The Gypsy (spelled "The Gipsy" in some editions) is a short story, written by Agatha Christie which was first published as part of the collection The Hound of Death and Other Stories in the U.K. in 1933. In the U.S. the story was not published until 1971 when it came out as part of the collection The Golden Ball and Other Stories in 1971.
(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)
After only two weeks, the engagement between Dickie Carpenter and Esther Lawes is broken off. Dickie explains the background to his friend, a Scot named Macfarlane, who is also the fiance of Rachel Lawes, Esther’s younger sister.
Dickie tells Macfarlane that he has had an aversion to gypsies since his childhood when he started to unusual dreams. Regardless of the content of the dream, which could even include happy ones, he would find himself in a situation and suddenly feel a presence. When he looked up, he would see a gypsy woman looking at him. The sudden appearance of this woman always unnerved him. Some years after he encountered a real gypsy like the one in his dreams. It was during a walk in the New Forest. He met this gypsy woman wearing a red scarf. She warned him not to take use a certain bridge. He ignored her and the bridge beneath his weight, casting him into the fast-running stream below and nearly drowning him.
These occurrences came back to him when, years later, he returned to England and spent some shore leave visiting the Lawes family. He had known the Lawes family for some time and had lately become interested in Esther. Esther was not home at dinnertime. Dickie was introduced to another woman, one Alistair Haworth. She wore a red scarf, and although very fair, Dickie thought he recognised the gypsy woman in his dreams. After dinner Dickie walked on the terrace and chatted with Mrs Haworth. Mr Lawes called to them to say that Esther had come home. As Dickie moved to enter the house, Mrs Haworth warned him not to, in the usual way that the gypsy woman spoke, saying that she wouldnot go in if she were him.
Dickie chose to go in anyway. He met Esther and found himself falling for her. They got engaged a week later. Two weeks after that, as Dickie was on the way to see Esther, he met Mrs Haworth once more. Again, she warned Dickie, saying that she would not be in a hurry to go to the house if she were him. Again he ignored her and when he met Esther, she told him that she didn't love him. after all. And so the engagement was broken off.
More recently, Dickie has to go for a surgical operation for an injured leg. While at the clinic, he met a nurse wearing red who said she would not go for the operation if she were him. Dickie intends to go for the operation, and is telling Marfarlane all what happened, so that if anything happened, he would know why.
Dickie subsequently dies during the operation. Intrigued, Macfarlane go to see Mrs Haworth at her moorland home. There he is surprised to see that her husband is not really suited to such a striking woman as her. The two walk on the moors and Mrs Haworth tells Macfarlane that he too has second sight. For proof, she asks him to look at a rock and he fancies he sees a hollow filled with blood. She tells him it is a sacrificial stone from olden times and he has had his own vision. She confides that she married her husband because she saw some portent hanging over him and wanted to prevent it. She also tells Macfarlane that they won't meet again.
Determined to challenge the fates, Macfarlane drives back from his inn to the Haworth's cottage the next day and finds that the lady is dead. She drank something poisonous thinking it was her tonic and her husband is beside himself with grief. Back at his inn, the landlady tells him stories of long-gone ghosts seen on the moor, including a sailor and a gypsy. Macfarlane wonders if they will walk again.
Tropes and Themes
References or Allusions
References to actual history, geography and current science
In The Gypsy, Dickie Carpenter tells of a recurring dream in which whatever the circumstances, he would feel the presence of the gypsy:
- She - the gypsy, you know - would just come into any old dream - even a good dream (or a kid's idea of what's good - party and crackers and things). I'd be enjoying myself no end, and then I'd feel, I'd know, that if I looked up, she'd be there, standing as she always stood, watching me... With sad eyes, you know, as though she understood something I didn't... Can't explain why it rattled me so - but it did! Every time! I used to wake up howling with terror.
This mirrors Christie's own haunting experiences as related in her Autobiography:
- My own particular nightmare centred around someone I called "The Gunman". The dream would be quite ordinary - a tea-party, or a walk with various people, usually a mild festivity of some kind. Then suddenly a feeling of uneasiness would come. There was someone - someone who ought not to be there - a horrid feeling of fear: and then I would see him, sitting at the tea-table, walking along the beach, joining in the game. His pale blue eyes would meet mine, and I would wake up shrieking: 'The Gunman! The Gunman!'