Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Once every month, the philanthropic Earl of Loam gives expression to his views on human equality by forcing his servants to have tea with him and his family in the great hall of Loam House in Mayfair. It is a disagreeable experience for everyone concerned, especially for his butler, Crichton, who does not share his master’s liberal views. Lord Loam alone enjoys the occasion, for he is the only one who remains in his station. He orders his daughters and his nephew about and treats them exactly as he treats his servants on the other days of the month.
Lady Mary, his oldest daughter, is a spirited young woman who resents her father’s high-handed methods with his family. Her indignation reaches a climax one day when Lord Loam announces that his three daughters are to have but one maid among them on a yachting trip on which the family is about to embark. Lady Mary is furious, but she assumes that her maid, Fisher, will go along. When Fisher learns that she is expected to look after the two younger sisters in addition to Lady Mary, she promptly resigns, and the two maids attending Catherine and Agatha follow suit. Lord Loam is left without any servants for his projected cruise, for his valet also resigns. Although his pride is hurt deeply, Crichton finally agrees, out of loyalty to his master, to act as his valet on the trip. Moreover, he persuades Tweeny, the housemaid upon whom he casts a favorable eye, to go along as maid to Lord Loam’s daughters.
The cruise ends unhappily when the yacht is pounded to pieces during a violent storm in the Pacific, and the party is cast away on a tropical island. All reach shore except Lord Loam. The survivors watched him throw away his best chance at safety in a frantic but vain attempt to get into the lifeboat first.
On the island all try to preserve as much as possible the class distinction that prevailed in England, but the attempt is unsuccessful. Crichton alone knows exactly what he is doing, and it is upon him that the others must depend. Crichton, the servant, becomes on the island the natural leader, and he rules his former superiors with a gentle but a firm hand. For example, he finds the epigrams of the Hon. Ernest Woolley, which seemed so...
(The entire section is 910 words.)
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