I'd swear it's O. Henry, but all I'm getting is his real life embezzlement.

In a small town bank, an audit turns up a small ($5?) discrepancy, which eventually leads to discovering that one of the employees stole a large amount in the past, but thought they'd put it all back (maybe the issue was that they put too much back?). They manage to find a way to fix the discrepancy under the auditor's nose, only to find out that the discrepancy is now in the other direction... I have a vague memory of the auditor coming to them, looking ashamed, saying that two bills had stuck to each other, causing his error.

Part of me wants to say that it turns out that more than one person was found to have done this, further muddying who might have put too much or too little into the bank account. I've done several searches in the Gutenberg texts, and have run into a number of O'Henry stories involving bank situations, including bank examiners showing up, but nothing that really matches this.

I probably read it somewhere in the late 1980s to the early 1990s, which would be around the time that I was devouring my parents' O. Henry books, as well as other large swaths of their bookshelf.

  • This rang a bell with me and I thought it might have been a Thurber short story, but Googling has yielded nothing. Jun 27, 2023 at 19:40

1 Answer 1


As I remember the story, the auditor comes to the president of a small bank, saying that the bank is short (I don't remember how much, but it is a single bill, which turns out to be important).

The president insists the auditor redo the count, and while waiting for the result, each of his employees comes to him and admits to having borrowed money from their till, although all of them thought that they had paid it back.

The auditor returns, having found the mistake: a bill had been folded double, so that when a bundle was counted it appeared to be short (and if the bundle had been turned the other way around, it would have appeared to be over).

The banker accepts his apology graciously — and then, once the auditor is safely gone, reflects with relief that he had been certain that it was himself who had borrowed money and forgotten to pay it back!

I think the story dates from the 50's ... and I cannot remember the title or author, but I'm pretty sure it's not O. Henry. So, not a great answer, but maybe it will put someone else on the track. Westlake, maybe?

  • That all sounds plausible. Hopefully, someone can figure it out. May 19, 2023 at 2:06
  • Maybe one day we'll find it... Jul 4, 2023 at 21:59

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