(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

A young Englishman named Frant arrives in Africa to work as a volunteer in a trading post owned by Scottish-born Colonel MacGavin, who drives him to his store. Each man strains to maintain a hearty persona while imagining that the other resents him for representing values of another generation.

Frant stays in a room in the MacGavin’s tiny house while serving in the trading post. The MacGavins treat him as a social inferior; however, as a white man, Frant is considered to be superior to his African customers, with whom he becomes friendly. In common with local Africans, Frant dislikes the MacGavins, who in turn dislike almost everybody. Frant’s relatively jovial attitude increases sales, a fact for which the MacGavins are grudgingly grateful.

One day an attractive, young African woman named Seraphina enters the store and speaks with Frant. After she leaves, he fantasizes about sleeping with her and perhaps even marrying her. Because white people do not do such things with Africans, Frant worries about his desires and about the possible consequences of such a liaison. When MacGavin accuses him of being attracted to an African, Frant spews forth a diatribe against blacks so vitriolic that it frightens even himself.

After a long absence Seraphina returns with a huge snakeskin that she gives to Frant, explaining that she killed the snake herself. After Frant thanks her, he and Seraphina admit to liking each another, then Seraphina...

(The entire section is 500 words.)