This Side of Paradise, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Part XXXVII

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Every day on Daily Readers' Book Club we offer an article length section of a book until that book is done.  We are currently reading F. Scott Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise.  This book will have 106 parts.

"That's just the point," insisted Isabelle.  "You got all upset to-night.  You just sat and watched my eyes.  Besides, I have to think all the time I'm talking to you--you're so critical."

"I make you think, do I?"  Amory repeated with a touch of vanity.

"You're a nervous strain"--this emphatically--"and when you analyze every little emotion and instinct I just don't have 'em."

"I know."  Amory admitted her point and shook his head helplessly.

"Let's go."  She stood up.

He rose abstractedly and they walked to the foot of the stairs.

"What train can I get?"

"There's one about 9:11 if you really must go."

"Yes, I've got to go, really.  Good night."

"Good night."

They were at the head of the stairs, and as Amory turned into his room he thought he caught just the faintest cloud of discontent in her face.  He lay awake in the darkness and wondered how much he cared--how much of his sudden unhappiness was hurt vanity--whether he was, after all, temperamentally unfitted for romance.

When he awoke, it was with a glad flood of consciousness.  The early wind stirred the chintz curtains at the windows and he was idly puzzled not to be in his room at Princeton with his school football picture over the bureau and the Triangle Club on the wall opposite.  Then the grandfather's clock in the hall outside struck eight, and the memory of the night before came to him.  He was out of bed, dressing, like the wind; he must get out of the house before he saw Isabelle.  What had seemed a melancholy happening, now seemed a tiresome anticlimax.  He was dressed at half past, so he sat down by the window; felt that the sinews of his heart were twisted somewhat more than he had thought.  What an ironic mockery the morning seemed!--bright and sunny, and full of the smell of the garden; hearing Mrs. Borge's voice in the sun-parlor below, he wondered where was Isabelle.

There was a knock at the door.

"The car will be around at ten minutes of nine, sir."

He returned to his contemplation of the outdoors, and began repeating over and over, mechanically, a verse from Browning, which he had once quoted to Isabelle in a letter:

"Each life unfulfilled, you see,
It hangs still, patchy and scrappy;
We have not sighed deep, laughed free,
Starved, feasted, despaired--been happy."

But his life would not be unfulfilled.  He took a sombre satisfaction in thinking that perhaps all along she had been nothing except what he had read into her; that this was her high point, that no one else would ever make her think.  Yet that was what she had objected to in him; and Amory was suddenly tired of thinking, thinking!

"Damn her!" he said bitterly, "she's spoiled my year!"

*****

THE SUPERMAN GROWS CARELESS

On a dusty day in September Amory arrived in Princeton and joined the sweltering crowd of conditioned men who thronged the streets.  It seemed a stupid way to commence his upper-class years, to spend four hours a morning in the stuffy room of a tutoring school, imbibing the infinite boredom of conic sections.  Mr. Rooney, pander to the dull, conducted the class and smoked innumerable Pall Malls as he drew diagrams and worked equations from six in the morning until midnight.

"Now, Langueduc, if I used that formula, where would my A point be?"

Langueduc lazily shifts his six-foot-three of football material and tries to concentrate.

"Oh--ah--I'm damned if I know, Mr. Rooney."

"Oh, why of course, of course you can't use that formula.  That's what I wanted you to say."

"Why, sure, of course."

"Do you see why?"

"You bet--I suppose so."

"If you don't see, tell me.  I'm here to show you."

"Well, Mr. Rooney, if you don't mind, I wish you'd go over that again."

"Gladly.  Now here's 'A'..."

The room was a study in stupidity--two huge stands for paper, Mr. Rooney in his shirt-sleeves in front of them, and slouched around on chairs, a dozen men: Fred Sloane, the pitcher, who absolutely had to get eligible; "Slim" Langueduc, who would beat Yale this fall, if only he could master a poor fifty per cent; McDowell, gay young sophomore, who thought it was quite a sporting thing to be tutoring here with all these prominent athletes.

Image courtesy of Peter Alfred Hess.

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