Tender is the Night, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

IV

“Then we knew where we stood,” said Franz. “Dohmler told Warren we would take the case if he would agree to keep away from his daughter indefinitely, with an absolute minimum of five years. After Warren’s first collapse, he seemed chiefly concerned as to whether the story would ever leak back to America.”

“We mapped out a routine for her and waited. The prognosis was bad — as you know, the percentage of cures, even so-called social cures, is very low at that age.”

“Those first letters looked bad,” agreed Dick.

“Very bad — very typical. I hesitated about letting the first one get out of the clinic. Then I thought it will be good for Dick to know we’re carrying on here. It was generous of you to answer them.”

Dick sighed. “She was such a pretty thing — she enclosed a lot of snapshots of herself. And for a month there I didn’t have anything to do. All I said in my letters was ‘Be a good girl and mind the doctors.’”

“That was enough — it gave her somebody to think of outside. For a while she didn’t have anybody — only one sister that she doesn’t seem very close to. Besides, reading her letters helped us here — they were a measure of her condition.”

“I’m glad.”

“You see now what happened? She felt complicity — that’s neither here nor there, except as we want to revalue her ultimate stability and strength of character. First came this shock. Then she went off to a boarding-school and heard the girls talking — so from sheer self-protection she developed the idea that she had had no complicity — and from there it was easy to slide into a phantom world where all men, the more you liked them and trusted them, the more evil —”

“Did she ever go into the — horror directly?”

“No, and as a matter of fact when she began to seem normal, about October, we were in a predicament. If she had been thirty years old we would have let her make her own adjustment, but she was so young we were afraid she might harden with it all twisted inside her. So Doctor Dohmler said to her frankly, ‘Your duty now is to yourself. This doesn’t by any account mean the end of anything for you — your life is just at its beginning,’ and so forth and so forth. She really has an excellent mind, so he gave her a little Freud to read, not too much, and she was very interested. In fact, we’ve made rather a pet of her around here. But she is reticent,” he added; he hesitated: “We have wondered if in her recent letters to you which she mailed herself from Zurich, she has said anything that would be illuminating about her state of mind and her plans for the future.”

Dick considered.

“Yes and no — I’ll bring the letters out here if you want. She seems hopeful and normally hungry for life — even rather romantic. Sometimes she speaks of ‘the past’ as people speak who have been in prison. But you never know whether they refer to the crime or the imprisonment or the whole experience. After all I’m only a sort of stuffed figure in her life.”

“Of course, I understand your position exactly, and I express our gratitude once again. That was why I wanted to see you before you see her.”

Dick laughed.

“You think she’s going to make a flying leap at my person?”

“No, not that. But I want to ask you to go very gently. You are attractive to women, Dick.”

“Then God help me! Well, I’ll be gentle and repulsive — I’ll chew garlic whenever I’m going to see her and wear a stubble beard. I’ll drive her to cover.”

“Not garlic!” said Franz, taking him seriously. “You don’t want to compromise your career. But you’re partly joking.”

“— and I can limp a little. And there’s no real bathtub where I’m living, anyhow.”

“You’re entirely joking,” Franz relaxed — or rather assumed the posture of one relaxed. “Now tell me about yourself and your plans?”

“I’ve only got one, Franz, and that’s to be a good psychologist — maybe to be the greatest one that ever lived.”

Franz laughed pleasantly, but he saw that this time Dick wasn’t joking.

“That’s very good — and very American,” he said. “It’s more difficult for us.” He got up and went to the French window. “I stand here and I see Zurich — there is the steeple of the Gross- Münster. In its vault my grandfather is buried. Across the bridge from it lies my ancestor Lavater, who would not be buried in any church. Nearby is the statue of another ancestor, Heinrich Pestalozzi, and one of Doctor Alfred Escher. And over everything there is always Zwingli — I am continually confronted with a pantheon of heroes.”

“Yes, I see.” Dick got up. “I was only talking big. Everything’s just starting over. Most of the Americans in France are frantic to get home, but not me — I draw military pay all the rest of the year if I only attend lectures at the university. How’s that for a government on the grand scale that knows its future great men? Then I’m going home for a month and see my father. Then I’m coming back — I’ve been offered a job.”

“Where?”

“Your rivals — Gisler’s Clinic on Interlacken.”

“Don’t touch it,” Franz advised him. “They’ve had a dozen young men there in a year. Gisler’s a manic-depressive himself, his wife and her lover run the clinic — of course, you understand that’s confidential.”

“How about your old scheme for America?” asked Dick lightly. “We were going to New York and start an up-to-date establishment for billionaires.”

“That was students’ talk.”

Dick dined with Franz and his bride and a small dog with a smell of burning rubber, in their cottage on the edge of the grounds, He felt vaguely oppressed, not by the atmosphere of modest retrenchment, nor by Frau Gregorovius, who might have been prophesied, but by the sudden contracting of horizons to which Franz seemed so reconciled. For him the boundaries of asceticism were differently marked — he could see it as a means to an end, even as a carrying on with a glory it would itself supply, but it was hard to think of deliberately cutting life down to the scale of an inherited suit. The domestic gestures of Franz and his wife as they turned in a cramped space lacked grace and adventure. The post-war months in France, and the lavish liquidations taking place under the ægis of American splendor, had affected Dick’s outlook. Also, men and women had made much of him, and perhaps what had brought him back to the centre of the great Swiss watch, was an intuition that this was not too good for a serious man.

He made Kaethe Gregorovius feel charming, meanwhile becoming increasingly restless at the all-pervading cauliflower — simultaneously hating himself too for this incipience of he knew not what superficiality.

“God, am I like the rest after all?”— So he used to think starting awake at night —“Am I like the rest?”

This was poor material for a socialist but good material for those who do much of the world’s rarest work. The truth was that for some months he had been going through that partitioning of the things of youth wherein it is decided whether or not to die for what one no longer believes. In the dead white hours in Zurich staring into a stranger’s pantry across the upshine of a street- lamp, he used to think that he wanted to be good, he wanted to be kind, he wanted to be brave and wise, but it was all pretty difficult. He wanted to be loved, too, if he could fit it in.

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