The Lonely God is a short story, written by Agatha Christie. This romantic story was first published in The Royal Magazine in July 1926. It has later been published in the short story collections While the Light Lasts and Other Stories and The Harlequin Tea Set.
(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)
Frank Oliver has returned to England after a life overseas and realises he is very lonely – a sister in Yorkshire and one occasional friend are all he has.
He has taken to going to the British Museum and has identified a little stone god who seems to be on his own amongst all the other mightier gods around him. Frank seems to like the little god and returns frequently to see him. Eventually he realises that there is another “worshipper” of this little god – a little lady in a threadbare coat who Frank rightly guesses is a governess. The two lonely people are coming together regularly and eventually get talking and after many hesitant conversations go for tea and buns. Both confess to their loneliness and their affection to the little god but seem to be happy with each other’s company.
However the governess runs away after their first “date” in the tea room and she doesn’t return to the museum. Later, while at the museum, Frank receives a letter from a young boy. The letter from the “Lonely Lady” says she can never marry him and also asks that he doesn’t look for her.
Frank is devastated but returns to his one talent – painting. He has heard the story of a princess who had everything and was still not happy. Because of his experience with his “Lonely Lady” Frank has captured the essence of the look on the lady’s face in his painting. He has been able to bring inspiration to his talent and this picture brings him fame and is said to be the best picture of the year.
Despite the congratulations and praise Frank is still lonely and goes to visit the little god in the Museum. As he enters the room he sees a lady, all dressed up in the height of Parisian fashion, looking at the little stone god. Unbelievably it is his little governess! It turns out that she is the princess of the story he had painted and she had recognised him as the artist!
On the day she had first met Frank she had grabbed her maid’s coat so she looked ordinary and inconspicuous. She confesses that she had fallen for Frank on that first meeting in front of the “Lonely God” and she had continued with the charade until she saw his painting.
They leave the Museum and go arm in arm out of the room leaving the lonely little god staring after them.
- Frank Oliver
- The Governess/Princess
- 1926: The Royal Magazine, vol. 56, no. 333, Jul 1926 with an illustration by H. Coller.
- 1997: The Harlequin Tea Set and Other Stories, G. P. Putnams, Apr 1997.
- 1997: While the Light Lasts and Other Stories, HarperCollins, Aug 1997.