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About the Author: Ralph Henry Barbour
Ralph Henry Barbour (1870-1944) wrote over 100 novels and numerous short stories for
boys that stressed the importance of team work and school spirit. Barbour studied in a
military academy in Worchester, where he wrote poetry. He discovered, he said, “that
certain words sounded alike and could be set down on paper in such a manner that certain
editors called them verse and paid good money for them.” Before graduation, he sold
many poems and jingles to weekly magazines under the pseudonym Richard Stillman
From his early success with poetry, he went on to become a reports for newspapers in
Boston. Denver, Chicago, and Philadelphia. Always loving sports. Barbour wrote his first
novel, The Half-Back, a football story in which the substitute wins the game. The novel sold
so well that Barbour gave up newspaper work to write sports stories full time. He never
lost interest in athletics and in boys who were heroes. His most famous short story was one
he heard from an acquaintance. George Osborne, and which Barbour entitled “Thicker Than
Water,” published in 1899. The story by Barbour and Osborne won first prize in Life
magazine’s short story contest in 1916.
Short Story: Thicker Than Water
Thicker Than Water
by Ralph Henry Barbour
Doctor Burroughs, summoned from the operating room, greeted his friend from the doorway: “Sorry,
Harry, but you’ll have to go on without me. I’ve got a case on the table that I can’t leave. Make my
excuses, will you?”
“There’s still an hour,” replied the visitor. “I’m early and can wait.”
“Then come in with me.” Markham followed to the operating room, white-walled, immaculate,
odorous of stale ether and antiseptics. On the table lay the sheeted form of a young girl. Only the
upper portion of the body was visible, and about the neck wet, red-stained bandages were bound. “A
queer case,” said the surgeon. “Brought here from a sweat-shop two hours ago. A stove-pipe fell and
gashed an artery in her neck. She’s bleeding to death. Blood’s supposed to be thicker than water,
but hers isn’t, poor girl. If it would clot she might pull through. Or I could save her by transfusion, but
we can’t find any relatives, and there’s mighty little time.”
The attending nurse entered. “The patient’s brother is here,” she announced, and is asking to see
“Her brother!” The surgeon’s face lighted. “What’s he like?”
“About twenty, Doctor; looks strong and healthy.”
“See him, Nurse. Tell him the facts. Say his sister will die unless he’ll give some blood to her. Or
wait!” He turned to Markham. “Harry, you do it! Persuasion’s your line. Make believe he’s a jury. But
put it strong, old man! And hurry! Every minute counts!”
The boy was standing stolidly in the waiting-room, only the pallor of his healthy skin and the anxiety
of his clear eyes hinting at the strain. Markham explained swiftly, concisely.
“Doctor Burroughs says it’s her one chance,” he ended.
The boy drew in his breath and paled visibly.
“You mean Nell’ll die if someone don’t swap his blood for hers?”
“Unless the blood she has lost is replaced — ”
“Well, quit beefin’,” interrupted the other roughly. “I’m here, ain’t I?”
When he entered the operating room the boy gave a low cry of pain, bent over the form on the table,
and pressed his lips to the white forehead. When he looked up his eyes were filled with tears. He
nodded to the surgeon.
Doggedly, almost defiantly, he submitted himself, but when the artery had been severed and the
blood was pulsing from his veins to the inanimate form beside him his expression changed to that of
abject resignation. Several times he sighed audibly, but as if from mental rather than bodily anguish.
The silence became oppressive. To Markham it seemed hours before the surgeon looked up from
his vigil and nodded to the nurse. Then:
“You’re a brave lad,” he said cheerfully to the boy. “Your sacrifice has won!”
The boy, pale and weak, tried to smile. “Thank God!” he muttered. Then, with twitching mouth: “Say,
Doc, how soon do I croak?”
“Why, not for a good many years, I hope.” The surgeon turned frowningly to Markham. “Didn’t you
explain that there was no danger to him?”
“God! I’m afraid I didn’t!” stammered Markham. “I was so keen to get his consent. Do you mean that
he thought — ”
The surgeon nodded pityingly and turned to the lad. “You’re not going to die,” he said gently. “You’ll
be all right tomorrow. But I’m deeply sorry you’ve suffered as you must have suffered the past hour.
You were braver than any of us suspected!”
“Aw, that’s all right,” muttered the boy. “She’s my sister, ain’t she?”
Assignment: Short Story Thicker Than Water (42 points)
You will be reading the short story Thicker Than Water. This is a story about the importance of
family relations and how can relatives help one another. As you are reading, connect with each
of the characters, to understand the way they think and act in serious situations. I also
encourage you to read About the Author. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Part 1. After reading the short story, complete the following exercises based on elements of a
short story, comprehension, and critical thinking.
1) What is the setting of the story?
a. Does the setting play an important role in the story? Explain
b. Does it take place in the present or the past? Explain
2) Characters:
a. Who are the main characters?
b. How does the author describe all the characters?
i. Thoughts and feelings =
ii. Interaction (how they act with other characters) =
iii. The way they speak =
c. Identify one quality that makes the main characters special.
3) Story Plot. Answer the following questions.
a. Exposition. How does the story begin?
b. Rising action. What series of events led to the rising action?
c. Climax. What is the most important and exiting point of the plot?
d. Falling action. How did the story begin to show a solution to the problem?
e. Resolution. How did the story end?
4) Write a summary that includes 8 sentences of the story. Use complete sentences, your
own words, and transitions (First, then, finally, etc.). I will be evaluating these given
5) Theme:
a. What are some possible themes of the story? Look at the chart on short story
b. What did you learn from the story?
Part 2. Answer the following critical thinking questions:
1. Are you willing to donate blood for someone who needs a transfusion to survive? Explain
your answer.
2. What does the title of the story mean to you?
3. If you had a family member that needed a blood transfusion, and some of your relatives
did not agree, which position would you take in favor or against? Why? Write at least 3
Recommendations to submit this assignment successfully:
Read the story until understood.
You must answer using your own words.
Revise your assignment before submitting.
If you have any questions or doubts, contact me.
Assignment Thicker Than Water
This assignment includes a short story titled Thicker Than Water. After reading the story you will
complete a series of exercises that are related to the elements of the short story, questions of
understanding and critical thinking. It is important that you read the instructions carefully and revise
each of the exercises included before submitting. It is worth 42 points.

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