Unless she repented and procured him a male heir, the baronetcy would come to him only to pass at his death to young Oliver; and the couple, who spent all the Parliamentary recesses at Carwithiel because Mr. Thomas found it cheap, bore no goodwill to that young gentleman. He en revanche supplied them with abundant food for censure, being wilful from the first, and given in those early years to consorting with stable-boys and picking up their manners and modes of speech. The uncle and aunt alleged—and indeed it was obvious—that the unruly boys passed on the infection to Miss Diana. Miss Diana never accompanied her parents to London, but had grown up from the first at Carwithiel—again because Mr. Thomas found it cheap.
In this atmosphere of stable slang, surrounded by a sort of protective outer aura in their grandparents’ godliness, the three children grew up: mischievous indeed and without rein, but by no means vicious. Their first separation came in 1726 when Master Oliver, now rising ten, left for London, to be entered at Westminster School. Harry was to follow him; and did, in a twelve-month’s time; but just before this happened, in Oliver’s summer holidays. Sir Thomas took the smallpox and died and went to his tomb in the Carwithiel transept. Harry took it too; but pulled through, not much disfigured. Oliver and Diana escaped.
The boys, to whom their grandfather—so far as they regarded him at all—had mainly presented himself as a benevolent old proser, were surprised to find that they sincerely regretted him; and the events of the next few weeks threw up his merits (now that the time was past for rewarding them) into a sharp light which memory overarched with a halo. Tenderly into that halo dissolved his trivial faults—his trick, for example, of snoring between the courses at dinner, or of awaking and pulling his fingers till they cracked with a distressing sound. These and other small frailties were forgotten as the new Sir Thomas and his spouse took possession and proceeded in a few weeks to turn the place inside out, dismissing five of the stable-boys, cutting down the garden staff by one-third, and carrying havoc into the housekeeper’s apartments, the dairy, the still-room.
In these dismissals I have no doubt that Sir Thomas and Lady Caroline hit (as justice is done in this world) upon the chief blackguards. But the two boys, asking one another why So-and-so had been marked down while This-other had been spared, and observing that the So-and-so’s included an overbalancing number of their own cronies, found malice in the discrimination, and a malice directed with intent upon themselves.