Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

Mr. Bob
by [?]

Far away in the western Pacific, in that labyrinth of coral reefs and low, palm-rimmed isles floating between the blue of heaven and the deeper blue of sea, known to the pajama-clad, ear-ringed traders as “the Group,” and to the outer world as Micronesia–here, one burning morning there arrived a visitor from “Home,” who descended, not from some tubby bark or slant-masted schooner, but Godlike from the glorious stars themselves–Christmas Day!

The Rev. Walter Kirke looked out moodily from beneath the eaves of his basket-work house, and his heart sank as he gazed across the sweltering strip of water, twenty miles wide, that divided the island of Apiang from its neighbor, Tarawa. His brother in the Lord across the strait, the perpetually unfortunate Titcombe (the Rev. J. B. Tracy Titcombe, M.A., Cam.), had sent in a proa with a message of such urgency and need that delay, let alone refusal, was utterly out of the question.

“The king has broken all his promises,” wrote Titcombe, in a hand illegible from distress and agitation. “He threatens to burn the new church, flog the members, and spear personally the leading lights of our infant congregation. Yesterday, on my remonstrating with him, he gave me twenty-four hours to leave the island, calling me at the same time a sting ray, a detached jellyfish–a white squid, together with some other local expressions of a highly wounding and contemptuous nature. The tiny fold is terrorized, and Thomas Najibika, my deacon and right-hand man, is in hourly apprehension of a massacre. My wife and little Kenneth are down with fever, and this, together with my halting knowledge of the native language, has put me at such a disadvantage that I have no alternative but to appeal to you. For Heaven’s sake, please come instantly and exert yourself on my behalf, or else we may lose Tarawa for good, and put back the good work by a dozen years.”

“We’ll have to go, dear,” said Kirke to his pretty wife.

“Yes, we’ll have to go,” she assented sadly.

She could not help feeling cross with the Titcombes for always muddling things–a little unjustly, perhaps–for her own missionary path had ever been so easy and untroubled. Mrs. Kirke was a woman of marked beauty, whose sweet imperiousness, sympathy, humor, and tact made her the adored of the islanders. She not only spoke native well, but with a zest and sparkle, a silver ripple of irony, ridicule, and good-fellowship that carried everything before it. No kings ever bothered Mrs. Kirke. Even the redoubtable Tembinok, with forty boats full of armed savages, had been stemmed in his Napoleonic career and turned back by her from his projected invasion of Apiang–presenting the missionary’s wife, on his departure, with a gold-inlaid Winchester that was the apple of his eye.

“I shall make Karaitch smart for this!” she said vindictively. “I sha’n’t let him off with less than twenty tons of copra for my girls’ school; and he’ll have to apologize, too, and swear on a shark’s head to behave for a year.”

“We can’t all have such intrepid little wives,” said Kirke, putting his arm fondly about her. Experience had shown him that in native questions she was always as good as her word, and it was with a kind of proud humility he conceded her the place he was so much less able himself to fill. He had not the faintest apprehensions about the Tarawa matter. Ada would bring the king to heel in fifteen minutes, and in twenty there would be the dawn of a new peace, with stately apologies, gifts of turtle and bonito hooks, endless and troublesomely idiomatic compliments, and incidentally a little friction with the Titcombes, who would certainly resent being saved so easily.

No, Kirke wasn’t afraid of Karaitch. Ada would settle Karaitch out of hand. What he dreaded was that twenty miles of water under the noonday sun, and the problem of Daisy–Daisy, their little girl of eight, who was playing so contentedly on the floor with the presents Santa Claus had just brought her.