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|2 BP if I bust a nut (NSFW)|
So here’s how this works. You post, and on Monday, I will read this thread while fapping ravenously. Whoever post I’m reading when I bust a nut gets 2 BP. I’ll even throw in an extra BP if my wad hits the screen. Pr0n is greatly appreciated.
|Posted On: 11/07/2008 3:49PM||#|
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Happy now? Oh, and by the way, is it only one post per person?
|Posted On: 11/07/2008 4:02PM||View MicRo-BreAtH's Profile | #|
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|Posted On: 11/07/2008 4:10PM||View Cel's Profile | #|
Your mom think’s you deserve a spanking, for your wanking.
|Posted On: 11/07/2008 5:05PM||View Syntome's Profile | #|
In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.
“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”
He didn’t say any more, but we’ve always been unusually communicative in a reserved way, and I understood that he meant a great deal more than that. In consequence, I’m inclined to reserve all judgments, a habit that has opened up many curious natures to me and also made me the victim of not a few veteran bores. The abnormal mind is quick to detect and attach itself to this quality when it appears in a normal person, and so it came about that in college I was unjustly accused of being a politician, because I was privy to the secret griefs of wild, unknown men. Most of the confidences were unsought—frequently I have feigned sleep, preoccupation, or a hostile levity when I realized by some unmistakable sign that an intimate revelation was quivering on the horizon; for the intimate revelations of young men, or at least the terms in which they express them, are usually plagiaristic and marred by obvious suppressions. Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope. I am still a little afraid of missing something if I forget that, as my father snobbishly suggested, and I snobbishly repeat, a sense of the fundamental decencies is parcelled out unequally at birth.
And, after boasting this way of my tolerance, I come to the admission that it has a limit. Conduct may be founded on the hard rock or the wet marshes, but after a certain point I don’t care what it’s founded on. When I came back from the East last autumn I felt that I wanted the world to be in uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever; I wanted no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart. Only Gatsby, the man who gives his name to this book, was exempt from my reaction—Gatsby, who represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn. If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away. This responsiveness had nothing to do with that flabby impressionability which is dignified under the name of the “creative temperament.”—it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again. No—Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men.
My family have been prominent, well-to-do people in this Middle Western city for three generations. The Carraways are something of a clan, and we have a tradition that we’re descended from the Dukes of Buccleuch, but the actual founder of my line was my grandfather’s brother, who came here in fifty-one, sent a substitute to the Civil War, and started the wholesale hardware business that my father carries on to-day.
I never saw this great-uncle, but I’m supposed to look like him—with special reference to the rather hard-boiled painting that hangs in father’s office I graduated from New Haven in 1915, just a quarter of a century after my father, and a little later I participated in that delayed Teutonic migration known as the Great War. I enjoyed the counter-raid so thoroughly that I came back restless. Instead of being the warm centre of the world, the Middle West now seemed like the ragged edge of the universe—so I decided to go East and learn the bond business. Everybody I knew was in the bond business, so I supposed it could support one more single man. All my aunts and uncles talked it over as if they were choosing a prep school for me, and finally said, “Why—ye—es,” with very grave, hesitant faces. Father agreed to finance me for a year, and after various delays I came East, permanently, I thought, in the spring of twenty-two.
|Posted On: 11/07/2008 5:10PM||View Johnny Mac's Profile | #|
...SIG-ENABLING-MOCK CONGLER edited this message on 11/07/2008 5:10PM
|Posted On: 11/07/2008 5:10PM||View SIG-ENABLING-MOC...'s Profile | #|
The practical thing was to find rooms in the city, but it was a warm season, and I had just left a country of wide lawns and friendly trees, so when a young man at the office suggested that we take a house together in a commuting town, it sounded like a great idea. He found the house, a weather-beaten cardboard bungalow at eighty a month, but at the last minute the firm ordered him to Washington, and I went out to the country alone. I had a dog—at least I had him for a few days until he ran away—and an old Dodge and a Finnish woman, who made my bed and cooked breakfast and muttered Finnish wisdom to herself over the electric stove.
It was lonely for a day or so until one morning some man, more recently arrived than I, stopped me on the road.
“How do you get to West Egg village?” he asked helplessly.
I told him. And as I walked on I was lonely no longer. I was a guide, a pathfinder, an original settler. He had casually conferred on me the freedom of the neighborhood.
And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.
There was so much to read, for one thing, and so much fine health to be pulled down out of the young breath-giving air. I bought a dozen volumes on banking and credit and investment securities, and they stood on my shelf in red and gold like new money from the mint, promising to unfold the shining secrets that only Midas and Morgan and Maecenas knew. And I had the high intention of reading many other books besides. I was rather literary in college—one year I wrote a series of very solemn and obvious editorials for the “Yale News.”—and now I was going to bring back all such things into my life and become again that most limited of all specialists, the “well-rounded man.” This isn’t just an epigram—life is much more successfully looked at from a single window, after all.
It was a matter of chance that I should have rented a house in one of the strangest communities in North America. It was on that slender riotous island which extends itself due east of New York—and where there are, among other natural curiosities, two unusual formations of land. Twenty miles from the city a pair of enormous eggs, identical in contour and separated only by a courtesy bay, jut out into the most domesticated body of salt water in the Western hemisphere, the great wet barnyard of Long Island Sound. they are not perfect ovals—like the egg in the Columbus story, they are both crushed flat at the contact end—but their physical resemblance must be a source of perpetual confusion to the gulls that fly overhead. to the wingless a more arresting phenomenon is their dissimilarity in every particular except shape and size.
I lived at West Egg, the—well, the less fashionable of the two, though this is a most superficial tag to express the bizarre and not a little sinister contrast between them. my house was at the very tip of the egg, only fifty yards from the Sound, and squeezed between two huge places that rented for twelve or fifteen thousand a season. the one on my right was a colossal affair by any standard—it was a factual imitation of some Hotel de Ville in Normandy, with a tower on one side, spanking new under a thin beard of raw ivy, and a marble swimming pool, and more than forty acres of lawn and garden. it was Gatsby’s mansion. Or, rather, as I didn’t know Mr. Gatsby, it was a mansion inhabited by a gentleman of that name. My own house was an eyesore, but it was a small eyesore, and it had been overlooked, so I had a view of the water, a partial view of my neighbor’s lawn, and the consoling proximity of millionaires—all for eighty dollars a month.
Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water, and the history of the summer really begins on the evening I drove over there to have dinner with the Tom Buchanans. Daisy was my second cousin once removed, and I’d known Tom in college. And just after the war I spent two days with them in Chicago.
Her husband, among various physical accomplishments, had been one of the most powerful ends that ever played football at New Haven—a national figure in a way, one of those men who reach such an acute limited excellence at twenty-one that everything afterward savors of anti-climax. His family were enormously wealthy—even in college his freedom with money was a matter for reproach—but now he’d left Chicago and come East in a fashion that rather took your breath away: for instance, he’d brought down a string of polo ponies from Lake Forest. it was hard to realize that a man in my own generation was wealthy enough to do that.
Why they came East I don’t know. They had spent a year in France for no particular reason, and then drifted here and there unrestfully wherever people played polo and were rich together. This was a permanent move, said Daisy over the telephone, but I didn’t believe it—I had no sight into Daisy’s heart, but I felt that Tom would drift on forever seeking, a little wistfully, for the dramatic turbulence of some irrecoverable football game.
And so it happened that on a warm windy evening I drove over to East Egg to see two old friends whom I scarcely knew at all. Their house was even more elaborate than I expected, a cheerful red-and-white Georgian Colonial mansion, overlooking the bay. The lawn started at the beach and ran toward the front door for a quarter of a mile, jumping over sun-dials and brick walks and burning gardens—finally when it reached the house drifting up the side in bright vines as though from the momentum of its run. The front was broken by a line of French windows, glowing now with reflected gold and wide open to the warm windy afternoon, and Tom Buchanan in riding clothes was standing with his legs apart on the front porch.
He had changed since his New Haven years. Now he was a sturdy straw-haired man of thirty with a rather hard mouth and a supercilious manner. Two shining arrogant eyes had established dominance over his face and gave him the appearance of always leaning aggressively forward. Not even the effeminate swank of his riding clothes could hide the enormous power of that body—he seemed to fill those glistening boots until he strained the top lacing, and you could see a great pack of muscle shifting when his shoulder moved under his thin coat. It was a body capable of enormous leverage—a cruel body.
His speaking voice, a gruff husky tenor, added to the impression of fractiousness he conveyed. There was a touch of paternal contempt in it, even toward people he liked—and there were men at New Haven who had hated his guts.
“Now, don’t think my opinion on these matters is final,” he seemed to say, “just because I’m stronger and more of a man than you are.” We were in the same senior society, and while we were never intimate I always had the impression that he approved of me and wanted me to like him with some harsh, defiant wistfulness of his own.
We talked for a few minutes on the sunny porch.
“I’ve got a nice place here,” he said, his eyes flashing about restlessly.
Turning me around by one arm, he moved a broad flat hand along the front vista, including in its sweep a sunken Italian garden, a half acre of deep, pungent roses, and a snub-nosed motor-boat that bumped the tide offshore.
“It belonged to Demaine, the oil man.” He turned me around again, politely and abruptly. “We’ll go inside.”
We walked through a high hallway into a bright rosy-colored space, fragilely bound into the house by French windows at either end. The windows were ajar and gleaming white against the fresh grbum outside that seemed to grow a little way into the house. A breeze blew through the room, blew curtains in at one end and out the other like pale flags, twisting them up toward the frosted wedding-cake of the ceiling, and then rippled over the wine-colored rug, making a shadow on it as wind does on the sea.
The only completely stationary object in the room was an enormous couch on which two young women were buoyed up as though upon an anchored balloon. They were both in white, and their dresses were rippling and fluttering as if they had just been blown back in after a short flight around the house. I must have stood for a few moments listening to the whip and snap of the curtains and the groan of a picture on the wall. Then there was a boom as Tom Buchanan shut the rear windows and the caught wind died out about the room, and the curtains and the rugs and the two young women ballooned slowly to the floor.
The younger of the two was a stranger to me. She was extended full length at her end of the divan, completely motionless, and with her chin raised a little, as if she were balancing something on it which was quite likely to fall. If she saw me out of the corner of her eyes she gave no hint of it—indeed, I was almost surprised into murmuring an apology for having disturbed her by coming in.
The other girl, Daisy, made an attempt to rise—she leaned slightly forward with a conscientious expression—then she laughed, an absurd, charming little laugh, and I laughed too and came forward into the room.
|Posted On: 11/07/2008 5:10PM||View Johnny Mac's Profile | #|
“I’m p-paralyzed with happiness.” She laughed again, as if she said something very witty, and held my hand for a moment, looking up into my face, promising that there was no one in the world she so much wanted to see. That was a way she had. She hinted in a murmur that the surname of the balancing girl was Baker. (I’ve heard it said that Daisy’s murmur was only to make people lean toward her; an irrelevant criticism that made it no less charming.)
At any rate, Miss Baker’s lips fluttered, she nodded at me almost imperceptibly, and then quickly tipped her head back again—the object she was balancing had obviously tottered a little and given her something of a fright. Again a sort of apology arose to my lips. Almost any exhibition of complete self-sufficiency draws a stunned tribute from me.
I looked back at my cousin, who began to ask me questions in her low, thrilling voice. It was the kind of voice that the ear follows up and down, as if each speech is an arrangement of notes that will never be played again. Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it, bright eyes and a bright pbumionate mouth, but there was an excitement in her voice that men who had cared for her found difficult to forget: a singing compulsion, a whispered “Listen,” a promise that she had done gay, exciting things just a while since and that there were gay, exciting things hovering in the next hour.
I told her how I had stopped off in Chicago for a day on my way East, and how a dozen people had sent their love through me.
“Do they miss me?” she cried ecstatically.
“The whole town is desolate. All the cars have the left rear wheel painted black as a mourning wreath, and there’s a persistent wail all night along the north shore.”
“How gorgeous! Let’s go back, Tom. To-morrow!” Then she added irrelevantly: “You ought to see the baby.”
“I’d like to.”
“She’s asleep. She’s three years old. Haven’t you ever seen her?”
“Well, you ought to see her. She’s——”
Tom Buchanan, who had been hovering restlessly about the room, stopped and rested his hand on my shoulder.
“What you doing, Nick?”
“I’m a bond man.”
I told him.
“Never heard of them,” he remarked decisively.
This annoyed me.
“You will,” I answered shortly. “You will if you stay in the East.”
“Oh, I’ll stay in the East, don’t you worry,” he said, glancing at Daisy and then back at me, as if he were alert for something more. “I’d be a God damned fool to live anywhere else.”
At this point Miss Baker said: “Absolutely!” with such suddenness that I started—it was the first word she uttered since I came into the room. Evidently it surprised her as much as it did me, for she yawned and with a series of rapid, deft movements stood up into the room.
“I’m stiff,” she complained, “I’ve been lying on that sofa for as long as I can remember.”
“Don’t look at me,” Daisy retorted, “I’ve been trying to get you to New York all afternoon.”
“No, thanks,” said Miss Baker to the four male reproductive organtails just in from the pantry, “I’m absolutely in training.”
Her host looked at her incredulously.
“You are!” He took down his drink as if it were a drop in the bottom of a glbum. “How you ever get anything done is beyond me.”
I looked at Miss Baker, wondering what it was she “got done.” I enjoyed looking at her. She was a slender, small-breasted girl, with an erect carriage, which she accentuated by throwing her body backward at the shoulders like a young cadet. Her gray sun-strained eyes looked back at me with polite reciprocal curiosity out of a wan, charming, discontented face. It occurred to me now that I had seen her, or a picture of her, somewhere before.
“You live in West Egg,” she remarked contemptuously. “I know somebody there.”
“I don’t know a single——”
“You must know Gatsby.”
“Gatsby?” demanded Daisy. “What Gatsby?”
Before I could reply that he was my neighbor dinner was announced; wedging his tense arm imperatively under mine, Tom Buchanan compelled me from the room as though he were moving a checker to another square.
Slenderly, languidly, their hands set lightly on their hips, the two young women preceded us out onto a rosy-colored porch, open toward the sunset, where four candles flickered on the table in the diminished wind.
“Why CANDLES?” objected Daisy, frowning. She snapped them out with her fingers. “In two weeks it’ll be the longest day in the year.” She looked at us all radiantly. “Do you always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it? I always watch for the longest day in the year and then miss it.”
“We ought to plan something,” yawned Miss Baker, sitting down at the table as if she were getting into bed.
“All right,” said Daisy. “What’ll we plan?” She turned to me helplessly: “What do people plan?”
Before I could answer her eyes fastened with an awed expression on her little finger.
“Look!” she complained; “I hurt it.”
We all looked—the knuckle was black and blue.
“You did it, Tom,” she said accusingly. “I know you didn’t mean to, but you DID do it. That’s what I get for marrying a brute of a man, a great, big, hulking physical specimen of a——”
“I hate that word hulking,” objected Tom crossly, “even in kidding.”
“Hulking,” insisted Daisy.
Sometimes she and Miss Baker talked at once, unobtrusively and with a bantering inconsequence that was never quite chatter, that was as cool as their white dresses and their impersonal eyes in the absence of all desire. They were here, and they accepted Tom and me, making only a polite pleasant effort to entertain or to be entertained. They knew that presently dinner would be over and a little later the evening too would be over and casually put away. It was sharply different from the West, where an evening was hurried from phase to phase toward its close, in a continually disappointed anticipation or else in sheer nervous dread of the moment itself.
“You make me feel uncivilized, Daisy,” I confessed on my second glbum of corky but rather impressive claret. “Can’t you talk about crops or something?”
I meant nothing in particular by this remark, but it was taken up in an unexpected way.
“Civilization’s going to pieces,” broke out Tom violently. “I’ve gotten to be a terrible pessimist about things. Have you read ‘The Rise of the Colored Empires’ by this man Goddard?”
“Why, no,” I answered, rather surprised by his tone.
“Well, it’s a fine book, and everybody ought to read it. The idea is if we don’t look out the white race will be—will be utterly submerged. It’s all scientific stuff; it’s been proved.”
“Tom’s getting very profound,” said Daisy, with an expression of unthoughtful sadness. “He reads deep books with long words in them. What was that word we——”
“Well, these books are all scientific,” insisted Tom, glancing at her impatiently. “This fellow has worked out the whole thing. It’s up to us, who are the dominant race, to watch out or these other races will have control of things.”
“We’ve got to beat them down,” whispered Daisy, winking ferociously toward the fervent sun.
“You ought to live in California—” began Miss Baker, but Tom interrupted her by shifting heavily in his chair.
“This idea is that we’re Nordics. I am, and you are, and you are, and——” After an infinitesimal hesitation he included Daisy with a slight nod, and she winked at me again. “—And we’ve produced all the things that go to make civilization—oh, science and art, and all that. Do you see?”
There was something pathetic in his concentration, as if his complacency, more acute than of old, was not enough to him any more. When, almost immediately, the telephone rang inside and the butler left the porch Daisy seized upon the momentary interruption and leaned toward me.
“I’ll tell you a family secret,” she whispered enthusiastically. “It’s about the butler’s nose. Do you want to hear about the butler’s nose?”
“That’s why I came over to-night.”
|Posted On: 11/07/2008 5:11PM||View Johnny Mac's Profile | #|
“Well, he wasn’t always a butler; he used to be the silver polisher for some people in New York that had a silver service for two hundred people. He had to polish it from morning till night, until finally it began to affect his nose——”
“Things went from bad to worse,” suggested Miss Baker.
“Yes. Things went from bad to worse, until finally he had to give up his position.”
For a moment the last sunshine fell with romantic affection upon her glowing face; her voice compelled me forward breathlessly as I listened—then the glow faded, each light deserting her with lingering regret, like children leaving a pleasant street at dusk.
The butler came back and murmured something close to Tom’s ear, whereupon Tom frowned, pushed back his chair, and without a word went inside. As if his absence quickened something within her, Daisy leaned forward again, her voice glowing and singing.
“I love to see you at my table, Nick. You remind me of a—of a rose, an absolute rose. Doesn’t he?” She turned to Miss Baker for confirmation: “An absolute rose?”
This was untrue. I am not even faintly like a rose. She was only extemporizing, but a stirring warmth flowed from her, as if her heart was trying to come out to you concealed in one of those breathless, thrilling words. Then suddenly she threw her napkin on the table and excused herself and went into the house.
Miss Baker and I exchanged a short glance consciously devoid of meaning. I was about to speak when she sat up alertly and said “Sh!” in a warning voice. A subdued impbumioned murmur was audible in the room beyond, and Miss Baker leaned forward unashamed, trying to hear. The murmur trembled on the verge of coherence, sank down, mounted excitedly, and then ceased altogether.
“This Mr. Gatsby you spoke of is my neighbor——” I said.
“Don’t talk. I want to hear what happens.”
“Is something happening?” I inquired innocently.
“You mean to say you don’t know?” said Miss Baker, honestly surprised. “I thought everybody knew.”
“Why——” she said hesitantly, “Tom’s got some woman in New York.”
“Got some woman?” I repeated blankly.
Miss Baker nodded.
“She might have the decency not to telephone him at dinner time. Don’t you think?”
Almost before I had grasped her meaning there was the flutter of a dress and the crunch of leather boots, and Tom and Daisy were back at the table.
“It couldn’t be helped!” cried Daisy with tense gaiety.
She sat down, glanced searchingly at Miss Baker and then at me, and continued: “I looked outdoors for a minute, and it’s very romantic outdoors. There’s a bird on the lawn that I think must be a nightingale come over on the Cunard or White Star Line. He’s singing away——” Her voice sang: “It’s romantic, isn’t it, Tom?”
“Very romantic,” he said, and then miserably to me: “If it’s light enough after dinner, I want to take you down to the stables.”
The telephone rang inside, startlingly, and as Daisy shook her head decisively at Tom the subject of the stables, in fact all subjects, vanished into air. Among the broken fragments of the last five minutes at table I remember the candles being lit again, pointlessly, and I was conscious of wanting to look squarely at every one, and yet to avoid all eyes. I couldn’t guess what Daisy and Tom were thinking, but I doubt if even Miss Baker, who seemed to have mastered a certain hardy scepticism, was able utterly to put this fifth guest’s shrill metallic urgency out of mind. To a certain temperament the situation might have seemed intriguing—my own instinct was to telephone immediately for the police.
The horses, needless to say, were not mentioned again. Tom and Miss Baker, with several feet of twilight between them, strolled back into the library, as if to a vigil beside a perfectly tangible body, while, trying to look pleasantly interested and a little deaf, I followed Daisy around a chain of connecting verandas to the porch in front. In its deep gloom we sat down side by side on a wicker settee.
Daisy took her face in her hands as if feeling its lovely shape, and her eyes moved gradually out into the velvet dusk. I saw that turbulent emotions possessed her, so I asked what I thought would be some sedative questions about her little girl.
“We don’t know each other very well, Nick,” she said suddenly. “Even if we are cousins. You didn’t come to my wedding.”
“I wasn’t back from the war.”
“That’s true.” She hesitated. “Well, I’ve had a very bad time, Nick, and I’m pretty cynical about everything.”
Evidently she had reason to be. I waited but she didn’t say any more, and after a moment I returned rather feebly to the subject of her daughter.
“I suppose she talks, and—eats, and everything.”
“Oh, yes.” She looked at me absently. “Listen, Nick; let me tell you what I said when she was born. Would you like to hear?”
“It’ll show you how I’ve gotten to feel about—things. Well, she was less than an hour old and Tom was God knows where. I woke up out of the ether with an utterly abandoned feeling, and asked the nurse right away if it was a boy or a girl. She told me it was a girl, and so I turned my head away and wept. ‘all right,’ I said, ‘I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a fool—that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.”
“You see I think everything’s terrible anyhow,” she went on in a convinced way. “Everybody thinks so—the most advanced people. And I KNOW. I’ve been everywhere and seen everything and done everything.” Her eyes flashed around her in a defiant way, rather like Tom’s, and she laughed with thrilling scorn. “Sophisticated—God, I’m sophisticated!”
The instant her voice broke off, ceasing to compel my attention, my belief, I felt the basic insincerity of what she had said. It made me uneasy, as though the whole evening had been a trick of some sort to exact a contributory emotion from me. I waited, and sure enough, in a moment she looked at me with an absolute smirk on her lovely face, as if she had bumerted her membership in a rather distinguished secret society to which she and Tom belonged.
Inside, the crimson room bloomed with light.
Tom and Miss Baker sat at either end of the long couch and she read aloud to him from the SATURDAY EVENING POST.—the words, murmurous and uninflected, running together in a soothing tune. The lamp-light, bright on his boots and dull on the autumn-leaf yellow of her hair, glinted along the paper as she turned a page with a flutter of slender muscles in her arms.
When we came in she held us silent for a moment with a lifted hand.
“To be continued,” she said, tossing the magazine on the table, “in our very next issue.”
Her body bumerted itself with a restless movement of her knee, and she stood up.
“Ten o’clock,” she remarked, apparently finding the time on the ceiling. “Time for this good girl to go to bed.”
“Jordan’s going to play in the tournament to-morrow,” explained Daisy, “over at Westchester.”
“Oh—you’re Jordan BAKER.”
I knew now why her face was familiar—its pleasing contemptuous expression had looked out at me from many rotogravure pictures of the sporting life at Asheville and Hot Springs and Palm Beach. I had heard some story of her too, a critical, unpleasant story, but what it was I had forgotten long ago.
“Good night,” she said softly. “Wake me at eight, won’t you.”
“If you’ll get up.”
“I will. Good night, Mr. Carraway. See you anon.”
“Of course you will,” confirmed Daisy. “In fact I think I’ll arrange a marriage. Come over often, Nick, and I’ll sort of—oh—fling you together. You know—lock you up accidentally in linen closets and push you out to sea in a boat, and all that sort of thing——”
“Good night,” called Miss Baker from the stairs. “I haven’t heard a word.”
“She’s a nice girl,” said Tom after a moment. “They oughtn’t to let her run around the country this way.”
“Who oughtn’t to?” inquired Daisy coldly.
“Her family is one aunt about a thousand years old. Besides, Nick’s going to look after her, aren’t you, Nick? She’s going to spend lots of week-ends out here this summer. I think the home influence will be very good for her.”
Daisy and Tom looked at each other for a moment in silence.
“Is she from New York?” I asked quickly.
“From Louisville. Our white girlhood was pbumed together there. Our beautiful white——”
“Did you give Nick a little heart to heart talk on the veranda?” demanded Tom suddenly.
“Did I?” She looked at me.
“I can’t seem to remember, but I think we talked about the Nordic race. Yes, I’m sure we did. It sort of crept up on us and first thing you know——”
“Don’t believe everything you hear, Nick,” he advised me.
I said lightly that I had heard nothing at all, and a few minutes later I got up to go home. They came to the door with me and stood side by side in a cheerful square of light. As I started my motor Daisy peremptorily called: “Wait!”
“I forgot to ask you something, and it’s important. We heard you were engaged to a girl out West.”
“That’s right,” corroborated Tom kindly. “We heard that you were engaged.”
“It’s libel. I’m too poor.”
“But we heard it,” insisted Daisy, surprising me by opening up again in a flower-like way. “We heard it from three people, so it must be true.”
Of course I knew what they were referring to, but I wasn’t even vaguely engaged. The fact that gossip had published the banns was one of the reasons I had come East. You can’t stop going with an old friend on account of rumors, and on the other hand I had no intention of being rumored into marriage.
Their interest rather touched me and made them less remotely rich—nevertheless, I was confused and a little disgusted as I drove away. It seemed to me that the thing for Daisy to do was to rush out of the house, child in arms—but apparently there were no such intentions in her head. As for Tom, the fact that he “had some woman in New York.” was really less surprising than that he had been depressed by a book. Something was making him nibble at the edge of stale ideas as if his sturdy physical egotism no longer nourished his peremptory heart.
Already it was deep summer on roadhouse roofs and in front of wayside garages, where new red gas-pumps sat out in pools of light, and when I reached my estate at West Egg I ran the car under its shed and sat for a while on an abandoned grbum roller in the yard. The wind had blown off, leaving a loud, bright night, with wings beating in the trees and a persistent organ sound as the full bellows of the earth blew the frogs full of life. The silhouette of a moving cat wavered across the moonlight, and turning my head to watch it, I saw that I was not alone—fifty feet away a figure had emerged from the shadow of my neighbor’s mansion and was standing with his hands in his pockets regarding the silver pepper of the stars. Something in his leisurely movements and the secure position of his feet upon the lawn suggested that it was Mr. Gatsby himself, come out to determine what share was his of our local heavens.
I decided to call to him. Miss Baker had mentioned him at dinner, and that would do for an introduction. But I didn’t call to him, for he gave a sudden intimation that he was content to be alone—he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and, far as I was from him, I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward—and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock. When I looked once more for Gatsby he had vanished, and I was alone again in the unquiet darkness.
“Well, Prince, so Genoa and Lucca are now just family estates of the
Buonapartes. But I warn you, if you don’t tell me that this means war,
if you still try to defend the infamies and horrors perpetrated by
that Antichrist—I really believe he is Antichrist—I will have
nothing more to do with you and you are no longer my friend, no longer
my ‘faithful slave,’ as you call yourself! But how do you do? I see
I have frightened you—sit down and tell me all the news.”
It was in July, 1805, and the speaker was the well-known Anna
Pavlovna Scherer, maid of honor and favorite of the Empress Marya
Fedorovna. With these words she greeted Prince Vasili Kuragin, a man
of high rank and importance, who was the first to arrive at her
reception. Anna Pavlovna had had a cough for some days. She was, as
she said, suffering from la grippe; grippe being then a new word in
St. Petersburg, used only by the elite.
All her invitations without exception, written in French, and
delivered by a scarlet-liveried footman that morning, ran as follows:
“If you have nothing better to do, Count [or Prince], and if the
prospect of spending an evening with a poor invalid is not too
terrible, I shall be very charmed to see you tonight between 7 and 10-
“Heavens! what a virulent attack!” replied the prince, not in the
least disconcerted by this reception. He had just entered, wearing
an embroidered court uniform, knee breeches, and shoes, and had
stars on his breast and a serene expression on his flat face. He spoke
in that refined French in which our grandfathers not only spoke but
thought, and with the gentle, patronizing intonation natural to a
man of importance who had grown old in society and at court. He went
up to Anna Pavlovna, kissed her hand, presenting to her his bald,
scented, and shining head, and complacently seated himself on the
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“Can one be well while suffering morally? Can one be calm in times
like these if one has any feeling?” said Anna Pavlovna. “You are
staying the whole evening, I hope?”
“And the fete at the English ambbumador’s? Today is Wednesday. I
must put in an appearance there,” said the prince. “My daughter is
coming for me to take me there.”
“I thought today’s fete had been canceled. I confess all these
festivities and fireworks are becoming wearisome.”
“If they had known that you wished it, the entertainment would
have been put off,” said the prince, who, like a wound-up clock, by
force of habit said things he did not even wish to be believed.
“Don’t tease! Well, and what has been decided about Novosiltsev’s
dispatch? You know everything.”
“What can one say about it?” replied the prince in a cold,
listless tone. “What has been decided? They have decided that
Buonaparte has burnt his boats, and I believe that we are ready to
Prince Vasili always spoke languidly, like an actor repeating a
stale part. Anna Pavlovna Scherer on the contrary, despite her forty
years, overflowed with animation and impulsiveness. To be an
enthusiast had become her social vocation and, sometimes even when she
did not feel like it, she became enthusiastic in order not to
disappoint the expectations of those who knew her. The subdued smile
which, though it did not suit her faded features, always played
round her lips expressed, as in a spoiled child, a continual
consciousness of her charming defect, which she neither wished, nor
could, nor considered it necessary, to correct.
In the midst of a conversation on political matters Anna Pavlovna
“Oh, don’t speak to me of Austria. Perhaps I don’t understand
things, but Austria never has wished, and does not wish, for war.
She is betraying us! Russia alone must save Europe. Our gracious
sovereign recognizes his high vocation and will be true to it. That is
the one thing I have faith in! Our good and wonderful sovereign has to
perform the noblest role on earth, and he is so virtuous and noble
that God will not forsake him. He will fulfill his vocation and
crush the hydra of revolution, which has become more terrible than
ever in the person of this murderer and villain! We alone must
avenge the blood of the just one…. Whom, I ask you, can we rely
on?... England with her commercial spirit will not and cannot
understand the Emperor Alexander’s loftiness of soul. She has
refused to evacuate Malta. She wanted to find, and still seeks, some
secret motive in our actions. What answer did Novosiltsev get? None.
The English have not understood and cannot understand the
self-abnegation of our Emperor who wants nothing for himself, but only
desires the good of mankind. And what have they promised? Nothing! And
what little they have promised they will not perform! Prussia has
always declared that Buonaparte is invincible, and that all Europe
is powerless before him…. And I don’t believe a word that Hardenburg
says, or Haugwitz either. This famous Prussian neutrality is just a
trap. I have faith only in God and the lofty destiny of our adored
monarch. He will save Europe!”
She suddenly paused, smiling at her own impetuosity.
“I think,” said the prince with a smile, “that if you had been
sent instead of our dear Wintzingerode you would have captured the
King of Prussia’s consent by bumault. You are so eloquent. Will you
give me a cup of tea?”
“In a moment. A propos,” she added, becoming calm again, “I am
expecting two very interesting men tonight, le Vicomte de Mortemart,
who is connected with the Montmorencys through the Rohans, one of
the best French families. He is one of the genuine emigres, the good
ones. And also the Abbe Morio. Do you know that profound thinker? He
has been received by the Emperor. Had you heard?”
“I shall be delighted to meet them,” said the prince. “But tell me,”
he added with studied carelessness as if it had only just occurred
to him, though the question he was about to ask was the chief motive
of his visit, “is it true that the Dowager Empress wants Baron Funke
to be appointed first secretary at Vienna? The baron by all accounts
is a poor creature.”
Prince Vasili wished to obtain this post for his son, but others
were trying through the Dowager Empress Marya Fedorovna to secure it
for the baron.
Anna Pavlovna almost closed her eyes to indicate that neither she
nor anyone else had a right to criticize what the Empress desired or
was pleased with.
“Baron Funke has been recommended to the Dowager Empress by her
sister,” was all she said, in a dry and mournful tone.
As she named the Empress, Anna Pavlovna’s face suddenly bumumed an
expression of profound and sincere devotion and respect mingled with
sadness, and this occurred every time she mentioned her illustrious
patroness. She added that Her Majesty had deigned to show Baron
Funke beaucoup d’estime, and again her face clouded over with sadness.
The prince was silent and looked indifferent. But, with the
womanly and courtierlike quickness and tact habitual to her, Anna
Pavlovna wished both to rebuke him (for daring to speak he had done of
a man recommended to the Empress) and at the same time to console him,
so she said:
“Now about your family. Do you know that since your daughter came
out everyone has been enraptured by her? They say she is amazingly
The prince bowed to signify his respect and gratitude.
“I often think,” she continued after a short pause, drawing nearer
to the prince and smiling amiably at him as if to show that
political and social topics were ended and the time had come for
intimate conversation—”I often think how unfairly sometimes the
joys of life are distributed. Why has fate given you two such splendid
children? I don’t speak of Anatole, your youngest. I don’t like
him,” she added in a tone admitting of no rejoinder and raising her
eyebrows. “Two such charming children. And really you appreciate
them less than anyone, and so you don’t deserve to have them.”
And she smiled her ecstatic smile.
“I can’t help it,” said the prince. “Lavater would have said I
lack the bump of paternity.”
“Don’t joke; I mean to have a serious talk with you. Do you know I
am dissatisfied with your younger son? Between ourselves” (and her
face bumumed its melancholy expression), “he was mentioned at Her
Majesty’s and you were pitied….”
The prince answered nothing, but she looked at him significantly,
awaiting a reply. He frowned.
“What would you have me do?” he said at last. “You know I did all
a father could for their education, and they have both turned out
fools. Hippolyte is at least a quiet fool, but Anatole is an active
one. That is the only difference between them.” He said this smiling
in a way more natural and animated than usual, so that the wrinkles
round his mouth very clearly revealed something unexpectedly coarse
“And why are children born to such men as you? If you were not a
father there would be nothing I could reproach you with,” said Anna
Pavlovna, looking up pensively.
“I am your faithful slave and to you alone I can confess that my
children are the bane of my life. It is the cross I have to bear. That
is how I explain it to myself. It can’t be helped!”
He said no more, but expressed his resignation to cruel fate by a
gesture. Anna Pavlovna meditated.
“Have you never thought of marrying your prodigal son Anatole?”
she asked. “They say old maids have a mania for matchmaking, and
though I don’t feel that weakness in myself as yet, I know a little
person who is very unhappy with her father. She is a relation of
yours, Princess Mary Bolkonskaya.”
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“You know,” said the princess in the same tone of voice and still in
French, turning to a general, “my husband is deserting me? He is going
to get himself killed. Tell me what this wretched war is for?” she
added, addressing Prince Vasili, and without waiting for an answer she
turned to speak to his daughter, the beautiful Helene.
“What a delightful woman this little princess is!” said Prince
Vasili to Anna Pavlovna.
One of the next arrivals was a stout, heavily built young man with
close-cropped hair, spectacles, the light-colored breeches fashionable
at that time, a very high ruffle, and a brown dress coat. This stout
young man was an illegitimate son of Count Bezukhov, a well-known
grandee of Catherine’s time who now lay dying in Moscow. The young man
had not yet entered either the military or civil service, as he had
only just returned from abroad where he had been educated, and this
was his first appearance in society. Anna Pavlovna greeted him with
the nod she accorded to the lowest hierarchy in her drawing room.
But in spite of this lowest-grade greeting, a look of anxiety and
fear, as at the sight of something too large and unsuited to the
place, came over her face when she saw Pierre enter. Though he was
certainly rather bigger than the other men in the room, her anxiety
could only have reference to the clever though shy, but observant
and natural, expression which distinguished him from everyone else
in that drawing room.
“It is very good of you, Monsieur Pierre, to come and visit a poor
invalid,” said Anna Pavlovna, exchanging an alarmed glance with her
aunt as she conducted him to her.
Pierre murmured something unintelligible, and continued to look
round as if in search of something. On his way to the aunt he bowed to
the little princess with a pleased smile, as to an intimate
Anna Pavlovna’s alarm was justified, for Pierre turned away from the
aunt without waiting to hear her speech about Her Majesty’s health.
Anna Pavlovna in dismay detained him with the words: “Do you know
the Abbe Morio? He is a most interesting man.”
“Yes, I have heard of his scheme for perpetual peace, and it is very
interesting but hardly feasible.”
“You think so?” rejoined Anna Pavlovna in order to say something and
get away to attend to her duties as hostess. But Pierre now
committed a reverse act of impoliteness. First he had left a lady
before she had finished speaking to him, and now he continued to speak
to another who wished to get away. With his head bent, and his big
feet spread apart, he began explaining his reasons for thinking the
abbe’s plan chimerical.
“We will talk of it later,” said Anna Pavlovna with a smile.
And having got rid of this young man who did not know how to behave,
she resumed her duties as hostess and continued to listen and watch,
ready to help at any point where the conversation might happen to
flag. As the foreman of a spinning mill, when he has set the hands
to work, goes round and notices here a spindle that has stopped or
there one that creaks or makes more noise than it should, and
hastens to check the machine or set it in proper motion, so Anna
Pavlovna moved about her drawing room, approaching now a silent, now a
too-noisy group, and by a word or slight rearrangement kept the
conversational machine in steady, proper, and regular motion. But amid
these cares her anxiety about Pierre was evident. She kept an
anxious watch on him when he approached the group round Mortemart to
listen to what was being said there, and again when he pbumed to
another group whose center was the abbe.
Pierre had been educated abroad, and this reception at Anna
Pavlovna’s was the first he had attended in Russia. He knew that all
the intellectual lights of Petersburg were gathered there and, like
a child in a toyshop, did not know which way to look, afraid of
missing any clever conversation that was to be heard. Seeing the
self-confident and refined expression on the faces of those present he
was always expecting to hear something very profound. At last he
came up to Morio. Here the conversation seemed interesting and he
stood waiting for an opportunity to express his own views, as young
people are fond of doing.
Anna Pavlovna’s reception was in full swing. The spindles hummed
steadily and ceaselessly on all sides. With the exception of the aunt,
beside whom sat only one elderly lady, who with her thin careworn face
was rather out of place in this brilliant society, the whole company
had settled into three groups. One, chiefly masculine, had formed
round the abbe. Another, of young people, was grouped round the
beautiful Princess Helene, Prince Vasili’s daughter, and the little
Princess Bolkonskaya, very pretty and rosy, though rather too plump
for her age. The third group was gathered round Mortemart and Anna
The vicomte was a nice-looking young man with soft features and
polished manners, who evidently considered himself a celebrity but out
of politeness modestly placed himself at the disposal of the circle in
which he found himself. Anna Pavlovna was obviously serving him up
as a treat to her guests. As a clever maitre d’hotel serves up as a
specially choice delicacy a piece of meat that no one who had seen
it in the kitchen would have cared to eat, so Anna Pavlovna served
up to her guests, first the vicomte and then the abbe, as peculiarly
choice morsels. The group about Mortemart immediately began discussing
the murder of the Duc d’Enghien. The vicomte said that the Duc
d’Enghien had perished by his own magnanimity, and that there were
particular reasons for Buonaparte’s hatred of him.
“Ah, yes! Do tell us all about it, Vicomte,” said Anna Pavlovna,
with a pleasant feeling that there was something a la Louis XV in
the sound of that sentence: “Contez nous cela, Vicomte.”
The vicomte bowed and smiled courteously in token of his willingness
to comply. Anna Pavlovna arranged a group round him, inviting everyone
to listen to his tale.
“The vicomte knew the duc personally,” whispered Anna Pavlovna to of
the guests. “The vicomte is a wonderful raconteur,” said she to
another. “How evidently he belongs to the best society,” said she to a
third; and the vicomte was served up to the company in the choicest
and most advantageous style, like a well-garnished joint of roast beef
on a hot dish.
The vicomte wished to begin his story and gave a subtle smile.
“Come over here, Helene, dear,” said Anna Pavlovna to the
beautiful young princess who was sitting some way off, the center of
The princess smiled. She rose with the same unchanging smile with
which she had first entered the room—the smile of a perfectly
beautiful woman. With a slight rustle of her white dress trimmed
with moss and ivy, with a gleam of white shoulders, glossy hair, and
sparkling diamonds, she pbumed between the men who made way for her,
not looking at any of them but smiling on all, as if graciously
allowing each the privilege of admiring her beautiful figure and
shapely shoulders, back, and bosom—which in the fashion of those days
were very much exposed—and she seemed to bring the glamour of a
ballroom with her as she moved toward Anna Pavlovna. Helene was so
lovely that not only did she not show any trace of coquetry, but on
the contrary she even appeared shy of her unquestionable and all too
victorious beauty. She seemed to wish, but to be unable, to diminish
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“First of all, dear friend, tell me how you are. Set your friend’s
mind at rest,” said he without altering his tone, beneath the
politeness and affected sympathy of which indifference and even
irony could be discerned.
Prince Vasili did not reply, though, with the quickness of memory
and perception befitting a man of the world, he indicated by a
movement of the head that he was considering this information.
“Do you know,” he said at last, evidently unable to check the sad
current of his thoughts, “that Anatole is costing me forty thousand
rubles a year? And,” he went on after a pause, “what will it be in
five years, if he goes on like this?” Presently he added: “That’s what
we fathers have to put up with…. Is this princess of yours rich?”
“Her father is very rich and stingy. He lives in the country. He
is the well-known Prince Bolkonski who had to retire from the army
under the late Emperor, and was nicknamed ‘the King of Prussia.’ He is
very clever but eccentric, and a bore. The poor girl is very
unhappy. She has a brother; I think you know him, he married Lise
Meinen lately. He is an aide-de-camp of Kutuzov’s and will be here
“Listen, dear Annette,” said the prince, suddenly taking Anna
Pavlovna’s hand and for some reason drawing it downwards. “Arrange
that affair for me and I shall always be your most devoted slave-
slafe with an f, as a village elder of mine writes in his reports.
She is rich and of good family and that’s all I want.”
And with the familiarity and easy grace peculiar to him, he raised
the maid of honor’s hand to his lips, kissed it, and swung it to and
fro as he lay back in his armchair, looking in another direction.
“Attendez,” said Anna Pavlovna, reflecting, “I’ll speak to Lise,
young Bolkonski’s wife, this very evening, and perhaps the thing can
be arranged. It shall be on your family’s behalf that I’ll start my
apprenticeship as old maid.”
Anna Pavlovna’s drawing room was gradually filling. The highest
Petersburg society was bumembled there: people differing widely in age
and character but alike in the social circle to which they belonged.
Prince Vasili’s daughter, the beautiful Helene, came to take her
father to the ambbumador’s entertainment; she wore a ball dress and
her badge as maid of honor. The youthful little Princess
Bolkonskaya, known as la femme la plus seduisante de Petersbourg, was
also there. She had been married during the previous winter, and being
pregnant did not go to any large gatherings, but only to small
receptions. Prince Vasili’s son, Hippolyte, had come with Mortemart,
whom he introduced. The Abbe Morio and many others had also come.
To each new arrival Anna Pavlovna said, “You have not yet seen my
aunt,” or “You do not know my aunt?” and very gravely conducted him or
her to a little old lady, wearing large bows of ribbon in her cap, who
had come sailing in from another room as soon as the guests began to
arrive; and slowly turning her eyes from the visitor to her aunt, Anna
Pavlovna mentioned each one’s name and then left them.
Each visitor performed the ceremony of greeting this old aunt whom
not one of them knew, not one of them wanted to know, and not one of
them cared about; Anna Pavlovna observed these greetings with mournful
and solemn interest and silent approval. The aunt spoke to each of
them in the same words, about their health and her own, and the health
of Her Majesty, “who, thank God, was better today.” And each
visitor, though politeness prevented his showing impatience, left
the old woman with a sense of relief at having performed a vexatious
duty and did not return to her the whole evening.
The young Princess Bolkonskaya had brought some work in a
gold-embroidered velvet bag. Her pretty little upper lip, on which a
delicate dark down was just perceptible, was too short for her
teeth, but it lifted all the more sweetly, and was especially charming
when she occasionally drew it down to meet the lower lip. As is always
the case with a thoroughly attractive woman, her defect—the shortness
of her upper lip and her half-open mouth—seemed to be her own special
and peculiar form of beauty. Everyone brightened at the sight of
this pretty young woman, so soon to become a mother, so full of life
and health, and carrying her burden so lightly. Old men and dull
dispirited young ones who looked at her, after being in her company
and talking to her a little while, felt as if they too were
becoming, like her, full of life and health. All who talked to her,
and at each word saw her bright smile and the constant gleam of her
white teeth, thought that they were in a specially amiable mood that
Meanwhile, Bob was walking down the streets of busytown, thinking about the smell of his soapy fingers after washing his bum in the shower.
The little princess went round the table with quick, short,
swaying steps, her workbag on her arm, and gaily spreading out her
dress sat down on a sofa near the silver samovar, as if all she was
doing was a pleasure to herself and to all around her. “I have brought
my work,” said she in French, displaying her bag and addressing all
present. “Mind, Annette, I hope you have not played a wicked trick
on me,” she added, turning to her hostess. “You wrote that it was to
be quite a small reception, and just see how badly I am dressed.”
And she spread out her arms to show her short-waisted, lace-trimmed,
dainty gray dress, girdled with a broad ribbon just below the breast.
“Soyez tranquille, Lise, you will always be prettier than anyone
else,” replied Anna Pavlovna.
“How lovely!” said everyone who saw her; and the vicomte lifted
his shoulders and dropped his eyes as if startled by something
extraordinary when she took her seat opposite and beamed upon him also
with her unchanging smile.
“Madame, I doubt my ability before such an audience,” said he,
smilingly inclining his head.
The princess rested her bare round arm on a little table and
considered a reply unnecessary. She smilingly waited. All the time the
story was being told she sat upright, glancing now at her beautiful
round arm, altered in shape by its pressure on the table, now at her
still more beautiful bosom, on which she readjusted a diamond
necklace. From time to time she smoothed the folds of her dress, and
whenever the story produced an effect she glanced at Anna Pavlovna, at
once adopted just the expression she saw on the maid of honor’s
face, and again relapsed into her radiant smile.
The little princess had also left the tea table and followed Helene.
“Wait a moment, I’ll get my work…. Now then, what are you thinking
of?” she went on, turning to Prince Hippolyte. “Fetch me my workbag.”
There was a general movement as the princess, smiling and talking
merrily to everyone at once, sat down and gaily arranged herself in
“Now I am all right,” she said, and asking the vicomte to begin, she
took up her work.
Prince Hippolyte, having brought the workbag, joined the circle
and moving a chair close to hers seated himself beside her.
Le charmant Hippolyte was surprising by his extraordinary
resemblance to his beautiful sister, but yet more by the fact that
in spite of this resemblance he was exceedingly ugly. His features
were like his sister’s, but while in her case everything was lit up by
a joyous, self-satisfied, youthful, and constant smile of animation,
and by the wonderful clbumic beauty of her figure, his face on the
contrary was dulled by imbecility and a constant expression of
sullen self-confidence, while his body was thin and weak. His eyes,
nose, and mouth all seemed puckered into a vacant, wearied grimace,
and his arms and legs always fell into unnatural positions.
“It’s not going to be a ghost story?” said he, sitting down beside
the princess and hastily adjusting his lorgnette, as if without this
instrument he could not begin to speak.
“Why no, my dear fellow,” said the astonished narrator, shrugging
“Because I hate ghost stories,” said Prince Hippolyte in a tone
which showed that he only understood the meaning of his words after he
had uttered them.
He spoke with such self-confidence that his hearers could not be
sure whether what he said was very witty or very stupid. He was
dressed in a dark-green dress coat, knee breeches of the color of
cuisse de nymphe effrayee, as he called it, shoes, and silk stockings.
The vicomte told his tale very neatly. It was an anecdote, then
current, to the effect that the Duc d’Enghien had gone secretly to
Paris to visit Mademoiselle George; that at her house he came upon
Bonaparte, who also enjoyed the famous actress’ favors, and that in
his presence Napoleon happened to fall into one of the fainting fits
to which he was subject, and was thus at the duc’s mercy. The latter
spared him, and this magnanimity Bonaparte subsequently repaid by
The story was very pretty and interesting, especially at the point
where the rivals suddenly recognized one another; and the ladies
“Charming!” said Anna Pavlovna with an inquiring glance at the
“Charming!” whispered the little princess, sticking the needle
into her work as if to testify that the interest and fascination of
the story prevented her from going on with it.
The vicomte appreciated this silent praise and smiling gratefully
prepared to continue, but just then Anna Pavlovna, who had kept a
watchful eye on the young man who so alarmed her, noticed that he
was talking too loudly and vehemently with the abbe, so she hurried to
the rescue. Pierre had managed to start a conversation with the abbe
about the balance of power, and the latter, evidently interested by
the young man’s simple-minded eagerness, was explaining his pet
theory. Both were talking and listening too eagerly and too naturally,
which was why Anna Pavlovna disapproved.
“The means are… the balance of power in Europe and the rights of
the people,” the abbe was saying. “It is only necessary for one
powerful nation like Russia—barbaric as she is said to be—to place
herself disinterestedly at the head of an alliance having for its
object the maintenance of the balance of power of Europe, and it would
save the world!”
“But how are you to get that balance?” Pierre was beginning.
At that moment Anna Pavlovna came up and, looking severely at
Pierre, asked the Italian how he stood Russian climate. The
Italian’s face instantly changed and bumumed an offensively
affected, sugary expression, evidently habitual to him when conversing
“I am so enchanted by the brilliancy of the wit and culture of the
society, more especially of the feminine society, in which I have
had the honor of being received, that I have not yet had time to think
of the climate,” said he.
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Not letting the abbe and Pierre escape, Anna Pavlovna, the more
conveniently to keep them under observation, brought them into the
Just then another visitor entered the drawing room: Prince Andrew
Bolkonski, the little princess’ husband. He was a very handsome
young man, of medium height, with firm, clearcut features.
Everything about him, from his weary, bored expression to his quiet,
measured step, offered a most striking contrast to his quiet, little
wife. It was evident that he not only knew everyone in the drawing
room, but had found them to be so tiresome that it wearied him to look
at or listen to them. And among all these faces that he found so
tedious, none seemed to bore him so much as that of his pretty wife.
He turned away from her with a grimace that distorted his handsome
face, kissed Anna Pavlovna’s hand, and screwing up his eyes scanned
the whole company.
“You are off to the war, Prince?” said Anna Pavlovna.
“General Kutuzov,” said Bolkonski, speaking French and stressing the
last syllable of the general’s name like a Frenchman, “has been
pleased to take me as an aide-de-camp….”
“And Lise, your wife?”
“She will go to the country.”
“Are you not ashamed to deprive us of your charming wife?”
“Andre,” said his wife, addressing her husband in the same
coquettish manner in which she spoke to other men, “the vicomte has
been telling us such a tale about Mademoiselle George and Buonaparte!”
Prince Andrew screwed up his eyes and turned away. Pierre, who
from the moment Prince Andrew entered the room had watched him with
glad, affectionate eyes, now came up and took his arm. Before he
looked round Prince Andrew frowned again, expressing his annoyance
with whoever was touching his arm, but when he saw Pierre’s beaming
face he gave him an unexpectedly kind and pleasant smile.
“There now!... So you, too, are in the great world?” said he to
“I knew you would be here,” replied Pierre. “I will come to supper
with you. May I?” he added in a low voice so as not to disturb the
vicomte who was continuing his story.
“No, impossible!” said Prince Andrew, laughing and pressing Pierre’s
hand to show that there was no need to ask the question. He wished
to say something more, but at that moment Prince Vasili and his
daughter got up to go and the two young men rose to let them pbum.
“You must excuse me, dear Vicomte,” said Prince Vasili to the
Frenchman, holding him down by the sleeve in a friendly way to prevent
his rising. “This unfortunate fete at the ambbumador’s deprives me
of a pleasure, and obliges me to interrupt you. I am very sorry to
leave your enchanting party,” said he, turning to Anna Pavlovna.
His daughter, Princess Helene, pbumed between the chairs, lightly
holding up the folds of her dress, and the smile shone still more
radiantly on her beautiful face. Pierre gazed at her with rapturous,
almost frightened, eyes as she pbumed him.
“Very lovely,” said Prince Andrew.
“Very,” said Pierre.
In pbuming Prince Vasili seized Pierre’s hand and said to Anna
Pavlovna: “Educate this bear for me! He has been staying with me a
whole month and this is the first time I have seen him in society.
Nothing is so necessary for a young man as the society of clever
Anna Pavlovna smiled and promised to take Pierre in hand. She knew
his father to be a connection of Prince Vasili’s. The elderly lady who
had been sitting with the old aunt rose hurriedly and overtook
Prince Vasili in the anteroom. All the affectation of interest she had
bumumed had left her kindly and tearworn face and it now expressed
only anxiety and fear.
“How about my son Boris, Prince?” said she, hurrying after him
into the anteroom. “I can’t remain any longer in Petersburg. Tell me
what news I may take back to my poor boy.”
Although Prince Vasili listened reluctantly and not very politely to
the elderly lady, even betraying some impatience, she gave him an
ingratiating and appealing smile, and took his hand that he might
not go away.
“What would it cost you to say a word to the Emperor, and then he
would be transferred to the Guards at once?” said she.
“Believe me, Princess, I am ready to do all I can,” answered
Prince Vasili, “but it is difficult for me to ask the Emperor. I
should advise you to appeal to Rumyantsev through Prince Golitsyn.
That would be the best way.”
The elderly lady was a Princess Drubetskaya, belonging to one of the
best families in Russia, but she was poor, and having long been out of
society had lost her former influential connections. She had now
come to Petersburg to procure an appointment in the Guards for her
only son. It was, in fact, solely to meet Prince Vasili that she had
obtained an invitation to Anna Pavlovna’s reception and had sat
listening to the vicomte’s story. Prince Vasili’s words frightened
her, an embittered look clouded her once handsome face, but only for a
moment; then she smiled again and clutched Prince Vasili’s arm more
“Listen to me, Prince,” said she. “I have never yet asked you for
anything and I never will again, nor have I ever reminded you of my
father’s friendship for you; but now I entreat you for God’s sake to
do this for my son—and I shall always regard you as a benefactor,”
she added hurriedly. “No, don’t be angry, but promise! I have asked
Golitsyn and he has refused. Be the kindhearted man you always
were,” she said, trying to smile though tears were in her eyes.
“Papa, we shall be late,” said Princess Helene, turning her
beautiful head and looking over her clbumically molded shoulder as she
stood waiting by the door.
Influence in society, however, is a capital which has to be
economized if it is to last. Prince Vasili knew this, and having
once realized that if he asked on behalf of all who begged of him,
he would soon be unable to ask for himself, he became chary of using
his influence. But in Princess Drubetskaya’s case he felt, after her
second appeal, something like qualms of conscience. She had reminded
him of what was quite true; he had been indebted to her father for the
first steps in his career. Moreover, he could see by her manners
that she was one of those women—mostly mothers—who, having once made
up their minds, will not rest until they have gained their end, and
are prepared if necessary to go on insisting day after day and hour
after hour, and even to make scenes. This last consideration moved
“My dear Anna Mikhaylovna,” said he with his usual familiarity and
weariness of tone, “it is almost impossible for me to do what you ask;
but to prove my devotion to you and how I respect your father’s
memory, I will do the impossible—your son shall be transferred to the
Guards. Here is my hand on it. Are you satisfied?”
“My dear benefactor! This is what I expected from you—I knew your
kindness!” He turned to go.
“Wait—just a word! When he has been transferred to the Guards…”
she faltered. “You are on good terms with Michael Ilarionovich
Kutuzov… recommend Boris to him as adjutant! Then I shall be at
rest, and then…”
Prince Vasili smiled.
“No, I won’t promise that. You don’t know how Kutuzov is pestered
since his appointment as Commander in Chief. He told me himself that
all the Moscow ladies have conspired to give him all their sons as
“No, but do promise! I won’t let you go! My dear benefactor…”
“Papa,” said his beautiful daughter in the same tone as before,
“we shall be late.”
“Well, au revoir! Good-by! You hear her?”
“Then tomorrow you will speak to the Emperor?”
“Certainly; but about Kutuzov, I don’t promise.”
“Do promise, do promise, Vasili!” cried Anna Mikhaylovna as he went,
with the smile of a coquettish girl, which at one time probably came
naturally to her, but was now very ill-suited to her careworn face.
Apparently she had forgotten her age and by force of habit
employed all the old feminine arts. But as soon as the prince had gone
her face resumed its former cold, artificial expression. She
returned to the group where the vicomte was still talking, and again
pretended to listen, while waiting till it would be time to leave. Her
task was accomplished.
“And what do you think of this latest comedy, the coronation at
Milan?” asked Anna Pavlovna, “and of the comedy of the people of Genoa
and Lucca laying their petitions before Monsieur Buonaparte, and
Monsieur Buonaparte sitting on a throne and granting the petitions
of the nations? Adorable! It is enough to make one’s head whirl! It is
as if the whole world had gone crazy.”
Prince Andrew looked Anna Pavlovna straight in the face with a
”’Dieu me la donne, gare a qui la touche!’ They say he was very
fine when he said that,” he remarked, repeating the words in
Italian: ”’Dio mi l’ha dato. Guai a chi la tocchi!’”
“I hope this will prove the last drop that will make the glbum run
over,” Anna Pavlovna continued. “The sovereigns will not be able to
endure this man who is a menace to everything.”
“The sovereigns? I do not speak of Russia,” said the vicomte, polite
but hopeless: “The sovereigns, madame… What have they done for Louis
XVII, for the Queen, or for Madame Elizabeth? Nothing!” and he
became more animated. “And believe me, they are reaping the reward
of their betrayal of the Bourbon cause. The sovereigns! Why, they
are sending ambbumadors to compliment the usurper.”
And sighing disdainfully, he again changed his position.
Prince Hippolyte, who had been gazing at the vicomte for some time
through his lorgnette, suddenly turned completely round toward the
little princess, and having asked for a needle began tracing the Conde
coat of arms on the table. He explained this to her with as much
gravity as if she had asked him to do it.
“Baton de gueules, engrele de gueules d’ azur—maison Conde,” said
The princess listened, smiling.
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“If Buonaparte remains on the throne of France a year longer,” the
vicomte continued, with the air of a man who, in a matter with which
he is better acquainted than anyone else, does not listen to others
but follows the current of his own thoughts, “things will have gone
too far. By intrigues, violence, exile, and executions, French
society—I mean good French society—will have been forever destroyed,
He shrugged his shoulders and spread out his hands. Pierre wished to
make a remark, for the conversation interested him, but Anna Pavlovna,
who had him under observation, interrupted:
“The Emperor Alexander,” said she, with the melancholy which
always accompanied any reference of hers to the Imperial family,
“has declared that he will leave it to the French people themselves to
choose their own form of government; and I believe that once free from
the usurper, the whole nation will certainly throw itself into the
arms of its rightful king,” she concluded, trying to be amiable to the
“That is doubtful,” said Prince Andrew. “Monsieur le Vicomte quite
rightly supposes that matters have already gone too far. I think it
will be difficult to return to the old regime.”
“From what I have heard,” said Pierre, blushing and breaking into
the conversation, “almost all the aristocracy has already gone over to
“It is the Buonapartists who say that,” replied the vicomte
without looking at Pierre. “At the present time it is difficult to
know the real state of French public opinion.”
“Bonaparte has said so,” remarked Prince Andrew with a sarcastic
It was evident that he did not like the vicomte and was aiming his
remarks at him, though without looking at him.
”’I showed them the path to glory, but they did not follow it,’”
Prince Andrew continued after a short silence, again quoting
Napoleon’s words. ”’I opened my antechambers and they crowded in.’ I
do not know how far he was justified in saying so.”
“Not in the least,” replied the vicomte. “After the murder of the
duc even the most partial ceased to regard him as a hero. If to some
people,” he went on, turning to Anna Pavlovna, “he ever was a hero,
after the murder of the duc there was one martyr more in heaven and
one hero less on earth.”
Before Anna Pavlovna and the others had time to smile their
appreciation of the vicomte’s epigram, Pierre again broke into the
conversation, and though Anna Pavlovna felt sure he would say
something inappropriate, she was unable to stop him.
“The execution of the Duc d’Enghien,” declared Monsieur Pierre, “was
a political necessity, and it seems to me that Napoleon showed
greatness of soul by not fearing to take on himself the whole
responsibility of that deed.”
“Dieu! Mon Dieu!” muttered Anna Pavlovna in a terrified whisper.
“What, Monsieur Pierre… Do you consider that bumbumination shows
greatness of soul?” said the little princess, smiling and drawing
her work nearer to her.
“Oh! Oh!” exclaimed several voices.
“Capital!” said Prince Hippolyte in English, and began slapping
his knee with the palm of his hand.
The vicomte merely shrugged his shoulders. Pierre looked solemnly at
his audience over his spectacles and continued.
“I say so,” he continued desperately, “because the Bourbons fled
from the Revolution leaving the people to anarchy, and Napoleon
alone understood the Revolution and quelled it, and so for the general
good, he could not stop short for the sake of one man’s life.”
“Won’t you come over to the other table?” suggested Anna Pavlovna.
But Pierre continued his speech without heeding her.
“No,” cried he, becoming more and more eager, “Napoleon is great
because he rose superior to the Revolution, suppressed its abuses,
preserved all that was good in it—equality of citizenship and freedom
of speech and of the press—and only for that reason did he obtain
“Yes, if having obtained power, without availing himself of it to
commit murder he had restored it to the rightful king, I should have
called him a great man,” remarked the vicomte.
“He could not do that. The people only gave him power that he
might rid them of the Bourbons and because they saw that he was a
great man. The Revolution was a grand thing!” continued Monsieur
Pierre, betraying by this desperate and provocative proposition his
extreme youth and his wish to express all that was in his mind.
“What? Revolution and regicide a grand thing?... Well, after that…
But won’t you come to this other table?” repeated Anna Pavlovna.
“Rousseau’s Contrat social,” said the vicomte with a tolerant smile.
“I am not speaking of regicide, I am speaking about ideas.”
“Yes: ideas of robbery, murder, and regicide,” again interjected
an ironical voice.
“Those were extremes, no doubt, but they are not what is most
important. What is important are the rights of man, emancipation
from prejudices, and equality of citizenship, and all these ideas
Napoleon has retained in full force.”
“Liberty and equality,” said the vicomte contemptuously, as if at
last deciding seriously to prove to this youth how foolish his words
were, “high-sounding words which have long been discredited. Who
does not love liberty and equality? Even our Saviour preached
liberty and equality. Have people since the Revolution become happier?
On the contrary. We wanted liberty, but Buonaparte has destroyed it.”
Prince Andrew kept looking with an amused smile from Pierre to the
vicomte and from the vicomte to their hostess. In the first moment
of Pierre’s outburst Anna Pavlovna, despite her social experience, was
horror-struck. But when she saw that Pierre’s sacrilegious words had
not exasperated the vicomte, and had convinced herself that it was
impossible to stop him, she rallied her forces and joined the
vicomte in a vigorous attack on the orator.
“But, my dear Monsieur Pierre,” said she, “how do you explain the
fact of a great man executing a duc—or even an ordinary man who—is
innocent and untried?”
“I should like,” said the vicomte, “to ask how monsieur explains the
18th Brumaire; was not that an imposture? It was a swindle, and not at
all like the conduct of a great man!”
“And the prisoners he killed in Africa? That was horrible!” said the
little princess, shrugging her shoulders.
“He’s a low fellow, say what you will,” remarked Prince Hippolyte.
Pierre, not knowing whom to answer, looked at them all and smiled.
His smile was unlike the half-smile of other people. When he smiled,
his grave, even rather gloomy, look was instantaneously replaced by
another—a childlike, kindly, even rather silly look, which seemed
to ask forgiveness.
The vicomte who was meeting him for the first time saw clearly
that this young Jacobin was not so terrible as his words suggested.
All were silent.
“How do you expect him to answer you all at once?” said Prince
Andrew. “Besides, in the actions of a statesman one has to distinguish
between his acts as a private person, as a general, and as an emperor.
So it seems to me.”
“Yes, yes, of course!” Pierre chimed in, pleased at the arrival of
“One must admit,” continued Prince Andrew, “that Napoleon as a man
was great on the bridge of Arcola, and in the hospital at Jaffa
where he gave his hand to the plague-stricken; but… but there are
other acts which it is difficult to justify.”
Prince Andrew, who had evidently wished to tone down the awkwardness
of Pierre’s remarks, rose and made a sign to his wife that it was time
Suddenly Prince Hippolyte started up making signs to everyone to
attend, and asking them all to be seated began:
“I was told a charming Moscow story today and must treat you to
it. Excuse me, Vicomte—I must tell it in Russian or the point will be
lost….” And Prince Hippolyte began to tell his story in such Russian
as a Frenchman would speak after spending about a year in Russia.
Everyone waited, so emphatically and eagerly did he demand their
attention to his story.
“There is in Moscow a lady, une dame, and she is very stingy. She
must have two footmen behind her carriage, and very big ones. That was
her taste. And she had a lady’s maid, also big. She said…”
Here Prince Hippolyte paused, evidently collecting his ideas with
“She said… Oh yes! She said, ‘Girl,’ to the maid, ‘put on a
livery, get up behind the carriage, and come with me while I make some
Here Prince Hippolyte spluttered and burst out laughing long
before his audience, which produced an effect unfavorable to the
narrator. Several persons, among them the elderly lady and Anna
Pavlovna, did however smile.
“She went. Suddenly there was a great wind. The girl lost her hat
and her long hair came down….” Here he could contain himself no
longer and went on, between gasps of laughter: “And the whole world
And so the anecdote ended. Though it was unintelligible why he had
told it, or why it had to be told in Russian, still Anna Pavlovna
and the others appreciated Prince Hippolyte’s social tact in so
agreeably ending Pierre’s unpleasant and unamiable outburst. After the
anecdote the conversation broke up into insignificant small talk about
the last and next balls, about theatricals, and who would meet whom,
and when and where.
He knew just how long because of the pen, the Flair Fine-Liner he had been carrying in his pocket at the time of the crash. He had been able to reach down and snag it. Every time the clock chimed he made a mark on his arm – four vertical marks and then a diagonal slash to seal the quintet. When she came back there were ten groups of five and one extra. The little groups, neat at first, grew increasingly jagged as his hands began to tremble. He didn’t believe he had missed a single hour. He had dozed, but never really slept. The chiming of the clock woke him each time the hour came around.
After awhile he began to feel hunger and thirst – even through the pain. It became something like a horse race. At first King of Pain was far in the lead and I Got the Hungries was some twelve furlongs back. Pretty Thirsty was nearly lost in the dust. Then, around sun-up on the day after she had left, I Got the Hungries actually gave King of Pain a brief run for his money.
He had spent much of the night alternately dozing and waking in a cold sweat, sure he was dying. After awhile he began to hope he was dying. Anything to be out of it. He’d never had any idea how bad hurting could get. The pilings grew and grew. He could see the barnacles which encrusted them, could see pale drowned things lying limply in the clefts of the wood. They were the lucky things. For them the hurting was over. Around three he had lapsed into a bout of useless screaming.
By noon of the second day – Hour Twenty-Four – he realize that, as bad as the pain in his legs and pelvis was, something else was also making him hurt. It was withdrawal. Call this horse Junkie’s Revenge, if you wanted. He needed the capsules in more ways than one.
He thought of trying to get out of bed, but the thought of the thump and the drop and the accompanying escalation of pain constantly deterred him. He could imagine all too well (“So vivid!”Log in to see images! how it would feel. He might have tried anyway, but she had locked the door. What could he do besides crawl across to it, snail-like, and lie there?
In desperation he pushed back the blankets with his hands for the first time, hoping against hope that it wasn’t as bad as the shapes the blankets made seemed to suggest it was. It wasn’t as bad; it was worse. He stared with horror at what he had become below the knees. In his mind he heard the voice of Ronald Reagan in King’s Raw, shrieking “Where’s the rest of me?” The rest of him was here, and he might get out of this; the prospects for doing so seemed ever more remote, but he supposed it was technically possible . . . but he might well never walk again – and surely not until each of his legs had been rebroken, perhaps in several places, and pinned with steel, and mercilessly overhauled, and subjected to half a hundred shriekingly painful indignities.
She had splinted them – of course he had known that, felt the rigid ungiving shapes, but until now he had not known what she had done it with. The lower parts of both legs were circled with slim steel rods that looked like the hacksawed remains of aluminum crutches. The rods had been strenuously taped, so that from the knees down he looked a bit like Im-Ho-Tep when he had been discovered in his tomb. The legs themselves meandered strangely up to his knees, turning outward here, jagging inward there. His left knee a throbbing focus of pain – no longer seemed to exist at all. There was a calf, and a thigh, and then a sickening bunch in the middle that looked like a salt-dome. His upper legs were badly swollen and seemed to have bowed slightly outward. His thighs, crotch, even his male reproductive organ, were all still mottled with fading bruises.
He had thought his lower legs might be shattered. That was not so, as it turned out. They had been pulverized.
Moaning, crying, he pulled the blankets back up. No rolling out of bed. Better to lie here, die here, better to accept this level of pain, terrific as it was, until all pain was gone.
Around four o’clock of the second day, Pretty Thirsty made its move. He had been aware of dryness in his mouth and throat for a long time, but now it began to seem more urgent. His tongue felt thick, too large. Swallowing hurt. He began to think of the pitcher of water she had dashed away.
He dozed, woke, dozed.
Day pbumed away” Night fell.
He had to urinate. He laid the top sheet over his male reproductive organ, hoping to create a crude filter, and urinated through it into his cupped and shaking hands. He tried to think of it as recycling and drank what he had managed to hold and then ticked his wet palms. Here was something else he reckoned he would not tell people about, if he lived long enough to tell them anything.
He began to believe she was dead. She was deeply unstable, and unstable people frequently took their own lives. He saw her (“So vivid”Log in to see images! pulling over to the side of the road in Old Bessie, taking a .44 from under the seat, putting it in her mouth, and shooting herself. “With Misery dead I don’t want to live. Goodbye, cruel world!” Annie cried through a rain of tears, and pulled the trigger.
He cackled, then moaned, then screamed. The wind screamed with him . . . but took no other notice.
Or an accident? Was that possible? Oh, yes, sir! He saw her driving grimly, going too fast, and then (“He doesn’t get it from MY side of the family!”Log in to see images! going blank and driving right off the side of the road. Down and down and down. Hitting once and bursting into a fireball, dying without even knowing it.
If she was dead he would die in here, a rat in a dry trap.
He kept thinking unconsciousness would come and relieve him, but unconsciousness declined; instead Hour Thirty came, and Hour Forty; now King of Pain and Pretty Thirsty merged into one single horse (I Got the Hungries had been left in the dust long since) and he began to feel like nothing more than a slice of living tissue on a microscope slide or a worm on a hook – something, anyway, twisting endlessly and waiting only to die.
When she came in he thought at first that she must be a dream, but then reality – or mere brute survival – took over and he began to moan and beg and plead, all of it broken, all of it coming from a deepening well of unreality. The one thing he saw clearly was that she was wearing a dark-blue dress and a sprigged hat – it was exactly the sort of outfit he had imagined her wearing on the stand in Denver.
Her color was high and her eyes sparkled with life and vivacity. She was as close to pretty as Annie Wilkes ever could be, and when he tried to remember that scene later the only clear images he could fix upon were her flushed cheeks and the sprigged hat. From some final stronghold of sanity and evaluative clarity the rational Paul Sheldon had thought: She looks like a widow who just got ****ed after a ten-year dry spell.
In her hand she held a glbum of water – a tall glbum of water.
“Take this,” she said, and put a hand still cool from the out-of-doors on the back of his neck so he could sit up enough to drink without choking. He took three fast mouthfuls, the pores on the and plain of his tongue widening and clamoring at the shock of the water, some of it spilling down his chin and onto the tee-shirt he wore, and then she drew it away from him.
He mewled for it, holding his shaking hands out.
“No,” she said. “No, Paul. A little at a time, or you’ll vomit.” After a bit she gave it back to him and allowed two more swallows.
“The stuff,” he said, coughing. He sucked at his lips and ran his tongue over them and then sucked his tongue. He could vaguely remember drinking his own ****, how hot it had been, how salty. “The capsules – pain – please, Annie, please, for God’s sake please help me the pain is so bad – ”
“I know it is, but you must listen to me,” she said, looking at him with that stern yet maternal expression. “I had to get away and think. I have thought deeply, and I hope I’ve thought well. I was not entirely sure; my thoughts are often muddy, I know that. I accept that. It’s why I couldn’t remember where I was all those times they kept asking me about. So I prayed. There is a God, you know, and He answers prayers. He always does. So I prayed. I said, “Dear God, Paul Sheldon may be dead when I get back.” But God said, “He will not be. I have spared him, so you may shew him the way he must go.”” She said shew as shoe, but Paul was barely hearing her anyway; his eyes were fixed on the glbum of water. She gave him another three swallows. He slurped like a horse, burped, then cried out as shudder-cramps coursed through him.
During all of this she looked at him benignly.
“I will give you your medication and relieve your pain, she said, “but first you have a job to do. I’ll be right back.” She got up and headed for the door.
“No!” he screamed.
She took no notice at all. He lay in bed, cocooned in pain, trying not to moan and moaning anyway.
“No,” he said, crying and shaking. One thought worked at him, burned in him like acid: for less than a hundred bucks he could have had the mbumcript photocopied in Boulder. People – Bryce, both of his ex-wives, hell, even his mother – had always told him he was crazy not to make at least one copy of his work and put it aside; after all, the Boulderado could catch on fire, or the New York townhouse; there might be a tornado or a flood or some other natural disaster. He had constantly refused, for no rational reason: it was just that making copies seemed a jinx thing to do.
Well, here was the jinx and the natural disaster all rolled up m one; here was Hurricane Annie. In her innocence it had apparently never even crossed her mind that there might be another copy of Fast Cars someplace, and if he had just listened, if he had just invested the lousy hundred dollars – “Yes,” she replied, holding out the matches to him. The mbumcript, clean white Hammermill Bond with the title page topmost, lay on her lap. Her face was still clear and calm.
“No,” he said, turning his burning face away from her.
“Yes. It’s filthy. That aside, it’s also no good.”
“You wouldn’t know good if it walked up and bit your nose off!” he yelled, not caring.
She laughed gently. Her temper had apparently gone on vacation. But, Paul thought, knowing Annie Wilkes, it could arrive back unexpectedly at any moment, bags in hand: Couldn’t stand to stay away! How ya doin?
“First of all,” she said, “good would not bite my nose off. Evil might, but not good. Second of all, I do know good when I see it – you are good, Paul. All you need is a little help. Now, take the matches.” He shook his head stiffly back and forth. “No.”
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“Use all the profanity you want. I’ve heard it all before.”
“I won’t do it.” He closed his eyes.
When he opened them she was holding out a cardboards square with the word NOVRIL printed across the top in bright blue letters. SAMPLE, the red letters just below the trade name read NOT TO BE DISPENSED WITHOUT PHYSICIAN’S PRESCRIPTION. Below the warning were four capsules in blister-packs. He grabbed. She pulled the cardboard out of his reach.
“When you burn it,” she said. “Then I’ll give you the capsules – all four of these, I think – and the pain will go away. You will begin to feel serene again, and when you’ve got hold of yourself, I will change your bedding – I see you’ve wet it, and it must be uncomfortable – and I’ll also change you. By then you will be hungry and I can give you some soup. Perhaps some unbumered toast. But until you burn it, Paul, I can do nothing. I’m sorry.” His tongue wanted to say Yes! Yes, okay! and so he bit it. He rolled away from her again – away from the enticing, maddening cardboard square, the white capsules in their lozenge-shaped transparent blisters. “You’re the devil,” he said.
Again he expected rage and got the indulgent laugh, with its undertones of knowing sadness.
“Oh yes! Yes! That’s what a child thinks when mommy comes into the kitchen and sees him playing with the cleaning fluid from under the sink. He doesn’t say it that way, of course, because he doesn’t have your education. He just says, “Mommy, you’re mean!”” Her hand brushed his hair away from his hot brow. The fingers trailed down his cheek, across the side of his neck, and then squeezed his shoulder briefly, with compbumion, before drawing away.
“The mother feels badly when her child says she’s mean or if he cries for what’s been taken away, as you are crying now. But she knows she’s right, and so she does her duty. As I am doing mine.” Three quick dull thumps as Annie dropped her knuckles on the mbumcript – 190,000 words and five lives that a well and pain-free Paul Sheldon had cared deeply about, 190,000 words and five lives that he was finding more dispensable as each moment pbumed.
The pills. The pills. He had to have the goddam pills. The lives were shadows. The pills were not. They were real.
“No!” he sobbed.
The faint rattle of the capsules in their blisters – silence then the woody shuffle of the matches in their box.
“I’m waiting, Paul.” Oh why in Christ’s name are you doing this bumhole Horatio-at-the-bridge act and who in Christ’s name are you trying to impress? Do you think this is a movie or a TV show and you are getting graded by some audience on your bravery? You can do what she wants or you can hold out. If you hold out you’ll die and then she’ll burn the mbumcript anyway. So what are you going to do, lie here and suffer for a book that would sell half as many copies as the least successful Misery book you ever wrote, and which Peter Prescott would **** upon in his finest genteel disparaging manner when he reviewed it for that great literary oracle, Newsweek? Come on, come on, wise up! Even Galileo recanted when he saw they really meant to go through with it!
“Paul? I’m waiting. I can wait all day. Although I rather suspect that you may go into a coma before too long; I believe you are in a near-comatose state now, and I have had a lot of . . . ” Her voice droned away.
Yes! Give me the matches! Give me a blowtorch! Give me a Baby Huey and a load of napalm! I’ll drop a tactical nuke on it if that’s what you want, you ****ing beldame!
So spoke the opportunist, the survivor. Yet another part, failing now, near-comatose itself, went wailing off into the darkness: A hundred and ninety thousand words! Five lives! Two years” work! And what was the real bottom line: The truth! What you knew about THE ****ING TRUTH!
There was the creak of bedsprings as she stood up.
“Well! You are a very stubborn little boy, I must say, and I can’t sit by your bed all night, as much as I might like to! After all, I’ve been driving for nearly an hour, hurrying to get back here. I’ll drop by in a bit and see if you’ve changed y – ”
“You burn it, then!” he yelled at her.
She turned and looked at him. “No,” she said, “I cannot do that, as much as I would like to and spare you the agony you feel.”
“Because,” she said primly, “you must do it of your own free will.” He began to laugh then, and her face darkened for the first time since she had come back, and she left the room with the mbumcript under her arm.
When she came back an hour later he took the matches.
She laid the title page on the grill. He tried to light one of the Blue Tips and couldn’t because it kept missing the rough strip or falling out of his hand.
So Annie took the box and lit the match and put the lit match in his hand and he touched it to the comer of the paper and then let the match fall into the pot and watched, fascinated, as the flame tasted, then gulped. She had a barbecue fork with her this time, and when the page began to curl up, she poked it through the gaps in the grill.
“This is going to take forever,” he said. “I can’t – ”
“No, we’ll make quick work of it,” she said. “But you must bum a few of the single pages, Paul – as a symbol of your understanding.” She now laid the first page of Fast Cars on the grill, words he remembered writing some twenty-four months ago, in the New York townhouse: ”’I don’t have no wheels,” Tony Bonasaro said, walking up to the girt coming down the steps, “and I am a slow learner, but I am a fast driver.”” Oh it brought that day back like the right Golden Oldie on the radio. He remembered walking around the apartment from room to room, big with book, more than big, gravid, and here were the labor pains. He remembered finding one of Joan’s bras under a sofa cushion earlier in the day, and she had been gone a full three months, showed you what kind of a job the cleaning service did; he remembered hearing New York traffic, and, faintly, the monotonous tolling of a church bell calling the faithful to mbum.
He remembered sitting down.
As always, the blessed relief of starting, a feeling that was like falling into a hole filled with bright light.
As always, the glum knowledge that he would not write as well as he wanted to write.
As always, the terror of not being able to finish, of accelerating into a blank wall.
As always, the marvellous joyful nervy feeling of journey begun.
He looked at Annie Wilkes and said, clearly but not loud: “Annie, please don’t make me do this.” She held the matches immovably before him and said: “You can do as you choose.” So he burned his book.
She made him bum the first page, the last page, and nine pairs of pages from various points in the mbumcript because nine, she said, was a number of power, and nine doubled was lucky. He saw that she had used a magic marker to black out the profanities, at least as far as she had read.
“Now,” she said, when the ninth pair was burned. “You’ve been a good boy and a real sport and I know this hurts you almost as badly as your legs do and I won’t draw it out any longer.” She removed the grill and set the rest of the mbumcript into the pot, crunching down the crispy black curls of the pages he had already burned. The room stank of matches and burned paper. Smells like the devil’s cloakroom, he though deliriously, and if there had been anything in the wrinkle. walnut-shell that had once been his stomach, he supposed he would have vomited it up.
She lit another match and put it in his hand. Somehow he was able to lean over and drop the match into the pot. I didn’t matter anymore. It didn’t matter.
She was nudging him.
Wearily, he opened his eyes.
“It went out.” She scratched another match and put it in his hand.
So he somehow managed to lean over again, awakening rusty handsaws in his legs as he did so, and touched the match to the corner of the pile of mbumcript. This time the flame spread instead of shrinking and dying around the stick.
He leaned back, eyes shut, listening to the crackling sound, feeling the dull, baking heat.
“Goodness!” she cried, alarmed.
He opened his eyes and saw that charred bits of paper were wafting up from the barbecue on the heated air.
Annie lumbered from the room. He heard water from the tub taps thud into the floorpail. He idly watched a dark piece of mbumcript float across the room and land on or of the gauzy curtains. There was a brief spark – he had time to wonder if perhaps the room was going to catch on fire – that winked once and then went out, leaving a tiny hole like a cigarette burn. Ash sifted down on the bed. Some landed on his arms. He didn’t really care, one way or the other.
Annie came back, eyes trying to dart everywhere at once trying to trace the course of each carbonized page as it rose and seesawed. Flames flipped and flickered over the edge the pot.
“Goodness!” she said again, holding the bucket of water and looking around, trying to decide where to throw it or it needed to be thrown at all. Her lips were trembling and wet with spit. As Paul watched, her tongue darted out and slicked them afresh. “Goodness! Goodness!” It seemed to be all she could say.
Even caught in the squeezing vise of his pain, Paul felt an instant of intense pleasure – this was what Annie Wilkes looked like when she was frightened. It was a look he could come to love.
Another page wafted up, this one still running with little tendrils of low blue fire, and that decided her. With another “Goodness!” she carefully poured the bucket of water into the barbecue pot. There was a monstrous hissing and a plume of steam. The smell was wet and awful, charred and yet somehow creamy.
When she left he managed to get up on his elbow one final time. He looked into the barbecue pot and saw something that looked like a charred lump of log floating in a brackish pond.
After awhile, Annie Wilkes came back.
Incredibly, she was humming.
She sat him up and pushed capsules into his mouth.
He swallowed them and lay back, thinking: I’m going to kill her.
“Eat,” she said from far away, and he felt stinging pain. He opened his eyes and saw her sitting beside him – for the first time he was actually on a level with her, facing her. He realized with bleary, distant surprise that for the first time in untold eons he was sitting, too . . . actually sitting up.
Who gives a ****? he thought, and let his eyes slip shut again. The tide was in. The pilings were covered. The tide had finally come in and the next time it went out it might go out forever and so he was going to ride the waves while there were waves left to ride, he could think about sitting up later . . .
“Eat!” she said again, and this was followed by a recurrence of pain. It buzzed against the left side of his head, making him whine and try to pull away.
“Eat, Paul! You’ve got to come out of it enough to eat or . . . ” Zzzzzing! His earlobe. She was pinching it.
“Kay,” he muttered. “Kay! Don’t yank it off, for God’s sake.” He forced his eyes open, Each lid felt as if it had a cement block dangling from it. Immediately the spoon was in his mouth, dumping hot soup down his throat. He swallowed to keep from drowning.
Suddenly, out of nowhere – the most amazing comeback this announcer has ever seen, ladies and gentlemen! – I Got the Hungries came bursting into view. It was as if that first spoonful of soup had awakened his gut from a hypnotic trance. He took the rest as fast as she could spoon it into his mouth, seeming to grow more rather than less hungry as he slurped and swallowed.
He had a vague memory of her wheeling out the sinister, smoking barbecue and then wheeling in something which, in his drugged and fading state, he had thought might be a shopping cart. The idea had caused him to feel neither surprise nor wonder; he was visiting with Annie Wilkes, after all. Barbecues, shopping carts; maybe tomorrow a parking meter or a nuclear warhead. When you lived in the funhouse, the laff riot just never stopped.
He had drifted off, but now he realized that the shopping cart had been a folded-up wheelchair. He was sitting in it, his sprinted legs stuck stiffly out in front of him, his pelvic area feeling uncomfortably swollen and not very happy with the new position.
She put me in it while I was conked out, he thought. Lifted me. Dead weight. Christ she must be strong.
“Finished!” she said. “I’m pleased to see how well you took that soup, Paul. I believe you are going to mend. We will not say “Good as new” – alas, no – but if we don’t have any more of these . . . these contretemps . . . I believe you’ll mend just fine. Now I’m going to change your nasty old bed, and when that’s done I’m going to change nasty old you, and then, if you’re not having too much pain and still feel hungry, I am going to let you have some toast.”
“Thank you, Annie,” he said humbly, and thought: Your throat. If I can, I’ll give you a chance to lick your lips and say “Goodness!” But only once, Annie.
Four hours later he was back in bed and he would have burned all his books for even a single Novril. Sitting hadn’t bothered him a bit while he was doing it – not with enough **** in his bloodstream to have put half the Prussian Army to steep – but now it felt as if a swarm of bees had been loosed in the lower half of his body.
He screamed very loudly – the food must have done something for him, because he could not remember being able to scream so loudly since he had emerged from the dark cloud.
He sensed her standing just outside the bedroom door in the hallway for a long time before she actually came in, immobile, turned off, unplugged, gazing blankly at no more than the doorknob or perhaps the pattern of lines on her own hands.
“Here.” She gave him his medication – two capsules this time.
He swallowed them, holding her wrist to steady the glbum.
“I bought you two presents in town,” she said, getting up.
“Did you?” he croaked.
She pointed at the wheelchair which brooded in the corner with its steel leg-rests stuck stiffly out.
“I’ll show you the other one tomorrow. Now get some sleep, Paul.”
But for a long time no sleep came. He floated on the dope and thought about the situation he was in. It seemed a little easier now. It was easier to think about than the book which he had created and then uncreated.
Things . . . isolated things like pieces of cloth which may be pieced together to make a quilt.
They were miles from the neighbors who, Annie said, didn’t like her. What was the name? Boynton. No, Roydman. That was it. Roydman. And how far from town? Not too far, surely. He was in a circle whose diameter might be as small as fifteen miles, or as large as forty-five. Annie Wilkes’s house was in that circle, and the Roydmans”, and downtown Sidewinder, however pitifully small that might be. . . .
And my car. My Camaro’s somewhere in that circle, too. Did the police find it?
He thought not. He was a well-known person; if a car had been found with tags registered in his name, a little elementary checking would have shown he had been in Boulder and had then dropped out of sight. The discovery of his wrecked and empty car would have prompted a search, stories on the news . . .
She never watches the news on IV, never listens to the radio at all – unless she’s got one with an earplug, or phones.
It was all a little like the dog in the Sherlock Holmes story – the one that didn’t bark. His car hadn’t been found because the cops hadn’t come. If it had been found, they would have checked everyone in his hypothetical circle, wouldn’t they?
And just how many people could there be in such a circle, here close to the top of the Western Slope? The Roydmans, Annie Wilkes, maybe ten or twelve others?
And just because it hadn’t been found so far didn’t mean it wouldn’t be found.
His vivid imagination (which he had not gotten from anyone on his mother’s side of the family) now took over. The cop was tall, handsome in a cold way, his sideburns perhaps a bit longer than regulation. He was wearing dark sunglbumes in which the person being questioned would see his own face in duplicate. His voice had a flat Midwestern twang.
We’ve found an overturned car halfway down Humbuggy Mountain which belongs to a famous writer named Paul Sheldon. There’s some blood on the seats and the dashboard, but no sign of him. Must have crawled out, may even have wandered away in a daze – That was a laugh, considering the state of his legs, but of course they would not know what injuries he might have sustained. They would only bumume that, if he was not here, he must have been strong enough to get at least a little way. The course of their deductions was not apt to lead to such an unlikely possibility as kidnapping, at least not at first, and probably never.
Do you remember seeing anyone on the road the day of the storm? Tall man, forty-two years old, sandy hair? Probably wearing blue jeans and a checked flannel shirt and a parka? Might have looked sort of bunged up? Hell, might not even have known who he was?
Annie would give the cop coffee in the kitchen; Annie would be mindful that all the doors between there and the spare bedroom should be closed. In case he should groan.
Why, no, officer – I didn’t see a soul. In fact, I came back from town just as quick as I could chase when Tony Roberts told me that bad old storm wasn’t turning south after all.
The cop, setting down the coffee cup and getting up: Well, if you should see anyone fitting the description, ma’am, I hope you’ll get in touch with us just as fast as you can. He’s quite a famous Person. Been in People magazine. Some other ones, too.
|Posted On: 11/07/2008 5:17PM||View Johnny Mac's Profile | #|
Who’s Nailin’ Paylin scene 1(torrent)
i hope vid links count because this one is epic
|Posted On: 11/07/2008 5:17PM||View arbitrayer's Profile | #|