Gatsby girls, p.24

Gatsby Girls, page 24

 

Gatsby Girls
 


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  As a decoy for Scott’s tantalization she located by telephone a certain Jimmy Long, a handsome boy with whom she had played as a little girl and who had recently come to New York to work. Jimmy Long was deftly maneuvered into asking her to go to a matinee with him on Wednesday afternoon. He was to meet her in the lobby at two.

  On Wednesday she lunched with Scott. His eyes followed her every motion, and knowing this she felt a great rush of tenderness toward him. Desiring at first only what he represented, she had begun half unconsciously to desire him also. Nevertheless, she did not permit herself the slightest relaxation on that account. The time was too short and the odds too great. That she was beginning to love him only fortified her resolve.

  “Where are you going this afternoon?” he demanded.

  “To a matinee—with an annoying man.”

  “Why is he annoying?”

  “Because he wants me to marry him and I don’t believe I want to.”

  There was just the faintest emphasis on the word “believe.” The implication was that she was not sure—that is, not quite.

  “Don’t marry him.”

  “I won’t—probably.”

  “Yanci,” he said in a low voice, “do you remember a night on that boulevard?

  She changed the subject. It was noon and the room was full of sunlight. It was not quite the place, the time. When he spoke she must have every aspect of the situation in control. He must say only what she wanted said; nothing else would do.

  “It’s five minutes to two,” she told him, looking at her wristwatch. “ We’d better go. I’ve got to keep my date.”

  “Do you want to go?”

  “No, she answered simply.

  This seemed to satisfy him, and they walked out to the lobby. Then Yanci caught sight of a man waiting there, obviously ill at ease and dressed as no habitué of the Ritz ever was. The man was Jimmy Long, not long since a favored beau of his Western city. And now—his hat was green, actually! His coat, seasons old, was quite evidently the product of a well-known ready-made concern. His shoes, long and narrow, turned up at the toes. From head to foot everything that could possibly he wrong about him was wrong. He was embarrassed by instinct only, unconscious of his gaucherie, an obscene specter, a Nemesis, a horror.

  “Hello, Yanci!” he cried, starting toward her with evident relief.

  With a heroic effort Yanci turned to Scott, trying to hold his glance to herself. In the very act of turning she noticed the impeccability of Scott’s coat, his tie.

  “Thanks for luncheon,” she said with a radiant smile. “See you to-morrow.”

  Then she dived rather than ran for Jimmy Long, disposed of his outstretched hand and bundled him bumping through the revolving door with only a quick “Let’s hurry!” to appease his somewhat sulky astonishment.

  The incident worried her. She consoled herself by remembering that Scott had had only a momentary glance at the man, and that he had probably been looking at her anyhow. Nevertheless, she was horrified, and it is to be doubted whether Jimmy Long enjoyed her company enough to compensate him for the cut-price, twentieth-row tickets he had obtained at Black’s Drug Store.

  But if Jimmy as a decoy had proved a lamentable failure, an occurrence of Thursday offered her considerable satisfaction and paid tribute to her quickness of mind. She had invented an engagement for luncheon, and Scott was going to meet her at two o’clock to take her to the Hippodrome. She lunched alone somewhat imprudently in the Ritz dining room and sauntered out almost side by side with a good-looking young man who had been at the table next to her. She expected to meet Scott in the outer lobby, but as she reached the entrance to the restaurant she saw him standing not far away.

  On a lightning impulse she turned to the good-looking man abreast of her, bowed sweetly and said in an audible, friendly voice, “ Well, I’ll see you later.” Then before he could even register astonishment she faced about quickly and joined Scott.

  “Who was that?” he asked, frowning.

  “Isn’t he darling looking?”

  “If you like that sort of looks.”

  Scott’s tone implied that the gentleman referred to was effete and overdressed. Yanci laughed, impersonally admiring the skillfulness of her ruse. It was in preparation for that all-important Saturday night that on Thursday she went into a shop on Forty-second Street to buy some long gloves. She made her purchase and handed the clerk a fifty-dollar bill so that her lightened pocketbook would feel heavier with the change she could put in. To her surprise the clerk tendered her the package and a twenty-five-cent piece.

  “Is there anything else?”

  “The rest of my change.”

  “You’ve got it. You gave me five dollars. Four-seventy-five for the gloves leaves twenty-five cents.”

  “I gave you fifty dollars.”

  “You must be mistaken.”

  Yanci searched her purse.

  “I gave you fifty!” she repeated frantically.

  “No, ma’am, I saw it myself.”

  They glared at each other in hot irritation. A cash girl was called to testify, then the floor manager; a small crowd gathered.

  “Why, I’m perfectly sure !” cried Yanci, two angry tears trembling in her eyes. “I’m positive!”

  The floor manager was sorry, but the lady really must have left it at home. There was no fifty-dollar bill in the cash drawer. The bottom was creaking out of Yanci’s rickety world.

  “If you’ll leave your address,” said the floor manager, “I’ll let you know if anything turns up.”

  “Oh, you damn fools!” cried Yanci, losing control. “I’ll get the police!”

  And weeping like a child she left the shop. Outside, helplessness overpowered her. How could she prove anything? It was after six and the store was closing even as she left it. Whichever employee had the fifty-dollar bill would be on her way home now before the police could arrive, and why should the New York police believe her, or even give her fair play?

  In despair she returned to the Ritz, where she searched through her trunk for the bill with hopeless and mechanical gestures. It was not there. She had known it would not be there. She gathered every penny together and found that she had fifty-one dollars and thirty cents. Telephoning the office, she asked that her bill be made out up to the following noon—she was too dispirited to think of leaving before then.

  She waited in her room, not daring even to send for ice water. Then the phone rang and she heard the room clerk’s voice, cheerful and metallic.

  “Miss Bowman?”

  “Yes.”

  “Your bill, including tonight, is exactly fifty-one twenty.”

  “Fifty-one twenty?” Her voice was trembling.

  “Yes, ma’am.”

  “Thank you very much.”

  Breathless, she sat there beside the telephone, too frightened now to cry. She had ten cents left in the world!

  Friday. She had scarcely slept. There were dark rings under her eyes, and even a hot bath followed by a cold one failed to arouse her from a despairing lethargy. She had never fully realized what it would mean to be without money in New York; her determination and vitality seemed to have vanished at last with her fifty-dollar bill. There was no help for it now—she must attain her desire today or never.

  She was to meet Scott at the Plaza for tea. She wondered—was it her imagination, or had his manner been consciously cool the afternoon before? For the first time in several days she had needed to make no effort to keep the conversation from growing sentimental. Suppose he had decided that it must come to nothing—that she was too extravagant, too frivolous. A hundred eventualities presented themselves to her during the morning—a dreary morning, broken only by her purchase of a ten-cent bun at a grocery store.

  It was her first food in twenty hours, but she self-consciously pretended to the grocer to be having an amusing and facetious time in buying one bun. She even asked to see his grapes, but told him, after looking at them appraisingly—and hungrily—
that she didn’t think she’d buy any. They didn’t look ripe to her, she said. The store was full of prosperous women who, with thumb and first finger joined and held high in front of them, were inspecting food. Yanci would have liked to ask one of them for a bunch of grapes. Instead she went up to her room in the hotel and ate her bun.

  When four o’clock came she found that she was thinking more about the sandwiches she would have for tea than of what else must occur there, and as she walked slowly up Fifth Avenue toward the Plaza she felt a sudden faintness which she took several deep breaths of air to overcome. She wondered vaguely where the bread line was. That was where people in her condition should go—but where was it? How did one find out? She imagined fantastically that it was in the phone book under B, or perhaps under N, for New York Bread Line.

  She reached the Plaza. Scott’s figure, as he stood waiting for her in the crowded lobby, was a personification of solidity and hope.

  “Let’s hurry!” she cried with a tortured smile. “I feel rather punk and I want some tea.”

  She ate a club sandwich, some chocolate ice cream and six tea biscuits. She could have eaten much more, but she dared not. The eventuality of her hunger having been disposed of, she must turn at bay now and face this business of life, represented by the handsome young man who sat opposite watching her with some emotion whose import she could not determine just behind his level eyes.

  But the words, the glance, subtle, pervasive and sweet, that she had planned, failed somehow to come.

  “Oh, Scott,” she said in a low voice, “I’m so tired.”

  “Tired of what?” he asked coolly.

  “ Of —everything.”

  There was a silence.

  “I’m afraid,” she said uncertainly—“I’m afraid I won’t be able to keep that date with you tomorrow.”

  There was no pretense in her voice now. The emotion was apparent in the waiver of each word, without intention or control.

  “I’m going away.”

  “Are you? Where?”

  His tone showed a strong interest, but she winced as she saw that that was all.

  “My aunt’s come back. She wants me to join her in Florida right away.”

  “Isn’t this rather unexpected?”

  “Yes.”

  “You’ll be coming back soon?” he said after a moment.

  “I don’t think so. I think we’ll go to Europe from—from New Orleans.”

  “Oh!”

  Again there was a pause. It lengthened. In the shadow of a moment it would become awkward, she knew. She had lost—well? Yet, she would go on to the end.

  “Will you miss me?”

  “Yes.”

  One word. She caught his eyes, wondered for a moment if she saw more there than kindly interest; then she dropped her own again.

  “I like it—here at the Plaza,” she heard herself saying. They spoke of things like that.

  Afterwards she could never remember what they said. They spoke—even of the tea, of the thaw that was ended and the cold coming down outside. She was sick at heart and she seemed to herself very old. She rose at last.

  “I’ve got to tear,” she said. “I’m going out to dinner.”

  To the last she would keep on—the illusion, that was the important thing. To hold her proud lies inviolate—there was only a moment now. They walked toward the door.

  “Put me in a taxi,” she said quietly. “I don’t feel equal to walking.”

  He helped her in. They shook hands.

  “Good-by, Scott,” she said.

  “Good-by, Yanci,” he answered slowly.

  “You’ve been awfully nice to me. I’ll always remember what a good time you helped to give me this two weeks.”

  “The pleasure was mine. Shall I tell the driver the Ritz?”

  “No. Just tell him to drive out Fifth. I’ll tap on the glass when I want him to stop.”

  Out Fifth! He would think, perhaps, that she was dining on Fifth. What an appropriate finish that would be! She wondered if he were impressed. She could not see his face clearly, because the air was dark with the snow and her own eyes were blurred by tears.

  “Good-by,” he said simply.

  He seemed to realize that any pretense of sorrow on his part would be transparent.

  She knew that he did not want her.

  The door slammed, the car started, skidding in the snowy street. Yanci leaned back dismally in the corner.

  Try as she might, she could not see where she had failed or what it was that had changed his attitude toward her. For the first time in her life she had ostensibly offered herself to a man—and he had not wanted her. The precariousness of her position paled beside the tragedy of her defeat.

  She let the car go on—the cold air was what she needed, of course. Ten minutes had slipped away drearily before she realized that she had not a penny with which to pay the driver.

  “It doesn’t matter,” she thought. “They’ll just send me to jail, and that’s a place to sleep.”

  She began thinking of the taxi driver.

  “He’ll be mad when he finds out, poor man. Maybe he’s very poor, and he’ll have to pay the fare himself.” With a vague sentimentality she began to cry.

  “Poor taxi man,” she was saying half aloud. “Oh, people have such a hard time—such a hard time!”

  She rapped on the window and when the car drew up at a curb she got out. She was at the end of Fifth Avenue and it was dark and cold.

  “Send for the police!” she cried in a quick low voice. “I haven’t any money!”

  The taxi man scowled down at her. “Then what’d you get in for?”

  She had not noticed that another car had stopped about twenty-five feet behind them. She heard running footsteps in the snow and then a voice at her elbow.

  “It’s all right,” someone was saying to the taxi man. “I’ve got it right here.’

  A bill was passed up. Yanci slumped sideways against Scott’s overcoat.

  Scott knew—he knew because he had gone to Princeton to surprise her, because the stranger she had spoken to in the Ritz had been his best friend, because the check of her father’s for three hundred dollars had been returned to him marked “No funds.” Scott knew—he had known for days.

  But he said nothing; only stood there holding her with one arm as her taxi drove away.

  “Oh, it’s you,” said Yanci faintly. “Lucky you came along. I left my purse back at the Ritz, like an awful fool. I do such ridiculous things —”

  Scott laughed with some enjoyment. There was a light snow falling, and lest she should slip in the damp he picked her up and carried her back toward his waiting taxi.

  “Such ridiculous things,” she repeated.

  “Go to the Ritz first,” he said to the driver. “I want to get a trunk.”

  Appendix One

  PAGES OF THE SATURDAY EVENING POST

  Appendix Two

  ILLUSTRATIONS

  HEAD AND SHOULDERS

  MYRA MEETS HIS FAMILY

  THE CAMEL’S BACK

  BERNICE BOBS HER HAIR

  ICE PALACE

  OFF SHORE PIRATES

  POPULAR GIRL PART I

  POPULAR GIRL PART II

  She was an impulsive, fashionable and carefree 1920’s woman who embodied the essence of the Gatsby Girl -- F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife, Zelda. As Fitzgerald said, “I married the heroine of my stories.” All of the eight short stories contained in this collection were inspired by Zelda.

  Fitzgerald, one of the foremost writers of American fiction, found early success as a short story writer for the most widely read magazine of the early 20th century -- The Saturday Evening Post. Fitzgerald’s stories, first published by the Post between 1920 and 1922, brought the Jazz Age and the “flapper” to life and confirmed that America was changing faster than ever before. Women were bobbing their hair, drinking and flirting shamelessly, and Fitzgerald brought these exciting Gatsby Girls to life in the pages of the Post.
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  A foreword by Jeff Nilsson, archivist for the Post, adds historical context to this wonderful, new collection, which is highlighted by an introduction written by Fitzgerald himself. Each story is accompanied by the original illustrations and the beautiful cover images from the Post. Read the stories that made F. Scott Fitzgerald one of the most beloved writers in America -- and around the world -- still today.

  GatsbyGirls.com

  Photo by Ellie Newman Ligon, Montgomery, AL Cover Art Illustration by Ellen B.T. Pyle

  Cover Art Illustration by Ellen B.T. Pyle

 


 

  F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gatsby Girls

 


 

 
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