The Assessor of Success (Henry)

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The Assessor of Success
Summary of the Short Story
from the Collection «The Trimmed Lamp»
Microsummary: A confident swindler manipulated various people to obtain money, but after unexpectedly encountering a childhood friend, he was filled with remorse and wished for death.

Hastings Beauchamp Morley, a well-dressed man with no money in his pockets, walked across Union Square, pitying the people he saw on park benches. Despite his lack of funds, Morley was confident that he would have enough money by sunrise, as he had always managed to find a way to get by.

Hastings Beauchamp Morley — narrator; well-dressed, smooth-faced swindler; confident, cynical, and manipulative.

Morley first visited a clergyman, presenting a forged letter of introduction and spinning a tale of delayed remittance, which earned him $5. He then encountered a man he owed money to and managed to placate him with drinks, promising to pay him back later. Morley continued his deceitful ways, swindling a young boy out of change for a fake medicine prescription and gambling away most of his ill-gotten gains.

Later, Morley stood on a street corner, watching the people go by and contemplating his next move. He was approached by a group of friends who invited him to join them for dinner, but he declined, claiming to have a prior engagement. He then met an old man looking for his son, Solomon Smothers, and pretended to know him, taking the man to a bar and stealing his money.

The Old Man — ragged, low-bowed, seeking help; desperate, grateful.

Morley ended up in Madison Square, where he encountered a destitute old man and gave him a dollar, claiming that the world had always provided for him.

The world is a rock to you, no doubt; but you must be an Aaron and smite it with your rod. Then things better than water will gush out of it for you.

As he prepared to head to a hotel for the night, he saw a girl he had known in school and was suddenly filled with remorse for his actions, wishing he could die.

God! I wish I could die.