American author Francis Scott Fitzgerald published his fourth novel, "Tender is the Night", in 1934. Though met with mild praise at the time, Fitzgerald considered it his best work, even beyond "The Great Gatsby", his most famous work.
"Tender is the Night" has since been ranked as one of the best books of the 20th century.
The darkest and most autobiographical of Fitzgerald's novels, "Tender is the Night" tells the story of Dick and Nicole Diver's crumbling marriage. A brilliant young psychiatrist at the time of his marriage, Dick is both husband and doctor to Nicole, whose wealth goads him into a lifestyle not his own, and whose growing strength highlights Dick's harrowing demise.
More than a simple story of estrangement and infidelity, "Tender is the Night" grapples with the complexity of human relationships and the manipulations and ministrations of those closest to us. The novel explores how love can be won, lost, and perverted by the myriad forces that shape our lives, including money, illness, and politics.
The novel takes place in the south of France, on the French Riviera in the late 1920s.
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TENDER IS THE NIGHT
On the pleasant shore of the French Riviera, about half way between Marseilles and the Italian border, stands a large, proud, rose- colored hotel. Deferential palms cool its flushed façade, and before it stretches a short dazzling beach. Lately it has become a summer resort of notable and fashionable people; a decade ago it was almost deserted after its English clientele went north in April. Now, many bungalows cluster near it, but when this story begins only the cupolas of a dozen old villas rotted like water lilies among the massed pines between Gausse’s Hôtel des Étrangers and Cannes, five miles away.
The hotel and its bright tan prayer rug of a beach were one. In the early morning the distant image of Cannes, the pink and cream of old fortifications, the purple Alp that bounded Italy, were cast across the water and lay quavering in the ripples and rings sent up by sea-plants through the clear shallows. Before eight a man came down to the beach in a blue bathrobe and with much preliminary application to his person of the chilly water, and much grunting and loud breathing, floundered a minute in the sea. When he had gone, beach and bay were quiet for an hour. Merchantmen crawled westward on the horizon; bus boys shouted in the hotel court; the dew dried upon the pines. In another hour the horns of motors began to blow down from the winding road along the low range of the Maures, which separates the littoral from true Provençal France.
A mile from the sea, where pines give way to dusty poplars, is an isolated railroad stop, whence one June morning in 1925 a victoria brought a woman and her daughter down to Gausse’s Hotel. The mother’s face was of a fading prettiness that would soon be patted with broken veins; her expression was both tranquil and aware in a pleasant way. However, one’s eye moved on quickly to her daughter, who had magic in her pink palms and her cheeks lit to a lovely flame, like the thrilling flush of children after their cold baths in the evening. Her fine forehead sloped gently up to where her hair, bordering it like an armorial shield, burst into lovelocks and waves and curlicues of ash blonde and gold. Her eyes were bright, big, clear, wet, and shining, the color of her cheeks was real, breaking close to the surface from the strong young pump of her heart. Her body hovered delicately on the last edge of childhood — she was almost eighteen, nearly complete, but the dew was still on her.
As sea and sky appeared below them in a thin, hot line the mother said:
“Something tells me we’re not going to like this place.”
“I want to go home anyhow,” the girl answered.
They both spoke cheerfully but were obviously without direction and bored by the fact — moreover, just any direction would not do. They wanted high excitement, not from the necessity of stimulating jaded nerves but with the avidity of prize-winning schoolchildren who deserved their vacations.
“We’ll stay three days and then go home. I’ll wire right away for steamer tickets.”
At the hotel the girl made the reservation in idiomatic but rather flat French, like something remembered. When they were installed on the ground floor she walked into the glare of the French windows and out a few steps onto the stone veranda that ran the length of the hotel. When she walked she carried herself like a ballet- dancer, not slumped down on her hips but held up in the small of her back. Out there the hot light clipped close her shadow and she retreated — it was too bright to see. Fifty yards away the Mediterranean yielded up its pigments, moment by moment, to the brutal sunshine; below the balustrade a faded Buick cooked on the hotel drive.
Indeed, of all the region only the beach stirred with activity. Three British nannies sat knitting the slow pattern of Victorian England, the pattern of the forties, the sixties, and the eighties, into sweaters and socks, to the tune of gossip as formalized as incantation; closer to the sea a dozen persons kept house under striped umbrellas, while their dozen children pursued unintimidated fish through the shallows or lay naked and glistening with cocoanut oil out in the sun.
As Rosemary came onto the beach a boy of twelve ran past her and dashed into the sea with exultant cries. Feeling the impactive scrutiny of strange faces, she took off her bathrobe and followed. She floated face down for a few yards and finding it shallow staggered to her feet and plodded forward, dragging slim legs like weights against the resistance of the water. When it was about breast high, she glanced back toward shore: a bald man in a monocle and a pair of tights, his tufted chest thrown out, his brash navel sucked in, was regarding her attentively. As Rosemary returned the gaze the man dislodged the monocle, which went into hiding amid the facetious whiskers of his chest, and poured himself a glass of something from a bottle in his hand.
Rosemary laid her face on the water and swam a choppy little four- beat crawl out to the raft. The water reached up for her, pulled her down tenderly out of the heat, seeped in her hair and ran into the corners of her body. She turned round and round in it, embracing it, wallowing in it. Reaching the raft she was out of breath, but a tanned woman with very white teeth looked down at her, and Rosemary, suddenly conscious of the raw whiteness of her own body, turned on her back and drifted toward shore. The hairy man holding the bottle spoke to her as she came out.
“I say — they have sharks out behind the raft.” He was of indeterminate nationality, but spoke English with a slow Oxford drawl. “Yesterday they devoured two British sailors from the flotte at Golfe Juan.”
“Heavens!” exclaimed Rosemary.
“They come in for the refuse from the flotte.”
Glazing his eyes to indicate that he had only spoken in order to warn her, he minced off two steps and poured himself another drink.
Not unpleasantly self-conscious, since there had been a slight sway of attention toward her during this conversation, Rosemary looked for a place to sit. Obviously each family possessed the strip of sand immediately in front of its umbrella; besides there was much visiting and talking back and forth — the atmosphere of a community upon which it would be presumptuous to intrude. Farther up, where the beach was strewn with pebbles and dead sea-weed, sat a group with flesh as white as her own. They lay under small hand-parasols instead of beach umbrellas and were obviously less indigenous to the place. Between the dark people and the light, Rosemary found room and spread out her peignoir on the sand.
Lying so, she first heard their voices and felt their feet skirt her body and their shapes pass between the sun and herself. The breath of an inquisitive dog blew warm and nervous on her neck; she could feel her skin broiling a little in the heat and hear the small exhausted wa-waa of the expiring waves. Presently her ear distinguished individual voices and she became aware that some one referred to scornfully as “that North guy” had kidnapped a waiter from a café in Cannes last night in order to saw him in two. The sponsor of the story was a white-haired woman in full evening dress, obviously a relic of the previous evening, for a tiara still clung to her head and a discouraged orchid expired from her shoulder. Rosemary, forming a vague antipathy to her and her companions, turned away.
Nearest her, on the other side, a young woman lay under a roof of umbrellas making out a list of things from a book open on the sand. Her bathing suit was pulled off her shoulders and her back, a ruddy, orange brown, set off by a string of creamy pearls, shone in the sun. Her face was hard and lovely and pitiful. Her eyes met Rosemary’s but did not see her. Beyond her was a fine man in a jockey cap and red-striped tights; then the woman Rosemary had seen on the raft, and who looked back at her, seeing her; then a man with a long face and a golden, leonine head, with blue tights and no hat, talking very seriously to an unmistakably Latin young man in black tights, both of them picking at little pieces of seaweed in the sand. She thought they were mostly Americans, but something made them unlike the Americans she had known of late.
After a while she realized that the man in the jockey cap was giving a quiet little performance for this group; he moved gravely about with a rake, ostensibly removing gravel and meanwhile developing some esoteric burlesque held in suspension by his grave face. Its faintest ramification had become hilarious, until whatever he said released a burst of laughter. Even those who, like herself, were too far away to hear, sent out antennæ of attention until the only person on the beach not caught up in it was the young woman with the string of pearls. Perhaps from modesty of possession she responded to each salvo of amusement by bending closer over her list.
The man of the monocle and bottle spoke suddenly out of the sky above Rosemary.
“You are a ripping swimmer.”
“Jolly good. My name is Campion. Here is a lady who says she saw you in Sorrento last week and knows who you are and would so like to meet you.”
Glancing around with concealed annoyance Rosemary saw the untanned people were waiting. Reluctantly she got up and went over to them.
“Mrs. Abrams — Mrs. McKisco — Mr. McKisco — Mr. Dumphry —
“We know who you are,” spoke up the woman in evening dress. “You’re Rosemary Hoyt and I recognized you in Sorrento and asked the hotel clerk and we all think you’re perfectly marvellous and we want to know why you’re not back in America making another marvellous moving picture.”
They made a superfluous gesture of moving over for her. The woman who had recognized her was not a Jewess, despite her name. She was one of those elderly “good sports” preserved by an imperviousness to experience and a good digestion into another generation.
“We wanted to warn you about getting burned the first day,” she continued cheerily, “because YOUR skin is important, but there seems to be so darn much formality on this beach that we didn’t know whether you’d mind.”
“We thought maybe you were in the plot,” said Mrs. McKisco. She was a shabby-eyed, pretty young woman with a disheartening intensity. “We don’t know who’s in the plot and who isn’t. One man my husband had been particularly nice to turned out to be a chief character — practically the assistant hero.”
“The plot?” inquired Rosemary, half understanding. “Is there a plot?”
“My dear, we don’t KNOW,” said Mrs. Abrams, with a convulsive, stout woman’s chuckle. “We’re not in it. We’re the gallery.”
Mr. Dumphry, a tow-headed effeminate young man, remarked: “Mama Abrams is a plot in herself,” and Campion shook his monocle at him, saying: “Now, Royal, don’t be too ghastly for words.” Rosemary looked at them all uncomfortably, wishing her mother had come down here with her. She did not like these people, especially in her immediate comparison of them with those who had interested her at the other end of the beach. Her mother’s modest but compact social gift got them out of unwelcome situations swiftly and firmly. But Rosemary had been a celebrity for only six months, and sometimes the French manners of her early adolescence and the democratic manners of America, these latter superimposed, made a certain confusion and let her in for just such things.
Mr. McKisco, a scrawny, freckle-and-red man of thirty, did not find the topic of the “plot” amusing. He had been staring at the sea — now after a swift glance at his wife he turned to Rosemary and demanded aggressively:
“Been here long?”
“Only a day.”
Evidently feeling that the subject had been thoroughly changed, he looked in turn at the others.
“Going to stay all summer?” asked Mrs. McKisco, innocently. “If you do you can watch the plot unfold.”
“For God’s sake, Violet, drop the subject!” exploded her husband. “Get a new joke, for God’s sake!”
Mrs. McKisco swayed toward Mrs. Abrams and breathed audibly:
“I’m not nervous,” disagreed McKisco. “It just happens I’m not nervous at all.”
He was burning visibly — a grayish flush had spread over his face, dissolving all his expressions into a vast ineffectuality. Suddenly remotely conscious of his condition he got up to go in the water, followed by his wife, and seizing the opportunity Rosemary followed.
Mr. McKisco drew a long breath, flung himself into the shallows and began a stiff-armed batting of the Mediterranean, obviously intended to suggest a crawl — his breath exhausted he arose and looked around with an expression of surprise that he was still in sight of shore.
“I haven’t learned to breathe yet. I never quite understood how they breathed.” He looked at Rosemary inquiringly.
“I think you breathe out under water,” she explained. “And every fourth beat you roll your head over for air.”
“The breathing’s the hardest part for me. Shall we go to the raft?”
The man with the leonine head lay stretched out upon the raft, which tipped back and forth with the motion of the water. As Mrs. McKisco reached for it a sudden tilt struck her arm up roughly, whereupon the man started up and pulled her on board.
“I was afraid it hit you.” His voice was slow and shy; he had one of the saddest faces Rosemary had ever seen, the high cheekbones of an Indian, a long upper lip, and enormous deep-set dark golden eyes. He had spoken out of the side of his mouth, as if he hoped his words would reach Mrs. McKisco by a circuitous and unobtrusive route; in a minute he had shoved off into the water and his long body lay motionless toward shore.
Rosemary and Mrs. McKisco watched him. When he had exhausted his momentum he abruptly bent double, his thin thighs rose above the surface, and he disappeared totally, leaving scarcely a fleck of foam behind.
“He’s a good swimmer,” Rosemary said.
Mrs. McKisco’s answer came with surprising violence.
“Well, he’s a rotten musician.” She turned to her husband, who after two unsuccessful attempts had managed to climb on the raft, and having attained his balance was trying to make some kind of compensatory flourish, achieving only an extra stagger. “I was just saying that Abe North may be a good swimmer but he’s a rotten musician.”
“Yes,” agreed McKisco, grudgingly. Obviously he had created his wife’s world, and allowed her few liberties in it.
“Antheil’s my man.” Mrs. McKisco turned challengingly to Rosemary, “Anthiel and Joyce. I don’t suppose you ever hear much about those sort of people in Hollywood, but my husband wrote the first criticism of Ulysses that ever appeared in America.”
“I wish I had a cigarette,” said McKisco calmly. “That’s more important to me just now.”
“He’s got insides — don’t you think so, Albert?”
Her voice faded off suddenly. The woman of the pearls had joined her two children in the water, and now Abe North came up under one of them like a volcanic island, raising him on his shoulders. The child yelled with fear and delight and the woman watched with a lovely peace, without a smile.
“Is that his wife?” Rosemary asked.
“No, that’s Mrs. Diver. They’re not at the hotel.” Her eyes, photographic, did not move from the woman’s face. After a moment she turned vehemently to Rosemary.
“Have you been abroad before?”
“Yes — I went to school in Paris.”
“Oh! Well then you probably know that if you want to enjoy yourself here the thing is to get to know some real French families. What do these people get out of it?” She pointed her left shoulder toward shore. “They just stick around with each other in little cliques. Of course, we had letters of introduction and met all the best French artists and writers in Paris. That made it very nice.”
“I should think so.”
“My husband is finishing his first novel, you see.”
Rosemary said: “Oh, he is?” She was not thinking anything special, except wondering whether her mother had got to sleep in this heat.
“It’s on the idea of Ulysses,” continued Mrs. McKisco. “Only instead of taking twenty-four hours my husband takes a hundred years. He takes a decayed old French aristocrat and puts him in contrast with the mechanical age —”
“Oh, for God’s sake, Violet, don’t go telling everybody the idea,” protested McKisco. “I don’t want it to get all around before the book’s published.”
Rosemary swam back to the shore, where she threw her peignoir over her already sore shoulders and lay down again in the sun. The man with the jockey cap was now going from umbrella to umbrella carrying a bottle and little glasses in his hands; presently he and his friends grew livelier and closer together and now they were all under a single assemblage of umbrellas — she gathered that some one was leaving and that this was a last drink on the beach. Even the children knew that excitement was generating under that umbrella and turned toward it — and it seemed to Rosemary that it all came from the man in the jockey cap.
Noon dominated sea and sky — even the white line of Cannes, five miles off, had faded to a mirage of what was fresh and cool; a robin-breasted sailing boat pulled in behind it a strand from the outer, darker sea. It seemed that there was no life anywhere in all this expanse of coast except under the filtered sunlight of those umbrellas, where something went on amid the color and the murmur.
Campion walked near her, stood a few feet away and Rosemary closed her eyes, pretending to be asleep; then she half-opened them and watched two dim, blurred pillars that were legs. The man tried to edge his way into a sand-colored cloud, but the cloud floated off into the vast hot sky. Rosemary fell really asleep.
She awoke drenched with sweat to find the beach deserted save for the man in the jockey cap, who was folding a last umbrella. As Rosemary lay blinking, he walked nearer and said:
“I was going to wake you before I left. It’s not good to get too burned right away.”
“Thank you.” Rosemary looked down at her crimson legs.
She laughed cheerfully, inviting him to talk, but Dick Diver was already carrying a tent and a beach umbrella up to a waiting car, so she went into the water to wash off the sweat. He came back and gathering up a rake, a shovel, and a sieve, stowed them in a crevice of a rock. He glanced up and down the beach to see if he had left anything.
“Do you know what time it is?” Rosemary asked.
“It’s about half-past one.”
They faced the seascape together momentarily.
“It’s not a bad time,” said Dick Diver. “It’s not one of worst times of the day.”
He looked at her and for a moment she lived in the bright blue worlds of his eyes, eagerly and confidently. Then he shouldered his last piece of junk and went up to his car, and Rosemary came out of the water, shook out her peignoir and walked up to the hotel.
It was almost two when they went into the dining-room. Back and forth over the deserted tables a heavy pattern of beams and shadows swayed with the motion of the pines outside. Two waiters, piling plates and talking loud Italian, fell silent when they came in and brought them a tired version of the table d’hôte luncheon.
“I fell in love on the beach,” said Rosemary.
“First with a whole lot of people who looked nice. Then with one man.”
“Did you talk to him?”
“Just a little. Very handsome. With reddish hair.” She was eating, ravenously. “He’s married though — it’s usually the way.”
Her mother was her best friend and had put every last possibility into the guiding of her, not so rare a thing in the theatrical profession, but rather special in that Mrs. Elsie Speers was not recompensing herself for a defeat of her own. She had no personal bitterness or resentments about life — twice satisfactorily married and twice widowed, her cheerful stoicism had each time deepened. One of her husbands had been a cavalry officer and one an army doctor, and they both left something to her that she tried to present intact to Rosemary. By not sparing Rosemary she had made her hard — by not sparing her own labor and devotion she had cultivated an idealism in Rosemary, which at present was directed toward herself and saw the world through her eyes. So that while Rosemary was a “simple” child she was protected by a double sheath of her mother’s armor and her own — she had a mature distrust of the trivial, the facile and the vulgar. However, with Rosemary’s sudden success in pictures Mrs. Speers felt that it was time she were spiritually weaned; it would please rather than pain her if this somewhat bouncing, breathless and exigent idealism would focus on something except herself.
“Then you like it here?” she asked.
“It might be fun if we knew those people. There were some other people, but they weren’t nice. They recognized me — no matter where we go everybody’s seen ‘Daddy’s Girl.’”
Mrs. Speers waited for the glow of egotism to subside; then she said in a matter-of-fact way: “That reminds me, when are you going to see Earl Brady?”
“I thought we might go this afternoon — if you’re rested.”
“You go — I’m not going.”
“We’ll wait till to-morrow then.”
“I want you to go alone. It’s only a short way — it isn’t as if you didn’t speak French.”
“Mother — aren’t there some things I don’t have to do?”
“Oh, well then go later — but some day before we leave.”
“All right, Mother.”
After lunch they were both overwhelmed by the sudden flatness that comes over American travellers in quiet foreign places. No stimuli worked upon them, no voices called them from without, no fragments of their own thoughts came suddenly from the minds of others, and missing the clamor of Empire they felt that life was not continuing here.
“Let’s only stay three days, Mother,” Rosemary said when they were back in their rooms. Outside a light wind blew the heat around, straining it through the trees and sending little hot gusts through the shutters.
“How about the man you fell in love with on the beach?”
“I don’t love anybody but you, Mother, darling.”
Rosemary stopped in the lobby and spoke to Gausse père about trains. The concierge, lounging in light-brown khaki by the desk, stared at her rigidly, then suddenly remembered the manners of his métier. She took the bus and rode with a pair of obsequious waiters to the station, embarrassed by their deferential silence, wanting to urge them: “Go on, talk, enjoy yourselves. It doesn’t bother me.”
The first-class compartment was stifling; the vivid advertising cards of the railroad companies — The Pont du Gard at Arles, the Amphitheatre at Orange, winter sports at Chamonix — were fresher than the long motionless sea outside. Unlike American trains that were absorbed in an intense destiny of their own, and scornful of people on another world less swift and breathless, this train was part of the country through which it passed. Its breath stirred the dust from the palm leaves, the cinders mingled with the dry dung in the gardens. Rosemary was sure she could lean from the window and pull flowers with her hand.
A dozen cabbies slept in their hacks outside the Cannes station. Over on the promenade the Casino, the smart shops, and the great hotels turned blank iron masks to the summer sea. It was unbelievable that there could ever have been a “season,” and Rosemary, half in the grip of fashion, became a little self- conscious, as though she were displaying an unhealthy taste for the moribund; as though people were wondering why she was here in the lull between the gaiety of last winter and next winter, while up north the true world thundered by.
As she came out of a drug store with a bottle of cocoanut oil, a woman, whom she recognized as Mrs. Diver, crossed her path with arms full of sofa cushions, and went to a car parked down the street. A long, low black dog barked at her, a dozing chauffeur woke with a start. She sat in the car, her lovely face set, controlled, her eyes brave and watchful, looking straight ahead toward nothing. Her dress was bright red and her brown legs were bare. She had thick, dark, gold hair like a chow’s.
With half an hour to wait for her train Rosemary sat down in the Café des Alliés on the Croisette, where the trees made a green twilight over the tables and an orchestra wooed an imaginary public of cosmopolites with the Nice Carnival Song and last year’s American tune. She had bought Le Temps and The Saturday Evening Post for her mother, and as she drank her citronade she opened the latter at the memoirs of a Russian princess, finding the dim conventions of the nineties realer and nearer than the headlines of the French paper. It was the same feeling that had oppressed her at the hotel — accustomed to seeing the starkest grotesqueries of a continent heavily underlined as comedy or tragedy, untrained to the task of separating out the essential for herself, she now began to feel that French life was empty and stale. This feeling was surcharged by listening to the sad tunes of the orchestra, reminiscent of the melancholy music played for acrobats in vaudeville. She was glad to go back to Gausse’s Hotel.
Her shoulders were too burned to swim with the next day, so she and her mother hired a car — after much haggling, for Rosemary had formed her valuations of money in France — and drove along the Riviera, the delta of many rivers. The chauffeur, a Russian Czar of the period of Ivan the Terrible, was a self-appointed guide, and the resplendent names — Cannes, Nice, Monte Carlo — began to glow through their torpid camouflage, whispering of old kings come here to dine or die, of rajahs tossing Buddha’s eyes to English ballerinas, of Russian princes turning the weeks into Baltic twilights in the lost caviare days. Most of all, there was the scent of the Russians along the coast — their closed book shops and grocery stores. Ten years ago, when the season ended in April, the doors of the Orthodox Church were locked, and the sweet champagnes they favored were put away until their return. “We’ll be back next season,” they said, but this was premature, for they were never coming back any more.
It was pleasant to drive back to the hotel in the late afternoon, above a sea as mysteriously colored as the agates and cornelians of childhood, green as green milk, blue as laundry water, wine dark. It was pleasant to pass people eating outside their doors, and to hear the fierce mechanical pianos behind the vines of country estaminets. When they turned off the Corniche d’Or and down to Gausse’s Hotel through the darkening banks of trees, set one behind another in many greens, the moon already hovered over the ruins of the aqueducts . . . .
Somewhere in the hills behind the hotel there was a dance, and Rosemary listened to the music through the ghostly moonshine of her mosquito net, realizing that there was gaiety too somewhere about, and she thought of the nice people on the beach. She thought she might meet them in the morning, but they obviously formed a self- sufficient little group, and once their umbrellas, bamboo rugs, dogs, and children were set out in place the part of the plage was literally fenced in. She resolved in any case not to spend her last two mornings with the other ones.
The matter was solved for her. The McKiscos were not yet there and she had scarcely spread her peignoir when two men — the man with the jockey cap and the tall blonde man, given to sawing waiters in two — left the group and came down toward her.
“Good morning,” said Dick Diver. He broke down. “Look — sunburn or no sunburn, why did you stay away yesterday? We worried about you.”
She sat up and her happy little laugh welcomed their intrusion.
“We wondered,” Dick Diver said, “if you wouldn’t come over this morning. We go in, we take food and drink, so it’s a substantial invitation.”
He seemed kind and charming — his voice promised that he would take care of her, and that a little later he would open up whole new worlds for her, unroll an endless succession of magnificent possibilities. He managed the introduction so that her name wasn’t mentioned and then let her know easily that everyone knew who she was but were respecting the completeness of her private life — a courtesy that Rosemary had not met with save from professional people since her success.
Nicole Diver, her brown back hanging from her pearls, was looking through a recipe book for chicken Maryland. She was about twenty- four, Rosemary guessed — her face could have been described in terms of conventional prettiness, but the effect was that it had been made first on the heroic scale with strong structure and marking, as if the features and vividness of brow and coloring, everything we associate with temperament and character had been molded with a Rodinesque intention, and then chiseled away in the direction of prettiness to a point where a single slip would have irreparably diminished its force and quality. With the mouth the sculptor had taken desperate chances — it was the cupid’s bow of a magazine cover, yet it shared the distinction of the rest.
“Are you here for a long time?” Nicole asked. Her voice was low, almost harsh.
Suddenly Rosemary let the possibility enter her mind that they might stay another week.
“Not very long,” she answered vaguely. “We’ve been abroad a long time — we landed in Sicily in March and we’ve been slowly working our way north. I got pneumonia making a picture last January and I’ve been recuperating.”
“Mercy! How did that happen?”
“Well, it was from swimming,” Rosemary was rather reluctant at embarking upon personal revelations. “One day I happened to have the grippe and didn’t know it, and they were taking a scene where I dove into a canal in Venice. It was a very expensive set, so I had to dive and dive and dive all morning. Mother had a doctor right there, but it was no use — I got pneumonia.” She changed the subject determinedly before they could speak. “Do you like it here — this place?”
“They have to like it,” said Abe North slowly. “They invented it.” He turned his noble head slowly so that his eyes rested with tenderness and affection on the two Divers.
“Oh, did you?”
“This is only the second season that the hotel’s been open in summer,” Nicole explained. “We persuaded Gausse to keep on a cook and a garçon and a chasseur — it paid its way and this year it’s doing even better.”
“But you’re not in the hotel.”
“We built a house, up at Tarmes.”
“The theory is,” said Dick, arranging an umbrella to clip a square of sunlight off Rosemary’s shoulder, “that all the northern places, like Deauville, were picked out by Russians and English who don’t mind the cold, while half of us Americans come from tropical climates — that’s why we’re beginning to come here.”
The young man of Latin aspect had been turning the pages of The New York Herald.
“Well, what nationality are these people?” he demanded, suddenly, and read with a slight French intonation, “‘Registered at the Hotel Palace at Vevey are Mr. Pandely Vlasco, Mme. Bonneasse’— I don’t exaggerate —‘Corinna Medonca, Mme. Pasche, Seraphim Tullio, Maria Amalia Roto Mais, Moises Teubel, Mme. Paragoris, Apostle Alexandre, Yolanda Yosfuglu and Geneveva de Momus!’ She attracts me most — Geneveva de Momus. Almost worth running up to Vevey to take a look at Geneveva de Momus.”
He stood up with sudden restlessness, stretching himself with one sharp movement. He was a few years younger than Diver or North. He was tall and his body was hard but overspare save for the bunched force gathered in his shoulders and upper arms. At first glance he seemed conventionally handsome — but there was a faint disgust always in his face which marred the full fierce lustre of his brown eyes. Yet one remembered them afterward, when one had forgotten the inability of the mouth to endure boredom and the young forehead with its furrows of fretful and unprofitable pain.
“We found some fine ones in the news of Americans last week,” said Nicole. “Mrs. Evelyn Oyster and — what were the others?”
“There was Mr. S. Flesh,” said Diver, getting up also. He took his rake and began to work seriously at getting small stones out of the sand.
“Oh, yes — S. Flesh — doesn’t he give you the creeps?”
It was quiet alone with Nicole — Rosemary found it even quieter than with her mother. Abe North and Barban, the Frenchman, were talking about Morocco, and Nicole having copied her recipe picked up a piece of sewing. Rosemary examined their appurtenances — four large parasols that made a canopy of shade, a portable bath house for dressing, a pneumatic rubber horse, new things that Rosemary had never seen, from the first burst of luxury manufacturing after the War, and probably in the hands of the first of purchasers. She had gathered that they were fashionable people, but though her mother had brought her up to beware such people as drones, she did not feel that way here. Even in their absolute immobility, complete as that of the morning, she felt a purpose, a working over something, a direction, an act of creation different from any she had known. Her immature mind made no speculations upon the nature of their relation to each other, she was only concerned with their attitude toward herself — but she perceived the web of some pleasant interrelation, which she expressed with the thought that they seemed to have a very good time.
She looked in turn at the three men, temporarily expropriating them. All three were personable in different ways; all were of a special gentleness that she felt was part of their lives, past and future, not circumstanced by events, not at all like the company manners of actors, and she detected also a far-reaching delicacy that was different from the rough and ready good fellowship of directors, who represented the intellectuals in her life. Actors and directors — those were the only men she had ever known, those and the heterogeneous, indistinguishable mass of college boys, interested only in love at first sight, whom she had met at the Yale prom last fall.
These three were different. Barban was less civilized, more skeptical and scoffing, his manners were formal, even perfunctory. Abe North had, under his shyness, a desperate humor that amused but puzzled her. Her serious nature distrusted its ability to make a supreme impression on him.
But Dick Diver — he was all complete there. Silently she admired him. His complexion was reddish and weather-burned, so was his short hair — a light growth of it rolled down his arms and hands. His eyes were of a bright, hard blue. His nose was somewhat pointed and there was never any doubt at whom he was looking or talking — and this is a flattering attention, for who looks at us? — glances fall upon us, curious or disinterested, nothing more. His voice, with some faint Irish melody running through it, wooed the world, yet she felt the layer of hardness in him, of self-control and of self-discipline, her own virtues. Oh, she chose him, and Nicole, lifting her head saw her choose him, heard the little sigh at the fact that he was already possessed.
Toward noon the McKiscos, Mrs. Abrams, Mr. Dumphry, and Signor Campion came on the beach. They had brought a new umbrella that they set up with side glances toward the Divers, and crept under with satisfied expressions — all save Mr. McKisco, who remained derisively without. In his raking Dick had passed near them and now he returned to the umbrellas.
“The two young men are reading the Book of Etiquette together,” he said in a low voice.
“Planning to mix wit de quality,” said Abe.
Mary North, the very tanned young woman whom Rosemary had encountered the first day on the raft, came in from swimming and said with a smile that was a rakish gleam:
“So Mr. and Mrs. Neverquiver have arrived.”
“They’re this man’s friends,” Nicole reminded her, indicating Abe. “Why doesn’t he go and speak to them? Don’t you think they’re attractive?”
“I think they’re very attractive,” Abe agreed. “I just don’t think they’re attractive, that’s all.”
“Well, I HAVE felt there were too many people on the beach this summer,” Nicole admitted. “OUR beach that Dick made out of a pebble pile.” She considered, and then lowering her voice out of the range of the trio of nannies who sat back under another umbrella. “Still, they’re preferable to those British last summer who kept shouting about: ‘Isn’t the sea blue? Isn’t the sky white? Isn’t little Nellie’s nose red?’”
Rosemary thought she would not like to have Nicole for an enemy.
“But you didn’t see the fight,” Nicole continued. “The day before you came, the married man, the one with the name that sounds like a substitute for gasoline or butter —”
“Yes — well they were having words and she tossed some sand in his face. So naturally he sat on top of her and rubbed her face in the sand. We were — electrified. I wanted Dick to interfere.”
“I think,” said Dick Diver, staring down abstractedly at the straw mat, “that I’ll go over and invite them to dinner.”
“No, you won’t,” Nicole told him quickly.
“I think it would be a very good thing. They’re here — let’s adjust ourselves.”
“We’re very well adjusted,” she insisted, laughing. “I’m not going to have MY nose rubbed in the sand. I’m a mean, hard woman,” she explained to Rosemary, and then raising her voice, “Children, put on your bathing suits!”
Rosemary felt that this swim would become the typical one of her life, the one that would always pop up in her memory at the mention of swimming. Simultaneously the whole party moved toward the water, super-ready from the long, forced inaction, passing from the heat to the cool with the gourmandise of a tingling curry eaten with chilled white wine. The Divers’ day was spaced like the day of the older civilizations to yield the utmost from the materials at hand, and to give all the transitions their full value, and she did not know that there would be another transition presently from the utter absorption of the swim to the garrulity of the Provençal lunch hour. But again she had the sense that Dick was taking care of her, and she delighted in responding to the eventual movement as if it had been an order.
Nicole handed her husband the curious garment on which she had been working. He went into the dressing tent and inspired a commotion by appearing in a moment clad in transparent black lace drawers. Close inspection revealed that actually they were lined with flesh- colored cloth.
“Well, if that isn’t a pansys trick!” exclaimed Mr. McKisco contemptuously — then turning quickly to Mr. Dumphry and Mr. Campion, he added, “Oh, I beg your pardon.”
Rosemary bubbled with delight at the trunks. Her naïveté responded whole-heartedly to the expensive simplicity of the Divers, unaware of its complexity and its lack of innocence, unaware that it was all a selection of quality rather than quantity from the run of the world’s bazaar; and that the simplicity of behavior also, the nursery-like peace and good will, the emphasis on the simpler virtues, was part of a desperate bargain with the gods and had been attained through struggles she could not have guessed at. At that moment the Divers represented externally the exact furthermost evolution of a class, so that most people seemed awkward beside them — in reality a qualitative change had already set in that was not at all apparent to Rosemary.
She stood with them as they took sherry and ate crackers. Dick Diver looked at her with cold blue eyes; his kind, strong mouth said thoughtfully and deliberately:
“You’re the only girl I’ve seen for a long time that actually did look like something blooming.”
In her mother’s lap afterward Rosemary cried and cried.
“I love him, Mother. I’m desperately in love with him — I never knew I could feel that way about anybody. And he’s married and I like her too — it’s just hopeless. Oh, I love him so!”
“I’m curious to meet him.”
“She invited us to dinner Friday.”
“If you’re in love it ought to make you happy. You ought to laugh.”
Rosemary looked up and gave a beautiful little shiver of her face and laughed. Her mother always had a great influence on her.
Rosemary went to Monte Carlo nearly as sulkily as it was possible for her to be. She rode up the rugged hill to La Turbie, to an old Gaumont lot in process of reconstruction, and as she stood by the grilled entrance waiting for an answer to the message on her card, she might have been looking into Hollywood. The bizarre débris of some recent picture, a decayed street scene in India, a great cardboard whale, a monstrous tree bearing cherries large as basketballs, bloomed there by exotic dispensation, autochthonous as the pale amaranth, mimosa, cork oak or dwarfed pine. There were a quick-lunch shack and two barnlike stages and everywhere about the lot, groups of waiting, hopeful, painted faces.
After ten minutes a young man with hair the color of canary feathers hurried down to the gate.
“Come in, Miss Hoyt. Mr. Brady’s on the set, but he’s very anxious to see you. I’m sorry you were kept waiting, but you know some of these French dames are worse about pushing themselves in —”
The studio manager opened a small door in the blank wall of stage building and with sudden glad familiarity Rosemary followed him into half darkness. Here and there figures spotted the twilight, turning up ashen faces to her like souls in purgatory watching the passage of a mortal through. There were whispers and soft voices and, apparently from afar, the gentle tremolo of a small organ. Turning the corner made by some flats, they came upon the white crackling glow of a stage, where a French actor — his shirt front, collar, and cuffs tinted a brilliant pink — and an American actress stood motionless face to face. They stared at each other with dogged eyes, as though they had been in the same position for hours; and still for a long time nothing happened, no one moved. A bank of lights went off with a savage hiss, went on again; the plaintive tap of a hammer begged admission to nowhere in the distance; a blue face appeared among the blinding lights above, called something unintelligible into the upper blackness. Then the silence was broken by a voice in front of Rosemary.
“Baby, you don’t take off the stockings, you can spoil ten more pairs. That dress is fifteen pounds.”
Stepping backward the speaker ran against Rosemary, whereupon the studio manager said, “Hey, Earl — Miss Hoyt.”
They were meeting for the first time. Brady was quick and strenuous. As he took her hand she saw him look her over from head to foot, a gesture she recognized and that made her feel at home, but gave her always a faint feeling of superiority to whoever made it. If her person was property she could exercise whatever advantage was inherent in its ownership.
“I thought you’d be along any day now,” Brady said, in a voice that was just a little too compelling for private life, and that trailed with it a faintly defiant cockney accent. “Have a good trip?”
“Yes, but we’re glad to be going home.”
“No-o-o!” he protested. “Stay awhile — I want to talk to you. Let me tell you that was some picture of yours — that ‘Daddy’s Girl.’ I saw it in Paris. I wired the coast right away to see if you were signed.”
“I just had — I’m sorry.”
“God, what a picture!”
Not wanting to smile in silly agreement Rosemary frowned.
“Nobody wants to be thought of forever for just one picture,” she said.
“Sure — that’s right. What’re your plans?”
“Mother thought I needed a rest. When I get back we’ll probably either sign up with First National or keep on with Famous.”
“My mother. She decides business matters. I couldn’t do without her.”
Again he looked her over completely, and, as he did, something in Rosemary went out to him. It was not liking, not at all the spontaneous admiration she had felt for the man on the beach this morning. It was a click. He desired her and, so far as her virginal emotions went, she contemplated a surrender with equanimity. Yet she knew she would forget him half an hour after she left him — like an actor kissed in a picture.
“Where are you staying?” Brady asked. “Oh, yes, at Gausse’s. Well, my plans are made for this year, too, but that letter I wrote you still stands. Rather make a picture with you than any girl since Connie Talmadge was a kid.”
“I feel the same way. Why don’t you come back to Hollywood?”
“I can’t stand the damn place. I’m fine here. Wait till after this shot and I’ll show you around.”
Walking onto the set he began to talk to the French actor in a low, quiet voice.
Five minutes passed — Brady talked on, while from time to time the Frenchman shifted his feet and nodded. Abruptly, Brady broke off, calling something to the lights that startled them into a humming glare. Los Angeles was loud about Rosemary now. Unappalled she moved once more through the city of thin partitions, wanting to be back there. But she did not want to see Brady in the mood she sensed he would be in after he had finished and she left the lot with a spell still upon her. The Mediterranean world was less silent now that she knew the studio was there. She liked the people on the streets and bought herself a pair of espadrilles on the way to the train.
Her mother was pleased that she had done so accurately what she was told to do, but she still wanted to launch her out and away. Mrs. Speers was fresh in appearance but she was tired; death beds make people tired indeed and she had watched beside a couple.
Feeling good from the rosy wine at lunch, Nicole Diver folded her arms high enough for the artificial camellia on her shoulder to touch her cheek, and went out into her lovely grassless garden. The garden was bounded on one side by the house, from which it flowed and into which it ran, on two sides by the old village, and on the last by the cliff falling by ledges to the sea.
Along the walls on the village side all was dusty, the wriggling vines, the lemon and eucalyptus trees, the casual wheel-barrow, left only a moment since, but already grown into the path, atrophied and faintly rotten. Nicole was invariably somewhat surprised that by turning in the other direction past a bed of peonies she walked into an area so green and cool that the leaves and petals were curled with tender damp.
Knotted at her throat she wore a lilac scarf that even in the achromatic sunshine cast its color up to her face and down around her moving feet in a lilac shadow. Her face was hard, almost stern, save for the soft gleam of piteous doubt that looked from her green eyes. Her once fair hair had darkened, but she was lovelier now at twenty-four than she had been at eighteen, when her hair was brighter than she.
Following a walk marked by an intangible mist of bloom that followed the white border stones she came to a space overlooking the sea where there were lanterns asleep in the fig trees and a big table and wicker chairs and a great market umbrella from Sienna, all gathered about an enormous pine, the biggest tree in the garden. She paused there a moment, looking absently at a growth of nasturtiums and iris tangled at its foot, as though sprung from a careless handful of seeds, listening to the plaints and accusations of some nursery squabble in the house. When this died away on the summer air, she walked on, between kaleidoscopic peonies massed in pink clouds, black and brown tulips and fragile mauve-stemmed roses, transparent like sugar flowers in a confectioner’s window — until, as if the scherzo of color could reach no further intensity, it broke off suddenly in mid-air, and moist steps went down to a level five feet below.
Here there was a well with the boarding around it dank and slippery even on the brightest days. She went up the stairs on the other side and into the vegetable garden; she walked rather quickly; she liked to be active, though at times she gave an impression of repose that was at once static and evocative. This was because she knew few words and believed in none, and in the world she was rather silent, contributing just her share of urbane humor with a precision that approached meagreness. But at the moment when strangers tended to grow uncomfortable in the presence of this economy she would seize the topic and rush off with it, feverishly surprised with herself — then bring it back and relinquish it abruptly, almost timidly, like an obedient retriever, having been adequate and something more.
As she stood in the fuzzy green light of the vegetable garden, Dick crossed the path ahead of her going to his work house. Nicole waited silently till he had passed; then she went on through lines of prospective salads to a little menagerie where pigeons and rabbits and a parrot made a medley of insolent noises at her. Descending to another ledge she reached a low, curved wall and looked down seven hundred feet to the Mediterranean Sea.
She stood in the ancient hill village of Tarmes. The villa and its grounds were made out of a row of peasant dwellings that abutted on the cliff — five small houses had been combined to make the house and four destroyed to make the garden. The exterior walls were untouched so that from the road far below it was indistinguishable from the violet gray mass of the town.
For a moment Nicole stood looking down at the Mediterranean but there was nothing to do with that, even with her tireless hands. Presently Dick came out of his one-room house carrying a telescope and looked east toward Cannes. In a moment Nicole swam into his field of vision, whereupon he disappeared into his house and came out with a megaphone. He had many light mechanical devices.
“Nicole,” he shouted, “I forgot to tell you that as a final apostolic gesture I invited Mrs. Abrams, the woman with the white hair.”
“I suspected it. It’s an outrage.”
The ease with which her reply reached him seemed to belittle his megaphone, so she raised her voice and called, “Can you hear me?”
“Yes.” He lowered the megaphone and then raised it stubbornly. “I’m going to invite some more people too. I’m going to invite the two young men.”
“All right,” she agreed placidly.
“I want to give a really BAD party. I mean it. I want to give a party where there’s a brawl and seductions and people going home with their feelings hurt and women passed out in the cabinet de toilette. You wait and see.”
He went back into his house and Nicole saw that one of his most characteristic moods was upon him, the excitement that swept everyone up into it and was inevitably followed by his own form of melancholy, which he never displayed but at which she guessed. This excitement about things reached an intensity out of proportion to their importance, generating a really extraordinary virtuosity with people. Save among a few of the tough-minded and perennially suspicious, he had the power of arousing a fascinated and uncritical love. The reaction came when he realized the waste and extravagance involved. He sometimes looked back with awe at the carnivals of affection he had given, as a general might gaze upon a massacre he had ordered to satisfy an impersonal blood lust.
But to be included in Dick Diver’s world for a while was a remarkable experience: people believed he made special reservations about them, recognizing the proud uniqueness of their destinies, buried under the compromises of how many years. He won everyone quickly with an exquisite consideration and a politeness that moved so fast and intuitively that it could be examined only in its effect. Then, without caution, lest the first bloom of the relation wither, he opened the gate to his amusing world. So long as they subscribed to it completely, their happiness was his preoccupation, but at the first flicker of doubt as to its all- inclusiveness he evaporated before their eyes, leaving little communicable memory of what he had said or done.
At eight-thirty that evening he came out to meet his first guests, his coat carried rather ceremoniously, rather promisingly, in his hand, like a toreador’s cape. It was characteristic that after greeting Rosemary and her mother he waited for them to speak first, as if to allow them the reassurance of their own voices in new surroundings.
To resume Rosemary’s point of view it should be said that, under the spell of the climb to Tarmes and the fresher air, she and her mother looked about appreciatively. Just as the personal qualities of extraordinary people can make themselves plain in an unaccustomed change of expression, so the intensely calculated perfection of Villa Diana transpired all at once through such minute failures as the chance apparition of a maid in the background or the perversity of a cork. While the first guests arrived bringing with them the excitement of the night, the domestic activity of the day receded past them gently, symbolized by the Diver children and their governess still at supper on the terrace.
“What a beautiful garden!” Mrs. Speers exclaimed.
“Nicole’s garden,” said Dick. “She won’t let it alone — she nags it all the time, worries about its diseases. Any day now I expect to have her come down with Powdery Mildew or Fly Speck, or Late Blight.” He pointed his forefinger decisively at Rosemary, saying with a lightness seeming to conceal a paternal interest, “I’m going to save your reason — I’m going to give you a hat to wear on the beach.”
He turned them from the garden to the terrace, where he poured a cocktail. Earl Brady arrived, discovering Rosemary with surprise. His manner was softer than at the studio, as if his differentness had been put on at the gate, and Rosemary, comparing him instantly with Dick Diver, swung sharply toward the latter. In comparison Earl Brady seemed faintly gross, faintly ill-bred; once more, though, she felt an electric response to his person.
He spoke familiarly to the children who were getting up from their outdoor supper.
“Hello, Lanier, how about a song? Will you and Topsy sing me a song?”
“What shall we sing?” agreed the little boy, with the odd chanting accent of American children brought up in France.
“That song about ‘Mon Ami Pierrot.’”
Brother and sister stood side by side without self-consciousness and their voices soared sweet and shrill upon the evening air.
“Au clair de la lune Mon Ami Pierrot Prête-moi ta plume Pour écrire un mot Ma chandelle est morte Je n’ai plus de feu Ouvre-moi ta porte Pour l’amour de Dieu.”
The singing ceased and the children, their faces aglow with the late sunshine, stood smiling calmly at their success. Rosemary was thinking that the Villa Diana was the centre of the world. On such a stage some memorable thing was sure to happen. She lighted up higher as the gate tinkled open and the rest of the guests arrived in a body — the McKiscos, Mrs. Abrams, Mr. Dumphry, and Mr. Campion came up to the terrace.
Rosemary had a sharp feeling of disappointment — she looked quickly at Dick, as though to ask an explanation of this incongruous mingling. But there was nothing unusual in his expression. He greeted his new guests with a proud bearing and an obvious deference to their infinite and unknown possibilities. She believed in him so much that presently she accepted the rightness of the McKiscos’ presence as if she had expected to meet them all along.
“I’ve met you in Paris,” McKisco said to Abe North, who with his wife had arrived on their heels, “in fact I’ve met you twice.”
“Yes, I remember,” Abe said.
“Then where was it?” demanded McKisco, not content to let well enough alone.
“Why, I think —” Abe got tired of the game, “I can’t remember.”
The interchange filled a pause and Rosemary’s instinct was that something tactful should be said by somebody, but Dick made no attempt to break up the grouping formed by these late arrivals, not even to disarm Mrs. McKisco of her air of supercilious amusement. He did not solve this social problem because he knew it was not of importance at the moment and would solve itself. He was saving his newness for a larger effort, waiting a more significant moment for his guests to be conscious of a good time.
Rosemary stood beside Tommy Barban — he was in a particularly scornful mood and there seemed to be some special stimulus working upon him. He was leaving in the morning.
“Home? I have no home. I am going to a war.”
“What war? Any war. I haven’t seen a paper lately but I suppose there’s a war — there always is.”
“Don’t you care what you fight for?”
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