A classic Agatha Christie short story, available individually for the first time as an ebook.Mr Satterthwaite’s holiday in Corsica is unexpectedly interrupted by the appearance of his old friend Mr Quin, who has come to shed new light on the conviction of a jewel thief the year before…
The World’s End
A Short Story
by Agatha Christie
Published by HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd 1 London Bridge Street London SE1 9GF
Copyright © 2008 Agatha Christie Ltd.
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Ebook Edition © JUNE 2014 ISBN 9780007560318
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‘The World’s End’ was first published in the USA as ‘World’s End’ in Flynn’s Weekly, 20 November 1926, and then as ‘The Magic of Mr Quin No.3: The World’s End’ in Storyteller magazine, February 1927.
Mr Satterthwaite had come to Corsica because of the Duchess. It was out of his beat. On the Riviera he was sure of his comforts, and to be comfortable meant a lot to Mr Satterthwaite. But though he liked his comfort, he also liked a Duchess. In his way, a harmless, gentlemanly, old-fashioned way, Mr Satterthwaite was a snob. He liked the best people. And the Duchess of Leith was a very authentic Duchess. There were no Chicago pork butchers in her ancestry. She was the daughter of a Duke as well as the wife of one.
For the rest, she was rather a shabby-looking old lady, a good deal given to black bead trimmings on her clothes. She had quantities of diamonds in old-fashioned settings, and she wore them as her mother before her had worn them: pinned all over her indiscriminately. Someone had suggested once that the Duchess stood in the middle of the room whilst her maid flung brooches at her haphazard. She subscribed generously to charities, and looked well after her tenants and dependents, but was extremely mean over small sums. She cadged lifts from her friends, and did her shopping in bargain basements.
The Duchess was seized with a whim for Corsica. Cannes bored her and she had a bitter argument with the hotel proprietor over the price of her rooms.
‘And you shall go with me, Satterthwaite,’ she said firmly. ‘We needn’t be afraid of scandal at our time of life.’
Mr Satterthwaite was delicately flattered. No one had ever mentioned scandal in connection with him before. He was far too insignificant. Scandal – and a Duchess – delicious!
‘Picturesque you know,’ said the Duchess. ‘Brigands – all that sort of thing. And extremely cheap, so I’ve heard. Manuel was positively impudent this morning. These hotel proprietors need putting in their place. They can’t expect to get the best people if they go on like this. I told him so plainly.’
‘I believe,’ said Mr Satterthwaite, ‘that one can fly over quite comfortably. From Antibes.’
‘They probably charge you a pretty penny for it,’ said the Duchess sharply. ‘Find out, will you?’
Mr Satterthwaite was still in a flutter of gratification despite the fact that his role was clearly to be that of a glorified courier.
When she learned the price of a passage by Avion, the Duchess turned it down promptly.
‘They needn’t think I’m going to pay a ridiculous sum like that to go in one of their nasty dangerous things.’
So they went by boat, and Mr Satterthwaite endured ten hours of acute discomfort. To begin with, as the boat sailed at seven, he took it for granted that there would be dinner on board. But there was no dinner. The boat was small and the sea was rough. Mr Satterthwaite was decanted at Ajaccio in the early hours of the morning more dead than alive.
The Duchess, on the contrary, was perfectly fresh. She never minded discomfort if she could feel she was saving money. She waxed enthusiastic over the scene on the quay, with the palm trees and the rising sun. The whole population seemed to have turned out to watch the arrival of the boat, and the launching of the gangway was attended with excited cries and directions.
‘On dirait,’ said a stout Frenchman who stood beside them, ‘que jamais avant on n’a fait cette manoeuvre là!’
‘That maid of mine has been sick all night,’ said the Duchess. ‘The girl’s a perfect fool.’
Mr Satterthwaite smiled in a pallid fashion.
‘A waste of good food, I call it,’ continued the Duchess robustly.
‘Did she get any food?’ asked Mr Satterthwaite enviously.
‘I happened to bring some biscuits and a stick of chocolate on board with me,’ said the Duchess. ‘When I found there was no dinner to be got, I gave the lot to her. The lower classes always make such a fuss about going without their meals.’
With a cry of triumph the launching of the gangway was accomplished. A Musical Comedy chorus of brigands rushed aboard and wrested hand-luggage from the passengers by main force.
‘Come on, Satterthwaite,’ said the Duchess. ‘I want a hot bath and some coffee.’
So did Mr Satterthwaite. He was not wholly successful, however. They were received at the hotel by a bowing manager and were shown to their rooms. The Duchess’s had a bathroom attached. Mr Satterthwaite, however, was directed to a bath that appeared to be situated in somebody else’s bedroom. To expect the water to be hot at that hour in the morning was, perhaps, unreasonable. Later he drank intensely black coffee, served in a pot without a lid. The shutters and the window of his room had been flung open, and the crisp morning air came in fragrantly. A day of dazzling blue and green.
The waiter waved his hand with a flourish to call attention to the view.
‘Ajaccio,’ he said solemnly. ‘Le plus beau port du monde!’
And he departed abruptly.
Looking out over the deep blue of the bay, with the snowy mountains beyond, Mr Satterthwaite was almost inclined to agree with him. He finished his coffee, and lying down on the bed, fell fast asleep.