Her shoulders were too burned to swim with the next day, so she and her mother hired a car—after much haggling, for Rosemary had formed her valuations of money in France—and drove along the Riviera, the delta of many rivers. The chauffeur, a Russian Czar of the period of Ivan the Terrible, was a self-appointed guide, and the resplendent names—Cannes, Nice, Monte Carlo—began to glow through their torpid camouflage, whispering of old kings come here to dine or die, of rajahs tossing Buddha’s eyes to English ballerinas, of Russian princes turning the weeks into Baltic twilights in the lost caviare days. Most of all, there was the scent of the Russians along the coast—their closed book shops and grocery stores. Ten years ago, when the season ended in April, the doors of the Orthodox Church were locked, and the sweet champagnes they favored were put away until their return. ‘We’ll be back next season,’ they said, but this was premature, for they were never coming back any more.
It was pleasant to drive back to the hotel in the late afternoon, above a sea as mysteriously colored as the agates and cornelians of childhood, green as green milk, blue as laundry water, wine dark. It was pleasant to pass people eating outside their doors, and to hear the fierce mechanical pianos behind the vines of country estaminets.
Part I, Chapter III, Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald, published 1934.
This passage was the moment when I became completely immersed. It was the first moment to pinch me awake and tenaciously grip me ever afterwards. There are so many beautiful, atmospheric pictures in this. I love the idea of sea 'mysteriously colored as the agates and cornelians of childhood, green as green milk, blue as laundry water, wine dark'. I know myself what this looks like, and I've often wondered at the right words to describe this phenomenom. But this is just it! Wine dark. Mysterious. Green as green milk, blue as laundry water. It's so dark and silky and powerful, isn't it? Like something incredibly strong and dangerous but tender and wonderful. I adore it!
And of course, how many stories could be conjured up behind the idea of the Russians and the rajahs and the English ballerinas? It's like a hundred histories hinted at with a gesture of the hand. Isn't Fitzgerald glorious?