What is the external conflict in "A Retrieved Reformation"?
The external conflict in "A Retrieved Reformation" is between Ben Price and Jimmy Valentine. One might say that this conflict had been ongoing before the story even started. Ben Price had arrested Jimmy and had him sent to prison for a bank job in Springfield. "A Retrieved Reformation" opens with Jimmy working in the shoe shop in prison. When he gets pardoned and released, he immediately commits safecracking jobs at three different banks. These come to the attention of Ben Price, who is heard to remark:
“That's Dandy Jim Valentine's autograph. He's resumed business. Look at that combination knob—jerked out as easy as pulling up a radish in wet weather. He's got the only clamps that can do it. And look how clean those tumblers were punched out! Jimmy never has to drill but one hole. Yes, I guess I want Mr. Valentine. He'll do his bit next time without any short-time or clemency foolishness.”
So the conflict is resumed. Jimmy moves all the way to the small town of Elmore in Arkansas, where he hopes to change his identity and set up a small business as a "front" from which he can continue to commit safecracking jobs in a new territory. But he falls in love with a local girl and decides to go straight. Although Jimmy has not committed any crimes in the Arkansas area, Ben Price tracks him down and intends to arrest him for the three jobs he had committed in Richmond, Logansport, and Jefferson City. Price is in the bank owned by Jimmy's fiancee's father when Jimmy, who now calls himself Ralph Spencer, uses his specialized tools and expertise to save the life of a little girl who was accidentally locked in the new burglar-proof vault. Rather than arresting Jimmy, Ben Price terminates their long conflict when he says,
“Guess you're mistaken, Mr. Spencer,” he said. “Don't believe I recognize you. Your buggy's waiting for you, ain't it?”
And Ben Price turned and strolled down the street.