Mr. Fortune’s Maggot

Maggot, in this case, means an eccentric idea or whim. Mr. Timothy Fortune, a London clerk turned missionary, decides to take his mission from the Raratongan Archipelago in the Pacific to a more remote island of Fanua, to convert the natives to Christianity. As he’s packing his luggage, he brings “tinned meat, soup-squares, a chest of tea, soap, a tool-box, a medicine chest, a gentleman’s housewife, a second-hand harmonium… and an oil lamp.” (Gentleman’s housewife is apparently a pocket-size container for small articles). Soon after his arrival, he acquires a convert, sort of, in the form a boy (Lueli) who moves into his hut. Eventually, Mr. Fortune gives up trying to convert the perfect people who are happy in their simple island lives. And he relaxes for the first time in his life, “To have time to watch a cloud was perhaps the thing he was most grateful for among all his leisurely joys.” The story is a bit drawn-out, but the gist of it is that Lueli never gave up worshiping his idol even though he pretended to convert. Fortune demands that he burn the idol, and then earthquakes hit and the volcano erupts. The idol is burned when the hut catches fire, and Lueli becomes despondent, eventually trying to kill himself by drowning. Fortune runs to grab help, the ladies dive and save him. The poor missionary loses his own faith in god during that earthquake/volcano night, and he decides to leave the island as soon as Lueli recovers, and makes him a replacement idol before he goes. A boat comes and takes him away, his ears quickly filled with gibberish about WWI having broken out while he waves goodbye to the island.