home | authors | books | about

Home -> O. Henry -> The Clarion Call

The Clarion Call

Short Stories


A Bird of Bagdad

A Blackjack Bargainer

A Call Loan

A Chaparral Christmas Gift

A Chaparral Prince

A Comedy in Rubber

A Cosmopolite in a Cafe

A Departmental Case

A Dinner at--------*

A Double-Dyed Deceiver

A Fog in Santone

A Harlem Tragedy

A Lickpenny Lover

A Little Local Colour

A Little Talk about Mobs

A Madison Square Arabian Night

A Matter of Mean Elevation

A Midsummer Knight's Dream

A Midsummer Masquerade

A Municipal Report

A Newspaper Story

A Night in New Arabia

A Philistine in Bohemia

A Poor Rule

A Ramble in Aphasia

A Retrieved Reformation

A Ruler of Men

A Sacrifice Hit

A Service of Love

A Snapshot at the President

A Strange Story

A Technical Error

A Tempered Wind

According to Their Lights

After Twenty Years

An Adjustment of Nature

An Afternoon Miracle

An Apology

An Unfinished Christmas Story

An Unfinished Story

Aristocracy Versus Hash

Art and the Bronco

At Arms With Morpheus

Babes in the Jungle


Between Rounds

Bexar Scrip No. 2692

Blind Man's Holiday

Brickdust Row

Buried Treasure

By Courier

Calloway's Code


Cherchez La Femme

Christmas by Injunction

Compliments of the Season

Confessions of a Humorist

Conscience in Art

Cupid a La Carte

Cupid's Exile Number Two


Dougherty's Eye-Opener

Elsie in New York

Extradited from Bohemia

Fickle Fortune or How Gladys Hustled

Friends in San Rosario

From Each According to His Ability

From the Cabby's Seat

Georgia's Ruling


He Also Serves

Hearts and Crosses

Hearts and Hands

Helping the Other Fellow

Holding Up a Train

Hostages to Momus

Hygeia at the Solito

Innocents of Broadway

Jeff Peters as a Personal Magnet

Jimmy Hayes and Muriel

Law and Order

Let Me Feel Your Pulse

Little Speck in Garnered Fruit

Lord Oakhurst's Curse

Lost on Dress Parade

Madame Bo-Peep, of the Ranches

Makes the Whole World Kin

Mammon and the Archer

Man About Town

Masters of Arts

Memoirs of a Yellow Dog

Modern Rural Sports

Money Maze

Nemesis and the Candy Man

New York by Camp Fire Light

Next to Reading Matter

No Story

October and June

On Behalf of the Management

One Dollar's Worth

One Thousand Dollars

Out of Nazareth

Past One at Rooney's


Proof of the Pudding

Psyche and the Pskyscraper

Queries and Answers

Roads of Destiny

Roses, Ruses and Romance

Rouge et Noir

Round the Circle

Rus in Urbe

Schools and Schools

Seats of the Haughty

Shearing the Wolf



Sisters of the Golden Circle


Sociology in Serge and Straw

Sound and Fury

Springtime a La Carte

Squaring the Circle

Strictly Business

Strictly Business

Suite Homes and Their Romance

Telemachus, Friend

The Admiral

The Adventures of Shamrock Jolnes

The Assessor of Success

The Atavism of John Tom Little Bear

The Badge of Policeman O'Roon

The Brief Debut of Tildy

The Buyer From Cactus City

The Caballero's Way

The Cactus

The Caliph and the Cad

The Caliph, Cupid and the Clock

The Call of the Tame

The Chair of Philanthromathematics

The Champion of the Weather

The Church with an Overshot-Wheel

The City of Dreadful Night

The Clarion Call

The Coming-Out of Maggie

The Complete Life of John Hopkins

The Cop and the Anthem

The Count and the Wedding Guest

The Country of Elusion

The Day Resurgent

The Day We Celebrate

The Defeat of the City

The Detective Detector

The Diamond of Kali

The Discounters of Money

The Dog and the Playlet

The Door of Unrest

The Dream

The Duel

The Duplicity of Hargraves

The Easter of the Soul

The Emancipation of Billy

The Enchanted Kiss

The Enchanted Profile

The Ethics of Pig

The Exact Science of Matrimony

The Ferry of Unfulfilment

The Fifth Wheel

The Flag Paramount

The Fool-Killer

The Foreign Policy of Company 99

The Fourth in Salvador

The Friendly Call

The Furnished Room

The Gift of the Magi

The Girl and the Graft

The Girl and the Habit

The Gold That Glittered

The Greater Coney

The Green Door

The Guardian of the Accolade

The Guilty Party - An East Side Tragedy

The Halberdier of the Little Rheinschloss

The Hand that Riles the World

The Handbook of Hymen

The Harbinger

The Head-Hunter

The Hiding of Black Bill

The Higher Abdication

The Higher Pragmatism

The Hypotheses of Failure

The Indian Summer of Dry Valley Johnson

The Lady Higher Up

The Last Leaf

The Last of the Troubadours

The Lonesome Road

The Lost Blend

The Lotus And The Bottle

The Love-Philtre of Ikey Schoenstein

The Making of a New Yorker

The Man Higher Up

The Marionettes

The Marquis and Miss Sally

The Marry Month of May

The Memento

The Missing Chord

The Moment of Victory

The Octopus Marooned

The Passing of Black Eagle

The Pendulum

The Phonograph and the Graft

The Pimienta Pancakes

The Plutonian Fire

The Poet and the Peasant

The Pride of the Cities

The Princess and the Puma

The Prisoner of Zembla

The Proem

The Purple Dress

The Ransom of Mack

The Ransom of Red Chief

The Rathskeller and the Rose

The Red Roses of Tonia

The Reformation of Calliope

The Remnants of the Code

The Renaissance at Charleroi

The Roads We Take

The Robe of Peace

The Romance of a Busy Broker

The Rose of Dixie

The Rubaiyat of a Scotch Highball

The Rubber Plant's Story

The Shamrock and the Palm

The Shocks of Doom

The Skylight Room

The Sleuths

The Snow Man

The Social Triangle

The Song and the Sergeant

The Sparrows in Madison Square

The Sphinx Apple

The Tale of a Tainted Tenner

The Theory and the Hound

The Thing's the Play

The Third Ingredient

The Trimmed Lamp

The Unknown Quantity

The Unprofitable Servant

The Venturers

The Vitagraphoscope

The Voice of the City

The Whirligig of Life

The World and the Door

Thimble, Thimble


To Him Who Waits

Tobin's Palm

Tommy's Burglar

Tracked to Doom

Transformation of Martin Burney

Transients in Arcadia

Two Recalls

Two Renegades

Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen

Ulysses and the Dogman

Vanity and Some Sables

What You Want

While the Auto Waits

Whistling Dick's Christmas Stocking

Witches' Loaves

Half of this story can be found in the records of
the Police Department; the other half belong behind
the business counter of a newspaper office.

One afternoon two weeks after Millionaire Nor-
cross was found in his apartment murdered by a bur-
glar, the murderer, while strolling serenely down
Broadway ran plump against Detective Barney

"Is that you, Johnny Kernan?" asked Woods,
who had been near-sighted in public for five years.

"No less," cried Kernan, heartily. "If it isn't
Barney Woods, late and early of old Saint Jo!
You'll have to show me! What are you doing East?
Do the green-goods circulars get out that far?"
said Woods.

"I've been in New York some years, I'm on the city
detective force."

"Well, well!" said Kernan, breathing smiling joy
and patting the detective's arm.

"Come into Muller's," said Woods, "and let's
hunt a quiet table. I'd like to talk to you awhile."

It lacked a few minutes to the hour of four. The
tides of trade were not yet loosed, and they found a
quiet corner of the cafe. Kernan, well dressed
Slightly swaggering, self-confident, seated himself op-
posite the little detective, with his pale, sandy mus-
tache, squinting eyes and ready-made cheviot suit.

"What business are you in now?" asked Woods.
"You know you left Saint Jo a year before I did."

"I'm selling shares in a copper mine," said Ker-
nan. "I may establish an office here. Well, well!
and so old Barney is a New York detective. You
always had a turn that way. You were on the po-
lice in Saint Jo after I left there, weren't you?"

"Six months," said Woods. "And now there's one
more question, Johnny. I've followed your record
pretty close ever since you did that hotel job in Sara-
toga, and I never knew you to use your gun before.
Why did you kill Norcross?"

Kernan stared for a few moments with concen-
trated attention at the slice of lemon in his high-ball;
and then be looked at the detective with a sudden,
crooked, brilliant smile.

"How did you guess it, Barney? " he asked, ad-
miringly. "I swear I thought the job was as clean
and as smooth as a peeled onion. Did I leave a string
hanging out anywhere? "

Woods laid upon the table a small gold pencil in-
tended for a watch-charm.

"It's the one I gave you the last Christmas we
were in Saint Jo. I've got your shaving mug yet.
I found this under a corner of the rug in Norcross's
room. I warn you to be careful what you say. I've
got it put on to you, Johnny. We were old friends
once, but I must do my duty. You'll have to go to
the chair for Norcross." Kernan laughed.

"My luck stays with me," said be. "Who'd have
thought old Barney was on my trail!" He slipped
one hand inside his coat. In an instant Woods had
a revolver against his side.

"Put it away," said Kernan, wrinkling his nose.
"I'm only investigating. Aha! It takes nine tailors
to make a man, but one can do a man up. There's
a hole in that vest pocket. I took that pencil off my
chain and slipped it in there in case of a scrap. Put
up your gun, Barney, and I'll tell you why I had
to shoot Norcross. The old fool started down the
hall after me, popping at the buttons on the back of
my coat with a peevish little .22 and I had to stop
him. The old lady was a darling. She just lay in
bed and saw her $12,000 diamond necklace go with-
out a chirp, while she begged like a panhandler to
have back a little thin gold ring with a garnet worth
about $3. 1 guess she married old Norcross for his
money, all right. Don't they hang on to the little
trinkets from the Man Who Lost Out, though?
There were six rings, two brooches and a chatelaine
watch. Fifteen thousand would cover the lot."

"I warned you not to talk," said Woods.

"Oh, that's all right," said Kernan. "The stuff
is in my suit case at the hotel. And now I'll tell you
why I'm talking. Because it's safe. I'm talking to
a man I know. You owe me a thousand dollars, Bar-
ney Woods, and even if you wanted to arrest me your
hand wouldn't make the move."

"I haven't forgotten," said Woods. "You counted
out twenty fifties without a word. I'll pay it back
some day. That thousand saved me and -- well, they
were piling my furniture out on the sidewalk when I
got back to the house."

"And so," continued Kernan, "you being Barney
Woods, born as true as steel, and bound to play a
white man's game, can't lift a finger to arrest the
man you're indebted to. Oh, I have to study men
as well as Yale locks and window fastenings in my
business. Now, keep quiet while I ring for the
waiter. I've had a thirst for a year or two that wor-
ries me a little. If I'm ever caught the lucky sleuth
will have to divide honors with old boy Booze. But I
never drink during business hours. After a job I
can crook elbows with my old friend Barney with a
clear conscience. What are you taking?"

The waiter came with the little decanters and the
siphon and left them alone again.

"You've called the turn," said Woods, as he rolled
the little gold pencil about with a thoughtful fore-
finger. I've got to pass you up. I can't lay a
hand on you. If I'd a-paid that money back -- but
I didn't, and that settles it. It's a bad break I'm
making, Johnny, but I can't dodge it. You helped
me once, and it calls for the same."

"I knew it," said Kernan, raising his glass, with
a flushed smile of self-appreciation. "I can judge
men. Here's to Barney, for -- 'he's a jolly good
fellow.' "

"I don't believe," went on Woods quietly, as if be
were thinking aloud, "that if accounts had been
square between you and me, all the money in all the
banks in New York could have bought you out of
my hands to-night."

"I know it couldn't," said Kernan. "That's why
I knew I was safe with you."

"Most people," continued the detective, "look side-
ways at my business. They don't class it among the
fine arts and the professions. But I've always taken
a kind of fool pride in it. And here is where I go
'busted.' I guess I'm a man first and a detective
afterward. I've got to let you go, and then I've got
to resign from the force. I guess I can drive an ex-
press wagon. Your thousand dollars is further off
than ever, Johnny."

"Oh, you're welcome to it," said Kernan, with a
lordly air. "I'd be willing to call the debt off, but
I know you wouldn't have it It was a lucky day
for me when you borrowed it. And now, let's drop
the subject. I'm off to the West on a morning train.
I know a place out there where I can negotiate the
Norcross sparks. Drink up, Barney, and forget your
troubles. We'll have a jolly time while the police
are knocking their heads together over the case.
I've got one of my Sahara thirsts on to-night. But
I'm in the bands -- the unofficial bands -- of my old
friend Barney, and I won't even dream of a cop."

And then, as Kernan's ready finger kept the but-
ton and the waiter working, his weak point -- a tre-
mendous vanity and arrogant egotism, began to show
itself. He recounted story after story of his suc-
cessful plunderings, ingenious plots and infamous
transgressions until Woods, with all his familiarity
with evil-doers, felt growing within him a cold ab-
horrence toward the utterly vicious man who had
once been his benefactor.

"I'm disposed of, of course," said Woods, at
length. "But I advise you to keep under cover for a
spell. The newspapers may take up this Norcross
affair. There has been an epidemic of burglaries and
manslaughter in town this summer."

The word sent Kernan into a high glow of sullen
and vindictive rage.

"To hell with the newspapers," he growled.
"What do they spell but brag and blow and boodle in
box-car letters? Suppose they do take up a case
what does it amount to? The police are easy enough
to fool; but what do the newspapers do? They send
a lot of pin-head reporters around to the scene; and
they make for the nearest saloon and have beer while
they take photos of the bartender's oldest daughter
in evening dress, to print as the fiancee of the young
man in the tenth story, who thought he heard a noise
below on the night of the murder. That's about as
near as the newspapers ever come to running down
Mr. Burglar."

"Well, I don't know," said Woods, reflecting.
"Some of the papers have done good work in that
line. There's the Morning Mars, for instance. It
warmed up two or three trails, and got the man after
the police had let 'em get cold."

"I'll show you," said Tiernan, rising, and expand-
ing his chest. "I'll show you what I think of news-
papers in general, and your Morning Mars in par-

Three feet from their table was the telephone
booth. Kernan went inside and sat at the instrument,
leaving the door open. He found a number in the
book, took down the receiver and made his demand
upon Central. Woods sat still, looking at the sneer-
ing, cold, vigilant face waiting close to the trans-
mitter, and listened to the words that came from the
thin, truculent lips curved into a contemptuous smile.

"That the Morning Mars? . . . I want to
speak to the managing editor . . . Why, tell
him it's some one who wants to talk to him about the
Norcross murder.

"You the editor? . . . All right. . . . I
am the man who killed old Norcross . . . Wait!
Hold the wire; I'm not the usual crank . . . oh,
there isn't the slightest danger. I've just been dis-
cussing it with a detective friend of mine. I killed
the old man at 2:30 A. M. two weeks ago to-
morrow. . . . Have a drink with you? Now,
hadn't you better leave that kind of talk to your
funny man? Can't you tell whether a man's guying
you or whether you're being offered the biggest scoop
your dull dishrag of a paper ever had? . . .
Well, that's so; it's a bobtail scoop -- but you can
hardly expect me to 'phone in my name and address.

. . . Why? Oh, because I beard you make a
specialty of solving mysterious crimes that stump the
police. . . . No, that's not all. I want to tell
you that your rotten, lying, penny sheet is of no more
use in tracking an intelligent murderer or highway-
man than a blind poodle would be. . . . What?
. . . Oh, no, this isn't a rival newspaper office;
you're getting it straight. I did the Norcross job,
and I've got the jewels in my suit case at -- 'the
name of the hotel could not be learned' -- you recog-
nize that phrase, don't you? I thought so. You've
used it often enough. Kind of rattles you, doesn't
it, to have the mysterious villain call up your great,
big, all-powerful organ of right and justice and good
government and tell you what a helpless old gas-bag
you are? . . . Cut that out; you're not that big
a fool -- no, you don't think I'm a fraud. I can tell
it by your voice. . . . Now, listen, and I'll give
you a pointer that will prove it to you. Of course
you've had this murder case worked over by your staff
of bright young blockheads. Half of the second but-
ton on old Mrs. Norcross's nightgown is broken off.
I saw it when I took the garnet ring off her finger.
I thought it was a ruby. . . . -- Stop that! it
won't work."

Kernan turned to Woods with a diabolic smile.

"I've got him going. He believes me now. He
didn't quite cover the transmitter with his hand when
he told somebody to call up Central on another 'phone
and get our number. I'll give him just one more dig,
and then we'll make a 'get-away.'

"Hello! . . . Yes. I'm here yet. You
didn't think -- I'd run from such a little subsidized, turn-
coat rag of a newspaper, did you? . . . Have
me inside of forty-eight hours? Say, will you quit
being funny? Now, you let grown men alone and at-
tend to your business of hunting up divorce cases
and street-car accidents and printing the filth and
scandal that you make your living by. Good-by, old
boy -- sorry I haven't time to call on you. I'd feel
perfectly safe in your sanctum asinorum. Tra-la!"

"He's as mad as a cat that's lost a mouse," said
Kernan, hanging up the receiver and coming out.

"And now, Barney, my boy, we'll go to a show and
enjoy ourselves until a reasonable bedtime. Four
hours' sleep for me, and then the west-bound."

The two dined in a Broadway restaurant. Kernan
was pleased with himself. He spent money like a
prince of fiction. And then a weird and gorgeous
musical comedy engaged their attention. Afterward
there was a late supper in a grillroom, with
champagne, and Kernan at the height of his com-

Half-past three in the morning found them in a
corner of an all-night cafe, Kernan still boasting in
a vapid and rambling way, Woods thinking moodily
over the end that had come to his usefulness as an
upholder of the law.

But, as he pondered, his eye brightened with a
speculative light.

"I wonder if it's possible," be said to himself, "I
won-der if it's pos-si-ble!

And then outside the cafe the comparative stillness
of the early morning was punctured by faint, uncer-
tain cries that seemed mere fireflies of sound, some
growing louder, some fainter, waxing and waning
amid the rumble of milk wagons and infrequent cars.
Shrill cries they were when near -- well-known cries
that conveyed many meanings to the ears of those of
the slumbering millions of the great city who waked
to hear them. Cries that bore upon their significant,
small volume the weight of a world's woe and laugh-
ter and delight and stress. To some, cowering be-
neath the protection of a night's ephemeral cover,
they brought news of the hideous, bright day; to
others, wrapped in happy sleep, they announced a
morning that would dawn blacker than sable night.
To many of the rich they brought a besom to sweep
away what had been theirs while the stars shone; to
the poor they brought -- another day.

All over the city the cries were starting up, keen
and sonorous, heralding the chances that the slip-
ping of one cogwheel in the machinery of time had
made; apportioning to the sleepers while they lay
at the mercy of fate, the vengeance, profit, grief,
reward and doom that the new figure in the calen-
dar had brought them. Shrill and yet plaintive
were the cries, as if the young voices grieved that so
much evil and so little good was in their irresponsible
hands. Thus echoed in the streets of the helpless
city the transmission of the latest decrees of the gods,
the cries of the newsboys -- the Clarion Call of the

Woods flipped a dime to the waiter, and said:
"Get me a Morning Mars."

When the paper came he glanced at its first page,
and then tore a leaf out of his memorandum book
and began to write on it with the little old pencil.

"What's the news?"' yawned Kernan.

Woods flipped over to him the piece of writing:

"The New York Morning Mars:

"Please pay to the order of John Kernan the one thousand
dollars reward coming to me for his arrest and conviction.


"I kind of thought they would do that," said
Woods, "when you were jollying them so hard. Now,
Johnny, you'll come to the police station with me."

© Art Branch Inc. | English Dictionary