You Must Not Trust

Damon Runyon

Ah, young man, here you are again, looking for more advice I presume!

What is it this time?

You want advice on whom to trust?

Listen, son. I think you and I better take a walk out of earshot of certain parties before I answer, as I understand there is already a slight beef out on some of the advice I have given you, and I am afraid we may get another one on this.

No one says the advice is not correct. They just say it is too world. Well, it is only advice based on my experience, and experience is the hard way of learning things, so I feel if I tip you off in advance, you may avoid some of my own bruises and contusions.

Whom to trust?

Trust no one!

Yes, me laddie-buck, that is my advice. Trust no one.

Micah, one of the prophets of the Old Testament, who was pretty much a man of the people, put it in this fashion:

Trust yet not in a friend, put ye not confidence in a guide: keep the doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom.

I think you ought to consult your old man about the last part of this, my boy, to get a clearer interpretation than I feel called upon to give, though I second the motion. Of course, even the Devil can quote Scripture and I suppose if I wanted to be honest, I would ring in quotations that support trust but why should I weaken my own advice?

Jeremiah, another prophet, who was always squawking about something said:

Take ye heed everyone of his neighbor, and trust ye not in any brother: for every brother will utterly supplant and every neighbor will walk with slanders.

If you trust no one, you can not come to harm; that is a sure thing. No doubt, some will say that if no one trusted anyone else this would be a world of suspicion and unhappiness, but I do not see why you have to be suspicious of someone just because you do not trust him, or why unhappiness should come of lack of trust if it was accepted as a matter of course.

I once knew a man who would not trust his wife around the corner and in fact often, when she left the house and walked down the street he waited until she had turned the corner then ran down there and peeked around it at her.

She knew he did it and was not at all unhappy about it. On the contrary, she seemed to feel a little flattered by the attention, though I must say the guy himself always seemed a trifle disappointed because he never caught her at anything.

If every person in the world was taught from birth to trust no one, it would eventually be a universal state of mind and people would know no other. No man would make a deal of any kind with another man without guarantees that would preclude the double-cross with which most of us are familiar. Widows would not be swindled by their late husbands’ best friends.

We would have no broken hearts because of some dame two-timing a good man, or vice versa. We would have no sudden aggressions among nations. Why, son, it would be a more effective preventive of wars than all the plans they are rigging up today; though, of course, I have to admit that, in this particular, I am not the first to think of it.

Demosthenes, the Athenian patriot and orator (who is said to have learned to spout brilliantly by keeping his mouth full of pebbles) said a long time ago that there is one safeguard known generally to the wise as an advantage and security to all (but especially to democracies as against despots) and that was distrust.

I have not up to now mentioned the sordid topic of money in my advice to you to trust no one, my son. In lieu of any considerable windifying along that line, I will quote for you a little quatrain that in my youth appeared in many stores and saloons and other places of business and which really says a mouthful:

My friend did come and I did trust him.

I lost my friend and I lost his custom.

To lose my friend did grieve me sore,

So I resolved to trust no more.

And usually the sign added in jarring prose that I always thought was a crude anticlimax to this lovely poesy:

“This means YOU.”