Collected Short Stories; Vol. 3; Mr. Harrington's Washing
(W. Somerset Maugham)
MR HARRINGTON?S WASHING - W. Somerset Maugham
This short story take place in the first days of Russian?s Revolution. Ashenden is a member of the British Government?s secret intelligence and he find himself waiting in Vladivostok for the Tran Siberian in order to go to Pretrograd to fulfil a difficult mission. Before departing he meet an american with a frail and nervous appearance, Mr. Harrington, agent of a company from Philadelphia and going in business travel to Petrograd so as to finish an important contract with the new revolutionary authorities. Mr. Harrington is going to be Ashenden?s train companion in a ten days journey.
Russia is immersed in chaos. It´s supposed that the railways had been blown away in some places and nobody know if would be possible to arrive to Petrograd. Gangs of rebel soldiers sack the villages and cities.
In this scene the story gradually shows the marvelous, innocent and almost heroic personality of Mr. Harrington. Plunged within the revolutionary violence he involved himself in truly quixotic acts while his only objective is to fulfil his business mission for his loved company, and appeal to all possible means of action to achieve his goal.
Finally defeated, he must be forced by his less romantic friends to leave the country while it would be possible.
The hotel is empty, like the streets and the danger could be felt in the air.
Mr. Harrington accept the friend?s advice but deny to escape whilst the hotel do not return properly his washing clothes.
This is a marvelous short story of W. Somerset Maugham were we can find from the hard core of the capitalist spirit the value of the pure loyalty, in this case represented by a man guided by delightful moral principles towards his family, his company and his job.