I did a search for this and it came up empty. I though posting a summary could help those who did not understand the meaning of the story.

On a Denver, train, a pair of men handcuffed together board. There is a very elegant lady who happens to know one of the handcuffed men. The pair sit across from the elegant lady who asks if the man remembers her. The lady is horrified when she sees the handcuffs but he explains to her that he is the marshall and is transporting the prisoner to Leavenworth prison. Mr Easton, who is aquainted with Miss Fairchild explains that money was tight and he took a job transporting prisoners. The prisoner explains that all marshalls handcuff themselves to their prisoners to keep them from getting away after Miss Fairchild takes a nervous glance at the handcuffs. The prisoner says that he hasn’t had a drink and hasn’t smoked all day. They leave Miss Fairchild to go into the smoking car. One of the other passengers claims ”Pretty young to hold an office like that, isn’t he?”. Another passenger says ”why–Oh! didn’t you catch on? Say–did you ever know an officer to handcuff a prisoner to his right hand?” This is O. Henry’s way of telling the reader that Mr. Easton was actually the prisoner and the “prisoner” was actually the marshall transporting Mr. Easton to a new prison. The two men switched roles because Mr. Easton did not want Miss Fairchild to know that he was going to prison.

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  • ely on Sep 30, 2009

    thank u for posting this. so much help.

  • Dan Fagan on Sep 30, 2009

    You are very welcome Ely

  • Unknown on Oct 18, 2009

    Ah, that’s some smart thinking. Thank you.

  • jackson on Jan 3, 2010

    Thank u dan for this summary

  • Bianca on Jan 11, 2010

    Thiss truly helped because i was totally lost. Thanks

  • mia on Feb 2, 2010


  • palak on Feb 11, 2010

    thnx for this summary

  • Helga on Apr 22, 2010

    Thank you for your summary! It’s really helpful! :)

  • zeynz on May 7, 2010

    But Mr. Easton wanted to tell Mrs. Fairchild that he is going to go to prison.
    The real marshall didn\’t want Mrs. Fairchild to know that Mr. Easton is going to prison in order not to break her heart.

  • willie on Jun 19, 2010

    The summary above is wrong in one very important aspect. Easton does not himself ever claim he is a marshal transporting a prisoner.

    It is very important to realize that it is the marshall who starts and maintains this deception — he calls his prisoner “Marshal” as soon as he realizes that the young man knows the elegant young lady. The prisoner Easton doesn’t actually claim to be marshal but uses language about the need for taking a job that is ambiguous and could be referring to the counterfeiting that led to his arrest. He also says he is not likely to be back in Washington soon, which the lady can interpret to mean that his work keeps him too busy to be a social “butterfly” but which is really a veiled reference to the fact that he is going to Leavenworth prison. So the shackled Easton is not exactly duplicitous here but goes along with the ruse that the marshal plays, probably gratefully.

    The “glum” man that the lady takes as the prisoner asks to move into another car of the train for a smoke to extricate the two from the situation.

    One of the observers at the end says “That marshal’s a good sort of chap. Some of these Western fellows are all right.” Readers unaware of the twist presume this observer is talking about Easton. In reality, this observer knows the scoop and is talking about the “glum” actual marshal who has been play-acting as the prisoner just to allow his charge to “save face.” It is this “glum” self-effacing Westerner who the observer is saying is a “good sort of chap.” This is a level of moral depth that I think redeems this story from being just a “twist” story.

    What is fun about this story is that readers who don’t immediately catch on to what is happening are tricked by the wordings used by each participant into viewing the two men from the perspective of the young lady’s misunderstanding. Later, at the end, it is fruitful to re-read the story and see just how cleverly O. Henry has fashioned the references to the two men in language that is neutral and yet deceiving. We better enjoy the twist when we re-examine how the trick was achieved without Easton actually having to lie.

  • rixon on Dec 30, 2010

    Thanks Dan for the summary

  • Rulz on Jan 3, 2011

    Tnx 4 de summary

  • francis on Jan 10, 2011

    thank you very much dan

  • hello on Feb 10, 2011

    willie thnx man, and thank u dan too, both were helpful

  • hamada on Feb 12, 2011

    which summary is correct!?

  • hannah on Mar 2, 2011


  • shamli on Jun 5, 2011

    which summary is correct????

  • NITHIN on Aug 22, 2011


  • Alyssa Gordon on Oct 20, 2011

    Just read this story 2day i was paying attention but i dont whuch one i should choose idk………

  • korala on Jan 11, 2012

    thanks a lot this helps for my study

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