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The mystery of the blue jar

The Mystery of the Blue Jar is a short story, written by Agatha Christie which was first published in issue 233 of The Grand Magazine in July 1924. It was subsequently gathered and published in the anthology The Hound of Death and Other Stories which came out in the UK in October 1933. This anthology was however not published in the United States. The story did not appear there until 1948 with the release of the collection The Witness for the Prosecution and Other Stories.

Plot summary[]

(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)

Jack Hartington, a young man of twenty-four years of age, is something of a golf addict and consequently has taken a room at a hotel near to Stourton Heath links in order that he can practise for an hour each morning before having to take the train to his dull city job. One morning he is disturbed in mid-swing when he hears a female voice crying out "Murder! Help! Murder!". Running in the direction of the cry he comes across a quaint cottage outside which is a young girl quietly gardening. When questioned, she denies hearing the call for help and seems surprised at Jack's story, referring to him as "Monsieur".

Confused, he leaves her and hunts in the surrounding area for the source of the cry but in the end gives up. The evening, he looks through the papers to see if any crime has been reported and follows this action the next morning – a day of heavy rain which cancels his practise routine – but finds nothing. The next day, the strange occurrence of two days earlier is repeated at the same spot and the exact time. Also, once more the girl outside the cottage denies hearing any such sound and sympathetically enquires if Jack has suffered from shellshock in the past.

The third day, he hears the cry again but this time doesn't let on to the girl that this is the case when he passes the cottage and instead they discuss her gardening. Nevertheless he is intensely troubled by these occurrences and notices that at the hotel breakfast table he is being watched by a bearded man who he knows to be called Dr. Lavington. Concerned that his sanity is under attack, Jack invites Lavington to join him for a few holes the next morning and the doctor agrees. When the cry is repeated Lavington denies hearing anything. The doctor discusses Jack's possible delusions and they talk of the possibility of some sort of psychic phenomena. He suggests that Jack go off to work as usual while he investigates the history of the cottage.

Back at the hotel that night, the doctor tells him what he has learnt: The present occupants, who have been in situ for just ten days, are an elderly French professor with consumption and his daughter but a year ago and several tenants back were a strange couple called Turner who seemed to be afraid of something and who suddenly vacated the premises early one morning. Mr Turner has been seen since then but no one seems to have laid eyes on his wife and the doctor, although arguing against jumping to conclusions, theorises that Jack is receiving some sort of message from the woman.

A few days later, Jack receives a visit from the girl at the cottage who introduces herself as Felise Marchaud. She is in terror as, knowing of local gossip that the cottage is haunted, she has started to have a recurring dream of a distressed woman holding a blue jar. The last two night's dreams ended with a voice crying out in the same way as Jack heard on the links. Jack brings Lavington into the discussion and Felise shows them both a rough watercolour she found in the house of a woman holding a blue jar as in her dream. Jack recognises it as similar to a Chinese one bought by his uncle two months ago which coincides with the date one of the previous tenants left the cottage. Lavington suggests bringing the jar to the cottage where the three of them will sit with it for the night and see what happens. As Jack's uncle is away he is able to obtain the jar and bring it as requested and Felise recognises it as the one from the dream. Lavington switches off the lights in the sitting-room and the three of them sit in the darkness at a table on which the jar is placed. After a while of waiting, Jack suddenly starts to choke and falls unconscious.

He wakes up in a copse near the cottage in daylight to find out from his pocket watch that it is half-past-twelve in the afternoon. He gets no answer at the cottage and goes back to the hotel where he finds his uncle – newly arrived back from a continental trip. Jack tells him of the events prompting a cry of outrage from the old man: the blue Chinese jar was a priceless Ming piece and the only one of its kind in the world. Jack rushes to the hotel office and finds that Lavington has checked out but has left a mocking note for Jack from himself, Felise and her invalid father, saying that their twelve hours start ought to be ample.



The short story was adapted into an episode of The Agatha Christie Hour in 1982.

Publication history[]