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F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)

Saturday Evening Post (2 March 1929)

After Atlanta's elaborate and theatrical rendition of Southern
charm, we all underestimated Tarleton.  It was a little hotter than
anywhere we'd been--a dozen rookies collapsed the first day in that
Georgia sun--and when you saw herds of cows drifting through the
business streets, hi-yaed by colored drovers, a trance stole down
over you out of the hot light; you wanted to move a hand or foot to
be sure you were alive.

So I stayed out at camp and let Lieutenant Warren tell me about the
girls.  This was fifteen years ago, and I've forgotten how I felt,
except that the days went along, one after another, better than
they do now, and I was empty-hearted, because up North she whose
legend I had loved for three years was getting married.  I saw the
clippings and newspaper photographs.  It was "a romantic wartime
wedding," all very rich and sad.  I felt vividly the dark radiance
of the sky under which it took place, and as a young snob, was more
envious than sorry.

A day came when I went into Tarleton for a haircut and ran into a
nice fellow named Bill Knowles, who was in my time at Harvard.
He'd been in the National Guard division that preceded us in camp;
at the last moment he had transferred to aviation and been left

"I'm glad I met you, Andy," he said with undue seriousness.  "I'll
hand you on all my information before I start for Texas.  You see,
there're really only three girls here--"

I was interested; there was something mystical about there being
three girls.

"--and here's one of them now."

We were in front of a drug store and he marched me in and
introduced me to a lady I promptly detested.

"The other two are Ailie Calhoun and Sally Carrol Happer."

I guessed from the way he pronounced her name, that he was
interested in Ailie Calhoun.  It was on his mind what she would be
doing while he was gone; he wanted her to have a quiet,
uninteresting time.

At my age I don't even hesitate to confess that entirely
unchivalrous images of Ailie Calhoun--that lovely name--rushed into
my mind.  At twenty-three there is no such thing as a preëmpted
beauty; though, had Bill asked me, I would doubtless have sworn in
all sincerity to care for her like a sister.  He didn't; he was
just fretting out loud at having to go.  Three days later he
telephoned me that he was leaving next morning and he'd take me to
her house that night.

We met at the hotel and walked uptown through the flowery, hot
twilight.  The four white pillars of the Calhoun house faced the
street, and behind them the veranda was dark as a cave with
hanging, weaving, climbing vines.

When we came up the walk a girl in a white dress tumbled out of the
front door, crying, "I'm so sorry I'm late!" and seeing us, added:
"Why, I thought I heard you come ten minutes--"

She broke off as a chair creaked and another man, an aviator from
Camp Harry Lee, emerged from the obscurity of the veranda.

"Why, Canby!" she cried.  "How are you?"

He and Bill Knowles waited with the tenseness of open litigants.

"Canby, I want to whisper to you, honey," she said, after just a
second.  "You'll excuse us, Bill."

They went aside.  Presently Lieutenant Canby, immensely displeased,
said in a grim voice, "Then we'll make it Thursday, but that means
sure."  Scarcely nodding to us, he went down the walk, the spurs
with which he presumably urged on his aeroplane gleaming in the

"Come in--I don't just know your name--"

There she was--the Southern type in all its purity.  I would have
recognized Ailie Calhoun if I'd never heard Ruth Draper or read
Marse Chan.  She had the adroitness sugar-coated with sweet,
voluble simplicity, the suggested background of devoted fathers,
brothers and admirers stretching back into the South's heroic age,
the unfailing coolness acquired in the endless struggle with the
heat.  There were notes in her voice that order slaves around, that
withered up Yankee captains, and then soft, wheedling notes that
mingled in unfamiliar loveliness with the night.

I could scarcely see her in the darkness, but when I rose to go--it
was plain that I was not to linger--she stood in the orange light
from the doorway.  She was small and very blond; there was too much
fever-colored rouge on her face, accentuated by a nose dabbed
clownish white, but she shone through that like a star.

"After Bill goes I'll be sitting here all alone night after night.
Maybe you'll take me to the country-club dances."  The pathetic
prophecy brought a laugh from Bill.  "Wait a minute," Ailie
murmured.  "Your guns are all crooked."

She straightened my collar pin, looking up at me for a second with
something more than curiosity.  It was a seeking look, as if she
asked, "Could it be you?"  Like Lieutenant Canby, I marched off
unwillingly into the suddenly insufficient night.

Two weeks later I sat with her on the same veranda, or rather she
half lay in my arms and yet scarcely touched me--how she managed
that I don't remember.  I was trying unsuccessfully to kiss her,
and had been trying for the best part of an hour.  We had a sort of
joke about my not being sincere.  My theory was that if she'd let
me kiss her I'd fall in love with her.  Her argument was that I was
obviously insincere.

In a lull between two of these struggles she told me about her
brother who had died in his senior year at Yale.  She showed me his
picture--it was a handsome, earnest face with a Leyendecker
forelock--and told me that when she met someone who measured up to
him she'd marry.  I found this family idealism discouraging; even
my brash confidence couldn't compete with the dead.

The evening and other evenings passed like that, and ended with my
going back to camp with the remembered smell of magnolia flowers
and a mood of vague dissatisfaction.  I never kissed her.  We went
to the vaudeville and to the country club on Saturday nights, where
she seldom took ten consecutive steps with one man, and she took me
to barbecues and rowdy watermelon parties, and never thought it was
worth while to change what I felt for her into love.  I see now
that it wouldn't have been hard, but she was a wise nineteen and
she must have seen that we were emotionally incompatible.  So I
became her confidant instead.

We talked about Bill Knowles.  She was considering Bill; for,
though she wouldn't admit it, a winter at school in New York and a
prom at Yale had turned her eyes North.  She said she didn't think
she'd marry a Southern man.  And by degrees I saw that she was
consciously and voluntarily different from these other girls who
sang nigger songs and shot craps in the country-club bar.  That's
why Bill and I and others were drawn to her.  We recognized her.

June and July, while the rumors reached us faintly, ineffectually,
of battle and terror overseas, Ailie's eyes roved here and there
about the country-club floor, seeking for something among the tall
young officers.  She attached several, choosing them with unfailing
perspicacity--save in the case of Lieutenant Canby, whom she
claimed to despise, but, nevertheless, gave dates to "because he
was so sincere"--and we apportioned her evenings among us all

One day she broke all her dates--Bill Knowles had leave and was
coming.  We talked of the event with scientific impersonality--
would he move her to a decision?  Lieutenant Canby, on the
contrary, wasn't impersonal at all; made a nuisance of himself.  He
told her that if she married Knowles he was going to climb up six
thousand feet in his aeroplane, shut off the motor and let go.  He
frightened her--I had to yield him my last date before Bill came.

On Saturday night she and Bill Knowles came to the country club.
They were very handsome together and once more I felt envious and
sad.  As they danced out on the floor the three-piece orchestra was
playing After You've Gone, in a poignant incomplete way that I can
hear yet, as if each bar were trickling off a precious minute of
that time.  I knew then that I had grown to love Tarleton, and I
glanced about half in panic to see if some face wouldn't come in
for me out of that warm, singing, outer darkness that yielded up
couple after couple in organdie and olive drab.  It was a time of
youth and war, and there was never so much love around.

When I danced with Ailie she suddenly suggested that we go outside
to a car.  She wanted to know why didn't people cut in on her
tonight?  Did they think she was already married?

"Are you going to be?"

"I don't know, Andy.  Sometimes, when he treats me as if I were
sacred, it thrills me."  Her voice was hushed and far away.  "And

She laughed.  Her body, so frail and tender, was touching mine, her
face was turned up to me, and there, suddenly, with Bill Knowles
ten yards off, I could have kissed her at last.  Our lips just
touched experimentally; then an aviation officer turned a corner of
the veranda near us, peered into our darkness and hesitated.



"You heard about this afternoon?"

"What?"  She leaned forward, tenseness already in her voice.

"Horace Canby crashed.  He was instantly killed."

She got up slowly and stepped out of the car.

"You mean he was killed?" she said.

"Yes.  They don't know what the trouble was.  His motor--"

"Oh-h-h!"  Her rasping whisper came through the hands suddenly
covering her face.  We watched her helplessly as she put her head
on the side of the car, gagging dry tears.  After a minute I went
for Bill, who was standing in the stag line, searching anxiously
about for her, and told him she wanted to go home.

I sat on the steps outside.  I had disliked Canby, but his
terrible, pointless death was more real to me then than the day's
toll of thousands in France.  In a few minutes Ailie and Bill came
out.  Ailie was whimpering a little, but when she saw me her eyes
flexed and she came over swiftly.

"Andy"--she spoke in a quick, low voice--"of course you must never
tell anybody what I told you about Canby yesterday.  What he said,
I mean."

"Of course not."

She looked at me a second longer as if to be quite sure.  Finally
she was sure.  Then she sighed in such a quaint little way that I
could hardly believe my ears, and her brow went up in what can only
be described as mock despair.


I looked uncomfortably at the ground, aware that she was calling my
attention to her involuntarily disastrous effect on men.

"Good night, Andy!" called Bill as they got into a taxi.

"Good night," I said, and almost added:  "You poor fool."


Of course I should have made one of those fine moral decisions that
people make in books, and despised her.  On the contrary, I don't
doubt that she could still have had me by raising her hand.

A few days later she made it all right by saying wistfully, "I know
you think it was terrible of me to think of myself at a time like
that, but it was such a shocking coincidence."

At twenty-three I was entirely unconvinced about anything, except
that some people were strong and attractive and could do what they
wanted, and others were caught and disgraced.  I hoped I was of the
former.  I was sure Ailie was.

I had to revise other ideas about her.  In the course of a long
discussion with some girl about kissing--in those days people still
talked about kissing more than they kissed--I mentioned the fact
that Ailie had only kissed two or three men, and only when she
thought she was in love.  To my considerable disconcertion the girl
figuratively just lay on the floor and howled.

"But it's true," I assured her, suddenly knowing it wasn't.  "She
told me herself."

"Ailie Calhoun!  Oh, my heavens!  Why, last year at the Tech spring
house party--"

This was in September.  We were going over-seas any week now, and
to bring us up to full strength a last batch of officers from the
fourth training camp arrived.  The fourth camp wasn't like the
first three--the candidates were from the ranks; even from the
drafted divisions.  They had queer names without vowels in them,
and save for a few young militiamen, you couldn't take it for
granted that they came out of any background at all.  The addition
to our company was Lieutenant Earl Schoen from New Bedford,
Massachusetts; as fine a physical specimen as I have ever seen.  He
was six-foot-three, with black hair, high color and glossy dark-
brown eyes.  He wasn't very smart and he was definitely illiterate,
yet he was a good officer, high-tempered and commanding, and with
that becoming touch of vanity that sits well on the military.  I
had an idea that New Bedford was a country town, and set down his
bumptious qualities to that.

We were doubled up in living quarters and he came into my hut.
Inside of a week there was a cabinet photograph of some Tarleton
girl nailed brutally to the shack wall.

"She's no jane or anything like that.  She's a society girl; goes
with all the best people here."

The following Sunday afternoon I met the lady at a semiprivate
swimming pool in the country.  When Ailie and I arrived, there was
Schoen's muscular body rippling out of a bathing suit at the far
end of the pool.

"Hey, lieutenant!"

When I waved back at him he grinned and winked, jerking his head
toward the girl at his side.  Then, digging her in the ribs, he
jerked his head at me.  It was a form of introduction.

"Who's that with Kitty Preston?" Ailie asked, and when I told her
she said he looked like a street-car conductor, and pretended to
look for her transfer.

A moment later he crawled powerfully and gracefully down the pool
and pulled himself up at our side.  I introduced him to Ailie.

"How do you like my girl, lieutenant?" he demanded.  "I told you
she was all right, didn't I?"  He jerked his head toward Ailie;
this time to indicate that his girl and Ailie moved in the same
circles.  "How about us all having dinner together down at the
hotel some night?"

I left them in a moment, amused as I saw Ailie visibly making up
her mind that here, anyhow, was not the ideal.  But Lieutenant Earl
Schoen was not to be dismissed so lightly.  He ran his eyes
cheerfully and inoffensively over her cute, slight figure, and
decided that she would do even better than the other.  Then minutes
later I saw them in the water together, Ailie swimming away with a
grim little stroke she had, and Schoen wallowing riotously around
her and ahead of her, sometimes pausing and staring at her,
fascinated, as a boy might look at a nautical doll.

While the afternoon passed he remained at her side.  Finally Ailie
came over to me and whispered, with a laugh:  "He's following me
around.  He thinks I haven't paid my carfare."

She turned quickly.  Miss Kitty Preston, her face curiously
flustered, stood facing us.

"Ailie Calhoun, I didn't think it of you to go out and delib'ately
try to take a man away from another girl."--An expression of
distress at the impending scene flitted over Ailie's face.--"I
thought you considered yourself above anything like that."

Miss Preston's voice was low, but it held that tensity that can be
felt farther than it can be heard, and I saw Ailie's clear lovely
eyes glance about in panic.  Luckily, Earl himself was ambling
cheerfully and innocently toward us.

"If you care for him you certainly oughtn't to belittle yourself in
front of him," said Ailie in a flash, her head high.

It was her acquaintance with the traditional way of behaving
against Kitty Preston's naïve and fierce possessiveness, or if you
prefer it, Ailie's "breeding" against the other's "commonness."
She turned away.

"Wait a minute, kid!" cried Earl Schoen.  "How about your address?
Maybe I'd like to give you a ring on the phone."

She looked at him in a way that should have indicated to Kitty her
entire lack of interest.

"I'm very busy at the Red Cross this month," she said, her voice as
cool as her slicked-back blond hair.  "Good-by."

On the way home she laughed.  Her air of having been unwittingly
involved in a contemptible business vanished.

"She'll never hold that young man," she said.  "He wants somebody

"Apparently he wants Ailie Calhoun."

The idea amused her.

"He could give me his ticket punch to wear, like a fraternity pin.
What fun!  If mother ever saw anybody like that come in the house,
she'd just lie down and die."

And to give Ailie credit, it was fully a fortnight before he did
come in her house, although he rushed her until she pretended to be
annoyed at the next country-club dance.

"He's the biggest tough, Andy," she whispered to me.  "But he's so

She used the word "tough" without the conviction it would have
carried had he been a Southern boy.  She only knew it with her
mind; her ear couldn't distinguish between one Yankee voice and
another.  And somehow Mrs. Calhoun didn't expire at his appearance
on the threshold.  The supposedly ineradicable prejudices of
Ailie's parents were a convenient phenomenon that disappeared at
her wish.  It was her friends who were astonished.  Ailie, always a
little above Tarleton, whose beaux had been very carefully the
"nicest" men of the camp--Ailie and Lieutenant Schoen!  I grew
tired of assuring people that she was merely distracting herself--
and indeed every week or so there was someone new--an ensign from
Pensacola, an old friend from New Orleans--but always, in between
times, there was Earl Schoen.

Orders arrived for an advance party of officers and sergeants to
proceed to the port of embarkation and take ship to France.  My
name was on the list.  I had been on the range for a week and when
I got back to camp, Earl Schoen buttonholed me immediately.

"We're giving a little farewell party in the mess.  Just you and I
and Captain Craker and three girls."

Earl and I were to call for the girls.  We picked up Sally Carrol
Happer and Nancy Lamar, and went on to Ailie's house; to be met at
the door by the butler with the announcement that she wasn't home.

"Isn't home?" Earl repeated blankly.  "Where is she?"

"Didn't leave no information about that; just said she wasn't

"But this is a darn funny thing!" he exclaimed.  He walked around
the familiar dusky veranda while the butler waited at the door.
Something occurred to him.  "Say," he informed me--"say, I think
she's sore."

I waited.  He said sternly to the butler, "You tell her I've got to
speak to her a minute."

"How'm I goin' tell her that when she ain't home?"

Again Earl walked musingly around the porch.  Then he nodded
several times and said:

"She's sore at something that happened downtown."

In a few words he sketched out the matter to me.

"Look here; you wait in the car," I said.  "Maybe I can fix this."
And when he reluctantly retreated:  "Oliver, you tell Miss Ailie I
want to see her alone."

After some argument he bore this message and in a moment returned
with a reply:

"Miss Ailie say she don't want to see that other gentleman about
nothing never.  She say come in if you like."

She was in the library.  I had expected to see a picture of cool,
outraged dignity, but her face was distraught, tumultuous,
despairing.  Her eyes were red-rimmed, as though she had been
crying slowly and painfully, for hours.

"Oh, hello, Andy," she said brokenly.  "I haven't seen you for so
long.  Has he gone?"

"Now, Ailie--"

"Now, Ailie!" she cried.  "Now, Ailie!  He spoke to me, you see.
He lifted his hat.  He stood there ten feet from me with that
horrible--that horrible woman--holding her arm and talking to her,
and then when he saw me he raised his hat.  Andy, I didn't know
what to do.  I had to go in the drug store and ask for a glass of
water, and I was so afraid he'd follow in after me that I asked Mr.
Rich to let me go out the back way.  I never want to see him or
hear of him again."

I talked.  I said what one says in such cases.  I said it for half
an hour.  I could not move her.  Several times she answered by
murmuring something about his not being "sincere," and for the
fourth time I wondered what the word meant to her.  Certainly not
constancy; it was, I half suspected, some special way she wanted to
be regarded.

I got up to go.  And then, unbelievably, the automobile horn
sounded three times impatiently outside.  It was stupefying.  It
said as plainly as if Earl were in the room, "All right; go to the
devil then!  I'm not going to wait here all night."

Ailie looked at me aghast.  And suddenly a peculiar look came into
her face, spread, flickered, broke into a teary, hysterical smile.

"Isn't he awful?" she cried in helpless despair.  "Isn't he

"Hurry up," I said quickly.  "Get your cape.  This is our last

And I can still feel that last night vividly, the candlelight that
flickered over the rough boards of the mess shack, over the frayed
paper decorations left from the supply company's party, the sad
mandolin down a company street that kept picking My Indiana Home
out of the universal nostalgia of the departing summer.  The three
girls lost in this mysterious men's city felt something, too--a
bewitched impermanence as though they were on a magic carpet that
had lighted on the Southern countryside, and any moment the wind
would lift it and waft it away.  We toasted ourselves and the
South.  Then we left our napkins and empty glasses and a little of
the past on the table, and hand in hand went out into the moonlight
itself.  Taps had been played; there was no sound but the far-away
whinny of a horse, and a loud persistent snore at which we laughed,
and the leathery snap of a sentry coming to port over by the
guardhouse.  Craker was on duty; we others got into a waiting car,
motored into Tarleton and left Craker's girl.

Then Ailie and Earl, Sally and I, two and two in the wide back
seat, each couple turned from the other, absorbed and whispering,
drove away into the wide, flat darkness.

We drove through pine woods heavy with lichen and Spanish moss, and
between the fallow cotton fields along a road white as the rim of
the world.  We parked under the broken shadow of a mill where there
was the sound of running water and restive squawky birds and over
everything a brightness that tried to filter in anywhere--into the
lost nigger cabins, the automobile, the fastnesses of the heart.
The South sang to us--I wonder if they remember.  I remember--the
cool pale faces, the somnolent amorous eyes and the voices:

"Are you comfortable?"

"Yes; are you?"

"Are you sure you are?"


Suddenly we knew it was late and there was nothing more.  We turned

Our detachment started for Camp Mills next day, but I didn't go to
France after all.  We passed a cold month on Long Island, marched
aboard a transport with steel helmets slung at our sides and then
marched off again.  There wasn't any more war.  I had missed the
war.  When I came back to Tarleton I tried to get out of the Army,
but I had a regular commission and it took most of the winter.  But
Earl Schoen was one of the first to be demobilized.  He wanted to
find a good job "while the picking was good."  Ailie was
noncommittal, but there was an understanding between them that he'd
be back.

By January the camps, which for two years had dominated the little
city, were already fading.  There was only the persistent
incinerator smell to remind one of all that activity and bustle.
What life remained centered bitterly about divisional headquarters
building, with the disgruntled regular officers who had also missed
the war.

And now the young men of Tarleton began drifting back from the ends
of the earth--some with Canadian uniforms, some with crutches or
empty sleeves.  A returned battalion of the National Guard paraded
through the streets with open ranks for their dead, and then
stepped down out of romance forever and sold you things over the
counters of local stores.  Only a few uniforms mingled with the
dinner coats at the country-club dance.

Just before Christmas, Bill Knowles arrived unexpectedly one day
and left the next--either he gave Ailie an ultimatum or she had
made up her mind at last.  I saw her sometimes when she wasn't busy
with returned heroes from Savannah and Augusta, but I felt like an
outmoded survival--and I was.  She was waiting for Earl Schoen with
such a vast uncertainty that she didn't like to talk about it.
Three days before I got my final discharge he came.

I first happened upon them walking down Market Street together, and
I don't think I've ever been so sorry for a couple in my life;
though I suppose the same situation was repeating itself in every
city where there had been camps.  Exteriorly Earl had about
everything wrong with him that could be imagined.  His hat was
green, with a radical feather; his suit was slashed and braided in
a grotesque fashion that national advertising and the movies have
put an end to.  Evidently he had been to his old barber, for his
hair bloused neatly on his pink, shaved neck.  It wasn't as though
he had been shiny and poor, but the background of mill-town dance
halls and outing clubs flamed out at you--or rather flamed out at
Ailie.  For she had never quite imagined the reality; in these
clothes even the natural grace of that magnificent body had
departed.  At first he boasted of his fine job; it would get them
along all right until he could "see some easy money."  But from the
moment he came back into her world on its own terms he must have
known it was hopeless.  I don't know what Ailie said or how much
her grief weighed against her stupefaction.  She acted quickly--
three days after his arrival, Earl and I went North together on the

"Well, that's the end of that," he said moodily.  "She's a
wonderful girl, but too much of a highbrow for me.  I guess she's
got to marry some rich guy that'll give her a great social
position.  I can't see that stuck-up sort of thing."  And then,
later:  "She said to come back and see her in a year, but I'll
never go back.  This aristocrat stuff is all right if you got the
money for it, but--"

"But it wasn't real," he meant to finish.  The provincial society
in which he had moved with so much satisfaction for six months
already appeared to him as affected, "dudish" and artificial.

"Say, did you see what I saw getting on the train?" he asked me
after a while.  "Two wonderful janes, all alone.  What do you say
we mosey into the next car and ask them to lunch?  I'll take the
one in blue."  Halfway down the car he turned around suddenly.
"Say, Andy," he demanded, frowning; "one thing--how do you suppose
she knew I used to command a street car?  I never told her that."

"Search me."


This narrative arrives now at one of the big gaps that stared me in
the face when I began.  For six years, while I finished at Harvard
Law and built commercial aeroplanes and backed a pavement block
that went gritty under trucks, Ailie Calhoun was scarcely more than
a name on a Christmas card; something that blew a little in my mind
on warm nights when I remembered the magnolia flowers.  Occasionally
an acquaintance of Army days would ask me, "What became of that
blond girl who was so popular?" but I didn't know.  I ran into Nancy
Lamar at the Montmartre in New York one evening and learned that
Ailie had become engaged to a man in Cincinnati, had gone North to
visit his family and then broken it off.  She was lovely as ever and
there was always a heavy beau or two.  But neither Bill Knowles nor
Earl Schoen had ever come back.

And somewhere about that time I heard that Bill Knowles had married
a girl he met on a boat.  There you are--not much of a patch to
mend six years with.

Oddly enough, a girl seen at twilight in a small Indiana station
started me thinking about going South.  The girl, in stiff pink
organdie, threw her arms about a man who got off our train and
hurried him to a waiting car, and I felt a sort of pang.  It seemed
to me that she was bearing him off into the lost midsummer world of
my early twenties, where time had stood still and charming girls,
dimly seen like the past itself, still loitered along the dusky
streets.  I suppose that poetry is a Northern man's dream of the
South.  But it was months later that I sent off a wire to Ailie,
and immediately followed it to Tarleton.

It was July.  The Jefferson Hotel seemed strangely shabby and
stuffy--a boosters' club burst into intermittent song in the dining
room that my memory had long dedicated to officers and girls.  I
recognized the taxi driver who took me up to Ailie's house, but his
"Sure, I do, lieutenant," was unconvincing.  I was only one of
twenty thousand.

It was a curious three days.  I suppose some of Ailie's first young
lustre must have gone the way of such mortal shining, but I can't
bear witness to it.  She was still so physically appealing that you
wanted to touch the personality that trembled on her lips.  No--the
change was more profound than that.

At once I saw she had a different line.  The modulations of pride,
the vocal hints that she knew the secrets of a brighter, finer ante-
bellum day, were gone from her voice; there was no time for them
now as it rambled on in the half-laughing, half-desperate banter of
the newer South.  And everything was swept into this banter in
order to make it go on and leave no time for thinking--the present,
the future, herself, me.  We went to a rowdy party at the house of
some young married people, and she was the nervous, glowing center
of it.  After all, she wasn't eighteen, and she was as attractive
in her rôle of reckless clown as she had ever been in her life.

"Have you heard anything from Earl Schoen?" I asked her the second
night, on our way to the country-club dance.

"No."  She was serious for a moment.  "I often think of him.  He
was the--"  She hesitated.

"Go on."

"I was going to say the man I loved most, but that wouldn't be
true.  I never exactly loved him, or I'd have married him any old
how, wouldn't I?"  She looked at me questioningly.  "At least I
wouldn't have treated him like that."

"It was impossible."

"Of course," she agreed uncertainly.  Her mood changed; she became
flippant:  "How the Yankees did deceive us poor little Southern
girls.  Ah, me!"

When we reached the country club she melted like a chameleon into
the--to me--unfamiliar crowd.  There was a new generation upon the
floor, with less dignity than the ones I had known, but none of
them were more a part of its lazy, feverish essence than Ailie.
Possibly she had perceived that in her initial longing to escape
from Tarleton's provincialism she had been walking alone, following
a generation which was doomed to have no successors.  Just where
she lost the battle, waged behind the white pillars of her veranda,
I don't know.  But she had guessed wrong, missed out somewhere.
Her wild animation, which even now called enough men around her to
rival the entourage of the youngest and freshest, was an admission
of defeat.

I left her house, as I had so often left it that vanished June, in
a mood of vague dissatisfaction.  It was hours later, tossing about
my bed in the hotel, that I realized what was the matter, what had
always been the matter--I was deeply and incurably in love with
her.  In spite of every incompatibility, she was still, she would
always be to me, the most attractive girl I had ever known.  I told
her so next afternoon.  It was one of those hot days I knew so
well, and Ailie sat beside me on a couch in the darkened library.

"Oh, no, I couldn't marry you," she said, almost frightened; "I
don't love you that way at all. . . .  I never did.  And you don't
love me.  I didn't mean to tell you now, but next month I'm going
to marry another man.  We're not even announcing it, because I've
done that twice before."  Suddenly it occurred to her that I might
be hurt:  "Andy, you just had a silly idea, didn't you?  You know I
couldn't ever marry a Northern man."

"Who is he?" I demanded.

"A man from Savannah."

"Are you in love with him?"

"Of course I am."  We both smiled.  "Of course I am!  What are you
trying to make me say?"

There were no doubts, as there had been with other men.  She
couldn't afford to let herself have doubts.  I knew this because
she had long ago stopped making any pretensions with me.  This very
naturalness, I realized, was because she didn't consider me as a
suitor.  Beneath her mask of an instinctive thoroughbred she had
always been on to herself, and she couldn't believe that anyone not
taken in to the point of uncritical worship could really love her.
That was what she called being "sincere"; she felt most security
with men like Canby and Earl Schoen, who were incapable of passing
judgments on the ostensibly aristocratic heart.

"All right," I said, as if she had asked my permission to marry.
"Now, would you do something for me?"


"Ride out to camp."

"But there's nothing left there, honey."

"I don't care."

We walked downtown.  The taxi driver in front of the hotel repeated
her objection:  "Nothing there now, cap."

"Never mind.  Go there anyhow."

Twenty minutes later he stopped on a wide unfamiliar plain powdered
with new cotton fields and marked with isolated clumps of pine.

"Like to drive over yonder where you see the smoke?" asked the
driver.  "That's the new state prison."

"No.  Just drive along this road.  I want to find where I used to

An old race course, inconspicuous in the camp's day of glory, had
reared its dilapidated grandstand in the desolation.  I tried in
vain to orient myself.

"Go along this road past that clump of trees, and then turn right--
no, turn left."

He obeyed, with professional disgust.

"You won't find a single thing, darling," said Ailie.  "The
contractors took it all down."

We rode slowly along the margin of the fields.  It might have been

"All right.  I want to get out," I said suddenly.

I left Ailie sitting in the car, looking very beautiful with the
warm breeze stirring her long, curly bob.

It might have been here.  That would make the company streets down
there and the mess shack, where we dined that night, just over the

The taxi driver regarded me indulgently while I stumbled here and
there in the knee-deep underbrush, looking for my youth in a
clapboard or a strip of roofing or a rusty tomato can.  I tried to
sight on a vaguely familiar clump of trees, but it was growing
darker now and I couldn't be quite sure they were the right trees.

"They're going to fix up the old race course," Ailie called from
the car.  "Tarleton's getting quite doggy in its old age."

No.  Upon consideration they didn't look like the right trees.  All
I could be sure of was this place that had once been so full of
life and effort was gone, as if it had never existed, and that in
another month Ailie would be gone, and the South would be empty for
me forever.


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