Textbook: FOOTPRINTS WITHOUT FEET
The Midnight Visitor
- “Ausable did not fit any description of a secret agent Fowler had ever read.” What do secret agents in books and films look like, in your opinion?
Answer: Secret agents in fiction are projected like ideal men, ‘Tall dark and handsome’. They are usually well built and keep have beautiful women for company. They would always smoke pipe or cigar and do death defying stunts. James Bond is a very famous character by Ian Fleming. Movies based on James Bond show hi-tech gizmos which assist the detective in countering villains. There are some exceptions as well. There is a character named Feluda which was created by Satyajit Ray, the famous Bangla Filmmaker. Feluda was typical bhadralok by appearance.
- How does Ausable manage to make Max believe that there is a balcony attached to his room? Look back at his detailed description of it. What makes it a convincing story?
Answer: Ausable creates a detailed description of how his office was part a bigger apartment and how the next room had direct connection with the balcony. His statement that somebody else also broke into his office through that balcony made it a convincing story.
- Looking back at the story, when do you think Ausable thought up his plan for getting rid of Max? Do you think he had worked out his plan in detail right from the beginning? Or did he make up a plan taking advantage of events as they happened?
Answer: Ausable is very clever the way a detective should be. He made the plan to get rid of Max from the very beginning which is evident from the story of the imaginary balcony. He knew the waiter would come to deliver his drinks. He planned carefully to create an imaginary policeman which would have compelled Max to jump on the non-existent balcony.
A Question of Trust
- 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?
Answer: It is difficult to guess before the story ends. The incidence of the lady calming the dog gives some hint but it is not strong enough. Her statement of getting the safe repaired can make some reader to think but this can be also be a case of fear of a strict husband.
- 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?
Answer: Her confident walk, her act of touching up her make-up and the ease with which she picks cigarette from the right place are enough to deceive anybody. Horace was too frightened to think properly so he didn’t suspect anything.
- “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?
Answer: Danby’s habits were not typical of a thief. He was fond of books. He used to steal only once in a year so he was never stealing more than his needs. Act of theft is still a crime not matter how good a thief behaves, so Danby can’t be termed as completely honest. He is not a regular offender like other thieves so he can’t be categorized as a typical thief.
- Horace Danby was a meticulous planner but still he faltered. Where did he go wrong and why?
Answer: Horace Danby failed to get enough information about real occupants of the house. He seems to be too occupied with collecting information about house map, wiring and location of valuable things. Although he was smart enough to know the dog’s actual name but overlooked getting identity of each and every occupants of the house. Once he was in problem then probably his clever mind gave way to carelessness leading him to open the safe without wearing gloves.
- Do you think Horace Danby was unfairly punished, or that he deserved what he got?
Answer: He deserved what he got. A crime is a crime no matter if it is committed a hundred times or just once.
- 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?
Answer: “Ends do not justify means”, this is a very old and time tested saying. For own benefit nobody should harm others. But this world doesn’t function on idealism. There are many examples of people duping people for quick gains. These acts should be deplored and dealt with severely.
Footprints Without Feet
- ”Griffin was rather a lawless person” comment.
Answer: Griffin never thought twice before harming anybody. He put his landlord’s house on fire. Then his stealing acts at shops and later in the village indicate towards this. When he was encountered by the landlady of the inn, he threw chair at her and her husband. Lawless persons never think about safety and well being of others. They are always preoccupied with their benefits only.
- How would you assess Griffin as Scientist ?
Answer: Griffin is a brilliant scientist which is evident from his drug of invisibility. But he seems to enjoy the feeling of power which he got out of his invisibility. The power to hurt anybody without getting noticed can give sadistic pleasure to somebody. A true scientist makes discovery for the larger benefit of the society.
The Hack Driver
- When the lawyer reached New Mullion, did ‘Bill’ know that he was looking for Lutkins? When do you think Bill came up with his plan for fooling the lawyer?
Answer: Lutkins’ act of taking the lawyer for a ride clearly indicates that he is a very cunning person. It is his natural behaviour not to disclose his true identity to unknown persons. Moreover, being a cheat as he is it seems his regular practice to dupe people who are newcomers.
- Lutkins openly takes the lawyer all over the village. How is it that no one lets out the secret? Can you find other such subtle ways in which Lutkins manipulates the tour?
Answer: Lutkin never allows the lawyer to the place where the imaginary Lutkins is supposed to be present at a given time. The way he weaves stories about Lutkin’s vagabond nature and the way he scares the lawyer about Lutkin’s mother are great tools applied by Bill.
- Why do you think Lutkins’ neighbours were anxious to meet the lawyer?
Answer: Lutkin’s neighbours were not anxious to meet a person who could be easily duped. They wanted to enjoy the lawyer’s predicament.
- After his first day’s experience with the hack driver the lawyer thinks of returning to New Mullion to practise law. Do you think he would have reconsidered this idea after his second visit?
Answer: After his second visit the lawyer must have got the shock of his life that how easily he believed Lutkin. He also got a lesson to deal carefully with people. The image of a village with friendly people must have changed in his mind. So there is least chance of him planning to practice law in that village.
- Do you think the lawyer was gullible? How could he have avoided being taken for a ride?
Answer: The lawyer seems to be a simpleton and inexperienced person. He has yet to come to grips with the way the bad world functions. He could have done his homework better before going to the village. He could have taken a photograph of Lutkin if available. Before relying on Bill he could have cross checked with other people as well. He could have avoided sending Bill alone to search Lutkin.