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

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.

They were formally introduced two days later, and his aunt told him her history.  The Ramillys were two: old Mr. Ramilly and his granddaughter, Eleanor.  She had lived in France with a restless mother whom Amory imagined to have been very like his own, on whose death she had come to America, to live in Maryland.  She had gone to Baltimore first to stay with a bachelor uncle, and there she insisted on being a debutante at the age of seventeen.  She had a wild winter and arrived in the country in March, having quarrelled frantically with all her Baltimore relatives, and shocked them into fiery protest. A rather fast crowd had come out, who drank cocktails in limousines and were promiscuously condescending and patronizing toward older people, and Eleanor with an esprit that hinted strongly of the boulevards, led many innocents still redolent of St. Timothy's and Farmington, into paths of Bohemian naughtiness.  When the story came to her uncle, a forgetful cavalier of a more hypocritical era, there was a scene, from which Eleanor emerged, subdued but rebellious and indignant, to seek haven with her grandfather who hovered in the country on the near side of senility.  That's as far as her story went; she told him the rest herself, but that was later.

Often they swam and as Amory floated lazily in the water he shut his mind to all thoughts except those of hazy soap-bubble lands where the sun splattered through wind-drunk trees.  How could any one possibly think or worry, or do anything except splash and dive and loll there on the edge of time while the flower months failed.  Let the days move over--sadness and memory and pain recurred outside, and here, once more, before he went on to meet them he wanted to drift and be young.

There were days when Amory resented that life had changed from an even progress along a road stretching ever in sight, with the scenery merging and blending, into a succession of quick, unrelated scenes--two years of sweat and blood, that sudden absurd instinct for paternity that Rosalind had stirred; the half-sensual, half-neurotic quality of this autumn with Eleanor.  He felt that it would take all time, more than he could ever spare, to glue these strange cumbersome pictures into the scrap-book of his life.  It was all like a banquet where he sat for this half-hour of his youth and tried to enjoy brilliant epicurean courses.

Dimly he promised himself a time where all should be welded together.  For months it seemed that he had alternated between being borne along a stream of love or fascination, or left in an eddy, and in the eddies he had not desired to think, rather to be picked up on a wave's top and swept along again.

"The despairing, dying autumn and our love--how well they harmonize!" said Eleanor sadly one day as they lay dripping by the water.

"The Indian summer of our hearts--" he ceased.

"Tell me," she said finally, "was she light or dark?"

"Light."

"Was she more beautiful than I am?"

"I don't know," said Amory shortly.

One night they walked while the moon rose and poured a great burden of glory over the garden until it seemed fairyland with Amory and Eleanor, dim phantasmal shapes, expressing eternal beauty in curious elfin love moods.  Then they turned out of the moonlight into the trellised darkness of a vine-hung pagoda, where there were scents so plaintive as to be nearly musical.

"Light a match," she whispered.  "I want to see you."

Scratch!  Flare!

The night and the scarred trees were like scenery in a play, and to be there with Eleanor, shadowy and unreal, seemed somehow oddly familiar.  Amory thought how it was only the past that ever seemed strange and unbelievable.  The match went out.

"It's black as pitch."

"We're just voices now," murmured Eleanor, "little lonesome voices.  Light another."

"That was my last match."

Suddenly he caught her in his arms.

"You are mine--you know you're mine!" he cried wildly... the moonlight twisted in through the vines and listened... the fireflies hung upon their whispers as if to win his glance from the glory of their eyes.

*****

THE END OF SUMMER

"No wind is stirring in the grass; not one wind stirs... the water in the hidden pools, as glass, fronts the full moon and so inters the golden token in its icy mass," chanted Eleanor to the trees that skeletoned the body of the night.  "Isn't it ghostly here?  If you can hold your horse's feet up, let's cut through the woods and find the hidden pools."

Image courtesy of Peter Alfred Hess.


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