After Twenty Years Guided Notes

O. Henry


On a cold, rainy night in New York City in the early 1900's, a man explains to an approaching policeman that he is waiting to meet an old friend, Jimmy Wells. Two decades earlies, the pair agreed to meet at the same spot in exactly twenty years. Assured that the man will stay until Wells arrives the officer moves on. Twenty minutes later another man arrives, at first identifying himself as Wells but then announcing that he is policeman. After arresting Bob as "Silky" Bob, a wanted criminal, he hands him a from the first patrolman. The note reveals that the patrolman is Wells. He could not bring himself to arrest his old friend and "got a plainclothesman to do the job".


1. Habitual- done of fixed by habit, customary
2. Intricate- complicated, full of detail
3. Simultaneously- at the same time
4. Dismally- miserable; gloomily
5. Egotism- conceit; talking about oneself too much


1. Bob returns to to New York City because he is hoping to meet an old friend.
2. The author foreshadows that Jimmy will "do the right thing" by having Bob describe Jimmy as honest, dependable and good.
3. "Silky" Bob's hurry to explain his presence to the first police officer suggests that he is afraid of getting into trouble with the police.
4. Jimmy knows that Bob is a wanted man because Bob matches the description of a man who is wanted in Chicago.
5. Both Bob and Jimmy have kept their promises and they have this in common.

Reading Skills and Strategies

1. Bob moved out West to make his fortune, and he criticizes Jimmy for staying in New York and being a plodder. Plodder means a person who works steadily.
2. Bob's keen eyes stare out from his square-jawed face. He did not miss a detail. Keen means sharp.

Literary Elements: Foreshadowing

1. The real Jimmy is shorter than the imposter. This clue foreshadows the fact that the man who claims to be Jimmy is really an imposter.
2. Bob leans against the doorway in the dark. This clue foreshadows the fact that Bob is a criminal.

Written Reponse

Write a paragraph telling why you agree or disagree with the following statement about the story. Use at least two details from the selection to support your ideas.
- At the end of the story, Jimmy and Bob are both friends and enemies.