Maggie: A Girl of the Streets
The story opens on a young boy, Jimmie Johnson of the Rum Alley children, who is brawling with children from Devil's Row (a nearby area in the Bowery, in Manhattan). Jimmie fights with Blue Billie of Devil's Row, but their altercation is interrupted by the arrival of Pete, an older friend of Jimmie's.
Jimmie's parents constantly engage in terrible, noisy fights, and his father is an alcoholic. Jimmie and his siblings, Maggie and Timmie, do their best to remain unnoticed by their parents so as not to invoke their wrath.
Later, Timmie and Mr. Johnson die. When Maggie comes of age, she begins working in a cuff-making factory. Jimmie grows into a surly young man who enjoys fighting. Pete returns to visit Jimmie, in the process catching Maggie's eye. One night, Pete takes Maggie on a date and is surprised when she does not kiss him goodnight—indicating his true intentions. Maggie, however, entertains romantic notions of their future together.
Finally, after a terrible fight with her mother, Maggie leaves with Pete under the assumption that she has been seduced. Jimmie and Mrs. Johnson are upset with this turn of events, since Maggie's reputation is permanently besmirched in the neighborhood. Jimmie enlists Billie's help to fight Pete, but this does not change the situation.
Pete and Maggie, on a night out, encounter a woman named Nell. Pete is clearly interested in this woman, even abandoning Maggie at their table to spend time with Nell's original companion, Freddie. When Maggie attempts to return home, she is brutally rebuffed by her mother and brother. Maggie, deserted by everyone she knows, sees no choice but to turn to the streets.
Months later, Maggie is no longer a fresh prostitute in the neighborhood and has trouble attracting clients. She finally solicits a "huge fat man in torn and greasy garments" (Crane 49). He takes her to the edge of the river—her final scene.
Pete is seen cavorting with Nell and numerous other women at a bar. He becomes too drunk and passes out; the women, disgusted, leave him. Before leaving, Nell takes his money.
Jimmie informs his mother that Maggie has died (with the circumstances unexplained). Unexpectedly, Mrs. Johnson becomes hysterical, and Miss Smith and other neighbors feed her hysteria, working her into an emotional frenzy until she proclaims that she has forgiven Maggie.
"The Open Boat"
Four shipwrecked men, the correspondent, cook, oiler, and captain, are adrift in a dinghy and attempting to head to shore. Since he is injured, the captain gives orders, while the cook removes excess water from the dinghy, and Billie the oiler and the correspondent take turns rowing.
The men struggle not to lose hope for survival. United by the experience, they develop an unspoken comradeship. The cook believes they are close to a station where they can be aided if they are seen. As they approach the shore, the men do see a lighthouse; however, it is not a life-saving station. The men thus grow agitated that their hopes of being rescued are dashed. They attempt to reach the shore on their own, but the conditions make them return to sea.
Later, the four men see an omnibus and a group of people on shore. These people on shore do see the men, but instead of realizing that they are shipwreck survivors, the people simply wave cheerfully. Again, the four men remain unrescued. They endure another long night on the boat, growing more dejected and fatigued.
The next day, the captain directs them to land and instructs them on how to jump off the dinghy and swim to shore. They all make it to safety except for the oiler, who dies in the attempt. A man on the shore who sees them strips off his clothes to help the correspondent and the captain.
"The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky"
Jack Potter, the marshal of a town called Yellow Sky, has recently married a woman in San Antonio, Texas. He and his bride are in a train returning to Yellow Sky. During the journey, Jack feels insecure about his decision to marry Mrs. Potter without first having notified the townspeople.
Back in Yellow Sky, several men have congregated inside the town saloon. They are interrupted by a young man, who enters to announce that Scratchy Wilson is inebriated and roaming the town. In response, the bartender closes his saloon and blocks the entrance, explaining to one of his patrons that Scratchy may shoot up the town.
Scratchy Wilson is described walking through the streets of Yellow Sky, yelling and firing indiscriminately. Faced by no one, he finally decides to confront his longtime nemesis, Jack Potter. He arrives at Potter's home only to find it empty.
Mr. and Mrs. Potter finally arrive at home and are confronted by the belligerent Scratchy Wilson. When Potter gently explains to Wilson that he has been gone and has just been married, Wilson understands that their relationship has forever changed. He leaves the new couple alone.
"The Blue Hotel"
Irish immigrant Patrick Scully owns a hotel in Fort Romper, Nebraska. Every day, Scully waits at the train station to solicit guests. As the story opens, he brings back a Swede, a cowboy, and an Easterner. When they enter the hotel, Scully's son Johnnie is arguing with a farmer about a card game.
The Swede is visibly anxious and seems prepared for violent action. Scully does his best to make all of his guests comfortable. Since the farmer has departed, Johnnie challenges the new guests to a card game, with Johnnie and the cowboy on one team, the Easterner and the Swede on the other.
As the game progresses, the Swede becomes increasingly paranoid. Finally, he claims that he will be killed by one of the other players. Patrick is horrified to hear this outburst, particularly that the Swede wishes to leave. Patrick follows the Swede to his room and attempts to engage him in jovial conversation, then offers him whiskey. The Swede consents to stay.
The four players resume their game. The Swede evolves from being timid and paranoid to being loud and aggressive. Finally, he accuses Johnnie of cheating. To settle the matter, all of the men go outside to watch Johnnie and the Swede fight. The Swede beats Johnnie until he cannot physically stand. The Swede is triumphant.
The Swede takes his belongings and goes to another saloon in the town, where he brags of his violent feat. He invites the bartender to drink with him, but the man declines. Then, the Swede practically orders a group of men sitting at a nearby table to drink with him. One of these men is a gambler. The Swede grabs the gambler, who warns the Swede to remove his hands. When the Swede refuses, the gambler murders him, then calmly departs after telling the bartender that the police can find him at home.
Months later, the Easterner and the cowboy have a chance meeting. The cowboy still believes that the Swede was a foolish man and blames the bartender for his murder. Even so, the Easterner says that Johnnie had indeed been cheating in the card game. More importantly, the Easterner claims that all of the men present in the hotel that night, plus the gambler, were equally complicit in the Swede's untimely death.
In the fictional town of Whilomville, New York, Ned Trescott is the local doctor. When his house burns down, his black coachman, Henry Johnson, rescues Trescott’s son Jim. Unfortunately, Johnson is horribly disfigured by the fire in this act of heroism. Dr. Trescott, indebted to Johnson for saving Jim's life, nurses Johnson back to health. Yet, Johnson is permanently disfigured.
Due to pressure from others in the town, Trescott sends Johnson to live with Alek Williams, another black man whose house is more removed from Whilomville. Johnson escapes from the Williams house, however, and the townspeople believe they are terrorized by his presence. For example, he interrupts a young girl's birthday party and frightens one of her guests into near hysterics.
The town reacts poorly to Johnson's physical appearance. As a result, they also begin to shun the Trescott family. Other respected members in the town approach Trescott about sending Johnson to an institution. Trescott cannot forget Johnson's heroism, though, so he refuses to reject him. Eventually, the Trescott family is ostracized by the town simply for being kind and grateful to Henry Johnson.