F. Scott Fitzgerald
A selection from
THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED
Narrated by Barrett Whitener
This file is 5.2 MB;
running time is 11 minutes
alternate download link
This audio program is copyrighted by Redwood Audiobooks.
Permission is granted to download for personal use only;
not for distribution or commercial use.
The man had had the hardest blow of his life. He knew at last what he
wanted, but in finding it out it seemed that he had put it forever
beyond his grasp. He reached home in misery, dropped into an armchair
without even removing his overcoat, and sat there for over an hour, his
mind racing the paths of fruitless and wretched self-absorption. She had
sent him away! That was the reiterated burden of his despair. Instead of
seizing the girl and holding her by sheer strength until she became
passive to his desire, instead of beating down her will by the force of
his own, he had walked, defeated and powerless, from her door, with the
corners of his mouth drooping and what force there might have been in
his grief and rage hidden behind the manner of a whipped schoolboy. At
one minute she had liked him tremendously—ah, she had nearly loved him.
In the next he had become a thing of indifference to her, an insolent
and efficiently humiliated man.
He had no great self-reproach—some, of course, but there were other
things dominant in him now, far more urgent. He was not so much in love
with Gloria as mad for her. Unless he could have her near him again,
kiss her, hold her close and acquiescent, he wanted nothing more from
life. By her three minutes of utter unwavering indifference the girl had
lifted herself from a high but somehow casual position in his mind, to
be instead his complete preoccupation. However much his wild thoughts
varied between a passionate desire for her kisses and an equally
passionate craving to hurt and mar her, the residue of his mind craved
in finer fashion to possess the triumphant soul that had shone through
those three minutes. She was beautiful—but especially she was without
mercy. He must own that strength that could send him away.
At present no such analysis was possible to Anthony. His clarity of
mind, all those endless resources which he thought his irony had brought
him were swept aside. Not only for that night but for the days and weeks
that followed his books were to be but furniture and his friends only
people who lived and walked in a nebulous outer world from which he was
trying to escape—that world was cold and full of bleak wind, and for a
little while he had seen into a warm house where fires shone.
About midnight he began to realize that he was hungry. He went down into
Fifty-second Street, where it was so cold that he could scarcely see;
the moisture froze on his lashes and in the corners of his lips.
Everywhere dreariness had come down from the north, settling upon the
thin and cheerless street, where black bundled figures blacker still
against the night, moved stumbling along the sidewalk through the
shrieking wind, sliding their feet cautiously ahead as though they were
on skis. Anthony turned over toward Sixth Avenue, so absorbed in his
thoughts as not to notice that several passers-by had stared at him. His
overcoat was wide open, and the wind was biting in, hard and full of
... After a while a waitress spoke to him, a fat waitress with
black-rimmed eye-glasses from which dangled a long black cord.
Her voice, he considered, was unnecessarily loud. He looked up
"You wanna order or doncha?"
"Of course," he protested.
"Well, I ast you three times. This ain't no rest-room."
He glanced at the big clock and discovered with a start that it was
after two. He was down around Thirtieth Street somewhere, and after a
moment he found and translated the...white semicircle of letters upon the glass front.
The place was inhabited sparsely by three or four bleak and half-frozen night-hawks.
"Give me some bacon and eggs and coffee, please."
The waitress bent upon him a last disgusted glance and, looking
ludicrously intellectual in her corded glasses, hurried away.
God! Gloria's kisses had been such flowers. He remembered as though it
had been years ago the low freshness of her voice, the beautiful lines
of her body shining through her clothes, her face lily-colored under the
lamps of the street—under the lamps.
Misery struck at him again, piling a sort of terror upon the ache and
yearning. He had lost her. It was true—no denying it, no softening it.
But a new idea had seared his sky—what of Bloeckman! What would happen
now? There was a wealthy man, middle-aged enough to be tolerant with a
beautiful wife, to baby her whims and indulge her unreason, to wear her
as she perhaps wished to be worn—a bright flower in his button-hole,
safe and secure from the things she feared. He felt that she had been
playing with the idea of marrying Bloeckman, and it was well possible
that this disappointment in Anthony might throw her on sudden impulse
into Bloeckman's arms.
The idea drove him childishly frantic. He wanted to kill Bloeckman and
make him suffer for his hideous presumption. He was saying this over and
over to himself with his teeth tight shut, and a perfect orgy of hate
and fright in his eyes.
But, behind this obscene jealousy, Anthony was in love at last,
profoundly and truly in love, as the word goes between man and woman.
His coffee appeared at his elbow and gave off for a certain time a
gradually diminishing wisp of steam. The night manager, seated at his
desk, glanced at the motionless figure alone at the last table, and then
with a sigh moved down upon him just as the hour hand crossed the figure
three on the big clock.
After another day the turmoil subsided and Anthony began to exercise a
measure of reason. He was in love—he cried it passionately to himself.
The things that a week before would have seemed insuperable obstacles,
his limited income, his desire to be irresponsible and independent, had
in this forty hours become the merest chaff before the wind of his
infatuation. If he did not marry her his life would be a feeble parody
on his own adolescence. To be able to face people and to endure the
constant reminder of Gloria that all existence had become, it was
necessary for him to have hope. So he built hope desperately and
tenaciously out of the stuff of his dream, a hope flimsy enough, to be
sure, a hope that was cracked and dissipated a dozen times a day, a hope
mothered by mockery, but, nevertheless, a hope that would be brawn and
sinew to his self-respect.
Out of this developed a spark of wisdom, a true perception of his own
from out the effortless past.
"Memory is short," he thought.
So very short. At the crucial point the Trust President is on the stand,
a potential criminal needing but one push to be a jailbird, scorned by
the upright for leagues around. Let him be acquitted—and in a year all
is forgotten. "Yes, he did have some trouble once, just a technicality,
I believe." Oh, memory is very short!
Anthony had seen Gloria altogether about a dozen times, say two dozen
hours. Supposing he left her alone for a month, made no attempt to see
her or speak to her, and avoided every place where she might possibly
be. Wasn't it possible, the more possible because she had never loved
him, that at the end of that time the rush of events would efface his
personality from her conscious mind, and with his personality his
offense and humiliation? She would forget, for there would be other men.
He winced. The implication struck out at him—other men. Two
months—God! Better three weeks, two weeks——
He thought this the second evening after the catastrophe when he was
undressing, and at this point he threw himself down on the bed and lay
there, trembling very slightly and looking at the top of the canopy.
Two weeks—that was worse than no time at all. In two weeks he would
approach her much as he would have to now, without personality or
confidence—remaining still the man who had gone too far and then for a
period that in time was but a moment but in fact an eternity, whined.
No, two weeks was too short a time. Whatever poignancy there had been
for her in that afternoon must have time to dull. He must give her a
period when the incident should fade, and then a new period when she
should gradually begin to think of him, no matter how dimly, with a true
perspective that would remember his pleasantness as well as his
He fixed, finally, on six weeks as approximately the interval best
suited to his purpose, and on a desk calendar he marked the days off,
finding that it would fall on the ninth of April. Very well, on that day
he would phone and ask her if he might call. Until then—silence.
After his decision a gradual improvement was manifest. He had taken at
least a step in the direction to which hope pointed, and he realized
that the less he brooded upon her the better he would be able to give
the desired impression when they met.
In another hour he fell into a deep sleep.
More information about F. Scott Fitzgerald from Wikipedia
More selections (37) in this category: Novels
More selections (163) in the iTunes category: Arts/Literature