Dick turned the corner of the traverse and continued along the trench walking on the duckboard. He came to a periscope, looked through it a moment, then he got up on the step and peered over the parapet. In front of him beneath a dingy sky was Beaumont-Hamel; to his left the tragic hill of Thiepval. Dick stared at them through his field glasses, his throat straining with sadness.
He went on along the trench and found the others waiting for him in the next traverse. He was full of excitement and he wanted to communicate it to them, to make them understand about this, though actually Abe North had seen battle service and he had not.
“This land here cost twenty lives a foot that summer,” he said to Rosemary. She looked out obediently at the rather bare green plain with its low trees of six years’ growth. If Dick had added that they were now being shelled she would have believed him that afternoon. Her love had reached a point where now at last she was beginning to be unhappy, to be desperate. She didn’t know what to do—she wanted to talk to her mother.
“There are lots of people dead since and we’ll all be dead soon,” said Abe consolingly.
Rosemary waited tensely for Dick to continue.
“See that little stream—we could walk to it in two minutes. It took the British a month to walk to it—a whole empire walking very slowly, dying in front and pushing forward behind. And another empire walked very slowly backward a few inches a day, leaving the dead like a million bloody rugs. No European will ever do that again in this generation.”
“Why, they’ve only just quit over in Turkey,” said Abe. “And in Morocco—”
“That’s different. This western-front business couldn’t be me again, not for a long time. The young men think they could do it but they couldn’t. They could fight the first Marne again but not this. This took religion and years of plenty and tremendous sureties and the exact relation that ted between the classes. The Russians and Italians weren’t any good on this front. You had to have a whole-souled sentimental equipment going back further than you could remember. You had to remember Christmas, and postcards of the Crown Prince and his fiancee, and little cafes in Valence and beer gardens in Unter den Linden and wedding? at the mairie, and going to the Derby, and your grandfather’s whiskers.”
“General Grant invented this kind of battle at Petersburg in sixty-five.”
“No, he didn’t—he just invented mass butchery. This kind of battle was invented by Lewis Carroll and Jules Verne and whoever wrote Undine, and country deacons bowling and marraines in Marseilles and girls seduced in the back lanes of Wurttemberg and Westphalia. Why, this was a love battle—there was a century of middle-class love spent here. This was the last love battle.”
“You want to hand over this battle to D. H. Lawrence,” said Abe.
“All my beautiful lovely safe world blew itself up here with a great gust of high explosive love,” Dick mourned persistently. “Isn’t that true, Rosemary?”
“I don’t know,” she answered with a grave face. “You know everything.”
They dropped behind the others. Suddenly a shower of earth gobs and pebbles came down on them and Abe yelled from the next traverse:
“The war spirit’s getting into me again. I have a hundred years of Ohio love behind me and I’m going to bomb out this trench.” His head popped up over the embankment. “You’re dead—don’t you know the rules? That was a grenade.”
Rosemary laughed and Dick picked up a retaliatory handful of stones and then put them down.
“I couldn’t kid here,” he said rather apologetically. “The silver cord is cut and the golden bowl is broken and all that, but an old romantic like me can’t do anything about it.”
“I’m romantic too.”
They came out of the neat restored trench, and faced a memorial to the Newfoundland dead. Reading the inscription Rosemary burst into sudden tears. Like most women she liked to be told how she should feel, and she liked Dick’s telling her which things were ludicrous and which things were sad. But most of all she wanted him to know how she loved him, now that the fact was upsetting everything, now that she was walking over the battle-field in a thrilling dream.
After that they got in their car and started back toward Amiens. A thin warm rain was falling on the new scrubby woods and underbrush and they passed great funeral pyres of sorted duds, shells, bombs, grenades, and equipment, helmets, bayonets, gun stocks, and rotten leather, abandoned seven years in the ground. And suddenly around a bend the white caps of a great sea of graves. Dick asked the chauffeur to stop.
“There’s that girl—and she still has her wreath.”
They watched as he got out and went over to the girl, who stood uncertainly by the gate with a wreath in her hand. Her taxi waited. She was a red-haired girl from Tennessee whom they had met on the train this morning, come from Knoxville to lay a memorial on her brother’s grave. There were tears of vexation on her face.
“The War Department must have given me the wrong number,” she whimpered. “It had another name on it. I been lookin’ for it since two o’clock, and there’s so many graves.”
“Then if I were you I’d just lay it on any grave without looking at the name,” Dick advised her. “You reckon that’s what I ought to do?” “I think that’s what he’d have wanted you to do.” It was growing dark and the rain was coming down harder. She left the wreath on the first grave inside the gate, and accepted Dick’s suggestion that she dismiss her taxicab and ride back to Amiens with them.
Rosemary shed tears again when she heard of the mishap altogether it had been a watery day, but she felt that she had learned something, though exactly what it was she did not know. Later she remembered all the hours of the afternoon as happy—one of those uneventful times that seem at the moment only a link between past and future pleasure, but turn out to have been the pleasure itself.
Amiens was an echoing purple town, still sad with the war, as some railroad stations were: the Gare du Nord and Waterloo station in London. In the day-time one is deflated by such towns, with their little trolley cars of twenty years ago crossing the great grey cobble-stoned squares in front of the cathedral, and the very weather seems to have a quality of the past, faded weather like that of old photographs. But after dark all that is most satisfactory in French life swims back into the picture—the sprightly tarts, the men arguing with a hundred Voilas in the cafes, the couples drifting, head to head, toward the satisfactory inexpensiveness of nowhere. Waiting for the train they sat in a big arcade, tall enough to release the smoke and chatter and music upward, and obligingly the orchestra launched into “Yes, We Have No Bananas”—they clapped, because the leader looked so pleased with himself. The Tennessee girl forgot her sorrow and enjoyed herself, even began flirtations of tropical eye-rollings and pawings, with Dick and Abe. They teased her gently.
Then, leaving infinitesimal sections of Wurttembergers, Prussian Guards, Chasseurs Alpins, Manchester mill hands Hand Old Etonians to pursue their eternal dissolution under the warm rain, they took the train for Paris. They ate sandwiches of mortadella sausage and bel paese cheese made up in the station restaurant, and drank Beaujolais. Nicole was abstracted, biting her lip restlessly and reading over the guidebooks to the battle-field that Dick had brought along—indeed, he had made a quick study of the whole affair, simplifying it always until it bore a faint resemblance to one of his own parties.
When they reached Paris Nicole was too tired to go on to the grand illumination at the Decorative Arts Exposition as they had planned. They left her at the Hotel Roi George and, as she disappeared between the intersecting planes made by lobby lights of the glass doors, Rosemary’s oppression lifted. Nicole was a force—not necessarily well disposed or predictable like her mother, an incalculable force. Rosemary was somewhat afraid of her.
At eleven she sat with Dick and the Norths at a houseboat cafe just opened on the Seine. The river shimmered with lights from the bridges and cradled many cold moons. On Sundays sometimes when Rosemary and her mother had lived in Paris they had taken the little steamer up to Suresnes and talked about plans for the future. They had little money, but Mrs Speers was so sure of Rosemary’s beauty and had implanted in her so much ambition that she was willing to gamble the money on “advantages”; Rosemary in turn was to repay her mother when she got her start…
Since reaching Paris Abe North had had a thin vinous fur over him; his eyes were bloodshot from sun and wine. Rosemary realized for the first time that he was always stopping in places to get a drink, and she wondered how Mary North liked it. Mary was quiet, so quiet save for her frequent laughter that Rosemary had learned little about her. She liked the straight dark hair brushed back until it met some sort of natural cascade that took care of it—from time to time it eased with a jaunty slant over the corner of her temple until it was almost in her eye, then she tossed her head and caused it to fall sleek into place once more.
“We’ll turn in early to-night, Abe, after this drink.” Mary’s voice was light, but it held a little flicker of anxiety. “You don’t want to be poured on the boat.”
“It’s pretty late now,” Dick said. “We’d all better go.”
The noble dignity of Abe’s face took on a certain stubbornness and he remarked with determination:
“Oh, no.” He paused gravely. “Oh, no, not yet. We’ll have another bottle of champagne.”
“No more for me,” said Dick.
“It’s Rosemary I’m thinking of. She’s a natural alcoholic—keeps a bottle of gin in the bathroom and all that—her mother told me.”
He emptied what was left of the first bottle into Rosemary’s glass. She had made herself quite sick the first day in Paris with quarts of lemonade; after that she had taken nothing with them, but now she raised the champagne and drank at it.
“But what’s this?” exclaimed Dick. “You told me you didn’t drink.”
“I didn’t say I was never going to.”
“What about your mother?”
“I’m just going to drink this one glass.” She felt some necessity for it. Dick drank, not too much, but he drank, and perhaps it would bring her closer to him, be a part of the equipment for what she had to do. She drank it quickly, choked, and then said, “Besides, yesterday was my birthday—I was eighteen.”
“Why didn’t you tell us?” they said indignantly.
“I knew you’d make a fuss over it and go to a lot of trouble.” She finished the champagne. “So this is the celebration.”
“It most certainly is not,” Dick assured her. “The dinner to-morrow night is your birthday party and don’t forget it. Eighteen—why that’s a terribly important age.”
“I used to think until you’re eighteen nothing matters,” said Mary.
“That’s right,” Abe agreed. “And afterwards it’s the same ay.”
“Abe feels that nothing matters till he gets on the boat,” said Mary. “This time he really has got everything planned out when he gets to New York.” She spoke as if she were tired of saying things that no longer had a meaning for her, as if in reality the course that she and her husband followed, or failed to follow, had become merely an intention.
“He’ll be writing music in America and I’ll be working at singing in Munich, so when we get together again there’ll be nothing we can’t do.”
“That’s wonderful,” agreed Rosemary, feeling the champagne.
“Meanwhile, another touch of champagne for Rosemary. Then she’ll be more able to rationalize the facts of her lymphatic glands. They only begin to function at eighteen.”
Dick laughed indulgently at Abe, whom he loved, and in whom he had long lost hope: “That’s medically incorrect and we’re going.” Catching the faint patronage Abe said lightly:
“Something tells me I’ll have a new score on Broadway long before you’ve finished your scientific treatise.”
“I hope so,” said Dick evenly. “I hope so. I may even abandon what you call my “scientific treatise”.”
“Oh, Dick!” Mary’s voice was startled, was shocked. Rosemary had never before seen Dick’s face utterly expressionless; she felt that this announcement was something momentous and she was inclined to exclaim with Mary, “Oh, Dick!”
But suddenly Dick laughed again, added to his remark “—abandon it for another one,” and got up from the table.
“But Dick, sit down. I want to know—”
“I’ll tell you some time. Good night, Abe. Good night, Mary.”
“Good night, dear Dick.” Mary smiled as if she were going to be perfectly happy sitting there on the almost deserted boat. She was a brave, hopeful woman and she was following her husband somewhere, changing herself to this kind of person or that, without being able to lead him a step out of his path, and sometimes realizing with discouragement how deep in him the guarded secret of her direction lay. And yet an air of luck clung about her, as if she were a sort of token.
“What is it you are giving up?” demanded Rosemary, facing Dick earnestly in the taxi.
“Nothing of importance.”
“Are you a scientist?”
“I’m a doctor of medicine.”
“Oh-h!” She smiled delightedly. “My father was a doctor too. Then why don’t you—?” she stopped.
“There’s no mystery. I didn’t disgrace myself at the height of my career and hide away on the Riviera. I’m just not practising. You can’t tell, I’ll probably practise again some day.”
Rosemary put up her face quietly to be kissed. He looked at her for a moment as if he didn’t understand. Then holding her in the hollow of his arm he rubbed his cheek against her cheek’s softness, and then looked down at her for another long moment.
“Such a lovely child,” he said gravely.
She smiled up at him, her hands playing conventionally with the lapels of his coat. “I’m in love with you and Nicole. Actually that’s my secret—I can’t even talk about you to anybody because I don’t want any more people to know how wonderful you are. Honestly—I love you and Nicole—I do.”
So many times he had heard this—even the formula was the same.
Suddenly she came toward him, her youth vanishing as she passed inside the focus of his eyes and he had kissed her breathlessly as if she were any age at all. Then she lay back against his arm and sighed.
“I’ve decided to give you up,” she said. Dick started—had he said anything to imply that she possessed any part of him?
“But that’s very mean,” he managed to say lightly, “just when I was getting interested.”
“I’ve loved you so—” As if it had been for years. She was I Weeping a little now. “I’ve loved you so-o-o.”
Then he should have laughed, but he heard himself saying, “Not only are you beautiful but you are somehow on the grand scale. Everything you do, like pretending to be in love or pretending to be shy, gets across.”
In the dark cave of the taxi, fragrant with the perfume Rosemary had bought with Nicole, she came close again, clinging to him. He kissed her without enjoying it. He knew that there was passion there, but there was no shadow of it in her eyes or on her mouth; there was a faint spray of champagne on her breath. She clung nearer desperately and once more he kissed her and was chilled by the innocence of her kiss, by the glance that at the moment of contact looked beyond him out into the darkness of the night, the darkness of the world. She did not know yet that splendour is something in the heart; at the moment when she realized that and melted into the passion of the universe he could take her without question or regret.
Her room in the hotel was diagonally across from theirs and nearer the elevator. When they reached the door she said suddenly:
“I know you don’t love me—I don’t expect it. But you said I should have told you about my birthday. Well, I did. and now for my birthday present I want you to come into my room a minute while I tell you something. Just one minute.”
They went in and he closed the door, and Rosemary stood close to him, not touching him. The night had drawn the colour from her face—she was pale as pale now, she was a white carnation left after a dance.
“When you smile—” He had recovered his paternal attitude, perhaps because of Nicole’s silent proximity, “I always think I’ll see a gap where you’ve lost some baby teeth.”
But he was too late—she came close up against him with a forlorn whisper.
“Take you where?”
Astonishment froze him rigid.
“Go on,” she whispered. “Oh, please go on, whatever they do. I don’t care if I don’t like it—I never expected to—I’ve always hated to think about it but now I don’t. I wart you to.”
She was astonished at herself—she had never imagined she could talk like that. She was calling on things she had read, seen, dreamed through a decade of convent hours. Suddenly she knew too that it was one of her greatest roles and she flung herself into it more passionately.
“This is not as it should be,” Dick deliberated. “Isn’t it just the champagne? Let’s more or less forget it.”
“Oh, no, now. I want you to do it now, take me, show me, I’m absolutely yours and I want to be.”
“For one thing, have you thought how much it would hurt Nicole?”
“She won’t know—this won’t have anything to do with her.”
He continued kindly.
“Then there’s the fact that I love Nicole.”
“But you can love more than just one person, can’t you? Like I love mother and I love you—more. I love you more now.”
“—the fourth place you’re not in love with me but you might be afterward, and that would begin your life with a terrible mess.”
“No, I promise I’ll never see you again. I’ll get mother and go to America right away.”
He dismissed this. He was remembering too vividly the youth and freshness of her lips. He took another tone.
“You’re just in that mood.”
“Oh, please, I don’t care even if I had a baby. I could go into Mexico like a girl at the studio. Oh, this is so different from anything I ever thought—I used to hate it when they kissed me seriously.” He saw she was still under the impression that it must happen. “Some of them had great big teeth, but you’re all different and beautiful. I want you to do it.”
“I believe you think people just kiss some way and you want me to kiss you.”
“Oh, don’t tease me—I’m not a baby. I know you’re not love with me.” She was suddenly humble and quiet. “I didn’t expect that much. I know I must seem just nothing to you.”
“Nonsense. But you seem young to me.” His thoughts added, “—there’d be so much to teach you.”
Rosemary waited, breathing eagerly till Dick said: “And lastly things aren’t arranged so that this could be as you want.”
Her face drooped with dismay and disappointment and Dick said automatically, “We’ll have to simply—” He stopped himself, followed her to the bed, sat down beside her while she wept. He was suddenly confused, not about the ethics of the matter, for the impossibility of it was sheerly indicated from all angles, but simply confused, and for a moment his usual grace, the tensile strength of his balance, was absent.
“I knew you wouldn’t,” she sobbed. “It was just a forlorn hope.”
He stood up.
“Good night, child. This is a damn shame. Let’s drop it out of the picture.” He gave her two lines of hospital patter to go to sleep on. “So many people are going to love you and it might be nice to meet your first love all intact, emotionally too. That’s an old-fashioned idea, isn’t it?” She looked up at him as he took a step toward the door; she looked at him without the slightest idea as to what was in his head, she saw him take another step in slow motion, turn and look at her again, and she wanted for a moment to hold him and devour him, wanted his mouth, his ears, his coat collar, wanted to surround him and engulf him; she saw his hand fall on the door knob. Then she gave up and sank back on the bed. When the door closed she got up and went to the mirror, where she began brushing her hair, sniffling a little. One hundred and fifty strokes Rosemary gave it, as usual, then a hundred and fifty more. She brushed it until her arm ached, then she changed arms and went on brushing.
She woke up cooled and shamed. The sight of her beauty in the mirror did not reassure her but only awakened the ache of yesterday; and a letter, forwarded by her mother, from the boy who had taken her to the Yale prom last fall, which announced his presence in Paris, was no help—all that seemed far away. She emerged from her room, for the ordeal of meeting the Divers weighted with a double trouble. But it was hidden by a sheath as impermeable as Nicole’s when they met and went together to a series of fittings. It was consoling, though, when Nicole remarked, apropos of a distraught saleswoman: “Most people think everybody feels about them much more violently than they actually do—they think other people’s opinions of them swing through great arcs of approval or disapproval.” Yesterday in her cxpansiveness Rosemary would have resented that remark—to-day in her desire to minimize what had happened she welcomed it eagerly. She admired Nicole for her beauty and her wisdom, and also for the first time in her life she was jealous. Just before leaving Gausse’s hotel her mother had said in that casual tone, which Rosemary knew concealed her most significant opinions, that Nicole was a great beauty, with the frank implication that Rosemary was not. This did not bother Rosemary, who had only recently been allowed to learn that she was even personable; so that her prettiness never seemed exactly her own but rather an acquirement, like her French. Nevertheless, in the taxi she looked at Nicole, matching herself against her. There were all the potentialities for romantic love in that lovely body and in the delicate mouth, sometimes tight, sometimes expectantly half open to the world. Nicole had been a beauty as a young girl and she would be a beauty later when her skin stretched tight over her high cheek-bones—the essential structure was there. She had been white-Saxon-blonde, but she was more beautiful now that her hair had darkened than when it had been like a cloud and more beautiful than she.
“We lived there.” Rosemary suddenly pointed to a building in the Rue des Saints-Peres.
“That’s strange. Because when I was twelve mother and Baby and I once spent a winter there,” and she pointed to a hotel directly across the street. The two dingy fronts stared at them, grey echoes of girlhood.
“We’d just built our Lake Forest house and we were economizing,” Nicole continued. “At least Baby and I and the governess economized and Mother travelled.”
“We were economizing too,” said Rosemary, realizing that the word meant different things to them.
“Mother always spoke of it very carefully as a small hotel—” Nicole gave her quick magnetic little laugh, “—I mean instead of saying a “cheap” hotel. If any swanky friends asked us our address we’d never say, “We’re in a dingy little hole over in the apache quarter where we’re glad of running water”—we’d say, “We’re in a small hotel.” As if all the big ones were too noisy and vulgar for us. Of course the friends always saw through us and told everyone about it, but Mother always said it showed we knew our way around Europe. She did, of course; she was born a German citizen. But her mother was American, and she was brought up in Chicago, and she was more American than European.”
They were meeting the others in two minutes, and Rosemary reconstructed herself once more as they got out of the taxi in the Rue Guynemer, across from the Luxembourg Gardens. They were lunching in the Norths’ already dismantled apartment high above the green mass of leaves. The day seemed different to Rosemary from the day before. When she saw him face to face their eyes met and brushed like birds’ wings. After that everything was all right, everything was wonderful, she knew that he was beginning to fall in love with her. She felt wildly happy, felt the warm sap of emotion being pumped through her body. A cool, clear confidence deepened and sang in her. She scarcely looked at Dick but she knew everything was all right.
After luncheon the Divers and the Norths and Rosemary went to the Franco-American Films. They were joined by Collis Clay, her young man from New Haven, to whom she had telephoned. He was a Georgian, with the peculiarly regular, even stencilled, ideas of Southerners who arc educated in the North. Last winter she had thought him attractive—once they held hands in an automobile going from New Haven to New York; now he no longer existed for her.
In the projection room she sat between Collis Clay and Dick while the mechanic mounted the reels of Daddy’s Girl and a French executive fluttered about her trying to talk American slang. “Yes, boy,” he said when there was trouble with the projector, “I have not any benenas.” Then the lights went out, there was the sudden click and a flickering noise and she was alone with Dick at last. They looked at each other in the half darkness.
“Dear Rosemary,” he murmured. Their shoulders touched. Nicole stirred restlessly at the end of the row and Abe coughed convulsively and blew his nose; then they all settled down and the picture ran.
There she was—the school girl of a year ago, hair down her back and rippling out stiffly like the solid hair of a tanagra figure; there she was—so young and innocent—the product of her mother’s loving care; there she was—embodying all the immaturity of the race, cutting a new cardboard paper doll to pass before its empty harlot’s mind. She remembered how she had felt in that dress, especially fresh and new under the fresh young silk.
Daddy’s girl. Was it a ’itty-bitty bravekins and did it suffer? Ooo-ooo-tweet, de tweetest thing, wasn’t she dest too tweet? Before her tiny fist the forces of lust and corruption rolled away; nay, the very march of destiny stopped, inevitably became evitable; syllogism, dialectic, all rationality fell away. Women would forget the dirty dishes at home and weep; even within the picture one woman wept so long that she almost stole the film away from Rosemary. She wept all over a set that cost a fortune, in a Duncan Phyfe dining-room, in an airport, and during a yacht-race that was only used in two flashes, in a subway, and finally in a bathroom. But Rosemary triumphed—her fineness of character, her courage and steadfastness intruded upon by the vulgarity of the world, and Rosemary showing what it took with a face that had not yet become mask-like; yet it was actually so moving that the emotions of the whole row of people went out to her at intervals during the picture. There was a break once and the light went on and after the chatter of applause Dick said to her sincerely: “I’m simply astounded. You’re going to be one of the best actresses on the stage.”
Then back to Daddy’s Girl: happier days now, and a lovely shot of Rosemary and her parent united at the last in a father complex so apparent that Dick winced for all psychologists at the vicious sentimentality. The screen vanished, the lights went on, the moment had come.
“I’ve arranged one other thing,” announced Rosemary to the company at large, “I’ve arranged a test for Dick.”
“A screen test, they’ll take one now.”
There was an awful silence—then an irrepressible chortle from the Norths. Rosemary watched Dick comprehend what she meant, his face moving first in an Irish way; simultaneously she realized that she had made some mistake in the playing of her trump and still she did not suspect that the card was at fault.
“I don’t want a test,” said Dick firmly; then, seeing the situation as a whole, he continued lightly, “Rosemary, I’m disappointed. The pictures make a fine career for a woman—but my God, they can’t photograph me. I’m an old scientist all wrapped up in his private life.”
Nicole and Mary urged him ironically to seize the opportunity; they teased him, both faintly annoyed at not having been asked for a sitting. But Dick closed the subject with a somewhat tart discussion of actors: “The strongest guard is placed at the gateway to nothing,” he said. “Maybe because the condition of emptiness is too shameful to be divulged.”
In the taxi with Dick and Collis Clay—they were dropping Collis, and Dick was taking Rosemary to a tea from which Nicole and the Norths had resigned in order to do the things Abe had left undone till the last—in the taxi Rosemary reproached him.
“I thought if the test turned out to be good I could take it to California with me. And then maybe if they liked it you’d come out and be my leading man in a picture.”
He was overwhelmed. “It was a darn sweet thought, but I’d rather look at you. You were about the nicest sight I ever looked at.”
“That’s a great picture,” said Collis. “I’ve seen it four times. I know one boy at New Haven who’s seen it a dozen times—he went all the way to Hartford to see it one time. And when I brought Rosemary up to New Haven he was so shy he wouldn’t meet her. Can you beat that? This little girl knocks them cold.”
Dick and Rosemary looked at each other, wanting to be alone, but Collis failed to understand.
“I’ll drop you where you’re going,” he suggested. “I’m staying at the Lutetia.”
“We’ll drop you,” said Dick.
“It’ll be easier for me to drop you. No trouble at all.”
“I think it will be better if we drop you.”
“But—” began Collis; he grasped the situation at last and began discussing with Rosemary when he would see her again.
Finally he was gone, with the shadowy unimportance but the offensive bulk of the third party. The car stopped unexpectedly, unsatisfactorily, at the address Dick had given. He drew a long breath.
“Shall we go in?”
“I don’t care,” Rosemary said. “I’ll do anything you want.”
“I almost have to go in—she wants to buy some pictures from a friend of mine who needs the money.”
Rosemary smoothed the brief expressive disarray of her hair.
“We’ll stay just five minutes,” he decided. “You’re not going to like these people.”
She assumed that they were dull and stereotyped people, or gross and drunken people, or tiresome, insistent people, or any of the sorts of people that the Divers avoided. She was entirely unprepared for the impression that the scene made on her.
It was a house hewn from the frame of Cardinal de Retz’s palace in the Rue Monsieur, but once inside the door there was nothing of the past, nor of any present that Rosemary knew. The outer shell, the masonry, seemed rather to enclose the future, so that it was an electric-like shock, a definite nervous experience, perverted as a breakfast of oatmeal and hashish, to cross that threshold, if it could be so called, into the long hall of blue steel, silver-gilt, and the myriad facets of many oddly bevelled mirrors. The effect was unlike that of any part of the Decorative Arts Exhibition—for there were people in it, not in front of it. Rosemary had the detached false-and-exalted feeling of being on a set and she guessed that everyone else present had that feeling too.
There were about thirty people, mostly women, and all fashioned by Louisa M. Alcott or Madame de Segur; and they functioned on this set as cautiously, as precisely, as does a human hand picking up jagged broken glass. Neither individually nor as a crowd could they be said to dominate the environment, as one comes to dominate a work of art he may possess, no matter how esoteric. No one knew what this room meant because it was evolving into something else, becoming everything a room was not; to exist in it was as difficult as walking on a highly polished moving stairway, and no one could succeed at all save with the qualities of a hand moving among broken glass—which qualities limited and defined the majority of those present.
These were of two sorts. There were the Americans and English, who had been dissipating all spring and summer, so that now everything they did had a purely nervous inspiration. They were very quiet and lethargic at certain hours and then they exploded into sudden quarrels and breakdowns and seductions. The other class, who might be called the exploiters, was formed by the sponges, who were sober, serious people by comparison, with a purpose in life and no time for fooling. These kept their balance best in that environment, and what tone there was, beyond the apartment’s novel organization of light values, came from them.
The Frankenstein took down Dick and Rosemary at a gulp—it separated them immediately and Rosemary suddenly discovered herself to be an insincere little person, living all in the upper registers of her throat and wishing the director would come. There was, however, such a wild beating of wings in the room that she did not feel her position was more incongruous than anyone else’s. In addition, her training told and after a series of semi-military turns, shifts, and marches she found herself presumably talking to a neat, slick girl with a lovely boy’s face, but actually absorbed by a conversation taking place on a sort of gun-metal ladder diagonally opposite her and four feet away.
There was a trio of young women sitting on the bench. They were all tall and slender with small heads groomed like mannikins’ heads, and as they talked the heads waved gracefully above their dark tailored suits, rather like long-stemmed flowers and rather like cobras’ hoods.
“Oh, they give a good show,” said one of them, in a deep rich voice. “Practically the best show in Paris—I’d be the last one to deny that. But after all—” She sighed. “Those phrases he uses over and over—“Oldest inhabitant gnawed by rodents.” You laugh once.”
“I prefer people whose lives have more corrugated surfaces,” said the second, “and I don’t like her.”
“I’ve never really been able to get very excited about them, or their entourage either. Why, for example, the entirely liquid Mr North?”
“He’s out,” said the first girl. “But you must admit that the party in question can be one of the most charming human beings you have ever met.”
It was the first hint Rosemary had had that they were talking about the Divers, and her body grew tense with indignation. But the girl talking to her, in the starched blue shirt with the bright blue eyes and the red cheeks and the very grey suit, a poster of a girl, had begun to play up. Desperately she kept sweeping things from between them, afraid that Rosemary couldn’t see her, sweeping them away until presently there was not so much as a veil of brittle humour hiding the girl, and with distaste Rosemary saw her plain.
“Couldn’t you have lunch, or maybe dinner, or lunch the day after?” begged the girl. Rosemary looked about for Dick, finding him with the hostess, to whom he had been talking since they came in. Their eyes met and he nodded slightly, and simultaneously the three cobra women noticed her; their long necks darted toward her and they fixed finely critical glances upon her. She looked back at them defiantly, acknowledging that she had heard what they said. Then she threw off her exigent vis-a-vis with a polite but clipped parting that she had just learned from Dick, and went over to join him. The hostess—she was another tall rich American girl, promenading insouciantly upon the national prosperity—was asking Dick innumerable questions about Gausse’s hotel, to which she evidently wanted to come, and battering persistently against his reluctance. Rosemary’s presence reminded her that she had been recalcitrant as a hostess and glancing about she said: “Have you met anyone amusing, have you met Mr——?” Her eyes groped for a male who might interest Rosemary, but Dick said they must go. They left immediately, moving over the brief threshold of the future to the sudden past of the stone facade without.
“Wasn’t it terrible?” he said.
“Terrible,” she echoed obediently.
She murmured, “What?” in an awed voice.
“I feel terribly about this.”
She was shaken with audibly painful sobs. “Have you got a handkerchief?” she faltered. But there was little time to cry, and lovers now they fell ravenously on the quick seconds, while outside the taxi windows the green and cream twilight faded, and the fire-red, gas-blue, ghost-green signs began to shine smokily through the tranquil rain. It was nearly six, the streets were in movement, the bistros gleamed, the Place de la Concorde moved by in pink majesty as the cab turned north.
They looked at each other at last, murmuring names that were a spell. Softly the two names lingered on the air, died away more slowly than other words, other names, slower than music in the mind.
“I don’t know what came over me last night,” Rosemary said. “That glass of champagne? I’ve never done anything like that before.”
“You simply said you loved me.”
“I do love you—I can’t change that.” It was time for Rosemary to cry, so she cried a little in her handkerchief. “I’m afraid I’m in love with you,” said Dick, “and that’s not the best thing that could happen.” Again the names—then they lurched together as if the taxi had swung them. Her breasts crushed flat against him, her mouth was all new and warm, owned in common. They stopped thinking with an almost painful relief, stopped seeing; they only breathed and sought each other. They were both in the grey gentle world of a mild hangover of fatigue, when the nerves relax in bunches like piano strings and crackle suddenly like wicker chairs. Nerves so raw and tender must surely join other nerves, lips to lips, breast to breast.
They were still in the happier stage of love. They were full of brave illusions about each other, tremendous illusions, that the communion of self with self seemed to be on a plane where no other human relations mattered. They both seemed to have arrived there with an extraordinary innocence, as though a series of pure accidents had driven them together, so many accidents that at last they were forced to conclude that they were for each other. They had arrived with clean hands, or so it seemed, after no traffic with the merely curious and clandestine.
But for Dick that portion of the road was short; the turning came before they reached the hotel.
“There’s nothing to do about it,” he said, with a feeling of panic. “I’m in love with you, but it doesn’t change what I said last night.”
“That doesn’t matter now. I just wanted to make you love me—if you love me everything’s all right.”
“Unfortunately I do. But Nicole mustn’t know—she mustn’t suspect even faintly. Nicole and I have got to go on together. In a way that’s more important than just wanting to go on.”
“Kiss me once more.”
He kissed her, but momentarily he had left her.
“Nicole mustn’t suffer—she loves me and I love her—you understand that.”
She did understand; it was the sort of thing she under stood well, not hurting people. She knew the Divers loved each other because it had been her primary assumption. She had thought, however, that it was a rather cooled relation, and actually rather like the love of herself and her mother. When people have so much for outsiders didn’t it indicate a lack of inner intensity?
“And I mean love,” he said, guessing her thoughts. “Active love—it’s more complicated than I can tell you. It was responsible for that crazy duel.”
“How did you know about the duel? I thought we were to keep it from you.”
“Do you think Abe can keep a secret?” He spoke with incisive irony. “Tell a secret over the radio, publish it in a tabloid, but never tell it to a man who drinks more than three or four a day.”
She laughed in agreement, staying close to him.
“So you understand my relations with Nicole are complicated. She’s not very strong—she looks strong, but she isn’t. And this makes rather a mess.”
“Oh, say that later! But kiss me now—love me now. I’ll love you and never let Nicole see.”
They reached the hotel and Rosemary walked a little behind him, to admire him, to adore him. His step was alert as if he had just come from some great doings and was hurrying on toward others. Organizer of private gaiety, curator of a richly incrusted happiness. His hat was a perfect hat and he carried a heavy stick and yellow gloves. She thought what a good time they would all have being with him to-night.
They walked upstairs—five flights. At the first landing they stopped and kissed; she was careful on the next landing, on the third more careful still. On the next—there were two more—she stopped half-way and kissed him fleetingly good-bye. At his urgency she walked down with him to the one below for a minute—and then up and up. Finally it was good-bye, with their hands stretching to touch along the diagonal of the banister and then the fingers slipping apart. Dick went back downstairs to make some arrangements for the evening. Rosemary ran to her room and wrote a letter to her mother; she was conscience-stricken because she did not miss her mother at all.
Although the Divers were honestly apathetic to organized fashion, they were nevertheless too acute to abandon its contemporaneous rhythm and beat—Dick’s parties were all concerned with excitement, and a chance breath of fresh night air was the more precious for being experienced in the intervals of the excitement.
The party that night moved with the speed of a slapstick comedy. They were twelve, they were sixteen, they were quartets in separate motors bound on a quick odyssey over Paris. Everything had been foreseen. People joined them as if by magic, accompanied them as specialists, almost guides, through a phase of the evening, dropped out and were succeeded by other people, so that it appeared as if the freshness of each one had been husbanded for them all day. Rosemary appreciated how different it was from any party in Hollywood, no matter how splendid in scale. There was, among many diversions, the car of the Shah of Persia. Where Dick had commandeered this vehicle, what bribery was employed, these were facts of irrelevance. Rosemary accepted it as merely a new facet of the fabulous, which for two years had filled her life. The car had been built on a special chassis in America. Its wheels were of silver, so was the radiator. The inside of the body was inlaid with innumerable brilliants, which would be replaced with true gems by the court dweller when the car arrived in Teheran the following week. There was only one real seat in back, because the Shah must ride alone, so they took turns riding in it and sitting on the marten fur that covered the floor.
But always there was Dick. Rosemary assured the image of her mother, ever carried with her, that never, never had she known anyone so nice, so thoroughly nice as Dick was that night. She compared him with the two Englishmen, whom Abe addressed conscientiously as “Major Hengist and Mr Horsa,” and with the heir to a Scandinavian throne and the novelist just back from Russia, and with Abe, who was desperate and witty, and with Collis Clay, who joined them somewhere and stayed along—and felt there was no comparison. The enthusiasm, the selflessness, behind the whole performance ravished her; the technic of moving many varied types, each as immobile, as dependent on supplies of attention as an infantry battalion is dependent on rations, appeared so effortless that he still had pieces of his own most personal self for everyone.
——Afterward she remembered the times when she had felt the happiness. The first time was when she and Dick danced together and she felt her beauty sparkling bright against his tall, strong form as they floated, hovering like people in an amusing dream—he turned her here and there with such a delicacy of suggestion that she was like a bright bouquet, a piece of precious cloth being displayed before fifty eyes. There was a moment when they were not dancing at all, simply clinging together. Sometime in the early morning they were alone, and her damp powdery young body came up close to him in a crush of tired cloth, and stayed there, crushed against a background of other people’s hats and wraps…
The time she laughed most was later, when six of them, the best of them, noblest relics of the evening, stood in the dusky front lobby of the Ritz telling the night concierge that General Pershing was outside and wanted caviare and champagne! “He brooks no delay. Every man, every gun is at his service.” Frantic waiters emerged from nowhere, a table was set in the lobby, and Abe came in representing General Pershing while they stood up and mumbled remembered fragments of war songs at him. In the waiters’ injured reaction to this anti-climax they found themselves neglected, so they built a waiter trap—a huge and fantastic device constructed of all the furniture in the lobby and functioning like one of the bizarre machines of a Goldberg cartoon. Abe shook his head doubtfully at it.
“Perhaps it would be better to steal a musical saw and—”
“That’s enough,” Mary interrupted. “When Abe begins ringing up that it’s time to go home.” Anxiously she confided to Rosemary:
“I’ve got to get Abe home. His boat train leaves at eleven. It’s so important—I feel the whole future depends on his catching it, but whenever I argue with him he does the exact opposite.”
“I’ll try and persuade him,” offered Rosemary.
“Would you?” Mary said doubtfully. “Maybe you could.”
Then Dick came up to Rosemary:
“Nicole and I are going home and we thought you’d want to go with us.”
Her face was pale with fatigue in the false dawn. Two wan ark spots in her cheek marked where the colour was by day.
“I can’t,” she said. “I promised Mary North to stay along with them—or Abe’ ll never go to bed. Maybe you could do something.”
“Don’t you know you can’t do anything about people?” he advised her. “If Abe was my room-mate in college, tight for the first time, it’d be different. Now there’s nothing to do.”
“Well, I’ve got to stay. He says he’ll go to bed if we only come to the Halles with him,” she said, almost defiantly.
He kissed the inside of her elbow quickly.
“Don’t let Rosemary go home alone,” Nicole called to Mary as they left. “We feel responsible to her mother.”
—Later Rosemary and the Norths and a manufacturer of dolls’ voices from Newark and the ubiquitous Collis and a big splendidly-dressed oil Indian named George T. Horse-protection were riding along on top of thousands of carrots in a market wagon. The earth in the carrot beards was fragrant and sweet in the darkness, and Rosemary was so high up in the load that she could hardly see the others in the long shadow between infrequent street lamps. Their voices came from far off, as if they were having experiences different from hers, different and far away, for she was with Dick in her heart, sorry she had come with the Norths, wishing she was at the hotel and Dick asleep across the hall, or that he was here beside her with the warm darkness streaming down.
“Don’t come up,” she called to Collis, “the carrots will all roll.” She threw one at Abe, who was sitting beside the driver, stiffly like an old man…
Later she was homeward bound at last in broad daylight, with the pigeons already breaking over Saint-Sulpice. All of them began to laugh spontaneously, because they knew it was still last night while the people in the streets had the delusion that it was bright hot morning.
“At last I’ve been on a wild party,” thought Rosemary, “but it’s no fun when Dick isn’t there.”
She felt a little betrayed and sad, but presently a moving object came into sight. It was a huge horse-chestnut tree in full bloom bound for the Champs-Elysees, strapped now into a long truck and simply shaking with laughter—like a lovely person in an undignified position yet confident none the less of being lovely. Looking at it with satisfaction, Rosemary identified herself with it, and laughed cheerfully with it, and everything all at once seemed gorgeous.
Abe left from the Gare Saint-Lazare at eleven—he stood alone under the fouled glass dome, relic of the seventies, era of the Crystal Palace; his hands, of that vague grey colour that only twenty-four hours can produce, were in his coat pockets to conceal the trembling fingers. With his hat removed it was plain that only the top layer of his hair was brushed back; the lower levels were pointed resolutely sidewise. He was scarcely recognizable as the man who had swum at Gausse’s beach a fortnight ago.
He was early; he looked from left to right with his eyes only; it would have taken nervous forces out of his control to use any other part of his body. New-looking baggage went past him; presently prospective passengers with dark little bodies were calling: “Jew-uls—Hoo-oo!” in dark piercing voices.
At the minute when he wondered whether or not he had time for a drink at the buffet, and began clutching at the soggy wad of thousand-franc notes in his pocket, one end of his pendulous glance came to rest upon the apparition of Nicole at the stairhead. He watched her—she was self-revelatory in her little expressions as people seem to someone waiting for them, who as yet is himself unobserved. She was frowning, thinking of her children, less gloating over them than merely animally counting them—a cat checking her cubs with a paw.
When she saw Abe, the mood passed out of her face; the glow of the morning skylight was sad, and Abe made a gloomy figure with dark circles that showed through the crimson tan under his eyes. They sat down on a bench.
“I came because you asked me,” said Nicole defensively. Abe seemed to have forgotten why he had asked her and Nicole was quite content to look at the travellers passing by.
“That’s going to be the belle of your boat—that one with all the men to say good-bye—you see why she bought that dress?” Nicole talked faster and faster. “You see why nobody else would buy it except the belle of the world cruise? See? No? Wake up! That’s a story dress—that extra material tells a story and somebody on a world cruise would be lonesome enough to want to hear it.”
She bit close her last words; she had talked too much for her; and Abe found it difficult to gather from her serious set face that she had spoken at all. With an effort he drew himself up to a posture that looked as if he were standing up while he was sitting down.
“The afternoon you took me to that funny ball—you know, St Genevieve’s—” he began.
“I remember. It was fun, wasn’t it?”
“No fun for me. I haven’t had fun seeing you this time. I’m tired of you both, but it doesn’t show because you’re even more tired of me—you know what I mean. If I had any enthusiasm, I’d go on to new people.”
There was a rough nap on Nicole’s velvet gloves as she slapped him back:
“Seems rather foolish to, be unpleasant, Abe. Anyhow, you don’t mean that. I can’t see why you’ve given up about everything.”
Abe considered, trying hard not to cough or blow his nose.
“I suppose I got bored; and then it was such a long way to go back in order to get anywhere.”
Often a man can play the helpless child in front of a woman, but he can almost never bring it off when he feels most like a helpless child.
“No excuse for it,” Nicole said crisply.
Abe was feeling worse every minute—he could think of nothing but disagreeable and sheerly nervous remarks. Nicole thought that the correct attitude for her was to sit staring straight ahead, hands in her lap. For a while there was no communication between them—each was racing away from the other, breathing only in so far as there was blue space ahead, a sky not seen by the other. Unlike lovers, they possessed no past; unlike man and wife, they possessed no future; yet up to this morning Nicole had liked Abe better than anyone except Dick—and he had been heavy, belly-frightened, with love for her for years.
“Tired of women’s worlds,” he spoke up suddenly.
“Then why don’t you make a world of your own?”
“Tired of friends. The thing is to have sycophants.”
Nicole tried to force the minute hand around on the station clock, but, “You agree?” he demanded.
“I am a woman and my business is to hold things together.”
“My business is to tear them apart.”
“When you get drunk you don’t tear anything apart except yourself,” she said, cold now, and frightened and unconfident. The station was filling, but no one she knew came. After a moment her eyes fell gratefully on a tall girl with straw hair like a helmet, who was dropping letters in the mail slot.
“A girl I have to speak to, Abe. Abe, wake up! You fool!”
Patiently Abe followed her with his eyes. The woman turned in a startled way to greet Nicole, and Abe recognized her as someone he had seen around Paris. He took vantage of Nicole’s absence to cough hard and retchingly into his handkerchief and to blow his nose loud. The morning was warmer and his underwear was soaked with sweat. His fingers trembled so violently that it took four matches to light a cigarette; it seemed absolutely necessary to make his way into the buffet for a drink, but immediately Nicole returned.
“That was a mistake,” she said with frosty humour. “After begging me to come and see her, she gave me a good snubbing. She looked at me as if I were rotted.” Excited, she did a little laugh, as with two fingers high in the scales. “Let people come to you.”
Abe recovered from a cigarette cough and remarked:
“Trouble is when you’re sober you don’t want to see anybody, and when you’re tight nobody wants to see you.”
“Who, me?” Nicole laughed again; for some reason the late encounter had cheered her.
“Speak for yourself. I like people, a lot of people—I like——”
Rosemary and Mary North came in sight, walking slowly and searching for Abe, and Nicole burst forth grossly with “Hey! Hi! Hey!” and laughed and waved the package of handkerchiefs she had bought for Abe.
They stood in an uncomfortable little group weighted down by Abe’s gigantic presence: he lay athwart them like the wreck of a galleon, dominating with his presence his own weakness and self-indulgence, his narrowness and bitterness. All of them were conscious of the solemn dignity that flowed from him, of his achievement, fragmentary, suggestive, and surpassed. But they were frightened at his survivant will, once a will to live, now become a will to die.
Dick Diver came and brought with him a fine glowing surface on which the three women sprang like monkeys with cries of relief, perching on his shoulders, on the beautiful crown of his hat or the gold head of his cane. Now, for a moment, they could disregard the spectacle of Abe’s gigantic obscenity. Dick saw the situation quickly and grasped it quietly. He pulled them out of themselves into the station, making plain its wonders. Nearby, some Americans were saying good-bye in voices that mimicked the cadence of water running into a large old bathtub. Standing in the station, with Paris in back of them, it seemed as if they were vicariously leaning a little over the ocean, already undergoing a sea-change, a shifting about of atoms to form the essential molecule of a new people.
So the well-to-do Americans poured through the station on to the platforms with frank new faces, intelligent, considerate, thoughtless, thought-for. An occasional English face among them seemed sharp and emergent. When there were enough Americans on the platform the first impression of their immaculacy and their money began to fade into a vague racial dusk that hindered and blinded both them and their observers.
Nicole seized Dick’s arm, crying, “Look!” Dick turned in time to see what took place in half a minute. At a Pullman entrance two cars off, a vivid scene detached itself from the tenor of many farewells. The young woman with the helmet-like hair to whom Nicole had spoken made an odd dodging little run away from the man to whom she was talking and plunged a frantic hand into her purse; then the sound of two revolver shots cracked the narrow air of the platform. Simultaneously the engine whistled sharply and the train began to move, momentarily dwarfing the shots in significance. Abe waved again from his window, oblivious to what had happened. But before the crowd closed in, the others had seen the shots take effect, seen the target sit down upon the platform.
Only after a hundred years did the train stop; Nicole, Mary, and Rosemary waited on the outskirts while Dick fought his way through. It was five minutes before he found them again—by this time the crowd had split into two sections, following, respectively, the man on a stretcher and the girl walking pale and firm between distraught gendarmes.
“It was Maria Wallis,” Dick said hurriedly. “The man she shot was an Englishman—they had an awful time finding out who, because she shot him through his identification card.” They were walking quickly from the train, swayed along with the crowd. “I found out what poste de police they’re taking her to, so I’ll go there——”
“But her sister lives in Paris,” Nicole objected. “Why not phone her? Seems very peculiar nobody thought of that. She’s married to a Frenchman, and he can do more than we can.”
Dick hesitated, shook his head, and started off.
“Wait!” Nicole cried after him. “That’s foolish—how can you do any good—with your French?”
“At least I’ll see they don’t do anything outrageous to her.”
“They’re certainly going to hold on to her,” Nicole assured him briskly. “She did shoot the man. The best thing is to phone right away to Laura—she can do more than we can.”
Dick was unconvinced—also he was showing off for Rosemary.
“You wait,” said Nicole firmly, and hurried off to a telephone booth.
“When Nicole takes things into her hands,” he said with affectionate irony, “there is nothing more to be done.”
He saw Rosemary for the first time that morning. They exchanged glances, trying to recognize the emotions of the day before. For a moment each seemed unreal to the other—then the slow, warm hum of love began again.
“You like to help everybody, don’t you?” Rosemary said.
“I only pretend to.”
“Mother likes to help everybody—of course she can’t help as many people as you do.” She sighed. “Sometimes I think I’m the most selfish person in the world.”
For the first time the mention of her mother annoyed rather than amused Dick. He wanted to sweep away her mother, remove the whole affair from the nursery footing upon which Rosemary persistently established it. But he realized that this impulse was a loss of control—what would become of Rosemary’s urge toward him if, for even a moment, he relaxed? He saw, not without panic, that the affair was sliding to rest; it could not stand still, it must go on or go back; for the first time it occurred to him that Rosemary had had her hand on the lever more authoritatively than he.
Before he had thought out a course of procedure, Nicole returned.
“I found Laura. It was the first news she had and her voice kept fading away and then getting loud again—as if she was fainting and then pulling herself together. She said she knew something was going to happen this morning.”
“Maria ought to be with Diaghilev.” said Dick in a gentle tone, in order to bring them back to quietude. “She has a nice sense of decor—not to say rhythm. Will any of us ever see a train pulling out without hearing a few shots?”
They bumped down the wide steel steps. “I’m sorry for the poor man,” Nicole said. “Course that’s why she talked so strange to me—she was getting ready to open fire.”
She laughed, Rosemary laughed, too, but they were both horrified, and both of them deeply wanted Dick to make a moral comment on the matter and not leave it to them. This wish was not entirely conscious, especially on the part of Rosemary, who was accustomed to having shell fragments of such events shriek past her head. But a totality of shock had piled up in her, too. For the moment Dick was too shaken by the impetus of his newly recognized emotion to resolve things into the pattern of the holiday, so the women, missing something, lapsed into a vague unhappiness.
Then, as if nothing had happened, the lives of the Divers and their friends flowed out into the street.
However, everything had happened—Abe’s departure and Mary’s impending departure for Salzburg this afternoon had ended the time in Paris. Or perhaps the shots, the concussions that had finished God knew what dark matter, had terminated it. The shots had entered into all their lives: echoes of violence followed them out on to the pavement, where two porters held a post-mortem beside them as they waited for a taxi.
“Tu as vu le revolver? II etait tres petit, vraie perle—un jouet.”
“Mais assez puissant!” said the other porter sagely. “Tu as vu sa chemise? Assez de sang pour se croire a la guerre.”
In the square, AS they came out, a suspended mass of gasoline exhaust cooked slowly in the July sun. It was a terrible thing—unlike pure heat, it held no promise of rural escape, but suggested only roads choked with the same foul asthma. During their luncheon, outdoors, across from the Luxembourg Gardens, Rosemary had cramps and felt fretful and full of impatient lassitude—it was the foretaste of this that had inspired her self-accusation of selfishness in the station.
Dick had no suspicion of the sharpness of the change; he was profoundly unhappy and the subsequent increase of egotism tended momentarily to blind him to what was going on round about him, and deprive him of the long ground-veil of imagination that he counted on for his judgements.
After Mary North left them, accompanied by the Italian aging teacher who had joined them for coffee and was Icing her to her train, Rosemary, too, stood up, bound for engagement at her studio: “meet some officials.”
“And oh”—she proposed—“if Collis Clay, that Southern boy—if he comes while you are still sitting here, just tell him I couldn’t wait; tell him to call me to-morrow.”
Too insouciant, in reaction from the late disturbance, she had assumed the privileges of a child—the result being to remind the Divers of their exclusive love for their own children. Rosemary was sharply rebuked in a short passage between the women: “You’d better leave the message with a waiter,” Nicole’s voice was stern and unmodulated, “we’re leaving immediately.”
Rosemary got it, took it without resentment.
“I’ll let it go then. Good-bye, you darlings.”
Dick asked for the check; the Divers relaxed, chewing tentatively on toothpicks.
“Well—” they said together.
He saw a flash of unhappiness on her mouth, so brief that only he would have noticed, and he could pretend not to have seen. What did Nicole think? Rosemary was one of a dozen people he had “worked over” in the past years: these had included a French circus clown, Abe and Mary North, a pair of dancers, a writer, a painter, a comedienne from the Grand Guignol, a half-crazy pederast from the Russian Ballet, a promising tenor they had staked to a year in Milan. Nicole well knew how seriously these people interpreted his interest and enthusiasm; but she realized also that, except while their children were being born, Dick had not spent a night apart from her since their marriage. On the other hand, there was a pleasingness about him that simply had to be used—those who possessed that pleasingness had to keep their hands in, and go along attaching people that they had no use to make of.
Now Dick hardened himself and let minutes pass without making any gesture of confidence, any representation of constantly renewed surprise that they were one together.
Collis Clay out of the South edged a passage between the closely-packed tables and greeted the Divers cavalierly. Such salutations always astonished Dick—acquaintances saying “Hi!” to them, or speaking only to one of them. He felt so intensely about people that in moments of apathy he preferred to remain concealed; that one could parade a casualness into his presence was a challenge to the key on which he lived.
Collis, unaware that he was without a wedding garment, heralded his arrival with: “I reckon I’m late—the beyed has flown.” Dick had to wrench something out of himself before he could forgive him for not having first complimented Nicole.
She left almost immediately and he sat with Collis, finishing the last of his wine. He rather liked Collis—he was “post-war”; less difficult than most of the Southerners he had known at New Haven a decade previously. Dick listened with amusement to the conversation that accompanied the slow, profound stuffing of a pipe. In the early afternoon children and nurses were trekking into the Luxembourg Gardens; it was the first time in months that Dick had let this part of the day out of his hands.
Suddenly his blood ran cold as he realized the content of Collis’s confidential monologue.
“—she’s not so cold as you’d probably think. I admit I thought she was cold for a long time. But she got into a jam with a friend of mine going from New York to Chicago at Easter—a boy named Hillis she thought was pretty nutsey at New Haven—she had a compartment with a cousin of mine, but she and Hillis wanted to be alone, so in the afternoon my cousin came and played cards in our compartment. Well, after about two hours we went back and there was Rosemary and Bill Hillis standing in the vestibule arguing with the conductor—Rosemary white as a sheet. Seems they locked the door and pulled down the blinds and I guess there was some heavy stuff going on when the conductor came for the tickets and knocked on the door. They thought it was us kidding them and wouldn’t let him in at first, and when they did he was plenty sore. He asked Hillis if that was his compartment and whether he and Rosemary were married that they locked the door, and Hillis lost his temper trying to explain there was nothing wrong. He said the conductor had insulted Rosemary and he wanted him to fight, but that conductor could have made trouble—and, believe me, I had an awful time smoothing it over.”
With every detail imagined, with even envy for the pair’s community of misfortune in the vestibule, Dick felt a change taking place within him. Only the image of a third person, even a vanished one, entering into his relation with Rosemary was needed to throw him off his balance and send through him waves of pain, misery, desire, desperation. The vividly pictured hand on Rosemary’s check, the quicker breath, the white excitement of the event viewed from outside, the inviolable secret warmth within.
—Do you mind if I pull down the curtain?
—Please do. It’s too light in here.
Collis Clay was now speaking about fraternity politics at New Haven, in the same tone, with the same emphasis. Dick had gathered that he was in love with Rosemary in some curious way Dick could not have understood. The affair with Hillis seemed to have made no emotional impression on Collis save to give him the joyful conviction that Rosemary was “human”.
“Bones got a wonderful crowd,” he said. “We all did, as a matter of fact. New Haven’s so big now the sad thing is the men we have to leave out.”
—Do you mind if I pull down the curtain?
—Please do. It’s too light in here.
… Dick went over Paris to his bank. Writing a cheque, he looked along the row of men at the desks, deciding to which one he would present it for an O.K. As he wrote he engrossed himself in the material act, examining meticulously the pen, writing laboriously upon the high glass-topped desk. Once he raised glazed eyes to look toward the mail department, then glared his spirit again by concentration upon the objects he dealt with.
Still he failed to decide to whom the cheque should be presented, which man in the line would guess least of the unhappy predicament in which he found himself and, also, which one would be least likely to talk. There was Perrin, the suave New Yorker, who had asked him to luncheons at the American Club, there was Casasus, the Spaniard, with whom he usually discussed a mutual friend in spite of the fact that the friend had passed out of his life a dozen years before; there was Muchhause, who always asked him whether he wanted to draw upon his wife’s money or his own.
As he entered the amount on the stub, and drew two lines under it, he decided to go to Pierce, who was young and for whom he would have to put on only a small show. It was often easier to give a show than to watch one.
He went to the mail desk first. As the woman who served him pushed up with her bosom a piece of paper that had nearly escaped the desk, he thought how differently women use their bodies from men. He took his letters aside to open. There was a bill for seventeen psychiatric books from a German concern, a bill from Brentano’s, a letter from Buffalo from his father, in a handwriting that year by year became more indecipherable; there was a card from Tommy Barban post-marked Fez and bearing a facetious communication; there were letters from doctors in Zurich, both in German; a disputed bill from a plasterer in Cannes; a bill from a furniture maker; a letter from the publisher of a medical journal in Baltimore, miscellaneous announcements, and an invitation to a showing of pictures by an incipient artist; also there were three letters for Nicole, and a letter for Rosemary sent in his care.
—Do you mind if I pull down the curtain?
He went toward Pierce, but he was engaged with a woman, and Dick saw with his heels that he would have to present his cheque to Casasus at the next desk, who was free.
“How are you, Diver?” Casasus was genial. He stood up, his moustache spreading with his smile. “We were talking about Featherstone the other day and I thought of you—he’s out in California now.”
Dick widened his eyes and bent forward a little.
“That’s what I heard.”
Dick held the cheque poised; to focus the attention of Casasus upon it he looked toward Pierce’s desk, holding the latter for a moment in a friendly eye-play conditioned by an old joke of three years before, when Pierce had been involved with a Lithuanian countess. Pierce played up with a grin until Casasus had authorized the cheque and had no further recourse to detain Dick, whom he liked, than to stand up holding his pince-nez and repeat, “Yes, he’s in California.”
Meanwhile Dick had seen that Perrin, at the head of the line of desks, was in conversation with the heavyweight champion of the world; from a sidesweep of Perrin’s eye Dick saw that he was considering calling him over and introducing him, but that he finally decided against it.
Cutting across the social mood of Casasus with the intensity he had accumulated at the glass desk—which is to say he looked hard at the cheque, studying it, and then fixed his eyes on grave problems beyond the first marble pillar to the right of the banker’s head and made a business of shifting the cane, hat, and letters he carried—he said good-bye and went out. He had long ago purchased the doorman; his taxi sprang to the kerb.
“I want to go to the Films Par Excellence Studio—it’s on a little street in Passy. Go to the Muette. I’ll direct you from there.”
He was rendered so uncertain by the events of the last forty-eight hours that he was not even sure of what he wanted to do; he paid off the taxi at the Muette and walked in the direction of the studio, crossing to the opposite side of the street before he came to the building. Dignified in his fine clothes, with their fine accessories, he was yet swayed and driven as an animal. Dignity could come only with an overthrowing of his past, of the effort of the last six years. He went briskly around the block with the fatuousness of one of Tarkington’s adolescents, hurrying at the blind places lest he miss Rosemary’s coming out of the studio. It was a melancholy neighbourhood. Next door to the place he saw a sign: “100,000 Chemises.” The shirts filled the window, piled, cravated, stuffed, or draped with shoddy grace on the showcase floor: “100,000 Chemises”—count them! On either side he read: “Papeterie,” “Patisserie,” “Solde,” “Reclame”—and Constance Talmadge in “Dejeuner de Soleil,” and farther away there were more sombre announcements: “Vetements Ecclesiastiques,” “Declaration de Deces” and “Pompes Funebres.” Life and death.
He knew that what he was now doing marked a turning point in his life—it was out of line with everything that had preceded it, even out of line with what effect he might hope to produce upon Rosemary. Rosemary saw him always as a model of correctness—his presence walking around this block was an intrusion. But Dick’s necessity of behaving as he did was a projection of some submerged reality: he was compelled to walk there, or stand there, his shirt-sleeve fitting his wrist and his coat sleeve encasing his shirt-sleeve like a sleeve valve, his collar moulded plastically to his neck, his red hair cut exactly, his hand holding his small briefcase like a dandy—just as another man once found it necessary to stand in front of a church in Ferrara, in sackcloth and ashes. Dick was paying some tribute to things unforgotten, unshriven, unexpurgated.
After three-quarters of an hour it became apparent that Rosemary either had escaped on one of his early circuits of the block or else had left before he came into the neighbourhood. He went into the bistro on the corner, bought a lead disc, and, squeezed in an alcove between the kitchen and the foul toilet, he called the Roi George. He recognized Cheyne-Stokes tendencies in his respiration—but like everything the symptom served only to turn him in toward his emotion. He gave the number of the hotel; then stood holding the phone and staring into the cafe; after a long while a strange little voice said hello.
“This is Dick—I had to call you.”
A pause from her—then bravely, and in key with his emotion: “I’m glad you did.”
“I came to meet you at your studio—I’m out in Passy across the way from it. I thought maybe we’d ride around through the Bois.”
“Oh, I only stayed there a minute! I’m so sorry.” A silence.
“Look, I’m in an extraordinary condition about you. When a child can disturb a middle-aged gent—tilings get difficult.”
“You’re not middle-aged, Dick—you’re the youngest person in the world.”
“Rosemary?” Silence while he stared at a shelf that held the humbler poisons of France—bottles of Otard, Rhum St James, Marie Brizard, Punch Orangeade, Fernet Branca, Cherry Rocher, and Armagnac.
“Are you alone?”
—Do you mind if I pull down the curtain?
“Who do you think I’d be with?”
“That’s the state I’m in. I’d like to be with you now.”
Silence, then a sigh and an answer. “I wish you were with me now.”
There was the hotel room where she lay behind a telephone number, and little gusts of music wailed around her—
“And two—for tea.
And me for you,
And you for me
There was the remembered dust of powder over her tan—when he kissed her face it was damp around the corners of her hair; there was the flash of a white face under his own, the arc of a shoulder.
“It’s impossible,” he said to himself. In a minute he was out in the street marching along toward the Muette, or away from it, his small brief-case still in his hand, his gold-headed stick held at a sword-like angle.
Rosemary returned to her desk and finished a letter to her mother.
“—I only saw him for a little while but I thought he was wonderful looking. I fell in love with him (Of course I Do Love Dick Best, but you know what I mean). He really is going to direct the picture and is leaving immediately for Hollywood, and I think we ought to leave, too. Collis Clay has been here. I like him all right but have not seen much of him because of the Divers, who really are divine, about the Nicest People I ever Knew. I am feeling not very well to-day and am taking the Medicine, though see No need for it. I’m not even Going to Try to tell you All that’s Happened until I see You!!! So when you get this letter, wire, wire, wire! Are you coming north or shall I come south with the Divers?”
At six Dick called Nicole.
“Have you any special plans?” he asked. “Would you like to do something quiet—dinner at the hotel and then a play?”
“Would you? I’ll do whatever you want. I phoned Rosemary a while ago and she’s having dinner in her room. I think this upset all of us, don’t you?”
“It didn’t upset me,” he objected. “Darling, unless you’re physically tired let’s do something. Otherwise we’ll get south and spend a week wondering why we didn’t see Boucher. It’s better than brooding—”
This was a blunder and Nicole took him up sharply.
“Brooding about what?”
“About Maria Wallis.”
She agreed to go to a play. It was a tradition between them that they should never be too tired for anything, and they found it made the days better on the whole and put the evenings more in order. When, inevitably, their spirits flagged they shifted the blame to the weariness and fatigue of others. Before they went out, as fine-looking a couple as could be found in Paris, they knocked softly at Rosemary’s door. There was no answer; judging that she was asleep they walked into a warm strident Paris night, snatching a vermouth and bitters in the shadow by Fouquet’s bar.
Nicole awoke late, murmuring something back into her dream before she parted her long lashes tangled with sleep. Dick’s bed was empty—only after a minute did she realize that she had been awakened by a knock at their salon door.
“Entrez!” she called, but there was no answer, and after a moment she slipped on a dressing-gown and went to open it. A sergent de ville confronted her courteously and stepped inside the door.
“Mr Afghan North—is he here?”
“What? No—he’s gone to America.”
“When did he leave, Madame?”
He shook his head and waved his forefinger at her in a quicker rhythm.
“He was in Paris last night. He is registered here but his room is not occupied. They told me I had better ask at this room.”
“Sounds very peculiar to me—we saw him off yesterday morning on the boat train.”
“Be that as it may, he has been seen here this morning. Even his carte d’identite has been seen. And there you are.”
“We know nothing about it,” she proclaimed in amazement.
He considered. He was an ill-smelling, handsome man.
“You were not with him at all last night?”
“We have arrested a Negro. We are convinced we have at last arrested the correct Negro.”
“I assure you that I haven’t an idea what you’re talking about. If it’s the Mr Abraham North, the one we know, well, if he was in Paris last night we weren’t aware of it.”
The man nodded, sucked his upper lip, convinced but disappointed.
“What happened?” Nicole demanded.
He showed his palms, puffing out his closed mouth. He had begun to find her attractive and his eyes flickered at her.
“What do you wish, Madame? A summer affair. Mr Afghan North was robbed and he made a complaint. We have arrested the miscreant. Mr Afghan should come to identify him and make the proper charges.”
Nicole pulled her dressing-gown around her and dismissed him briskly. Mystified she took a bath and dressed. By this time it was after ten and she called Rosemary, but got no answer—then she phoned the hotel office and found that Abe had indeed registered, at six-thirty this morning. His room, however, was still unoccupied. Hoping for a word from Dick she waited in the parlour of the suite; just as she had given up and decided to go out, the office called and announced:
“Meestaire Crawshow, un negre.”
“On what business?” she demanded.
“He says he knows you and the doctaire. He says there is a Meestaire Freeman into prison that is a friend of all the world. He says there is injustice and he wishes to see Meestaire North before he himself is arrested.”
“We know nothing about it.” Nicole disclaimed the whole business with a vehement clap of the receiver. Abe’s bizarre reappearance made it plain to her how fatigued she was with his dissipation. Dismissing him from her mind she went out, ran into Rosemary at the dressmaker’s, and shopped with her for artificial flowers and all-coloured strings of coloured beads on the Rue de Rivoli. She helped Rosemary choose a diamond for her mother, and some scarfs and novel cigarette cases to take home to business associates in California. For her son she bought Greek and Roman soldiers, a whole army of them, costing more than a thousand francs. Once again they spent their money in different ways, and again Rosemary admired Nicole’s method of spending. Nicole was sure that the money she spent was hers—Rosemary still thought her money was miraculously lent to her and she must consequently be very careful of it.
It was fun spending money in the sunlight of the foreign city, with healthy bodies under them that sent streams of colour up to their faces; with arms and hands, legs and ankles that they stretched out confidently, reaching or stepping with the confidence of women lovely to men.
When they got back to the hotel and found Dick, all bright and new in the morning, both of them had a moment of complete childish joy.
He had just received a garbled telephone call from Abe, who, so it appeared, had spent the forenoon in hiding.
“It was one of the most extraordinary telephone conversations I’ve ever held.”
Dick had talked not only to Abe but to a dozen others. On the phone these supernumeraries had been typically introduced as: “—man wants to talk to you is in the teput dome, well he says he was in it—what is it?”
“Hey, somebody, shut up—anyhow, he was in some shandel-scandal and he kaa possibly go home. My own personal is that—my personal is he’s had a—” Gulps sounded and thereafter what the party had, rested with the unknown.
The phone yielded up a supplementary offer:
“I thought it would appeal to you anyhow as a psychologist.” The vague personality who corresponded to this statement was eventually hung on to the phone; in the sequence he failed to appeal to Dick as a psychologist or indeed as anything else. Abe’s conversation flowed on as follows:
“Who are you?”
“Well.” There were interpolated snorts of laughter.
“Well, I’ll put somebody else on the line.”
Sometimes Dick could hear Abe’s voice, accompanied by scufflings, droppings of the receiver, far-away fragments such as, ” No, I don’t, Mr North…” Then a pert decided voice had said: “If you are a friend of Mr North you will come down and take him away.”
Abe cut in, solemn and ponderous, beating it all down with an overtone of earth-bound determination.
“Dick, I’ve launched a race riot in Montmartre. I’m going over and get Freeman out of jail. If a Negro from Copenhagen that makes shoe polish—hello, can you hear me—well, look, if anybody comes there—” Once again the receiver was a chorus of innumerable melodies.
“Why are you back in Paris?” Dick demanded.
“I got as far as Evreux, and I decided to take a plane back so I could compare it with Saint Sulpice. I mean I don’t intend to bring Saint Sulpice back to Paris. I don’t even mean Baroque! I meant Saint Germain. For God’s sake, wait a minute and I’ll put the chasseur on the wire.”
“For God’s sake, don’t.”
“Listen—did Mary get off all right?”
“Dick, I want you to talk with a man I met here this morning, the son of a naval officer that’s been to every doctor in Europe. Let me tell you about him—”
Dick had rung off at this point—perhaps that was a piece of ingratitude, for he needed grist for the grinding activity of his mind.
“Abe used to be so nice,” Nicole told Rosemary. “So nice. Long ago—when Dick and I were first married. If you had known him then. He’d come to stay with us for weeks and weeks and we scarcely knew he was in the house. Sometimes he’d play—sometimes he’d be in the library with a muted piano, making love to it by the hour—Dick, do you remember that maid? She thought he was a ghost and sometimes Abe used to meet her in the hall and moo at her, and it cost us a whole tea service once—but we didn’t care.”
So much fun—so long ago. Rosemary envied them their fun, imagining a life of leisure unlike her own. She knew little of leisure, but she had the respect for it of those who have never had it. She thought of it as a resting, without realizing that the Divers were as far from relaxing as she was herself.
“What did this to him?” she asked. “Why does he have to drink?”
Nicole shook her head right and left, disclaiming responsibility for the matter: “So many smart men go to pieces nowadays.”
“And when haven’t they?” Dick asked. “Smart men play close to the line because they have to—some of them can’t stand it, so they quit.”
“It must lie deeper than that.” Nicole clung to her conversation; also she was irritated that Dick should contradict her before Rosemary. “Artists like—well, like Fernand don’t seem to have to wallow in alcohol. Why is it just Americans who dissipate?”
There were so many answers to this question that Dick decided to leave it in the air, to buzz victoriously in Nicole’s ears. He had become intensely critical of her. Though he thought she was the most attractive human creature he had ever seen, though he got from her everything he needed, he scented battle from afar, and subconsciously he had been hardening and arming himself, hour by hour. He was not given to self-indulgence and he felt comparatively graceless at this moment of indulging himself, blinding his eyes with the hope that Nicole guessed at only an emotional excitement about Rosemary. He was not sure—last night at the theatre she had referred pointedly to Rosemary as a child.
The trio lunched downstairs in an atmosphere of carpets and padded waiters, who did not march at the stomping quick-step of those men who brought good food to the tables at which they had recently dined. Here there were families of Americans staring around at families of Americans and trying to make conversation with one another.
There was a party at the next table that they could not account for. It consisted of an expansive, somewhat secretarial, would—you—mind—repeating young man, and a score of women. The women were neither young nor old nor of any particular social class; yet the party gave the impression of a unit, held more closely together, for example, than a group of wives stalling through a professional congress of their husbands. Certainly it was more of a unit than any conceivable tourist party.
An instinct made Dick suck back the grave derision that formed on his tongue; he asked the waiter to find out who they were.
“Those are the gold-star muzzers,” explained the waiter.
Aloud and in low voices they exclaimed. Rosemary’s eyes filled with tears.
“Probably the young ones are the wives,” said Nicole.
Over his wine Dick looked at them again; in their happy faces, the dignity that surrounded and pervaded the party, he perceived all the maturity of an older America. For a while the sobered women who had come to mourn for their dead, for something they could not repair, made the room beautiful. Momentarily, he sat again on his father’s knee, riding with Mosby while the old loyalties and devotions fought on around him. Almost with an effort he turned back to his two women at the table and faced the whole new world in which he believed.
—Do you mind if I pull down the curtain?
Abe North was still in the Ritz bar, where he had been since nine in the morning. When he arrived seeking sanctuary the windows were open and great beams were busy at pulling up the dust from smoky carpets and cushions. Chasseurs tore through the corridors, liberated and disembodied, moving for the moment in pure space. The sit-down bar for women, across from the bar proper, seemed very small—it was hard to imagine what throngs it could accommodate in the afternoon.
The famous Paul, the concessionnaire, had not arrived, but Claude, who was checking stock, broke off his work with no improper surprise to make Abe a pick-me-up. Abe sat on a bench against a wall. After two drinks he began to feel better—so much better that he mounted to the barber’s shop and was shaved. When he returned to the bar Paul had arrived—in his custom-built motor, from which he had disembarked correctly at the Boulevard des Capucines. Paul liked Abe and came over to talk.
“I was supposed to ship home this morning,” Abe said. “I mean yesterday morning, or whatever this is.”
“Why din you?” asked Paul.
Abe considered, and happened finally to a reason: “I was reading a serial in Liberty and the next instalment was due here in Paris—so if I’d sailed I’d have missed it—then I never would have read it.”
“It must be a very good story.”
“It’s a terr-r-rible story.”
Paul arose chuckling and paused, leaning on the back of a chair:
“If you really want to get off, Mr North, there are friends of yours going to-morrow on the France—Mister what is this name—and Slim Pearson. Mister—I’ll think of it—tall with a new beard.”
“Yardly,” Abe supplied.
“Mr Yardly. They’re both going on the France.”
He was on his way to his duties, but Abe tried to detain him: “If I didn’t have to go by way of Cherbourg. The baggage went that way.”
“Get your baggage in New York,” said Paul, receding.
The logic of the suggestion fitted gradually into Abe’s pitch—he grew rather enthusiastic about being cared for, or rather about prolonging his state of irresponsibility.
Other clients had meanwhile drifted into the bar: first came a huge Dane whom Abe had somewhere encountered. The Dane took a scat across the room, and Abe guessed he would be there all the day, drinking, lunching, talking, or reading newspapers. He felt a desire to outstay him. At eleven the college boys began to drop in, stepping gingerly lest they tear one another bag from bag. It was about then he had the chasseur telephone to the Divers; by the time he was in touch with them he was in touch also with other friends and his hunch was to put them all on different phones at once—the result was somewhat general. From time to time his mind reverted to the fact that he ought to go over and get Freeman out of jail, but he shook off all facts as parts of the nightmare.
By one o’clock the bar was jammed; amidst the consequent mixture of voices the staff of waiters functioned, pinning down their clients to the facts of drink and money.
“That makes two stingers… and one more… two martinis and one… nothing for you, Mr Quarterly…. that makes three rounds. That makes seventy-five francs, Mr Quarterly. Mr Schaeffer said he had this—you had the last… I can only do what you say… thanks veramuch.”
In the confusion Abe had lost his seat; now he stood gently swaying and talking to some of the people with whom he had involved himself. A terrier ran a leash around his legs, but Abe managed to extricate himself without upsetting and became the recipient of profuse apologies. Presently he was invited to lunch, but declined. It was almost Briglith, he explained, and there was something he had to do at Briglith. A little later, with the exquisite manners of the alcoholic that are like the manners of a prisoner or a family servant, he said good-bye to an acquaintance and, turning around, discovered that the bar’s great moment was over as precipitately as it had begun.
Across from him the Dane and his companions had ordered luncheon. Abe did likewise but scarcely touched it. Afterward he just sat, happy to live in the past. The drink made past happy things contemporary with the present, as if they were still going on, contemporary even with the future, as if they were about to happen again.
At four the chasseur approached him:
“You wish to see a coloured fellow of the name Jules Peterson?”
“God! How did he find me?”
“I didn’t tell him you were present.”
“Who did?” Abe fell over his glasses but recovered himself.
“Says he’s already been around to all the American bars and hotels.”
“Tell him I’m not here—” As the chasseur turned away Abe asked: “Can he come in here?”
“I’ll find out.”
Receiving the question Paul glanced over his shoulder; he shook his head, then seeing Abe he came over.
“I’m sorry; I can’t allow it.”
Abe got himself up with an effort and went out to the Rue Cambon.
With his miniature leather brief-case in his hand Richard Diver walked from the seventh arrondissement—where he left a note for Maria Wallis signed “Dicole,” the word with which he and Nicole had signed communications in the first days of love—to his shirtmakers, where the clerks made a fuss over him out of proportion to the money he spent. He was ashamed at promising so much to these poor Englishmen, with his fine manners, his air of having the key to security, ashamed of making a tailor shift an inch of silk on his arm. Afterward he went to the bar of the Crillon and drank a small coffee and two fingers of gin.
As he entered the hotel the halls had seemed unnaturally bright; when he left he realized that it was because it had already turned dark outside. It was a windy four-o’clock night, with the leaves on the Champs-Elysees singing and failing, thin and wild. Dick turned down the Rue de Rivoli, walking two squares under the arcades to his bank, where there was mail. Then he took a taxi and started up the Champs-Elysees through the first patter of rain, sitting alone with his love.
Back at two o’clock in the Roi George corridor the beauty of Nicole had been to the beauty of Rosemary as the beauty of Leonardo’s girl was to that of the girl of an illustrator. Dick moved on through the rain, demoniac and frightened, the passions of many men inside him and nothing simple that he could see.
Rosemary opened her door full of emotions no one else knew of. She was now what is sometimes called a “little wild thing”—by twenty-four full hours she was not yet unified and she was absorbed in playing around with chaos, as if her destiny were a picture puzzle—counting benefits, counting hopes, telling off Dick, Nicole, her mother, the director she met yesterday, like stops on a string of beads.
When Dick knocked she had just dressed and had been watching the rain, thinking of some poem, and of full gutters in Beverly Hills. When she opened the door she saw him as something fixed and godlike as he had always been, as older people are to younger, rigid and unmalleable. Dick saw her with an inevitable sense of disappointment. It took him a moment to respond to the unguarded sweetness of her smile, her body calculated to a millimetre to suggest a bud yet guarantee a flower. He was conscious of the print of her wet foot on a rug through the bathroom door.
“Miss Television,” he said with a lightness he did not feel. He put his gloves, his brief-case on the dressing-table, his stick against the wall. His chin dominated the lines of pain around his mouth, forcing them up into his forehead and the corner of his eyes, like fear that cannot be shown in public.
“Come and sit on my lap close to me,” he said softly, “and let me see about your lovely mouth.”
She came over and sat there and while the dripping slowed down outside—drip—dri-i-ip, she laid her lips to the beautiful cold image she had created.
Presently she kissed him several times in the mouth. He had never seen anything so dazzling as the quality of her skin, and since sometimes beauty gives back the images of one’s best thoughts, he thought of his responsibility about Nicole, and of the responsibility of her being two doors down across the corridor.
“The rain’s over,” he said. “Do you see the sun on the slate?”
Rosemary stood up and leaned down and said her most sincere thing to him:
“Oh, we’re such actors—you and I.”
She went to her dresser and the moment that she laid her comb flat against her hair there was a slow persistent knocking at the door.
They were shocked motionless; the knock was repeated insistently, and in the sudden realization that the door was not locked Rosemary finished her hair with one stroke, nodded at Dick, who had quickly jerked the wrinkles out of the bed where they had been sitting, and started for the door. Dick said in quite a natural voice, not too loud:
“—so if you don’t feel up to going out, I’ll tell Nicole and we’ll have a very quiet last evening.”
The precautions were needless, for the situation of the parties outside the door was so harassed as to preclude any but the most fleeting judgements on matters not pertinent to themselves. Standing there was Abe, aged by several months in the last twenty-four hours, and a very frightened, concerned coloured man, whom Abe introduced as Mr Peterson, of Stockholm.
“He’s in a terrible situation and it’s my fault,” said Abe. “We need some good advice.”
“Come in our rooms,” said Dick.
Abe insisted that Rosemary come too, and they crossed the hall to the Divers’ suite. Jules Peterson, a small, respectable Negro, on the suave model that heels the Republican party in the border states, followed.
It appeared that the latter had been a legal witness to the early-morning dispute in Montparnasse; he had accompanied Abe to the police station and supported his assertion that a thousand-franc note had been seized out of his hand by a Negro, whose identification was one of the points of the case. Abe and Jules Peterson, accompanied by an agent of police, returned to the bistro and too hastily identified as the criminal a Negro who, so it was established after an hour, had only entered the place after Abe left. The police had further complicated the situation by arresting the prominent Negro restaurateur, Freeman, who had drifted through the alcoholic fog at a very early stage and then vanished. The true culprit, whose case, as reported by his friends, was that he had merely commandeered a fifty-franc note to pay for drinks that Abe had ordered, had only recently, and in a somewhat sinister role, reappeared upon the scene.
In brief, Abe had succeeded in the space of an hour in entangling himself with the personal lives, consciences, and emotions of one Afro-European and three Afro-Americans inhabiting the Latin Quarter. The disentanglement was not even faintly in sight and the day had passed in an atmosphere of unfamiliar Negro faces bobbing up in unexpected places and around unexpected corners, and insistent Negro voices on the phone.
In person, Abe had succeeded in evading all of them, save Jules Peterson. Peterson was rather in the position of the friendly Indian who had helped a white. The Negroes who suffered from the betrayal were not so much after Abe as after Peterson, and Peterson was very much after what protection he might get from Abe.
Up in Stockholm Peterson had failed as a small manufacturer of shoe polish and now possessed only his formula and sufficient trade tools to fill a small box; however, his new protector had promised in the early hours to set him up in business in Versailles. Abe’s former chauffeur was a shoemaker there and Abe had handed Peterson two hundred francs on account.
Rosemary listened with distaste to this rigmarole; to appreciate its grotesquerie required a more robust sense of humour than hers. The little man with his portable manufactory, his insincere eyes that, from time to time, rolled white semi-circles of panic into view; the figure of Abe, his face as blurred as the gaunt fine lines of it would permit—all this was as remote from her as sickness.
“I ask only a chance in life,” said Peterson with the sort of precise yet distorted intonation peculiar to colonial countries. “My methods are simple, my formula is so good that I was drove away from Stockholm, ruined, because I did not care to dispose of it.”
Dick regarded him politely—interest formed, dissolved, he turned to Abe.
“You go to some hotel and go to bed. After you’re all straight Mr Peterson will come and see you.”
“But don’t you appreciate the mess that Peterson’s in?” Abe protested.
“I shall wait in the hall,” said Mr Peterson with delicacy. “It is perhaps hard to discuss my problems in front of me.”
He withdrew after a short travesty of a French bow; Abe pulled himself to his feet with the deliberation of a locomotive.
“I don’t seem highly popular to-day.”
“Popular but not probable,” Dick told him. “My advice is to leave this hotel—by way of the bar, if you want. Go to the Chambord, or if you’ll need a lot of service, go over to the Majestic.”
“Could I annoy you for a drink?”
“There’s not a thing up here,” Dick lied.
Resignedly Abe shook hands with Rosemary; he composed his face slowly, holding her hand a long time and forming sentences that did not emerge.
“You are the most—one of the most——”
She was sorry, and rather revolted at his dirty hands, but she laughed in a well-bred way, as though it were nothing unusual to her to watch a man walking in a slow dream. Often people display a curious respect for a man drunk, rather like the respect of simple races for the insane. Respect rather than fear. There is something awe-inspiring in one who has lost all inhibitions, who will do anything. Of course we make him pay afterward for his moment of superiority, his moment of impressiveness. Abe turned to Dick with a last appeal.
“If I go to a hotel and get all steamed and curry-combed, and sleep awhile, and fight off these Senegalese—could I come and spend the evening by the fireside?”
Dick nodded at him, less in agreement than in mockery, and said: “You have a high opinion of your current capacities.”
“I bet if Nicole was here she’d let me come back.”
“All right.” Dick went to a trunk tray and brought a box to the central table; inside were innumerable cardboard letters.
“You can come if you want to play anagrams.”
Abe eyed the contents of the box with physical revulsion, as though he had been asked to cat them like oats.
“What are anagrams? Haven’t I had enough strange—?”
“It’s a quiet game. You spell words with them—any word except alcohol.”
“I bet you can spell alcohol,” Abe plunged his hand among the counters. “Can I come back if I can spell alcohol?”
“You can come back if you want to play anagrams.”
Abe shook his head resignedly.
“If you’re in that frame of mind there’s no use—I’d just be in the way.” He waved his finger reproachfully at Dick. “But remember what George the Third said, that if Grant was drunk he wished he would bite the other generals.
With a last desperate glance at Rosemary from the golden corners of his eyes, he went out. To his relief Peterson was no longer in the corridor. Feeling lost and homeless he went back to ask Paul the name of that boat.
When he had tottered out, Dick and Rosemary embraced fleetingly. There was a dust of Paris over both of them through which they scented each other: the rubber guard on Dick’s fountain pen, the faintest odour of warmth from Rosemary’s neck and shoulders. For another half-minute Dick clung to the situation; Rosemary was first to return to reality.
“I must go, youngster,” she said.
They blinked at each other across a widening space, and Rosemary made an exit that she had learned young, and on which no director had ever tried to improve.
She opened the door of her room and went directly to her desk, where she had suddenly remembered leaving her wristwatch. It was there; slipping it on she glanced down at the daily letter to her mother, finishing the last sentence in her mind. Then, rather gradually, she realized without turning about that she was not alone in the room.
In an inhabited room there are refracting objects only half noticed; varnished wood, more or less polished brass, silver, and ivory, and beyond these a thousand conveyors of light and shadow so mild that one scarcely thinks of them as that, the tops of picture-frames, the edges of pencils or ash-trays, of crystal or china ornaments; the totality of this refraction—appealing to equally subtle reflexes of the vision as well as to those associational fragments in the subconscious that we seem to hang on to, as a glass-fitter keeps the irregularly shaped pieces that may do some time—this fact might account for what Rosemary afterward mystically described as “realizing” that there was someone in the room, before she could determine it. But when she did realize it she turned swift in a sort of ballet step and saw that a dead Negro was stretched upon her bed.
As she cried “aaouu!” and her still unfastened wristwatch banged against the desk she had the preposterous idea that it was Abe North. Then she dashed for the door and across the hall.
Dick was straightening up; he had examined the gloves worn that day and thrown then into a pile of soiled gloves in a corner of a trunk. He had hung up coat and vest and spread his shirt on another hanger—a trick of his own. “You’ll wear a shirt that’s a little dirty where you won’t wear a mussed shirt.” Nicole had come in and was dumping one of Abe’s extraordinary ash-trays into the waste-basket when Rosemary tore into the room.
“Dick! Dick! Come and see!”
Dick jogged across the hall into her room. He knelt to Peterson’s heart, and felt the pulse—the body was warm, the face, harassed and indirect in life, was gross and bitter in death; the box of materials was held under one arm, but the shoe that dangled over the bedside was bare of polish and its sole was worn through. By French law Dick had no right to touch the body, but he moved the arm a little to see something—there was a stain on the green coverlet, there would be faint blood on the blanket beneath.
Dick closed the door and stood thinking; he heard cautious steps in the corridor and then Nicole calling him by name. Opening the door he whispered: “Bring the couverture and top blankets from one of our beds—don’t let any one see you.” Then, noticing the strained look on her face, he added quickly, “Look here, you mustn’t get upset over this—it’s only some nigger scrap.”
“I want it to be over.”
The body, as Dick lifted it, was light and ill-nourished. He held it so that further haemorrhages from the wound would flow into the man’s clothes. Laying it beside the bed he stripped off the coverlet and top blanket and then opening the door an inch, listened—there was a clank of dishes down the hall followed by a loud patronizing “Merci Madame,” but the waiter went in the other direction, toward the service stairway. Quickly Dick and Nicole exchanged bundles across the corridor; after spreading this covering on Rosemary’s bed, Dick stood sweating in the warm twilight, considering. Certain points had become apparent to him in the moment following his examination of the body; first, that Abe’s first hostile Indian had tracked the friendly Indian and discovered him in the corridor and, when the latter had taken desperate refuge in Rosemary’s room, had hunted down and slain him; second, that if the situation were allowed to develop naturally, no power on earth could keep the smear off Rosemary—the paint was scarcely dry on the Arbuckle case. Her contract was contingent upon an obligation to continue rigidly and unexceptionally as Daddy’s Girl.
Automatically Dick made the old motion of turning up his sleeves, though he wore a sleeveless undershirt, and bent over the body. Getting a purchase on the shoulders of the coat he kicked open the door with his heel, and dragged the body quickly into a plausible position in the corridor. He came back into Rosemary’s room and smoothed back the grain of the plush floor rug. Then he went to the phone in his suite and called the manager-owner of the hotel.
“McBeth?—it’s Doctor Diver speaking—something very important. Are we on a more or less private line?”
It was good that he had made the extra effort which had firmly entrenched him with Mr McBeth. Here was one use for all the pleasingness that Dick had expended over a large area he would never retrace.
“Going out of the suite we came on a dead Negro… in the hall… no, no, he’s a civilian. Wait a minute now—I knew you didn’t want any guests to blunder on the body so I’m phoning you. Of course I must ask you to keep my name out of it. I don’t want any French red tape just because I discovered the man.”
What exquisite consideration for the hotel! Only because Mr McBeth, with his own eyes, had seen these traits in Doctor Diver two nights before, could he credit the story without question.
In a minute Mr McBeth arrived and in another minute he was joined by a gendarme. In the interval he found time to whisper to Dick, “You can be sure the name of any guest will be protected. I’m only too grateful to you for your pains.” Mr McBeth took an immediate step that may only be imagined, but that influenced the gendarme so as to make him pull his moustaches in a frenzy of uneasiness and greed. He made perfunctory notes and sent a telephone call to his post. Meanwhile with a celerity that Jules Peterson, as a business man, would have quite understood, the remains were carried into another apartment of one of the most fashionable hotels in the world.
Dick went back to his salon.
“What happened?” cried Rosemary. “Do all the Americans in Paris just shoot at each other all the time?”
“This seems to be the open season,” he answered. “Where’s Nicole?”
“I think she’s in the bathroom.”
She adored him for saving her—disasters that could have attended upon the event had passed in prophecy through her mind; and she had listened in wild worship to his strong, sure, polite voice making it all right. But before she reached him in a sway of soul and body his attention focused on something else; he went into the bedroom and toward the bathroom. And now Rosemary, too, could hear, louder and louder, a verbal inhumanity that penetrated the keyholes and the cracks in the door, swept into the suite and in the shape of horror took form again.
With the idea that Nicole had fallen in the bathroom and hurt herself, Rosemary followed Dick. That was not the condition of affairs at which she stared before Dick shouldered her back and brusquely blocked her view.
Nicole knelt beside the tub swaying sidewise and side-wise. “It’s you!” she cried, “—it’s you come to intrude on the only privacy I have in the world—with your spread with red blood on it. I’ll wear it for you—I’m not ashamed, though it was such a pity. On All Fools’ Day we had a party on the Zurichsee, and all the fools were there, and I wanted to come dressed in a spread but they wouldn’t let me—”
“—so I sat in the bathroom and they brought me a domino and said wear that. I did. What else could I do?”
“Control yourself, Nicole!”
“I never expected you to love me—it was too late—only don’t come in the bathroom, the only place I can go for privacy, dragging spreads with red blood on them and asking me to fix them.”
“Control yourself. Get up—”
Rosemary, back in the salon, heard the bathroom door bang, and stood trembling: now she knew what Violet McKisco had seen in the bathroom at Villa Diana. She answered the ringing phone and almost cried with relief when she found it was Collis Clay, who had traced her to the Divers’ apartment. She asked him to come up while she got her hat, because she was afraid to go into her room alone.
Doctor Richard Diver and Mrs Elsie Speers sat in the Cafe des Allies in August, under cool and dusty trees. The sparkle of the mica was dulled by the baked ground, and a few gusts of mistral from down the coast seeped through the Esterel and rocked the fishing boats in the harbour, pointing the masts here and there at a featureless sky.
“I had a letter this morning,” said Mrs Speers. “What a terrible time you all must have had with those Negroes! But Rosemary said you were perfectly wonderful to her.”
“Rosemary ought to have a service stripe. It was pretty harrowing—the only person it didn’t disturb was Abe North. He flew off to Havre—he probably doesn’t know about it yet.”
“I’m sorry Mrs Diver was upset,” she said carefully.
Rosemary had written from Paris:
“Nicole seemed Out of her Mind. I didn’t want to come South with them because I felt Dick had enough on his hands.”
“She’s all right now.” He spoke almost impatiently,” So you’re leaving to-morrow. When will you sail?” “Right away.”
“My God, it’s awful to have you go.”
“We’re glad we came here. We’ve had a good time, thanks to you. You’re the first man Rosemary ever cared for.”
Another gust of wind strained around the porphyry hills of la Napoule. There was a hint in the air that the earth was hurrying on toward other weather; the lush midsummer moment outside of time was already over.
“Rosemary’s had crushes, but sooner or later she always turned the man over to me”—Mrs Speers laughed—“for dissection.”
“So I was spared.”
“There was nothing I could have done. She was in love with you before I ever saw you. I told her to go ahead.”
He saw that no provision had been made for him, or for Nicole, in Mrs Speers’ plans—and he saw that her amorality sprang from the conditions of her own withdrawal. It was her right, the pension on which her own emotions had retired. Women are necessarily capable of almost anything in their struggle for survival and can scarcely be convicted of such man-made crimes as “cruelty”. So long as the shuffle of love and pain went on within proper walls Mrs Speers could view it with as much detachment and humour as a eunuch. She had not even allowed for the possibility of Rosemary’s being damaged—or was she certain that she couldn’t be?
“If what you say is true I don’t think it did her any harm.” He was keeping up to the end the pretence that he could still think objectively about Rosemary. “She’s over it already. Still—so many of the important times in life begin by seeming incidental.”
“This wasn’t incidental,” Mrs Speers insisted. “You were the first man—you’re an ideal to her. In every letter she says that.”
“She’s so polite.”
“You and Rosemary are the politest people I’ve ever known, but she means this.”
“My politeness is a trick of the heart.”
This was partly true. From his father Dick had learned the somewhat conscious good manners of the young Southerner coming north after the Civil War. Often he used them and just as often he despised them because they were not a protest against how unpleasant selfishness was, but against how unpleasant it looked.
“I’m in love with Rosemary,” he told her suddenly. “It’s a kind of self-indulgence saying that to you.”
It seemed very strange and official to him, as if the very tables and chairs in the Cafe des Allies would remember it forever. Already he felt her absence from these skies: on the beach he could only remember the sun-torn flesh of her shoulder; at Tarmes he crushed out her footprints as he crossed the garden; and now the orchestra launching into the “Nice Carnival Song”, an echo of last year’s vanished gaieties, started the little dance that went on all about her. In a hundred hours she had come to possess all the world’s dark magic; the blinding belladonna, the caffeine converting physical into nervous energy, the mandragora that imposes harmony.
With an effort he once more accepted the fiction that he shared Mrs Speers’ detachment.
“You and Rosemary aren’t really alike,” he said. “The wisdom she got from you is all moulded up into her persona, into the mask she faces the world with. She doesn’t think; her real depths are Irish and romantic and illogical.”
Mrs Speers knew too that Rosemary, for all her delicate surface, was a young mustang, perceptibly by Captain Doctor Hoyt, U.S.A. Cross-sectioned, Rosemary would have displayed an enormous heart, liver, and soul, all crammed close together under the lovely shell.
Saying good-bye, Dick was aware of Elsie Speers’ full charm, aware that she meant rather more to him than merely a last unwillingly relinquished fragment of Rosemary. He could possibly have made up Rosemary; he could never have made up her mother. If the cloak, spurs, and brilliants in which Rosemary had walked off were things with which he had endowed her, it was nice in contrast to watch her mother’s grace, knowing it was surely something he had not evoked. She had an air of seeming to wait, as if for a man to get through with something more important than herself, a battle or an operation, during which he must not be hurried or interfered with. When the man had finished she would be waiting, without fret or impatience somewhere on a high stool, turning the pages of a newspaper.
“Good-bye—and I want you both to remember always how fond of you Nicole and I have grown.”
Back at the Villa Diana, he went to his workroom and opened the shutters, closed against the mid-day glare. On his two long tables, in ordered confusion, lay the materials of his book. Volume I, concerned with Classification, had achieved some success in a small subsidized edition. He was negotiating for its reissue. Volume II was to be a great amplification of his first little book, A Psychology for Psychiatrists. Like so many men he had found that he had only one or two ideas—that his little collection of pamphlets now in its fiftieth German edition contained the germ of all he would ever think or know.
But he was currently uneasy about the whole thing. He resented the wasted years at New Haven, but mostly he felt a discrepancy between the growing luxury in which the Divers lived and the need for display that apparently went along with it. Remembering his Rumanian friend’s story, about the man who had worked for years on the brain of an armadillo, he suspected that patient Germans were sitting close to the libraries of Berlin and Vienna callously anticipating him. He had about decided to brief the work in its present condition and publish it in an undocumented volume of a hundred thousand words as an introduction to more scholarly volumes to follow.
He confirmed this decision walking around the rays of late afternoon in his workroom. With the new plan he could be through by spring. It seemed to him that when a man with his energy was pursued for a year by increasing doubts, it indicated some fault in the plan.
He laid the bars of gilded metal that he used as paperweights along the sheaves of notes. He swept up, for no servant was allowed in here, treated his washroom sketchily with Bon Ami, repaired a screen, and sent off an order to a publishing house in Zurich. Then he drank an ounce of gin with twice as much water.
He saw Nicole in the garden. Presently he must encounter her and the prospect gave him a leaden feeling. Before her he must keep up a perfect front, now and to-morrow, next week and next year. All night in Paris he had held her in his arms while she slept light under the luminol; in the early morning he broke in upon her confusion before it could form, with words of tenderness and protection, and she slept again with his face against the warm scent of her hair. Before she woke he had arranged everything at the phone in the next room. Rosemary was to move to another hotel. She was to be Daddy’s Girl and even to give up saying goodbye to them. The proprietor of the hotel, Mr McBeth, was to be the three Chinese monkeys. Packing amid the piled boxes and tissue paper of many purchases, Dick and Nicole left for the Riviera at noon.
Then there was a reaction. As they settled down in the wagon-lit Dick saw that Nicole was waiting for it, and it came quickly and desperately, before the train was out of the Ceinture—his only instinct was to step off while the train was going slow, rush back and see where Rosemary was, what she was doing. He opened a book and bent his pince-nez upon it, aware that Nicole was watching him from her pillow across the compartment. Unable to read, he pretended to be tired and shut his eyes, but she was still watching him and, though still she was half asleep from the hangover of the drug, she was relieved and almost happy that he was hers again.
It was worse with his eyes shut, for it gave a rhythm of finding and losing, finding and losing; but so as not to appear restless he lay like that until noon. At luncheon things were better—it was always a fine meal; a thousand lunches in inns and restaurants, wagon-lits, and airplanes were a mighty collation to have taken together. The familiar hurry of the train waiters, the little bottles of wine and mineral water, the excellent food of the Paris—Lyon—Mediterranee gave them the illusion that everything was the same as before, but it was almost the first trip he had ever taken with Nicole that was a going away rather than a going toward. He drank a whole bottle of wine save for Nicole’s single glass; they talked about the house and the children. But once back in the compartment a silence fell over them like the silence in the restaurant across from the Luxembourg. Receding from a grief, it seems necessary to retrace the same steps that brought us there. An unfamiliar impatience settled on Dick; suddenly Nicole said:
“It seemed too bad to leave Rosemary like that—do you suppose she’ll be all right?”
“Of course. She could take care of herself anywhere—” Lest this belittle Nicole’s ability to do likewise, he added, “After all, she’s an actress, and even though her mother’s in the background she has to look out for herself.”
“She’s very attractive.”
“She’s an infant.”
“She’s attractive, though.”
They talked aimlessly back and forth, each speaking for the other.
“She’s not as intelligent as I thought,” Dick offered.
“She’s quite smart.”
“Not very, though—there’s a persistent aroma of the nursery.”
“She’s very—very pretty,” Nicole said in a detached, emphatic way, “and I thought she was very good in the picture.”
“She was well directed. Thinking it over, it wasn’t very individual.”
“I thought it was. I can see how she’d be very attractive to men.”
His heart twisted. To what men? How many men?
—Do you mind if I pull down the curtain?
—Please do, it’s too light in here.
Where now? And with whom?
“In a few years she’ll look ten years older than you.”
“On the contrary. I sketched her one night on a theatre programme, I think she’ll last.”
They were both restless in the night. In a day or two Dick would try to banish the ghost of Rosemary before it became walled up with them, but for the moment he had no force to do it. Sometimes it is harder to deprive oneself of a pain than of a pleasure, and the memory so possessed him that for the moment there was nothing to do but to pretend. This was more difficult because he was currently annoyed with Nicole, who, after all these years, should recognize symptoms of strain in herself and guard against them. Twice within a fortnight she had broken up: there had been the night of the dinner at Tarmes, when he had found her in her bedroom dissolved in crazy laughter telling Mrs McKisco she could not go into the bathroom because the key was thrown down the well. Mrs McKisco was astonished and resentful, baffled and yet in a way comprehending. Dick had not been particularly alarmed then, for afterward Nicole was repentant. She called at Gausse’s hotel but the McKiscos were gone.
The collapse in Paris was another matter, adding significance to the first one. It prophesied possibly a new cycle, a new pousse of the malady. Having gone through unprofessional agonies during her long relapse following the birth of Topsy, their second child, he had hardened himself about her, making a cleavage between Nicole sick and Nicole well. This made it difficult now to distinguish between his self-protective professional detachment and some new coldness in his heart. As an indifference cherished, or left to atrophy, becomes an emptiness, to this extent he had learned to become empty of Nicole, serving her against his will with negations and emotional neglect. One writes of scars healed, a loose parallel to the pathology of the skin, but there is no such thing in the life of an individual. There are open wounds, shrunk sometimes to the size of a pin-prick, but wounds still. The marks of suffering are more comparable to the loss of a finger, or of the sight of an eye. We may not miss them, either, for one minute in a year, but if we should there is nothing to be done about it.
He found Nicole in the garden with her arms folded high on her shoulders. She looked at him with straight grey eyes, with a child’s searching wonder.
“I went to Cannes,” he said. “I ran into Mrs Speers. She’s leaving to-morrow. She wanted to come up and say goodbye to you, but I slew the idea.”
“I’m sorry. I’d like to have seen her. I like her.”
“Who else do you think I saw—Bartholomew Tailor.”
“I couldn’t have missed that face of his, the old experienced weasel. He was looking over the ground for Ciro’s menagerie—they’ll all be down next year. I suspected Mrs Abrams was a sort of outpost.”
“And Baby was outraged the first summer we came here.”
“They don’t really give a damn where they are, so I don’t see why they don’t stay and freeze in Deauville.”
“Can’t we start rumours about cholera or something?”
“I told Bartholomew that some categories died off like flies here—I told him the life of a suck was as short as the life of a machine-gunner in the war.”
“No, I didn’t,” he admitted. “He was very pleasant. It was a beautiful sight, he and I shaking hands there on the boulevard. The meeting of Sigmund Freud and Ward McAllister.”
Dick didn’t want to talk—he wanted to be alone so that his thoughts about work and the future would overpower his thoughts of love and to-day. Nicole knew about it but only darkly and tragically, hating him a little in an animal way, yet wanting to rub against his shoulder.
“The darling,” Dick said lightly.
He went into the house, forgetting something he wanted to do there, and then remembering it was the piano. He sat down whistling and played by ear:
“Just picture you upon my knee
With tea for two and two for tea
And me for you and you for me—”
Through the melody flowed a sudden realization that Nicole, hearing it, would guess quickly at a nostalgia for the past fortnight. He broke off with a casual chord and left the piano.
It was hard to know where to go. He glanced about the house that Nicole had made, that Nicole’s grandfather had paid for. He owned only his work house and the ground on which it stood. Out of three thousand a year and what dribbled in from his publications he paid for his clothes and personal expenses, for cellar charges, and for Lanier’s education, so far confined to a nurse’s wage. Never had a move been contemplated without Dick’s figuring his share. Living rather ascetically, travelling third-class when he was alone, with the cheapest wine, and good care of his clothes, and penalizing himself for any extravagances, he maintained a qualified financial independence. After a certain point, though, it was difficult—again and again it was necessary to decide together as to the uses to which Nicole’s money should be put. Naturally Nicole, wanting to own him, wanting him to stand still for ever, encouraged any slackness on his part, and in multiplying ways he was constantly inundated by a trickling of goods and money. The inception of the idea of the cliff villa, which they had elaborated as a fantasy one day, was a typical example of the forces divorcing them from the first simple arrangements in Zurich.
“Wouldn’t it be fun if—?” it had been; and then, “Won’t it be fun when—?”
It was not so much fun. His work became confused with Nicole’s problems; in addition, her income had increased so fast of late that it seemed to belittle his work. Also, for the purpose of her cure, he had for many years pretended to a rigid domesticity from which he was drifting away, and the pretence became more arduous in this effortless immobility, in which he was inevitably subjected to microscopic examination. When Dick could no longer play what he wanted to play on the piano, it was an indication that life was being refined down to a point. He stayed in the big room a long time, listening to the buzz of the electric clock, listening to time.
Abe's departure from the Gare Saint-Lazare, in Chapter VII of Book III, is one of the most worked-over scenes in the novel. Fitzgerald had tried many versions of it, saving only the best phrases from each. In the earlier versions it was hinted that Abe's easy life with the Divers had destroyed his ambition and that his hopeless love for Nicole was his excuse for drinking himself to death. ... At one time, Fitzgerald planned to start Book III, 'Casualties', with this chapter. It is the point where the story ceases to be told from Rosemary's angle.
The French in Tender was checked over by a Frenchman, with the result that it came out much better than the Italian or the German, but a good many mistakes crept into it. On this page, for example, the store with shirts in the window belonged to a chain of haberdasheries called Aux Cent Mille Chemises, not, as he wrote it, 1000 Chemises.
At the beginning of Chapter IX was the dialogue with an American newspaper vendor (pages 120-121 of the first edition) which Fitzgerald decided to omit.
Abe was getting his geography mixed, as well as his telephone conversations. Later we learn that Mr Peterson came from Stockholm and that the race riot was not in Montmartre but on the other side of the Seine, in Montparnasse.
Abe's day in the Ritz bar was described at much greater length in the version of the novel that appeared in Scribner's Magazine. It was one of the brilliant passages that Fitzgerald sacrificed without regret, on the principle that his central effect should be obtained with the greatest possible economy of means.
The phrase in the first edition, 'her face getting big as it came up to him,' has been omitted after 'Presently she kissed him several times in the mouth.' Fitzgerald copied the phrase from his notebook and forgot that it was also being used in Book One.