This story has a very autobiographical feeling to it, and one can't help but wonder whether it actually happened to Dahl or not. His feelings about the English Public School system are well–documented (see Boy – Tales of Childhood or Jeremy Treglown's "Roald Dahl: A Biography"), and he loads this short story full of so many intense details that it seems unlikely he would ever make such a thing up.
Spoiler Warning!The story, if indeed it can be called that (since there really isn't much of a plot at all), is about a "contented commuter" named William Perkins. He is a distinguished businessman and prides himself on the regularity and precision with which he goes about his daily routine. One day his peace is shattered, however, when a newcomer joins the usual group waiting for the commuter train. After several days of grudging conversation with this obnoxious man, Perkins suddenly recognizes him as Bruce "Galloping" Foxley, an older boy who sadistically tormented and tortured him for years in school. The entire story then comes to a grinding halt as fifty–year–old memories begin to flood Perkins: warming the toilet seat for Foxley, cleaning Foxley's study, receiving a beating from Foxley. As Perkins becomes more and more shaken by these memories, he decides to reveal himself to the man and watch his reaction. He leans over and introduces himself: "My name is Perkins – William Perkins – and I was at Repton in 1907." Imagine his surprise, then, when his companion answers, "I'm glad to meet you. Mine's Fortescue – Jocelyn Fortescue, Eton 1916." He is NOT Galloping Foxley!
1. How does the narrator emphasise that he is a creature of habit? Why does he like the "unchanged and unchangeable" fellow travellers?
2. What seem to be the main characteristics of the people he passes during his daily walk from Cannon Street to the office? In what way are their lives "regulated nicely by the minute hand of the accurate watch"?
3. In what ways are we told that the stranger "was not one of us"?