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

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.

Amory was willing, if he could get in right away.

"You'll find the key in the office; the rooms are in my name."

Declining further locomotion or further stimulation, Amory left the car and sauntered back along the board walk to the hotel.

He was in an eddy again, a deep, lethargic gulf, without desire to work or write, love or dissipate.  For the first time in his life he rather longed for death to roll over his generation, obliterating their petty fevers and struggles and exultations.  His youth seemed never so vanished as now in the contrast between the utter loneliness of this visit and that riotous, joyful party of four years before.  Things that had been the merest commonplaces of his life then, deep sleep, the sense of beauty around him, all desire, had flown away and the gaps they left were filled only with the great listlessness of his disillusion.

"To hold a man a woman has to appeal to the worst in him."  This sentence was the thesis of most of his bad nights, of which he felt this was to be one.  His mind had already started to play variations on the subject.  Tireless passion, fierce jealousy, longing to possess and crush--these alone were left of all his love for Rosalind; these remained to him as payment for the loss of his youth--bitter calomel under the thin sugar of love's exaltation.

In his room he undressed and wrapping himself in blankets to keep out the chill October air drowsed in an armchair by the open window.

He remembered a poem he had read months before:

"Oh staunch old heart who toiled so long for me,
I waste my years sailing along the sea--"

Yet he had no sense of waste, no sense of the present hope that waste implied.  He felt that life had rejected him.

"Rosalind!  Rosalind!"  He poured the words softly into the half-darkness until she seemed to permeate the room; the wet salt breeze filled his hair with moisture, the rim of a moon seared the sky and made the curtains dim and ghostly.  He fell asleep.

When he awoke it was very late and quiet.  The blanket had slipped partly off his shoulders and he touched his skin to find it damp and cold.

Then he became aware of a tense whispering not ten feet away.

He became rigid.

"Don't make a sound!"  It was Alec's voice.  "Jill--do you hear me?"

"Yes--" breathed very low, very frightened.  They were in the bathroom.

Then his ears caught a louder sound from somewhere along the corridor outside.  It was a mumbling of men's voices and a repeated muffled rapping.  Amory threw off the blankets and moved close to the bathroom door.

"My God!" came the girl's voice again.  "You'll have to let them in."

"Sh!"

Suddenly a steady, insistent knocking began at Amory's hall door and simultaneously out of the bathroom came Alec, followed by the vermilion-lipped girl.  They were both clad in pajamas.

"Amory!" an anxious whisper.

"What's the trouble?"

"It's house detectives.  My God, Amory--they're just looking for a test-case--"

"Well, better let them in."

"You don't understand.  They can get me under the Mann Act."

The girl followed him slowly, a rather miserable, pathetic figure in the darkness.

Amory tried to plan quickly.

"You make a racket and let them in your room," he suggested anxiously, "and I'll get her out by this door."

"They're here too, though.  They'll watch this door."

"Can't you give a wrong name?"

"No chance.  I registered under my own name; besides, they'd trail the auto license number."

"Say you're married."

"Jill says one of the house detectives knows her."

The girl had stolen to the bed and tumbled upon it; lay there listening wretchedly to the knocking which had grown gradually to a pounding.  Then came a man's voice, angry and imperative:

"Open up or we'll break the door in!"

In the silence when this voice ceased Amory realized that there were other things in the room besides people... over and around the figure crouched on the bed there hung an aura, gossamer as a moonbeam, tainted as stale, weak wine, yet a horror, diffusively brooding already over the three of them... and over by the window among the stirring curtains stood something else, featureless and indistinguishable, yet strangely familiar....  Simultaneously two great cases presented themselves side by side to Amory; all that took place in his mind, then, occupied in actual time less than ten seconds.

Image courtesy of Peter Alfred Hess.

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