"What’s the time Gloriana?” Seth sleepily asked his wife.
“It’s 4:30 only. Seth, go to sleep. For a day or two you can spare waking up early in the morning,” Gloriana replied more sleepily.
“Oh! I have only half an hour, ” Seth murmured and went back to sleep.
Exactly at 5:30, he woke up and he was horrified to see that it was already past 5:00. He jumped out of the bed and literally ran around the house to finish his chores before fetching the water from the two taps.
“Oh God! What will happen? It’s already 5 AM and I'm late. I’ll not get enough water. Oh God! how could I make such a mistake? By 8:00 the water supply would be stopped. Somehow I have to get water before that,” he murmured while he completed his daily chores.
When he walked toward the taps he saw that no one was there; not even a single soul.
“Thank God! No one is here yet,” he said to himself.
Seth Wheeler, he was one of those exceptions, who would rise early in the morning, despite by the last night’s immense hard work. He was considered as a very wise and noble man. Though sharing and caring were not a rare act among the people of the village, but Seth’s way of life always fascinated other, and no matter how much they tried, they could never be like Seth.
He knew that the queue will start from 6 AM and the water supply is from 5 AM to 8 AM, so the first hour of the supply is kind of wasted. So he’d store water for those who’d stand at the end of the queue and predictably do not get even one bucket of water. Despite such conditions of abject poverty and scarcity he knew how to make life a little better for himself and others as well. Thus, everyone looked up to him. Adeth and Ben his two sons was trained and brought up with the same values and virtues.
Everything was going on smoothly for people to carry on their daily life in the usual way. And then one fine day, Seth got up early as usual and after completing his errands quickly went to fetch water. But to his surprise, the taps were dry. And that was a kind of strangeness.
“Maybe they’ve not yet started supplying water in our area. Such a remote area...It's likely that everything will reach here late, not even a proper drainage system,” he grumbled while he went back to his house. Gloriana slightly laughed and said,
“You have proved: Not even the water supply board is regular like you. And look at those poor boys who woke up — thanks to your quiet ways of working around the house. Now go and sit. Sleep off if you feel like.”
He once again checked at 6:00 AM and still there was no water. That entire day not a single drop of water fell from either of the two taps. All the people were puzzled. The first day followed by the second day and there was still no water. This was becoming difficult as they were using water from what they had saved previously. At the end of the third day, they came to the conclusion that something must have gone wrong. It might either be a pipeline repair work or just a blockage in the pipelines.
But the mystery was soon solved. The entire village was shocked to hear John explain what actually happened,
“Today when I went to the city, I heard some people talking about a rich businessman who has shifted to the city with his family. He has come to the city with the deal. And if things go as planned, lot money will be earned. This promise of more money came with the cost of luxury for him and his family.So for his benefit, they have redirected our pipeline to his house. This is how it will be for over a month. But there is no guarantee of getting water even after that," John finished.
They all were in the utter shock. There was pin drop silence for a second or two as it took some time for everyone to absorb the shock and bring them back to reality.
Wow, was all Seth could manage to say after the silence.
“This is the news of the day,” another piped in again, all was quiet. And then suddenly George burst with rage and fury.
“This is NOT Done. Just not done. What is the meaning of this? How can they do this? Don’t they have even a bit of humanity? We’re dying here without the basic necessities of life and there, they are wasting water. This is getting out of our hands."
Even though they all were trying to soothe George, they all could feel the anger swelling up, but Seth was surprisingly quiet. He thoughtfully sat at one corner of the room, trying to think a way out of this difficult situation. He knew he had to come up with a relevant solution or else they’ll die out of hunger and thirst. And he also knew that rebelling and protesting was definitely not the way out. And the only other thought that came to his mind was to go and plead. Though he knew that the outcome won’t be worth, still he thought,
“There is no harm in trying,” and moreover, they actually didn’t have a choice or any other alternative.
But to Seth’s despair, everyone wanted to battle for honesty and justice, but no one was ready to pay heed to Seth’s idea of begging or requesting. Although, logically they were right, but practically it was a foolish idea. After a long discussion it was decided that they’d write a letter, but the idea was almost immediately rejected as the question arose;
“Seth, none of us are educated enough to write the letter”reasoned Peter.
“Yes, you are right," othersSeth replied, considering the matter carefully.
“Then, the only other alternative that is left is going over there,” Seth suggested.
“But we don’t even know the exact place of the water supply board is. How will we find that out?” one said.
“I know where the office is. But I was thinking of going straight there,” Seth replied.
“I meant straight to this man’s house who is the actual cause of this mess.”
“Though it sounds a bit too disheartening, but we have no other way. So let's try this out,” Peter said.
One bother also gave up. And it was decided that they’ll be leaving that very night.
“We’ll take the last bus from here, the one that leaves by 10 PM so that we can reach there around 8 AM.”
After bidding their wives and children goodbyes, they left. Though all were very sleepy, no one could fall asleep. They were anxious, tensed all the way. Next morning by 7:45 AM they reached the city. It was a Saturday morning, and the city was in a slow lazy pace. It was yet to wake up. While John and Peter marvelled at the sights around them, George and William sneered at it. But Seth reserved his opinion. Yes, of course, the city's views were a pleasure to the eyes, but at the same time, the city's decorations had blinded men to such an extent that they couldn't differentiate between acts of humanity and sheer inhumanity. After asking for directions for the umpteenth time, they finally reached.
They all took a moment to view the house. Indeed, it was a sight fitted for the eyes. The building could accommodate almost their entire village. The lawn was no less than that of Adam and Eve’s Garden. They awed at the doors and windows, and the cars parked out on the curb.
They knocked the door politely but no one answered. After a couple of long moments, the door opened. The expression on the man’s face made George and Peter almost turn around and walk away. But when the picture of his family dying from hunger and thirst flashed on his mind, which was enough to change his mind. The thought of the agony and pain his wife and his children might face made him shiver.
The short and plump man, with frowning eyes that flashed cruelty and a shrewdness stretched on his face — He was definitely not excited about being disturbed by a bunch of ruffians, early on a Saturday morning, and hence the rudeness:
“Yes? Who do you want?”
“Are you the Mr Daniel Taylor?” Seth asked, taking the lead as usual
“What do you see written outside?” he asked
“Oh! How can you read that? After all, you all are illiterate,” he added with a smirk.
Seth went red with anger and embarrassment, but he controlled his overwhelming emotions.
“Don’t waste my time, say what you have to and leave as fast as possible.”
“Sir, we were just requesting if you could, I mean our water supply has been stopped,” Seth said using the most subtle words he could find.
“Do I look like a worker at the water supply board?”
“No Sir, I didn’t mean that. I was just saying that just because they are providing you with all the facilities, we're are being deprived of our basic necessities,” Seth shouted out the last part, enough of hiding his temper.
“What audacity you have — Talking to me like that?”Taylor shouted back
“Listen to you scoundrels. Just get lost from here. Go to the water supply board or the president. Or to whoever you wish. I’ll make sure that nothing is granted to you. You’ll understand what it’s like talking to Daniel Taylor like that.”
“Sor — ” but before Seth could even finish, Daniel slammed the door on their face. The last words they could hear was Daniel answering to his child or wife,
“Nothing princess, just some poor beggars.” They stood there glued to the ground not knowing what to do next. Disappointed and moreover regretting his mistake, Seth walked slowly followed by his other companions.
When they reached home, the look on their faces spoke of their failure well enough. They didn’t have to say a word more. Seth, who was constantly cursing himself was being consoled by others.
Somehow the whole day passed, with sharing. But as the night came, Seth grew restless. He couldn’t sleep at all. He tossed and turned in his bed looking for a solution. For once he thought of going there once again. But dismissed the idea at once, for after what had happened today, all attempts of pleading would surely go in vain. At 3 AM he sat up,
“Thinking wildly won’t help. I have to narrow down and rationalise my thoughts,” he said to himself.
“Okay. What are the options I have?” thinking out loud.
“Either I’ll have to let my family die out of hunger and thirst or I’ll have to become a thief.”
He shuddered at the first options. Horrified, he quickly shook away the image that formed inside him. Looking for no other possible ways. He became determined to choose the second option. Though it took him a while to convince himself for doing such a thing. After all, Seth was a man of values with all the positive qualities.
Finally, he made up his mind. He quickly packed a small bag, adding some food, a bottle of water and some money. He knew he had to write a letter or his wife will be worried to death.
I have gone to the city for some work. I’ll be back as soon as possible. Don’t worry
Seth and he left for his destination. Though he was shivering with fear he knew he had to do this for his people, his family. But still, questions did arise in his mind.
“What if I get caught? What example will I set for my children? What will they think of me? How will I tell my family and others, what I have done?”
“What If the building is very well protected? Maybe I won’t be able to even get past the security. What if, I suddenly fall ill? No one will even know where to find me.”
But at the end, “Whatever the consequence are, I have to do this,” he thought and closed his eyes in the hope of some sleep.
The next day he reached there around 1:30 PM in the afternoon.
Back at home, there was a total chaos. In the morning when Gloriana found the letter, and all she could make out of this crooked handwriting was that he has gone to the city. She became hysterical. She gathered everyone in her house. No one could make out the reason for such an act. Everyone knew it was definitely related to Taylor and what happened at his house. After all, he has been feeling so guilty since then. But no one wanted to voice that topic now. Gloriana was crying incessantly to no amount of consolation. But yes, it was still a mystery.
But they could do nothing other than waiting for him. As the night rolled in, the anxiety increased. They decided that Peter and John’s wives would stay with Gloriana that night.
Seth studied the building as closely as he could for the whole day and came to the conclusion that only if Daniel Taylor decides to go out of the house, then maybe he could do something. He waited the whole day and at about 8:30 PM he found his opportunity when he heard Daniel call to his wife as he opened the door:
“Dear!! I’m going for my usual stroll and I will be back by 9:00 PM. Make sure Rose sleeps off by then.” and he shut the door behind him. Daniel dropped a coin into the bowl of the beggar and walked away puffing a cigar. Seth smirked at the coin. He knew Daniel’s wife was at home. He had to wait for her to sleep. Seth sat there covered with a black cloak and a bowl in front for another couple of minutes. After about ten minutes,
“Dan, I’m going out to the nearby shop for bread. Don’t forget to lock the door when you leave for your usual stroll,” Seth heard a voice and the shutting of the door again. She too dropped a coin before passing by. Seth was trembling with excitement.
“Here is is my chance,” he thought.
He pocketed the two coins and left the bowl there. Stealthily he got into the house. The interiors were nothing less like that of a palace. He thought, but didn’t waste time in admiring. He crept to the bedroom and looked around for the cupboard's key. He spotted the keys in a Chinese porcelain bowl. Opening the safe, he saw bundles of cash. With twinkling eyes, he quickly picked up one, and locked the cupboard, placing the keys as it were before leaving.
“There must be 5000 dollars in here. I’m sure it’s enough to build a well,” he thought.
He almost ran his way to the bus stop from the house. And luckily got the bus. And since it was almost 9:00, the roads were empty and the driver almost flew away from the bus, and as a result, he reached home in almost half of the usual time. When he reached home he was surprised to see Fiona and Joana there, but then he realised what must have had happened and smiled to himself. Planting a kiss on her cheeks, he laid a mat on the floor and went to sleep.
Next morning, there was a sight to see. Seth opened his eyes to see the whole village around his mat. Staring at him in utter disbelief. And shocked Gloriana looked at him with teary eyes. After a couple of minutes, regaining their senses they were just about to fire him with all sorts of doubts. But, before anyone could ask anything, Seth blabbered out everything. This resulted in another set of speechless and astonished looks from the people around him. Now, it was a good thing that the kids were out playing for, God knows what would have happened if they heard their dad had stolen money. They might be on the verge of fainting, as Gloriana did.
Gloriana could hardly believe her ears. Seth Wheeler, someone who won’t even think of doing such a thing in his wildest dream, has done it in reality. STOLE MONEY.
“I’m really feeling as if I’m meeting you for the first time in my life,” Gloriana managed to say. Others too were slowly trying to take in the fact. From the next day all were engaged in constructing the well. And meanwhile, any two would go to the city each day and bring back water which everyone would share.
Everything was going on more or less smoothly. Until one day William came running straight to Seth with a new news:
“Today when I was buying water, a radio was turned on in a nearby salon, which said that the Police has already begun their search for that thief who stole 5000 dollars from Daniel Taylor’s house. And apparently, they are searching for the beggars sitting outside the house.”
Seth was not at all surprised to know that. He knew this had to happen now or later. And he has been preparing for it. Later that day, he announced his decision to surrender to the police. So that no innocent person is accused of what he has done.
As he expected, everyone said a big “NO” in unison. They could not let that man suffer anymore who has taken so much trouble for them already. And for the next few days, nothing happened.
Daniel was pacing around in the house in fury. On top of that, Rose was continuously blaming him and he couldn’t say anything because he knew it was his fault. This was not the first time that Daniel acted so irresponsibly. Many times Daniel would just leave without even making sure if Rose had heard him or not and Rose would also leave for something or the other. He sat down thinking hard and then he suddenly jumped up from his couch with a shout and ran to call the cops. And he narrated the whole incident that happened a few days before. Though thankful, the cops were shocked at his sudden helping nature, because lately, he’d only shouted orders to anyone and everyone irrespective of their levels of seniority. And today he was happily helping them. Anyway, they thanked him and ordered them to leave for that particular village.
In the meantime, occasionally Seth would bring up the topic of surrendering, and then there would be arguments. That day Seth came and sat outside tired, weary, hopeless and helpless with the everyday quarrel and fights. His wife sat hugging her knees and resting her chin on them and sobbed. She too was exhausted with the everyday sessions. After some time he hugged her and both of them cried, seeking serenity in each other’s arm. Though worn out by the daily disputes both were steadfast on their stands. After all, both were fighting for each other’s happiness.
The four policemen drove to the village and when they reached there, they were stunned. They almost made up their mind to go back.
“Why only 5000 dollars? God knows how many more 5000 dollars will be needed to make this place fit for people to live in,” the burly cop exclaimed.
Though the others felt the same, they couldn’t say a single word. But going back and lying to the senior authority wasn’t an option. He’d send some others and then their senior wouldn’t waste a minute to dismiss them from their job. Sometimes being a cop they have to keep aside their humanity and do their job. They really didn’t want to do this, but after all, they were wearing that uniform and it’s their job. When they reached Seth’s house they heard shouting at the top of his voice.
Meanwhile, there was another heated conversation taking place,
“Look, dear, I have to do this. I can’t help it. Please try to understand.”
“No, Seth. You won’t do this. Don’t you realise you’ve a family to look after? You just can't leave everything and go off. We all are dependent on you. Think about Adeth and Ben, what will I tell them, that their so virtuous father turned out to be a thief?” asked Gloriana.
“But, Anyways, this is going to come out sooner or later. What will you do then?”
“And suppose, they never find out that it was you, then?”
“You know that’s not right??” said Seth
“Seth, we need you, they need you, everyone here does. Please for God sake! Do you even understand that I am begging you? "Gloriana said with teary eyes.
“Gloriana, I can’t live my whole life with this burden. How can I let someone innocent get caught, who has no clue about the theft when I WAS THE ONE WHO STOLE THAT MONEY,” he shouted his lungs out. And just at that moment two burly cops came and firmly held Seth’s wrist and bucked him up into the car.
Everyone was so shocked, and things happened so fast. Before anyone could react, the car had already gone half way.
On the way to the police station, Seth looked straight into the cop’s eyes. His gaze made the cop shifted uncomfortably in his seat and the cop tried to look elsewhere casually. Seth’s deep blue stares were enough to make him squirm in his seat.
At the police station, the senior officer praised the other two cops for their job and decided on their promotion. After putting Seth behind bars, when they were just about to turn Seth suddenly asked,
“Can I tell you something?”
“What?” one of them said
“Today you’re arresting me for this. Just be careful that no one takes advantage of you when you’re living the worst time of your life, as you people did,” Seth said with a sarcastic smile.
The cops knew whatever they had done was down-right wrong. They had seen the pathetic condition of that place. They were guilty in reality. But then once again, duty is duty after all.
After an hour’s discussion, they composed a letter and got it printed. Both of them opened the lock up and in front of Seth’s disbelieving eyes, they marched straight to their senior’s desk and said in unison,