In "Dusk," what did Gortsby do to make amends for his earlier disbelief?

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Norman Gortsby was apparently accustomed to lounging on a park bench at the end of the day. This suggests that he is not to be taken as a gentleman of leisure but as a young man with a better-than-average office job who likes to spend some time in the outdoors after work before going home to a modest flat or furnished room. The young stranger who tells him the elaborate hard-luck story about losing his hotel room pretends to be of a superior social class, someone who only needs a "loan" but has plenty of money and will be glad to repay it once he can get back into his hotel room.

The young con man uses several tricks to try to impress Gortsby. He names a presumably swank hotel, the Patagonian in Berkshire Square, where he was planning to spend the night. The suggestion that he just came to town from a country estate, as well as the suggestion that he was accustomed to foreign travel are also intended to convey the impression that he is not a panhandler and not a con artist but a young country gentleman.

"In a foreign city I wouldn't mind so much," he said; "one could go to one's Consul and get the requisite help from him."

The young stranger also plants the suggestion that Gortsby might be able to make a valuable acquaintance by helping him.

"There's a nice predicament for a fellow who hasn't any friends or connections in London!"

This clever trickster also suggests that he belongs to the upper class by his vocabulary. He tells Gortsby:

"Unless I can find some decent chap to swallow my story and lend me some money I seem likely to spend the night on the Embankment."

The words "decent chap" seem to suggest Oxford and Eton. If Gortsby should prove himself to be a "decent chap," that would put him on an equal footing with a member of a superior social class. It might lead to a friendship, since this young stranger says he doesn't know a soul in London. Gortsby could be invited down to the country estate to meet his new friend's parents and go out shooting and riding horses and that sort of thing. After all, it is only a loan.

Gortsby has heard plenty of hard-luck stories. He is skeptical and probably has no intention of leding this stranger any money. But then when he finds the cake of soap, he forms an entirely different impression of the stranger. He feels guilty for offending a man who might have become a friend and might have been helpful to him socially and in the business world. So he chases after him and apologizes profusely:

"You must excuse my disbelief, but appearances were really rather against you, and now, as I appealed to the testimony of the soap I think I ought to abide by its verdict. If the loan of a sovereign is any good to you--"

A sovereign was a coin equal to one pound, which was a lot of money in those days. Gortsby is going to learn a painful lesson, and he is a man to whom the loss of that much money will be painful. An ordinary clerk was customarily paid one pound a week, but Gortsby may have earned a little more than that. He gives the surprised stranger his card along with the sovereign and the soap. He is now fully expecting to get his pound back in the mail and also hoping for an invitation to have a drink or even dinner with this aristocratic country gentleman.

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