In the spring of 1917, when Doctor Richard Diver first arrived in Zurich, he was twenty-six years old, a fine age for a man, indeed the very acme of bachelorhood. Even in war-time days it was a fine age for Dick, who was already too valuable, too much of a capital investment to be shot off in a gun. Years later it seemed to him that even in this sanctuary he did not escape lightly, but about that he never fully made up his mind—in 1917 he laughed at the idea, saying apologetically that the war didn’t touch him at all. Instructions from his local board were that he was to complete his studies in Zurich and take a degree as he had planned.
Switzerland was an island, washed on one side by thef waves of thunder around Gorizia and on another by the cataracts along the Somme and the Aisne. For once there seemed more intriguing strangers than sick ones in the cantons, but that had to be guessed at—the men who whispered in the little cafes of Berne and Geneva were as likely to be diamond salesmen or commercial travellers. However, no One had missed the long trains of blinded or one-legged men, or dying trunks, that crossed each other between the bright lakes of Constance and Neuchatel. In the beer-halls and shop-windows were bright posters presenting the Swiss defending their frontiers in 1914—with inspiring ferocity young men and old men glared down from the mountains at phantom French and Germans; the purpose was to assure the Swiss heart that it had shared the contagious glory of those days. As the massacre continued the posters withered away, and no country was more surprised than its sister republic when the United States bungled its way into the war.
Doctor Diver had seen around the edges of the war by that time: he was an Oxford Rhodes Scholar from Connecticut in 1914. He returned home for a final year at Johns Hopkins, and took his degree. In 1916 he managed to get to Vienna under the impression that, if he did not make haste, the great Freud would eventually succumb to an airplane bomb. Even then Vienna was old with death, but Dick managed to get enough coal and oil to sit in his room in the Damenstiftgasse and write the pamphlets that he later destroyed, but that, rewritten, were the backbone of the book he published in Zurich in 1920.
Most of us have a favourite, a heroic period in our lives, and that was Dick Diver’s. For one thing he had no idea that he was charming, that the affection he gave and inspired was anything unusual among healthy people. In his last year at New Haven someone referred to him as “lucky Dick”—the name lingered in his head.
“Lucky Dick, you big stiff,” he would whisper to himself, walking around the last sticks of flame in his room. “You hit it, my boy. Nobody knew it was there before you came along.”
At the beginning of 1917, when it was becoming difficult to find coal, Dick burned for fuel almost a hundred textbooks that he had accumulated; but only, as he laid each one on the fire, with an assurance chuckling inside him that he was himself a digest of what was within the book, that he could brief it five years from now, if it deserved to be briefed. This went on at any odd hour, if necessary, with a floor rug over his shoulders, with the fine quiet of the scholar which is nearest of all things to heavenly peace—but which, as will presently be told, had to end.
For its temporary continuance he thanked his body that had done the flying rings at New Haven, and now swam in the winter Danube. With Elkins, second secretary at the Embassy, he shared an apartment, and there were two nice girl visitors—which was that and not too much of it, nor too much of the Embassy either. His contact with Ed Elkins aroused in him a first faint doubt as to the quality of his mental processes; he could not feel that they were profoundly different from the thinking of Elkins—Elkins, who would name you all the quarterbacks at New Haven for thirty years.
“—And Lucky Dick can’t be one of these clever men; he must be less intact, even faintly destroyed. If life won’t do it for him it’s not a substitute to get a disease, or a broken heart, or an inferiority complex, though it’d be nice to build out some broken side till it was better than the original structure.”
He mocked at his reasoning, calling it specious and “American”—his criterion of uncerebral phrase-making was that it was American. He knew, though, that the price of his intactness was incompleteness.
“The best I can wish you, my child,” so said the Fairy Blackstick in Thackeray’s The Rose and the Ring, “is a little misfortune.”
In some moods he griped at his own reasoning: Could I help it that Pete Livingstone sat in the locker-room Tap Day when everybody looked all over hell for him? And I got an election when otherwise I wouldn’t have got Elihu, knowing so few men. He was good and right and I ought to have sat in the locker-room instead. Maybe I would, if I’d thought I had a chance at an election. But Mercer kept coming to my room all those weeks. I guess I knew I had a chance all right, all right. But it would have served me right if I’d swallowed my pin in the shower and set up a conflict.
After the lectures at the university he used to argue this point with a young Rumanian intellectual who reassured him: “There’s no evidence that Goethe ever had a “conflict” in the modern sense, or a man like Jung, for instance. You’re not a romantic philosopher—you’re a scientist. Memory, force, character—especially good sense. That’s going to be your trouble—judgement about yourself. Once I knew a man who worked two years on the brain of an armadillo, with the idea that he would sooner or later know more about the brain of an armadillo than anyone. I kept arguing with him that he was not really pushing out the extension of the human range—it was too arbitrary. And sure enough, when he sent his work to the medical journal they refused it—they had just accepted a thesis by another man on the same subject. No good sense.”
Dick got up to Zurich on fewer Achilles’ heels than would be required to equip a centipede, but with plenty—the illusions of eternal strength and health, and of the essential goodness of people—they were the illusions of a nation, the lies of generations of frontier mothers who had to croon falsely that there were no wolves outside the cabin door. After he took his degree, he received his orders to join a neurological unit forming in Bar-sur-Aube. In France, to his disgust, the work was executive rather than practical. In compensation he found time to complete the short textbook and assemble the material for his next venture. He returned to Zurich in the spring of 1919 discharged.
The foregoing has the ring of a biography, without the satisfaction of knowing that the hero, like Grant, lolling in his general store in Galena, is ready to be called to an intricate destiny. Best to be reassuring—Dick Diver’s moment now began.
It was a damp April day, with long diagonal clouds over the Albishorn and water inert in the low places. Zurich is not unlike an American city. Missing something ever since his arrival two days before, Dick perceived that it was the sense he had had in finite French lanes that there was nothing more. In Zurich there was a lot besides Zurich—the roofs up—led the eyes to tinkling cow pastures, which in turn modified hilltops further up—so life was a perpendicular starting off to a postcard heaven. The Alpine lands, home of the toy and the funicular, the merry-go-round and the thin chime, were not a being here, as in France, with French vines growing over one’s feet on the ground.
In Salzburg once Dick had felt the superimposed quality of a bought and borrowed century of music; once in the laboratories of the university in Zurich, delicately poking at the cortex of a brain, he had felt like a toy-maker rather than like the tornado who had hurried through the old red buildings of Hopkins, two years before, unstayed by the irony of the gigantic Christ in the entrance hall.
Yet he had decided to remain another two years in Zurich, for he did not underestimate the value of toy-making, of infinite precision, of infinite patience.
To-day he went out to see Franz Gregorovius at Dohmler’s clinic on the Zurichsee. Franz, resident pathologist at the clinic, a Vaudois by birth, a few years older than Dick, met him at the tram stop. He had a dark and magnificent aspect of Cagliostro about him, contrasted with holy eyes; he was the third of the Gregoroviuses—his grandfather had instructed Kraepelin when psychiatry was just emerging from the darkness of all time. In personality he was proud, fiery and sheeplike—he fancied himself as a hypnotist. Though the original genius of the family had grown a little tired, Franz would without doubt become a fine clinician.
On the way to the clinic he said: “Tell me of your experiences in the war. Are you changed like the rest? You are still a carrot top. You have the same unaging American face.”
“I didn’t see any of the war,” Dick said. “You must have gathered that from my letters, Franz.”
“That doesn’t matter—we have some shell-shocks who merely heard an air raid from a distance. We have a few who merely read newspapers.”
“It sounds like nonsense to me.”
“Maybe it is, Dick. But, we’re a rich person’s clinic—we don’t use the word nonsense. Frankly, did you come down to see me or to see that girl?”
They looked sideways at each other; Franz smiled enigmatically.
“Naturally I saw all the first letters,” he said in his official basso. “When the change began, delicacy prevented me from opening any more. Really it had become your case.”
“Then she’s well?” Dick demanded.
“Perfectly well. I have charge of her, in fact I have charge of the majority of the English and American patients. They call me Doctor Gregory.”
“Let me explain about that girl,” Dick said. “I only saw her one time, that’s a fact. When I came out to say good-bye to you just before I went over to France. It was the first time I put on my uniform and I felt very bogus in it—went around saluting privates and all that.”
“Why didn’t you wear it to-day?”
“Hey! I’ve been discharged three weeks. Here’s the way I happened to see that girl. When I left you I walked down toward that building of yours on the lake to get my bicycle——”
“Toward the Cedars?”
“—a wonderful night, you know, moon over that mountain——”
“—I caught up with a nurse and a young girl. I didn’t think the girl was a patient; I asked the nurse about tram times and we walked along. The girl was about the prettiest thing I ever saw.”
“She still is.”
“She’d never seen an American uniform and we talked, and I didn’t think anything about it.” He broke off, recognizing a familiar perspective, and then resumed: “Except, Franz, I’m not as hard-boiled as you are—yet; when I see a beautiful shell like that I can’t help feeling a regret about what’s inside it. That was absolutely all—till the letters began to come.”
“It was the best thing that could have happened to her,” said Franz dramatically, “a transference of the most fortuitous kind. That’s why I came down to meet you on a very busy day. I want you to come into my office and talk a long time before you see her. In fact, I sent her into Zurich to do errands.” His voice was tense with enthusiasm. “In fact, I sent her without a nurse, with a less stable patient. I’m intensely proud of this case, which I handled, with your accidental assistance.”
The car had followed the shore of the Zurichsee into a fertile region of pasture farms and low hills, steepled with chalets. The sun swam out into a blue sea of sky and suddenly it was a Swiss valley at its best—pleasant sounds and murmurs and a good fresh smell of health and cheer.
Professor Dohmler’s plant consisted of three old buildings and a pair of new ones, between a slight plateau and the shore of the lake. At its founding, ten years before, it had been the first modern clinic for mental illness; at a casual dance no layman would recognize it as a refuge for the broken, the incomplete, the menacing, of this world, though two buildings were surrounded with vine-softened walls of a deceptive height. Outside, some men raked straw in the sunshine; here and there, as one rode into the grounds, the car passed the white flag of a nurse waving beside a patient on a path.
After conducting Dick to his office, Franz excused himself for half an hour. Left alone Dick wandered about the room and tried to reconstruct Franz from the litter of his desk, from his books and the books of and by his father and grandfather; from the Swiss piety of a huge claret-coloured photo of the former on the wall. There was smoke in the room. Pushing open a French window, Dick let in a cone of sunshine. Suddenly his thoughts swung to the patient, the girl.
He had received about fifty letters from her written over a period of eight months. The first was apologetic, explaining that she had heard from America how girls wrote to soldiers whom they did not know. She had obtained the name and address from Doctor Gregory and she hoped he would not wand if she sometimes sent word to wish him well, etc, etc.
So far it was easy to recognize the tone—from Daddy-Long-Legs and Molly Make-Believe, sprightly and sentimental epistolary collections enjoying a vogue in the States. But there the resemblance ended.
The letters were divided into two classes, of which the first class, up to about the armistice, was of a marked pathological turn, and of which the second class, running from there up to the present, was entirely normal and displayed a richly maturing nature. For these latter letters Dick had come to wait eagerly in the last dull months at Bar-sur-Aube—yet even from the first letters he had pieced together more than Franz would have guessed of the story.
I thought when I saw you in your uniform you were so handsome. Then I thought Je m’en fiche French too and German. You thought I was pretty too but I’ve had that before and a long time I’ve stood it. If you come here again with that attitude base and criminal and not even faintly what I had been taught to associate with the role of gentleman then heaven help you. However, you seem quieter than the others, all soft like a big cat. I have
only gotten to like boys who are rather sissies. Are you a sissy? There were some somewhere.
Excuse all this, it is the third letter I have written you and will send immediately or will never send. I’ve thought a lot about moonlight too, and there are many witnesses I could find if I could only be out of here.
They said you were a doctor, but so long as you arc a cat it is different. My head aches so, so excuse this walking there like an ordinary with a white cat will explain, I think. I can speak three languages, four with English, and am sure I could be useful interpreting if you arrange such thing in France I’m sure I could control everything with the belts all bound around everybody like it was Wednesday. It is now Saturday and you are far away, perhaps killed.
Come back to me some day, for I will be here always on this green hill. Unless they will let me write my father, whom I loved dearly.
Excuse this. I am not myself to-day. I will write when I feel better.
Excuse all this.
I know introspection is not good for a highly nervous state like mine, but I would like you to know where I stand. Last year or whenever it was in Chicago when I got so I couldn’t speak to servants or walk in the street I kept waiting for someone to tell me. It was the duty of someone who understood. The blind must be led. Only no one would tell me everything—they would just tell me half and I was already too muddled to put two and two together. One man was nice—he was a French officer and he understood. He gave me a flower and said it was
“plus petite et moins entendue.” We were friends. Then he took it away. I grew sicker and there was no one to explain to me. They had a song about Joan of Arc that they used to sing at me but that was just mean—it would just make me cry, for there was nothing the matter with my head then. They kept making reference to sports, too, but I didn’t care by that time. So there was that day I went walking on Michigan Boulevard on and on for miles and finally they followed me in an automobile, but I wouldn’t
get in. Finally they pulled me in and there were nurses. After that time I began to realize it all, because I could feel what was happening in others. So you see how I stand. And what good can it be for me to stay here with doctors harping constantly on the things I was here to get over. So to-day I have written my father to come and take me
away. I am glad you are so interested in examining people and sending them back. It must be so much fun.
And again, from another letter:
You might pass up your next examination and write me a letter. They just sent me some phonograph records in case I should forget my lesson and I broke them all so the nurse won’t speak to me. They were in English, so that the nurses would not understand. One doctor in Chicago said I was bluffing, but what he really meant was that I was a twin six and he had never seen one before. But I was very busy being mad then, so I didn’t care what he said, when I’m very busy being mad I don’t usually care what they say, not if I were a million girls.
You told me that night you’d teach me to play. Well, I think love is all there is or should be. Anyhow I am a glad your interest in examinations keeps you busy, Tout a vous,
There were other letters among whose helpless caesuras lurked darker rhythms.
DEAR CAPTAIN DIVER:
I write to you because there is no one else to whom I can turn and it seems to me if this farcical situation is apparent to one as sick as me it should be apparent to you. The mental trouble is all over and besides that I am completely broken and humiliated, if that was what they wanted. My family have shamefully neglected me, there’s no use asking them for help or pity. I have had enough and it is simply ruining my health and wasting my time
pretending that what is the matter with my head is curable.
Here I am in what appears to be a semi-insane-asylum, all because nobody saw fit to tell me the truth about anything. If I had only known what was going on like I know now I could have stood it I guess for I am pretty strong, but those who should have, did not see fit to en—
lighten me. And now, when I know and have paid such a price for knowing, they sit there with their dogs’ lives and say I should believe what I did believe. Especially one does but I know now. I am lonesome all the time far away from friends and family across the Atlantic. I roam all over the place in a half daze. If you could get me a position as interpreter (I know French and German like a native, fair Italian
and a little Spanish) or in the Red Cross Ambulance or as a train nurse, though I would have to train you would prove a great blessing.
Since you will not accept my explanation of what is the matter you would at least explain to me what you think, because you have a kind cat’s face, and not that funny look that seems to be so fashionable here. Dr Gregory gave me a snapshot of you, not as handsome as you are in your uniform, but younger looking.
It was fine to have your postcard. I am so glad you take such interest in disqualifying nurses—oh, I understood your note very well indeed. Only I thought from the moment I met you that you were different.
I think one thing to-day and another to-morrow. That is really all that’s the matter with me, except a crazy defiance and a lack of proportion. I would gladly welcome any alienist you might suggest. Here they lie in their bath tubs and sing Play in Your Own Backyard as if I had my backyard to play in or any hope which I can find by looking either backward or forward. They tried it again in
the candy store again and I almost hit the man with the weight, but they held me.
I am not going to write you any more. I am too unstable.
And then a month with no letters. And then suddenly the change.
— I am slowly coming back to life…
— To-day the flowers and the clouds…
— The war is over and I scarcely knew there was a war…
— How kind you have been! You must be very wise behind your face like a white cat, except you don’t look like that in the picture Dr Gregory gave me…
— To-day I went to Zurich, how strange a feeling to see a city again.
— To-day we went to Berne, it was so nice with the clocks.
— To-day we climbed high enough to find asphodel and edelweiss…
After that the letters were fewer, but he answered them all. There was one:
I wish someone were in love with me like boys were ages ago before I was sick. I suppose it will be years, though, before I could think of anything like that.
But when Dick’s answer was delayed for any reason, there was a fluttering burst of worry—like the worry of a lover: “Perhaps I have bored you,” and “Afraid I have presumed,” and “I keep thinking at night you have been sick.”
In actuality Dick was sick with the flu. When he recovered all except the formal part of his correspondence was sacrificed to the consequent fatigue, and shortly afterwards the memory of her became overlaid by the vivid presence of a Wisconsin telephone girl at headquarters in Bar-sur-Aube. She was red-lipped like a poster, and known obscenely in the messes as “The Switchboard.”
Franz came back into his office feeling self-important. Dick thought he would probably be a fine clinician, for the sonorous or staccato cadences by which he disciplined nurse or patient came not from his nervous system, but from a tremendous and harmless vanity. His true emotions were more ordered and kept to himself.
“Now about the girl, Dick,” he said. “Of course, I want to find out about you and tell you about myself, but first about the girl, because I have been waiting to tell you about it so long.”
He searched for and found a sheaf of papers in a filing cabinet, but after shuffling through them he found they were in his way and put them on his desk. Instead he told Dick the story.
About a year and a half before, Doctor Dohmler had some vague correspondence with an American gentleman living in Lausanne, a Mr Devereux Warren, of the Warren family of Chicago. A meeting was arranged and one day Mr Warren arrived at the clinic with his daughter Nicole, a girl of sixteen. She was obviously not well and the nurse who was with her took her to walk about the grounds while Mr Warren had his consultation.
Warren was a strikingly handsome man looking less than forty. He was a fine American type in every way, tall, broad, well-made—un homme tres chic, as Doctor Dohmler described him to Franz. His large grey eyes were sun-veined from rowing on Lake Geneva, and he had that special air about him of having known the best of this world. The conversation was in German, for it developed that he had been educated in Gottingen. He was nervous and obviously very moved by his errand.
“Doctor Dohmler, my daughter isn’t right in the head. I’ve had lots of specialists and nurses for her and she’s taken a couple of rest cures, but the thing has grown too big for me and I’ve been strongly recommended to come to you.”
“Very well,” said Doctor Dohmler. “Suppose you start at the beginning and tell me everything.”
“There isn’t any beginning, at least there isn’t any insanity in the family that I know of, on either side. Nicole’s mother died when she was twelve and I’ve sort of been father and mother both to her, with the help of governesses—father and mother both to her.”
He was very moved as he said this. Doctor Dohmler saw that there were tears in the corners of his eyes and noticed for the first time that there was whiskey on his breath.
“As a child she was a darling thing—everybody was crazy about her, everybody that came in contact with her. She was smart as a whip and happy as the day is long. She liked to read or draw or dance or play the piano—anything. I used to hear my wife say she was the only one of our children who never cried at night. I’ve got an older girl, too, and there was a boy that died, but Nicole was—Nicole was—Nicole——”
He broke off and Doctor Dohmler helped him.
“She was a perfectly normal, bright, happy child.”
Doctor Dohmler waited. Mr Warren shook his head, blew a long sigh, glanced quickly at Doctor Dohmler and then at the floor again.
“About eight months ago, or maybe it was six months ago or maybe ten—I try to figure but I can’t remember exactly where we were when she began to do funny things—crazy things. Her sister was the first one to say anything to me about it—because Nicole was always the same to me,” he added rather hastily, as if someone had accused him of being to blame, “—the same loving little girl. The first thing was about a valet.”
“Oh, yes,” said Doctor Dohmler, nodding his venerable head, as if, like Sherlock Holmes, he had expected a valet and only a valet to be introduced at this point.
“I had a valet—been with me for years—Swiss, by the way.” He looked up for Doctor Dohmler’s patriotic approval. “And she got some crazy idea about him. She thought he was making up to her—of course, at the time I believed her and I let him go, but I know now it was all nonsense.”
“What did she claim he had done?”
“That was the first thing—the doctors couldn’t pin her down. She just looked at them as if they ought to know what he’d done. But she certainly meant he’d made some kind of indecent advances to her—she didn’t leave us in any doubt of that.”
“Of course, I’ve read about women getting lonesome and thinking there’s a man under the bed and all that, but why should Nicole get such an idea? She could have all the young men she wanted. We were in Lake Forest—that’s a summer place near Chicago where we have a place—and she was out all day playing golf or tennis with boys. And some of them pretty gone on her at that.”
All the time Warren was talking to the dried old package of Doctor Dohmler, one section of the latter’s mind kept thinking intermittently of Chicago. Once in his youth he could have gone to Chicago as fellow and docent at the university, and perhaps become rich there and owned his own clinic instead of being only a minor shareholder in a clinic. When he had thought of what he considered his own thin knowledge spread over that whole area, over all those wheat fields, those endless prairies, he had decided against it. But he had read about Chicago in those days, about the great feudal families of Armour, Palmer, Field, Crane, Warren, Swift, and McCormick and many others, and since that time not a few patients had come to him from that stratum of Chicago and New York.
“She got worse,” continued Warren. “She had a fit or something—the things she said got crazier and crazier. Her sister wrote some of them down—” He handed a much-folded piece of paper to the doctor. “Almost always about men going to attack her, men she knew or men on the street, anybody—”
He told of their alarm and distress, of the horrors families go through under such circumstances, of the ineffectual efforts they had made in America, finally of the faith in a change of scene that had made him run the submarine blockade and bring his daughter to Switzerland.
“—on a United States cruiser,” he specified with a touch of hauteur. “It was possible for me to arrange that, by a stroke of luck. And, may I add,” he smiled apologetically, “that as they say: money is no object.”
“Certainly not,” agreed Dohmler dryly. He was wondering why and about what the man was lying to him. Or, if he was wrong about that, what was the falsity that pervaded the whole room, the handsome figure in tweeds sprawling in his chair with a sportsman’s ease? That was a tragedy out there, in the February day, the young bird with wings crushed somehow, and inside here it was all too thin, thin and wrong.
“I would like—to talk to her—a few minutes now,” said Doctor Dohmler, going into English, as if it would bring him closer to Warren.
Afterwards when Warren had left his daughter and returned to Lausanne, and several days had passed, the doctor and Franz entered upon Nicole’s card:
Diagnostic: Schizophrenie. Phase aigue en decroissance. La peur des hommes est un symptome de la maladie, et n’est point constitutionelle… Le pronostic doit rester reserve.
And then they waited with increasing interest as the days passed for Mr Warren’s promised second visit.
It was slow in coming. After a fortnight Doctor Dohmler wrote. Confronted with further silence he committed what was for those days une folie, and telephoned to the Grand Hotel at Vevey. He learned from Mr Warren’s valet that he was at the moment packing to sail for America. But reminded that the forty francs Swiss for the call would show up on the clinic books, the blood of the Tuileries Guard rose to Doctor Dohmler’s aid and Mr Warren was got to the phone.
“It is—absolutely necessary—that you come. Your daughter’s health—all depends. I can take no responsibility.”
“But look here, Doctor, that’s just what you’re for. I have a hurry call to go home!”
Doctor Dohmler had never yet spoken to anyone so far away, but he dispatched his ultimatum so firmly into the phone that the agonized American at the other end yielded. Half an hour after this second arrival on the Zurichsee, Warren had broken down, his fine shoulders shaking with awful sobs inside his easy-fitting coat, his eyes redder than the very sun on Lake Geneva, and they had the awful story.
“It just happened,” he said hoarsely. “I don’t know—I don’t know.”
“After her mother died when she was little she used to come into my bed every morning, sometimes she’d sleep in my bed. I was sorry for the little thing. Oh, after that, whenever we went places in an automobile or a train we used to hold hands. She used to sing to me. We used to say, “Now let’s not pay any attention to anybody else this afternoon—let’s just have each other—for this morning you’re mine.”” A broken sarcasm came into his voice. “People used to say what a wonderful father and daughter we were—they used to wipe their eyes. We were just like lovers—and then all at once we were lovers—and ten minutes after it happened I could have shot myself—except I guess I’m such a Goddamned degenerate I didn’t have the nerve to do it.”
“Then what?” said Doctor Dohmler, thinking again of Chicago and of a mild pale gentleman with a pince-nez who had looked him over in Zurich thirty years before. “Did this thing go on?”
“Oh, no! She almost—she seemed to freeze up right away. She’d just say, ‘Never mind, never mind, Daddy. It doesn’t matter. Never mind.’”
“There were no consequences?”
“No.” He gave one short convulsive sob and blew his nose several times. “Except now there’re plenty of consequences.”
As the story concluded Dohmler sat back in the focal armchair of the middle class and said to himself sharply, “Peasant!”—it was one of the few absolute worldly judgements that he had permitted himself for twenty years. Then he said:
“I would like for you to go to a hotel in Zurich and spend the night and come see me in the morning.”
“And then what?”
Doctor Dohmler spread his hands wide enough to carry a young pig.
“Chicago,” he suggested.
“Then we knew where we stood,” said Franz. “Dohmler told Warren we would take the case if he would agree to keep away from his daughter indefinitely, with an absolute minimum of five years. After Warren’s first collapse, he seemed chiefly concerned as to whether the story would ever leak back to America.”
“We mapped out a routine for her and waited. The prognosis was bad—as you know, the percentage of cures, even so-called social cures, is very low at that age.”
“These first letters looked bad,” agreed Dick.
“Very bad—very typical. I hesitated about letting the first one get out of the clinic. Then I thought it will be good for Dick to know we’re carrying on here. It was generous of you to answer them.”
Dick sighed. “She was such a pretty thing—she enclosed a lot of snapshots of herself. And for a month there I didn’t have anything to do. All I said in my letters was ‘Be a good girl and mind the doctors.’”
“That was enough—it gave her somebody to think of outside. For a while she didn’t have anybody—only one sister that she doesn’t seem very close to. Besides, reading her letters helped us here—they were a measure other condition.”
“You see now what happened? She felt complicity—that’s neither here nor there, except as we want to revalue her ultimate stability and strength of character. First came this shock. Then she went off to a boarding-school and heard the girls talking—so from sheer self-protection she developed the idea that she had had no complicity—and from there it was easy to slide into a phantom world where all men, the more you liked them and trusted them, the more evil——”
“Did she ever go into the—horror directly?”
“No, and as a matter of fact when she began to seem normal, about October, we were in a predicament. If she had been thirty years old we would have let her make her own adjustment, but she was so young we were afraid she might harden with it all twisted inside her. So Doctor Dohmler said to her frankly, “Your duty now is to yourself. This doesn’t by any account mean the end of anything for you—your life is just at its beginning,” and so forth and so forth. She really has an excellent mind, so he gave her a little Freud to read, not too much, and she was very interested. In fact, we’ve made rather a pet other around here. But she is reticent,” he added; he hesitated: “We have wondered if in her recent letters to you which she mailed herself from Zurich, she has said anything that would be illuminating about her state of mind and her plans for the future.”
“Yes and no—I’ll bring the letters out here if you want. She seems hopeful and normally hungry for life—even rather romantic. Sometimes she speaks of “the past” as people speak who have been in prison. But you never know whether they refer to the crime or the imprisonment or the whole experience. After all I’m only a sort of stuffed figure in her life.”
“Of course, I understand your position exactly, and I express our gratitude once again. That was why I wanted to see you before you see her.”
“You think she’s going to make a flying leap at my person?”
“No, not that. But I want to ask you to go very gently. You are attractive to women, Dick.”
“Then God help me! Well, I’ll be gentle and repulsive—I’ll chew garlic whenever I’m going to see her and wear a stubble beard. I’ll drive her to cover.”
“Not garlic!” said Franz, taking him seriously. “You don’t want to compromise your career. But you’re partly joking.”
“—and I can limp a little. And there’s no real bathtub where I’m living, anyhow.”
“You’re entirely joking,” Franz relaxed—or rather assumed the posture of one relaxed. “Now tell me about yourself and your plans.”
“I’ve only got one, Franz, and that’s to be a good psychologist—maybe to be the greatest one that ever lived.”
Franz laughed pleasantly, but he saw that this time Dick wasn’t joking.
“That’s very good—and very American,” he said. “It’s more difficult for us.” He got up and went to the French window. “I stand here and I see Zurich—there is the steeple of the Gross-Munster. In its vault my grandfather is buried.
Across the bridge from it lies my ancestor Lavater, who would not be buried in any church. Nearby is the statue of another ancestor, Heinrich Pestalozzi, and one of Doctor Alfred Escher. And over everything there is always Zwingli—I am continually confronted with a pantheon of heroes.”
“Yes, I see.” Dick got up. “I was only talking big. Everything’s just starting over. Most of the Americans in France are frantic to get home, but not me—I draw military pay all the rest of the year if I only attend lectures at the university. How’s that for a government on the grand scale that knows its future great men? Then I’m going home for a month and see my father. Then I’m coming back—I’ve been offered a job.”
“Your rivals—Gisler’s clinic at Interlaken.”
“Don’t touch it,” Franz advised him. “They’ve had a dozen young men there in a year. Gisler’s a manic-depressive himself, his wife and her lover run the clinic—of course, you understand that’s confidential.”
“How about your old scheme for America?” asked Dick lightly. “We were going to New York and start an up-to-date establishment for billionaires.”
“That was students’ talk.”
Dick dined with Franz and his bride and a small dog with a smell of burning rubber, in their cottage on the edge of the grounds. He felt vaguely oppressed, not by the atmosphere of modest retrenchment, nor by Frau Gregorovius, who might have been prophesied, but by the sudden contracting of horizon, to which Franz seemed so reconciled. For him the boundaries of asceticism were differently marked—he could sec it as a means to an end, even as a carrying on with a glory it would itself supply, but it was hard to think of deliberately cutting life down to the scale of an inherited suit. The domestic gestures of Franz and his wife as they turned in a cramped space lacked grace and adventure. The post-war months in France, and the lavish liquidations taking place under the aegis of American splendour, had affected Dick’s outlook. Also, men and women had made much of him, and perhaps what had brought him back to the centre of the great Swiss watch was an intuition that this was not too good for a serious man.
He made Kaethe Gregorovius feel charming, meanwhile becoming increasingly restless at the all-pervading cauliflower—simultaneously hating himself, too, for this incipience of he knew not what superficiality.
“God, am I like the rest after all?”—so he used to think starting awake at night—“Am I like the rest?”
This was poor material for a socialist but good material for those who do much of the world’s rarest work. The truth was that for some months he had been going through that partitioning of the things of youth wherein it is decided whether or not to die for what one no longer believes. In the dead white hours in Zurich staring into a stranger’s pantry across the upshine of a street-lamp, he used to think that he wanted to be good, he wanted to be kind, he wanted to be brave and wise, but it was all pretty difficult. He wanted to be loved, too, if he could fit it in.
The veranda of the central building was illuminated from open French windows, save where the black shadows of stripling walls and the fantastic shadows of iron chairs slithered down into a gladiolus bed. From the figures that shuffled between the rooms Miss Warren emerged first in glimpses and then sharply when she saw him; as she crossed the threshold her face caught the room’s last light and brought it outside with her. She walked to a rhythm—all that week there had been singing in her ears, summer songs of ardent skies and wild shade, and with his arrival the singing had become so loud she could have joined in with it.
“How do you do, Captain,” she said, unfastening her eyes from his with difficulty, as though they had become entangled. “Shall we sit out here?” She stood still, her glance moving about for a moment. “It’s summer practically.”
A woman had followed her out, a dumpy woman in a shawl, and Nicole presented Dick: “Senora—”
Franz excused himself and Dick grouped three chairs together.
“The lovely night,” the Senora said.
“Muy bella,” agreed Nicole; then to Dick, “Are you here for a long time?”
“I’m in Zurich for a long time, if that’s what you mean.”
“This is really the first night of real spring,” the Senora suggested.
“At least till July.”
“I’m leaving in June.”
“June is a lovely month here,” the Senora commented. “You should stay for June and then leave in July when it gets really too hot.”
“You’re going where?” Dick asked Nicole.
“Somewhere with my sister—somewhere exciting, I hope, because I’ve lost so much time. But perhaps they’ll think I ought to go to a quiet place at first—perhaps Como. Why don’t you come to Como?”
“Ah, Como—” began the Senora.
Within the building a trio broke into Suppe’s “Light Cavalry.” Nicole took advantage of this to stand up and the impression of her youth and beauty grew on Dick until it welled up inside him in a compact paroxysm of emotion. She smiled, a moving childish smile that was like all the lost youth in the world.
“The music’s too loud to talk against—suppose we walk around. Buenos noches, Senora.”
“G’t night—g’t night.”
They went down two steps to the path, where, in a moment, a shadow cut across it—she took his arm.
“I have some phonograph records my sister sent me from America,” she said. “Next time you come here, I’ll play them for you—I know a place to put the phonograph where no one can hear.”
“That’ll be nice.”
“Do you know ‘Hindustan’?” she asked wistfully. “I’d never heard it before but I like it. And I’ve got “Why Do They Call Them Babies?” and “I’m Glad I Can Make You Cry.” I suppose you’ve danced to all those tunes in Paris?”
“I haven’t been to Paris.”
Her cream-coloured dress, alternately blue or grey as they walked, and her very blonde hair, dazzled Dick—whenever he turned toward her she was smiling a little, her face lighting up like an angel’s when they came into the range of a roadside arc. She thanked him for everything, rather as if he had taken her to some party, and as Dick became less and less certain of his relation to her, her confidence increased—there was that excitement about her that seemed to reflect all the excitement of the world.
“I’m not under any restraint at all,” she said. “I’ll play you two good tunes called ‘Wait Till the Cows Come Home,’ and ‘Good-bye, Alexander.’”
He was late the next time, a week later, and Nicole was waiting for him at a point in the path which he would pass walking from Franz’s house. Her hair, drawn back of her ears, brushed her shoulders in such a way that the face seemed to have just emerged from it, as if this were the exact moment when she was coming from a wood into clear moonlight. The unknown yielded her up; Dick wished she had no background, that she was just a girl lost with no address save the night from which she had come. They went to the cache where she had left the phonograph, turned a corner by the workshop, climbed a rock, and sat down behind a low wall, facing miles and miles of rolling night.
They were in America now; even Franz with his conception of Dick as an irresistible Lothario would never have guessed that they had gone so far away. They were so sorry, dear; they went down to meet each other in a taxi, honey; they had preferences in smiles and had met in Hindustan, and shortly afterward they must have quarrelled, for nobody knew and nobody seemed to care—yet finally one of them had gone and left the other crying, only to feel blue, to feel sad.
The thin tunes, holding lost times and future hopes in liaison, twisted upon the Valais night. In the lulls of the phonograph a cricket held the scene together with a single note. By and by Nicole stopped playing the machine and sang to him.
“Lay a silver dollar
On the ground
And watch it roll
Because it’s round——”
On the pure parting of her lips no breath hovered. Dick stood up suddenly.
“What’s the matter, you don’t like it?”
“Of course I do.”
“Our cook at home taught it to me:
“A woman never knows
What a good man she’s got
Till after she turns him down——”
“You like it?”
She smiled at him, making sure that the smile gathered up everything inside her, and directed it toward him, making him a profound promise of herself for so little, for the beat of a response, the assurance of a complementary vibration in him. Minute by minute the sweetness drained down into her out of the willow trees, out of the dark world.
She stood up and, stumbling over the phonograph, was momentarily against him, leaning into the hollow of his rounded shoulder—then apart.
“I’ve got one more record.—Have you heard ” So Long, Letty?” I suppose you have.”
“Honestly, you don’t understand—I haven’t heard a thing.”
Nor known, nor smelt, nor tasted, he might have added; only hot-cheeked girls in hot secret rooms. The young maidens he had known at New Haven in 1914 kissed men, saying “There!” hands at the man’s chest to push him away. Now there was this scarcely saved waif of disaster bringing him the essence of a continent….
It was May when he next found her. The luncheon in Zurich was a council of caution; obviously the logic of his life tended away from the girl; yet when a stranger stared at her from a nearby table, male eyes burning disturbingly like an uncharted light, he turned to the man with an urbane version of intimidation and broke the regard.
“He was just a peeper,” he explained cheerfully. “He was just looking at your clothes. Why do you have so many different clothes?”
“Sister says we’re very rich,” she offered humbly. “Since Grandmother is dead.”
“I forgive you.”
He was enough older than Nicole to take pleasure in her youthful vanities and delights, the way she paused fractionally in front of the hall mirror on leaving the restaurant, so that the incorruptible quicksilver could give her back to herself. He delighted in her stretching out her hands to new octaves now that she found herself beautiful and rich. He tried honestly to divorce her from any obsessions that he had stitched her together—glad to see her build up happiness and confidence apart from him; the difficulty was that, eventually, Nicole brought everything to his feet, gifts of sacrificial ambrosia, of worshipping myrtle.
The first week of summer found Dick re-established in Zurich. He had arranged his pamphlets and what work he had done in the army into a pattern from which he intended to make his revision of “A Psychology for Psychiatrists.” He thought he had a publisher; he had established contact with a poor student who would iron out his errors in German. Franz considered it a rash business, but one day at luncheon Dick pointed out the disarming modesty of the theme.
“This is stuff I’ll never know so well again,” he insisted. “I have a hunch it’s a thing that only fails to be basic because it’s never had material recognition. The weakness of this profession is its attraction for the man a little crippled and broken. Within the walls of the profession he compensates by tending toward the clinical, the “practical”—he has won his battle without a struggle.
“On the contrary, you are a good man, Franz, because fate selected you for your profession before you were bom. You better thank God you had no “bent”—I got to be a psychiatrist because there was a girl at St Hilda’s in Oxford that went to the same lectures. Maybe I’m getting trite but I don’t want to let my current ideas slide away with a few dozen glasses of beer.”
“All right,” Franz answered. “You are an American. You can do this without professional harm. I do not like these generalities. Soon you will be writing little books called “Deep Thoughts for the Layman,” so simplified that they are positively guaranteed not to cause thinking. If my father were alive he would look at you and grunt, Dick. He would take his napkin and fold it so, and hold his napkin ring, this very one”—he held it up, a boar’s head was carved in the brown wood—“and he would say, “Well, my impression is—” then he would look at you and think suddenly, “What is the use?” then he would stop and grunt again; then we would be at the end of dinner.”
“I am alone to-day,” said Dick testily. “But I may not be alone to-morrow. After that I’ll fold up my napkin like your father and grunt.”
Franz waited a moment.
“How about our patient?” he asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Well, you should know about her by now.”
“I like her. She’s attractive. What do you want me to do—take her up in the edelweiss?”
“No, I thought since you go in for scientific books you might have an idea.”
“—devote my life to her?”
Franz called his wife in the kitchen: “Du lieber Gott! Bitte, bringe Dick noch ein Glas Bier.”
“I don’t want any more if I’ve got to see Dohmler.”
“We think it’s best to have “a programme. Four weeks have passed away—apparently the girl is in love with you. That’s not our business if we were in the world, but here in the clinic we have a stake in the mailer.”
“I’ll do whatever Doctor Dohmler says,” Dick agreed.
But he had little faith that Dohmler would throw much light on the matter; he himself was the incalculable element involved. By no conscious volition of his own, the thing had drifted into his hands. It reminded him of a scene in his childhood when everyone in the house was looking for the lost key to the silver closet, Dick knowing he had hid it under the handkerchiefs in his mother’s top drawer; at that time he had experienced a philosophical detachment, and this was repeated now when he and Franz went together to Professor Dohmler’s office.
The professor, his face beautiful under straight whiskers, like a vine-overgrown veranda of some fine old house, disarmed him. Dick knew some individuals with more talent, but no person of a class qualitatively superior to Dohmler.
Six months later he thought the same way when he saw Dohmler dead, the light out on the veranda, the vines of his whiskers tickling his stiff white collar, the many battles that had swayed before the chink-tike eyes stilled forever under the frail delicate lids——
“…Good day, sir.” He stood formally, thrown back to the army.
Professor Dohmler interlaced his tranquil fingers. Franz spoke in terms half of liaison officer, half of secretary, till his senior cut through him in mid-sentence.
“We have gone a certain way,” he said mildly. “It’s you, Doctor Diver, who can best help us now.”
Routed out, Dick confessed: “I’m not so straight on it myself.”
“I have nothing to do with your personal reactions,” said Dohmler. “But I have much to do with the fact that this so-called ‘transference’”—he darted a short ironic look at Franz, which the latter returned in kind—“must be terminated. Miss Nicole does well indeed, but she is in no condition to survive what she might interpret as a tragedy.”
Again Franz began to speak, but Doctor Dohmler motioned him silent.
“I realize that your position has been difficult.”
“Yes, it has.”
Now the professor sat back and laughed, saying on the last syllable of his laughter, with his sharp little grey eyes shining through: “Perhaps you have got sentimentally involved yourself.”
Aware that he was being drawn on, Dick, too, laughed.
“She’s a pretty girl—anybody responds to that to a certain extent. I have no intention——”
Again Franz tried to speak—again Dohmler stopped him with a question directed pointedly at Dick. “Have you thought of going away?”
“I can’t go away.”
Doctor Dohmler turned to Franz: “Then we can send Miss Warren away.”
“As you think best. Professor Dohmler,” Dick conceded. “It’s certainly a situation.”
Professor Dohmler raised himself like a legless man mounting a pair of crutches.
“But it is a professional situation,” he cried quietly.
He sighed himself back into his chair, waiting for the reverberating thunder to die out about the room. Dick saw that Dohmler had reached his climax, and he was not sure that he himself had survived it. When the thunder had diminished Franz managed to get his word in.
“Doctor Diver is a man of fine character,” he said. “I feel he only has to appreciate the situation in order to deal correctly with it. In my opinion Dick can co-operate right here, without anyone going away.”
“How do you feel about that?” Professor Dohmler asked Dick.
Dick felt churlish in the face of the situation; at the same time he realized in the silence after Dohmler’s pronouncement that the state of inanimation could not be indefinitely prolonged; suddenly he spilled everything.
“I’m half in love with her—the question of marrying her has passed through my mind.”
“Tch! Tch!” uttered Franz.
“Wait.” Dohmler warned him. Franz refused to wait:
“What! And devote half your life to being doctor and nurse and all—never! I know what these cases are. One time in twenty it’s finished in the first push—better never see her again!”
“What do you think?” Dohmler asked Dick.
“Of course Franz is right.”
It was late afternoon when they wound up the discussion as to what Dick should do: he must be most kind and yet eliminate himself. When the doctors stood up at last, Dick’s eyes fell outside the window to where a light rain was falling—Nicole was waiting, expectant, somewhere in that rain. When presently he went out, buttoning his oilskin at the throat, pulling down the brim of his hat, he came upon her immediately under the roof of the main entrance.
“I know a new place we can go,” she said. “When I was ill I didn’t mind sitting inside with the others in the evening—what they said seemed like everything else. Naturally now I see them as ill and it’s—it’s——
“You’ll be leaving soon.”
“Oh, soon. My sister, Beth, but she’s always been called Baby, she’s coming in a few weeks to take me somewhere; after that I’ll be back here for a last month.”
“The older sister?”
“Oh, quite a bit older. She’s twenty-four—she’s very English. She lives in London with my father’s sister. She was engaged to an Englishman but he was killed—I never saw him.”
Her face, ivory gold against the blurred sunset that strove through the rain, had a promise Dick had never seen before: the high cheekbones, the faintly wan quality, cool rather than feverish, was reminiscent of the frame of a promising colt—a creature whose life did not promise to be only a projection of youth upon a greyer screen, but instead, a true growing; the face would be handsome in middle life; it would be handsome in old age: the essential structure and the economy were there.
“What are you looking at?”
“I was just thinking that you’re going to be rather happy.”
Nicole was frightened: “Am I? All right—things couldn’t be worse than they have been.”
In the covered woodshed to which she had led him, she sat cross-legged upon her golf shoes, her burberry wound about her and her cheeks stung alive by the damp air. Gravely she returned his gaze, taking in his somewhat proud carriage that never quite yielded to the wooden post against which he leaned; she looked into his face that always tried to discipline itself into moulds of attentive seriousness, after excursions into joys and mockeries of its own. That part of him which seemed to fit his reddish Irish colouring she knew least; she was afraid of it, yet more anxious to explore—this was his more masculine side: the other part, the trained part, the consideration in the polite eyes, she expropriated without question, as most women did.
“At least this institution has been good for languages,” said Nicole. “I’ve spoken French with two doctors, and German with the nurses, and Italian, or something like it, with a couple of scrub-women and one of the patients, and I’ve picked up a lot of Spanish from another.”
He tried to arrange an attitude, but no logic seemed forthcoming.
“—Music too. Hope you didn’t think I was only interested in ragtime. I practise every day—the last few months I’ve been taking a course in Zurich on the history of music. In fact it was all that kept me going at times—music and the drawing.” She leaned suddenly and twisted a loose strip from the sole of her shoe, and then looked up. “I’d like to draw you just the way you are now.”
It made him sad when she brought out her accomplishments for his approval.
“I envy you. At present I don’t seem to be interested in anything except my work.”
“Oh, I think that’s fine for a man,” she said quickly. “But for a girl I think she ought to have lots of minor accomplishments and pass them on to her children.”
“I suppose so,” said Dick with deliberated indifference.
Nicole sat quiet. Dick wished she would speak so that he could play the easy role of wet blanket, but now she sat quiet.
“You’re all well,” he said. “Try to forget the past; don’t overdo things for a year or so. Go back to America and be a debutante and fall in love—and be happy.”
“I couldn’t fall in love.” Her injured shoe scraped a cocoon of must from the log on which she sat.
“Sure you can,” Dick insisted. “Not for a year, maybe, but sooner or later.” Then he added brutally: “You can have a perfectly normal life with a houseful of beautiful descendants. The very fact that you could make a complete come-back at your age proves that the precipitating factors were pretty near everything. Young woman, you’ll be pulling your weight long after your friends are carried off screaming.”
—But there was a look of pain in her eyes as she took the rough dose, the harsh reminder.
“I know I wouldn’t be fit to marry anyone for a long time,” she said humbly.
Dick was too upset to say any more. He looked out into the grain field trying to recover his hard brassy attitude.
“You’ll be all right—everybody here believes in you. Why, Doctor Gregory is so proud of you that he’ll probably——”
“I hate Doctor Gregory.”
“Well, you shouldn’t.”
Nicole’s world had fallen to pieces, but it was only a flimsy and scarcely created world; beneath it her emotions and instincts fought on. Was it an hour ago she had waited by the entrance, wearing her hope like a corsage at her belt?
… Dress stay crisp for him, button stay put, bloom narcissus—air stay still and sweet.
“It will be nice to have fun again,” she fumbled on. For a moment she entertained a desperate idea of telling him how rich she was, what big houses she had lived in, that really she was a valuable property—for a moment she made herself into her grandfather, Sid Warren, the horse-trader. But she survived the temptation to confuse all values and shut these matters into their Victorian side-chambers—even though there was no home left to her, save emptiness and pain.
“I have to go back to the clinic. It’s not raining now.”
Dick walked beside her, feeling her unhappiness, and wanting to drink the rain that touched her cheek.
“I have some new records,” she said. “I can hardly wait to play them. Do you know——”
After supper that evening, Dick thought, he would finish the break; also he wanted to kick Franz’s bottom for having partially introduced him to such a sordid business. He waited in the hall. His eyes followed a beret, not wet with waiting like Nicole’s beret, but covering a skull recently operated on. Beneath it human eyes peered, found him and came over:
“II fait beau temps.”
“Vous etes ici maintenant?”
“Non, pour la journee seulement.”
“Ah, bon. Alors—au revoir. Monsieur.”
Glad at having survived another contact, the wretch in the beret moved away. Dick waited. Presently a nurse came downstairs and delivered him a message.
“Miss Warren asks to be excused. Doctor. She wants to lie down. She wants to have dinner upstairs to-night.”
The nurse hung on his response, half expecting him to imply that Miss Warren’s attitude was pathological.
“Oh, I see. Well—” He rearranged the flow of his own saliva, the pulse of his heart. “I hope she feels better. Thanks.”
He was puzzled and discontent. At any rate it freed him.
Leaving a note for Franz begging off from supper, he walked through the countryside to the tram station. As he reached the platform, with spring twilight gilding the rails and the glass in the slot machines, he began to feel that the station, the hospital, was hovering between being centripetal and centrifugal. He felt frightened. He was glad when the substantial cobblestones of Zurich clicked once more under his shoes.
He expected to hear from Nicole next day, but there was no word. Wondering if she was ill, he called the clinic and talked to Franz.
“She came downstairs to luncheon yesterday and to-day,” said Franz. “She seemed a little abstracted and in the clouds. How did it go off?”
Dick tried to plunge over the Alpine crevasse between the sexes.
“We didn’t get to it—at least I didn’t think we did. I tried to be distant, but I didn’t think enough happened to change her attitude if it ever went deep.”
Perhaps his vanity had been hurt that there was no coup de grace to administer.
“From some things she said to her nurse I’m inclined to think she understood.”
“It was the best thing that could have happened. She doesn’t seem over-agitated—only a little in the clouds.”
“All right, then.”
“Dick, come soon and see me.”
During the next weeks Dick experienced a vast dissatisfaction. The pathological origin and mechanistic defeat of the affair left a flat and metallic taste. Nicole’s emotions had been used unfairly—what if they turned out to have been his own? Necessarily he must absent himself from felicity awhile—in dreams he saw her walking on the clinic path swinging her wide straw hat.
One time he saw her in person; as he walked past the Palace Hotel, a magnificent Rolls curved into the half-moon entrance. Small within its gigantic proportions, and buoyed up by the power of a hundred superfluous horses, sat Nicole and a young woman who he assumed was her sister. Nicole saw him and momentarily her lips parted in an expression of fright. Dick shifted his hat and passed, yet for a moment the air around him was loud with the circlings of all the goblins on the Gross-Munster. He tried to write the matter out of his mind in a memorandum that went into detail as to the solemn regime before her; the possibilities of another “push” of the malady under the stresses which the world would inevitably supply—in all a memorandum that would have been convincing to anyone save to him who had written it.
The total value of this effort was to make him realize once more how far his emotions were involved; thenceforth he resolutely provided antidotes. One was the telephone girl from Bar-sur-Aube, now touring Europe from Nice to Coblenz, in a desperate round-up of the men she had known in her never-to-be-equalled holiday; another was the making of arrangements to get home on a government transport in August; a third was a consequent intensification of work on his proofs for the book that this autumn was to be presented to the German-speaking world of psychiatry.
Dick had outgrown the book; he wanted now to do more spade work; if he got an exchange fellowship he could count on plenty of routine.
Meanwhile he had projected a new work: An Attempt at a Uniform and Pragmatic Classification of the Neuroses and Psychoses, Based on an Examination of Fifteen Hundred Pre-Kraepelin and Post-Kraepelin Cases as they would be Diagnosed in the Terminology of the Different Contemporary Schools—and another sonorous paragraph—Together with a Chronology of Such Subdivisions of Opinion as Have Risen Independently.
This title would look monumental in German.
Going into Montreux Dick pedalled slowly, gaping at the Dent du Midi whenever possible, and blinded by glimpses of the lake through the alleys of the shore hotels. He was conscious of the groups of English, emergent after four years and walking with detective-story suspicion in their eyes, as though they were about to be assaulted in this questionable country by German trainbands. There were building and awakening everywhere on this mound of debris formed by a mountain torrent. At Berne and at Lausanne on the way south, Dick had been eagerly asked if there would be Americans this year—“By August, if not in June?”
He wore leather shorts, an army shirt, mountain shoes. In his knapsack were a cotton suit and a change of underwear. At the Glion funicular he checked his bicycle and took a small beer on the terrace of the station buffet, meanwhile watching the little bug crawl down the eighty-degree slope of the hill. His ear was full of dried blood from La Tour de Pelz, where he had sprinted under the impression that he was a spoiled athlete. He asked for alcohol and cleared up the exterior while the funicular slid down into port. He saw his bicycle embarked, slung his knapsack into the lower compartment of the car, and followed it in.
Mountain-climbing cars are built on a slant similar to the angle of a hat-brim of a man who doesn’t want to be recognized. As water gushed from the chamber under the car, Dick was impressed with the ingenuity of the whole idea—a complementary car was now taking on mountain water at the top and would pull the lightened car up by gravity, as soon as the brakes were released. It must have been a great inspiration. In the seat across, a couple of British were discussing the cable itself.
“The ones made in England always last five or six years. Two years ago the Germans underbid us, and how long do you think their cable lasted?”
“A year and ten months. Then the Swiss sold it to the Italians. They don’t have rigid inspections of cables.”
“I can see it would be a terrible thing for Switzerland if a cable broke.”
The conductor shut a door; he telephoned his confrere among the undulati, and with a jerk the car was pulled upward, heading for a pinpoint on an emerald hill above. After it cleared the low roofs, the skies of Vaud, Valais, Swiss Savoy, and Geneva spread around the passengers in cyclorama. On the centre of the lake, cooled by the piercing current of the Rhone, lay the true centre of the Western world. Upon it floated swans like boats and boats like swans, both lost in the nothingness of the heartless beauty. It was a bright day, with sun glittering on the grass beach below and the white courts of the Kursaal. The figures on the courts threw no shadows.
When Chillon and the island palace of Salagnon came into view Dick turned his eyes inward. The funicular was above the highest houses of the shore; on both sides a tangle of foliage and flowers culminated at intervals in masses of colour. It was a rail-side garden, and in the car was a sign: Defense de cueillir les fleurs.
Though one must not pick flowers on the way up, the blossoms trailed in as they passed—Dorothy Perkins roses dragged patiently through each compartment, slowly waggling with the motion of the funicular, letting go at the lust to swing back to their rosy cluster. Again and again these branches went through the car.
In the compartment above and in front of Dick’s, a group of English were standing up and exclaiming upon the back-drop of sky, when suddenly there was a confusion among them—they parted to give passage to a couple of young people who made apologies and scrambled over into the rear compartment of the funicular—Dick’s compartment. The young man was a Latin with the eyes of a stuffed deer; the girl was Nicole.
The two climbers gasped momentarily from their efforts; as they settled into seats, laughing and crowding the English to the corners, Nicole said, “Hello.” She was lovely to look at; immediately Dick saw that something was different; in a second he realized it was her fine-spun hair, bobbed like Irene Castle’s and fluffed into curls. She wore a sweater of powder blue and a white tennis skirt—she was the first morning in May and every taint of the clinic was departed.
“Plunk!” she gasped. “Whoo-oo, that guard. They’ll arrest us at the next stop. Doctor Diver, the Conte de Marmora,”
“Gec-imminy!” She felt her new hair, panting. “Sister bought first-class tickets—it’s a matter of principle with her.” She and Marmora exchanged glances and shouted: “Then we found that first class is the hearse part behind the chauffeur—shut in with curtains for a rainy day, so you can’t see anything. But Sister’s very dignified—” Again Nicole and Marmora laughed with young intimacy.
“Where you bound?” asked Dick.
“Caux. You, too?” Nicole looked at his costume. “That your bicycle they got up in front?”
“Yes. I’m going to coast down Monday.”
“With me on your handle-bars? I mean, really—will you? I can’t think of more fun.”
“But I will carry you down in my arms,” Marmora protested intensely. “I will roller-skate you—or I will throw you and you will fall slowly like a feather.”
The delight in Nicole’s face—to be a feather again instead of a plummet, to float and not to drag. She was a carnival to watch—at times primly coy, posing, grimacing and gesturing—sometimes the shadow fell and the dignity of old suffering flowed down into her finger tips. Dick wished himself away from her, fearing that he was a reminder of a world well left behind. He resolved to go to the other hotel.
When the funicular came to rest those new to it stirred in suspension between the blues of two heavens. It was merely for a mysterious exchange between the conductor of the car going up and the conductor of the car coming down. Then up and up over a forest path and a gorge—then again up a hill that became solid with narcissus, from passengers to sky. The people in Montreux playing tennis in the lakeside courts were pinpoints now. Something new was in the air; freshness—freshness embodying itself in music as the car slid into Glion and they heard the orchestra in the hotel garden.
When they changed to the mountain train the music was drowned by the rushing water released from the hydraulic chamber. Almost overhead was Caux, where the thousand windows of a hotel burned in the late sun.
But the approach was different—a leather-lunged engine pushed the passengers round and round in a corkscrew, mounting, rising; they chugged through low-level clouds and for a moment Dick lost Nicole’s face in the spray of the slanting donkey-engine; they skirted a lost streak of wind with the hotel growing in size at each spiral, until with a vast surprise they were there, on top of the sunshine.
In the confusion of arrival, as Dick slung his knapsack and started forward on the platform to get his bicycle, Nicole was beside him. “Aren’t you at our hotel?” she asked.
“Will you come down and have dinner?” Some confusion with baggage ensued. “This is my sister—Doctor Diver from Zurich.”
Dick bowed to a young woman of twenty-four, tall and confident. She was both formidable and vulnerable, he decided, remembering other women with flower-like mouths grooved for bits.
“I’ll drop in after dinner,” Dick promised. “First I must get acclimatized.”
He wheeled off his bicycle, feeling Nicole’s eyes following him, feeling her helpless first love, feeling it twist around inside him. He went three hundred yards up the slope to the other hotel, he engaged a room and found himself washing without a memory of the intervening ten minutes, only a sort of drunken flush pierced with voices, unimportant voices that did not know how much he was loved.
They were waiting for him and incomplete without him. He was still the incalculable element; Miss Warren and the young Italian wore their anticipation as obviously as Nicole. The salon of the hotel, a room of fabled acoustics, was stripped for dancing, but there was a small gallery of Englishwomen of a certain age, with neckbands, dyed hair, and faces powdered pinkish grey; and of American women of a certain age, with snowy-white transformations, black dresses, and lips of cherry red. Miss Warren and Marmora were at a corner table. Nicole was diagonally across from them forty yards away, and as Dick arrived he heard her voice:
“Can you hear me? I’m speaking naturally.”
“Hello, Doctor Diver.”
“You realize the people in the centre of the floor can’t hear what I say, but you can?”
“A waiter told us about it,” said Miss Warren. “Corner to comer—it’s like wireless.”
It was exciting up on the mountain, like a ship at sea. Presently Marmora’s parents joined them. They treated the Warrens with respect—Dick gathered that their fortunes had something to do with a bank in Milan that had something to do with the Warren fortunes. But Baby Warren wanted to talk to Dick, wanted to talk to him with the impetus that sent her out vagrantly toward all new men, as though she were on an inelastic tether and considered that she might as well get to the end of it as soon as possible. She crossed and recrossed her knees frequently in the manner of tall restless virgins.
“—Nicole told me that you took part care of her, and had a lot to do with her getting well. What I can’t understand is what we’re supposed to do—they were so indefinite at the sanatorium; they only told me she ought to be natural and gay. I knew the Marmoras were up here so I asked Tino to meet us at the funicular. And you see what happens—the very first thing Nicole has him crawling over the sides of the car as if they were both insane——”
“That was absolutely normal,” Dick laughed. “I’d call it a good sign. They were showing off for each other.”
“But how can I tell? Before I knew it, almost in front of my eyes, she had her hair cut off, in Zurich, because of a picture in Vanity Fair.”
“That’s all right. She’s a schizoid—a permanent eccentric. You can’t change that.”
“What is it?”
“Just what I said—an eccentric.”
“Well, how can any one tell what’s eccentric and what’s crazy?”
“Nothing is going to be crazy—Nicole is all fresh and happy, you needn’t be afraid.”
Baby shifted her knees about—she was a compendium of all the discontented women who had loved Byron a hundred years before, yet, in spite of the tragic affair with the Guards officer, there was something wooden and onanistic about her. “I don’t mind the responsibility,” she declared, “but I’m in the air. We’ve never had anything like this in the family before—we know Nicole had some shock and my opinion is it was about a boy, but we don’t really know. Father says he would have shot him if he could have found out.”
The orchestra was playing ‘Poor Butterfly’; young Marmora was dancing with his mother. It was a tune new enough to them all. Listening, and watching Nicole’s shoulders as she chattered to the elder Marmora, whose hair was dashed with white like a piano keyboard, Dick thought of the shoulders of a violin, and then he thought of the dishonour, the secret. Oh, butterfly—the moments pass into hours——
“Actually I have a plan,” Baby continued with apologetic hardness. “It may seem absolutely impractical to you but they say Nicole will need to be looked after for a few years. I don’t know whether you know Chicago or not——”
“Well, there’s a North Side and a South Side and they’re very much separated. The North Side is chic and all that, and we’ve always lived over there, at least for many years, but lots of old families, old Chicago families, if you know what I mean, still live on the South Side. The University is there. I mean it’s stuffy to some people, but anyhow it’s different from the North Side. I don’t know whether you understand.”
He nodded. With some concentration he had been able to follow her.
“Now of course we have lots of connexions there—Father controls certain chairs and fellowships and so forth at the University, and I thought if we took Nicole home and threw her with that crowd—you see she’s quite musical and speaks all these languages—what could be better in her condition than if she fell in love with some good doctor——”
A burst of hilarity surged up in Dick, the Warrens were going to buy Nicole a doctor—You got a nice doctor you can let us use? There was no use worrying about Nicole when they were in the position of being able to buy her a nice young doctor, the paint scarcely dry on him.
“But how about the doctor?” he said automatically.
“There must be many who’d jump at the chance.”
The dancers were back, but Baby whispered quickly:
“This is the sort of thing I mean. Now where is Nicole—she’s gone off somewhere. Is she upstairs in her room? What am I supposed to do? I never know whether it’s something innocent or whether I ought to go find her.”
“Perhaps she just wants to be by herself—people living alone get used to loneliness.” Seeing that Miss Warren was not listening he stopped. “I’ll take a look around.”
For a moment all the outdoors shut in with mist was like spring with the curtains drawn. Life was gathered near the hotel. Dick passed some cellar windows where bus boys sat on bunks and played cards over a litre of Spanish wine. As he approached the promenade, the stars began to come through the white crests of the high Alps. On the horseshoe walk overlooking the lake Nicole was the figure motionless between two lamp stands, and he approached silently across the grass. She turned to him with an expression of: “Here you are,” and for a moment he was sorry he had come.
“Your sister wondered.”
“Oh!” She was accustomed to being watched. With an effort she explained herself: “Sometimes I get a little—it gets a little too much. I’ve lived so quietly. To-night that music was too much. It made me want to cry——”
“This has been an awfully exciting day.”
“I don’t want to do any thing anti-social—I’ve caused everybody enough trouble. But to-night I wanted to get away.”
It occurred to Dick suddenly, as it might occur to a dying man that he had forgotten to tell where his will was, that Nicole had been “re-educated” by Dohmler and the ghostly generations behind him; it occurred to him also that there would be so much she would have to be told. But having recorded this wisdom within himself, he yielded to the insistent face-value of the situation and said;
“You’re a nice person—just keep using your own judgement about yourself.”
“You like me?”
“Would you—” They were strolling along towards the dim end of the horseshoe, two hundred yards ahead. “If I hadn’t been sick would you—I mean, would I have been the sort of girl you might have—oh, slush, you know what I mean.”
He was in for it now, possessed by a vast irrationality. She was so near that he felt his breathing change, but again his training came to his aid in a boy’s laugh and a trite remark.
“You’re teasing yourself, my dear. Once I knew a man who fell in love with his nurse—” The anecdote rambled on, punctuated by their footsteps. Suddenly Nicole interrupted in succinct Chicagoese: “Bull!”
“That’s a very vulgar expression.”
“What about it?” she flared up. “You don’t think I’ve got any common sense—before I was sick I didn’t have any, but I have now. And if I don’t know you’re the most attractive man I ever met you must think I’m still crazy. It’s my hard luck, all right—but don’t pretend I don’t know—I know everything about you and me.”
Dick was at an additional disadvantage. He remembered the statement of the elder Miss Warren as to the young doctors that could be purchased in the intellectual stockyards of the South Side of Chicago, and he hardened for a moment. “You’re a fetching kid, but I couldn’t fall in love.”
“You won’t give me a chance.”
The impertinence, the right to invade implied, astounded him. Short of anarchy he could not think of any chance that Nicole Warren deserved.
“Give me a chance now.”
The voice fell low, sank into her breast and stretched the tight bodice over her heart as she came up close. He felt the young lips, her body sighing in relief against the arm growing stronger to hold her. There were now no more plans than if Dick had arbitrarily made some indissoluble mixture, with atoms joined and inseparable; you could throw it all out but never again could they fit back into atomic scale. As he held her and tasted her, and as she curved in further and further towards him, with his own lips, new to herself, drowned and engulfed in love, yet solaced and triumphant, he was thankful to have an existence at all, if only as a reflection in her wet eyes.
“My God,” he gasped, “you’re fun to kiss.”
That was talk, but Nicole had a better hold on him now and she held it; she turned coquette and walked away, leaving him as suspended as in the funicular of the afternoon. She felt: There, that’ll show him, how conceited; how he could do with me; oh, wasn’t it wonderful! I’ve got him, he’s mine. Now in the sequence came flight, but it was also so sweet and new that she dawdled, wanting to draw all of it in.
She shivered suddenly. Two thousand feet below she saw the necklace and bracelet of lights that were Montreux and Vevey, beyond them a dim pendant of Lausanne. From down there somewhere ascended a faint sound of dance music. Nicole was up in her head now, cool as cool, trying to collate the sentimentalities other childhood, as deliberate as a man getting drunk after battle. But she was still afraid of Dick, who stood near her leaning, characteristically, against the iron fence that rimmed the horseshoe; and this prompted her to say: “I can remember how I stood waiting for you in the garden—holding all myself in my arms like a basket of flowers. It was that to me anyhow—I thought I was sweet—waiting to hand that basket to you.”
He breathed over her shoulder and turned her insistently about; she kissed him several times, her face getting big every time she came close, her hands holding him by the shoulders.
“It’s raining hard.”
Suddenly there was a booming from the wine slopes across the lake; cannons were shooting at hail-bearing clouds in order to break them. The lights of the promenade went off, went on again. Then the storm came swiftly, first falling from the heavens, then doubly falling in torrents from the mountains and washing loud down the roads and stone ditches; with it came a dark, frightening sky and savage filaments of lightning and world-splitting thunder, while ragged, destroying clouds fled along past the hotel. Mountains and lake disappeared—the hotel crouched amid tumult, chaos, and darkness.
By this time Dick and Nicole had reached the vestibule where Baby Warren and the three Marmoras were anxiously awaiting them. It was exciting coming out of the wet fog, with the doors banging, to stand and laugh and quiver with emotion, wind in their ears and rain on their clothes. Now in the ballroom the orchestra was playing a Strauss waltz, high and confusing.
… For Doctor Diver to marry a mental patient? How did it happen? Where did it begin?
“Won’t you come back after you’ve changed?” Baby Warren asked after a close scrutiny.
“I haven’t got any change, except some shorts.”
As he trudged up to his hotel in a borrowed raincoat he kept laughing derisively in his throat.
“Big chance—oh, yes. My God!—they decided to buy a doctor? Well, they better stick to whoever they’ve got in Chicago.” Revolted by his harshness he made amends to Nicole, remembering that nothing had ever felt so young as her lips, remembering rain like tears shed for him that lay upon her softly shining porcelain cheeks… The silence of the storm ceasing woke him about three o’clock and he went to the window. Her beauty climbed the rolling slope, it came into the room, rustling ghost-like through the curtains.
… He climbed two thousand metres to Rocher de Naye the following morning, amused by the fact that his conductor of the day before was using his day off to climb also.
Then Dick descended all the way to Montreux for a swim, got back to his hotel in time for dinner. Two notes awaited him.
I’m not ashamed about last night—it was the nicest thing that ever happened to me and even if I never saw you again, Mon Capitaine, I would be glad it happened.
That was disarming enough—the heavy shade of Dohmler retreated as Dick opened the second envelope:
Dear Doctor Diver:
I phoned but you were out. I wonder if I may ask you a great big favour. Unforeseen circumstances call me back to Paris, and I find I can make better time by way of Lausanne. Can you let Nicole ride as far as Zurich with you, since you are going back Monday? and drop her at the sanatorium? Is this too much to ask? Sincerely,
Beth Evan Warren
Dick was furious—Miss Warren had known he had a bicycle with him; yet she had so phrased her note that it was impossible to refuse. Throw us together! Sweet propinquity and the Warren money!
He was wrong! Baby Warren had no such intentions. She had looked Dick over with worldly eyes, she had measured him with the warped rule of an Anglophile and found him wanting—in spite of the fact that she found him toothsome. But for her he was too “intellectual” and she pigeonholed him with a shabby-snobby crowd she had once known in London—he put himself out too much to be really of the correct stuff. She could not see how he could be made into her idea of an aristocrat.
In addition to that he was stubborn—she had seen him leave her conversation and get down behind his eyes in that odd way that people did, half a dozen times. She had not liked Nicole’s free and easy manner as a child and now she was sensibly habituated to thinking of her as a “gone coon”; and anyhow Doctor Diver was not the sort of medical man she could envisage in the family.
She only wanted to use him innocently as a convenience.
But her request had the effect that Dick assumed she desired. A ride in a train can be a terrible, heavy-hearted, or comic thing; it can be a trial flight; it can be a prefiguration of another journey, just as a given day with a friend can be long, from the taste of hurry in the morning up to the realization of both being hungry and taking food together. Then comes the afternoon with the journey fading and dying but quickening again at the end. Dick was sad to see Nicole’s meagre joy; yet it was a relief for her, going back to the only home she knew. They made no love that day, but when he left her outside the sad door on the Zurichsee and she turned and looked at him he knew her problem was one they had together for good now.
'cortex of a brain' The first edition had Doctor Diver 'delicately poking at the cervical of a brain,' which is impossible. Fitzgerald must have intended 'cortical of a brain' and 'cortex' is better in this connexion.
'Gregorovius' In the first edition the name of Dick's colleague was usually spelled 'Gregorovious', a form that is highly improbable in German. At one point, however, it was correctly spelled ' Gregorovius' and that gave some warrant for changing it throughout the novel.
'Excuse all this' After Nicole's first letter Fitzgerald put an asterisk in the margin of the Princeton copy of Tender and pencilled a note beside it: 'This is my mark to say that I have made final corrections up to this point.'
'Nicole's mother died when she was eleven' was found on this page of the first edition; but on page 72 of the same edition (2/13 in this edition) Nicole said to Rosemary, 'Just before the war we were in Berlin - I was thirteen, it was just before Mother died.' The editor struck a balance and made her age twelve in both passages. Several of these little errors in chronology were scattered through the text.
'I've got only one (plan), Franz, and that's to be a good psychologist - maybe the greatest one that ever lived.' - This is one of the points where the hero comes closest to the author. 'I want to be one of the greatest writers that ever lived, don't you?' Fitzgerald had said to Edmund Wilson when they were just out of Princeton. But note that Dick Diver in his dress and social personality was completely unlike Fitzgerald. Some of the characters in the novel were suggested by living persons; not one of them was merely copied.
'He wanted to be loved, too, if he could fit it in.' - There are indications that Fitzgerald regarded the need to be loved, or at least to be admired, as the tragic flaw in Dick's character and the cause of his ruin. Later in the novel he would say of Dick,'... the old fatal pleasingness, the old forceful charm, swept back with its cry of "Use me! " '