I read this around 15 years ago in English as a Second Language class in a summer class I was attending in Poughkeepsie.

We were reading short stories from a book (a collection of short stories by different authors) and I unfortunately can recall only this particular one as it had struck me with its surprise ending, and I very much want to read it again.

It was about 2 brothers getting separated (I do not remember by what means) and in the end they face each other one of them being as the police catching the other one being the criminal, and he (the policeman) had to make the decision whether to let him go or arrest him.

I know it is not much but this is all I can remember. I think it was a story from late 1800s or early 1900s.

1 Answer 1


This is likely O. Henry's "After Twenty Years". What may be throwing you off is that it's two old friends, not brothers.

The policeman on the beat moved up the avenue impressively. The impressiveness was habitual and not for show, for spectators were few. The time was barely 10 o'clock at night, but chilly gusts of wind with a taste of rain in them had well nigh depeopled the streets.

Trying doors as he went, twirling his club with many intricate and artful movements, turning now and then to cast his watchful eye adown the pacific thoroughfare, the officer, with his stalwart form and slight swagger, made a fine picture of a guardian of the peace. The vicinity was one that kept early hours. Now and then you might see the lights of a cigar store or of an all-night lunch counter; but the majority of the doors belonged to business places that had long since been closed.

When about midway of a certain block the policeman suddenly slowed his walk. In the doorway of a darkened hardware store a man leaned, with an unlighted cigar in his mouth. As the policeman walked up to him the man spoke up quickly.

"It's all right, officer," he said, reassuringly. "I'm just waiting for a friend. It's an appointment made twenty years ago. Sounds a little funny to you, doesn't it? Well, I'll explain if you'd like to make certain it's all straight. About that long ago there used to be a restaurant where this store stands--'Big Joe' Brady's restaurant."


"It sometimes changes a good man into a bad one, said the tall man. "You've been under arrest for ten minutes, 'Silky' Bob. Chicago thinks you may have dropped over our way and wires us she wants to have a chat with you. Going quietly, are you? That's sensible. Now, before we go on to the station here's a note I was asked to hand you. You may read it here at the window. It's from Patrolman Wells."

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.


  • 3
    ^_^ FWIW, I knew this one in part because, as a child, my parents had some O'Henry books in the house and I read them several times over. I loved his twists. Feb 8, 2019 at 14:47
  • 3
    Minor pedantic note: the author's name is actually O. Henry, which was William Sydney Porter's pen name. Feb 8, 2019 at 20:59

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