I On the pleasant shore of the French Riviera, about half way between Marseilles and the Italian border, stands a large, proud, rosecolored hotel. Deferential palms cool its flushed façade, and before it stretches a short dazzling beach. Lately it has become a summer resort of notable and fashionable people; a decade ago it was almost deserted after its English clientele went north in April. Now, many bun- galows cluster near it, but when this story begins only the cupolas of a dozen old villas rotted like water lilies among the massed pines between Gausse’s Hôtel des Étrangers and Cannes, five miles away.
II ‘We thought maybe you were in the plot,’ said Mrs. McKisco. She was a shabby-eyed, pretty young woman with a disheartening intensity. ‘We don’t know who’s in the plot and who isn’t. One man my husband had been particularly nice to turned out to be a chief character—practically the assistant hero.’ ‘The plot?’ inquired Rosemary, half understanding. ‘Is there a plot?’ ‘My dear, we don’t KNOW,’ said Mrs. Abrams, with a convulsive, stout woman’s chuckle. ‘We’re not in it. We’re the gallery.’ Mr. Dumphry, a tow-headed effeminate young man, re- marked: ‘Mama Abrams is a plot in herself,’ and Campion shook his monocle at him, saying: ‘Now, Royal, don’t be too ghastly for words.’ Rosemary looked at them all uncom- fortably, wishing her mother had come down here with her. She did not like these people, especially in her immediate comparison of them with those who had interested her at the other end of the beach. Her mother’s modest but com- pact social gift got them out of unwelcome situations swiftly and firmly. But Rosemary had been a celebrity for only six months, and sometimes the French manners of her early adolescence and the democratic manners of America, these latter superimposed, made a certain confusion and let her 12 Tender is the Night.
III It was almost two when they went into the dining-room. Back and forth over the deserted tables a heavy pattern of beams and shadows swayed with the motion of the pines outside. Two waiters, piling plates and talking loud Italian, fell silent when they came in and brought them a tired ver- sion of the table d’hôte luncheon.
IV The matter was solved for her. The McKiscos were not yet there and she had scarcely spread her peignoir when two men—the man with the jockey cap and the tall blonde man, given to sawing waiters in two— left the group and came down toward her.
V Rosemary went to Monte Carlo nearly as sulkily as it was possible for her to be. She rode up the rugged hill to La Turbie, to an old Gaumont lot in process of reconstruc- tion, and as she stood by the grilled entrance waiting for an answer to the message on her card, she might have been looking into Hollywood. The bizarre débris of some recent picture, a decayed street scene in India, a great cardboard whale, a monstrous tree bearing cherries large as basket- balls, bloomed there by exotic dispensation, autochthonous as the pale amaranth, mimosa, cork oak or dwarfed pine. There were a quick-lunch shack and two barnlike stages and everywhere about the lot, groups of waiting, hopeful, paint- ed faces.
VI Feeling good from the rosy wine at lunch, Nicole Diver folded her arms high enough for the artificial camellia on her shoulder to touch her cheek, and went out into her love- ly grassless garden. The garden was bounded on one side by the house, from which it flowed and into which it ran, on two sides by the old village, and on the last by the cliff fall- ing by ledges to the sea.
VII In a pause Rosemary looked away and up the table where Nicole sat between Tommy Barban and Abe North, her chow’s hair foaming and frothing in the candlelight. Rose- mary listened, caught sharply by the rich clipped voice in infrequent speech: ‘The poor man,’ Nicole exclaimed. ‘Why did you want to saw him in two?’ ‘Naturally I wanted to see what was inside a waiter. Wouldn’t you like to know what was inside a waiter?’ ‘Old menus,’ suggested Nicole with a short laugh. ‘Pieces of broken china and tips and pencil stubs.’ ‘Exactly—but the thing was to prove it scientifically. And of course doing it with that musical saw would have elimi- nated any sordidness.’ ‘Did you intend to play the saw while you performed the operation?’ Tommy inquired.