On the pleasant shore of the French Riviera, about half way between Marseilles and the Italian border, stands a large, proud, rose-colored hotel. Deferential palms cool its flushed facade, and before it stretches a short dazzling beach. Lately it has become a summer resort of notable and fashionable people; a decade ago il was almost deserted after its English clientele went north in April. Now, many bungalows cluster near it, but when this story begins only the cupolas of a dozen old villas rotted like water lilies among the massed pines between Gausse’s Hotel des Entrangers and Cannes, five miles away.
The hotel and its bright tan prayer rug of a beach were one. In the early morning the distant image of Cannes, the pink and cream of old fortifications, the purple Alp that bounded Italy, were cast across the water and lay quavering in the ripples and rings sent up by sea-plants through the clear shallows. Before eight a man came down to the beach in a blue bathrobe and with much preliminary application to his person of the chilly water, and much grunting and loud breathing, floundered a minute in the sea. When he had gone, beach and bay were quiet for an hour. Merchantmen crawled westward on the horizon; bus boys shouted in the hotel court; the dew dried upon the pines. In another hour the horns ol motors began to blow down from the winding road along the low range of the Maures, which separates the littoral from true Provencal France.
A mile from the sea, where pines give way to dusty poplars, is an isolated railroad stop, whence one June morning in 1925 a victoria brought a woman and her daughter down to Gausses Hotel. The mother’s face was of a fading prettiness that would soon be patted with broken veins; her expression was both tranquil and aware in a pleasant way. However, one’s eye moved on quickly to her daughter, who had magic in her pink palms and her cheeks lit to a lovely flame, like the thrilling flush of children after their cold baths in the evening. Her fine forehead sloped gently up to where her hair, bordering it like an armorial shield, burst into lovelocks and waves and curlicues of ash blonde and gold. Her eyes were bright, big, clear, wet, and shining, the color of her cheecks was real, breaking close to the surface from the strong young pump of her heart. Her body hovered delicately on the last edge ol childhood-she was almost eighteen, nearly complete, but the dew was still on her.
As sea and sky appeared below them in a thin, hot line the mother said:
“Something tells me we’re not going to like this place.”
“I want to go home anyhow,” the girl answered.
They both spoke cheerfully but were obviously without direction and bored by the fact—moreover, just any direction would not do. They wanted high excitement, not from the necessity of stimulating jaded nerves but with the avidity of prize-winning schoolchildren who deserved their vacations.
“We’ll stay three days and then go home. I’ll wire right away for steamer tickets.”
Al the hotel the girl made the reservation in idiomatic but rather flat French, like something remembered. When they were installed on the ground floor she walked into the glare of the French windows and out a few steps onto the stone veranda that ran the length ol the hotel. When she walked she carried herself like a ballet-dancer, nol slumped down on her hips hill held up in the small of her back. Out there the hot light clipped close her shadow and she retreated—it was too bright to see. Fifty yards away the Mediterranean yielded up its pigments, moment by moment, to the brutal sunshine: below the balustrade a faded Buick cooked on the hotel drive.
Indeed, of all the region only the beach stirred with activity. Three British nannies sat knitting the slow pattern of Victorian England, the pattern of the forties, the sixties, and the eighties, into sweaters and socks, to the tune of gossip as formalized as incantation; closer to the sea a dozen persons kept house under striped umbrellas, while their dozen children pursued unintimidated fish through the shallows or lay naked and glistening with cocoanut oil out in the sun.
As Rosemary came onto the beach a boy of twelve ran past her and dashed into the sea with exultant cries. Feeling the impactive scrutiny of strange faces, she took off her bathrobe and followed. She floated face down for a few yards and finding it shallow staggered to her feet and plodded forward, dragging slim legs like weights against the resistance of the water. When it was about breast high, she glanced back toward shore: a bald man in a monocle and a pair of tights, his tufted chest thrown out, his brash navel sucked in, was regarding her attentively. As Rosemary retumed the gaze the man dislodged the monocle, which went into hiding amid the facetious whiskers of his chest, and poured himsell a glass of something from a bottle in his hand.
Rosemary laid her face on the water and swam a choppy little four-beat crawl out to the raft. The water reached up for her, pulled her down tenderly out of the heat, seeped in her hair and ran into the corners of her body. She turned round and round in it, embracing it, wallowing in it. Reaching the raft she was out of breath, but a tanned woman with very white teeth looked down al her, and Rosemary, suddenly conscious of the raw whileness of her own body, turned on her back and drifted toward shore. The hairy man holding the bottle spoke to her as she came out.
“I say—they have sharks out behind the raft.” He was of indeterminate nationality, but spoke English with a slow Oxford drawl. “Yesterday they devoured two British sailors from the flotte at Golfe Juan.”
“Heavens!” exclaimed Rosemary.
“They come in for the refuse from the flotte.”
Clazing his eyes to indicate that he had only spoken in order to warn her, he minced off two steps and poured himself another drink.
Not unpleasantly self-conscious, since there had been a slight sway of attention toward her during this conversation, Rosemary looked for a place to sit. Obviously each family possessed the strip of sand immediately in front of its umbrella: besides there was much visiting and talking back and forth—the atmosphere of a community upon which it would be presumptuous to intrude. Farther up, where the beach was strewn with pebbles and dead sea-weed, sat a group with flesh as while as her own. They lay under small hand-parasols instead of beach umbrellas and were obviously less indigenous to the place. Between the dark people and the light, Rosemary found room and spread out her peignoir on the sand.
Lying so, she first heard their voices and felt their feet skirt her body and their shapes pass between the sun and herself. The breath of an inquisitive dog blew warm and nervous on her neck: she could feel her skin broiling a little in the heat and hear the small exhausted wa-waa of the expiring waves. Presently her ear distinguished individual voices and she became aware that some one referred to scornfully as “that North guy” had kidnapped a waiter from a cafe in Cannes last nighl in order to saw him in two. The sponsor of the story was a white-haired woman in full evening dress, obviously a relic of the previous evening, for a tiara still clung to her head and a discouraged orchid expired from her shoulder. Rosemary, forming a vague antipathy to her and her companions, turned away.
Nearest her, on the other side, a young woman lay under a roof ot umbrellas making out a list of things from a book open on the sand. Her bathing suit was pulled off her shoulders and her back, a ruddy, orange brown, set off by a string of creamy pearls, shone in the sun. Her face was hard and lovely and pitiful. Her eyes met Rosemary’s but did not see her. Beyond her was a fine man in a jockey cap and red-striped tights; then the woman Rosemary had seen on the rail, and who looked back at her, seeing her; then a man with a long face and a golden, leonine head, with blue tights and no hat, talking very seriously to an unmistakably Latin young man in black tights, both of them picking al little pieces of seaweed in the sand. She thought they were mostly Americans, but something made them unlike the Americans she had known of late.
After a while she realized that the man in the jockey cap was giving a quiet little performance for this group: he moved gravely about with a rake, ostensibly removing gravel and meanwhile developing some esoteric burlesque held in suspension by his grave face. Its faintest ramification had become hilarious, until whatever he said released a burst of laughter. Even those who, like herself, were too far away lo hear, sent out antennae of attention until the only person on the beach not caught up in it was the young woman with the string of pearls. Perhaps from modesty of possession she responded to each salvo of amusement by bending closer over her list.
The man of the monocle and bottle spoke suddenly out of the sky above Rosemary:
“You are a ripping swimmer.”
“Jolly good. My name is Campion. Here is a lady who says she saw you in Sorrento last week and knows who you are and would so like to meet you.”
Glancing around with concealed annoyance Rosemary saw the untanned people were waiting. Reluctantly she got up and went over to them.
“Mrs. Abrams—Mrs. McKisco—Mr. McKisco—Mr. Dumphry-”
“We know who you are,” spoke up the woman in evening dress. “You’re Rosemary Hoyt and I recognized you in Sorrento and asked the hotel clerk and we all think you’re perfectly marvellous and we want to know why you’re not back in America making another marvellous moving picture.”
They made a superfluous gesture of moving over for her. The woman who had recognized her was not a Jewess, despite her name. She was one of those elderly “good sports” preserved by an imperviousness to experience and a good digestion into another generation.
“We wanted to warn you about getting burned the first day,” she continued cheerily, “because your skin is important, but there seems to be so darn much formality on this beach that we didn’t know whether you’d mind.”
“We thought maybe you were in the plot,” said Mrs. McKisco. She was a shabby-eyed, pretty young woman with a disheartening intensity. “We don’t know who’s in the plot and who isn’t. One man my husband had been particularly nice to turned out to be a chief character—practically the assistant hero.”
“The plot?” inquired Rosemary, half understanding. “Is there a plot?”
“My dear, we don’t know,” said Mrs. Abrams, with a covulsive, stout woman’s chuckle. “We’re not in it. We’re the gallery.”
Mr. Dumphry, a tow-headed effeminate young man, remarked: “Mama Abrams is a plot in herself,”and Campion shook his monocle at him, saying: “Now, Royal, don’t be too ghastly for words.” Rosemary looked at them all uncomfortably, wishing her mother had come down here with her. She did not like these people, especially in her immediate comparison of them with those who had interested her at the other end of the beach. Her mother’s modest but compact social gift got them out of unwelcome situations swiftly and firmly. But Rosemary had been a celebrity for only six months, and sometimes the French manners of her early adolescence and the democratic manners of America, these latter superimposed, made a certain confusion and let her in for just such things.
Mr. McKisco, a scrawny, freckie-and-red man of thirty, did not find the topic of the “plot” amusing. He had been staring at the sea—now after a swift glance at his wife he turned to Rosemary and demanded aggressively:
“Been here long?”
“Only a day.”
Evidently feeling that the subject had been thoroughly changed, he looked in turn at the others.
“Going to stay all summer?” asked Mrs. McKisco, innocently. “If you do you can watch the plot unfold.”
“For God’s sake, Violet, drop the subject!” exploded her husband. “Get a new joke, for God’s sake!”
Mrs. McKisco swayed toward Mrs. Abrams and breathed audibly:
“I’m not nervous,” disagreed McKisco. “It just happens I’m not nervous at all.”
He was burning visibly—a grayish flush had spread over his face, dissolving all his expressions into a vast ineffectually. Suddenly remotely conscious of his condition he got up to go in the water, followed by his wife, and seizing the opportunity Rosemary followed.
Mr. McKisco drew a long breath, flung himself into the shallows and began a stiff-armed batting of the Mediterranean, obviously intended to suggest a crawl—his breath exhausted he arose and looked around with an expression of surprise that he was—still in sight of shore.
“I haven’t learned to breathe yet. I never quite understood how they breathed.” He looked at Rosemary inquiringly.
“I think you breathe out under water.” she explained. “And every fourth beat you roll your head over for air.”
“The breathing’s the hardest part for me. Shall we go to the raft?”
The man with the leonine head lay stretched out upon the raft, which tipped back and forth with the motion of the water. As Mrs. McKisco reached for it a sudden tilt struck her arm up roughly, whereupon the man started up and pulled her on board.
“I was afraid it hit you.” His voice was slow and shy; he had one of the saddest faces Rosemary had ever seen, the high check-bones ol an Indian, a long upper lip, and enormous deep-set dark golden eyes. He had spoken out of the side ot his mouth, as if he hoped his words would reach Mrs. McKisco by a circuitous and unobtrusive route: in a minute he had shoved off into the water and his long body lay motionless toward shore.
Rosemary and Mrs. McKisco watched him. When he had exhausted his momentum he abruptly bent double, his thin thighs rose above the surface, and he disappeared totally, leaving scarcely a fleck of foam behind.
“He’s a good swimmer,” Rosemary said.
Mrs. McKisco’s answer came with surprising violence.
“Well, he’s a rotten musician.” She turned to her husband, who after two unsuccessful attempts had managed to climb on the raft, and having attained his balance was trying to make some kind of compensatory flourish. achieving only an extra stagger. “I was just saying that Abe North may be a good swimmer but he’s a rotten musician.”
“Yes,” agreed McKisco, grudgingly. Obviously he had created his wife’s world, and allowed her few liberties in it.
“Antheil’s my man.” Mrs. McKisco turned challengingly to Rosemary. “Anthiel and Joyce. I don’t suppose you ever hear much about those sort of people in Hollywood, but my husband wrote the firsl criticism of Ulysses that ever appeared in America.”
“I wish I had a cigarette,” said McKisco calmly. “That’s more important to me just now.”
“He’s got insides—don’t you think so, Albert?”
Her voice faded off suddenly. The woman of the pearls had joined her two children in the water, and now Abe North came up under one of them like a volcanic island, raising him on his shoulders. The child yelled with fear and delight and the woman watched with a lovely peace, without a smile.
“Is that his wife?” Rosemary asked.
“No, that’s Mrs. Diver. They’re not at the hotel.” Her eyes, photographic, did not move from the woman’s face. Alter a moment she turned vehemently to Rosemary.
“Have you been abroad before?”
“Yes—I went to school in Paris.”
“Oh! Well then you probably know that il you want to enjoy yourself here the thing is to get to know some real French families. What do these people get out of it?” She pointed her left shoulder toward shore. “They jusl stick around with each other in little cliques. Of course, we had letters of introduction and met all the best French artists and writers in Paris. That made it very nice.”
“I should think so.”
“My husband is finishing his lirst novel, you see.”
Rosemary said: “Oh, he is?” She was not thinking anything special, except wondering whether her mother had got to sleep in this heat.
“It’s on the idea of Ulysses,” continued Mrs. McKisco. “Only instead of taking twenty-four hours my husband takes a hundred years. He takes a decayed old French aristocrat and puts him in contrast with the mechanical age
“Oh, for God’s sake, Violet, don’t go telling everybody the idea,” protested McKisco. “I don’t want it to get all around before the book’s published.”
Rosemary swum buck to the shore, where she threw her peignoir over her already sore shoulders and lay down again in the sun. The man with the jockey cap was now going from umbrella to umbrella carrying a bottle and little glasses in his hands; presently he and his friends grew livelier and closer together and now they were all under a single assemble of umbrellas—she gathered that some one was leaving and that this was a last drink on the beach. Even the children knew that excitement was generating under that umbrella and turned toward it—and it seemed to Rosemary that it all came from the man in the jockey cap.
Noon dominated sea and sky—even the white line of Cannes, five miles off, had failed to a mirage of what was fresh and cool: a robin-breasted sailing boat pulled in behind it a strand from the outer, darker sea. It seemed that there was no life anywhere in all this expanse of coast except under the filtered sunlight of those umbrellas, where something went on amid the color and the murmur.
Campion walked near her, stood a few feet away and Rosemary closed her eyes, pretending to be asleep; then she half-opened them and watched two dim, blurred pillars that were legs. The man tried to edge his way into a sand-colored cloud, but the cloud floated off into the vast hot sky. Rosemary fell really asleep.
She awoke drenched with sweat to find the beach deserted save for the man in the jockey cap, who was folding a last umbrella. As Rosemary lay blinking, he walked nearer and said:
“I was going to wake you before I left. It’s not good to get too burned right away.”
“Thank you.” Rosemary looked down at her crimson legs.
She laughed cheerfully, inviting him to talk, but Dick Diver was already carrying a tent and a beach umbrella up to a waiting car, so she went into the water to wash off the sweat. He came back and gathering up a rake, a shovel, and a sieve, stowed them in a crevice of a rock. He glanced up and down the beach to see if he had left anything.
“Do you know what time it is?” Rosemary asked.
“It’s about half-past one.”
They faced the seascape together momentarily
“It’s not a bad time,” said Dick Diver. “It’s not one of worst times ol the day.”
He looked at her and for a moment she lived in the bright blue worlds of his eyes, eagerly and confidently. Then he shouldered his last piece ol junk and went up to his car, and Rosemary came out of the water, shook out her peignoir and walked up to the hotel.
It was almost two when they went into the dining-room. Back and forth over the deserted tables a heavy pattern of beams and shadows swayed with the motion of the pines outside. Two waiters, piling plates and talking loud Italian, fell silent when they came in and brought them a tired version of the table d’hote luncheon.
“I fell in love on the beach,” said Rosemary.
“First with a whole lot of people who looked nice. Then with one man.”
“Did you talk to him?”
“Just a little. Very handsome. With reddish hair.” She was eating, ravenously. “He’s married though—it’s usually the way.”
Her mother was her best friend and had put every last possibility into the guiding of her, not so rare a thing in the theatrical profession, but rather special in that Mrs. Elsie Speers was not recompensing herself for a defeat of her own. She had no personal bitterness or resentments about life—twice satisfactorily married and twice widowed, her cheerful stoicism had each time deepened. One of her husbands had been a cavalry officer and one an army doctor, and they both left something to her that she tried lo present intact to Rosemary. By not sparing Rosemary she had made her hard—by not sparing her own labor and devotion she had cultivated an idealism in Rosemary, which at present was directed toward herself and saw the world through her eyes. So that while Rosemary was a “simple” child she was protected by a double sheath of her mother’s armor and her own—she had a mature distrust of the trivial, the facile and the vulgar. However, with Rosemary’s sudden success in pictures Mrs. Speers felt that it was time she were spiritually weaned; it would please rather than pain her if this somewhat bouncing, breathless and exigent idealism would focus on something except herself.
“Then you like it here?” she asked.
“It might be fun if we knew those people. There were some other people, but they weren’t nice. They recognized me—no matter where we go everybody’s seen ’Daddy’s Girl.’”
Mrs. Speers waited for the glow of egotism to subside; then she said in a matter-of-fact way: “That reminds me, when are you going to see Earl Brady?”
“I thought we might go this afternoon—if you’re rested.”
“You go—I’m not going.”
“We’ll wait till to-morrow ihen.”
“I want you to go alone. It’s only a short way—it isn’t as if you didn’t speak French.”
“Mother—aren’t there some things I don’t have to do?”
“Oh, well then go later—but some day before we leave.”
“All right, Mother.”
After lunch they were bolh overwhelmed by the sudden flatness that comes over American travellers in quiet foreign places. No stimuli worked upon them, no voices called them from without, no fragments of their own thoughts came suddenly from the minds ol others, and missing the clamor of Empire they fell that life was not continuing here.
“Let’s only stay three days, Mother.” Rosemary said when they were back in their rooms. Outside a light wind blew the heat around, straining il through the trees and sending little hot gusts through the shutters.
“How about the man you fell in love with on the beach?”
“I don’t love anybody but you, Mother, darling.”
Rosemary stopped in the lobby and spoke to Gauss pere about trains. The concierge, lounging in light-brawn khaki by the desk, stared at her rigidly, then suddenly remembered the manners of his metier. She took the bus and rode with a pair of obsequious waiters to the station, embarrassed by their deferential silence, wanting to urge them: “Go on, talk, enjoy yourselves. It doesn’t bother me.”
The first-class compartment was stifling, the vivid advertising cards of the railroad companies—The Pont du Card at Arles, the Amphitheatre at Orange, winter sports at Chamonix—were fresher than the long motionless sea outside. Unlike American trains that were absorbed in an intense destiny ol their own, .and scornful of people on another world less swift and breathless, this train was part of the country through which it passed. Its breath stirred the dust from the palm leaves, the cinders mingled with the dry dung in the gardens. Rosemary was sure she could lean from the window and pull flowers with her hand.
A dozen cabbies slept in their hacks outside the Cannes station. Over on the promenade the Casino, the smart shops, and the great hotels turned blank iron masks to the summer sea. It was unbelievable that there could ever have been a “season,” and Rosemary, half in the grip of fashion, became a little self-conscious, as though she were displaying an unhealthy taste for the moribund; as though people were wondering why she was here in the lull between the gaiety of last winter and next winter, while up north the true world thundered by.
As she came out of a drug store with a bottle of cocoanut oil, a woman, whom she recognized as Mrs. Diver, crossed her path with arms full of sofa cushions, and went to a car parked down the street. A long, low black dog barked at her, a dozing chauffeur woke with a start. She sat in the car, her lovely face set, controlled, her eyes brave and watchful, looking straight ahead toward nothing. Her dress was bright red and her brown legs were bare. She had thick, dark, gold hair like a chow’s.
With half an hour to wait for her train Rosemary sat down in the Cafe des Allies on the Croisette, where the trees made a green twilight over the tables and an orchestra wooed an imaginarv public ol cosmopolites with the Nice Carnival Song and last year’s American tune. She had bought Le Temps and The Saturday Evening Post for her mother, and as she drank her citronade she opened the latter at the memoirs of a Russian princess, finding the dim conventions of the nineties realer and nearer than the headlines of the French paper. It was the same feeling that had oppressed her at the hotel—accustomed to seeing the starkest grotesqeries of a continent heavily underlined as comedy or tragedy, untrained to the task of separating out the essential for herself, she now began to feel that French life was empty and stale. This feeling was surcharged by listening to the sad tunes of the orchestra, reminiscent of the melancholy music played for acrobats in vaudeville. She was glad to go back to Gausse’s Hotel.
Her shoulders were too burned to swim with the next day, so she and her mother hired a car—alter much haggling, for Rosemary had formed her valuations of money in France—and drove along the Riviera, the delta of many rivers. The chauffeur, a Russian Czar of the period of Ivan the Terrible, was a self-appointed guide, and the resplendent names—Cannes, Nice, Monte Carlo—began to glow through their torpid camouflage, whispering of old kings come here to dine or die, of rajahs tossing Buddha’s eyes to English ballerinas, of Russian princes turning the weeks into Baltic twilights in the lost caviare days. Most of all, there was the scent of the Russians along the coast—their closed book shops and grocery stores. Ten years ago, when the season ended in April, the doors of the Orthodox Church were locked, and the sweet champagnes they favored were put away until their return. “We’ll be back next season,” they said, but this was premature, for they were never coming back any more.
It was pleasant to drive back to the hotel in the late afternoon, above a sea as mysteriously colored as the agates and cornelians of childhood, green as green milk, blue as laundry water, wine dark. It was pleasant to pass people eating outside their doors, and to hear the fierce mechanical pianos behind the vines of country estaminets. When they turned off the Corniche d’Or and down to Gausse’s Hotel through the darkening banks of trees, set one behind another in many greens, the moon already hovered over the ruins ol the aqueducts…
Somewhere in the hills behind the hotel there was a dance, and Rosemary listened to the music through the ghostly moonshine of her mosquito net, realizing that there was gaiety too somewhere about, and she thought of the nice people on the beach. She thought she might meet them in the morning, but they obviously formed a self-sufficient little group, and once their umbrellas, bamboo rugs, dogs, and children were set out in place the part of the plage was literally fenced in. She resolved in any case not to spend her last two mornings with the other ones.
The matter was solved for her. The McKiscos were not yet there and she had scarcely spread her peignoir when two men—the man with the jockey cap and the tall blonde man, given to sawing waiters in two—left the group and came down toward her.
“Good morning,” said Dick Diver. He broke down. “Look—sunburn or no sunburn, why did you stay away yesterday? We worried about you.”
She sat up and her happy little laugh welcomed their intrusion.
“We wondered,” Dick Diver said, “if you wouldn’t come over this morning. We go in, we take food and drink, so it’s a substantial invitation.”
He seemed kind and charming—his voice promised that he would take care of her, and that a little later he would open up whole new worlds for her, unroll an endless succession of magnificent possibilities. He managed the introduction so that her name wasn’t mentioned and then let her know easily that everyone knew who she was but were respecting the completeness of her private life—a courtesy that Rosemary had not met with save from professional people since her success.
Nicole Diver, her brown back hanging from her pearls, was looking through a recipe book for chicken Maryland. She was about twenty-four, Rosemary guessed—her face could have been described in terms of conventional prettiness, but the effect was that it had been made first on the heroic scale with strong structure and marking, as if the features and vividness of brow and coloring, everything we associate with temperament and character had been molded with a Rodinesque intention, and then chiseled away in the direction of prettiness to a point where a single slip would have irreparably diminished its force and quality. With the mouth the sculptor had taken desperate chances—it was the cupid’s bow of a magazine cover, yet it shared the distinction of the rest.
“Are you here for a long time?” Nicole asked. Her voice was low, almost harsh.
Suddenly Rosemary let the possibility enter her mind that they might stay another week.
“Not very long.” she answered vaguely. “We’ve been abroad a long time—we landed in Sicily in March and we’ve been slowly working our way north. I got pneumonia making a picture last January and I’ve been recuperating.”
“Mercy! How did that happen?”
“Well, it was from swimming,” Rosemary was rather reluctant at embarking upon personal revelations. “One day I happened to have the grippe and didn’t know it, and they were taking a scene where I dove into a canal in Venice. It was a very expensive set, so I had to dive and dive and dive all morning. Mother had a doctor right there, but it was no use—I got pneumonia.” She changed the subject determinedly before they could speak. “Do you like it here—this place?”
“They have to like it,” said Abe North slowly. “They invented it.” He turned his noble head slowly so that his eyes rested with tenderness and affection on the two Divers.
“Oh, did you?”
“This is only the second season that the hotel’s been open in summer,” Nicole explained. “We persuaded Gausse to keep on a cook and a garcon and a chasseur—it paid its way and this year it’s doing even better.”
“But you’re not in the hotel.”
“We built a house, up at Tarmes.”
“The theory is,” said Dick, arranging an umbrella to clip a square of sunlight off Rosemary’s shoulder, “that all the northern places, like Deauville, were picked out by Russians and English who don’t mind the cold, while half of us Americans come from tropical climates—that’s why we’re beginning to come here.”
The young man of Latin aspect had been turning the pages of The New York Herald.
“Well, what nationality are these people?” he demanded, suddenly, and read with a slight French intonation, “’Registered at the Hotel Palace at Vevey are Mr. Pandely Vlasco, Mme. Bonneasse’-I don’t exaggerate-’Corinna Medonca, Mme. Pasche, Seraphim Tullio, Maria Amalia Roto Mais, Moises Teuhel. Mme. Paragoris, Apostle Alexandre, Yolanda Yosfuglu and Geneveva de Momus!’ She attracts me most-Geneveva de Momus. Almost worth running up to Vevey to take a look at Geneveva de Momus.”
He stood up with sudden restlessness, stretching himself with one sharp movement. He was a few years younger than Diver or North. He was tall and his body was hard but overspare save for the bunched force gathered in his shoulders and upper arms. At lirst glance he seemed conventionally handsome—but there was a faint disgust always in his face which marred the full fierce lustre of his brown eyes. Yet one remembered them afterward, when one had forgotten the inability of the mouth to endure boredom and the young forehead with its furrows of fretful and unprofitable pain.
“We found some fine ones in the news of Americans last week.” said Nicole. “Mrs. Evelyn Oyster and—what were the others?”
“There was Mr. S. Flesh,” said Diver, gelling up also. He took his rake and began to work seriously at getting small stones out of the sand.
“Oh, yes—S. Flesh—doesn’t he give you the creeps?”
It was quiet alone with Nicole—Rosemary found it even quieter than with her mother. Abe North and Barban, the Frenchman, were talking about Morocco, and Nicole having copied her recipe picked up a piece of sewing. Rosemary examined their appurtenances—four large parasols that made a canopy of shade, a portable bath house for dressing, a pneumatic rubber horse, new things that Rosemary had never seen, from the first burst of luxury manufacturing after the War, and probably in the hands of the first of purchasers. She had gathered that they were fashionable people, but though her mother had brought her up to beware such people as drones, she did not feel that way here. Even in their absolute immobility, complete as that of the morning, she felt a purpose, a working over something, a direction, an act of creation different from any she had known. Her immature mind made no speculations upon the nature of their relation to each other, she was only concerned with their attitude toward herself—but she perceived the web of some pleasant interrelation, which she expressed with the thought that they seemed to have a very good time.
She looked in turn at the three men, temporarily expropriating them. All three were personable in different ways; all were of a special gentleness that she felt was part of their lives, past and future, not circumstanced by events, not at all like the company manners of actors, and she detected also a far-reaching delicacy that was different from the rough and ready good fellowship of directors, who represented the intellectuals in her life. Actors and directors—those were the only men she had ever known, those and the heterogeneous, indistinguishable mass of college boys, interested only in love at first sight, whom she had met at the Yale prom last fall.
These three were different. Barban was less civilized, more skeptical and scoffing, his manners were formal, even perfunctory. Abe North had, under his shyness, a desperate humor that amused but puzzled her. Her serious nature distrusted its ability to make a supreme impression on him.
But Dick Diver—he was all complete there. Silently she admired him. His complexion was reddish and weather-burned, so was his short hair—a light growth of it rolled down his arms and hands. His eyes were of a bright, hard blue. His nose was somewhat pointed and there was never any doubt at whom he was looking or talking—and this is a flattering attention, for who looks at us?—glances fall upon us, curious or disinterested, nothing more. His voice, with some faint Irish melody running through it, wooed the world, yet she fell the layer of hardness in him, of self-control and of self-discipline, her own virtues. Oh, she chose him, and Nicole, lifting her head saw her choose him, heard the little sigh at the fact that he was already possessed.
Toward noon the McKiscos, Mrs. Abrams, Mr. Humphry, and Signor Campion came on the beach. They had brought a new umbrella that they set up with side glances toward the Divers, and crept under wilh satisfied expressions—all save Mr. McKisco, who remained derisively without. In his raking Dick had passed near them and now he returned to the umbrellas.
“The two young men are reading the Book of Etiquette together,” he said in a low voice.
“Planning to mix wit de quality,” said Abe.
Mary North, the very tanned young woman whom Rosemary had encountered the first day on the raft, came in from swimming and said with a smile that was a rakish gleam:
“So Mr. and Mrs. Neverquiver have arrived.”
’They’re this man’s friends,“Nicole reminded her, indicating Abe. “Why doesn’t he go and speak to them? Don’t you think they’re attractive?”
“I think they’re very attractive,” Abe agreed. “I just don’t think they’re attractive, that’s all.”
“Well, I have felt there were too many people on the beach this summer.” Nicole admitted. “Our beach that Dick made out of a pebble pile.” She considered, and then lowering her voice out of the range of the trio of nannies who sat back under another umbrella. “Still, they’re preferable to those British last summer who kept shouting about: ’Isn’t the sea blue? Isn’t the sky while? Isn’t little Nellie’s nose red?’”
Rosemary thought she would not like to have Nicole for an enemy.
“But you didn’t see the fight,” Nicole continued.”The day before you came, the married man, the one with the name that sounds like a substitute for gasoline or butter
“Yes—well they were having words and she tossed some sand in his face. So naturally he sat on top of her and rubbed her face in the sand. We were—electrified. I wanted Dick to interfere.”
“I think,” said Dick Diver, staring down abstractedly at the straw mat, “that I’ll go over and invite them lo dinner.”
“No, you won’t,” Nicole told him quickly.
“I think it would be a very good thing. They’re here—let’s adjust ourselves.”
“We’re very well adjusted,” she insisted, laughing. “I’m not going to have my nose rubbed in the sand. I’m a mean, hard woman,” she explained to Rosemary, and then raising her voice, “Children, put on your bathing suits!”
Rosemary felt that this swim would become the typical one of her life, the one that would always pop up in her memory at the mention of swimming. Simultaneously the whole party moved toward the water, super-ready from the long, forced inaction, passing from the heat to the cool with the gourmandise of a tingling curry eaten with chilled white wine. The Divers’ day was spaced like the day of the older civilizations to yield the utmost from the materials at hand, and to give all the transitions their full value, and she did not know that there would be another transition presently from the utter absorption of the swim to the garrulity of the Provencal lunch hour. But again she had the sense that Dick was taking care of her, and she delighted in responding to the eventual movement as if it had been an order.
Nicole handed her husband the curious garment on which she had been working. He went into the dressing tent and inspired a commotion by appearing in a moment clad in transparent black lace drawers. Close inspection revealed that actually they were lined with flesh-colored cloth.
“Well, if that isn’t a pansy’s trick!” exclaimed Mr. McKisco contemptuously—then turning quickly to Mr. Dumphry and Mr. Campion, he added. “Oh, I beg your pardon.”
Rosemary bubbled with delight at the trunks. Her naivete responded whole-heartedly to the expensive simplicity of the Divers, unaware of its complexity and its lack of innocence, unaware that it was all a selection of quality rather than quantity from the run of the world’s bazaar; and that the simplicity of behavior also, the nursery-like peace and good will, the emphasis on the simpler virtues, was part of a desperate bargain with the gods and had been attained through struggles she could not have guessed at. At that moment the Divers represented externally the exact furthermost evolution of a class, so that most people seemed awkward beside them—in reality a qualitative change had already set in that was not at all apparent to Rosemary.
She stood with them as they took sherry and ate crackers. Dick Diver looked at her with cold blue eyes: his kind, strong mouth said thoughtfully and deliberately:
“You’re the only girl I’ve seen for a long time that actually did look like something blooming.”
In her mother’s lap afterward Rosemary cried and cried.
“I love him, Mother. I’m desperately in love with him—I never knew I could feel that way about anybody. And he’s married and I like her too—it’s just hopeless. Oh, I love him so!”
“I’m curious lo meet him.”
“She invited us to dinner Friday.”
“If you’re in love it ought to make you happy. You ought to laugh.”
Rosemary looked up and gave a beautiful little shiver of her face and laughed. Her mother always had a great influence on her.
Rosemary went to Monte Carlo nearly as sulkily as it was possible for her to be. She rode up the rugged hill to La Turbie, to an old Gaumont lot in process of reconstruction, and as she stood by the grilled entrance waiting for an answer to the message on her card, she might have been looking into Hollywood. The bizarre debris of some recent picture, a decayed street scene in India, a great cardboard whale, a monstrous tree bearing cherries large as basketballs, bloomed there by exotic dispensation, autochthonous as the pale amaranth, mimosa, cork oak or dwarfed pine. There were a quick-lunch shack and two barnlike stages and everywhere about the lot, groups of waiting, hopeful, painted faces.
After ten minutes a young man with hair the color of canary feathers hurried down to the gate.
“Come in, Miss Hoyt. Mr. Brady’s on the set, but he’s very anxious to see you. I’m sorry you were kept waiting, but you know some of these French dames are worse about pushing themselves in—”
The studio manager opened a small door in the blank wall of stage building and with sudden glad familiarity Rosemary followed him into half darkness. Here and there figures spotted the twilight, turning up ashen faces to her like souls in purgatory watching the passage of a mortal through. There were whispers and soft voices and, apparently from afar, the gentle tremolo of a small organ. Turning the corner made by some flats, they came upon the white crackling glow of a stage, where a French actor—his shirt front, collar, and cuffs tinted a brilliant pink—and an American actress stood motionless face to face. They stared at each other with dogged eyes, as though they had been in the same position for hours; and still for a long time nothing happened, no one moved. A bank of lights went off with a savage hiss, went cm again; the plaintive tap of a hammer begged admission to nowhere in the distance; a blue face appeared among the blinding lights above, called something unintelligible into the upper blackness. Then the silence was broken by a voice in front of Rosemary.
“Baby, you don’t take off the stockings, you can spoil ten more pairs. That dress is fifteen pounds.”
Stepping backward the speaker ran against Rosemary, whereupon the studio manager said, “Hey, Earl—Miss Hoyt.”
They were meeting for the first time. Brady was quick and strenuous. As he took her hand she saw him look her over from head to foot, a gesture she recognized and that made her feel at home, but gave her always a faint feeling of superiority to whoever made it. If her person was property she could exercise whatever advantage was inherent in its ownership.
“I thought you’d be along any day now,” Brady said, in a voice that was just a little too compelling for private life, and that trailed with it a faintly defiant cockney accent. “Have a good trip?”
“Yes, but we’re glad to be going home.”
“No-o-o!” he protested. “Stay awhile—I want to talk to you. Let me tell you that was some picture of yours—that ’Daddy’s Girl.’ I saw it in Paris. I wired the coast right away to see if you were signed.”
“I just had—I’m sorry.”
“God, what a picture!”
Not wanting to smile in silly agreement Rosemary frowned.
“Nobody wants to be thought of forever for just one picture,” she said.
“Sure—that’s right. What’re your plans?”
“Mother thought I needed a rest. When I get back we’ll probably either sign up with First National or keep on with Famous.”
“My mother. She decides business matters. I couldn’t do without her.”
Again he looked her over completely, and, as he did, something in Rosemary went out to him. It was not liking, not at all the spontaneous admiration she had felt for the man on the beach this morning. It was a click. He desired her and, so far as her virginal emotions went, she contemplated a surrender with equanimity. Yet she knew she would forget him half an hour after she left him—like an actor kissed in a picture.
“Where are you staying?” Brady asked. “Oh, yes, at Gausse’s. Well, my plans are made for this year, too, but that letter I wrote you still stands. Rather make a picture with you than any girl since Connie Talmadge was a kid.”
“I feel the same way. Why don’t you come back to Hollywood?”
“I can’t stand the damn place. I’m fine here. Wait till after this shot and I’ll show you around.”
Walking onto the set he began to talk to the French actor in a low, quiet voice.
Five minutes passed—Brady talked on, while from time to time the Frenchman shifted his feet and nodded. Abruptly, Brady broke off, calling something to the lights that startled them into a humming glare. Los Angeles was loud about Rosemary now. Unappalled she moved once more through the city of thin partitions, wanting to be back there. But she did not want to see Brady in the mood she sensed he would be in after he had finished and she left the lot with a spell still upon her. The Mediterranean world was less silent now that she knew the studio was there. She liked the people on the streets and bought herself a pair of espadrilles on the way to the train.
Her mother was pleased that she had done so accurately what she was told to do, but she still wanted to launch her out and away. Mrs. Speers was fresh in appearance but she was tired; death beds make people tired indeed and she had watched beside a couple.
Feeling good from the rosy wine at lunch, Nicole Diver folded her arms high enough for the artificial camellia on her shoulder to touch her cheek, and went out into her lovely grassless garden. The garden was bounded on one side by the house, from which it flowed and into which it ran, on two sides by the old village, and on the last by the cliff falling by ledges to the sea.
Along the walls on the village side all was dusty, the wriggling vines, the lemon and eucalyptus trees, the casual wheel-barrow, left only a moment since, but already grown into the path, atrophied and faintly rotten. Nicole was invariably somewhat surprised that by turning in the other direction past a bed of peonies she walked into an area so green and cool that the leaves and petals were curled with tender damp.
Knotted at her throat she wore a lilac scarf that even in the achromatic sunshine cast its color up to her face and down around her moving feet in a lilac shadow. Her face was hard, almost stern, save for the soft gleam of piteous doubt that looked from her green eyes. Her once fair hair had darkened, hut she was lovelier now at twenty-four than she had been at eighteen, when her hair was brighter than she.
Following a walk marked by an intangible mist of bloom that followed the white border stones she came to a space overlooking the sea where there were lanterns asleep in the fig trees and a big table and wicker chairs and a great market umbrella from Sienna, all gathered about an enormous pine, the biggest tree in the garden. She paused there a moment, looking absently at a growth of nasturtiums and iris tangled at its foot, as though sprung from a careless handful of seeds, listening to the plaints and accusations of some nursery squabble in the house. When this died away on the summer air, she walked on, between kaleidoscopic peonies massed in pink clouds, black and brown tulips and fragile mauve-stemmed roses, transparent like sugar flowers in a confectioner’s window—until, as if the scherzo of color could reach no further intensity, it broke off suddenly in mid-air, and moist steps went down to a level five feet below.
Here there was a well with the boarding around it dank and slippery even on the brightest days. She went up the stairs on the other side and into the vegetable garden; she walked rather quickly; she liked to be active, though at times she gave an impression of repose that was at once static and evocative. This was because she knew few words and believed in none, and in the world she was rather silent, contributing just her share of urbane humor with a precision that approached meagreness. But at the moment when strangers tended to grow uncomfortable in the presence of this economy she would seize the topic and rush off with it, feverishly surprised with herself—then bring it back and relinquish it abruptly, almost timidly, like an obedient retriever, having been adequate and something more.
As she stood in the fuzzy green light of the vegetable garden, Dick crossed the path ahead of her going to his work house. Nicole waited silently till he had passed; then she went on through lines of prospective salads to a little menagerie where pigeons and rabbits and a parrot made a medley of insolent noises at her. Descending to another ledge she reached a low, curved wall and looked down seven hundred feet to the Mediterranean Sea.
She stood in the ancient hill village of Tarmes. The villa and its grounds were made out of a row of peasant dwellings that abutted on the cliff—five small houses had been combined to make the house and four destroyed to make the garden. The exterior walls were untouched so that from the road far below it was indistinguishable from the violet gray mass of the town.
For a moment Nicole stood looking down at the Mediterranean but there was nothing to do with that, even with her tireless hands. Presently Dick came out of his one-room house carrying a telescope and looked east toward Cannes. In a moment Nicole swain into his field of vision, whereupon he disappeared into his house and came out with a megaphone. He had many light mechanical devices.
“Nicole,” he shouted, “I forgot to tell you that as a final apostolic gesture I invited Mrs. Abrams, the woman with the white hair.”
“I suspected it. It’s an outrage.”
The ease with which her reply reached him seemed to belittle his megaphone, so she raised her voice and called, “Can you hear me?”
“Yes.” He lowered the megaphone and then raised it stubbornly. “I’m going to invite some more people too. I’m going to invite the two young men.”
“All right,” she agreed placidly.
“I want to give a really bad party. I mean it. I want to give a party where there’s a brawl and seductions and people going home with their feelings hurt and women passed out in the cabinet de toilette. You wait and see.”
He went back into his house and Nicole saw that one of his most characteristic moods was upon him, the excitement that swept everyone up into it and was inevitably followed by his own form of melancholy, which he never displayed but at which she guessed. This excitement about things reached an intensity out of proportion to their importance, generating a really extraordinary virtuosity with people. Save among a few of the tough-minded and perennially suspicious, he had the power of arousing a fascinated and uncritical love. The reaction came when he realized the waste and extravagance involved. He sometimes looked back with awe at the carnivals of affection he had given, as a general might gaze upon a massacre he had ordered to satisfy an impersonal blood lust.
But to be included in Dick Diver’s world for a while was a remarkable experience: people believed he made special reservations about them, recognizing the proud uniqueness of their destinies, buried under the compromises of how many years. He won everyone quickly with an exquisite consideration and a politeness that moved so fast and intuitively that it could be examined only in its effect. Then, without caution, lest the first bloom of the relation wither, he opened the gate to his amusing world. So long as they subscribed to it completely, their happiness was his preoccupation, but at the first flicker of doubt as to its all-inclusiveness he evaporated before their eyes, leaving little communicable memory of what he had said or done.
At eight-thirty that evening he came out to meet his first guests, his coat carried rather ceremoniously, rather promisingly, in his hand, like a toreador’s cape. It was characteristic that after greeting Rosemary and her mother he waited for them to speak first, as if to allow them the reassurance of their own voices in new surroundings.
To resume Rosemary’s point of view it should be said that, under the spell of the climb to Tarmes and the fresher air, she and her mother looked about appreciatively. Just as the personal qualities of extraordinary people can make themselves plain in an unaccustomed change of expression, so the intensely calculated perfection of Villa Diana transpired all at once through such minute failures as the chance apparition of a maid in the background or the perversity of a cork. While the first guests arrived bringing with them the excitement of the night, the domestic activity of the day receded past them gently, symbolized by the Diver children and their governess still at supper on the terrace.
“What a beautiful garden!” Mrs. Speers exclaimed.
“Nicole’s garden,” said Dick. “She won’t let it alone—she nags it all the time, worries about its diseases. Any day now I expert to have her come down with Powdery Mildew or Fly Speck, or Late Blight.” He pointed his forefinger decisively at Rosemary, saying with a lightness seeming to conceal a paternal interest, “I’m going to save your reason—I’m going to give you a hat to wear on the beach.”
He turned them from the garden to the terrace, where he poured a cocktail. Earl Brady arrived, discovering Rosemary with surprise. His manner was softer than at the studio, as if his differentness had been put on at the gate, and Rosemary, comparing him instantly with Dick Diver, swung sharply toward the latter. In comparison Earl Brady seemed faintly gross, faintly ill-bred; once more, though, she felt an electric response to his person.
He spoke familiarly to the children who were getting up from their outdoor supper.
“Hello, Lanier, how about a song? Will you and Topsy sing me a song?”
“What shall we sing?” agreed the little boy, with the odd chanting accent of American children brought up in France.
“That song about ’Mon ami Pierrot.’”
Brother and sister stood side by side without self-consciousness and their voices soared sweet and shrill upon the evening air.
Au clair de la lune
Mon Ami Pierrot
Prete-moi ta plume
Pour ecrire un mot
Ma chandelle est morte
Je n’ai plus de feu
Ouvre-moi ta porte
Pour l’amour de Dieu.
The singing ceased and the children, their faces aglow with the late sunshine, stood smiling calmly at their success. Rosemary was thinking that the Villa Diana was the centre of the world. On such a stage some memorable thing was sure to happen. She lighted up higher as the gate tinkled open and the rest of the guests arrived in a body—the McKiscos, Mrs. Abrams, Mr. Dumphry, and Mr. Campion came up to the terrace.
Rosemary had a sharp feeling of disappointment—she looked quickly at Dick, as though to ask an explanation of this incongruous mingling. But there was nothing unusual in his expression. He greeted his new guests with a proud bearing and an obvious deference to their infinite and unknown possibilities. She believed in him so much that presently she accepted the rightness of the McKiscos’ presence as if she had expected to meet them all along.
“I’ve met you in Paris,” McKisco said to Abe North, who with his wife had arrived on their heels, “in fact I’ve met you twice.”
“Yes, I remember,” Abe said.
“Then where was it?” demanded McKisco, not content to let well enough alone.
“Why, I think—” Abe got tired of the game, “I can’t remember.”
The interchange filled a pause and Rosemary’s instinct was that something tactful should be said by somebody, but Dick made no attempt to break up the grouping formed by these late arrivals, not even to disarm Mrs. McKisco of her air of . supercilious amusement. He did not solve this social problem because he knew it was not of importance at the moment and would solve itself. He was saving his newness for a larger effort, waiting a more significant moment for his guests to be conscious of a good time.
Rosemary stood beside Tommy Barban—he was in a particularly scornful mood and there seemed to be some special stimulus working upon him. He was leaving in the morning.
’’Home? I have no home. I am going to a war.““What war?”
“What war? Any war. I haven’t seen a paper lately but I suppose there’s a war—there always is.”
“Don’t you care what you fight for?”
“Not at all—so long as I’m well treated. When I’m in a rut I come to see the Divers, because then I know that in a few weeks I’ll want to go to war.”
“You like the Divers,” she reminded him.
“Of course—especially her—but they make me want to go to war.”
She considered this, to no avail. The Divers made her want to stay near them forever.
“You’re half American,” she said, as if that should solve the problem.
“Also I’m half French, and I was educated in England and since 1 was eighteen I’ve worn the uniforms of eight countries. But I hope I did not give you the impression that I am not fond of the Divers—I am, especially of Nicole.”
“How could any one help it?” she said simply.
She felt far from him. The undertone of his words repelled her and she withdrew her adoration for the Divers from the profanity of his bitterness. She was glad he was not next to her at dinner and she was still thinking of his words “especially her” as they moved toward the table in the garden.
For a moment now she was beside Dick Diver on the path. Alongside his hard, neat brightness everything faded into the surety that he knew everything. For a year, which was forever, she had had money and a certain celebrity and contact with the celebrated, and these latter had presented themselves merely as powerful enlargements of the people with whom the doctor’s widow and her daughter had associated in a hotel-pension in Paris. Rosemary was a romantic and her career had not provided many satisfactory opportunities on that score. Her mother, with the idea of a career for Rosemary, would not tolerate any such spurious substitutes as the excitations available on all sides, and indeed Rosemary was already beyond that—she was In the movies but not at all At them. So when she had seen approval of Dick Diver in her mother’s face it meant that he was “the real thing”; it meant permission to go as far as she could.
“I was watching you,” he said, and she knew he meant it. “We’ve grown very fond of you.”
“I fell in love with you the first time I saw you,” she said quietly.
He pretended not to have heard, as if the compliment were purely formal.
“New friends,” he said, as if it were an important point, “can often have a better time together than old friends.”
With that remark, which she did not understand precisely, she found herself at the table, picked out by slowly emerging lights against the dark dusk. A chord of delight struck inside her when she saw that Dick had taken her mother on his right hand; for herself she was between Luis Campion and Brady.
Surcharged with her emotion she turned to Brady with the intention of confiding in him, but at her first mention of Dick a hard-boiled sparkle in his eyes gave her to understand that he refused the fatherly office. In turn she was equally firm when he tried to monopolize her hand, so they talked shop or rather she listened while he talked shop, her polite eyes never leaving his face, but her mind was so definitely elsewhere that she felt he must guess the fact. Intermittently she caught the gist of his sentences and supplied the rest from her subconscious, as one picks up the striking of a clock in the middle with only the rhythm of the first uncounted strokes lingering in the mind.
In a pause Rosemary looked away and up the table where Nicole sat between Tommy Barban and Abe North, her ? chow’s hair foaming and frothing in the candlelight. Rosemary listened, caught sharply by the rich clipped voice in infrequent speech:
“The poor man,” Nicole exclaimed. “Why did you want to saw him in two?”
“Naturally I wanted to see what was inside a waiter. Wouldn’t you like to know what was inside a waiter?”
“Old menus,” suggested Nicole with a short laugh. “Pieces of broken china and tips and pencil stubs.”
“Exactly—but the thing was to prove it scientifically. And of course doing it with that musical saw would have eliminated any sordidness.”
“Did you intend to play the saw while you performed the operation?” Tommy inquired.
“We didn’t get quite that far. We were alarmed by the screams. We thought he might rupture something.”
“All sounds very peculiar to me,” said Nicole. “Any musician that’ll use another musician’s saw to—”
They had been at table half an hour and a perceptible change had set in—person by person had given up something, a preoccupation, an anxiety, a suspicion, and now they were only their best selves and the Divers’ guests. Not to have been friendly and interested would have seemed to reflect on the Divers, so now they were all trying, and seeing this, Rosemary liked everyone—except McKisco, who had contrived to be the unassimilated member of the party. This was less from ill will than from his determination to sustain with wine the good spirits he had enjoyed on his arrival. Lying back in his place between Earl Brady, to whom he had addressed several withering remarks about the movies, and Mrs. Abrams, to whom he said nothing, he stared at Dick Diver with an expression of devastating irony, the effect being occasionally interrupted by his attempts to engage Dick in a eater-cornered conversation across the table.
“Aren’t you a friend of Van Buren Denby?” he would say.
“I don’t believe I know him.”
“I thought you were a friend of his,” he persisted irritably.
When the subject of Mr. Denby fell of its own weight, he essayed other equally irrelative themes, but each time the very deference of Dick’s attention seemed to paralyze him, and after a moment’s stark pause the conversation that he had interrupted would go on without him. He tried breaking into other dialogues, but it was like continually shaking hands with a glove from which the hand had been withdrawn—so finally, with a resigned air of being among children, he devoted his attention entirely to the champagne.
Rosemary’s glance moved at intervals around the table, eager for the others’ enjoyment, as if they were her future stepchildren. A gracious table light, emanating from a bowl of spicy pinks, fell upon Mrs. Abrams’ face, cooked to a turn in Veuve Cliquot, full of vigor, tolerance, adolescent good will; next to her sat Mr. Royal Dumphry, his girl’s comeliness less startling in the pleasure world of evening. Then Violet McKisco, whose prettiness had been piped to the surface of her, so that she ceased her struggle to make tangible to herself her shadowy position as the wife of an arriviste who had not arrived.
Then came Dick, with his arms full of the slack he had taken up from others, deeply merged in his own party.
Then her mother, forever perfect.
Then Barban talking to her mother with an urbane fluency that made Rosemary like him again. Then Nicole. Rosemary saw her suddenly in a new way and found her one of the most beautiful people she had ever known. Her face, the face of a saint, a viking Madonna, shone through the faint motes that snowed across the candlelight, drew down its flush from the wine-colored lanterns in the pine. She was still as still.
Abe North was talking to her about his moral code: “Of course I’ve got one,” he insisted, “—a man can’t live without a moral code. Mine is that I’m against the burning of witches. Whenever they burn a witch I get all hot under the collar.” Rosemary knew from Brady that he was a musician who after a brilliant and precocious start had composed nothing for seven years.
Next was Campion, managing somehow to restrain his most blatant effeminacy, and even to visit upon those near him a certain disinterested motherliness. Then Mary North with a face so merry that it was impossible not to smile back into the white mirrors of her teeth—the whole area around her parted lips was a lovely little circle of delight.
Finally Brady, whose heartiness became, moment by moment, a social thing instead of a crude assertion and reassertion of his own mental health, and his preservation of it by a detachment from the frailties of others.
Rosemary, as dewy with belief as a child from one of Mrs. Burnett’s vicious tracts, had a conviction of homecoming, of a return from the derisive and salacious improvisations of the frontier. There were fireflies riding on the dark air and a dog baying on some low and far-away ledge of the cliff. The table seemed to have risen a little toward the sky like a mechanical dancing platform, giving the people around it a sense of being alone with each other in the dark universe, nourished by its only food, warmed by its only lights. And, as if a curious hushed laugh from Mrs. McKisco were a signal that such a detachment from the world had been attained, the two Divers began suddenly to warm and glow and expand, as if to. make up to their guests, already so subtly assured of their importance, so flattered with politeness, for anything they might still miss from that country well left behind. Just for a moment they seemed to speak to every one at the table, singly and together, assuring them of their friendliness, their affection. And for a moment the faces turned up toward them were like the faces of poor children at a Christmas tree. Then abruptly the table broke up—the moment when the guests had been daringly lifted above conviviality into the rarer atmosphere of sentiment, was over before it could be irreverently breathed, before they had half realized it was there.
But the diffused magic of the hot sweet South had withdrawn into them—the soft-pawed night and the ghostly wash of the Mediterranean far below—the magic left these things and melted into the two Divers and became part of them. Rosemary watched Nicole pressing upon her mother a yellow evening bag she had admired, saying, “I think things ought to belong to the people that like them”—and then sweeping into it all the yellow articles she could find, a pencil, a lipstick, a little note book, “because they all go together.”
Nicole disappeared and presently Rosemary noticed that Dick was no longer there; the guests distributed themselves in the garden or drifted in toward the terrace.
“Do you want,” Violet McKisco asked Rosemary, “to go to the bathroom?”
Not at that precise moment.
“I want,” insisted Mrs. McKisco, “to go to the bathroom.” As a frank outspoken woman she walked toward the house, dragging her secret after her, while Rosemary looked after with reprobation. Earl Brady proposed that they walk down to the sea wall but she felt that this was her time to have a share of Dick Diver when he reappeared, so she stalled, listening to McKisco quarrel with Barban.
“Why do you want to fight the Soviets?” McKisco said. “The greatest experiment ever made by humanity? And the Riff? It seems to me it would be more heroic to fight on the just side.”
“How do you find out which it is?” asked Barban dryly.
“Why—usually everybody intelligent knows.”
“Are you a Communist?”
“I’m a Socialist,” said McKisco, “I sympathize with Russia.”
“Well, I’m a soldier,” Barban answered pleasantly. “My business is to kill people. I fought against the Riff because I am a European, and I have fought the Communists because they want to take my property from me.”
“Of all the narrow-minded excuses,” McKisco looked around to establish a derisive liaison with someone else, but without success. He had no idea what he was up against in Barban, neither of the simplicity of the other man’s bag of ideas nor of the complexity of his training. McKisco knew what ideas were, and as his mind grew he was able to recognize and sort an increasing number of them—but faced by a man whom he considered “dumb,” one in whom he found no ideas he could recognize as such, and yet to whom he could not feel personally superior, he jumped at the conclusion that Barban was the end product of an archaic world, and as such, worthless. McKisco’s contacts with the princely classes in America had impressed upon him their uncertain and fumbling snobbery, their delight in ignorance and their deliberate rudeness, all lifted from the English with no regard paid to factors that make English philistinism and rudeness purposeful, and applied in a land where a little knowledge and civility buy more than they do anywhere else—an attitude which reached its apogee in the “Harvard manner” of about 1900. He thought that this Barban was of that type, and being drunk rashly forgot that he was in awe of him—this led up to the trouble in which he presently found himself.
Feeling vaguely ashamed for McKisco, Rosemary waited, placid but inwardly on fire, for Dick Diver’s return. From her chair at the deserted table with Barban, McKisco, and Abe she looked up along the path edged with shadowy myrtle and fern to the stone terrace, and falling in love with her mother’s profile against a lighted door, was about to go there when Mrs. McKisco came hurrying down from the house.
She exuded excitement. In the very silence with which she pulled out a chair and sat down, her eyes staring, her mouth working a little, they all recognized a person crop-full of news, and her husband’s “What’s the matter, Vi?” came naturally, as all eyes turned toward her.
“My dear—” she said at large, and then addressed Rosemary, “my dear—it’s nothing. I really can’t say a word.”
“You’re among friends,” said Abe.
“Well, upstairs I came upon a scene, my dears—”
Shaking her head cryptically she broke off just in time, for Tommy arose and addressed her politely but sharply:
“It’s inadvisable to comment on what goes on in this house.”
Violet breathed loud and hard once and with an effort brought another expression into her face.
Dick came finally and with a sure instinct he separated Barban and the McKiscos and became excessively ignorant and inquisitive about literature with McKisco—thus giving the latter the moment of superiority which he required. The others helped him carry lamps up—who would not be pleased at carrying lamps helpfully through the darkness? Rosemary helped, meanwhile responding patiently to Royal Dumphry’s inexhaustible curiosity about Hollywood.
Now—she was thinking—I’ve earned a time alone with him. He must know that because his laws are like the laws Mother taught me.
Rosemary was right—presently he detached her from the company on the terrace, and they were alone together, borne away from the house toward the seaside wall with what were less steps than irregularly spaced intervals through some of which she was pulled, through others blown.
They looked out over the Mediterranean. Far below, the last excursion boat from the Isles des Lerins floated across the bay like a Fourth-of-July balloon foot-loose in the heavens. Between the black isles it floated, softy parting the dark tide.
“I understand why you speak as you do of your mother,” he said. “Her attitude toward you is very fine, I think. She has a sort of wisdom that’s rare in America.”
“Mother is perfect,” she prayed.
“I was talking to her about a plan I have—she told me that how long you both stayed in France depended on you.”
On you, Rosemary all but said aloud.
“So since things are over down here—”
“Over?” she inquired.
“Well, this is over—this part of the summer is over. Last week Nicole’s sister left, to-morrow Tommy Barban leaves, Monday Abe and Mary North are leaving. Maybe we’ll have more fun this summer but this particular fun is over. I want it to die violently instead of fading out sentimentally—that’s why I gave this party. What I’m coming to is—Nicole and I are going up to Paris to see Abe North off for America—I wonder if you’d like to go with us.”
“What did Mother say?”
“She seemed to think it would be fine. She doesn’t want to go herself. She wants you to go alone.”
“I haven’t seen Paris since I’ve been grown,” said Rosemary. “I’d love to see it with you.”
“That’s nice of you.” Did she imagine that his voice was suddenly metallic? “Of course we’ve been excited about you from the moment you came on the beach. That vitality, we were sure it was professional—especially Nicole was. It’d never use itself up on any one person or group.”
Her instinct cried out to her that he was passing her along slowly toward Nicole and she put her own brakes on, saying with an equal harness:
“I wanted to know all of you too—especially you. I told you I fell in love with you the first time I saw you.”
She was right going at it that way. But the space between heaven and earth had cooled his mind, destroyed the impulsiveness that had led him to bring her here, and made him aware of the too obvious appeal, the struggle with an unrehearsed scene and unfamiliar words.
He tried now to make her want to go back to the house and it was difficult, and he did not quite want to lose her. She felt only the draft blowing as he joked with her good-humoredly.
“You don’t know what you want. You go and ask your mother what you want.”
She was stricken. She touched him, feeling the smooth cloth of his dark coat like a chasuble. She seemed about to fall to her knees—from that position she delivered her last shot.
“I think you’re the most wonderful person I ever met—except my mother.”
“You have romantic eyes.”
His laughter swept them on up toward the terrace where he delivered her to Nicole…
Too soon it had become time to go and the Divers helped them all to go quickly. In the Divers’ big Isotta there would be Tommy Barban and his baggage—he was spending the night at the hotel to catch an early train—with Mrs. Abrams, the McKiscos and Campion. Earl Brady was going to drop Rosemary and her mother on his way to Monte Carlo, and Royal Dumphry rode with them because the Divers’ car was crowded. Down in the garden lanterns still glowed over the table where they had dined, as the Divers stood side by side in the gate, Nicole blooming away and filling the night with graciousness, and Dick bidding good-bye to everyone by name. To Rosemary it seemed very poignant to drive away and leave them in their house. Again she wondered what Mrs. McKisco had seen in the bathroom.
It was a limpid black night, hung as in a basket from a single dull star. The horn of the car ahead was muffled by the resistance of the thick air. Brady’s chauffeur drove slowly; the tail-light of the other car appeared from time to time at turnings—then not at all. But after ten minutes it came into sight again, drawn up at the side of the road. Brady’s chauffeur slowed up behind but immediately it began to roll forward slowly and they passed it. In the instant they passed it they heard a blur of voices from behind the reticence of the limousine and saw that the Divers’ chauffeur was grinning. Then they went on, going fast through the alternating banks of darkness and thin night, descending at last in a series of roller-coaster swoops, to the great bulk of Gausse’s hotel.
Rosemary dozed for three hours and then lay awake, suspended in the moonshine. Cloaked by the erotic darkness she exhausted the future quickly, with all the eventualities that might lead up to a kiss, but with the kiss itself as blurred as a kiss in pictures. She changed position in bed deliberately, the first sign of insomnia she had ever had, and tried to think with her mother’s mind about the question. In this process she was often acute beyond her experience, with remembered things from old conversations that had gone into her half-heard.
Rosemary had been brought up with the idea of work. Mrs. Speers had spent the slim leavings of the men who had widowed her on her daughter’s education, and when she blossomed out at sixteen with that extraordinary hair, rushed her to Aix-les-Bains and inarched her unannounced into the suite of an American producer who was recuperating there. When the producer went to New York they went too. Thus Rosemary had passed her entrance examinations. With the ensuing success and the promise of comparative Stability that followed, Mrs. Speers had felt free to tacitly imply tonight:
“You were brought up to work—not especially to marry. Now you’ve found your first nut to crack and it’s a good nut—go ahead and put whatever happens down to experience. Wound yourself or him—whatever happens it can’t spoil you because economically you’re a boy, not a girl.”
Rosemary had never done much thinking, save about the illimitability of her mother’s perfections, so this final severance of the umbilical cord disturbed her sleep. A false dawn sent the sky pressing through the tall French windows, and getting up she walked out on the terrace, warm to her bare feet. There were secret noises in the air, an insistent bird achieved an ill-natured triumph with regularity in the trees above the tennis court; footfalls followed a round drive in the rear of the hotel, taking their tone in turn from the dust road, the crushed-stone walk, the cement steps, and then reversing the process in going away. Beyond the inky sea and far up that high, black shadow of a hill lived the ? Divers. She thought of them both together, heard them still singing faintly a song like rising smoke, like a hymn, very remote in time and far away. Their children slept, their gate was shut for the night.
She went inside and dressing in a light gown and espadrilles went out her window again and along the continuous terrace toward the front door, going fast since she found that other private rooms, exuding sleep, gave upon it. She stopped at the sight of a figure seated on the wide white stairway of the formal entrance—then she saw that it was Luis Campion and that he was weeping.
He was weeping hard and quietly and shaking in the same parts as a weeping woman. A scene in a role she had played last year swept over her irresistibly and advancing she touched him on the shoulder. He gave a little yelp before he recognized her.
“What is it?” Her eyes were level and kind and not slanted into him with hard curiosity. “Can I help you?”
“Nobody can help me. I knew it. I have only myself to blame. It’s always the same.”
“What is it—do you want to tell me?”
He looked at her to see.
“No,” he decided. “When you’re older you’ll know what people who love suffer. The agony. It’s better to be cold and young than to love. It’s happened to me before but never like this—so accidental—just when everything was going well.”
His face was repulsive in the quickening light. Not by a flicker of her personality, a movement of the smallest muscle, did she betray her sudden disgust with whatever it was. But Campion’s sensitivity realized it and he changed the subject rather suddenly.
“Abe North is around here somewhere.”
“Why, he’s staying at the Divers’!”
“Yes, but he’s up—don’t you know what happened?”
A shutter opened suddenly in a room two stories above and an English voice spat distinctly:
“Will you kaindlay stup tucking!”
Rosemary and Luis Campion went humbly down the steps and to a bench beside the road to the beach.
“Then you have no idea what’s happened? My dear, the most extraordinary thing—” He was warming up now, hanging on to his revelation. “I’ve never seen a thing come so suddenly—I have always avoided violent people—they upset me so I sometimes have to go to bed for days.”
He looked at her triumphantly. She had no idea what he was talking about.
“My dear,” he burst forth, leaning toward her with his whole body as he touched her on the upper leg, to show it was no mere irresponsible venture of his hand—he was so sure of himself. “There’s going to be a duel.”
“A duel with—we don’t know what yet.”
“Who’s going to duel?”
“I’ll tell you from the beginning.” He drew a long breath and then said, as if it were rather to her discredit but he wouldn’t hold it against her. “Of course, you were in the other automobile. Well, in a way you were lucky—I lost at least two years of my life, it came so suddenly.”
“What came?” she demanded.
“I don’t know what began it. First she began to talk—”
“Violet McKisco.” He lowered his voice as if there were “people under the bench. “But don’t mention the Divers . because he made threats against anybody who mentioned it.”
“Tommy Barban, so don’t you say I so much as mentioned them. None of us ever found out anyhow what it was Violet had to say because he kept interrupting her, and then her husband got into it and now, my dear, we have the duel. This morning—at five o’clock—in an hour.” He sighed suddenly thinking of his own griefs. “I almost wish it were I. I might as well be killed now I have nothing to live for.” He broke off and rocked to and fro with sorrow.
Again the iron shutter parted above and the same British voice said:
“Rilly, this must stup immejetely.”
Simultaneously Abe North, looking somewhat distracted, came out of the hotel, perceived them against the sky, white over the sea. Rosemary shook her head warningly before he could speak and they moved another bench further down the road. Rosemary saw that Abe was a little tight.
“What are you doing up?” he demanded.
“I just got up.” She started to laugh, but remembering the voice above, she restrained herself.
“Plagued by the nightingale,” Abe suggested, and repeated, “probably plagued by the nightingale. Has this sewing-circle member told you what happened?”
Campion said with dignity:
“I only know what I heard with my own ears.”
He got up and walked swiftly away; Abe sat down beside Rosemary.
“Why did you treat him so badly?”
“Did I?” he asked surprised. “He’s been weeping around here all morning.”
“Well, maybe he’s sad about something.”
“Maybe he is.”
“What about a duel? Who’s going to duel? I thought there was something strange in that car. Is it true?”
“It certainly is coo-coo but it seems to be true.”
The trouble began at the time Earl Brady’s car passed the Divers’ car stopped on the road—Abe’s account melted impersonally into the thronged night—Violet McKisco was telling Mrs. Abrams something she had found out about the Divers—she had gone upstairs in their house and she had come upon something there which had made a great impression on her. But Tommy is a watch-dog about the Divers. As a matter of fact she is inspiring and formidable—but it’s a mutual thing, and the fact of the Divers together is more important to their friends than many of them realize. Of course it’s done at a certain sacrifice—sometimes they seem just rather charming figures in a ballet, and worth just the attention you give a ballet, but it’s more than that—you’d have to know the story. Anyhow Tommy is one of those men that Dick’s passed along to Nicole and when Mrs. McKisco kept hinting at her story, he called them on it. He said:
“Mrs. McKisco, please don’t talk further about Mrs. Diver.”
“I wasn’t talking to you,” she objected.
“I think it’s better to leave them out.”
“Are they so sacred?”
“Leave them out. Talk about something else.”
He was sitting on one of the two little seats beside Campion. Campion told me the story.
“Well, you’re pretty high-handed,” Violet came back.
You know how conversations are in cars late at night, some people murmuring and some not caring, giving up after the party, or bored or asleep. Well, none of them knew just what happened until the car stopped and Barban cried in a voice that shook everybody, a voice for cavalry.
“Do you want to step out here—we’re only a mile from the hotel and you can walk it or I’ll drag you there. You’ve got to shut up and shut your wife up!”
“You’re a bully,” said McKisco. “You know you’re stronger muscularly than I am. But I’m not afraid of you—what they ought to have is the code duello—”
There’s where he made his mistake because Tommy, being French, leaned over and clapped him one, and then the chauffeur drove on. That was where you passed them. Then the women began. That was still the state of things when the car got to the hotel.
Tommy telephoned some man in Cannes to act as second and McKisco said he wasn’t going to be seconded by Campion, who wasn’t crazy for the job anyhow, so he telephoned me not to say anything but to come right down. Violet McKisco collapsed and Mrs. Abrams took her to her room and gave her a bromide whereupon she fell comfortably asleep on the bed. When I got there I tried to argue with Tommy but the latter wouldn’t accept anything short of an apology and McKisco rather spunkily wouldn’t give it.
When Abe had finished Rosemary asked thoughtfully:
“Do the Divers know it was about them?”
“No—and they’re not ever going to know they had anything to do with it. That damn Campion had no business talking to you about it, but since he did—I told the chauffeur I’d get out the old musical saw if he opened his mouth about it. This fight’s between two men—what Tommy needs is a good war.”
“I hope the Divers don’t find out,” Rosemary said.
Abe peered at his watch.
“I’ve got to go up and see McKisco—do you want to come?—he feels sort of friendless—I bet he hasn’t slept.”
Rosemary had a vision of the desperate vigil that high-strung, badly organized man had probably kept. After a moment balanced between pity and repugnance she agreed, and full of morning energy, bounced upstairs beside Abe.
McKisco was sitting on his bed with his alcoholic combativeness vanished, in spite of the glass of champagne in his hand. He seemed very puny and cross and white. Evidently he had been writing and drinking all night. He stared confusedly at Abe and Rosemary and asked:
“Is it time?”
“No, not for half an hour.”
The table was covered with papers which he assembled with some difficulty into a long letter; the writing on the last pages was very large and illegible. In the delicate light of electric lamps fading, he scrawled his name at the bottom, crammed it into an envelope and handed it to Abe. “For my wife.”
“You better souse your head in cold water,” Abe suggested.
“You think I’d better?” inquired McKisco doubtfully. “I don’t want to get too sober.”
“Well, you look terrible now.”
Obediently McKisco went into the bathroom.
“I’m leaving everything in an awful mess,” he called. “I don’t know how Violet will get back to America. I don’t carry any insurance. I never got around to it.”
“Don’t talk nonsense, you’ll be right here eating breakfast in an hour.”
“Sure, I know.” He came back with his hair wet and looked at Rosemary as if he saw her for the first time. Suddenly tears stood in his eyes. “I never have finished my novel. That’s what makes me so sore. You don’t like me,” he said to Rosemary, “but that can’t be helped. I’m primarily a literary man.” He made a vague discouraged sound and shook his head helplessly. “I’ve made lots of mistakes in my life—many of them. But I’ve been one of the most prominent—in some ways—”
He gave this up and puffed at a dead cigarette.
“I do like you,” said Rosemary, “but I don’t think you ought to fight a duel.”
“Yeah, I should have tried to beat him up, but it’s done now. I’ve let myself be drawn into something that I had no right to be. I have a very violent temper—” He looked closely at Abe as if he expected the statement to be challenged. Then with an aghast laugh he raised the cold cigarette butt toward his mouth. His breathing quickened.
“The trouble was I suggested the duel—if Violet had only kept her mouth shut I could have fixed it. Of course even now I can just leave, or sit back and laugh at the whole thing—but I don’t think Violet would ever respect me again.”
“Yes, she would,” said Rosemary. “She’d respect you more.”
“No—you don’t know Violet. She’s very hard when she gets an advantage over you. We’ve been married twelve years, we had a little girl seven years old and she died and after that you know how it is. We both played around on the side a little, nothing serious but drifting apart—she called me a coward out there to-night.”
Troubled, Rosemary didn’t answer.
“Well, we’ll see there’s as little damage done as possible,” said Abe. He opened the leather case. “These are Barban’s duelling pistols—I borrowed them so you could get familiar with them. He carries them in his suitcase.” He weighed one of the archaic weapons in his hand. Rosemary gave an exclamation of uneasiness and McKisco looked at the pistols anxiously.
“Well—it isn’t as if we were going to stand up and pot each other with forty-fives,” he said.
“I don’t know,” said Abe cruelly; “the idea is you can sight better along a long barrel.”
“How about distance?” asked McKisco.
“I’ve inquired about that. If one or the other parties has to be definitely eliminated they make it eight paces, if they’re just good and sore it’s twenty paces, and if it’s only to vindicate their honor it’s forty paces. His second agreed with me to make it forty.”
“There’s a wonderful duel in a novel of Pushkin’s,” recollected Abe. “Each man stood on the edge of a precipice, so if he was hit at all he was done for.”
This seemed very remote and academic to McKisco, who stared at him and said, “What?”
“Do you want to take a quick dip and freshen up?”
“No—no, I couldn’t swim.” He sighed. “I don’t see what it’s all about,” he said helplessly. “I don’t see why I’m doing it.”
It was the first thing he had ever done in his life. Actually he was one of those for whom the sensual world does not exist, and faced with a concrete fact he brought to it a vast surprise.
“We might as well be going,” said Abe, seeing him fail a little.
“All right.” He drank off a stiff drink of brandy, put the flask in his pocket, and said with almost a savage air: “What’ll happen if I kill him—will they throw me in jail?”
“I’ll run you over the Italian border.”
He glanced at Rosemary—and then said apologetically to Abe:
“Before we start there’s one thing I’d like to see you about alone.”
“I hope neither of you gets hurt,” Rosemary said. “I think it’s very foolish and you ought to try to stop it.”
She found Campion downstairs in the deserted lobby.
“I saw you go upstairs,” he said excitedly. “Is he all right? When is the duel going to be?”
“I don’t know.” She resented his speaking of it as a circus, with McKisco as the tragic clown.
“Will you go with me?” he demanded, with the air of having seats. “I’ve hired the hotel car.”
“I don’t want to go.”
“Why not? I imagine it’ll take years off my life but I wouldn’t miss it for words. We could watch it from quite far away.”
“Why don’t you get Mr. Dumphry to go with you?”
His monocle fell out, with no whiskers to hide in—he drew himself up.
“I never want to see him again.”
“Well, I’m afraid I can’t go. Mother wouldn’t like it.”
As Rosemary entered her room Mrs. Speers stirred sleepily and called to her:
“Where’ve you been?”
“I just couldn’t sleep. You go back to sleep, Mother.”
“Come in my room.” Hearing her sit up in bed, Rosemary went in and told her what had happened.
“Why don’t you go and see it?” Mrs. Speers suggested. “You needn’t go up close and you might be able to help afterwards.”
Rosemary did not like the picture of herself looking on and she demurred, but Mrs. Speers’ consciousness was still clogged with sleep and she was reminded of night calls to death and calamity when she was the wife of a doctor. “I like you to go places and do things on your own initiative without me—you did much harder things for Rainy’s publicity stunts.”
Still Rosemary did not see why she should go, but she obeyed the sure, clear voice that had sent her into the stage entrance of the Odeon in Paris when she was twelve and greeted her when she came out again.
She thought she was reprieved when from the steps “she saw Abe and McKisco drive away—but after a moment the hotel car came around the corner. Squealing delightedly Luis Campion pulled her in beside him.
“I hid there because they might not let us come. I’ve got my movie camera, you see.”
She laughed helplessly. He was so terrible that he was no longer terrible, only dehumanized.
“I wonder why Mrs. McKisco didn’t like the Divers?” she said. “They were very nice to her.”
“Oh, it wasn’t that. It was something she saw. We never did find exactly what it was because of Barban.”
“Then that wasn’t what made you so sad.”
“Oh, no,” he said, his voice breaking, “that was something else that happened when we got back to the hotel. But now I don’t care—I wash my hands of it completely.”
They followed the other car east along the shore past Juan les Pins, where the skeleton of the new Casino was rising. It was past four and under a blue-gray sky the first fishing boats were creaking out into a glaucous sea. Then they turned off the main road and into the back country.
“It’s the golf course,” cried Campion. “I’m sure that’s where it’s going to be.”
He was right. When Abe’s car pulled up ahead of them the east was crayoned red and yellow, promising a sultry day. Ordering the hotel car into a grove of pines Rosemary and Campion kept in the shadow of a wood and skirted the bleached fairway where Abe and McKisco were walking up and down, the latter raising his head at intervals like a rabbit scenting. Presently there were moving figures over by a farther tee and the watchers made out Barban and his French second—the latter carried the box of pistols under his arm.
Somewhat appalled, McKisco slipped behind Abe and took a long swallow of brandy. He walked on choking and would have marched directly up into the other party, but Abe stopped him and went forward to talk to the Frenchman. The sun was over the horizon.
Campion grabbed Rosemary’s arm.
“I can’t stand it,” he squeaked, almost voiceless. “It’s too much. This will cost me—”
“Let go,” Rosemary said peremptorily. She breathed a frantic prayer in French.
The principals faced each other, Barban with the sleeve rolled up from his arm. His eyes gleamed restlessly in the sun, but his motion was deliberate as he wiped his palm on the seam of his trousers. McKisco, reckless with brandy, pursed his lips in a whistle and pointed his long nose about nonchalantly, until Abe stepped forward with a handkerchief in his hand. The French second stood with his face turned away. Rosemary caught her breath in terrible pity and gritted her teeth with hatred for Barban; then:
“One—two—three!” Abe counted in a strained voice.
They fired at the same moment. McKisco swayed but recovered himself. Both shots had missed.
“Now, that’s enough!” cried Abe.
The duellists walked in, and everyone looked at Barban inquiringly.
“I declare myself unsatisfied.”
“What? Sure you’re satisfied,” said Abe impatiently. “You just don’t know it.”
“Your man refuses another shot?”
“You’re damn right, Tommy. You insisted on this and my client went through with it.”
Tommy laughed scornfully.
“The distance was ridiculous,” he said. “I’m not accustomed to such farces—your man must remember he’s not now in America.”
“No use cracking at America,” said Abe rather sharply. And then, in a more conciliatory tone, “This has gone far enough, Tommy.” They parleyed briskly for a moment—then Barban nodded and bowed coldly to his late antagonist.
“No shake hand?” suggested the French doctor.
“They already know each other,” said Abe.
He turned to McKisco.
“Come on, let’s get out.”
As they strode off, McKisco, in exultation, gripped his arm.
“Wait a minute!” Abe said. “Tommy wants his pistol back. He might need it again.”
McKisco handed it over.
“To hell with him,” he said in a tough voice. “Tell him he can—”
“Shall I tell him you want another shot?”
“Well, I did it,” cried McKisco, as they went along. “And I did it pretty well, didn’t I? I wasn’t yellow.”
“You were pretty drunk,” said Abe bluntly.
“No, 1 wasn’t.”
“All right, then, you weren’t.”
“Why would it make any difference if I had a drink or so?” As his confidence mounted he looked resentfully at Abe.
“What difference does that make?” he repeated.
“If you can’t see it, there’s no use going into it.”
“Don’t you know everybody was drunk all the time during the war?”
“Well, let’s forget it.”
But the episode was not quite over. There were urgent footsteps in the heather behind them and the doctor drew up alongside.
“Pardon, Messieurs,” he panted. “Voulez-vous regler mes honorames? Naturellement c’est pour soins medicaux seulement. M. Barban n’a qu’un billet de mille et ne peut pas les regler et l’autre a laisse son porte-monnaie chez lui.”
“Trust a Frenchman to think of that,” said Abe, and then to the doctor. “Combien?”
“Let me pay this,” said McKisco.
“No, I’ve got it. We were all in about the same danger.”
Abe paid the doctor while McKisco suddenly turned into the bushes and was sick there. Then paler than before he strutted on with Abe toward the car through the now rosy morning.
Campion lay gasping on his back in the shrubbery, the only casualty of the duel, while Rosemary suddenly hysterical with laughter kept kicking at him with her espadrille. She did this persistently until she roused him—the only matter of importance to her now was that in a few hours she would see the person whom she still referred to in her mind as “the Divers” on the beach.
They were at Voisins waiting for Nicole, six of them, Rosemary, the Norths, Dick Diver and two young French musicians. They were looking over the other patrons of the restaurant to see if they had repose—Dick said no American men had any repose, except himself, and they were seeking an example to confront him with. Things looked black for them—not a man had come into the restaurant for ten minutes without raising his hand to his face.
“We ought never to have given up waxed mustaches,” said Abe. “Nevertheless Dick isn’t the only man with repose—”
“Oh, yes, I am.”
“—but he may be the only sober man with repose.”
A well-dressed American had come in with two women who swooped and fluttered unself-consciously around a table. Suddenly, he perceived that he was being watched—whereupon his hand rose spasmodically and arranged a phantom bulge in his necktie. In another unseated party a man endlessly patted his shaven cheek with his palm, and his companion mechanically raised and lowered the stub of a cold cigar. The luckier ones fingered eyeglasses and facial hair, the unequipped stroked blank mouths, or even pulled desperately at the lobes of their ears.
A well-known general came in, and Abe, counting on the man’s first year at West Point—that year during which no cadet can resign and from which none ever recovers—made a bet with Dick of five dollars.
His hands hanging naturally at his sides, the general waited to be seated. Once his arms swung suddenly backward like a jumper’s and Dick said, “Ah!” supposing he had lost control, but the general recovered and they breathed again—the agony was nearly over, the garcon was pulling out his chair…
With a touch of fury the conqueror shot up his hand and scratched his gray immaculate head.
“You see,” said Dick smugly, “I’m the only one.”
Rosemary was quite sure of it and Dick, realizing that he never had a better audience, made the group into so bright a unit that Rosemary felt an impatient disregard for all who were not at their table. They had been two days in Paris but actually they were still under the beach umbrella. When, as at the ball of the Corps des Pages the night before, the surroundings seemed formidable to Rosemary, who had yet to attend a Mayfair party in Hollywood, Dick would bring the scene within range by greeting a few people, a sort of selection—the Divers seemed to have a large acquaintance, but it was always as if the person had not seen them for a long, long time, and was utterly bowled over, “Why, where do you keep yourselves?”—and then re-create the unity of his own party by destroying the outsiders softly but permanently with an ironic coup de grace. Presently Rosemary seemed to have known those people herself in some deplorable past, and then got on to them, rejected them, discarded them.
Their own party was overwhelmingly American and sometimes scarcely American at all. It was themselves he gave back to them, blurred by the compromises of how many years.
Into the dark, smoky restaurant, smelling of the rich raw foods on the buffet, slid Nicole’s sky-blue suit like a stray segment of the weather outside. Seeing from their eyes how beautiful she was, she thanked them with a smile of radiant appreciation. They were all very nice people for a while, very courteous and all that. Then they grew tired of it and they were funny and bitter, and finally they made a lot of plans. They laughed at things that they would not remember clearly afterward—laughed a lot and the men drank three bottles of wine. The trio of women at the table were representative of the enormous flux of American life. Nicole . was the granddaughter of a self-made American capitalist and the granddaughter of a Count of the House of Lippe Weissenfeld. Mary North was the daughter of a journey-man paper-hanger and a descendant of President Tyler. Rosemary was from the middle of the middle class, catapulted by her mother onto the uncharted heights of Hollywood. Their point of resemblance to each other and their difference from so many American women, lay in the fact that they were all happy to exist in a man’s world—they preserved their individuality through men and not by opposition to them. They would all three have made alternatively good courtesans or good wives not by the accident of birth but through the greater accident of finding their man or not finding him.
So Rosemary found it a pleasant party, that luncheon, nicer in that there were only seven people, about the limit of a good party. Perhaps, too, the fact that she was new to their world acted as a sort of catalytic agent to precipitate out all their old reservations about one another. After the table broke up, a waiter directed Rosemary back into the dark hinterland of all French restaurants, where she looked up a phone number by a dim orange bulb, and called Franco-American Films. Sure, they had a print of “Daddy’s Girl”—it was out for the moment, but they would run it off later in the week for her at 341 Rue des Saintes Anges—ask for Mr. Crowder.
The semi-booth gave on the vestiaire and as Rosemary hung up the receiver she heard two low voices not five feet from her on the other side of a row of coats.
“—So you love me?”
“Oh, do I!”
It was Nicole—Rosemary hesitated in the door of the booth—then she heard Dick say:
“I want you terribly—let’s go to the hotel now.” Nicole gave a little gasping sigh. For a moment the words conveyed nothing at all to Rosemary—but the tone did. The vast secretiveness of it vibrated to herself.
“I want you.”
“I’ll be at the hotel at four.”
Rosemary stood breathless as the voices moved away. She was at first even astonished—she had seen them in their relation to each other as people without personal exigencies—as something cooler. Now a strong current of emotion flowed through her, profound and unidentified. She did not know whether she was attracted or repelled, but only that she was deeply moved. It made her feel very alone as she went back into the restaurant, but it was touching to look in upon, and the passionate gratitude of Nicole’s “Oh, do I!” echoed in her mind. The particular mood of the passage she had witnessed lay ahead of her; but however far she was from it her stomach told her it was all right—she had none of the aversion she had felt in the playing of certain love scenes in pictures.
Being far away from it she nevertheless irrevocably participated in it now, and shopping with Nicole she was much more conscious of the assignation than Nicole herself. She looked at Nicole in a new way, estimating her attractions. Certainly she was the most attractive woman Rosemary had ever met—with her hardness, her devotions and loyalties, and a certain.elusiveness which Rosemary, thinking now through her mother’s middle-class mind, associated with her attitude about money. Rosemary spent money she had earned—she was here in Europe due to the fact that she had gone in the pool six times that January day with her temperature roving from 99° in the early morning to 103°, when her mother stopped it.
With Nicole’s help Rosemary bought two dresses and two hats and four pairs of shoes with her money. Nicole bought from a great list that ran two pages, and bought the things in the windows besides. Everything she liked that she couldn’t possibly use herself, she bought as a present for a friend. She bought colored beads, folding beach cushions, artificial flowers, honey, a guest bed, bags, scarfs, love birds, miniatures for a doll’s house and three yards of some new cloth the color of prawns. She bought a dozen bathing suits, a rubber alligator, a travelling chess set of gold and ivory, big linen handkerchiefs for Abe, two chamois leather jackets of kingfisher blue and burning bush from Hermes—bought all these things not a bit like a high-class courtesan buying underwear and jewels, which were after all professional equipment and insurance—but with an entirely different point of view. Nicole was the product of much ingenuity and toil. For her sake trains began their run at Chicago and traversed the round belly of the continent to California; chicle factories fumed and link belts grew link by link in factories; men mixed tooth-paste in vats and drew mouth-wash out of copper hogsheads; girls canned tomatoes quickly in August or worked rudely at the Five-and-Tens on Christmas Eve; half-breed Indians toiled on Brazilian coffee plantations and dreamers were muscled out of patent rights in new tractors—these were some of the people who gave a tithe to Nicole, and as the whole system swayed and thundered onward it lent a feverish bloom to such processes of hers as wholesale buying, like the flush of a fireman’s face holding his post before a spreading blaze. She illustrated very simple principles, containing in herself her own doom, but illustrated them so accurately that there was grace in the procedure, and presently Rosemary would try to imitate it.
It was almost four. Nicole stood in a shop with a love bird on her shoulder, and had one of her infrequent outbursts of speech.
“Well, what if you hadn’t gone in that pool that day—I sometimes wonder about such things. Just before the war we were in Berlin—I was thirteen, it was just before Mother died. My sister was going to a court ball and she had three of the royal princes on her dance card, all arranged by a chamberlain and everything. Half an hour before she was going to start she had a side ache and a high fever. The doctor said it was appendicitis and she ought to be operated on. But Mother had her plans made, so Baby went to the ball and danced till two with an ice pack strapped on under her evening dress. She was operated on at seven o’clock next morning.”
It was good to be hard, then; all nice people were hard on themselves. But it was four o’clock and Rosemary kept thinking of Dick waiting for Nicole now at the hotel. She must go there, she must not make him wait for her. She kept thinking, “Why don’t you go?” and then suddenly, “Or let me go if you don’t want to.” But Nicole went to one more place to buy corsages for them both and sent one to Mary North. Only then she seemed to remember and with sudden abstraction she signalled for a taxi.
“Good-by,” said Nicole. “We had fun, didn’t we?”
“Loads of fun,” said Rosemary. It was more difficult than she thought and her whole self protested as Nicole drove away.
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 Europeans 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 done 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 existed 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 weddings 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 Wurtemburg 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 thai 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 six 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 taxi-cab 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 daytime one is deflated by such towns, with their little trolley cars of twenty years ago crossing the great gray 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 Wurtemburgers, Prussian Guards, Chasseurs Alpins, Manchester mill hands and old Etonians to pursue their eternal dissolution under the warm rain, they took the train for Paris. They ate sandwiches of mortadel 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 guide-books 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 Art 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 when 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 afterward it’s the same way.”
“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 though 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 acts 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 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 splendor 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 color 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 want 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 afterwards, 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 in 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 doorknob. 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 expansive-ness 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, gray 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, to be 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 are 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; inevitable 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 aviation port, 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 eleciric-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 every one 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 aforementioned 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 any one 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 manikins’ heads, and as they talked the heads waved gracefully about 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 gray 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 humor 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, whither 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 any one 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 gray 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, so 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 understood 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-by. At his urgency she walked down with him to the one below for a minute—and then up and up. Finally it was good-by 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 quarters 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 jeweller 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 any one so nice, so thoroughly nice as Dick was that night. She compared him with the two Englishmen, whom Abe addressed conscientiously as “Major Hengest 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 happiest. 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. Some time 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 bringing 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 dark spots in her cheek marked where the color was by day.
“I can’t,” she said. “I promised Mary North to stay along with them—or Abe’11 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 ubiquitous Collis and a big splendidly dressed oil Indian named George T. Horseprotection 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 him 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 fascination 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 gray color 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 upon 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 some one 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 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-by—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 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 insofar 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 in this morning Nicole had liked Abe better than any one 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 some one he had seen around Paris. He took advantage 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 humor. ’’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-by 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 onto 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 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 Diaghileff,” 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 onto the pavement where two porters held a post-mortem beside them as they waited for a taxi.
“Tu as vu le revolver? Il 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-swell of imagination that he counted on for his judgments.
After Mary North left them, accompanied by the Italian singing teacher who had joined them for coffee and was taking her to her train, Rosemary, too, stood up, bound for an 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-by, 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 cheek, 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 check, 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 glazed his spirit again by concentration upon the objects he dealt with.
Still he failed to decide to whom the check 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 friends 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 postmarked 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 1 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 check to Casasus at the next desk, who was free.
“How are you, Diver?” Casasus was genial. He stood up, his mustache 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 check 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 check 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 check, 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-by and went out. He had long ago purchased the doorman; his taxi sprang to the curb.
“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 neighborhood. Next door to the place he saw a sign: “1000 chemises.” The shirts filled the window, piled, cravated, stuffed, or draped with shoddy grace on the showcase floor: “1000 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 molded 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 of standing around, he became suddenly involved in a human contact. It was just the sort of thing that was likely to happen to him when he was in the mood of not wanting to see any one. So rigidly did he sometimes guard his exposed self-consciousness that frequently he defeated his own purposes; as an actor who underplays a part sets up a craning forward, a stimulated emotional attention in an audience, and seems to create in others an ability to bridge the gap he has left open. Similarly we are seldom sorry for those who need and crave our pity—we reserve this for those who, by other means, make us exercise the abstract function of pity.
So Dick might, himself, have analyzed the incident that ensued. As he paced the Rue des Saintes-Anges he was spoken to by a thin-faced American, perhaps thirty, with an air of being scarred and a slight but sinister smile. As Dick gave him the light he requested, he placed him as one of a type of which he had been conscious since early youth—a type that loafed about tobacco stores with one elbow on the counter and watched, through heaven knew what small chink of the mind, the people who came in and out. Intimate to garages, where he had vague business conducted in undertones, to barber shops, to the lobbies of theatres—in such places, at any rate, Dick placed him. Sometimes the face bobbed up in one of Tad’s more savage cartoons—in boyhood Dick had often thrown an uneasy glance at the dim borderland of crime on which he stood.
“How do you like Paris, Buddy?”
Not waiting for an answer the man tried to fit in his footsteps with Dick’s: “Where you from?” he asked encouragingly.
“I’m from San Antone—but I been over here since the war.”
“You in the army?”
“I’ll say I was. Eighty-fourth Division—ever heard of that outfit?”
The man walked a little ahead of him and fixed him with eyes that were practically menacing.
“Staying in Paris awhile, Buddy? Or just passing through.”
“What hotel you staying at?”
Dick had begun laughing to himself—the party had the intention of rifling his room that night. His thoughts were read apparently without self-consciousness.
“With a build like yours you oughtn’t to be afraid of me, Buddy. There’s a lot of bums around just laying for American tourists, but you needn’t be afraid of me.”
Becoming bored, Dick stopped walking: “I just wonder why you’ve got so much time to waste.”
“I’m in business here in Paris.”
“In what line?”
The contrast between the formidable manner and the mild profession was absurd—but the man amended it with:
“Don’t worry; I made plenty money last year—ten or twenty francs for a Sunny Times that cost six.”
He produced a newspaper clipping from a rusty wallet and passed it over to one who had become a fellow stroller—the cartoon showed a stream of Americans pouring from the gangplank of a liner freighted with gold.
“Two hundred thousand—spending ten million a summer.”
“What you doing out here in Passy?”
His companion looked around cautiously. “Movies,” he said darkly. “They got an American studio over there. And they need guys can speak English. I’m waiting for a break.”
Dick shook him off quickly and firmly.
It had become apparent that Rosemary either had escaped on one of his early circuits of the block or else had left before he came into the neighborhood; he went into the bistro on the corner, bought a lead disk 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—things 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 Brizzard, Punch Orangeade, Andre Fernet Blanco, Cherry Rochet, 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—he is 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. If Afghan should come to identify him and make the proper charges.”
Nicole pulled her dressing-gown closer 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 parlor 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-colored strings of colored 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 over 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 color 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 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 St. Sulpice. I mean I don’t intend to bring St. Sulpice back to Paris. I don’t even mean Baroque! I meant St.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 tor 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 whereon 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 Moseby 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 concessionaire, 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 installment 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 of prolonging his state of irresponsibility.
Other clients had meanwhile drifted in to the bar: first came a huge Dane whom Abe had somewhere encountered. The Dane took a seat across the room, and Abe guessed he would be there all the day, drinking, lunching, talking or reading newspapers. He felt a desire to out-stay him. At eleven the college boys began to step 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 lime 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 severity-five francs, Mr. Quarterly. Mr. Schaeffer said he had this—you had the last … 1 can only do what you say … thanks vera-much.”
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-by 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. Afterwards, 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 colored 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 arrondisement—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 shirt-makers where the clerks made a fuss over him out of proportion to the money he spent. 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 Grillon 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 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 millimeter 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, her face getting big as it came up to him; 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 judgments 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 colored 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 only 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 French 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 humor than hers. The little man with his portable manufactory, his insincere eyes that, from time to time, rolled white semicircles 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 advised 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 eat 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 odor 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 conveyers 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-filter 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 some one 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 them into a pile of soiled gloves in a corner of a trunk. He had hung up coal 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 clumping 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 Utile 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 lop blanket from one of our beds—don’t let any one sec 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 hemorrhages 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. Arc 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 1 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 mustaches 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 focussed 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 doors, 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 sidewise. “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.
Published as serial in Scribner's magazine (January, February, March, April 1934).
Decorations (illustrations) by Edward Shenton.