O. Henry is known for entertaining and clever short stories. Here is a list of some of his famous stories with a short summary for each.
This page contains some of O. Henry’s best and well known stories as well as lesser known works. A link is provided where possible for easy online reading.
Stories are listed in alphabetical order of the first word in the title, excluding “A”, “An” and “The”.
After Twenty Years | 1,260 words
A policeman makes his rounds, checking that the shop doors are secured for the night, when he sees a man waiting in an entrance way. The man explains that he and a friend made arrangements twenty years ago to meet there that night.
Brickdust Row | 2,900 words
Blinker is a wealthy landowner and landlord. He decides to go to Coney Island. On the ferry ride, he meets Florence, a young working-class woman.
By Courier | 1,420 words
A man and woman who aren’t on speaking terms use a young boy to run messages to each other in a park.
The Caballero’s Way | 4,650 words
A ranger, Lieutenant Sandridge, searches for the Cisco Kid, a murderer with a quick temper and quick draw.
The Cactus | 1,270 words
A man returns home after attending the wedding of his ex. He thinks about their courtship, and how much she adored him; he wonders why things went wrong.
The Caliph, Cupid and the Clock | 2,250 words
A very wealthy man poses as homeless and looks for opportunities to help people.
The Coming-Out of Maggie | 2,500 words
Maggie, a wallflower, is escorted to a dance by a man who attracts a lot of attention.
The Count and the Wedding Guest | 2,370 words
Mr. Donovan comforts a fellow boarder, Miss Conway, who is mourning the death of her fiancé.
The Defeat of the City | 2,375 words
Robert Walmsley, a former country boy, is a successful Manhattan lawyer and respected city gentleman. He married a high-status, inaccessible woman, Alicia Van Der Pool. One day she finds a letter from Robert’s mother, inviting them to visit the farm.
The Dream | 1,200 words
Murray is in a cell on death row. The time for his execution is almost here. He talks to his friend Bonifacio in a nearby cell. He is also visited by a reverend.
This is O. Henry’s last story and is incomplete. An editor fills in some information at the end.
From Each According to His Ability | 2,340 words
Vuyning is bored with the company at his club – the members always say the same things. He is also preoccupied with Miss Allison, who has refused his proposals five times. While out walking, he meets Schrumm, a con-man and thief. Vuyning is pleased that something is changing his usual routine.
The Furnished Room | 2,480 words
A young man searches boarding houses looking for the woman he loves, a small-town girl trying to break in to show business.
The Gift of the Magi | 2,080 words
A poor, married couple tries to figure out how to get each other a nice Christmas present.
The Green Door | 2,750 words
A man is handed a card on the street for “The Green Door”. He locates the door and knocks.
Hearts and Hands | 870 words
A marshal boards a train handcuffed to a prisoner. They sit opposite a beautiful woman who recognizes the marshal.
The Hiding of Black Bill | 4,460 words
A traveler is hired to herd sheep on a ranch. He and the owner talk about a robber, Black Bill, who’s being tracked in the area.
The Higher Pragmatism | 2,700 words
Jack is in love with Mildred, a woman above him socially and financially. He explains his situation to a vagrant. The vagrant, an ex-boxer, tells Jack the story of his career, which he believes serves as a parallel to Jack’s situation – he couldn’t stand up to the professionals.
The Last Leaf | 2,375 words
A few tenants in an apartment building are painters/artists. One of the tenants gets pneumonia, and she can see a vine from her deathbed window. She says she’s going to die when the vine loses its last leaf.
A Lickpenny Lover | 2,160 words
A wealthy aristocrat tries to woo a ditzy salesgirl.
A Little Talk About Mobs | 1,140 words
A tall man and a New Yorker talk about mob action in New York. The tall man explains that New York mobs are harmless, and don’t really mean any harm.
Lost on Dress Parade | 2,350 words
Mr. Chandler, a man of modest means, saves his money for an occasional night out. On one such excursion, he helps a young woman who has fallen, and asks her to dine with him.
The Love-Philtre of Ikey Schoenstein | 1,750 words
To ensure his planned elopement goes smoothly, a man goes to a druggist for a love potion. The druggist also loves the woman in question, so he tries to derail the man’s plan.
Mammon and the Archer | 2,300 words
The son of a millionaire is distressed because the young woman he loves is leaving the country in two days. She’s an aristocrat with a full social calendar, so he can’t even see her and doesn’t think his father’s money can help. His father disagrees.
The Memento | 3,400 words
Tired of the men she has to deal with as a vaudeville performer, Rosalie Ray retires to a small town.
A Newspaper Story | 1,300 words
The movement of a daily newspaper is tracked, along with the uses it is put to.
The Plutonian Fire | 2,350 words
A short story writer who had some fiction published in the South struggles to get an editor’s approval in New York.
The Princess and the Puma | 2,325 words
Josepha, princess of a large ranch, and Ripley, a ranch foreman, have an encounter with a Mexican lion.
A Retrieved Reformation | 2,800 words
A safe cracker who’s going straight is faced with a dilemma that could expose his culpability in several unsolved crimes.
The Romance of a Busy Broker | 1,380 words
Amid the rush of a workday, Harvey Maxwell, a broker, is overcome with feeling for a stenographer, Miss Leslie.
Schools and Schools | 3,730 words
A young woman goes to live with her uncle, forming a love-triangle with his adopted son and step-niece.
The Skylight Room | 2,300 words
A young woman stays in the cheapest room at a boarding house. She’s very popular with her fellow guests.
The Social Triangle | 1,900 words
Three men get to shake hands with people they really wanted to meet.
Springtime a la Carte | 2,200 words
A young woman has an arrangement to type the daily menu of a restaurant; one day the menu makes her cry.
Telemachus, Friend | 2,900 words
Telemachus Hicks tells the story of his mutilated left ear, which he claims is a relic of true friendship. He spent all his time with his best friend Paisley Fish. When they meet the Widow Jessup they are both attracted to her. The make a pact that they will court her fairly and equally, and that it won’t interfere with their friendship.
Transients in Arcadia | 2,050 words
A young woman and young man get acquainted at an expensive, but little-known, summer resort.
Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen | 2,000 words
An older, upper-class man has a tradition of treating a local destitute man to a hearty Thanksgiving meal. One year, the poor man arrives at their meeting place in a state that puts their tradition in jeopardy.
While the Auto Waits | 1,930 words
A young man strikes up a conversation with a young woman on a park bench. She complains about her life of wealth and luxury.
Witches’ Loaves | 1,265 words
Miss Martha is a forty-year-old woman who owns a small bakery. She has a regular customer, a middle-aged man who always buys two loaves of stale bread, never anything else. She takes an interest in him, and tries to find a way to get to know him.
The World and the Door | 4,865 words
Mr. Hedges goes out drinking with two younger friends, Merriam and Wade. Hedges gets quarrelsome and swings a chair at Merriam. He ducks and shoots Hedges.
As I come across more O. Henry short stories they will be added to this page.