Total Pageviews

Sunday, February 23, 2020


Project Gutenberg Australia presents a novella by F. Scott Fitzgerald  (1896-1940); first published by the Saturday Evening Post in its March 14, 1925 edition.
The words thrilled Val.  They had come into his mind sometime
during the fresh gold April afternoon and he kept repeating them to
himself over and over:  "Love in the night; love in the night."  He
tried them in three languages--Russian, French and English--and
decided that they were best in English.  In each language they
meant a different sort of love and a different sort of night--the
English night seemed the warmest and softest with a thinnest and
most crystalline sprinkling of stars.  The English love seemed the
most fragile and romantic--a white dress and a dim face above it
and eyes that were pools of light.  And when I add that it was a
French night he was thinking about, after all, I see I must go back
and begin over.

“Owl and Rabbit” Giclee Print by Paul Bransom, 1925.
Val was half Russian and half American.  His mother was the
daughter of that Morris Hasylton who helped finance the Chicago
World's Fair in 1892, and his father was--see the Almanach de
Gotha, issue of 1910--Prince Paul Serge Boris Rostoff, son of
Prince Vladimir Rostoff, grandson of a grand duke--'Jimber-jawed
Serge'--and third-cousin-once-removed to the czar.  It was all very
impressive, you see, on that side--house in St. Petersburg,
shooting lodge near Riga, and swollen villa, more like a palace,
overlooking the Mediterranean.  It was at this villa in Cannes that
the Rostoffs passed the winter--and it wasn't at all the thing to
remind Princess Rostoff that this Riviera villa, from the marble
fountain--after Bernini--to the gold cordial glasses--after dinner--
was paid for with American gold.

The Russians, of course, were gay people on the Continent in the
gala days before the war.  Of the three nationalities that used Southern
France for a pleasure ground they were easily the most adept at the
grand manner.  The English were too practical, and the Americans,
though they spent freely, had no tradition of romantic conduct.
But the Russians--there was a people as gallant as the Latins, and
rich besides!  When the Rostoffs arrived at Cannes late in January
the restaurateurs telegraphed north for the Prince's favorite
labels to paste on their champagne, and the jewelers put incredibly
gorgeous articles aside to show to him--but not to the princess--
and the Russian Church was swept and garnished for the season that
the Prince might beg orthodox forgiveness for his sins.  Even the
Mediterranean turned obligingly to a deep wine color in the spring
evenings, and fishing boats with robin-breasted sails loitered
exquisitely offshore.

In a vague way young Val realized that this was all for the benefit
of him and his family.  It was a privileged paradise, this white
little city on the water, in which he was free to do what he liked
because he was rich and young and the blood of Peter the Great ran
indigo in his veins.  He was only seventeen in 1914, when this
history begins, but he had already fought a duel with a young man
four years his senior, and he had a small hairless scar to show for
it on top of his handsome head.

But the question of love in the night was the thing nearest his
heart.  It was a vague pleasant dream he had, something that was
going to happen to him some day that would be unique and
incomparable.  He could have told no more about it than that there
was a lovely unknown girl concerned in it, and that it ought to
take place beneath the Riviera moon.

The odd thing about all this was not that he had this excited and
yet almost spiritual hope of romance, for all boys of any
imagination have just such hopes, but that it actually came true.
And when it happened, it happened so unexpectedly; it was such a
jumble of impressions and emotions, of curious phrases that sprang
to his lips, of sights and sounds and moments that were here, were
lost, were past, that he scarcely understood it at all.  Perhaps
its very vagueness preserved it in his heart and made him forever
unable to forget.

There was an atmosphere of love all about him that spring--his
father's loves, for instance, which were many and indiscreet, and
which Val became aware of gradually from overhearing the gossip of
servants, and definitely from coming on his American mother
unexpectedly one afternoon, to find her storming hysterically at
his father's picture on the salon wall.  In the picture his father
wore a white uniform with a furred dolman and looked back
impassively at his wife as if to say "Were you under the
impression, my dear, that you were marrying into a family of

Val tiptoed away, surprised, confused--and excited.  It didn't
shock him as it would have shocked an American boy of his age.  He
had known for years what life was among the Continental rich, and
he condemned his father only for making his mother cry.

Love went on around him--reproachless love and illicit love alike.
As he strolled along the seaside promenade at nine o'clock, when
the stars were bright enough to compete with the bright lamps, he
was aware of love on every side.  From the open-air cafés, vivid
with dresses just down from Paris, came a sweet pungent odor of
flowers and chartreuse and fresh black coffee and cigarettes--and
mingled with them all he caught another scent, the mysterious
thrilling scent of love.  Hands touched jewel-sparkling hands upon
the white tables. 
Eternal Cannes

Gay dresses and white shirt fronts swayedtogether, and matches were held, trembling a little, for slow-lighting cigarettes.  On the other side of the boulevard lovers less fashionable, young Frenchmen who worked in the stores of Cannes, sauntered with their fiancées under the dim trees, but
Val's young eyes seldom turned that way.  The luxury of music and
bright colors and low voices--they were all part of his dream.
They were the essential trappings of Love in the night.

But assume as he might the rather fierce expression that was
expected from a young Russian gentleman who walked the streets
alone, Val was beginning to be unhappy.  April twilight had
succeeded March twilight, the season was almost over, and he had
found no use to make of the warm spring evenings.  The girls of
sixteen and seventeen whom he knew, were chaperoned with care
between dusk and bedtime--this, remember, was before the war--and
the others who might gladly have walked beside him were an affront
to his romantic desire.  So April passed by--one week, two weeks,
three weeks--

He had played tennis until seven and loitered at the courts for
another hour, so it was half-past eight when a tired cab horse
accomplished the hill on which gleamed the façade of the Rostoff
villa.  The lights of his mother's limousine were yellow in the
drive, and the princess, buttoning her gloves, was just coming out
the glowing door.  Val tossed two francs to the cabman and went to
kiss her on the cheek.

"Don't touch me," she said quickly.  "You've been handling money."

"But not in my mouth, mother," he protested humorously.

The princess looked at him impatiently.

"I'm angry," she said.  "Why must you be so late tonight?  We're
dining on a yacht and you were to have come along too."

"What yacht?"

"Americans."  There was always a faint irony in her voice when she
mentioned the land of her nativity.  Her America was the Chicago of
the nineties which she still thought of as the vast upstairs to a
butcher shop.  Even the irregularities of Prince Paul were not too
high a price to have paid for her escape.

"Two yachts," she continued; "in fact we don't know which one.  The
note was very indefinite.  Very careless indeed."

Americans.  Val's mother had taught him to look down on Americans,
but she hadn't succeeded in making him dislike them.  American men
noticed you, even if you were seventeen.  He liked Americans.
Although he was thoroughly Russian he wasn't immaculately so--the
exact proportion, like that of a celebrated soap, was about ninety-
nine and three-quarters per cent.

"I want to come," he said, "I'll hurry up, mother.  I'll--"

"We're late now."  The princess turned as her husband appeared in
the door.  "Now Val says he wants to come."

"He can't," said Prince Paul shortly.  "He's too outrageously

Val nodded.  Russian aristocrats, however indulgent about
themselves, were always admirably Spartan with their children.
There were no arguments.

"I'm sorry," he said.

Prince Paul grunted.  The footman, in red and silver livery, opened
the limousine door.  But the grunt decided the matter for Val,
because Princess Rostoff at that day and hour had certain
grievances against her husband which gave her command of the
domestic situation.

"On second thought you'd better come, Val," she announced coolly.
"It's too late now, but come after dinner.  The yacht is either the
Minnehaha or the Privateer."  She got into the limousine.  "The one
to come to will be the gayer one, I suppose--the Jacksons' yacht--"

"Find got sense," muttered the Prince cryptically, conveying that
Val would find it if he had any sense.  "Have my man take a look at
you 'fore you start.  Wear tie of mine 'stead of that outrageous
string you affected in Vienna.  Grow up.  High time."

As the limousine crawled crackling down the pebbled drive Val's
face was burning.


It was dark in Cannes harbor, rather it seemed dark after the
brightness of the promenade that Val had just left behind.  Three
frail dock lights glittered dimly upon innumerable fishing boats
heaped like shells along the beach.  Farther out in the water there
were other lights where a fleet of slender yachts rode the tide
with slow dignity, and farther still a full ripe moon made the
water bosom into a polished dancing floor.  Occasionally there was
a swish! creak! drip! as a rowboat moved about in the shallows, and
its blurred shape threaded the labyrinth of hobbled fishing skiffs
and launches.  Val, descending the velvet slope of sand, stumbled
over a sleeping boatman and caught the rank savor of garlic and
plain wine.  Taking the man by the shoulders he shook open his
startled eyes.

"Do you know where the Minnehaha is anchored, and the Privateer?"

As they slid out into the bay he lay back in the stern and stared
with vague discontent at the Riviera moon.  That was the right
moon, all right.  Frequently, five nights out of seven, there was
the right moon.  And here was the soft air, aching with
enchantment, and here was the music, many strains of music from
many orchestras, drifting out from the shore.  Eastward lay the
dark Cape of Antibes, and then Nice, and beyond that Monte Carlo,
where the night rang chinking full of gold.  Some day he would
enjoy all that, too, know its every pleasure and success--when he
was too old and wise to care.

But tonight--tonight, that stream of silver that waved like a wide
strand of curly hair toward the moon; those soft romantic lights of
Cannes behind him, the irresistible ineffable love in this air--
that was to be wasted forever.

"Which one?" asked the boatman suddenly.

"Which what?" demanded Val, sitting up.

"Which boat?"

He pointed.  Val turned; above hovered the gray, sword-like prow of
a yacht.  During the sustained longing of his wish they had covered
half a mile.

He read the brass letters over his head.  It was the Privateer, but
there were only dim lights on board, and no music and no voices,
only a murmurous k-plash at intervals as the small waves leaped at
the sides.

"The other one," said Val; "the Minnehaha."

"Don't go yet."

Val started.  The voice, low and soft, had dropped down from the
darkness overhead.

"What's the hurry?" said the soft voice.  "Thought maybe somebody
was coming to see me, and have suffered terrible disappointment."

The boatman lifted his oars and looked hesitatingly at Val.  But
Val was silent, so the man let the blades fall into the water and
swept the boat out into the moonlight.

"Wait a minute!" cried Val sharply.

"Good-by," said the voice.  "Come again when you can stay longer."

"But I am going to stay now," he answered breathlessly.

He gave the necessary order and the rowboat swung back to the foot
of the small companionway.  Someone young, someone in a misty white
dress, someone with a lovely low voice, had actually called to him
out of the velvet dark.  "If she has eyes!" Val murmured to
himself.  He liked the romantic sound of it and repeated it under
his breath--"If she has eyes."

"What are you?"  She was directly above him now; she was looking
down and he was looking up as he climbed the ladder, and as their
eyes met they both began to laugh.

She was very young, slim, almost frail, with a dress that
accentuated her youth by its blanched simplicity.  Two wan dark
spots on her cheeks marked where the color was by day.

"What are you?" she repeated, moving back and laughing again as his
head appeared on the level of the deck.  "I'm frightened now and I
want to know."

"I am a gentleman," said Val, bowing.

Winter in Paris was high season in Cannes, Antibes and the Riviera

"What sort of a gentleman?  There are all sorts of gentlemen.
There was a--there was a colored gentleman at the table next to
ours in Paris, and so--"  She broke off.  "You're not American, are

"I'm Russian," he said, as he might have announced himself to be an
archangel.  He thought quickly and then added, "And I am the most
fortunate of Russians.  All this day, all this spring I have
dreamed of falling in love on such a night, and now I see that
heaven has sent me to you."

"Just one moment!" she said, with a little gasp.  "I'm sure now
that this visit is a mistake.  I don't go in for anything like
that.  Please!"

"I beg your pardon."  He looked at her in bewilderment, unaware
that he had taken too much for granted.  Then he drew himself up

"I have made an error.  If you will excuse me I will say good

He turned away.  His hand was on the rail.

"Don't go," she said, pushing a strand of indefinite hair out of
her eyes.  "On second thoughts you can talk any nonsense you like
if you'll only not go.  I'm miserable and I don't want to be left

Val hesitated; there was some element in this that he failed to
understand.  He had taken it for granted that a girl who called to
a strange man at night, even from the deck of a yacht, was
certainly in a mood for romance.  And he wanted intensely to stay.
Then he remembered that this was one of the two yachts he had been

"I imagine that the dinner's on the other boat," he said.

"The dinner?  Oh, yes, it's on the Minnehaha.  Were you going

"I was going there--a long time ago."

"What's your name?"

He was on the point of telling her when something made him ask a
question instead.

"And you?  Why are you not at the party?"

"Because I preferred to stay here.  Mrs. Jackson said there would
be some Russians there--I suppose that's you."  She looked at him
with interest.  "You're a very young man, aren't you?"

"I am much older than I look," said Val stiffly.  "People always
comment on it.  It's considered rather a remarkable thing."

"How old are you?"

"Twenty-one," he lied.

She laughed.

"What nonsense!  You're not more than nineteen."

His annoyance was so perceptible that she hastened to reassure him.
"Cheer up!  I'm only seventeen myself.  I might have gone to the
party if I'd thought there'd be anyone under fifty there."

He welcomed the change of subject.

"You preferred to sit and dream here beneath the moon."

"I've been thinking of mistakes."  They sat down side by side in
two canvas deck chairs.  "It's a most engrossing subject--the
subject of mistakes.  Women very seldom brood about mistakes--
they're much more willing to forget than men are.  But when they do

"You have made a mistake?" inquired Val.

She nodded.

"Is it something that cannot be repaired?"

"I think so," she answered.  "I can't be sure.  That's what I was
considering when you came along."

"Perhaps I can help in some way," said Val.  "Perhaps your mistake
is not irreparable, after all."

"You can't," she said unhappily.  "So let's not think about it.
I'm very tired of my mistake and I'd much rather you'd tell me
about all the gay, cheerful things that are going on in Cannes

They glanced shoreward at the line of mysterious and alluring
lights, the big toy banks with candles inside that were really the
great fashionable hotels, the lighted clock in the old town, the
blurred glow of the Café de Paris, the pricked-out points of villa
windows rising on slow hills toward the dark sky.

"What is everyone doing there?" she whispered.  "It looks as though
something gorgeous was going on, but what it is I can't quite

"Everyone there is making love," said Val quietly.

"Is that it?"  She looked for a long time, with a strange
expression in her eyes.  "Then I want to go home to America," she
said.  "There is too much love here.  I want to go home tomorrow."

"You are afraid of being in love then?"

She shook her head.

"It isn't that.  It's just because--there is no love here for me."

"Or for me either," added Val quietly.  "It is sad that we two
should be at such a lovely place on such a lovely night and have--

He was leaning toward her intently, with a sort of inspired and
chaste romance in his eyes--and she drew back.

"Tell me more about yourself," she inquired quickly.  "If you are
Russian where did you learn to speak such excellent English?"

"My mother was American," he admitted.  "My grandfather was
American also, so she had no choice in the matter."

"Then you're American too!"

"I am Russian," said Val with dignity.

She looked at him closely, smiled and decided not to argue.  "Well
then," she said diplomatically, "I suppose you must have a Russian

But he had no intention now of telling her his name.  A name, even
the Rostoff name, would be a desecration of the night.  They were
their own low voices, their two white faces--and that was enough.
He was sure, without any reason for being sure but with a sort of
instinct that sang triumphantly through his mind, that in a little
while, a minute or an hour, he was going to undergo an initiation
into the life of romance.  His name had no reality beside what was
stirring in his heart.

"You are beautiful," he said suddenly.

"How do you know?"

"Because for women moonlight is the hardest light of all."

"Am I nice in the moonlight?"

"You are the loveliest thing that I have ever known."

"Oh."  She thought this over.  "Of course I had no business to let
you come on board.  I might have known what we'd talk about--in
this moon.  But I can't sit here and look at the shore--forever.
I'm too young for that.  Don't you think I'm too young for that?"

"Much too young," he agreed solemnly.

Suddenly they both became aware of new music that was close at
hand, music that seemed to come out of the water not a hundred
yards away.

"Listen!" she cried.  "It's from the Minnehaha.  They've finished

For a moment they listened in silence.

"Thank you," said Val suddenly.

"For what?"

He hardly knew he had spoken.  He was thanking the deep low horns
for singing in the breeze, the sea for its warm murmurous complaint
against the bow, the milk of the stars for washing over them until
he felt buoyed up in a substance more taut than air.

"So lovely," she whispered.

"What are we going to do about it?"

"Do we have to do something about it?  I thought we could just sit
and enjoy--"

"You didn't think that," he interrupted quietly.  "You know that we
must do something about it.  I am going to make love to you--and
you are going to be glad."

"I can't," she said very low.  She wanted to laugh now, to make
some light cool remark that would bring the situation back into the
safe waters of a casual flirtation.  But it was too late now.  Val
knew that the music had completed what the moon had begun.

"I will tell you the truth," he said.  "You are my first love.  I
am seventeen--the same age as you, no more."

There was something utterly disarming about the fact that they were
the same age.  It made her helpless before the fate that had thrown
them together.  The deck chairs creaked and he was conscious of a
faint illusive perfume as they swayed suddenly and childishly


Whether he kissed her once or several times he could not afterward
remember, though it must have been an hour that they sat there
close together and he held her hand.  What surprised him most about
making love was that it seemed to have no element of wild passion--
regret, desire, despair--but a delirious promise of such happiness
in the world, in living, as he had never known.  First love--this
was only first love!  What must love itself in its fullness, its
perfection be.  He did not know that what he was experiencing then,
that unreal, undesirous medley of ecstasy and peace, would be
unrecapturable forever.

The music had ceased for some time when presently the murmurous
silence was broken by the sound of a rowboat disturbing the quiet
waves.  She sprang suddenly to her feet and her eyes strained out
over the bay.

"Listen!" she said quickly.  "I want you to tell me your name."


"Please," she begged him.  "I'm going away tomorrow."

He didn't answer.

"I don't want you to forget me," she said.  "My name is--"

"I won't forget you.  I will promise to remember you always.
Whoever I may love I will always compare her to you, my first love.
So long as I live you will always have that much freshness in my

"I want you to remember," she murmured brokenly.  "Oh, this has
meant more to me than it has to you--much more."

She was standing so close to him that he felt her warm young breath
on his face.  Once again they swayed together.  He pressed her
hands and wrists between his as it seemed right to do, and kissed
her lips.  It was the right kiss, he thought, the romantic kiss--
not too little or too much.  Yet there was a sort of promise in it
of other kisses he might have had, and it was with a slight sinking
of his heart that he heard the rowboat close to the yacht and
realized that her family had returned.  The evening was over.

"And this is only the beginning," he told himself.  "All my life
will be like this night."

She was saying something in a low quick voice and he was listening

"You must know one thing--I am married.  Three months ago.  That
was the mistake that I was thinking about when the moon brought you
out here.  In a moment you will understand."

She broke off as the boat swung against the companionway and a
man's voice floated up out of the darkness.

"Is that you, my dear?"


"What is this other rowboat waiting?"

"One of Mrs. Jackson's guests came here by mistake and I made him
stay and amuse me for an hour."

A moment later the thin white hair and weary face of a man of sixty
appeared above the level of the deck.  And then Val saw and
realized too late how much he cared.


When the Riviera season ended in May the Rostoffs and all the other
Russians closed their villas and went north for the summer.  The
Russian Orthodox Church was locked up and so were the bins of rarer
wine, and the fashionable spring moonlight was put away, so to
speak, to wait for their return.

"We'll be back next season," they said as a matter of course.

But this was premature, for they were never coming back any more.
Those few who straggled south again after five tragic years were
glad to get work as chambermaids or valets de chambre in the great
hotels where they had once dined.  Many of them, of course, were
killed in the war or in the revolution; many of them faded out as
spongers and small cheats in the big capitals, and not a few ended
their lives in a sort of stupefied despair.

When the Kerensky government collapsed in 1917, Val was a
lieutenant on the eastern front, trying desperately to enforce
authority in his company long after any vestige of it remained.  He
was still trying when Prince Paul Rostoff and his wife gave up
their lives one rainy morning to atone for the blunders of the
Romanoffs--and the enviable career of Morris Hasylton's daughter
ended in a city that bore even more resemblance to a butcher shop
than had Chicago in 1892.

After that Val fought with Denikin's army for a while until he
realized that he was participating in a hollow farce and the glory
of Imperial Russia was over.  Then he went to France and was
suddenly confronted with the astounding problem of keeping his body
and soul together.

It was, of course, natural that he should think of going to
America.  Two vague aunts with whom his mother had quarreled many
years ago still lived there in comparative affluence.  But the idea
was repugnant to the prejudices his mother had implanted in him,
and besides he hadn't sufficient money left to pay for his passage
over.  Until a possible counter-revolution should restore to him
the Rostoff properties in Russia he must somehow keep alive in

So he went to the little city he knew best of all.  He went to
Cannes.  His last two hundred francs bought him a third-class
ticket and when he arrived he gave his dress suit to an obliging
party who dealt in such things and received in return money for
food and bed.  He was sorry afterward that he had sold the dress
suit, because it might have helped him to a position as a waiter.
But he obtained work as a taxi driver instead and was quite as
happy, or rather quite as miserable, at that.

Sometimes he carried Americans to look at villas for rent, and when
the front glass of the automobile was up, curious fragments of
conversation drifted out to him from within.

"--heard this fellow was a Russian prince." . . . "Sh!" . . . "No,
this one right here." . . . "Be quiet, Esther!"--followed by subdued

When the car stopped, his passengers would edge around to have a
look at him.  At first he was desperately unhappy when girls did
this; after a while he didn't mind any more.  Once a cheerfully
intoxicated American asked him if it were true and invited him to
lunch, and another time an elderly woman seized his hand as she got
out of the taxi, shook it violently and then pressed a hundred-
franc note into his hand.

"Well, Florence, now I can tell 'em back home I shook hands with a
Russian prince."

The inebriated American who had invited him to lunch thought at
first that Val was a son of the czar, and it had to be explained to
him that a prince in Russia was simply the equivalent of a British
courtesy lord.  But he was puzzled that a man of Val's personality
didn't go out and make some real money.

"This is Europe," said Val gravely.  "Here money is not made.  It
is inherited or else it is slowly saved over a period of many years
and maybe in three generations a family moves up into a higher

"Think of something people want--like we do."

"That is because there is more money to want with in America.
Everything that people want here has been thought of long ago."

But after a year and with the help of a young Englishman he had
played tennis with before the war, Val managed to get into the
Cannes branch of an English bank.  He forwarded mail and bought
railroad tickets and arranged tours for impatient sight-seers.
Sometimes a familiar face came to his window; if Val was recognized
he shook hands; if not he kept silence.  After two years he was no
longer pointed out as a former prince, for the Russians were an old
story now--the splendor of the Rostoffs and their friends was

Fitzgerald haunt hotel Eden-Roc

He mixed with people very little.  In the evenings he walked for a
while on the promenade, took a slow glass of beer in a café, and
went early to bed.  He was seldom invited anywhere because people
thought that his sad, intent face was depressing--and he never
accepted anyhow.  He wore cheap French clothes now instead of the
rich tweeds and flannels that had been ordered with his father's
from England.  As for women, he knew none at all.  Of the many
things he had been certain about at seventeen, he had been most
certain about this--that his life would be full of romance.  Now
after eight years he knew that it was not to be.  Somehow he had
never had time for love--the war, the revolution and now his
poverty had conspired against his expectant heart.  The springs of
his emotion which had first poured forth one April night had dried
up immediately and only a faint trickle remained.

His happy youth had ended almost before it began.  He saw himself
growing older and more shabby, and living always more and more in
the memories of his gorgeous boyhood.  Eventually he would become
absurd, pulling out an old heirloom of a watch and showing it to
amused young fellow clerks who would listen with winks to his tales
of the Rostoff name.

He was thinking these gloomy thoughts one April evening in 1922 as
he walked beside the sea and watched the never-changing magic of
the awakening lights.  It was no longer for his benefit, that
magic, but it went on, and he was somehow glad.  Tomorrow he was
going away on his vacation, to a cheap hotel farther down the shore
where he could bathe and rest and read; then he would come back and
work some more.  Every year for three years he had taken his
vacation during the last two weeks in April, perhaps because it was
then that he felt the most need for remembering.  It was in April
that what was destined to be the best part of his life had come to
a culmination under a romantic moonlight.  It was sacred to him--
for what he had thought of as an initiation and a beginning had
turned out to be the end.

He paused now in front of the Café des Étrangers and after a moment
crossed the street on impulse and sauntered down to the shore.  A
dozen yachts, already turned to a beautiful silver color, rode at
anchor in the bay.  He had seen them that afternoon, and read the
names painted on their bows--but only from habit.  He had done it
for three years now, and it was almost a natural function of his

"Un beau soir," remarked a French voice at his elbow.  It was a
boatman who had often seen Val here before.  "Monsieur finds the
sea beautiful?"

"Very beautiful."

"I too.  But a bad living except in the season.  Next week, though,
I earn something special.  I am paid well for simply waiting here
and doing nothing more from eight o'clock until midnight."

"That's very nice," said Val politely.

"A widowed lady, very beautiful, from America, whose yacht always
anchors in the harbor for the last two weeks in April.  If the
Privateer comes tomorrow it will make three years."


All night Val didn't sleep--not because there was any question in
his mind as to what he should do, but because his long stupefied
emotions were suddenly awake and alive.  Of course he must not see
her--not he, a poor failure with a name that was now only a shadow--
but it would make him a little happier always to know that she
remembered.  It gave his own memory another dimension, raised it
like those stereopticon glasses that bring out a picture from the
flat paper.  It made him sure that he had not deceived himself--he
had been charming once upon a time to a lovely woman, and she did
not forget.

An hour before train time next day he was at the railway station
with his grip, so as to avoid any chance encounter in the street.
He found himself a place in a third-class carriage of the waiting

Somehow as he sat there he felt differently about life--a sort of
hope, faint and illusory, that he hadn't felt twenty-four hours
before.  Perhaps there was some way in those next few years in
which he could make it possible to meet her once again--if he
worked hard, threw himself passionately into whatever was at hand.
He knew of at least two Russians in Cannes who had started over
again with nothing except good manners and ingenuity and were now
doing surprisingly well.  The blood of Morris Hasylton began to
throb a little in Val's temples and made him remember something he
had never before cared to remember--that Morris Hasylton, who had
built his daughter a palace in St. Petersburg, had also started
from nothing at all.

Simultaneously another emotion possessed him, less strange, less
dynamic but equally American--the emotion of curiosity.  In case he
did--well, in case life should ever make it possible for him to
seek her out, he should at least know her name.

He jumped to his feet, fumbled excitedly at the carriage handle and
jumped from the train.  Tossing his valise into the check room he
started at a run for the American consulate.

"A yacht came in this morning," he said hurriedly to a clerk, "an
American yacht--the Privateer.  I want to know who owns it."

"Just a minute," said the clerk, looking at him oddly.  "I'll try
to find out."

After what seemed to Val an interminable time he returned.

"Why, just a minute," he repeated hesitantly.  "We're--it seems
we're finding out."

"Did the yacht come?"

"Oh, yes--it's here all right.  At least I think so.  If you'll
just wait in that chair."

After another ten minutes Val looked impatiently at his watch.  If
they didn't hurry he'd probably miss his train.  He made a nervous
movement as if to get up from his chair.

"Please sit still," said the clerk, glancing at him quickly from
his desk.  "I ask you.  Just sit down in that chair."

Val stared at him.  How could it possibly matter to the clerk
whether or not he waited?

"I'll miss my train," he said impatiently.  "I'm sorry to have
given you all this bother--"

"Please sit still!  We're glad to get it off our hands.  You see,
we've been waiting for your inquiry for--ah--three years."

Val jumped to his feet and jammed his hat on his head.

"Why didn't you tell me that?" he demanded angrily.

"Because we had to get word to our--our client.  Please don't go!
It's--ah, it's too late."

Val turned.  Someone slim and radiant with dark frightened eyes was
standing behind him, framed against the sunshine of the doorway.


Val's lips parted, but no words came through.  She took a step
toward him.

"I--"  She looked at him helplessly, her eyes filling with tears.
"I just wanted to say hello," she murmured.  "I've come back for
three years just because I wanted to say hello."

Still Val was silent.

"You might answer," she said impatiently.  "You might answer when
I'd--when I'd just about begun to think you'd been killed in the
war."  She turned to the clerk.  "Please introduce us!" she cried.
"You see, I can't say hello to him when we don't even know each
other's names."

It's the thing to distrust these international marriages, of
course.  It's an American tradition that they always turn out
badly, and we are accustomed to such headlines as:  "Would Trade
Coronet for True American Love, Says Duchess," and "Claims Count
Mendicant Tortured Toledo Wife."  The other sort of headlines are
never printed, for who would want to read:  "Castle is Love Nest,
Asserts Former Georgia Belle," or "Duke and Packer's Daughter
Celebrate Golden Honeymoon."

So far there have been no headlines at all about the young
Rostoffs.  Prince Val is much too absorbed in that string of
moonlight-blue taxicabs which he manipulates with such unusual
efficiency, to give out interviews.  He and his wife only leave New
York once a year--but there is still a boatman who rejoices when
the Privateer steams into Cannes harbor on a mid-April night.


From the public domain via Project Gutenberg Australia.

No comments:

Post a Comment