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1 Then wear the gold hat, if that will move her;
2 If you can bounce high, bounce for her too,
3 Till she cry "Lover, gold-hatted, high-bouncing lover,
4 I must have you!"
5
6 --THOMAS PARKE D'INVILLIERS
7
8
9
10
11
12 Chapter 1
13
14
15
16 In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice
17 that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.
18
19 "Whenever you feel like criticizing any one," he told me, "just
20 remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages
21 that you've had."
22
23 He didn't say any more but we've always been unusually communicative
24 in a reserved way, and I understood that he meant a great deal more
25 than that. In consequence I'm inclined to reserve all judgments,
26 a habit that has opened up many curious natures to me and also
27 made me the victim of not a few veteran bores. The abnormal mind
28 is quick to detect and attach itself to this quality when it
29 appears in a normal person, and so it came about that in college I
30 was unjustly accused of being a politician, because I was privy to the
31 secret griefs of wild, unknown men. Most of the confidences were
32 unsought--frequently I have feigned sleep, preoccupation, or a hostile
33 levity when I realized by some unmistakable sign that an intimate
34 revelation was quivering on the horizon--for the intimate revelations
35 of young men or at least the terms in which they express them are
36 usually plagiaristic and marred by obvious suppressions. Reserving
37 judgments is a matter of infinite hope. I am still a little afraid of
38 missing something if I forget that, as my father snobbishly suggested,
39 and I snobbishly repeat a sense of the fundamental decencies is
40 parcelled out unequally at birth.
41
42 And, after boasting this way of my tolerance, I come to the admission
43 that it has a limit. Conduct may be founded on the hard rock or the wet
44 marshes but after a certain point I don't care what it's founded on.
45 When I came back from the East last autumn I felt that I wanted the
46 world to be in uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever; I
47 wanted no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the
48 human heart. Only Gatsby, the man who gives his name to this book, was
49 exempt from my reaction--Gatsby who represented everything for which I
50 have an unaffected scorn. If personality is an unbroken series of
51 successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some
52 heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related
53 to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten
54 thousand miles away. This responsiveness had nothing to do with that
55 flabby impressionability which is dignified under the name of the
56 "creative temperament"--it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic
57 readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it
58 is not likely I shall ever find again. No--Gatsby turned out all right
59 at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the
60 wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the
61 abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men.
62
63
64 My family have been prominent, well-to-do people in this middle-western
65 city for three generations. The Carraways are something of a clan and we
66 have a tradition that we're descended from the Dukes of Buccleuch, but the
67 actual founder of my line was my grandfather's brother who came here in
68 fifty-one, sent a substitute to the Civil War and started the wholesale
69 hardware business that my father carries on today.
70
71 I never saw this great-uncle but I'm supposed to look like him--with
72 special reference to the rather hard-boiled painting that hangs in
73 Father's office. I graduated from New Haven in 1915, just a quarter of a
74 century after my father, and a little later I participated in that
75 delayed Teutonic migration known as the Great War. I enjoyed the
76 counter-raid so thoroughly that I came back restless. Instead of being
77 the warm center of the world the middle-west now seemed like the
78 ragged edge of the universe--so I decided to go east and learn the bond
79 business. Everybody I knew was in the bond business so I supposed it
80 could support one more single man. All my aunts and uncles talked it
81 over as if they were choosing a prep-school for me and finally said,
82 "Why--ye-es" with very grave, hesitant faces. Father agreed to finance
83 me for a year and after various delays I came east, permanently, I
84 thought, in the spring of twenty-two.
85
86 The practical thing was to find rooms in the city but it was a warm
87 season and I had just left a country of wide lawns and friendly trees,
88 so when a young man at the office suggested that we take a house
89 together in a commuting town it sounded like a great idea. He found
90 the house, a weather beaten cardboard bungalow at eighty a month, but
91 at the last minute the firm ordered him to Washington and I went out
92 to the country alone. I had a dog, at least I had him for a few days
93 until he ran away, and an old Dodge and a Finnish woman who made my bed
94 and cooked breakfast and muttered Finnish wisdom to herself over the
95 electric stove.
96
97 It was lonely for a day or so until one morning some man, more recently
98 arrived than I, stopped me on the road.
99
100 "How do you get to West Egg village?" he asked helplessly.
101
102 I told him. And as I walked on I was lonely no longer. I was a guide, a
103 pathfinder, an original settler. He had casually conferred on me the
104 freedom of the neighborhood.
105
106 And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the
107 trees--just as things grow in fast movies--I had that familiar
108 conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.
109
110 There was so much to read for one thing and so much fine health to be
111 pulled down out of the young breath-giving air. I bought a dozen
112 volumes on banking and credit and investment securities and they stood
113 on my shelf in red and gold like new money from the mint, promising to
114 unfold the shining secrets that only Midas and Morgan and Maecenas
115 knew. And I had the high intention of reading many other books besides.
116 I was rather literary in college--one year I wrote a series of very
117 solemn and obvious editorials for the "Yale News"--and now I was going
118 to bring back all such things into my life and become again that most
119 limited of all specialists, the "well-rounded man." This isn't just an
120 epigram--life is much more successfully looked at from a single window,
121 after all.
122
123 It was a matter of chance that I should have rented a house in one of
124 the strangest communities in North America. It was on that slender
125 riotous island which extends itself due east of New York and where
126 there are, among other natural curiosities, two unusual formations of
127 land. Twenty miles from the city a pair of enormous eggs, identical in
128 contour and separated only by a courtesy bay, jut out into the most
129 domesticated body of salt water in the Western Hemisphere, the great
130 wet barnyard of Long Island Sound. They are not perfect ovals--like the
131 egg in the Columbus story they are both crushed flat at the contact
132 end--but their physical resemblance must be a source of perpetual
133 confusion to the gulls that fly overhead. To the wingless a more
134 arresting phenomenon is their dissimilarity in every particular except
135 shape and size.
136
137 I lived at West Egg, the--well, the less fashionable of the two, though
138 this is a most superficial tag to express the bizarre and not a little
139 sinister contrast between them. My house was at the very tip of the
140 egg, only fifty yards from the Sound, and squeezed between two huge
141 places that rented for twelve or fifteen thousand a season. The one on
142 my right was a colossal affair by any standard--it was a factual
143 imitation of some Hôtel de Ville in Normandy, with a tower on one side,
144 spanking new under a thin beard of raw ivy, and a marble swimming pool
145 and more than forty acres of lawn and garden. It was Gatsby's mansion.
146 Or rather, as I didn't know Mr. Gatsby it was a mansion inhabited by
147 a gentleman of that name. My own house was an eye-sore, but it was a
148 small eye-sore, and it had been overlooked, so I had a view of the
149 water, a partial view of my neighbor's lawn, and the consoling
150 proximity of millionaires--all for eighty dollars a month.
151
152 Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable East Egg
153 glittered along the water, and the history of the summer really begins
154 on the evening I drove over there to have dinner with the Tom
155 Buchanans. Daisy was my second cousin once removed and I'd known Tom
156 in college. And just after the war I spent two days with them in
157 Chicago.
158
159 Her husband, among various physical accomplishments, had been one of
160 the most powerful ends that ever played football at New Haven--a
161 national figure in a way, one of those men who reach such an acute
162 limited excellence at twenty-one that everything afterward savors of
163 anti-climax. His family were enormously wealthy--even in college his
164 freedom with money was a matter for reproach--but now he'd left Chicago
165 and come east in a fashion that rather took your breath away: for
166 instance he'd brought down a string of polo ponies from Lake Forest.
167 It was hard to realize that a man in my own generation was wealthy
168 enough to do that.
169
170 Why they came east I don't know. They had spent a year in France, for no
171 particular reason, and then drifted here and there unrestfully wherever
172 people played polo and were rich together. This was a permanent move,
173 said Daisy over the telephone, but I didn't believe it--I had no sight
174 into Daisy's heart but I felt that Tom would drift on forever seeking
175 a little wistfully for the dramatic turbulence of some irrecoverable
176 football game.
177
178 And so it happened that on a warm windy evening I drove over to East
179 Egg to see two old friends whom I scarcely knew at all. Their house was
180 even more elaborate than I expected, a cheerful red and white Georgian
181 Colonial mansion overlooking the bay. The lawn started at the beach
182 and ran toward the front door for a quarter of a mile, jumping over
183 sun-dials and brick walks and burning gardens--finally when it reached
184 the house drifting up the side in bright vines as though from the
185 momentum of its run. The front was broken by a line of French windows,
186 glowing now with reflected gold, and wide open to the warm windy
187 afternoon, and Tom Buchanan in riding clothes was standing with his
188 legs apart on the front porch.
189
190 He had changed since his New Haven years. Now he was a sturdy, straw haired
191 man of thirty with a rather hard mouth and a supercilious manner.
192 Two shining, arrogant eyes had established dominance over his face and
193 gave him the appearance of always leaning aggressively forward. Not
194 even the effeminate swank of his riding clothes could hide the enormous
195 power of that body--he seemed to fill those glistening boots until he
196 strained the top lacing and you could see a great pack of muscle
197 shifting when his shoulder moved under his thin coat. It was a body
198 capable of enormous leverage--a cruel body.
199
200 His speaking voice, a gruff husky tenor, added to the impression of
201 fractiousness he conveyed. There was a touch of paternal contempt in
202 it, even toward people he liked--and there were men at New Haven who had
203 hated his guts.
204
205 "Now, don't think my opinion on these matters is final," he seemed to
206 say, "just because I'm stronger and more of a man than you are." We
207 were in the same Senior Society, and while we were never intimate I
208 always had the impression that he approved of me and wanted me to like
209 him with some harsh, defiant wistfulness of his own.
210
211 We talked for a few minutes on the sunny porch.
212
213 "I've got a nice place here," he said, his eyes flashing about
214 restlessly.
215
216 Turning me around by one arm he moved a broad flat hand along the
217 front vista, including in its sweep a sunken Italian garden, a half
218 acre of deep pungent roses and a snub-nosed motor boat that bumped
219 the tide off shore.
220
221 "It belonged to Demaine the oil man." He turned me around again,
222 politely and abruptly. "We'll go inside."
223
224 We walked through a high hallway into a bright rosy-colored space,
225 fragilely bound into the house by French windows at either end.
226 The windows were ajar and gleaming white against the fresh grass
227 outside that seemed to grow a little way into the house. A breeze
228 blew through the room, blew curtains in at one end and out the other
229 like pale flags, twisting them up toward the frosted wedding cake of
230 the ceiling--and then rippled over the wine-colored rug, making a
231 shadow on it as wind does on the sea.
232
233 The only completely stationary object in the room was an enormous couch
234 on which two young women were buoyed up as though upon an anchored
235 balloon. They were both in white and their dresses were rippling and
236 fluttering as if they had just been blown back in after a short flight
237 around the house. I must have stood for a few moments listening to the
238 whip and snap of the curtains and the groan of a picture on the wall.
239 Then there was a boom as Tom Buchanan shut the rear windows and the caught
240 wind died out about the room and the curtains and the rugs and the two
241 young women ballooned slowly to the floor.
242
243 The younger of the two was a stranger to me. She was extended full length
244 at her end of the divan, completely motionless and with her chin raised
245 a little as if she were balancing something on it which was quite likely
246 to fall. If she saw me out of the corner of her eyes she gave no hint of
247 it--indeed, I was almost surprised into murmuring an apology for having
248 disturbed her by coming in.
249
250 The other girl, Daisy, made an attempt to rise--she leaned slightly
251 forward with a conscientious expression--then she laughed, an absurd,
252 charming little laugh, and I laughed too and came forward into the
253 room.
254
255 "I'm p-paralyzed with happiness."
256
257 She laughed again, as if she said something very witty, and held my hand
258 for a moment, looking up into my face, promising that there was no one
259 in the world she so much wanted to see. That was a way she had.
260 She hinted in a murmur that the surname of the balancing girl was Baker.
261 (I've heard it said that Daisy's murmur was only to make people
262 lean toward her; an irrelevant criticism that made it no less charming.)
263
264 At any rate Miss Baker's lips fluttered, she nodded at me almost
265 imperceptibly and then quickly tipped her head back again--the object
266 she was balancing had obviously tottered a little and given her something
267 of a fright. Again a sort of apology arose to my lips. Almost any
268 exhibition of complete self sufficiency draws a stunned tribute from me.
269
270 I looked back at my cousin who began to ask me questions in her low,
271 thrilling voice. It was the kind of voice that the ear follows up and
272 down as if each speech is an arrangement of notes that will never be
273 played again. Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it,
274 bright eyes and a bright passionate mouth--but there was an excitement
275 in her voice that men who had cared for her found difficult to forget:
276 a singing compulsion, a whispered "Listen," a promise that she had done
277 gay, exciting things just a while since and that there were gay,
278 exciting things hovering in the next hour.
279
280 I told her how I had stopped off in Chicago for a day on my way east
281 and how a dozen people had sent their love through me.
282
283 "Do they miss me?" she cried ecstatically.
284
285 "The whole town is desolate. All the cars have the left rear wheel
286 painted black as a mourning wreath and there's a persistent wail all
287 night along the North Shore."
288
289 "How gorgeous! Let's go back, Tom. Tomorrow!" Then she added
290 irrelevantly, "You ought to see the baby."
291
292 "I'd like to."
293
294 "She's asleep. She's two years old. Haven't you ever seen her?"
295
296 "Never."
297
298 "Well, you ought to see her. She's----"
299
300 Tom Buchanan who had been hovering restlessly about the room stopped
301 and rested his hand on my shoulder.
302
303 "What you doing, Nick?"
304
305 "I'm a bond man."
306
307 "Who with?"
308
309 I told him.
310
311 "Never heard of them," he remarked decisively.
312
313 This annoyed me.
314
315 "You will," I answered shortly. "You will if you stay in the East."
316
317 "Oh, I'll stay in the East, don't you worry," he said, glancing at
318 Daisy and then back at me, as if he were alert for something more.
319 "I'd be a God Damned fool to live anywhere else."
320
321 At this point Miss Baker said "Absolutely!" with such suddenness that I
322 started--it was the first word she uttered since I came into the room.
323 Evidently it surprised her as much as it did me, for she yawned and
324 with a series of rapid, deft movements stood up into the room.
325
326 "I'm stiff," she complained, "I've been lying on that sofa for as long
327 as I can remember."
328
329 "Don't look at me," Daisy retorted. "I've been trying to get you to New
330 York all afternoon."
331
332 "No, thanks," said Miss Baker to the four cocktails just in from the
333 pantry, "I'm absolutely in training."
334
335 Her host looked at her incredulously.
336
337 "You are!" He took down his drink as if it were a drop in the bottom of
338 a glass. "How you ever get anything done is beyond me."
339
340 I looked at Miss Baker wondering what it was she "got done." I enjoyed
341 looking at her. She was a slender, small-breasted girl, with an erect
342 carriage which she accentuated by throwing her body backward at the
343 shoulders like a young cadet. Her grey sun-strained eyes looked back at
344 me with polite reciprocal curiosity out of a wan, charming discontented
345 face. It occurred to me now that I had seen her, or a picture of her,
346 somewhere before.
347
348 "You live in West Egg," she remarked contemptuously. "I know somebody
349 there."
350
351 "I don't know a single----"
352
353 "You must know Gatsby."
354
355 "Gatsby?" demanded Daisy. "What Gatsby?"
356
357 Before I could reply that he was my neighbor dinner was announced;
358 wedging his tense arm imperatively under mine Tom Buchanan compelled
359 me from the room as though he were moving a checker to another square.
360
361 Slenderly, languidly, their hands set lightly on their hips the two
362 young women preceded us out onto a rosy-colored porch open toward the
363 sunset where four candles flickered on the table in the diminished
364 wind.
365
366 "Why CANDLES?" objected Daisy, frowning. She snapped them out with her
367 fingers. "In two weeks it'll be the longest day in the year."
368 She looked at us all radiantly. "Do you always watch for the longest day
369 of the year and then miss it? I always watch for the longest day in the
370 year and then miss it."
371
372 "We ought to plan something," yawned Miss Baker, sitting down at the
373 table as if she were getting into bed.
374
375 "All right," said Daisy. "What'll we plan?" She turned to me helplessly.
376 "What do people plan?"
377
378 Before I could answer her eyes fastened with an awed expression on her
379 little finger.
380
381 "Look!" she complained. "I hurt it."
382
383 We all looked--the knuckle was black and blue.
384
385 "You did it, Tom," she said accusingly. "I know you didn't mean to
386 but you DID do it. That's what I get for marrying a brute of a man,
387 a great big hulking physical specimen of a----"
388
389 "I hate that word hulking," objected Tom crossly, "even in kidding."
390
391 "Hulking," insisted Daisy.
392
393 Sometimes she and Miss Baker talked at once, unobtrusively and with a
394 bantering inconsequence that was never quite chatter, that was as cool
395 as their white dresses and their impersonal eyes in the absence of all
396 desire. They were here--and they accepted Tom and me, making only a
397 polite pleasant effort to entertain or to be entertained. They knew
398 that presently dinner would be over and a little later the evening too
399 would be over and casually put away. It was sharply different from the
400 West where an evening was hurried from phase to phase toward its
401 close in a continually disappointed anticipation or else in sheer
402 nervous dread of the moment itself.
403
404 "You make me feel uncivilized, Daisy," I confessed on my second glass
405 of corky but rather impressive claret. "Can't you talk about crops or
406 something?"
407
408 I meant nothing in particular by this remark but it was taken up in an
409 unexpected way.
410
411 "Civilization's going to pieces," broke out Tom violently.
412 "I've gotten to be a terrible pessimist about things. Have you read
413 'The Rise of the Coloured Empires' by this man Goddard?"
414
415 "Why, no," I answered, rather surprised by his tone.
416
417 "Well, it's a fine book, and everybody ought to read it. The idea is if
418 we don't look out the white race will be--will be utterly submerged.
419 It's all scientific stuff; it's been proved."
420
421 "Tom's getting very profound," said Daisy with an expression of
422 unthoughtful sadness. "He reads deep books with long words in them.
423 What was that word we----"
424
425 "Well, these books are all scientific," insisted Tom, glancing at her
426 impatiently. "This fellow has worked out the whole thing. It's up to us
427 who are the dominant race to watch out or these other races will have
428 control of things."
429
430 "We've got to beat them down," whispered Daisy, winking ferociously
431 toward the fervent sun.
432
433 "You ought to live in California--" began Miss Baker but Tom
434 interrupted her by shifting heavily in his chair.
435
436 "This idea is that we're Nordics. I am, and you are and you are
437 and----" After an infinitesimal hesitation he included Daisy with a
438 slight nod and she winked at me again. "--and we've produced all the
439 things that go to make civilization--oh, science and art and all that.
440 Do you see?"
441
442 There was something pathetic in his concentration as if his complacency,
443 more acute than of old, was not enough to him any more. When, almost
444 immediately, the telephone rang inside and the butler left the porch Daisy
445 seized upon the momentary interruption and leaned toward me.
446
447 "I'll tell you a family secret," she whispered enthusiastically. "It's
448 about the butler's nose. Do you want to hear about the butler's nose?"
449
450 "That's why I came over tonight."
451
452 "Well, he wasn't always a butler; he used to be the silver polisher for
453 some people in New York that had a silver service for two hundred people.
454 He had to polish it from morning till night until finally it began to
455 affect his nose----"
456
457 "Things went from bad to worse," suggested Miss Baker.
458
459 "Yes. Things went from bad to worse until finally he had to give up
460 his position."
461
462 For a moment the last sunshine fell with romantic affection upon
463 her glowing face; her voice compelled me forward breathlessly as
464 I listened--then the glow faded, each light deserting her with
465 lingering regret like children leaving a pleasant street at dusk.
466
467 The butler came back and murmured something close to Tom's ear
468 whereupon Tom frowned, pushed back his chair and without a word went
469 inside. As if his absence quickened something within her Daisy leaned
470 forward again, her voice glowing and singing.
471
472 "I love to see you at my table, Nick. You remind me of a--of a rose, an
473 absolute rose. Doesn't he?" She turned to Miss Baker for confirmation.
474 "An absolute rose?"
475
476 This was untrue. I am not even faintly like a rose. She was only
477 extemporizing but a stirring warmth flowed from her as if her
478 heart was trying to come out to you concealed in one of those
479 breathless, thrilling words. Then suddenly she threw her napkin on the
480 table and excused herself and went into the house.
481
482 Miss Baker and I exchanged a short glance consciously devoid of
483 meaning. I was about to speak when she sat up alertly and said "Sh!" in
484 a warning voice. A subdued impassioned murmur was audible in the room
485 beyond and Miss Baker leaned forward, unashamed, trying to hear. The
486 murmur trembled on the verge of coherence, sank down, mounted
487 excitedly, and then ceased altogether.
488
489 "This Mr. Gatsby you spoke of is my neighbor----" I said.
490
491 "Don't talk. I want to hear what happens."
492
493 "Is something happening?" I inquired innocently.
494
495 "You mean to say you don't know?" said Miss Baker, honestly surprised.
496 "I thought everybody knew."
497
498 "I don't."
499
500 "Why----" she said hesitantly, "Tom's got some woman in New York."
501
502 "Got some woman?" I repeated blankly.
503
504 Miss Baker nodded.
505
506 "She might have the decency not to telephone him at dinner-time. Don't
507 you think?"
508
509 Almost before I had grasped her meaning there was the flutter of
510 a dress and the crunch of leather boots and Tom and Daisy were back
511 at the table.
512
513 "It couldn't be helped!" cried Daisy with tense gayety.
514
515 She sat down, glanced searchingly at Miss Baker and then at me and
516 continued: "I looked outdoors for a minute and it's very romantic
517 outdoors. There's a bird on the lawn that I think must be a nightingale
518 come over on the Cunard or White Star Line. He's singing away----" her
519 voice sang "----It's romantic, isn't it, Tom?"
520
521 "Very romantic," he said, and then miserably to me: "If it's light enough
522 after dinner I want to take you down to the stables."
523
524 The telephone rang inside, startlingly, and as Daisy shook her
525 head decisively at Tom the subject of the stables, in fact all
526 subjects, vanished into air. Among the broken fragments of the
527 last five minutes at table I remember the candles being lit again,
528 pointlessly, and I was conscious of wanting to look squarely at every
529 one and yet to avoid all eyes. I couldn't guess what Daisy and Tom
530 were thinking but I doubt if even Miss Baker who seemed to have
531 mastered a certain hardy skepticism was able utterly to put this fifth
532 guest's shrill metallic urgency out of mind. To a certain temperament
533 the situation might have seemed intriguing--my own instinct was to
534 telephone immediately for the police.
535
536 The horses, needless to say, were not mentioned again. Tom and Miss
537 Baker, with several feet of twilight between them strolled back into
538 the library, as if to a vigil beside a perfectly tangible body, while
539 trying to look pleasantly interested and a little deaf I followed
540 Daisy around a chain of connecting verandas to the porch in front. In
541 its deep gloom we sat down side by side on a wicker settee.
542
543 Daisy took her face in her hands, as if feeling its lovely shape, and
544 her eyes moved gradually out into the velvet dusk. I saw that turbulent
545 emotions possessed her, so I asked what I thought would be some
546 sedative questions about her little girl.
547
548 "We don't know each other very well, Nick," she said suddenly.
549 "Even if we are cousins. You didn't come to my wedding."
550
551 "I wasn't back from the war."
552
553 "That's true." She hesitated. "Well, I've had a very bad time, Nick,
554 and I'm pretty cynical about everything."
555
556 Evidently she had reason to be. I waited but she didn't say any more,
557 and after a moment I returned rather feebly to the subject of her
558 daughter.
559
560 "I suppose she talks, and--eats, and everything."
561
562 "Oh, yes." She looked at me absently. "Listen, Nick; let me tell you what
563 I said when she was born. Would you like to hear?"
564
565 "Very much."
566
567 "It'll show you how I've gotten to feel about--things. Well, she was less
568 than an hour old and Tom was God knows where. I woke up out of the ether
569 with an utterly abandoned feeling and asked the nurse right away if it
570 was a boy or a girl. She told me it was a girl, and so I turned my head
571 away and wept. 'All right,' I said, 'I'm glad it's a girl. And I hope
572 she'll be a fool--that's the best thing a girl can be in this world,
573 a beautiful little fool."
574
575 "You see I think everything's terrible anyhow," she went on in a
576 convinced way. "Everybody thinks so--the most advanced people. And I KNOW.
577 I've been everywhere and seen everything and done everything."
578 Her eyes flashed around her in a defiant way, rather like Tom's, and she
579 laughed with thrilling scorn. "Sophisticated--God, I'm sophisticated!"
580
581 The instant her voice broke off, ceasing to compel my attention,
582 my belief, I felt the basic insincerity of what she had said.
583 It made me uneasy, as though the whole evening had been a trick
584 of some sort to exact a contributory emotion from me. I waited,
585 and sure enough, in a moment she looked at me with an absolute smirk
586 on her lovely face as if she had asserted her membership in a rather
587 distinguished secret society to which she and Tom belonged.
588
589
590 Inside, the crimson room bloomed with light. Tom and Miss Baker
591 sat at either end of the long couch and she read aloud to him from
592 the "Saturday Evening Post"--the words, murmurous and
593 uninflected, running together in a soothing tune. The lamp-light,
594 bright on his boots and dull on the autumn-leaf yellow of her hair,
595 glinted along the paper as she turned a page with a flutter of slender
596 muscles in her arms.
597
598 When we came in she held us silent for a moment with a lifted hand.
599
600 "To be continued," she said, tossing the magazine on the table, "in our
601 very next issue."
602
603 Her body asserted itself with a restless movement of her knee, and she
604 stood up.
605
606 "Ten o'clock," she remarked, apparently finding the time on the
607 ceiling. "Time for this good girl to go to bed."
608
609 "Jordan's going to play in the tournament tomorrow," explained Daisy,
610 "over at Westchester."
611
612 "Oh,--you're JORdan Baker."
613
614 I knew now why her face was familiar--its pleasing contemptuous
615 expression had looked out at me from many rotogravure pictures of
616 the sporting life at Asheville and Hot Springs and Palm Beach. I
617 had heard some story of her too, a critical, unpleasant story,
618 but what it was I had forgotten long ago.
619
620 "Good night," she said softly. "Wake me at eight, won't you."
621
622 "If you'll get up."
623
624 "I will. Good night, Mr. Carraway. See you anon."
625
626 "Of course you will," confirmed Daisy. "In fact I think I'll arrange
627 a marriage. Come over often, Nick, and I'll sort of--oh--fling you
628 together. You know--lock you up accidentally in linen closets and push
629 you out to sea in a boat, and all that sort of thing----"
630
631 "Good night," called Miss Baker from the stairs. "I haven't heard a word."
632
633 "She's a nice girl," said Tom after a moment. "They oughtn't to let her
634 run around the country this way."
635
636 "Who oughtn't to?" inquired Daisy coldly.
637
638 "Her family."
639
640 "Her family is one aunt about a thousand years old. Besides, Nick's
641 going to look after her, aren't you, Nick? She's going to spend lots of
642 week-ends out here this summer. I think the home influence will be very
643 good for her."
644
645 Daisy and Tom looked at each other for a moment in silence.
646
647 "Is she from New York?" I asked quickly.
648
649 "From Louisville. Our white girlhood was passed together there. Our
650 beautiful white----"
651
652 "Did you give Nick a little heart to heart talk on the veranda?"
653 demanded Tom suddenly.
654
655 "Did I?" She looked at me. "I can't seem to remember, but I think
656 we talked about the Nordic race. Yes, I'm sure we did. It sort of
657 crept up on us and first thing you know----"
658
659 "Don't believe everything you hear, Nick," he advised me.
660
661 I said lightly that I had heard nothing at all, and a few minutes later
662 I got up to go home. They came to the door with me and stood side by
663 side in a cheerful square of light. As I started my motor Daisy
664 peremptorily called "Wait!
665
666 "I forgot to ask you something, and it's important. We heard you were
667 engaged to a girl out West."
668
669 "That's right," corroborated Tom kindly. "We heard that you were
670 engaged."
671
672 "It's libel. I'm too poor."
673
674 "But we heard it," insisted Daisy, surprising me by opening up again in
675 a flower-like way. "We heard it from three people so it must be true."
676
677 Of course I knew what they were referring to, but I wasn't even vaguely
678 engaged. The fact that gossip had published the banns was one of the
679 reasons I had come east. You can't stop going with an old friend on
680 account of rumors and on the other hand I had no intention of being
681 rumored into marriage.
682
683 Their interest rather touched me and made them less remotely
684 rich--nevertheless, I was confused and a little disgusted as I drove
685 away. It seemed to me that the thing for Daisy to do was to rush out of
686 the house, child in arms--but apparently there were no such intentions
687 in her head. As for Tom, the fact that he "had some woman in New York"
688 was really less surprising than that he had been depressed by a book.
689 Something was making him nibble at the edge of stale ideas as if his
690 sturdy physical egotism no longer nourished his peremptory heart.
691
692 Already it was deep summer on roadhouse roofs and in front of wayside
693 garages, where new red gas-pumps sat out in pools of light, and when I
694 reached my estate at West Egg I ran the car under its shed and sat for
695 a while on an abandoned grass roller in the yard. The wind had blown
696 off, leaving a loud bright night with wings beating in the trees and
697 a persistent organ sound as the full bellows of the earth blew the
698 frogs full of life. The silhouette of a moving cat wavered across the
699 moonlight and turning my head to watch it I saw that I was not
700 alone--fifty feet away a figure had emerged from the shadow of my
701 neighbor's mansion and was standing with his hands in his pockets
702 regarding the silver pepper of the stars. Something in his leisurely
703 movements and the secure position of his feet upon the lawn suggested
704 that it was Mr. Gatsby himself, come out to determine what share was
705 his of our local heavens.
706
707 I decided to call to him. Miss Baker had mentioned him at dinner, and
708 that would do for an introduction. But I didn't call to him for he gave
709 a sudden intimation that he was content to be alone--he stretched out his
710 arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and far as I was from him
711 I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward--and
712 distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away,
713 that might have been the end of a dock. When I looked once more for Gatsby
714 he had vanished, and I was alone again in the unquiet darkness.
715
716
717
718
719 Chapter 2
720
721
722
723 About half way between West Egg and New York the motor-road hastily
724 joins the railroad and runs beside it for a quarter of a mile, so as to
725 shrink away from a certain desolate area of land. This is a valley of
726 ashes--a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and
727 hills and grotesque gardens where ashes take the forms of houses and
728 chimneys and rising smoke and finally, with a transcendent effort, of
729 men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air.
730 Occasionally a line of grey cars crawls along an invisible track, gives
731 out a ghastly creak and comes to rest, and immediately the ash-grey
732 men swarm up with leaden spades and stir up an impenetrable cloud
733 which screens their obscure operations from your sight.
734
735 But above the grey land and the spasms of bleak dust which drift
736 endlessly over it, you perceive, after a moment, the eyes of Doctor T.
737 J. Eckleburg. The eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg are blue and
738 gigantic--their retinas are one yard high. They look out of no face but,
739 instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a
740 nonexistent nose. Evidently some wild wag of an oculist set them there to
741 fatten his practice in the borough of Queens, and then sank down himself
742 into eternal blindness or forgot them and moved away. But his eyes,
743 dimmed a little by many paintless days under sun and rain, brood on over
744 the solemn dumping ground.
745
746 The valley of ashes is bounded on one side by a small foul river, and
747 when the drawbridge is up to let barges through, the passengers on
748 waiting trains can stare at the dismal scene for as long as half an
749 hour. There is always a halt there of at least a minute and it was
750 because of this that I first met Tom Buchanan's mistress.
751
752 The fact that he had one was insisted upon wherever he was known. His
753 acquaintances resented the fact that he turned up in popular
754 restaurants with her and, leaving her at a table, sauntered about,
755 chatting with whomsoever he knew. Though I was curious to see her I
756 had no desire to meet her--but I did. I went up to New York with Tom on
757 the train one afternoon and when we stopped by the ashheaps he jumped
758 to his feet and taking hold of my elbow literally forced me from the
759 car.
760
761 "We're getting off!" he insisted. "I want you to meet my girl."
762
763 I think he'd tanked up a good deal at luncheon and his determination to
764 have my company bordered on violence. The supercilious assumption was that
765 on Sunday afternoon I had nothing better to do.
766
767 I followed him over a low white-washed railroad fence and we walked
768 back a hundred yards along the road under Doctor Eckleburg's persistent
769 stare. The only building in sight was a small block of yellow brick
770 sitting on the edge of the waste land, a sort of compact Main Street
771 ministering to it and contiguous to absolutely nothing. One of the
772 three shops it contained was for rent and another was an all-night
773 restaurant approached by a trail of ashes; the third was a
774 garage--Repairs. GEORGE B. WILSON. Cars Bought and Sold--and I followed
775 Tom inside.
776
777 The interior was unprosperous and bare; the only car visible was the
778 dust-covered wreck of a Ford which crouched in a dim corner. It had
779 occurred to me that this shadow of a garage must be a blind and that
780 sumptuous and romantic apartments were concealed overhead when the
781 proprietor himself appeared in the door of an office, wiping his hands
782 on a piece of waste. He was a blonde, spiritless man, anaemic, and
783 faintly handsome. When he saw us a damp gleam of hope sprang into his
784 light blue eyes.
785
786 "Hello, Wilson, old man," said Tom, slapping him jovially on the
787 shoulder. "How's business?"
788
789 "I can't complain," answered Wilson unconvincingly. "When are you going
790 to sell me that car?"
791
792 "Next week; I've got my man working on it now."
793
794 "Works pretty slow, don't he?"
795
796 "No, he doesn't," said Tom coldly. "And if you feel that way about it,
797 maybe I'd better sell it somewhere else after all."
798
799 "I don't mean that," explained Wilson quickly. "I just meant----"
800
801 His voice faded off and Tom glanced impatiently around the garage. Then
802 I heard footsteps on a stairs and in a moment the thickish figure of a
803 woman blocked out the light from the office door. She was in the middle
804 thirties, and faintly stout, but she carried her surplus flesh sensuously
805 as some women can. Her face, above a spotted dress of dark blue
806 crepe-de-chine, contained no facet or gleam of beauty but there was an
807 immediately perceptible vitality about her as if the nerves of her body
808 were continually smouldering. She smiled slowly and walking through her
809 husband as if he were a ghost shook hands with Tom, looking him flush in
810 the eye. Then she wet her lips and without turning around spoke to her
811 husband in a soft, coarse voice:
812
813 "Get some chairs, why don't you, so somebody can sit down."
814
815 "Oh, sure," agreed Wilson hurriedly and went toward the little office,
816 mingling immediately with the cement color of the walls. A white ashen
817 dust veiled his dark suit and his pale hair as it veiled everything in
818 the vicinity--except his wife, who moved close to Tom.
819
820 "I want to see you," said Tom intently. "Get on the next train."
821
822 "All right."
823
824 "I'll meet you by the news-stand on the lower level."
825
826 She nodded and moved away from him just as George Wilson
827 emerged with two chairs from his office door.
828
829 We waited for her down the road and out of sight. It was a few days before
830 the Fourth of July, and a grey, scrawny Italian child was setting
831 torpedoes in a row along the railroad track.
832
833 "Terrible place, isn't it," said Tom, exchanging a frown with Doctor
834 Eckleburg.
835
836 "Awful."
837
838 "It does her good to get away."
839
840 "Doesn't her husband object?"
841
842 "Wilson? He thinks she goes to see her sister in New York. He's so dumb
843 he doesn't know he's alive."
844
845 So Tom Buchanan and his girl and I went up together to New York--or not
846 quite together, for Mrs. Wilson sat discreetly in another car. Tom
847 deferred that much to the sensibilities of those East Eggers who might be
848 on the train.
849
850 She had changed her dress to a brown figured muslin which stretched
851 tight over her rather wide hips as Tom helped her to the platform in
852 New York. At the news-stand she bought a copy of "Town Tattle" and a
853 moving-picture magazine and, in the station drug store, some cold cream
854 and a small flask of perfume. Upstairs, in the solemn echoing drive
855 she let four taxi cabs drive away before she selected a new one,
856 lavender-colored with grey upholstery, and in this we slid out from the
857 mass of the station into the glowing sunshine. But immediately she
858 turned sharply from the window and leaning forward tapped on the
859 front glass.
860
861 "I want to get one of those dogs," she said earnestly. "I want to get one
862 for the apartment. They're nice to have--a dog."
863
864 We backed up to a grey old man who bore an absurd resemblance to John
865 D. Rockefeller. In a basket, swung from his neck, cowered a dozen very
866 recent puppies of an indeterminate breed.
867
868 "What kind are they?" asked Mrs. Wilson eagerly as he came to the
869 taxi-window.
870
871 "All kinds. What kind do you want, lady?"
872
873 "I'd like to get one of those police dogs; I don't suppose you got that
874 kind?"
875
876 The man peered doubtfully into the basket, plunged in his hand and drew
877 one up, wriggling, by the back of the neck.
878
879 "That's no police dog," said Tom.
880
881 "No, it's not exactly a polICE dog," said the man with disappointment
882 in his voice. "It's more of an airedale." He passed his hand over the
883 brown wash-rag of a back. "Look at that coat. Some coat. That's a dog
884 that'll never bother you with catching cold."
885
886 "I think it's cute," said Mrs. Wilson enthusiastically. "How much is it?"
887
888 "That dog?" He looked at it admiringly. "That dog will cost you ten
889 dollars."
890
891 The airedale--undoubtedly there was an airedale concerned in it somewhere
892 though its feet were startlingly white--changed hands and settled down
893 into Mrs. Wilson's lap, where she fondled the weather-proof coat with
894 rapture.
895
896 "Is it a boy or a girl?" she asked delicately.
897
898 "That dog? That dog's a boy."
899
900 "It's a bitch," said Tom decisively. "Here's your money. Go and buy ten
901 more dogs with it."
902
903 We drove over to Fifth Avenue, so warm and soft, almost pastoral, on the
904 summer Sunday afternoon that I wouldn't have been surprised to see a great
905 flock of white sheep turn the corner.
906
907 "Hold on," I said, "I have to leave you here."
908
909 "No, you don't," interposed Tom quickly. "Myrtle'll be hurt if you don't
910 come up to the apartment. Won't you,
911 Myrtle?"
912
913 "Come on," she urged. "I'll telephone my sister Catherine. She's said to
914 be very beautiful by people who ought to know."
915
916 "Well, I'd like to, but----"
917
918 We went on, cutting back again over the Park toward the West Hundreds.
919 At 158th Street the cab stopped at one slice in a long white cake of
920 apartment houses. Throwing a regal homecoming glance around the
921 neighborhood, Mrs. Wilson gathered up her dog and her other purchases
922 and went haughtily in.
923
924 "I'm going to have the McKees come up," she announced as we rose in the
925 elevator. "And of course I got to call up my sister, too."
926
927 The apartment was on the top floor--a small living room, a small
928 dining room, a small bedroom and a bath. The living room was crowded to
929 the doors with a set of tapestried furniture entirely too large for it
930 so that to move about was to stumble continually over scenes of
931 ladies swinging in the gardens of Versailles. The only picture was
932 an over-enlarged photograph, apparently a hen sitting on a blurred
933 rock. Looked at from a distance however the hen resolved itself
934 into a bonnet and the countenance of a stout old lady beamed down
935 into the room. Several old copies of "Town Tattle "lay on the table
936 together with a copy of "Simon Called Peter" and some of the small
937 scandal magazines of Broadway. Mrs. Wilson was first concerned with
938 the dog. A reluctant elevator boy went for a box full of straw and
939 some milk to which he added on his own initiative a tin of large
940 hard dog biscuits--one of which decomposed apathetically in the saucer
941 of milk all afternoon. Meanwhile Tom brought out a bottle of whiskey
942 from a locked bureau door.
943
944 I have been drunk just twice in my life and the second time was that
945 afternoon so everything that happened has a dim hazy cast over it
946 although until after eight o'clock the apartment was full of cheerful
947 sun. Sitting on Tom's lap Mrs. Wilson called up several people on the
948 telephone; then there were no cigarettes and I went out to buy some at
949 the drug store on the corner. When I came back they had disappeared so
950 I sat down discreetly in the living room and read a chapter of "Simon
951 Called Peter"--either it was terrible stuff or the whiskey distorted
952 things because it didn't make any sense to me.
953
954 Just as Tom and Myrtle--after the first drink Mrs. Wilson and I called
955 each other by our first names--reappeared, company commenced to arrive
956 at the apartment door.
957
958 The sister, Catherine, was a slender, worldly girl of about thirty
959 with a solid sticky bob of red hair and a complexion powdered milky
960 white. Her eyebrows had been plucked and then drawn on again at a more
961 rakish angle but the efforts of nature toward the restoration of the
962 old alignment gave a blurred air to her face. When she moved about
963 there was an incessant clicking as innumerable pottery bracelets
964 jingled up and down upon her arms. She came in with such a proprietary
965 haste and looked around so possessively at the furniture that I wondered
966 if she lived here. But when I asked her she laughed immoderately, repeated
967 my question aloud and told me she lived with a girl friend at a hotel.
968
969 Mr. McKee was a pale feminine man from the flat below. He had just
970 shaved for there was a white spot of lather on his cheekbone and he
971 was most respectful in his greeting to everyone in the room. He
972 informed me that he was in the "artistic game" and I gathered later
973 that he was a photographer and had made the dim enlargement of Mrs.
974 Wilson's mother which hovered like an ectoplasm on the wall. His wife
975 was shrill, languid, handsome and horrible. She told me with pride
976 that her husband had photographed her a hundred and twenty-seven times
977 since they had been married.
978
979 Mrs. Wilson had changed her costume some time before and was now
980 attired in an elaborate afternoon dress of cream colored chiffon, which
981 gave out a continual rustle as she swept about the room.
982 With the influence of the dress her personality had also undergone a
983 change. The intense vitality that had been so remarkable in the garage
984 was converted into impressive hauteur. Her laughter, her gestures, her
985 assertions became more violently affected moment by moment and as she
986 expanded the room grew smaller around her until she seemed to be
987 revolving on a noisy, creaking pivot through the smoky air.
988
989 "My dear," she told her sister in a high mincing shout, "most of these
990 fellas will cheat you every time. All they think of is money. I had a
991 woman up here last week to look at my feet and when she gave me the
992 bill you'd of thought she had my appendicitus out."
993
994 "What was the name of the woman?" asked Mrs. McKee.
995
996 "Mrs. Eberhardt. She goes around looking at people's feet in their own
997 homes."
998
999 "I like your dress," remarked Mrs. McKee, "I think it's adorable."
1000
1001 Mrs. Wilson rejected the compliment by raising her eyebrow in disdain.
1002
1003 "It's just a crazy old thing," she said. "I just slip it on sometimes when
1004 I don't care what I look like."
1005
1006 "But it looks wonderful on you, if you know what I mean," pursued
1007 Mrs. McKee. "If Chester could only get you in that pose I think he could
1008 make something of it."
1009
1010 We all looked in silence at Mrs. Wilson who removed a strand of hair from
1011 over her eyes and looked back at us with a brilliant smile. Mr. McKee
1012 regarded her intently with his head on one side and then moved his hand
1013 back and forth slowly in front of his face.
1014
1015 "I should change the light," he said after a moment. "I'd like to bring
1016 out the modelling of the features. And I'd try to get hold of all the
1017 back hair."
1018
1019 "I wouldn't think of changing the light," cried Mrs. McKee. "I think
1020 it's----"
1021
1022 Her husband said "SH!" and we all looked at the subject again whereupon
1023 Tom Buchanan yawned audibly and got to his feet.
1024
1025 "You McKees have something to drink," he said. "Get some more ice and
1026 mineral water, Myrtle, before everybody goes to sleep."
1027
1028 "I told that boy about the ice." Myrtle raised her eyebrows in despair
1029 at the shiftlessness of the lower orders. "These people! You have to keep
1030 after them all the time."
1031
1032 She looked at me and laughed pointlessly. Then she flounced over to the
1033 dog, kissed it with ecstasy and swept into the kitchen, implying that
1034 a dozen chefs awaited her orders there.
1035
1036 "I've done some nice things out on Long Island," asserted Mr. McKee.
1037
1038 Tom looked at him blankly.
1039
1040 "Two of them we have framed downstairs."
1041
1042 "Two what?" demanded Tom.
1043
1044 "Two studies. One of them I call 'Montauk Point--the Gulls,' and the
1045 other I call 'Montauk Point--the Sea.' "
1046
1047 The sister Catherine sat down beside me on the couch.
1048
1049 "Do you live down on Long Island, too?" she inquired.
1050
1051 "I live at West Egg."
1052
1053 "Really? I was down there at a party about a month ago. At a man named
1054 Gatsby's. Do you know him?"
1055
1056 "I live next door to him."
1057
1058 "Well, they say he's a nephew or a cousin of Kaiser Wilhelm's. That's
1059 where all his money comes from."
1060
1061 "Really?"
1062
1063 She nodded.
1064
1065 "I'm scared of him. I'd hate to have him get anything on me."
1066
1067 This absorbing information about my neighbor was interrupted by
1068 Mrs. McKee's pointing suddenly at Catherine:
1069
1070 "Chester, I think you could do something with HER," she broke out,
1071 but Mr. McKee only nodded in a bored way and turned his attention
1072 to Tom.
1073
1074 "I'd like to do more work on Long Island if I could get the entry. All
1075 I ask is that they should give me a start."
1076
1077 "Ask Myrtle," said Tom, breaking into a short shout of laughter as
1078 Mrs. Wilson entered with a tray. "She'll give you a letter of
1079 introduction, won't you, Myrtle?"
1080
1081 "Do what?" she asked, startled.
1082
1083 "You'll give McKee a letter of introduction to your husband, so he can
1084 do some studies of him." His lips moved silently for a moment as he
1085 invented. " 'George B. Wilson at the Gasoline Pump,' or something like
1086 that."
1087
1088
1089 Catherine leaned close to me and whispered in my ear: "Neither of them
1090 can stand the person they're married to."
1091
1092 "Can't they?"
1093
1094 "Can't STAND them." She looked at Myrtle and then at Tom. "What I say is,
1095 why go on living with them if they can't stand them? If I was them I'd get
1096 a divorce and get married to each other right away."
1097
1098 "Doesn't she like Wilson either?"
1099
1100 The answer to this was unexpected. It came from Myrtle who had overheard
1101 the question and it was violent and obscene.
1102
1103 "You see?" cried Catherine triumphantly. She lowered her voice again.
1104 "It's really his wife that's keeping them apart. She's a Catholic and
1105 they don't believe in divorce."
1106
1107 Daisy was not a Catholic and I was a little shocked at the elaborateness
1108 of the lie.
1109
1110 "When they do get married," continued Catherine, "they're going west to
1111 live for a while until it blows over."
1112
1113 "It'd be more discreet to go to Europe."
1114
1115 "Oh, do you like Europe?" she exclaimed surprisingly. "I just got back
1116 from Monte Carlo."
1117
1118 "Really."
1119
1120 "Just last year. I went over there with another girl."
1121
1122 "Stay long?"
1123
1124 "No, we just went to Monte Carlo and back. We went by way of Marseilles.
1125 We had over twelve hundred dollars when we started but we got gypped
1126 out of it all in two days in the private rooms. We had an awful time
1127 getting back, I can tell you. God, how I hated that town!"
1128
1129 The late afternoon sky bloomed in the window for a moment like the blue
1130 honey of the Mediterranean--then the shrill voice of Mrs. McKee called me
1131 back into the room.
1132
1133 "I almost made a mistake, too," she declared vigorously. "I almost
1134 married a little kyke who'd been after me for years. I knew he was
1135 below me. Everybody kept saying to me: 'Lucille, that man's way below
1136 you!' But if I hadn't met Chester, he'd of got me sure."
1137
1138 "Yes, but listen," said Myrtle Wilson, nodding her head up and down,
1139 "at least you didn't marry him."
1140
1141 "I know I didn't."
1142
1143 "Well, I married him," said Myrtle, ambiguously. "And that's the
1144 difference between your case and mine."
1145
1146 "Why did you, Myrtle?" demanded Catherine. "Nobody forced you to."
1147
1148 Myrtle considered.
1149
1150 "I married him because I thought he was a gentleman," she said finally.
1151 "I thought he knew something about breeding, but he wasn't fit to lick
1152 my shoe."
1153
1154 "You were crazy about him for a while," said Catherine.
1155
1156 "Crazy about him!" cried Myrtle incredulously. "Who said I was crazy about
1157 him? I never was any more crazy about him than I was about that man
1158 there."
1159
1160 She pointed suddenly at me, and every one looked at me accusingly.
1161 I tried to show by my expression that I had played no part in her past.
1162
1163 "The only CRAZY I was was when I married him. I knew right away I made a
1164 mistake. He borrowed somebody's best suit to get married in and never
1165 even told me about it, and the man came after it one day when he was out.
1166 She looked around to see who was listening: " 'Oh, is that your suit?' I
1167 said.
1168 'This is the first I ever heard about it.' But I gave it to him and then I
1169 lay down
1170 and cried to beat the band all afternoon."
1171
1172 "She really ought to get away from him," resumed Catherine to me.
1173 "They've been living over that garage for eleven years. And Tom's the
1174 first sweetie she ever had."
1175
1176 The bottle of whiskey--a second one--was now in constant demand by all
1177 present, excepting Catherine who "felt just as good on nothing at all."
1178 Tom rang for the janitor and sent him for some celebrated sandwiches,
1179 which were a complete supper in themselves. I wanted to get out and walk
1180 eastward toward the park through the soft twilight but each time I tried
1181 to go I became entangled in some wild strident argument which pulled me
1182 back, as if with ropes, into my chair. Yet high over the city our line of
1183 yellow windows must have contributed their share of human secrecy to the
1184 casual watcher in the darkening streets, and I was him too, looking up and
1185 wondering. I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled
1186 by the inexhaustible variety of life.
1187
1188 Myrtle pulled her chair close to mine, and suddenly her warm breath
1189 poured over me the story of her first meeting with Tom.
1190
1191 "It was on the two little seats facing each other that are always the
1192 last ones left on the train. I was going up to New York to see my
1193 sister and spend the night. He had on a dress suit and patent leather
1194 shoes and I couldn't keep my eyes off him but every time he looked at
1195 me I had to pretend to be looking at the advertisement over his head.
1196 When we came into the station he was next to me and his white
1197 shirt-front pressed against my arm--and so I told him I'd have to call
1198 a policeman, but he knew I lied. I was so excited that when I got into
1199 a taxi with him I didn't hardly know I wasn't getting into a subway
1200 train. All I kept thinking about, over and over, was 'You can't live
1201 forever, you can't live forever.' "
1202
1203 She turned to Mrs. McKee and the room rang full of her artificial
1204 laughter.
1205
1206 "My dear," she cried, "I'm going to give you this dress as soon as I'm
1207 through with it. I've got to get another one tomorrow. I'm going to
1208 make a list of all the things I've got to get. A massage and a wave
1209 and a collar for the dog and one of those cute little ash-trays where
1210 you touch a spring, and a wreath with a black silk bow for mother's
1211 grave that'll last all summer. I got to write down a list so I won't
1212 forget all the things I got to do."
1213
1214 It was nine o'clock--almost immediately afterward I looked at my watch
1215 and found it was ten. Mr. McKee was asleep on a chair with his fists
1216 clenched in his lap, like a photograph of a man of action. Taking out my
1217 handkerchief I wiped from his cheek the remains of the spot of dried
1218 lather that had worried me all the afternoon.
1219
1220 The little dog was sitting on the table looking with blind eyes through
1221 the smoke and from time to time groaning faintly. People disappeared,
1222 reappeared, made plans to go somewhere, and then lost each other,
1223 searched for each other, found each other a few feet away. Some time
1224 toward midnight Tom Buchanan and Mrs. Wilson stood face to face
1225 discussing in impassioned voices whether Mrs. Wilson had any right to
1226 mention Daisy's name.
1227
1228 "Daisy! Daisy! Daisy!" shouted Mrs. Wilson. "I'll say it whenever I want
1229 to! Daisy! Dai----"
1230
1231 Making a short deft movement Tom Buchanan broke her nose with his
1232 open hand.
1233
1234 Then there were bloody towels upon the bathroom floor, and women's
1235 voices scolding, and high over the confusion a long broken wail of
1236 pain. Mr. McKee awoke from his doze and started in a daze toward the door.
1237 When he had gone half way he turned around and stared at the scene--his
1238 wife and Catherine scolding and consoling as they stumbled here and
1239 there among the crowded furniture with articles of aid, and the
1240 despairing figure on the couch bleeding fluently and trying to spread
1241 a copy of "Town Tattle" over the tapestry scenes of Versailles.
1242 Then Mr. McKee turned and continued on out the door. Taking my hat from
1243 the chandelier I followed.
1244
1245 "Come to lunch some day," he suggested, as we groaned down in the
1246 elevator.
1247
1248 "Where?"
1249
1250 "Anywhere."
1251
1252 "Keep your hands off the lever," snapped the elevator boy.
1253
1254 "I beg your pardon," said Mr. McKee with dignity, "I didn't know I was
1255 touching it."
1256
1257 "All right," I agreed, "I'll be glad to."
1258
1259 . . . I was standing beside his bed and he was sitting up between the
1260 sheets, clad in his underwear, with a great portfolio in his hands.
1261
1262 "Beauty and the Beast . . . Loneliness . . . Old Grocery Horse . . .
1263 Brook'n Bridge . . . ."
1264
1265 Then I was lying half asleep in the cold lower level of the Pennsylvania
1266 Station, staring at the morning "Tribune" and waiting for the four
1267 o'clock train.
1268
1269
1270
1271
1272 Chapter 3
1273
1274
1275
1276 There was music from my neighbor's house through the summer nights. In
1277 his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the
1278 whisperings and the champagne and the stars. At high tide in the
1279 afternoon I watched his guests diving from the tower of his raft or
1280 taking the sun on the hot sand of his beach while his two motor-boats
1281 slit the waters of the Sound, drawing aquaplanes over cataracts of
1282 foam. On week-ends his Rolls-Royce became an omnibus, bearing parties
1283 to and from the city, between nine in the morning and long past
1284 midnight, while his station wagon scampered like a brisk yellow bug to
1285 meet all trains. And on Mondays eight servants including an extra
1286 gardener toiled all day with mops and scrubbing-brushes and hammers
1287 and garden-shears, repairing the ravages of the night before.
1288
1289 Every Friday five crates of oranges and lemons arrived from a fruiterer
1290 in New York--every Monday these same oranges and lemons left his back
1291 door in a pyramid of pulpless halves. There was a machine in the
1292 kitchen which could extract the juice of two hundred oranges in half an
1293 hour, if a little button was pressed two hundred times by a butler's
1294 thumb.
1295
1296 At least once a fortnight a corps of caterers came down with several
1297 hundred feet of canvas and enough colored lights to make a Christmas
1298 tree of Gatsby's enormous garden. On buffet tables, garnished with
1299 glistening hors-d'oeuvre, spiced baked hams crowded against salads of
1300 harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold.
1301 In the main hall a bar with a real brass rail was set up, and stocked
1302 with gins and liquors and with cordials so long forgotten that most of
1303 his female guests were too young to know one from another.
1304
1305 By seven o'clock the orchestra has arrived--no thin five-piece affair
1306 but a whole pitful of oboes and trombones and saxophones and viols and
1307 cornets and piccolos and low and high drums. The last swimmers have
1308 come in from the beach now and are dressing upstairs; the cars from
1309 New York are parked five deep in the drive, and already the halls and
1310 salons and verandas are gaudy with primary colors and hair shorn in
1311 strange new ways and shawls beyond the dreams of Castile. The
1312 bar is in full swing and floating rounds of cocktails permeate the
1313 garden outside until the air is alive with chatter and laughter and
1314 casual innuendo and introductions forgotten on the spot and
1315 enthusiastic meetings between women who never knew each other's names.
1316
1317 The lights grow brighter as the earth lurches away from the sun and
1318 now the orchestra is playing yellow cocktail music and the opera of
1319 voices pitches a key higher. Laughter is easier, minute by minute,
1320 spilled with prodigality, tipped out at a cheerful word. The groups
1321 change more swiftly, swell with new arrivals, dissolve and form in the
1322 same breath--already there are wanderers, confident girls who weave
1323 here and there among the stouter and more stable, become for a sharp,
1324 joyous moment the center of a group and then excited with triumph
1325 glide on through the sea-change of faces and voices and color under the
1326 constantly changing light.
1327
1328 Suddenly one of these gypsies in trembling opal, seizes a cocktail out
1329 of the air, dumps it down for courage and moving her hands like
1330 Frisco dances out alone on the canvas platform. A momentary hush; the
1331 orchestra leader varies his rhythm obligingly for her and there is a
1332 burst of chatter as the erroneous news goes around that she is Gilda
1333 Gray's understudy from the "Follies." The party has begun.
1334
1335 I believe that on the first night I went to Gatsby's house I was one of
1336 the few guests who had actually been invited. People were not
1337 invited--they went there. They got into automobiles which bore them out
1338 to Long Island and somehow they ended up at Gatsby's door. Once there
1339 they were introduced by somebody who knew Gatsby and after that they
1340 conducted themselves according to the rules of behavior associated with
1341 amusement parks. Sometimes they came and went without having met Gatsby
1342 at all, came for the party with a simplicity of heart that was its own
1343 ticket of admission.
1344
1345 I had been actually invited. A chauffeur in a uniform of robin's egg
1346 blue crossed my lawn early that Saturday morning with a surprisingly
1347 formal note from his employer--the honor would be entirely Gatsby's, it
1348 said, if I would attend his "little party" that night. He had
1349 seen me several times and had intended to call on me long before
1350 but a peculiar combination of circumstances had prevented it--signed
1351 Jay Gatsby in a majestic hand.
1352
1353 Dressed up in white flannels I went over to his lawn a little after
1354 seven and wandered around rather ill-at-ease among swirls and eddies
1355 of people I didn't know--though here and there was a face I had noticed
1356 on the commuting train. I was immediately struck by the number of young
1357 Englishmen dotted about; all well dressed, all looking a little hungry
1358 and all talking in low earnest voices to solid and prosperous
1359 Americans. I was sure that they were selling something: bonds or
1360 insurance or automobiles. They were, at least, agonizingly aware of the
1361 easy money in the vicinity and convinced that it was theirs for a few
1362 words in the right key.
1363
1364 As soon as I arrived I made an attempt to find my host but the two or
1365 three people of whom I asked his whereabouts stared at me in such an
1366 amazed way and denied so vehemently any knowledge of his movements
1367 that I slunk off in the direction of the cocktail table--the only place
1368 in the garden where a single man could linger without looking
1369 purposeless and alone.
1370
1371 I was on my way to get roaring drunk from sheer embarrassment when
1372 Jordan Baker came out of the house and stood at the head of the marble
1373 steps, leaning a little backward and looking with contemptuous interest
1374 down into the garden.
1375
1376 Welcome or not, I found it necessary to attach myself to someone
1377 before I should begin to address cordial remarks to the passers-by.
1378
1379 "Hello!" I roared, advancing toward her. My voice seemed unnaturally
1380 loud across the garden.
1381
1382 "I thought you might be here," she responded absently as I came up.
1383 "I remembered you lived next door to----"
1384
1385 She held my hand impersonally, as a promise that she'd take care
1386 of me in a minute, and gave ear to two girls in twin yellow dresses
1387 who stopped at the foot of the steps.
1388
1389 "Hello!" they cried together. "Sorry you didn't win."
1390
1391 That was for the golf tournament. She had lost in the finals the week
1392 before.
1393
1394 "You don't know who we are," said one of the girls in yellow, "but we
1395 met you here about a month ago."
1396
1397 "You've dyed your hair since then," remarked Jordan, and I started
1398 but the girls had moved casually on and her remark was addressed to the
1399 premature moon, produced like the supper, no doubt, out of a caterer's
1400 basket. With Jordan's slender golden arm resting in mine we descended
1401 the steps and sauntered about the garden. A tray of cocktails floated at
1402 us through the twilight and we sat down at a table with the two girls in
1403 yellow and three men, each one introduced to us as Mr. Mumble.
1404
1405 "Do you come to these parties often?" inquired Jordan of the girl
1406 beside her.
1407
1408 "The last one was the one I met you at," answered the girl, in an alert,
1409 confident voice. She turned to her companion: "Wasn't it for you,
1410 Lucille?"
1411
1412 It was for Lucille, too.
1413
1414 "I like to come," Lucille said. "I never care what I do, so I always have
1415 a good time. When I was here last I tore my gown on a chair, and he asked
1416 me my name and address--inside of a week I got a package from Croirier's
1417 with a new evening gown in it."
1418
1419 "Did you keep it?" asked Jordan.
1420
1421 "Sure I did. I was going to wear it tonight, but it was too big in the
1422 bust and had to be altered. It was gas blue with lavender beads. Two
1423 hundred and sixty-five dollars."
1424
1425 "There's something funny about a fellow that'll do a thing like that,"
1426 said the other girl eagerly. "He doesn't want any trouble with ANYbody."
1427
1428 "Who doesn't?" I inquired.
1429
1430 "Gatsby. Somebody told me----"
1431
1432 The two girls and Jordan leaned together confidentially.
1433
1434 "Somebody told me they thought he killed a man once."
1435
1436 A thrill passed over all of us. The three Mr. Mumbles bent forward and
1437 listened eagerly.
1438
1439 "I don't think it's so much THAT," argued Lucille skeptically; "it's
1440 more that he was a German spy during the war."
1441
1442 One of the men nodded in confirmation.
1443
1444 "I heard that from a man who knew all about him, grew up with him in
1445 Germany," he assured us positively.
1446
1447 "Oh, no," said the first girl, "it couldn't be that, because he was in
1448 the American army during the war." As our credulity switched back to
1449 her she leaned forward with enthusiasm. "You look at him sometimes when
1450 he thinks nobody's looking at him. I'll bet he killed a man."
1451
1452 She narrowed her eyes and shivered. Lucille shivered. We all turned and
1453 looked around for Gatsby. It was testimony to the romantic speculation he
1454 inspired that there were whispers about him from those who found little
1455 that it was necessary to whisper about in this world.
1456
1457 The first supper--there would be another one after midnight--was now
1458 being served, and Jordan invited me to join her own party who were
1459 spread around a table on the other side of the garden. There were
1460 three married couples and Jordan's escort, a persistent undergraduate
1461 given to violent innuendo and obviously under the impression
1462 that sooner or later Jordan was going to yield him up her person
1463 to a greater or lesser degree. Instead of rambling this party
1464 had preserved a dignified homogeneity, and assumed to itself the
1465 function of representing the staid nobility of the countryside--East
1466 Egg condescending to West Egg, and carefully on guard against its
1467 spectroscopic gayety.
1468
1469 "Let's get out," whispered Jordan, after a somehow wasteful and
1470 inappropriate half hour. "This is much too polite for me."
1471
1472 We got up, and she explained that we were going to find the host--I
1473 had never met him, she said, and it was making me uneasy. The
1474 undergraduate nodded in a cynical, melancholy way.
1475
1476 The bar, where we glanced first, was crowded but Gatsby was not there.
1477 She couldn't find him from the top of the steps, and he wasn't on the
1478 veranda. On a chance we tried an important-looking door, and walked
1479 into a high Gothic library, panelled with carved English oak, and
1480 probably transported complete from some ruin overseas.
1481
1482 A stout, middle-aged man with enormous owl-eyed spectacles was
1483 sitting somewhat drunk on the edge of a great table, staring with
1484 unsteady concentration at the shelves of books. As we entered he
1485 wheeled excitedly around and examined Jordan from head to foot.
1486
1487 "What do you think?" he demanded impetuously.
1488
1489 "About what?"
1490
1491 He waved his hand toward the book-shelves.
1492
1493 "About that. As a matter of fact you needn't bother to ascertain. I
1494 ascertained. They're real."
1495
1496 "The books?"
1497
1498 He nodded.
1499
1500 "Absolutely real--have pages and everything. I thought they'd be a nice
1501 durable cardboard. Matter of fact, they're absolutely real. Pages
1502 and--Here! Lemme show you."
1503
1504 Taking our skepticism for granted, he rushed to the bookcases and
1505 returned with Volume One of the "Stoddard Lectures."
1506
1507 "See!" he cried triumphantly. "It's a bona fide piece of printed matter.
1508 It fooled me. This fella's a regular Belasco. It's a triumph. What
1509 thoroughness! What realism! Knew when to stop too--didn't cut the pages.
1510 But what do you want? What do you expect?"
1511
1512 He snatched the book from me and replaced it hastily on its shelf
1513 muttering that if one brick was removed the whole library was liable
1514 to collapse.
1515
1516 "Who brought you?" he demanded. "Or did you just come? I was brought.
1517 Most people were brought."
1518
1519 Jordan looked at him alertly, cheerfully without answering.
1520
1521 "I was brought by a woman named Roosevelt," he continued. "Mrs. Claud
1522 Roosevelt. Do you know her? I met her somewhere last night. I've
1523 been drunk for about a week now, and I thought it might sober me
1524 up to sit in a library."
1525
1526 "Has it?"
1527
1528 "A little bit, I think. I can't tell yet. I've only been here
1529 an hour. Did I tell you about the books? They're real. They're----"
1530
1531 "You told us."
1532
1533 We shook hands with him gravely and went back outdoors.
1534
1535 There was dancing now on the canvas in the garden, old men pushing
1536 young girls backward in eternal graceless circles, superior couples
1537 holding each other tortuously, fashionably and keeping in the
1538 corners--and a great number of single girls dancing individualistically
1539 or relieving the orchestra for a moment of the burden of the banjo or
1540 the traps. By midnight the hilarity had increased. A celebrated tenor had
1541 sung in Italian and a notorious contralto had sung in jazz and between
1542 the numbers people were doing "stunts" all over the garden, while happy
1543 vacuous bursts of laughter rose toward the summer sky. A pair of stage
1544 "twins"--who turned out to be the girls in yellow--did a baby act in
1545 costume and champagne was served in glasses bigger than finger bowls.
1546 The moon had risen higher, and floating in the Sound was a triangle of
1547 silver scales, trembling a little to the stiff, tinny drip of the
1548 banjoes on the lawn.
1549
1550 I was still with Jordan Baker. We were sitting at a table with a man of
1551 about my age and a rowdy little girl who gave way upon the slightest
1552 provocation to uncontrollable laughter. I was enjoying myself now. I
1553 had taken two finger bowls of champagne and the scene had changed
1554 before my eyes into something significant, elemental and profound.
1555
1556 At a lull in the entertainment the man looked at me and smiled.
1557
1558 "Your face is familiar," he said, politely. "Weren't you in the Third
1559 Division during the war?"
1560
1561 "Why, yes. I was in the Ninth Machine-Gun Battalion."
1562
1563 "I was in the Seventh Infantry until June nineteen-eighteen. I knew I'd
1564 seen you somewhere before."
1565
1566 We talked for a moment about some wet, grey little villages in France.
1567 Evidently he lived in this vicinity for he told me that he had just
1568 bought a hydroplane and was going to try it out in the morning.
1569
1570 "Want to go with me, old sport? Just near the shore along the Sound."
1571
1572 "What time?"
1573
1574 "Any time that suits you best."
1575
1576 It was on the tip of my tongue to ask his name when Jordan looked around
1577 and smiled.
1578
1579 "Having a gay time now?" she inquired.
1580
1581 "Much better." I turned again to my new acquaintance. "This is an unusual
1582 party for me. I haven't even seen the host. I live over there----" I waved
1583 my hand at the invisible hedge in the distance, "and this man Gatsby sent
1584 over his chauffeur with an invitation."
1585
1586 For a moment he looked at me as if he failed to understand.
1587
1588 "I'm Gatsby," he said suddenly.
1589
1590 "What!" I exclaimed. "Oh, I beg your pardon."
1591
1592 "I thought you knew, old sport. I'm afraid I'm not a very good host."
1593
1594 He smiled understandingly--much more than understandingly. It was
1595 one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance
1596 in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced--or
1597 seemed to face--the whole external world for an instant, and then
1598 concentrated on YOU with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It
1599 understood you just so far as you wanted to be understood, believed in
1600 you as you would like to believe in yourself and assured you that it
1601 had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to
1602 convey. Precisely at that point it vanished--and I was looking at an
1603 elegant young rough-neck, a year or two over thirty, whose elaborate
1604 formality of speech just missed being absurd. Some time before he
1605 introduced himself I'd got a strong impression that he was picking his
1606 words with care.
1607
1608 Almost at the moment when Mr. Gatsby identified himself a butler
1609 hurried toward him with the information that Chicago was calling him on
1610 the wire. He excused himself with a small bow that included each of us
1611 in turn.
1612
1613 "If you want anything just ask for it, old sport," he urged me.
1614 "Excuse me. I will rejoin you later."
1615
1616 When he was gone I turned immediately to Jordan--constrained to assure her
1617 of my surprise. I had expected that Mr. Gatsby would be a florid and
1618 corpulent person in his middle years.
1619
1620 "Who is he?" I demanded. "Do you know?"
1621
1622 "He's just a man named Gatsby."
1623
1624 "Where is he from, I mean? And what does he do?"
1625
1626 "Now YOU're started on the subject," she answered with a wan smile.
1627 "Well,--he told me once he was an Oxford man."
1628
1629 A dim background started to take shape behind him but at her
1630 next remark it faded away.
1631
1632 "However, I don't believe it."
1633
1634 "Why not?"
1635
1636 "I don't know," she insisted, "I just don't think he went there."
1637
1638 Something in her tone reminded me of the other girl's "I think
1639 he killed a man," and had the effect of stimulating my curiosity. I
1640 would have accepted without question the information that Gatsby sprang
1641 from the swamps of Louisiana or from the lower East Side of New York.
1642 That was comprehensible. But young men didn't--at least in my provincial
1643 inexperience I believed they didn't--drift coolly out of nowhere and buy
1644 a palace on Long Island Sound.
1645
1646 "Anyhow he gives large parties," said Jordan, changing the subject
1647 with an urbane distaste for the concrete. "And I like large parties.
1648 They're so intimate. At small parties there isn't any privacy."
1649
1650 There was the boom of a bass drum, and the voice of the orchestra leader
1651 rang out suddenly above the echolalia of the garden.
1652
1653 "Ladies and gentlemen," he cried. "At the request of Mr. Gatsby we are
1654 going to play for you Mr. Vladimir Tostoff's latest work which attracted
1655 so much attention at Carnegie Hall last May. If you read the papers
1656 you know there was a big sensation." He smiled with jovial condescension
1657 and added "Some sensation!" whereupon everybody laughed.
1658
1659 "The piece is known," he concluded lustily, "as 'Vladimir Tostoff's
1660 Jazz History of the World.' "
1661
1662 The nature of Mr. Tostoff's composition eluded me, because just as
1663 it began my eyes fell on Gatsby, standing alone on the marble steps
1664 and looking from one group to another with approving eyes.
1665 His tanned skin was drawn attractively tight on his face and
1666 his short hair looked as though it were trimmed every day. I could
1667 see nothing sinister about him. I wondered if the fact that he was
1668 not drinking helped to set him off from his guests, for it seemed
1669 to me that he grew more correct as the fraternal hilarity increased.
1670 When the "Jazz History of the World" was over girls were putting
1671 their heads on men's shoulders in a puppyish, convivial way, girls were
1672 swooning backward playfully into men's arms, even into groups knowing
1673 that some one would arrest their falls--but no one swooned backward on
1674 Gatsby and no French bob touched Gatsby's shoulder and no singing
1675 quartets were formed with Gatsby's head for one link.
1676
1677 "I beg your pardon."
1678
1679 Gatsby's butler was suddenly standing beside us.
1680
1681 "Miss Baker?" he inquired. "I beg your pardon but Mr. Gatsby would like
1682 to speak to you alone."
1683
1684 "With me?" she exclaimed in surprise.
1685
1686 "Yes, madame."
1687
1688 She got up slowly, raising her eyebrows at me in astonishment,
1689 and followed the butler toward the house. I noticed that she wore
1690 her evening dress, all her dresses, like sports clothes--there
1691 was a jauntiness about her movements as if she had first learned to
1692 walk upon golf courses on clean, crisp mornings.
1693
1694 I was alone and it was almost two. For some time confused and
1695 intriguing sounds had issued from a long many-windowed room which
1696 overhung the terrace. Eluding Jordan's undergraduate who was now
1697 engaged in an obstetrical conversation with two chorus girls, and who
1698 implored me to join him, I went inside.
1699
1700 The large room was full of people. One of the girls in yellow was
1701 playing the piano and beside her stood a tall, red haired young lady
1702 from a famous chorus, engaged in song. She had drunk a quantity of
1703 champagne and during the course of her song she had decided ineptly
1704 that everything was very very sad--she was not only singing, she was
1705 weeping too. Whenever there was a pause in the song she filled it with
1706 gasping broken sobs and then took up the lyric again in a quavering
1707 soprano. The tears coursed down her cheeks--not freely, however, for when
1708 they came into contact with her heavily beaded eyelashes they assumed an
1709 inky color, and pursued the rest of their way in slow black rivulets. A
1710 humorous suggestion was made that she sing the notes on her face
1711 whereupon she threw up her hands, sank into a chair and went off into
1712 a deep vinous sleep.
1713
1714 "She had a fight with a man who says he's her husband," explained a
1715 girl at my elbow.
1716
1717 I looked around. Most of the remaining women were now having fights
1718 with men said to be their husbands. Even Jordan's party, the quartet
1719 from East Egg, were rent asunder by dissension. One of the men was
1720 talking with curious intensity to a young actress, and his wife after
1721 attempting to laugh at the situation in a dignified and indifferent
1722 way broke down entirely and resorted to flank attacks--at intervals she
1723 appeared suddenly at his side like an angry diamond, and hissed "You
1724 promised!" into his ear.
1725
1726 The reluctance to go home was not confined to wayward men. The hall was at
1727 present occupied by two deplorably sober men and their highly indignant
1728 wives. The wives were sympathizing with each other in slightly raised
1729 voices.
1730
1731 "Whenever he sees I'm having a good time he wants to go home."
1732
1733 "Never heard anything so selfish in my life."
1734
1735 "We're always the first ones to leave."
1736
1737 "So are we."
1738
1739 "Well, we're almost the last tonight," said one of the men sheepishly.
1740 "The orchestra left half an hour ago."
1741
1742 In spite of the wives' agreement that such malevolence was beyond
1743 credibility, the dispute ended in a short struggle, and both wives were
1744 lifted kicking into the night.
1745
1746 As I waited for my hat in the hall the door of the library opened and
1747 Jordan Baker and Gatsby came out together. He was saying some last word
1748 to her but the eagerness in his manner tightened abruptly into
1749 formality as several people approached him to say goodbye.
1750
1751 Jordan's party were calling impatiently to her from the porch but she
1752 lingered for a moment to shake hands.
1753
1754 "I've just heard the most amazing thing," she whispered. "How long were
1755 we in there?"
1756
1757 "Why,--about an hour."
1758
1759 "It was--simply amazing," she repeated abstractedly. "But I swore
1760 I wouldn't tell it and here I am tantalizing you." She yawned
1761 gracefully in my face. "Please come and see me. . . . Phone book.
1762 . . . Under the name of Mrs. Sigourney Howard. . . . My aunt. . . ."
1763 She was hurrying off as she talked--her brown hand waved a
1764 jaunty salute as she melted into her party at the door.
1765
1766 Rather ashamed that on my first appearance I had stayed so late, I
1767 joined the last of Gatsby's guests who were clustered around him. I
1768 wanted to explain that I'd hunted for him early in the evening and to
1769 apologize for not having known him in the garden.
1770
1771 "Don't mention it," he enjoined me eagerly. "Don't give it another
1772 thought, old sport." The familiar expression held no more familiarity
1773 than the hand which reassuringly brushed my shoulder. "And don't forget
1774 we're going up in the hydroplane tomorrow morning at nine o'clock."
1775
1776 Then the butler, behind his shoulder:
1777
1778 "Philadelphia wants you on the phone, sir."
1779
1780 "All right, in a minute. Tell them I'll be right there. . . . good
1781 night."
1782
1783 "Good night."
1784
1785 "Good night." He smiled--and suddenly there seemed to be a pleasant
1786 significance in having been among the last to go, as if he had desired
1787 it all the time. "Good night, old sport. . . . Good night."
1788
1789 But as I walked down the steps I saw that the evening was not quite over.
1790 Fifty feet from the door a dozen headlights illuminated a bizarre and
1791 tumultuous scene. In the ditch beside the road, right side up but
1792 violently shorn of one wheel, rested a new coupé which had left Gatsby's
1793 drive not two minutes before. The sharp jut of a wall accounted for the
1794 detachment of the wheel which was now getting considerable attention from
1795 half a dozen curious chauffeurs. However, as they had left their cars
1796 blocking the road a harsh discordant din from those in the rear had been
1797 audible for some time and added to the already violent confusion of
1798 the scene.
1799
1800 A man in a long duster had dismounted from the wreck and now stood in
1801 the middle of the road, looking from the car to the tire and from the
1802 tire to the observers in a pleasant, puzzled way.
1803
1804 "See!" he explained. "It went in the ditch."
1805
1806 The fact was infinitely astonishing to him--and I recognized first the
1807 unusual quality of wonder and then the man--it was the late patron of
1808 Gatsby's library.
1809
1810 "How'd it happen?"
1811
1812 He shrugged his shoulders.
1813
1814 "I know nothing whatever about mechanics," he said decisively.
1815
1816 "But how did it happen? Did you run into the wall?"
1817
1818 "Don't ask me," said Owl Eyes, washing his hands of the whole matter.
1819 "I know very little about driving--next to nothing. It happened,
1820 and that's all I know."
1821
1822 "Well, if you're a poor driver you oughtn't to try driving at night."
1823
1824 "But I wasn't even trying," he explained indignantly, "I wasn't even
1825 trying."
1826
1827 An awed hush fell upon the bystanders.
1828
1829 "Do you want to commit suicide?"
1830
1831 "You're lucky it was just a wheel! A bad driver and not even TRYing!"
1832
1833 "You don't understand," explained the criminal. "I wasn't driving. There's
1834 another man in the car."
1835
1836 The shock that followed this declaration found voice in a sustained
1837 "Ah-h-h!" as the door of the coupé swung slowly open. The crowd--it was
1838 now a crowd--stepped back involuntarily and when the door had opened wide
1839 there was a ghostly pause. Then, very gradually, part by part, a pale
1840 dangling individual stepped out of the wreck, pawing tentatively at the
1841 ground with a large uncertain dancing shoe.
1842
1843 Blinded by the glare of the headlights and confused by the incessant
1844 groaning of the horns the apparition stood swaying for a moment before
1845 he perceived the man in the duster.
1846
1847 "Wha's matter?" he inquired calmly. "Did we run outa gas?"
1848
1849 "Look!"
1850
1851 Half a dozen fingers pointed at the amputated wheel--he stared
1852 at it for a moment and then looked upward as though he suspected that
1853 it had dropped from the sky.
1854
1855 "It came off," some one explained.
1856
1857 He nodded.
1858
1859 "At first I din' notice we'd stopped."
1860
1861 A pause. Then, taking a long breath and straightening his shoulders
1862 he remarked in a determined voice:
1863
1864 "Wonder'ff tell me where there's a gas'line station?"
1865
1866 At least a dozen men, some of them little better off than he was,
1867 explained to him that wheel and car were no longer joined by any physical
1868 bond.
1869
1870 "Back out," he suggested after a moment. "Put her in reverse."
1871
1872 "But the WHEEL'S off!"
1873
1874 He hesitated.
1875
1876 "No harm in trying," he said.
1877
1878 The caterwauling horns had reached a crescendo and I turned away and
1879 cut across the lawn toward home. I glanced back once. A wafer of a moon
1880 was shining over Gatsby's house, making the night fine as before and
1881 surviving the laughter and the sound of his still glowing garden. A
1882 sudden emptiness seemed to flow now from the windows and the great
1883 doors, endowing with complete isolation the figure of the host who
1884 stood on the porch, his hand up in a formal gesture of farewell.
1885
1886
1887 Reading over what I have written so far I see I have given the
1888 impression that the events of three nights several weeks apart were all
1889 that absorbed me. On the contrary they were merely casual events in a
1890 crowded summer and, until much later, they absorbed me infinitely less
1891 than my personal affairs.
1892
1893 Most of the time I worked. In the early morning the sun threw my shadow
1894 westward as I hurried down the white chasms of lower New York to the
1895 Probity Trust. I knew the other clerks and young bond-salesmen by their
1896 first names and lunched with them in dark crowded restaurants on
1897 little pig sausages and mashed potatoes and coffee. I even had a short
1898 affair with a girl who lived in Jersey City and worked in the
1899 accounting department, but her brother began throwing mean looks in my
1900 direction so when she went on her vacation in July I let it blow
1901 quietly away.
1902
1903 I took dinner usually at the Yale Club--for some reason it was the
1904 gloomiest event of my day--and then I went upstairs to the library and
1905 studied investments and securities for a conscientious hour.
1906 There were generally a few rioters around but they never came into the
1907 library so it was a good place to work. After that, if the night was
1908 mellow I strolled down Madison Avenue past the old Murray Hill Hotel
1909 and over Thirty-third Street to the Pennsylvania Station.
1910
1911 I began to like New York, the racy, adventurous feel of it at night
1912 and the satisfaction that the constant flicker of men and women and
1913 machines gives to the restless eye. I liked to walk up Fifth Avenue and
1914 pick out romantic women from the crowd and imagine that in a few
1915 minutes I was going to enter into their lives, and no one would ever
1916 know or disapprove. Sometimes, in my mind, I followed them to their
1917 apartments on the corners of hidden streets, and they turned and smiled
1918 back at me before they faded through a door into warm darkness. At the
1919 enchanted metropolitan twilight I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes,
1920 and felt it in others--poor young clerks who loitered in front of windows
1921 waiting until it was time for a solitary restaurant dinner--young clerks
1922 in the dusk, wasting the most poignant moments of night and life.
1923
1924 Again at eight o'clock, when the dark lanes of the Forties were five
1925 deep with throbbing taxi cabs, bound for the theatre district, I felt a
1926 sinking in my heart. Forms leaned together in the taxis as they waited,
1927 and voices sang, and there was laughter from unheard jokes, and lighted
1928 cigarettes outlined unintelligible gestures inside. Imagining that
1929 I, too, was hurrying toward gayety and sharing their intimate
1930 excitement, I wished them well.
1931
1932 For a while I lost sight of Jordan Baker, and then in midsummer I found
1933 her again. At first I was flattered to go places with her because she
1934 was a golf champion and every one knew her name. Then it was
1935 something more. I wasn't actually in love, but I felt a sort of
1936 tender curiosity. The bored haughty face that she turned to the
1937 world concealed something--most affectations conceal something
1938 eventually, even though they don't in the beginning--and one day I found
1939 what it was. When we were on a house-party together up in Warwick, she
1940 left a borrowed car out in the rain with the top down, and then lied
1941 about it--and suddenly I remembered the story about her that had eluded
1942 me that night at Daisy's. At her first big golf tournament there was a
1943 row that nearly reached the newspapers--a suggestion that she had moved
1944 her ball from a bad lie in the semi-final round. The thing approached
1945 the proportions of a scandal--then died away. A caddy retracted his
1946 statement and the only other witness admitted that he might have been
1947 mistaken. The incident and the name had remained together in my mind.
1948
1949 Jordan Baker instinctively avoided clever shrewd men and now I saw
1950 that this was because she felt safer on a plane where any divergence
1951 from a code would be thought impossible. She was incurably dishonest.
1952 She wasn't able to endure being at a disadvantage, and given this
1953 unwillingness I suppose she had begun dealing in subterfuges when she
1954 was very young in order to keep that cool, insolent smile turned to the
1955 world and yet satisfy the demands of her hard jaunty body.
1956
1957 It made no difference to me. Dishonesty in a woman is a thing you never
1958 blame deeply--I was casually sorry, and then I forgot. It was on that
1959 same house party that we had a curious conversation about driving a
1960 car. It started because she passed so close to some workmen that our
1961 fender flicked a button on one man's coat.
1962
1963 "You're a rotten driver," I protested. "Either you ought to be more
1964 careful or you oughtn't to drive at all."
1965
1966 "I am careful."
1967
1968 "No, you're not."
1969
1970 "Well, other people are," she said lightly.
1971
1972 "What's that got to do with it?"
1973
1974 "They'll keep out of my way," she insisted. "It takes two to make an
1975 accident."
1976
1977 "Suppose you met somebody just as careless as yourself."
1978
1979 "I hope I never will," she answered. "I hate careless people. That's why
1980 I like you."
1981
1982 Her grey, sun-strained eyes stared straight ahead, but she had
1983 deliberately shifted our relations, and for a moment I thought I loved
1984 her. But I am slow-thinking and full of interior rules that act as brakes
1985 on my desires, and I knew that first I had to get myself definitely out of
1986 that tangle back home. I'd been writing letters once a week and signing
1987 them: "Love, Nick," and all I could think of was how, when that certain
1988 girl played tennis, a faint mustache of perspiration appeared on her
1989 upper lip. Nevertheless there was a vague understanding that had to be
1990 tactfully broken off before I was free.
1991
1992 Every one suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and
1993 this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known.
1994
1995
1996
1997
1998 Chapter 4
1999
2000
2001
2002 On Sunday morning while church bells rang in the villages along shore
2003 the world and its mistress returned to Gatsby's house and twinkled
2004 hilariously on his lawn.
2005
2006 "He's a bootlegger," said the young ladies, moving somewhere between
2007 his cocktails and his flowers. "One time he killed a man who had found out
2008 that he was nephew to von Hindenburg and second cousin to the devil.
2009 Reach me a rose, honey, and pour me a last drop into that there crystal
2010 glass."
2011
2012 Once I wrote down on the empty spaces of a time-table the names
2013 of those who came to Gatsby's house that summer. It is an old time-table
2014 now, disintegrating at its folds and headed "This schedule in effect
2015 July 5th, 1922." But I can still read the grey names and they will give
2016 you a better impression than my generalities of those who accepted
2017 Gatsby's hospitality and paid him the subtle tribute of knowing nothing
2018 whatever about him.
2019
2020 From East Egg, then, came the Chester Beckers and the Leeches and a
2021 man named Bunsen whom I knew at Yale and Doctor Webster Civet who
2022 was drowned last summer up in Maine. And the Hornbeams and the Willie
2023 Voltaires and a whole clan named Blackbuck who always gathered in a
2024 corner and flipped up their noses like goats at whosoever came near.
2025 And the Ismays and the Chrysties (or rather Hubert Auerbach and Mr.
2026 Chrystie's wife) and Edgar Beaver, whose hair they say turned
2027 cotton-white one winter afternoon for no good reason at all.
2028
2029 Clarence Endive was from East Egg, as I remember. He came only
2030 once, in white knickerbockers, and had a fight with a bum named
2031 Etty in the garden. From farther out on the Island came the Cheadles
2032 and the O. R. P. Schraeders and the Stonewall Jackson Abrams of
2033 Georgia and the Fishguards and the Ripley Snells. Snell was there
2034 three days before he went to the penitentiary, so drunk out on the
2035 gravel drive that Mrs. Ulysses Swett's automobile ran over his right
2036 hand. The Dancies came too and S. B. Whitebait, who was well over
2037 sixty, and Maurice A. Flink and the Hammerheads and Beluga the
2038 tobacco importer and Beluga's girls.
2039
2040 From West Egg came the Poles and the Mulreadys and Cecil Roebuck and
2041 Cecil Schoen and Gulick the state senator and Newton Orchid who
2042 controlled Films Par Excellence and Eckhaust and Clyde Cohen and Don
2043 S. Schwartze (the son) and Arthur McCarty, all connected with the
2044 movies in one way or another. And the Catlips and the Bembergs and G.
2045 Earl Muldoon, brother to that Muldoon who afterward strangled his wife.
2046 Da Fontano the promoter came there, and Ed Legros and James B.
2047 ("Rot-Gut") Ferret and the De Jongs and Ernest Lilly--they came to
2048 gamble and when Ferret wandered into the garden it meant he was
2049 cleaned out and Associated Traction would have to fluctuate profitably
2050 next day.
2051
2052 A man named Klipspringer was there so often and so long that he became
2053 known as "the boarder"--I doubt if he had any other home. Of theatrical
2054 people there were Gus Waize and Horace O'Donavan and Lester Meyer and
2055 George Duckweed and Francis Bull. Also from New York were the Chromes
2056 and the Backhyssons and the Dennickers and Russel Betty and the
2057 Corrigans and the Kellehers and the Dewars and the Scullys and S. W.
2058 Belcher and the Smirkes and the young Quinns, divorced now, and Henry
2059 L. Palmetto who killed himself by jumping in front of a subway train
2060 in Times Square.
2061
2062 Benny McClenahan arrived always with four girls. They were never quite
2063 the same ones in physical person but they were so identical one with
2064 another that it inevitably seemed they had been there before. I have
2065 forgotten their names--Jaqueline, I think, or else Consuela or Gloria
2066 or Judy or June, and their last names were either the melodious names
2067 of flowers and months or the sterner ones of the great American
2068 capitalists whose cousins, if pressed, they would confess themselves to
2069 be.
2070
2071 In addition to all these I can remember that Faustina O'Brien came
2072 there at least once and the Baedeker girls and young Brewer who had
2073 his nose shot off in the war and Mr. Albrucksburger and Miss Haag, his
2074 fiancée, and Ardita Fitz-Peters, and Mr. P. Jewett, once head of the
2075 American Legion, and Miss Claudia Hip with a man reputed to be her
2076 chauffeur, and a prince of something whom we called Duke and whose name,
2077 if I ever knew it, I have forgotten.
2078
2079 All these people came to Gatsby's house in the summer.
2080
2081
2082 At nine o'clock, one morning late in July Gatsby's gorgeous car
2083 lurched up the rocky drive to my door and gave out a burst of melody
2084 from its three noted horn. It was the first time he had called on me
2085 though I had gone to two of his parties, mounted in his hydroplane,
2086 and, at his urgent invitation, made frequent use of his beach.
2087
2088 "Good morning, old sport. You're having lunch with me today and I
2089 thought we'd ride up together."
2090
2091 He was balancing himself on the dashboard of his car with that
2092 resourcefulness of movement that is so peculiarly American--that comes,
2093 I suppose, with the absence of lifting work or rigid sitting in youth
2094 and, even more, with the formless grace of our nervous, sporadic games.
2095 This quality was continually breaking through his punctilious manner in
2096 the shape of restlessness. He was never quite still; there was always a
2097 tapping foot somewhere or the impatient opening and closing of a hand.
2098
2099 He saw me looking with admiration at his car.
2100
2101 "It's pretty, isn't it, old sport." He jumped off to give me a better
2102 view. "Haven't you ever seen it before?"
2103
2104 I'd seen it. Everybody had seen it. It was a rich cream color, bright
2105 with nickel, swollen here and there in its monstrous length with
2106 triumphant hatboxes and supper-boxes and tool-boxes, and terraced with a
2107 labyrinth of windshields that mirrored a dozen suns. Sitting down behind
2108 many layers of glass in a sort of green leather conservatory we started
2109 to town.
2110
2111 I had talked with him perhaps half a dozen times in the past month and
2112 found, to my disappointment, that he had little to say. So my first
2113 impression, that he was a person of some undefined consequence, had
2114 gradually faded and he had become simply the proprietor of an elaborate
2115 roadhouse next door.
2116
2117 And then came that disconcerting ride. We hadn't reached West Egg
2118 village before Gatsby began leaving his elegant sentences unfinished
2119 and slapping himself indecisively on the knee of his caramel-colored
2120 suit.
2121
2122 "Look here, old sport," he broke out surprisingly. "What's your opinion
2123 of me, anyhow?"
2124
2125 A little overwhelmed, I began the generalized evasions which
2126 that question deserves.
2127
2128 "Well, I'm going to tell you something about my life," he interrupted.
2129 "I don't want you to get a wrong idea of me from all these stories you
2130 hear."
2131
2132 So he was aware of the bizarre accusations that flavored conversation in
2133 his halls.
2134
2135 "I'll tell you God's truth." His right hand suddenly ordered divine
2136 retribution to stand by. "I am the son of some wealthy people in the
2137 middle-west--all dead now. I was brought up in America but educated at
2138 Oxford because all my ancestors have been educated there for many years.
2139 It is a family tradition."
2140
2141 He looked at me sideways--and I knew why Jordan Baker had believed he was
2142 lying. He hurried the phrase "educated at Oxford," or swallowed it or
2143 choked on it as though it had bothered him before. And with this doubt
2144 his whole statement fell to pieces and I wondered if there wasn't
2145 something a little sinister about him after all.
2146
2147 "What part of the middle-west?" I inquired casually.
2148
2149 "San Francisco."
2150
2151 "I see."
2152
2153 "My family all died and I came into a good deal of money."
2154
2155 His voice was solemn as if the memory of that sudden extinction of a clan
2156 still haunted him. For a moment I suspected that he was pulling my leg
2157 but a glance at him convinced me otherwise.
2158
2159 "After that I lived like a young rajah in all the capitals of
2160 Europe--Paris, Venice, Rome--collecting jewels, chiefly rubies, hunting
2161 big game, painting a little, things for myself only, and trying to
2162 forget something very sad that had happened to me long ago."
2163
2164 With an effort I managed to restrain my incredulous laughter. The very
2165 phrases were worn so threadbare that they evoked no image except that of a
2166 turbaned "character" leaking sawdust at every pore as he pursued a
2167 tiger through the Bois de Boulogne.
2168
2169 "Then came the war, old sport. It was a great relief and I tried very
2170 hard to die but I seemed to bear an enchanted life. I accepted a
2171 commission as first lieutenant when it began. In the Argonne Forest I
2172 took two machine-gun detachments so far forward that there was a half
2173 mile gap on either side of us where the infantry couldn't advance. We
2174 stayed there two days and two nights, a hundred and thirty men with
2175 sixteen Lewis guns, and when the infantry came up at last they found
2176 the insignia of three German divisions among the piles of dead. I was
2177 promoted to be a major and every Allied government gave me a
2178 decoration--even Montenegro, little Montenegro down on the Adriatic
2179 Sea!"
2180
2181 Little Montenegro! He lifted up the words and nodded at them--with
2182 his smile. The smile comprehended Montenegro's troubled history and
2183 sympathized with the brave struggles of the Montenegrin people. It
2184 appreciated fully the chain of national circumstances which had
2185 elicited this tribute from Montenegro's warm little heart. My
2186 incredulity was submerged in fascination now; it was like skimming
2187 hastily through a dozen magazines.
2188
2189 He reached in his pocket and a piece of metal, slung on a ribbon, fell
2190 into my palm.
2191
2192 "That's the one from Montenegro."
2193
2194 To my astonishment, the thing had an authentic look.
2195
2196 _Orderi di Danilo_, ran the circular legend, _Montenegro, Nicolas Rex_.
2197
2198 "Turn it."
2199
2200 _Major Jay Gatsby_, I read, _For Valour Extraordinary_.
2201
2202 "Here's another thing I always carry. A souvenir of Oxford days. It was
2203 taken in Trinity Quad--the man on my left is now the Earl of Dorcaster."
2204
2205 It was a photograph of half a dozen young men in blazers loafing in an
2206 archway through which were visible a host of spires. There was Gatsby,
2207 looking a little, not much, younger--with a cricket bat in his hand.
2208
2209 Then it was all true. I saw the skins of tigers flaming in his palace
2210 on the Grand Canal; I saw him opening a chest of rubies to ease, with
2211 their crimson-lighted depths, the gnawings of his broken heart.
2212
2213 "I'm going to make a big request of you today," he said, pocketing his
2214 souvenirs with satisfaction, "so I thought you ought to know something
2215 about me. I didn't want you to think I was just some nobody. You see,
2216 I usually find myself among strangers because I drift here and there
2217 trying to forget the sad thing that happened to me." He hesitated.
2218 "You'll hear about it this afternoon."
2219
2220 "At lunch?"
2221
2222 "No, this afternoon. I happened to find out that you're taking Miss Baker
2223 to tea."
2224
2225 "Do you mean you're in love with Miss Baker?"
2226
2227 "No, old sport, I'm not. But Miss Baker has kindly consented to speak
2228 to you about this matter."
2229
2230 I hadn't the faintest idea what "this matter" was, but I was more
2231 annoyed than interested. I hadn't asked Jordan to tea in order to discuss
2232 Mr. Jay Gatsby. I was sure the request would be something utterly
2233 fantastic and for a moment I was sorry I'd ever set foot upon his
2234 overpopulated lawn.
2235
2236 He wouldn't say another word. His correctness grew on him as we neared
2237 the city. We passed Port Roosevelt, where there was a glimpse of
2238 red-belted ocean-going ships, and sped along a cobbled slum lined with
2239 the dark, undeserted saloons of the faded gilt nineteen-hundreds. Then
2240 the valley of ashes opened out on both sides of us, and I had a glimpse
2241 of Mrs. Wilson straining at the garage pump with panting vitality as we
2242 went by.
2243
2244 With fenders spread like wings we scattered light through half
2245 Astoria--only half, for as we twisted among the pillars of the
2246 elevated I heard the familiar "jug--jug--SPAT!" of a motor cycle, and a
2247 frantic policeman rode alongside.
2248
2249 "All right, old sport," called Gatsby. We slowed down. Taking a white
2250 card from his wallet he waved it before the man's eyes.
2251
2252 "Right you are," agreed the policeman, tipping his cap. "Know you next
2253 time, Mr. Gatsby. Excuse ME!"
2254
2255 "What was that?" I inquired. "The picture of Oxford?"
2256
2257 "I was able to do the commissioner a favor once, and he sends me a
2258 Christmas card every year."
2259
2260 Over the great bridge, with the sunlight through the girders making a
2261 constant flicker upon the moving cars, with the city rising up across the
2262 river in white heaps and sugar lumps all built with a wish out of
2263 non-olfactory money. The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always
2264 the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the
2265 mystery and the beauty in the world.
2266
2267 A dead man passed us in a hearse heaped with blooms, followed by two
2268 carriages with drawn blinds and by more cheerful carriages for
2269 friends. The friends looked out at us with the tragic eyes and short
2270 upper lips of south-eastern Europe, and I was glad that the sight of
2271 Gatsby's splendid car was included in their somber holiday. As we
2272 crossed Blackwell's Island a limousine passed us, driven by a white
2273 chauffeur, in which sat three modish Negroes, two bucks and a girl. I
2274 laughed aloud as the yolks of their eyeballs rolled toward us in
2275 haughty rivalry.
2276
2277 "Anything can happen now that we've slid over this bridge," I thought;
2278 "anything at all. . . ."
2279
2280 Even Gatsby could happen, without any particular wonder.
2281
2282
2283 Roaring noon. In a well-fanned Forty-second Street cellar I met Gatsby
2284 for lunch. Blinking away the brightness of the street outside my eyes
2285 picked him out obscurely in the anteroom, talking to another man.
2286
2287 "Mr. Carraway this is my friend Mr. Wolfshiem."
2288
2289 A small, flat-nosed Jew raised his large head and regarded me with two
2290 fine growths of hair which luxuriated in either nostril. After a moment I
2291 discovered his tiny eyes in the half darkness.
2292
2293 "--so I took one look at him--" said Mr. Wolfshiem, shaking my hand
2294 earnestly, "--and what do you think I did?"
2295
2296 "What?" I inquired politely.
2297
2298 But evidently he was not addressing me for he dropped my hand and
2299 covered Gatsby with his expressive nose.
2300
2301 "I handed the money to Katspaugh and I sid, 'All right, Katspaugh,
2302 don't pay him a penny till he shuts his mouth.' He shut it then and
2303 there."
2304
2305 Gatsby took an arm of each of us and moved forward into the
2306 restaurant whereupon Mr. Wolfshiem swallowed a new sentence he was
2307 starting and lapsed into a somnambulatory abstraction.
2308
2309 "Highballs?" asked the head waiter.
2310
2311 "This is a nice restaurant here," said Mr. Wolfshiem looking at the
2312 Presbyterian nymphs on the ceiling. "But I like across the street better!"
2313
2314 "Yes, highballs," agreed Gatsby, and then to Mr. Wolfshiem: "It's too hot
2315 over there."
2316
2317 "Hot and small--yes," said Mr. Wolfshiem, "but full of memories."
2318
2319 "What place is that?" I asked.
2320
2321 "The old Metropole.
2322
2323 "The old Metropole," brooded Mr. Wolfshiem gloomily. "Filled with faces
2324 dead and gone. Filled with friends gone now forever. I can't forget so
2325 long as I live the night they shot Rosy Rosenthal there. It was six of us
2326 at the table and Rosy had eat and drunk a lot all evening. When it was
2327 almost morning the waiter came up to him with a funny look and says
2328 somebody wants to speak to him outside. 'All right,' says Rosy and begins
2329 to get up and I pulled him down in his chair.
2330
2331 " 'Let the bastards come in here if they want you, Rosy, but don't you,
2332 so help me, move outside this room.'
2333
2334 "It was four o'clock in the morning then, and if we'd of raised the blinds
2335 we'd of seen daylight."
2336
2337 "Did he go?" I asked innocently.
2338
2339 "Sure he went,"--Mr. Wolfshiem's nose flashed at me indignantly--"He
2340 turned around in the door and says, 'Don't let that waiter take away
2341 my coffee!' Then he went out on the sidewalk and they shot him
2342 three times in his full belly and drove away."
2343
2344 "Four of them were electrocuted," I said, remembering.
2345
2346 "Five with Becker." His nostrils turned to me in an interested way.
2347 "I understand you're looking for a business gonnegtion."
2348
2349 The juxtaposition of these two remarks was startling. Gatsby answered
2350 for me:
2351
2352 "Oh, no," he exclaimed, "this isn't the man!"
2353
2354 "No?" Mr. Wolfshiem seemed disappointed.
2355
2356 "This is just a friend. I told you we'd talk about that some other
2357 time."
2358
2359 "I beg your pardon," said Mr. Wolfshiem, "I had a wrong man."
2360
2361 A succulent hash arrived, and Mr. Wolfshiem, forgetting the more
2362 sentimental atmosphere of the old Metropole, began to eat with
2363 ferocious delicacy. His eyes, meanwhile, roved very slowly all around the
2364 room--he completed the arc by turning to inspect the people directly
2365 behind. I think that, except for my presence, he would have taken one
2366 short glance beneath our own table.
2367
2368 "Look here, old sport," said Gatsby, leaning toward me, "I'm afraid I
2369 made you a little angry this morning in the car."
2370
2371 There was the smile again, but this time I held out against it.
2372
2373 "I don't like mysteries," I answered. "And I don't understand why you
2374 won't come out frankly and tell me what you want. Why has it all got to
2375 come through Miss Baker?"
2376
2377 "Oh, it's nothing underhand," he assured me. "Miss Baker's a great
2378 sportswoman, you know, and she'd never do anything that wasn't all right."
2379
2380 Suddenly he looked at his watch, jumped up and hurried from the room
2381 leaving me with Mr. Wolfshiem at the table.
2382
2383 "He has to telephone," said Mr. Wolfshiem, following him with his eyes.
2384 "Fine fellow, isn't he? Handsome to look at and a perfect gentleman."
2385
2386 "Yes."
2387
2388 "He's an Oggsford man."
2389
2390 "Oh!"
2391
2392 "He went to Oggsford College in England. You know Oggsford College?"
2393
2394 "I've heard of it."
2395
2396 "It's one of the most famous colleges in the world."
2397
2398 "Have you known Gatsby for a long time?" I inquired.
2399
2400 "Several years," he answered in a gratified way. "I made the pleasure of
2401 his acquaintance just after the war. But I knew I had discovered a man of
2402 fine breeding after I talked with him an hour. I said to myself: 'There's
2403 the kind of man you'd like to take home and introduce to your mother and
2404 sister.' " He paused. "I see you're looking at my cuff buttons."
2405
2406 I hadn't been looking at them, but I did now. They were composed of
2407 oddly familiar pieces of ivory.
2408
2409 "Finest specimens of human molars," he informed me.
2410
2411 "Well!" I inspected them. "That's a very interesting idea."
2412
2413 "Yeah." He flipped his sleeves up under his coat. "Yeah, Gatsby's very
2414 careful about women. He would never so much as look at a friend's wife."
2415
2416 When the subject of this instinctive trust returned to the table and sat
2417 down Mr. Wolfshiem drank his coffee with a jerk and got to his feet.
2418
2419 "I have enjoyed my lunch," he said, "and I'm going to run off from you
2420 two young men before I outstay my welcome."
2421
2422 "Don't hurry, Meyer," said Gatsby, without enthusiasm. Mr. Wolfshiem
2423 raised his hand in a sort of benediction.
2424
2425 "You're very polite but I belong to another generation," he announced
2426 solemnly. "You sit here and discuss your sports and your young ladies and
2427 your----" He supplied an imaginary noun with another wave of his
2428 hand--"As for me, I am fifty years old, and I won't impose myself
2429 on you any longer."
2430
2431 As he shook hands and turned away his tragic nose was trembling.
2432 I wondered if I had said anything to offend him.
2433
2434 "He becomes very sentimental sometimes," explained Gatsby. "This is one of
2435 his sentimental days. He's quite a character around New York--a denizen of
2436 Broadway."
2437
2438 "Who is he anyhow--an actor?"
2439
2440 "No."
2441
2442 "A dentist?"
2443
2444 "Meyer Wolfshiem? No, he's a gambler." Gatsby hesitated, then added
2445 coolly: "He's the man who fixed the World's Series back in 1919."
2446
2447 "Fixed the World's Series?" I repeated.
2448
2449 The idea staggered me. I remembered of course that the World's Series
2450 had been fixed in 1919 but if I had thought of it at all I would have
2451 thought of it as a thing that merely HAPPENED, the end of some
2452 inevitable chain. It never occurred to me that one man could start to
2453 play with the faith of fifty million people--with the single-mindedness
2454 of a burglar blowing a safe.
2455
2456 "How did he happen to do that?" I asked after a minute.
2457
2458 "He just saw the opportunity."
2459
2460 "Why isn't he in jail?"
2461
2462 "They can't get him, old sport. He's a smart man."
2463
2464 I insisted on paying the check. As the waiter brought my change I caught
2465 sight of Tom Buchanan across the crowded room.
2466
2467 "Come along with me for a minute," I said. "I've got to say hello
2468 to someone."
2469
2470 When he saw us Tom jumped up and took half a dozen steps in our
2471 direction.
2472
2473 "Where've you been?" he demanded eagerly. "Daisy's furious because you
2474 haven't called up."
2475
2476 "This is Mr. Gatsby, Mr. Buchanan."
2477
2478 They shook hands briefly and a strained, unfamiliar look of embarrassment
2479 came over Gatsby's face.
2480
2481 "How've you been, anyhow?" demanded Tom of me. "How'd you happen to come
2482 up this far to eat?"
2483
2484 "I've been having lunch with Mr. Gatsby."
2485
2486 I turned toward Mr. Gatsby, but he was no longer there.
2487
2488
2489 One October day in nineteen-seventeen----
2490 (said Jordan Baker that afternoon, sitting up very straight on a straight
2491 chair in the tea-garden at the Plaza Hotel)
2492 --I was walking along from one place to another half on the sidewalks and
2493 half on the lawns. I was happier on the lawns because I had on shoes from
2494 England with rubber nobs on the soles that bit into the soft ground.
2495 I had on a new plaid skirt also that blew a little in the wind and
2496 whenever this happened the red, white and blue banners in front of all
2497 the houses stretched out stiff and said TUT-TUT-TUT-TUT in a disapproving
2498 way.
2499
2500 The largest of the banners and the largest of the lawns belonged to
2501 Daisy Fay's house. She was just eighteen, two years older than me, and
2502 by far the most popular of all the young girls in Louisville. She
2503 dressed in white, and had a little white roadster and all day long
2504 the telephone rang in her house and excited young officers from Camp
2505 Taylor demanded the privilege of monopolizing her that night, "anyways,
2506 for an hour!"
2507
2508 When I came opposite her house that morning her white roadster was beside
2509 the curb, and she was sitting in it with a lieutenant I had never seen
2510 before. They were so engrossed in each other that she didn't see me until
2511 I was five feet away.
2512
2513 "Hello Jordan," she called unexpectedly. "Please come here."
2514
2515 I was flattered that she wanted to speak to me, because of all the older
2516 girls I admired her most. She asked me if I was going to the Red Cross and
2517 make bandages. I was. Well, then, would I tell them that she couldn't come
2518 that day? The officer looked at Daisy while she was speaking, in a way
2519 that every young girl wants to be looked at sometime, and because it
2520 seemed romantic to me I have remembered the incident ever since. His name
2521 was Jay Gatsby and I didn't lay eyes on him again for over four
2522 years--even after I'd met him on Long Island I didn't realize it was the
2523 same man.
2524
2525 That was nineteen-seventeen. By the next year I had a few beaux myself,
2526 and I began to play in tournaments, so I didn't see Daisy very often.
2527 She went with a slightly older crowd--when she went with anyone at all.
2528 Wild rumors were circulating about her--how her mother had found her
2529 packing her bag one winter night to go to New York and say goodbye to a
2530 soldier who was going overseas. She was effectually prevented, but she
2531 wasn't on speaking terms with her family for several weeks. After
2532 that she didn't play around with the soldiers any more but only
2533 with a few flat-footed, short-sighted young men in town who couldn't
2534 get into the army at all.
2535
2536 By the next autumn she was gay again, gay as ever. She had a debut
2537 after the Armistice, and in February she was presumably engaged to a
2538 man from New Orleans. In June she married Tom Buchanan of Chicago with
2539 more pomp and circumstance than Louisville ever knew before. He came
2540 down with a hundred people in four private cars and hired a whole
2541 floor of the Seelbach Hotel, and the day before the wedding he gave her
2542 a string of pearls valued at three hundred and fifty thousand dollars.
2543
2544 I was bridesmaid. I came into her room half an hour before the bridal
2545 dinner, and found her lying on her bed as lovely as the June night in
2546 her flowered dress--and as drunk as a monkey. She had a bottle of
2547 sauterne in one hand and a letter in the other.
2548
2549 " 'Gratulate me," she muttered. "Never had a drink before but oh, how I do
2550 enjoy it."
2551
2552 "What's the matter, Daisy?"
2553
2554 I was scared, I can tell you; I'd never seen a girl like that before.
2555
2556 "Here, dearis." She groped around in a waste-basket she had with her
2557 on the bed and pulled out the string of pearls. "Take 'em downstairs and
2558 give 'em back to whoever they belong to. Tell 'em all Daisy's change' her
2559 mine. Say 'Daisy's change' her mine!'."
2560
2561 She began to cry--she cried and cried. I rushed out and found her
2562 mother's maid and we locked the door and got her into a cold bath. She
2563 wouldn't let go of the letter. She took it into the tub with her and
2564 squeezed it up into a wet ball, and only let me leave it in the
2565 soap dish when she saw that it was coming to pieces like snow.
2566
2567 But she didn't say another word. We gave her spirits of ammonia and put
2568 ice on her forehead and hooked her back into her dress and half an
2569 hour later when we walked out of the room the pearls were around her
2570 neck and the incident was over. Next day at five o'clock she married Tom
2571 Buchanan without so much as a shiver and started off on a three months'
2572 trip to the South Seas.
2573
2574 I saw them in Santa Barbara when they came back and I thought I'd
2575 never seen a girl so mad about her husband. If he left the room for a
2576 minute she'd look around uneasily and say "Where's Tom gone?" and
2577 wear the most abstracted expression until she saw him coming in the
2578 door. She used to sit on the sand with his head in her lap by the hour
2579 rubbing her fingers over his eyes and looking at him with unfathomable
2580 delight. It was touching to see them together--it made you laugh in a
2581 hushed, fascinated way. That was in August. A week after I left Santa
2582 Barbara Tom ran into a wagon on the Ventura road one night and ripped
2583 a front wheel off his car. The girl who was with him got into the
2584 papers too because her arm was broken--she was one of the chambermaids
2585 in the Santa Barbara Hotel.
2586
2587 The next April Daisy had her little girl and they went to France for a
2588 year. I saw them one spring in Cannes and later in Deauville and then
2589 they came back to Chicago to settle down. Daisy was popular in Chicago,
2590 as you know. They moved with a fast crowd, all of them young and rich
2591 and wild, but she came out with an absolutely perfect reputation.
2592 Perhaps because she doesn't drink. It's a great advantage not to drink
2593 among hard-drinking people. You can hold your tongue and, moreover,
2594 you can time any little irregularity of your own so that everybody else
2595 is so blind that they don't see or care. Perhaps Daisy never went in
2596 for amour at all--and yet there's something in that voice of hers. . . .
2597
2598 Well, about six weeks ago, she heard the name Gatsby for the first time
2599 in years. It was when I asked you--do you remember?--if you knew Gatsby
2600 in West Egg. After you had gone home she came into my room and woke me
2601 up, and said "What Gatsby?" and when I described him--I was half
2602 asleep--she said in the strangest voice that it must be the man she used
2603 to know. It wasn't until then that I connected this Gatsby with the
2604 officer in her white car.
2605
2606
2607 When Jordan Baker had finished telling all this we had left the Plaza
2608 for half an hour and were driving in a Victoria through Central Park.
2609 The sun had gone down behind the tall apartments of the movie stars in
2610 the West Fifties and the clear voices of girls, already gathered like
2611 crickets on the grass, rose through the hot twilight:
2612
2613
2614 "I'm the Sheik of Araby,
2615 Your love belongs to me.
2616 At night when you're are asleep,
2617 Into your tent I'll creep----"
2618
2619
2620 "It was a strange coincidence," I said.
2621
2622 "But it wasn't a coincidence at all."
2623
2624 "Why not?"
2625
2626 "Gatsby bought that house so that Daisy would be just across the bay."
2627
2628 Then it had not been merely the stars to which he had aspired
2629 on that June night. He came alive to me, delivered suddenly from the
2630 womb of his purposeless splendor.
2631
2632 "He wants to know--" continued Jordan "--if you'll invite Daisy to your
2633 house some afternoon and then let him come over."
2634
2635 The modesty of the demand shook me. He had waited five years and bought a
2636 mansion where he dispensed starlight to casual moths so that he could
2637 "come over" some afternoon to a stranger's garden.
2638
2639 "Did I have to know all this before he could ask such a little thing?"
2640
2641 "He's afraid. He's waited so long. He thought you might be offended.
2642 You see he's a regular tough underneath it all."
2643
2644 Something worried me.
2645
2646 "Why didn't he ask you to arrange a meeting?"
2647
2648 "He wants her to see his house," she explained. "And your house is right
2649 next door."
2650
2651 "Oh!"
2652
2653 "I think he half expected her to wander into one of his parties,
2654 some night," went on Jordan, "but she never did. Then he began asking
2655 people casually if they knew her, and I was the first one he found.
2656 It was that night he sent for me at his dance, and you should have
2657 heard the elaborate way he worked up to it. Of course, I immediately
2658 suggested a luncheon in New York--and I thought he'd go mad:
2659
2660 " 'I don't want to do anything out of the way!' he kept saying. 'I want to
2661 see her right next door.'
2662
2663 "When I said you were a particular friend of Tom's he started to abandon
2664 the whole idea. He doesn't know very much about Tom, though he says he's
2665 read a Chicago paper for years just on the chance of catching a glimpse
2666 of Daisy's name."
2667
2668 It was dark now, and as we dipped under a little bridge I put my arm
2669 around Jordan's golden shoulder and drew her toward me and asked her to
2670 dinner. Suddenly I wasn't thinking of Daisy and Gatsby any more but of
2671 this clean, hard, limited person who dealt in universal skepticism and
2672 who leaned back jauntily just within the circle of my arm. A phrase began
2673 to beat in my ears with a sort of heady excitement: "There are only the
2674 pursued, the pursuing, the busy and the tired."
2675
2676 "And Daisy ought to have something in her life," murmured Jordan to me.
2677
2678 "Does she want to see Gatsby?"
2679
2680 "She's not to know about it. Gatsby doesn't want her to know. You're
2681 just supposed to invite her to tea."
2682
2683 We passed a barrier of dark trees, and then the facade of Fifty-ninth
2684 Street, a block of delicate pale light, beamed down into the park.
2685 Unlike Gatsby and Tom Buchanan I had no girl whose disembodied face
2686 floated along the dark cornices and blinding signs and so I drew up the
2687 girl beside me, tightening my arms. Her wan, scornful mouth smiled and so
2688 I drew her up again, closer, this time to my face.
2689
2690
2691
2692
2693 Chapter 5
2694
2695
2696
2697 When I came home to West Egg that night I was afraid for a moment that
2698 my house was on fire. Two o'clock and the whole corner of the peninsula
2699 was blazing with light which fell unreal on the shrubbery and made thin
2700 elongating glints upon the roadside wires. Turning a corner I saw that it
2701 was Gatsby's house, lit from tower to cellar.
2702
2703 At first I thought it was another party, a wild rout that had resolved
2704 itself into "hide-and-go-seek" or "sardines-in-the-box" with all the
2705 house thrown open to the game. But there wasn't a sound. Only wind in
2706 the trees which blew the wires and made the lights go off and on again
2707 as if the house had winked into the darkness. As my taxi groaned away I
2708 saw Gatsby walking toward me across his lawn.
2709
2710 "Your place looks like the world's fair," I said.
2711
2712 "Does it?" He turned his eyes toward it absently. "I have been glancing
2713 into some of the rooms. Let's go to Coney Island, old sport. In my car."
2714
2715 "It's too late."
2716
2717 "Well, suppose we take a plunge in the swimming pool? I haven't made use
2718 of it all summer."
2719
2720 "I've got to go to bed."
2721
2722 "All right."
2723
2724 He waited, looking at me with suppressed eagerness.
2725
2726 "I talked with Miss Baker," I said after a moment. "I'm going to call up
2727 Daisy tomorrow and invite her over here to tea."
2728
2729 "Oh, that's all right," he said carelessly. "I don't want to put you to
2730 any trouble."
2731
2732 "What day would suit you?"
2733
2734 "What day would suit YOU?" he corrected me quickly. "I don't want to put
2735 you to any trouble, you see."
2736
2737 "How about the day after tomorrow?" He considered for a moment. Then,
2738 with reluctance:
2739
2740 "I want to get the grass cut," he said.
2741
2742 We both looked at the grass--there was a sharp line where my ragged lawn
2743 ended and the darker, well-kept expanse of his began. I suspected that
2744 he meant my grass.
2745
2746 "There's another little thing," he said uncertainly, and hesitated.
2747
2748 "Would you rather put it off for a few days?" I asked.
2749
2750 "Oh, it isn't about that. At least----" He fumbled with a series of
2751 beginnings. "Why, I thought--why, look here, old sport, you don't make
2752 much money, do you?"
2753
2754 "Not very much."
2755
2756 This seemed to reassure him and he continued more confidently.
2757
2758 "I thought you didn't, if you'll pardon my--you see, I carry on a
2759 little business on the side, a sort of sideline, you understand. And I
2760 thought that if you don't make very much--You're selling bonds, aren't
2761 you, old sport?"
2762
2763 "Trying to."
2764
2765 "Well, this would interest you. It wouldn't take up much of your
2766 time and you might pick up a nice bit of money. It happens to be
2767 a rather confidential sort of thing."
2768
2769 I realize now that under different circumstances that conversation might
2770 have been one of the crises of my life. But, because the offer was
2771 obviously and tactlessly for a service to be rendered, I had no choice
2772 except to cut him off there.
2773
2774 "I've got my hands full," I said. "I'm much obliged but I couldn't take
2775 on any more work."
2776
2777 "You wouldn't have to do any business with Wolfshiem." Evidently he
2778 thought that I was shying away from the "gonnegtion" mentioned at lunch,
2779 but I assured him he was wrong. He waited a moment longer, hoping I'd
2780 begin a conversation, but I was too absorbed to be responsive, so he went
2781 unwillingly home.
2782
2783 The evening had made me light-headed and happy; I think I walked into a
2784 deep sleep as I entered my front door. So I didn't know whether or not
2785 Gatsby went to Coney Island or for how many hours he "glanced into
2786 rooms" while his house blazed gaudily on. I called up Daisy from the
2787 office next morning and invited her to come to tea.
2788
2789 "Don't bring Tom," I warned her.
2790
2791 "What?"
2792
2793 "Don't bring Tom."
2794
2795 "Who is 'Tom'?" she asked innocently.
2796
2797 The day agreed upon was pouring rain. At eleven o'clock a man in a
2798 raincoat dragging a lawn-mower tapped at my front door and said that
2799 Mr. Gatsby had sent him over to cut my grass. This reminded me that I
2800 had forgotten to tell my Finn to come back so I drove into West Egg
2801 Village to search for her among soggy white-washed alleys and to buy
2802 some cups and lemons and flowers.
2803
2804 The flowers were unnecessary, for at two o'clock a greenhouse arrived
2805 from Gatsby's, with innumerable receptacles to contain it. An hour
2806 later the front door opened nervously, and Gatsby in a white flannel
2807 suit, silver shirt and gold-colored tie hurried in. He was pale and
2808 there were dark signs of sleeplessness beneath his eyes.
2809
2810 "Is everything all right?" he asked immediately.
2811
2812 "The grass looks fine, if that's what you mean."
2813
2814 "What grass?" he inquired blankly. "Oh, the grass in the yard." He looked
2815 out the window at it, but judging from his expression I don't believe
2816 he saw a thing.
2817
2818 "Looks very good," he remarked vaguely. "One of the papers said they
2819 thought the rain would stop about four. I think it was 'The Journal.' Have
2820 you got everything you need in the shape of--of tea?"
2821
2822 I took him into the pantry where he looked a little reproachfully at the
2823 Finn. Together we scrutinized the twelve lemon cakes from the delicatessen
2824 shop.
2825
2826 "Will they do?" I asked.
2827
2828 "Of course, of course! They're fine!" and he added hollowly, ". . .old
2829 sport."
2830
2831 The rain cooled about half-past three to a damp mist through which
2832 occasional thin drops swam like dew. Gatsby looked with vacant eyes
2833 through a copy of Clay's "Economics," starting at the Finnish tread that
2834 shook the kitchen floor and peering toward the bleared windows from time
2835 to time as if a series of invisible but alarming happenings were taking
2836 place outside. Finally he got up and informed me in an uncertain voice
2837 that he was going home.
2838
2839 "Why's that?"
2840
2841 "Nobody's coming to tea. It's too late!" He looked at his watch as if
2842 there was some pressing demand on his time elsewhere. "I can't wait
2843 all day."
2844
2845 "Don't be silly; it's just two minutes to four."
2846
2847 He sat down, miserably, as if I had pushed him, and simultaneously there
2848 was the sound of a motor turning into my lane. We both jumped up and,
2849 a little harrowed myself, I went out into the yard.
2850
2851 Under the dripping bare lilac trees a large open car was coming up the
2852 drive. It stopped. Daisy's face, tipped sideways beneath a
2853 three-cornered lavender hat, looked out at me with a bright ecstatic
2854 smile.
2855
2856 "Is this absolutely where you live, my dearest one?"
2857
2858 The exhilarating ripple of her voice was a wild tonic in the rain. I had
2859 to follow the sound of it for a moment, up and down, with my ear alone
2860 before any words came through. A damp streak of hair lay like a dash of
2861 blue paint across her cheek and her hand was wet with glistening drops as
2862 I took it to help her from the car.
2863
2864 "Are you in love with me," she said low in my ear. "Or why did I have
2865 to come alone?"
2866
2867 "That's the secret of Castle Rackrent. Tell your chauffeur to go far
2868 away and spend an hour."
2869
2870 "Come back in an hour, Ferdie." Then in a grave murmur, "His name is
2871 Ferdie."
2872
2873 "Does the gasoline affect his nose?"
2874
2875 "I don't think so," she said innocently. "Why?"
2876
2877 We went in. To my overwhelming surprise the living room was deserted.
2878
2879 "Well, that's funny!" I exclaimed.
2880
2881 "What's funny?"
2882
2883 She turned her head as there was a light, dignified knocking at the front
2884 door. I went out and opened it. Gatsby, pale as death, with his hands
2885 plunged like weights in his coat pockets, was standing in a puddle of
2886 water glaring tragically into my eyes.
2887
2888 With his hands still in his coat pockets he stalked by me into the
2889 hall, turned sharply as if he were on a wire and disappeared into the
2890 living room. It wasn't a bit funny. Aware of the loud beating of my own
2891 heart I pulled the door to against the increasing rain.
2892
2893 For half a minute there wasn't a sound. Then from the living room I
2894 heard a sort of choking murmur and part of a laugh followed by Daisy's
2895 voice on a clear artificial note.
2896
2897 "I certainly am awfully glad to see you again."
2898
2899 A pause; it endured horribly. I had nothing to do in the hall so I went
2900 into the room.
2901
2902 Gatsby, his hands still in his pockets, was reclining against the
2903 mantelpiece in a strained counterfeit of perfect ease, even of boredom.
2904 His head leaned back so far that it rested against the face of a
2905 defunct mantelpiece clock and from this position his distraught eyes
2906 stared down at Daisy who was sitting frightened but graceful on the
2907 edge of a stiff chair.
2908
2909 "We've met before," muttered Gatsby. His eyes glanced momentarily at
2910 me and his lips parted with an abortive attempt at a laugh. Luckily
2911 the clock took this moment to tilt dangerously at the pressure of his
2912 head, whereupon he turned and caught it with trembling fingers and set
2913 it back in place. Then he sat down, rigidly, his elbow on the arm of the
2914 sofa and his chin in his hand.
2915
2916 "I'm sorry about the clock," he said.
2917
2918 My own face had now assumed a deep tropical burn. I couldn't muster up
2919 a single commonplace out of the thousand in my head.
2920
2921 "It's an old clock," I told them idiotically.
2922
2923 I think we all believed for a moment that it had smashed in pieces on
2924 the floor.
2925
2926 "We haven't met for many years," said Daisy, her voice as matter-of-fact
2927 as it could ever be.
2928
2929 "Five years next November."
2930
2931 The automatic quality of Gatsby's answer set us all back at least another
2932 minute. I had them both on their feet with the desperate suggestion that
2933 they help me make tea in the kitchen when the demoniac Finn brought it in
2934 on a tray.
2935
2936 Amid the welcome confusion of cups and cakes a certain physical decency
2937 established itself. Gatsby got himself into a shadow and while Daisy
2938 and I talked looked conscientiously from one to the other of us with
2939 tense unhappy eyes. However, as calmness wasn't an end in itself I
2940 made an excuse at the first possible moment and got to my feet.
2941
2942 "Where are you going?" demanded Gatsby in immediate alarm.
2943
2944 "I'll be back."
2945
2946 "I've got to speak to you about something before you go."
2947
2948 He followed me wildly into the kitchen, closed the door and whispered:
2949 "Oh, God!" in a miserable way.
2950
2951 "What's the matter?"
2952
2953 "This is a terrible mistake," he said, shaking his head from side to
2954 side, "a terrible, terrible mistake."
2955
2956 "You're just embarrassed, that's all," and luckily I added: "Daisy's
2957 embarrassed too."
2958
2959 "She's embarrassed?" he repeated incredulously.
2960
2961 "Just as much as you are."
2962
2963 "Don't talk so loud."
2964
2965 "You're acting like a little boy," I broke out impatiently. "Not only
2966 that but you're rude. Daisy's sitting in there all alone."
2967
2968
2969 He raised his hand to stop my words, looked at me with unforgettable
2970 reproach and opening the door cautiously went back into the other room.
2971
2972 I walked out the back way--just as Gatsby had when he had made his
2973 nervous circuit of the house half an hour before--and ran for a huge
2974 black knotted tree whose massed leaves made a fabric against the rain.
2975 Once more it was pouring and my irregular lawn, well-shaved by
2976 Gatsby's gardener, abounded in small muddy swamps and prehistoric
2977 marshes. There was nothing to look at from under the tree except
2978 Gatsby's enormous house, so I stared at it, like Kant at his church
2979 steeple, for half an hour. A brewer had built it early in the "period"
2980 craze, a decade before, and there was a story that he'd agreed to pay
2981 five years' taxes on all the neighboring cottages if the owners would
2982 have their roofs thatched with straw. Perhaps their refusal took the
2983 heart out of his plan to Found a Family--he went into an immediate
2984 decline. His children sold his house with the black wreath still on the
2985 door. Americans, while occasionally willing to be serfs, have always
2986 been obstinate about being peasantry.
2987
2988 After half an hour the sun shone again and the grocer's automobile
2989 rounded Gatsby's drive with the raw material for his servants' dinner--I
2990 felt sure he wouldn't eat a spoonful. A maid began opening the upper
2991 windows of his house, appeared momentarily in each, and, leaning from a
2992 large central bay, spat meditatively into the garden. It was time I
2993 went back. While the rain continued it had seemed like the murmur of
2994 their voices, rising and swelling a little, now and then, with gusts of
2995 emotion. But in the new silence I felt that silence had fallen within
2996 the house too.
2997
2998 I went in--after making every possible noise in the kitchen short of
2999 pushing over the stove--but I don't believe they heard a sound. They
3000 were sitting at either end of the couch looking at each other as if
3001 some question had been asked or was in the air, and every vestige of
3002 embarrassment was gone. Daisy's face was smeared with tears and when I
3003 came in she jumped up and began wiping at it with her handkerchief before
3004 a mirror. But there was a change in Gatsby that was simply confounding.
3005 He literally glowed; without a word or a gesture of exultation a new
3006 well-being radiated from him and filled the little room.
3007
3008 "Oh, hello, old sport," he said, as if he hadn't seen me for years. I
3009 thought for a moment he was going to shake hands.
3010
3011 "It's stopped raining."
3012
3013 "Has it?" When he realized what I was talking about, that there were
3014 twinkle-bells of sunshine in the room, he smiled like a weather man,
3015 like an ecstatic patron of recurrent light, and repeated the news to
3016 Daisy. "What do you think of that? It's stopped raining."
3017
3018 "I'm glad, Jay." Her throat, full of aching, grieving beauty, told only
3019 of her unexpected joy.
3020
3021 "I want you and Daisy to come over to my house," he said, "I'd like to
3022 show her around."
3023
3024 "You're sure you want me to come?"
3025
3026 "Absolutely, old sport."
3027
3028 Daisy went upstairs to wash her face--too late I thought with humiliation
3029 of my towels--while Gatsby and I waited on the lawn.
3030
3031 "My house looks well, doesn't it?" he demanded. "See how the whole
3032 front of it catches the light."
3033
3034 I agreed that it was splendid.
3035
3036 "Yes." His eyes went over it, every arched door and square tower. "It took
3037 me just three years to earn the money that bought it."
3038
3039 "I thought you inherited your money."
3040
3041 "I did, old sport," he said automatically, "but I lost most of it in
3042 the big panic--the panic of the war."
3043
3044 I think he hardly knew what he was saying, for when I asked him what
3045 business he was in he answered "That's my affair," before he realized
3046 that it wasn't the appropriate reply.
3047
3048 "Oh, I've been in several things," he corrected himself. "I was in the
3049 drug business and then I was in the oil business. But I'm not in either
3050 one now." He looked at me with more attention. "Do you mean you've been
3051 thinking over what I proposed the other night?"
3052
3053 Before I could answer, Daisy came out of the house and two rows of brass
3054 buttons on her dress gleamed in the sunlight.
3055
3056 "That huge place THERE?" she cried pointing.
3057
3058 "Do you like it?"
3059
3060 "I love it, but I don't see how you live there all alone."
3061
3062 "I keep it always full of interesting people, night and day. People who
3063 do interesting things. Celebrated people."
3064
3065 Instead of taking the short cut along the Sound we went down the road and
3066 entered by the big postern. With enchanting murmurs Daisy admired this
3067 aspect or that of the feudal silhouette against the sky, admired the
3068 gardens, the sparkling odor of jonquils and the frothy odor of hawthorn
3069 and plum blossoms and the pale gold odor of kiss-me-at-the-gate.
3070 It was strange to reach the marble steps and find no stir of bright
3071 dresses in and out the door, and hear no sound but bird voices in the
3072 trees.
3073
3074 And inside as we wandered through Marie Antoinette music rooms and
3075 Restoration salons I felt that there were guests concealed behind
3076 every couch and table, under orders to be breathlessly silent until we
3077 had passed through. As Gatsby closed the door of "the Merton College
3078 Library" I could have sworn I heard the owl-eyed man break into
3079 ghostly laughter.
3080
3081 We went upstairs, through period bedrooms swathed in rose and lavender
3082 silk and vivid with new flowers, through dressing rooms and poolrooms,
3083 and bathrooms with sunken baths--intruding into one chamber where a
3084 dishevelled man in pajamas was doing liver exercises on the floor. It
3085 was Mr. Klipspringer, the "boarder." I had seen him wandering hungrily
3086 about the beach that morning. Finally we came to Gatsby's own apartment,
3087 a bedroom and a bath and an Adam study, where we sat down and drank a
3088 glass of some Chartreuse he took from a cupboard in the wall.
3089
3090 He hadn't once ceased looking at Daisy and I think he revalued
3091 everything in his house according to the measure of response it drew
3092 from her well-loved eyes. Sometimes, too, he stared around at his
3093 possessions in a dazed way as though in her actual and astounding
3094 presence none of it was any longer real. Once he nearly toppled down a
3095 flight of stairs.
3096
3097 His bedroom was the simplest room of all--except where the dresser was
3098 garnished with a toilet set of pure dull gold. Daisy took the brush
3099 with delight and smoothed her hair, whereupon Gatsby sat down and
3100 shaded his eyes and began to laugh.
3101
3102 "It's the funniest thing, old sport," he said hilariously. "I can't--when
3103 I try to----"
3104
3105 He had passed visibly through two states and was entering upon a third.
3106 After his embarrassment and his unreasoning joy he was consumed with
3107 wonder at her presence. He had been full of the idea so long, dreamed it
3108 right through to the end, waited with his teeth set, so to speak, at an
3109 inconceivable pitch of intensity. Now, in the reaction, he was running
3110 down like an overwound clock.
3111
3112 Recovering himself in a minute he opened for us two hulking patent
3113 cabinets which held his massed suits and dressing-gowns and ties, and
3114 his shirts, piled like bricks in stacks a dozen high.
3115
3116 "I've got a man in England who buys me clothes. He sends over a selection
3117 of things at the beginning of each season, spring and fall."
3118
3119 He took out a pile of shirts and began throwing them, one by one
3120 before us, shirts of sheer linen and thick silk and fine flannel
3121 which lost their folds as they fell and covered the table in
3122 many-colored disarray. While we admired he brought more and the soft
3123 rich heap mounted higher--shirts with stripes and scrolls and plaids in
3124 coral and apple-green and lavender and faint orange with monograms of
3125 Indian blue. Suddenly with a strained sound, Daisy bent her head into
3126 the shirts and began to cry stormily.
3127
3128 "They're such beautiful shirts," she sobbed, her voice muffled in the
3129 thick folds. "It makes me sad because I've never seen such--such beautiful
3130 shirts before."
3131
3132
3133 After the house, we were to see the grounds and the swimming pool, and the
3134 hydroplane and the midsummer flowers--but outside Gatsby's window it
3135 began to rain again so we stood in a row looking at the corrugated
3136 surface of the Sound.
3137
3138 "If it wasn't for the mist we could see your home across the bay," said
3139 Gatsby. "You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of
3140 your dock."
3141
3142 Daisy put her arm through his abruptly but he seemed absorbed
3143 in what he had just said. Possibly it had occurred to him that the
3144 colossal significance of that light had now vanished forever. Compared
3145 to the great distance that had separated him from Daisy it had seemed
3146 very near to her, almost touching her. It had seemed as close as a star
3147 to the moon. Now it was again a green light on a dock. His count of
3148 enchanted objects had diminished by one.
3149
3150 I began to walk about the room, examining various indefinite objects in
3151 the half darkness. A large photograph of an elderly man in yachting
3152 costume attracted me, hung on the wall over his desk.
3153
3154 "Who's this?"
3155
3156 "That? That's Mr. Dan Cody, old sport."
3157
3158 The name sounded faintly familiar.
3159
3160 "He's dead now. He used to be my best friend years ago."
3161
3162 There was a small picture of Gatsby, also in yachting costume, on the
3163 bureau--Gatsby with his head thrown back defiantly--taken apparently
3164 when he was about eighteen.
3165
3166 "I adore it!" exclaimed Daisy. "The pompadour! You never told me you had
3167 a pompadour--or a yacht."
3168
3169 "Look at this," said Gatsby quickly. "Here's a lot of clippings--about
3170 you."
3171
3172 They stood side by side examining it. I was going to ask to see the rubies
3173 when the phone rang and Gatsby took up the receiver.
3174
3175 "Yes. . . . Well, I can't talk now. . . . I can't talk now, old
3176 sport. . . . I said a SMALL town. . . . He must know what a small town
3177 is. . . . Well, he's no use to us if Detroit is his idea of a small
3178 town. . . ."
3179
3180 He rang off.
3181
3182 "Come here QUICK!" cried Daisy at the window.
3183
3184 The rain was still falling, but the darkness had parted in the west,
3185 and there was a pink and golden billow of foamy clouds above the sea.
3186
3187 "Look at that," she whispered, and then after a moment: "I'd like to
3188 just get one of those pink clouds and put you in it and push you
3189 around."
3190
3191 I tried to go then, but they wouldn't hear of it; perhaps my presence
3192 made them feel more satisfactorily alone.
3193
3194 "I know what we'll do," said Gatsby, "we'll have Klipspringer play the
3195 piano."
3196
3197 He went out of the room calling "Ewing!" and returned in a few
3198 minutes accompanied by an embarrassed, slightly worn young man with
3199 shell-rimmed glasses and scanty blonde hair. He was now decently clothed
3200 in a "sport shirt" open at the neck, sneakers and duck trousers of a
3201 nebulous hue.
3202
3203 "Did we interrupt your exercises?" inquired Daisy politely.
3204
3205 "I was asleep," cried Mr. Klipspringer, in a spasm of embarrassment.
3206 "That is, I'd BEEN asleep. Then I got up. . . ."
3207
3208 "Klipspringer plays the piano," said Gatsby, cutting him off. "Don't you,
3209 Ewing, old sport?"
3210
3211 "I don't play well. I don't--I hardly play at all. I'm all out of
3212 prac----"
3213
3214 "We'll go downstairs," interrupted Gatsby. He flipped a switch. The
3215 grey windows disappeared as the house glowed full of light.
3216
3217 In the music room Gatsby turned on a solitary lamp beside the piano. He
3218 lit Daisy's cigarette from a trembling match, and sat down with her on
3219 a couch far across the room where there was no light save what the
3220 gleaming floor bounced in from the hall.
3221
3222 When Klipspringer had played "The Love Nest" he turned around on the
3223 bench and searched unhappily for Gatsby in the gloom.
3224
3225 "I'm all out of practice, you see. I told you I couldn't play. I'm all
3226 out of prac----"
3227
3228 "Don't talk so much, old sport," commanded Gatsby. "Play!"
3229
3230
3231 IN THE MORNING,
3232 IN THE EVENING,
3233 AIN'T WE GOT FUN----
3234
3235 Outside the wind was loud and there was a faint flow of thunder along the
3236 Sound. All the lights were going on in West Egg now; the electric trains,
3237 men-carrying, were plunging home through the rain from New York. It was
3238 the hour of a profound human change, and excitement was generating on
3239 the air.
3240
3241
3242 ONE THING'S SURE AND NOTHING'S SURER
3243 THE RICH GET RICHER AND THE POOR GET--CHILDREN.
3244 IN THE MEANTIME,
3245 IN BETWEEN TIME----
3246
3247
3248 As I went over to say goodbye I saw that the expression of bewilderment
3249 had come back into Gatsby's face, as though a faint doubt had occurred to
3250 him as to the quality of his present happiness. Almost five
3251 years! There must have been moments even that afternoon when
3252 Daisy tumbled short of his dreams--not through her own fault but
3253 because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond
3254 her, beyond everything. He had thrown himself into it with a creative
3255 passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with every bright
3256 feather that drifted his way. No amount of fire or freshness can
3257 challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.
3258
3259 As I watched him he adjusted himself a little, visibly. His hand took
3260 hold of hers and as she said something low in his ear he turned toward
3261 her with a rush of emotion. I think that voice held him most with its
3262 fluctuating, feverish warmth because it couldn't be over-dreamed--that
3263 voice was a deathless song.
3264
3265 They had forgotten me, but Daisy glanced up and held out her hand;
3266 Gatsby didn't know me now at all. I looked once more at them and they
3267 looked back at me, remotely, possessed by intense life. Then I went out
3268 of the room and down the marble steps into the rain, leaving them there
3269 together.
3270
3271
3272
3273
3274 Chapter 6
3275
3276
3277
3278 About this time an ambitious young reporter from New York arrived one
3279 morning at Gatsby's door and asked him if he had anything to say.
3280
3281 "Anything to say about what?" inquired Gatsby politely.
3282
3283 "Why,--any statement to give out."
3284
3285 It transpired after a confused five minutes that the man had heard
3286 Gatsby's name around his office in a connection which he either
3287 wouldn't reveal or didn't fully understand. This was his day off
3288 and with laudable initiative he had hurried out "to see."
3289
3290 It was a random shot, and yet the reporter's instinct was right. Gatsby's
3291 notoriety, spread about by the hundreds who had accepted his
3292 hospitality and so become authorities on his past, had increased
3293 all summer until he fell just short of being news. Contemporary
3294 legends such as the "underground pipe-line to Canada" attached
3295 themselves to him, and there was one persistent story that he
3296 didn't live in a house at all, but in a boat that looked like a house
3297 and was moved secretly up and down the Long Island shore. Just why
3298 these inventions were a source of satisfaction to James Gatz of North
3299 Dakota, isn't easy to say.
3300
3301 James Gatz--that was really, or at least legally, his name. He had
3302 changed it at the age of seventeen and at the specific moment that
3303 witnessed the beginning of his career--when he saw Dan Cody's yacht drop
3304 anchor over the most insidious flat on Lake Superior. It was James Gatz
3305 who had been loafing along the beach that afternoon in a torn green
3306 jersey and a pair of canvas pants, but it was already Jay Gatsby who
3307 borrowed a row-boat, pulled out to the TUOLOMEE and informed Cody that
3308 a wind might catch him and break him up in half an hour.
3309
3310 I suppose he'd had the name ready for a long time, even then. His
3311 parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people--his imagination had
3312 never really accepted them as his parents at all. The truth was that
3313 Jay Gatsby, of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic
3314 conception of himself. He was a son of God--a phrase which, if it means
3315 anything, means just that--and he must be about His Father's Business,
3316 the service of a vast, vulgar and meretricious beauty. So he invented
3317 just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen-year-old boy would be
3318 likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end.
3319
3320 For over a year he had been beating his way along the south shore of
3321 Lake Superior as a clam digger and a salmon fisher or in any other
3322 capacity that brought him food and bed. His brown, hardening body lived
3323 naturally through the half fierce, half lazy work of the bracing days.
3324 He knew women early and since they spoiled him he became contemptuous
3325 of them, of young virgins because they were ignorant, of the others
3326 because they were hysterical about things which in his overwhelming
3327 self-absorption he took for granted.
3328
3329 But his heart was in a constant, turbulent riot. The most grotesque
3330 and fantastic conceits haunted him in his bed at night. A universe
3331 of ineffable gaudiness spun itself out in his brain while the
3332 clock ticked on the wash-stand and the moon soaked with wet
3333 light his tangled clothes upon the floor. Each night he added to the
3334 pattern of his fancies until drowsiness closed down upon some vivid
3335 scene with an oblivious embrace. For a while these reveries provided an
3336 outlet for his imagination; they were a satisfactory hint of the
3337 unreality of reality, a promise that the rock of the world was founded
3338 securely on a fairy's wing.
3339
3340 An instinct toward his future glory had led him, some months before, to
3341 the small Lutheran college of St. Olaf in southern Minnesota. He stayed
3342 there two weeks, dismayed at its ferocious indifference to the drums of
3343 his destiny, to destiny itself, and despising the janitor's work with
3344 which he was to pay his way through. Then he drifted back to Lake
3345 Superior, and he was still searching for something to do on the day
3346 that Dan Cody's yacht dropped anchor in the shallows along shore.
3347
3348 Cody was fifty years old then, a product of the Nevada silver fields,
3349 of the Yukon, of every rush for metal since Seventy-five. The
3350 transactions in Montana copper that made him many times a millionaire
3351 found him physically robust but on the verge of soft-mindedness, and,
3352 suspecting this an infinite number of women tried to separate him from
3353 his money. The none too savory ramifications by which Ella Kaye, the
3354 newspaper woman, played Madame de Maintenon to his weakness and sent him
3355 to sea in a yacht, were common knowledge to the turgid journalism
3356 of 1902. He had been coasting along all too hospitable shores for five
3357 years when he turned up as James Gatz's destiny at Little Girl Bay.
3358
3359 To the young Gatz, resting on his oars and looking up at the railed
3360 deck, the yacht represented all the beauty and glamor in the world. I
3361 suppose he smiled at Cody--he had probably discovered that people liked
3362 him when he smiled. At any rate Cody asked him a few questions (one of
3363 them elicited the brand new name) and found that he was quick, and
3364 extravagantly ambitious. A few days later he took him to Duluth and
3365 bought him a blue coat, six pair of white duck trousers and a yachting
3366 cap. And when the TUOLOMEE left for the West Indies and the Barbary
3367 Coast Gatsby left too.
3368
3369 He was employed in a vague personal capacity--while he remained with
3370 Cody he was in turn steward, mate, skipper, secretary, and even jailor,
3371 for Dan Cody sober knew what lavish doings Dan Cody drunk might soon be
3372 about and he provided for such contingencies by reposing more and more
3373 trust in Gatsby. The arrangement lasted five years during which the
3374 boat went three times around the continent. It might have lasted
3375 indefinitely except for the fact that Ella Kaye came on board one night
3376 in Boston and a week later Dan Cody inhospitably died.
3377
3378 I remember the portrait of him up in Gatsby's bedroom, a grey, florid
3379 man with a hard empty face--the pioneer debauchee who during one phase
3380 of American life brought back to the eastern seaboard the savage
3381 violence of the frontier brothel and saloon. It was indirectly due to
3382 Cody that Gatsby drank so little. Sometimes in the course of gay parties
3383 women used to rub champagne into his hair; for himself he formed the
3384 habit of letting liquor alone.
3385
3386 And it was from Cody that he inherited money--a legacy of twenty-five
3387 thousand dollars. He didn't get it. He never understood the legal
3388 device that was used against him but what remained of the millions
3389 went intact to Ella Kaye. He was left with his singularly appropriate
3390 education; the vague contour of Jay Gatsby had filled out to the
3391 substantiality of a man.
3392
3393
3394 He told me all this very much later, but I've put it down here with the
3395 idea of exploding those first wild rumors about his antecedents, which
3396 weren't even faintly true. Moreover he told it to me at a time of
3397 confusion, when I had reached the point of believing everything and
3398 nothing about him. So I take advantage of this short halt, while
3399 Gatsby, so to speak, caught his breath, to clear this set of
3400 misconceptions away.
3401
3402 It was a halt, too, in my association with his affairs. For
3403 several weeks I didn't see him or hear his voice on the phone--mostly
3404 I was in New York, trotting around with Jordan and trying to
3405 ingratiate myself with her senile aunt--but finally I went over to
3406 his house one Sunday afternoon. I hadn't been there two minutes when
3407 somebody brought Tom Buchanan in for a drink. I was startled,
3408 naturally, but the really surprising thing was that it hadn't happened
3409 before.
3410
3411 They were a party of three on horseback--Tom and a man named Sloane and
3412 a pretty woman in a brown riding habit who had been there previously.
3413
3414 "I'm delighted to see you," said Gatsby standing on his porch.
3415 "I'm delighted that you dropped in."
3416
3417 As though they cared!
3418
3419 "Sit right down. Have a cigarette or a cigar." He walked around the room
3420 quickly, ringing bells. "I'll have something to drink for you in just
3421 a minute."
3422
3423 He was profoundly affected by the fact that Tom was there. But he would be
3424 uneasy anyhow until he had given them something, realizing in a vague
3425 way that that was all they came for. Mr. Sloane wanted nothing. A
3426 lemonade? No, thanks. A little champagne? Nothing at all,
3427 thanks. . . . I'm sorry----
3428
3429 "Did you have a nice ride?"
3430
3431 "Very good roads around here."
3432
3433 "I suppose the automobiles----"
3434
3435 "Yeah."
3436
3437 Moved by an irresistible impulse, Gatsby turned to Tom who had accepted
3438 the introduction as a stranger.
3439
3440 "I believe we've met somewhere before, Mr. Buchanan."
3441
3442 "Oh, yes," said Tom, gruffly polite but obviously not remembering.
3443 "So we did. I remember very well."
3444
3445 "About two weeks ago."
3446
3447 "That's right. You were with Nick here."
3448
3449 "I know your wife," continued Gatsby, almost aggressively.
3450
3451 "That so?"
3452
3453 Tom turned to me.
3454
3455 "You live near here, Nick?"
3456
3457 "Next door."
3458
3459 "That so?"
3460
3461 Mr. Sloane didn't enter into the conversation but lounged back haughtily
3462 in his chair; the woman said nothing either--until unexpectedly, after
3463 two highballs, she became cordial.
3464
3465 "We'll all come over to your next party, Mr. Gatsby," she suggested.
3466 "What do you say?"
3467
3468 "Certainly. I'd be delighted to have you."
3469
3470 "Be ver' nice," said Mr. Sloane, without gratitude. "Well--think ought to
3471 be starting home."
3472
3473 "Please don't hurry," Gatsby urged them. He had control of himself now
3474 and he wanted to see more of Tom. "Why don't you--why don't you stay for
3475 supper? I wouldn't be surprised if some other people dropped in from
3476 New York."
3477
3478 "You come to supper with ME," said the lady enthusiastically.
3479 "Both of you."
3480
3481 This included me. Mr. Sloane got to his feet.
3482
3483 "Come along," he said--but to her only.
3484
3485 "I mean it," she insisted. "I'd love to have you. Lots of room."
3486
3487 Gatsby looked at me questioningly. He wanted to go and he didn't see
3488 that Mr. Sloane had determined he shouldn't.
3489
3490 "I'm afraid I won't be able to," I said.
3491
3492 "Well, you come," she urged, concentrating on Gatsby.
3493
3494 Mr. Sloane murmured something close to her ear.
3495
3496 "We won't be late if we start now," she insisted aloud.
3497
3498 "I haven't got a horse," said Gatsby. "I used to ride in the army but
3499 I've never bought a horse. I'll have to follow you in my car. Excuse me
3500 for just a minute."
3501
3502 The rest of us walked out on the porch, where Sloane and the lady began
3503 an impassioned conversation aside.
3504
3505 "My God, I believe the man's coming," said Tom. "Doesn't he know she
3506 doesn't want him?"
3507
3508 "She says she does want him."
3509
3510 "She has a big dinner party and he won't know a soul there." He frowned.
3511 "I wonder where in the devil he met Daisy. By God, I may be
3512 old-fashioned in my ideas, but women run around too much these days to
3513 suit me. They meet all kinds of crazy fish."
3514
3515 Suddenly Mr. Sloane and the lady walked down the steps and mounted
3516 their horses.
3517
3518 "Come on," said Mr. Sloane to Tom, "we're late. We've got to go." And then
3519 to me: "Tell him we couldn't wait, will you?"
3520
3521 Tom and I shook hands, the rest of us exchanged a cool nod and
3522 they trotted quickly down the drive, disappearing under the August
3523 foliage just as Gatsby with hat and light overcoat in hand came out
3524 the front door.
3525
3526 Tom was evidently perturbed at Daisy's running around alone, for on the
3527 following Saturday night he came with her to Gatsby's party. Perhaps
3528 his presence gave the evening its peculiar quality of oppressiveness--it
3529 stands out in my memory from Gatsby's other parties that summer. There
3530 were the same people, or at least the same sort of people, the same
3531 profusion of champagne, the same many-colored, many-keyed commotion,
3532 but I felt an unpleasantness in the air, a pervading harshness that
3533 hadn't been there before. Or perhaps I had merely grown used to it,
3534 grown to accept West Egg as a world complete in itself, with its own
3535 standards and its own great figures, second to nothing because it had
3536 no consciousness of being so, and now I was looking at it again,
3537 through Daisy's eyes. It is invariably saddening to look through new
3538 eyes at things upon which you have expended your own powers of
3539 adjustment.
3540
3541 They arrived at twilight and as we strolled out among the sparkling
3542 hundreds Daisy's voice was playing murmurous tricks in her throat.
3543
3544 "These things excite me SO," she whispered. "If you want to kiss me
3545 any time during the evening, Nick, just let me know and I'll be glad
3546 to arrange it for you. Just mention my name. Or present a green card.
3547 I'm giving out green----"
3548
3549 "Look around," suggested Gatsby.
3550
3551 "I'm looking around. I'm having a marvelous----"
3552
3553 "You must see the faces of many people you've heard about."
3554
3555 Tom's arrogant eyes roamed the crowd.
3556
3557 "We don't go around very much," he said. "In fact I was just thinking
3558 I don't know a soul here."
3559
3560 "Perhaps you know that lady." Gatsby indicated a gorgeous, scarcely human
3561 orchid of a woman who sat in state under a white plum tree. Tom and Daisy
3562 stared, with that peculiarly unreal feeling that accompanies the
3563 recognition of a hitherto ghostly celebrity of the movies.
3564
3565 "She's lovely," said Daisy.
3566
3567 "The man bending over her is her director."
3568
3569 He took them ceremoniously from group to group:
3570
3571 "Mrs. Buchanan . . . and Mr. Buchanan----" After an instant's hesitation
3572 he added: "the polo player."
3573
3574 "Oh no," objected Tom quickly, "Not me."
3575
3576 But evidently the sound of it pleased Gatsby for Tom remained "the polo
3577 player" for the rest of the evening.
3578
3579 "I've never met so many celebrities!" Daisy exclaimed. "I liked that
3580 man--what was his name?--with the sort of blue nose."
3581
3582 Gatsby identified him, adding that he was a small producer.
3583
3584 "Well, I liked him anyhow."
3585
3586 "I'd a little rather not be the polo player," said Tom pleasantly, "I'd
3587 rather look at all these famous people in--in oblivion."
3588
3589 Daisy and Gatsby danced. I remember being surprised by his graceful,
3590 conservative fox-trot--I had never seen him dance before. Then they
3591 sauntered over to my house and sat on the steps for half an hour while
3592 at her request I remained watchfully in the garden: "In case there's a
3593 fire or a flood," she explained, "or any act of God."
3594
3595 Tom appeared from his oblivion as we were sitting down to supper together.
3596 "Do you mind if I eat with some people over here?" he said. "A fellow's
3597 getting off some funny stuff."
3598
3599 "Go ahead," answered Daisy genially, "And if you want to take down any
3600 addresses here's my little gold pencil. . . ." She looked around after
3601 a moment and told me the girl was "common but pretty," and I knew that
3602 except for the half hour she'd been alone with Gatsby she wasn't having
3603 a good time.
3604
3605 We were at a particularly tipsy table. That was my fault--Gatsby had
3606 been called to the phone and I'd enjoyed these same people only two
3607 weeks before. But what had amused me then turned septic on the air now.
3608
3609 "How do you feel, Miss Baedeker?"
3610
3611 The girl addressed was trying, unsuccessfully, to slump against my
3612 shoulder. At this inquiry she sat up and opened her eyes.
3613
3614 "Wha?"
3615
3616 A massive and lethargic woman, who had been urging Daisy to play golf
3617 with her at the local club tomorrow, spoke in Miss Baedeker's defence:
3618
3619 "Oh, she's all right now. When she's had five or six cocktails she always
3620 starts screaming like that. I tell her she ought to leave it alone."
3621
3622 "I do leave it alone," affirmed the accused hollowly.
3623
3624 "We heard you yelling, so I said to Doc Civet here: 'There's somebody
3625 that needs your help, Doc.' "
3626
3627 "She's much obliged, I'm sure," said another friend, without gratitude.
3628 "But you got her dress all wet when you stuck her head in the pool."
3629
3630 "Anything I hate is to get my head stuck in a pool," mumbled Miss
3631 Baedeker. "They almost drowned me once over in New Jersey."
3632
3633 "Then you ought to leave it alone," countered Doctor Civet.
3634
3635 "Speak for yourself!" cried Miss Baedeker violently. "Your hand shakes.
3636 I wouldn't let you operate on me!"
3637
3638 It was like that. Almost the last thing I remember was standing with
3639 Daisy and watching the moving picture director and his Star. They were
3640 still under the white plum tree and their faces were touching except
3641 for a pale thin ray of moonlight between. It occurred to me that he
3642 had been very slowly bending toward her all evening to attain this
3643 proximity, and even while I watched I saw him stoop one ultimate degree
3644 and kiss at her cheek.
3645
3646 "I like her," said Daisy, "I think she's lovely."
3647
3648 But the rest offended her--and inarguably, because it wasn't a gesture but
3649 an emotion. She was appalled by West Egg, this unprecedented "place"
3650 that Broadway had begotten upon a Long Island fishing village--appalled
3651 by its raw vigor that chafed under the old euphemisms and by the too
3652 obtrusive fate that herded its inhabitants along a short cut from nothing
3653 to nothing. She saw something awful in the very simplicity she failed
3654 to understand.
3655
3656 I sat on the front steps with them while they waited for their car. It
3657 was dark here in front: only the bright door sent ten square feet of
3658 light volleying out into the soft black morning. Sometimes a shadow
3659 moved against a dressing-room blind above, gave way to another shadow,
3660 an indefinite procession of shadows, who rouged and powdered in an
3661 invisible glass.
3662
3663 "Who is this Gatsby anyhow?" demanded Tom suddenly. "Some big bootlegger?"
3664
3665 "Where'd you hear that?" I inquired.
3666
3667 "I didn't hear it. I imagined it. A lot of these newly rich people are
3668 just big bootleggers, you know."
3669
3670 "Not Gatsby," I said shortly.
3671
3672 He was silent for a moment. The pebbles of the drive crunched under his
3673 feet.
3674
3675 "Well, he certainly must have strained himself to get this menagerie
3676 together."
3677
3678 A breeze stirred the grey haze of Daisy's fur collar.
3679
3680 "At least they're more interesting than the people we know," she said
3681 with an effort.
3682
3683 "You didn't look so interested."
3684
3685 "Well, I was."
3686
3687 Tom laughed and turned to me.
3688
3689 "Did you notice Daisy's face when that girl asked her to put her under
3690 a cold shower?"
3691
3692 Daisy began to sing with the music in a husky, rhythmic whisper,
3693 bringing out a meaning in each word that it had never had
3694 before and would never have again. When the melody rose, her voice
3695 broke up sweetly, following it, in a way contralto voices have, and
3696 each change tipped out a little of her warm human magic upon the air.
3697
3698 "Lots of people come who haven't been invited," she said suddenly.
3699 "That girl hadn't been invited. They simply force their way in and he's
3700 too polite to object."
3701
3702 "I'd like to know who he is and what he does," insisted Tom. "And I think
3703 I'll make a point of finding out."
3704
3705 "I can tell you right now," she answered. "He owned some drug stores,
3706 a lot of drug stores. He built them up himself."
3707
3708 The dilatory limousine came rolling up the drive.
3709
3710 "Good night, Nick," said Daisy.
3711
3712 Her glance left me and sought the lighted top of the steps where
3713 "Three o'Clock in the Morning," a neat, sad little waltz of that year,
3714 was drifting out the open door. After all, in the very casualness of
3715 Gatsby's party there were romantic possibilities totally absent from
3716 her world. What was it up there in the song that seemed to be calling
3717 her back inside? What would happen now in the dim incalculable hours?
3718 Perhaps some unbelievable guest would arrive, a person infinitely rare
3719 and to be marvelled at, some authentically radiant young girl who with
3720 one fresh glance at Gatsby, one moment of magical encounter, would blot
3721 out those five years of unwavering devotion.
3722
3723
3724 I stayed late that night. Gatsby asked me to wait until he was free
3725 and I lingered in the garden until the inevitable swimming party had run
3726 up, chilled and exalted, from the black beach, until the lights were
3727 extinguished in the guest rooms overhead. When he came down the steps at
3728 last the tanned skin was drawn unusually tight on his face, and his eyes
3729 were bright and tired.
3730
3731 "She didn't like it," he said immediately.
3732
3733 "Of course she did."
3734
3735 "She didn't like it," he insisted. "She didn't have a good time."
3736
3737 He was silent and I guessed at his unutterable depression.
3738
3739 "I feel far away from her," he said. "It's hard to make her understand."
3740
3741 "You mean about the dance?"
3742
3743 "The dance?" He dismissed all the dances he had given with a snap of
3744 his fingers. "Old sport, the dance is unimportant."
3745
3746 He wanted nothing less of Daisy than that she should go to Tom and say:
3747 "I never loved you." After she had obliterated three years with that
3748 sentence they could decide upon the more practical measures to be taken.
3749 One of them was that, after she was free, they were to go back to
3750 Louisville and be married from her house--just as if it were five
3751 years ago.
3752
3753 "And she doesn't understand," he said. "She used to be able to
3754 understand. We'd sit for hours----"
3755
3756 He broke off and began to walk up and down a desolate path of fruit rinds
3757 and discarded favors and crushed flowers.
3758
3759 "I wouldn't ask too much of her," I ventured. "You can't repeat the past."
3760
3761 "Can't repeat the past?" he cried incredulously. "Why of course you can!"
3762
3763 He looked around him wildly, as if the past were lurking here in the
3764 shadow of his house, just out of reach of his hand.
3765
3766 "I'm going to fix everything just the way it was before," he said,
3767 nodding determinedly. "She'll see."
3768
3769 He talked a lot about the past and I gathered that he wanted to recover
3770 something, some idea of himself perhaps, that had gone into loving Daisy.
3771 His life had been confused and disordered since then, but if he could
3772 once return to a certain starting place and go over it all slowly, he
3773 could find out what that thing was. . . .
3774
3775 . . . One autumn night, five years before, they had been walking down
3776 the street when the leaves were falling, and they came to a place where
3777 there were no trees and the sidewalk was white with moonlight.
3778 They stopped here and turned toward each other. Now it was a cool night
3779 with that mysterious excitement in it which comes at the two changes of
3780 the year. The quiet lights in the houses were humming out into the
3781 darkness and there was a stir and bustle among the stars. Out of the
3782 corner of his eye Gatsby saw that the blocks of the sidewalk really
3783 formed a ladder and mounted to a secret place above the trees--he could
3784 climb to it, if he climbed alone, and once there he could suck on the
3785 pap of life, gulp down the incomparable milk of wonder.
3786
3787 His heart beat faster and faster as Daisy's white face came up to his
3788 own. He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his
3789 unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp
3790 again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer
3791 to the tuning fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed
3792 her. At his lips' touch she blossomed for him like a flower and the
3793 incarnation was complete.
3794
3795 Through all he said, even through his appalling sentimentality, I was
3796 reminded of something--an elusive rhythm, a fragment of lost words, that
3797 I had heard somewhere a long time ago. For a moment a phrase tried to
3798 take shape in my mouth and my lips parted like a dumb man's, as though
3799 there was more struggling upon them than a wisp of startled air. But
3800 they made no sound and what I had almost remembered was
3801 uncommunicable forever.
3802
3803
3804
3805
3806 Chapter 7
3807
3808
3809
3810 It was when curiosity about Gatsby was at its highest that the lights
3811 in his house failed to go on one Saturday night--and, as obscurely as it
3812 had begun, his career as Trimalchio was over.
3813
3814 Only gradually did I become aware that the automobiles which turned
3815 expectantly into his drive stayed for just a minute and then drove
3816 sulkily away. Wondering if he were sick I went over to find out--an
3817 unfamiliar butler with a villainous face squinted at me suspiciously
3818 from the door.
3819
3820 "Is Mr. Gatsby sick?"
3821
3822 "Nope." After a pause he added "sir" in a dilatory, grudging way.
3823
3824 "I hadn't seen him around, and I was rather worried. Tell him Mr. Carraway
3825 came over."
3826
3827 "Who?" he demanded rudely.
3828
3829 "Carraway."
3830
3831 "Carraway. All right, I'll tell him." Abruptly he slammed the door.
3832
3833 My Finn informed me that Gatsby had dismissed every servant in his
3834 house a week ago and replaced them with half a dozen others, who never
3835 went into West Egg Village to be bribed by the tradesmen, but ordered
3836 moderate supplies over the telephone. The grocery boy reported that the
3837 kitchen looked like a pigsty, and the general opinion in the village was
3838 that the new people weren't servants at all.
3839
3840 Next day Gatsby called me on the phone.
3841
3842 "Going away?" I inquired.
3843
3844 "No, old sport."
3845
3846 "I hear you fired all your servants."
3847
3848 "I wanted somebody who wouldn't gossip. Daisy comes over quite often--in
3849 the afternoons."
3850
3851 So the whole caravansary had fallen in like a card house at the
3852 disapproval in her eyes.
3853
3854 "They're some people Wolfshiem wanted to do something for. They're all
3855 brothers and sisters. They used to run a small hotel."
3856
3857 "I see."
3858
3859 He was calling up at Daisy's request--would I come to lunch at
3860 her house tomorrow? Miss Baker would be there. Half an hour later
3861 Daisy herself telephoned and seemed relieved to find that I was coming.
3862 Something was up. And yet I couldn't believe that they would choose
3863 this occasion for a scene--especially for the rather harrowing scene
3864 that Gatsby had outlined in the garden.
3865
3866 The next day was broiling, almost the last, certainly the warmest, of
3867 the summer. As my train emerged from the tunnel into sunlight, only the
3868 hot whistles of the National Biscuit Company broke the simmering hush
3869 at noon. The straw seats of the car hovered on the edge of combustion;
3870 the woman next to me perspired delicately for a while into her white
3871 shirtwaist, and then, as her newspaper dampened under her fingers,
3872 lapsed despairingly into deep heat with a desolate cry. Her pocket-book
3873 slapped to the floor.
3874
3875 "Oh, my!" she gasped.
3876
3877 I picked it up with a weary bend and handed it back to her, holding it
3878 at arm's length and by the extreme tip of the corners to indicate that
3879 I had no designs upon it--but every one near by, including the woman,
3880 suspected me just the same.
3881
3882 "Hot!" said the conductor to familiar faces. "Some weather! Hot! Hot! Hot!
3883 Is it hot enough for you? Is it hot? Is it . . . ?"
3884
3885 My commutation ticket came back to me with a dark stain from his hand.
3886 That any one should care in this heat whose flushed lips he kissed,
3887 whose head made damp the pajama pocket over his heart!
3888
3889 . . . Through the hall of the Buchanans' house blew a faint wind,
3890 carrying the sound of the telephone bell out to Gatsby and me as we
3891 waited at the door.
3892
3893 "The master's body!" roared the butler into the mouthpiece. "I'm sorry,
3894 madame, but we can't furnish it--it's far too hot to touch this noon!"
3895
3896 What he really said was: "Yes . . . yes . . . I'll see."
3897
3898 He set down the receiver and came toward us, glistening slightly, to take
3899 our stiff straw hats.
3900
3901 "Madame expects you in the salon!" he cried, needlessly indicating the
3902 direction. In this heat every extra gesture was an affront to the
3903 common store of life.
3904
3905 The room, shadowed well with awnings, was dark and cool. Daisy and
3906 Jordan lay upon an enormous couch, like silver idols, weighing down
3907 their own white dresses against the singing breeze of the fans.
3908
3909 "We can't move," they said together.
3910
3911 Jordan's fingers, powdered white over their tan, rested for a moment in
3912 mine.
3913
3914 "And Mr. Thomas Buchanan, the athlete?" I inquired.
3915
3916 Simultaneously I heard his voice, gruff, muffled, husky, at the hall
3917 telephone.
3918
3919 Gatsby stood in the center of the crimson carpet and gazed around with
3920 fascinated eyes. Daisy watched him and laughed, her sweet, exciting
3921 laugh; a tiny gust of powder rose from her bosom into the air.
3922
3923 "The rumor is," whispered Jordan, "that that's Tom's girl on the
3924 telephone."
3925
3926 We were silent. The voice in the hall rose high with annoyance.
3927 "Very well, then, I won't sell you the car at all. . . . I'm
3928 under no obligations to you at all. . . . And as for your bothering me
3929 about it at lunch time I won't stand that at all!"
3930
3931 "Holding down the receiver," said Daisy cynically.
3932
3933 "No, he's not," I assured her. "It's a bona fide deal. I happen to
3934 know about it."
3935
3936 Tom flung open the door, blocked out its space for a moment with his
3937 thick body, and hurried into the room.
3938
3939 "Mr. Gatsby!" He put out his broad, flat hand with well-concealed
3940 dislike. "I'm glad to see you, sir. . . . Nick. . . ."
3941
3942 "Make us a cold drink," cried Daisy.
3943
3944 As he left the room again she got up and went over to Gatsby and pulled
3945 his face down kissing him on the mouth.
3946
3947 "You know I love you," she murmured.
3948
3949 "You forget there's a lady present," said Jordan.
3950
3951 Daisy looked around doubtfully.
3952
3953 "You kiss Nick too."
3954
3955 "What a low, vulgar girl!"
3956
3957 "I don't care!" cried Daisy and began to clog on the brick fireplace.
3958 Then she remembered the heat and sat down guiltily on the couch just as
3959 a freshly laundered nurse leading a little girl came into the room.
3960
3961 "Bles-sed pre-cious," she crooned, holding out her arms. "Come to your
3962 own mother that loves you."
3963
3964 The child, relinquished by the nurse, rushed across the room and rooted
3965 shyly into her mother's dress.
3966
3967 "The Bles-sed pre-cious! Did mother get powder on your old yellowy
3968 hair? Stand up now, and say How-de-do."
3969
3970 Gatsby and I in turn leaned down and took the small reluctant hand.
3971 Afterward he kept looking at the child with surprise. I don't think he had
3972 ever really believed in its existence before.
3973
3974 "I got dressed before luncheon," said the child, turning eagerly to
3975 Daisy.
3976
3977 "That's because your mother wanted to show you off." Her face bent into
3978 the single wrinkle of the small white neck. "You dream, you. You absolute
3979 little dream."
3980
3981 "Yes," admitted the child calmly. "Aunt Jordan's got on a white
3982 dress too."
3983
3984 "How do you like mother's friends?" Daisy turned her around so that she
3985 faced Gatsby. "Do you think they're pretty?"
3986
3987 "Where's Daddy?"
3988
3989 "She doesn't look like her father," explained Daisy. "She looks like me.
3990 She's got my hair and shape of the face."
3991
3992 Daisy sat back upon the couch. The nurse took a step forward and held
3993 out her hand.
3994
3995 "Come, Pammy."
3996
3997 "Goodbye, sweetheart!"
3998
3999 With a reluctant backward glance the well-disciplined child held to her
4000 nurse's hand and was pulled out the door, just as Tom came back,
4001 preceding four gin rickeys that clicked full of ice.
4002
4003 Gatsby took up his drink.
4004
4005 "They certainly look cool," he said, with visible tension.
4006
4007 We drank in long greedy swallows.
4008
4009 "I read somewhere that the sun's getting hotter every year," said Tom
4010 genially. "It seems that pretty soon the earth's going to fall into the
4011 sun--or wait a minute--it's just the opposite--the sun's getting colder
4012 every year.
4013
4014 "Come outside," he suggested to Gatsby, "I'd like you to have a look at
4015 the place."
4016
4017 I went with them out to the veranda. On the green Sound, stagnant in the
4018 heat, one small sail crawled slowly toward the fresher sea. Gatsby's eyes
4019 followed it momentarily; he raised his hand and pointed across the bay.
4020
4021 "I'm right across from you."
4022
4023 "So you are."
4024
4025 Our eyes lifted over the rosebeds and the hot lawn and the weedy refuse
4026 of the dog days along shore. Slowly the white wings of the boat moved
4027 against the blue cool limit of the sky. Ahead lay the scalloped ocean and
4028 the abounding blessed isles.
4029
4030 "There's sport for you," said Tom, nodding. "I'd like to be out there
4031 with him for about an hour."
4032
4033 We had luncheon in the dining-room, darkened, too, against the heat,
4034 and drank down nervous gayety with the cold ale.
4035
4036 "What'll we do with ourselves this afternoon," cried Daisy, "and the
4037 day after that, and the next thirty years?"
4038
4039 "Don't be morbid," Jordan said. "Life starts all over again when it gets
4040 crisp in the fall."
4041
4042 "But it's so hot," insisted Daisy, on the verge of tears, "And
4043 everything's so confused. Let's all go to town!"
4044
4045 Her voice struggled on through the heat, beating against it, moulding its
4046 senselessness into forms.
4047
4048 "I've heard of making a garage out of a stable," Tom was saying to
4049 Gatsby, "but I'm the first man who ever made a stable out of a garage."
4050
4051 "Who wants to go to town?" demanded Daisy insistently. Gatsby's eyes
4052 floated toward her. "Ah," she cried, "you look so cool."
4053
4054 Their eyes met, and they stared together at each other, alone in space.
4055 With an effort she glanced down at the table.
4056
4057 "You always look so cool," she repeated.
4058
4059 She had told him that she loved him, and Tom Buchanan saw. He was
4060 astounded. His mouth opened a little and he looked at Gatsby and then
4061 back at Daisy as if he had just recognized her as some one he knew a
4062 long time ago.
4063
4064 "You resemble the advertisement of the man," she went on innocently.
4065 "You know the advertisement of the man----"
4066
4067 "All right," broke in Tom quickly, "I'm perfectly willing to go to
4068 town. Come on--we're all going to town."
4069
4070 He got up, his eyes still flashing between Gatsby and his wife.
4071 No one moved.
4072
4073 "Come on!" His temper cracked a little. "What's the matter, anyhow?
4074 If we're going to town let's start."
4075
4076 His hand, trembling with his effort at self control, bore to his lips the
4077 last of his glass of ale. Daisy's voice got us to our feet and out on
4078 to the blazing gravel drive.
4079
4080 "Are we just going to go?" she objected. "Like this? Aren't we going to
4081 let any one smoke a cigarette first?"
4082
4083 "Everybody smoked all through lunch."
4084
4085 "Oh, let's have fun," she begged him. "It's too hot to fuss."
4086
4087 He didn't answer.
4088
4089 "Have it your own way," she said. "Come on, Jordan."
4090
4091 They went upstairs to get ready while we three men stood there shuffling
4092 the hot pebbles with our feet. A silver curve of the moon hovered already
4093 in the western sky. Gatsby started to speak, changed his mind, but not
4094 before Tom wheeled and faced him expectantly.
4095
4096 "Have you got your stables here?" asked Gatsby with an effort.
4097
4098 "About a quarter of a mile down the road."
4099
4100 "Oh."
4101
4102 A pause.
4103
4104 "I don't see the idea of going to town," broke out Tom savagely.
4105 "Women get these notions in their heads----"
4106
4107 "Shall we take anything to drink?" called Daisy from an upper window.
4108
4109 "I'll get some whiskey," answered Tom. He went inside.
4110
4111 Gatsby turned to me rigidly:
4112
4113 "I can't say anything in his house, old sport."
4114
4115 "She's got an indiscreet voice," I remarked. "It's full of----"
4116
4117 I hesitated.
4118
4119 "Her voice is full of money," he said suddenly.
4120
4121 That was it. I'd never understood before. It was full of money--that was
4122 the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the
4123 cymbals' song of it. . . . High in a white palace the king's daughter,
4124 the golden girl. . . .
4125
4126 Tom came out of the house wrapping a quart bottle in a towel, followed
4127 by Daisy and Jordan wearing small tight hats of metallic cloth and
4128 carrying light capes over their arms.
4129
4130 "Shall we all go in my car?" suggested Gatsby. He felt the hot, green
4131 leather of the seat. "I ought to have left it in the shade."
4132
4133 "Is it standard shift?" demanded Tom.
4134
4135 "Yes."
4136
4137 "Well, you take my coupé and let me drive your car to town."
4138
4139 The suggestion was distasteful to Gatsby.
4140
4141 "I don't think there's much gas," he objected.
4142
4143 "Plenty of gas," said Tom boisterously. He looked at the gauge.
4144 "And if it runs out I can stop at a drug store. You can buy anything at a
4145 drug store nowadays."
4146
4147 A pause followed this apparently pointless remark. Daisy looked at Tom
4148 frowning and an indefinable expression, at once definitely unfamiliar
4149 and vaguely recognizable, as if I had only heard it described in words,
4150 passed over Gatsby's face.
4151
4152 "Come on, Daisy," said Tom, pressing her with his hand toward Gatsby's
4153 car. "I'll take you in this circus wagon."
4154
4155 He opened the door but she moved out from the circle of his arm.
4156
4157 "You take Nick and Jordan. We'll follow you in the coupé."
4158
4159 She walked close to Gatsby, touching his coat with her hand. Jordan and
4160 Tom and I got into the front seat of Gatsby's car, Tom pushed the
4161 unfamiliar gears tentatively and we shot off into the oppressive heat
4162 leaving them out of sight behind.
4163
4164 "Did you see that?" demanded Tom.
4165
4166 "See what?"
4167
4168 He looked at me keenly, realizing that Jordan and I must have known all
4169 along.
4170
4171 "You think I'm pretty dumb, don't you?" he suggested. "Perhaps I am, but
4172 I have a--almost a second sight, sometimes, that tells me what to do.
4173 Maybe you don't believe that, but science----"
4174
4175 He paused. The immediate contingency overtook him, pulled him back from
4176 the edge of the theoretical abyss.
4177
4178 "I've made a small investigation of this fellow," he continued. "I could
4179 have gone deeper if I'd known----"
4180
4181 "Do you mean you've been to a medium?" inquired Jordan humorously.
4182
4183 "What?" Confused, he stared at us as we laughed. "A medium?"
4184
4185 "About Gatsby."
4186
4187 "About Gatsby! No, I haven't. I said I'd been making a small
4188 investigation of his past."
4189
4190 "And you found he was an Oxford man," said Jordan helpfully.
4191
4192 "An Oxford man!" He was incredulous. "Like hell he is! He wears a
4193 pink suit."
4194
4195 "Nevertheless he's an Oxford man."
4196
4197 "Oxford, New Mexico," snorted Tom contemptuously, "or something like
4198 that."
4199
4200 "Listen, Tom. If you're such a snob, why did you invite him to lunch?"
4201 demanded Jordan crossly.
4202
4203 "Daisy invited him; she knew him before we were married--God knows
4204 where!"
4205
4206 We were all irritable now with the fading ale and, aware of it,
4207 we drove for a while in silence. Then as Doctor T. J. Eckleburg's faded
4208 eyes came into sight down the road, I remembered Gatsby's caution about
4209 gasoline.
4210
4211 "We've got enough to get us to town," said Tom.
4212
4213 "But there's a garage right here," objected Jordan. "I don't want to get
4214 stalled in this baking heat."
4215
4216 Tom threw on both brakes impatiently and we slid to an abrupt
4217 dusty stop under Wilson's sign. After a moment the proprietor emerged
4218 from the interior of his establishment and gazed hollow-eyed at the car.
4219
4220 "Let's have some gas!" cried Tom roughly. "What do you think we stopped
4221 for--to admire the view?"
4222
4223 "I'm sick," said Wilson without moving. "I been sick all day."
4224
4225 "What's the matter?"
4226
4227 "I'm all run down."
4228
4229 "Well, shall I help myself?" Tom demanded. "You sounded well enough
4230 on the phone."
4231
4232 With an effort Wilson left the shade and support of the doorway and,
4233 breathing hard, unscrewed the cap of the tank. In the sunlight his face
4234 was green.
4235
4236 "I didn't mean to interrupt your lunch," he said. "But I need money
4237 pretty bad and I was wondering what you were going to do with your
4238 old car."
4239
4240 "How do you like this one?" inquired Tom. "I bought it last week."
4241
4242 "It's a nice yellow one," said Wilson, as he strained at the handle.
4243
4244 "Like to buy it?"
4245
4246 "Big chance," Wilson smiled faintly. "No, but I could make some money
4247 on the other."
4248
4249 "What do you want money for, all of a sudden?"
4250
4251 "I've been here too long. I want to get away. My wife and I want to
4252 go west."
4253
4254 "Your wife does!" exclaimed Tom, startled.
4255
4256 "She's been talking about it for ten years." He rested for a moment
4257 against the pump, shading his eyes. "And now she's going whether she wants
4258 to or not. I'm going to get her away."
4259
4260 The coupé flashed by us with a flurry of dust and the flash of a
4261 waving hand.
4262
4263 "What do I owe you?" demanded Tom harshly.
4264
4265 "I just got wised up to something funny the last two days," remarked
4266 Wilson. "That's why I want to get away. That's why I been bothering you
4267 about the car."
4268
4269 "What do I owe you?"
4270
4271 "Dollar twenty."
4272
4273 The relentless beating heat was beginning to confuse me and I had
4274 a bad moment there before I realized that so far his suspicions
4275 hadn't alighted on Tom. He had discovered that Myrtle had some
4276 sort of life apart from him in another world and the shock had
4277 made him physically sick. I stared at him and then at Tom, who had made
4278 a parallel discovery less than an hour before--and it occurred to me
4279 that there was no difference between men, in intelligence or race, so
4280 profound as the difference between the sick and the well. Wilson was so
4281 sick that he looked guilty, unforgivably guilty--as if he had just got
4282 some poor girl with child.
4283
4284 "I'll let you have that car," said Tom. "I'll send it over tomorrow
4285 afternoon."
4286
4287 That locality was always vaguely disquieting, even in the broad
4288 glare of afternoon, and now I turned my head as though I had been
4289 warned of something behind. Over the ashheaps the giant eyes of
4290 Doctor T. J. Eckleburg kept their vigil but I perceived, after
4291 a moment, that other eyes were regarding us with peculiar intensity
4292 from less than twenty feet away.
4293
4294 In one of the windows over the garage the curtains had been moved aside
4295 a little and Myrtle Wilson was peering down at the car. So engrossed
4296 was she that she had no consciousness of being observed and one
4297 emotion after another crept into her face like objects into a slowly
4298 developing picture. Her expression was curiously familiar--it was an
4299 expression I had often seen on women's faces but on Myrtle Wilson's
4300 face it seemed purposeless and inexplicable until I realized that her
4301 eyes, wide with jealous terror, were fixed not on Tom, but on Jordan
4302 Baker, whom she took to be his wife.
4303
4304
4305 There is no confusion like the confusion of a simple mind, and as we
4306 drove away Tom was feeling the hot whips of panic. His wife and his
4307 mistress, until an hour ago secure and inviolate, were slipping
4308 precipitately from his control. Instinct made him step on the
4309 accelerator with the double purpose of overtaking Daisy and leaving
4310 Wilson behind, and we sped along toward Astoria at fifty miles an hour,
4311 until, among the spidery girders of the elevated, we came in sight of
4312 the easygoing blue coupé.
4313
4314 "Those big movies around Fiftieth Street are cool," suggested Jordan.
4315 "I love New York on summer afternoons when every one's away. There's
4316 something very sensuous about it--overripe, as if all sorts of funny
4317 fruits were going to fall into your hands."
4318
4319 The word "sensuous" had the effect of further disquieting Tom but before
4320 he could invent a protest the coupé came to a stop and Daisy signalled us
4321 to draw up alongside.
4322
4323 "Where are we going?" she cried.
4324
4325 "How about the movies?"
4326
4327 "It's so hot," she complained. "You go. We'll ride around and meet you
4328 after." With an effort her wit rose faintly, "We'll meet you on some
4329 corner. I'll be the man smoking two cigarettes."
4330
4331 "We can't argue about it here," Tom said impatiently as a truck gave
4332 out a cursing whistle behind us. "You follow me to the south side of
4333 Central Park, in front of the Plaza."
4334
4335 Several times he turned his head and looked back for their car,
4336 and if the traffic delayed them he slowed up until they came into
4337 sight. I think he was afraid they would dart down a side street and out
4338 of his life forever.
4339
4340 But they didn't. And we all took the less explicable step of engaging
4341 the parlor of a suite in the Plaza Hotel.
4342
4343 The prolonged and tumultuous argument that ended by herding us into
4344 that room eludes me, though I have a sharp physical memory that, in the
4345 course of it, my underwear kept climbing like a damp snake around my
4346 legs and intermittent beads of sweat raced cool across my back. The
4347 notion originated with Daisy's suggestion that we hire five bathrooms
4348 and take cold baths, and then assumed more tangible form as "a place to
4349 have a mint julep." Each of us said over and over that it was a "crazy
4350 idea"--we all talked at once to a baffled clerk and thought, or
4351 pretended to think, that we were being very funny. . . .
4352
4353 The room was large and stifling, and, though it was already four
4354 o'clock, opening the windows admitted only a gust of hot shrubbery from
4355 the Park. Daisy went to the mirror and stood with her back to us,
4356 fixing her hair.
4357
4358 "It's a swell suite," whispered Jordan respectfully and every one
4359 laughed.
4360
4361 "Open another window," commanded Daisy, without turning around.
4362
4363 "There aren't any more."
4364
4365 "Well, we'd better telephone for an axe----"
4366
4367 "The thing to do is to forget about the heat," said Tom impatiently.
4368 "You make it ten times worse by crabbing about it."
4369
4370 He unrolled the bottle of whiskey from the towel and put it on the table.
4371
4372 "Why not let her alone, old sport?" remarked Gatsby. "You're the one that
4373 wanted to come to town."
4374
4375 There was a moment of silence. The telephone book slipped from its nail
4376 and splashed to the floor, whereupon Jordan whispered "Excuse me"--but
4377 this time no one laughed.
4378
4379 "I'll pick it up," I offered.
4380
4381 "I've got it." Gatsby examined the parted string, muttered "Hum!" in an
4382 interested way, and tossed the book on a chair.
4383
4384 "That's a great expression of yours, isn't it?" said Tom sharply.
4385
4386 "What is?"
4387
4388 "All this 'old sport' business. Where'd you pick that up?"
4389
4390 "Now see here, Tom," said Daisy, turning around from the mirror, "if
4391 you're going to make personal remarks I won't stay here a minute. Call
4392 up and order some ice for the mint julep."
4393
4394 As Tom took up the receiver the compressed heat exploded into sound and
4395 we were listening to the portentous chords of Mendelssohn's Wedding March
4396 from the ballroom below.
4397
4398 "Imagine marrying anybody in this heat!" cried Jordan dismally.
4399
4400 "Still--I was married in the middle of June," Daisy remembered,
4401 "Louisville in June! Somebody fainted. Who was it fainted, Tom?"
4402
4403 "Biloxi," he answered shortly.
4404
4405 "A man named Biloxi. 'Blocks' Biloxi, and he made boxes--that's a
4406 fact--and he was from Biloxi, Tennessee."
4407
4408 "They carried him into my house," appended Jordan, "because we lived
4409 just two doors from the church. And he stayed three weeks, until Daddy
4410 told him he had to get out. The day after he left Daddy died." After a
4411 moment she added as if she might have sounded irreverent, "There
4412 wasn't any connection."
4413
4414 "I used to know a Bill Biloxi from Memphis," I remarked.
4415
4416 "That was his cousin. I knew his whole family history before he left.
4417 He gave me an aluminum putter that I use today."
4418
4419 The music had died down as the ceremony began and now a long cheer floated
4420 in at the window, followed by intermittent cries of "Yea--ea--ea!"
4421 and finally by a burst of jazz as the dancing began.
4422
4423 "We're getting old," said Daisy. "If we were young we'd rise and dance."
4424
4425 "Remember Biloxi," Jordan warned her. "Where'd you know him, Tom?"
4426
4427 "Biloxi?" He concentrated with an effort. "I didn't know him. He was a
4428 friend of Daisy's."
4429
4430 "He was not," she denied. "I'd never seen him before. He came down in
4431 the private car."
4432
4433 "Well, he said he knew you. He said he was raised in Louisville.
4434 Asa Bird brought him around at the last minute and asked if we had room
4435 for him."
4436
4437 Jordan smiled.
4438
4439 "He was probably bumming his way home. He told me he was president of
4440 your class at Yale."
4441
4442 Tom and I looked at each other blankly.
4443
4444 "BilOxi?"
4445
4446 "First place, we didn't have any president----"
4447
4448 Gatsby's foot beat a short, restless tattoo and Tom eyed him suddenly.
4449
4450 "By the way, Mr. Gatsby, I understand you're an Oxford man."
4451
4452 "Not exactly."
4453
4454 "Oh, yes, I understand you went to Oxford."
4455
4456 "Yes--I went there."
4457
4458 A pause. Then Tom's voice, incredulous and insulting:
4459
4460 "You must have gone there about the time Biloxi went to New Haven."
4461
4462 Another pause. A waiter knocked and came in with crushed mint and ice but
4463 the silence was unbroken by his "Thank you" and the soft closing of the
4464 door. This tremendous detail was to be cleared up at last.
4465
4466 "I told you I went there," said Gatsby.
4467
4468 "I heard you, but I'd like to know when."
4469
4470 "It was in nineteen-nineteen, I only stayed five months. That's why I
4471 can't really call myself an Oxford man."
4472
4473 Tom glanced around to see if we mirrored his unbelief. But we were all
4474 looking at Gatsby.
4475
4476 "It was an opportunity they gave to some of the officers after the
4477 Armistice," he continued. "We could go to any of the universities in
4478 England or France."
4479
4480 I wanted to get up and slap him on the back. I had one of those renewals
4481 of complete faith in him that I'd experienced before.
4482
4483 Daisy rose, smiling faintly, and went to the table.
4484
4485 "Open the whiskey, Tom," she ordered. "And I'll make you a mint julep.
4486 Then you won't seem so stupid to yourself. . . . Look at the mint!"
4487
4488 "Wait a minute," snapped Tom, "I want to ask Mr. Gatsby one more
4489 question."
4490
4491 "Go on," Gatsby said politely.
4492
4493 "What kind of a row are you trying to cause in my house anyhow?"
4494
4495 They were out in the open at last and Gatsby was content.
4496
4497 "He isn't causing a row." Daisy looked desperately from one to the
4498 other. "You're causing a row. Please have a little self control."
4499
4500 "Self control!" repeated Tom incredulously. "I suppose the latest thing
4501 is to sit back and let Mr. Nobody from Nowhere make love to your wife.
4502 Well, if that's the idea you can count me out. . . . Nowadays people begin
4503 by sneering at family life and family institutions and next they'll
4504 throw everything overboard and have intermarriage between black
4505 and white."
4506
4507 Flushed with his impassioned gibberish he saw himself standing alone on
4508 the last barrier of civilization.
4509
4510 "We're all white here," murmured Jordan.
4511
4512 "I know I'm not very popular. I don't give big parties. I suppose
4513 you've got to make your house into a pigsty in order to have any
4514 friends--in the modern world."
4515
4516 Angry as I was, as we all were, I was tempted to laugh whenever he opened
4517 his mouth. The transition from libertine to prig was so complete.
4518
4519 "I've got something to tell YOU, old sport,----" began Gatsby. But Daisy
4520 guessed at his intention.
4521
4522 "Please don't!" she interrupted helplessly. "Please let's all go home.
4523 Why don't we all go home?"
4524
4525 "That's a good idea." I got up. "Come on, Tom. Nobody wants a drink."
4526
4527 "I want to know what Mr. Gatsby has to tell me."
4528
4529 "Your wife doesn't love you," said Gatsby. "She's never loved you.
4530 She loves me."
4531
4532 "You must be crazy!" exclaimed Tom automatically.
4533
4534 Gatsby sprang to his feet, vivid with excitement.
4535
4536 "She never loved you, do you hear?" he cried. "She only married you
4537 because I was poor and she was tired of waiting for me. It was a terrible
4538 mistake, but in her heart she never loved any one except me!"
4539
4540 At this point Jordan and I tried to go but Tom and Gatsby insisted with
4541 competitive firmness that we remain--as though neither of them had
4542 anything to conceal and it would be a privilege to partake vicariously
4543 of their emotions.
4544
4545 "Sit down Daisy." Tom's voice groped unsuccessfully for the paternal
4546 note. "What's been going on? I want to hear all about it."
4547
4548 "I told you what's been going on," said Gatsby. "Going on for five
4549 years--and you didn't know."
4550
4551 Tom turned to Daisy sharply.
4552
4553 "You've been seeing this fellow for five years?"
4554
4555 "Not seeing," said Gatsby. "No, we couldn't meet. But both of us loved
4556 each other all that time, old sport, and you didn't know. I used to laugh
4557 sometimes--"but there was no laughter in his eyes, "to think that you
4558 didn't know."
4559
4560 "Oh--that's all." Tom tapped his thick fingers together like a clergyman
4561 and leaned back in his chair.
4562
4563 "You're crazy!" he exploded. "I can't speak about what happened five years
4564 ago, because I didn't know Daisy then--and I'll be damned if I see how you
4565 got within a mile of her unless you brought the groceries to the back
4566 door. But all the rest of that's a God Damned lie. Daisy loved me when
4567 she married me and she loves me now."
4568
4569 "No," said Gatsby, shaking his head.
4570
4571 "She does, though. The trouble is that sometimes she gets foolish ideas
4572 in her head and doesn't know what she's doing." He nodded sagely. "And
4573 what's more, I love Daisy too. Once in a while I go off on a spree
4574 and make a fool of myself, but I always come back, and in my heart I
4575 love her all the time."
4576
4577 "You're revolting," said Daisy. She turned to me, and her voice,
4578 dropping an octave lower, filled the room with thrilling scorn: "Do you
4579 know why we left Chicago? I'm surprised that they didn't treat you to
4580 the story of that little spree."
4581
4582 Gatsby walked over and stood beside her.
4583
4584 "Daisy, that's all over now," he said earnestly. "It doesn't matter any
4585 more. Just tell him the truth--that you never loved him--and it's all
4586 wiped out forever."
4587
4588 She looked at him blindly. "Why,--how could I love him--possibly?"
4589
4590 "You never loved him."
4591
4592 She hesitated. Her eyes fell on Jordan and me with a sort of appeal,
4593 as though she realized at last what she was doing--and as though she had
4594 never, all along, intended doing anything at all. But it was done now.
4595 It was too late.
4596
4597 "I never loved him," she said, with perceptible reluctance.
4598
4599 "Not at Kapiolani?" demanded Tom suddenly.
4600
4601 "No."
4602
4603 From the ballroom beneath, muffled and suffocating chords were drifting up
4604 on hot waves of air.
4605
4606 "Not that day I carried you down from the Punch Bowl to keep your shoes
4607 dry?" There was a husky tenderness in his tone. ". . . Daisy?"
4608
4609 "Please don't." Her voice was cold, but the rancour was gone from it.
4610 She looked at Gatsby. "There, Jay," she said--but her hand as she tried
4611 to light a cigarette was trembling. Suddenly she threw the cigarette and
4612 the burning match on the carpet.
4613
4614 "Oh, you want too much!" she cried to Gatsby. "I love you now--isn't that
4615 enough? I can't help what's past." She began to sob helplessly.
4616 "I did love him once--but I loved you too."
4617
4618 Gatsby's eyes opened and closed.
4619
4620 "You loved me TOO?" he repeated.
4621
4622 "Even that's a lie," said Tom savagely. "She didn't know you were alive.
4623 Why,--there're things between Daisy and me that you'll never know,
4624 things that neither of us can ever forget."
4625
4626 The words seemed to bite physically into Gatsby.
4627
4628 "I want to speak to Daisy alone," he insisted. "She's all excited now----"
4629
4630 "Even alone I can't say I never loved Tom," she admitted in a pitiful
4631 voice. "It wouldn't be true."
4632
4633 "Of course it wouldn't," agreed Tom.
4634
4635 She turned to her husband.
4636
4637 "As if it mattered to you," she said.
4638
4639 "Of course it matters. I'm going to take better care of you from now on."
4640
4641 "You don't understand," said Gatsby, with a touch of panic. "You're not
4642 going to take care of her any more."
4643
4644 "I'm not?" Tom opened his eyes wide and laughed. He could afford to
4645 control himself now. "Why's that?"
4646
4647 "Daisy's leaving you."
4648
4649 "Nonsense."
4650
4651 "I am, though," she said with a visible effort.
4652
4653 "She's not leaving me!" Tom's words suddenly leaned down over Gatsby.
4654 "Certainly not for a common swindler who'd have to steal the ring he
4655 put on her finger."
4656
4657 "I won't stand this!" cried Daisy. "Oh, please let's get out."
4658
4659 "Who are you, anyhow?" broke out Tom. "You're one of that bunch that
4660 hangs around with Meyer Wolfshiem--that much I happen to know. I've made
4661 a little investigation into your affairs--and I'll carry it further
4662 tomorrow."
4663
4664 "You can suit yourself about that, old sport." said Gatsby steadily.
4665
4666 "I found out what your 'drug stores' were." He turned to us and spoke
4667 rapidly. "He and this Wolfshiem bought up a lot of side-street drug stores
4668 here and in Chicago and sold grain alcohol over the counter. That's one of
4669 his little stunts. I picked him for a bootlegger the first time I saw
4670 him and I wasn't far wrong."
4671
4672 "What about it?" said Gatsby politely. "I guess your friend Walter Chase
4673 wasn't too proud to come in on it."
4674
4675 "And you left him in the lurch, didn't you? You let him go to jail for
4676 a month over in New Jersey. God! You ought to hear Walter on the subject
4677 of YOU."
4678
4679 "He came to us dead broke. He was very glad to pick up some money, old
4680 sport."
4681
4682 "Don't you call me 'old sport'!" cried Tom. Gatsby said nothing.
4683 "Walter could have you up on the betting laws too, but Wolfshiem scared
4684 him into shutting his mouth."
4685
4686 That unfamiliar yet recognizable look was back again in Gatsby's face.
4687
4688 "That drug store business was just small change," continued Tom slowly,
4689 "but you've got something on now that Walter's afraid to tell me
4690 about."
4691
4692 I glanced at Daisy who was staring terrified between Gatsby
4693 and her husband and at Jordan who had begun to balance an invisible
4694 but absorbing object on the tip of her chin. Then I turned back to
4695 Gatsby--and was startled at his expression. He looked--and this is said
4696 in all contempt for the babbled slander of his garden--as if he had
4697 "killed a man." For a moment the set of his face could be described in
4698 just that fantastic way.
4699
4700 It passed, and he began to talk excitedly to Daisy, denying everything,
4701 defending his name against accusations that had not been made. But with
4702 every word she was drawing further and further into herself, so he gave
4703 that up and only the dead dream fought on as the afternoon slipped
4704 away, trying to touch what was no longer tangible, struggling
4705 unhappily, undespairingly, toward that lost voice across the room.
4706
4707 The voice begged again to go.
4708
4709 "PLEASE, Tom! I can't stand this any more."
4710
4711 Her frightened eyes told that whatever intentions, whatever courage
4712 she had had, were definitely gone.
4713
4714 "You two start on home, Daisy," said Tom. "In Mr. Gatsby's car."
4715
4716 She looked at Tom, alarmed now, but he insisted with magnanimous scorn.
4717
4718 "Go on. He won't annoy you. I think he realizes that his presumptuous
4719 little flirtation is over."
4720
4721 They were gone, without a word, snapped out, made accidental, isolated,
4722 like ghosts even from our pity.
4723
4724 After a moment Tom got up and began wrapping the unopened bottle of
4725 whiskey in the towel.
4726
4727 "Want any of this stuff? Jordan? . . . Nick?"
4728
4729 I didn't answer.
4730
4731 "Nick?" He asked again.
4732
4733 "What?"
4734
4735 "Want any?"
4736
4737 "No . . . I just remembered that today's my birthday."
4738
4739 I was thirty. Before me stretched the portentous menacing road of a
4740 new decade.
4741
4742 It was seven o'clock when we got into the coupé with him and started
4743 for Long Island. Tom talked incessantly, exulting and laughing, but his
4744 voice was as remote from Jordan and me as the foreign clamor on the
4745 sidewalk or the tumult of the elevated overhead. Human sympathy
4746 has its limits and we were content to let all their tragic arguments
4747 fade with the city lights behind. Thirty--the promise of a decade
4748 of loneliness, a thinning list of single men to know, a thinning
4749 brief-case of enthusiasm, thinning hair. But there was Jordan beside
4750 me who, unlike Daisy, was too wise ever to carry well-forgotten
4751 dreams from age to age. As we passed over the dark bridge her wan face
4752 fell lazily against my coat's shoulder and the formidable stroke of
4753 thirty died away with the reassuring pressure of her hand.
4754
4755 So we drove on toward death through the cooling twilight.
4756
4757
4758 The young Greek, Michaelis, who ran the coffee joint beside the
4759 ashheaps was the principal witness at the inquest. He had slept through
4760 the heat until after five, when he strolled over to the garage and
4761 found George Wilson sick in his office--really sick, pale as his own
4762 pale hair and shaking all over. Michaelis advised him to go to bed but
4763 Wilson refused, saying that he'd miss a lot of business if he did.
4764 While his neighbor was trying to persuade him a violent racket broke
4765 out overhead.
4766
4767 "I've got my wife locked in up there," explained Wilson calmly.
4768 "She's going to stay there till the day after tomorrow and then we're
4769 going to move away."
4770
4771 Michaelis was astonished; they had been neighbors for four years and
4772 Wilson had never seemed faintly capable of such a statement. Generally
4773 he was one of these worn-out men: when he wasn't working he sat on a
4774 chair in the doorway and stared at the people and the cars that passed
4775 along the road. When any one spoke to him he invariably laughed in an
4776 agreeable, colorless way. He was his wife's man and not his own.
4777
4778 So naturally Michaelis tried to find out what had happened, but Wilson
4779 wouldn't say a word--instead he began to throw curious, suspicious
4780 glances at his visitor and ask him what he'd been doing at certain
4781 times on certain days. Just as the latter was getting uneasy some
4782 workmen came past the door bound for his restaurant and Michaelis took
4783 the opportunity to get away, intending to come back later. But he didn't.
4784 He supposed he forgot to, that's all. When he came outside again
4785 a little after seven he was reminded of the conversation because he
4786 heard Mrs. Wilson's voice, loud and scolding, downstairs in the garage.
4787
4788 "Beat me!" he heard her cry. "Throw me down and beat me, you dirty
4789 little coward!"
4790
4791 A moment later she rushed out into the dusk, waving her hands and
4792 shouting; before he could move from his door the business was over.
4793
4794 The "death car" as the newspapers called it, didn't stop; it came out
4795 of the gathering darkness, wavered tragically for a moment and then
4796 disappeared around the next bend. Michaelis wasn't even sure of its
4797 color--he told the first policeman that it was light green. The other
4798 car, the one going toward New York, came to rest a hundred yards
4799 beyond, and its driver hurried back to where Myrtle Wilson, her life
4800 violently extinguished, knelt in the road and mingled her thick, dark
4801 blood with the dust.
4802
4803 Michaelis and this man reached her first but when they had torn open
4804 her shirtwaist still damp with perspiration, they saw that her left
4805 breast was swinging loose like a flap and there was no need to listen
4806 for the heart beneath. The mouth was wide open and ripped at the
4807 corners as though she had choked a little in giving up the tremendous
4808 vitality she had stored so long.
4809
4810
4811 We saw the three or four automobiles and the crowd when we were still
4812 some distance away.
4813
4814 "Wreck!" said Tom. "That's good. Wilson'll have a little business
4815 at last."
4816
4817 He slowed down, but still without any intention of stopping until,
4818 as we came nearer, the hushed intent faces of the people at the garage
4819 door made him automatically put on the brakes.
4820
4821 "We'll take a look," he said doubtfully, "just a look."
4822
4823 I became aware now of a hollow, wailing sound which issued incessantly
4824 from the garage, a sound which as we got out of the coupé and walked
4825 toward the door resolved itself into the words "Oh, my God!" uttered over
4826 and over in a gasping moan.
4827
4828 "There's some bad trouble here," said Tom excitedly.
4829
4830 He reached up on tiptoes and peered over a circle of heads into the
4831 garage which was lit only by a yellow light in a swinging wire basket
4832 overhead. Then he made a harsh sound in his throat and with a violent
4833 thrusting movement of his powerful arms pushed his way through.
4834
4835 The circle closed up again with a running murmur of expostulation; it
4836 was a minute before I could see anything at all. Then new arrivals
4837 disarranged the line and Jordan and I were pushed suddenly inside.
4838
4839 Myrtle Wilson's body wrapped in a blanket and then in another
4840 blanket as though she suffered from a chill in the hot night lay on a
4841 work table by the wall and Tom, with his back to us, was bending over
4842 it, motionless. Next to him stood a motorcycle policeman taking down
4843 names with much sweat and correction in a little book. At first I
4844 couldn't find the source of the high, groaning words that echoed
4845 clamorously through the bare garage--then I saw Wilson standing on the
4846 raised threshold of his office, swaying back and forth and holding to
4847 the doorposts with both hands. Some man was talking to him in a low
4848 voice and attempting from time to time to lay a hand on his shoulder,
4849 but Wilson neither heard nor saw. His eyes would drop slowly from the
4850 swinging light to the laden table by the wall and then jerk back to
4851 the light again and he gave out incessantly his high horrible call.
4852
4853 "O, my Ga-od! O, my Ga-od! Oh, Ga-od! Oh, my Ga-od!"
4854
4855 Presently Tom lifted his head with a jerk and after staring around the
4856 garage with glazed eyes addressed a mumbled incoherent remark to the
4857 policeman.
4858
4859 "M-a-v--" the policeman was saying, "--o----"
4860
4861 "No,--r--" corrected the man, "M-a-v-r-o----"
4862
4863 "Listen to me!" muttered Tom fiercely.
4864
4865 "r--" said the policeman, "o----"
4866
4867 "g----"
4868
4869 "g--" He looked up as Tom's broad hand fell sharply on his shoulder.
4870 "What you want, fella?"
4871
4872 "What happened--that's what I want to know!"
4873
4874 "Auto hit her. Ins'antly killed."
4875
4876 "Instantly killed," repeated Tom, staring.
4877
4878 "She ran out ina road. Son-of-a-bitch didn't even stopus car."
4879
4880 "There was two cars," said Michaelis, "one comin', one goin', see?"
4881
4882 "Going where?" asked the policeman keenly.
4883
4884 "One goin' each way. Well, she--" His hand rose toward the blankets but
4885 stopped half way and fell to his side, "--she ran out there an' the one
4886 comin' from N'York knock right into her goin' thirty or forty miles an
4887 hour."
4888
4889 "What's the name of this place here?" demanded the officer.
4890
4891 "Hasn't got any name."
4892
4893 A pale, well-dressed Negro stepped near.
4894
4895 "It was a yellow car," he said, "big yellow car. New."
4896
4897 "See the accident?" asked the policeman.
4898
4899 "No, but the car passed me down the road, going faster'n forty. Going
4900 fifty, sixty."
4901
4902 "Come here and let's have your name. Look out now. I want to get his
4903 name."
4904
4905 Some words of this conversation must have reached Wilson swaying
4906 in the office door, for suddenly a new theme found voice among
4907 his gasping cries.
4908
4909 "You don't have to tell me what kind of car it was! I know what kind of
4910 car it was!"
4911
4912 Watching Tom I saw the wad of muscle back of his shoulder tighten
4913 under his coat. He walked quickly over to Wilson and standing
4914 in front of him seized him firmly by the upper arms.
4915
4916 "You've got to pull yourself together," he said with soothing
4917 gruffness.
4918
4919 Wilson's eyes fell upon Tom; he started up on his tiptoes and then
4920 would have collapsed to his knees had not Tom held him upright.
4921
4922 "Listen," said Tom, shaking him a little. "I just got here a minute ago,
4923 from New York. I was bringing you that coupé we've been talking about.
4924 That yellow car I was driving this afternoon wasn't mine, do you hear? I
4925 haven't seen it all afternoon."
4926
4927 Only the Negro and I were near enough to hear what he said but the
4928 policeman caught something in the tone and looked over with truculent
4929 eyes.
4930
4931 "What's all that?" he demanded.
4932
4933 "I'm a friend of his." Tom turned his head but kept his hands firm on
4934 Wilson's body. "He says he knows the car that did it. . . . It was a yellow
4935 car."
4936
4937 Some dim impulse moved the policeman to look suspiciously at Tom.
4938
4939 "And what color's your car?"
4940
4941 "It's a blue car, a coupé."
4942
4943 "We've come straight from New York," I said.
4944
4945 Some one who had been driving a little behind us confirmed this and
4946 the policeman turned away.
4947
4948 "Now, if you'll let me have that name again correct----"
4949
4950 Picking up Wilson like a doll Tom carried him into the office,
4951 set him down in a chair and came back.
4952
4953 "If somebody'll come here and sit with him!" he snapped
4954 authoritatively. He watched while the two men standing closest glanced
4955 at each other and went unwillingly into the room. Then Tom shut the
4956 door on them and came down the single step, his eyes avoiding the
4957 table. As he passed close to me he whispered "Let's get out."
4958
4959 Self consciously, with his authoritative arms breaking the way, we
4960 pushed through the still gathering crowd, passing a hurried doctor,
4961 case in hand, who had been sent for in wild hope half an hour ago.
4962
4963 Tom drove slowly until we were beyond the bend--then his foot came down
4964 hard and the coupé raced along through the night. In a little while I
4965 heard a low husky sob and saw that the tears were overflowing down his
4966 face.
4967
4968 "The God Damn coward!" he whimpered. "He didn't even stop his car."
4969
4970
4971 The Buchanans' house floated suddenly toward us through the dark rustling
4972 trees. Tom stopped beside the porch and looked up at the second floor
4973 where two windows bloomed with light among the vines.
4974
4975 "Daisy's home," he said. As we got out of the car he glanced at me and
4976 frowned slightly.
4977
4978 "I ought to have dropped you in West Egg, Nick. There's nothing we can
4979 do tonight."
4980
4981 A change had come over him and he spoke gravely, and with decision.
4982 As we walked across the moonlight gravel to the porch he disposed of
4983 the situation in a few brisk phrases.
4984
4985 "I'll telephone for a taxi to take you home, and while you're waiting
4986 you and Jordan better go in the kitchen and have them get you some
4987 supper--if you want any." He opened the door. "Come in."
4988
4989 "No thanks. But I'd be glad if you'd order me the taxi. I'll wait
4990 outside."
4991
4992 Jordan put her hand on my arm.
4993
4994 "Won't you come in, Nick?"
4995
4996 "No thanks."
4997
4998 I was feeling a little sick and I wanted to be alone. But Jordan lingered
4999 for a moment more.
5000
5001 "It's only half past nine," she said.
5002
5003 I'd be damned if I'd go in; I'd had enough of all of them for one day
5004 and suddenly that included Jordan too. She must have seen something of
5005 this in my expression for she turned abruptly away and ran up the
5006 porch steps into the house. I sat down for a few minutes with my head
5007 in my hands, until I heard the phone taken up inside and the butler's
5008 voice calling a taxi. Then I walked slowly down the drive away from the
5009 house intending to wait by the gate.
5010
5011 I hadn't gone twenty yards when I heard my name and Gatsby stepped from
5012 between two bushes into the path. I must have felt pretty weird by that
5013 time because I could think of nothing except the luminosity of his
5014 pink suit under the moon.
5015
5016 "What are you doing?" I inquired.
5017
5018 "Just standing here, old sport."
5019
5020 Somehow, that seemed a despicable occupation. For all I knew he was going
5021 to rob the house in a moment; I wouldn't have been surprised to see
5022 sinister faces, the faces of "Wolfshiem's people," behind him in the
5023 dark shrubbery.
5024
5025 "Did you see any trouble on the road?" he asked after a minute.
5026
5027 "Yes."
5028
5029 He hesitated.
5030
5031 "Was she killed?"
5032
5033 "Yes."
5034
5035 "I thought so; I told Daisy I thought so. It's better that the shock
5036 should all come at once. She stood it pretty well."
5037
5038 He spoke as if Daisy's reaction was the only thing that mattered.
5039
5040 "I got to West Egg by a side road," he went on, "and left the car in my
5041 garage. I don't think anybody saw us but of course I can't be sure."
5042
5043 I disliked him so much by this time that I didn't find it necessary to
5044 tell him he was wrong.
5045
5046 "Who was the woman?" he inquired.
5047
5048 "Her name was Wilson. Her husband owns the garage. How the devil did it
5049 happen?"
5050
5051 "Well, I tried to swing the wheel----" He broke off, and suddenly I
5052 guessed at the truth.
5053
5054 "Was Daisy driving?"
5055
5056 "Yes," he said after a moment, "but of course I'll say I was. You see,
5057 when we left New York she was very nervous and she thought it would
5058 steady her to drive--and this woman rushed out at us just as we were
5059 passing a car coming the other way. It all happened in a minute but it
5060 seemed to me that she wanted to speak to us, thought we were somebody
5061 she knew. Well, first Daisy turned away from the woman toward the other
5062 car, and then she lost her nerve and turned back. The second my hand
5063 reached the wheel I felt the shock--it must have killed her instantly."
5064
5065 "It ripped her open----"
5066
5067 "Don't tell me, old sport." He winced. "Anyhow--Daisy stepped on it.
5068 I tried to make her stop, but she couldn't so I pulled on the emergency
5069 brake. Then she fell over into my lap and I drove on.
5070
5071 "She'll be all right tomorrow," he said presently. "I'm just going to
5072 wait here and see if he tries to bother her about that unpleasantness
5073 this afternoon. She's locked herself into her room and if he tries any
5074 brutality she's going to turn the light out and on again."
5075
5076 "He won't touch her," I said. "He's not thinking about her."
5077
5078 "I don't trust him, old sport."
5079
5080 "How long are you going to wait?"
5081
5082 "All night if necessary. Anyhow till they all go to bed."
5083
5084 A new point of view occurred to me. Suppose Tom found out that Daisy had
5085 been driving. He might think he saw a connection in it--he might think
5086 anything. I looked at the house: there were two or three bright windows
5087 downstairs and the pink glow from Daisy's room on the second floor.
5088
5089 "You wait here," I said. "I'll see if there's any sign of a commotion."
5090
5091 I walked back along the border of the lawn, traversed the gravel softly
5092 and tiptoed up the veranda steps. The drawing-room curtains were open,
5093 and I saw that the room was empty. Crossing the porch where we had dined
5094 that June night three months before I came to a small rectangle of light
5095 which I guessed was the pantry window. The blind was drawn but I found
5096 a rift at the sill.
5097
5098 Daisy and Tom were sitting opposite each other at the kitchen table
5099 with a plate of cold fried chicken between them and two bottles of
5100 ale. He was talking intently across the table at her and in his
5101 earnestness his hand had fallen upon and covered her own. Once in a
5102 while she looked up at him and nodded in agreement.
5103
5104 They weren't happy, and neither of them had touched the chicken or the
5105 ale--and yet they weren't unhappy either. There was an unmistakable air
5106 of natural intimacy about the picture and anybody would have said that
5107 they were conspiring together.
5108
5109 As I tiptoed from the porch I heard my taxi feeling its way along the
5110 dark road toward the house. Gatsby was waiting where I had left him in
5111 the drive.
5112
5113 "Is it all quiet up there?" he asked anxiously.
5114
5115 "Yes, it's all quiet." I hesitated. "You'd better come home and get
5116 some sleep."
5117
5118 He shook his head.
5119
5120 "I want to wait here till Daisy goes to bed. Good night, old sport."
5121
5122 He put his hands in his coat pockets and turned back eagerly to his
5123 scrutiny of the house, as though my presence marred the sacredness of
5124 the vigil. So I walked away and left him standing there in the
5125 moonlight--watching over nothing.
5126
5127
5128
5129
5130 Chapter 8
5131
5132
5133
5134 I couldn't sleep all night; a fog-horn was groaning incessantly on the
5135 Sound, and I tossed half-sick between grotesque reality and savage
5136 frightening dreams. Toward dawn I heard a taxi go up Gatsby's drive
5137 and immediately I jumped out of bed and began to dress--I felt that I
5138 had something to tell him, something to warn him about and morning
5139 would be too late.
5140
5141 Crossing his lawn I saw that his front door was still open and he was
5142 leaning against a table in the hall, heavy with dejection or sleep.
5143
5144 "Nothing happened," he said wanly. "I waited, and about four o'clock she
5145 came to the window and stood there for a minute and then turned out
5146 the light."
5147
5148 His house had never seemed so enormous to me as it did that night when we
5149 hunted through the great rooms for cigarettes. We pushed aside curtains
5150 that were like pavilions and felt over innumerable feet of dark wall for
5151 electric light switches--once I tumbled with a sort of splash upon the
5152 keys of a ghostly piano. There was an inexplicable amount of dust
5153 everywhere and the rooms were musty as though they hadn't been aired for
5154 many days. I found the humidor on an unfamiliar table with two stale dry
5155 cigarettes inside. Throwing open the French windows of the
5156 drawing-room we sat smoking out into the darkness.
5157
5158 "You ought to go away," I said. "It's pretty certain they'll trace
5159 your car."
5160
5161 "Go away NOW, old sport?"
5162
5163 "Go to Atlantic City for a week, or up to Montreal."
5164
5165 He wouldn't consider it. He couldn't possibly leave Daisy until he knew
5166 what she was going to do. He was clutching at some last hope and I
5167 couldn't bear to shake him free.
5168
5169 It was this night that he told me the strange story of his youth with
5170 Dan Cody--told it to me because "Jay Gatsby" had broken up like glass
5171 against Tom's hard malice and the long secret extravaganza was played
5172 out. I think that he would have acknowledged anything, now, without
5173 reserve, but he wanted to talk about Daisy.
5174
5175 She was the first "nice" girl he had ever known. In various unrevealed
5176 capacities he had come in contact with such people but always
5177 with indiscernible barbed wire between. He found her excitingly
5178 desirable. He went to her house, at first with other officers
5179 from Camp Taylor, then alone. It amazed him--he had never been
5180 in such a beautiful house before. But what gave it an air of breathless
5181 intensity was that Daisy lived there--it was as casual a thing to her
5182 as his tent out at camp was to him. There was a ripe mystery about it,
5183 a hint of bedrooms upstairs more beautiful and cool than other
5184 bedrooms, of gay and radiant activities taking place through its
5185 corridors and of romances that were not musty and laid away already in
5186 lavender but fresh and breathing and redolent of this year's shining
5187 motor cars and of dances whose flowers were scarcely withered. It
5188 excited him too that many men had already loved Daisy--it increased
5189 her value in his eyes. He felt their presence all about the house,
5190 pervading the air with the shades and echoes of still vibrant emotions.
5191
5192 But he knew that he was in Daisy's house by a colossal accident.
5193 However glorious might be his future as Jay Gatsby, he was at present a
5194 penniless young man without a past, and at any moment the invisible
5195 cloak of his uniform might slip from his shoulders. So he made
5196 the most of his time. He took what he could get, ravenously and
5197 unscrupulously--eventually he took Daisy one still October night,
5198 took her because he had no real right to touch her hand.
5199
5200 He might have despised himself, for he had certainly taken her under
5201 false pretenses. I don't mean that he had traded on his phantom
5202 millions, but he had deliberately given Daisy a sense of security; he
5203 let her believe that he was a person from much the same stratum as
5204 herself--that he was fully able to take care of her. As a matter of
5205 fact he had no such facilities--he had no comfortable family standing
5206 behind him and he was liable at the whim of an impersonal government
5207 to be blown anywhere about the world.
5208
5209 But he didn't despise himself and it didn't turn out as he had
5210 imagined. He had intended, probably, to take what he could and go--but
5211 now he found that he had committed himself to the following of a grail.
5212 He knew that Daisy was extraordinary but he didn't realize just how
5213 extraordinary a "nice" girl could be. She vanished into her rich
5214 house, into her rich, full life, leaving Gatsby--nothing. He felt
5215 married to her, that was all.
5216
5217 When they met again two days later it was Gatsby who was breathless,
5218 who was somehow betrayed. Her porch was bright with the bought
5219 luxury of star-shine; the wicker of the settee squeaked fashionably
5220 as she turned toward him and he kissed her curious and lovely mouth.
5221 She had caught a cold and it made her voice huskier and more charming
5222 than ever and Gatsby was overwhelmingly aware of the youth and mystery
5223 that wealth imprisons and preserves, of the freshness of many clothes
5224 and of Daisy, gleaming like silver, safe and proud above the hot
5225 struggles of the poor.
5226
5227
5228 "I can't describe to you how surprised I was to find out I loved her,
5229 old sport. I even hoped for a while that she'd throw me over, but she
5230 didn't, because she was in love with me too. She thought I knew a lot
5231 because I knew different things from her. . . . Well, there I was,
5232 way off my ambitions, getting deeper in love every minute, and
5233 all of a sudden I didn't care. What was the use of doing great
5234 things if I could have a better time telling her what I was going
5235 to do?"
5236
5237 On the last afternoon before he went abroad he sat with Daisy in
5238 his arms for a long, silent time. It was a cold fall day with fire
5239 in the room and her cheeks flushed. Now and then she moved and he
5240 changed his arm a little and once he kissed her dark shining hair. The
5241 afternoon had made them tranquil for a while as if to give them a deep
5242 memory for the long parting the next day promised. They had never been
5243 closer in their month of love nor communicated more profoundly one
5244 with another than when she brushed silent lips against his coat's
5245 shoulder or when he touched the end of her fingers, gently, as though
5246 she were asleep.
5247
5248
5249 He did extraordinarily well in the war. He was a captain before he went
5250 to the front and following the Argonne battles he got his majority and
5251 the command of the divisional machine guns. After the Armistice
5252 he tried frantically to get home but some complication or
5253 misunderstanding sent him to Oxford instead. He was worried now--there
5254 was a quality of nervous despair in Daisy's letters. She didn't see why
5255 he couldn't come. She was feeling the pressure of the world outside
5256 and she wanted to see him and feel his presence beside her and be
5257 reassured that she was doing the right thing after all.
5258
5259 For Daisy was young and her artificial world was redolent of orchids
5260 and pleasant, cheerful snobbery and orchestras which set the rhythm of
5261 the year, summing up the sadness and suggestiveness of life in new
5262 tunes. All night the saxophones wailed the hopeless comment of the
5263 "Beale Street Blues" while a hundred pairs of golden and silver
5264 slippers shuffled the shining dust. At the grey tea hour there were
5265 always rooms that throbbed incessantly with this low sweet fever,
5266 while fresh faces drifted here and there like rose petals blown by the
5267 sad horns around the floor.
5268
5269 Through this twilight universe Daisy began to move again with the
5270 season; suddenly she was again keeping half a dozen dates a day with
5271 half a dozen men and drowsing asleep at dawn with the beads and
5272 chiffon of an evening dress tangled among dying orchids on the floor
5273 beside her bed. And all the time something within her was crying for a
5274 decision. She wanted her life shaped now, immediately--and the decision
5275 must be made by some force--of love, of money, of unquestionable
5276 practicality--that was close at hand.
5277
5278 That force took shape in the middle of spring with the arrival of Tom
5279 Buchanan. There was a wholesome bulkiness about his person and his
5280 position and Daisy was flattered. Doubtless there was a certain
5281 struggle and a certain relief. The letter reached Gatsby while he was
5282 still at Oxford.
5283
5284
5285 It was dawn now on Long Island and we went about opening the rest of
5286 the windows downstairs, filling the house with grey turning,
5287 gold turning light. The shadow of a tree fell abruptly across the dew
5288 and ghostly birds began to sing among the blue leaves. There was a
5289 slow pleasant movement in the air, scarcely a wind, promising a cool
5290 lovely day.
5291
5292 "I don't think she ever loved him." Gatsby turned around from a window
5293 and looked at me challengingly. "You must remember, old sport, she was
5294 very excited this afternoon. He told her those things in a way that
5295 frightened her--that made it look as if I was some kind of cheap sharper.
5296 And the result was she hardly knew what she was saying."
5297
5298 He sat down gloomily.
5299
5300 "Of course she might have loved him, just for a minute, when they were
5301 first married--and loved me more even then, do you see?"
5302
5303 Suddenly he came out with a curious remark:
5304
5305 "In any case," he said, "it was just personal."
5306
5307 What could you make of that, except to suspect some intensity in
5308 his conception of the affair that couldn't be measured?
5309
5310 He came back from France when Tom and Daisy were still on their wedding
5311 trip, and made a miserable but irresistible journey to Louisville
5312 on the last of his army pay. He stayed there a week, walking the
5313 streets where their footsteps had clicked together through the
5314 November night and revisiting the out-of-the-way places to which
5315 they had driven in her white car. Just as Daisy's house had always
5316 seemed to him more mysterious and gay than other houses so his
5317 idea of the city itself, even though she was gone from it, was pervaded
5318 with a melancholy beauty.
5319
5320 He left feeling that if he had searched harder he might have found
5321 her--that he was leaving her behind. The day-coach--he was penniless
5322 now--was hot. He went out to the open vestibule and sat down on a
5323 folding-chair, and the station slid away and the backs of unfamiliar
5324 buildings moved by. Then out into the spring fields, where a yellow
5325 trolley raced them for a minute with people in it who might once have
5326 seen the pale magic of her face along the casual street.
5327
5328 The track curved and now it was going away from the sun which, as it
5329 sank lower, seemed to spread itself in benediction over the vanishing
5330 city where she had drawn her breath. He stretched out his hand
5331 desperately as if to snatch only a wisp of air, to save a fragment of
5332 the spot that she had made lovely for him. But it was all going by too
5333 fast now for his blurred eyes and he knew that he had lost that part of
5334 it, the freshest and the best, forever.
5335
5336
5337 It was nine o'clock when we finished breakfast and went out on the
5338 porch. The night had made a sharp difference in the weather and there
5339 was an autumn flavor in the air. The gardener, the last one of Gatsby's
5340 former servants, came to the foot of the steps.
5341
5342 "I'm going to drain the pool today, Mr. Gatsby. Leaves'll start falling
5343 pretty soon and then there's always trouble with the pipes."
5344
5345 "Don't do it today," Gatsby answered. He turned to me apologetically.
5346 "You know, old sport, I've never used that pool all summer?"
5347
5348 I looked at my watch and stood up.
5349
5350 "Twelve minutes to my train."
5351
5352 I didn't want to go to the city. I wasn't worth a decent stroke of work
5353 but it was more than that--I didn't want to leave Gatsby. I missed that
5354 train, and then another, before I could get myself away.
5355
5356 "I'll call you up," I said finally.
5357
5358 "Do, old sport."
5359
5360 "I'll call you about noon."
5361
5362 We walked slowly down the steps.
5363
5364 "I suppose Daisy'll call too." He looked at me anxiously as if he
5365 hoped I'd corroborate this.
5366
5367 "I suppose so."
5368
5369 "Well--goodbye."
5370
5371 We shook hands and I started away. Just before I reached the hedge I
5372 remembered something and turned around.
5373
5374 "They're a rotten crowd," I shouted across the lawn. "You're worth the
5375 whole damn bunch put together."
5376
5377 I've always been glad I said that. It was the only compliment I ever gave
5378 him, because I disapproved of him from beginning to end. First he nodded
5379 politely, and then his face broke into that radiant and understanding
5380 smile, as if we'd been in ecstatic cahoots on that fact all the time.
5381 His gorgeous pink rag of a suit made a bright spot of color against the
5382 white steps and I thought of the night when I first came to his ancestral
5383 home three months before. The lawn and drive had been crowded with the
5384 faces of those who guessed at his corruption--and he had stood on those
5385 steps, concealing his incorruptible dream, as he waved them goodbye.
5386
5387 I thanked him for his hospitality. We were always thanking him for
5388 that--I and the others.
5389
5390 "Goodbye," I called. "I enjoyed breakfast, Gatsby."
5391
5392
5393 Up in the city I tried for a while to list the quotations on an
5394 interminable amount of stock, then I fell asleep in my swivel-chair.
5395 Just before noon the phone woke me and I started up with sweat
5396 breaking out on my forehead. It was Jordan Baker; she often called
5397 me up at this hour because the uncertainty of her own movements
5398 between hotels and clubs and private houses made her hard to find
5399 in any other way. Usually her voice came over the wire as something
5400 fresh and cool as if a divot from a green golf links had come
5401 sailing in at the office window but this morning it seemed harsh and dry.
5402
5403 "I've left Daisy's house," she said. "I'm at Hempstead and I'm going down
5404 to Southampton this afternoon."
5405
5406 Probably it had been tactful to leave Daisy's house, but the act
5407 annoyed me and her next remark made me rigid.
5408
5409 "You weren't so nice to me last night."
5410
5411 "How could it have mattered then?"
5412
5413 Silence for a moment. Then--
5414
5415 "However--I want to see you."
5416
5417 "I want to see you too."
5418
5419 "Suppose I don't go to Southampton, and come into town this afternoon?"
5420
5421 "No--I don't think this afternoon."
5422
5423 "Very well."
5424
5425 "It's impossible this afternoon. Various----"
5426
5427 We talked like that for a while and then abruptly we weren't talking any
5428 longer. I don't know which of us hung up with a sharp click but I know I
5429 didn't care. I couldn't have talked to her across a tea-table that day if
5430 I never talked to her again in this world.
5431
5432 I called Gatsby's house a few minutes later, but the line was busy. I
5433 tried four times; finally an exasperated central told me the wire was
5434 being kept open for long distance from Detroit. Taking out my
5435 time-table I drew a small circle around the three-fifty train. Then I
5436 leaned back in my chair and tried to think. It was just noon.
5437
5438
5439 When I passed the ashheaps on the train that morning I had crossed
5440 deliberately to the other side of the car. I suppose there'd be a
5441 curious crowd around there all day with little boys searching for dark
5442 spots in the dust and some garrulous man telling over and over what
5443 had happened until it became less and less real even to him and he
5444 could tell it no longer and Myrtle Wilson's tragic achievement was
5445 forgotten. Now I want to go back a little and tell what happened at the
5446 garage after we left there the night before.
5447
5448 They had difficulty in locating the sister, Catherine. She must
5449 have broken her rule against drinking that night for when she
5450 arrived she was stupid with liquor and unable to understand that the
5451 ambulance had already gone to Flushing. When they convinced her of
5452 this she immediately fainted as if that was the intolerable part of
5453 the affair. Someone kind or curious took her in his car and drove
5454 her in the wake of her sister's body.
5455
5456 Until long after midnight a changing crowd lapped up against the front
5457 of the garage while George Wilson rocked himself back and forth on the
5458 couch inside. For a while the door of the office was open and
5459 everyone who came into the garage glanced irresistibly through it.
5460 Finally someone said it was a shame and closed the door. Michaelis and
5461 several other men were with him--first four or five men, later two or
5462 three men. Still later Michaelis had to ask the last stranger to wait
5463 there fifteen minutes longer while he went back to his own place and made
5464 a pot of coffee. After that he stayed there alone with Wilson until dawn.
5465
5466 About three o'clock the quality of Wilson's incoherent muttering
5467 changed--he grew quieter and began to talk about the yellow car. He
5468 announced that he had a way of finding out whom the yellow car belonged
5469 to, and then he blurted out that a couple of months ago his wife had
5470 come from the city with her face bruised and her nose swollen.
5471
5472 But when he heard himself say this, he flinched and began to cry "Oh,
5473 my God!" again in his groaning voice. Michaelis made a clumsy attempt
5474 to distract him.
5475
5476 "How long have you been married, George? Come on there, try and sit
5477 still a minute and answer my question. How long have you been married?"
5478
5479 "Twelve years."
5480
5481 "Ever had any children? Come on, George, sit still--I asked you a
5482 question. Did you ever have any children?"
5483
5484 The hard brown beetles kept thudding against the dull light and whenever
5485 Michaelis heard a car go tearing along the road outside it sounded to him
5486 like the car that hadn't stopped a few hours before. He didn't like to go
5487 into the garage because the work bench was stained where the body had
5488 been lying so he moved uncomfortably around the office--he knew every
5489 object in it before morning--and from time to time sat down beside Wilson
5490 trying to keep him more quiet.
5491
5492 "Have you got a church you go to sometimes, George? Maybe even if you
5493 haven't been there for a long time? Maybe I could call up the church
5494 and get a priest to come over and he could talk to you, see?"
5495
5496 "Don't belong to any."
5497
5498 "You ought to have a church, George, for times like this. You must have
5499 gone to church once. Didn't you get married in a church? Listen, George,
5500 listen to me. Didn't you get married in a church?"
5501
5502 "That was a long time ago."
5503
5504 The effort of answering broke the rhythm of his rocking--for a moment he
5505 was silent. Then the same half knowing, half bewildered look came back
5506 into his faded eyes.
5507
5508 "Look in the drawer there," he said, pointing at the desk.
5509
5510 "Which drawer?"
5511
5512 "That drawer--that one."
5513
5514 Michaelis opened the drawer nearest his hand. There was nothing in it but
5515 a small expensive dog leash made of leather and braided silver. It was
5516 apparently new.
5517
5518 "This?" he inquired, holding it up.
5519
5520 Wilson stared and nodded.
5521
5522 "I found it yesterday afternoon. She tried to tell me about it but I
5523 knew it was something funny."
5524