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“Rain” by W. Somerset Maugham Part 7

“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 things here.”

“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 half-caste stopped him as he was going upstairs.

“Excuse me, Dr. Macphail, Miss Thompson’s sick. Will you have a look at her.”

“Certainly.”

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 heavy.

“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 her.”

The missionary fixed him with his stern eyes. “Why is she unwilling to go back to San Francisco?”

“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 me.”

“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 embarrassment.

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.”

“Now?”

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. Macphail.”

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 you say.”

“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.

“The penitentiary.”

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 this up.”

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 mine.”

He let go his hold of her and she fell in a heap on the floor, sobbing bitterly. Dr. Macphail stood up.

“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 punishment.”

She misunderstood the words and looked up. There was a gleam of hope in her heavy eyes.

“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 her up:

“Come on, you mustn’t do that. You’d better go to your room and lie down. I’ll get you something.”

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.

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