After two years I remember the rest of that day, and that night and thenext day, only as an endless drill of police and photographers andnewspaper men in and out of Gatsby's front door. A rope stretchedacross the main gate and a policeman by it kept out the curious, butlittle boys soon discovered that they could enter through my yard andthere were always a few of them clustered open-mouthed about the pool.Someone with a positive manner, perhaps a detective, used theexpression "mad man" as he bent over Wilson's body that afternoon, andthe adventitious authority of his voice set the key for the newspaperreports next morning.
Most of those reports were a nightmare--grotesque, circumstantial,eager and untrue. When Michaelis's testimony at the inquest brought tolight Wilson's suspicions of his wife I thought the whole tale wouldshortly be served up in racy pasquinade--but Catherine, who might havesaid anything, didn't say a word. She showed a surprising amount ofcharacter about it too--looked at the coroner with determined eyes underthat corrected brow of hers and swore that her sister had never seenGatsby, that her sister was completely happy with her husband, that hersister had been into no mischief whatever. She convinced herself of itand cried into her handkerchief as if the very suggestion was morethan she could endure. So Wilson was reduced to a man "deranged bygrief" in order that the case might remain in its simplest form. Andit rested there.
But all this part of it seemed remote and unessential. I found myself onGatsby's side, and alone. From the moment I telephoned news ofthe catastrophe to West Egg village, every surmise about him, andevery practical question, was referred to me. At first I was surprised andconfused; then, as he lay in his house and didn't move or breathe orspeak hour upon hour it grew upon me that I was responsible, because noone else was interested--interested, I mean, with that intense personalinterest to which every one has some vague right at the end.
I called up Daisy half an hour after we found him, called herinstinctively and without hesitation. But she and Tom had gone awayearly that afternoon, and taken baggage with them.
"Left no address?"
"Say when they'd be back?"
"Any idea where they are? How I could reach them?"
"I don't know. Can't say."
I wanted to get somebody for him. I wanted to go into the room where helay and reassure him: "I'll get somebody for you, Gatsby. Don't worry.Just trust me and I'll get somebody for you----"
Meyer Wolfshiem's name wasn't in the phone book. The butler gave me hisoffice address on Broadway and I called Information, but by the time Ihad the number it was long after five and no one answered the phone.
"Will you ring again?"
"I've rung them three times."
"It's very important."
"Sorry. I'm afraid no one's there."
I went back to the drawing room and thought for an instant that they werechance visitors, all these official people who suddenly filled it. Butas they drew back the sheet and looked at Gatsby with unmoved eyes,his protest continued in my brain.
"Look here, old sport, you've got to get somebody for me. You've gotto try hard. I can't go through this alone."
Some one started to ask me questions but I broke away and going upstairslooked hastily through the unlocked parts of his desk--he'd never told medefinitely that his parents were dead. But there was nothing--only thepicture of Dan Cody, a token of forgotten violence staring down fromthe wall.
Next morning I sent the butler to New York with a letter to Wolfshiemwhich asked for information and urged him to come out on the nexttrain. That request seemed superfluous when I wrote it. I was sure he'dstart when he saw the newspapers, just as I was sure there'd be a wirefrom Daisy before noon--but neither a wire nor Mr. Wolfshiem arrived, noone arrived except more police and photographers and newspaper men.When the butler brought back Wolfshiem's answer I began to have afeeling of defiance, of scornful solidarity between Gatsby and meagainst them all.
_Dear Mr. Carraway. This has been one of the most terrible shocks of mylife to me I hardly can believe it that it is true at all. Such a madact as that man did should make us all think. I cannot come down now asI am tied up in some very important business and cannot get mixed up inthis thing now. If there is anything I can do a little later let meknow in a letter by Edgar. I hardly know where I am when I hear about athing like this and am completely knocked down and out.
Yours truly MEYER WOLFSHIEM_
and then hasty addenda beneath:
_Let me know about the funeral etc do not know his family at all._
When the phone rang that afternoon and Long Distance said Chicago wascalling I thought this would be Daisy at last. But the connection camethrough as a man's voice, very thin and far away.
"This is Slagle speaking. . . ."
"Yes?" The name was unfamiliar.
"Hell of a note, isn't it? Get my wire?"
"There haven't been any wires."
"Young Parke's in trouble," he said rapidly. "They picked him up when hehanded the bonds over the counter. They got a circular from New Yorkgiving 'em the numbers just five minutes before. What d'you know aboutthat, hey? You never can tell in these hick towns----"
"Hello!" I interrupted breathlessly. "Look here--this isn't Mr. Gatsby.Mr. Gatsby's dead."
There was a long silence on the other end of the wire, followed by anexclamation . . . then a quick squawk as the connection was broken.
I think it was on the third day that a telegram signed Henry C. Gatzarrived from a town in Minnesota. It said only that the sender wasleaving immediately and to postpone the funeral until he came.
It was Gatsby's father, a solemn old man very helpless and dismayed,bundled up in a long cheap ulster against the warm September day. Hiseyes leaked continuously with excitement and when I took the bag andumbrella from his hands he began to pull so incessantly at his sparsegrey beard that I had difficulty in getting off his coat. He was on thepoint of collapse so I took him into the music room and made him sitdown while I sent for something to eat. But he wouldn't eat and theglass of milk spilled from his trembling hand.
"I saw it in the Chicago newspaper," he said. "It was all in the Chicagonewspaper. I started right away."
"I didn't know how to reach you."
His eyes, seeing nothing, moved ceaselessly about the room.
"It was a mad man," he said. "He must have been mad."
"Wouldn't you like some coffee?" I urged him.
"I don't want anything. I'm all right now, Mr.----"
"Well, I'm all right now. Where have they got Jimmy?"
I took him into the drawing-room, where his son lay, and left him there.Some little boys had come up on the steps and were looking into the hall;when I told them who had arrived they went reluctantly away.
After a little while Mr. Gatz opened the door and came out, his mouthajar, his face flushed slightly, his eyes leaking isolated andunpunctual tears. He had reached an age where death no longer has thequality of ghastly surprise, and when he looked around him now for thefirst time and saw the height and splendor of the hall and the greatrooms opening out from it into other rooms his grief began to be mixedwith an awed pride. I helped him to a bedroom upstairs; while he tookoff his coat and vest I told him that all arrangements had beendeferred until he came.
"I didn't know what you'd want, Mr. Gatsby----"
"Gatz is my name."
"--Mr. Gatz. I thought you might want to take the body west."
He shook his head.
"Jimmy always liked it better down East. He rose up to his position inthe East. Were you a friend of my boy's, Mr.--?"
"We were close friends."
"He had a big future before him, you know. He was only a young man buthe had a lot of brain power here."
He touched his head impressively and I nodded.
"If he'd of lived he'd of been a great man. A man like James J. Hill.He'd of helped build up the country."
"That's true," I said, uncomfortably.
He fumbled at the embroidered coverlet, trying to take it from the bed,and lay down stiffly--was instantly asleep.
That night an obviously frightened person called up and demanded to knowwho I was before he would give his name.
"This is Mr. Carraway," I said.
"Oh--" He sounded relieved. "This is Klipspringer."
I was relieved too for that seemed to promise another friendat Gatsby's grave. I didn't want it to be in the papers and drawa sightseeing crowd so I'd been calling up a few people myself.They were hard to find.
"The funeral's tomorrow," I said. "Three o'clock, here at the house.I wish you'd tell anybody who'd be interested."
"Oh, I will," he broke out hastily. "Of course I'm not likely to seeanybody, but if I do."
His tone made me suspicious.
"Of course you'll be there yourself."
"Well, I'll certainly try. What I called up about is----"
"Wait a minute," I interrupted. "How about saying you'll come?"
"Well, the fact is--the truth of the matter is that I'm staying withsome people up here in Greenwich and they rather expect me to be withthem tomorrow. In fact there's a sort of picnic or something.Of course I'll do my very best to get away."
I ejaculated an unrestrained "Huh!" and he must have heard me for he wenton nervously:
"What I called up about was a pair of shoes I left there. I wonder ifit'd be too much trouble to have the butler send them on. Yousee they're tennis shoes and I'm sort of helpless without them. Myaddress is care of B. F.----"
I didn't hear the rest of the name because I hung up the receiver.
After that I felt a certain shame for Gatsby--one gentleman to whom Itelephoned implied that he had got what he deserved. However, that wasmy fault, for he was one of those who used to sneer most bitterly atGatsby on the courage of Gatsby's liquor and I should have knownbetter than to call him.
The morning of the funeral I went up to New York to see MeyerWolfshiem; I couldn't seem to reach him any other way. The door that Ipushed open on the advice of an elevator boy was marked "The SwastikaHolding Company" and at first there didn't seem to be any one inside.But when I'd shouted "Hello" several times in vain an argument brokeout behind a partition and presently a lovely Jewess appeared at aninterior door and scrutinized me with black hostile eyes.
"Nobody's in," she said. "Mr. Wolfshiem's gone to Chicago."
The first part of this was obviously untrue for someone had begun towhistle "The Rosary," tunelessly, inside.
"Please say that Mr. Carraway wants to see him."
"I can't get him back from Chicago, can I?"
At this moment a voice, unmistakably Wolfshiem's called "Stella!"from the other side of the door.
"Leave your name on the desk," she said quickly. "I'll give it to himwhen he gets back."
"But I know he's there."
She took a step toward me and began to slide her hands indignantly upand down her hips.
"You young men think you can force your way in here any time," shescolded. "We're getting sickantired of it. When I say he's in Chicago,he's in ChiCAgo."
I mentioned Gatsby.
"Oh--h!" She looked at me over again. "Will you just--what was your name?"
She vanished. In a moment Meyer Wolfshiem stood solemnly in the doorway,holding out both hands. He drew me into his office, remarking in areverent voice that it was a sad time for all of us, and offered mea cigar.
"My memory goes back to when I first met him," he said. "A youngmajor just out of the army and covered over with medals he gotin the war. He was so hard up he had to keep on wearing his uniformbecause he couldn't buy some regular clothes. First time I saw him waswhen he come into Winebrenner's poolroom at Forty-third Street andasked for a job. He hadn't eat anything for a couple of days. 'Come onhave some lunch with me,' I sid. He ate more than four dollars' worth offood in half an hour."
"Did you start him in business?" I inquired.
"Start him! I made him."
"I raised him up out of nothing, right out of the gutter. I saw rightaway he was a fine appearing, gentlemanly young man, and when he toldme he was an Oggsford I knew I could use him good. I got him to join upin the American Legion and he used to stand high there. Right off hedid some work for a client of mine up to Albany. We were so thick likethat in everything--" He held up two bulbous fingers "--alwaystogether."
I wondered if this partnership had included the World's Series transactionin 1919.
"Now he's dead," I said after a moment. "You were his closest friend,so I know you'll want to come to his funeral this afternoon."
"I'd like to come."
"Well, come then."
The hair in his nostrils quivered slightly and as he shook his head hiseyes filled with tears.
"I can't do it--I can't get mixed up in it," he said.
"There's nothing to get mixed up in. It's all over now."
"When a man gets killed I never like to get mixed up in it in any way.I keep out. When I was a young man it was different--if a friend of minedied, no matter how, I stuck with them to the end. You may think that'ssentimental but I mean it--to the bitter end."
I saw that for some reason of his own he was determined not to come,so I stood up.
"Are you a college man?" he inquired suddenly.
For a moment I thought he was going to suggest a "gonnegtion" but heonly nodded and shook my hand.
"Let us learn to show our friendship for a man when he is alive and notafter he is dead," he suggested. "After that my own rule is to leteverything alone."
When I left his office the sky had turned dark and I got back to West Eggin a drizzle. After changing my clothes I went next door and foundMr. Gatz walking up and down excitedly in the hall. His pride in hisson and in his son's possessions was continually increasing and now hehad something to show me.
"Jimmy sent me this picture." He took out his wallet with tremblingfingers. "Look there."
It was a photograph of the house, cracked in the corners and dirty withmany hands. He pointed out every detail to me eagerly. "Look there!" andthen sought admiration from my eyes. He had shown it so often that I thinkit was more real to him now than the house itself.
"Jimmy sent it to me. I think it's a very pretty picture. It shows upwell."
"Very well. Had you seen him lately?"
"He come out to see me two years ago and bought me the house I live innow. Of course we was broke up when he run off from home but I see nowthere was a reason for it. He knew he had a big future in front of him.And ever since he made a success he was very generous with me."
He seemed reluctant to put away the picture, held it for another minute,lingeringly, before my eyes. Then he returned the wallet and pulled fromhis pocket a ragged old copy of a book called "Hopalong Cassidy."
"Look here, this is a book he had when he was a boy. It just showsyou."
He opened it at the back cover and turned it around for me to see.On the last fly-leaf was printed the word SCHEDULE, and the dateSeptember 12th, 1906. And underneath:
Rise from bed . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.00 A.M.Dumbbell exercise and wall-scaling . . . . . . 6.15-6.30 "Study electricity, etc . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.15-8.15 "Work . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8.30-4.30 P.M.Baseball and sports . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.30-5.00 "Practice elocution, poise and how to attain it 5.00-6.00 "Study needed inventions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.00-9.00 "
No wasting time at Shafters or [a name, indecipherable]No more smokeing or chewingBath every other dayRead one improving book or magazine per weekSave $5.00 [crossed out] $3.00 per weekBe better to parents
"I come across this book by accident," said the old man. "It just showsyou, don't it?"
"It just shows you."
"Jimmy was bound to get ahead. He always had some resolves like this orsomething. Do you notice what he's got about improving his mind? He wasalways great for that. He told me I et like a hog once and I beat himfor it."
He was reluctant to close the book, reading each item aloud and thenlooking eagerly at me. I think he rather expected me to copy down thelist for my own use.
A little before three the Lutheran minister arrived from Flushing andI began to look involuntarily out the windows for other cars. So didGatsby's father. And as the time passed and the servants came in andstood waiting in the hall, his eyes began to blink anxiously and hespoke of the rain in a worried uncertain way. The minister glancedseveral times at his watch so I took him aside and asked him to waitfor half an hour. But it wasn't any use. Nobody came.
About five o'clock our procession of three cars reached the cemeteryand stopped in a thick drizzle beside the gate--first a motor hearse,horribly black and wet, then Mr. Gatz and the minister and I in thelimousine, and, a little later, four or five servants and the postmanfrom West Egg in Gatsby's station wagon, all wet to the skin. As westarted through the gate into the cemetery I heard a car stop and thenthe sound of someone splashing after us over the soggy ground. I lookedaround. It was the man with owl-eyed glasses whom I had foundmarvelling over Gatsby's books in the library one night three monthsbefore.
I'd never seen him since then. I don't know how he knew about thefuneral or even his name. The rain poured down his thick glasses andhe took them off and wiped them to see the protecting canvas unrolledfrom Gatsby's grave.
I tried to think about Gatsby then for a moment but he was already toofar away and I could only remember, without resentment, that Daisyhadn't sent a message or a flower. Dimly I heard someone murmur"Blessed are the dead that the rain falls on," and then the owl-eyedman said "Amen to that," in a brave voice.
We straggled down quickly through the rain to the cars. Owl-Eyes spoketo me by the gate.
"I couldn't get to the house," he remarked.
"Neither could anybody else."
"Go on!" He started. "Why, my God! they used to go there by thehundreds."
He took off his glasses and wiped them again outside and in.
"The poor son-of-a-bitch," he said.
One of my most vivid memories is of coming back west from prep schooland later from college at Christmas time. Those who went farther thanChicago would gather in the old dim Union Station at six o'clock of aDecember evening with a few Chicago friends already caught up intotheir own holiday gayeties to bid them a hasty goodbye. I rememberthe fur coats of the girls returning from Miss This or That's andthe chatter of frozen breath and the hands waving overhead aswe caught sight of old acquaintances and the matchings of invitations:"Are you going to the Ordways'? the Herseys'? the Schultzes'?"and the long green tickets clasped tight in our gloved hands.And last the murky yellow cars of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. PaulRailroad looking cheerful as Christmas itself on the tracks besidethe gate.
When we pulled out into the winter night and the real snow, our snow,began to stretch out beside us and twinkle against the windows, and thedim lights of small Wisconsin stations moved by, a sharp wild bracecame suddenly into the air. We drew in deep breaths of it as we walkedback from dinner through the cold vestibules, unutterably aware of ouridentity with this country for one strange hour before we meltedindistinguishably into it again.
That's my middle west--not the wheat or the prairies or the lost Swedetowns but the thrilling, returning trains of my youth and the streetlamps and sleigh bells in the frosty dark and the shadows of hollywreaths thrown by lighted windows on the snow. I am part of that, alittle solemn with the feel of those long winters, a little complacentfrom growing up in the Carraway house in a city where dwellings arestill called through decades by a family's name. I see now that thishas been a story of the West, after all--Tom and Gatsby, Daisy andJordan and I, were all Westerners, and perhaps we possessed somedeficiency in common which made us subtly unadaptable to Eastern life.
Even when the East excited me most, even when I was most keenly awareof its superiority to the bored, sprawling, swollen towns beyond theOhio, with their interminable inquisitions which spared only thechildren and the very old--even then it had always for me a quality ofdistortion. West Egg especially still figures in my more fantasticdreams. I see it as a night scene by El Greco: a hundred houses, atonce conventional and grotesque, crouching under a sullen, overhangingsky and a lustreless moon. In the foreground four solemn men in dresssuits are walking along the sidewalk with a stretcher on which lies adrunken woman in a white evening dress. Her hand, which dangles overthe side, sparkles cold with jewels. Gravely the men turn in at ahouse--the wrong house. But no one knows the woman's name, and no onecares.
After Gatsby's death the East was haunted for me like that, distortedbeyond my eyes' power of correction. So when the blue smoke of brittleleaves was in the air and the wind blew the wet laundry stiff on theline I decided to come back home.
There was one thing to be done before I left, an awkward, unpleasantthing that perhaps had better have been let alone. But I wanted toleave things in order and not just trust that obliging and indifferentsea to sweep my refuse away. I saw Jordan Baker and talked over andaround what had happened to us together and what had happenedafterward to me, and she lay perfectly still listening in a bigchair.
She was dressed to play golf and I remember thinking she looked like agood illustration, her chin raised a little, jauntily, her hair thecolor of an autumn leaf, her face the same brown tint as the fingerlessglove on her knee. When I had finished she told me without comment thatshe was engaged to another man. I doubted that though there wereseveral she could have married at a nod of her head but I pretended tobe surprised. For just a minute I wondered if I wasn't making amistake, then I thought it all over again quickly and got up to saygoodbye.
"Nevertheless you did throw me over," said Jordan suddenly. "You threw meover on the telephone. I don't give a damn about you now but it was anew experience for me and I felt a little dizzy for a while."
We shook hands.
"Oh, and do you remember--" she added, "----a conversation we had onceabout driving a car?"
"You said a bad driver was only safe until she met another bad driver?Well, I met another bad driver, didn't I? I mean it was careless of meto make such a wrong guess. I thought you were rather an honest,straightforward person. I thought it was your secret pride."
"I'm thirty," I said. "I'm five years too old to lie to myself and callit honor."
She didn't answer. Angry, and half in love with her, and tremendouslysorry, I turned away.
One afternoon late in October I saw Tom Buchanan. He was walking aheadof me along Fifth Avenue in his alert, aggressive way, his hands out alittle from his body as if to fight off interference, his head movingsharply here and there, adapting itself to his restless eyes. Just as Islowed up to avoid overtaking him he stopped and began frowning intothe windows of a jewelry store. Suddenly he saw me and walked backholding out his hand.
"What's the matter, Nick? Do you object to shaking hands with me?"
"Yes. You know what I think of you."
"You're crazy, Nick," he said quickly. "Crazy as hell. I don't knowwhat's the matter with you."
"Tom," I inquired, "what did you say to Wilson that afternoon?"
He stared at me without a word and I knew I had guessed right aboutthose missing hours. I started to turn away but he took a step after meand grabbed my arm.
"I told him the truth," he said. "He came to the door while we weregetting ready to leave and when I sent down word that we weren't in hetried to force his way upstairs. He was crazy enough to kill me if Ihadn't told him who owned the car. His hand was on a revolver in hispocket every minute he was in the house----" He broke off defiantly."What if I did tell him? That fellow had it coming to him. He threwdust into your eyes just like he did in Daisy's but he was a toughone. He ran over Myrtle like you'd run over a dog and never even stoppedhis car."
There was nothing I could say, except the one unutterable factthat it wasn't true.
"And if you think I didn't have my share of suffering--look here, when Iwent to give up that flat and saw that damn box of dog biscuits sittingthere on the sideboard I sat down and cried like a baby. By God itwas awful----"
I couldn't forgive him or like him but I saw that what he had done was,to him, entirely justified. It was all very careless and confused.They were careless people, Tom and Daisy--they smashed up things andcreatures and then retreated back into their money or their vastcarelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let otherpeople clean up the mess they had made. . . .
I shook hands with him; it seemed silly not to, for I felt suddenly asthough I were talking to a child. Then he went into the jewelry store tobuy a pearl necklace--or perhaps only a pair of cuff buttons--rid of myprovincial squeamishness forever.
Gatsby's house was still empty when I left--the grass on his lawn hadgrown as long as mine. One of the taxi drivers in the village nevertook a fare past the entrance gate without stopping for a minute andpointing inside; perhaps it was he who drove Daisy and Gatsby over toEast Egg the night of the accident and perhaps he had made a storyabout it all his own. I didn't want to hear it and I avoided him when Igot off the train.
I spent my Saturday nights in New York because those gleaming, dazzlingparties of his were with me so vividly that I could still hear themusic and the laughter faint and incessant from his garden and thecars going up and down his drive. One night I did hear a material carthere and saw its lights stop at his front steps. But I didn'tinvestigate. Probably it was some final guest who had been away at theends of the earth and didn't know that the party was over.
On the last night, with my trunk packed and my car sold to the grocer,I went over and looked at that huge incoherent failure of a house oncemore. On the white steps an obscene word, scrawled by some boy with apiece of brick, stood out clearly in the moonlight and I erased it,drawing my shoe raspingly along the stone. Then I wandered down to thebeach and sprawled out on the sand.
Most of the big shore places were closed now and there were hardly anylights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound.And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt awayuntil gradually I became aware of the old island here that floweredonce for Dutch sailors' eyes--a fresh, green breast of the new world.Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby's house, hadonce pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams;for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in thepresence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplationhe neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time inhistory with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.
And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought ofGatsby's wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end ofDaisy's dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream musthave seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did notknow that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscuritybeyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on underthe night.
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year byyear recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter--tomorrowwe will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one finemorning----
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly intothe past.