There was music from my neighbor's house through the summer nights. Inhis blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among thewhisperings and the champagne and the stars. At high tide in theafternoon I watched his guests diving from the tower of his raft ortaking the sun on the hot sand of his beach while his two motor-boatsslit the waters of the Sound, drawing aquaplanes over cataracts offoam. On week-ends his Rolls-Royce became an omnibus, bearing partiesto and from the city, between nine in the morning and long pastmidnight, while his station wagon scampered like a brisk yellow bug tomeet all trains. And on Mondays eight servants including an extragardener toiled all day with mops and scrubbing-brushes and hammersand garden-shears, repairing the ravages of the night before.
Every Friday five crates of oranges and lemons arrived from a fruitererin New York--every Monday these same oranges and lemons left his backdoor in a pyramid of pulpless halves. There was a machine in thekitchen which could extract the juice of two hundred oranges in half anhour, if a little button was pressed two hundred times by a butler'sthumb.
At least once a fortnight a corps of caterers came down with severalhundred feet of canvas and enough colored lights to make a Christmastree of Gatsby's enormous garden. On buffet tables, garnished withglistening hors-d'oeuvre, spiced baked hams crowded against salads ofharlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold.In the main hall a bar with a real brass rail was set up, and stockedwith gins and liquors and with cordials so long forgotten that most ofhis female guests were too young to know one from another.
By seven o'clock the orchestra has arrived--no thin five-piece affairbut a whole pitful of oboes and trombones and saxophones and viols andcornets and piccolos and low and high drums. The last swimmers havecome in from the beach now and are dressing upstairs; the cars fromNew York are parked five deep in the drive, and already the halls andsalons and verandas are gaudy with primary colors and hair shorn instrange new ways and shawls beyond the dreams of Castile. Thebar is in full swing and floating rounds of cocktails permeate thegarden outside until the air is alive with chatter and laughter andcasual innuendo and introductions forgotten on the spot andenthusiastic meetings between women who never knew each other's names.
The lights grow brighter as the earth lurches away from the sun andnow the orchestra is playing yellow cocktail music and the opera ofvoices pitches a key higher. Laughter is easier, minute by minute,spilled with prodigality, tipped out at a cheerful word. The groupschange more swiftly, swell with new arrivals, dissolve and form in thesame breath--already there are wanderers, confident girls who weavehere and there among the stouter and more stable, become for a sharp,joyous moment the center of a group and then excited with triumphglide on through the sea-change of faces and voices and color under theconstantly changing light.
Suddenly one of these gypsies in trembling opal, seizes a cocktail outof the air, dumps it down for courage and moving her hands likeFrisco dances out alone on the canvas platform. A momentary hush; theorchestra leader varies his rhythm obligingly for her and there is aburst of chatter as the erroneous news goes around that she is GildaGray's understudy from the "Follies." The party has begun.
I believe that on the first night I went to Gatsby's house I was one ofthe few guests who had actually been invited. People were notinvited--they went there. They got into automobiles which bore them outto Long Island and somehow they ended up at Gatsby's door. Once therethey were introduced by somebody who knew Gatsby and after that theyconducted themselves according to the rules of behavior associated withamusement parks. Sometimes they came and went without having met Gatsbyat all, came for the party with a simplicity of heart that was its ownticket of admission.
I had been actually invited. A chauffeur in a uniform of robin's eggblue crossed my lawn early that Saturday morning with a surprisinglyformal note from his employer--the honor would be entirely Gatsby's, itsaid, if I would attend his "little party" that night. He hadseen me several times and had intended to call on me long beforebut a peculiar combination of circumstances had prevented it--signedJay Gatsby in a majestic hand.
Dressed up in white flannels I went over to his lawn a little afterseven and wandered around rather ill-at-ease among swirls and eddiesof people I didn't know--though here and there was a face I had noticedon the commuting train. I was immediately struck by the number of youngEnglishmen dotted about; all well dressed, all looking a little hungryand all talking in low earnest voices to solid and prosperousAmericans. I was sure that they were selling something: bonds orinsurance or automobiles. They were, at least, agonizingly aware of theeasy money in the vicinity and convinced that it was theirs for a fewwords in the right key.
As soon as I arrived I made an attempt to find my host but the two orthree people of whom I asked his whereabouts stared at me in such anamazed way and denied so vehemently any knowledge of his movementsthat I slunk off in the direction of the cocktail table--the only placein the garden where a single man could linger without lookingpurposeless and alone.
I was on my way to get roaring drunk from sheer embarrassment whenJordan Baker came out of the house and stood at the head of the marblesteps, leaning a little backward and looking with contemptuous interestdown into the garden.
Welcome or not, I found it necessary to attach myself to someonebefore I should begin to address cordial remarks to the passers-by.
"Hello!" I roared, advancing toward her. My voice seemed unnaturallyloud across the garden.
"I thought you might be here," she responded absently as I came up."I remembered you lived next door to----"
She held my hand impersonally, as a promise that she'd take careof me in a minute, and gave ear to two girls in twin yellow dresseswho stopped at the foot of the steps.
"Hello!" they cried together. "Sorry you didn't win."
That was for the golf tournament. She had lost in the finals the weekbefore.
"You don't know who we are," said one of the girls in yellow, "but wemet you here about a month ago."
"You've dyed your hair since then," remarked Jordan, and I startedbut the girls had moved casually on and her remark was addressed to thepremature moon, produced like the supper, no doubt, out of a caterer'sbasket. With Jordan's slender golden arm resting in mine we descendedthe steps and sauntered about the garden. A tray of cocktails floated atus through the twilight and we sat down at a table with the two girls inyellow and three men, each one introduced to us as Mr. Mumble.
"Do you come to these parties often?" inquired Jordan of the girlbeside her.
"The last one was the one I met you at," answered the girl, in an alert,confident voice. She turned to her companion: "Wasn't it for you,Lucille?"
It was for Lucille, too.
"I like to come," Lucille said. "I never care what I do, so I always havea good time. When I was here last I tore my gown on a chair, and he askedme my name and address--inside of a week I got a package from Croirier'swith a new evening gown in it."
"Did you keep it?" asked Jordan.
"Sure I did. I was going to wear it tonight, but it was too big in thebust and had to be altered. It was gas blue with lavender beads. Twohundred and sixty-five dollars."
"There's something funny about a fellow that'll do a thing like that,"said the other girl eagerly. "He doesn't want any trouble with ANYbody."
"Who doesn't?" I inquired.
"Gatsby. Somebody told me----"
The two girls and Jordan leaned together confidentially.
"Somebody told me they thought he killed a man once."
A thrill passed over all of us. The three Mr. Mumbles bent forward andlistened eagerly.
"I don't think it's so much THAT," argued Lucille skeptically; "it'smore that he was a German spy during the war."
One of the men nodded in confirmation.
"I heard that from a man who knew all about him, grew up with him inGermany," he assured us positively.
"Oh, no," said the first girl, "it couldn't be that, because he was inthe American army during the war." As our credulity switched back toher she leaned forward with enthusiasm. "You look at him sometimes whenhe thinks nobody's looking at him. I'll bet he killed a man."
She narrowed her eyes and shivered. Lucille shivered. We all turned andlooked around for Gatsby. It was testimony to the romantic speculation heinspired that there were whispers about him from those who found littlethat it was necessary to whisper about in this world.
The first supper--there would be another one after midnight--was nowbeing served, and Jordan invited me to join her own party who werespread around a table on the other side of the garden. There werethree married couples and Jordan's escort, a persistent undergraduategiven to violent innuendo and obviously under the impressionthat sooner or later Jordan was going to yield him up her personto a greater or lesser degree. Instead of rambling this partyhad preserved a dignified homogeneity, and assumed to itself thefunction of representing the staid nobility of the countryside--EastEgg condescending to West Egg, and carefully on guard against itsspectroscopic gayety.
"Let's get out," whispered Jordan, after a somehow wasteful andinappropriate half hour. "This is much too polite for me."
We got up, and she explained that we were going to find the host--Ihad never met him, she said, and it was making me uneasy. Theundergraduate nodded in a cynical, melancholy way.
The bar, where we glanced first, was crowded but Gatsby was not there.She couldn't find him from the top of the steps, and he wasn't on theveranda. On a chance we tried an important-looking door, and walkedinto a high Gothic library, panelled with carved English oak, andprobably transported complete from some ruin overseas.
A stout, middle-aged man with enormous owl-eyed spectacles wassitting somewhat drunk on the edge of a great table, staring withunsteady concentration at the shelves of books. As we entered hewheeled excitedly around and examined Jordan from head to foot.
"What do you think?" he demanded impetuously.
He waved his hand toward the book-shelves.
"About that. As a matter of fact you needn't bother to ascertain. Iascertained. They're real."
"Absolutely real--have pages and everything. I thought they'd be a nicedurable cardboard. Matter of fact, they're absolutely real. Pagesand--Here! Lemme show you."
Taking our skepticism for granted, he rushed to the bookcases andreturned with Volume One of the "Stoddard Lectures."
"See!" he cried triumphantly. "It's a bona fide piece of printed matter.It fooled me. This fella's a regular Belasco. It's a triumph. Whatthoroughness! What realism! Knew when to stop too--didn't cut the pages.But what do you want? What do you expect?"
He snatched the book from me and replaced it hastily on its shelfmuttering that if one brick was removed the whole library was liableto collapse.
"Who brought you?" he demanded. "Or did you just come? I was brought.Most people were brought."
Jordan looked at him alertly, cheerfully without answering.
"I was brought by a woman named Roosevelt," he continued. "Mrs. ClaudRoosevelt. Do you know her? I met her somewhere last night. I'vebeen drunk for about a week now, and I thought it might sober meup to sit in a library."
"A little bit, I think. I can't tell yet. I've only been herean hour. Did I tell you about the books? They're real. They're----"
"You told us."
We shook hands with him gravely and went back outdoors.
There was dancing now on the canvas in the garden, old men pushingyoung girls backward in eternal graceless circles, superior couplesholding each other tortuously, fashionably and keeping in thecorners--and a great number of single girls dancing individualisticallyor relieving the orchestra for a moment of the burden of the banjo orthe traps. By midnight the hilarity had increased. A celebrated tenor hadsung in Italian and a notorious contralto had sung in jazz and betweenthe numbers people were doing "stunts" all over the garden, while happyvacuous bursts of laughter rose toward the summer sky. A pair of stage"twins"--who turned out to be the girls in yellow--did a baby act incostume and champagne was served in glasses bigger than finger bowls.The moon had risen higher, and floating in the Sound was a triangle ofsilver scales, trembling a little to the stiff, tinny drip of thebanjoes on the lawn.
I was still with Jordan Baker. We were sitting at a table with a man ofabout my age and a rowdy little girl who gave way upon the slightestprovocation to uncontrollable laughter. I was enjoying myself now. Ihad taken two finger bowls of champagne and the scene had changedbefore my eyes into something significant, elemental and profound.
At a lull in the entertainment the man looked at me and smiled.
"Your face is familiar," he said, politely. "Weren't you in the ThirdDivision during the war?"
"Why, yes. I was in the Ninth Machine-Gun Battalion."
"I was in the Seventh Infantry until June nineteen-eighteen. I knew I'dseen you somewhere before."
We talked for a moment about some wet, grey little villages in France.Evidently he lived in this vicinity for he told me that he had justbought a hydroplane and was going to try it out in the morning.
"Want to go with me, old sport? Just near the shore along the Sound."
"Any time that suits you best."
It was on the tip of my tongue to ask his name when Jordan looked aroundand smiled.
"Having a gay time now?" she inquired.
"Much better." I turned again to my new acquaintance. "This is an unusualparty for me. I haven't even seen the host. I live over there----" I wavedmy hand at the invisible hedge in the distance, "and this man Gatsby sentover his chauffeur with an invitation."
For a moment he looked at me as if he failed to understand.
"I'm Gatsby," he said suddenly.
"What!" I exclaimed. "Oh, I beg your pardon."
"I thought you knew, old sport. I'm afraid I'm not a very good host."
He smiled understandingly--much more than understandingly. It wasone of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurancein it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced--orseemed to face--the whole external world for an instant, and thenconcentrated on YOU with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. Itunderstood you just so far as you wanted to be understood, believed inyou as you would like to believe in yourself and assured you that ithad precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped toconvey. Precisely at that point it vanished--and I was looking at anelegant young rough-neck, a year or two over thirty, whose elaborateformality of speech just missed being absurd. Some time before heintroduced himself I'd got a strong impression that he was picking hiswords with care.
Almost at the moment when Mr. Gatsby identified himself a butlerhurried toward him with the information that Chicago was calling him onthe wire. He excused himself with a small bow that included each of usin turn.
"If you want anything just ask for it, old sport," he urged me."Excuse me. I will rejoin you later."
When he was gone I turned immediately to Jordan--constrained to assure herof my surprise. I had expected that Mr. Gatsby would be a florid andcorpulent person in his middle years.
"Who is he?" I demanded. "Do you know?"
"He's just a man named Gatsby."
"Where is he from, I mean? And what does he do?"
"Now YOU're started on the subject," she answered with a wan smile."Well,--he told me once he was an Oxford man."
A dim background started to take shape behind him but at hernext remark it faded away.
"However, I don't believe it."
"I don't know," she insisted, "I just don't think he went there."
Something in her tone reminded me of the other girl's "I thinkhe killed a man," and had the effect of stimulating my curiosity. Iwould have accepted without question the information that Gatsby sprangfrom the swamps of Louisiana or from the lower East Side of New York.That was comprehensible. But young men didn't--at least in my provincialinexperience I believed they didn't--drift coolly out of nowhere and buya palace on Long Island Sound.
"Anyhow he gives large parties," said Jordan, changing the subjectwith an urbane distaste for the concrete. "And I like large parties.They're so intimate. At small parties there isn't any privacy."
There was the boom of a bass drum, and the voice of the orchestra leaderrang out suddenly above the echolalia of the garden.
"Ladies and gentlemen," he cried. "At the request of Mr. Gatsby we aregoing to play for you Mr. Vladimir Tostoff's latest work which attractedso much attention at Carnegie Hall last May. If you read the papersyou know there was a big sensation." He smiled with jovial condescensionand added "Some sensation!" whereupon everybody laughed.
"The piece is known," he concluded lustily, "as 'Vladimir Tostoff'sJazz History of the World.' "
The nature of Mr. Tostoff's composition eluded me, because just asit began my eyes fell on Gatsby, standing alone on the marble stepsand looking from one group to another with approving eyes.His tanned skin was drawn attractively tight on his face andhis short hair looked as though it were trimmed every day. I couldsee nothing sinister about him. I wondered if the fact that he wasnot drinking helped to set him off from his guests, for it seemedto me that he grew more correct as the fraternal hilarity increased.When the "Jazz History of the World" was over girls were puttingtheir heads on men's shoulders in a puppyish, convivial way, girls wereswooning backward playfully into men's arms, even into groups knowingthat some one would arrest their falls--but no one swooned backward onGatsby and no French bob touched Gatsby's shoulder and no singingquartets were formed with Gatsby's head for one link.
"I beg your pardon."
Gatsby's butler was suddenly standing beside us.
"Miss Baker?" he inquired. "I beg your pardon but Mr. Gatsby would liketo speak to you alone."
"With me?" she exclaimed in surprise.
She got up slowly, raising her eyebrows at me in astonishment,and followed the butler toward the house. I noticed that she woreher evening dress, all her dresses, like sports clothes--therewas a jauntiness about her movements as if she had first learned towalk upon golf courses on clean, crisp mornings.
I was alone and it was almost two. For some time confused andintriguing sounds had issued from a long many-windowed room whichoverhung the terrace. Eluding Jordan's undergraduate who was nowengaged in an obstetrical conversation with two chorus girls, and whoimplored me to join him, I went inside.
The large room was full of people. One of the girls in yellow wasplaying the piano and beside her stood a tall, red haired young ladyfrom a famous chorus, engaged in song. She had drunk a quantity ofchampagne and during the course of her song she had decided ineptlythat everything was very very sad--she was not only singing, she wasweeping too. Whenever there was a pause in the song she filled it withgasping broken sobs and then took up the lyric again in a quaveringsoprano. The tears coursed down her cheeks--not freely, however, for whenthey came into contact with her heavily beaded eyelashes they assumed aninky color, and pursued the rest of their way in slow black rivulets. Ahumorous suggestion was made that she sing the notes on her facewhereupon she threw up her hands, sank into a chair and went off intoa deep vinous sleep.
"She had a fight with a man who says he's her husband," explained agirl at my elbow.
I looked around. Most of the remaining women were now having fightswith men said to be their husbands. Even Jordan's party, the quartetfrom East Egg, were rent asunder by dissension. One of the men wastalking with curious intensity to a young actress, and his wife afterattempting to laugh at the situation in a dignified and indifferentway broke down entirely and resorted to flank attacks--at intervals sheappeared suddenly at his side like an angry diamond, and hissed "Youpromised!" into his ear.
The reluctance to go home was not confined to wayward men. The hall was atpresent occupied by two deplorably sober men and their highly indignantwives. The wives were sympathizing with each other in slightly raisedvoices.
"Whenever he sees I'm having a good time he wants to go home."
"Never heard anything so selfish in my life."
"We're always the first ones to leave."
"So are we."
"Well, we're almost the last tonight," said one of the men sheepishly."The orchestra left half an hour ago."
In spite of the wives' agreement that such malevolence was beyondcredibility, the dispute ended in a short struggle, and both wives werelifted kicking into the night.
As I waited for my hat in the hall the door of the library opened andJordan Baker and Gatsby came out together. He was saying some last wordto her but the eagerness in his manner tightened abruptly intoformality as several people approached him to say goodbye.
Jordan's party were calling impatiently to her from the porch but shelingered for a moment to shake hands.
"I've just heard the most amazing thing," she whispered. "How long werewe in there?"
"Why,--about an hour."
"It was--simply amazing," she repeated abstractedly. "But I sworeI wouldn't tell it and here I am tantalizing you." She yawnedgracefully in my face. "Please come and see me. . . . Phone book.. . . Under the name of Mrs. Sigourney Howard. . . . My aunt. . . ."She was hurrying off as she talked--her brown hand waved ajaunty salute as she melted into her party at the door.
Rather ashamed that on my first appearance I had stayed so late, Ijoined the last of Gatsby's guests who were clustered around him. Iwanted to explain that I'd hunted for him early in the evening and toapologize for not having known him in the garden.
"Don't mention it," he enjoined me eagerly. "Don't give it anotherthought, old sport." The familiar expression held no more familiaritythan the hand which reassuringly brushed my shoulder. "And don't forgetwe're going up in the hydroplane tomorrow morning at nine o'clock."
Then the butler, behind his shoulder:
"Philadelphia wants you on the phone, sir."
"All right, in a minute. Tell them I'll be right there. . . . goodnight."
"Good night." He smiled--and suddenly there seemed to be a pleasantsignificance in having been among the last to go, as if he had desiredit all the time. "Good night, old sport. . . . Good night."
But as I walked down the steps I saw that the evening was not quite over.Fifty feet from the door a dozen headlights illuminated a bizarre andtumultuous scene. In the ditch beside the road, right side up butviolently shorn of one wheel, rested a new coupé which had left Gatsby'sdrive not two minutes before. The sharp jut of a wall accounted for thedetachment of the wheel which was now getting considerable attention fromhalf a dozen curious chauffeurs. However, as they had left their carsblocking the road a harsh discordant din from those in the rear had beenaudible for some time and added to the already violent confusion ofthe scene.
A man in a long duster had dismounted from the wreck and now stood inthe middle of the road, looking from the car to the tire and from thetire to the observers in a pleasant, puzzled way.
"See!" he explained. "It went in the ditch."
The fact was infinitely astonishing to him--and I recognized first theunusual quality of wonder and then the man--it was the late patron ofGatsby's library.
"How'd it happen?"
He shrugged his shoulders.
"I know nothing whatever about mechanics," he said decisively.
"But how did it happen? Did you run into the wall?"
"Don't ask me," said Owl Eyes, washing his hands of the whole matter."I know very little about driving--next to nothing. It happened,and that's all I know."
"Well, if you're a poor driver you oughtn't to try driving at night."
"But I wasn't even trying," he explained indignantly, "I wasn't eventrying."
An awed hush fell upon the bystanders.
"Do you want to commit suicide?"
"You're lucky it was just a wheel! A bad driver and not even TRYing!"
"You don't understand," explained the criminal. "I wasn't driving. There'sanother man in the car."
The shock that followed this declaration found voice in a sustained"Ah-h-h!" as the door of the coupé swung slowly open. The crowd--it wasnow a crowd--stepped back involuntarily and when the door had opened widethere was a ghostly pause. Then, very gradually, part by part, a paledangling individual stepped out of the wreck, pawing tentatively at theground with a large uncertain dancing shoe.
Blinded by the glare of the headlights and confused by the incessantgroaning of the horns the apparition stood swaying for a moment beforehe perceived the man in the duster.
"Wha's matter?" he inquired calmly. "Did we run outa gas?"
Half a dozen fingers pointed at the amputated wheel--he staredat it for a moment and then looked upward as though he suspected thatit had dropped from the sky.
"It came off," some one explained.
"At first I din' notice we'd stopped."
A pause. Then, taking a long breath and straightening his shouldershe remarked in a determined voice:
"Wonder'ff tell me where there's a gas'line station?"
At least a dozen men, some of them little better off than he was,explained to him that wheel and car were no longer joined by any physicalbond.
"Back out," he suggested after a moment. "Put her in reverse."
"But the WHEEL'S off!"
"No harm in trying," he said.
The caterwauling horns had reached a crescendo and I turned away andcut across the lawn toward home. I glanced back once. A wafer of a moonwas shining over Gatsby's house, making the night fine as before andsurviving the laughter and the sound of his still glowing garden. Asudden emptiness seemed to flow now from the windows and the greatdoors, endowing with complete isolation the figure of the host whostood on the porch, his hand up in a formal gesture of farewell.
Reading over what I have written so far I see I have given theimpression that the events of three nights several weeks apart were allthat absorbed me. On the contrary they were merely casual events in acrowded summer and, until much later, they absorbed me infinitely lessthan my personal affairs.
Most of the time I worked. In the early morning the sun threw my shadowwestward as I hurried down the white chasms of lower New York to theProbity Trust. I knew the other clerks and young bond-salesmen by theirfirst names and lunched with them in dark crowded restaurants onlittle pig sausages and mashed potatoes and coffee. I even had a shortaffair with a girl who lived in Jersey City and worked in theaccounting department, but her brother began throwing mean looks in mydirection so when she went on her vacation in July I let it blowquietly away.
I took dinner usually at the Yale Club--for some reason it was thegloomiest event of my day--and then I went upstairs to the library andstudied investments and securities for a conscientious hour.There were generally a few rioters around but they never came into thelibrary so it was a good place to work. After that, if the night wasmellow I strolled down Madison Avenue past the old Murray Hill Hoteland over Thirty-third Street to the Pennsylvania Station.
I began to like New York, the racy, adventurous feel of it at nightand the satisfaction that the constant flicker of men and women andmachines gives to the restless eye. I liked to walk up Fifth Avenue andpick out romantic women from the crowd and imagine that in a fewminutes I was going to enter into their lives, and no one would everknow or disapprove. Sometimes, in my mind, I followed them to theirapartments on the corners of hidden streets, and they turned and smiledback at me before they faded through a door into warm darkness. At theenchanted metropolitan twilight I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes,and felt it in others--poor young clerks who loitered in front of windowswaiting until it was time for a solitary restaurant dinner--young clerksin the dusk, wasting the most poignant moments of night and life.
Again at eight o'clock, when the dark lanes of the Forties were fivedeep with throbbing taxi cabs, bound for the theatre district, I felt asinking in my heart. Forms leaned together in the taxis as they waited,and voices sang, and there was laughter from unheard jokes, and lightedcigarettes outlined unintelligible gestures inside. Imagining thatI, too, was hurrying toward gayety and sharing their intimateexcitement, I wished them well.
For a while I lost sight of Jordan Baker, and then in midsummer I foundher again. At first I was flattered to go places with her because shewas a golf champion and every one knew her name. Then it wassomething more. I wasn't actually in love, but I felt a sort oftender curiosity. The bored haughty face that she turned to theworld concealed something--most affectations conceal somethingeventually, even though they don't in the beginning--and one day I foundwhat it was. When we were on a house-party together up in Warwick, sheleft a borrowed car out in the rain with the top down, and then liedabout it--and suddenly I remembered the story about her that had eludedme that night at Daisy's. At her first big golf tournament there was arow that nearly reached the newspapers--a suggestion that she had movedher ball from a bad lie in the semi-final round. The thing approachedthe proportions of a scandal--then died away. A caddy retracted hisstatement and the only other witness admitted that he might have beenmistaken. The incident and the name had remained together in my mind.
Jordan Baker instinctively avoided clever shrewd men and now I sawthat this was because she felt safer on a plane where any divergencefrom a code would be thought impossible. She was incurably dishonest.She wasn't able to endure being at a disadvantage, and given thisunwillingness I suppose she had begun dealing in subterfuges when shewas very young in order to keep that cool, insolent smile turned to theworld and yet satisfy the demands of her hard jaunty body.
It made no difference to me. Dishonesty in a woman is a thing you neverblame deeply--I was casually sorry, and then I forgot. It was on thatsame house party that we had a curious conversation about driving acar. It started because she passed so close to some workmen that ourfender flicked a button on one man's coat.
"You're a rotten driver," I protested. "Either you ought to be morecareful or you oughtn't to drive at all."
"I am careful."
"No, you're not."
"Well, other people are," she said lightly.
"What's that got to do with it?"
"They'll keep out of my way," she insisted. "It takes two to make anaccident."
"Suppose you met somebody just as careless as yourself."
"I hope I never will," she answered. "I hate careless people. That's whyI like you."
Her grey, sun-strained eyes stared straight ahead, but she haddeliberately shifted our relations, and for a moment I thought I lovedher. But I am slow-thinking and full of interior rules that act as brakeson my desires, and I knew that first I had to get myself definitely out ofthat tangle back home. I'd been writing letters once a week and signingthem: "Love, Nick," and all I could think of was how, when that certaingirl played tennis, a faint mustache of perspiration appeared on herupper lip. Nevertheless there was a vague understanding that had to betactfully broken off before I was free.
Every one suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, andthis is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known.