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The World's End is a short story written by Agatha Christie which was first published in the U.S. in Flynn's Weekly in Nov 1926. In the U.K. the story first appeared in The Story-Teller in Feb 1927. It was later compiled and published as the eleventh story in the collection The Mysterious Mr. Quin in 1930.

In The Mysterious Mr Quin, this story is preceded by The Bird with the Broken Wing and followed by Harlequin's Lane.

Synopsis

Harley Quin usually appears "in the nick of time" to forestall some disaster. This time Satterthwaite is on a picnic in a remote clifftop village in Corsica and he can't quite understand why Quin has turned up there.

Plot summary

(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)

Mr Satterthwaite is in Corsica with the Duchess of Leith, a somewhat difficult, autocratic and miserly lady. After a difficult crossing from Cannes, they settle into the hotel and at their first meal there the duchess spots a rather listless young lady named Naomi Carlton Smith. She is a distant relation of the duchess and a bohemian artist who was engaged with Alec Gerard, a young playwright. However Gerard had been was accused of stealing jewellery a year ago and had been imprisoned.

The stingy duchess never hires a car if she can hitch a ride. She enquires if Naomi has a car and finding out that she does, insists on her driving herself and Satterthwaite on a tour of the island the next day. However as it is only a two-seater the duchess inveigles another guest at the hotel called Mr Tomlinson, a retired Indian judge, into joining them with his four-seater car. At the appointed time the two cars set off, with Naomi leading the way in her car. Sensing that Naomi looks sad, Satterthwaite offers to ride with her but she wants to drive alone. The convoy heads up into the mountains and eventually stop where the road finishes at an isolated clifftop village of the name of Coti-Chiavari which Naomi terms "the World's End". There is nothing beyond, only a deep drop to the sea far belong.

Here Satterthwaite is delighted to see Mr Quin sitting on a boulder looking out to the sea. He has a feeling that Quin has turned up "in the nick of time" but he cannot fathom why he feels that way. The group has brought a picnic with them but as it is starting to snow they shelter in a cassecroute (a stone shelter) among the village houses. While walking there, Quin asks if Naomi have driven alone and tells her that what with the narrow twisting mountain roads, she should be careful lest she has an accident. Naomi draws Satterthwaite aside and asks who Harley Quin is. She is afraid of him. "He knows things" and "he sees things".

Inside the shelter there are already three other tourists, all from England: a theatrical producer called Vyse, a famous actress called Rosina Nunn and her husband, Mr Judd. They are also enjoying a picnic and the two parties settle down to eat.

During the conversation that ensues, Miss Nunn admits to her constant habit of being absentminded and the occasion she almost lost her pearls, which were insured. This was unlike her stolen opal. It had apparently been stolen. The thief was Alec Gerard. He alledgedly took it from her theatre dressing room when she showed it to him. Although the jewel was not found on him, he was unable to satisfactorily account for a large sum of money that he was able to pay into his bank the next day.

As lunch continues, Miss Nunn wants her preserved pineapples. Her husband tells her it is in her bag. So she empties out her bag and finally finds her pineapples. Among the contents of her bag is a small wooden box which Mr Tomlinson recognises as an Indian Box. Realising that no one knows the true nature of such an item, Tomlinson shows the group how the box contains a secret compartment activated by moving some flaps. He demonstrates it for them and makes a piece of cheese disappear. He then shows how to make the cheese reappear and they are all shocked when out comes the missing opal.

Miss Nunn realises that she must have absent-mindedly put her opal into the box and by moving it around must have caused it to fall into the secret compartment. Alec Gerard has suffered a miscarriage of justice and Miss Nunn and her party discuss how to put things right. Meanwhile Naomi steps outside, now visibly happy. She tells Satterthwaite he can ride with him on the way back, and assures him there will not be an accident.

Characters

Publication History

References

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