, ,

We saw less of Jeremy the following year. Indeed I saw less of Charles too for two terms, for he ran for President of the Union and, rather spectacularly, won. I had failed in my own bid and, though I should have liked to have stood again, I felt it was now time to settle down to work. I was desperately anxious to stay on at Oxford after I got my degree, and I certainly had a long way to go after the lotus eating of the previous years to convince my tutors that I deserved to.

Even had I more time to spare, Jeremy himself was less in evidence in Oxford than the average undergraduate. Jane had gone down by now and was working in London. I saw her occasionally when she came up to Oxford to stay with Jeremy who had now taken a flat some miles out; and in London too, for we went to the theatre off and on together, and even once or twice to the opera. She had never been before and loved it. Jeremy refused to accompany us, claiming that the stage was about his limit. However, having driven me down, he would occupy himself elsewhere and join us for dinner afterwards.

And I saw him by himself of course at Oxford, frequently enough under the circumstances; so that it did not seem too great an imposition, when I registered suddenly right at the end of the final term that my mother was due the following morning at the airport and I had made no arrangements to meet her, to ask him to take me down. It was very late, at a very good party, with people recovering from examinations and sentimental about a past that was now for most of them whirling to a halt. Characteristically Jeremy agreed on the spot, and even got me up on time the next morning.

My mother was charmed enough by Jeremy, and this story charmed her even more. Doubtless she thought the more highly of him and his good manners in the midst of the maelstrom of celebrations and wakes into which I flung her. It was apparent that her invitation to him to come and stay was more than a formality, and Jeremy evidently saw it as such. My own general invitation had met with no response, but the day after my mother left he rang me up from London to find out whether he and Jane could come for three weeks in August. I was delighted. I was going home after a long time and, apart from anything else, I thought it would be interesting to have someone from my present life to examine with me my past.

During the few weeks that remained before my results were out, we made firm plans. It was on the last occasion Jeremy phoned me before I left, I remember, that I said with a carelessness I did not entirely feel, ‘By the way, we’ll have to put you two in different rooms if you don’t mind. The house belongs to my grandmother, and she’s fairly conservative about that sort of thing. You’ll have to be on your best behaviour.’

‘But of course, my dear chap.’ Jeremy had begun to use such forms of address more frequently over the last year. I felt myself that they became more pronounced when he was somewhat unsure of himself. ‘When in Rome etc. You just tell us what we ought to do, and we’ll jolly well play the game.’

I thought rather that it was a business of telling them what not to do, but it seemed to me that quite enough had been said on the subject, and I changed it immediately for another. I knew I could trust Jeremy to behave exactly as propriety required, especially after it had been made clear to him: as far as I was concerned, I had done my duty and more by my grandmother’s moral imperatives.