Charles’s second year at Oxford begins somberly, without the sense of adventure of his first. A number of deans lecture Sebastian, warning him that he’ll be expelled if he doesn’t improve. He begins leaving Aloysius in his room. Sebastian and Charles spend all their time together, dropping their other friends. Meanwhile, Charles begins studying art.
Lady Marchmain comes to Oxford to meet with Mr. Samgrass, a history don, whom she has asked to help her create a memorial book of her brother. She invites Charles to visit Brideshead around Christmas. A week later, Julia visits with a man named Rex Mottram, a young Canadian with a burgeoning political career. He asks Charles, Sebastian, and Mulcaster to a party of Julia’s. The three go to the Marchmain House in London to prepare. The party gets off to a dull start, and Mulcaster wants to go to a nightclub instead. Charles and Sebastian leave with Mulcaster, who insists on taking a car.
At the nightclub, a pair of women invite the men to their place. Despite being drunk, Sebastian insists on driving and nearly collides with another car, attracting police attention. The police arrest Mulcaster, Sebastian, and Charles. Sebastian suggests they call Rex, who works to mitigate their sentences. Rex advises Charles and Mulcaster to plead guilty and beg the judge not to ruin their careers over a youthful mistake. Mottram’s advice serves Charles and Mulcaster well, and they get off with a fine. Sebastian has a more difficult case because of his drunk driving. He wants to run away because of the fuss but also gets off on a fine. At Oxford, Mr. Samgrass negotiates with the deans so that the boys only face being confined to their college grounds at night.
Over Christmas break, Lady Marchmain attempts to bring Charles into her confidence, but Charles doesn’t wish to become closer to her because he worries about Sebastian. Since the Marchmains have accepted Charles, Charles has become part of what Sebastian wishes to escape. After two weeks, Sebastian wants to leave Brideshead. They go to Charles’s father’s house in London, which Sebastian enjoys.
Back at Oxford, Sebastian’s behavior worsens. He’s only happy when drunk. Charles realizes that while his own drunkenness just serves as pleasurable excess, Sebastian uses drinking to escape.
Charles goes to Brideshead for Easter. Sebastian fakes being sick while secretly drinking in his room. Charles checks on Sebastian before dinner and puts him to bed. Sebastian pulls out some whiskey and gets furious at Charles when he tries to stop him from drinking. Charles promises to lie for him. Lady Marchmain wants to check on Sebastian, but Cordelia goes instead. She reveals that Sebastian’s drunk.