Summary: Book 1: Chapter 3

Charles prepares to return home to his father’s house in London for the long end-of-term break. He has spent all his allowance and will not receive more until October. 

Charles has an awkward first dinner with his father. His father asks how long Charles will be at home. Charles explains he doesn’t have the money to travel. In response, his father claims to have no good advice because he’s never been in dire financial straits, and he mentions a cousin of Charles’s who had to go to Australia after falling into debt. Charles suggests his father will get bored of having him home, but Charles’s father simply states he wouldn’t tell Charles if he did.

The following dinners between father and son are similarly antagonistic. Once, Charles's father mentions how he managed to drive Charles’s Aunt Philippa out of the house even though she’d expected them to live together. In another episode, Charles invites an old school friend, Jorkins, to dinner. Charles’s father rudely pretends Jorkins is American throughout the entire event. In retaliation for Charles inviting a friend to dinner, his father throws a miserable dinner party with boring guests. 

Charles receives a short letter from Sebastian that speaks of how he intends to visit his father, Lord Marchmain, in Venice but doesn’t want to bring Aloysius lest he pick up bad habits from Italian bears. The letter reminds Charles of Anthony’s comment comparing Sebastian to bubbles. For a moment, Charles hates Sebastian. However, when Charles receives a telegram stating that Sebastian has been severely injured and requesting Charles’s presence, he drops everything to travel to Brideshead. On the train, he worries he will have arrived too late and Sebastian will be dead. 

Sebastian’s sister Julia picks Charles up at the train station and reveals that Sebastian has only broken a small bone in his ankle and must rest it for a month. He needs someone to keep him from boredom because Julia can’t stay at Brideshead for long. Julia looks like a female version of Sebastian with a less friendly face. When Julia asks Charles to light her cigarette, he feels a wisp of attraction. Julia asks why Charles and Sebastian didn’t stay to tea when they visited Nanny Hawkins. Charles explains Sebastian wanted to leave, and Julia tells him not to let Sebastian boss him around.

When they arrive at Brideshead, Sebastian is in a wheelchair. Charles tells Sebastian he was worried he was dying. Sebastian requests champagne with dinner, which they eat in a lavish, octagonal room called the Painted Parlor. The room has decoration inspired by artwork recovered from Pompeii. Julia bids Charles and Sebastian goodnight, thanking Charles for relieving her of duty in looking after Sebastian. She plans to leave Brideshead the next day.