Another fragment from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Notebooks. The piece was left out of Tender Is the Night. Phillips Oppenheim was British.
“Did you ever read the books of Phillips Oppenheim?”
“I think I’ve read one.”
“He’s one of my favorite American writers,” Tommy said simply. “He writes about the Riviera, you know. I don’t know whether the things he writes about are true but this place is like that.”
Standing before the gate they were suddenly bathed in a small floodlight, quick as a flashlight, that left them blinded for a moment. Then a voice from behind the gate.
“Who’s this, please?”
“Tell Monsieur Irv that it’s Monsieur Tommy. Tell him we can’t come in the house, but can he come out in the garden a minute.”
A section of the gate rumbled open like a safe and they were in a park, following a young Italo-American dandy toward a lighted house. They waited just out of range of the porch light, and presently the door opened and a dark thin man of forty came out and gazed blindly.
“Where you, Tommy?”
“Down here. Don’t come. I have a lady with me who wants to remain anonymous.”
“I’ve got a lady with me who doesn’t want to be seen— like you.”
“Oh, I unestand, I unestand.”
“We want to swim. Anybody on the beach?”
“Nobody, nobody. Go ahead, Tommy. You want suits, towels?”
“All right, some towels. Nodoby’s going to come down, are they?”
“No, no, nobody. Say, did you see Du Pont de Nemours went up—”
“No stock market in the presence of ladies.”
“All right, excuse me, lady. You wait now—Salve will take you down—don’t want you to get in trouble.”
As Irv re-entered the house Tommy said, “Probably he’s phoning the machine gunner to pass us. He was a fellow townsman of yours in Chicago—now he has the best beach on the Riviera.”
Curiously Nicole followed down an intricate path, then through a sliding steel door that operated like a guillotine, out into a roofless cavern of white moonlight, formed by pale boulders about a cup of phosphorescent waters. It faced Monaco and the blur of Mentone beyond. She likes his taste in bringing her here—from the highhanded storming of Mr. Irv’s fortress.
Then, starting back the lane by which they had come Tommy tripped over a wire and a faint buzzer sounded far away.
“My God!” he excalimed, “that a man should have to live like this!”
“Is he afraid of burglars?”
“He’s afraid of your lovely city and came here with a bodyguard of a dozen monkeys—is that the right slang? Maybe Al Capone is after him. Anyhow he has one period between being drunk and being sober when he is very nice.”
He broke off as again they were momentarily bathed in the ubiquitous spotlight. Then amber lamps glowed on the porch of the castellated villa and Mr. Irv, this time supported by the very neat young man, came out unsteadily.
“I kept them off the beach, Tommy,” he announced.
“Thank you, very much.”
“Won’t you both change your minds and come in? In greatest confidence. I have some other ladies here.” He raised his voice as if to address Nicole. “As you are a lady of background you will like ’em.”
“It’s four o’clock,” said Tommy. “We have to get to our background. Good night.”
Irv’s voice followed them.
“You never make a mistake having to do with a lady.”