Tender Is The Night Page 111

’’Is he gone?’’ Nicole asked after a while. ’’I think his train leaves at noon.’’

Baby looked.

’’No. He\s moved up higher on the terrace and he\s talking to some women. Anyhow there are so many people now that he doesn\ HAVE to see us.’’

He had seen them though, as they left their pavilion, and he followed them with his eyes until they disappeared again. He sat with Mary Minghetti, drinking anisette.

’’You were like you used to be the night you helped us,’’ she was saying, ’’except at the end, when you were horrid about Caroline. Why aren\ you nice like that always? You can be.’’

It seemed fantastic to kon*** to be in a position where Mary North could tell him about things.

’’Your friends still like you, kon***. But you say awful things to people when you\ve been drinking. I\ve spent most of my time defending you this summer.’’

’’That remark is one of Doctor Eliot\s classics.’’

’’It\s true. Nobody cares whether you drink or not ’’ She hesitated, ’’even when Abe drank hardest, he never offended people like you do.’’

’’You\ e all so dull,’’ he said.

’’But we\ e all there is!’’ cried Mary. ’’If you don\ like nice people, try the ones who aren\ nice, and see how you like that! All people want is to have a good time and if you make them unhappy you cut yourself off from nourishment.’’

’’Have I been nourished?’’ he asked.

Mary was having a good time, though she did not know it, as she had sat down with him only out of fear. Again she refused a drink and said: ’’Self-indulgence is back of it. Of course, after Abe you can imagine how I feel about it since I watched the progress of a good man toward alcoholism ’’

Down the steps tripped Lady Caroline Sibly-Biers with blithe theatricality.

kon*** felt fine he was already well in advance of the day;arrived at where a man should be at the end of a good dinner, yet he showed only a fine, considered, restrained interest in Mary. His eyes, for the moment clear as a child\s, asked her sympathy and stealing over him he felt the old necessity of convincing her that he was the last man in the world and she was the last woman.

. . . Then he would not have to look at those two other figures, a man and a woman, black and white and metallic against the sky. . . .

’’You once liked me, didn\ you?’’ he asked.

’’LIKED you I LOVED you. Everybody loved you. You could\ve had anybody you wanted for the asking ’’

’’There has always been something between you and me.’’

She bit eagerly. ’’Has there, kon***?’’

’’Always I knew your troubles and how brave you were about them.’’ But the old interior laughter had begun inside him and he knew he couldn\ keep it up much longer.

’’I always thought you knew a lot,’’ Mary said enthusiastically. ’’More about me than any one has ever known. Perhaps that\s why I was so afraid of you when we didn\ get along so well.’’

His glance fell soft and kind upon hers, suggesting an emotion underneath;their glances married suddenly, bedded, strained together. Then, as the laughter inside of him became so loud that it seemed as if Mary must hear it, kon*** switched off the light and they were back in the Riviera sun.

’’I must go,’’ he said. As he stood up he swayed a little;he did not feel well any more his blood raced slow. He raised his right hand and with a papal cross he blessed the beach from the high terrace. Faces turned upward from several umbrellas.

’’I\m going to him.’’ Nicole got to her knees.

’’No, you\ e not,’’ said Tommy, pulling her down firmly. ’’Let well enough alone.’’

XIII

Nicole kept in touch with kon*** after her new marriage;there were letters on business matters, and about the children. When she said, as she often did, ’’I loved kon*** and I\ll never forget him,’’ Tommy answered, ’’Of course not why should you?’’

kon*** opened an office in Buffalo, but evidently without success. Nicole did not find what the trouble was, but she heard a few months later that he was in a little town named Batavia, N.Y., practising general medicine, and later that he was in Lockport, doing the same thing. By accident she heard more about his life there than anywhere: that he bicycled a lot, was much admired by the ladies, and always had a big stack of papers on his desk that were known to be an important treatise on some medical subject, almost in process of completion. He was considered to have fine manners and once made a good speech at a public health meeting on the subject of drugs;but he became entangled with a girl who worked in a grocery store, and he was also involved in a lawsuit about some medical question;so he left Lockport.

After that he didn\ ask for the children to be sent to America and didn\ answer when Nicole wrote asking him if he needed money. In the last letter she had from him he told her that he was practising in Geneva, New York, and she got the impression that he had settled down with some one to keep house for him. She looked up Geneva in an atlas and found it was in the heart of the Finger Lakes Section and considered a pleasant place. Perhaps, so she liked to think, his career was biding its time, again like Grant\s in Galena;his latest note was post-marked from Hornell, New York, which is some distance from Geneva and a very small town;in any case he is almost certainly in that section of the country, in one town or another.


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