To Reggie with thanks - The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life - John le Carré

The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life - John le Carré (2016)

Chapter 34. To Reggie with thanks

You have to be closer to my age, I suppose, to remember Reginald Bosanquet, the impish, hard-living, hard-drinking television newsreader who captured the nation’s heart and died ridiculously early, I never knew quite what of. Reggie was my contemporary at Oxford and had all the things I didn’t: a private income, a sports car, beautiful women and a kind of premature adulthood to go with them.

We liked each other, but there is only so much time you can spend with a man who lives the life you dream of and can afford it when you can’t. Besides, I was a shadowy fellow in those days, earnest and a bit haunted. Reggie was neither. Also, I wasn’t just broke, but - halfway through my second year - seriously insolvent, since my father had recently made one of his spectacular bankruptcies, and his cheque for my term’s fees had bounced. And though my College was behaving with exemplary forbearance, I really saw no way to remain in Oxford for the rest of the academic year.

But that was to reckon without Reggie, who drifted into my room one day, probably with a hangover, shoved an envelope at me and drifted out. It contained a cheque made out to me by his Trustees, large enough to pay off my debts and keep me at university for the next six months. The accompanying letter was also from the Trustees. They said that Reggie had told them of my misfortune, that the money came from his own resources, and that I should pay it back at my convenience and only when I was able. And that it was Reggie’s wish that, on all matters relating to the loan, I should correspond directly with the Trustees, since he didn’t hold with mixing money with friendship.

It was several years before I was able to repay the last instalment, and with it the interest that I reckoned the capital would have earned. His Trustees sent me a polite note of thanks, and returned the interest. Reggie, they explained, didn’t feel interest was appropriate in the circumstances.*