Evelyn Waugh

     BRIDESHEAD REVISITED
     The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder
     (1944)

     Печатный  источник:  Evelyn Waugh,  BRIDESHEAD REVISITED: Little, Brown
and Company, Boston, 1945
     OCR & spellcheck - Percy, sirpercy@front.ru




     To Laura

     Author's Note
     I am not I; thou art not he or she; they are not they.
     E.W.


     Prologue

     When I reached  C Company lines, which were at  the top of  the hill, I
paused  and looked  back at  the camp, just coming  into full view below  me
through the  grey mist of early  morning. We were leaving that day. When  we
marched in, three months  before, the place  was under  snow; now  the first
leaves of spring were unfolding. I had  reflected then that, whatever scenes
of desolation lay ahead of us, I never feared one more brutal than this, and
I reflected now that it had no single happy memory for me.

     Here love had died between me and the army.

     Here the tram lines ended, so that  men returning fuddled from  Glasgow
could doze in their seats until roused by the conductress at their journey's
end.  There  was  some way to go from the  tram-stop  to the  camp gates;  a
quarter of  a mile in which they  could button their blouses and  straighten
their  caps  before  passing the guard-room, a quarter  of a  mile in  which
concrete gave place to grass at the road's edge. This was  the extreme limit
of the city,  a fringe of drift-wood above  high-water mark. Here the close,
homogeneous  territory  of  housing  estates  and   cinemas  ended  and  the
hinterland began.

     The  camp  stood  where,  until  quite  lately, had  been  pasture  and
ploughland; the farm-house still stood in a fold of the hill  and had served
us for battalion offices; ivy still supported part of what had once been the
walls  of a fruit garden; half  an acre  of  mutilated old  trees behind the
wash-houses  survived  of  an  orchard.  The  place  had   been  marked  for
destruction  before the army came to it.  Had  there  been another  year  of
peace, there would have been no farmhouse, no  wall, no apple trees. Already
half a mile of concrete road lay between bare clay banks, and on either side
a  chequer  of  open  ditches  showed  where the  municipal  contractors had
designed  a system of drainage.  Another  year of peace  would have made the
place  part  of the  neighbouring suburb. Now the huts where we had wintered
waited their turn for destruction.

     Over the way, the subject of much ironical comment, half hidden even in
winter by  its embosoming  trees,  lay the municipal  lunatic asylum,  whose
cast-iron  railings  and noble  gates put our rough  wire to shame. We could
watch the  madmen, on clement days, sauntering  and skipping among  the trim
gravel  walks and pleasantly planted  lawns; happy collaborationists who had
given  up the unequal struggle,  all doubts  resolved,  all duty  done,  the
undisputed heirs-at-law of a  century of progress,  enjoying the heritage at
their ease. As  we  marched past the  men used  to shout  greetings  to them
through the railings -- "Keep a bed warm for me,  chum. I shan't be long" --
but Hooper, my  newest-joined  platoon commander, grudged them their life of
privilege: "Hitler would  put them in a gas chamber," he said; "I reckon  we
can learn a thing or two from him."

     Here, when we marched in at midwinter,  I brought a  company of  strong
and hopeful men; word had gone round  among them, as we moved from the moors
to this dockland area, that we were at last in  transit for the Middle East.
As  the days passed  and we began clearing the snow and levelling  a  parade
ground, I saw their disappointment change to  resignation.  They snuffed the
smell of the fried-fish shops and cocked their ears to familiar,  peace-time
sounds  of  the  works'  siren  and the  dance-hall band. On  off-days  they
slouched now at street corners and sidled away at the approach of an officer
for fear that,  by saluting, they would lose face with their new mistresses.
In the  company office there  was a crop of  minor  charges and requests for
compassionate leave; while it was still half-light, day began with the whine
of
     the  malingerer and  the glum  face and fixed  eye of  the  man  with a
grievance.

     And I, who by every precept should have put heart into them-- how could
I help them, who could so little help myself? Here the colonel under whom we
had formed was promoted out of our sight and succeeded by a younger and less
lovable man, cross-posted from  another regiment. There were few left in the
mess now of the batch of volunteers who trained together at the  outbreak of
war; one way  and another  they  were  nearly  all  gone  --  some  had been
invalided out, some promoted to other battalions, some posted to staff jobs,
some had volunteered for special service,  one had got himself killed on the
field firing range, one had  been  court-martialled -- and their places were
taken  by  conscripts;  the wireless  played  incessantly in  the  ante-room
nowadays, and much beer was drunk before dinner; it was not as it had been.

     Here at the  age  of thirty-nine I began to  be old. I  felt stiff  and
weary  in  the  evenings  and reluctant  to  go  out  of camp;  I  developed
proprietary claims to certain chairs and newspapers; I regularly drank three
glasses  of  gin  before  dinner,  never more  or  less,  and  went  to  bed
immediately after  the nine o'clock news. I was  always awake and fretful an
hour before reveille.

     Here my last  love died. There  was nothing remarkable in the manner of
its death. One day, not  long  before this  last day in camp, as I lay awake
before reveille, in the Nissen hut, gazing into the complete blackness, amid
the  deep breathing  and muttering of the four other occupants, turning over
in my mind  what  I had  to do that day  --  had I put in  the names  of two
corporals for the weapon-training course?  Should I again have  the  largest
number  of men overstaying their leave in the batch due back that day? Could
I trust Hooper to take the candidates class out map-reading?  -- as I lay in
that  dark hour, I was  aghast  to realize that  something  within  me, long
sickening, had  quietly died, and felt as a husband might feel, who,  in the
fourth year
     of his marriage,  suddenly knew that he had  no longer  any desire,  or
tenderness, or esteem, for a once-beloved wife; no pleasure in  her company,
no wish to  please, no curiosity about anything she might ever do  or say or
think; no hope of setting things right, no self-reproach for the disaster. I
knew it all,  the whole drab compass of  marital disillusion;  we  had  been
through it  together, the army and I, from the  first  importunate courtship
until now, when  nothing remained  to us  except the  chill bonds of law and
duty and custom. I had played every scene in the domestic tragedy, had found
the  early  tiffs  become  more  frequent, the  tears  less  affecting,  the
reconciliations less  sweet,  till they engendered a mood of  aloofness  and
cool criticism,  and the  growing conviction that  it was not myself but the
loved  one who  was  at  fault. I caught  the  false notes in  her voice and
learned to listen for them apprehensively; I recognized the blank, resentful
stare of  incomprehension  in  her eyes,  and the selfish,  hard  set of the
corners of her mouth. I learned her, as one must learn a woman  one has kept
house  with,  day in,  day out, for three and a  half years;  I  learned her
slatternly  ways, the routine and mechanism of her charm,  her jealousy  and
self-seeking, and her nervous trick with the fingers when she was lying. She
was  stripped  of all  enchantment  now and I knew  her  for  an uncongenial
stranger to whom I had bound myself indissolubly in a moment of folly.

     So, on this morning of our move, I  was entirely indifferent  as to our
destination. I would go on with my job, but I could bring to it nothing more
than  acquiescence. Our orders  were to entrain at 0915  hours at a  near-by
siding, taking in  the haversack the  unexpired portion of the day's ration;
that was all  I needed to know. The company  second-in-command had  gone  on
with a small advance  party. Company stores had been packed the .day before.
Hooper had been detailed to inspect  the  lines. The company was parading at
0730 hours with  their  kit-bags piled before the  huts. There had been many
such moves  since  the  wildly  exhilarating  morning  in  1940 when  we had
erroneously believed ourselves destined for  the defence of Calais. Three or
four times a year since then we had changed  our location; this time our new
commanding officer was  making an unusual display of "security" and had even
put  us  to  the trouble  of removing  all  distinguishing  badges  from our
uniforms  and  transport.  It  was  "valuable  training  in  active  service
conditions," he said, "If I find any of  these female camp followers waiting
for us the other end, I'll know there's been a leakage."

     The smoke  from the cook-houses  drifted away in the mist  and the camp
lay  revealed  as  a  planless  maze  of  short-cuts,  superimposed  on  the
unfinished  housing-scheme, as though disinterred at  a much later date by a
party of archaeologists.

     The Pollock diggings provide a valuable  link between the citizen-slave
communities of the twentieth century and the tribal anarchy, which succeeded
them.  Here you see  a people of advanced culture, capable  of  an elaborate
draining system, and the construction  of  permanent highways, overrun by  a
race of the lowest type. The  measure of the newcomers  may be  taken by the
facts  that their women were  devoid of all personal adornment and that  the
dead were removed to  burying places a great distance from the settlement --
a sure sign of primitive taboo. ...
     Thus,  I thought, the pundits  of the future  might write; and, turning
away, I greeted the company  sergeant-major: "Has Mr.  Hooper  been  round?"
"Haven't  seen  him at  all this morning,  sir."  We  went to the dismantled
company  office,   where   I  found  a   window   newly  broken  since   the
barrack-damages  book  was  completed.  "Wind-in-the-night,  sir,"  said the
sergeant-major.    (All   breakages   were   thus    attributable,   or   to
"Sappers'-demonstration, sir.")

     Hooper appeared;  he was a sallow  youth with hair combed back, without
parting, from his forehead, and a flat, Midland accent; he had  been in  the
company two months.

     The troops did  not like Hooper because  he  knew too little  about his
work  and   would  sometimes  address  them  individually  as  "George"   at
stand-easics, but I  had  a feeling which almost amounted  to affection  for
him, largely by reason of an incident on his first evening in mess.
     The new  colonel had been with  us less than a week at the time and  we
had not yet  taken his  measure. He  had been standing rounds of  gin in the
ante-room and was slightly boisterous when he first took notice of Hooper.

     "That young officer is one of yours, isn't he, Ryder?" he  said to  me.
"His hair wants cutting."

     "It does, sir," I said. It did. "I'll see that it's done."

     The  colonel  drank  more gin  and  began  to stare at  Hooper,  saying
audibly, "My God, the officers they send us now!"

     Hooper seemed to  obsess the  colonel  that  evening.  After dinner  he
suddenly said very loudly: "In my late regiment if a young officer turned up
like  that, the other  subalterns  would bloody well  have cut his hair  for
him."

     No one showed any  enthusiasm for this sport,  and our lack of response
seemed to inflame the colonel. "You," he said, turning to  a decent boy in A
Company, "go and  get a  pair of scissors and cut that  young officer's hair
for him."

     "Is that an order, sir?"

     "It's your commanding officer's  wish and that's the best kind of order
I know."

     "Very good, sir."

     And so, in an atmosphere of chilly embarrassment, Hooper sat in a chair
while a few snips were made at the back of his head. At the beginning of the
operation I left  the ante-room,  and  later  apologized  to Hooper for  his
reception.  "It's  not the  sort  of  thing that  usually  happens  in  this
regiment," I said.

     "Oh, no hard feelings," said Hooper. "I can take a bit of sport."

     Hooper  had no illusions about the army--or rather no special illusions
distinguishable from the general, enveloping fog  from which he observed the
universe. He had come to it reluctantly, under compulsion, after he had made
every feeble  effort in his  power  to obtain deferment.  He accepted it, he
said,  "like the  measles."  Hooper was no romantic.  He had not as  a child
ridden  with  Rupert's horse or sat among the camp fires at Xanthus-side; at
the age when  my eyes were dry  to all  save poetry  -- that stoic, red-skin
interlude  which our schools introduce between the fast flowing tears of the
child and the  man -- Hooper had wept often, but never for Henry's speech on
St.  Crispin's Day,  nor  for the  epitaph at  Thermopylae. The history they
taught  him had had  few battles in it  but,  instead, a profusion of detail
about humane legislation and recent industrial change. Gallipoli, Balaclava,
Quebec, Lepanto,  Bannockburn,  Roncevales,  and  Marathon -- these, and the
Battle  in  the  West where  Arthur  fell,  and a hundred  such names  whose
trumpet-notes,  even  now  in  my  sere  and  lawless  state, called  to  me
irresistibly across the intervening years with all the clarity  and strength
of boyhood, sounded in vain to Hooper.

     He  seldom  complained. Though himself  a man  to whom  one  could  not
confidently  entrust the simplest duty,  he had an  overmastering regard for
efficiency and,  drawing  on  his  modest  commercial experience,  he  would
sometimes  say of the  ways of the  army in pay  and supply  and  the use of
man-hours: "They couldn't get away with that in business."

     He slept sound while I lay awake fretting.

     In the  weeks that we  were together  Hooper  became  a symbol to me of
Young  England, so that  whenever I  read some public  utterance proclaiming
what Youth demanded in the Future and what the  world owed to Youth, I would
test these general  statements by substituting "Hooper" and seeing  if  they
still seemed as plausible. Thus in the dark hour before reveille I sometimes
pondered:   "Hooper  Rallies,"  "Hooper  Hostels,"   "International   Hooper
Co-operation"  and "the Religion  of Hooper." He was  the acid test  of  all
these alloys.

     So far as he had changed at all, he was less soldierly now thaa when he
arrived from  his OCTU. This morning,  laden with  full equipment, he looked
scarcely human. He came to attention with a kind of shuffling dance-step and
spread a wool-gloved palm across his forehead.

     "I  want to speak to Mr. Hooper, sergeant-major  . . . well,  where the
devil have you been? I told you to inspect the lines."

     " 'M I late ? Sorry. Had a rush getting my gear together."

     "That's what you have a servant for."

     "Well I suppose it is,  strictly speaking. But you know how  it  is. He
had his own  stuff to do. If you get on the wrong side of these fellows they
take it out of you other ways."

     "Well, go and inspect the lines now."

     "Rightyoh."

     "And for Christ's sake don't say 'rightyoh.'"

     "Sorry. I do try to remember. It just slips out."

     When Hooper left the sergeant-major returned.

     "C.O. just coming up the path, sir," he said.

     I went out to meet him.

     There  were beads of moisture on  the  hog-bristles  of his  little red
moustache.

     "Well, everything squared up here?"

     "Yes, I think so, sir."

     "Think so? You ought to know."

     His eyes  fell  on the  broken window. "Has  that  been entered  in the
barrack-damages?"

     "Not yet, sir."

     "Not yet? I wonder when it would have been if I hadn't seen it."

     He was not at ease with me, and much of his bluster rose from timidity,
but I thought none the better of it for that.

     He led me behind  the huts to a  wire fence  which divided my area from
the carrier-platoon's, skipped briskly over and made for  an overgrown ditch
and bank  which had once been a field boundary on  the  farm. Here  he began
grubbing  with  his  walking-stick like a truffling pig and presently gave a
cry of triumph. He had  disclosed one of those deposits of rubbish which are
dear  to the private  soldier's sense of order: the head of a broom, the lid
of a stove, a bucket rusted through, a sock, a loaf  of bread, lay under the
dock and nettle among cigarette packets and empty tins.

     "Look  at that,"  said  the commanding  officer.  "Fine impression that
gives to the regiment taking over from us."

     "That's bad," I said.

     "It's  a  disgrace. See  everything there  is burned  before  you leave
camp."

     "Very good,  sir. Sergeant-major, send over  to the carrier-platoon and
tell Captain Brown that the C.O. wants this ditch cleared up."

     I wondered whether the  colonel would  take this  rebuff; so did he. He
stood a moment irresolutely prodding the muck in the ditch,  then he  turned
on his heel and strode away.

     "You shouldn't do  it, sir," said the sergeant-major, who  had been  my
guide and prop since I joined the company. "You shouldn't really."

     "That wasn't our rubbish."

     "Maybe not, sir, but you know how  it is. If you get on the wrong  side
of senior officers they take it out of you other ways."

     As we marched past the madhouse two  or three  elderly inmates gibbered
and mouthed politely behind the railings.

     "Cheeroh,  chum, we'll be seeing  you"; "We shan't  be long now"; "Keep
smiling till we meet again," the men called to them.

     I was marching with Hooper at the head of the leading platoon.

     "I say, any idea where we're off to?"

     "None."

     "D'you think it's the real thing?"

     "No."

     "Just a flap?"

     "Yes."

     "Everyone's been  saying we're  for it.  I  don't  know  what to  think
really. Seems  so silly somehow, all this drill and  training if we never go
into action."

     "I shouldn't worry. There'll be plenty for everyone in time."

     "Oh, I don't want much you know. Just enough to say I've been in it."

     A  train of antiquated  coaches were  waiting  for us at the siding; an
R.T.O, was in charge;  a fatigue party was  loading the last of the kit-bags
from the trucks to the luggage vans. In half an  hour we were ready to start
and in an hour we started.

     My three  platoon  commanders and myself had  a carriage  to ourselves.
They ate sandwiches  and chocolate,  smoked and slept. None of  them  had  a
book. For the first  three or four hours they noted  the names  of the towns
and leaned  out  of the windows when, as  often happened, we stopped between
stations. Later they lost interest. At midday and again at dark  some  tepid
cocoa was  ladled  from a container into our mugs. The  train  moved  slowly
South through flat, drab main-line scenery.

     The  chief  incident in  the  day  was  the  C.O.'s "Order  Group."  We
assembled in his carriage, at  the summons of an orderly,  and found him and
the  adjutant wearing their steel helmets and equipment. The first  thing he
said was: "This is an Order Group. I expect you to attend  properly dressed.
The fact that we happen to be in a  train  is immaterial." I  thought he was
going to send us back but, after glaring at us, he said: "Sit down. . . ."

     "The camp was left in a disgraceful  condition. Wherever I went I found
evidence that officers  are not doing their duty. The  state in which a camp
is left is the best possible test of the efficiency  of regimental officers.
It is on  such matters that the reputation of a battalion and its  commander
rests.  And"--Did  he  in  fact say  this or am  I  finding  words  for  the
resentment in his voice and eye? I think he left it unsaid--"I do not intend
to  have my  professional reputation compromised by the  slackness  of a few
temporary officers."

     We sat with our note-books and pencils waiting to take down the details
of our next jobs. A more sensitive mian would have seen that he  had  failed
to be impressive; perhaps he saw, for he added in a petulant schoolmasterish
way: "All I ask is loyal co-operation."

     Then he referred to his notes and read: --

     "Orders.
     "Information. The  battalion is  now in transit between location A  and
location B. This is a major L of C and is  liable to bombing and  gas attack
from the enemy.

     "Intention. I intend to arrive at location B.

     "Method. Train will arrive at destination at approximately 2315 hours .
. ." and so on.

     The sting came at  the  end  under  the  heading,  "Administration."  C
Company, less one platoon, was to unload the train on  arrival at the siding
where three  three-tonners  would be available for  moving  all  stores to a
battalion dump  in  the  new  camp; work to continue  until  completed;  the
remaining platoon was to find a guard on the dump and perimeter sentries for
the camp area.

     "Any questions?"

     "Can we have an issue of cocoa for the working party?"

     "No. Any more questions?"

     When  I  told the sergeant-major of these orders he  said: "Poor old  C
Company struck unlucky again";  and I  knew this  to  be a reproach for  rny
having antagonized the commanding officer.
     I told the platoon commanders.

     "I  say,"  said Hooper,  "it makes it awfully awkward  with  the chaps.
They'll  be  fairly browned-off. He always seems to pick on us for the dirty
work."

     "You'll do guard."

     "Okcydoke. But I say, how am I to find the perimeter in the dark?"

     Shortly after blackout we were disturbed by an orderly making  his  way
lugubriously  down the  length of  the train with a rattle. One  of the more
sophisticated sergeants called out "Deuxieme service."

     "We are being sprayed with  liquid mustard-gas," I  said. "See that the
windows are  shut." I  then wrote a neat little situation-report to say that
there  were no casualties  and nothing had  been contaminated;  that men had
been detained to decontaminate the outside of the coach  before  detraining.
This seemed  to satisfy  the commanding officer,  for  we heard no more from
him. After dark we all slept.

     At last, very late, we came to our siding. It  was part of our training
in security and active service conditions that we should eschew stations and
platforms.  The drop from  the running board to the cinder  track  made  for
disorder and breakages in the darkness:

     "Fall in on the road below the  embankment. C Company seem to be taking
their time as usual, Captain Ryder."

     "Yes sir. We're having a little difficulty with the bleach."

     "Bleach?"

     "For decontaminating the outside of the coaches, sir."

     "Oh, very conscientious, I'm sure. Skip it and get a move on."

     By now  my half-awake  and sulky men were clattering  into shape on the
road.  Soon Hooper's platoon had  marched off into the darkness; I found the
lorries,  organized lines of men to  pass  the stores from hand to hand down
the  steep  bank, and,  presently,  as they found themselves doing something
with an apparent  purpose in it, they got  more cheerful. I handled stores ;
with  them  for  the first  half-hour;  then broke off  to meet the  company
second-in-command who came down with the first returning truck.

     "It's  not  a bad camp,"  he  reported; "big private  house with two or
three lakes! Looks as if we might get some duck if we're lucky. Village with
one pub and a post office. No  town within miles. I've managed to get a  hut
between the two of us."

     By four in  the  morning the work was done. I  drove in the last lorry,
through tortuous lanes where the overhanging boughs whipped the wind screen;
somewhere we left the lane  and turned into a drive; somewhere we reached an
open space where two drives converged  and a  ring  of storm lanterns marked
the heap of stores.  Here we unloaded the truck and, at  long last, followed
the guides to our  quarters, under a  starless  sky, with a  fine drizzle of
rain beginning now to fall.



     I slept until my servant called me, rose wearily, dressed and shaved in
silence.  It   was  not   till  I  reached   the  door  that  I   asked  the
second-in-command, "What's this place called?"

     He  told me and, on the instant,  it was as though someone had switched
off the wireless, and a voice that had been bawling in my ears, incessantly,
fatuously, for days beyond  number,  had been suddenly cut short; an immense
silence  followed, empty  at first,  but  gradually,  as  my  outraged sense
regained   authority,   full  of  a  multitude  of  sweet  and  natural  and
long-forgotten sounds -- for he had spoken a  name that  was so familiar  to
me, a conjuror's name of such  ancient power,  that, at its  mere sound, the
phantoms of those haunted late years began to take flight.

     Outside the hut  I stood awed and bemused between two realities and two
dreams. The rain had ceased but  the  clouds hung low and heavy overhead. It
was a  still morning and  the smoke from the cookhouse  rose straight to the
leaden  sky.  A  cart-track,  once metalled,  then overgrown, now rutted and
churned to mud, followed the contour of the hillside and dipped out of sight
below  a  knoll,  and on  either  side  of it lay  the  haphazard litter  of
corrugated  iron, from which rose the rattle and chatter  and whistling  and
catcalls, all  the zoo-noises of the battalion beginning a  new day.  Beyond
and about us, more familiar still, lay an exquisite  man-made landscape.  It
was a sequestered place, enclosed and embraced in a single, winding  valley.
Our  camp  lay  along  one gentle slope;  opposite us the ground  led, still
unravished, to the neighbourly horizon, and between us flowed a stream -- it
was  named  the  Bride and  rose  not  two  miles  away  at  a  farm  called
Bridesprings,  where  we  used  sometimes  to  walk  to  tea;  it  became  a
considerable river lower  down before it joined the  Avon -- which had  been
dammed  here to  form three  lakes, one no more than  a wet slate  among the
reeds, but the others more spacious,  reflecting  the clouds and  the mighty
beeches at their margin. The  woods were all of oak and beech, the oak  grey
and bare, the beech faintly  dusted with green by  the breaking  buds;  they
made a simple, carefully designed pattern with the green glades and the wide
green spaces --  Did the fallow deer graze here still?  -- and, lest the eye
wander aimlessly, a Doric temple stood by the water's edge, and an ivy-grown
arch spanned  the  lowest of the connecting weirs. All this had been planned
and planted a  century and a  half ago so that, at about this date, it might
be seen in its maturity. From where I stood the  house was hidden by a green
spur,  but I knew well  how and where it lay,  couched among  the lime trees
like a hind in the bracken. Which was the mirage, which the palpable earth?

     Hooper came  sidling  up  and greeted me  with  his  much  imitated but
inimitable salute. His face was grey from  his night's vigil  and he had not
yet shaved.

     "B Company relieved us. I've sent the chaps off to get cleaned up."

     "Good."

     "The house is up there, round the corner."

     "Yes," I said.

     "Brigade Headquarters are coming there  next  week. Great barrack  of a
place.  I've just had a snoop round. Very ornate, I'd call it.  And  a queer
thing, there's a sort of R.C. church  attached. I  looked in and there was a
kind  of service  going  on -- just  a padre and one  old  man. I felt  very
awkward.  More  in your  line than mine." Perhaps I seemed not to hear; in a
final  effort to excite  my  interest  he said: "There's a  frightful  great
fountain, too, in front of the steps, all rocks and  sort of carved animals.
You never saw such a thing."

     "Yes, Hooper, I did. I've been here before."

     The words  seemed to ring back to me enriched  from  the  vaults of  my
dungeon.

     "Oh well, you know all about it. I'll go and get cleaned up."

     I had been there before; I knew all about it.



     BOOK I

     ET IN ARCADIA EGO

     Chapter One

     "I have been here before," I said; I had been there before;  first with
Sebastian more  than twenty years ago on a cloudless  day in June,  when the
ditches were  white  with fool's-parsley and meadowsweet and  the  air heavy
with all  the scents of summer; it was a day  of peculiar splendour, such as
our climate ar-fords  once, or twice a year, when leaf and  flower  and bird
and  sun-lit  stone and shadow  seem all to  proclaim  the glory qf God; and
though I  had been there so  often, in so many  moods, it was to  that first
visit that my heart returned on this,  my latest. That day, too,  I had come
not knowing my destination. It was Eights Week. Oxford -- submerged now  and
obliterated,  irrecoverable  as Lyonnesse, so quickly have  the  waters come
flooding in  --Oxford, in those  days, was  still a city of aquatint. In her
spacious and quiet streets men walked and spoke as they had done in Newman's
day;  her autumnal  mists, her grey  springtime, and  the rare glory  of her
summer days -- such as  that day  when the chestnut  was  in flower  and the
bells rang out high and clear over her gables and cupolas, exhaled the  soft
vapours of a  thousand years of learning. It was  this  cloistral hush which
gave our laughter its resonance,  and carried  it still, joyously,  over the
intervening clamour.  Here,  discordantly, in Eights Week, came a rabble  of
womankind, some hundreds strong, twittering and fluttering over the  cobbles
and up  the steps, sight-seeing  and  pleasure-seeking, drinking claret cup,
eating  cucumber  sandwiches; pushed  in punts  about the  river,  herded in
droves to the college  barges;  greeted  in the Isis and  in the Union  by a
sudden    display    of    peculiar,    facetious,    wholly     distressing
Gilbert-and-Sullivan badinage, and by peculiar choral effects in the college
chapels. Echoes  of  the  intruders penetrated every corner,  and  in my own
college was no echo, but  an original  fount of the grossest disturbance. We
were giving a ball. The  front quad, where I lived, was floored and  tented;
palms  and azaleas  were banked round the porter's lodge; worst of all,  the
don who  lived  above  me,  a mouse  of  a man  connected with  the  Natural
Sciences, had lent his  rooms for a Ladies' Cloakroom, and a printed  notice
proclaiming this outrage hung not six inches from my oak.

     No one felt more strongly about it than my scout.

     "Gentlemen who haven't got ladies are asked as far  as possible to take
their meals out in the next few days," he  announced despondently. "Will you
be lunching in?"

     "No, Lunt."

     "So as to give the servants a chance, they say. What a chance! I've got
to  buy  a  pin-cushion for the Ladies' Cloakroom. What  do  they  want with
dancing? I don't  see  the reason in it.  There never  was dancing before in
Eights Week. Commcm. now is another matter being in the vacation, but not in
Eights Week as if teas and the river wasn't enough. If you ask me, sir, it's
all on account of the war. It couldn't have happened but for that." For this
was 1923 and for Lunt, as for thousands of others, things could never be the
same as they had been  in 1914.  "Now wine in the evening," he continued, as
was his habit, half in and half out of the door, "or one or two gentlemen to
luncheon, there's reason in.  But not dancing. It all came  in with the  men
back from the war. They were too old  and they didn't know and they wouldn't
learn. That's the truth.  And there's sorne even goes  dancing with the town
at the Masonic --but the proctors will get them, you see. . . . Well, here's
Lord Sebastian. I mustn't stand here  talking when there's  pin-cushions  to
get."

     Sebastian entered -- dove-grey flannel, white crepe-de-chine, a Charvet
tie, my  tie as it happened, a pattern of postage stamps-- "Charles, what in
the  world's  happening at  your  college?  Is  there  a  circus? I've  seen
everything except  elephants. I must say the whole of Oxford has become most
peculiar suddenly.  Last night it was pullulating with women. You're to come
away  at  once, out  of  danger. I've  got  a  motor-car  and  a  basket  of
strawberries and a  bottle of Chateau Peyraguey -- which isn't a wine you've
ever tasted, so don't pretend. It's heaven with strawberries."

     "Where are we going?"

     "To see a friend."

     "Who?"

     "Name of Hawkins. Bring some  money  in case we see anything we want to
buy.  The motor-car is the property of a man called Hardcastle.  Return  the
bits to him if I kill myself; I'm not very good at driving."

     Beyond  the gate, beyond  the winter  garden that was  once the  lodge,
stood an open,  two-seater Morris-Cowley. Sebastian's  Teddy-bear sat at the
wheel. We put him between us --"Take care he's ndt sick"  --  and drove off.
The bells of  St.  Mary's  were chiming  nine; we escaped collision  with  a
clergyman,  black-straw-hatted,  white-bearded,  pedalling  quietly down the
wrong side of the High Street, crossed  Carfax, passed the station, and were
soon in open  country on the Botley Road; open country was easily reached in
those days.

     "Isn't it early?" said Sebastian. "The women are  still doing  whatever
women do  to  themselves before they come downstairs. Sloth has undone them.
We're away. God bless Hardcastle."

     "Whoever he may be."

     "He thought he  wa,s coming  with  us. Sloth undid him too. Well, I did
tell him ten. He's a very gloomy man in my college. He  leads a double life.
At  least  I assume he does.  He couldn't go  on being Hardcastle,  day  and
night, always, could  he? Or he'd die  of it.  He says  he knows my  father,
which is impossible."

     "Why?"

     "No one knows Papa. He's a social leper. Hadn't you heard?"

     "It's a pity neither of us can sing," I said.

     At  Swindon  we turned off the main road  and, as the  mounted high, we
were among dry-stone walls and ashlar ho It was about eleven when Sebastian,
without warning, turned the! car into a cart  track and stopped. It was  hot
enough now toj make us  seek  the shade. On a sheep-cropped knoll under a  I
clump  of elms we  ate the strawberries and drank the wine --  as  Sebastian
promised, they were delicious together -- and we lit fat, Turkish cigarettes
and lay on our backs, Sebastian's eyes on the leaves above him, mine  on his
profile,  while the blue-grey smoke rose,  untroubled  by  any wind, to  the
blue-green shadows  of  foliage, and the  sweet scent of the  tobacco merged
with the sweet! summer  scents around us and the  fumes of the sweet, golden
wine seemed  to lift  us  a  finger's breadth  above  the  turf and  hold us
suspended.

     "Just the  place to bury a  crock of gold," said  Sebastian. "I  should
like to bury something precious in every  place where I've  been  happy  and
then, when I was old and ugly and miserable, I could come back and dig it up
and remember."

     This was my third term since matriculation, but  I date  my Oxford life
from my first meeting with Sebastian, which had  happened, by chance, in the
middle  of the  term before. We  were in different  colleges  and  came from
different schools; I  might  well have spent  my three or four  years in the
University and  never have met him, but  for the chance of his getting drunk
one  evening in my college and of  my having ground-floor rooms in the front
quadrangle.

     I  had  been warned against the dangers  of  these  rooms by my  cousin
Jasper, who alone, when I first came  up, thought  me a suitable subject for
detailed guidance. My father offered me none. Then,  as always,  he eschewed
serious conversation with me. It was not  until I  was within a fortnight of
going up  that he  mentioned the  subject at all;  then  he said, shyly  and
rather  slyly: "I've been talking about you. I met your future Warden at the
Athenaeum. I wanted to talk about Etruscan notions of immortality; he wanted
to  talk  about extension  lectures for the working-class; so we compromised
and  talked about you. I asked him what  your allowance should be.  He said,
'Three  hundred a year; on no account give  him  more; that's  all  most men
have.' I thought that a deplorable answer.  / had more than most men  when /
was  up, and  my recollection is that nowhere else  in the world and  at  no
other time, do  a few hundred pounds,  one  way or  the other, make  so much
difference to one's  importance  and  popularity. I  toyed with the idea  of
giving you six hundred," said my father, snuffling a little, as  he did when
he was amused, "but I reflected that, should the  Warden come to hear of it,
it might sound deliberately impolite.  So I shall give you five  hundred and
fifty."

     I thanked him.

     "Yes, it's indulgent of me,  but it all comes out of capital, you know.
... I suppose this is the time I should  give you advice.  I  never  had any
myself except once from your cousin Alfred. Do you know in the summer before
I was going up, your cousin Alfred  rode over to Boughton especially to give
me a piece of advice? And do you  know what that advice was? 'Ned,' he said,
'there's  one thing I must  beg of you. Always  wear  a tall  hat on Sundays
during  term. It is by that,  more than anything, that a man is judged.' And
do you know," continued my father, snuffling deeply, "I always did? Some men
did,  some didn't.  I  never  saw any  difference between them  or  heard it
commented  on, but I always wore mine. It  only shows what effect  judicious
advice can have, properly  delivered at the right moment. I wish I  had some
for you, but I haven't."

     My cousin  Jasper made  good the loss; he was the  son  of  my father's
elder brother, to whom he referred more than once, only half facetiously, as
"the Head of the Family"; he  was in his fourth year  and,  the term before,
had  come within appreciable distance  of  getting  his rowing blue; he  was
secretary of the Canning  and  president of  the J.C.R.  --  a  considerable
person in college. He called on  me formally during my first week and stayed
to tea;  he ate a very heavy meal of honey-buns, anchovy toast-and  Puller's
walnut cake, then he lit his pipe and,  lying back in the basket-chair, laid
down the rules of conduct which I should follow;  he  covered most subjects;
even to-day I could repeat  much of what he said, word for word. "... You're
reading  History? A perfectly respectable  school. The very worst is English
Literature and the next worst is Modern Greats. You want either a first or a
fourth. There is no value in anything between.  Time  spent on a good second
is time thrown  away. You should  go to the best  lectures  --  Arkwright on
Demosthenes for instance  -- irrespective of whether they are in your school
or not.....Clothes. Dress as you do in a  country house. Never  wear a tweed
coat and flannel trousers -- always a suit.  And  go to a London tailor; you
get better cut and longer credit. .  . . Clubs. Join the Carlton now and the
Grid at the beginning of your second  year. If you want to run for the Union
-- and  it's not a bad thing to do -- make your reputation outside first, at
the Canning or  the Chatham, and begin by speaking on the paper. . .  . Keep
clear of Boar's Hill . . ." The sky over the opposing gables glowed and then
darkened; I put more  coal on the fire and turned on the light, revealing in
their respectability his London-made plus fours  and  his Leander tie. . . .
"Don't  treat  dons like schoolmasters; treat them as you would the vicar at
home. .  . . You'll find you spend  half  your second year  shaking  off the
undesirable  friends  you  made  in  your  first.  .  .  .  Beware   of  the
Anglo-Catholics -- they're all  sodomites with unpleasant  accents. In fact,
steer clear of all the religious groups; they do nothing but harm. . . ."

     Finally, just  as he was going,  he said, "One  last point. Change your
rooms."  They  were  large,  with  deeply  recessed  windows  and   painted,
eighteenth-century panelling; I was lucky as  a freshman to get them.  "I've
seen many a man ruined through having ground-floor rooms in the front quad,"
said my cousin  with  deep gravity. "People  start  dropping in. They  leave
their  gowns here and  come and  collect them before hall; you  start giving
them sherry. Before you know where you are, you've opened a free bar for all
the undesirables of the college."

     I do not know  that I ever, consciously, followed any o this advice. I
certainly  never changed my rooms; there were gillyflowers growing below the
windows which on summer evenings filled them with fragrance.

     It  is  easy,  retrospectively,  to  endow  one's youth  with  a  false
precocity  or  a false innocence;  to  tamper  with  the dates marking one's
stature  on  the edge of  the  door.  I  should  like to think  -- indeed  I
sometimes do think --  that  I decorated those rooms with Morris  stuffs and
Arundel  prints  and that my  shelves were filled  with  seventeenth-century
folios  and  French  novels of  the  second  empire  in  Russia-leather  and
watered-silk.  But this was not the  truth. On my  first afternoon I proudly
hung a reproduction of Van Gogh's  "Sunflowers"  over the fire and set up  a
screen, painted by Roger Fry with a Provencal  landscape, which I had bought
inexpensively when  the Omega workshops  were  sold  up.  I displayed also a
poster by McKnight Kauffer and Rhyme Sheets  from  the Poetry Bookshop, and,
most painful to  recall,  a porcelain figure of Polly  Peachum  which  stood
between  black  tapers  on  the  chimney-piece.  My  books  were  meagre and
commonplace -- Roger Fry's Vision  and Design; the Medici Press edition of A
Shropshire  Lad;  Eminent  Victorians;  some  volumes  of  Georgian  Poetry;
Sinister Street; and South Wind -- and my earliest friends fitted well  into
this background;  they were Collins, a  Wykehamist, an  embryo don, a man of
solid   reading  and  childlike  humour,  and  a  small  circle  of  college
intellectuals,  who  maintained  a  middle  course  of culture  between  the
flamboyant  "aesthetes" and  the proletarian scholars who scrambled fiercely
for facts in  the lodging houses of the Iffley -Road and  Wellington Square.
It was by this circle that I found myself adopted during my first term; they
provided the kind of company I had enjoyed in the  sixth form at school, for
which the  sixth form had prepared me;  but even in the earliest days,  when
the whole business  of  living at Oxford, with rooms  of  my own and  my own
cheque book, was  a source of excitement, I felt  at heart that this was not
all that Oxford had to offer.

     At Sebastian's approach these grey  figures seemed quietly to fade into
the landscape and vanish, like highland sheep  in the misty heather. Collins
had exposed the fallacy of modern aesthetics to me: "... The whole argument'
from Significant Form  stands  or falls by volume.  If you allow Cezanne  to
represent a third dimension  on  his two-dimensional canvas, then  you  must
allow Landseer his gleam of loyalty in the spaniel's eye"-- but it  was  not
until Sebastian, idly  turning the page of Clive Bell's  Art,  read: " 'Does
anyone feel the  same kind of emotion for a butterfly  or a  flower  that he
feels for a cathedral or a picture?' Yes. I do," that my eyes were opened.

     I  knew Sebastian  by sight long before I met him. That was unavoidable
for, from his  first week, he  was  the most conspicuous  man of his year by
reason  of  his  beauty,  which  was arresting,  and  his  eccentricities of
behaviour which seemed to know  no  bounds. My first  sight of him was as we
passed in the door  of Germer's, and, on that occasion, I was struck less by
his looks than by the fact that he was carrying a large Teddy-bear.

     "That," said  the  barber,  as I took  his chair,  "was Lord  Sebastian
Flyte. A most amusing young gentleman."

     "Apparently," I said coldly.

     "The  Marquis of  Marchmain's  second  boy. His  brother, the  Earl  of
Brideshead,  went  down last  term. Now he  was very different, a very quiet
gentleman, quite like an old man. What do you suppose Lord Sebastian wanted?
A hair brush for his  Teddy-bear; it had to have  very stiff bristles,  not,
Lord Sebastian said, to brush him with, but to threaten him  with a spanking
when  he was sulky.  He bought a  very nice  one with an ivory back and he's
having 'Aloysius' engraved on it -- that's  the bear's  name." The man, who,
in  his time,  had had  ample chance to tire  of undergraduate  fantasy, was
plainly captivated by  him.  I, however, remained  censorious and subsequent
glimpses  of Sebastian, driving in a hansom cab and dining at the George  in
false whiskers, did not soften me, although Collins, who  was reading Freud,
had a number of technical terms to cover everything.

     Nor, when at  last  we met, were the circumstances  propitious. It  was
shortly before midnight in early March; I had been entertaining  the college
intellectuals to mulled  ,claret;  the fire was roaring, the air  of my room
heavy with smoke and spice, and my mind weary with metaphysics. I threw open
my  windows  and  from  the  quad outside came  the  not  uncommon sounds of
bibulous  laughter and  unsteady  steps.  A voice  said: "Hold up"; another,
"Come on"; another,  "Plenty  of time  . .  .  House .  . .  till Tom  stops
ringing";  and  another,  clearer  than  the  rest, "D'you  know I feel most
unaccountably unwell. I must leave you a minute,"  and  there appeared at my
window the face  I knew to be  Sebastian's -- but not as I had formerly seen
it, alive and alight with gaiety; he looked at me for a moment with unseeing
eyes and then, leaning forward well into the room, he was sick.

     It was  not unusual for dinner parties to end in that way; there was in
fact a recognized tariff on such occasions for  the comfort of the scout; we
were all learning, by  trial and error, to  carry our wine. There was also a
kind  of insane and  endearing orderliness  about Sebastian's choice, in his
extremity,  of  an  open  window.  But,  when  all  is  said, it remained an
unpropitious meeting.

     His friends bore him to the gate and, in  a few minutes,  his host,  an
amiable Etonian of my year, returned  to apologize. He, too, was  tipsy  and
his  explanations were repetitive and, towards the  end, tearful. "The wines
were  too various," he said; "it was  neither  the quality  nor the quantity
that  was at fault. It  was the mixture. Grasp that and you have the root of
the matter. To understand all is to forgive all."

     "Yes," I said, but it was with a sense of grievance that I faced Lunt's
reproaches next morning.


     "A couple of jugs of mulled claret between the five of you," Lunt said,
"and  this had to happen. Couldn't even get to the window.  Those that can't
keep it down are better without it."

     "It wasn't one of my party. It was someone from out of college."

     "Well, it's just as nasty clearing it up, whoever it was."

     "There's five shillings on the sideboard."

     "So I saw and thank you, but I'd rather not have the money and not have
the mess, any morning."

     I took my gown and left him to his task. I still frequented the lecture
room in those days, and  it was after eleven when  I returned  to college. I
found  my room full of  flowers; what  looked  like, and, in fact, was,  the
entire  day's  stock of a market-stall stood in  every conceivable vessel in
every part of the  room. Lunt was secreting the last  of them in brown paper
preparatory to taking them home.

     "Lunt, what is all this?"

     "The gentleman from last night, sir, he left a note for you."

     The note was  written in conte  crayon on  a whole sheet  of my  choice
Whatman H.P.  drawing paper: I am very contrite. Aloysius  won't speak to me
until he  sees I am forgiven, so please  come to luncheon to-day.  Sebastian
Flyte. It was typical of him, I  reflected, to assume I knew where he lived;
but then, I did know. '

     "A most  amusing gentleman, I'm sure it's quite a pleasure to clean  up
after him. I take it you're  lunching out,  sir.  I told Mr. Collins and Mr.
Partridge so--they wanted to have their commons in here with you."

     "Yes, Lunt, lunching out."

     That luncheon party --  for party it  proved to be -- was the beginning
of a new epoch in my life, but its details are dimmed for me and confused by
so  many others,  almost identical with it, that  succeeded one another that
term and the next, like romping cupids in a Renaissance frieze.

     I went  there uncertainly,  for  it was  foreign ground and there was a
tiny, priggish, warning voice  in my ear which in  the tones of Collins told
me it was seemly to hold  back.  But I was in search  of love in those days,
and  I went full  of curiosity and the faint, unrecognized apprehension that
here, at  last, I should find  that low  door in the wall,  which others,  I
knew, had found before me, which opened on an enclosed and enchanted garden,
which was somewhere, not overlooked by any window, in the heart of that grey
city.

     Sebastian  lived  at Christ Church,  high  in  Meadow Buildings. He was
alone  when I came, peeling a plover's egg taken from the large nest of moss
in the centre of the table.

     "I've just counted them," he said.  "There were five each and two over,
so  I'm having the  two.  I'm  unaccountably  hungry  to-day.  I  put myself
unreservedly  in the hands of Dolbear and Goodall,  and feel so drugged that
I've  begun to  believe that the  whole  of  yesterday evening was a  dream.
Please don't wake me up."

     He was magically beautiful, with that epicene quality which  in extreme
youth sings aloud for love and withers at the first cold wind.

     His room was filled with  a strange jumble of objects -- a harmonium in
a gothic case, an elephant's-foot waste-paper basket, a  dome  of wax fruit,
two disproportionately  large  Sevres vases,  framed drawings  by Daumier --
made all the more incongruous by the austere college furniture and the large
luncheon table. His chimney-piece was  covered with cards of invitation from
London hostesses.

     "That beast Hobson has put Aloysius in  the  bedder," be said. "Perhaps
it's  as well as  there wouldn't have been any plovers' eggs for him.  D'you
know, Hobson hates Aloysius? I wish  I had  a scout like yours. He was sweet
to me this morning where some people might have been quite strict."

     The party assembled. There were three  Etonian freshmen, mild, elegant,
detached young men who had all been to  a  dance in London the night before,
and spoke of it  as  though  it had been the funeral  of a near  but unloved
kinsman. Each as he came  into the  room made  first for the  plovers' eggs,
then noticed Sebastian and then myself with a polite lack of curiosity which
seemed to say: "We should not dream of being so offensive as to suggest that
you never met us before."

     "The first this year," they said. "Where do you get them?"

     "Mummy sends them from Brideshead. They always lay early for her."

     When the eggs were  gone and we  were eating  the lobster Newburg,  the
last guest arrived.

     "My dear," he said, "I couldn't get away before. I was lunching with my
p-p-preposterous tutor. He thought it very odd my leaving when I did. I told
him I had to change for F-f-footer."

     From the moment  he  arrived the  newcomer  took  charge, talking in  a
luxurious,  self-taught stammer;  teasing;  caricaturing  the guests  at his
previous luncheon; telling  lubricious anecdotes of  Paris and  Berlin;  and
doing  more  than entertain -- transfiguring  the party,  shedding  a vivid,
false light of eccentricity upon everyone so that the three prosaic Etonians
seemed suddenly to become creatures of his fantasy.

     This, I did not  need telling, was  Anthony Blanche, the "aesthete" par
excellence, a byword of iniquity from  Cherwell Edge  to Somerville, a young
man who seemed to me, then,  fresh from  the sombre company of  the  College
Essay Society, ageless as  a lizard,  as  foreign as a Martian. He  had been
pointed out to  me  often in the streets, as he moved  with his own peculiar
stateliness,  as  though  he had not fully  accustomed himself to  coat  and
trousers and was more at his ease  in heavy, embroidered robes; I had  heard
his voice  in the George  challenging the conventions; and  now meeting him,
under  the spell of Sebastian, I found myself enjoying him voraciously, like
the fine piece of cookery he was.

     After  luncheon  he  stood  on  the balcony with a megaphone  which had
appeared surprisingly among  the bric-a-brac  of  Sebastian's  room, and  in
languishing, sobbing tones  recited  passages from  The  Waste  Land to  the
sweatcred and muffled throng that was on its way to the river.

     " 'I, Tiresias,  have fpresuffered all,'"  he  sobbed to them from  the
Venetian arches --
     "Enacted on this same d-divan or b-bed,
     I who have sat by Thebes below the wall
     And walked among the l-l-lowest of the dead. . . ."

     And then, stepping lightly into the room,  "How I have surprised  them!
All bJDoatmen are Grace Darlings to me."

     We sat on sipping  Cointreau while the mildest and most detached of the
Etonians sang "Home they  brought Her warrior dead" to his own accompaniment
on the harmonium.

     It was four o'clock before we broke up.

     Anthony Blanche was the first to go.  He took formal and  complimentary
leave of  each of  us in turn. To Sebastian he said: "My dear, I should like
to  stick you full of barbed arrows like  a p-p-pin-cushion," and  to me: "I
think it's perfectly brilliant of Sebastian to have discovered you. Where do
you lurk?  I shall come down your burrow  and  ch-chiwy you  out like an old
st-t-toat."
     The others left  soon after him. I  rose to go with them, but Sebastian
said: "Have some more Cointreau," so I stayed and later he said, "I  must'go
to the Botanical Gardens."

     "Why?"
     
     "To see the ivy."

     - It seemed a good enough reason and I went with him. He took my arm as
we walked under the walls of Merton.

     "I've never been to the Botanical Gardens," I said.

     "Oh,  Charles, what a lot you have  to learn! There's a  beautiful arch
there and more different kinds  of ivy than  I  knew  existed. I don't  know
where I should be without the Botanical Gardens."
     When  at  length I returned to my rooms and found them exactly as I had
left  them that morning, I  detected  a jejune air that  had  not  irked  me
before. What  was  wrong?  Nothing  except the golden daffodils seemed to be
real. Was it the screen? I turned it face to the wall. That was better.

     It was the end of the screen. Lunt never liked it, and after a few days
he took it away, to an obscure refuge he had under the stairs, full  of mops
and buckets.

     That day was the beginning of my friendship with Sebastian, and thus it
came about, that  morning in June, that I  was lying beside him in the shade
of  the high elms,  watching  the smoke from  his  lips  drift  up into  the
branches.

     Presently we drove on and in another hour were hungry. We stopped at an
inn, which  was half farm also, and ate  eggs and bacon, pickled walnuts and
cheese, and drank our beer in a sunless parlour where an old clock ticked in
the shadows and a cat slept by the empty grate.

     We drove  on  and  in  the  early afternoon  came to  our  destination:
wrought-iron gates and twin, classical lodges on a village green, an avenue,
more  gates, open  parkland, a  turn  in  the  drive; and suddenly a new and
secret landscape opened before us. We '  were  at the  head of a  valley and
below us, half a mile distant,  prone in  the sunlight, grey and gold amid a
screen of boskage, shone the dome and columns of an old house.

     "Well?" said Sebastian, stopping the car. Beyond the dome  lay receding
steps of water and round it, guarding and hiding it, stood the soft hills.

     "Well?"

     "What a place to live in!" I said.

     "You must see the garden front and the fountain." He leaned forward and
put the car into  gear. "It's where my family live." And even then,  rapt in
the  vision, I  felt, momentarily,  like a  wind stirring  the tapestry,  an
ominous chill at the words he used -- not "That is my home," but "It's where
my family live."

     "Don't worry," he continued,  "they're all away. You won't have to meet
them."

     "But I should like to."

     "Well, you can't. They're in London, dancing."

     We drove round the  front into a  side court --  "Everything's shut up.
We'd  better  go  in  this  way"--and  entered  through  the  fortress-like,
stone-flagged, stone-vaulted passages of the servants'  quarters -- "I  want
you  to  meet  Nanny Hawkins.  That's what  we've come  for" -- and  climbed
uncarpeted,  scrubbed  elm stairs,  followed  more passages  of  wide boards
covered in the centre by a thin  strip of  drugget, through passages covered
by linoleum, passing  the  wells  of many minor staircases  and many rows of
crimson and  gold  fire  buckets, up a final  staircase, gated  at the head,
where at last we reached the nurseries, high in the dome  in  the centre  of
the main block.

     Sebastian's  Nanny  was  seated at the  open window;  the fountain  lay
before  her,  the lakes,  the temple,  and,  far  away on the last  spur,  a
glittering obelisk; her hands lay open in her lap and, loosely between them,
a rosary; she was fast asleep. Long hours of work in her youth, authority in
middle life, repose  and  security in her  age, had  set their stamp on  her
lined and serene face.
     "Well," she said, waking; "this is a surprise."

     Sebastian kissed her.

     "Who's this?" she said, looking at me. "I don't think I know him."

     Sebastian introduced us.

     "You've come just  the right time. Julia's here for the day. She was up
with me nearly all the morning telling me  about London. Such a time they're
all having. It's dull without them. Just Mrs. Chandler and  two of the girls
and old Bert. And then  they're all going on holidays and the boiler's being
done out in August and you going, to see his Lordship in Italy, and the rest
on visits,  it'll be^ October before  we're  settled  down  again. Still,  I
suppose Julia must have her enjoyment the same as other young ladies, though
what they  always want to go to London for in the best of the summer and the
gardens all out, I never have understood. Father Phipps was here on Thursday
and  I  said  exactly the  same to  him," she added as though  she had  thus
acquired sacerdotal authority for her opinion.

     "D'you say Julia's here?"

     "Yes, dear, you must have just missed her. It's the Conservative Women.
Her Ladyship was  to have done them, but she's poorly.  Julia won't be long;
she's leaving immediately after her speech, before the tea."

     "I'm afraid we may miss her again."

     "Don't do that,  dear,  it'll  be such  a surprise to  her seeing  you,
though she ought to wait for the tea, I told her, it's what the Conservative
Women come for. Now what's the news? Are you studying hard at your books?"

     "Not very, I'm afraid, Nanny."

     "Ah, cricketing all day long I expect, like your brother. He found time
to study, too, though. He's not been here since Christmas, but he'll be here
for  the Agricultural I expect. Did  you see this piece about Julia  in  the
paper ? She brought it down for me. Not that it's nearly good enough of her,
but what  it says is very nice. 'The lovely daughter whom Lady  Marchmain is
bringing out this season  .  .  . witty as well as ornamental . . . the most
popular debutante,' well  that's  no  more than  the truth,  though it was a
shame to cut  her hair; such a  lovely  head  of hair she  had just like her
Ladyship's.  I said to Father Phipps it's not natural He said, 'Nuns do it,'
and I said, 'Well, surely, Father, you aren't  going to  make  a nun  out of
Lady Julia? The very idea!'"

     Sebastian  and the old wbman talked  on. It was a charming  room, oddly
shaped to conform with  the curve of  the dome. The walls were  papered in a
pattern of ribbon  and roses. There was a rocking horse in the corner and an
oleograph  of the Sacred Heart over  the  mantelpiece;  the empty  grate was
hidden by a bunch of pampas grass and  bulrushes; laid out on the top of the
chest of drawers and carefully dusted were the collection of small  presents
which had been brought home to her at various  times by her children, carved
shell  and lava,  stamped leather, painted  wood, china, bog oak, damascened
silver, blue-John, alabaster, coral, the souvenirs of many holidays.
     Presently Nanny said: "Ring the bell, dear, and we'll have  some tea. I
usually go down to Mrs. Chandler, but we'll have it up here to-day. My usual
girl  has gone to London with the others. The new one is  just up  from  the
village. She didn't know  anything  at first, but she's coming along nicely.
Ring the bell."

     But Sebastian said we had to go.

     "And Miss Julia? She will be upset when she hears.  It  would have been
such a surprise for her."
     "Poor  Nanny," said Sebastian when we left the nursery.  "She does have
such a  dull life. I've a good mind to bring her to Oxford  to live with me,
only she'd always  be trying to send me to church. We must go quickly before
my sister gets back."

     "Which are you ashamed of, her or me?"

     "I'm ashamed of myself," said Sebastian gravely. "I'm not going to have
you get  mixed  up  with my family.  They're so madly charming.  All my life
they've been taking things away from me.  If they once got  hold of you with
their charm, they'd make you their friend, not mine, and I won't let them."

     "All right," I said. "I'm perfectly content. But am I not  going to  be
allowed to see any more of the house?"

     "It's all shut up. We  came to see Nanny. On Queen Alexandra's Day it's
all open for a shilling. Well, come and look if you want to. ..."

     He led me through a baize door into a dark corridor; I could  dimly see
a  gilt  cornice  and   vaulted  plaster  above;  then,   opening  a  heavy,
smooth-swinging,  mahogany  door,  he led  me  into  a darkened hall.  Light
streamed through the cracks  in  the shutters. Sebastian unbarred  one,  and
folded it back; the mellow  afternoon  sun  flooded in, over the bare floor,
the  vast, twin fireplaces o sculptured marble,  the coved ceiling frescoed
with classic  deities and  heroes, the gilt mirrors and scagliola pilasters,
the islands  of sheeted furniture.  It was a glimpse only,  such as might be
had  from the top  of an  omnibus  into a  lighted ballroom; then  Sebastian
quickly shut out the sun.

     "You see," he said; "it's like this."

     His  mood had changed since  we had drunk our wine under the elm trees,
since we had turned the corner of the drive and he had said: "Well?"

     "You see, there's  nothing to see. A few pretty things I'd like to show
you one day --  not now.  But there's the chapel.  You must see that. It's a
monument of art nouveau."

     The last architect to work it Brideshead had sought to unify its growth
with a-colonnade and  flanking pavilions. One of these  was the  chapel.  We
entered  it  by  the public  porch (another door  led direct to  the house);
Sebastian  dipped  his fingers  in  the  water stoup,  crossed  himself  and
genuflected; I copied him. "Why do you do that?" he asked crossly.

     "Just good manners."

     "Well, you  needn't on  my  account. You wanted to  do sightseeing; how
about this?"
     The  whole  interior  had  been  gutted,  elaborately  refurnished  and
redecorated  in  the  arts-and-crafts  style  of  the  last  decade  of  the
nineteenth  century.   Angels  in   printed  cotton  smocks,  rambler-roses,
flower-spangled meadows, frisking lambs, texts in  Celtic script, saints  in
armour, covered the  walls in an intricate pattern of clear, bright colours.
There  was a triptych of pale  oak,  carved so as  to  give it  the peculiar
property of seeming  to have  been moulded in plasticine. The sanctuary lamp
and all the metal furniture were of bronze, hand-beaten  to the patina of  a
pockmarked  skin; the altar  steps had a carpet of  grass-green, strewn with
white and gold daisies.

     "Golly," I said.

     "It was Papa's  wedding  present to Mamma. Now,  if you've seen enough,
we'll go."

     On the  drive  we passed a closed Rolls-Royce driven by a chauffeur; in
the back  was a vague,  girlish figure who looked  round  at us through  the
window.

     "Julia," said Sebastian. "We only just got away in time." We stopped to
speak to  a man with a bicycle -- "That  was old Bat," said Sebastian -- and
then were away, past the wrought-iron gates, past the lodges and out on  the
road heading back to Oxford.

     "I'm  sorry," said Sebastian after a  time. "I'm afraid I  wasn't  very
nice this  afternoon.  Brideshead often has that effect on me. But  I had to
take you to see Nanny."

     Why? I wondered;  but said nothing (Sebastian's life was governed  by a
code of  such imperatives. "I must have pillar-box red pyjamas,"  "I have to
stay in bed until the sun works round to the windows," "I've absolutely  got
to drink champagne  to-night!") except,  "It had quite the reverse effect on
me."

     After  a  long  pause  he  said  petulantly, "I  don't keep asking  you
questions about your family."

     "Neither do I about yours."

     "But you look inquisitive."

     "Well, you're so mysterious about" them."

     "I hoped I was mysterious about everything."

     "Perhaps I am rather curious about people's families--you sec, it's not
a thing I know about. There  is only my father and myself. An  aunt  kept an
eye on me for a time but my father drove her abroad. My mother was killed in
the war."

     "Oh . . . how very unusual."

     "She went to Serbia  with the  Red Cross. My father has been rather odd
in the head ever since. He  just lives alone in London with no friends,  and
footles about collecting things."

     Sebastian  said, "You don't know what you've been saved. There are lots
of us. Look them up in Debrett."

     His mood was lightening now. The  further  we drove from Brideshead the
more he seemed to cast off his uneasiness -- the almost furtive restlessness
and irritability that had possessed him. The sun was behind  us as we drove,
so that we seemed to be in pursuit of our own shadows.

     "It's half-past five. We'll get to Godstow in time for dinner, drink at
the Trout, leave Hardcastle's motor car and walk back by the river. Wouldn't
that be best?"

     That is the full account of my first brief visit to Brideshead; could I
have  known then that so small a thing, in other  days,  would be remembered
with tears by a middle-aged captain of infantry?


     Chapter Two

     towards the end of that summer term I received the last visit and Grand
Remonstrance of my cousin Jasper. I  was  just  free of  the schools, having
taken  the last paper of History Previous  on the afternoon before; Jasper's
subfusc suit and white tie proclaimed him still in the thick of  it; he'had,
too, the  exhausted but resentful air of one who  fears he has failed to  do
himself  full justice on  the  subject  of  Pindar's Orphism. Duty alone had
brought him to  my rooms that afternoon, at  great inconvenience  to himself
and, as it happened,  to me, who, when he caught me in the door,  was  on my
way to make final  arrangements about a dinner I was giving that evening. It
was one of several parties designed  to  comfort Hardcastle --  one  of  the
tasks  that had lately fallen to Sebastian and me since,  by leaving his car
out, we had got him into grave trouble with the proctors.

     Jasper would not sit  down; this was to be no cosy chat; he  stood with
his back  to  the fireplace and, in  his  own phrase, talked to me  "like an
uncle."

     ". . . I've tried to  get  in touch with  you several times in the last
week or two. In fact, I have the impression you are avoiding me.  If that is
so, Charles, I can't say I'm surprised.

     "You  may  think  it  none  of  my business, but  I  feel  a  sense  of
responsibility. You know as well as I do that since your  -- well, since the
war, your father  has not been really  in touch  with things -- lives in his
own world. I don't want to sit back and see you making mistakes which a word
in season might save you from.

     "I expected you to  make mistakes your first  year. We all do. I got in
with  some  thoroughly objectionable  O.S.C.U.  men  who ran  a  mission  to
hop-pickers during the long  vac.  But you, my  dear  Charles,  whether  you
realize it or not,  have gone straight, hook, line and sinker, into the very
worst set in the University. You  may think that,  living  in digs, I  don't
know  what goes on in college; but  I  hear  things. In fact, I hear all too
much. I find that  I've become a figure of  mockery  on  your account at the
Dining Club. There's that chap Sebastian Flyte you seem inseparable from. He
may  be  all right, I don't know.  His brother Brideshead  was a  very sound
fellow. But this friend of yours looks odd to me, and he gets himself talked
about. Of  course,  they're  an odd family. The Marchmains  have lived apart
since the war, you know. An extraordinary thing; everyone thought  they were
a  devoted couple. Then  he went  off to  France with his  Yeomanry and just
never came back. It  was as if he'd been killed. She's  a Roman Catholic, so
she can't get a divorce -- or  won't, I expect.  You can do anything at Rome
with money, and they're enormously rich. Flyte may be all right, but Anthony
Blanche--now there's a man there's absolutely no excuse for."

     "I don't particularly like him myself," I said.

     "Well,  he's  always hanging round  here, and  the stiffer  element  in
college don't like  it. They  won't stand for  him  at the  House. He was in
Mercury again last night. None  of these  people you go about with  pull any
weight in their own colleges,  and that's  the real test. They think because
they've got a lot of money to throw about, they can do anything.

     "And  that's another thing. I  don't know what allowance my uncle makes
you,  but I don't mind betting you're  spending  double. All this" he  said,
including in a wide sweep of his hand the evidences of profligacy about him.
It was true; my room had cast its austere winter  garments, and, by not very
slow stages,  assumed a richer wardrobe. "Is that paid  for?" (The  box of a
hundred cabinet Partagas  on the sideboard.) "Or those?" (A dozen frivolous,
new books on the table.) "Or those?" (A Lalique  decanter  and glasses.) "Or
that peculiarly  noisome object?"  (A human  skull lately purchased from the
School  of  Medicine,  which, resting in  a bowl  of roses,  formed, at  the
moment,  the chief decoration of my table. It bore  the motto  Et in Arcadia
ego inscribed on its forehead.)

     "Yes," I said, glad to be clear  of one charge. "I had to  pay cash for
the skull."

     "You  can't  be doing any work. Not that that  matters, particularly if
you're making something  of your career elsewhere  -- but are you?  Have you
spoken  at  the Union or at any  of the clubs? Are you connected with any of
the  magazines?  Are  you even making a position in the O.U.D.S.?  And  your
clothes!" continued my cousin. "When you  came up I remember advising you to
dress  as you would in a country house. Your present get-up seems an unhappy
compromise between the correct wear for a theatrical party at Maidenhead and
a glee-singing competition in a garden suburb.

     "And drink -- no one minds a man getting tight once or twice a term. In
fact,  he ought to, on certain occasions. But I hear  you're constantly seen
drunk in the middle of the afternoon."
     He  paused,  his  duty  discharged.  Already  the  perplexities of  the
examination school were beginning to re-assert themselves in his mind.

     "I'm sorry, Jasper," I  said. "I know it must be  embarrassing for you,
but I happen to like this  bad set. I  like  getting drunk at  luncheon, and
though I haven't yet  spent  quite double my allowance, I undoubtedly  shall
before the end of term. I usually have a glass of champagne about this time.
Will you join me?"

     So my  cousin  Jasper  despaired  and, I  learned later,' wrote  to his
father on  the  subject of my excesses who, in his turn, wrote to my father,
who took no  action or  particular thought in  the matter, partly because he
had disliked my uncle for nearly sixty years  and  partly because, as Jasper
had said, he lived in his own world now, since my mother's death.

     Thus, in broad outline, Jasper  sketched the more prominent features of
my first year; some detail may be added on the same scale.

     I  had committed  myself  earlier to spend  the  Easter  vacation  with
Collins and,  though  I would have  broken my word without  compunction, and
left  my former  friend friendless, had Sebastian made a  sign, no sign  was
made;  accordingly  Collins and I spent  several  economical and instructive
weeks together in  Ravenna. A bleak wind blew from  the Adriatic among those
mighty tombs. In a hotel bedroom, designed for a warmer season, I wrote long
letters to Sebastian  and called daily at the  post office for his  answers.
There were two, each from a different address, neither giving any plain news
of himself, for he wrote in a  style of remote fantasy  (. .-. Mummy and two
attendant poets have three bad colds in the head, so I have come here. It is
the feast  of S. Nichodemus of Thyatira, who was martyred by having goatskin
nailed to his pate,  and  is  accordingly  the  patron of bald  heads.  Tell
Collins, who I am sure will be  bald before us.  There  are too  many people
here,  but one, praise heaven! has an ear-trumpet, and that keeps me in good
humour. And now I must try to catch  a fish. It is too far to send it to you
so I will keep the backbone . . .) which left me fretful. Collins made notes
for a  little thesis pointing out the inferiority of the original mosaics to
their photographs.  Here  was planted the seed  of  what  became his  life's
harvest. When, many years later, there appeared the first massive volume  of
his still unfinished work on Byzantine Art, I was touched to find, among two
pages of  polite, preliminary acknowledgments of  debt, my own name:....  To
Charles  Ryder,  with  the aid of  whose  all-seeing  eyes I  first  saw the
Mausoleum of Galla Placidia and San Vitale . . .

     I sometimes wonder whether, had it not been for Sebastian, I might have
trodden the same path  as Collins round the cultural  water-wheel. My father
in  his youth sat for All Souls and,  in a year of hot competition,  failed;
other  successes  and honours came his  way later,  but that  early  failure
impressed itself on him,  and through him on me,  so that I  came up with an
ill-considered sense that there  lay the proper and natural goal of the life
of reason. I, too, should doubtless have failed, but, having failed, I might
perhaps  have slipped  into a  less  august academic life elsewhere.  It  is
conceivable, but not, I believe,  likely, for the hot spring of anarchy rose
from deep  furnaces where was no solid earth, and burst into the sunlight --
a  rainbow  in its cooling vapours  -- with  a  power  the  rocks could  not
repress.

     In the event, that Easter vacation formed a short stretch of level road
in the precipitous descent of which  Jasper warned me. Descent or ascent? It
seems to me that I grew younger daily with each adult habit that I acquired.
I had  lived  a  lonely  childhood  and  a  boyhood  straitened by  war  and
overshadowed by bereavement; to the hard bachelordom of English adolescence,
the premature dignity and authority of the school system, I had  added a sad
and grim strain of my own. Now, that  summer term  with Sebastian, it seemed
as though I was being given a brief spell of what I had never known, a happy
childhood, and though its toys were silk  shirts and liqueurs and cigars and
its naughtiness high in the catalogue  of grave sins, there was something of
nursery freshness about  us  that fell little short of the joy of innocence.
At the end of the term I took my first schools; it was necessary to pass, if
I was to remain at Oxford, and pass  I did, after a week  in which I forbade
Sebastian my rooms and sat  up  to a late hour,  with iced  black coffee and
charcoal biscuits, cramming myself with  the neglected texts.  I remember no
syllable of  them now, but the other, more ancient,  lore which  I  acquired
that term will be with me in one shape or another to my last hour.

     "I  like this bad set and I like getting  drunk at luncheon"; that  was
enough then. Is more needed now?

     Looking back, now,  after twenty  years, there is little  I  would have
left  undone or done otherwise.  I  could match my cousin Jasper's game-cock
maturity with  a sturdier fowl. I could tell him  that all the wickedness of
that time was like the spirit  they mix with  the pure grape of  the  Douro,
heady stuff full of dark ingredients; it  at once enriched and  retarded the
whole  process of adolescence  as the  spirit checks the fermentation of the
wine, renders it undrinkable, so that it must lie in the dark, year in, year
out, until it is brought up at last fit for the table.
     I could tell him, too, that to know  and love one other  human being is
the  root  of all wisdom. But  I felt no need for these sophistries as I sat
before  my  cousin,  saw him, freed  from his ,  inconclusive  struggle with
Pindar,  in his dark grey suit, his white tie, his scholar's gown; heard his
grave tones and, all the time, savoured the gillyflowers in full bloom under
my  windows. I had my secret and sure  defence, like a talisman worn in  the
bosom, felt for in the moment of danger, found and firmly grasped. So I told
him  what was not in fact the truth, that I usually had a glass of champagne
about that time, and asked him to join me.


     On the  day after  Jasper's Grand Remonstrance  I received  another, in
different terms and from an unexpected source.

     All the term I had  been  seeing rather more of Anthony Blanche than my
liking for  him warranted. I lived now among his  friends, but our  frequent
meetings were more of his choosing than mine, for I held him in considerable
awe.

     In  years he was barely my  senior, but he seemed  then to be  burdened
with  the  experience of  the Wandering Jew.  He was indeed  a nomad  of  no
nationality.

     An attempt had been made in his childhood to make an Englishman of him;
he was two years at  Eton; then in the  middle of the war  he had defied the
submarines, rejoined his mother in the Argentine, and a clever and audacious
schoolboy was added to the valet, the maid, the two chauffeurs,'the Pekinese
and the second  husband. Criss-cross about the world he travelled with them,
waxing in  wickedness like  a  Hogarthian  page-boy.  When  peace  came they
returned to Europe to hotels and furnished villas, spas, casinos and bathing
beaches. At the age of fifteen, for a wager, he was disguised as a  girl and
taken to play at the big table in the Jockey Club at Buenos Aires;  he dined
with Proust  and Gide and was  on closer  terms with Cocteau and Diag-hilev;
Firbank sent him his novels with fervent inscriptions; he  had aroused three
irreconcilable feuds in Capri; he had practised  black art in Cefalu; he had
been cured of drug-taking in California and of an OEdipus complex in Vienna.

     At times we all seemed  children beside  him -- at most  times, but not
always, for there was a bluster and zest in Anthony which the rest of us had
shed somewhere in our  more leisured adolescence, on the playing field or in
the school-room; his  vices flourished less  in the pursuit of pleasure than
in  the  wish to shock, and in the midst of his  polished exhibitions I  was
often reminded of an urchin I had once seen in Naples,  capering derisively,
with obscene, unambiguous gestures, before a party of  English  tourists; as
he told  the tale of  his  evening  at the gaming table one could see in the
roll of his eye just how he  had glanced,  covertly, over the dwindling pile
of chips at his stepfather's party; while we had been rolling one another in
the mud at football and gorging ourselves with crumpets, Anthony had  helped
oil fading  beauties on sub-tropical sands and  had  sipped his aperitif  in
smart little bars, so that the savage we had tamed was still rampant in him.
He was competitive in the bet-you-can't-do-this style of the private school;
you had only to mention the name of your bootmaker for him  to  recommend an
Armenian at  Biarritz  who catered especially  for fetishists, or to  name a
house where  you  had stayed, for him to describe a  palace he frequented in
Madrid. He was  cruel, too, in the wanton, insect-maiming manner of the very
young and 'fearless, like a  little  boy, charging,  head down,  small fists
whirling, at the school prefects.

     He asked me to dinner, and I was a little disconcerted to find  that we
were to dine alone. "We are going to Thame," he said. "There is a delightful
hotel there,  which luckily  doesn't appeal to the Bullingdon. We will drink
Rhine wine  and  imagine ourselves  . .  . where?  Not  on a j-j-jaunt  with
J-J-Jorrocks, anyway. But first we will have our aperitif."

     At the George bar he ordered "Four Alexander cocktails, please," ranged
them before him  with  a loud "Yum-yum" which drew every eye, outraged, upon
him. "I expect  you would prefer  sherry, but, my dear Charles, you  are not
going to have sherry. Isn't this a delicious concoction? You don't  like it?
Then I will drink it for you. One, two, three, four,  down the red lane they
go. How the students stare!" And he led me out to the waiting motor car.

     "I  hope we shall  find no undergraduates there. I am  a little out  of
sympathy with them for the moment. You  heard about their treatment of me on
Thursday? It was too naughty. Luckily I was wearing my oldest pyjamas and it
was  an evening of oppressive  heat, or I might have been seriously  cross."
Anthony had a habit of putting  his face  near one  when he spoke; the sweet
and creamy cocktail  had tainted his  breath. I leaned away from him  in the
corner of the hired car.
     "Picture me, my dear,  alone  and studious. I  had just bought a rather
forbidding book  called Antic Hay, which I knew  I must read before going to
Garsington on Sunday, because everyone  was bound to talk about it, and it's
so banal saying you have not read the book of  the  moment,  if you haven't.
The solution I suppose is not to go to Garsington,  but that didn't occur to
me until  this moment. So, my dear, I had an omelet and a peach and a bottle
of Vichy water and put on my pyjamas and settled down to read. I must say my
thoughts wandered, but I kept turning the pages and watching the light fade,
which in Peckwater, my dear, is quite an experience -- as darkness falls the
stone seems positively to decay under one's eyes. I  was reminded of some of
those leprous  fa?ades in the vieux  port at Marseille, until suddenly I was
disturbed by such a  bawling and caterwauling as you never heard, and there,
down in the little  piazza, I  saw a mob of about twenty terrible young men,
and do you know what they were  chanting 'We want Blanche. We want Blanche!'
in  a kind of litany. Such a  public declaration!  Well, I saw it was all up
with  Mr. Huxley  for the evening, and I must say I had reached  a  point of
tedium when any interruption was welcome. I was stirred by the bellows, but,
do  you  know, the louder they  shouted the  shyer they seemed  ?  They kept
saying 'Where's  Boy  ?' 'He's Boy  Mulcaster's friend,' 'Boy must bring him
down.' Now you may or may not know 'Boy' Mulcaster. Seen at a distance -- at
some considerable distance  --  you  might  think him  rather  personable: a
lanky, old-fashioned young man, you might think; but look at  him closer and
his face all falls to  pieces  in an idiot gape. People are rather free with
the word 'degenerate.' They have  even used  it of me. If  you want  to know
what a real degenerate is,  look at  Boy Mulcaster. He came to Le Touquet at
Easter and, in some extraordinary way, I seemed to have  asked him  to stay.
Well, my mother is used  to me, but  my poor stepfather found Mulcaster very
hard to  understand. You see my stepfather is a d-d-dago and therefore has a
very  high  opinion  of  the  English  aristocracy. He  couldn't  quite  fit
Mulcaster into  his idea of a lord, and  really I  couldn't explain  him; he
lost some infinitesimal sum at cards, and as a result expected me to pay for
all  his  treats  --  well,  Mulcaster  was  in this party; I could see  his
ungainly form shuffling about below and hear him saying: 'It's no good. He's
out. Let's go  back and have a drink?'  So  then I  put  my  head out of the
window and called to him: 'Good  evening,  Mulcaster,  old sponge and toady,
are you lurking  among the hobbledehoys? Have you come to repay me the three
hundred francs I lent you for the poor drab you picked up in the Casino ? It
was a niggardly sum for her trouble, and what a trouble, Mulcaster. Come  up
and pay me, poor hooligan!'

     "That, my dear, seemed  to  put  a little  life  into them, and up  the
stairs they came, clattering. About six of  them came into my room, the rest
stood  mouthing outside. My dear, they  looked too extraordinary.  They  had
been having one of their ridiculous club dinners, and  they were all wearing
coloured tail-coats -- a sort of  livery.  'My dears,' I said to them,  'you
look  like  a lot of  most  disorderly footmen.' Then one of them, rather  a
juicy little piece, accused me of unnatural vices. 'My dear,' I said, 'I may
be inverted but I am not insatiable. Come back when you are alone' Then they
began to blaspheme in  a very shocking manner, and suddenly I, too, began to
be annoyed. Really, I thought, when I think  of all the hullabaloo there was
when I was seventeen, and the Due  de Vincennes (old Armand,  of course, not
Philippe) challenged me to a duel for an affair of the heart,  and very much
more  than the  heart, I assure  you, with the duchess (Stefanie, of course,
not old  Poppy)  --  now, to submit to impertinence from these pimply, tipsy
virgins . .  . Well, I gave up  the light, bantering tone  and let myself be
just a little offensive.

     "Then they began saying, 'Get hold  of him. Put him in Mercury.' Now as
you know I have two sculptures by Brancusi and several pretty  things  and I
did not want  them to start  getting rough,  so  I said, pacifically,  'Dear
sweet clodhoppers, if you knew anything of sexual psychology you would  know
that nothing  could  give  me keener pleasure  than  to be manhandled by you
meaty boys. It w.ould be an ecstasy of the very naughtiest kind. I So if any
of you  wishes to be my partner  in joy come and seize me. If,  on the other
hand,  you simply wish to  satisfy  some obscure and less  easily classified
libido and see me bathe, come with me quietly, dear louts, to the fountain.'

     "Do you know,  they all looked  a little foolish at that? I walked down
with them and no one came within a  yard of me. Then I got into the fountain
and, you know,  it was really most refreshing,  so I sported  there a little
and struck some  attitudes, until they turned about and walked sulkily home,
and I heard Boy Mul-caster saying, 'Anyway, we did put  him in Mercury.' You
know,  Charles,  that is just what  they'll be saying in thirty years' time.
When  they're  all  married  to scraggy  little women  like  hens  and  have
cretinous,  porcine sons  like  themselves,  getting  drunk at the same club
dinner in  the  same  coloured  coats,  they'll still  say,  when my name is
mentioned,  'We  put1  him  in  Mercury  one  night,'  and  their
barn-yard daughters will  snigger and think  their father was quite a dog in
his day, and what a pity he's grown so dull. Oh, la fatigue du Nord!"

     It  was not,  I knew, the first time  Anthony had  been ducked, but the
incident seemed much on his mind, for he reverted to it again at dinner.

     "Now  you  can't  imagine  an unpleasantness  like  that  happening  to
Sebastian, can you?"

     "No," I said; I could not.

     "No,  Sebastian  has  charm."  He held  up his  glass  of  hock  to the
candle-light and repeated, "Such charm. Do you know, I went round to call on
Sebastian  next  day? I thought the  tale  of my  evening's adventures might
amuse him. And what do you think I  found -- besides, of course, his amusing
toy bear?  Mulcaster and two of his cronies of the night before. They looked
very  foolish and  Sebastian, as composed as Mrs. P-p-ponsonby-de-Tomkyns in
P-p-punch,  said,  'You know Lord  Mulcaster, of course,' and the oafs said,
'Oh, we just came to see how  Aloysius was,' for they find the toy bear just
as amusing as we do -- or, shall I hint, just a teeny bit  more? So off they
went. And I said, 'S-s-sebastian, do  you  realize that those  s-sycophantic
s-slugs insulted me last night, and but for the warmth  of the weather might
have given  me a s-s-severe  cold?' and he said, 'Poor things. I expect they
were drunk.' He has a kind word for everyone you see; he has such charm.

     "I can see he has completely captivated you, my dear Charles. Well, I'm
not surprised. Of course, you haven't known him as long as I have. I  was at
school with him. You wouldn't believe  it, but in those days people  used to
say he was  a  little  bitch;  just a  few unkind  boys  who knew  him well.
Everyone in pop liked him, of  course,  and all the masters. I expect it was
really  that they were jealous of  him. He never seemed to get into trouble.
The rest of us  were constantly being beaten in  the most savage way, on the
most  frivolous  pretexts,  but  never  Sebastian. He was the only boy in my
house who was never beaten at all. I can see him now, at the age of fifteen.
He never had spots you know; all  the other boys were  spotty. Boy Mulcaster
was positively scrofulous.  But not Sebastian. Or did he have one,  rather a
stubborn one at the back of his neck ? I think, now, that he did. Narcissus,
with one pustule. He and I were both Catholics,  so we  used to  go to  mass
together. He used to spend such a'time in the confessional, I used to wonder
what he had to say, because  he never  did anything  wrong; never  quite; at
least, he never got punished. Perhaps he was just being charming through the
grille. I  left under what  is called a 'cloud,' you know--I can't think why
it is called  that; it seemed to me a glare of unwelcome light; the  process
involved  a   series  of   harrowing  interviews  with  my  tutor.  It   was
disconcerting  to  find how  observant that  mild old  man proved to be. The
things he knew about me, which I thought no one -- except possibly Sebastian
--  knew. It  was  a lesson  never  to  trust  mild old  men --  or charming
schoolboys; which?

     "Shall we have another bottle of this wine, or of  something different?
Something different, some bloody,  old  Burgundy, eh? You  see,  Charles,  I
understand all your tastes. You must  come to France  with me and  drink the
wine. We will go at the vintage. I will take you to stay  at the Vincennes'.
It  is all made up with  them  now, and he has the finest wine in France; he
and the Prince  de Portallon--I will take you there, too. I think they would
amuse  you, and of course they would love you. I want  to introduce you to a
lot of  my friends. I have told Cocteau about you. He is all  agog. You see,
my dear  Charles, you are  that very rare thing, An Artist. Oh yes, you must
not  look bashful. Behind that cold, English, phlegmatic exterior you are An
Artist. I have seen those little drawings you keep hidden away in your room.
They are  exquisite. And you, dear  Charles, if you will understand  me, are
not exquisite; but not at all. Artists are  not  exquisite. I am; Sebastian,
in a kind of  way,  is exquisite;  but the Artist is an eternal type, solid,
purposeful, observant -- and, beneath it all, p-p-passionate, eh, Charles ?

     "But  who recognizes  you? The other day  I was speaking  to  Sebastian
about you, and I said, 'But you know  Charles  is an artist. He draws like a
young  Ingres,' and  do you know what Sebastian said?  'Yes, Aloysius  draws
very prettily, too, but of course  he's rather more modern.' So charming; so
amusing.

     "Of course those that have charm don't really need brains. Stefanie  de
Vincennes  intoxicated  me four  years  ago; but  I was  besotted with  her,
crawling with love like lice. My dear, I even used the same coloured varnish
for my toe-nails.  I used her words and lit my cigarette in the same way and
spoke with her tone on the  telephone so that the duke used to carry on long
and intimate  conversations with me, thinking that I was her. It was largely
that which  put  his  mind  on pistol and  sabres in such  an  old-fashioned
manner. My  stepfather thought it  an excellent education for me. He thought
it would make me grow out of what he calls my 'English habits.' Poor man, he
is very South American. Well, I have kept my 'English habits,' but I think I
lost  something else. At seventeen  I might have been  anything;  an  artist
even; it is not impossible; it is in the blood. At twenty-one I  am what you
see me. To have squandered everything, so young, on a woman who, except that
I was  more  presentable,  would  as soon have  had her  chiropodist for her
lover. ... I  never heard anyone speak an ill word of  Stefanie, except  the
duke; everyone loved her, whatever she did."

     Anthony  had lost his stammer in the deep waters of his old romance. It
came floating back to him, momentarily, with the  coffee and liqueurs. "Real
G-g-green Chartreuse, made before the expulsion of the monks. There are five
distinct  tastes as it trickles over the  tongue. It is  like  swallowing  a
sp-spectrum.  Do you wish  Sebastian was with us? Of  course you do. Do I? I
wonder. How our thoughts do run on that little bundle of charm to be sure. I
think you  must be  mesmerizing  me,  Charles. I  bring  you here,  at  very
considerable expense, my dear,  simply to talk  about myself,  and  I find I
talk of no one except Sebastian. It's odd because there's really  no mystery
about him except how he came to be born of such a very sinister family.

     "I forget if you know his family. Now  there, my dear, is1 a
subject  for the poet  --  for  the poet  of  the future  who must be also a
psychoanalyst -- and perhaps  a diabolist, too.  I  don't suppose he'll ever
let you meet them. He's far too clever. They're all charming, of course, and
quite, quite gruesome. Do you  ever  feel is something  a teeny bit gruesome
about Sebastian? No? Perhaps I imagine it; it's simply that he loofo so like
the rest of them, sometimes.

     "There's Brideshead  who's something archaic, out of a cave that's been
sealed for  centuries.  He  has the  face as  though  an  Aztec sculptor had
attempted a  portrait  of  Sebastian;  he's a  learned bigot,  a ceremonious
barbarian, a snowbound  lama. . . . Well, anything  you like. But not Julia,
oh,  not  Lady Julia.  She is one thing  only, Renaissance tragedy. You know
what she looks like. Who could  help it? Her photograph appears as regularly
in the illustrated  papers as the advertisements for Beecham's Pills. A face
of flawless  Florentine Quattrocento beauty; almost  anyone else with  those
looks would  have  been tempted to become artistic; not Lady Julia; she's as
smart as --  well, as smart as Stefanie. Nothing greenery-yallery about her.
So gay, so correct, so  unaffected. Dogs and children love  her, other girls
love  her  --  my  dear,  she's  a  fiend  --  a  passionless,  acquisitive,
intriguing,  ruthless filler. I wonder if she's incestuous. I  doubt it; all
she wants is power. There ought to be  an Inquisition  especially  set up to
burn her. There's another sister, too, I believe, in the schoolroom. Nothing
is known of  her yet except that her governess went mad  and drowned herself
not long  ago. I'm sure she's abominable. So you see there was  really  very
little left for poor Sebastian to do except be sweet and charming.

     "It's  when  one gets  to  the parents that a  bottomless pit opens. My
dear, such a pair. How  does Lady Marchmain  manage it? It  is  one  of  the
questions of the age. You  have seen her? Very, very beautiful; no artifice,
her  hair just turning grey in elegant silvery streaks, no rouge, very pale,
huge-eyed -- it  is extraordinary how large those eyes look and how the lids
are veined blue where anyone else would have touched them with  a  fingertip
of paint; pearls and a  few great  starlike  jewels, heirlooms,  in  ancient
settings, a voice as quiet as a prayer, and as powerful. And Lord Marchmain,
well, a little fleshy perhaps, but very handsome, a magnified, a voluptuary,
Byronic, bored, infectiously slothful,  not at all the sort of man you would
expect  to  see  easily  put  down.  And that  Reinhardt nun, my  dear,  has
destroyed him --but utterly. He daren't show his great purple face anywhere.
He  is  the last, historic,  authentic case  of someone being hounded out of
society. Brideshead won't  see him,  the  girls  mayn't, Sebastian  does, of
course,  because  he's so charming.  No one  else goes  near him.  Why, last
September Lady March-main  was in Venice staying at the Palazzo Fogliere. To
tell you the truth she was just a teeny bit ridiculous in Venice. She never,
went near the Lido, of course, but she was always drifting about the  canals
in  a gondola with Sir Adrian Person -- such attitudes, my dear, like Madame
Recamier; once I passed them and I caught the eye of the Fogliere gondolier,
whom, of course, I knew, and, my dear, he gave me such a wink.  She  came to
all the parties in a sort of cocoon of gossamer, my dear, as though she were
part of some Celtic  play or a heroine from Maeterlinck; and she would go to
church. Well, as you know, Venice is the one town in Italy where no one ever
has gone to church. Anyway,  she was rather a figure of fun  that  year, and
then  who  should turn up, in the  Maltons' yacht, but poor Lord  Marchmain.
He'd taken a little palace there, but was he allowed in? Lord Malton put him
and  his valet  into  a  dinghy, my dear, and transhipped him there and then
into the  steamer for  Trieste. He hadn't even his mistress with him. It was
her yearly holiday. No  one  ever knew  how  they heard Lady  Marchmain  was
there. And, do  you know, for a week Lord Malton slunk about as if he was in
disgrace? And he was  in  disgrace. The Principessa Fogliere gave a ball and
Lord Malton was not asked nor anyone from his yacht -- even the  de Panoses.
How  does  Lady Marchmain  do it?  She has  convinced  the  world that  Lord
Marchmain is  a monster.  And what is  the  truth ? They  were  married  for
fifteen  years  or so and then Lord Marchmain went to the war; he never came
back  but formed a connection  with a  highly talented  dancer. There  are a
thousand such  cases.  She refuses  to divorce  him because she is so pious.
Well, there have been cases of that before. Usually, it arouses sympathy for
the adulterer; not for Lord Marchmain  though. You would think  that the old
reprobate  had tortured her, stolen her patrimony, flung her  out of  doors,
roasted, stuffed and eaten his  children, and gone frolicking about wreathed
in all  the flowers of Sodom and Gomorrah; instead of  what? Begetting  four
splendid children by her, handing over to her Brideshead and Marchmain House
in St. James's  and all the money  she can  possibly want to spend, while he
sits with a snowy shirt-front at Larue's with a personable, middle-aged lady
of the theatre, in the most conventional Edwardian style. And  she meanwhile
keeps a small gang  of enslaved  and emaciated  prisoners for her  exclusive
enjoyment.  She sucks their blood.  You can  see the  tooth-marks  all  over
Adrian  Porson's shoulders when  he  is bathing. And he,  my  dear,  was the
greatest, the only, poet of our time. He's bled dry; there's nothing left of
him.  There  are five or six others  of  all  ages and sexes,  like  wraiths
following her round.  They never escape once she's had her teeth into  them.
It is witchcraft. There's no other explanation.

     "So you see we mustn't blame  Sebastian if  at  times he seems a little
insipid  -- but then you don't  blame  him, do you, Charles? With that  very
murky  background,  what  could  he do except  set  up as  being simple  and
charming, particularly as he isn't very  well endowed  in the Top Storey. We
couldn't claim that for him, could we, much as we love him?

     "Tell me candidly, have you ever heard Sebastian  say anything you have
remembered for five minutes? You  know, when I hear him talk, I  am reminded
of  that in  some ways nauseating  picture of 'Bubbles.' Conversation,  as I
know it, is like juggling; up go the balls and the  balloons and the plates,
up and  over,  in and  out, spinning  and leaping,  good solid  objects that
glitter in the footlights and fall  with a bang if  you miss  them. But when
dear Sebastian  speaks it is like  a little  sphere of soapsuds drifting off
the  end  of an old clay pipe, anywhere, full of  rainbow light for a second
and then--"phut!--vanished, with nothing left at all, nothing.

     "Stefanie was like that:  never dull;  at  least  never really dull; at
least  not  for the first year;  and then,  my dear, when  she had  become a
habit,  Boredom  grew  like  a  cancer in the  breast,  more  and more;  the
anguished suspense  of watching the lips  you hunger for, framing the words,
the death sentence, of sheer triteness! I felt the  oxygen being  pumped out
of the atmosphere all round me; I felt myself expiring in a vacuum while all
the  while I could see through the bell-glass the loved executioner. And she
went on with the murder in a gentle, leisurely way, quite, quite unconscious
that she  was doing any harm. It  is not an experience I would recommend for
An Artist at the tenderest stage of his growth, to be strangled with charm."

     And  then Anthony spoke of the proper experiences of an artist, of  the
appreciation and criticism  and stimulus he should expect  from his friends,
of the  hazards he should take in the pursuit of emotion,  of one thing  and
another while  I  fell drowsy and  let  my mind wander a little. So we drove
home, but his words, as we swung over Magdalen Bridge, recalled the  central
theme  of  our dinner.  "Well, my  dear, I've  no  doubt  that  first  thing
to-morrow you'll  trot round to Sebastian and  tell him everything I've said
about  him. And I will tell you  two things: one, that it will not  make the
slightest difference to Sebastian's feeling for me and, secondly, my dear --
and  I  beg you to  remember  this though  I have plainly bored you  into  a
condition  of coma  --  that he will  immediately  start talking  about that
amusing bear of his. Good night. Sleep innocently."


     But I slept ill. Within an hour of tumbling drowsily to bed I was awake
again, thirsty,  restless, hot and cold by turns and  unnaturally excited. I
had drunk a lot,  but neither the mixture of wines, nor  the Chartreuse, nor
the Mavrodaphne Trifle, nor even the fact that I had sat immobile and almost
silent throughout the evening instead of clearing the fumes,  as We normally
did,  in J some light  frenzy of drunken nonsense, explains  the distress of
that hag-ridden  night. No dream  distorted  the images of the evening  into
horrific shapes. It seemed I heard St. Mary's strike each quarter till dawn.
The figures of nightmare were already racing through my brain as  throughout
the wakeful hours I repeated to myself Anthony's words, catching his accent,
soundlessly,  and  the  stress and cadence of  his  speech,  while under the
closed lips I saw  his pale, candle-lit face as it had fronted me across the
dinner  table.  Once during  the hours of darkness I  brought  to  light the
drawings in my  sitting-room and sat at the open  window, turning them over.
Everything  was  black  and  dead-still  in  the  quadrangle;  only  at  the
quarter-hours the bells  awoke and sang over the gables.  I drank soda water
and smoked  and  fretted, until  light began to break  and  the rustle  of a
rising breeze turned me back to my bed.


     When I  awoke Lunt  was at the open door. "I let you lie,"  he said, "I
didn't think you'd be going to the Corporate Communion."

     "You were quite right."

     "Most of the freshmen  went and quite a few second- and third-year men.
It's all on account of the new chaplain. There was never Corporate Communion
before  -- just  Holy  Communion for  those that  wanted  it and  chapel and
evening chapel."

     It  was the  last Sunday of term; the last of the year. As I went to my
bath the quad filled with gowned and surpliced undergraduates  drifting from
chapel to hall. As I came back they were standing in groups, smoking; Jasper
had cycled in from his digs to be among them.

     I walked  down the empty Broad to breakfast, as I often did on Sundays,
at  a  teashop  opposite  Balliol.  The  air  was  full  of  bells  from the
surrounding spires and the sun, casting long shadows across the open spaces,
dispelled the  fears  of night. The teashop  was hushed as a library; a  few
solitary men  from Balliol and Trinity, in  bedroom slippers, looked up as I
entered, then turned back  to their  Sunday newspapers.  I  ate my scrambled
eggs and  bitter  marmalade with the zest which in youth follows a  restless
night. I  lit  a  cigarette  and sat on,  while  one by one  the Balliol and
Trinity men paid their bills and  shuffled away, slipslop, across the street
to their  colleges. It was nearly eleven  when I left, and during my walk  I
heard  the change-ringing cease  and, all over the town, give  place  to the
single chime, which warned the city that service was about to start.

     None  but  church-goers seemed abroad that morning;  undergraduates and
graduates and wives and tradespeople, walking with that unmistakable English
church-going  pace  which eschewed equally  both haste  and idle sauntering;
holding, bound in black lamb-skin and white celluloid, the liturgies of half
a  dozen  conflicting sects; on their way to St. Barnabas,  St. Columba, St.
Aloysius, St. Mary's,  Pusey  House,  Blackfriars  and  heaven  knows  where
besides; to restored Norman and revived Gothic, to travesties of  Venice and
Athens; all in the summer sunshine going  to the temples of their race. Four
proud infidels  alone proclaimed their dissent; four  Indians from the gates
of Balliol, in  freshly laundered white flannels and neatly pressed blazers,
with snow-white  turbans on  their heads,  and in their  plump,  brown hands
bright cushions, a picnic basket and  the Unpleasant  Plays of Bernard Shaw,
making for the river.

     In  the  Cornmarket  a  party of tourists  stood  on the  steps  of the
Clarendon  Hotel discussing a road map with their chauffeur, while opposite,
through  the  venerable  arch of the  Golden  Cross, I  greeted  a group  of
undergraduates  from my college who  had breakfasted there and now  lingered
with  their pipes  in the  creeper-hung courtyard.  A troop  of  Boy Scouts,
church-bound too, bright with  coloured  ribbons  and  badges, loped past in
unmilitary array, and at Carfax I met the Mayor and corporation, in  scarlet
gowns and gold chains,  preceded by wand bearers and followed by no  curious
glances, in procession to the preaching at the City Church. In St. Aldates I
passed a crocodile of choir-boys, in starched collars and  peculiar caps, on
their way to Tom Gate and the Cathedral. So  through a world of piety I made
my way to Sebastian.

     He  was out. I  read  the letters,  none  of them  very revealing, that
littered  his  writing  table, and scrutinized the  invitation cards on  his
chimney-piece --  there  were  no  new additions. Then I  read Lady into Fox
until he returned.

     "I've been  to mass at the Old Palace,"  he said. "I  haven't been  all
this term, and Monsignor Bell asked me to dinner twice last week, and I know
what that  means. Mummy's been writing to him. So I  sat bang in front where
he couldn't help seeing me and absolutely shouted the Hail Marys at the end;
so that's over. How was dinner with Antoine? What did you talk about?"

     "Well, he did most of the talking. Tell me, did you know him at Eton?"

     "He was sacked my first  half.  I remember seeing him about. He  always
has been a noticeable figure."

     "Did he go to church with you?"

     "I don't think so, why?"

     "Has he met any of your family?"

     "Charles,  how very peculiar you're being  to-day. No. I don't  suppose
so."

     "Not your mother at Venice?"

     "I believe she  did say something  about it. I forget what. I think she
was  staying with some  Italian cousins of ours, the Foglieres,  and Anthony
turned  up  with  his  family  at the hotel, and  there was  some  party the
Foglieres  gave that they weren't |  asked  to. I know Mummy said  something
about  it  when  I  told her he was a  friend of mine. I can't  think why he
should want to  go to a party at the Foglieres' -- the princess is so  proud
of her English blood that she talks of nothing else. Anyway, no one objected
to Antoine -- much, I gather. It was his mother they thought difficult."

     "And who is the Duchess de Vincennes?"

     "Poppy?"

     "Stefanie."

     "You must ask Antoine that. He claims to have had an affair with her."

     "Did he?"

     "There was something  --I forget what. I think he  was  stuck in a lift
with her once at Miami and the old duke made a scene."

     "Not a grand passion?"

     "Good God, no! Why all this interest?"

     "I just wanted  to find out how  much truth there was  in what  Anthony
said last night."

     "I shouldn't think-a word. That's his great charm."

     "You may think it charming. I think it's devilish. Do you know he spent
the whole of yesterday  evening trying  to turn  me against  you, and almost
succeeded?"

     "Did he? How silly. Aloysius wouldn't  approve of  that at  all,  would
you, you pompous old bear?"


     Chapter Three

     I returned home  for the Long Vacation without plans and without money.
To cover end-of-term  expenses I had sold my Omega screen to Collins for ten
pounds, of  which  I now kept four; my last cheque overdrew my  account by a
few shillings, and I  had been  told that, without my  father's authority, I
must  draw no more. My next allowance was not due until  October. I was thus
faced with a bleak prospect  and, turning the matter over in my mind, I felt
something not far off remorse for the prodigality of the preceding weeks.

     I  had  started the term with my battels paid and over a hundred pounds
in  hand. All  that had gone,  and not  a penny paid  out where I  could get
credit.  There had  been no  reason for  it,  no great pleasure unattainable
else;  it  had gone  in  ducks  and  drakes.  Sebastian often chid  me  with
extravagance, but I resented  his censure for a large part of my  money went
on  and with  him. His own  finances  were perpetually,  vaguely distressed.
"It's all done by lawyers," he said helplessly, "and I suppose they embezzle
a lot.  Anyway, I never seem to  get  much. Of course,  Mummy  would give me
anything I asked for."

     "Then why don't you ask her for a proper allowance?"

     "Oh, Mummy likes everything to  be a present. She's so sweet," he said,
adding one more line to the picture I was forming of her.

     Now Sebastian had disappeared into that other life  of his  where I was
not asked to follow, and I was left, instead, forlorn and regretful.

     How ungenerously in later life we disclaim the virtuous  moods  of  our
youth, living  in retrospect long, summer days of  unreflecting dissipation,
Dresden figures of pastoral gaiety! Our wisdom,  we prefer  to think, is all
of our own gathering, while,  if the truth be told,  it  is, most of it, the
last  coin of a legacy that dwindles  with time. There  is no  candour in  a
story of early  manhood which  leaves out of account  the  home-sickness for
nursery morality, the regrets  and resolutions of amendment, the black hours
which,  like zero  on the roulette  table, turn  up with roughly  calculable
regularity.

     Thus I spent the first afternoon at home, wandering from room  to room,
looking from the plate-glass  windows in turn on the  garden and the street,
in a mood of vehement self-reproach.
     My  father, I knew,  was in the house, but  his library was inviolable,
and it was not until just before dinner that he appeared to greet me. He was
then in  his late fifties,  but it  was his  idiosyncrasy to seem much older
than his years; to see him one  might have put him  at  seventy, to hear him
speak at nearly eighty. He came to me now, with the shuffling mandarin-tread
which he affected, and a shy smile of welcome. When  he dined at home -- and
he seldom dined elsewhere•-- he wore a f rogged velvet smoking suit  of
the kind which had  been  fashionable many  years  before  and was to  be so
again, but, at that time, was a deliberate archaism.

     "My dear boy, they never told  me you  were  here.  Did you have a very
exhausting  journey?  They gave you  tea?  You are well? I have just made  a
somewhat audacious purchase from Sonerschein's -- a terra-cotta bull of  the
fifth century.  I was examining it and forgot your arrival. Was the carriage
very full? You had a corner seat?"  (He  travelled so rarely himself that to
hear of others doing so always excited his  solicitude.) "Hayter brought you
the evening paper ? There is no news, of course -- such a lot of nonsense."

     Dinner was announced. My father from long habit took a book with him to
the table and  then, remembering my presence, furtively dropped it under his
chair. "What do you like to  drink? Hayter, what'have  we for Mr. Charles to
drink?"

     "There's some whiskey."

     "There's whiskey. Perhaps you like something else? What else have we?"

     "There isn't anything else in the house, sir."

     "There's nothing else.  You must tell Hayter what you would like and he
will  get it  in. I never  keep any wine now.  I am  forbidden it and no one
comes  to see  me. But while  you are here, you must have what you like. You
are here for long?"

     "I'm not quite sure, Father."

     "It's a very long vacation," he said  wistfully. "In my day we  used to
go on what  were called 'reading parties,' always in mountainous areas. Why?
Why," he repeated petulantly, "should alpine scenery be thought conducive to
study?"

     "I  thought of putting in some  time at  an art school --  in  the life
class."

     "My dear boy, you'll find them all shut. The students go to Barbison or
such  places and paint in the  open  air. There was an institution in my day
called a 'sketching club' -- mixed  sexes" (snuffle), "bicycles"  (snuffle),
"pepper-and-salt  knickerbockers,  holland umbrellas and,  it was  popularly
thought, free love." (Snuffle) "Such a lot of nonsense. I expect they  still
go on. You might try that."

     "One of  the  problems of  the  vacation  is  money,  Father."  "Oh,  I
shouldn't worry  about  a thing like that at your age." "You  see, I've  run
rather short." "Yes?" said my father without any sound of interest. "In fact
I don't quite know how I'm going to get through the next two months."

     "Well,  I'm  the  worst  person to come  to for advice. I've never been
'short,' as you so painfully call it. And yet what else  could you say? Hard
up?  Penurious?  Distressed?  Embarrassed?  Stony-broke?"  (Snuffle) "On the
rocks? In Queer Street? Let us  say you are in Queer Street  and leave it at
that. Your grandfather once said to me, 'Live within your means, 'but if you
do get into difficulties, come to me. Don't go  to the  Jews.' Such a lot of
nonsense. You try. Go to those gentlemen in Jermyn Street who offer advances
on note of hand only. My dear boy, they won't give you a sovereign."

     "Then what do you suggest my doing?"

     "Your cousin Melchior was imprudent with his investments and got into a
very queer street. He went to Australia."

     I  had  not  seen  my  father so gleeful since  he  found two pages  of
second-century papyrus between the leaves of a Lombardic breviary.

     "Hayter, I've dropped my book."

     It was recovered for  him  from under his feet and  propped against the
epergne. For the rest of dinner he was silent save for an occasional snuffle
of merriment which could not, I thought, be provoked by the work he read.

     Presently we left  the table and  sat  in  the garden-room; and  there,
plainly, he put  me out of his mind; his thoughts, I knew, were far away, in
those distant ages  where he  moved at ease,  where time passed in centuries
and  all  the figures were defaced  and the names  of  his  companions  were
corrupt  readings of  words ,  of quite other meaning. He sat in an attitude
which to anyone else would have been one of extreme discomfort, askew in his
upright armchair,  with his book held high and obliquely  to  the light. Now
and then  he took a  gold pencil case from his watch-chain and made an entry
in the margin. The windows were open to the summer night; the ticking of the
clocks, the distant murmur of traffic on the Bayswater Road, and my father's
regular  turning  of  the  pages  were  the  only sounds.  I had  thought it
impolitic to smoke a cigar while pleading poverty; now in desperation I went
to my room and fetched one. My father did not look up. I pierced it, lit it,
and  with renewed  confidence said, "Father,  you surely  don't want rne  to
spend the whole vacation here with you?"

     "Eh?"

     "Won't you find it rather a bore having me at home for so long?"

     "I trust I should not betray such  an  emotion even if I felt it," said
my father mildly and turned back to his book.

     The evening  passed.  Eventually all over  the  room clocks of  diverse
pattern musically chimed eleven.  My father  closed his book and removed his
spectacles. "You are very welcome, my dear boy," he said. "Stay as  long  as
you find it convenient." At the door he paused and turned back. "Your cousin
Melchior worked his passage to Australia before the mast" (Snuffle) "What, I
wonder, is 'before the mast'?"


     During the  sultry  week that followed  my  relations  with  my  father
deteriorated sharply. I saw little of 'him during the day; he spent hours on
end in the library; now and  then  he  emerged  and I would hear him calling
over  the banisters:  "Hayter.  Call  me  a cab."  Then  he  would  be away,
sometimes for  half an hour or  less, sometimes for a whole day; his errands
were never explained. Often  I saw trays going up to him at odd hours, laden
with meagre nursery snacks -- rusks,  glasses of milk, bananas and so forth.
If we met in a passage or on the stairs he would look at me vacantly and say
"Ah-ha" or "Very warm," or "Splendid, splendid," but in the evening, when he
came to  the  garden-room in his velvet smoking suit, he  always  greeted me
formally.

     The dinner table was our battlefield.

     On the second evening  I took my book with  me to the  dining-room. His
mild  and wandering  eye fastened  on it  with sudden  attention,  and as we
passed through the  hall he surreptitiously left his  own on  a side  table.
When  we sat down he said plaintively: "I  do think, Charles, you might talk
to  me. I've had a very exhausting day. I  was  looking forward  to a little
conversation."

     "Of course, Father. What shall we talk about?"

     "Cheer  me  up. Take me out of myself"; (petulantly) "tell me all about
the new plays."

     "But I haven't been to any."

     "You  should, you know, you  really should. It's not natural in a young
man to spend all his evenings at home."

     "Well, Father,  as  I  told  you,  I  haven't  much money  to spare for
theatre-going."

     "My dear boy,  you must not  let money become your master in this  way.
Why, at your age, your cousin Melchior was part owner of a musical piece. It
was one of his few happy ventures. You should go to the play as part of your
education. If  you read  the lives of eminent  men you will  find that quite
half of them made their first acquaintance with drama from the gallery. I am
told there is no pleasure  like  it.  It  is  there  that you  find the real
critics and devotees. It is called 'sitting with the gods.'

     The expense is nugatory, and even while you wait  for admission  in the
street you are diverted by 'buskers.' We will sit with the gods together one
night. How do you find Mrs. Abel's cooking?"

     "Rather insipid."

     "It was inspired by my sister Philippa. She  gave Mrs. Abel  ten menus,
and they have never been varied. When I am alone I do not notice what I eat,
but now that you are here, we must have a  change. What would you like? What
is in season? Are you fond of  lobsters?  Hayter, tell Mrs. Abel to give  us
lobsters to-morrow night."

     Dinner that  evening consisted  of a  white, tasteless soup, over-fried
fillets  of sole with  a  pink sauce, lamb cutlets propped against a cone of
mashed potato, stewed pears in jelly standing on a kind of sponge cake.

     "It is purely out of respect for your Aunt Philippa that I dine at this
length. She  laid it down  that a three-course dinner was  middle-class. 'If
you once let the servants get their way,' she said, 'you will find  yourself
dining nightly off  a single chop.' There is nothing I should like  more. In
fact, that is exactly what I do when I go to my club on Mrs. Abel's  evening
out. But your aunt ordained that at home I must have soup and three courses;
some  nights it  is  fish,  meat and savoury, on others it  is meat,  sweet,
savoury -- there are a number of possible permutations.

     "It  is remarkable  how  some people are able to put  their opinions in
lapidary form; your aunt had that gift.

     "It  is odd to think that she and I once dined together nightly -- just
as you and I do, my boy. Now she made  unremitting efforts to take me out of
myself. She used to tell me about her reading. It was in her  mind to make a
home with me, you  know. She thought I should get into funny  ways if I  was
left on  my own. Perhaps I  have got into funny ways. Have I? But it  didn't
do. I got her out in the end."

     There was an unmistakable note of menace in his voice as he said this.

     It was largely by reason of my Aunt Philippa that I now found myself so
much  a stranger in my father's house.  After my mother's death she came  to
live with my father and me, no doubt, as  he said,  with the  idea of making
her home with us. I knew nothing, then, of the nightly agonies at the dinner
table. My  aunt made  herself my  companion,  and  I  accepted  her  without
question. That  was for a year. The first change was that  she re-opened her
house  in  Surrey which  she  had meant to sell,  and  lived there during my
school  terms,  coming  to  London   only  for  a  few  days'  shopping  and
entertainment. In the summer we went to lodgings  together at  the sea-side.
Then in my last year at  school she left England. "/ got her out in the end"
he  said with derision and triumph  of that kindly lady, and he knew that  I
heard in the words a challenge to myself.

     As  we  left  the dining-room  my father  said,  "Hayter, have you said
anything yet to Mrs. Abel about the lobsters I ordered for to-morrow?"

     "No, sir."

     "Do not do so."

     "Very good, sir."

     And when  we reached our chairs in  the garden-room he said:  "I wonder
whedier Hayter had any intention of mentioning lobsters. I rather think not.
Do you know, I believe he thought I was joking?"


     Next day, by chance, a  weapon  came to hand. I met an old acquaintance
of school  days,  a x contemporary of mine  named  Jorkins. I never had much
liking for Jorkins. Once, in my Aunt Philippa's day, he had come to tea, and
she  had condemned him as being probably charming at heart, but unattractive
at first sight. Now I greeted  him  with enthusiasm and asked him to dinner.
He came  and  showed  little alteration. My father must have  been warned by
Hayter that there was a guest, for instead of his velvet suit he wore a tail
coat; this, with a black waistcoat,  very high collar, and very narrow white
tie, was his evening dress; he wore it with an  air of melancholy as  though
it were court mourning, which he had assumed in early youth and, finding the
style sympathetic, had retained. He never possessed a dinner jacket.

     "Good evening, good evening. So nice of you to come all this way."

     "Oh, it wasn't far," said Jorkins, who lived in Sussex Square.

     "Science  annihilates distance,"  said my father  disconcertingly. "You
are over here on business?"

     "Well, I'm in business, if that's what you mean."

     "I  had  a  cousin who was in business--you wouldn't  know him;  it was
before your time.  I  was telling Charles about him only the other night. He
has been much in my mind. He came," my father  paused to give full weight to
the bizarre word -- "a cropper."

     Jorkins giggled nervously. My father fixed him with a look of reproach.

     "You find his misfortune  the subject  of mirth? Or perhaps  the word I
used was unfamiliar; you no doubt would say that he 'folded up.'"

     My father was master of the situation. He had made a little fantasy for
himself,  tha Jorkins should be an American, and throughout the  evening he
played  a  delicate,   one-sided  parlour-game  with  him,   explaining  any
peculiarly  English terms  that occurred  in  the  conversation, translating
pounds into dollars, and courteously  deferring to him  with such phrases as
"Of course, by your standards .  . ."; "All this must seem very parochial to
Mr. Jorkins"; "In the vast spaces to which you are accustomed . . ." so that
my  guest  was left  with  the  vague  sense that  there was a misconception
somewhere as to his identity,  which  he never got the chance of explaining.
Again and again during dinner he sought  my father's eye,  thinking to  read
there the simple statement that this  form of address was an elaborate joke,
but met instead a look of such mild benignity that he was left baffled.

     Once I thought my father  had gone too far, when he said:  "I am afraid
that, living in London, you must sadly miss your national game."

     "My national game?" asked Jorkins, slow in  the  uptake,  but  scenting
that here, at last, was the opportunity for clearing the matter up.

     My  father  glanced  from him  to me  and  his expression changed  from
kindness  to  malice; then back to kindness again as he  turned once more to
Jorkins. It was the look  of a  gambler who lays  down  fours against a full
house. "Your national  game," he  said  gently,  "cricket" and  he  snuffled
uncontrollably,  shaking  all  over  and wiping his  eyes  with  his napkin.
"Surely, working  in  the City,  you find  your  time  on the  cricket-field
greatly curtailed?"

     At  the door of the dining-room he left us.  "Good night, Mr. Jorkins,"
he said.  "I hope  you  will pay us another  visit when  you next 'cross the
herring pond.'"

     "I say, what did your governor mean by that? He seemed almost  to think
I was American."

     "He's rather odd at times."

     "I mean  all that about  advising  me  to visit  Westminster Abbey.  It
seemed rum."

     "Yes. I can't quite explain."

     "I  almost  thought he was  pulling my  leg," said  Jorkins  in puzzled
tones.


     My father's counter-attack was delivered a few days later.

     He sought me out and said, "Mr. Jorkins is still here?"

     "No, Father, of course not. He only came to dinner."

     "Oh, I hoped he  was staying  with  us. Such a versatile young man. But
you will be dining in?"

     "Yes."

     "I am giving a  little dinner party to diversify  the'rather monotonous
series of your evenings  at home.  You think Mrs. Abel is up to it? No.  But
our guests are  not  exacting. Sir Cuthbert and Lady Orme-Herrick  are  what
might be called the  nucleus. I hope  for a little  music afterwards. I have
included in the invitations some young people for you."

     My  presentiments of  my father's plan were surpassed by the actuality.
As  the   guests   assembled   in  the   room  which   my  father,   without
self-consciousness, called "the Gallery,"  it was plain to me that  they had
been carefully chosen for my discomfort. The "young people" were Miss Gloria
Orme-Herrick, a student of the cello; her fiance, a bald young man  from the
British Museum; and  a monoglot Munich publisher. I  saw my father snuffling
at me from  behind a case of ceramics as he stood with them. That evening he
wore, like a chivalric badge of battle, a small red rose in his button-hole.

     Dinner  was  long and chosen, like  the guests, in a spirit  of careful
mockery. It  was not of Aunt Philippa's choosing, but had been reconstructed
from a much earlier period, long before he was of an age to dine downstairs.
The dishes were ornamental in appearance  and regularly alternated in colour
between  red  and white. They and the  wine  were equally  tasteless.  After
dinner my  father led the  German publisher to the  piano and then, while he
played,  left the dining-room to show Sir Cuthbert Orme-Herrick the Etruscan
bull in the gallery.

     It was a  gruesome evening, and I was astonished to find, when at  last
the party broke up,  that it  was only a few minutes after eleven. My father
helped himself to a glass of barley-water and  said: "What very dull friends
I have! You  know,  without the  spur  of your presence I should never  have
roused myself to invite them. I have been  very negligent about entertaining
lately. Now that you are paying me such a long visit, I will have  many such
evenings. You liked Miss Gloria Orme-Herrick?"

     "No."

     "No?  Was it her  little moustache you  objected to or  her very  large
feet? Do you think she enjoyed herself?"

     "No."

     "That was my  impression also. I  doubt if any of our guests will count
this  as  one  of  their  happiest  evenings.  That  young  foreigner played
atrociously, I thought.  Where  can  I  have  met  him? And  Miss.Constantia
Smethwick -- where can  I have met her? But  the obligations of  hospitality
must be observed. As long as you are here, you shall not be dull."

     Strife was internecine during  the next fortnight, but I  suffered  the
more, for my father  had greater reserves to draw on  and  a wider territory
for manoeuvre, while I was  pinned to  my bridgehead between the uplands and
the sea.  He never declared his  war  aims,  and  I do not to this  day know
whether they were purely punitive  -- whether  he had really at the  back of
his mind some geopolitical  idea of getting me out of  the  country, as Aunt
Philippa had been  driven to Bordighera and my cousin Melchior to Darwin, or
whether, as seems most likely, he fought for the sheer  love of a battle, in
which indeed he shone.

     I received  one letter  from Sebastian, a conspicuous object which  was
brought to me in my father's presence one day  when he was lunching at home;
I saw him  look curiously at it and bore it away to read in solitude. It was
written  on,  and  enveloped  in,   heavy   late-Victorian  mourning  paper,
black-coroneted and black-bordered. I read it eagerly: --

     brideshead castle
     wiltshire

     Dearest Charles,-

     I found a box  of this paper at the back of a bureau so I must write to
you as I am mourning for my lost innocence. It never looked like living. The
doctors despaired of it from the start.

     Soon I am  off to Venice  to stay with my papa in his  palace of sin. I
wish you were coming. I wish you were here.

     I  am never  quite  alone. Members  of my  family  keep turning up  and
collecting luggage and going away again, but the white raspberries are ripe.

     I have a good mind not to take Aloysius to Venice. I don't  want him to
meet a lot of horrid Italian bears and pick up bad habits.

     Love or what you will.
     S.


     I knew his letters of old; I had had them at Ravenna; I should not have
been disappointed; but that  day as I tore the stiff sheet across and let it
fall into  the basket, and gazed resentfully  across  the  grimy gardens and
irregular backs of Bayswater, at the  jumble of soil pipes and  fire-escapes
and  protuberant little conservatories, I  saw, in  my  mind's eye, the pale
face of Anthony  Blanche, peering  through  the straggling  leaves as it had
peered through  the  candle flames at Thame, and  heard, above the murmur of
traffic, his clear tones . . .  "You mustn't  blame Sebastian if at times he
seems a little insipid.  . . . When I hear him talk I am reminded of that in
some ways nauseating picture of 'Bubbles.' . . . Boredom . . . like a cancer
in the breast. . . ."

     For  days  after  that  I  thought I hated Sebastian;  then  one Sunday
afternoon a  telegram  came from him, which dispelled that shadow, adding  a
new and darker one of its own.

     My  father was out and returned to find me  in a condition of  feverish
anxiety. He stood in  the  hall with  his  Panama hat still on his head  and
beamed at me.

     "You'll never guess how I  have spent the day; I have been  to the Zoo.
It was most agreeable; the animals seem to enjoy the sunshine so much."

     "Father, I've got to leave at once."

     "Yes?"

     "A  great friend of mine -- he's had a terrible accident. I must  go to
him at once. Hayter's packing for me, now. There's a train in half an hour."

     I showed  him the telegram, which read simply: GRAVELY INJURED. COME AT
ONCE. SEBASTIAN.

     "Well," said my father.  "I'm sorry you are upset. Reading this message
I  should not  say that the accident  was as serious as you seem to think --
otherwise it would hardly be signed by the victim himself. Still, of course,
he may  well be  fully conscious but blind or paralysed with  a broken back.
Why exactly is your presence  so necessary? You have  no medical  knowledge.
You are not in holy orders. Do you hope for a legacy?"

     "I told you, he is a great friend."

     "Well,  Orme-Herrick  is  a great friend of  mine, but I  should not go
tearing off  to his  deathbed  on a  warm Sunday  afternoon. I should  doubt
whether Lady Orme-Herrick would  welcome me. However, I see you have no such
doubts. I shall miss you, my dear boy, but do not hurry back on my account."

     Paddington  Station  on  that  August  Sunday  evening,  with  the  sun
streaming through  the obscure panes  of its  roof, the bookstalls shut, and
the  few  passengers strolling  unhurried beside their  porters,  would have
soothed a mind less agitated than mine. The train was nearly empty. I had my
suitcase put in the corner of a third-class  carriage and took a seat in the
dining-car. "First dinner after Reading, sir; about seven o'clock. Can I get
you anything now?"  I  ordered gin and vermouth;  it was brought to me as we
pulled out of the station. The knives and forks set up their regular jingle;
the bright landscape  rolled  past the windows.  But I had no mind for these
smooth  things;  instead, fear worked  like  yeast in my  thoughts, and  the
fermentation brought to  the  surface, in great gobs of scum,  the images of
disaster:  a loaded  gun  held  carelessly at a  stile, a  horse rearing and
rolling over, a shaded  pool  with a submerged  stake, an  elm bough falling
suddenly on a still  morning, a car at  a blind corner; all the catalogue of
threats to civilized life rose  and haunted me; I even pictured  a homicidal
maniac  mouthing  in the  shadows  swinging  a  length  of  lead  pipe.  The
cornfields and heavy woodland sped past, deep in the golden evening, and the
throb of the wheels repeated monotonously in my ears, "You've come too late.
You've come too late. He's dead. He's dead. He's dead."

     I dined and changed trains to the local  line, and  in twilight came to
Melstead Carbury, which was  my  destination.  "Brideshead, sir?  Yes,  Lady
Julia's in the yard." I recognized her at once; I could not have  failed to.
She was sitting at the wheel of an open car.

     "You're Mr.  Ryder? Jump in." Her  voice was Sebastian's  and  his  her
w&y of speaking. "How is he?"

     "Sebastian?  Oh, he's fine. Have you had dinner? Well,  I expect it was
beastly. There's some more at home. Sebastian and I are alone, so we thought
we'd wait for you." "What's happened to him?"
     "Didn't he say? I expect he thought you wouldn't come if you knew. He's
cracked a bone in his ankle so small that it hasn't a name. But they X-rayed
it yesterday and told him  to  keep it up for'a month. It's a  great bore to
him, putting out all his plans; he's been making the most enormous fuss. . .
. Everyone else has  gone. He  tried" to make me stay back with him. Well, I
expect you  know  how maddeningly  pathetic he can be. I almost gave in, and
then I said: 'Surely there must be someone you can get hold of,' and he said
everybody was away or busy and, anyway, no one else would do. But at last he
agreed to try you, and I promised I'd  stay if you failed him,  so  you  can
imagine how popular you  are with me. I  must  say it's noble of you to come
all this way at a moment's notice." But as she said it I heard, or thought I
heard,  a tiny note  of contempt  in her voice  that I should be  so readily
available.

     "How did he do it?"

     "Believe it or not, playing  croquet. He  lost his temper  and  tripped
over a hoop. Not a very honourable scar."

     She  so  much  resembled Sebastian that,  sitting  beside  her  in  the
gathering dusk,  I  was confused by  the double illusion of familiarity  and
strangeness.  Thus, looking  through  strong lenses  one  may  watch  a  man
approaching from  afar, study every detail of his face  and clothes, believe
one  has only to put out a hand to touch him,  marvel that he does  not hear
one, and  look  up as  one  moves,  and  then  seeing him with the naked eye
suddenly remember that  one is to him a distant speck,  doubtfully human.  I
knew  her and she did not know me. Her dark hair  .was scarcely  longer than
Sebastian's, and it blew back from her forehead  as his did; her eyes on the
darkling road  were his, but larger, her painted  mouth was less friendly to
the world. She wore a  bangle of charms  on her wrist and in her ears little
gold rings. Her light coat revealed an  inch or two of flowered silk; skirts
were short in those days, and her legs, stretched forward to the controls of
the  car, were  spindly, as  was also the fashion. Because  her sex  was the
palpable difference between the familiar  and the strange, it seemed to fill
the space between us, so  that I felt her to  be  especially female as I had
felt of no woman before.

     "I'm  terrified  of  driving at this time  of the  eve'ning," she said.
"There doesn't seem anyone left at home who can drive a car. Sebastian and I
are practically camping  out  here.  I hope  you  haven't come  expecting  a
pompous party." She leaned forward to the locker for a box of cigarettes.

     "No thanks."

     "Light one for me, will you?"

     It  was the first time in my life that anyone had asked this of me, and
as  I took the cigarette from my  lips and put it  in  hers, I caught a thin
bat's squeak of sexuality, inaudible to any but me.

     "Thanks. You've been here before. Nanny reported it. We both thought it
very odd of you not to stay to tea with me."

     "That was Sebastian."

     "You seem to let  him boss you about a  good deal.  You shouldn't. It's
very bad for him."
     We  had turned the corner of the drive now; the colour had died  in the
woods  and  sky  and the  house  seemed painted in grisaille, save  for  the
central golden  square at the  open,  doors. A man  was waiting  to take  my
luggage.

     "Here we are."

     She led me up the steps and into  the hall, flung her coat  on a marble
table, and stooped to fondle a dog  which came to greet her. "I wouldn't put
it past Sebastian to have started dinner."

     At  that moment  he appeared between the  pillars  at the further  end,
propelling  himself in  a  wheel-chair. He was in  pyjamas and dressing-gown
with one foot heavily bandaged.

     "Well,  darling, I've  collected your  chum,"  she said,  again  with a
barely perceptible note of contempt.

     "I thought  you were dying," I said, conscious then, as I had been ever
since I arrived,  of the predominating emotion  of vexation,  rather than of
relief, that I had been bilked of my expectations of a grand tragedy.

     "I thought I was,  too. The  pain was excruciating. Julia, do you think
if you asked him, Wilcox would give us champagne to-night?"

     "I hate champagne and Mr. Ryder has had dinner."

     "Mister Ryder? Mister Ryder? Charles drinks champagne at  all hours. Do
you know, seeing this great swaddled foot of mine, I can't get it  out of my
mind that I have gout, and that gives me a craving for champagne?"

     We dined in a room they called "the Painted Parlour." It was a spacious
octagon, later in design than the rest  of the house; its walls were adorned
with wreathed medallions, and across its dome prim Pompeian figures stood in
pastoral  groups. They and the  satin-wood and ormolu furniture, the carpet,
the hanging  bronze candelabrum, the mirrors and sconces, were all  a single
composition, the design  of one illustrious hand. "We usually eat here  when
we're alone," said Sebastian, "it's so cosy."

     While they dined I ate a peach and told them of the war with my father.

     "He sounds a  perfect poppet," said Julia. "And now I'm going to  leave
you boys."

     "Where are you off to?"

     "The nursery.  I promised Nanny  a last game of halma." She  kissed the
top of Sebastian's head. I opened the door for her.  "Good night, Mr. Ryder,
and  good-bye. I don't suppose we'll  meet to-morrow. I'm  leaving early.  I
can't tell you how grateful I am to you for relieving me at the sick-bed."

     "My sister's very pompous to-night," said Sebastian, when she was gone.

     "I don't think she cares for me," I said.

     "I don't  think  she cares for anyone much. I love  her. She's  so like
me."

     "Do you? Is she?"

     "In looks I mean and the  way she  talks. I wouldn't love anyone with a
character like mine."
     When  we  had drunk our port I walked beside Sebastian's  chair through
the  pillared hall to  the library, where we sat that night and nearly every
night of the ensuing month. It lay on the side of  the house that overlooked
the lakes; the  windows were  open to the stars  and the scented air, to the
indigo and silver,  moonlit landscape of the  valley  and the sound of water
falling in the fountain.

     "We'll  have  a heavenly  time alone,"  said Sebastian,  and  when next
morning, while  I was  shaving, I  saw from my bathroom  window Julia,  with
luggage at her back, drive from the  forecourt and  disappear at the  hill's
crest, without a  backward glance,  I felt a sense  of liberation  and peace
such as I was to know years-later when, after a night of  unrest, the sirens
sounded the All Clear.


     Chapter Four

     the  languor  of  Youth  --  how unique and  quintessential  it is! How
quickly, how irrecoverably, lost! The  zest,  the  generous affections,  the
illusions, the despair, all  the traditional attributes of Youth -- all save
this --  come and go with us through life; again and again in riper years we
experience,  under a new stimulus, what we  thought  had  been  finally left
behind,  the authentic  impulse  to action, the renewal  of  power  and  its
concentration on a new object; again and again a new truth is revealed to us
in whose light all our previous knowledge must be rearranged.  These  things
are a part of life itself; but languor -- the relaxation  of yet  unwearie^l
sinews,  the mind sequestered and self-regarding,  the sun standing still in
the heavens  and the earth  throbbing to our own  pulse  -- that belongs  to
Youth alone  and dies with  it. Perhaps  in the mansions of Limbo the heroes
enjoy some such compensation for their  loss of the Beatific Vision; perhaps
the  Beatific  Vision  itself  has  some  remote  kinship  with  this  lowly
experience; I, at any  rate, believed myself very near  heaven, during those
languid days at Brideshead.

     "Why is this house called a 'Castle'?"

     "It used to be one until they moved it."

     "What can you mean?"

     "Just  that. We  had a castle a mile away, down by the village. Then in
Inigo Jones's time we took a fancy to the valley and pulled the castle down,
carted the stones up here and built a new house.  I'm glad  they did, aren't
you?"

     "If it was mine I'd never live anywhere else."

     "But  you  see, Charles, it isn't mine. Just at the moment it  is,  but
usually it's full of ravening beasts.  If it could only be like this  always
-- always summer, always alone, the fruit always ripe and Aloysius in a good
temper. . . ."

     It is thus I like to remember Sebastian, as he was that summer, when we
wandered alone together through that enchanted  j palace;  Sebastian in  his
wheel-chair spinning  down die box-edged  walks  of  the kitchen  gardens in
search of alpine strawberries and warm  figs, propelling himself through the
succession; of hothouses, from scent to scent and climate to climate, to cut
the muscat  grapes  and choose orchids for  our  buttonholes; Sebas- |  tian
hobbling, with a  pantomime  of  difficulty, to  the old  nurseries, sitting
beside me  on the thread-bare, flowered carpet with the  toy-cupboard  empty
about us and Nanny Hawkins stitching com- I placehtly in the corner, saying,
"You're one as bad as the other; a pair of  children the two of you. Is that
what they  teach you at college?" Sebastian prone on  the sunny seat in  the
colonnade, 1 as he was now, and I in a hard chair beside him, trying to draw
the fountain.

     "Is the dome by Inigo Jones, too? It looks later."

     "Oh,  Charles, don't be such a tourist. What does it matter when it was
built, if it's pretty?"

     "It's the sort of thing I like to know."
     "Oh  dear,  I thought  I'd cured  you  of  all that--the  terrible  Mr.
Collins."

     It was an  aesthetic education to  live  within those walls,  to wander
from room to room, from the Soanesque  library to the Chinese  drawing-room,
adazzle  with  gilt  pagodas  and  nodding  mandarins,  painted   paper  and
Chippendale fret-work, from the Pompeian  parlour to the great tapestry-hung
hall which  stood unchanged, as it had been  designed two  hundred and fifty
years before; to sit, hour after hour,  in the pillared shade looking out on
the terrace.

     This  terrace was the final consummation of  the house's plan; it stood
on  massive  stone  ramparts above the lakes, so that from the hall steps it
seemed to  overhang them, as though,  standing  by the balustrade, one could
have dropped a pebble into the first  of them  immediately below one's feet.
It  was embraced  by  the two  arms of the colonnade;  beyond the  pavilions
groves of lime led to the wooded  hillsides. Part of  the terrace was paved,
part planted with flower-beds  and arabesques  of dwarf box; taller box grew
in a dense hedge, making a wide oval, cut into niches and interspersed  with
statuary, and, in the centre,  dominating the whole  spendid space, rose the
fountain;  such  a  fountain  as one  might expect to find  in  a piazza  of
Southern Italy, such a fountain as was, indeed, found there a century ago by
one of Sebastian's  ancestors; found, purchased, imported  and re-erected in
an alien but welcoming climate.

     Sebastian set me to draw it. It was an ambitious subject for an amateur
--  an oval basin with an island of formal rocks at its centre; on the rocks
grew,  in stone,  formal tropical vegetation and wild  English  fern  in its
natural fronds; through them ran a dozen streams that counterfeited springs,
and  round them sported  fantastic  tropical animals, camels and camelopards
and an ebullient lion all vomiting water; on the rocks, to the height of the
pediment, stood  an Egyptian obelisk  of red  sandstone -- but, by  some odd
chance, for the thing was far beyond me, I  brought it off  and by judicious
omissions  and  some  stylish  tricks,  produced  a very  passable  echo  of
Piranesi. "Shall I give it to your mother?" I asked.

     "Why ? You don't know her."

     "It seems polite. I'm staying in her house."

     "Give it to Nanny," said Sebastian.

     I did so, and she put it among the collection on  the top  of her chest
of drawers, remarking that  it had  quite a look of the thing, which she had
often heard admired but could never see
     the beauty of, herself.

     I was myself in almost the same position as Nanny Hawkins.

     Since the days  when, as  a school-boy,  I  used  to bicycle  round the
neighbouring  parishes,  rubbing brasses  and  photographing  fonts, I  have
nursed a love of architecture, but though in opinion I had  made  that  easy
leap, characteristic of my generation; from the puritanism of Ruskin to  the
puritanism of Roger Fry, my sentiments at heart were insular and mediaeval.

     This  was  my  conversion  to the baroque.  Here  under that  high  and
insolent  dome, under  those tricky  ceilings;  here, as I passed  j through
those arches and broken pediments to the pillared shade beyond and sat, hour
by hour, before  the fountain,  probing its shadows,  tracing its  lingering
echoes, rejoicing in all its clustered feats of daring and invention, I felt
a  whole new system  of nerves  alive  within me, as  though the water  that
spurted and bubbled among its stones was indeed a life-giving spring.


     One  day in a cupboard we found a large japanned-tin  box of oil paints
still in workable condition.

     "Mummy bought  them a year or two ago.  Someone told her that you could
only appreciate the beauty of the world by trying to paint it. We laughed at
her a great deal about it. She couldn't draw at all, and however .bright the
colours were  in the tubes,  by the time  Mummy had mixed them up, they came
out  a kind of khaki." Various dry,  muddy  smears  on the palette confirmed
this statement. "Cordelia was always made to wash the brushes. In the end we
all protested and made Mummy stop."

     The paints gave us the idea  of decorating the office; this was a small
room opening on the  colonnade; it had once been used  for estate  business,
but was now derelict, holding only  some  garden  games  and a  tub of  dead
aloes; it had plainly been designed for a softer use; perhaps as  a tea-room
or  study, for the plaster walls were decorated  with delicate rococo panels
and the roof was prettily groined. Here, in one of the  smaller oval frames,
I sketched a romantic landscape, and in the days that followed filled it out
in colour, and  by luck and the happy mood of the  moment, made a success of
it. The  brush seemed  somehow  to do  what was wanted  of  it.  It  .was  a
landscape without figures, a summer scene of white cloud and blue distances,
with an ivy-clad ruin in the  foreground, rocks and a waterfall affording  a
rugged introduction to the  receding parkland behind. I knew little  of  oil
painting and learned its ways as I worked. When, in a week, it was finished,
Sebastian was eager for me to start on one of the larger panels. I made some
sketches. He called for a fte champtre  with a ribboned  swing and a Negro
page and a shepherd playing  the pipes, but the  thing languished. I knew it
was good chance that had made my landscape, and that this elaborate pastiche
was too much for me.

     One day we went down to the cellars with  Wilcox and saw the empty bays
which had  once held a  vast store of wine; one transept only  was used now;
there the  bins were well stocked, some of them  with  vintages  fifty years
old.

     "There's  been nothing added  since  his  Lordship  went  abroad," said
Wilcox. "A lot of the old wine wants drinking up. We ought to have laid down
the eightcens  and twenties. I've had several letters about it from the wine
merchants, but her Ladyship  says to ask Lord Brideshead, and he says to ask
his  Lordship, and his Lordship says to  ask the lawyers. That's how we  get
low. There's enough here for ten years at the rate it's going, but how shall
we be then?"

     Wilcox welcomed our interest; we had bottles brought up from every bin,
and it was during those tranquil evenings with Sebastian that I first made a
serious acquaintance with wine and sowed the seed of that rich harvest which
was  to be my stay in  many barren years. We  would sit, he  and  I, in  the
Painted Parlour  with  three  bottles open  on  the table and three  glasses
before  each  of  us;  Sebastian had  found a book  on wine-tasting, and  we
followed  its  instructions in  detail. We warmed  the glass  slightly  at a
candle,  filled  a  third of  it, swirled the wine  round, nursed it in  our
hands, held it to the light, breathed it, sipped  it, filled our mouths with
it and rolled it over the tongue, ringing it  on the palate like a coin on a
counter, tilted our heads back and  let it trickle down the throat. Then  we
talked of  it and  nibbled  Bath Oliver biscuits, and passed on  to  another
wine;  then back to the first, then  on to  another, until all three were in
circulation and  the  order of glasses  got confused, and  we fell out  over
which was which, and we passed the glasses to and fro between us until there
were six glasses, some of them with mixed wines  in them which we had filled
from the wrong  bottle, till we were obliged to start again with three clean
glasses  each, and  the bottles were empty and our praise of them wilder and
more exotic.

     "... It is a little, shy wine like a gazelle."

     "Like a leprechaun."

     "Dappled, in a tapestry meadow."

     "Like a flute by still water."

     "... And this is a wise old wine."

     "A prophet in a cave."

     "... And this is a necklace of pearls on a white neck."

     "Like a swan."

     "Like the last unicorn."

     And  we would leave the golden  candlelight of  the dining-room for the
starlight outside and sit on the edge  of the fountain, cooling our hands in
the water and listening drunkenly to its splash and gurgle over the rocks.

     "Ought we to be drunk every night?" Sebastian asked one morning.

     "Yes, I think so."

     "I think so too."

     We saw few  strangers. There was the agent, a  lean and pouchy colonel,
who crossed our path occasionally and once came  to tea. Usually we  managed
to  hide  from  him. On  Sundays  a  monk  was fetched from  a  neighbouring
monastery to say mass and breakfast with us. He was  the first priest I ever
met; I  noticed how unlike he was to a parson, but Brideshead was a place of
such enchantment to me that I expected everything and everyone to be unique;
Father Phipps was in fact a bland, bun-faced man  with an interest in county
cricket which he obstinately believed us to share.

     "You know, Father, Charles and I simply don't tyiow about cricket."

     "I wish I'd  seen  Tennyson make  that  fifty-eight last Thursday. That
must have been an innings. The account in The Times was  excellent.  Did you
see him against the South Africans?"

     "I've never seen him."

     "Neither  have I. I haven't seen a  first-class  match for years -- not
since Father Graves  took me when we were  passing through Leeds, after we'd
been to the induction of the Abbot  at Ample-forth. Father Graves managed to
look  up a train which gave us three hours to  wait on  the afternoon of the
match against  Lancashire. That  was an afternoon. I  remember every ball of
it. Since then I've had to go by the papers. You seldom go to sec'cricket?"

     "Never,"  I said, and  he looked  at me with the expression I have seen
since in  the religious, of innocent wonder that those who expose themselves
to the dangers of  the world should avail themselves so little of its varied
solace.

     Sebastian always heard his mass, which was ill-attended. Brideshead was
not an old-established centre of Catholicism.  Lady Marchmain had introduced
a few  Catholic  servants, but the majority of them, and all the  cottagers,
prayed, if anywhere, among the Flyte  tombs in the little grey church at the
gates.

     Sebastian's faith was an enigma to me at that time, but not one which I
felt  particularly concerned to  solve.  I had  no religion. I was  taken to
church  weekly  as a  child,  and at school attended  chapel daily,  but, as
though in  compensation,  from  the time  I went to  my public school I  was
excused church in the holidays. The view implicit in my education  was  that
the  basic narrative of Christianity had long  been exposed as a  myth,  and
that opinion was now  divided as  to whether its  ethical  teaching  was  of
present value, a division in which the main weight went against it; religion
was a hobby which some people professed and others; did not;  at the best it
was slightly ornamental, at the worst it was the province of "complexes" and
"inhibitions"  --  catchwords I  of  the  decade -- and of  the intolerance,
hypocrisy, and sheer j| stupidity attributed to it for centuries. No one had
ever  suggested  to me that these  quaint  observances  expressed a coherent
philosophic system and intransigeant historical  claims; nor, had they  done
so, would I have been much interested.

     Often, almost daily, since I had known Sebastian, some chance ' word in
his conversation had  reminded me that he was a Catholic, ' but I took it as
a foible, like his Teddy-bear.  We never  discussed the matter until  on the
second Sunday  at Brideshead,  when Father Phipps  had left us and we sat in
the colonnade  with  the papers, he surprised  me by saying:  "Oh dear, it's
very difficult being a Catholic."

     "Does it make much difference to you?"

     "Of course. All the time."

     "Well,  I  can't  say  I've  noticed it.  Are  you  struggling  against
temptation? You don't seem much more virtuous than me."

     "I'm very, very much wickeder," said Sebastian indignantly.

     "Well then?"

     "Who was it used to pray, 'Oh God, make me good, but not yet'?"'

     "I don't know. You, I should think."

     "Why, yes,  I do, every day. But it isn't that." He  turned back to the
pages of the News of -the World and said, "Another naughty scout-master."

     "I suppose they try and make you believe an awful lot of nonsense?"

     "Is  it nonsense? I wish it were. It sometimes sounds terribly sensible
to me."

     "But, my dear Sebastian, you can't seriously believe it all."

     "Can't I?"

     "I mean about Christmas and the star and the three kings and the ox and
the ass."

     "Oh yes, I believe that. It's a lovely idea."

     "But you can't believe things because they're a lovely idea."

     "But I do. That's how I believe."

     "And in prayers? You think  you can kneel down in front of a statue and
say  a  few  words, not  even out loud, just in your  mind,  and  change the
weather; or that some saints are more influential than others, and you  must
get hold of the right one to help you on the right problem?"

     "Oh yes. Don't you remember last term when I took Aloysius and left him
behind I didn't know  where? I  prayed like mad to St. Anthony of Padua that
morning, and  immediately  after lunch there was Mr.  Nichols  at Canterbury
Gate with Aloysius in his arms, saying I'd left him in his cab."

     "Well," I said, "if  you can believe all  that and you don't want to be
good, where's the difficulty about your religion?"

     "If you can't see, you can't."

     "Well, where?"

     "Oh, don't be a bore, Charles. I  want  to read about  a woman  in Hull
who's been using an instrument."

     "You started the subject. I was just getting interested."

     "I'll  never mention it again . . . Thirty-eight other cases were taken
into consideration in sentencing her to six months -- golly!"

     But he did  mention it again,  some ten days later, as we were lying on
the roof of  the  house,  sunbathing and  watching through a  telescope  the
Agricultural Show which was  in progress  in the  park  below us.  It  was a
modest two-day show serving the neighbouring parishes, and surviving more as
a fair and social gathering than as  a centre of serious competition. A ring
was marked out in flags, and round it had been pitched half a dozen tents o
varying size; there  was  a judges'  box,  and some pens for  livestock; the
largest marquee was for refreshments, and there the
     farmers congregated in numbers.  Preparations had been  going on  for a
week.  "We  shall have to  hide," said Sebastian as the day approached.  "My
brother will be  here. He's in his element 4  at the Agricultural
Show." So we lay on the roof under the balustrade.

     Brideshead  came down  by train in the morning and lunched with Colonel
Fender,  the agent. I  met  him for  five minutes  on  his  arrival. Anthony
Blanche's description was peculiarly apt; he had  the Flyte  face, carved by
an  Aztec. We could see him now, through the telescope, moving affably among
the tenants, stopping  to greet the judges in their box, leaning over  a pen
gazing seriously at the cattle.

     "Queer fellow, my brother," said Sebastian.

     "He looks normal enough."

     "Oh, but he's not. If you only knew, he's much the craziest of us, only
it  doesn't  come out  at all. He's all  twisted  inside. He wanted  to be a
priest, you know."

     "I didn't."

     "I  think  he still  does. He nearly  became  a  Jesuit, straight  from
Stonyhurst. It was awful for Mummy. She couldn't exactly  try  and stop him,
but of course it was the last thing she wanted. Think what people would have
said -- the  eldest son; it's not as if it  had been me. And poor Papa.  The
Church has been enough trouble  to  him without  that happening. There was a
frightful to-do -- monks and monsignori  running round the  house like mice,
and Brideshead just sitting glum and talking  about the will of God. He  was
the most  upset, you see,  when Papa went abroad  -- much  more  than  Mummy
really. Finally  they persuaded  him  to  go to Oxford and think it over for
three years. Now he's trying to make up his mind. He talks of going into the
Guards and into  the  House of Commons and of marrying. He doesn't know what
he  wants. I  wonder  if  I  should  have  been like  that, if I'd  gone  to
Stonyhurst. I  should have  gone, only Papa  went  abroad  before I was  old
enough, and the first thing he insisted on was my going to Eton."

     "Has your father given up religion?"

     "Well,  he's had to in a way; he only took to it when he married Mummy.
When  he  went off, he left that behind with the rest of us. You  must  meet
him. He's a very nice man."

     'Sebastian had never spoken seriously of his father before.

     I said: "It must have upset you all when your father went away."

     "All but Cordelia.  She  was too young.  It upset me at the time. Mummy
tried to explain it to the three eldest of us so that we wouldn't hate Papa.
I was  the only one who didn't. I believe she wishes I did. I was always his
favourite. I should be staying with him now, if it wasn't for this foot. I'm
the only one who goes. Why don't you come too? You'd like him."

     A  man  with a  megaphone was shouting the results of the last event in
the field below; his voice came faintly to us.

     "So you see we're  a mixed  family religiously. Brideshead and Cordelia
are  both fervent  Catholics; he's miserable,  she's bird-happy; Julia and I
are half-heathen; I am happy, I rather think Julia isn't; Mummy is popularly
believed to  be  a saint and  Papa is excommunicated  -- and I wouldn't know
which of them was happy. Anyway, however  you look at it,  happiness doesn't
seem to  have much to do with it, and that's all  I want. ... I wish I liked
Catholics more."

     "They seem just like other people."

     "My dear Charles, that's exactly what  they're  not --  particularly in
this  country, where they're so few. It's not just that they're a clique  --
as  a matter  of fact,  they're at least four cliques all blackguarding each
other half  the time  --  but they've  got  an entirely different outlook on
life;  everything they think important is different from  other people. They
try and  hide  it  as much as they can, but it comes out  all the time. It's
quite natural, really,  that  they  should. But you  see it's difficult  for
semi-heathens like Julia and me."

     We  were  interrupted  in this unusually grave  conversation by 1 loud,
childish cries from beyond the chimney-stacks, "Sebastian, Sebastian."

     "Good  heavens!" said Sebastian, reaching  for a blanket. "That  sounds
like my sister Cordelia. Cover yourself up."

     "Where are you?"

     There  came  into  view a robust child of  ten  or eleven; she  had the
unmistakable family  characteristics,  but had them ill-arranged in a  frank
and chubby plainness, two thick old-fashioned pigtails hung down her back.

     "Go away, Cordelia. We've got no clothes on."

     "Why? You're quite  decent. I guessed you were here.  You didn't know I
was about, did you? I came down with  Bridey J  and  stopped  to see Francis
Xavier." To me, "He's my pig. Then we had lunch with Colonel Fender and then
the show. Francis Xavier  got a special mention. That beast Randal got first
with a mangy animal. Darling Sebastian, I am pleased to see you again. How's
your poor foot?"

     "Say how-d'you-do to Mr. Ryder."

     "Oh,  sorry. How  d'you  do?" All the family charm  was  in her  smile.
"They're all getting pretty boozy  down there, so  I came away. I say, who's
been painting the office?  I  went in to look for  a shooting stick  and saw
it."

     "Be careful what you say. It's Mr. Ryder."

     "But it's lovely. I say, did  you really? You are clever. Why don't you
both dress and come down? There's no one about."

     "Bridey's sure to bring the judges in."

     "But he won't. I heard him making plans not to.  He's very sour to-day.
He didn't want me to  have dinner with you,  but I fixed that. Come on. I'll
be in the nursery when you're fit to be seen."


     * * *

     We were a sombre little party that evening. Only Cordelia was perfectly
at ease,  rejoicing in the food,  the lateness of the hour and her brothers'
company.  Brideshead  was  three years older than  Sebastian  and I, but  he
seemed of another generation.  He had the physical tricks of his family, and
his  smile, when it rarely came, was as lovely as theirs; he spoke, in their
voice, with  a gravity and restraint  which in my  cousin  Jasper would have
sounded  pompous   and  false,  but  in   him  was  plainly  un-assumed  and
unconscious.

     "I am so sorry to miss so much of your visit," he said  to me. "You are
being looked after properly? I hope Sebastian is seeing to  the wine. Wilcox
is apt to be rather grudging when he is on his own."

     "He's treated us very liberally."

     "I am delighted to hear it. You are fond of wine?"

     "Very."

     "I wish  I were.  It is such a bond with other men. At Magdalen I tried
to get drunk more than once, but I did not enjoy it. Beer and whiskey I find
even  less appetising. Events like this  afternoon's are a torment to  me in
consequence."

     "I like wine," said Cordelia.

     "My-sister Cordelia's last report  said that she was not only the worst
girl in  the school, but the worst there had ever been in the memory  of the
oldest nun."

     "That's because I refused to  be  an  Enfant  de Marie. Reverend Mother
said that if I  didn't  keep my  room tidier I couldn't be  one, so I  said,
Well, I won't be one, and I don't believe  Our Blessed Lady cares  two hoots
whether I  put my  gym  shoes on the left or the  right of my dancing shoes.
Reverend Mother was livid."

     "Our Lady cares about obedience."

     "Bridey, you  mustn't be pious," said Sebastian. "We've got  an atheist
with us."

     "Agnostic," I said.

     "Really?  Is there much  of  that at your college? There was a  certain
amount at Magdalen."

     "I really don't know. I was one long before I went to Oxford."

     "It's everywhere," said Brideshead.

     Religion seemed an  inevitable topic that day.  For some time we talked
about  the Agricultural Show. Then  Brideshead said,  "I saw  the Bishop  in
London last week. You know, he wants to close our chapel."

     "Oh, he couldn't," said Cordelia.

     "I don't think Mummy will let him," said Sebastian.

     "It's too far away," said Brideshead. "There are a dozen families round
Melstead who can't get here. He wants to open a mass centre there."

     "But what about us?" said Sebastian. "Do we have to drive out on winter
mornings?"

     "We  must  have the Blessed  Sacrament here,"  said  Cordelia. "I  like
popping in at odd times; so does Mummy."

     "So do I," said  Brideshead, "but there are so few of us.  It's not  as
though we  were  old  Catholics with everyone on  the estate coming to mass.
It'll have to go sooner or later,  perhaps after Mummy's time. The point  is
whether  it wouldn't be better to  let  it go now. You are an artist, Ryder,
what do you think of it aesthetically?"

     "I think it's beautiful" said Cordelia with tears in her eyes.

     "Is it Good Art?"

     "Well, I don't quite  know what you mean," I said warily. "I think it's
a  remarkable  example of its period. Probably in  eighty  years it will  be
greatly admired."

     "But surely it can't be good twenty years ago and good in eighty years,
and not good now?"

     "Well, it may be good now. All I mean is that I don't happen to like it
much."

     "But  is  there  a difference  between liking  a thing  and thinking it
good?"

     "Bridey, don't be so Jesuitical," said Sebastian, but I knew  that this
disagreement  was  not  a  matter of words only, but  expressed  a  deep and
impassable division between us; neither had any understanding  of the other,
nor ever could.

     "Isn't that just the distinction'you made about wine?" '"No. I like and
think good the end to which wine  is sometimes the means -- the promotion of
sympathy between man  and man. But in  my own case it does not  achieve that
end, so I neither like it nor think it good for me."

     "Bridey, do stop."

     "I'm sorry," he said, "I thought it rather an interesting point."

     "Thank God I went to Eton," said Sebastian.

     After  dinner Brideshead said: "I'm afraid  I must  take Sebastian away
for half an hour. I shall be busy all day to-morrow, and I'm off immediately
after the show. I've a lot of papers for Father to sign. Sebastian must take
them out and explain them to him. It's time you were in bed, Cordelia."
     "Must  digest first," she said. "I'm not used  to gorging like this  at
night. I'll talk to Charles."

     "Charles?" said Sebastian. "Charles? Mister Ryder, to you, child."

     "Come on, Charles."

     When we were alone she said: "Are you really an agnostic?"

     "Does your family always talk about religion all the time?"

     "Not all the time. It's a subject that just comes up naturally, doesn't
it?"

     "Does it ? It never has with me before."

     "Then perhaps you are an agnostic. I'll pray for you."

     "That's very kind of you."

     "I  can't spare you  a whole  rosary you know. Just  a decade. I've got
such a long list of people. I take them in order and they get a decade about
once a week."

     "I'm sure it's more than I deserve."

     "Oh, I've  got some harder  cases than you. Lloyd George and the Kaiser
and Olive Banks."

     "Who is she?"

     "She was bunked  from the convent  last  term. I don't quite  know what
for. Reverend Mother  found something she'd been writing. D'you know, if you
weren't an agnostic,  I  should  ask you for  five  shillings to buy a black
god-daughter?"

     "Nothing will surprise me about your religion."

     "It's a new thing a missionary priest started last term.  You send five
bob to some nuns in Africa and they christen a baby and name her after  you.
I've got six black Cordelias already. Isn't it lovely?"

     When  Brideshead  and  Sebastian returned,  Cordelia  was sent to  bed.
Brideshead began again on our discussion.

     "Of course, you are right  really," he said. "You take  art  as a means
not as an end. That is strict theology, but it's unusual to find an agnostic
believing it."

     "Cordelia has promised to pray for me," I said.

     "She made a novena for her pig," said Sebastian.

     "You know all this is very puzzling to me," I said.

     "I think we're causing scandal," said Brideshead.

     That night  I began to realize how little  I really knew of  Sebastian,
and to understand why he had always sought to keep me apart from the rest of
his life. He was like a friend made on
     board ship, on the high seas; now we had come to his home port.


     Brideshead and  Cordelia went away; the tents  were  struck on the show
ground, the flags uprooted;  the trampled  grass began to regain its colour;
the  month that had .started in  leisurely fashion came swiftly  to its end.
Sebastian walked without a stick now and had forgotten his injury.

     "I think you'd better come with me to Venice," he said.

     "No money."

     "I thought of that. We  live on Papa when we get there. The lawyers pay
my fare -- first class and sleeper. We can both travel third for that."

     And  so  we  went;  first by  the long, cheap sea-crossing  to Dunkirk,
sitting all night  on  deck under a clear sky,  watching the grey dawn break
over  the sand dunes; then to Paris,  on wooden seats, where we drove to the
Lotti,  had  baths  and  shaved,  lunched at  Foyot's,  which  was  hot  and
half-empty, loitered sleepily among the shops and sat long  in a. half-empty
cafe waiting  till the time of our train; then in the warm, dusty evening to
the  Gare de  Lyon,  to the  slow train  South;  again the  wooden seats,  a
carriage full of the poor, visiting their families -- travelling as the poor
do  in Northern countries, with  a multitude of small bundles  and an air of
patient submission to  authority  -- and sailors  returning  from  leave. We
slept fitfully, jolting and stopping, changed once in the night, slept again
and  awoke in an empty carriage, with pine woods passing the windows and the
distant  view of  mountain peaks.  New uniforms at the  frontier, coffee and
bread  at  the station buffet, people round us of Southern grace and gaiety;
on again into the plains,  conifers changing to vine and olive,  a change of
trains at Milan; garlic sausage, bread and a flash of Orvieto bought from  a
trolley  (we  had spent all our money save for a few francs, in  Paris); the
sun mounted high and the country glowed with heat; the  carriage filled with
peasants,  ebbing  and flowing at each  station; the  smell  of  garlic  was
overwhelming in the  hot carriage.  At last  in the  evening  we  arrived at
Venice.

     A sombre figure was there to meet us. "Papa's valet, Plender."

     "I met the express," said Plender. "His Lordship thought  you must have
looked up the train wrong. This seemed only to come from Milan."

     "We travelled third."

     Plender  tittered  politely.  "I have the  palace gondola here. I shall
follow with the luggage in the vaporetto. His Lordship has gone to the Lido.
He was not sure he would be home before you
     -- that  was when we expected you on the express. He should be there by
now."

     He led  us to the  waiting boat. The  gondoliers  wore green  and white
livery and silver plaques on their arms; they smiled and bowed.

     "Palazzo. Pronto"

     "Si, Signor Plender."

     And we floated away.

     "You've been here before?"

     "No."

     "I came once before -- from the sea. This is the way to arrive."

     "Ecco ci siamo, signori."

     The palace was  a  little  less  than  it sounded,  a narrow  Palladian
facade, mossy steps, a dark archway of  rusticated stone. One boatman  leapt
ashore, made fast to  the post, rang the bell; the other stood  on the  prow
keeping the craft in to the steps. The doors opened; a man in rather raffish
summer livery of striped linen led us up the stairs from  shadow into light;
the piano nobile was in full sunshine, ablaze with frescoes of the school of
Tintoretto.

     "The  marchese  at Lido coming  quick. Your  sleeping this  way please.
Making wash at once."

     Our rooms  were on  the floor above; reached  by  a  precipitous marble
staircase,  they were shuttered against the  afternoon sun; the butler threw
them open and we looked on to the Grand Canal; the beds had mosquito nets.

     "Mostica not now."

     There was  a little bulbous press in each  room,  a misty,  gilt-framed
mirror, and no other furniture. The floor was of bare marble slabs.

     "Make hot wash," said the butler,  leaving us. ' "A bit  bleak?"  asked
Sebastian.

     "Bleak  ? Look  at that."  I  led  him  again  to  the  window and  the
incomparable pageant below and about us.

     "No, you couldn't call it bleak."

     A tremendous explosion next door  announced a setback to the hot  wash.
We  went to investigate and found a bathroom which seemed to have been built
in  a chimney. There was no ceiling; instead the walls  ran straight through
the floor above • to the open sky. An antiquated geyser was sending out
clouds of steam, a strong smell of gas and a tiny trickle of cold water.

     "No good."

     "Si, si, subito, signori"

     The  butler ran to the top of the staircase and began to shout down it;
a female voice, more strident than  his, answered. Sebastian  and I returned
to the spectacle  below our windows.  Presently the  argument came to an end
and a woman and child appeared, who smiled at us, scowled at the butler, and
put on Sebastian's press  a  silver  basin  and  ewer of boiling water.  The
butler  meanwhile unpacked and folded our clothes and, lapsing into Italian,
told us of the unrecognized merits of the geyser, until suddenly cocking his
head  sideways  he  became  alert,  said  "//  signor  marchese"  and darted
downstairs.

     "We'd better look respectable before meeting Papa," said Sebastian. "We
needn't dress. I gather he's alone at the moment"

     I  was  full of curiosity to meet Lord Marchmain. When I  did so  I was
first struck by  his normality, which, as  I saw  more of him, I found to be
studied. It was  as  though he  were  conscious of  a Byronic aura, which he
considered to be in bad taste and  was at pains to suppress. He was standing
on the balcony of  the saloon which was the main living-room  of the palace,
and, as he turned to greet us, his face was in deep shadow. I was aware only
of a tall and upright figure.

     "Darling Papa," said Sebastian, "how young you are looking!"

     He  kissed  Lord Marchmain  on  the cheek and I, who had  not kissed my
father since I left the nursery, stood shyly behind him.

     "This is Charles. Don't you think my father very handsome, Charles?"

     Lord Marchmain shook my hand.

     "Whoever  looked  up  your train," he said  --  and his  voice also was
Sebastian's -- "made a btise. There's no such one."

     "We came on it."

     "You can't have. There was only a slow train from Milan at that time. I
was at the Lido. I have  taken to playing tennis there with the professional
in the early evening. It is the only  time  of day when it is not too hot. I
hope you boys will be fairly comfortable upstairs.  This house seems to have
been designed for the comfort of only one person,  and I am that one. I have
a  room  the size of this and  a very decent dressing-room. Cara  has  taken
possession of the odier sizeable room."

     I was fascinated to  hear him  speak  of his mistress,  so  simply  and
casually; later I suspected that it was done for effect, for me.

     "How is she?"

     "Cara?  Well,  I  hope.  She  will  be  back  with us to-morrow. She is
visiting some  American friends at a  villa on the Brenta Canal. Where shall
we dine? We  might go  to the Luna, but  it is filling  up with English now.
Would you be too dull at home? Cara is sure to want to go out to-morrow, and
the cook here is really quite excellent."

     He  had moved away  from  the  window and now stood in the full evening
sunlight, with the red damask of the walls behind him. It was a noble  face,
a  controlled one, just, it seemed, as he  planned it to be; slightly weary,
slightly sardonic, slightly voluptuous. He  seemed in  the prime of life; it
was odd to think that he was only a few years younger than my father.

     We  dined at a marble table in  the  windows; everything was either  of
marble, or velvet, or dull, gilt  gesso, in this house. Lord Marchmain said,
"And  how  do  you  plan  your  time here? Bathing or  sight-seeing?"  "Some
sight-seeing, anyway," I said.

     "Cara will like that -- she, as Sebastian will  have told  you, is your
hostess here. You can't do both, you know.  Once you go to the Lido there is
no  escaping -- you  play  backgammon, you  get caught at  the bar,  you get
stupefied by the sun. Stick to the churches. You've just come from England?"

     "Yes, it was lovely there."

     "Was  it? Was  it? It  has been my tragedy that I abominate the English
countryside.   I  suppose  it  is  a  disgraceful  thing  to  inherit  great
responsibilities  and  to be  entirely  indifferent to them.  I  am  all the
socialists  would have me be, and  a great stumbling-block  to my own party.
Well, my elder son will change all that, I've no  doubt, if they  leave  him
anything to inherit. . . . Why,  I wonder, are Italian sweets always thought
to be so good ? There was always an Italian pastry-cook at Brides-head until
my father's day. He had an Austrian, so much better. And now I suppose there
is some British matron with beefy forearms."

     After dinner we left the palace by the street door and walked through a
maze of bridges and squares and alleys, to Florian's for coffee, and watched
the grave crowds  crossing  and re-crossing under  the Campanile. "There  is
nothing quite  like a Venetian crowd," said  Lord Marchmain. "The country is
crawling  with Communists, but an American woman tried to sit here the other
night with bare shoulders and they drove her away by coming to stare at her,
quite silently; they were like circling gulls coming back  and back  to her,
until she left. Our countrymen are much less dignified when  they attempt to
express moral disapproval."

     An English party had just then come  from the  water-front, made for  a
table near us, and then  suddenly moved to the other side, where they looked
askance at us and talked with their heads close together. "That is a man and
his wife I used to know when  I was in  politics. A prominent member o your
church, Sebastian."

     As we went up to bed that night Sebastian said: "He's rather  a poppet,
isn't he?"


     Lord Marchmain's mistress  arrived next day. I was nineteen  years  old
and completely ignorant of women. I could not with any certainty recognize a
prostitute in the streets. I  was  therefore not indifferent to the  fact of
living under the roof of an adulterous couple, but I was old enough to  hide
my  interest.  Lord  March-main's  mistress,  therefore,  found  me  with  a
multitude of conflicting  expectations about her, all of which were, for the
moment,  disappointed   by  her  appearance.  She  was   not   a  voluptuous
Toulouse-Lautrec odalisque; she was not a "little bit of fluff';  she  was a
middle-aged, well-preserved, well-dressed, well-mannered woman such as I had
seen  in countless public  places  and occasionally  met. Nor did  she  seem
marked by  any social  stigma.  On the day of her  arrival we lunched at the
Lido, where she was greeted at almost every table.

     "Vittoria Corombona has asked us all to her ball on Saturday."

     "It is very kind of her. You know I do not dance," said Lord Marchmain.

     "But for the boys? It is a thing to be seen -- the Corombona palace lit
up for the ball. One does not know how many such  balls there will be in the
future."

     "The boys can do as they like. We must refuse."

     "And I have asked Mrs. Hacking  Brunner to luncheon. She has a charming
daughter. Sebastian and his friend will like her."

     "Sebastian and his friend are more interested in art than heiresses."

     "But that  is what I have always wished," said Cara, changing her point
of attack adroitly. "I have  been here more times than  I can count and Alex
has not once let me inside San Marco even. We will become tourists, yes?"

     We  became  tourists; Cara enlisted as guide a midget Venetian nobleman
to whom  all doors  were open,  and with him at her side and a guide-book in
her hand, she came with us, flagging sometimes but never  giving up, a neat,
prosaic figure amid the immense splendours of the place.
     The fortnight  at  Venice  passed  quickly and sweetly  -- perhaps  too
sweetly;  I  was drowning  in honey, stingless. On some days life, kept pace
with  the  gondola,  as we nosqd  through  the side-canals  and die  boatman
uttered his  plaintive musical bird-cry of warning; on other  days, with the
speed-boat bouncing over the lagoon in  a stream of  sun-lit foam; it left a
confused memory of fierce  sunlight on the sands and cool, marble interiors;
of water everywhere, lapping on smooth stone, reflected in a dapple of light
on painted ceilings; of a night at the Corombona palace  such as Byron might
have known, and another Byronic night fishing for scampi in the shallows  of
Chioggia,  the phosphorescent  wake of the little ship, the lantern swinging
in  the prow and  the  net  coming up full of weed and sand and  floundering
fishes;  of melon and prosciutto on the balcony in the cool of  the morning;
of hot cheese sandwiches and champagne cocktails at the English
     bar.

     I remember Sebastian  looking up  at  the  Colleoni statue and  saying,
"It's rather sad to think that whatever happens you and I can never possibly
get involved in a war."

     I remember most particularly one  conversation  towards  the end of  my
visit.

     Sebastian had gone  to  play  tennis  with his father and Cara at  last
admitted  to  fatigue.  'We  sat  in  the  late  afternoon  at  the  windows
overlooking the Grand Canal, she on the sofa with  a piece of needlework,  I
in an armchair, idle. It was the first time we had been alone together.

     "I think you are very fond of Sebastian," she said.

     "Why, certainly."

     "I know of  these romantic friendships of  the English and the Germans.
They are  not Latin.  I think they are very  good if they  do not go  on too
long."

     She  was  so composed  and  matter-of-fact  that I could not take I her
amiss, but I failed to find an answer. She seemed  not  to '  expect one but
continued stitching, pausing sometimes to match  the silk from a work bag at
her side.

     "It  is a kind  of love that comes  to  children before they  know  its
meaning. In  England  it comes when you are almost men; I think I like that.
It is better to have that kind of love for another boy than for a girl. Alex
you see had it for a girl, for his wife. Do you think he loves me?"

     "Really,  Cara, you ask  the  most embarrassing questions. How should I
know? I assume ..."

     "He  does  not. But not the littlest piece. Then why does he stay  with
me? I will tell you;  because I protect  him from Lady I Marchmain. He hates
her; but you can have no conception how he hates her. You would think him so
calm and  English -- the milord, rather blase, all passion dead,  wishing to
be comfortable  and not to be  worried,  following the  sun, with me to look
after that  one thing that no  man  can do  for himself.  My  friend, he  is
•' a volcano  of hate. He cannot breathe  the same air as she.  He will
not set foot in England because  it is  her home;  he  can scarcely be happy
with Sebastian because he is her son. But Sebastian hates her too."

     "I'm sure you're wrong there."

     "He may not admit it to you.  He  may not admit it to himself; they are
full of hate -- hate of themselves. Alex and his  family.  . .  . Why do you
think he will  never go  into Society?" "I always thought  people had turned
against  him."  "My dear  boy,  you are  very  young. People turn against  a
handsome, clever,  wealthy man like Alex? Never in your life. It  is  he who
has driven them away. Even now they come back again and again to be  snubbed
and laughed at. And all for Lady Marchmain. He  will not touch a hand  which
may have  touched hers. When  we  have guests I see him thinking, 'Have they
perhaps just come from Brideshead? Are they on their way to Marchmain House?
Will they speak of me to my wife? Are they a link  between me and her whom I
hate?' But, seriously, with  my heart, that is how he thinks. He is mad. And
how has she deserved  all this hate? She has done nothing except be loved by
someone who was not  grown-up. I have never met Lady March-main; I have seen
her once only; but if you  live with a man you  come to know the other women
he has loved. I  know Lady March-main very well. She  is  a good and  simple
woman whp has been loved in the wrong way.

     "When people  hate with all that  energy, it is something in themselves
they  are hating. Alex is hating all the illusions of boyhood --  innocence,
God, hope. Poor Lady Marchmain has to bear all that. He loved me for a time,
quite a short  time,  as a man loves his own strength; it  is simpler  for a
woman; she has not all these ways of loving.

     "Now Alex is very fond of me and I protect  him from his own innocence.
We are comfortable.
     "Sebastian is in love with his  own childhood.  That will make him very
unhappy.  His Teddy-bear,  his Nanny . . . and he is nineteen years old. . .
."

     She stirred  on her sofa, shifting her weight  so  that she could  look
down at the passing boats, and said in fond, mocking tones:

     "How good it  is to  sit in the shade and talk of love," and then added
with a sudden swoop to earth, "Sebastian drinks too much."

     "I suppose we both do."

     "With you  it  does not  matter.  I  have  watched you  together.  With
Sebastian it is different. He will be a drunkard if someone does not come to
stop him. I have known  so many. Alex was nearly a drunkard when  he met me;
it  is in the  blood.  I  see it in the way Sebastian drinks. It is not your
way."

     We arrived  in  London  on the day  before term began. On  the way from
Charing  Cross I  dropped  Sebastian in the forecourt of his mother's house.
"Here is 'Marchers,'" he said with a sigh
     which meant  the end of a holiday. "I won't  ask you  in, the  place is
probably full of my family.  We'll meet at Oxford."  I drove on to Hyde Park
Gardens.

     My father greeted  me with his usual air of mild regret. "Here to-day,"
he said; "gone to-morrow.  I  seem to  see very little of you. Perhaps it is
dull for you here. How could it be otherwise? You have enjoyed yourself?"

     "Very much. I went to Venice."

     "Yes. Yes. I suppose so. The weather was fine?"

     When he went to bed after an evening of silent study, he paused to ask:
"The friend  you were so much concerned about, did he die?" "No." "I am very
thankful. You should have written to tell me. I worried about him so much."


     Chapter Five

     "It is  typical of Oxford," I said, "to start the  new year in autumn."
Everywhere, on  cobble and gravel and lawn,  the leaves were  falling and in
the college gardens  the  smoke  of the bonfires  joined the wet river mist,
drifting across the grey walls; the flags were oily underfoot and as, one by
one, the lamps  were  lit in  the windows round  the quad, the golden lights
were  diffuse  and remote, like  those  of  a foreign village seen from  the
slopes outside; new figures in new gowns wandered through the twilight under
the arches and the familiar bells now spoke of a year's
     memories.

     The autumnal mood possessed us both as though the riotous exuberance of
June had died with  the gillyflowers, whose scent at my windows now  yielded
to the damp leaves, smouldering in a corner of the quad.

     It was the first Sunday evening of term. "I feel  precisely one hundred
years old," said  Sebastian. He had come up the night before,  a day earlier
than I, and this was our first meeting since we parted in the taxi.

     "I've had a  talking-to from Monsignor Bell this  afternoon. That makes
the fourth since I came up -- my tutor, the junior dean, Mr. Samgrass of All
Souls, and now Monsignor Bell." "Who is Mr. Samgrass of All Souls?"

     "Just  someone of Mummy's. They  all say  that I made a  very bad start
last year, that  I  have been  noticed, and that if  I  don't mend my ways I
shall get sent  down. How does one mend one's ways? I suppose one joins  the
League of Nations Union, and reads the Isif every week, and drinks coffee in
the morning at the Cadena caf 4 and smokes a great pipe and plays hockey and
goes out to tea on Boar's Hill and to lectures at Keble, and rides a bicycle
with a little  tray  full of note-books and drinks cocoa  in the evening and
discusses sex seriously. Oh, Charles, what has  happened since  last term? I
feel so old."

     "I feel middle-aged. That is infinitely  worse,  I  believe we have had
all the fun we can expect here." We sat  silent in the firelight as darkness
fell. "Anthony Blanche has gone down."

     "Why?"

     "He  wrote to me. Apparently he's taken a flat in Munich--he has formed
an attachment to a policeman there."

     "I shall miss him."

     "I suppose I shall, too, in a way."

     We fell silent  again and sat so still in the firelight  that a man who
came in to see me stood for a moment in the door and then went away thinking
the room empty.

     "This is no way to start a  new year," said Sebastian;  but this sombre
October evening  seemed to breathe  its chill, moist air over the succeeding
weeks. All that  term and  all that year Sebastian and I lived more and more
in  the shadows and, like a fetish, hidden first from the  missionary and at
length  forgotten,  j  the  toy   bear,  Aloysius,  sat  unregarded  on  the
chest-of-drawers in Sebastian's bedroom.

     There was a change in both of  us.  We had lost the sense of discovery,
which had infused the anarchy of our first year. I began to settle down.

     Unexpectedly,  I  missed  my  cousin Jasper, who  had got  his first in
Greats and was now cumbrously setting  about a life  of  public  mischief in
London; I needed  him to  shock;  without  that massive presence the college
seemed to lack solidity; it no longer provoked and  gave point to outrage as
it  had done  in the summer. Moreover,  I had come back glutted and a little
chastened, with the resolve to go slow. Never again would I expose myself to
my father's humour; his whimsical persecution had convinced me, as no rebuke
could have  done, of  the folly  of living  beyond my  means.  I had  had no
talking-to this  term; my success  in History Previous and  a beta minus- in
one of my Collections papers had put me on easy terms with my tutor -- which
I managed to maintain without undue effort.

     I  kept a  tenuous  connection  with the History School,  wrote my  two
essays a week and attended an occasional lecture.  Besides this I started my
second  year by  joining the Ruskin School  of  Art; two or three mornings a
week we  met, about a  dozen of us--half,  at least, the  daughters of North
Oxford -- among the casts from the  antique at the Ashmolean Museum; twice a
week we drew from the nude  in a small room over a teashop;  some pains were
taken by the authorities to exclude any hint of lubricity on these evenings,
and the young  woman who sat to us was brought  from London for  the day and
not allowed to reside in the University city; one flank, that nearer the oil
stove, I  remember, was always rosy and the  other mottled  and  puckered as
though  it had  been plucked. There,  in  the smell of the  oil lamp, we sat
astride the donkey stools and evoked a  barely visible wraith of Trilby.  My
drawings  were  worthless;  in my  own  rooms  I  designed elaborate  little
pastiches, some of  which, preserved by friends of the period, come to light
occasionally to embarrass me.

     We  were  instructed  by  a man  of about  my age, who treated  us with
defensive hostility; he wore  very dark blue  shirts, a lemon-yellow tie and
horn-rimmed  glasses, and it was largely  by reason  of this warning  that I
modified  my  own style of dress  until it  approximated to  what my  cousin
Jasper would have thought suitable  for country-house visiting. Thus soberly
dressed  and  happily  employed I  became a fairly  respectable member of my
college.

     With Sebastian it was different. His year of anarchy had filled a deep,
interior need of his,  the escape from  reality,  and  as  he found  himself
increasingly hemmed in, where he once felt  himself free, he became at times
listless and morose, even with me. We kept very much to our own company that
term, each so much bound up in the other that we did not  look elsewhere for
friends. My  cousin Jasper  had  told  me  that it was normal to spend one's
second year shaking off the friends of  one's first, and  it  happened as he
said. Most of my  friends were those I had made  through Sebastian; together
we shed them  and made no  others.  There was no renunciation.  At first  we
seemed to see them as often as ever; we went to parties but gave  few of our
own. I was not concerned to impress the  new freshmen who, like their London
sisters, were here-being launched in society; there  were strange  faces now
at  every party and  I, who  a  few months  back had been  voracious of  new
acquaintances^  now felt  surfeited; even  our small circle of intimates, so
lively in the summer sunshine, seemed dimmed and muted now in  the pervading
fog, the river-borne  twilight that softened and obscured all  that year for
me.  Anthony Blanche had taken something away with him when he  went; he had
locked a door and hung the key on his chain; and all his friends, among whom
he had always been a stranger, needed him now.

     The Charity matinee was over, I felt; the impresario had | buttoned his
astrakhan coat  and taken his fee and the disconsolate ladies of the company
were without a leader. Without him they forgot  their cues and garbled their
lines;  they needed him to ring the  curtain up  at the  right moment;  they
needed him  to direct the limelights; they  needed his whisper in the wings,
and  his imperious eye on the  leader of the band; without him there were no
photographers from the weekly press, no prearranged goodwill and expectation
of pleasure. No stronger bond held  them together  than common service;  now
the gold lace and velvet were packed away and returned to the  costumier and
the  drab uniform of the day put on in  its stead. For a few happy hours  of
rehearsal,  for a  few  ecstatic minutes of  performance,  they  had  played
splendid parts, their own great  ancestors, the  famous  paintings they were
thought to resemble; now it was over and in the bleak light of day they must
go back to their homes; to the husband who came to London too often,  to the
lover who lost at cards, and to the child who grew too fast.

     Anthony  Blanche's set  broke up  and  became a  bare dozen  lethargic,
adolescent  Englishmen.  Sometimes in  later  life  they would  say: "Do you
remember that extraordinary fellow we  used all to know at Oxford -- Anthony
Blanche? I wonder what became of him." They lumbered back into the herd from
which  they  had  been  so  capriciously  chosen  and  grew  less  and  less
individually  recognizable. The change was not so apparent to them as to us,
and they still congregated on occasions in our rooms; but we gave up seeking
them. Instead we formed the taste for lower company and spent  our evenings,
as  often as  not, in Hogarthian little inns  in St. Ebb's and St. Clement's
and the streets between the old market and the canal, where we managed to be
gay and were, I  believe, well liked by the company. The Gardener's Arms and
the Nag's  Head,  the  Druid's Head near  the  theatre, and the Turf in Hell
Passage knew us well; but in the  last of these we were liable to meet other
undergraduates--  pub-crawling  hearties  from   BNC--and  Sebastian  became
possessed  by a kind of phobia, like that which  sometimes comes over men in
uniform against  their own service, so  that many an  evening  was spoilt by
their intrusion, and he  would  leave his glass half empty and turn  sulkily
back to college.

     It was thus that Lady Marchmain found us when, early in that Michaelmas
term, she came for a  week to Oxford. She found Sebastian subdued, with  all
his host of friends reduced to one, myself. She  accepted me  as Sebastian's
friend and sought  to make me hers also, and in doing so, unwittingly struck
at  the roots of our  friendship. That is the single reproach I have  to set
against her abundant kindness to me.

     Her business  in  Oxford  was with  Mr. Samgrass of All Souls,  who now
began to play an increasingly large  part in  our  lives. Lady Marchmain was
engaged in  making a memorial  book for circulation among her friends, about
her brother, Ned, the eldest of  three legendary  heroes all  killed between
Mons  and Paschen-daele; he had left a quantity of papers -- poems, letters,
speeches, articles; to edit  them even  for a  restricted circle needed tact
and countless decisions  in which the  judgment  of  an  adoring sister  was
liable  to err. Acknowledging this, she  had  sought outside advice, and Mr.
Samgrass had been found to help her.

     He was a youflg history don, a short, plump man, dapper in dress,  with
sparse hair  brushed flat on an over-large head, neat hands, small  feet and
the general appearance of  being too often bathed. His manner was genial and
his speech idiosyncratic. We came to know him well.
     It  was Mr. Samgrass's particular aptitude  to  help others  with their
work, but he was  himself the author of several stylish little books. He was
a  great delver in muniment-rooms and had a sharp nose for  the picturesque.
Sebastian spoke less  than  the truth when he  described him as "someone  of
Mummy's";  he  was someone  of  almost everyone's  who possessed anything to
attract him.

     Mr.  Samgrass   was   a  genealogist  and  a  legitimist;  he  loved  1
dispossessed royalty and knew the exact validity of the rival claims of  the
pretenders to many thrones; he was not a man of religious habit, but he knew
more than most Catholics about  their Church; he had friends in  the Vatican
and,  could  talk  at  length  of  policy  and  appointments,  saying  which
contemporary ecclesiastics were  in good favour, which in bad,  what  recent
theological hypothesis was suspect, and how this or that Jesuit or Dominican
had skated on thin ice or sailed near the wind in his  Lenten discourses; he
had everything except the Faith, and later  liked  to  attend benediction in
the chapel at Brideshead and see the ladies of  the family  with their necks
arched in devotion  under their  black lace  mantillas;  he  loved forgotten
scandals in high life and was an expert on putative parentage; he claimed to
love the past, but I always felt that he  thought all  the splendid company,
living  or dead,  with  whom  he associated,  slightly  absurd;  it was  Mr.
Samgrass who was  real, the  rest were an insubstantial pageant. He  was the
Victorian  tourist, solid and patronizing, for whose amusement these foreign
things were  paraded. And there was something a  little too brisk about his.
literary  manners;  I  suspected  the  existence of a  concealed  typewriter
somewhere in his panelled rooms.

     He was with Lady Marchmain when I first met  them,  and I thought  then
that she  could  not have  found  a greater contrast  to  herself  than this
intellectual-on-the-make, nor a better foil to her own charm. It was not her
way  to make a  conspicuous entry into anyone's life, but towards the end of
that week Sebastian said rather sourly: "You and Mummy seem very  thick"  --
and I  realized  that  in  fact I  was  being drawn into intimacy by  swift,
imperceptible stages, for she was  impatient of any  human relationship that
fell short of it. By the time that she left I had promised to spend all next
vacation, except Christmas itself, at Brideshead.

     * * *

     One Monday morning  a week  or  two  later I  was in  Sebastian's  room
waiting for him to return from a tutorial, when Julia walked in, followed by
a large  man whom she introduced  as "Mr.  Mottram" and addressed  as "Rex."
They were motoring up from a house where they  had  spent the week-end, they
explained, and had stopped  in Oxford for luncheon. Rex Mottram was warm and
confident in a  checked ulster;  Julia cold and rather shy in furs; she made
straight for the fire and crouched over it shivering.

     "We hoped  Sebastian might give us luncheon," she said. "Failing him we
can  always try Boy Mulcaster,  but I somehow thought  we should  eat better
with Sebastian, and we're very hungry. We've been literally starved all  the
week-end at the Chasms'."

     "He and Sebastian are both lunching with me. Come too."

     So, without demur, they  joined the party in  my rooms, one of the last
of  the old kind  that  I  gave.  Rex  Mottram  exerted himself  to make  an
impression. He was  a  handsome fellow with dark  hair  growing low  on  his
forehead  and  heavy black  eyebrows. He  spoke with  an  engaging  Canadian
accent. One quickly learned all that he wished one to  know about  him, that
he  was  a  lucky man with money, a member of Parliament, a  gambler, a good
fellow; that  he played golf regularly with the  Prince  of Wales and was on
easy terms with "Max" and "F.E." and "Gertie" Lawrence and Augustus John and
Carpentier --  with anyone, it seemed,  who happened to be mentioned. Of the
University  he said: "No, I was never  here.  It  just means you  start life
three years behind the other fellow."

     His life, so far as he made it known,  began  in the  war, where he had
got  a  good M.C. serving with  the  Canadians and had ended  as A.D.C. to a
popular general.

     He cannot have been  more than thirty at the  time we met him,  but  he
seemed very old to us  in Oxford. Julia treated him, as  she seemed to treat
all the  world, with mild disdain, but with  an air  of  possession.  During
luncheon she sent him to the car for her cigarettes, and  once or twice when
he was talking  very big, she apologized for  him, saying: "Remember  he's a
colonial," to which he replied with boisterous laughter.

     When he had gone I asked who he was.

     "Oh, just someone of Julia's," said Sebastian.
     ,
     We  were  slightly surprised a week later to get  a telegram  from  him
asking us and Boy Mulcaster to dinner in London on  the following  night for
"a party of Julia's."

     "I don't think he knows anyone young," said Sebastian; "all his friends
are leathery old sharks in the City and the House of Commons. Shall we go?"

     We discussed it, and because our life at Oxford was now so  much in the
shadows, we decided that we would.

     "Why does he want Boy?"

     "Julia and I have known him all  our lives.  I  suppose, finding him at
lunch with you, he thought he was a chum."

     We had no great  liking for Mulcaster, but the three of us were in high
spirits when, having got leave for the night from our colleges, we drove off
on the London road in Hardcastle's car.
     We were to spend  the night at Marchmain  House. We went there to dress
and, while  we dressed, drank a bottle of  champagne. As we  came downstairs
Julia passed us going up to her room still in her day clothes.

     "I'm going to be  late," she said; "you boys had better go on to Rex's.
It's heavenly of you to come."

     "What is this party?"

     "A ghastly charity ball I'm involved with.  Rex  insisted on  giving  a
dinner party for it. See you there."

     Rex Mottram lived within walking distance of Marchmain House.

     "Julia's going to  be  late,"  we  said, "she's  only  just  gone up to
dress."

     "That means an hour. We'd better have some wine."

     A  woman who  was introduced as "Mrs. Champion"  said: "I'm sure  she'd
sooner we started, Rex."
     "Well, let's have some wine first anyway."

     "Why a  Jeroboam, Rex?" she  said peevishly. "You always want  to  have
everything too big."

     "Won't be too big for us," he said, taking the bottle in his own  hands
and easing the cork.

     There were two girls there,  contemporaries of Julia's; they all seemed
involved in the management of the ball. Mulcaster knew them of old and they,
without much  relish  I  thought, knew  him.  Mrs. Champion  talked  to Rex.
Sebastian and I found ourselves drinking alone together as we always did.

     At  length  Julia  arrived,  unhurried,  exquisite,  unrepentant.  "You
shouldn't have let him wait," she said. "It's his Canadian courtesy."

     Rex Mottram was  a  liberal host, and by the end of dinner the three of
us who had come from Oxford Were rather drunk. While we were standing in the
hall  waiting for the girls to come down and Rex and Mrs. Champion had drawn
away from us, talking acrimoniously, in low voices, Mulcaster  said, "I say,
let's slip away from this ghastly dance and go to Ma Mayfield's."

     "Whois Ma Mayfield?"

     "You know Ma Mayfield. Everyone knows Ma Mayfield of the Old Hundredth.
I've got a regular there --a sweet little thing called Effie. There'd be the
devil to pay  if Effie heard  I'd been to London  and  hadn't been in to see
her. Come and meet Effie at Ma Mayfield's."

     "All right," said Sebastian, "let's meet Effie at Ma Mayfield's."

     "We'll  take another bottle of pop  off the good Mottram and then leave
the bloody dance and go to the Old Hundredth. How about that?"

     It  was not a difficult  matter to leave the ball; the girls  whom  Rex
Mottram had  collected  had  many  friends  there and, after  we had  danced
together once or twice, our table began to fill up; Rex Mottram ordered more
and more wine; presently the three of us were together on the pavement.

     "D'you know where this place is?"

     "Of course I do. A hundred Sink Street."

     "Where's that?"

     "Just off Leicester Square. Better take the car."

     "Why?"

     "Always better to have one's own car on an occasion like this."

     We did not question this reasoning, and there lay our mistake. The  car
was in the forecourt of Marchmain House within a hundred yards of  the hotel
where  we  had  been  dancing.  Mul-caster drove and, after  some wandering,
brought  us safely to Sink Street.  A commissionaire  at one side of  a dark
doorway and  a middle-aged man in evening dress on  the  other side  of  it,
standing with  his face  to the wall  cooling his  forehead on  the  bricks,
indicated our destination.

     "Keep out, you'll be poisoned," said the middle-aged man.

     "Members?" said the commissionaire.

     "The name is Mulcaster," said Mulcaster. "Viscount Mulcaster."

     "Well, try inside," said the commissionaire.

     "You'll be robbed and given a dose," said the middle-aged man.

     Inside the dark doorway was a bright hatch.

     "Members?" asked a stout woman, in evening dress.

     "I like that," said Mulcaster. "You ought to know me by now."

     "Yes, dearie," said the woman without interest. "Ten bob each."

     "Oh, look here, I've never paid before."

     "Daresay not,  dearie.  We're full  up to-night so it's ten bob. Anyone
who comes after you will have to pay a quid. You're lucky."

     "Let me speak to Mrs. Mayfield."

     "I'm Mrs. Mayfield. Ten bob each."

     "Why, Ma, I didn't recognize  you  in your  finery. You know me,  don't
you? Boy Mulcaster."

     "Yes, duckie. Ten bob each."

     We  paid, and the man who had  been standing  between us and  the inner
door now made  way  for  us.  Inside  it was hot  and crowded, for  the  Old
Hundredth was then  at  the  height  of  its success. We  found  a table and
ordered a bottle; the waiter took payment before he opened it.

     "Where's Effie to-night?" asked Mulcaster.

     "Effie 'oo?"

     "Effie, one of the girls who's always here. The pretty dark one."

     "There's  lots of girls  works here.  Some  of them's dark  and some of
them's fair. You  might call some of them pretty. I haven't the time to know
them by name."

     "I'll go and look for her," said Mulcaster.

     While he  was  away two  girls stopped near  our table and looked at us
curiously.  "Come  on,"  said one to  the  other,  "we're  wasting our time.
They're only fairies."

     Presently Mulcaster returned in triumph with Effie to whom, without its
being ordered, the waiter immediately brought a plate of eggs and bacon.

     "First bite I've had all the evening," she said. "Only thing that's any
good here is the breakfast; makes you fair peckish hanging about."

     "That's another six bob," said the waiter.

     When her hunger was appeased, Effie dabbed her mouth and looked at us.

     "I've seen you here before, often, haven't I?" she said to me.

     "I'm afraid not."

     "But I've seen you?" to Mulcaster.

     "Well, I  should  rather  hope  so. You  haven't  forgotten our  little
evening in September?"

     "No,  darling, of course not.  You  were the boy in the Guards  who cut
your toe, weren't you?"

     "Now, Effie, don't be a tease."

     "No, that was another night, wasn't it? I know--you were with Bunty the
time the police were in and we all hid in the place they keep the dustbins."

     "Effie  loves pulling my leg,  don't you,  Effie? She's annoyed with me
for staying away so Jong, aren't you?"

     "Whatever you say, I know I have seen you before somewhere."

     "Stop teasing."

     "I wasn't meaning to tease. Honest. Want to dance?"

     "Not at the minute."

     "Thank the Lord. My shoes pinch something terrible to-night."

     Soon she and Mulcaster were deep in conversation. Sebastian leaned back
and said to me: "I'm going to ask that pair to join us."

     The  two  unattached  women who had considered us  earlier  were  again
circling towards us. Sebastian  smiled and  rose  to greet them; soon  they,
too, were eating heartily. One had  the face  of a  skull, the  other  of  a
sickly child. The Death's Head  seemed destined for me. "How about a  little
party," she said, "just the six of us over at my place?"

     "Certainly," said Sebastian.

     "We thought you were fairies when you came in."

     "That was our extreme youth."

     Death's Head giggled. "You're a good sport," she said.

     "You're very sweet really," said the Sickly  Child. "I must  just  tell
Mrs. Mayfield we're going out."

     It  was  still  early,  not  long after  midnight, when we regained the
street.  The commissionaire tried to persuade us  to take a taxi. "I'll look
after your car, sir. I wouldn't drive yourself, sir, really I wouldn't."

     But Sebastian took the  wheel and the  two women  sat one on the  other
beside him, to  show him the way. Effie and Mulcaster and I sat in the back.
I think we cheered a little as we drove off.
     We did not drive far. We turned into Shaftesbury Avenue and were making
for Piccadilly when we narrowly escaped a head-on collision with a taxi-cab.

     "For Christ's sake," said  Effie, "look where you're going.  D'you want
to murder us all?"

     "Careless fellow that," said Sebastian.

     "It isn't safe the way you're driving," said Death's Head. "Besides, we
ought to be on the other side of the road."

     "So we should," said Sebastian, swinging abruptly across.

     "Here, stop. I'd sooner walk."

     "Stop? Certainly."

     He put on the brakes and we came  abruptly  to  a halt broadside across
the road. Two policemen quickened their stride and approached us.

     "Let me out of this," said Effie, and made her escape with a leap and a
scamper.

     The rest of us were caught.

     "I am sorry if I am impeding the traffic, officer," said Sebastian with
care, "but the lady  insisted on my stopping for her  to get out. She  would
take  no  denial.  As you will have observed, she was  pressed  for time.  A
matter of nerves you know."

     "Let  me  talk  to him," said Death's  Head. "Be a  sport, handsome; no
one's seen anything but you. The boys  don't  mean  any  harm. I'll get them
into a taxi and see them home quiet."

     The policemen looked us over, deliberately, forming their own judgment.
Even then everything might have been well had not Mulcaster joined in. "Look
here, my good  man," he said. "There's no need  for you to  notice anything.
We've just come from Ma Mayfield's. I reckon she pays you a nice retainer to
keep your eyes shut. Well, you can keep 'em shut on us too and you  won't be
the losers by it."

     That resolved  any doubts which the policemen may have felt. In a short
time we were in the cells.

     I  remember  little of the journey there  or the  process of admission.
Mukaster, I think, protested vigorously and, when we were made to  empty our
pockets,  accused his gaolers of theft. Then we  were  locked in,
and my first clear  memory is of tiled walls with a lamp  set high up  under
thick glass, a bunk, and  a door, which had  no handle on my side. Somewhere
to the left of me Sebastian and Mulcaster  were raising  Cain. Sebastian had
been steady on his legs and fairly composed on the way to the  station; now,
shut in,  he seemed in  a frenzy and was  pounding  the door, and  shouting:
"Damn  you, I'm not drunk. Open this door.  I insist on seeing the doctor. I
tell you I'm not drunk," while Mulcaster, beyond, cried: "My God, you'll pay
for this! You're making a great mistake,  I can tell you. Telephone the Home
Secretary. Send for my solicitors. I will have habeas corpus."

     Groans  of protest rose  from the other cells  where various tramps and
pickpockets were trying to get some sleep: "Aw, pipe down!" "Give a man some
peace, can't yer?" . . . "Is this a blinking lock-up or a looney-house?" And
the  sergeant,  going  his1 rounds, admonished  them  through the
grille: "You'll be here all night if you don't sober up." .

     I sat  on the'bunk  in  low spirits and dozed a little.  Presently  the
racket subsided and Sebastian called: "I say, Charles, are you there?"

     "Here I am."

     "This is the hell of a business."

     "Can't we get bail or something?"

     Mulcaster seemed to have fallen asleep.

     "I tell you the man -- Rex Mottram. He'd be in his element here."

     We had  some difficulty in getting into touch with him;  it was half an
hour  before the policeman in charge answered my bell. At last he consented,
rather sceptically, to send a telephone message to the hotel  where the ball
was being held. There was  another long delay and then our prison doors were
open.

     Seeping through the squalid  air of the police station, the  sour smell
of dirt and disinfectant, came the sweet, rich smoke of a Havana cigar -- of
two Havana cigars, for the sergeant in charge was smoking also.

     Rex  stood in  the charge room  looking the embodiment  --  indeed, the
burlesque--:of power and prosperity; he wore a fur-lined overcoat
with  broad astrakhan lapels and a silk hat. The police were deferential and
eager to help.

     "We had to  do our duty,"  they  said. "Took the  young gentlemen  into
custody for their own protection."

     Mulcaster looked crapulous and began  a confused  complaint that he had
been denied legal representation and civil rights.  Rex said: "Better  leave
all the talking to me."

     I was clear-headed now and watched  and listened with fascination while
Rex settled our business. He examined the  charge  sheets, spoke  affably to
the  men who had made the  arrest;  with the slightest perceptible nuance he
opened  the way for bribery  and quickly covered it  when he saw that things
had  now lasted too long and the  knowledge had been  too  widely shared; he
undertook to deliver us at the magistrate's court  at  ten next morning, and
then led us away. His car was outside.

     "It's no use discussing things to-night. Where are you sleeping?"

     "Marchers," said Sebastian.

     "You'd better  come to  me.  I can  fix  you  up  for  to-night.  Leave
everything to me."

     It was plain that he rejoiced in his efficiency.

     Next morning the  display was even more impressive."  I  awoke with the
startled and puzzled sense of  being in  a  strange room,,  and in the first
seconds of consciousness the memory of the evening before returned, first as
though  of  a  nightmare,  then  of  reality.  Rex's  valet was  unpacking a
suitcase.  On seeing me  move  he went  to the  wash-hand  stand and  poured
something from a  bottle. "I think I have everything from Marchmain  House,"
he said. "Mr. Mottram sent round to Heppel's for this."

     I took the draught and felt better.

     A man was there from Trumper's to shave us.

     Rex joined us at breakfast. "It's important to make a  good  appearance
at the court," he said. "Luckily none of you look much the worse for wear."

     After  breakfast the  barrister arrived and Rex delivered  a summary of
the case.

     "Sebastian's in a jam," he  said.  "He's liable  to anything  up to six
months' imprisonment for  being  drunk  in charge of a  car.  You'll come up
before  Grigg  unfortunately. He takes rather  a grim view  of cases of this
sort.  All  that  will  happen  this morning  is that we  shall ask to  have
Sebastian  held  over for  a week to prepare the defence. You two will plead
guilty,  say you're sorry, and pay your five-bob  fine. I'll see what can be
done about squaring the evening papers. The Star may be difficult.

     "Remember, the important  thing is to keep  out  all mention of the Old
Hundredth. Luckily  the tarts were sober and aren't being charged, but their
names have  been taken as witnesses. If  we  try  and break  down the police
evidence,  they'll be called. We've got to  avoid  that at all costs, so  we
shall have to swallow the police story whole  and appeal to the magistrate's
good  nature  not  to  wreck  a  young  man's career  for  a  single  boyish
indiscretion. It'll work all right. We  shall need a don to give evidence of
good  character. Julia  tells me you have a tame one called Samgrass.  He'll
do.  Meanwhile  your  story  is simply  that  you came up from Oxford for  a
perfectly respectable dance, weren't  used to  wine, had too much, and  lost
the way driving home.

     "After  that  we  shall  have  to  see about  fixing things  with  your
authorities at Oxford."

     "I told them to call my solicitors," said Mulcaster, "and they refused.
They've  put themselves hopelessly in the  wrong, and  I  don't see why they
should get away with it."

     "For heaven's sake  don't start any kind of argument. Just plead guilty
and pay up. Understand?"

     Mulcaster grumbled but submitted.

     Everything happened at court as  Rex had predicted. At half past ten we
stood in  Bow Street,  Mulcaster and  I free  men,  Sebastian bound  over to
appear in a  week's time. Mulcaster had kept  silent about his grievance; he
and  I were admonished and fined  five shillings each and fifteen  shillings
costs. Mulcaster was becoming  rather  irksome to us, and it was with relief
that we  heard his plea  of other business in London. The barrister  bustled
off and Sebastian and I were left alone and disconsolate.

     "I  suppose Mummy's got  to hear about it," he said. "Damn, damn, damn!
It's  cold. I  won't  go home. I've  nowhere to go. Let's just slip  back to
Oxford and wait for them to bother us"

     The raffish habitues of the police court came and went up  and down the
steps; still we stood on the windy corner, undecided.

     "Why not get hold of Julia?"

     "I might go abroad."

     "My dear Sebastian, you'll  only be given a talking-to and fined a  few
pounds."

     "Yes, but it's all the bother--Mummy and Bridey  and all the family and
the dons. I'd sooner go to prison. If I just slip away abroad they can't get
me back, can they? That's  what people do when the police  are after them. I
know  Mummy will make it  seem she  has  to bear  the  whole  brunt  of  the
business."

     "Let's telephone Julia  and get her to meet us somewhere  and  talk  it
over."

     We met at Gunter's in  Berkeley Square. Julia, like  most  women  then,
wore a green hat pulled down to her eyes with a diamond arrow in it; she had
a small dog  under her arm,  three-quarters buried in the fur of her,  coat.
She greeted us with an unusual show of interest.

     "Well, you are a pair  of pickles; I must say you look  remarkably well
on it.  The only time I  got tight I was  paralysed all  the next day. I  do
think you might have taken me  with you. The ball was positively lethal, and
I've always longed  to go to the Old Hundredth. No one will ever take me. Is
it heaven?"

     "So you know all about that, too?"

     "Rex telephoned me this morning and told me everything.! What were your
girl friends like?"

     "Don't be prurient," said Sebastian.

     "Mine was like a skull."

     "Mine was like a consumptive."

     "Goodness"  It had clearly raised us in Julia's estimation that  we had
been out with women; to. her they were the point of interest.

     "Does Mummy know?"

     "Not about your  skulls and consumptives. She knows you were
in the clink.  I told her.  She was  divine about  it,  o course. You  know
anything Uncle Ned did  was always  perfect, and hr,| got locked up once for
taking a bear into one of Lloyd George's meetings, so she really feels quite
human about the whole thing. I She wants you both to lunch with her."

     "Oh God!"

     "The  only  trouble  is the  papers and  the family. Have you, I got an
awful family, Charles?"

     "Only a father. He'll never hear about it."

     "Ours  are awful.  Poor  Mummy is in  for  a ghastly  time withvI them.
They'll be writing letters and paying visits of sympathy, i and all the time
at the  back of their minds one  half will be saying, 'That's what comes  of
bringing the boy up a Catholic,' and the' other half  will say, 'That's what
comes of sending him to Eton instead of Stonyhurst.' Poor Mummy can't get it
right."

     We  lunched with  Lady Marchmain. She  accepted  the  whole  thing with
humorous resignation. Her only reproach was: "I can't think why you went off
and  stayed with Mr. Mottram* f You  might have  come and  told me about  it
first. . . .

     "How am I going to explain it to all the family?" she asked. "They will
be  so shocked to find  that they're more upset about j it than I am. Do you
know my sister-in-law,  Fanny Rosscommon? She has always  thought I  brought
the children up badly. Now I am beginning to think she must be right."

     When we left I  said: "She couldn't have been more charming.  What were
you so worried about?"

     "I can't explain," said Sebastian miserably.

     A week later when Sebastian  came up for trial he was fined ten pounds.
The  newspapers reported it with  painful prominence, one of them under  the
ironic headline: "Marquis's Son Unused to Wine." The magistrate said that it
was only  through the prompt action  of the  police that he  was not up on a
grave  charge  . .  . "It is purely by good fortune that you do not bear the
responsibility of a serious accident. . . ." Mr. Samgrass gave evidence that
Sebastian bore an irreproachable character  and that a  brilliant  future at
the University  was in jeopardy. The papers took hold  of this  too --"Model
Student's Career at  Stake."  But  for  Mr. Samgrass's  evidence,  said  the
magistrate,  he would have been disposed to give an exemplary sentence;  the
law  was the  same for an  Oxford undergraduate  as for any  young hooligan,
indeed the better the home the more shameful the offence. . . .

     It was not only at Bow Street that Mr. Samgrass was of value. At Oxford
he showed all the zeal and  acumen  which were  Rex Mottram's in  London. He
interviewed the  college  authorities, the proctors, the Vice-Chancellor; he
induced Monsignor Bell to call on the Dean of Christ Church; he arranged for
Lady March-main to talk to  the Chancellor himself; and, as a result of  all
this, the three of us  were  gated for the rest of the term, Hardcastle, for
no  very clear reason, was  again deprived of the use of  his  car, and  the
affair blew over. The most lasting penalty we suffered was our intimacy with
Rex Mottram and Mr. Samgrass, but since Rex's life was  in London in a world
of politics and high finance and Mr. Samgrass's nearer to our own at Oxford,
it was from him we suffered the more.

     For  the rest of that term  he  haunted us.  Now  that we were gated we
could not spend  our  evenings together, and from  nine o'clock onwards were
alone  and at  Mr. Samgrass's mercy. Hardly an evening seemed to pass but he
called  on  one or  the other of  us. He  spoke of  "our little escapade" as
though he, too, had been iri the cells, and had that bond with us. ...  Once
I climbed  out  of college and  Mr. Samgrass found me in  Sebastian's  rooms
after the gate was shut  and  that, too,  he  made  into a bond. It  did not
surprise me,  therefore, when I arrived at Brideshead, to find Mr. Samgrass,
as  though in wait  for me, sitting alone before  the fire in  the room they
called the "Tapestry Hall."

     "You find me in solitary possession,"  he said, and indeed he seemed to
possess  the hall and  the sombre scenes of venery  that  hung round it,  to
possess the caryatids on either side of the fireplace, to possess me,  as he
rose to take my hand and greet me like a host: "This morning," he continued,
"we  had  a lawn meet of  the  Marchmain  Hounds --  a  deliciously  archaic
spectacle  -- and all our young friends are fox hunting, even Sebastian who,
you will not  be  surprised  to hear,  looked remarkably elegant in his pink
coat. Brideshead was impressive rather than elegant; he is Joint-master with
a  local figure of fun  named Sir Walter Strickland-Venables. I wish the two
of  them  could be included  in these rather humdrum  tapestries--they would
give a note of fantasy.
     "Our hostess  remained at home;  also  a convalescent Dominican who has
read too much Maritain and too  little Hegel; Sir Adrian Person, of  course,
and two rather forbidding Magyar cousins  -- I have tried them in German and
in French,  but  in neither  tongue are  they  diverting. All these have now
driven off to  visit  a  neighbour. I  have  been spending  a cosy afternoon
before the fire with the incomparable Charlus.  Your arrival emboldens me to
ring for  some tea. How can I prepare you for the  party? Alas, it breaks up
to-morrow. Lady Julia departs to celebrate the New Year elsewhere, and takes
the beau-monde  with her. I shall miss the pretty creatures  about the house
--  particularly  one Celia; she  is  the sister  of our  old  companion  in
adversity,  Boy Mulcaster, and  wonderfully unlike him. She has a  bird-like
style of conversation, pecking  away  at the  subject in a way  I find  most
engaging, and a school-monitor style of dress which I can only call 'saucy.'
I  shall miss her,  for I  do not  go  to-morrow. To-morrow  I start work in
earnest  on our hostess's book -- which, believe me, is a treasure house  of
period gems; pure authentic 1914."

     Tea was brought and, soon after it, Sebastian returned; he had lost the
hunt early,  he said, and hacked home; the others were  not  long after him,
having been .fetched by car at the end of the day; Brideshead was absent; he
had business at the kennels and Cordelia had  gone with him. The rest filled
the hall and were soon eating scrambled eggs and crumpets; and Mr. Samgrass,
who had  lunched at  home and dozed all the  afternoon before the  fire, ate
eggs and crumpets with them. Presently  Lady Marchmain's party returned; and
when, before we went  upstairs  to dress for dinner, she said, "Who's coming
to chapel for the rosary?" and Sebastian and Julia said they must have their
baths at once, Mr. Samgrass went with her and the friar.

     "I wish Mr. Samgrass would go," said Sebastian, in his bath;  "I'm sick
of being grateful to him."

     In the course of the next fortnight distaste for  Mr. Samgrass came  to
be a little unspoken secret throughout the house; in his presence Sir Adrian
Porson's fine old eyes seemed  to search a distant horizon and his lips  set
in classic  pessimism. Only  the Hungarian cousins who, mistaking the status
of  tutor,  took  him  for  an  unusually  privileged  upper  servant,  were
unaffected by his presence.

     Mr. Samgrass, Sir Adrian Porson, the Hungarians, the friar, Brideshead,
Sebastian, Cordelia, were all who remained of the Christmas party.

     Religion  predominated in  the house;  not only in  its practices-- the
daily  mass and rosary,  morning and evening in the chapel -- but in all its
intercourse. "We  must make a Catholic of Charles," '  Lady  Marchmain said,
and  we had many little talks together  during my visits when she delicately
steered the subject into a holy  quarter. After the first of these Sebastian
said:  "Has  Mummy  been having  one  of  her 'little talks' with you? She's
always doing it. I wish to hell she wouldn't."

     One  was never summoned for a little talk, or consciously led to it; it
merely happened, when she wished to speak intimately, that one found oneself
alone with  her, if it was summer in  a secluded walk by  the lakes or in  a
corner of the walled  rose gardens; if it was  winter in her sitting-room on
the first floor.

     This room was all her own; she had  taken it for herself and changed it
so that, entering,  one seemed to be  in another house. She had  lowered the
ceiling,  and the elaborate cornice which, in one  form or  another,  graced
every  room,  was  lost to view; the walls,  once panelled in  brocade, were
stripped and washed blue and spotted  with innumerable  little water-colours
of fond association;  the air was sweet with the fresh scent of flowers  and
musty pot-pourri;  her  library in  soft leather covers, well-read  works of
poetry and piety, filled a  small rosewood  bookcase;  the chimney-piece was
covered with small personal treasures  --  an ivory  Madonna,  a plaster St.
Joseph, posthumous  miniatures of her three soldier brothers. When Sebastian
and I lived alone at Brideshead during that brilliant August we had kept out
of his mother's room.

     Scraps of conversation  come back to me with  the memory of her room. I
remember her saying: "When I  was a girl we  were  comparatively  poor,  but
still much richer than most of the world, and when I married  I became  very
rich. It used to worry me, and I thought it  wrong to have so many beautiful
things when others  had nothing. Now  I realize  that it is possible for the
rich  to sin by coveting  the  privileges of  the poor. The poor have always
been the favourites of God  and His saints, but I believe that  it is one of
the special  achievements of  Grace to  sanctify the  whole  of life, riches
included. Wealth in pagan Rome was necessarily something cruel; it's not any
more."
     I  said something  about a camel and the eye of a needle  and  she rose
happily to the point.
     "But  of  course"  she said, "it's  very  unexpected for a camel  to go
through  the  eye  of  a  needle,  but the  gospel is simply a  catalogue of
unexpected  things.  It's not to be  expected that  an ox and  an ass should
worship at the crib. Animals are always doing the oddest things in the lives
of the saints. It's all part of the poetry, the Alice-in-Wonderland side, of
religion."

     But I was as untouched by her faith as I was  by her charm; or, rather,
I  was touched  by  both  alike. I  had  no mind then  for  anything  except
Sebastian, and I saw him already as being  threatened, though  I did not yet
know how black was the threat. His constant, despairing prayer was to be let
alone. By the blue waters and rustling palm of his own mind he was happy and
harmless as a Polynesian;  only when  the big ship dropped anchor beyond the
coral reef, and the cutter beached in the lagoon, and, up  the golden  slope
that  had never known the print  of a  boot there trod  the grim invasion of
trader, adminis-. trator, missionary  and tourist--only then was it  time to
disinter the archaic weapons of the tribe and sound the drums in the  hills;
or, more easily, to turn from the sunlit door and lie alone in the darkness,
where the impotent, painted deities paraded the walls in vain, and cough his
heart out among the rum bottles.

     And since Sebastian counted among the intruders  his own conscience and
all  claims of  human affection,  his days in Arcadia were numbered.  For in
this, to me,  tranquil time Sebastian took fright. I knew  him  well in that
mood  of alertness  and suspicion, like a  deer suddenly lifting his head at
the far notes of the hunt;  I had seen him grow wary at the  thought of  his
family or his religion; now I found  I, too, was suspect. He did not fail in
love, but he lost  his jay of it,  for I was no longer part of his solitude.
As  my intimacy with his family grew  I became  part of the  world which  he
sought to escape; I  became one of the  bonds which held him.  That  was the
part for which his mother, in  all our little  talks, was seeking to fit me.
Everything was left  unsaid.  It was only  dimly and at rare moments  that I
suspected what was afoot.

     Outwardly Mr. Samgrass was the  only  enemy. For a  fortnight Sebastian
and I remained at Brideshead, leading our own life. His brother was  engaged
in sport and estate management; Mr. Samgrass was at  work in  the library on
Lady Marchmain's book; Sir Adrian  Porson  demanded most of Lady Marchmain's
time./  We saw little of them except in  the evenings; there was  room under
that domed roof for a wide variety of independent lives.

     After a fortnight Sebastian said: "I can't stand Mr. Samgrass any more.
Let's go to London," so he came to stay with me and now began to use my home
in preference  to Marchers. My  father liked  him. "I think your friend very
amusing," he said. "Ask him often."

     Then, back  at Oxford,  we  took up again the life  that  seemed  to be
shrinking in the cold air. The sadness that had been strong in Sebastian the
term before gave place to a kind of sullenness even  towards me. He was sick
at  heart  somewhere, I did not know how,  and I grieved for  him, unable to
help.

     When he was gay now it was usually because he was drunk, and when drunk
he developed an  obsession of "mocking Mr. Samgrass." He composed a ditty of
which the refrain  was, "Green arse, Samgrass  -- Samgrass green arse," sung
to the  tune of St. Mary's chime, and  he would thus  serenade him,  perhaps
once a week, under his  windows. Mr. Samgrass was distinguished as being the
first  don to have a private telephone  installed in his rooms. Sebastian in
his cups used to ring him up and sing him this simple song. And all this Mr.
Samgrass  took in good part, as it  is called,, smiling obsequiously when we
met,  but with  growing  confidence,  as  though each  outrage  in  some way
strengthened his hold on Sebastian.

     It was during  this term  that I  began to realize that Sebastian was a
drunkard  in quite a different sense from  myself.  I got  drunk often,  but
through an excess of  high spirits,  in the love of the moment, and the wish
to prolong and enhance it; Sebastian  drank  to escape. As we together  grew
older and more serious I drank less, he more. I found that sometimes after I
had gone back to my college, he sat up late and alone, soaking. A succession
of disasters came on him so swiftly and with such unexpected  violence  that
it  is hard  to  say when  exactly I  recognized that my friend was  in deep
trouble. I knew it well enough in the  Easter vacation. Julia used  to  say,
"Poor Sebastian. It's something chemical in him."

     That was  the cant phrase  of the time,  derived from heaven knows what
misconception of popular science. "There's something chemical  between them"
was used to explain the overmastering hate or love of any two people. It was
the old concept  of determinism in a new  form.  I do not believe  there was
anything chemical in my friend.

     The  Easter  party at Brideshead was  a  bitter time,  culminating in a
small but unforgettably painful incident.  Sebastian  got very drunk  before
dinner in his mother's  house,  and thus marked the beginning of a new epoch
in his melancholy record of deterioration, the first step in the flight from
his family which brought him to ruin.

     It  was  at the  end  of the  day  when  the  large Easter  party  left
Brideshead. It was called "the Easter party," though in fact it began on the
Tuesday of Easter Week, for  the Flytes all went  into  retreat at the guest
house of a monastery  from Maundy Thursday until Easter. This year Sebastian
had said  he would not go, but at the last moment had yielded, and came home
in a state of acute depression from which I totally failed to raise him.

     He had been drinking very hard  for  a week -- only I knew  how hard --
and drinking in a nervous, surreptitious way, totally unlike  his old habit.
During the party there was  always a grog tray in the library, and Sebastian
took to  slipping  in there at odd moments  during  the  day  without saying
anything even to me. The house was largely deserted during the day. I was at
work  painting another  panel  in the little garden-room  in the  colonnade.
Sebastian complained  of a cold,  stayed  in,  and during all  that time was
never  quite sober;  he  escaped attention  by being silent. Now  and then I
noticed  him  attract curious  glances, but most of the  party knew  him too
slightly to see the change in  him  while his own family were occupied, each
with his particular guests.

     When I  remonstrated he  said, "I can't stand all these people  about,"
but it was when they finally left and he had to  face  his  family at  close
quarters that he broke down.

     The  normal practice was for a cocktail tray  to  be  brought  into the
drawing-room at six; we mixed  our own drinks  and the bottles were  removed
when  we went to dress; later  just before dinner cocktails  appeared again,
this time handed round by the footmen.

     Sebastian  disappeared after tea; the light  had gone and  I  spent the
next  hour  playing  Mah Jong with Cordelia. At  six  I  was  alone  in  the
drawing-room,  when  he returned; he was frowning in  a way  I knew all  too
well, and when he spoke I recognized the drunken thickening in his voice.

     "Haven't they brought  the cocktails  yet?"  He pulled clumsily on  the
bell-rope.

     I said, "Where have you been?"

     "Up with Nanny."

     "I don't believe it. You've been drinking somewhere."

     "I've been reading in my room. My cold's worse to-day."

     When the tray  arrived he slopped gin and vermouth into  a tumbler  and
carried it out of the room  with him. I followed him upstairs, where he shut
his bedroom door in my face and turned the key.

     I returned to the drawing-room full of dismay and foreboding.

     The   family  assembled.   Lady  Marchmain  said:  "What's  become   of
Sebastian?"

     "He's gone to lie down. His cold is worse."

     "Oh dear, I hope he isn't getting flu. I thought he had a feverish look
once or twice lately. Is there anything he wants?"

     "No, he particularly asked not to be disturbed."

     I  wondered  whether I ought to speak to  Brideshead,  but  that  grim,
rock-crystal mask forbade all confidence.  Instead, on  the  way upstairs to
dress, I told Julia.

     "Sebastian's drunk."

     "He can't be. He didn't even come for a cocktail."

     "He's been drinking in his room all the afternoon."

     "How very peculiar!  What  a  bore  he  isl Will  he be all  right  for
dinner?"

     "No."

     "Well, you must deal  with him. It's no business of mine. Does he often
do this?"

     "He has lately."

     "How very boring."

     I tried Sebastian's door, found it locked and  hope,d  he was sleeping,
but  when I came back  from  my bath,  I found  him sitting in the  armchair
before  my fire;  he was dressed for dinner, all but his shoes,  but his tie
was  awry and  his  hair on end; he was very red in  the face and  squinting
slightly. He spoke indistinctly.

     "Charles, what  you said was quite  true. Not with Nanny. Been drinking
whiskey up here.  None in the library now party's gone. Now party's gone and
only Mummy. Feeling rather drunk. Think  I'd better have something-on-a-tray
up here. Not dinner with Mummy."

     "Go to bed," I told him. "I'll say your cold's worse."

     "Much worse."

     I took him to his room, which was next to mine, and tried to get him to
bed, but he sat in front of his dressing-table squinnying  at himself in the
glass, trying to remake his bow tie. On the writing-table by  the fire was a
half-empty decanter of whiskey. I took it up, thinking he would not see, but
he spun round from the mirror and said: "You put that down."

     "Don't be an ass, Sebastian. You've had enough."

     "What the devil's it got to do with you? You're only a guest here -- my
guest. I drink what I want to in my own house."

     He would have fought me for it at that moment.

     "Very well,"  I said, putting the  decanter  back, "only for God's sake
keep out of sight."

     "Oh, mind your  own  business. You came here as my  friend; now  you're
spying on me for my mother, I know. Well, you can get out, and tell her from
me that I'll choose my friends and she her spies in future."

     So I left him and went down to dinner.

     "I've been in  to  Sebastian," I said.  "His  cold has  come  on rather
badly. He's gone to bed and says he doesn't want anything."

     "Poor Sebastian," said Lady Marchmain. "He'd better have a glass of hot
whiskey. I'll go and have a look at him."

     "Don't Mummy, I'll go," said Julia rising.

     "I'll go," said Cordelia, who was  dining  down that night, for a treat
to celebrate the departure of the guests.  She  was at  the door and through
it, before  anyone could stop her. Julia caught my  eye and gave a tiny, sad
shrug. In a few minutes  Cordelia  was back, looking grave.  "No, he doesn't
seem to  want anything," she said. "How was he?" "Well,  I don't know, but I
think he's very drunk," she said.

     "Cordelia."

     Suddenly the child began to  giggle. " 'Marquis's Son Unused to Wine,'"
she quoted. " 'Model Student's Career Threatened.'"

     "Charles, is this true?" asked Lady Marchmain.

     "Yes."

     Then dinner  was announced, and  we went  to the dining-room, where the
subject was not mentioned.

     When Brideshead and  I  were left alone he said: "Did you say Sebastian
was drunk?"

     "Yes."

     "Extraordinary time to choose. Couldn't you stop him?"

     "No."

     "No," said Brideshead, "I don't suppose you could. I once saw my father
drunk, in this room. I wasn't more than about ten  at the  time.  You  can't
stop people if they want to  get drunk. My  mother  couldn't stop my father,
you know."

     He spoke in his odd, impersonal way. The more  I saw of this family,  I
reflected, the more singular I found them. "I shall ask my mother to read to
us to-night."

     It was the custom,  I learned later,  always to ask Lady March-main  to
read aloud on evenings of  family tension. She  had a  beautiful  voice  and
great humour of expression. That night she read part of The Wisdom of Father
Brown. Julia sat with' a stool covered  with  manicure things  and carefully
revarnished her nails; Cordelia  nursed  Julia's Pekinese; Brideshead played
patience; I sat unoccupied studying the pretty group they made, and mourning
my  friend upstairs. But the horrors  of that evening were  not yet over. It
was  sometimes  Lady Marchmain's practice,  when the  family  were alone, to
visit  the chapel before  going to bed. She had  just  closed  her  book and
proposed going there  when  the  door opened  and Sebastian appeared. He was
dressed  as  I had last  seen him, but now  instead  of being flushed he was
deathly pale.

     "Come to apologize," he said.

     "Sebastian,  dear, do go  back to your room,"  said Lady Marchmain. "We
can talk about it in the morning."

     "Not to you. Come to apologize to Charles. I was bloody to him and he's
my guest. He's my guest and my only friend and I was bloody to him."

     A chill spread over us. I led him back to his  room; his family went to
their prayers. I noticed  when we  got  upstairs that  the decanter was  now
empty. "It's time you were in bed," I said.

     Sebastian began to weep. "Why do you take their side against me? I knew
you would if I let you meet them. Why do you spy on me?"

     He  said more  than I  can  bear  to  remember, even  at twenty  years'
distance. At last I got him to sleep and very sadly went to bed myself.

     Next morning, he came  to rny room  very  early, while  the house still
slept; he drew the curtains and the sound of  it woke me, to find  him there
fully dressed, smoking, with  his back to me, looking out of  the windows to
where the  long dawn-shadows  lay across the dew  and the  first  birds were
chattering in the budding tree-tops. When  I spoke he  turned a face,  which
showed  no ravages  of the  evening before, but was fresh and  sullen  as  a
disappointed child's.

     "Well," I said. "How do you feel?"

     "Rather odd. I  think perhaps  I'm still a little drunk. I've just been
down to the stables trying to get a car  but  everything was  locked.  We're
off."

     He  drank from the water-bottle  by my pillow, threw his cigarette from
the window, and lit another with hands which trembled like an old man's.

     "Where are you going?"

     "I don't know. London, I suppose. Can I come and stay with you?"

     "Of course."

     "Well, get dressed. They can send our luggage on by train."

     "We can't just go like this."

     "We can't stay."

     He sat  on the window-seat  looking away from me, out  of  the windoyv.
Presently  he  said:  "There's smoke coming from some of the chimneys.  They
must have opened the stables now. Come on."

     "I can't go," I said. "I must say good-bye to your mother."

     "Sweet bulldog."

     "Well, I don't happen to like running away."

     "And I couldn't care less. And I shall  go on running away, as far  and
as  fast as I  can. You  can hatch up any  plot you  like with  my mother; I
shan't come back."

     "That's how you talked last night."

     "I know. I'm sorry, Charles. I told you I was still drunk. If it's  any
comfort to you, I absolutely detest myself."

     "It's no comfort at all."

     "It must be a  little, I  should have thought. Well, if you won't come,
give my love to Nanny."

     "You're really going?"

     "Of course."

     "Shall I see you in London?"

     "Yes, I'm coming to stay with you."

     He left me but I did not sleep  again; nearly two hours later a footman
came with tea and bread and butter and set my clothes out for a new day.


     Later that morning I sought Lady Marchmain;  the wind had freshened and
we stayed indoors; I sat near her before  the fire  in her  room, while  she
bent  over  her  needlework   and  the   budding   creeper  rattled  on  the
window-panes.

     "I wish I had not seen him,"  she said.  "That was cruel. I do not mind
the idea of his being drunk. It is a thing all men do when they are young. I
am used to the idea of it. My brothers  were wild at his age. What hurt last
night was that there was nothing happy about him."

     "I know," I said. "I've never seen him like that before."

     "And last night  of all nights . . .  when everyone  had gone and there
were only ourselves here -- you see, Charles, I look on you very much as one
of ourselves. Sebastian loves you -- when there  was no need for him to make
an effort to be gay. And  he wasn't gay. I slept very little last night, and
all the time I kept coming back to that one thing: he was so unhappy."

     It was impossible for me  to explain to her what I only half understood
myself; even then I  felt, "She will learn it soon enough. Perhaps she knows
it now."

     "It  was horrible," I said. "But please don't  think  that's his  usual
way."

     "Mr. Samgrass told me he was drinking too much all last term."

     "Yes, but not like that -- never before."

     "Then  why  now?  Here?  With us? All  night I  have  been thinking and
praying and wondering what  I was to  say to him, and  now, this morning, he
isn't  here  at all. That was cruel of him, leaving without  a word. J don't
want him to be ashamed -- it's being ashamed that makes  it  all so wrong of
him."

     "He's ashamed of being unhappy," I said.

     "Mr. Samgrass says he is noisy and high-spirited. I believe," she said,
with  a faint light  of  humour streaking the clouds, "I believe  you and he
tease  Mr. Samgrass  rather.  It's naughty  of you. I'm  very  fond  of  Mr.
Samgrass,  and you should be too,  after all he's done for you.  But I think
perhaps if I  were your age and a man,  I might be just a little inclined to
tease Mr. Samgrass  myself. No, I don't  mind that,  but last night and this
morning are something quite different. You see, it's all happened before."

     "I can only say I've seen him drunk often  and I've been drunk with him
often, but last night was quite new to me."

     "Oh,  I don't mean with Sebastian. I mean years ago. I've been  through
it all  before with  someone  else whom I loved. Well, you must know  what I
mean  -- with his father. He used to be drunk in just that way. Someone told
me  he is not like that now. I pray God it's true and  thank God for it with
all my heart, if it is. But the running away --  he ran away, too, you know.
It was as you  said just now, he was  ashamed of being unhappy. Both of them
unhappy, ashamed and running away. It's too pitiful. The men I grew up with"
-- and her great eyes moved from the embroidery  to the three  miniatures in
the folding leather  case on  the chimney-piece --  "were not like  that.  I
simply don't understand it. Do you, Charles?"

     "Only very little."

     "And yet Sebastian is fonder of you than of any of us, you know. You've
got to help him. I can't."

     I have here compressed into a few sentences what, there, required many.
Lady  Marchmain  was  not  diffuse,  but she took hold of her  subject  in a
feminine, flirtatious way, circling,  approaching, retreating, feinting; she
hovered over it like a butterfly; she  played "grandmother's steps" with it,
getting nearer  the real  point imperceptibly while one's  back  was turned,
standing rooted  when she was observed. The unhappiness, the running away --
these  made  up her sorrow, and in her own way she exposed  the whole of it,
before she was  done. It was an hour  before she  had said  all she meant to
say. Then,  as I rose to leave her, she added  as though in an afterthought:
"I wonder have you seen my brother's book? It has just come out."

     I told her I had looked through it in Sebastian's rooms.

     "I should like you to have a copy. May I give you one? They were  three
splendid men; Ned was the  best of them. He was  the last to be  killed, and
when  the telegram came, as  I knew it would  come,  I thought: 'Now it's my
son's turn to  do what Ned can  never do now.' I was alone then. He was just
going to Eton. If you read Ned's book you'll understand."

     She  had a copy lying ready on her bureau. I thought  at the time, "She
planned this parting before  ever I came  in.  Had  she  rehearsed  all  the
interview?  If things had gone  differently would she have put the book back
in the drawer?"

     She wrote her name and mine on the fly-leaf, the date and place.

     "I prayed for you, too, in the night," she said.

     I  closed the door behind me,  shutting  out the  bondieuserie, the low
ceiling, the chintz, the lambskin bindings, the views of Florence, the bowls
of  hyacinth and pot-pourri, the petit point, the  intimate feminine, modern
world,  and  was  back  under the  coved and  coffered roof, the columns and
entablature of the  central hall, in the  august, masculine  atmosphere of a
better age.
     I was no fool; I was  old enough to know that an attempt  had been made
to suborn me and young enough to have found the experience agreeable.

     I did not see Julia that morning,  but  just as  I was leaving Cordelia
ran to the  door of the car and said: "Will  you be seeing Sebastian? Please
give him my special love. Will you remember -- my special love?"


     In the train to London I read the book Lady Marchmain had given me. The
frontispiece reproduced the photograph  of a young man in Grenadier uniform,
and I  saw plainly  revealed  there the origin of that grim  mask which,  in
Brideshead, overlaid the gracious features of  his father's family; this was
a man of the  woods and caves, a hunter,  a judge of the tribal council, the
repository  of  the  harsh  traditions  of  a  people  at   war  with  their
environment. There were  other  illustrations in the book, snapshots  of the
three brothers on  holiday, and in each I traced the same archaic lines; and
remembering Lady Marchmain, starry and delicate, I could find no likeness to
her in these sombre men.

     She appeared seldom  in the book; she was older than the eldest of them
by nine years  and had  married  and  left  home while they were schoolboys;
between her and  them stood  two other sisters; after the birth o the third
daughter there had been pilgrimages and pious benefactions  in request for a
son, for theirs was a wide property and an ancient name; male heirs had come
late and, when they came, in a profusion which at the time seemed to promise
continuity to  "the line which,  in  the  tragic event, ended abruptly  with
them.

     The family history was typical of the Catholic squires of England; from
Elizabeth's reign  till  Victoria's they lived sequestered lives among their
tenantry and kinsmen, sending their  sons  to school  abroad; often marrying
there--inter-marrying,  if not, with a score of  families  like  themselves,
debarred  from  all preferment; and learning,  in  those  lost  generations,
lessons which, could still be read in the lives o the last three men of the
house. Mr. Samgrass's deft editorship had assembled and arranged a curiously
homogeneous little body of writing--poetry, letters, scraps of a journal, an
unpublished essay  or  two  --  which all exhaled  the  same  high-spirited,
serious,  chivalrous,  other-worldly   air;  and  the  letters   from  their
contemporaries,  written  after  their deaths,  all  in  varying degrees  of
articulateness, told the same tale of men who were, in all the full flood of
academic and  athletic  success,  of  popularity  and  the  promise of great
rewards ahead,  seen  somehow  as set  apart from  their  fellows, garlanded
victims, devoted to  the sacrifice. These  men must die to  make a world for
Hooper; they were the aborigines, vermin by right of  lawy to be shot off at
leisure so that things  might be safe for  the travelling salesman, with his
polygonal  pince-nez,  his fat  wet  hand-shake,  his grinning  dentures.  I
wondered, as the  train carried me farther and  farther from Lady Marchmain,
whether perhaps  there was not  on her, too, the same blaze, marking her and
hers for destruction by other  ways than war. Did she see a sign in  the red
centre  of her cosy grate  and  hear  it  in  the  rattle of creeper on  the
window-pane, this whisper of doom?

     Then I reached Paddington  and,  returning home,  found ebastian there,
and the sense of tragedy vanished, for he was  gay and  free as when I first
met him.

     "Cordelia sent you her special love."

     "Did you have a 'little talk' with Mummy?"

     "Yes."

     "Have you gone over to her side?"

     The day before  I would have said: "There aren't two sides"; that day I
said, "No, I'm with you, Sebastian contra mundum"

     And that was all the conversation we had on the subject, then or ever.


     But the shadows were closing round Sebastian. We returned to Oxford and
once again the gillyflowers  bloomed under  my windows and the  chestnut lit
the streets and the warm stones strewed their flakes upon the cpbble; but it
was not as it had been; there was midwinter in Sebastian's heart.

     The weeks went by; we looked for lodgings for the coming term and found
them  in Merton Street,  a  secluded, expensive little house near the tennis
court.

     Meeting Mr.  Samgrass, whom we had seen less often of late, I  told him
of our  choice. He  was standing at the  table  in Black-well's where recent
German books were displayed, setting aside a little heap of purchases.

     "You're sharing digs with Sebastian?" he said. "So he is coming up next
term?"

     "I suppose so. Why shouldn't he be?"

     "I  don't  know why;  I somehow  thought perhaps he  wasn't. I'm always
wrong about things like that. I like Merton Street."

     He showed me the books  he was  buying, which, since I  knew no German,
were  not  of  interest  to  me. As  I  left him  he  said: "Don't think  me
interfering,  you  know,  but I  shouldn't make any definite  arrangement in
Merton Street until you're sure."

     I told Sebastian of this conversation and he said: "Yes, there's a plot
on. Mummy wants me to go and live with Monsignor Bell."

     "Why didn't you tell me about it?"

     "Because I'm not going to live with Monsignor Bell."

     "I still think you might have told me. When did it start?"

     "Oh, it's been going on. Mummy's  very  clever  you know. She saw she'd
failed with you.  I expect it was the letter  you  wrote after reading Uncle
Ned's book."

     "I hardly said anything."

     "That was  it. If you were going to be  any help to her, you would have
said a lot. Uncle Ned is the test, you know."

     But it seemed she had not quite despaired, for a few days later I got a
note from her which said: 7 shall  be passing through Oxford  on Tuesday and
hope to  see  you and  Sebastian.  I  would  life to see you alone for  five
minutes before I see him. Is that too much to ask? I will come to your rooms
at about twelve.

     She came; she admired my rooms. .  . . "My brothers Simon and Ned  were
here,  you  know. Ned had  rooms on the  garden front. I wanted Sebastian to
come here, too, but my  husband  was at Christ  Church and, as  you know, he
took  charge  of  Sebastian's  education"; she  admired  my  drawings  . . .
"'everyone loves your paintings in the garden-room.  We  shall never forgive
you if you don't finish them." Finally, she came to her point.

     "I expect you've guessed already what I have come to ask. Quite simply,
is Sebastian drinking too much this term?"

     I had guessed; I answered: "If he were, I shouldn't answer. As it is, I
can say, 'No.'"

     She said: "I believe you. Thank God!" and we went together  to luncheon
at Christ Church.

     That night Sebastian had his third disaster and was found by the junior
dean at one o'clock, wandering round Tom Quad hopelessly drunk.

     I had left him morose  but completely  sober  at a  few minutes  before
twelve. In the succeeding hour he  had drunk half a bottle of whiskey alone.
He did not remember much about 1 it when he came to tell me next morning.

     "Have you been doing that a lot,"  I asked--"drinking by yourself after
I've gone?"

     "About  twice; perhaps four times. It's only when they  start bothering
me. I'd be all right if they'd only leave me alone."

     "They won't now," I said.

     "I know."

     We both knew that this  was a crisis. I had  no love for Sebastian that
morning; he needed it, but I had none to give.

     "Really," I said, "if  you are going  to embark on  a solitary bout  of
drinking  every time  you  see  a  member  of  your family,  it's  perfectly
hopeless."

     "Oh, yes," said Sebastian with great sadness. "I know. It's hopeless."

     But my pride  was  stung because I  had  been made to look a liar and I
could not respond to his need.

     "Well, what do you propose to do?"

     "I shan't do anything. They'll do it all."

     And I let him go without comfort.

     Then the machinery began to move again, and I saw it all repeated as it
had happened  in December;  Mr. Samgrass and Monsignor Bell saw the Dean  of
Christ  Church; Brideshead came up for a night; the heavy wheels stirred and
the small  wheels spun. Everyone  was  exceedingly sorry for Lady Marchmain,
whose brothers'  names stood in letters  of gold on the war memorial,  whose
brothers' memory was fresh in many breasts.

     She  came  to  see  me and,  again,  I must  reduce  to  a  few words a
conversation which  took us from Holywell to the Parks, through Mesopotamia,
and over the ferry to North Oxford, where she  was  staying the night with a
houseful of nuns who were in some way under her protection.

     "You must believe," I said,  "that when  I told  you Sebastian  was not
drinking, I was telling you the truth, as I knew it."

     "I know you wish to be a good friend to him."

     "That is not what I mean. I believed what I told you.  I  still believe
it  to some extent.  I believe he has been drunk two or three  times before,
not more."

     "It's no good, Charles," she said.  "All you can mean  is that you have
not as much influence or knowledge of him as I thought. It is no good either
of us trying to  believe him. I've - known drunkards before. One of the most
terrible things about them is their deceit. Love of truth is the first thing
that goes.

     "After that happy luncheon together. When you  left he  was so sweet to
me, just  as he used to be as a little boy, and  I agreed  to all he wanted.
You know I had been doubtful about his sharing rooms with you. I know you'll
understand me when  I  say that. You  know that we are all fond of you apart
from  your being Sebastian's friend. We should miss you so  much if you ever
stopped coming  to  stay with us. But I want  Sebastian to have all sorts of
friends, not just one. Monsignor Bell tells me he never mixes with the other
Catholics, never  goes to the Newman,  very rarely goes to mass even. Heaven
forbid that he should only know Catholics, but he must know some. It needs a
very strong faith to stand entirely alone and Sebastian isn't strong.'

     "But  I was so  happy  at luncheon  on Tuesday  that  I gave up  all my
objections; I went round widi him and saw the rooms you had chosen. They are
charming. And  we decided  on  some  furniture you could have from London to
make  them nicer. And  then,  on the  very night  after I  had seen him! No,
Charles, it is not in the Logic of the Thing."

     As she said it I thought, That's a  phrase she's picked up  from one of
her intellectual hangers-on.

     "Well," I said, "have you a remedy?"

     "The College  are  being extraordinarily kind. They say  they will  not
send him down provided he goes to live with Monsignor Bell. It's not a thing
I could have suggested myself, but it was the
     Monsignor's  own idea.  He specially sent  a message to you  to say how
welcome  you would always be. There's not room  for you actually in  the old
Palace, but I daresay you wouldn't want that yourself."

     "Lady Marchmain, if you want  to make him a drunkard  that's the way to
do it. Don't you see that any idea of his being watched would be fatal?"

     "Oh,  dear, it's  no good  trying to  explain. Protestants always think
Catholic priests are spies."

     "I don't mean that." I tried to explain but made a poor business of it.
"He must feel free."

     "But he's been free, always, up till now, and look at the result."

     We had  reached the  ferry;  we  had reached a deadlock. With  scarcely
another word I saw her to the convent, then took the bus back to Carfax.

     Sebastian was in my rooms waiting for me. "I'm going to cable to Papa,"
he said. "He won't let them force me into this priest's house."

     "But if they make it a condition, of your coming up?"

     "I shan't  come up. Can you  imagine me -- serving  mass twice  a week,
helping at tea parties for  shy Catholic freshmen, dining with  the visiting
lecturer at the Newman, drinking  a glass of port when we  have guests, with
Monsignor  Bell's eye on  me  to see I don't get  too much, being explained,
when I was out of the room, as the rather embarrassing local inebriate who's
being taken in because his mother is so charming?"

     "I told her it wouldn't do," I said.

     "Shall we get really drunk to-night?"

     "It's the one time it could do no conceivable harm," I said.

     "Contra mundum?"

     "Contra mundum."

     "Bless you, Charles. There aren't many evenings left to us."

     And that night, the first time for many weeks, we got deliriously drunk
together; I saw him to the gate as all the bells were striking midnight, and
reeled  back to my rooms under  a starry heaven which swam dizzily among the
towers, and fell asleep in my clothes as I had not done for a year.


     Next  day Lady  Marchmain  left  Oxford,  taking  Sebastian  with  her.
Brideshead  and I went  to his rooms to sort out what  he would have sent on
and what leave behind.

     Brideshead was as grave  and impersonal as ever. "It's a pity Sebastian
doesn't know Monsignor Bell better," he  said. "He'd find him a charming man
to live with. I was there my last  year.  My mother believes  Sebastian is a
confirmed drunkard. Is he?"

     "He's in danger of becoming one."

     "I believe God prefers drunkards to a lot of respectable people."

     "For  God's sake," I said, for I  was near to  tears that morning, "why
bring God into everything?"

     "I'm sorry. I forgot. But you know that's an extremely funny question."

     "Is it?"

     "To me. Not to you."

     "No,  not  to  me. It seems  to me that without your religion Sebastian
would have the chance to be a happy and healthy man."

     "It's  arguable,"  said  Brideshead. "Do  you think  he  will need this
elephant's foot again?"

     That evening I went across the quad to visit Collins. He was alone with
his texts working by the failing light at his open window. "Hullo," he said.
"Come in. I haven't  seen you all the term. I'm afraid I've nothing to offer
you. Why have you deserted the smart set?"

     "I'm the loneliest man in Oxford," I said. "Sebastian Flyte's been sent
down."

     Presently I asked  him what he was  doing in the Long Vacation. He told
me; it sounded excruciatingly dull. Then I aske him if  ,he had got digs for
next  term. Yes, he told  me, rather far out but  very comfortable.  He  was
sharing with Tyngate, the secretary of the College Essay Society.

     "There's one  room  we haven't  filled yet.  Barker was  coming, but he
feels now he's standing  for president of  the Union he  ought to  be nearer
in."

     It was in both our minds that perhaps I might take that room.

     "Where are you going?"

     "I was going to Merton Street with Sebastian Flyte. That's no use now."

     Still neither of us made the suggestion and the moment passed.  When, I
left he said, "I hope you find someone  for Merton Street," and  I said,  "I
hope you find someone for the Iffley Road," and I never spoke to him again.

     There was  only ten days of term to go; I got through them somehow  and
returned to London  as  I had done in such  different circumstances the year
before, with no plans made.

     "That very good-looking friend of yours," asked my father -- "is he not
with you?"

     "No."

     "I quite thought he had taken this over as his home. I'm sorry. I liked
him."

     "Father, do you particularly want me to take my degree?"

     "I want  you to? Good gracious,  why should I want such a thing? No use
to me. Not much use to you either, as far as I've seen."

     "That's  exactly  what I've been thinking. I  thought  perhaps  it  was
rather a waste of time going back to Oxford."

     Until  then my father had  taken only  a limited interest in what I was
saying; now he put down his book, took off his spectacles, and looked  at me
hard. "You've been sent down," he said. "My brother warned me of this."

     "No, I've not."

     "Well, then, what's all the talk about?" he asked testily, resuming his
spectacles, searching for his place on the page. "Everyone stays up at least
three  years.  I  knew  one man  who  took  seven to get  a  pass  degree in
theology."

     "I  only  thought  that  if  I was  not going  to  take  up  one o the
professions  where  a degree is necessary,  it might be best to start now on
what I intend doing. I intend to be a painter."

     But to this my father made no answer at the time.

     The  idea, however, seemed to  take root in  his  mind; by the time  we
spoke of the matter again it was firmly established.

     "When  you're  a painter," he said suddenly at Sunday luncheon, "you'll
need a studio."

     "Yes."

     "Well,  there isn't a studio here. There isn't even  a  room  you could
decently  use  as a  studio.  I'm  not  going  to have you painting  in  the
gallery."

     "No. I never meant to."

     "Nor will I have undraped models all  over the house,  not critics with
their horrible jargon. And I don't like the  smell of  turpentine. I presume
you intend to do the thing thoroughly and use oil paint?" My father belonged
to a generation which divided  painters  into the  serious  and the amateur,
according as they used oil or water.

     "I don't suppose I should do much  painting the  first year.  Anyway, I
should be working at a school."

     "Abroad?" asked my father  hopefully. "There are some excellent schools
abroad I believe."

     It was all happening rather faster than I had intended.

     "Abroad or here. I should have to look round first."

     "Look round abroad," he said.

     "Then you agree to my leaving Oxford?"

     "Agree? Agree? My dear boy, you're twenty-two."

     "Twenty," I said, "twenty-one in October."

     "Is that all? It seems much longer."


     A letter from Lady Marchmain completes this episode.


     My dear Charles [she wrote],

     Sebastian  left me  this morning  to join his father abroad.  Before he
went I asked him if he had written to you. He said no, so I must write, tho'
I can hardly hope to say in a letter what I could not say on our  last walk.
But you must not be left in silence.

     The College has sent Sebastian down for  a term only, and will take him
back after Christmas on condition he goes to live with  Mgr. Bell. It is for
him to  decide. Meanwhile  Mr. Samgrass has very kindly  consented  to  take
charge of him. As soon as his visit to his father is over Mr. Samgrass  will
pick him up  and they will go together to the Levant, where Mr. Samgrass has
long been anxious to  investigate a number of orthodox monasteries. He hopes
this may be a new interest for Sebastian.

     Sebastian's stay here has not been happy.

     When they come home at Christmas I know Sebastian will want to see you,
and so shall we all. I  hope  your arrangements for next  term have not been
too much upset and that everything will go well with you.

     Yours sincerely,
     teresa marchmain

     I went to the garden-room this morning ahd was so very sorry.


     Chapter Six

     "And when we reached the top of the pass," said Mr. Samgrass, "we heard
the  galloping  horses behind, and  two soldiers rode up  to the head of the
caravan and turned  us back. The General had sent them, and they reached  us
only just in time. There was a band, not a mile ahead."

     He paused, and  his  small audience sat  silent, conscious  that he had
sought to impress them but in doubt as to how they could politely show their
interest.

     "A band?" said Julia. "Goodness!"

     Still he seemed to expect more. At last Lady Marchmain said, "I suppose
the sort of folk-music you get in those parts is very monotonous."

     "Dear Lady Marchmain, a band of brigands."  Cordelia, beside  me on the
sofa,  began  to  giggle  noiselessly.  "The  mountains  are full  of  them.
Stragglers from  Kemal's  army; Greeks  who got cut off in the retreat. Very
desperate fellows, I assure you."

     "Do pinch me," whispered Cordelia.

     I pinched her and the agitation of the sofa-springs cedsed.

     "Thanks," she said, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand.

     "So  you  never  got  to  wherever-it-was,"  said  Julia.  "Weren't you
terribly disappointed, Sebastian?"

     "Me?" said Sebastian from the shadows beyond the lamplight,  beyond the
warmth  of  the burning logs,  beyond the family circle and the  photographs
spread out on the card-table.  "Me? Oh, I don't think  I was there that day,
was I, Sammy?"

     "That was the day you were ill."

     "I was ill," he repeated like an  echo,  "so I never should have got to
wherever-it-was, should I, Sammy?"

     "Now this, Lady Marchmain, is the caravan at Aleppo in the-courtyard of
the inn. That's our Armenian cook, Begedbian; that's me on  the pony; that's
the tent folded up; that's a rather tiresome Kurd who would follow us  about
at  the   time.  .   .   .  Here  I  am  in  Pontus,   Ephesus,   Trebizond,
Krak-des-chevaliers, Samothrace, Batum --  of course, I haven't  got them in
chronological order yet."

     "All guides and ruins and mules," said Cordelia. "Where's Sebastian?"

     "He," said Mr. Samgrass, with a hint of triumph in his voice, as though
he had expected the question  and  prepared the answer, "he held the camera.
He became quite an expert as soon as he learned not to put his hand over the
lens, didn't you, Sebastian?"

     There was no  answer from  the shadows. Mr.  Samgrass delved again into
his pig-skin satchel.

     "Here,"  he said,  "is  a group taken by a street  photographer on  the
terrace of the St. George Hotel at Beirut. There's Sebastian."

     "Why," I said, "there's Anthony Blanche, surely?"

     "Yes, we saw quite a lot of him; met him by chance at Constantinople. A
delightful companion. I can't think how I missed  knowing  him. He came with
us all the way to Beirut."

     Tea had been cleared away and the curtains drawn. It was two days after
Christmas, the first evening of my visit; the first, too, of Sebastian's and
Mr.  Samgrass's,  whom  to my surprise I had  found on  the platform  when I
arrived.

     Lady Marchmain had written  three weeks before: I have just  heard from
Mr. Samgrass that he and Sebastian will be home for Christmas as we hoped. I
had not heard from them for so long that I was afraid they were lost and did
not want to make any arrangements until I knew. Sebastian will be longing to
see you.  Do come to us for Christmas if you can manage it, or as soon after
as you can.

     Christmas with my  uncle  was an  engagement I could not  break,  so  I
travelled across  country  and joined the local train  midway,  expecting to
find Sebastian  already  established; there  he was, however,  in  the  next
carriage  to  mine,  and when  I asked  him what he  was  doing Mr. Samgrass
replied  with  such  glibness  and at  such  length, telling  rne of mislaid
luggage and of Cook's being shut over the holidays, that I was at once aware
of some other explanation which was being withheld.

     Mr. Samgrass was not at ease; he  maintained all the physical habits of
self-confidence, but guilt hung  about  him like  stale cigar smoke, and  in
Lady Marchmain's greeting of him I caught a note of anticipation. He kept up
a  lively account  of his tour during tea, and then  Lady Marchmain drew him
away  with her,  upstairs,  for  a "little  talk."  I  watched him  go  with
something  near compassion; it was plain to anyone  with a  poker sense that
Mr. Samgrass held a  very imperfect  hand and,  as I  watched him at tea,  I
began  to suspect that  he was  not only bluffing but  cheating.  There  was
something he must  say, did  not want to say, and did not  quite know how to
say to Lady  Marchmain about his doings over Christmas, but, more than that,
I guessed,  there was a great deal he ought  to say and had no intention  at
all of saying about the whole Levantine tour.

     "Come and see Nanny," said Sebastian.

     "Please, can I come, too?" said Cordelia.

     "Come on."

     We  climbed to  the nursery  in  the dome.  On the  way Cordelia  said:
"Aren't you at all pleased to be home?"

     "Of course I'm pleased," said Sebastian.

     "Well,  you might show it a  bit.  I've  been looking forward to it  so
much."

     Nanny did  not particularly wish  to be  talked to; she liked  visitors
best when they  paid no attention  to her and let  her knit  away, and watch
their faces and think of them as she had known them as small children; their
present  goings-on  did not signify much beside those  early  illnesses  and
crimes.

     "Well," she said,  "you  are  looking  peaky.  I  expect  it's all that
foreign  food doesn't  agree with  you. You  must fatten up now you're back.
Looks as though you'd been having some late nights, too, by the look of your
eyes  -- dancing, I suppose." (It was  ever Nanny  Hawkins's belief that the
upper  classes spent most of their leisure  evenings in the  ballroom.) "And
that shirt wants darning. Bring it to me before it goes to the wash."

     Sebastian certainly did look ill; five months had wrought the change of
years in him. He was  paler, thinner, pouchy under the eyes, drooping in the
corners of his mouth, and he showed
     the scars of a boil on the side of his  chin; his voice seemed  flatter
and his movements alternately  listless and jumpy;  he  looked down-at-heel,
too, with  clothes and hair, which  formerly had been happily negligent, now
unkempt; worst of all, there was a wariness in his eye which I had surprised
there at Easter, and which now seemed habitual to him.

     Restrained  by  this  wariness I asked him nothing of himself, but told
him instead about my autumn and winter. I told him about my rooms in the Ile
St.-Louis and the art school, and how good the old teachers were and how bad
the students.

     "They  never go near the Louvre,"  I said, "or,  if they  do, it's only
because  one of their absurd reviews has suddenly  'discovered' a master who
fits in with that month's aesthetic theory. Half of  them are out to  make a
popular splash  like Picabia; the other half quite simply want to earn their
living doing  advertisements for Vogue and decorating  night clubs. And  the
teachers still go on trying to make them paint like Delacroix."

     "Charles," said Cordelia, "Modern Art is all bosh, isn't it?"

     "Great bosh."

     "Oh, I'm so  glad. I had an  argument with one of our nuns and she said
we  shouldn't try and criticize what we didn't  understand. Now I shall tell
her I have had it straight from a real artist, and snubs to her."

     Presently  it  was time  for Cordelia  to go to  her  supper,  and  for
Sebastian  and  me  to  go  down  to  the  drawing-room  for  our cocktails.
Brideshead was there alone, but Wilcox followed on our heels to say to  him:
"Her Ladyship would like to speak to you upstairs, my lord."

     "That's unlike  Mummy,  sending for anyone. She  usually  lures them up
herself."

     There was  no sign  of the cocktail tray. After a few minutes Sebastian
rang  the  bell. A  footman  answered.  "Mr.  Wilcox  is upstairs  with  her
Ladyship."

     "Well, never mind, bring in the cocktail things."

     ''Mr. Wilcox has the keys, my lord."

     "Oh . . . well, send him in with them when he comes down."

     We talked  a little  about  Anthony  Blanche  --  "He had  a  beard  in
Istanbul, but I  made him take it  off"  --  and after ten minutes Sebastian
said: "Well, I don't want a cocktail, anyway; I'm off to my  bath," and left
the room.

     It was half-past seven; I supposed the  others had gone to  dress, but,
as I was going to follow them, I met Brideshead coming down.

     "Just a  moment,  Charles, there's something  I've got  to explain.  My
mother has given orders that no drinks are to  be left in any of  the rooms.
You'll  understand why. If you want  anything,  ring and ask Wilcox --  only
better wait until you're alone. I'm sorry, but there it is."

     "Is that necessary?"

     "I gather  very necessary. You may or may not have heard, Sebastian had
another  outbreak  as  soon  as  he  got back to  England. He  was lost over
Christmas. Mr. Samgrass only found him yesterday evening."

     "I guessed something of the kind had happened. Are you sure this is the
best way of dealing with it?"

     "It's  my mother's  way. Will  you have a cocktail, now  that he's gone
upstairs?"

     "It would choke me."

     I was  always given the room  I had on my  first visit; it  was next to
Sebastian's, and we shared what had once been  a  dressing-room and had been
changed to a bathroom twenty years back by the substitution for the bed of a
deep, copper, mahogany-framed bath, that was filled by pulling a brass lever
heavy  as  a  piece of marine  engineering;  the rest  of the  room remained
unchanged; a coal fire always  burned there in winter. I often think of that
bathroom -- the water colours dimmed  by steam and the huge towel warming on
the  back  of  the  chintz  armchair -- and contrast it  with  the  uniform,
clinical little chambers, glittering with chromium plate and  looking-glass,
which pass for luxury itf f the modern world.

     I lay in the bath and then dried slowly by the fire, thinking all'' the
time  of my friend's black home-coming. Then I put on  my  dressing-gown and
went to Sebastian's  room, entering, as I  always did, without  knocking. He
was sitting by  his fire half-dressed, and he  started angrily when he heard
me and put down a tooth-glass.

     "Oh, it's you. You gave me a fright."

     "So you got a drink," I said.

     "I don't know what you mean."

     "For Christ's sake,"  I said, "you don't have to  pretend  with me! You
might offer me some."

     "It's just something I had in my flask. I've finished it now."

     "What's going on?"

     "Nothing. A lot. I'll tell you sometime."

     I dressed and called in for Sebastian, but found him still sitting 1 as
I had left him, half-dressed over his fire.

     Julia was alone in the drawing-room.

     "Well," I asked, "what's going on?"

     "Oh, just another  boring family potin. Sebastian got  tight  again, so
we've all got to keep an eye on him. It's too tedious."

     "It's pretty boring for him, too."

     "Well, it's his fault. Why can't he behave like anyone else? Talking of
keeping an eye on people,  what about Mr.  Samgrass? Charles, do  you notice
anything at all fishy about that man?"

     "Very fishy. Do you think your mother saw it?"

     "Mummy only sees  what suits her. She can't have the whole  I household
under surveillance. I'm causing anxiety, too, you know."

     "I  didn't know," I  said,  adding  humbly, "I've only just  come  from
Paris," so as to avoid giving the impression that any  trouble she might  be
in was not widely notorious.

     It was an evening of peculiar  gloom. We dined in the  Painted Parlour.
Sebastian was late, and so painfully excited were we, that I think it was in
all our minds  that he would make some sort of low-comedy entrance,  reeling
and  hiccuping.  When he came it was, of course,  with perfect propriety; he
apologized,  sat in  the empty place and allowed Mr.  Samgrass to resume his
monologue, uninterrupted and, it seemed, unheard. Druses, patriarchs, icons,
bed-bugs, romanesque  remains, curious dishes  of  goat  and sheep s'  eyes,
French  and  Turkish officials--all the catalogue of Near Eastern travel was
provided for our amusement.

     I watched the champagne go  round the table. When it  came to Sebastian
he said: "I'll have whiskey, please," and I saw Wilcox glance  over his head
to Lady  Marchmain  and saw  her give  a  tiny,  hardly perceptible nod.  At
Brideshead they used small individual  spirit  decanters which held  about a
quarter 6 a bottle, and were always placed, full,  before anyone who  asked
for it; the decanter  which  Wilcox put  before  Sebastian  was  half empty.
Sebastian raised it very deliberately, tilted it, looked at  it, and then in
silence poured the  liquor into his glass, where it covered  two fingers. We
all began talking at  once, all except Sebastian,  so  that for a moment Mr.
Samgrass found himself talking to no one, telling the candlesticks about the
Maronites; but soon we  fell silent again, and he had the  table until  Lady
Marchmain and Julia left the room.

     "Don't be long, Bridey," she said, at the door, as she always said, and
that evening  we had no inclination to delay. Our glasses were  filled  with
port and the decanter at once taken from the room. We drank quickly and went
to the drawing-room, where Brideshead asked his mother to read, and she read
The Diary of a Nobody with great spirit until ten  o'clock,  when she closed
the book and said she was  unaccountably tired, so  tired that she would not
visit the chapel that night.

     "Who's hunting to-morrow?" she asked.

     "Cordelia," said  Brideshead. "I'm taking that young  horse of Julia's,
just to  show him the hounds; I shan't  keep him out  more  than a couple of
hours."

     "Rex is arriving sometime," said  Julia. "I'd better  stay in  to greet
him."

     "Where's the meet?" said Sebastian suddenly.

     "Just here at Flyte St. Mary."

     "Then I'd like to hunt, please, if there's anything for me."

     "Of course. That's delightful. I'd have asked you, only you used always
to  complain so of being made to go out. You can have Tinkerbell. She's been
going very nicely this season."

     Everyone was suddenly pleased that Sebastian wanted to hunt;  it seemed
to undo some of the  mischief of the evening. Brides-head rang the  bell for
whiskey.

     "Anyone else want any?"

     "Bring me some, too," said Sebastian, and, though it was a footman this
time and not Wilcox, I saw the same  exchange of glance  and nod between the
servant  and Lady Marchmain.  Everyone had  been warned. The two drinks were
brought in, poured out already in the glasses, like "doubles" at a  bar, and
all  our  eyes followed the tray, as  though we were dogs  in a  dining-room
smelling game.

     The  good  humour  engendered  by Sebastian's wish to  hunt  persisted,
however; Brideshead wrote out a note for the stables, and we all went  up to
bed quite cheerfully.

     Sebastian got straight to bed; I sat  by  his fire and smoked a pipe. I
said: "I rather wish I was coming out with you tomorrow."

     "Well," he said, "you  wouldn't see much  sport. I can tell you exactly
what I'm going to do. I shall leave Bridey at the first covert, hack over to
the  nearest good pub and spend the entire  day  quietly  soaking in the bar
parlour.  If they treat me like  a dipsomaniac, they can bloody  well have a
dipsomaniac. I hate hunting, anyway."

     "Well, I can't stop you."

     "You can, as a matter of fact--by not giving me any money. They stopped
my  banking account, you know,  in the  summer. It's  been one of  my  chief
difficulties. I pawned  my  watch and  cigarette  case  to  ensure  a  happy
Christmas, so I shall have to come to you to-morrow for my day's expenses."

     "I won't. You know perfectly well I can't."

     "Won't you,  Charles? Well, I daresay I shall manage on my own somehow.
I've got rather clever at that lately -- managing on my own. I've had to."

     "Sebastian, what have you and Mr. Samgrass been up to?"

     "He  told  you at  dinner --  ruins  and guides and mules,  that's what
Sammy's been up to. We decided to go our own ways,  that's all. Poor Sammy's
really behaved rather well so far. I hoped he would keep it up, but he seems
to have been very indiscreet about my happy Christmas. I suppose he  thought
if he gave too good an account of me, he might lose his job as keeper.

     "He makes quite a  good thing out of it, you know. I don't mean that he
steals. I should think he's fairly honest about money. He certainly keeps an
embarrassing little note-book  in  which he puts  down  all  the travellers'
cheques he cashes and what he spends it on, for Mummy and the lawyer to see.
But he wanted to go to all these places, and it's very convenient for him to
have me to take  him in comfort, instead  of going  as dons  usually do. The
only disadvantage was having to put  up with  my company, and we soon solved
that for him.

     "We began very  much on a Grand Tour, you know, with letters to all the
chief people everywhere, and stayed with the Military Governor at Rhodes and
the Ambassador at Constantinople. That was  what Sammy had signed on  for in
the first place. Of course, he had his  work cut out keeping his eye  on me,
but he warned all our hosts beforehand that I was not responsible."

     "Sebastian."

     "Not quite responsible--and as  I had no money to spend I couldn't  get
away very much. He even  did the tipping for me, put the note into the man's
hand  and jotted the amount  down then and there  in his note-book. My lucky
time was  at  Constantinople.  I managed  to make  some  money  at cards one
evening  when  Sammy  wasn't looking. Next day  I gave him the  slip and was
having a very happy hour in the bar at the Tokatlian when who should come in
but  Anthony Blanche  with a beard and  a Jew boy. Anthony lent  me a tenner
just before Sammy came panting in and recaptured me. After that I didn't get
a  minute out of sight; the Embassy staff put us  in the boat to Piraeus and
watched us sail away. But in Athens it was easy. I simply walked  out of the
Legation one day after lunch, changed my  money at Cook's,  and  asked about
sailings  to Alexandria just to fox Sammy,  then went down  to the port in a
bus,  found  a  sailor  who spoke  American, lay  up with him till  his ship
sailed, and popped back to Constantinople, and that was that.

     "Anthony and the Jew boy shared a very nice, tumble-down house near the
bazaars. I  stayed there till  it  got too cold, then Anthony and I  drifted
South till we met Sammy by appointment in Syria three weeks ago."

     "Didn't Sammy mind?"

     "Oh, I think he quite enjoyed himself in his own ghastly way -- only of
course there was no more high life for him.  I think he was a bit anxious at
first.  I didn't  want him  to get the whole Mediterranean Fleet  out,  so I
cabled him from Constantinople that I was quite well and would he send money
to  the Ottoman Bank.  He  came hopping over as  soon as he got my cable. Of
course he was in a difficult position,  because I'm o age and not certified
yet, so he couldn't  have me  arrested. He couldn't leave me to starve while
he was living on my money, and he couldn't tell Mummy without looking pretty
silly. I had him all ways,  poor Sammy. My original  idea  had been to leave
him  flat,  but Anthony  was  very helpful about that,  and said it  was far
better to arrange things amicably;  and he did arrange things very amicably.
So here I am."

     "After Christmas."

     "Yes, I was determined to have a happy Christmas."

     "Did you?"

     "I  think so.  I don't remember it much, and that's always a good sign,
isn't it?"

     Next morning at breakfast Brideshead wore scarlet; Cordelia, very smart
herself, with her chin held high over her white stock, wailed when Sebastian
appeared in a tweed coat:  "Oh, Sebastian, you can't come  out like that. Do
go and change. You look so lovely in hunting clothes."

     "Locked away somewhere. Gibbs couldn't find them."

     "That's a fib. I helped get them out myself before you were called."

     "Half the things are missing."

     "It's  so  bad for  local prestige.  If you  only knew  how unsmart the
Strickland-Venableses are  this year. They've even taken their grooms out of
top-hats."

     It  was quarter to eleven before the horses were  brought round, but no
one  else  appeared  downstairs; it  was  as  though  they were  in  hiding,
listening for Sebastian's retreating hooves before showing themselves.

     Just as  he was  about to  start, when the others were already mounted,
Sebastian beckoned me  into the hall. On the  table beside  his hat, gloves,
whip and sandwiches, lay the flask he had put out to be filled. He picked it
up and shook it; it was empty.

     "You  see," he  said, "I can't even be trusted that far. It's  they who
are mad, not me. Now you can't refuse me money."

     I gave him a pound.

     "More," he said.

     I gave him another and watched him mount and trot after his brother and
sister.

     Then, as though it were his cue on the stage, Mr. Samgrass  came  to my
elbow, put an arm in mine,  and led me back  to the fire. He warmed his neat
little hands and then turned to warm his seat.

     "So  Sebastian is in pursuit  of the fox,"  he  said,  "and  our little
problem is shelved for an hour or two?"

     I was not going to stand this from Mr. Samgrass.

     "I heard all about your Grand Tour, last night," I said.

     "Ah, I  rather supposed you might  have." Mr. Samgrass  was undismayed,
relieved, it seemed, to have someone else in the know. "I did not harrow our
hostess with all that.  After all, it turned out far better than one had any
right to expect. I did feel, however, that  some explanation was due  to her
of Sebastian's Christmas festivities.  You may have observed last night that
there were certain precautions."

     "I did."

     "You thought them excessive? I am with you, particularly , as they tend
to compromise  the  comfort  of  our  own  little visit.  I have  seen  Lady
Marchmain this  morning. You must not suppose I am just  out of  bed. I have
had a  little talk upstairs  with our hostess. I think we may hope  for some
relaxation to-night. Yesterday was not an evening that'any of us would  wish
to have  repeated. I earned less gratitude  than I deserved, I think, for my
efforts to distract you."

     It was repugnant to me to talk about Sebastian  to Mr. Sam-grass, but I
was compelled to  say: "I'm not sure that to-night would be the best time to
start the relaxation."

     "But  surely ?  Why not  to-night,  after  a  day  in  the field  under
Brideshead's inquisitorial eye? Could one choose better?"

     "Oh, I suppose it's none of my business really."

     "Nor mine  strictly, now that he is safely home. Lady March-main did me
the honour of consulting me. But it is less Sebastian's welfare than our own
I  have  at heart at the moment. I need my third glass of  port; I need that
hospitable  tray in the library. And yet you  specifically advise against it
to-night.  I wonder why.  Sebastian can come to  no mischief to-day. For one
thing, he has no money. I happen to know. I saw to it. I even have his watch
and cigarette case upstairs.  He will be quite  harmless . . . as long as no
one is so wicked  as  to give him any . . .  Ah, Lady Julia, good morning to
you, good morning. And how is the Peke this hunting morning?"

     "Oh, the Peke's  all  right.  Listen. I've  got Rex Mottram coming here
to-day. We  simply can't have  another evening like last night. Someone must
speak to Mummy."

     "Someone has. I spoke. I think it will be all right."

     "Thank God for that. Are you painting to-day, Charles?"

     It had been the custom that on every visit  to  Brideshead I  painted a
medallion on the walls of the garden-room. The custom suited me well, for it
gave me a good reason  to detach myself from the rest of the party; when the
house was  full the garden-room  became  a rival to the nursery,  where from
time  to time people took refuge to complain about the others; thus  without
effort  I  kept  in touch  with the gossip of the  place.  There  were three
finished medallions now, each rather pretty  in its  way, but unhappily each
in  a  different  way,  for my tastes had changed  and  I  had  become  more
dexterous in the eighteen months since the series was begun. As a decorative
scheme, they were  a failure. That  morning was typical of the many mornings
when I had found the  garden-room a sanctuary. There I went and  was soon at
work. Julia  came with me to  see  me started  and we talked, inevitably, of
Sebastian.

     "Don't you get bored with the subject?" she  asked. "Why  must everyone
make such a Thing about it?"

     "Just because we're fond of him."

     "Well, I'm  fond  of  him too, in a way, I suppose, only  I  wish  he'd
behave like anybody else.  I've grown up with  one family skeleton, you know
-- Papa. Not to be talked of before the servants, not to be talked of before
us when we were children. If Mummy is going to start  making  a skeleton out
of Sebastian, it's too much. If he wants to be always tight,  why doesn't he
go to Kenya or somewhere where it doesn't matter?"

     "Why does it matter less being unhappy in Kenya than anywhere else?"

     "Don't pretend to be stupid, Charles. You understand perfectly."

     "You mean there won't be so many embarrassing situations for you? Well,
all  I was trying  to say was that I'm  afraid there  may be an embarrassing
situation to-night if Sebastian gets the chance. He's in a bad mood."

     "Oh, a day's hunting will put that all right."

     It was touching to see  the faith which everybody put in the value of a
day's  hunting.  Lady Marchmain,  who  looked in on me during  the  morning,
mocked herself for it with that delicate irony for which she was famous.

     "I've always detested hunting,"  she said, "because it seems to produce
a particularly gross kind  of caddishness in the nicest people. I don't know
what it is, but the moment they dress np and get on a horse they become like
a  lot of Prussians. And  so  boastful after it. The  evenings  I've  sat at
dinner  appalled at seeing the  men  and  women  I  know,  transformed  into
half-awake, self-opinionated, monomaniac louts! .  . . And yet, you know  --
it must be something derived from centuries ago -- my  heart is quite  light
to-day to think of Sebastian out with them. 'There's nothing wrong with  him
really,' I say,  "he's  gone hunting' -- as  though it  were  an  answer  to
prayer."

     She asked me about my life in Paris. I told her of my rooms with  their
view of the river  and the  towers of Notre Dame. "I'm hoping Sebastian will
come and stay with me when I go back."

     "It would have been lovely," said Lady Marchmain, sighing as though for
the unattainable.

     "I hope he's coming to stay with me in London."

     "Charles, you know it isn't possible. London's the worst place.

     Even  Mr. Samgrass couldn't hold him there. We have no  secrets in this
house. He was lost, you know, all through Christmas. Mr. Samgrass only found
him  because he  couldn't pay  his bill in the  place  where he was, so they
telephoned our  house. It's too  horrible.  No, London is  impossible; if he
can't  behave himself here, with us  ... We must keep him  happy and healthy
here for a bit, hunting, and then send him abroad again with Mr. Samgrass. .
. . You see, I've been through all this before."

     The  retort  was  there,  unspoken, well-understood by both of  us--You
couldn't  keep  him; he ran away.  So will Sebastian. Because they both hate
you.

     A horn and the huntsman's cry sounded in the valley below us.

     "There they  go now,  drawing the home woods. I hope he's having a good
day."

     Thus  with Julia and Lady Marchmain I reached deadlock,  not because we
failed to understand one another, but because  we understood  too well. With
Brideshead,  who came home  to luncheon and talked to me on the subject--for
the  subject was  everywhere in the house like a fire deep in the  hold of a
ship,  below the water-line,  black and red in the darkness, coming to light
Hi acrid wisps of smoke that  curled up the ladders,  crept  between  decks,
oozed under hatches, hung in  wreaths on  the flats, billowed suddenly  from
the  scuttles  and  air pipes--with Brideshead, I was in a  strange world, a
dead world to me, in a moon-landscape of barren lava, on a plateau where the
air struck  chill,  a high  place of unnaturally  clear eyes and  of toiling
lungs.

     He said: "I hope it  is dipsomania. That is simply  a  great misfortune
that  we must  all help him  bear. What I used to  fear was that he just got
drunk deliberately when he liked and because he liked."

     "That's exactly what he did--what we both  did. It's what he does  with
me now. I can keep him to that, if only your mother  would trust me.  If you
wqrry him with keepers and cures he'll be a physical wreck in a few years."

     "There's nothing  wrong in being a physical wreck, you know. There's no
moral obligation to  be Postmaster-General or Master of Foxhounds or to live
to walk ten miles at eighty."

     "Wrong"  I  said.  "Moral obligation -- now  you're  back  on  religion
again."

     "I never left it," said Brideshead.

     "D'you  know,  Bridey, if  I  ever  felt  for a  moment like becoming a
Catholic, 1  should only have to talk to you for five minutes  to  be cured.
You  manage  to reduce  what  seem  quite  sensible  propositions  to  stark
nonsense."

     "It's odd  you should say that. I've heard it before from other people.
It's one of the many reasons why I  don't think I should make a good priest.
It's something  in the  way my mind works  I suppose. I have to turn a thing
round and round, like a piece of ivory in a Chinese puzzle, until  -- click!
--it fits into  place -- but by that time it's upside down to everyone else.
But it's the same bit of ivory, you know."

     At luncheon  Julia had no thoughts  except for her guest who was coming
that day. She drove to the station to meet him and brought him home to tea.

     "Mummy, do look at Rex's Christmas present."

     It was  a small tortoise with Julia's  initials set in diamonds in  the
living shell,  and this  slightly obscene object, now slipping impotently on
the polished boards, now striding across  the card-table, now lumbering over
a  rug,  now withdrawn at  a touch, now stretching its neck and swaying  its
withered, antediluvian head, became a memorable  part of the evening, one of
those  needle-hooks  of experience  which  catch the  attention when  larger
matters are at stake,  and remain in  the mind when  they are forgotten,  so
that years later it is a bit of gilding, or a certain smell, or  the tone of
a clock's striking which recalls one to a tragedy.

     "Dear me," said Lady  Marchmain. "I wonder  if it eats the same sort of
things as an ordinary tortoise."

     "What will  you do when it's dead?" asked Mr.  Samgrass. "Can you  have
another tortoise fitted into the shell?"

     Rex  had  been told about the problem of Sebastian--he  could  scarcely
have  endured  in  that atmosphere  without  -- and had  a solution  pat. He
propounded it cheerfully and openly at tea, and after a day of whispering it
was a  relief to  hear the thing discussed. "Send him to Borethus at Zurich.
Borethus  is the man. He works miracles every day at that sanatorium of his.
You know how Charlie Kilcartney used to drink."

     "No," said  Lady  Marchmain,  with  that sweet  irony of hers. "No, I'm
afraid I don't know how Charlie Kilcartney drank."

     Julia, hearing  her  lover  mocked,  frowned at the  tortoise, but  Rex
Mottram was impervious to such delicate mischief.

     "Two wives despaired  of him," he said. "When he got engaged to Sylvia,
she  made it a  condition that he  should take  the cure at  Zurich.  And it
worked. He came back in three months a different man. And  he hasn't touched
a drop since, even though Sylvia walked out on him."

     "Why did she do that?"

     "Well, poor Charlie  got rather a  bore  when he stopped  drinking. But
that's not really the point of the story."

     "No, I suppose not.  In fact, I suppose, really, it's  meant to  be  an
encouraging story."

     Julia scowled at her jewelled tortoise.

     "He takes sex cases, too, you know."

     "Oh  dear,  what  very peculiar  friends  poor Sebastian  will  make in
Zurich."

     "He's booked up for months ahead, but I think he'd find room if I asked
him. I could telephone him from here to-night."

     (In his kindest moments Rex displayed a kind of hectoring zeal as if he
were thrusting a vacuum cleaner on an unwilling housewife.).

     "We'll think about it."

     And we were thinking about it when Cordelia returned from hunting.

     "Oh, Julia, what's that? How beastly"

     "It's Rex's Christmas present."

     "Oh, sorry. I'm always putting my  foot in it.  But how cruel! It  must
have hurt frightfully."

     "They can't feel."

     "How d'you know? Bet they can."

     She kissed her mother, whom she had not seen that day, shook hands with
Rex, and rang for eggs.

     "I had one tea  at Mrs. Barney's,  where I telephoned for the  car, but
I'm still hungry. It was a  spiffing  day. Jean Strickland-Venables  fell in
the  mud. We ran from  Bengers to  Upper Eastrey  without  a check. I reckon
that's five miles, don't you, Bridey?"

     "Three."

     "Not as he ran. . .  ." Between  mouthfuls of scrambled egg she told us
about  the hunt. . . . "You should have seen Jean when she  came out of  the
mud."

     "Where's Sebastian?"

     "He's in  disgrace."  The words, in  that clear, child's voice, had the
ring of a  bell tolling,  but  she  went on:  "Coming out  in  that  beastly
rat-catcher  coat  and mean little  tie like something from Captain Morvin's
Riding Academy. I just didn't recognize him at  the meet, and  I hope nobody
else did. Isn't he back? I expect he got lost."

     When  Wilcox  came to clear the tea, Lady Marchmain asked:  "No sign of
Lord Sebastian?"

     "No, my lady."

     "He must have stopped for tea with someone. How very unlike him."

     Half an hour later, when  Wilcox brought in the cocktail tray, he said:
"Lord Sebastian has just rung up to be fetched from South Twining."

     "South Twining? Who lives there?"

     "He was speaking from the hotel, my lady."

     "South Twining?" said Cordelia. "Goodness, he did get lost!"

     When he arrived he was flushed and his eyes  were feverishly  bright; I
saw that he was two-thirds drunk.

     "Dear boy," said Lady Marchmain. "How nice to see  you looking so  well
again. Your day in the open has done  you good. The drinks are on the table;
do help yourself."

     There was nothing unusual in her speech but  the fact of her saying it.
Six months ago it would not have been said.

     "Thanks," said Sebastian. "I will."


     A blow, expected, repeated, falling on a bruise, with no smart or shock
of surprise, only a dull and sickening  pain and the  doubt  whether another
like it could be borne -- that was how it felt, sitting  opposite  Sebastian
at dinner that night, seeing his clouded eye and groping  movements, hearing
his thickened voice  breaking in, ineptly, after long brutish silences. When
at length Lady  Marchmain  and Julia  and  the servants left  us, Brideshead
said: "You'd best go to bed, Sebastian."

     "Have some port first."

     "Yes,  have  some  port  if  you  want  it.  But don't  come  into  the
drawing-room."

     "Too bloody drunk," said Sebastian nodding heavily. "Like  olden times.
Gentlemen always too drunk join ladies in olden times."

     ("And yet, you know, it wasn't" said  Mr. Samgrass, trying to be chatty
with me about it afterwards, "it  wasn't at all like olden  times.  I wonder
where  the  difference  lies.  The  lack   of  good  humour?  The  lack   of
companionship?  You know  I  think  he must  have been drinking  by  himself
to-day. Where did he get the money?")

     "Sebastian's   gone   up,"   said  Brideshead  when  we   reached   the
drawing-room.

     "Yes? Shall I read?"

     Julia  and  Rex played  bezique; the  tortoise, teased by the Pekinese,
withdrew  into  his shell; Lady Marchmain read The  Diary of a Nobody  aloud
until, quite early, she said it was time for bed.

     "Can't I stay up and play a little longer, Mummy? Just three games?"

     "Very well, darling. Come in and  see me before you go to bed. I shan't
be asleep."

     It  was plain to  Mr. Samgrass and me  that Julia and Rex wanted to  be
left alone,  so  we went, too;  it was not plain  to Brideshead, who settled
down to read The  Times, which he had not yet  seen that day. Then, going to
our  side  of  the  house, Mr.  Samgrass said: "It wasn't  at all like olden
times."

     Next morning I said to Sebastian: "Tell me honestly, do  you want me to
stay on here?"

     "No, Charles, I don't believe I do."

     "I'm no help?"

     "No help."

     So I went to make my excuses to his mother.

     "There's  something I  must  ask you, Charles. Did  you give  Sebastian
money yesterday?"

     "Yes."

     "Knowing how he was likely to spend it?"

     "Yes."

     "I  don't  understand  it,"  she  said.  "I simply don't understand how
anyone can be so callously wicked."

     She paused,  but  I  do not think she  expected any  answer;  there was
nothing  I could say unless I were to start all over again on that familiar,
endless argument.

     "I'm not going to reproach  you," she said. "God  knows it's not for me
to  reproach  anyone. Any failure  in my children is my failure. But I don't
understand it. I  don't understand how you can have  been so nice in so many
ways, and then do something so wantonly cruel. I don't understand how we all
liked you somuch.  Did you hate us all  the  time? I don't understand how we
deserved it."

     I  was unmoved;  there  was no  part  of  me  remotely  touched by  her
distress.  It was  as  I had often imagined being expelled  from  school.  I
almost expected  to hear her say:  "I have  already written  to  inform your
unhappy father." But as I drove away and turned back in the car to take what
promised to be my last view of the house, I felt that I was leaving  part of
myself behind, and that wherever I went afterwards I should feel the lack of
it, and search for  it hopelessly, as ghosts are said to do, frequenting the
spots where they buried  material treasures without  which  they cannot  pay
their way to the nether world.

     "I shall never go back," I said to myself.

     A door had  shut,  the low door in the wall I  had sought and  found in
Oxford; open it now and I should find no enchanted garden.

     I had come to  the surface, into the light of common day  and the fresh
sea-air, after long  captivity  in  the  sunless  coral palaces  and  waving
forests of the ocean bed.

     I  had left  behind me --  what ? Youth  ?  Adolescence ? Romance ? The
conjuring stuff of these  things,  "the Young Magician's  Compendium,"  that
neat cabinet where the ebony wand had its place beside the delusive billiard
balls,  the penny that  folded double and the feather  flowers that could be
drawn into a hollow candle.
     ,
     "I have left behind illusion," I said to myself. "Henceforth I  live in
a world of three dimensions -- with the aid of my five senses."

     I have since learned that there is no such  world; but then, as the car
turned out of sight of the house, I thought it took no finding,  but lay all
about me at the end of the avenue.


     Thus I returned to Paris, and  to the friends I had found there and the
habits I had formed. I thought I should hear no mote of Brideshead, but life
has  few  separations  as sharp  as that.  It was  not  three weeks before I
received a letter in Cordelia's Frenchified convent hand: --

     Darling Charles [she'said],

     I was so very  miserable when you  went.  You might  have come and said
good-bye I
     I heard  all about your disgrace, and I  am writing to say that I am in
disgrace, too. I sneaked Wilcox's keys and got whiskey for Sebastian and got
caught. He did seem to want it so. And there was (and is) an awful row.

     Mr.  Samgrass  has gone (good!), and  I think he is a bit in  disgrace,
too, but I don't know why.

     Mr. Mottram is  very popular with Julia  (bad!) and is taking Sebastian
away (bad! bad!) to a German doctor.

     Julia's tortoise disappeared. We think it buried itself, as they do, so
there goes a packet (expression of Mr. Mottram's).

     I am very well.

     With love from,

     cordelia


     It  must  have been about  a  week after receiving this  letter  that I
returned to my rooms one afternoon to find Rex waiting for me.

     It was about four, for the light  began to fail early in  the studio at
that time of year. I  could see by  the  expression on the concierge's face,
when she told me I had a visitor waiting that there was something impressive
upstairs;  she  had  a  vivid  gift  of  expressing  differences of  age  or
attraction;  this  was  the  expression  which meant  someone  of  the first
consequence, and Rex indeed seemed to justify it,  as I found him in his big
travelling coat, filling the window that looked over the river.

     "Well," I said. "Well."

     "I  came this morning.  They told  me  where you  usually lunched but I
couldn't see you there. Have you got him?"

     I did not need to ask whom. "So he's given you the slip, too?"

     "We got here last night and were  going on to Zurich to-day. I left him
at the Lotti  after dinner, as  he said he was tired, and went round to  the
Travellers' for a game."

     I  noticed  how,  even  with  me,  he  was  making  excuses, as  though
rehearsing his story for re-telling elsewhere. "As he said he was tired" was
good. I could not well imagine Rex letting a  half-tipsy boy interfere  with
his cards.  "So you came back and  found him gone ?" "Not at  all. I  wish I
had.  I found him  sitting up for me. I had a run of luck at the Travellers'
and cleaned up a packet. Sebastian pinched the  lot while I was asleep.  All
he  left me was two first-class tickets to  Zurich  stuck in the edge of the
looking-glass. I had. nearly three hundred quid, blast him!"

     "And now he may be almost anywhere."

     "Anywhere. You're not hiding him by any chance?"

     "No. My dealings with that family are over."

     "I think mine are just beginning," said Rex. "I say, I've got a  lot to
talk  about, and  I promised a  chap  at  the Travellers'  I'd give  him his
revenge this afternoon. Won't you dine with me?"

     "Yes. Where?"

     "I usually go to Ciro's."

     "Why not Paillard's?"

     "Never heard of it. I'm paying you know."

     "I know you are. Let me order dinner."

     "Well, all right. What's the place again?" I wrote it down for him. "Is
it the sort of place you see native life?"

     "Yes, you might call it that."

     "Well, it'll be an experience. Order something good."

     "That's my intention."

     I was there  twenty minutes before Rex. If  I had to  spend  an evening
with him, it should,  at  any rate, be in my own way. I remember  the dinner
well -- soup of oseille, a sole quite simply cooked in a white wine sauce, a
caneton   la presse, a lemon souffle. At  the last minute, fearing that the
whole thing was too simple for Rex, I added caviare aux blinis. And for wine
I let him give me a  bottle of 1906 Montrachet, then at its prime, and, with
the duck, a Clos de Bre of 1904.

     Living  was  easy  in  France then;  with the  exchange  as  it was, my
allowance went  a long way and I did not live  frugally. It was very seldom,
however,  that I had a dinner like this, and  I felt well disposed  to  Rex,
when at last he arrived and  gave  up his hat  and coat with  the air of not
expecting  to see  them again. He looked round the sombre little  place with
suspicion, as though hoping to see apaches  or a drinking party of students.
All  he saw was four senators with napkins tucked  under their beards eating
in  absolute  silence. I  could imagine him telling  his  commercial friends
later: "... interesting fellow I know;  an art student living in Paris. Took
me to a funny little restaurant -- sort of place you'd  pass without looking
at --  where there was some of the best food I ever ate. There  were  half a
dozen senators there, too, which shows you it was the right place. Wasn't at
all cheap either."

     "Any sign of Sebastian?" he asked.

     "There won't be," I said, "until he needs money."

     "It's a bit thick, going off like  that. I was rather  hoping that if I
made a good job of him, it might do me a bit of good in another direction."

     He plainly  wished  to  talk  of  his  own affairs; they could  wait, I
thought, for the hour of tolerance and repletion, for the cognac; they could
wait until the attention was blunted and one could listen with half the mind
only;  now in the keen moment when the maitre d'hotel was turning the blinis
over in the pan, and, in the background, two humbler men  were preparing the
press, we would talk of myself.

     "Did you stay long at Brideshead? Was my name mentioned after I left?"

     "Was it  mentioned?  I got  sick  of  the sound  of  it, old  boy.  The
Marchioness got  what she called a  'bad conscience' about you. She piled it
on pretty thick, I gather, at your last meeting."

     " 'Callously wicked', 'wantonly cruel.'"

     "Hard words."

     "  'It doesn't matter what people call you unless  they call you pigeon
pie and eat you up.'"

     "Eh?"

     "A saying."

     "Ah." The cream and hot butter mingled  and overflowed separating  each
glaucose bead of caviar from its fellows, capping it in white and gold.

     "I  like  a bit of chopped  onion with mine," said Rex.  "Chap-who-knew
told me it brought out the flavour."

     "Try it without first," I said. "And tell me more news of myself."

     "Well, of  course, Greenacre, or whatever he was  called --  the snooty
don  --  he  came a  cropper.  That  was well  received by all.;  He was the
blue-eyed boy for a day or two after you left. Shouldn't wonder if he hadn't
put the old girl up to pitching you out. He was always being pushed down our
throats, so in the end Julia couldn't bear it any more and gave him
     away."

     "Julia did?"

     "Well, he'd begun  to stick  his nose into our  affairs you  see. Julia
spotted he was a fake,  and one  afternoon when Sebastian  was tight--he was
tight most of the time -- she got the  whole story of  the Grand Tour out of
him. And that  was the end of Mr. Samgrass. After that the Marchioness began
to think she might have been a bit rough with you."

     "And what about the row with Cordelia?"

     "That eclipsed  everything. That kid's  a walking marvel  -- she'd been
feeding Sebastian  whiskey  right under our noses  for  a  week. We couldn't
think where he was getting it. That's when the
     Marchioness finally crumbled."

     The  soup was  delicious  after  the  rich blinis--hot,  thin,  bitter,
frothy.

     "I'll  tell  you a thing, Charles,  that  Ma Marchmain hasn't let on to
anyone. She's a very sick woman. Might peg out any minute. George Anstruther
saw her in the autumn and put it at two years."

     "How on earth do you know?"

     "It's the kind of thing I hear. With the way her family are going on at
the moment,  I wouldn't  give  her a year.  I know just  the man for her  in
Vienna.  He  put  Sonia  Bamfshire  on  her  feet  when  everyone  including
Anstruther  had despaired of  her. But Ma Marchmain won't do  anything about
it.  I suppose  it's something to do  with her  crack-brain religion, not to
take care of the body."

     The sole was so simple and unobtrusive that Rex failed to notice it. We
ate to  the music of the press--the  crunch of the bones, the  drip of blood
and  marrow, the tap of the spoon basting  the thin slices  of breast. There
was a pause here of a quarter  of an hour, while  I drank the first glass of
the Clos de Bere and Rex  smoked his first cigarette. He leaned back, blew a
cloud of smoke across the table and remarked, "You know, the food here isn't
half bad; someone ought to take this place up and make something of it."

     Presently he began again on the Marchmains: --

     "I'll  tell you  another thing,  too -- they'll get  a jolt financially
soon if they don't look out."

     "I thought they were enormously rich."

     "Well, they are rich in the way people are who just let their money sit
quiet.  Everyone  of that  sort  is poorer  than they were in 1914,  and the
Flytes don't seem  to  realize it. I reckon those lawyers who  manage  their
affairs  find it convenient to give  them  all  the  cash they  want  and no
questions asked. Look at the  way they  live--Brideshead and Marchmain House
both  going full blast,  pack of  foxhounds, no rents raised, nobody sacked,
dozens  of  old servants doing damn all, being waited on  by other servants,
and then besides all that there's the old boy setting up a separate
     establishment -- and  setting  it up  on no  humble scale either. D'you
know how much they're overdrawn?"

     "Of course I don't."

     "Jolly  near a hundred  thousand in London. I don't  know what they owe
elsewhere.  Well, that'siquite  a  packet, you know, for  people who  aren't
using their money. Ninety-eight  thousand  last November.  It's the  kind of
thing I hear."

     Those  were the  kind of  things he heard, mortal illness  and debt,  I
thought.

     I rejoiced in the Burgundy. How can I describe it? The Pathetic Fallacy
resounds  in all our praise  of wine. For centuries every  language has been
strained to define its beauty, and has produced only  wild conceits  or  the
stock epithets of the  trade. This Burgundy seemed  to me, then, serene  and
triumphant, a reminder that the world was an older and better place than Rex
knew, that mankind in its  long passion had learned another wisdom than his.
By chance I met this same wine again, lunching with my  wine merchant in St.
James's Street, in the first autumn of the war; it had softened and faded in
the intervening  years,  but it still spoke in the pure, authentic accent of
its prime and, that  day, as at Paillard's with Rex Mottram years before, it
whispered faintly, but in the same lapidary phrase, the same words of hope.

     "I don't mean  that they'll be paupers; the old boy will always be good
for an odd thirty thousand a year, but  there'll be  a shake-up coming soon,
and when the upper  classes get  the wind up, their first idea is usually to
cut  down  on the  girls. I'd  like to get  the little matter  of a marriage
settlement through, before it comes."

     We had by no  means reached the cognac, but here we were on the subject
of himself. In twenty minutes I should  have been  ready  for all he  had to
tell. I closed my mind to  him as best I could and  gave myself  to the food
before me, but sentences came breaking in  on my happiness,  recalling me to
the harsh, acquisitive  world which Rex inhabited.  He wanted  a  woman;  he
"wanted the best on the market,  and he  wanted her cheap; that was  what it
amounted to.

     "... Ma Marchmain doesn't like me. Well, I'm  not asking her  to.  It's
not her I want to  marry. She hasn't the guts to say openly:  'You're not  a
gentleman. You're  an adventurer from  the  Colonies.'  She says  we live in
different  atmospheres.  That's  all right, but  Julia  happens to fancy  my
atmosphere. . .  . Then  she brings  up  religion. I've  nothing against her
Church;  we don't take  much  account  of Catholics  in  Canada, but  that's
different; in Europe you've got some very posh Catholics. All  right,  Julia
can  go  to  church whenever she  wants  to. I shan't  try  and stop her. It
doesn't mean two pins to her, as a matter of fact, but I like a girl to have
religion. What's more, she can bring the children up Catholic. I'll make all
the  'promises' they  want. .  . . Then there's my  past. 'We know so little
about you.' She  knows a sight too much. You may know I've been tied up with
someone else for a year or two."

     I knew; everyone who  had ever met Rex knew of  his affair with  Brenda
Champion; knew also that  it was from this affair that he derived everything
which  distinguished him from  every  other  stock-jobber: his golf with the
Prince   of   Wales,  his  membership  of  Bratt's,  even  his  smoking-room
comradeship  at the House of Commons; for, when he first appeared there, his
party chiefs did not say of him, "Look, there is  the promising young member
for North Gridley  who  spoke  so  well  on Rent  Restrictions."  They said:
"There's  Brenda Champion's latest"; it had done  him a great  deal  of good
with men; women he could usually charm.

     "Well, that's all washed up. Ma Marchmain  was too delicate  to mention
the  subject;  all  she said was that I had 'notoriety.' Well, what does she
expect as a son-in-law--a  sort  of half-baked  monk  like Brideshead? Julia
knows all  about the  other thing;  if  she  doesn't  care, I don't see it's
anyone else's business."

     After the duck came a salad of  watercress and  chicory in a faint mist
of chives. I tried  to think  only of the  salad.  I succeeded for a time in
thinking only of the souffle. Then came the  cognac and the  proper hour for
these confidences.

     "... Julia's just rising  twenty. I don't  want to  wait till she's  of
age. Anyway, I don't want to  marry without doing  the  thing properly . . .
nothing  hole-in-corner. ... I  have to see  she  isn't jockeyed out  of her
proper  settlement.  I've  got  to  the  time now  when  'notoriety,' as  Ma
Marchmain calls it, has done its bit. I need setting up solidly. You know --
St.  Margaret's,  Westminster, or  Whatever Catholics  have, royalty and the
Prime Minister photographed going in ... and, afterwards 'the beautiful Lady
Julia  Mottram,   leading   young   political  hostess'   .  .   .   nothing
hole-in-corner. So as the Marchioness won't play ball I'm off to see the old
man and square him. I gather he's likely to agree  to anything he knows will
upset her. He's  at  Monte Carlo at the moment.  I'd planned to  go on there
after dropping Sebastian off at Zurich. That's why  it's such a bloody  bore
having lost him."

     The cognac was not to Rex's taste. It was clear and pale and it came to
us in a bottle free from grime and Napoleonic cyphers. It was only a year or
two  older than Rex and lately  bottled.  They gave  it to us  in  very thin
tulip-shaped glasses of modest size.

     "Brandy's one of the things I do know a  bit about," said Rex. "This is
a bad colour. What's more, I can't taste it in this thimble."

     They brought him a balloon the size of his head.  He  made them warm it
over the spirit lamp.

     Then he rolled the splendid spirit round, buried his face in the fumes,
and pronounced it the sort of stuff he put soda in at home.

     So, shamefacedly,  they wheeled out of its hiding place  the  vast  and
mouldy bottle they kept for people of Rex's sort.

     "That's the stuff,"  he said,  tilting the treacly  concoction  till it
left  dark  rings round  the  sides of his  glass. "They've  always got some
tucked away, but they won't bring it out unless you
     make a fuss. Have some."

     "I'm quite happy with this."

     "Well, it's a crime to drink it, if you don't really appreciate it." He
lit his cigar and sat back at peace  with the world; I, too, was at peace in
another world than his. We both were happy.

     He  talked of  Julia and I heard  his voice,  unintelligible at a great
distance, like a dog's barking miles away on a still night.


     At the beginning of May  the engagement was announced. I saw the notice
in  the  Continental Daily Mail and  assumed that Rex had  "squared the  old
man." But things did not go as expected. The next news I had of  them was in
the middle of June, when I read that they had been married  very quietly  at
the  Savoy Chapel. No royalty was present; nor  was the Prime Minister;  nor
were  any of Julia's family. It  sounded like a "hole-in-the-corner" affair,
but it was not for several years that I heard the full story.



     Chapter Seven

     it is  time to speak of Julia, who till now has  played an intermittent
and  somewhat enigmatic part in Sebastian's drama.  It was thus she appeared
to me at the time, and  I  to her. We pursued separate aims which brought us
near  to  one another, but we remained strangers. She told me later that she
had  made  a kind of note of me  in her mind, as,  scanning  the shelf for a
particular book, one will sometimes have one's attention caught by  another,
take it down,  glance at the title page and, saying "I must read  that, too,
when I've  the  time," replace  it and  continue the search. On  my side the
interest  was keener, for  there  was  always the  physical likeness between
brother  and sister,  which,  caught repeatedly  in different  poses,  under
different lights, each time pierced me anew; and,  as Sebastian in his sharp
decline seemed daily to fade and crumble, so much  the more  did Julia stand
out clear and firm.

     She was thin in those days, flat-chested, leggy; she  seemed all  limbs
and neck, bodiless, spidery;  thus far she conformed to the fashion, but the
hair-cut  and the hats of the period, and the blank  stare  and  gape of the
period, and the clownish dabs  of  rouge high  on the cheekbones, could  not
reduce her to type.

     When  I first met her, when she met me in the station yard and drove me
home through the  twilight that high  summer  of 1923, she was just eighteen
and fresh from her first London season.
     Some said it was the most brilliant season since the  war, that  things
were getting into their stride again. Julia,  by right, was at the centre of
it. There were then remaining perhaps half a dozen London houses which could
be  called "historic"; March-main House  in St. James's was one of them, and
the ball given for  Julia, in spite of the ignoble costume of  the time, was
by  all  accounts  a  splendid  spectacle.  Sebastian went down  for it  and
half-heartedly suggested my coming with him; I refused and came to regret my
refusal, for it was  the last ball  of its kind given  there;  the last of a
splendid series.

     How could I have known? There seemed time for everything in those days;
the  world was open to be explored at leisure. I  was so full of Oxford that
summer; London could wait, I
     thought.

     The  other great houses belonged to kinsmen or to  childhood friends of
Julia's, and besides  them there were countless  substantial houses  in  the
squares of Mayfair and Belgravia, alight and thronged, one or other of them,
night after  night, their music floating out among  the plane-trees, couples
outside sauntering on the quiet pavements  or breathing  the summer air from
the balconies. Foreigners returning on post from their own waste lands wrote
home that here they seemed to catch a glimpse of the world they had believed
lost for ever among the mud and wire, and through those halcyon weeks  Julia
darted  and shone, part  of  the sunshine  between  the  trees, part  of the
candlelight in the mirror's spectrum, so that elderly men and women, sitting
aside with their memories, saw her as herself the blue-bird.

     "'Bridey' Marchmain's  eldest girl," they said.  "Pity he can't see her
to-night."

     That night and the  night after and the night after, wherever she went,
always in  her own little circle of intimates, she brought to all whose eyes
were open to it a  moment of joy, such as strikes  deep to the heart on  the
river's bank when the kingfisher suddenly flames across dappled water.
     This was  the creature, neither  child nor woman, that drove me through
the dusk  that summer evening,  untroubled by love, taken aback by the power
of her  own  beauty,  hesitating on  the steps of life; one who had suddenly
found herself armed, unawares;  the heroine of a fairy story turning over in
her hands the magic ring; she had only to stroke it with her fingertips, and
whisper the charmed word, for the earth to open  at her feet and belch forth
her  Titanic  servant, die fawning monster who would  bring her whatever she
asked, but bring it, perhaps, in unwelcome shape.
     She  h?A no interest  in  me that  evening;  the  jinn rumbled below us
uncalled; she  lived  apart in a little world,  within  a little world,  the
innermost  of  a   system  of  concentric  spheres,  like  the  ivory  balls
laboriously carved in ancient  China; a little problem troubling her mind --
little, as she saw  it,  in  abstract terms  and symbols. She was wondering,
dispassionately and leagues  distant from reality,  whom  she should  marry.
Thus  strategists  hesitate over the map, the few pins and lines of coloured
chalk,  contemplating a change in the pins  and lines,  a  matter of inches,
which  outside the room, out of sight of the studious  officers,  may engulf
past, present and future in ruin  or life. She was a symbol to herself then,
lacking the life of both child and woman; victory and defeat were changes of
pin and line; she knew nothing of war.

     "If  only  one  lived abroad,"  she  thought,  "where these things  are
arranged between parents and lawyers."

     To be married, soon and splendidly, was the unquestioned aim of all her
friends. If she looked  further than the wedding, it was to see marriage  as
the beginning  of individual existence; the skirmish where  one gained one's
spurs, from which one set out on the true quests of life.

     She outshone by  far all  the girls of her  age, but she knew  that, in
that little world within a world which she  inhabited,  there  were  certain
grave disabilities from  which  she suffered. On the  sofas against the wall
where  the old people counted up the points, there were things  against her.
There was the scandal of her father; they had all loved him in the past, the
women along the wall, and they most of them loved her mother, yet  there was
that slight,  inherited stain upon her  brightness  that seemed  deepened by
something in  her  own way of life  -- waywardness  and wil-fulness,  a less
disciplined habit than most of her contemporaries' -- that unfitted  her for
the highest honours; but for that, who knows? . . .

     One subject eclipsed all others  in importance for the ladies along the
wall;  whom would  the young princes  marry? They Could  not  hope for purer
lineage or a more gracious  presence than  Julia's; but there was this faint
shadow on her  that unfitted her for the highest honours; there was also her
religion.

     Nothing could have  been  further  from Julia's ambitions than a  royal
marriage.  She knew, or  thought  she knew, what she  wanted and  it was not
that.  But wherever she turned, it  seemed, her religion stood  as a barrier
between her and her natural goal.

     As it seemed to her, the  thing was a dead loss.  If  she  apos-tasized
now, having been brought  up  in the Church, she would go to hell, while the
Protestant  girls of  her  acquaintance, schooled  in happy ignorance, could
marry  eldest sons, live at peace with their world, and get to heaven before
her. There could be no eldest son for her, and younger  sons were indelicate
things, necessary, but not  to  be much spoken of.  Younger sons had none of
the privileges of obscurity; it was their plain duty  to remain hidden until
some  disaster perchance promoted them to their brothers' places, and, since
this was  their function, it was desirable that they should keep  themselves
wholly suitable for succession. Perhaps in a family of three or four boys, a
Catholic might get the youngest without opposition. There were of course the
Catholics themselves, but these came seldom into  the little world Julia had
made for herself; those who did were  her mother's  kinsmen,  who,  to  her,
seemed  grim and  eccentric. Of  the dozen or so wealthy and  noble Catholic
families,  none  at  that time had  an heir  of the right age. Foreigners --
there were many among her mother's family -- were tricky about money, odd in
their  ways, and  a sure mark of failure in the English  girl who  wed them.
What was there left?

     This was Julia's problem after her weeks of triumph in London. She knew
it was not insurmountable.  There must, she thought, be a  number  of people
outside her own world who were well qualified to be drawn into it; the shame
was  that  she must  seek them.  Not  for  her the cruel, delicate luxury of
choice, the indolent, cat-and-mouse pastimes of the  hearth-rug. No Penelope
she; she must hunt in the forest.

     She  had made a  preposterous little picture of  the kind of man '  who
would do:  he  was an  English diplomat of great but not very virile beauty,
now  abroad, with a house smaller than Brideshead, nearer to London; he  was
old,  thirty-two  or  three, and had  been recently and  tragically widowed;
Julia thought she would  prefer a man a little subdued by earlier grief.  He
had a great career before him but had  grown listless in his loneliness; she
was  not sure  he  was not  in  danger  of  falling  into the  hands  of  an
unscrupulous  foreign adventuress; he needed a new infusion of young life to
carry  him  to the  Embassy  at  Paris. While  professing a mild agnosticism
himself, he  had a  liking  for  the shows  of  religion  and was  perfectly
agreeable to having his children brought up Catholic; he  believed, however,
in the prudent restriction of his family to two boys and a girl, comfortably
spaced over twelve years, and did not demand,  as a Catholic  husband might,
yearly pregnancies. He had twelve thousand a year above his pay, and no near
relations. Someone like  that would do, Julia thought, and she was in search
of  him when she met me at the railway station. I was not  her man. She told
me as much, without a word, when she took the cigarette from my lips.

     All this I learned about Julia,  bit by bit, from the stories she told,
from  guesswork,  knowing  her, from what  her  friends said, from  the  odd
expressions she now and then let slip,  from occasional dreamy monologues of
reminiscences; I learned it as  one does learn the former -- as  it seems at
the time, the preparatory -- life of a woman  one loves, so that  one thinks
of oneself as part of it, directing it by devious ways, towards oneself.


     Julia left  Sebastian  and me  at Brideshead and went to  stay  with an
aunt, Lady  Rosscommon, in her villa at Cap Ferrat. All the way she pondered
her problem. She  had  given a name to  her widower-diplomat; she called him
"Eustace," and from that  moment he became a figure of fun to her,  a little
interior, incommunicable joke, so that when at last such a man did cross her
path -- though he was  not a diplomat but a wistful major in the Life Guards
-- and fall in love with her and offer her just those gifts  she had chosen,
she sent him away moodier and more wistful  than ever, for  by that time she
had met Rex Mottram.

     Rex's age was greatly  in  his favour, for  among Julia's friends there
was a kind  of gerontophilic snobbery; young men were held to be  gauche and
pimply; it was thought very much  more chic to be seen lunching alone at the
Ritz -- a thing, in any case, allowed to few girls  of that day, to the tiny
circle  of  Julia's intimates; a  thing looked at askance by the  elders who
kept the score, chatting pleasantly against the walls of the ballrooms -- at
the  table on the left as you came in, with a starched and wrinkled old roue
whom your mother had been  warned  of as a girl, than  in the centre  of the
room with a  party of exuberant  young  bloods.  Rex,  indeed,  was  neither
starched nor  wrinkled;  his seniors thought him  a  pushful young cad,  but
Julia recognized the unmistakable  chic -- the flavour of "Max"  and  "F.E."
and the Prince of  Wales,  of the big table in the Sporting Club, the second
magnum  and  the fourth cigar, of the chauffeur kept waiting hour after hour
without compunction -- which her friends would envy. His social position was
unique;  it had an air of mystery, even of crime, about it; people  said Rex
went about armed. Julia and her friends had  a fascinated abhorrence of what
they called "Pont Street";  they collected phrases  that damned their  user,
and among themselves  -- and  often, disconcertingly, in  public -- talked a
language made up of them. It was  "Pont Street" to wear a signet ring and to
give chocolates at the theatre; it was "Pont Street" at a dance to say, "Can
I  forage  for  you?" Whatever  Rex  might be,  he was definitely  not "Pont
Street."  He had  stepped  straight from  the  underworld into the world  of
Brenda Champion,  who  was herself the innermost  of a number  of concentric
ivory spheres. Perhaps  Julia recognized in Brenda Champion an intimation of
what  she  and  her  friends might be in twelve years'  time;  there was  an
antagonism  between  the  girl  and  the  woman  that  was  hard  to explain
otherwise.  Certainly  the  fact of  his  being  Brenda  Champion's property
sharpened Julia's appetite for him.

     Rex and Brenda  Champion were staying at  the next villa on Cap Ferrat,
taken that year by  a newspaper magnate and frequented by politicians. .They
would not normally have come within Lady Rosscommon's ambit, but, living  so
close, the parties mingled and at once Rex began warily to pay his court.

     All that  summer he had been feeling restless. Mrs. Champion had proved
a  dead  end;  it  had  all been intensely exciting at first,  but now those
bonds, so much  more rigid than  the bonds of marriage, had begun  to chafe.
Mrs. Champion lived as, he found, the English  seemed apt to do, in a little
world  within a  little  world; Rex demanded a wider horizon. He  wanted  to
consolidate his gains;  to  strike  the black ensign,  go  ashore,  hang the
cutlass  up  over the  chimney and think  about the crops. It  was  time  he
married; he,  too, was  in search of  a "Eustace," but, living as he did, he
met  few girls.  He knew of Julia; she  was by all accounts top debutante, a
suitable prize.
     With  Mrs.  Champion's cold eyes watching behind her sun glasses, there
was little Rex could do at Cap Ferrat except  establish a friendliness which
could be widened later.  He was never entirely  alone with Julia, but he saw
to  it  that  she was  included  in  most things they  did;  he  taught  her
chemin-de-fer,  he arranged that it was always in his car that they drove to
Monte Carlo or Nice;  he did  enough to make Lady  Rosscommon write  to Lady
Marchmain, and Mrs.  Champion move him,  sooner  than  they had planned,  to
Antibes.

     Julia went to Salzburg to join her mother.

     "Aunt Fanny tells me you made  great friends with Mr. Mottram. I'm sure
he can't be very nice."

     "I don't  think  he is," said  Julia. "I don't  know that I  like  nice
people."

     There is proverbially a mystery among most men of  new wealth, how they
made their first ten thousand; it is the qualities they showed  then, before
they became bullies,  when every  man was someone to  be placated, when only
hope  sustained them and they could count on nothing from the world but what
could be charmed  from it, that make them, if  they  survive  their triumph,
successful  with women. Rex, in  the comparative  freedom of London,  became
abject to Julia; he  planned his life about hers,  going where he would meet
her, ingratiating himself with those who could report well of him to her; he
sat on a number of charitable committees in order to be near Lady Marchmain;
he offered his services to Brideshead in  getting him a seat  in  Parliament
(but  was  there rebuffed);  he expressed  a keen  interest in the  Catholic
Church until he  found that this was no way to Julia's heart. He was  always
ready to drive her in his Hispano wherever she wanted to go; he took her and
parties  of  her  friends to ring-side seats at prize-fights and  introduced
them afterwards to the  pugilists; and all the time he  never once made love
to her. From  being  agreeable, he became indispensable to  her; from having
been proud of him in public she became a little  ashamed,  but by that time,
between Christmas and Easter, he had become indispensable. And then, without
in the least expecting it, she suddenly found herself in love.

     It came to her, this disturbing and unsought revelation, one evening in
May, when Rex had told  her he would be busy at the House,  and, driving  by
chance down Charles Street,  she saw him leaving what  she knew to be Brenda
Champion's  house. She was so  hurt and  angry that she could barely keep up
appearances through dinner; as soon  as she could, she  went  home and cried
bitterly for ten minutes; then she felt hungry, wished she had eaten more at
dinner,  ordered some  bread-and-milk, and  went  to  bed saying:  "When Mr.
Mottram telephones in the morning, whatever time it  is, say  I am not to be
disturbed."

     Next day she  breakfasted in bed as usual, read the papers,  telephoned
to her friends. Finally she asked: "Did Mr. Mottram ring up by any chance?"

     "Oh  yes,  my  lady, four times. Shall I put him through  when he rings
again?"

     "Yes. No. Say I've gone out."
     When she came downstairs there was a message for her on the hall table.
Mr. Mottram expects  Lady Julia at  the Ritz at 1:30. "I shall lunch at home
to-day," she said.

     That afternoon she went shopping with her mother; they had tea  with an
aunt and returned at six.

     "Mr. Mottram is waiting, my lady. I've shown him into the library."

     "Oh, Mummy. I can't be bothered with him. Do tell him to go home."

     "That's not at all kind,  Julia. I've often  said he's not my favourite
among your friends, but I have grown quite used to him,  almost to like him.
You really mustn't  take  people up and drop them like  this -- particularly
people like Mr. Mottram."

     "Oh, Mummy, must I see him? There'll be a scene if I do."

     "Nonsense, Julia, you twist that poor man round your finger."

     So Julia went into the library and came out an hour later engaged to be
married.

     "Oh, Mummy, I warned you this would happen if I went in there."

     "You did nothing of the kind. You merely said there would be a scene. I
never conceived of a scene of this kind."

     "Anyway, you do like him, Mummy. You said so."

     "He has  been very kind in a number of  ways. I  regard him as entirely
unsuitable as your husband. So will everyone."

     "Damn everybody."

     "We  know nothing about  him. He may  have black blood -- in fact he is
suspiciously dark.  Darling, the whole thing's  impossible. I can't see  how
you can have been so foolish."

     "Well, what right  have I got otherwise to be angry with him if he goes
with that horrible old woman? You make a  great  thing about rescuing fallen
women. Well, I'm rescuing a fallen man  for  a change. I'm  saving Rex  from
mortal sin."

     "Don't be irreverent, Julia."

     "Well, isn't it mortal sin to sleep with Brenda Champion?"

     "Or indecent."

     "He's promised never to see her again. I couldn't  ask  him  to do that
unless I admitted I was in love with him, could I?"

     "Mrs. Champion's morals, thank God, are not my business. Your happiness
is. If you must know,  I  think Mr. Mottram a kind and useful friend, but  I
wouldn't  trust  him  an inch,  and  I'm sure  he'll  have  very  unpleasant
children. They always, revert.  I've no doubt you'll regret the whole  thing
in a few days. Meanwhile nothing is to be done. No one must be told anything
or allowed to  suspect.  You  must stop lunching with him.  You may see  him
here, of course, but  nowhere in public. You had better send him to me and I
will have a little talk to him about it."

     Thus  began  a year's secret engagement for  Julia;  a  time  of  great
stress, for Rex made love to her that afternoon  for the first time;  not as
had  happened  to her once  or  twice before  with sentimental and uncertain
boys, but with a passion that disclosed the corner  of  something like it in
her. Their passion frightened  her, and she came back  from the confessional
one flay determined to put an end to it.

     "Otherwise I must stop seeing you," she said.

     Rex  was humble at once, just  as he had been in the  winter, day after
day, when he used to wait for her in the cold in his big car.

     "If only we could be married immediately," she said.

     For six weeks they remained at arm's length, kissing when they met  and
parted,  sitting meantime at a distance, talking  of what they would do  and
where they would live and of Rex's chances  of an under-secretaryship. Julia
was  content, deep in love, living in the future. Then,  just before the end
of the session, . she learned that Rex had been  staying the week-end with a
stockbroker at Sunningdale, when he  said  he  was at his  constituency, and
that Mrs. Champion had been there, too.

     On the evening she heard of this, when Rex came as  usual  to Marchmain
House, they re-enacted the scene of two months before.

     "What do  you expect?" he said. "What right have  you to  ask  so much,
when you give so little?"

     She took her problem to Farm Street and propounded it in general terms,
not  in  the  confessional,  but  in  a  dark  little parlour  kept for such
interviews.

     "Surely, Father,  it can't  be wrong to  commit a  small sin  myself in
order to keep him from a much worse one?"

     But the gentle old Jesuit was  unyielding  as rock. She barely listened
to him;  he was refusing her what she  wanted, that  was  all she  needed to
know.

     When  he had  finished he said, "Now you had better  come to the church
and make your confession."

     "No, thank you," she said, as though refusing the offer of something in
a shop, "I don't think I want to to-day," and walked angrily home.

     From that moment she shut her mind against her religion.

     And Lady Marchmain saw this and added it to her new grief for Sebastian
and her  old  grief for  her husband and to the deadly sickness in her body,
and took all these sorrows with her daily to church; it seemed her heart was
transfixed with the  swords  of her dolours,  a  living  heart to match  the
plaster and paint; what comfort she took home with her, God knows.


     So the year wore  on  and  the  secret  of the  engagement  spread from
Julia's confidantes to their confidantes, and so, like ripples on the water,
in ever-widening circles, till there were hints of it in the press, and Lady
Rosscommon as Lady-in-Waiting was closely questioned about it, and something
had to be  done.  Then,  after  Julia  had  refused  to  make  her Christmas
communion and Lady Marchmain had found herself betrayed first by me, then by
Mr. Samgrass, then by Cordelia, in the  first grey days of 1925, she decided
to act. She forbade all talk of  an engagement;  she forbade Julia  and  Rex
ever to meet; she made plans for shutting Marchmain House for six months and
taking  Julia  on  a  tour  of  visits  to  their foreign  kinsmen.  It  was
characteristic of an old, atavistic callousness that went  with her delicacy
that, even at this crisis, she did not think it unreasonable to put

     Sebastian in  Rex's charge  on the journey to  Dr.  Borethus,  and Rex,
having failed her in that matter, went on to Monte Carlo, where he completed
her  rout. Lord Marchmain did not  concern himself with the finer points  of
Rex's  character;  those, he  believed,  were  his daughter's  business. Rex
seemed a  rough, healthy,  prosperous fellow whose name was already familiar
to him from reading the political reports;  he gambled in an open-handed but
sensible manner; he seemed to keep reasonably good company; he had a future;
Lady Marchmain disliked him. Lord Marchmain was, on the whole, relieved that
Julia  should have  chosen  so  well,  and  gave his consent to an immediate
marriage.

     Rex gave himself to the preparations  with gusto. He bought her a ring,
not, as she expected, from a tray at Cartier's, but in a back room in Hatton
Garden  from a  man  who brought  stones out  of a  safe in little  bags and
displayed  them for her on a  writing-desk; then another man in another back
room made  designs  for the setting with  a stub of pencil  on  a  sheet  of
note-paper, and the result excited the admiration of all her friends.

     "How  d'you  know  about these  things, Rex?" she  asked. She was daily
surprised by the things he knew and the things he did not know; both, at the
time, added to his attraction.

     His  present house in  Westminster was large  enough for them both, and
had lately been furnished and decorated  by the  most expensive  firm. Julia
said she did not want a  home in the  country  yet; they  could always  take
places furnished when they wanted to go away.

     There  was trouble  about the  marriage  settlement, with  which  Julia
refused to  interest herself.  The  lawyers were  in despair. Rex absolutely
refused to settle  any  capital. "What  do I  want  with  trustee stock?" he
asked.

     "I don't know, darling."

     "I  make money  work for  me," he  said.  "I expect fifteen, twenty per
cent, and I get it. It's pure waste tying up capital at three and a half."

     "I'm sure it is, darling."

     "These fellows talk as though I were trying  to  rob you. It's they who
are doing the robbing.  They want to rob  you of two thirds of the  income I
can make you." "Does it matter, Rex? We've got heaps, haven't we?" Rex hoped
to have the  whole  of Julia's dowry in his hands, to make it work  for him.
The lawyers insisted on tying it up,  but they could not get, as they asked,
a  like sum  from him. Finally, grudgingly,  he agreed  to insure  his life,
after explaining at length to the lawyers  that this was mertly a device for
putting  part of his legitimate profits  into other people's pockets; but he
had some  connection  with an  insurance office  which made the  arrangement
slightly less  painful  to  him, by  which he took for himself  the  agent's
commission which the lawyers were themselves expecting.

     Last  and  least  tame the  question  of Rex's  religion. He  had  once
attended a royal wedding in Madrid, and  he wanted something of die kind for
himself.

     "That's one thing your Church  can  do," he said: "put  on a good show.
You never  saw anything  to  equal the cardinals. How many  do  you have  in
England?"

     "Only one, darling."

     "Only one? Can we hire some others from abroad?" It was  then explained
to him that a mixed marriage was a very unostentatious affair.

     "How d'you mean 'mixed'? I'm not a nigger or anything."

     "No, darling --between a Catholic and a Protestant."

     "Oh,  that?  Well,  if  that's  all, it's soon  unmixed.  I'll become a
Catholic. What does one have to do?"

     Lady Marchmain was dismayed and perplexed  by this  new development; it
was no good her telling  herself  that in charity she must  assume  his good
faith; it brought back memories of
     another courtship and another conversion.

     "Rex," she said. "I sometimes wonder if you realize how big a thing you
are taking on in the Faith. It would be very wicked to take a step like this
without believing sincerely."

     He was masterly in his treatment of her.

     "I don't  pretend to be  a  very devout man,"  he  said, "nor much of a
theologian, but I know it's a bad plan to have two religions in one house. A
man  needs a religion.  If your Church is good  enough  for Julia, it's good
enough for me."

     "Very well," she said, "I will see about having you instructed."

     "Look,  Lady Marchmain, I haven't the time. Instruction will be  wasted
on me. Just you give me the form and I'll sign on the dotted line."

     "It usually takes some months - often a lifetime."

     "Well, I'm a quick learner. Try me."

     So Rex was sent to Farm Street to Father Mowbray, a priest renowned for
his triumphs with obdurate catechumens. After the third interview he came to
tea with Lady Marchmain.

     "Well, how do you find my future son-in-law?"

     "He's the most difficult convert I have ever met."

     "Oh dear, I thought he was going to make it so easy."

     "That's exactly it.  I can't get anywhere  near him. He doesn't seem to
have the least intellectual curiosity or natural piety.

     "The first day I wanted to find out what sort of religious  life he had
had till now, so I asked him what he meant by prayer. He said: 'I don't mean
anything. You tell me'. I tried to, in a few words, and he said:  'Right. So
much for prayer. What's the  next  thing?' I gave him the  catechism to take
away.  Yesterday I asked him  whether Our Lord had more  than one nature. He
said: 'Just as many as you say, Father.'

     "Then again I asked him: 'Supposing the Pope looked  up and saw a cloud
and said "It's going to  rain," would  that  be bound to happen?' 'Oh,  yes,
Father.' 'But supposing it didn't?' He thought a moment and said, 'I suppose
it would be sort of raining spiritually, only we were too sinful to see it.'

     "Lady Marchmain, he doesn't correspond to any degree of paganism  known
to the missionaries."

     "Julia," said  Lady Marchmain, when the priest had  gone, "are you sure
that Rex isn't doing this thing purely with the idea of pleasing us?"

     "I don't think it enters his head," said Julia.

     "He's really sincere in his conversion?"

     "He's  absolutely  determined to  become a  Catholic,  Mummy,"  and  to
herself she said: In her long history  the Church  must have had some pretty
queer  converts.   I  don't  suppose   all   Clevis's   army   were  exactly
Catholic-minded. One more won't hurt.

     Next week the Jesuit came  to tea again. It was the Easter holidays and
Cordelia was there, too.

     "Lady Marchmain," he said. "You  should have chosen one  of the younger
fathers for this task. I shall be dead long before Rex is a Catholic."

     "Oh dear, I thought it was going so well."

     "It  was, in a sense.  He  was exceptionally  docile,  said he accepted
everything I told him,  remembered  bits of it, asked no questions. I wasn't
happy about  him. He seemed to have no  sense of reality, but I  knew he was
coming under a steady Catholic  influence, so I was  willing to receive him.
One has to take a chance sometimes -- with semi-imbeciles, for instance. You
never know quite how  much they have understood. As long as you know there's
someone to keep an eye on them, you do take the chance."

     "How I wish Rex could hear this!" said Cordelia. "But yesterday I got a
regular eye-opener. The trouble with modern  education is you never know how
ignorant people  are.  With anyone over fifty you  can  be fairly  confident
what's been taught  and what's  been left out. But these  young people  have
such  an  intelligent, knowledgeable  surface, and then  the  crust suddenly
breaks and  you look down into depths of confusion you didn't know  existed.
Take yesterday. He seemed to be doing very well. He'd learned  large bits of
the catechism by heart,  and  the Lord's  Prayer  and the Hail Mary.  Then I
asked him as usual if there was anything troubling him, and he looked 'at me
in a crafty way and said, 'Look, Father, I don't think you're being straight
with me. I want to join your Church  and I'm going to join your Church,  but
you're holding too much back.' I asked what he meant, and he said: 'I've had
a  long talk  with a  Catholic -- a very pious, well-educated  one, and I've
learned a  thing or two. For instance, that you have to sleep with your feet
pointing East because  that's the direction of heaven, and if you die in the
night you can walk there. Now I'll sleep with my feet  pointing any way that
suits  Julia,  but  d'you  expect a grown  man  to believe  about walking to
heaven? And  what about the  Pope who made one of his horses a cardinal? And
what about the box  you keep in the church porch, and if you put  in a pound
note with someone's  name on it, they get sent  to  hell. I don't  say there
mayn't  be a good reason for all this,'  he said, 'but  you ought to tell me
about it and not let me find out for myself.'"

     "What can the poor man have meant?" said Lady Marchmain.

     "You see he's a long way from the Church yet," said Father Mowbray.

     "But  who  can he have been talking to? Did he dream it  all? Cordelia,
what's the matter?"

     "What a chump! Oh, Mummy, what a glorious chump!"

     "Cordelia, it was you."

     "Oh,  Mummy, who could have  dreamed he'd swallow it? I told him such a
lot  besides.  About  the sacred  monkeys  in  the Vatican --  all kinds  of
things."

     "Well,  you've  very  considerably  increased  my  work,"  said  Father
Mowbray.

     "Poor Rex," said Lady Marchmain. "You know, I think it makes him rather
lovable. You must treat him like an idiot child, Father Mowbray."

     So  the  instruction  was  continued,  and  Father  Mowbray  at  length
consented to receive Rex a week before his wedding.

     "You'd  think  they'd be  all  over  themselves  to  have me  in,"  Rex
complained. "I  can  be  a lot of  help to them one way and another; instead
they're like the chaps who issue cards for a casino. What's more," he added,
"Cordelia's  got me so muddled I don't know what's in the catechism and what
she's invented."

     Thus  things  stood three weeks  before the wedding; the cards had gone
out, presents were coming in fast, the bridesmaids were delighted with their
dresses. Then came what Julia called "Bridey's bombshell."

     With  characteristic ruthlessness  he  tossed  his  load  of  explosive
without warning  into  what, till then, had been a  happy  family party. The
library  at  Marchmain  House  was being  devoted  to wedding presents; Lady
Marchmain,  Julia, Cordelia and  Rex  were  busy unpacking and listing them.
Brideshead came in and watched them for a moment.

     "Chinky vases from  Aunt Betty,"  said Cordelia. "Old stuff. I remember
them on the stairs at Buckborne."

     "What's all this?" asked Brideshead.

     "Mr., Mrs., and  Miss  Pendle-Garthwaite,  one early-morning  tea  set.
Goode's, thirty shillings, jolly mean."

     "You'd better pack all that stuff up again."

     "Bridey, what do you mean?"

     "Only that the wedding's off."

     "Bridey."

     "I  thought  I'd  better  make  some  enquiries  about  my  prospective
brother-in-law, as  no one else seemed interested,"  said Brideshead. "I got
the final  answer to-night. He  was married  in Montreal hi  1915  to a Miss
Sarah Evangeline Cutler, who is still living there."

     "Rex, is this true?"

     Rex stood with a jade dragon in his hand looking at it critically; then
he set it carefully on its ebony stand and  smiled openly and  innocently at
them all.

     "Sure  it's true," he said. "What about it? What are you all looking so
hit-up about?  She isn't a thing to me. She never meant any good. I was only
a kid, anyhow. The  sort of mistake anyone might make. I got my divorce back
in 1919. I didn't even know where she was living till  Bridey here  told me.
What's all the rumpus?"

     "You might have told me," said Julia.

     "You never asked. Honest, I've not given her a thought in years."

     His sincerity was so  plain that they had to sit down and talk about it
calmly.

     "Don't you realize, you poor sweet  oaf," said  Julia, "that you  can't
get married as a Catholic when you've another wife alive?"

     "But I haven't. Didn't I just tell you we were divorced six years ago?"

     "But you can't be divorced as a Catholic."

     "I  wasn't  a  Catholic  and  I  was  divorced.  I've  got  the  papers
somewhere."

     "But didn't Father Mowbray explain to you about marriage?"

     "He said I wasn't to be divorced from you.  Well, I don't want to be. I
can't remember all he told  me -- sacred monkeys,  plenary indulgences, four
last things -- if  I remembered  all  he told" me I  shouldn't have time for
anything else.  Anyhow, what  about  your  Italian  cousin,  Francesca?  She
married twice."

     "She had an annulment."

     "All right then, I'll get an annulment. What does it cost? Who do I get
it from?  Has Father Mowbray got one? I only want to do what's right. Nobody
told me."

     It was a long time before Rex could be convinced  of the existence of a
serious impediment to his marriage.  The discussion took them to dinner, lay
dormant in the  presence of the servants, started again as soon as they were
alone,  and  lasted  long  after  midnight. Up, down and round the  argument
circled and swooped like a gull, now  out to sea, out of sight, cloud-bound,
among irrelevances and  repetitions, now right on  the patch where the offal
floated.'

     "What d'you want me to do? Who should  I see?" Rex kept  asking. "Don't
tell me there isn't someone who can fix this."

     "There's  nothing to do, Rex," said Brideshead. "It simply  means  your
marriage can't take place. I'm sorry from everyone's point of view that it's
come so suddenly. You ought to have told us yourself."

     "Look," said Rex. "Maybe what you say is right; maybe strictly by law I
shouldn't get married in your cathedral. But the cathedral is booked; no one
there is  asking any questions; the  Cardinal knows nothing about it; Father
Mowbray knows nothing about it.  Nobody except us knows a thing. So why make
a lot of trouble? Just stay mum and let the  thing go through, as if nothing
had happened. Who loses anything by  that? Maybe I risk going to hell. Well,
I'll risk it. What's it got to do with anyone else?"

     "Why not?" said Julia. "I don't  believe these priests know everything.
I don't believe in hell for things like that. I don't know that I believe in
it  for anything. Anyway, that's our lookout. We're  not  asking you to risk
your souls. Just keep away."

     "Julia, I hate you," said Cordelia, and left the room.

     "We're all tired,"  said Lady Marchmain. "If there is anything  to say,
I'd suggest our discussing it in the morning."

     "But there's nothing  to discuss," said Brideshead, "except what is the
least  offensive way we  can  close the  whole  incident.  Mother and I will
decide that.  We must put a notice in The  Times and  the Morning  Post; the
presents  will  have  to go back. I  don't  know  what  is  usual about  the
bridesmaids' dresses."

     "Just a  moment,"  said  Rex. "Just a moment.  Maybe you  can  stop  us
marrying in  your  cathedral.  All right, to hell,  we'll  be  married  in a
Protestant church."

     "I can stop that, too," said Lady Marchmain.

     "But  I  don't think you will, Mummy," said Julia. "You see, I've  been
Rex's mistress for some time now, and I shall go on being, married or not."

     "Rex, is this true?"

     "No, damn it, it's not," said Rex. "I wish it were."

     "I see we shall have to discuss it all again in the morning," said Lady
Marchmain faintly. "I can't go on any more now."

     And she needed her son's help up the stairs.


     "What on earth made  you tell  your mother that?" I asked,  when, years
later, Julia described the scene to me.

     "That's exactly what Rex wanted to know. I suppose because I thought it
was true. Not  literally  -- though you must remember I was only twenty, and
no one  really  knows  the 'facts of  life'  by  being  told them -- but, of
course,  I didn't mean it was true  literally.  I  didn't  know how  else to
express it. I meant I was much too deep with Rex just to be able to say 'the
marriage  arranged will not now take place,' and leave it at that. I  wanted
to be made an honest woman. I've been wanting it ever since -- come to think
of it."

     "And then?"

     "And then the talks went on  and on.  Poor Mummy. And priests came into
it and aunts came into it. There were all kinds  of suggestions --  that Rex
should go to Canada, that Father Mowbray should go  to Rome and see if there
were  any possible grounds for an annulment; that  I should go abroad  for a
year. In  the middle of it Rex just telegraphed to Papa: 'Julia and I prefer
wedding ceremony take place by Protestant rites. Have you any objection?' He
answered,  'Delighted,' and that settled the matter as far as Mummy stopping
us legally went. There was a lot  of personal appeal after  that. I was sent
to talk to priests and nuns and aunts. Rex just went on quietly -- or fairly
quietly -- with the plans.

     "Oh,  Charles, what  a squalid wedding! The Savoy Chapel was the  place
where divorced couples got married in those days--a poky little place not at
all what Rex had intended. I wanted  just to slip into a registry office one
morning and get the thing over  with a couple of charwomen as witnesses, but
nothing else  would do  but Rex had to  have bridesmaids and orange blossoms
and the wedding march. It was gruesome.

     "Poor Mummy behaved like a martyr and insisted on my having her lace in
spite  of everything. Well, she  more  or less  had to--the  dress  had been
planned  round  it.  My  own  friends  came,  of  course,  and  the  curious
accomplices  Rex called  his friends;  the rest bf the party were very oddly
assorted. None of Mummy's family came, of course; one or two  of Papa's. All
the stuffy  people  stayed  away--you know, the Anchorages  and  Chasms  and
Vanbrughs -- and I thought, Thank God for that,  they always look down their
noses at me, anyhow; but Rex was furious, Because it was just them he wanted
apparently.

     "I  hoped  at one  moment  there'd be  no  party at all.  Mummy said we
couldn't use Marchers, and Rex wanted to telegraph Papa and invade the place
with an army  of caterers headed by the family solicitor. In  the end it was
decided to have a party the evening before at  home to see the  presents  --
apparently that was all right according to Father  Mowbray. Well, no one can
ever resist going to see her  own present,  so that was quite a success, but
the reception Rex gave next day at the Savoy for the wedding guests was very
squalid.

     "There was great awkwardness about the  tenants. In the end Bridey went
down and gave them a dinner and bonfire there, which wasn't at all what they
expected in return for their silver
     soup-tureen.

     "Poor Cordelia took it hardest. She had looked forward so much to being
my  bridesmaid --  it was a  thing we used  to talk about long before I came
out--and of course  she  was a very pious child,  too. At first she wouldn't
speak to me. Then on the morning of  the wedding  --I'd moved to Aunt  Fanny
Ross-common's the  evening before; it  was  thought more suitable--she  came
bursting in before I was up, straight from Farm Street, in floods of  tears,
begged me not to marry,  then hugged me, gave me a dear  little brooch she'd
bought, and said she prayed I'd always be happy. Always happy, Charles!

     "It was an  awfully unpopular wedding, you know.  Everyone took Mummy's
side, as everyone  always did -- not that she  got any benefit from  it. All
through her life Mummy had all the  sympathy of  everyone except  those  she
loved. They all said I'd behaved  abominably to her. In fact, poor Rex found
he'd married an outcast, which was exactly the opposite of all he'd wanted.
     "So you see things never looked like going right. There was a hoodoo on
us from the start. But I was still nuts about Rex.

     "Funny to think of, isn't it?

     "You  know Father Mowbray hit on the  truth  about Rex at once, that it
took  me a year  of marriage to see. He simply wasn't all there. He wasn't a
complete  human being  at  all.  He  was  a  tiny  bit  of  one, unnaturally
developed;  something  in a bottle, an organ  kept alive in a  laboratory. I
thought he  was a sort of primitive savage, but he was something  absolutely
modern and up-to-date that only this ghastly age  could produce. A tiny ,bit
of a man pretending he was the whole.
     "Well, it's all over now."

     It was ten  years later  that  she  said  this to me in a storm in  the
Atlantic.


     Chapter Eight

     I returned to London in the spring of 1926 for the General Strike.

     It  was the  topic  of Paris. The French, exultant  as  always  at  the
discomfiture  of  their  former  friends,  'and transposing  into their  own
precise  terms  our  mistier  notions  from  across  the  Channel,  foretold
revolution and civil war. Every evening the kiosks displayed  texts of doom,
and  in the cafes  acquaintances  greeted one half-derisively with: "Ha,  my
friend, you  are better  off here than at home, are  you not?" until I,  and
several friends in circumstances like my own, came seriously to believe that
our country was in danger and that our duty lay  there. We were joined by  a
Belgian Futurist,  who  lived under  the, I think,  assumed name of  Jean de
Brissac la  Motte, and claimed the right to bear arms in any battle anywhere
against the lower classes.
     We crossed together, in a high-spirited, male party, expecting to  find
unfolding before us at Dover the history so often repeated of late,  with so
few variations, from all parts of Europe, that I, at any rate, had formed in
my mind a clear, composite picture of Revolution -- the red flag on the post
office, the overturned tram,  the drunken N.C.O-'s,  the gaol open and gangs
of  released criminals prowling the streets, the train from the capital that
did not  arrive. One had read it in the papers, seen it in the  films, heard
it at  cafe tables  again and again for six or seven years now, till  it had
become part of  one's experience, at second  hand, like the mud of  Flanders
and the flies of Mesopotamia.

     Then we  landed  and met  the old  routine  of the  customs sheds,  the
punctual  boat-train,  the  porters lining  the  platform  at  Victoria  and
converging on the first-class carriages; the long line of waiting taxis.

     "We'll separate,"  we said, "and see what's  happening.  We'll meet and
compare notes at dinner," but we knew already in our hearts that nothing was
happening; nothing, at any rate, which needed our presence.

     "Oh dear," said my father, meeting  me  by chance  on the  stairs, "how
delightful to  see you  again so  soon." (I had been abroad fifteen months.)
"You've come at a very  awkward time,  you know.  They're  having another of
those strikes in two days --  such a lot of  nonsense--and I don't know when
you'll be able to get away."

     I thought  of the evening I was forgoing,  with the lights  coming  out
along the banks of the Seine, and the company I should have had there -- for
I was at the time concerned with two emancipated American girls who shared a
garconniere in Auteuil -- and wished I had not come.

     We dined that night at the Cafe" Royal. There things were a little more
warlike,  for the cafe" was  full of undergraduates  who had  come  down for
"National  Service." One group, from Cambridge, had that afternoon signed on
to  run  messages  for Transport  House,  and their  table backed on another
group's, who were enrolled as special constables.  Now and then one or other
party would  shout provocatively over  the shoulder, but it  is hard to come
into serious  conflict back to  back, and the affair ended-with their giving
each other tall glasses of lager beer.

     "You should  have been in Budapest  when Horthy marched in," said Jean.
"That was politics."

     A party was being  given that night  in  Regent's  Park for  the "Black
Birds," who had newly  arrived  in England. One of  us  had  been  asked and
thither we all went.

     To us, who frequented Bricktop's and the Bal Negre  in the Rue  Blomet,
there was nothing  particularly  remarkable in the spectacle; I was scarcely
inside the door when I heard an unmistakable voice,  an echo  from  what now
seemed a distant past.

     "No" it said, "they are  not animals in a zoo, Mulcaster, to be goggled
at. They are artists, my dear, very great artists, to be revered."

     Anthony  Blanche and  Boy Mulcaster  were at  the table where  the wine
stood.

     "Thank  God here's someone I know,"  said Mulcaster, as  I joined them.
"Girl brought me. Can't see her anywhere."

     "She's given you the slip,  my dear, and do  you know why? Because  you
look ridiculously out  of place,  Mulcaster. It isn't your  kind of party at
all; you ought not to  be  here;  you ought to go away, you know, to the Old
Hundredth or some lugubrious dance in Belgrave Square."

     "Just come from one," said Mulcaster. "Too early for the Old Hundredth.
I'll stay on a bit. Things may cheer up."

     "I spit on you," said Anthony. "Let me talk to you, Charles."

     We took a bottle and our glasses and found a corner in another room. At
our  feet,  five members of  the  "Black Birds" orchestra  squatted on their
heels and threw dice.

     "That one,"  said Anthony, "the  rather pale  one, my dear, konked Mrs.
Arnold Frickheimer  the other morning on the  nut, my dear, with a bottle of
milk."

     Almost immediately, inevitably, we began to talk of Sebastian.

     "My dear,  he's such a sot. He came to live  with me in Marseilles last
year when you threw him  over, and  really it was  as much as I could stand.
Sip, sip, sip  like a dowager all day long. And so sly. I was always missing
little things, my  dear,  things I rather liked; once I lost two  suits that
had  arrived from Lesley and Roberts that morning. Of course, I  didn't know
it was Sebastian--there were some rather queer fish,  my dear, in and out of
my  little apartment. Who knows  better than  you  my taste for queer  fish?
Well, eventually,  my  dear, we  found  the  pawnshop  where  Sebastian  was
p-p-popping them and then he hadn't got  the tickets; there was a market for
them, too, at the Bistro.

     "I can  see  that  puritanical, disapproving look  in  your  eye,  dear
Charles, as though you thought I had led the boy on. It's one of Sebastian's
less lovable qualities that he  always gives the impression of being l-l-led
on -- like a little horse at a circus. But  I assure you I did everything. I
said to him again and again, 'Why drink? If you want to be intoxicated there
are so many much
     more delicious  things.' I  took him  to quite the  best man; well, you
know him as well as I do, Nada Alopov; and Jean Luxmore and everyone we know
has been to him for years -- he's always
     in  the  Regina  Bar --  and  then we  had  trouble  over that  because
Sebastian gave him a bad cheque--a s-s-stumer, my  dear-- and a whole lot of
very menacing men came round  to the flat --thugs, my dear  -- and Sebastian
was making no sense at the time and it was all most unpleasant."

     Boy Mulcaster wandered towards  us and sat down, without encouragement,
by my side.

     "Drink running  short in  there,"  he said,  helping himself  from  our
bottle and emptying it.  "Not  a soul in the place I ever set eyes on before
-- all black fellows."

     Anthony ignored him and continued: "So then we left Marseilles and went
to Tangier, and there, my  dear, Sebastian took up with his new friend.  How
can  I describe him? He is like the footman in 'Warning Shadows' --  a great
clod of a German  who'd been in the Foreign Legion. He  got put by  shooting
off his great toe. It  hadn't healed yet. Sebastian found  him,  starving as
tout to one of the houses in the Kasbah, and brought him to stay with us. It
was  too macabre. So back I came, my dear, to good  old England  -- good old
England" he repeated, indicating in an ample gesture the Negroes gambling at
our  feet,  Mulcaster, staring blankly before him,  and our hostess who,  in
pyjamas, now introduced herself to us.

     "Never seen you before," she  said.  "Never asked you. Who are all this
white trash, anyway? Seems to me I must be in the wrong house."

     "A time of national emergency," said Mulcaster. "Anything may happen."

     "Is the party  going well?" she asked anxiously. "D'you think  Florence
Mills would sing? We've met before," she added to Anthony.

     "Often, my dear, but you never asked me to-night."

     "Oh dear, perhaps I don't like you. I thought I liked everyone."

     "Do you think," asked Mulcaster, when our hostess had left us, "that it
might be witty to give the fire alarm?"

     "Yes, Boy, run away and ring it."

     "Might cheer things up, I mean."

     "Exactly."

     So Mulcaster left us in search of the telephone.

     "I think Sebastian and his lame chum went to French Morocco," continued
Anthony. "They were in trouble with the Tangier police when I left them. The
Marchioness has been a positive  pest ever since I came to London, trying to
make me get into touch with them. What  a time that poor  woman's having! It
only shows there's some justice in life."

     Presently  Miss  Mills  began  to  sing and  everyone, except the  crap
players, crowded to the next room.

     "That's my  girl," said Mulcaster. "Over there  with that black fellow.
That's the girl who brought me."

     "She seems to have forgotten you now."

     "Yes. I wish I hadn't come. Let's go on somewhere."

     Two  fire engines  drove up  as we left and a host of helmeted  figures
joined the throng upstairs.

     "That chap, Blanche," said Mulcaster, "not a good fellow. I put  him in
Mercury once."

     We went to  a number  of night  clubs. In two years Mulcaster seemed to
have attained his simple ambition of being known  and liked  in such places.
At the last of them he and I were kindled by a great flame of patriotism.

     "You and I," he  said, "were too young to fight in the war. Other chaps
fought, millions of them  dead. Not us. We'll show them. We'll show the dead
chaps we can fight, too."

     "That's  why  I'm here," I said.  "Come from overseas,  rallying to old
country in hour of need."

     "Like Australians."

     "Like the poor dead Australians."

     "What you in?"

     "Nothing yet. War not ready."

     "Only one thing to join -- Bill Meadows's show--Defence Corps. All good
chaps. Being fixed in Bratt's."

     "Ill join."

     "You member Bratt's?"

     "No. I'll join that, too."

     "That's right. All good chaps like the dead chaps."

     So I  joined Bill Meadows's show, which  was a flying squad, protecting
food deliveries in the poorer parts of  London. First  I was enrolled in the
Defence  Corps, took  an  oath  of  loyalty,  and  was  given a  helmet  and
truncheon; then I was put  up for  Bratt's Club and,  with a number of other
recruits,  elected at a committee meeting specially called for the occasion.
For a week we sat under orders  in Bratt's, and thrice a day we drove out in
a  lorry  at  the  head of a  convoy of  milk vans. We were  jeered  at  and
sometimes pelted with muck, but only once did we go into action.
     We  were sitting round  after luncheon that day when Bill Meadows  came
back from the telephone in high spirits.

     "Come on," he said. "There's a perfectly good battle in the  Commercial
Road."

     We  drove at great speed and  arrived to find a steel  hawser stretched
between  lamp-posts,  an  overturned truck  and a policeman,  alone  on  the
pavement, being kicked by half a dozen youths. On either side of this centre
of  disturbance, and at a little  distance from it, two opposing parties had
formed.  Near us, as we  disembarked, a second policeman  was sitting on the
pavement, dazed, with  his head in his hands and blood  running through  his
fingers; two or three sympathizers were standing over him; on the other side
of  the  hawser  was  a  hostile knot  of.  young  dockers.  We  charged  in
cheerfully, relieved the policeman, and were just falling upon the main body
of the enemy when we came  into  collision with a party  of local clergy and
town  councillors  who arrived  simultaneously  by  another  route,  to  try
persuasion. They were our only victims, for just as they went down there was
a cry of "Look out. The  coppers," and a lorry load of police drew up in our
rear.

     The crowd broke and disappeared. We picked up the peacemakers (only one
of whom was seriously hurt), patrolled some of the side streets looking  for
trouble  and finding none, and at length  returned to Bratt's. Next day  the
General  Strike  was  called off and the country  everywhere, except in  the
coal-fields, returned to  normal. It  was as though a beast long  fabled for
its ferocity had emerged for an hour, scented danger, and slunk back to  its
lair. It had not been worth leaving Paris.

     Jean, who joined  another  company, had a pot of  ferns  dropped on his
head by an elderly widow in Camden Town and was in hospital for a week.

     It was through my membership of Bill Meadows's squad that Julia learned
I was in England. She telephoned to say her mother was anxious to see me.

     "You'll find her terribly ill," she said.

     I went to  Marchmain House on the  first  morning  of peace. Sir Adrian
Porson  passed me in the hall,  leaving,  as  I arrived; he held  a bandanna
handkerchief to his face  and felt  blindly for his hat and stick; he was in
tears.

     I was shown into the library and in less than a minute Julia joined me.
She shook  hands  with a gentleness and gravity that were unfamiliar; in the
gloom of that room she seemed a ghost.

     "It's sweet of you to come. Mummy has kept asking for you, but  I don't
know if she'll be able to see you now, after all. She's just said 'good-bye'
to Adrian Porson and it's tired her."

     "Good-bye?"

     "Yes. She's dying.  She may  live a week or two or she may  go  at  any
minute. She's so weak. I'll go and ask nurse."

     The stillness of death seemed in the house already. No one  ever sat in
the library at Marchmain House. It was the one ungracious room  in either of
their  houses. The  bookcases of Victorian oak held  volumes of Hansard  and
obsolete  encyclopedias  that were  never  opened; the  bare mahogany  table
seemed set for the meeting of  a  committee; the place had the  air of being
both  public and unfrequented; outside lay the forecourt,  the railings, the
quiet cul-de-sac.

     Presently Julia returned.

     "No, I'm afraid you can't see her. She's asleep. She may  lie like that
for hours; I can tell you what she wanted.  Let's go  somewhere else. I hate
this room."

     We  went across  the hall  to  the  small drawing-room  where  luncheon
parties used to  assemble, and sat  on either  side of  the fireplace. Julia
seemed to reflect the crimson and  gold of  the walls and lose some  of  her
wanness.

     "First, I know, Mummy wanted to say how sorry she is she was so beastly
to  you last time you met.  She's spoken of it often.  She knows now she was
wrong about you.  I'm quite sure you understood and put it  out of your mind
immediately, but it's the kind  of thing Mummy can  never forgive herself --
it's the kind of thing she so seldom did."

     "Do tell her I understood completely."

     "The other thing, of course, you have  guessed -- Sebastian. She  wants
him. I don't know if that's possible. Is it?"

     "I hear he's in a very bad way."

     "We heard that, too.  We cabled to the last address  we had,  but there
was no answer. There still may be time for him to see her. I thought  of you
as the only hope, as  soon as I heard you  were in England. Will you try and
get him? It's an awful lot to ask, but I think Sebastian would want it, too,
if he realized."

     "I'll try."

     "There's no one else we can ask. Rex is so busy."

     "Yes. I heard reports of all he'd been doing organizing the gas works."


     "Oh yes," Julia said with a touch of her old  dryness. "He's made a lot
of kudos out of the strike."

     Then we talked for a few minutes about the Bratt's squad. She  told  me
Brideshead  had  refused  to  take  any  public service  because he  was not
satisfied with the justice of the cause; Cordelia was in London, in bed now,
as she had been watching by her mother all night. I told her I had  taken up
architectural painting and that I enjoyed it. All this talk was nothing;  we
had said all we had to say in  the first  two minutes;  I stayed for ten and
then left her.

     Air France ran a  service of a kind to Casablanca; there I took the bus
to Fez,  starting at  dawn  and  arriving  in  the new town  at  evening.  I
telephoned from  the hotel  to the  British Consul  and dined with  him that
evening, in his charming house by the walls of the  old town. He was a kind,
serious man.

     "I'm delighted someone has come to look after young Flyte at last,"  he
said. "He's been something of  a  thorn in our sides here. This  is no place
for  a remittance man.  The French don't understand  him at all.  They think
everyone who's not  engaged in trade  is a spy.  It's not as though he lived
like a milord.  Things aren't  easy  here.  There's war going on  not thirty
miles from  this house,  though you might  not think  it.  We had some young
fools  on bicycles only last  week  who'd come to volunteer for Abdul Krim's
army.

     "Then the Moors are a tricky lot; they don't  hold with  drink and  our
young friend, as you may know, spends most of his day drinking. What does he
want to come here for?  There's plenty of room for him  at Rabat or Tangier,
where they cater for tourists. He's taken a house in the  native  town,  you
know. I tried to stop him, but he got it from a Frenchman in  the Department
of Arts. I don't say there's any harm in him but he's an anxiety. There's an
awful  fellow  sponging  on  him  -- a German  out of the Foreign  Legion. A
thoroughly bad lot by all accounts. There's bound to be trouble.

     "Mind you, I like Flyte. I don't see much of him. He used to  come here
for  baths  until  he got  fixed  up at  his house.  He was always perfectly
charming,  and  my  wife took  a  great  fancy  to  him. What  he  needs  is
occupation."

     I explained my errand.

     "You'll probably find  him at  home now. Goodness knows there's nowhere
to go  in the evenings in the  old town. If you like I'll send the porter to
show you the way."

     So  I  set out after  dinner,  with  the consular porter  going  ahead,
lantern in  hand. Morocco was a new and strange country  to me. Driving that
day, mile after mile, up the smooth, strategic road,  past the vineyards and
military posts and the new, white settlements  and the  early  crops already
standing high  in the vast, open  fields, and the hoardings  advertising the
staples  of France -- Dubonnet, Michelin,  Magasin du Louvre --I had thought
it  all very  suburban and up-to-date; now, under the stars, in  the  walled
city, whose  streets  were gentle, dusty  stairways,  and  whose walls  rose
windowless on either side, closed overhead, then opened again to the  stars;
where  the dust lay thick among the smooth paving  stones and figures passed
silently, robed  in white, on soft slippers or hard, bare soles;  where  the
air was scented  with cloves and  incense  and wood smoke -- now I knew what
had drawn Sebastian here and held him so long.

     The consular porter strode arrogantly ahead with his light swinging and
his tall  cane banging; sometimes  an  open doorway revealed  a silent group
seated in golden lamplight round a brazier.
     "Very dirty peoples,"  the porter  said scornfully, over  his shoulder.
"No education.  French  leave them dirty.  Not  like'  British  peoples.  My
peoples," he said, "always very British peoples."
     For he  was from the Sudan Police, and regarded this  ancient centre of
his culture as a New Zealander might regard Rome.

     At length we came to  the  last of many  studded  doors, and the porter
beat on it with his stick.

     "British Lord's house," he said.

     Lamplight and a  dark face appeared at the grating. The consular porter
spoke peremptorily;  bolts were withdrawn and we  entered  a small courtyard
with a well in its centre and a vine trained overhead.

     "I wait here," said the porter. "You go with this native fellow."

     I entered the house, down  a step, and into  the living-room. I found a
gramophone,  an  oil-stove and,  between them, a young man.  Later,  when  I
looked about me,  I noticed other, more agreeable things --  the rugs on the
floor, the embroidered  silk on the  walls, the carved  and painted beams of
the  ceiling, the  heavy, pierced lamp that hung from a  chain and  cast the
soft shadows of its own tracery about the room. But on first entering, these
three things  -- the gramophone  for  its  noise --  it was playing a French
record of  a  jazz band; the stove for  its smell; and the young man for his
wolfish look --  struck my senses. He was  lolling in a basket chair, with a
bandaged  foot  stuck  forward on a  box; he was dressed in  a kind of thin,
mid-European  imitation  tweed  with a  tennis shirt  open at  the neck; the
unwounded foot wore a brown canvas shoe. There was a brass  tray by his side
on wooden legs, and on it were two beer bottles, a dirty plate, and a saucer
full of cigarette ends; he held a glass of beer in his hand  and a cigarette
lay on his lower lip and  stuck there when he spoke.  He  had long fair hair
combed  back  without a parting  and a face that was unnaturally lined for a
man  of his obvious youth; one of  his  front teeth was missing, so that his
sibilants  came  sometimes  with  a  lisp,  sometimes with  a  disconcerting
whistle, which he covered with a giggle; the teeth  he had were stained with
tobacco and set far apart.

     This was plainly the "thoroughly  bad lot" of the consul's description,
the film footman of Anthony's.

     "I'm looking  for Sebastian Flyte. This is  his  house, is  it  not?" I
spoke  loudly to make myself  heard above the dance  music, but  he answered
softly in English fluent enough to suggest that it was now habitual to him.

     "Yeth. But he isn't here. There's no one but me."

     "I've come from England to see him on  important business; Can you tell
me where I can find him?"

     The record  came to its end.  The German turned it  over, wound up  the
machine, and started it playing again before answering.

     "Sebastian's sick. The brothers took him  away to the infirmary.  Maybe
they'll let you thee him, maybe not. I got to  go there myself one day thoon
to have my foot dressed.  I'll ask them  then. When he's better they'll  let
you thee him, maybe."

     There  was another chair  and I sat down  on it. Seeing that I meant to
stay, the German offered me some beer.

     "You're not Thebastian's  brother?" he said. "Cousin maybe?  Maybe  you
married hith thister?"

     "I'm only a friend. We were at the University together."

     "I  had a friend  at the University. We studied History.  My friend was
cleverer than me; a little weak fellow  --  I used  to pick him up and shake
him  when I was angry -- but tho clever.  Then one  day  we  said: 'What the
hell?  There is no work in Germany. Germany is down  the drain,' so  we said
good-bye to our professors, and  they said: 'Yes, Germany is down the drain.
There is  nothing for a student to  do here  now,'  and  we went  away anckj
walked and walked and  at last we came here. Then we said, 'There is no army
in Germany  now,  but we must be  tholdiers,'  so  we joined the  Legion. My
friend died  of dysentery  last year, campaigning in the Atlas.  When he was
dead, I  said, 'What the hell?'  so I shot my  foot.  It is now full of pus,
though I have done it one year."

     "Yes," I  said.  "That's very interesting. But my immediate concern  is
with Sebastian. Perhaps you would tell me about him."

     "He is a very good fellow, Sebastian. He  is  all right for me. Tangier
was a stinking  place.  He  brought me  here--nice  house,  nice food,  nice
servant --  everything  is  all right for me here, I reckon.  I like it  all
right."

     "His mother is very ill," I said. "I have come to tell him."

     "She rich?"

     "Yes."

     "Why don't she give him more money? Then  we  could live at Casablanca,
maybe, in a nice flat.
     You know her well? You could make her give him more money?"

     "What's the matter with him?"

     "I don't know. I reckon maybe he drink too much. The brothers will look
after him. It's all right for him there. The brothers are good fellows. Very
cheap there."

     He clapped his hands and ordered more beer.

     "You thee? A nice thervant to look after me. It is all right."

     When I had got the name of the hospital I left.

     "Tell Thebastian I am still  here and all right. I reckon he's worrying
about me, maybe."


     The hospital, where I went next morning,  was a collection of bungalows
between the old and the new towns. It was kept by Franciscans. I made my way
through a crowd  of diseased Moors to the doctor's room.  He was  a  layman,
clean-shaven, dressed in white,  starched overalls. We spoke in French,  and
he told me Sebastian was in no danger, but quite unfit to travel. He had had
the  grippe, with  one lung  slightly affected;  he was very weak; he lacked
resistance;  what  could one expect?  He  was an alcoholic. The doctor spoke
dispassionately, almost brutally,  with the relish  men of scidnce sometimes
have for limiting themselves to inessentials, for pruning back their work to
th<?  point  of sterility; but the  bearded, barefooted brother  in whose
charge he  put me, the  man of no scientific  pretensions who did  the dirty
jobs of the ward, had a different story.

     "He's so  patient. Not like a young man at all. He lies there and never
complains -- and there is much to complain  of.  We have no facilities.  The
Government give us what they can spare from the soldiers. And he is so kind.
There is a  poor  German boy with a foot  that will not  heal and  secondary
syphilis, who comes here for  treatment. Lord Flyte found  him  starving  in
Tangier
     and took him in and gave him a home. A real Samaritan."

     Poor simple monk, I thought, poor booby. God forgive me!

     Sebastian  was  in  the wing kept  for Europeans, where the  beds  were
divided by low  partitions  into cubicles with some  air of  privacy. He was
lying with his hands on the quilt staring at the 1
     wall, where the only ornament was a religious oleograph.

     "Your friend," said the brother.

     He looked round slowly.

     "Oh, I thought he meant Kurt. What are you doing here, Charles?"

     He was more than ever emaciated; drink, which made others fat and  red,
seemed to  wither Sebastian. The brother left us,  and I sat by his  bed and
talked about his illness.

     "I was out of my mind for a day or two," he said.  "I  kept  thinking I
was back in Oxford. You went  to  my house? Did  you like  it? Is Kurt still
there? I won't ask you  if  you liked  Kurt; no  one does. It's  funny --  I
couldn't get on without him, you know."

     Then I  told him about his mother. He  said  nothing for some time, but
lay gazing at the oleograph of the Seven Dolours. Then: --

     "Poor Mummy. She really was a femme fatale, wasn't she. She killed at a
touch."

     I telegraphed to Julia that Sebastian was unable to travel, and  stayed
a week  at Fez,  visiting the hospital  daily  until  he was well' enough to
move. His first sign  of returning strength, on the second day of  my visit,
was to ask for brandy. By next day he had  got  some, somehow,  and  kept it
under the bedclothes.

     The doctor said:  "Your friend is drinking again. It is forbidden here.
What can I do? This is not a reformatory school. I cannot police the  wards.
I am here to cure people, not to protect them  from vicious habits, or teach
them self-control. Cognac will not hurt him now. It will make him weaker for
the next time he is ill, and then one day some little trouble will carry him
off, pouff. This is not a home for inebriates. He must go  at the end of the
week."

     The  lay  brother  said:  "Your friend is so much happier to-day, it is
like one transfigured."

     Poor simple monk, I thought, poor  booby; but he added, "You  know why?
He has a bottle of cognac in bed with him. It is the second I have found. No
sooner do I take one away than he gets another. He is so naughty. It  is the
Arab boys who fetch it for him.  But it is good to see him happy  again when
he has been so sad."

     On my last afternoon I said, "Sebastian, now your mother's dead" -- for
the news had  reached  us that  morning -- "do you  think of  going back  to
England?"

     "It  would be lovely, in  some ways," he said,  "but do you think  Kurt
would like it?"

     "For God's sake," I said, "you don't mean to spend your life with Kurt,
do you?"

     "I don't know. He seems to mean to spend  it with  me. 'It'th all right
for him, I reckon, maybe,'"  he said, mimicking  Kurt's accent, and  then he
added  what, if  I  had paid more attention, should have given me  the key I
lacked; at the time I heard and remembered it, without taking notice.

     "You know,  Charles," he said, "it's rather a pleasant change  when all
your life you've had people looking after you, to have someone to look after
yourself.  Only of  course it  has  to  be someone  pretty hopeless to  need
looking after by me."

     I was able to straighten his money affairs before I  left. He had lived
till then by getting into difficulties and then telegraphing for odd sums to
his lawyers. I saw the branch manager of the Bank of Indo-China and arranged
for  him,  if  funds were  forthcoming from  London, to receive  Sebastian's
quarterly allowance and pay him a weekly sum of pocket money with  a reserve
to  be  drawn  in  emergencies. This sum was only  to be given to  Sebastian
personally, and only when the manager was satisfied that he had a proper use
for it. Sebastian agreed readily to all this.

     "Otherwise," he  said, "Kurt will get me to sign a cheque for the whole
lot when I'm tight and then he'll go off and get into all kinds of trouble."

     I saw Sebastian home from the hospital.  He seemed weaker in his basket
chair  than he had been in bed. The two sick men,  he and Kurt, sat opposite
one another with the gramophone between them.

     "It was time you came back," said Kurt. "I need you."

     "Do you, Kurt?"

     "I reckon so. It's not so good being alone when you're sick. That boy's
a lazy fellow -- always slipping off when I want him. Once he stayed out all
night and there was no one to make  my coffee  when I woke up. It's  no good
having a foot  full of pus. Times I  can't sleep good. Maybe another time  I
shall  slip off,  too, and  go where I can be looked after."  He clapped his
hands but no servant came. "You see?" he said.

     "What d'you want?"

     "Cigarettes. I got some in the bag under my bed."

     Sebastian began painfully to rise from his chair.

     "I'll get them," I said. "Where's his bed?"

     "No, that's my job," said Sebastian.

     "Yeth," said Kurt, "I reckon that's Sebastian's job."

     So  I  left him with his friend in the little enclosed house at the end
of the alley. There was nothing more I could do for Sebastian.

     I had meant to return direct to Paris, but this business of Sebastian's
allowance meant that I must go to London and see Brideshead. I  travelled by
sea, taking the P. & O. from Tangier, and was home in early June.

     "Do  you consider," asked Brideshead,  ''that there is anything vicious
in my brother's connection with this German?"

     "No. I'm sure not. It's simply a case of two waifs coming together."

     "You say he'is a criminal?"

     "I  said 'a criminal type.'  He's been  in  the military prison and was
dishonourably discharged."

     "And the doctor says Sebastian is killing himself with drink?"

     "Weakening himself. He hasn't D.T.'s or cirrhosis."

     "He's not insane?"

     "Certainly hot. He's found a companion he happens  to like  and a place
where he happens to like living."

     "Then he must  have  his allowance as you suggest.  The thing  is quite
clear."

     In some ways Brideshead  was an easy man to deal with. He had a kind of
mad certainty about everything which made his decisions swift and easy.

     "Would you like to paint this house?" he asked suddenly.  "A picture of
the front,  another  of  the  back on  the park,  another of the  staircase,
another of  the  big drawing-room?  Four small  oils; that is what my father
wants done  for a record, to keep at Brideshead. I don't know any  painters.
Julia said you specialized in architecture."

     "Yes," I said. "I should like to very much."

     "You know  it's being pulled down?  My  father's  selling  it. They are
going to put up a block of flats here. They're keeping the name --  we can't
stop them apparently."

     "What a very sad thing."

     "Well, I'm sorry of course. But you think it good architecturally?"

     "One of the most beautiful houses I know."

     "Can't  see it.  I've  always  thought  it rather  ugly.  Perhaps  your
pictures will make me see it differently."

     This  was  my  first  commission;  I had to work against time, for  the
contractors were only waiting for the final signature to start their work of
destruction.  In spite, or perhaps because, of that -- for it is my  vice to
spend too long on a canvas, never content to leave  well alone -- those four
paintings are particular favourites of  mine, and it was their success, both
with myself and others, that confirmed me in what has since been my career.

     I began in  the long  drawing-room, for they were anxious to shift  the
furniture,  which had  stood there  since  it  was  built.  It  was a  long,
elaborate,  symmetrical Adam room, with two  bays, of  windows  opening into
Green Park. The light,  streaming in from the west on the  afternoon  when I
began to paint there, was fresh green from the young trees outside.

     I  had  the  perspective  set out  in  pencil and the detail  carefully
placed. I held back from painting, like a diver on the water's edge; once in
I found  myself buoyed and exhilarated. I was normally a slow and deliberate
painter; that afternoon and all next day, and the day  after, I worked fast.
I could do nothing wrong. At the end of each passage I paused, tense, afraid
to start , the next, fearing, like  a gambler, that  luck must turn and  the
pile be lost. Bit by bit, minute by minute, the thing came into being. There
were no difficulties; the intricate multiplicity of light and  colour became
a whole; the  right colour was where  I wanted it on the palette; each brush
stroke, as soon as it was complete, seemed to have been there always.

     Presently on the last afternoon I heard a voice  behind  me say; "May I
stay here and watch?"
     I turned and found Cordelia.

     "Yes," I said, "if you don't talk," and I worked  on, oblivious of her,
until the failing sun made me. put up my brushes.

     "It must be lovely to be able to do that."

     I had forgotten she was there.

     "It is."

     I could not even now leave my picture,  although  the sun was down  and
the  room fading to monochrome. I took it  from the easel  and held it up to
the windows, put it  back and lightened a  shadow.  Then,  suddenly weary in
head and eyes and back and arm, I  gave it up for the  evening and turned to
Cordelia.

     She was now fifteen and had  grown tall,  nearly to her full height, in
the  last  eighteen  months.  She  had  not  the  promise  of  Julia's  full
Quattrocento  loveliness; there  was a touch of  Brideshead  already in  her
length  of nose  and high cheekbone; she  was in  black,  mourning  for  her
mother.

     "I'm tired," I said.

     "I bet you are. Is it finished?"

     "Practically. I must go over it again to-morrow."

     "D'you  know it's long past dinner-time?  There's  no one  here to cook
anything now. I only  came  up to-day, and didn't realize how  far the decay
had gone. You wouldn't like to take me out to dinner, would you?"

     We left by the garden door, into the park, and walked  in the  twilight
to the Ritz Grill.

     "You've seen Sebastian? He won't come home, even now?"

     I did not realize till then that she had understood so much. I said so.

     "Well,  I  love  him more  than  anyone,"  she said.  "It's  sad  about
Marchers, isn't it? Do you know they're going tp build a block of flats, and
that Rex wanted to take what he called  a  'penthouse'  at the top. Isn't it
like him? Poor Julia. That  was too much for her. He  couldn't understand at
all; he thought she would like to keep up with her old home. Things have all
come to an end very quickly, haven't they? Apparently Papa has been terribly
in debt  for a long  time. Selling Marchers has  put  him straight again and
saved I don't know how much a year in rates. But it seems a shame to pull it
down. Julia says she'd sooner that than to have someone else live there."

     "What's going to happen to you?"

     "What,  indeed?  There  are  all  kinds  of   suggestions.  Aunt  Fanny
Rosscommon wants me to live with her. Then Rex and Julia talk o taking over
half Brideshe'ad  and living there. Papa  won't come  back.  We  thought  he
might, but no.

     "They've  closed  the  chapel at  Brideshead,  Bridey  and the  Bishop;
Mummy's  requiem was  the  last  mass said there. After  she  was buried the
priest came  in -- I was there alone. I don't think he saw me--and took  out
the altar stone and  put it in his bag; then he burned the wads of wool with
the holy  oil on them and threw the  ash outside; he emptied the holy  water
stoup and  blew out the lamp in the  sanctuary and left  the tabernacle open
and empty, as though from  now on it was always to be Good Friday. I suppose
none of this makes any sense to you, Charles, poor agnostic.  I stayed there
till he  was  gone, and then, suddenly, there wasn't  any  chapel  there any
more, just an oddly decorated room. I  can't  tell you  what  it felt  like.
You've never been to Tenebrae, I suppose?"

     "Never."

     "Well, if you had you'd know what the Jews  felt  about  their  temple.
Quomodo  sedet  sola civitas .  . . it's a beautiful chant.  You ought to go
once, just to hear it."

     "Still trying to convert me, Cordelia?"

     "Oh, no. That's all over, too. D'you know what Papa said when he became
a Catholic? Mummy told me once. He  said  to  her: 'You have brought back my
family to the faith of their ancestors.' Pompous,  you know. It takes people
different ways.  Anyhow, the family haven't  been very  constant, have they?
There's him  gone and Sebastian gone  and Julia gone. But God won't let them
go for long, you know. I wondtx if you  remember the story Mummy read us the
evening Sebastian first  got  drunk -- I mean the  bad evening. Father Brown
said something  like 'I caught him' (the thief) 'with an  unseen hook and an
invisible line  which is long enough to  let him wander to  the ends of  the
world and still to bring him back with a twitch upon the thread.'"
     We scarcely mentioned  her  mother.  All the  time  we talked, she  ate
voraciously. Once she said: --

     "Did you see Sir Adrian Person's poem in The Times? It's funny, he knew
her best  of  anyone--he  loved her all his  life,  you  know --  and yet it
doesn't seem to have anything to do with her at all.

     "I got on best with her of any of us, but I don't believe I ever really
loved her. Not as she wanted  or deserved.  It's  odd  I didn't, because I'm
full of natural affections."

     "I never really knew your mother," I said.

     "You didn't like her. I sometimes think when people  wanted to hate God
they hated Mummy."

     "What do you mean by that, Cordelia?"

     "Well,  you see, she was  saintly but she wasn't  a saint. No one could
really hate  a  saint, could they? They can't really hate God  either.  When
they  want  to hate Him and  His saints they have  to  find  something  like
themselves and pretend  it's God and hate  that. I suppose you  think that's
all bosh."

     "I  heard  almost  the  same  thing   once  before--from  someone  very
different."

     "Oh, I'm  quite  serious. I've thought  about  it a  lot.  It seems  to
explain poor Mummy."

     Then this odd child tucked into her dinner with renewed relish.

     "First time I've ever been taken our. to dinner alone at a restaurant,"
she said.

     Later:  "When  Julia heard  they were selling Marchers  she said: 'Poor
Cordelia. She  won't have her coming-out ball there after all.' It's a thing
we used to talk about--like  my being  her bridesmaid.  That didn't come off
either.  When Julia  had her ball I was allowed down for  an hour, to sit in
the corner  with Aunt  Fanny, and she said,  'In six years' time you'll have
all this.' ... I hope I've got a vocation."

     "I don't know what that means."

     "It means you can be a nun.  If you haven't a  vocation  it's  no  good
however much you want to be;  and if you have a vocation, you can't get away
from it, however  much  you  hate  it. Bridey thinks he has a  vocation  and
hasn't. I used  to think Sebastian  had and hated it--but I don't know  now.
Everything has changed so much suddenly."

     But I had no patience  with this  convent chatter. I had felt the brush
take life in  my  hand  that afternoon; I  had had my finger in  the  great,
succulent pie of  creation. I was a  man of the Renaissance that evening--of
Browning's  Renaissance.  I, who  had walked  the  streets  of Rome in Genoa
velvet and  had  seen  the stars through Galileo's tube,  spurned the friars
with their dusty  tomes  and their  sunken, jealous eyes and  their  crabbed
hair-splitting speech.

     "You'll fall in love," I said.

     "Oh, I pray  not.  I say, do you think I could  have  another of  those
scrumptious meringues?"




     BOOK II A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD


     Chapter One

     my theme  is memory, that  winged host that soared about  me  one  grey
morning of war-time.
     These  memories,  which  are my life--for we possess  nothing certainly
except the past--were always with me.  Like the pigeons of  St. Mark's, they
were everywhere, under my  feet,  singly,  in pairs, in little  honey-voiced
congregations, nodding, strutting,  winking, rolling the  tender feathers of
their necks, perching sometimes, if I stood still, on my shoulder or pecking
a broken biscuit from between my lips; until, suddenly, the noon  gun boomed
and in  a moment,  with a flutter and sweep of wings,  the pavement was bare
and  the  whole sky above  dark with a  tumult  of fowl.  Thus  it  was that
morning.

     These memories are  the memorials  and pledges of the  vital hours of a
lifetime. These  hours of afflatus in  the human spirit, the springs of art,
are, in their  mystery, akin to the epochs of history, when a race which for
centuries has lived  content, unknown, behind  its  own  frontiers, digging,
eating,  sleeping,  begetting, doing what was  requisite  for  survival  and
nothing  else, will, for a generation or  two, stupefy the world; commit all
manner of crimes, perhaps;  follow the  wildest chimeras, go down in the end
in  agony, but  leave behind a record of new heights scaled  and new rewards
won for all mankind; the vision fades,  the soul sickens, and the routine of
survival starts again.

     The  human soul enjoys these  rare, classic  periods, but,  apart  from
them, we are  seldom single or unique; we keep company in  this world with a
hoard of abstractions and reflections  and counterfeits  of ourselves -- the
sensual man, the economic man, the man of reason, the beast, the machine and
the sleep-walker,  and heaven  knows what  besides,  all  in our own  image,
indistinguishable from ourselves to the outward eye. We get borne along, out
of sight in  the press, unresisting, till  we get the chance to  drop behind
unnoticed, or to dodge down a side street, pause, j| breathe freely and take
our  bearings, or  to push ahead, out-'  distance  our shadows, lead them  a
dance,  so  that when at length  they catch  up with  us,  they  look at one
another askance, knowing we have a secret we shall never share.

     For nearly ten years I  was thus  borne along a road outwardly full  of
change and incident,  but never during  that time,  except  sometimes  in my
painting -- and that at longer and longer intervals-- did  I come alive as I
had been during the time of my friendship with  Sebastian. I took  it to  be
youth, not life, that I was losing. My work  upheld me, for  I had chosen to
do what I could do well, did better daily, and liked  doing; incidentally it
was something which no one else at that time was attempting  to do. I became
an architectural painter. I have always loved building, holding it to be not
only  the  highest  achievement  of man but one  in which, at the  moment of
consummation, things were most clearly taken out of his hands and perfected,
without his intention, by other means, and I regarded men as  something much
less than the  buildings  they  made and  inhabited,  as  mere  lodgers  and
short-term sub-lessees  of small  importance  in the-long, fruitful  life of
their homes.

     More even than the work of the great architects, 1 loved buildings that
grew  silently  with  the centuries, catching and  keeping the best  of each
generation,  while time  curbed the  artist's  pride  and  the  Philistine's
vulgarity,  and  repaired  the  clumsiness  of  the  dull  workman.  In such
buildings England  abounded, and  in  the  last  decade  of their  grandeur,
Englishmen seemed for  the first time to become conscious of what before was
taken  for  granted,  and  to salute  their  achievements at the  moment  of
extinction. Hence my prosperity, far beyond my merits;  my work had  nothing
to recommend it except my growing technical skill, enthusiasm for my subject
and independence of  popular notions.  The financial  slump  of the  period,
which left many painters  without employment, served to  enhance my success,
which  was, indeed, itself a symptom of  the  decline.  When the water-holes
were dry  people sought to  drink at the mirage. After my first exhibition I
was called to all parts of the country to make portraits of houses that were
soon to be deserted or debased; indeed, my arrival seemed often to be only a
few paces ahead of the auctioneers, a presage of doom.

     I  published  three  splendid  folios--Ryder's  Country Seats,  Ryder's
English Homes,  and  Ryder's Village and Provincial Architecture, which each
sold its thousand copies at  five guineas apiece. I seldom failed to please,
for there was no conflict between myself and my patrons;  we both wanted the
same thing. But as the years passed I began to mourn the loss of something I
had  known  in the drawing-room of Marchmain House and once  or twice since,
the intensity and singleness and  the  belief  that  it was  not all done by
hand--in a word, the inspiration.

     In quest of  this fading light I went abroad, in the  Augustan  manner,
laden with the apparatus of my trade, for two years' refreshment among alien
styles. I did not go to Europe; her treasures were safe, too safe,  swaddled
in  expert care, obscured by reverence. Europe could  wait. There would be a
time for Europe,  I thought;  all too soon the days would come when I should
need a man at my side to put up my easel  and carry  my paints; when I could
not venture  more than an  hour's journey from a good hotel;  when  I should
need soft breezes and mellow sunshine all day long; then I would take my old
eyes to Germany and Italy.  Now while I had the strength  I would go to  the
wild lands where man had deserted his  post and the jungle was creeping back
to its old strongholds.

     Accordingly,  by  slow but not easy stages, I  travelled through Mexico
and Central America in a world  which had all I needed, and  the change from
parkland and hall should have quickened me  and set me right with  myself. I
sought inspiration among gutted  palaces  and  cloisters embowered  in weed,
derelict churches where the vampire-bats hung in the dome like dry seed-pods
and only the  ants were ceaselessly  astir tunnelling  in  the  rich stalls;
cities where  no  road led, and  mausoleums where a single, agued family  of
Indians  sheltered  from  the  rains.  There in great  labour, sickness  and
occasionally in some danger,  I  made  the  first drawings for Ryder's Latin
America. Every  few weeks  I  came to rest, finding myself once more  in the
zone  of trade or tourism,  recuperated, set  up my studio,  transcribed  my
sketches, anxiously packed  the  completed canvasses, despatched  them to my
New York  agent, and  then set  out again, with my  small retinue, into  the
wastes.

     I was at  no great pains to keep touch with England. I  followed  local
advice  for my itinerary and  had no settled route,  so that much of my mail
never reached me, and  the rest  accumulated until there was more than could
be  read at a sitting.  I used to stuff a bundle  of letters into my bag and
read them when I felt inclined, which was in circumstances so incongruous --
swinging  in  my  hammock under  the net by the  light of  a storm  lantern;
drifting down-river, sprawled amidships in the  canoe, with the  boys astern
of me lazily keeping our nose out of  the bank, with  the dark water keeping
pace with us, in the green shade, with the great trees towering above us and
the monkeys screeching in  the sunlight, high overhead among  the flowers on
the roof of the forest; on the verandah of a hospitable ranch, where the ice
and the  dice  clicked, and  a tiger cat played with  its chain on the  mown
grass  -- that  they  seemed voices so distant as  to  be meaningless; their
matter  passed clean through the  mind,  and out, leaving  no mark, like the
facts  about  themselves  which fellow  travellers distribute  so  freely in
American railway trains.

     But despite this isolation and this long sojourn in a strange  world, I
remained  unchanged,  still a small part of myself pretending to be whole. I
discarded  the  experiences  of  those two years with  my tropical  kit  and
returned to New York as I had set out. I had a fine haul -- eleven paintings
and fifty odd drawings-- and when eventually I exhibited them in London, the
art critics,  many  of  whom hitherto  had been patronizing  in  tone as  my
success invited, acclaimed a new and richer note in my work.

     Mr.  Ryder  [the most respected of them wrote] rises like a fresh young
trout to the hypodermic injection of a  new culture and discloses a powerful
facet  in  the  vista of  his  potentialities ... By  focusing  the  frankly
traditional battery  of  his  elegance  and erudition  on the  maelstrom  of
barbarism, Mr. Ryder has at last found himself.

     Grateful  words, but,  alas,  not  true by a  long chalk. My  wife, who
crossed  to  New  York to meet  me,  and  saw  the  fruits of our separation
displayed in  my agent's office, summed the thing up better  by  saying: "Of
course, I can see they're perfectly brilliant and really rather beautiful in
a sinister way, but somehow I don't feel they are quite you"

     In Europe my wife was sometimes taken  for an  American because of  her
dapper and jaunty way of dressing, and the curiously hygienic quality of her
prettiness;  in America  she assumed an English softness and reticence.  She
arrived a day or two before me, and was on the pier when my ship docked.

     "It has been a long time," she said fondly when we met.

     She had  not joined the  expedition; she  explained to our friends that
the country was unsuitable and  she  had her son  at home.  There was also a
daughter now, she remarked, and it came  back to me that there had been talk
of this  before I started,  as an additional reason for  her staying behind.
There had been some mention of it, too, in her letters.

     "I don't  believe you read my  letters,"  she said that  night at last,
late, after  a dinner party and some hours at a cabaret, we  found ourselves
alone in our hotel bedroom.

     "Some  went astray. I  remember  distinctly  your telling  me that  the
daffodils in the orchard were  a dream,  that the nurserymaid  was a  jewel,
that  the  Regency four-poster  was a find, but frankly  I  do  not remember
hearing that your new baby was called Caroline. Why did you call it that?"

     "After Charles, of course."

     "Ah!"

     "I made Bertha  Van Halt godmother.  I thought she was safe for a  good
present. What do you think she gave?"

     "Bertha Van Halt is a well-known trap. What?"

     "A fifteen-shilling book token. Now that Johnjohn has a companion -- "

     "Who?"

     "Your son, darling. You haven't forgotten him, too?"

     "For Christ's sake," I said, "why do you call him that?"

     "It's the name  he invented for himself. Don't you think it  sweet? Now
that Johnjohn has a companion I think we'd better not have any more for some
time, don't you?"

     "Just as you please."

     "Johnjohn talks of you such a lot. He prays every  night  for your safe
return."

     She talked in this way while she undressed, with an effort to appear at
ease;  then she sat at the dressing table,  ran a comb through her hair, and
with  her bare back  towards me,  looking at  herself in the glass, said, "I
hope you admire my self-restraint."

     "Restraint?"

     "I'm not asking awkward questions.  I may  say I've been tormented with
visions of voluptuous half-castes ever since you went away. But I determined
not to ask and I haven't."

     "That suits me," I said.

     She left the dressing-table and crossed the room.

     "Lights out?"

     "As you like. I'm not sleepy."

     We lay in our twin beds, a yard or two distant, smoking. I looked at my
watch; it was  four o'clock,  but neither of us was  ready to sleep, for  in
that city there  is neurosis  in the air  which the inhabitants mistake  for
energy.

     "I don't believe you've changed at all, Charles."

     "No, I'm afraid not."

     "D'you want to change?"

     "It's the only evidence of life."

     "But you might change so that you didn't love me any more."

     "There is that risk."

     "Charles, you haven't stopped loving me?"

     "You said yourself I hadn't changed."

     "Well, I'm beginning to think you have. I haven't."

     "No," I said, "no; I can see that."

     "Were you at all frightened at meeting me to-day?"

     "Not the least."

     "You didn't wonder if I should have fallen in love with someone else in
the meantime?"

     "No. Have you?"

     "You know I haven't. Have you?"

     "No. I'm not in love."

     My wife seemed  content with this answer. She  had married me six years
ago at the time of my first exhibition, and had done much since then to push
our  interests.  People said she had "made" me,  but she herself took credit
only for supplying me with  a congenial background; she had firm faith in my
genius and  in the "artistic temperament," and in the principle  that things
done on the sly are not really done at all. .

     Presently she said: "Looking forward to getting home?" (My  father gave
me as a wedding present the price of a house, and I bought an old rectory in
my wife's part of the country.) "I've got a surprise for you."

     "Yes?"

     "I've  turned  the  old tithe barn into a  studio for you, so  that you
needn't be disturbed  by the children or when  we have people to stay. I got
Emden to  do it. Everyone thinks it a great success. There was an article on
it in Country Life; I brought it for you to see."

     She showed  me  the  article:. .  . happy example of architectural good
manners. . . . Sir Joseph Emden's tactful adaptation of traditional material
to modern  needs .  .  .  ; there were some photographs; wide oak boards now
covered the earthen floor; a high, stone-mullioned bay-window had been built
in the north wall, and the  great timbered roof,  which before had been lost
in  shadow, now  stood out stark, well lit, with clean white plaster between
the  beams;  it looked like a  village hall. I  remembered the  smell of the
place, which would now be lost.

     "I rather liked that barn," I said.

     "But you'll be able to work there, won't you?"

     "After squatting in a cloud of sting-fly," I said, "under  a sun  which
scorched the paper off the block  as I drew,  I could work on the top  of an
omnibus.  I  expect  the  vicar would  like  to  borrow the place for  whist
drives."

     "There's a lot of work waiting for you. I  promised Lady  Anchorage you
would do Anchorage House as soon as you got  back. That's coming down,  too,
you know--shops underneath and two-roomed flats  above. You don't think,  do
you, Charles,  that all this exotic work you've been doing is going to spoil
you for that sort of thing?"

     "Why should it?"

     "Well, it's so different. Don't be cross."

     "It's just another jungle closing in."

     "I know just how you  feel, darling. The Georgian Society  made such  a
fuss, but we couldn't do  anything. .  . . Did you ever get my letter  about
Boy?"

     "Did I? What did it say?"

     (Boy Mulcaster was her brother.)

     "About his  engagement. It doesn't matter now because it's all off, but
Father  and  Mother were terribly upset. She was  an awful girl. They had to
give her money in the end."

     "No, I heard nothing of Boy."

     "He and Johnjohn are tremendous friends, now. It's so sweet to see them
together. Whenever he  comes  home the  first thing  he  does  is  to  drive
straight to the Old Rectory. He just walks into the house, pays no attention
to anyone  else, and hollers out: 'Where's my  chum  Johnjohn?' and Johnjohn
comes tumbling downstairs and off they go into the spinney together and play
for hours. You'd think, to hear them talk to each other, they were the  same
age.  It  was  really Johnjohn who  made  him see  reason  about  that girl;
seriously, you know, he's frightfully sharp. He  must have heard  Mother and
me talking, because next  time  Boy  came he said:  'Uncle Boy shan't  marry
horrid girl and  leave Johnjohn,' and that was the very day -he settled  for
two thousand pounds out of court. Johnjohn admires  Boy so tremendously  and
imitates him in everything. It's so good for them both."

     I crossed the room and  tried once more, ineffectively, to moderate the
heat of the radiators; I drank some iced water  and  opened the window, but,
besides the  sharp night  air, music was borne in from the  next  room where
they were playing the wireless. I shut it and turned,back towards my wife.

     At length she began talking  again, more drowsily.  . . . "The garden's
come on a lot. . . . The box hedges you planted grew five inches last  year.
... I  had  some  men down from  London to put the tennis court right .  . .
first-class cook at the  moment . . .' As the city below us began to wake we
both  fell asleep, but  not for  long;  the telephone  rang and  a voice  of
hermaphroditic  gaiety  said: "Savoy-Carlton-Hotelgoodmorning. It  is now  a
quarter of eight."

     "I didn't ask to be called, you know."

     "Pardon me?"

     "Oh, it doesn't matter."

     "You're welcome."

     As I was shaving, my wife from the bath said: "Just like old times. I'm
not worrying any more, Charles."

     "Good."

     "I was so terribly afraid that two years might have made  a difference.
Now I know we can start again exactly where we left off."

     I paused in my shaving.

     "When?" I asked. "What? When we left off what?"

     "When you went away, of course."

     "You are npt thinking of something else, a little time before?"

     "Oh,  Charles, that's  old  history. That  was  nothing. It  was  never
anything. It's all over and forgotten."

     "I just wanted to know," I said. "We're back  as we were the day I went
abroad, is that it?"

     So we started that day exactly where we left off two years before, with
my wife in tears.
     My  wife's  softness  and English  reticence,  her-very  white,  small,
regular  teeth, her  neat rosy finger-nails, her schoolgirl  air of innocent
mischief and her  schoolgirl dress, her modern jewellery, which  was made at
great  expense  to  give the  impression,  at  a  distance,  of  having been
mass-produced, her ready, rewarding smile,  her deference to me and her zeal
in my interests, her motherly heart which made  her cable daily to the nanny
at  home  -- in  short,  her peculiar  charm  -- made her popular  among the
Americans, and  our  cabin  on the day of  departure was full of  cellophane
packages --  flowers,  fruit,  sweets,  books, toys for  the  children--from
friends she had known for a  week. Stewards, like sisters in a nursing home,
used to judge their  passengers' importance by the number and value of these
trophies; we therefore started the voyage in high esteem.

     My wife's first thought on coming aboard was of the passenger list.

     "Such a  lot of friends," she said.  "It's going to be  a lovely  trip.
Let's have a cocktail party this evening."

     The companion-ways were no  sooner cast off than  she was busy with the
telephone.

     "Julia. This is Celia -- Celia Ryder. It's lovely to find you on board.
What have you been up to? Come  and have a cocktail this evening and tell me
all about it."

     "Julia who?"

     "Mottram. I haven't seen her for years."

     Nor  had I; not, in fact, since my wedding day, not to speak to for any
time, since  the  private view of my exhibition where the four  canvasses of
Marchmain  House, lent  by Brideshead,  had  hung together  attracting  much
attention. Those pictures  were my last contact with  the Flytes; our lives,
so close for a year  or  two, had drawn apart. Sebastian,  I knew, was still
abroad; Rex and Julia, I  sometimes  heard  said, were unhappy together. Rex
was not  prospering quite as well as  had been predicted; he remained on the
fringe of the Government, prominent but vaguely  suspect. He lived among the
very rich, and in his speeches seemed  to incline to revolutionary policies,
flirting  with  Communists  and fascists.  I heard  the  Mottrams'  names in
conversation; I saw their faces now and again peeping from the Tatler, as  I
turned the pages impatiently waiting for someone to come, but they and I had
fallen apart, as one could in England and only  there, into separate worlds,
little  spinning planets  of  personal  relationship;  there is  probably  a
perfect metaphor for the  process to be  found in  physics,  from the way in
which,  I dimly apprehend, particles of energy  group and regroup themselves
in separate magnetic systems, a metaphor ready to hand for the  man who  can
speak  of  these things with assurance; not for  me, who  can only say  that
England abounded in  these  small companies of intimate friends, so that, as
in  this case  of  Julia and myself, we  could  live in the  same street  in
London, see at  times,  a  few miles  distant, the same rural horizon, could
have  a  liking  one for  the other,  a mild  curiosity  about  the  other's
fortunes, a regret, even, that  we  1 should be separated, and the knowledge
that either of us had only to pick up the telephone and speak by the other's
pillow, enjoy the  intimacies of the levee, coming in, as it were, with  the
morning orange juice and  the  sun, yet be restrained  from doing so  by the
centripetal  force of  our  own  worlds, and  the coldj  interstellar  space
between them.

     My  wife, perched on the back of the sofa in a litter of cellophane and
silk ribbons, continued telephoning,  working brightly through the passenger
list  ... "Yes, do of course bring him, I'm told he's sweet. . . . Yes, I've
got Charles back from the wilds atyj  last;  isn't  it lovely.  . . . What a
treat seeing your name in the list! It's made my trip . . . darling, we were
at the Savoy-Car Iton, too; how can we have missed you? . . ." Sometimes she
turned to me  and said: "I have to make  sure you're  still really there.  I
haven't got used to it yet."

     I went up  and out as  we  steamed slowly down the river to one of  the
great glass cases where  the passengers  stood to watch  the  land slip  by.
"Such  a lot of friends," my wife  had  said. They looked a strange crowd to
me;  the  emotions of  leave-taking were just  beginning to subside; some of
them, who had been drinking till the last moment with  those who were seeing
them off, were still boisterous; others were planning where they would  have
their deck  chairs; the  band played unnoticed  --  all  were as restless as
ants.

     I turned into some of  the halls  of the ship, which were  huge without
any splendour, as though  they had been  designed for  a railway  coach  and
preposterously magnified. I passed through vast  bronze gates whose ornament
was like the trade mark of a cake of soap which had been used once or twice;
I trod carpets the colour of blotting paper; the painted panels of the walls
were like  blotting paper, too: kindergarten work in flat, drab colours; and
between the walls were yards and  yards  of biscuit-coloured  wood which  no
carpenter's tool had ever touched, wood  that  had  been bent round corners,
invisibly joined strip to strip, steamed and squeezed and polished; all over
the blotting-paper carpet were strewn tables designed perhaps by  a sanitary
engineer, square blocks  of stuffing, with square holes for sitting in, and,
upholstered,  it seemed, in blotting  paper  also; the light of the hall was
suffused from scores of hollows, giving an even glow, casting  no shadows --
the whole  place  hummed from its hundred ventilators and  vibrated with the
turn of the great engines below.

     Here I am, I  thought, back from the jungle, back from the ruins. Here,
where wealth  is no longer gorgeous and power has no  dignity. Quomodo sedet
sola civitas (for I had heard that great lament, which  Cordelia once quoted
to me  in the drawing-room of Marchmain House, sung by a half-caste choif in
Guatemala, nearly a year ago).

     A steward came up to me.

     "Can I get you anything, sir?"

     "A whiskey-and-soda, not iced."

     "I'm sorry, sir, all the soda is iced."

     "Is the water iced, too?"

     "Oh yes, sir."

     "Well, it doesn't matter."

     He trotted off, puzzled, soundless in the pervading hum.

     "Charles."

     I looked behind me. Julia was sitting in a  cube of blotting-paper, her
hands folded in her lap, so still that I had passed by without noticing her.

     "I heard you were here. Celia telephoned to me. It's delightful."

     "What are you doing?"

     She opened the empty hands  in her lap  with a little eloquent gesture.
"Waiting. My maid's unpacking; she's been so disagreeable ever since we left
England. She's complaining now about my cabin. I can't think why. It seems a
lap to me."

     The steward returned with whiskey  and two jugs, one of iced water, the
other  of boiling water; I mixed  them  to the right temperature. He watched
and said: "I'll remember that's how you take it, sir."

     Most passengers  had  fads; he was paid to fortify  their  self-esteem.
Julia asked for a cup of hot chocolate. I sat by her in the next cube.

     "I never  see you now," she said. "I never seem to see anyone I like. I
don't know why."

     But she spoke as though it were a matter of weeks rather than of years;
as though, too, before  our parting  we had been  firm friends. It was  dead
contrary to the  common experience of such encounters, when time is found to
have built its own  defensive lines, camouflaged vulnerable points, and laid
a field of mines  across all  but a  few  well-trodden paths, so that,  more
often than  not, we can only signal to one another from  either  side of the
tangle of wire. Here she  and I, who were never friends before, met on terms
of long and unbroken intimacy.

     "What have you been doing in America?"

     She looked up slowly from her chocolate and, her splendid, serious eyes
in mine, said: "Don't you know? I'll tell you about it sometime. I've been a
mug. I thought I was in love with someone, but it didn't turn out that way."
And  my mind went  back ten years  to  the evening at Brideshead,  when that
lovely, spidery child of nineteen, as though brought in for an hour from the
nursery and nettled  by lack of attention from the grown-ups, had said: "I'm
causing anxiety,  too, you know,"  and I  had  thought at  the time,  though
scarcely, it now seemed to me, in long trousers myself: "How important these
girls make themselves with their love affairs."

     Now it  was different;  there was nothing  but  humility  and  friendly
candour in the way she spoke.
     I  wished  I  could  respond  to  her confidence,  give  some  token of
acceptance, but there  was nothing in my last,  flat, eventful  years that I
could  share with her. I began instead to talk of my time in the  jungle, of
the comic characters  I had met  and  the lost  places I had visited, but in
this mood of old friendship  the tale faltered and came to an end  abruptly.
"I long to see the paintings," she said.

     "Celia wanted me to unpack some and  stick them round the cabin for her
cocktail party. I couldn't do that."

     "No. ... Is Celia as pretty as ever?  I always thought she had the most
delicious looks of any girl of my year." "She hasn't changed."

     "You  have, Charles.  So lean  and grim,  not  at  all  the  pretty boy
Sebastian brought home with him. Harder, too." "And you're softer."

     "Yes, I think so ... and very patient now." She was not yet thirty, but
was  approaching  the  zenith  of  her  loveliness,  all  her  rich  promise
abundantly fulfilled. She  had lost that fashionable, spidery look; the head
that I used to think Quattrocento, which  had sat a little oddly on her, was
now part of herself and not at all Florentine--not connected in any way with
painting or  the arts or  with anything except herself, so that it would  be
idle to itemize and dissect her beauty, which was her own essence, and could
only be known in her and by her authority and in the love I was soon to have
for her.

     Time had  wrought another change, too; not for her the  sly, complacent
smile of  La Gioconda; the years  had been more than "the sound of lyres and
flutes," and  had saddened her. She seemed to say, "Look at  me. I have done
my  share.  I am beautiful. It is  something quite out of the ordinary, this
beauty of mine. I am made for delight. But what do I get out of it? Where is
my reward?"

     That  was the change in her from ten years ago; that, indeed,  was  her
reward, this haunting, magical sadness which spoke straight to the heart and
struck silence; it was the completion of her beauty.

     "Sadder, too," I said.

     "Oh yes, much sadder."

     My wife was  in exuberant spirits when, two hours  later, I returned to
the cabin.

     "I've had to do everything. How does it look?"

     We had been given, without paying  more for it, a large suite of rooms,
one so large, in fact, that it was seldom  booked except by directors of the
line, and on most  voyages, the chief purser admitted, was given to those he
wished  to honour. (My wife  was adept  in  achieving such small advantages,
first  impressing  the impressionable  with her chic  and my celebrity  and,
superiority once firmly established, changing quickly  to  a pose of  almost
flirtatious affability.) In token of  her appreciation the chief purser  had
been  asked  to our  party and he, in token  of his  appreciation,  had sent
before him the  life-size effigy of  a swan, moulded  in ice and filled with
caviar. This  chilly piece of magnificence  now dominated the room, standing
on  a table  in  the  centre, thawing  gently, dripping at the beak into its
silver dish. The flowers of the morning delivery hid as  much as possible of
the panelling (for this room was a miniature of the monstrous hall above).

     "You must get dressed at once. Where have you been all this time?"

     "Talking to Julia Mottram."

     "D'you know her? Oh, of course, you were a friend of the dipso brother.
Goodness, her glamour!"

     "She greatly admires your looks, too."

     "She used to be a girl friend of Boy's."

     "Surely not?"

     "He always said so."

     "Have you  considered," I asked, "how your guests are going to eat this
caviar?"

     "I have. It's insoluble. But  there's all  this"  --  she revealed some
trays  of glassy tit-bits -- "and anyway, people always find ways  of eating
things at parties. D'you remember  we once ate  potted  shrimps with a paper
knife?"

     "Did we?"

     "Darling, it was the night you popped the question."

     "As I remember, you popped."

     "Well, the night we got engaged. But you haven't said how you  like the
arrangements."
     The arrangements, apart from the swan and the  flowers,  consisted of a
steward already inextricably trapped in the corner behind an improvised bar,
and another steward, tray in hand, in comparative freedom.

     "A cinema actor's dream," I said.

     "Cinema actors," said my wife; "that's what I want to talk about."

     She came with me to my dressing-room and talked while I changed. It had
occurred to her that, with  my interest in  architecture, my true metier was
designing scenery for the films, and she had asked two Hollywood magnates to
the party with whom she wished to ingratiate me.

     We returned to the sitting-room.

     "Darling, I  believe  you've taken  against  my bird.  Don't be beastly
about  it in  front of  the purser.  It  was sweet  of him  to  think of it.
Besides,  you  know, if  you  had  read  about  it  in a  description  of  a
sixteenth-century banquet in Venice, you would have said those were the days
to live."

     "In  sixteenth-century  Venice  it would have been a somewhat different
shape."

     "Here is Father Christmas. We were just in raptures over your swan."

     The chief purser came into the room and shook hands powerfully.

     "Dear Lady  Celia," he said, "if you'll put on your warmest clothes and
come an expedition into the cold storage with me to-morrow, I can show you a
whole Noah's Ark  of such  objects.  The  toast will be along in  a  minute.
They're keeping it hot."

     "Toast!" said my wife, as  though this was something  beyond the dreams
of gluttony. "Do you hear that, Charles? Toast."

     Soon the  guests began  to  arrive;  there was nothing  to  delay them.
"Celia," they said, "what a grand cabin and what a beautiful swan!" and, for
all that it  was one of the largest in the ship, our room was soon painfully
crowded; they  began to  put  out  their cigarettes  in the  little pool  of
ice-water which now surrounded the swan.

     The purser  made a  sensation, as sailors  like to  do, by predicting a
storm.  "How can you be so beastly?" asked my wife, conveying the flattering
suggestion that not only the  cabin and the caviar, but the waves, too, were
at his command. "Anyway, storms don't affect a ship like this, do they?"

     "Might hold us back a bit."

     "But it wouldn't make us sick?"

     "Depends if you're a good sailor. I'm always sick in storms, ever since
I was a boy."

     "I don't believe it. He's just being  sadistic. Come over here, there's
something I want to show you."

     It was the latest photograph of her children. "Charles hasn't even seen
Caroline yet. Isn't it thrilling for him?"

     There were no friends of mine there,  but I knew  about  a third of the
party, and  talked away  civilly  enough.  An elderly  woman said to me, "So
you're Charles.  I feel I  know  you through and through, Celia's  talked so
much about you."

     Through and through,  I  thought.  Through and through  is  a long way,
madam. Can you indeed see into  those  dark places where my own eyes seek in
vain to guide me? Can you tell me, dear  Mrs. Stuyvesant Oglander -- if I am
correct in thinking that is how I  heard my wife speak  of  you -- why it is
that  at  this moment,  while  I talk  to you,  here,  about my  forthcoming
exhibition, I am thinking all the time only of when Julia will come? Why can
I  talk like this  to  you, but not to her? Why have I already set her apart
from humankind, and myself with her? What is going on in those secret places
of  my spirit with which you  make so free? What is cooking, Mrs. Stuyvesant
Oglander?

     Still  Julia did not come, and the noise  of twenty people in that tiny
room, which was so large that no one hired it, was the noise of a multitude.

     Then I saw a curious thing. There was  a little  red-headed man whom no
one seemed to know, a dowdy fellow quite unlike the general run of my wife's
guests; he had been standing by the caviar for twenty minutes eating as fast
as  a  rabbit.  Now he wiped his  mouth  with  his  handkerchief and, on the
impulse apparently, leaned forward and dabbed the beak of the swan, removing
the drop of water that  had  been swelling there and would soon have fallen.
Then  he looked round furtively to see  if he  had  been observed, caught my
eye, and giggled nervously.

     "Been wanting to do that for a long time," he said. "Bet you don't know
how many drops to the minute. I do, I counted."

     "I've no idea."

     "Guess. Tanner if  you're wrong; half a dollar if you're  right. That's
fair."

     "Three," I said.

     "Coo, you're a sharp one. Been counting 'em yourself." But he showed no
inclination  to pay this debt. Instead he said: "How  d'you figure this out?
I'm an Englishman born and bred, but this is my first time on the Atlantic."

     "You flew out perhaps?"

     "No, nor over it."

     "Then I presume you went round the world and came across the Pacific."

     "You are a sharp one and no mistake. I've made quite a bit getting into
arguments over that one."

     "What was your route?" I asked, wishing to be agreeable.

     "Ah, that'd be telling. Well, I must skedaddle. So long."

     "Charles," said my wife, "this is Mr. Kramm, of Interastral Films."

     "So you are Mr. Charles Ryder," said Mr. Kramm.

     "Yes."

     "Well, well, well." He paused. I  waited. "The  purser here  says we're
heading for dirty weather. What d'you know about that?"
     "Far less than the purser."

     "Pardon me, Mr. Ryder, I don't quite get you."

     "I mean I know less than the purser."

     "Is that so? Well, well, well. I've  enjoyed our talk very much. I hope
that it will be the first of many."

     An Englishwoman said: "Oh, that swan! Six weeks in America has given me
an absolute phobia of ice. Do tell me, how did it feel meeting  Celia  again
after two years? I know I  should feel  indecently bridal. But Celia's never
quite got the orange blossom out of her hair, has she?"

     Another woman said: "Isn't it  heaven saying  good-bye and I knowing we
shall meet again  in half  an hour and go  on  meeting  every half-hour  for
days?"

     Our guests began to  go, and  each on leaving informed me ofj something
my wife had promised to bring me to  in the near future; it was the theme of
the evening that we should all  be seeing a  lot of each other, that we  had
formed one of  those molecular  systems  that  physicists can illustrate. At
last the  swan  was wheeled  out, too,  and I said to my  wife, "Julia never
came."

     "No, she telephoned. I couldn't  hear what she  said, there was  such a
noise  going on--something about a  dress. Quite  lucky really, there wasn't
room for a cat. It was a lovely party, wasn't it? Did you hate it very much?
You behaved beautifully and looked so  distinguished. Who was your red-baked
chum?"

     "No chum of mine."

     "How very peculiar! Did you say  anything to Mr. Kramm about working in
Hollywood?"

     "Of course not."

     "Oh, Charles, you are a  worry to  me.  It's not  enough  just to stand
about looking distinguished and a  martyr for Art. Let's go to dinner. We're
at  the Captain's  table. I don't suppose he'll dine down to-night, but it's
polite to be fairly punctual."

     By  the  time that  we  reached  the table the rest  of  the party  had
arranged themselves.  On either side of the Captain's empty chair  sat Julia
and  Mrs. Stuyvesant Oglander; besides them  there were an  English diplomat
and  his wife, Senator Stuyvesant  Oglander, and  an American  clergyman  at
present  totally isolated between two pairs of  empty chairs. This clergyman
later  described himself  --  redundantly it seemed  -- as  an  Episcopalian
Bishop. Husbands and wives sat together here. My wife was  confronted with a
quick  decision, and although the steward  attempted to direct us otherwise,
sat  so that  she had the Senator  and  I the Bishop.  Julia gave  us both a
little dismal signal of sympathy.

     "I'm miserable about the  party," she said,  "my beastly  maid  totally
disappeared  with every dress I have.  She only turned up half an hour  ago.
She'd been playing ping-pong."

     "I've been telling the Senator  what  he missed," said Mrs.  Stuyvesant
Oglander.  "Wherever Celia is, you'll  find  she knows all  the  significant
people."

     "On my  right,"  said  the Bishop, "a  significant couple are expected.
They take all their meals in their cabin except when they have been informed
in advance that the Captain will be present."

     We were a gruesome circle; even  my wife's high social spirit faltered.
At moments I heard bits of her conversation.

     "...  an extraordinary little  red-haired  man.  Captain Foulenough  in
person."

     "But I understood. you to say,  Lady  Celia, that you unacquainted with
him."

     "I mean he was like Captain Foulenough."

     "I begin to comprehend. He impersonated this friend  of yourtl in order
to come to your party."

     "No, no. Captain Foulenough is simply a comic character."

     "There seems to have been nothing  very amusing about  this other  man.
Your friend is a comedian?"

     "No, no.  Captain Foulenough  is an  imaginary character in  an English
paper. You know, like your 'Popeye.'"

     The  Senator laid  down  knife and fork. "To recapitulate:  an impostor
came to your party and you admitted him because of a fancied  resemblance to
a fictitious character in a cartoon."

     "Yes, I suppose that was it really."

     The Senator looked at his wife as much as to say: "Significant" people,
huh!"

     I heard Julia across the table trying to trace, for the  benefit of the
diplomat, the marriage-connections of her Hungarian and Italian cousins. The
diamonds in  her hair and on  her fingers  flashed with fire, but  her hands
were  nervously rolling little balls,  of crumb, and her starry head drooped
in despair.

     The Bishop  told me of the  goodwill mission on which he was travelling
to  Barcelona ...  "a  very,  very  valuable  work  of  clearance  has  been
performed,  Mr.  Ryder.  The  time  has  now  come  to  rebuild  on  broader
foundations. I have made it my aim to reconcile the so-called Anarchists and
the  so-called Communists, and with  that in  view  I  and my committee have
digested  all the available  literature of the subject.  Our conclusion, Mr.
Ryder, is unanimous.  There  is  no fundamental  diversity  between  the two
ideologies.   It  is  a  matter  of  personalities,   Mr.  Ryder,  and  what
personalities have put asunder personalities can unite. . . ."

     On the other side I heard: --

     "And  may  I  make  so bold as to ask  what institutions sponsored your
husband's expedition?"

     The diplomat's  wife  bravely  engaged the Bishop across the  gulf that
separated them.

     "And what language will you speak when you get to Barcelona?"

     "The language of Reason and  Brotherhood,  madam," and, turning back to
me, "The  speech of the coming  century is in thoughts  not in words. Do you
not agree, Mr. Ryder?"

     "Yes," I said. "Yes."

     "What are words?" said the Bishop.

     "What indeed?"

     "Mere conventional  symbols,  Mr.  Ryder,  and this  is an age  rightly
sceptical of conventional symbols."

     My mind  reeled; after the parrot-house fever  of  my wife's party, and
the deep, unplumbed emotions of the afternoon, after all the exertions of my
wife's pleasures in New York, after the months of solitude  in the steaming,
green  shadows of the jungle, this was too  much. I felt like  Lear  on  the
heath, like the  Duchess of Main bayed by madmen. I  summoned  cataracts and
hurri-canoes, and as if by conjUry the call was immediately answered.

     For  some time now, though whether it was a mere trick of the  nerves I
did not then know, I had felt a recurrent and persistently growing motion --
a heave and  shudder of the large dining-room  as of  the breast of a man in
deep sleep. Now my wife turned to me and  said:  "Either I am a little drunk
or  it's getting rough," and even  as she spoke  we found  ourselves leaning
sideways in our chairs; there was  a  crash and tinkle of falling cutlery by
the wall, and on our table the wine-glasses all  together toppled and rolled
over, while each of us steadied the plate and forks and looked at the others
with expressions that varied between frank horror in the diplomat's wife and
relief in Julia.

     The gale which, unheard, unseen, unfelt,  in our enclosed and insulated
world, had for an hour been-mounting over us, had now veered and fallen full
on our bows.

     Silence followed the  crash, then a  high,  nervous babble of laughter.
Stewards laid napkins  on the pools of spilt wineJ We  tried to  resume  the
conversation, but all were waiting, as the little ginger man had watched the
drop swell and fall from the swan's beak, for the next  great blow; it came,
heavier than the last.

     "This is where I say good-night to you all,"  said the diplomat's wife,
rising.

     Her  husband led her to their cabin. The dining-room was emptying fast.
Soon only Julia, my wife and I were  left at the  table, and telepathically,
Julia said, "Like King Lear."

     "Only each of us is all three of them."

     "What can you mean?" asked my wife.

     "Lear, Kent, Fool."

     "Oh, dear, it's like that agonizing Foulenough conversation over again.
Don't try and explain."

     "I doubt if I could," I said.

     Another climb,  another vast  drop. The  stewards  were at work  making
things fast, shutting things up, hustling away unstable ornaments.

     "Well, we've finished dinner and set a fine example of British phlegm,"
said my wife. "Let's go and see what's on."

     Once on our way  to the lounge we had all three to cling  to  a pillar;
when we got there we found it almost deserted; the band  played  but no  one
danced; the tables were set for  tombola but no one  bought a card, and  the
ship's officer, who made a ' specialty of calling  the  numbers with all the
patter of the lower j deck -- "sweet sixteen and never been kissed -- key of
the door, twenty-one --  clickety-click, sixty-six" -- was  idly talking  to
his i colleagues; there were a score of scattered novel readers, a few games
of bridge, some brandy drinking  in  the smoking-room, but all our guests of
two hours before had disappeared.

     The three of us sat for a little by the empty  dance floor; my wife was
full  of schemes by  which, without impoliteness, we could  move  to another
table in the dining-room. "It's  crazy to  go to the restaurant," she  said,
"and pay extra for  exactly  the  same dinner. Only film  people  go  there,
anyway. I don't see why we should be made to."

     Presently she said:  "It's  making my head ache  and I'm tired, anyway.
I'm going to bed."

     Julia went with her. I  walked  round the ship, on one of  the  covered
decks where the wind howled  and the spray leaped up from  the darkness  and
smashed white and brown  against the  glass screen; men were posted  to keep
the passengers off the open decks. Then I, too, went below.

     In my dressing-room everything breakable had been stowed away, the door
to the cabin was hooked open, and my wife called plaintively from within.

     "I feel terrible. I  didn't know a ship  of this size could  pitch like
this,"  she said,  and her eyes were full  of consternation  and resentment,
like those of a woman  who, at the end of her time, at  length realizes that
however luxurious the  nursing  home, and however  well paid the doctor, her
labour is  inevitable; and the  lift and fall of the ship  came regularly as
the pains of childbirth.

     I slept next door; or, rather, I lay there between dreaming and waking.
In a narrow bunk, on  a hard mattress, there might  have been rest, but here
the beds were broad  and buoyant; I collected what cushions I could find and
tried  to  wedge myself firm, but through the night I turned with each swing
and twist of the ship -- she was rolling now as  well as pitching --  and my
head  rang  with the  creak and  thud which now  succeeded the  hum  of fine
weather.

     Once,  an  hour  before dawn, my wife  appeared  like a  ghost  in  the
doorway, supporting  herself with either hand on the jambs, saying: "Are you
awake? Can't you do something? Can't you get something from the doctor?"

     I rang for  the night steward, who had a  draught ready prepared, which
comforted her a little. And  all night between dreaming and waking I thought
of Julia; in my  brief dreams she took  a hundred fantastic and terrible and
obscene forms, but in my waking thoughts  she returned with  her sad, starry
head just as I had seen her at dinner.

     After  first light I  slept for an hour or two, then awoke clearheaded,
with a joyous sense of anticipation.

     The  wind  had  dropped  a  little, the steward told me, but was  still
blowing hard and  there was a very heavy swell; "which there's nothing worse
than a  heavy swell," he said,  "for the  If  enjoyment  of the  passengers.
There's not many breakfasts wanted this morning."

     I looked  in  at my wife, found  her  sleeping, and closed  the door  I
between us; then I ate salmon kedgeree and cold Bradenham ham and telephoned
for a barber to come and shave me.

     "There's a lot  of stuff in the sitting-room  for the  lady," said  the
steward; "shall I leave it for the time?"

     I went to see. There  was a second delivery of cellophane  parcels from
the shops on board, some ordered by radio from ' 1 friends in New York whose
secretaries had failed to remind them of our departure  in time, some by our
guests as they left the cocktail party. It was no day  for flower  vases;  I
told him to leave them on the floor and then, struck by the thought, removed
the car^ from Mr. Kramm's roses and sent them with my love to Julia.

     She telephoned while I was being shaved.

     "What a deplorable thing to do, Charles! How unlike you!"

     "Don't you like them?" "What can I do with roses on a day like this?"

     "Smell them."

     There was  a pause  and a rustle of unpacking. "They've  absolutely  no
smell at all."

     "What have you had for breakfast?"

     "Muscat grapes and cantaloup."

     "When shall I see you?"

     "Before lunch. I'm busy till then with a masseuse."

     "A masseuse?"

     "Yes, isn't it peculiar. I've never had one  before, except once when I
hurt  my shoulder hunting. What is  it  about  being on a  boat  that  makes
everyone behave like a film star?"

     "I don't."

     "How about these very embarrassing roses ?"

     The barber did  his work with extraordinary dexterity  -- indeed,  with
agility, for he stood like a swordsman in a ballet sometimes on the point of
one foot, sometimes on the other, lightly flicking  the lather off his blade
and swooping back to my chin  as the ship righted herself; I should not have
dared use a safety razor on myself.

     The telephone rang again.

     It was my wife.

     "How are you, Charles ?"

     "Tired."

     "Aren't you coming to see me ?"

     "I came once. I'll be in again."

     I  .brought her the  flowers from the sitting-room; they completed  the
atmosphere of a maternity ward which she had managed to create in the cabin;
the  stewardess had the air of a  midwife, standing by the bed,  a pillar of
starched  linen  and composure.  My wife  turned her head on the pillow  and
smiled wanly; she stretched out a bare arm and caressed with the tips of her
fingers the cellophane and silk ribbons of  the largest bouquet.  "How sweet
people are," she said faintly, as though the  gale were a private misfortune
of her own which the world in its love was condoling.

     "I take it you're not getting up."

     "Oh  no,  Mrs. Clark is  being so  sweet." She was  always quick to get
servants' names. "Don't 'bother. Come in sometimes and tell me  what's going
on."

     "Now, now,  dear,"  said the  stewardess, "the  less we  are  disturbed
to-day the better."

     My wife seemed to make a sacred, female rite even of seasickness.

     Julia's  cabin, I knew, was somewhere below ours.  I  waited for her by
the lift on the main deck; when she came we walked once round the promenade;
I  held the  rail,  she took my other arm. It  was hard  going; through  the
streaming glass we saw  a distorted world of  grey sky and black water. When
the  ship  rolled heavily I swung her round so  that she could hold the rail
with her other hand; the howl of the  wind was  subdued, but the whole  ship
creaked with strain. We made  the circuit once;  then Julia  said:  "It's no
good. That woman beat hell  out  of me,  and  I feel limp, anyway. Let's sit
down."

     The great bronze doors of the lounge had torn away from their hooks and
were  swinging free  with the  roll of the ship; regularly and,  it  seemed,
irresistibly, first one, then the other, opened and shut; they paused at the
completion of each half circle, began to move slowly and finished fast  with
a  resounding-clash. There was no  real  risk  in  passing  them,  except of
slipping and being caught by that swift, final blow; there was ample time to
walk  through unhurried, but there was something forbidding in the sight  of
that  great weight  of  uncontrolled metal, flapping to and fro, which might
have made a timid man flinch or skip through too quickly; I rejoiced to feel
Julia's hand perfectly  steady  on my arm and know, as I walked beside  her,
that she was wholly undismayed.

     "Bravo," said a man sitting near by.  "I confess I went round the other
way. I didn't like the look  of those doors  somehow. They've been trying to
fix them all the morning."

     There  were few people  about that  day,  and  that  few  seemed  bound
together by a camaraderie  of reciprocal esteem; they did nothing except sit
rather   glumly  in  their   armchairs,  drink   occasionally  and  exchange
congratulations on not being seasick.

     "You're the first lady I've seen," said the man.

     "I'm very lucky."

     "We are very lucky," he said, with a movement which began as a  bow and
ended as a  lurch forward to  his  knees, as the blotting-paper floor dipped
steeply between us. The roll carried us away from him, clinging together but
still on our feet, and we quickly sat where our dance led us, on the further
side,  in isolation;  a  web  of  life-lines  had been stretched across  the
lounge, and we seemed like boxers, roped into the ring.

     The steward approached. "Your usual, sir? Whiskey  and  tepid  water, I
think. And for the lady? Might I suggest a nip of champagne?"

     "D'you know, the awful thing is I would like champagne very much?" said
Julia.  "What  a life  of  pleasure --  roses, half an  hour with  a  female
pugilist, and now champagne!"

     "I  wish  you wouldn't go on about the roses. It wasn't my  idea in the
first place. Someone sent them to Celia."

     "Oh, that's quite different. It lets you out  completely. But it  makes
my massage worse."

     "I was shaved in bed."

     "I'm glad about the  roses,"  said Julia. "Frankly, they were a  shock.
They made me think we were starting the day on quite the wrong footing."

     I knew what she meant, and in that moment  felt as though  I had shaken
off some of the dust and grit of ten dry years; then and always, however she
spoke  to  me  --  in  half  sentences,  single  words,  stock   phrases  of
contemporary jargon, in scarcely perceptible  movements  of eyes or  lips or
hands  -- however  inexpressible her thought, however quick and  far  it had
glanced from the matter in hand,  however deep it had plunged,  as  it often
did,  straight from the surface to the depths, I  knew; even that day when I
still stood on the extreme verge of love, I knew what she meant.

     We drank our wine and soon our new friend came lurching towards us down
the life-line.

     "Mind if I join you?  Nothing like a bit of rough  weather for bringing
people  together. This is  my tenth crossing, and I've never  seen  anything
like it. I can see you are an experienced sailor, young lady."

     "No.  As a matter of fact, I've  never been at sea before except coming
to New York and, of course, crossing the Channel. I  don't feel  sick, thank
God, but I feel tired. I thought  at first it was  only the massage, but I'm
coming to the conclusion it's the ship."

     "My wife's in a terrible way. She's an experienced  sailor. Only shows,
doesn't it?"

     He joined us  at luncheon, and I did not mind his being  there; he  had
clearly  taken a  fancy to Julia, and  he thought we were man and wife; this
misconception and  his  gallantry seemed.in  some  way  to bring  her and me
closer together.  "Saw you two last night at the Captain's table," he  said,
"with all the nobs."

     "Very, dull nobs."

     "If you ask me,  nobs always are.  When you  get a storm like this  you
find out what people are really made of."

     "You have a predilection for good sailors?"

     "Well, put  like that I don't know that  I do--what I mean is, it makes
for getting together."

     "Yes."

     "Take us  for example. But for this  we might never have met.  I've had
some very romantic encounters at sea in my time. If the lady will excuse me,
I'd  like to tell you about  a  little adventure I had in the Gulf  of Lyons
when I was younger than I am now."

     We were both weary;  lack  of sleep,  the  incessant din and the strain
every movement required, wore us down.  We spent that afternoon apart in our
cabins. I slept, and when I awoke the sea was  as high as ever,  inky clouds
swept over us and the  glass streamed still with water, but I had grown used
to the storm  in my sleep,  had made its rhythm mine, had become part of it,
so that I arose strongly and confidently and found Julia  already up and  in
the same temper.

     "What d'you think?" she said. "That man's giving a little 'get-together
party' to-night in the smoking-room for all the good sailors. He asked me to
bring my husband."

     "Are we going?"

     "Of  course. ... I wonder  if  I ought to feel like the lady our friend
met on the way to Barcelona. I don't, Charles, not a bit'."

     There were eighteen  people at the "get-together party"; we had nothing
in  common  except  immunity  from  seasickness.  We  drank  champagne,  and
presently our host said: "Tell you what, I've got a  roulette wheel. Trouble
is we can't go to my cabin on account of the wife,  and we aren't allowed to
play in public."

     So the party adjourned to my sitting-room and we  played for low stakes
until late into the night, when Julia left  and our  host had drunk too much
wine to be surprised  that she and I were not in the same quarters. When all
but he  had gone he fell  asleep in his chair, and I  left him there. It was
the last  I saw of him, for later, so the steward told me  when he came from
returning the roulette things to the man's cabin, he  broke his collar-bone,
falling in the corridor, and was taken to the ship's hospital.

     All next day Julia and I  spent together without interruption; talking,
scarcely  moving, held in our chairs by the swell of the sea. After luncheon
the last hardy passengers went to rest and we were alone as though the place
had been cleared for us, as though tact on a Titanic scale had sent everyone
tiptoeing out to leave us to one another.

     The  bronze  doors of the  lounge  had been fixed,  but  not before two
seamen  had been injured and removed to the sick-bay. They had tried various
devices, lashing  with  ropes  and,  later,  when these  failed, with  steel
hawsers, but there was nothing to  which  they could be made  fast; finally,
they  drove wooden  wedges under them,  catching them in the brief moment of
repose when they were full open, and these held them.

     When, before dinner, she went to her cabin to get ready (no one dressed
that night) and  I came with her, uninvited, unopposed, expected, and behind
closed  doors  took her  in my  arms  and first  kissed her,  there  was  no
alteration  from the  mood of  the afternoon. Later,  turning it  over in my
mind, as I turned in my bed  with the rise and fall of the ship, through the
long, lonely, drowsy night, I recalled the courtships of the past, dead, ten
years; how,  knotting my  tie before setting out, putting the gardenia in my
buttonhole, I would plan  my evening and think, At such  and such a time, at
such  and  such  an opportunity, I shall  cross  the start-line and  open my
attack for  better or worse;  this phase  of the  battle  has  gone on  long
enough,  I would think; a decision must be reached. With Julia there were no
phases, no start-line, no tactics at all.

     But later  that  night when she went to  bed  and I followed her to her
door she stopped me.

     "No,  Charles, not yet. Perhaps  never. I don't know. I don't know if I
want love."

     Then something, some surviving ghost from those dead ten years--for one
cannot die, even for a little, without some loss  -- made me say, "Love? I'm
not asking for love."

     "Oh  yes, Charles, you are,"  she said, and  putting up her hand gently
stroked my cheek; then shut her door.

     And I reeled  back, first on one wall, then on the other,  of the long,
softly lighted, empty corridor; for the storm, it  appeared, had the form of
a ring. All day we had  been sailing through its still  centre;  now we were
once  more in the  full fury of the wind -- and that night was to be rougher
than the one before.


     Ten hours of talking: what had we to say? Plain fact mostly, the record
of our two  lives, so long widely separate, now being knit to  one.  Through
all that storm-tossed  night I rehearsed what she had  told me; she  was  no
longer the alternate succubus and starry vision of the night before; she had
given all that was transferable of her past into my keeping. She told me, as
I have already retold, of her courtship and marriage; she told me, as though
fondly  turning  the pages of an old  nursery-book,  of her childhood; and I
lived long, sunny days with her in  the meadows,  with Nanny  Hawkins on her
camp stool  and Cordelia asleep  in the  pram, slept quiet  nights under the
dome  with the  religious pictures  fading round the cot  as  the nightlight
burned low and the embers settled in the grate. She told me of her life with
Rex and of the  secret, vicious, disastrous  escapade that  had taken her to
New York. She, too, had had her dead years. She told me of her long struggle
with Rex as to whether she should have a child; at first she wanted one, but
learned  after a  year that an operation  was needed to make it possible; by
that  time Rex and she were out of love, but he still wanted his child,  and
when at last she consented, it was born dead.

     "Rex has never been unkind to  me intentionally,"  she said. "It's just
that  he isn't  a  real person at all; he's  just a few faculties  of a  man
highly developed;  the rest simply isn't there.  He  couldn't imagine why it
hurt me to find, two months after we came back to London from our honeymoon,
that he was still keeping up with Brenda Champion."

     "I was glad when I found Celia was  unfaithful," I said. "I felt it was
all right for me to dislike her."

     "Is she? Do  you? I'm glad. I don't like her either. Why did  you marry
her?"

     "Physical  attraction.  Ambition. Everyone agrees she's  the ideal wife
for a painter. Loneliness, missing Sebastian."

     "You loved him, didn't you?"

     "Oh yes. He was the forerunner."

     Julia understood.

     The  ship creaked and shuddered,  rose  and  fell. My wife called to me
from the next room:

     "Charles, are you there?"

     "Yes."

     "I've been asleep such a long while. What time is it?"

     "Half-past three."

     "It's no better, is it?"

     "Worse."

     "I feel  a little better, though. D'you think they'd bring me  some tea
or something if I rang the bell?"

     I got her some tea and biscuits from the night steward.

     "Did you have an amusing evening?"

     "Everyone's seasick."

     "Poor  Charles. It was going to  have been such a lovely  trip, too. It
may be better to-morrow."
     I turned out the light and shut the door between us.
     Waking and dreaming, through the strain and creak and heave of the long
night, flat on my back with my arms and legs  spread wide to check the roll,
and my eyes open to the darkness, I lay thinking of Julia.

     ". . . We thought  Papa might come back to England after Mummy died, or
that he  might marry again, but he lives just as he did.  Rex and I often go
to  see him now.  I've  grown fond  of  him.  .  . . Sebastian's disappeared
completely . . . Cordelia's in Spain with an ambulance .  . .  Bridey  leads
his  own  extraordinary life. He wanted to shut Brideshead after Mummy died,
but Papa wouldn't have it for some reason, so Rex and I live  there now, and
Bridey has two rooms up in the dome, next to Nanny Hawkins, part of the  old
nurseries.  He's like a  character  from  Chekhov.  One  meets him sometimes
coming out of the library or on the stairs -- I never know when he's at home
--  and now  and  then-  he  suddenly comes in to dinner like a ghost  quite
unexpectedly. ,

     ". . .  Oh, Rex's parties! Politics and money. They  can't  do anything
except for money; if they walk round the lake they  have to  make bets about
how  many  swans  they  see ...  sitting up  till two, amusing Rex's  girls,
hearing them gossip, rattling  away endlessly on the backgammon  board while
the men play  cards and smoke cigars. The cigar  smoke ... I can smell it in
my hair when I wake up in the  morning; it's in  my  clothes when I dress at
night. Do I smell of it now? D'you think that woman who rubbed me felt it in
my skin?

     ". . . At first I used to stay away with Rex in his friends' houses. He
doesn't make me any  more. He was ashamed  of me when he found I didn't  cut
the kind of figure he wanted, ashamed of himself for having been taken in. I
wasn't at all the article he'd bargained for. He can't  see the point of me,
but whenever v he's made up his mind there isn't a point and he's
begun to feel comfortable, he gets a surprise -- some man, or even woman, he
respects  takes a fancy  to me and he suddenly  sees  that there is  a whole
world of things we understand and he doesn't. . . . He was upset when I went
away. He'll be delighted to have me , back. I was faithful to him until this
last thing came along. There's nothing  like  a good upbringing. Do you know
last year, when I  thought  I was going to have a child, I'd decided to have
it brought up a Catholic? I hadn't  thought about religion before; I haven't
since; but just at that time, when  I was waiting for  the birth, I thought,
'That's one thing I can give her. It doesn't seem to have done me much good,
but my  child shall have it.' It was odd, wanting to give something one  had
lost oneself. Then, in the  end, I couldn't even  give that: I couldn't even
give her life. I never saw her; I was too ill to know what was going on, and
afterwards for a long time, until now, I  didn't want  to speak about her --
she was a daughter, so Rex didn't so much mind her being dead.

     "I've been punished a little for marrying Rex. You see, I can't get all
that  sort of thing out of my mind, quite --  Death, Judgment, Heaven, Hell,
Nanny Hawkins,  and the Catechism. It becomes part of oneself, if they  give
it one early enough. And yet I wanted my child to have it. ... Now I suppose
I  shall be punished for what I've just done. Perhaps that is why  you and I
are here together like this . . . part of a plan."

     That was almost the last  thing she said to me --  "part of a  plan" --
before we went below and parted at her cabin door.


     Next day the wind had again dropped, and again we were wallowing in the
swell. The talk was less of seasickness now than of broken bones; people had
been thrown about in the night, and there  had been many nasty  accidents on
bathroom floors. That day, because we  had talked so much the day before and
because what we had to say needed few words,  we spoke little. We had books;
Julia  found a  game  she  liked. When  after  long  silences we  spoke, our
thoughts, we found, had kept pace together side by side.

     Once I said, "You are standing guard over your sadness."

     "It's all I have earned. You said yesterday. My wages."

     "An I.O.U. from life. A promise to pay on demand."

     Rain ceased  at  midday; at evening the  clouds dispersed  and the sun,
astern of us, suddenly broke into the lounge  where  we sat, putting all the
lights to shame.

     "Sunset," said Julia, "the end of our day."

     She rose and, though the roll  and pitch of the  ship  seemed unabated,
led me up to the boat-deck. She put her arm through mine and  her  hand into
mine, in my great-coat pocket. The deck was dry and empty, swept only by the
wind of the ship's  speed. As  we  made our  halting, laborious way forward,
away from the 1 flying smuts of the smoke-stack, we were alternately jostled
together, then strained, nearly sundered, arms and  fingers interlocked as I
held the  rail and  Julia clung to  me,  thrust together again, drawn apart;
then, in a plunge deeper  than  the rest, I found  myself flung  across her,
pressing  her against  the  rail, warding myself off her with the arms  that
held her prisoner  on either side,  and as the ship paused at the end of its
drop as though gathering strength for the ascent, we stood thus embraced, in
the open, cheek  against cheek, her hair blowing across my  eyes;  the  dark
horizon of tumbling  water,  flashing now with gold, stood  still above  us,
then  came sweeping down till I was staring through Julia's dark hair into a
wide and golden sky, and she was thrown forward on my heart,  held up by  my
hands on the rail, her face still pressed to mine.

     In that minute, with her lips to my ear and her breath warm in the salt
wind, Julia said,  though I  had not  spoken,  "Yes, now," and  as the  ship
righted herself  and for  the  moment ran  into calmer waters, Julia  led me
below.

     So at sunset  I took formal possession of  her as  her lover. It was no
time  for the sweets of luxury;  they would come,  in then-season, with  the
swallow and the lime-flowers. Now  on the rough water, as I was made free of
her narrow loins and, it seemed now, in assuaging that fierce appetite, cast
a burden which I had borne all my life, toiled under, not knowing its nature
-- now, while the  waves  still broke  and thundered on the prow, the act of
possession was a symbol, a rite of ancient origin and solemn meaning.

     We dined that  night high up in the  ship,  in the restaurant,  and saw
through the bow windows the stars come out and sweep across the sky as once,
I remembered, I had seen them sweep above the towers and  gables  of Oxford.
The stewards promised that to-morrow night the band would play again and the
place be full. We had better book now, they said, if we wanted a good table.

     "Oh dear," said Julia, "where  can we hide in  fair weather, we orphans
of the storm?"
     I could not leave her that night, but early next morning, as once again
I  made  my way  back along  the  corridor,  I  found  I could walk  without
difficulty;  the  ship  rode  easily on  a smooth  sea,  and I knew that our
solitude was broken.


     My wife called joyously  from  her cabin:  "Charles, Charles, I feel so
well. What do you think I am  having for breakfast?" I went to see.  She was
eating a beef-steak.

     "I've fixed  up for  a visit to  the  hairdresser --  do  you know they
couldn't take me till four o'clock this afternoon, they're so busy suddenly?
So I shan't appear till the evening, but lots of people are coming in to see
us this morning, and I've  asked Miles  and Janet  to lunch with  us  in our
sitting-room.  I'm  afraid  I've been a worthless  wife to you the  last two
days. What have you been up to?"

     "One gay  evening," I said, "we played roulette  till two o'clock, next
door in the sitting-room, and our host passed out."

     "Goodness.  It  sounds  very  disreputable.  Have  you  been  behaving,
Charles? You haven't been picking up sirens?"

     "There was scarcely  a  woman  about. I  spent  most  of the time  with
Julia."

     "Oh,  good.  I always wanted  to bring you  together. She's  one  of my
friends  I knew you'd  like. I expect you were a  godsend to  her. She's had
rather a gloomy time lately. I don't expect she mentioned it, but . . ."  my
wife proceeded to relate a current version of Julia's journey  to  New York.
"I'll ask her to cocktails this morning," she concluded.

     Julia came, and it was happiness enough, now, merely to be near her.

     "I hear you've been looking after my husband for me," my wife said.

     "Yes, we've become very matey. He and I  and a  man whose name we don't
know."

     "Mr. Kramm, what have you done to your arm?"

     "It was the bathroom  floor," said  Mr. Kramm,  and explained at length
how he had fallen.

     That night the Captain dined at his table and the  circle was complete,
for  claimants came to  the chairs on  the Bishop's right, two  Japanese who
expressed deep  interest in  his projects for world-brotherhood. The Captain
was full of chaff at Julia's endurance in the storm, offering to engage  her
as a seaman;  years of sea-going had given  him jokes for every occasion. My
wife, fresh from  the beauty  parlour, was  unravaged  by her three  days of
distress,  and in the eyes  of many seemed to outshine Julia, whose  sadness
had gone and been  replaced by an incommunicable content  and  tranquillity;
incommunicable  save  to me;  she  and I, separated  by the crowd, sat alone
together  close  enwrapped, as we had  lain  in each other's arms  the night
before.

     There was a gala spirit in the ship  that night. Though it meant rising
at dawn  to pack, everyone was  determined that  for this one night he would
enjoy  the luxury  the  storm had denied him.  There was no  solitude. Every
corner of  the ship  was thronged; dance music  and high,  excited  chatter,
stewards darting  everywhere with trays of glasses, the voice of the officer
in charge  of tombola:  "Kelly's  eye --number one; legs,  eleven; and we'll
Shake the Bag" -- Mrs. Stuyvesant Oglander in a paper cap, Mr. Kramm and his
bandages, the two Japanese decorously  throwing  paper streamers and hissing
like geese.

     I did not speak to Julia, alone, all that evening.

     We met  for  a minute next day on the starboard side of the  ship while
everyone else crowded  to port to  see the officials come aboard and to gaze
at the green coastline of Devon.

     "What are your plans?"

     "London for a bit," she said.

     "Celia's going straight home. She wants to see the children."

     "You, too?"

     "No."

     "In London then."


     "Charles, the  little  red-haired  man -- Foulenough. Did you see?  Two
plain-clothes police have taken him off."

     "I missed it. There was such a crowd on that side of the ship."

     "I  found  out  the  trains and sent a telegram. We  shall be  home  by
dinner. The children will be asleep. Perhaps we might wake Johnjohn up, just
for once."

     "You go down," I said. "I shall have to stay in London."

     "Oh, but Charles, you must come. You haven't seen Caroline."

     "Will she change much in a week or two?"

     "Darling, she changes every day."

     "Then  what's the point  of seeing her  now?  I'm sorry, my dear, but I
must get the pictures  unpacked and see how they've travelled. I must fix up
for the exhibition right away."

     "Must you?"  she  said,  but  I knew  that her resistance  ended when I
appealed to the mysteries of my trade. "It's  very disappointing. Besides, I
don't  know if Andrew and Cynthia will be out of the flat. They took it till
the end of the month."

     "I can go to a hotel."

     "But  that's so grim.  I can't bear  you to  be alone your  first night
home. I'll stay and go down to-morrow."

     "You mustn't disappoint the children."

     "No." Her children, my art, the two mysteries of our trades . . .

     "Will you come for the week-end?"

     "If I can."

     "All British passports to the smoking-room, please," said a steward.

     "I've arranged  with that sweet Foreign Office man at our  table to get
us off early with him," said my wife.


     Chapter Two

     it was my wife's idea to hold the private view on Friday.

     "We are out  to catch the critics this time," she said. "It's high time
they began to take you seriously, and they know it. This is their chance. If
you open on Monday they'll most of them have  just come up from the country,
and they'll dash off a  few  paragraphs before  dinner -- I'm  only worrying
about  the  weeklies  of course. If we give them the week-end to think about
it,  we shall  have them in  an urbane  Sunday-in-the-country  mood. They'll
settle down after a good luncheon, tuck up their cuffs, and turn out a nice,
leisurely, full-length essay, which they'll reprint later in  a nice  little
book. Nothing less will do this time."

     She was up and down from the Old Rectory several times during the month
of  preparation,  revising  the  list  of  invitations and helping with  the
hanging.

     On the morning of the private view I telephoned to Julia and said: "I'm
sick of the pictures already and never want to see them again, but I suppose
I shall have to put in an appearance."

     "D'you want me to come?"

     "I'd much rather you didn't."

     "Celia  sent a card with 'Bring everyone' written across  it  in  green
ink. When do we meet?"

     "In the train. You might pick up my luggage."

     "If you'll have it packed soon I'll pick you  up, too, and drop  you at
the gallery. I've got a fitting next door at twelve."

     When  I reached  the  gallery  my wife was standing looking through the
window to the  street. Behind her half  a dozen unknown picture-lovers  were
moving from canvas  to  canvas, catalogue in hand; they were  people who had
once  bought  a woodcut  and  were  consequently  on  the  gallery's list of
patrons.

     "No one has come yet," said my wife. "I've been here since ten and it's
been very dull. Whose car was that you came in?"

     "Julia's."

     "Julia's?  Why didn't you bring her  in? Oddly  enough, I've just  been
talking  about Brideshead to a funny little  man who  seemed to know us very
well.  He  said  he was called Mr.  Samgrass.  Apparently he's  one  of Lord
Copper's middle-aged young men on the Daily Beast. I tried  to feed him some
paragraphs, but he seemed to know more about you than I do. He said he'd met
me years  ago at Brideshead. I  wish Julia had come in;  then we could  have
asked her about him."

     "I remember him well. He's a crook."

     "Yes, that stuck out a mile. He's been talking all about what  he calls
'the Brideshead  set.'  Apparently Rex Mottram has made the place a nest  of
party mutiny. Did you know? What would Teresa Marchmain have thought?"

     "I'm going there to-night."

     "Not to-night, Charles; you can't go there to-night. You're expected at
home. You promised, as  soon as the exhibition was J ready, you'd come home.
Johnjohn and Nanny have made a banner with 'Welcome' on it. And  you haven't
seen Caroline yet."

     "I'm sorry, it's all settled."

     "Besides,  Daddy will  think it so odd. And Boy is home for Sunday. And
you haven't seen the new studio. You can't go tonight. Did they ask me?"

     "Of course; but I knew you wouldn't be able to come."

     "I can't now. I could have if you'd let me know earlier. I should adore
to  see the  'Brideshead set' at home. I do  think you're perfectly beastly,
but this is no time for a family rumpus. The Clarences  promised to come  in
before luncheon; they may be here any minute."

     We were interrupted,  however, not by royalty, but by  a woman reporter
from  one of the dailies, whom the manager of the gallery now led up  to us.
She  had  not come to see the  pictures but to  get a "human  story" of  the
dangers  of my  journey. I left her  to my  wife, and next day  read in  her
paper: --

     charles "stately homes" ryder steps off the map

     That  the  snakes and vampires of the jungle have nothing on Mayfair is
the opinion of  socialite artist Ryder, who  has abandoned the houses of the
great for the ruins of equatorial Africa. ...

     The rooms began  to fill and I was soon  busy being  civil. My wife was
everywhere, greeting people, introducing  people,  deftly  transforming  the
crowd into a party. I saw her  lead friends forward one after another to the
subscription  list that  had  been  opened  for the book  of  Ryder's  Latin
America; I heard  her say: "No, darling, I'm not  at all  surprised, but you
wouldn't expect me  to be, would you? You see Charles lives for one thing --
Beauty. I think  he got bored with finding  it ready-made in England; he had
to go and create it for himself. He wanted new worlds to conquer. After all,
he has said the last word about country houses, hasn't he? Not, I mean, that
he's given  that up altogether. I'm sure he'll always do one or two more for
friends".

     A photographer brought us together,  flashed a lamp  in our  faces, and
let us part.

     Presently there was the slight  hush and  edging away which follows the
entry of a royal party. I saw my wife  curtsey and heard her  say: "Oh, sir,
you are sweet"; then I was led into  the clearing  and  the Duke of Clarence
said: "Pretty hot out there I should think."

     "It was, sir."

     "Awfully clever the way you've hit off the impression of heat. Makes me
feel quite uncomfortable in my great-coat."

     "Ha, ha."

     When  they had  gone  my wife  said:  "Goodness, we're late for  lunch.
Margot's  giving a  party  in your honour,"  and in the taxi she said: "I've
just  thought  of  something.  Why don't  you  write  and ask the  Duchess's
permission to dedicate Latin America to her?"

     "Why should I?"

     "She'd love it so."

     "I wasn't thinking of dedicating it to anyone."

     "There you are; that's typical of you, Charles. Why miss an opportunity
to give pleasure?"

     There were a dozen at luncheon, and though it pleased my hostess and my
wife  to say that they were there in my honour, it was plain to me that half
of them did  not know of my  exhibition and  had come because they  had been
invited and had no other engagement. Throughout luncheon they talked without
stopping of Mrs. Simpson, but they all, or nearly  all, came back with us to
the gallery.

     The  hour   after   luncheon  was  the   busiest   time.   There   were
representatives of  the Tate Gallery, the Chantrey Bequest, the National Art
Collections Fund, who all promised to return shortly with colleagues and, in
the meantime, reserved certain pictures for  further consideration. The most
influential  critic, who  in the past had dismissed me  with a few  wounding
commendations, peered  out at  me  from  between his slouch  hat and woollen
muffler, gripped my  arm, and said: "I knew you had it. I saw it there. I've
been waiting for it."

     From  fashionable  and unfashionable  lips  alike I heard  fragments of
praise. "If you'd asked me to guess," I overheard, "Ryder's is the last name
would have occurred to me. They're so virile, so passionate."

     They all thought they had found something new. It had not been  thus at
my last exhibition in these same rooms, shortly before my going abroad. Then
there had  been an unmistakable note  of weariness. Then  the talk had  been
less of me than of the houses, anecdotes  of their  owners. That same woman,
it came back  to  me, who  how  applauded my virility and passion, had stood
quite near me, before a painfully laboured canvas, and said, "So facile."

     I remembered the exhibition, too, for another reason; it was the week I
detected my wife in adultery. Then,  as now, she was a tireless hostess, and
I heard her say: "Whenever I see anything lovely nowadays -- a building or a
piece  of  scenery  --  I  think  to  -myself,  'That's by  Charles.'  I see
everything through his eyes. He is England to me."

     I  heard her say  that;  it was the sort of thing she had the  habit of
saying. Throughout  our married life, again and again, I had  felt my bowels
shrivel within me at the  things she said. But that ,j day, in this gallery,
I heard her unmoved, and suddenly realized that she was powerless to hurt me
any more;  I was a free man; she had given me my manumission  in that brief,
sly lapse of hers; my cuckold's horns made me lord of the forest.

     At the end of the day my  wife  said:  "Darling, I must go. It's been a
terrific success,  hasn't it? I'll think of something to tell  them at home,
but I wish it hadn't got to happen quite this way."

     So she knows, I  thought.  She's a  sharp one. She's  had her nose down
since luncheon and picked up the scent.

     I  let  her  get clear of the place and  was about to follow--the rooms
were nearly empty -- when I heard  a voice at the turnstile  I had not heard
for  many years, an unforgettable self-taught  stammer,  a sharp cadence  of
remonstration.

     "No.  I have not  brought  a card  of  invitation.  I do  not even know
whether I received one. I have not come to a social  function; I do not seek
to scrape acquaintance with  Lady Celia;  I do not want my photograph in the
Tatler; I have not come  to exhibit myself. I have come to see the pictures.
Perhaps you are unaware that there are any pictures here. I happen to have a
personal interest in the artist--if that word has any meaning for
     you."

     "Antoine," I said, "come in."

     "My dear, there is a g-g-gorgon here who thinks I am g-g-gate-crashing.
I only  arrived in London yesterday, and heard quite by  chance at  luncheon
that you were having an exhibition, so of course I dashed impetuously to the
shrine to pay homage. Have I changed? Would you  recognize me? Where are the
pictures? Let me explain them to you."

     Anthony Blanche had not changed from  when I last saw him; not, indeed,
from when I  first saw him. He swept lightly  across  the  room  to the most
prominent canvas  -- a jungle landscape -- paused a moment,  his head cocked
like a knowing terrier,  and asked: "Where,  my dear  Charles,  did you find
this sumptuous greenery? The corner of a hothouse at T-t-trent or T-t-tring?
What gorgeous usurer nurtured these fronds for your pleasure?"

     Then he made a tour  of the two rooms; once or twice he  sighed deeply,
otherwise he kept silence. When he came to the end he sighed once more, more
deeply than ever, and said:  "But they tell me, my dear,  you are  happy  in
love. That is everything, is it not, or nearly everything?"

     "Are they as bad as that?"

     Anthony dropped his voice to  a piercing whisper: "My  dear, let us not
expose your little imposture before  these good, plain people"  -- he gave a
conspiratorial glance to the last remnants o the crowd -- "let us not spoil
their innocent  pleasure. We  know, you and I, that this is all t-t-terrible
t-t-tripe. Let us go, before we offend the connoisseurs. I  know of a louche
little  bar,  quite  near here.  Let  us  go  there  and talk of your  other
c-c-conquests."

     It  needed this voice from  the  past to recall me; the  indiscriminate
chatter of praise all that crowded day had worked on me like a succession of
advertisement  hoardings on a long road,  kilometre  after kilometre between
the poplars, commanding one to stay  at some  new hotel, so that when at the
end of the drive, stiff and dusty, one arrives at the  destination, it seems
inevitable to turn into the yard under the name that had  first bored,  then
angered one, and finally become an inseparable part of one's fatigue.

     Anthony  led  me from  the gallery  and down  a side street to  a  door
between  a disreputable news  agent and a disreputable chemist, painted with
the words blue grotto club. Members Only.

     "Not quite your milieu, my dear, but mine, I assure you. After all, you
have been in your milieu all day."

     He led  me downstairs, from a  smell  of  cats  to a smell  of  gin and
cigarette-ends and the sound of a wireless.

     "I was given the address by a dirty old man in the Bceuf sur le Toit. I
am most grateful  to him. I  have been out  of England  so long, and  really
sympathetic  little joints like this  change  so  fast. J I presented myself
here for the first time yesterday evening, and already I feel quite at home.
Good evening, Cyril."

     "'Lo, Toni, back again?" said the youth behind the bar.

     "We will take  our drinks and sit  in  a  corner. You must remember, my
dear, that here you  are just as  conspicuous and,  may  I say, abnormal, my
dear, as I should be in B-b-bratt's."

     The  place was painted cobalt; there was cobalt linoleum on the  floor.
Fishes of Silver  and gold paper had been  pasted  haphazard  on ceiling and
walls. Half a dozen youths were drinking and playing with the slot-machines;
an older, natty,  crapulous-looking man seemed  to be in control; there  was
some sniggering round the fruit-gum machine; then one of  the youths came up
to us and said, "Would your friend care to rumba?"

     "No, Tom, he  would not, and  I'm not  going to give a drink;  not yet,
anyway.  . . . That's a very impudent boy, a regular little  gold-digger, my
dear."

     "Well," I said,  affecting an ease I was far  from feeling in that den,
"what have you been up to all these years?"

     "My  dear,  it is  what you have  been up  to that we are here to  talk
about. I've  been  watching you,  my dear. I'm a faithful  old body and I've
kept my eye on you." As he spoke the bar and the bar-tender, the blue wicker
furniture, the gambling-machines, the wireless, the couple of youths dancing
on the oilcloth,  the youths sniggering round the slots, the  purple-veined,
stiffly dressed elderly man drinking in the corner  opposite  us,  the whole
drab and furtive joint, seemed to fade, and I was back in Oxford looking out
over Christ Church meadow through a window of Ruskin Gothic. "I went to your
first  exhibition,"  said Anthony; "I  found it  -- charming. There  was  an
interior  of  Marchmain  House,  very  English,  very   correct,  but  quite
delicious. 'Charles has done something,'  I said;  'not  all he will do, not
all he can do, but something.'

     "Even then, my dear, I wondered a little.  It seemed to  me that  there
was something a little gentlemanly  about your painting. You must remember I
arm not English; I cannot understand this keen zest to be well-bred. English
snobbery is  more  macabre  to me even than English morals. However, I said,
'Charles has done something delicious. What will he do next?'

     "The next thing  I  saw was your  very handsome volume  -- Village  and
Provincial Architecture, was it called?  Quite a tome, my dear, and what did
I find? Charm again. 'Not quite  my cup  of  tea,'  I thought; 'this is  too
English.' I have  the fancy I for rather spicy things, you know, not for the
shade  of the cedar  tree, the  cucumber sandwich, the silver cream-jug, the
English  girl dressed  in whatever  English girls do wear for  tennis -- not
that,  not Jane Austen,  not  M-m-miss M-m-mitford. Then,  to be frank, dear
Charles, I despaired of you. 'I am a  degenerate old d-d-dago,' I said, 'and
Charles -- I speak of your art, my dear -- is a dean's  daughter in flowered
muslin.'

     "Imagine  then  my excitement at luncheon to-day. Everyone  was talking
about  you.  My  hostess  was  a  friend of  my mother's,  a Mrs. Stuyvesant
Oglander;  a  friend of yours, too, my dear. Such  a frump!  Not at all  the
society  I imagined  you  to keep.  1 However, they  had  all been  to  your
exhibition, but it  was you f they  talked  of, how you had broken away,  my
dear, gone to the tropics, become a  Gauguin, a Rimbaud. You can imagine how
my old heart leaped. 

     "' Poor  Celia,' they said,  'after all she's done  for  him.' 'He owes
everything  to  her. It's too bad.' 'And with  Julia,' they said, 'after the
way she behaved in America.' 'Just as she was going back 1 to Rex.'

     " 'But the pictures,' I said; 'tell me about them'

     '"Oh, the pictures,' they said: 'they're most peculiar.' 'Not at 1  all
what he  usually does.'  'Very forceful.'  'Quite  barbaric.' 'if  call them
downright unhealthy,' said Mrs. Stuyvesant Oglander.

     "My dear, I could hardly keep still in my chair. I wanted  tof dash out
of  the house and  leap in a  taxi and say, 'Take me  to Charles's unhealthy
pictures.' Well, I  went, but the gallery after  J  luncheon  was so full of
absurd women  in  the sort  of hats they'i] should  be  made to eat,  that I
rested  a little --I rested here witfcl Cyril and  Tom and these saucy boys.
Then  I came  back  at the unfashionable  time of five o'clock, all agog, my
dear; and  what  did  I  find? I  found, my  dear, a very  naughty and  very
successful practical joke. It reminded me of dear Sebastian when he liked so
much to dress  up in false whiskers.  It was charm again,  my dear,  simple,
creamy English charm, playing tigers."

     "You're quite right," I said.

     "My dear,  of course I'm right. I was right years ago--more years, I am
happy to say, than  either  of us shows -- when I warned you. I took you out
to dinner  to warn you of charm.  I warned you expressly and in great detail
of the Flyte family.  Charm is the great English  blight. It does  not exist
outside these damp islands. It spots and kills anything it touches. It kills
love; it kills art; I greatly fear, my dear Charles, it has killed you."

     The youth called Tom approached us again. "Don't be a tease,  Toni; buy
me a drink." I remembered my train and left Anthony with him.

     As I stood on the platform by the restaurant-car I  saw my  luggage and
Julia's go past with Julia's sour-faced  maid strutting  beside the  porter.
They had begun  shutting  the carriage-doors when Julia  arrived, unhurried,
and took her place  in  front of me. I had a table for two. This was  a very
convenient  train; there was  half an hour before dinner  and  half  an hour
after it; then, instead of changing to the branch line, as had been the rule
in Lady Marchmain's  day, we were met at the junction.  It was  night  as we
drew out of  Paddington, and the glow  of the town gave  place  first to the
scattered lights of the suburbs, then to the darkness of the fields.

     "It seems days since I saw you," I said.

     "Six hours; and we were together all yesterday. You look worn out."

     "It's been a  day of  nightmare  -- crowds, critics,  the Clarences,  a
luncheon  party at Margot's, ending  up  with half  an hour's  well-reasoned
abuse of my pictures in a pansy bar. ... I think Celia knows about us."

     "Well, she had to know some time."

     "Everyone  seems  to  know.  My  pansy friend  had not been  in  London
twenty-four hours before he'd heard."

     "Damn everybody."

     "What about Rex?"

     "Rex isn't anybody at all," said Julia; "he just doesn't exist."

     The knives and forks  jingled  on the  tables as  we sped  through  the
darkness;  the little circle of gin and vermouth in the glasses i lengthened
to oval, contracted again,  with the  sway of the carriage, touched the lip,
lapped  back again, never  spilt; I was  leaving  the  day behind me.  Julia
pulled off  her hat  and tossed it into  the rack  above  her, and shook her
night-dark hair with a little sigh of ease -- a sigh fit for the pillow, the
sinking firelight and  a bedroom window open to the stars and the whisper of
bare trees.

     "It's great to have you back, Charles; like the old days."

     Like the old days? I thought.

     Rex,  in his early forties, had grown heavy  and ruddy; he had lost his
Canadian  accent and acquired instead the hoarse, loud tone that  was common
to all his friends, as though their voices were perpetually strained to make
themselves heard above a crowd,  as though, with youth forsaking them, there
was no timdi to wait  the opportunity to speak, no  time to listen,  no time
ten reply; time for a laugh -- a throaty mirthless laugh, the base| currency
of goodwill.

     There  were  half  a dozen  of these friends in the  Tapestry  Hall ill
politicians,  "young conservatives" in the early forties, with spar hair and
high blood-pressure; a socialist  from the coal mines wh  had already caught
their clear accents, whose  cigars came lid pieces  in his  lips, whose hand
shook  when he poured hir out a  drink; a lovesick columnist,  who alone was
silent, glc ing sombrely on the only woman of the party; a financier  oldafl
than the rest, and, one might guess from the way they treated him, richer; a
woman they called "Grizel," a knowing rake whom,  in their hearts,  they all
feared a little.

     They  all  feared  Julia, too,  Grizel included. She greeted  them  and
apologized for  not being  there  to welcome them,  with  a  formality which
hushed them for a minute; then  she came and sat with me near  the fire, and
the storm of talk arose once more and whirled about bur ears.

     "Of course, he can marry her and make her queen to-morrow."

     "We had our  chance in October. Why didn't we send the Italian fleet to
the bottom of Mare Nostrum?  Why didn't we blow Spezia to blazes. Why didn't
we land on Pantelleria?"

     "Franco's simply a  German agent. They tried  to  put him in to prepare
air'bases to bomb France. That bluff has been called, anyway."

     "It would make the monarchy stronger than it's been  since Tudor times.
The people are with him."

     "The press arc with him."

     "I'm with him."

     "Who cares about divorce now except a few old maids who aren't married,
anyway?"

     "If he has a showdown with  the old gang, they'll just  disappear like,
like . . ."

     "Why didn't we close the Canal? Why didn't we bomb Rome?"

     "It wouldn't have been necessary. One firm note . . ."

     "One firm speech."

     "One showdown."

     "Anyway,  Franco will soon  be skipping back  to  Morocco.  Chap  I saw
to-day just come from Barcelona . . ."

     ". . . Chap just come from Fort Belvedere . . ."

     ". . . Chap just come from the Palazzo Venezia . . ."

     "All we want is a showdown."

     "A showdown with Baldwin."

     "A showdown with Hitler."

     "A showdown with the Old Gang."

     ". . .  That I should  live  to see my country, the  land  of Clive and
Nelson ..."

     ". . . My country of Hawkins and Drake."

     ". . . My country of Palmerston . . ."

     "Would you very  much  mind not doing that?"'said Grizel the columnist,
who had been  attempting in a maudlin manner  to  twist her wrist. "I  don't
happen to enjoy it."

     "I wonder which is the more horrible," I said, "Celia's Art and Fashion
or Rex's Politics and Money."

     "Why worry about them?"

     "Oh, my darling,  why is  it  that  love makes me hate the world?  It's
supposed to have quite the opposite effect.  I feel as though'  all mankind,
and God, too, were in a conspiracy against us."

     "They are, they are."

     "But  we've  got our happiness in spite  of  them;  here and noW| we've
taken possession of it. They can't hurt us, can they?"

     "Not to-night; not now."

     "Not for how many nights?"


     Chapter Three

     "Do  you remember," said Julia, in the tranquil, lime-scented  evening,
"do you remember the storm?"

     "The bronze doors banging."

     "The roses in cellophane."

     "The man who gave the 'get-together' party and was never seen again."

     "Do you remember how the sun  came  out on our last evening  just as it
has done to-day?"

     It had been an afternoon of  low cloud and  summer squalls, so overcast
that at times I had stopped work  and roused Julia from the light  trance in
which  she sat -- she  had  sat so  often; I never  tired  of painting  her,
forever  finding in her new wealth and  delicacy -- until  at length we  had
gone early to our baths, and on coming down, dressed for dinner, in the last
half-hour of the day,  we  found the world transformed; the sun had emerged;
the wind had fallen to a soft breeze which gently stirred the blossom in the
limes and carried its fragrance, fresh from  the  late rains, to  merge with
the sweet breath  of  box  and  the drying  stone. The shadow of the obelisk
spanned the terrace.

     I had carried two garden cushions from the shelter of the colonnade and
put them on the rim of the fountain. There Julia sat, in a tight little gold
tunic and a white gown, one  hand in  the water idly turning an emerald ring
to catch  the fire of the sunset;  the  carved animals mounted over her dark
head in a  cumulus of green moss and glowing stone and dense shadow, and the
waters  round  them  flashed  and  bubbled and broke into scattered beads of
flame.

     ". . . So much to remember," she  said. "How many days have  there been
'since then, when we haven't seen each other; a hundred, do you think?"

     "Not so many."

     "Two  Christmases" -- those  bleak,  annual excursions  into propriety.
Boughton,  home of my  family,  home of my  cousin Jasper,  with  what  glum
memories  of childhood I  revisited  its pitch-pine  corridors  and dripping
walls! How querulously my  father and I, seated side  by side in  my uncle's
Humber,  approached the avenue of Wellingtonias knowing that  at  the end of
the  drive  we should find my uncle,  my aunt, my Aunt Philippa,  my  cousin
Jasper and, of recent years,  Jasper's wife and children; and  besides them,
perhaps already  arrived,  perhaps  every  moment expected,  my wife  and my
children.  This  annual  sacrifice  united us;  here  among  the  holly  and
mistletoe  and  the  cut spruce, the parlour  games ritually performed,  the
brandy-butter  and the Carlsbad plums,  the  village choir in the pitch-pine
minstrekl gallery, gold twine and  sprigged  wrapping-paper, she and I weril
accepted, whatever ugly rumours had been afloat in the past yeafJ as man and
wife. "We  must  keep  it  up,  whatever  it  costs  us, fc the sake  of the
children," my wife said.

     "Yes, two  Christmases. . . . And  the three days of good tas before  I
followed you to Capri."

     "Our first summer."

     "Do you remember how  I  hung  about Naples, then followe how we met by
arrangement on. the hill path and how flat fell?"

     "I  went back to the villa and said, 'Papa, who do you think arrived at
the  hotel?'  and he said, 'Charles Ryder,  I suppose.'  said, 'Why  did you
think of him?' and  Papa  replied, 'Cara  came back from Paris with the news
that  you  and  he  were inseparable  He  seems to have  a  penchant  for my
children. However, brir him here. I think we have the room.'"

     "There was the time you had jaundice and wouldn't let see you."

     "And when I had flu and you were afraid to come."

     "Countless visits to Rex's constituency."

     "And  Coronation Week, when you  ran  away  from  Londc  Your  goodwill
mission  to  your father-in-law. The time you  went  to Oxford to paint  the
picture they didn't like. Oh, yes, quite' hundred days."

     "A hundred days  wasted out of two years  and a bit ... a day when  you
were not in my heart; not a day's coldness mistrust or disappointment."

     "Never that."

     We fell  silent;  only  the birds  spoke in a multitude of smalj  clear
voices in the lime-trees; only the waters spoke among the carved stones.

     Julia took  the handkerchief from  my  breast pocket and her hand; then
lit a cigarette. I feared to break  the spell of memories, but  for once our
thoughts had not kept  pace together, for  when  at length  Julia spoke, she
said sadly: "How many more? Another hundred?"

     "A lifetime."

     "I want to marry you, Charles."

     "One day; why now?"

     "War," she said, "this year, next  year, sometime soon. I want a day or
two with you of real peace."

     "Isn't this peace?"

     The sun had sunk now to the line of woodland beyond the valley; all the
opposing slope was already in twilight, but the lakes below us  were aflame;
the light grew in  strength and splendour as it neared death, spreading long
shadows across the pasture, falling full  on the rich  stone  spaces of  the
house, firing the  panes in the windows, glowing  on  cornices and colonnade
and dome, drawing out  all  the  hidden sweetness  of colour  and scent from
earth  and stone and  leaf, glorifying the head  and golden shoulders of the
woman beside me.

     "What do you mean by 'peace'; if not this?"

     "So much more"; and then in a chill, matter-of-fact tone she continued:
"Marriage isn't a thing we can take when the impulse moves us. There must be
a divorce -- two divorces. We must make plans."

     "Plans, divorce, war -- on an evening like this."

     "Sometimes," said Julia, "I feel the  past and the  future  pressing so
hard on either side that there's no room for the present at all."

     Then Wilcox came down the steps into the sunset  to tell us that dinner
was ready.

     Shutters were up, curtains drawn, candles lit, in the Painted Parlour.

     "Hullo, it's  laid  for three."  "Lord Brideshead arrived  half an hour
ago, my lady. He sent a message would you please not  wait dinner for him as
he may be a little late."

     "It seems months since he was here last,"  said Julia. "What does he do
in London?"

     It was often  a matter  for speculation between us -- giving  birth  to
many fantasies, for  Bridey  was a mystery;  a creature from under ground; a
hard-snouted,  burrowing, hibernating animal who shunned the  light.  He had
been completely without action  in all his years of adult life; the talk  of
his  going  into the army, 1 and into Parliament, and into a monastery,  had
all come to nothing. All that he was known with certainty to have done--andi
this  because  in a season  of scant news it had  formed  the  subject of  a
newspaper article  entitled peer's unusual hobby -- was to form a collection
of  match-boxes;  he  kept  them  mounted  on  boards, card-indexed,  yearly
occupying a  larger and larger space  in  his small house in Westminster. At
first he was  bashful  about the  notoriety  which the newspaper caused, but
later  greatly pleased, for he found it the means of  his getting into touch
with  other  collectors  in  all  parts  of  the  world  with  whom  he  now
corresponded  and swapped duplicates. Other than  this  he was not  known to
have  any  interests. He  remained Joint-Master of the Marchmain  and hunted
with them dutifully  on their two days a week when  he was at home; he never
hunted with  the neighbouring  pack, who  had the better country. He had  no
real zest for sport, and had not been out a dozen times that season; he  had
few friends; he visited his aunts;  he went to public  dinners  held  in the
Catholic interest. At Brideshead he  performed all unavoidable local duties,
bringing with him to platform and  fettfil and committee room  his own  thin
mist of clumsiness and aloofness.

     "There  was  a  girl found  strangled  with  a piece  of barbed wire at
Wandsworth last week," I said, reviving an old fantasy.

     "That must be Bridey. He is naughty."

     When we had been a quarter of an hour at the table he joined us, coming
ponderously into the room in the  bottle-green velvet smoking suit which  he
kept at Brideshead and always wore when he was there. At thirty-eight he had
grown heavy and bald, and might have been taken for forty-five.

     "Well," he said, "well, only you two; I hoped to find Rex here."

     I often wondered what  he  made of me and  of my continual presence; he
seemed to accept me, without curiosity,  as one  of the household. Twice  in
the  past two  years  he  had  surprised me  by what  seemed to  be  acts of
friendship; last Christmas he sent me a photograph of  himself  in the robes
of a Knight of Malta, and shortly afterwards he asked me to go with him to a
dining club. Both acts had  an explanation:  he  had had more  copies of his
portrait printed than he knew what to do with; he was  proud of his club. It
was a surprising association  of men quite  eminent in their professions who
met once a  month for an cvp-ning  of  ceremonious buffoonery;  each had his
sobriquet-- Bridey  was called  "Brother Grandee"--and a specially  designed
jewel  worn like an order of chivalry, symbolizing it; they had club buttons
for their waistcoats and an elaborate ritual for the introduction of guests;
after dinner a paper was read and facetious speeches made. There was plainly
some  competition  to bring guests of  distinction, and since Bridey had few
friends,  and  since I was tolerably well-known, I was invited. Even on that
convivial  evening I  could  feel my host emanating little magnetic waves of
social  uneasiness, creating,  rather, a pool of general embarrassment about
himself in which he floated with loglike calm.

     He sat down opposite me and bowed his sparse, pink head over his plate.

     "Well, Bridey. What's the news?"

     "As a matter of fact," he said, "I have some news. But it can wait."

     "Tell us now."

     He  made a grimace  which  I  took  to  mean  "not  in front  of the  f
servants," and said, "How is the painting, Charles?"

     "Which painting?"

     "Whatever you have on the stocks."

     "I began a sketch of Julia, but the light was tricky all to-day."

     "Julia? I  thought you'd  done her before. I suppose it's a change from
architecture, and much more difficult."

     His conversation  abounded in long pauses during which his  mind seemed
to remain motionless;  he always brought one back with a start  to the exact
point where he had stopped. Now after more than a minute he said: "The world
is full of different subjects."

     "Very true, Bridey."

     "If I were a painter," he said, "I should choose an entirely  different
subject every time;  subjects  with plenty  of  action in  them like .  . ."
Another pause.  What, I wondered, was  coming? "The Flying Scotsman"'?  "The
Charge  of  the  Light  Brigade"?  "Henley' Regatta"?  Then  surprisingly he
said:". . .  like  'Macbeth.'" There was something supremely preposterous in
the  idea  of  Bridey  as  a  painter  of action  pictures;  he  was usually
preposterous yet seldom quite absurd.  He achieved dignity by his remoteness
and agelessness; he was still half-child, already half-veteran; there seemed
no spark of contemporary life in him; he had a kind of massive rectitude and
impermeability, an  indifference to  the  world,  which  compelled  respect.
Though we  often laughed at: him, he was never wholly ridiculous;
at times he was even formidable.

     We talked  of the news  from Central Europe until, suddenly ill cutting
across this barren topic, Bridey asked: "Where are Mummy's jewels?"

     "This was hers," said Julia, "and this.  Cordelia and I had all her own
things. The family jewels went to the bank."

     "It's so long since  I've seen them--I don't know that I ever saw  them
all. What is  there?  Aren't there some  rather  famous rubies, someone  was
telling me?"

     "Yes, a necklace. Mummy used often to wear it, don't you remember ? And
there are the pearls  --  she always had those out. But most of it stayed in
the  bank  year after  year.  There are  some  hideous  diamond  fenders,  I
remember,  and a  Victorian  diamond collar no one could wear now. There's a
mass of good stones. Why?"

     "I'd like to have a look at them some day."

     "I say, Papa isn't going to pop them, is  he? He  hasn't got into  debt
again?"

     "No, no, nothing like that."

     Bridey was a slow  and copious eater.  Julia and I  watched him between
the candles. Presently he said: "If I was Rex . . .".His mind seemed full of
such suppositions: "If I  was Archbishop of Westminster," "If I was head  of
the Great Western Railway," "If I was an actress"--as though it  were a mere
trick  of fate  that  he  was none of  these things, and he might awake  any
morning to find the matter adjusted. "If I  was Rex I should want to live in
my constituency."

     "Rex says it saves four days' work a week not to."

     "I'm sorry he's not here. I have a little announcement to make."

     "Bridey, don't be so mysterious. Out with it."

     He made the grimace, which seemed to mean "not before the servants."

     Later, when port was on the table and we three  were alone, Julia said:
"I'm not going till I hear the announcement."

     "Well," said Bridey sitting back in his chair and gazing fixedly at his
glass. "You have only to wait until Monday to see it in  black and white  in
the newspapers. I am engaged to be married. I hope you are pleased."

     "Bridey. How . . . how very exciting! Who to?."

     "Oh, no one you know."

     "Is she pretty?"

     "I don't think you would exactly call her pretty; 'comely' is the  word
I think of in her connection. She is a big woman."

     "Fat?"

     "No, big. She is called Mrs. Muspratt; her  Christian name is Beryl.  I
have known her for a long time, but until  last year she had a  husband; now
she is a widow. Why do you laugh?"

     "I'm sorry. It isn't the least funny. It's just so unexpected. Is she .
. . is she about your own age?"

     "Just about, I believe. She has three children, the eldest boy has just
gone to Ampleforth. She is not at all well off."

     "But Bridey, where did you find her?"

     "Her  late husband, Admiral Muspratt,  collected  match-boxes," he said
with complete gravity.
     Julia trembled on the verge  of laughter, recovered her self-possession
and asked: "You're not marrying her for her matchboxes?"

     "No, no; the whole  collection was left to the Falmouth Town Library. I
have  a great affection  for her. In spite of all her difficulties she  is a
very  cheerful woman,,  very  fond of  acting.  She  is  connected with  the
Catholic Players' Guild."

     "Does Papa know?"

     "I had a  letter  from him this  morning giving me his approval. He has
been urging me to marry for some time."

     It  occurred  to  both  Julia and myself  simultaneously  that we  were
allowing curiosity and surprise to predominate; now we congratulated him  in
gentler tones from which mockery was almost excluded.

     "Thank you," he said, "thank you. I think I am very fortunate."

     "But when  are we  going to meet her? I do think you might have brought
her down with you."

     He said nothing, sipped and gazed.

     "Bridey," said Julia. "You sly, smug old brute, why haven't you brought
her here?"

     "Oh I couldn't do that, you know."

     "Why  couldn't you?  I'm  dying to meet her.  Let's ring her up now and
invite her. She'll think us most peculiar leaving  her alone at a  time like
this."

     "She has  the children," said Brideshead.  "Besides, you are  peculiar,
aren't you?"

     "What can you mean?"

     Brideshead  raised  his  head  and looked  solemnly at his  sister, and
continued  in  the same  simple  way,  as  though  he  were  saying  nothing
particularly different from what had gone before, "I couldn't ask  her here,
as things are. It wouldn't be suitable. After all, I am a lodger  here. This
is Rex's house at the moment, as far as it's anybody's. What goes on here is
his business. But I couldn't bring Beryl here."

     "I simply don't understand,"  said  Julia  rather sharply.  I looked at
her.  All the  gentle mockery had gone; she  was alert,  almost  scared,  it
seemed. "Of course, Rex and I want her to come."

     "Oh yes,  I  don't doubt that.  The difficulty is  quite otherwise." He
finished his port, refilled  his  glass, and pushed the decanter towards me.
"You  must  understand that  Beryl is a  woman of strict  Catholic principle
fortified by the prejudices of the  middle class. I  couldn't possibly bring
her here. It is a matter of  indifference whether you choose  to live in sin
with  Rex  or  Charles or  both --  I have always avoided enquiry  into  the
details  of your menage  --but in no  case would Beryl consent  to  be  your
guest."

     Julia rose. "Why, you pompous ass . . ." she said,  stopped, and turned
towards the door.

     At first  I thought she was overcome by laughter; then, as I opened the
door  to  her,  I saw with consternation that she was in tears. I hesitated.
She slipped past me without a glance.

     "I  may  have  given  the  impression  that  this  was  a  marriage  of
convenience,"  Brideshead  continued placidly. "I cannot speak for Beryl; no
doubt the security of my position has some influence on her. Indeed, she has
said as much. But for myself, let me emphasize, I am ardently attracted."

     "Bridey, what a bloody offensive thing to say to Julia!"

     "There was nothing she should object to. I was merely stating!  a  fact
well known to her."


     She was not in the  library; I mounted to her  room, but she  J was not
there. I paused by  her  laden dressing-table wonderingT if she  would come.
Then  through the  open  window, as the  light  I  streamed out  across  the
terrace, into the dusk, to the fountain which in that house seemed always to
draw us  to  itself  for comfort and refreshment,  I caught the glimpse of a
white skirt against  I  the stones. It  was nearly night. I found her in the
darkest  refuge, on  a  wooden seat,  in a  bay  of  the  clipped  box which
encircled the basin. I took  her in my arms and she pressed her  face to  my
heart.

     "Aren't you cold out here?"

     She did not answer, only clung closer to me and shook with sobs.

     "My darling, what is it? Why do you mind? What does it matter what that
old booby says?"

     "I don't; it doesn't. It's just the shock. Don't laugh at me."

     In the two  years of our love, which  seemed a lifetime, I had not seen
her so moved or felt so powerless to help.

     "How  dare he  speak  to you  like that?" I said. "The cold-blooded old
humbug . . ." But I was failing her in sympathy.

     "No," she said, "it's not that. He's  quite right.  They know all about
it, Bridey and his widow; they've  got it in black and white; they bought it
for a penny at the church door. You cat get  anything there for  a penny, in
black  and white, and nobody to see that you  pay; only an  old woman with a
broom at the other end, rattling round the confessionals,  and a young woman
lighting a candle at the Seven Dolours. Put a penny in the box or not,  just
as you like; take your tract. There you've got it in black and white.

     "All  in one  word, too, one  little, flat,  deadly  word that cover  a
lifetime.

     " 'Living in sin';  not just doing  wrong, as I  did  when  I  went  to
America; doing wrong,  knowing it is wrong,  stopping doing  it, forgetting.
That's  not  what they mean. That's  not Bridey's  pennyworth. He means just
what it says in black and white.

     "Living in sin,  with sin, by sin, for sin, every hour, every day, year
in, year out. Waking up with sin in  the morning, seeing the curtains  drawn
on  sin, bathing  it,  dressing  it,  clipping diamonds to  it,  feeding it,
showing it round, giving it a good time, putting it to sleep at night with a
tablet of Dial if it's fretful.

     "Always  the same, like an idiot child  carefully  nursed, guarded from
the world. 'Poor Julia,' they say, 'she can't go out. She's got to take care
of her little sin. A pity  it  ever  lived,' they say,  'but it's so strong.
Children like that always are. Julia's so good to her little, mad sin.'"

     An hour ago, I thought, under the sunset, she  sat  turning her ring in
the water fend counting the days of happiness; now under the first stars and
the last grey whisper of day, all this mysterious tumult of sorrow! What had
happened to  us in  the  Painted  Parlour? What shadow  had  fallen  in  the
candlelight? Two rough sentences and a trite phrase. She was beside herself;
her voice, now muffled in my breast,  now clear and anguished, came to me in
single words and broken sentences, which may be strung together thus: --

     "Past and future; the years when I was trying to be a good wife, in the
cigar smoke,  while time crept on and the counters clicked on the backgammon
board, and the man who was  'dummy' at the men's  table  filled the glasses;
when I was trying  to bear his child,  torn in  pieces by something  already
dead; putting him, away, forgetting him, finding you,  the  past  two  years
with you, all  the future with you, all  the future with or without you, war
coming, world ending -- sin.

     "A word from  so  long ago, from  Nanny Hawkins stitching by the hearth
and the nightlight burning before the Sacred Heart. Cordelia and me with the
catechism, in  Mummy's room, before luncheon on  Sundays. Mummy carrying  my
sin  with her to church,  bowed under it  and  the  black lace veil,  in the
chapel; slipping out  with it in London before the fires were lit; taking it
with her through  the empty  streets, where  the milkman's ponies stood with
their forefeet on the pavement; Mummy dying with my sin eating at her,  more
cruelly than her own deadly illness.

     "Mummy  dying  with  it;  Christ dying  with it, nailed hand and  foot;
hanging over the bed in the night-nursery; hanging  year after  year  in the
dark little study at Farm  Street with  the shining oilcloth; hanging in the
dark church  where only the old char-  woman raises the dust and  one candle
burns; hanging at noon, high among  the crowds and  the soldiers; no comfort
except a  sponge of vinegar and the kind words  of a thief; hanging forever;
never  the cool  sepulchre  and the  grave clothes spread on the stone slab,
never the  oil and spices in the dark  cave; always I the midday sun and the
dice clicking for the seamless coat.

     "Never the  shelter of the cave or of the  castle  walls. Outcast il in
the desolate spaces where the hyenas roam at night and  the  1 rubbish heaps
smoke  in the daylight. No  way back;  the gates barred; all  the saints and
angels posted along  the  walls. Nothing  but bare stone and  dust  and  the
smouldering  dumps.  Thrown away, scrapped, rotting  down; the  old man with
lupus and the  forked stick who limps out at nightfall to turn the rubbish,,
hoping for  something to put in  his sack,  something marketable, turns away
with disgust.

     "Nameless  and dead, like the baby they wrapped up and took away before
I had seen her."

     Between her tears she talked herself  into silence. I could do nothing;
I was adrift  in a  strange sea; my hands on the  metal-spun threads of  her
tunic were cold and stiff, my eyes  dry; I was as far from her in spirit, as
she clung  to me in the darkness, as  when years ago I had lit her cigarette
on the way from the station; as far as when she was out of mind, in the dry,
empty years at the Old Rectory and in the jungle.

     Tears spring from speech; presently in the silence her weeping stopped.
She sat up, away from me, took my handkerchief, shivered, rose to her feet.

     "Well,"  she said, in a  voice  much  like  normal. "Bridey is  one for
bombshells, isn't he?"

     I followed  her  into  the  house  and  to  her  room; she  sat  at her
looking-glass.  "Considering  that  I've  just  recovered  from   a  fit  of
hysteria,"  she said, "I  don't  call that  at  all  bad."  Her  eyes seemed
unnaturally large and bright, her cheeks pale with two spots of high colour,
where, as a  girl,  she  used to put a  dab of rouge. "Most hysterical women
look as if they had a bad cold. You'd  better change your shirt before going
down; it's all tears and lipstick."

     "Are we going down?"

     "Of course, we mustn't leave poor Bridey on his engagement night."

     When I came back  to her  she  said: "I'm sorry  for  that appalling  '
scene, Charles. I can't explain."

     Brideshead was  in  the library, smoking  his pipe,  placidly reading a
detective story.

     "Was it nice out? If I'd known you were going I'd have come, too."

     "Rather cold."

     "I hope it's  not going to be inconvenient for Rex  moving out of here.
You see,  Barton Street is  much too  small  for us and the  three children.
Besides, Beryl likes  the country. In  his letter Papa  proposed making over
the whole estate right away."

     I remembered how Rex had greeted  me on  my first arrival at Brideshead
as Julia's guest. "A very happy arrangement," he had said. "Suits me down to
the ground. The old boy keeps the place up; Bridey does all the feudal stuff
with the  tenants; I have the run of the house rent-free. All it costs me is
the food and the wages of the indoor servants. Couldn't ask faker than that,
could you?"

     "I should think he'll be sorry to go," I said.

     "Oh, he'll find another bargain somewhere," said Julia; "trust him."

     "Beryl's got some  furniture of her own she's very attached to. I don't
know that  it  would go very well  here. You know,  oak dressers  and coffin
stools and things. I thought she could put it in Mummy's old room."

     "Yes, that would be the place."

     So brother and sister sat and talked about the arrangement of the house
until bed-time. An hour ago, I  thought, in  the  black refuge  in  the  box
hedge,  she  wept  her heart out  for  the  death of  her God;  now  she  is
discussing whether  Beryl's children shall take the old smoking-room  or the
schoolroom for their own. I was all at sea.

     "Julia," I said  later, when Brideshead had gone  upstairs,  "have  you
ever seen a picture of Holman Hunt's called 'The Awakened Conscience'?"

     "No."

     I had seen a copy of Pre-Raphaelitism in the  library some days before;
I  found  it  again  and read her Ruskin's description.  She  laughed  quite
happily.

     "You're perfectly right. That's exactly what I did feel."

     "But,  darling, I  can't  believe that all that tempest of emotion came
just  from a  few words of  Bridey's. You  must have been thinking about  it
before."

     "Hardly at all;  now and then; more,  lately, with the  Last  Trump  so
near."

     "Of course it's a thing psychologists could  explain; a preconditioning
from childhood; feelings  of guilt from the nonsense you  were taught in the
nursery. You do know at heart that it's all bosh, don't you?"

     "How I wish it was!"

     "Sebastian once said almost the same thing to me."

     "He's gone back to the Church, you know. Of course, he never left it as
definitely as I did. I've gone too far; there's no turning back  now; I know
that, if that's wha you mean by thinking it all bosh.  All I can hope to do
is to put my life in some  sort of  order in a human  way, before all  human
order comes to an end. That's why I want to marry you. I should like to have
a  child. That's one  thing I can do. . . .  Let's  go  out  again. The moon
should be up by now."

     The moon was full and high. We walked  round the house; under the limes
Julia  paused and idly  snapped off one  of  the  long  shoots,  last year's
growth, that fringed  their boles, and  stripped it as  she walked, making a
switch, as children do, but with petulant movements that were not a child's,
snatching nervously  at  the leaves and crumpling them  between her fingers;
she began peeling the bark, scratching it with her nails.

     Once more we stood by the fountain.

     "It's like the setting of a comedy," I said. "Scene: a baroque fountain
in  a  nobleman's  grounds.  Act  One, Sunset;  Act  Two, Dusk;  Act  Three,
Moonlight. The characters keep assembling at  the fountain for no very clear
reason."

     "Comedy?"

     "Drama. Tragedy.  Farce.  What you  will. This  is  the  reconciliation
scene."

     "Was there a quarrel?"

     "Estrangement and misunderstanding in Act Two."

     "Oh,  don't talk  in  that  damned bounderish  way. Why  must  you  see
everything secondhand? Why must this be a play? Why  must my conscience be a
Pre-Raphaelite picture?"

     "It's a way I have."

     "I hate it."

     Her anger was as  unexpected as every change on  this  evening of swift
veering moods. Suddenly  she  cut me  across  the face  with  her switch,  a
vicious, stinging little blow as hard as she could strike.

     "Now do you see how I hate it?"

     She hit me again.

     "All right," I said, "go on."

     Then,  though  her  hand  was  raised, she  stopped  and  threw  |  the
half-peeled wand  into  the water, where  it floated white and  black in the
moonlight.

     "Did that hurt?"

     "Yes."

     "Did it? ... Did I?"

     In the instant her rage was gone; her tears, newly flowing, were  on my
cheek. I held her at arm's length and  she  put  down  her head, stroking my
hand on her shoulder with her face, catlike,  but,  unlike a cat, leaving  a
tear there.

     "Cat on the roof-top," I said.

     "Beast!"

     She bit at my hand, but when  I did not  move it and her  teeth touched
me, she changed the bite to a kiss, the kiss to a lick of her tongue.

     "Cat in the moonlight."

     This  was the mood I knew. We turned towards the house. When we came to
the lighted hall she said:  "Your poor  face," touching  the weals with  her
fingers. "Will there be a mark to-morrow?"

     "I expect so."

     "Charles, am I going crazy? What's happened to-night? I'm so tired."

     She yawned; a fit of  yawning  took her. She sat at her dressing-table,
head bowed, hair over her face, yawning helplessly; when she looked up I saw
over her shoulder in  the glass a face that was dazed with weariness like  a
retreating soldier's, and beside it my own, streaked with two crimson lines.

     "So  tired,"  she repeated,  taking off her  gold tunic and letting, it
fall to the floor, "tired and crazy and good for nothing."

     I saw her to bed; the blue lids fell over her eyes; her pale lips moved
on the pillow, but whether to  wish me good-night or to murmur a prayer -- a
jingle  of  the  nursery  that  came to her now in the twilit world  between
sorrow  and  sleep;  some ancient  pious  rhyme that had come down to  Nanny
Hawkins from  centuries of  bedtime  whispering, through all the changes  of
language, from the days  of pack-horses on the Pilgrim's  Way  -- I did  not
know.

     Next night Rex and his political associates were with us.

     "They won't fight."

     "They can't fight. They haven't the money; they haven't the oil."

     "They haven't the wolfram; they haven't the men."

     "They haven't the guts."

     "They're afraid."

     "Scared of the  French; scared of  the Czechs; scared  of  the Slovaks;
scared of us." '

     "It's a bluff."

     "Of  course  it's  a  bluff.  Where's  their  tungsten?  Where's  their
manganese?"

     "Where's their chrome?"

     "I'll tell you a thing . . ."

     "Listen to this; it'll be good; Rex will tell you a thing."

     "...  Friend of mine motoring in the Black Forest,  only the other day,
just came back and told me about it while  we  played a round of golf. Well,
this friend  driving along, turned  down a lane  into the  high  road.  What
should he find but a military convoy? Couldn't  stop, drove  right into  it,
smack into  a tank, broadside-on. Gave himself  up for dead.  . . . Hold on,
this is the funny part."

     "This is the funny part."

     "Drove clean through  it, didn't scratch his  paint. What do you think?
It was made of canvas -- a bamboo frame and painted canvas."

     "They haven't the steel."

     "They  haven't  the  tools.  They  haven't  the  labour.  They're  half
starving. They haven't the fats. The children have rickets."

     "The women are barren."

     "The men are impotent."

     "They haven't the doctors."

     "The doctors were Jewish."

     "Now they've got consumption."

     "Now they've got syphilis."

     "Goering told a friend of mine . . ."

     "Goebbels told a friend of mine . . ."

     "Ribbentrop told me that the army just kept Hitler in power, so long as
he was able to get things for nothing.  The moment anyone  stands up to him,
he's finished. The army will shoot him."

     "The liberals will hang him."

     "The Communists will tear him limb from limb."

     "He'll scupper himself."

     "He'd do it now if it wasn't for Chamberlain."

     "If it wasn't for Halifax."

     "If it wasn't for Sir Samuel Hoare."

     "And the 1920 Committee."

     "Peace Pledge."

     "Foreign Office."

     "New York banks."

     "All that's wanted is a good strong line."

     "A line from Rex."

     "And a line from me."

     "We'll give Europe a good strong line. Europe is waiting for | a speech
from' Rex."

     "And a speech from me."

     "And a speech from me. Rally the freedom-loving peoples of 'the  world.
Germany will rise; Austria will rise. The  Czechs and  the Slovaks are bound
to rise."

     "To a speech from Rex and a speech from me."

     "What about a rubber? How about a whiskey? Which of you chaps will have
a big cigar? Hullo, you two going out?"

     "Yes, Rex," said Julia. "Charles and I are going into the moon-light."

     We shut the windows behind us and the  voices ceased; the moonlight lay
like  hoar-frost on the terrace  and the music of the fountain  crept in our
ears; the  stone balustrade of the terrace might have been the Trojan walls,
and in  the silent park might have stood the Grecian tents where Cressid lay
that night.

     "A few days, a few months."

     "No time to be lost."

     "A lifetime between  the rising of the mooii  and its setting. Then the
dark."


     Chapter Four

     "and of course Celia will have custody of the children."

     "Of course."

     "Then what about the Old Rectory? I don't imagine you'll want to settle
down with Julia bang  at our gates.  The children look on it as their  home,
you  know.  Robin's got no place of  his own till his uncle dies. After all,
you never used the studio, did you? Robin was saying only the other day what
a good playroom it would make--big enough for badminton."

     "Robin can have the Old Rectory."

     "Now with  regard to money, Celia and  Robin  naturally  don't want  to
accept anything  for themselves, but there's the question of  the children's
education."

     "That will be all right. I'll see the lawyers about it."

     "Well, I think that's everything," said Mulcaster. "You know, I've seen
a few divorces  in my time, and I've never known one work out so happily for
all concerned. Almost  always, however  matey people are at  the start,  bad
blood crops up when they get down to detail. Mind you, I don't miricl saying
there have been times in the last two years when I thought you were treating
Celia a  bit rough. It's hard to tell with one's own sister, but I've always
thought her a jolly attractive girl, the sort of girl any chap would be glad
to have--artistic, too,  just down your street.  But I  must admit you're  a
good picker.  I've always had a soft  spot for Julia. Anyway, as things have
turned out everyone seems satisfied. Robin's been mad about Celia for a year
or more. D'you know him?"

     "Vaguely.  A  half-baked, pimply  youth  as  I  remember him."  "Oh,  I
wouldn't  quite say that. He's rather young, of  course, but the great thing
is  that  Johnjohn and Caroline adore him. You've got two grand kids  there,
Charles. Remember me to Julia; wish her all the best for old time's sake."


     "So  you're  being  divorced,"  said  my  father.  "Isn't  that  rather
unnecessary, after you've been happy together all these years?"

     "We weren't particularly happy, you know."

     "Weren't you? Were you not? I distinctly remember last Christmas seeing
you together  and thinking how  happy you looked, and wondering  why. You'll
find  it  very  disturbing,  you  know,  starting  off  again.  How  old are
you--thirty-four? That's  no age to  be starting. You ought  to be  settling
down. Have you made any plans?"

     "Yes. I'm marrying again as soon as the divorce is through."

     "Well, I do call that a lot of nonsense. I can understand a man wishing
he hadn't married and  trying  to  get  out of it  -- though  I  never  felt
anything of the kind myself --  but to get rid of one wife  and take up with
another immediately  is beyond all reason.  Celia was always perfectly civil
to me. I had quite a liking for her, in a way. If you couldn't be happy with
her, why on  earth should you  expect to be happy  with anyone else? Take my
advice, my dear boy, and give up the whole idea."

     "Why bring Julia and me into this?" asked Rex. "If Celia wants to marry
again, well and good; let her. That's  your business and  hers. But I should
have thought Julia and I were quite happy as we are. You can't say I've been
difficult. Lots of chaps would have cut  up nasty. I  hope I'm a man  of the
world. I've had my own fish to fry, too. But a  divorce is a different thing
altogether; I've never known a divorce do anyone any good."

     "That's your affair and Julia's."

     "Oh, Julia's set on it. What I hoped was, you might be able to talk her
round.  I've tried to keep out of the  way as much as I could; if I've  been
around too much,  just tell me, I shan't mind. But there's too much going on
altogether  at the moment,  what with Bridey wanting me  to clear out of the
house; it's disturbing, and I've got a lot on my mind."

     Rex's public life was approaching a climacteric. Things had not gone as
smoothly with him as he had planned. I knew nothing of finance,  but I heard
it  said  that his dealings were badly looked on by orthodox  conservatives;
even  his  good qualities  of geniality and impetuosity counted against him,
for his parties at  Brideshead got  talked about. There was always too  much
about him in the papers; he was one with the press lords and their sad-eyed,
smiling hangers-on; in his speeches he said the sort of thing  which "made a
story" in Fleet Street, and that did him no good with his party chiefs; only
war could put Rex's fortunes right and carry him into power. A divorce would
do Him no harm  with these cronies; it  was  rather that  with  a  big  bank
running he could not look up from the table.

     "If  Julia insists on a divorce, I  suppose she must have it," he said.
"But she couldn't have chosen  a  worse  time.  Tell her to  hang  on a bit,
Charles, there's a good fellow."

     "Bridey's  widow  said:  'So  you're  divorcing  one divorced  man  and
marrying another. It sounds rather complicated, but  my dear' --  she called
me 'my dear' about twenty times -- 'I've usually found every Catholic family
has one lapsed member, and it's often the nicest.'"

     Julia had just returned from  a luncheon party given by Lady Rosscommon
in honour of Brideshead's engagement.

     "What's she like?"

     "Majestic and voluptuous; common, of  course; might be Irish  or Jewish
or both; husky voice, big mouth, small eyes, dyed  hair -- I'll tell you one
thing,  she's lied to Bridey about her age. She's a good forty-five. I don't
see  her providing  an heir. Bridey  can't take his eyes  off  her.  He  was
gloating on her in the most revolting way all through luncheon."

     "Friendly?"

     "Goodness, yes, in a condescending way. You see, I imagine 1 she's been
used  to  bossing  things  rather in  naval circles,  with  flag-lieutenants
trotting round  and young officers-on-the-make sucking up to her.  Well, she
clearly couldn't do  a great  deal of bossing at Aunt Fanny's, so it put her
rather at ease to have me there as the black  sheep. She concentrated on me,
in fact; asked my advice about shops and things; said, rather pointedly, she
hoped to see me  often in London.  I think Bridey's scruples only extend  to
her sleeping under the same roof with me. Apparently I can do her no serious
harm in a hat-shop or hairdresser's ' or lunching at the Ritz. The  scruples
are all on Bridey's part, anyway; the widow is madly tough."

     "Does she boss him?"

     "Not yet,  much.  He's  in an amorous  stupor, poor beast,  and doesn't
quite know where  he is. She's just a good-hearted  woman who wants  a  good
home for her children and isn't going to let anything get in her way.  She's
playing up the religious stuff at j the moment for all it's worth. I daresay
she'll ease up a bit when she's settled."


     The divorces were much talked of among our friends; even in that summer
of general  alarm  there were still corners where  private affairs commanded
first attention. My wife was able to put it across  that  the business was a
matter of congratulation for her and reproach for me; that  she had  behaved
wonderfully, had stood it longer  than anyone but she would have done; Robin
was seven years younger and a little immature for his age, they whispered in
their  private  corners,  but he was  absolutely  devoted to poor Celia, and
really  she deserved it after all she had been through. As for Julia and me,
that was an old story. "To put it crudely," said my cousin Jasper, as though
he had ever in his life put anything otherwise:  "I don't see why you bother
to marry."

     Summer passed; delirious crowds  cheered  Neville Chamberlain's  return
from Munich;  Rex made a rabid  speech in the House of Commons which  sealed
his fate one way  or the other; sealed it, as is  sometimes done  with naval
orders, to be opened later at sea. Julia's family lawyers,  whose black, tin
boxes, painted  marquis of marchmain, seemed to fill a room,  began the slow
process of her divorce; my  own,  brisker firm, two  doors down,  were weeks
ahead  with my affairs.  It was  necessary  for  Rex and  Julia  to separate
formally, and since, for the  time being, Brideshead was still her home, she
remained there and  Rex  removed  his trunks and  valet  to their  house  in
London. Evidence was taken against Julia and me in my flat. A date was fixed
for  Brideshead's  wedding, early  in  the Christmas holidays, so  that  his
future stepchildren might take part.
     One  afternoon  in  November Julia  and  I stood  at  a  window in  the
drawing-room watching  the wind at work stripping  the  lime-trees, sweeping
down the yellow leaves, sweeping them up and round and along the terrace and
lawns, trailing them through puddles and over the wet grass, pasting them on
walls and window-panes, leaving  them at length in sodden  piles against the
stonework.

     "We shan't see them in spring," said Julia; "perhaps never again."

     "Once before," I said, "I went away, thinking I should never return."

     "Perhaps years later, to what's left of it, with what's left of us ..."

     A  door  opened  and  shut  in  the darkling  room  behind  us.  Wilcox
approached through the firelight into the dusk about the long windows.

     "A telephone message, my lady, from Lady Cordelia."

     "Lady Cordelia! Where was she?"

     "In London, my lady."

     "Wilcox, how lovely! Is she coming home?"

     "She was just starting for the station. She will be here after dinner."

     "I haven't seen her for twelve years," I said -- not since  the evening
when  we dined together and she  spoke  of being a  nun; the evening when  I
painted the drawing-room at Marchmain House.

     "She was an enchanting child."

     "She's  had  an  odd  life. First, the  convent; then, when that was no
good, the war in  Spain. I've  not seen  her since then. The other girls who
went with  the ambulance came back  when the  war was over;  she  stayed on,
getting people  back  to their homes,  helping in  the prison camps. An  odd
girl. She's grown up quite plain, you know."

     "Does she know about us?"

     "Yes, she wrote me a sweet letter."

     It hurt to think  of Cordelia  growing up quite plain; to  think of all
that burning love spending itself on serum  injections and delousing powder.
When  she arrived,  tired from  her  journey,  rather  shabby, moving in the
manner  of one who has no interest in pleasing, I thought her an ugly woman.
It  was  odd,  I  thought, how  the same ingredients, differently dispensed,
could produce  Brideshead,  Sebastian, Julia and her. She  was  unmistakably
their  sister,  without  any  of  Julia's  or  Sebastian's  grace,   without
Brideshead's  gravity. She seemed  brisk and matter-of-fact,  steeped in the
atmosphere of camp and dressing station, so accustomed to gross suffering as
to lose the finer shades of  pleasure.  She looked more  than her twenty-six
years;  hard  living  had roughened her;  constant  intercourse in a foreign
tongue had  worn  away the nuances of speech; she straddled a little  as she
sat by the fire, and when she said, "It's wonderful  to be home," it sounded
to my ears like the grunt of an animal returning to its basket.

     Those  were  the impressions of the first half-hour, sharpened  by  the
contrast  with  Julia's white  skin and silk and  jewelled hair  and with my
memories of her as a child.

     "My job's over in Spain," she  said; "the authorities were very polite,
thanked me for all I'd done,  gave me a medal and sent  me packing. It looks
as though there'll be plenty of the same sort of work over here soon."

     Then she said: "Is it too late to see Nanny?"

     "No, she sits up to all hours with her wireless." We went up, all three
together,  to  the old  nursery. Julia and  I  always spent part of our  day
there. Nanny Hawkins and my father were two people who  seemed impervious to
change; neither  an  hour older than when  I first knew them. A wireless set
had now been  added  to  Nanny  Hawkins's small assembly  of  pleasures--the
rosary,  the Peerage with its neat brown-paper wrapping protecting  the  red
and gold covers, the photographs and holiday souvenirs -- on her table. When
we broke it to her  that Julia and I  were to be married,  she  said, "Well,
dear, I hope it's all for the best," for it  was not part of her religion to
question the propriety of Julia's actions.

     Brideshead had never been a favourite with her; she greeted the news of
his engagement with "He's certainly taken long enough to  make up his mind,"
and, when  the  search through  Debrett afforded  no  information about Mrs.
Muspratt's connections: "She's caught him, I daresay."
     We found  her, as  always  in the evening,  at the  fireside  with  her
teapot, and the wool rug she was making.

     "I knew  you'd  be up," she said. "Mr.  Wilcox sent to tell me you were
coming."

     "I brought you some lace."

     "Well, dear, that is nice.  Just like her poor Ladyship used to wear at
mass. Though why they  made it black I never did understand, seeing lace  is
white naturally. That is very welcome, I'm sure."

     "May I turn off the wireless, Nanny?"

     "Why,  of course; I didn't notice it was  still  on, in the pleasure of
seeing you. What have you done to your hair?"

     "I know  it's terrible. I  must  get all that put right  now  I'm back.
Darling Nanny."

     As we sat there talking, and I saw Cordelia's fond eyes on all of us, I
began to realize that she, too, had a beauty of her own.

     "I saw Sebastian last month."

     "What a time he's been gone! Was he quite well?"

     "Not very. That's  why  I went. It's quite near you know  from Spain to
Tunis. He's with the monks there."

     "I hope they look after him properly. I expect they find him a  regular
handful. He always sends to me at Christmas, but it's not the same as having
him home.  Why you must all always be going abroad  I  never did understand.
Just  like his  Lordship. When there was that talk  about going to  war with
Munich, I said  to  myself, there's Cordelia and Sebastian and  his Lordship
all abroad; that'll be very awkward for them."

     "I wanted him  to  come home with me, but he wouldn't. He's  got  beard
now, you know, and he's very religions."

     "That  I won't believe, not even if I see it. He  was  always a  little
heathen. Brideshead  was  one  for church, not  Sebastian. And a beard, only
fancy; such a nice fair skin as he had; always looked clean  though he'd not
been near water all  day, while Brideshead there  was no doing anything with
scrub as you might."

     "It's frightening," Julia once said, "to think how  completely you have
forgotten Sebastian."

     "He was the forerunner."

     "That's what  you said in the storm.  I've thought  since: perhaps I am
only a forerunner, too."

     Perhaps, I thought,  while  her words still hung in the  air between us
like a  wisp of  tobacco smoke -- a thought to  fade and  vanish  like smoke
without a  trace -- perhaps  all our loves  are merely hints  and symbols; a
hill of many invisible  crests; doors that open as in a dream to reveal only
a further  stretch  of  carpet and another door; perhaps you and I are types
and   this   sadness   which  sometimes  falls  between  us   springs   from
disappointment in our search, each straining  through and beyond the  other,
snatching a glimpse now and then of the shadow which turns the corner always
a pace or two ahead of us.

     I had not forgotten Sebastian. He was with me daily in Julia; or rather
it was Julia I had known in him, in those distant, Arcadian days.

     "That's  cold comfort for  a girl," she said when I  tried  to explain.
"How  do I know I shan't suddenly turn out to be somebody else? It's an easy
way to chuck."

     I had not forgotten Sebastian; every stone of the house had a memory of
him, and  when I heard him spoken of by Cordelia as someone she  had  seen a
month  ago,  my lost friend filled  my thoughts. When we left the nursery, I
said, "I want to hear all about Sebastian."

     "To-morrow. It's a long story."

     And next day, walking through the wind-swept park, she told me: --

     "I  heard he was dying," she  said.  "A  journalist  in Burgos told me,
who'd just arrived  from North Africa.  A  down-and-out  called  Flyte,  who
people  said was an English lord, whom the fathers had  found  starving  and
taken in at a monastery near Carthage.  That was how the story reached me. I
knew it couldn't be quite true--however  little we  did for Sebastian, he at
least got his money sent him--but I started off at once.

     "It was all quite easy. I went to the consulate first and they knew all
about  him;  he was in  the infirmary of the  head house  of some missionary
fathers. The  consul's story was that Sebastian had turned up in  Tunis  one
day, some weeks before, in  a motor bus from Algiers,  and had applied to be
taken on as a missionary lay brother. The fathers took one look  at him  and
turned him down.  Then he started  drinking. He lived in a little.' hotel on
the  edge of the Arab quarter. I went to see the place  later; it was a  bar
with a  few rooms  over it, kept  by a Greek, smelling of hot oil and garlic
and stale wine and old clothes, a place where the small Greek  traders  came
and  played  draughts and listened to the wireless. He stayed there  a month
drinking Greek absinthe, occasionally wandering out, they didn't know where,
coming back and drinking again. They were afraid he j would come to harm and
followed him sometimes, but he only went to the church or took a car to  the
monastery outside the town. They loved him there. He's still loved, you see,
wherever he goes, whatever condition  he's  in. It's a thing about him he'll
never lose. You should have heard the proprietor and his family talk of him,
tears running down  their cheeks; they'd  clearly robbed him right and left,
but they'd looked after him and tried j  to make him eat'his meals. That was
the thing that shocked  them about  him:  that he wouldn't eat; there he was
with all that money, so thin. Some of the clients of the place came in while
we were talking in very peculiar French; they all had the same story: such a
good man, they  said, it  made them unhappy to sec him so low.  They thought
very ill of  his family for  leaving  him like that; it couldn't happen with
their people, they said, and I daresay they're right.

     "Anyway,  that  was  later; after the consulate I went straight  to the
monastery and saw the Superior.  He was a grim old Dutch  man  who had spent
fifty  years in Central  Africa.  He told  me  his  part of  the story;  how
Sebastian had turned up,  just  as the consul said,  with  his  beard  and a
suitcase, and asked to be admitted as a lay brother. 'He was  very earnest,'
the Superior  said -- Cordelia imitated his guttural  tones; she  had had an
aptitude for  mimicry, I remembered, in  the schoolroom -- "  'please do not
think there is any doubt  of that -- he is  quite sane and quite in earnest.
He wanted to go to the bush, as far away as he could get, among the simplest
people,  to the cannibals.  The  Superior said: 'We have no cannibals in our
missions.'  He  said, well, pygmies  would do, or  just  a primitive village
somewhere on a  river;  or  lepers--lepers would do  best of  anything.  The
Superior  said: 'We have plenty  of lepers, but they live in our settlements
with doctors and nuns.  It is all very  orderly.' He thought again, and said
perhaps lepers were not what he wanted, was there not some small church by a
river -- he  always wanted  a river you see --which he could look after when
the priest was away. The Superior said;  'Yes, there are  such churches. Now
tell me  about,  yourself.' 'Oh,  I'm nothing,' he said. 'We see  some queer
fish'" -- Cordelia lapsed again into mimicry; " 'he was a queer fish, but he
was  very  earnest.'  The Superior  told  him  about  the novitiate  and the
training and said: 'You are not a young man. You do  not seem strong to me.'
He  said: 'No,  I don't want to be trained. I don't want  to do things  that
need  training.' The  Superior said:  'My friend, you  need a missionary for
yourself,' and he said: 'Yes, of course.' Then he sent him away.

     "Next  day he came back again.  He had  been drinking.  He said  he had
decided to become a novice and be trained. 'Well,' said the Superior, 'there
are certain things that are impossible for a man in the bush. One of them is
drinking. It is not the worst thing, but  it  is nevertheless quite fatal. I
sent him away.' Then he kept coming two or three times a week, always drunk,
until the Superior gave orders that the porter was to keep  him out. I said,
'Oh dear, I'm afraid  he  was  a  terrible  nuisance to you,' but  of course
that's a thing  they don't  understand  in a  place like that. The  Superior
simply said, 'I did  not  think there  was anything  I could  do to help him
except pray.' He was a very holy old man and recognized it in others."

     "Holiness?"

     "Oh yes, Charles, that's what you've got to understand about Sebastian.

     "Well, finally one day they found Sebastian lying outside the main gate
unconscious; he had walked out  -- usually he took a  car -- and fallen down
and lain  there all night. At first  they thought he was merely drunk again;
then they  realized he was very ill, so they put him in the infirmary, where
he'd been ever since.

     "I stayed  a  fortnight with him till  he  was over the  worst  of  his
illness. He looked terrible, any  age, rather bald  with a straggling beard,
but he had his old sweet manner. They'd given him a room to himself; it  was
barely more than a monk's cell with a bed and a crucifix and white walls. At
first he couldn't talk much and  was not at all surprised to see me; then he
was surprised and wouldn't talk much, until just before I was going, when he
told me all that had been  happening to him. It was' mostly about Kurt,  his
German  friend. Well, you  met him, so  you  know  all about that. He sounds
gruesome, but  as long as Sebastian had him to look after, he  was happy. He
told  me  he'd practically given up drinking at one time  while  he and Kurt
lived together. Kurt was ill and had  a  wound that wouldn't heal. Sebastian
saw him through that. Then they went to Greece when  Kurt got well. You know
how Germans sometimes seem to discover a sense of decency when they get to a
classical country. It  seems  to  have worked with Kurt.  Sebastian says  he
became quite human  in Athens.  Then he got sent to prison; I couldn't quite
make out why; apparently it wasn't particularly  his fault-- some brawl with
an official. Once he was locked up the German authorities got at him. It was
the  time when  they were  rounding up all their nationals from all parts of
the world to make them into Nazis. Kurt didn't at all want  to leave Greece.
But the Greeks didn't want him, and he was marched straight from prison with
a lot of other toughs into a German boat and shipped home.

     "Sebastian went after him, and for a year could find no  trace. Then in
the end he ran him to earth dressed as a storm trooper in a provincial town.
At  first  he wouldn't have anything to do with  Sebastian; spouted  all the
official jargon about the rebirth of  his country, and his belonging  to his
country and finding  t self-realization in the life of the race. But  it was
only skin-deep with him. Six years  of  Sebastian had taught him more than a
year  of  Hitler; eventually he chucked  it, admitted he hated Germany,  and
wanted to get out. I don't  know how much it was simply the call of the easy
life, sponging on Sebastian, bathing in  the Mediterranean, sitting about in
caf&, having his shoes polished. Sebastian says it wasn't entirely that;
Kurt had  just begun to grow  up in Athens. It may be he's right. Anyway, he
decided  to try and get out. But it didn't work. He  always got into trouble
whatever  he  did,  Sebastian said.  They  caught  him  and  put  him  in  a
concentration camp. Sebastian couldn't get  near  him or hear a word of him;
he couldn't even find what  camp  he was in; he hung about for nearly a year
in Germany,  drinking again, until one day in his cups he took up with a man
who was just out of the camp where  Kurt  had been, and learned that  he had
hanged himself in his hut the first week.

     "So that was the end of Europe for  Sebastian. He went back to Morocco,
where he had been happy, and gradually drifted down the coast, from place to
place,  until one day when he had sobered up -- his  drinking goes in pretty
regular bouts  now--he conceived  the idea of escaping to the  savages.  And
there he was.

     "I didn't suggest his  coming home. I knew he wouldn't,  and he was too
weak still to  argue it out. He seemed quite happy by the time I left. He'll
never  be able to go into  the bush, of course, or join  the  order, but the
Father Superior is going to take charge of him.  They had the idea of making
him a sort of under-porter; there are  usually a  few  odd  hangers-on in  a
religious house, you know; people who can't quite fit in either to the world
or the monastic rule.  I suppose I'm something of the sort myself. But  as I
don't happen to drink, I'm more employable."

     We had reached the turn in  our walk, the stone  bridge at the foot  of
the last  and  smallest  lake, under  which  the  swollen waters fell  in  a
cataract to the stream  below;  beyond  the  path doubled back  towards  the
house. We paused at the parapet looking down into the dark water.

     "I  once  had  a  governess who jumped  off  this  bridge  and  drowned
herself."

     "Yes, I know."

     "How could you know?"

     "It  was  the  first thing  I ever heard about  you---before I ever met
you."

     "How very odd. . . ."

     "Have you told Julia this about Sebastian?"

     "The substance of it; not quite as I told you. She never loved him, you
know, as we do."

     "Do" The word reproached me; there was no past tense in Cordelia's verb
"to love."

     "Poor SebastianI" I said. "It's too pitiful. How will it end?"

     "I think I can tell  you exactly, Charles. I've  seen others  like him,
and I believe they are very near  and  dear to God. He'll live on, half  in,
half out of the  community, a familiar figure pottering round with his broom
and  his  bunch of keys. He'll  be a  great favourite with the old  fathers,
something of a joke I to the novices. Everyone will know about his drinking;
he'll disappear for two or three days every month or so, and they'll all nod
and smile and  say in their  various  accents, 'Old Sebastian's on the spree
again,' and then  he'll come back  dishevelled  and  shamefaced  and be more
devout for a  day or  two in the  chapel. He'll probably have little  hiding
places about  the garden where  he keeps a  bottle and takes a  swig now and
then on the  sly. They'll  bring him forward to  act as guide, whenever they
have an  English-speaking  visitor;  and he will be completely  charming, so
that before  they go they'll ask about him and perhaps  be given a hint that
he  has high  connections  at home. If he lives  long enough, generations of
missionaries in all kinds of remote places will think of him  as a queer old
character  who  was  somehow part of the  Hope  of  their student days,  and
remember him  in  their  masses.  He'll  develop  little  eccentricities  of
devotion, intense personal cults of his own; he'll be found in the chapel at
odd times  and missed when he's expected. Then one morning, after one of his
drinking bouts, he'll be  picked up at the gate dying,  and  show by  a mere
flicker  of the eyelid  that he  is conscious  when they give  him  the last
sacraments. It's not such a bad way of getting through one's life."

     I thought of the  joyful  youth with the Teddy-bear under the flowering
chestnuts. "It's not what one would  have  foretold,"  I said. "I suppose he
doesn't suffer?"

     "Oh,  yes, I think he does. One can have no idea what the suffering may
be, to be maimed as he is -- no dignity, no  power of  will. No  one is ever
holy without  suffering. It's  taken that form with him.  . . . I've seen so
much  suffering in the last few  years; there's so much coming for everybody
soon.  It's the  spring  of love  . .  ." And  then  in  condescension to my
paganism, she added: "He's in a very  beautiful place, you know,  by the sea
--  white cloisters,  a bell tower,  rows of  green  vegetables,  and a monk
watering them when the sun is low."

     I laughed. "You knew I wouldn't understand?"

     "You and  Julia . . ."she said. And then,  as we moved on  towards  the
house, "When you met  me last night did you think, 'Poor Cordelia,  such  an
engaging child,  grown up  a  plain and pious spinster, full of good works'?
Did you think 'thwarted'?"

     It was no time  for prevarication. "Yes," I said, "I  did; I don't now,
so much."

     "It's  funny," she said,  "that's exactly the word I thought of for you
and Julia. When we were up in the  nursery with Nanny. Thwarted passion,'  I
thought."

     She spoke with that  gentle, infinitesimal inflection of mockery  which
descended to her from her mother, but later that evening the words came back
to me poignantly.

     Julia wore the embroidered  Chinese robe which  she  often used when we
were dining alone at Brideshead; it was a robe whose weight  and stiff folds
stressed her repose; her neck rose exquisitely from the plain gold circle at
her throat; her hands lay still  among  the dragons in her lap.  It was thus
that  I had  rejoiced  to see  her nights without number,  and  that  night,
watching her as she sat between the firelight and the shaded lamp, unable to
look away for love of her  beauty, I suddenly thought, When else have I seen
her  like  this?  Why am I reminded of another moment of vision? And it came
back to me that this was  how she  had sat in the liner, before  the  storm;
this  was how she had  looked; and I  realized that she  had regained what I
thought  she had  lost  for ever, the magical sadness which had drawn  me to
her, the thwarted look that  had seemed  to say, "Surely I was made for some
other purpose than this?"

     That night I woke in the darkness and lay awake turning over in my mind
the conversation  with Cordelia.  How  I had  said,  "You  knew I  would not
understand?"  How  often, it seemed to  me, I was brought  up short,  like a
horse in full stride suddenly refusing an obstacle, backing from  the spurs,
too shy even to put his nose at it and look at the thing.

     And another image came to me, of an arctic hut and a trapper alone with
his  furs and oil  lamp and log  fire; the remains of supper on the table, a
few books, skis in the corner; everything dry and neat and warm inside,  and
outside the last  blizzard of  winter raging and the snow piling up  against
the door. Quite silently a great weight forming against the timber; the bolt
straining in its socket; minute by minute in the darkness  outside the white
heap sealing  the door, until  quite soon, when the wind dropped and the sun
came out on the ice slopes  and the  thaw set in, a block would move,  slide
and tumble, high above, gather way,  gadier weight, till  the whole hillside
seemed to be falling,  and the little  lighted  place would  crash open  and
splinter and disappear, rolling with the avalanche into the ravine.


     Chapter Five

     my divorce case, or rather my wife's, was due  to be heard at about the
same time as Brideshead was  to be  married. Julia's would not come up  till
the following term;  meanwhile  the game of General Post--moving my property
from  the Old Rectory to my flat, my wife's from my flat to the Old Rectory,
Julia's from Rex's house and from Brideshead to my flat, Rex's from  Brides,
head to his  house, and Mrs. Muspratt's from Falmouth to Brides, head -- was
in full swing and we were all, in varying degrees, homeless, when a halt was
called and  Lord Marchmain,  with a  taste for  the dramatically inopportune
which was plainly the prototype of his elder son's, declared his  intention,
in view of the international  situation, of returning to England and passing
his declining years in his old home.

     The only member of the  family to whom this change promised any benefit
was Cordelia, who had  been  sadly  abandoned in  the  turmoil.  Brideshead,
indeed, had made a formal request to  her to consider his house her home for
as long as  it suited her,  but  when  she learned  that  her  sister-in-law
proposed to  install her children there for  the  holidays immediately after
the wedding,  in the charge  of a sister  of  hers and the  sister's friend,
Cordelia had decided to move, too,  and  was talking  of setting up alone in
London.  She now found  herself, Cinderella-like, promoted chatelaine, while
her brother  and  his  wife, who  had  till  that  moment  expected to  find
themselves, within a matter of days, absolute owners of the entire property,
were without  a  roof;  the deeds  of conveyance, engrossed  and  ready  for
signing,  were rolled up, tied and put away in one of the black tin boxes in
Lincoln's Inn.  It was bitter  for Mrs.  Muspratt;  she was not an ambitious
woman;  something very much less grand than  Brideshead would have contented
her heartily; but she did  aspire  to finding  some shelter for her children
over  Christmas.  The  house  at Falmouth  was  stripped  and  up for  sale;
moreover, Mrs. Muspratt  had taken leave of the place with some  justifiably
rather large talk of her new establishment; they could not return there. She
was obliged in a hurry to move her furniture from Lady Marchmain's room to a
disused coachhouse and to take a furnished villa at Torquay. She was not, as
I  have said,  a woman of high ambition, but, having had her expectations so
much raised,  it was disconcerting to be brought so low so  suddenly. In the
village the  working  party who had been  preparing  the decorations for the
bridal  entry began unpicking the B's on the  bunting and  substituting M's,
obliterating the Earl's points and stencilling  balls  and strawberry leaves
on the painted coronets, in preparation for Lord Marchmain's return.

     News of his intentions came first to the solicitors, then to, Cordelia,
then to Julia  and  me, in a rapid succession of contradictory cables.  Lord
Marchmain  would arrive in time  for the  wedding; he would arrive after the
wedding, having seen Lord and Lady Brideshead on their way through Paris; he
would see them in Rome. He was not well enough to travel at all; he was just
starting; he had unhappy memories of winter at Brideshead and would not come
until spring was  well advanced and the heating apparatus overhauled; he was
coming alone; he was bringing his Italian household; he wished his return to
be  unannounced  and to lead a life  of complete seclusion; he would give  a
ball.  At last a date in January was chosen  which proved to be  the correct
one.
     Plender preceded him by some days; there was a difficulty here. Plender
was not an original member  of the Brideshead  household;  he  had been Lord
Marchmain's servant in  the yeomanry,  and had only once met Wilcox,  on the
painful  occasion of the removal of his master's luggage when it was decided
not to return from  the war; then Plender had been valet, as, officially, he
still was, but he had in the past years introduced a kind of curate, a Swiss
body-servant, to attend to the wardrobe and also, when occasion arose,  lend
a hand with less dignified tasks about the  house, and had in  effect become
major-domo  of that fluctuating  and  mobile  household;  sometimes  he even
referred to himself on the telephone  as the  "secretary." There was an acre
of thin ice between him and Wilcox.

     Fortunately the two men took a liking to one anodier, and the thing was
solved in a series of three-cornered discussions with  Cordelia. Plender and
Wilcox became  Joint Grooms of the Chambers, like Blues and Life Guards with
equal precedence, Plender having  as his particular  province his Lordship's
own apartments, and Wilcox  a sphere of influence in the public  rooms;  the
senior footman  was given a black  coat and promoted butler, the nondescript
Swiss, on arrival,  was  to  have full  valet's  status; there was a general
increase in wages to meet the new dignities, and all were content.

     Julia and I, who had left Brideshead a month before, thinking we should
not return, moved  back for the reception. When the day came,  Cordelia went
to the station  and we remained to greet him  at home.  It  was a bleak  and
gusty day.  Cottages and  lodges were  decorated; plans  for  a bonfire that
night and for the village silver  band to play on the terrace were put down,
but the house flag that had not flown for twenty-five years was hoisted over
the  pediment, and flapped sharply against the  leaden sky.  Whatever  harsh
voices might be bawling into the microphones of Central Europe, and whatever
lathes spinning in the armament factories, the return of Lord  Marchmain was
a matter of first importance in his own neighbourhood.

     He was due at  three o'clock. Julia and  I  waited in  the drawing-room
until Wilcox, who had arranged with the station-master to  be kept informed,
announced  "The train is signalled," and  a  minute later, "The train is in;
his  Lordship is on the way." Then we  went to the front portico and  waited
there with the upper,' servants. Soon  the Rolls appeared at the turn in the
drive, followed at some distance by the two vans. It drew up; first Cordelia
got out, then Cara; there was a pause, a rug was handed to theu chauffeur, a
stick to the footman;  then  a leg was cautiously  thrust I forward. Plender
was  by now at the car door;  another servant  -- the  Swiss  valet  --  had
emerged from a van; together  they lifted jj Lord Marchmain out and  set him
on his feet;  he felt  for  his  stick grasped it,  and stood for  a  minute
collecting his strength for the I few low steps which led to the front door.

     Julia gave a little sigh of surprise and  touched my  hand. We had seen
him nine months  ago at Monte Carlo,  when  he had  j  been  an  upright and
stately figure, little changed from when I first  met him in Venice.  Now he
was an old  man.  Plender had told us  his master had been unwell lately; he
had not prepared us for j this.

     Lord  Marchmain  stood  bowed  and shrunken,  weighed down ...  by  his
great-coat, a  white muffler fluttering untidily at his throat,  a cloth cap
pulled  low  on his forehead, his face white and lined, his nose coloured by
the cold;  the tears which gathered in his  eyes came not  from  emotion but
from the east  wind;  he  breathed heavily. Cara tucked  in the end  of  his
muffler and whispered  something  to  him.  He  raised  a  gloved  hand -- a
schoolboy's glove  of  grey  wool  --  and made a  small, weary  gesture  of
greeting to the group at the door; then, very  slowly, with his eyes on thfl
ground before him, he made his way into the house.

     They took off his  coat and  cap and muffler  and  the kind of  leather
jerkin which  he wore under them; thus  stripped  he seemed  more  than ever
wasted but more elegant; he had cast the shabbiness of extreme fatigue. Cara
straightened his tie; he wiped  his  eyes  with a bandanna  handkerchief and
shuffled with' his stick to the hall fire.

     There was  a  little heraldic chair by the chimney-piece,  one of a set
which stood against the walls, a little, inhospitable,  flat-seated thing, a
mere  excuse  for the  elaborate  armorial  painting  on its back, on which,
perhaps, no one,  not even a weary footman, had ever sat  since it was made;
there Lord Marchmain sat and wiped his eyes.

     "It's the cold," he said. "I'd  forgotten  how  cold  it is in England.
Quite bowled me over."

     "Can I get you anything, my lord?"

     "Nothing, thank you. Cara, where are those confounded pills?"

     "Alex, the doctor said not more than three times a day."

     "Damn the doctor. I feel quite bowled-over."

     Cara produced a  blue bottle  from her bag  and Lord Marchmain  took  a
pill. Whatever was in it seemed to revive him.  He remained seated, his long
legs stuck out  before him, his cane  between  them, his chin on  its  ivory
handle,  but he began to  take notice of  us  all, to  greet  us and to give
orders.

     'Tm afraid I'm  not at all the thing to-day; the journey's taken it out
of  me.  Ought to  have waked a night  at Dover. Wilcox, what rooms have you
prepared for me?"

     "Your old ones, my lord."

     "Won't  do; not  till  I'm fit again.  Too many stairs; must  be on the
ground floor. Plender, get a bed made up for me downstairs."

     Plender and Wilcox exchanged an anxious glance.

     "Very good, my lord. Which room shall we put it in?"

     Lord  Marchmain thought' for a moment.  "The Chinese drawing-room; and,
Wilcox, the 'Queen's bed.'"

     "The Chinese drawing-room, my lord, the 'Queen's bed'?"

     "Yes, yes. I may be spending some time there in the next few weeks."

     The Chinese drawing-room  was one  I had never  seen  used; in fact one
could not  normally go further into  it than  a small roped area  round  the
door, where sight-seers were corralled on the days the house was open to the
public; it  was  a splendid  uninhabitable museum of Chippendale carving and
porcelain and  lacquer and painted hangings; the "Queen's  bed," too, was an
exhibition piece, a vast velvet tent like the Baldachino at St. Peter's. Had
Lord Marchmain planned this lying-in-state  for  himself, I wondered, before
he left the sunshine of Italy? Had he thought of it during the scudding rain
of his long, fretful journey? Had it come to him at that moment, an awakened
memory of childhood, a dream in the nursery -- "When I'm grown up I'll sleep
in the Queen's bed in the  Chinese drawing-room" --  the apotheosis of adult
grandeur?
     Few  things, certainly, could have caused more  stir in the house. What
had  been  foreseen  as a  day of formality became  one of  fierce exertion;
housemaids began making a  fire, removing covers,  unfolding  linen;  men in
aprons,  never  normally seen, shifted furniture; the estate carpenters were
collected  to  dismantle the bed. It came down the main staircase in pieces,
at intervals  during the  afternoon; huge sections of rococo, velvet-covered
cornice; the twisted gilt and velvet columns which formed  its  posts; beams
of  unpolished  wood,  made  not to  be  seen,  which  performed  invisible,
structural functions  below the  draperies;  plumes  of dyed feathers, which
sprang from gold-mounted ostrich eggs and  crowned the  canopy; finally, the
mattresses with four toiling men  to each. Lord Marchmain  seemed  to derive
comfort from the consequences  of his whim; he sat by the  fire watching the
bustle, while we stood in a half-circle--Cara, Cordelia," Julia and I -- and
talked to him.

     Colour came back to his cheeks and light to his eyes. "Brides-head  and
his wife dined with me  in  Rome," he said. "Since we are all members of the
family" -- and his  eye  moved  ironically from Cara  to me  -- "I can speak
without reserve. I found her deplorable. Her former  consort, I  understand,
was  a seafaring man and, presumably, the  less exacting, but how my son, at
the ripe age of thirty-eight, with, unless things have changed very  much, a
very free choice  among the women of England, can have settled on--I suppose
I must call her so--Beryl . . ." He left the sentence eloquently unfinished.

     Lord  Marchmain showed no inclination to move, so  presently we drew up
chairs -- the little  heraldic chairs, for everything else in the  hall  was
ponderous--and sat round him.

     "I daresay  I  shall not be really fit  again  until  summer comes," he
said. "I look to you four to amuse me."

     There seemed little we could do at the  moment  to lighten  the  rather
sombre mood; he, indeed,  was  the most cheerful  of us. "Tell me," he said,
"the circumstances of Brideshead's courtship."

     We told him what we knew.

     "Match-boxes,"   he   said.   "Match-boxes.   I    think   she's   past
child-bearing."

     Tea was brought us at the hall fireplace.

     "In  Italy," he said, "no one believes there will be a  war. They think
it will  all be 'arranged.' I suppose,  Julia, you no longer have access  to
political information? Cara, here,  is  fortunately  a  British  subject  by
marriage.  It is  not  a  thing  she customarily mentions, but it may  prove
valuable. She is legally Mrs. Hicks, are you not, my dear? We know little of
Hicks, but we shall be grateful  to him, none the less, if it comes  to war.
And  you," he said, turning the attack to  me, "you will no doubt  become an
official artist?"

     "No. As  a matter  of fact I am negotiating now for a commission in the
Special Reserve."

     "Oh, but you should be an artist. I had one with my squadron during the
last war, for weeks -- until we went up to the line."

     This  waspishness  was  new. I  had  always been  aware  of a frame  of
malevolence under his urbanity,  now it protruded like his  own sharp  bones
through the sunken skin.
     It  was  dark  before the  bed was finished; we  went  to  see it, Lord
Marchmain stepping quite briskly now through the intervening rooms.

     "I congratulate you. It really looks remarkably well. Wilcox, I seem to
remember  a  silver  basin and ewer--they  stood in  a  room we  called 'the
Cardinal's dressing-room,'  I think  -- suppostt we  had  them  here on  the
console. Then  if  you will send Plender and Gaston to  me, the luggage  can
wait till  to-morrow -- simply'  the  dressingose and  what I  need  for the
night.  Plender will know. If you will leave me  with Plender and  Gaston, I
will go  td '  bed. We  will meet  later;  you  will dine here  and  keep me
amused."

     We turned to go; as I was at the door he called me back.

     "It looks very well, does it not?"

     "Very well."

     "You might paint it, eh --and call it "The Death Bed'?"


     "Yes," said Cara, "he has come home to die."

     "But when he first arrived he was talking so confidently of recovery."

     "That  was because he  was so ill. When he is himself, he  knows  he is
dying and accepts  it. His sickness is up and  down; one day,  sometimes for
several days on end, he is strong and lively and then he is ready for death,
then  he is down and afraid. I  do not | know how it will be when he is more
and more down.  That must come in  good time.  The doctors in Rome gave  him
less than a year. There is someone coining from London, I think to-morrow, j
who will tell us more."

     "What is it?"

     "His heart; some long word at the heart. He is dying of a long word."

     That  evening  Lord  Marchmain  was  in good spirits; the room I had  a
Hogarthian  aspect, with the  dinner-table set for  the four  of us  by  the
grotesque,  chinoiserie chimney-piece,  and the old  j man propped among his
pillows, sipping  champagne,  tasting,'  praising, and failing  to  eat  the
succession of dishes which  had been prepared for his homecoming. Wilcox had
brought out for the occasion the gold plate, which I had  not before seen in
use; that and the gilt mirrors and the lacquer  and the drapery of the great
bed and  Julia's  mandarin  coat gave  the  scene  an  air  of pantomime, of
Aladdin's cave.

     Just at the end, when the time came for us to go, his spirits flagged.

     "I shall not  sleep," he said. "Who  is  going to  sit  with  me? Cara,
carissima,  you are fatigued. Cordelia, will you  watch for an hour  in this
Gethsemane?"

     Next morning I asked her how the night had passed.

     "He went to sleep almost at once. I came in to  see  him at two to make
up the fire; the lights were on, but he was asleep again. He must have woken
up and turned them on; he had to get out of bed to. do that. I think perhaps
he is afraid of the dark."

     It was natural, with her hospital experience, that Cordelia should take
charge  of  her  father. When  the  doctors  came  that day they  gave their
instructions to her, instinctively.

     "Until he gets worse,"  she said,  "I and the valet can look after him.
We don't want nurses in the house before they are needed." At this stage the
doctors  had  nothing  to  recommend  except to  keep  him  comfortable  and
administer certain drugs when his attacks came on. "How long will it be?"

     "Lady Cordelia, there are men walking  about  in  hearty old  age  whom
their doctors gave a  week  to live.  I have learned one thing in  medicine:
never prophesy."

     These  two  men had  made  a long  journey  to tell her this; the local
doctor was there to accept the same advice in technical phrases.

     That   night   Lord  Marchmain  reverted  to   the  topic  of  his  new
daughter-in-law; it had never  been long out of his mind, finding expression
in various sly hints throughout the day; now he lay  back in his pillows and
talked of her at length.

     "I have never been much moved by family piety until now," he said, "but
I am frankly appalled at the prospect of--  of Beryl taking what was once my
mother's place in this house. Why
     should  that uncouth pair sit here childless while  the place  crumbles
about their ears? I will not disguise from you that I have take a dislike to
Beryl.

     "Perhaps  it was unfortunate that we  met in Rome. Anywhere  else might
have  been more sympathetic. And yet, if one comes  to  consider  it,  where
could I  have met  her without repugnance? We  dined  at Ranieri's;  it is a
quiet  little restaurant I have fire  quented for years -- no doubt you know
it. Beryl seemed  to fill the place. I, of course,  was host, though to hear
Beryl press my son with food, you  might have thought otherwise.  Brideshead
was always a greedy boy; a wife who has  his best interests at  heart should
seek to restrain him. However, that is a matter ol small importance.

     "She had  no doubt  heard of me as a man of irregular  life. I can only
describe  her manner  to me as  roguish. A naughty  old man, that's what she
thought I was. I suppose she  had met naughty old admirals and knew how they
should  be humoured; a stage-door  chappie,  a bit of a lad ... I could  not
attempt to reproduce her conversation. I will give you one example.

     "They had been to  an audience at  the Vatican that morning; a blessing
for their marriage -- I did not follow attentively ---something  of the kind
had happened before  I gathered, some previous husband,  some previous Pope.
She described, rather vivaciously, how on this earlier occasion she had gone
with  a whole  body  of newly married couples, mostly Italians of all ranks,
some  of  the simpler  girls in their  wedding  dresses,  and  how each  had
appraised  the other, the  bridegrooms  looking  the brides over,  comparing
their own with one another's, and so  fordi. Then  she  said, 'This time, of
course,  we were  in  private,  but do you know,  Lord Marchmain,  I felt as
though it was I who was leading in the bride.'

     "It was said with  great indelicacy. I have not  yet quite fathomed her
meaning. Was she making  a play on my son's name, or  was she, do you think,
referring  to  his undoubted virginity?  I fancy the  latter. Anyway, it was
with pleasantries of that kind that we passed the evening.

     "I don't think she  would be quite in her proper  element here, do you?
Who shall I leave k to? The entail ended with me, you know. Sebastian, alas,
is out of  the question. Who wants it? Quis? Would you like it, Cara? No, of
course  you would  not.  Cordelia? I think I  shall leave  it  to Julia  and
Charles."

     "Of course not, Papa, it's Bridey's."

     "And . . . Beryl's? I will have Gregson down one day  soon  and go over
the matter. It is time I brought my will up to date; it is full of anomalies
and anachronisms. ... I have rather a fancy for the idea of installing Julia
here; so beautiful  this  evening,  my dear; so beautiful always; much, much
more suitable."

     Shortly after this he sent to London for his solicitor, but, on the day
he came, Lord  Marchmain was suffering from an attack and would not see him.
"Plenty of time," he said,  between painful gasps for breath, "another  day,
when I am stronger," but the  choice of his heir was constantly in his mind,
and he referred often to the time when Julia  and I should be married and in
possession.
     "Do you think he really means to leave it to us?" I asked Julia.

     "Yes, I think he does.'

     "But it's monstrous for Bridey."

     "Is it? I don't think  he cares much for the  place. I do, you know. He
and Beryl would be much more content in some little house somewhere."

     "You mean to accept it?"

     "Certainly. It's Papa's to leave as he likes. I think you  and I  would
be very happy here."

     It  opened a prospect;  the  prospect one  gained at  the  turn of  the
avenue,  as I had first  seen it with Sebastian, of the secluded valley, the
lakes falling away one below the other, the old house in the foreground, the
rest  of the world abandoned and forgotten; a world of  its own of peace and
love  and beauty;  a soldier's dream  in a foreign  bivouac; such a prospect
perhaps as  a hig pinnacle  of the temple afforded after the hungry  days in
desert and the jackal-haunted nights.  Need I reproach myself if sometimes I
was rapt in the vision?

     The weeks of illness wore on and  the  life of the house kept pace with
the faltering strength of the sick man.  There days when  Lord Marchmain was
dressed, when he stood at the window or moved  on  his valet's arm from fire
to  fire  through  if the rooms of the ground floor, when  visitors came and
went --  neighbours and people  from the estate, men of business from London
-- parcels of new  books were  opened and discussed,  a piano moved into the
Chinese drawing-room; once at the end of February, on a  single,  unexpected
day of brilliant sunshine, he  called for  a car and got as far as the hall,
had  on his fur  coat and  reached  the  front door.  Then suddenly  he lost
interest  in  the drive, said, "Not now. Later. One day in the summer," took
his man's arm again and was led back to his chair. Once ho had the humour of
changing  his room and  gave  detailed  orders  for  a  move to the  Painted
Parlour; the  chinoiserie, he said disturbed his  rest -- he kept the lights
full on at night -- but again lost heart, countermanded everything, and kept
his room.

     On other days the house was hushed as he sat high in  bed,]' propped by
his pillows, with labouring breath;  even then Wanted  to have us round him;
night or day he could not bead to be alone; when he could not speak his eyes
followed us, and  ii| anyone  left  the  room he would  look distressed, and
Cara, sitting I  often for hours at  a time by his side  against the pillows
with  atilj  arm .in his,  would  say, "It's all right, Alex,  she's  coming
back."

     Brideshead and his wife returned  from their honeymoon and stayed a few
nights; it was one of the bad times, and Lord Marchmain refused to have them
near him. It was Beryl's first  visit, and she would  have been unnatural if
she had  shown  no" curiosity  about  what had  nearly been,  and now  again
promised  soon to be, her home. Beryl was natural  enough,  and surveyed the
place fairly thoroughly  in the days she was there. In the  strange disorder
caused  by  Lord  Marchmain's illness, it must have seemed  capable of  much
improvement; she referred once or twice to  the  way in which establishments
of similar  size had  been managed  at  various  Government  Houses  she had
visited. Brideshead took her visiting among the  tenants by day,  and in the
evenings she talked to me of painting,  or to Cordelia  of hospitals,  or to
Julia  of clothes, with  cheerful assurance.  The  shadow of  betrayal,  the
knowledge of how precarious were their just expectations, was all one-sided.
I was not easy with  them;  but that was no new thing to Brideshead;  in the
little  circle  of shyness in which he  was  used to  move, my guilt  passed
unseen.
     Eventually it  became clear  that Lord Marchmain did not  intend to see
more  of them.  Brideshead was admitted alone for a  minute's  leave-taking;
then they left.

     "There's  nothing  we  can do here,"  said  Brideshead,  "and it's very
distressing for Beryl. We'll come back if things get worse."

     The bad spells became longer and more frequent; a nurse was engaged. "I
never saw such a room," she said, "nothing like it anywhere; no conveniences
of any sort." She tried to have  her patient moved upstairs, where there was
running  water,  a dressing-room  for herself, a  "sensible" narrow bed  she
could  "get round"  --what she  was  used to--but  Lord Marchmain would  not
budge. Soon, as days  and  nights became  indistinguishable to him, a second
nurse   was  installed;  the  specialists  came  again   from  London;  they
recommended a new and rather daring  treatment, but his body seemed weary of
all drugs and  did not  respond. Presently there were no good spells, merely
brief fluctuations in the speed of his decline.

     Brideshead was called. It was the Easter  holidays  and  Beryl was busy
with her children. He came alone, and haying stood silently for some minutes
beside his  father, who sat  silently looking at  him, he left the room and,
joining the  rest of  us who wertfj in the  library,  said, "Papa must see a
priest."

     It was not the first  time  the topic had  come  up. In the early days,
when Lord Marchmain  first  arrived, the parish priest-since the chapel  was
shut there was a new church and presbytery in Melstead  -- had come to  call
as a  matter of politeness. Cordelia' I had put  him off with apologies  and
excuses,  but when he was  gone she said: "Not  yet. Papa  doesn't  want him
yet."

     Julia, Cara and I were there at the time; we each had something to say,
began to speak, and thought better of it. It was never mentioned between the
four of us,  but Julia,  alone with me, said,  "Charles,  I see great Church
trouble ahead."

     "Can't they even let him die in peace?"

     "They mean something so different by 'peace.'"

     "It would  be  an  outrage. No one could have made it clearer, all  his
life,  what  he  thought  of  religion.  They'll come now, when  his  mind's
wandering  and he  hasn't  the  strength  to resist, and I  claim  him  as a
death-bed penitent. I've had a certain respect for their Church up till now.
If they do a thing like that I shall know that everything stupid  people say
about them is quite true -- that it's all superstition and trickery."  Julia
said nothing. "Don't you agree?" Still Julia said nothing.

     "Don't you agree?"

     "I don't know, Charles. I simply don't know."

     And, though none of us spoke of it, I felt  the question  ever present,
growing  through  all  the weeks of  Lord Marchmain's illness; I saw it when
Cordelia drove  off early in the mornings to mass; I  saw it as Cara took to
going with her; this little cloud the size of a man's hand,  that was  going
to swell into a storm among us.

     Now Brideshead,  in his heavy, ruthless  way, planted the problem  down
before us.

     "Oh, Bridey, do you think he would?" asked Cordelia.

     "I  shall  see  that he does," said  Brideshead.  "I  shall take Father
Mackay in to him to-morrow."

     Still the clouds gathered and did not break; none of us spoke. Cara and
Cordelia went  back to  the sick-room; Brideshead looked for  a book,  found
one, and left us.

     "Julia," I said, "how can we stop this tomfoolery?"

     She did not answer for some time; then: "Why should we?"

     "You know as well as I do. It's just--just an unseemly incident"

     "Who am I to object to unseemly  incidents?"  she asked sadly. "Anyway,
what harm can it do? Let's ask the doctor."

     We asked the doctor, who said: "It's hard to say. It might alarm him of
course; on the other hand, I have known cases where it has had a wonderfully
soothing  effect  on  a  patient;  I've even  known  it act  as  a  positive
stimulant. It certainly is usually a great comfort to the  relations. Really
I think it's a thing  for  Lord Brideshead to decide.  Mind you, there is no
need for immediate  anxiety. Lord Marchmain is very weak to-day; tomorrow he
may be quite strong again. Is it not usual to wait a little?"

     "Well, he wasn't much help," I said to Julia, when we left him.

     "Help? I really can't quite see  why  you've taken  it so much at heart
that my father shall not have the last sacraments."

     "It's such a lot of witchcraft and hypocrisy."

     "Is it?  Anyway, it's  been going on for nearly two  thousand years.  I
don't know why you  should suddenly get in a rage now." Her voice  rose; she
was swift to anger of  late months.  "For Christ's sake, write to The Times;
get up  and make a speech in Hyde Park;  start a 'No Popery' riot--but don't
bore me about it. What's it got to do with  you or me whether my father sees
his parish priest?"

     I knew these fierce moods of Julia's, such as had  overtaken her at the
fountain in  moonlight, and dimly surmised  their origin; I knew  they could
not be assuaged by  words. Nor could I  have spoken, for the answer  to  her
question was still unformed,  but lay in a pocket of my  mind, like sea-mist
in a dip  of the sand dunes; the cloudy sense that the  fate of  more  souls
than one was at issue; that  the snow was beginning to  shift  on  the  high
slopes.

     Brideshead  and   I   breakfasted   together  next  morning   with  the
night-nurse, who had just come off duty.

     "He's much  brighter  to-day,"  she  said. "Fie slept very  nicely  for
nearly three hours. When Gaston eame to shave him he was quite chatty."

     "Good," said Brideshead.  "Cordelia went to mass.  She's driving Father
Mackay back here to breakfast."

     I had  met Father  Mackay several  times; he was a stocky, middle-aged,
genial  Glasgow-Irishman who, when we met, was apt to  ask me such questions
as, "Would you say  now, Mr. Ryder, I that the painter Titian was more truly
artistic than  the  painter Raphael?" and, more  disconcertingly  still,  to
remember my answers: "To revert, Mr. Ryder, to what you said when last I had
the pleasure to meet  you,'would  it be  right now  to say that  the painter
Titian . . ." usually ending with some such reflection as: "Ah, it's a grand
resource for a man to  have the talent you have, Mr. Ryder, and  the time to
indulge it." Cordelia could imitate him brilliantly.

     This morning  he  made a hearty  breakfast, glanced at the headlines of
the  paper,  and  then  said with professional  briskness:  "And  now,  Lord
Brideshead, would the poor soul be ready to set me, do you think?"

     Brideshead  led him out; Cordelia followed  and  I was left alone among
the breakfast things. In less than a minute I  heard the voices of all three
outside the door.

     ". . . can only apologize."

     ". . . poor soul. Mark  you, it was seeing a  strange face; depend upon
it, it was that--an unexpected stranger. I well understand it."

     ". . . Father, I am sorry . . . bringing you all this way . . ."

     "Don't  think  about it at all,  Lady Cordelia. Why, I've  had  bottles
thrown at me in  the Gorbals. . . .  Give him  time. I've  known worse cases
make beautiful deaths. Pray  for  him . . . I'll come again . . . and now if
you'll excuse me  I'll just pay a little visit to Mrs. Hawkins. Yes, indeed,
I know the way well."

     Then Cordelia and Brideshead came into the room.

     "I gather the visit was not a success."

     "It was not. Cordelia, will you drive Father  Mackay home when he comes
down from Nanny?

     I'm going to telephone to Beryl and see when she needs me home."

     "Bridey, it was horrible. What are we to do?"

     "We've done everything we can at the moment." He left the room.

     Cordelia's face  was grave; she  took a piece  of  bacon from the dish,
dipped  it in  mustard  and  ate it. "Damn  Bridey,"  she said,  "I knew  it
wouldn't work."

     "What happened?"

     "Would you like to know? We walked in there in a line; Cara was reading
the paper aloud to Papa. Bridey said, Tve brought Father Mackay to see you';
Papa said, 'Father Mackay, I  am  afraid you have been brought here under  a
misapprehension.  I am  not in extremis, and  I have  not  been a practising
member  of your Church for twenty-five years. Brideshead, show Father Mackay
the  way out.'  Then we  all turned about and walked away, and  I heard Cara
start reading the paper again, and that, Charles, was that."

     I carried the news to Julia, who lay with  her  bed-table amid a litter
of newspapers and envelopes.

     "Mumbo-jumbo is off," I said, "the witch-doctor has gone."

     "Poor Papa."

     "It's great sucks to Bridey."

     I  felt triumphant. I  had been  right, everyone else had  been  wrong,
truth had prevailed;  the thread that I had felt hanging  over  Julia and me
ever  since that evening at the fountain had been averted, perhaps dispelled
for ever; and there was also--I  can now confess it --  another unexpressed,
inexpressible,  indecent little victory that  I was furtively celebrating. I
guessed that that morning's business had putBrideshead some considerable way
further from his rightful inheritance.
     In that I  was  correct;  a  man was  sent for  from  the solicitors in
London;  and in a day or two he  came and  it was known throughout the house
that  Lord Marchmain had made a new will. But  I was wrong in  thinking that
the religious controversy was quashed;  it flamed  up again  after dinner on
Brideshead's last evening.

     ". . . What  Papa said  was, 'I am  not  in extremis; I have not been a
practising member of the Church for twenty-five years.'"

     "Not 'the Church,' 'your Church.'"

     "I don't see the difference."

     "There's every difference."

     "Bridey, it's quite plain what he meant."

     "I  presume  he  meant  what he  said.  He meant  that  he had not been
accustomed  regularly to receive the sacraments, and since he was not at the
moment dying, he did not mean to change his ways -- yet."

     "That's simply a quibble."
     "Why  do people always think that one is quibbling when one tries to be
precise? His  plain  meaning  was that he did not want to see a  priest that
day, but that he would when he was in extremis."

     "I  wish  someone  would  explain  to  me,"  I said,  "quite  what  the
significance of  these sacraments  is. Do you mean that if he dies alone  he
goes to hell, and that if a priest puts oil on him -- "

     "Oh, it's not the oil," said Cordelia, "that's to heal him."

     "Odder still -- well, whatever it is the  priest does --  that  he then
goes tq heaven? Is that what you believe?"

     Cara  then interposed: "I think my nurse  told  me, someone did anyway,
that if  the priest got there before  the body  was cold  it was all  right.
That's so, isn't it?"

     The others turned on her.

     "No, Cara, it's not."

     "Of course not."

     "You've got it all wrong, Cara."

     "Well, I remember  when Alphonse de Grenet died, Madame de Grenet had a
priest hidden outside the door -- he couldn't bear the sight of  a priest --
and brought him  in before the body was  cold; she told me herself, and they
had a full requiem for him, and I went to it."

     "Having a requiem doesn't mean you go to heaven necessarily."

     "Madame de Grenet thought it did."

     "Well, she was wrong."

     "Do any of you  Catholics know what good you think this priest can do?"
I  asked.  "Do you simply want to  arrange it so that  your father  can have
Christian  burial?  Do you want to  keep him out of hell? I only want  to be
told."

     Brideshead  told me at  some length,  and  when  he  had  finished Cara
slightly marred the unity of the Catholic front by saying  in simple wonder,
"I never heard that before."

     "Let's get this clear," I said; "he has to  make an act of will; he has
to be contrite and wish to be reconciled; is that  right? But only God knows
whether he has  really made an  act of will;  the priest can't tell; and  if
there isn't  a  priest there, and  he makes the act of will alone, that's as
good as if  there were  a priest. And it's  quite possible that the will may
still be working when  a man is too weak  to make any outward sign of it; is
that  right?  He may be lying, as though for dead, and willing all the time,
and being reconciled, and God understands that; is that right?"

     "More or less," said Brideshead.

     "Well, for heaven's sake," I said, "what is the priest for?"

     There was a pause  in  which Julia sighed and Brideshead drew breath as
though to start further subdividing the propositions.

     In the silence Cara said, "All I  know is that  I shall  take very good
care to have a priest."

     "Bless you," said Cordelia, "I believe that's the best answer."

     And we let  the argument drop, each for different reasons,  thinking it
had been inconclusive.
     Later  Julia  said:  "I   wish  you  wouldn't   start  these  religious
arguments."

     "I didn't start it."

     "You  don't  convince   anyone  else  and  you  don't  really  convince
yourself."

     "I only want to know what these people believe. They say it's all based
on logic."

     "If you'd let Bridey finish, he would have made it all quite logical."

     "There were four of you,"  I said. "Cara didn't know the first thing it
was about, and may or may not have  believed it;  you knew  a bit and didn't
believe a word; Cordelia knew about aS much and believed it madly; only poor
Bridey knew and believed, and I  thought he  made a pretty poor show when it
came to explaining. And people  go round saying,  'At least  Catholics  know
what they believe.' We had a fair cross-section to-night--"

     "Oh, Charles, don't rant. I  shall begin to think you're getting doubts
yourself."

     The weeks passed and still Lord Marchmain lived  on. In June my divorce
was made absolute  and my  former  wife married for  the  second time. Julia
would be free in September. The nearer our marriage got, the more wistfully,
I  noticed, Julia spoke of it; war was growing nearer, too -- we  neither of
us doubted that-- but Julia's tender, remote, it sometimes seemed  desperate
longing  did  not come from  any  uncertainty  outside herself;  it suddenly
darkened too, into brief accesses of hate when she seemed  to  throw herself
against the restraints of her love  for me  like a caged animal  against the
bars.

     I was summoned to the War Office, interviewed and put on a list in case
of emergency; Cordelia also, on another  list; lists were  becoming part  of
our lives once more, as  they  had been  at school--those strips of paper on
the green baize notice  boards which defined success  and failure. No one in
that dark office spoke the word "war"; it was taboo; we should be called for
if there was  "an emergency" -- not in case of strife, an act of human will;
nothing so clear and simple as wrath or retribution; an emergency; something
coming out of the waters,  a  monster with sightless face and thrashing tail
thrown up from the depdis.

     Lord Marchmain took little  interest in events outside his own room; we
took him the papers daily and made the attempt to read to him, but he turned
his head on the pillows and  with his eyes  followed the intricate  patterns
about him. "Shall I go on?" "Please do  if it's not boring you."  But he was
not listening; occasionally at a  familiar name he would whisper: "Irwin ...
I  knew him -- a mediocre fellow"; occasionally some remote comment: "Czechs
make good coachmen; nothing  else"; but his mind was far from world affairs;
it was there, on the spot,  turned in on himself; he had no strength for any
other war than his own solitary struggle to keep alive.

     I said to the doctor, who was with us daily: "He's got a wonderful will
to live, hasn't he?"

     "Would you put it like that? I should say a great fear of death."

     "Is there a difference?"

     "Oh dear, yes. He  doesn't derive any strength from his fear, you know.
It's wearing him out."

     Next to death, perhaps because they are  like death, he feared darkness
and loneliness. He liked  to have us  in his room and the  lights burnt  all
night  among the gilt  figures; he did not wish  us  to  speak  much, but he
talked himself, so quietly  that we  could often  not hear him; he talked, I
think, because his was the  only voice he could trust, when  it assured  him
that  he was still alive; what he said was not for us, nor for any  ears but
his own.

     "Better to-day.  Better to-day.  I  can see now, in the  corner  of the
fireplace, where the mandarin is holding his gold bell and the  crooked tree
is  in  flower  below his feet, where yesterday I was confused and took  the
little tower  for another  man.  Soon I shall see  the bridge and the  three
storks and know where the path leads over the hill.

     "Better  to-morrow.  We  live  long  in  our  family  and  marry  late.
Seventy-three  is  no  age. Aunt  Julia,  my  father's  aunt,  lived  to  be
eighty-eight, born and died here, never married, saw the fire on beacon hill
for the battle of  Trafalgar, always called it 'the New House'; that Was the
name they had for it in the nursery  and in  the fields when unlettered  men
had long  memories.  You can see  where the old house stood near the village
church;  they  call  the field  'Castle Hill,'  Horlick's  field  where  the
ground's  uneven and half  of it is waste,  nettle and brier  in hollows too
deep for ploughing. They  dug to the foundations  to carry the stone for the
new house; the house that was  a century old when Aunt Julia was born. Those
were our roots in the waste hollows of Castle Hill, in the brier and nettle;
among the tombs in the old church and the chantrey where no clerk sings.
     "Aunt Julia  knew the tombs,  cross-legged knight  and doubleted  earl,
marquis  like a Roman  senator,  limestone, alabaster, and  Italian  marble;
tapped the escutcheons with her ebony cane,  made the casque ring  over  old
Sir Roger.  We were knights then, barons since Agincourt; the larger honours
came with  the  Georges. They came the last  and  they'll go the first;  the
barony descends in the female line;  when Brideshead  is buried--he  married
late -- Julia's  son will be called by the name his fathers bore before  the
fat days; the days of wool shearing  and the  wide  corn  lands, the days of
growth  and  building,  when  the  marshes were drained  and the  waste land
brought under the plough,  when one built the house, his son added the dome,
his son spread the wings and dammed the river. Aunt Julia watched them build
the fountain; it was old before it came here, weathered two hundred years by
the  suns of Naples,  brought by man-o'-war in the days of  Nelson. Soon the
fountain will be dry  till the  rain fills  it,  setting  the fallen  leaves
afloat in the basin  and over the  lakes  the reeds  will spread  and close.
Better to-day.

     "Better to-day. I have lived carefully, sheltered myself from the  cold
winds, eaten moderately of  what was in season,  drunk fine claret, slept in
my  own  sheets; I shall live long. I  was fifty when they dismounted us and
sent us into the line; old men stay at the base, the orders said, but Walter
Venables, my commanding officer, my nearest neighbour, said:  'You're as fit
as  the  youngest of them,  Alex.' So I  was;  so I am now, if  I could only
breathe.

     "No  air; no wind stirring under the velvet canopy;  no one has  opened
the door for a thousand years in Aladdin's treasury, deep  underground where
the jinns burrow like moles and no wind stirs.  When the summer comes," said
Lord  Marchmain,  oblivious of the  deep  corn and  swelling  fruit  and the
surfeited bees who slowly sought their hives in the heavy afternoon sunlight
outside his  windows, "when the summer comes I shall leave my bed and sit in
the open air and breathe more easily.

     "Better to-morrow, when  the wind comes down  the  valley and a man can
turn to meet  it and fill  himself with air like a beast at water. Who would
have  thought  that all  these  little gold  men-,  gentlemen  in their  own
country, could live so long without breathing? Like toads in the  coal, down
a deep mine, untroubled. God take it, why have they dug a hole for  me? Must
a  man  stifle to  death  in  his  own  cellars?  Plender, Gaston, open  the
windows."

     "The windows are all wide open, my lord."

     "I know them. I was born in this house. They open from a cellar  into a
tunnel.  It  can  only be done  by gunpowder;  bore  the rock, cram it  with
powder, trace the fuse, crouch under  cover round the corner while we  touch
it off; we'll blast our way to daylight."

     A  cylinder  of  oxygen  was  placed beside his bed, with  a long1
tube,  a  face-piece,  and  a little stop-cock he could  work himself.
Often he said: "It's empty; look, nurse, there's nothing cornel out."

     "No, Lord Marchmain, it's quite full; the bubble here in the glass bulb
shows that; it's at full  pressure; listen, don't  you hear it hiss? Try and
breathe slowly, Lord Marchmain; quite gently, then you get the benefit."

     "Free as air; that's what they say -- 'free as air.' I was free once. I
committed  a  crime  in the name  of freedom. Now they bring me my air in an
iron barrel."

     Once he said: "Cordelia, what became of the chapel?"

     "They locked it up, Papa, when Mummy died."

     "It  was  hers, I  gave it to  her. We've  always  been builders in our
family.  I  built it for  her; pulled  down the pavilion that  stood  there;
rebuilt with the old  stones; it was the last of the. new house to come, the
first  to  go. There  used  to be a  chaplain until the war. Do you remember
him?"

     "I was too young."

     "Then I went away --  left her in the  chapel  praying. It was hers. It
was the  place for her. I never came back to disturb her prayers.  They said
we were fighting for freedom; I had my own victory. Was it a crime?"

     "I think it was, Papa."

     "Crying to heaven for  vengeance? Is that why they've locked me in this
cave, do you think, with a black tube of air and the little yellow men along
the walls, who live  without breathing? Do  you  think that, child? But  the
wind will come soon, tomorrow perhaps, and we'll breathe again. The ill wind
that will blow me good. Better to-morrow."

     Thus, till mid-July, Lord Marchmain lay dying, wearing himself  down in
the struggle to live. Then, since there was no reason to expect an immediate
change, Cordelia went to London  to see  her women's organization about  the
coming  "emergency." That  day Lord Marchmain's  condition  became  suddenly
worse.  He lay silent  and quite still, breathing laboriously; only his open
eyes, which sometimes  moved about the room, gave any sign of consciousness.
"Is this the end?" Julia asked.

     "It is impossible to say," the  doctor  answered; "when he  does die it
will probably be like this. He may recover from the present attack. The only
thing is not to disturb him. The least shock will be fatal."

     "I'm  going for  Father Mackay," she said.  I was not surprised.  I had
seen  it in her mind all the summer. When she had gone I said to the doctor,
"We must stop this nonsense."

     He said: "My  business is with the body. It's not my  business to argue
whether people are better alive or dead or what happens to them after death.
I only try to keep them alive."

     "And you said  just  now any shock would kill him. What  could be worse
for a man who fears death, as he does, than to have a  priest brought to him
-- a priest he turned out when he had the strength?"

     "I think it may kill him." "Then will you forbid it?"

     "I've no authority to forbid anything. I can only give my opinion."

     "Cara, what do you think?"

     "I don't want him made unhappy. That is all  there is to hope for  now;
that  he'll die without knowing it. But I should like the priest  there, all
the same."

     "Will  you  try and persuade Julia  to keep  him away--  until the end?
After that he can do no harm." "I will ask her to leave Alex happy, yes." In
half an hour Julia was back with Father Mackay. We all met in the library.

     "I've telegraphed  for Bridey  and Cordelia," I said. "I hope you agree
that nothing must be done till they arrive."

     "I wish they were here," said Julia.

     "You can't take the responsibility alone," I said; "everyone else '  is
against you. Doctor, tell her what you said to me just now."

     "I said that the shock of seeing a priest might well  kill him; without
that he may survive  this attack. As his medical  man I must protest against
anything being done to disturb him."

     "Cara?"

     "Julia, dear, I know you are thinking for the best, but, you know, Alex
was not a religious man.

     He  scoffed always. We mustn't take advantage of him, now he's weak, to
comfort  our  own consciences. If Father  Mackay  comes to  him when  he  is
unconscious, then he can be buried in the proper way, can he not, Father?"

     "I'll go and see how he is," said the doctor, leaving us.

     "Father Mackay," I said. "You know how Lord Marchmain greeted you  last
time you came; do you think it possible he can have changed now?"

     "Thank God, by His grace it is possible."

     "Perhaps," said Cara, "you could slip  in while he is sleeping, say the
words of absolution over him; he would never know."

     "I have seen  so many men and  women die,"  said the priest; , "I never
knew them sorry to have me there at the end."

     "But they were  Catholics; Lord Marchmain has never been one" except in
name--at any rate, not for years. He was a scoffer, Cara said so."

     "Christ came to call, not the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

     The doctor returned. "There's no change," he said.

     "Now, Doctor," said the priest, "how would I  be a shock to anyone?" He
turned his bland, innocent,  matter-of-fact face first  on the  doctor, then
upon the  rest  of us.  "Do you know what I want to do? It is  something  so
small, no  show about it. I  don't wear special clothes, you know. I go just
as I am. He knows the look of me now. There's nothing alarming. I just  want
to ask him if he is  sorry for his sins. I want him to make some little sign
of  assent; I want him, anyway, not to  refuse me; then  I Want to  give him
God's pardon. Then, though that's not essential, I want to anoint him. It is
nothing, a touch of the fingers, just  some oil. from this little box, look,
it is pure oil, nothing to hurt him."  "Oh,  Julia," said Cara, "what are we
to say? Let me speak to him."

     She went to the Chinese drawing-room; we waited in silence; there was a
wall of fire between Julia and me. Presently Cara returned.

     "I don't think he  heard," she said. "I thought I knew how to put it to
him. I said:  'Alex, you  remember the priest  from Melstead. You  were very
naughty when he came to see you. You hurt his feelings  very much. Now  he's
here again. I  want you to see  him just for my sake, to make friend's.' But
he didn't answer. If he's unconscious, it couldn't make  him unhappy to  see
the priest, could it, Doctor?"

     Julia, who had been standing still and silent, suddenly moved.

     "Thank  you  for  your   advice,  Doctor,"  she  said.   "I  take  full
responsibility for whatever happens. Father Mackay, will you please come and
see my father now," and without looking at me, led him to the door.

     We  all followed. Lord Marchmain was  lying  as  I had  seen  him  that
morning, but his eyes were now shut; his hands lay, palm-up wards, above the
bed-clothes; the nurse had  her fingers on the pulse of  one of  them. "Come
in," she said brightly, "you won't disturb him now."

     "D'you mean . . . ?"

     "No, no, but he's past noticing anything."

     She  held the oxygen apparatus to his face and the hiss of escaping gas
was the only sound at the bedside.

     The  priest bent over Lord Marchmain and  blessed  him.  Julia and Cara
knelt at the foot of the bed. The doctor, the nurse and I stood behind them.

     "Now," said the priest, "I know you are  sorry for all the sins of your
life, aren't you? Make a sign,  if you can. You're sorry,  aren't you?"  But
there was no sign. "Try and remember your sins; tell God you are sorry. I am
going to give you absolution. While I  am giving it, tell God you are  sorry
you have offended  Him." He  began to speak in Latin. I recognized the words
Ego te absolvo in nomine  Patris . . . and saw the priest  make the  sign of
the cross. Then I knelt, too, and prayed: "O God, if there is a God, forgive
him  his sins, if there is such a  thing  as sin," and  the  man on  the bed
opened his eyes and gave a sigh, the sort of sigh I had imagined people made
at the moment of death, but his  eyes moved so that  we knew there was still
life in him.
     I suddenly  felt the longing for a sign, if only  of courtesy, if  only
for the sake of the  woman  I  loved,  who knelt in front of me,  praying, I
knew,  for a  sign. It  seemed  so  small a thing that  was asked, the  bare
acknowledgment  of a present, a  nod in the crowd. All over the world people
were on their knees before innumerable crosses, and here the drama was being
played again  by two men -- by one man,  rather,  and  he  nearer death than
life; the universal drama in which there is only one actor.

     The priest took the little silver box from his pocket  and spoke  again
in Latin, touching the dying man with an oily wad;  he-finished  what he had
to do, put away the box and gave the final blessing. Suddenly Lord Marchmain
moved  his hand to his  forehead; I thought he  had  felt the touch  of  the
chrism and was wiping it away. "O God,"  I prayed,  "don't let him do that."
But  there was no need for fear; the hand moved slowly down his breast, then
to his shoulder, and Lord Marchmain made the sign of the cross. Then  I knew
that the sign I had asked for  was  not a little thing, not a passing nod of
recognition, and a phrase  came back to me from my childhood of the veil  of
the temple being rent from top to bottom.

     It was over; we  stood up; the nurse went  back to the oxygen cylinder;
the  doctor  bent  over  his  patient. Julia whispered to me: "Will  you sec
Father Mackay out? I'm staying here for a little."
     Outside the  door  Father Mackay became  the  simple, genial man I  had
known before. "Well, now, and that was a  beautiful thing to see. I've known
it happen that way again and again. The devil resists to the last moment and
then  the Grace of God  is too much for him. You're not a Catholic, I think,
Mr. Ryder, but at least you'll be glad for the ladies to have the comfort of
it.''

     As we were  waiting for the  chauffeur, it  occurred to  me that Father
Mackay should  be paid for  his services. I asked him awkwardly. "Why, don't
think  about it, Mr. Ryder. It was  a pleasure," he  said, "but anything you
care to give is useful in a parish like mine." I found I had three pounds in
my note-case and gave them to him. "Why,  indeed, that's more than generous.
God bless you,  Mr. Ryder. I'll call again, but I don't think  the poor soul
has long for this world."

     Julia remained in the  Chinese drawing-room until, at five o'clock that
evening, her father died, proving both sides  right in the  dispute,  priest
and doctor.

     Thus  I  come to the  broken sentences which were the last words spoken
between Julia and me, the last memories.

     When  htr father died Julia  remained some minutes with  his body;  the
nurse came to the next room to announce the news and I had a glimpse of her,
through the open door, kneeling  at the foot of the bed, and of Cara sitting
by her.  Presently the two women  came out together, and Julia  said to  me:
"Not now; I'm just taking Cara up to her room; later."

     While  she  was still  upstairs  Brideshead and  Cordelia  arrived from
London; when at last we met alone it was by stealth, like young lovers.

     Julia said: "Here in the shadow, in the corner of the stair -- a minute
to say good-bye."

     "So long to say so little."

     "You knew?"

     "Since this morning; since before this morning; all this year."

     "I didn't know till to-day. Oh, my dear, if you could only  understand.
Then I could bear  to part,  or  bear  it better. I should  say my heart was
breaking,  if  I believed in broken hearts.  I can't marry  you, Charles;  I
can't be with you ever again."

     "I know."

     "How can you know?"

     "What will you do?"

     "Just go on -- alone. How  can I  tell  what  I shall do?  You know the
whole of me. You know I'm not one  for a life of mourning.  I've always been
bad. Probably I shall be bad again, punished again.  But the worse I am, the
more I need God. I  can't shut myself out from  His mercy.  That is  what it
would mean; starting  a life with you, without Him. One can only hope to see
one step ahead. But I saw to-day  there was  one  thing unforgivable--  like
things in  the schoolroom,  so bad they  are  unpunishable, that  only Mummy
could deal with -- the bad thing I  was  on the point of doing, that I'm not
quite bad enough  to do; to set  up a rival good to  God's. Why should  I be
allowed to  understand that, and  not  you, Charles?  It may  be because  of
Mummy, Nanny, Cordelia, Sebastian --  perhaps  Bridey  and Mrs. Muspratt  --
keeping my name in their  prayers; or it may be a private bargain between me
and God, that if  I give up this one thing I want so much, however bad I am,
He won't quite despair of me in the end.

     "Now we  shall both be alone, and I  shall  have no way of  making  you
understand."

     "I  don't want to make  it easier for you," I said; "I hope your  heart
may break; but I do understand."

     The  avalanche was  down, the  hillside swept bare behind it;  the last
echoes died on the white slopes; the  new mound  glittered and lay still  in
the silent valley.



     Epilogue

     "the  worst place we've struck yet," said the  commanding officer;  "no
facilities,  no amenities, and  Brigade  sitting right on top of us. There's
one pub in Flyte St. Mary with capacity for about twenty -- that, of course,
will be out of bounds for officers; there's a Naafi in the camp area. I hope
to run transport  once a week to Melstead  Carbury.  Marchmain is ten  miles
away and damn-all when you get there. It will therefore be the first concern
of company officers to organize recreation for their  men. M.O., I want  you
to take a look at the lakes to see if they're fit for bathing."

     "Very good, sir."

     "Brigade  expects  us to clean  up  the house for them.  I  should have
thought  some  of those  half-shaven  scrimshankers  I  see  lounging  round
Headquarters  might have saved us the trouble; however . . . Ryder, you will
find a fatigue party of fifty and report to the quartering commandant at the
house at 10-45 hours; he'll show you what we're taking over."

     "Very good, sir."

     "Our  predecessors do  not  seem  to have been  very  enterprising. The
valley has  great potentialities for an  assault  course and a mortar range.
Weapon-training officer, make a recce this morn-' ing and get something laid
on before Brigade arrives."

     "Very good, sir."

     "I'm going out myself with the adjutant to recce training areas. Anyone
happen to know this district?"

     I said nothing.

     "That's all then, get cracking."

     "Wonderful old place in its way," said the quartering commandant; "pity
to knock it about too much."

     He was an old, retired, re-appointed lieutenant-colonel from some miles
away. We met in the space before the main doors, where I had my half-company
fallen-in, waiting for orders.

     "Come in. I'll soon show you over. It's a great warren of  a place, but
we've  only  requisitioned  the ground  floor  and  half  a  dozen bedrooms.
Everything else upstairs  is  still  private property, mostly  cram full  of
furniture; you never saw such stuff, priceless some of it.

     "There's a caretaker  and  a couple of old servants live  at the top --
they won't be any trouble to you -- and a blitzed R.C. padre whom Lady Julia
gave a home to -- jittery old bird, but no trouble. He's opened the  chapel;
that's in bounds for the troops; surprising lot use it, too.

     "The place belongs  to Lady Julia Flyte, as she  calls herself now. She
was married to Mottram, the Minister of whatever-it-is. She's abroad in some
woman's service, and I try to keep an eye on things for her. Queer thing the
old marquis leaving everything to her -- rough on the boys.
     "Now this is where the last lot put the clerks; plenty of room, anyway.
I've had  the walls and  fireplaces boarded up you see --  valuable old work
underneath.  Hullo, someone seems  to have been  making  a beast of  himself
here; destructive  beggars,  soldiers are!  Lucky we spotted it, or it would
have been charged to you chaps.

     "This is another good-sized  room, used  to be  full of tapestry.., I'd
advise you to use this for conferences."

     "I'm only here to  clean  up, sir. Someone from Brigade  will allot the
rooms."

     "Oh, well,  you've got  an easy job. Very decent  fellows the last lot.
They shouldn't  have done that to the fireplace  though. How did they manage
it? Looks solid enough. I wonder if it can be mended?

     "I expect  the brigadier  will take this for his  office; the last did.
It's got a lot of painting that can't be moved, done on the walla.

     As you  see, I've covered it up as best I can, but soldiers get through
anything -- as the brigadier's done in the corner. There was another painted
room, outside  under the  pillars -- modern work but,  if  you ask  me,  the
prettiest in the place; it was  the signal office and they made absolute hay
of it; rather a shame.

     "This eye-sore is what they used as the mess; that's why I didn't cover
it up; not that it would matter much  if it did  get damaged; always reminds
me of one of the costlier knocking-shops, you know--'Maison Japonaise' . . .
and this was the ante-room . . ."

     It did  not take us long to make our tour of the echoing rooms. Then we
went outside on the terrace.

     "Those are  die other ranks' latrines and wash-house;  can't think  why
they built them just there; it was done before I took the job over. All this
used  to  be  cut  off from the front. We  laid  the road through the  trees
joining it up with the  main drive; unsightly but very practical;  awful lot
of  transport comes  in  and  out; cuts the place up, too.  Look  where  one
careless  devil went smack  through the box-hedge  and carried away all that
balustrade; did  it with a  three-ton  lorry,  too;  you'd think  he  had  a
Churchill tank at least.

     "That fountain  is rather  a tender  spot with our landlady;  the young
officers used to  lark about in it on guest nights and it was  looking a bit
the worse for wear, so I wired  it in and turned the  water off. Looks a bit
untidy now; all  the drivers  throw  their cigarette-ends and the remains of
the sandwiches  there,  and you can't get  to it to clean it up, since I put
the wire round it. Florid great thing, isn't it? ...

     "Well, if you've seen everything I'll push off. Good day to you."

     His  driver threw a  cigarette  into  the dry  basin  of the  fountain;
saluted  and  opened the door  of  the  car. I  saluted  and the  quartering
commandant drove away through the new, metalled gap in the lime-trees.

     "Hooper," I said, when I had seen my men  started, "do you think  I can
safely leave you in charge of the work-party for half an hour?"

     "I was just wondering where we could scrounge some tea."

     "For Christ's sake," I said, "they've only just begun work."

     "They're awfully browned-off."

     "Keep them at it."

     "Rightyoh."

     I did  not spend  long  hi the desolate  ground-floor  rooms, but  went
upstairs and wandered down  the familiar corridors, trying  doors that  were
locked,  opening  doors  into rooms piled to the  ceiling with furniture. At
length I met an old housemaid carrying a cup of tea. "Why," she said, "isn't
it Mr. Ryder ?"

     "It is. I was wondering when I should meet sorheone I knew."

     "Mrs. Hawkins is up in her old room. I was just taking her some tea."

     "I'll take it for you," I said, and passed  through the baize doors, up
the uncarpeted stairs, to the nursery.

     Nanny Hawkins did not recognize me  until I spoke, and my arrival threw
her into some confusion;  it was not until I  had  been sitting some time by
her fireside that she recovered her old calm. She, who had changed so little
in all the years I knew her, had lately  become greatly aged. The changes of
the last years had come too late in her  life to be accepted and understood;
her sight was failing,  she  told me,  and she could see only  the  coarsest
needlework. Her  speech, sharpened  by  years  of gentle  conversation,  had
reverted now to the soft, peasant tones of its origin.

     ". . . only myself here  and the two girls and poor Father Membling who
was  blown up, not  a roof to his head nor a  stick of furniture till  Julia
took  him  in  with the kind  heart  she's got,  ,  and his nerves something
shocking.  . . . Lady Brideshead, too,  who I  ought by rights  to call  her
Ladyship now,  but it doesn't come natural, it was the same with her. First,
when Julia and Cordelia left to the war, she came here with the two boys and
then the military  turned them out,  so they went to London, nor they hadn't
been in  their house not a month, and Bridey away with the yeomanry the same
as his poor Lordship, when they were blown up too,  everything gone, all the
furniture she brought here and kept in the coach-house. Then she had another
house outside London, and the military took that, too, and there she is now,
when I last heard, in  a hotel at the seaside, which isn't the  same as your
own home, is it? It doesn't seem right.

     ".  . . Did  you listen to Mr. Mottram  last  night? Very nasty  he was
about Hitler. I said to  the girl  Effie who does  for  me:  'If Hitler  was
listening, and if he  understands English, which  I doubt, he must feel very
Small.' Who would have thought of Mr. Mottram doing so  well? And so many of
his friends, too, that used to stay here? I said to Mr. Wilcox, who comes to
see me regular on the bus from Melstead twice a month, which is very good of
him  and  I appreciate it,  I said:  'We were entertaining angels unawares,'
because  Mr. Wilcox  never liked  Mr. Mottram's friends, which I never saw,,
but used to hear about from  all of  you, nor Julia  didn't  like  them, but
they've done very well, haven't they?"

     At last I asked her: "Have you heard from Julia?"

     "From Cordelia, only last week, and they're together still as they have
been  all the time,  and  Julia sent  me  love  at the bottoni of the  page.
They're both very well, though they couldn't  say where, but Father Membling
said, reading between the  lines, it  was Palestine, which is where Bridey's
yeomanry  is,  so  that's very nice  for  them all. Cordelia said  they were
looking forward  to coming home  after the war, which I am sure  we all are,
though whether I live to see it, is another story."

     I stayed with her for half an hour, and left promising to return often.
When I reached the hall I found no sign of work and Hooper looking guilty.

     "They had to go off to draw the bed-straw. I didn't know till  Sergeant
Block told me. I don't know whether they're coming back."

     "Don't know? What orders did you give?"

     "Well,  I told  Sergeant Block to bring them back  if he thought it was
worth while; I mean if there was time before dinner."

     It was nearly twelve. "You've been hotted again, Hooper. That straw was
to be drawn any time before six to-night."

     "Oh Lor; sorry Ryder. Sergeant Block -- "

     "It's my  own fault  for  going away. . .  .  Fall-in  the  same  party
immediately after dinner, bring them  back here and keep them here till  the
job's done."

     "Rightyoh. I say, did you say you knew this place before?"

     "Yes,  very well.  It belongs to  friends of  mine," and  as I said the
words they sounded as odd in my  ears as Sebastian's had done, when, instead
of saying, "It is my home," he said, "It is where my family live."

     "It doesn't  seem to make any sense--one family  in a place  this size.
What's the use of it?"

     "Well, I suppose Brigade are finding it useful."

     "But that's not what it was built for, is it?"

     "No,"  I  said, "not what it  was built for. Perhaps that's  one of the
pleasures of  building,  like having a  son, wondering  how he'll grow up. I
don't know;  I never  built anything, and I forfeited the  right to watch my
son  grow  up. I'm homeless,  childless, middle-aged, loveless, Hooper."  He
looked to see if I was being funny, decided that I was, and laughed. "Now go
back  to camp, keep out of the C.O.'s way, if he's back from his recce,  and
don't let on to anyone that we've made a nonsense of the morning."

     "Okey, Ryder."

     There was one part of the house I had not yet visited, and I went there
now.  The  chapel showed no ill-effects of its long neglect; the art-nouveau
paint was as fresh and bright as ever; the art-nouveau lamp burned once more
before the altar. I said a prayer, an ancient,  newly learned form of words,
and left, turning towards the camp; and as I walked  back, and the cookhouse
bugle sounded ahead of me, I thought: --

     The builders did not  know the uses to which their  work would descend;
they made  a new  house  with the  stones of the  old castle; year by  year,
generation after generation, they enriched and extended it; year by year the
great harvest  of timber in  the park  grew  to  ripeness; until,  in sudden
frost,  came the -age of  Hooper;  the place was  desolate and the work  all
brought to nothing; Quomodo sedet  sola civitas. Vanity  of vanities, all is
vanity.

     And  yet,  I thought, stepping out more briskly towards the camp, where
the  bugles after  a  pause had taken up the second  call and  were sounding
Pic-em-up, Pic-em-up, hot potatoes -- and yet that is  not the last word; it
is not even an apt word; it is a dead word from ten years back.

     Something quite remote from anything the builders intended has come out
of their work, and out of the fierce little human tragedy in which I played;
something none of us thought about  at the time:  a small  red  flame  --  a
beaten-copper lamp  of  deplorable design,  relit before  the  beaten-copper
doors of a tabernacle; the flame which the old knights saw from their tombs,
which they saw put out; that  flame burns again for other soldiers, far from
home, farther, in heart, than Acre  or Jerusalem. It could not have been lit
but for the builders and  the tragedians, and there I found it this morning,
burning anew among the old stones.

     I  quickened my  pace  and reached the  hut  which  served us  for  our
ante-room.

     "You're looking unusually cheerful to-day," said the second-in-command.




     chagford, February-June, 1944


     THE END


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