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East and West Fusion Culture
Hi-Tech Cyber Culture
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Literary and Classical Culture
04 May 2020
Author's Name: W. Somerset Maugham
sanjay kumar kundan
A Story by W. Somerset Maugham
[William Somerset Maugham (25 January 1874 – 16 December 1965) was an English
playwright, novelist, and short story writer.]
Author's Name: W. Somerset Maugham
It was nearly bed-time and when they awoke next morning land would be in sight. Dr.
Macphail lit his pipe and, leaning over the rail, searched the heavens for the Southern Cross.
After two years at the front and a wound that had taken longer to heal than it should, he was glad
to settle down quietly at Apia for twelve months at least, and he felt already better for the
journey. Since some of the passengers were leaving the ship next day at Pago-Pago they had had
a little dance that evening and in his ears hammered still the harsh notes of the mechanical piano.
But the deck was quiet at last. A little way off he saw his wife in a long chair talking with the
Davidsons, and he strolled over to her. When he sat down under the light and took off his hat you
saw that he had very red hair, with a bald patch on the crown, and the red, freckled skin which
accompanies red hair; he was a man of forty, thin, with a pinched face, precise and rather
pedantic; and he spoke with a Scots accent in a very low, quiet voice.
Between the Macphails and the Davidsons, who were missionaries, there had arisen the
intimacy of shipboard, which is due to propinquity rather than to any community of taste. Their
chief tie was the disapproval they shared of the men who spent their days and nights in the
smoking-room playing poker or bridge and drinking. Mrs. Macphail was not a little flattered to
think that she and her husband were the only people on board with whom the Davidsons were
willing to associate, and even the doctor, shy but no fool, half unconsciously acknowledged the
compliment. It was only because he was of an argumentative mind that in their cabin at night he
permitted himself to carp.
“Mrs. Davidson was saying she didn`t know how they`d have got through the journey if it
hadn`t been for us,” said Mrs. Macphail, as she neatly brushed out her transformation. “She said
we were really the only people on the ship they cared to know.”
˝I shouldn`t have thought a missionary was such a big bug that he could afford to put on
“It`s not frills. I quite understand what she means. It wouldn`t have been very nice for the
Davidsons to have to mix with all that rough lot in the smoking-room.”
“The founder of their religion wasn`t so exclusive,” said Dr. Macphail with a chuckle.
“I`ve asked you over and over again not to joke about religion,” answered his wife. “I
shouldn`t like to have a nature like yours, Alec. You never look for the best in people.”
He gave her a sidelong glance with his pale, blue eyes, but did not reply. After many
years of married life he had learned that it was more conducive to peace to leave his wife with
the last word. He was undressed before she was, and climbing into the upper bunk he settled
down to read himself to sleep.
When he came on deck next morning they were close to land. He looked at it with greedy
eyes. There was a thin strip of silver beach rising quickly to hills covered to the top with
luxuriant vegetation. The coconut trees, thick and green, came nearly to the water`s edge, and
among them you saw the grass houses of the Samoaris; and here and there, gleaming white, a
little church. Mrs. Davidson came and stood beside him. She was dressed in black, and wore
round her neck a gold chain, from which dangled a small cross. She was a little woman, with
brown, dull hair very elaborately arranged, and she had prominent blue eyes behind invisible
pince-nez. Her face was long, like a sheep`s, but she gave no impression of foolishness, rather of
extreme alertness; she had the quick movements of a bird. The most remarkable thing about her
was her voice, high, metallic, and without inflection; it fell on the ear with a hard monotony,
irritating to the nerves like the pitiless clamour of the pneumatic drill.
“This must seem like home to you,” said Dr. Macphail, with his thin, difficult smile.
“Ours are low islands, you know, not like these. Coral. These are volcanic. We`ve got
another ten days` journey to reach them.”
“In these parts that`s almost like being in the next street at home,” said Dr. Macphail
“Well, that`s rather an exaggerated way of putting it, but one does look at distances
differently in the J South Seas. So far you`re right.” Dr. Macphail sighed faintly.
“I`m glad we`re not stationed here,” she went on. “They say this is a terribly difficult
place to work in. The steamers` touching makes the people unsettled; and then there`s the naval
station; that`s bad for the natives. In our district we don`t have difficulties like that to contend
with. There are one or two traders, of course, but we take care to make them behave, and if they
don`t we make the place so hot for them they`re glad to go.”
Fixing the glasses on her nose she looked at the green island with a ruthless stare.
“It`s almost a hopeless task for the missionaries here. I can never be sufficiently thankful
to God that we are at least spared that.”
Davidson`s district consisted of a group of islands to the North of Samoa; they were
widely separated and he had frequently to go long distances by canoe. At these times his wife
remained at their headquarters and managed the mission. Dr. Macphail felt his heart sink when
he considered the efficiency with which she certainly managed it. She spoke of the depravity of
the natives in a voice which nothing could hush, but with a vehemently unctuous horror. Her
sense of delicacy was singular. Early in their acquaintance she had said to him:
“You know, their marriage customs when we first settled in the islands were so shocking
that I couldn`t possibly describe them to you. But I`ll tell Mrs. Macphail and she`ll tell you.”
Then he had seen his wife and Mrs. Davidson, their deck-chairs close together, in earnest
conversation for about two hours. As he walked past them backwards and forwards for the sake
of exercise, he had heard Mrs. Davidson`s agitated whisper, like the distant flow of a mountain
torrent, and he saw by his wife`s open mouth and pale face that she was enjoying an alarming
experience. At night in their cabin she repeated to him with bated breath all she had heard.
“Well, what did I say to you?” cried Mrs. Davidson, exultant, next morning. “Did you
ever hear anything more dreadful? You don`t wonder that I couldn`t tell you myself, do you?
Even though you are a doctor.”
Mrs. Davidson scanned his face. She had a dramatic eagerness to see that she had
achieved the desired effect.
“Can you wonder that when we first went there our hearts sank? You`ll hardly believe me
when I tell you it was impossible to find a single good girl in any of the villages.”
She used the word good in a severely technical manner.
“Mr. Davidson and I talked it over, and we made up our minds the first thing to do was to
put down the dancing. The natives were crazy about dancing.”
“I was not averse to it myself when I was a young man,” said Dr. Macphail.
“I guessed as much when I heard you ask Mrs. Macphail to have a turn with you last
night. I don`t think there`s any real harm if a man dances with his wife, but I was relieved that
she wouldn`t. Under the circumstances I thought it better that we should keep ourselves to
“Under what circumstances? “
Mrs. Davidson gave him a quick look through her pince-nez, but did not answer his
“But among white people it`s not quite the same,” she went on, “though I must say I
agree with Mr. Davidson, who says he can`t understand how a husband can stand by and see his
wife in another man`s arms, and as far as I`m concerned I`ve never danced a step since I married.
But the native dancing is quite another matter. It`s not only immoral in itself, but it distinctly
leads to immorality. However, I`m thankful to God that we stamped it out, and I don`t think I`m
wrong in saying that no one has danced in our district for eight years.”
But now they came to the mouth of the harbour and Mrs. Macphail joined them. The ship
turned sharply and steamed slowly in. It was a great landlocked harbour big enough to hold a
fleet of battleships; and all around it rose, high and steep, the green hills. Near the entrance,
getting such breeze as blew from the sea, stood the governor`s house in a garden. The Stars and
Stripes dangled languidly from a flagstaff. They passed two or three trim bungalows, and a
tennis court, and then they came to the quay with its warehouses. Mrs. Davidson pointed out the
schooner, moored two or three hundred yards from the side, which was to take them to Apia.
There was a crowd of eager, noisy, and good-humoured natives come from all parts of the island,
some from curiosity, others to barter with the travellers on their way to Sydney; and they brought
pineapples and huge bunches of bananas, tapa cloths, necklaces of shells or sharks` teeth, kavabowls,
and models of war canoes. American sailors, neat and trim, clean-shaven and frank
efface, sauntered among them, and there was a little group of officials. While their luggage was
being landed the Macphails and Mrs. Davidson watched the crowd. Dr. Macphail looked at the
yaws from which most of the children and the young boys seemed to suffer, disfiguring sores
like torpid ulcers, and his professional eyes glistened when he saw for the first time in his
experience cases of elephantiasis, men going about with a huge, heavy arm or dragging along a
grossly disfigured leg. Men and women wore the lava-lava.
“It`s a very indecent costume,” said Mrs. Davidson. “Mr. Davidson thinks it should be
prohibited by law. How can you expect people to be moral when they wear nothing but a strip of
red cotton round their loins?”
“It`s suitable enough to the climate,” said the doctor, wiping the sweat off his head.
Now that they were on land the heat, though it was so early in the morning, was already
oppressive. Closed in by its hills, not a breath of air came in to Pago-Pago.
“In our islands,” Mrs. Davidson went on in her high-pitched tones, “we`ve practically
eradicated the lava-lava. A few old men still continue to wear it, but that`s all. The women have
all taken to the Mother Hubbard, and the men wear trousers and singlets. At the very beginning
of our stay Mr. Davidson said in one of his reports: the inhabitants of these islands will never be
thoroughly Christianised till every boy of more than ten years is made to wear a pair of trousers.”
But Mrs. Davidson had given two or three of her birdlike glances at heavy grey clouds
that came floating over the mouth of the harbour. A few drops began to fall.
“We`d better take shelter,” she said.
They made their way with all the crowd to a great shed of corrugated iron, and the rain
began to fall in torrents. They stood there for some time and then were joined by Mr. Davidson.
He had been polite enough to the Macphails during the journey, but he had not his wife`s
sociability, and had spent much of his time reading. He was a silent, rather sullen man, and you
felt that his affability was a duty that he imposed upon himself Christianly; he was by nature
reserved and even morose. His appearance was singular. He was very tall and thin, with long
limbs loosely jointed; hollow cheeks and curiously high cheek-bones; he had so cadaverous an
air that it surprised you to notice how full and sensual were his lips. He wore his hair very long.
His dark eyes, set deep in their sockets, were large and tragic; and his hands with their big, long
fingers, were finely shaped; they gave him a look of great strength. But the most striking thing
about him was the feeling he gave you of suppressed fire. It was impressive and vaguely
troubling. He was not a man with whom any intimacy was possible.
He brought now unwelcome news. There was an epidemic of measles, a serious and often
fatal disease among the Kanakas, on the island, and a case had developed among the crew of the
schooner which was to take them on their journey. The sick man had been brought ashore and
put in hospital on the quarantine station, but telegraphic instructions had been sent from Apia to
say that the schooner would not be allowed to enter the harbour till it was certain no other
member of the crew was affected.
“It means we shall have to stay here for ten days at least.”
“But I`m urgently needed a Apia,” said Dr. Macphail.
“That can`t be helped. If no more cases develop on board, the schooner will be allowed to
sail with white passengers, but all native traffic is prohibited for three months.”
“Is there a hotel here?” asked Mrs. Macphail.
Davidson gave a low chuckle.
“What shall we do then?”
“I`ve been talking to the governor. There`s a trader along the front who has rooms that he
rents, and my proposition is that as soon as the rain lets up we should go along there and see
what we can do. Don`t expect comfort. You`ve just got to be thankful if we get a bed to sleep on
and a roof over our heads.”
But the rain showed no sign of stopping, and at length with umbrellas and waterproofs
they set out. There was no town, but merely a group of official buildings, a store or two, and at
the back, among the coconut trees and plantains, a few native dwellings. The house they sought
was about five minutes` walk from the wharf. It was a frame house of two storeys, with broad
verandahs on both floors and a roof of corrugated iron. The owner was a half-caste named Horn,
with a native wife surrounded by little brown children, and on the ground-floor he had a store
where he sold canned goods and cottons. The rooms he showed them were almost bare of
furniture. In the Macphails` there was nothing but a poor, worn bed with a ragged mosquito net,
a rickety chair, and a washstand. They looked round with dismay. The rain poured down without
“I`m not going to unpack more than we actually need,” said Mrs. Macphail.
Mrs. Davidson came into the room as she was unlocking a portmanteau. She was very
brisk and alert. The cheerless surroundings had no effect on her.
“If you`ll take my advice you`ll get a needle and cotton and start right in to mend the
mosquito net, she said, or you`ll not be able to get a wink of sleep tonight.”
“Will they be very bad?” asked Dr. Macphail.
“This is the season for them. When you`re asked to a party at Government House at Apia
you`ll notice that all the ladies are given a pillow-slip to put their - their lower extremities in.”
“I wish the rain would stop for a moment,” said Mrs. Macphail. “I could try to make the
place comfortable with more heart if the sun were shining.”
“Oh, if you wait for that, you`ll wait a long time. Pago-Pago is about the rainiest place in
the Pacific. You see, the hills, and that bay, they attract the water, and one expects rain at this
time of year anyway.”
She looked from Macphail to his wife, standing helplessly in different parts of the room,
like lost souls, and she pursed her lips. She saw that she must take them in hand. Feckless people
like that made her impatient, but her hands itched to put everything in the order which came so
naturally to her.
“Here, you give me a needle and cotton and I`ll mend that net of yours, while you go on
with your unpacking. Dinner`s at one. Dr. Macphail, you`d better go down to the wharf and see
that your heavy luggage has been put in a dry place. You know what these natives are, they`re
quite capable of storing it where the rain will beat in on it all the time.”
The doctor put on his waterproof again and went downstairs. At the door Mr. Horn was
standing in conversation with the quartermaster of the ship they had just arrived in and a secondclass
passenger whom Dr. Macphail had seen several times on board. The quartermaster, a little,
shrivelled man, extremely dirty, nodded to him as he passed.
“This is a bad job about the measles, doc,” he said. “I see you`ve fixed yourself up
Dr. Macphail thought he was rather familiar, but he was a timid Man and he did not take
“Yes, we`ve got a room upstairs.”
“Miss Thompson was sailing with you to Apia, so I`ve brought her along here.”
The quartermaster pointed with his thumb to the woman standing by his side. She was
twenty-seven perhaps, plump, and in a coarse fashion pretty. She wore a white dress and a large
white hat. Her fat calves in white cotton stockings bulged over the tops of long white boots in
glace kid. She gave Macphail an ingratiating smile.
“The feller`s tryin` to soak me a dollar and a half a day for the meanest sized room,” she
said in a hoarse voice.
“I tell you she`s a friend of mine, Jo,” said the quartermaster. “She can`t pay more than a
dollar, and you`ve sure got to take her for that.”
The trader was fat and smooth and quietly smiling. “Well, if you put it like that, Mr.
Swan, I`ll see what I can do about it. I`ll talk to Mrs. Horn and if we think we can make a
reduction we will.”
“Don`t try to pull that stuff with me,” said Miss Thompson. “We`ll settle this right now.
You get a dollar a day for the room and not one bean more.”
Dr. Macphail smiled. He admired the effrontery with which she bargained. He was the
sort of man who always paid what he was asked. He preferred to be over-charged than to haggle.
The trader sighed.
“Well, to oblige Mr. Swan I`ll take it.”
“That`s the goods,” said Miss Thompson. “Come right in and have a shot of hooch. I`ve
got some real good rye in that grip if you`ll bring it` along, Mr. Swan. You come along too,
“Oh, I don`t think I will, thank you,” he answered. “I`m just going down to see that our
luggage is all right.”
He stepped out into the rain. It swept in from the opening of the harbour in sheets and the
opposite shore was all blurred. He passed two or three natives clad in nothing but the lava-lava,
with huge umbrellas over them. They walked finely, with leisurely movements, very upright; and
they smiled and greeted him in a strange tongue as they went by.
It was nearly dinner-time when he got back, and their meal was laid in the trader`s
parlour. It was a room designed not to live in but for purposes of prestige, and it had a musty,
melancholy air. A suite of stamped plush was arranged neatly round the walls, and from the
middle of the ceiling, protected from the flies by yellow tissue paper, hung a gilt chandelier.
Davidson did not come.
“I know he went to call on the governor,” said Mrs. Davidson, “and I guess he`s kept him
A little native girl brought them a dish of Hamburger steak, and after a while the trader
came up to see that they had everything they wanted.
“I see we have a fellow lodger, Mr. Horn.” said Dr. Macphail.
“She`s taken a room, that`s all,” answered the trader. “She`s getting her own board.”
He looked at the two ladies with an obsequious air.
“I put her downstairs so she shouldn`t be in the way. She won`t be any trouble to you.”
“Is it someone who was on the boat?” asked Mrs. Macphail.
“Yes, ma`am, she was in the second cabin. She was going to Apia. She has a position as
cashier waiting for her.”
When the trader was gone Macphail said:
“I shouldn`t think she`d find it exactly cheerful having her meals in her room.”
“If she was in the second cabin I guess she`d rather,” answered Mrs. Davidson. “I don`t
exactly know who it can be.”
“I happened to be there when the quartermaster brought her along. Her name`s
“It`s not the woman who was dancing with the quartermaster last night? “ asked Mrs.
“That`s who it must be,” said Mrs. Macphail. “I wondered at the time what she was. She
looked rather fast to me.”
“Not good style at all,” said Mrs. Davidson.
They began to talk of other things, and after dinner, tired with their early rise, they
separated and slept. When they awoke, though the sky was still grey and the clouds hung low, it
was not raining, and they went for a walk on the high road which the Americans had built along
On their return they found that Davidson had just come in.
We may be here for a fortnight, he said irritably. “I`ve argued it out with the governor,
but he says there is nothing to be done.”
“Mr. Davidson`s just longing to get back to his work,” said his wife, with an anxious
glance at him.
“We`ve been away for a year,” he said, walking up and down the verandah. “The mission
has been in charge of native missionaries and I`m terribly nervous that they`ve let things slide.
They`re good men, I`m not saying a word against them, God-fearing, devout, and truly Christian
men—their Christianity would put many so-called Christians at home to the blush—but they`re
pitifully lacking in energy. They can make a stand once, they can make a stand twice, but they
can`t make a stand all the time. If you leave a mission in charge of a native missionary, no matter
how trust-worhy he seems, in course of time you`ll find he`s let abuses creep in.”
Mr. Davidson stood still. With his tall, spare form, and his great eyes flashing out of his
pale face, he was an impressive figure. His sincerity was obvious in the fire of his gestures and in
his deep, ringing voice.
“I expect to have my work cut out for me. I shall act and I shall act promptly. If the tree is
rotten it shall be cut down and cast into the flames.”
And in the evening after the high tea which was their last meal, while they sat in the stiff
parlour, the ladies working and Dr. Macphail smoking his pipe, the missionary told them of his
work in the islands.
“When we went there they had no sense of sin at all,” he said. “They broke the
commandments one after the other and never knew they were doing wrong. And I think that was
the most difficult part of my work, to instil into the natives the sense of sin.”
The Macphails knew already that Davidson had worked in the Solomons for five years
before he met his wife. She had been a missionary in China, and they had become acquainted in
Boston, where they were both spending part of their leave to attend a missionary congress. On
their marriage they had been appointed to the islands in which they had laboured ever since.
In the course of all the conversations they had had with Mr. Davidson one thing had
shone out clearly and that was the man`s unflinching courage. He was a medical missionary, and
he was liable to be called at any time to one or other of the islands in the group. Even the
whaleboat is not so very safe a conveyance in the stormy pacific of the wet season, but often he
would be sent for in a canoe, and then the danger was great. In cases of illness or accident he
never hesitated. A dozen times he had spent the whole night baling for his life, and more than
once Mrs. Davidson had given him up for lost.
“I`d beg him not to go sometimes,” she said, “or at least to wait till the weather was more
settled, but he`d never listen. He`s obstinate, and when he`s once made up his mind, nothing can
“How can I ask the natives to put their trust in the Lord if I am afraid to do so myself?”
cried Davidson. “And I`m not, I`m not. They know that if they send for me in their trouble I`ll
come if it`s humanly possible. And do you think the Lord is going to abandon me when I am on
his business? The wind blows at his bidding and the waves toss and rage at his word.”
Dr. Macphail was a timid man. He had never been able to get used to the hurtling of the
shells over the trenches, and when he was operating in an advanced dressing-station the sweat
poured from his brow and dimmed his spectacles in the effort he made to control his unsteady
hand. He shuddered a little as he looked at the missionary.
“I wish I could say that I`ve never been afraid,” he said.
“I wish you could say that you believed in God,” retorted the other.
But for some reason, that evening the missionary`s thoughts travelled back to the early
days he and his wife had spent on the islands.
“Sometimes Mrs. Davidson and I would look at one another and the tears would stream
down our cheeks. We worked without ceasing, day and night, and we seemed to make no
progress. I don`t know what I should have done without her then. When I felt my heart sink,
when I was very near despair, she gave me courage and hope.”
Mrs. Davidson looked down at her work, and a slight colour rose to her thin cheeks. Her
hands trembled a little. She did not trust herself to speak.
“We had no one to help us. We were alone, thousands of miles from any of our own
people, surrounded by darkness. When I was broken and weary she would put her work aside
and take the Bible and read to me till peace came and settled upon me like sleep upon the eyelids
of a child, and when at last she closed the book she`d say: `We`ll save them in spite of
themselves.` And I felt strong again in the Lord, and I answered: `Yes, with God`s help I`ll save
them. I must save them.`”
He came over to the table and stood in front of it as though it were a lectern.
“You see, they were so naturally depraved that they couldn`t be brought to see their
wickedness. We had to make sins out of what they thought were natural actions. We had to make
it a sin, not only to commit adultery and to lie and thieve, but to expose their bodies, and to
dance and not to come to church. I made it a sin for a girl to show her bosom and a sin for a man
not to wear trousers.”
“How?” asked Dr. Macphail, not without surprise.
“I instituted fines. Obviously the only way to make people realise that an action is sinful
is to punish them if they commit it. I fined them if they didn`t come to church, and I fined them
if they danced. I fined them if they were improperly dressed. I had a tariff, and every sin had to
be paid for either in money or work. And at last I made them understand.”
“But did they never refuse to pay?”
“How could they?” asked the missionary.
“It would be a brave man who tried to stand up against Mr. Davidson,” said his wife,
tightening her lips.
Dr. Macphail looked at Davidson with troubled eyes. What he heard shocked him, but he
hesitated to express his disapproval.
“You must remember that in the last resort I could expel them from their church
“Did they mind that?”
Davidson smiled a little and gently rubbed his hands.
“They couldn`t sell their copra. When the men fished they got no share of the catch. It
meant something very like starvation. Yes, they minded quite a lot.”
“Tell him about Fred Ohlson,” said Mrs. Davidson.
The missionary fixed his fiery eyes on Dr. Macphail.
“Fred Ohlson was a Danish trader who had been in the islands a good many years. He
was a pretty rich man as traders go and he wasn`t very pleased when we came. You see, he`d had
things very much his own way. He paid the natives what he liked for their copra, and he paid in
goods and whiskey. He had a native wife, but he was flagrantly unfaithful to her. He was a
drunkard. I gave him a chance to mend his ways, but he wouldn`t take it. He laughed at me.”
Davidson`s voice fell to a deep bass as he said the last words, and he was silent for a
minute or two. The silence was heavy with menace.
“In two years he was a ruined man. He`d lost everything he`d saved in a quarter of a
century. I broke him, and at last he was forced to come to me like a beggar and beseech me to
give him a passage back to Sydney.”
“I wish you could have seen him when he came to see Mr. Davidson,” said the
“He had been a fine, powerful man, with a lot of fat on him, and he had a great big voice,
but now he was half the size, and he was shaking all over. He`d suddenly become an old man.”
With abstracted gaze Davidson looked out into the night. The rain was falling again.
Suddenly from below came a sound, and Davidson turned and looked questioningly at his
wife. It was the sound of a gramophone, harsh and loud, wheezing out a syncopated tune.
“What`s that?” he asked.
Mrs. Davidson fixed her pince-nez more firmly on her nose.
“One of the second-class passengers has a room in the house. I guess it comes from
They listened in silence, and presently they heard the sound of dancing. Then the music
stopped, and they heard the popping of corks and voices raised in animated conversation.
“I daresay she`s giving a farewell party to her friends on board,” said Dr. Macphail. “The
ship sails at twelve, doesn`t it?”
Davidson made no remark, but he looked at his watch.
“Are you ready?” he asked his wife.
She got up and folded her wo
“Yes, I guess I am,” she answered.
“It`s early to go to bed yet, isn`t it?” said the doctor.
“We have a good deal of reading to do,” explained Mrs. Davidson. “Wherever we are, we
read a chapter of the Bible before retiring for the night and we study it with the commentaries,
you know, and discuss it thoroughly. It`s a wonderful training for the mind.”
The two couples bade one another good night. Dr. and Mrs. Macphail were left alone. For
two or three minutes they did not speak.
“I think I`ll go and fetch the cards,” the doctor said at last.
Mrs. Macphail looked at him doubtfully. Her conversation with the Davidsons had left
her a little uneasy, but she did not like to say that she thought they had better not play cards when
the Davidsons might come in at any moment. Dr. Macphail brought them and she watched him,
though with a vague sense of guilt, while he laid out his patience. Below the sound of revelry
It was fine enough next day, and the Macphails, condemned to spend a fortnight of
idleness at Pago-Pago, set about making the best of things. They went down to the quay and got
out of their boxes a number of books. The doctor called on the chief surgeon of the naval
hospital and went round the beds with him. They left cards on the governor. They passed Miss
Thompson on the road. The doctor took off his hat, and she gave him a “Good morning, doc,” in
a loud, cheerful voice. She was dressed as on the day before, in a white frock, and her shiny
white boots with their high heels, her fat legs bulging over the tops of them, were strange things
on that exotic scene.
“I don`t think she`s very suitably dressed, I must say,” said Mrs. Macphail. “She looks
extremely common to me.”
When they got back to their house, she was on the verandah playing with one of the
trader`s dark children.
“Say a word to her,” Dr. Macphail whispered to his wife. “She`s all alone here, and it
seems rather unkind to ignore her.”
Mrs. Macphail was shy, but she was in the habit of doing what her husband bade her.
“I think we`re fellow lodgers here,” she said rather foolishly.
“Terrible, ain`t it, bein` cooped up in a one-horse burg like this?” answered Miss
Thompson. “And they tell me I`m lucky to have gotten a room. I don`t see myself livin` in a
native house, and that`s what some have to do. I don`t know why they don`t have a hotel.”
They exchanged a few more words. Miss Thompson, loud-voiced and garrulous, was
evidently quite willing to gossip, but Mrs. Macphail had a poor stock of small talk and presently
“Well, I think we must go upstairs.”
In the evening when they sat down to their high tea Davidson on coming in said:
“I see that woman downstairs has a couple of sailors sitting there. I wonder how she`s
gotten acquainted with them.”
“She can`t be very particular,” said Mrs. Davidson.
They were all rather tired after the idle, aimless day.
“If there`s going to be a fortnight of this I don`t know what we shall feel like at the end of
it,” said Dr. Macphail.
“The only thing to do is to portion out the day to different activities,” answered the
missionary. “I shall set aside a certain number of hours to study and a certain number to exercise,
rain or fine - in the wet season you can`t afford to pay any attention to the rain - and a certain
number to recreation.”
Dr. Macphail looked at his companion with misgiving. Davidson`s programme oppressed
him. They were eating Hamburger steak again. It seemed the only dish the cook knew how to
make. Then below the grama-phone began. Davidson started nervously when he heard it, but
said nothing. Men`s voices floated up. Miss Thompson`s guests were joining in a well-known
song and presently they heard her voice too, hoarse and loud. There was a good deal of shouting
and laughing. The four people upstairs, trying to make conversation, listened despite themselves
to the clink of glasses and the scrape of chairs. More people had evidently come. Miss Thompson
was giving a party.
“I wonder how she gets them all in,” said Mrs. Macphail, suddenly breaking into a
medical conversation between the missionary and her husband.
It showed whither her thoughts were wandering. The twitch of Davidson`s face proved
that, though he spoke of scientific things, his mind was busy in the same direction. Suddenly,
while the doctor was giving some experience of practice on the Flanders front, rather prosily, he
sprang to his feet with a cry.
“What`s the matter, Alfred?” asked Mrs. Davidson.
“Of course! It never occurred to me. She`s out of Iwelei.”
“She can`t be.”
“She came on board at Honolulu. It`s obvious. And she`s carrying on her trade here.
He uttered the last word with a passion of indignation.
“What`s Iwelei?” asked Mrs. Macphail.
He turned his gloomy eyes on her and his voice trembled with horror.
“The plague spot of Honolulu. The Red Light district. It was a blot on our civilisation.”
Iwelei was on the edge of the city. You went down side streets by the harbour, in the
darkness, across a rickety bridge, till you came to a deserted road, all ruts and holes, and then
suddenly you came out into the light. There was parking room for motors on each side of the
road, and there were saloons, tawdry and bright, each one noisy with its mechanical piano, and
there were barbers` shops and tobacconists. There was a stir in the air and a sense of expectant
gaiety. You turned down a narrow alley, either to the right or to the left, for the road divided
Iwelei into two parts, and you found yourself in the district. There were rows of little bungalows,
trim and neatly painted in green, and the pathway between them was broad and straight. It was
laid out like a garden-city. In its respectable regularity, its order and spruceness, it gave an
impression of sardonic horror; for never can the search for love have been so systematised and
ordered. The pathways were lit by a rare lamp, but they would have been dark except for the
lights that came from the open windows of the bungalows. Men wandered about, looking at the
women who sat at their windows, reading or sewing, for the most part taking no notice of the
passers-by; and like the women they were of all nationalities. There were Americans, sailors
from the ships in port, enlisted men off the gunboats, sombrely drunk, and soldiers from the
regiments, white and black, quartered on the island; there were Japanese, walking in twos and
threes; Hawaiians, Chinese in long robes, and Filipinos in preposterous hats. They were silent
and as it were oppressed. Desire is sad.
“It was the most crying scandal of the Pacific,” exclaimed Davidson vehemently. “The
missionaries had been agitating against it for years, and at last the local press took it up. The
police refused to stir. You know their argument. They say that vice is inevitable and
consequently the best thing is to localise and control it. The truth is, they were paid. Paid. They
were paid by the saloon-keepers, paid by the bullies, paid by the women themselves. At last they
were forced to move.”
“I read about it in the papers that came on board in Honolulu,” said Dr. Macphail.
“Iwelei, with its sin and shame, ceased to exist on the very day we arrived. The whole
population was brought before the justices. I don`t know why I didn`t understand at once what
that woman was.”
“Now you come to speak of it,” said Mrs. Macphail, “I remember seeing her come on
board only a few minutes before the boat sailed. I remember thinking at the time she was cutting
it rather fine.”
“How dare she come here!” cried Davidson indignantly. “I`m not going to allow it.”
He strode towards the door.
“What are you going to do?” asked Macphail.
“What do you expect me to do? I`m going to stop it. I`m not going to have this house
turned into—into. . .”
He sought for a word that should not offend the ladies` ears. His eyes were flashing and
his pale face was paler still in his emotion.
“It sounds as though there were three or four men down there,” said the doctor. “Don`t
you think it`s rather rash to go in just now?”
The missionary gave him a contemptuous look and without a word flung out of the room.
“You know Mr. Davidson very little if you think the fear of personal danger can stop him
in the performance of his duty,” said his wife.
She sat with her hands nervously clasped, a spot of colour on her high cheek bones,
listening to what was about to happen below. They all listened. They heard him clatter down the
wooden stairs and throw open the door. The singing stopped suddenly, but the gramophone
continued to bray out its vulgar tune. They heard Davidson`s voice and then the noise of
something heavy falling. The music stopped. He had hurled the gramophone on the floor. Then
again they heard Davidson`s voice, they could not make out the words, then Miss Thompson`s,
loud and shrill, then a confused clamour as though several people were shouting together at the
top of their lungs. Mrs. Davidson gave a little gasp, and she clenched her hands more tightly. Dr.
Macphail looked uncertainly from her to his wife. He did not want to go down, but he wondered
if they expected him to. Then there was something that sounded like a scuffle. The noise now
was more distinct. It might be that Davidson was being thrown out of the room. The door was
slammed. There was a moment`s silence and they heard Davidson come up the stairs again. He
went to his room.
“I think I`ll go to him,” said Mrs. Davidson.
She got up and went out.
“If you want me, just call,” said Mrs. Macphail, and then when the other was gone: “I
hope he isn`t hurt.”
“Why couldn`t he mind his own business?” said Dr. Macphail.
They sat in silence for a minute or two and then they both started, for the gramophone
began to play once more, defiantly, and mocking voices shouted hoarsely the words of an
Next day Mrs. Davidson was pale and tired. She complained of headache, and she looked
old and wizened. She told Mrs. Macphail that the missionary had not slept at all; he had passed
the night in a state of frightful agitation and at five had got up and gone out. A glass of beer had
been thrown over him and his clothes were stained and stinking. But a sombre fire glowed in
Mrs. Davidson`s eyes when she spoke of Miss Thompson.
“She`ll bitterly rue the day when she flouted Mr. Davidson,” she said. “Mr. Davidson has
a wonderful heart and no one who is in trouble has ever gone to I him without being comforted,
but he has no mercy for sin, and when his righteous wrath is excited he`s terrible.”
“Why, what will he do?” asked Mrs. Macphail.
“I don`t know, but I wouldn`t stand in that creature`s shoes for anything in the world.”
Mrs. Macphail shuddered. There was something positively alarming in the triumphant
assurance of the little woman`s manner. They were going out together that morning, and they
went down the stairs side by side. Miss Thompson`s door was open, and they saw her in a
bedraggled dressing-gown, cooking something in a chafing - dish.
“Good morning,” she called. “Is Mr. Davidson better this morning?”
They passed her in silence, with their noses in the air, as if she did not exist. They
flushed, however, when she burst into a shout of derisive laughter. Mrs. Davidson turned on her
suddenly. “Don`t you dare to speak to me,” she screamed. “If you insult me I shall have you
turned out of here.”
“Say, did I ask M. Davidson to visit with me?”
“Don`t answer her,” whispered Mrs. Macphail hurriedly.
They walked on till they were out of earshot.
“She s brazen, brazen,” burst from Mrs. Davidson.
Her anger almost suffocated her.
And on their way home they met her strolling towards the quay. She had all her finery on.
Her great white hat with its vulgar, showy flowers was an affront. She called out cheerily to them
as she went by, and a couple of American sailors who were standing there grinned as the ladies
set their faces to an icy stare. They got in just before the rain began to fall again.
“I guess she`ll get her fine clothes spoilt,” said Mrs. Davidson with a bitter sneer.
Davidson did not come in till they were half way through dinner. He was wet through,
but he would not change. He sat, morose and silent, refusing to eat more than a mouthful, and he
stared at the slanting rain. When Mrs. Davidson told him of their two encounters with Miss
Thompson he did not answer. His deepening frown alone showed that he had heard.
“Don`t you think we ought to make Mr. Horn turn her out of here?” asked Mrs.
Davidson. “We can`t allow her to insult us.”
“There doesn`t seem to be any other place for her to go,” said Macphail.
“She can live with one of the natives.”
“In weather like this a native hut must be a rather uncomfortable place to live in.”
“I lived in one for years,” said the missionary.
When the little native girl brought in the fried bananas which formed the sweet they had
every day, Davidson turned to her.
“Ask Miss Thompson when it would be convenient for me to see her,” he said.
The girl nodded shyly and went out.
“What do you want to see her for, Alfred?” asked his wife.
“It`s my duty to see her. I won`t act till I`ve given her every chance.”
“You don`t know what she is. She`ll insult you.”
“Let her insult me. Let her spit on me. She has an immortal soul, and I must do all that is
in my power to save it.”
Mrs. Davidson`s ears rang still with the harlot`s mocking laughter.
“She`s gone too far.”
“Too far for the mercy of God?” His eyes lit up suddenly and his voice grew mellow and
“Never. The sinner may be deeper in sin than the depth of hell itself, but the love of the
Lord Jesus can reach him still.”
The girl came back with the message.
“Miss Thompson`s compliments and as long as Rev. Davidson don`t come in business
hours she`ll be glad to see him any time.”
The party received it in stony silence, and Dr. Macphail quickly effaced from his lips the
smile which had come upon them. He knew his wife would be vexed with him if he found Miss
Thompson`s effrontery amusing.
They finished the meal in silence. When it was over the two ladies got up and took their
work, Mrs. Macphail was making another of the innumerable comforters which she had turned
out since the beginning of the war, and the doctor lit his pipe. But Davidson remained in his chair
and with abstracted eyes stared at the table. At last he got up and without a word went out of the
room. They heard him go down and they heard Miss Thompson`s defiant “Come in” when he
knocked at the door. He remained with her for an hour. And Dr. Macphail watched the rain. It
was beginning to get on his nerves. It was not like our soft English rain that drops gently on the
earth; it was unmerciful and somehow terrible; you felt in it the malignancy of the primitive
powers of nature. It did not pour, it flowed. It was like a deluge from heaven, and it rattled on the
roof of corrugated iron with a steady persistence that was maddening. It seemed to have a fury of
its own. And sometimes you felt that you must scream if it did not stop, and then suddenly you
felt powerless, as though your bones had suddenly become soft; and you were miserable and
Macphail turned his head when the missionary came back. The two women looked up.
“I`ve given her every chance. I have exhorted her to repent. She is an evil woman.”
He paused, and Dr. Macphail saw his eyes darken and his pale face grow hard and stern.
“Now I shall take the whips with which the Lord Jesus drove the usurers and the money
changers out of the Temple of the Most High.”
He walked up and down the room. His mouth was close set, and his black brows were
“If she fled to the uttermost parts of the earth I should pursue her.”
With a sudden movement he turned round and strode out of the room. They heard him go
“What is he going to do?” asked Mrs. Macphail.
“I don`t know.” Mrs. Davidson took off her pince-nez and wiped them. “When he is on
the Lord`s work I never ask him questions.”
She sighed a little.
“What is the matter?”
“He`ll wear himself out. He doesn`t know what it is to spare himself.”
Dr. Macphail learnt the first results of the missionary`s activity from the half-caste trader
in whose house they lodged. He stopped the doctor when he passed the store `and came out to
speak to him on the stoop. His fat face was worried.
“The Rev. Davidson has been at me for letting Miss Thompson have a room here,” he
said, “but I didn`t know what she was when I rented it to her. When people come and ask if I can
rent them a room all I want to know is if they`ve the money to pay for it. And she paid me for
hers a week in advance.”
Dr. Macphail did not want to commit himself. “When all`s said and done it`s your housed
We`re very much obliged to you for taking us in at all.”
Horn looked at him doubtfully. He was not certain yet how definitely Macphail stood on
the missionary`s side.
“The missionaries are in with one another,” he said, hesitatingly olf they get it in for a
trader he may just as well shut up his store and quit.”
“Did he want you to turn her out?”
“No, he said so long as she behaved herself he couldn`t ask me to do that. He said he
wanted to be just to me. I promised she shouldn`t have no more visitors. I`ve just been and told
“How did she take it?”
“She gave me Hell.”
The trader squirmed in his old ducks. He had found Miss Thompson a rough customer.
“Oh, well, I daresay she`ll get out. I don`t suppose she wants to stay here if she can`t
have anyone in.”
“There`s nowhere she can go, only a native house, and no native`ll take her now, not now
that the missionaries have got their knife in her.”
Dr. Macphail looked at the falling rain.
“Well, I don`t suppose it`s any good waiting for it to clear up.”
In the evening when they sat in the parlour Davidson talked to them of his early days at
college. He had had no means and had worked his way through by doing odd jobs during the
vacations. There was silence downstairs. Miss Thompson was sitting in her little room alone. But
suddenly the gramophone began to play. She had set it on in defiance, to cheat her loneliness, but
there was no one to sing, and it had a melancholy note. It was like a cry for help Davidson took
no notice. He was in the middle of a long anecdote and without change of expression went on.
The gramophone continued. Miss Thompson put on one reel after another. It looked as though
the silence of the night were getting on her nerves. It was breathless and sultry. When the
Macphails went to bed they could not sleep. They lay side by side with their eyes wide open,
listening to the cruel singing of the mosquitoes outside their curtain.
“What`s that?” whispered Mrs. Macphail at last.
They heard a voice, Davidson`s voice, through the wooden partition. It went on with a
monotonous, earnest insistence. He was praying aloud. He was praying for the soul of Miss
Two or three days went by. Now when they passed Miss Thompson on the road she did
not greet them with ironic cordiality or smile; she passed with her nose in the air, a sulky look on
her painted face, frowning, as though she did not see them. The trader told Macphail that she had
tried to get lodging elsewhere, but had failed. In the evening she played through the various reels
of her gramophone, but the pretence of mirth was obvious now. The ragtime had a cracked,
heart-broken rhythm as though it were a one-step of despair. When she began to play on Sunday
Davidson sent Horn to beg her to stop at once since it was the Lord`s day. The reel was taken off
and the house was silent except for the steady pattering of the rain on the iron roof.
“I think she`s getting a bit worked up,” said the trader next day to Macphail. “She don`t
know what Mr. Davidson`s up to and it makes her scared.”
Macphail had caught a glimpse of her that morning and it struck him that her arrogant
expression had changed. There was in her face a hunted look. The half-caste gave him a sidelong
“I suppose you don`t know what Mr. Davidson is doing about it?” he hazarded.
“No, I don`t.”
It was singular that Horn should ask him that question, for he also had the idea that the
missionary was mysteriously at work. He had an impression that he was weaving a net around
the woman, carefully, systematically, and suddenly, when everything was ready, would pull the
“He told me to tell her,” said the trader, “that if at any time she wanted him she only had
to send and he`d come.”
“What did she say when you told her that?”
“She didn`t say nothing. I didn`t stop. I just said what he said I was to and then I beat it. I
thought she might be going to start weepin`.”
“I have no doubt the loneliness is getting on her nerves,” said the doctor. “And the rain -
that`s enough to make anyone jumpy,” he continued irritably. “Doesn`t it ever stop in this
“It goes on pretty steady in the rainy season. We have three hundred inches in the year.
You see, it`s the shape of the bay. It seems to attract the rain from all over the Pacific.”
“Damn the shape of the bay,” said the doctor.
He scratched his mosquito bites. He felt very short-tempered. When the rain stopped and
the sun shone, it was like a hothouse, seething, humid, sultry, breathless, and you had a strange
feeling that everything was growing with a savage violence. The natives, blithe and childlike by
reputation, seemed then, with their tattooing and their dyed hair, to have something sinister in
their appearance; and when they pattered along at your heels with their naked feet you looked
back instinctively. You felt they might at any moment come behind you swiftly and thrust long
knife between your shoulder blades. You could not tell what dark thoughts lurked behind their
wide-set eyes. They had a little the look of ancient Egyptians painted on a temple wall, and there
was about them the terror of what is immeasurably old.
The missionary came and went. He was busy, but the Macphails did not know what he
was doing. Horn told the doctor that he saw the governor every day, and once Davidson
“He looks as if he had plenty of determination,” he said, “but when you come down to
brass tacks he has no backbone.”
“I suppose that means he won`t do exactly what you want,” suggested the doctor
The missionary did not smile.
“I want him to do what`s right. It shouldn`t be necessary to persuade a man to do that.”
“But there may be differences of opinion about what is right.”
“If a man had a gangrenous foot would you have patience with anyone who hesitated to
“Gangrene is a matter of fact.”
What Davidson had done soon appeared. The four of them had just finished their midday
meal, and they had not yet separated for the siesta which the heat imposed on the ladies and on
the doctor. Davidson had little patience with the slothful habit. The door was suddenly flung
open and Miss Thompson came in. She looked round the room and then went up to Davidson.
“You low-down skunk, what have you been saying about me to the governor?”
She was spluttering with rage. There was a moment`s pause. Then the missionary drew
forward a chair.
“Won`t you be seated, Miss Thompson? I`ve been hoping to have another talk with you.”
“You poor low-life bastard.”
She burst into a torrent of insult, foul and insolent. Davidson kept his grave eyes on her.
“I`m indifferent to the abuse you think fit to heap on me, Miss Thompson,” he said, “but I
must beg you to remember that ladies are present.”
Tears by now were struggling with her anger. Her face was red and swollen as though she
“What has happened?” asked Dr. Macphail.
“A feller`s just been in here and he says I gotter beat it on the next boat.”
Was there a gleam in the missionary`s eyes? His face remained impassive.
“You could hardly expect the governor to let you stay here under the circumstances.”
“You done it,” she shrieked. “You can`t kid me. You done it.”
“I don`t want to deceive you. I urged the governor to take the only possible step
consistent with his obligations.”
“Why couldn`t you leave me be? I wasn`t doin` you no harm.”
“You may be sure that if you had I should be the last man to resent it.”
“Do you think I want to stay on in this poor imitation of a burg? I don`t look no busher,
“In that case I don`t see what cause of complaint you have,” he answered.
She gave an inarticulate cry of rage and flung out of the room. There was a short silence.
“It`s a relief to know that the governor has acted at last,” said Davidson finally. “He`s a
weak man and he shilly-shallied. He said she was only here for a fortnight anyway, and if she
went on to Apia that was under British jurisdiction and had nothing to do with him.”
The missionary sprang to his feet and strode across the room.
“It`s terrible the way the men who are in authority seek to evade their responsibility.
They speak as though evil that was out of sight ceased to be evil. The very existence of that
woman is a scandal and it does not help matters to shift it to another of the islands. In the end I
had to speak straight from the shoulder.”
Davidson`s brow lowered, and he protruded his firm chin. He looked fierce and
“What do you mean by that?”
“Our mission is not entirely without influence at Washington. I pointed out to the
governor that it wouldn`t do him any good if there was a complaint about the way he managed
“When has she got to go?” asked the doctor, after a pause.
“The San Francisco boat is due here from Sydney next Tuesday. She`s to sail on that.”
That was in five days` time. It was next day, when he was coining back from the hospital
where for want of something better to do Macphail spent most of his mornings, that the halfcaste
stopped him as he was going upstairs.
“Excuse me, Dr. Macphail, Miss Thompson`s sick. Will you have a look at her.”
Horn led him to her room. She was sitting in a chair idly, neither reading nor sewing,
staring in front of her. She wore her white dress and the large hat with the flowers on it.
Macphail noticed that her skin was yellow and muddy under her powder, and her eyes were
“I`m sorry to hear you`re not well,” he said.
“Oh, I ain`t sick really. I just said that, because I just had to see you. I`ve got to clear on a
boat that`s going to `Frisco.”
She looked at him and he saw that her eyes were suddenly startled. She opened and
clenched her hands spasmodically. The trader stood at the door, listening.
“So I understand,” said the doctor.
She gave a little gulp
“I guess it ain`t very convenient for me to go to Frisco just now. T went to see the
governor yesterday afternoon, but I couldn`t get to him. I saw the secretary, and he told me I`d
got to take that boat and that was all there was to it. I just had to see the governor, so I waited
outside his house this morning, and when he come out I spoke to him. He didn`t want to speak to
me, I`ll say, but I wouldn`t let him shake me off, and at last he said he hadn`t no objection to my
staying here till the next boat to Sydney if the Rev. Davidson will stand for it.”
She stopped and looked at Dr. Macphail anxiously.
“I don`t know exactly what I can do,” he said.
“Well, I thought maybe you wouldn`t mind asking him. I swear to God I won`t start
anything here if he`ll just only let me stay. I won`t go out of the house if that`ll suit him. It`s no
more`n a fortnight.”
“I`ll ask him.”
“He won`t stand for it,” said Horn. “He`ll have you out on Tuesday, so you may as well
make up your mind to it.”
“Tell him I can get work in Sydney, straight stuff, I mean. Tain`t asking very much.”
“I`ll do what I can.”
“And come and tell me right away, will you? I can`t set down to a thing till I get the dope
one way or the other.”
It was not an errand that much pleased the doctor, and, characteristically perhaps, he went
about it indirectly. He told his wife what Miss Thompson had said to him and asked her to speak
to Mrs. Davidson. The missionary`s attitude seemed rather arbitrary and it could do no harm if
the girl were allowed to stay in Pago-Pago another fortnight. But he was not prepared for the
result of his diplomacy. The missionary came to him straightway.
“Mrs. Davidson tells me that Thompson has been speaking to you.”
Dr. Macphail, thus directly tackled, had the shy man`s resentment at being forced out into
the open. He felt his temper rising, and he flushed.
“I don`t see that it can make any difference if she goes to Sydney rather than to San
Francisco, and so long as she promises to behave while she`s here it`s dashed hard to persecute
The missionary fixed him with his stern eyes. “Why is she unwilling to go back to San
“I didn`t inquire,” answered the doctor with some asperity. “And I think one does better
to mind one`s own business.”
Perhaps it was not a very tactful answer.
“The governor has ordered her to be deported by the first boat that leaves the island. He`s
only done his duty and I will not interfere. Her presence is a peril here.”
“I think you`re very harsh and tyrannical.”
The two ladies looked up at the doctor with some alarm, but they need not have feared a
quarrel, for the missionary smiled gently.
“I`m terribly sorry you should think that of Dr. Macphail. Believe me, my heart bleeds
for the unfortunate woman, but I`m only trying to do my duty.”
The doctor made no answer. He looked out of the window sullenly. For once it was not
raining and across the bay you saw nestling among the trees the huts of a native village.
“I think I`ll take advantage of the rain stopping to go out,” he said.
“Please don`t bear me malice because I can`t accede to your wish,” said Davidson, with a
melancholy smile. “I respect you very much, doctor, and I should be sorry if you thought ill of
“I have no doubt you have a sufficiently good opinion of yourself to bear mine with
equanimity,” he retorted.
“That`s one on me,” chuckled Davidson.
When Dr. Macphail, vexed with himself because he had been uncivil to no purpose, went
downstairs, Miss Thompson was waiting for him with her door ajar.
“Well,” she said, “have you spoken to him?”
“Yes, I`m sorry, he won`t do anything,” he answered, not looking at her in his
But then he gave her a quick glance, for a sob broke from her. He saw that her face was
white with fear. It gave him a shock of dismay. And suddenly he had an idea.
“But don`t give up hope yet. I think it`s a shame the way they`re treating you and I`m
going: to see the governor myself.”
He nodded. Her face brightened.
“Say, that`s real good of you. I`m sure he`ll let me stay if you speak for me. I just won`t
do a thing I didn`t ought all the time I`m here.”
Dr. Macphail hardly knew why he had made up his mind to appeal to the governor. He
was perfectly indifferent to Miss Thompson`s affairs, the missionary had irritated him, and with
him temper was a smouldering thing. He found the governor at home. He was a large, handsome
man, a sailor, with a grey toothbrush moustache; and he wore a spotless uniform of white drill.
“I`ve come to see you about a woman who`s lodging in the same house as we are,” he
said. “Her name`s Thompson.”
“I guess I`ve heard nearly enough about her, Dr. Macphail,” said the governor, smiling.
“I`ve given her the order to get out next Tuesday and that`s all I can do.”
“I wanted to ask you if you couldn`t stretch a point and let her stay here till the boat
comes in from San Francisco so that she can go to Sydney. I will guarantee her good behaviour.”
The governor continued to smile, but his eyes grew small and serious.
“I`d be very glad to oblige you, Dr. Macphail, but I`ve given the order and it must stand.”
The doctor put the case as reasonably as he could, but now the governor ceased to smile
at all. He listened sullenly, with averted gaze. Macphail saw that he was making no impression.
“I`m sorry to cause any lady inconvenience, but she`ll have to sail on Tuesday and that`s
all there is to it.”
“But what difference can it make?”
“Pardon me, doctor, but I don`t feel called upon to explain my official actions except to
the, proper authorities.”
Macphail looked at him shrewdly. He remembered Davidson`s hint that he had used
threats, and in the governor`s attitude he read a singular embarrassment.
“Davidson`s a damned busybody,” he said hotly.
“Between ourselves, Dr. Macphail, I don`t say that I have formed a very favourable
opinion of Mr. Davidson, but I am bound to confess that he was within his rights in pointing out
to me the danger that the presence of a woman of Miss Thompson`s character was to a place like
this where a number of enlisted men are stationed among a native population.”
He got up and Dr. Macphail was obliged to do so too.
“I must ask you to excuse me. I have an engagement. Please give my respects to Mrs.
The doctor left him crest-fallen. He knew that Miss Thompson would be waiting for him,
and unwilling to tell her himself that he had failed, he went into the house by the back door and
sneaked up the stairs as though he had something to hide.
At supper he was silent and ill-at-ease, but the missionary was jovial and animated. Dr.
Macphail thought his eyes rested on him now and then with triumphant good-humour. It struck
him suddenly that Davidson knew of his visit to the governor and of its ill success. But how on
earth could he have heard of it? There was something sinister about the power of that man. After
supper he saw Horn on the verandah and, as though to have a casual word with him, went out.
“She wants to know if you`ve seen the governor,” the trader whispered.
“Yes. He wouldn`t do anything. I`m awfully sorry, I can`t do anything more.”
“I knew he wouldn`t. They daren`t go against the missionaries.”
“What are you talking about?” said Davidson affably, corning out to join them.
“I was just saying there was no chance of your getting over to Apia for at least another
week,” said the trader glibly.
He left them, and the two men returned into the parlour. Mr. Davidson devoted one hour
after each meal to recreation. Presently a timid knock was heard at the door.
“Come in,” said Mrs. Davidson, in her sharp voice.
The door was not opened. She got up and opened it. They saw Miss Thompson standing
at the threshold. But the change in her appearance was extraordinary. This was no longer the
flaunting hussy who had jeered at them in the road, but a broken, frightened woman. Her hair, as
a rule so elaborately arranged, was tumbling untidily over her neck. She wore bedroom slippers
and a skirt and blouse. They were unfresh and bedraggled. She stood at the door with the tears
streaming down her face and did not dare to enter.
“What do you want?” said Mrs. Davidson harshly.
“May I speak to Mr. Davidson?” she said in a choking voice.
The missionary rose and went towards her.
“Come right in, Miss Thompson,” he said in cordial tones. “What can I do for you?”
She entered the room.
“Say, I`m sorry for what I said to you the other day an` for—for everythin` else. I guess I
was a bit lit up. I beg pardon.”
“Oh, it was nothing. I guess my back`s broad enough to bear a few hard words.”
She stepped towards him with a movement that was horribly cringing.
“You`ve got me beat. I`m all in. You won`t make me go back to `Frisco?”
His genial manner vanished and his voice grew on a sudden hard and stern.
“Why don`t you want to go back there?”
She cowered before him.
“I guess my people live there. I don`t want them to see me like this. I`ll go anywhere else
“Why don`t you want to go back to San Francisco?”
“I`ve told you.”
He leaned forward, staring at her, and his great, shining eyes seemed to try to bore into
her soul. He gave a sudden gasp.
She screamed, and then she fell at his feet, clasping his legs.
“Don`t send me back there. I swear to you before God I`ll be a good woman. I`ll give all
She burst into a torrent of confused supplication and the tears coursed down her painted
cheeks. He leaned over her and, lifting her face, forced her to look at him.
“Is that it, the penitentiary?”
“I beat it before they could get me, she gasped. “If the bulls grab me it`s three years for
He let go his hold of her and she fell in a heap on the floor, sobbing bitterly. Dr. Macphail
“This alters the whole thing,” he said. “You can`t make her go back when you know this.
Give her another chance. She wants to turn over a new leaf.”
“I`m going to give her the finest chance she`s ever had. If she repents let her accept her
She misunderstood the words and looked up. There was a gleam of hope in her heavy
“You`ll let me go?”
“No. You shall sail for San Francisco on Tuesday.”
She gave a groan of horror and then burst into low, hoarse shrieks which sounded hardly
human, and she beat her head passionately on the ground. Dr. Macphail sprang to her and lifted
“Come on, you mustn`t do that. You`d better go to your room and lie down. I`ll get you
He raised her to her feet and partly dragging her, partly carrying her, got her downstairs.
He was furious with Mrs. Davidson and with his wife because they made no effort to help. The
half-caste was standing on the landing and with his assistanc he managed to get her on the bed.
She was moaning and crying. She was almost insensible. He gave her a hypodermic injection. He
was hot and exhausted when he went upstairs again.
“I`ve got her to lie down.”
The two women and Davidson were in the same, positions as when he had left them.
They could not have moved or spoken since he went.
“I was waiting for you,” said Davidson, in a strange, distant voice. “I want you all to pray
with me for the soul of our erring sister.”
He took the Bible off a shelf, and sat down at the table at which they had supped. It had
not been cleared, and he pushed the tea-pot out of the way. In a powerful voice, resonant and
deep, he read to them the chapter in which is narrated the meeting of Jesus Christ with the
woman taken in adultery.
“Now kneel with me and let us pray for the soul of our dear sister, Sadie Thompson.”
He burst into a long, passionate prayer in which he implored God to have mercy on the
sinful woman. Mrs. Macphail and Mrs. Davidson knelt with covered eyes. The doctor, taken by
surprise, awkward and sheepish, knelt too. The missionary`s prayer had a savage eloquence. He
was extraordinarily moved, and as he spoke the tears ran down his cheeks. Outside, the pitiless
rain fell, fell steadily, with a fierce malignity that was all too human.
At last he stopped. He paused for a moment and said:
“We will now repeat the Lord`s prayer.”
They said it and then, following him, they rose from their knees. Mrs. Davidson`s face
was pale and restful. She was comforted and at peace, but the Macphails felt suddenly bashful.
They did not know which way to look.
“I`ll just go down and see how she is now,” said Dr. Macphail.
When he knocked at her door it was opened for him by Horn. Miss Thompson was in a
rocking-chair, sobbing quietly.
“What are you doing there?” exclaimed Macphail. “ I told you to lie down.”
“I can`t lie down. I want to see Mr. Davidson.”
“My poor child, what do you think is the good of it? You`ll never move him.”
“He said he`d come if I sent for him.”
Macphail motioned to the trader.
“Go and fetch him.”
He waited with her in silence while the trader went upstairs. Davidson came in.
“Excuse me for asking you to come here,” she said, looking at him sombrely.
“I was expecting you to send for me. I knew the Lord would answer my prayer.”
They stared at one another for a moment and then she looked away. She kept her eyes
averted when she spoke.
“I`ve been a bad woman. I want to repent,”
“Thank God! thank God! He has heard our prayers.”
He turned to the two men.
“Leave me alone with her. Tell Mrs. Davidson that our prayers have been answered.”
They went out and closed the door behind them.
“Gee whizz,” said the trader.
That night Dr. Macphail could not get to sleep till late, and when he heard the missionary
come upstairs he looked at his watch. It was two o`clock. But even then he did not go to bed at
once, for through the wooden partition that separated their rooms he heard him praying aloud, till
he himself, exhausted, fell asleep.
When he saw him next morning he was surprised at his appearance. He was paler than
ever, tired, but his eyes shone with an inhuman fire. It looked as though he were filled with an
“I want you to go down presently and see Sadie,” he said. “I can`t hope that her body is
better, but her soul - her soul is transformed.”
The doctor was feeling wan and nervous.
“You were with her very late last night,” he said.
“Yes, she couldn`t bear to have me leave her.”
“You look as pleased as Punch,” the doctor said irritably.
Davidson`s eyes shone with ecstasy.
“A great mercy has been vouchsafed me. Last night I was privileged to bring a lost soul
to the loving arms of Jesus.”
Miss Thompson was again in the rocking-chair. The bed had not been made. The room
was in disorder. She had not troubled to dress herself, but wore a dirty dressing-gown, and her
hair was tied in a sluttish knot. She had given her face a dab with a wet towel, but it was all
swollen and creased with crying. She looked a drab.
She raised her eyes dully when the doctor came in. She was cowed and broken.
“Where`s Mr. Davidson?” she asked.
“He`ll come presently if you want him,” answered Macphail acidly. “I came here to see
how you were.”
“Oh, I guess I`m OK. You needn`t worry about that”
“Have you had anything to eat?”
“Horn brought me some coffee.”
She looked anxiously at the door.
“D`you think he`ll come down soon? I feel as if it wasn`t so terrible when he`s with me.”
“Are you still going on Tuesday?”
“Yes, he says I`ve got to go. Please tell him to come right along. You can`t do me any
good. He`s the only one as can help me now.”
“Very well,” said Dr. Macphail.
During the next three days the missionary spent almost all his time with Sadie Thompson.
He joined the others only to have his meals. Dr. Macphail noticed that he hardly ate.
“He`s wearing himself out,” said Mrs. Davidson pitifully. “He`ll have a breakdown if he,
doesn`t take care, but he won`t spare himself.”
She herself was white and pale. She told Mrs. Macphail that she had no sleep. When the
missionary came upstairs from Miss Thompson he prayed till he was exhausted, but even then he
did not sleep for long. After an hour or two he got up and dressed himself, and went for a tramp
along the bay. He had strange dreams.
“This morning he told me that he`d been dreaming about the mountains of Nebraska,”
said Mrs. Davidson.
“That`s curious,” said Dr. Macphail.
He remembered seeing them from the windows of the train when he crossed America.
They were like huge mole-hills, rounded and smooth, an they rose from the plain abruptly. Dr.
Macphail remembered how it struck him that they were like a woman`s breasts.
Davidson`s restlessness was intolerable even to himself. But he was buoyed up by a
wonderful exhilaration. He was tearing out by the roots the last vestiges of sin that lurked in the
hidden corners of that poor woman`s heart. He read with her and prayed with her.
“It`s wonderful,” he said to them one day at supper. “It`s a true rebirth. Her soul, which
was black as night, is now pure and white like the new-fallen snow. I am humble and afraid. Her
remorse for all her sins is beautiful. I am not worthy to touch the hem of her garment.”
“Have you the heart to send her back to San Francisco?” said the doctor. “Three years in
an American prison. I should have thought you might have saved her from that.”
“Ah, but don`t you see? It`s necessary. Do you think my heart doesn`t bleed for her? I
love her as I love my wife and my sister. All the time that she is in prison I shall suffer all the
pain that she suffers.”
“Bunkum,” cried the doctor impatiently.
“You don`t understand because you`re blind. She`s sinned, and she must suffer. I know
what she`ll end-dure. She`ll be starved and tortured and humiliated. I want her to accept the
punishment of man as a sacrifice to God. I want her to accept it joyfully. She has an opportunity
which is offered to very few of us. God is very good and very merciful.”
Davidson`s voice trembled with excitement. He could hardly articulate the words that
tumbled passionately from his lips.
“All day I pray with her and when I leave her I pray again, I pray with all my might and
main, so that Jesus may grant her this great mercy. I want to put in her heart the passionate desire
to be punished so that at the end, even if I offered to let her go, she would refuse. I want her to
feel that the bitter punishment of prison is the thank-offering that she places at the feet of our
Blessed Lord, who gave his life for her.”
The days passed slowly. The whole household, intent on the wretched, tortured woman
down-stairs, lived in a state of unnatural excitement. She was like a victim that was being
prepared for the savage rites of a bloody idolatry. Her terror numbed her. She could not bear to
let Davidson out of her sight; it was only when he was with her that she had courage, and she
hung upon him with a slavish dependence. She cried a great deal, and she read the Bible, and
prayed. Sometimes she was exhausted and apathetic. Then she did indeed look forward to her
ordeal, for it seemed to offer an escape, direct and concrete, from the anguish she was enduring.
She could not bear much longer the vague terrors which now assailed her. With her sins she had
put aside all personal vanity, and she slopped about her room, unkempt and disheveled, in her
tawdry dressing-gown. She had not taken off her nightdress for four days, nor put on stockings.
Her room was littered and untidy. Meanwhile the rain fell with a cruel persistence. You felt that
the heavens must at last be empty of water, but still it poured down, straight and heavy, with a
maddening iteration, on the iron roof. Everything was damp and clammy. There was mildew on
the wail and on the boots that stood on the floor. Through the sleepless nights the mosquitoes
droned their angry chant.
“If it would only stop raining for a single day it wouldn`t be so bad,” said Dr. Macphail.
They all looked forward to the Tuesday when the boat for San Francisco was to arrive
from Sydney. The strain was intolerable. So far as Dr. Macphail was concerned, his pity and his
resentment were alike extinguished by his desire to be rid of the unfortunate woman. The
inevitable must be accepted. He felt he would breathe more freely when the ship had sailed.
Sadie Thompson was to be escorted on board by a clerk in the governor`s office. This person
called on the Monday evening and told Miss Thompson to be prepared at eleven in the morning.
Davidson was with her.
“I`ll see that everything is ready. I mean to come on board with her myself.”
Miss Thompson did not speak.
When Dr. Macphail blew out his candle and crawled cautiously under his mosquito
curtains, he gave a sigh of relief.
“Well, thank God that`s over. By this time tomorrow she`ll be gone.”
“Mrs. Davidson will be glad too. She says he`s wearing himself to a shadow,” said Mrs.
Macphail. “She`s a different woman.”
“Sadie. I should never have thought it possible. It makes one humble.”
Dr. Macphail did not answer, and presently he fell asleep. He was tired out, and he slept
more soundly than usual.
He was awakened in the morning by a hand placed on his arm, and, starting up, saw Horn
by the side of his bed. The trader put his finger on his mouth to prevent any exclamation from
Dr. Macphail and beckoned to him to come. As a rule he wore shabby ducks, but now he was
barefoot and wore only the lava-lava of the natives. He looked suddenly savage, and Dr.
Macphail, getting out of bed, saw that he was heavily tattooed. Horn made him a sign to come on
to the verandah. Dr. Macphail got out of bed and followed the trader out.
“Don`t make a noise,” he whispered. “You`re wanted. Put on a coat and some shoes.
Dr. Macphail`s first thought was that something had happened to Miss Thompson.
“What is it? Shall I bring my instruments?”
“Hurry, please, hurry.”
Dr. Macphail crept back into the bedroom, put on a waterproof over his pyjamas, and a
pair of rubber-soled shoes. He rejoined the trader, and together they tiptoed down the stairs. The
door leading out to the road was open and at it were standing half a dozen natives.
“What is it?” repeated the doctor.
“Come along with me,” said Horn.
He walked out and the doctor followed him. The natives came after them in a little bunch.
They crossed the road and came on to the beach. The doctor saw a group of natives standing
round some object at the water`s edge. They hurried along, a couple of dozen yards perhaps, and
the natives opened out as the doctor came up. The trader pushed him forwards. Then he saw,
lying half in the water and half out, a dreadful object, the body of Davidson. Dr. Macphail bent
down - he was not a man to lose his head in an emergency - and turned the body over. The throat
was cut from ear to ear, and in the right hand was still the razor with which the deed was done.
“He`s quite cold,” said the doctor. “He must have been dead some time.”
“One of the boys saw him lying there on his way to work just now and came and told me.
Do you think he did it himself?”
“Yes. Someone ought to go for the police.”
Horn said something in the native tongue, and two youths started off.
“We must leave him here till they come,” said the doctor.
“They mustn`t take him into my house. I won`t have him in my house.”
“You`ll do what the authorities say,” replied the doctor sharply. “In point of fact I expect
they`ll take him to the mortuary.”
They stood waiting where they were. The trader took a cigarette from a fold in his lavalava and gave one
to Dr. Macphail. They smoked while they stared at the corpse. Dr. Macphail
could not understand.
“Why do you think he did it?” asked Horn.
The doctor shrugged his shoulders. In a little while native police came along, under the
charge of a marine, with a stretcher, and immediately afterwards a couple of naval officers and a
naval doctor. They managed everything in businesslike manner.
“What about the wife?” said one of the officers.
“Now that you`ve come I`ll go back to the house and get some things on. I`ll see that it`s
broken to her. She`d better not see him till he`s been fixed up a little.”
“I guess that`s right,” said the naval doctor. When Dr. Macphail went back he found his
wife nearly dressed.
“Mrs. Davidson`s in a dreadful state about her husband,” she said to him as soon as he
appeared. “He hasn`t been to bed all night. She heard him leave Miss Thompson`s room at two,
but he went out. If he`s been walking about since then he`ll be absolutely dead.”
Dr. Macphail told her what had happened and asked her to break the news to Mrs.
“But why did he do it?” she asked, horror-stricken.
“I don`t know.”
“But I can`t. I can`t.”
She gave him a frightened look and went out He heard her go into Mrs. Davidson`s room.
He waited a minute to gather himself together and then began to shave and wash. When he was
dressed he sat down on the bed and waited for his wife. At last she came.
“She wants to see him,” she said.
“They`ve taken him to the mortuary. We`d better go down with her. How did she take
“I think she`s stunned. She didn`t cry. But she`s trembling like a leaf.”
“We`d better go at once.”
When they knocked at her door Mrs. Davidson came out. She was very pale, but dryeyed. To the doctor
she seemed unnaturally composed. No word was exchanged, and they set out
in silence down the road. When they arrived at the mortuary Mrs. Davidson spoke.
“Let me go in and see him alone.”
They stood aside. A native opened a door for her and closed it behind her. They sat down
and waited. One or two white men came and talked to them in undertones. Dr. Macphail told
them again what he knew of the tragedy. At last the door was quietly opened and Mrs. Davidson
came out. Silence fell upon them.
“I`m ready to go back now,” she said.
Her voice was hard and steady. Dr. Macphail could not understand the look in her eyes.
Her pale face was very stern. They walked back slowly, never saying a word, and at last they
came round the bend on the other side of which stood the ir house. Mrs. Davidson gave a gasp,
and for moment they stopped still. An incredible sound assaulted their ears. The gramophone
which had been silent for so long was playing, playing ragtime loud and harsh.
“What`s that?” cried Mrs. Macphail with horror.
“Let`s go on,” said Mrs. Davidson.
They walked up the steps and entered the hall. Miss Thompson was standing at her door,
chatting with a sailor. A sudden change had taken place in her. She was no longer the cowed
drudge of the last days. She was dressed in all her finery, in her white dress, with the high shiny
boots over which her fat legs bulged in their cotton stockings; her hair was elaborately arranged;
and she wore that enormous hat covered with gaudy flowers. Her face was painted, her eyebrows
were boldly black, and her lips were scarlet. She held herself erect. She was the flaunting quean
that they had known at first. As they came in she broke into a loud, jeering laugh; and then, when
Mrs. Davidson involuntarily stopped, she collected the spittle in her mouth and spat. Mrs.
Davidson cowered back, and two red spots rose suddenly to her cheeks. Then, covering her face
with her hands, she broke away and ran quickly up the stairs. Dr. Macphail was outraged. He
pushed past the woman into her room.
“What the devil are you doing?” he cried. “Stop that, damned machine.”
He went up to it and tore the record off. She turned on him.
“Say, doc, you can that stuff with me. What the hell are you doin` in my room? “
“What do you mean?” he cried. “What d`you mean?”
She gathered herself together. No one could describe the scorn of her expression or the
contemptuous hatred she put into her answer.
“You men! You filthy, dirty pigs! You`re all the same, all of you. Pigs! Pigs!”
Dr. Macphail gasped. He understood.
A Dialogue with God in Days of Pandemic
A HUMOUROUS STORY BY O.HENRY
THREE FABLES OF AESOP (27-30)
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