The Companion is a short story written by Agatha Christie which was first published in issue 274 (February 1930) of The Story-Teller magazine in the UK. In the U.S., the story was first published in Pictorial Review in March 1930. It is the eighth short story of the Tuesday Night Club story arc.
In 1932, the story was gathered and published as part of the short story collection The Thirteen Problems.
Synopsis[edit | edit source]
At the dinner party hosted by Colonel Arthur Bantry and his wife everybody takes turns to present a mystery. The second mystery is narrated by Dr. Lloyd.
Plot summary[edit | edit source]
(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)
Dr. Lloyd is called upon to tell his story and it begins in Las Palmas on the island of Gran Canaria. The doctor was living there for health reasons and one night, in the principal hotel of the town, he caught sight of two middle-aged ladies, one slightly plump, one somewhat scraggy, who he found out from a perusal of the hotel register were called Miss Mary Barton and Miss Amy Durrant and who were tourists from England. The very next day, Dr Lloyd travelled to the other side of the island with friends for a picnic and reaching the bay of Las Nieves the group came upon the end of a tragedy: Miss Durrant had been swimming when she got into trouble and Miss Barton swam out to help her but to no avail and the other woman drowned. As part of the ensuing investigation, Miss Barton revealed that Miss Durrant was her companion of some five months. Dr Lloyd was puzzled by the claim made by one of the witnesses who swore that she saw Miss Barton holding Miss Durant’s head under the water, not helping her, but the claim was dismissed as none of the other witnesses backed up the story. Dr Lloyd helped Miss Barton try and trace next-of-kin but to no avail and he also helped arrange the funeral that took place on the island. Before she left Gran Canaria ten days later, Miss Barton asked Dr Lloyd several strange questions regarding the justification of taking the law into one’s own hands. Miss Marple is interested to know if Miss Barton suddenly put on weight during this period and the doctor is able to confirm that she did.
Some time later, Dr Lloyd read in the papers that Miss Barton herself drowned in Cornwall, although the body was never found. She left a suicide note which seemed to confess to some crime and the inquest ruled that she was temporarily insane.
The party at the Bantry’s try to guess the story behind these strange events. Miss Marple, comparing the tale to that of a local fraudster called Mrs Trout who claimed several dead people’s old age pensions, states that "Miss Barton" was a clever criminal who drowned the other woman and then assumed her identity – hence the reason she looked fat – she was simply wearing the other person’s clothes. The really significant fact was that the body in Cornwall was never found – this was another part of the deception.
Dr Lloyd confirms that he met the lady again by coincidence in Melbourne, Australia. Miss Barton was in fact Miss Durrant. Two tourists would not have been known to anyone and no one realised who was the employer and who was the companion in Gran Canaria until Miss Durrant, adopting the other person’s identity after killing her, told them a falsehood. The two women were in fact cousins. Miss Durrant was the eldest of nine children in desperate straits with some suffering ill-health. They wrote to their relative in England for help but she refused because of a family quarrel from years earlier. "Miss Durrant" travelled to England under this assumed name, was employed by Miss Barton, killed her, adopted her guise in Gran Canaria, faked her death in Cornwall and then she and her siblings inherited her money as next-of-kin. Dr Lloyd met her family and realised the harm he would cause them by reporting their elder sister to the police for a crime for which he had little evidence. Six months later, the lady herself died, possibly unrepentant to the end.
Characters[edit | edit source]
- Jane Marple
- Henry Clithering
- Arthur Bantry
- Dolly Bantry
- Jane Helier
- Dr. Lloyd
- Audrey Denman
- Mary Barton
- Amy Durrant
- Mrs Trout
Locations[edit | edit source]
- St Mary Mead
- Grand Canary
- Las Palmas
- Metropole Hotel
- Las Nieves
- Las Palmas
Research notes[edit | edit source]
Film, TV, or theatrical versions[edit | edit source]
Publication history[edit | edit source]
- 1930 The Story-Teller Magazine (London), issue 274 February 1930, as "The Resurrection of Amy Durrant"
- 1930 Pictorial Review (New York), Vol. 31 No. 6, March 1930, illustrated by De Alton Valentine, as "Companions"
- 1932, The Thirteen Problems/The Tuesday Club Murders
- 1932, Collins Crime Club (London), June 1932, Hardcover, 256 pp
- 1933, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1933, Hardcover, 253 pp
- 1943, Dell Books (New York), Paperback, (Dell number 8)
- 1953, Penguin Books, Paperback, (Penguin number 929), 224 pp (under slightly revised title of Miss Marple and the Thirteen Problems)
- 1958, Avon Books (New York), Paperback (Avon number T245)
- 1961, Pan Books, Paperback (Great Pan G472), 186 pp
- 1963, Dell Books (New York), Paperback, 192 pp
- 1965, Fontana Books (Imprint of HarperCollins), Paperback, 192 pp
- 1968, Ulverscroft Large-print Edition, Hardcover, 207 pp ISBN 0-85456-475-6
- 1972, Greenway edition of collected works (William Collins), Hardcover, 222 pp
- 1973, Greenway edition of collected works (Dodd Mead), Hardcover, 222 pp
- 2005, Marple Facsimile edition (Facsimile of 1932 UK first edition), September 12, 2005, Hardcover, ISBN 0-00-720843-X