The story revolves around a young, seasoned thief who goes by the false name Hari Singh. At the age of 15, he devised a system to avoid capture: changing his name every month. He befriends Anil, a kind and trusting man, at a wrestling match with the intention of robbing him.
Anil is a writer, a profession that strikes Hari as an unusual way to make a living. Despite claiming he couldn't pay Hari, Anil takes him in and offers him food and shelter in exchange for cooking and other small chores. Over time, Anil teaches Hari how to write his name and promises to teach him more. Hari comes to appreciate this education, understanding that it could provide him with a different kind of future.
Hari earns a small profit by skimming off the grocery shopping money, and although he suspects Anil knows about this, he doesn't seem to mind. When Anil receives a substantial amount of money from selling a book to a publisher, Hari decides to return to his old ways and steal it.
One night, he successfully steals the money and plans to escape on the Lucknow Express. But, for reasons he can't explain, Hari hesitates at the last moment and misses the train. Stranded, cold, and alone, he contemplates Anil's potential reaction to the theft. He realizes Anil would not be upset about the money but rather the betrayal of his trust.
Faced with the prospect of losing his newfound education and the life it could bring him, Hari decides to return the money. He sneaks back into Anil's room and replaces the money under the mattress. The following morning, Anil gives him a wet fifty-rupee note—the same money Hari had stolen and then returned. Anil announces that he'll start paying Hari regularly and that they'll begin writing sentences that day.
Anil’s response to the attempted theft shows that he knew what had happened, but he didn’t confront Hari about it. The chapter ends on a hopeful note, suggesting Hari has a chance to leave his thieving past behind and embark on a more fulfilling, honest path, thanks to Anil's trust and kindness.