This Side of ParadiseF. Scott Fitzgerald
Produced by David Reed, and Ken Reeder
THIS SIDE OF PARADISE
By F. Scott Fitzgerald
... Well this side of Paradise!... There's little comfort in the wise. --Rupert Brooke.
Experience is the name so many people give to their mistakes. --Oscar Wilde.
To SIGOURNEY FAY
BOOK ONE: The Romantic Egotist 1. AMORY, SON OF BEATRICE 2. SPIRES AND GARGOYLES 3. THE EGOTIST CONSIDERS 4. NARCISSUS OFF DUTY
[INTERLUDE: MAY, 1917-FEBRUARY, 1919. ]
BOOK TWO: The Education of a Personage 1. THE DEBUTANTE 2. EXPERIMENTS IN CONVALESCENCE 3. YOUNG IRONY 4. THE SUPERCILIOUS SACRIFICE 5. THE EGOTIST BECOMES A PERSONAGE
BOOK ONE--The Romantic Egotist
CHAPTER 1. Amory, Son of Beatrice
Amory Blaine inherited from his mother every trait, except thestray inexpressible few, that made him worth while. His father, anineffectual, inarticulate man with a taste for Byron and a habit ofdrowsing over the Encyclopedia Britannica, grew wealthy at thirtythrough the death of two elder brothers, successful Chicago brokers, andin the first flush of feeling that the world was his, went to Bar Harborand met Beatrice O'Hara. In consequence, Stephen Blaine handed down toposterity his height of just under six feet and his tendency to waver atcrucial moments, these two abstractions appearing in his son Amory.For many years he hovered in the background of his family's life, anunassertive figure with a face half-obliterated by lifeless, silky hair,continually occupied in "taking care" of his wife, continually harassedby the idea that he didn't and couldn't understand her.
But Beatrice Blaine! There was a woman! Early pictures taken on herfather's estate at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, or in Rome at the SacredHeart Convent--an educational extravagance that in her youth was onlyfor the daughters of the exceptionally wealthy--showed the exquisitedelicacy of her features, the consummate art and simplicity of herclothes. A brilliant education she had--her youth passed in renaissanceglory, she was versed in the latest gossip of the Older Roman Families;known by name as a fabulously wealthy American girl to Cardinal Vitoriand Queen Margherita and more subtle celebrities that one must have hadsome culture even to have heard of. She learned in England to preferwhiskey and soda to wine, and her small talk was broadened in two sensesduring a winter in Vienna. All in all Beatrice O'Hara absorbed thesort of education that will be quite impossible ever again; a tutelagemeasured by the number of things and people one could be contemptuous ofand charming about; a culture rich in all arts and traditions, barren ofall ideas, in the last of those days when the great gardener clipped theinferior roses to produce one perfect bud.
In her less important moments she returned to America, met StephenBlaine and married him--this almost entirely because she was a littlebit weary, a little bit sad. Her only child was carried througha tiresome season and brought into the world on a spring day inninety-six.
When Amory was five he was already a delightful companion for her. Hewas an auburn-haired boy, with great, handsome eyes which he would growup to in time, a facile imaginative mind and a taste for fancy dress.From his fourth to his tenth year he did the country with his motherin her father's private car, from Coronado, where his mother became sobored that she had a nervous breakdown in a fashionable hotel, down toMexico City, where she took a mild, almost epidemic consumption. Thistrouble pleased her, and later she made use of it as an intrinsic partof her atmosphere--especially after several astounding bracers.
So, while more or less fortunate little rich boys were defyinggovernesses on the beach at Newport, or being spanked or tutored or readto from "Do and Dare," or "Frank on the Mississippi," Amory was bitingacquiescent bell-boys in the Waldorf, outgrowing a natural repugnanceto chamber music and symphonies, and deriving a highly specializededucation from his mother.
"Yes, Beatrice." (Such a quaint name for his mother; she encouraged it.)
"Dear, don't _think_ of getting out of bed yet. I've always suspectedthat early rising in early life makes one nervous. Clothilde is havingyour breakfast brought up."
"I am feeling very old to-day, Amory," she would sigh, her face a rarecameo of pathos, her voice exquisitely modulated, her hands as facileas Bernhardt's. "My nerves are on edge--on edge. We must leave thisterrifying place to-morrow and go searching for sunshine."
Amory's penetrating green eyes would look out through tangled hair athis mother. Even at this age he had no illusions about her.
"I want you to take a red-hot bath as hot as you can bear it, and justrelax your nerves. You can read in the tub if you wish."
She fed him sections of the "Fetes Galantes" before he was ten; ateleven he could talk glibly, if rather reminiscently, of Brahms andMozart and Beethoven. One afternoon, when left alone in the hotel atHot Springs, he sampled his mother's apricot cordial, and as the tastepleased him, he became quite tipsy. This was fun for a while, buthe essayed a cigarette in his exaltation, and succumbed to a vulgar,plebeian reaction. Though this incident horrified Beatrice, it alsosecretly amused her and became part of what in a later generation wouldhave been termed her "line."
"This son of mine," he heard her tell a room full of awestruck, admiringwomen one day, "is entirely sophisticated and quite charming--butdelicate--we're all delicate; _here_, you know." Her hand was radiantlyoutlined against her beautiful bosom; then sinking her voice to awhisper, she told them of the apricot cordial. They rejoiced, for shewas a brave raconteuse, but many were the keys turned in sideboard locksthat night against the possible defection of little Bobby or Barbara....
These domestic pilgrimages were invariably in state; two maids, theprivate car, or Mr. Blaine when available, and very often a physician.When Amory had the whooping-cough four disgusted specialists glared ateach other hunched around his bed; when he took scarlet fever the numberof attendants, including physicians and nurses, totalled fourteen.However, blood being thicker than broth, he was pulled through.
The Blaines were attached to no city. They were the Blaines of LakeGeneva; they had quite enough relatives to serve in place of friends,and an enviable standing from Pasadena to Cape Cod. But Beatrice grewmore and more prone to like only new acquaintances, as there werecertain stories, such as the history of her constitution and its manyamendments, memories of her years abroad, that it was necessary forher to repeat at regular intervals. Like Freudian dreams, they must bethrown off, else they would sweep in and lay siege to her nerves. ButBeatrice was critical about American women, especially the floatingpopulation of ex-Westerners.
"They have accents, my dear," she told Amory, "not Southern accentsor Boston accents, not an accent attached to any locality, just anaccent"--she became dreamy. "They pick up old, moth-eaten London accentsthat are down on their luck and have to be used by some one. They talkas an English butler might after several years in a Chicago grand-operacompany." She became almost incoherent--"Suppose--time in every Westernwoman's life--she feels her husband is prosperous enough for her tohave--accent--they try to impress _me_, my dear--"
Though she thought of her body as a mass of frailties, she consideredher soul quite as ill, and therefore important in her life. She hadonce been a Catholic, but discovering that priests were infinitely moreattentive when she was in process of losing or regaining faith in MotherChurch, she maintained an enchantingly wavering attitude. Often shedeplored the bourgeois quality of the American Catholic clergy, and wasquite sure that had she lived in the shadow of the great Continentalcathedrals her soul would stil
l be a thin flame on the mighty altar ofRome. Still, next to doctors, priests were her favorite sport.
"Ah, Bishop Wiston," she would declare, "I do not want to talk ofmyself. I can imagine the stream of hysterical women fluttering at yourdoors, beseeching you to be simpatico"--then after an interlude filledby the clergyman--"but my mood--is--oddly dissimilar."
Only to bishops and above did she divulge her clerical romance. When shehad first returned to her country there had been a pagan, Swinburnianyoung man in Asheville, for whose passionate kisses and unsentimentalconversations she had taken a decided penchant--they had discussedthe matter pro and con with an intellectual romancing quite devoid ofsappiness. Eventually she had decided to marry for background, and theyoung pagan from Asheville had gone through a spiritual crisis, joinedthe Catholic Church, and was now--Monsignor Darcy.
"Indeed, Mrs. Blaine, he is still delightful company--quite thecardinal's right-hand man."
"Amory will go to him one day, I know," breathed the beautiful lady,"and Monsignor Darcy will understand him as he understood me."
Amory became thirteen, rather tall and slender, and more than ever on tohis Celtic mother. He had tutored occasionally--the idea being that hewas to "keep up," at each place "taking up the work where he left off,"yet as no tutor ever found the place he left off, his mind was still invery good shape. What a few more years of this life would have made ofhim is problematical. However, four hours out from land, Italy bound,with Beatrice, his appendix burst, probably from too many meals in bed,and after a series of frantic telegrams to Europe and America, to theamazement of the passengers the great ship slowly wheeled around andreturned to New York to deposit Amory at the pier. You will admit thatif it was not life it was magnificent.
After the operation Beatrice had a nervous breakdown that bore asuspicious resemblance to delirium tremens, and Amory was left inMinneapolis, destined to spend the ensuing two years with his aunt anduncle. There the crude, vulgar air of Western civilization first catcheshim--in his underwear, so to speak.
A KISS FOR AMORY
His lip curled when he read it.
"I am going to have a bobbing party," it said, "on Thursday, December the seventeenth, at five o'clock, and I would like it very much if you could come.
R.S.V.P. Myra St. Claire.
He had been two months in Minneapolis, and his chief struggle had beenthe concealing from "the other guys at school" how particularly superiorhe felt himself to be, yet this conviction was built upon shiftingsands. He had shown off one day in French class (he was in senior Frenchclass) to the utter confusion of Mr. Reardon, whose accent Amory damnedcontemptuously, and to the delight of the class. Mr. Reardon, who hadspent several weeks in Paris ten years before, took his revenge on theverbs, whenever he had his book open. But another time Amory showed offin history class, with quite disastrous results, for the boys therewere his own age, and they shrilled innuendoes at each other all thefollowing week:
"Aw--I b'lieve, doncherknow, the Umuricun revolution was _lawgely_ anaffair of the middul _clawses_," or
"Washington came of very good blood--aw, quite good--I b'lieve."
Amory ingeniously tried to retrieve himself by blundering on purpose.Two years before he had commenced a history of the United States which,though it only got as far as the Colonial Wars, had been pronounced byhis mother completely enchanting.
His chief disadvantage lay in athletics, but as soon as he discoveredthat it was the touchstone of power and popularity at school, he beganto make furious, persistent efforts to excel in the winter sports, andwith his ankles aching and bending in spite of his efforts, he skatedvaliantly around the Lorelie rink every afternoon, wondering how soonhe would be able to carry a hockey-stick without getting it inexplicablytangled in his skates.
The invitation to Miss Myra St. Claire's bobbing party spent the morningin his coat pocket, where it had an intense physical affair with a dustypiece of peanut brittle. During the afternoon he brought it to lightwith a sigh, and after some consideration and a preliminary draft in theback of Collar and Daniel's "First-Year Latin," composed an answer:
My dear Miss St. Claire: Your truly charming envitation for the evening of next Thursday evening was truly delightful to receive this morning. I will be charm and inchanted indeed to present my compliments on next Thursday evening. Faithfully,
On Thursday, therefore, he walked pensively along the slippery,shovel-scraped sidewalks, and came in sight of Myra's house, on thehalf-hour after five, a lateness which he fancied his mother wouldhave favored. He waited on the door-step with his eyes nonchalantlyhalf-closed, and planned his entrance with precision. He would crossthe floor, not too hastily, to Mrs. St. Claire, and say with exactly thecorrect modulation:
"My _dear_ Mrs. St. Claire, I'm _frightfully_ sorry to be late, but mymaid"--he paused there and realized he would be quoting--"but my uncleand I had to see a fella--Yes, I've met your enchanting daughter atdancing-school."
Then he would shake hands, using that slight, half-foreign bow, with allthe starchy little females, and nod to the fellas who would be standing'round, paralyzed into rigid groups for mutual protection.
A butler (one of the three in Minneapolis) swung open the door. Amorystepped inside and divested himself of cap and coat. He was mildlysurprised not to hear the shrill squawk of conversation from the nextroom, and he decided it must be quite formal. He approved of that--as heapproved of the butler.
"Miss Myra," he said.
To his surprise the butler grinned horribly.
"Oh, yeah," he declared, "she's here." He was unaware that his failureto be cockney was ruining his standing. Amory considered him coldly.
"But," continued the butler, his voice rising unnecessarily, "she's theonly one what _is_ here. The party's gone."
Amory gasped in sudden horror.
"She's been waitin' for Amory Blaine. That's you, ain't it? Her mothersays that if you showed up by five-thirty you two was to go after 'em inthe Packard."
Amory's despair was crystallized by the appearance of Myra herself,bundled to the ears in a polo coat, her face plainly sulky, her voicepleasant only with difficulty.
"'Lo, Myra." He had described the state of his vitality.
"Well--you _got_ here, _any_ways."
"Well--I'll tell you. I guess you don't know about the auto accident,"he romanced.
Myra's eyes opened wide.
"Who was it to?"
"Well," he continued desperately, "uncle 'n aunt 'n I."
"Was any one _killed?_"
Amory paused and then nodded.
"Oh, no just a horse--a sorta gray horse."
At this point the Erse butler snickered.
"Probably killed the engine," he suggested. Amory would have put him onthe rack without a scruple.
"We'll go now," said Myra coolly. "You see, Amory, the bobs were orderedfor five and everybody was here, so we couldn't wait--"
"Well, I couldn't help it, could I?"
"So mama said for me to wait till ha'past five. We'll catch the bobsbefore it gets to the Minnehaha Club, Amory."
Amory's shredded poise dropped from him. He pictured the happy partyjingling along snowy streets, the appearance of the limousine, thehorrible public descent of him and Myra before sixty reproachful eyes,his apology--a real one this time. He sighed aloud.
"What?" inquired Myra.
"Nothing. I was just yawning. Are we going to _surely_ catch up with 'embefore they get there?" He was encouraging a faint hope that they mightslip into the Minnehaha Club and meet the others there, be found inblase seclusion before the fire and quite regain his lost attitude.
"Oh, sure Mike, we'
ll catch 'em all right--let's hurry."
He became conscious of his stomach. As they stepped into the machine hehurriedly slapped the paint of diplomacy over a rather box-like planhe had conceived. It was based upon some "trade-lasts" gleaned atdancing-school, to the effect that he was "awful good-looking and_English_, sort of."
"Myra," he said, lowering his voice and choosing his words carefully,"I beg a thousand pardons. Can you ever forgive me?" She regardedhim gravely, his intent green eyes, his mouth, that to herthirteen-year-old, arrow-collar taste was the quintessence of romance.Yes, Myra could forgive him very easily.
He looked at her again, and then dropped his eyes. He had lashes.
"I'm awful," he said sadly. "I'm diff'runt. I don't know why I make fauxpas. 'Cause I don't care, I s'pose." Then, recklessly: "I been smokingtoo much. I've got t'bacca heart."
Myra pictured an all-night tobacco debauch, with Amory pale and reelingfrom the effect of nicotined lungs. She gave a little gasp.
"Oh, _Amory_, don't smoke. You'll stunt your _growth!_"
"I don't care," he persisted gloomily. "I gotta. I got the habit. I'vedone a lot of things that if my fambly knew"--he hesitated, giving herimagination time to picture dark horrors--"I went to the burlesque showlast week."
Myra was quite overcome. He turned the green eyes on her again. "You'rethe only girl in town I like much," he exclaimed in a rush of sentiment."You're simpatico."
Myra was not sure that she was, but it sounded stylish though vaguelyimproper.
Thick dusk had descended outside, and as the limousine made a suddenturn she was jolted against him; their hands touched.
"You shouldn't smoke, Amory," she whispered. "Don't you know that?"
He shook his head.
Something stirred within Amory.
"Oh, yes, you do! You got a crush on Froggy Parker. I guess everybodyknows that."
"No, I haven't," very slowly.
A silence, while Amory thrilled. There was something fascinating aboutMyra, shut away here cosily from the dim, chill air. Myra, a littlebundle of clothes, with strands of yellow hair curling out from underher skating cap.
"Because I've got a crush, too--" He paused, for he heard in thedistance the sound of young laughter, and, peering through the frostedglass along the lamp-lit street, he made out the dark outline of thebobbing party. He must act quickly. He reached over with a violent,jerky effort, and clutched Myra's hand--her thumb, to be exact.
"Tell him to go to the Minnehaha straight," he whispered. "I wanta talkto you--I _got_ to talk to you."
Myra made out the party ahead, had an instant vision of her mother, andthen--alas for convention--glanced into the eyes beside. "Turn down thisside street, Richard, and drive straight to the Minnehaha Club!" shecried through the speaking tube. Amory sank back against the cushionswith a sigh of relief.
"I can kiss her," he thought. "I'll bet I can. I'll _bet_ I can!"
Overhead the sky was half crystalline, half misty, and the night aroundwas chill and vibrant with rich tension. From the Country Club steps theroads stretched away, dark creases on the white blanket; huge heaps ofsnow lining the sides like the tracks of giant moles. They lingered fora moment on the steps, and watched the white holiday moon.
"Pale moons like that one"--Amory made a vague gesture--"make peoplemysterieuse. You look like a young witch with her cap off and her hairsorta mussed"--her hands clutched at her hair--"Oh, leave it, it looks_good_."
They drifted up the stairs and Myra led the way into the little den ofhis dreams, where a cosy fire was burning before a big sink-down couch.A few years later this was to be a great stage for Amory, a cradle formany an emotional crisis. Now they talked for a moment about bobbingparties.
"There's always a bunch of shy fellas," he commented, "sitting at thetail of the bob, sorta lurkin' an' whisperin' an' pushin' each otheroff. Then there's always some crazy cross-eyed girl"--he gave aterrifying imitation--"she's always talkin' _hard_, sorta, to thechaperon."
"You're such a funny boy," puzzled Myra.
"How d'y' mean?" Amory gave immediate attention, on his own ground atlast.
"Oh--always talking about crazy things. Why don't you come ski-ing withMarylyn and I to-morrow?"
"I don't like girls in the daytime," he said shortly, and then, thinkingthis a bit abrupt, he added: "But I like you." He cleared his throat. "Ilike you first and second and third."
Myra's eyes became dreamy. What a story this would make to tellMarylyn! Here on the couch with this _wonderful_-looking boy--the littlefire--the sense that they were alone in the great building--
Myra capitulated. The atmosphere was too appropriate.
"I like you the first twenty-five," she confessed, her voice trembling,"and Froggy Parker twenty-sixth."
Froggy had fallen twenty-five places in one hour. As yet he had not evennoticed it.
But Amory, being on the spot, leaned over quickly and kissed Myra'scheek. He had never kissed a girl before, and he tasted his lipscuriously, as if he had munched some new fruit. Then their lips brushedlike young wild flowers in the wind.
"We're awful," rejoiced Myra gently. She slipped her hand into his,her head drooped against his shoulder. Sudden revulsion seized Amory,disgust, loathing for the whole incident. He desired frantically tobe away, never to see Myra again, never to kiss any one; he becameconscious of his face and hers, of their clinging hands, and he wantedto creep out of his body and hide somewhere safe out of sight, up in thecorner of his mind.
"Kiss me again." Her voice came out of a great void.
"I don't want to," he heard himself saying. There was another pause.
"I don't want to!" he repeated passionately.
Myra sprang up, her cheeks pink with bruised vanity, the great bow onthe back of her head trembling sympathetically.
"I hate you!" she cried. "Don't you ever dare to speak to me again!"
"What?" stammered Amory.
"I'll tell mama you kissed me! I will too! I will too! I'll tell mama,and she won't let me play with you!"
Amory rose and stared at her helplessly, as though she were a new animalof whose presence on the earth he had not heretofore been aware.
The door opened suddenly, and Myra's mother appeared on the threshold,fumbling with her lorgnette.
"Well," she began, adjusting it benignantly, "the man at the desk toldme you two children were up here--How do you do, Amory."
Amory watched Myra and waited for the crash--but none came. The poutfaded, the high pink subsided, and Myra's voice was placid as a summerlake when she answered her mother.
"Oh, we started so late, mama, that I thought we might as well--"
He heard from below the shrieks of laughter, and smelled the vapidodor of hot chocolate and tea-cakes as he silently followed mother anddaughter down-stairs. The sound of the graphophone mingled with thevoices of many girls humming the air, and a faint glow was born andspread over him:
"Casey-Jones--mounted to the cab-un Casey-Jones--'th his orders in his hand. Casey-Jones--mounted to the cab-un Took his farewell journey to the prom-ised land."
SNAPSHOTS OF THE YOUNG EGOTIST
Amory spent nearly two years in Minneapolis. The first winter he woremoccasins that were born yellow, but after many applications of oil anddirt assumed their mature color, a dirty, greenish brown; he wore a grayplaid mackinaw coat, and a red toboggan cap. His dog, Count Del Monte,ate the red cap, so his uncle gave him a gray one that pulled down overhis face. The trouble with this one was that you breathed into it andyour breath froze; one day the darn thing froze his cheek. He rubbedsnow on his cheek, but it turned bluish-black just the same.
The Count Del Monte ate a box of bluing once, but it didn't hurt him.Later, however, he lost his mind and ran madly up the street, bumpinginto fences, rollin
g in gutters, and pursuing his eccentric course outof Amory's life. Amory cried on his bed.
"Poor little Count," he cried. "Oh, _poor_ little _Count!_"
After several months he suspected Count of a fine piece of emotionalacting.
Amory and Frog Parker considered that the greatest line in literatureoccurred in Act III of "Arsene Lupin."
They sat in the first row at the Wednesday and Saturday matinees. Theline was:
"If one can't be a great artist or a great soldier, the next best thingis to be a great criminal."
Amory fell in love again, and wrote a poem. This was it:
"Marylyn and Sallee, Those are the girls for me. Marylyn stands above Sallee in that sweet, deep love."
He was interested in whether McGovern of Minnesota would make thefirst or second All-American, how to do the card-pass, how to dothe coin-pass, chameleon ties, how babies were born, and whetherThree-fingered Brown was really a better pitcher than ChristieMathewson.
Among other things he read: "For the Honor of the School," "LittleWomen" (twice), "The Common Law," "Sapho," "Dangerous Dan McGrew," "TheBroad Highway" (three times), "The Fall of the House of Usher," "ThreeWeeks," "Mary Ware, the Little Colonel's Chum," "Gunga Din," The PoliceGazette, and Jim-Jam Jems.
He had all the Henty biasses in history, and was particularly fond ofthe cheerful murder stories of Mary Roberts Rinehart.
School ruined his French and gave him a distaste for standard authors.His masters considered him idle, unreliable and superficially clever.
He collected locks of hair from many girls. He wore the rings ofseveral. Finally he could borrow no more rings, owing to his nervoushabit of chewing them out of shape. This, it seemed, usually aroused thejealous suspicions of the next borrower.
All through the summer months Amory and Frog Parker went each week tothe Stock Company. Afterward they would stroll home in the balmy air ofAugust night, dreaming along Hennepin and Nicollet Avenues, through thegay crowd. Amory wondered how people could fail to notice that he was aboy marked for glory, and when faces of the throng turned toward himand ambiguous eyes stared into his, he assumed the most romantic ofexpressions and walked on the air cushions that lie on the asphalts offourteen.
Always, after he was in bed, there were voices--indefinite, fading,enchanting--just outside his window, and before he fell asleep he woulddream one of his favorite waking dreams, the one about becoming a greathalf-back, or the one about the Japanese invasion, when he was rewardedby being made the youngest general in the world. It was alwaysthe becoming he dreamed of, never the being. This, too, was quitecharacteristic of Amory.
CODE OF THE YOUNG EGOTIST
Before he was summoned back to Lake Geneva, he had appeared, shy butinwardly glowing, in his first long trousers, set off by a purpleaccordion tie and a "Belmont" collar with the edges unassailablymeeting, purple socks, and handkerchief with a purple border peepingfrom his breast pocket. But more than that, he had formulated his firstphilosophy, a code to live by, which, as near as it can be named, was asort of aristocratic egotism.
He had realized that his best interests were bound up with those of acertain variant, changing person, whose label, in order that his pastmight always be identified with him, was Amory Blaine. Amory markedhimself a fortunate youth, capable of infinite expansion for good orevil. He did not consider himself a "strong char'c'ter," but relied onhis facility (learn things sorta quick) and his superior mentality (reada lotta deep books). He was proud of the fact that he could neverbecome a mechanical or scientific genius. From no other heights was hedebarred.
Physically.--Amory thought that he was exceedingly handsome. He was. Hefancied himself an athlete of possibilities and a supple dancer.
Socially.--Here his condition was, perhaps, most dangerous. He grantedhimself personality, charm, magnetism, poise, the power of dominatingall contemporary males, the gift of fascinating all women.
Mentally.--Complete, unquestioned superiority.
Now a confession will have to be made. Amory had rather a Puritanconscience. Not that he yielded to it--later in life he almostcompletely slew it--but at fifteen it made him consider himself agreat deal worse than other boys... unscrupulousness... the desireto influence people in almost every way, even for evil... a certaincoldness and lack of affection, amounting sometimes to cruelty... ashifting sense of honor... an unholy selfishness... a puzzled, furtiveinterest in everything concerning sex.
There was, also, a curious strain of weakness running crosswise throughhis make-up... a harsh phrase from the lips of an older boy (older boysusually detested him) was liable to sweep him off his poise into surlysensitiveness, or timid stupidity... he was a slave to his own moodsand he felt that though he was capable of recklessness and audacity, hepossessed neither courage, perseverance, nor self-respect.
Vanity, tempered with self-suspicion if not self-knowledge, a sense ofpeople as automatons to his will, a desire to "pass" as many boys aspossible and get to a vague top of the world... with this background didAmory drift into adolescence.
PREPARATORY TO THE GREAT ADVENTURE
The train slowed up with midsummer languor at Lake Geneva, and Amorycaught sight of his mother waiting in her electric on the gravelledstation drive. It was an ancient electric, one of the early types, andpainted gray. The sight of her sitting there, slenderly erect, andof her face, where beauty and dignity combined, melting to a dreamyrecollected smile, filled him with a sudden great pride of her. As theykissed coolly and he stepped into the electric, he felt a quick fearlest he had lost the requisite charm to measure up to her.
"Dear boy--you're _so_ tall... look behind and see if there's anythingcoming..."
She looked left and right, she slipped cautiously into a speed of twomiles an hour, beseeching Amory to act as sentinel; and at one busycrossing she made him get out and run ahead to signal her forward like atraffic policeman. Beatrice was what might be termed a careful driver.
"You _are_ tall--but you're still very handsome--you've skipped theawkward age, or is that sixteen; perhaps it's fourteen or fifteen; I cannever remember; but you've skipped it."
"Don't embarrass me," murmured Amory.
"But, my dear boy, what odd clothes! They look as if they were a_set_--don't they? Is your underwear purple, too?"
Amory grunted impolitely.
"You must go to Brooks' and get some really nice suits. Oh, we'll have atalk to-night or perhaps to-morrow night. I want to tell you aboutyour heart--you've probably been neglecting your heart--and you don't_know_."
Amory thought how superficial was the recent overlay of his owngeneration. Aside from a minute shyness, he felt that the old cynicalkinship with his mother had not been one bit broken. Yet for the firstfew days he wandered about the gardens and along the shore in a stateof superloneliness, finding a lethargic content in smoking "Bull" at thegarage with one of the chauffeurs.
The sixty acres of the estate were dotted with old and new summer housesand many fountains and white benches that came suddenly into sight fromfoliage-hung hiding-places; there was a great and constantly increasingfamily of white cats that prowled the many flower-beds and weresilhouetted suddenly at night against the darkening trees. It was onone of the shadowy paths that Beatrice at last captured Amory, after Mr.Blaine had, as usual, retired for the evening to his private library.After reproving him for avoiding her, she took him for a longtete-a-tete in the moonlight. He could not reconcile himself to herbeauty, that was mother to his own, the exquisite neck and shoulders,the grace of a fortunate woman of thirty.
"Amory, dear," she crooned softly, "I had such a strange, weird timeafter I left you."
"Did you, Beatrice?"
"When I had my last breakdown"--she spoke of it as a sturdy, gallantfeat.
"The doctors told me"--her voice sang on a confidential note--"that ifany man alive had done the consistent drinking that I have, he wouldhave been physically _shattered_, my dear, and in his _grave_--long inhis grave."
Amory winced, and wondered how this would have sounded to Froggy Parker.
"Yes," continued Beatrice tragically, "I had dreams--wonderful visions."She pressed the palms of her hands into her eyes. "I saw bronze riverslapping marble shores, and great birds that soared through the air,parti-colored birds with iridescent plumage. I heard strange music andthe flare of barbaric trumpets--what?"
Amory had snickered.
"I said go on, Beatrice."
"That was all--it merely recurred and recurred--gardens that flauntedcoloring against which this would be quite dull, moons that whirled andswayed, paler than winter moons, more golden than harvest moons--"
"Are you quite well now, Beatrice?"
"Quite well--as well as I will ever be. I am not understood, Amory. Iknow that can't express it to you, Amory, but--I am not understood."
Amory was quite moved. He put his arm around his mother, rubbing hishead gently against her shoulder.
"Poor Beatrice--poor Beatrice."
"Tell me about _you_, Amory. Did you have two _horrible_ years?"
Amory considered lying, and then decided against it.
"No, Beatrice. I enjoyed them. I adapted myself to the bourgeoisie.I became conventional." He surprised himself by saying that, and hepictured how Froggy would have gaped.
"Beatrice," he said suddenly, "I want to go away to school. Everybody inMinneapolis is going to go away to school."
Beatrice showed some alarm.
"But you're only fifteen."
"Yes, but everybody goes away to school at fifteen, and I _want_ to,Beatrice."
On Beatrice's suggestion the subject was dropped for the rest of thewalk, but a week later she delighted him by saying:
"Amory, I have decided to let you have your way. If you still want to,you can go to school."
"To St. Regis's in Connecticut."
Amory felt a quick excitement.
"It's being arranged," continued Beatrice. "It's better that you shouldgo away. I'd have preferred you to have gone to Eton, and then to ChristChurch, Oxford, but it seems impracticable now--and for the presentwe'll let the university question take care of itself."
"What are you going to do, Beatrice?"
"Heaven knows. It seems my fate to fret away my years in this country.Not for a second do I regret being American--indeed, I think that aregret typical of very vulgar people, and I feel sure we are the greatcoming nation--yet"--and she sighed--"I feel my life should have drowsedaway close to an older, mellower civilization, a land of greens andautumnal browns--"
Amory did not answer, so his mother continued:
"My regret is that you haven't been abroad, but still, as you are a man,it's better that you should grow up here under the snarling eagle--isthat the right term?"
Amory agreed that it was. She would not have appreciated the Japaneseinvasion.
"When do I go to school?"
"Next month. You'll have to start East a little early to take yourexaminations. After that you'll have a free week, so I want you to go upthe Hudson and pay a visit."
"To Monsignor Darcy, Amory. He wants to see you. He went to Harrow andthen to Yale--became a Catholic. I want him to talk to you--I feel hecan be such a help--" She stroked his auburn hair gently. "Dear Amory,dear Amory--"
So early in September Amory, provided with "six suits summer underwear,six suits winter underwear, one sweater or T shirt, one jersey, oneovercoat, winter, etc.," set out for New England, the land of schools.
There were Andover and Exeter with their memories of New Englanddead--large, college-like democracies; St. Mark's, Groton, St.Regis'--recruited from Boston and the Knickerbocker families of NewYork; St. Paul's, with its great rinks; Pomfret and St. George's,prosperous and well-dressed; Taft and Hotchkiss, which preparedthe wealth of the Middle West for social success at Yale; Pawling,Westminster, Choate, Kent, and a hundred others; all milling out theirwell-set-up, conventional, impressive type, year after year; theirmental stimulus the college entrance exams; their vague purpose setforth in a hundred circulars as "To impart a Thorough Mental, Moral, andPhysical Training as a Christian Gentleman, to fit the boy for meetingthe problems of his day and generation, and to give a solid foundationin the Arts and Sciences."
At St. Regis' Amory stayed three days and took his exams with a scoffingconfidence, then doubling back to New York to pay his tutelary visit.The metropolis, barely glimpsed, made little impression on him, exceptfor the sense of cleanliness he drew from the tall white buildings seenfrom a Hudson River steamboat in the early morning. Indeed, his mind wasso crowded with dreams of athletic prowess at school that he consideredthis visit only as a rather tiresome prelude to the great adventure.This, however, it did not prove to be.
Monsignor Darcy's house was an ancient, rambling structure set on a hilloverlooking the river, and there lived its owner, between his trips toall parts of the Roman-Catholic world, rather like an exiled Stuart kingwaiting to be called to the rule of his land. Monsignor was forty-fourthen, and bustling--a trifle too stout for symmetry, with hair the colorof spun gold, and a brilliant, enveloping personality. When he came intoa room clad in his full purple regalia from thatch to toe, he resembleda Turner sunset, and attracted both admiration and attention. He hadwritten two novels: one of them violently anti-Catholic, just before hisconversion, and five years later another, in which he had attemptedto turn all his clever jibes against Catholics into even clevererinnuendoes against Episcopalians. He was intensely ritualistic,startlingly dramatic, loved the idea of God enough to be a celibate, andrather liked his neighbor.
Children adored him because he was like a child; youth revelled in hiscompany because he was still a youth, and couldn't be shocked. In theproper land and century he might have been a Richelieu--at present hewas a very moral, very religious (if not particularly pious) clergyman,making a great mystery about pulling rusty wires, and appreciating lifeto the fullest, if not entirely enjoying it.
He and Amory took to each other at first sight--the jovial, impressiveprelate who could dazzle an embassy ball, and the green-eyed, intentyouth, in his first long trousers, accepted in their own minds arelation of father and son within a half-hour's conversation.
"My dear boy, I've been waiting to see you for years. Take a big chairand we'll have a chat."
"I've just come from school--St. Regis's, you know."
"So your mother says--a remarkable woman; have a cigarette--I'm sureyou smoke. Well, if you're like me, you loathe all science andmathematics--"
Amory nodded vehemently.
"Hate 'em all. Like English and history."
"Of course. You'll hate school for a while, too, but I'm glad you'regoing to St. Regis's."
"Because it's a gentleman's school, and democracy won't hit you soearly. You'll find plenty of that in college."
"I want to go to Princeton," said Amory. "I don't know why, but I thinkof all Harvard men as sissies, like I used to be, and all Yale men aswearing big blue sweaters and smoking pipes."
"I'm one, you know."
"Oh, you're different--I think of Princeton as being lazy andgood-looking and aristocratic--you know, like a spring day. Harvardseems sort of indoors--"
"And Yale is November, crisp and energetic," finished Monsignor.
They slipped briskly into an intimacy from which they never recovered.
"I was for Bonnie Prince Charlie," announced Amory.
"Of course you were--and for Hannibal--"
"Yes, and for the Southern Confederacy." He was rather sceptical aboutbeing an Irish patriot--he suspected
that being Irish was being somewhatcommon--but Monsignor assured him that Ireland was a romantic lost causeand Irish people quite charming, and that it should, by all means, beone of his principal biasses.
After a crowded hour which included several more cigarettes, and duringwhich Monsignor learned, to his surprise but not to his horror, thatAmory had not been brought up a Catholic, he announced that he hadanother guest. This turned out to be the Honorable Thornton Hancock, ofBoston, ex-minister to The Hague, author of an erudite history of theMiddle Ages and the last of a distinguished, patriotic, and brilliantfamily.
"He comes here for a rest," said Monsignor confidentially, treatingAmory as a contemporary. "I act as an escape from the weariness ofagnosticism, and I think I'm the only man who knows how his staid oldmind is really at sea and longs for a sturdy spar like the Church tocling to."
Their first luncheon was one of the memorable events of Amory's earlylife. He was quite radiant and gave off a peculiar brightness andcharm. Monsignor called out the best that he had thought by question andsuggestion, and Amory talked with an ingenious brilliance of a thousandimpulses and desires and repulsions and faiths and fears. He andMonsignor held the floor, and the older man, with his less receptive,less accepting, yet certainly not colder mentality, seemed content tolisten and bask in the mellow sunshine that played between these two.Monsignor gave the effect of sunlight to many people; Amory gave it inhis youth and, to some extent, when he was very much older, but neveragain was it quite so mutually spontaneous.
"He's a radiant boy," thought Thornton Hancock, who had seen thesplendor of two continents and talked with Parnell and Gladstone andBismarck--and afterward he added to Monsignor: "But his education oughtnot to be intrusted to a school or college."
But for the next four years the best of Amory's intellect wasconcentrated on matters of popularity, the intricacies of a universitysocial system and American Society as represented by Biltmore Teas andHot Springs golf-links.
... In all, a wonderful week, that saw Amory's mind turned inside out, ahundred of his theories confirmed, and his joy of life crystallized toa thousand ambitions. Not that the conversation was scholastic--heavenforbid! Amory had only the vaguest idea as to what Bernard Shaw was--butMonsignor made quite as much out of "The Beloved Vagabond" and "SirNigel," taking good care that Amory never once felt out of his depth.
But the trumpets were sounding for Amory's preliminary skirmish with hisown generation.
"You're not sorry to go, of course. With people like us our home iswhere we are not," said Monsignor.
"I _am_ sorry--"
"No, you're not. No one person in the world is necessary to you or tome."
THE EGOTIST DOWN
Amory's two years at St. Regis', though in turn painful and triumphant,had as little real significance in his own life as the American "prep"school, crushed as it is under the heel of the universities, hasto American life in general. We have no Eton to create theself-consciousness of a governing class; we have, instead, clean,flaccid and innocuous preparatory schools.
He went all wrong at the start, was generally considered both conceitedand arrogant, and universally detested. He played football intensely,alternating a reckless brilliancy with a tendency to keep himself assafe from hazard as decency would permit. In a wild panic he backed outof a fight with a boy his own size, to a chorus of scorn, and a weeklater, in desperation, picked a battle with another boy very muchbigger, from which he emerged badly beaten, but rather proud of himself.
He was resentful against all those in authority over him, and this,combined with a lazy indifference toward his work, exasperated everymaster in school. He grew discouraged and imagined himself a pariah;took to sulking in corners and reading after lights. With a dread ofbeing alone he attached a few friends, but since they were not amongthe elite of the school, he used them simply as mirrors of himself,audiences before which he might do that posing absolutely essential tohim. He was unbearably lonely, desperately unhappy.
There were some few grains of comfort. Whenever Amory was submerged,his vanity was the last part to go below the surface, so he could stillenjoy a comfortable glow when "Wookey-wookey," the deaf old housekeeper,told him that he was the best-looking boy she had ever seen. It hadpleased him to be the lightest and youngest man on the first footballsquad; it pleased him when Doctor Dougall told him at the end of aheated conference that he could, if he wished, get the best marks inschool. But Doctor Dougall was wrong. It was temperamentally impossiblefor Amory to get the best marks in school.
Miserable, confined to bounds, unpopular with both faculty andstudents--that was Amory's first term. But at Christmas he had returnedto Minneapolis, tight-lipped and strangely jubilant.
"Oh, I was sort of fresh at first," he told Frog Parker patronizingly,"but I got along fine--lightest man on the squad. You ought to go awayto school, Froggy. It's great stuff."
INCIDENT OF THE WELL-MEANING PROFESSOR
On the last night of his first term, Mr. Margotson, the senior master,sent word to study hall that Amory was to come to his room at nine.Amory suspected that advice was forthcoming, but he determined to becourteous, because this Mr. Margotson had been kindly disposed towardhim.
His summoner received him gravely, and motioned him to a chair. Hehemmed several times and looked consciously kind, as a man will when heknows he's on delicate ground.
"Amory," he began. "I've sent for you on a personal matter."
"I've noticed you this year and I--I like you. I think you have in youthe makings of a--a very good man."
"Yes, sir," Amory managed to articulate. He hated having people talk asif he were an admitted failure.
"But I've noticed," continued the older man blindly, "that you're notvery popular with the boys."
"No, sir." Amory licked his lips.
"Ah--I thought you might not understand exactly what itwas they--ah--objected to. I'm going to tell you, because Ibelieve--ah--that when a boy knows his difficulties he's better able tocope with them--to conform to what others expect of him." He a-hemmedagain with delicate reticence, and continued: "They seem to think thatyou're--ah--rather too fresh--"
Amory could stand no more. He rose from his chair, scarcely controllinghis voice when he spoke.
"I know--oh, _don't_ you s'pose I know." His voice rose. "I know whatthey think; do you s'pose you have to _tell_ me!" He paused. "I'm--I'vegot to go back now--hope I'm not rude--"
He left the room hurriedly. In the cool air outside, as he walked to hishouse, he exulted in his refusal to be helped.
"That _damn_ old fool!" he cried wildly. "As if I didn't _know!_"
He decided, however, that this was a good excuse not to go back to studyhall that night, so, comfortably couched up in his room, he munchedNabiscos and finished "The White Company."
INCIDENT OF THE WONDERFUL GIRL
There was a bright star in February. New York burst upon him onWashington's Birthday with the brilliance of a long-anticipated event.His glimpse of it as a vivid whiteness against a deep-blue sky had lefta picture of splendor that rivalled the dream cities in the ArabianNights; but this time he saw it by electric light, and romance gleamedfrom the chariot-race sign on Broadway and from the women's eyes at theAstor, where he and young Paskert from St. Regis' had dinner. When theywalked down the aisle of the theatre, greeted by the nervous twangingand discord of untuned violins and the sensuous, heavy fragrance ofpaint and powder, he moved in a sphere of epicurean delight. Everythingenchanted him. The play was "The Little Millionaire," with George M.Cohan, and there was one stunning young brunette who made him sit withbrimming eyes in the ecstasy of watching her dance.
"Oh--you--wonderful girl, What a wonderful girl you are--"
sang the tenor, and Amory agreed silently, but passionately.
ul words Thrill me through--"
The violins swelled and quavered on the last notes, the girl sank to acrumpled butterfly on the stage, a great burst of clapping filled thehouse. Oh, to fall in love like that, to the languorous magic melody ofsuch a tune!
The last scene was laid on a roof-garden, and the 'cellos sighed to themusical moon, while light adventure and facile froth-like comedy flittedback and forth in the calcium. Amory was on fire to be an habitui ofroof-gardens, to meet a girl who should look like that--better, thatvery girl; whose hair would be drenched with golden moonlight, while athis elbow sparkling wine was poured by an unintelligible waiter. Whenthe curtain fell for the last time he gave such a long sigh that thepeople in front of him twisted around and stared and said loud enoughfor him to hear:
"What a _remarkable_-looking boy!"
This took his mind off the play, and he wondered if he really did seemhandsome to the population of New York.
Paskert and he walked in silence toward their hotel. The former wasthe first to speak. His uncertain fifteen-year-old voice broke in in amelancholy strain on Amory's musings:
"I'd marry that girl to-night."
There was no need to ask what girl he referred to.
"I'd be proud to take her home and introduce her to my people,"continued Paskert.
Amory was distinctly impressed. He wished he had said it instead ofPaskert. It sounded so mature.
"I wonder about actresses; are they all pretty bad?"
"No, _sir_, not by a darn sight," said the worldly youth with emphasis,"and I know that girl's as good as gold. I can tell."
They wandered on, mixing in the Broadway crowd, dreaming on the musicthat eddied out of the cafes. New faces flashed on and off likemyriad lights, pale or rouged faces, tired, yet sustained by a wearyexcitement. Amory watched them in fascination. He was planning his life.He was going to live in New York, and be known at every restaurant andcafe, wearing a dress-suit from early evening to early morning, sleepingaway the dull hours of the forenoon.
"Yes, _sir_, I'd marry that girl to-night!"
HEROIC IN GENERAL TONE
October of his second and last year at St. Regis' was a high point inAmory's memory. The game with Groton was played from three of a snappy,exhilarating afternoon far into the crisp autumnal twilight, and Amoryat quarter-back, exhorting in wild despair, making impossible tackles,calling signals in a voice that had diminished to a hoarse, furiouswhisper, yet found time to revel in the blood-stained bandage around hishead, and the straining, glorious heroism of plunging, crashing bodiesand aching limbs. For those minutes courage flowed like wine out of theNovember dusk, and he was the eternal hero, one with the sea-rover onthe prow of a Norse galley, one with Roland and Horatius, Sir Nigel andTed Coy, scraped and stripped into trim and then flung by his own willinto the breach, beating back the tide, hearing from afar the thunder ofcheers... finally bruised and weary, but still elusive, circling an end,twisting, changing pace, straight-arming... falling behind the Grotongoal with two men on his legs, in the only touchdown of the game.
THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE SLICKER
From the scoffing superiority of sixth-form year and success Amorylooked back with cynical wonder on his status of the year before. He waschanged as completely as Amory Blaine could ever be changed. Amory plusBeatrice plus two years in Minneapolis--these had been his ingredientswhen he entered St. Regis'. But the Minneapolis years were not a thickenough overlay to conceal the "Amory plus Beatrice" from the ferretingeyes of a boarding-school, so St. Regis' had very painfully drilledBeatrice out of him, and begun to lay down new and more conventionalplanking on the fundamental Amory. But both St. Regis' and Amory wereunconscious of the fact that this fundamental Amory had not in himselfchanged. Those qualities for which he had suffered, his moodiness, histendency to pose, his laziness, and his love of playing the fool, werenow taken as a matter of course, recognized eccentricities in a starquarter-back, a clever actor, and the editor of the St. Regis Tattler:it puzzled him to see impressionable small boys imitating the veryvanities that had not long ago been contemptible weaknesses.
After the football season he slumped into dreamy content. The nightof the pre-holiday dance he slipped away and went early to bed for thepleasure of hearing the violin music cross the grass and come surging inat his window. Many nights he lay there dreaming awake of secret cafesin Mont Martre, where ivory women delved in romantic mysteries withdiplomats and soldiers of fortune, while orchestras played Hungarianwaltzes and the air was thick and exotic with intrigue and moonlightand adventure. In the spring he read "L'Allegro," by request, and wasinspired to lyrical outpourings on the subject of Arcady and the pipesof Pan. He moved his bed so that the sun would wake him at dawn that hemight dress and go out to the archaic swing that hung from an apple-treenear the sixth-form house. Seating himself in this he would pump higherand higher until he got the effect of swinging into the wide air, intoa fairyland of piping satyrs and nymphs with the faces of fair-hairedgirls he passed in the streets of Eastchester. As the swing reached itshighest point, Arcady really lay just over the brow of a certain hill,where the brown road dwindled out of sight in a golden dot.
He read voluminously all spring, the beginning of his eighteenth year:"The Gentleman from Indiana," "The New Arabian Nights," "The Moralsof Marcus Ordeyne," "The Man Who Was Thursday," which he liked withoutunderstanding; "Stover at Yale," that became somewhat of a text-book;"Dombey and Son," because he thought he really should read betterstuff; Robert Chambers, David Graham Phillips, and E. Phillips Oppenheimcomplete, and a scattering of Tennyson and Kipling. Of all his classwork only "L'Allegro" and some quality of rigid clarity in solidgeometry stirred his languid interest.
As June drew near, he felt the need of conversation to formulate hisown ideas, and, to his surprise, found a co-philosopher in Rahill, thepresident of the sixth form. In many a talk, on the highroad or lyingbelly-down along the edge of the baseball diamond, or late at night withtheir cigarettes glowing in the dark, they threshed out the questions ofschool, and there was developed the term "slicker."
"Got tobacco?" whispered Rahill one night, putting his head inside thedoor five minutes after lights.
"I'm coming in."
"Take a couple of pillows and lie in the window-seat, why don't you."
Amory sat up in bed and lit a cigarette while Rahill settled for aconversation. Rahill's favorite subject was the respective futures ofthe sixth form, and Amory never tired of outlining them for his benefit.
"Ted Converse? 'At's easy. He'll fail his exams, tutor all summer atHarstrum's, get into Sheff with about four conditions, and flunk out inthe middle of the freshman year. Then he'll go back West and raise hellfor a year or so; finally his father will make him go into the paintbusiness. He'll marry and have four sons, all bone heads. He'll alwaysthink St. Regis's spoiled him, so he'll send his sons to day school inPortland. He'll die of locomotor ataxia when he's forty-one, andhis wife will give a baptizing stand or whatever you call it to thePresbyterian Church, with his name on it--"
"Hold up, Amory. That's too darned gloomy. How about yourself?"
"I'm in a superior class. You are, too. We're philosophers."
"Sure you are. You've got a darn good head on you." But Amory knew thatnothing in the abstract, no theory or generality, ever moved Rahilluntil he stubbed his toe upon the concrete minutiae of it.
"Haven't," insisted Rahill. "I let people impose on me here and don'tget anything out of it. I'm the prey of my friends, damn it--do theirlessons, get 'em out of trouble, pay 'em stupid summer visits, andalways entertain their kid sisters; keep my temper when they get selfishand then they think they pay me back by voting for me and telling me I'mthe 'big man' of St. Regis's. I want to get where everybody does theirown work and I can tell people where to go. I'm tired of being nice toevery poor fish in school."
"You're not a slicker," said
"What the devil's that?"
"Well, it's something that--that--there's a lot of them. You're not one,and neither am I, though I am more than you are."
"Who is one? What makes you one?"
"Why--why, I suppose that the _sign_ of it is when a fellow slicks hishair back with water."
"Yes--sure. He's a slicker."
They spent two evenings getting an exact definition. The slicker wasgood-looking or clean-looking; he had brains, social brains, that is,and he used all means on the broad path of honesty to get ahead,be popular, admired, and never in trouble. He dressed well, wasparticularly neat in appearance, and derived his name from the fact thathis hair was inevitably worn short, soaked in water or tonic, partedin the middle, and slicked back as the current of fashion dictated. Theslickers of that year had adopted tortoise-shell spectacles as badgesof their slickerhood, and this made them so easy to recognize that Amoryand Rahill never missed one. The slicker seemed distributed throughschool, always a little wiser and shrewder than his contemporaries,managing some team or other, and keeping his cleverness carefullyconcealed.
Amory found the slicker a most valuable classification until his junioryear in college, when the outline became so blurred and indeterminatethat it had to be subdivided many times, and became only a quality.Amory's secret ideal had all the slicker qualifications, but, inaddition, courage and tremendous brains and talents--also Amory concededhim a bizarre streak that was quite irreconcilable to the slickerproper.
This was a first real break from the hypocrisy of school tradition. Theslicker was a definite element of success, differing intrinsically fromthe prep school "big man."
1. Clever sense of social values.
2. Dresses well. Pretends that dress is superficial--but knows that it isn't.
3. Goes into such activities as he can shine in.
4. Gets to college and is, in a worldly way, successful.
5. Hair slicked.
"THE BIG MAN"
1. Inclined to stupidity and unconscious of social values.
2. Thinks dress is superficial, and is inclined to be careless about it.
3. Goes out for everything from a sense of duty.
4. Gets to college and has a problematical future. Feels lost without his circle, and always says that school days were happiest, after all. Goes back to school and makes speeches about what St. Regis's boys are doing.
5. Hair not slicked.
Amory had decided definitely on Princeton, even though he would be theonly boy entering that year from St. Regis'. Yale had a romance andglamour from the tales of Minneapolis, and St. Regis' men who had been"tapped for Skull and Bones," but Princeton drew him most, withits atmosphere of bright colors and its alluring reputation as thepleasantest country club in America. Dwarfed by the menacing collegeexams, Amory's school days drifted into the past. Years afterward, whenhe went back to St. Regis', he seemed to have forgotten the successesof sixth-form year, and to be able to picture himself only as theunadjustable boy who had hurried down corridors, jeered at by his rabidcontemporaries mad with common sense.