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The Golden Ball is a short story, written by Agatha Christie which was first published in the Daily Mail in August 1929. In the U.K. the story was subsequently collected and published as part of the anthology The Listerdale Mystery which came out in 1934. In the U.S. the story was not published in any collection until 1971 when it came out as part of The Golden Ball and Other Stories.

Synopsis

George Dundas is sacked from his job for being a wastrel but he soon receives a golden opportunity. Will he waste it or grasp it?

Plot summary

(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)

George Dundas is sacked by his uncle from his job for taking one too many liberties, in this case, taking a day off without permission. He is accused of not grasping the "golden ball of opportunity". Walking through the city, he is stopped by a society girl, Mary Montresor, in her expensive touring car and invited for a drive with her. Along the way, Mary asks George as to whether or not he would like to marry her. Somewhat distracted by Mary's reckless driving, he answers yes and then he sees newspaper bills, which tell that Mary is engaged to marry the Duke of Edgehill. He asks Mary about this but Mary says she hasn't made up her mind yet. Mary suggests they drive into the country and find a place to live. Going along with her, George agrees.

Heading southwest they spot a house on the brow of a hill that Mary likes and go to investigate. Mary states that they will suggest to anyone that is there that they thought it belonged to a "Mrs Pardonstenger" to cover up their investigations. They get inside and start exploring the house when they are approached by a butler who does not seem surprised by Mary's mention of Mrs Pardonstenger. He leads them to the drawing room where he says Mrs Pardonstenger is waiting for them!

Once there, George and Mary are quickly accosted by a man and a woman. The man produces a revolver and tells George and Mary to for go upstairs at gunpoint. At the top of the stairs, George suddenly fights back with abackwards mule kick and knocks the man out badly. George is all for tying the man up but Mary begs him to leave the house, which they do, George taking the revolver with him.

Once in the car, he checks the gun and is astonished to find that it isn't loaded. Mary confesses that the house is hers and the situation they found themselves in was staged by her as a test of any prospective husband and how he would react instinctively to protect her from danger. "Nine and a half" persons have so far have failed the test. The couple in the house were engaged by her for the purpose, the man being Rube Wallace, a film actor. As George has been proposed to and passed the test, he suggests getting a special licence for the wedding. Mary however wants him to go down on bended knee, which George refuses to do, telling her that it is degrading. When they arrive in London and he contrives to slip on a banana skin when he gets out of the car, thereby getting down on one knee. George enjoys going back to his uncle and telling him that he is going to marry a rich young society girl – all for the expenditure of two pence and because he has grasped the golden ball! Why the two pence? On the drive back to London, he had stopped to buy a banana from a fruit seller. He had staged his slipping on the banana peel!

Characters

Film, TV, theatrical or other media adaptations

The short story has never been adapted for media.

Publication history

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