In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave mesome advice that I've been turning over in my mind eversince.
"Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone," he told me,"just remember that all the people in this world haven'thad the advantages that you've had."
He didn't say any more but we've always been unusuallycommunicative in a reserved way and I understood that hemeant a great deal more than that. In consequence I'minclined to reserve all judgements, a habit that has openedup many curious natures to me and also made me the victimof not a few veteran bores. The abnormal mind is quick todetect and attach itself to this quality when it appears ina normal person, and so it came about that in college I wasunjustly accused of being a politician, because I was privyto the secret griefs of wild, unknown men. Most of theconfidences were unsought-frequently I have feigned sleep,preoccupation or a hostile levity when I realized by someunmistakable sign that an intimate revelation was quiveringon the horizon-for the intimate revelations of young menor at least the terms in which they express them areusually plagiaristic and marred by obvious suppressions.Reserving judgements is a matter of infinite hope. I amstill a little afraid of missing something if I forgetthat, as my father snobbishly suggested and I snobbishlyrepeat, a sense of the fundamental decencies is parcelledout unequally at birth.
And, after boasting this way of my tolerance, I come tothe admission that it has a limit. Conduct may be foundedon the hard rock or the wet marshes but after a certainpoint I don't care what it's founded on. When I came backfrom the East last autumn I felt that I wanted the world tobe in uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever; Iwanted no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpsesinto the human heart. Only Gatsby, the man who gives hisname to this book, was exempt from my reaction-Gatsby whorepresented everything for which I have an unaffectedscorn. If personality is an unbroken series of successfulgestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, someheightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if hewere related to one of those intricate machines thatregister earthquakes ten thousand miles away. Thisresponsiveness had nothing to do with that flabbyimpressionability which is dignified under the name of the"creative temperament"-it was an extraordinary gift forhope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found inany other person and which it is not likely I shall everfind again. No-Gatsby turned out all right at the end; itis what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in thewake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interestin the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men.
My family have been prominent, well-to-do people in thismiddle-western city for three generations. The Carrawaysare something of a clan and we have a tradition that we'redescended from the Dukes of Buccleuch, but the actualfounder of my line was my grandfather's brother who camehere in fifty-one, sent a substitute to the Civil War andstarted the wholesale hardware business that my fathercarries on today.
I never saw this great-uncle but I'm supposed to looklike him-with special reference to the rather hard-boiledpainting that hangs in Father's office. I graduated fromNew Haven in 1915, just a quarter of a century after myfather, and a little later I participated in that delayedTeutonic migration known as the Great War. I enjoyed thecounter-raid so thoroughly that I came back restless.Instead of being the warm center of the world themiddle-west now seemed like the ragged edge of theuniverse-so I decided to go east and learn the bondbusiness. Everybody I knew was in the bond business so Isupposed it could support one more single man. All my auntsand uncles talked it over as if they were choosing aprep-school for me and finally said "Why-ye-es" with verygrave, hesitant faces. Father agreed to finance me for ayear and after various delays I came east, permanently, Ithought, in the spring of twenty-two.
The practical thing was to find rooms in the city but itwas a warm season and I had just left a country of widelawns and friendly trees, so when a young man at the officesuggested that we take a house together in a commuting townit sounded like a great idea. He found the house, a weatherbeaten cardboard bungalow at eighty a month, but at thelast minute the firm ordered him to Washington and I wentout to the country alone. I had a dog, at least I had himfor a few days until he ran away, and an old Dodge and aFinnish woman who made my bed and cooked breakfast andmuttered Finnish wisdom to herself over the electric stove.
It was lonely for a day or so until one morning someman, more recently arrived than I, stopped me on the road.
"How do you get to West Egg Village?" he askedhelplessly.
I told him. And as I walked on I was lonely no longer. Iwas a guide, a pathfinder, an original settler. He hadcasually conferred on me the freedom of the neighborhood.
And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leavesgrowing on the trees-just as things grow in fast movies-Ihad that familiar conviction that life was beginning overagain with the summer.
There was so much to read for one thing and so much finehealth to be pulled down out of the young breath-givingair. I bought a dozen volumes on banking and credit andinvestment securities and they stood on my shelf in red andgold like new money from the mint, promising to unfold theshining secrets that only Midas and Morgan and Maecenasknew. And I had the high intention of reading many otherbooks besides. I was rather literary in college-one year Iwrote a series of very solemn and obvious editorials forthe "Yale News"-and now I was going to bring back all suchthings into my life and become again that most limited ofall specialists, the "well-rounded" man. This isn't just anepigram-life is much more successfully looked at from asingle window, after all.
It was a matter of chance that I should have rented ahouse in one of the strangest communities in North America.It was on that slender riotous island which extends itselfdue east of New York and where there are, among othernatural curiosities, two unusual formations of land. Twentymiles from the city a pair of enormous eggs, identical incontour and separated only by a courtesy bay, jut out intothe most domesticated body of salt water in the WesternHemisphere, the great wet barnyard of Long Island Sound.They are not perfect ovals-like the egg in the Columbusstory they are both crushed flat at the contact end-buttheir physical resemblance must be a source of perpetualconfusion to the gulls that fly overhead. To the wingless amore arresting phenomenon is their dissimilarity in everyparticular except shape and size.
I lived at West Egg, the-well, the less fashionable ofthe two, though this is a most superficial tag to expressthe bizarre and not a little sinister contrast betweenthem. My house was at the very tip of the egg, only fiftyyards from the Sound, and squeezed between two huge placesthat rented for twelve or fifteen thousand a season. Theone on my right was a colossal affair by any standard-itwas a factual imitation of some Hotel de Ville in Normandy,with a tower on one side, spanking new under a thin beardof raw ivy, and a marble swimming pool and more than fortyacres of lawn and garden. It was Gatsby's mansion. Orrather, as I didn't know Mr. Gatsby it was a mansioninhabited by a gentleman of that name. My own house was aneye-sore, but it was a small eye-sore and it had beenoverlooked, so I had a view of the water, a partial view ofmy neighbor's lawn and the consoling proximity ofmillionaires-all for eighty dollars a month.
Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionableEast Egg glittered along the water and the history of thesummer really begins on the evening I drove over there tohave dinner with the Tom Buchanans. Daisy was my secondcousin once removed and I'd known Tom in college. And justafter the war I spent two days with them in Chicago.
Her husband, among various physical accomplishments, hadbeen one of the most powerful ends that ever playedfootball at New Haven-a national figure in a way, one ofthose men who reach such an acute limited excellence attwenty-one that everything afterwards savours ofanticlimax. His family were enormously wealthy-even incollege his freedom with money was a matter forreproach-but now he'd left Chicago and come east in afashion that rather took your breath away: for instancehe'd brought down a string of polo ponies from Lake Forest.It was hard to realize that a man in my own generation waswealthy enough to do that.
Why they came east I don't know. They had spent a yearin France, for no particular reason, and then drifted hereand there unrestfully wherever people played polo and wererich together. This was a permanent move, said Daisy overthe telephone, but I didn't believe it-I had no sight intoDaisy's heart but I felt that Tom would drift on foreverseeking a little wistfully for the dramatic turbulence ofsome irrecoverable football game.
And so it happened that on a warm windy evening I droveover to East Egg to see two old friends whom I scarcelyknew at all. Their house was even more elaborate than Iexpected, a cheerful red and white Georgian Colonialmansion overlooking the bay. The lawn started at the beachand ran toward the front door for a quarter of a mile,jumping over sun-dials and brick walks and burninggardens-finally when it reached the house drifting up theside in bright vines as though from the momentum of itsrun. The front was broken by a line of French windows,glowing now with reflected gold, and wide open to the warmwindy afternoon, and Tom Buchanan in riding clothes wasstanding with his legs apart on the front porch.
He had changed since his New Haven years. Now he was asturdy, straw haired man of thirty with a rather hard mouthand a supercilious manner. Two shining, arrogant eyes hadestablished dominance over his face and gave him theappearance of always leaning aggressively forward. Not eventhe effeminate swank of his riding clothes could hide theenormous power of that body-he seemed to fill thoseglistening boots until he strained the top lacing and youcould see a great pack of muscle shifting when his shouldermoved under his thin coat. It was a body capable ofenormous leverage-a cruel body.
His speaking voice, a gruff husky tenor, added to theimpression of fractiousness he conveyed. There was a touchof paternal contempt in it, even toward people heliked-and there were men at New Haven who had hated hisguts.
"Now, don't think my opinion on these matters is final,"he seemed to say, "just because I'm stronger and more of aman than you are." We were in the same Senior Society andwhile we were never intimate I always had the impressionthat he approved of me and wanted me to like him with someharsh, defiant wistfulness of his own.
We talked for a few minutes on the sunny porch.
"I've got a nice place here," he said, his eyes flashingabout restlessly.
Turning me around by one arm he moved a broad flat handalong the front vista, including in its sweep a sunkenItalian garden, a half acre of deep pungent roses and asnub-nosed motor boat that bumped the tide off shore.
"It belonged to Demaine the oil man." He turned mearound again, politely and abruptly. "We'll go inside."
We walked through a high hallway into a brightrosy-colored space, fragilely bound into the house byFrench windows at either end. The windows were ajar andgleaming white against the fresh grass outside that seemedto grow a little way into the house. A breeze blew throughthe room, blew curtains in at one end and out the otherlike pale flags, twisting them up toward the frostedwedding cake of the ceiling-and then rippled over thewine-colored rug, making a shadow on it as wind does on thesea.
The only completely stationary object in the room was anenormous couch on which two young women were buoyed up asthough upon an anchored balloon. They were both in whiteand their dresses were rippling and fluttering as if theyhad just been blown back in after a short flight around thehouse. I must have stood for a few moments listening to thewhip and snap of the curtains and the groan of a picture onthe wall. Then there was a boom as Tom Buchanan shut therear windows and the caught wind died out about the roomand the curtains and the rugs and the two young womenballooned slowly to the floor.
The younger of the two was a stranger to me. She wasextended full length at her end of the divan, completelymotionless and with her chin raised a little as if she werebalancing something on it which was quite likely to fall.If she saw me out of the corner of her eyes she gave nohint of it-indeed I was almost surprised into murmuring anapology for having disturbed her by coming in.
The other girl, Daisy, made an attempt to rise-sheleaned slightly forward with a conscientiousexpression-then she laughed, an absurd, charming littlelaugh, and I laughed too and came forward into the room.
"I'm p-paralyzed with happiness."
She laughed again, as if she said something very witty,and held my hand for a moment, looking up into my face,promising that there was no one in the world she so muchwanted to see. That was a way she had. She hinted in amurmur that the surname of the balancing girl was Baker.(I've heard it said that Daisy's murmur was only to makepeople lean toward her; an irrelevant criticism that madeit no less charming.)
At any rate Miss Baker's lips fluttered, she nodded atme almost imperceptibly and then quickly tipped her headback again-the object she was balancing had obviouslytottered a little and given her something of a fright.Again a sort of apology arose to my lips. Almost anyexhibition of complete self sufficiency draws a stunnedtribute from me.
I looked back at my cousin who began to ask me questionsin her low, thrilling voice. It was the kind of voice thatthe ear follows up and down as if each speech is anarrangement of notes that will never be played again. Herface was sad and lovely with bright things in it, brighteyes and a bright passionate mouth-but there was anexcitement in her voice that men who had cared for herfound difficult to forget: a singing compulsion, awhispered "Listen," a promise that she had done gay,exciting things just a while since and that there were gay,exciting things hovering in the next hour.
I told her how I had stopped off in Chicago for a day onmy way east and how a dozen people had sent their lovethrough me.
"Do they miss me?" she cried ecstatically.
"The whole town is desolate. All the cars have the leftrear wheel painted black as a mourning wreath and there's apersistent wail all night along the North Shore."
"How gorgeous! Let's go back, Tom. Tomorrow!" Then sheadded irrelevantly, "You ought to see the baby."
"I'd like to."
"She's asleep. She's two years old. Haven't you everseen her?"
"Well, you ought to see her. She's--"
Tom Buchanan who had been hovering restlessly about theroom stopped and rested his hand on my shoulder.
"What you doing, Nick?"
"I'm a bond man."
I told him.
"Never heard of them," he remarked decisively.
This annoyed me.
"You will," I answered shortly. "You will if you stay inthe East."
"Oh, I'll stay in the East, don't you worry," he said,glancing at Daisy and then back at me as if he were alertfor something more. "I'd be a God Damn fool to liveanywhere else."
At this point Miss Baker said "Absolutely!" with suchsuddenness that I started-it was the first word she haduttered since I came into the room. Evidently it surprisedher as much as it did me, for she yawned and with a seriesof rapid, deft movements stood up into the room.
"I'm stiff," she complained. "I've been lying on thatsofa for as long as I can remember."
"Don't look at me," Daisy retorted. "I've been trying toget you to New York all afternoon."
"No thanks," said Miss Baker to the four cocktails justin from the pantry, "I'm absolutely in training."
Her host looked at her incredulously.
"You are!" He took down his drink as if it were a dropin the bottom of a glass. "How you ever get anything doneis beyond me."
I looked at Miss Baker wondering what it was she "gotdone." I enjoyed looking at her. She was a slender,small-breasted girl with an erect carriage which sheaccentuated by throwing her body backward at the shoulderslike a young cadet. Her grey sun-strained eyes looked backat me with polite reciprocal curiosity out of a wan,charming discontented face. It occurred to me now that Ihad seen her, or a picture of her, somewhere before.
"You live in West Egg," she remarked contemptuously. "Iknow somebody there."
"I don't know a single--"
"You must know Gatsby."
"Gatsby?" demanded Daisy. "What Gatsby?"
Before I could reply that he was my neighbor dinner wasannounced; wedging his tense arm imperatively under mineTom Buchanan compelled me from the room as though he weremoving a checker to another square.
Slenderly, languidly, their hands set lightly on theirhips the two young women preceded us out onto arosy-colored porch open toward the sunset where fourcandles flickered on the table in the diminished wind.
"Why candles?" objected Daisy frowning. Shesnapped them out with her fingers. "In two weeks it'll bethe longest day in the year." She looked at us allradiantly. "Do you always watch for the longest day of theyear and then miss it? I always watch for the longest dayin the year and then miss it."
"We ought to plan something," yawned Miss Baker, sittingdown at the table as if she were getting into bed.
"All right," said Daisy. "What'll we plan?" She turnedto me helplessly. "What do people plan?"
Before I could answer her eyes fastened with an awedexpression on her little finger.
"Look!" she complained. "I hurt it."
We all looked-the knuckle was black and blue.
"You did it, Tom," she said accusingly. "I know youdidn't mean to but you did do it. That's what I getfor marrying a brute of a man, a great big hulking physicalspecimen of a--"
"I hate that word hulking," objected Tom crossly, "evenin kidding."
"Hulking," insisted Daisy.
Sometimes she and Miss Baker talked at once,unobtrusively and with a bantering inconsequence that wasnever quite chatter, that was as cool as their whitedresses and their impersonal eyes in the absence of alldesire. They were here-and they accepted Tom and me,making only a polite pleasant effort to entertain or to beentertained. They knew that presently dinner would be overand a little later the evening too would be over andcasually put away. It was sharply different from the Westwhere an evening was hurried from phase to phase toward itsclose in a continually disappointed anticipation or else insheer nervous dread of the moment itself.
"You make me feel uncivilized, Daisy," I confessed on mysecond glass of corky but rather impressive claret. "Can'tyou talk about crops or something?"
I meant nothing in particular by this remark but it wastaken up in an unexpected way.
"Civilization's going to pieces," broke out Tomviolently. "I've gotten to be a terrible pessimist aboutthings. Have you read `The Rise of the Coloured Empires' bythis man Goddard?"
"Why, no," I answered, rather surprised by his tone.
"Well, it's a fine book and everybody ought to read it.The idea is if we don't look out the white race willbe-will be utterly submerged. It's all scientific stuff;it's been proved."
"Tom's getting very profound," said Daisy with anexpression of unthoughtful sadness. "He reads deep bookswith long words in them. What was that word we--"
"Well, these books are all scientific," insisted Tom,glancing at her impatiently. "This fellow has worked outthe whole thing. It's up to us who are the dominant race towatch out or these other races will have control ofthings."
"We've got to beat them down," whispered Daisy, winkingferociously toward the fervent sun.
"You ought to live in California--" began Miss Bakerbut Tom interrupted her by shifting heavily in his chair.
"This idea is that we're Nordics. I am and you are andyou are and--" After an infinitesimal hesitation heincluded Daisy with a slight nod and she winked at meagain, "--and we've produced all the things that go tomake civilization-oh, science and art and all that. Do yousee?"
There was something pathetic in his concentration as ifhis complacency, more acute than of old, was not enough tohim any more. When, almost immediately, the telephone ranginside and the butler left the porch Daisy seized upon themomentary interruption and leaned toward me.
"I'll tell you a family secret," she whisperedenthusiastically. "It's about the butler's nose. Do youwant to hear about the butler's nose?"
"That's why I came over tonight."
"Well, he wasn't always a butler; he used to be thesilver polisher for some people in New York that had asilver service for two hundred people. He had to polish itfrom morning till night until finally it began to affecthis nose--"
"Things went from bad to worse," suggested Miss Baker.
"Yes. Things went from bad to worse until finally he hadto give up his position."
For a moment the last sunshine fell with romanticaffection upon her glowing face; her voice compelled meforward breathlessly as I listened-then the glow faded,each light deserting her with lingering regret likechildren leaving a pleasant street at dusk.
The butler came back and murmured something close toTom's ear whereupon Tom frowned, pushed back his chair andwithout a word went inside. As if his absence quickenedsomething within her Daisy leaned forward again, her voiceglowing and singing.
"I love to see you at my table, Nick. You remind me ofa-of a rose, an absolute rose. Doesn't he?" She turned toMiss Baker for confirmation. "An absolute rose?"
This was untrue. I am not even faintly like a rose. Shewas only extemporizing but a stirring warmth flowed fromher as if her heart was trying to come out to you concealedin one of those breathless, thrilling words. Then suddenlyshe threw her napkin on the table and excused herself andwent into the house.
Miss Baker and I exchanged a short glance consciouslydevoid of meaning. I was about to speak when she sat upalertly and said "Sh!" in a warning voice. A subduedimpassioned murmur was audible in the room beyond and MissBaker leaned forward, unashamed, trying to hear. The murmurtrembled on the verge of coherence, sank down, mountedexcitedly and then ceased altogether.
"This Mr. Gatsby you spoke of is my neighbor-" I said.
"Don't talk. I want to hear what happens."
"Is something happening?" I inquired innocently.
"You mean to say you don't know?" said Miss Baker,honestly surprised. "I thought everybody knew."
"Why-" she said hesitantly, "Tom's got some woman inNew York."
"Got some woman?" I repeated blankly.
Miss Baker nodded.
"She might have the decency not to telephone him atdinner-time. Don't you think?"
Almost before I had grasped her meaning there was theflutter of a dress and the crunch of leather boots and Tomand Daisy were back at the table.
"It couldn't be helped!" cried Daisy with tense gayety.
She sat down, glanced searchingly at Miss Baker and thenat me and continued, "I looked outdoors for a minute andit's very romantic outdoors. There's a bird on the lawnthat I think must be a nightingale come over on the Cunardor White Star Line. He's singing away-" her voice sang"-It's romantic, isn't it, Tom?"
"Very romantic," he said, and then miserably to me: "Ifit's light enough after dinner I want to take you down tothe stables."
The telephone rang inside, startingly, and as Daisyshook her head decisively at Tom the subject of thestables, in fact all subjects, vanished into air. Among thebroken fragments of the last five minutes at table Iremember the candles being lit again, pointlessly, and Iwas conscious of wanting to look squarely at everyone andyet to avoid all eyes. I couldn't guess what Daisy and Tomwere thinking but I doubt if even Miss Baker who seemed tohave mastered a certain hardy skepticism was able utterlyto put this fifth guest's shrill metallic urgency out ofmind. To a certain temperament the situation might haveseemed intriguing-my own instinct was to telephoneimmediately for the police.
The horses, needless to say, were not mentioned again.Tom and Miss Baker with several feet of twilight betweenthem strolled back into the library, as if to a vigilbeside a perfectly tangible body, while trying to lookpleasantly interested and a little deaf I followed Daisyaround a chain of connecting verandas to the porch infront. In its deep gloom we sat down side by side on awicker settee.
Daisy took her face in her hands, as if feeling itslovely shape, and her eyes moved gradually out into thevelvet dusk. I saw that turbulent emotions possessed her,so I asked what I thought would be some sedative questionsabout her little girl.
"We don't know each other very well, Nick," she saidsuddenly. "Even if we are cousins. You didn't come to mywedding."
"I wasn't back from the war."
"That's true." She hesitated. "Well, I've had a very badtime, Nick, and I'm pretty cynical about everything."
Evidently she had reason to be. I waited but she didn'tsay any more, and after a moment I returned rather feeblyto the subject of her daughter.
"I suppose she talks, and-eats, and everything."
"Oh, yes." She looked at me absently. "Listen, Nick; letme tell you what I said when she was born. Would you liketo hear?"
"It'll show you how I've gotten to feel about-things.Well, she was less than an hour old and Tom was God knowswhere. I woke up out of the ether with an utterly abandonedfeeling and asked the nurse right away if it was a boy or agirl. She told me it was a girl, and so I turned my headaway and wept. `All right,' I said, `I'm glad it's a girl.And I hope she'll be a fool-that's the best thing a girlcan be in this world, a beautiful little fool.'
"You see I think everything's terrible anyhow," she wenton in a convinced way. "Everybody thinks so-the mostadvanced people. And I know. I've been everywhereand seen everything and done everything." Her eyes flashedaround her in a defiant way, rather like Tom's, and shelaughed with thrilling scorn. "Sophisticated-God, I'msophisticated!"
The instant her voice broke off, ceasing to compel myattention, my belief, I felt the basic insincerity of whatshe had said. It made me uneasy, as though the wholeevening had been a trick of some sort to exact acontributary emotion from me. I waited, and sure enough, ina moment she looked at me with an absolute smirk on herlovely face as if she had asserted her membership in arather distinguished secret society to which she and Tombelonged.
Inside, the crimson room bloomed with light. Tom andMiss Baker sat at either end of the long couch and she readaloud to him from the "Saturday Evening Post"-the words,murmurous and uninflected, running together in a soothingtune. The lamp-light, bright on his boots and dull on theautumn-leaf yellow of her hair, glinted along the paper asshe turned a page with a flutter of slender muscles in herarms.
When we came in she held us silent for a moment with alifted hand.
"To be continued," she said, tossing the magazine on thetable, "in our very next issue."
Her body asserted itself with a restless movement of herknee, and she stood up.
"Ten o'clock," she remarked, apparently finding the timeon the ceiling. "Time for this good girl to go to bed."
"Jordan's going to play in the tournament tomorrow,"explained Daisy, "over at Westchester."
"Oh,-you're Jordan Baker."
I knew now why her face was familiar-its pleasingcontemptuous expression had looked out at me from manyrotogravure pictures of the sporting life at Asheville andHot Springs and Palm Beach. I had heard some story of hertoo, a critical, unpleasant story, but what it was I hadforgotten long ago.
"Good night," she said softly. "Wake me at eight, won'tyou."
"If you'll get up."
"I will. Good night, Mr. Carraway. See you anon."
"Of course you will," confirmed Daisy. "In fact I thinkI'll arrange a marriage. Come over often, Nick, and I'llsort of-oh-fling you together. You know-lock you upaccidentally in linen closets and push you out to sea in aboat, and all that sort of thing--"
"Good night," called Miss Baker from the stairs. "Ihaven't heard a word."
"She's a nice girl," said Tom after a moment. "Theyoughtn't to let her run around the country this way."
"Who oughtn't to?" inquired Daisy coldly.
"Her family is one aunt about a thousand years old.Besides, Nick's going to look after her, aren't you, Nick?She's going to spend lots of week-ends out here thissummer. I think the home influence will be very good forher."
Daisy and Tom looked at each other for a moment insilence.
"Is she from New York?" I asked quickly.
"From Louisville. Our white girlhood was passed togetherthere. Our beautiful white--"
"Did you give Nick a little heart-to-heart talk on theveranda?" demanded Tom suddenly.
"Did I?" She looked at me. "I can't seem to remember,but I think we talked about the Nordic race. Yes, I'm surewe did. It sort of crept up on us and first thing youknow--"
"Don't believe everything you hear, Nick," he advisedme.
I said lightly that I had heard nothing at all, and afew minutes later I got up to go home. They came to thedoor with me and stood side by side in a cheerful square oflight. As I started my motor Daisy peremptorily called"Wait!
"I forgot to ask you something, and it's important. Weheard you were engaged to a girl out West."
"That's right," corroborated Tom kindly. "We heard thatyou were engaged."
"It's a libel. I'm too poor."
"But we heard it," insisted Daisy, surprising me byopening up again in a flower-like way. "We heard it fromthree people so it must be true."
Of course I knew what they were referring to, but Iwasn't even vaguely engaged. The fact that gossip hadpublished the banns was one of the reasons I had come east.You can't stop going with an old friend on account ofrumors and on the other hand I had no intention of beingrumored into marriage.
Their interest rather touched me and made them lessremotely rich-nevertheless, I was confused and a littledisgusted as I drove away. It seemed to me that the thingfor Daisy to do was to rush out of the house, child inarms-but apparently there were no such intentions in herhead. As for Tom the fact that he "had some woman in NewYork" was really less surprising than that he had beendepressed by a book. Something was making him nibble at theedge of stale ideas as if his sturdy physical egotism nolonger nourished his peremptory heart.
Already it was deep summer on roadhouse roofs and infront of wayside garages where new red gas-pumps sat out inpools of light, and when I reached my estate at West Egg Iran the car under its shed and sat for a while on anabandoned grass roller in the yard. The wind had blown off,leaving a loud bright night with wings beating in the treesand a persistent organ sound as the full bellows of theearth blew the frogs full of life. The silhouette of amoving cat wavered across the moonlight and turning my headto watch it I saw that I was not alone-fifty feet away afigure had emerged from the shadow of my neighbor's mansionand was standing with his hands in his pockets regardingthe silver pepper of the stars. Something in his leisurelymovements and the secure position of his feet upon the lawnsuggested that it was Mr. Gatsby himself, come out todetermine what share was his of our local heavens.
I decided to call to him. Miss Baker had mentioned himat dinner, and that would do for an introduction. But Ididn't call to him for he gave a sudden intimation that hewas content to be alone-he stretched out his arms towardthe dark water in a curious way, and far as I was from himI could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily Iglanced seaward-and distinguished nothing except a singlegreen light, minute and far away, that might have been theend of a dock. When I looked once more for Gatsby he hadvanished, and I was alone again in the unquiet darkness.
Copyright © 1992 Eleanor Lanahan. All rights reserved.