Monsieur Irv
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

At the Beach Casino in Monte Carlo Nicole was still happy. Several acquaintances looked at them as if to say “Hurray for you—so you’re with us at last!” She rather liked their sly smiles, and smiled back confessionally. She and Tommy left early, heading west along the shore. In the deep black of ten o’clock he stopped in front of a tall iron grille at the end of the promontory at Beaulieu.

“We are here,” he said to Nicole, “Did you ever read the books of Phillips Oppenheim?”

“I think I’ve read one.”

“He’s one of my favourite American writers,” Tommy said simply. “He writes about the Riviera, you know. I don’t know whether the things he writes about are true but this place is like that.”

Standing before the gate they were suddenly bathed in a small floodlight, quick as a flashlight, that left them blinded for a moment. Then a voice from behind the gate:

“Who’s this, please?”

“Tell Monsieur Irv that it’s Monsieur Tommy. Tell him we can’t come in the house but can he come out in the garden a minute.”

A section of the gate rumbled open like a safe and they were in a park, following a young Italian-American dandy toward a lighted house. They waited just out of range of the porch light, and presently the door opened and a dark thin man of forty came out and gazed blindly.

“Where you, Tommy?”

“here. Don’t come. I have a lady with me who wants to remain anonymous.”


“I’ve got a lady with me who doesn’t want to be seen—like you.”

“Oh, I unestand, I unestand.”

“We want to swim. Anybody on your beach?”

“Nobody, nobody. Go ahead, Tommy. You want suits, towels?”

“All right, some towels. Nobody’s going to come down, are they?”

“No, no, nobody. Say, did you see Du Pont de Nemours went up—”

“No stock market in the presence of ladies.”

“All right, excuse me, lady. You wait now—Salve will take you down—don’t want you to get in trouble.”

As Irv re-entered the house Tommy said, “Probably he’s phoning the machine gunner to pass us. He was a fellow townsman of yours in Chicago—now he has the best beach on the Riviera.”

Curiously Nicole followed down an intricate path, then through a sliding steel door that operated like a guillotine, out into a roofless cavern of white moonlight, formed by pale boulders about a cup of phosphorescent waters. It faced Monaco and the blur of Mentone beyond. She liked his taste in bringing her here—from the high-handed storming of Mr Irv’s fortress to the eastward vision and the novel tricks of wind and water, it was all as new as they were to each other. Symbolically she lay across his saddlebow as surely as if he had wolfed her from Damascus and they had come out upon the Mongolian plain. Moment by moment all that Dick had taught her fell away and she was ever near what she had been in the beginning, prototype of that obscure yielding up of swords that was going on in the world all about her. Tangled with love in the moonlight she welcomed the anarchy of her lover.

They awoke together, finding the moon gone down and the air cool. She struggled up demanding the time and Tommy called it roughly at three.

“I’ve got to go home then.”

“I thought we’d sleep in Monte Carlo.”

“No. There’s the governess and the children. I’ve got to roll in before daylight.”

“As you like.”

They dipped for a second, and when he saw her shivering he rubbed her briskly with a towel. Then, as they started back the lane by which they had come. Tommy tripped over a wire and a faint buzzer sounded far away.

“My God!” he exclaimed. “That a man should have to live with this!”

“Is he afraid of burglars?”

“He’s afraid of your lovely city and came here with a bodyguard of a dozen monkeys—is that the right slang? Maybe Al Capone is after him. Anyhow he has one period between being drunk and being sober when he is very nice.”

He broke off as again they were momentarily bathed in the ubiquitous spotlight. Then amber lamps glowed on the porch of the castellated villa and Monsieur Irv, this time supported by the very neat young man, came out unsteadily.

“I kept them off the beach, Tommy,” he announced.

“Thank you, very much.”

“Won’t you both change your minds and come in? In greatest confidence, I have some other ladies here.” He raised his voice as if to address Nicole. “As you are a lady of background you will like ’em.”

“It’s four o’clock,” said Tommy. “We have to get to our background. Good night.”

Irv’s voice followed them: “You never make a mistake having to do with a lady.”


The passage comes from a late draft of Tender Is The Night. Describing as it does the last hours of Nicole’s first night with Tommy Barban, it belongs at the end of Chapter VIII of Book V of revised edition. At almost the last moment before the fourth instalment of Tender was printed in Scribner’s, Fitzgerald inserted a new chapter, the arrest of Lady Caroline and Mary Minghetti (Book V, Chapter X). That episode in one way takes the place of the visit to the retired bootlegger, by furnishing the same sort of social comment. It is more amusing, too, yet we are sorry about the disappearance of Monsieur Irv and his bodyguard of a dozen gorillas.