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he had the darned sauce to give me a sort of pi-jaw
about going out with girls in Liverpool. If you ask
me, I think he's a rotten outsider, and the sooner he's
pushing up daisies the better." Whereupon Perrin (a
quiet man of thirty-five who was sitting in a corner
writing to his wife) stopped the discussion by saying,
"Oh, dry up, Holman! For all we know the poor
devil may be dead by now."

Late that night I was lying in the tent with The
Return of the Native on my knee. The others were asleep,
but my candle still guttered on the shell-box at my
elbow. No one had mumbled "For Christ's sake put
that light out"; which was lucky, for I felt very
wide awake. How were things going at Bazentin, I
wondered? And should I be sent for to-morrow? A
sort of numb funkiness invaded me. I didn't want to
die—not before I'd finished reading The Return of the
Native anyhow. "The quick-silvery glaze on the rivers
and pools vanished; from broad mirrors of light they
changed to lustreless sheets of lead." The words fitted
my mood; but there was more in them than that. I
wanted to explore the book slowly. It made me long
for England, and it made the War seem waste of
time. Ever since my existence became precarious I
had realized how little I'd used my brains in peace
time, and now I was always trying to keep my mind
from stagnation. But it wasn't easy to think one's own
thoughts while on active service, and the outlook of
my companions was mostly mechanical; they dulled
everything with commonplace chatter and made even
the vividness of the War ordinary. My encounter with
David Cromlech—after three months' separation—
had reawakened my relish for liveliness and origin-