Short Story #278: The McWilliamses And The Burglar Alarm by Mark Twain

Title:  The McWilliamses And The Burglar Alarm

Author:  Mark Twain

Portrait of Mark Twain by AF Bradley.  Source:

The narrator is talking to Mr. McWilliams on a variety of topics until the conversation goes dry and McWilliams begins discussing his thoughts on burglar alarms.  He begins with talking about how when fixing the house up, they ended up with some extra money.  They put the money into a burglar alarm that was supposed to be the best.  One night, they smelled smoke and McWiliams when to investigate to find out it was a burglar who was smoking.  Disturbed by his smoking, he says something by the burglar chides him because he wasn't aware of the house rules.  McWilliams acquiesces.  But he does ask how the man got in and the burglar explains he came in on the second floor.  McWilliams gets them to put in the burglar system on the second floor.  What follows is a serious of more and more ridiculous situations where the alarm does and doesn't work for the wrong and right reasons.  At times, it becomes so easy for people to break in that the burglars hide out there in droves and the McWilliams find they have very little materials left.  With each fix they request, they find that there is some other issue and so are spending more and more money on the burglar alarm while continuing to lose more and more materials.  He ultimately threw the whole thing out and traded it in for a dog, which he shot later. 


It's standard Twain fair with it's further reach into ridiculousness.  Not as humorous as some of his other tales but it still has a good flavor and rhythm to it.  

Short Story #278 out of 365
Rating:  3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  9/15/2014
Source:  You can find this story in full at this website.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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  1. Belly laughed through out. Twain's style never in better form. Him telling this tale on tour is what they call a"ringer". Get's the audience every time. He was a trail blazing stand up comedian. I just like this farce of madness. Very hard to write stuff like this. .


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