After Twenty Years

by O. Henry

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How does Silky Bob earn money in "After Twenty Years"?

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In “After Twenty Years” by O. Henry, Silky Bob has made his money as a criminal out West. He is caught when his old friend Jimmy, now a police officer, recognizes him as a wanted man.

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In O. Henry's story “After Twenty Years,” a man is standing in the doorway of a New York store one dark night. He tells a passing police officer that he has an appointment to meet his best friend. They parted twenty years ago that very night. Jimmy, the friend, stayed in New York, but the man went west.

Apparently, the man has done well for himself over twenty years. He has diamond scarf pin and a “handsome watch” that is “set with small diamonds.” The man himself claims that he has done quite well in the West, for he has developed a “razor-edge.”

About twenty minutes later, a man approaches and calls out, “Is that you, Bob?” The newcomer claims to be Jimmy Wells, and the two men walk along with Bob proudly telling all about his career in the West. But soon Bob realizes something. His companion is not Jimmy Wells. The man does not look like his old friend. His nose is all wrong.

The supposed Jimmy Wells freely admits that he is not Jimmy at all. He is actually a plain-clothes police officer who is arresting “Silky” Bob, a wanted criminal from Chicago. The officer also has a note for Bob from his old friend Jimmy. Jimmy, it seems, was actually at his meeting with Bob on time. He was the officer whom Bob spoke with, and he recognized his old friend as the wanted man. “Somehow I couldn't do it myself,” Jimmy explains in the note, “so I went around and got a plain clothes man to do the job.”

Silky Bob, then, has made his money through criminal activity, but it looks like his days of freedom and prosperity are over.

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