Waugh’s friend Ronald Knox did not much care for Brideshead Revisited, but he did like the ending. He admitted to Waugh what he had said to himself: “I wish Evelyn would write about characters whom one would like to meet in life."
Brideshead Revisited : A Twitch Upon The Thread
Basil, suddenly reduced to unimportance, stood by and watched the preparations, a solitary figure in his white Sakuyu robes leaning over his rifle like a sentinel.
Prudence joined him and they walked together to the edge of the compound, out of sight behind some rhododendrons. She was wearing a red beret jauntily set on one side of her head.
"Basil, give up this absurd Emperor, darling, and come with us."
"Can't do that."
"No, Prudence, everything's going to be alright. Don't you worry. We'll meet again somewhere."
Rain clouds on the horizon grew and spread across the bright sky.
"It seems so much more going away when it's in an aeroplane, if you see what I mean."
"I see what you mean."
"Prudence, Prudence," from Lady Courteney beyond the rododendrons." "You really can't take so many boxes."
In Basil's arms Prudence said, "But the clothes smell odd."
"I got them second-hand from a Sakuyu. He'd just stolen an evening suit from an Indian."
Next day they carried the body of the Emperor to Moshu. Basil rode at the head of the procession. The others followed on foot. The body sewn in skins, was strapped to a pole and carried on the shoulders of two guardsmen. Twice during the journey they slipped and their burden fell in the soft mud of the jungle path. Basil sent on a runner to the Chief saying : "Assemble your people, kill your best meat and prepare a feast in the manner of your people. I am bringing a great chief among you."
The chiefs gave a sign for the feast to begin.
The company split up into groups, each around a cok pot. Basil and Joab sat with the chiefs. They ate flat bread and meat, stewed to a pulp among peppers and aromatic roots. Each dipped into the pot in rotation, plunging with his hands for the best scraps.
The headman of Moshu sat where they had dined, nursing a bowl of toddy. He wore an Azanian white robe, splashed with gravy and spirit. His scalp was closely shaven; he nodded it down to the lip of the bowl and drank. Then he clumsily offered it to Basil. Basil refused; he gaped and offered it again. Then took another draught himself. Then he nodded again and drew something from his bosom and put it on his head. "Look," he said. "Pretty."
It was a beret of pillar-box red. Through the stupor that was slowly mounting and encompassing his mind Basil recognized it. Prudence had worn it jauntily on the side of her head, running across the Legation lawn with the Panorama of Life under her arm. He shook the old fellow roughly by the shoulder.
"Where did you get that?"
"Where did you get it?"
"Pretty hat. It came in the great white bird. The white woman wore it. On her head like this." He giggled weakly and pulled it askew over his glistening pate.
"But the white woman. Where is she?"
But the headman was lapsing into coma. He said "Pretty" again and turned up sightless eyes.
Basil shook him violently. "Speak, you old fool. Where is the white woman.?"
The headman grunted and stirred; then a flicker of consciousness revived in him. He raised his head. "The white woman?" Why, here," he patted his distended paunch. "You and I and the big chiefs - we have just eaten her."
When the telephone rang Alastair said: "You answer it. I don't think I can stand up," so Sonia crossed to the window where it stood and said: "Yes, who is it?...Basil...well, who'd thought of that? Where can you be?"
"I'm at Barbara's. I thought of coming round to see you and Alastair."
"Darling, do...how did you know where we lived?"
"It was in the telephone book. Is it nice?"
"Lousy. You'll see when you come. Alastair thought it would be cheaper, but it isn't really. You'll never find the door. It's painted red and it's next to a pretty shady sort of chemist."
"I'll be along."
Ten minutes later he was there. Sonia opened up the door. "We haven't any servants. We got very poor suddenly. How long have you been back?"
"Landed last night. What's been happening?"
"Almost nothing. Every one's got very poor and it makes them duller. It's more than a year since we saw you. How are things at Barbara's?"
"Well, Freddy doesn't know I'm here yet. That's why I'm dining out. Barbara's going to tell him gently. I gather my mamma is sore with me about something. How's Angela?"
"Just the same. She's the only one who doesn't seem to have lost money. Margot's shut up her house and is spending the winter in America. There was a general election crisis - something about the gold standard."
"I know. It's amusing to be back."
"We've missed you. As I say, people have gone serious lately, while you've just been loafing about the tropics. Alastair found something about Azania in the papers once. I forget what. Some revolution and a minister's daughter who disappeared. I suppose you were in on all that."
"Can't think what you see in revolutions. They said there was going to be one here, only nothing came of it. I suppose you ran the whole country."
"As a matter of fact, I did."
"And fell madly in love."
"And intrigued and had a court's official throat cut."
"And went to a cannibal banquet. Darling, I just don't want to hear about it, d'you mind? I'm sure it's all very fine and grand but it doesn't make much sense to a stay-at-home like me."
"That's the way to deal with him," said Alastair from his arm chair. "Keep a stopper on the far-flung stuff."
"Or write a book about it, sweety. Then we can buy it and leave it about where you'll see and then you'll think we know....What are you going to do now you're back?"
"No plans. I think I've had enough of barbarism for a bit. I might like to stay in London or Berlin or somewhere like that."
"That'll be nice. Make it London. We'll have some parties like the old ones."
"D'you know I'm not sure I shouldn't find them a bit flat after the real thing. I went to a party at a place called Moshu..."
"Basil. Once and for all, we don't want to hear travel experiences. Do try and remember."
Put Out More Flags, 1932
Patum Peperium will be shuttered for a 2 week mid-winter break at the end of the business day Friday, February 15, 2008. We will re-open Tuesday March 4, 2008.