What is the favor asked of the mother in "The Umbrella Man"?

In "The Umbrella Man," an old man asks a favor of the narrator's mother. The favor he asks is that the mother purchase an umbrella from him for £1.00.

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In this short story an old man stops a mother and child outside a café, and he asks the mother to buy an umbrella from him for just £1.oo. The umbrella is worth much more than this. In fact, the old man assures the mother that it is worth "over twenty pounds." The umbrella is made from silk, and so the mother has no problem believing that this must be true.

The mother is suspicious, but the old man tells her that he needs the money to pay the taxi-fare to get him home. He has, he says, walked a long way already and can't possibly walk any further. He can't pay the taxi-fare without the mother's help, because, he says, he has left his wallet at home. Because the old man is so old ("probably seventy or more") and because he is so polite, the mother eventually agrees to grant him the favor, and she buys the umbrella from him for £1.00.

At the end of the story, the mother becomes suspicious again when she sees the old man "scuttling along like a rabbit." He appears to move very easily and does not seem tired at all. He also does not get into a taxi but, rather, scurries off down the street. The mother follows him and sees him enter a public house, where he orders a whisky from the bar. He pays for the whisky with the £1.oo note that the mother had given him for his umbrella. At first the mother thinks that the old man "must be mad" to exchange an expensive umbrella for a shot of whisky. However, she then sees him leave the pub with somebody else's umbrella, and she realizes what the old man is doing. He is selling stolen umbrellas to pay for his drinks.

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