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Brideshead Revisited Book Pdf
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‘Well, I don’t happen to like running away.’
‘And I couldn’t care less. And I shall go on running away, as far and as fast as I can. You can hatch up any plot you like with my mother; I shan’t come back.’
‘That’s how you talked last night.’
‘I know. I’m sorry, Charles. I told you I was still drunk. If it’s any comfort to you, I absolutely detest myself.’
‘It’s no comfort at all.’
‘It must be a little, I should have thought. Well, if you won’t come, give my love to nanny.’
‘You’re really going?’
‘Shall I see you in London?’
‘Yes, I’m coming to stay with you.’
He left me but I did not sleep again; nearly two hours later a footman came with tea and bread and butter and set my clothes out for a new day.
Later that morning I sought Lady Marchmain; the wind had freshened and we stayed indoors; I sat near her before the fire in her room, while she bent over her needlework and the budding creeper rattled on the window panes.
‘I wish I had not seen him, she said. ‘That was cruel. I do not mind the idea of his being drunk. It is a thing all men do when they are young. I am used to the idea of it. My brothers were wild at. his age. What hurt last night was that there was nothing happy about him.’
‘I know,’ I said. ‘I’ve never seen him like that before.’
And last night of all nights…when everyone had gone and there were only ourselves here — you see, Charles, I look on you very much as one of ourselves. Sebastian loves you — when there was no need for him to make an effort to be gay. And he wasn’t gay. I slept very little last night, and all the time I kept coming back to that one thing; he was so unhappy.’
It was impossible for me to explain to her what I only half understood myself; even then I felt, ‘She will learn it soon enough. Perhaps she knows it now.’
‘It was horrible,’ I said. ‘But please don’t think that’s his usual way.’
‘Mr Samgrass told me he was drinking too much all last term.’
‘Yes, but not like that — never before.’
‘Then why now? here? with us? All night I have been thinking and praying and wondering what I was to say to him, and now, this morning, he isn’t here at all. That was cruel of him, leaving without a word. 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 mind that, but last night and this morning are something quite different. You see, it’s all happened before.’
‘I can only say I’ve seen him drunk often and I’ve been drunk with him often, but last night was quite new to me.’
‘Oh, I don’t mean with Sebastian. I mean years ago. I’ve been through it all before with someone else whom I loved. Well, you must know what I mean — with his father. He used to be drunk in just that way. Someone told me he is not like that now. I pray God it’s true and thank God for it with all my heart, if it is. But the running away — he ran away, too, you know. It was as you said just now, he was ashamed of being unhappy. Both of them unhappy, ashamed, and running away. It’s too pitiful. The men I grew up with’ — and her great eyes moved from the embroidery to the three miniatures in the folding leathercase 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 room.
‘I should like you to have a copy. May I give you one? They were three splendid men; Ned was the best of them. He was the last to be killed, and when the telegram came, as I knew it would come, I thought: “Now it’s my son’s turn to do what Ned can never do now.” I was alone then. He was just going to Eton. If you read Ned’s book you’ll understand.’
She had a copy lying ready on her bureau. I thought at the time, ‘She planned this parting before ever I came in. Had she rehearsed all the interview? If things had gone differently would she have put the book back in the drawer?’
She wrote her name and mine on the fly leaf, the date and place.
‘I prayed for you, too, in the night,’ she said.
I closed the door behind me, shutting out the bondieuserie, the low ceiling, the chintz, the lambskin bindings, the views of Florence, the bowls of hyacinth and potpourri, the petit-point, the intimate feminine, modern world, and was back under the coved and coffered roof, the columns and entablature of the central hall, in the august, masculine atmosphere of a better age.
I was no fool; I was old enough to know that an attempt had been made to suborn me and young enough to have found the experience agreeable.
I did not see Julia that morning, but just as I was leaving Cordelia ran to the door of the car and said: ‘Will you be seeing Sebastian? Please give him my special love. Will you remember — my special love?’
In the train to London I read the book Lady Marchmain had given me. The frontispiece reproduced the photograph of a young man in Grenadier uniform, and I saw plainly revealed there the origin of that grim mask which, in Brideshead, overlaid the gracious features of his father’s family; this was a man of the woods and caves, a hunter, a judge of the tribal council, the repository of the harsh traditions of a people at war with their environment. There were other illustrations in the book, snapshots of the three brothers on holiday, and in each I traced the same archaic lines; and remembering Lady Marchmain, starry and delicate, I could find no likeness to her in these sombre men.
She appeared seldom in the book; she was older than the eldest of them by nine years and had married and left home while they were schoolboys; between her and them stood two other sisters; after the birth of the third daughter there had been pilgrimages and pious benedictions in request for a son, for theirs was a wide property and an ancient name; male heirs had come late and, when they came, in a profusion which at the time seemed to promise continuity to the line which, in the tragic event, ended abruptly with them.
The family history was typical of the Catholic squires of England; from Elizabeth’s reign till Victoria’s they lived sequestered lives, among their tenantry and kinsmen, sending their sons to school abroad, often marrying there, inter-marrying, if not, with a score of families like themselves, debarred from all preferment, and learning, in those lost generations, lessons which could still be read in the lives of the last three men of the house.
Mr Samgrass’s deft editorship had assembled and arranged a curiously homogeneous little body of writing — poetry, letters, scraps of a journal, an unpublished essay or two, which all exhaled the same high-spirited, serious, chivalrous, otherworldly air and the letters from their contemporaries, written after their deaths, all in varying degr
ees 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 hand-shake, his grinning dentures. I wondered, as the train carried me farther and farther from Lady Marchmain, whether perhaps there was not on her, too, the same blaze, marking her and hers for destruction by other ways than war. Did she see a sign in the red centre of her cosy grate and hear it in the rattle of creeper on the window-pane, this whisper of doom?
Then I reached Paddington and, returning home, found Sebastian there, and the sense of tragedy vanished, for he was gay and free as when I first met him.
‘Cordelia sent you her special love.’
‘Did you have a “little talk” with mummy?’
‘Have you gone over to her side?
The day before I would have said: ‘There aren’t two sides’; that day I said, ‘No, I’m with you, “Sebastian contra mundum”.’
And that was all the conversation we had on the subject, then or ever.
But the shadows were closing round Sebastian. We returned to Oxford and once again the gillyflowers bloomed under my windows and the chestnut lit the streets and the warm stones strewed their flakes upon the 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 is coming up next term?’
‘I suppose so. Why shouldn’t he be?’
‘I don’t know why; I somehow thought perhaps he wasn’t. I’m always wrong about things like that. I like Merton Street.’
He showed me the books he was buying, which, since I knew no German, were not of interest to me. As I left him he said: ‘Don’t think me interfering, you know, but I shouldn’t make any definite arrangement in Merton Street until you’re sure.’
I told Sebastian of this conversation and he said: ‘Yes, there’s a plot on. Mummy wants me to go and live with Mgr Bell.’
‘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: ‘I 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 God!’ and we went together to luncheon at Christ Church.
That night Sebastian had his third disaster and was found by the junior dean at one o’clock, wandering round Tom Quad hopelessly drunk.
I had left him morose but completely sober at a few minutes before twelve. In the succeeding hour he had drunk half a bottle of whisky alone. He did not remember much about it when he came to tell me next morning.
‘Have you been doing that a lot,’ I asked, ‘drinking by yourself after I’ve gone?’
‘About twice; perhaps four times. It’s only when they start bothering me. I’d be all right if they’d only leave me alone.’
‘They won’t now,’ I said.
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 Sebastian was not drinking, I was telling you the truth, as I knew it.’
‘I know you wish to be a good friend to him.’
‘That is not what I mean. I believed what I told you. I still believe it to some extent. I believe he has been drunk two or three times before, not more.’
‘It’s no good, Charles,’ she said. ‘All you can mean is that you have not as much influence or knowledge of him as I thought. It is no good either of us trying to believe him. I’ve known drunkards before. One of the most terrible things about them is their deceit. Love of truth is the first thing that goes.
‘After that happy luncheon together. When you left he was so sweet to me, just as he used to be as a little boy, and I agreed to all he wanted. You know I had been doubtful about his sharing rooms with you. I know you’ll understand me, when I say that. You know that we are all fond of you apart from your being Sebastian’s friend. We should miss you so much if you ever stopped coming to stay with us. But I want Sebastian to have all sorts of friends, not just one. 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 Catholics, 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! — 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 hi
m 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 that’s the way to do it. Don’t you see that any idea of his being watched would be fatal?’
‘Oh, dear, it’s no good trying to explain. Protestants always think Catholic priests are spies.’
‘I don’t mean that.’ I tried to explain but made a poor business of it. ‘He must feel free.’
‘But he’s been free, always, up till now, and look at the result.’ We had reached the ferry; we had reached a deadlock. With scarcely another word I saw her to the convent, then took the bus back to Carfax.
Sebastian was in my rooms waiting for me. ‘I’m going to cable to papa,’ he said. ‘He won’t let them force me into this priest’s house.’
‘But if they make it a condition of your coming up?’
‘I shan’t come up. Can you imagine me — serving mass twice a week, helping at tea parties for shy Catholic freshmen, dining with the visiting lecturer at the Newman, drinking a glass of port when we have guests, with 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.
‘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.