Tender is the Night, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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In Zurich in September Doctor Diver had tea with Baby Warren.

“I think it’s ill advised,” she said, “I’m not sure I truly understand your motives.”

“Don’t let’s be unpleasant.”

“After all I’m Nicole’s sister.”

“That doesn’t give you the right to be unpleasant.” It irritated Dick that he knew so much that he could not tell her. “Nicole’s rich, but that doesn’t make me an adventurer.”

“That’s just it,” complained Baby stubbornly. “Nicole’s rich.”

“Just how much money has she got?” he asked.

She started; and with a silent laugh he continued, “You see how silly this is? I’d rather talk to some man in your family —”

“Everything’s been left to me,” she persisted. “It isn’t we think you’re an adventurer. We don’t know who you are.”

“I’m a doctor of medicine,” he said. “My father is a clergyman, now retired. We lived in Buffalo and my past is open to investigation. I went to New Haven; afterward I was a Rhodes scholar. My great-grandfather was Governor of North Carolina and I’m a direct descendant of Mad Anthony Wayne.”

“Who was Mad Anthony Wayne?” Baby asked suspiciously.

“Mad Anthony Wayne?”

“I think there’s enough madness in this affair.”

He shook his head hopelessly, just as Nicole came out on the hotel terrace and looked around for them.

“He was too mad to leave as much money as Marshall Field,” he said.

“That’s all very well —”

Baby was right and she knew it. Face to face, her father would have it on almost any clergyman. They were an American ducal family without a title — the very name written in a hotel register, signed to an introduction, used in a difficult situation, caused a psychological metamorphosis in people, and in return this change had crystallized her own sense of position. She knew these facts from the English, who had known them for over two hundred years. But she did not know that twice Dick had come close to flinging the marriage in her face. All that saved it this time was Nicole finding their table and glowing away, white and fresh and new in the September afternoon.

How do you do, lawyer. We’re going to Como tomorrow for a week and then back to Zurich. That’s why I wanted you and sister to settle this, because it doesn’t matter to us how much I’m allowed. We’re going to live very quietly in Zurich for two years and Dick has enough to take care of us. No, Baby, I’m more practical than you think — It’s only for clothes and things I’ll need it. . . . Why, that’s more than — can the estate really afford to give me all that? I know I’ll never manage to spend it. Do you have that much? Why do you have more — is it because I’m supposed to be incompetent? All right, let my share pile up then. . . . No, Dick refuses to have anything whatever to do with it. I’ll have to feel bloated for us both. . . . Baby, you have no more idea of what Dick is like than, than — Now where do I sign? Oh, I’m sorry.

. . . Isn’t it funny and lonely being together, Dick. No place to go except close. Shall we just love and love? Ah, but I love the most, and I can tell when you’re away from me, even a little. I think it’s wonderful to be just like everybody else, to reach out and find you all warm beside me in the bed.

. . . If you will kindly call my husband at the hospital. Yes, the little book is selling everywhere — they want it published in six languages. I was to do the French translation but I’m tired these days — I’m afraid of falling, I’m so heavy and clumsy — like a broken roly-poly that can’t stand up straight. The cold stethoscope against my heart and my strongest feeling “Je m’en fiche de tout.”— Oh, that poor woman in the hospital with the blue baby, much better dead. Isn’t it fine there are three of us now?

. . . That seems unreasonable, Dick — we have every reason for taking the bigger apartment. Why should we penalize ourselves just because there’s more Warren money than Diver money. Oh, thank you, cameriere, but we’ve changed our minds. This English clergyman tells us that your wine here in Orvieto is excellent. It doesn’t travel? That must be why we have never heard of it, because we love wine.

The lakes are sunk in the brown clay and the slopes have all the creases of a belly. The photographer gave us the picture of me, my hair limp over the rail on the boat to Capri. “Good-by, Blue Grotte,” sang the boatman, “come again soo-oon.” And afterward tracing down the hot sinister shin of the Italian boot with the wind soughing around those eerie castles, the dead watching from up on those hills.

. . . This ship is nice, with our heels hitting the deck together. This is the blowy corner and each time we turn it I slant forward against the wind and pull my coat together without losing step with Dick. We are chanting nonsense:

“Oh — oh — oh — oh
Other flamingoes than me,
Oh — oh — oh — oh
Other flamingoes than me —”

Life is fun with Dick — the people in deck chairs look at us, and a woman is trying to hear what we are singing. Dick is tired of singing it, so go on alone, Dick. You will walk differently alone, dear, through a thicker atmosphere, forcing your way through the shadows of chairs, through the dripping smoke of the funnels. You will feel your own reflection sliding along the eyes of those who look at you. You are no longer insulated; but I suppose you must touch life in order to spring from it.

Sitting on the stanchion of this life-boat I look seaward and let my hair blow and shine. I am motionless against the sky and the boat is made to carry my form onward into the blue obscurity of the future, I am Pallas Athene carved reverently on the front of a galley. The waters are lapping in the public toilets and the agate green foliage of spray changes and complains about the stern.

. . . We travelled a lot that year — from Woolloomooloo Bay to Biskra. On the edge of the Sahara we ran into a plague of locusts and the chauffeur explained kindly that they were bumble-bees. The sky was low at night, full of the presence of a strange and watchful God. Oh, the poor little naked Ouled Naïl; the night was noisy with drums from Senegal and flutes and whining camels, and the natives pattering about in shoes made of old automobile tires.

But I was gone again by that time — trains and beaches they were all one. That was why he took me travelling but after my second child, my little girl, Topsy, was born everything got dark again.

. . . If I could get word to my husband who has seen fit to desert me here, to leave me in the hands of incompetents. You tell me my baby is black — that’s farcical, that’s very cheap. We went to Africa merely to see Timgad, since my principal interest in life is archeology. I am tired of knowing nothing and being reminded of it all the time.

. . . When I get well I want to be a fine person like you, Dick — I would study medicine except it’s too late. We must spend my money and have a house — I’m tired of apartments and waiting for you. You’re bored with Zurich and you can’t find time for writing here and you say that it’s a confession of weakness for a scientist not to write. And I’ll look over the whole field of knowledge and pick out something and really know about it, so I’ll have it to hang on to if I go to pieces again. You’ll help me, Dick, so I won’t feel so guilty. We’ll live near a warm beach where we can be brown and young together.

. . . This is going to be Dick’s work house. Oh, the idea came to us both at the same moment. We had passed Tarmes a dozen times and we rode up here and found the houses empty, except two stables. When we bought we acted through a Frenchman but the navy sent spies up here in no time when they found that Americans had bought part of a hill village. They looked for cannons all through the building material, and finally Baby had to twitch wires for us at the Affaires Etrangères in Paris.

No one comes to the Riviera in summer, so we expect to have a few guests and to work. There are some French people here — Mistinguet last week, surprised to find the hotel open, and Picasso and the man who wrote Pas sur la Bouche.

. . . Dick, why did you register Mr. and Mrs. Diver instead of Doctor and Mrs. Diver? I just wondered — it just floated through my mind. — You’ve taught me that work is everything and I believe you. You used to say a man knows things and when he stops knowing things he’s like anybody else, and the thing is to get power before he stops knowing things. If you want to turn things topsy-turvy, all right, but must your Nicole follow you walking on her hands, darling?

. . . Tommy says I am silent. Since I was well the first time I talked a lot to Dick late at night, both of us sitting up in bed and lighting cigarettes, then diving down afterward out of the blue dawn and into the pillows, to keep the light from our eyes. Sometimes I sing, and play with the animals, and I have a few friends too — Mary, for instance. When Mary and I talk neither of us listens to the other. Talk is men. When I talk I say to myself that I am probably Dick. Already I have even been my son, remembering how wise and slow he is. Sometimes I am Doctor Dohmler and one time I may even be an aspect of you, Tommy Barban. Tommy is in love with me, I think, but gently, reassuringly. Enough, though, so that he and Dick have begun to disapprove of each other. All in all, everything has never gone better. I am among friends who like me. I am here on this tranquil beach with my husband and two children. Everything is all right — if I can finish translating this damn recipe for chicken a la Maryland into French. My toes feel warm in the sand.

“Yes, I’ll look. More new people — oh, that girl — yes. Who did you say she looked like. . . . No, I haven’t, we don’t get much chance to see the new American pictures over here. Rosemary who? Well, we’re getting very fashionable for July — seems very peculiar to me. Yes, she’s lovely, but there can be too many people.”

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