almost dull tea


E. M. Forster, in a letter to his mother on July 7, 1922, recalled a visit to Thomas Hardy: "Simple almost dull tea at the Hardys' T. H. showed me the graves of his pets, all overgrown with ivy, their names on the headstones. Such a dolorous muddle. 'This is Snowbell--she was run over by a train. . . .  this is Pella, the same thing happened to her. . . . this is Kitkin, she was cut clean in two, clean in two . . .' 'How is it that so many of your cats have been run over, Mr. Hardy? Is the railway near?' 'No, not at all, not at all near. I don't know how it is. But of course we have only buried here those pets whose bodies were recovered. Many were never seen again.'