A Question of Trust is a story based on a robbery in a house where two thieves come face to face, and one outwits the other. The author suggests that one mustn’t trust others without knowing his/her entire truth as people can be deceiving.
Broadly, A Question of Trust can be divided into:
- Horace Danby’s Social Status
- Danby – An Unusual Thief
- Planning Before A Theft
- Danby Enters The House For A Burglary
- Horace Meets The Lady Of The House
- Horace’s Plea To Let Him Free
- Lady’s Condition For Horace’s Freedom
- Horace Danby Arrested
- The Reality Revealed
- Horace’s Regrets
Horace Danby’s Social Status
- Horace Danby, a bachelor of fifty years, lived with a housekeeper and suffered from hay fever.
- Horace ran a successful lock business with two helpers and believed that he was a respectable person.
Danby – An Unusual Thief
- Horace had been imprisoned once and retained a fear of getting caught.
- Despite this, Horace robbed a house once a year. He would plan the robbery carefully and once successful, would live off the money for the rest of the year.
- He had a weakness for rare and expensive books.
- He would use the money from the robbery to buy rare books secretly.
Planning Before A Theft
- Horace had already chosen his next target – a house at Shotover Grange.
- Horace had been watching the house for two weeks and knew it quite well now. He knew that the owners were in London and the house was empty.
- Horace had calculated that the safe contained fifteen thousand pounds’ worth of jewels.
Danby Enters The House For A Burglary
- He entered the house, put on a pair of gloves and took the key from the kitchen door.
- A little dog greeted him. Horace affectionately called him by its name and then moved on to the drawing room.
- There were flowers arranged on the table in the drawing room. It triggered his hay fever and he sneezed.
- Horace felt that the safe was not going to be difficult to crack. With confidence, he laid out his tools and he left the room to cut the burglar alarm.
- He sneezed when he entered again.
Horace Meets The Lady In Red
- Suddenly, Horace heard a firm, quiet voice behind him asking him whether he had a cold or hay fever.
- Horace turned. He saw a woman, quite young and pretty, dressed in red. Sherry, the dog, was standing by her. He assumed it was the lady of the house.
- Hoping to avoid trouble, Horace answered charmingly that he wasn’t expecting anyone to be home.
Horace’s Plea To Let Him Free
- The woman asked him what he was going to do that he was caught.
- Horace wanted to run. But, the woman, anticipating him, replied that she could call the police immediately.
- Horace countered her by saying he would cut the telephone wire. Then, he tried to frighten the woman.
- Finally, he asked her to let him go.
- The woman in red replied sharply that society must be protected from men like him.
- Horace protested by saying that he only stole from the rich. Furthermore, he confided in her his fear of prison.
Lady’s Condition For Horace’s Freedom
- The woman asked Horace for a favour in exchange for his freedom. She had forgotten the safe combination and needed his help in opening it.
- Horace, eager to help her, opened the safe and hands the jewels over to the woman.
- Then, he took her leave promising to be good.
Horace Danby Arrested
- For two days, Horace kept his promise. On the third day, however, the temptation for rare and expensive books overcame his promise to be good.
- He started planning his next robbery.
- But poor Horace never got the chance!
- He was arrested for stealing the jewels from Shotover Grange.
The Reality Revealed
- Horace had quite carelessly left his fingerprints all over the safe.
- He tried telling his story to the police.
- It was then he realised that the woman in red was another thief who had managed to trick him into giving the jewels. The real lady of the house, a sixty-year-old woman, had never even heard of him.
- So, Horace was sent to the place he feared the most – prison.
- He is now the assistant librarian in the prison library and gets angry whenever anyone mentions honour among thieves, that is, where a thief does not betray another thief.
- Horace clearly feels that the woman in red violated this code which led to his capture and imprisonment.
The major theme of the chapter is:
Trust : Victor Canning, through his story, A Question of Trust warns the readers that one should not trust people unless they know everything about them.
In the story, the lady in red was in fact another thief, just like Horace, but her confidence tricked Horace into believing that she was the lady of the house. He trusted her only to be cheated.
The author cautions the readers to not trust people without knowing their complete truth as appearances can be deceiving, and some people, like the lady in red, are flawless at bluffing.
The major characters in the story are:
- Horace Danby
- The Lady in Red
Respectable: Horace made locks and was doing well in his business. Although he believed that he was respectable, he was not an honest fellow as he robbed people once a year.
Addicted: Horace was a passion for rare and expensive books. He could not afford those with his mediocre income and thus planned a robbery once a year, and purchased these books.
Harmless: Though Horace planned a robbery on a rich person once every year, he wouldn’t be armed or hurt anyone. He was not aggressive either.
Planner: Horace planned all his robberies well in advance and did this job meticulously. Danby collected all the information about the owner and studied any house carefully before attempting the robbery.
The Lady in Red
Confident: The lady in red was herself a thief but she successfully managed to make Horace believe that she was the lady of the house.
Affectionate: The dog, who was actually a stranger to her, affectionately rubbed himself against the lady because of her friendliness.
Smart: She not only threatened Horace for intruding on the house but also got him to help her rob the house for her.