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

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.

"It's after one, and you'll get the devil," he objected, "and I don't know enough about horses to put one away in the pitch dark."

"Shut up, you old fool," she whispered irrelevantly, and, leaning over, she patted him lazily with her riding-crop.  "You can leave your old plug in our stable and I'll send him over to-morrow."

"But my uncle has got to drive me to the station with this old plug at seven o'clock."

"Don't be a spoil-sport--remember, you have a tendency toward wavering that prevents you from being the entire light of my life."

Amory drew his horse up close beside, and, leaning toward her, grasped her hand.

"Say I am--quick, or I'll pull you over and make you ride behind me."

She looked up and smiled and shook her head excitedly.

"Oh, do!--or rather, don't!  Why are all the exciting things so uncomfortable, like fighting and exploring and ski-ing in Canada?  By the way, we're going to ride up Harper's Hill.  I think that comes in our programme about five o'clock."

"You little devil," Amory growled.  "You're going to make me stay up all night and sleep in the train like an immigrant all day to-morrow, going back to New York."

"Hush! some one's coming along the road--let's go!  Whoo-ee-oop!"  And with a shout that probably gave the belated traveller a series of shivers, she turned her horse into the woods and Amory followed slowly, as he had followed her all day for three weeks.

The summer was over, but he had spent the days in watching Eleanor, a graceful, facile Manfred, build herself intellectual and imaginative pyramids while she revelled in the artificialities of the temperamental teens and they wrote poetry at the dinner-table.

When Vanity kissed Vanity, a hundred happy Junes ago, he
pondered o'er her breathlessly, and, that all men might ever
know, he rhymed her eyes with life and death:

"Thru Time I'll save my love!" he said... yet Beauty
vanished with his breath, and, with her lovers, she was dead...

--Ever his wit and not her eyes, ever his art and not her hair:

"Who'd learn a trick in rhyme, be wise and pause before his
sonnet there"...  So all my words, however true, might sing
you to a thousandth June, and no one ever know that you were
Beauty for an afternoon.

So he wrote one day, when he pondered how coldly we thought of the "Dark Lady of the Sonnets," and how little we remembered her as the great man wanted her remembered.  For what Shakespeare must have desired, to have been able to write with such divine despair, was that the lady should live... and now we have no real interest in her....  The irony of it is that if he had cared more for the poem than for the lady the sonnet would be only obvious, imitative rhetoric and no one would ever have read it after twenty years....

This was the last night Amory ever saw Eleanor.  He was leaving in the morning and they had agreed to take a long farewell trot by the cold moonlight.  She wanted to talk, she said--perhaps the last time in her life that she could be rational (she meant pose with comfort).  So they had turned into the woods and rode for half an hour with scarcely a word, except when she whispered "Damn!" at a bothersome branch--whispered it as no other girl was ever able to whisper it.  Then they started up Harper's Hill, walking their tired horses.

"Good Lord!  It's quiet here!" whispered Eleanor; "much more lonesome than the woods."

"I hate woods," Amory said, shuddering.  "Any kind of foliage or underbrush at night.  Out here it's so broad and easy on the spirit."

"The long slope of a long hill."

"And the cold moon rolling moonlight down it."

"And thee and me, last and most important."

It was quiet that night--the straight road they followed up to the edge of the cliff knew few footsteps at any time.  Only an occasional negro cabin, silver-gray in the rock-ribbed moonlight, broke the long line of bare ground; behind lay the black edge of the woods like a dark frosting on white cake, and ahead the sharp, high horizon.  It was much colder--so cold that it settled on them and drove all the warm nights from their minds.

Image courtesy of Peter Alfred Hess.

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