The Singing Sands, by Josephine Tey


You look like a bridegroom,’ Sergeant Williams said in great satisfaction, pump-handling Grant on Monday morning.

‘Well, I’d better go and have rice thrown at me, I suppose. How is the old man’s rheumatism this morning?’

‘Oh, fairly good, I think.’

‘What is he smoking? A pipe? Or cigarettes?’

‘Oh, a pipe.’

‘Then I’d better go in while the barometer is still high.’

In the passage he encountered Ted Hanna.

‘How did you run into Archie Brown?’ Hanna asked, when he had greeted him.

‘He’s writing a Gaelic epic in the hotel at the place where I was staying. And his “ravens”, by the way, are foreign fishing-boats.’

‘Yes?’ said Hanna, stiffening into interest. ‘How do you know?’

‘They got together at a party. It was the old “have-a-cigarette-no-no-keep-the-packet” routine.’

‘Sure it wasn’t cigarettes?’

‘Quite sure. I picked his pocket in the course of one Grand Chain and unpicked it next time round.’

‘Don’t tell me you’ve been country dancing!’

‘You’d be surprised at the things that I’ve been doing. I’m a little surprised myself.’

‘What was the “bread” like?’

‘A packetful of the most beautiful “large coarse” notes you ever saw.’

‘Yes?’ Hanna said, thoughtfully; and then amusement grew in his face and spread to a grin. ‘Someone’s wasting an awful lot of the needful.’

‘Yes. A sheep in wolf’s clothing. And you should see the clothing!’ Grant said and moved on towards his Chief’s door.

‘Your holiday seems to have done you good,’ Hanna said. ‘I’ve never seen you so on top of the world. You’re positively purring.’

‘As they say in the far North, I wouldn’t call the King my cousin,’ Grant said, and meant it.

He was happy not because of the report that he was going to give Bryce, not even because he was his own man again; he was happy because of something young Cullen had said to him at the airport that morning.

‘Mr Grant,’ Tad had said, standing very straight and solemn and making a formal little speech of leave-taking like a well-brought-up American, ‘I want you to know that I’ll never forget what you’ve done for me and Bill. You couldn’t bring Bill back to me, but you’ve done something much more wonderful: you’ve made him immortal.’

And indeed that was just what he had done. As long as books were written and history read, Bill Kenrick would live; and it was he, Alan Grant, who had done that. They had buried Bill Kenrick six feet deep in oblivion, but he, Alan Grant, had dug him up again and set him in his rightful place as the discoverer of Wabar.

He had paid back the debt he owed that dead boy in B Seven.

Bryce greeted him amiably, and said that he was looking well (which didn’t count, because he had said that at their last interview) and suggested that he might go down to Hampshire in answer to an appeal from the Hampshire police which had just come in.

‘Well, if it’s all the same to you, sir, I’d like to get the Kenrick murder off my chest first.’

‘The what?’

‘This is my written report on it,’ Grant said, laying in front of Bryce the neat bundle of quarto pages that was the product of his pleasant Sunday at home.

As he laid the thing down he remembered in a vague, surprised way that what he had planned to lay in front of Bryce was his resignation.

What odd notions occurred to one on holiday.

He was going to resign, and be a sheep farmer or something, and get married.

What an extraordinary idea. What a most extraordinary idea.

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Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01