Why did Timothy slap Phillip?
As the narrator of the story, Phillip Enright had already admitted a dislike of the black West Indians who inhabited Curacao. This attitude was probably influenced by his mother, a native of Virginia, who openly disdained the local population. Once stranded on the cay, the now-blind Phillip had some harsh words for Timothy. As Timothy tried to teach Phillip to weave palm fibers together, Phillip became discouraged. He angrily screamed
"You ugly black man! I won't do it! You're stupid, you can't even spell..."
The normally docile Timothy suddenly "struck my face sharply." Tears streamed down Phillip's face, but nothing more was said for a while. Later, apologetically, Phillip told Timothy that he wanted to be his friend.
(Timothy) said softly, "Young bahs, you 'ave always been my friend."