By Ruchika Gupta
A Question of Trust CBSE Class 10 English Lesson Explanation Notes
A Question of Trust Class 10 English Footprints without Feet Book Lesson 4 Detailed explanation of the lesson along with meanings of difficult words. Also, the explanation is followed by a Summary of the lesson. All the exercises and Question and Answers given at the back of the lesson have been covered.
Class 10 English (Footprints without Feet) Chapter 4 A Question of Trust
By Victor Canning
Introduction to the lesson
It is said that you must set a thief to catch a thief. But it is also said that there is honour among thieves. Which saying does this story illustrate?
The story is about a man named Horace Danby who is 50 years old and everyone around him thinks he is a good and an honest man. He used to build locks and used to earn enough profit so that he could hire two servants to help him. He was sent to jail once about 15 years ago because he used to commit robberies every year. This year, when he goes to a house for robbery, he meets a woman who pretends to be the owner of the house. Later when he leaves from there and is arrested after 2-3 days, he comes to know the truth of that lady.
About the Author
Victor Canning (16 June 1911 â€“ 21 February 1986) was a prolific British writer of novels and thrillers who flourished in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. He was personally reticent, writing no memoirs and giving relatively few newspaper interviews.
See Video for Explanation and Summary of the Lesson
A Question of Trust Summary
The story is about a 50 year old man who makes locks and lives with his housekeeper. He is a good citizen but not an honest one as he commits a robbery every year. He plans his robberies in such a way that the money he gets from there lasts him for at least an year and he is able to buy rare and expensive books with it. He buys these books because he is really fond of collecting rare and expensive books. He plans to commit a robbery at a grange named Shotover Grange. He takes all the information about the house like where the family had gone, how many servants were there in the house, what was the name of the dog, the wiring in the house, the safe in the house and even information like how much worth of jewels were there in the safe. The real twist in the story comes when he reaches the grange to commit a robbery and a woman claiming to be the ownerâ€™s wife enters. She gives him an option that she will forget that she had seen him if he opens the safe for her as she has forgotten the code of the safe and has to go to a party. He does not realize that he is opening the safe for another thief and that she is not the actual owner of the house. He leaves happily thinking that he is safe but doesn’t realize the fact that he had opened the safe for someone else that too without wearing his gloves. 3 days later a police officer comes and arrests him saying that his fingerprints had been found at the shotover grange. He then realizes that he had been fooled by a lady who was herself a thief and from the same background as his. He is sent to the jail and becomes an assistant librarian. He feels angry whenever someone talks about honour among thieves as he had been cheated by one from his own community.
A Question of Trust Lesson and explanation
EVERYONE thought that Horace Danby was a good, honest citizen. He was about fifty years old and unmarried, and he lived with a housekeeper who worried over his health. In fact, he was usually very well and happy except for attacks of hay fever in summer. He made locks and was successful enough at his business to have two helpers. Yes, Horace Danby was good and respectable â€” but not completely honest. Fifteen years ago, Horace had served his first and only sentence in a prison
library. He loved rare, expensive books. So he robbed a safe every year. Each year he planned carefully just what he would do, stole enough to last for twelve months, and secretly bought the books he loved through an agent. Now, walking in the bright July sunshine, he felt sure that this yearâ€™s robbery was going to be as successful as all the others. For two weeks he had been studying the house at Shotover Grange, looking at its rooms, its electric wiring, its paths and its garden. This afternoon the two servants, who remained in the Grange while the family was in London, had gone to the movies. Horace saw them go, and he felt happy in spite of a little tickle of hay fever in his nose. He came out from behind the garden wall, his tools carefully packed in a bag on his back.
Citizen- a legally recognized subject or national of a state or commonwealth, either native or naturalized.
Housekeeper- a person employed to manage a household.
Hay fever- an allergy caused by pollen or dust in which the mucous membranes of the eyes and nose are inflamed, causing running of the nose and watery eyes.
Sentence- the punishment assigned to a defendant found guilty by a court, or fixed by law for a particular offence.
Safe- a strong fireproof cabinet with a complex lock, used for the storage of valuables.
Grange- a country house with farm buildings attached.
Horace Danby was a 50 years old man, was unmarried and lived with his housekeeper. The housekeeper used to worry about his health. Although he was fit and fine but used to have hay fever attacks in summer. He used to make locks and used to earn a profit that was enough for him to hire two helpers for his work. Everybody used to think that he was a good and
honest citizen but nobody knew that he had gone to jail about 15 years ago and served a sentence in the prison library. He got his love for rare and expensive books from there. Every year he used to steal money that would last him for a year and with the rest of the money, he used to buy books through a secret agent. This year, during the summers of July, he was sure that he would steal as easily without getting caught as he used to do every other summer. He studied the house for over two weeks, studying the smallest details such as electric wiring, paths and garden area. That specific day the servants who were supposed to stay back on the days when the family went to London, went out for a movie. Horace saw them leaving and was happy instead of being worried about the tickle in his nose due to hay fever. He then left with a bag that had his tools.
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There were about fifteen thousand poundsâ€™ worth of jewels in the Grange safe. If he sold them one by one, he expected to get at least five thousand, enough to make him happy for another year. There were three very interesting books coming up for sale in the autumn. Now he would get the money he wanted to buy them. He had seen the housekeeper hang the key to the kitchen door on a hook outside. He put on a pair of gloves, took the key, and opened the door. He was always careful not to leave any fingerprints. A small dog was lying in the kitchen. It stirred, made a noise, and moved its tail in a friendly way. â€œAll right, Sherry,â€ Horace said as he passed. All you had to do to keep dogs quiet was to call them by their right names, and show them love. The safe was in the drawing room, behind a rather poor painting. Horace wondered for a moment whether he should collect pictures instead of books. But they took up too much room. In a small house, books were better. There was a great bowl of flowers on the table, and Horace felt his nose tickle. He gave a little sneeze and then put down his bag. He carefully arranged his tools. He had four hours before the servants returned. The safe was not going to be hard to open. After all, he had lived with locks and safes all his life. The burglar alarm was poorly built. He went into the hall to cut its wire. He came back and sneezed loudly as the smell of the flowers came to him again. How foolish people are when they own valuable things, Horace thought. A magazine article had described this house, giving a plan of all the rooms and a picture of this room. The writer had even mentioned that the painting hid a safe! But Horace found that the flowers were hindering him in his work. He buried his face in his handkerchief.
Pounds- basic monetary unit of the UK, equal to 100 pence.
Autumn- the season after summer and before winter, in the northern hemisphere from September to November and in the southern hemisphere from March to May.
Stirred- move or cause to move slightly.
Tickle- Â in a way that causes mild discomfort or itching and often laughter.
Sneeze- make a sudden involuntary expulsion of air from the nose and mouth due to irritation of one’s nostrils.
Burglar- a person who commits theft.
Hindering- make it difficult for (someone) to do something or for (something) to happen.
According to Horace there were about 15 thousand pound worth of jewels in the grangeâ€™s safe. He thought that even if he sold them one by one, he would get at least 5000 pounds that would keep him happy and content for one year. He also thought about the three books that were coming up in the autumn and thought that now he would have the money needed to buy those books. He saw the housekeeper of the grange hang the keys on the hook outside the kitchen door. He took the key with a glove on his hands so as not to leave any fingerprints. He opened the door of the grange and used to be very careful about the fingerprints. He then saw a small dog sleeping in the kitchen. The dog moved a bit, made a noise and then moved his tail in a friendly way. Horace then said â€œalright Sherryâ€ which was the name of the dog. He knew that the trick to keep dogs quiet was to call them by their names and show them a bit of love.
The safe of the grange was in the drawing room, hidden behind a painting. Looking at the painting, he thought that he should collect paintings rather than books but then thought that it would be better to collect books in a small house because pictures required larger spaces. Then, as he moved forward, he saw a bowl ofÂ flowers on the table. His nose was tickling due to the hay fever and the smell of the flowers. He arranged his tools and saw that he had about 4 hours until the housekeepers returned. The safe would not have been difficult to open as he had lived with safes and locks all his life and the burglar system of the house was not a good one. He went into the hall to cut the wires of the burglar system. He again sneezed loudly as the smell of the flowers came to him again. He was thinking to himself that how foolish rich people were when they had valuable things as he recalled that the whole plan of the house including the information about the safe was given in a magazine. He saw that the smell of the flowers was constantly making him sneeze loudly, so. he put a handkerchief on his face and continued his work.
Then he heard a voice say from the doorway, â€œWhat is it? A cold or hay fever?â€Before he could think, Horace said, â€œHay fever,â€ and found himself sneezing again. The voice went on, â€œYou can cure it with a special treatment, you know, if you find out just what plant gives you the disease. I think youâ€™d better see a doctor, if youâ€™re serious about your work. I heard you from the top
of the house just now.â€ It was a quiet, kindly voice, but one with firmness in it. A woman was standing in the doorway, and Sherry was rubbing against her. She was young, quite pretty, and was dressed in red. She walked to the fireplace and straightened the ornaments there. â€œDown, Sherry,â€ she said. â€œAnyone would think Iâ€™d been away for a month!â€ She smiled at Horace, and went on, â€œHowever, I came back just in time, though I didnâ€™t expect to meet a burglar.â€ Horace had some hope because she seemed to be amused at meeting him. He might avoid trouble if he treated her the right way. He replied, â€œI didnâ€™t expect to meet one of the family.â€ She nodded. â€œI see what an inconvenience it is for you to meet me. What are you going to do?â€ Horace said, â€œMy first thought was to run.â€ â€œOf course, you could do that. But I would telephone the police and tell them all about you. Theyâ€™d get you at once.â€ Horace said, â€œI would, of course, cut the telephone wires first and then…,â€ he hesitated, a smile on his face, â€œI would make sure that you could do nothing for some time. A few hours would be enough.â€ She looked at him seriously. â€œYouâ€™d hurt me?â€ Horace paused, and then said, â€œI think I was trying to frighten you when I said that.â€ â€œYou didnâ€™t frighten me.â€ Horace suggested, â€œIt would be nice if you would forget you ever saw me. Let me go.â€ The voice was suddenly sharp. â€œWhy should I? You were going to rob me. If I let you go, youâ€™ll only rob someone else. Society must be protected from men like you.â€ Horace smiled. â€œIâ€™m not a man who threatens society. I steal only from those who have a lot of money. I steal for a very good reason. And I hate the thought of prison. She laughed, and he begged, thinking that he had persuaded her, â€œLook, I have no right to ask you for anything, but Iâ€™m desperate. Let me go and I promise never to do this kind of thing again. I really mean it.â€ She was silent, watching him closely. Then she said, â€œYou are really afraid of going to prison, arenâ€™t you?â€ She came over to him shaking her head. â€œI have always liked the wrong kind of people
Doorway- an entrance to a room or building through a door.
Ornaments-a thing used or serving to make something look more attractive but usually having no practical purpose, especially a small object such as a figurine.
Amused- finding something funny or entertaining.
Hesitated- pause in indecision before saying or doing something
Frighten- make (someone) afraid or anxious
Persuaded- induce (someone) to do something through reasoning or argument.
Then somebody from the doorway asked him that was it a cold or was it hay fever. Horace quickly replied â€˜hay feverâ€™ and sneezed again. The other person then continued and told him that he could cure it provided he knew which flower caused the allergy and that he should see a doctor if he wanted to be a good thief. Then the other person said that his sneezing could be heard from the top floor of the house. The voice was calm and firm. Then he got a bit nervous as he saw a woman standing in the doorway. The woman was young, pretty and dressed in red colour. She walked towards him and arranged the decorations kept on the fireplace. Then she ordered the dog to stay away and said that people might be thinking that she was away for a month but she was back in time and didn’t expect a burglar to welcome her back at her house. Horace was a bit hopeful as he saw that the woman was amused rather than being panicked on seeing a burglar. He thought that if he treated her well and didn’t do anything wrong then she might let him go. He also told her amusingly that he also didn’t expect to meet a family member either as he had thought that there was no one at home. Then she said that she realized what an inconvenience she was to him and asked him that what would he do now.
He replied that at first, he wanted to run away. The woman replied that he could do so but she would call the police and let them know that he was robbing her house and they would catch him. Horace replied that he would obviously cut the telephone wires first and then he would do something to her so that she was not able to do anything for a few hours. She looked at him seriously and asked him that would he hurt her. Horace replied that he was just saying that to frighten her. She was not frightened by what he said and Horace then told her that it would be better that she forgot that she ever saw him and let him go. Suddenly she spoke in a sharp and loud voice that why should she let him go.Â He was there to rob her and if she spared him, he would go and rob someone else. She said that the society needed to be protected from people like him. He smiled and said that he was not a threat to the society as he stole only from those people who had a lot of money. Also, he stole for a good reason and he hated even the thought of going to a prison. She laughed at his reply and he was begging her not to call the police. Horace was begging only because he thought that he had convinced her to let him go. He was desperately asking the woman not to go to the police and that he would surely stop robbing people. He promised her and told her that he meant what he said. She then looked closely towards him and asked him that was he really afraid of going to the prison? She shook her head and said that she always liked the wrong kind of people. (This was an indication for Horace that she was also a thief but he did not pick the clue).
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She picked up a silver box from the table and took a cigarette from it. Horace, eager to please her and seeing that she might help him, took off his gloves and gave her his cigarette lighter. You’ll let me go? He held the lighter towards her. Yes, but only if youâ€™ll do something for me.â€ â€œAnything you say.â€ â€œBefore we left for London, I promised my husband to take my jewels to our bank; but I left them here in the safe. I want to wear them to a party tonight, so I came down to get them, butâ€¦â€ Horace smiled. â€œYouâ€™ve forgotten the numbers to open the safe, haven’t you . Yes, replied the young lady. Just leave it to me and you’ll have them within an hour. But Iâ€™ll have to break your safe.â€ â€œDonâ€™t worry about that. My husband wonâ€™t be here for a month, and Iâ€™ll have the safe mended by that time.â€Â And within an hour Horace had opened the safe, given her the jewels, and gone happily away. For two days he kept his promise to the kind young lady. On the morning of the third day, however, he thought of the books he wanted and he knew he would have to look for another safe. But he never got the chance to begin his plan. By noon a policeman had arrested him for the jewel robbery at Shotover Grange. His fingerprints, for he had opened the safe without gloves, were all over the room, and 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 herself, a gray-haired, sharp-tongued woman of sixty, said that the story was nonsense. Horace is now the assistant librarian in the prison. He often thinks of the charming, clever young lady who was in the same profession as he was, and who tricked him. He gets very angry when anyone talks about â€˜honour among thievesâ€™.
Jewels- a precious stone.
Mended- repair (something that is broken or damaged).
Charming- very pleasant or attractive.
Profession- a paid occupation, especially one that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification.
Sharp – tongued – (of a person) given to using cutting, harsh, or critical language.
Honour- high respect; great esteem.
The woman picked up a cigarette box made of silver and took out a cigarette. Horace thought that if he pleased her, then she might help him. So, he quickly removed his gloves and gave her his cigarette lighter. Then he asked her that would she let him go and pointed the lighter towards her cigarette. She replied that yes, she would let him go but only if he would do something that she wanted. Horace quickly replied that he would do anything for her. The lady said that before going to London she had promised her husband that she would put all the jewellery in the bank but left it in the safe at the grange. She had to go to a party now but had forgotten the code of the locker. Horace said that he would do it but he would have to break the locker to which she replied that he need not worry about that as her husband wonâ€™t return in a monthâ€™s time and that she would get it repaired by then. Horace broke open the safe within an hour, gave her the jewels and left happily thinking that he was safe now. For two days he kept his promise to the lady that he won’t steal but on the third day he thought about the books that he wanted to buy and started thinking that he would have to look for another locker to steal from. He couldn’t even get the time to plan the next robbery as he was arrested. A police officer came to his house and arrested him as his fingerprints were all over the Shotover grange. No one believed him when he said that the ownerâ€™s wife had asked him to open the safe. The actual wife of the owner was an old woman who was sixty years old and was a sharp tongued woman.Â She said that the story was nonsense because she had never met Horace, not to think of asking him to break open the safe. This means that the young woman who had asked Horace to open the safe had pretended to be the ownerâ€™s wife and was a thief. Then Horace became the assistant librarian at the jail and thought about the woman who being from the same profession tricked him and got him caught. He felt really angry when someone talked about honour among thieves
A Question of Trust Class 10 English Lesson Question and Answers
Q1) What does Horace Danby like to collect?
Ans) Horace Danby likes to collect old, expensive and rare books.
Q2) Why does he steal every year?
Ans) He used to steal every year in a very systematic and planned manner. He used to steal enough to last him for 12 months and so that he could buy the rare and expensive books that he used to like through a secret agent.
Q3) Who is speaking to Horace Danby?
Ans) There was a woman standing in the doorway who was speaking to Horace Danby. She was a young, beautiful lady and was dressed in red colour. She was pretending to be one of the family members.
Q4)Who is the real culprit in the story?
Ans) The real culprit in the story is the woman who pretended to be a family member of the family living at the grange. She cleverly acted as a family member and made Horace believe that she wanted him to open the safe just because she had forgotten the passcode. Horace believed her and opened the safe and gave her all the jewels that were inside the safe and later, she took away all the jewels.
Q5) Did you begin to suspect, before the end of the story, that the lady was not the person Horace Danby took her to be? If so, at what point did you realise this, and how?
Ans) Yes, one does begin to suspect that the woman is not who she claims to be. She was unusually calm on seeing Horace near the locker. Then she doesn’t even call the police and also asks him to open the locker for her even if it means breaking it open as she had forgotten the code of the safe. It is very unusual that someone forgets the passcode to their own locker.
Q6) What are the subtle ways in which the lady manages to deceive Horace Danby into thinking she is the lady of the house? Why doesnâ€™t Horace suspect that something is wrong?
Ans) The way she walks up to the doorway, starts talking to him, arranges the ornaments in their right place and picks up the silver cigarette box with so much confidence can make anyone believe that she is the lady of the house. Apart from that, Horace had become nervous and frightened when he saw the woman in the doorway and due to that he could not think properly.
Q7) Horace Danby was a meticulous planner but still he faltered. Where did he go wrong and why?
Ans) The place where he went wrong was that he did not gather enough information about the real occupants of the house. He gathered all the information about the tracks, wirings, gardens, servants and even the dogâ€™s name but he still forgot to overlook the identities of the house owners. He even took out the information of the valuables inside the safe. Once he got into a problem, he could not even think properly and carelessly opened the safe and touched many things in the room without wearing his gloves.
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