'They couldn't sell their copra
'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 Ohison,' said Mrs. Davidson.
The missionary fixed his fiery eyes on Dr Macphail.
'Fred Ohison 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 whisky. 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 missionary's wife. '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 there.'
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 work.
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 continued.
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 veranda playing with one of the trader's dark children.