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Authors: Francis Scott Fitzgerald

Tags: #Fiction, #Literary, #Classics, #General, #Europe, #Riviera (France), #wealth, #Interpersonal conflict, #Romance, #Psychological, #Psychiatrists

Tender Is the Night

BOOK: Tender Is the Night
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Tender is

 
the

 
Night

 

F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

 

 

Already with thee!
tender
is the
night. . . . . . But here there is no light, Save what from heaven is with the
breezes blown
Through
verdurous glooms and winding
mossy ways. —Ode to a Nightingale

 

TO

GERALD and SARA

MANY FÊTES

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

BOOK
1

I

II

III

IV

V

VI

VII

VIII

IX

X

XI

XII

XIII

XIV

XV

XVI

XVII

XVIII

XIX

XX

XXI

XXII

XXIII

XXIV

XXV

 

BOOK
2

I

II

III

IV

V

VI

VII

VIII

IX

X

XI

XII

XIII

XIV

XV

XVI

XVII

XVIII

XIX

XX

XXI

XXII

XXIII

 

BOOK
3

I

II

III

IV

V

VI

VII

VIII

IX

X

XI

XII

XIII

 

 

BOOK 1

I

On the
pleasant shore of the French Riviera, about half way between
Marseilles
and the Italian border, stands a
large, proud, rose- colored hotel. Deferential palms cool its flushed façade,
and before it stretches a short dazzling beach. Lately it has become a summer
resort of notable and fashionable people; a decade ago it was almost deserted
after its English clientele went north in April. Now, many bungalows cluster
near it, but when this story begins only the cupolas of a dozen old villas
rotted like water lilies among the massed pines between
Gausse’s
Hôtel
des
Étrangers
and
Cannes, five miles away.

The
hotel and its bright tan prayer rug of a beach were one. In the early morning
the distant image of Cannes, the pink and cream of old fortifications, the
purple Alp that bounded Italy, were cast across the water and lay quavering in
the ripples and rings sent up by sea-plants through the clear shallows. Before
eight a man came down to the beach in a blue bathrobe and with much preliminary
application to his person of the chilly water, and much grunting and loud
breathing, floundered a minute in the sea. When he had gone, beach and bay were
quiet for an hour. Merchantmen
crawled
westward on the
horizon; bus boys shouted in the hotel court; the dew dried upon the pines. In
another hour the horns of motors began to blow down from the winding road along
the low range of the
Maures
, which separates the
littoral from true
Provençal
France
.

A mile
from the sea, where pines give way to dusty poplars, is an isolated railroad
stop, whence one June morning in 1925 a
victoria
brought a woman and her daughter down to
Gausse’s
Hotel. The mother’s face was of a fading prettiness that would soon be patted
with broken veins; her expression was both tranquil and aware in a pleasant
way. However, one’s eye moved on quickly to her daughter, who had magic in her
pink palms and her cheeks lit to a lovely flame, like the thrilling flush of
children after their cold baths in the evening. Her fine forehead sloped gently
up to where her hair, bordering it like an armorial shield, burst into
lovelocks and waves and curlicues of ash blonde and gold. Her eyes were bright,
big, clear, wet, and
shining,
the color of her cheeks
was real, breaking close to the surface from the strong young pump of her
heart. Her body hovered delicately on the last edge of childhood—she was almost
eighteen, nearly complete, but the dew was still on her.

As sea
and sky appeared below them in a thin, hot line the mother said:

“Something
tells me we’re not going to like this place.”

“I want
to go home anyhow,” the girl answered.

They
both spoke cheerfully but were obviously without direction and bored by the
fact—moreover, just any direction would not do. They wanted high excitement,
not from the necessity of stimulating jaded nerves but with the avidity of
prize-winning schoolchildren who deserved their vacations.

“We’ll
stay three days and then go home. I’ll wire right away for steamer tickets.”

At the
hotel the girl made the reservation in idiomatic but rather flat French, like
something remembered. When they were installed on the ground floor she walked
into the glare of the French windows and out a few steps onto the stone veranda
that ran the length of the hotel. When she walked she carried herself like a
ballet- dancer, not slumped down on her hips but held up in the small of her
back. Out there the hot light clipped close her shadow and she retreated—it was
too bright to see. Fifty yards away the
Mediterranean
yielded up its pigments, moment by moment, to the brutal sunshine; below the
balustrade a faded Buick cooked on the hotel drive.

Indeed,
of
all the
region only the beach stirred with
activity. Three British nannies sat knitting the slow pattern of Victorian
England, the pattern of the forties, the sixties, and the eighties, into
sweaters and socks, to the tune of gossip as formalized as incantation; closer
to the sea a dozen persons kept house under striped umbrellas, while their
dozen children pursued
unintimidated
fish through the
shallows or lay naked and glistening with
cocoanut
oil out in the sun.

As
Rosemary came onto the beach a boy of twelve ran past her and dashed into the
sea with exultant cries. Feeling the
impactive
scrutiny of strange faces, she took off her bathrobe and followed. She floated
face down for a few yards and finding it shallow staggered to her feet and
plodded forward, dragging slim legs like weights against the resistance of the
water. When it was about breast high, she glanced back toward shore: a bald man
in a monocle and a pair of tights, his tufted chest thrown out, his brash navel
sucked in, was regarding her attentively. As Rosemary returned the gaze the man
dislodged the monocle, which went into hiding amid the facetious whiskers of
his chest, and poured himself a glass of something from a bottle in his hand.

Rosemary
laid her face on the water and swam a choppy little four- beat crawl out to the
raft. The water reached up for her, pulled her down tenderly out of the heat,
seeped in her hair and ran into the corners of her body. She turned round and
round in it, embracing it, wallowing in it. Reaching the raft she was out of
breath, but a tanned woman with very white teeth looked down at her, and
Rosemary, suddenly conscious of the raw whiteness of her own body, turned on
her back and drifted toward shore. The hairy man holding the bottle spoke to
her as she came out.

“I
say—they have sharks out behind the raft.” He was of indeterminate nationality,
but spoke English with a slow
Oxford
drawl. “Yesterday they devoured two British sailors from the
flotte
at
Golfe
Juan.”

“Heavens!”
exclaimed Rosemary.

“They
come in for the refuse from the
flotte
.”

Glazing
his eyes to indicate that he had only spoken in order to warn her, he minced
off two steps and poured himself another drink.

Not
unpleasantly self-conscious, since there had been a slight sway of attention
toward her during this conversation, Rosemary looked for a place to sit.
Obviously each family possessed the strip of sand immediately in front of its umbrella;
besides there was much visiting and talking back and forth—the atmosphere of a
community upon which it would be presumptuous to intrude. Farther up, where the
beach was strewn with pebbles and dead sea-weed, sat a group with flesh as
white
as her own
. They lay under small hand-parasols
instead of beach umbrellas and were obviously less indigenous to the place.
Between the dark people and the light, Rosemary found room and spread out her
peignoir on the sand.

Lying
so, she first heard their voices and felt their feet skirt her body and their
shapes pass between the sun and herself. The breath of an inquisitive dog blew
warm and nervous on her neck; she could feel her skin broiling a little in the
heat and hear the small exhausted
wa-waa
of the
expiring waves. Presently her ear distinguished individual voices and she
became aware that
some one
referred to scornfully as
“that North guy” had kidnapped a waiter from a café in
Cannes
last night in order to saw him in two.
The sponsor of the story was a white-haired woman in full evening dress,
obviously a relic of the previous evening, for a tiara still clung to her head
and a discouraged orchid expired from her shoulder. Rosemary, forming a vague
antipathy to her and her companions, turned away.

Nearest
her, on the other side, a young woman lay under a roof of umbrellas making out
a list of things from a book open on the sand. Her bathing suit was pulled off
her shoulders and her back, a ruddy, orange brown, set off by a string of
creamy pearls, shone in the sun. Her face was hard and lovely and pitiful. Her
eyes met Rosemary’s but did not see her. Beyond her was a fine man in a jockey
cap and red-striped tights; then the woman Rosemary had seen on the raft, and
who looked back at her, seeing her; then a man with a long face and a golden,
leonine head, with blue tights and no hat, talking very seriously to an
unmistakably Latin young man in black tights, both of them picking at little
pieces of seaweed in the sand. She thought they were mostly Americans, but something
made them unlike the Americans she had known of late.

After a
while she realized that the man in the jockey cap was giving a quiet little
performance for this group; he moved gravely about with a rake, ostensibly
removing gravel and meanwhile developing some esoteric burlesque held in
suspension by his grave face. Its faintest ramification had become hilarious,
until whatever he said released a burst of laughter. Even those who, like
herself, were too far away to
hear,
sent out
antennæ
of attention until the only person on the beach not
caught up in it was the young woman with the string of pearls. Perhaps from
modesty of possession she responded to each salvo of amusement by bending
closer over her list.

BOOK: Tender Is the Night
13.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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