Summary: Book 2: Chapter 1
On the train to Brideshead after Christmas, Charles is surprised to see Mr. Samgrass because he expected Mr. Samgrass would already be at Brideshead. Mr. Samgrass makes excuses, but Charles suspects he’s hiding something. Sebastian looks ill: gaunt, tired, and wary.
During cocktail hour, Sebastian becomes peevish because none of the servants will serve him a drink, and he storms up to his room. Bridey explains that Lady Marchmain has decreed that alcohol cannot be left unattended. Over Christmas, Sebastian escaped from Mr. Samgrass and got drunk. Charles checks on Sebastian and finds him drinking. Sebastian makes excuses, but Charles promises he doesn’t need to lie to him.
Before dinner, Julia is in the drawing room, annoyed by all the trouble she feels Sebastian has put them through. She thinks there’s something odd about Mr. Samgrass, but she doesn’t think Lady Marchmain notices. Julia says Lady Marchmain is spread too thin and cryptically notes that she herself has been causing Lady Marchmain stress. Sebastian comes down for dinner and requests a whiskey. Wilcox brings him a decanter with a small amount, establishing an awkward mood that lasts the entire evening. After dinner, Sebastian asks if he can join Bridey on a hunt, which puts everyone in a better mood.
Sebastian confesses to Charles that he intends to sneak away from the hunt to drink at a pub. He asks Charles for money because Lady Marchmain froze his bank account. Charles refuses. Sebastian reveals that during the Levantine trip, he ran away from Mr. Samgrass with Anthony Blanche. Sebastian wrote to Mr. Samgrass so that he wouldn’t worry, and Mr. Samgrass enjoyed his freedom. Charles asks about what happened at Christmas. Sebastian says he wanted to have a happy Christmas, which he believes he must have had because he doesn’t remember it.
The next morning, Sebastian is distraught that the servants won’t include a flask of alcohol with his hunting provisions. He again asks Charles for money. Charles relents. Mr. Samgrass tries to commiserate with Charles over babysitting Sebastian. Coldly, Charles tells him that he knows what happened during their trip. Mr. Samgrass admits he’s kept the details from Lady Marchmain. However, he thinks the restrictions around Sebastian are awkward for everyone, and he’s spoken to Lady Marchmain about them. He believes the evening will be relaxed unless someone gives Sebastian money.
Julia worries Sebastian will become another member of the family they can’t talk about. Charles asks Lady Marchmain if Sebastian can join him in London, but Lady Marchmain refuses. Charles thinks Lady Marchmain has driven both Sebastian and Lord Marchmain away. Charles tries to convince Bridey that he could help Sebastian keep drinking joyfully. Charles believes trying to control Sebastian will destroy him.