Tender is the Night, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

VIII

Violet breathed loud and hard once and with an effort brought another expression into her face.

Dick came finally and with a sure instinct he separated Barban and the McKiscos and became excessively ignorant and inquisitive about literature with McKisco — thus giving the latter the moment of superiority which he required. The others helped him carry lamps up — who would not be pleased at carrying lamps helpfully through the darkness? Rosemary helped, meanwhile responding patiently to Royal Dumphry’s inexhaustible curiosity about Hollywood.

Now — she was thinking — I’ve earned a time alone with him. He must know that because his laws are like the laws Mother taught me.

Rosemary was right — presently he detached her from the company on the terrace, and they were alone together, borne away from the house toward the seaside wall with what were less steps than irregularly spaced intervals through some of which she was pulled, through others blown.

They looked out over the Mediterranean. Far below, the last excursion boat from the Isles des Lerins floated across the bay like a Fourth-of-July balloon foot-loose in the heavens. Between the black isles it floated, softly parting the dark tide.

“I understand why you speak as you do of your mother,” he said. “Her attitude toward you is very fine, I think. She has a sort of wisdom that’s rare in America.”

“Mother is perfect,” she prayed.

“I was talking to her about a plan I have — she told me that how long you both stayed in France depended on you.”

On YOU, Rosemary all but said aloud.

“So since things are over down here —”

“Over?” she inquired.

“Well, this is over — this part of the summer is over. Last week Nicole’s sister left, to-morrow Tommy Barban leaves, Monday Abe and Mary North are leaving. Maybe we’ll have more fun this summer but this particular fun is over. I want it to die violently instead of fading out sentimentally — that’s why I gave this party. What I’m coming to is — Nicole and I are going up to Paris to see Abe North off for America — I wonder if you’d like to go with us.”

“What did Mother say?”

“She seemed to think it would be fine. She doesn’t want to go herself. She wants you to go alone.”

“I haven’t seen Paris since I’ve been grown,” said Rosemary. “I’d love to see it with you.”

“That’s nice of you.” Did she imagine that his voice was suddenly metallic? “Of course we’ve been excited about you from the moment you came on the beach. That vitality, we were sure it was professional — especially Nicole was. It’d never use itself up on any one person or group.”

Her instinct cried out to her that he was passing her along slowly toward Nicole and she put her own brakes on, saying with an equal harness:

“I wanted to know all of you too — especially you. I told you I fell in love with you the first time I saw you.”

She was right going at it that way. But the space between heaven and earth had cooled his mind, destroyed the impulsiveness that had led him to bring her here, and made him aware of the too obvious appeal, the struggle with an unrehearsed scene and unfamiliar words.

He tried now to make her want to go back to the house and it was difficult, and he did not quite want to lose her. She felt only the draft blowing as he joked with her good-humoredly.

“You don’t know what you want. You go and ask your mother what you want.”

She was stricken. She touched him, feeling the smooth cloth of his dark coat like a chasuble. She seemed about to fall to her knees — from that position she delivered her last shot.

“I think you’re the most wonderful person I ever met — except my mother.”

“You have romantic eyes.”

His laughter swept them on up toward the terrace where he delivered her to Nicole . . . .

Too soon it had become time to go and the Divers helped them all to go quickly. In the Divers’ big Isotta there would be Tommy Barban and his baggage — he was spending the night at the hotel to catch an early train — with Mrs. Abrams, the McKiscos and Campion. Earl Brady was going to drop Rosemary and her mother on his way to Monte Carlo, and Royal Dumphry rode with them because the Divers’ car was crowded. Down in the garden lanterns still glowed over the table where they had dined, as the Divers stood side by side in the gate, Nicole blooming away and filling the night with graciousness, and Dick bidding good-by to everyone by name. To Rosemary it seemed very poignant to drive away and leave them in their house. Again she wondered what Mrs. McKisco had seen in the bathroom.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/f/fitzgerald/f_scott/tender/chapter8.html

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