Agatha Christie (1890 -
Yes, now the moment has come and we are really off. We drive off for Victoria, Dear Victoria -
continental platform. And how I love trains, anyway! Snuffing up the sulphurous smell ecstatically so different from the faint aloof, distantly oily smell of a
boat, which always depresses my spirits with its prophecy of nauseous days to come. But a train -
big puffing engine, sending up clouds of steam, and seeming to say impatiently : "I've got to be off, I've got to be off, I've got to be off!" -
shares your mood, for you, too, are saying : I'm going to be off, I'm going, I'm going, I'm going [...]"
By the door of our Pullman, friends are waiting to see us off. The usual conversations take place. Famous last words pour from my lips -
dogs, about children, about forwarding letters, about sending out books, about forgotten items, 'and I think you'll find it on the piano, but it may be on the
bathroom shelf. All the things that have been said before, and do not in the least need saying again! Max is surrounded by his relations, I by mine. My
sister says tearfully that she has a feeling that she will never see me again. I am not very much impressed, because she has felt this every time I go to the
East. And what, she asks, is she to do if Rosalind gets appendicitis? There seems no reason why my fourteen-
and all I can think of to reply is: "Don't operate on her yourself!" For my sister has a great reputation for hasty action with her scissors, attacking
impartially boils, haircutting and dressmaking -
Max and I exchange relations, and my dear mother-
Whistles blow, and I have a last few frenzied words with my friend and secretary. Will she do all the things I have left undone, and upbraid suitably the
Laundry and the Cleaners and give a good refe rence to the cook and send off those books I couldn't pack, and get back my umbrella from Scotland Yard,
and write appropriately to the clergy-
and cross off vegetable marrows and parsnips?
Yes, she will do all those things, and if any crisis occurs in the Home or in the Literary World she will cable me. It doesn't matter, I say. She has a power
of attorney. She can do anything she likes. She looks rather alarmed and says she shall be most careful.
Another whistle! I say good-
Nonsense, says my sister; why should she? We climb into the Pullman, the train grunts and starts -
and then as Victoria Station is left be hind, exultation springs once more. We have begun the lovely, exciting journey to Syria.
from: Agatha Christie, Come tell me how you live, 1946
1. Find a suitable heading for the extract.
2. Find as much information as possible about the narrator.
3. Who does "we" refer to?
4. What other characters are present in the scene or just mentioned?
5. Where are they all meeting? Quote three expressions to justify your answer.
6. Pick out three elements which reveal the narrator's feelings about trains?
7. Explain some of the stylistic devices used in the extract? What is their use?
8. What is the tone of the passage?
9. Imagine you are at the airport: report the conversation you have with your friends and parents, just before you leave on a round-
10. People travel more and more these days. Does travelling necessarily imply going to a far-