Jacob Goes to Chatsworth

Hello, readers. I’m back again with another short (this morning’s work) installment on my novel in progress. If you’ve been reading along, you’ll know something about who Jacob Eaton is and how he ended up at Oxford. Thanks for reading. Comments are welcome.

What Jacob Eaton learned that evening, as he sat with his newfound colleague in that ancient inn was that this young man he had helped save from robbery and a beating was the son of the Duke of Devonshire.  His attackers no doubt knew this and felt that he would be an easy mark and have a load of cash on his person.  The police who responded to the fight knew him as well.  That was why they had no questions about how the fracas had gone down.   Jacob knew very little about the manners and customs of the English high aristocracy.  The wealth became obvious quickly, not only from young Mr. Cavendish’s generosity that evening, but as the weeks passed in the Michaelmas term, young Edward Cavendish, that was his name, often quietly picked up substantial bar tabs for a group of colleagues.

What was not immediately obvious, and what Jacob had no notion or apprehension of, was the honor code of men like Cavendish.  While the foibles and excesses of that class of people are well known and documented daily in the media and press, there are notions of loyalty and obligation and admiration for physical courage that have been inculcated into such men over a millennium and are so deeply embedded that they are passed unconsciously from generation to generation and do not need to be articulated. There was also the belief that there was no such thing as mere coincidence.  That which happened occurred for a reason and there was meaning in every experience, every conversation, every confrontation.  In short, what Jacob had done for Cavendish in saving him from a beating and from injury to the girl he was then escorting was of existential importance.  Cavendish was obliged or obligated to Eaton, and as the days and weeks passed during their first term at Corpus Christie College, their respect for one another only grew stronger.  It was near the end of term when Cavendish offered his hospitality to his American friend.

The two men were almost finished with their final examinations and were taking a few moments for tea before the fire in Cavendish’s rooms.  They talked of professors and examinations and the upcoming break between terms.

So, will you be going home for the break?

No.  Too expensive, I’m afraid.

Well, what will you do?  You can’t stay here.

They tell me I can.  There are accommodations in Rhodes Hall for people like me.

No.  I didn’t mean that it couldn’t be physically or legally done.  I mean you just can’t do that to yourself.  You think this town is miserable during term, think of what it will be like over the first weeks in January when the sun never makes an appearance, the college halls are empty, your rooms are cold, and all your friends are home, sleeping late, warming themselves by the fires, and feasting on ham and turkey.  You’ll go stir crazy and might be tempted to self-destructive behavior.  Too depressed to excel in the coming term.  I won’t have it, man.  You’ll come home with me.  I’ve been wanting to show you Chatsworth Hall for some time now, anyway.

I couldn’t do that.  Christmas is a family time.  I don’t want to get in the way of that.  Don’t want to be underfoot.

Edward Cavendish chuckled.

You don’t understand what Chatsworth is.  We’re not talking three bedrooms and a bath.  Chatsworth is a castle, man.  We’ll have at least ten houseguests there for the entire holiday season, and the house will still be nearly empty.  We’d be bereft without company.  Couldn’t imagine it.  It’s not our way of life.  Besides, my father has been dying to meet you ever since I told him of our scuffle with those thugs back at the start of term. You have to come.  Do you like to ride?


No, man.  Camels.  Of course, horses.  What else?

I never have tried it.

Well, you haven’t lived then.  This will be a greater education than all of Michaelmas.  We’ve got several very polite mounts that will suit you and four thousand acres of field and forest to explore.  You Americans are all country folk, anyway.  We’ve even got a horse-drawn sleigh.  Jingle Bells.  The whole bit.  There’ll be parties.  Women to meet.  Rich, good-looking girls.  There is no more to be said here.  Pack your bags.  Our train leaves Tuesday at eight AM.  Breakfast in the club car.  Leave all your worries behind. I’ll have your ticket with me.

copyright 2022

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