It was when curiosity about Gatsby was at its highest that the lightsin his house failed to go on one Saturday night--and, as obscurely as ithad begun, his career as Trimalchio was over.
Only gradually did I become aware that the automobiles which turnedexpectantly into his drive stayed for just a minute and then drovesulkily away. Wondering if he were sick I went over to find out--anunfamiliar butler with a villainous face squinted at me suspiciouslyfrom the door.
"Is Mr. Gatsby sick?"
"Nope." After a pause he added "sir" in a dilatory, grudging way.
"I hadn't seen him around, and I was rather worried. Tell him Mr. Carrawaycame over."
"Who?" he demanded rudely.
"Carraway. All right, I'll tell him." Abruptly he slammed the door.
My Finn informed me that Gatsby had dismissed every servant in hishouse a week ago and replaced them with half a dozen others, who neverwent into West Egg Village to be bribed by the tradesmen, but orderedmoderate supplies over the telephone. The grocery boy reported that thekitchen looked like a pigsty, and the general opinion in the village wasthat the new people weren't servants at all.
Next day Gatsby called me on the phone.
"Going away?" I inquired.
"No, old sport."
"I hear you fired all your servants."
"I wanted somebody who wouldn't gossip. Daisy comes over quite often--inthe afternoons."
So the whole caravansary had fallen in like a card house at thedisapproval in her eyes.
"They're some people Wolfshiem wanted to do something for. They're allbrothers and sisters. They used to run a small hotel."
He was calling up at Daisy's request--would I come to lunch ather house tomorrow? Miss Baker would be there. Half an hour laterDaisy herself telephoned and seemed relieved to find that I was coming.Something was up. And yet I couldn't believe that they would choosethis occasion for a scene--especially for the rather harrowing scenethat Gatsby had outlined in the garden.
The next day was broiling, almost the last, certainly the warmest, ofthe summer. As my train emerged from the tunnel into sunlight, only thehot whistles of the National Biscuit Company broke the simmering hushat noon. The straw seats of the car hovered on the edge of combustion;the woman next to me perspired delicately for a while into her whiteshirtwaist, and then, as her newspaper dampened under her fingers,lapsed despairingly into deep heat with a desolate cry. Her pocket-bookslapped to the floor.
"Oh, my!" she gasped.
I picked it up with a weary bend and handed it back to her, holding itat arm's length and by the extreme tip of the corners to indicate thatI had no designs upon it--but every one near by, including the woman,suspected me just the same.
"Hot!" said the conductor to familiar faces. "Some weather! Hot! Hot! Hot!Is it hot enough for you? Is it hot? Is it . . . ?"
My commutation ticket came back to me with a dark stain from his hand.That any one should care in this heat whose flushed lips he kissed,whose head made damp the pajama pocket over his heart!
. . . Through the hall of the Buchanans' house blew a faint wind,carrying the sound of the telephone bell out to Gatsby and me as wewaited at the door.
"The master's body!" roared the butler into the mouthpiece. "I'm sorry,madame, but we can't furnish it--it's far too hot to touch this noon!"
What he really said was: "Yes . . . yes . . . I'll see."
He set down the receiver and came toward us, glistening slightly, to takeour stiff straw hats.
"Madame expects you in the salon!" he cried, needlessly indicating thedirection. In this heat every extra gesture was an affront to thecommon store of life.
The room, shadowed well with awnings, was dark and cool. Daisy andJordan lay upon an enormous couch, like silver idols, weighing downtheir own white dresses against the singing breeze of the fans.
"We can't move," they said together.
Jordan's fingers, powdered white over their tan, rested for a moment inmine.
"And Mr. Thomas Buchanan, the athlete?" I inquired.
Simultaneously I heard his voice, gruff, muffled, husky, at the halltelephone.
Gatsby stood in the center of the crimson carpet and gazed around withfascinated eyes. Daisy watched him and laughed, her sweet, excitinglaugh; a tiny gust of powder rose from her bosom into the air.
"The rumor is," whispered Jordan, "that that's Tom's girl on thetelephone."
We were silent. The voice in the hall rose high with annoyance."Very well, then, I won't sell you the car at all. . . . I'munder no obligations to you at all. . . . And as for your bothering meabout it at lunch time I won't stand that at all!"
"Holding down the receiver," said Daisy cynically.
"No, he's not," I assured her. "It's a bona fide deal. I happen toknow about it."
Tom flung open the door, blocked out its space for a moment with histhick body, and hurried into the room.
"Mr. Gatsby!" He put out his broad, flat hand with well-concealeddislike. "I'm glad to see you, sir. . . . Nick. . . ."
"Make us a cold drink," cried Daisy.
As he left the room again she got up and went over to Gatsby and pulledhis face down kissing him on the mouth.
"You know I love you," she murmured.
"You forget there's a lady present," said Jordan.
Daisy looked around doubtfully.
"You kiss Nick too."
"What a low, vulgar girl!"
"I don't care!" cried Daisy and began to clog on the brick fireplace.Then she remembered the heat and sat down guiltily on the couch just asa freshly laundered nurse leading a little girl came into the room.
"Bles-sed pre-cious," she crooned, holding out her arms. "Come to yourown mother that loves you."
The child, relinquished by the nurse, rushed across the room and rootedshyly into her mother's dress.
"The Bles-sed pre-cious! Did mother get powder on your old yellowyhair? Stand up now, and say How-de-do."
Gatsby and I in turn leaned down and took the small reluctant hand.Afterward he kept looking at the child with surprise. I don't think he hadever really believed in its existence before.
"I got dressed before luncheon," said the child, turning eagerly toDaisy.
"That's because your mother wanted to show you off." Her face bent intothe single wrinkle of the small white neck. "You dream, you. You absolutelittle dream."
"Yes," admitted the child calmly. "Aunt Jordan's got on a whitedress too."
"How do you like mother's friends?" Daisy turned her around so that shefaced Gatsby. "Do you think they're pretty?"
"She doesn't look like her father," explained Daisy. "She looks like me.She's got my hair and shape of the face."
Daisy sat back upon the couch. The nurse took a step forward and heldout her hand.
With a reluctant backward glance the well-disciplined child held to hernurse's hand and was pulled out the door, just as Tom came back,preceding four gin rickeys that clicked full of ice.
Gatsby took up his drink.
"They certainly look cool," he said, with visible tension.
We drank in long greedy swallows.
"I read somewhere that the sun's getting hotter every year," said Tomgenially. "It seems that pretty soon the earth's going to fall into thesun--or wait a minute--it's just the opposite--the sun's getting colderevery year.
"Come outside," he suggested to Gatsby, "I'd like you to have a look atthe place."
I went with them out to the veranda. On the green Sound, stagnant in theheat, one small sail crawled slowly toward the fresher sea. Gatsby's eyesfollowed it momentarily; he raised his hand and pointed across the bay.
"I'm right across from you."
"So you are."
Our eyes lifted over the rosebeds and the hot lawn and the weedy refuseof the dog days along shore. Slowly the white wings of the boat movedagainst the blue cool limit of the sky. Ahead lay the scalloped ocean andthe abounding blessed isles.
"There's sport for you," said Tom, nodding. "I'd like to be out therewith him for about an hour."
We had luncheon in the dining-room, darkened, too, against the heat,and drank down nervous gayety with the cold ale.
"What'll we do with ourselves this afternoon," cried Daisy, "and theday after that, and the next thirty years?"
"Don't be morbid," Jordan said. "Life starts all over again when it getscrisp in the fall."
"But it's so hot," insisted Daisy, on the verge of tears, "Andeverything's so confused. Let's all go to town!"
Her voice struggled on through the heat, beating against it, moulding itssenselessness into forms.
"I've heard of making a garage out of a stable," Tom was saying toGatsby, "but I'm the first man who ever made a stable out of a garage."
"Who wants to go to town?" demanded Daisy insistently. Gatsby's eyesfloated toward her. "Ah," she cried, "you look so cool."
Their eyes met, and they stared together at each other, alone in space.With an effort she glanced down at the table.
"You always look so cool," she repeated.
She had told him that she loved him, and Tom Buchanan saw. He wasastounded. His mouth opened a little and he looked at Gatsby and thenback at Daisy as if he had just recognized her as some one he knew along time ago.
"You resemble the advertisement of the man," she went on innocently."You know the advertisement of the man----"
"All right," broke in Tom quickly, "I'm perfectly willing to go totown. Come on--we're all going to town."
He got up, his eyes still flashing between Gatsby and his wife.No one moved.
"Come on!" His temper cracked a little. "What's the matter, anyhow?If we're going to town let's start."
His hand, trembling with his effort at self control, bore to his lips thelast of his glass of ale. Daisy's voice got us to our feet and out onto the blazing gravel drive.
"Are we just going to go?" she objected. "Like this? Aren't we going tolet any one smoke a cigarette first?"
"Everybody smoked all through lunch."
"Oh, let's have fun," she begged him. "It's too hot to fuss."
He didn't answer.
"Have it your own way," she said. "Come on, Jordan."
They went upstairs to get ready while we three men stood there shufflingthe hot pebbles with our feet. A silver curve of the moon hovered alreadyin the western sky. Gatsby started to speak, changed his mind, but notbefore Tom wheeled and faced him expectantly.
"Have you got your stables here?" asked Gatsby with an effort.
"About a quarter of a mile down the road."
"I don't see the idea of going to town," broke out Tom savagely."Women get these notions in their heads----"
"Shall we take anything to drink?" called Daisy from an upper window.
"I'll get some whiskey," answered Tom. He went inside.
Gatsby turned to me rigidly:
"I can't say anything in his house, old sport."
"She's got an indiscreet voice," I remarked. "It's full of----"
"Her voice is full of money," he said suddenly.
That was it. I'd never understood before. It was full of money--that wasthe inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, thecymbals' song of it. . . . High in a white palace the king's daughter,the golden girl. . . .
Tom came out of the house wrapping a quart bottle in a towel, followedby Daisy and Jordan wearing small tight hats of metallic cloth andcarrying light capes over their arms.
"Shall we all go in my car?" suggested Gatsby. He felt the hot, greenleather of the seat. "I ought to have left it in the shade."
"Is it standard shift?" demanded Tom.
"Well, you take my coupé and let me drive your car to town."
The suggestion was distasteful to Gatsby.
"I don't think there's much gas," he objected.
"Plenty of gas," said Tom boisterously. He looked at the gauge."And if it runs out I can stop at a drug store. You can buy anything at adrug store nowadays."
A pause followed this apparently pointless remark. Daisy looked at Tomfrowning and an indefinable expression, at once definitely unfamiliarand vaguely recognizable, as if I had only heard it described in words,passed over Gatsby's face.
"Come on, Daisy," said Tom, pressing her with his hand toward Gatsby'scar. "I'll take you in this circus wagon."
He opened the door but she moved out from the circle of his arm.
"You take Nick and Jordan. We'll follow you in the coupé."
She walked close to Gatsby, touching his coat with her hand. Jordan andTom and I got into the front seat of Gatsby's car, Tom pushed theunfamiliar gears tentatively and we shot off into the oppressive heatleaving them out of sight behind.
"Did you see that?" demanded Tom.
He looked at me keenly, realizing that Jordan and I must have known allalong.
"You think I'm pretty dumb, don't you?" he suggested. "Perhaps I am, butI have a--almost a second sight, sometimes, that tells me what to do.Maybe you don't believe that, but science----"
He paused. The immediate contingency overtook him, pulled him back fromthe edge of the theoretical abyss.
"I've made a small investigation of this fellow," he continued. "I couldhave gone deeper if I'd known----"
"Do you mean you've been to a medium?" inquired Jordan humorously.
"What?" Confused, he stared at us as we laughed. "A medium?"
"About Gatsby! No, I haven't. I said I'd been making a smallinvestigation of his past."
"And you found he was an Oxford man," said Jordan helpfully.
"An Oxford man!" He was incredulous. "Like hell he is! He wears apink suit."
"Nevertheless he's an Oxford man."
"Oxford, New Mexico," snorted Tom contemptuously, "or something likethat."
"Listen, Tom. If you're such a snob, why did you invite him to lunch?"demanded Jordan crossly.
"Daisy invited him; she knew him before we were married--God knowswhere!"
We were all irritable now with the fading ale and, aware of it,we drove for a while in silence. Then as Doctor T. J. Eckleburg's fadedeyes came into sight down the road, I remembered Gatsby's caution aboutgasoline.
"We've got enough to get us to town," said Tom.
"But there's a garage right here," objected Jordan. "I don't want to getstalled in this baking heat."
Tom threw on both brakes impatiently and we slid to an abruptdusty stop under Wilson's sign. After a moment the proprietor emergedfrom the interior of his establishment and gazed hollow-eyed at the car.
"Let's have some gas!" cried Tom roughly. "What do you think we stoppedfor--to admire the view?"
"I'm sick," said Wilson without moving. "I been sick all day."
"What's the matter?"
"I'm all run down."
"Well, shall I help myself?" Tom demanded. "You sounded well enoughon the phone."
With an effort Wilson left the shade and support of the doorway and,breathing hard, unscrewed the cap of the tank. In the sunlight his facewas green.
"I didn't mean to interrupt your lunch," he said. "But I need moneypretty bad and I was wondering what you were going to do with yourold car."
"How do you like this one?" inquired Tom. "I bought it last week."
"It's a nice yellow one," said Wilson, as he strained at the handle.
"Like to buy it?"
"Big chance," Wilson smiled faintly. "No, but I could make some moneyon the other."
"What do you want money for, all of a sudden?"
"I've been here too long. I want to get away. My wife and I want togo west."
"Your wife does!" exclaimed Tom, startled.
"She's been talking about it for ten years." He rested for a momentagainst the pump, shading his eyes. "And now she's going whether she wantsto or not. I'm going to get her away."
The coupé flashed by us with a flurry of dust and the flash of awaving hand.
"What do I owe you?" demanded Tom harshly.
"I just got wised up to something funny the last two days," remarkedWilson. "That's why I want to get away. That's why I been bothering youabout the car."
"What do I owe you?"
The relentless beating heat was beginning to confuse me and I hada bad moment there before I realized that so far his suspicionshadn't alighted on Tom. He had discovered that Myrtle had somesort of life apart from him in another world and the shock hadmade him physically sick. I stared at him and then at Tom, who had madea parallel discovery less than an hour before--and it occurred to methat there was no difference between men, in intelligence or race, soprofound as the difference between the sick and the well. Wilson was sosick that he looked guilty, unforgivably guilty--as if he had just gotsome poor girl with child.
"I'll let you have that car," said Tom. "I'll send it over tomorrowafternoon."
That locality was always vaguely disquieting, even in the broadglare of afternoon, and now I turned my head as though I had beenwarned of something behind. Over the ashheaps the giant eyes ofDoctor T. J. Eckleburg kept their vigil but I perceived, aftera moment, that other eyes were regarding us with peculiar intensityfrom less than twenty feet away.
In one of the windows over the garage the curtains had been moved asidea little and Myrtle Wilson was peering down at the car. So engrossedwas she that she had no consciousness of being observed and oneemotion after another crept into her face like objects into a slowlydeveloping picture. Her expression was curiously familiar--it was anexpression I had often seen on women's faces but on Myrtle Wilson'sface it seemed purposeless and inexplicable until I realized that hereyes, wide with jealous terror, were fixed not on Tom, but on JordanBaker, whom she took to be his wife.
There is no confusion like the confusion of a simple mind, and as wedrove away Tom was feeling the hot whips of panic. His wife and hismistress, until an hour ago secure and inviolate, were slippingprecipitately from his control. Instinct made him step on theaccelerator with the double purpose of overtaking Daisy and leavingWilson behind, and we sped along toward Astoria at fifty miles an hour,until, among the spidery girders of the elevated, we came in sight ofthe easygoing blue coupé.
"Those big movies around Fiftieth Street are cool," suggested Jordan."I love New York on summer afternoons when every one's away. There'ssomething very sensuous about it--overripe, as if all sorts of funnyfruits were going to fall into your hands."
The word "sensuous" had the effect of further disquieting Tom but beforehe could invent a protest the coupé came to a stop and Daisy signalled usto draw up alongside.
"Where are we going?" she cried.
"How about the movies?"
"It's so hot," she complained. "You go. We'll ride around and meet youafter." With an effort her wit rose faintly, "We'll meet you on somecorner. I'll be the man smoking two cigarettes."
"We can't argue about it here," Tom said impatiently as a truck gaveout a cursing whistle behind us. "You follow me to the south side ofCentral Park, in front of the Plaza."
Several times he turned his head and looked back for their car,and if the traffic delayed them he slowed up until they came intosight. I think he was afraid they would dart down a side street and outof his life forever.
But they didn't. And we all took the less explicable step of engagingthe parlor of a suite in the Plaza Hotel.
The prolonged and tumultuous argument that ended by herding us intothat room eludes me, though I have a sharp physical memory that, in thecourse of it, my underwear kept climbing like a damp snake around mylegs and intermittent beads of sweat raced cool across my back. Thenotion originated with Daisy's suggestion that we hire five bathroomsand take cold baths, and then assumed more tangible form as "a place tohave a mint julep." Each of us said over and over that it was a "crazyidea"--we all talked at once to a baffled clerk and thought, orpretended to think, that we were being very funny. . . .
The room was large and stifling, and, though it was already fouro'clock, opening the windows admitted only a gust of hot shrubbery fromthe Park. Daisy went to the mirror and stood with her back to us,fixing her hair.
"It's a swell suite," whispered Jordan respectfully and every onelaughed.
"Open another window," commanded Daisy, without turning around.
"There aren't any more."
"Well, we'd better telephone for an axe----"
"The thing to do is to forget about the heat," said Tom impatiently."You make it ten times worse by crabbing about it."
He unrolled the bottle of whiskey from the towel and put it on the table.
"Why not let her alone, old sport?" remarked Gatsby. "You're the one thatwanted to come to town."
There was a moment of silence. The telephone book slipped from its nailand splashed to the floor, whereupon Jordan whispered "Excuse me"--butthis time no one laughed.
"I'll pick it up," I offered.
"I've got it." Gatsby examined the parted string, muttered "Hum!" in aninterested way, and tossed the book on a chair.
"That's a great expression of yours, isn't it?" said Tom sharply.
"All this 'old sport' business. Where'd you pick that up?"
"Now see here, Tom," said Daisy, turning around from the mirror, "ifyou're going to make personal remarks I won't stay here a minute. Callup and order some ice for the mint julep."
As Tom took up the receiver the compressed heat exploded into sound andwe were listening to the portentous chords of Mendelssohn's Wedding Marchfrom the ballroom below.
"Imagine marrying anybody in this heat!" cried Jordan dismally.
"Still--I was married in the middle of June," Daisy remembered,"Louisville in June! Somebody fainted. Who was it fainted, Tom?"
"Biloxi," he answered shortly.
"A man named Biloxi. 'Blocks' Biloxi, and he made boxes--that's afact--and he was from Biloxi, Tennessee."
"They carried him into my house," appended Jordan, "because we livedjust two doors from the church. And he stayed three weeks, until Daddytold him he had to get out. The day after he left Daddy died." After amoment she added as if she might have sounded irreverent, "Therewasn't any connection."
"I used to know a Bill Biloxi from Memphis," I remarked.
"That was his cousin. I knew his whole family history before he left.He gave me an aluminum putter that I use today."
The music had died down as the ceremony began and now a long cheer floatedin at the window, followed by intermittent cries of "Yea--ea--ea!"and finally by a burst of jazz as the dancing began.
"We're getting old," said Daisy. "If we were young we'd rise and dance."
"Remember Biloxi," Jordan warned her. "Where'd you know him, Tom?"
"Biloxi?" He concentrated with an effort. "I didn't know him. He was afriend of Daisy's."
"He was not," she denied. "I'd never seen him before. He came down inthe private car."
"Well, he said he knew you. He said he was raised in Louisville.Asa Bird brought him around at the last minute and asked if we had roomfor him."
"He was probably bumming his way home. He told me he was president ofyour class at Yale."
Tom and I looked at each other blankly.
"First place, we didn't have any president----"
Gatsby's foot beat a short, restless tattoo and Tom eyed him suddenly.
"By the way, Mr. Gatsby, I understand you're an Oxford man."
"Oh, yes, I understand you went to Oxford."
"Yes--I went there."
A pause. Then Tom's voice, incredulous and insulting:
"You must have gone there about the time Biloxi went to New Haven."
Another pause. A waiter knocked and came in with crushed mint and ice butthe silence was unbroken by his "Thank you" and the soft closing of thedoor. This tremendous detail was to be cleared up at last.
"I told you I went there," said Gatsby.
"I heard you, but I'd like to know when."
"It was in nineteen-nineteen, I only stayed five months. That's why Ican't really call myself an Oxford man."
Tom glanced around to see if we mirrored his unbelief. But we were alllooking at Gatsby.
"It was an opportunity they gave to some of the officers after theArmistice," he continued. "We could go to any of the universities inEngland or France."
I wanted to get up and slap him on the back. I had one of those renewalsof complete faith in him that I'd experienced before.
Daisy rose, smiling faintly, and went to the table.
"Open the whiskey, Tom," she ordered. "And I'll make you a mint julep.Then you won't seem so stupid to yourself. . . . Look at the mint!"
"Wait a minute," snapped Tom, "I want to ask Mr. Gatsby one morequestion."
"Go on," Gatsby said politely.
"What kind of a row are you trying to cause in my house anyhow?"
They were out in the open at last and Gatsby was content.
"He isn't causing a row." Daisy looked desperately from one to theother. "You're causing a row. Please have a little self control."
"Self control!" repeated Tom incredulously. "I suppose the latest thingis to sit back and let Mr. Nobody from Nowhere make love to your wife.Well, if that's the idea you can count me out. . . . Nowadays people beginby sneering at family life and family institutions and next they'llthrow everything overboard and have intermarriage between blackand white."
Flushed with his impassioned gibberish he saw himself standing alone onthe last barrier of civilization.
"We're all white here," murmured Jordan.
"I know I'm not very popular. I don't give big parties. I supposeyou've got to make your house into a pigsty in order to have anyfriends--in the modern world."
Angry as I was, as we all were, I was tempted to laugh whenever he openedhis mouth. The transition from libertine to prig was so complete.
"I've got something to tell YOU, old sport,----" began Gatsby. But Daisyguessed at his intention.
"Please don't!" she interrupted helplessly. "Please let's all go home.Why don't we all go home?"
"That's a good idea." I got up. "Come on, Tom. Nobody wants a drink."
"I want to know what Mr. Gatsby has to tell me."
"Your wife doesn't love you," said Gatsby. "She's never loved you.She loves me."
"You must be crazy!" exclaimed Tom automatically.
Gatsby sprang to his feet, vivid with excitement.
"She never loved you, do you hear?" he cried. "She only married youbecause I was poor and she was tired of waiting for me. It was a terriblemistake, but in her heart she never loved any one except me!"
At this point Jordan and I tried to go but Tom and Gatsby insisted withcompetitive firmness that we remain--as though neither of them hadanything to conceal and it would be a privilege to partake vicariouslyof their emotions.
"Sit down Daisy." Tom's voice groped unsuccessfully for the paternalnote. "What's been going on? I want to hear all about it."
"I told you what's been going on," said Gatsby. "Going on for fiveyears--and you didn't know."
Tom turned to Daisy sharply.
"You've been seeing this fellow for five years?"
"Not seeing," said Gatsby. "No, we couldn't meet. But both of us lovedeach other all that time, old sport, and you didn't know. I used to laughsometimes--"but there was no laughter in his eyes, "to think that youdidn't know."
"Oh--that's all." Tom tapped his thick fingers together like a clergymanand leaned back in his chair.
"You're crazy!" he exploded. "I can't speak about what happened five yearsago, because I didn't know Daisy then--and I'll be damned if I see how yougot within a mile of her unless you brought the groceries to the backdoor. But all the rest of that's a God Damned lie. Daisy loved me whenshe married me and she loves me now."
"No," said Gatsby, shaking his head.
"She does, though. The trouble is that sometimes she gets foolish ideasin her head and doesn't know what she's doing." He nodded sagely. "Andwhat's more, I love Daisy too. Once in a while I go off on a spreeand make a fool of myself, but I always come back, and in my heart Ilove her all the time."
"You're revolting," said Daisy. She turned to me, and her voice,dropping an octave lower, filled the room with thrilling scorn: "Do youknow why we left Chicago? I'm surprised that they didn't treat you tothe story of that little spree."
Gatsby walked over and stood beside her.
"Daisy, that's all over now," he said earnestly. "It doesn't matter anymore. Just tell him the truth--that you never loved him--and it's allwiped out forever."
She looked at him blindly. "Why,--how could I love him--possibly?"
"You never loved him."
She hesitated. Her eyes fell on Jordan and me with a sort of appeal,as though she realized at last what she was doing--and as though she hadnever, all along, intended doing anything at all. But it was done now.It was too late.
"I never loved him," she said, with perceptible reluctance.
"Not at Kapiolani?" demanded Tom suddenly.
From the ballroom beneath, muffled and suffocating chords were drifting upon hot waves of air.
"Not that day I carried you down from the Punch Bowl to keep your shoesdry?" There was a husky tenderness in his tone. ". . . Daisy?"
"Please don't." Her voice was cold, but the rancour was gone from it.She looked at Gatsby. "There, Jay," she said--but her hand as she triedto light a cigarette was trembling. Suddenly she threw the cigarette andthe burning match on the carpet.
"Oh, you want too much!" she cried to Gatsby. "I love you now--isn't thatenough? I can't help what's past." She began to sob helplessly."I did love him once--but I loved you too."
Gatsby's eyes opened and closed.
"You loved me TOO?" he repeated.
"Even that's a lie," said Tom savagely. "She didn't know you were alive.Why,--there're things between Daisy and me that you'll never know,things that neither of us can ever forget."
The words seemed to bite physically into Gatsby.
"I want to speak to Daisy alone," he insisted. "She's all excited now----"
"Even alone I can't say I never loved Tom," she admitted in a pitifulvoice. "It wouldn't be true."
"Of course it wouldn't," agreed Tom.
She turned to her husband.
"As if it mattered to you," she said.
"Of course it matters. I'm going to take better care of you from now on."
"You don't understand," said Gatsby, with a touch of panic. "You're notgoing to take care of her any more."
"I'm not?" Tom opened his eyes wide and laughed. He could afford tocontrol himself now. "Why's that?"
"Daisy's leaving you."
"I am, though," she said with a visible effort.
"She's not leaving me!" Tom's words suddenly leaned down over Gatsby."Certainly not for a common swindler who'd have to steal the ring heput on her finger."
"I won't stand this!" cried Daisy. "Oh, please let's get out."
"Who are you, anyhow?" broke out Tom. "You're one of that bunch thathangs around with Meyer Wolfshiem--that much I happen to know. I've madea little investigation into your affairs--and I'll carry it furthertomorrow."
"You can suit yourself about that, old sport." said Gatsby steadily.
"I found out what your 'drug stores' were." He turned to us and spokerapidly. "He and this Wolfshiem bought up a lot of side-street drug storeshere and in Chicago and sold grain alcohol over the counter. That's one ofhis little stunts. I picked him for a bootlegger the first time I sawhim and I wasn't far wrong."
"What about it?" said Gatsby politely. "I guess your friend Walter Chasewasn't too proud to come in on it."
"And you left him in the lurch, didn't you? You let him go to jail fora month over in New Jersey. God! You ought to hear Walter on the subjectof YOU."
"He came to us dead broke. He was very glad to pick up some money, oldsport."
"Don't you call me 'old sport'!" cried Tom. Gatsby said nothing."Walter could have you up on the betting laws too, but Wolfshiem scaredhim into shutting his mouth."
That unfamiliar yet recognizable look was back again in Gatsby's face.
"That drug store business was just small change," continued Tom slowly,"but you've got something on now that Walter's afraid to tell meabout."
I glanced at Daisy who was staring terrified between Gatsbyand her husband and at Jordan who had begun to balance an invisiblebut absorbing object on the tip of her chin. Then I turned back toGatsby--and was startled at his expression. He looked--and this is saidin all contempt for the babbled slander of his garden--as if he had"killed a man." For a moment the set of his face could be described injust that fantastic way.
It passed, and he began to talk excitedly to Daisy, denying everything,defending his name against accusations that had not been made. But withevery word she was drawing further and further into herself, so he gavethat up and only the dead dream fought on as the afternoon slippedaway, trying to touch what was no longer tangible, strugglingunhappily, undespairingly, toward that lost voice across the room.
The voice begged again to go.
"PLEASE, Tom! I can't stand this any more."
Her frightened eyes told that whatever intentions, whatever courageshe had had, were definitely gone.
"You two start on home, Daisy," said Tom. "In Mr. Gatsby's car."
She looked at Tom, alarmed now, but he insisted with magnanimous scorn.
"Go on. He won't annoy you. I think he realizes that his presumptuouslittle flirtation is over."
They were gone, without a word, snapped out, made accidental, isolated,like ghosts even from our pity.
After a moment Tom got up and began wrapping the unopened bottle ofwhiskey in the towel.
"Want any of this stuff? Jordan? . . . Nick?"
I didn't answer.
"Nick?" He asked again.
"No . . . I just remembered that today's my birthday."
I was thirty. Before me stretched the portentous menacing road of anew decade.
It was seven o'clock when we got into the coupé with him and startedfor Long Island. Tom talked incessantly, exulting and laughing, but hisvoice was as remote from Jordan and me as the foreign clamor on thesidewalk or the tumult of the elevated overhead. Human sympathyhas its limits and we were content to let all their tragic argumentsfade with the city lights behind. Thirty--the promise of a decadeof loneliness, a thinning list of single men to know, a thinningbrief-case of enthusiasm, thinning hair. But there was Jordan besideme who, unlike Daisy, was too wise ever to carry well-forgottendreams from age to age. As we passed over the dark bridge her wan facefell lazily against my coat's shoulder and the formidable stroke ofthirty died away with the reassuring pressure of her hand.
So we drove on toward death through the cooling twilight.
The young Greek, Michaelis, who ran the coffee joint beside theashheaps was the principal witness at the inquest. He had slept throughthe heat until after five, when he strolled over to the garage andfound George Wilson sick in his office--really sick, pale as his ownpale hair and shaking all over. Michaelis advised him to go to bed butWilson refused, saying that he'd miss a lot of business if he did.While his neighbor was trying to persuade him a violent racket brokeout overhead.
"I've got my wife locked in up there," explained Wilson calmly."She's going to stay there till the day after tomorrow and then we'regoing to move away."
Michaelis was astonished; they had been neighbors for four years andWilson had never seemed faintly capable of such a statement. Generallyhe was one of these worn-out men: when he wasn't working he sat on achair in the doorway and stared at the people and the cars that passedalong the road. When any one spoke to him he invariably laughed in anagreeable, colorless way. He was his wife's man and not his own.
So naturally Michaelis tried to find out what had happened, but Wilsonwouldn't say a word--instead he began to throw curious, suspiciousglances at his visitor and ask him what he'd been doing at certaintimes on certain days. Just as the latter was getting uneasy someworkmen came past the door bound for his restaurant and Michaelis tookthe opportunity to get away, intending to come back later. But he didn't.He supposed he forgot to, that's all. When he came outside againa little after seven he was reminded of the conversation because heheard Mrs. Wilson's voice, loud and scolding, downstairs in the garage.
"Beat me!" he heard her cry. "Throw me down and beat me, you dirtylittle coward!"
A moment later she rushed out into the dusk, waving her hands andshouting; before he could move from his door the business was over.
The "death car" as the newspapers called it, didn't stop; it came outof the gathering darkness, wavered tragically for a moment and thendisappeared around the next bend. Michaelis wasn't even sure of itscolor--he told the first policeman that it was light green. The othercar, the one going toward New York, came to rest a hundred yardsbeyond, and its driver hurried back to where Myrtle Wilson, her lifeviolently extinguished, knelt in the road and mingled her thick, darkblood with the dust.
Michaelis and this man reached her first but when they had torn openher shirtwaist still damp with perspiration, they saw that her leftbreast was swinging loose like a flap and there was no need to listenfor the heart beneath. The mouth was wide open and ripped at thecorners as though she had choked a little in giving up the tremendousvitality she had stored so long.
We saw the three or four automobiles and the crowd when we were stillsome distance away.
"Wreck!" said Tom. "That's good. Wilson'll have a little businessat last."
He slowed down, but still without any intention of stopping until,as we came nearer, the hushed intent faces of the people at the garagedoor made him automatically put on the brakes.
"We'll take a look," he said doubtfully, "just a look."
I became aware now of a hollow, wailing sound which issued incessantlyfrom the garage, a sound which as we got out of the coupé and walkedtoward the door resolved itself into the words "Oh, my God!" uttered overand over in a gasping moan.
"There's some bad trouble here," said Tom excitedly.
He reached up on tiptoes and peered over a circle of heads into thegarage which was lit only by a yellow light in a swinging wire basketoverhead. Then he made a harsh sound in his throat and with a violentthrusting movement of his powerful arms pushed his way through.
The circle closed up again with a running murmur of expostulation; itwas a minute before I could see anything at all. Then new arrivalsdisarranged the line and Jordan and I were pushed suddenly inside.
Myrtle Wilson's body wrapped in a blanket and then in anotherblanket as though she suffered from a chill in the hot night lay on awork table by the wall and Tom, with his back to us, was bending overit, motionless. Next to him stood a motorcycle policeman taking downnames with much sweat and correction in a little book. At first Icouldn't find the source of the high, groaning words that echoedclamorously through the bare garage--then I saw Wilson standing on theraised threshold of his office, swaying back and forth and holding tothe doorposts with both hands. Some man was talking to him in a lowvoice and attempting from time to time to lay a hand on his shoulder,but Wilson neither heard nor saw. His eyes would drop slowly from theswinging light to the laden table by the wall and then jerk back tothe light again and he gave out incessantly his high horrible call.
"O, my Ga-od! O, my Ga-od! Oh, Ga-od! Oh, my Ga-od!"
Presently Tom lifted his head with a jerk and after staring around thegarage with glazed eyes addressed a mumbled incoherent remark to thepoliceman.
"M-a-v--" the policeman was saying, "--o----"
"No,--r--" corrected the man, "M-a-v-r-o----"
"Listen to me!" muttered Tom fiercely.
"r--" said the policeman, "o----"
"g--" He looked up as Tom's broad hand fell sharply on his shoulder."What you want, fella?"
"What happened--that's what I want to know!"
"Auto hit her. Ins'antly killed."
"Instantly killed," repeated Tom, staring.
"She ran out ina road. Son-of-a-bitch didn't even stopus car."
"There was two cars," said Michaelis, "one comin', one goin', see?"
"Going where?" asked the policeman keenly.
"One goin' each way. Well, she--" His hand rose toward the blankets butstopped half way and fell to his side, "--she ran out there an' the onecomin' from N'York knock right into her goin' thirty or forty miles anhour."
"What's the name of this place here?" demanded the officer.
"Hasn't got any name."
A pale, well-dressed Negro stepped near.
"It was a yellow car," he said, "big yellow car. New."
"See the accident?" asked the policeman.
"No, but the car passed me down the road, going faster'n forty. Goingfifty, sixty."
"Come here and let's have your name. Look out now. I want to get hisname."
Some words of this conversation must have reached Wilson swayingin the office door, for suddenly a new theme found voice amonghis gasping cries.
"You don't have to tell me what kind of car it was! I know what kind ofcar it was!"
Watching Tom I saw the wad of muscle back of his shoulder tightenunder his coat. He walked quickly over to Wilson and standingin front of him seized him firmly by the upper arms.
"You've got to pull yourself together," he said with soothinggruffness.
Wilson's eyes fell upon Tom; he started up on his tiptoes and thenwould have collapsed to his knees had not Tom held him upright.
"Listen," said Tom, shaking him a little. "I just got here a minute ago,from New York. I was bringing you that coupé we've been talking about.That yellow car I was driving this afternoon wasn't mine, do you hear? Ihaven't seen it all afternoon."
Only the Negro and I were near enough to hear what he said but thepoliceman caught something in the tone and looked over with truculenteyes.
"What's all that?" he demanded.
"I'm a friend of his." Tom turned his head but kept his hands firm onWilson's body. "He says he knows the car that did it. . . . It was a yellowcar."
Some dim impulse moved the policeman to look suspiciously at Tom.
"And what color's your car?"
"It's a blue car, a coupé."
"We've come straight from New York," I said.
Some one who had been driving a little behind us confirmed this andthe policeman turned away.
"Now, if you'll let me have that name again correct----"
Picking up Wilson like a doll Tom carried him into the office,set him down in a chair and came back.
"If somebody'll come here and sit with him!" he snappedauthoritatively. He watched while the two men standing closest glancedat each other and went unwillingly into the room. Then Tom shut thedoor on them and came down the single step, his eyes avoiding thetable. As he passed close to me he whispered "Let's get out."
Self consciously, with his authoritative arms breaking the way, wepushed through the still gathering crowd, passing a hurried doctor,case in hand, who had been sent for in wild hope half an hour ago.
Tom drove slowly until we were beyond the bend--then his foot came downhard and the coupé raced along through the night. In a little while Iheard a low husky sob and saw that the tears were overflowing down hisface.
"The God Damn coward!" he whimpered. "He didn't even stop his car."
The Buchanans' house floated suddenly toward us through the dark rustlingtrees. Tom stopped beside the porch and looked up at the second floorwhere two windows bloomed with light among the vines.
"Daisy's home," he said. As we got out of the car he glanced at me andfrowned slightly.
"I ought to have dropped you in West Egg, Nick. There's nothing we cando tonight."
A change had come over him and he spoke gravely, and with decision.As we walked across the moonlight gravel to the porch he disposed ofthe situation in a few brisk phrases.
"I'll telephone for a taxi to take you home, and while you're waitingyou and Jordan better go in the kitchen and have them get you somesupper--if you want any." He opened the door. "Come in."
"No thanks. But I'd be glad if you'd order me the taxi. I'll waitoutside."
Jordan put her hand on my arm.
"Won't you come in, Nick?"
I was feeling a little sick and I wanted to be alone. But Jordan lingeredfor a moment more.
"It's only half past nine," she said.
I'd be damned if I'd go in; I'd had enough of all of them for one dayand suddenly that included Jordan too. She must have seen something ofthis in my expression for she turned abruptly away and ran up theporch steps into the house. I sat down for a few minutes with my headin my hands, until I heard the phone taken up inside and the butler'svoice calling a taxi. Then I walked slowly down the drive away from thehouse intending to wait by the gate.
I hadn't gone twenty yards when I heard my name and Gatsby stepped frombetween two bushes into the path. I must have felt pretty weird by thattime because I could think of nothing except the luminosity of hispink suit under the moon.
"What are you doing?" I inquired.
"Just standing here, old sport."
Somehow, that seemed a despicable occupation. For all I knew he was goingto rob the house in a moment; I wouldn't have been surprised to seesinister faces, the faces of "Wolfshiem's people," behind him in thedark shrubbery.
"Did you see any trouble on the road?" he asked after a minute.
"Was she killed?"
"I thought so; I told Daisy I thought so. It's better that the shockshould all come at once. She stood it pretty well."
He spoke as if Daisy's reaction was the only thing that mattered.
"I got to West Egg by a side road," he went on, "and left the car in mygarage. I don't think anybody saw us but of course I can't be sure."
I disliked him so much by this time that I didn't find it necessary totell him he was wrong.
"Who was the woman?" he inquired.
"Her name was Wilson. Her husband owns the garage. How the devil did ithappen?"
"Well, I tried to swing the wheel----" He broke off, and suddenly Iguessed at the truth.
"Was Daisy driving?"
"Yes," he said after a moment, "but of course I'll say I was. You see,when we left New York she was very nervous and she thought it wouldsteady her to drive--and this woman rushed out at us just as we werepassing a car coming the other way. It all happened in a minute but itseemed to me that she wanted to speak to us, thought we were somebodyshe knew. Well, first Daisy turned away from the woman toward the othercar, and then she lost her nerve and turned back. The second my handreached the wheel I felt the shock--it must have killed her instantly."
"It ripped her open----"
"Don't tell me, old sport." He winced. "Anyhow--Daisy stepped on it.I tried to make her stop, but she couldn't so I pulled on the emergencybrake. Then she fell over into my lap and I drove on.
"She'll be all right tomorrow," he said presently. "I'm just going towait here and see if he tries to bother her about that unpleasantnessthis afternoon. She's locked herself into her room and if he tries anybrutality she's going to turn the light out and on again."
"He won't touch her," I said. "He's not thinking about her."
"I don't trust him, old sport."
"How long are you going to wait?"
"All night if necessary. Anyhow till they all go to bed."
A new point of view occurred to me. Suppose Tom found out that Daisy hadbeen driving. He might think he saw a connection in it--he might thinkanything. I looked at the house: there were two or three bright windowsdownstairs and the pink glow from Daisy's room on the second floor.
"You wait here," I said. "I'll see if there's any sign of a commotion."
I walked back along the border of the lawn, traversed the gravel softlyand tiptoed up the veranda steps. The drawing-room curtains were open,and I saw that the room was empty. Crossing the porch where we had dinedthat June night three months before I came to a small rectangle of lightwhich I guessed was the pantry window. The blind was drawn but I founda rift at the sill.
Daisy and Tom were sitting opposite each other at the kitchen tablewith a plate of cold fried chicken between them and two bottles ofale. He was talking intently across the table at her and in hisearnestness his hand had fallen upon and covered her own. Once in awhile she looked up at him and nodded in agreement.
They weren't happy, and neither of them had touched the chicken or theale--and yet they weren't unhappy either. There was an unmistakable airof natural intimacy about the picture and anybody would have said thatthey were conspiring together.
As I tiptoed from the porch I heard my taxi feeling its way along thedark road toward the house. Gatsby was waiting where I had left him inthe drive.
"Is it all quiet up there?" he asked anxiously.
"Yes, it's all quiet." I hesitated. "You'd better come home and getsome sleep."
He shook his head.
"I want to wait here till Daisy goes to bed. Good night, old sport."
He put his hands in his coat pockets and turned back eagerly to hisscrutiny of the house, as though my presence marred the sacredness ofthe vigil. So I walked away and left him standing there in themoonlight--watching over nothing.