This Side of Paradise, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Part XLVIX
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.
A good half of the station crowd was already staring at them, torn between horrified pity and riotous mirth, and as Phyllis, with her svelte jaw dropping, approached, the pair bent over and emitted a college cheer in loud, far-carrying voices, thoughtfully adding the name "Phyllis" to the end. She was vociferously greeted and escorted enthusiastically across the campus, followed by half a hundred village urchins--to the stifled laughter of hundreds of alumni and visitors, half of whom had no idea that this was a practical joke, but thought that Burne and Fred were two varsity sports showing their girl a collegiate time.
Phyllis's feelings as she was paraded by the Harvard and Princeton stands, where sat dozens of her former devotees, can be imagined. She tried to walk a little ahead, she tried to walk a little behind--but they stayed close, that there should be no doubt whom she was with, talking in loud voices of their friends on the football team, until she could almost hear her acquaintances whispering:
"Phyllis Styles must be awfully hard up to have to come with those two."
That had been Burne, dynamically humorous, fundamentally serious. From that root had blossomed the energy that he was now trying to orient with progress....
So the weeks passed and March came and the clay feet that Amory looked for failed to appear. About a hundred juniors and seniors resigned from their clubs in a final fury of righteousness, and the clubs in helplessness turned upon Burne their finest weapon: ridicule. Every one who knew him liked him--but what he stood for (and he began to stand for more all the time) came under the lash of many tongues, until a frailer man than he would have been snowed under.
"Don't you mind losing prestige?" asked Amory one night. They had taken to exchanging calls several times a week.
"Of course I don't. What's prestige, at best?"
"Some people say that you're just a rather original politician."
He roared with laughter.
"That's what Fred Sloane told me to-day. I suppose I have it coming."
One afternoon they dipped into a subject that had interested Amory for a long time--the matter of the bearing of physical attributes on a man's make-up. Burne had gone into the biology of this, and then:
"Of course health counts--a healthy man has twice the chance of being good," he said.
"I don't agree with you--I don't believe in 'muscular Christianity.'"
"I do--I believe Christ had great physical vigor."
"Oh, no," Amory protested. "He worked too hard for that. I imagine that when he died he was a broken-down man--and the great saints haven't been strong."
"Half of them have."
"Well, even granting that, I don't think health has anything to do with goodness; of course, it's valuable to a great saint to be able to stand enormous strains, but this fad of popular preachers rising on their toes in simulated virility, bellowing that calisthenics will save the world--no, Burne, I can't go that."
"Well, let's waive it--we won't get anywhere, and besides I haven't quite made up my mind about it myself. Now, here's something I do know--personal appearance has a lot to do with it."
"Coloring?" Amory asked eagerly.
"That's what Tom and I figured," Amory agreed. "We took the year-books for the last ten years and looked at the pictures of the senior council. I know you don't think much of that august body, but it does represent success here in a general way. Well, I suppose only about thirty-five per cent of every class here are blonds, are really light--yet
two-thirds of every senior council are light. We looked at pictures of ten years of them, mind you; that means that out of every fifteen light-haired men in the senior class one is on the senior council, and of the dark-haired men it's only one in fifty."
"It's true," Burne agreed. "The light-haired man is a higher type, generally speaking. I worked the thing out with the Presidents of the United States once, and found that way over half of them were light-haired--yet think of the preponderant number of brunettes in the race."
Image courtesy of Peter Alfred Hess.