The narrator of "An Honest Thief" is surprised when his housekeeper, Agrafena, comes to him and speaks to him. He states,
One morning, just as I was about to set off to my office, Agrafena, my cook, washerwoman and housekeeper, came in to me and, to my surprise, entered into conversation.
He says he is surprised because she had not uttered a word in his hearing for six years previously.
However, as the narrator explains, when someone puts a thought into the usually silent woman's mind, it is impossible to shake it out again. In this case, Agrafena has met an elderly man named Astafy Ivanovitch, a tailor looking for a room to rent for three rubles a month. She wants to rent him the tiny room next to the kitchen. Although the narrator insists that the room is too small even to fit a bed, she persists, saying it would simply be a place for him to sleep and that he would do his work sitting in the windowsill of the hallway outside of the apartment.
The narrator, though very surprised at all this, as well as that his housekeeper is speaking to him, feels he must go along with the request. He knows from past experience that if he does not, his maid will become depressed, and the housework and cooking will slide downhill. Also, he spends so much time alone and has so few friends, he looks forward to the idea of a boarder.