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Born into poverty in North Carolina, William Porter came to Texas and worked at odd jobs and as a writer for the Houston Daily Post. In 1896 he was convicted of embezzling funds from a bank in Austin. He fled to Central America, leaving his wife, but returned and surrendered when she became ill. Sentenced to five years in prison, Porter began writing short stories and publishing them under the name O. Henry. When he was released, he went to New York, where he became famous for his tales about ordinary people. Irony, sentimentality and coincidence figured in his stories, as well as humor, as in his celebrated tale The Ransom of Red Chief. His other notable stories include The Gift of the Magi and The Furnished Room.