This Side of Paradise, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Part LXII
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've only discovered one soldier who passed through the much-advertised spiritual crisis, like this fellow, Donald Hankey, and the one I knew was already studying for the ministry, so he was ripe for it. I honestly think that's all pretty much rot, though it seemed to give sentimental comfort to those at home; and may make fathers and mothers appreciate their children. This crisis-inspired religion is rather valueless and fleeting at best. I think four men have discovered Paris to one that discovered God.
But us--you and me and Alec--oh, we'll get a Jap butler and dress for dinner and have wine on the table and lead a contemplative, emotionless life until we decide to use machine-guns with the property owners--or throw bombs with the Bolshevik God! Tom, I hope something happens. I'm restless as the devil and have a horror of getting fat or falling in love and growing domestic.
The place at Lake Geneva is now for rent but when I land I'm going West to see Mr. Barton and get some details. Write me care of the Blackstone, Chicago.
S'ever, dear Boswell,
BOOK TWO--The Education of a Personage
CHAPTER 1. The Debutante
The time is February. The place is a large, dainty bedroom in the Connage house on Sixty-eighth Street, New York. A girl's room: pink walls and curtains and a pink bedspread on a cream-colored bed. Pink and cream are the motifs of the room, but the only article of furniture in full view is a luxurious dressing-table with a glass top and a three-sided mirror. On the walls there is an expensive print of "Cherry Ripe," a few polite dogs by Landseer, and the "King of the Black Isles," by Maxfield Parrish.
Great disorder consisting of the following items: (1) seven or eight empty cardboard boxes, with tissue-paper tongues hanging panting from their mouths; (2) an assortment of street dresses mingled with their sisters of the evening, all upon the table, all evidently new; (3) a roll of tulle, which has lost its dignity and wound itself tortuously around everything in sight, and (4) upon the two small chairs, a collection of lingerie that beggars description. One would enjoy seeing the bill called forth by the finery displayed and one is possessed by a desire to see the princess for whose benefit--Look! There's some one! Disappointment! This is only a maid hunting for something--she lifts a heap from a chair--Not there; another heap, the dressing-table, the chiffonier drawers. She brings to light several beautiful chemises and an amazing pajama but this does not satisfy her--she goes out.
An indistinguishable mumble from the next room.
Now, we are getting warm. This is Alec's mother, Mrs. Connage, ample, dignified, rouged to the dowager point and quite worn out. Her lips move significantly as she looks for IT. Her search is less thorough than the maid's but there is a touch of fury in it, that quite makes up for its sketchiness. She stumbles on the tulle and her "damn" is quite audible. She retires, empty-handed.
More chatter outside and a girl's voice, a very spoiled voice, says: "Of all the stupid people--"
After a pause a third seeker enters, not she of the spoiled voice, but a younger edition. This is Cecelia Connage, sixteen, pretty, shrewd, and constitutionally good-humored. She is dressed for the evening in a gown the obvious simplicity of which probably bores her. She goes to the nearest pile, selects a small pink garment and holds it up appraisingly.
ROSALIND: (Outside) Yes!
CECELIA: Very snappy?
CECELIA: I've got it!
(She sees herself in the mirror of the dressing-table and commences to shimmy enthusiastically.)
ROSALIND: (Outside) What are you doing--trying it on?
(CECELIA ceases and goes out carrying the garment at the right shoulder.
From the other door, enters ALEC CONNAGE. He looks around quickly and in a huge voice shouts: Mama! There is a chorus of protest from next door and encouraged he starts toward it, but is repelled by another chorus.)
ALEC: So that's where you all are! Amory Blaine is here.
CECELIA: (Quickly) Take him down-stairs.
ALEC: Oh, he is down-stairs.
Image courtesy of Peter Alfred Hess.