In Zurich in September Doctor Diver had tea with Baby Warren.
“I think it’s ill advised,” she said, “I’m not sure I truly understand your motives.”
“Don’t let’s be unpleasant.”
“After all I’m Nicole’s sister.”
“That doesn’t give you the right to be unpleasant.” It irritated Dick that he knew so much that he could not tell her. “Nicole’s rich, but that doesn’t make me an adventurer.”
“That’s just it,” complained Baby stubbornly. “Nicole’s rich.”
“Just how much money has she got?” he asked.
She started; and with a silent laugh he continued, “You see how silly this is? I’d rather talk to some man in your family——”
“Everything’s been left to me,” she persisted. “It isn’t we think you’re an adventurer. We don’t know who you are.”
“I’m a doctor of medicine,” he said. “My father is a clergyman, now retired. We lived in Buffalo and my past is open to investigation. I went to New Haven; after that I was a Rhodes scholar. My great-grandfather was Governor of North Carolina and I’m a direct descendant of Mad Anthony Wayne.”
“Who was Mad Anthony Wayne?” Baby asked suspiciously.
“Mad Anthony Wayne?”
“I think there’s enough madness in this affair.”
He shook his head hopelessly, just as Nicole came out on the hotel terrace and looked around for them.
“He was too mad to leave as much money as Marshall Field,” he said.
“That’s all very well——”
Baby was right and she knew it. Face to face, her father would have it on almost any clergyman. They were an American ducal family without a title—the very name written in a hotel register, signed to an introduction, used in a difficult situation, caused a psychological metamorphosis in people, and in return this change had crystallized her own sense of position. She knew these facts from the English, who ad known them for more than two hundred years. But she did not know that twice Dick had come close to flinging the marriage in her face. All that saved it this time was Nicole finding their table and glowing away, white and fresh and new in the September afternoon.
How do you do, lawyer. We’re going to Como to-morrow for a week and then back to Zurich. That’s why I wanted you and sister to settle this, because it doesn’t matter to us how much I’m allowed. We’re going to live very quietly in Zurich for two years and Dick has enough to take care of us. No, Baby, I’m more practical than you think—It’s only for clothes and things I’ll need it… Why, that’s more than—can the estate really afford to give me all that? I know I’ll never manage to spend it. Do you have that much? Why do you have more—is it because I’m supposed to be incompetent? All right, let my share pile up then… No, Dick refuses to have anything whatever to do with it. I’ll have to feel bloated for us both… Baby, you have no more idea of what Dick is like than, that—Now where do I sign? Oh, I’m sorry.
… Isn’t it funny and lonely being together, Dick. No place to go except close. Shall we just love and love? Ah, but I love the most, and I can tell when you’re away from me, even a little. I think it’s wonderful to be just like everybody else, to reach out and find you all warm beside me in the bed.
… If you will kindly call my husband at the hospital. Yes, the little book is selling everywhere—they want it published in six languages. I was to do the French translation but I’m tired these days—I’m afraid of falling, I’m so heavy and clumsy—like a broken roly-poly that can’t stand up straight. The cold stethoscope against my heart and my strongest feeling “Je m’en fiche de tout.”—Oh, that poor woman in the hospital with the blue baby, much better dead. Isn’t it fine there are three of us now?
… That seems unreasonable, Dick—we have every reason for taking the bigger apartment. Why should we penalize ourselves just because there’s more Warren money than Diver money? Oh, thank you, cameriere, but we’ve changed our minds. This English clergyman tells us that your wine here in Orvieto is excellent. It doesn’t travel? That must be why we have never heard of it, because we love wine.
The lakes are sunk in the brown clay and the slopes have all the creases of a belly. The photographer gave us the picture of me, my hair limp over the rail on the boat to Capri. “Good-bye, Blue Grotto,” sang the boatman, “come again soo-oon.” And afterward tracing down the hot sinister shin of the Italian boot with the wind soughing around those eerie castles, the dead watching from up on those hills.
… This ship is nice, with our heels hitting the deck together. This is the blowy corner and each time we turn it I slant forward against the wind and pull my coat together without losing step with Dick. We arc chanting nonsense:
Other flamingoes than me,
Other flamingoes than me——”
Life is fun with Dick—the people in deck chairs look at us, and a woman is trying to hear what we are singing. Dick is tired of singing it, so go on alone, Dick. You will walk differently alone, dear, through a thicker atmosphere, forcing your way through the shadows of chairs, through the dripping smoke of the funnels. You will feel your own reflection sliding along the eyes of those who look at you. You are no longer insulated; but I suppose you must touch life in order to spring from it.
Sitting on the stanchion of this life-boat I look seaward and let my hair blow and shine. I am motionless against the sky and the boat is made to carry my form onward into the blue obscurity of the future, I am Pallas Athene carved reverently on the front of a galley. The waters are lapping in the public toilets and the agate green foliage of spray changes and complains about the stern.
…We travelled a lot that year—from Woolloomooloo Bay to Biskra. On the edge of the Sahara we ran into a plague of locusts and the chauffeur explained kindly that they were bumble-bees. The sky was low at night, full of the presence of a strange and watchful God. Oh, the poor little naked Ouled Nail; the night was noisy with drums from Senegal and flutes and whining camels, and the natives pattering about in shoes made of old automobile tyres.
But I was gone again by that time—trains and beaches they were all one. That was why he took me travelling, but after my second child, my little girl Topsy, was born everything got dark again.
…If I could get word to my husband who has seen fit to desert me here, to leave me in the hands of incompetents. You tell me my baby is black—that’s farcical, that’s very cheap. We went to Africa merely to see Timgad, since my principal interest in life is archaeology. I am tired of knowing nothing and being reminded of it all the time.
… When I get well I want to be a fine person like you, Dick—I would study medicine except it’s too late. We must spend my money and have a house—I’m tired of apartments and waiting for you. You’re bored with Zurich and you can’t find time for writing here and you say that it’s a confession of weakness for a scientist not to write. And I’ll look over the whole field of knowledge and pick out something and really know about it, so I’ll have it to hang on to if I go to pieces again. You’ll help me, Dick, so I won’t feel so guilty. We’ll live near a warm beach where we can be brown and young together.
… This is going to be Dick’s work house. Oh, the idea came to us both at the same moment. We had passed Tarmes a dozen times and we rode up here and found the houses empty, except two stables. When we bought we acted through a Frenchman, but the navy sent spies up here in no rime when they found that Americans had bought part of a hill village. They looked for cannons all through the building material, and finally Baby had to twitch wires for us at the Affaires Etrangeres in Paris.
No one comes to the Riviera in summer, so we expect to have a few guests and to work. There are some French people here—Mistinguett last week, surprised to find the hotel open, and Picasso and the man who wrote Pas sur la Bouche.
… Dick, why did you register Mr and Mrs Diver instead of Doctor and Mrs Diver? I just wondered—it just floated through my mind.—You’ve taught me that work is everything and I believe you. You used to say a man knows things and when he stops knowing things he’s like anybody else, and the thing is to get power before he stops knowing things. If you want to turn things topsy-turvy, all right, but must your Nicole follow you walking on her hands, darling?
… Abe North says I am silent. Since I was well the first time I talked a lot to Dick late at night, both of us sitting up in bed and lighting cigarettes, then diving down afterward out of the blue dawn and into the pillows, to keep the light from our eyes. Sometimes I sing, and play with the animals, and I have a few friends too—Mary, for instance. When Mary and I talk neither of us listens to the other. Talk is men. When I talk I say to myself that I am probably Dick. Already I have even been my son, remembering how wise and slow he is. Sometimes I am Doctor Dohmler and one time I may even be an aspect of you, Tommy Barban. Tommy is in love with me, I think, but gently, reassuringly. Enough, though, so that he and Dick have begun to disapprove of each other. All in all, everything has never gone better. I am among friends who like me. I am here on this tranquil beach near my home above the Mediterranean with my husband and two children and our dear friends. Everything is all right—if I can finish translating this damn recipe for chicken a la Maryland into French. My toes feel warm in the sand.
“Yes, I’ll look. More new people—oh, that girl—yes. Who lid you say she looked like?… No, I haven’t, we don’t get much chance to see the new American pictures over here. Rosemary who? Well, we’re getting very fashionable for Inly—seems very peculiar to me.”
On the 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 it 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. “Heavens!”
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 feeling nearly as sulky 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 basket-balls, 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 colour 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 on 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 one 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 on to 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; deathbeds 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 wheelbarrow, 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 colour up to her face and down around her moving feet in a lilac shadow. Her face was hard, almost stem, save for the soft gleam of piteous doubt that looked from her green eyes. Her once fair hair had darkened, but 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 Siena, 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 colour 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 humour 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 grey 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 swam 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 hurl 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 fascinating 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. 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.
Under the spell of the climb to Tarmes and the fresher air, Rosemary 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 expect 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 and discovered 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 la plume
Pour ecrire un mot.
Ma chandelle est morte,
Je n’ai plus de feu,
Ouvre-moi la porte,
Pour i’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 I 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? 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 for ever.
“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 I 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 anyone 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 for ever, 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 cater-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 irrelevant themes, but each time the very deference of Dick’s attention seemed to paralyse 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 vigour, 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 notes that snowed across the candlelight, drew down its flush from the wine-coloured 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 other 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 re-assertion 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 everyone 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 notebook, “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.
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 recognised 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 Iles de Lerins floated across the bay like a Fourth-of-July balloon footloose in the heavens. Between the black isles it floated, softly 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 hardness:
“I wanted to know all of you too—especially vou. 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-humouredly.
“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. Early 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 scries 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. Slie 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, had rushed her to Aix-les-Bains and marched 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 to-night:
“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 tile 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.”
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 nicker 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 immejitly.”
Simultaneously Abe North, looking somewhat distracted, came out of the hotel and 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 cuckoo, 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 silting 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 shul 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 he 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 riyht 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 party 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 honour 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 worlds. 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 Mage 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-grey 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, who 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, I 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 honoraires? Naturellement c’est pour soins medicaux seulement. M. Barban n’a qu’un billet de mille et ne peut pas les regler et I’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 a few hours later on the beach she would sec the person whom she. still referred to in her mind as “the Divers”.
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 or ten minutes without raising his hand to his face.
“We ought never to have given up waxed moustaches,” 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 unselfconsciously around a able. 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 nan 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 grey 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 recreate 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 grand-daughter of a self-made American capitalist and the grand-daughter of a count of the house of Lippe-Weissenfeld. Mary North was the daughter of a journeyman paper-hanger and a descendant of President Tyler. Rosemary was from the middle of the middle class, catapulted by her mother to 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 because 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 coloured 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 colour 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 toothpaste in vats and drew mouthwash 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 swaved and thundered onward, it lent a feverish bloom to such processes others 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 twelve, 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-bye,” said Nicole. “We had fan, didn’t we?”
“Loads of fun,” said Rosemary.
It was more difficult than she thought and her whole self protested as Nicole drove away.
'If you will kindly call...' On this page are phrases from the Rosemary version of the novel and from a short story, 'One Trip Abroad. Fitzgerald is summarizing a whole discarded portion of the manuscript.
The arrival of Rosemary and her mother at Gausse's hotel, with most of the episodes that follow, is rewritten from the first or Melarky version of the novel. Francis Melarky and his mother reached the Cap d'Antibes and met the Divers (or Pipers) in much the same fashion.
'The name that sounds like a substitute for gasoline or butter' was borne by a substitute man of letters. There are puns or suggestions in the names of other characters besides Albert McKisco, and we learn from Fitzgerald's notes that some of the puns were deliberate. Diver was the man who dived from a high place into obscurity, Campion was given to 'camping' - which was 1920 slang for making a parade of effeminacy - and Tommy Barban suggested the barbarian.
After 'the proud uniqueness of their destinies,' eight words of the first edition have been omitted here: 'buried under the compromises of how many years.' Fitzgerald had used almost the same phrase in chapter 13.