3:16 pm - Monday January 20, 5716

Calloway’s Code-by O Henry-Novel and Ebooks

Novel Name:Calloway’s Code

Written by:O Henry

Category:Classics, Fiction, Authors

Page 1:

The New York Enterprise sent H. B. Calloway as special correspondent to the Russo-Japanese-Portsmouth war.

For two months Calloway hung about Yokohama and Tokio, shaking dice with the other correspondents for drinks of ‘rickshaws — oh, no, that’s something to ride in; anyhow, he wasn’t earning the salary that his paper was paying him. But that was not Calloway’s fault. The little brown men who held the strings of Fate between their fingers were not ready for the readers of the Enterprise to season their breakfast bacon and eggs with the battles of the descendants of the gods.

But soon the column of correspondents that were to go out with the First Army tightened their field-glass belts and went down to the Yalu with Kuroki. Calloway was one of these.

Now, this is no history of the battle of the Yalu River. That has been told in detail by the correspondents who gazed at the shrapnel smoke rings from a distance of three miles. But, for justice’s sake, let it be understood that the Japanese commander prohibited a nearer view.

Calloway’s feat was accomplished before the battle. What he did was to furnish the Enterprise with the biggest beat of the war. That paper published exclu- sively and in detail the news of the attack on the lines of the Russian General on the same day that it was made. No other paper printed a word about it for two days afterward, except a London paper, whose account was absolutely incorrect and untrue.

Calloway did this in face of the fact that General Kuroki was making, his moves and living his plans with the pro- foundest secrecy, as far as the world outside his camps was concerned. The correspondents were forbidden to send out any news whatever of his plans; and every message that was allowed on the wires was censored — with rigid severity.

The correspondent for the London paper handed in a cablegram describing, Kuroki’s plans; but as it was wrong from beginning to end the censor grinned and let it go through.

So, there they were — Kuroki on one side of the Yalu with forty-two thousand infantry, five thousand cavalry, and one hundred and twenty-four guns. On the other side, Zassulitch waited for him with only twenty-three thousand men, and with a long stretch of river to guard. And Calloway had got hold of some important inside information that he knew would bring the Enterprise staff around a cablegram as thick as flies around a Park Row lemonade stand. If he could only get that message past the censor — the new censor who had arrived and taken his post that day!

Calloway did the obviously proper thing. He lit his pipe and sat down on a gun carriage to think it over. And there we must leave him; for the rest of the story belongs to Vesey, a sixteen-dollar-a-week reporter on the Enterprise.

Calloway’s cablegram was handed to the managing editor at four o’clock in the afternoon. He read it three times; and then drew a pocket mirror from a pigeon-hole in his desk, and looked at his reflection carefully. Then he went over to the desk of Boyd, his assistant (he usually called Boyd when he wanted him), and laid the cablegram before him.

“It’s from Calloway,” he said. “See what you make of it.”

The message was dated at Wi-ju, and these were the words of it:

Foregone preconcerted rash witching goes muffled rumour mine dark silent unfortunate richmond existing great hotly brute select mooted parlous beggars ye angel incontrovertible.

Boyd read it twice.

“It’s either a cipher or a sunstroke,” said he.

“Ever hear of anything like a code in the office — a secret code?” asked the m. e., who had held his desk for only two years. Managing editors come and go.

“None except the vernacular that the lady specials write in,” said Boyd. “Couldn’t be an acrostic, could it?”

“I thought of that,” said the m. e., “but the beginning letters contain only four vowels. It must be a code of some sort.”

“Try em in groups,” suggested Boyd. “Let’s see — ‘Rash witching goes’ — not with me it doesn’t. ‘Muf- fled rumour mine’ — must have an underground wire. ‘Dark silent unfortunate richmond’ — no reason why he should knock that town so hard. ‘Existing great hotly’ — no it doesn’t pan out I’ll call Scott.”

The city editor came in a hurry, and tried his luck. A city editor must know something about everything; so Scott knew a little about cipher-writing.

“It may be what is called an inverted alphabet cipher,” said he. “I’ll try that. ‘R’ seems to be the oftenest used initial letter, with the exception of ‘m.’ Assuming ‘r’ to mean ‘e’, the most frequently used vowel, we transpose the letters — so.”

Scott worked rapidly with his pencil for two minutes; and then showed the first word according to his reading — the word “Scejtzez.”

“Great!” cried Boyd. “It’s a charade. My first is a Russian general. Go on, Scott.”

“No, that won’t work,” said the city editor. “It’s undoubtedly a code. It’s impossible to read it without the key. Has the office ever used a cipher code?”

“Just what I was asking,” said the m.e. “Hustle everybody up that ought to know. We must get at it some way. Calloway has evidently got hold of some- thing big, and the censor has put the screws on, or he wouldn’t have cabled in a lot of chop suey like this.”

Throughout the office of the Enterprise a dragnet was sent, hauling in such members of the staff as would be likely to know of a code, past or present, by reason of their wisdom, information, natural intelligence, or length of servitude. They got together in a group in the city room, with the m. e. in the centre. No one had heard of a code. All began to explain to the head investi- gator that newspapers never use a code, anyhow — that is, a cipher code. Of course the Associated Press stuff is a sort of code — an abbreviation, rather — but —

The m. e. knew all that, and said so. He asked each man how long he had worked on the paper. Not one of them had drawn pay from an Enterprise envelope for longer than six years. Calloway had been on the paper twelve years. “Try old Heffelbauer,” said the m. e. “He was here when Park Row was a potato patch.”

Heffelbauer was an institution. He was half janitor, half handy-man about the office, and half watchman — thus becoming the peer of thirteen and one-half tailors.

Sent for, he came, radiating his nationality. “Heffelbauer,” said the m. e., “did you ever hear of a code belonging to the office a long time ago – a private code? You know what a code is, don’t you?”

Filed in: Classics, Fantasy, Fiction

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