Tender is the Night, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

XXV

When he had tottered out, Dick and Rosemary embraced fleetingly. There was a dust of Paris over both of them through which they scented each other: the rubber guard on Dick’s fountain pen, the faintest odor of warmth from Rosemary’s neck and shoulders. For another half-minute Dick clung to the situation; Rosemary was first to return to reality.

“I must go, youngster,” she said.

They blinked at each other across a widening space, and Rosemary made an exit that she had learned young, and on which no director had ever tried to improve.

She opened the door of her room and went directly to her desk where she had suddenly remembered leaving her wristwatch. It was there; slipping it on she glanced down at the daily letter to her mother, finishing the last sentence in her mind. Then, rather gradually, she realized without turning about that she was not alone in the room.

In an inhabited room there are refracting objects only half noticed: varnished wood, more or less polished brass, silver and ivory, and beyond these a thousand conveyers of light and shadow so mild that one scarcely thinks of them as that, the tops of picture- frames, the edges of pencils or ash-trays, of crystal or china ornaments; the totality of this refraction — appealing to equally subtle reflexes of the vision as well as to those associational fragments in the subconscious that we seem to hang on to, as a glass-fitter keeps the irregularly shaped pieces that may do some time — this fact might account for what Rosemary afterward mystically described as “realizing” that there was some one in the room, before she could determine it. But when she did realize it she turned swift in a sort of ballet step and saw that a dead Negro was stretched upon her bed.

As she cried “aaouu!” and her still unfastened wristwatch banged against the desk she had the preposterous idea that it was Abe North. Then she dashed for the door and across the hall.

Dick was straightening up; he had examined the gloves worn that day and thrown them into a pile of soiled gloves in a corner of a trunk. He had hung up coat and vest and spread his shirt on another hanger — a trick of his own. “You’ll wear a shirt that’s a little dirty where you won’t wear a mussed shirt.” Nicole had come in and was dumping one of Abe’s extraordinary ash-trays into the waste-basket when Rosemary tore into the room.

“DICK! DICK! Come and see!”

Dick jogged across the hall into her room. He knelt to Peterson’s heart, and felt the pulse — the body was warm, the face, harassed and indirect in life, was gross and bitter in death; the box of materials was held under one arm but the shoe that dangled over the bedside was bare of polish and its sole was worn through. By French law Dick had no right to touch the body but he moved the arm a little to see something — there was a stain on the green coverlet, there would be faint blood on the blanket beneath.

Dick closed the door and stood thinking; he heard cautious steps in the corridor and then Nicole calling him by name. Opening the door he whispered: “Bring the couverture and top blanket from one of our beds — don’t let any one see you.” Then, noticing the strained look on her face, he added quickly, “Look here, you mustn’t get upset over this — it’s only some nigger scrap.”

“I want it to be over.”

The body, as Dick lifted it, was light and ill-nourished. He held it so that further hemorrhages from the wound would flow into the man’s clothes. Laying it beside the bed he stripped off the coverlet and top blanket and then opening the door an inch, listened — there was a clank of dishes down the hall followed by a loud patronizing “Mer-CI, Madame,” but the waiter went in the other direction, toward the service stairway. Quickly Dick and Nicole exchanged bundles across the corridor; after spreading this covering on Rosemary’s bed, Dick stood sweating in the warm twilight, considering. Certain points had become apparent to him in the moment following his examination of the body; first, that Abe’s first hostile Indian had tracked the friendly Indian and discovered him in the corridor, and when the latter had taken desperate refuge in Rosemary’s room, had hunted down and slain him; second, that if the situation were allowed to develop naturally, no power on earth could keep the smear off Rosemary — the paint was scarcely dry on the Arbuckle case. Her contract was contingent upon an obligation to continue rigidly and unexceptionally as “Daddy’s Girl.”

Automatically Dick made the old motion of turning up his sleeves though he wore a sleeveless undershirt, and bent over the body. Getting a purchase on the shoulders of the coat he kicked open the door with his heel, and dragged the body quickly into a plausible position in the corridor. He came back into Rosemary’s room and smoothed back the grain of the plush floor rug. Then he went to the phone in his suite and called the manager-owner of the hotel.

“McBeth? — it’s Doctor Diver speaking — something very important. Are we on a more or less private line?”

It was good that he had made the extra effort which had firmly entrenched him with Mr. McBeth. Here was one use for all the pleasingness that Dick had expended over a large area he would never retrace . . . .

“Going out of the suite we came on a dead Negro . . . in the hall . . . no, no, he’s a civilian. Wait a minute now — I knew you didn’t want any guests to blunder on the body so I’m phoning you. Of course I must ask you to keep my name out of it. I don’t want any French red tape just because I discovered the man.”

What exquisite consideration for the hotel! Only because Mr. McBeth, with his own eyes, had seen these traits in Doctor Diver two nights before, could he credit the story without question.

In a minute Mr. McBeth arrived and in another minute he was joined by a gendarme. In the interval he found time to whisper to Dick, “You can be sure the name of any guest will be protected. I’m only too grateful to you for your pains.”

Mr. McBeth took an immediate step that may only be imagined, but that influenced the gendarme so as to make him pull his mustaches in a frenzy of uneasiness and greed. He made perfunctory notes and sent a telephone call to his post. Meanwhile with a celerity that Jules Peterson, as a business man, would have quite understood, the remains were carried into another apartment of one of the most fashionable hotels in the world.

Dick went back to his salon.

“What HAP-pened?” cried Rosemary. “Do all the Americans in Paris just shoot at each other all the time?”

“This seems to be the open season,” he answered. “Where’s Nicole?”

“I think she’s in the bathroom.”

She adored him for saving her — disasters that could have attended upon the event had passed in prophecy through her mind; and she had listened in wild worship to his strong, sure, polite voice making it all right. But before she reached him in a sway of soul and body his attention focussed on something else: he went into the bedroom and toward the bathroom. And now Rosemary, too, could hear, louder and louder, a verbal inhumanity that penetrated the keyholes and the cracks in the doors, swept into the suite and in the shape of horror took form again.

With the idea that Nicole had fallen in the bathroom and hurt herself, Rosemary followed Dick. That was not the condition of affairs at which she stared before Dick shouldered her back and brusquely blocked her view.

Nicole knelt beside the tub swaying sidewise and sidewise. “It’s you!” she cried, “— it’s you come to intrude on the only privacy I have in the world — with your spread with red blood on it. I’ll wear it for you — I’m not ashamed, though it was such a pity. On All Fools Day we had a party on the Zurichsee, and all the fools were there, and I wanted to come dressed in a spread but they wouldn’t let me —”

“Control yourself!”

“— so I sat in the bathroom and they brought me a domino and said wear that. I did. What else could I do?”

“Control yourself, Nicole!”

“I never expected you to love me — it was too late — only don’t come in the bathroom, the only place I can go for privacy, dragging spreads with red blood on them and asking me to fix them.”

“Control yourself. Get up —”

Rosemary, back in the salon, heard the bathroom door bang, and stood trembling: now she knew what Violet McKisco had seen in the bathroom at Villa Diana. She answered the ringing phone and almost cried with relief when she found it was Collis Clay, who had traced her to the Divers’ apartment. She asked him to come up while she got her hat, because she was afraid to go into her room alone.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/f/fitzgerald/f_scott/tender/chapter25.html

Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 19:06