Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 498
The story begins with the announcement of the murder of Mr. and Mrs. Garstone, European settlers in Kenya, by their own "houseboy," a native of Kenya who had worked for them. The news of this act of rebellion by ‘‘unknown gangsters’’ is widespread. Mrs. Hardy and Mrs. Smiles, European settlers...
(The entire section contains 498 words.)
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The story begins with the announcement of the murder of Mr. and Mrs. Garstone, European settlers in Kenya, by their own "houseboy," a native of Kenya who had worked for them. The news of this act of rebellion by ‘‘unknown gangsters’’ is widespread. Mrs. Hardy and Mrs. Smiles, European settlers in the area, visit Mrs. Hill, also a European settler, to discuss the news. Mrs. Hill, one of the first settlers to the area, owns vast tea plantations. Her husband has died, and her children are at school in England. She prides herself on her fair and generous treatment of the Africans whom she employs. She is especially proud of her generosity in building the huts of her employees with real bricks. Mrs. Hill believes that the Africans can be "civilized" with the proper patience and understanding. Mrs. Hardy and Mrs. Smiles, on the other hand, see the African people as "savages" who will never be civilized. Mrs. Hill calls for Njoroge, an African man who has been employed as her "houseboy" for over ten years, to bring tea to her guests. Mrs. Hill boasts of the loyalty and love Njoroge has for her. That evening, Njoroge finishes work at the house of Mrs. Hill and returns to his brick hut. He feels disdainful of the tiny brick hut Mrs. Hill is so proud of providing for him and his family; he has sent his two wives and several children to live elsewhere because they cannot all fit into the little hut. Njoroge has planned this night to kill Mrs. Hill as an act of rebellion, with the aid of the Ihii (Freedom Boys). As he sits in his hut, thinking of his own family, he begins to think of Mrs. Hill's family—her deceased husband and her children in England. Thinking of her as a mother, Njoroge loses the heart to kill her; as a member of a family, she is humanized in his mind. He decides to run to her house and warn her before the Freedom Boys come to kill her. Meanwhile, Mrs. Hill, influenced by the conversation with her friends earlier in the day, readies a gun in order to protect herself. When she hears Njoroge knocking at her door, she incorrectly assumes that he has come to kill her, and she shoots him in what she believes to be self-defense. Thus, Mrs. Hill has ‘‘in fact killed her savior.’’ The news of Njoroge's death celebrates Mrs. Hill for her bravery in fighting ‘‘a gang fifty strong.’’ Her friends, Mrs. Hardy and Mrs. Smiles, visit her to congratulate her for this act. Mrs. Hill, however, remains reserved in her reaction to the situation, for ‘‘the circumstances of Njoroge's death worried her. The more she thought about it, the more of a puzzle it was to her.’’ Mrs. Hill concludes with a sigh, saying, ‘‘I don't know.’’ Mrs. Hardy and Mrs. Smiles, however, agree with one another that' 'all of them should be whipped.''