Saturday 27 May 2023

A Question of trust

A Question of Trust

                                 By Victor Canning

Analysis of the Chapter

·        The short story ‘A Question of Trust’ is written by Victor Canning, a British novelist and short story writer. 

·        It is a humorous account and unpleasant experience from life of an unconventional thief, Horace Danby.

·        The chapter deals with the case of mistaken identity where a lady thief was mistaken by the protagonist to be the land lady of the house where he went with the purpose of robbery.

·        The story conveys that the intention is what matters more than our action. We have experiences contrary to our beliefs, thoughts and perception. Horace was frustrated when he was imprisoned for the theft he hadn’t committed. He was sad to know that “There is no honour among the thieves”.

·        Horace Danby is an unconventional thief who believes in honour among thieves. He is frustrated to meet the lady in red who in spite of being a thief cheated another thief. He is disappointed to be in a world which is full of liars, tricksters and the people with fake faces and deceptive smiles.

Summary  / Synopsis

·        The story 'A Question of Trust' is about a thief, Horace Danby who was considered to be a good, respectable and honest citizen, though he wasn’t completely honest. He made locks and was successful enough at his business. He didn’t require to commit a theft.

·        Fifteen years ago, Horace had served his first and only sentence in a prison library. There, he developed love for rare and expensive books. Each year he used to plan carefully, steal enough to last for twelve months, and secretly bought the books through an agent. He stole only once a year.

·        This year, he researched about a house at Shotover Grange very well before the theft. He read about the house with its detailed plan in a magazine article. He found out that two servants of the house were going to the movies, while the family was in London. Horace felt happy to see the servants going out and putting the key at kitchen door. There were about fifteen thousand pounds’ worth of jewels in the Grange safe, more than enough to keep him happy for entire year.

·        Horace put on his gloves, took the key, and opened the door. He was able to quieten the dog calling its name ‘Sherry’. The safe was in the drawing room which was full of expensive paintings. He was also tempted to steal them. Before touching the safe he cut the wires of the burglar alarm. Horace was suffering from hay fever. He was sneezing again and again due to his hay fever and the flowers in the room. Hearing him sneezing there appeared a lady and asked him if he had cold or hay fever. Sherry was rubbing against her as if it was her own dog. She was young, pretty, and dressed in red.

·        Horace felt that he was in trouble as he thought she was the landlady. But the lady seemed to be gentle and amused at meeting him. He might avoid trouble if he treated her the right way. First he tried to frighten the lady saying that he could hurt her and run away. Later, he tried to persuade the lady to let him go as he hated to go to the prison. He also promised not to commit a theft ever again.

·        The lady seemed to be genuinely kind and helpful person. She agreed to let him go if he opened the safe for her as she forgot the code. She told that she had come from London to take her jewellery for a party. She took a cigarette from a silver box from the table. Horace who is eager to please her, took off his gloves and gave her his cigarette lighter.  Within an hour Horace opened the safe, gave her the jewels, and went happily away.

·        After two days a policeman arrested him for the jewel robbery at Shotover Grange. His fingerprints were there all over the room as he had opened the safe without the gloves. No one believed him when he said that the wife of the owner of the house had asked him to open the safe for her. The wife who was a gray-haired, sharp-tongued woman of sixty said that the story was nonsense when Horace told everything that had happened that day in the house.

·        Horace was made the assistant librarian in the prison. Often he thinks of the charming, clever young lady who was in the same profession as he was, and tricked him. He gets very angry when someone talks about ‘honour among thieves’ because the lady in red fooled him and he was jailed for the theft he hadn’t committed.

The Midnight Visitor


The story ‘A Question of Trust’ conveys that “Intentions are more important than our actions.” Even if we are not able to commit a crime, our wrong intentions need to be punished. Horace was punished for the theft that he didn’t commit at all. He opened the safe for the lady taking her to be the owner of the house in order to help her. At the end of the story the protagonist was utterly disappointed as the lady who he thought to be friendly and helpful turned out to be a thief and a trickster.

But, we as readers can say that he received the well deserving treatment Even though he was unsuccessful in committing the theft, he went there with the purpose of robbery with proper planning. Evil thought is equally punishable as an evil action is.

Horace Danby deserved what he got. A crime is a crime, no matter if it is committed for your own benefit or for somebody else’s benefit.

Important Question Answers

Q. How is Horace different from other thieves? Why can't he be categorised a stereotypical thief?

Ans. Horace was completely different from other thieves in his beliefs as well as actions. He conducted only one big robbery in a year after meticulous planning and research, not for money or prosperity but for his love for books. He had love for exquisite and expensive books. He was quite successful in his business of making locks. 

Horace can't be categorised as a stereotypical thief because he was not a professional thief who earned his bread by robbing people. He did not harm anyone and neither took any weapon ever. He was afraid to be imprisoned. He wasn’t greedy. He used to steal some money once a year to satisfy his hobby to buy and read rare and expensive books with the stolen money. He believed in 'honour among thieves' but was cheated by another thief. Now, He started believing that there is no honour among thieves.

Q. Was Horace punished unfairely for the theft he could not commit? Give your opinion.

Ans. Horace was imprisoned and punished for the robbery that the lady in red dress committed with his help. It seems that he was punished unfairly as he did not commit the theft for which he was punished. But, I think he was punished for his crimes only, may be little late. Earlier, he had committed robbery many times and escaped punishment for many robberies. This time too, he went at Shotover Grange with an intention of theft but was unsuccessful and got tricked by another thief. It seems as if he got punishment for all his previous crimes. It is evident that we have to pay for our sins sooner or later.

Important Q - Ans Footprints without Feet

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