The House of Dreams is a short story, written by Agatha Christie. It is a reworking of The House of Beauty, an unpublished short story Christie wrote in her teens.

Plot summary

(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)

John Segrave, a young city clerk, awakens early one morning in his London bedsit, desperately clinging to his dream of a beautiful house in the country.   

That evening he goes to his boss’s house for dinner. This invite is at the behest of Maisie, the boss’s daughter who is very attracted to John. Her friend and confident Allegra Kerr is also invited. During the evening it is not Maisie, but Allegra, that John falls in love with.

After the initial meeting John sees Allegra weeks later and he tells her of his lovely dream of “the house”. He also says he is leaving the company and going to West Africa to make his fortune. He is wanting to make money so he can marry her. However she tells him, while he has dreams, she only has nightmares and can never marry – but doesn’t want to explain why.

His dream of the house now has an added element as he sees that there is something moving in the house and a hand reaches out and pulls the curtain back to reveal the “Thing”! John awakes shocked by his dream and he realises that his beautiful house has something horrible and unclean in it!

The next day John again goes to see Allegra at Maisie’s house. This time Maisie tells him that Allegra’s mother has died after years in an asylum and that madness runs through her family. As he leaves he runs into Allegra and at that point he has a glimpse of what lies ahead for her.

The story jumps forward 10 years and Segrave has gone to Africa to seek his fortune. He has been struck down by fever. Maisie has kept in touch and in one letter has informed Segrave that Allegra has died.

In his hallucinations he sees his house and this time the tenants have left and the beautiful house is empty – waiting for him. He is held back by the doctor who is trying to save him. He is trying to get into the house but the doctor his too strong - telling him to forget the house. However he stops struggling against the doctor and slips out of the doctor’s grasp and opens the door to the beautiful sunlit house and steps over the threshold...

Characters

  • John Segrave
  • Maisie
  • Allegra Kerr

Publication history

First published in 1926 in The Sovereign Magazine but not in a collection until 1997, when it was published in While the Light Lasts and Other Stories (UK) and also in The Harlequin Tea Set (US).

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