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FLAPPERS AND PHILOSOPHERS
F. SCOTT FITZGERALD
Chapter I: The Offshore Pirate
This unlikely story begins on a sea that was a blue dream, as
colorful as blue-silk stockings, and beneath a sky as blue as the
irises of children’s eyes. From the western half of the sky the
sun was shying little golden disks at the sea—if you gazed
intently enough you could see them skip from wave tip to wave tip
until they joined a broad collar of golden coin that was
collecting half a mile out and would eventually be a dazzling
sunset. About half-way between the Florida shore and the golden
collar a white steam-yacht, very young and graceful, was riding
at anchor and under a blue-and-white awning aft a yellow-haired
girl reclined in a wicker settee reading The Revolt of the
Angels, by Anatole France.
She was about nineteen, slender and supple, with a spoiled
alluring mouth and quick gray eyes full of a radiant curiosity.
Her feet, stockingless, and adorned rather than clad in
blue-satin slippers which swung nonchalantly from her toes, were
perched on the arm of a settee adjoining the one she occupied.
And as she read she intermittently regaled herself by a faint
application to her tongue of a half-lemon that she held in her
hand. The other half, sucked dry, lay on the deck at her feet and
rocked very gently to and fro at the almost imperceptible motion
of the tide.
The second half-lemon was well-nigh pulpless and the golden
collar had grown astonishing in width, when suddenly the drowsy
silence which enveloped the yacht was broken by the sound of
heavy footsteps and an elderly man topped with orderly gray hair
and clad in a white-flannel suit appeared at the head of the
companionway. There he paused for a moment until his eyes became
accustomed to the sun, and then seeing the girl under the awning
he uttered a long even grunt of disapproval.
If he had intended thereby to obtain a rise of any sort he was
doomed to disappointment. The girl calmly turned over two pages,
turned back one, raised the lemon mechanically to tasting
distance, and then very faintly but quite unmistakably yawned.
“Ardita!” said the gray-haired man sternly.
Ardita uttered a small sound indicating nothing.
“Ardita!” he repeated. “Ardita!”
Ardita raised the lemon languidly, allowing three words to slip
out before it reached her tongue.
“Oh, shut up.”
“Will you listen to me—or will I have to get a servant to hold
you while I talk to you?”
The lemon descended very slowly and scornfully.
“Put it in writing.”
“Will you have the decency to close that abominable book and
discard that damn lemon for two minutes?”
“Oh, can’t you lemme alone for a second?”
“Ardita, I have just received a telephone message from the
“Telephone?” She showed for the first time a faint interest.
“Yes, it was-—”
“Do you mean to say,” she interrupted wonderingly, “’at they let
you run a wire out here?”
“Yes, and just now-—”
“Won’t other boats bump into it?”
“No. It’s run along the bottom. Five min-—”
“Well, I’ll be darned! Gosh! Science is golden or
“Will you let me say what I started to?”
“Well it seems—well, I am up here—” He paused and swallowed
several times distractedly. “Oh, yes. Young woman, Colonel
Moreland has called up again to ask me to be sure to bring you in
to dinner. His son Toby has come all the way from New York to
meet you and he’s invited several other young people. For the
last time, will you-—”
“No,” said Ardita shortly, “I won’t. I came along on this darn
cruise with the one idea of going to Palm Beach, and you knew it,
and I absolutely refuse to meet any darn old colonel or any darn
young Toby or any darn old young people or to set foot in any
other darn old town in this crazy state. So you either take me to
Palm Beach or else shut up and go away.”
“Very well. This is the last straw. In your infatuation for this
man.—a man who is notorious for his excesses—a man your father
would not have allowed to so much as mention your name—you have
rejected the demi-monde rather than the circles in which you have
presumably grown up. From now on-—”
“I know,” interrupted Ardita ironically, “from now on you go your
way and I go mine. I’ve heard that story before. You know I’d
like nothing better.”
“From now on,” he announced grandiloquently, “you are no niece of
“O-o-o-oh!” The cry was wrung from Ardita with the agony of a
lost soul. “Will you stop boring me! Will you go ‘way! Will you
jump overboard and drown! Do you want me to throw this book at
“If you dare do any-—”
Smack! The Revolt of the Angels sailed through the air, missed
its target by the length of a short nose, and bumped cheerfully
down the companionway.
The gray-haired man made an instinctive step backward and then
two cautious steps forward. Ardita jumped to her five feet four
and stared at him defiantly, her gray eyes blazing.
“How dare you!” he cried.
“Because I darn please!”
“You’ve grown unbearable! Your disposition-—”
“You’ve made me that way! No child ever has a bad disposition
unless it’s her fancy’s fault! Whatever I am, you did it.”
Muttering something under his breath her uncle turned and,
walking forward called in a loud voice for the launch. Then he
returned to the awning, where Ardita had again seated herself and
resumed her attention to the lemon.
“I am going ashore,” he said slowly. “I will be out again at nine
o’clock to-night. When I return we start back to New York,
wither I shall turn you over to your aunt for the rest of your
natural, or rather unnatural, life.” He paused and looked at
her, and then all at once something in the utter childness of her
beauty seemed to puncture his anger like an inflated tire, and
render him helpless, uncertain, utterly fatuous.
“Ardita,” he said not unkindly, “I’m no fool. I’ve been round. I
know men. And, child, confirmed libertines don’t reform until
they’re tired—and then they’re not themselves—they’re husks of
themselves.” He looked at her as if expecting agreement, but
receiving no sight or sound of it he continued. “Perhaps the man
loves you—that’s possible. He’s loved many women and he’ll love
many more. Less than a month ago, one month, Ardita, he was
involved in a notorious affair with that red-haired woman, Mimi
Merril; promised to give her the diamond bracelet that the Czar
of Russia gave his mother. You know—you read the papers.”
“Thrilling scandals by an anxious uncle,” yawned Ardita. “Have it
filmed. Wicked clubman making eyes at virtuous flapper. Virtuous
flapper conclusively vamped by his lurid past. Plans to meet him
at Palm Beach. Foiled by anxious uncle.”
“Will you tell me why the devil you want to marry him?”
“I’m sure I couldn’t say,” said Audits shortly. “Maybe because
he’s the only man I know, good or bad, who has an imagination and
the courage of his convictions. Maybe it’s to get away from the
young fools that spend their vacuous hours pursuing me around the
country. But as for the famous Russian bracelet, you can set
your mind at rest on that score. He’s going to give it to me at
Palm Beach—if you’ll show a little intelligence.”
“How about the—red-haired woman?”
“He hasn’t seen her for six months,” she said angrily. “Don’t you
suppose I have enough pride to see to that? Don’t you know by
this time that I can do any darn thing with any darn man I want
She put her chin in the air like the statue of France Aroused,
and then spoiled the pose somewhat by raising the lemon for
“Is it the Russian bracelet that fascinates you?”
“No, I’m merely trying to give you the sort of argument that
would appeal to your intelligence. And I wish you’d go ‘way,” she
said, her temper rising again. “You know I never change my mind.
You’ve been boring me for three days until I’m about to go
crazy. I won’t go ashore! Won’t! Do you hear? Won’t!”
“Very well,” he said, “and you won’t go to Palm Beach either. Of
all the selfish, spoiled, uncontrolled disagreeable, impossible
girl I have-—”
Splush! The half-lemon caught him in the neck. Simultaneously
came a hail from over the side.
“The launch is ready, Mr. Farnam.”
Too full of words and rage to speak, Mr. Farnam cast one utterly
condemning glance at his niece and, turning, ran swiftly down the