②德曼特农夫人（Madame de Maintenon），17世纪法国国土路易十四的情妇，后秘密成婚。
About this time an ambitious young reporter from New York arrived onemorning at Gatsby's door and asked him if he had anything to say.
"Anything to say about what?" inquired Gatsby politely.
"Why,--any statement to give out."
It transpired after a confused five minutes that the man had heardGatsby's name around his office in a connection which he eitherwouldn't reveal or didn't fully understand. This was his day offand with laudable initiative he had hurried out "to see."
It was a random shot, and yet the reporter's instinct was right. Gatsby'snotoriety, spread about by the hundreds who had accepted hishospitality and so become authorities on his past, had increasedall summer until he fell just short of being news. Contemporarylegends such as the "underground pipe-line to Canada" attachedthemselves to him, and there was one persistent story that hedidn't live in a house at all, but in a boat that looked like a houseand was moved secretly up and down the Long Island shore. Just whythese inventions were a source of satisfaction to James Gatz of NorthDakota, isn't easy to say.
James Gatz--that was really, or at least legally, his name. He hadchanged it at the age of seventeen and at the specific moment thatwitnessed the beginning of his career--when he saw Dan Cody's yacht dropanchor over the most insidious flat on Lake Superior. It was James Gatzwho had been loafing along the beach that afternoon in a torn greenjersey and a pair of canvas pants, but it was already Jay Gatsby whoborrowed a row-boat, pulled out to the TUOLOMEE and informed Cody thata wind might catch him and break him up in half an hour.
I suppose he'd had the name ready for a long time, even then. Hisparents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people--his imagination hadnever really accepted them as his parents at all. The truth was thatJay Gatsby, of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonicconception of himself. He was a son of God--a phrase which, if it meansanything, means just that--and he must be about His Father's Business,the service of a vast, vulgar and meretricious beauty. So he inventedjust the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen-year-old boy would belikely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end.
For over a year he had been beating his way along the south shore ofLake Superior as a clam digger and a salmon fisher or in any othercapacity that brought him food and bed. His brown, hardening body livednaturally through the half fierce, half lazy work of the bracing days.He knew women early and since they spoiled him he became contemptuousof them, of young virgins because they were ignorant, of the othersbecause they were hysterical about things which in his overwhelmingself-absorption he took for granted.
But his heart was in a constant, turbulent riot. The most grotesqueand fantastic conceits haunted him in his bed at night. A universeof ineffable gaudiness spun itself out in his brain while theclock ticked on the wash-stand and the moon soaked with wetlight his tangled clothes upon the floor. Each night he added to thepattern of his fancies until drowsiness closed down upon some vividscene with an oblivious embrace. For a while these reveries provided anoutlet for his imagination; they were a satisfactory hint of theunreality of reality, a promise that the rock of the world was foundedsecurely on a fairy's wing.
An instinct toward his future glory had led him, some months before, tothe small Lutheran college of St. Olaf in southern Minnesota. He stayedthere two weeks, dismayed at its ferocious indifference to the drums ofhis destiny, to destiny itself, and despising the janitor's work withwhich he was to pay his way through. Then he drifted back to LakeSuperior, and he was still searching for something to do on the daythat Dan Cody's yacht dropped anchor in the shallows along shore.
Cody was fifty years old then, a product of the Nevada silver fields,of the Yukon, of every rush for metal since Seventy-five. Thetransactions in Montana copper that made him many times a millionairefound him physically robust but on the verge of soft-mindedness, and,suspecting this an infinite number of women tried to separate him fromhis money. The none too savory ramifications by which Ella Kaye, thenewspaper woman, played Madame de Maintenon to his weakness and sent himto sea in a yacht, were common knowledge to the turgid journalismof 1902. He had been coasting along all too hospitable shores for fiveyears when he turned up as James Gatz's destiny at Little Girl Bay.
To the young Gatz, resting on his oars and looking up at the raileddeck, the yacht represented all the beauty and glamor in the world. Isuppose he smiled at Cody--he had probably discovered that people likedhim when he smiled. At any rate Cody asked him a few questions (one ofthem elicited the brand new name) and found that he was quick, andextravagantly ambitious. A few days later he took him to Duluth andbought him a blue coat, six pair of white duck trousers and a yachtingcap. And when the TUOLOMEE left for the West Indies and the BarbaryCoast Gatsby left too.
He was employed in a vague personal capacity--while he remained withCody he was in turn steward, mate, skipper, secretary, and even jailor,for Dan Cody sober knew what lavish doings Dan Cody drunk might soon beabout and he provided for such contingencies by reposing more and moretrust in Gatsby. The arrangement lasted five years during which theboat went three times around the continent. It might have lastedindefinitely except for the fact that Ella Kaye came on board one nightin Boston and a week later Dan Cody inhospitably died.
I remember the portrait of him up in Gatsby's bedroom, a grey, floridman with a hard empty face--the pioneer debauchee who during one phaseof American life brought back to the eastern seaboard the savageviolence of the frontier brothel and saloon. It was indirectly due toCody that Gatsby drank so little. Sometimes in the course of gay partieswomen used to rub champagne into his hair; for himself he formed thehabit of letting liquor alone.
And it was from Cody that he inherited money--a legacy of twenty-fivethousand dollars. He didn't get it. He never understood the legaldevice that was used against him but what remained of the millionswent intact to Ella Kaye. He was left with his singularly appropriateeducation; the vague contour of Jay Gatsby had filled out to thesubstantiality of a man.
He told me all this very much later, but I've put it down here with theidea of exploding those first wild rumors about his antecedents, whichweren't even faintly true. Moreover he told it to me at a time ofconfusion, when I had reached the point of believing everything andnothing about him. So I take advantage of this short halt, whileGatsby, so to speak, caught his breath, to clear this set ofmisconceptions away.
It was a halt, too, in my association with his affairs. Forseveral weeks I didn't see him or hear his voice on the phone--mostlyI was in New York, trotting around with Jordan and trying toingratiate myself with her senile aunt--but finally I went over tohis house one Sunday afternoon. I hadn't been there two minutes whensomebody brought Tom Buchanan in for a drink. I was startled,naturally, but the really surprising thing was that it hadn't happenedbefore.
They were a party of three on horseback--Tom and a man named Sloane anda pretty woman in a brown riding habit who had been there previously.
"I'm delighted to see you," said Gatsby standing on his porch."I'm delighted that you dropped in."
As though they cared!
"Sit right down. Have a cigarette or a cigar." He walked around the roomquickly, ringing bells. "I'll have something to drink for you in justa minute."
He was profoundly affected by the fact that Tom was there. But he would beuneasy anyhow until he had given them something, realizing in a vagueway that that was all they came for. Mr. Sloane wanted nothing. Alemonade? No, thanks. A little champagne? Nothing at all,thanks. . . . I'm sorry----
"Did you have a nice ride?"
"Very good roads around here."
"I suppose the automobiles----"
Moved by an irresistible impulse, Gatsby turned to Tom who had acceptedthe introduction as a stranger.
"I believe we've met somewhere before, Mr. Buchanan."
"Oh, yes," said Tom, gruffly polite but obviously not remembering."So we did. I remember very well."
"About two weeks ago."
"That's right. You were with Nick here."
"I know your wife," continued Gatsby, almost aggressively.
Tom turned to me.
"You live near here, Nick?"
Mr. Sloane didn't enter into the conversation but lounged back haughtilyin his chair; the woman said nothing either--until unexpectedly, aftertwo highballs, she became cordial.
"We'll all come over to your next party, Mr. Gatsby," she suggested."What do you say?"
"Certainly. I'd be delighted to have you."
"Be ver' nice," said Mr. Sloane, without gratitude. "Well--think ought tobe starting home."
"Please don't hurry," Gatsby urged them. He had control of himself nowand he wanted to see more of Tom. "Why don't you--why don't you stay forsupper? I wouldn't be surprised if some other people dropped in fromNew York."
"You come to supper with ME," said the lady enthusiastically."Both of you."
This included me. Mr. Sloane got to his feet.
"Come along," he said--but to her only.
"I mean it," she insisted. "I'd love to have you. Lots of room."
Gatsby looked at me questioningly. He wanted to go and he didn't seethat Mr. Sloane had determined he shouldn't.
"I'm afraid I won't be able to," I said.
"Well, you come," she urged, concentrating on Gatsby.
Mr. Sloane murmured something close to her ear.
"We won't be late if we start now," she insisted aloud.
"I haven't got a horse," said Gatsby. "I used to ride in the army butI've never bought a horse. I'll have to follow you in my car. Excuse mefor just a minute."
The rest of us walked out on the porch, where Sloane and the lady beganan impassioned conversation aside.
"My God, I believe the man's coming," said Tom. "Doesn't he know shedoesn't want him?"
"She says she does want him."
"She has a big dinner party and he won't know a soul there." He frowned."I wonder where in the devil he met Daisy. By God, I may beold-fashioned in my ideas, but women run around too much these days tosuit me. They meet all kinds of crazy fish."
Suddenly Mr. Sloane and the lady walked down the steps and mountedtheir horses.
"Come on," said Mr. Sloane to Tom, "we're late. We've got to go." And thento me: "Tell him we couldn't wait, will you?"
Tom and I shook hands, the rest of us exchanged a cool nod andthey trotted quickly down the drive, disappearing under the Augustfoliage just as Gatsby with hat and light overcoat in hand came outthe front door.
Tom was evidently perturbed at Daisy's running around alone, for on thefollowing Saturday night he came with her to Gatsby's party. Perhapshis presence gave the evening its peculiar quality of oppressiveness--itstands out in my memory from Gatsby's other parties that summer. Therewere the same people, or at least the same sort of people, the sameprofusion of champagne, the same many-colored, many-keyed commotion,but I felt an unpleasantness in the air, a pervading harshness thathadn't been there before. Or perhaps I had merely grown used to it,grown to accept West Egg as a world complete in itself, with its ownstandards and its own great figures, second to nothing because it hadno consciousness of being so, and now I was looking at it again,through Daisy's eyes. It is invariably saddening to look through neweyes at things upon which you have expended your own powers ofadjustment.
They arrived at twilight and as we strolled out among the sparklinghundreds Daisy's voice was playing murmurous tricks in her throat.
"These things excite me SO," she whispered. "If you want to kiss meany time during the evening, Nick, just let me know and I'll be gladto arrange it for you. Just mention my name. Or present a green card.I'm giving out green----"
"Look around," suggested Gatsby.
"I'm looking around. I'm having a marvelous----"
"You must see the faces of many people you've heard about."
Tom's arrogant eyes roamed the crowd.
"We don't go around very much," he said. "In fact I was just thinkingI don't know a soul here."
"Perhaps you know that lady." Gatsby indicated a gorgeous, scarcely humanorchid of a woman who sat in state under a white plum tree. Tom and Daisystared, with that peculiarly unreal feeling that accompanies therecognition of a hitherto ghostly celebrity of the movies.
"She's lovely," said Daisy.
"The man bending over her is her director."
He took them ceremoniously from group to group:
"Mrs. Buchanan . . . and Mr. Buchanan----" After an instant's hesitationhe added: "the polo player."
"Oh no," objected Tom quickly, "Not me."
But evidently the sound of it pleased Gatsby for Tom remained "the poloplayer" for the rest of the evening.
"I've never met so many celebrities!" Daisy exclaimed. "I liked thatman--what was his name?--with the sort of blue nose."
Gatsby identified him, adding that he was a small producer.
"Well, I liked him anyhow."
"I'd a little rather not be the polo player," said Tom pleasantly, "I'drather look at all these famous people in--in oblivion."
Daisy and Gatsby danced. I remember being surprised by his graceful,conservative fox-trot--I had never seen him dance before. Then theysauntered over to my house and sat on the steps for half an hour whileat her request I remained watchfully in the garden: "In case there's afire or a flood," she explained, "or any act of God."
Tom appeared from his oblivion as we were sitting down to supper together."Do you mind if I eat with some people over here?" he said. "A fellow'sgetting off some funny stuff."
"Go ahead," answered Daisy genially, "And if you want to take down anyaddresses here's my little gold pencil. . . ." She looked around aftera moment and told me the girl was "common but pretty," and I knew thatexcept for the half hour she'd been alone with Gatsby she wasn't havinga good time.
We were at a particularly tipsy table. That was my fault--Gatsby hadbeen called to the phone and I'd enjoyed these same people only twoweeks before. But what had amused me then turned septic on the air now.
"How do you feel, Miss Baedeker?"
The girl addressed was trying, unsuccessfully, to slump against myshoulder. At this inquiry she sat up and opened her eyes.
A massive and lethargic woman, who had been urging Daisy to play golfwith her at the local club tomorrow, spoke in Miss Baedeker's defence:
"Oh, she's all right now. When she's had five or six cocktails she alwaysstarts screaming like that. I tell her she ought to leave it alone."
"I do leave it alone," affirmed the accused hollowly.
"We heard you yelling, so I said to Doc Civet here: 'There's somebodythat needs your help, Doc.' "
"She's much obliged, I'm sure," said another friend, without gratitude."But you got her dress all wet when you stuck her head in the pool."
"Anything I hate is to get my head stuck in a pool," mumbled MissBaedeker. "They almost drowned me once over in New Jersey."
"Then you ought to leave it alone," countered Doctor Civet.
"Speak for yourself!" cried Miss Baedeker violently. "Your hand shakes.I wouldn't let you operate on me!"
It was like that. Almost the last thing I remember was standing withDaisy and watching the moving picture director and his Star. They werestill under the white plum tree and their faces were touching exceptfor a pale thin ray of moonlight between. It occurred to me that hehad been very slowly bending toward her all evening to attain thisproximity, and even while I watched I saw him stoop one ultimate degreeand kiss at her cheek.
"I like her," said Daisy, "I think she's lovely."
But the rest offended her--and inarguably, because it wasn't a gesture butan emotion. She was appalled by West Egg, this unprecedented "place"that Broadway had begotten upon a Long Island fishing village--appalledby its raw vigor that chafed under the old euphemisms and by the tooobtrusive fate that herded its inhabitants along a short cut from nothingto nothing. She saw something awful in the very simplicity she failedto understand.
I sat on the front steps with them while they waited for their car. Itwas dark here in front: only the bright door sent ten square feet oflight volleying out into the soft black morning. Sometimes a shadowmoved against a dressing-room blind above, gave way to another shadow,an indefinite procession of shadows, who rouged and powdered in aninvisible glass.
"Who is this Gatsby anyhow?" demanded Tom suddenly. "Some big bootlegger?"
"Where'd you hear that?" I inquired.
"I didn't hear it. I imagined it. A lot of these newly rich people arejust big bootleggers, you know."
"Not Gatsby," I said shortly.
He was silent for a moment. The pebbles of the drive crunched under hisfeet.
"Well, he certainly must have strained himself to get this menagerietogether."
A breeze stirred the grey haze of Daisy's fur collar.
"At least they're more interesting than the people we know," she saidwith an effort.
"You didn't look so interested."
"Well, I was."
Tom laughed and turned to me.
"Did you notice Daisy's face when that girl asked her to put her undera cold shower?"
Daisy began to sing with the music in a husky, rhythmic whisper,bringing out a meaning in each word that it had never hadbefore and would never have again. When the melody rose, her voicebroke up sweetly, following it, in a way contralto voices have, andeach change tipped out a little of her warm human magic upon the air.
"Lots of people come who haven't been invited," she said suddenly."That girl hadn't been invited. They simply force their way in and he'stoo polite to object."
"I'd like to know who he is and what he does," insisted Tom. "And I thinkI'll make a point of finding out."
"I can tell you right now," she answered. "He owned some drug stores,a lot of drug stores. He built them up himself."
The dilatory limousine came rolling up the drive.
"Good night, Nick," said Daisy.
Her glance left me and sought the lighted top of the steps where"Three o'Clock in the Morning," a neat, sad little waltz of that year,was drifting out the open door. After all, in the very casualness ofGatsby's party there were romantic possibilities totally absent fromher world. What was it up there in the song that seemed to be callingher back inside? What would happen now in the dim incalculable hours?Perhaps some unbelievable guest would arrive, a person infinitely rareand to be marvelled at, some authentically radiant young girl who withone fresh glance at Gatsby, one moment of magical encounter, would blotout those five years of unwavering devotion.
I stayed late that night. Gatsby asked me to wait until he was freeand I lingered in the garden until the inevitable swimming party had runup, chilled and exalted, from the black beach, until the lights wereextinguished in the guest rooms overhead. When he came down the steps atlast the tanned skin was drawn unusually tight on his face, and his eyeswere bright and tired.
"She didn't like it," he said immediately.
"Of course she did."
"She didn't like it," he insisted. "She didn't have a good time."
He was silent and I guessed at his unutterable depression.
"I feel far away from her," he said. "It's hard to make her understand."
"You mean about the dance?"
"The dance?" He dismissed all the dances he had given with a snap ofhis fingers. "Old sport, the dance is unimportant."
He wanted nothing less of Daisy than that she should go to Tom and say:"I never loved you." After she had obliterated three years with thatsentence they could decide upon the more practical measures to be taken.One of them was that, after she was free, they were to go back toLouisville and be married from her house--just as if it were fiveyears ago.
"And she doesn't understand," he said. "She used to be able tounderstand. We'd sit for hours----"
He broke off and began to walk up and down a desolate path of fruit rindsand discarded favors and crushed flowers.
"I wouldn't ask too much of her," I ventured. "You can't repeat the past."
"Can't repeat the past?" he cried incredulously. "Why of course you can!"
He looked around him wildly, as if the past were lurking here in theshadow of his house, just out of reach of his hand.
"I'm going to fix everything just the way it was before," he said,nodding determinedly. "She'll see."
He talked a lot about the past and I gathered that he wanted to recoversomething, some idea of himself perhaps, that had gone into loving Daisy.His life had been confused and disordered since then, but if he couldonce return to a certain starting place and go over it all slowly, hecould find out what that thing was. . . .
. . . One autumn night, five years before, they had been walking downthe street when the leaves were falling, and they came to a place wherethere were no trees and the sidewalk was white with moonlight.They stopped here and turned toward each other. Now it was a cool nightwith that mysterious excitement in it which comes at the two changes ofthe year. The quiet lights in the houses were humming out into thedarkness and there was a stir and bustle among the stars. Out of thecorner of his eye Gatsby saw that the blocks of the sidewalk reallyformed a ladder and mounted to a secret place above the trees--he couldclimb to it, if he climbed alone, and once there he could suck on thepap of life, gulp down the incomparable milk of wonder.
His heart beat faster and faster as Daisy's white face came up to hisown. He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed hisunutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never rompagain like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longerto the tuning fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissedher. At his lips' touch she blossomed for him like a flower and theincarnation was complete.
Through all he said, even through his appalling sentimentality, I wasreminded of something--an elusive rhythm, a fragment of lost words, thatI had heard somewhere a long time ago. For a moment a phrase tried totake shape in my mouth and my lips parted like a dumb man's, as thoughthere was more struggling upon them than a wisp of startled air. Butthey made no sound and what I had almost remembered wasuncommunicable forever.