This all happened a long time ago, before Vengeance of God and the Japanese War, and it concerns itself with having a good time: and how to. Most of the formulas for pleasure at that time were, presumably, outworn and the rites become inadequate to postwar spiritual exigencies of the early Twenties—since so many people were so nearly bored to death. Everybody had to be wonderful after that war: wonderfully enduring the eccentricities of the tragic destinies then in fashion. Beatitudes of prosperity steeped the world in abeyant promise; cars streamed through the dusk and lost themselves in the costly rites of happiness beyond Queensboro Bridge. Woolworth installed a special counter of silver spoons and the lilies at Schling’s turned gilt overnight. All things which were expected had been expected for so long that plans had begun to wear the mark of doom. Even the muddles of the day were, largely, unprecedentedly ominous.
Glittering dusks muffled the side streets of New York in truncate splendors; the whitest of mornings removed all personal implication from the scene. Many souls, unaccustomed to thinking of themselves in terms of such magnitude, turned to drink; it made the brooding more companionable. Others began to drift about over Europe. So, eventually, it touched them too and the Joneses decided to leave. There had to be a reason for this, for neither the social status nor the natural predilections of Fedora and Jayce Jones permitted of reflexive responsibility.
Of course, he was glad of the bondage—as it might be termed. Nobody ever said that he had sold himself, though he might have brought considerable in the open market: his courageous features and the costly glow of professional health and the gently controlled right of criticism in his manner: these are collectors’ items in metropoles. To him, her money only clinked when one opened the family closets; exteriorly she was ingeniously imperious, keenly appreciative, impersonally responsive, and decidedly not to be bothered about what make of voiture molded the contours of the Champs-Elysees from year to year. Another thing: she was still a pretty woman. Though the elegance of her appurtenance was never insistent, one knew intuitively that she kept regular appointments at the hairdresser and the masseuse; though the freshness was no longer spontaneous, it breathed an air of costly secrecy which was, perhaps, the more engaging.
By mutual consent they declared New York given up.
“I simply cannot do this thing again——” that from him in front of her mother’s damask curtains, shaming her grandmother’s portrait, shaming the Rubens, shaming the Sevres, and doing heaven knows what to the autographed memoirs.
“——but Mother is so well-meaning.”
“But she does feel that life could be better.” Jayce pulled himself up looking for the last straw. Not finding any, he continued astutely, “It’s not that they mean to be superior; it’s just that whatever I do does not affect the stock market or the listing of the family pew so that most of my actions pass unremarked.”
“I’m sure they’re proud of you,” Fedora suggested politely.
“They don’t care what I think about anything save how well done the roast is.”
Jayce, feeling that his repertoire was being frittered away, finished grandly,—“They’re a damned lot of stuffed asses,” he yelled triumphantly.
There was enough of her family in Fedora for that last to sound improbable—another of those things to be assuaged, a sort of unaccountable temperamentality; not as bad as a drug addict but impolitely aberratory.
Jayce half wept—“O my dearest one,” he protested. “Don’t think that I have forgotten all our little things together: the Sundays at home, and you in the bathtub and the duets and—everything.”
Fedora smiled indulgently. “Your mother used to melt into the portraits when you sang,” pursued Jayce wistfully. “Why doesn’t your mother melt any more?” he pursued, his face lighting up. “Why doesn’t she just melt now?” he demanded. “It was such a good idea.”
What Fedora couldn’t stand was the uncatalogued strain.
Acting on the urgency of a black-silk Sunday, “Mother,” she said,—“You should make more effort to get along with Jayce; he’s sort of hurt sometimes.”
“My Dear——” Mrs. Highgate never did anything so committal as to glower,—“that borders on false witness, you really must see the clergyman.”
“You know”—Fedora went on implacably—“he is not just a family retainer—he’ll have bigger obligations when”—not being able to think when, Fedora decided on the academic version—“when the lawyer dies.”
“He’s so charming,” murmured Mrs. Highgate, “so charming. I love having you here—the sense of inevitability is so assuring.” Mrs. Highgate lapsed into self-hypnosis. “We’ve just got the nicest husband,” she continued to herself. “Why, if it weren’t for Jayce there wouldn’t be half the confusion.”
“Stop talking baby talk.”
Mrs. Highgate deliberated, “The trouble is, Fedora, that you don’t make enough of your husband. You will find someday that you can more easily get your way by making a grand hullabaloo over his. Now, I, for instance, adore him; thus I am free to mind my own business as far as Jayce is concerned.”
So finally, when Jayce gave up the family job and refused to put foot in the Rolls, they looked up some places in the almanac and sailed. Choosing the proper setting for fostering the proper appreciation, stimulating his inspiration and altogether keeping them from dying, or being vanquished or however you want to put it, they fled to southern France.
Around Hyeres on the coast of Provence the land is time-strewn and memory-worn. Poppies shatter in midsummer ecstasy over the fields; the pines are old and resin-dripped and lanes swoon under the aura of honeysuckle. Dust of the grain steeps the long roads in memory. After a while the way climbs, hangs precariously over much sea and space, is patched to the earth with bright plaster villas swung through blue eternities of sun-tempered air. The land is lone and virginal; here is a rendezvous of weathers. As the way careens up the pink coast at Golf Juan, the world again bears witness to the maps. Browned people splash themselves with the goodness of life along a shore quietly humming to itself of the imperishability of its dusks and the unpregnability of its noons—weather designed to conserve the aspirations of many people who had thought all along that the first objective of life was to die efficiently. Cosmic intent takes a new breath: good wine and good ways and the acceptance of days. Juan-les-Pins and Antibes come down to earth with bright prescriptions for pleasure and formulas of beauty which save the mind much wear and tear of inventing further raison d’etre. Here people from many countries rest their souls amidst the colorful immaculacies of the meticulous paradise from St-Raphael to Nice.
Nice Christian people.
There was no telling what made the garden the way it was. There were olive trees with roots in Palestine and ferns from Paul Rousseau and paths keeping tryst under the pines and eucalyptus. This was a blessed world and they were fine healthy solvent people; for its great beneficence, they gave voluble thanks to the social structure.
“Isn’t it wonderful that people invented this?”
“Isn’t it swell that we have been thus enabled——?”
“I am so glad that Jayce learned about France in his geography——”
“——and from friends at college.”
Agreeing that the perspicacity of their acumen and the poesies of their aspirations had indeed richly endowed life, they blessed themselves and thanked each other and gave great credit to Harvard and Yale. Not one remembered to thank the Lord.
That’s a lovely villa beyond the bend of the road storing in its glass-paned chambers all the sky and fragrance left over when its pine-bursed balconies were finished. It swings across the gravel plateau and, swooning unpremeditatedly out beyond the foundations, ricochets the late sun back into the garden paths beneath. It is a garden where rendezvous and serenade have been incubating since they went out of fashion elsewhere. The Joneses live there: their names are incontrovertibly painted in gold on an azure board where steps plunge desperately from the high road into the garden’s first overtures to adventure; Jayce Jones, Fedora Jones, as plain as if it were in American.
It did not take long for them to become indigenous: arrangements were made for shipments of American silk and English whiskey and reading matter from the States. Fedora had soon inculcated a felicitous New York technique into the maid-servants and fitting British mannerisms into the valet. Jayce was finding more time to assert himself and plenty of time to magnify the various significancies—which hadn’t changed as much as he had, privately, expected.
There was a low-slung beach winding itself under the imperviously promissory heavens until it fell dead in love with the pines. Its protectiveness, gleaning the morning of tentative ecstasies, echoed the remoteness with cosmic happinesses. The Joneses went there every noon, scattering themselves through the sunshine looking for things; bright-colored bits of memory, sea monsters and cataclysmic items from the morning paper. There were other people; Fedora and Jayce went along on the assumption that they would get to know them. It began with that intricate-looking brown man, for instance, who kept explaining things into and out of the lives of the other two with him.
They definitely didn’t like the brown-boned person, and the people with him echoed his sinister suavities: a ballet dancer, porcelain-limbed and theoretically articulated with the beseeching eyes of a faun, and a man. After a little while Fedora noticed the man; definitely. He was reminiscent of the ideals of some earlier day and she soon found herself wondering about the authenticities of her bathing suit whenever he appeared. His hair was pale gold, his features promised the excitement of various interpretations, and he moved poetically. Mr. Brown-Bones unpremeditatedly introduced the whole lot with emphasis—indeed, as he let it be known, Tillyium was a poet: all Mr. Brown-Bones’ visitors were distinguished. “And I want you to get to know each other,” unctuously insisted the impresario. He did not say why.
Fedora soon noticed that the poet’s flair for dramatization did not confine itself to the theatre; Fedora was forgetting her regular prescripts of male desirability before she’s had time to get them ready for reference.
Jayce, hopefully abandoning himself to the rites of possible adventure, was addressing himself fervently to Mademoiselle.
“So you are Belanova. I’ve gone home on my toes many times after your performance.” He laughed encouragingly. Her English was not perfect, it required attention to follow her. Jayce hadn’t had such a good time in years: it was something like this which he had planned for the more inspired sequences for life: items, which could be termed, in terms of any retrospect, discreetly evocative.
“Listen,” he said urgently when they got home, “I want to see something of those people, they’d be helpful to me.”
Fedora considered: she didn’t care, Jayce probably needed help: men were supposed to, according to Fedora. Maybe Brown-Bones and the other younger one—needed help also; Fedora remembered how she’s often thought of writing poetry herself sometimes at night when Jayce had been mean to her. The thing was working out very questionably enough.
Anyway, Mr. Brown-Bones basked proprietorily as he got more and more rides in the Joneses’ car. He seemed inordinately happy about something; something sweet smelling and deferential, as the car settled over the roads like a powerful wind alighting, whirring up a story as much to Brown-Bones’ liking as it was to his convenience—as were most things to Brown-Bones if they deserved his attention at all. “If Monsieur Jones was going to Nice anyway, Mr. Brown-Bones would be glad of the lift” or, “if Madame Jones was sure that it wouldn’t be out of her way—that is, if she had an engagement at the chateau anyway—would she be so kind——”
Fedora has never understood how people with everything could be restless because her own happiness was an official estate, bearing an undercurrent of defensiveness as if the less fortunate estates of others were a constant challenge to her precepts of grace. Yet the weeks were piling up restraints, cumulative discontent augmenting itself with every good night.
“What a wonderful party,” they told each other, letting it be implied to each that the pleasure was his own peculiar contribution, growing vaguely regretful about having to include the others. Nightingales haunted the garden and the threat of ghosts hung abeyant over the stillness of outgoing tides; good nights were wrung from the promise of dawn. Things were even as could be expected; life knew its business and kept its obligations—given half a chance.
It was the best party they’d had in ages. Belanova glowed spectrally in the dusk and Jayce, remarking to himself how much easier it is to find a felicitous phrase in French, was almost spitefully attentive. Tillyium said, “My dear people, now let me tell you about the night.”
“There aren’t any tea leaves,” protested Fedora hastily, wondering which night he would choose.
“It’s a very remarkable night,” he insisted. His voice was as full of innuendo as if he were about to confide a revelation peculiar to himself yet relevant to all. His voice extolled the beauties of love, now that love was more promising amidst all these felicities.
For a couple of weeks Fedora had been anxious; he might tell Jayce about kissing her that day in Nice. Tillyium, she reminded herself daringly, was a poet, and as such likely to be more interested in possibilities of drama than in her convenience. “Couldn’t you tell us tomorrow?”
“No.” Peering behind the oleanders distractedly for a comprehensive phrase, he made Fedora more than nervous.
That was the third bottle of champagne over which the row precipitated; it wasn’t so much a row as the bitter restraint of a row. For they wanted to know if each other was trying to tell the other what to do.
“Let him talk,” insisted Jayce.
“No,” said Fedora. “This is not the time to talk about the night.”
“There, the same old protagonist!”
“——never mind, they said, probably a touch of liver.”
“Let us be embittered,” breathed Fedora wistfully.
“Well,” said Jayce peremptorily, “I’d just as soon let you. Just go on,” contributed Jayce, “pretending things are perfect; any dunce could see we’re all upset—I think the garden is haunted, personally.”
Fedora muffled her protest in polite incredulity.
“You should see the clergyman,” she expostulated. “Listen to me, Jayce—you buy things and give them away and there are many things which need your attention—why aren’t things all right?”
Jayce breathed fervently. “Truly inexcusable,” he muttered.
“Jayce always feels that the world should end at twilight,” Fedora went on to herself.
“I have often wondered what made it last that long,” contributed Tillyium imperviously.
“Gin,” she said bitterly, “gin and champagne.”
The summer was no longer a closed proposition of muffled echoes and grieving bird-song and unfathomable domestic statistics. The Joneses had so many virtues: Mademoiselle Belanova smiled enigmatically across the summer night to Tillyium. Fedora decided peremptorily that she didn’t like Belanova; everything the girl did seemed completely for her own delectation.
“It seems too bad——”
“——The natural denouement,” apostrophized Jayce rapturously.
Fedora turned to the ballerina—“Dancers,” she pronounced in impeccable and meticulous banality, “never drink, do they? So they probably don’t have qualms or have to worry about evil spirits.”
Belanova, attributing the whole episode to racial peculiarity, continued corroborative. “Just a little sometimes,” she smiled, raising her glass, “when they feel blue or in love?”
Suddenly Jayce peremptorily ordered Fedora into the house.
Tillyium heard their voices scratching themselves on the cacti and palms. “But I think it’s a lovely party,” wept Fedora, “just nice the way it ought to be, considering where we are.”
“Well, I think it’s likely to be Hell,” threatened Jayce, “and I know more about the way these kind of parties ought to be than you do: this is not the right way. For instance.”
They didn’t come back for a half hour; then Jayce ran about figuratively in circles, protectively offering politesse to Belanova and preventing Fedora from further—further—he didn’t really know in what she had sinned, but the time was indicated for him to say “NO.” The hour was late; the wine began to spill; shadowy foliage grew tired about the edges of a world being frittered away by cross-purposes. Belanova said she had to go.
“You will be there tomorrow?” she wheedled Jayce; a right to expect him seemed already established—
He would be there; he’d also take her there, irrespectively.
Fedora laughed a cheap laugh, tinny like the last resistance of a cheap mechanical toy unwinding itself.
“I’ll see that he doesn’t forget,” she proffered. “He came yesterday, didn’t he, and Tuesday; and tomorrow will probably be another bright day——”
Jayce’s politeness was ominous. “You’re so thoughtful,” he threatened. “If it weren’t for my wife,” he told Belanova reassuringly, “I’d never remember my rubbers.”
“So I hear,” Belanova murmured corroboratively. “You know,” she was telling him as they climbed the path to the car—“I have often heard what a wonderful person Madame Jones is——” deferentially asking his permission to the right of opinion, her voice became fuller on purpose as she and Jayce reached the road and—and went off—concluded Fedora noncommittally—went off.
In the ghostly gloom before dawn, it seemed to Fedora that Belanova already knew Jayce better than Jayce knew his wife; well, dancers were supposed to be highly intuitive people. She was scared.
“Well,” said Tillyium, “this is not an hour for starting new things: rather than spoil the continuity——”
“O!” protested Fedora, “but you are not going to stay here to tell me things. The party is definitely over——”
“Don’t be so American,” cajoled Tillyium. “We are surely going to Nice—in pursuit of the dawn—we are going to watch the dawn coagulate”—Tillyium spread his shoulders hospitably. “Coagulate,” he repeated grandly, “above the breakfast hour at Nice.”
They must not have looked as rich as they were; the waiters were unenthusiastic. “It is too near morning,” the garcon protested, suggesting policies of more rationality.
“The calendar,” pronounced Tillyium forcing his way, “is in no wise dependable enough to influence destiny—five hours sooner in New York, breakfast time in Berlin and some other time altogether in China. Be reasonable, my old friend.”
So the management set them in a corner just in case they might be more important than they looked. Then, just in case they might not, the busboys went on sweeping the floor.
“I am in love with you,” Tillyium said officially to Fedora.
“You are not supposed to tell me,” Fedora suggested tentatively.
“Do you realize what this means coming from one of my metier?”
“Probably a new sonnet.” She pretended that her thoughts were elsewhere.
“A saga,” Tillyium agreed, “of ominously epic proportions. It begins tonight—as soon as they get through sweeping.”
“I can’t have a saga,” gloomed Fedora, “my husband doesn’t allow it.”
“As I was telling you,” went on Tillyium, “the opening scene is a Nice cafe. A very superior cafe. Come to attention,” he said peremptorily. “I am still making love to you.”
“One shouldn’t do that.”
“One has to; it is absolutely obligatory in sagas.”
The road home gleamed coldly in the wash of dawn; the context of the night was as over as the purposes of a dead man on view at the undertakers.
“I don’t want you to come in,” urged Fedora. “Jayce will surely protest.” She didn’t like what she was saying; it implied that her intimacy with him was more intimate than her relations with Jayce. She wouldn’t do that.
“I wouldn’t miss it,” protested Tillyium. “Not only that, I am going to insist on my right to iambic pentameter until after lunch.”
Though the maid was in ambush in the kitchen and the breakfast hour was over, the house was undisturbed. Fedora felt cheated: where was Jayce to make the scene? Fedora grew panicky; she had always had to have Jayce handle moments like this; maybe they should have come in by the back way.
“You’ll just have to go,” she said. “There’s nobody home.”
About three weeks later, Tillyium came in without announcing himself. The afternoon hid itself in the corners of the glass living room and swayed back and forth between the mirrored mantel and reflection of the pines in the windows.
“Has Jayce written?” he said.
Fedora anxiously sought the exact phrase. “I had a note from Paris——”
“I said,” suggested Tillyium, “what is Jayce going to do?”
Fedora didn’t know; not wanting to get in any arguments about it, she suggested placatingly, “We’ll have tea.”
“Yes,” the poet assented bitterly, “Jayce always had tea at this hour, didn’t he?”
There must be some rite which would ease the situation. “Do you sing?” said Fedora. It seemed to Tillyium that she was being relentlessly social.
“It never came out right,” defended Tillyium.
“You should have tried tea in bags——”
“I meant my singing; it varies.”
“I thought that we could try those duets——” She smiled coercively. “Jayce and I were going to try the duets if an afternoon like this ever came up.”
Tillyium laughed operatically as he followed her to the piano. “By all means,” he agreed, “the duets.”
The music didn’t fall appropriately; the sound didn’t blend with the reverberant hush of the garden and no other sounds of life modulated the blatancy.
“However,” Fedora reassured herself, “it is the very thing. How pleased Jayce would be to have Tillyium so appropriately in love with me.” She sang well: Mississippi mud and Georgia cotton field, seldom receiving such tenacious treatment, hung about the low-slung room in determined but unconvincing fanfare of homely glamours of far-off places.
“I don’t like to sing any songs; I definitely don’t like understudying.”
Fedora knew that something was going to happen: Jayce always showed the guests the sunset from the balcony after the singing; feeling vaguely apologetic about the remissness, she reminded herself that this afternoon there weren’t any guests. Then she reminded Tillyium that they were alone. No doubt Tillyium would know what to do—even without guests.
“I am not going to kiss you,” Tillyium announced prophetically, “in your husband’s house.”
Tillyium came like that for about a week. Jayce’s absence kept them apart and reduced the afternoons to uncomfortable measure. The late skies did not blaze obviously as they had in July: they blazed academically. Tillyium got tired of the sour-sweet sticky Bacardi; one could taste the label on the vermouth. He didn’t want to say that Fedora was tedious; it would be too trying to have to say that; after all the rhapsodizing he’d done, it didn’t fall into Tillyium’s poetic categories.
“Is that a chip I see on your shoulder?” Besides, that authoritatively possessive manner of Fedora’s annoyed him—annoyed him, too. Yes, that was it—too.
“But not off the old block,” replied Tillyium. “It’s a new kind of plastic chip. I am going to tell you something.” Tillyium withdrew into his official capacity. She didn’t care much what he was going to say because he wasn’t half as impressive when the breezes of Montmartre began rumpling his spirits. The week’s tentative playing with unexploited solitude had no doubt begun to wear on them both. Fedora felt a little sickly, as she had sometimes when people went out thanking her unduly for a lousy party.
“About the three bears?” She simulated excitement.
“First, I was serious when I asked you to marry me.”
It was a relief to be back on the plot, anyway.
“I have come here to flatly state something.”
Fedora, in searching for precedent, recalled the stentorian rumblings of the house in Madison Avenue and decided to be as ominous as the summer season permitted.
“Maybe it would simplify matters just to send an itemized treatment by mail.”
Inexorably Tillyium pursued his objective. “I did not,” he said, “want to marry your husband.”
“Oh—Jayce,” Fedora fluttered expectantly; tentative recommendation of Jayce already formulated persuasively in her eyes.
Tillyium stared at her incredulously. He made a harrowed stab at the idea. “That’s just it,” he cried triumphantly. “It’s perfectly clear to me: Jayce’s duets, Jayce’s twilights, Jayce’s sympathetic discontents! Why you’re nothing but a litany of Jayce’s improbably preposterous felicities.”
Fedora listened obediently aghast, as Tillyium went on with this awful harangue. Of course she knew that she usually deferred to Jayce, but it suddenly occurred to her that she also had a possible right to live. There wasn’t any breeze and the smell of resin was heady and sweetly suffocating on the asphixiating tranquility of the day. She was going to say something to Tillyium which would have changed her whole life, would commit her to other ways of thought. But he had fled. He had freakishly shot himself through the windows into the blinding hiatus of the sun, propelled by the magnitude of his idea like the man in the circus who gets himself shot out of a cannon.
“You’re nothing,” his voice drifted back in a triumphant howl from the peony walk, “but a little tin reflection of Jayce. I wish I had never given you a thought; I wish that I had just taken the sleeping pills in the first place.”
Fedora’s voice claimed right-of-way over his disappearing back; after all, they were her good times he had been having.
“I will thank you,” she yelled, “to get out of my peony bed. Get out!” she yelled, “and stay out!”
Paris is only a day’s drive, really. By leaving early in the morning one ought to get there for breakfast next day; yet the worlds are so changing along the way that it seems like miles and miles.
“Miles,” sighed Jayce as the road tugged them inexorably on. Belanova, surreptitiously beaming, carried on a pantomime of appreciation half behind his back. By noon, the broken-hearted tangles and the spectral splendors of lost Riviera gardens were behind them and the car went purring through the poplar lanes, through the smell of peat and courgette and the breath of Provencal husbandries, vinicles and thresheries.
“I am so happy,” beamed Belanova discreetly, “to get this chance of a drive back.”
One of the nice things about her was that the railroad fare still meant something to her, Jayce thought; most situations still required consideration to Belanova. Jayce thought approvingly also of a world where everything one had bore the simple significance of earned worth and the enjoyment of days could bloom uncurtailed by theories of sheerly categorical value; not that he hadn’t been happy at home.
“Look at these roads,” he ejaculated to stop himself thinking. “Aren’t the plane trees beautiful swathing the country in dreams?” He finished daringly, “Rocking the idylls to sleep.”
“Oh but yes,” Belanova agreed. Artfully she tried to say something indicative of her spiritual adequacy to Jayce’s necessity to commune. “What a good set for my new photographs—the dress could go—so.” Belanova rhapsodically indicated some problematical contours with a gesture of grandiose invitation. Jayce quelled his disappointment.
“I saw it in the movies,” he commented, reserving his right of appreciation.
“What else do they do in the American cinema?” she pursued interestedly.
“We’re always too busy to go. Maybe we can go in Paris.” Pleased with the idea of learning something with her, of sharing revelations, Jayce smiled promissorily.
“Well, perhaps,” she agreed. Deciding that Jayce, on more exigent acquaintance, might not prove worthy any proprietary prerogatives, her face set admonitorily. “If some evening a conference is not called or something should not turn up; I mean, I do not have to see anybody or there are no arrangements. But I do not go often to merely entertain myself.”
The French sense of rite is a decorous thing to live with, endowing the mechanics of everyday significancies which, in other countries, sometimes seem easy as to be undeserving such finesse. This observance of ameliorating felicities is even apparent in the weather. On a fine Sunday, for instance, the Parisian populace ecstatically dramatizes its absence of something to do. People air their appreciation of the fall sunshine along the broad sandy avenues of the Bois: rhapsodically apostrophize the wonders of animal life in the zoo. Conscientiously appreciative crowds assiduously woo the passage of much bright time through the echoing Sunday oblivious of the Place de la Concorde and the Arc de Triomphe.
Jayce had it carefully planned: they were going to St.-Cloud to eat the view and watch the high banks swim in the last long dreams of summer. He waited at Belanova’s door for this celebration which so devotedly he had earned—having waited devoutly before enough doors and anterooms in the last few weeks to have commanded rewards of unprecedented enjoyment. As soon as she opened the door, he knew that it wasn’t going to be as much fun as he had hoped; then he knew that it wasn’t going to be any fun. That same air of inexorable professional right claimed her attentions—which, to defeat, Jayce avowed to himself, was worse than Fedora’s worldly considerations.
“My poor Jayce, say you will forgive me one more time.”
“Then we can’t go.”
“I would love to with all my heart,” she fervently breathed. “But Madame Stephanie is working this morning and I simply must be at the studio.”
Jayce had to keep his manners.
“Of course, couldn’t I see you later?”
“I’ve got to pick up a new routine; there will be explanations. My poor boy.” Her face fell condolently.
The “poor boy” was obviously routine phraseology. Belanova never let anything interfere with her work—even, it must be said to her credit,—the work itself. Belanova was sorry; however, Jayce was too impeccable to demand much worrying about. “I would ask you to see the work,” she offered, “but they do not permit outsiders——”
“Naturally.” Jayce didn’t like outsiders either; maybe that was it: in fact, he was getting so fed up with outsiders that he often found himself wondering how Fedora’s peonies had got along in the fall heat; the dahlias must be in flower by now.
“Well, I’ll pick you up tomorrow.” There really, at that time, didn’t seem much else that he could say. He could cancel the table at St.-Cloud by phone; but he would have to go out anyway to pay for the champagne; that was all the difference it made—another possibility of happiness.
It was turning winter in Paris, facets of life which were not expensive were harder to bear. One could sense the frugality already. The glue in artificial flowers melted in the autumn fogs and autumnal pungencies blew back to town from the Midi. He was definitely tired of taking Belanova to her lessons and leaving her there.
Pulling up between the trick shop and the conciergerie by the Theatre Caumatin, he hesitated. It would be more expedient to know exactly what he was angry about before he began.
“So I can’t come in,” he said, feeling the way.
Belanova’s eyes welled in owlish innocency. “But people would talk”; she sounded like a mother inventing excuses for the present which had been forgotten from a shopping trip.
“I haven’t seen you half an hour since we got to Paris.”
“Have we got here so long ago as that?” she expostulated. “You bring me here, and so you come at six o’clock to get me again,” she wheedled.
Jayce, being unconversant with life on these terms of no matter how glamorized scuffle for existence, couldn’t think of anything to say, so he said, “I don’t see why, but I will.”
By twenty minutes after six, his eyes were sore with querulous watching: he had had to tell himself so many times that these rendezvous were worthwhile that it was almost like inventing Belanova over and over again to be glad to see her.
Lots of faces just as pretty passed in the dusk; what promises of peculiar excitement had swung him up to Paris? It was a beautiful twilight scintillant of a city’s excitement at exodus: the mysterious purposes of dusk to be fulfilled, new mornings brewing in the vistas; the arbitrariness of souls at home and the promise of far places over the seas, over the Channel, over the Simplon Orient. Belanova turned up at last a masterpiece of the hour, mysterious and able, under the subdued radiance of hard hours’ work.
When he saw her, Jayce knew that what he wanted in her was to be identified with purposes more compelling than his own volitions. She radiated the mobilized expectancy of all these inexorable purposes; her life had been passed in rigorous apprenticeships. It seemed to Jayce that this way of hardships and effort offered salvation from the sensory exhaustions of—just life. He knew that no matter how elegant her clothes, they were less soignee than the body beneath. Knowing that no matter how intricate the tempo, it was less than the complications of her daily life, she seemed each time he met her to have stepped into a spiritual arena and Jayce’s thumbs popped up automatically.
“Do you think,” Belanova moved wistfully into the protective luxuries of his car, “my dear Jayce, that we could stop at Bucher’s? I do so want to get those films——”
There wasn’t any use poisoning the evening with violence. Though this was to have been an hour of sweetness, and something to lull the frittered hours to solacory measure, he smiled grimly and politely and only said, “Anywhere else?”
Belanova wound the twilight about her other shoulder. “I wouldn’t ask you,” she wheedled, “but I ask you.”
“Then where would you like to go?”
Belanova beamed. “How did you know—?” She gleamed rhapsodically. “My dear Jayce, I sometimes feel that you have second sight. There is another place——”
Jayce finally put her out behind the respectabilities of Parc Monceau. All his plans were upset, all his lists were interrupted with her incessant obligations and engagements.
“Errands, rendezvous,” he was half crying over vexations of life as he began to wonder if his frustrations were a universal estate. “What I’d like to do is to buy you some underwear.”
Thinking laboriously to himself, “Why she’s got more designs than the wolf in ‘Little Red Riding Hood’—more Sunday obligations than Fedora ever had Victorian virtues,” he went to her apartment to wait.
Anyway, he’d keep on waiting. Glad of the stillness of the apartment, he corrected himself “that he didn’t feel a bit as if he were snooping,” and even decided to answer the bell when it rang.
“I do not know where Mademoiselle Belanova is.” Jayce undulated an exasperated shriek in his voice—“Furthermore,” he went on—“I don’t know.”
Brown-Bones unctuously dismissed the consideration of Jayce’s immediate honesty. “But I just thought you might be able to direct me—that is, to give some indication of where Mademoiselle might be located at this hour.”
Jayce did not relent. “If she’s where she usually is,” he propounded in unqualified disgust, “she’s just got to see the maitre de ballet, the photographer, the press agent, and the passport bureau; then she may stop in a few places to say ‘Oh, hello!’ Why not look for her there?” he pursued bitterly.
Brown-Bones spat a little over the more difficult English words, and complicated situations caused him to dribble consternately about the corners. “This relates to a most curious coincidence,” he pursued persuasively.
“Too curious to be of any possible interest to one of my materialistic temperament,” pronounced Jayce defensively.
Brown-Bones shifted his weight in choreographic overture to reason—“It’s about Mr. Belanova,” he began.
“I don’t see, I have never laid eyes on the man.” Jayce was suddenly awfully glad that there was one; glad to find it over, as a person who has fallen downstairs is glad of the bottom. He continued with emphasized precision—“and not much of his wife either; if that’s any consolation.”
“I know that Mademoiselle is a very busy figure,” agreed Brown-Bones apologetically.
Jayce decided that he might as well find out about things. “What does he want?” he demanded peremptorily—“Mr. Belanova?”
“Oh, I haven’t seen him yet; however, he is habitually a man of very simple tastes.”
“You unconscionable lunatic, you human doormat,” yelled Jayce, “are you suggesting blackmail?”
Brown-Bones smiled in sweet acidity. “It might be a little complicated.” Taking a swooping inventory of the apartment, he commented imperviously, “Tillyium had good taste, n’est-ce pas, Monsieur?”
Jayce wasn’t hurt; he didn’t have any right to be hurt and one thing which he’d never gone in for was extraneous emotions: Jayce wasn’t crazy enough about the Latin races for that.
“Tillyium probably still has them.”
“Time changes things,” went on Brown-Bones.
“It certainly does,” substantiated Jayce vehemently. “Where you’re going and how to get there, for one thing; and for one other thing, time definitely makes a difference in whose business it is—will you tell Mademoiselle that I have left Paris tonight for the Midi.”
Brown-Bones smiled. “Naturally, Monsieur, I would,” he agreed immobilely, “but I too was about to say that I have to go back south by tomorrow and I wondered, since you were going that way anyway——”
“Yes,” yelled Jayce, “but you’ll have to sit in the back—every step of the way in the back.”
“Of course, Monsieur.”
“And you can’t talk any more pigeon French to me.”
Motoring from Paris to the Cote d’Azur isn’t a tiring trip. Burgundy, as academically pleasing as the illustrations in a first reader, gives the impetus, and the car coasts through the tunneled arcs of feudal towers and sleepily enchanted villages. Soon the massive trees begin again to drip with time, and southern fields part with their panorama of sun-strewn reluctance. By twilight, the lugubriousness of ages swathes the deep alleys in story; roads wander vaguely in the dusk. Soon immaculate insouciances in detachments of Olympian happinesses and one is almost home.
Fedora will no doubt be willing to include him in her lists again—after all, what else is there but love and keeping alive; according to the designations of traditions of course. And Jayce will no doubt write in shaving cream on his bathroom mirror, “Don’t forget not to begrudge about dinner at so-and-so——” It would be just as much fun to go along from time to time, and in the meantime, he and Fedora would find much to recommend the exciting adventurousness of life within the restraints of the social order.
Published in Zelda Fitzgerald: The Collected Writings collection (1991) from the undated typescript at the Princeton University Library.