The Four Million HTML version
After Twenty Years
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 de-peopled the
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."
"Until five years ago," said the policeman. "It was torn down then."
The man in the doorway struck a match and lit his cigar. The light showed a pale, square-
jawed face with keen eyes, and a little white scar near his right eyebrow. His scarfpin was
a large diamond, oddly set.
"Twenty years ago to-night," said the man, "I dined here at 'Big Joe' Brady's with Jimmy
Wells, my best chum, and the finest chap in the world. He and I were raised here in New
York, just like two brothers, together. I was eighteen and Jimmy was twenty. The next
morning I was to start for the West to make my fortune. You couldn't have dragged
Jimmy out of New York; he thought it was the only place on earth. Well, we agreed that
night that we would meet here again exactly twenty years from that date and time, no
matter what our conditions might be or from what distance we might have to come. We
figured that in twenty years each of us ought to have our destiny worked out and our
fortunes made, whatever they were going to be."
"It sounds pretty interesting," said the policeman. "Rather a long time between meets,
though, it seems to me. Haven't you heard from your friend since you left?"
"Well, yes, for a time we corresponded," said the other. "But after a year or two we lost
track of each other. You see, the West is a pretty big proposition, and I kept hustling
around over it pretty lively. But I know Jimmy will meet me here if he's alive, for he