By Evelyn Waugh
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A YARN OF THE GOOD OLD DAYS OF BROAD TROUSERS AND HIGH NECKED JUMPERS
Do you know, I don't think I can read mine. It's rather unkind."
"Oh, Basil, you must."
This always happened when Basil played paper games.
"No, I can't, look it's all scrumbled up."
"Oh, Basil, dearest, do."
"Oh, Basil, please."
"Darling Basil, you must."
"No, I won't. Imogen will be in a rage with me."
"No, she won't, will you, Imogen?"
"Imogen, tell him you won't be in a rage with him."
"Basil, do read it please."
"Well, then, if you promise you won't hate me"—and he smoothed out the piece of paper.
"And Animal—Boa constrictor."
"Oh, Basil, how marvelous."
"Poor Adam, I never thought of him as Dublin, of course it's perfect."
"So phallic, my dear, and prickly."
"And such vulgar flowers."
"Boa constrictor is brilliant."
"Yes, his digestion you know."
"And can't sting, only crush."
"And fascinates rabbits."
"I must draw a picture of Adam fascinating a rabbit," and then, "Imogen, you're not going?"
"I must. I'm terribly sleepy. Don't get drunk and wake me up, will you?"
"Imogen, you are in a rage with me."
"My dear, I'm far too tired to be in a rage with anybody. Good night."
The door shut.
"My dear, she's furious."
"I knew she would be, you shouldn't have made me read it."
"She's been very odd all the evening, I consider."
"She told me she lunched with Adam before she came down."
"I expect she ate too much. One does with Adam, don't you find?"
"But you know, I'm rather proud of that character all the same. I wonder why none of us ever thought of Dublin before."
"Basil, do you think Imogen can have been having an affaire with Adam, really?"
NOTE.—No attempt, beyond the omission of some of the aspirates, has been made at a phonetic rendering of the speech of Gladys and Ada; they are the cook and house-parlormaid from a small house in Earls Court, and it is to be supposed that they speak as such.
The conversations in the film are deduced by the experienced picture-goer from the gestures of the actors; only those parts which appear in capitals are actual "captions."
The Cockatrice Club 2:30 A.M. A Center of London Night Life.
The "Art title" shows a still life of a champagne bottle, glasses, and a comic mask—or is it yawning?
"Oh, Gladys, it's begun; I knew we'd be late."
"Never mind, dear, I can see the way. Oh, I say—I am sorry. Thought the seat was empty—really I did."
Erotic giggling and a slight struggle.
"Give over, can't you, and let me get by—saucy kid."
" 'Ere you are, Gladys, there's two seats 'ere."
"Well I never—tried to make me sit on 'is knee."
"Go on. I say, Gladys, what sort of picture is this—is it comic?"
The screen is almost completely dark as though the film has been greatly over-exposed. Fitful but brilliant illumination reveals a large crowd dancing, talking and eating.
"No, Ada—that's lightning. I dare say it's a desert storm. I see a picture like that the other day with Fred."
Everybody Loves My Baby.
Close-up: the head of a girl.
"That's 'is baby. See if she ain't."
It is rather a lovely head, shingled and superbly poised on its neck. One is just beginning to appreciate its exquisite modeling—the film is too poor to give any clear impression of texture—when it is flashed away and its place taken by a stout and elderly man playing a saxophone. The film becomes obscure—after the manner of the more modern Continental studios: the saxophonist has become the vortex of movement; faces flash out and disappear again; fragmentary captions will not wait until they are read.
"Well, I do call this soft."
A voice with a Cambridge accent from the more expensive seats says, "Expressionismus."
Gladys nudges Ada and says, "Foreigner."
After several shiftings of perspective, the focus becomes suddenly and stereoscopically clear. The girl is seated at a table leaning towards a young man who is lighting her cigarette for her. Three or four others join them at the table and sit down. They are all in evening dress.
"No, it isn't comic, Ada—it's Society."
"Society's sometimes comic. You see."
The girl is protesting that she must go.
"Adam, I must. Mother thinks I went out to a theater with you and your mother. I don't know what will happen if she finds I'm not in."
There is a general leave-taking and paying of bills.
"I say, Gladys, 'e's 'ad a drop too much, ain't 'e?"
The hero and heroine drive away in a taxi.
Halfway down Pont Street, the heroine stops the taxi.
"Don't let him come any farther, Adam. Lady R. will hear."
"Good night, Imogen dear."
"Good night, Adam."
She hesitates for a moment and then kisses him.
Adam and the taxi drive away.
Close-up of Adam. He is a young man of about twenty-two, clean-shaven, with thick, very dark hair. He looks so infinitely sad that even Ada is shaken.
Can it be funny?
"Buster Keaton looks sad like that sometimes—don't 'e?"
Ada is reassured.
Buster Keaton looks sad; Buster Keaton is funny. Adam looks sad; Adam is funny. What could be clearer?
The cab stops and Adam gives it all his money. It wishes him "Good-night" and disappears into the darkness. Adam unlocks the front door.
On his way upstairs he takes his letters from the hall table; they are two bills and an invitation to a dance.
He reaches his room, undresses and sits for some time wretchedly staring at himself in the glass. Then he gets into bed. He dare not turn out the light because he knows that if he does the room will start spinning round him; he must be there thinking of Imogen until he becomes sober.
The film becomes darker. The room begins to swim and then steadies itself. It is getting quite dark. The orchestra plays very softly the first bars of "Everybody Loves My Baby." It is quite dark.
Close-up: the heroine.
Close-up: the hero asleep.
Next Morning 8:30 A.M.
The hero still asleep. The electric light is still burning.
A disagreeable-looking maid enters, turns out the light and raises the blind.
Adam wakes up.
"Good morning, Parsons."
"Good morning, sir."
"Is the bathroom empty?"
"I think Miss Jane's just this minute gone along there."
She picks up Adam's evening clothes from the floor.
Adam lies back and ponders the question of whether he shall miss his bath or miss getting a place at the studio.
Miss Jane in her bath.
Adam deciding to get up.
Tired out but with no inclination to sleep, Adam dresses. He goes down to breakfast.
"It can't be Society, Gladys, they aren't eating grape fruit."
"It's such a small 'ouse too."
"And no butler."
"Look, there's 'is little old mother. She'll lead 'im straight in the end. See if she don't."
"Well, that dress isn't at all what I call fashionable, if you ask me."
"Well, if it isn't funny and it isn't murder and it isn't Society, what is it?"
"P'r'aps there'll be a murder yet."
"Well, I calls it soft, that's what I calls it."
"Look now, 'e's got a invitation to a dance from a Countess."
"I don't understand this picture."
The Countess's invitation.
"Why, there isn't even a coronet on it, Ada."
The little old mother pours out tea for him and tells him about the death of a friend in the Times that morning; when he has drunk some tea and eaten some fish, she bustles him out of the house.
Adam walks to the corner of the road, where he gets onto a bus. The neighborhood is revealed as being Regent's Park.
The Center of London's Quartier Latin The Maltby School of Art.
No trouble has been spared by the producers to obtain the right atmosphere. The top studio at Maltby's is already half full of young students when Adam enters. Work has not yet started, but the room is alive with busy preparation. A young woman in an overall—looking rather more like a chorus girl than a painter—is making herself very dirty cleaning her palette; another nearby is setting up an easel; a third is sharpening a pencil; a fourth is smoking a cigarette in a long holder. A young man, also in an overall, is holding a drawing and appraising it at arm's length, his head slightly on one side; a young man with untidy hair is disagreeing with him. Old Mr. Maltby, an inspiring figure in a shabby silk dressing gown, is telling a tearful student that if she misses another composition class, she will be asked to leave the school. Miss Philbrick, the secretary, interrupts the argument between the two young men to remind them that neither of them has paid his fee for the month. The girl who was setting up the easel is trying to borrow some "fixative"; the girl with the cigarette holder lends her some. Mr. Maltby is complaining of the grittiness of the charcoal they make nowadays. Surely this is the Quartier Latin itself?
The "set," too, has been conscientiously planned. The walls are hung with pots, pans and paintings—these last mainly a series of rather fleshly nudes which young Mr. Maltby has been unable to sell. A very brown skeleton hangs over the dais at the far end.
"I say, Gladys, do you think we shall see 'is models?"
"Coo, Ada, you are a one."
Adam comes in and goes towards the board on which hangs a plan of the easel places; the girl who was lending the "fixative" comes over to him, still smoking.
"THERE'S A PLACE EMPTY NEXT TO ME, DOURE, DO COME THERE."
Close-up of the girl.
"She's in love with 'im."
Close-up of Adam.
" 'E's not in love with 'er, though, is 'e, Ada?"
The place the girl points out is an excellent one in the second row; the only other one besides the very front and the very back is round at the side, next to the stove. Adam signs his initials opposite this place.
"I'M SORRY—I'M AFRAID THAT I FIND THE LIGHT WORRIES ME FROM WHERE YOU ARE—ONE GETS SO FEW SHADOWS—DON'T YOU FIND?"
The girl is not to be discouraged; she lights another cigarette.
"I SAW YOU LAST NIGHT AT THE COCKATRICE—YOU DIDN'T SEE ME THOUGH."
"THE COCKATRICE—LAST NIGHT—OH YES—WHAT A PITY!"
"WHO WERE ALL THOSE PEOPLE YOU WERE WITH?"
"OH, I DON'T KNOW, JUST SOME PEOPLE, YOU KNOW."
He makes a movement as if to go away.
"WHO WAS THAT GIRL YOU WERE DANCING WITH SO MUCH—THE PRETTY ONE WITH FAIR HAIR—IN BLACK?"
"OH, DON'T YOU KNOW HER? YOU MUST MEET HER ONE DAY—I SAY, I'M AWFULLY SORRY, BUT I MUST GO DOWN AND GET SOME PAPER FROM MISS PHILBRICK."
"I CAN LEND YOU SOME."
But he is gone.
Ada says, "Too much talk in this picture, eh, Gladys?" and the voice with the Cambridge accent is heard saying something about the "elimination of the caption."
One of Life's Unfortunates.
Enter a young woman huddled in a dressing gown, preceded by young Mr. Maltby.
"The model—coo—I say."
She has a slight cold and sniffles into a tiny ball of handkerchief; she mounts the dais and sits down ungracefully. Young Mr. Maltby nods good morning to those of the pupils who catch his eye; the girl who was talking to Adam catches his eye; he smiles.
" 'E's in love with 'er."
She returns his smile with warmth.
Young Mr. Maltby rattles the stove, opens the skylight a little and then turns to the model, who slips off her dressing gown and puts it over the back of the chair.
"Coo—I say. Ada—my!"
"Well I never."
The young man from Cambridge goes on talking about Matisse unfalteringly as though he were well accustomed to this sort of thing. Actually he is much intrigued.
She has disclosed a dull pink body with rather short legs and red elbows; like most professional models her toes are covered with bunions and malformed. Young Mr. Maltby sets her on the chair in an established Art School pose. The class settles to work.
Adam returns with some sheets of paper and proceeds to arrange them on his board. Then he stands for some time glaring at the model without drawing a line.
" 'E's in love with 'er." But for once Ada's explanation is wrong—and then begins sketching in the main lines of the pose.
He works on for five or six minutes, during which time the heat of the stove becomes increasingly uncomfortable. Old Mr. Maltby, breathing smoke, comes up behind him.
"Now have you placed it? What is your center? Where is the foot going to come? Where is the top of the head coming?"
Adam has not placed it; he rubs it out angrily and starts again.
Meanwhile a vivid flirtation is in progress between young Mr. Maltby and the girl who was in love with Adam. He is leaning over and pointing out mistakes to her; his hand rests on her shoulder; she is wearing a low-necked jumper; his thumb strays over the skin of her neck; she wriggles appreciatively. He takes the charcoal from her and begins drawing in the corner of her paper; her hair touches his cheek; neither of them heed the least what he is drawing.
"These Bo'emians don't 'alf carry on, eh, Gladys?"
In half an hour Adam has rubbed out his drawing three times. Whenever he is beginning to interest himself in some particular combination of shapes, the model raises her ball of handkerchief to her nose, and after each sniff relapses into a slightly different position. The anthracite stove glows with heat; he works on for another half hour.
The Eleven O'Clock Rest.
Most of the girls light cigarettes; the men, who have increased in number with many late arrivals, begin to congregate away from them in the corner. One of them is reading The Studio. Adam lights a pipe, and standing back, surveys his drawing with detestation.
Close-up; Adam's drawing. It is not really at all bad. In fact it is by far the best in the room; there is one which will be better at the end of the week, but at present there is nothing of it except some measurements and geometrical figures. Its author is unaware that the model is resting; he is engaged in calculating the medial section of her height in the corner of the paper.
Adam goes out onto the stairs, which are lined with women from the lower studio eating buns out of bags. He returns to the studio.
The girl who has been instructed by young Mr. Maltby comes up to him and looks at his drawing.
"Rather Monday morningish."
That was exactly what young Mr. Maltby had said about hers.
The model resumes her pose with slight differences; the paper bags are put away, pipes are knocked out; the promising pupil is calculating the area of a rectangle.
The scene changes to
158 Pont Street. The London House of Mr. Charles and Lady Rosemary Quest.
An interior is revealed in which the producers have at last made some attempt to satisfy the social expectations of Gladys and Ada. It is true that there is very little marble and no footmen in powder and breeches, but there is nevertheless an undoubted air of grandeur about the high rooms and Louis Seize furniture, and there is a footman. The young man from Cambridge estimates the household at six thousand a year, and though somewhat overgenerous, it is a reasonable guess. Lady Rosemary's collection of Limoges can be seen in the background.
Upstairs in her bedroom Imogen Quest is telephoning.
"What a lovely Kimony, Ada."
Miss Philbrick comes into the upper studio at Maltby's, where Adam is at last beginning to take some interest in his drawing.
"MISS QUEST WANTS TO SPEAK TO YOU ON THE TELEPHONE, MR. DOURE. I told her that it was against the rules for students to use the telephone except in the luncheon hour" (there is always a pathetic game of make-believe at Maltby's played endlessly by Miss Philbrick and old Mr. Maltby, in which they pretend that somewhere there is a code of rules which all must observe), "but she says that it is most important. I do wish you would ask your friends not to ring you up in the mornings."
Adam puts down his charcoal and follows her to the office.
There over the telephone is poor Miss Philbrick's notice written in the script writing she learned at night classes in Southampton Row.
"Students are forbidden to use the telephone during working hours."
"Good morning, Imogen."
"Yes, quite safely—very tired though."
"I can't, Imogen—for one thing I haven't the money."
"No, you can't afford it either. Anyway, I'm dining with Lady R. tonight. You can tell me then, surely?"
"Who lives there?"
"Not that awful Basil Hay?"
"Well, perhaps he is."
"I used to meet him at Oxford sometimes."
"WELL, IF YOU'RE SURE YOU CAN PAY I'LL COME TO LUNCHEON WITH YOU."
"WHY THERE? IT'S FRIGHTFULLY EXPENSIVE."
"STEAK TARTARE—WHAT'S THAT?"
The Cambridge voice explains, "Quite raw, you know, with olives and capers and vinegar and things."
"My dear, you'll turn into a werewolf."
"I should love it if you did."
"Yes, I'm afraid I am getting a little morbid."
"One-ish. Please don't be too late—I've only three-quarters of an hour."
So much of the forbidden conversation is audible to Miss Philbrick.
Adam returns to the studio and draws a few heavy and insensitive lines.
He rubs at them but they still show up grubbily in the pores of the paper. He tears up his drawing; old Mr. Maltby remonstrates; young Mr. Maltby is explaining the construction of the foot and does not look up.
Adam attempts another drawing.
Close-up of Adam's drawing.
" 'E's thinking of 'er." Unerring Ada!
"These films would be so much more convincing if they would only employ decent draftsmen to do the hero's drawings for him—don't you think?" Bravo, the cultured bourgeoisie!
There is a repetition of all the excursions of eleven o'clock.
The promising pupil is working out the ratio of two cubes. The girl who has been learning the construction of the foot comes over to him and looks over his shoulder; he starts violently and loses count.
Adam takes his hat and stick and goes out.
Adam on a bus.
Adam studying Poussin at the National Gallery.
Close-up of Adam studying Poussin.
" 'E's thinking of 'er."
The clock of St. Martin-in-the-Fields strikes one. Adam leaves the National Gallery.
Ten Minutes Past One. The Dining Room of the Restaurant de la Tour de Force.
Enter Adam; he looks round but as he had expected, Imogen has not yet arrived. He sits down at a table laid for two and waits.
Though not actually in Soho, the Tour de Force gives unmistakably an impression half cosmopolitan, half theatrical, which Ada would sum up in the word "Bo'emian." The tables are well spaced and the wines are excellent though extremely costly.
Adam orders some sherry and waits, dividing his attention between the door through which Imogen will enter and the contemplation of a middle-aged political lawyer of repute who at the next table is trying to keep amused a bored and exquisitely beautiful youth of eighteen.
Quarter to Two.
The people at the other tables say, "Look, there's Imogen Quest. I can't see what people find in her, can you?" or else, "I wonder who that is. Isn't she attractive?"
"My dear, I'm terribly late. I am sorry. I've had the most awful morning shopping with Lady R."
She sits down at the table.
"You haven't got to rush back to your school, have you? Because I'm never going to see you again. The most awful thing has happened—you order lunch, Adam. I'm very hungry. I want to eat a steak tartare and I don't want to drink anything."
Adam orders lunch.
"LADY R. SAYS I'M SEEING TOO MUCH OF YOU. ISN'T IT TOO AWFUL?"
Gladys at last is quite at home. The film has been classified. Young love is being thwarted by purse-proud parents.
Imogen waves aside a wagon of hors d'oeuvres.
"We had quite a scene. She came into my room before I was up and wanted to know all about last night. Apparently she heard me come in. And, oh Adam, I can't tell you what dreadful things she's been saying about you. My dear, what an odd luncheon—you've ordered everything I most detest."
Adam drinks soup.
"THAT'S WHY I'M BEING SENT OFF TO THATCH THIS AFTERNOON. And Lady R. is going to talk to you seriously tonight. She's put Mary and Andrew off so that she can get you alone. Adam, how can you expect me to eat all this? And you haven't ordered yourself anything to drink."
Adam eats an omelet alone. Imogen crumbles bread and talks to him.
"But, my dear, you mustn't say anything against Basil because I simply adore him, and he's got the loveliest, vulgarest mother—you'd simply love her."
The steak tartare is wheeled up and made before them.
Close-up; a dish of pulverized and bleeding meat: hands pouring in immoderate condiments.
"Do you know, Adam, I don't think I do want this after all. It reminds me so of Henry."
Half Past Two.
Adam has finished luncheon.
"SO YOU SEE, DEAR, WE SHALL NEVER, NEVER MEET AGAIN—PROPERLY I MEAN. Isn't it just too like Lady R. for words."
Imogen stretches out her hand across the table and touches Adam's.
Close-up; Adam's hand, a signet ring on the little finger and a smudge of paint on the inside of the thumb. Imogen's hand—very white and manicured—moves across the screen and touches it.
Gladys gives a slight sob.
"YOU DON'T MIND TOO DREADFULLY—DO YOU, ADAM?"
Adam does mind—very much indeed. He has eaten enough to be thoroughly sentimental.
The Restaurant de la Tour de Force is nearly empty. The political barrister has gone his unregenerate way; the waiters stand about restlessly.
Imogen pays the bill and they rise to go.
"Adam, you must come to Euston and see me off. We can't part just like this—for always, can we? Hodges is meeting me there with the luggage."
They get into a taxi.
Imogen puts her hand in his and they sit like this for a few minutes without speaking.
Then Adam leans towards her and they kiss.
Close-up: Adam and Imogen kissing. There is a tear (which finds a ready response in Ada and Gladys, who sob uncontrollably) in Adam's eye; Imogen's lips luxuriously disposed by the pressure.
"Like the Bronzino Venus."
"IMOGEN, YOU NEVER REALLY CARED, DID YOU? IF YOU HAD YOU WOULDN'T GO AWAY LIKE THIS. IMOGEN, DID YOU EVER CARE—REALLY?"
"HAVEN'T I GIVEN PROOF THAT I DID? Adam dear, why will you always ask such tiresome questions? Don't you see how impossible it all is? We've only about five minutes before we reach Euston."
They kiss again.
Adam says, "Damn Lady R."
They reach Euston.
Hodges is waiting for them. She has seen about the luggage; she has seen about tickets; she has even bought magazines; there is nothing to be done.
Adam stands beside Imogen waiting for the train to start; she looks at a weekly paper.
"Do look at this picture of Sybil. Isn't it odd? I wonder when she had it taken."
The train is about to start. She gets into the carriage and holds out her hand.
"Good-bye, darling. You will come to mother's dance in June, won't you? I shall be miserable if you don't. Perhaps we shall meet before then. Good-bye."
The train moves out of the station.
Close-up. Imogen in the carriage studying the odd photograph of Sybil.
Adam on the platform watching the train disappear.
"Well, Ada, what d'you think of it?"
"It is curious the way that they can never make their heroes and heroines talk like ladies and gentlemen—particularly in moments of emotion."
A Quarter of an Hour Later.
Adam is still at Euston, gazing aimlessly at a bookstall. The various prospects before him appear on the screen.
Maltby's. The anthracite stove, the model, the amorous student—("the Vamp"), the mathematical student, his own drawing.
Dinner at home. His father, his mother, Parsons, his sister with her stupid, pimply face and her dull jealousy of all Imogen said and did and wore.
Dinner at Pont Street, head to head with Lady Rosemary.
Dinner by himself at some very cheap restaurant in Soho. And always at the end of it, Solitude and the thought of Imogen.
Close-up: Adam registering despair gradually turning to resolution.
Adam on a bus going to Hanover Gate.
He walks to his home.
Parsons. Parsons opens the door. Mrs. Doure is out; Miss Jane is out; no, Adam does not want any tea.
Adam's room. It is a rather charming one, high at the top of the house, looking over the trees. At full moon the animals in the Zoological Gardens can be heard from there. Adam comes in and locks the door.
Gladys is there already.
"Yes, but she'll come in time to stop 'im. See if she don't."
"Don't you be too sure. This is a queer picture, this is."
He goes to his desk and takes a small blue bottle from one of the pigeon holes.
"What did I tell yer? Poison."
"The ease with which persons in films contrive to provide themselves with the instruments of death…"
He puts it down, and taking out a sheet of paper writes.
"Last message to 'er. Gives 'er time to come and save 'im. You see."
"Ave Imperatrix Immortalis, Moriturus Te Salutant."
He folds it, puts it in an envelope and addresses it.
Then he pauses, uncertain.
A vision appears:
- On Sale
- Dec 11, 2012
- Page Count
- 544 pages
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