The Happy Man
after W. S. Maugham
I was a young man and I lived in a modest apart¬ment in London near Victoria Station. Late one after¬noon, when I was beginning to think that I had worked enough for that day, I heard a ring at the door. I opened the door to a total stranger. He asked me my name; I told him. He asked if he might come in. "Certainly."
I led him into my sitting-room and begged him to sit down. He seemed a trifle embarrassed.
"I hope you don't mind my coming to see you like this," he said. "My name is Stephens and I am a doctor. You're in the medical, I believe?" "Yes, but I don't practise."
"No, I know. I've just read a book of yours about Spain and I wanted to ask you about it." "It's not a very good book, I'm afraid." "The fact remains that you know something about Spain and there's no one else I know who does. And I thought perhaps you wouldn't mind giving me some in¬formation."
"I shall be very glad."
"I hope you won't think it very odd for a perfect stranger to talk to you like this."
He gave an apologetic laugh. "I'm not going to tell you the story of my life."
When people say this to me I always know that it is precisely what they are going to do. I do not mind. In fact I rather like it.
"I was brought up by two old aunts. I've never been anywhere. I've never done anything. I've been married for six years. I have no children. I'm a medical of¬ficer at the Camberwell Infirmary. I can't stick it anymore."
There was something very striking in the short sharp sentences he used. They had a forcible ring. I had not given him more than a cursory glance, but now I looked at him with curiosity. He was a little man, thickset and stout, of thirty per¬haps, with a round red face from which shone small, dark and very bright eyes.
"You know what the duties are of a medical officer in an infirmary. One day is pretty much like another. And that's all I've got to look forward to for the rest of my life. Do you think it's worth it?"
"It's a means of livelihood," I answered.
"Yes, I know. The money is pretty good."
"I don't exactly know why you have come to me."
"Well, I wanted to know whether you thought there would be any chance for an English doctor in Spain."
"I don't know. I just have a fancy for it."
"It's not like Carmen, you know."
"But there's sunshine there, and there's good wine, and there's colour, and there's air you can breathe. Let me say what I have to say straight out. I heard by accident that there was no English doctor in Seville. Do you think I could earn a living there? Is it madness to give up a good safe job for an uncertainty?"
"What does your wife think about it?"
"It's a great risk."
"I know. But if you say take it, I will; if you say stay where you are I'll stay."
He was looking at me intently with those bright dark eyes of his and 1 knew that he meant what he said. I reflected for a moment.
"Your whole fortune is concerned: you must decide for yourself. But this I can tell you: if you don't want money but are content to earn just enough to keep body and soul to¬gether, then go. For you will lead a wonderful life."
He left me, I thought about him for a day or two, and then forgot.
Many years later, fifteen at least, I happened to be in Seville and having some trifling indisposition1 asked the hotel porter whether there was an English doctor in town. He said there was and gave me the address. I took a cab and as I drove up to the house a little fat man came out of it. He hesitated when he caught sight of me.
"Have you come to see me?" he said. "I'm the English doctor."
I explained my problem and he asked me to come in. We did our business and then I asked the doctor what his fee was. He shook his head and smiled.
"There's no fee."
"Why on earth not?"
"Don't you remember me? Why, I'm here because of something you said to me. You changed my whole life for me. I'm Stephens. I was wondering if I'd ever see you again," he said, "I was wondering if ever I'd have a chance of thank¬ing you for all you've done for me."
"It's been a success then?"
I looked at him. He was very fat now and bald, but his eyes twinkled gaily and his fleshy, red face bore an expression of perfect good-humour. The clothes he wore were terribly shabby. You might have hesitated to let him remove your appendix, but you could not have imagined a more delightful creature to drink a glass of wine with.
As he stood at the door to let me out he said to me: "You told me when last I saw you that if I came here I should earn just enough money to keep body and soul together, but that I should lead a wonderful life. Well, I want to tell you that you were right. Poor I have been and poor I shall always be, but by heaven I've enjoyed myself. I wouldn't exchange the life I've had for that of any king in the world."
Choose the best item to complete the sentences.
1. The narrator was.
a a practising doctor
b a medical student
c had some reference to medical profession
2. Stephens came to see the narrator as.
a he was seeking advice
b he was looking for an acquaintance from Spain
c he was in a desperate situation
3. Stephens wanted to change his life because he.
a wastired ofhisjob
b wanted to earn a fortune
c wanted to break the monotony of his life
4. At first when Stephens appeared in the narrator’s house the latter looked at him.
a with curiosity
c in astonishment
5. Stephens chose Spain as he.
a had always wanted to see “Carmen”
b was looking forward to a colourful life
c had been in an accident and needed to live in a better climate
6._to decide what advice to give.
a It took the narrator long
b It didn’t take the narrator long
c It took the narrator quite some time
7. When in Seville the narrator.
a became seriously ill
b had a slight ailment
c needed a medical check-up
8. After 15 years in Spain Stephens.
a became a highly qualified practitioner
b was practically the same, not having changed a bit
c was in absolute accord with himself