Unit 14
Text I
After Twenty Years
1. The style of O. Henry
2. Elements of short story
3. Vocabulary and structures
Teaching Tasks and Process
I. Pre-reading questions
Background information—
The Author
O. Henry (1862-1910)
American short story writer, was born William
Sydney Porter in 1862 and died of tuberculosis
at the age of forty-seven. O. Henry is one of
the most widely published of modern writers.
He has been called “The American De
Maupassant”. His works have been translated
into many languages and have run into
innumerable editions in his own country.
The Main Ideas
1. A policeman is on the beat in a street in New
York at about ten o’clock at night.
2. A man in the darkened doorway of a
hardware store is waiting to see a friend.
3a. The man tells the policeman about the
appointment he made with a friend twenty
years before.
3b. “Jimmy Wells” comes to fill the
appointment with Bob --- excitement and
exchange of news.
4. Bob is arrested by the plain-clothes man
who was disguised as Jimmy Wells.
5. Jimmy Wells’ note explains to Bob that he
has identified him as the man wanted in
Chicago and has asked the plain-clothes man
to arrest him.
language points:
The policeman on the beat
The policeman who was on the route he was
ordered to patrol.
Beat is the usual path followed by a policeman
on duty.
the time was barely 10 o’clock at
it was only just / hardly ten o’clock at night.
Barely means “almost not, only just, hardly”.
She spoke so softly that her voice was barely
We left in a hurry and we brought barely
enough food for the picnic.
…turning now and then to cast his watchful
eye down the peaceful thoroughfare,…
eye --- the power of seeing
The little girl’s eye fell on the teddy bear as
soon as she entered the room.
To great sculptor’s eye, a young muscular
archer ready to shoot an arrow would make a
good statue.
His scarfpin was a large diamond,
oddly set.
oddly-set --- (which was) fixed in a peculiar
I was to start for the West to make
my fortune
I would go to the West to earn a lot of money.
He is to be discharged from the hospital next
I heard that they were to move into a new
residential area pretty soon.
we lost track of each other
we no longer knew what was happening to
each other. The opposite of lose track of is
keep track of.
Try to keep track of what is going on around
I’ve had to compete with some of
the sharpest wits going to get my pile.
I must compete with some of the most
unscrupulous businessmen there are to make
my fortune.
That’s the best computer going.
He’s the biggest fool going.
Pile is an informal word meaning “a very
large amount of money”.
Going to call time on him sharp?
Are you expecting him to come at exactly 10
The other, submerged in his overcoat,
listened with interest.
submerged in his overcoat --- who was buried
in his overcoat
At the corner stood a drugstore, brilliant with
electric lights.
brilliant with electric lights --- which was
brilliantly lit up electric lights
The take-away lunch, packed in boxes, was
delivered to the railway station at once.
“You’re not Jimmy Wells,” he
snap --- say something suddenly and sharply
“Mind your own business,” snapped the man.
The superintendent snapped out his order. “Go
to the playground immediately!”
you may have dropped over our way
you may have come to stay at our place
without telling us beforehand.
Tom dropped in on me one evening.
Drop by when it is convenient to you.
1. What kind of people were the two characters
Bob and Jimmy?
2. Was Bob successful in his career? Why?
3. Are there hints in the story to indicate that Bob
was no longer a respectable man? What are they?
He stood in the doorway of a darkened
hardware store, with an unlighted cigar in his
mouth. When the policeman walked up to
him, he spoke up quickly, and explained that
it was “all” straight. This showed that he had
a guilty conscience.
His scarfpin was a large diamond, oddly set,
which hinted that he could be an upstart who
had made his fortune by dishonest means.
His appearance --- a square-jawed face with a
scar near his right eyebrow --- suggested that
he had been hurt in a fight of some kind.
He kept hustling around in the West and had to
compete with some of the sharpest wits. In
other words, he must be very sharp himself. He
may have got his “pile” by clever but dishonest
4. What was implied when the patrolman asked
“Going to call time on him sharp”? Why did he ask
the man from the West this question?
The patrolman asked this question because
he wanted to be certain how long the man
would wait there and whether he would
have sufficient time to ask a plain-clothes
man to arrest him.
5. Why did the plain-clothes man ask
“Is that you, Bob?”doubtfully?
Because he had never seen Bob before and he
was not sure whether he was speaking to the
right person. As he was asked to arrest the man
waiting in the doorway of a hardware store, he
had to make sure that he was the very person
whom the police in Chicago wanted.
6. What is the implied meaning of “I was
certain I’d find you here if you were still in
The surface meaning of the sentence is
obvious: I was sure that I’d find you here if
you were still alive. It was quite natural for
Bob to hear “Jimmy” say so, and this way it
would not arouse any suspicion on the part of
Bob. But the plain-clothes man was asked to
arrest Bob. So perhaps his implied meaning
was: “So long as Bob was alive in New York,
he would be found and arrested.” So what he
said actually had a double meaning.
7. Why did the plain-clothes man listen with
interest when Bob outlined the history of his
career to him?
 Bob was the man wanted by Chicago. Since
he was willing to talk about what he had been
doing in the past twenty years, about the
history of his career, the plain-clothes man was
only too eager to listen with interest. What he
said would serve as his own confession and the
most effective piece of evidence at the trial.
8. Why was Bob’s hand trembling a little by
the time he had finished reading Jimmy’s note?
It never occurred to Bob that the policeman
he talked to some half an hour ago was
Jimmy Wells himself and that it was Jimmy
who had identified him as the man wanted
by Chicago police. Bob had had great faith in
Jimmy, thinking that Jimmy was a staunch
friend. It was a shock to Bob that it was
Jimmy who had “betrayed” him and sent a
plain-clothes man to arrest him.
Detectives’ Lives --- Fact
and Fantasy
1. Before you read this passage, what is the image of
a detective in your mind?
2. Why do you think a policeman should know nearly
as much law as a professional lawyer?
3. What kind of crimes do real policemen deal with
4. When does a real policeman actually start to work?
What is the difference between a real policeman and
one on TV on this point?
5. What makes the policemen cynical?
A Mysterious Intruder
Exercises on the Workbook