While the Light Lasts is an early short story written by Agatha Christie which was first published in The Novel Magazine in April 1924. It was not published as part of a collection until While the Light Lasts and Other Stories in the U.K. and The Harlequin Tea Set and Other Stories in the U.S., both in 1997.
(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)
George Crozier is visiting a tobacco plantation in Southern Rhodesia with his wife Deirdre. They have not been married long, and George is aware that his wife’s thoughts are with her first husband, who was killed in this part of Africa during the War.
As they progress through the plantation Deirdre feels faint and decides to go back to the main house. The host calls on a man to accompany her – it turns out to be her first husband Tim Nugent who is not dead after all! He had been wounded and his details were mixed up with some poor soul who had died! They fall into each other’s arm and kiss passionately.
He tells his story and says he knew she had married George and understood why. He decided that he would “remain dead because Crozier could give her all the things he couldn’t”. However, he now tells her he still loves her and wants her to tell her new husband she feels the same about him.
The next day Crozier goes away on business and she agonises about what she should do.
She meets up with Tim at a café in Bulawayo and he asks why she has not told the husband. (She is torn as she still feels that George has been “good” to her). Tim presses her for an answer as he points out that she is not in love with Crozier. Then he guesses and asks her if she is “with child”. She looks away allowing Tim to think he is correct. He hurriedly leaves the building saying he’ll have to find another way to get her back.
George comes back the next day with the news that the man who she met at the tobacco estate a couple of days ago had shot himself!
Crozier goes to light up his cigarette and she asks him not to as the smell reminds her of the Tobacco estate. He says that she has to get used to the smell because she’ll come across it everywhere. She replies “Yes everywhere” and to herself she says “While the light lasts I shall remember and in the darkness I shall not forget” which was the original obituary she had chosen for Tim Nugent.
- George Crozier
- Deirdre Crozier
- Tim Nugent
- 1924: The Novel Magazine, vol. 39, no. 229, Apr 1924, with an illustration by Howard Elcock.
- 1997: The Harlequin Tea Set and Other Stories, G. P. Putnams, Apr 1997.
- 1997: While the Light Lasts and Other Stories, HarperCollins, Aug 1997.