In Saki’s short story “Dusk,” Norman Gortsby sits in a park as the sun goes down. This time of day pleases Gortsby as is it brings out the abject, the misfortunate, and those who have been generally mistreated by life. Although Gortsby is not suffering economically, he has recently experienced a minor setback, so, at this moment, he feels a sense of camaraderie with the denizens of the dusk.
Soon, Gortsby has company on his bench. An old man sits beside him. Gortsby imagines that this man is clinging to self-respect and can hardly afford to pay his weekly rent.
Gortsby doesn’t speak to the elderly man but he does speak to the young man who takes his place once the elderly man leaves. Gortsby inquires why the young man is in such a foul mood. The young man replies with a “look of disarming frankness.” The intriguing bluntness puts Gortsby “instantly on guard.” It’s as if the young man’s captivating candor has made Gortsby suspicious of him.
Sure enough, the young man tells Gortsby a story that’s hard to believe. Supposedly, the young man can’t find his hotel and doesn’t have any money since he spent it on soap and alcohol.
At first, Gortsby sticks with his gut. He keeps his guard up and doesn’t give the young man money. However, after finding soap on the ground, Gortsby drops his guard and gives the young man money. As it turns out, the soap didn’t belong to the young man. Gortsby should’ve kept his guard up.