Tender is the Night, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

IV

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 —”

“McKisco?”

“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.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/f/fitzgerald/f_scott/tender/chapter4.html

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