Anyone who remembers L. P. Hartley's beautiful opener to The Go-Between (""The past is a foreign country--they do things differently there"") won't be too surprised to fred a variant thereof (""The past seems like a foreign country that I once visited years ago"") at the end of playwright Corlett's first novel. There's been a quality throughout--indefinable, insistent--which will remind you of Hartley's gentle classic of initiation. This is however a different story, perhaps less of a story, and it's evenly divided in its sympathies between a bedraggled old man, Mr. Falconer, who lives alone in the woods and a fifteen-year-old boy who becomes his friend and whom he introduces to Tennyson and Eliot. During the holidays, particularly after Falconer's dog is killed by some bully boys and Falconer has been continually baited, the boy spends considerable time with the old man even if his parents never get past referring to him as ""poor Mr. Thing."" Then of course comes a girl, a common shopgirl in fact, with no understanding and much resentment of the relationship which has been, as Falconer tells him, just ""a turning point, a stepping stone, a moment of change."" One of those touch-true books which come along infrequently but outlive many others.