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ONE TRIP ABROAD


by


F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)


Saturday Evening Post (11 October 1930)



In the afternoon the air became black with locusts, and some of the
women shrieked, sinking to the floor of the motorbus and covering
their hair with traveling rugs.  The locusts were coming north,
eating everything in their path, which was not so much in that part
of the world; they were flying silently and in straight lines,
flakes of black snow.  But none struck the windshield or tumbled
into the car, and presently humorists began holding out their
hands, trying to catch some.  After ten minutes the cloud thinned
out, passed, and the women emerged from the blankets, disheveled
and feeling silly.  And everyone talked together.

Everyone talked; it would have been absurd not to talk after having
been through a swarm of locusts on the edge of the Sahara.  The
Smyrna-American talked to the British widow going down to Biskra to
have one last fling with an as-yet-unencountered sheik.  The member
of the San Francisco Stock Exchange talked shyly to the author.
"Aren't you an author?" he said.  The father and daughter from
Wilmington talked to the cockney airman who was going to fly to
Timbuctoo.  Even the French chauffeur turned about and explained in
a loud, clear voice:  "Bumblebees," which sent the trained nurse
from New York into shriek after shriek of hysterical laughter.

Amongst the unsubtle rushing together of the travelers there was
one interchange more carefully considered.  Mr. and Mrs. Liddell
Miles, turning as one person, smiled and spoke to the young
American couple in the seat behind:

"Didn't catch any in your hair?"

The young couple smiled back politely.

"No.  We survived that plague."

They were in their twenties, and there was still a pleasant touch
of bride and groom upon them.  A handsome couple; the man rather
intense and sensitive, the girl arrestingly light of hue in eyes
and hair, her face without shadows, its living freshness modulated
by a lovely confident calm.  Mr. and Mrs. Miles did not fail to
notice their air of good breeding, of a specifically "swell"
background, expressed both by their unsophistication and by their
ingrained reticence that was not stiffness.  If they held aloof, it
was because they were sufficient to each other, while Mr. and Mrs.
Miles' aloofness toward the other passengers was a conscious mask,
a social attitude, quite as public an affair in its essence as the
ubiquitous advances of the Smyrna-American, who was snubbed by all.

The Mileses had, in fact, decided that the young couple were
"possible" and, bored with themselves, were frankly approaching
them.

"Have you been to Africa before?  It's been so utterly fascinating!
Are you going on to Tunis?"

The Mileses, if somewhat worn away inside by fifteen years of a
particular set in Paris, had undeniable style, even charm, and
before the evening arrival at the little oasis town of Bou Saada
they had all four become companionable.  They uncovered mutual
friends in New York and, meeting for a cocktail in the bar of the
Hotel Transatlantique, decided to have dinner together.

As the young Kellys came downstairs later, Nicole was conscious of
a certain regret that they had accepted, realizing that now they
were probably committed to seeing a certain amount of their new
acquaintances as far as Constantine, where their routes diverged.

In the eight months of their marriage she had been so very happy
that it seemed like spoiling something.  On the Italian liner that
had brought them to Gibraltar they had not joined the groups that
leaned desperately on one another in the bar; instead, they
seriously studied French, and Nelson worked on business contingent
on his recent inheritance of half a million dollars.  Also he
painted a picture of a smokestack.  When one member of the gay
crowd in the bar disappeared permanently into the Atlantic just
this side of the Azores, the young Kellys were almost glad, for it
justified their aloof attitude.

But there was another reason Nicole was sorry they had committed
themselves.  She spoke to Nelson about it:  "I passed that couple
in the hall just now."

"Who--the Mileses?"

"No, that young couple--about our age--the ones that were on the
other motorbus, that we thought looked so nice, in Bir Rabalou
after lunch, in the camel market."

"They did look nice."

"Charming," she said emphatically; "the girl and man, both.  I'm
almost sure I've met the girl somewhere before."

The couple referred to were sitting across the room at dinner, and
Nicole found her eyes drawn irresistibly toward them.  They, too,
now had companions, and again Nicole, who had not talked to a girl
of her own age for two months, felt a faint regret.  The Mileses,
being formally sophisticated and frankly snobbish, were a different
matter.  They had been to an alarming number of places and seemed
to know all the flashing phantoms of the newspapers.

They dined on the hotel veranda under a sky that was low and full
of the presence of a strange and watchful God; around the corners
of the hotel the night already stirred with the sounds of which
they had so often read but that were even so hysterically
unfamiliar--drums from Senegal, a native flute, the selfish,
effeminate whine of a camel, the Arabs pattering past in shoes made
of old automobile tires, the wail of Magian prayer.

At the desk in the hotel, a fellow passenger was arguing
monotonously with the clerk about the rate of exchange, and the
inappropriateness added to the detachment which had increased
steadily as they went south.

Mrs. Miles was the first to break the lingering silence; with a
sort of impatience she pulled them with her, in from the night and
up to the table.

"We really should have dressed.  Dinner's more amusing if people
dress, because they feel differently in formal clothes.  The
English know that."

"Dress here?" her husband objected.  "I'd feel like that man in the
ragged dress suit we passed today, driving the flock of sheep."

"I always feel like a tourist if I'm not dressed."

"Well, we are, aren't we?" asked Nelson.

"I don't consider myself a tourist.  A tourist is somebody who gets
up early and goes to cathedrals and talks about scenery."

Nicole and Nelson, having seen all the official sights from Fez to
Algiers, and taken reels of moving pictures and felt improved,
confessed themselves, but decided that their experiences on the
trip would not interest Mrs. Miles.

"Every place is the same," Mrs. Miles continued.  "The only thing
that matters is who's there.  New scenery is fine for half an hour,
but after that you want your own kind to see.  That's why some
places have a certain vogue, and then the vogue changes and the
people move on somewhere else.  The place itself really never
matters."

"But doesn't somebody first decide that the place is nice?"
objected Nelson.  "The first ones go there because they like the
place."

"Where were you going this spring?" Mrs. Miles asked.

"We thought of San Remo, or maybe Sorrento.  We've never been to
Europe before."

"My children, I know both Sorrento and San Remo, and you won't
stand either of them for a week.  They're full of the most awful
English, reading the Daily Mail and waiting for letters and talking
about the most incredibly dull things.  You might as well go to
Brighton or Bournemouth and buy a white poodle and a sunshade and
walk on the pier.  How long are you staying in Europe?"

"We don't know; perhaps several years."  Nicole hesitated.  "Nelson
came into a little money, and we wanted a change.  When I was
young, my father had asthma and I had to live in the most
depressing health resorts with him for years; and Nelson was in the
fur business in Alaska and he loathed it; so when we were free we
came abroad.  Nelson's going to paint and I'm going to study
singing."  She looked triumphantly at her husband.  "So far, it's
been absolutely gorgeous."

Mrs. Miles decided, from the evidence of the younger woman's
clothes, that it was quite a bit of money, and their enthusiasm was
infectious.

"You really must go to Biarritz," she advised them.  "Or else come
to Monte Carlo."

"They tell me there's a great show here," said Miles, ordering
champagne.  "The Ouled Naïls.  The concierge says they're some kind
of tribe of girls who come down from the mountains and learn to be
dancers, and what not, till they've collected enough gold to go
back to their mountains and marry.  Well, they give a performance
tonight."

Walking over to the Café of the Ouled Naïls afterward, Nicole
regretted that she and Nelson were not strolling alone through the
ever-lower, ever-softer, ever-brighter night.  Nelson had
reciprocated the bottle of champagne at dinner, and neither of them
was accustomed to so much.  As they drew near the sad flute she
didn't want to go inside, but rather to climb to the top of a low
hill where a white mosque shone clear as a planet through the
night.  Life was better than any show; closing in toward Nelson,
she pressed his hand.

The little cave of a café was filled with the passengers from the
two busses.  The girls--light-brown, flat-nosed Berbers with fine,
deep-shaded eyes--were already doing each one her solo on the
platform.  They wore cotton dresses, faintly reminiscent of
Southern mammies; under these their bodies writhed in a slow
nautch, culminating in a stomach dance, with silver belts bobbing
wildly and their strings of real gold coins tinkling on their necks
and arms.  The flute player was also a comedian; he danced,
burlesquing the girls.  The drummer, swathed in goatskins like a
witch doctor, was a true black from the Sudan.

Through the smoke of cigarettes each girl went in turn through the
finger movement, like piano playing in the air--outwardly facile,
yet, after a few moments, so obviously exacting--and then through
the very simply languid yet equally precise steps of the feet--
these were but preparation to the wild sensuality of the culminated
dance.

Afterward there was a lull.  Though the performance seemed not
quite over, most of the audience gradually got up to go, but there
was a whispering in the air.

"What is it?" Nicole asked her husband.

"Why, I believe--it appears that for a consideration the Ouled
Naïls dance in more or less--ah--Oriental style--in very little
except jewelry."

"Oh."

"We're all staying," Mr. Miles assured her jovially.  "After all,
we're here to see the real customs and manners of the country; a
little prudishness shouldn't stand in our way."

Most of the men remained, and several of the women.  Nicole stood
up suddenly.

"I'll wait outside," she said.

"Why not stay, Nicole?  After all, Mrs. Miles is staying."

The flute player was making preliminary flourishes.  Upon the
raised dais two pale brown children of perhaps fourteen were taking
off their cotton dresses.  For an instant Nicole hesitated, torn
between repulsion and the desire not to appear to be a prig.  Then
she saw another young American woman get up quickly and start for
the door.  Recognizing the attractive young wife from the other
bus, her own decision came quickly and she followed.

Nelson hurried after her.  "I'm going if you go," he said, but with
evident reluctance.

"Please don't bother.  I'll wait with the guide outside."

"Well--"  The drum was starting.  He compromised:  "I'll only stay
a minute.  I want to see what it's like."

Waiting in the fresh night, she found that the incident had hurt
her--Nelson's not coming with her at once, giving as an argument
the fact that Mrs. Miles was staying.  From being hurt, she grew
angry and made signs to the guide that she wanted to return to the
hotel.

Twenty minutes later, Nelson appeared, angry with the anxiety at
finding her gone, as well as to hide his guilt at having left her.
Incredulous with themselves, they were suddenly in a quarrel.

Much later, when there were no sounds at all in Bou Saada and the
nomads in the market place were only motionless bundles rolled up
in their burnouses, she was asleep upon his shoulder.  Life is
progressive, no matter what our intentions, but something was
harmed, some precedent of possible nonagreement was set.  It was a
love match, though, and it could stand a great deal.  She and
Nelson had passed lonely youths, and now they wanted the taste and
smell of the living world; for the present they were finding it in
each other.

A month later they were in Sorrento, where Nicole took singing
lessons and Nelson tried to paint something new into the Bay of
Naples.  It was the existence they had planned and often read
about.  But they found, as so many have found, that the charm of
idyllic interludes depends upon one person's "giving the party"--
which is to say, furnishing the background, the experience, the
patience, against which the other seems to enjoy again the spells
of pastoral tranquillity recollected from childhood.  Nicole and
Nelson were at once too old and too young, and too American, to
fall into immediate soft agreement with a strange land.  Their
vitality made them restless, for as yet his painting had no
direction and her singing no immediate prospect of becoming
serious.  They said they were not "getting anywhere"--the evenings
were long, so they began to drink a lot of vin de Capri at dinner.

The English owned the hotel.  They were aged, come South for good
weather and tranquillity; Nelson and Nicole resented the mild tenor
of their days.  Could people be content to talk eternally about the
weather, promenade the same walks, face the same variant of
macaroni at dinner month after month?  They grew bored, and
Americans bored are already in sight of excitement.  Things came to
head all in one night.

Over a flask of wine at dinner they decided to go to Paris, settle
in an apartment and work seriously.  Paris promised metropolitan
diversion, friends of their own age, a general intensity that Italy
lacked.  Eager with new hopes, they strolled into the salon after
dinner, when, for the tenth time, Nelson noticed an ancient and
enormous mechanical piano and was moved to try it.

Across the salon sat the only English people with whom they had had
any connection--Gen. Sir Evelyne Fragelle and Lady Fragelle.  The
connection had been brief and unpleasant--seeing them walking out
of the hotel in peignoirs to swim, she had announced, over quite a
few yards of floor space, that it was disgusting and shouldn't be
allowed.

But that was nothing compared with her response to the first
terrific bursts of sound from the electric piano.  As the dust of
years trembled off the keyboard at the vibration, she shot
galvanically forward with the sort of jerk associated with the
electric chair.  Somewhat stunned himself by the sudden din of
Waiting for the Robert E. Lee, Nelson had scarcely sat down when
she projected herself across the room, her train quivering behind
her, and, without glancing at the Kellys, turned off the
instrument.

It was one of those gestures that are either plainly justified, or
else outrageous.  For a moment Nelson hesitated uncertainly; then,
remembering Lady Fragelle's arrogant remark about his bathing suit,
he returned to the instrument in her still-billowing wake and
turned it on again.

The incident had become international.  The eyes of the entire
salon fell eagerly upon the protagonists, watching for the next
move.  Nicole hurried after Nelson, urging him to let the matter
pass, but it was too late.  From the outraged English table there
arose, joint by joint, Gen. Sir Evelyne Fragelle, faced with
perhaps his most crucial situation since the relief of Ladysmith.

"'T'lee outrageous!--'t'lee outrageous!"

"I beg your pardon," said Nelson.

"Here for fifteen years!" screamed Sir Evelyne to himself.  "Never
heard of anyone doing such a thing before!"

"I gathered that this was put here for the amusement of the
guests."

Scorning to answer, Sir Evelyne knelt, reached for the catch,
pushed it the wrong way, whereupon the speed and volume of the
instrument tripled until they stood in a wild pandemonium of sound;
Sir Evelyne livid with military emotions, Nelson on the point of
maniacal laughter.

In a moment the firm hand of the hotel manager settled the matter;
the instrument gulped and stopped, trembling a little from its
unaccustomed outburst, leaving behind it a great silence in which
Sir Evelyne turned to the manager.

"Most outrageous affair ever heard of in my life.  My wife turned
it off once, and he"--this was his first acknowledgment of Nelson's
identity as distinct from the instrument--"he put it on again!"

"This is a public room in a hotel," Nelson protested.  "The
instrument is apparently here to be used."

"Don't get in an argument," Nicole whispered.  "They're old."

But Nelson said, "If there's any apology, it's certainly due to
me."

Sir Evelyne's eye was fixed menacingly upon the manager, waiting
for him to do his duty.  The latter thought of Sir Evelyne's
fifteen years of residence, and cringed.

"It is not the habitude to play the instrument in the evening.  The
clients are each one quiet on his or her table."

"American cheek!" snapped Sir Evelyne.

"Very well," Nelson said; "we'll relieve the hotel of our presence
tomorrow."

As a reaction from this incident, as a sort of protest against Sir
Evelyne Fragelle, they went not to Paris but to Monte Carlo after
all.  They were through with being alone.


II


A little more than two years after the Kellys' first visit to Monte
Carlo, Nicole woke up one morning into what, though it bore the
same name, had become to her a different place altogether.

In spite of hurried months in Paris or Biarritz, it was now home to
them.  They had a villa, they had a large acquaintance among the
spring and summer crowd--a crowd which, naturally, did not include
people on charted trips or the shore parties from Mediterranean
cruises; these latter had become for them "tourists."

They loved the Riviera in full summer with many friends there and
the nights open and full of music.  Before the maid drew the
curtains this morning to shut out the glare, Nicole saw from her
window the yacht of T. F. Golding, placid among the swells of the
Monacan Bay, as if constantly bound on a romantic voyage not
dependent upon actual motion.

The yacht had taken the slow tempo of the coast; it had gone no
farther than to Cannes and back all summer, though it might have
toured the world.  The Kellys were dining on board that night.

Nicole spoke excellent French; she had five new evening dresses and
four others that would do; she had her husband; she had two men in
love with her, and she felt sad for one of them.  She had her
pretty face.  At 10:30 she was meeting a third man, who was just
beginning to be in love with her "in a harmless way."  At one she
was having a dozen charming people to luncheon.  All that.

"I'm happy," she brooded toward the bright blinds.  "I'm young and
good-looking, and my name is often in the paper as having been here
and there, but really I don't care about shi-shi.  I think it's all
awfully silly, but if you do want to see people, you might as well
see the chic, amusing ones; and if people call you a snob, it's
envy, and they know it and everybody knows it."

She repeated the substance of this to Oscar Dane on the Mont Agel
golf course two hours later, and he cursed her quietly.

"Not at all," he said.  "You're just getting to be an old snob.  Do
you call that crowd of drunks you run with amusing people?  Why,
they're not even very swell.  They're so hard that they've shifted
down through Europe like nails in a sack of wheat, till they stick
out of it a little into the Mediterranean Sea."

Annoyed, Nicole fired a name at him, but he answered:  "Class C.  A
good solid article for beginners."

"The Colbys--anyway, her."

"Third flight."

"Marquis and Marquise de Kalb."

"If she didn't happen to take dope and he didn't have other
peculiarities."

"Well, then, where are the amusing people?" she demanded
impatiently.

"Off by themselves somewhere.  They don't hunt in herds, except
occasionally."

"How about you?  You'd snap up an invitation from every person I
named.  I've heard stories about you wilder than any you can make
up.  There's not a man that's known you six months that would take
your check for ten dollars.  You're a sponge and a parasite and
everything--"

"Shut up for a minute," he interrupted.  "I don't want to spoil
this drive. . . .  I just don't like to see you kid yourself," he
continued.  "What passes with you for international society is just
about as hard to enter nowadays as the public rooms at the Casino;
and if I can make my living by sponging off it, I'm still giving
twenty times more than I get.  We dead heats are about the only
people in it with any stuff, and we stay with it because we have
to."

She laughed, liking him immensely, wondering how angry Nelson would
be when he found that Oscar had walked off with his nail scissors
and his copy of the New York Herald this morning.

"Anyhow," she thought afterward, as she drove home toward luncheon,
"we're getting out of it all soon, and we'll be serious and have a
baby.  After this last summer."

Stopping for a moment at a florist's, she saw a young woman coming
out with an armful of flowers.  The young woman glanced at her over
the heap of color, and Nicole perceived that she was extremely
smart, and then that her face was familiar.  It was someone she had
known once, but only slightly; the name had escaped her, so she did
not nod, and forgot the incident until that afternoon.

They were twelve for luncheon:  The Goldings' party from the yacht,
Liddell and Cardine Miles, Mr. Dane--seven different nationalities
she counted; among them an exquisite young French-woman, Madame
Delauney, whom Nicole referred to lightly as "Nelson's girl."  Noel
Delauney was perhaps her closest friend; when they made up
foursomes for golf or for trips, she paired off with Nelson; but
today, as Nicole introduced her to someone as "Nelson's girl," the
bantering phrase filled Nicole with distaste.

She said aloud at luncheon:  "Nelson and I are going to get away
from it all."

Everybody agreed that they, too, were going to get away from it
all.

"It's all right for the English," someone said, "because they're
doing a sort of dance of death--you know, gayety in the doomed
fort, with the Sepoys at the gate.  You can see it by their faces
when they dance--the intensity.  They know it and they want it, and
they don't see any future.  But you Americans, you're having a
rotten time.  If you want to wear the green hat or the crushed hat,
or whatever it is, you always have to get a little tipsy."

"We're going to get away from it all," Nicole said firmly, but
something within her argued:  "What a pity--this lovely blue sea,
this happy time."  What came afterward?  Did one just accept a
lessening of tension?  It was somehow Nelson's business to answer
that.  His growing discontent that he wasn't getting anywhere ought
to explode into a new life for both of them, or rather a new hope
and content with life.  That secret should be his masculine
contribution.

"Well, children, good-by."

"It was a great luncheon."

"Don't forget about getting away from it all."

"See you when--"

The guests walked down the path toward their cars.  Only Oscar,
just faintly flushed on liqueurs, stood with Nicole on the veranda,
talking on and on about the girl he had invited up to see his stamp
collection.  Momentarily tired of people, impatient to be alone,
Nicole listened for a moment and then, taking a glass vase of
flowers from the luncheon table, went through the French windows
into the dark, shadowy villa, his voice following her as he talked
on and on out there.

It was when she crossed the first salon, still hearing Oscar's
monologue on the veranda, that she began to hear another voice in
the next room, cutting sharply across Oscar's voice.

"Ah, but kiss me again," it said, stopped; Nicole stopped, too,
rigid in the silence, now broken only by the voice on the porch.

"Be careful."  Nicole recognized the faint French accent of Noel
Delauney.

"I'm tired of being careful.  Anyhow, they're on the veranda."

"No, better the usual place."

"Darling, sweet darling."

The voice of Oscar Dane on the veranda grew weary and stopped and,
as if thereby released from her paralysis, Nicole took a step--
forward or backward, she did not know which.  At the sound of her
heel on the floor, she heard the two people in the next room
breaking swiftly apart.

Then she went in.  Nelson was lighting a cigarette; Noel, with her
back turned, was apparently hunting for hat or purse on a chair.
With blind horror rather than anger, Nicole threw, or rather pushed
away from her, the glass vase which she carried.  If at anyone, it
was at Nelson she threw it, but the force of her feeling had
entered the inanimate thing; it flew past him, and Noel Delauney,
just turning about, was struck full on the side of her head and
face.

"Say, there!" Nelson cried.  Noel sank slowly into the chair before
which she stood, her hand slowly rising to cover the side of her
face.  The jar rolled unbroken on the thick carpet, scattering its
flowers.

"You look out!"  Nelson was at Noel's side, trying to take the hand
away to see what had happened.

"C'est liquide," gasped Noel in a whisper.  "Est-ce que c'est le
sang?"

He forced her hand away, and cried breathlessly, "No, it's just
water!" and then, to Oscar, who had appeared in the doorway:  "Get
some cognac!" and to Nicole:  "You fool, you must be crazy!"

Nicole, breathing hard, said nothing.  When the brandy arrived,
there was a continuing silence, like that of people watching an
operation, while Nelson poured a glass down Noel's throat.  Nicole
signaled to Oscar for a drink, and, as if afraid to break the
silence without it, they all had a brandy.  Then Noel and Nelson
spoke at once:

"If you can find my hat--"

"This is the silliest--"

"--I shall go immediately."

"--thing I ever saw; I--"

They all looked at Nicole, who said:  "Have her car drive right up
to the door."  Oscar departed quickly.

"Are you sure you don't want to see a doctor?" asked Nelson
anxiously.

"I want to go."

A minute later, when the car had driven away, Nelson came in and
poured himself another glass of brandy.  A wave of subsiding
tension flowed over him, showing in his face; Nicole saw it, and
saw also his gathering will to make the best he could of it.

"I want to know just why you did that," he demanded.  "No, don't
go, Oscar."  He saw the story starting out into the world.

"What possible reason--"

"Oh, shut up!" snapped Nicole.

"If I kissed Noel, there's nothing so terrible about it.  It's of
absolutely no significance."

She made a contemptuous sound.  "I heard what you said to her."

"You're crazy."

He said it as if she were crazy, and wild rage filled her.

"You liar!  All this time pretending to be so square, and so
particular what I did, and all the time behind my back you've been
playing around with that little--"

She used a serious word, and as if maddened with the sound of it,
she sprang toward his chair.  In protection against this sudden
attack, he flung up his arm quickly, and the knuckles of his open
hand struck across the socket of her eye.  Covering her face with
her hand as Noel had done ten minutes previously, she fell sobbing
to the floor.

"Hasn't this gone far enough?" Oscar cried.

"Yes," admitted Nelson, "I guess it has."

"You go on out on the veranda and cool off."

He got Nicole to a couch and sat beside her, holding her hand.

"Brace up--brace up, baby," he said, over and over.  "What are you--
Jack Dempsey?  You can't go around hitting French women; they'll
sue you."

"He told her he loved her," she gasped hysterically.  "She said
she'd meet him at the same place. . . .  Has he gone there now?"

"He's out on the porch, walking up and down, sorry as the devil
that he accidentally hit you, and sorry he ever saw Noel Delauney."

"Oh, yes!"

"You might have heard wrong, and it doesn't prove a thing, anyhow."

After twenty minutes, Nelson came in suddenly and sank down on his
knees by the side of his wife.  Mr. Oscar Dane, reënforced in his
idea that he gave much more than he got, backed discreetly and far
from unwillingly to the door.

In another hour, Nelson and Nicole, arm in arm, emerged from their
villa and walked slowly down to the Café de Paris.  They walked
instead of driving, as if trying to return to the simplicity they
had once possessed, as if they were trying to unwind something that
had become visibly tangled.  Nicole accepted his explanations, not
because they were credible, but because she wanted passionately to
believe them.  They were both very quiet and sorry.

The Café de Paris was pleasant at that hour, with sunset drooping
through the yellow awnings and the red parasols as through stained
glass.  Glancing about, Nicole saw the young woman she had
encountered that morning.  She was with a man now, and Nelson
placed them immediately as the young couple they had seen in
Algeria, almost three years ago.

"They've changed," he commented.  "I suppose we have, too, but not
so much.  They're harder-looking and he looks dissipated.
Dissipation always shows in light eyes rather than in dark ones.
The girl is tout ce qu'il y a de chic, as they say, but there's a
hard look in her face too."

"I like her."

"Do you want me to go and ask them if they are that same couple?"

"No!  That'd be like lonesome tourists do.  They have their own
friends."

At that moment people were joining them at their table.

"Nelson, how about tonight?" Nicole asked a little later.  "Do you
think we can appear at the Goldings' after what's happened?"

"We not only can but we've got to.  If the story's around and we're
not there, we'll just be handing them a nice juicy subject of
conversation. . . .  Hello!  What on earth--"

Something strident and violent had happened across the café; a
woman screamed and the people at one table were all on their feet,
surging back and forth like one person.  Then the people at the
other tables were standing and crowding forward; for just a moment
the Kellys saw the face of the girl they had been watching, pale
now, and distorted with anger.  Panic-stricken, Nicole plucked at
Nelson's sleeve.

"I want to get out.  I can't stand any more today.  Take me home.
Is everybody going crazy?"

On the way home, Nelson glanced at Nicole's face and perceived with
a start that they were not going to dinner on the Goldings' yacht
after all.  For Nicole had the beginnings of a well-defined and
unmistakable black eye--an eye that by eleven o'clock would be
beyond the aid of all the cosmetics in the principality.  His heart
sank and he decided to say nothing about it until they reached
home.


III


There is some wise advice in the catechism about avoiding the
occasions of sin, and when the Kellys went up to Paris a month
later they made a conscientious list of the places they wouldn't
visit any more and the people they didn't want to see again.  The
places included several famous bars, all the night clubs except one
or two that were highly decorous, all the early-morning clubs of
every description, and all summer resorts that made whoopee for its
own sake--whoopee triumphant and unrestrained--the main attraction
of the season.

The people they were through with included three-fourths of those
with whom they had passed the last two years.  They did this not in
snobbishness, but for self-preservation, and not without a certain
fear in their hearts that they were cutting themselves off from
human contacts forever.

But the world is always curious, and people become valuable merely
for their inaccessibility.  They found that there were others in
Paris who were only interested in those who had separated from the
many.  The first crowd they had known was largely American, salted
with Europeans; the second was largely European, peppered with
Americans.  This latter crowd was "society," and here and there it
touched the ultimate milieu, made up of individuals of high
position, of great fortune, very occasionally of genius, and always
of power.  Without being intimate with the great, they made new
friends of a more conservative type.  Moreover, Nelson began to
paint again; he had a studio, and they visited the studios of
Brancusi and Leger and Deschamps.  It seemed that they were more
part of something than before, and when certain gaudy rendezvous
were mentioned, they felt a contempt for their first two years in
Europe, speaking of their former acquaintances as "that crowd" and
as "people who waste your time."

So, although they kept their rules, they entertained frequently at
home and they went out to the houses of others.  They were young
and handsome and intelligent; they came to know what did go and
what did not go, and adapted themselves accordingly.  Moreover,
they were naturally generous and willing, within the limits of
common sense, to pay.

When one went out one generally drank.  This meant little to
Nicole, who had a horror of losing her soigné air, losing a touch
of bloom or a ray of admiration, but Nelson, thwarted somewhere,
found himself quite as tempted to drink at these small dinners as
in the more frankly rowdy world.  He was not a drunk, he did
nothing conspicuous or sodden, but he was no longer willing to go
out socially without the stimulus of liquor.  It was with the idea
of bringing him to a serious and responsible attitude that Nicole
decided after a year in Paris, that the time had come to have a
baby.

This was coincidental with their meeting Count Chiki Sarolai.  He
was an attractive relic of the Austrian court, with no fortune or
pretense to any, but with solid social and financial connections in
France.  His sister was married to the Marquis de la Clos
d'Hirondelle, who, in addition to being of the ancient noblesse,
was a successful banker in Paris.  Count Chiki roved here and
there, frankly sponging, rather like Oscar Dane, but in a different
sphere.

His penchant was Americans; he hung on their words with a pathetic
eagerness, as if they would sooner or later let slip their
mysterious formula for making money.  After a casual meeting, his
interest gravitated to the Kellys.  During Nicole's months of
waiting he was in the house continually, tirelessly interested in
anything that concerned American crime, slang, finance or manners.
He came in for a luncheon or dinner when he had no other place to
go, and with tacit gratitude he persuaded his sister to call on
Nicole, who was immensely flattered.

It was arranged that when Nicole went to the hospital he would stay
at the appartement and keep Nelson company--an arrangement of which
Nicole didn't approve, since they were inclined to drink together.
But the day on which it was decided, he arrived with news of one of
his brother-in-law's famous canal-boat parties on the Seine, to
which the Kellys were to be invited and which, conveniently enough,
was to occur three weeks after the arrival of the baby.  So, when
Nicole moved out to the American Hospital Count Chiki moved in.

The baby was a boy.  For a while Nicole forgot all about people and
their human status and their value.  She even wondered at the fact
that she had become such a snob, since everything seemed trivial
compared with the new individual that, eight times a day, they
carried to her breast.

After two weeks she and the baby went back to the apartment, but
Chiki and his valet stayed on.  It was understood, with that
subtlety the Kellys had only recently begun to appreciate, that he
was merely staying until after his brother-in-law's party, but the
apartment was crowded and Nicole wished him gone.  But her old
idea, that if one had to see people they might as well be the best,
was carried out in being invited to the De la Clos d'Hirondelles'.

As she lay in her chaise longue the day before the event, Chiki
explained the arrangements, in which he had evidently aided.

"Everyone who arrives must drink two cocktails in the American
style before they can come aboard--as a ticket of admission."

"But I thought that very fashionable French--Faubourg St. Germain
and all that--didn't drink cocktails."

"Oh, but my family is very modern.  We adopt many American
customs."

"Who'll be there?"

"Everyone!  Everyone in Paris."

Great names swam before her eyes.  Next day she could not resist
dragging the affair into conversation with her doctor.  But she was
rather offended at the look of astonishment and incredulity that
came into his eyes.

"Did I understand you aright?" he demanded.  "Did I understand you
to say that you were going to a ball tomorrow?"

"Why, yes," she faltered.  "Why not?"

"My dear lady, you are not going to stir out of the house for two
more weeks; you are not going to dance or do anything strenuous for
two more after that."

"That's ridiculous!" she cried.  "It's been three weeks already!
Esther Sherman went to America after--"

"Never mind," he interrupted.  "Every case is different.  There is
a complication which makes it positively necessary for you to
follow my orders."

"But the idea is that I'll just go for two hours, because of course
I'll have to come home to Sonny--"

"You'll not go for two minutes."

She knew, from the seriousness of his tone, that he was right, but,
perversely, she did not mention the matter to Nelson.  She said,
instead, that she was tired, that possibly she might not go, and
lay awake that night measuring her disappointment against her fear.
She woke up for Sonny's first feeding, thinking to herself:  "But
if I just take ten steps from a limousine to a chair and just sit
half an hour--"

At the last minute the pale green evening dress from Callets,
draped across a chair in her bedroom, decided her.  She went.

Somewhere, during the shuffle and delay on the gangplank while the
guests went aboard and were challenged and drank down their
cocktails with attendant gayety, Nicole realized that she had made
a mistake.  There was, at any rate, no formal receiving line and,
after greeting their hosts, Nelson found her a chair on deck, where
presently her faintness disappeared.

Then she was glad she had come.  The boat was hung with fragile
lanterns, which blended with the pastels of the bridges and the
reflected stars in the dark Seine, like a child's dream out of the
Arabian Nights.  A crowd of hungry-eyed spectators were gathered on
the banks.  Champagne moved past in platoons like a drill of
bottles, while the music, instead of being loud and obtrusive,
drifted down from the upper deck like frosting dripping over a
cake.  She became aware presently that they were not the only
Americans there--across the deck were the Liddell Mileses, whom she
had not seen for several years.

Other people from that crowd were present, and she felt a faint
disappointment.  What if this was not the marquis' best party?  She
remembered her mother's second days at home.  She asked Chiki, who
was at her side, to point out celebrities, but when she inquired
about several people whom she associated with that set, he replied
vaguely that they were away, or coming later, or could not be
there.  It seemed to her that she saw across the room the girl who
had made the scene in the Café de Paris at Monte Carlo, but she
could not be sure, for with the faint almost imperceptible movement
of the boat, she realized that she was growing faint again.  She
sent for Nelson to take her home.

"You can come right back, of course.  You needn't wait for me,
because I'm going right to bed."

He left her in the hands of the nurse, who helped her upstairs and
aided her to undress quickly.

"I'm desperately tired," Nicole said.  "Will you put my pearls
away?"

"Where?"

"In the jewel box on the dressing table."

"I don't see it," said the nurse after a minute.

"Then it's in a drawer."

There was a thorough rummaging of the dressing table, without
result.

"But of course it's there."  Nicole attempted to rise, but fell
back, exhausted.  "Look for it, please, again.  Everything is in it--
all my mother's things and my engagement things."

"I'm sorry, Mrs. Kelly.  There's nothing in this room that answers
to that description."

"Wake up the maid."

The maid knew nothing; then, after a persistent cross-examination,
she did know something.  Count Sarolai's valet had gone out,
carrying his suitcase, half an hour after madame left the house.

Writhing in sharp and sudden pain, with a hastily summoned doctor
at her side, it seemed to Nicole hours before Nelson came home.
When he arrived, his face was deathly pale and his eyes were wild.
He came directly into her room.

"What do you think?" he said savagely.  Then he saw the doctor.
"Why, what's the matter?"

"Oh, Nelson, I'm sick as a dog and my jewel box is gone, and
Chiki's valet has gone.  I've told the police. . . .  Perhaps Chiki
would know where the man--"

"Chiki will never come in this house again," he said slowly.  "Do
you know whose party that was?  Have you got any idea whose party
that was?"  He burst into wild laughter.  "It was our party--our
party, do you understand?  We gave it--we didn't know it, but we
did."

"Maintenant, monsieur, il ne faut pas exciter madame--" the doctor
began.

"I thought it was odd when the marquis went home early, but I
didn't suspect till the end.  They were just guests--Chiki invited
all the people.  After it was over, the caterers and musicians
began to come up and ask me where to send their bills.  And that
damn Chiki had the nerve to tell me he thought I knew all the time.
He said that all he'd promised was that it would be his brother-in-
law's sort of party, and that his sister would be there.  He said
perhaps I was drunk, or perhaps I didn't understand French--as if
we'd ever talked anything but English to him."

"Don't pay!" she said.  "I wouldn't think of paying."

"So I said, but they're going to sue--the boat people and the
others.  They want twelve thousand dollars."

She relaxed suddenly.  "Oh, go away!" she cried.  "I don't care!
I've lost my jewels and I'm sick, sick!"


IV


This is the story of a trip abroad, and the geographical element
must not be slighted.  Having visited North Africa, Italy, the
Riviera, Paris and points in between, it was not surprising that
eventually the Kellys should go to Switzerland.  Switzerland is a
country where very few things begin, but many things end.

Though there was an element of choice in their other ports of call,
the Kellys went to Switzerland because they had to.  They had been
married a little more than four years when they arrived one spring
day at the lake that is the center of Europe--a placid, smiling
spot with pastoral hillsides, a backdrop of mountains and waters of
postcard blue, waters that are a little sinister beneath the
surface with all the misery that has dragged itself here from every
corner of Europe.  Weariness to recuperate and death to die.  There
are schools, too, and young people splashing at the sunny plages;
there is Bonivard's dungeon and Calvin's city, and the ghosts of
Byron and Shelley still sail the dim shores by night; but the Lake
Geneva that Nelson and Nicole came to was the dreary one of
sanatoriums and rest hotels.

For, as if by some profound sympathy that had continued to exist
beneath the unlucky destiny that had pursued their affairs, health
had failed them both at the same time; Nicole lay on the balcony of
a hotel coming slowly back to life after two successive operations,
while Nelson fought for life against jaundice in a hospital two
miles away.  Even after the reserve force of twenty-nine years had
pulled him through, there were months ahead during which he must
live quietly.  Often they wondered why, of all those who sought
pleasure over the face of Europe, this misfortune should have come
to them.

"There've been too many people in our lives," Nelson said.  "We've
never been able to resist people.  We were so happy the first year
when there weren't any people."

Nicole agreed.  "If we could ever be alone--really alone--we could
make up some kind of life for ourselves.  We'll try, won't we,
Nelson?"

But there were other days when they both wanted company
desperately, concealing it from each other.  Days when they eyed
the obese, the wasted, the crippled and the broken of all
nationalities who filled the hotel, seeking for one who might be
amusing.  It was a new life for them, turning on the daily visits
of their two doctors, the arrival of the mail and newspapers from
Paris, the little walk into the hillside village or occasionally
the descent by funicular to the pale resort on the lake, with its
Kursaal, its grass beach, its tennis clubs and sight-seeing busses.
They read Tauchnitz editions and yellow-jacketed Edgar Wallaces; at
a certain hour each day they watched the baby being given its bath;
three nights a week there was a tired and patient orchestra in the
lounge after dinner, that was all.

And sometimes there was a booming from the vine-covered hills on
the other side of the lake, which meant that cannons were shooting
at hail-bearing clouds, to save the vineyard from an approaching
storm; it came swiftly, first falling from the heavens and then
falling again in torrents from the mountains, washing loudly down
the roads and stone ditches; it came with a dark, frightening sky
and savage filaments of lightning and crashing, world-splitting
thunder, while ragged and destroyed clouds fled along before the
wind past the hotel.  The mountains and the lake disappeared
completely; the hotel crouched alone amid tumult and chaos and
darkness.

It was during such a storm, when the mere opening of a door
admitted a tornado of rain and wind into the hall, that the Kellys
for the first time in months saw someone they knew.  Sitting
downstairs with other victims of frayed nerves, they became aware
of two new arrivals--a man and woman whom they recognized as the
couple, first seen in Algiers, who had crossed their path several
times since.  A single unexpressed thought flashed through Nelson
and Nicole.  It seemed like destiny that at last here in this
desolate place they should know them, and watching, they saw other
couples eying them in the same tentative way.  Yet something held
the Kellys back.  Had they not just been complaining that there
were too many people in their lives?

Later, when the storm had dozed off into a quiet rain, Nicole found
herself near the girl on the glass veranda.  Under cover of reading
a book, she inspected the face closely.  It was an inquisitive
face, she saw at once, possibly calculating; the eyes, intelligent
enough, but with no peace in them, swept over people in a single
quick glance as though estimating their value.  "Terrible egoist,"
Nicole thought, with a certain distaste.  For the rest, the cheeks
were wan, and there were little pouches of ill health under the
eyes; these combining with a certain flabbiness of arms and legs to
give an impression of unwholesomeness.  She was dressed
expensively, but with a hint of slovenliness, as if she did not
consider the people of the hotel important.

On the whole, Nicole decided she did not like her; she was glad
that they had not spoken, but she was rather surprised that she had
not noticed these things when the girl crossed her path before.

Telling Nelson her impression at dinner, he agreed with her.

"I ran into the man in the bar, and I noticed we both took nothing
but mineral water, so I started to say something.  But I got a good
look at his face in the mirror and I decided not to.  His face is
so weak and self-indulgent that it's almost mean--the kind of face
that needs half a dozen drinks really to open the eyes and stiffen
the mouth up to normal."

After dinner the rain stopped and the night was fine outside.
Eager for the air, the Kellys wandered down into the dark garden;
on their way they passed the subjects of their late discussion, who
withdrew abruptly down a side path.

"I don't think they want to know us any more than we do them,"
Nicole laughed.

They loitered among the wild rosebushes and the beds of damp-sweet,
indistinguishable flowers.  Below the hotel, where the terrace fell
a thousand feet to the lake, stretched a necklace of lights that
was Montreux and Vevey, and then, in a dim pendant, Lausanne; a
blurred twinkling across the lake was Evian and France.  From
somewhere below--probably the Kursaal--came the sound of full-
bodied dance music--American, they guessed, though now they heard
American tunes months late, mere distant echoes of what was
happening far away.

Over the Dent du Midi, over a black bank of clouds that was the
rearguard of the receding storm, the moon lifted itself and the
lake brightened; the music and the far-away lights were like hope,
like the enchanted distance from which children see things.  In
their separate hearts Nelson and Nicole gazed backward to a time
when life was all like this.  Her arm went through his quietly and
drew him close.

"We can have it all again," she whispered.  "Can't we try, Nelson?"

She paused as two dark forms came into the shadows nearby and stood
looking down at the lake below.

Nelson put his arm around Nicole and pulled her closer.

"It's just that we don't understand what's the matter," she said.
"Why did we lose peace and love and health, one after the other?
If we knew, if there was anybody to tell us, I believe we could
try.  I'd try so hard."

The last clouds were lifting themselves over the Bernese Alps.
Suddenly, with a final intensity, the west flared with pale white
lightning.  Nelson and Nicole turned, and simultaneously the other
couple turned, while for an instant the night was as bright as day.
Then darkness and a last low peal of thunder, and from Nicole a
sharp, terrified cry.  She flung herself against Nelson; even in
the darkness she saw that his face was as white and strained as her
own.

"Did you see?" she cried in a whisper.  "Did you see them?"

"Yes!"

"They're us!  They're us!  Don't you see?"

Trembling, they clung together.  The clouds merged into the dark
mass of mountains; looking around after a moment, Nelson and Nicole
saw that they were alone together in the tranquil moonlight.



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