Class 10- A Question of Trust Complete Analysis

A Question of Trust,Victor Canning,Horace Danby,female thief

Chapter 4, Victor Canning’s “A Question of Trust” Summary, Character Sketch, Theme, Important Passages, Textbook Question Answers and Extra Questions.

Chapter 4- A Question of Trust by Victor Canning:

Also Read: First Flight- Class 10 Prose


Hay fever: An allergic reaction causing sneezing, itching, and other symptoms, typically in response to pollen.
Burglar: A person who enters a building unlawfully with intent to commit a crime, especially theft.
Convenience: The state of being able to proceed with something without difficulty.
Sharp-tongued: Tending to speak critically or harshly.
Tricked: Deceived or misled by cunning or skilful means.
In the bright July sunshine: Describing a sunny day in July, indicating a cheerful atmosphere.
In spite of a little tickle of hay fever in his nose: Describing a slight sensation of hay fever, indicating a minor discomfort

Summary “A Question of Trust”:

Horace Danby, a seemingly honest lockmaker/locksmith, secretly robs a safe annually to fund his passion for rare books. In Victor Canning’s “A Question of Trust,” Horace targets Shotover Grange one summer, where he’s interrupted by a young woman claiming to be the owner’s wife. She catches him sneezing due to hay fever and convinces him to open the safe, pretending she needs her jewels for a party. Trusting her, Horace agrees, only to be arrested two days later. His fingerprints are found, and the owner, an older woman, denies any knowledge of him. Realising a fellow thief tricked him, Horace now works as a prison librarian and reflects bitterly on the incident, doubting the notion of “honour among thieves.”

Theme “A Question of Trust”:

The theme of ‘A Question of Trust’ by Victor Canning explores the the complex dynamics of deception and trust. The story highlights the potential for appearances to be misleading, as Horace Danby, a seemingly respectable lockmaker/locksmith, is revealed to be a secret thief. His trust in a young woman, who deceitfully poses as the homeowner, leads to his tragic downfall.

She manipulates him into opening a safe for her, only to betray him, resulting in his arrest. The story also challenges the notion of ‘honour among thieves,’ as trust is a fragile commodity even within the criminal world, and betrayal is all too common. Ultimately, it serves as a cautionary tale, illustrating that placing trust in the wrong person can have dire consequences, thereby highlighting the importance of being cautious about whom we trust.

Humour/ Irony in “A Question of Trust”:

Victor Canning’s “A Question of Trust” is a humorous story. The humour comes from the irony and clever twist at the end. Horace Danby, a thief who prides himself on his careful planning, is outsmarted by another thief who pretends to be the homeowner. 

The situation becomes amusing when Horace, who is always cautious, lets his guard down because of his hay fever and the woman’s charm. He even helps her steal the jewels, thinking he’s doing her a favour. The final irony of Horace being arrested because of his fingerprints and the realisation that a fellow thief tricked him adds a humorous twist to the story.

Character Sketch “A Question of Trust”: 

Character Sketch of Horace Danby:

Age and Marital Status:

  • Around fifty years old.
  • Unmarried.


  • Lockmaker with a successful business.
  • Has two helpers.

Living Situation:

  • He lives with a housekeeper who worries about his health.


  • Generally well and happy.
  • Suffers from hay fever in the summer.


  • Considered a good, honest citizen by others.

Secret Life:

  • Not completely honest; has a criminal side.
  • Has a passion for rare, expensive books.
  • Robs a safe once a year to fund his book purchases.

Criminal Record:

  • Served a prison sentence fifteen years ago.

Robbery Skills:

  • Plans his robberies meticulously.
  • Expert in locks and safes.
  • Careful to avoid leaving fingerprints.


  • Uses an agent to buy books secretly.
  • Studies targets thoroughly before robbing them.


  • Clever and methodical.
  • Charitable towards dogs (knows how to keep them quiet).
  • Nervous about getting caught (hates the idea of prison).


  • Tricked by a charming woman posing as a homeowner.
  • Ends up helping her steal jewels.
  • Gets caught due to leaving fingerprints.


  • Works as an assistant librarian in prison.
  • Feels bitter and disillusioned about trust and honor among thieves.

Character Sketch of the Female Thief: 


  • Young and quite pretty.
  • Dressed in red.


  • Calm and composed when she encounters Horace.
  • Speaks in a quiet, kindly, yet firm voice.

Intelligence and Cunning:

  • Clever and quick-thinking.
  • Able to quickly assess and manipulate the situation to her advantage.
  • Successfully deceives Horace by pretending to be the homeowner.


  • Uses charm and confidence to gain Horace’s trust.
  • Convincingly plays the role of a homeowner needing help with the safe.

Manipulative Skills:

  • Creates a plausible story about needing the jewels for a party.
  • She manipulates Horace into helping her by using his fear of getting caught and his desire to avoid conflict.


  • Poses as the homeowner’s wife, showing familiarity with the house and the dog.
  • Lies about forgetting the safe’s combination to get Horace to open it.


  • Confidently enters the house and confronts Horace without fear.
  • Takes control of the situation effortlessly.

Lack of Remorse:

  • Deceives Horace without any apparent guilt.
  • Leaves Horace to face the consequences of the crime.


  • Experienced in the art of deception and thievery.
  • Executes her plan smoothly and leaves no trace of her involvement.

Impact on Horace:

  • Her actions lead to Horace’s arrest and imprisonment.
  • This causes Horace to feel bitter about trust and honour among thieves.

Important Passages “A Question of Trust”:

The following passages/lines outline the story’s progression, highlighting Horace’s character, meticulous planning, the unexpected encounter with the woman in red, the deceit, and the eventual consequence of his actions.

1. “Everyone thought that Horace Danby was a good, honest citizen… Yes, Horace Danby was good and respectable — but not completely honest.” 

The opening passage sets up the main contrast in Horace Danby’s character. On the surface, he is a respectable and trustworthy member of society. However, the phrase “not completely honest” hints at his secret life as a burglar. This duality is crucial for understanding the story’s central theme of deception and hidden truths.

2. “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.”

The passage provides the background for Horace’s criminal activities and explains his motivation for stealing: his love for rare and expensive books. Although his past prison sentence indicates he has been caught before, he continues his life of crime to satisfy his passion for books. This context helps readers understand why he engages in burglaries despite his outwardly respectable life.

3. “Now, walking in the bright July sunshine, ……………For two weeks he had been studying the house at Shotover Grange…”

The passage shows Horace’s confidence and meticulous planning. He believes this year’s robbery will be as smooth as his previous ones because he has thoroughly prepared by studying the house at Shotover Grange. This detailed preparation highlights his methodical approach and sets the stage for the story’s unfolding events.

4. “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.”

Here, the passage illustrates Horace’s cautious and calculated approach to burglary. By observing where the housekeeper places the key and using gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints, he demonstrates his careful planning and desire to avoid getting caught. This moment is crucial as it shows the beginning of his burglary at Shotover Grange.

5. “The voice went on, ‘You can cure it with a special treatment, you know, if you find out just what plant gives you the disease… I didn’t expect to meet a burglar.'”

Horace unexpectedly encounters a woman while attempting to rob the house. The woman’s conversation with Horace reveals her suspicion of his intentions and attempts to dissuade him from committing the crime. This introduces a pivotal moment in the story where Horace’s plans are disrupted, adding tension and complexity to the plot.

6. “Horace suggested, ‘It would be nice if you would forget you ever saw me. Let me go.'” Horace attempts to negotiate his release with the woman he encounters during the robbery. This shows his desperation to avoid getting caught and his willingness to make promises to secure his freedom.

7. “‘You’ll let me go?’ He held the lighter towards her.” Horace eagerly seeks confirmation that he will be allowed to leave, indicating his relief at potentially avoiding arrest. His gesture of offering the lighter symbolises his desire to cooperate and appease the woman.

8. “‘Yes, but only if you’ll do something for me.'” The woman imposes a condition for Horace’s release, revealing her leverage over him. Horace agrees to fulfil her request in exchange for his freedom, demonstrating his willingness to comply to avoid consequences.

9. “‘Don’t worry about that… and within an hour Horace had opened the safe, given her the jewels, and gone happily away.” Despite his initial reluctance to break the safe, Horace ultimately agrees to do so to fulfil his end of the bargain. This highlights his commitment to keeping his promise to the woman and the lengths he will go to avoid being apprehended.

10. “By noon a policeman had arrested him for the jewel robbery at Shotover Grange.” Horace’s arrest by the police signifies the culmination of his failed attempt at robbery. It marks the consequences of his actions catching up with him, leading to his eventual imprisonment. This event is the story’s climax, revealing the resolution of Horace’s criminal activities.

11. “His fingerprints, ……….he owner of the house had asked him to open the safe for her.”

Horace’s fingerprints being found all over the room implicates him in the robbery, despite his claim that the owner’s wife asked him to open the safe. This highlights the irony of his situation, as his attempt to avoid consequences by fabricating a story ultimately backfires, leading to his arrest and imprisonment.

12. “The wife herself, a gray-haired, sharp-tongued woman of sixty, said that the story was nonsense.”

The wife’s dismissal of Horace’s story adds to the scepticism surrounding his claims of innocence. Her sharp-tongued response further undermines Horace’s credibility and strengthens the case against him. This passage reinforces the idea that Horace’s attempt to shift blame onto someone else is unsuccessful, contributing to his character’s downfall.

13. “Horace is now the assistant librarian in the prison. He often……………… He gets very angry when anyone talks about ‘honour among thieves’.”

Horace’s new role as an assistant librarian in prison reflects the consequences of his actions and the loss of his freedom. His reflections on the woman who deceived him highlight the irony of being outsmarted by someone he perceived as a potential ally. His anger towards the notion of “honour among thieves” suggests his disillusionment with criminal ideals and serves as a commentary on the moral complexities of his situation. This passage provides insight into Horace’s character development and the story’s themes of betrayal and morality.

Question Answers “A Question of Trust”:

Comprehension Questions: 

Q1: What does Horace Danby like to collect?

A1: Horace Danby likes to collect rare and expensive books.

Q2: Why does he steal every year?

A2: Horace Danby steals yearly to obtain enough money to buy the rare and expensive books he loves. He plans carefully and steals enough to last him for twelve months, secretly purchasing the books through an agent.

Q3: Who is speaking to Horace Danby?

A3: The person speaking to Horace Danby is the young lady who unexpectedly returns to the house while he is attempting to rob it. She is described as young, quite pretty, and dressed in red. She catches Horace in the act and engages him in conversation.

Q4: Who is the real culprit in the story?

A4: The real culprit in the story is Horace Danby himself. Although he believes he is stealing from wealthy individuals for a good cause (to buy rare books he loves), he still commits theft. He is caught in the act by the young lady who tricks him into opening the safe, leading to his arrest and subsequent imprisonment.

Think About It: 

Q1: 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?

A1: (Subjective Answer)

Yes, before the end of the story, I started to suspect that the lady was not who Horace Danby thought she was. I realised this when the lady showed surprising knowledge about Horace’s condition and seemed too calm and composed for someone who had just caught a burglar in her house. 

Her suggestion about treating hay fever and her casual demeanour made me question her identity. When she asked Horace to do something for her in exchange for letting him go, it became clear that she had her agenda, which was unexpected for someone who appeared to be the homeowner.

Q2: What are the subtle ways in which the lady manages to deceive Horace Danby into thinking she is the lady of the house? Why doesn’t Horace suspect that something is wrong?

A2: The lady manages to deceive Horace Danby into thinking she is the lady of the house through subtle tactics. She speaks with confidence and authority, giving orders to the household dog and referring to tasks she needs to attend to, creating the impression that she belongs there. 

She engages Horace in conversation and appears friendly and non-threatening, putting him at ease. Horace doesn’t suspect something is wrong because he is focused on carrying out his robbery and is eager to please the lady to secure his release. He is also preoccupied with avoiding detection and doesn’t question her authority or presence in the house.

Q3: “Horace Danby was good and respectable — but not completely honest”. Why do you think this description is apt for Horace? Why can’t he be categorised as a typical thief?

A3: The description “Horace Danby was good and respectable — but not completely honest” is fitting for Horace because it captures the complexity of his character. While he appears to be a law-abiding citizen and is respected in his community, he harbours a secret life as a burglar. 

This duality makes him different from a typical thief because he doesn’t fit the criminal stereotype. Unlike many thieves who may lack moral values altogether, Horace seems to have a sense of decency and respectability in his public life, which makes his criminal activities all the more surprising.

Q4: Horace Danby was a meticulous planner but still he faltered. Where did he go wrong and why?

A4: Horace Danby’s meticulous planning ultimately faltered due to his underestimation of the situation and overconfidence. He went wrong when he failed to anticipate the presence of the woman in the house and the level of awareness she had regarding his actions. 

His decision to converse with her and make promises to fulfil her request further complicated the situation and diverted his focus from the task. Similarly, his failure to wear gloves while opening the safe left incriminating evidence that led to his arrest. Horace’s downfall stemmed from his complacency and inability to adapt to unexpected circumstances despite careful planning.

Talk about It:

Q1: Do you think Horace Danby was unfairly punished, or that he deserved what he got?

A1: I believe that Horace Danby deserved the consequences of his actions. While he may have had good intentions, such as his love for rare books, his decision to commit burglary each year was still illegal and morally wrong. 

Even if he believed he had valid reasons for his actions, such as wanting to acquire books he couldn’t afford, resorting to theft was not the right course of action. Therefore, he faced punishment for breaking the law.

Q2: Do intentions justify actions? Would you, like Horace Danby, do something wrong if you thought your ends justified the means? Do you think that there are situations in which it is excusable to act less than honestly?

A2: (Subjective Answer)

Intentions can influence how we perceive actions but don’t always justify them. 

While someone may have good intentions behind their actions, that doesn’t excuse dishonest or harmful behaviour. Like Horace Danby, I might consider doing something wrong if I believed my ends justified the means. However, I firmly believe ethical boundaries shouldn’t be crossed, even if we think we have good reasons for doing so. 

While there may be situations where acting less than honestly seems excusable, such as in cases of extreme necessity or to prevent harm, it’s critical to consider the consequences of our actions and whether they align with our values and principles.

Extra Questions “A Question of Trust”: 

Short Answer Type Questions: 

Q1: Who was Horace Danby, and what was his secret criminal activity?

A1: Horace Danby, a seemingly respectable locksmith, secretly stole from Safes each year to fuel his love for rare books despite maintaining a facade of honesty and respectability in his community.

Q2: Describe the setting where Horace planned his latest robbery.

A2: Horace meticulously scoped out Shotover Grange, studying its layout, security measures, and the habits of its occupants during their absence. With the servants at the movies and the house seemingly empty, he seized the opportunity to execute his carefully planned robbery on a bright July afternoon.

Q3: How did Horace react when encountering the small dog in the kitchen?

A3: Horace reacted calmly to the small dog in the kitchen, addressing it by name and acknowledging its presence in a friendly manner. He believed that showing love and calling the dog by its name would keep it quiet and ensure it didn’t interfere with his plans to rob the house.

Q4: Who unexpectedly interrupted Horace while he was attempting to rob Shotover Grange?

A4: Horace was unexpectedly interrupted by a young woman, the homeowner’s wife, who returned to the house earlier than expected. She caught him attempting to open the safe and engaged him in conversation, ultimately outsmarting and thwarting his robbery attempt.

Q5: What deal did Horace strike with the woman who caught him in the act?

A5: Horace deals with the woman who caught him by agreeing to help her open the safe and retrieve her jewels in exchange for his freedom. Despite his initial reluctance, he assisted her, hoping to avoid detection and consequences for his attempted robbery.

Q6: What did the woman ask Horace to do in exchange for letting him go?

A6: The woman asked Horace to help her open the safe and retrieve her leftover jewels instead of depositing them in the bank as planned. She promised to let him go free in exchange for his assistance, avoiding involving the police.

Q7: How did Horace feel about the prospect of going to prison?

A7: Horace felt terrified at the prospect of going to prison, as he despised the idea of being incarcerated and losing his freedom. He pleaded with the woman to spare him from imprisonment, expressing genuine fear and desperation to avoid the consequences of his criminal actions.

Q8: What led to Horace’s arrest despite his belief that he had completed the robbery?

A8: Horace’s arrest stemmed from leaving his fingerprints all over the crime scene after opening the safe without wearing gloves. Despite his confidence in completing the robbery, his carelessness in leaving evidence behind ultimately led to his arrest and conviction for the theft at Shotover Grange.

Q9: Why did Horace end up working as an assistant librarian in prison?

A9: Horace worked as an assistant librarian in prison after his theft conviction at Shotover Grange. With his criminal activities exposed and his reputation tarnished, he was relegated to a menial job within the prison system, reflecting the consequences of his actions.

Q10: How did Horace feel about “honor among thieves” after his experience?

A10: Horace felt angry and disillusioned about the notion of “honor among thieves” after his experience. He realised that others in the criminal world did not share his ideals of honesty and respectability, leading him to resent the false sense of camaraderie or morality that this concept implied.

Q11: How did Horace usually acquire the books he loved?

A11: Horace usually acquired the books he loved by secretly stealing money from Safes each year, carefully planning his robberies to fund his passion for rare and expensive books. Through an intermediary, he covertly purchased the books he desired, maintaining a covert means of obtaining his beloved literary treasures.

Q12: What initially led Horace to consider switching from stealing books to stealing paintings?

A12: Horace considered switching from stealing books to stealing paintings due to their potentially higher value and smaller storage space requirements. He reasoned that while books were preferable for their compactness, paintings could offer greater financial gain, prompting him to contemplate a change in his criminal pursuits.

Q13: What led to Horace’s hesitation when the woman questioned him about harming her?

A13: Horace hesitated when questioned about harming the woman due to his realisation that resorting to violence could escalate the situation and further incriminate him. Despite his initial threat, he recoiled from the idea of causing harm, recognising the potential consequences of his actions in a heightened state of desperation.

Q14: How did the woman ultimately outsmart Horace?

A14: The woman ultimately outsmarted Horace by manipulating him into assisting her with opening the safe to retrieve her jewels. By appealing to his fear of imprisonment and offering him the illusion of freedom, she exploited his desperation, effectively turning him into an unwitting accomplice in her scheme.

Q15: What was Horace’s reaction when the woman asked for his assistance with the safe again?

A15: Horace willingly agreed to assist the woman with the safe again, eager to please her and believing that fulfilling her request would secure his freedom. Despite his initial hesitation, he complied with her demands, hopeful that cooperating would ensure his escape from the consequences of his actions.

Long Answer Type Questions: 

Q1: What motivated Horace Danby to commit burglaries despite being perceived as a good citizen?

A1: Horace Danby’s motivation to commit burglaries stemmed from his passion for rare and expensive books. Despite being perceived as a good citizen, he harboured a secret desire for these books, which drove him to theft. His love for literature was so profound that he meticulously planned his annual robberies to sustain his collection for twelve months. 

This desire, coupled with his skill in locks and safes, led him to pursue a life of crime, albeit clandestinely. Despite his otherwise respectable facade, Horace’s unchecked passion for books ultimately leads him down the path of burglary, highlighting the complexity of human motivations and the lengths some will go to fulfil their desires.

Q2: How did Horace plan his robberies to ensure they were successful for twelve months?

A2: Horace Danby’s meticulous planning ensured the success of his robberies for twelve months. Firstly, he carefully selected his targets, opting for wealthy homes with valuable items. He then studied the layouts of the houses extensively, noting details like electric wiring and security systems. Horace timed his robberies when the houses were empty, ensuring minimal risk of detection. 

He stole enough valuables to sustain himself for the entire year, carefully calculating the worth of his loot. To maintain secrecy, he used an agent to purchase rare books on his behalf, avoiding suspicion. Horace’s methodical approach, combined with his expertise in locks, allowed him to execute his crimes smoothly and avoid detection until his final heist.

Q3: What was Horace’s initial impression of the young woman he encountered in the house?

A3: Horace’s initial impression of the young woman he encountered in the house was a surprise and cautious optimism. When he first saw her, she appeared young, pretty, and dressed in red, which likely caught his attention. Despite the unexpected encounter with her, Horace observed her demeanour, noting her quiet and kindly voice. 

Initially, he might have felt a glimmer of hope that her demeanour indicated a lack of hostility towards him, considering her amusement at meeting him. However, he remained cautious, recognising the potential threat she posed to his plans of burglarising the house. Horace’s initial impression of the young woman was a blend of surprise, cautious optimism, and wariness of her intentions.

Q4: How did the young woman manipulate Horace to help her retrieve the jewels from the safe?

A4: The young woman manipulated Horace by appealing to his fear of imprisonment and offering him a seemingly harmless task. Initially, she engaged him in conversation, expressing concern about his health and suggesting a treatment for his hay fever. 

This established a sense of rapport between them. Then, she gradually revealed her predicament of needing to retrieve the jewels from the safe but lacking the combination. By appealing to Horace’s desperation to avoid trouble and his desire to prove his sincerity, she convinced him to assist her, assuring him that she would let him go afterwards. Her calm attitude and subtle coercion led Horace to believe that helping her would be safer than resisting or fleeing.

Q5: Why did Horace agree to help the young woman despite knowing the risks?

A5: Horace agreed to help the young woman despite knowing the risks because he was motivated by fear, desperation, and the hope of redemption. Firstly, he feared the consequences of being caught by the police, knowing his fingerprints were all over the room. Secondly, he felt desperate to avoid imprisonment, especially considering his aversion to prison life. 

The young woman’s demeanour and the rapport they established made him hopeful that cooperating with her would lead to a favourable outcome. He saw helping her as a chance to prove his sincerity and potentially earn her mercy or assistance in avoiding legal repercussions. Ultimately, Horace’s fear, desperation, and hope for redemption drove him to agree to help the young woman despite the inherent risks involved.

Q6: What ultimately led to Horace’s arrest by the police?

A6: Horace’s arrest by the police was ultimately caused by his failure to conceal his fingerprints at the crime scene. Despite his usual meticulousness in planning robberies, he made a critical mistake by not wearing gloves while opening the safe. This oversight led to his fingerprints being left all over the room, providing irrefutable evidence of his presence during the burglary. 

The absence of corroborating evidence or witnesses to support his claim that the house owner’s wife had asked him to open the safe further weakened his defence. Consequently, the presence of incriminating fingerprints and the lack of credible explanation led to Horace’s arrest by the police for the jewel robbery at Shotover Grange.

Q7: How did the house owner’s wife react to Horace’s claim that she had asked him to open the safe?

A7: The house owner’s wife vehemently denied Horace’s claim that she had asked him to open the safe, reacting with disbelief and dismissal. Described as a gray-haired, sharp-tongued woman of sixty, she refuted Horace’s statement as nonsense. Despite Horace’s attempt to persuade others of his innocence by asserting that he was acting at her request, she provided no support for his defence. 

Her refusal to corroborate his story and authoritative demeanour further made others doubt Horace’s credibility. Consequently, her outright rejection of his claim played a significant role in undermining Horace’s defence and contributing to his eventual arrest by the police.

Q8: How does Horace feel about the concept of “honour among thieves” after his experience?

A8: After his experience, Horace harbours resentment towards the concept of “honour among thieves,” feeling disillusioned by its absence in his interactions. His encounter with the young woman, who tricked and manipulated him, shattered any romantic notions he might have held about mutual respect or integrity within criminal circles. 

Horace’s experience of betrayal and exploitation by someone ostensibly in the same profession as him undermines any belief he may have had in the notion of honor among thieves. Instead, he likely feels bitter and cynical, realising that in the world of crime, self-interest often trumps any sense of loyalty or ethical code.

You may also like these

error: Content is protected !!