Never Trust a Lady Victor Canning Everyone thought that Horace Denby 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 unusually 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 Denby was good and respectable-but not completely honest. Fifteen years ago, Horace had served his first and only sentence in prison for stealing jewels.
The priest at the prison had liked Horace-everyone did-and had tried to help him to live an honest life. But Horace did not want to become honest; he only wanted to make sure that his dishonesty never got him into trouble again. Horace hated prison. He hated the food, the lack of exercise, and the ugly, worn-out books in the prison library. Horace loved rear 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 year’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 remained in the Grange while the family was in London, had gone to the movies. Horace saw them go, and he felt happy 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 back. There were about fifteen thousand pounds’ 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 sell in the autumn. Now he would get the money he needed 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. ‘all right, Sherry,’ Horace said as he passed.
All you had to do to keep dogs quite 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 flower 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 heart 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 flowers came to him again. How foolish people are when they won valuable things, Horace thought. A magazine article had described this house, giving a plan 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. Then he heard a voice say from the door way: “What is it?
A cold or hay fever? ” Before he could thing Horace said,” hay fever” and found himself sneezing again. The voice went on: “you can cure it with special treatment; you know if you found out just what plan gives you the disease. I thing you’d better see a doctor if you are serious about your work. I heard you from the top of the house just now. ” It was a quite kindly voice ; but one with firmness in it. A woman was standing in the door way, and Sheery was rubbing against her. She was young, quite pretty, and was dressed in red. She walked to the fire place and straightened the ornaments there. Down, Sheery,” she said. “Any one would think I had been away for a month! ” she smiled at Horace and went on, “However I came back just in time, though I didn’t expect to meet a burglar. ” 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, “I didn’t expect to meet one of the families. ” She nodded. “I see what an inconvenience it is for you to meet me. What are you going to do? ” Horace said, “my thought to run. ” “Of course, you could do that. But I would telephone and tell them all about you. They had get you at once. Horace said, “I would of course, cut the telephone first and then” he hesitated, a smile on his face, “I would make sure that you could do nothing for sometime. A few hours would be enough. She looked at him seriously, “you had heart me” Horace paused, and then said, “I thing I was trying to frighten you when I said that. ” “You didn’t frighten me. ” Horace suggested,” I would be nice if you would forget you ever saw me. Let me go. ” The voice was suddenly sharp. “why should I? You are going to rob me. If I let you go, you will only rob someone else. Society must be protected from men like you. Horace smiled. “I am not a man who threatens society. I still only from those who have a lot of money. I still for a very good reason. And I heat the thought of prison. ” She laughed and he begged, thinking that he had persuaded her, “look, I have no right to ask you anything, but I am desperate. Let me go and I promise never to do this kind thing again. I really mean it. ” She was silent, watching him closely. Then she said, ‘you are really afraid of going to prison, aren’t you? ” She came over to him, shaking her head. ‘I have always liked the wrong kind of people,’ she said.
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 will let me go? ’ e held the lighter towards her. ‘yes, but only if you’ll do something for me. ’ ‘Anything you say. ’ ‘Before we left for London, I promised my husband to take my jewels to our bank; but I left them here in safe. I want to wear them to a party tonight, so I came down to get them, but…’’ Horace smiled, ‘like a women, you have forgotten the numbers to open the safe, haven’t you? ‘Yes’. ‘Just leave it to me and you will have them with in an hour. But I will have to break your safe. ’ ‘Don’t worry about that. My husband won’t be here for a month, and I will have to safe repaired by that time. ’ And with in 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 police man had arrested him for the jewel robbery at Shotover Grange. His finger prints, 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 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 that charming, cleaver young lady who was in the same profession as he was, and who trickled him. He gets very angry when any one talks about ‘honor among thieves’.