Chapter 6 After Twenty Years

After Twenty Years is a short story written by O’Henry that celebrates and questions friendship and loyalty. All you need to know and learn about this chapter is given below.

Meet the Author

  • William Sydney Porter is the most popular American story writer in the late 19th century. He is known by his pen name, O’Henry.
  • Born: 11 September 1862
  • Place of Birth: North Carolina, USA.
  • Died: 5 June 1910
  • Major Works: The Last Leaf, The Gift of Magi, and The Ransom of Red Chief.
  • Best known for: He is known for his unexpected endings involving sudden twists. He captures human emotions and connections in an intrinsic manner. ‘After Twenty Years’ is a great example of his writing style.
A friendly chat
A friendly chat

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Summary of the Chapter

The story After Twenty Years by O’Henry is set in New York. The time was 10 pm and the policeman discovered a man standing in the dark doorways. The policeman on his regular route was surprised to see a man in the dark since usually people are not out during that hour.

In the doorway of a darkened hardware store a man was lighting his cigar. As the police officer approached him he said that he was waiting for his friend. He told the offer that twenty years ago they had made an agreement to meet at this place. Earlier in the place of the current hardware shop there was a restaurant named ‘Big Joe Brady’s’.

The police officer replied that the restaurant was torn down five years ago. The man in the doorway then lit his cigar. The officer could see his face in this light. He noted that the man was pale and had a square-jawed face with keen eyes. He had a white scar on his right eyebrow. He also wore a scarfpin that had diamonds.

Twenty years ago tonight,” said the man, “I dined here at Big Joe Brady’s with Jimmy Wells, my best chum, and the finest chap in the world.

The man in the doorways started to narrate his life to the police officer. His name was Bob. Twenty years ago he dined with his best friend Jimmy Wells in this restaurant. He was then starting to the West to make a fortune while Jimmy wanted to stay back in New York. On that night they agreed that they would meet each other again after 20 years in the same spot. He had traveled from the West to New York to meet him.

By then the police officer showed great interest in the conversation and enquired whether he had heard from him after they parted ways. Bob replied that they kept correspondence for a few years and slowly drifted apart. At the same time the man was confident that his friend Jimmy would come to that spot to meet him if he was alive. He described Jimmy as the ‘staunchest chap in the whole world’.

He then pulled out a watch from his pocket that was studded with diamonds. He checked the time and said that it was exactly 10 o’clock when they parted ways from the restaurant. Noticing his wealth the police officer remarked,

Did pretty well out West, didn’t you?

The officer was enquiring about his success with respect to the wealth and career here.

While agreeing to the officers remark he exclaimed that Jimmy might not have achieved wealth as he was a steady and normal worker. Jimmy was a person who was slow in his ambitions and dreams according to Bob. That is the reason Jimmy was reluctant to leave New York according to his friend.

The police officer then wished him good luck waiting for his friend. Bob said that he will wait for another half an hour and only then return.

I will give him half an hour, at least. If Jimmy is alive on earth he’ll be here by that time.

After 20 minutes a tall man in a long overcoat with a collar turned up came near Bob. He walked directly to Bob and asked,

Is that you Bob?

The newcomer then expressed his joy in meeting his friend and started to narrate that the old restaurant was no longer there. He then enquired about Bob’s life in the West.

Bob was happy to see his friend. He told him that the West had given him all that he had longed for and expressed his surprise in seeing such great changes in his friend Jimmy.

It has given me everything I asked it for. You’ve changed lots Jimmy. I never thought you were so tall by two or three inches.

He then informs Bob that he worked in one of the city departments and urges him to take a long walk for the old time sake. Submerged in his ego, Bob started to boast about his life in the West and how he earned so much fortune. While the other listened to him while being submerged under the covercoat.

Soon they reached a drug store and in that electric light, Bob realized that the tall man beside him was not Jimmy.

Twenty years is a long time, but not long enough to change a man’s nose from a Roman to a pug.

Then the other man told Bob that he was under arrest. Chicago police had already warned them about “Silky Bob” dropping by New York. The tall police officer informed Bob and then passed a note to him stating that it was sent from Patrolman Wells.

Bob took the note and read it. The police officer who he had met near the old restaurant was his friend Jimmy. Jimmy identified him to be the wanted criminal named “Silky Bob”. Since Bob was his friend he could not arrest Bob. Thereby, he sent another officer to him.

Jimmy was a loyal friend. He waited for Bob for twenty years. But as he realized who Bob had become, he stood his moral grounds and did his job. The author leaves it to the reader to decide upon who was right. Jimmy proved to be a good friend but at the same time ensured to be a dutiful person. At the same time Bob reached his fortune through illegal means and was consumed by his ego and success.

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