In his travels, Somerset Maugham had visited the tiny port of Pago-Pago (pronounced "Pango-Pango") in the mid-twenties. This was his description of the harbor: " . . . in very little time we reached Pago-Pago from Apia, in Western Samoa. The harbor was a horseshoe with an extremely narrow southern opening onto a long curve of a beach with, behind it, a soaring, spectacular ruff of mountain and forest . . . There was no town to speak of, merely a group of official buildings, a store or two and little else."

The port has changed considerably since Maugham's visit. Among other things, the Second World War had come and gone. Between 1942 and 1945, Pago-Pago had served as a great naval and Marine Corps base. The Japanese had attacked the base on a number of occasions, but the damage was not significant.The military was now gone, but Pago-Pago, though materially impoverished by its loss, had never quite reverted to the damp, sleepy place Maugham had observed.

Yet the memory of all he saw remained in Maugham's mind because he effectively used the locale for one of his best short stories, "Rain." Maugham was a shrewd setter of tropical scenes and Pago-Pago is famous for its rainfall. He brought to this setting the appalling missionary, Mr. Davidson, his insufferable, intolerant, hypocritical wife, and Sadie Thompson, the scandalized madam from San Francisco.

I recall from the story how offended Mrs. Davidson was by the Samoan lava-lava. She considered it, "a very indecent costume." She went on, " . . . the inhabitants of these islands will never be thoroughly Christianized till every boy of more than ten years of age is made to wear trousers."

Pago-Pago may have forgotten Mrs. Davidson's concerns, but other elements of Somerset Maugham's story remain. The big, modern hotel is called "The Rainmaker" and it has a Sadie Thompson bar. This was, of course, not the same structure Sadie Thompson lived in. Maugham had described it as "a frame house of two storeys, with broad verandahs on both floors and a roof of corrugated iron . . . On the ground floor, the owner (a half-caste named Horn) had a store where he sold canned goods and cottons."

After a number of inquiries and some reconnoitering, I found on a small back street the "Sadie Thompson's Mart" in what was said to have been the original structure. It was a two-storey wooden building with a wide verandah, at any rate.

The Chinese owner was a small, bald man in his 70s. He watched me, behind thick glasses, as I walked around the building. He invited me in and offered me a soft drink from an ice-box at the rear of the store. "You are a reader of Maugham?" I said I was. "He is a favorite of mine, too. Not so many people come anymore to see the old hotel. I think it is because people no longer read. They prefer television and the movies. Maybe if they made more of his short stories into films people would come and visit the Samoan Islands. Have you traveled over to Apia and visited Robert Louis Stevenson's grave? It is lovely." I told him I hoped to go there before my ship sailed for New Zealand.

As I walked back to the harbor, I thought about Somerset Maugham and what gave him his remarkable talent as a short story writer. I recalled some lines he penned from his book, "The Summing Up": "But the author does not only write when he is at his desk; he writes all day long, when he is thinking, when he is reading, when he is experiencing; everything he sees and feels is significant to his purpose and consciously or unconsciously, he is forever storing and making over his impressions. He cannot give an undivided attention to any other calling."

As I walked and thought over the commitment Maugham must have had to his writing, the weather changed and it began to rain.