W. Somerset Maugham.

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by W. Somerset Maugham


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ALL of the tales in this collection are
laid against the languorous semi-barbaric
background of the South Sea Islands.
The story of RAIN, now being produced
as a United Artists Picture starring
Joan Crawford as the unforgettable Sadie
Thompson, will be found among them.
It is the story on which is based the play
whose popularity and amazing run made
theatrical history. In all of these stories
will be found that same spark of drama
that distinguishes RAIN from the ordinary
run of short stories tales of romantic fig-
ures whose lives reflect the pity and terror
and irony of the inscrutable Pacific.

RAIN See page 241


And Other Stories

Published Under the Title of


IV. Somerset Maugham









20879G 1

U extreme fflicitt a peine sGparfo par
une feuille tremblante de l'extrme
dssespoir, n'est-ce pas la vie?







IV RED 115







The Pacific

Pacific is inconstant and uncertain like
_ the soul of man. Sometimes it is grey like
the English Channel off Beachy Head, with a heavy
swell, and sometimes it is rough, capped with white
crests, and boisterous. It is not so often that it is
calm and blue. Then, indeed, the blue is arrogant.
The sun shines fiercely from an unclouded sky. The
trade wind gets into your blood and you are filled
with an impatience for the unknown. The billows,
magnificently rolling, stretch widely on all sides
of you, and you forget your vanished youth, with
its memories, cruel and sweet, in a restless, intol-
erable desire for life. On such a sea as this Ulysses
sailed when he sought the Happy Isles. But there
are days also when the Pacific is like a lake. The
sea is flat and shining. The flying fish, a gleam of
shadow on the brightness of a mirror, make little
fountains of sparkling drops when they dip. There
are fleecy clouds on the horizon, and at sunset they
take strange shapes so that it is impossible not to



believe that you see a range of lofty mountains,.
They are the mountains of the country of your
dreams. You sail through an unimaginable si-
lence upon a magic sea. Now and then a few gulls
suggest that land is not far off, a forgotten island
hidden in a wilderness of waters; but the gulls, the
melancholy gulls, are the only sign you have of it.
You see never a tramp, with its friendly smoke, no
stately bark or trim schooner, not a fishing boat
even : it is an empty desert ; and presently the empti-
ness fills you with a vague foreboding.



HE splashed about for a few minutes in the sea ;
it was too shallow to swim in and for fear of
sharks he could not go out of his depth; then he
got out and went into the bath-house for a shower.
The coldness of the fresh water was grateful after
the heavy stickiness of the salt Pacific, so warm,
though it was only just after seven, that to bathe in
it did not brace you but rather increased your lan-
guor; and when he had dried himself, slipping into a
bath-gown, he called out to the Chinese cook that he
would be ready for breakfast in five minutes. He
walked barefoot across the patch of coarse grass
which Walker, the administrator, proudly thought
was a lawn, to his own quarters and dressed. This
did not take long, for he put on nothing but a shirt
and a pair of duck trousers and then went over to his
chief's house on the other side of the compound.
The two men had their meals together, but the
Chinese cook told him that Walker had set out on
horseback at five and would not be back for another

Mackintosh had slept badly and he looked with
distaste at the paw-paw and the eggs and bacon
which were set before him. The mosquitoes had



been maddening that night; they flew about the net
under which he slept in such numbers that their
humming, pitiless and menacing, had the effect of a
note, infinitely drawn out, played on a distant or-
gan, and whenever he dozed off he awoke with a
start in the belief that one had found its way inside
his curtains. It was so hot that he lay naked. He
turned from side to side. And gradually the dull
roar of the breakers on the reef, so unceasing and
so regular that generally you did not hear it, grew
distinct on his consciousness, its rhythm hammered
on his tired nerves and he held himself with clenched
hands in the effort to bear it. The thought that
nothing could stop that sound, for it would con-
tinue to all eternity, was almost impossible to bear,
and, as though his strength were a match for the
ruthless forces of nature, he had an insane impulse
to do some violent thing. He felt he must cling to
his self-control or he would go mad. And now,
looking out of the window at the lagoon and the
strip of foam which marked the reef, he shuddered
with hatred of the brilliant scene. The cloudless
sky was like an inverted bowl that hemmed it in.
He lit his pipe and turned over the pile of Auck-
land papers that had come over from Apia a few
days before. The newest of them was three weeks
old. They gave an impression of incredible dull-

Then he went into the office. It was a large,
bare room with two desks in it and a bench along
one side. A number of natives were seated on
this, and a couple of women. They gossiped while


they waited for the administrator, and when Mack-
intosh came in they greeted him.

"Talofa li."

He returned their greeting and sat down at his
desk. He began to write, working on a report
which the governor of Samoa had been clamouring
for and which Walker, with his usual dilatoriness,
had neglected to prepare. Mackintosh as he made
his notes reflected vindictively that Walker was late
with his report because he was so illiterate that he
had an invincible distaste for anything to do with
pens and paper ; and now when it was at last ready,
concise and neatly official, he would accept his subor-
dinate's work without a word of appreciation, with
a sneer rather or a gibe, and send it on to his own
superior as though it were his own composition.
He could not have written a word of it. Mack-
intosh thought with rage that if his chief pencilled
in some insertion it would be childish in expression
and faulty in language. If he remonstrated or
sought to put his meaning into an intelligible phrase,
Walker would fly into a passion and cry:

"What the hell do I care about grammar?
That's what I want to say and that's how I want
to say it."

At last Walker came in. The natives surrounded
him as he entered, trying to get his immediate at-
tention, but he turned on them roughly and told
them to sit down and hold their tongues. He
threatened that if they were not quiet he would
have them all turned out and see none of them
that day. He nodded to Mackintosh.


"Hulloa, Mac; up at last? I don't know how
you can waste the best part of the day in bed. You
ought to have been up before dawn like me. Lazy

He threw himself heavily into his chair and
wiped his face with a large bandana.

"By heaven, I've got a thirst."

He turned to the policeman who stood at the
door, a picturesque figure in his white jacket and
lava-lava, the loin cloth of the Samoan, and told
him to bring kava. The kava bowl stood on the
floor in the corner of the room, and the policeman
filled a half coconut shell and brought it to Walker.
He poured a few drops on the ground, murmured
the customary words to the company, and drank
with relish. Then he told the policeman to serve
the waiting natives, and the shell was handed to
each one in order of birth or importance and emp-
tied with the same ceremonies.

Then he set about the day's work. He was a lit-
tle man, considerably less than of middle height,
and enormously stout; he had a large, fleshy face,
clean-shaven, with the cheeks hanging on each side
in great dew-laps, and three vast chins; his small
features were all dissolved in fat; and, but for a
crescent of white hair at the back of his head, he
was completely bald. He reminded you of Mr
Pickwick. He was grotesque, a figure of fun, and
yet, strangely enough, not without dignity. His
blue eyes, behind large gold-rimmed spectacles, were
shrewd and vivacious, and there was a great deal
of determination in his face. He was sixty, but


his native vitality triumphed over advancing years.
Notwithstanding his corpulence his movements
were quick, and he walked with a heavy, resolute
tread as though he sought to impress his weight
upon the earth. He spoke in a loud, gruff voice.

It was two years now since Mackintosh had been
appointed Walker's assistant. Walker, who had
been for a quarter of a century administrator of
Talua, one of the larger islands in the Samoan
group, was a man known in person or by report
through the length and breadth of the South Seas;
and it was with lively curiosity that Mackintosh
looked forward to his first meeting with him. For
one reason or another he stayed a couple of weeks
at Apia before he took up his post and both at
Chaplin's hotel and at the English club he heard
innumerable stories about the administrator. He
thought now with irony of his interest in them.
Since then he had heard them a hundred times
from Walker himself. Walker knew that he was a
character, and, proud of his reputation, deliberately
acted up to it. He was jealous of his "legend"
and anxious that you should know the exact details
of any of the celebrated stories that were told of
him. He was ludicrously angry with anyone who
had told them to the stranger incorrectly.

There was a rough cordiality about Walker which
Mackintosh at first found not unattractive, and
Walker, glad to have a listener to whom all he
said was fresh, gave of his best. He was good-
humoured, hearty, and considerate. To Mackin-
tosh, who had lived the sheltered life of a govern-


mcnt official in London till at the age of thirty-four
an attack of pneumonia, leaving him with the threat
of tuberculosis, had forced him to seek a post in
the Pacific, Walker's existence seemed extraordi-
narily romantic. The adventure with which he
started on his conquest of circumstance was typical
of the man. He ran away to sea when he was fif-
teen and for over a year was employed in shovel-
ling coal on a collier. He was an undersized boy
and both men and mates were kind to him, but the
captain for some reason conceived a savage dislike
of him. He used the lad cruelly so that, beaten
and kicked, he often could not sleep for the pain
that racked his limbs. He loathed the captain with
all his soul. Then he was given a tip for some
race and managed to borrow twenty-five pounds
from a friend he had picked up in Belfast. He put
it on the horse, an outsider, at long odds. He had
no means of repaying the money if he lost, but
it never occurred to him that he could lose. He
felt himself in luck. The horse won and he found
himself with something over a thousand pounds in
hard cash. Now his chance had come. He found
out who was the best solicitor in the town the col-
lier lay then somewhere on the Irish coast went
to him, and, telling him that he heard the ship was
for sale, asked him to arrange the purchase for
him. The solicitor was amused at his small client,
he was only sixteen and did not look so old, and,
moved perhaps by sympathy, promised not only to
arrange the matter for him but to see that he made
a good bargain. After a little while Walker found


himself the owner of the ship. He went back to
her and had what he described as the most glori-
ous moment of his life when he gave the skipper
notice and told him that he must get off his ship in
half an hour. He made the mate captain and sailed
on the collier for another nine months, at the end
of which he sold her at a profit.

He came out to the islands at the age of twenty-
six as a planter. He was one of the few white men
settled in Talua at the time of the German occu-
pation and had then already some influence with
the natives. The Germans made him administra-
tor, a position which he occupied for twenty years,
and when the island was seized by the British he
was confirmed in his post. He ruled the island
despotically, but with complete success. The pres-
tige of this success was another reason for the in-
terest that Mackintosh took in him.

But the two men were not made to get on. Mack-
intosh was an ugly man, with ungainly gestures, a
tall thin fellow, with a narrow chest and bowed
shoulders. He had sallow, sunken cheeks, and his
eyes were large and sombre. He was a great
reader, and when his books arrived and were un-
packed Walker came over to his quarters and looked
at them. Then he turned to Mackintosh with a
coarse laugh.

"What in Hell have you brought all this muck
for?" he asked.

Mackintosh flushed darkly.

"I'm sorry you think it muck. I brought my
books because I want to read them."


"When you said you'd got a lot of books coming
I thought there'd be something for me to read.
Haven't you got any detective stories?"
"Detective stories don't interest me."
"You're a damned fool then."
"I'm content that you should think so."
Every mail brought Walker a mass of periodical
literature, papers from New Zealand and magazines
from America, and it exasperated him that Mackin-
tosh showed his contempt for these ephemeral pub-
lications. He had no patience with the books that
absorbed Mackintosh's leisure and thought it only a
pose that he read Gibbon's Decline and Fall or
Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy. And since he
had never learned to put any restraint on his tongue,
he expressed his opinion of his assistant freely.
Mackintosh began to see the real man, and under
the boisterous good-humour he discerned a vulgar
cunning which was hateful; he was vain and domi-
neering, and it was strange that he had notwith-
standing a shyness which made him dislike people
who were not quite of his kidney. He judged
others, naively, by their language, and if it was
free from the oaths and the obscenity which made
up the greater part of his own conversation, he
looked upon them with suspicion. In the evening
the two men played piquet. He played badly but
vain gloriously, crowing over his opponent when he
won and losing his temper when he lost. On rare
occasions a couple of planters or traders would drive
over to play bridge, and then Walker showed him-
self in what Mackintosh considered a characteristic


light. He played regardless of his partner, call-
ing up in his desire to play the hand, and argued in-
terminably, beating down opposition by the loud-
ness of his voice. He constantly revoked, and when
he did so said with an ingratiating whine: "Oh,
you wouldn't count it against an old man who can
hardly see." Did he know that his opponents
thought it as well to keep on the right side of him
and hesitated to insist on the rigour of the game?
Mackintosh watched him with an icy contempt.
When the game was over, while they smoked their
pipes and drank whisky, they would begin telling
stories. Walker told with gusto the story of his
marriage. He had got so drunk at the wedding
feast that the bride had fled and he had never seen
her since. He had had numberless adventures,
commonplace and sordid, with the women of the
island and he described them with a pride in his
own prowess which was an offence to Mackintosh's
fastidious ears. He was a gross, sensual old man.
He thought Mackintosh a poor fellow because he
would not share his promiscuous amours and re-
mained sober when the company was drunk.

He despised him also for the orderliness with
which he did his official work. Mackintosh liked
to do everything just so. His desk was always tidy,
his papers were always neatly docketed, he could
put his hand on any document that was needed, and
he had at his fingers' ends all the regulations that
were required for the business of their administra-

"Fudge, fudge," said Walker. "I've run this


island for twenty years without red tape, and I
don't want it now."

"Does it make it any easier for you that when
you want a letter you have to hunt half an hour
for it?" answered Mackintosh.

"You're nothing but a damned official. But
you're not a bad fellow; when you've been out here
a year or two you'll be all right. What's wrong
about you is that you won't drink. You wouldn't
be a bad sort if you got soused once a week."

The curious thing was that Walker remained per-
fectly unconscious of the dislike for him which every
month increased in the breast of his subordinate.
Although he laughed at him, as he grew accus-
tomed to him, he began almost to like him. He
had a certain tolerance for the peculiarities of
others, and he accepted Mackintosh as a queer fish.
Perhaps he liked him, unconsciously, because he
could chaff him. His humour consisted of coarse
banter and he wanted a butt. Mackintosh's exact-
ness, his morality, his sobriety, were all fruitful
subjects; his Scot's name gave an opportunity for the
usual jokes about Scotland; he enjoyed himself thor-
oughly when two or three men were there and he
could make them all laugh at the expense of Mack-
intosh. He would say ridiculous things about him
to the natives, and Mackintosh, his knowledge of
Samoan still imperfect, would see their unrestrained
mirth when Walker had made an obscene reference
to him. He smiled good-humouredly.

"I'll say this for you, Mac," Walker would say
in his gruff loud voice, "you can take a joke."


"Was it a joke?" smiled Mackintosh. "I didn't

"Scots wha hae !" shouted Walker, with a bellow
of laughter. "There's only one way to make a
Scotchman see a joke and that's by a surgical opera-

Walker little knew that there was nothing Mack-
intosh could stand less than chaff. He would wake
in the night, the breathless night of the rainy sea-
son, and brood sullenly over the gibe that Walker
had uttered carelessly days before. It rankled.
His heart swelled with rage, and he pictured to him-
self ways in which he might get even with the bully.
He had tried answering him, but Walker had a gift
of repartee, coarse and obvious, which gave him
an advantage. The dullness of his intellect made
him impervious to a delicate shaft. His self-sat-
isfaction made it impossible to wound him. His
loud voice, his bellow of laughter, were weapons
against which Mackintosh had nothing to counter,
.and he learned that the wisest thing was never to be-
tray his irritation. He learned to control himself.
But his hatred grew till it was a monomania. He
watched Walker with an insane vigilance. He fed
his own self-esteem by every instance of meanness
on Walker's part, by every exhibition of childish
vanity, of cunning and of vulgarity. Walker ate
greedily, noisily, filthily, and Mackintosh watched
him with satisfaction. He took note of the foolish
things he said and of his mistakes in grammar. He
knew that Walker held him in small esteem, and he
found a bitter satisfaction in his chief's opinion of


him; it increased his own contempt for the narrow,
complacent old man. And it gave him a singular
pleasure to know that Walker was entirely uncon-
scious of the hatred he felt for him. He was a fool
who liked popularity, and he blandly fancied that
everyone admired him. Once Mackintosh had
overheard Walker speaking of him.

"He'll be all right when I've licked him into
shape," he said. "He's a good dog and he loves
his master."

Mackintosh silently, without a movement of his
long, sallow face, laughed long and heartily.

But his hatred was not blind; on the contrary, it
was peculiarly clear-sighted, and he judged Walk-
er's capabilities with precision. He ruled his
small kingdom with efficiency. He was just and
honest. With opportunities to make money he was
a poorer man than when he was first appointed to
his post, and his only support for his old age was
the pension which he expected when at last he retired
from official life. His pride was that with an assist-
ant and a half-caste clerk he was able to administer
the island more competently than Upolu, the island
of which Apia is the chief town, was administered
with its army of functionaries. He had a few native
policemen to sustain his authority, but he made no
use of them. He governed by bluff and his Irish

"They insisted on building a jail for me," he said.
"What the devil do I want a jail for? I'm not
going to put the natives in prison. If they do
wrong I know how to deal with them."


One of his quarrels with the higher authorities
at Apia was that he claimed entire jurisdiction over
the natives of his island. Whatever their crimes he
would not give them up to courts competent to deal
with them, and several times an angry correspond-
ence had passed between him and the Governor at
Upolu. For he looked upon the natives as his
children. And that was the amazing thing about
this coarse, vulgar, selfish man; he loved the island
on which he had lived so long with passion, and he
had for the natives a strange rough tenderness
which was quite wonderful.

He loved to ride about the island on his aid grey
mare and he was never tired of its beauty. Saun-
tering along the grassy roads among the coconut
trees he would stop every now and then to admire
the loveliness of the scene. Now and then he
would come upon a native village and stop while
the head man brought him a bowl of kava. He
would look at the little group of bell-shaped huts
with their high thatched roofs, like beehives, and
a smile would spread over his fat face. His eyes
rested happily on the spreading green of the bread-
fruit trees.

"By George, it's like the garden of Eden."

Sometimes his rides took him along the coast
and through the trees he had a glimpse of the wide
sea, empty, with never a sail to disturb the loneli-
ness; sometimes he climbed a hill so that a great
stretch of country, with little villages nestling among
the tall trees, was spread out before him like the
kingdom of the world, and he would sit there for


an hour in an ecstasy of delight. But he had no
words to express his feelings and to relieve them
would utter an obscene jest; it was as though his
emotion was so violent that he needed vulgarity to
break the tension.

Mackintosh observed this sentiment with an icy
disdain. Walker had always been a heavy drinker,
he was proud of his capacity to see men half
his age under the table when he spent a night in
Apia, and he had the sentimentality of the toper.
He could cry over the stories he read in his maga-
zines and yet would refuse a loan to some trader in
difficulties whom he had known for twenty years.
He was close with his money. Once Mackintosh
said to him:

"No one could accuse you of giving money away."
He took it as a compliment. His enthusiasm
for nature was but the drivelling sensibility of the
drunkard. Nor had Mackintosh any sympathy
for his chief's feelings towards the natives. He
loved them because they were in his power, as a
selfish man loves his dog, and his mentality was on
a level with theirs. Their humour was obscene and
he was never at a loss for the lewd remark. He
understood them and they understood him. He
was proud of his influence over them. He looked
upon them as his children and he mixed himself in
all their affairs. But he was very jealous of his
authority; if he ruled them with a rod of iron,
brooking no contradiction, he would not suffer any
of the white men on the island to take advantage
of them. He watched the missionaries suspiciously


and, if they did anything of which he disapproved,
was able to make life so unendurable to them that
if he could not get them removed they were glad
to go of their own accord. His power over the na-

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Online LibraryW. Somerset MaughamRain : and other stories → online text (page 1 of 18)