A Shilling for Candles

A Shilling for Candles

by Josephine Tey

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It was a little after seven on a summer morning, and William Potticary
was taking his accustomed way over the short down grass of the cliff-top.
Beyond his elbow, two hundred feet below, lay the Channel, very still and
shining, like a milky opal. All around him hung the bright air, empty as
yet of larks. In all the sunlit world no sound except for the screaming
of some seagulls on the distant beach; no human activity except for the
small lonely figure of Potticary himself, square and dark and
uncompromising. A million dewdrops sparkling on the virgin grass
suggested a world new-come from its Creator's hand. Not to Potticary, of
course. What the dew suggested to Potticary was that the ground fog of
the early hours had not begun to disperse until well after sunrise. His
subconscious noted the fact and tucked it away, while his conscious mind
debated whether, having raised an appetite for breakfast, he should turn
at the Gap and go back to the Coastguard Station, or whether, in view of
the fineness of the morning, he should walk into Westover for the morning
paper, and so hear about the latest murder two hours earlier than he
would otherwise. Of course, what with wireless, the edge was off the
morning paper, as you might say. But it was an objective. War or peace, a
man had to have an objective. You couldn't go into Westover just to look
at the front. And going back to breakfast with the paper under your arm
made you feel fine, somehow. Yes, perhaps he would walk into the town.

The pace of his black, square-toed boots quickened slightly, their
shining surface winking in the sunlight. Proper service, these boots
were. One might have thought that Potticary, having spent his best years
in brushing his boots to order, would have asserted his individuality, or
expressed his personality, or otherwise shaken the dust of a meaningless
discipline off his feet by leaving the dust on his boots. But no,
Potticary, poor fool, brushed his boots for love of it. He probably had a
slave mentality, but had never read enough for it to worry him. As for
expressing one's personality, if you described the symptoms to him he
would, of course, recognize them. But not by name; In the Service they
call that "contrariness."

A seagull flashed suddenly above the cliff-top, and dropped screaming
from sight to join its wheeling comrades below. A dreadful row these
gulls were making. Potticary moved over to the cliff edge to see what
jetsam the tide, now beginning to ebb, had left for them to quarrel over.

The white line of the gently creaming surf was broken by a patch of
verdigris green. A bit of cloth. Baize, or something. Funny it should
stay so bright a color after being in the water so--

Potticary's blue eyes widened suddenly, his body becoming strangely
still. Then the square black boots began to run. _Thud, thud, thud,_
on the thick turf, like a heart beating. The Gap was two hundred yards
away, but Potticary's time would not have disgraced a track performer. He
clattered down the rough steps hewn in the chalk of the Gap, gasping;
indignation welling through his excitement. That was what came of going
into cold water before breakfast! Lunacy, so help him. Spoiling other
people's breakfasts, too. Schaefer's best, except where ribs broken. Not
likely to be ribs broken. Perhaps only a faint after all. Assure the
patient in a loud voice that he is safe. Her arms and legs were as brown
as the sand. That was why he had thought the green thing a piece of
cloth. Lunacy, so help him. Who wanted cold water in the dawn unless they
had to swim for it? He'd had to swim for it in his time. In that Red Sea
port. Taking in a landing party to help the Arabs. Though why anyone
wanted to help the lousy bastards--that was the time to swim. When you
had to. Orange juice and thin toast, too. No stamina. Lunacy, so help

Product Details

BN ID: 2940013740617
Publisher: WDS Publishing
Publication date: 01/06/2012
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Sales rank: 160,415
File size: 181 KB

About the Author

Elizabeth MacKintosh (1896-1952), best known as Josephine Tey, is one of the most respected and influential authors in the mystery genre and regarded by many one of the best mystery novelists ever. Her novel, The Daughter of Time, was selected by the British Crime Writers’ Association as the greatest mystery novel of all time and The Franchise Affair, starring her most famous character, Inspector Alan Grant, was 11th on the same list of 100 books. She also used the pen name, Gordon Daviot, primarily to publish plays.

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