After Twenty Years


O. Henry

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Jimmy Wells and Bob are childhood best friends from New York City. Though they were like brothers in their youth, they gradually fell out of contact with one another. While Jimmy remained in New York, Bob moved out West to pursue his fortune. Before parting ways, however, the two of them agreed to meet 20 years later at Big Joe Brady’s Restaurant, the place where they last saw one another.

After 20 years, Bob is waiting for Jimmy at the restaurant when a police officer sees him lurking in a dark doorway. The police officer approaches Bob and Bob reassures him that he is only there to meet an old friend. After learning a bit about Bob’s story and his pact with Jimmy, the patrolman moves on.

Bob continues to wait for Jimmy long past their agreed-upon meeting time, confident that his friend will arrive. Eventually, a man in an overcoat approaches Bob and introduces himself as Jimmy. The two old friends embrace and walk arm in arm, telling each other about their lives. Eventually, however, they walk by a drug store with bright lights, and Bob realizes that the man is not Jimmy. It is too late, though, and the man reveals himself to be an undercover police officer. He arrests Bob, or rather, “Silky Bob,” and hands him a note from a police officer named “Patrolman Wells.” The note reveals that the officer from earlier in the story was Jimmy, but he couldn’t bring himself to arrest Bob, so he sent the plainclothes police officer instead.