down in the drawing-room, where Aunt Evelyn was
having an after-dinner chat with Mr. Farrell and
Captain Huxtable, who had walked across the fields
from Butley in the twilight. Sometimes I tiptoed
down the stairs and listened at the door (rather hop-
ing to hear them saying something complimentary
about myself) but they were nearly always gassing
about politics, or India. Mr. Farrell had been in
India for ages, and Captain Huxtable had been out
there too; and Aunt Evelyn loved to hear about it.
When we went to see Mr. Farrell he used to show us
delightful old books with coloured plates of Indian
scenes. What queer old codgers they were, sipping
tea and puffing their cigars (which smelt quite nice)
and talking all that rot about Lord Salisbury and his
Government. "Her-her-her," laughed Mr. Farrell
whenever he finished another of his funny stories
which always ended with what someone had said to
someone else or how he'd scored off someone at his
club. They'd go on talking just the same, whatever
happened; even if a Death's Head Hawk Moth flew
into the room they wouldn't be a bit excited about it.
It would be rather fun, I thought, if I were to fire my
percussion-cap pistol outside the drawing-room door,
just to give them a surprise. As I crept upstairs again
in my night-gown, I wondered if I should ever be like
that myself.... Mr. Farrell was fond of playing tennis;
he used to serve underhand, holding the ball a few
inches above the ground as he struck it. ...
Emerging from my retrospective reverie, I felt that
this war had made the past seem very peculiar.
People weren't the same as they used to be, or else
I had changed. Was it because I had experienced
something that they couldn't share or imagine? Mr.
Farrell had seemed diffident that afternoon, almost as