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Evening reblog

The Party at Mademoiselle Cole’s

The friends gather in Jordan’s drawing room.  The red velvet curtains are closed; night has fallen.  Constanz and Marcus sit in one corner; Babic and Ferdinand in the other.  Konrad leans against the secretary’s desk, looking pensively out the window.  Jordan goes to the liquor cabinet.  She removes several bottles of fine scotch whiskey.  She turns and smiles sadly to the group.


JORDAN:  There’s no reason for the whole evening to be a disappointment.


Ferdinand returns his own characteristic sad smile.  He takes the bottle from Jordan, who returns to the cabinet for the cut crystal glasses.


FERDINAND: “Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die.”


Marcus takes a glass from Jordan.  Ferdinand pours him a large portion of whiskey.


MARCUS (subdued):  Here, here.


All of the friends have their glasses filled.  Konrad raises his to the ceiling.


KONRAD: To the Republic, such as it is.


ALL (save Ferdinand): To the Republic.


They each take a large drink.  When they have finished, Ferdinand downs his glass alone.  He begins to refill the others’ glasses.  Jordan meanders toward the turntable that sits on the curio table.  She selects a record from the modest collection on the adjacent shelf: “Sounds of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel.  She puts down the needle.  It plays softly.  Marcus takes a swig of his second whiskey and offers his hand to Constanz.  She accepts.  They hold one another close and shuffle around the dim room.  The others disperse to scattered chairs.  Jordan slips momentarily from the room.  Babic and Ferdinand strike up a conversation.


FERDINAND (grimly): Keller isn’t going to like this one bit.


BABIC: And why should he?  The man has a business to run.


FERDINAND: I suppose you’re going to tell me that I, of all people, should have some sympathy for his plight.


He lights a cigarette and smokes it nonchalantly.  Babic hesitates, as if he were unsure of whether he should speak freely.


BABIC: From the onset, this was a risky business—unnecessarily so.  To continue under the current conditions is, if I may say, madness.


FERDINAND (thoughtfully): “I am but mad north-north-west.”


Jordan joins Ferdinand and her uncle.  She’s changed into loose-fitting black trousers, which she has paired with a dapper tuxedo shirt and vest.  Her hair is slicked back quite close to her head.  The androgynous effect suits her well.  She perches as delicately as one of her birds on the edge of an ottoman.  Flippantly, she removes the cigarette from Ferdinand’s mouth and dashes it on the ashtray.


JORDAN: You oughtn’t smoke.


FERDINAND (gentle amusement): And why not?  It’s perfectly safe.


JORDAN (slyly): That’s precisely the problem.


FERDINAND: You’d prefer they reinstate the tar—and the arsenic?


JORDAN: I am a firm believer in civil disobedience, Vice Chairman.  But a man who willingly defies authority and shrinks at the consequences is little more than a petulant child.


FERDINAND:  And I here I thought we were speaking of cigarettes.


JORDAN: Were we?  I’m so easily confused.


BABIC (sadly, putting an end to their critical banter): Be kind, Jordan.  He’s more than willing to jump, without you giving him a push.  It won’t make him hit the ground any faster.


Konrad walks over to the little group.


KONRAD (kindly): Have you settled it then: all the world’s trouble?


FERDINAND (smiles): Not yet.  But perhaps if you’ll join us…


JORDAN (changing the subject): Mr. Wittberg would much rather dance.  We’re only talking nonsense, anyway.


She gets up from her seat and offers Konrad an eager hand.  He smiles and sets down his drink.  They join Marcus and Constanz in their dancing.


BABIC: You shouldn’t take it personally.


FERDINAND (thoughtfully, amused): I don’t.  I think, perhaps… we’re friends.


Babic looks skeptical, but says nothing.  Out on the impromptu dance floor, the two young couples sway in time to “Cathy’s Song”.  Konrad holds Jordan close.  His hands are around her waist.  Hers are clasped behind his neck, her wrists draped on his shoulders.


KONRAD: You make him cross.




KONRAD: Ferdinand.  All my life I’ve tried, but I don’t seem to have a talent for it.  You’re almost as good as his father.


JORDAN: Flattery will get you nowhere.


She reaches up on her toes and kisses him.  It is a long, slow kiss.  The record changes to “Somewhere They Can’t Find Me”.


JORDAN: Why do they quarrel?  Did something start it—or was he born that way?


KONRAD (snorts derisively): Ferdinand, or the Chairman? (Then, more seriously): Come with me to Edena sometime; you can see for yourself.


Jordan looks challengingly up into his eyes.  Purposefully, she moves her hands down to Konrad’s waist.  They mirror one another’s posture.


JORDAN: I think, perhaps, that’s a bad idea.


Konrad looks annoyed, but says nothing.  They dance this way for a few moments.  After a bit, Konrad moves Jordan’s hands back up to his shoulders.  She moves them back down.  Konrad becomes exasperated.


KONRAD (irritated, picking a fight): That’s a new vest.


JORDAN: You don’t approve?  I find it charming.


Konrad runs his fingers over top of her slicked hair.  He looks at Jordan with worried exasperation.


KONRAD (begrudgingly): It’s a lovely garment.


JORDAN: You can borrow it, if you like.


KONRAD: What I’d like is to understand why you feel the need to be so contrary.


JORDAN (curtly): Contrary? 


KONRAD: Do you have any idea how much easier your life would be—without all of this?


He lets go of her waist and gestures toward her attire.  They stand facing one another, no longer dancing.  He clasps her hands in front of him at waist height.


JORDAN (annoyed): Of course I do!  What, exactly, do you propose I do about it?


KONRAD (simply):  Stop.


JORDAN (angrily, but with reserve): Why didn’t I think of that?


She shakes off Konrad’s hands.  “Anji” begins playing on the turntable.  She walks up to Ferdinand, who is still drinking with Babic.


JORDAN (adamantly): Vice Chairman, would you do me the pleasure of sharing this dance?


Without waiting for an answer, she grabs his hand.  Ferdinand sets down his glass and Jordan leads him out onto the floor.  Konrad slouches unhappily in a chair on the other side of the room.  On the dance floor, Jordan’s hands are around Ferdinand’s waist.  Playing along, Ferdinand, who is much taller than Konrad, rests his hands casually on Jordan’s shoulders.


FERDINAND: What did he say?


JORDAN (casually): It’s not important.


Ferdinand smiles and settles his forearms more comfortably on Jordan’s shoulders.  Konrad glowers from his chair.


JORDAN: He’ll be angry with you, you know.


FERDINAND (smiles): Why not?  Everyone else is.


They attempt a dance step to add to the illusion that they are enjoying themselves.


FERDINAND:  Your uncle thinks that we should put a stop to the smuggling, at least until the investigation is over.


JORDAN: My uncle is a clever man.


Their dancing pulls them apart for a moment.  Soon, they are close once more.


JORDAN: Will you take his advice?


FERDINAND: The choice isn’t really mine to make.  To continue would put them all in danger—you as well.


JORDAN (smiles genuinely): How convenient.


There is another pause in the conversation while they dance.


FERDINAND: Do you know, I rather like your hair this way.  It’s a striking compliment to your profile.


JORDAN: Another diversion, Vice Chairman?


FERDINAND: I believe I’m well within my rights to compliment the lady with whom I’m dancing.


Jordan takes an obvious lead in the dancing.  Ferdinand laughs.


FERDINAND: Ah, but of course.  My mistake.


They dance in silence a while.  “Richard Cory” now plays in the background. 


RECORD: “They say that Richard Cory owns one half of this whole town / With political connections / To spread his wealth around / Born into society / A banker’s only child / He had everything a man could want: / Power, grace and style.”


FERDINAND: You know, I’ve never been sure: are we intended to feel sorry for Mr. Cory?


JORDAN (laughs): Do you find it difficult?


FERDINAND (smiles): He does seem the poor little rich boy.


JORDAN (thoughtfully): “We spend our time searching for security and hate it when we get it.”


FERDINAND: And what, dear Jordan, does that say about us?


JORDAN: Only that a man requires purpose, Vice Chairman.  Without it, he is lost.


FERDINAND (kindly, sincerely): Is that how you see me?  A man without purpose?


JORDAN: I think, Vice Chairman, that’s how you see yourself.


Suddenly, Jordan loses her balance.  She slips a little, but Ferdinand rights her. 


FERDINAND: Are you dizzy?


Jordan nods.


FERDINAND: Rest against me.  Maybe it will pass.


Jordan wraps her hands more tightly around Ferdinand’s waist.  She rests her head against his chest.  “April Come She Will” plays softly.  They sway in silence, both surprised by the tenderness of the moment.  At length, Konrad interrupts.


KONRAD (gently, their tiff forgotten): Jordan, my darling, are you not well?


JORDAN (proudly but feebly): I’m in need of rest, that’s all.


Konrad takes hold of her hand.  She smiles faintly.


FERDINAND: She was feeling a little dizzy.  Perhaps you should take her upstairs.


Konrad clutches Jordan close to him.  She is righting herself valiantly with his support.  Konrad sets his free hand on Ferdinand’s shoulder.


KONRAD: Thank you.


Ferdinand just nods.  Konrad helps Jordan from the room.  Ferdinand watches as they disappear on the other side of the door.  When they have gone, he sits back down next to Babic.  They drink in silence, watching as Marcus and Constanz continue to dance to the music that no longer plays.