What are the possibilities of Norman Gortsby being cheated in Saki's "Dusk"?

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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At first reading it would appear that Norman Gortsby was cheated out of the sovereign by the young man who claimed he had forgotten the name of his hotel and couldn't find the place. But there is a slight chance that he was telling the truth and that he had really lost the cake of soap he had come out to buy. It might be the elderly gentleman who is planning to try to con Gortsby out of money by telling him a similar story, in which case the elderly gentleman would have brought the wrapped bar of soap with him and left it on the ground near the bench, planning to come back shortly to retrieve it and to tell Gortsby (or anyone else who was sitting there) a similar story about being unable to find his hotel and having left all his money in the room. If that were the case, the young man who took the sovereign would probably pay it back by mail, and Gortsby would probably decline to believe the old gentleman's story because it would be too much like the first one. A sovereign was a gold coin worth one pound, which in Saki's day was equivalent to about five American dollars but with much greater purchasing power than today's pounds or dollars. The strongest possibility seems to be that Gortsby was cheated out of the sovereign by the young man and would never hear from him. But there is no reason to assume that that young man would return the sovereign even if his story was true. Not everyone is as generous as Gortsby in a big city.


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