Why has Alan gone to see the old man?

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Alan does not say exactly what he wants at first, although it becomes obvious that he is in love and wants a love potion. He is pursuing a girl appropriately named Diana (after the virgin Greek goddess who would have nothing to do with men). Both men are being discreet. Alan knows that the old man is operating a criminal business and that he could easily make him suspicious by blurting out his request too early. Alan has been given the old man's address and card in strict confidence by a friend. The proprietor is keeping a very low profile, just as if he were an abortionist or dope dealer. It isn't until the proprietor has told him all about his "chaser," which he calls a "glove cleaner" and other names, that Alan reveals exactly what brought him to this shabby, out-of-the-way location.

"But the love potion?" said Alan.

"Oh, that," said the old man, opening the drawer in the kitchen table, and taking out a tiny, rather dirty-looking phial. "That is just a dollar."

"I can't tell you how grateful I am," said Alan, watching him fill it.

"I like to oblige," said the old man. "Then customers come back, later in life, when they are better off, and want more expensive things. Here you are. You will find it very effective."

"Thank you again," said Alan. "Good-bye."

The story ends quickly after Alan has gotten what he wants. No doubt Diana will fall madly in love with him and behave exactly the way the old man foretells. The wise old potion-vendor says "Au revoir" as Alan exits, indicating that he expects to see Alan again when the fervent young man has matured and become disenchanted with wedded bliss.