After Twenty Years
The story has a theme of conflict between one's friendship to another and one's moral duty and duty to society. Jimmy was confronted with a dilemma and had to make the choice to do his civic duty over loyalty to his friend; he had to cause his friend to get arrested because his friend had broken the law. In addition, Jimmy had to hire a cop to arrest Bob because he did not have the heart to arrest Bob himself.
In this particular short story there are three characters. The story begins with a policeman who is on his beat. He goes towards a man that is standing in a dark doorway. Bob is standing there and tells the officer that he had agreed to meet his friend Jimmy Wells at this spot at 10 o'clock. He tells the story of how twenty years ago, they parted as young men but agreed that twenty years later they would meet at that particular spot again. They parted because of different life and career paths. Jimmy considered New York City as the place to live and Bob decided to travel out west to seek great wealth. The officer leaves. Later, Bob is approached by another man who he believes is Jimmy. He gives the man details about his successes out west. They walk to find a place to eat, but after a light shines on the man's face, Bob realizes it is another officer; the officer arrests Bob for crimes committed in Chicago. The officer who arrests Bob gives him a note from Jimmy. The note says that the two men did meet on time; Jimmy recognized Bob as someone wanted by the authorities.
The man from the West unfolded the little piece of paper handed him.His hand was steady when he began to read, but it trembled a little by the time he had finished.The note was rather short.Bob: I was at the appointed place on time.When you struck the match to light your cigar I saw it was the face of the man wanted in Chicago.Somehow I couldn’t do it myself, so I went around and got a plain clothes man to do the job.
O. Henry's stories are gems of their kind; mellow, humorous, ironic, ingenious and shot through with that eminently salable quality known as 'human interest.'" —Bennet Cerf and Van Cartmell
AFTER TWENTY YEARS