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Written by Anastasia Melnyk
Aging Leo Colston recalls of those days that he has spent as a boy with his school friend Marcus Maudsley in the estate Brandy Hall in the summer of 1900. The immutability and equality of the centuries-old order, where every man should hold a position in society that corresponds to his heritage is the foundation of the British worldview. This novel is told through the eyes of a child who comes from a poor family but lives in a wealthy house. All is done according the ritual. The servants and lower class members are treated with respect, and they arrive at the breakfast in their shoes. In no case should they wear slippers. These details are all recorded in the mind of the narrator. He found a diary that he kept while a child, and recorded his impressions.
The novel portrays Mrs Maudsley, her husband, Marian, and their sons Dennis, Marcus, as masters of their lives who are aware of their worth. They use everyone for their own purposes – entertainment, enjoyment, or to improve their social standing. Leo Colston was invited to a vacation with Marcus Colston’s parents so that he wouldn’t be bored in adult society, where no one showed interest in him, not the father, brother, sister or mother. Leo, his heritage being much lower, admired those whose power it would be to destroy him with “a mockery or bestow with smiles”. He was under the influence of illusion, from which he would eventually recover.
Leo is a sensitive observer and can see different bright details. They are the most “speaking” to describe the social and psychological relationships in society with rigid partitions. The narrator initially thought only dimly that he was in another universe where he was a representative from a lower class. It all began with the clothing, which was one of the most important components of the ritual that was observed religiously in Brandy Hall. Leo didn’t know why, among those who watched life as a ritual he looked like a sheep. Maudsley family members had tactfully stated it to him. Marcus, who was most childlike and openly shared his knowledge with Leo about the fact only the ignorant should wear school dresses in vacation, and that the school ribbon around the head should not be tied. Leo quickly discovered that he did not have a summer suit. This made him a target of ridicule, who offered polite advice and unpractical suggestions.
Marian offered to gift Leo a summer dress. After that, the entire family discussed where and how to buy it. Leo was pleased that the new clothes would make him feel more important in the world. Marian’s favorable attitude inspired him, and she used Leo for her own purposes – instructed him to carry the note to a neighboring farmer Ted Burgess, her lover. Leo kept a secret as Marian was his lover. Ted treated the noble guest with respect.
Ted was a farmer. He was one of the people who fed England. The narrator described Ted working in the field when Leo brought him. Ted treated his land tenant with dignity, even though he was only a tenant.
Ted was an unofficial opponent of Lord Trimingem during the Marian fight for her heart. However, she said to Leo that they had only business correspondence. Leo had some very important information. It was vital information that could affect her family’s future. Marian wanted Leo to marry him to increase their society position. Trimingem opposes Ted. He isn’t physically developed and has a scar from the Anglo-Boer War. He was the rightful owner of the estate, and all the surrounding land. He clearly did not sympathize with Marian. But according to British society’s unwritten rules, everything must be in his favor. A farmer is not a match for the Lord, and feelings here have no meaning. Each one served as a means to an end: Ted – for Marian’s amorous pleasures, Trimingem for the advancement of the entire family in the social hierarchy.
In the eyes of Leo Trimingem was a carrier of the British forces of the spirit, the ideal of the gentleman who embodied the traditional human values of an English version. He was a part of the victory over the Boers. These people are called farmers and husbandmen like Ted Burgess, although both are valued by the narrator). They hold the helm of governance.
Leo soon fell in love with Marian, and began to realize that behind all her good deeds stood cold calculation – to use him as an intermediary, the postman carrying notes to Ted. Because everyone knew about Marian’s engagement to the Lord, Leo guessed the meaning of Marian’s relationship with Ted. Marian refused to compromise and gave Ted a bicycle as a birthday present. It brought joy to him, but she also did not forget her interest in Ted.
Leo discovered that Lord had offered Ted to join the army. He told Marian about it, who was thrilled. Leo was acting recklessly, which gave Mrs Maudsley cause to be suspicious. During their date, she discovered the lovers in the shed. Leo later learned that Ted had shot himself when he returned home. Leo suffered a lifelong mental trauma and became seriously ill after all of these events. Ted’s example showed him how a love affair could end. He was the reason he never got married.