In November the waves grew black and dashed over the sea wall on to the shore road, such summer life as had survived disappeared, and the beaches were melancholy and desolate under the mistral and rain. Gausse’s hotel was closed for repairs and enlargement and the scaffolding of the summer casino at Juan les Pins grew larger and more formidable. Going into Cannes or Nice, Dick and Nicole met new people—members of orchestras, restaurateurs, horticultural enthusiasts, shipbuilders—for Dick had bought an old dinghy—and members of the Syndicat d’Initiative. They knew their servants well and gave thought to the children’s education. In December Nicole seemed well-knit again; when a month had passed without tension, without the tight mouth, the unmotivated smile, the unfathomable remark, they went to the Swiss Alps for the Christmas holidays.
With his cap, Dick slapped the snow from his dark blue ski-suit before going inside. The great hall, its floor pockmarked by two decades of hobnails, was cleared for the tea dance and four-score young Americans, domiciled in schools near Gstaad, bounced about to the frolic of “Don’t Bring Lulu,” or exploded violently with the first percussions of the Charleston. It was a colony of the young, simple, and expensive—the Sturmtruppen of the rich were at St Moritz. Baby Warren felt that she had made a gesture of renunciation in joining the Divers here.
Dick picked out the two sisters easily across the delicately haunted, soft-swaying room—they were poster-like, formidable in their snow costumes, Nicole’s of cerulean blue, Baby’s of brick red. The young Englishman was talking to them; but they were paying no attention, lulled to the staring point by the adolescent dance.
Nicole’s snow-warm face lighted up further as she saw Dick. “Where is he?”
“He missed the train—I’m meeting him later,” Dick sat down, swinging a heavy boot over his knee. “You two look very striking together. Every once in a while I forget we’re in the same party and get a big shock at seeing you.”
Baby was a tall, fine-looking woman, deeply engaged in being just over thirty. Symptomatically she had pulled two men with her from London, one scarcely down from Cambridge, one old and hard with Victorian lecheries. Baby had certain spinster’s characteristics—she was alien from touch, she started if she was touched suddenly, and such lingering touches as kisses and embraces slipped directly through the flesh into the forefront of her consciousness. She made few gestures with her trunk, her body proper—instead, she stamped her foot and tossed her head in almost an old-fashioned way. She relished the foretaste of death, prefigured by the catastrophes of friends; persistently she clung to the idea of Nicole’s tragic destiny.
Baby’s younger Englishman had been chaperoning the women down appropriate inclines and harrowing them on the bob-run. Dick, having turned an ankle in a too ambitious telemark, loafed gratefully about the nursery slope with the children or drank kvass with a Russian doctor at the hotel.
“Please be happy, Dick,” Nicole urged him. “Why don’t you meet some of these ickle durls and dance with them in the afternoon?”
“What would I say to them?”
Her low, almost harsh voice rose a few notes, simulating a plaintive coquetry: “Say, ” Ickle durl, oo is de pwettiest sing.” What do you think you say?”
“I don’t like ickle durls. They smell of castile soap and peppermint. When I dance with them, I feel as if I’m pushing a baby carriage.”
It was a dangerous subject—he was careful, to the point of self-consciousness, to stare far over the heads of young maidens.
“There’s a lot of business,” said Baby. “First place, there’s news from home—the property we used to call the station property. The railroads only bought the centre of it at first. Now they’ve bought the rest, and it belonged to Mother. It’s a question of investing the money.”
Pretending to be repelled by this gross turn in the conversation, the Englishman made for a girl on the floor. Following him for an instant with the uncertain eyes of an American girl in the grip of a lifelong Anglophilia, Baby continued defiantly:
“It’s a lot of money. It’s three hundred thousand apiece. I keep an eye on my own investments, but Nicole doesn’t know anything about securities, and I don’t suppose you do either.”
“I’ve got to meet the train,” Dick said evasively.
Outside he inhaled damp snowflakcs that he could no longer see against the darkening sky. Three children sledding past shouted a warning in some strange language; he heard them yell at the next bend and a little farther on he heard sleigh-bells coming up the hill in the dark. The holiday station glittered with expectancy, boys and girls waiting for new boys and girls, and by the time the train arrived Dick had caught the rhythm and pretended to Franz Gregorovius that he was clipping off a half-hour from an endless roll of pleasures. But Franz had some intensity of purpose at the moment that fought through any superimposition of mood on Dick’s part. “I may get up to Zurich for a day,” Dick had written, “or you can manage to come to Lausanne.” Franz had managed to come all the way to Gstaad.
He was forty. Upon his healthy maturity reposed a set of pleasant official manners, but he was most at home in a somewhat stuffy safety from which he could despise the broken rich whom he re-educated. His scientific heredity might have bequeathed him a wider world, but he seemed to have deliberately chosen the standpoint of a humbler class, a choice typified by his selection of a wife. At the hotel Baby Warren made a quick examination of him and, failing find any of the hall-marks she respected, the subtler virtues or courtesies by which the privileged classes recognized one another, treated him thereafter with her second manner. Nicole was always a little afraid of him. Dick liked him, as he liked his friends, without reservations.
For the evening they were sliding down the hill into the village, on those little sleds which serve the same purpose as gondolas do in Venice. Their destination was a hotel with an old-fashioned Swiss tap-room, wooden and resounding, a room of clocks, kegs, steins, and antlers. Many parties at long tables blurred into one great party and ate fondue—a peculiarly indigestible form of Welsh rarebit, mitigated by hot spiced wine.
It was jolly in the big room; the younger Englishman remarked it and Dick conceded that there was no other word. With the pert heady wine he relaxed and pretended that the world was all put together again by the grey-haired men of the golden nineties who shouted old glees at the piano, by the young voices and the bright costumes toned into the room by the swirling smoke. For a moment he felt that they were in a ship with landfall just ahead; in the faces of all the girls was the same innocent expectation of the possibilities inherent in the situation and the night. He looked to see if that special girl was there and got an impression that she was at the table behind them—then he forgot her and invented a rigmarole and tried to make his party have a good time.
“I must talk to you,” said Franz in English. “I have only two days to spend here.”
“I suspected you had something on your mind.”
“I have a plan that is—so marvellous.” His hand fell upon Dick’s knee. “I have a plan that will be the making of us two.”
“Dick—there is a clinic we could have together—the old clinic of Braun on the Zugersee. The plant is all modern except for a few points. He is sick—he wants to go up in Austria, to die probably. It is a chance that is just insuperable. You and me—what a pair! Now don’t say anything yet until I finish.”
From the yellow glint in Baby’s eyes, Dick saw she was listening.
“We must undertake it together. It would not bind you too tight—it would give you a base, a laboratory, a centre. You could stay in residence say no more than half the year, when the weather is fine. In winter you could go to France or America and write your texts fresh from clinical experience.” He lowered his voice. “And for the convalescence in your family, there are the atmosphere and regularity of the clinic at hand.” Dick’s expression did not encourage this note, so Franz dropped it with the punctuation of his tongue leaving his lip quickly. “We could be partners, I the executive manager, you the theoretician, the brilliant consultant and all that. I know myself—I know I have no genius and you have. But, in my way, I am thought very capable; I am utterly competent at the most modern clinical methods. Sometimes for months I have served as the practical head of the old clinic. The professor says this plan is excellent, he advises me to go ahead. He says he is going to live for ever and work up to the last minute.”
Dick formed imaginary pictures of the prospect as a preliminary to any exercise of judgement.
“What’s the financial angle?” he asked.
Franz threw up his chin, his eyebrows, the transient wrinkles of his forehead, his hands, his elbows, his shoulders; he strained up the muscles of his legs, so that the cloth of his trousers bulged, pushed up his heart into his throat and his voice into the roof of his mouth.
“There we have it! Money!” he bewailed. “I have little money. The price in American money is two hundred thousand dollars. The innovation—ary—” he tasted the coinage doubtfully, “—steps that you will agree are necessary will cost twenty thousand dollars American. But the clinic is a goldmine—I tell you, I have seen the books. For an investment of two hundred and twenty thousand dollars we have an assured income of—”
Baby’s curiosity was such that Dick brought her into the conversation.
“In your experience, Baby,” he demanded, “have you found that when a European wants to see an American very pressingly it is invariably something concerned with money?”
“What is it?” she said innocently.
“This young Privat-dozent thinks that he and I ought to launch into big business and try to attract nervous breakdowns from America.”
Worried, Franz stared at Baby as Dick continued:
“But who are we, Franz? You bear a big name and I’ve written two textbooks. Is that enough to attract anybody? And I haven’t got that much money—I haven’t got a tenth of it.” Franz smiled cynically. “Honestly I haven’t. Nicole and Baby are rich as Croesus, but I haven’t managed to get my hands on any of it yet.”
They were all listening now—Dick wondered if the girl at the table behind was listening too. The idea attracted him. He decided to let Baby speak for him, as one often lets women raise their voices over issues that are not in their hands. Baby became suddenly her grandfather, cool and experimental.
“I think it’s a suggestion you ought to consider, Dick. I don’t know what Doctor Gregory was saying—but it seems to me—”
Behind him the girl had leaned forward into a smoke ring and was picking up something from the floor. Nicole’s face fitted into his own across the table—her beauty, tentatively nesting and posing, flowed into his love, ever braced to protect it.
“Consider it, Dick,” Franz urged excitedly. “When one writes on psychiatry, one should have actual clinical contacts. Jung writes, Bleuler writes, Freud writes, Forel writes, Adler writes—also they are in constant contact with mental disorder.”
“Dick has me,” laughed Nicole. “I should think that’d be enough mental disorder for one man.”
“That’s different,” said Franz cautiously.
Baby was thinking that if Nicole lived beside a clinic she would always feel quite safe about her.
“We must think it over carefully,” she said.
Though amused at her insolence, Dick did not encourage it.
“The decision concerns me, Baby,” he said gently. “It’s nice of you to want to buy me a clinic.”
Realizing she had meddled, Baby withdrew hurriedly:
“Of course, it’s entirely your affair.”
“A thing as important as this will take weeks to decide. I wonder how I like the picture of Nicole and me anchored to Zurich—” He turned to Franz, anticipating, “—I know. Zurich has a gas-house and running water and electric light—I lived there three years.”
“I will leave you to think it over,” said Franz. “I am confident—”
One hundred pairs of five-pound boots had begun to clump toward the door, and they joined the press. Outside in the crisp moonlight, Dick saw the girl tying her sled to one of the sleighs ahead. They piled into their own sleigh and at the crisp-cracking whips the horses strained, breasting the dark air. Past them figures ran and scrambled, the younger ones shoving each other from sleds and runners, landing in the soft snow, then panting after the horses to drop exhausted on a sled or wail that they were abandoned. On either side the fields were beneficently tranquil; the space through which the cavalcade moved was high and limitless. In the country there was less noise, as though they were all listening atavistically for wolves in the side snow.
In Saanen they poured into the municipal dance, crowded with cow herders, hotel servants, shopkeepers, ski teachers, guides, tourists, peasants. To come into the warm enclosed place after the pantheistic animal feeling without was to re-assume some absurd and impressive knightly name, as thunderous as spurred boots in war, as football cleats on the cement of a locker-room floor. There was conventional yodelling, and the familiar rhythm of it separated Dick from what he had first found romantic in the scene. At first he thought it was because he had hounded the girl out of his consciousness; then it came to him under the form of what Baby had said: “We must think it over carefully—” and the unsaid lines back of that: “We own you, and you’ll admit it sooner or later. It is absurd to keep up the pretence of independence.”
It had been years since Dick had bottled up malice against creature—since freshman year at New Haven, when he come upon a popular essay about “mental hygiene”. he lost his temper at Baby and simultaneously tried to coop it up within him, resenting her cold rich insolence. It would be hundreds of years before any emergent Amazons would ever grasp the fact that a man is vulnerable only in his pride, but delicate as Humpty Dumpty once that is meddled with—though some of them paid the fact a cautious lip-service. Doctor Diver’s profession of sorting the broken shells of another sort of egg had given him a dread of breakage. But:
“There’s too much good manners,” he said on the way back to Gstaad in the smooth sleigh.
“Well, I think that’s nice,” said Baby.
“No, it isn’t,” he insisted to the anonymous bundle of fur. “Good manners are an admission that everybody is so tender that they have to be handled with gloves. Now, human respect—you don’t call a man a coward or a liar lightly, but if you spend your life sparing people’s feelings and feeding their vanity, you get so you can’t distinguish what should be respected in them.”
“I think Americans take their manners rather seriously,” said the elder Englishman.
“I guess so,” said Dick. “My father had the kind of manners he inherited from the days when you shot first and apologized afterward. Men armed—why, you Europeans haven’t carried arms in civil life since the beginning of the eighteenth century——”
“Not actually, perhaps—”
“Not actually. Not really.”
“Dick, you’ve always had such beautiful manners,” said Baby conciliatingly.
The women were regarding him across the zoo of robes with some alarm. The younger Englishman did not understand—he was one of the kind who were always jumping around cornices and balconies, as if they thought they were in the rigging of a ship—and filled the ride to the hotel with a preposterous story about a boxing match with his best friend, in which they loved and bruised each other for an hour, always with great reserve. Dick became facetious.
“So every time he hit you, you considered him an even better friend?”
“I respected him more.”
“It’s the premise I don’t understand. You and your best friend scrap about a trivial matter—”
“If you don’t understand, I can’t explain it to you,” said the young Englishman coldly.
“—This is what I’ll get if I begin saying what I think,” Dick said to himself.
He was ashamed at baiting the man, realizing that the absurdity of the story rested in the immaturity of the attitude combined with the sophisticated method of its narration.
The carnival spirit was strong and they went with the crowd into the grill, where a Tunisian barman manipulated the illumination in a counterpoint, whose other melody was the moon off the ice rink staring in the big windows. In that light, Dick found the girl devitalized and uninteresting. He turned from her to enjoy the darkness, the cigarette points going green and silver when the lights shone red, the band of white that fell across the dancers as the door to the bar was opened and closed.
“Now tell me, Franz,” he demanded, “do you think after sitting up all night drinking beer, you can go back and convince your patients that you have any character? Don’t you think they’ll see you’re a gastropath?”
“I’m going to bed,” Nicole announced. Dick accompanied her to the door of the elevator.
“I’d come with you, but I must show Franz that I’m not intended for a clinician.”
Nicole walked into the elevator.
“Baby has lots of common sense,” she said meditatively.
“Baby is one of—”
The door slashed shut. Facing a mechanical hum, Dick finished the sentence in his mind, “—Baby is a trivial, selfish woman.”
But two days later, sleighing to the station with Franz, Dick admitted that he thought favourably upon the matter.
“We’re beginning to turn in a circle,” he admitted. “Living on this scale, there’s an unavoidable series of strains, and Nicole doesn’t survive them. The pastoral quality down on the summer Riviera is all changing anyhow—next year they’ll have a Season.”
They passed the crisp green rinks where Wiener waltzes blared and the colours of many mountain schools flashed against the pale-blue skies.
“—I hope we’ll be able to do it, Franz. There’s nobody I’d rather try it with than you—”
Good-bye, Gstaad! Good-bye, fresh faces, cold sweet flowers, flakes in the darkness. Good-bye, Gstaad, good-bye!
One July morning Dick awoke at five after a Jong dream of war, walked to the window and stared out at the Zugersee. His dream had begun in sombre majesty; navy-blue uniforms crossed a dark plaza behind bands playing the second movement of Prokofiev’s Love of Three Oranges. Presently there were fire engines, symbols of disaster, and a ghastly uprising of the mutilated in a dressing station. He turned on his bed lamp and made a thorough note of it, ending with the half-ironic phrase: “Non-combatant’s shell-shock.”
As he sat on the side of his bed he felt the room, the house, and the night as empty. In the next room Nicole muttered something desolate and he felt sorry for whatever loneliness she was feeling in her sleep. For him time stood still and then every few years accelerated in a rush, like the quick rewind of a film, but for Nicole the years slipped away by clock and calendar and birthday, with the added poignance of her perishable beauty.
Even this past year and a half on the Zugersee seemed wasted time for her, the seasons marked only by the workmen on the road turning pink in May, brown in July, black in September, white again in Spring. She had come out of her first illness alive with new hopes, expecting so much, yet deprived of any subsistence except Dick, bringing up children she could only pretend gently to love, guided orphans. The people she liked, rebels mostly, disturbed her and were bad for her—she sought in them the vitality that had made them independent or creative or rugged, sought in vain—for their secrets were buried deep in childhood struggles they had forgotten. They were more interested in Nicole’s exterior harmony and charm, the other face of her illness. She led a lonely life owning Dick, who did not want to be owned.
Many times he had tried unsuccessfully to let go his hold on her. They had many fine times together, fine talks between the loves of the white nights, but always when he turned away from her into himself he left her holding Nothing in her hands and staring at it, calling it many names, but knowing it was only the hope that he would come back soon.
He scrunched his pillow hard, lay down, and put the back of his neck against it as a Japanese does to slow the circulation, and slept again for a time. Later, while he shaved, Nicole awoke and marched around, giving abrupt, succinct orders to children and servants. Lanier came in to watch his father shave—living beside a psychiatric clinic he had developed an extraordinary confidence in and admiration for his father, together with an exaggerated indifference toward most other adults; the patients appeared to him either in their odd aspects, or else as devitalized, over-correct creatures without personality. He was a handsome, promising boy and Dick devoted much time to him, in the relationship of a sympathetic but exacting officer and a respectful enlisted man.
“Why,” Lanier asked, “do you always leave a little lather on the top of your hair when you shave?”
Cautiously Dick parted soapy lips: “I have never been able to find out. I’ve often wondered. I think it’s because I get the first finger soapy when I make the line of my side-burn, but how it gets up on top of my head I don’t know.”
“I’m going to watch it all to-morrow.”
“That’s your only question before breakfast.”
“I don’t really call it a question.”
“That’s one on you.”
Half an hour later Dick started up to the administration building. He was thirty-seven—still declining a beard he yet had a more medical aura about him than he had worn upon the Riviera. For eighteen months now he had lived at the clinic, certainly one of the best-appointed in Europe. Like Dohmler’s it was of the modern type—no longer a single dark and sinister building, but a small, scattered, yet deceitfully integrated village. Dick and Nicole had added much in the domain of taste, so that the plant was a thing of beauty, visited by every psychologist passing through Zurich. With the addition of a caddy house it might very well have been a country club. The Eglantine and the Beeches, houses for those sunk into eternal darkness, were screened by little copses from the main building, camouflaged strong-points. Behind was a large truck farm, worked partly by the patients. The workshops for ego-therapy were three, placed under a single roof, and there Doctor Diver began his morning’s inspection. The carpentry shop, full of sunlight, exuded the sweetness of sawdust, of a lost age of wood; always half a dozen men were there, hammering, planing, buzzing—silent men, who lifted solemn eyes from their work as he passed through. Himself a good carpenter, he discussed with them the efficiency of some tools for a moment in a quiet, personal, interested voice. Adjoining was the book-bindery, adapted to the most mobile patients, who were not always, however, those who had the greatest chance for recovery. The last chamber was devoted to bead-work, weaving, and work in brass. The faces of the patients here wore the expression of one who has just sighed profoundly, dismissing something insoluble—but their sighs only marked the beginning of another ceaseless round of ratiocination, not in a line as with normal people but in the same circle. Round, round, and round. Around for ever. But the bright colours of the stuffs they worked with gave strangers a momentary illusion that all was well, as in a kindergarten. These patients brightened as Doctor Diver came in. Most of them liked him better than they liked Doctor Gregorovius. Those who had once lived in the great world invariably liked him better. There were a few who thought he neglected them, or that he was not simple, or that he posed. Their responses were not dissimilar to those that Dick evoked in non-professional life, but here they were warped and distorted.
One Englishwoman spoke to him always about a subject which she considered her own.
“Have we got music to-night?”
“I don’t know,” he answered. “I haven’t seen Doctor Lladislau. How did you enjoy the music that Mrs Sachs and Mr Longstreet gave us last night?”
“It was so-so.”
“I thought it was fine—especially the Chopin.”
“I thought it was so-so.”
“When are you going to play for us yourself?”
She shrugged her shoulders, as pleased at this question as she had been for several years.
“Some time. But I only play so-so.”
They knew that she did not play at all—she had had two sisters who were brilliant musicians, but she had never been able to learn the notes when they had been young together.
From the workshops Dick went to visit the Eglantine and the Beeches. Exteriorly these houses were as cheerful as the others; Nicole had designed the decoration and the furniture on a necessary base of concealed grilles and bars and immovable furniture. She had worked with so much imagination—the inventive quality, which she lacked, being supplied by the problem itself—that no instructed visitor would have dreamed that the light, graceful filigree work at a window was a strong, unyielding end of a tether, that the pieces reflecting modern tubular tendencies were stauncher than the massive creations of the Edwardians—even the flowers lay in iron fingers and every casual ornament and fixture was as necessary as a girder in a skyscraper. Her tireless eyes had made each room yield up its greatest usefulness. Complimented, she referred to herself brusquely as a master plumber.
For those whose compasses were not depolarized there seemed many odd things in these houses. Doctor Diver was often amused in the Eglantine, the men’s building—here there was a strange little exhibitionist who thought that if he could walk unclothed and unmolested from the Etoile to the Place de la Concorde he would solve many things—and, perhaps, Dick thought, he was quite right.
His most interesting case was in the main building. The patient was a woman of thirty who had been in the clinic six months; she was an American painter who had lived long in Paris. They had no very satisfactory history of her. A cousin had happened upon her all mad and gone, and after an unsatisfactory interlude at one of the whoopee cures that fringed the city, dedicated largely to tourist victims of drug and drink, he had managed to get her to Switzerland. On her admittance she had been exceptionally pretty—now she was a living, agonizing sore. All blood tests had failed to give a positive reaction and the trouble was unsatisfactorily catalogued as nervous eczema. For two months she had lain under it, as if imprisoned in the Iron Maiden. She was coherent, even brilliant, within the limits of her special hallucinations.
She was particularly his patient. During spells of over-excitement he was the only doctor who could “do anything with her.” Several weeks ago, on one of many nights that she had passed in sleepless torture, Franz had succeeded in hypnotizing her into a few hours of needed rest, but he had never again succeeded. Hypnosis was a tool that Dick distrusted and seldom used, for he knew that he could not always summon up the mood in himself—he had once tried it on Nicole and she had scornfully laughed at him.
The woman in Room Twenty could not see him when he came in—the area about her eyes was too tightly swollen. She spoke in a strong, rich, deep, thrilling voice.
“How long will this last? Is it going to be for ever?”
“It’s not going to be very long now. Doctor Lladislau tells me there are whole areas cleared up.”
“If I knew what I had done to deserve this I could accept it with equanimity.”
“It isn’t wise to be mystical about it—we recognize it as a nervous phenomenon. It’s related to the blush—when you were a girl, did you blush easily?”
She lay with her face turned to the ceiling.
“I have found nothing to blush for since I cut my wisdom teeth.”
“Haven’t you committed your share of petty sins and mistakes?”
“I have nothing to reproach myself with.”
“You’re very fortunate.”
The woman thought a moment; her voice came up through her bandaged face afflicted with subterranean melodies:
“I’m sharing the fate of the women of my time who challenged men to battle.”
“To your vast surprise it was just like all battles,” he answered, adopting her formal diction.
“Just like all battles.” She thought this over. “You pick a set-up, or else win a Pyrrhic victory, or you’re wrecked and ruined—you’re a ghostly echo from a broken wall.”
“You are neither wrecked nor ruined,” he told her. “Are you quite sure you’ve been in a real battle?”
“Look at me!” she cried furiously.
“You’ve suffered, but many women suffered before they mistook themselves for men.” It was becoming an argument and he retreated. “In any case you mustn’t confuse a single failure with a final defeat.”
She sneered, “Beautiful words,” and the phrase transpiring up through the crust of pain humbled him.
“We would like to go into the true reasons that brought you here—” he began, but she interrupted.
“I am here as a symbol of something. I thought perhaps you would know what it was.”
“You are sick,” he said mechanically.
“Then what was it I had almost found?”
“A greater sickness.”
“That’s all.” With disgust he heard himself lying, but here and now the vastness of the subject could only be compressed into a lie. “Outside of that there’s only confusion and chaos. I won’t lecture to you—we have too acute a realization of your physical suffering. But it’s only by meeting the problems of every day, no matter how trifling and boring they seem, that you can make things drop back into place again. After that—perhaps you’ll be able again to examine—”
He had slowed up to avoid the inevitable end of his thought: “—the frontiers of consciousness.” The frontiers that artists must explore were not for her, ever. She was fine-spun, inbred—eventually she might find rest in some quiet mysticism. Exploration was for those with a measure of peasant blood, those with big thighs and thick ankles who could take punishment as they took bread and salt, on every inch of flesh and spirit.
—Not for you, he almost said. It’s too tough a game for you.
Yet in the awful majesty of her pain he went out to her unreservedly, almost sexually. He wanted to gather her up in his arms, as he so often had Nicole, and cherish even her mistakes, so deeply were they part of her. The orange light through the drawn blind, the sarcophagus of her figure on the bed, the spot of face, the voice searching the vacuity of her illness and finding only remote abstractions.
As he arose the tears fled lava-like into her bandages.
“That is for something,” she whispered. “Something must come out of it.”
He stooped and kissed her forehead.
“We must all try to be good,” he said.
Leaving her room he sent the nurse in to her. There were other patients to see: an American girl of fifteen who had been brought up on the basis that childhood was intended to be all fun—his visit was provoked by the fact that she had just hacked off all her hair with nail scissors. There was nothing much to be done for her—a family history of neurosis and nothing stable in her past to build on. The father, normal and conscientious himself, had tried to protect a nervous brood from life’s troubles and had succeeded merely in preventing them from developing powers of adjustment to life’s inevitable surprises. There was little that Dick could say: “Helen, when you’re in doubt you must ask a nurse, you must learn to take advice. Promise me you will.”
What was a promise with the head sick? He looked in upon a frail exile from the Caucasus buckled securely in a sort of hammock, which in turn was submerged in a warm medical bath, and upon the three daughters of a Portuguese general who slid almost imperceptibly toward paresis. He went into the room next to them and told a collapsed psychiatrist that he was better, always better, and the man tried to read his face for conviction, since he hung on the real world only through such reassurance as he could find in the resonance, or lack of it, in Doctor Diver’s voice. After that Dick discharged a shiftless orderly and by then it was the lunch hour.
Meals with the patients were a chore he approached with apathy. The gathering, which of course did not include residents at the Eglantine or the Beeches, was conventional enough at first sight, but over it brooded always a heavy melancholy. Such doctors as were present kept up a conversation, but most of the patients, as if exhausted by their morning’s endeavour or depressed by the company, spoke little and ate looking into their plates.
Luncheon over, Dick returned to his villa. Nicole was in the salon wearing a strange expression.
“Read that,” she said.
He opened the letter. It was from a woman recently discharged, though with scepticism on the part of the faculty. It accused him in no uncertain terms of having seduced her daughter, who had been at her mother’s side during the crucial stage of the illness. It presumed that Mrs Diver would be glad to have this information and learn what her husband was “really like”.
Dick read the letter again. Though it was couched in clear and concise English he recognized it as the letter of a maniac. Upon a single occasion he had let the girl, a flirtatious little brunette, ride into Zurich with him, at her request, and in the evening had brought her back to the clinic. In an idle, almost indulgent way, he kissed her. Later, she tried to carry the affair further, but he was not interested and subsequently, probably consequently, the girl had come to dislike him, and had taken her mother away.
“This letter is deranged,” he said. “I had no relations of any kind with that girl. I didn’t even like her.”
“Yes, I’ve tried thinking that,” said Nicole.
“Surely you don’t believe it?”
“I’ve been sitting here.”
He sank his voice to a reproachful note and sat beside her.
“This is absurd. This is a letter from a mental patient.”
“I was a mental patient.”
He stood up and spoke more authoritatively.
“Suppose we don’t have any nonsense, Nicole. Go and round up the children and we’ll start.”
In the car, with Dick driving, they followed the little promontories of the lake, catching the burn of light and water in the wind-shield, tunnelling through cascades of evergreen. It was Dick’s car, a Renault so dwarfish that they all stuck out of it except the children, between whom Mademoiselle towered mast-like in the rear seat. They knew every kilometre of the road—where they would smell the pine needles and the black stove smoke. A high sun with a face raced on it beat fierce on the straw hats of the children.
Nicole was silent; Dick was uneasy at her straight hard gaze. Often he felt lonely with her, and frequently she tired him with the short floods of personal revelations that she reserved exclusively for him, “I’m like this—I’m more like that,” but this afternoon he would have been glad had she rattled on in staccato for a while and given him glimpses of 1er thoughts. The situation was always most threatening when she backed up into herself and closed the doors behind her.
At Zug Mademoiselle got out and left them. The Divers approached the Agiri Fair through a menagerie of mammoth steam-rollers that made way for them. Dick parked the car and, as Nicole looked at him without moving, he said: “Come on, darl.” Her lips drew apart into a sudden awful smile and his belly quailed, but as if he hadn’t seen it he repeated: “Come on. So the children can get out.”
“Oh, I’ll come all right,” she answered, tearing the words from some story spinning itself out inside her, too fast for him to grasp. “Don’t worry about that. I’ll come—”
She turned from him as he walked beside her, but the smile still flickered across her face, derisive and remote. Only when Lanier spoke to her several times did she manage to fix her attention upon an object, a Punch—and—Judy show, and to orient herself by anchoring to it.
Dick tried to think what to do. The dualism in his views of her—that of the husband, that of the psychiatrist—was increasingly paralysing his faculties. In these nine years she had several times carried him over the line with her, disarming him by exciting emotional pity or by a flow of wit, fantastic and dissociated so that only after the episode did he realize, with the consciousness of his own relaxation from tension, that she had succeeded in getting a point against his better judgement.
A discussion with Topsy about the Guignol—as to whether the Punch was the same Punch they had seen last year in Cannes—having been settled, the family walked along again between the booths under the open sky. The women’s bonnets, perching over velvet vests, the bright, spreading skirts of many cantons, seemed demure against the blue and orange paint of the wagons and displays. There was the sound of a whining, tinkling hootchy-kootchy show.
Nicole began to run very suddenly, so suddenly that for a moment Dick did not miss her. Far ahead he saw her yellow dress twisting through the crowd, an ochre stitch along the edge of reality and unreality, and he started after her, Secretly she ran and secretly he followed. As the hot afternoon went shrill and terrible with her flight he had forgotten the children; then he wheeled and ran back to them, drawing them this way and that by their arms, his eyes jumping from booth to booth.
“Madame,” he cried to a young woman behind a white lottery wheel, “Est-ce que je peux laisser ces petits avec vous deux minutes? C’est tres urgent—je vous donnerai dix francs.”
He headed the children into the booth. “Alors—restez avec cette gentille dame.”
He darted off again, but he had lost her; he circled the merry-go-round, keeping up with it till he realized he was running beside it, staring always at the same horse. He elbowed through the crowd in the buvette; then, remembering a predilection of Nicole’s, he snatched up an edge of a fortune-teller’s tent and peered within. A droning voice greeted him: “La septieme fille d’une septieme fille nee sur les rives du Nil—entrez, Monsieur——”
Dropping the flap, he ran along towards where the pleasance terminated at the lake and a small ferns wheel revolved slowly against the sky. There he found her.
She was alone in what was momentarily the top boat of the wheel and, as it descended, he saw that she was laughing hilariously; he slunk back in the crowd, which, at the wheel’s next revolution, spotted the intensity of Nicole’s hysteria.
“Regarde donc cette Anglaise!”
Down she dropped again—this time the wheel and its music were slowing and a dozen people were around her car, all of them impelled by the quality of her laughter to smile in sympathetic idiocy. But when Nicole saw Dick her laughter died—she made a gesture of slipping by and away from him, but he caught her arm and held it as they walked away.
“Why did you lose control of yourself like that?”
“You know very well why.”
“No, I don’t.”
“That’s just preposterous—let me loose—that’s an insult my intelligence. Don’t you think I saw that girl look at you—that little dark girl. Oh, this is farcical—a child, not more than fifteen. Don’t you think I saw?”
“Stop here a minute and quiet down.”
They sat at a table, her eyes in a profundity of suspicion, her hand moving across her line of sight as if it were obstructed. “I want a drink—I want a brandy.”
“You can’t have brandy—you can have a bock if you want it.”
“Why can’t I have a brandy?”
“We won’t go into that. Listen to me—this business about a girl is a delusion, do you understand that word?”
“It’s always a delusion when I see what you don’t want me to see.”
He had a sense of guilt, as in one of those nightmares where we are accused of a crime which we recognize as something undeniably experienced, but which upon waking we realize we have not committed. His eyes wavered from hers.
“I left the children with a gypsy woman in a booth. We ought to get them.”
“Who do you think you are?” she demanded. “Svengali?”
Fifteen minutes ago they had been a family. Now as she was crushed into a corner by his unwilling shoulder, he saw them all, child and man, as a perilous accident.
“We’re going home.”
“Home!” she roared in a voice so abandoned that its louder tones wavered and cracked. “And sit and think that we’re all rotting and the children’s ashes are rotting in every box I open? That filth!”
Almost with relief he saw that her words sterilized her, and Nicole, sensitized down to the corium of the skin, saw the withdrawal in his face. Her own face softened and she begged, “Help me, help me, Dick!”
A wave of agony went over him. It was awful that such a fine tower should not be erected, only suspended, suspended from him. Up to a point that was right: men were for that, beam and idea, girder and logarithm; but somehow Dick and Nicole had become one and equal, not opposite and complementary; she was Dick too, the drought in the marrow of his bones. He could not watch her disintegrations without participating in them. His intuition rilled out of him as tenderness and compassion—he could only take the characteristically modern course, to interpose. He would get a nurse from Zurich, to take her over to-night.
“You can help me.”
Her sweet bullying pulled him forward off his feet. “You’ve helped me before—you can help me now.”
“I can only help you the same old way.”
“Someone can help me.”
“Maybe so. You can help yourself most. Let’s find the children.”
There were numerous lottery booths with white wheels. Dick was startled when he inquired at the first and encountered blank disavowals. Evil-eyed, Nicole stood apart, denying the children, resenting them as part of a downright world she sought to make amorphous. Presently Dick found them, surrounded by women who were examining them with delight like fine goods, and by peasant children staring.
“Merci, Monsieur, et Monsieur est trop genereux. C’etait un plaisir, M’sieur, Dame. Au revoir, mes petits.”
They started back with a hot sorrow streaming down upon them; the car was weighted with their mutual apprehension and anguish, and the children’s mouths were grave with disappointment. Grief presented itself in its terrible, dark, unfamiliar colour. Somewhere around Zug, Nicole, with a convulsive effort, reiterated a remark she had made before about a misty yellow house set back from the road that looked like a painting not yet dry, but it was just an attempt to catch at a rope that was paying out too swiftly.
Dick tried to rest. The struggle would come presently at home and he might have to sit a long time re-stating the universe for her. A schizophrenic is well named as a split personality—Nicole was alternately a person to whom nothing need be explained and one to whom nothing could be explained. It was necessary to treat her with active and affirmative insistence, keeping the road to reality always open, making the road to escape harder going. But the brilliance, the versatility of madness is akin to the resourcefulness of water seeping through, over, and around a dyke. It requires the united front of many people to work against it. He felt it necessary that this time Nicole cure herself; he wanted to wait until she remembered the other times and revolted from them. In a tired way he planned that they would again resume the regime relaxed two years before.
He had turned up a hill that made a short cut to the clinic and now, as he stepped on the accelerator for a short, straightaway run parallel to the hillside, the car swerved violently left, swerved right, tipped on two wheels and, as Dick, with Nicole’s voice screaming in his ear, crushed down the mad hand clutching the steering wheel, righted itself, swerved once more and shot off the road; it tore through low underbrush, tipped again, and settled slowly at an angle of ninety degrees against a tree.
The children were screaming and Nicole was screaming and cursing and trying to tear at Dick’s face. Thinking first of the list of the car and unable to estimate it, Dick bent away Nicole’s arm, climbed over the top side and lifted out the children; then he saw the car was in a stable position. Before doing anything else he stood there shaking and panting.
“You——!” he cried.
She was laughing hilariously, unashamed, unafraid, unconcerned. No one coming on the scene would have imagined that she had caused it; she laughed as after some mild escape of childhood.
“You were scared, weren’t you?” she accused him. “You wanted to live!”
She spoke with such force that in his shocked state Dick wondered if he had been frightened for himself—but the strained faces of the children, looking from parent to parent, made him want to grind her grinning mask into jelly.
Directly above them, half a kilometre by the winding road but only a hundred yards climbing, was an inn; one of its wings showed through the wooded hill.
“Take Topsy’s hand,” he said to Lanier, “like that, tight, and climb up that hill—see the little path? When you get to the inn tell them, “La voiture Divare est cassee.” Someone must come right down.”
Lanier, not sure what had happened, but suspecting the dark and unprecedented, asked:
“What will you do, Dick?” “We’ll stay here with the car.”
Neither of them looked at their mother as they started off. “Be careful crossing the road up there! Look both ways!” Dick shouted after them.
He and Nicole looked at each other directly, their eyes like blazing windows across a court of the same house. Then she took out a compact, looked in its mirror, and smoothed back the temple hair. Dick watched the children climbing for a moment until they disappeared among the pines halfway up; then he walked around the car to see the damage and plan how to get it back on the road. In the dirt he could trace the rocking course they had pursued for over a hundred feet; he was filled with a violent disgust that was not like anger.
In a few minutes the proprietor of the inn came running down.
“My God!” he exclaimed. “How did it happen? Were you going fast? What luck! Except for that tree you’d have rolled down hill.”
Taking advantage of Emile’s reality, the wide black apron, the sweat upon the rolls of his face, Dick signalled to Nicole in a matter-of-fact way to let him help her from the car; whereupon she jumped over the lower side, lost her balance on the slope, fell to her knees, and got up again. As she watched the man trying to move the car her expression became defiant. Welcoming even that mood, Dick said:
“Go and wait with the children, Nicole.”
Only after she had gone did he remember that she had wanted cognac, and that there was cognac available up there—he told Emile never mind about the car; they would wait for the chauffeur and the big car to pull it up on to the ad. Together they hurried up to the inn.
“I want to go away,” he told Franz. “For a month or so, for as long as I can.”
“Why not, Dick? That was our original arrangement—it was you who insisted on staying. If you and Nicole—”
“I don’t want to go away with Nicole. I want to go away alone. This last thing knocked me sideways—if I get two hour’s sleep in twenty-four, it’s one of Zwingli’s miracles.”
“You wish a real leave of abstinence?”
“The word is “absence”. Look here: if I go to Berlin to the Psychiatric Congress could you manage to keep the peace? For three months she’s been all right and she likes her nurse. My God, you’re the only human being in this world I can ask this of.”
Franz grunted, considering whether or not he could be trusted to think always of his partner’s interest.
In Zurich the next week Dick drove to the airport and took the big plane for Munich. Soaring and roaring into the blue, he felt numb, realizing how tired he was. A vast persuasive quiet stole over him and he abandoned sickness to the sick, sound to the motors, direction to the pilot. He had no intention of attending so much as a single session of the congress—he could imagine it well enough, new pamphlets by Bleuler and the elder Forel that he could much better digest at home, the paper by the American who cured dementia praecox by pulling out his patients’ teeth or cauterizing their tonsils, the half-derisive respect with which this idea would be greeted, for no more reason than that America was such a rich and powerful country. The other delegates from America—red-headed Schwartz with his saint’s face and his infinite patience in straddling two worlds, as well as dozens of commercial alienists with hang-dog faces, who would be present partly to increase their standing, and hence their reach for the big plums of criminal practice, partly to master novel sophistries that they could weave into their stock in trade, to the infinite confusion of all values. There would be cynical Latins and some man of Freud’s from Vienna. Articulate among them would be the great Jung, bland, super-vigorous, on his rounds between the forests of anthropology and the neuroses of schoolboys. At first there would be an American cast to the congress, almost Rotarian in its forms and ceremonies, then the closer-knit European vitality would fight through, and finally the Americans would play their trump card, the announcement of colossal gifts and endowments, of great new plants and training schools, and in the presence of the figures the Europeans would blanch and walk timidly. But he would not be there to see.
They skirted the Vorarlberg Alps, and Dick felt a pastoral delight in watching the villages. There were always four or five in sight, each one gathered around a church. It was simple looking at the earth from far off, simple as playing grim games with dolls and soldiers. This was the way statesmen and commanders and all retired people looked at things. Anyhow, it was a good draft of relief.
An Englishman spoke to him from across the aisle, but he found something antipathetic in the English lately. England was like a rich man after a disastrous orgy who makes up to the household by chatting with them individually, when it i obvious to them that he is only trying to get back his self-respect in order to usurp his former power.
Dick had with him what magazines were available on the station quays: the Century, the Motion Picture, L’Illustration, and Fliegende Blatter, but it was more fun to descend in his imagination into the villages and shake hands with the rural characters. He sat in the churches as he sat in his father’s church in Buffalo, amid the starchy must of Sunday clothes, He listened to the wisdom of the Near East, was Crucified, Died, and was Buried in the cheerful church, and once more worried between five or ten cents for the collection plate, because of the girl who sat in the pew behind.
The Englishman suddenly borrowed his magazines with a little small change of conversation, and Dick, glad to see them go, thought of the voyage ahead of him. Wolf-like under his sheep’s clothing of long-staple Australian wool, he considered the world of pleasure—the incorruptible Mediterranean with sweet old dirt caked in the olive trees, the peasant girl near Savona with a face as green and rose as the colour of an illuminated missal. He would take her in his hands and snatch her across the border…
… but there he deserted her—he must press on toward Isles of Greece, the cloudy waters of unfamiliar ports, the lost girl on shore, the moon of popular songs. A part of Dick’s mind was made up of the tawdy souvenirs of his boyhood. Yet in that somewhat littered Five—and—Ten, he had managed to keep alive the low painful fire of intelligence.
Tommy Barban was a ruler, Tommy was a hero—Dick happened upon him in the Marienplatz in Munich, in one of those cafes where small gamblers diced on “tapestry” mats. The air was full of politics and the slap of cards.
Tommy was at a table laughing his martial laugh: “Um-buh—ha-ha! Um-buh—ha-ha!” As a rule he drank little; courage was his game and his companions were always a little afraid of him. Recently an eighth of the area of his skull had been removed by a Warsaw surgeon and was knitting under his hair, and the weakest person in the cafe could have killed him with a flip of a knotted napkin.
“—this is Prince Chillichev—” a battered, powder-grey Russian of fifty, “—and Mr McKibben—and Mr Harman—” the latter was a lively ball of black eyes and hair, a clown; and he said immediately to Dick:
“The first thing before we shake hands—what do you mean by fooling around with my aunt?”
“You heard me. What are you doing here in Munich, anyhow?”
“Um-bah—ha-ha!” laughed Tommy.
“Haven’t you got aunts of your own? Why don’t you fool with them?”
Dick laughed, whereupon the man shifted his attack:
“Now let’s not have any more talk about aunts. How do I know you didn’t make up the whole thing? Here you are a complete stranger with an acquaintance of less than half an hour, you come to me with a cock-and-bull story about your aunts. How do I know what you have concealed about you?”
Tommy laughed again, then he said good-naturedly, but firmly, “That’s enough, Carly. Sit down, Dick—how’re you? How’s Nicole?” He did not like any man very much or feel men’s presence with much intensity—he was all relaxed for combat; as a fine athlete playing secondary defence in any sport is really resting much of the time, while a lesser man only pretends to rest and is at a continual and self-destroying nervous tension.
Hannan, not entirely suppressed, moved to an adjoining piano and, with recurring resentment on his face whenever he looked at Dick, played chords, from time to time, muttering, “Your aunts,” and, in a dying cadence, “I didn’t say aunts anyhow. I said pants.”
“Well, how’re you?” repeated Tommy. “You don’t look so—” he fought for a word, “—so jaunty as you used to, so spruce, you know what I mean.”
The remark sounded too much like one of those irritating accusations of waning vitality and Dick was about to retort by commenting on the extraordinary suits worn by Tommy and Prince Chillichev, suits of a cut and pattern fantastic enough to have sauntered down Beale Street on a Sunday—when an explanation was forthcoming.
“I see you are regarding our clothes,” said the Prince. “We have just come out of Russia.”
“These were made in Poland by the court tailor,” said Tommy. “That’s a fact—Pilsudski’s own tailor.”
“You’ve been touring?” Dick asked.
They laughed, the Prince inordinately clapping Tommy on the back.
“Yes, we have been touring. That’s it, touring. We have made the Grand Tour of all the Russias. In state.”
Dick waited for an explanation. It came from Mr McKibben in two words:
“Have you been prisoners in Russia?”
“It was I,” explained Prince Cliillichev, his dead yellow eyes staring at Dick. “Not a prisoner but in hiding.”
“Did you have much trouble getting out?”
“Some trouble. We left three Red Guards dead at the border. Tommy left two—” He held up two fingers like a Frenchman—“I left one.”
“That’s the part I don’t understand,” said McKibben. “Why they should have objected to your leaving.”
Hannan turned from the piano and said, winking at the others: “Mac thinks a Marxian is somebody who went to St Mark’s school.”
It was an escape story in the best tradition—an aristocrat hiding nine years with a former servant and working in a government bakery; the eighteen-year-old daughter in Paris who knew Tommy Barban… During the narrative Dick decided that this parched papier-mache relic of the past was scarcely worth the lives of three young men. The question arose as to whether Tommy and Chillichev had been frightened.
“When I was cold,” Tommy said. “I always get scared when I’m cold. During the war I was always frightened when I was cold.”
McKibben stood up.
“I must leave. To-morrow morning I’m going to Innsbruck by car with my wife and children—and the governess.”
“I’m going there to-morrow, too,” said Dick.
“Oh, are you?” exclaimed McKibben. “Why not come with us? It’s a big Packard and there’s only my wife and my children and myself—and the governess—”
“I can’t possibly—”
“Of course she’s not really a governess,” McKibben concluded, looking rather pathetically at Dick. “As a matter of fact my wife knows your sister-in-law, Baby Warren.”
But Dick was not to be drawn into a blind contract.
“I’ve promised to travel with two men.”
“Oh,” McKibben’s face fell. “Well, I’ll say good-bye.” He unscrewed two blooded wire-hairs from a nearby table and lingered; Dick pictured the jammed Packard pounding toward Innsbruck with the McKibbens and their children and their baggage and yapping dogs—and the governess.
“The paper says they know the man who killed him,” said Tommy. “But his cousins did not want it in the papers, because it happened in a speakeasy. What do you think of that?”
“It’s what’s known as family pride.”
Hannan played a loud chord on the piano to attract attention to himself.
“I don’t believe his first stuff holds up,” he said. “Even jarring the Europeans there are a dozen Americans can do what North did.”
It was the first indication Dick had had that they were talking about Abe North.
“The only difference is that Abe did it first,” said Tommy.
“I don’t agree,” persisted Hannan. “He got the reputation for being a good musician because he drank so much that his friends had to explain him away somehow—”
“What’s this about Abe North? What about him? Is he in a jam?”
“Didn’t you read the Herald this morning?”
“He’s dead. He was beaten to death in a speakeasy in New York. He just managed to crawl home to the Racquet Club to die—”
“Yes, sure, they—”
“Abe North?” Dick stood up. “Are you sure he’s dead?”
Hannan turned around to McKibben: “It wasn’t the Racquet Club he crawled to—it was the Harvard Club. I’m sure he didn’t belong to the Racquet.”
“The paper said so,” McKibben insisted.
“It must have been a mistake. I’m quite sure.”
“Beaten to death in a speakeasy.”
“But I happen to know most of the members of the Racquet Club,” said Hannan. “It must have been the Harvard Club.”
Dick got up, Tommy too. Prince Chillichev started out of . wan study of nothing, perhaps of his chances of ever getting out of Russia, a study that had occupied him so long at it was doubtful if he could give it up immediately, and joined them in leaving.
“Abe North beaten to death.”
On the way to the hotel, a journey of which Dick was scarcely aware, Tommy said:
“We’re waiting for a tailor to finish some suits so we can et to Paris. I’m going into stock-broking and they wouldn’t take me if I showed up like this. Everybody in your country is making millions. Are you really leaving to-morrow? We can’t even have dinner with you. It seems the Prince had an old girl in Munich. He called her up but she’d been dead five years and we’re having dinner with the two daughters.”
The Prince nodded.
“Perhaps I could have arranged for Doctor Diver.”
“No, no,” said Dick hastily.
He slept deep and awoke to a slow mournful march passing his window. It was a long column of men in uniform, wearing the familiar helmet of 1914, thick men in frock coats and silk hats, burghers, aristocrats, plain men. It was a society of veterans going to lay wreaths on the tombs of the dead. The column marched slowly with a sort of swagger for a lost magnificence, a past effort, a forgotten sorrow. The faces were only formally sad, but Dick’s lungs burst for a moment with regret for Abe’s death, and his own youth of ten years ago.
He reached Innsbruck at dusk, sent his bags up to a hotel and walked into town. In the sunset the Emperor Maximilian knelt in prayer above his bronze mourners: a quartet of Jesuit novices paced and read in the university garden. The marble souvenirs of old sieges, marriages, anniversaries, faded quickly when the sun was down, and he had Erbsen-suppe with Wurstchen cut up in it, drank four seidels of Pilsner and refused a formidable dessert known as Kaiserschmarren.
Despite the overhanging mountains Switzerland was far away, Nicole was far away. Walking in the garden later when it was quite dark he thought about her with detachment, loving her for her best self. He remembered once when the grass was damp and she came to him on hurried feet, her thin slippers drenched with dew. She stood upon his shoes nestling close and held up her face, showing it as a book open at a page.
“Think how you love me,” she whispered. “I don’t ask you love me always like this, but I ask you to remember, Somewhere inside me there’ll always be the person I am to-night.”
But Dick had come away for his soul’s sake, and he began thinking about that. He had lost himself—he could not tell the hour when, or the day or the week, the month or the year. Once he had cut through things, solving the most complicated equations as the simplest problems of his simplest patients. Between the time he found Nicole flowering under a stone on the Zurichsee and the moment of his meeting with Rosemary the spear had been blunted.
Watching his father’s struggles in poor parishes had wedded a desire for money to an essentially unacquisitive nature. It was not a healthy necessity for security—he had never felt more sure of himself, more thoroughly his own man, than at the time of his marriage to Nicole. Yet he had been swallowed up like a gigolo and had somehow permitted his arsenal to be locked up in the Warren safety-deposit vaults.
“There should have been a settlement in the Continental style; but it isn’t over yet. I’ve wasted nine years teaching the rich the ABC’s of human decency, but I’m not done. I’ve got too many unplayed trumps in my hand.”
He loitered among the fallow rose bushes and the beds of damp sweet indistinguishable fern. It was warm for October, but cool enough to wear a heavy tweed coat buttoned by a little elastic tape at the neck. A figure detached itself from the black shape of a tree and he knew it was the woman whom he had passed in the lobby coming out. He vas in love with every pretty woman he saw now, their forms at a distance, their shadows on a wall.
Her back was toward him as she faced the lights of the town. He scratched a match that she must have heard, but she remained motionless.
—Was it an invitation? Or an indication of obliviousness? He had long been outside of the world of simple desires and their fulfilments, and he was inept and uncertain. For all he knew there might be some code among the wanderers of obscure spas by which they found each other quickly.
—Perhaps the next gesture was his. Strange children should smile at each other and say, “Let’s play.”
He moved closer, the shadow moved sideways. Possibly he would be snubbed like the scapegrace drummers he had heard of in youth. His heart beat loud in contact with the unprobed, undissected, unanalysed, unaccounted for. Suddenly he turned away and, as he did, the girl, too, broke the black frieze she made with the foliage, rounded a bench at a moderate but determined pace and took the path back to the hotel.
With a guide and two other men, Dick started up the Birkkarspitze next morning. It was a fine feeling once they were above the cowbells of the highest pastures—Dick looked forward to the night in the shack, enjoying his own fatigue, enjoying the captaincy of the guide, feeling a delight in his own anonymity. But at mid-day the weather changed to black sleet and hail and mountain thunder. Dick and one of the other climbers wanted to go on, but the guide refused. Regretfully they struggled back to Innsbruck to start again to-morrow.
After dinner and a bottle of heavy local wine in the deserted dining-room, he felt excited, without knowing why, until he began thinking of the garden. He had passed the girl in the lobby before supper and this time she had looked at him and approved of him, but it kept worrying him: Why? When I could have had a good share of the pretty women of my time for the asking, why start that now? With a wraith, with a fragment of my desire? Why?
His imagination pushed ahead—the old asceticism, the actual unfamiliarity, triumphed: God, I might as well go back to the Riviera and sleep with Janice Caricamento or the Wilburhazy girl. To belittle all these years with something cheap and easy?
He was still excited, though, and he turned from the veranda and went up to his room to think. Being alone in body and spirit begets loneliness, and loneliness begets more loneliness.
Upstairs he walked around thinking of the matter and laying out his climbing clothes advantageously on the faint heater: he again encountered Nicole’s telegram, still unopened, with which diurnally she accompanied his itinerary. He had delayed opening it before supper—perhaps because of the garden. It was a cablegram from Buffalo, forwarded through Zurich.
“YOUR FATHER DIED PEACEFULLY TO-NIGHT. HOLMES.”
He felt a sharp wince at the shock, a gathering of the forces of resistance; then it rolled through his loins and stomach and throat.
He read the message again. He sat down on the bed, breathing and staring; thinking first the old, selfish child’s thought that comes with the death of a parent, how will it affect me now that this earliest and strongest of protections is gone?
The atavism passed and he walked the room still, stopping from time to time to look at the telegram. Holmes was formally his father’s curate but actually, and for a decade, rector the church. How did he die? Of old age—he was seventy-five. He had lived a long time.
Dick felt sad that he had died alone—he had survived his wife, and his brothers and sisters; there were cousins in Virginia, but they were poor and not able to come North, and Holmes had had to sign the telegram. Dick loved his father again and again he referred judgements to what his father would probably have thought or done. Dick was born several months after the death of two young sisters, and his father, jessing what would be the effect on Dick’s mother, had saved him from a spoiling by becoming his moral guide. He vas of tired stock yet he raised himself to that effort.
In the summer father and son walked downtown together to have their shoes shined—Dick in his starched duck sailor suit, his father always in beautifully cut clerical clothes—and the father was very proud of his handsome little boy. He told Dick all he knew about life, not much but most of it true, simple things, matters of behaviour that came within his clergyman’s range. “Once in a strange town when I was first ordained, I went into a crowded room and was confused as to who was my hostess. Several people I knew came toward me, but I disregarded them because I had seen a greyhaired woman sitting by a window far across the room. I went over to her and introduced myself. After that I made many friends in that town.”
His father had done that from a good heart—his father had been sure of what he was, with a deep pride of the two proud widows who had raised him to believe that nothing could be superior to “good instincts”, honour, courtesy, and courage.
The father always considered that his wife’s small fortune belonged to his son, and in college and in medical school sent him a cheque for all the income four tunes a year. He was one of those about whom it was said with smug finality in the gilded age: “Very much the gentleman, but not much get-up-and-go about him.”
… Dick sent down for a newspaper. Still pacing to and from the telegram open on his bureau, he chose a ship to go to America. Then he put in a call for Nicole in Zurich, remembering so many things as he waited, and wishing he had always been as good as he had intended to be.
For an hour, tied up with his profound reaction to his father’s death, the magnificent facade of the homeland, the harbour of New York, seemed all sad and glorious to Dick, but once ashore the feeling vanished, nor did he find it again in the streets or the hotels or the trains that bore him first to Buffalo, and then south to Virginia with his father’s body. Only as the local train shambled into the low-forested clay-land of Westmoreland County did he feel once more identified with his surroundings; at the station he saw a star he knew, and a cold moon bright over Chesapeake Bay; he heard the rasping wheels of buckboards turning, the lovely fatuous voices, the sound of sluggish primeval rivers flowing softly under soft Indian names.
Next day at the churchyard his father was laid among a hundred Divers, Dorseys, and Hunters. It was very friendly leaving him there with all his relations around him. Flowers were scattered on the brown unsettled earth. Dick had no more ties here now and did not believe he would come back. He knelt on the hard soil. These dead, he knew them all, their weather-beaten faces with blue flashing eyes, the spare violent bodies, the souls made of new earth in the forest-heavy darkness of the seventeenth century.
“Good-bye, my father—good-bye, all my fathers.”
On the long-roofed, steamship piers one is in a country that is no longer here and not yet there. The hazy yellow vault is full of echoing shouts. There are the rumble of trucks and the clump of trunks, the strident chatter of cranes, the first salt smell of the sea. One hurries through, even though there’s time; the past, the continent, is behind; the future is the glowing mouth in the side of the ship; the dun, turbulent alley is loo confusedly the present.
Up the gangplank and the vision of the world adjusts itself, narrows. One is a citizen of a commonwealth smaller than Andorra, no longer sure of anything. The men at the purser’s desk are as oddly shaped as the cabins; disdainful are the eyes of voyagers and their friends. Next the loud mournful whistles, the portentous vibration and the boat, the human idea, is in motion. The pier and its faces slide by and for a moment the boat is a piece accidentally split off from them; the faces become remote, voiceless, the pier is one of many blurs along the water-front. The harbour flows swiftly toward the sea.
With it flowed Albert McKisco, labelled by the newspapers as the steamer’s most precious cargo. McKisco was having a vogue. His novels were pastiches of the work of the best people of his time, a feat not to be disparaged, and in addition he possessed a gift for softening and debasing what he borrowed, so that many readers were charmed by the ease with which they could follow him. Success had improved him and humbled him. He was no fool about his capacities—he realized that he possessed more vitality than many men of superior talent, and he was resolved to enjoy the success he had earned. “I’ve done nothing yet,” he would say. “I don’t think I’ve got any real genius. But if I keep trying I may write a good book.” Fine dives have been made from flimsier spring-boards. The innumerable snubs of the past were forgotten. Indeed, his success was founded psychologically upon his duel with Tommy Barban, upon the basis of which, as it withered in his memory, he had created, afresh, a new self-respect.
Spotting Dick Diver the second day out, he eyed him tentatively, then introduced himself in a friendly way and sat down. Dick laid aside his reading and, after the few minutes that it took to realize the change in McKisco, the disappearance of the man’s annoying sense of inferiority, found himself pleased to talk to him. McKisco was “well-informed” on a range of subjects wider than Goethe’s—it was interesting to listen to the innumerable facile combinations that he referred to as his opinions. They struck up an acquaintance and Dick had several meals with them. The McKiscos had been invited to sit at the captain’s table, but with nascent snobbery they told Dick that “they couldn’t stand that bunch.”
Violet was very grand now, decked out by the grand couturiers, charmed about the little discoveries that well-bred girls make in their teens. She could, indeed, have learned them from her mother in Boise but her soul was born dismally in the small movie houses of Idaho, and she had had no time for her mother. Now she “belonged”—together with several million other people—and she was happy, though her husband still shushed her when she grew violently naive.
The McKiscos got off at Gibraltar. Next evening in Naples Dick picked up a lost and miserable family of two girls and their mother in the bus from the hotel to the station. He had seen them on the ship. An overwhelming desire to help, or to be admired, came over him: he showed them fragments of gaiety; tentatively he bought them wine, with pleasure saw them begin to regain their proper egotism. He pretended they were this and that and, falling in with his own plot, drank too much to sustain the illusion, and all this time the women thought only that this was a windfall from heaven. He withdrew from them as the night waned and the train rocked and snorted at Cassino and Frosinone. Early in the morning, after weird American partings in the station at Rome, Dick went to the Hotel Quirinal, somewhat exhausted.
At the desk he suddenly stared and upped his head. As if a drink were acting on him, warming the lining of his stomach, throwing a flush up into his brain, he saw the person he had come to see, the person for whom he had made the Mediterranean crossing.
Simultaneously Rosemary saw him, acknowledging him before placing him; she looked back startled and, leaving the girl she was with, she hurried over. Holding himself erect, holding his breath, Dick turned to her. As she came across the lobby, her beauty all groomed like a young horse dosed with Black-seed oil and hoofs varnished, shocked him awake; but it all came too quick for him to do anything except conceal his fatigue as best he could. To meet her starry-eyed confidence he mustered an insincere pantomime implying, “You would turn up here—of all the people in the world.”
Her gloved hands closed over his on the desk; “Dick—we’re making The Grandeur that was Rome—at least we think we are; we may quit any day.”
He looked at her hard, trying to make her a little self-conscious, so that she would observe less closely his unshaven face, his crumpled and slept-in collar. Fortunately she was in a hurry.
“We begin early because the mists rise at eleven—phone me at two.”
In his room Dick collected his faculties. He left a call for noon, stripped off his clothes, and dived literally into a heavy sleep.
He slept over the phone call but awoke at one, refreshed. Unpacking his bag, he sent out suits and laundry. He shaved, lay for half an hour in a warm bath and had breakfast. The sun had dipped into the Via Nazionale and he let it through the portieres with a jingling of old brass rings. Waiting for a suit to be pressed, he read the Corriere della Sera and learned about “una novella di Sainclair Lewis Wall Street nellaquale l’autore analizzala vita sociale di unapiccola citta Americana.” Then he tried to think about Rosemary.
At first he thought nothing. She was young and magnetic, but so was Topsy. He guessed that she had had lovers and had loved them in the last four years. Well, you never knew exactly how much space you occupied in people’s lives. Yet from this fog his affection emerged—the best contacts are when one knows the obstacles and still wants to preserve a relation. The past drifted back and he wanted to hold her eloquent giving-of-herself in its precious shell, till he enclosed it, till it no longer existed outside him. He tried to collect all that might attract her—it was less than it had been four years ago. Eighteen might look at thirty-four through a rising mist of adolescence; but twenty-two would see thirty-eight with discerning clarity. Moreover, Dick had been at an emotional peak at the time of the previous encounter; since then there had been a lesion of enthusiasm.
When the valet returned he put on a white shirt and collar and a black tie with a pearl; the cords of his reading glasses passed through another pearl of the same size that swung a casual inch below. After sleep, his face had resumed the ruddy brown of many Riviera summers, and to limber himself up he stood on his hands on a chair until his fountain pen and coins fell out. At three he called Rosemary and was bidden to come up. Momentarily dizzy from his acrobatics, he stopped in the bar for a gin-and-tonic.
“Hi, Doctor Diver!”
Only because of Rosemary’s presence in the hotel did Dick place the man immediately as Collis Clay. He had his old confidence and an air of prosperity and big sudden jowls.
“Do you know Rosemary’s here?” Collis asked.
“I ran into her.”
“I was in Florence and I heard she was here, so I came down last week. You’d never know Mama’s little girl.” He modified the remark, “I mean she was so carefully brought up and now she’s a woman of the world—if you know what I mean. Believe me, has she got some of these Roman boys tied up in bags! And how!”
“You studying in Florence?”
“Me? Sure, I’m studying architecture there. I go back Sunday—I’m staying for the races.”
With difficulty Dick restrained him from adding the drink to the account he carried in the bar, like a stock-market report.
When Dick got out of the elevator he followed a tortuous corridor and turned at length toward a distant voice outside a lighted door. Rosemary was in black pyjamas; a luncheon table was still in the room; she was having coffee.
“You’re still beautiful,” he said. “A little more beautiful than ever.”
“Do you want coffee, youngster?”
“I’m sorry I was so unpresentable this morning.”
“You didn’t look well—you all right now? Want coffee?”
“You’re fine again, I was scared this morning. Mother’s coming over next month, if the company stays. She always asks me if I’ve seen you over here, as if she thought we were living next door. Mother always liked you—she always felt you were someone I ought to know.”
“Well, I’m glad she still thinks of me.”
“Oh, she does,” Rosemary reassured him. “A very great deal.”
“I’ve seen you here and there in pictures,” said Dick. “Once I had Daddy’s Girl run off just for myself.”
“I have a good part in this one if it isn’t cut.”
She crossed behind him, touching his shoulder as she passed. She phoned for the table to be taken away and settled in a big chair.
“I was just a little girl when I met you, Dick. Now I’m a woman.”
“I want to hear everything about you.”
“How is Nicole—and Lanier and Topsy?”
“They’re fine. They often speak of you—”
The phone rang. While she answered it Dick examined two novels—one by Edna Ferber, one by Albert McKisco. The waiter came for the table; bereft of its presence Rosemary seemed more alone in her black pyjamas.
“…I have a caller… No, not very well. I’ve got to go to the costumier’s for a long fitting… No, not now…”
As though with the disappearance of the table she felt released, Rosemary smiled at Dick—that smile as if they two together had managed to get rid of all the trouble in the world and were now at peace in their own heaven.
“That’s done,” she said. “Do you realize I’ve spent the last hour getting ready for you?”
But again the phone called her. Dick got up to change his hat from the bed to the luggage stand, and in alarm Rosemary put her hand over the mouthpiece of the phone. “You’re not going!”
When the communication was over he tried to drag the afternoon together, saying: “I expect some nourishment from people now.”
“Me, too,” Rosemary agreed. “The man that just phoned me once knew a second cousin of mine. Imagine calling anybody up for a reason like that!”
Now she lowered the lights for love. Why else should she want to shut off his view of her? He sent his words to her like letters, as though they left him some time before they reached her.
“Hard to sit here and be close to you, and not kiss you.” Then they kissed passionately in the centre of the floor. She pressed against him, and went back to her chair.
It could not go on being merely pleasant in the room. Forward or backward; when the phone rang once more he strolled into the bedchamber and lay down on her bed, opening Albert McKisco’s novel. Presently Rosemary came in and sat beside him.
“You have the longest eyelashes,” she remarked.
“We are now back at the Junior Prom. Among those present arc Miss Rosemary Hoyt, the eyelash fancier—”
She kissed him and he pulled her down so that they lay side by side, and then they kissed till they were both breathless. Her breathing was young and eager and exciting. Her lips were faintly chapped but soft in the corners.
When they were still limbs and feet and clothes, struggles of his arms and back, and her throat and breasts, she whispered, “No, not now—those things are rhythmic.”
Disciplined he crushed his passion into a corner of his mind, but bearing up her fragility on his arm until she was poised half a foot above him, he said lightly:
“Darling—that doesn’t matter.”
Her face had changed with his looking up at it; there was the eternal moonlight in it.
“That would be poetic justice if it should be you,” she said. She twisted away from him, walked to the mirror, and boxed her disarranged hair with her hands. Presently she drew a chair close to the bed and stroked his cheek.
“Tell me the truth about you,” he demanded.
“I always have.”
“In a way—but nothing hangs together.”
They both laughed, but he pursued.
“Are you actually a virgin?”
“No-o-o!” she sang. “I’ve slept with six hundred and forty men—if that’s the answer you want.”
“It’s none of my business.”
“Do you want me for a case in psychology?”
“Looking at you as a perfectly normal girl of twenty-two, living in the year nineteen twenty-nine, I guess you’ve taken a few shots at love.”
“It’s all been—abortive,” she said.
Dick couldn’t believe her. He could not decide whether she was deliberately building a barrier between them or whether this was intended to make an eventual surrender more significant.
“Let’s go walk in the Pincio,” he suggested.
He shook himself straight in his clothes and smoothed his hair. A moment had come and somehow passed. For three years Dick had been the ideal by which Rosemary measured other men and inevitably his stature had increased to heroic size. She did not want him to be like other men, yet here were the same exigent demands, as if he wanted to take some of herself away, carry it off in his pocket.
Walking on the greensward between cherubs and philosophers, fauns and falling water, she took his arm snugly, settling into it with a series of little readjustments, as if she wanted it to be right because it was going to be there for ever. She plucked a twig and broke it, but she found no spring in it. Suddenly seeing what she wanted in Dick’s face she took his gloved hand and kissed it. Then she cavorted childishly for him until he smiled and she laughed and they began having a good time.
“I can’t go out with you to-night, darling, because I promised some people a long time ago. But if you’ll get up early I’ll take you out to the set to-morrow.”
He dined alone at the hotel, went to bed early, and met Rosemary in the lobby at half-past six. Beside him in the car she glowed away fresh and new in the morning sunshine. They went out through the Porta San Sebastiano and along the Appian Way until they came to the huge set of the forum, larger than the forum itself. Rosemary turned him over to a man who led him about the great props: the arches and tiers of seats and the sanded arena. She was working on a stage which represented a guard-room for Christian prisoners, and presently they went there and watched Nicotera, one of many hopeful Valentinos, strut and pose before a dozen female “captives,” their eyes melancholy and startling with mascara.
Rosemary appeared in a knee-length tunic.
“Watch this,” she whispered to Dick. “I want your opinion. Everybody that’s seen the rushes says—”
“What are the rushes?”
“When they run off what they took the day before. They say it’s the first thing I’ve had sex appeal in.”
“I don’t notice it.”
“You wouldn’t! But I have.”
Nicotera in his leopard skin talked attentively to Rosemary while the electrician discussed something with the director, meanwhile leaning on him. Finally the director pushed his hand off roughly and wiped a sweating forehead, and Dick’s guide remarked; “He’s on the hop again, and how!”
“Who?” asked Dick, but before the man could answer the director walked swiftly over to them.
“Who’s on the hop—you’re on the hop yourself.” He spoke vehemently to Dick, as if to a jury. “When he’s on the hop he always thinks everybody else is, and how!” He glared at the guide a moment longer, then he clapped his hands: “All right—everybody on the set.”
It was like visiting a great turbulent family. An actress approached Dick and talked to him for five minutes under the impression that he was an actor recently arrived from London. Discovering her mistake she scuttled away in panic. The majority of the company felt either sharply superior or sharply inferior to the world outside, but the former feeling prevailed. They were people of bravery and industry; they were risen to a position of prominence in a nation that for a decade had wanted only to be entertained.
The session ended as the light grew misty—a fine light for painters, but, for the camera, not to be compared with the clear California air. Nicotera followed Rosemary to the car and whispered something to her—she looked at him without smiling as she said good-bye.
Dick and Rosemary had luncheon at the Castelli dei Cesari, a splendid restaurant in a high-terraced villa overlooking the ruined forum of an undetermined period of the decadence. Rosemary took a cocktail and a little wine, and Dick took enough so that his feeling of dissatisfaction left him. Afterward they drove back to the hotel, all flushed and happy, in a sort of exalted quiet. She wanted to be taken and she was, and what had begun with a childish infatuation on a beach was accomplished at last.
Rosemary had another dinner date, a birthday party for a member of the company. Dick ran into Collis Clay in the lobby, but he wanted to dine alone and pretended an engagement at the Excelsior. He drank a cocktail with Collis and his vague dissatisfaction crystallized as impatience—he no longer had an excuse for playing truant to the clinic. This was less an infatuation than a romantic memory. Nicole was his girl—too often he was sick at heart about her, yet she was his girl. Time with Rosemary was self-indulgence—time with Collis was nothing plus nothing.
In the doorway of the Excelsior he ran into Baby Warren. Her large beautiful eyes, looking precisely like marbles, stared at him with surprise and curiosity. “I thought you were in America, Dick! Is Nicole with you?”
“I came back by way of Naples.”
The black band on his arm reminded her to say: “I’m so sorry to hear of your trouble.”
Inevitably they dined together.
“Tell me about everything,” she demanded.
Dick gave her a version of the facts, and Baby frowned. She found it necessary to blame someone for the catastrophe in her sister’s life.
“Do you think Doctor Dohmler took the right course with her from the first?”
“There’s not much variety in treatment any more—of course you try to find the right personality to handle a particular case.”
“Dick, I don’t pretend to advise you or to know much about it, but don’t you think a change might be good for her—to get out of that atmosphere of sickness and live in the world like other people?”
“But you were keen for the clinic,” he reminded her. “You told me you’d never feel really safe about her—”
“That was when you were leading that hermit’s life on the Riviera, up on a hill way off from anybody. I didn’t mean to go back to that life. I meant, for instance, London. The English are the best-balanced race in the world.”
“They are not,” he disagreed.
“They are. I know them, you see. I meant it might be nice for you to take a house in London for the spring season—I know a dove of a house in Talbot Square you could get, furnished. I mean, living with sane, well-balanced English people.”
She would have gone on to tell him all the old propaganda stories of 1914 if he had not laughed and said:
“I’ve been reading a book by Michael Arlen and if that’s——”
She ruined Michael Arlen with a wave of her salad spoon.
“He only writes about degenerates. I mean the worthwhile English.”
As she thus dismissed her friends they were replaced in Dick’s mind only by a picture of the alien, unresponsive faces that peopled the small hotels of Europe.
“Of course it’s none of my business,” Baby repeated, as a preliminary to a further plunge, “but to leave her alone in an atmosphere like that—”
“I went to America because my father died.”
“I understand that, I told you how sorry I was.” She fiddled with the glass grapes on her necklace. “But there’s so much money now. Plenty for everything, and it ought to be used to get Nicole well.”
“For one thing I can’t see myself in London.”
“Why not? I should think you could work there as well as anywhere else.”
He sat back and looked at her. If she had ever suspected the rotted old truth, the real reason for Nicole’s illness, she had certainly determined to deny it to herself, shoving it back in a dusty closet like one of the paintings she bought by mistake.
They continued the conversation in the Ulpia, where Collis Clay came over to their table and sat down, and a gifted guitar player thrummed and rumbled “Suona Fanfara Mia” in the cellar piled with wine casks.
“It’s possible that I was the wrong person for Nicole,” Dick said. “Still, she would probably have married someone of my type, someone she thought she could rely on—indefinitely.”
“You think she’d be happier with somebody else?” Baby thought aloud suddenly. “Of course it could be arranged.”
Only as she saw Dick bend forward with helpless laughter did she realize the preposterousness of her remark.
“Oh, you understand,” she assured him. “Don’t think for a moment that we’re not grateful for all you’ve done. And we know you’ve had a hard time—”
“For God’s sake,” he protested. “If I didn’t love Nicole it might be different.”
“But you do love Nicole?” she demanded in alarm.
Collis was catching up with the conversation now and Dick switched it quickly: “Suppose we talk about something else—about you, for instance. Why don’t you get married? We heard you were engaged to Lord Paley, the cousin of the——”
“Oh, no.” She became coy and elusive. “That was last year.”
“Why don’t you marry?” Dick insisted stubbornly.
“I don’t know. One of the men I loved was killed in the war, and the other one threw me over.”
“Tell me about it. Tell me about your private life, Baby, and your opinions. You never do—we always talk about Nicole.”
“Both of them were Englishmen. I don’t think there’s any higher type in the world than a first-rate Englishman, do you? If there is I haven’t met him. This man—oh, it’s a long story. I hate long stories, don’t you?”
“And how!” said Collis.
“Why, no—I like them if they’re good.”
“That’s something you do so well, Dick. You can keep a party moving by just a little sentence or a saying here and there. I think that’s a wonderful talent.”
“It’s a trick,” he said gently. That made three of her opinions he disagreed with.
“Of course I like formality—I like things to be just so, and on the grand scale. I know you probably don’t, but you must admit it’s a sign of solidity in me.”
Dick did not even bother to dissent from this.
“Of course I know people say. Baby Warren is racing around over Europe, chasing one novelty after another, and missing the best things in life, but I think on the contrary that I’m one of the few people who really go after the best things. I’ve known the most interesting people of my time.” Her voice blurred with the tinny drumming of another guitar number, but she called over it, “I’ve made very few big mistakes—”
“—Only the very big ones, Baby.”
She had caught something facetious in his eye and she changed the subject. It seemed impossible for them to hold anything in common. But he admired something in her, and he deposited her at the Excelsior with a series of compliments that left her shimmering.
Rosemary insisted on treating Dick to lunch next day. They went to a little trattoria kept by an Italian who had worked in America, and ate ham and eggs and waffles. Afterwards they went to the hotel. Dick’s discovery that he was not in love with her, nor she with him, had added to rallier than diminished his passion for her. Now that he knew he would not enter further into her life, she became the strange woman for him. He supposed many men meant no more than that when they said they were in love—not a wild submergence of soul, a dipping of all colours into an obscuring dye, such as his love for Nicole had been. Certain thoughts about Nicole, that she should die, sink into mental darkness, love another man, made him physically sick.
Nicotera was in Rosemary’s sitting-room, chattering about a professional matter. When Rosemary gave him his cue to go, he left with humorous protests and a rather insolent wink at Dick. As usual the phone clamoured and Rosemary was engaged at it for ten minutes to Dick’s increasing impatience.
“Let’s go up to my room,” he suggested, and she agreed.
She lay across his knees on a big sofa; he ran his fingers through the lovely forelocks of her hair.
“Let me be curious about you again?” he asked.
“What do you want to know?”
“About men. I’m curious, not to say prurient.”
“You mean how long after I met you?”
“Oh, no.” She was shocked. “There was nothing before. You were the first man I cared about. You’re still the only man I really care about.” She considered. “It was about a year, I think.”
“Who was it?”
“Oh, a man.”
He closed in on her evasion.
“I’ll bet I can tell you about it: the first affair was unsatisfactory and after that there was a long gap. The second was better, but you hadn’t been in love with the man in the first place. The third was all right—”
Torturing himself he ran on. “Then you had one real affair that fell of its own weight, and by that time you were getting afraid that you wouldn’t have anything to give to the man you finally loved.” He felt increasingly Victorian. “Afterward there were half a dozen just episodic affairs, right up to the present. Is that close?”
She laughed between amusement and tears.
“It’s about as wrong as it could be,” she said, to Dick’s relief. “But some day I’m going to find somebody and love him and love him and never let him go.”
Now his phone rang and Dick recognized Nicotera’s voice, asking for Rosemary. He put his palm over the transmitter.
“Do you want to talk to him?”
She went to the phone and jabbered in a rapid Italian Dick could not understand.
“This telephoning takes time,” he said. “It’s after four and I have an engagement at five. You better go play with Signor Nicotera.”
“Don’t be silly.”
“Then I think that while I’m here you ought to count him out.”
“It’s difficult.” She was suddenly crying. “Dick, I do love you, never anybody like you. But what have you got for me?”
“What has Nicotera got for anybody?”
—Because youth called to youth.
“He’s a spic!” he said. He was frantic with jealousy, he didn’t want to be hurt again.
“He’s only a baby,” she said, sniffing. “You know I’m yours first.”
In reaction he put his arms about her but she relaxed wearily backward; he held her like that for a moment as in the end of an adagio, her eyes closed, her hair falling straight back like that of a girl drowned.
“Dick, let me go. I never felt so mixed up in my life.”
He was a gruff red bird and instinctively she drew away from him as his unjustified jealousy began to snow over the qualities of consideration and understanding with which she felt at home.
“I want to know the truth,” he said.
“Yes, then. We’re a lot together, he wants to marry me, but I don’t want to. What of it? What do you expect me to do? You never asked me to marry you. Do you want me to play around for ever with halfwits like Collis Clay?”
“You were with Nicotera last night?”
“That’s none of your business,” she sobbed. “Excuse me, Dick, it is your business. You and Mother are the only two people in the world I care about.”
“How about Nicotera?”
“How do I know?”
She had achieved the elusiveness that gives hidden significance to the least significant remarks.
“Is it like you felt toward me in Paris?”
“I feel comfortable and happy when I’m with you. In Paris it was different. But you never know how you once felt. Do you?”
He got up and began collecting his evening clothes—if he had to bring all the bitterness and hatred of the world into his heart, he was not going to be in love with her again.
“I don’t care about Nicotera!” she declared. “But I’ve got to go to Livorno with the company to-morrow. Oh, why did this have to happen?” There was a new flood of tears. “It’s such a shame. Why did you come here? Why couldn’t we just have the memory anyhow? I feel as if I’d quarrelled with Mother.”
As he began to dress, she got up and went to the door.
“I won’t go to the party to-night.” It was her last effort. “I’ll stay with you. I don’t want to go anyhow.”
The tide began to flow again, but he retreated from it.
“I’ll be in my room,” she said. “Good-bye, Dick.”
“Oh, such a shame, such a shame. Oh, such a shame. What’s it all about anyhow?”
“I’ve wondered for a long time.”
“But why bring it to me?”
“I guess I’m the Black Death,” he said slowly. “I don’t seem to bring people happiness any more.”
There were five people in the Quirinal bar after dinner, a high-class Italian frail who sat on a stool making persistent conversation against the bartender’s bored “Si… Si… Si,” a light, snobbish Egyptian who was lonely but chary of the woman, and the two Americans.
Dick was always vividly conscious of his surroundings, while Collis Clay lived vaguely, the sharpest impressions dissolving upon a recording apparatus that had early atrophied, so the former talked and the latter listened, like a man sitting in a breeze.
Dick, worn away by the events of the afternoon, was taking it out on the inhabitants of Italy. He looked around the bar as if he hoped an Italian had heard him and would resent his words.
“This afternoon I had tea with my sister-in-law at the Excelsior. We got the last table and two men came up and looked around for a table and couldn’t find one. So one of them came up to us and said, “Isn’t this table reserved for the Princess Orsini?” and I said, “There was no sign on it,” and he said: “But I think it’s reserved for the Princess Orsini.” I couldn’t even answer him.”
“What’d he do?”
“He retired.” Dick switched around in his chair. “I don’t like these people. The other day I left Rosemary for two minutes in front of a store and an officer started walking up and down in front of her, tipping his hat.”
“I don’t know,” said Collis after a moment. “I’d rather be here than up in Paris with somebody picking your pocket every minute.”
He had been enjoying himself, and he held out against anything that threatened to dull his pleasure.
“I don’t know,” he persisted. “I don’t mind it here.”
Dick evoked the picture that the few days had imprinted on his mind, and stared at it. The walk toward the American Express past the odorous confectioneries of the Via Nazionale, through the foul tunnel up to the Spanish Steps, where his spirit soared before the flower stalls and the house where Keats had died. He cared only about people; he was scarcely conscious of places except for their weather, until they had been invested with colour by tangible events. Rome was the end of his dream of Rosemary.
A bell-boy came in and gave him a note.
“I did not go to the party,” it said. “I am in my room. We leave for Livorno early in the morning.”
Dick handed the note and a tip to the boy.
“Tell Miss Hoyt you couldn’t find me.” Turning to Collis he suggested the Bonbonieri.
They inspected the tart at the bar, granting her the minimum of interest exacted by her profession, and she stared back with bright boldness; they went through the deserted lobby oppressed by draperies holding Victorian dust in stuffy folds, and they nodded at the night concierge, who returned the gesture with the bitter servility peculiar to night servants. Then in a taxi they rode along cheerless streets through a dank November night. There were no women in the streets, only pale men with dark coats buttoned to the neck, who stood in groups beside shoulders of old stone.
“My God!” Dick sighed. “What’s a matter?”
“I was thinking of that man this afternoon: “This table is served for the Princess Orsini.” Do you know what these old Roman families are? They’re bandits, they’re the ones who got possession of the temples and palaces after Rome vent to pieces and preyed on the people.”
“I like Rome,” insisted Collis. “Why won’t you try the races?”
“I don’t like races.”
“But all the women turn out—”
“I know I wouldn’t like anything here. I like France, where everybody thinks he’s Napoleon—down here everybody thinks he’s Christ.”
At the Bonbonieri they descended to a panelled cabaret, hopelessly impermanent amid the cold stone. A listless band played a tango and a dozen couples covered the wide floor with those elaborate and dainty steps so offensive to the American eye. A surplus of waiters precluded the stir and bustle that even a few busy men can create; over the scene as its form of animation brooded an air of waiting for something the dance, the night, the balance of forces which kept it stable—to cease. It assured the impressionable guest that whatever he was seeking he would not find it here.
This was plain as plain to Dick. He looked around, hoping his eye would catch on something, so that spirit instead of imagination could carry on for an hour. But there was nothing and after a moment he turned back to Collis. He had told Collis some of his current notions, and he was bored with his audience’s short memory and lack of response. After half an hour of Collis he felt a distinct lesion of his own vitality.
They drank a bottle of Italian mousseux and Dick became pale and somewhat noisy. He called the orchestra leader over to their table; this was a Bahama Negro, conceited and unpleasant, and in a few minutes there was a row.
“You asked rne to sit down.”
“All right. And I gave you fifty lire, didn’t I?”
“All right. All right. All right.”
“All right, I gave you fifty lire, didn’t I? Then you came up and asked me to put some more in the horn.”
“You asked me to sit down, didn’t you? Didn’t you?”
“I asked you to sit down but I gave you fifty lire, didn’t I?”
“All right. All right.”
The Negro got up sourly and went away, leaving Dick in a still more evil humour. But he saw a girl smiling at him from across the room and immediately the pale Roman shapes around him receded into decent, humble perspective. She was a young English girl, with blonde hair and a healthy, pretty English face, and she smiled at him again with an invitation he understood, that denied the flesh even in the act of tendering it.
“There’s a quick trick or else I don’t know bridge,” said Collis.
Dick got up and walked to her across the room.
“Won’t you dance?”
The middle-aged Englishman with whom she was sitting said, almost apologetically: “I’m going out soon.”
Sobered by excitement, Dick danced. He found in the girl a suggestion of all the pleasanter English things; the story of safe gardens ringed around by the sea was implicit in her bright voice and, as he leaned back to look at her, he meant what he said to her so sincerely that his voice trembled. When her current escort should leave, she promised to come and sit with them. The Englishman accepted her return with repeated apologies and smiles.
Back at his table Dick ordered another bottle of spumante.
“She looks like somebody in the movies,” he said. “I can’t think who.” He glanced impatiently over his shoulder. “Wonder what’s keeping her?”
“I’d like to get in the movies,” said Collis thoughtfully. “I’m supposed to go into my father’s business but it doesn’t appeal to me much. Sit in an office in Atlanta for twenty years—”
His voice resisted the pressure of materialistic civilization.
“Too good for it?” suggested Dick.
“No, I don’t mean that.”
“Yes, you do.”
“How do you know what I mean? Why don’t you practise as a doctor, if you like to work so much?”
Dick had made them both wretched by this time, but simultaneously they had become vague with drink and in a moment they forgot; Collis left, and they shook hands warmly.
“Think it over,” said Dick sagely.
“Think what over?”
“You know.” It had been something about Collis going into his father’s business—good sound advice.
Clay walked off into space. Dick finished his bottle and then danced with the English girl again, conquering his unwilling body with bold revolutions and stern determined marches down the floor. The most remarkable thing suddenly happened. He was dancing with the girl, the music stopped—and she had disappeared.
“Have you seen her?”
“The girl I was dancing with. Su’nly disappeared. Must be in the building.”
“No! No! That’s the ladies’ room.”
He stood up by the bar. There were two other men there, but he could think of no way of starting a conversation. He could have told them all about Rome and the violent origins of the Colonna and Gaetani families, but he realized that as a beginning that would be somewhat abrupt. A row of Yenci dolls on the cigar counter fell suddenly to the floor; there was a subsequent confusion and he had a sense of having been the cause of it, so he went back to the cabaret and drank a cup of black coffee. Collis was gone and the English girl was gone and there seemed nothing to do but go back to the hotel and lie down with his black heart. He paid his check and got his hat and coat.
There was dirty water in the gutters and between the rough cobblestones; a marshy vapour from the Campagna, a sweat of exhausted cultures tainted the morning air. A quartet of taxi-drivers, their little eyes bobbing in dark pouches, surrounded him. One who leaned insistently in his face he pushed harshly away.
“Quanto al Hotel Quirinal?”
Six dollars. He shook his head and offered thirty lire, which was twice the day-time fare, but they shrugged their shoulders as one pair, and moved off.
“Trenta-cinque lire e mancie” he said firmly.
He broke into English.
“To go half a mile? You’ll take me for forty lire.”
He was very tired. He pulled open the door of a cab and got in.
“Hotel Quirinal!” he said to the driver who stood obstinately outside the window. “Wipe that sneer off your face and take me to the Quirinal.”
Dick got out. By the door of the Bonbonieri someone was arguing with the taxi-drivers, someone who now tried to explain their attitude to Dick; again one of the men pressed:lose, insisting and gesticulating, and Dick shoved him away.
“I want to go the Quirinal Hotel.”
“He says wan huner lire,” explained the interpreter.
“I understand. I’ll give him fifty lire. Go on away.” This first to the insistent man who had edged up once more. The man looked at him and spat contemptuously.
The passionate impatience of the week leaped up in Dick and clothed itself like a flash in violence, the honourable, the traditional resource of his land; he stepped forward and clapped the man’s face.
They surged about him, threatening, waving their arms, trying ineffectually to close in on him—with his back against the wall Dick hit out clumsily, laughing a little, and for a few minutes the mock fight, an affair of foiled rushes and padded, glancing blows, swayed back and forth in front of the door. Then Dick tripped and fell; he was hurt somewhere but he struggled up again, wrestling in arms that suddenly broke apart. There was a new voice and a new argument, but he leaned against the wall, panting and furious at the indignity of his position. He saw there was no sympathy for him, but he was unable to believe that he was wrong.
They were going to the police station and settle it there. His hat was retrieved and handed to him, and with someone holding his arm lightly he strode around the corner with the taxi-men and entered a bare barrack where carabinieri lounged under a single dim light.
At a desk sat a captain, to whom the officious individual who had stopped the battle spoke at length in Italian, at times pointing at Dick and letting himself be interrupted by the taxi-men, who delivered short bursts of invective and denunciation. The captain began to nod impatiently. He held up his hand and the hydra-headed address, with a few parting exclamations, died away. Then he turned to Dick.
“Spick Italiano?” he asked.
“Oui,” said Dick, glowering.
“Alors. Ecoute. Va au Quirinal. Espece d’endormi. Ecoule: vous etes saoul. Payez ce que le chauffeur demande. Comprenez-vous?”
Diver shook his head.
“Non, je ne veux pas.”
“Je paierai quarante lires. C’est bien assez.”
The captain stood up.
“Ecoute,” he cried portentously. “Vous etes saoul. Vous avez battu le chauffeur. Comme ci, comme ca.” He struck the air excitedly with right hand and left. “C’est bon que je vous donne la liberte. Payez ce qu’il a dit—cento lire. Va au Quirinal.”
Raging with humiliation, Dick stared back at him.
“All right.” He turned blindly to the door—before him, leering and nodding, was the man who had brought him to the police station. “I’ll go home,” he shouted, “but first I’ll fix this baby.”
He walked past the staring carabinieri and up to the grinning face, hit it with a smashing left beside the jaw. The man dropped to the floor.
For a moment he stood over him in savage triumph—but even as a first pang of doubt shot through him the world reeled; he was clubbed down, and fists and boots beat on him in a savage tattoo. He felt his nose break like a shingle and his eyes jerk as if they had snapped back on a rubber band into his head. A rib splintered under a stamping heel. Momentarily he lost consciousness, regained it as he was raised to a sitting position and his wrists jerked together with handcuffs. He struggled automatically. The plainclothes’ lieutenant whom he had knocked down stood dabbing his jaw with a handkerchief and looking into it for blood; he came over to Dick, poised himself, drew back his arm and smashed him to the floor.
When Doctor Diver lay quite still a pail of water was sloshed over him. One of his eyes opened dimly as he was being dragged along by the wrists through a bloody haze, and he made out the human and ghastly face of one of the taxi-drivers.
“Go to the Excelsior Hotel,” he cried faintly. “Tell Miss Warren. Two hundred lire! Miss Warren. Due centi lire! Oh, you dirty—you God—”
Still he was dragged along through the bloody haze, choking and sobbing, over vague irregular surfaces into some small place where he was dropped upon a stone floor. The men went out, a door clanged, he was alone.
Until one o’clock Baby Warren lay in bed, reading one of Marion Crawford’s curiously inanimate Roman stories; then she went to a window and looked down into the street. Across from the hotel two carabinieri, grotesque in swaddling capes and harlequin hats, swung voluminously from this side and that, like mains’ls coming about, and watching them she thought of the Guards officer who had stared at her so intensely at lunch. He had possessed the arrogance of a tall member of a short race, with no obligation save to be tall. Had he come up to her and said: “Let’s go Jong, you and I,” she would have answered: “Why not?”—at least it seemed so now, for she was still disembodied by an unfamiliar background.
Her thoughts drifted back slowly through the guardsman to the two carabinieri, to Dick—she got into bed and turned out the light.
A little before four she was awakened by a brusque knocking.
“Yes—what is it?”
“It’s the concierge, Madame.”
She pulled on her kimono and faced him sleepily.
“Your friend name Deever he’s in a trouble. He had trouble with the police, and they have him in the jail. He sent a taxi up to tell, the driver says that he promised him two hundred lire.” He paused cautiously for this to be approved. “The driver says Mr Deever in the bad trouble. He had a fight with the police and is terribly bad hurt.”
“I’ll be right down.”
She dressed to an accompaniment of anxious heartbeats and ten minutes later stepped out of the elevator into the dark lobby. The chauffeur who brought the message was gone: the concierge hailed another one and told him the location of the jail. As they rode, the darkness lifted and thinned outside and Baby’s nerves, scarcely awake, cringed faintly at the unstable balance between night and day. She began to race against the day; sometimes on the broad avenues she gained, but whenever the thing that was pushing up paused for a moment, gusts of wind blew here and there impatiently and the slow creep of light began once more. The cab went past a loud fountain splashing in a voluminous shadow, turned into an alley so curved that the buildings were warped and strained following it, bumped and rattled over cobblestones, and stopped with a jerk where two sentry boxes were bright against a wall of green damp. Suddenly from the violet darkness of an archway came Dick’s voice, shouting and screaming.
“Are there any English? Are there any Americans? Are there any English? Are there any—oh, my God! You dirty Wops!”
His voice died away and she heard a dull sound of beating on the door. Then the voice began again.
“Are there any Americans? Are there any English?”
Following the voice she ran through the arch into a court, whirled about in momentary confusion, and located the small guard-room whence the cries came. Two carabinieri started to their feet, but Baby brushed past them to the door of the cell.
“Dick!” she called. “What’s the trouble?”
“They’ve put out my eye,” he cried. “They handcuffed me and then they beat me, the goddamn—the—”
Flashing around Baby took a step toward the two carabinieri.
“What have you done to him?” she whispered so fiercely that they flinched before her gathering fury.
“Non capisco inglese.”
In French she execrated them; her wild, confident rage filled the room, enveloped them until they shrank and wriggled from the garments of blame with which she invested them. “Do something! Do something!”
“We can do nothing until we are ordered.”
“Bene. Bay—nay! Bene!”
Once more Baby let her passion scorch around them until they sweated out apologies for their impotence, looking at each other with the sense that something had after all gone terribly wrong. Baby went to the cell door, leaned against it, almost caressing it, as if that could make Dick feel her presence and power, and cried: “I’m going to the Embassy, I’ll be back.” Throwing a last glance of infinite menace at the carabinieri she ran out.
She drove to the American Embassy, where she paid off the taxi-driver upon his insistence. It was still dark when she ran up the steps and pressed the bell. She had pressed it three times before a sleepy English porter opened the door to her.
“I want to see someone,” she said. “Anyone—but right away.”
“No one’s awake, Madame. We don’t open until nine o’clock.”
Impatiently she waved the hour away.
“This is important. A man—an American has been terribly beaten. He’s in an Italian jail.”
“No one’s awake now. At nine o’clock—”
“I can’t wait. They’ve put out a man’s eye—my brother-in-law, and they won’t let him out of jail. I must talk to someone—can’t you see? Are you crazy? Are you an idiot, you stand there with that look in your face?”
“Hime unable to do anything, Madame.”
“You’ve got to wake someone up!” She seized him by the shoulders and jerked him violently. “It’s a matter of life and death. If you won’t wake someone a terrible thing will happen to you——”
“Kindly don’t lay hands on me, Madame.”
From above and behind the porter floated down a weary Groton voice.
“What is it there?”
The porter answered with relief.
“It’s a lady, sir, and she has shook me.” He had stepped back to speak and Baby pushed forward into the hall. On an upper landing, just aroused from sleep and wrapped in a white embroidered Persian robe, stood a singular young man. His face was of a monstrous and unnatural pink, vivid yet dead, and over his mouth was fastened what appeared to be a gag. When he saw Baby he moved his head back into a shadow.
“What is it?” he repeated.
Baby told him, in her agitation edging forward to the stairs. In the course of her story she realized that the gag was in reality a moustache bandage and that the man’s face was covered with pink cold cream, but the fact fitted quietly into the nightmare. The thing to do, she cried passionately, was for him to come to the jail with her at once and get Dick out.
“It’s a bad business,” he said.
“Yes,” she agreed conciliatingly. “Yes?”
“This trying to fight the police.” A note of personal affront crept into his voice. “I’m afraid there’s nothing to be done until nine o’clock.”
“’Till nine o’clock,” she repeated aghast. “But you can do something, certainly! You can come to the jail with me and see that they don’t hurt him any more.”
“We aren’t permitted to do anything like that. The Consulate handles these things. The Consulate will be open at nine.”
His face, constrained to impassivity by the binding strap, infuriated Baby.
“I can’t wait until nine. My brother-in-law says they’ve put his eye out—he’s seriously hurt! I have to get to him. I have to find a doctor.” She let herself go and began to cry angrily as she talked, for she knew that he would respond to her agitation rather than her words. “You’ve got to do something about this. It’s your business, to protect American citizens in trouble.”
But he was of the Eastern seaboard and too hard for her. Shaking his head patiently at her failure to understand his position he drew the Persian robe closer about him and came down a few steps.
“Write down the address of the Consulate for this lady,” he said to the porter, “and look up Doctor Colazzo’s address and telephone number and write that down too.” He turned to Baby, with the expression of an exasperated Christ. “My dear lady, the diplomatic corps represents the Government of the United States to the Government of Italy. It has nothing to do with the protection of citizens, except under specific instructions from the State Department. Your brother-in-law has broken the laws of this country and has been put in jail, just as an Italian might be put in jail in New York. The only people who can let him go arc the Italian courts, and if your brother-in-law has a case you can get aid and advice from the Consulate, which protects the rights of American citizens. The Consulate does not open until nine o’clock. Even if it were my brother I couldn’t do anything—”
“Can you phone the Consulate?” she broke in.
“We can’t interfere with the Consulate. When the Consul gets there at nine—”
“Can you give me his home address?”
After a fractional pause the man shook his head. He took the memorandum from the porter and gave it to her.
“Now I’ll ask you to excuse me.”
He had manoeuvred her to the door: for an instant the violet dawn fell shrilly upon his pink mask and upon the linen sack that supported his moustache; then Baby was standing on the front steps alone. She had been in the embassy ten minutes.
The piazza on which it faced was empty save for an old man gathering cigarette butts with a spiked stick. Baby caught a taxi presently and went to the Consulate, but there was no one there save a trio of wretched women scrubbing the stairs. She could not make them understand that she wanted the Consul’s home address—in a sudden resurgence of anxiety she rushed out and told the chauffeur to take her to the jail. He did not know where it was, but by the use of the words sempre diretto, destra and sinistra she manoeuvred him to its approximate locality, where she dismounted and explored a labyrinth of familiar alleys. But the buildings and the alleys all looked alike. Emerging from one trail into the Piazza di Spagna she saw the American Express Company and her heart lifted at the word “American” on the sign. There was a light in the window and hurrying across the square she tried the door, but it was locked and inside the clock stood at seven. Then she thought of Collis Clay.
She remembered the name of his hotel, a stuffy villa sealed in red plush across from the Excelsior. The woman on duty at the office was not disposed to help her—she had no authority to disturb Mr Clay and refused to let Miss Warren go up to his room alone; convinced finally that this was not an affair of passion she accompanied her.
Collis lay naked upon his bed. He had come in tight and, awakening, it took him some moments to realize his nudity. He atoned for it by an excess of modesty. Taking his clothes into the bathroom he dressed in haste, muttering to himself, “Gosh. She certainly musta got a good look at me.” After some telephoning he and Baby found the jail and went to it.
The cell door was open and Dick was slumped on a chair in the guard-room. The carabiniere had washed some of the blood from his face, brushed him, and set his hat concealingly upon his head. Baby stood in the door trembling.
“Mr Clay will stay with you,” she said. “I want to get the Consul and a doctor.”
“Just stay quiet.”
“I’ll be back.”
She drove to the Consulate; it was after eight now, and she was permitted to sit in the ante-room. Toward nine the Consul came in and Baby, hysterical with impotence and exhaustion, repeated her story. The Consul was disturbed. He warned her against getting into brawls in strange cities, but he was chiefly concerned that she should wait outside—with despair she read in his elderly eye that he wanted to be mixed up as little as possible in this catastrophe. Waiting on his action she passed the minutes by phoning a doctor to go to Dick. There were other people in the ante-room and several were admitted to the Consul’s office. After half an hour she chose the moment of someone’s coming out and pushed past the secretary into the room.
“This is outrageous! An American has been beaten half to death and thrown into prison and you make no move to help.”
“Just a minute. Mrs—”
“I’ve waited long enough. You come right down to the jail and get him out!”
“We’re people of considerable standing in America—” Her mouth hardened as she continued. “If it wasn’t for the scandal we can—I shall see that your indifference to this matter is reported in the proper quarter. If my brother-in-law were a British citizen he’d have been free hours ago, but you’re more concerned with what the police will think than about what you’re here for.”
“You put on your hat and come with me right away.” The mention of his hat alarmed the Consul, who began to clean his spectacles hurriedly and to ruffle his papers. This proved of no avail: the American Woman, aroused, stood over him; the clean-sweeping irrational temper that had broken the moral back of a race and made a nursery out of a comment, was too much for him. He rang for the vice-consul—Baby had won.
Dick sat in the sunshine that fell profusely through the guard-room window. Collis was with him and two carabinieri, and they were waiting for something to happen. With the narrowed vision of his one eye Dick could see the carabinieri; they were Tuscan peasants with short upper lips and he found it difficult to associate them with the brutality of last night. He sent one of them to fetch him a glass of beer.
The beer made him light-headed and the episode was momentarily illumined by a ray of sardonic humour. Collis was under the impression that the English girl had something to do with the catastrophe, but Dick was sure she had disappeared long before it happened. Collis was still absorbed by the fact that Miss Warren had found him naked on his bed.
Dick’s rage had retreated into him a little and he felt a vast criminal irresponsibility. What had happened to him was so awful that nothing could make any difference unless he could choke it to death, and, as this was unlikely, he was hopeless. He would be a different person henceforward, and in his raw state he had bizarre feelings of what the new self would be. The matter had about it the impersonal quality of an act of God. No mature Aryan is able to profit by a humiliation; when he forgives, it has become part of his life, he has identified himself with the thing which has humiliated him—an upshot that in this case was impossible.
When Collis spoke of retribution, Dick shook his head and was silent. A lieutenant of carabinieri, pressed, burnished, vital, came into the room like three men and the guards jumped to attention. He seized the empty beer bottle and directed a stream of scolding at his men. The new spirit was in him, and the first thing was to get the beer bottle out of the guard-room. Dick looked at Collis and laughed.
The vice-consul, an overworked young man named Swanson, arrived, and they started to the court; Collis and Swanson on either side of Dick and the two carabinieri close behind. It was a yellow, hazy morning; the squares and arcades were crowded and Dick, pulling his hat low over his head, walked fast, setting the pace, until one of the short-legged carabinieri ran alongside and protested. Swanson arranged matters.
“I’ve disgraced you, haven’t I?” said Dick, jovially.
“You’re liable to get killed fighting Italians,” replied Swanson sheepishly. “They’ll probably let you go this time, but if you were an Italian you’d gel a couple of months in prison. And how!”
“Have you ever been in prison?”
“I like him,” announced Dick to Clay. “He’s a very likeable young man and he gives people excellent advice, but I’ll bet he’s been to jail himself. Probably spent weeks at a time in jail.”
“I mean you want to be careful. You don’t know how these people are.”
“Oh, I know how they are,” broke out Dick, irritably. “They’re god damn stinkers.” He turned around to the carabinieri: “Did you get that?”
“I’m leaving you here,” Swanson said quickly. “I told your sister-in-law I would—our lawyer will meet you upstairs in the court-room. You want to be careful.”
“Good-bye.” Dick shook hands politely. “Thank you very much. I feel you have a future—”
With another smile Swanson hurried away, resuming his official expression of disapproval.
Now they came into a courtyard on all four sides of which outer stairways mounted to the chambers above. As they crossed the flags a groaning, hissing, booing sound went up from the loiterers in the courtyard, voices full of fury and scorn. Dick stared about.
“What’s that?” he demanded, aghast.
One of the carabinieri spoke to a group of men and the sound died away.
They came into the court-room. A shabby Italian lawyer from the Consulate spoke at length to the judge while Dick and Collis waited aside. Someone who knew English turned from the window that gave on the yard and explained the sound that had accompanied their passage through. A native of Frascati had raped and slain a five-year-old child and was to be brought in that morning—the crowd had assumed it was Dick.
In a few minutes the lawyer told Dick that he was freed—the court considered him punished enough.
“Enough!” Dick cried. “Punished for what?”
“Come along,” said Collis. “You can’t do anything now.”
“But what did I do, except get into a fight with some taxi men?”
“They claim you went up to a detective as if you were going to shake hands with him and hit him—”
“That’s not true! I told him I was going to hit him—I didn’t know he was a detective.”
“You better go along,” urged the lawyer.
“Come along.” Collis took his arm and they descended the steps.
“I want to make a speech,” Dick cried. “I want to explain to these people how I raped a five-year-old girl. Maybe I did——”
Baby was waiting with a doctor in a taxi-cab. Dick did not want to look at her and he disliked the doctor, whose stern manner revealed him as one of that least palatable of European types, the Latin moralist. Dick summed up his conception of the disaster, but no one had much to say. In his room in the Quirinal the doctor washed off the rest of the blood and the oily sweat, set his nose, his fractured ribs and fingers, disinfected the smaller wounds and put a hopeful dressing on the eye. Dick asked for a quarter of a grain of morphine, for he was still wide awake and full of nervous energy. With the morphine he fell asleep; the doctor and Collis left and Baby waited with him until a woman could arrive from the English nursing home. It had been a hard night but she had the satisfaction of feeling that, whatever Dick’s previous record was, they now possessed a moral superiority over him for as long as he proved of any use.
The year is 1928 and the editor has added three words, 'One July morning,' at the beginning of the chapter to indicate the passage of time. The chronology of the novel requires thirty months, not eighteen, between the Christmas holidays at Gstaad and Dick's waking at the clinic. One can assume that the Divers spent another year on the Riviera while the clinic was being remodelled, and then eighteen months on the Zugersee. We learn from one manuscript that they rented Villa Diana to a movie queen, who tried to seduce Dick at the dinner they gave for her.
'... he had found something antipathetic in the English lately.' - Dick's racial antipathies, which he displayed on many occasions, were regarded by the author as a symptom of his deterioration. Writing about his own breakdown, in 1936, Fitzgerald would say, '... in these latter days I couldn't stand the sight of Celts, English, Politicians, Strangers, Virginians, Negroes (light or dark), Hunting People, or retail clerks, and middlemen in general, all writers (I avoided writers very carefully because they can perpetuate trouble as no one else can) - and all the classes as classes and most of them as members of their class.' (The Crack- Up, page 73).
'Mac thinks a Marxian is somebody who went to St Mark's school.' - Abe North had gone to St Mark's before winning a Prix de Rome while he was still an undergraduate at Harvard. Back in New York, after parting from the Divers, he had stayed sober long enough to write the music for a successful light opera. One learns a lot about Abe from reading the early manuscripts of Tender. Fitzgerald could have written a separate novel about him, as he could have written a novel about Rosemary in Hollywood and Europe.
The two paragraphs about boarding a steamer are rewritten from the beginning of a story, 'The Rough Crossing'. Fitzgerald tried to save as much as possible from the stories he didn't intend to republish in a book. In his own phrase, he 'junked and dismantled' them - that is, he marked the best passages and had them copied in his notebook, so that they would be available for use in a novel.
The fight with the taxi drivers had a long biographical and fictional history. It began as a misadventure of Fitzgerald's, one that occurred in the winter of 1924-25; ten years later he would describe it in a letter as 'just about the rottenest thing that ever happened in my life' (see The Far Side of Paradise, page 166). He first retold the experience in a never-published magazine article, 'The High Cost of Macaroni'; then he rewrote it as the first chapter of the Melarky version of the novel; then it became the seventh chapter; then finally the whole episode was recast for Dick Diver, with Baby Warren playing the part once written for Francis Melarky's mother.