The Hour of Truth (Play) by Percival Wilde
The story in short.
.. The story is about the family of a man (Robert Baldwin), who works in a bank. He is a very close associate of the manager of the bank (Mr. Gresham). Despite his closeness to Mr. Baldwin and his honest work, Gresham gives him a meagre 60 dollars a week towards his salary. Nevertheless, Robert Baldwin’s ingrained righteousness and integrity has kept him away from any unethical conduct to make some extra money. He is the sole breadwinner of his family consisting of wife Martha, son John and daughter Evie. John Gresham Baldwin (Gresham had baptised the young John, hence such a name.)) is a young man in his early twenties.
Baldwin’s family lives a simple and honest living managing Baldwin’s meagre earnings.
A sudden twist of events upends Baldwin’s simple life and more importantly, the value system he has imbibed in his family members. His bank is shuttered thanks to the swindling of funds by Gresham. He is in police custody awaiting formal trial the next day. Baldwin is out of job.
Baldwin discovers to his horror that his childhood friend and colleague had been stealthily robbing the bank’s money stealthily for a long time . Baldwin is shaken to his core. In police custody, Gresham thinks of ways to manipulate Baldwin’s testimony in the court that could lead to the collapse of the case and his acquittal. He could, thus, avoid a long jail term.
Gresham summons Baldwin for some urgent negotiations. Baldwin is the sole prosecution witness. Gresham offers a huge pile of cash amounting to one lakh dollars to plead loss of memory to all prosecution questions in the court. Gresham knew Baldwin was too upright a man to state an untruth in the court, but assumed the big cash in offer could sway him to alter his statements. He begged Baldwin to just state, “I don’t remember it.” To each key questions of the prosecution. Such a statement could weaken the case dramatically and lead to his acquittal finally.
Expectedly, Gresham finds his close friend uninterested in the huge cash offer. Instead, Baldwin asserts that he can’t accept the bribe and lie to the court. To remove the guilt attached to the one lakh dollar offer, Gresham first promised that all the depositors’ money will be returned in full by him so that no one felt cheated. Additionally, he pleaded with Baldwin to treat the one lakh dollar not as a bribe, but as payment of his well-deserved back wages that Gresham had held back for years due to unknown reasons.
All of Gresham’s persuasion has little effect on Baldwin, who remains anchored to his moral values and righteousness. Baldwin departs leaving Gresham sad and sullen. On his way home, Baldwin feels very unhappy at the turn of events. He is lost in disturbing thoughts.
Baldwin reaches home very late that day. His family members confront him with questions to know what had transpired in his meeting with Gresham. He narrates the predicament of Gresham and mentions the hush money of one lakh dollar on offer as bribe if he lies to the court the next day by posing that he remembered little of what had gone on in the bank in the past.
The offer of one lakh dollar was too tempting to all the family members inured to living with just 60 dollars a week. One by one, they proffer their arguments to make their father change his mind and accept the one lakh on offer. John, the 20-odd-year old son says that a jailed Gresham would bring disgrace to their family too. The public knows how close Baldwin and Gresham are, given the fact that John’s formal name was John Gresham. Saving Gresham, therefore, was in the family’s interest. John also felt they can start a business with the one lakh dollar, if his father accepts the amount.
Martha and Evie weighed in with their views that since Gresham has agreed to return all depositors’ money in toto, there was no cheating involved, and no public ire will get deflected to their family. Besides this, it will not be unwise to assume that the one lakh offered to Baldwin can justifiably be assumed to be his well-deserved back pay.
The family members mention that without a job, the family can’t survive. Baldwin’s matured age will make it hard for him to get a job. J
The whole family’s persuasion fails to sway Baldwin, who makes some strong comments to vent his irritation over the unethical arguments of his family members. He stands firm in his righteous path and avers that he will never accept the bribe. He says he can get a job in the First National bank where his earlier colleague had secured a job. This man was the Assistant Cashier in the closed bank.
Just when the family is plunged in this discussion, a visitor knocks the door. He is the Mr. Marshall, the President of First National. Hours before, he has gone to meet Gresham held as a captive by the police. Gresham narrates how his close friend Baldwin refused his bribe offer. Instead of berating Baldwin, Gresham spoke eloquently about Baldwins ingrained honesty. This makes Marshall decide to take in Baldwin as an employee in First National.
Mr. Marshall further breaks the news that Gresham had confessed to his crime, thus bringing an end to the court trial.
A feeling of relief and joy overwhelms the Baldwin family. Most importantly, admiration for their father’s unquestionable integrity soars sky high. A sad scenario, thus, changes to one of hope and appreciation.
A note to the readers. ..
This lesson is taught in different boards and forms part of different text books. Obviously, the accompanying questions will be different. If you want your questions to be answered by us, please post them in the blog.