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PENGUIN CLASSICS 
823 

BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 


Evelyn Waugh was born in HampsteajJi0^Jf^>5f^eco|^ 
son of the late Arthur Waugh\ anjMit^ry 

critic, and brother of Alec Waugh thgji©| 5 tifar novelist. 
He was educated at Lancing amfUertford College, 
Oxford, where he read Modern History. In 1927 he 
published his first work, a life of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 
and in 1928 his first novel. Decline and Fall^ which was 
an immediate success. He spent the next nine years 
without fixed abode, travelling in most parts of Europe, 
the Near East, Africa, and tropical America. In 1939 
he was commissioned in the Royal Marines and later 
transferred to the Royal Horse Guards. He served in 
the Middle East and in Yugoslavia. In 1930 he was 
received into the Roman Catholic Church. His best- 
known books before Bndeskead Revisited were A Handful 
of Dust, a novel, and Edmund Campion, the biography of 
the Jesuit martyr of Elizabethan times, which won the 
Hawthornden Prize in 1936. He is married and has 
six children. On his marriage he bought a house m 
Gloucestershire where he now lives. 


Cover drawing by Quentin Blake 




BRIDESHEAD 

REVISITED 


THE SACRED AND PROFANE MEMORIES 
OF CAPTAIN CHARLES RYDER 


EVELYN WAUGH 


PENGUIN BOOKS 




Pengmn. Books X#td, Harmondswortli, Middlesex 
aubtral>ia: Pengtiin Books Pty Ltd, 762 Whitehorse Road, 
Mitchara, Victoria 


First published 1945 
Published in Penguin Books 1951 
Reprinted 1952, i 954 » I 957 » 1959 
Rev*ised edition first published by Chapman and Hall i960 
Published in Penguin Books 1 962 


Made and printed in Great Britain 
by G. NichoUs & Company Ltd 


author’s note 
I am not I: thou art not he or she: 
they are not they. 

E. w. 


This book is sold subject to the condition 
that It shall not, by way of trade, be lent, 
re-sold, hired out, or otherwise disposed 
of without the publisher's consent, 
in any form of binding or cover 
other than that m which 
it is published 



Contents 


Preface 7 

Prologue: brideshead revisited q 

Book One: et in argadia ego 

Chapter One: I met Sebashan Flyte - cmd Anthony 
Blanche - 1 visit Bridesheadfor the first time 2 $ 

Chapter Two : My cousin Jasper'' s Grand Remonstrance- 
a warning against charm ~ Sunday morning in Oxford 41 

Chapter Three : My father at home - Lad)> Julia Flyte 60 

Chapter Four; Sebastian at home - Lord Marckmain 
abroad 77 

Chapter Five; Autumn in Oxford - dinner with Rex 
Mottram and supper with Boy Mukaster - Mr Sam- 
gross - Lady Marchmam at home - Sebastian contra 
mundum iO£ 

Book Two: brideshead deserted 
Chapter One: Samgrass revealed - 1 take leave of Brides- 
head ~ Rex revealed 144 

Chapter Two : Julia and Rex 1 7s 

Chapter Three : Mulcaster and I in defence of our country - 
Sebastian abroad - 1 take leave of Marchmain House 1 93 

Book Three: a twitch upon the thread 
Chapter One ; Orphans of the Storm 215 

Chapter Two : Private mew *- Rex Mottram at home 252 

Chapter Three: The fountain 263 

Chapter Four : Sebastian contra rmndum 28 1 

Chapter Five; Ikrd Marchmain at home - death in the 
Chinese drazomg-room - the purpose revealed 296 

Epilogue: brideshead revisited 325 



To 

LAURA 



Preface 


This novel, which is here re-issued with many small addi- 
tions and some substantial cuts, lost me such esteem as I 
once enjoyed among my contemporaries and led me into an 
unfamiliar world of fan-mail and press photographers. Its 
theme - the operation of divine grace on a group of diverse 
but closely connected characters - was perhaps presump- 
tuously large, but I make no apology for it. I am less happy 
about its form, whose more glaring defects may be blamed 
on the circumstances in which it was written. 

In December 1943 I had the good fortune when para- 
chuting to incur a minor injury which afforded me a rest 
from military service. This was extended by a sympathetic 
commanding officer, who let me remain unemployed until 
June 1944 when the book was finished. I wrote with a zest 
that was quite strange to me and also with impatience to 
get back to the war. It was a bleak period of present priva- 
tion and threatening disaster - the period of soya beans and 
Basic English - and in consequence the book is infused with 
a kind of gluttony, for food and wine, for the splendours of 
the recent past, and for rhetorical and ornamental language, 
which now with a full stomach I find distasteful. I have 
modified the grosser passages but have not obliterated them 
because they are an essential part of the book. 

I have been in two minds as to the treatment of Julia’s 
outburst about mortal sin and Lord Marchmain’s dying 
soliloquy. These passages were never, of course, intended to 
report words actually spoken. They belong to a different 
way of writing from, say, the early scenes between Charles 
and his father. I would not now introduce them into a novel 



PREFACE 


which elsewhere aims at verisimilitude. But I have retained 
them here in something near their original form because, 
like the Burgundy (misprinted in many editions) and the 
moonlight they were essentially of the mood of writing - also 
because many readers liked them, though that is not a con- 
sideration of first importance. 

It was impossible to foresee, in the spring of 1944, the 
present cult of the English country house. It seemed then 
that the ancestral seats which were our chief national artis- 
tic achievement were doomed to decay and spoliation like 
the monasteries in the skteenth century. So I piled it on 
rather, with passionate sincerity. Brideshcad today would 
be open to trippers, its treasures rearranged by expert hands 
and the fabric better maintained than it was by Lord 
Marchmain. And the English aristocracy has maintained 
its identity to a degree that then seemed impossible. The 
advance of Hooper has been held up at several points. 
Much of this book therefore is a panegyric preached over an 
empty coffin. But it would be impossible to bring it up to 
date without totally destroying it. It is offered to a younger 
generation of readers as a souvenir of the Second War 
rather than of the twenties or of the thirties, with which it 
ostensibly deals. 


Combe Florey 1959 


E.W. 



PROLOGUE 


Brideshead Revisited 


When I reached ‘G’ Company lines, which were at the 
top of the hill, I paused and looked back at the camp, just 
coining 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 their 
journey’s end. There was some way to go from the tram- 
stop to the camp gates; quarter of a mile in which they 
could button their blouses and straighten their caps before 
passing the guard-room, quarter of a mile in which concrete 
gave place to grass at the road’s edge. This was the extreme 
limit of the city. Here the close, homogeneous territory of 
housing estates and cinemas ended and the hinterland 
began. 

The camp stood where, until quite lately, had been pas- 
ture and ploughland; the farmhouse still stood in a fold of 
the hill and had served us for battalion offices; ivy still sup- 
ported 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 



10 


BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 


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 Hfe 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 mid-winter, I brought a 
company of strong and hopefiil 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 



PROLOGUE 


II 


them “ how could I help them, who could so little help 
myself? Here the colonel imder 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 in- 
valided 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 con- 
scripts; 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 news- 
papers; 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 



12 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

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 re- 
mained 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 engen- 
dered 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 comers 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 enchant- 
ment 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 nearby 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 com- 
pany 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 erron- 
eously 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 



PROLOGUE 


13 

US to the trouble of removing ail 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, Fli 
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 archaeol- 
ogists. 

' The Pollock diggings provide a valuable link between the 
citizen-slave communities of the twentieth ceniury 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, over-rm by a race of the lowest typed 

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 ail 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-easies, 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 sKghtly 
boisterous when he first took notice of Hooper. 



14 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

'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, enve- 
loping 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, ‘hke 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 ail 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 



PROLOGUE 


15 

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, Bannock- 
burn, 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, soimded in 
vain to Hooper. 

He seldom complained. Though himself a man to whom 
one could not confidently entrust the simplest duty, he had 
an over-mastering 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 busi- 
ness.’ 

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 Cooperation’, 
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 
than when he arrived from his OCTU. This morning, laden 
with full equipment, he looked scarcely hxunan. 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.’ 



BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 


l6 

'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, 

' G.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. 



PROLOGUE 17 

‘It’s a disgrace. See everything theie 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 was waiting for us at the 



BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 


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 
dresse4. The fact that we happen to be in a train is im- 
material.’ 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 com- 
mander 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 tem- 
porary officers.’ 

We sat with our note-books and pencils waiting to take 
down the details of our next jobs. A more sensitive man 
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 cooperation.’ ' 

Then he referred to his notes and read : 

‘Orders. 



PROLOGUE 19 

‘Information. The battaKon 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 approxi- 
mately 2315 hours ...’ and so on. 

The sting came at the end under the heading, ‘Admin- 
istration’. ‘ G’ 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?’ 

‘ Gan 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 my 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.’ 

‘Okeydoke. 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 ^Deuxihne 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 
detailed 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. 



20 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

At lastj 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. “G” Com- 
pany 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 

1 .' 

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 windscreen; 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 un- 
loaded 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 fail. 

I slept until my servant called me, rose wearily, dressed 
and shaved .in silence. It was not till I reached the door that 



PROLOGUE 


21 


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 bemused. The rain had ceased but 
the clouds hung low and heavy overhead. It was a still morn- 
ing 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 contom 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 whisding and catcalls, 
all the zoo-noises of the battalion beginning a new day. Be- 
yond 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 beeph faintly dusted 
with green by the breaking buds; they made a simple, care- 
fully 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 



22 BRIBESHEAD REVISITED 

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. 

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. IVe 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 
thmg.’ 

‘ 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. j 



BOOK ONE 


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 cloud- 
less day in June, when the ditches were creamy with 
meadowsweet and the air heavy with all the scents of sum- 
mer; it was a day of peculiar splendour, 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 airs of centuries of youth. It 
was this cloistral hush which gave our laughter its reson- 
ance, and carried it still, joyously, over the intervening 
clamour. Here, discordantly, in Eights Week, came a rabble 
of womankind, some hundreds strong, twittering and flut- 
tering 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 



BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 


24 

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 ? ’ 

‘NojLunt.’ 

‘So as to give the servants a chance, they say. What a 
chancel I’ve got to buy 2i pin-cushion for the Ladies’ Cloak- 
room. What do they want with dancing? I don’t see the 
reason in it. There never was dancing before in Eights 
Week. Commem. 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 
some even goes dancing with the town at the Masonic - but 
the proctors will get tkm^ 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 cripe 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 mst peculiar suddenly. Last night it was pullulating 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 25 

with women. You’re to come away at once, out of danger. 
Fve 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 straw- 
berries.’ 

‘ Where are we going ? ’ 

‘To see a friend.’ 

‘Who?’ 

‘ Name of Hawkins. Bring some money in case we see any- 
thing 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 be- 
tween us - ‘Take care he’s not 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 was 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 sun 



20 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

mounted high, we were among dry-stone walls and ashlar 
houses. It was about eleven when Sebastian, without 
warning, turned the car into a cart track and stopped. It 
was hot enough now to make us seek the shade. On a sheep- 
cropped knoll under a clump of elms we ate the straw- 
berries 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- 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 2 *] 

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, 
snuffing a little, as he did when he was amused, ‘but I 
leflected 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 aU 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 es- 
pecially 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 tail hat on Sundays during 
term. It is by that, more than anything, that a man is 
judged.” And do you know,’ continued my father, snuffing 
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.G.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 Fuller’s walnut 



28 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

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 today I could repeat much of 
what he said, word for word. ‘ ... You’re reading History? 
A perfectly respectable school. The very worst is EngKsh 
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 Demos- 
thenes 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 dark- 
ened; 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 panel- 
ling; 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.’ 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 29 

I do not know that I ever, consciously, followed any of 
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 
marldng 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 Erst after- 
noon I proudly hung a reproduction of Van Gogh’s Sun* 
flowers 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 Vic- 
torians, 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 Ifiiey 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 which Oxford had to 
offer. 



30 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

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 
modem 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-dimen- 
sional 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 Ar% 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. / 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 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. I, however, remained censorious, 
and subsequent glimpses of him, 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 num- 
ber of technical terms to cover everything. 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 3I 

Nor, when at last we met, were the circmnstances pro- 
pitious. 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 un- 
steady 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 
unfocused 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 for the scout on such 
occasions ; 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 unpropi- 
tious 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 xmderstand aU 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.’ 



BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 


32 

‘ 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: / am very contrite. 
Aloysius wonH speak to me until he sees I am forgiven^ so please 
come to luncheon today. 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. 

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. 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 


33 

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 his 
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 today. 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 entrancing, with that epicene beauty 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 fimit, 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 in 
cards of invitation from London hostesses. 

‘That beast Hobson has put Aloysius next door,’ he 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 fresh- 
men, 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 kins- 
man. 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.’ 



34 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

When the eggs were gone and we were eating the lobster 
Newbnrgj 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 
ioiF-f-footer,^ 

He was tali, slim, rather swarthy, with large saucy eyes. 
The rest of us wore rough tweeds and brogues. He had on 
a smooth chocolate-brown suit with loud white stripes, 
snhdt shoes, a large bow-tie and he drew off yellow, wash- 
leather gloves as he came into the room; part Gallic, part 
Yankee, part, perhaps, Jew; wholly exotic. 

This, I did not need telling, was Anthony Blanche, the 
‘aesthete’ par excellence^ a byword of iniquity from Cher- 
well Edge to Somerville. He had been pointed out to me 
often in the streets, as he pranced along with his high pea- 
cock tread; 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. 

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

‘/, Tiresias, have foresuffered 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 Ll-lowest of the dead ...’ 

And then, stepping lightly into the room, ‘How I have 
surprised them! All b-boatmen 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 har- 
monium. 

It was four o’clock before we broke up, 

Anthony Blanche was the first to go. He took formal and 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 


35 

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: T think ifs 
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? Noth- 
ing 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 



36 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

destination: wrought-iron gates and twin, classical lodges on 
a village green, an avenue, more gates, open park-land, 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, 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, mo- 
mentarily, an ominous dull at the words he used - not, 
‘that is my house’, 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.* 

We drove round the front into a side court - ‘Every- 
thing’s shut up. We’d better go in this way’ - and entered 
through the fortress-like, stone-flagged, stone-vaulted pas- 
sages 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. The dome was false, designed to be seen from 
below like the cupolas of Ghambord. Its drum was merely 
an additional storey full of segmental rooms. Here were the 
nurseries. 

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 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 


37 

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. 
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 Con- 
servative Women. Her Ladyship was to have done them, 
but she’s poorly. Julia won’t be long; she’s leaving im- 
mediately after her speedy, 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 vety nice. “The lovely daughter 



gg brideshead revisited 

whom Lady Marchmain is bringing out this season 
as well as ornamental ... the most popular debutante , well 
that’s no more than the truth, thoi^h it was a shaine to cut 
her hair; such a lovely head of hair she had, just like 
Ladyship’s. I said to Father Phipps it’s not natoal. He 
said; “Nuns do it,” and I said, “WeU surely, fete, you 
aren’t going to make a nun out of Lady Julia . The very 

Sebastian and the old woman talked on. It was a ebb- 
ing room, oddly shaped to conform with the euwe of the 
dome. The walls were papered in a pattern of nbbon md 
roses There was a rocking horse in the corner and an oleo- 
graph of the Sacred Heart over the mantelpiece; the empty 
^te was hidden by a bunch of pampas grass and bul- 
Lhes; laid out on the top of the chest of drawers and 
fully dusted, were the collection of small presents which 
had been brought home to her at various tmes by her 
children, carved shell and lava, stamped leather, painted 
wood, china, bog-oak, damascened stiver, blue-john, ala- 
baster, coral, the souvenirs of many holidays. 

Presently nanny said: ‘Ring the beU, dear, and we 11 have 
some tea. I usually go down to Mrs Chandler, but we 11 
have it up here today. My usual girl has gone to London 
with the others. The new one is just up from the v^age. bhe 
didn’t know anything at first, but she’s commg along 


nicely. Ring the bell.’ 

But Sebastian said we had to go. 

‘And miss JuHa? She will be upset when she hears. It 
would have been suck 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 
Ldly charming. AU my life they’ve been taking things 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 39 

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. Tm 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 Alex- 
andra’s day it’s all open for a shilling. Weil, come and look 
if you want to. 

He led me through a baize door into a dark corridor; I 
could dimly see a gilt comice 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 of 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 at Brideshead had added 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 
sight-seeing ; how about this ? ’ 

The whole interior had been gutted, elaborately re- 
furnished and redecorated in the arts-and-crafts style of the 



BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 


40 

last decade of the nineteenth century. Angels in printed 
cotton smocks, rambler-roses, flower-spangled meadows, 
frisMng 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 pock-marked 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 mama. 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 tonight!’ - except, ‘It had quite the reverse 
effect on me.’ 

After a long pause he said petulantly, ‘ I don’t keep asking 
you questions 2hoMtyour 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 - 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 


41 

you see, 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 Hardcastie’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 Brides- 
head; could I have known then that it would one day be 
remembered with tears by a middle-aged captam of in- 
fantry? 


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 Mled 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 ha the door, was 



42 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

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 Fm 
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 my 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 aU 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 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 


43 

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 can’t stand him at the 
House. He was in Mercury again last night. None oi 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 evidence 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 ega" 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 else- 
where “ but are you? Have you spoken at the Union or at 
any of the clubs ? Are you connected with any of the maga- 
zines? Are you even making a position in the O.U.D.S.? 
hnAyour clothes V 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 



44 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

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 reassert them- 
selves in his mind. 

‘Fm sorry, Jasper,* I said. ‘I know it must be embarrass- 
ing 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 
tmcie 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 pro- 
minent features of my first year; some detail may be added 
on the same scale. 

I had committed myself earlier to spend the Easter vaca- 
tion 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 an 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 difierent address, neither giving any plain 
news of himself, for he wrote in a style of remote fantasy - ... 
'Mummy and two attendant poets have three had colds in the head, so 
I have come here. It is the feast of S. Mickodemus of Thyatira, who 
was martyred by having goatskin nailed to his pate, and is accord- 
ingly the patron of bald heads. Tell Collins, who I am sure will be 
bald before us. There cere too many people here, but one, praise 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 


45 

haven! has an ear-trumpet^ and that keeps me in good humour* 
And now 1 must try to catch a fish* It is too far to send it to you so 1 
will keep the backbone - which left me ifretfuL 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 un- 
finished work on Byzantine Art, I was touched to find 
among two pages of polite, preliminary acknowledgements 
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 Seb- 
astian, I might have trodden the same path as CoUins 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 else- 
where. It is conceivable, but not, I believe, likely, for 
the hot spring of anarchy rose from depths where was no 
soHd earth, and burst into the sunlight - a rainbow in its 
cooling vapours - with a power the rocks could not re- 
press. 

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 bachelor- 
dom of English adolescence, the premature dignity and 
authority of the school system, I had addeS a sad arid 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 



46 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

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 imdone 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 cham- 
pagne 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 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 


47 

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 school- 
boy 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 Diaghilev; 
Firbank sent him his novels with fervent inscriptions; he had 
aroused three irreconcilable feuds in Capri; by his own 
account he had practised black art in Cefalu and had been 
cured of drug-taking in California and of an Oedipus com- 
plex in Vienna. 

At times we aU 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 soinewhere 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 step-father’s party; 
while we had been rolling one another in the mud at foot- 
ball and gorging ourselves with crumpets, Anthony had 



BRIDESHEAD REVISITEB 


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 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 Alexandra 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 firom 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 boimd 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 Garsing- 
ton, 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 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 


49 

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 fapades in the vteux port at Mar- 
seille, 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! Weil, 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.” Of course you’ve met Boy ? He’s always popping 
in and out of dear Sebastian’s rooms. He’s everything we 
dagos expect of an English lord. h^tdXparti I can assure you. 
All the young ladies in London are after him. He’s very hoity- 
toity with them, I’m told. My dear, he’s scared stiff. A 
great oaf - that’s Mulcaster - and what’s more, my dear, a 
cad. He came to le Touquet at Easter and, in some extra- 
ordinary way, I seemed to have asked him to stay. 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, Mul- 
caster. Gome 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 



BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 


50 

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. Gome 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 tliink 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 would be an 
ecstacy of the very naughtiest kind. 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 Mulcaster 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 



ET.IN ARCADIA EGO 5I 

married to scraggy 

ous 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 put him in Mercury 
one night,” and their barnyard 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 hap- 
pening 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, ^su£h charm. Do you know, I 
went round to caU on Sebastian next day? I thought the tale 
of my evening’s adventures might amuse him. And what do 
you think I foxmd - besides, of course, his amusing toy bear? 
Mulcaster and two of his cronies of the night before. Th^ 
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-sebasdan, 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 hitch; just a few unkind boys who knew him well. 
Everyone in pop Hked 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 



52 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

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 su(k 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 pxmished. 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 fight; the pro- 
cess involved a series of harrowing interviews with m’ tutor. 
It was disconcerting to find how observant that mild old 
man proved to be. The thir\^s 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 school 
boys; which? 

* Shall we have another bottle of this wine, or of some- 
thing 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 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 


53 

exquisite, but the artist is an eteraai type, solid, purpose- 
ful, 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 really tickled me four years ago. 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 step-father 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, 
... I never heard anyone speak an ill word of Stefanie, 
except the Duke: and she^ my dear, is positively cretinous.’ 

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 swal- 
lowing a sp-spectnim. 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 my- 
self, 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, I don’t suppose he’ll ever 
let you meet them. He’s far too clever. They’re quite, quite 
gruesome. Do you ever feel there is something a teeny bit 



54 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

gruesome about Sebastian? No? Perhaps I imagine it; it’s 
simpiy that he looks 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 
snow-bound lama. . . . Well, anything you like. And Julia, 
you know what she looks like. Who could help it? Her photo- 
graph appears as regularly in the illustrated papers as the 
advertisements for Beecham’s Pills. A face of flawless Floren- 
tine 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. 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. Fm 
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, stick 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 Kds are veined blue where anyone else would have 
touched them with a finger-tip 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 March- 
main, well, a little fleshy perhaps, but very handsome, a 
magnifico, a voluptuary, Byronic, bored, infectiously sloth- 
ful, 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 some- 
one being hounded out of society. Brideshead won’t see 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 


55 

him, the girls mayn’t, Sebastian does, of course, because 
he’s so charming. No one else goes near him. Why, last 
September Lady Marchmain 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 ail the 
parties in a sort of cocoon of gossamer, my dear, as though 
she were part of some Celtic play or a heroine from Maeter- 
linck; 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 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 connexion 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; 



BRIDESHBAD REVISITED 


56 

instead of what? Begetting four splendid children by her, 
handing over to her Brideshead and Marchmain House 
in St James’s and ail 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 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 Person’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 around. 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 should be 
like juggling; up go the balls and the plates, up and over, 
in and out, 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 soapsud drifting 
off the end of an old clay pipe, anywhere, full of rainbow 
hght for a second and then - phutl vanished, with nothing 
left at all, nothing.’ 

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 
feE drowsy and let my mind wander a little. So we drove 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 57 

home, but his words, as we swimg over Magdalen Bridge, 
recalled the central theme of our dinner. ‘Well, my dear, 
I’ve no doubt that first thing tomorrow 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, nor the Chartreuse, nor the Mavro- 
daphne 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 puppyish romps and 
tumbles, explains the distress of that hag-ridden night. No 
dream distorted the images of the evening into horrific 
shapes. I lay awake and clear-headed. I repeated to myself 
Anthony’s words, catching his accent, soundlessly, and the 
stress and cadence of his speech, while under my closed lids 
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. 



BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 


58 

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 
bicycled in from his digs to be among them. 

I walked down the empty Broad to breakfast, as I often 
did on Sundays, at a tea-shop opposite BallioL The air was 
full of bells from the surrounding spires and the sun, cast- 
ing long shadows across the open spaces, dispelled the fears 
of night. The tea-shop was hushed as a library; a few 
solitary men in bedroom slippers from Balliol and Trinity 
looked up as I entered, then turned back to their Sunday 
new^spapers. 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, w^hile one by one the Balliol 
and Trinity men paid their bills and shuffled away, 
slip-slop, across the street to their colleges. It was nearly 
eleven when I left, and during my walk I heard the change- 
ringing cease and, aU over the town, give place to the 
single chime w^hich warned the city that service was about 
to start. 

None but church-goers seemed abroad that morning; 
undergraduates and graduates and wives and trades- 
people, walking with that unmistakable English church- 
going pace which eschewed equally both haste and idle 
sauntering; holding, bound in black lamb-skin and \<rhite 
celluloid, the liturgies of half a dozen conflicting sects ; on 
their way to St Barnabas, St Golumba, St Aloysius, St 
Mary’s, Pusey House, Blackfriars, and heaven knows where 
besides; to restored Norman and revived Gothic, to traves- 
ties of Venice and Athens; all in the summer sunshine going 
to the temples of their race. Four proud infidels alone pro- 
claimed 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 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 


59 

their plump, brown hands bright cushions, a picnic basket 
and the Plays Unpleasant of Bernard Shaw, making for the 
river. 

In the Commarket 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 Gross, 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 reveal- 
ing, 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 xmtil he returned. 

TVe been to mass at the Old Palace,’ he said. T 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 haE 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 today. No. I 
don’t suppose so/ 



60 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

‘ 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 
Fogiieres, and Anthony turned up with his family at the 
hotel, and there was some party the Fogiieres 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 Fogiieres - 
the princess is so proud of her English blood that she talks 
of nothing else. Anyway, no one objected to Antoine - 
much, 1 gather. It was his mother they thought difEcult/ 

‘And who is the Duchesse of Vincennes ? ’ 

‘Poppy?’ % 

‘Stefanie.’ 

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

‘Did he?’ 

‘I dare say. I think it’s more or less compulsory at 
Cannes. 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 ? ’ 

And then Boy Mulcaster came into the room. 


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 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 6l 

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 pros- 
pect and, turning the matter over in my mind, I felt some^ 
thing 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. AH 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 used to tease me - ‘You 
spend money like a bookie’ - but all of it 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. There is no candour in a story of 
early manhood which leaves out of account the home-sick- 
ness 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 jfrom 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 



BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 


62 

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 frogged 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 Sonerscheins - a terra-cotta bull of the fifth century. I 
was examining it and forgot your arrival. Was the carriage 
my 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 imder his chair. ‘What do you 
like to drink ? Hayter, what have we for Mr Charles to drink ? ’ 

‘ There’s some whisky.’ 

‘There’s whisky. 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 mry 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 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 


63 

to Barbizon 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, holiand 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 Pm going to get through 
the next two months.’ 

‘Well, Pm 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 invest- 
ments 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 ipergne. 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 



BRIBESHEAD REVISITED 


64 

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 sum- 
mer 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 me 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 mastJ (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; 
‘Hay ter, get me a cab.’ Then he would be away, some- 
times 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 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 


65 

say ‘ Ah-ha/ or ‘Very wamij’ or ‘ Splendid, splendid, ’ but in 
the evening, when he came to the garden-room in his 
velvet smoking suit, he alw^ays 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 w^andering 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 w^e 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 ? ’ 

‘Unchanged.’ 

‘It was inspired by your Aunt 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 tomorrow night.’ 



66 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

Dinner that evening consisted of a white, tasteless soup, 
over-fried fillets of sole with a pink sauce, lanab 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 
AbeFs 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 tmmistakable 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 reopened 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’ shopp- 
ing and entertainment. In the summer we went to lodgings 
together at the seaside. Then in my last year at school she 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 67 

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 yet said anything to Mrs Abel about the lobsters I 
ordered for tomorrow?* 

‘No, sir.’ 

‘Do not do so.’ 

‘Very good, sir.’ 

And when we reached our chairs in the garden-room he 
said: 

‘ I wonder whether Hayter had any intention of mention- 
ing lobsters. I rather think not. Do you know, I believe he 
thought I 'wz.s joking ? ’ 

Next day, by chance, a weapon came to hand. I met an 
old acquaintance of school-days, a 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 en- 
thusiasm 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, wdth a black waistcoat, very high 
collar, and very narrow white tie, wa^ 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 pos- 
sessed a dinner jacket. 

‘ Good evening, good evening. So nice of you to come ail 
this way.’ 

‘Oh, it wasn’t far,’ said Jorkins, who lived in Sussex 
Square. 

‘Science annihilates distance,’ said my father discon- 
certingly. ‘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 



68 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

him only the other night. He has been much in my mind. He 
came’j 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 per- 
haps the word I used was unfamiliar; no doubt would 
say that he “folded up”.’ 

My father was master of the situation. He had made a 
little fantasy for himself, that Jorkins should be an Ameri- 
can, 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, hy your standards ‘All this 
must seem very parochial to Mr Jorkins’; ‘In the vast 
spaces to which 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, ^mcket^’ 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, 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 69 

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 ail 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 in- 
cluded 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; lier fiance, a bald young man 
from the British Museum; and a monoglot Munich pub- 
lisher. 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 



BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 


70 

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 
drawing-room to show Sir Guthbert 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 min- 
utes 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 Hked 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 herl 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 my Aunt Philippa had been 
driven to Bordighera and 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 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 


71 

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: 

Brideskead Castle, 

Wiltshire* 
I wonder what the date is 

Dearest Charlh, 

I found a box of this paper at the back of a bureau so 1 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 wishyou 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 donH 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 
^^Bubhles’\^ 

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

My father was out and returned to find me in a condition 



72 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

of feverish anxiety. He stood in the hall with his panama hat 
still on his head and beamed at me. 

‘ Youll 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 himseE Still, of course, he may well 
be folly 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 comer of a third-class carriage and took a seat in 
the dining-car. ‘First dinner after Reading, sir; about 
seven o’clock. Gan 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 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 


73 

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 twi- 
light came to Melstead Carbury, which was my destination. 

‘Brideshead, sir? Yes, Lady Julia’s in the yard. ’ 

She was sitting at the wheel of an open car. I recognized 
her at once; I could not have failed to do so. 

‘You’re Mr Ryder? Jump in.’ Her voice was Sebastian’s 
and his her way of speaking. 

‘How is he?’ 

‘Sebastian? Oh, he’s fine. Have you had dinner? Weil, 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 ahnost 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 



BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 


74 

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 evening,’ 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. 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 


75 

‘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 comer 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 band- 
aged. 

‘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, you asked him, Wilcox would give us cham- 
pagne tonight?’ 

‘ I hate champagne and Mr Ryder has had dinner.’ 

^Mister Ryder? Mister Ryder? Charles drinks cham- 
pagne at aU 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 



76 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

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 tomorrow. 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 tonight,’ 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, with- 
out a backward glance, I felt a sense of liberation and peace 
such as I was to know years later when, after a night of un- 
rest, 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 tradi- 
tional attributes of Youth ~ all save this - come and go with 
us through life. These things are a part of life itself; but 
languor - the relaxation of yet unwearied sinews, the mind 
sequestered and self-regarding - 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 we took a fancy to the valley and pulled the 
castle down, carted the stones up here, and built a new 
house. Fm 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 palace ; Sebastian in his wheel chair spinning down 
the box-edged walks of the kitchen gardens in search of 
alpine strawberries and warm figs, propelling himself 
through the succession of hot-houses, from scent to scent 
and climate to climate, to cut the muscat grapes and choose 



78 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

orchids for our button-holes; Sebastian hobbling with a 
pantomime of difficulty to the old nurseries, sitting beside 
me on the threadbare, flowered carpet with the toy-cup- 
board empty about us and Nanny Hawkins stitching com- 
placently 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 supine on the sunny seat in 
the colonnade, 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 Chippen- 
dale fretv\'ork, 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 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 drop- 
ped 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 hill- 
sides. 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 splendid 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 



ET IN ARCADIA ECO 


79 

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 sculptured 
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 counter- 
feited 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 ad m ired but could 
never see the beauty of, herself. 

For me the beauty was new-found. 

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

This was my conversion to the Baroque. Here under that 
high and insolent dome, under those coffered ceilings; here, 
as I passed 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 



8o BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

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 water- 
fall affording a rugged introduction to the receding park- 
land behind. I knew little of oil-painting and learned its 
ways as I worked. When, in a week, it was finished, Seb- 
astian was eager for me to start on one of the larger panels. 
I made some sketches. He called for champitre 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 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 


8r 

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 eighteens 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 even- 
ings 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 it a 
third high, swjrled 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.’ 



82 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

* 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 din- 
ing-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 mon- 
astery 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 know 
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 L 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 Ampleforth. Father Graves managed to look 
up a train which gave us three hours to wait on the after- 
noon of the match against Lancashire. That was an 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 83 

afternoon. I remember every ball of it. Since then IVe had 
to go by the papers. You seldom go to see cricket?* 

‘Never,’ I said, and he looked at me with the expres- 
sion I have seen since in the religious, of innocent w’^onder 
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 Catholic- 
ism. Lady Marchmain had introduced a few Catholic ser- 
vants, but the majority of them, and all the cottagers, 
prayed, if anywhere, among the Flyte tombs in the Httie 
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 compens- 
ation, from the time I went to my public school I was 
excused church in the holidays. The masters who taught me 
Divinity told me that biblical texts were highly untrust- 
worthy. They never suggested I ‘should try to pray. My 
father did not go to church except on family occasions and 
then with derision. My mother, I think, was devout. It 
once se'emed odd to me that she should have thought it 
her duty to leave my father and me and go off with an 
ambulance, to Serbia, to die of exhaustion in the snow in 
Bosnia. But later I reco^ized some such spirit in myself. 
Later, too, I have come to accept claims which then, in 
1923, I never troubled to examine, and to accept the 
supernatural as the real. I was aware of no such needs that 
summer at Brideshead. 

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 ? ’ 



BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 


84 

* 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.’ 

‘Fm very, very much wickeder,’ said Sebastian in- 
dignantly. 

‘Well then?’ 

‘Who was it used to pray, “O 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 JVews 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 heliene 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? Do 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 ? ’ 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 


85 


* If you can’t see, you can’t’ 

‘Well, where?’ 

‘Oh, don’t be a hore, 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.’ 

‘Fil 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 watch- 
ing 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 of 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 a big part 
of 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 awk- 
wardly 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 



86 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

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 mon- 
signori 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 try- 
ing 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 
thhig 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 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 


87 

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 - par- 
ticularly 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 conver- 
sation by 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 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.’ 



88 


BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 


‘But ifs 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 today. 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 unassumed 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 ? ’ 

‘Veiy.’ 

‘ I wish I were. It is such a bond with other men. At Mag- 
dalen I tried to get drunk more than once, but I did not 
enjoy it. Beer and whisky I find even less appetizing. 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,’ 



89 


ET IN ARCADIA EQO 

*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 Brides- 
head said, ‘I saw the Bishop in London last week. You 
know, he wants to close our chapel.’ 

‘Oh, he couldn’t,’ said GordeKa. 

‘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 Cor- 
delia. ‘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, per- 
haps 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. 

‘Isit Good Art?’ 

‘Weil, 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.’ 



BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 


90 

‘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 some- 
times 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.’ 

said Sebastian. “Mr Ryder” 

to you, child.’ 

‘ Come on, Charles.’ 

When we were alone she said: ‘Are you reaUy an agnos- 
tic?’ 

‘ Does your family always talk about religion all the time ?’ 

‘Not aU 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.’ 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO §1 

‘Oh, Fve 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 ail 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.’ 



92 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

And SO we went; first by the long, cheap sea-crossing to 
Dunkirk, sitting all night on deck under a clear sky, watch- 
ing 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 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 
ofmounlain 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 saus- 
age, bread, and a flask 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 gondola here. I 
shall follow with the luggage in the vaporetto. His Lordship 
had 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 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 93 

and white livery and silver plaques on their chests; they 
smiled and bowed. 

^Palazzo* Pronto.'^ 
signore Plender^ 

And we floated away. 

‘ YouVe been here before?’ 

‘No.’ 

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

^Ecco d siarrw, signori.^ 

The palace was a little less than it soimded, 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 
jBrom shadow into light; ikt piano nobile was in full sunshine, 
ablaze with frescoes of the school of Tintoretto. 

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 out on 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. 

‘A bit bleak? ’ asked Sebastian. 

‘Bleak? Look at that.’ I led him again to the window and 
the incorpparable pageant below and about us. 

‘ No, you couldn’t call it bleak.’ 

A tremendous explosion drew us next door. We 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. The butler was almost 
invisible in the steam of an antiquated geyser. There was an 
overpowering smell of gas and a tiny trickle of cold water. 

‘No good.’ 

^ Sis Sis suhitOs signori*^ 



BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 


94 

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 ‘// 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 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 r 

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 hand- 
some, Charles?’ 

Lord Marchmain shook my hand. 

‘Whoever looked up your train,’ he said - and his voice 
also was Sebastian’s - ‘made a beiise. 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 it not too hot. I hope you boys 
will be fairly comfortable upstairs. This house seems to have 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 


95 

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 other 
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? Weil, I hope. She will be back with us tomorrow. 
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 tomorrow, 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 ined 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 back- 
gammon, you get caught at the bar, you get stupefied by the 
sun. Stick to the churches.’ 

‘ Charles is very keen on painting,’ said Sebastian. 

‘Yes?’ I noticed the hint of deep boredom which I knew 
so well in my own father. ‘Yes? Any particular Venetian 
painter?’ 

‘Bellini,’ I answered rather wildly. 

‘Yes? Which?’ 

‘I’m afraid I didn’t know there were two of them.’ 



g6 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

'Three to be precise. You will find that in the great ages 
painting was very much a family business. How did you 
leave England ? ’ 

*It has been lovely,’ said Sebastian. 

'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 ail the Socialists would have me be, and a great 
stumbling-block to my own party. Well, my elder son will 
change ail 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 
Brideshead 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 Fiorian’s for coffee, and watched the grave crowds 
crossing and recrossing under the campanile. 'There is 
nothing quite like a Venetian crowd,’ said Lord March- 
main, 'The city is crawling with Anarchists, but an Ameri- 
can 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 dis- 
approval.’ 

An English party had just then come from the water- 
firont, 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 
of 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 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 


97 

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 Marchmain’s mistress, 
therefore, found me with a multitude of conflicting expecta- 
tions about her, all of which were, for the moment, dis- 
appointed 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 Corom- 
bona 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 Bellini 
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 aU 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 nosed 



BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 


through the side-canals and the 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 every- 
where, lapping on smooth stone, reflected in a dapple of 
light on painted ceilings; of a night at the Gorombona 
palace such as Byron might have known, and another 
Byronic night fishing for scampi in the shallows of Ghioggia, 
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 ZiXidi prosciutto on 
the balcony in the cool of the morning; of hot cheese 
sandwiches and champagne cocktails at Harry’s bar. 

I remember Sebastian looking up at the Golleoni 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 
Gara at last admitted to fatigue. We sat in the late afternoon 
at the windows overlooking the Grand Ganal, 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 her amiss, but I failed to find an answer. She seemed 
not to expect one but continued stitching, pausing some- 
times 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?^ 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 99 

‘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 Marchmain. He hates her; but you can have no con- 
ception how he hates her. You would think him so calm and 
English - the milord, rather blas6, 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 Brides- 
head? 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 to be loved by 
someone who was not grown up. I have never met Lady 
Marchmain; I have seen her once only; but if you live with 
a man you come to know the other woman he has loved. I 
know Lady Marchmain very well. She is a good and simple 
woman who 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 



100 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

boyhood “innocence, God, hope. Poor Lady Marchmain has 
to bear all that. A woman 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 Gross 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 across the park to my home. 

My father greeted me with his usual air of mild regret. 

‘Here today,’ he said; ‘gone tomorrow, 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, new figures in new gowns 
wandered through the twilight under the arches and the 
familiar bells now spoke of a year’s memories. 

The autunmal 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 comer 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 Mgr Bell this afternoon. 
That makes the fourth since I came up - my tutor, the 
junior dean, Mr Samgrass of All Souls, and now Mgr 
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 mtwedf 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 Isis every week, and drinks 
coffee in the morning at the Cadena cafe, 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 notebooks and drinks cocoa in the evening 
and discusses sex seriously. Oh, Charles, what has happened 
since last term ? I feel so old.’ 



102 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

‘I feel middle-aged. That is infinitely worse. I believe we 
have had ail 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.’ 

‘ 1 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, the toy bear, Aloysius, sat un- 
regarded on the chest-of-drawers in Sebastian’s bed- 
room. 

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 connexion with the History School, 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 


103 

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 wTaith 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 hom-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 else- 
where for friends. My cousin Jasper had told me that it was 
normal to spend one’s second year shaking off the fiiends of 
one’s first, and it happened as he said. Most of my friends 



104 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

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 twiHght that softened and obscured 
all that year for me. Anthony Blanche had taken some- 
thing 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 dis- 
consolate 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 lime-iights; 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 expect- 
ation 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 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 


105 

later life they would say: ‘Do you remember that extra- 
ordinary 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 caprici- 
ously chosen and grew less and less individually recogniz- 
able. 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 Pas- 
sage 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 imiform 
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 aU 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 AH 
Souls, who now began to play an increasingly large part in 
our lives. Lady Marchmain was engaged in making a mem- 
orial book for circulation among her friends, about her 
brother, Ned, the eldest of three legendary heroes aU 
killed between Mons and Passchendaele; 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 judgement of an adoring 



I06 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

sister was liable to err. Acknowledging this, she had sought 
outside advice, and Mr Samgrass had been found to help 
her. 

He was a young 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. Hewasa greatdelver 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 
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 sus- 
pect, 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 of 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 in 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 associ- 
ated 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 dictaphone somewhere in his panelled rooms. 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 


107 

He was with Lady Marchmain when I first met them, and 
I thought then that she couid not have found a greater con- 
trast 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. Rex Mottram was warm and 
confident in a check 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 some- 
how 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: 



108 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

‘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.G. 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, going in and out of one another’s rooms which 
were together three floors up and rather shabby compared 
with the splendours below. 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 ? ’ 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO IO9 

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 March- 
main 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, tmhurried, exquisite, unrepent- 
ant. ‘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, Mul- 
caster said, ‘ I say, let’s slip away from this ghastly dance and 
go to Ma Mayfield’s.’ 

‘Who is 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 Efiie. 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 May- 
field’s,’ 



no 


BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 


‘We’ll take another bottle of pop off the good Mottram 
and then leave the bloody dance and go to the Old Hun- 
dredth, 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. Mulcaster 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, poisoned and infected and robbed,’ 
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.’ 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO lit 

* Daresay not, dearie. WeVe full up tonight 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.’ 

‘Fm 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 tonight? ’ asked Mulcaster. 

‘Efifie ’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 caU 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. ‘Gome 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? ’ 



112 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

‘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 w'ere 
with Bunty the time the police were in and we all hid in the 
place they keep the dust-bins,’ 

‘Efie loves pulling my leg, don’t you, Effie? She’s annoy- 
ed with me for staging away so long, aren’t you?’ 

‘Whatever you say, I know I have seen you before some- 
where.’ 

‘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 tow’ards 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 wEen 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 re- 
gained 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. 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 


II3 

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 Efhe, ‘look where you’re going. 
D’you want to murder us all ? ’ 

‘ Careless fellow that,’ said Sebastian. 

‘It isn’t safe the %vay you’re driving,’ said Death’s 
Head. ‘Besides, wt 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 w’ere caught. 

‘I’m sorry if I am impeding the traffic, officer,’ said Seb- 
astian with care, ‘ but the lady insisted on my stopping for 
her to get out. She w^ould 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 judgement. 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 any- 
thing. 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 prqcess of 



1 14 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

admission. Mulcasterj 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. 
Somew’here to the left of me Sebastian and Mulcaster w^ere 
raising Cam. Sebastian had been steady on his legs and 
fairly composed on the way to the station ; now’, shut in, he 
seemed in a fienzy and was pounding the door, and shout- 
ing: ‘Damn you, I’m not drunk. Open this door. I insist on 
seeing the doctor. I tell you Fm not drunk,’ while Mul- 
caster, beyond, cried: ‘My God, you’ll pay for this! You’re 
making a great mistake, I can tell you. Telephone the 
Home Secietar}’. 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 iock-up or a looney-house?’ - and the 
sergeant, going his rounds, admonished them through the 
grille. * Yoiril 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 alseep. 

‘I tell you the man - Rex Mottram, He’d be in his 
element here.’ 

We had some difficulty in getting in 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 opened. 

Seeping through the squalid air of the police station, the 
sour smell of dirt and disinfectant, came the sweet, rich 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 115 

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 ow*n 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 talldng 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 magis- 
trate’s court at ten next morning, and then led us aw'ay. His 
car was outside. 

‘It’s no use discussing things tonight. Where are you 
sleeping ? ’ 

‘ Marchers,’ said Sebastian. 

‘You’d better come to me. I can fix you up for tonight. 
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 Mott- 
ram sent round to Heppell’s for this.’ 

I took the draught and felt better. 

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



BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 


Il6 

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 giim view of cases of this sort. Ail that will 
happen this morning is that we shall ask to have Sebastian 
held over for a week to prepare the defence. You two wall 
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 ail right. We shall need a don to give evidence of good 
character. Julia tells me you have a tame one called Sam- 
grass. He’U 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 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 


II7 

half past ten we stood in Bow Street, Mnlcaster 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 no- 
where to go. Let’s just slip back to Oxford and wait for 
them to bother 

The raffish habitues of the police court came and went, 
up and down the steps; still we stood on the windy comer, 
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?’ 



BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 


ii8 

*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, of 
course. You know anything Uncle Ned did was always 
perfect, and he 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. She wants you both to lunch 
with her.’ 

‘Oh God!’ 

‘The only trouble is the papers and the family. Have you 
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 
with them. They’ll be writing letters and paying visits of 
sympathy, 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. 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 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’ 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO IIQ 

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 prom- 
inence, one of them under the ironic headline: ^ Marquisas 
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 irreproach- 
able 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 
Mgr Bell to call on the Dean of Christ Church; he ar- 
ranged for Lady Marchmain to talk to the Chancellor him- 
self; 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 in- 
timacy 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 Sam- 
grass’s mercy. Hardly an evening seemed to pass but he called 
on one or the other of us. He spoke of ‘our little escapade’ 



120 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

as though he, too, had been in the ceils, 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, there- 
fore, when I arrived at Brideshead, after Christmas, 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 himg 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 yoftag friends are fox- 
hunting, even Sebastian who, you will not be surprised to 
hear, looked remarkably elegant in his pink coat. Brides- 
head 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 
H^el; Sir Adrian Person, of course, and two rather for- 
bidding Magyar cousins - 1 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 incom- 
parable Gharius. Your arrival emboldens me to ring for 
some tea. How can I prepare you for the party? Alas, it 
breaks up tomorrow. Lady Julia departs to celebrate the 
New Year elsewhere, and taies 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- 
Kke 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 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 121 

do not go tomorrow. Tomorrow 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 busi- 
ness 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 crum- 
pets 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 Seb- 
astian 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 ; ‘ Fm sick of being grateful to him.’ 

In the course of the next fortnight distaste for Mr Sam- 
grass 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 Person, the Hungarians, the 
friar, Brideshead, Sebastian, Cordelia were all who re- 
mained 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.’ 



122 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

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 w^alk by the lakes or in a corner of the 
walled rose-gardens; if it w’as w'inter, in her sitting-room 
on the first floor. 

This room was ail her o\m; 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 elabo- 
rate comice which, in one form or another, graced every 
room was lost to view; the walls, one panelled in brocade, 
were stripped and washed blue and spotted with innumer- 
able little water-colours of fond association; the air w^as 
SH'eet with the fresh scent of flowers and musty potpourri; 
her library in soft leather covers, well-read works of poetry 
and piety, filled a small rosew'ood 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 some- 
thing 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 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 


123 

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-inAVonderland 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 palms of his own 
mind he w^as 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 slope 
that had never known the print of a boot, there trod the 
grim invasion of trader, administrator, 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 joy 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 



124 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

management ; Mr Samgrass was at work in the library on 
Lady Marchmain’s book; Sir Adrian Person demanded 
most of Lady IMarchmain’s time. We saw little of them 
except in the evenings; there was room under that wide 
roof for a wide variety of independent lives. 

After a fortnight Sebastian said: ‘I can’t stand Mr Sam- 
grass any more. Let’s go to London,’ so he came to stay vdth 
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 sullenncss even towards me. He was sick at heart 
somewhere, I did not know how, and I grieved for him, un- 
able 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 con- 
fidence, 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 to my- 
self. 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 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO I25 

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 over-mastering hate or love of any tw’O 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, cul- 
minating 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, another stride in the flight from his 
family which brought him to ruin. 

It w'as 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 Fiytes 
all w'ent into retreat at ihe guest-house of a monastery from 
Maundy Thursday until Easter. This year Sebastian had 
said he w^ould 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 sec the change in him, while his 
own family were occupied, each with their particular guests. 



BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 


126 

WTien 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 do\\Ti. 

The normal practice was for a cocktail tray to be brought 
into the draw'ing-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-jongg with Cordelia. At 
six I was alone in the drawdng-room, w^hen 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.’ 

T’ve been reading in my room. My cold’s worse today’. 

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 fore- 
boding. 

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.’ 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 127 

‘How very peculiar! What a bore he is! IVill he be all 
right for dinner?’ 

‘No.’ 

‘Weilj 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, foimd it locked, and hoped he 
was sleeping, but, when I came back from my bath, 1 found 
him sitting in the chair before my hre; 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, w^hat you said was quite true. Not wdth nanny. 
Been drinking whisky 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 decan- 
ter of whisky. 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. 



128 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

*rve 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 whisky. Tii go and have a look at him.’ 

‘Don’t mummy, I’ii go/ said Julia rising. 

Til 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, looldng 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. 

TordeliaJ 

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 tonight.’ 

It was the custom, I learned later, always to ask Lady 
Marchmain 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, 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 


129 

Julia sat with a stool covered with manicure things and 
carefully revamished 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 w^ere 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 my 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. 



130 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

Fve 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 window. 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. Weil, 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 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 


I3I 

wind had freshened and we stayed indoors; I sat near her 
before the fire in her room, while she bent over her needle- 
work 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. I 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 



132 BRJDESHBAD REVISITED 

mind that, but last night and this morning are something 
quite different. You see, zfV all happened before^* 

‘I can only say IVe seen him drunk often and Fve 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. Weil, 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- 1 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 em- 
broidery 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 
brothers’ book ? It has just come out.’ 

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

T 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, 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 


^33 

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 bondieu- 
serie, the low ceiling, the chintz, the lambskin bindings, 
the views of Florence, the bowls of hyacinth and potpourri, 
the petit-pointy 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 



134 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

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 tiiem by nine years and had married and left home 
while they were schoolboys; between her and them stood 
two other sisters; after the birth of 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 pro- 
fusion 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 them- 
selves, debarred from all preferment, and learning, in those 
lost generations, lessons which could still be read in the 
lives of the last three men of the house. 

Mr Samgrass’s deft editorship had assembled and ar- 
ranged 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 con- 
temporaries, 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 law, 
to be shot off at leisure so that things might be safe for the 
travelling salesman, with his polygonal pince-nez, his fat 
wet handshake, 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 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 135 

hear it in the rattle of creeper on the window-panCs this 
whisper of doom? 

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

* Cordelia sent you her special love/ 

‘Did you have a “little talk” with m ummy ?* 

‘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 imndum^\’ 

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 cobble; 
but it was not as it had been; there was mid-winter 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 Blackwell’s where recent German books were displayed, 
setting aside a little heap of purchases. 

‘You’re sharing digs with Sebastian?’ he said. ‘So he 
coming up next term ? ’ 

‘ I suppose so. Why shouldn’t he be ? ’ 

‘ I don’tknow 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 2irrangement in Merton Street 
until you’re sure.’ 



136 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

I told Sebastian of this conversation and he said: *Yes, 
there’s a plot on. Mummy wants me to go and live with 
Mgr BeE.’ 

‘ Why didn’t you tell me about it ? ’ 

‘Because I’m not going to live with Mgr 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: ‘/ shall be passing 
through Oxford on Tuesday and hope to see you and Sebastian, 
I would like 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 Godl’ 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 whisky alone. He did not remember 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 


137 

much about it when he came to tell me next morning. 

‘Have you been doing that a lot,’ I asked, ‘drinking by 
yourself after Fve gone ? ’ 

‘About twice; perhaps four times. It’s only when they 
start bothering me. I’d be ail 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 Mgr 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 Sebast- 
ian 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 



138 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

Still believe it to some extent. I believe he has been drunk 

two or three tunes 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, 
Fve 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. Mgr 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 
CathoKcs, but he must know some. It needs a very strong 
faith to stand entirely alone and Sebastian’s isn’t strong. 

‘But I was so happy at luncheon on Tuesday that I gave 
up all my objections; I went round with 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 1 - 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 
Mgr 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 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 139 

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 jfree.’ 

‘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. ‘Fm 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 fresh- 
men, dining with the visiting lecturer at the Newman, 
drinking a glass of port when we have guests, with Mgr 
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 tonight?’ 

‘It’s the one time it could do no conceivable harm,’ I 
said. 

^ Contra mundum?^ 

^Contra rnundumJ 

‘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 



140 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

with her, Brideshead and I went to his rooms to sort out 
what he would have sent on and what leave behind, 

Brideshead w^as as grave and impersonal as ever. ‘It’s a 
pity Sebastian doesn’t know Mgr 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, ‘w'hy bring God into everything ? ’ 

‘ I’m sorry. I forgot. But you know that’s an extremely 
funny question,’ 

‘Is it?’ 

‘Tome. 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 asked 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. 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO 


I4I 

‘ 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 firiend of yours,’ asked my 
father. ‘ Is he not with you ? ’ 

‘No.’ 

‘ I quite thought he had taken this over as his home. Fm 
sorry, I liked him.’ 

‘Father, do you particularly want me to take my degree ? ’ 

‘/want you to ? Good gracious, why should / 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 aU 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 of 
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 



BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 


142 

the time we spoke of the matter again it was firmly estab- 
lished. 

*When you’re a painter,’ he said at Sunday luncheon, 
‘you’ll need a studio.’ 

‘Yes.’ 

‘Well, there isn’t a studio here. There isn’t even a room 
you could use decently 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, 
nor 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 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 aU ? 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 rw, 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 he 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 



ET IN ARCADIA EGO I43 

investigate a number of orthodox monasteries. He hopes this may he 
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 
tern have not been too much upset and that everything will go well 
withyou. 

Tours sincerely, 

Teresa Marchmain. 

went to the garden-room this morning and was so very sorry. ^ 



BOOK TWO 


BRIDESHEAD DESERTED 
Chapter One 


‘And when we reached the top of the pass/ said Mr Sam- 
grass, ‘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 ceased. 
‘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 
lampKght, 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.’ 



BRIDESHEAD DESERTED I45 

‘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 pigskin satchel. 

‘Here’, he said, ‘is a group taken by a street photo- 
grapher 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 Mx 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 canJ 

Christmas with my uncle was an engagement I could not 



146 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

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 me of 
mislaid luggage and of Cook’s being shut over the holidays, 
that I w’as 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. 

‘ Gome 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 Fm pleased,’ said Sebastian. 

‘Well, you might show it a bit. Fve 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. 



BRIDESHEAD DESERTED I47 

‘Well/ she said, 'yon 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 comers 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 lie Saint-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, ‘Modem 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 firom 
a real artist, and snubs to her.’ 



BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 


148 

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 w^ould 
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.’ 

‘Weil, 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 \vas half past seven; I supposed the others had gone to 
dress, but, as I was going to follow them, I met Brideshead 
coming dowm. 

‘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 visif; 
it was next to Sebastian’s, and we shared what had once 
been a dressing-room and had been changed to a bathroom 



BRIDESHEAD DESERTED I49 

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 in the modem 
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 some time.’ 

I dressed and called in for Sebastian, but found him still 
sitting as I had left him, half-dressed over his fire, 

Julia was alone in the drawing-room. 

‘Weil,’ 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 ? ’ 



150 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

* Mummy only sees what suits her. She can’t have the 
whole household under surveillance. Fm 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 sheeps’ 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 whisky, 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 of 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 Jtdia 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 was 
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 



BRIDESHEAD DESERTED I5I 

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 tomorrow?’ 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 some time,’ said Julia. ‘I’d better stay in 
to greet him.’ 

‘Where’s the meet ? ’ said Sebastian suddenly. 

‘Just here at Fiyte 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 always used 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. 
Brideshead rang the bell for whisky. 

‘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 March- 
main, 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 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 qxuetly soaking in the bar parlour. If they tr^fe . 

KjorocS&o. S'*-* 



152 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

me like a dipsomaniac, they can bloody well have a dipso- 
maniac, 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 accoimt, 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 tomorrow 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 dis- 
advantage 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 
Gonstantinopie. 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.’ 



BRIDESHEAD DESERTED 


153 

‘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 Tolmtlian 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 1 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 of 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 fiat, 
but Anthony was very helpful about that, and said it was 



154 ERIDESHEAD REVISITED 

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; 
GordeHa, very smart herself, with her chin held high over 
her white stock, wailed when Sebastian appeared in a 
tweed coat: ‘ OA, 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 just encourages the Strickland-Venableses. They’re 
behaving rottenly. They’ve even taken their grooms out of 
top hats,’ 

It was a 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 re- 
treating 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 fified. 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 Sam- 
grass came to my elbow, put an arm in mine, and led me 



BRIDESHEAD DESERTED I55 

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 precau- 
tions.’ 

Tdid.’ 

‘ 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 tonight. 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 
Samgrass, but I was compelled to say: T’m not sizre that 
tonight would be the best time to start the relaxation.’ 

‘But surely? Why not tonight, 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 
Marchmain 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 hospit- 
able tray in the library. And yet you specifically advise 
against it tonight, I wonder why. Sebastian can come to no 
mischief today. For one thing, he has no money. I happen 
to know. I saw to it, I even have his watch and cigarette 



156 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

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. IVe got Rex Mottram 
coming here today. 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 today, 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’tmatter?’ 

‘Why does it matter less being unhappy in Kenya than 
anywhere else?’ 



BRIDESHEAD DESERTED I57 

‘Don^t pretend to be stupid, Charles. You understand 
perfectly.’ 

‘You mean there won’t be so many embarrassing 
situations for you? Weil, all I was trying to say was that Fm 
afraid there may be an embarrassing situation tonight 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 loohed 
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 up 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, mono- 
maniac louts! ... and yet, you know - it must be something 
derived from centuries ago - my heart is quite light today 
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, 



158 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

and then send Mm 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 dead- 
lock, not because we failed to understand one another, but 
because 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 sMp, below the water-line, black and red 
in the darkness, coming to light in acrid wisps of smoke 
that oozed under hatches and 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, a Mgh place of toiling limgs. 

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 worry 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, I should only have to talk to you for 



BRIDESHEAD DESERTED I59 

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.’ 

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 with- 
drawn at a touch, now stretching its neck and sw^aying 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. 

‘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 



l60 ♦ BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

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 feet, 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 
tonight.’ 

(In his kindest moments Rex displayed a kind of hectoring 
zeal as if he were thrusting a vacuum cleaner on an un- 
willing housewife.) 

‘We’ll think about it.’ 

And we were thinking about it when Cordelia returned 
from hunting. 

‘ Oh, Julia, wkafs that ? How beastly,^ 

‘It’s Rex’s Christmas present’ 

‘Oh, sorry. I’m always putting my foot m 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 ? ’ 



BRIDESHEAD DESERTED l6l 

‘He’s in disgrace.’ The words, in that clear, child’s voice 
had the ring of a bell tolling, but she ent on : ‘ Coming out 
in that beastly rat-catcher coat and mean little tie like some- 
thing 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 T's^ining.’ 

‘ 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 fever- 
ishly bright; I saw that he was two-thirds drunk. 

‘Dear boy,’ said Lady Marchmain. ‘How nice to sec 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.’ 



i 62 brideshead revisited 

*Yes, have some port if you want it. But don’t come 
into the drawing-room.’ 

*Too bioody drunk/ said Sebastian nodding heavily. 
'Like olden times. Gentlemen always too drunk join ladies 
in olden times.’ 

/And yet, you know^ it wamH' said Mr Samgrass, trying 
to be chatty with me about it afterwards, ‘it wasn’t at ail 
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 today. 
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 ? * 



BRIDESHEAD DESERTED 


163 


‘Yes.’ 

‘I don’t understand it,’ she said. ‘I simply don’t under- 
stand 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 so much. Did you hate 
us all the time? I don’t understand how we deserved it.’ 

I was unmoved; there w^as no part of me remotely 
touched by her distress. It w’as 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 hoUow candle. 



164 BRIDESHEAB REVISITED 

‘I have left behind illusion,’ I said to myself. 'Hence- 
forth 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 ail 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 more 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. '/ was so very miserable when 
you went. You might have come and said good-bye I 

‘ / heard all about your disgrace, and I am writing to say that 
1 am in disgrace, too. I sneaked Wilcox’s keys and got whisky 
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 1 think he is a bit in 
disgrace, too, but 1 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 th^ 
do, so there goes a packet {expression of Mr Mottram’ s ) . 

"! 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 attrac- 
tion; this was the expression which meant someone of the 
first consequence, and Rex indeed seemed to justify it, as 



BRIDESHEAD DESERTED 165 

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 
today. 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 retelling 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 ail. 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’ Fd give him his revenge this afternoon. Won’t 
you dine with me ? ’ 

‘Yes. Where?’ 

‘I usually go to Giro’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.’ 



l66 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

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 weil - soup of oseille, a sole 
quite simply cooked in a white-wine sauce, a caneion a la 
presse^ a lemon souffle. At the last minute, fearing that the 
whole thing was too simple for Rex, I added caviar aux 
Minis. And for wine I let him give me a bottle of igo6 
Montrachet, then at its prime, and, with the duck, a Cios 
de B^ze 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 w'ell 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 
Httie place with suspicion as though hoping to see apaches 
or a drinking party of students. Ail 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 mattre 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. 



BRIDESHEAD DESERTED iSj 

*Did you stay long at Brideshead? Was my name men- 
tioned 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 w’hat 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 glaucous 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 w'as the blue-eyed boy for a day or two after 
you left. Shouldn’t w^onder 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 whisky right under our noses 
for a week. We couldn’t think where he was getting it. 
That’s when the Marchioness finally crumbled.’ 



l68 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

The soup was delicious after the rich blinis - hot, thin, 
bitter, frotisy. 

‘I’ll tell you a thing, Charles, that !Ma Marchmain hasnT 
let on to anyone. Sije’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 w’hen everyone including Anstruther 
had despaired of her. But Ma Marchmain w'on’t do any- 
thing about it. I suppose it’s something to do with her crack- 
brain religion, not to take care of the body.’ 

The sole w'as 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, w’hile I drank the first glass 
of the Clos de Beze 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 : 

Til tell you another thing, too - theyTi 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 w’cre 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 
quesiions 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 



BRIDESHEAD DESERTED 169 

separate establishment - and setting it up on no humble 
scale either. D’you know how much theyVe overdrawn?’ 

‘Ofcourseldon’t’ 

‘Jolly near a hundred thousand in London. I don’t know 
what they owe elsewhere. Well, that’s quite 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. It seemed 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 inter- 
vening years, but it still spoke in the pure, authentic accent 
of its prime, 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 
maniage 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 at his own price; that was 
what it amounted to. 

Ma Marchmain doesn’t like me. Weil, 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. 



tyo BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

I’ve nothing against her Church; we don’t tahe 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 
ail 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 w’ho 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, 
^Lx)ok, 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. 

‘Weil, 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 ail 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. So as the Marchioness won’t play bail Fm off to 



BRIDESHEAD DESERTED I7I 

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. Fd planned to go 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 stuffhe 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 
imless 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 appre- 
ciate 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, un- 
intelligible 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 were 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 



172 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

present; nor was the Prime Minister; nor were any of 
Julia’s family. It sounded like a ‘holc-in-the-corner’ affair, 
but it was not for several years that I heard the full story. 


Chapter Two 

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 some- 
times have one's attention caught by another, take it down, 
glance at the title page and, saying ‘ I must read that, too, 
v^hen Pve the time,’ replace it, and continue the search. 
On m\ side the interest was keener, for there was aWays 
the physical likeness between brother and sister, w’hich, 
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 w’as thin in those days, fiat-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 was at 
the centre of it. There were then remaining perhaps half a 
dozen London houses which could be called ‘historic’; 
Marchmain House in St James’s was one of them, and the 



BRIDESHEAD DESERTEB I73 

ball given for Julia, in spite of the ignoble costume of the time, 
was by all accotints 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 bail of its kind given there; the last of a splendid series. 

How could I have known? There seemed time for every- 
thing 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 child- 
hood friends of Julia’s, and besides them there were count- 
less substantial houses in the squares of Mayfair and Bel- 
gravia, alight and thronged, one or other of them, night 
after night. 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 candle-light 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 tonight.’ 

That night and the night after and the night after, 
wherever she went, always in her own little circle of 
intimates, she brought a moment of joy, such as strikes deep 
to the heart on the river’s bank when the kingfisher suddenly 
flares across the water. 

This was the creature, neither child nor woman, that 
drove me through the dusk that summer evening, un- 
troubled by love, taken aback by the power of her own 
beauty, hesitating on the cool edge 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, the fawning monster who would 
bring her whatever she asked, but bring it, perhaps, in 
unwelcome shape. 



174 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

She had 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 canned in China; a 
little problem troubling her mind - little, as she saw it, in 
abstract terms and symbols. She %vas wondering, dispas- 
sionately 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, w’hich outside the room, 
out of sight of the studious officers, may engulf past, present, 
and future in ruin or life. She w'as a symbol to herself then, 
lacking the life ofijoth child and w’oman; victory and defeat 
were changes of pin and line; she knew' nothing of war. 

‘If only one livod abroad,’ she thought, ‘where these 
things are arranged betw'een parents and lawyers.’ 

To be married, soon and splendidly, w^as the aim of all 
her friends. If she looked further than the wedding, it w'as to 
see marriage as the beginning of indwidual existence; the 
skirmish w'here one gained one’s spurs, from w’hich one set 
out on the true quests of life. 

She outshone by far ail the girls of her age, but she knew 
that, in that little w’orld wTthm a world which she inhabited, 
there were certain grave disabilities from w hich she suffered. 
On the sofas against the wail where the old people counted 
up the points, there w’ere things against her. There was the 
scandal of her father; that slight, inherited stain upon her 
brightness that seemed deepened by something in her owm 
way of life - waywardness and wilfulness, a less disciplined 
habit than most of her contemporaries’; but for that, who 
know’s? ... 

One subject eclipsed all others in importance for the 
ladies along the wail; w'ho 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 



BRIDESHEAD DESERTED I75 

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 
apostatized 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 succes- 
sion. 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 rich and noble Catholic fami- 
lies, 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, 



176 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

thirty*tw'o or -tlireCj and had been recently and tragically 
widowed; Julia thought she would prefer a man a little 
suMued by earlier grief. He had a great career before him 
but had grow’n listless in his loneliness; she was not sure he 
W'as not in danger of falling into the hands of an unscrupu- 
lous 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 show’s of 
religion and was perfectly agreeable to having his children 
brought up Catholic; he believed, however, in the prudent 
r^triction of his family to two boys and a girl, comfortably 
spaced over tw’elve years, and did not demand, as a 
Catholic husband might, yearly pregnancies. He had 
tw’clve thousand a year above his pay, and no near rela- 
tions. Someone like that w'ouid do, Julia thought, and 
she \v3lS 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, as one does learn 
the former - as it seenas at the time, the preparatory - life of 
a w Oman one loves, so that one thinks of oneself as having 
been pai t of it, directing it by devious w’ays, towards oneseE 

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 - 



BRIDESHEAD DESERTED I77 

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 rou6 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 seniois 
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 magnmn, and the fourth cigar, of the 
chauffeur kept waiting hour after hour without com- 
punction - 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, disconcert- 
ingly, in public -* talked a language made up of them. It 
was ‘Pont Street’ to wear a signet ring and to give choco- 
lates at the theatre; it was ‘Pont Street’ at a dance to say, 

‘ Gan 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 Rex. 

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. 



lyB BKIDESHEAD REVISITED 

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 the bonds 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, 
Eving 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. Fm 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 



BRIDESHEAD DESERTED I7g 

Marchmain; he offered Lis 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, drivmg 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 diimer; 
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 Fve 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 today,’ 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,’ 



l80 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

‘Ohj mummy, I can’t be bothered with him. Do tell 
him to go home.’ 

* That’s not at all kind, Julia. Fve 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 
Ido.’ 

‘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.’ 

‘Anyw'ay, 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, Fm 
rescuing a fallen man for a change. Fm 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?’ 



BRIDESHEAD DESERTED l8l 

®Mrs Champion’s morals, thank Gkxi, 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 Fm 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 comer of something like it in 
her. Their passion frightened her, and she came back 
from the confessional one day 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 Sunning- 
dale, 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 Httie ? ’ 

She took her problem to Farm Street and propounded 



BRI0ESHEAD REVISITED 


182 

it in general terais, not in the confessionalj but in a dark 
little parlour kept for such interviews. 

® Surely, Father, it can’t be WTong to commit a small sin 
myself in order to keep him from a much worse one ? ’ 

But the gentle old Jesuit was unyielding. She barely lis- 
tened 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 
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 today,’ 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, Gk)d knows. 

So the year wore on and the secret of the engagement 
spread from Julia’s confidantes to their confidantes, until, 
like ripples at last breaking on the mud-verge, 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 JuHa 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 



BRIDESHEAD DESERTED 183 

on to Monte CarlOj where he completed her rout. Lord 
Marchmain did not concern himself with the finer points 
of B.ex*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, firom 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 
ip a n in another back room made designs for the setting 
with a stub of pencil on a sheet of notepaper, 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 Hertford Street 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 
house 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 herseE 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 haE’ 

‘ I’m sure it is, darling.’ 

‘These fellows talk as though I were trying to rob you. 



184 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

It’s who are doing the robbing. They want to rob you 
of t\^’0-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 dowTy 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 
merely a device for putting part of his legitimate profits into 
other people’s pockets; but he had some connexion with an 
msurance 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 came the question of Rex’s religion. He had 
once attended a royal wedding in Madrid, and he wanted 
something of the kind for himseE 

‘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 ? Gan 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 any- 
thing.’ 

‘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 herseE 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 E 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 



BRIDESHEAD DESERTED 185 

two religions in one house, A man needs a religion. If your 
Church is good enough for Julia, if 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 Fli 
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 catechu- 
mens. 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 till now, so I asked him what he meant by 
prayer. He said: “/ don’t mean anything. You tell 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 ? ’ 



l86 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

* I don’t think it enters his head,’ said Julia. 

* He’s really sincere in his conversion ? ’ 

*He’s absolutely determined to become a CathoHc, 
mummy,’ pid to herself she said: ‘In her long history the 
Church must have had some pretty queer converts. I don’t 
suppose all Clovis’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, remenabered 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 modem education is you never know how ignorant 
people are. 'With anyone over fifty you can be fairly con- 
fident 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 the depths of confusion you didn’t know existed. 
Take yesterday. He seemed to be doing very well. He 
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 Fm 
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 



BRIDESHEAD DESERTED 


187 

talk with a Catholic - a very pious, well'-educated one, and 
IVe learned a thing or two. For instance, that you have to 
sleep with your feet pointing East because that’s the direc- 
tion of heaven, and if you die in the night you can walk 
there. Now Fll 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.’” 

'■VVhat 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!’ 

‘ Cordeha, it was jom.’ 

‘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 wed- 
ding. 

‘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.’ 



l88 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

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 mo- 
ment. 

*Chinky vases from Aunt Betty,* said Cordelia. ‘Old 
stuff. I remember them on the stairs at Buckbome.* 

‘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 J’ 

‘I thought Fd better make some inquiries about my pros- 
pective brother-in-law, as no one else seemed interested,’ 
said Brideshead. ‘I got the final answer tonight. He was 
married in Montreal in 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 het 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 nunpus ? ’ 

‘You might have told me,’ said Julia, 

‘You never asked. Honest, I’ve not given her a thought 
in years.’ 



BRIDESHEAD DESERTED 189 

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^L Didn’t I just tell you we were divorced 
six years ago.’ 

‘ But you canH 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 repe- 
titions, 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 teU 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. Fm 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 



igO BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

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. 
Weil, 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 look out. We’re not asking you to risk your 
souls. Just keep away.’ 

‘Julia, I hate you,’ said Cordelia, and left the room. 

‘We’re ail tired,’ said Lady Marchmain. ‘If there was 
anything to say, Fd suggest our discussing it in the morn- 
ing.’ 

‘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 wiU, 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. 



BRIDESHEAD DESERTED igi 

*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 w’as 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 char- 
women as witnesses, but nothing else would do but Rex 
had to have bridesmaids and orange blossom 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 accom- 
plices Rex called his friends; the rest of the party were 
very oddly assorted. None of mummy’s family came, of 



192 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

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 fiirious, because it w’as 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 w^as great awkwardness about the tenants. In 
the end Bridey w’ent 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 - Fd moved to 
Aunt Fanny Rosscommon’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. Ail 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 



BRIDESHEAD DESERTED I93 

was a hoodoo on us from the start But I was stiH 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 ail 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 modem 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. 


I RETURNED to London in the spijigj^0Qg6^ 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 
caf^s, acquaintances greeted one half-derisively with: ‘Ha, 
my firiend, 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 imder 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 ifistory 



194 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

SO often repeated of late, ynth 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.G.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 caf6 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 plat- 
form at Victoria and converging on the first-class carriages; 
the long line of waiting taxis. 

‘We’ll separate,’ we .said, see what’s happening. 
We’ll meet and compari’n^tes* at dinner,’ but we knew 
already in our hearts that nomihg 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 garpvr 
nike in Auteuil - and wished I had not come. 

We dined that night at the Caf6 Royal. There things 
were a little more warlike, for the Gaf6 was full of under- 
graduates 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 provoca- 
tively over the shoulder, but it is hard to come into serious 



BRIDESHEAB DESERTED I95 

conflict back to back, and the affair ended wth their 
giving each other tall glasses of lager beer. 

‘You should have been in Budapest when Horthy 
inarched in,’ said Jean. ^Tkat 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 w^e 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, 

‘ 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 anyw^here.’ 

‘ She’s given you the slip, my dear, and do you know why? 
Because you look ridicxilously 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 loyou, Charles.’ 

We took a bottle and our glasses and found a comer 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, 
conked Mrs Arnold Frickheimer the other morning on the 
mt, 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 
Marseille last year when you threw him over, and really 



196 BIIIDESHEAD REVISITED 

it was as mDch 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 Sebas- 
tian was p-p-popping them and then he hadn’t got the 
tickets; there w’as 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 
lx>y on. It’s one of Sebastian’s less lovable qualities that 
he always gives the impression of being 1-1-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^siumer, 
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 
Marseille and went to Tangier, and there, my dear, Sebastian 
took up with his new fiiend. 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 out 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 



BRIDESHEAD DESERTED igy 

macabre. So back I came, my dear, to good old England - 
Good old England,' he repeated, embracing with a flourish 
of his hand 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. ‘Any- 
thing may happen.’ 

*Is the party going well?’ she asked anxiously. ‘D’you 
think Florence Mills would sing? WeVe met b^ore,’ she 
added to Anthony, 

‘Often, my dear, but you never asked me tonight’ 

‘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 1 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 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.’ 



igS BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

We went to a number of night clubs. In two years Mul- 
caster 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. Well 
show them. We*E show the dead chaps we can fight, too.’ 

‘That’s why Fm here,’ I said, ‘Come from overseas, 
rallying to old country in hour of need.’ 

‘Like Australians.’ 

‘ like the poor dead Australians.’ 

‘TOatyouin?’ 

‘Nothing yet. War not ready.’ 

‘ Only one thing to join ~ Bill Meadows’ show - Defence 
Corps, All good chaps. Being fixed in Bratt’s.’ 

‘I’ll join.’ 

‘You remember Bratt’s ? ’ 

‘No. I’ll join that, too.’ 

‘That’s right. All good chaps like the dead chaps.’ 

So I joined Bill Meadows’ show, which was a flying 
squad, protecting food deliveries in the poorest 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 jfrom the telephone in high spirits. 

‘ Gome 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 disturb- 
ance, and at a little distance firom it, two opposing parties 



BRIDESHEAD DESERTED I99 

had formed. Near us, as we disembarked, a second police- 
man 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 poHceman, 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 w^as 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 every- 
where, 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* squad 
that Julia learned I was in England. She telephoned to say 
her mother was anxious to see me. 

‘ You*E find her terribly ill,* she said. 

I went to Marchmain House on the first morning of 
peace. Sir Adrian Person passed me in the hall, leaving, as I 
arrived; he held a bandanna handkerchief to his face and 
felt bHndly 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 



200 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

yo«, but I don’t know if she’ll be able to see you now, after 
ail She’s jtist said “good-bye” to Adrian Person 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 w^eak. I’ll go and ask nurse/ 

The stillness of death seemed in the house already. No 
one ^ver sat in the library at Marchmain House. It was the 
one ugly 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, Fm 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 somew^here 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 warmness. 

‘First, I know, mummy w'anted 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 im- 
mediately, but it’s the kind of thing mummy can never 
forgive krself - 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.’ 



BRIDESHEAD DESERTED 


201 


*rUtry.* 

‘There’s no one else we can ask. Rex is so biisy.* 

‘ Yes. I heard reports of all he’s been doing organizing the 
gas works.’ 

‘ Oh yes,’ Julia said with a touch of her old dryn^. ‘He’s 
made a lot of kudos out of the strike.’ 

Then we talked for a few minutes about the Bratfs 
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. AM 
this talk was nothing; we had said all we had to say in the 
first two minutes ; I stayed for tea 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. 

‘Fm 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 hotise, 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 firom a 
Frenchman in the Department of Arts. I don’t say there’s 



202 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

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 hat 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 imtil he got fixed up at his house. He 
was always perfectly charming, and my wife took a great 
fancy to Mm. 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 rii send the porter to show you the way.’ 

So I set out Mter 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, wMte 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 wMte, 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 
lampHght 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 torn the Sudan Police, and regarded this 



BRIDESHEAD DESERTED 203 

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 soft shadows of its own tracery about the 
room. But on first entering these three things, the gramo- 
phone 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 \mwounded 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 hat’ of the consul’s 
description, the film footman of Anthony’s. 



204 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

'Fm looking for Sebastian Flyte. This is his honsCj 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,’ 

‘Fve 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 may- 
be ? Maybe you married hith thister ? ’ 

T’m only a fidend. We were at the university together.’ 

T had a friend at the university. We studied History. My 
friend was cleverer than me; a little weak fellow - 1 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 die drain. There is nothing for a student to do here 
now,” and we went away and 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 mterestmg. 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. 



BRIDESHEAD DESERTED 


205 

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 tow^ns. 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 resist- 
ance; what could one expect? He was an alcoholic. The 
doctor spoke dispassionately, almost brutally, with the 
relish men of science sometimes have for limiting themselves 
to inessentials, for pruning back their work to the 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 



2o6 brideshead revisited 

can spare from the soldiers. And he is so kind. There is a 
poor German boy with a foot that will not heal and second- 
ary syphilisj 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 l>ing with his hands on the quilt 
staring at the 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 zxtyou doing here, 
Charles?’ 

He w'as 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 w^as 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 3, 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, 



BRIDESHEAD DESERTED 


207 

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, mim- 
icking Kurt’s accent, and then he added w'hat, 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 look- 
ing 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 tele- 
graphing for odd sums to his lawyers. I saw the branch 
manager of the bank 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 



2o8 brideshead revisited 

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 Fm 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. 

‘ rii 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 connexion with this 
German ?’ 

‘No. Fm sure not. It’s simply a case of two waifs coming 
together.’ 



BRIDESHEAD DESERTED 209 

‘ 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 kilHng Mmself with 
drink?’ 

‘Weakening himself. He hasn’t D.T.s or cirrhosis.’ 

‘He’s not insane?’ 

‘Certainly not. 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 fiats here. They’re keep- 
ing the name - we can’t stop them apparently.’ 

‘What a sad thing.’ 

‘Well, I’m sorry of course. But you think it good architec- 
turally?’ 

‘ 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 dilferently.’ 

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 per- 
haps, 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. 



210 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

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 care- 
fully 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 after- 
noon and ail 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 be- 
came 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. 

Ttk’ 

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 tali, 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 DESERTED 2II 

Brideshead already in her length of nose and high cheek- 
bone; she was in black, mourning for her mother. 

‘Fm tired/ I said. 

‘ I bet you are. Is it finished ? ’ 

‘ Practically. I must go over it again tomorrow.* 

know it’s long past dinner time? There’s no one 
here to cook anything now. I only came up today, and 
didn’t realize how far the decay had gone. You wouldn’t 
like to take me out to dinner, w^ould 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 to 
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 aU kinds of suggestions. Aunt 
Fanny Rosscommon wants me to live with her. Then Rex 
and Julia talk of taking over half Brideshead 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 - 1 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 



212 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

holy oil on them and threw the ash outside; he emptied the 
holy-water stoop 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 w’as 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 Tene- 
brae, I suppose?’ 

‘Never/ 

‘Well, if you had you’d know what the Jews felt about 
their temple. Quomodo sedet sola avitas ... it’s a beautiful chant. 
You ought to go once, just to hear it.’ 

‘ Still trying to convert me, Cordelia ? ’ 

*Oh, no. That’s ail over, too. D’you know what papa 
said w'hen 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 w’onder if you remember the story mummy 
read us the evening Sebastian first got drunk ~ I mean the 
bad evening. “Father Browm” said something like “I 
caught him” (the thief) “with an unseen hook and an in- 
visible 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/ 

T never really knew your Mother,’ I said. 



BRIDESHEAD DESERTED 21$ 

‘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 some- 
one 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 out 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 allow’ed 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. 



BRIDESHEAD REVrSTTED 


214 

* You’ll fall in love/ 1 said. 

‘Oh, pray not. I say, do \ou think I could have another of 
those scrumptious meringues ? ’ 



BOOK THREE 


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, w^hich are my life - for we possess noth- 
ing certainly except the past - were always with me. Like 
the pigeons of St Mark’s, they w'ere everyw^here, 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; 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 
fowi. Thus it w^as that morning of w'ar-time. 

For nearly ten dead years after that evening with Cordelia 
I W'as borne along a road outwardly full of change and inci- 
dent, but never during that time, except sometimes in my 
pamting - 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 w'hat I 
could do well, did better daily, and liked doing; incidentally 
it was something which no one else at that time was attempt- 
ing to do. I became an architectural painter. 

More even than the work of the great architects, I 
loved buildings that grew silently with the centuries, catch- 
ing 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 build- 
ings England abounded, and, in the last decade of their 
grandeur, Englishmen seemed for the first time to become 



2I6 brideshead revisited 

conscious of what before was taken for granted, and to 

salute their achievement 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 auctioneer’s, 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 ail 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, ob- 
scured 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 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 217 

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 myseE 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, find- 
ing myseE once more in the zone of trade or tourism, re- 
cuperated, set up my studio, transcribed my sketches, 
anxiously packed the complete canvases, dispatched them 
to my New York agent, and then set out again, with my 
small retinue, into the wastes. 

I was in no great pains to keep in 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 circum- 
stances so incongruous - swinging in my hammock, under 
the net, by the light of a storm-lantern; drifting down river, 
amidships in the canoe, with the boys astern of me lazily 
keeping our nose out of the bank, with the dark water keep- 
ing pace with us, in the green shade, with the great trees 
towering above us and the monkeys screeching in the sun- 
light, high overhead among the flowers on the roof of the 
forest; on the veranda 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 



2I8 brideshead revisited 

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 in- 
jection of a new culture and discloses a powerful facet in the vista 
of his potentialities ... By focusing the frankly traditional battery of 
Us elegance and erudition on the maelstrom of barbarism, Mr Ryder 
has at last found himself 

Gratefhl 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 W'ay, but somehow I don’t feel they are quite 

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, 
when at last, late, after a dinner party and some hours at a 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 219 

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 
nursery-maid 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: ‘Shall I put my face to 
bed?’ 

It was a familiar phrase, one that I did not like; she 
meant, should she remove her make-up, cover herself with 
grease and put her hair in a net. 

‘No,’ I said, ‘not at once.’ 

Then she knew what was wanted. She had neat, hygienic 
ways for that too, but there were both relief and triumph in 
her smile of welcome; later we parted and lay in our twin 
beds a yard or two distant, smoldng. 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. 



220 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

‘ I don't believe you've changed at all, Charles.’ 

‘No, Fill 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, Fm beginning to think you have. I haven’t.’ 

‘No,’ I said, ‘no ; I can see that.’ 

‘Were you at all frightened at meeting me today? * 

‘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. Fm 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 
film 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 bam 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 
bought it for you to see.’ 

She showed me the article: happy example of architec- 

tural good manners. ... Sir Joseph Emden's tactful adaptation of 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 221 

traditional material to modern needs there were some photo- 
graphs; wide oak boards now covered the earthen floor; a 
high, stone-mnliioned 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 bam,’ 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 dowm, 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’ Muicaster w'as 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 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 John- 
john comes tumbling downstairs and off they go into the 



222 


BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 


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 w^ho made him see reason about that girlj 
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 
tremefidously 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 play- 
ing 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 herm- 
aphroditic gaiety said : ‘ Savoy-Carlton-Hotel-goodmorning. 
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 v/elcome.’ 

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.’ 

‘ When ? ’ I asked, ‘ What ? When we left off what ? ’ 

‘ When you went away, of course.’ 

‘You are not thinking of something else, a little time 
before?’ 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 22$ 

‘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 nay wife in tears. 

My wife’s softness and English reticence, her very white, 
small regular teeth, her neat rosy finger-nails, her school- 
girl air of innocent mischief and her schoolgirl dress, her 
modem jewellery, which was made at great expense to give 
the impression, at a distance, of having been mass pro- 
duced, 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. Stew^ards, 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 pas- 
senger 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 exhibi- 
tion where the four canvases of Marchmain House, lent by 
Brideshead, had hung together attracting much attention. 
Those pictures were my last contact with the Flytes; our 



BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 


224 

liveSj 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 meta- 
phor for the process to be found in physics, from the way in 
which, I dimly apprehend, particles of energy group and re- 
group themselves in separate magnetic systems ; a metaphor 
ready to hand for the man who can speak of these things 
with assurance; not for me, w^ho 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 
rural horizon, could have a liking one for the other, a mild 
curiosity about the other’s fortunes, a regret, even, that we 
should be separated, and the knowledge that either of us 
had only to pick up the telephone and speak by the 
other’s pillowy 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 cold, interstellar space between 
them. 

My wife, perched on the back of the sofa in a litter of 
cellophane and silk ribbons, continued telephoning, work- 
ing brightly through the passenger list ... ‘Yes, do of 
course bring him, Fm told he’s sweet. ... Yes, Fve got 
Charles back from the wilds at 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-Carlton, too; how can we 
have missed you?’ ... Sometimes she turned to me and 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 225 

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 on which paper-thin 
Assyrian animals cavorted; I trod carpets the colour of 
blotting paper; the painted panels of the wails were like 
blotting paper, too - kindergarten work in fiat, drab 
colours - and between the wails 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 dvitas^ (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 choir in Guatemala, nearly a year ago). 

A steward came up to me. 

‘ Can I get you anything, sir ? ’ 



BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 


226 

‘A whisky and soda, not iced.’ 

* Fm sorry, sir, all the soda is iced.’ 

* Is the water iced, too ? ’ 

* Oh yes, sir.’ 

‘ Wcii, 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 whisky 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 ? ’ 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 227 

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 them- 
selves 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 



228 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

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 ;4t 
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 fiimly estab- 
lished,^ changing quickly to a pose of almost flirtatious 
affability.) In token of her appreciation the chief purser 
imd been asked to our party and he, in token of his appre- 
ciation, had sent before him the life-size effigy of a swan, 
moulded m ice and filled with caviar. This chilly piece of 
magnificence now dominated the room, standing on a table 
m 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) , 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 22^ 

‘You must get dressed at once. Where have you been ail 
this time?’ 

‘Talking to Julia Mortram,’ 

‘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 titbits - ‘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 inextiicably 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 the description of a sixteenth-century banquet in 
Venice, you would have said those were the days to live.’ 



230 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

*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 on an expedition into the cold storage with 
me tomorrow, 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 I ’ said my wife, as though this was something beyond 
the dreams of gluttony. ‘Do you hear that, Charles ? ToasC 

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 
stonns, 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.’ 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 23I 

‘Through and through,’ I thought. ‘Through and 
through is a long way, madam. Can you indeed see into 
those dark places where my o\m eyes seek in vain to guide 
me? Can you tell me, dear Mrs Stuy\"esant Oglandcr - 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 w'iil 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 Stu>’vesant 
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 forw'ard and dabbed 
the beak of the sw’an, removing the drop of w’ater 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 bom 
and bred, but this is my first time on the Atlantic.’ 

‘ You flew out perhaps ? ’ 



232 BRIDESHEAB REVISITED 

‘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 W2^ 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 Inter- 
astral 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. Bo 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 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 of 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 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 233 

behaved beautifully and looked so distinguished. Who was 
your red-haired chum ? ’ 

‘No chum of mine.* 

‘How mry peculiar! Did you say anything to Mr Kramm 
about working in Hollywood ? * 

‘ Of course not.* 

‘Ohj 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 tonight, 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 was an English diplomat 
and his wife, Senator Stuyvesant Oglander, and an Ameri- 
can 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 an the significant people.’ 

‘On my right,’ said the Bishop, ‘a significant couple are 
expected. They take aU 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 conver- 
sation. 



BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 


234 

* an extraordinary iittle red-haired man. Captain 
Fotilenough in person.’ 

‘But I understood you to say, Lady Celia, that you were 
unacquainted with him,’ 

‘I meant he was like Captain Foulenough.’ 

‘I begin to comprehend. He impersonated this friend of 
yours in order to come to your party.’ 

‘No, no. Captain Foulenough is simply a comic char- 
acter.’ 

‘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 imposter 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: ‘Signi- 
ficant people, huh ! ’ 

I heard Julia across the table trying to trace, for the 
benefit of the diplomat, the marriage-connexions of her 
Hungarian and Italian cousins. The diamonds flashed in 
her hair and on her fingers, 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 foxmdations. 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 documenta- 
tion of the subject. Our conclusion, Mr Ryder, is unani- 
mous. 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. ...’ 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 235 

On the other side I heard; ‘And may I make so bold as 
to ask what institutions sponsored your husband’s ex- 
pedition ? ’ 

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 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 Malfi bayed by madmen. I sum- 
moned cataracts and hurricanoes, 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 waU, 
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 other 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 



236 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

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 wine. 
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, teiepathically, 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 Hke that agonizing Foulenough conversa- 
tion 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. 

‘Weil, 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 speciality of calling the numbers 
with ail the patter of the lower deck ~ ‘sweet sixteen and 
never been kissed - key of the door, twenty-one - clickety- 
click, sixty-six’ - was idly talking to his 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; 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 237 

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 j&lm 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 con- 
sternation 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 dream- 
ing and waking. In a narrow bunk, on a hard mattress, 
there might have been rest, but here the beds were broad 
and buoyant; I coEected 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. 

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 



238 brideshead revisited 

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 
clear-headed, with a joyous sense of anticipation. 

The wmd had dropped a little, the steward told me, 
but was still blowing hard and there was a very heavy 
swrell; ‘w^hich there’s nothing worse than a heavy swell’, 
he said, ‘for the 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 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 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 card 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 TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 239 

*A masseuse?’ 

®YeSj isn’t it peculiar? I’ve never had one beforCj except 
once when I hurt my shoulder hunting. "WTiat 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 for which the world in its love was 
condoling with her. 

‘ 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 today the better.’ 

My wife seemed to make a sacred, female rite even of 
seasickness. 

Julia’s cabin, I knew, was somewhere below ours. I 



240 BRIBESHEAD REVISITED 

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, anyw'ay. 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 w^as 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 w^as wholly undismayed. 

‘Bravo,’ said a man sitting nearby. ‘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 congratula- 
tions on not being seasick. 

‘ You’re the first lady I’ve seen,’ said the man. 

‘ I’m very lucky.’ 

‘ 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 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 24I 

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? 'VMiisky and 
tepid water, I think. And for the lady? Might I suggest a 
nip of champagne?’ 

‘D’you know, the awhil 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 1 ’ 

‘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 the wrong foot’ 

I knew what she meant, and in that moment felt as 
though I had shaken off some of the dust and giit 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 



242 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

thought at first it was only the massage, but Fm 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 Lions 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” tonight in the smoking-room for all 
the good sailors. He asked me to bring my husband.’ 

‘Axe 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’ 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 243 

There were eighteen people at the 'get-together party’; 
we had nothing in common except immunity from sea- 
sickness. 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 w^ife, and we 
aren’t allow^ed 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 thigh, falling in the cor- 
ridor, and was taken to the ship’s hospital. 

All next day Julia and I spent together without inter- 
ruption; 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 tip-toeing out to leave us to one another. 

The bronze doors of the lounge had been fixed, but not 
before two seamen had been badly injured. 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 firm. 

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 



244 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

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 court- 
ship and marriage; she told me, as though fondly turning 
the pages of an old nursery-book, of her childhood, and I 
lived long, suimy 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 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 245 

should have a child; at first she wanted one, but learned 
after a year that an operation was needed to make it poss- 
ible; by that time Rex and she were out of love, but he stiU 
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 tw^o 
months after we came back to London from our honey- 
moon, 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 ? Fm glad. I don’t Hke 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 beU ? ’ 

I got her some tea and biscuits ifrom 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 tomorrow.’ 

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, firm on my back with my arms and 



246 BRIDESHEAB REVISITED 

legs spread wde 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. Pve 
grown fond of him. ... Sebastian’s disappeared completely 
... Gordeha’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 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 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 247 

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, Judgement, 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. Per- 
haps 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 I left her at the 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 LO.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. 



24^ BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

* 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 forw^ard, away from the 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 mo- 
ment ran into calmer waters, Julia led me below. 

It was no time for the sweets of luxury ; they would come, 
in their season, with the swallow and the lime flowers. Now 
on the rough water there was a formality to be observed, no 
more. It was as though a deed of conveyance of her narrow 
loins had been drawn and sealed. I was making my first 
entry as the freeholder of a property I would enjoy and 
develop at leisure. 

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 tomorrow night the band would 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 249 

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 break- 
fast?’ 

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. 
T’ll ask her to cocktails this morning,* she concluded. 

Julia came among the others, 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. 



BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 


250 

‘YeSj 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 ex- 
plained 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 unmarked 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, sepa- 
rated 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 Hke 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 child- 
ren.’ 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 


251 


‘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 fiat. They took it till the end of 
the month.’ 

‘I can go to an hotel.’ 

‘But that’s so grim. I can’t bear you to be alone your first 
night home. I’ll stay and go down tomorrow.’ 

‘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 otir 
table to get us off early with him,’ said my wife. 



Chapter Two 

I T was my idea to hold the private view on Friday. 

‘IVe 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 invita- 
tions 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 w^ant 
to see them again, but I suppose I shall have to put in an 
appearance.’ 

‘ D’you w^ant me to come ? ’ 

‘ I’d much rather you didn’t’ 

‘Celia sent a card wdth “Bring everyone” WTitten 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.’ 

Whtxi 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 wood-cut and were consequently on the gallery’s list of 
patrons. 

‘ No one has come yet,’ said my wife. ‘ I’ve been here since 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 253 

ten and it’s been very dull. Whose car was that you came 

‘JuHa’s.’ 

‘Julia’s? Why didn’t you bring her in? Oddly enough, 
Fve 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 Mot- 
tram has made the place a nest of party mutiny. Did you 
know? What would Teresa Marchmain have thought?’ 

‘ I’m going there tonight.’ 

‘Not tonight, Charles; you can’t go there tonight. You’re 
expected at home. You promised, as soon as the exhibition 
was 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 woiddn’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 man- 
ager 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 



BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 


254 

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 mins 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 subscrip- 
tion list that had been opened for the book of Ryder^s Latin 
America; I heard her say: ‘No, darling, Fm not at all sur- 
prised, but you w’ouldn’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. Fm 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 
w'hich 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 of Clarence’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.’ 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 255 

* 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 in- 
vited 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 and the National Art 
Collections Fund, who all proimsed 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 commenda- 
tions, 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 over- 
heard, ‘ 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 now applauded my 
virility and passion, had stood quite near me, before a pain- 
fully 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 - 1 think to myself, “that’s by Charles”. I see every- 
thing 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 



BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 


256 

again, I had felt my bowels shrivel within me at the things 
she said. But that 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 manu- 
mission 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 remonstra- 
tion. 

‘No. I have not brought a card of invitation. I do not even 
know w^hether 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 
hghtly 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 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 257 

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 of the crowd ~ ‘let us not spoil their innocent 
pleasure. We know, you and I, that this is all t-t-terrible 
t-Wripe. 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 indis- 
criminate 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 newsagent and a dis- 
reputable 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 ail 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 Boeuf 
sur le Toit. I am most grateM to him. I have been out of 
England so long, and really sympathetic little joints like 
this change so fast. I presented myself here for the first time 



258 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

yesterday evening, and already I feel quite at home. Good 
evening, Cyril.’ 

*’Lo, Toni, back again?’ said the youth behind the bar. 

‘We win take our drinks and sit in a comer. 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 rhumba ? ’ 

‘No, Tom, he would not, and I’m not going to give you 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 whatjOM have been up to that we are here 
to talk about. I’ve been watching you, my dear. I’m a faith- 
ful 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 gramophone, 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 Chmch 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 ail he will do, 
not aH 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 am not English; I cannot 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 259 

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. Wliat 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 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 Eng- 
lish 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 limcheon today. Every- 
one 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 im- 
agined you to keep- However, they had all been to your ex- 
hibition, but it was jozi 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 to Rex.” 

‘ “But the pictures,” I said; “Tell me about 

‘ “Oh, the pictures,” they said; “they’re most peculiar.” 
“Not at all what he usually does.” “Very forceful.” “Quite 
barbaric.” “I call them downright unhealthy,” said Mrs 
Stuyvesant Oglander. 

‘ My dear, I could hardly keep still in my chair. I wanted 
to 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 luncheon was so full of absurd women in the 
sort of hats they should be made to eat, that I rested a little 



260 BRIBESHEAD REVISITED 

- I rested here with 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 
dr^ 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 
Fiyte 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 ji/ow.’ 

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.’ 



26 i 


A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 

* Well, she had to know some time.’ 

‘Everyone seems to know. My pansy friend had not been 
in London tw^enty-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 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 jSrelight, 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 them- 
selves heard above a crowd, as though, with youth forsaking 
them, there was no time to wait the opportunity to speak, 
no time to listen, no time to 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: politicians; ‘young Conservatives’ in the early forties, 
with sparse hair and high blood-pressure; a Socialist from 
the coal-mines who had already caught their clear accents, 
whose cigars came to pieces on his lips, whose hand shook 
when he poured himself out a drink; a financier older than 
the rest, and, one might guess from the way they treated him, 
richer; a love-sick columnist, who alone was silent, gloating 
sombrely on the only woman of the party; a woman they 
called ‘Grizel’, a knowing rake whom, in their hearts, they 
all feared a little. 



BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 


262 

They all feared Julia, too, Grizei 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 our 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 Pantel- 
leria?’ 

‘Franco’s simply a German agent. They tried to put h irn 
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 are 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 show-down 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 show-down.’ 

‘Anyway, Franco will soon be skipping back to Morocco. . 
Chap I saw today just come from Barcelona. ...’ 

Chapjust come from Fort Belvedere. ...’ 

‘... Chapjust come from the Palazzo Venezia. 

‘All we want is a show-down.’ 

‘A show-down with Baldwin.’ 

‘A show-down with Hitler.’ 

‘A show-down with the Old Gang.’ 

‘ ... That I should live to see my country, the land of Clive 
and Nelson. ...’ 

‘... My country of Hawkins and Drake.’ 



263 


A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 

*... My country of Palmerston. ...* 

‘Would you very much mind not doing that?’ said Grizel 
to 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 con- 
spiracy 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 tonight; 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 today? ’ 

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 Hght 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 



264 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

gone early to our baths and, on coming down, dressed for 
dinner, in the last half-hour of the day, we found the w^orld 
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 flames. 

*... 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 w'hat 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 Weliingtonias 
knowing that at the end of the drive we should find my 
unde, my aunt, my Aunt Phillippa, 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 minstrels’ gallery, gold twine and sprigged 
wrapping-paper, she and I were accepted, whatever ugly 
rumours had been afloat in the past year, as man and wife. 
‘We must keep it up, whatever it costs us, for the sake of 
the children,’ my wife said. 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 265 

‘Yes, two Christmases. ... And the three days of good 
taste before I followed you to Capri.’ 

‘Our first summer.’ 

‘Do you remember how I hung about Naples, then 
followed, how we met by arrangement on the hill path and 
how flat it fell?’ 

‘ I went back to the villa and said, “ Papa, who do you 
think has arrived at the hotel?” and he said, “Charles 
Ryder, I suppose.” I 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, bring him here; I 
think we have the room.” ’ 

‘There was the time you had jaundice and wouldn’t let 
me 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 Lon- 
don. 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 a hundred days.’ 

‘A hundred days wasted out of two years and a bit ... not 
a day’s coldness or mistrust or disappointment.’ 

‘Never that’ 

We fell silent; only the birds spoke in a multitude of 
small, clear voices in the lime-trees; only the waters spoke 
among their carved stones. 

Julia took the handkerchief firom my breast pocket and 
dried 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?’ 



266 BRXDESHEAD REVISITED 

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, drawing 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, spreading out all the 
stacked merchandise 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 di- 
vorces. 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.’ 

Tt 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 underground; a hard-snouted, burrowing, hibernating 
animal who shunned the light. He had been completely 
without action in ail his years of adult life; the talk of his 
going into the army and into parliament and into a mon- 
astery, had all come to nothing. All that he was known with 
certainty to have done - and this because in a season of 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 267 

scant news it had formed the subject of a newspaper article 
entitled 'Peer^s Unusual Hobbf - 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 duti- 
fully 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 unavoid- 
able local duties, bringing with him to platform and fete 
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. Veil, 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 sur- 
prised me by what seemed to be acts of fiiendship; that 
Christmas he had sent me a photograph of himself in the 
robes of a Knight of Malta, and shortly afterwards asked me 



268 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

to go with him to a dining club. Both acts had an explana- 
tion: 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 pro- 
fessions who met once a month for an evening of ceremonious 
buffoonery; each had his sobriquet - Bridey was called 
‘Brother Grandee’ - and a specially designed jew^el 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 were made. There was plainly some com- 
petition to bring guests of distinction, and since Bridey had few 
friends, and since I was tolerably w’ell know^n, I was in- 
vited. Even on that convivial evening I could feel my host 
emanating little magnetic waves of social uneasiness, creat- 
ing, rather, a pool of general embarrassment about himself 
in which he floated with log-like 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 serv^ants’, and said, ‘How is the painting, Charles?’ 

‘^Miich painting?’ 

‘Whatever you have on the stocks.’ 

‘ I began a sketch of Julia, but the light was tricky all 
today.’ 

‘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 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 269 

different subject every time; subjects with plenty of action 
in them like Another pause. What, I wondered was com- 
ing? The Flying Scotsman? The Charge of the Light 
Brigade? Henley Regatta? Then surprisingly he said: ‘ ... 
like Macbeth.’ There was something supremely preposter- 
ous in the idea of Bridey as a painter of action pictures; he 
was usually preposterous yet somehow achieved a certain 
dignity by his remoteness and agelessness; he was still half- 
child, already half-veteran; there seemed no spark of con- 
temporary 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 formid- 
able. 

We talked of the news from central Europe until, sud- 
denly 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 ? ’ 

‘ Fd 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 Arch- 
bishop 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 



270 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

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 w’hen port was on the table and we three were alone 
Julia said : ‘ I’m not going till I hear the amiouncement.’ 

‘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 connexion. 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 ? ’ 

‘Fm 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 match-boxes ? ’ 

‘No, no; the whole collection was left to the Falmouth 
Town Library. I have a great affection for her. In s-pite of 
all her difficulties she is a very cheerful woman, very fond 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 27I 

of acting. She is connected with the Catholic Players’ 
Guild.’ 

* Does papa know ? ’ 

‘I had a letter from him this morning giving me his ap- 
proval. He has been urging me to marry for some time.’ 

It occurred both to 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, so 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 other- 
wise.’ He finished his port, refilled his glass, and pushed the 
decanter towards me, ‘You must understand that Beryl is 



272 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

a woman of strict Catholic principle fortified by the preju- 
dices 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 
inquiry 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 wns not in the library; I mounted to her room, but 
she was not there. I paused by her laden dressing table 
wnndering if she would come. Then through the open win- 
dow, as the light 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 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.’ 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 273 

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 can 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 
covers a lifetime. 

“‘Living in sin”; not just doing wrong, as I did when I 
went to America; doing wrong, knowing it is wrong, stop- 
ping 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 stn, with sin, 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 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 and counting the days of 
happiness ; now under the first stars and the last grey whisper 
of day, all this mysterious tumult of sorrow 1 What had hap- 
pened 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. 

‘ Past and future; the years when I was trying to be a good 
wife, in the cigar smoke, while 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 



274 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

Ms child, tom 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 with- 
out 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; hang- 
ing year after year m the dark little study at Farm Street 
with the shining oilcloth; hanging in the dark church 
where only the old charwoman 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 tMef; hanging for ever; never the cool 
sepulchre and the grave clothes spread on the stone slab, 
never the oil and spices in the dark cave; always the midday 
sun and the dice clicking for the seamless coat. 

‘No way back; the gates barred; all the saints and angels 
posted along the wails. Thrown away, scrapped, rotting 
down; the old man with lupus and the forked stick who 
limps out at nightfali to turn the rubbish, hoping for some- 
tMng 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 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 275 

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 her silence her 
weeping stopped. She sat up, away from me, took my hand- 
kerchief, 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 ail 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 ail tears and lipstick.’ 

‘Are we going down ? ’ 

‘Of course, we mustn’t leave poor Bridey on his engage- 
ment night.’ 

When I went back to her she said: T’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 arrange- 
ment,’ 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 fairer than that, could you ? ’ 

‘ I should think he’ll be sorry to go,’ I said. 



276 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

‘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 if 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 arrange- 
ment 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 
school-room 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 descrip- 
tion. She laughed quite happily. 

‘You’re perfectly right. That’s exactly what I did feel.’ 

‘But, darling, I won’t believe that great spout of tears 
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 horn 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 1 ’ 

‘ 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 what 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 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 277 

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 fnnged 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 crumbling them be- 
tween her fingers; she began peeling the bark, scratching it 
with her nails. 

Once more we stood by the fountain. 

Tt’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 second-hand ? 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 Kttle 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.’ 



278 BRIDESHEA 0 REVISITED 

‘Did it? ...Did I?’ 

In the instant her rage was gone; her tears, newly flow- 
ing, 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, cat-like, 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 hail she said; ‘Your poor 
face,’ touching the weals with her fingers, ‘Will there be a 
mark tomorrow?’ 

‘ I expect so.’ 

‘Charles, am I going crazy? What’s happened tonight? 
Fm 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 re- 
treating 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 twilight world between sorrow and 
sleep: some ancient pious rhyme that had come down to 
Nanny Hawkins from centuries of bedtime whispering, 
through ail the changes of language, from the days of pack- 
horses on the Pilgrim’s Way - 1 did not know. 

Next night Rex and his political associates were with us. 

‘They won’t fight’ 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 279 

'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 t|pvVe^ot syphilis.’ 

‘ Goering alfriend of mine ...’ 

‘ Goebbelf of miiie 

‘ Ribbent^r^fe]gAj^m^*^& lUst kept Hitler in 

power so long as. lie*lfe^aableito^ things for nothing. 



28 o brideshead revisited 

The moment anyone stands up to him, he’s finished. The 

army will shoot him.’ 

‘The Liberals mil hang him.* 

‘The Communists vdll 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 1922 Committee.* 

‘ Peace Pledge.’ 

‘Foreign Office.’ 

‘ New York Banks.’ 

‘All that’s wanted is a good strong fine.’ 

‘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 whisky? 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 
moonlight.’ 

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 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 play-room 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 
mind 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 times’ 
sake.’ 



BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 


282 

'So you’re being divorced,’ said my father. 'Isn’t that 
rather unnecessary, after you’ve been happy together ail 
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 dis- 
turbing, 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 
Fm 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 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 283 

had not gone as smoothly with him as he had planned. I 
blew 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, smilmg 
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 great harm; it was rather that with a big bank running 
he could not look up from the table. 

Tf 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; 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 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 blaci sheep. 



284 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

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 limching 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 the moment for all it’s 
worth. I daresay she’ll go easier when she’s settled.’ 

The divorces were much talked of among our friends; 
even in that summer of general alarm there were still 
comers where private affairs commanded first attention. 
My wife was able to make it understood that the business 
was at the same time 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 W'hispered in their private comers, but he was abso- 
lutely 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 Mimich; 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 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 285 

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 
fiat. A date was fixed for Brideshead's wedding, early in 
the Christmas holidays, so that his future step-children 
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 I 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 



286 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

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 de-lousing 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 ingre- 
dients, differently dispensed, could produce Brideshead, 
Sebastian, Julia, and her. She was immistakably 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 Eving 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 JuEa’s white skin and silk 
and iewelled hair and with my memories of her as a 
chfid. 

‘My job’s over in Spain,’ she said; ‘the authorities were 
very polite, thanked me for aU 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’ small assembly of pleasures - the rosary, the 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 287 

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 connexions : ‘ 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 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 
firom 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 Christ- 
mas, 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 



fZSS BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

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 a beard now, you know, and he’s very religious.’ 

‘That I w'on’t believe, not even if I see it. He was always 
a little heathen. Brideshead was one for church, not Seb- 
astian. 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 com- 
pletely 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; vagabond-language 
scrawied on gate-posts and paving-stones along the weary 
road that others have tramped before us; 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 hearing 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.’ 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 289 

‘Tomorrow. 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 irdOrmary of the head 
house of some missionary fathers. The consul’s story was 
that Sebastian had turned up in Tunis one day in a motor 
bus from Algiers, and had applied to be taken on as a mis- 
sionary 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 would come to harm and fol- 
lowed 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, what- 
ever 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 to make him eat his food. 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 m very peculiar French; 
they all had the same story; such a good man, they said, it 



ZgO BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

made them unhappy to see him so iow. 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 Dutchman 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 suit- 
case, and asked to be admitted as a lay brother. “He was 
very earnest,” the Superior said’ - Cordelia imitated his 
guttural tones; she had an aptitude for mimicry, I remem- 
bered, in the school-room - “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 some- 
where on a river, or lepers, lepers would do best of any- 
thing. The Superior said: “We have plenty of lepers, but 
they Hve 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 
yourseE” “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 
firiend, you need a missionary for yourseE,” 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 drink- 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 29I 

ing. It is not the worst thing, but it is nevertheiess 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, Fm 
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 any- 
thing 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 tiE 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 wails. 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. Sebas- 
tian 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 
coxmtry. 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 



BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 


292 

wasn*t particularly his fault - some brawl with an ofBciaL 
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 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 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 caffis, 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. Any- 
way, 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 him- 
self 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 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 293 

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 sup- 
pose Fm something of the sort myseE But as I don’t hap- 
pen to drink, Fm more employable.’ 

We had reached the turn in our walk, the stone bridge at 
the foot of the last and smallest lake, imder 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. 

T once had a governess who jumped off this bridge and 
drowned herself.’ 

*Yes,Iknow.’ 

‘ 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 J ulia 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 Sebastian ! ’ 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 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 



BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 


294 

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 connexions at home. If he lives long 
enough, generations of missionaries in ail kinds of remote 
places win think of him as a queer old character who was 
somehow part of the Home of their student days, and 
remember him in their masses. He’ll develop little eccen- 
tricities 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 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 beU 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.’ 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 295 

‘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 inflexion of 
mockery which descended to her from her mother, but 
later that evening the words came back to me poig- 
nantly. 

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 against 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; 
everything dry and ship-shape and warm inside, and out- 
side 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 



29^ BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

came out on the ice slopes and the thaw set in a block would 
move, slide, and tumble, high above, gather weight, till the 
whole hillside seemed to be failing, and the little lighted 
place would 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; mean- 
while 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 Brideshead to his house, 
and Mrs Muspratt’s from Falmouth to Brideshead - 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 chdte-- 
laine^ while her brother and his wife who had till that 
moment expected to find themselves, within a matter of 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 297 

days, in absolute command, 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 Lin- 
coln’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 find some shelter for her children over Christmas. 
The house at Falmouth was stripped and up for sale; more- 
over, 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 
coach-house 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 discon- 
certing to be brought so low so suddenly. In the village the 
working party who had been preparing the decorations for 
the bridal entry, began unpickbg the Bs on the bunting and 
substituting Ms, obliterating the Earl’s points and stencil- 
ling 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 
imhappy 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 diffi- 
culty here. Plender was not an original member of the 
Brideshead household; he had been Lord Marchmain’s 



298 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

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 suffragan, 
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 another, 
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 
protince 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 nonde- 
script Swiss, on arrival, was to have plain clothes and 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 re- 
ception. 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 micro- 
phones 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 neighbour- 
hood. 

He was due at three o’clock. Julia and I waited in the 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 209 

drawing-room until Wilcox, who had arranged with the 
stationmaster 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 the chauffeur, 
a stick to the footman; then a leg was cautiously thrust 
forward. Plender was by now at the car door; another 
servant - the Swiss valet ~ had emerged from a van; 
together they lifted 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 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 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 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 the ground 
before him, he made his way into the house. 

They took off his coat and cap and mufiler 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 straight- 
ened his tie; he wiped his eyes with a bandanna handker- 
chief and shuffled with his stick to the hall fire. 



300 BR2DESHEAD REVISITED 

There was a little heraldic chair by the chimney-piece, 
one of a set which stood against the walls, a little, in- 
hospitable, fiat-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 
piUs?’ 

‘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 ail, to greet us 
and to give orders. 

‘Fm afraid Fm not at all the thing today; the journey’s 
taken it out of me. Ought to have waited a night at Dover. 
Wilcox, what rooms have you prepared for me ? ’ 

‘Your old ones, my Lord.’ 

‘Won’t do; not till Fm fit again. Too many stairs; must 
be on the ground floor. Piender, get a bed made up for 
me downstairs.’ 

Piender 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 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 3OI 

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. 
‘Brideshead 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 con- 
sort, 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 



302 brideshead revisited 

settled on - 1 suppose I must call her so - Beryl. He left 

the sentence eloquently unfinished. 

Lord Marchmain showed no inclination to move, so pre- 
sently 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 imder his urbanity; now it pro- 
truded 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 - 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 303 

they stood in a room we called “the CardinaFs dressing- 
room”, I think - suppose we had them here on the console. 
Then if you will send Plender and Gaston to me, the 
luggage can wait till tomorrow - simply the dressing case 
and what I need for the night, Plender will know. If you 
will leave me with Plender and Gaston, I will go to 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 coming from London, I think tomorrow, who will 
teUusmore.’ 

‘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 had a Hogarthian aspect, with the dinner-table 
set for the four of us by the grotesque, chinoiserie chimney- 
piece, and the old man propped among his pillows, sipping 
champagne, tasting, praising, and failing to eat, the suc- 
cession of dishes which had been prepared for his home- 
coming. Wilcox had brought out for the occasion the gold 
plate, which I had not before seen in use; that, the gilt 
mirrors, and the lacquer and the drapery of the great bed 
and Juba’s mandarin coat gave the scene an air of panto- 
mime, of Aladdin’s cave. 



304 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

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, camsima, 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 tw^o 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-indaw; 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 firankly appalled at the prospect 
of - of Beryl taking what was once my mother’s place in 
this house. Why should that xmcouth pair sit here child- 
less while the place crumbles about their ears? I will 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 3O5 

not disguise from you that I have taken a dislike to Beryl. 

'Perhaps it was unfortunate that we met in Rome. 
Anywhere else might have been more sympathetic. And 
yetj 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 frequented 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 
of 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 ... 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, com- 
paring their own with one another’s, and so forth. 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 pleasan- 
tries 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 it to? The entail ended 



3o6 brideshead revisited 

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 could 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 vahey, 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 high pinnacle of 
the temple afforded after the hungry days in the desert 
and the jackal-haxmted nights. Need I reproach myself if 
sometimes I was taken by the vision? 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 307 

The weeks of illness wore on and the life of the house 
kept pace with the faltering strength of the sick man. 
There were days when Lord Marchmain was dressed, 
when he stood at the window or moved on his valet’s 
arm from fire to fire through 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 was 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 he had the humour of changing his room and gave 
detailed orders for a move to the Painted Parlour; the 
chinoisene, 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 he wanted to have us round him; night or day he 
could not bear to be alone; when he could not speak his 
eyes followed us, and if anyone left the room he would 
look distressed, and Cara, sitting often for hours at a time 
by his side against the pillows with an 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 



3o8 brideshead revisited 

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. T 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 
having 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 were 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 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 3O9 

of politeness. Cordelia 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 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 ail 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 tomorrow.’ 

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?’ 



310 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

‘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 today; tomorrow 
he may be quite strong again. Is it not usual to wait a 
Httle?’ 

‘Weil, 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 to 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 over- 
taken 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; the 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 today/ she said. ‘He slept very 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 311 

nicely for nearly three hours. When Gaston came 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-Iiishman who, when we met, 
was apt to ask me such questions as, ‘Would you say now, 
Mr Ryder, 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. 

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 see 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 ... Fli 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, wOl 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.’ 



312 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

‘ Bridey, it was horrible. What are we to do ? ^ 

‘■WeVe done everything we can at the moment.’ He left 
the room. 

Cordelia’s face was grave; she took a piece of bacon from 
the dishj 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, 
“I’ve 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 ail 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 threat 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 un- 
expressed, inexpressible, indecent little victory that I was 
furtively celebrating. I guessed that that morning’s business 
had put Brideshead some considerable way further from 
his rightful inheritance. 

In that I was correct; a man was sent for from the 
solicitors in London; 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. 

L*. What papa said was, “I am not in extremis^ I have 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 313 

not been a practising member of the Church for twenty-five 
years,”’ 

‘Not ^Hhe 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 sacra- 
ments, and since he was not at the moment dying, he did 
not mean to change his ways ~yeC 

‘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 “m 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 to heaven. Is that what you believe ? ’ 

Cara then interposed: ‘I think my nurse told me, some- 
one did anyway, that if the priest got there before the body 
was cold it was ail 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.’ 

‘ Matdame de Grenet thought it did.’ 

‘Well, she was wrong,’ 



BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 


314 

‘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 
wHi; he nas 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 outw^ard 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 
/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 ail based on logic.’ 

‘If you’d let Bridey finish, he would have made it all 
quite logical.’ 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 315 

‘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 tonight - ’ 

‘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 Sep- 
tember. 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. Everything was being got ready for the 
coming ‘Emergency’. 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 plear 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 depths. 

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 



3i6 brideshead revisited 

you.’ But he was not listening; occasionally at a famiKar 
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 aifairs; 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 often could 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 today. Better today. I can see now, in the corner 
of the fireplace, where the mandarin is holding his gold beU 
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 tomorrow. We live long in our family and marry 
late. Seventy-three is no great 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 Trafal- 
gar, always called it ‘’‘the New House”; that was the name 
they had for it in the nursery and in the fields when im- 
lettered men had long memories. You can see where the old 
house stood near the village church; they call the field 
“Castle Hill”, Horiick’s field where the ground’s uneven 
and half of it is waste, nettle, and brier in hollows too deep 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 317 

for ploughing. They dug to the foundations to cany the 
stone for the new house; the house that was a century old 
when Aunt Julia was bom. 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 chantry 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 goes on. When all of you are 
dead Julia’s son will be called by the name his fathers bore 
before the fat days; the days of wool shearing and the wide 
com 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 wiU 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 today. 

‘Better today. 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 olSicer, 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 xmder the velvet canopy. When 
the summer comes,’ said Lord Marchmain, oblivious of the 
deep com and swelling fruit and the surfeited bees who 
slowly sought their hives in the heavy afternoon sunlight 
outside his windows, ‘when the summer com^, I shall 



3i8 brideshead revisited 

leave my bed and sit in the open air and breathe more 

easily. 

‘Who would have thought that all these little gold men, 
gentlemen in their ovm country, could live so long without 
breathing? Like toads in the coal, down a deep mine, un- 
troubled, God take it, why have they dug a hole for me? 
Must a man stifle to death in his own cellars ? Plender, Gas- 
ton, open the windows.* 

‘ The windows are all wide open, my lord.* 

A cylinder of oxygen was placed beside his bed, with a 
long tube, a face-piece, and a little stop-cock he could work 
himseE Often he said: Tt’s empty; look nurse, there’s 
nothing comes 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”. 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; in the shade of the pavilion; 
rebuilt with the old stones behind the old walls; 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 tomorrow.* 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 319 

ThuSj 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 com- 
ing ‘emergency’. That day Lord Marchmain became sud- 
denly worse. He lay silent and quite still, breathing labori- 
ously; only his open eyes, w^hich 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 ail 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 busi- 
ness 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. 



320 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

‘Fve 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; ‘every- 
one else is against you. Doctor Grant, 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 com- 
fort 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 ? ’ 

‘ m go and see how he is,’ said the doctor, leaving us. 

‘Father Mackay,’ I said. ‘You know how Lord March- 
main 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 sleep- 
ing, 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 ybu 
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 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 321 

I am. He knows the look of me now. There’s nothing alarm- 
ing. 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 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 wail 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 
friends.” 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 look- 
ing 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 upwards, 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’youmean ... ?’ 

‘ 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. 



322 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

‘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 remem- 
ber your sins; tell God you are sorry. I am going to give you 
absolution. "ViTiiie I am giving it, tell God you are sorry you 
have offended him.’ He began to speak in Latin. I recog- 
nized 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 acknowledgement of a present, 
a nod in the crowd. I prayed more simply; ‘God forgive 
him his sins’ and ‘Please God, make him accept your for- 
giveness.’ 

So small a thing to ask. 

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 Marchmam 
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 oxy- 
gen cylinder; the doctor bent over his patient. Julia whis- 
pered to me: ‘Will you see Father Mackay out? I’m staying 
here for a little.’ 



A TWITCH UPON THE THREAD 323 

Outside the door Father Mackay became the simple, 
genial man I had known before. ‘Well, now, and that was a 
beautiful thing to see. Fve 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, in- 
deed, 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 her 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 sittmg 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 firom London; when at last we met alone it was by 
stealth, like yoimg lovers. 

Julia said : ‘ Here in the shadow, in the comer 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.* 



BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 


324 

‘I didn’t know till today. 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 today there 
was one thing unforgivable - like things in the school-room, 
so bad they were unpunishable, that only mummy could 
deal with - the bad thing I was on the point of domg, 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 


Brideshead Revisited 


*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 organ- 
ize 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 scrim- 
shankers 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 Com- 
mandant at the house at 1045 hours; he’ll show you what 
we’re taking over.’ 

‘Very good, sir.’ 

‘Our predecessors do not seem to have been very enter- 
prising. The valley has great potentialities for an assault 
course and a mortar range. Weapon-training officer, make 
a recce this morning 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.’ 



326 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 

*WoiiderM 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. ‘Gome in. FU 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 stili private property, mostly cram-full of furniture; you 
never saw such stuff, priceless some of it. 

‘There’s a caretdrer and a couple of old servants live at 
the top - they won’t be any trouble to you - and a blitzed 
R.G. padre whom Lady Jiilia 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 what- 
ever-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; destruc- 
tive 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. Fd advise you to use this for conferences.’ 

‘I’m only here to clean up, sir. Someone from Brigade 
will allot the rooms.’ 

‘Oh, weU, 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 walls. As you see, I’ve covered it up as best I can, but 
soldiers get through anything -^a| the brigadier’s done in 



EPILOGUE 


327 

the comer. There was another painted room, outside under 
pillars - modern work but, if you ask me, the prettiest in the 
place; it was the signal office and they made absolute hay 
ofit; rather a shame. 

‘This eyesore 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 - Matson 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 the other ranks’ latrines and wash-house; 
can’t thmk 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 m charge of the work-party 
for half an hour?’ 

‘I was just wondering where we could scrounge some 
tea.’ 



ERIDESHEAD REVISITED 


328 

‘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 in the desolate ground-floor rooms, 
but went upstairs and wandered down the familiar corri- 
dors, 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 someone I 
know.’ 

‘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 ail 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 
Bndeshead, too, Marchmain it is now, 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 



EPILOGUE 329 

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 firom 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 bottom 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 ail 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 ? ’ 

‘Weil, I told Sergeant Block to bring them back if he 
thought it was worthwhile; I mean if there was time 
before dinner.’ 



BRIBESHEAD REVISITED 


330 

It was nearly twelve. ‘You’ve been hotted again, 
Hooper. That straw was to be drawn any time before six 
tonight.’ 

‘ 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, wonder- 
ing 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 cook-house 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 



EPILOGUE 


331 

the great harvest of timber in the park grew to ripeness; 
until, in sudden frost, came ihe 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 ^ter a pause had taken up the 
second call and were sounding ‘Pick-em-up, pick-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 today,’ said the 
second-in-command. 




The Penguin Modem Classics 
are listed on the 
following pages 




PENGUIN MODERN CLASSICS 


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HOWARDS END * 3II* 

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Andre Gide • the immoralist • 1497! 

William Golding • lord of the flies * 1471* 

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tender is the night • 9o6f 
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a handful of dust • 822* 
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