|It was the last full day of term at Winchester College. Rix Bettany was packing his trunk in the College house, a task that was taking longer than it ought, due to the spirited discussion about the Inter-house cricket final he was enjoying with two other members of the Sixth, Naylor and Lennox, who had crowded into his small room for the purpose. |
“It’s hard to remember to take everything, isn’t it?” Lennox said after he had finished his critique of the Fourth’s fielding, staring out of the window at the courtyard below.
“S’pose,” Rix frowned slightly, having momentarily forgotten that they would not be returning next term.
“It’s weird to think that we won’t be coming back,” Naylor added, “Still, I’m looking forward to Trinity and it’s not like we’ll never see each other again, is it? We can always come back and visit.”
“That’s what the old man said,” Lennox nodded, referring to the Headmaster, who liked to see the departing Sixth formers on their final day for a chat. “Have you seen him yet, Bettany?”
“Yes - we just talked about the First XI.” Rix threw a few more things into his trunk. “Oh, and he told me that London’s a wicked place and I should be careful,” he laughed. “I’ll be disappointed now when I get there and it isn’t.”
“Just think of all the nurses,” Lennox grinned.
“Uncle Jack says there won’t be time, it’s just endless study…” Rix broke off as somebody knocked on the door.
They all got to their feet, expecting Matron, but sat down again when the door opened and Rix’s cousin, David Russell of the Lower Sixth stood there, in his cricket whites, his hair standing on end and out-of-breath from running up the stairs.
“Can I borrow your pads? I’ve lost mine and Donaldson’s putting me on in two minutes! Are you coming to watch? Mulgrave’s just got his century!” David burst out, oblivious in his excitement to the two other Sixth formers present, including Lennox, who was a prefect.
Rix merely laughed and handed over what David needed, whilst the others announced their intention of coming down to watch the final innings of the game, all talk of their futures forgotten for the moment.
After tea, Rix returned to his packing, which he finished fairly quickly without the distraction. He was conscious about the fragility of his future and hesitated to think about it too deeply in case it was all snatched away.
His father had mentioned more than once that he could do with, as he had phrased it, a hand around the estate, and it wasn’t that long since his mother’s sudden and frightening operation. Buried deep inside him was the secret fear that he wouldn’t be able to go to London and start his medical training.
They had no money either. He had realised it the previous holidays when he had been looking over the accounts in the estate office, as he often did during the holidays. He had tried to raise the issue with his father in a roundabout way, but found his father unusually reluctant to discuss it.
“I bet the doctor’s bills were expensive,” he muttered to himself, as he locked his trunk.
“Are you talking to yourself?” David laughed, coming into the room. “It does look empty without all your junk in it. Maybe I’ll bag this room next year.”
“Are you moving over to College?” Rix asked in surprise.
“I’ve just come from the Headmaster’s study. I,” David paused, impressively, “am to be School Captain next year.”
“Congratulations,” Rix said, warmly. The two of them had always been great friends. “Uncle Jem will be thrilled.”
David shrugged, but Rix could tell how pleased he was. “It should be a lark,” was all he said, however.
“You’ll get Jamieson’s room if you’re Captain. It’s twice as big as this one. Come on, I’ll ask him if you can see it,” Rix offered, thinking how easy things were for David, who always seemed to achieve great things while putting in the least possible effort.
Jamieson wasn’t alone in his study, several of the prefects, including Lennox, were drinking tea and chatting, but he was affable enough and congratulated David in his pleasant way, however his friend, Delaney, looked annoyed at the imposition, even when faced with the full force of David’s charm.
“You’re going to St Thomas’, aren’t you Bettany?” Colyer asked, getting up from his perch on the edge of Jamieson’s desk. “Me too. Would you like some tea?”
Rix nodded, accepting the cup he was given. He hadn’t previously had much to do with Colyer, who was one of Delaney’s acolytes. He was wary of Delaney, who possessed both a wealthy family and a snobbish and haughty demeanour. Nevertheless, it would be nice to know somebody in the hospital and Colyer wasn’t the worst. “I’m looking forward to it,” he said.
“My father’s a doctor, so I don’t really have any choice,” Colyer laughed, impervious to Delaney’s obvious annoyance at having nobody to talk to. David was chatting away to Jamieson and the other prefects about his cricket triumphs.
“Father’s really pleased about it, actually. Of course, he wants me to take over from him eventually, but we live right in the middle of the Cotswolds and it’s frightfully boring. I rather think I’ll try and stay in London for a couple of years, maybe work in one of the hospitals, eventually. I’m rather keen on surgery. Do you know where you’ll specialise?”
“Oh – TB.” Rix replied, rather surprised that Colyer was so unexpectedly outgoing. He didn’t realise that his chatter was mostly from nerves. “My uncles are both TB specialists, so I expect I’ll work with them eventually.”
“Excellent. Well, I’ll see you there. We’ll have to have a beer. All right, Harry, I’m coming. See you, Bettany.”
Lennox joined Rix, “At least it’s not Delaney. He’s going to Trinity then on to be something important in his father’s firm. Colyer’s all right. Come on, we might as well have a game of tennis or something.”
“Have a good holiday,” Lennox said the next day.
“You too, Mark, I’ll write,” replied Rix, waving as the car left the drive. He settled back in his seat, listening to his father discuss the latest family news, with Maurice, in the back seat, chiming in at intervals.
A prequel by some years to A Friend of the Family