26 FEBRUARY 1954, Page 7

One thinks of rafters as old things, but the one

in which the men found a .303 bullet embedded was not old. It formed part of a porch which had been added on to a cottage when an extra room was built on soon after the First War; now the cottage is being further enlarged and the ' new' porch has been demolished. The tempting theory that this bullet had been fired at one or other of the five tenants who have occupied this cottage during the last 30 years had regretfully to be dismissed; there was no hole in the timber, so the bullet must have entered the tree while it was still growing. The rafter was of deal, a trade term (as I suppose it might be called) of ancient origin, normally applied to six-foot planks of fir or`pine, but also applied, to softwood timber in bulk. It was almost certainly imported and its most likely place of origin was North Russia. Bullets are not endearing things, and I do not imagine for a moment that this one, if it could speak, would have a particularly interesting story to tell. But when I think of the great affairs in which it played its almost certainly ineffectual part: of the industrialist whom it helped to enrich and the tax-payers whom it helped to impoverish : of the man, British or Russian, cool or jittery or merely drunk, who pulled the trigger and discharged it: of his enemy whom (if indeed he was present at all) it would seem to have missed : and of the tall tree in which it lodged—when I think of these things, and of the long chain of coincidence which has deposited the small, shining bullet on my desk, I cannot help seeing in it the symbol, the admittedly rather pointless symbol, of a certain kind of Romance.