47-کتاب صوتی The Bridal Party – Part 1 دوره پیشرفته
The Bridal Party
— by F. Scott Fitzgerald —
There was the usual insincere little note saying: “I wanted you to be the first to know.” It was a double shock to Michael, announcing, as it did, both the engagement and the imminent marriage; which, moreover, was to be held, not in New York, decently and far away, but here in Paris under his very nose, if that could be said to extend over the Protestant Episcopal Church of the Holy Trinity, Avenue George-Cinq. The date was two weeks off, early in June.
At first Michael was afraid and his stomach felt hollow. When he left the hotel that morning, the femme de chambre, who was in love with his fine, sharp profile and his pleasant buoyancy, scented the hard abstraction that had settled over him. He walked in a daze to his bank, he bought a detective story at Smith’s on the Rue de Rivoli, he sympathetically stared for a while at a faded panorama of the battlefields in a tourist-office window and cursed a Greek tout who followed him with a half-displayed packet of innocuous post cards warranted to be very dirty indeed.
But the fear stayed with him, and after a while he recognized it as the fear that now he would never be happy. He had met Caroline Dandy when she was seventeen, possessed her young heart all through her first season in New York, and then lost her, slowly, tragically, uselessly, because he had no money and could make no money; because, with all the energy and good will in the world, he could not find himself; because, loving him still, Caroline had lost faith and begun to see him as something pathetic, futile and shabby, outside the great, shining stream of life toward which she was inevitably drawn.
Since his only support was that she loved him, he leaned weakly on that; the support broke, but still he held on to it and was carried out to sea and washed up on the French coast with its broken pieces still in his hands. He carried them around with him in the form of photographs and packets of correspondence and a liking for a maudlin popular song called “Among My Souvenirs.” He kept clear of other girls, as if Caroline would somehow know it and reciprocate with a faithful heart. Her note informed him that he had lost her forever.
It was a fine morning. In front of the shops in the Rue de Castiglione, proprietors and patrons were on the sidewalk gazing upward, for the Graf Zeppelin, shining and glorious, symbol of escape and destruction — of escape, if necessary, through destruction — glided in the Paris sky. He heard a woman say in French that it would not her astonish if that commenced to let fall the bombs. Then he heard another voice, full of husky laughter, and the void in his stomach froze. Jerking about, he was face to face with Caroline Dandy and her fiancé.
“Why, Michael! Why, we were wondering where you were. I asked at the Guaranty Trust, and Morgan and Company, and finally sent a note to the National City — ”
Why didn’t they back away? Why didn’t they back right up, walking backward down the Rue de Castiglione, across the Rue de Rivoli, through the Tuileries Gardens, still walking backward as fast as they could till they grew vague and faded out across the river?
“This is Hamilton Rutherford, my fiancé.”
“We’ve met before.”
“At Pat’s, wasn’t it?”
“And last spring in the Ritz Bar.”
“Michael, where have you been keeping yourself?”
“Around here.” This agony. Previews of Hamilton Rutherford flashed before his eyes — a quick series of pictures, sentences. He remembered hearing that he had bought a seat in 1920 for a hundred and twenty-five thousand of borrowed money, and just before the break sold it for more than half a million. Not handsome like Michael, but vitally attractive, confident, authoritative, just the right height over Caroline there — Michael had always been too short for Caroline when they danced.
Rutherford was saying: “No, I’d like it very much if you’d come to the bachelor dinner. I’m taking the Ritz Bar from nine o’clock on. Then right after the wedding there’ll be a reception and breakfast at the Hotel George-Cinq.”
“And, Michael, George Packman is giving a party day after tomorrow at Chez Victor, and I want you to be sure and come. And also to tea Friday at Jebby West’s; she’d want to have you if she knew where you were. What’s your hotel, so we can send you an invitation? You see, the reason we decided to have it over here is because mother has been sick in a nursing home here and the whole clan is in Paris. Then Hamilton’s mother’s being here too — ”
The entire clan; they had always hated him, except her mother; always discouraged his courtship. What a little counter he was in this game of families and money! Under his hat his brow sweated with the humiliation of the fact that for all his misery he was worth just exactly so many invitations. Frantically he began to mumble something about going away.
Then it happened — Caroline saw deep into him, and Michael knew that she saw. She saw through to his profound woundedness, and something quivered inside her, died out along the curve of her mouth and in her eyes. He had moved her. All the unforgettable impulses of first love had surged up once more; their hearts had in some way touched across two feet of Paris sunlight. She took her fiancé‘s arm suddenly, as if to steady herself with the feel of it.
They parted. Michael walked quickly for a minute; then he stopped, pretending to look in a window, and saw them farther up the street, walking fast into the Place Vendôme, people with much to do.
He had things to do also — he had to get his laundry.
“Nothing will ever be the same again,” he said to himself. “She will never be happy in her marriage and I will never be happy at all any more.”
The two vivid years of his love for Caroline moved back around him like years in Einstein’s physics. Intolerable memories arose — of rides in the Long Island moonlight; of a happy time at Lake Placid with her cheeks so cold there, but warm just underneath the surface; of a despairing afternoon in a little café on Forty-eighth Street in the last sad months when their marriage had come to seem impossible.
“Come in,” he said aloud.
The concierge with a telegram; brusque because Mr. Curly’s clothes were a little shabby. Mr. Curly gave few tips; Mr. Curly was obviously a petit client.
Michael read the telegram.
“An answer?” the concierge asked.
“No,” said Michael, and then, on an impulse: “Look.”
“Too bad — too bad,” said the concierge. “Your grandfather is dead.”
“Not too bad,” said Michael. “It means that I come into a quarter of a million dollars.”
Too late by a single month; after the first flush of the news his misery was deeper than ever. Lying awake in bed that night, he listened endlessly to the long caravan of a circus moving through the street from one Paris fair to another.
When the last van had rumbled out of hearing and the corners of the furniture were pastel blue with the dawn, he was still thinking of the look in Caroline’s eyes that morning — the look that seemed to say: “Oh, why couldn’t you have done something about it? Why couldn’t you have been stronger, made me marry you? Don’t you see how sad I am?”
Michael’s fists clenched.
“Well, I won’t give up till the last moment,” he whispered. “I’ve had all the bad luck so far, and maybe it’s turned at last. One takes what one can get, up to the limit of one’s strength, and if I can’t have her, at least she’ll go into this marriage with some of me in her heart.”
Accordingly he went to the party at Chez Victor two days later, upstairs and into the little salon off the bar where the party was to assemble for cocktails. He was early; the only other occupant was a tall lean man of fifty. They spoke.
“You waiting for George Packman’s party?”
“Yes. My name’s Michael Curly.”
“My name’s — ”
Michael failed to catch the name. They ordered a drink, and Michael supposed that the bride and groom were having a gay time.
“Too much so,” the other agreed, frowning. “I don’t see how they stand it. We all crossed on the boat together; five days of that crazy life and then two weeks of Paris. You” — he hesitated, smiling faintly — “you’ll excuse me for saying that your generation drinks too much.”
“No, not Caroline. She seems to take only a cocktail and a glass of champagne, and then she’s had enough, thank God. But Hamilton drinks too much and all this crowd of young people drink too much. Do you live in Paris?”
“For the moment,” said Michael.
“I don’t like Paris. My wife — that is to say, my ex-wife, Hamilton’s mother — lives in Paris.”
“You’re Hamilton Rutherford’s father?”
“I have that honor. And I’m not denying that I’m proud of what he’s done; it was just a general comment.”
Michael glanced up nervously as four people came in. He felt suddenly that his dinner coat was old and shiny; he had ordered a new one that morning. The people who had come in were rich and at home in their richness with one another — a dark, lovely girl with a hysterical little laugh whom he had met before; two confident men whose jokes referred invariably to last night’s scandal and tonight’s potentialities, as if they had important rôles in a play that extended indefinitely into the past and the future. When Caroline arrived, Michael had scarcely a moment of her, but it was enough to note that, like all the others, she was strained and tired. She was pale beneath her rouge; there were shadows under her eyes. With a mixture of relief and wounded vanity, he found himself placed far from her and at another table; he needed a moment to adjust himself to his surroundings. This was not like the immature set in which he and Caroline had moved; the men were more than thirty and had an air of sharing the best of this world’s good. Next to him was Jebby West, whom he knew; and, on the other side, a jovial man who immediately began to talk to Michael about a stunt for the bachelor dinner: They were going to hire a French girl to appear with an actual baby in her arms, crying: “Hamilton, you can’t desert me now!” The idea seemed stale and unamusing to Michael, but its originator shook with anticipatory laughter.
Farther up the table there was talk of the market — another drop today, the most appreciable since the crash; people were kidding Rutherford about it: “Too bad, old man. You better not get married, after all.”
Michael asked the man on his left, “Has he lost a lot?”
“Nobody knows. He’s heavily involved, but he’s one of the smartest young men in Wall Street. Anyhow, nobody ever tells you the truth.”
It was a champagne dinner from the start, and toward the end it reached a pleasant level of conviviality, but Michael saw that all these people were too weary to be exhilarated by any ordinary stimulant; for weeks they had drunk cocktails before meals like Americans, wines and brandies like Frenchmen, beer like Germans, whisky-and-soda like the English, and as they were no longer in the twenties, this preposterous mélange, that was like some gigantic cocktail in a nightmare, served only to make them temporarily less conscious of the mistakes of the night before. Which is to say that it was not really a gay party; what gayety existed was displayed in the few who drank nothing at all.
But Michael was not tired, and the champagne stimulated him and made his misery less acute. He had been away from New York for more than eight months and most of the dance music was unfamiliar to him, but at the first bars of the “Painted Doll,” to which he and Caroline had moved through so much happiness and despair the previous summer, he crossed to Caroline’s table and asked her to dance.
She was lovely in a dress of thin ethereal blue, and the proximity of her crackly yellow hair, of her cool and tender gray eyes, turned his body clumsy and rigid; he stumbled with their first step on the floor. For a moment it seemed that there was nothing to say; he wanted to tell her about his inheritance, but the idea seemed abrupt, unprepared for.
“Michael, it’s so nice to be dancing with you again.”
He smiled grimly.
“I’m so happy you came,” she continued. “I was afraid maybe you’d be silly and stay away. Now we can be just good friends and natural together. Michael, I want you and Hamilton to like each other.”
The engagement was making her stupid; he had never heard her make such a series of obvious remarks before.
“I could kill him without a qualm,” he said pleasantly, “but he looks like a good man. He’s fine. What I want to know is, what happens to people like me who aren’t able to forget?”
As he said this he could not prevent his mouth from dropping suddenly, and glancing up, Caroline saw, and her heart quivered violently, as it had the other morning.
“Do you mind so much, Michael?”
For a second as he said this, in a voice that seemed to have come up from his shoes, they were not dancing; they were simply clinging together. Then she leaned away from him and twisted her mouth into a lovely smile.
“I didn’t know what to do at first, Michael. I told Hamilton about you — that I’d cared for you an awful lot — but it didn’t worry him, and he was right. Because I’m over you now — yes, I am. And you’ll wake up some sunny morning and be over me just like that.”
He shook his head stubbornly.
“Oh, yes. We weren’t for each other. I’m pretty flighty, and I need somebody like Hamilton to decide things. It was that more than the question of — of — ”
“Of money.” Again he was on the point of telling her what had happened, but again something told him it was not the time.
“Then how do you account for what happened when we met the other day,” he demanded helplessly — “what happened just now? When we just pour toward each other like we used to — as if we were one person, as if the same blood was flowing through both of us?”
“Oh, don’t,” she begged him. “You mustn’t talk like that; everything’s decided now. I love Hamilton with all my heart. It’s just that I remember certain things in the past and I feel sorry for you — for us — for the way we were.”
Over her shoulder, Michael saw a man come toward them to cut in. In a panic he danced her away, but inevitably the man came on.
“I’ve got to see you alone, if only for a minute,” Michael said quickly. “When can I?”
“I’ll be at Jebby West’s tea tomorrow,” she whispered as a hand fell politely upon Michael’s shoulder.
But he did not talk to her at Jebby West’s tea. Rutherford stood next to her, and each brought the other into all conversations. They left early. The next morning the wedding cards arrived in the first mail.
Then Michael, grown desperate with pacing up and down his room, determined on a bold stroke; he wrote to Hamilton Rutherford, asking him for a rendezvous the following afternoon. In a short telephone communication Rutherford agreed, but for a day later than Michael had asked. And the wedding was only six days away.
They were to meet in the bar of the Hotel Jena. Michael knew what he would say: “See here, Rutherford, do you realize the responsibility you’re taking in going through with this marriage? Do you realize the harvest of trouble and regret you’re sowing in persuading a girl into something contrary to the instincts of her heart?” He would explain that the barrier between Caroline and himself had been an artificial one and was now removed, and demand that the matter be put up to Caroline frankly before it was too late.
Rutherford would be angry, conceivably there would be a scene, but Michael felt that he was fighting for his life now.
He found Rutherford in conversation with an older man, whom Michael had met at several of the wedding parties.
“I saw what happened to most of my friends,” Rutherford was saying, “and I decided it wasn’t going to happen to me. It isn’t so difficult; if you take a girl with common sense, and tell her what’s what, and do your stuff damn well, and play decently square with her, it’s a marriage. If you stand for any nonsense at the beginning, it’s one of these arrangements — within five years the man gets out, or else the girl gobbles him up and you have the usual mess.”
“Right!” agreed his companion enthusiastically. “Hamilton, boy, you’re right.”
Michael’s blood boiled slowly.
“Doesn’t it strike you,” he inquired coldly, “that your attitude went out of fashion about a hundred years ago?”
“No, it didn’t,” said Rutherford pleasantly, but impatiently. “I’m as modern as anybody. I’d get married in an aeroplane next Saturday if it’d please my girl.”
“I don’t mean that way of being modern. You can’t take a sensitive woman — ”
“Sensitive? Women aren’t so darn sensitive. It’s fellows like you who are sensitive; it’s fellows like you they exploit — all your devotion and kindness and all that. They read a couple of books and see a few pictures because they haven’t got anything else to do, and then they say they’re finer in grain than you are, and to prove it they take the bit in their teeth and tear off for a fare-you-well — just about as sensitive as a fire horse.”
“Caroline happens to be sensitive,” said Michael in a clipped voice.
At this point the other man got up to go; when the dispute about the check had been settled and they were alone, Rutherford leaned back to Michael as if a question had been asked him.
“Caroline’s more than sensitive,” he said. “She’s got sense.”
His combative eyes, meeting Michael’s, flickered with a gray light. “This all sounds pretty crude to you, Mr. Curly, but it seems to me that the average man nowadays just asks to be made a monkey of by some woman who doesn’t even get any fun out of reducing him to that level. There are darn few men who possess their wives any more, but I am going to be one of them.”
To Michael it seemed time to bring the talk back to the actual situation: “Do you realize the responsibility you’re taking?”
“I certainly do,” interrupted Rutherford. “I’m not afraid of responsibility. I’ll make the decisions — fairly, I hope, but anyhow they’ll be final.”
“What if you didn’t start right?” said Michael impetuously. “What if your marriage isn’t founded on mutual love?”
“I think I see what you mean,” Rutherford said, still pleasant. “And since you’ve brought it up, let me say that if you and Caroline had married, it wouldn’t have lasted three years. Do you know what your affair was founded on? On sorrow. You got sorry for each other. Sorrow’s a lot of fun for most women and for some men, but it seems to me that a marriage ought to be based on hope.” He looked at his watch and stood up.
“I’ve got to meet Caroline. Remember, you’re coming to the bachelor dinner day after tomorrow.”
Michael felt the moment slipping away. “Then Caroline’s personal feelings don’t count with you?” he demanded fiercely.
“Caroline’s tired and upset. But she has what she wants, and that’s the main thing.”
“Are you referring to yourself?” demanded Michael incredulously.
“May I ask how long she’s wanted you?”
“About two years.” Before Michael could answer, he was gone.
During the next two days Michael floated in an abyss of helplessness. The idea haunted him that he had left something undone that would sever this knot drawn tighter under his eyes. He phoned Caroline, but she insisted that it was physically impossible for her to see him until the day before the wedding, for which day she granted him a tentative rendezvous. Then he went to the bachelor dinner, partly in fear of an evening alone at his hotel, partly from a feeling that by his presence at that function he was somehow nearer to Caroline, keeping her in sight.