Mr. Archibald Winton, a senior clerk at a factory in Birmingham, sets up his amateur easel on the sand and starts to paint, thinking that the two little girls down by the water would make good subjects. Ursula and Pamela tread out into the water and Ursula starts to panic. She tries to think of something that will make Pamela want to return to the beach, but a huge wave crashes over their heads.
Atkinson begins to set up the idea that Ursula can learn from previous mistakes through these pangs of panic and the eventual “déjà vu” that she has. This implies that there is a “correct” or “better” life that Ursula can lead as she tries to avoid a premature death.
Mr. Winton carries a sopping wet Pamela and Ursula back up the beach, explaining to Sylvie that they went out a bit too far. Sylvie offers to treat Mr. Winton to tea and cakes, thanking him for their rescue.
The small change in circumstances—that a man is watching Ursula and Pamela on the beach—has enormous ramifications when he saves her from drowning.
When Sylvie and the children return from their holiday, Hugh asks if they are glad to be back. Sylvie returns, “Are you glad to have us back?” to which Hugh does not respond. Instead, he has a surprise for the family: he has installed an engine in the cellar, enabling electric light in the house. They marvel at it, but it will be a long time before any of them are able to turn on a light switch without expecting to be blown up.
In this and the subsequent chapters, as the family endures World War I, Atkinson makes sly comparisons and contrasts between domestic life and the war. Her reference here to the fear of being blown up by a light switch echoes the eventual fear of being bombed that comes with wartime.