me speak first, I suppose I must. Don't vou ever recognize old friends when you meet them in the West?"
    The younger man roused himself sharply at the sound of her voice, seemed to struggle with a slight embarrassment which he threw off instantly, and then clasped her fingers with his left hand.
    "It's Miss Fairchild," he said, with a smile. "I'll ask you to excuse the other hand; "it's otherwise engaged just at present."
    <===Previous part...At Denver there was an influx of passengers into the coaches on the eastbound B. & M. express. In one coach there sat a very pretty young woman dressed in elegant taste and surrounded by all the luxurious comforts of an experienced traveler. Among the newcomers were two young men, one of handsome presence with a bold, frank countenance and manner; the other a ruffled, glum-faced person, heavily built and roughly dressed. The two were handcuffed together.
    Her previous statement about not recognising people, led him to say "It's Miss Fairchild". In these sorts of situations, we rarely say "You are..." and actually tell someone who they are. If a friend of mine came up to me unexpectedly in the street and tapped me on the shoulder, I would probably jump, spin around to see who it was and then say "Oh, it's you!", not "Oh, you are Jane!"

    Perhaps in those days, a man took a woman's hand in both his hands. He, however, has only used one hand to take hers. He is apologising for the absence of his other hand and saying that it is currently occupied doing something else - as you say, the other hand is currently handcuffed to another person!

    The handcuffing also explains the part in one of your previous posts which said "the linked couple". I now understand that it meant the two people who are held together with handcuffs. In case that wasn't clear, that means that one of the people had one end of the handcuff on their right wrist, the other person had the other end on their left wrist. So they both had one free hand, and one hand which was handcuffed to the other person's hand.

  3. #3
    JohnParis's Avatar
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    Re: excuse the other hand;

    Why did he say "It's Miss Fairchild" when he can say "you are Miss Child"? I think it was meant to be a slightly sarcastic remark because he already knew the lady.

    What did he mean by "excuse the other hand"?
    In greeting her, he was forced to use his left hand to shake the hand of Miss Fairchild. He was making excuses for not being able to shake the hand of Miss Fairchild correctly (right hand to right hand) because his hand was handcuffed to his fellow prisoner.

    So did he say just for an etiquette? Probably. He was, in my opinion, being
    polite and slightly sarcastic.

    Does "engage" mean "active"? "active hand"? No, here engaged means busy or occupied. His hand was busy being cuffed to the other prisoner and therefore of no use.

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