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

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.

"I hate that point of view."

"Of course, with a little effort you could still stage a comeback."

"No--I'm through--as far as ever being a power in college is concerned."

"But, Amory, honestly, what makes me the angriest isn't the fact that you won't be chairman of the Prince and on the Senior Council, but just that you didn't get down and pass that exam."

"Not me," said Amory slowly; "I'm mad at the concrete thing.  My own idleness was quite in accord with my system, but the luck broke."

"Your system broke, you mean."

"Maybe."

"Well, what are you going to do?  Get a better one quick, or just bum around for two more years as a has-been?"

"I don't know yet..."

"Oh, Amory, buck up!"

"Maybe."

Amory's point of view, though dangerous, was not far from the true one.  If his reactions to his environment could be tabulated, the chart would have appeared like this, beginning with his earliest years:

1.  The fundamental Amory.

2.  Amory plus Beatrice.

3.  Amory plus Beatrice plus Minneapolis.

Then St. Regis' had pulled him to pieces and started him over again:

4.  Amory plus St. Regis'.

5.  Amory plus St. Regis' plus Princeton.

That had been his nearest approach to success through conformity.  The fundamental Amory, idle, imaginative, rebellious, had been nearly snowed under.  He had conformed, he had succeeded, but as his imagination was neither satisfied nor grasped by his own success, he had listlessly, half-accidentally chucked the whole thing and become again:

6.  The fundamental Amory.

*****

FINANCIAL

His father died quietly and inconspicuously at Thanksgiving.  The incongruity of death with either the beauties of Lake Geneva or with his mother's dignified, reticent attitude diverted him, and he looked at the funeral with an amused tolerance.  He decided that burial was after all preferable to cremation, and he smiled at his old boyhood choice, slow oxidation in the top of a tree.  The day after the ceremony he was amusing himself in the great library by sinking back on a couch in graceful mortuary attitudes, trying to determine whether he would, when his day came, be found with his arms crossed piously over his chest
(Monsignor Darcy had once advocated this posture as being the most distinguished), or with his hands clasped behind his head, a more pagan and Byronic attitude.

What interested him much more than the final departure of his father from things mundane was a tri-cornered conversation between Beatrice, Mr. Barton, of Barton and Krogman, their lawyers, and himself, that took place several days after the funeral.  For the first time he came into actual cognizance of the family finances, and realized what a tidy fortune had once been under his father's management.  He took a ledger labelled "1906" and ran through it rather carefully.  The total expenditure that year had come to something over one hundred and ten thousand dollars.  Forty thousand of this had been Beatrice's own income, and there had been no attempt to account for it: it was all under the heading, "Drafts, checks, and letters of credit forwarded to Beatrice Blaine."  The dispersal of the rest was rather minutely itemized: the taxes and improvements on the Lake Geneva estate had come to almost nine thousand dollars; the general up-keep, including Beatrice's electric and a French car, bought that year, was over thirty-five thousand dollars.  The rest was fully taken care of, and there were invariably items which failed to balance on the right side of the ledger.

In the volume for 1912 Amory was shocked to discover the decrease in the number of bond holdings and the great drop in the income.  In the case of Beatrice's money this was not so pronounced, but it was obvious that his father had devoted the previous year to several unfortunate gambles in oil.  Very little of the oil had been burned, but Stephen Blaine had been rather badly singed.  The next year and the next and the next showed similar decreases, and Beatrice had for the first time begun using her own money for keeping up the house.  Yet her doctor's bill for 1913 had been over nine thousand dollars.

About the exact state of things Mr. Barton was quite vague and confused.  There had been recent investments, the outcome of which was for the present problematical, and he had an idea there were further speculations and exchanges concerning which he had not been consulted.

It was not for several months that Beatrice wrote Amory the full situation.  The entire residue of the Blaine and O'Hara fortunes consisted of the place at Lake Geneva and approximately a half million dollars, invested now in fairly conservative six-per-cent holdings.  In fact, Beatrice wrote that she was putting the money into railroad and street-car bonds as fast as she could conveniently transfer it.

"I am quite sure," she wrote to Amory, "that if there is one
thing we can be positive of, it is that people will not stay in
one place.  This Ford person has certainly made the most of that
idea.  So I am instructing Mr. Barton to specialize on such things
as Northern Pacific and these Rapid Transit Companies, as they
call the street-cars.  I shall never forgive myself for not buying
Bethlehem Steel.  I've heard the most fascinating stories.  You
must go into finance, Amory.  I'm sure you would revel in it.
You start as a messenger or a teller, I believe, and from that you
go up--almost indefinitely.  I'm sure if I were a man I'd love the
handling of money; it has become quite a senile passion with me.
Before I get any farther I want to discuss something.  A Mrs. Bispam,
an overcordial little lady whom I met at a tea the other day,
told me that her son, he is at Yale, wrote her that all the
boys there wore their summer underwear all during the winter,
and also went about with their heads wet and in low shoes on the
coldest days.  Now, Amory, I don't know whether that is a fad at
Princeton too, but I don't want you to be so foolish.  It not only
inclines a young man to pneumonia and infantile paralysis, but to
all forms of lung trouble, to which you are particularly
inclined.  You cannot experiment with your health.  I have found
that out.  I will not make myself ridiculous as some mothers no
doubt do, by insisting that you wear overshoes, though I remember
one Christmas you wore them around constantly without a single
buckle latched, making such a curious swishing sound, and you
refused to buckle them because it was not the thing to do.  The
very next Christmas you would not wear even rubbers, though I
begged you.  You are nearly twenty years old now, dear, and I
can't be with you constantly to find whether you are doing the
sensible thing.

"This has been a very practical letter.  I warned you in my last
that the lack of money to do the things one wants to makes one
quite prosy and domestic, but there is still plenty for
everything if we are not too extravagant.  Take care of yourself,
my dear boy, and do try to write at least once a week, because I
imagine all sorts of horrible things if I don't hear from you.
  Affectionately,  MOTHER."

*****

Image courtesy of Peter Alfred Hess.

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